The Civil War ironclad USS Indianola was rushed into the war, guarding Cincinnati in 1862 before she was even complete. But at the start of 1863, she was cutting through Confederate defenses on the Red River to support Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks’ campaign there. But when a crisis hit, Union Navy officers had to figure out how to prevent it from falling into Confederate hands.
(US Naval History and Heritage Command)
The Indianolawas part of the Mississippi River Squadron tasked with severing Confederate logistics and defenses on that river and the surrounding waters. But in early 1863, the Confederacy still held 240 miles of water from Vicksburg, Mississippi, down to the Gulf of Mexico. The fiery Rear Adm. David D. Porter sent ships down the Red River to disrupt Confederate shipping at the end of January.
For a few weeks, the Union ships captured Confederate ones and typically seized any supplies and paroled the crews. But the Union vessels took damage in engagement after engagement and were not able to seize as much fuel as they needed to continue operations so, on February 13, Porter sent the Indianola with two coal barges past the Confederate guns at Vicksburg to reinforce and refuel those ships already downriver.
For a few days, the Indianola stayed downriver and chased off Confederate vessels, but it was headed back upriver on February 24 when a group of Confederate rams hunted it down as darkness fell.
The Indianola was already heavy thanks to its armor, and it maneuvered slowly in the river with the two coal barges attached, so the Confederate rams were able to slam into it quickly and then pour fire into its portholes. The Union sailors fired their artillery as quickly as they could, but their fire was largely ineffective in the poor moonlight.
Lt. Cmdr. George Brown exposed himself to enemy fire repeatedly in his efforts to save the ship and repel the Confederate attack. He fired his revolver against the Confederate sailors, and he was seen ordering his engineers and defenders even when incoming fire was bouncing around him.
The Union ship quickly began to sink, but the commander and crew worked to destroy the signal books and get the vessel to deep water before surrendering it so the rebels could not recapture it. But, in an effort to save himself and his crew, Brown surrendered the ship a bit too soon, and the Confederates were able to take it in tow.
It sank soon after, but the Confederates were able to tow it to a sandbar before it did so, leaving most of the ship exposed and giving the Confederacy a solid chance to raise it and turn it against the Union forces. Rear Adm. Porter was loathing to risk sending more ships past Vicksburg’s guns to prevent the salvage, but he really didn’t want to face the Indianola in rebel hands.
So, he looked around for some cash, bought up some scrap wood and iron, and quickly constructed a fake ironside warship built on top of an old flatboat. It had smokestacks complete with thick smoke, fake artillery positions with blackened wood cannons, as well as typical structures like the pilothouse. In all, it cost .63, about 0 in 2018 dollars.
As a little cheeky addition, “Deluded People Cave In” was painted on the paddle wheel housings.
The Confederate salvage team spiked the guns and threw them in the river, they burned the hull down to the waterline, and set off all the powder. Almost nothing remained of the Indianola when the Black Terror came down the river. But, of course, the Black Terror just kept drifting, eventually running aground two miles downriver.
The Southerners, already confused by the lack of Union fire, were made even more suspicious when there was no sign of crew activity after the Black Terror ran aground. So, a small team rowed out to the vessel and discovered that they had been tricked.
Despite the fact that the second ironsides attack was a fake and the first was defeated, the bulk of the Confederate fleet still withdrew from the river. The land defenses at Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and a few others, held the line until the following year when land offensives captured them, cementing Union control of the river and choking off what remained of Confederate resupply. After the capture of Vicksburg, the Union recovered the wreck of the Indianola.
And a large contributor to the success was an .63 expenditure on scrap wood and iron.
Anyone can tell you that in combat, good communications are important. But there was one time that a miscommunication helped the U.S. win a significant naval surface action off Guadalcanal during the Battle of Cape Esperance.
That bit of lucky confusion happened on the night of Oct. 11, 1942. That was when Japan decided to carry out what was called a “Tokyo Express” run. These runs delivered troops, often dashing in under the cover of darkness. This was necessary because American planes at Henderson Field were very capable of taking down enemy ships in the daylight hours.
To take Henderson Field, Japan had to reinforce the troops on Guadalcanal — especially because the Americans had, in the middle of September run a substantial convoy to Guadalcanal at the cost of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV 7). During that month, at the battle of Edson’s Ridge, the Marines had repelled an attack, inflicting substantial losses on the Japanese ground troops.
According to “The Struggle for Guadalcanal,” Volume Five in Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II,” on Oct. 9, 1942, an American convoy carrying the 164th Infantry Regiment, part of the Americal Division, departed for Guadalcanal. Three United States Navy task forces covered the transports.
One was centered around the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8), which had launched the Doolittle raid almost six months prior. The second was around the battleship USS Washington (BB 56). The third was a group of cruisers and destroyers under the command of Rear Adm. Norman Scott, who had his flagship on the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco (CA 38).
In addition to the San Francisco, the heavy cruiser USS Salt Lake City (CA 25), the light cruisers USS Helena (CL 50) and USS Boise (CL 47), and the destroyers USS Laffey (DD 459), USS Farenholt (DD 491), USS Duncan (DD 485), USS McCalla (DD 488) and USS Buchanan (DD 484) were part of Task Force 64, which had the assignment of securing Ironbottom Sound until the transports finished unloading.
