The ultimate Pearl Harbor tour for history buffs - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The ultimate Pearl Harbor tour for history buffs

2020 marks the 79th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. While it’s been nearly eight decades since the attacks, December 7, 1941, as noted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is “a date that will live in infamy,” and is never far from these historical landmarks. 

Be sure to bookmark these stops on your next trip to Oahu, Hawaii:

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Pearl Harbor National Memorial is an obvious first stop for history enthusiasts. Open daily from 7AM – 5PM (except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day), the grounds house a visitor’s center, museum and bookstore. It is also the access point for the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum. 

The USS Arizona Memorial, arguably Pearl Harbor’s most recognizable landmark, features a full program for guests that includes a 23-minute documentary film and a Navy-operated shuttle boat ride out to the memorial. 

To note: Due to COVID restrictions, part of the USS Arizona Memorial program has been modified to exclude use of the theater. 

The USS Bowfin was launched on December 7, 1942, exactly one year after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, and is a fleet attack submarine that fought in the Pacific during WWII. She was nicknamed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger”.

Before leaving Pearl Harbor National Memorial, buy tickets for the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum and Battleship Missouri Memorial on Ford Island. 

To note: The cost of the tickets includes a bus ride to Ford Island, however there is also a parking lot for guests who choose to drive over. 

Ford Island

(Kait Hanson)

Driving across the bridge to Ford Island is a bit like stepping back into the 1940s, where historical homes, landmarks, and even bullet strafing, can still be seen. 

Here you’ll find:

The USS Missouri, also known as “Mighty Mo”, was the last battleship commissioned by the United States and was the site of the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, officially ending WWII. The ship offers two daily tours, but is open daily for self-led tours. 

(Kait Hanson)

To note: The Battleship Missouri Memorial is currently closed due to COVID restrictions, but you can take a virtual tour here.

The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum allows guests to explore historical aircraft housed in two hangars on Ford Island. General admission covers access to more than fifty aircraft and all exhibits with free guided audio (available in multiple languages).

Ford Island’s 4-mile loop trail offers insight into lesser-known historical moments, which include plaques for clarification. Along this trail, accessible with base access onto Ford Island, guests can see bullet strafing, the CPO neighborhood that sat adjacent to the attack zone, the original Bachelor Officers Quarters and buildings, and the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah Memorials. 

Hickam Field

Located adjacent to Pearl Harbor, Hickam Field served as the principal airfield and bomber base in 1941. From the National Park Service on the morning of December 7th:

“At Hickam Field, Japanese Zero fighters and Val dive-bombers strafed and bombed the fight line and hangars, concentrating on the B-17 bombers. The 12 U.S. B-17s arrived unarmed and low on fuel during the attack. Most succeeded in landing at Hickam where they were attacked on the ground. The second wave of the Japanese attack struck Hickam at 8:40am and by 9:45 the attack was over. Nearly half of the airplanes at Hickam Field had been destroyed or severely damaged. The hangars, the Hawaiian Air Depot, several base facilities–the fire station, the chapel and the guardhouse–had been hit. The big barracks had been repeatedly strafed and bombed and a portion of the building was on fire. Thirty-five men were killed when a bomb hit the mess hall during breakfast. Hickam’s casualties totaled 121 men killed, 274 wounded and 37 missing.”

Residents who lived on Hickam Field at the time of the attacks recall blackouts on the base and hearing bullets bounce off the roof. Today, Hickam is home to the headquarters of the Pacific Air Force and features many of the buildings that were standing in 1941.

Wheeler Army Airfield

Exiting Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, hop on H2 North toward Wahiawa, where Wheeler Army Airfield is located. Wheeler Field was a primary target for the Japanese in 1941, as they hoped to prevent planes from getting airborne. While many of hte planes that were parked at Wheeler were destroyed in the attacks, twelve pilots managed to get P-36 Hawk and P-40 Warhawk aircrafts off the ground and engaged Japanese pilots. After WWII, Wheeler Army Airfield became a National Historic Landmark for the role it played during the war. 

Today, the airfield is accessible with valid military identification and features restored buildings and planes as they would have looked the day of the attacks.

Articles

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

Canadian sniper Pvt. Leo Major could have taken a ticket home after the Normandy invasions when he lost part of his vision to a phosphorous grenade blast or later that year when his back was broken in a mine strike. Instead, he stayed in theater and went on to single-handedly liberate a Dutch town from the Nazis by convincing them that a massive Canadian attack was coming.


Major’s unit approached the town of Zolle in the Netherlands in April 1945 and asked for two volunteers to scout for enemy troops, an easy observe and report mission. Major and his buddy, Willy Arseneault, volunteered to go.

