Submarines have killed a lot of ships over the course of history. Granted, in the 72 years since World War II ended, the total has been very small. Prior to that, tens of thousands of ships were hit by submarine attack.
Ironically, while an American sub has claim to the largest ship ever sunk by submarine, a Japanese sub, the I-19, can arguably claim it deserves credit for the most devastation in a single attack.
The date was Sept. 15, 1942. The United States was running a large convoy to support elements of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal. The carrier USS Wasp (CV 7) was among the escorting force, which included the battleship USS North Carolina (BB 55), the cruisers USS Helena (CL 50) and USS Salt Lake City (CA 25), and a number of destroyers, including USS Laffey (DD 459) and USS O’Brien (DD 415).
The Wasp’s design had been dictated by limits imposed by the 1921 Washington Naval Treaty. In essence, she was a scaled-down Yorktown-class design, displacing about 14,900 tons compared to the 20,100 tons of Yorktown (CV 5), Enterprise (CV 6), and Hornet (CV 8). At the time of the Guadalcanal campaign, Wasp carried 25 F4F Wildcats, 26 SBD Dauntless, and 9 TBF Avengers. A potent force, it had missed the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.
According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, the I-19 made her attack around 2:44 PM, firing six torpedoes. Three hit the Wasp forward, where aircraft fuel and munitions were stored. The torpedoes fatally wounded the carrier. In 36 minutes, it was obvious the Wasp had to be abandoned. But the spread did more.
One torpedo hit the battleship North Carolina, tearing a good-sized hole in the fast battleship, but only did minor damage. A 5.5-degree list got corrected in less than six minutes, per DANFS. A fifth torpedo hit the destroyer USS O’Brien in the bow, in what appeared to be minor impact at first. O’Brien would sail under her own power to a series of forward bases. But on Oct. 19, 1942, effects of the hit caused the destroyer to break in half and sink after a 3,000 mile journey.
The I-19 would escape after this brilliant attack, but eventually karma exacted its price. During the Gilbert Islands campaign, the submarine was located by the USS Radford (DD 446) and sunk with all hands. The video below shows some of USS Wasp’s moments of agony after the torpedo attack.
Halloween is coming up, so we hope everyone has a great costume lined up, unlike most years when everyone just trades uniforms with a member of a different service for the night. Soldiers going as airmen, sailors going as Marines. It’s all cutting edge stuff.
Before you head into the housing areas to beg your first sergeants for candy, check out these 13 funny military memes:
A Marine veteran believed so strongly in the war against the Islamic State group that he secretly traveled to Syria, where he was killed this month while fighting for a Kurdish militia group.
David Taylor, a 25-year-old former Florida resident, had kept his plans to join the Kurdish group a secret from his family and only told a high school friend, who he swore to secrecy. Taylor’s father said July 25 that he didn’t even know of his son’s plans until after he had arrived in Syria last spring and was training with the group known as YPG.
“I got an email and he said, ‘Pops, don’t worry. I’m with the YPG,'” David Taylor Sr. told The Associated Press from his West Virginia home. “He said, ‘I’m doing the right thing. It’s for their freedom.'”
Taylor Sr. said when his son set his mind on something, he did it.
“There was no middle ground. He wasn’t wishy-washy,” the father said.
A Kurdish militia group released a video saying Taylor was “martyred fighting ISIS’ barbarism” on July 16.
The US State Department said in a statement that it was aware of reports of a US citizen being killed while fighting in Syria but offered no further comment. Taylor’s dad said the family was told about the death last weekend by a US consular official.
Taylor’s high school friend emailed the father after he learned of the death. The friend said Taylor told him during a visit to St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, last February that he believed the Islamic State group needed to be stopped.
“One night he got drunk and told me of the atrocities he had witnessed in the Middle East during his time in the Marine Corps,” the friend, Alex Cintron, wrote in an email to Taylor’s parents.
“He said to the effect that ‘Isis was the bane of modern existence and needed to be stopped before they destroy any more lives and priceless works of human achievement,'” Cintron said in the email.
Taylor’s father shared the email with AP on July 25. Cintron didn’t respond to a message for comment sent via social media.
Cintron said in the email that Taylor died from an improvised explosive device. The YPG video offered no details on how Taylor died.
Taylor grew up in Ocala, Florida, located about 80 miles northwest of Orlando. He attended college in Florida and West Virginia before joining the Marines. He was deployed in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, and spent time in Jordan before he was discharged last year, said David Taylor Sr.