At 11:32 that night, the radar on the USS Helena detected a Japanese force of three heavy cruisers (the Aoba, Kinugasa, and Furutaka) and the destroyers Fubuki and Hatsuyuki. American radar tracked the Japanese force, which was covering a supply convoy. At 11:45 that night, Capt. Gilbert C. Hoover on board the Helena would send a fateful message to Admiral Scott, “Interrogatory Roger.” He was requesting permission to fire. Scott’s response, “Roger,” was intended to acknowledge receipt of the request. But “Roger” was also used for granting permission to fire, according to Morison.
Hoover would assume the latter, and at 11:46, the USS Helena opened fire with her fifteen six-inch guns. According to NavWeaps.com, the Mk 16 six-inch guns could fire up to ten rounds a minute. In that first minute, as many as 150 rounds would be fired by that ship. Other American ships also opened fire, and the Aoba, the flagship of the Japanese force, took the brunt of the American fire. The Japanese commander, Rear Adm. Aritomo Goto, was mortally wounded early on.
Thrown into confusion, the Japanese force initially believed they had been fired on by their troop convoy. Eventually, they began to return fire, but the battle’s result was never in doubt. The Aoba would be badly damaged, and the Furutaka and the Fubuki would be sunk by the end of the battle.
The Americans would lose the destroyer USS Duncan, while the Boise and Salt Lake City were damaged and returned to rear bases for repairs, along with the destroyer Farenholt.
Norman Scott had won a tactical victory, thanks to that communications foul-up, but the Japanese landed their reinforcements that night. On the night of October 13, the battleships Kongo and Haruna delivered a devastating bombardment against Henderson Field, but couldn’t prevent American reinforcements from arriving.
Later that month, Japanese forces would fail to take Henderson Field, while a naval offensive would be turned back in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands at the cost of the Hornet.
The two men involved in that communications foul-up would see action about a month later off Guadalcanal when Japanese battleships tried to again bombard Henderson Field, only to be stopped by Daniel Callaghan.
Rear Adm. Norman Scott would be killed in action in that engagement. Hoover would survive, and be left in command of the surviving ships. As he lead them back, the anti-aircraft cruiser USS Juneau (CL 52) would be sunk by a Japanese submarine. Rather than try to rescue survivors, Hoover radioed the position of the survivors to a patrolling B-17, expecting a request to be relayed to the South Pacific.
Although women were not allowed in combat positions in the military until way after the Vietnam War, that doesn’t mean that women were not in harm’s way during their service as nurses. Women have held nursing positions aiding the military as far back as the Civil War, and the Vietnam War was no exception. Sharon Ann Lane was the first woman killed in action in Vietnam.
Sharon Ann Lane was one such nurse. She joined the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve on April 18, 1968, as a 2nd Lieutenant. Her first assignment was at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colo., where she was promoted and sent off to Travis Air Force Base with orders to Vietnam.
During her time in Vietnam, Lane was assigned to the 312th Evac Hospital at Chu Lai. She was attached to the Intensive Care Ward before being appointed to the Vietnamese ward 4, where Lane worked five days a week, 12 hrs a day. Lane continuously denied transfers because she dedicated herself to nursing our critically injured American soldiers in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which she volunteered to do in her free time.
Although the hospital had been attacked many times, she constantly reassured her patients that things were “still very quiet around here…haven’t gotten mortared in a couple of weeks now.”
On June 8, 1969, a rocket hit the Evac Hospital, striking ward 4 and killing two people, while injuring twenty-seven. Lane was among the two that perished in the attack, due to fragmentation wounds to the chest. Lane was only twenty-five years old when she was killed in action and also the only American nurse of eight to die due to enemy fire.
Lane was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for her valiant efforts in providing the best medical care to our wounded warriors and giving her life for her country. The Daughters of the American Revolution honored Lane in 1969, by naming her Nurse of the Year. A statue was erected in her image in front of Aultman Hospital, her Nursing school Alma Mater, a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice she made for her country. Although she was killed in Vietnam, this is one woman who is not forgotten.
As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.
Not only does the band provide direct jobs for veterans, but they also raise money for different veteran initiatives — like PTSD awareness — through their merchandise site, which also acts as a resource guide for accessing help through various links.
Zoltán Báthory, guitarist for Five Finger Death Punch, is a founding board member of the veterans nonprofit Home Deployment Project, which provides safe places to live for displaced veterans suffering from symptoms of PTSD. He is also a member on the Board of Advisors at the anti-Poaching organization Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife. Although Zoltán himself is a civilian, his support for the military is without question.
“I have a lot of veterans around me and it’s not an accident.”
Videographer Nick Siemens is a Marine Corps Combat veteran touring with Five Finger Death Punch. He describes the energy and movement of working with the band as being very similar to that of his time as an active duty Marine.
“I absolutely fell in love with this job and it gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging that I had lost when I left the Marine Corps and I haven’t looked back.”
Check out the video above for an inside look at what it’s like for the veterans on tour with Five Finger Death Punch.
The U.S. Army Truck, 1/4-ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance, better known as the jeep, was the primary light wheeled transport vehicle of the U.S. military during WWII. President Eisenhower called it, “one of the three decisive weapons the U.S. had during WWII.” By the end of the war, nearly 650,000 Jeeps had been produced. They saw use across the globe from Africa, to Europe and Asia. After the war, many jeeps were sold to or given to locals, or simply left behind rather than having to be transported back to the states. In the Philippines, hundreds of jeeps made their way into the hands of locals.
