In World War I, there was a need to hit targets either pretty far off, or which were very hard to destroy.
At the time, aircraft weren’t much of an option – in fact, they really had a hard time carrying big bombs. Often, an aircrewman would drop mortar rounds from a cockpit. So, how does one take out a hard target? They used naval guns mounted on railway cars.
Many of these guns came from obsolete armored cruisers – the most common of the rail guns was the BL 12-inch railway Howitzer. The British pressed 81 of these guns into service, and many lasted into World War II. These guns are obsolete now, rendered useless by the development of better aircraft for tactical strikes, from World War II’s P-47 Thunderbolt to today’s A-10 Thunderbolt II, as well as tactical missile and rocket systems like the ATACMS, Scud, and MGM-52 Lance.
The gun the British were moving didn’t actually serve in World War I. According to a release by the British Ministry of Defence, the BL 18-inch howitzer just missed the Great War, but it did serve in World War II as a coastal defense gun – albeit it never fired a shot in anger, since the Nazis never were able to pull off Operation Sea Lion. The gun was used for RD purposes until 1959, when it was retired and sent to the Royal Artillery headquarters.
In 2013, it was briefly loaded to the Dutch railway museum. Later that year, it went to the Royal Armouries artillery museum. It is one of 12 railway guns that survive. The video below from the Smithsonian channel shows how the British Army – with the help of some contractors – moved this gigantic gun.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (July 14, 2015) LT Christopher Malherek, assigned to the “Golden Eagles” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 9, prepares to land a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft during a routine training flight for the squadron’s advanced readiness program.
MIAMI, Fla. (July 14, 2015) Steel Worker 1st Class Jesse Hamblin, assigned to Underwater Construction Team 2 (UCT-2), makes a vertical fillet weld on a half inch steel plate.
Lance Cpl. Chance Seckenger with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, rides in a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft during launch and recovery drills from the well deck of the USS Green Bay, at sea, July 9, 2015.
FOG BAY, Australia – Australian Army soldiers, assigned to 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and U.S. Marines, assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, work together during an amphibious assault exercise during Talisman Sabre 2015 at Fog Bay, Australia, July 11, 2015.
Cutter Cypress sits front and center during a practice session for the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels.
Two adults and two children were found alive following an extensive search by Coast Guard crews off the coast of South Carolina. The four did not return as scheduled from a fishing trip, and were found this morning clinging to an ice cooler. More on this case: http://goo.gl/GCRulc
C-17 Globemaster IIIs assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing await training missions at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, waits as Airmen from the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron complete a final check of the aircraft’s weapons before taking off on a combat sortie from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 14, 2015.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 80th Fighter Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off at Jungwon Air Base ROK, during Buddy Wing 15-6.
Army engineers, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division (Iron Brigade), employ a M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC) during a breaching exercise, at Udairi Range Complex, Kuwait.
A soldier, assigned to 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, fires a Polish RPG-7D rocket-propelled grenade alongside a Polish paratrooper from the 6th Airborne Brigade during live-fire training, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, at Nowa Deba Training Area, Poland.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers, assigned to the 416th Theater Engineer Command, conduct night land navigation during a Sapper Leader Course prerequisite training exercise on Camp San Luis Obispo Military Installation, Calif., July 15, 2015.
Physical Training is part of the military way of life. Every base or post has its fitness center. Sometimes, those facilities allow retirees and even dependents to use the gym and other morale, welfare and recreation services. This sometimes creates an interesting mix of people.
Base gyms are different from civilian gyms for many reasons — from the enlisted personnel working there to the fact that some of the people are working out only because they were ordered to. But clearly there are some distinct characters that every service member runs into when he’s got to pump some iron or burn some miles in the base gym.
1. The Naked Retiree
It must be nice to be retired. Retirees get a good pension and all the fringe benefits of being in the service – including gym access. They definitely deserve it. What does one do with the extra time? Hang out in the locker room naked, of course.
And when they need to dry off their unit, they look no further than the hand dryer.
2. “The Serial Farter” aka “Stinky”
It’s not a secret that protein gives people gas. But the rest of us shouldn’t have to lift weights at MOPP 4 because you don’t get enough fiber. Stop crop-dusting your wingmen and try a Lactaid if it bothers your stomach so much.
