This is the real Iraq War battle behind 'The Long Road Home' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

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.”


 

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’
Soldiers from B Co., 3/15 Infantry hand out hard candy to kids in Sadr City, Iraq, Feb. 28, 2003. An ominous stencil of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr looms in the background.

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.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’
A U.S. Army soldier assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 12th Calvary Regiment, armed with a 5.56mm Colt M4 carbine, provides security during a patrol near Forward Operating Base Camp Eagle, Sadr City, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

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.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’
U.S. troops patrol the deserted streets of the sprawling Shia slum of Sadr City at sunset, Apr. 4, 2004. (Wathiq Khuzaie)

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.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This soldier saved his crew under fire while covered in white phosphorous

Not everyone can maintain composure when the aircraft he’s in starts to lose control. But that’s just what this Medal of Honor recipient did, despite being severely wounded while it was happening.

Rodney Yano was born on the Big Island of Hawaii nearly two years to the day after the U.S. entered World War II. His grandparents had immigrated to the U.S. from Japan well before that.


According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, he’s one of 33 Asian-Americans to receive the Medal of Honor.

Yano joined the Army in 1961 before graduating from high school. He rose to the rank of staff sergeant and was on his second tour of Vietnam when he became an air crewman with the 11th Air Cavalry Regiment.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’
Rodney Yano

On Jan. 1, 1969, Yano was the acting crew chief and one of two door gunners on his company’s command-and-control helicopter as it fought an enemy entrenched in the dense Vietnamese jungle near Bien Hao.

The chopper was taking direct fire from below, but Yano managed to use his machine gun to suppress the enemy’s assault. He was also able to toss grenades that emitted white phosphorous smoke at their positions so his troop commander could accurately fire artillery at their entrenchments.

Unfortunately, one of those grenades exploded too early, covering Yano in the burning chemical and causing severe burns. Fragments of the grenade also caught supplies in the helicopter on fire, including ammunition, which detonated. White smoke filled the chopper, and the pilots weren’t able to see to maintain control of the aircraft. The situation wasn’t looking good.

But Yano wasn’t ready to go down with the ship, as they say. The initial grenade explosion partially blinded him and left him with the use of only one arm, but he jumped into action anyway, kicking and throwing the blazing ammunition from the helicopter until the flaming pieces were gone and the smoke filtered out.

One man on the helicopter was killed, and Yano didn’t survive his many injuries. But his courage and concern for his comrades’ survival kept the chopper from going down, averting more loss of life.

For that, Yano was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant first class. On April 7, 1970, his parents received the Medal of Honor for his actions from President Richard Nixon.

In his honor, the cargo carrier USNS Yano was named for him, as well as a helicopter maintenance facility at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and a library at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 royals that could claim the throne of the United States

No, the U.S. did not suddenly become a monarchy, nor are we even starting to think about it. But Americans, despite their historical disagreements with the idea of royalty, are very much enamored with some of the world’s royal families. The Shah of Iran, Princess Grace of Monaco, and (of course) the House of Windsor in the United Kingdom have all been the subject of Americans’ interest for a time.


This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’
My personal favorites are King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan. #couplegoals, amirite?

The fact is that the United States could well have been a kind of constitutional monarchy, with George Washington on the throne. A small cabal of Continental Army officers wanted to give that a go, being unsure of a republican government. Washington rebuffed the men, and the rest is history – but what if there had been one chair to rule all of the United States? Who today could win that game of thrones?

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

Deal with it.

1. Queen Elizabeth II

This one is pretty obvious. As the current reigning monarch of the last monarch that ruled what we now call the United States, reverting back to a monarchy would see the U.S. go along with who the British Empire proclaimed to be the rightful heirs to the throne throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, which brings us to Queen Elizabeth.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

Looks like the Prince enjoys a few smokes with his beers. Welcome to America.

2. Ernst August V, the House of Hanover

When the United States won its independence from Britain, the reigning monarch was King George III of the House of Hanover. The Hanoverians ruled the British Empire until the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901 but if we were to give Hanover the throne of the United States to pick where they left off, the current head of the House of Hanover would be H.R.H. Prince Ernst August V, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, son-in-law of Princess Grace of Monaco, and public urination aficionado.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

3. Louis Alphonse de Bourbon, Duke of Anjou

Also known in some circles as Louis XX, the Duke of Anjou is the current pretender to a French throne that no longer exists and is the direct descendant of Louis XVI. Louis XVI, of course, is the last Bourbon king of France before the French Revolution caused his head to be removed from the rest of his body. It could be argued that since the Louisiana Purchase of French North America resulted in doubling the size of the young United States, French kings have a legitimate claim to any would-be American throne.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

Spanish King Felipe VI meets President Donald Trump at the White House.

