In April 2004, a convoy from the US Army’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division was on a routine escort mission. The Baghdad neighborhood they were operating in – Sadr City – would become notorious among American and Coalition forces for at least the next four years. What happened to 1st Cav that day came to be known as “Black Sunday,” a battle then- Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey called “the biggest gunfight since the fall of Baghdad.”
The mission started like any other escort mission. Soldiers in a convoy escorted sewage trucks, known as “honey wagons,” to locations inside the Sadr City area of the Iraqi capital. Though times were tough for the Iraqi people, lawlessness was on the rise throughout Baghdad. Still, everything was for the most part peaceful…until Palm Sunday 2004.
The neighborhood now known as Sadr City housed three and a half million people in five square miles – roughly half of the city’s entire population. Built by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, it was full of mostly Shia muslims who were persecuted under Saddam’s rule. As a result, this densely populated area – smaller in size than most American cities, but with a population higher than Houston or Chicago – was deeply impoverished.
The area came under control of the anti-American Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who took the citizens’ distrust of the occupying Americans and turned in into full-fledged anger. His militant followers formed the formidable Mahdi Army, which attracted fighters from other countries as well as Iraqis. By the time the U.S. was ready to take down al-Sadr, he had grown too powerful. When American shut down his newspaper for inciting violence, Sadr City residents were outraged.
They protested peacefully in the streets at first, but that outrage soon boiled over.
American troops raided al-Sadr’s house and arrested one of his senior aides on the order of Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. That same day, unbeknownst to the Coalition, al-Sadr’s militia captured Iraqi Police stations across the city.
April 4, 2004 was the day 2-5 Cav was escorting honey wagons as they worked in Sadr City. They had just deployed to Camp War Eagle, on the edge of Sadr City, allegedly the “safest place in Iraq.” They were ambushed by the Mahdi Army as they made their way out of the city. Unable to move all their men out of the area, 19 soldiers holed up in a civilian house, awaiting rescue amid hundreds of enemy fighters.
They had only been in country for a few days.
Relief columns were mounted by 1st Cavalry but those were unable to use the heavy guns on their Bradley M-2A3 Infantry Fighting Vehicles due to the rules of engagement. The rescuers were themselves ambushed by the forces hidden in Iraqi Police stations and, unable to bring firepower to bear, were pushed back.
Eventually, the superior firepower was authorized against the Mahdi Army’s superior numbers. 1st Cav’s use of the Bradleys’ main turret was complimented by a force of 1st Armored Division M-1A2 Abrams tanks.
Eight soldiers were lost in the initial ambush and rescue of those trapped and surrounded in Sadr City that April Day. The fight to rescue the platoon from 2-5 Cav is dramatized in National Geographic Channel’s miniseries The Long Road Home, which begins Nov. 7, 2017.
But the fighting for Sadr City didn’t end in April 2004. The fighting in the Baghdad neighborhood would rage on in the streets between American forces and Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army for another four years. It ended with a ceasefire agreement that allowed Iraqi government troops to enter the area.
With some recent upgrades to medals for heroism during the War on Terror, perhaps it is time to take a closer look at some awards from Desert Storm. During that conflict, no Medals of Honor or Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded, but there were two Navy Crosses and two Air Force Crosses.
Without further ado, here are six people whose awards may warrant an upgrade:
1.William F. Andrews
Awards to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Cross
Then a captain flying the F-16, Andrews received three awards for valor during Desert Storm. Two of them were the Distinguished Flying Cross, one was the Air Force Cross.
The DFC awarded for his actions on Jan. 23, 1991, looks like it should be upgraded – Andrews pressed his attack through heavy fire to put ordnance on the target.
The other medal warranting an upgrade should be the Air Force Cross for his actions on Feb. 27, 1991. After ejecting from his damaged F-16, Andrews was injured upon landing. Despite his injuries, Andrews chose to remain in the open and warned fellow pilots of threats until he was captured by Saddam Hussein’s forces.
2. Richard A. Cody
Award to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross
The pilot of an AH-64 Apache helicopter from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade fires AGM-114 Hellfire missiles during the combined arms live fire training exercise for Saber Strike 16 at the Estonian Defense Forces central training area near Tapa, Estonia on June 20, 2016. (Minnesota National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)
Then a lieutenant colonel commanding an attack helicopter battalion, Richard Cody drew the tough task of leading Task Force Normandy to forcibly open a gap in Iraqi radar coverage. It was a very high-stakes mission – if Cody failed, Saddam’s regime would have plenty of time to give Coalition pilots warning. Task Force Normandy succeeded, and the Coalition lost only one aircraft on the opening night.
3. Randy S. Wenzel
Award to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross
At the time, Wenzel was a major, and took part in a massive strike on Jan. 18, 1991. Wenzel pressed his attack despite heavy fire from enemy surface-to-air missiles, putting his bombs on the Habbiniyah artillery mission. According to his citation, the successful strike “severely reduced” the ability of Saddam’s regime to produce replacement artillery pieces.