Léo_Major,_Libérateur_-Canadian sniper liberated Zwolle Netherlands Canadian sniper Leo Major liberated a Dutch town on his own during World War II. (Photo: Jmajor CC BY SA 3.0)

They were told to establish communications with the local Dutch resistance and warn them to take cover if possible, since the morning’s attack would open with heavy artillery and the Canadians wanted to limit civilian casualties.

Arseneault and Major moved forward but quickly ran into trouble. They were caught by a German roadblock and Arseneault was killed in the ensuing confrontation. Arseneault killed his attacker before he died and Major used a fallen soldier’s machine gun to kill two and chase off the rest.

The ultimate Pearl Harbor tour for history buffs
The German troops in Zwolle numbered in the hundreds but they were scared off by a single Canadian on a rampage. (Photo: German Bundesarchiv)

Major could have turned back at this point and reported the loss of his friend, or he could have carefully completed the mission and carried news of the German strength back to his command. Instead, he decided to go full commando and sow terror in the hearts of his enemies.

He captured a German driver and ordered his hostage to take him into a bar in Zwolle. There, Major found a German officer and told him that a massive Canadian attack was coming.

The Canadian then gave the German hostage his weapon back and sent him into the night on his own. As the rumor started to spread that Canadians were in the town and preparing a massive assault, Major went on a one-man rampage.

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A U.S. Army Ranger candidate fires the Carl Gustav submachine gun. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. David Shad)

He tossed grenades throughout the town, avoiding civilians and limiting damage to structures but sowing as much panic as possible. He also fired bursts from a submachine gun and, whenever he ran into Germans, he laid down as much hurt as possible.

At one point, he stumbled into a group of eight Germans and, despite being outnumbered, killed four of them and drove off the rest.

He also lit the local SS headquarters on fire.

Major’s campaign of terror had the intended effect. The German forces, convinced they were under assault by a well-prepared and possibly superior force, withdrew from the city. Hundreds of Germans are thought to have withdrawn from the town before dawn.

German-SS-Troops World War II It took a lot to get SS troops to run, but Canadian Pvt. Leo Major turned it into a one-man job. (Photo: German Bundesarchives)

A group of Dutch citizens helped Major recover Arseneault’s body and the sniper returned to his unit to report that little or no enemy troops were present in Zwolle.

The Canadians marched into the town the next day and Major was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He is the only Canadian to receive DCMs for two wars.

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A U.S. infantryman receives the Distinguished Conduct Medal from King George V. The DCM is second only to the Victoria Cross in British Valor Awards. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

He was nominated for a capturing 93 German troops in 1944 but refused it because he though Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery was too incompetent to award medals. But Major received the DCM for capturing Zwolle. In the Korean War he received another DCM after he and a team of snipers took a hill from Chinese troops and held it for three days.

He became an honorary citizen of Zwolle in 2005 and died in 2008. Soon after his death, Zwolle named a street after their Canadian liberator.

Articles

These 74 dead sailors from the Vietnam War are not honored on the Wall

The most notable part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. is “The Wall,” which features a list of 58,315 personnel killed during the Vietnam War. An effort to add the names of 74 sailors, though, has been rebuffed by the Navy.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the 74 sailors were killed when the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754) was rammed by the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R 21) during a South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) exercise.

The destroyer was cut in half, with the bow sinking in a matter of minutes, taking 73 sailors with it. A single body was recovered from the South China Sea, bringing the total to 74 lives lost.

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The Wall, the most prominent part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Among the dead were the three Sage brothers from Niobrara, Nebraska – the worst loss any family had suffered since the Sullivan brothers were killed when the anti-aircraft cruiser USS Juneau (CL 52) was sunk during the Guadalcanal campaign.

The portion of the Frank E. Evans that remained afloat was taken to Subic Bay, where it was decommissioned on July 1, 1969. On Oct. 10, 1969, the ship was sunk as a target.

The Navy’s initial refusal to place those 74 names on the Wall was due to the fact that the destroyer was outside the “Vietnam combat zone.”

According to U.S. Navy criteria, “Vietnam and contiguous waters” was defined as “an area which includes Vietnam and the water adjacent thereto within the following specified limits: From a point on the East Coast of Vietnam at the juncture of Vietnam with China southeastward to 21 N. Latitude, 108° 15’E. Longitude; thence, southward to 18° N. Latitude, 108° 15’E. Longitude; thence southeastward to 17° 30’N. Latitude, 111° E. Longitude; thence southward to 11° N. Latitude; 111° E. Longitude, thence southwestward to 7° N. Latitude, 105° E. Longitude; thence westward to 7° N. Latitude, 103° E. longitude, thence northward to 9° 30’N. Latitude, 103° E. Longitude, thence northeastward to 10° 15’N. Latitude, 104° 27’E. Longitude, thence northward to a point on the West Coast of Vietnam at the juncture of Vietnam with Cambodia.”