3. “The Couple Conducting Foreplay”
We get it. You married in AIT or Tech School and you’re so in love you never want to be apart — even when you work out. Can you wipe off the stability ball when you’re finished?
4. “The Grunt”
No, not infantry. This is the guy who grunts way too loud at every rep, as if it was sheer heroism that allowed him to pump the 30-pound dumbbell every time. He’s working out and he wants you all to know it.
Unlike the previous characters, this is the tragic one: the one who doesn’t want to be there but has to be.
Maybe it’s not his fault he gained some weight. An injury, being a Navy Nuke, or the food in the Charleston, South Carolina, area are all pitfalls that could happen to any one of us.
6. “The Pharmacist”
They take some vitamins, a pre-workout, and some creatine before they even change for their workout. Then they mix a blender bottle full of ULTRA MAXX PUMPZ protein powder. Then they carry around a repurposed gallon jug of water (or worse, multiple bottles) to drink while they bang out some squats.
At least supplements have come a long way in the past 30 years.
7. “Boots n’ Utes”
These are the people working out in camo pants, boots, and undershirt instead of regular workout clothes or PT uniforms. Full ruck optional.
8. “The Pork Chop Platoon”
Another bunch of tragic figures, this is the group of people who failed a PT test and now have to be there – as a group – seven days a week.
When Georgia Ann Thompson was just 15 years old, she had a 2-year-old daughter and was working in a North Carolina cotton mill. The baby’s father had run out on them. She was catching a well-deserved break, watching Charles Broadwick’s “World Famous Aeronauts” jump from hot air balloons, landing safely on the ground with the use of parachutes.
The sight so inspired Thompson, she decided to leave her young one with her parents and join the aeronauts. She had no idea her new venture would lead her to become the godmother of jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.
Broadwick didn’t invent the parachute, but he made two important design advances. He designed a “coat pack” chute that could be packed in a backpack and unfurled. He also created the static line that would open the chute when it became tight enough to pull on the pack. This was the parachute Georgia Thompson saw in 1908.
Thompson made her first jump from a balloon the same year she joined the troupe. Broadwick soon adopted Georgia and she became a headliner for the show. Now, with Georgia Thompson going by the name “Tiny Broadwick” (Georgia was only five feet tall and weighed 85 pounds) and being the star of the show, the aeronauts were more popular than ever.
As balloons gave way to powered flight, so did the stunts of the World Famous Aeronauts. Tiny became the first woman to jump from an airplane and the first person to ever jump from a seaplane when she glided into Lake Michigan. As her career took off, she sent money back home for her child and eventually married again.
One of Tiny Broadwick’s biggest gifts to aborted aviation came when demonstrating the use of parachutes to the U.S. Army. In 1914, she performed a series of demonstration jumps to Army commanders who were leery of both the reliability of their aircraft, but also the reliability of parachutes.
After making three normal static line jumps using Broadwick’s coatpack design, she had an accident on the fourth jump. The line became tangled in the airplane’s fuselage. So for the fifth jump of the day, she detached the static line from the plane and pulled on it during freefall to deploy the chute.
It was both the first freefall jump from an airplane and the first appearance of what would come to be known as a ripcord.
Her personal life wasn’t as successful as her professional career, having divorced again after a few short years of marriage. She remarried in 1916 but by 1920, was divorced once more. Her aeronautical career ended a short time later, in 1922. After an estimated 1,100 jumps, the life of a daredevil parachutist took its toll on her ankles. Tiny Broadwick died in 1976 but a handmade silk parachute built by Charles Broadwick for her is preserved in the Smithsonian Institution.
The American War of Independence, as the British like to call it, was the the rebels’ war to lose.
With the superior military and economy of Britain, many expected the rebellion in the colonies to be over quickly. So, how did the world’s greatest superpower of the time fail to subdue an insurrection in the small colonies of America?
The truth is there are numerous reasons, but at least four of those happen to be costly mistakes on the part of the British.
1. The Battle of Bunker Hill
The British had a knack for defeating the Americans at such a high cost that they themselves often had to retreat after the battle.
This began very early in the war with the Battle of Bunker Hill. The British charged the American redoubts on Breed’s Hill repeatedly and although they eventually drove the Americans back, they lost so many experienced officers and men that General Clinton remarked, “A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America.”
Due to the British military system, those loses were difficult to replace.