4. Richard Balwanz
Award to upgrade: Silver Star
Over a decade before the events that would be described in the book and movie Lone Survivor, Richard Balwanz faced the same situation Michael Murphy did. He made the same decision. As the Daily Caller notes, Balwanz brought his entire team back.
As an interesting trivia note, William Andrews received his second Distinguished Flying Cross flying support for Balwanz’s unit.
5. Keith Dewayne Andrews
Award to upgrade: Silver Star
Andrews was with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), part of the “left hook” that flanked the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait, when he received the Silver Star for rescuing five troops who were pinned down by two Iraqi machine gun positions. According to his citation, Andrews made his way through a minefield to take out the first position with a hand grenade. Then, like Brian Chontosh did during Iraqi Freedom, he grabbed an enemy weapon and took out the second position.
Pure badass stuff.
6. Thomas J. Trask
Award to upgrade: Silver Star
While he is a three-star general today, Thomas J. Trask was a captain when he received the Silver Star as a MH-53J Pave Low pilot. While it is not exactly unarmed (GlobalSecurity.org notes it has three .50-caliber machine guns or 7.62mm miniguns), it’s not exactly the best option if you face off against enemy SAMs or AAA. Yet Trask went within 30 miles of Baghdad to rescue a downed pilot.
Considered to be the first military award of the United States Armed Forces, the Badge of Military Merit is the official predecessor to the highly-respected, yet rarely-coveted Purple Heart.
In 1782, General George Washington created two badges of distinction for American troops. One was a chevron that would be worn on the left sleeve for completing three years of duty “with bravery, fidelity, and good conduct.” The other was a “figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding” and was awarded for “any singularly meritorious action.” Washington’s goal was honor all ranks, high and low, for their gallantry and service to the country.
This was a huge departure from the standards of European warfare. In England, specifically, only high-ranking officers would be decorated with pomp and circumstance — not for individual achievement, but for the hard-fought victories of their men.
“The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all,” wrote General George Washington on the creation of the Badge of Military Merit.
Bear in mind, the Badge of Military Merit was awarded for “not only instances of unusual gallantry in battle, but also extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way” and not for being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States. The badge was awarded by Gen. Washington himself to Sergeant Elijah Churchill and Sergeant William Brown on May 3rd, 1783. A month later, he awarded the third and final badge to Sergeant Daniel Bissell Jr.
The award was never issued again, despite never being officially abolished. The award was the basis for the short-lived Army Wound Ribbon and the golden Wound Chevron. In 1932, the Purple Heart Medal was officially introduced and the Wound Chevron was no longer awarded. Regulations discouraged the simultaneous wear of a WWI Wound Chevron and a WWII Purple Heart, but many troops who were wounded in both did it anyway.
Making fun of the enemy is nothing new, especially for American troops. When U.S. troops like something, they’ll probably still come up with their own term for it. Even if they respect an enemy, they will still come up with a short, probably derogatory name for them. For American troops in the Civil War, many of which took the war very seriously (and rightly so), they would take any opportunity to denigrate the “Southern Way of Life.”
That started with the pop song “Dixie,” which became a de facto national anthem for the Confederates.
But even Abe Lincoln loved the song. Why? It was written in New York for use in traveling shows.
“Dixie” was actually written by an Ohioan, destined for use among blackface performers in traveling minstrel shows throughout the United States. These shows were wildly popular before, during, and after the Civil War everywhere in the United States, and were usually based on the premise of showing African-Americans as slow, dumb, and sometimes prolifically horny. It’s supposed to be sung by black people who are depicted as preferring life in the South, rather than as free men in the North.
“Dixie” is one of the most enduring relics of these shows, still retaining popularity today, although without the connection to the minstrel shows of the time. It’s safe to say almost every Confederate troop knew the words to “Dixie,” as the song depicts an idyllic view of what life in the American South was like in the 1850s, around the time the song was written, with lyrics like:
Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton Old times there are not forgotten Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land!
Union troops who were dead-set on killing Confederates, eventually came up with some new lyrics for the song. Like a group of murderous Weird Al fans, the Northerners wanted to poke fun at their deadly enemy in the best way they knew how – a diss track. The Union lyrics are harsh and the tune to the song just as catchy.
“Away down South in the land of traitors Rattlesnakes and alligators… … Where cotton’s king and men are chattels, Union boys will win the battles… Each Dixie boy must understand that he must mind his Uncle Sam…”
The Union version of “Dixie” rates somewhere between “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the list of All-Time Greatest Civil War Songs That Make You Want to March on Richmond.
The Cold War was a worldwide war that often manifested in bizarre ways that aren’t fully understood, even today. In 1958, Richard Nixon was veep to Dwight Eisenhower’s Presidency and the Cold War was in full swing. Latin America was experiencing a tide of anti-American sentiment, and Nixon was sent to Venezuela on a goodwill tour to help stem that tide.