After his discharge, he came to the United States and visited family and friends in West Virginia, Philadelphia, and Florida.
Last spring, he asked his father to drive him to the airport because he had decided to visit Ireland, where his family has ancestral ties.
Taylor Sr. received periodic updates from his son about his travels in Europe until there was a period of silence for several weeks. Soon afterward, the elder Taylor received an email from his son, saying he had joined the Kurdish militia group.
The consular official told Taylor Sr. that the YPG is paying to transport Taylor’s body back to the United States.
“He loved his country. He loved democracy,” the father said. “He had a mission, to go over there and advance democracy and freedom like we have it over here. It came at a horrible price.”
U.S. Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, to South Korea, implementing the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s July decision to bring the defensive capability to the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea’s accelerating program of nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches constitute a threat to international peace and security and violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, Pacom officials said, adding that the THAAD ballistic missile defense system deployment contributes to a layered defense and enhances the alliance’s shield against North Korean missile threats.
“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” Navy Adm. Harry Harris, Pacom commander, said. “We will resolutely honor our alliance commitments to South Korea and stand ready to defend ourselves, the American homeland and our allies.”
The THAAD system is a strictly defensive capability, and it poses no threat to other countries in the region, Pacom officials said. It is designed to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final phase of flight.
Pacom joint military forces remain vigilant in the face of North Korean ballistic missile threats and provocations and are fully committed to working closely with South Korea to maintain security in the region, officials said.
Before joining the Army, Sammy Davis worked at the restaurant inside his hometown bowling alley. As he was working, he watched a clip of Roger Donlon receiving the Medal of Honor for his bravery. That brief moment inspired him and, after he graduated from high school, Davis enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Sammy Davis was the son of a proud artilleryman and, like many teenagers, wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. After completing his artillery training, David requested to serve in Vietnam and was soon shipped out. Once there, he served as part of a field artillery crew that provided close support to the men serving in the infantry.
On Nov. 18, 1967, Davis’ unit was airlifted to Cai Lay, Vietnam, where an Army major informed them that they were 100-percent certain the enemy was to attack that day.
So, the men armed their 155mm Howitzer and fired their weapon in conjunction with the allied forces already on the ground. Just before dark, the enemy broke contact, causing the artillery crew to ease up on their massive weapon’s trigger. Later on, Davis heard the sound of mortars sliding down the tubes nearby. The only problem was that no Americans on deck had a mortar system to prep.
The battle was about to begin anew.
The enemy’s mortars rained down on top of the allied troops. Then, out of nowhere, they just quit. An eerie feeling blanketed the area. Something was bound to happen, but no one knew when the full attack would commence.
Then, suddenly, a barrage of whistles rang out. The attack was on and allied forces were ready. Wave after wave of bombardment destroyed the area as American troops courageously fought off their opposition. During the chaos, David was knocked unconscious by heavy artillery fire, suffering severe blast wounds from the lower torso to his mid-back (including his buttocks).
Davis awoke to the realization that he was about to be overrun. So, he picked up his rifle and got back into the fight. Davis then reloaded his Howitzer and fired that sucker.
The flame lit up the sky.
Then, Davis heard someone shout, “don’t shoot, I’m a GI” from a nearby river. Davis spotted found one of his brothers-in-arms across the river and realized he needed help. Despite his own wounds and inability to swim, Davis used an air mattress and paddled to the other side of the river and discovered a foxhole with three more wounded men inside.
Sammy Davis managed to carry the three severely wounded men to safety — at one time. On Nov. 19, 1968, Davis received the Medal of Honor and his citation inspired source materials for the 1994 film, Forrest Gump.
Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to listen to the courageous story from the legend himself.
The Army knew Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang had shown support for Islamic State years ago. It even took away his security clearance for a while.
But he stayed in the service, deploying to Afghanistan in 2013.
Then, last weekend, the FBI arrested the 34-year-old on terrorism charges following a yearlong investigation, shortly after Kang declared his loyalty to the terrorist group and exclaimed that he wanted to “kill a bunch of people,” according to authorities.
The case highlights the challenges investigators face with protecting the public from a potentially dangerous actor on one hand and gathering sufficient evidence to enable prosecution on the other.
Kang is on record making pro-Islamic State comments and threatening to hurt or kill other service members back in 2011, according to an FBI affidavit filed July 10 in federal court.