The ultimate Pearl Harbor tour for history buffs
The aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R21), which rammed US Frank E. Evans (DD 754). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the website of the Frank E. Evans Association, the accident occurred 110 miles from the Vietnam Combat Zone.

FoxNews.com reported that the Navy has offered to place an exhibit about the collision in a planned Vietnam Veterans Memorial educational center, but many families are skeptical due to lagging efforts at fundraising for the proposed $130 million project.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

Pigeons are one of the most annoying and disgusting parts of living in a city these days. But did you know that those winged rats were once well-decorated war heroes?


The World Wars had dramatically increased the pace of technological advancement and gave rise to early forms quick communication, such as radio and telephone. But radio was easily intercepted and telephone wires were obvious to the enemy. Pigeons, on the other hand, had a surprising 95 percent efficiency and could carry longer-form messages than those sent by telegraph.

Communications between squads and battalions were typically delivered by a runner — a troop that moved across the battlefield carrying a message. For higher level communications, signal troops would write messages on tiny pieces of paper that would then be rolled up and attached to pigeons. Pigeons have natural magnetoreceptors and an instinct to return home, both of which they use to send a message on its way.

These birds can travel great distances in a (relatively) short amount of time. Princess the Pigeon, for example, managed a 500-mile flight during World War II when she carried vital information about the British troops fighting in Crete to RAF in Alexandria, Egypt.

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Not all pigeons in England are terrible.
(Imperial War Museum)

Pigeons weren’t just sent as messengers. As early as World War I, innovators attached cameras to the birds who would then fly about the battlefield as the camera automatically snapped photographs.

As you’d expect, most photos came out terribly but, on occasion, you’d get a photo that would prove the idea wasn’t as terrible as it sounds.

The ultimate Pearl Harbor tour for history buffs
(Imperial War Museum)

The most well-known story of the war pigeons is that of Cher Ami (which translates to “dear friend” from French). On Oct. 3, 1918, 195 American troops of the Lost Battalion were trapped behind enemy lines. Their position was surrounded on every side by German forces. To make matters worse, American artillery had started raining down on their position. Maj. Whittlesey affixed a message to Cher Ami and let her lose.

The message read, “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.”

Cher Ami was spotted by the Germans and shot down. Despite her wounds, she managed to take flight again and complete her 25-mile journey in just 25 minutes. She did this after taking a bullet to the chest, being blinded in one eye, and nearly losing the leg to which her crucial message was attached. Thanks to Cher Ami, all 195 men survived.

She was patched up and sent back home to the U.S. by Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing himself.


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)

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.

The ultimate Pearl Harbor tour for history buffs

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.

The ultimate Pearl Harbor tour for history buffs

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.

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This suppressed pistol was custom made for Navy SEALs

The Mk 22 is a modified Smith & Wesson M39 pistol with a silencer, but it’s mostly known as the “Hush Puppy.”


During the 1960s, the Navy SEALs were just starting to develop their clandestine techniques that would eventually turn them into one of the finest fighting forces in the world. Being special operations commandos, they had their pick of conventional and non-conventional military weapons.

One of those was the M39. But after a few runs in the field, the frogmen started asking for modifications, which resulted in a longer barrel threaded at the muzzle to accept the screw-on suppressor, among other modifications.

“We’d go into these villages at two or three o’clock in the morning, and the dogs and ducks raised all kinds of kain [noise],” said former Navy SEAL Chief James “Patches” Watson in the video below. “We needed something to shut them up without disturbing the whole neighborhood.”

The gun was fantastic for silencing noisy dogs, hence its nickname. (Editor’s note: please don’t kill dogs.)

American inventor, Hiram Percy Maxim created the first commercially successful firearm suppressor in the early 1900s, giving way to the quietest gun on the battlefield.

Ironically, his father, Hiram Stevens Maxim, was the inventor of one of the loudest — the Maxim Gun. This weapon was the first fully automatic machine gun, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Maxim Jr.’s suppressors were popular in the 1920s and 30s among shooters and sportsmen before being adopted by the Office of Strategic Services — the predecessor of the modern CIA — during World War II. The next use by the American military were by the Navy SEALs, according to this American Heroes Channel video:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

MIGHTY HISTORY

Germany had laughably bad stealth aircraft in World War I

During World War I, Germany set out to make the first stealth aircraft and successfully did so, creating multiple invisible planes in 1912 that later saw combat deployment in World War I.

Unfortunately for the pilots, though the planes were invisible from the ground, they were often the single-most visible objects in the sky — particularly so when engulfed in flames.


The ultimate Pearl Harbor tour for history buffs

A German plane with see through wings and fuselage. These were found to be nearly invisible from the ground, but easy to spot when sun glanced off the reflective surfaces.

The problem is easy to understand. German engineers wanted the ultimate camouflage, and they went searching for a see-through material that could withstand the rigors of flight. They settled on a translucent cellon acetate, a cellulose product with qualities similar to movie film.