By the end of his trip, Ike almost had to send the Marines in to get him out.
Crowds begin to form around the Nixon motorcade.
In truth, the U.S. government should have been prepared for what (at the time) was called the most violent attack ever perpetrated on a high American official while on foreign soil. The United States had just granted asylum to Venezuela’s recently overthrown dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez and awarded him the Legion of Merit. Nixon was on a goodwill tour of the entire continent and had already visited Uruguay and Ecuador, and it was well known that Nixon was on his way.
With the wounds of the departed Jimenez still fresh, anti-U.S. sentiment running high, and a long-planned visit from a high-ranking American official in the works, Nixon should have been ready for anything. Instead, he was largely “uninterested,” according to his biography. The VP and his wife arrived to an angry crowd of demonstrators who threw stones and spat at them. Instead of a planned visit and wreath laying at the Tomb of Simon Bolivar, the Nixons went right to the U.S. Embassy. It seems a crowd of Venezuelans had met the Vice-Presidential team at the tomb, attacked them, and destroyed the wreath anyway.
The car’s “shatterproof” glass.
As their car made its way through the capital of Caracas, traffic began to build, slowing down Nixon’s motorcade. As the procession slowed, crowds of angry Venezuelans began to mob the vehicle, banging on the windows and shattering the glass. As they attempted to flip the car, the 12 Secret Service agents protecting the Veep drew their pistols and prepared to fire into the crowd. Nixon stopped them and ordered them to fire only on his order. According to Nixon, the Press Corps’ flatbed truck kicked into high gear and began to push through the crowd as protestors began to climb aboard. The truck cleared the way for Nixon’s car to escape to the Embassy.
When news of the incident reached Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Arleigh Burke, he immediately prepared “Operation Poor Richard,” an invasion of Venezuela using the 2nd Marine Division, the 101st Airborne, and the USS Tarawa Carrier Group, all coming from Guantanamo Bay. The Venezuelans weren’t going to have Dick Nixon to kick around.
But despite a lack of protection from the Venezuelan military during the incident, they were omnipresent in the hours and days that followed. The streets had been cleared with tear gas, and infantry and armor units protected Nixon’s motorcade as it went to the airport the next day. The invasion of Venezuela would never have to materialize.
Nixon never forgot the events in Caracas that day, as the violence of the crowd would certainly have led to the death of almost everyone involved. His experience later helped form his foreign policy decisions regarding South America during his Presidency.
The Illinois State Military Museum is dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of military artifacts associated with Illinois. The museum is located in Springfield. Its mission is to conserve the long heritage of the Illinois National Guard. The IL NG unofficially got its start back in 1718. Back then, Illinois was still under French rule. But residents of the state weren’t too happy about it. So they banded together, and in typical American fashion, decided to make some changes. It was small at the start but by 1723, the Illinois National Guard included several militia companies. They’ve been drilling ever since. That makes the Illinois National Guard almost 300 years old!
Every great museum should have a wooden leg
The Illinois National Guard has been a significant contributor to every major conflict with US involvement. Of the many noteworthy events that included the Illinois National Guard, a few stand out. For instance, during the Black Hawk War in 1832, Abraham Lincoln served as a Guardsman. Of course, he remains their most famous Guardsman to date. The Illinois State Military Museum showcases a target board shot at by Lincoln from all the way back then.
Another great example of Illinois National Guard history includes the 4th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment Soldiers during the Mexican-American War. At the Mexican Battle of Cerro Gordo in 1847, Infantry Soldiers captured Mexican General Santa Anna. General Santa Anna’s wooden leg is now kept at the Illinois State Military Museum as one of its most popular artifacts.
Though he is known mostly as a celebrated poet and the biographer of Abraham Lincoln, Carl Sandburg also has some military history. His strong sense of patriotism led him to enlist as a Private in the Illinois National Guard during the Spanish-American War. Now, you can find his military experiences at the Illinois State Military Museum. His poems you’ll have to find somewhere else, though.
Always there when you need a hand…
Throughout its history, the Illinois National Guard has provided a force ready to respond to incidents both state and national. More recently, the NG’s role has been to help out during non-conflicts, like the Great Flood of 1993, where more than 7,000 Soldiers and Airmen rose to the occasion as record flooding from five major rivers occurred across the state. And then, after 9/11, the Illinois National Guard played an important role in battling the GWOT. But their work is never done. In 2005, they assisted during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and then again in 2011 for Hurricane Irene.
With the continuous involvement of the Illinois National Guard in state and US affairs, the Illinois State Military Museum is necessary to preserve and share this diverse and expansive Military history. And it’s not over yet. Today, the Illinois National Guard has about 10,000 Soldiers in its ranks. It is a part of the US Army and the US National Guard and includes the Illinois Air National Guard as well as the Illinois Army National Guard. In other words, they continue to be a pretty big deal.