The Army revoked his security clearance in 2012, but gave it back to him the following year. Last year, the Army called the FBI when it “appeared that Kang was becoming radicalized,” the affidavit said.
Retired Army judge and prosecutor Col. Gregory A. Gross said he was perplexed that the Army allowed Kang to remain a soldier even after his favorable comments toward the Islamic State group.
But Gross said the Army may have decided Kang was just mouthing off and was not a threat.
Gross served as the initial judge in the court martial of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 in a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. He said July 11 he was concerned by the similarities between Kang and Hasan’s case.
“He was making all these statements, and giving these presentations,” said Gross, who is currently a civilian defense attorney for military service members.
Lt. Col. Curtis J. Kellogg, a spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Kang’s court-appointed lawyer, Birney Bervar, said his client may suffer from service-related mental health issues of which the government was aware but neglected to treat. He declined to elaborate.
Noel Tipon, an attorney in military and civilian courts, said there’s nothing in the Army manual on removing soldiers from the service that would address allegations like speaking favorably about a group like Islamic State.
He suspects the FBI wanted to Kang to stay in the Army while they investigated whether he had collaborators.
“They probably said ‘let’s monitor it and see if we can get a real terrorist cell,’ ” said Tipon, who served in the Marine Corps.
The FBI said its investigation showed Kang was acting on his own.
Spokesman Arnold Laanui said the probe took nearly a year given the evidence that needed to be collected and the constitutional rights that needed to be protected.
“These tend to be very meticulous and time-consuming matters,” Laanui said. Public safety, he said, was at the forefront of the case, he said.
The FBI outlined its evidence against Kang in a 26-page affidavit filed July 10. It includes allegations Kang filmed a combat training video for Islamic State and bought a drone he believed would be sent to the Middle East to help the group’s fighters.
Agents said none of the military documents — classified and unclassified — Kang gave to people he believed were affiliated with Islamic State ever got to the group.
Kang’s father told Honolulu television station KHON and the Star-Advertiser newspaper his son may have had post-traumatic stress disorder. Kang told the newspaper he became concerned after his son’s return from Afghanistan. He said his son was withdrawn.
Kang enlisted in the Army in December 2001, just months after the Sept. 11 attacks. He served in South Korea from 2002 to 2003. He deployed to Iraq from March 2010 to February 2011 and Afghanistan from July 2013 to April 2014.
Kang was scheduled to appear in court July 13 for a detention hearing.
I had heard the story many times, personally. But until today I had never heard Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly’s telling of it to a packed house in 2010. Just four days following the death of his own son in combat, Kelly eulogized two other sons in an unforgettable manner.
Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.
Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.
The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.
They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.
The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.
A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way—perhaps 60-70 yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.
Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.
When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.
The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event—just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.
I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.
All survived. Many were injured … some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”
What he didn’t know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”
“No sane man.”
“They saved us all.”
What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.
You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: ” … let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”
The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have know they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.
The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.
Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.
It was reported earlier this month that during a July 19 meeting with his national-security team, President Donald Trump turned down counsel of his generals, saying he leaned “toward the advice of rank-and-file soldiers.”
As one of those “rank-and-file” soldiers who has sat through countless sensing sessions where dumb asses give the stupidest advice on how to run the Army, I can see plenty of room for error.
Writer’s Note: This is not intended to be a political piece. It’s only meant to shine a light on the humor that would come from giving “Carl” — or the person that has to be THAT f*cking guy in your unit — the ultimate open door policy. Soldiers could have great ideas that could help turn things around in Afghanistan. But not Carl.
1. Every base would get a luxurious boost in MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation).
Soldiers are more ready and resilient if they aren’t bored out of their f*cking minds, right? Some soldiers make it seem like it’s a matter of life and death if they have to twiddle their thumbs for more than 10 minutes at a time. Carl’s first piece of advice?
“Porn, Mr. President. No one can be busy twiddling their thumbs if their twiddling their little rifleman instead. Gonna need tablets and good WiFi for every combat outpost. And make sure to not put some dumb password on it. No one wants to look for a sticky note when they’re trying to get sticky, you feel me?”
2. Get rid of the MREs for junk food.
Did you know there’s a lot of science behind MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat)? They have to have at least 5-year shelf life, specific calorie counts, have a variety of nutrients and hold their nutrients through a quick heating process, are specifically pH balanced, stay oxygen controlled, and so much more. But Carl doesn’t realize that.
