In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Army was testing out a number of ideas to help support troops. Some of these ideas, like the XV-5 Vertifan, were decades ahead of their time. Others, though, fell by the wayside as alternate technologies emerged and proved better able to do the job. One of these forgotten experiments was something called the XV-8 Fleep.
At the time, the Army looking for a new way to resupply troops. The Army was also in the middle of restructuring their forces, further dispersing units to better mitigate the effects of a potential nuclear attack. They needed a new, fast way to get materiel from one unit to the next. Something small, nimble, and durable — like a Jeep, which was already a military icon.
“Fleep,” as you’ve probably noticed by now, is a portmanteau of ‘flying’ and ‘Jeep.’ That’s right. The idea sounds silly to us now, but at the time, it made complete sense to the Ryan Aeronautic Company.
The XV-8 performed well enough in testing that the United States Army considered a production run, according to a 1965 report. The Fleep could be flown easily by an average pilot with either fixed-wing or rotary-wing experience. According to AeroFiles.com, it had a top speed of 67 miles per hour and a range of 120 miles. The Army concluded it could haul roughly 1,000 pounds of cargo.
The XV-8 was to be a versatile platform, fulfilling a number of missions for the Army.
By comparison, the top speed of the UH-1D Huey, which was quickly becoming a workhorse in the Vietnam War in 1965, was 137 miles per hour and it had a range of 317 miles. The UH-1D could carry up to 3,116 pounds of cargo.
The numbers here tell a grim tale for the Fleep — the Huey significantly outperformed the Fleep in every comparable metric.
The Fleep wasn’t a bad plane, but the UH-1 simply blew it away in terms of performance.
That’s, ultimately, was why the XV-8 failed to make the cut. Helicopter technology had improved so much in such a short time that, by the time the Fleep saw the light of day, it didn’t stand a chance.
Thankfully, there’s some footage left behind as a relic of this aeronautical oddity. Watch the Fleep take to the skies in the video below.
When re-entering the United States, it’s necessary for every traveler to go through U.S. customs first. And it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re coming from – even if you came from the Moon. That’s what the three members of the Apollo 11 crew found out when NASA declared its moon rock and moon dust samples it brought back to Earth.
The Apollo 11 customs declaration.
The idea of going through customs makes one think of carrying luggage through a conveyor, meeting with an immigration official who stares at your passport and asks you where you went on your travels. That, of course, is not what happened to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, or even Michael Collins after they safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. They were too busy being hailed as heroes for living in space for eight days, spending 21 hours on the Moon, and then coming home.
Besides, if you look at their customs declaration, it appears there’s no airport code for “Sea of Tranquility” or “Kennedy Space Center.” And “Saturn V Rocket” is definitely not on the list of possible aircraft you can take from anywhere to anywhere – unless you’re Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, or Michael Collins.
Don’t forget to sign for your cargo, you bums.
The funny part about the Apollo 11 customs declaration is that the form lists the departure area as simply “moon.”
In all likelihood, this is a pencil-whipped form, done because it’s supposed to be done and because United States airspace ends after a dozen or so miles above the Earth’s surface, and the Apollo team definitely went 238,900 miles away.
Julius Caesar is known as one of the greatest generals of all time. He was so inspiring that he persuaded his army to cross the Rubicon River and march on Rome, to overthrow the politicians who threatened to strip Caesar of his military command. Caesar had to earn their loyalty, though, and he earned his reputation as a brilliant commander in the Gallic Wars. These conflicts were fought between 58 and 50 BC in the land the Romans called Gaul (and we call France). Here are six things to know about the Gallic Wars.
1. Caesar fought the wars to pay off his debts
In the year 59 BC, Caesar served as consul, one of the highest positions in the Roman government. In Roman politics, you won votes through bribery, and Caesar spent so much money that by the end of his consulship he was riddled with debts. There was an easy solution to this problem: give himself a province. Provincial governors could enrich themselves through conquest and plunder, and Caesar ended up receiving a stunning three provinces to govern: Transalpine Gaul, Cisalpine Gaul, and Illyricum (southern France, North Italy, and the western Balkans, respectively). But to the north, there was Gaul, ripe for the taking.