4. King Felipe VI of Spain

Since many of the United States current possessions were once Spanish possessions, it makes sense that the current King of Spain, King Felipe VI, be considered for the U.S. throne. Making Felipe’s claim even stronger is that he is also descended from the Bourbon king Louis XVI and is the second cousin to France’s Duke Louis Alphonse de Bourbon.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

5. Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon

Remember that time the French people got rid of their king (we just briefly mentioned it)? Eventually, the country was ruled by First Consul – later Emperor – Napoléon Bonaparte. Bonaparte ruled France as it sold its North American possessions to the United States in 1803. Well, he still has living heirs, the most prominent being Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon, a descendant of Napoléon’s youngest brother Jérôme, and the Emperor’s great-great-great-great-nephew.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

Who? seen here with Pope Benedict XVI.

6. Count Maximilian von Götzen-Iturbide

Much of what is today the United States once belonged to Mexico before the U.S. took it in the Mexican War of 1846. At that time, Mexico was ruled by the dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. But before Mexico took on a republican form of government, it was ruled by a legitimate Mexican Emperor, Augustin I. He ruled very briefly before being executed and overthrown, but his living descendants include Count Maximilian von Götzen-Iturbide, the current head of Mexico’s royal family.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

Who says we can’t have a Queen? Or Tsarina?

7. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna

Given the number of Russian holdings in North America, it’s not crazy to consider a Russian claim to the throne. Russia’s last possession, Alaska, was sold to the United States during the reign of Tsar Alexander II, grandfather to the last official Russian Tsar. As many are aware, the Imperial Romanov’s reign over Russia ended when the family was murdered by Bolsheviks during Russia’s transition to becoming the Soviet Union. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna is now the recognized head of the Imperial Family of Russia, now that there are no more male members of the Romanov Dynasty left.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

8. Andrew Romanov, Prince of Russia

Wait, I thought I said there were no more male Romanovs? I did, but monarchy is tricky. If it were that simple, there wouldn’t be so many stupid wars about who gets what throne. Prince Andrew is a direct descendant of Tsar Nicholas I, whose reign ended with his death in 1855. His grandmother was Russian Duchess Xenia who fled Russia in 1917 aboard a British warship. Romanov is a World War II veteran of the British Royal Navy who even lived in California for a time.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

How do you like them apples, your Royal Highness?

9. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Yes, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, consort of the British Monarch, actually has a claim to the throne of Imperial Russia, and as a result, a weak but possible claim to the fictional throne of the United States. Since Philip is both great-great-grandson of Tsar Nicholas I and grandnephew of the last Tsarina Alexandra Romanov, it gives him a claim to the same lands and titles.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

Your potential Queen of the United States is in the center, wearing purple.

10. Princess Owana Ka’ohelelani Salazar

If Alaska gives Russia a claim to the throne of the United States, why not Hawaii? Before Hawaii became a U.S. territory by annexation in 1898, it was a sovereign republic, led by American businessman Sanford Dole. Before that, though, it was a sovereign kingdom, ruled by Queen Liliʻuokalani, a native Hawaiian. Though Queen Liliʻuokalani’s dynastic succession ended with her death in 1917, the royal lineage continued, and today the head of the Hawaiian royal family is HRH Princess Owana Ka’ohelelani Salazar, who is also an accomplished steel guitar player.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most intense military medical training no one talks about

It’s no secret the military trains the way they fight — which is pretty hardcore. Marines and sailors train in the terrible heat and rough terrain of the Mojave Desert to prepare them to face the enemy in the harsh conditions of Afghanistan.


During their pre-deployment workup, troops pretend to get hurt so that nearby medics can practice rendering proper treatment. This training only goes so far, though, as the semi-stressful situations can’t compare to the real vigors of war.

So, to get young medical professionals ready for bloody working conditions overseas, some of the troops are sent to a live-tissue training course stateside where they must keep wounded pigs or goats alive for hours  — or fail the course.

These animals are chosen specifically due to their tissue similarities to humans.

Related: The ‘Prisoner Exchange’ is the coolest Army-Navy tradition no one talks about

Before heading down to the live-tissue training grounds, young troops go through three days’ worth of brutal training missions throughout Camp Pendleton. These missions consist of hunting down mock “high-value targets,” several hours of intense physical training, and miles of foot patrols with little to no sleep. Then, troops board a bus that takes them to an undisclosed location — the live-tissue training grounds.