These days, having the guts to do something just means someone is brave enough to take on what seems to be an overwhelming undertaking. Any herculean task could require guts: quitting a job, suing city hall, or voting third party could all require a gut check by today’s standards. In days past, however, a gut check was only required by the soldiers who were about to fight in combat.
For the record, it still is.
Armies in the days of yore – before the 20th Century – faced very different problems than the ones deployed American troops face today. Where we have been known to wince every time we see a runner missing his reflective belt or wonder why I always get the goddamned vegetarian MRE, the Army of the pre-World War I days was more worried about things like clean drinking water, cholera, and dysentery.
It’s amazing how they can smile even when the stupid chow hall is out of Diet Coke *again*
In days gone by, if someone asked a soldier if they had the guts to fight the coming day or the next day, it wasn’t just an affirmation of macho willpower, it was a real question of a soldier’s ability to maintain his position and discipline in the ranks instead of running off to the latrine every ten minutes to evacuate his bowels.
The asker’s “gut check” was real – and literal – checking to see if his comrade in arms was suffering from diarrhea or a similar illness of the bowels that would keep him from performing at the front lines. Maintaining the integrity of certain infantry formations used to be integral to the survival of the whole unit.
“Jesus, what is that smell, Kenneth?”
At the time of the U.S. Civil War, microbes were only just being accepted as cause for disease. In that war, 620,000 men were killed, but disease actually killed two-thirds of those men. A single illness such as measles could wipe out entire units. Battlefield sanitation was the order of the day, but if Civil War troops chose to ignore an order, that would be the one. Latrines were dug near camps, wells, and rivers as horse and mule entrails and manure permeated their camps.
As a result, dysentery was the single greatest killer of Civil War soldiers. Having the guts to fight only meant you were one of very few troops not suffering from the trots.
In 1949, six men gathered in Indianapolis for the last meeting of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans organization. At its peak, it boasted 400,000 members with thousands of posts nationwide. By 1949, however, only 16 remained. And only six were able to make the trek to Indianapolis. One of those was 108-year-old James Hard, a veteran of the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, and Chancellorsville.
In the next four years, all but one of those would have died, and with them, the firsthand memory of Civil War combat.
The battle standard of James Hard’s Civil War infantry unit.
The only one of the six to outlive Hard would be Albert Woolson, the last known member of the Union Army and the last undisputed surviving member on any side of the Civil War. But Woolson never saw action as a member of a heavy artillery unit from Minnesota. Hard was the last surviving Union combat veteran of the Civil War.
Between 1900 and into World War II, the surviving number of American Civil War veterans began to dwindle at an exponential rate, much like what the U.S. is seeing with its World War II veterans today. The Grand Army of the Republic held marches, and a yearly meeting called the Encampment to celebrate those veterans who served and to make sure they held on to their hard-won rights.
A 1912 Grand Army of the Republic parade marching through downtown Los Angeles.
James Hard was born in Rochester, New York around 1843. He lied about his age in 1861 to be able to join the Union Army. He joined the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also known as the Irish Rifles, in May 1861 and his service record verified his claim.
His unit was stationed around Washington, DC until Gen. Irvin McDowell used the 37th as a reserve unit in the battle of First Bull Run. McDowell had never led troops in combat and was soundly beaten. Its biggest loss came at Chancellorsville in 1863 when it lost more than 200 men to night fighting and a surprise attack during a flawed, unorganized retreat. A young James Hard was present for all of it.
The last of America’s Union Army, gathered in an Indianapolis ballroom in 1949.
By the time the First World War came around GAR membership was still very strong, its encampment still bringing in numbers just shy of a half a million or so. By the time the United States entered World War II, however, the Civil War veterans time had passed, and with their memory went so many of their numbers. In 1942, just over 500 Civil War veterans were on the rolls of the Grand Army of the Republic.
At the outset of the Cold War and the Atomic Age, only 16 remained. They were too frail to walk in any parades and had to be accompanied to Indianapolis by their Veterans Administration nurses. They drove through the parade route in vehicles, machines that were a very new invention to them.
Submarines have killed a lot of ships over the course of history. Granted, in the 72 years since World War II ended, the total has been very small. Prior to that, tens of thousands of ships were hit by submarine attack.
Ironically, while an American sub has claim to the largest ship ever sunk by submarine, a Japanese sub, the I-19, can arguably claim it deserves credit for the most devastation in a single attack.
The date was Sept. 15, 1942. The United States was running a large convoy to support elements of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal. The carrier USS Wasp (CV 7) was among the escorting force, which included the battleship USS North Carolina (BB 55), the cruisers USS Helena (CL 50) and USS Salt Lake City (CA 25), and a number of destroyers, including USS Laffey (DD 459) and USS O’Brien (DD 415).
The Wasp’s design had been dictated by limits imposed by the 1921 Washington Naval Treaty. In essence, she was a scaled-down Yorktown-class design, displacing about 14,900 tons compared to the 20,100 tons of Yorktown (CV 5), Enterprise (CV 6), and Hornet (CV 8). At the time of the Guadalcanal campaign, Wasp carried 25 F4F Wildcats, 26 SBD Dauntless, and 9 TBF Avengers. A potent force, it had missed the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.
