That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

On Oct. 19, 1842 a squadron of ships under the command of Commodore Thomas Ap Catesby Jones sailed into the harbor at Monterey, California, then a Mexican city. Under the guns of the fort that overlooked the harbor, the sailors made the ship cannons ready for a fierce fight.


 

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
The heavy frigate USS United States faces off against the HMS Macedonian in the War of 1812. Photo: Wikipedia

 

Meanwhile, Marines and sailors formed a landing party under Commander James Armstrong. The small force made its way to shore, searched out the local governor, and demanded the city. The governor indicated he would surrender the entire province in the morning.

Sailors spent a tense night manning the guns in case it was a trick, but the governor and his commissioners arrived the next morning at the heavy frigate USS United States — Jones’s flagship — and signed the articles of capitulation.

Commodore Jones had ordered the fleet to Monterey and the subsequent invasion because he was worried that the British would use the war between Mexico and America as a chance to capture coveted Pacific ports in California. Jones had raced to Monterey to arrive ahead of the British.

Jones’s men immediately moved into the fort and prepared to defend it from the coming British attack.

But the British weren’t headed to Monterey. And there wasn’t a war on between Mexico and America. Jones had jumped the gun and illegally captured the provincial capital of Alta, California.

 

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
Commodore Thomas Ap Catesby Jones. Photo: Wikipedia

 

In Jones’s defense, he had been in a tough spot. Relations between the two countries had been souring and he had received news of British ships moving up the coast of South America in force. Jones was under orders to capture Californian ports rather than let them fall into British or French hands in case of a war with Mexico.

The problem in 1842 was that Jones wouldn’t get a satellite or radio call telling him when war broke out. He had to figure out himself.

Then he jumped the gun a little bit and invaded prematurely. It happens. The commodore realized his mistake when an American businessman in Monterey brought him a number of recent newspapers from the U.S. that made no mention of hostilities. Can you imagine having that bad of a day at work? “Uh hey, boss. I captured a Mexican city by accident”. Cringe.

After realizing his error, Jones gave the city back to Mexico and told his men to stand down. The Mexican flag was raised over the fort once again.

To try and patch relations, the Mexican and American officials at Monterey began hosting parties for one another while their respective national governments launched investigations.

Luckily, the Marines and soldiers had behaved themselves so well during the occupation that the locals were actually fond of the them.

Unfortunately, word was already making its way up the coast that American ships had captured Monterey as part of a war with Mexico. Another U.S. Navy officer, Captain W. D. Phelps, then captured Fort Guijarros at San Diego, California and spiked its guns.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

During World War II, 22 Asian Americans earned Medals of Honor, but, due to prejudices that lasted until decades after the fighting, only one received the award during the war: a young infantryman who fought in Italy and France before giving his life to save his comrades by eliminating machine gun nests and then throwing his body on an enemy grenade.


That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

100th Infantry Battalion soldiers receive grenade training in 1943.

(U.S. Army)

Pfc. Sadao Munemori trained in civilian life as a mechanic but, unable to find work, ended up joining the Army instead in February, 1942, just a couple of months after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Like most Asian Americans at the time — and nearly all Japanese Americans — he was sent to noncombat units to conduct menial duties.

But patriotic Japanese Americans like Munemori got a new chance in early 1943 when the Army formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated combat unit for Asian Americans. Munemori was assigned to the 100th Infantry Battalion and shipped to Europe in April, 1944.

Munemori first saw combat in Italy, but he was then sent to France, where he took part in the historic rescue of the Lost Battalion. The 100th Battalion had already distinguished itself multiple times when the 1st Battalion, 141st Texas Regiment, found itself cut off with limited food and water.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

A painting illustrates the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Combat Team, breaking through the German lines to rescue the 1st Battalion, 141st Texas Regiment.

(U.S. Army)

The 100th was sent to rescue it, an order that remains controversial as it’s unclear whether the 100th was sent because of its already-impressive combat record or because the Japanese soldiers were considered expendable next to their white counterparts.

Either way, the 100th threw itself to the task, pushing forward for six days in a slow but unstoppable crawl. An apocryphal story claims that Hitler himself ordered that the trapped unit be be blocked off and exterminated. But, on October 30, the Japanese American soldiers breached the Axis perimeter and allowed the 1-141st to escape.

The 141st, who already knew about the 442nd’s combat prowess, was overjoyed to see the Japanese Americans attacking the German troops.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team stands in the snow while their citations for rescuing the “Lost Battalion” are read out.

