This was the Army's battle dress throughout the centuries - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

From rags to spit-and-polish boots, from scratchy blue wool to the new operational camouflage pattern, from tricorn hat to helmet, the Army uniform has changed drastically through the years. In honor of the U.S. Army’s 240th birthday, and the launch of the Operational Camouflage Pattern, Soldiers takes a look at the evolution of battle dress from the Revolution through today.


The Revolutionary War

Early in the war, most Soldiers simply wore what they had, whether that was a state militia uniform, frontier dress (as seen here in the 1777 battle of Saratoga) or even their regular clothes. Washington actually ordered the use of fringed hunting shirts as a field garment to provide some uniformity until the Continental Army had a more consistent uniform.

Also read: Dress uniforms from every military branch, ranked

Supply problems throughout the war – sometimes Congress actually failed to authorize uniform funds – forced many Soldiers to huddle in blankets in the winter and tie rags around their feet when their shoes wore out.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Even officers’ uniforms varied widely. Here, Washington sports the blue and buff regimentals he designed, whereas an aide-de-camp wears brown and another general wears black. The officers’ ribbons, instituted by Washington, indicate their various ranks and positions. Noncommissioned officers were distinguished by epaulettes or strips of cloth on the right shoulder.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Later in the war, Continental Army uniforms became more standardized. Here, Soldiers wear the uniforms prescribed in1779: blue coats lined with white and trimmed with white buttons, worn with white overalls and waistcoats. The colors facing the coats identified Soldiers by region or branch.

For example, the lieutenant on the right wears blue faced with buff and shoulder epaulettes, indicating he is an infantry officer from New Jersey or New York. The Soldier on the left is an artillery private.

In 1782, blue coats faced with red became standard for everyone except generals and staff officers.

The War of 1812

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

During the War of 1812, the Army began cutting uniform cloth at the Philadelphia Arsenal before distributing it to master tailors, in the hopes of insuring greater uniformity and more efficient sizing.

Uniforms were highly influenced by the dress of European armies. The version adopted in 1813 and used for the next two decades was single-breasted blue coat with black herringbone false buttonholes and gold bullet buttons. (High boots were only authorized for generals and general staff officers.)

Related: How new Army and Marine uniforms are signaling a looming ‘big ass fight’

The gray uniform on the right was adopted in March 1814 as an alternate because of a shortage of blue cloth. A detachment of riflemen in green summer linen rifle frocks stands at attention in the background.

The Mexican-American War

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

The heat and the dust of the Southwest had a major impact on the Army’s uniforms, and Army leaders began to see the need for separate field and dress uniforms. Fatigue jackets, first introduced in 1833, light blue pants (with stripes for officers and NCOs) and forage caps became the field dress. (Many cavalrymen/dragoons like the Soldier on the left wore a yellow band on their forage caps, in contradiction to regulations.)

Most officers wore the dark blue frock coat seen on the first lieutenant to the right. His light blue trousers with a white stripe down the side and the silver buttons on his coat indicate infantry.

The Soldiers the background wear the universal dress of the enlisted infantryman: light blue fatigue jackets and trousers.

The Civil War

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

The trend throughout the mid-19th century was increased simplicity and practicality for uniforms. New regulations in 1851 (refined in 1858 and 1860) had introduced the blue wool frock coat as the service uniform for all Soldiers, a style worn throughout the Civil War, with double-breasted coats worn by field grade officers and above. Mounted troops wore jackets with sky blue trousers.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

The later regulations updated the Army campaign hat, and introduced a four-button sack coat (as seen on the first sergeant above) and forage cap, often known as a kepi, for field wear.

In practice, many uniforms were purchased by individual states, privately tailored or were made at home by mothers, wives and sisters, and there was an enormous amount of variety on the battlefield.

The Spanish-American War

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Cpl. Thomas Gorman of the 3rd Regiment, Texas Volunteer Infantry poses for a photo in 1898. (U.S. Army History and Heritage Command)

The Spanish-American war was the last time the blue Army field uniform was used in a major campaign. During the war, Soldiers wore a uniform and campaign hat adopted in the 1880s. For enlisted infantrymen this meant a dark blue wool shirt or jacket, light blue wool trousers, brown canvas leggings and a drab campaign hat.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

The standard officer uniform was an undress coat trimmed with black mohair braid that was introduced in 1895, dark blue breeches, black boots and drab campaign hat.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

Cavalry Soldiers typically tied neckerchiefs around their necks, as these Spanish-American War veterans demonstrate after the war. (The famous Rough Riders wore lighter blue shirts and brown trousers to set them apart.) The Soldier on the left wears the new, khaki uniform that was issued in late 1898, after forces returned from Cuba.

World War I

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
A World War I Soldier with full pack, circa 1818. (U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

The standard uniform in World War I was the service coat and breeches introduced in the first decade of the century, when sweeping War Department reforms included almost every article of clothing. Khaki and olive drab continued to replace blue, black leather changed to russet, chevrons became smaller and pointed up instead of down, and even insignia and buttons changed.

More: Why the US military has shoulder pockets on combat uniforms

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Thanks to the vast amounts of olive drab wool the Army needed during the war, uniform color varied from mustard green to brown. Other variations occurred when many officers like this lieutenant colonel had their uniforms tailored in England or France. Officers also adopted the British brown leather Sam Browne belt and wore high, brown boots instead of the leggings and brown shoes worn by enlisted Soldiers. Another item of equipment widely used by the American Expeditionary Forces was the British basin pattern steel helmet.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(U.S. Army Signal Museum)

World War I was the first conflict in which large numbers women officially went to war, both as nurses and as telephone operators – “Hello Girls” – for the Signal Corps in France. (A few women were also attached to other branches such as the Quartermaster Corps.) They needed uniforms. The Army issued them Navy blue wool, Norfolk-style jackets and matching wool skirts, as seen in this photograph of the Hello Girls. (Hello Girls and nurses wore similar uniforms.)

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Here, an Army nurse (center) wears the navy blue worsted military overcoat and velour hat, and high tan shoes prescribed in August 1917. (A Red Cross nurse is on the left in a dress similar to what nurses would have worn for hospital work.)

World War II

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

In the late 1930s, the Army introduced trousers to replace the jodhpur-like service breeches that had been in use since the turn of the century. The new trousers were worn with shorter, dismounted leggings made of khaki canvas. The introduction of a comfortable and practical field jacket in 1940 quickly relegated the service coat to garrison wear. The rounded, steel M-1 helmet made its appearance in 1941, as did new, herringbone twill, olive drab fatigues.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

After fighting began, the quartermaster general recommended several changes to make the uniform more practical, and suggested a layering system in 1943 that would keep troops warm during the cold European winters, standardized as the M-1943 field ensemble with cap, four-pocket field jacket, detachable jacket hood, field trousers and service shirt. Heavy winter coats and jackets were also available as seen in this 1944 photo of troops in Belgium. 1943 also saw the introduction of combat boots with attached leather gaiters and the field cap.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

Although an early form of camouflage was more heavily used in the Pacific, this photo taken in France in July 1944 shows that the Army did use it in Europe, particularly the 2nd Infantry Division. However, the experiment was not a success: Other Allied troops mistook the Soldiers for Nazis. Even in the Pacific, units found that the olive drab uniform offered better concealment.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Soldiers in the Pacific fought in herringbone twill fatigues in olive drab shade number seven, which was adopted in 1943 as summer combat clothing. Local commanders had the option of allowing troops to roll their sleeves up and leave their collars open.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Female Soldiers in the Women’s Army Corps get ready to disembark from their transport ship in an unknown location during World War II. (U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

In 1943, the Women’s Army Corps joined the Army Nurse Corps as a permanent part of the Army. Female service and field uniforms paralleled those worn by the men, albeit with a skirt.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Army nurses train to follow the fighting man: Because the Soldier fights over hills and barricaded areas, these nurses at Fort Baker, California, train to follow him wherever he goes to engage the enemy, ready to supply ever aid and comfort possible to the wounded, 1943. (U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

In some forward or malaria-prone areas, women could replace their skirts with slacks (or even altered male trousers), as these nurses demonstrate in a training photo from 1943.