The British attack was a blunder for several reasons.
As the British advanced across open ground they were mowed down by American sharpshooters. Their return volleys were ineffectual because of the American defenses. Once the British successfully stormed the redoubt on their third attempt, the Americans simply retreated, as they lacked bayonets with which to fight the redcoats.
Worst of all for the British, they could have simply cut off the neck of the peninsula and left the Americans with nowhere to run.
2. Howe’s capture of Philadelphia
Gen. Howe’s capture of Philadelphia was rife with tactical and strategic blunders that likely spelled the beginning of the end of Britain’s hopes of quelling the American Revolution.
Howe’s first major blunder was wanting to take Philadelphia in the first place. Typical Continental strategy of the day said to drive the enemy from the field and take his capital, at which point he will capitulate. However, after taking several American cities and defeating the Americans in multiple battles, this outcome had failed to materialize.
Yet, Howe, the commander-in-chief of British forces in America, failed to realize this and strove to capture Philadelphia.
This action might not have gone down as such an incredible blunder if it hadn’t been for another issue — it left Gen. Burgoyne’s troops without support in the Hudson River Valley.
As most American high school students know, American forces under Gen. Horatio Gates were able to surround and capture the British force at the Battle of Saratoga. This victory brought the much needed support of France and ended British hopes of conquering New England.
Howe would successfully capture Philadelphia but the Continental Congress escaped into the Pennsylvania countryside. In order to secure New York, Howe would have to abandon Philadelphia the next year.
3. The Battle of Cowpens
The Battle of Cowpens was a major turning point towards the end of the war, and another costly blunder for the British.
British forces, led by the young, brash, Col. Banastre Tarleton, were seeking to advance into North Carolina after successfully subduing much of Georgia and South Carolina.
Tarleton’s arrogance and overconfidence were playing right into a trap that the American commander, Daniel Morgan, had set for him. Morgan planned to use his militia as bait, to lure Tarleton into a false sense of victory and then hit him hard with his Continental Regulars.
Tarleton helped Morgan’s cause by driving his force relentlessly in pursuit of the Americans. His men had nearly run out of food and had been roused at two in the morning to continue their pursuit of Morgan. They arrived at the battlefield weak and exhausted.
Once engaged, Morgan’s ruse worked like a charm. The British force suffered over 100 men killed, 200 men wounded, and 500 men and two cannons captured. Combined with a defeat at King’s Mountain prior to the battle, the British position in the South was becoming more precarious.
4. The Battle of Guilford Courthouse
Exasperated by the losses at King’s Mountain and Cowpens, Lord Cornwallis sallied forth against Gen. Nathaniel Greene’s numerically superior force.
Determined to pin down Greene and decisively defeat his army in the south, Cornwallis sought battle at Guilford Courthouse where Greene’s army was camped. Despite being outnumbered two-to-one, Cornwallis’ troops engaged.
The battle was the largest of the southern theatre and despite his numerical advantage, Greene was unable to defeat Cornwallis’ veteran troops. After over two hours of intense combat, Greene withdrew his army from the field.
Though Cornwallis had defeated Greene, his victory was pyrrhic, and failed to decisively destroy the Patriot army. Cornwallis had lost nearly a quarter of his force killed or wounded in the battle. Losses that were increasingly difficult to absorb for the British army.
Cornwallis’ fateful decision forced him to withdraw to Yorktown to await reinforcements. At Yorktown, Cornwallis’ tactical blunders would cost the British the war. First, he failed to breakout when he had the chance, then he gave up his outer defenses, hastening his defeat.
With no reinforcements and under siege, Cornwallis surrendered his force to Gen. Washington, effectively ending hostilities in the American Revolution.
In 2004, the creator’s of the animated “South Park” show Matt Stone and Trey Parker made audiences break out in laughter when they produced a satire film about an elite counter-terrorism team of marionettes that was tasked with saving the world from corrupt leader Kim Jong-il.
In the laugh-out-loud comedy “Team America: World Police” With the help of a newly recruited Broadway actor, Gary Johnston, the team will travel the world attempting to stop terrorists from destroying many innocent countries with their WMDs.
Although this film is fiction (believe it or not), it raises many solid points on how our world is run.
Check out our whacky list of valuable lessons we learned from watching those life-like puppets on a string.