(U.S. Army)

“To our great pleasure it was members of the 442nd Combat Team,” said Major Claude D. Roscoe of the 141st Regiment. “We were overjoyed to see these people for we knew them as the best fighting men in the ETO.”

Nearly every 442nd soldier involved in the rescue received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, or both, and the 442nd received the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions. They rescued 211 Texans, but suffered 800 killed and wounded while doing so, earning them the name, “Go For Broke Battalion.”

In early 1945, the 442nd was sent back to Italy, where Munemori would make his last heroic sacrifice. On April 5, Munemori was part of an attack on mountain positions near Seravezza, Italy. German machine gun fire from higher altitude pinned down members of his unit and wounded his squad leader.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

Pfc. Sadao Munemori was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor whose wartime recommendation for the Medal of Honor was originally approved. An additional 22 Asian Americans would be awarded the top medal in 1995 after a review of their actions.

(U.S. Army)

Munemori took over as squad leader, but twice ran through enemy fire on his own to get close to machine gun nests and destroy them with grenades. While making his way back from the second nest, enemy machine gun fire and grenades rained down around him.

He was still uninjured as he approached the shell crater that he and his men were using as cover, but an enemy grenade bounced off of his helmet and into the hole. Munemori dove onto the grenade and his body absorbed the blast. The other soldiers in the crater were still injured, but survived thanks to Munemori’s sacrifice.

He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in early 1946, and was the only recipient whose recommendation during the war was approved. During a review of Distinguished Service Cross and Navy Cross awards in 1995, 22 other Asian Americans medal recipients were recommended for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor for actions in world War II. Three of these upgrades were awarded to members of the 100th Battalion for their role in rescuing the “Lost Battalion” in France.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were America’s first African-American paratroopers

During World War II a company of service soldiers became the world’s first Black paratroopers and then made history as smokejumpers.


It started in 1942 when 1st Sgt. Walter Morris, an E-5 who had taken responsibility for his company because no first sergeant was assigned to it, crafted a plan for improving horrible morale.

The men were assigned to the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, but were afforded none of the privileges other soldiers had and even lacked access to facilities that enemy POWs were allowed to use.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
The paratroopers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion get ready to fight a forest fire. Photo: US Army

The men were assigned to cleaning the course after the white paratroopers finished training, and Morris simply had his men run it before they began cleaning. One day they were spotted making their way through the course by a passing general. The general ordered Morris to report to his office the next day. The general had received orders to start a Black airborne test platoon that would soon become a Black company and then airborne battalion. For his leadership of the service company, Morris was asked to become the unit first sergeant.

Morris and his men were officially re-assigned to the 555th Parachute Infantry Company, the Triple Nickles, in the final days of 1943. On Feb. 8, 1944, Morris and 16 others graduated Airborne School and became the first Black paratroopers.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
First Sgt. Walter Morris during pre-jump inspection for his first jump. Photo: US Army

The 555th quickly grew over the next year and Morris was sent to officer candidate school to become an officer so he could take another leadership role in what was now the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion.

Unfortunately for the paratroopers of the unit, lingering racism kept them from the combat deployment to Europe that they were seeking.

They were instead loaned out to the U.S. Forest Service to defend the forests of the western states from Japanese incendiary bombs. The Japanese were floating thousands of balloons, each with four incendiary devices, across the Pacific to start wildfires in North America.

The Forest Service had decided to fight the tactic with “smokejumpers,” a new type of forest firefighter who jumped into the woods near the massive blazes and then created firebreaks to starve the flames of fuel.

Three hundred men were assigned to the mission, but only 160 were sent to Pendleton, Oregon for retraining. Between them all, they conducted 1,200 individual jumps and completed 36 fire missions in the summer of 1945.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
The men of the Triple Nickle before a training jump in New Jersey. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

Smokejumpers carried special “letdown” ropes to climb down from trees in case they were hung up on the high branches, and the men of 555th crafted special face protection by wrapping chicken wire around football helmets.

The war and the Army smokejumper mission ended in 1945, and the Triple Nickle was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where the famed 82nd Airborne Division was headquartered. Maj. Gen. Jim Gavin, “The Jumping General” who commanded the unit, was impressed by the Black paratroopers and an early advocate of integration.

The unit trained and existed within the 82nd Airborne Division until Gavin ordered the men to an 82nd function in Dec. 1947. When the 555th commander presented his battalion to Gavin, the general ordered the unit fully integrated it into the 82nd as the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Brigade.

While the men regretted the loss of the Triple Nickles, they celebrated being integrated into a storied unit.