Also read: This is why there’s no excuse for Hollywood to screw up military uniforms

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

In the Pacific, female personnel traded their stockings and Cuban heel shoes for cotton anklets and high quarter russet field service shoes.

The Korean War

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Two men find that several days rain has made their foxhole a small water tank. Trying to bail some of the water out with their helmets are Sgt. Robert LeGregor (left) and Sgt. George Rainwater, both of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. (U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

Uniforms worn in the Korean War were those of an Army in transition and reflected innovations from the closing days of World War II. In fact, the original fatigues in this conflict were leftover World War II summer uniforms from the Pacific theater.

The combat boot widely used in Korea was actually the old service shoe with a double-buckle cuff. Its flesh-out leather was no longer treated with dubbin, but instead was rubbed smooth to accept polish.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Sgt. 1st Class Elijah McLaughlin (left front), leads his squad down a steep hill, northwest of the Chongchon River, as they begin a 1,500-yard advance to another hill. Assistant squad leader Cpl. Luther Anderson is in the right front, Nov. 20, 1950. (U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

Adjustments had to be quickly made for the frigid Korean winter, and Soldiers needed heavy overcoats. Herringbone twill cotton clothing in a dark olive drab shade became the battle dress, with large pockets providing a convenient means to store rations and other vital items.

The Vietnam War

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(Photo by Pfc. Norman F. Bachman, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

At first glance, uniforms worn during Vietnam are remarkably similar to those worn during the Korean War, but as the war wore on, modifications in basic weapons, clothing and equipment came rapidly as the Army tried to solve the special problems encountered in hot and humid Vietnam. The updated, wind-resistant fatigue jackets and pants brought back the use of cargo pockets and other utilitarian features. Fast-drying boots with nylon uppers accompanied the uniform.

Olive green underclothing and subdued ranks and nametapes, which became a requirement in 1968, reduced the chances of giving away one’s position to the enemy.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Members of the Women’s Army Corps and Army nurses, seen here caring for Vietnamese refugees in 1975, typically wore uniforms similar to the men: two-piece tropical combat uniforms of olive-green, rip-stop cotton poplin.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(Photo by Spc. 5 Raymond C. Jewett, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

Special Forces Soldiers quickly realized they needed more concealment than their olive drab fatigues could provide. Very early on – this Special Forces unit was photographed in country in 1964 – this meant the duck hunter camouflage pattern that dated from World War II.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(Photo by Spc. 5 Thomas A Seddon, Jr., U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

The uniform was unsatisfactory, however, and Special Forces quickly adopted the tiger stripe camouflage used by rangers in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, as seen on this sergeant first class in February 1968. Because tiger stripe was not official Army issue, units contracted local tailors to produce the uniforms, leading to a lot of variation.

By the end of the war, a precursor to the woodland battle dress uniform pattern, known as ERDL, had been introduced.

1981-2004

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(Military History Institute, U.S. Army History and Heritage Command)

The Army’s iconic battle dress uniform made its appearance in 1981. (By 1988, there was a hot-weather version as well.) Its woodland pattern meant that for the first time, all Soldiers wore camouflage, and the uniform saw service in operations around the world, including Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, Haiti in 1994 and the Balkans in the late 1990s.

Also read: This is how US Army uniforms have changed since the Revolutionary War

Properties of the fabric and the use of miniature rank insignia on the collar further reduced the chance of detection. The Army also issued an improved protective vest, new helmet and new field coat. A redesigned boot drew upon the best features of commercial hiking and camping gear to extend the Soldier’s capabilities in a field environment. The Army also issued a new personal armor system for ground troops, which included a new helmet and Kevlar vest.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(U.S. Army History and Heritage Command)

Around the same time, the Army introduced the six-color desert battle dress uniform, often called chocolate chip camouflage. It was intended for limited use by Special Operations troops, and in military exercises in the Middle East. Although a logistics glitch kept it from being issued to all deployed Soldiers, this uniform is most closely associated with Operation Desert Storm. It was also used by some troops in Somalia in 1993.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Soldiers practice house-breaching techniques in their desert combat uniforms. (U.S. Army)

After Soldiers reported that the dark patches on the DBDU made it difficult to blend into the terrain effectively, the Army began issuing a new, three-color desert camouflage uniform in July 1991. (Only a few Soldiers were issued the uniform before the end of Operation Desert Storm.) It had been developed using soil samples from throughout the Middle East. This uniform, with improved, lighter boots, was still in use more than a decade later when Soldiers began deploying to Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 (many Soldiers were issued body armor in the woodland pattern).

2004-2014

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jeffery Sandstrum)

The Army combat uniform, featuring a universal, digitized gray and green camouflage took the place of both the BDU and the DCU in June 2004. The new uniform added additional pockets, a mandarin collar that could be worn up or down, zippers, moved the rank insignia to the center of the chest and featured hook-and-loop tape for name tapes, rank insignia and badges. Later updates included flame-resistant material and the option for sewn-on tapes and badges. The accompanying t-shirt and socks were moisture wicking.

Although the black beret had been authorized for wear with field uniforms as well as service uniforms in 2001, it was further approved for use in a combat zone with the introduction of the ACU.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(Department of Defense photo by Spc. Blair Neelands)

In 2007, the Army authorized the moisture-wicking, flame-resistant Army combat shirt, originally designed to be worn under the new improved outer tactical vest (also introduced in 2007) in warm weather. The sleeves featured the universal camouflage pattern, and included cargo pockets and elbow pads.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann)

To allow Soldiers to operate more effectively in Afghanistan’s varied terrains, the Army introduced a new multicam pattern for the ACU, featuring seven shades of greens, browns and beige. It was issued to deployed Soldiers starting in 2010. A matching combat shirt was also available. Mountain combat boots featured a tougher, more durable sole.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kandi Huggins)

With women taking on more combat roles than ever, their uniforms and gear are almost identical to their male counterparts. The Army even issued a new version of the tactical vest – one specifically designed for women’s bodies – in 2013.