Reportedly, the Philippines saw a huge black market for surplus jeeps after WWII. Regardless of how they were left behind, the local Filipinos saw the jeep as a rugged, dependable and adaptable vehicle. These qualities made it perfect for the post-war Filipinos who were still recovering from years of Japanese occupation. Many Filipinos lost their mode of transportation, be it car, horse or bicycle, during the war.
The Filipinos stripped the military jeeps down and rebuilt them to suit their needs. The soft-top utilitarian trucks were given metal roofs for shade from the tropical sun, painted with vibrant colors, and adorned with chrome-plated ornaments. The decoration of the jeeps helped to return some element of beauty to the country’s capital, Manila. Known as the Pearl of the Orient, the city saw heavy fighting and suffered a great deal of damage during WWII.
The backs of the jeeps were also altered. The two side-by-side rear seats were replaced with parallel benches in order to accommodate more passengers. Over time, the vehicles were lengthened and given a longer wheelbase to increase their passenger capacity. The stretched jeeps became a popular form of public transportation and started to operate on regular routes like buses. Operating like jitneys, the jeeps became known as jeepneys.
Through the second half of the 20th century, the jeepney became a cultural icon of the Philippines. It was used by school children and adults alike and served as a major form of public transportation across the country, and especially in Manila. Fares were posted on the jeepney itself and people could hop on and off at their leisure. Passengers hanging on to the back or riding on top of a full jeepney was a common sight. Jeepneys are also heavily decorated and even themed by their drivers.
The heavy use of and increased demand for the jeepney quickly stretched the supply of WWII-surplus jeeps. Modern jeepneys are produced and maintained with imported parts, generally from Japan or South Korea. However, the stretched jeep appearance is maintained from the original jeepneys.
Seeing the widespread use of the jeepneys, the Philippine government began to regulate them. Drivers must now obtain a special jeepney license, routes are prescribed, and fares are fixed. However, private jeepneys still operate outside of this governmental oversight.
Though indigenous to the Philippines, the jeepney has been exported. Nearby Papua New Guinea determined that importing new buses and vans for their public transportation would be too expensive. The cheap and reliable jeepneys were suggested as a more affordable alternative to conventional vehicles. In 2004, 4,000 jeepneys were exported from the Philippines to Papua New Guinea.
Today, there are many threats that could lead to the removal of the old jeepneys. Increased restrictions and regulations on emissions have led to many builders abandoning jeepney production for other products or going bankrupt entirely. Modern mini-buses and ride-sharing services also cut into the traditional jeepney passenger market. Despite these factors, the jeepney continues to drive the roads of the Philippines and carry on the legacy of the WWII jeep.
Jack Murphy is no stranger to controversy. In fact, you might even say that the former Army Ranger-turned-Green Beret-turned-journalist has sought it out, or at least had a laissez-faire attitude toward it over the course of his tenure as an investigative journalist. With the release of his memoir, he has given both fans and haters alike an inside look at how he sees the world — whether they like it or not.
Murphy has penned multiple fiction novels in the past, as well as a New York Times best-selling nonfiction report on the Benghazi consulate attack. But he’s gained the most notoriety as editor-in-chief of NEWSREP.com, formerly SOFREP.com. He’s established himself as a serious journalist by breaking stories that have made international news, but has also faced accusations of operational security violations and betraying the special operations community. Most recently, the release of helmet-cam footage from U.S. Army Special Forces operators killed during an ambush in Niger stoked the heated controversy swirling around the publication.
“Murphy’s Law” was released on April 23.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
Despite that, Simon and Schuster’s conservative nonfiction imprint, Threshold Editions, published “Murphy’s Law” on April 23. The memoir contains a brief background of Murphy’s upbringing in New York before diving into his military career and, later, the reporting exploits that took him around the world — often to arguably more dangerous corners than he faced while in uniform.
Writing a memoir wasn’t something he was interested in, despite the onslaught of special operations veterans who were publishing books around him. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity though; Murphy had made a habit of avoiding editors trying to convince him to pen his life story. At a book signing for “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” Kris Paranto’s editor approached him, and he once again politely declined.
Murphy in Iraq as a Special Forces NCO training Iraqi SWAT forces.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
But the offer stuck with him, and he brought it up to his friend and mentor, Special Forces veteran Jim West. “I told him that I’ve written all these articles, in-depth pieces — that I’ve basically told everyone’s story but my own,” Murphy said in a phone interview. “He told me that I’m avoiding my past. That was the moment I said, ‘F*ck it, maybe I should confront some of these things.'”
And so he did. The book doesn’t paint a picture of the stereotypical war hero, nor does it show him as a PTSD-riddled veteran who struggles to cope with life after combat. His self-examination is as brutally honest as he aims to be in his reporting, often taking shots at himself in one paragraph before dispelling rumors in the next.
Murphy preparing for an aerial overwatch mission as a Ranger sniper in Afghanistan.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
He doesn’t expect that the context this book provides will help quiet his detractors though. “I don’t really give a sh*t at the end of the day,” Murphy said, noting that he hopes the book tells the truth while cutting through rumors. “I said what I had to say, and I think the criticism and anger is part and parcel with the job, and if you can’t handle it, you need to find a different profession. I don’t think anyone is going to change their mind after reading this book.”
Indeed, the last chapter of the book is titled “Controversy and Upsets” and directly addresses many of the accusations that have been leveled in his direction. It comes after 100-some pages detailing years of doing a job that many misunderstand or flat-out disdain. For that reason alone, the book is worth the read: more Americans need to understand the great lengths and risk many journalists put themselves through in order to report the news.