“Everybody was crying,” former 555th paratrooper Charles Stevens told the Fort Jackson Leader. “I think we were crying for two different reasons. We were glad that segregation was leaving the Army and we were sad we were losing our Triple Nickle colors.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how North Korea thinks the Korean War started

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when North Korea suddenly and unexpectedly invaded South Korea. Their first stop was the 24th Infantry Division stationed at Taejon. Since the U.S. and South Korean armies were already exhausted from trying to stop the North Korean People’s Army every step of the way from the border, Taejon didn’t stand much of a chance. 

But to hear the North Koreans tell the story of Taejon, you’d think the Americans started the war and that Taejon was “liberated” when the KPA captured the city after a week of fighting. That’s what Singaporean tourist Aram Pan learned on a visit to North Korea’s Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. 

Pan uploaded a video of his visit to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War museum in May of 2020. There, he saw a massive panoramic diorama of the Battle of Taejon from the North Korean point of view. The tour was led by a North Korean tour guide wearing the uniform of the Korean People’s Army.

“The U.S. imperialists provoked the Korean War on June 25, 1950,” said the guide. “Our soldiers liberated Seoul, the enemy’s capital on June the 28th, 1950, only three days after the outbreak of the Korean War.” 

What the tour guide said is mostly accurate. The war did start on June 25th and North Korea did capture Seoul on the 28th of June. 

“After losing Seoul, the enemy went to Taejon city as their second capital,” she continues, “and they were going to block the advance of our soldiers in the Taejon area.”  

This is also mostly correct. The North Koreans did advance on Taejon after taking Seoul, and the Americans did stand a Taejon in an attempt to block the North Koreans from advancing further south. But there’s nothing different about that battle plan. Most defending armies in a war are going to try to block the advances of an invader. 

crew of an m24 during korean war
Crew of an M24 tank along the Naktong River front. On the ground is Pfc. Rudolph Dotts, Egg Harbor City, N.J. gunner (center); Pvt. Maynard Linaweaver, Lundsburg, Kansas, cannoneer; and on top is Pfc. Hugh Goodwin, Decature, Miss., tank commander. All are members of the 24th Reconnaissance, 24th Division. (Army, KOREAN WAR)

The guide then shows off the massive panoramic display that was created in 1974. The exhibit shows what it would have looked like if you had been standing on a southwestern hill two kilometers away from Taejon during the June 14-21, 1950 battle there. 

It also depicts what the North Koreans are taught about the Korean War. The guide says that President Kim Il-Sung personally oversaw the Battle of Taejon from Seoul. It’s highly unlikely Kim was so close to the fighting at the time. It was important to him to unify the Korean Peninsula under his regime, but Taejon was just another city to take from the Americans. 

Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il probably enjoyed hearing this when they visited the exhibit’s opening in 1974, but it’s factually inaccurate. 

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
A Russian made T34/85 tank knocked out in Taejon, Korea, on 20 July stands at testimony to the heroic action of Major General William F. Dean, Commanding Officer,24th Infantry Division. (Korean War Signal Corps Collection)

“This battle was very famous because at this battle, the enemy’s technical superiority was defeated by our tactical superiority under the wise command of President Kim Il-Sung,” the guide continues. 

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
Victorious War Museum Entrance (Uri Tours, Wikipedia)

The panoramic exhibit is 50 feet high, 433 feet long, and 137 feet in diameter but it gives a 25 mile view of the battlefield. The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum also features a number of captured or destroyed aircraft, tanks, and other vehicles from the United Nations and United States – of which it claims to have destroyed more than 10,000.  

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 13 funniest memes for the week of May 4th

It seems like everything on the Korean Peninsula is going well. Rumor has it that US troops will be pulled out of South Korea if the negotiations are a success. So, get all of your soju-fueled bad decisions out of the way now before you get reassigned stateside.


Before you know it, it’ll be too late to get NJP’d for belligerently screaming, “Merica!” at the DMZ. So, make the most of your OCONUS duty station while you can.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

It’s been right in front of our eyes this entire time.

Dennis Rodman used to be a spokesman for McDonalds. Rodman visits Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Under a year later, he opens his country. It all makes perfect sense now.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via Salty Soldier)

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via USAWTFM)

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via Five Bravo)

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Cover: Anything that won’t be penetrated by small arms fire. Concealment: Anything that can obscure the enemy’s vision of you. This: None of the above.

It’s like this dude never played a video game in his life.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via Military World)

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(Meme via /r/Military)

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the Presidential traditions around the Army-Navy game

Throughout the years, the meeting between the two largest rivals in college football has been known as “The President’s Game” because of how intertwined the game is with the Commander-in-Chief.