2. The conflict started out small
When Caesar learned that a Gallic tribe called the Helvetii were planning on migrating through Transalpine Gaul, he started to fortify the Rhone River to stall their movement. The Helvetii were denied the right to cross, so they doubled back to find a different route, all the while raiding and plundering other Gauls. These oppressed tribes came to Caesar asking for help defending themselves from the Helvetii, and Caesar obliged. Over the course of a few months, the Romans pursued the Helvetii and whittled down their forces before finally defeating them at the Battle of Bibracte.
3. Many Gauls wanted Caesar there…
Many Gauls were impressed with Caesar’s defeat of the Helvetii and so asked him to defeat the Germanic tribe of the Suebi that was invading Gaul. Caesar could not declare war just yet because the Suebi king Ariovistus was technically a Roman ally, but repeated harassment of the Gallic tribes gave Caesar the justification he needed to declare war. By the end of the year 58 BC, Caesar had defeated Ariovistus. The next year Caesar and his legions marched to fight the Belgae, a Gallic confederation that was harassing a Roman-allied tribe. The most warlike of the Belgae were the Nervii, who surprised the Romans at the Battle of the Sabis and nearly defeated them. Caesar, however, was able to turn the tide of battle and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The Belgae surrendered to Caesar shortly after. Lots of Gauls were happy that Caesar was there to protect them from dangerous tribes, but others were starting to chafe under Roman rule.
4. …until they didn’t
In 54 BC, the Eburones tribe under king Ambiorix revolted against Caesar’s rule, slaughtering thousands of Romans at the fortress of Atuatuca. The Romans responded by attacking Ambiorix’s allies and isolated the Eburones until the rebellion fizzled out. This, however, was only the precursor to a much larger rebellion. Vercingetorix, king of the Averni tribe, had been making alliances with other tribes for a while now, and in 52 BC, Vercingetorix and his united tribes rebelled against Rome. The Romans chased the Gauls throughout Gaul until Vercingetorix holed up in the fortified city of Alesia, which Caesar could not take. On top of that, Vercingetorix summoned his Gallic allies to attack the Romans who were stationed outside Alesia. The Romans were able to defend themselves from Gallic attacks within and without the city until Vercingetorix surrendered. There were more campaigns to wipe out the last elements of resistance, but Caesar had successfully conquered Gaul for Rome.
5. Caesar went as far as Britain and Germany
Back in 56 BC, Caesar started a new campaign against the Veneti tribe, which had taken Roman hostages and threatened to kill them unless the Romans sent them food. The Romans were victorious after a long campaign on sea and land. Afterwards Caesar started two controversial campaigns: one across the Rhine River in what the Romans called Germania, and one across the English Channel in what the Romans called Britannia. Neither campaign yielded much fruit, but the fact that Caesar had crossed into the “barbarian” lands of Britain and Germany left an impression on the minds of many Romans.
6. Caesar wrote about the Gallic Wars himself
One of the most important historical sources for the Gallic Wars is the Commentari de Bello Gallico, or Commentary on the Gallic Wars, written by Julius Caesar himself. With this book, Caesar could record the history of the Gallic Wars for posterity, while also defending his actions to the Romans, many of whom were suspicious of his imperialist tendencies. Although Caesar is most famous for his dictatorship over the Roman Republic, his conquests during the Gallic Wars supplied him with the support and resources he would require to change the course of Roman history.
Though we’re all familiar with the animated female warrior turned Disney princess, Hua Mulan has a much larger background and story than what we see on screen. Like most Disney films, both the animated and live-action versions of Mulan are based on folklore. Unlike Cinderella and Rapunzel, however, Mulan could very well have been a real warrior.
Hua Mulan is deeply rooted in Chinese culture.
Definitive proof has yet to be found of Mulan’s existence, but many believe she was a real person. The legend of Mulan inspired the construction of shrines, tomb sites, statues and tablet inscriptions in her name, immortalizing her presence in Chinese culture.
The best evidence for Mulan’s existence is an ancient poem.
Mulan is projected to have existed between 420 and 589 CE, during the Northern and Southern Dynasties. The most well-known and oldest written documentation of her story is in “The Ballad of Mulan,” a 360-word poem that was most likely written around 400 AD during the Northern Wei Dynasty.
In the original Ballad, Mulan’s story sounds eerily familiar to Disney’s version. In it, a teenaged Mulan dresses as a man to take her father’s place in the army. That’s where the similarities end.