The canvas on early planes was swapped out with this clear material. The engine, pilot, and frame were all still visible, but the target was nearly invisible when viewed from the ground given that the planes were flying at 900 feet or higher. Even at lower altitudes, they were difficult to see and target.

From the sky, however, pilots ran into a very real problem.

The material was highly reflective of direct sunlight. So, when an enemy was approaching from a variety of angles, the sunlight would reflect off the wings and light up the plane like a beacon for anyone paying even minor attention to their surroundings.

Without radar, planes were already essentially invisible at night. So, stealth was supposed to revolutionize the daytime environment — see the issue here? The stealth technology was all but useless if the sun caused it to backfire completely.

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A Fokker 2 plane equipped with invisible skin.

For their part, the Germans knew that they had a problematic technology on their hands, and they largely shelved the invention, returning to a canvas body for most of their planes.

Still, the cellon planes were deployed during World War I and their combat record was even worse than you might expect. That’s largely because it was applied to possibly the worst candidate for cellon imaginable: a massive bomber of the Riesenflugzeug family.

A bomber would likely be the most valuable plane to turn invisible, but cellon shrinks and expands based on humidity and temperature, things that often vary in flight. Because the bomber was massive, that shrinking and expanding greatly affected the way the bomber flew.

The problem was that the plane already ran hot; four large engines mounted on the fuselage filled it with heat. Add to this an intense amount of sunlight passing through the clear fuselage and the result was a plane that was nearly unpilotable.

Something worth mentioning, though it didn’t end up affecting the bomber, is that cellon is highly flammable. So, if anything had gone wrong, it would’ve been a Hindenburg-style conflagration.

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A German Riesenflugzeug bomber with transparent panels. Pilots flew from the third deck at the front and had to deal with the horrendous heat and the shifting control surfaces.

The plane took two flights during the war. During the first, the shifting cellon made the plane controls impossible to work. The pilot tried to land the plane but couldn’t tell just how far the plane extended beneath him. He crashed and the plane was badly damaged.

The second flight went much worse — the plane’s wings just fell off. One crew member was killed.

Cellon stealth was not the wave of the future they wanted it to be — not that it would’ve helped Germany much. By World War II, radar was the new rage, and cellon wouldn’t have helped much, even given perfect conditions.

But that would’ve been great. Convincing the Nazis to fly planes made of highly flammable materials that changed size and shape during flight and sometimes just lost their wings would’ve been the a joy for the Allies.

“Hey, Luftwaffe, congrats on the invisible planes. Please, send as many pilots in as many planes as you can.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The youngest Special Forces captain in Vietnam was a war hero

The Vietnam war gave us a lot of things: Zippos, M16s, and the list goes on. Before it popped off, there hadn’t been a war like it; it was highly televised, deeply protested, and involved heavy use of special operations units. From this war came tons of stories of heroism and courage in the face of extreme danger. One such story that stands out from the rest is that of U.S. Army Captain William Albracht.

Albracht graduated from Alleman Catholic High School in Illinois in 1966 and found himself in Vietnam just three years later. He wasn’t just a Green Beret captain, he was the youngest Green Beret captain in the entire country. He took command of a hilltop outpost known as Firebase Kate with a total of 27 American Soldiers and 156 Montagnard militiamen. This is where Captain Albracht earned his place in history and solidified his status as an American badass.

This is the story of the youngest Green Beret captain in Vietnam:


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Landing Zone Kate in 1969.

(Storytellers International)

Firebase Kate

Landing Zone Kate, also referred to as Firebase White, was built in 1969 on a hilltop northwest of Quang Dug Province in Southern Vietnam. It was near the Cambodian border. It was also the first command for Captain Albracht, who was just 21 at the time.

The young captain saw the hilltop location as problematic, primarily because the North Vietnamese Army controlled the nearby road and could freely fire from Cambodia. To make matters worse, supplying the base was also a very tricky.

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Army Special Forces and Rangers in Vietnam.

(U.S. Army)

Supplies & discipline

Since the NVA controlled the road, supplies and personnel for LZ Kate could only be delivered via helicopter. Despite each delivery being protected by a wide range of aircraft, Captain Albracht felt it wasn’t enough support for their location.

On top of that, Sergeant Daniel Pierelli arrived ahead of Captain Albracht to find the troops located there playing volleyball and lounging around instead of preparing to defend the place. He and Captain Albracht made sure to address this before increasing patrols in an effort to gain more intelligence on the NVA. Unfortunately, fate had other plans.

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Army artillerymen in Vietnam.

(Storytellers International)

Siege at LZ Kate

On the morning of October 29th, the NVA launched the first assault on the Firebase, outnumbering the defenders 40 to 1. For the next few days, the men there sustained heavy casualties from small-arms gunfire, mortars, rockets, and artillery.