“Beer and brauts. And make sure they have lots of pork so the locals won’t want to touch us. Come to think of it, put some stickers in ’em that say, ‘Infidel filled with pig,’ so all the enemies will know our blood is unsafe to touch. Yeah, mess with us, lose your virgins. Expiration dates? Nah, we’ll drink ’em before they go bad.”
The last of these were made in ’08. Unless they were kept in a temperature of below a constant 40°F, these f*ckers should all be expired. We should be safe now. (Photo via Wikicommons)
3. Put fast food joints on all FOBs.
I remember my first time at Ali Al Salem Air Base. One of my NCOs took me to the McDonalds. He bought me a burger and told me “Ski, (every service member with a Polish last name has it reduced to the same three letters) enjoy this burger because it’s all down hill from here.” I replied, “But Sergeant, this tastes like cat sh*t flattened in an ash tray.”
“Like I said, all down hill from here.”
And Carl doesn’t get that it’s a problem of logistics and security.
“Here we go, President Trump. What they really need over there is a little taste of home, specifically, a taste of home-fried chicken from Kentucky. Yeah, KFC. Finger-licken good.”
4. The definition of “hazing” would get a lot more intense.
“But like, they were super mean to me. One of ’em said I should go get the keys to the drop zone for the airborne guys. But, get this, there’s no such thing! Yeah, so no more snipe hunts, Mr. President. And also, no more hard stuff right after lunch. I need time to digest my KFC.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Two C-17 Globemaster IIIs from the 437th Airlift Wing prepare to drop Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., April 15, 2016. The mass tactical exercise helped prepare both units for any future real-world scenarios they may face.
Members with the 374th Maintenance Squadron pull a C-130 Hercules at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 15, 2016. The aircraft was pulled as part of the 374th Maintenance Group’s Maintenance Rodeo Competition, which pits squadrons against each other in various tasks to win points toward an award and bragging rights.
Soldiers assigned to 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, pilot 32 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters during a during farewell flight over Fort Bragg, N.C., April 15, 2016. The flyover served as a final “thank you” and farewell to the residents of the Fort Bragg and Fayetteville community.
Soldiers, assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct a simulated air assault operation during exercise #SaberJunction 16 at 7th Army JMTC, Grafenwoehr, Germany, April 18, 2016. The exercise includes nearly 5,000 participants from 16 NATO partner nations and is designed to evaluate the readiness of U.S. Army Europe based combat brigades.
KUMAMOTO, Japan (April 19, 2016) An MV-22B Osprey aircraft from Marine Medium Tilitrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit departs JS Hyuga (DDH 181) in support of the Government of Japan’s relief efforts following earthquakes near Kumamoto. The long-standing alliance between Japan and the U.S. allows U.S. military forces in Japan to provide rapid, integrated support to the Japan Self-Defense Force and civil relief efforts.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 20, 2016) Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Nicholas Noviello inspects Sailors’ dress white uniforms in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. Ike is underway preparing for an upcoming scheduled deployment.
Staff Sgt. Dylan M. Worrell observes the terrain at the bottom of a cavern before commencing confined space entry training at a cave on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
Lance Cpl. Kevin T. Horton, assault man with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa zip lines into the ocean during a French Commando aquatic training event aboard Fort-Miradou, France.
Crewmembers aboard USCGC Kukui (WLB 203) enjoy the sunset from the fantail while underway in the Pacific Ocean, March 17, 2016. The crew is currently underway for a fisheries and law enforcement patrol in the western and central Pacific.
“We work long days to stay proficient in our craft so that we will be ready to respond when we are needed. We are the Bering Sea Cutter.” – Capt. Sam Jordan, Munro commanding officer.
Frank Praytor, the U.S. Marine photographed nursing a kitten during the Korean War, recently passed away at the age of 90.
In the heat of the Korean War, Sgt. Frank Praytor was a combat correspondent in the 1st Marine Division. He had previously got into journalism in 1947 with the Birmingham News and, eventually, the Alabama bureau of the International News Service. In 1950, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and soon found himself in Korea.
He was a well-respected and highly successful journalist for Stars and Stripes. His many accomplishments include reporting firsthand accounts of PoW exchanges, the truce-signing at Panmunjom — which brought the ceasefire on the Korean War, and photographing a Navy corpsman treating a wounded Marine on the battlefield — which won an award from Photography Magazine.