1. The best time and place to propose marriage is right after a firefight
There’s nothing more romantic than a couple in love that enjoys killing terrorists together.
The reaction and acceptance.
2. Spying is really acting
This whole time we’ve been fighting the war on terror, the CIA should have just sent a member of SAG-AFTRA behind enemy lines to resolve the entire conflict.
It’s not the worse idea ever… okay, maybe it is. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)
3. Tell a woman what she needs to hear
And nothing more if you’re trying to hook up with her.
And he seals the deal!
We can’t show what happens next, but use your dark military humor to figure it out.
4. Even North Korean dictators get ronery from time to time
Kim Jong-il has some vocal pipes on him.
5. We shouldn’t always rely on computers
After Team America is temporary defeated, the world’s greatest computer “I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E.” had one job: decoding and analyzing what the terrorists were going to do next. It failed us when we needed it the most.
It seems like, every so often, every branch of the military updates its tattoo policy. It’s done for various reasons, but ultimately, it’s to keep an orderly and professional appearance. But ever since the first tattoo parlor opened its doors in 1846, tattoos have had a well-seated place in the hearts (and on the skin) of many troops and veterans.
The art of body-marking and tattooing as a status symbol for warriors dates back well over five thousand years. Everyone from the Ancient Greeks to the Maori tribes of New Zealand marked their warriors as a sign of their strength. Even before tattoos were widespread among the U.S. military, Revolutionary War sailors tattooed personal identifiers on their skin to avoid being illegally conscripted by the British Navy.
During the American Civil War, early tattoo artist Martin Hildebrant traveled the battlefields and decorated the troops with various, patriotic designs. Even Marine Corps legend, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, was said to have an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattooed across his chest
Despite a general disinterest in tattoos among civilians in a post-WWI society, the 1925 book, The History of Tattooing, states that a whopping 90% of U.S. Sailors were tattooed. This was the golden age of sailors using their bodies as secondary service records of their achievements. Sailors would get a shellback turtle for crossing the equator, a golden dragon for crossing the International Date Line, and a golden shellback for crossing both at the same spot. Even rarer is a purple porpoise, which is for making this same crossing during the sacred hour of the spring equinox.
Seeing a tattoo on an older sailor means either they sailed through a very specific spot at a very specific time — or they just really like purple dolphins.
In today’s military, the old traditions still ring true. Sailors will still mark themselves for their Naval achievements. Marines still get the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on their first liberty. Soldiers will still get one or more of the same six tattoos. And airmen will probably get something nice in a spot that doesn’t hurt too much.
Since first coming into service in 1980, the M1 Abrams tank has become a staple of US ground forces. The 67-ton behemoth has since made a name for itself as an incredibly tough, powerful tool that has successfully transitioned from a Cold War-era blunt instrument to a tactical modern weapon.
The US as well as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Australia use the Abrams as their main battle tank.
When the Abrams finally saw combat in 1991, it impressed operators with it’s effective rounds and virtual invulnerability to Iraqi tank fire. No Abrams was destroyed by Iraqi tank fire during the Persian Gulf War.
In fact, the only Abrams lost during the Persian Gulf War were destroyed by friendly fire, sometimes on purpose so they couldn’t be reclaimed by Iraqi forces.
The Abrams benefited from having superior range and night-vision abilities compared to their Soviet-made counterparts.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Abrams became involved in urban warfare while clearing cities. Urban warfare is the worst situation for tanks, as their range is limited by buildings and they can be attacked from above, where their armor is weakest.
In his book “Heavy Metal: A Tank Company’s Battle to Baghdad” Maj. Jason Conroy reports a lopsided victory where an Abrams unit destroyed seven Soviet-made T-72 tanks at point-blank range with no losses on the US side.
Today, the Abrams remains the US’s main battle tank, one of the most successful tanks of all time, and the king of the battlefield.
The Army is likely catching a lot of grief lately, after a news story reported that Pentagon data showed Joes are fatter than their brethren in other services.
But are they really?
According to the head of the new Defense Health Agency, the way the military measures obesity using the so-called Body Mass Index might be a bit behind the times.
“I know that Navy has looked at this in terms of modifying what they say is a healthy weight and a healthy body mass and I think that’s appropriate,” said Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, Director of the Defense Health Agency told WATM during a breakfast meeting with reporters Oct. 20.