Many of the traditions surrounding the game — and perhaps the game itself — are owed to President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1893, after first four Army-Navy games, football was deemed “too unsafe” by President Grover Cleveland and future games were prohibited. After all, players were bloodied, fights broke out between fans, and, at one point, an Army General and Navy Admiral nearly dueled to the death over a game.

It wasn’t until 1897 that President Roosevelt — undeniably the manliest president America has ever seen — wrote a letter urging the reinstatement of the game. In 1899, it returned, but was as dangerous as ever. Later, President Roosevelt also saw to revamping the rules of the game. He made sure pads and gear were worn, adding safety but maintaining the sport’s intensity. Roosevelt attended the game in 1901 and laid down traditions for future presidents to emulate.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
Roosevelt crossing the field, sparking a new tradition. (Image via Library of Congress)

Presidential Attendance

To date, only nine sitting presidents have attended the game: Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge, Truman, Kennedy, Ford, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama. Last year, then President-elect Donald Trump attended, making him the only President-elect to watch the game in person. President Truman holds the record at seven games, followed by President George W. Bush at three. Presidents that attend are usually asked to perform the coin toss at the start of the game.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
Bush also started the tradition of giving both teams a pep talk before the game. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tommy Gilligan)

President Eisenhower was the only President to ever play in the game, but never attend while in office. President Carter, despite having gone to the Naval Academy, never attended while in office. Between 1924 and 1945, no sitting President went to “The President’s Game.”

There was another gap in attendance starting in 1963, when President Ford came to cheer for both teams on for the 75th anniversary of the rivalry, and 1995. Since then, Presidents have made an appearance regularly.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
Kennedy was a major fan of the game, which is why the game was played just two weeks after his death. The almost 28 year gap was because of Presidential safety concerns. (Image via Kennedy Library)

Switching Sides

Another tradition started by President Roosevelt is walking across the field at half-time. This symbolic gesture shows good will and faith between both teams and the President. Even Presidents who had served in the Navy or Army, like Kennedy and Ford respectively, put their histories aside for the sake of tradition (although they both started on their service’s side).

The only President to not do this was the seven-time attendee Truman, who stayed comfortably on one side. Don’t worry, he switched sides for the next game.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
You can’t fault Truman for sticking to one side. He DID attend more games than any other President. (Image via Truman Library)

MIGHTY HISTORY

A single map shows how crazy successful the OSS was in France

The Office of Strategic Services, the World War II-era agency that preceded the CIA and many special operations units, deployed teams into France for months starting just before D-Day. A map slide produced after the war showed just how insanely successful the 423 men assigned to the mission in France were.


That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

(National Archives and Record Administration)

We’ve previously written about the “Jedburgh” teams, commandos from the U.S., Britain, France, and other countries who deployed into France to counter the Nazis. This mission officially kicked off June 5 as the teams jumped in just hours before the larger D-Day invasion.

These teams contained only two to four personnel each, but they partnered with local resistance forces and protected key infrastructure needed by the invading forces while also harassing or destroying German forces attempting to reinforce the defenses.

But the Jedburghs weren’t the only Allied commandos on the ground. The OSS deployed 21 Operational Groups into France as well as two into Norway. These teams were supposed to contain four officers and 30 enlisted troops, though shortages of trained personnel led to many teams deploying at about half strength.

These original OGs operated as guerrilla bands, destroying German infrastructure and conducting ambushes and hit and run against Nazi formations. They deployed with their own medical support and were well trained in infantry tactics, guerrilla operations, demolition, airborne operations, and more.

These two forces, the OGs and the Jedburgh Teams, were the primary OSS muscle, providing 355 of the OSS’s 423 men in France. As the map above shows, they deployed across France and inflicted almost 1,000 casualties against German forces and destroyed dozens of vehicles and bridges.

And the OGs were tightly partnered with the French Maquis, a partisan group that resisted the Nazis. The Maquis and OGs captured over 10,000 prisoners.

Not bad for a force with less than 500 members.

It’s easy to see why the post-war government re-built the OSS capabilities. Even though the OSS was broken up, the modern military’s special operations units, the CIA, and other teams now carry on the missions and legacy of the OSS, including the OGs and Jedburgh teams.

Articles

The US military cleaned up victims of modern history’s largest mass suicide

In November 1978, 909 members of a fanatical cult died — killing themselves and their children using a cyanide and Valium-laced grape drink — to make a political statement: they would die on their own terms in a “revolutionary suicide.” It would be the largest single loss of civilian life until the September 11th terror attacks.


The People’s Temple, as the cult was called, was founded by Jim Jones, a former monkey salesman and self-ordained minister in 1950s Indianapolis. He later moved the church to California. There, the size of the cult grew to around 20,000.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
Yep, this guy was their savior.