2015 and Beyond

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(PEO Soldier)

The Army will begin issuing Army combat uniforms in the operational camouflage pattern, which is similar to multicam, in the summer of 2015. The cut is based on the ACU, but lower leg pockets will be closed by a button instead of hook and loop tape thanks to Soldiers’ concerns that the old fastener made too much noise in combat environments. Pockets for kneepads and elbow pads will also be removed. The Army uniform board is still considering other changes, including a return to the fold-down collar, adjustments to the infrared square identification for friend or foe, the removal of one of three pen pockets on the ACU sleeve and the elimination of the drawstring on the trouser waistband.

The Army is expected to retire the digital universal camouflage pattern in 2018.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A cartoonish look at how an epic airlift prevented World War 3

Everyone knew in the closing days of World War II that the Soviet Union was destined to clash with the rest of the Allies. But when it attempted a blockade of West Berlin that amounted to a siege in 1948, it still took the world by surprise and threatened World War III. Luckily, President Harry S. Truman was able to call on Western air forces to resupply Berlin by air for over a year.


Berlin Airlift: The Cold War Begins – Extra History

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The Berlin Blockade, as it was known, was in reaction to Western Power attempts to re-stabilize the German economy and currency after World War II. Both the Soviet Union and the West wanted Germany to lean toward them in the post-war world because it would act as a buffer state for whichever side won.

But, beyond that, Russia wanted to ensure that Germany would never again be strong enough to invade the Soviet Union. Remember that the German military under the Kaiser had invaded Russia only 30 years before the Germans under the Fuhrer invaded the Soviet Union. The Soviets didn’t want to suffer that again.

So Soviet Premier Josef Stalin sabotaged the first attempt to overhaul the German economy, and when the Western Powers attempted to introduce the new German Deutsche Mark behind his back, Stalin instituted a total blockade of West Berlin.

Germany had been split up after the war, with America, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union all taking control of one section of the country. But each Allied power also got control of a section of Germany’s capital, Berlin, even though Berlin sat entirely within the Soviet Sector of the country.

So the Soviets could choke off the ability of France, America, and Britain to resupply their troops simply by closing the roads and rails that fed into the city, and they did.

This left those countries with a serious problem and only crappy choices. Do nothing, and the troops are starved. Pull the troops out, and the Soviets take control of the entire capital. Try to resupply them in force, and you’ll trigger a war, for certain.

So the senior advisers to Truman suggested that he simply give in, and pull the troops out. Better to lose the city than fight another war, and allowing the troops to starve to death was no option at all.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

A C-54 flies into Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport in 1948 as part of the Berlin Airlift.

(U.S. Air Force Henry Ries)

But Truman, a veteran of the front lines of World War I, and the man who decided to drop the atom bombs was not one to shy away from a confrontation. He ordered the city held and required his generals to find a way to get supplies in.

Their best plan was an audacious airlift called Operation Vittles. Experts from Britain estimated that it would take 4,000 tons of supplies per day to keep the city going. Carrying that many supplies via plane would be tough in any situation, but the task was made worse by the limited amount of infrastructure in Berlin to receive the supplies.

Berlin only had two major airports capable of receiving sufficiently large transports: Tempelhof Airport and Royal Air Force Station Gatow. These stations would need to receive well over 1,000 flights per day if the mission were to be achieved with the planes immediately available, mostly old C-47s.

But in the early days of the airlift, the air forces would fall well short of 4,000 tons per day. Instead, they would hit more like 70 and 90 tons per day, slowly growing to 1,000 tons per day. But, after a few weeks when it became clear that the airlift would need to continue indefinitely, the U.S. Air Force brought in an airlift expert to increase the throughput.

Maj. Gen. William H. Tunner was a top operations officer for the Military Air Transport Command, and he took over in order to make the operation much more professional and precise. Under Tunner, the military brought in new planes that would max out the reception capability of Tempelhof and Gatow.

The C-54s could carry more supplies, but they also over-stressed the landing surfaces. Workers rushed out between landings to spread sand to soften the damages to the landing surface. And, as winter set on, an entirely new landing strip was constructed at Tempelhof.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Almost 1.8 million tons of supplies were delivered by the time the operation was over.

(U.S. Air Force)

And the miracle worked. Tunner got the daily total to over 4,000 tons, then set record days at 4,500 tons, 5,000 tons, and beyond.

Eventually, the Soviet Union had to admit that the blockade had failed. The German people had rallied around the Western powers, and the West was in a better position after 15 months of airlift than it had been before the start. The western sections of Berlin and Germany became decidedly pro-American and British, and the Soviet Union had to use the force of arms to retain control of the Soviet sections.

This should have been predictable. After all, there are few sights that might make a government more popular than its planes flying overhead, dropping candy and delivering food and fuel, for over a year as you’re barely able to stave off starvation.

The Cold War was on, but Western logistics had achieved the first great victory with no violence. But, approximately 101 fatalities were suffered in the operation.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy used to have nuclear-powered cruisers

While nuclear-powered carriers and submarines are all the rage in the U.S. Navy today, the sea-going service used to have a much wider nuclear portfolio with nuclear-powered destroyers and cruisers that could sail around the world with no need to refuel, protecting carrier and projecting American power ashore with missiles and guns.


This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

The USS Long Beach fires a Terrier missile in 1961.

(U.S. Navy)

The first nuclear surface combatant in the world wasn’t a carrier, it was the USS Long Beach, a cruiser launched in 1959. That ship was followed by eight other nuclear cruisers, Truxtun, California, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The Arkansas was the last nuclear-powered cruiser launched, coming to sea in 1980.

During the same period, a nuclear-powered destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, took to the seas as well. Due to changes in ship nomenclature over the period, it was a frigate when designed, a destroyer when launched, but would be classified as a cruiser by the time the ship retired.

The head of the Navy’s nuclear program for decades was Adm. Hyman G. Rickover who had a vision for an entirely nuclear-powered carrier battle group. This would maximize the benefits of nuclear vessels and create a lethal American presence in the ocean that could run forever with just an occasional shipment of food, spare parts, and replacement personnel.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

The Navy launched Operation Sea Orbit where nuclear-powered ships sailed together in 1964. This is the USS Enterprise, a carrier; the USS Long Beach, a cruiser; and the USS Bainbridge, classified at the time as a destroyer.

(U.S. Navy)

The big advantage of nuclear vessels, which required many more highly trained personnel as well as a lot of hull space for the reactor, was that they could sail forever at their top speed. The speed thing was a big advantage. They weren’t necessarily faster than their conventionally fueled counterparts, but gas and diesel ships had to time their sprints for maximum effect since going fast churned through fuel.

That meant conventional vessels couldn’t sail too fast for submarines to catch them, couldn’t sprint from one side of the ocean to the other during contingency operations, and relied on tankers to remain on station for extended periods of time.

Nuclear vessels got around all these problems, but their great speed and endurance only really helped them if they weren’t accompanied by conventional ships. After all, the cruisers and destroyer can’t sprint across the ocean if that means they are outrunning the rest of the fleet in dangerous waters.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

The Navy detonates an explosive charge off the starboard side of the USS Arkansas, a nuclear-powered cruiser, during sea trials.

(U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Toon)

That’s why Rickover wanted a full nuclear battle group. It could move as a single unit and enjoy its numerous advantages without being slowed down by other ships.

