This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’ - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

Poland doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it should for its performance in the Second World War. The Nazi invasion of Poland is too often glossed over as a starting point for World War II as viewers just wait for Britain, the Soviet Union and United States to get involved. 

But the Nazis had their hands full with Poland in the West, even as the Soviets were coming in from the East. Despite being outnumbered, outgunned and obsolete, the Poles weren’t about to just roll over for anyone. These are the people who enlisted an angry, drunk bear to fight with them, after all. 

If the rest of the Nazi invasion of Poland had gone the same way as the 1939 Battle of Wizna, the Nazis would have been sent home packing. The Poles gave them a bloody nose that forced the Germans to reconsider how they invaded other countries. 

On Sept. 7, 1939, around 700 Polish soldiers manning a half-finished fortification near the Polish town of Wizna, very close to Warsaw. Some 40,000 Germans with 350 tanks and 650 pieces of artillery, led by vaunted General Heinz Guderian were coming right for them. 

Wizna was the centerpiece of a 9-kilometer line that protected the Biebrza river crossing. By the time Nazi tanks crossed over the border, only a handful of the reinforced concrete bunkers that made up the fortifications were complete. The Poles held the high ground but augmented the defenses with trenches, barbed wire, and minefields. They were as ready as they would ever be.

They were about to make such a stand that Guderian had to answer questions about it for the rest of his life. 

Though the Germans captured Wizna almost immediately, their attempt to cross the nearby Narew River were thwarted when Polish engineers blew the bridge as they crossed. Every time they tried to make small unit raids under the cover of darkness, the Poles threw them back. 

The German Luftwaffe dropped leaflets on the defenders, telling them Poland was captured by the Nazis and encouraging them to surrender. Polish officers in the fortifications told their troops they wouldn’t be taken alive. With that out of the way, the Nazi assault continued. 

By Sept. 8, the Poles had to abandon the trenchworks for the relative safety of the half-finished bunkers. They were cut off from the rest of the retreating army, including their own artillery support. Enemy tanks were able to move on an capture nearby towns, but the Poles were keeping the wehrmacht at bay with heavy machine guns in well-placed pillboxes. 

The Germans attacked from both the North and South over the course of three days, having to clear each of the heavily-defended bunkers one by one. To take them, the Germans would have to destroy most of them to crush the Polish resistance inside.

Eventually a ceasefire was called and surrender options were laid out. The officer in charge of the Polish defense, Capt. Wladysław Raginis, ordered his men to surrender only because they were running out of ammunition. 

Only 70 Poles who defended the Wizna fortifications that day survived. The Nazis never released their official body count of the Germans who died trying to take it.   

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why ‘MiG Alley’ was one of the deadliest places on Earth

With the Korean War eclipsed for years by the tumult and resulting political bloodletting of the Vietnam War, most historians dubbed the conflict there “The Forgotten War.”


Much of the aerial combat in that war was focused on what was called “MiG Alley,” where Soviet-built (and in some cases, flown) Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 “Fagot” fighters took on North American F-86 Sabres.

 

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’
A P-51D Mustang in Korea. World War II-era piston fighters saw much of the initial air combat over Korea. (USAF photo)

 

The actual area was relatively small compared to the entire battlefield. According to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was afraid of the consequences if a Soviet pilot was captured. So, he ordered pilots not to go too far south.

That, and the short range of the MiG-15 (a common problem faced by early jet fighters), combined with restrictive rules of engagement for the American pilots (who couldn’t attack the bases in Manchuria) to mean that most of the air battles were fought near where the Yalu River entered the Yellow Sea.

 

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’
MiG-15 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

At the start of the Korean War, neither plane was sent into the action. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that most of the planes used on both sides were World War II piston-engine fighters, like the P-51 Mustang, the Yak-9, and the Il-10 (a refined version of the Il-2 Sturmovik).  The MiG-15 soon made its appearance, and while F-80 Shooting Stars were holding the line, the U.S. eventually sent the more modern F-86.

 

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’
F-86 Sabres at a base in Korea. (USAF photo)

 

By 1953, most of the pilots flying MiGs in  “MiG Alley” were North Korean and Chinese pilots. American pilots, many of whom were experienced, were racking up one-sided victories that hadn’t been seen since the Marianas Turkey Shoot and wouldn’t be seen again until the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot.

 

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’
Gun camera photo of MIG 15 taken during aerial combat somewhere over Korea. The MiG is not long for this world. (USAF photo)

By the time hostilities ended, the Sabre had scored at least 792 kills and lost 78 planes in air-to-air combat, a ratio of ten to one.