“Do I have any indication that [obesity] is hurting readiness? No,” Bono added. “But I would actually say that is one of the hallmarks of being in the military is that we’re always ready.”
According to the services, a Body Mass Index of 25 or over is considered unsat (the BMI is determined by a simple calculation of height and weight). The National Institutes of Health define obesity as a BMI of 30 or over.
A 44 year-old male who weights 215 pounds and is 74-inches tall has a BMI of 27.6, for example. That’d be considered “clinically obese” to the DoD.
Some in the services argue measuring weight standards using the BMI is a blunt instrument, putting perfectly fit and healthy servicemembers on notice for not being up to snuff.
And while she’s all in favor of modifying how the level of fitness to serve is calculated, Bono is concerned about the overall trend on obesity, with the Pentagon reporting nearly 10 percent of its troops are overweight. And Bono recommended healthier choices in chow halls, regular exercise (not just for the PFT), and stopping smoking.
“My job is to make sure I’m enabling the department to have the healthiest troops possible,” Bono said. “I struggle with encouraging troops to make healthier choices — even when we activate servicemembers with health data or scary pictures of what smoking can do to you they still persist in those behaviors. I don’t know what the right answer is.”
Officials revealed that the U.S. Navy is confident its carriers and other key strategic units can hold their own inside China’s growing anti-access zones in the Asia-Pacific region.
Anti-access, area-denial “is certainly a goal for some of our competitors, but achieving that goal is very different and much more complicated,” argues Adm. John Richardson in an interview with the National Interest, indicating that rival states with anti-access ambitions are struggling to develop weapons capable of permanently boxing out the U.S. military.
When questioned about whether or not U.S. carriers can survive rival anti-access A2/AD systems, Richardson reportedly responded with an adamant “Yes.”
The logic is that A2/AD weapons technology, while it has a fancy new name, is not a new concept. A2/AD weaponry is essentially long-range weaponry. Missiles are just the latest evolution of long-range weaponry, explains the National Interest.
China’s “keep out” diplomacy and projectile-based A2/AD defense systems are generally regarded as threats to the resurgence of American military power in the Asia-Pacific. China’s so-called “carrier killer” missiles are considered serious challenges to American naval and air operations in the Asia Pacific by military insiders.
China is building a missile wall to deter U.S. incursions into the South China Sea and the East China Sea — regions where China hopes to carve out a sphere of influence for itself.
China cannot compete with U.S. Naval and air power, so it uses missiles as a primary deterrent. Projectile weapons are much easier and cheaper to produce than advanced naval and air units. Anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM), anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), surface-to-air missiles (SAM), fast attack submarines, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems are the core components of China’s A2/AD strategy.
Richardson and Rear Adm. DeWolfe Miller assert that Chinese A2/AD zones are not “impenetrable domes.
Defense strategies using long-range weapons to deny access to superior forces has been a component of war for centuries, the military is factoring this into its calculations and strategies. That other countries are developing A2/AD technology is not a surprise.
Miller suggested that the A2/AD threat to the U.S. Navy was actually greater during the Cold War when the Soviets deployed countless Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfires and sent out numerous Omar-class cruise missile submarines to eliminate U.S. carriers. By comparison, China’s present A2/AD advancements are less threatening.
To counter potential A2/AD threats to U.S. Naval and air units at sea, U.S. carrier air wings, groups consisting of aircraft carriers and several aircraft detachments, are being outfitted with the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) battle network. This system allows any unit in the carrier air wing to act as a sensor or shooter for another unit.
Richardson and Miller expect the F-35C, a joint strike fighter, and the MQ-25 Stingray, an aerial refueling unit, to dramatically boost the strategic strike capabilities of U.S. carrier wings.
“When the F-35 enters the air wing, I think it’s going to be quite potent,” Rear Adm. Miller told the National Interest. “The F-35 is a quantum leap in air superiority,” he added.
The F-35C will likely be combined with the MQ-25 Stingray, the airborne early warning (AEW) E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, the Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, and the multipurpose F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter, as well as the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) to create an elite carrier wing capable of dealing with projectile weaponry and penetrating enemy anti-access zones.
Adm. Richardson and Rear Adm. Miller believe that U.S. aircraft carriers will remain viable well into the future, especially with the deployment of the improved Ford-class aircraft carriers.