And the ships were quite lethal when they arrived. Nuclear carriers at the time were similar to those today, sailing at a decent clip of about 39 mph (33.6 knots) while carrying interceptor aircraft and bombers.

The 10 nuclear cruisers (counting the Bainbridge as a cruiser), were guided-missile cruisers. Four ships were Virginia-Class ships focused on air defense but also featuring weapons needed to attack enemy submarines and ships as well as to bombard enemy shores.

The other most common nuclear cruiser was the California Class with three ships. The California Class was focused on offensive weaponry, capable of taking the fight to enemy ships with Harpoon missiles, subs with anti-submarine rockets and torpedoes, and enemy shores with missiles and guns. But, it could defend itself and its fleet with surface-to-air missiles and other weapons.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Ticonderoga-class cruisers like the USS Hue City, front, and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers like the USS Oscar Austin, rear, replaced the nuclear cruisers.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Wilson)

But the nuclear fleet had one crippling problem: expense. Rickover knew that to ensure that the larger Navy and America would continue to embrace nuclear power at sea, the ships had to be extremely dependable and secure. To do this, ships needed good shielding and a highly capable, highly trained crew.

Nuclear cruisers had about 600 sailors in each crew, while the Ticonderoga-class that took to the sea in 1983 required 350. And the Ticonderoga crew could be more quickly and cheaply trained since those sailors didn’t need to go through nuclear training.

Also, the reactors took up a lot of space within the hull, requiring larger ships than conventional ones with the same battle capabilities. So, when budget constraints came up in the 1990s, the nuclear fleet was sent to mothballs except for the carriers.

And even at that stage, the nuclear cruisers cost more than their counterparts. Conventional cruisers can be sold to allied navies, commercial interests, or sent to common scrap yards after their service. Nuclear cruisers require expensive decommissioning and specially trained personnel to deal with the reactors and irradiated steel.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how America proved it was a nation that could stand on its own

At the turn of the 19th century, the United States was by human standards barely a teenager. But held to the much stouter standards of statehood established by European nations that had seeded it, the U.S. was, to use the vernacular, “barely a glint in its pappy’s eye.”


To be sure, America had made good on the democratic ideals that had fueled its revolution and its Declaration of Independence. And it had managed to greatly expand its territory through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The Corps of Discovery Expedition, led by the U.S. Army under Capt.s Lewis and Clark, made those new lands a known realm under the Jefferson administration, while mapping the enticing, yet contested Oregon Territory into the realm of the possible.

But 14 years as a nation was, in the eyes of the world, still considered just an experiment under laboratory conditions. How would these “United States” hold up to real-world, geopolitical pressures? The burden of proof belonged to the U.S., and it knew it. The pressure to prove itself incited the sequence of conflicts that we now refer to as the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 was fought on two fronts, representing the two major proving grounds of American legitimacy — the new frontier west of the Mississippi and the open ocean, through which the growing U.S. merchant marine traded the vast natural resources of North America with the wider world.  On both fronts, Great Britain was testing its former colonies’ resolve.

Locked into the churn of the Napoleonic Wars, the British were enforcing a naval blockade of France, catching U.S. trade ships in the crossfire. To make matters worse, Great Britain was unapologetically pressing American merchant sailors into service in the Royal Navy, a policy that inflamed the American public and lead to skirmishes like the Chesapeake-Leopold Affair (not pictured below.)

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
This is the famous 1812 battle between USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere. Way better optics.

Great Britain was also keen to interrupt American expansion on land, fearing that a Canadian landgrab was imminent. To that end, they provided military support to Tecumsah’s Confederacy, a powerful Native American resistance group in the Old Northwest who sought to block the U.S. from taking further territory from the continent’s original inhabitants.

In spite, or perhaps because, of British military action around its northern and western borders, the U.S. began a concerted, and largely fruitless, effort to invade and capture Canadian territory. At sea, the U.S. Navy engaged in a long series of back and forth battles with the Royal Navy off the U.S. coast. Victories accrued on both sides and public sentiment waxed and waned as both sides claimed the advantage, but the result after 2 years was more or less a draw.

In the face of a stalemate, Great Britain was forced to weigh its distaste for America’s increasingly credible claim of self-sovereignty against the obvious advantages of reopening trade relations. However, the calculus changed when Napoleon’s abdication in Europe suddenly freed up Great Britain’s naval resources, allowing it to redouble its efforts against America. The Royal Navy blockaded the U.S. to near bankruptcy in 1814 and British forces invaded and burned Washington, D.C.  

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
President James Madison had no choice but to sue for peace.

This seemingly clear-cut British victory concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in December of 1814. But news of the peace travelled slowly in the Age of Sail and out-of-the-loop British forces, attempting to invade Louisiana in January 1815, were roundly defeated at the Battle of New Orleans, giving the U.S. the right to declare a face-saving, buzzer-beater victory.

In the end, everybody got something they wanted from the War of 1812. The British succeeded, at least temporarily, in checking American enthusiasm for territorial expansion, as well as re-establishing itself as the reigning naval heavyweight champion of the world.

But the U.S. had managed to hold its own against global superpowers. Showing a determinist grit beyond its years, it stood up for its right to pursue a national agenda on the international stage. In effect, it had proven to Pappy that it was mature enough to call its own shots.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 ways the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan are the same

It’s no secret that America is pretty good at getting themselves involved in wars throughout the world. Historically, we haven’t been the best at coming up with an exit strategy for some of those conflicts, though.


The Vietnam War is considered one of the most politically charged military campaigns in our nation’s history as young men were drafted into service to fight against the spread of communism.

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the U.S. embarked on an offensive to break up a network comprised of men that take the worship of the religion of Islam into extremism.

Related: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

Although these campaigns took place in separate decades against very different adversaries, the similarities from the perspective of the ground forces are impeccable. History repeats itself. Here are four ways in which these two conflicts are the same.

4. For the most part, we didn’t trust our allies

In both wars, American forces were teamed up with local troops to help combat their common enemy. Many Vietnam and Afghanistan War vets have noted that their “friendly” counterparts often appeared distant and were known to have even protected the enemy at times.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
A PF soldier patrol with a Marine unit during the Vietnam War.

3. We fought against an unmarked enemy

Many of the fighters the U.S. went up against in both campaigns were able to disappear as fast as they appeared. This ghostly advantage wasn’t the result of some magical vanishing act, but rather an ability to blend back into the local population — right out in the open.

Since most of the “disappearing act” fighters are from small guerilla militias or surrounding clans, they never wore any distinguishable uniforms, adding to their advantage.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Are these guys Taliban or friendly members of a local militia?

2. The enemy could live below ground

The Viet Cong commonly used their well-engineered tunnels while the Taliban make use of caves in the mountains of Afghanistan.

These livable structures can house enemy combatants for extend periods of time and conceal deadly weapons.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Two U.S. Marines search a Viet Cong tunnel. (Image from Flickr)

Also Read: Here was the major problem with the South Vietnamese army

1. Our maps became outdated quickly

When enemy structures are mainly constructed from local vegetation and mud, they can be broken down just as fast as they’re built.