The wounded included Captain Albracht, who sustained a shrapnel wound in his arm on October 29th while he directed a medevac helicopter. He was given the opportunity to leave, but instead decided to stay at Kate and continue to lead his men.

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Members of Mike force on the left and a member of the Montagnard militia on the right.

A great escape

Supplies dwindled fast, and the situation wasn’t getting any better. Eventually, on November 1st, Captain Albracht realized Kate could not be saved and decided they needed to escape. They destroyed their gun tubes, artillery ammo, and anything that could be considered intelligence before slipping away.

He, along with around 150 men, eventually arrived at another Special Forces camp, only losing one American soldier in the jungle. In the early hours of November 2nd, they linked up with SF Mike Force, their closest allies. To do so, Captain Albracht had to cross an open field three times, putting himself at risk of being spotted by the enemy, to ensure the safety of his men.

Due to his heroics, the men safely escaped.

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Captain William Albracht in 2016.

(Photo by Kevin E. Schmidt)

Captain William Albracht

For his service and actions during the war, he earned three Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, and five Bronze Stars. After the war, he continued serving his country in the Secret Service, guarding five presidents during his time. He then went on to manage security for the Ford Motor Company.

He returned home to Illinois in 2005 and, in 2012, he ran for Senator for Illinois’ 36th district. He co-wrote the book, Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Firebase Kate, and his story is featured in a documentary entitled Escape from Firebase Kate.

Captain Albracht is still alive today.

MIGHTY HISTORY

9 Things You Didn’t Know About “I Have a Dream”

Public speaking is the name of the game for activists and politicians, but few speak with such power that the message of their words echoes for generations. The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech were some of the most influential and inspiring words ever spoken. While the black and white photos in textbooks make it seem like ancient history, the speech was given on August 28th, 1963 — a mere 57 years ago.

Just this month on the anniversary of the March on Washington, MLK’s granddaughter gave a moving speech of her very own…and she’s not even a teenager yet! The history books don’t always tell the full story, so keep reading for some of the most interesting facts you never knew about Dr. King’s most famous speech.


1. MLK’s speech almost left out his “dream”

His “Dream” speech wasn’t a new concept. He used it frequently in previous speeches, so his advisor, Rv. Wyatt Tee Walker, suggested he leave it out, calling it “hackneyed and trite.” The new speech was supposed to be called “Normalcy Never Again,” but when King got up on stage as the final speaker of the day, the audience had other plans. Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled out of the crowd, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin.” Going against his advisor’s suggestion, King paused and said, “I still have a dream.” It was a bold move, but even his advisor later admitted it was the right one.

2. King didn’t write the speech alone

While some of his speech was improvised, he had help with the first draft. It was originally written by Stanley Levison and Clarence Jones, with plenty more heads coming together to create the final version.

3. The March was originally planned to leave out female speakers

Despite the innumerable women who contributed to the Civil Rights Movement, none were included in the original speaking schedule. Anna Arnold Hedgeman, the only woman who was on the national planning committee at the time, pushed for acknowledgment of their achievements. A “Tribute to Negro Women Fighters for Freedom” was added to the docket, but it was only after additional pressure that a woman was invited to lead it.

Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas NAACP, took the stage, saying, “We will walk until we are free, until we can walk to any school and take our children to any school in the United States. And we will sit-in and we will kneel-in and we will lie-in if necessary until every Negro in America can vote. This we pledge to the women of America.”

Josephine Baker, a famous American entertainer, also spoke, telling the crowd, “You know I have always taken the rocky path. I never took the easy one, but as I get older, and as I knew I had the power and the strength, I took that rocky path, and I tried to smooth it out a little. I wanted to make it easier for you. I want you to have a chance at what I had. But I do not want you to have to run away to get it.”

4. The March was organized by an openly gay man

Ever heard of Bayard Rustin? Most people haven’t, but he was an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He strongly encouraged King to avoid violence, fundraised for the Montgomery bus boycott, and organized the March on Washington in only two months. Despite his dedication, he remained behind the scenes for a reason. He was worried that his sexual orientation would be used as an attempt to discredit the civil rights movement, so he worked virtually unseen. President Obama recognized his work posthumously, however, awarding him The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

5. Hollywood stars attended the March to draw attention

Harry Belafonte already planned to attend the March himself when he reached out to other stars to encourage their participation. He asked Hollywood studio managers to give the actors the day off so they could attend, which they did. Many A-listers attended, including Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando, Sammy Davis Jr, Lena Horne and Burt Lancaster. The celebrity presence had two purposes; to boost media coverage, and to ease concerns about violence. The participation of so many high-profile celebrities toned down the widespread anxiety and increased support from President John F. Kennedy.

6. Wiretapping was a real concern

Speeches and marches don’t plan themselves, and the planning continues right up until the event starts. The day before King gave his most famous speech, he got together with his advisors to discuss the final version. They were worried that King’s hotel suite at the Willard Hotel wasn’t secure enough and could easily be wiretapped, however, so they met in the lobby instead, to discuss the speech.