“The instructors worked us hard all day and night,” one former hospital Corpsman recalls. “We all were completely exhausted before the lab even started.”

Once at the training ground, the troops gear up in full battle rattle, place their highly anesthetized agricultural animal on an Army litter, and carry it up a steep hill where the training begins. After dropping the animal off at the first station, medics seek cover until signaled to retrieved their severely wounded patient.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’
These Marines pull their wounded patient from a vehicle during the live-tissue training course.

Once the troops retrieve their patient, the docs make lifesaving interventions.

Three or four battle-themed stations and several massive wounds later, the troops enter a large metal container and load their “patient” on board as if it were a medical evacuation helicopter. After being locked in for several minutes, the container’s door opens to a mock-hospital, where the troops continue to care for their patient.

If the animal dies throughout this process, the student fails.

Also Read: How one vet learned to actually appreciate his deployment to Iraq

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

Compared to a computer simulator, the “pig lab,” as many refer to it, puts actual life into the student’s hands, forcing them to think on their toes to keep their patient alive.

Although humans control the stimulator, this lab comes with an extreme level of unpredictability and is considered “great training.”

“It was the best damn training I’ve ever received,” the former hospital Corpsman remembers. “I felt much more confident to take care of one of my Marines if they got hurt.”

Although considered to be “great training,” PETA, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has voiced, on many occasions, that they are entirely against using agricultural animals for military training.

Articles

This bomber made the B-52 look puny

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has the nickname “Big Ugly Fat F***er” — or just the BUFF — but is it the biggest bomber that ever served? Believe it or not, that answer is, “No.”


There was a much bigger bomber in the fleet — and while it never dropped a bomb in anger, it was the backbone of Strategic Air Command in its early years. That plane was the Convair B-36 Peacemaker.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’
A prototype B-52 next to a B-36 Peacemaker. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Peacemaker was immense, according to a fact sheet from the National Museum of the Air Force: Its wingspan was 230 feet (compared to 185 feet for a B-52), the B-36 was 162 feet long (compared to just over 159 feet for the B-52), and it could carry up to 86,000 pounds of bombs, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. The B-52’s maximum bomb load is 70,000 pounds, per an Air Force fact sheet.

How did you get such an immense craft off the ground? Very carefully.

The B-36 had six Pratt and Whitney R-4360 engines in a pusher configuration and four General Electric J47 jet engines. These were able to lift a fully-loaded B-36 off the ground and propel it to a top speed of 435 miles per hour.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’
The immense scale of the B-36 is apparent by looking at the one on exhibit at the National Museum of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Depending on the model, the B-36 had up to 16 20mm cannon in twin turrets. The B-36 entered service in 1948 – and it gave SAC 11 years of superb service, being replaced by the B-52. Five planes survive, all of which are on display.

Below, this clip from the 1955 movie “Strategic Air Command” shows how this plane took flight. Jimmy Stewart plays a major league baseball player called back into Air Force service (Stewart was famously a bomber pilot who saw action in World War II and the Vietnam War).

Also recognizable in this clip is the flight engineer, played by Harry Morgan, famous for playing Sherman Potter on “MASH” and as Detective Rich Gannon in the 1960s edition of “Dragnet.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 retorts that prove the Ancient Spartans were funnier than you thought

The ancient Spartans are legendary for their courage and discipline, but these warriors were also famous in their time for their dry, sarcastic humor. A “laconic phrase,” a phrase that is especially concise and blunt, is actually named after Laconia, the Greek region where Sparta was located. Some Greeks attributed the Spartan terseness to ignorance, but others thought differently. The Athenian philosopher Plato wrote, “If you talk to any ordinary Spartan, he seems to be stupid, but eventually, like an expert marksman, he shoots in some brief remark that proves you to be only a child.” Here are some of the best examples of Spartan wit.


1. King Demartus

According to the ancient Roman historian Plutarch, King Demaratus of Sparta was once being pestered by a man with endless questions, especially who was the best among the Spartans. The irritated king finally responded, “Whoever is least like you.”

2. King Pleistoanax

Plutarch also describes King Pleistoanax, who heard an Athenian orator claim that the Spartans had no education. Pleistoanax retorted, “True, we are indeed the only Greeks who have learned no evil from you.”