A total of 39 pilots became jet aces (pilots who scored five or more kills) in the Korean War, all of whom flew Sabres. “MiG Alley” had surely proven deadly… for the MiGs.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The trailer for the new movie about Polish airmen in the Battle of Britain is amazing

Watch the teaser trailer of Hurricane (2019) which tells the story of the Pilots from the Polish 303 Squadron who found themselves fighting for the freedom of their own country in foreign skies. Seen through the eyes of Jan Zumbach, fighter ace and adventurer, it tells how the Poles, driven across Europe by the German war machine, finally made their last stand.


I only don’t understand why they did not keep the name “303 Squadron” instead of renaming it to “Hurricane”. 303 Squadron really identified the courage and efforts made by one of 16 Polish squadrons (during the Battle of the Britain they were one of the two Polish fighter squadrons) who fought for the Royal Air Force and had one of the highest ratio of destroyed enemy aircraft vs. their own losses.

Milo Gibson will be starring as Lt. Johnny Kent, other actors include Iwan Rheon and Stefanie Martini.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time a nuclear aircraft carrier ran aground right before homecoming

Homecoming for a naval vessel is a huge deal. After months at sea, the ship’s crew don their sharpest uniforms and stand on deck to catch a glimpse of their loved ones before they dock and are finally reunited. Homecomings were an even bigger deal in the days before email, phones, and video calls were more common aboard ships. Imagine, then, the frustration felt by sailors and family members alike when a ship ran aground right before it docked. That was the situation for the crew and family of the USS Enterprise in 1983.

Launched in 1960, USS Enterprise (CVN-65), was America’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. A technological marvel for the time, she served with distinction during the Vietnam War and survived a catastrophic fire in 1969 that killed 27 sailors and injured 314 more. In 1982, Enterprise made her 10th WESTPAC deployment. The ship sailed an eight-month tour before returning to San Francisco in April, 1983.

The carrier sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge at dawn. Enterprise was steered into port by a civilian pilot, but was turned back over to the hands of a Navy pilot before she ran aground. At about 9:30 a.m., the 90,000-ton ship missed the edge of a 400-yard wide, 40-foot deep ship channel while maneuvering through the morning overcast and wind. Enterprise was stuck on a sandbar just 1,000 yards from her berthing.

4,500 sailors and 3,000 family members could now just see each other, but were still far from being reunited. “It was a real drag, being so close and yet so far,” recalled Capt. Jack McAuley, “We couldn’t do anything but sit around and grin and bear it.” The ship’s skipper, Capt. Robert J. Kelly, sprung the crew into action to dislodge the carrier. In an effort to shift the ship’s center of balance, the crew assembled on the port side of the flight deck. Nine military and civilian tug boats joined the effort to free Enterprise. After nearly six hours of rocking, and with the help of the tide, Enterprise made it off the sandbar at 3:12 p.m.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’
USS Enterprise in 1982 (U.S. Navy)

After another 90 minutes of maneuvering, Enterprise was finally docked and her crew was released ashore. Frustration turned to relief as sailors and family members embraced each other after months of separation. Sadly, many crewmen missed their flights out of San Francisco as a result of the ordeal. Ironically, there was one individual on board who was a crewmember of a different Enterprise.

Actor George Takei, best known for his role as Sulu on Star Trek, flew out on a Navy helicopter to join the crew of the Enterprise at 7 a.m. that morning and welcome them home. “Our vessel is the Starship Enterprise and this is the USS Enterprise,” he later said, “We’ve got a new drink—Enterprise on the Rocks.” Jokes aside, while Enterprise suffered no obvious damage, she underwent a thorough stress check to ensure her seaworthiness before her next deployment.

Capt. Kelly took full responsibility for the incident. “I am the captain and I was in control. I am totally responsible for what happened,” he said during a news conference. “Naturally, it’s embarrassing.” Although collisions and groundings are usually career-enders for Navy ship captains, Capt. Kelly, who had been selected for promotion to commodore, was eventually promoted all the way to four-star admiral and served as the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet from 1991 to 1994.

Eight months at sea, running aground in sight of loved ones, rocking the ship off of a sandbar, and all while George Takei was on board. The 1982-1983 WESTPAC tour was a truly unforgettable experience for the crew of the USS Enterprise.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’
USS Enterprise listed 10 degrees to port when she ran aground (U.S. Naval Institute)
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is Russia’s airborne combat armored vehicle

Paratroopers are a force to be reckoned with. They can slip far behind enemy lines and wreak havoc against an enemy’s support units, making life easier for those in the main assault and striking fear into those who assumed they were safely behind defenses. What’s worse (for the enemy), after the initial airborne assault, you’re left with the famous “little groups of paratroopers” — small pockets of young men brave enough to jump out of an airplane, all armed to the teeth, ready to defend themselves, and devoid of supervision.

But for as daring and lethal as paratroopers are, they’re still, essentially, light infantry once they hit the ground. Light infantry can do a lot of things, but when they’re tasked with hitting prepared positions or facing off against enemy tanks, they tend to take heavy casualties.

