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 brief history of the prestigious Combat Infantryman Badge

Of the many accouterments on a U.S. Army uniform, nothing lets everyone know that they’re in the presence of a badass like the Combat Infantryman Badge. While the Combat Medic Badge (for medics, obviously) and Combat Action Badge (for everyone else) are highly respected, there’s a certain prestige that comes along with the CIB.


Creation

On Oct. 27, 1943, the War Department officially established the Combat Infantryman Badge under Section I, War Department Circular 269. It was created to award infantrymen for their hard work and dedication to their country.

It was also seen, in part, as a recruitment tool, considering that being an infantryman wasn’t a very coveted job at the time. They suffered the worst casualties and received the least recognition. The badge would at least try to address the latter.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
In case you were wondering why the CIB outranks the CAB… That’s why. (Image courtesy of U.S. National Archive)

Expert Infantryman Badge

Created alongside the Combat Action Badge was the Expert Infantrymen Badge (EIB). It was meant to build esprit de corps among the infantrymen who trained harder than others. On March 26, 1944, 100 NCOs from the 100th Infantry Division were selected to undergo three days of hell to prove their worth. Only ten made it through and were personally presented the award by Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair.

If you earned both the CIB and the EIB, you are only authorized to wear one.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Since one says you know infantry stuff and one says you’ve done infantry stuff, many choose the CIB. (Photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby)

Extra Pay

They may not have been the ones to make the sky blue, but Congress loved the infantry, too.

Between the time it was created in 1943 until 1948, recipients of the Combat Infantryman Badge (and eventually the Combat Medical Badge) were awarded an extra ten dollars a month pay. When adjusted for inflation, that’s about $146 a month.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Since infantrymen never change, we all know where that $10 went. (Image courtesy of the National Archive)

Three-time recipients

The CIB can be awarded multiple times for fighting in different eras. The four qualifying eras are WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam and other Cold War conflicts, and the Global War on Terrorism. Back in the day, it wasn’t too uncommon to find a CIB with a single star above it and, even today, you can still find salty infantrymen who fought in Somalia in 1994. To date, there are 324 recognized infantrymen who have earned the award three times — all for fighting in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

It’s kind of impossible to have earned the CIB for Korea, Vietnam, and the Global War on Terrorism because that’s a 48-year time gap and the soldier with the longest time in service, Gen. John William Vessey, gave Uncle Sam 42 years.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
But being a three-timer gets you a permanent spot in the National Infantry Museum! (Photo by Z. F. Hanner at the National Infantry Museum)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

It wouldn’t do much good for a wounded World War I veteran trying to reintegrate into society to have a passersby gasp in shock and horror every time they saw him. The town of Sidcup in England attempted to ameliorate this shocked, audible response by attempting to warn the locals about the tenants of a nearby soldiers hospital.

Seeing a man on a blue bench when all the other benches in town were a different color warned the locals the image of a man sitting on it might come as a shock – and the veterans were grateful.

WARNING: Some of these images might be disturbing to even modern eyes.


This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

A World War I veteran who was treated at Sidcup

World War I was an entirely different kind of warfare than the world had ever known previously. With that new, modern, and mechanized destruction, came new wounds and scars that would mark its veterans forever. Few in any military had ever seen anything like the gruesome scars of war left on World War I vets, so it’s safe to say that few civilians had either.

The Great War was packed with horrifyingly disfiguring weapons similar to wars past. Bullets are nothing new, neither was shrapnel. But the new weapons of war were able to unload hundreds of bullets in a minute and fire high explosives and poison gas from places the soldiers on the ground couldn’t even see. Soldiers on both sides suffered disfigurement at an astonishing rate. For the lucky ones who survived, that meant coming home to a population that wasn’t entirely prepared to see the horrors of the war.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

The effects of the earliest plastic surgery on World War I veterans, this work done in London.

Sidcup, England had a hospital devoted to such soldiers. The hospital held hundreds of troops whose facial features were an object of terror to the unprepared. The benches of Sidcup were a warning to passersby that a veteran sitting on the bench might be disfigured, and it’s best not to stare. While this may seem offensive to us these days, for veterans who suffered from these afflictions, it was a blessing. Sidcup became the one place in the world where wounded, disfigured vets could walk around without the gasps and cries found everywhere else.

More than that, such hospitals featured pioneering medical techniques to attempt to mitigate the physical damage and return some kind of normalcy to the subject. World War I veterans were essentially the world’s first plastic surgery recipients. For those who couldn’t get that kind of work done, masks were an option – a painted replica of an unwounded face, covering the wounds of war that marked their daily lives.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Masks for WWI-era wounded soldiers were usually specially designed for the individual, created for the subject’s unique injury or war wound, and then painted one by one to ensure the look and fit of the mask matched the person wearing it. There are many occasions where (albeit in black and white photos) it’s hard to distinguish the masked face from what might be the soldier’s undamaged face.

They were remarkably accurate and allowed the soldiers a degree of freedom, walking around without the horrors of war written upon their faces.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Nazi army was made entirely of Soviet POWs

It’s sometimes hard to remember that World War II wasn’t actually a single, globe-spanning conflict. It was really about a dozen smaller conflicts that had all been openly fought (or at least simmering) in the months and years leading up to the German invasion of Poland — the moment most historians point to as the beginning of the war.