According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, the I-19 made her attack around 2:44 PM, firing six torpedoes. Three hit the Wasp forward, where aircraft fuel and munitions were stored. The torpedoes fatally wounded the carrier. In 36 minutes, it was obvious the Wasp had to be abandoned. But the spread did more.
One torpedo hit the battleship North Carolina, tearing a good-sized hole in the fast battleship, but only did minor damage. A 5.5-degree list got corrected in less than six minutes, per DANFS. A fifth torpedo hit the destroyer USS O’Brien in the bow, in what appeared to be minor impact at first. O’Brien would sail under her own power to a series of forward bases. But on Oct. 19, 1942, effects of the hit caused the destroyer to break in half and sink after a 3,000 mile journey.
The I-19 would escape after this brilliant attack, but eventually karma exacted its price. During the Gilbert Islands campaign, the submarine was located by the USS Radford (DD 446) and sunk with all hands. The video below shows some of USS Wasp’s moments of agony after the torpedo attack.
Over the years, many researchers and scientists have scoured government documents at the National Archives in search of proof that life exists beyond Earth.
The National Archives and Records Administration is actually home to several collections of documents pertaining to unidentified flying objects (UFOs) or “flying disks.” And over the decades, those resources have been thoroughly probed and scrutinized for even a hint of more information and proof of alien existence.
One set of documents, known as Project Blue Book, includes retired, declassified records from the United States Air Force (USAF), currently in the custody of the National Archives. It relates to the USAF investigations of UFOs from 1947 to 1969.
According to a US Air Force Fact Sheet, a total of 12,618 sightings were reported to Project Blue Book during this time period. Of those, 701 remained “unidentified.” The project — once headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio — officially ended in 1969.
The subject of UFOs has long fascinated National Archives staff members as well. In a July 15, 2017, National Archives The Text Message blog post, “See Something, Say Something”: UFO Reporting Requirements, Office of Military Government for Bavaria, Germany, May 1948 archivists Greg Bradsher and Sylvia Naylor share a brief history of Project Blue Book, the project’s alternative names over the course of its existence, and some information on the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, UFO incident.
All of Project Blue Book documentation is available on 94 rolls of microfilm (T1206) with the case files and the administrative records. These records are available for examination in the National Archives Microfilm Reading Room at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. Motion picture film, sound recordings, and some still pictures are maintained by the Motion Picture Sound Video Branch and the Still Picture Branch. There is even a Project Blue Book webpage so researchers can access online more than 50,000 official U.S. Government documents relating to the UFO phenomenon.
Richard Peuser, chief of textual reference operations at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, said the agency has seen a steady amount of interest in files dealing with UFOs, responding to “a few hundred or so requests” over the years.
“Sometimes the same person would write multiple times hoping for a different answer,” Peuser continued. “Many felt that the records were too benign and that the Government [must be] ‘hiding’ the real stuff. Often there were allegations of coverup, of deliberately hiding or destroying the documents.”
Peuser said, “The National Archives still gets a fair amount of inquiries relating to UFO’s and folks have come in looking for other records in accessioned US Air Force records in particular. So, Roswell, Area 51, Majestic-12, Projects Mogul, Sign, Grudge, and Twinkle continue to fascinate and draw researchers to examine our holdings for aliens.”
The National Archives catalog yielded 37 catalog descriptions, organized under flying saucers, saucers, flying UFO phenomena, UFOlogy, or UFOs.
Over the years, as records have been processed and cataloged at the National Archives, other documents have come to light.
Just a few years ago, as archives technician Michael Rhodes was processing hundreds of boxes of Air Force records, he came across a drawing in the corner of a test flight report document that caught his eye.
The drawing — Rhodes said in the July 8, 2013 National Archives Pieces of History blog post, Flying Saucers, Popular Mechanics, and the National Archives — caught his attention because of its striking resemblance to the flying saucers in popular science fiction films made during that era. Researchers can look through the entire series in person or read the Project 1794 Final Development Summary Report of 1956 online.
The National Archives online catalog includes a series of records from the Federal Aviation Administration that document the sighting of a UFO by the crew of Japan Airlines Flight 1628 while in Alaskan airspace. National Archives records include simulated radar imagery and an article that appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine on May 24, 1987, about the incident.
Records in this collection also include notes from interviews with the three crew members who spotted the UFO and are available in the online catalog. The records were discovered as part of the Alaskan digitization project, according to Marie Brindo-Vas, a metadata technician at the National Archives in Seattle, Washington.
Another interesting record from National Aeronautics and Space Administration files includes the Air-to-Ground transcripts from Gemini VII. Found in the National Archives online catalog, the records include the transcript of a conversation between Houston control and astronauts who “have a bogey at 10 o’clock high.” Bogey was often the term used to refer to UFOs. The conversation goes on to explain that the astronauts are seeing in a polar orbit “hundreds of little particles going by from the left out about 3 or 4 miles.”