So, how do you reinforce troops that drop from the sky? You drop armor out of the sky, too.


This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

The BMD-1 was the Soviets’ answer to the question of bringing armored support to their paratroopers.

(DOD)

In 1965, the Russians began designing an infantry fighting vehicle that could be air-dropped. Eventually, this came to be known as the BMD-1. BMD stands for Boyevaya Mashina Desanta or, in English, “airborne combat vehicle.”

The BMD-1 packs some impressive firepower: it uses the same turret as the BMP-1, packing a 73mm gun, a launcher for the AT-3 Sagger missile, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, and a bow-mounted 7.62mm machine gun. This vehicle has a crew of two and carries five infantry. It has a top speed of 40 miles per hour and can go a little over 370 miles on a tank of gas.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

The BMD-1 was widely exported. Saddam Hussein’s regime was one of the purchasers.

(USMC photo by LCPL Andrew P. Roufs)

Unlike its American contemporary, the M551 Sheridan, a vehicle designed to support American paratroopers in similar ways, the BMD was exported to a number of Soviet clients. The BMD saw action in the Angolan Civil War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, Desert Storm, and fought in the Second Chechen War and the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.

Learn more about this 7.5-ton hunk of metal that’s designed to be dropped from the sky in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiWi5ChNAxg

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy battleships pulled off the biggest military deception of Desert Storm

The Desert Storm portion of the 1990-1991 Gulf War lasted only 100 hours, not only because the combined land forces of the Coalition gathered against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was overwhelming and talented – it was – but it was also the contribution of two of the U.S. Navy’s biggest floating guns that drew a significant portion of Saddam’s army off the battlefield.


Shelling from the 16-inch guns of the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin made it all possible, playing a crucial role in a conflict that would end up being their last hurrah.

 

Here comes the boom.

 

Everyone knew a ground assault on Iraqi-occupied Kuwait was coming and had been for months. The only question for the Iraqis was where it would come from. Iraqi forces had been on the receiving end of a Noah’s Ark-like deluge of bombs and missiles for the past 40 days and 40 nights. Iraq believed the Coalition would make an amphibious landing near Kuwait’s Faylaka Island, when in reality the invasion was actually going into both Iraq and Kuwait, coming from Saudi Arabia.

If the Coalition could make the Iraqis believe an amphibious invasion was coming, however, it would pull essential Iraqi fighting units away from the actual invasion and toward the Persian Gulf. It was the ultimate military rope-a-dope.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’
Here’s what really happened.

 

The best way to make Saddam believe the Marines were landing was to soften up the supposed landing zone with a naval barrage that would make D-Day look like the 4th of July. The USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin were called up to continuously bombard the alleged landing beaches – and they sure made a spectacle of it. The Iraqi troops were supposedly shocked and demoralized, surrendering to the battleships’ reconnaissance drones as they buzzed overhead, looking for more targets.

It was the first time anyone surrendered to a drone. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of another Iowa-class barrage. But the Marine landing never came. Instead, the Iraqis got a massive left hook that knocked them out of the war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time U.S. F-15s stumbled into an Iraqi trap and won

It became clear just hours into Operation Desert Storm that the U.S. was leaps and bounds ahead of the Iraqi Air Force — the first aerial clashes resulted in the U.S. downing three enemy aircraft while suffering no losses. But U.S. pilots knew that Iraq had significant air defenses and fighter aircraft that had to be taken seriously.

And that’s what made it so scary for the Air Force and Marine Corps F-15 pilots who realized that they’d stumbled into a sophisticated trap on the second day of the assault.


This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

The F-15 is a stunning fighter that claims over 100 aerial kills with zero losses to enemy fire.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Hughel)

Marine Corps Capt. Charles Magill was leading a flight of eight F-15s protecting a larger strike package headed into the contested airspace to destroy threats on the ground. The eight F-15s in the lead got a call from the E-3 Sentry aircraft on the mission.

Two MiG-29 Fulcrums were near the target area.

Magill decided to take three other F-15s with him to destroy the threat, leaving four behind to protect the main strike package.

www.youtube.com

Four-against-two odds, especially when the team of four has F-15s versus enemy MiGs, is a good setup — but the F-15s had been tricked. As they pursued the MiGs, the ground suddenly erupted with surface-to-air missiles, all locked on U.S. jets and racing to their targets.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

MiG-29 were useful and capable fighters, even if they lacked all the capability of American F-15s.

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Ammons)

The American pilots were forced to jettison their external fuel tanks and take evasive actions. They deployed flares, put the planes through gut-wrenching turns, and, ultimately, avoided every missile fired against them. This left them in suddenly-safe skies once again — except for the two MiGs that had lured them. The Americans still smelled blood and decided to continue the pursuit.