Members of the Russian Liberation Army stand together in 1943. The “POA” patch features the Cyrillic-language abbreviation of the unit’s name in Russian.

(Karl Muller, Bundesarchiv Bild)

One of those long-simmering conflicts was between the Soviets in Russia and the Fascists in Germany. Both countries descended into harsh autocracies between World Wars I and II, but their leaders were deeply distrustful of one another. And, their populations were split as to who the worse evil was, even during the war.

That’s probably why somewhere around 200,000 Russian soldiers were recruited from prisoner of war camps and Soviet defections to form the Russian Liberation Army, a military force of Russian citizens who fought for Hitler against Stalin.

The head of the unit, abbreviated from Russian as the ROA, was a decorated Soviet officer, Lt. Gen. Andrey Vlasov. Vlasov and his men fought well against the Nazi invasion of Russia.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

A Leningrad building burns after a German air raid in World War II. The city was besieged by German forces, and Lt. Gen. Andrey Vlasov was in charge of a large segment of the forces sent to free it.

(RIA Novosti Archive)

Vlasov commanded the 4th Mechanized Corps, and he and his men retook multiple cities from Nazi forces during counterattacks, escaped encirclement at one point, and even helped save Moscow at one point. His face was printed in newspapers as a “defender of Moscow” and he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.

But he was then placed in command of an army and sent to break the siege at Leningrad. He failed, though some historians point to the failure of other commanders to exploit openings that Vlasov created. Regardless, most of his army was eventually slaughtered and he was captured.

While imprisoned in prisoner of war camps, Vlasov was known for making statements against Stalin. Eventually, this led to Vlasov advocating for a new military unit made up of Russians and commanded by Russians — but fighting for Germany.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Russian defector to Germany Lt. Gen. Andrey Vlasov speaks with volunteers in Germany in 1944.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

This wasn’t entirely crazy. There were actually a lot of Soviet citizens who hated Stalin and communism, and some of them saw the German invasion as a liberation. Not nearly as many as Hitler had hoped, but enough that some estimates posit as many as one million Russian men eventually opted to fight for Germany, with 1 in 10 prisoners captured on the coasts of Normandy on D-day being Soviet citizens.

After months in POW camps, Vlasov was able to convince Germany to create the ROA. He wrote pamphlets and other materials to convince more Soviet POWs to join, and these were also dropped as leaflets over Soviet formations to trigger defections. The main selling point was that, after the war, Germany would allow for a free and democratic Russia.

Unfortunately for Vlasov, the Germans still barely trusted him. Most Russians recruited into the ROA served under the command of other officers, including German ones. Vlasov was promoted to general but only put in command of the ROA against Soviet forces one time. On February 11, 1945, Vlasov led the ROA against the Red Army as the Soviets pressed against a Polish river.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Russian defector Gen. Andrey Vlasov meets with senior Nazi leaders, including Joseph Goebbels at far right.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

The ROA performed well, but was ultimately withdrawn and never sent into full-scale battle again. As Germany continued to lose ground, many in the ROA switched sides again, and fought their way through German units towards the western Allies, hoping that British and American forces would accept a surrender and request for asylum.

After all, they had no delusions about what the Soviets would do to captured Russian soldiers who fought against Stalin and the Red Army.

Unfortunately for the ROA, most western officers ultimately gave in the the political pressures at the time and allowed Soviet troops to arrest the defectors, including Vlasov. Approximately 33,000 men were handed over between May and September, 1945. Most would be executed or sent to the Gulag until they grew old or died.

Vlasov was executed by hanging on August 1, 1946.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Condoms: Good for love, better for war

Rubber, sheep skin, love sock, penis sheath, raincoat, scum bag, prophylactic, the goalie, nodding sock, the Royal wanker, MOPP gear, or, if you’re feeling vanilla, just plain ol’ “condom.”

No matter what you call it, condoms are great for conducting amphibious landings when you don’t want to exchange fluids with the host country. But they’re also good for a host of other things, as numerous enterprising service members have discovered over the years.


Make love, make war, but, for god’s sake, make lots of condoms first. So, just what sorts of things did grandpa use his jimmies for besides the horizontal tango?

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

There are likely thousands of condoms in this photo even though almost no one in it would get laid for a week or more.

(U.S. Army)

One of the best-known uses of condoms in combat came during D-Day where many infantrymen put them on their weapons’ barrels to keep the bore clear. While water is typically cited as the main intruder that soldiers wanted to deny, War on the Rocks has rightly pointed out that many weapons in World War II could actually fire just fine while wet.

But condoms, in addition to keeping out some of the moisture, also kept out most of the mud or wet sand that could get jammed in the barrel. And while water can cause a round to move to slowly through the barrel, causing the sustained pressure buildup to damage the barrel, wet sand or mud is nearly guaranteed to cause the barrel to burst.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Members of a naval combat demolition unit hit the beach during training.

(U.S. Department of Defense)

The Navy’s underwater demolition teams, meanwhile, reportedly used condoms to protect the fuses of their underwater explosives. Most of the fuses proved to be water resistant instead of waterproof, so they had to be kept dry until just before the big show. The commandos kept the sensitive little bombs in condoms until it was time to slide them into their holes. Then, remove the love glove and initiate the fireworks.