With that growth, Jones became a public figure and fled to the South American country of Guyana to escape the negative press surrounding the People’s Temple. Jones faced accusations of financial fraud and child abuse and sought to escape what he thought was the persecution from U.S. intelligence agencies.

More than 1,000 members went with him.

Jones and his cult founded Jonestown, an agricultural cooperative on 4,000 acres of poor soil and limited access to fresh water. Temple members worked long days and were punished for disobeying Jones’ orders. They were allowed limited contact with friends and family. Jones even confiscated their passports.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
Houses in Jonestown.

Toward the end of the Jonestown experiment, Jones became inceasingly paranoid as his mental state broke down. Congressman Leo Ryan came to Jonestown to investigate allegations that his contituents’ loved ones were actually hostages there. People’s Temple members asked to return home with the Congressman, who took them back to his plane.

That’s when tragedy struck.

After arriving at the airstrip that took Congressman Ryan to the People’s Temple collective, Jones’ armed thugs gunned down the contingent, along with members of the press and some of the defectors. At the same time, Jones was distributing the poisoned punch (which was actually Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid, as the saying goes) to the cult members.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
An aerial view of the bodies of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy. U.S. Army personnel from Fort Bragg, North Carolina (NC), are placing the remains into body bags. (Photo by:  Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Nov. 20, 1978.)

There is evidence that those who didn’t want to imbibe were forced to drink the punch. Jones himself was found dead with a bullet in his head, among the other 900+ bodies.

Within hours of learning about Congressman Ryan’s death, the U.S. State Department received assistance from the 437th Military Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. Charleston C-141 Starlifters led what would be “the most unusual airlift operation since the Berlin Airlift.”

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
Col. Bruce M. Durvine, vice commander of the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing, and members of the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron carry boxes of plastic body bags to an HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter for use in the evacuation of bodies from Jonestown. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Jonestown, Nov. 20, 1978.)

Air Force Combat Controllers were the first American forces on the ground, securing the airstrip area, providing security, and operating the airspace. The Starlifters had to be staged more than 150 miles away from the dirt airstrip where Ryan’s body was found because they were too large for the field.

The military Aeromedical Evacuation Team repatriated eight wounded survivors from the area. It wasn’t until November 20th that Guyanan Defense Forces could reach the Jonestown Compound. The small contingent was overwhelmed by what they found there and asked the Americans to take over.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
A U.S. Air Force HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter from the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron stands by to assist in the removal of the remains of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)

According to San Diego State University’s exhaustive study of the Jonestown cult and its aftermath, Army Medic Jeff Brailey was one of the first Americans to enter the compound. He described carrying the poison’s antidote among a sea of bodies, “something he’d never forget.” Army Graves Registration Units tried to identify all the bodies, as they would bodies of soldiers killed in combat.

Jonestown victims’ bodies were to be airlifted to Dover Air Force Base, but first they had to be moved by three HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopters to the Starlifter staging area. There were so many bodies, the Air Force ran out of remains transfer cases.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
U.S. Army UH-1 Iroquois helicopters are loaded aboard a C-141 Starlifter aircraft for transport back to their home base in the Canal Zone. The helicopters were used during humanitarian relief efforts following the Jonestown tragedy. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)

“Stacked like cordwood,” the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition. It took 30 helicopter sorties carrying 30 bodies each to get the remains to the Starlifters for transport. Each C-141 could handle 81 remains cases — as long as they were stacked on pallets.

The stench of death in the helicopters was so bad, they were deemed medically unsafe. Task Force personnel who handled the bodies burned their clothing on the runway at the end of the mission.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
U.S. military personnel place a body bag containing the remains of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy in a coffin for transport to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Pedro J. Gonzalez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)

Jeff Brailey, the Army medic who entered Jonestown, wrote a book about his experience, “The Ghosts of November.”

Articles

Here’s what it takes to guard the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’

Every year, approximately 4 million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our great country. Most gather in solemn awe at the historic site of “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.


If you plan your visit accordingly, you may get to witness the awesomeness that is the changing of the guard, which occurs every 30-minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.

Related: This is the story behind the pre-inauguration wreath laying ceremony

In April of 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24-hours day. Being a sentinel guard isn’t just about walking back and forth keeping a close eye out, it takes professionalism, honor, and most importantly commitment as one must volunteer for the role.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
Tomb Sentinels at the Changing of the Guard, Arlington National Cemetery. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Prospects are hand-selected after volunteering and undergo either a 2 or 4 week TDY to learn rifle precision, uniform maintenance, and marching, as well as to, memorize seven pages of knowledge. Verbatim.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
Sentinel prospect practice drill marching together before heading out for their watch. (Source: 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment/Screenshot)

On average, 60% of the hopefuls will not graduate, but those who do complete the training will move on and become “Newman”.