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When the Nazi forces captured French Gen. Henri Giraud in World War II, they knew they had to put him somewhere truly secure. So they took him to Konigstein Castle, a prison they were sure was completely inescapable. He broke out in two years. In broad daylight. Wearing a comical hat and glasses as a disguise. On Hitler’s birthday weekend.
Giraud was a popular general when World War II broke out. He was a hero of World War I for leading a bayonet charge against machine guns at the Battle of St. Quentin in Aug. 1914. He was wounded in the battle and left for dead before being captured by the Germans. It only took the severely wounded officer two months to escape that time, a feat he pulled off by acting like he was a laborer in a traveling circus.
Between the wars, he upped his notoriety factor by earning France’s Legion de Honneur in combat with Moroccan rebels and holding a series of high-profile military positions through the French empire.
In World War II, he fought the Nazis in a string of battles in an attempt to keep his country free. In May 1940, he led a reconnaissance patrol in Northeastern France and was captured at a machine gun nest after a heavy exchange with German artillery.
The Nazis knew they had a problem. Capturing a general is great, but then you have to hold him, and this general was famous for being a hero in two wars and had already escaped a German prison camp once. So they took him to Konigstein Castle, a prison with on a high hill that featured tall walls, few windows, and constant nighttime patrols. The Germans called it inescapable.
Konigstein Castle looms over the surrounding countryside. Photo: Creative Commons/Fritz-Gerald Schröder
In the castle, Giraud quickly began a long-term plan to escape. He learned German by convincing the prison to offer classes. Then he stole a map and began studying potential routes and pitfalls. He also figured out a method of communicating with his wife and others through coded messages that would get past the censors. For an entire year, he slowly built a rope out of twine.
The Germans had good reason to believe that Konigstein was inescapable. Between the high walls and the fact that the prison was built on a hill, Giraud would need to descend 150 feet of wall and cliff face before reaching the ground. The twine was to help with that.
On Sept. 21, 2018, the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System hosted our annual POW/MIA Recognition Day program. Three former prisoners of war (POW) attended including World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.
Here is his story.
From Bartlesville to the Battle of the Bulge
Born on April 2, 1926, Fred Brooks turned 18 in 1944. Nearly nine months later, the native of Bartlesville, Okla. was sent to the front lines on Christmas Day during the Battle of the Bulge.
On January 10, 1945, Brooks and five other solders in the 4th Infantry Division were conducting a night patrol and entered a German village.
“We went into this little village at night to check it out, and there wasn’t anyone in that village when we entered it,” said Brooks. “When daylight came, the Germans were everywhere. They killed one and wounded two.”
Surrounded, the remaining soldiers were forced to surrender, and were transported to Stalag IV-B Prison Camp in Mühlberg, Germany.
Brooks said the Germans fed the POWs once a day, which was typically a small cup of vegetable soup.
World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.
“That’s all they had to give you,” he said. “The Germans had nothing to feed their own troops, let alone us.”
He said the Germans never harmed him, but he did have to endure the brutal winter conditions.
“My feet were frozen terribly bad,” he said. “I didn’t have one drop of medication. There was an elderly English man in the camp where I was at and he helped me tremendously to clean the wounds as best we could. It was a rough winter.”
On April 23, 1945, the Russians liberated Stalag IV-B and approximately 30,000 POWs.
“The Russians entered our camp during the night,” said Brooks. “The next day, I think there was three German guards left and the Russians hung them high in the trees. We were very happy to see (the Russians). They fed us.”
Approximately 3,000 POWs died at Stalag IV-B, mostly from tuberculosis and typhus.
World War II Veteran and former POW Fred Brooks has received his health care from the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System for approximately 30 years.
Brooks was reunited with the American Army and sent to the coast of France to wait for a transport ship home. While waiting, he met another soldier from Bartlesville, and the two made a pact not to tell their families they were coming home.
“When we got to the little bus station in Bartlesville, his wife was waiting on him,” he said with a laugh. “He had broken our vow not to call.”
From the bus station, Brooks walked a mile to his parent’s home.
“I got my parents up at 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “It was unreal. My parents were just out of it to see me walking in the door. It really surprised them. They were very happy.”
After the war, Brooks worked in construction and retired at the age of 75. He still lives in Bartlesville.
Looking back on the war and his internment in a German POW Camp, Brooks credits divine intervention for his survival.