The National Archives also has audiovisual records pertaining to UFOs such as the video of Maj. Gen. John A. Samford’s Statement on “Flying Saucers” from the Pentagon, Washington, DC, on July 31, 1952, in which the military leader discusses the Army’s investigation of flying disks. Another video issued by the Department of Defense highlights USAF Lt. Col. Lawrence J. Tacker and Maj. Hector Quintanilla, Jr., discussing Project Blue Book and the identification of UFOs.
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum possesses a document relating to UFOs composed by Ford when he was House Minority Leader and Congressman from Michigan. The original document is located in Box D9, folder “Ford Press Releases – UFO, 1966” of the Ford Congressional Papers: Press Secretary and Speech File at the Ford Library.
In this memorandum, then-Congressman Ford proposed that “Congress investigate the rash of reported sightings of unidentified flying objects in Southern Michigan and other parts of the country.” An attached news release to that memorandum goes on to say “Ford is not satisfied with the Air Force explanation of the recent sightings in Michigan and describes the “swamp gas” version given by astrophysicist J. Allen Hynek as flippant.”
In October 1969, the then-Governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, saw a UFO over the skies of Leary, Georgia. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum and Library in Atlanta, Georgia, has the full report that he submitted into the International UFO Bureau.
As more documents are searched, processed, and declassified, what evidence might be found of alien and UFO existence at the National Archives? That remains to be seen, but based on past history, it’s clear that researchers and UFO enthusiasts will continue to dig for more information. The widespread fascination with the possibility of the existence of alien life forms and UFOs continues to arouse great passion and controversy all over Earth.
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945 marked the end of the World War II, and the beginning of the age of nuclear weapons.
During the Cold War, the policy of mutually assured destruction between the US and the Soviet Union — appropriately referred to as “MAD” — meant that if one nation used nuclear weapons on another, then an equal response would have been doled out as soon as possible.
Over the course of the Cold War, and several times after it, the citizens of the world were forced to hold their breath as the superpowers came close to nuclear war.
Here are nine times the world was at the brink of nuclear war — but pulled back:
1. October 5, 1960 – The moon is mistaken for missiles
Early warning radar quickly became one of the most important tools in the nuclear age. American radar stations were built all around the world with the hope that they would detect incoming Soviet missiles, warning the homeland of a strike and allowing for the president to form a response.
On October 5, 1960, one such warning was issued from a newly constructed early warning radar station in Thule, Greenland (now called Qaanaaq). Dozens of missiles were reportedly detected, and at one point were said to reach the US in 20 minutes.
A panic ensued at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) HQ in Colorado, and NORAD was placed on its highest alert level.
The panic was put to rest when it was realized that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was visiting New York at the time. A later investigation found that the radar had mistaken the moon rising over Norway as Soviet missiles.
2. November 24, 1961 – A single switch causes a mechanical failure
Just over a year later, Strategic Air Command (SAC) HQ in Omaha, Nebraska lost contact with the Thule radar station. SAC officials then tried to contact NORAD HQ in Colorado, but the line was reportedly dead.
It was determined before that the probability that both Thule and NORAD’s communications would shut down due to technical malfunction was very low, making SAC believe that an attack was underway.
SAC’s entire alert force was ordered to prepare for takeoff, but crisis was averted when a US bomber managed to make contact with Thule and confirm no attack was underway.
It was later discovered that a single malfunctioning switch managed to shut down all communications, even emergency hotlines, between SAC, Thule, and NORAD.
3. October 25, 1962 – A bear almost turns the Cuban Missile Crisis hot
The Cuban Missile Crisis is perhaps the closest the world has ever come to global nuclear war. Four instances over the 13-day event stand out in particular, the first one happening on October 25, 1962.
Tensions were already high during the crisis, and the US military was placed on DEFCON 3, two steps away from nuclear war.
Just after midnight on October 25, a guard at the Duluth Sector Direction Center in Minnesota saw a figure attempting to climb the fence around the facility. The guard, worried that the figure was a Soviet saboteur, shot at the figure and activated the sabotage alarm.
This triggered air raid alarms to go off at all air bases in the area. Pilots at Volk Field in neighboring Wisconsin to panic, since they knew that no tests or practices would happen while the military was on DEFCON 3.
The pilots were ordered to their nuclear armed F-106A interceptors, and were taxiing down the runway when it was determined the alarm was false. They were stopped by a car that had raced to the airfield to tell the pilots to stop.
The intruder turned out to be a bear.
4. October 27, 1962 – A Soviet sub almost launches a nuclear torpedo
Two of the instances actually occurred on the same day — October 27, 1962, arguably the most dangerous day in history.
On the morning of October 27, a U-2F reconnaissance aircraft was shot down by the Soviets while over Cuba, killing its pilot, causing tensions to escalate to their highest point.