Newmans assist sentinels prior to guard changes, maintain their uniforms, and must endure three more tests before earning their future position. The entire training takes six to nine months and has a fail rate of 90%.

Sentinels stand a 27-hour guard shift, walking their post a dozen times. Contrary to popular belief, they are allowed to verbally discipline tomb visitors.

Check out 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment‘s video for more behind the scenes of what it take to guard the tomb.

(3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor

The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was meant to be supported by five midget submarines. These submersibles were less than 80 feet long, crewed by two men, and carried just two torpedoes. Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki was the commander of midget submarine HA-19. The midget sub, also crewed by Warrant Officer Kiyoshi Inagaki, piggybacked across the Pacific on the Japanese submarine I-24. However, while none of the midget submarines at Pearl Harbor were successful in the attacks, HA-19 suffered a particularly bad streak of luck.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
Ensign Sakamaki’s naval photo

Before the midget sub even launched, there was an issue. A short distance from Pearl Harbor, the crew discovered that one of the torpedoes had been crushed during the trans-Pacific voyage. Although a replacement torpedo was loaded, the trouble continued. During final checks, Sakamaki found that the sub’s gyro had failed. Despite his best efforts, Inagaki was unable to repair it. This meant that the two men would have to navigate by memory and come up to periscope depth to check their progress intermittently. This would increase their risk of being spotted as they entered the harbor.

When HA-19 finally launched, the sub nosedived and almost ended its journey then and there. After adjusting their ballast, Sakamaki and Inagaki righted their vessel and headed for the harbor…or so they thought. Navigating from memory, they ended up sailing adjacent to the harbor entrance and back out into open water. The nosedive and navigational error cost them hours. When they finally reached the harbor entrance, they found it guarded by a blockade of U.S. destroyers. Sakamaki decided to run the gauntlet and force their way into the harbor.

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city
HA-19 washed ashore the day after the attack (U.S. Navy)

USS Ward (DD-139) had already sunk one midget sub that had attempted to enter the harbor earlier. Upon sighting HA-19, Ward dropped a pattern of depth charges that knocked Sakamaki and Inagaki unconscious. By the time they came to, the aerial attack on Pearl Harbor was underway. HA-19 made a second run for the harbor entrance but ran aground on a coral reef. This time, USS Helm (DD-388) spotted the midget sub and engaged it with her deck gun. Although HA-19 was freed by the shelling, its hull was compromised. Seawater mixed with the sub’s batteries and caused gas to leak from them. Fighting the gas leak and electrical shocks, Sakamaki and Inagaki also had to continuously adjust their ballast to account for the incoming seawater.

The two Japanese sailors then discovered that their torpedo housing was damaged and couldn’t fire. They devised a bold plan to ram the nearest ship, climb on board, and fight to the death on deck. After stripping down to their suicide outfits of their underwear, undershirts, and headbands, the two men sailed for the harbor entrance one last time. They were spotted and hit by more depth charges. This time, the sub’s steering was damaged. Both men were knocked unconscious again and HA-19 drifted at the mercy of the currents.

When Sakamaki and Inagaki awoke, HA-19 was completely disabled and had run aground again. They lit the fuse on the sub’s scuttling charge and swam for shore. Inagaki drowned during his escape and his body was recovered a few days later. Sakamaki, weary and wounded, almost met the same fate as he floundered towards land.

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POW #1 (U.S. War Department)

Two soldiers from Bellows Field, Lt. P. C. Plybon and Sgt. D. M. Auki spotted Sakamaki in the water. At first, they thought that the nearly nude Japanese sailor was a sea turtle coming ashore. When they saw his arms flailing though, they knew it was a person and rushed to help. At this point, Sakamaki realized that the scuttling charge had not gone off, but was too exhausted to swim back to the sub. Instead, he continued to the beach. Auki quickly realized that Sakamaki was Japanese and took him prisoner. Sakamaki became Prisoner of War Number 1 for the United States in WWII.

Upon his capture, Sakamaki’s only request was that he be allowed to commit suicide to make up for the shame of not dying in battle. Naturally, this request was denied and he was held for the entirety of the war. HA-19 was recovered and used on a war bond tour before it was placed at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, TX. After the war, Sakamaki was returned to Japan. He got married and worked for Toyota for most of his life. Sakamaki was reunited with HA-19 in 1991 when he accepted an invitation to speak at the National Museum of the Pacific War. He passed away in 1999.