All of this pales in comparison to the stardom he received when he was photographed by a fellow combat cameraman, Staff Sgt. Martin Riley, tenderly caring for a kitten in the middle of a battlefield. Praytor adopted two baby kittens after their mother was killed. The kitten in the photograph was named Miss Hap because, “she was born at the wrong time and wrong place.” He nursed them both back to full health, feeding them meat from his rations, and they served as the unofficial mascots of the Marine press office in Korea.
Riley sent the photo to the Associated Press as a sign of the “goodwill” the Marine Corps represents. Time passed and he snapped his previously mentioned award-winning photo. Soon after, he was brought on court-martial charges for releasing a war photo without the consent of superior officers. When he was called into the commander’s office, he had accepted his fate — then the commander ripped up the condemning papers.
The photograph of him and Miss Hap was picked up by over 1,700 newspapers across the United States. He had become a celebrity back home. A handsome Marine caring for a two-week-old kitten brought favorable eyes upon the Marine Corps from all across the United States. Hundreds of letters were sent, addressed to “Kitten Marine, Korea.” “I got letters from girls all over the country who wanted to marry me,” Praytor told the U.S. Naval Institute in a 2009 interview.
He was reassigned to Tokyo and had to leave Miss Hap with a fellow Marine, Cpl. Conrad Fisher. During his visit to report on the truce at Panmunjom, he visited Fisher, who was still taking care of Miss Hap. Fisher was happy to bring her back home stateside. Praytor would continue his life as a freelance journalist well into his 80s.
If you thought that air warfare was reserved for a time after airplanes were invented, you thought wrong. During the American Civil War, the Union troops used hot air balloons to spy on Confederate troops.
The idea to use balloons was the brainchild of Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, and Joseph Henry, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. They suggested that the military should create the balloon corps under the command of Thaddeus Lowe to do some “aerial reconnaissance” for the Union.
On June 17, 1861, Lowe demonstrated his balloon in front of President Abraham Lincoln. He went up to the lofty height of 500 feet and flew the balloon the short distance between the Washington Mall to where the National Air and Space Museum now stands. Lincoln had doubtless seen hot air balloons do such things at fairs for years; what made this journey special was that the balloon was hooked up to a cable that linked an air bound Lowe to the War Department.
In the first air-to-ground communication in America, Lowe sent the following telegram to Lincoln from his balloon: “The city, with its girdle of encampments, presents a superb scene…”
Soon after, Lincoln wrote to General Winfield Scott about Lowe’s abilities. However, when Lowe presented himself to the general, he found that Scott was less than impressed. Lincoln ultimately had to personally intervene to get the general to accept Lowe into the ranks.
In August 1861, the first army balloon was constructed and named The Union. The balloon depended on tapping into Washington D.C.’s natural gas lines, so it wasn’t able to go very far. However, the next month Lowe was able to take his balloon up to 1000 feet and spy on the Confederate troops residing at Fall’s Church, VA. With his direction, Union troops were able to accurately aim at enemy troops without actually seeing them. This was a military first, and the success resulted in the establishment of the Balloon Corps.
The first order of business was to hire more aeronauts. Around October 1861, a number of balloons were tethered along the Potomac River. From their vantage point, the people manning the balloons were able to see any Confederate activity up to a day’s march away, giving the Union time to prepare a plan of defence.
After a short period of time, balloon technology advanced. Lowe himself invented a way to make gas portable: a wooden tank lined with copper, set up on a wagon that also carried water, iron, and sulfuric acid. Combined, these wagons produced hydrogen gas which lifted the balloons up. The army had twelve wagons built to aid the balloons in long-distance missions. Each of them weighed 1000 pounds.
Throughout 1862, Lowe continued to go on reconnaissance missions, noting on maps where Confederate troops were located. When he travelled at night, he would count campfires. It wasn’t all good news, though. The Confederate troops quickly caught on to what was happening and started shooting at the balloons with guns and cannons. Luckily for the people in the balloons, it was pretty difficult for soldiers on the ground to actually hit them—and it was easy for the soldiers in the balloon to gun down anyone who took a shot.
When shooting failed, the Confederates learned how to cloak their positions with camouflage and blackouts, making Lowe’s job more difficult. If Confederates made fewer fires, then Lowe’s estimates of their forces would be low, and the Union troops would underestimate the South’s strength. They would also paint fake cannons black and set them up around camp, so that if a balloon happened to fly over while it was still light, the North would think that they had too many resources to chance a fight. These fake cannons were called “Quaker guns” because they were, like the pacifist Quakers, completely harmless in war.