As they drew close, the MiGs took a sudden turn towards the Air Force and Marine pilots, making the Americans think that the MiGs were prepared for a knockdown fight.

But, it turned out, the Iraqis had spotted a lone Navy F-14 Tomcat and were maneuvering to attack it, allowing the F-15 pilots to pursue the MiGs in turn. Magill took his shot immediately after Air Force Capt. Rhory Draeger. Magill, worried that his first missile had malfunctioned, took a third shot.

Draeger’s first missile flew true and shredded the Iraqi jet, while both of Magill’s missiles also made contact. The first missile tore the right wing from the Iraqi jet and the second missile flew into the resulting fireball and exploded. The strike package was safe once again to attack Iraqi ground targets and Operation Desert Storm continued unabated.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 things leaders did in the name of love

Warriors guard their hearts underneath a stoic resolve because showing emotion is often misunderstood as a weakness. Leaders often weigh the needs of the many against the needs of the few to build a brighter future for their people to live and prosper. Love is an unstoppable force that can influence the influencer or conquer the conqueror. What can those in command do when love is true but the world is wrong?

They change it.


Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World-GARDENS OF BABYLON PART 1

youtu.be

They moved mountains — King Nebuchadnezzar II

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife Queen Amytis. He knew his queen’s happiness stayed in the green mountain valleys of her childhood home in Media. In order to make his wife happy, he built one of the seven wonders of the ancient world between 605 and 562 BC in what is now known as modern day Iraq.

The word ‘hanging’ that gave the wonder its name sake comes from trees planted on elevated balconies. The wonder used raised platforms, aqueducts, and a system of irrigation centuries before their time to water the vast collection of plants and trees.

He literally built his wife a mountain.

Archaeologists debate whether the wonder was built in Nineveh (back then called New Babylon) instead of Babylon itself. The ruins shared the same fate as Cleopatra’s Tomb of being lost in the sands of time.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

Emperor Hongzhi seen here not cheating on his wife with 10,000 options.

They refused concubines and consorts — Emperor Hongzhi of China

High status men in late imperial China over the age of forty were encouraged to take on a second wife or a mistress. It was also common that your mistress would try to kill your first wife and all your children. In the case of Emperor Hongzhi, he had his mother killed by one of his father’s mistresses.

The death of his murdered mother by a mistress was enough to highlight the advantages of monogamy. He had no children outside of his one marriage to his empress and had no extramarital affairs.

He loved his wife and five children so much that he did not want to risk their safety over loose women and swore them off completely. The importance he placed on monogamy was seen as out of place since most emperors during those times had a man-cave harem with 10,000 available women, empire wide, determined to show you the privileges of being a ruler.

Dr. Kenneth Swope, of the University of Southern Mississippi describes Hongzhi as the “most uninteresting and colorless of all the Ming emperors.”

He chose to have his life be seen as a model of morality and his morals as the center piece for his anti-corruption campaign. He used his love for his one and only wife to shape his empire in peace.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

“That was still an expensive divorce, Henry.”

The Simpsons

They changed religions — King Henry VIII of England

Marriage and religion are touchy subjects, especially when conversions are involved. Henry VIII had fallen in love with with a young woman named Anne Boleyn, but there was a problem: he was already married. He became convinced his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was cursed because she was his brother’s widow. The king commanded asked the pope to annul his marriage.

However, Catherine’s nephew was the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and he commanded urged Pope Clement VII to not annul the marriage.

The king then decided that he didn’t need the pope’s permission to do anything so he declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, changed England’s religion, decreed his daughter Mary illegitimate, and got a divorce. In 1533 Henry and Anne Boleyn were married.

She then bore him a daughter so he had her beheaded.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is actual footage of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri

On December 7th, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a brutal attack on Pearl Harbor, killing over 2,300 American military personnel and catapulting the America into World War II. After nearly four years of fierce fighting, the Japanese surrendered to allied forces.


General Douglas MacArthur flew into Okinawa on his C-54 Skymaster to officially accept the Japanese surrender — his crowning achievement. Meeting up at the USS Missouri, the victor finally meets face-to-face with his defeated Japanese foes at the surrender ceremony on Sept. 2, 1945.

As thousands of fighting men stood witness to this historic event, MacArthur accompanied Adms. Chester Nimitz and William Halsey as they greeted the Japanese delegation aboard the Navy vessel.

The delegation in attendance signed the document which brought the grueling conflict to a halt. After the Japanese were led away, allied forces conduct one more flight maneuver to seal their victory — 1,500 planes roar across the sky over the bay in what many called a “victory lap.”