Later, a Soviet submarine, the B-59, was detected trying to break the blockade that the US Navy had established around Cuba. The destroyer USS Beale dropped practice depth charges in an attempt to make the submarine surface.
The captain of the B-59, Valentin Savitsky, thought the submarine was under attack and ordered to prepare the submarine’s nuclear torpedo to be launched at the aircraft carrier USS Randolf.
All three senior officers aboard the B-59 had to agree to the launch before it happened. Fortunately, the B-59’s second in command, Vasili Arkhipov, disagreed with his other two counterparts, and convinced the captain to surface and await orders from Moscow.
5. October 27, 1962 – The US Air Force sends out nuclear armed fighters
On the very same day, US Air Force pilots almost caused WW III to break out over the Bering Sea, the body of water between Alaska and Russia.
A US Air Force U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was en route to the North Pole for an air sampling mission. The spy plan accidentally crossed into Soviet airspace and lost track of its location, spending 90 minutes in the area before turning East to leave.
As it did so, at least six MiG fighter jets were sent to shoot down the U-2 while it was trespassing. Strategic Air Command, worried about the prospect of losing another U-2, sent F-102 Delta Daggers armed with nuclear Falcon air-to-air missiles.
Upon learning of the situation, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara reportedly yelled “this means war with the Soviet Union!” President John F. Kennedy reportedly said that “there’s always some son of a b—- that doesn’t get the word.”
Luckily, the F-102s never encountered the MiGs, and escorted the U-2 back to Alaska.
6. October 28, 1962 – Radar operators get confused over an unknown satellite
One day after those events, radar operators in Moorestown, New Jersey reported to NORAD HQ just before 9:00 AM that Soviet nuclear missiles were on their way, and were expected to strike at exactly 9:02 near Tampa, Florida.
All of NORAD was immediately alerted and scrambled to respond, but the time passed without any detonations, causing NORAD to delay any actions.
It was later discovered that the Moorestown radar operators were confused because the facility was running a test tape that simulated a missile launch from Cuba when a satellite unexpectedly appeared over the horizon.
Additional radars were not operating at the time, and the Moorestown operators were not informed that the satelite was inbound because the facility that handled such operations was on other work related to the situation in Cuba.
7. November 9, 1979 – A training drill almost turns real
At 3:00 AM on November 9, 1979, computers at NORAD HQ lit up with warnings that thousands of nuclear missiles had been launched from Soviet submarines and were headed for the US.
SAC was alerted immediately and US missile crews were on the highest alert level possible, and nuclear bombers were preparing for takeoff.
The National Emergency Airborne Command Post, the airplane that is supposed to carry the president during a nuclear attack to ensure his command over the nuclear arsenal even took off, though without President Jimmy Carter on board.
National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski knew that the president’s decision making time was somewhere between three to seven minutes, and so decided to hold off telling Carter in order to be absolutely sure there was a real threat.
Six minutes of extreme worry passed, and satellites confirmed that no attack was taking place. It was later discovered that a technician had accidentally inserted a training tape simulating such a scenario into one of the computers.
Marshall Shulman, then a senior US State Department adviser, reportedly said in a now-declassified letter that was designated Top Secret that “false alerts of this kind are not a rare occurrence. There is a complacency about handling them that disturbs me.”
8. September 26, 1983 – A Soviet colonel makes the biggest gamble in history
Just after midnight on September 26, 1983, Soviet satellite operators at the Serpukhov-15 bunker just south of Moscow got a warning that a US Minuteman nuclear missile had been launched. Later, four more missiles were detected.
Tensions between the US and Soviet Union were strained earlier in the month, when the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 near Sakhalin Island, killing all 269 people on board — including US Congressman Larry McDonald.
The commanding officer at the bunker, Stanislav Petrov, was to inform his superiors of the launches, so an appropriate response could be made. Soviet policy back then called for an all-out retaliatory strike.
Knowing this, Petrov decided not to inform his superiors. “All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders — but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan,” he recalled of the incident.
He reasoned that if the US were to strike the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons, they would send hundreds of missiles, not just five.
But Petrov had no way of knowing if he was right until enough time had passed, by which time nuclear bombs could have hit their targets, arguably making his decision the biggest gamble in human history.
After 23 minutes, Petrov’s theory that it was a false alarm was confirmed. It was later discovered that a Soviet sattelite had mistaken sunlight reflecting off the top of clouds as missiles.
9. January 25, 1995 – Nuclear worries remain after the Soviet Union
Four years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, almost started a nuclear war.
Russian early warning radar detected a launch of a missile with similar characteristics to a submarine-launched Trident missile off the coast of Norway.
The detected missile was actually a Norwegian Black Brant scientific rocket which was on a mission to study the aurora borealis. Norwegian authorities had informed the Kremlin of the launch, but the radar operators were not informed.
Yeltsin was given the Cheget, Russia’s version of the nuclear briefcase (sometimes known as the Football), and the launch codes for Russia’s missile arsenal. Russia’s submarines were also placed on alert.