Murphy in Kurdistan while working as an embedded journalist with Peshmerga forces during an offensive.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
And that’s what Murphy will continue to do, which will likely continue ruffling feathers in the process. “Unfortunately, the military sexual trauma story has been something I’ve continued to work on,” Murphy said, before noting that he also plans to finish his fifth novel, which was pushed aside while writing his memoir. “I have a passion for writing, and I don’t think that’s something I’m ever going to stop doing.”
Some weapons are universally loved by the troops that carry them. Others somehow make it past the drawing board, through testing, and into the hands of soldiers — who then hate them. These are the most reviled.
6. The Ross Rifle
The Ross Rifle was a Canadian rifle with some interesting design features that saw service in WWI. For one, it had a single-motion bolt that was supposed to make it quicker to fire than the turn-and-pull style of conventional rifles. However, this feature also allowed for the rifle to be reassembled incorrectly and still fire, which resulted in the bolt flying out the back and killing or maiming the shooter.
Also, despite excellent accuracy in range conditions, the rifle proved very susceptible to jamming when caked with the dirt and mud of combat. Additionally, the bayonet of the Ross also had a tendency to fall off when the weapon was fired. The performance of the rifle was so poor that many Canadian soldiers discarded them in favor of Lee-Enfields they took from dead British soldiers.
5. Breda 30
The Breda 30 was an Italian light machine gun used in WWII. Italian designers were having trouble with round extraction and arrived at a solution that arguably made things worse. The gun had a system that lubricated each cartridge as it entered the chamber with the idea that it would make extraction easier. In reality, the oil attracted dust and dirt, which fouled the action and slowed the gun’s rate of fire. Despite the slowed rate of fire, the barrel would still heat up, which would inevitably heat up the oil and, in turn, cook off a round in the chamber.
If that wasn’t a poor enough design, the gun also had a fixed, 20-round box magazine that had to be loaded with stripper clips. To say the troops weren’t fond of the Breda would be an understatement. The Breda was such a poor weapon, Italian troops often had battles turn against them because they could not keep up sufficient fire.
4. Sten gun
The Sten gun is one of those weapons that, despite serious drawbacks, was able to stay in service after much-needed improvements. Designed and built under the threat of a German invasion, the early models of the Sten, especially the Mk II’s and Mk III’s, were cheap and poorly made, earnings them nicknames, such as “Plumber’s abortion” and “the Stench gun.”
Sten guns were notoriously unreliable and had issues with misfires, even when simply set down. The issues were so pervasive that units would extensively test their Sten guns before combat in order to weed out the bad ones. Eventually, as improvements were made and quality improved, Mk V versions of the Sten would see combat with British paratroopers and other frontline units.
3. FP-45 Liberator
The FP-45 Liberator was a small gun meant to be distributed to guerrillas and resistance forces throughout Europe and Asia. The pistol, though firing a .45 caliber round, was only single-shot and required a wooden dowel to remove the spent cartridge. It also had an effective range of about 25 feet.
This was meant to have a great psychological effect on the enemy. However, the pistol never really got a chance to be hated by the troops as neither the generals in Europe or the Pacific saw the weapon as worth using. Large numbers of the pistols were passed on to the OSS, but they didn’t find them worth giving out either.
Like the Sten gun, the M16 had a troubled beginning but, after improvements, later found affection from the troops who carried it. In its early days, in the jungles of Vietnam, the supposedly self-cleaning rifle failed in combat conditions. The major problem was a “failure to extract,” or when the chamber became fouled due to excessive firing. U.S. troops, not issued sufficient cleaning kits, were often found killed with their rifles disassembled as they tried to clean them and remove the jammed cartridge in the middle of a firefight.
American troops hated the new rifle. However, the U.S. military quickly made changes to the rifle that increased its reliability. Despite early issues, it has gone on to be the longest-serving standard rifle in the U.S. military.
The Chauchat is perhaps the most-hated weapon on this list. Designed by the French to operate as a light machine gun carried by one man, it had numerous shortcomings. One major problem was its open-sided, half-moon magazine. The open side allowed mud and dirt to enter the magazine, impeding the ability to feed and causing stoppages. The long recoil operation of the gun also caused stoppages when it heated up and jammed the barrel to the rear.
The weapon was so unreliable that, in combat conditions, it frequently jammed after only 100 rounds. Unfortunately for the troops, there was no alternative for a light machine gun until the Americans brought the BAR into action near the end of the war.
Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly views himself as President Donald Trump’s “babysitter,” and his efforts to restrain the bombastic leader apparently created tensions with former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
McMaster sought to provide Trump with an array of military options against North Korea, but the defense secretary allegedly refused to put all the options on the table in front of Trump, McMaster aides told The New Yorker. Meanwhile, the president reportedly did not pick up on Mattis’s alleged attempts at stonewalling, and McMaster declined to expose his colleague.
One senior National Security Council official told The New Yorker that Mattis felt like he had to play “babysitter” to Trump.