This characteristic makes them incredibly difficult to keep them documented. Map records and mission planning changed constantly.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
An occupied mud home in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

If you’ve ever wanted to be a space shuttle door gunner, pay attention: the weapon you might be operating could look something like this monster – the only projectile weapon designed for and fired in orbit around the Earth. Of course, it was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, who else would do that?


This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

These are the people who taught terrorists to hijack planes just to be dicks to the West.

Despite some initial successes, the Soviet Union ended up losing the Space Race in a big way. Their loss is exemplified by the fact that the same day the Americans put men on the moon, the Soviets failed to land a probe there. So after a while, the disparity in technology irked the Soviet Union.

Most important to the USSR was the idea of American spacecraft being able to literally get their hands on Soviet satellites. Anti-satellite operations were something both powers prepared for, but the idea that the satellite itself would need protection up there all alone prompted the Soviets to arm one of theirs, just to see how that would go.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

This is how that would go.

The Soviets built a station code-named “Almaz,” a space station that held spy equipment, radar, and the R-23M, a 37-pound 14.5mm automatic cannon that could fire up to 5,000 rounds per minute that was accurate up to a mile away. There was just one problem: aiming the cannon. The cosmonauts in the station would have to rotate the entire space station to point the weapon.

It was supposed to be the first manned space station in orbit, but the Russians were more concerned with developing the weapon than they were other aspects of the capsule, like sensors and life support. So instead of building their grand space station, they slapped together what they had with the R-23M and a Soyuz capsule, called it the Salyut before launching it into space in 1971.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

All this space station and not one Death Star joke.

The CIA knew about every iteration of the Soviet Salyut spy stations, but what they – and much of the world – didn’t know is that they actually fired the R-23M while in orbit. On Jan. 24, 1975, Salyut 3 test fired its weapon before the station was supposed to de-orbit. The crew had not been aboard for around six months at this point. While the Soviets never released what happened during the test, the shots and the station were all destroyed when they re-entered the atmosphere.

Firing a gun in space would be very different from firing on Earth. First, there is no sound in the vacuum of space, so it would not go bang. Secondly, the Soviets would have had to fire some kind of thruster to balance out the force exerted on the capsule by the weapon’s recoil; otherwise the Salyut would have been pushed in the opposite direction. The weight of the projectile fired would determine how fast you would fly in the opposite direction.

Not to mention that shooting the weapon into Earth’s orbit could cause the bullets to hit the station itself from the opposite direction.

Articles

These were some of the ballsiest pilots of WWII, and their planes didn’t even have engines

In World War II, airborne units were really in their infancy. The Germans pioneered their use in combat, and the United States built perhaps the largest airborne force in the world, with five airborne divisions.


But these divisions had a problem. There weren’t many planes to transport them for large-scale airborne ops. Today, most transports used in airborne operations have rear ramps for loading cargo (like, jeeps and artillery). Back then, they didn’t.

The C-47 Skytrain was based on the DC-3 airliner. The C-46 Commado was also based on an airliner.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
A C-47 takes off, towing a Waco CG-4 glider during Operation Market Garden. (Imperial War Museum photo)

Yeah, paratroops could be dropped, but they could be scattered (thus creating the rule of the LGOPs). How would they drop the heavier equipment, and keep the crews together? The answer came with the development of gliders. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union pioneered the use of them, but the U.S. and Great Britain built lots of them.

According to the National World War II Glider Pilots Association’s web site, the United States built over 13,000 CG-4A Waco gliders. Each of these gliders could carry 15 troops, or a Jeep and four paratroopers, a trailer, up to 5,000 pounds of supplies, an anti-tank gun plus operators, or a 75mm artillery piece and its crew.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Troops with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment load some heavy firepower onto a CG-4 glider. (US Army photo)

The U.S. also used British Horsa gliders to carry even larger groups of troops (up to 30 in a glider) or bigger amounts of supplies. Over 300 of these gliders were used on D-Day, one of those instances where the arsenal of democracy had to borrow a plane made by an ally.

About 6,500 glider pilots were trained during World War II, taking part in eight missions from Sicily to Luzon. In the 1950s, advancements in transport aircraft, both fixed-wing and rotary-wing, led to the glider units being deactivated in 1952. But the gliders helped deliver firepower, troops, and supplies during World War II – when that ability was needed.

The video below shows how gliders were used during the Normandy invasion.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The British special operators who terrorized Japanese forces

In 1943 and 1944, specially chosen units of the British Empire were sent into the jungles of Burma on “Chindit” expeditions that went deep behind Japanese lines and assaulted railways, logistic hubs, and bridges to cripple Japanese forces and force them to redirect forces from other fronts. Most soldiers sent into the jungle were wounded, killed, or fell ill, but they made the Japanese pay.


This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

British officers Brig. Gen. Mike Calvert, Lt. Col. Shaw, and Maj James Lumley discuss tactics after the capture of Mogaung in Burma in June 1944 during the second Chindit expedition.

(Imperial War Museums)

The first Chindit expedition, Operation Longcloth, was effected by the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade when they marched into Japanese-occupied Burma in 1943. They attacked Japanese supply depots as well as rail and communication lines.

The unit was made up of multiple infantry regiments, a commando company, eight sections of the Royal Air Force, a signal section, and a mule transport company. Despite the large infantry elements the unit had on paper, they were predominantly a special operations force and they were trained that way, spending months in India working out how to move and live in the jungle with limited resupply or permanent structures.

The first expedition damaged critical infrastructure but saw less direct fighting with Japanese forces. This caused a shift in Japanese thinking, making them feel that they were too vulnerable with a defensive posture in Burma. The efforts of the 77th Brigade pushed the Japanese to go on the offensive, making them give up troops in ultimately failed attacks on Allied forces.

But the effort was costly. A third of the troops were lost in the jungle or too wounded or sick to march out. The British left them behind. Another 600 were too ill after their return to civilization to fight again, and were sent to hospital until released from service.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Geurilla leaders, including British Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate at center, pose for a photo.

(Imperial War Museums)

Still, the efforts had proved that a single brigade of irregular forces, properly organized and trained, could shift the strategic balance in the jungle. The commander, British Gen. Orde Wingate, proposed a second, larger expedition for deployment in 1944. Prime Minister Winston Churchill readily agreed and assigned six brigades to the task and the American 1st Air Commando Group was assigned to support the operation.

While training the forces for the second Chindit expedition, Wingate took some time to help train America’s 5307th Composite Unit, which would earn fame under the name “Merrill’s Marauders” for operations similar to the Chindits’.

Operation Thursday began with two forces making their way into the country on the ground in the opening weeks of 1944 while four more brigades were to be inserted via glider. The initial glider landings on March 5 were unopposed but still faced major problems. Aerial reconnaissance had failed to spot ditches and trees on the dropzone and glider crashes killed 30 men and wounded 28.

Another 400 men landed safely and improved the runway enough for Dakota aircraft to start ferrying in supplies and additional men. 18,000 troops quickly arrived on the ground with everything they needed to move through the jungle and hunt Japanese soldiers, and more followed over the next few days.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

A column of Chindit troops crosses a river in Burma in 1943.