Related: This Air Force jet landed itself after the pilot ejected

Check out the Smithsonian Channel video below to see the historic surrender in color.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)

Also Read: This legendary Navy skipper sank 19 enemy ships

MIGHTY CULTURE

Everyone lost their minds when a Marine general relieved an Army general

If it weren’t for the Japanese, the Marine Corps’ biggest enemy in the Pacific theater of World War II might well have been the U.S. Army. On at least five occasions, Army commanders were relieved of command for what the Corps deemed was a lack of proper aggression. Those commanders were given the benefit of being relieved by their Army commander. When one brigadier was relieved by his Marine commander, it caused a grudge the branches held on to for years.


Gen. Ralph Smith began World War II with a promotion to brigadier general and a command of American soldiers in the Pacific. With Smith came his experience in previous American conflicts. He served under Gen. John J. Pershing in Mexico, during the Punitive Expedition. He also fought on the Western Front of World War I and was among the first American troops to land in France. He earned two Silver Stars in combat during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918. His bravery and combat credentials were without question.

When he earned his second star, he also took command of the 27th Infantry Division, an Army unit that was soon folded into the 2nd Marine Division. The new mixed unit formed the V Amphibious Corps under Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith and its target was the Gilbert Islands. The Marines would attack and capture Tarawa while the Army did the same on Makin. The Marine Corps’ Smith thought the Army’s 6,400-plus troops should be able to overwhelm the 400 defenders and 400 laborers who held the reinforced island.

But it didn’t happen as quickly as “Howlin’ Mad” Smith though it should. This would build tensions when it came to take Saipan.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

As if Saipan wasn’t tense enough.

On Saipan, the Marines and the Army would fight side-by-side on a dream team that would not be matched until the USA Men’s Olympic Basketball Team in 1992. When the U.S. began its assault on Mt. Tapochau in the middle of the island, the Marines found themselves advancing much further, much faster than their Army counterparts. The soldiers at Mt. Tapochau were tasked with taking an area known as “Hell’s Pocket.” The Army was expected to go into a valley surrounded by hills and cliffs under enemy control.

Now, if terrain is given a nickname by the Americans tasked to take it, that’s a pretty good indication of some intense fighting. But Holland Smith didn’t know that because he hadn’t inspected the terrain. The Army commander devised a plan to split his forces, using one battalion to hold the pocket while the other outflanked the Japanese defenders. Unfortunately, he would not be in command to implement it. It turns out “Howlin’ Mad” Smith was about to live up to his nickname.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

The U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Division marches to the front on Saipan.

With what he saw as a lack of aggression on Makin fresh in his mind, the inability of the Army to advance on Saipan made the Marine Corps’ Maj. Gen. Smith furious. He not only relieved the Army’s Maj. Gen. Smith of command of the Army on Saipan, he ordered Ralph C. Smith off the island. It would be the only time an Army commander would be relieved of command by a superior from another branch, and the Army wouldn’t forget it for years. The firing was so public that Smith could no longer command a unit in the Pacific and spent the rest of the war in Arkansas.

After the war, a panel of inquiry was convened. Known as the Buckner Board, it was staffed entirely by Army brass. When it looked into the Saipan incident, it found that Holland Smith had not looked at the terrain facing the Army on the island and was not in possession of all the facts. The plan hatched by the Army’s Maj. Gen. Smith to take Hell’s Pocket worked, and the Army was able to catch up to the Marines.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The world wants China to own up to the Tiananmen Square Massacre

The United States has added its voice to international calls for China’s communist-led government to give a full public accounting of those who were killed, detained or went missing during the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

In a bold statement from Washington to mark the 29th anniversary of a bloody crackdown that left hundreds — some say thousands — dead, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Chinese authorities to release “those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”


To this day, open discussion of the topic remains forbidden in China and the families of those who lost loved ones continue to face oppression. Chinese authorities have labeled the protests a counter-revolutionary rebellion and repeatedly argued that a clear conclusion of the events was reached long ago.

In an annual statement on the tragedy, the group Tiananmen Mothers urged President Xi Jinping in an open letter to “re-evaluate the June 4th massacre” and called for an end to their harassment.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’
President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)

“Each year when we would commemorate our loved ones, we are all monitored, put under surveillance, or forced to travel” to places outside of China’s capital, the letter said. The advocacy group Human Rights in China released the open letter from the Tiananmen Mothers ahead of the anniversary.

“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” the letter said.

In his statement, Pompeo also said that on the anniversary “we remember the tragic loss of innocent lives,” adding that as Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”

Liu was unable to receive his Nobel prize in person in 2010 and died in custody in 2017. The dissident writer played an influential role in the Tiananmen protests and was serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he passed.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’
Liu Xiaobo

At a regular press briefing on June 4, 2018, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States over the statement on Tiananmen.

“The United States year in, year out issues statements making ‘gratuitous criticism’ of China and interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Hua said. “The U.S. Secretary of State has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything,” she added.