But, the condom’s debut as a tool for the D-Day landings actually came before the real operation. Gunners training for the big day are thought to have filled condoms with helium to make field-expedient targets for firing practice.

But it’s not all history — U.S. grunts and friendly forces have their own modern uses for condoms, too. For instance, a condom makes a great waterproof pouch, though you have to tie and untie it to retrieve items while maintaining a proper seal. Condoms are especially good in this role since they’re so elastic. They can expand to be large enough to cover nearly anything a soldier is carrying, though, again, you still have to be able to tie it for perfect effectiveness.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Stretch your condoms out first, ladies and gentleman. This is not enough water to keep you going.

(ClaudiaM1FLERéunion CC BY-SA 3.0)

In fact, if the condom is properly stretched and then placed into a fabric sleeve, like a sock, it can be used to hold additional water. Non-lubricated condoms are surprisingly strong and elastic, but they need a good fabric layer to protect against pinpricks which would cause them to burst. And, they need to be stretched first. Why? Because there’s no real water pressure in most survival situations, so the condom can only hold as much water as its current shape will allow.

So, yes. Bring condoms, whether you’re there to fight or fornicate. But, if you’re there to fight, opt for the non-lubricated, non-flavored ones.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Saddam thought the US was cool with an invasion of Kuwait

Saddam Hussein once famously believed that the United States was a country whose people couldn’t handle 10,000 dead in a war. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen because no one has been able to inflict those kinds of losses on the U.S. since Vietnam. But we all know Saddam was a-okay with taking those kinds of losses.

Still, he really didn’t believe he would have to take those losses when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. He honestly believed the United States gave him the green light for the invasion.


In the late 80s and early 90s, Iraq was heavily indebted to the rest of the world after its disastrous war with Iran failed to achieve much of anything at all, let alone seizing Iranian oil production and revenues. But what it did leave Iraq with was the world’s fifth largest army – the means by which Saddam Hussein could pay his debts.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

If you just failed to take another country’s oil fields, the solution must be to take another country’s oil fields, amirite?

(Kuwait News Agency)

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Saddam wanted to increase oil revenues by getting OPEC member countries to reduce production and raise the price of oil. Kuwait didn’t even pay lip service to this idea, producing more than the OPEC quota and keeping the price lower than Iraq wanted. The two countries were in a border dispute at the time and Kuwait was using the oil price as leverage. This infuriated the Iraqi dictator, and his overtures toward raising the price of oil irked his American allies.

To make matters worse for Hussein, the dictator believed Saudi Arabia and Kuwait should forgive the billion Iraq owed them for the Iran-Iraq War because he believed Iraq was keeping Iranian Shia influence out of their countries and protecting their governments. The fact that they wouldn’t forgive the debt further flamed tensions.

President George H. W. Bush continued many of his predecessor’s policies toward Iraq and the Middle East. His ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met with Saddam Hussein halfway between Bush’s term in office. She stressed to the dictator that the United States had no interest in a trade war with Iraq.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

“Guys, I just got a great idea. Hear me out…”

In the same meeting between Glaspie and Hussein, the U.S. Ambassador told the Iraqi dictator that the United States had no opinion on its border dispute with Kuwait, and its chief interest in the matter was the price of oil.

But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”

The situation between Iraq and Kuwait kept deteriorating, to the point that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attempted to step in to mediate the disagreement and prevent a war. When that failed, Saddam Hussein ordered his forces into Kuwait to settle the matter by force. The entire time, he emphasized that he wanted good relations with the United States and was genuinely surprised to find his actions condemned by the Bush Administration.

When prompted about the meeting in Congressional testimony, Glaspie simple explained, “we had no idea he would go that far.”

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

“I’ve made a huge mistake.”

Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, and rolled over the Kuwaitis in just two days. Iraq then annexed Kuwait as its 19th province with Ali Hassan al-Majid (aka “Chemical Ali”) as governor. They were expelled by a U.S.-led multinational coalition after a 40-day air war and a 100-hour ground campaign.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Queen of England could legally get away with murder

Mavos asks: If the queen happened to kill someone can she be prosecuted?

As the current monarch of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and a bunch of other countries that have her on their money, the Queen enjoys something known as sovereign immunity. In a nutshell, sovereign, or crown immunity as it is sometimes known, means that the Queen is for all intents and purposes above the law. So does this mean that the Queen could just up and kill somebody if she felt like it, all the while getting off scot free? In theory, yes, absolutely.


It turns out the queen can commit any crime just about anywhere in the world and get away with it legally thanks to the fact that she enjoys both sovereign immunity and diplomatic immunity. As we’ve discussed in our article on whether diplomats can really get away with murder, diplomatic immunity is so exceptionally far reaching in its scope that a person protected by it could indeed go all Lethal Weapon 2 on everyone with total impunity.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

The one problem for those diplomats, however, is that their home nations would in all likelihood not take kindly to them doing so and, beyond recalling them, they’d likely face prosecution at home for these acts if they were serious enough crimes. (Although, as we discussed in that piece, minor crimes like flouting any and all traffic rules and racking up many thousands of dollars in parking tickets without bothering to ever pay tends to be seemingly every nations’ diplomats favorite pastime.)

Going back to the queen, however, unlike most with diplomatic immunity, she does not technically have to worry about what anyone in the UK thinks.