(Imperial War Museums, Public Domain)

Wingate’s orders could be broadly summarized in three points. He was to:

  1. Draw off and break up Japanese forces fighting in the Ledo Sector where Gen. Joe Stilwell was trying to create a road for U.S. resupply,
  2. Prepare the battlefield for the Chinese forces advancing from the east, and
  3. Absolutely destroy every Japanese target that presented itself.

Operation Thursday took place in the middle of Japan’s supply and logistics operations in Burma. Wingate said his force “had been inserted into the enemies’ guts.”

Unlike the 1943 operation, the second expedition relied on some static defenses and bases.

“White City” was constructed on a Japanese railway to control operations there, while a landing site named “Broadway,” one of the three original dropzones, was built into a large and powerful airbase. Other installations included “Aberdeen” and “Blackpool.” Except for the White City and Blackpool, both built on the railroad, Chindit installations were built into the jungle where they were less likely to stumble into Japanese forces.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Chindits prepare a roadblock as a precaution against Japanese attacks.

(Imperial War Museums)

The men were deployed in columns of about 400 men at a time, fighting when they encountered an appropriate enemy force but melting into the jungle and re-forming when faced with a larger Japanese element.

Occasionally, an especially tough target needed to be brought down, and the columns would re-form into battalions or brigades.

All of this would prove disastrous for a Japanese force already heavily committed to a fight with Allied forces under Gen. Joe Stilwell while suffering guerrilla attacks from other irregular forces, like the Kachin Rangers under U.S. Army Col. Carl Eifler of the OSS.

The mission achieved its main objectives by the end of March, supporting the efforts of their allies across Burma, but the force stayed in position and continued to hamper Japanese elements.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

British Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate died in a plane crash in 1944, causing his force to later fall under direct command of American Gen. Joseph Stilwell who was unpopular for sending the guerrilla force on conventional infantry missions without proper support.

(Imperial War Museums, Public Domain)

On March 24, the mission suffered a major setback when Wingate died in a plane crash. His successor, Brig. Gen. Joseph Lentaigne maintained the Chindits’ mission until ordered in May 1944 to fall in under Stilwell. Stilwell deployed the force like a typical infantry unit for a number of attacks, but failed to provide it with sufficient artillery and air support in some cases.

Estimates for casualties under Stilwell’s direction range as high as 90 percent of all casualties suffered by the six brigades. The 77th Brigade suffered 50 percent losses in a single battle when ordered against Moguang.

Stilwell later ordered the 77th to take Myitkyina despite being at only 10 percent strength. The commander turned off his radios and marched out instead.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Chindits prepare tea during a halt in Burma.

(Imperial War Museums)

Eventually, the Japanese forces in Burma began to find and conduct serious assaults on Chindit strongholds, especially White City and Blackpool on the rail networks. White City held out for its entire existence, suffering some penetrations past the wire, but always repelling the enemy force eventually.

Blackpool was not so lucky. Close to Japanese lines, it was eventually isolated thanks to Japanese anti-aircraft guns that prevented aerial resupply. The men were finally forced to fight their way out — 2,000 starving and sick men cutting past the jungle and the Japanese.

The rest of the Chindits, meanwhile, were suffering from the intense fighting, jungle heat and humidity, and disease. By late July, Lentaigne made the decision that the 111th Brigade was no longer fit to fight and withdrew them on his own authority. The rest of the Chindits followed over the next month and the last emerged from the jungle in late August 1944.

A survivor of the expedition estimated that they had killed 25 Japanese troops for every Chindit they lost.

The Japanese forces in Burma were falling as were many of the Japanese positions across the Pacific, but the Chindits had once again paid dearly for their success. Over 1,000 men were killed, 2,400 wounded, and 450 missing. Meanwhile, over half of the survivors who made it out had some illness that required hospitalization or special diet.

Maladies like malaria, dysentery, and jungle sores were most common, and many soldiers had two or three of the conditions at once.

The 77th Brigade was the only one to fight in both expeditions. It was later disbanded but has been re-activated as a cyber warfare force focused on unconventional warfare in the digital domain.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Vietnam War was an example of good intentions but bad execution

What happens when the two sides of a war fundamentally disagree?


“Uh…well,” you’re thinking, “that’s pretty much the definition of war and you’re kind of a donut for asking, aren’t you?”

Yes, but hang with me. What I mean is, what happens when the disagreement goes beyond politics or ideology or territorial dispute, when the two sides disagree, on a basic level, about what the war they’re fighting is even about? And as a result, fail to agree on how the war will be fought?

Such cases produce quagmires of horrifying scope and duration.

One such case was the Vietnam War.

 

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(Photo via Flickr, manhhai, CC BY 2.0)

 

For America, Vietnam began as an earnest attempt to free a small country from unwanted and undesirable Communist conscription. As the war ground on, however, idealism gave way to a more basic agenda, to prove the rightness and righteousness of America as a function of its overwhelming military power.

Also read: Green Beret: The US is fighting a 100 year war

For the North Vietnamese, and the Viet Cong guerrillas who aided them, the war was about finally shaking off the yoke of western colonialism. After years of occupation by the French, American military presence seemed merely the heavy hand of a new foreign master. They were fighting to reunify North and South Vietnam under the ideology of their choice, which happened to be communism.

 

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(Photo via Flickr, manhhai, CC BY 2.0)

 

In 1956, then Congressman John F. Kennedy was a wholehearted champion of the Cold War-era clarion call to Stop the Spread of Communism.

Vietnam represents the cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia, the keystone to the arch, the finger in the dike.

But after an extensive fact-finding tour through the Middle and Far East, he returned to the U.S. convinced that preventing the threat of a new communist colonialism in Indo-China would require more than simply offering — by friendship or force — an American colonialism as the superior alternative. Much better to promote the nationalistic aspirations of the region’s native peoples, so long as those aspirations tended toward an American-style love of liberty.

But as the stakes were raised on his own Presidency by the Cuban Missile Crisis and the raising of the Berlin Wall, Kennedy felt an increasingly dire need to prove democratic righteousness and might (Mighteousness?). It was a terrifying time. The nuclear prerogative, which had once been ours alone, was now in the hands of nations whose ideals seemed to us not so much foreign, as alien. Vietnam would have to be, for the American Way, a definitive demonstration. Kennedy again:

…we have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place.

Had he lived to serve his full term in office, who knows if Kennedy might have have been able to carry out a nuanced foreign policy in Vietnam. He was assassinated in Nov. 1963 and the Vietnam War would become the problem of two more successive administrations. The practical result was a strategy of force, bombardment and attrition that floundered in the face of an enemy who refused to fight by those rules.

The facts on the ground in Vietnam made it clear to American servicemen that there was a grave disconnect between what we thought we were doing there (and the strategy we’d devised for achieving those goals) and how the Vietnamese — allies, enemies, and civilians in between — saw things.

A 1965 skirmish near Danang in which U.S. Marines killed 56 Viet Cong guerrillas put a very fine point on the issue. Among the Vietnamese dead was a 13-year-old boy who, just a day earlier, had been hospitably selling drinks to the Marines. Found on his body were hand-drawn maps of the Marine’s positions and defenses, intelligence for the Viet Cong.