3. Stellos 

In Zack Snyder’s 300, after hearing from a Persian emissary that the Persian archers’ arrows would blot out the sun, the Spartan soldier Stelios jokes that the Spartans will fight in the shade. This actually comes from Herodotus’s Histories, the ancient source on the Persian War, except it is spoken by the soldier Deinekes. However, an ancient source from Plutarch does mention King Leonidas telling his men, “Eat well, for tonight we dine in Hades.”

4. Commander Pausanias

After the Spartans routed the Persian invasion at the Battle of Plataea, the Spartan commander Pausanias decided that the banquet the Persians had set out for themselves should be served to himself and his officers instead. Upon seeing the feast, Pausanias cracked that, “The Persian is an abominable glutton who, when he has such delicacies at home, comes to eat our barley-cakes.” Spartan food was notoriously disgusting. When a traveler from Sybaris visited Sparta and tasted their infamous “black broth” he exclaimed, “No wonder Spartans are the bravest of men. Anyone in their right mind would rather die a thousand times than live like this.”

5. Spartan women

It wasn’t just the Spartan men who cracked jokes. Unlike most Greek women who were expected to be subservient to their husbands, the women of Sparta held considerable political and economic power. The Spartan men were always preparing for a war or fighting one, so the women were expected to manage their households themselves. A non-Spartan woman once asked Queen Gorgo, wife of Leonidas, why the Spartan women were the only ones who could rule over men. Gorgo responded, “Because we are also the only ones who give birth to men.”

6. Short but sweet

When King Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) invaded southern Greece, he sent a message to the Spartans asking if he would be received as a friend or enemy. The Spartans’ reply was brief: “Neither.” Offended, Philip sent a threat: “You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.” The Spartans’ reply was just as short as before: “If.”

7. Spartan response 

The Macedonians eventually did conquer Greece, and the later Macedonian king Demetrius I offended many Greeks through his extravagance and prideful attitude. He even forced the ambassadors of Athens, his favorite of the Greek cities, to wait two whole years at court before speaking to them. Sparta resented the Macedonian rule, and sent only one ambassador to the court on behalf of the city. Demetrius was infuriated and demanded to know if Sparta had really sent only one man to speak with the king; the Spartan responded, “Aye, one ambassador to one king.”

8. King Agesilaus II

King Agesilaus II of Sparta was respected for his martial virtue as well as his wit. Someone asked him what the boundaries of Sparta were, as unlike most Greek cities Sparta had no defensive walls. Agesilaus drew his spear and extended it, claiming that the borders were “as far as this can reach.” When asked why Sparta had no walls, he pointed to the armored citizens and explained that “these are the Spartans’ walls.” After Agesilaus was wounded in a battle against Thebes, the Spartan warrior Antalcidas joked that “The Thebans pay you well for having taught them to fight, which they were neither willing nor able to do before.”

For the Spartans, humor was more than just entertainment. It taught them how to think on their feet, how to conserve resources by training them to be economical with their words, and encouraged camaraderie between the citizens. All of us have something to learn from this warlike people, not just from their wisdom, but from their wisecracks.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the one boxing match the Navy doesn’t want you to know about

Boxing is a sport that empowers human ambition and drive unlike any other form of activity. The physical preparation boxers make before a fight is unparalleled and the adrenaline rush after a well-deserved victory is irreplaceable. There’s just no comparison to any other form of winning. Maybe that was boxing’s appeal to deployed American sailors.

By the end of the Spanish-American war, the U.S. Navy occupied the Dominican Republic and sent a heavy naval force along the shores of this small Caribbean island in order to protect the U.S. government’s financial interest.

Theodore Roosevelt was president at the time and he believed implementing combative boxing events on naval vessels would increase military morale by having competitors pummel one another for glory. These events grew very popular and in no time boxing became a main sporting activity widespread across the Navy.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan…until one match went too far and turned fatal on July 8, 1908, aboard the USS Yankee.

 

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’
Light Heavyweight match between Navy sailor Dale Alexander (right) and his Marine opponet.

(U.S. Navy photo)


Not long after the orders were passed down, boxing matches were being held on the decks of naval vessels in order to generate unit cohesion. To liven up the troops and sailors alike, these events were code-named “Smokers.”

Smokers went from a recreational sporting matches to prizefighting spectacles in no time, providing the opportunity to earn respect and extra pay for those sailors in need of a salary hike. This gave minority sailors – primarily Jewish and black sailors –the chance to be seen as more than just their ethnic background. It was one way to earn respect from and build camaraderie with their white counterparts in the days before a racially integrated military.