You see, part of her immunity stems from the fact that all justice in the United Kingdom and various other countries she rules is meted out in her name. Now, obviously the Queen doesn’t personally dispense justice like the Kings and Queens of yore, among other reasons because doing so would be impractical. As a result of this, whilst the Queen is considered the “fount of justice” for her subjects, the ability to administer it is doled out to judges across Britain — all of whom are granted the post-nominal of QC (standing for Queen’s Counsel) as a nod to their position as an extension of the Queen’s will.

Likewise, the Crown Court similarly dispenses justice in the Queen’s name and as a result, all cases brought before it are tried as The Crown Versus *Blank*. Unsurprisingly from this, it is not technically possible for the Queen herself to be tried before the Crown Court as it would involve her prosecuting, well, herself.

Looking more deeply, her sovereign immunity also makes it so that the Queen cannot be tried in civil proceedings either, meaning she cannot be sued or have other such civil proceedings brought against her. The Queen also cannot be forced to testify in open court or even be interviewed by the police, not that this matters seeing as she also can’t be arrested.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

And even if she could be legally arrested for a crime, it wouldn’t matter anyway. You see, technically no arrest can be made “in the monarch’s presence” without her consent. Thus, arresting her is impossible on this count too because it would most definitely have to happen in her presence.

In addition, as if it being impossible to arrest someone just standing near the Queen, let alone the Queen herself, this protection extends to her various palaces too, meaning the police can’t arrest anyone, including the Queen, in any place she currently inhabits unless she gives assent.

It’s perhaps also worth mentioning that all prisoners in the United Kingdom are held “at her Majesty’s leisure” (which is why the Queen can pardon criminals if she so wills it), meaning she could just walk out of prison anyway by telling everyone to let her go.

Speaking of the police, as with the justice system, they too are charged with dispensing justice in the Queen’s name and all members of British law enforcement, upon joining the force, must swear an oath that reads, in part — “I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable.”

Or to put it another way, the Queen is the absolute authority of the entire UK policing system and her word is, quite literally, law. As a result, the Queen could theoretically shut down any attempt made to arrest her by simply telling the officer to go away.

Now you might say if she did all this, surely Parliament would step in and curtail the murderous Queen’s powers to ensure she could be prosecuted.

The problem is that all laws proposed by Parliament require what is known as Royal Assent before they can be enshrined into British law. As the name suggests, Royal Assent comes directly from the Queen herself so a parliament looking to prosecute the Queen would need the Queen to authorise the bill limiting her own powers, which she obviously would not do if she suddenly decided to start treating life like a game of Grand Theft Auto.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Another avenue that could be pursued in regards to prosecuting the Queen would be to force her to abdicate, removing the many protections she enjoys. To be clear though, this wouldn’t necessarily open the Queen up to prosecution as, under British law, nothing she does as Queen can be considered illegal — it’d just mean she could be prosecuted for any further crimes she happened to commit after.

It’s also worth noting here that the Queen has the power to completely dissolve Parliament if she so chooses and cause a whole new set of people to be elected. And if this group displeased her, she is free to do it again and again. It’s also the Queen’s duty to appoint the prime minister and she could, in theory, appoint anyone she wanted to the position, regardless of the way the British public voted in any elections. So installing someone who would do what she wanted would not be any real hurdle.

Thus, it would take a literal revolution for Parliament to rewrite the laws concerning the Queen without her consent.

There’s a potential problem with this too, though. You see, the Queen is the Commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces. As former professional head of the British Armed forces, Lord Charles Guthrie once noted, “The armed forces are loyal, and we live in a democracy, but actually their ultimate authority is the Queen.”

Yes, like with the police, every member of the Armed Forces in Britain swears an oath of fealty to the Queen and she is considered the ultimate authority in regards to military matters. Thus, if there was an attempt at a Parliamentary revolution and members of Parliament refused to step down as they were rewriting British law without the Queen’s consent, she could simply order the British Armed Forces to forcibly remove them from power or even line them all up and have them executed. The question then would be, in such a scenario, would they honor their oaths to the Queen?

Speaking of her power over the various groups of highly trained armed forces, the Queen has a remarkable number of ways she could theoretically kill someone if she felt so inclined, without need to get her own hands bloody. For example, she could instruct a crack team of SAS commandos to silently make a person disappear, tell her personal guard to charge them with their bayonets, or ask the Red Arrows to crash into someone’s house.

Again, whether the soldier, sailor or airmen in question would honor their oaths and listen to the order is another matter entirely — but the point is, if the Queen ever gave such an order there is no authority on Earth that could legally override it save for herself.

On top of that, if any investigation was every put in place to see why these soldiers had gone on their murder spree, the Queen not only could not be questioned in court, as previously mentioned, but also ignore the matter entirely as, despite her prominent political position, she and everything to do with her private life are exempt from any Freedom of Information requests.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries


If the Queen felt particularly gung-ho she could even personally declare war on any nation or person and, thanks to her Royal Prerogative, need not consult anyone about it before hand. In fact, she could even authorise a nuclear strike on a person anywhere in the world via Britain’s secretive and expansive network of nuclear submarines, again thanks to the fact that all of the men and women stationed aboard these vessels swear to put the Queen’s orders before all others.