7. Dr. King’s bodyguard was a college basketball player

George Raveling was in the audience when event organizers asked if he would step on stage to act as King’s bodyguard. As he was standing next to King, he asked if he could keep the paper copy of the speech. Raveling, now a retired basketball coach, still owns the original, typewritten speech.

8. The media didn’t care about the speeches

Today, King’s speech is celebrated and studied as one of the best speeches in all of history. Right after it happened, however, many reporters overlooked the speech almost entirely. Instead of covering the speeches given, newspapers (including Dr. King’s) focused on the size and scope of the March itself. The speech wasn’t given much attention during King’s lifetime, resurfacing in the public eye years later.

9. ‘I Have a Dream’ was rated a better speech than JFK’s ‘Ask not what you can do’ speech

In 1999, a panel of over 130 scholars rated Dr. King’s speech as the best of the 20th century. Even Kennedy himself knew what a pivotal speech it was, commending King by saying, either “He’s damned good” or “That guy is really good,” depending on who you hear it from.

Either way, we can all agree the speech was awe-inspiring and revolutionary. You can read or listen to the full speech here!

MIGHTY HISTORY

Activists are restoring these war monuments after years of neglect

A World War I monument in Rhode Island no longer bears the names of soldiers who died fighting; the bronze plaques were stolen decades ago. A statue of a WWI soldier in New York City has a dented helmet and missing rifle. The wooden rifle stack on top of a monument in Washington state has rotted away. Trees memorializing soldiers from Worcester, Massachusetts, have died.


The 100th anniversary this year of America’s involvement in the “Great War” has drawn attention to the state of the monuments to its soldiers and galvanized efforts to fix them.

Many were forgotten about over time, or no one took responsibility for their care. Some were looked after, but they’re in need of repairs, too, after being outside for so long.

“There are some cases of vandalism, but in general it has been time and a lack of maintenance and really nobody paying much attention,” said Theo Mayer, program manager for the US World War I Centennial Commission’s 100 Cities/100 Memorials program. “Somehow the war slipped into our historic unconscious, and so did the memorials.”

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The World War I Memorial Grove in Worcester, Massachusetts. Photo from TreeWorcester.org/

The centennial commission and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago are helping communities that are restoring and rescuing their memorials. Fifty matching grants of up to $2,000 each were awarded in late September. They’re accepting applications for another 50 grants, to be awarded in April.

The nation owes it to WWI veterans, “lest we forget,” said Kenneth Clarke, president and CEO of the military museum.

“They can’t speak for themselves. There’s none of them left. It’s up to us to carry this legacy forward,” Clarke said. “That’s a responsibility we have as citizens of this great country.”

The first group of grant recipients includes a project to replace the plaques in Newport, Rhode Island; repairs to the World War Memorial in Raymond, Washington, and to the Highbridge Doughboy statue in New York City; and tree plantings and restoration work for Memorial Grove at Green Hill Park in Worcester.

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World War I memorial tower on the hill at the park. Wikimedia Commons photo by Swampyank.

The plaques were stolen from the Miantonomi Memorial Park Tower in Newport nearly 40 years ago.

“Why hasn’t anyone replaced them? I don’t know. Apathy? I just don’t understand,” said Bob Cornett, who’s working with the city on the project.

The Washington memorial, tucked in the corner of a park, was becoming an eyesore because of the missing top and paint peeling off the pillar, said Army veteran Gordon Aleshire. Now it has been recoated, a bronze rifle stack has been made and it’s being moved next to another war memorial.

“We were embarrassed over it,” said Aleshire, coordinator of the project. “The VFW thought the city was going to take care of it, and the city thought the VFW was going to take care of it, and no one did. Now we’ll have a plan to make sure we won’t let it get into such disrepair in the future.”

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Victory Monument at Chicago in Illinois, USA. Wikimedia Commons photo by Joe Ravi.

The Highbridge Doughboy was erected in the Bronx in 1923. It was later vandalized and moved into storage in the 1970s. It’s currently on display in Central Park. It will be relocated to a park near Yankee Stadium when it is cleaned and fixed. The grant will help the city’s parks department replicate the main dedication plaque.

In Worcester, an American Legion post planted maples to honor those who died in WWI, dedicating it in 1928. The post later closed, and about half of the trees have died. The Green Hill Park Coalition is working with the city to restore the grove.

The first 50 memorials selected are in 28 states. The Victory Memorial in Chicago, also known as Victory Monument, commemorates the 370th Infantry Regiment, an all-black unit that served with French soldiers. It has been well cared for. Local residents are going to plant a memorial garden and teach high school students more about the war. A poppy garden is being planted at North Carolina State University’s Memorial Bell Tower, as well.