In a statement on Twitter, which is blocked in China like many websites, Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-backed Global Times, called the statement a “meaningless stunt.”

In another post he said: “what wasn’t achieved through a movement that year will be even more impossible to be realized by holding whiny commemorations today.”

Commemorations for Tiananmen are being held across the globe to mark the anniversary and tens of thousands are expected to gather in Hong Kong, the only place in China such large-scale public rallies to mark the incident can be held.

Exiled Tiananmen student protest leader Wu’Er Kaixi welcomed the statement from Pompeo.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’
Wu’Er Kaixi

However, he added that over the past 29 years western democracies appeasement of China has nurtured the regime into an imminent threat to freedom and democracy.

“The world bears a responsibility to urge China, to press on the Chinese regime to admit their wrongdoing, to restore the facts and then to console the dead,” he said. “And ultimately to answer the demands of the protesters 29 years ago and put China on the right track to freedom and democracy.”

Wu’er Kaixi fled China after the crackdown and now resides in Taiwan where he is the founder of Friends of Liu Xiaobo. The group recently joined hands with several other non-profit organizations and plans to unveil a sculpture in July 2018 — on the anniversary of his death — to commemorate the late Nobel laureate. The sculpture will be located near Taiwan’s iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper.

In Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy that China claims is a part of its territory, political leaders from both sides of the isle have also urged China’s communist leaders to face the past.

On Facebook, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen noted that it was only by facing up to its history that Taiwan has been able to move beyond the tragedies of the past.

“If authorities in Beijing can face up to the June 4th incident and acknowledge that at its roots it was a state atrocity, the unfortunate history of June 4th could become a cornerstone for China to move toward freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.

Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party or KMT, who saw close ties with China while in office, also urged Beijing to face up to history and help heal families’ wounds.

“Only by doing this can the Chinese communists bridge the psychological gap between the people on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait and be seen by the world as a real great power,” Ma said.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi

Minutes after Tate Jolly arrived at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, a mortar hit the compound where an ambassador and another American had been killed and dozens more were trapped.

The Marine gunnery sergeant was one of only two U.S. troops with a small task force that rushed to respond to what quickly became clear was a coordinated attack on the U.S. State Department facility.

It was a remarkable mission. The closest military backup was hours away, which later led to fierce debate about how U.S. troops should be postured to protect Americans and diplomatic posts overseas.


“There was no one even remotely close to being able to go and get them in North Africa,” a source familiar with the operation planning said. “The nearest airplanes were hours away and the nearest ground troops a day away or further.”

The source spoke under the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the Sept. 11, 2012, incident, which remains a topic of controversy in Washington seven years later.

The scene was chaotic when the team arrived, and they quickly tried to restore order. There were nearly 30 panicked people who needed to be evacuated quickly, but the compound was under fire from multiple sides.

“Unfortunately, it was not a whole lot of offense; it was a whole lot of just holding guys off as long as they could to try and get out,” the person familiar with the mission said.

Jolly, who declined a request for an interview, would ultimately be awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism there. The soldier with him, Master Sgt. David Halbruner, received the Army‘s Distinguished Service Cross. The valor awards are exceeded only by the Medal of Honor.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

Navy Cross.


Little has been known about the Jolly’s actions in Benghazi. There was no public ceremony when he received his valor award and, until recently, his name has not been publicly tied to the mission in media reports.

His hometown paper in North Carolina, the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, recently reported that the 36-year-old who’d graduated from high school about 90 miles north of Charlotte was the Marine who’d gone above and beyond to save other Americans. Jolly recently retired as a master sergeant.

According to testimony, public documents and the person familiar with his actions, Jolly was calm in the face of deadly chaos. He and Halbruner are credited with saving numerous lives that day.

With a rifle strapped to his back amid an onslaught of mortars and machine-gun fire, Jolly tended to the wounded, at one point throwing a man onto his back and shuffling him down a ladder amid a barrage of enemy fire. He helped some get back into the fight and provided vital care to others with life-threatening injuries.

Here’s how then-Gunnery Sgt. Jolly helped get other Americans to safety during a situation that caused a years-long political firestorm thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.

A Delta Force Marine

Jolly, an infantry assault Marine, was assigned to a Delta Force detachment in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack. It’s rare, though not unheard of, for Marines to join the elite Army special-operations teams.

The Marine had deployed to Iraq twice before joining the secretive counterterrorism force, spending about five years carrying out clandestine missions before the Benghazi attack and another five after, according to information about his career obtained by Military.com.

He racked up more than a dozen total deployments with Delta Force.

The Navy Cross Jolly received for his actions in Benghazi was his fourth valor award. He has two Bronze Stars with combat “V” devices — one of which he earned for undisclosed reasons during his time with Delta Force, and a second from a 2004-2005 deployment to Ramadi, Iraq.