Now you might say a foreign power might get pretty upset if that nuclear strike happened on their soil, and the International Criminal Courts might also try to step in, but if they decided to tangle with this rather formidable woman, the Queen could theoretically make her army larger by commandeering any ships that entered British waters (another power of hers) and by commanding the various armies of the commonwealth (all of whom swear a similar oath of fealty to the crown, same as the British armed forces) to come to her aid — that’s a lot of nations and military might.

Again, how many of these armies would listen, particularly after she decided to go all Armageddon on the world, is irrelevant to the legal discussion at hand — what matters is that the Queen technically has the ability to do all this and that nobody could legally stop her.

Despite the tremendous power she theoretically wields and the fact that she enjoys a “unique legal status” as monarch making her totally and unequivocally above the law, the Queen doesn’t utilise even an iota of her full powers. Why? Well, mainly to keep in the good graces of her subjects with it being noted by the official website of the British Monarchy that , “Although civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign as a person under UK law, The Queen is careful to ensure that all her activities in her personal capacity are carried out in strict accordance with the law.”

At the end of the day, she herself swore an oath to her subjects, which she seems to have spent her many decades as Queen taking very seriously. Specifically, in her speech at her 21st birthday, she stated, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How German beer kept Afghanistan out of World War I

The First World War brought a level of destruction that the world had never seen before. At the start of the war, only the French, Russians, English, and Italians stood against the Germans, Austro-Hungarians, and the Ottomans with their respective territories/colonies/provinces each filing in under their protectorate states. Every corner of the world was forced to take sides, officially or otherwise.

Neutral nations would be asked politically at first, but were quickly strong-armed into supporting one side or the other. This same fate could have befallen Afghans — who were distrusting of British India to the East and the Allied Russians to the north — if the negotiations hadn’t gone spectacularly wrong.


This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Too easy, right? This is only the “Graveyard of Empires” we’re talking about here.

In September, 1915, the Germans saw in opportunity in exploiting the Afghan tribes’ strategic advantage against the Allied troops that had left British India to fight in Europe. Persia had been officially neutral, but swung sides depending on who was more in control (Note: This was before the Turkish Invasion of Persia, which would eventually solidify their anti-Ottoman stance). If Afghanistan would join the Ottomans, the Persians would certainly follow. After all, the Afghan people hated the British and most of the ruling parties. All that stood in the way of a Central Powers-controlled Middle East and a wide-open causeway through India was a hesitant Amir Habibullah Khan, then the leader of Afghanistan.

The Ottomans leveraged much religious control over their fellow Muslim nations. Grassroots protests ran rampant in British-controlled India. Things were at a tipping point and all it would take was some sweet talking by a Bavarian officer, Oscar Niedermayer, on official orders from the Kaiser to go win them over. On paper, the plan was flawless.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Don’t worry. Niedermayer maybe won’t screw things up just yet.

Mahendra Pratap, centre, with (left to right) Maulavi Barkatullah, Werner Otto von Hentig, Kazim Bey, and Walter Röhr. Kabul, 1916

Niedermayer and his team traveled to Constantinople to meet up with their Turkish counterparts. Despite being in friendly territory, the mission was to be highly covert — one that, if compromised, could end in death for everyone involved. Yet, when the Turks showed up to the Pera Palace Hotel, they found the Germans sh*tfaced drunk, openly telling everyone that they’re going on an Afghanistan Expedition. Understandably, the Turks said, “f*ck it” and left, unwilling to be part of a botched mission that would have them executed if gone poorly due to the actions of some drunken idiots.

After the disaster in Constantinople, Berlin sent in Prussian diplomat, Werner-Otto von Hentig, to join in. Von Hentig was a consummate professional and had brought with him Raja Mahendra Pratap, an Indian royal who wanted to take control back from the British, to aid in negotiations. Niedermayer took great offense to this and constantly butted heads with von Hentig.

The combined teams finally reached Kabul to start negotiations anew.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

And celebrate they did. In only the truest of German manners.

(U.S. Navy)

Von Hentig and Pratap made friends with the Afghan ruler. Meanwhile, Afghan print media started stirring up anti-British sentiment. Months went by and negotiations continued. The war had started to cripple the Allies and Russia was on the verge of collapse after the “Great Retreat.”

In December, Amir Habibullah Khan ordered the drafting of treaty of friendship to establish an agreement between Afghanistan and Germany. By April 1916, things were looking good for the Central Powers. The enemy was getting weaker and they were inches away from gaining a strategic ally. They would, of course, celebrate.

The details of the event are still hazy, but it’s widely assumed that they got sh*tfaced once again — this time, in a Muslim country that strictly forbade alcohol. This turned into strong condemnation from Afghan leadership — even those who once supported their cause.

The Niedermayer–von Hentig Expedition was sent packing. Soon after, Persia was invaded by the Turks, which gave rise to a hard-line hatred of the Central Powers. As history shows, the Central Powers lost WWI. Amir Habibullah Khan was assassinated after the war’s conclusion by an anti-British coup that lead into the Third Anglo-Afghan War — which was lost in spectacular fashion.

All of history as we know it may have been rewritten were it not for one fateful night.

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7 awesome airpower quotes from General Curtis LeMay

The most powerful weapon in the United States’ Cold War arsenal was likely not its hundreds of nuclear warheads — it was the man whose job it was to deploy them.