What’s more, McMaster’s aides claimed the widespread reports that he was specifically pushing for a so-called “bloody nose” strike against North Korea were false. A bloody nose strike would involve an attack against North Korea strong enough to intimidate and embarrass Kim Jong Un’s regime, but not serious enough to spark a full-blown conflict. Many experts have warned such a strike could have catastrophic consequences and would not go as smoothly as its proponents believe.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl)
There is limited intelligence on the location of North Korea’s military assets — including its nuclear weapons. Moreover, in November 2017, the Joint Chiefs of Staff determined that a ground invasion would be necessary to fully dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program. In short, a bloody nose strike would risk allowing North Korea to retaliate against the US or its allies with any number of military options, not excluding its nuclear arsenal.
The Trump administration’s discussions surrounding military options against North Korea largely came as the rogue state conducted a series of long-range missile tests in 2017. These tests — part of Pyongyang’s larger goal of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the mainland US — resulted in harsh economic sanctions being leveled against the reclusive nation and led to a war of words between Trump and Kim.
But North Korea’s relationship with the US appears to be shifting in 2018 as Trump and Kim are set to hold a historic meeting about denuclearization. On April 20, 2018, North Korea announced it would cease its long-range missile and nuclear tests and close its primary nuclear testing site. Trump celebrated this development on Twitter, describing it as a sign of “progress being made for all!”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Who’s ready for some holiday cheer? Christmas has been a federal holiday since 1870, so we’re pretty accustomed to having a couple of days off to spend with family and drink too much eggnog. Christmas wasn’t always such a big party, however. Throughout most of human history, important political figures didn’t let a pesky holiday get in the way of their plans.
Let’s check out a few of the most significant historical events that happened on December 25th.
1066: William the Conqueror was crowned king.
Ever heard of William, Duke of Normandy? What about his more ominous nickname- William the Conqueror? The man was a pretty big deal. In October of 1066, he invaded the British Isles and conquered King Harold II at the legendary Battle of Hastings. After his victory, he wasn’t going to keep his boring old title. What better day to get a new one than Christmas?
On Christmas Day at Westminster Abbey, William was crowned king of England. This was the beginning of a highly influential 21-year long rule. True to his French roots, the Norman king infused his own culture and language with those of the English people he governed. In doing so, he changed the development of the English language. He also offered generous land grants to his French allies, which was partially responsible for the birth of the feudal system that continued throughout most of the Middle Ages.
1776: Washington crossed the Delaware.
George Washington wasn’t our first president for no reason. During the American Revolution, he wasn’t about to take a cocoa break on Christmas. No way. At 6 pm, Washington pushed his exhausted, borderline hopeless troops across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania at McConkey’s Ferry. For those who have only seen the Delaware as a blue line on a US map, that might not sound like such a remarkable feat. In reality, the crossing was treacherous and daring to the extreme.
When Washington first arrived at the riverside, he was short on supplies and at least 1,700 of his soldiers were too ill or injured to fight. Even more of his men were needed to stay back to guard them. That left 2,400 to prepare a variety of boats and ferries for the crossing. The river was over 30 feet deep in some areas and freezing cold. The boats were loaded with cannons and artillery, and the crossing began. Over the course of several hours, the men made picked their way across, dodging floating ice through the night.
Their eventual success marked a turning point in the Revolutionary War. After the crossing, Washington led a series of attacks while the opposing forces were still off their game from nights of holiday merrymaking. His risky move resulted in victories in Trenton and Princeton shortly after the new year, restoring hope to the weathered Continental Army.
1814: The Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812
After the Revolutionary War was won, America was far from finished arguing with the British. Great Britain continued trying to restrict U.S. trade and expand its own territory, and Americans weren’t having it. They took on the naval superpower in a conflict that would last nearly three years. The fighting was destructive and costly, reaching a peak when the British burned down the White House.
It wasn’t sustainable for either party, so they met in Ghent, Belgium to negotiate a peace agreement. After four months of arguing, a settlement was finally agreed upon. The treaty basically called the war a truce, and all prisoners and captured ships were returned to their home nations. The Treaty didn’t go into effect until February of 1815, so the war didn’t instantly cease. The Battle of New Orleans actually took place in January after it was signed on Christmas. Still, the Treaty of Ghent was effectively responsible for ending the war.
1868: Andrew Johnson pardoned confederate soldiers
The Civil War isn’t exactly America’s most shining moment, but after it was over, unifying the country was necessary to restore stability. Lincoln’s vice president and successor, Andrew Johnson, did this by doling out a truly massive Christmas gift: With Proclamation 179, he offered amnesty to every single person who fought against the US throughout the Civil War.
The proclamation was actually the fourth order of its kind, with earlier agreements reestablishing legal rights to confederate soldiers if they signed oaths of loyalty to the United States. The Christmas proclamation brought the postwar agreements to a close.
1968: Apollo 8 went into orbit around the moon
Not all holiday historical events were political. Gazing at the winter moon on Christmas Eve sounds romantic enough, but In 1968, three astronauts spent the night orbiting around it. Originally, the Apollo 8 mission was intended to be no more than a test run for a lunar landing. When progress on the lunar module took longer than anticipated, NASA decided to adjust their mission plan, transforming it into a full-blown moon mission.
The mission was a huge success. Borman, Lovell, and Anders were the first men to escape Earth’s gravitational pull, see the Earth from space, and orbit the moon, and it all happened on Christmas Eve! From orbit, the astronauts broadcasted a report back to Earth, ending in, “Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.” To date, that moment is one of the most-watched in all of television history.
The hero has been the most popular archetype of human-storytelling for as long as stories have been told. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to the Odyssey to comic books to the epic film franchises that bring in billions of dollars in revenue, superhero stories are here to stay.