 

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
(Photo via Flickr, manhhai, CC BY 2.0)

 

It’s a hard pill to swallow for soldiers who view themselves as a liberating force, to realize that the people they’ve been sent to help view them as the enemy, as occupiers, as aliens. It’s an issue our troops have faced every day in Afghanistan and on the fronts of the War on Terror. Righteousness is a delicate stance and a dangerous dance.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 things you didn’t know about Wyatt Earp and his famous gunfight

No doubt about it, the Wild West is an evocative era in American history. This period of frontier expansion is synonymous with rowdy saloons, cowboys, suspenseful shootouts, and of course, the ever-present tumbleweed. Within this lawless atmosphere, the infamous 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place. Although it was a real historical event, the showdown between Wyatt Earp and the Cochise County Cowboys checks off every element of a good spaghetti western film.

Here are the basic facts: Approximately 30 shots were fired in the standoff between law enforcement and the group of outlaws known as the Cochise County Cowboys. The altercation left three cowboys dead and two lawmen wounded in the mining boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory. However, the passage of time has meshed fact with legend. We’re here to set the record straight. Here are seven little-known facts about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.


This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

1. The gunfight did not actually take place at the O.K. Corral.

Nope, the shootout didn’t happen inside or even next to the eponymous corral. Shots were exchanged in a vacant lot on Fremont Street, down the road from the corral’s rear entrance.

This common mistake can be attributed to the 1957 film, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The movie made the shootout famous, but it was rather loose with the facts. (As for why the movie-makers decided on a location change, we’re guessing it’s because Gunfight at the O.K. Corral sounds more glamorous than Gunfight at the Vacant Lot on Fremont Street.) The corral still exists today, but instead of a business renting out horses and wagons, it’s a part of Tombstone’s historic district, where people can pay to watch reenactments of the gunfight.

2. The police may not have been the good guys.

There isn’t much room for moral ambiguity in standard depictions of the Old West. You have your bad guys (violent, lawless thieves) and your good guys (law-abiding sheriffs who try to protect the town). However, historians aren’t so sure what went down during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

The Earp brothers and their friend Doc Holliday claimed afterwards that they were trying to disarm the cowboys, who were illegally carrying firearms when the cowboys opened fire. The surviving cowboys alleged that they were fully cooperating and had even raised their hands in the air when the lawmen started indiscriminately shooting them at point blank range. Alliances were strong in the small town–newspapers were not above taking sides, and witnesses of the scuffle gave conflicting testimony. To further complicate matters, the transcript of the ensuing murder trial was destroyed in a fire. All in all, we may never know for sure who provoked the shootout.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

3. Wyatt Earp wasn’t really the hero of the shootout.

Wyatt Earp went down in history as the central figure of the gunfight. In reality, his brother Virgil was far more experienced than him in combat and shootout situations. Virgil had served in The Civil War and had a long career in law enforcement compared to Wyatt, who had a shorter stint in law enforcement and was even fired from one position.

However, Wyatt gained fame when a biography, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, was published in 1931, two years after its subject’s death. Riddled with exaggerations, to the point that it was more fiction that actual biography, the book portrayed Wyatt as the deadliest and most feared shooter in the Old West. Another contributing factor to his notoriety was the fact that unlike his fellow lawmen in the O.K. Corral shootout, Wyatt wasn’t injured or killed. Nor was he harmed in any of the ensuing fights. His close calls in the face of death only added to his mystique. Which brings us to our next point …

4. The gunfight at the O.K. Corral was only a small part of the long feud between the Earps & the cowboys.

Tension was simmering between the cowboys and the Earps long before gunfire erupted. Naturally, the fact that the Cochise County Cowboys made their living through smuggling and thievery ruffled a few feathers with town marshal Virgil Earp. The cowboys were implicated in several robberies and murders. The Earps promised justice, to which the cowboys responded that they were being persecuted without evidence. Death threats were exchanged.

The gunfight wasn’t the end of the enmity between these men either. The surviving cowboys were believed to have organized the assassination of Morgan Earp and a murder attempt on Virgil that left him permanently disabled.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

5. Wyatt Earp wasn’t always on the right side of the law.

And he definitely wasn’t the infallible hero later accounts made him out to be. Earp was apparently heavily affected by his first wife’s death and started acting out. Before moving to Tombstone, he faced a series of lawsuits alleging that he stole money and falsified court documents. He was also arrested for stealing a horse and escaped from jail before his trial. Later, he was arrested and fined for frequenting brothels. Rumors were abound that he was a pimp.

Earp tried to turn things around for himself and got a job on the police force in Wichita, Kansas. However, he was fired after getting into a fistfight. Luckily for him, it was pretty easy to wipe the slate clean for yourself in those days. He could simply pack his bags and head to a new town like Tombstone, where he could start with a fresh reputation.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

6. The gunfight only lasted 30 seconds.

Yup, the dramatic confrontation that left three men dead and three wounded lasted less than a minute. In that span, around 30 shots were fired. The movie Gunfight at the O.K. Corraldramatized the shootout, showing the men heavily armed and engaged in a fight that spanned minutes. In reality, each man carried only a revolver apiece and in the confusion, nobody could be sure who fired the fatal shots.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

7. Many of the townspeople sympathized with the cowboys.

You would think the people of Tombstone would regard the Earps as their heroes for driving out the outlaws. Not so. Public opinion was divided over the matter, especially after Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan testified in court that he witnessed the cowboys try to surrender peacefully.

However, even the sheriff had loyalties in this small town. Virgil Earp had clashed with Behan on several other occasions, claiming that he turned a blind eye to the cowboys’ illegal activities and was sympathetic to the criminals. Additionally, Wyatt Earp’s common-law wife, Josephine Earp, had lived with Behan for two years before entering a relationship with Earp. She left Behan after finding him in bed with another woman, but no doubt this contributed to the animosity betweens the Earps and Behan.

Also read: This Civil War vet was the real hero of the O.K. Corral shootout

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Today’s Purple Heart medals were first made for the invasion of Japan

In May 1945, the Axis powers were all but beaten, but the war was far from over for the United States. Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 8 but a lot of work was left to be done – namely, the invasion of mainland Japan. It was assumed that many Purple Heart medals would be needed, but history took a different course.


The ongoing Battle of Okinawa with its high casualty rates and fierce defenders made it clear to American leadership that the upcoming invasion of Japan’s main island would be a costly one for both sides.

 

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Two Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment during fighting at Wana Ridge during the Battle of Okinawa, May 1945.Davis Hargraves provides covering fire with his M1 Thompson as Gabriel Chavarria, with a Browning Automatic Rifle, prepares to break cover to move to a different position.

 

To make matters worse President Roosevelt died and his vice-president and successor, Harry Truman, was faced with a choice: an amphibious invasion that would kill an estimated 1 million Allied troops and upwards of 10 million Japanese or drop the new destructive superweapon – the atomic bomb – and force a Japanese surrender.

As Truman worked on his next move, the military’s top brass had no idea what his choice might be. In preparation for the invasion option, the U.S. military ordered hundreds of thousands of Purple Heart medals made, and stored them in a warehouse in Arlington, ready to be handed to those wounded in Operation Downfall.

The attack, of course, never came. Truman went for the nuclear option.