Unlike the Disney movie version, in the Ballad, Mulan receives the consent of her mother before leaving for active duty. Instead of her gender-swapping scheme being discovered, she maintains the charade throughout the war. When she returns home after many years of service, her younger siblings and parents prepare a feast as a welcoming gift. They invite her many fellow soldiers to the celebration as well. When the party commences, however, Mulan sheds her menswear for traditional female dress and makeup, much to the surprise of her former brothers-in-arms.
Although she is offered awards and promotions from the Emporer, Mulan refuses and retires in her hometown. Little is known about her actual home province, but the Ballad points to the Yellow River and the Yan Mountain, which many people assume is her birthplace.
Another version of Mulan’s story is a 16th-century play.
In this version, 17-year-old Mulan is still a female warrior who also takes her father’s place, but with the addition of having bound feet. Foot-binding was a popular practice in China at the time, and in this Mulan morph plays a dramatic part in her character’s symbolism. As if it wasn’t hard enough going beyond her place to enlist, she had to do it on tiny, broken feet.
Unlike in other versions, Mulan is already well versed in martial arts, archery, and sword fighting, after being trained by her father since birth. He initially disapproves of her decision to take his place in the war, so she challenges him to a sword fight and wins him over with her knowledge of combat.
Though the play does depict some rather progressive character traits for a woman of traditional ancient China, it sticks to most traditional gender standards of the time. Mulan unbinds her feet in order to wear men’s shoes for her military attire, but upon returning from service, she rebinds them. After her return from war, she enters an arranged marriage.
Subsequent retellings illustrate how military gender norms have evolved.
Many later versions of Mulan’s story exist. For centuries, her popularity centered around challenging gender norms in a non-threatening way.
In a 17th century novel, the Historical Romance of the Sui and Tan Dynasties, once Mulan returns home from battle and reveals her gender, she is summoned by way of imperial order to become a palace consort. In order to preserve her purity, Mulan commits suicide. This particular plot details how female purity was prioritized over all else during the period.
Mulan’s story was been held up by traditional Chinese authors throughout the years for her virtue, commitment, courage, and filial piety. Though her story leaves room for plenty of variation, her fundamental societal wrongdoing is to take on a traditionally male role. The story justifies it because of Mulan’s motives; She defies gender norms, but only to save her father and to serve her country.
During the 1930s, her story began to depart from its traditional message. First, she became a national icon and morale booster for the fight against Japanese invasion. Later, she effectively became a national mascot during China’s Communist era for gender equality within the country.
When the 20th century hit, Mulan was introduced to Western literature in Maxine Hong Kingston’s book, Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts, published in 1976. The book sparked a new era for the legend in which she was a victorious, bold, gender-defying hero. By the time Disney’s animated Mulan came out in 1998, her story had a considerably more empowering message than its literary predecessors.
The real Mulan was an icon of cultural change, inside the military and out.
Whether or not she was a real person, her story was relatable and empowering to women of service throughout the centuries. Even during the 20th century, women were often expected to return to traditionally female roles as soon as their military commitment was over– much like Mulan did.
Today, Mulan stands as an inspiration to children and adults alike. While the US military welcomes women into many of the same service roles as men, female service members still face criticism from those who believe a woman’s first duty is to be home with her children. Because of challenges like these, her story will likely remain relevant for many years to come.
With the help of Pearl Harbor survivors, Janet Glen Tomlinson created Home of the Brave Tours Museum, a one-of-a-kind WWII Military Base Tour along with the largest private collection of 1940’s memorabilia in the Pacific. As curators of this extensive collection, the Tomlinsons have received numerous awards and accolades for their work in educating the public about the rich heritage, sacrifices and traditions of the United States military.
The Home of the Brave Museum is a one-of-a-kind treasure trove of artifacts, stories, and memories of our American Military that fought to save our country and liberate the world during our darkest hours. The extensive collection exists to preserve wartime legacies, as well as to honor the sacrifice and victory of our nation’s great servicemen and women.
Their goal is to maintain the extensive collection and expand the property into an interactive learning center to further promote awareness, gratitude, and documentation of America’s military heritage for public interest and educational purposes.
Last year, the revenue needed to operate the museum was cut off due to the termination of their exclusive military base tour. This was due to security concerns from Homeland Security increased competition from larger tour operators who offer larger commission structures to the sales agents selling and promoting Pearl Harbor Tours. The five star “mom pop” tour operation just couldn’t compete with the “big boys.”