There are few men in Air Force history as noteworthy and controversial as Gen. Curtis LeMay. He earned the nickname “Iron Ass” for his stubbornness and shortness once his mind was made up. When he did speak, the stout, cigar-chomping, stone-faced general had a reputation for his outspoken manner. Though not always remembered fondly by history, some of his image as a shoot-first-ask-questions-later, caveman may be undeserved.

He was the youngest general to wear a fourth star. When he retired, he had served as a four-star general longer than anyone in American history; a big deal for a general who didn’t go to a service academy, instead graduating from Ohio State. At the height of his career, he was the symbol of American military might. A bit more about one of the U.S. Air Force’s most influential founding generals can be gleaned through his more noteworthy quotes.

1. “We should always avoid armed conflict. But if you get in it, get in with both feet and get out as soon as possible.”

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Despite his gruff, cold image, every operational goal, in LeMay’s mind, was a means to an end. Ending a war quickly meant saving American lives. During World War II, LeMay was responsible for the firebombing of Japanese cities which completely destroyed most major Japanese cities. It was his command that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Official estimates from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey determined at least 330,000 killed, 476,000 injured, 8.5 million people made homeless, and 2.5 million buildings destroyed. Almost half of 64 Japanese mainland cities were completely destroyed. The destruction was not lost on LeMay. He acknowledged that if the Japanese had won the war, he would have been tried as a war criminal.

Later he would reveal that dropping the atomic bombs was totally unnecessary, given the level of destruction he had already waged on Japan. He said he only dropped them because of President Truman’s authority. After the war, Japan’s former Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe confirmed that the decision to surrender was based on the prolonged bombing wrought by General LeMay’s Marianas-based air forces. LeMay took command of the Marianas in January 1945. The Japanese surrendered in August of 1945.

2. “War is never cost-effective. People are killed. To them, the war is total.”

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

He was known as a tough commander, but a fair one. He earned a reputation for being stone-faced, uncaring about the needs of his men but LeMay actually suffered from Bell’s Palsey, which literally immobilized his face. When a Harvard study found Army pilots were aborting bombing missions over Germany out of fear, LeMay personally led every bombing sortie and ordered any crew who didn’t go over the target be court martialed.

The gruff general took combat losses to heart, knowing he’d sent men to die, but firmly believed if the death of one American could save a thousand, then it was the right decision to make. In The Fog of War, a documentary about the life of former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, McNamara quoted LeMay: “Why are we here? Why are we here? You lost your wingman. It hurts me as much as it does you. I sent him there. And I’ve been there, I know what it is.  But you lost one wingman, and we destroyed Tokyo.”

3. “Successful offense brings victory. Successful defense can now only lessen defeat.”

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

This is an “extremely belligerent, many thought brutal” man who believed in the power, threat and use of nuclear weapons. He wanted SAC to be able to deliver every nuclear warhead in the American arsenal on the Soviet Union at once. This military rationale earned LeMay the image of a cold man who was obsessed with starting any kind of war with the Russians.

It was Gen. LeMay who inspired the character of Buck Turgidson in “Doctor Strangelove,” willing to pay for a victory over the Soviet Union with unlimited American lives. As a bomber pilot, LeMay’s point of view was one of overwhelming force. At its height, the SAC had 1600 bombers and 800 missiles in its arsenal.

4. “We can haul anything.”

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

As the commander of U.S. Air Forces In Europe, LeMay was asked by the Commander of all U.S. forces in Europe, Lucius D. Clay, about the feasibility of an airlift (later known as the “Berlin Airlift”) to break the Soviet blockade of West Berlin.

Gen. Clay asked LeMay “Can you haul coal?” Even though he preferred the more aggressive response of an armed convoy backed by bomber aircraft, Gen. LeMay enthusiastically began the 5,000 ton per day airlift operation within weeks. He was so instrumental in its startup, it was initially called “The LeMay Coal and Feed Delivery Service.” LeMay’s response to Clay’s hauling question represents the can-do attitude and spirit of the U.S. Air Force.

5. “If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the shit out of them before they take off the ground.”

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Robert McNamara, who served under LeMay during WWII and over him as Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy Administration, called him the finest combat commander there ever was. While he was convinced a war would happen at some point and believe the U.S. should fight it on the grounds most favorable to it, LeMay’s military upbringing taught him that true readiness required constant training and this readiness was to be in place when the civilian leaders of the military deemed it necessary to use them.

His solution was to create a force so powerful no one would dare sneak an attack. He would always advocate for a heavy military response, most notably during the thirteen-day Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, but always loyally and diligently carried out the orders and policy of his civilian superiors.

6. “To err is human, to forgive is not SAC policy”

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

When he took control of Strategic Air Command in 1948, most of his bomber crews couldn’t hit Ohio with a mock atomic bomb during exercises. The SAC under Gen. LeMay became one of the most effective military units in the world on the basis of relentless training.

One officer was quoted as saying: “Training in SAC is harder than war … it might be a relief to go to war.” Within two years, the procedures, checklists, and training implemented by General LeMay gave SAC one of the best safety records in U.S. military history.

7. “The price of failure might be paid with national survival.”