 

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Literally.

So what to do with all those medals? Give them to the troops, of course.

World War II was over but there was still plenty of American combat to come in the 20th century. Though the U.S. has ordered 34,000 more of them after the Vietnam War, the medals from 1945 are still updated and issued as needed.

“Time and combat will continue to erode the WWII stock, but it’s anyone’s guess how long it will be before the last Purple Heart for the invasion of Japan is pinned on a young soldier’s chest,” historian D.M. Giangreco, said in a 2010 e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The refurbished medals were distributed to military posts, units, and hospitals between 1985 and 1999. Even if new ones were made, the number given wounded service members through 2010 is still less than the number manufactured in 1945.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
A WWII-era Purple Heart (left) next to one received in Afghanistan (right).

 

The refurbished and new Purple Hearts are almost identical. 

A recipient may never know for which war their medal was made.

“You are talking about minute types of differences where only a specialist, somebody who really looks at this stuff, and looks at it often, can tell,” Giangreco said.

Either way, if you earn a Purple Heart, you can wear it with pride.

Articles

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King

In the early hours of Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, killing 2,403 service members and launching President Roosevelt’s decision to enter World War II.


Although the event was catastrophic, only two ships were beyond repair — USS Oklahoma and Arizona. The Oklahoma was eventually refloated to the surface, but the battle damage was too overwhelming to repair and return to service.

However, the USS Arizona took four devastating direct hits from 800kg bombs dropped from high altitude Japanese planes. One of the bombs ripped into the Arizona’s starboard deck and detonated. The explosion collapsed the ship’s forecastle decks, causing the conning tower to fall thirty feet into the hull.

Related: This American admiral planned the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1932

Talks of constructing a permanent memorial started as early as 1943, but it wasn’t until several years later that the effort would take shape. After the creation of Pacific War Memorial Commission, plans of how to commemorate the ship’s memory began rolling in.

Admiral Arthur Radford ordered a flag to be installed on the wreck site and have a colors ceremony conducted every day.

In 1950, requests for additional funds were denied by the government, as their top priority was to focus on the war efforts in Korea.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
USS Arizona after being struck by Japanese in Pearl Harbor.

In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower inked Public Law 85-344 allowing the PWMC to raise $500,000 for the memorial construction. But after two years of fundraising, only $155,000 in total proceeds had been collected — they needed a lot of help.

Little did they know, they were about to get it.

Tom Parker read about the PWMC’s struggling endeavor and came up with a genius plan. Parker just happened to be Elvis Presley’s manager and was looking for ways to get his client back on top after being drafted by the Army in 1957 — Elvis was discharged from service in 1960.

Reportedly, Parker approached Elvis to perform at a benefit to help boost the memorial campaign — and his music and acting careers.

Elvis, who was not only patriotic but loved the idea of performing for a cause, agreed to help with the campaign. The PWMC agreed to Parker’s plan, and a performance date was set — March 25, 1961.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
The flyer for Elvis’ fundraising performance.

Also Read: 5 times the US was attacked at home during WWII (besides Pearl Harbor)

Although the performance brought in $60,000 in revenue, the campaign was still well short of its goal. But from the publicity of Elvis’ show, donations from outside sources rolled in, and the PWMC finally raise the $500,000 they needed.

On May 30, 1962, the USS Arizona Memorial officially opened thanks to Elvis and the PWMC.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Cabanatuan Raid: The largest rescue in American history

Pacific theater, late 1944. Allied forces have been gradually uprooting the Japanese forces and pushing them back to Japan.

As its foothold in the Pacific shrinks by the day, the Imperial Japanese Army is getting desperate. Already the Japanese have shown a willingness to fight to the last man, an echo of the country’s ancient martial tradition.

However interesting to the outsider the Japanese warfighting culture might be, it bellies a darker side; a side full of disdain and often unfathomable brutality against a defeated foe, regardless of if it’s a civilian or a prisoner of war.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Rangers who participated in the Cabanatuan Raid (Wikimedia.org).

In December 1944, Japanese troops burn alive and shoot 139 Allied prisoners of wars, many of whom were survivors of the Bataan Death March and the desperate fight at the Corregidor, in the Philippines’ Palawan province.

A handful of Americans manage to escape and join the Filipino guerillas. Through them, they succeed in getting the word about the massacre to the approaching American forces. The intelligence makes Allied commanders realize that Allied prisoners of war in several other camps in the region face imminent execution.

They decide to rescue them.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
American commandos who participated in the Cabanatuan Raid (Wikimedia.org).

A daring raid of the Cabanatuan Prison Camp

Cabanatuan Prison Camp, January 30, 1945.

Cabanatuan is the largest internment camp in the region, housing over 5,000 prisoners of war at its peak. By January 1945, there are approximately 500 Allied troops held there.

The hostage rescue force is comprised of approximately 120 Rangers and Alamo Scouts, a special operations unit, and about 200 Filipino guerillas. To get to the camp, the rescue force will have to march 30 miles through enemy lines, no small feat considering the size of the force. The Filipinos’ knowledge of the area and the friendly local population somewhat simplify the logistics of the movement.

Led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci, commander of the 6th Ranger Battalion, the raid force is divided into two elements. With 90 men, the assault element will storm the camp through the main, kill any Japanese who resist, and rescue the prisoners. The 30 men of the support element will flank the camp from the east and destroy several guard towers and provide fire support where needed.

Two additional elements, primarily comprised of Filipino guerrillas with some American commands to help, set up blocking positions to the east and west of the camp to hold off any attempt by the Japanese to interfere with the rescue.

A P-61 Black Widow aircraft, which is designed for nighttime operations, will signal the attack with an overpass of the camp in order to distract the Japanese guards.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
American commandos and Filipino guerrillas after the Cabanatuan Raid (Wikimedia.org).

At exactly 1945, the raid begins.

The largest hostage rescue in American history

The P-61 succeeds in distracting the Japanese guards, allowing the rescue force to approach the camp without getting detected. In a matter of minutes, the American commands overwhelm the Japanese guards and rescue the prisoners, many of who can’t walk following years of forced labor, scant rations, and brutal punishments.

The two blocking positions stop several Japanese relief attempts, killing numerous enemies and destroying several tanks, before collapsing to the camp, where the rescue force has evacuated anyone they could find.

Rescuers and rescued make their way back through enemy lines, using several wagons and stretchers to carry those who can’t walk. After a dangerous and soul-draining forced march, the whole force arrives in friendly lines the next morning. Mission success.

In the Cabanatuan Raid, the American commandos rescued 489 prisoners of war and 33 civilians, while suffering four Americans killed in action (two commandos and two prisoners) and four wounded.

The Cabanatuan Raid is the largest rescue in American history. In the following three weeks, American commandos conduct two similar operations, in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp and Los Banos, rescuing more Allied prisoners of war.   

Among the Rangers who took part in the raid was an officer named Arthur “Bull” Simons, who was the executive officer of the 6th Ranger Battalion. Simons would go on the become a legend in the US special operations community and play a key part in the Son Tay hostage rescue during the Vietnam War. Today, the US Special Operations Command recognizes one of its members every year with the Bull Simons Award.

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