The projects that received grants must be completed by the centennial of the war’s end, Nov. 11, 2018. The centennial commission is building the National WWI Memorial in Washington, DC.

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7 awesome airpower quotes from General Curtis LeMay

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. “We can haul anything.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this Coast Guardsman earned a Silver Star at Guadalcanal

Douglas Carlton Denman was born in Tallapoosa, Georgia, in February 1922. At the age of 18, he decided to join the Coast Guard and travelled to Atlanta’s recruiting office where a Coast Guard chief boatswain filled out his paperwork. Early on, he must have shown promise as a boat driver. He was sent to New Orleans to train at Higgins Industries, builder of landing craft, and in less than a year of enlisting, he was advanced from seaman first class to coxswain.

In November 1941, less than a year after enlisting, Denman was assigned to the Number 4 landing craft aboard the fast attack transport USS Edmund Colhoun (APD-2) known as an APD or “Green Dragon” by the Marine Corps’ 1st Raider Battalion. The Colhoun was a World War I-era four-stack destroyer converted to carry a company of marines. The Navy designation of APD stood for transport (“AP”) destroyer (D”). These re-purposed warships retained their anti-submarine warfare capability, carried anti-aircraft and fore and aft deck guns, and could steam at an impressive 40 mph. Their primary mission was rapid insertion of frontline marine units in amphibious (often shallow-water) operations, so they were equipped with landing craft.


Each APD carried four landing craft designated LCPs (Landing Craft Personnel). Also known as “Higgins Boats,” the LCP was the U.S. military’s first operational landing craft. It had a snub nose bow supporting two side-by-side gun tubs with each position holding a .30 caliber machine gun. The helm and engine controls were located behind the tandem gun emplacements. Diesel-powered, the LCP measured 36 feet in length, could hold 36 men, and had a top speed of only nine miles per hour. This early landing craft carried no front ramp, so after it beached, troops debarked over the sides or jumped off the bow. The LCP required a crew of three, including a coxswain, an engineer and a third crew member that both doubled as gunners. The LCP exposed its crew to enemy fire, so its crew members braved serious upper body, head and neck wounds when landing troops.

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Douglas Carlton Denman, at age 18, in his original recruit photograph, including suit and tie.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The Colhoun was one of four APDs that comprised Transport Division 12 (TransDiv 12). TransDiv 12 ships inserted the Marine Raiders on the beaches of Tulagi, on Aug. 7, 1942. The amphibious assault of Tulagi was the first U.S. offensive of World War II. It was also the first battle contested by entrenched enemy troops, giving the Americans a taste of the horrors to come in island battles like Tarawa, Saipan and Palau. Colhoun’s sisterships Francis Gregory (APD-3) and George Little (APD-4) took up station 3,000 yards offshore and served as guard ships marking a channel into the landing area. TransDiv 12’s slow-moving Higgins Boats plowed up the slot to land the Marine Raiders in the face of enemy fire. Within two days, the marines had taken the island eliminating nearly all its garrison of 800 Japanese troops.

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The APD USS Colhoun refueling in the Pacific. Notice this fast attack transport’s camouflage paint scheme and Higgins Boats hanging from davits on the port side.
(U.S. Navy photo)

After landing the Marine Raiders at Tulagi, Colhoun continued patrol, transport and anti-submarine duties in the Guadalcanal area. On August 15, the TransDiv 12 APDs delivered provisions and war material to the Marine 1st Division on Guadalcanal Island. It was the first re-supply of the marines since their August 7 landing. On August 30, Colhoun made another supply run to Guadalcanal. After completing a delivery to shore, the Colhoun steamed away for patrol duty. As soon as the APD reached Iron Bottom Sound, the sound of aircraft roared from the low cloud cover overhead and Denman and his shipmates manned battle stations.

A formation of 16 Japanese bombers descended from the clouds and Colhoun’s gunners threw up as much anti-aircraft fire as they could. The first bombers scored two direct hits on the APD, destroying Denman’s Higgins Boat, blowing Denman against a bulkhead and starting diesel fires from the boat’s fuel tank. Denman suffered severe facial wounds, but he returned to what remained of his duty station. In spite of stubborn anti-aircraft fire, the next bombers scored more hits. Colhoun’s stern began filling with water and the order was passed to abandon ship. Denman remained aboard and, with the aid of a shipmate, he carried wounded comrades to the ship’s bow and floated them clear of the sinking ship. He and his shipmate also gathered dozens of life jackets and threw them to victims struggling to stay afloat on the oily water.

Colhoun’s bow knifed into the sky as it began a final plunge into the fathomless water of Iron Bottom Sound. Denman managed to jump off the vessel before the ship slid stern-first below the surface. The time between the bombing and the sinking had taken only minutes, but during that time, Denman saved numerous lives while risking his own. In spite of his severe wounds, Denman survived along with 100 of Colhoun’s original crew of 150 officers and men. Coast Guard-manned landing craft from USS Little and the Coast Guard boat pool on Guadalcanal raced to the scene to rescue the survivors.