On July 8, 1908, onlookers cheered and mocked the fighters as the contestants took the stage. Raphael Cohen, a Jewish coal shoveler on the USS Yankee, awkwardly took the ring, awaiting the confident Jordan R. Johnson, a black gunners-mate from the USS Olympia, whose experience could be seen in his cold, unbroken deathly glare.

Both men came from humble beginnings, hardened by their fair share of turmoil, which may have been what brought them into the ring – or as the fighters would call it, the circle of truth.

Johnson joined the military at age 15 and quickly became a victim of physical abuse by his fellow shipmates. This was easily identifiable by unexplained scars on his ribs, abdomen, and neck. Growing up, Johnson spent nights shackled in irons, which turned him into a hardened fighter and earned him fear and respect on the Olympia. The ship’s decks became his training ground as he fought anyone who would meet him.

Cohen, on the other hand, was a young man looking for his identity, merely trying to to find where he belonged in this testosterone-heavy environment. After marrying at a young age, he believed the Navy would turn him into a man (or at least the man he thought he should be) so he searched to prove to himself that he was tough enough to hang with the other fighters.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’
A U.S. Navy-sanctioned boxing match.

 

Both fighters were eager to get the fight going once the bell rang. The fully-charged Cohen fearlessly ran straight at Johnson, whose patience and experience kept him calm throughout the exchange. They fought hard, throwing caution to the wind, and neither giving in as the rounds continued.

Hundreds of sailors and Marines went wild as the two boxers pummeled one another. As each round continued, the crowd could see Cohen weakening. Even the referee questioned Cohen’s condition before allowing him to remain in what would become Cohen’s last stand.

By the eighth round, Cohen had enough, finally slumping to the ground after a crisp shot to the temple landed by Johnson rattled Cohen and left him unable to continue.

Johnson was victorious but what had he really won? Cohen would later be raised onto a stool and carried out of the ring. Two hours later, he was pronounced dead in the medical room.

An autopsy would later reveal the cause of death being a massive blood clot found inside of Cohen’s brain, attributed to the excessive beating he received in the bout. Captain Edward Francis of the USS Yankee later denied all involvement with the organization of the fight and reported Cohen’s death as “not in the line of duty.”

 

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’
The telegram informing Cohen’s family of his death.

Cohen’s remains were buried in the Dominican Republic but later sent back to his family in New York in 1911. His remains were finally laid to rest in Maimonides Cemetery in Brooklyn. Jordan Johnson was cleared of all wrongdoing and left the Navy a year later. In 1929, Johnson passed away at the young age of 46, leaving the events of that day as a piece of untold military history.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

It’s often called the “Forgotten Campaign of the Second World War” — and there’s no secret as to why. The campaign lost out on fanfare mostly because it took place in a far off, remote territory that few Americans lived on or cared about. And it didn’t help that it happened at a time when Marines and soldiers were pushing onto the beaches at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

The truth is, however, that the sporadic fighting and eventual American victory on the frozen, barren islands of Alaska proved instrumental to an Allied victory in the the Pacific.


This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

A bit of a fixer-upper, but nothing that can’t be buffed out.

(National Archives)

Just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched a two-day attack on Dutch Harbor, Alaska. On June 3rd and 4th, 1942, their targets were the Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and U.S. Army Fort Mears on Amaknak Island.

The Japanese attack was an attempt to establish a foothold in the Northern Pacific. From there, the Japanese could continue and advance towards either the Alaskan mainland or move toward the northwestern states of the United States. A few days later, on June 6th and 7th, the Japanese invaded and annexed the Alaskan islands of Kiska and Attu — along with the western-most Aleutian Islands.

It was a tactical victory for the Japanese but the Americans managed to shoot down a Zero during the Battle of Dutch Harbor, and it happened to land in relatively good condition.

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

Allied troops would move onto Kiska with over 34,000 troops… Just to find the island completely abandoned two weeks prior.

(National Archives)

Meanwhile, Japan was busy moving the bulk of their naval forces toward Midway to aid in recovery from the burgeoning American victory there. Back in North America, the Americans had regrouped and gained the support of the Canadian military.

The bolstered Allied troops moved toward Japanese-occupied territories. They sporadically picked off enemy vessels one by one as they pushed through the island chain. Then, on March 27th, 1943, the American and Japanese fleets squared off at the Battle of Komandorski Islands. The Americans took more damage, but caused enough to make the Japanese abandon their Aleutian garrisons.