Two of the hydrogen gas generators assigned to each balloon for inflating on the battlefield.
The South did set out to copy the balloons’ success at one point, but they lacked the technology and resources required to make their balloons practical. The first Confederate balloon was difficult to control, as it was made out of varnished cotton and kept aloft with hot air. The balloonist did manage to draw a map of Union positions around Yorktown despite the difficulties, however. A second attempt was less successful. A balloon made of silk (said to have been sewn from the gowns of Southern Belles) was tied to a tugboat and dragged along the James River before the tugboat crashed and Union troops took control of the balloon.
The Union Balloon Corps met its demise before the end of the Civil War. With a switch of command in 1863, funding was cut to the program which meant that the balloonist could no longer continue staying aloft. On top of that, Lowe himself was accused of “financial impropriety” and forced to resign. Lowe had become the driving force behind the entire campaign, and without him to advocate for the corps, it disbanded.
In addition to the technology of balloons, the Civil War saw a significant use of telegraph machines on both sides. The Union sometimes handled upwards of 4500 telegrams a day reporting on Confederate movements. Both sides encrypted their messages with ciphers, and both sides learned how to tap telegraph machines. Sometimes, messages would become unreadable due to mistakes made on behalf of the people sending them. Robert E. Lee hated telegraphs and even ordered his officers not to send anything, lest the Union find out what the messages contained.
Before he was appointed Chief Aeronaut, Lowe was simply an aeronautic scientist. A week after the fall of Fort Sumter, which kicked off the Civil War, Lowe could be found on a nine hour balloon trip from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Union, South Carolina. When he landed, Confederate troops accused him of spying for the Union. They were eventually convinced of his innocence—something they regretted later—and Lowe returned to the North, where he learned that Mr. Henry wanted to talk to him.
Lowe continued to be passionate about flying. He also made the “railway into the clouds” in California, which took passengers to the summit of Echo Mountain. But one of his biggest legacies is that of his granddaughter, the remarkable Pancho Barnes, who also caught the flying bug.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
There are some units in the U.S. Marine Corps that really know how to make an impression.
Like the rest of the military, Marine units have unit crests, nicknames, and of course, mottos. And in quite a few cases, those elements are pretty badass.
These are our picks for the units with the coolest unit mottos, along with a brief explanation of what they do.
1. “Whatever It Takes”
1st Battalion, 4th Marines: Stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, 1/4 is an infantry battalion that has been fighting battles since its first combat operation in the Dominican Republic in 1916. That’s also where 1st Lt. Ernest Williams earned the Medal of Honor, the first for the battalion.
2. “Get Some”
3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: Based at the northern edge of Camp Pendleton, California, the “Dark Horse” battalion is one of the most-decorated battalions in the Marine Corps.
3. “Balls of the Corps”
3rd Battalion, 1st Marines: “The Thundering Third” is stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and has a notable former member in Gen. Joseph Dunford.
4. “We Quell the Storm, and Ride the Thunder”
3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines: “The Betio Bastards” of 3/2 are based at Camp Lejeune, and have been heavily involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The battalion is perhaps best known for its fight on Tarawa in 1943.
5. “Retreat Hell”
2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: It was in the trenches of World War I where 2/5 got its motto. When told by a French officer that his unit should retreat from the defensive line, Capt. Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” With combat service going back to 1914, 2/5 is the most decorated battalion in Marine history.
6. “Ready for All, Yielding to None”
2nd Battalion, 7th Marines: Stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, the battalion’s current motto is a slight variation on its Vietnam-era one: “Ready for Anything, Counting on Nothing.”
7. “Semper Malus” — Latin for “Always Ugly”
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362): This helicopter unit nicknamed “Ugly Angels,” is stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and holds the proud distinction of being the first aircraft unit ashore in Vietnam.
8. “Swift, Silent, Deadly”
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Recon Battalions: Reconnaissance Marines are trained for special missions, raids, and you guessed it: reconnaissance. For these three battalions, stationed at Camps Lejeune, Pendleton, and Schwab, the motto pretty much sums up what they can do.
9. “Make Peace or Die”
1st Battalion, 5th Marines: Nicknamed “Geronimo,” the Camp Pendleton based 1/5 has been involved in every major U.S. engagement since World War I. Most recently, the battalion has been deployed to Darwin, Australia as the Corps tries to “pivot to the Pacific.”