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Sakamaki visits HA-19 (National Museum of the Pacific War)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Armistead was Marquis de Lafayette’s slave. He was also his friend – and a spy.

James Armistead was an enslaved African-American man who was born in Virginia. Different historical sources put his birth in either 1748 or 1760. He was owned by William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. However, being born into slavery, Armistead would play a crucial role in securing America’s freedom during the Revolutionary War.

With his master’s consent, Armistead volunteered to join the Continental Army in early 1781. He was placed under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette who saw his potential in specialized military service. Posing as a runaway slave, Armistead was sent to link up with Brigadier General Benedict Arnold’s camp. Arnold, whose treachery had already been exposed, was leading an outfit of Redcoats in Virginia. Armistead gained Arnold’s trust and worked as a double agent against the British. Armistead guided the British along local roads and fed them misinformation while secretly reporting back to Lafayette on their movements.

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James Armistead Lafayette in his later years (U.S. Army)

In the spring of 1781, Arnold departed for the north. Meanwhile, Armistead linked up with the camp of Lord Charles Cornwallis and continued his work as a double agent. Because of his status, British officers would speak openly about plans, logistics, and troop movements in front of him. He documented all the information that he could and sent it back to Lafayette in writing through a network of other Patriot spies. This intelligence gathering proved to be instrumental in the British defeat at Yorktown in October of that year.

Although Virginia passed a manumission act in 1782 that allowed slaves who fought in the Revolution to be freed, Armistead remained in bondage. A 1783 law specifically freed slaves only if they had served in their master’s stead as a soldier during the war. Because he served as a spy, he did not qualify. However, in 1786, Armistead petitioned the Viriginia Assembly for his freedom. With the support of his master, himself a member of the House of Delegates, and a written testimony from the Marquis himself, Armistead was finally granted his freedom in 1787. On January 9, Armistead became a free man and added “Lafayette” to his name in honor of the Marquis.

James Armistead Lafayette remained in New Kent County where he married, started a family, and became a wealthy farmer. He also received financial aid and a pension for his service during the war. In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to the United States to tour the 24 states. During his tour of Richmond, the Marquis spotted Armistead Lafayette in the crowd. He abruptly ordered his carriage stopped and ran out into the crowd to embrace his wartime friend. As with his birth, historians disagree on both the year and location of his death. He died either in Baltimore in 1830 or in Virginia in 1832.

Intelligence is the driving force of any war and James Armistead Lafayette’s work in the field was crucial to securing America’s independence. His legacy is the free country and the liberties that we enjoy today.

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The Marquis de Lafayette with James Armistead Lafayette (U.S. Army)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why a free Vermont was the first to distrust Benedict Arnold

This may come as a surprise to anyone who is not a Vermont native: Back during the Revolutionary War, Vermont was its own free country, similar to how Texas, California, and Hawaii once governed themselves before eventually joining the Union. During its fourteen-year tenure, Vermont and its militia, known as the Green Mountain Boys, served as a key ally in aiding against the British.

The Green Mountain Boys were led by one of the founders of Vermont, Ethan Allen. Allen’s legacy, as recorded in American history books, showcases his military prowess, his leadership in an independent Vermont, and an undying hatred for the man that is now synonymous with treason, Benedict Arnold — a hatred that started well before his infamous betrayal.


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In spirit, the Green Mountain Boys still exist today as the Vermont National Guard
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Avery Cunningham)

In spirit, the Green Mountain Boys still exist today as the Vermont National Guard

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Avery Cunningham)

Once upon a time, control of the lands between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River was fought over by New York and New Hampshire. Both sides had claims to the land, but both were highly disputed (though many sided with New Hampshire).

Allen had been traveling the northern portion of the lands when he heard of a small, pro-independence riot that ended with the British killing two colonists in Westminster. Allen and the Boys marched on Westminster to demand that the King remove the oppressors — but bigger problems were brewing.

The issue of who Vermont belonged to was put on hold when the 13 colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. In the meantime, the people of Vermont opted to rule and defend themselves. The only real military within their borders was Allen’s Green Mountain Boys.

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Which means Benedict Arnold’s entire career is based off of a guy saying “Yeah, sure. Whatever.”

After the Battles of Lexington and Concord, an irregular Connecticut militia asked Allen and his boys to join them in taking Fort Ticonderoga. Allen realized joining the colonies was the right thing to do for Vermont and mustered his men to the assault himself.