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

After retiring from the Air Force in 1965, LeMay ran with George Wallace on his segregationist party ticket. It led many to conclude that LeMay agreed with Wallace’s racial views. In truth, LeMay agreed to run with Wallace because he believed in a hard line against Communism, and an end to the War in Vietnam, and didn’t see any of the potential candidates doing these things.

LeMay was no racist. During his tenure as a commander in the Air Force, he had actually promoted the integration of units well before Truman’s executive order. Protesters would attend Wallace rallies shouting “Sieg heil” at the man who designed the bombing plans that crippled Nazi war production, even personally leading the most dangerous missions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 things you didn’t know about Operation Market Garden

It’s been 75 years since the launch of Operation Market Garden – the World War II mission to secure key bridges across Belgium and the Netherlands while pushing an Allied advance over the Rhine into Germany and ending the war in Europe by Christmas 1944. Unfortunately, many of Market Garden’s main aims failed, and the Christmas victory was not secured.

That doesn’t mean this brainchild of British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery was a total failure, it was just slightly more ambitious than the Allies were prepared for. Here’s why.


This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

It was actually two operations.

Market Garden was divided into two sub-operations. The first was “Market,” an airborne assault that would capture the key bridges Allied forces needed to advance on German positions and cross into Germany. The second was “Garden,” where ground forces actually crossed those bridges and formed on the other side. In the north, the push would circumvent the Siegfried Line, creating the top part of a greater pincer movement of tanks inside Germany’s industrial heartland, as well as a 64-mile bulge in the front line.

Getting there would be slow going.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Six American paratroopers of the First Allied Airborne Army receive a final briefing from their commanding officer before Operation Market Garden.

(Imperial War Museum)

It was the largest airborne operation ever.

The British 1st Airborne Division and Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade were dropped around Oosterbeek to take bridges near Arnhem and Grave. The U.S. 101st Airborne was dropped near Eindhoven, and the 82nd was dropped near Nijmegen with the aim of taking bridges near there and Grave. In all, some 34,000 men would be airlifted into combat on the first day, with their equipment and support coming in by glider the next day. In the days that followed, they would be relieved by Allied troops zooming North to cross the river.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

British POWs captured by the Germans at Arnhem.

The Allies thought the Nazis weren’t going to fight.

Isn’t that always what happens in a “surprise” defeat? Underestimating the enemy is always a mistake, no matter what the reason. In this case, the Allies thought German resistance to the invaders would be minimal because the Nazis were in full retreat mode after the Allies liberated much of occupied France. They were wrong. Hitler saw the retreat as a collapse on the Western Front and recalled one of his best Field Marshals from retirement, Gerd von Rundstedt. Von Rundstedt quickly reorganized the German forces in the West and moved reinforcements to the areas near key bridges and major cities.

Even though Dutch resistance fighters and their own communications intercepts told the Allies there would be more fighting than planned, they went ahead with the operation anyway.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

Cromwell tanks speed toward Nijmegen, Sep. 20, 1944.

Speed was essential and the Allies didn’t have it.

The surprise of using 34,000-plus paratroopers definitely worked on the German defenders. But still, some attacks did not proceed as planned, and though most bridges were taken, some were not, and some were demolished by their defenders. The British were forced to engage their targets with half the men required. What’s worse is that the paratrooper’s relief was moving much slower than expected, moving about half of its planned advance on the first day. To make matters worse, British Gen. Sir Brian Horrocks halted his advance on the second day to regroup after assisting in the assault on Nijmegen Bridge.

It was the halt that would keep British troops at Arnhem from getting the forces they needed to be successful and spell the ultimate failure of Market Garden.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

British Engineers remove explosives set by German engineers on a bridge near Arnhem.

The British took the brunt of the casualties.

Overall, Market Garden cost the Allies between 15,000 and 17,000 killed, captured, or wounded. The British 1st Airborne Division was the hardest hit, starting the battle with 10,600 men and suffering 1,485 killed and some 6,414 captured. They failed to take and hold the bridge at Arnhem, encountering stiff resistance and reinforcement from the Nazi troops there. Because of that bridge, the invasion of Nazi Germany over the lower Rhine could not proceed.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

“Monty” still saw Market Garden as a success.

British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was a steadfast supporter of the operation, even after considering all its operational successes and failures. Despite the lack of intelligence and overly optimistic planning in terms of the defenders, Montgomery still considered the operation a “90 percent” success.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how to safely land NASA’s bomber with an engine out

When soaring through the skies, thousands of feet above the ground, the last thing a pilot wants to deal with a faulty engine. Those in single-engine jets are typically left with one option: Getting out of the plane. For most military planes, this means it’s time to grab the “loud handle” and trigger the ejection seat.

But if you’re in a multi-engine plane, you have a chance to bring the plane back safely. The key word here is chance.


How big or small that chance is depends greatly on circumstance. What type of plane is it? How did the engine go out? Is there any other damage to the plane? How well-trained is the pilot?

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

B-57 Canberra bombers were tricky enough to fly — when both engines worked.

(USAF)

This last question is crucial. Flying a plane back to base with an engine out is no simple task. The thrust propelling a plane is going to be very different — and if you don’t adjust, you’ll lose control.