Jolly also earned a Navy Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device and a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during that deployment.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

Purple Heart.

(Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)

According to his award citations, Jolly repeatedly braved enemy fire in Ramadi to help take out an enemy sniper who had ambushed a government center. He received the Navy Commendation Medal for risking his life to destroy roadside bombs when an explosive ordnance disposal team couldn’t reach his unit.

On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Jolly was about 600 miles away from Benghazi in Tripoli — roughly the same distance between Chicago and Washington, D.C. Since Jolly and Halbruner were some of the only troops in-country, the operation was coordinated not by U.S. Africa Command, but the CIA.

Team Tripoli, made up of Jolly, Halbruner and five others, arrived in Benghazi at about 1:30 a.m. That was about four hours after the attack began, and two since Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens had last been seen alive.

The team was led by Glen Doherty, a Global Response Staff (GRS) security officer and former Navy SEAL, who was later killed. He was Team Tripoli’s medic.

The plan, according to the person familiar with the mission, was to leave the airport and head to the hospital, where they believed Stevens was being treated. When they found out Stevens had died, the first ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979, the team headed to the consulate to bolster the diplomatic security personnel and GRS, a group of private military contractors who were fending off the attackers.

“It could’ve gone really, really bad,” said the source familiar with the mission. “It could’ve become 30 American hostages in North Africa. There were seven shooters going in to protect people who don’t shoot for a living.”

By the time they arrived, Sean Smith, a State Department foreign service officer, had also died. It was still dark, just after 5 a.m., according to a congressional timeline of the attack. Within minutes, the first mortar hit.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

Sean Smith.

The attacks continued, with one witness estimating there were as many as 100 insurgents spotted surrounding their location in 20- or 30-man groups. It was a skilled enemy, one of the troops there later told members of Congress.

“It’s not easy … to shoot inside the city and get something on the target within two shots — that’s difficult,” the witness testified. “I would say they were definitely a trained mortar team or had been trained to do something similar to that.

“I was kind of surprised,” the service member added. “… It was unusual.”

They were there a matter of hours, but at times witnesses said the team feared they wouldn’t make it out alive. It began to “rain down on us,” one of them told lawmakers.

”I really believe that this attack was planned,” the witness said. “The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries.”

In total, six 81-millimeter mortars assaulted the annex within a minute and 13 seconds, a congressional report on the attack states. Doherty and Tyrone Woods, another former SEAL with the GRS, didn’t survive.

Dave Ubben, a State Department security agent, and Mark “Oz” Geist, another GRS member, were badly hurt. The men were defending the compound from the rooftop, determined to make it look like they had a lot more firepower than they actually did.

“There was a lot of shooting, a lot of indirect fire and explosions,” the source with knowledge of the response said. “It was just guys being really aggressive and doing a good job at making it seem like their element was bigger than it was, like they were less hurt than they were.”

Ubben — who’d testified before a federal court in 2017 that he took shrapnel to his head, nearly lost his leg, and had a grapefruit-sized piece of his arm taken off — was losing blood fast. Geist also had a serious arm injury that needed immediate attention.

Jolly and Halbruner were determined to save them. Amid the fight, they were tying tourniquets to the men’s bodies.

Ubben is alive because Jolly helped move him from the rooftop to a building where diplomatic personnel were hunkered down. Gregory Hicks, who became the acting chief of mission after Stevens died, later described how the gunny did it during a congressional hearing.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens.

“One guy … full of combat gear climbed up [to the roof], strapped David Ubben, who is a large man, to his back and carried him down the ladder, saved him,” Hicks said.

Jolly and Halbruner also went back out to the rooftop to recover the bodies of the fallen.

“They didn’t know whether any more mortars were going to come in. The accuracy was terribly precise,” Hicks said. “… They climbed up on the roof, and they carried Glen’s body and Tyrone’s body down.”

It was for Jolly’s “valorous actions, dedication to duty and willingness to place himself in harm’s way” to save numerous unarmed Americans’ lives that he earned the Navy Cross, according to his citation.

Bracing for the worst

That attack was traumatic for many of the civilians trapped inside one of the buildings, according to the person with knowledge of the operation. They’d lost their ambassador and another colleague, and they had no experience being caught in a life-and-death combat situation.

Once Jolly and Halbruner brought the injured men in from off the rooftop, the diplomatic staff helped treat their wounds, according to the source familiar with the situation. It gave them a mission as the onslaught continued outside.

As the sun came up, the remaining team members worried that terrorists would overtake the facility. First believed to be the work of the Benghazi-based Ansar al-Sharia group, the attack was coordinated by several networks in the region, including al-Qaida affiliates.

Throughout the night, the Americans had the advantage of night vision, the person familiar with the mission said. In the daylight, it could quickly become an even playing field.