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Chart of Iron Bottom Sound showing Tulagi (off Florida Island) and location of final resting place of Colhoun off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal.

After the battle, Denman could not recall the traumatic events surrounding the bombing. He was shipped to a military hospital in New Zealand and diagnosed with “war neurosis.” However, after a month, medical authorities reported, “This man has gone through a trying experience successfully and may be returned to duty . . . .” For the remainder of the war, Denman served stateside assignments and aboard ships, including an attack transport, LST and a U.S. Army fuel ship. In early September, APDs Little and Gregory were sunk in night action against a superior force of Japanese destroyers and the fourth TransDiv 12 APD, USS William McKean (APD-5) was lost in combat in 1943.

For his wounds and heroism in the face of great danger, Denman received the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals. During his career, he completed training for port security, intelligence specialist, and criminal investigation specialist. He also qualified in handling all classes of small boats and buoy tenders and was recommended for master chief petty officer. However, he retired as a boatswain senior chief petty officer to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Georgia with a major in animal science. He was one of many combat heroes who have served in the long blue line and he will be honored as the namesake of a new fast response cutter.

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Photograph of a Fast Response Cutter underway.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

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17 photos that show how great-grandpa got ready for WWI

Basic training sucks, but it follows a predictable pattern. A bunch of kids show up, someone shaves their heads, and they learn to shoot rifles.


But it turns out that training can be so, so much better than that. In World War I, it included mascots, tarantulas, and snowmen.

Check out these 18 photos to learn about what it was like to prepare for war 100 years ago:

1. If the old photos in the National Archives are any indication, almost no one made it to a training camp without a train ride.

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New York recruits heading to training write messages on the sides of their train. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

2. Inprocessing and uniform issue would look about the same as in the modern military. Everyone learns to wear the uniform properly and how to shave well enough to satisfy the cadre.

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3. Training camps were often tent cities or rushed construction, so pests and sanitation problems were constant.

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A U.S. Marine at Marine Corps Training Activity San Juan, Cuba, shows off the tarantula he found. Tarantulas commonly crawled into the Marines’ boots at night. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

4. Unsurprisingly, training camps included a lot of trench warfare. America was a late entrant to the war and knew the kind of combat it would face.

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Soldiers make their way through training trenches in Camp Fuston at Fort Riley, Kansas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

5. Somehow, even training units had mascots in the Great War. This small monkey was commonly fed from a bottle.

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A World War I soldier plays with the unit mascot at Camp Wadsworth near Spartansburg, South Carolina. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

6. Seriously. Unit mascots were everywhere. One training company even boasted three mascots including a bear and a monkey.

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A World War I soldier lets the regimental mascot climb on him. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

7. Troops in camp built a snowman of the German kaiser in New York.

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Troops at Camp Upton on Long Island, New York, pose with their snowman of the kaiser. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

8. A lot of things were named for the enemy in the camps, including these bayonet targets.

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9. This grave is for another dummy named kaiser. He was interred after the unit dug trenches in training.

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Soldiers in a training camp at Plattsburg, New York, show off the grave they created for a dummy of the German kaiser during training on trench construction. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

10. World War I saw a deluge of new technologies that affected warfare. These shavers were preparing for a class in aerial photography.

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Soldiers training at the U.S. Army School of Aerial Photography in New York shave before their class. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

11. Uniform maintenance was often up to the individual soldier, so learning to mend shirts was as important as learning to shoot photos from planes.

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Soldiers from the 56th Infantry Regiment mend their own clothes at Camp McArthur near Waco, Texas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

12. Local organizations showed their support for the troops through donations and morale events.

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Soldiers training at Camp Lewis, Washington, grab apples from the Seattle Auto-Mobile Club of Seattle. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

13. Some were better than others. Free apples are fine, but free tobacco is divine.

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A thirty-car train carrying 11 million sacks of tobacco leaves Durham, North Carolina, en route to France where it will be rationed to troops. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

14. Nothing is better than payday, even if the pay is a couple of dollars.

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Troops are paid at Camp Devens, Massachusetts. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

15. Someone get these men some smart phones or something. Three-person newspaper reading is not suitable entertainment for our troops.

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A father, son, and uncle share a newspaper on a visitor’s day during training camp. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

16. Once the troops were properly trained, they were shipped off to England and France. Their bags, on the other hand, were shipped home.

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Soldiers finished with stateside training pose next to the large pile of luggage destined for their homes as they ship overseas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

17. Again, trains everywhere back then. Everywhere.

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Engineers ready to ship out write motivational messages on the side of their train car just before they leave the Atlanta, Georgia, area for France. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)