On May 11th, U.S. and Canadian soldiers landed on Attu Island to take it back. Japanese dug in and booby-trapped much of the surrounding island. The Americans suffered 3,929 casualties — 580 dead, 1,148 wounded, and over 1,200 cold-weather injuries — but the Japanese were overrun. In a last-ditch effort, the Japanese committed the single largest banzai charge — an attack in which every infantryman first accepted their death before charging charged into battle — in all of the Pacific campaign. The Japanese suffered 2,351 deaths with hundreds of more believed to be lost to the unforgiving weather.

The captured Zero from Dutch Harbor, dubbed the Akutan Zero, was studied and reverse engineered by American technicians. Test pilots were successfully able to determine the weak-points and vulnerabilities of the fighter aircraft, which were quickly relayed to the rest of the Army Air Force. This information proved vital in later battles.

In the end, America would retake the islands and force the Japanese Navy back south to deal with the brunt of the American military. With the Japanese gone, the only route into the continental U.S. was secure again.

To learn more about the Aleutian Campaign, check out the video below!

MIGHTY HISTORY

The IRA loved this British general so much they couldn’t execute him

A little bit of charm goes a long way. Nowhere was that more apparent than when British General Cuthbert Lucas literally used a charm offensive to escape captivity and save his own life. 

After being captured by Irish Republicans during the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence, a British officer’s life expectancy could drop rapidly, if they weren’t careful.

Ireland had been trying to rule itself for decades before the outbreak of Ireland’s independence war. Originally, the Irish advocated volunteering to fight with the British in World War I. But as the war in Europe ground on, support for that split and Irish Republicans revolted in 1916. The British response to the revolt was so brutal it caused a full-on rebellion in 1919.

For a quick recap, watch the video below:

British General Cuthbert Lucas was sent to Ireland to command a brigade of infantry. A lifelong veteran of the British Army, Cuthbert had seen action in the Second Boer War and in World War I, notably at the Somme and at Gallipoli.

In June of 1920, Lucas became the highest-ranking British soldier to be captured by the Irish Republican Army. He was fishing in a river near his command in County Cork, Ireland along with two other officers. The junior officers attempted to escape but were injured in the process. The IRA let those two go and took Lucas to a hidden location in West Limerick.

If the general was frightened for his life, it was hard to tell. He demanded what was due to him as an officer and a prisoner of war, which included a bottle of whiskey every day. On top of his daily ration, the BBC says the general played cards with his captors, lots and lots of cards. In fact, the general was said to have cleaned out the Irishmen.

While Lucas played cards, his pregnant wife worried. When she learned he was captured, the grief sent her into labor. After the baby was born, she wrote to the general to inform him of the birth, by simply addressing it “To the IRA.” Thanks to sympathetic postmen on both sides, the couple were able to exchange letters. 

Those letters ended up in the hands of their descendants, which ended up on an episode of Antiques Roadshow. After comparing the literal notes left by their grandparents, the grandchildren of both the general and his captors learned they were all having a great time together, something both sides of the incident would tell their families.

General Lucas’ love of drinking and poker likely saved his life because the IRA couldn’t get enough of him. But they also had trouble fighting the war. 

With all the publicity surrounding Lucas’ capture, the IRA couldn’t operate in West Limerick anymore. So after a little longer than a month in captivity, Gen. Lucas was moved to County Clare, and on to East Limerick where the IRA completely relaxed his security detail, allowing him to escape. 

The granddaughter of IRA member George Powell, one of Lucas’ captors, recalled the general saying of the Irish Republican Volunteers, “I have been treated like a gentleman by gentlemen,” which was a quote echoed by Gen. Lucas to his own family.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 things you didn’t know about the agent who took down Al Capone

U.S. Attorney George E. Q. Johnson of Chicago, Illinois, was personally tasked by President Hoover to orchestrate the takedown of Al Capone, the gangster of the Windy City who had the law in his pocket. Capone had transformed Chicago into a hive of organized crime in defiance of prohibition. However, how can the law be enforced if those in charge of gathering evidence accepted bribes? You bring in a man who cannot be bought.

Eliot Ness was a Prohibition agent who attacked the distribution pipeline of alcohol while the U.S. Treasury Department simultaneously collected evidence on Al Capone’s tax-related crimes. Ness marshaled a small team of experts to track empty barrels from saloons en route to Capone’s distilleries to be refilled with the illegal substance. Whenever there was to be a raid on these operations, Ness notified the press so they could be on the scene. It was his way of sending a message to the public: There was a new sheriff in town.