Fortunately, Yeltsin’s belief that it was a false alarm proved correct, and Russian satellites confirmed that there was no activity from US missile sites.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Before the Civil War, Robert E. Lee’s mansion was part of a Virginia estate on the Potomac River, across from the nation’s capital. It was land his wife inherited from her father. At 1,100 acres, it was an idyllic area to raise George Washington’s adopted great-grandchildren (his father-in-law, was George Washington Park Custis, the adopted son of the first Commander-in-Chief and our nation’s first First Lady).
They must have been really upset when the Union Army came by in May of 1861 and seized it from them.
The previous month, South Carolinian contingents of the Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The Civil War had begun. President Lincoln called up the U.S. Army, who came to the capital and took control of the Arlington side of the Potomac. The area was a prime position for Union Artillery.
In April 1861, Lee was appointed commander-in-chief of Virginia’s military forces. Though the state had not yet seceded, it was widely expected to do so. When Virginia left the Union, Lee was appointed to a Brigadier General’s rank in the Confederate Army in May 1861. That’s when the U.S. government took his land and home. Lee was with his army in nearby Manassas when the U.S. Army came knocking on May 24th.
Though the war started well for Lee and Virginia, it didn’t end well. After his defeat at Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia would never recover and Lee would be forced to surrender at Appomattox Court House in 1865. In the meantime, the land was used by Lee’s (and other) former slaves to grow food to feed the Union Army.
After the war, the Lee family decided to try to get their land and home back through a series of legal battles. The main sticking point? Lee’s unpaid tax bill. The U.S. government charged the Lees $92.07 in taxes on their land ($2130.52 in today’s dollars). Mary, Lee’s wife sent her cousin to pay the bill, but the U.S. would only accept the payment from Lee herself. When she didn’t show, they put the property up for sale.
Now that the land was delinquent on its taxes the government could purchase it, which it did. For $26,800, the equivalent of just over $620,156 today. Except in 2017, 1100 acres of Arlington, Va. is worth millions. But in 2017, that specific 1100 acres is actually priceless, because it’s now called Arlington National Cemetery. It’s where the United States inters its honored war heroes.
The U.S. long ago turned it into a cemetery for those troops lost in the Civil War. Union troops were buried there beginning in 1864, partly to relieve the overflowing Union hospitals and partly to keep the Lee family from ever returning. As late as 1870, the year Gen. Lee died, Mary Lee petitioned Congress to get her home back and remove the dead. The petition failed and Mary Lee died in 1873.
Her son, however, sued the government, claiming its 1864 tax auction was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court agreed and ordered the government to either remove the bodies from the cemetery or pay the Lee estate a fair market price for the land. The government paid $150,000 for the now-priceless land.
That ship was the battleship USS Nevada (BB 36). The Nevada was the lead ship in her class, the other being USS Oklahoma (BB 37). According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, when she was built, she had ten 14-inch guns (two triple turrets, two double turrets), 21 five-inch guns (many in casemates), and four 21-inch torpedo tubes.
The Nevada did not see much action at all (although nine sailors died from the influenza pandemic that hit in 1918) in World War I. In the 1920s and 1930s, she carried out normal peacetime operations.
On Dec. 7, 1941, she was moored alone on Battleship Row. When Kido Butai launched the sneak attack on Oahu, the battleship was hit by a torpedo, but her crew managed to get her engines running, and she made a break for the open ocean.
As she did so, the second wave from the six Japanese carriers arrived. The Nevada took anywhere from six to ten bomb hits, and the decision was made to run her aground.
The Nevada suffered 50 dead and over 100 wounded, but Pearl Harbor would claim two more casualties. In “Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal,” it was reported that two men were killed by hydrogen sulfide on Feb. 7, 1942, while working to salvage the Nevada.
Nevada would return to Puget Sound for permanent repairs and refitting, gaining a new dual-purpose batter of eight twin five-inch gun mounts. She took part in operations to re-take the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska from the Japanese, then she went to the Atlantic.
On June 6, 1944, she was part of the armada that took part in Operation Overlord, and continued to provide fire support until American troops moved further inland. In August of that year, she took part in Operation Dragoon, the landings in southern France.
She then returned to the Pacific, taking part in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Off Okinawa, she suffered damage from a kamikaze and from Japanese shore batteries.
The ship remained mission-capable, and she would later return to Pearl Harbor for repairs before re-joining the fleet to prepare for the invasion of Japan, stopping to pay a visit to a bypassed Japanese-held island.
After Japan surrendered, the Nevada was sent back to the West Coast, and prepared for Operation Crossroads. Painted a bright orange color to serve as an aiming point for the B-29 crew assigned to drop an atomic bomb, she got lucky.
According to the book “Final Voyages,” the B-29 crew missed her by about a mile — and she survived both the Able and Baker tests. She was later used as a target and sunk, with the final blow being an aerial torpedo according to the Naval Vessel Register.