One plane for which that recovery is especially tricky is the B-57, three of which are still in service with NASA today. The plane, when fully functional, is very touchy — as evidenced by its high accident rate. This plane has two engines, so if you lose one, you lose half your thrust. What remains is uneven. So, pilots had to be specially trained for such an event — but conducting that training in the plane could make for some very costly lessons.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

NASA has three B-57s in its inventory — including this one, with the tail number 928.

(NASA)

Check out the video below from 1955 to see how pilots were trained to conduct a single-engine landing. The instructions might be over 50 years old, but some lessons are timeless.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfLdEGdyuIo

www.youtube.com

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The ‘Fork-tailed devil’ terrified Japanese pilots

Among the fighters that allowed America to win World War II, the P-38 Lightning was uniquely successful and was dubbed the “fork-tailed Devil” by the Germans even though its greatest successes came in the Pacific, Mediterranean, and North African theaters.


Army Air Corps leaders first solicited for what would become the P-38 in 1937 with the specification X-608, a request for a new pursuit aircraft that could fly 360 mph at 20,000 feet, reach 20,000 feet in six minutes, and run at full power at that altitude for at least an hour. They also wanted a long combat radius and plenty of firepower.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
The J model of the P-38 carried the same .50-cal machine guns and 20mm cannons of its predecessors, but could also carry bombs. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Lockheed, a newcomer to the military market, submitted the XP-38, a radical departure from conventional aircraft design that featured three pods and two tails. The outer pods lined up with the tails and each carried an Allison V-1710 engine with 1,000 hp.

While the XP-38 was a radical design, the Army adopted it anyway because they needed its power and speed to compete with new German and British designs. And it packed a lot of punch with four .50-cal. machine guns and a single 20 mm cannon, all crammed into the nose.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
The P-38 Lightning was the premiere twin-engine American fighter in World War II. It had four .50-cal. machine guns and a 20 mm cannon in its nose. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Museum)

The plane went through continued testing and design refinements before reaching Army pilots in 1940. Upon its debut, it was capable of reaching an altitude of 3,300 feet in one minute and could hit 400 mph with a range of 1,150 miles.

But production was slow and the Army had only 69 P-38s, so Lockheed was forced to subcontract parts to get the plane into combat for the U.S. But the P-38 arrived on the front lines with a vengeance. In early 1942, its pilots became the first Americans to down a Luftwaffe plane and P-38s carried seven of the top fighter aces of the Pacific theater.

The Lightning’s finest hour probably came on April 18, 1943. Naval Intelligence had learned that Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander and architect of the Pearl Harbor attacks, would be inspecting troops in the Pacific on that date.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
The last known photograph of Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto before he was killed by American P-38s. (Photo: Public Domain)

The military rushed together a plan to attack the admiral. The scheme called for fighters to fly approximately 600 miles out and 400 miles back with enough fuel available in the middle for fierce fighting. The only Pacific fighter capable of the feat in 1943 was the P-38 equipped with drop tanks.

A kill team of four P-38s flew with 12 others to an intercept point, dropped their tanks, and attacked the two bombers and six fighters of Yamamoto’s flight and escort. Two Americans had to peal off when their drop tanks failed to disconnect, but the other 14 successfully downed both bombers and the Zeros bugged out. One P-38 was lost in the battle and Yamamoto was killed along with his deputy.

America’s top-scoring fighter ace of all time, Maj. Richard Bong, achieved all of his 40 aerial victories in P-38s and the number two ace, Maj. Thomas B. McGuire, Jr., achieved most of his 38 kills in the P-38.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries
Famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh with Maj. Thomas B. McGuire, America’s second-highest fighter Ace of all time. (Photo: U.S. Air Force archives)

All of this is not to say that the P-38 was perfect. It suffered a number of drawbacks including a tendency to become unstable at speeds approaching Mach 1 and to become unresponsive to controls during high-speed dives.

In Europe, the plane that dominated over the Pacific became a major liability for pilots because it wasn’t designed to withstand the extreme cold of Europe’s winter air at 20,000 feet and higher, especially in the particularly bitter 1943-1944 winter.

Pilots suffered hypothermia and frostbite in the barely heated cockpit and the engines were prone to failures as their intakes over-cooled incoming air.

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

The commander of the 20th Flight Group, Col. Harold J. Rau, was ordered to provide a written report as to why the P-38 wasn’t more successful in Europe. He asked the recipient to imagine a fresh-out-of-flight-school with less than 30 flight hours who was suddenly attacked by Luftwaffe fighters.

He must turn, he must increase power and get rid of those external tanks and get on his main. So, he reaches down and turns two stiff, difficult gas switches to main, turns on his drop tank switches, presses his release button, puts the mixture to auto rich, increases his RPM, increases his manifold pressure, turns on his gun heater switch, turns on his combat switch and he is ready to fight.

And the process was unforgiving of errors. Reversing the order of the engine steps or skipping a step could cause the engine to explode or throw a rod, either of which would rob the pilot of vital power during a dogfight. And all of this has to be done while German rounds are already ripping past or through the plane.

Luckily, the debut of the P-51 gave a viable alternative to the P-38. It didn’t suffer from the cold-weather problems of the P-38 and had comparable or better speed, range, and maneuverability at most altitudes while being easier for rookies to fly. It’s only major shortcoming against the P-38 was that it had only one engine and it was more susceptible to damage than either of the Lightning’s two.