However, there was a lot more to this moral crusader than met the eye.


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The face of a man who just watched years of his collected evidence get tossed to the wayside.

(Crime Museum)

The Prohibition case was not used against Al Capone

In June, 1931, Al Capone was indicted on charges of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy to violate Prohibition. Unfortunately, the chances of convicting the crime lord for his violating Prohibition required city-level action, and to betray Capone was as deadly as suicide. So, the only charges that would stick were federal tax crimes.

While Eliot Ness is credited as the agent who took down Al Capone, it wasn’t his thwarting of the bootlegging operation that did it.

Hello darkness my old friend

He had a drinking problem

Eliot Ness decompressed after a long day of busting bootleggers by pouring himself a drink and reading the headlines made from his crackdowns. That’s like a DEA agent going home to do a celebratory line of coke while watching the news praise yet another successful raid on a cartel. He pieced together a scrapbook of his victories to chronicle his own legacy.

Maybe there’s some truth to the saying, “never meet your heroes…”

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He failed to catch a serial killer in Cleveland

Later in his career, Ness took his fight against organized crime to Cleveland, and he successfully turned it from the deadliest city in America to the safest. Then, in what seems like a deliberate challenge to the man who turned a city around, a serial killer preyed on the homeless, killing them and severing their limbs in brutal fashion.

After 12 bodies were found in succession, Ness brought the police to where the homeless lived in makeshift huts and burned them to the ground. Ness reasoned that if there were no more homeless to fall victim, there would be no murders.

It seems crazy, but it worked. The homeless were relocated to the Salvation Army, and the death toll stopped climbing.

Eliot Ness

Crime Museum

He wrote the book that was turned into a movie

The 1987 hit gangster film, The Untouchables, directed by Brian De Palma, was based on Eliot Ness’ book by the same name. It recounts a sensationalized version of the hunt for Al Capone that puts him at the center of the investigation as the principal figure who took down the gangster.

Most of the embellishments can be credited to the co-author, Oscar Fraley. An abundance of self-celebration aside, a good story is a good story.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Japan was suckered into revealing Midway was a target

The Battle of Midway is remembered as one of the greatest naval victories in American history. The big moments — whether it was the heroic sacrifice of Torpedo Squadron 8 or dive bombers catching three Japanese carriers exposed and vulnerable — are well known. But those moments wouldn’t have happened without a single undersea cable and a brilliant idea.


In the weeks before the Battle of Midway, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was fighting his own battle — and it wasn’t with the Japanese. Instead, it was against bureaucrats in Washington who were proving to be the bane of Nimitz’s existence. With the attack on Pearl Harbor still fresh on everyone’s mind, a fierce debate raged over a single question: Where will the Japanese strike next?

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Wilfred J. Holmes (call him “Jasper”) was the man responsible for the gambit that led Japan to reveal Midway as their target.

Nimitz needed to know the answer to this question for two reasons: One, the Pacific Fleet was outnumbered — big time. Two, he wanted the bureaucrats in Washington off his back. If he followed their advice and things went wrong (as in losing Midway and/or the carriers), he knew who’d take the heat — and it wasn’t gonna be the folks in Washington. It was then that an intelligence officer, Jasper Holmes, came up with a plan.

Long before World War II, America laid an undersea cable to send messages across the ocean. Nimitz used this line to broadcast an unencrypted message, saying that the fresh-water condensers on the atoll were broken and they needed a shipment of H2O.

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The Battle of Midway, where Japan lost the heavy cruiser Mikuma and four carriers, was one of America’s greatest victories.

(US Navy)

The hope was that the Japanese would pick that message up and pass it on. They did — and the Americans were listening in. Surprisingly, the Japanese didn’t give pause as to why such an operational vulnerability would be revealed via radio broadcast. Nimitz had the proof he needed that Midway was, indeed, the next Japanese objective.

The rest was history. One of America’s greatest victories had come about because an American commander got the enemy to help him get Washington off his back.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

On June 6, 1944, hundreds of Army leaders waited tensely for a moment that they’d been preparing for four long years: their graduation ceremony. During that ceremony, an Army general took the podium and confirmed to them that another long-awaited moment had come that same morning: the Allied invasion of Fortress Europe.


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The cadets, crammed into lines of chairs inside a large building, included Cadet John Eisenhower, the son of D-Day commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. When Eisenhower is called to the stage to receive his diploma in the video above, the crowd erupts into a burst of applause.