Surprisingly though, it got quieter. They gathered inside one of the buildings and formed an evacuation plan to move the diplomatic staff to the airport and eventually out of Benghazi.

“[They had to talk about] things like, ‘What happens if they came under attack on the way out? Do you know where to go if you are separated from the group or are being shot at?'” according to the person familiar with the plans.

They prepared for the worst: that as the convoy left the compound, they’d be ambushed, everyone would panic, and the terrorists would take hostages. But they made it to the airport without issue and, by 7:31 a.m., the first plane with survivors took off for Tripoli.

“Who would’ve thought seven people could go into Benghazi and get more than 25 people out? Especially without traditional military support?” the person familiar with the mission said. “… But you can do a lot if you’re determined and have no other choice.”

The Defense Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later faced a host of criticism over their response to the attack. Critics called it too slow — a congressional investigation finding that despite President Barack Obama and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta clearly ordering the military to deploy response forces, none were sent until almost eight hours after the attacks began.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

President Obama and Secretary Clinton honor the Benghazi attack victims at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony held at Andrews Air Force Base on Sept. 14, 2012.

(State Department photo)

Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked to explain why he hadn’t dispatched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from Italy. He told lawmakers it would’ve been “the wrong tool for the job.”

The Marine Corps, the nation’s go-to crisis-response force, has been particularly responsive in the aftermath of the attack. Since there aren’t enough amphibious ships to stage Marines everywhere they’d like to be at sea, they’ve set up land-based crisis-response forces built to respond to emergencies quickly. Those units include up to 2,200 personnel, along with aircraft and logistics capabilities.

Those units are now based in Europe, the Middle East and Central America. Those assigned to Africa and the Middle East have fielded several State Department requests to evacuate embassy personnel or shore up security when intelligence has indicated a high risk for attack.

The Marine Corps and State Department have also bolstered the number of embassy guards placed at diplomatic posts around the world, standing up dozens of new detachments that previously did not have military personnel.

It was a tragedy to see a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed in Benghazi but, sadly, it sometimes takes an awful situation to get the attention of those in charge of policy, the person familiar with the response said.

“It was a bad situation, but a lot of priorities changed after this tragedy that would otherwise never have gotten fixed.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring our fallen isn’t political. It’s American.

I nearly died just days after arriving in Iraq. This was my first deployment and although I had never seen combat, I was a well-trained, physically fit, mentally prepared Marine. None of that mattered when a grenade landed near us. Luckily, we all walked away. That first patrol seemed like a blur at the time but years later the memory is still scarred into my brain, like a small burn on a child’s hand. It’s not about what happened that day but the reminder of what could have.



That reminder came just days after I returned home. One of my fellow Marines, a friend, was killed by a sniper’s bullet, then, another fell from a roof and died, and yet another lost his legs in an IED attack. I had survived months without a scratch but my friends who were just as well-trained were killed and injured within a week. My brain couldn’t understand the logic of what happened … because there is no logic in war.

You don’t get to pick where the bullet goes, you just have to face it. Since the founding of the United States, thousands of men and women have stared down our enemies. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice and are still buried on the battlefields where they said their last words.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

Sunrise in Section 35 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 25, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/ Arlington National Cemetery / released)

Today, the living reminder of the fallen remains in places like Gettysburg, Arlington National Cemetery and Aisne-Marne, France. Over 100 years before I stepped foot into Iraq, thousands of Marines patrolled the forests of Belleau Wood. They were all that stood to protect Paris, and the war effort, from a German assault. Outnumbered, isolated and low on ammunition, they fought and held the line. Their tenacity in battle earned them the name “Teufel Hunden” or “Devil Dogs” by the Germans. This is a name that Marines proudly still use today.

In battle, words matter. “Covering fire” has a completely different meaning than “take cover.” “Fix” is different from “flank” and so on. In peace, words matter even more. When we think of war in terms of winning and losing, we not only do ourselves the disservice of simplifying the chaos of battle but we negate the reminder that the fallen give us.

This World War II slugfest was Poland’s ‘Battle of Thermopylae’

A Sailor assigned to Special Operations Task Force West folds an American flag during a memorial marking the anniversary of the death of Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Trahan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician. Trahan was killed in action April 30, 2009 in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. U.S. Navy photo/Aaron Burden

While war may have a clear victor, there are no winners on the battlefield. The gravestones, memorials and scars – both physical and invisible – that veterans carry are the reminders of that.

We are the land of the free because of the brave. Countless men and women have raised their hand to serve our country with nothing expected in return. As it’s said, “All gave some, some gave all.” The very least we can give those who paid the ultimate price is to honor their memory, acknowledge their unyielding patriotism and cherish their last great act with awe and humility, for they willingly gave their lives in service of our great nation.

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