On May 9th, the day before the assault, Allen first met Benedict Arnold. One of the very first things to come out of Arnold’s mouth was a demand that Allen relinquish control of his men to him. The Green Mountain Boys may not have been a standing army at the time, but they were excellent fighters and they were fiercely loyal to Allen.

They argued all throughout the night. Allen believed he should lead his men because, for the last seven years, they had trained, fought, and died together. Arnold believed he should lead because he received a commission from the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, which meant he was totally capable of leading troops into battle.

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At that point, who can really say no?

The assembled men refused to acknowledge Arnold’s authority, but Allen agreed to allow Arnold to be in the front of the formation with him — a decision that meant Arnold could be seen as a leader on paper, but not be responsible for any of the heavy lifting.

The Green Mountain Boys moved on Fort Ticonderoga at 2 a.m. while the British were sleeping. They managed to sneak through the fort undetected (except for a lone sentry who was knocked out) and Allen pulled his cutlass on the Fort’s commander as he slept. Allen demanded complete surrender.

So, Fort Ticonderoga fell to the colonists without a single shot fired and only one concussion.

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“Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal!”

 

Shortly afterwords, Allen and Arnold went on to take Fort Crown Point and Fort St. John. It was the success of the Green Mountain Boys that gave the colonists the foothold they needed to begin the Revolutionary War.

Allen and Arnold remained at odds with each other. Benedict Arnold kept asserting his authority over Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point to the Continental Congress. Allen was willing to step down under the provision that his men would be paid the same as Continental Army soldiers, which they were. And so Benedict Arnold was given the credit for the work of the Vermonters.

Benedict Arnold would urge the Continental Congress to invade Quebec next. Both Allen and Arnold lead men into Quebec. There, Ethan Allen’s forces lost at the Battle of Longue-Pointe and were subsequently imprisoned. While Allen rotted in prison, Benedict Arnold’s name was heralded as a great military mind — that is, until he made his offer to surrender West Point for £20,000.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 4 most poorly named military weapons

Some military vehicles are given names that accurately reflect what they do and how well they do it. Others, however, are not so fortunate — they’re given military monikers that simply don’t fit.

The following tools of war were either given names so lofty that it makes a mockery of their actual performance or a name so low-class that it’s a disgrace to the weapon.


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At Midway, the Devastator got devastated by Mitsubishi A6M “Zeke” fighters.

(U.S. Navy)

Douglas TBD Devastator

This plane’s name would have you thinking it’s something that can deliver a huge amount of firepower, sufficient enough to destroy whatever ship lays in its path. Unfortunately, this was far from the reality of the Douglas TBD Devastator.

At the Battle of Midway, a total of 41 Devastators attacked the Japanese carriers. Torpedo Squadron Eight, based on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8) and accounted for 15 of those Devastators — all of which were wiped out. In total, only six Devastators survived. ‘Devastated’ is a much more fitting title.

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The KC-97 Stratofreighter was really an aerial refueling tanker, as seen in action with these A-7 Corsairs.

(USAF)

Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter

This plane found quite a bit of success in its lifetime: 811 were built by the United States and it saw plenty of peacetime work. It was introduced in 1951 and stuck around until 1978 with the Air National Guard. So, what makes ‘Stratofreighter’ such a poor name choice?

This plane wasn’t a transport — it was a tanker. This plane refueled the bombers and fighters who took the fight to the enemy. Really, this plane should have been called the ‘Stratotanker’ (a name later used by the KC-135) because there’s no ‘freighter’ involved.

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The only things mauled by the MIM-46 Mauler were the reputations of those who thought it was a good idea.

(U.S. Army)

MIM-46 Mauler

This missile was intended, as the name implies, to maul enemy planes that approached on close-air support missions. Well, as it turns out, the only mauling the missile did was in theory. In reality, it suffered from all sorts of problems, ranging from failing launch canisters to malfunctioning guidance systems.

Ultimately, the Army instead turned to the MIM-72 Chaparral and Navy went with the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow. The MIM-46 was test fired in 1961 and, by 1965, the Mauler mauled no more.

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This was what the M247 Sergeant York was supposed to be. Reality was very different.

(U.S. Army)

M247 Sergeant York

Sergeant Alvin York was known for his marksmanship, earning the Medal of Honor for heroic acts performed during World War I. The M247 Sergeant York, conversely, was anything but a marksman. When it came time to test this vehicle, which was equipped with a pair of 40mm cannon and the radar of the F-16, it couldn’t even hit a hovering drone. The radar simply couldn’t track anything.

Surely, Sergeant York rolled in his grave over sharing a name with this lemon.

What weapons do you think have unfortunate names? Let us know in the comments!

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