Superheroes all have origin stories, which tell how they gained their powers and chose to fight against evil.
But some heroes felt the call to serve before being recruited by special agencies — some even before having heightened abilities.
Get ready because this is your SPOILER WARNING: we’ll be discussing plots from comics and films — both released and upcoming — from the DC and Marvel universes.
“You might remember that ‘annoyed’ is my natural state.”
10. Logan aka James Howlett (Wolverine)
Wolverine’s mutations — accelerated healing powers and longevity; heightened senses, speed, and stamina; and retractable bone claws which were later plated with nearly indestructible adamantium — render him a powerful fighting machine.
According to the film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Logan was born in the 1800s. He fled his childhood home and fought as a soldier in the American Civil War, both World Wars, and the Vietnam War. That’s a century of combat, by the way.
When he was discovered by Maj. William Stryker — a military scientist biased against mutants and intent on destroying them — Wolverine’s military career came to an end, leading him on a path towards the X-Men.
In the comics, Wolverine has many storylines, including a journey to hell, but we’ll stick with the cinematic telling of his life. He can never fully escape his painful past, and even when he’s fighting for the good guys, he’s got a bad attitude. He’s like the Senior NCO who doesn’t have any more f*cks to give but is so great at his job that everyone just lets him do his thing.
Nonetheless, his moral compass remains true until the end.
“I’m more of a soldier than a spy.”
9. Sam Wilson (Falcon)
Sam Wilson is a former Air Force Pararescue Jumper, which made him a great candidate for the superhero with a tendency to jump into the middle of a combat situation to ice evildoers and save lives.
Wilson is important for many reasons. Created in 1969 by Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan, he was the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics, making his mark on the civil rights movement of the 60s.
In the comics, Wilson has a telepathic link to his bird, Redwing, which allows him to see through the bird’s eyes. He’s also skilled in hand-to-hand combat and operating the Falcon Flight Harness.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the powers are gone, but the harness remains. It was actually a secret military asset, which Wilson somehow stole… and, somehow, there were never consequences levied by the U.S. government for that, but okay…
Most importantly, Wilson counsels veterans with post-traumatic stress issues, embodying the ideal of service after service and the value of supporting our fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
“But being the best you can be…that’s doable. That’s possible for anybody if they put their mind to it.”
8. Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel)
Major Carol Danvers is a trained military intelligence officer and erstwhile spy. She’s one of the most distinguished officers in the superhero universe and a graduate of the Air Force Academy, where Nick Fury recruited her for the CIA.
In the comics, she retired from the Air Force as a Colonel to be Chief of Security at NASA before becoming half-Kree (a militaristic, alien race in the Marvel Universe). She became Captain Marvel after meeting a Kree alien named Mar-Vell, but she acquired superpowers after an explosion merged her DNA with the first Captain Marvel… well, it’s complicated.
Danvers is an author and feminist and her powers include flight, enhanced strength and durability, shooting energy bursts from her hands, and being able to verbally judo one Tony Stark.
“The future of air combat… is it manned or unmanned? I’ll tell you, in my experience, no unmanned aerial vehicle will ever trump a pilot’s instinct.”
7. James Rhodes (War Machine)
There’s a bit of a discrepancy here. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, James Rhodes is an airman. In the comic books, he’s always been a Marine. If I told you that a hero was named “War Machine” and had little understanding of ammo consumption, would you think he was an airman or a Marine?
Screw it — let’s dive into both!
First, the comics: A former pilot in the Marine Corps, Rhodes met Tony Stark aka Iron Man while he was still deployed in Vietnam. Rhodes was shot down behind enemy lines when he encountered Stark in the prototype Iron Man suit. The two teamed up and became best friends. Rhodes conducts himself according to military honor codes, which often contrasts with Tony Stark’s relativistic heroism, and even assumes the mantle of Iron Man when Stark struggles with alcohol addiction.
In the MCU, Rhodes becomes War Machine and struggles to balance his loyalty to the Avengers with the legal obligations of the military and the Sokovia Accords. This tension eventually earns him a court-martial, when he’s forced to disobey the Accords to help Captain America travel to Wakanda.
But hey, is a military infraction even that big a deal when half of the universe is being wiped out?
“Three minutes and twenty seconds, really? If you were my agents, it wouldn’t be for long.”
6. Maria Hill
Maria Hill commissioned in the Marine Corps before joining S.H.I.E.L.D. She quickly rose through its ranks and was appointed Deputy Director under Nick Fury. She possesses normal human strength, which makes her participation in supernatural phenomenon even more impressive.
As a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, she is experienced in espionage, hand-to-hand combat, weapons expertise, and tactical vehicle operation.
In the comics, Hill served under Fury until after Marvel’s Civil War, when she assassinated Captain America. But that’s okay because she was only evil because she was controlled by Red Skull — and no one stays dead in comics anyway (except Uncle Ben).
In the MCU, Hill provides intel and support for the Avengers and remains the one person Nick Fury can trust.
“Daddy needs to express some rage.”
5. Wade Wilson (Deadpool)
Deadpool is the guy in your unit that just won’t take anything seriously. That’s true for his character, both in the comics and on-screen, but it’s also true for the actual creators of Deadpool, who break convention in more ways than one. For example, he knows that he is a fictional character and he commonly breaks the fourth wall. Most antiheroes are dark and tortured, and Deadpool certainly is that… but he’s also… just… uncouth and rather undignified, which is what makes him so unique.