West Point graduates, typically commissioned into the Army on the same day they graduate, in 1944 knew that they would be involved in the final long, slow push to Berlin. Indeed, Eisenhower would go on to serve in Europe in World War II and fight in Korea before going into the Army Reserve and eventually retiring.

The crowd at the graduation was likely not surprised by the news. American radio stations first caught wind of the invasion hours earlier when German stations announced that it had begun. As the morning wore on, Allied commanders confirmed the reports and then allowed the BBC, stationed on a ship bombarding the French shore, to begin broadcasting.

By the time the sun rose over West Point, the news was well-known. But, the three-star confirming the invasion was probably still a welcome confirmation for many. After all, there were false reports of an invasion only three days earlier when a BBC teletype operator accidentally hit the wrong key.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what happened when a newspaper called John Wayne a ‘fraud’

John Wayne never was able to join the military — when the draft first started in 1939, the then-unknown actor had a 3-A deferment because he was the sole supporter of four children — but that didn’t stop him from hopping in an armored personnel carrier and mounting an invasion with the 5th Armored Cavalry Troop. He had a cigar clenched in his teeth.

He was about to lead the U.S. Army in an invasion of Harvard University.


In January, 1974, the Duke invaded Harvard Square with some of the Army’s finest in response to a letter he received from the campus satirical newspaper, The Harvard Lampoon. In the letter, the paper said,

“You’re not so tough, the halls of academia may not be the halls of Montezuma and maybe ivy doesn’t smell like sagebrush, but we know a thing or two about guts.”

The paper then challenged the conservative Wayne to come to Harvard, a place The Harvard Lampoon described as, “the most intellectual, the most traditionally radical, in short, the most hostile territory on Earth.” They were challenging the actor to come to Harvard and debate against the students who called him, “the biggest fraud in history.”

Wayne accepted.

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The letter was purely goading, but John Wayne wasn’t about to let that bother him — he took the opportunity to visit in style.

He mounted the procession from the halls of The Harvard Lampoon’s on-campus castle, then drove to the door of the Harvard Square Theater through policemen, television crews, ‘Poonies dressed in tuxedos, students, and even some Native American protesters. There was even a marching band in his honor. In the heart of liberal Harvard, the conservative actor was met by thousands of admirers.

After signing autographs for a while, he took the stage. The first thing representatives of The Harvard Lampoon did was present Wayne with a trophy — made of just two brass balls. It was created just for him and awarded simply for coming to Harvard.

“I accepted this invitation over a wonderful invitation to be at a Jane Fonda rally,” he joked.

The Duke graciously accepted the award, noting that their previous guest was porn starlet Linda Lovelace and that seeing his invitation in a unmarked brown envelope was akin to being asked to lunch with the Borgias, a reference to the historical family’s propensity for murdering their guests.

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With the pleasantries out of the way, Harvard’s debate with John Wayne, a spokesman for the right, began. Taking questions from the audience, the Duke sat on a chair on the stage. The New York Times described the debate as one with “little antagonism, the questions often whimsical and the actor frequently drew loud applause.”

John Wayne was a conservative in his political views, but he answered the students’ questions thoughtfully and honestly, often with a wry smile. Asked what he thinks of women’s lib, he said:

“I think they have a right to work anywhere they want to [long pause] as long as they have dinner ready when we want it.”

The only question he seemed to rebuff was one asked about his testifying against fellow Hollywood personalities during the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, which led to some being placed on the infamous Hollywood blacklist. The actor said he could not hear the question, even when it was repeated.

“Is your toupee made of mole hair?” One student asked. “No,” the Duke replied. “That’s real hair. It’s not my hair, but it’s real hair.”

Today, John Wayne and Harvard doesn’t seem like a controversial mixture. In 1974, however, the students at Harvard were very much anti-establishment and John Wayne was a symbol of everything they mistrusted about their country, its history, and its government — especially while the Vietnam War and the draft remained a very recent memory.

By 1974, Wayne’s career was threatened by his well-known politics, so it’s not really an exaggeration to say the actor was on his way into hostile territory. The Lampoon ended up doing what amounted to a celebrity roast with Wayne and he took it with a smile, even adding some funny jabs of his own:

“Has President Nixon ever given you any suggestions for your movies?” a student asked. “No, they’ve all been successful,” came the reply.

John Wayne never lost his sense of humor over politics — a lesson we should all take to heart today, liberal and conservative alike. What could have been a moment of sharp political divisiveness was settled with good humor and in the end, thunderous applause.

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