His origins are rather vague and are subject to change. Stories have been retconned, conveniently forgotten, or just ignored (like what we’re going to do with Deadpool’s appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine…). Nonetheless, there seems to be a consensus that Wade Wilson (if that’s even his name) served in the U.S. Army Special Forces before he was dishonorably discharged.
In the film, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer and undergoes an experiment where he is injected with a serum meant to activate his mutant genes. After prolonged stress and torture, the experiment works. Cancer continues to consume his body, but his superhuman healing allows him to cure it simultaneously, leaving him disfigured, but unkillable.
He becomes a mercenary who continues to fight the chaotic-good fight.
“I’m all out of wiseass answers.”
4. Jonah Hex
Though he initially joined the United States Army as a cavalry scout, Jonah Hex‘s story really began during the Civil War. As a southerner, he fought for the Confederacy, but he found himself increasingly uncomfortable with slavery. Unwilling to betray his fellow soldiers, but loathe to fight for the South, Hex surrendered himself to the Union.
Tried for treason and exiled to the wild west, Hex would later be branded with the mark of the demon and be forced to walk the land as a supernatural bounty hunter. At some point, he’d also travel time (because comic logic) and fight alongside other superheroes.
He also fought alongside Yosemite Sam. Yeah, the Looney Toons’ Yosemite Sam.
Hex didn’t have supernatural abilities, but he was an outstanding marksman, a quick draw, and an expert fighter in the wild west.
“I still believe in heroes.”
3. Nick Fury
As with many comic book heroes, whose stories continue for decades, Nick Fury has a sliding history that keeps him current in conflicts. His first appearance was in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1, which took place during World War II.
Fury served as a colonel during the Cold War before becoming the director for S.H.I.E.L.D. (then known as “Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division”). His skills and experience with espionage were put to use against the Soviet Union and primed him for his position at S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers Initiative.
From leading his Howling Commandos to becoming the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. to transforming into the silent observer of Earth, Nick Fury has done it all without any actual abilities — and with only one eye. He obtained the Infinity Formula, which kept him from aging, but it was his mind and skill on the battlefield that allowed him to take down nearly every superhero in the Marvel universe.
“I can do this all day.”
2. Steve Rogers (Captain America)
Steve Rogers is the ultimate example of patriotism, bravery, and sense of duty. In fact, that’s why he was chosen for the Super Soldier Serum project in the first place.
During World War II, Rogers made multiple attempts to enlist, but failed to meet the physical requirements. But his tenacity caught the eye of a scientist who recognized that Rogers’ attitude made him the perfect Project Rebirth candidate.
Rogers began his career doing propaganda to support the war effort, but he would eventually be unleashed in Europe in the fight against the Nazi faction, HYDRA.
His military service ended when he sacrificed himself to save the United States from a HYDRA-coordinated WMD attack. He was suspended in ice until he was revived by S.H.I.E.L.D. in the modern day.
Rogers later joined the Avengers, but his sense of duty and his compulsion to act in the face of injustice — no matter what the laws are — pitted him against other Avengers after creation of the Sokovia Accords, which established U.N. oversight of the team.
“If you want peace, prepare for war.”
1. Frank Castle (Punisher)
The Punisher is a psychologically troubled antihero, which makes his story both unsettling and, in many ways, very familiar for combat-veterans. He is a vigilante who fights crime by any means necessary, no matter how brutal those means might be.
Frank Castle joined the Marines after dropping out of Priest school when he was asked if he could ever forgive a murderer. Because of Marvel’s sliding timeline, through which they avoid putting firm dates on characters, Castle’s story changes every now and then to reflect modern, real-world events.
Hands down, the most “Marine” story in The Punisher canon goes to Punisher: Born. Set in Vietnam, it is essentially the origin story of how Castle goes from being the gun-slinging badass that Marines think they are to actually being the gun-slinging badass Marines know they are.
Fan theories speculate the narrator of the story is actually Ares, the Greek God of War, who makes an unsuspecting Castle his avatar.
Editor’s Note: Parts of this article have appeared previously on We Are The Mighty.
President Theodore Roosevelt is known for being a Rough Rider, a trust-buster, and coining the infamous phrase, “Walk softly, but carry a big stick.” He also turned the White House into a veritable menagerie during his stay there. He, of course, had plenty of cats and dogs, but he was known for keeping guinea pigs for his children, and several of his sons had rabbits as well as a bright blue macaw named Eli Yale.
Arguably his most exotic pet, and probably the most unpredictable animal to inhabit the White House, was a real-life badger.
While on a railroad tour through the West, President Roosevelt stayed for several days in Sharon Springs, Kansas. After he’d fulfilled his presidential duties of talking with residents and giving speeches, he was getting ready to head further west when a girl named Pearl Gorsuch, who was twelve-years-old at the time, came up to him to ask if he’d like a badger.
Not exactly your average fan gift.
Whether the president didn’t actually think she was serious, or if he was immediately ready to take a badger on a train ride, no one’s really sure. But when Pearl returned, she had with her a two-week-old badger, as well as the rest of her family.
Roosevelt graciously showed the family (and accompanying badger) around his private rail car, and gave Pearl a locket and a carnation as a thank you. When he took the badger, he was delighted when it started nibbling on his fingers. He named the badger Josiah after Pearl’s father and took it with him in his private car.
On the rest of his trip, Josiah proved to be good-natured, even when met with young children who were enchanted by the animal. Roosevelt wrote to his own children to inform them that he’d be bringing the badger home, and that he’d nicknamed Josiah “Josh” for short.
As the Roosevelt family did have plenty of dogs, a badger-specific cage had to be built, including two feet of underground space for him to burrow.
Roosevelt himself loved setting the badger loose, as Josiah was known for biting ankles, and the family soon learned to stand clear when he was out of his cage.
Archie Roosevelt, who was the second youngest of six children, was nine when Josiah arrived at the White House and laid the best claim to the animal. He would walk around the grounds holding Josiah around the waist. When Teddy expressed concern that Josiah might take advantage of the positioning to bite Archie’s face, Archie insisted that little Josh only bit legs, not faces.
Though Josiah the badger did come home with a penchant for nipping but an overall friendly demeanor, he eventually lost his pleasant attitude. He may have grown overwhelmed by the bustle of the Roosevelt’s White House, or just succumbed to his primal nature, but whichever reason, the result was the same.
The Roosevelt family had him placed in the Bronx Zoo in New York, which was probably for the best both for the animal and the family. However, they continued to visit him, just to make sure he didn’t develop any abandonment issues.
Though each president has had different pet preferences—the Coolidge family actually had a pet raccoon named Rebecca—it’s safe to say that Teddy Roosevelt came the closest to running a zoo out of the White House. But really, who’d refuse a little girl in a small town in Kansas handing you a baby badger?
The Medal of Honor is the highest military award the U.S. can give out to the brave troops who go above and beyond the call of duty while engaging the enemy. The medal is authorized by Congress and is awarded at a White House ceremony by the President of the United States.
To date, nearly 4,000 brave troops have earned the distinguished medal.
But what some people don’t know is that there are three different variations of the medal, each with unique details.
So, check out five things you didn’t know about the Navy’s Medal of Honor.
5. The Navy had it first
Iowa Senator James W. Grimes first introduced the medal via a bill to Congress, who quickly approved the idea. President Lincoln then inked the medal into law. The Medal of Honor was originally struck and formed on Dec. 21, 1861 after the design was approved for Navy use. Months later, the Army developed their own version of the medal on Jul. 12, 1862 to honor their soldiers.
You’re welcome, Army!
4. So many stars
The medal features 34 stars that represented the number of states part of the U.S. at the time — including the 11 Confederate states. Kansas was the 34th state to be admitted to the union on Jan. 29. 1861 and accounts for that 34th star.
The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)
3. The centerpiece’s story
The medal showcases Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and war. On top of her helmet perches an owl, which represents wisdom. The man next to her holds snakes in his hand, representing discord. The insignia is commonly referred to as “Minerva repulsing discord.”
2. The medal’s original ribbon
Today, blue fabric holds the medal around the recipient’s neck. The original ribbon, however, showcased a blue bar with 13 red and white stripes running vertically.
As summer nears, gyms everywhere are flooded with patrons trying to push out those final reps to put the finishing touches on their excellent beach bods. Unfortunately, many gym-goers don’t see the results they desire, even after adjusting their diets and exercising regularly.
So, what’s going wrong? Well, the answer may be, simply, that they’re not doing their reps properly. We’ve heard plenty of amateurs say that all they need to do is lay down on the flat bench and start pushing out sets to get the massive, trimmed chest they want. However, that’s not always the case.
Genetics play a huge role in how our muscles heal after a workout. But no matter how lucky (or unlucky) you were in the genetic lottery, we’ve got some good news for you: it all starts with hitting the bench press the right way. By following these simple rules, in just a few short weeks, you’ll begin to notice a positive change.
Make sure the straight bar is even
If you’re not working out on the Smith machine, there’s a good chance the straight bar isn’t correctly laying across the rest rods. One side could be shifted over a few inches, which makes the strain on your body asymmetric. This means that one side of your chest is handling more work, which can ultimately lead to injury — ending your workouts altogether for a while.
So, before you lift that bar, make sure everything’s squared.
Time and time again, we’ve seen people simply lay on the bench with weights tacked on the bar and start pushing out reps. The problem is, their chest isn’t warmed up, leading the patron to squeeze out just a few reps before quitting. That’s not going to cut it if you want to get that chest ripped.
Most bodybuilders will ramp up the weight, from low resistance to high, before even beginning to count their reps. This allows blood to enter your pectoral muscles, giving you that classic pump. Now you’re ready to do some massive lifts.
Among beginners, this is a huge issue. Many people who grab onto the bar don’t know exactly which muscles will be used to support the weight. Some spread their hands too fall apart and risk hurting their shoulders. In the fitness world, we use the “90-degree rule” quite often. This means we don’t bend our joints more than 90-degrees to avoid getting hurt. The same rule applies here.
When latching a solid grip onto the bar, consider where your elbows will be when forming a 90-degree angle between your biceps and your forearms. You’d be amazed at how much more weight you can push just by employing proper hand placement.
This is an example of solid foot placement.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)
Feet placement? What the hell does that have to do with my chest?
Proper feet placement will help your body stay balanced as you lift the heavy load using your chest. We’ve seen people place their feet on the bench as they work out — that’s honestly not the brightest thing to do.
You want to place your feet solidly on the ground, directly under your bent knees. This will give you a strong foundation and ensure that the bar doesn’t slip to one side or the other as you finish the set strong.