The Foundation offers exciting and engaging ways to delve into America’s military legacy as well as educational (hand-on history) and entertainment opportunities for school groups, senior centers, local, military, and island visitors.
“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – President Harry S. Truman
Names like Blackbeard and The Barbarossa Brothers may ring a bell. They conjure visions of a billowing Jolly Rogers flag, bands of thieving pirates, and of poor souls walking the plank to their watery graves. But you probably also picture only men. Contrary to popular belief, female pirates have also sailed the high seas, from the very beginning of piracy’s existence.
These swashbuckling female pirates left their mark on history. They defied odds when women weren’t even permitted on ships, commanded crews, and carried out some of the wildest heists in history.
Madame Ching, also known as Cheng I Sao, was a pirate who terrorized the China Sea in the early 19th century. She commanded over 300 ships, and 40,000 pirates, including men, women, and even children. Skirmishes with the British Empire, Portuguese Empire and the Qing dynasty were common during her reign.
But Madame Ching wasn’t always a successful pirate. She was born in 1775 and is believed to have worked in a brothel until she was in her late teens. Then in 1801, she met Cheng I, a notorious pirate with whom she fell in love. They were married and adopted a son, Cheung Po, who was being taught the ways of piracy by Cheng I. Allying with Madame Ching allowed Cheng to access the alliance and powers of the mainland underworld. Madame Ching, a cunning woman, only allowed his access on the condition that she have equal control and share of their fortune.
Six years after the two were married, Cheng died. Madame Ching took advantage of the opening. She was one of the few female pirates who was fully accepted by an entirely male crew, being adopted wholeheartedly by Cheng I’s crew. Madame Ching rose to become one of China’s most notorious pirates. Once she was in charge, Madame Ching also instituted a code of law for her pirates unlike any seen before. They included prohibition from stealing from friendly villagers, beheading for any rapes, and more.
By the time Madame Ching died in 1844, she held numerous coastal villages under her control, levying taxes and protecting towns from other pirates.
Despite Anne Bonny’s historic reputation, very little is known about her life. We know she was an Irish pirate who spent most of her life in the Caribbean. She’s thought to have been born somewhere near Cork, Ireland in the late 1600s or early 1700s. She and her father moved to London after a fight with his wife—who was not Anne’s mother. He began dressing her as a boy around that time. They later moved to Carolina, then Nassau in the Bahamas.
There, Anne met John “Calico Jack” Rackham, a well-known pirate captain. The two quickly became secret lovers, although Anne had already married James Bonny. She was brought on board his ship in her old male disguise.
She took equal part in combat alongside the men, becoming well-liked amongst the crew. Together, they plundered the waters surrounding Jamaica. However, in 1720, Rackham and his crew were attacked by a patrolling ship commissioned by the Governor of Jamaica. Most were taken off guard and too drunk to fight, but Bonny and a female crewmate (and rumored lover), Mary Read, held off the assailants for at least a short while.
Eventually, the entire crew was taken, convicted and hanged. Both Read and Bonny were able to gain a stay of execution due to their “delicate conditions” (read: pregnancies). However, Read died in prison, most likely during childbirth or from its aftereffects. Bonny gave birth in prison, then was released. Her fate after this is unknown. Some believe she actually died in prison, others that she escaped and returned to a life of piracy.
Grace O’Malley has become a legendary figure in Irish folklore despite her very real roots—she was even an inspiration for Anne Bonny to take up piracy. From a young age, O’Malley longed to follow in her father’s footsteps as a privateer on the seas. She once asked her father if she could join him on a trading venture to Spain. She was promptly rejected: Her father said her hair was too long and would get caught in the ship’s ropes. In response, O’Malley chopped off her hair.
With this proof of her seriousness, her father backed down, and she joined him on his next journey to Spain. Upon his death, she took control of the family’s land and sea despite having a brother. She paraded up and down the coastline thieving and bringing her findings back to her family’s coastal stronghold.
Her marriage to Donal an Chogaidh brought her even greater wealth and power. She had three children, including a daughter who took after her mother. When an Chogiaidh was murdered in an attack on his lands, O’Malley was ready to seek vengeance. She launched an attack on Doona castle, whose owners were thought to be responsible. The ferocity of this attack left her with a lasting nickname: the Dark Lady of Doona.
Later in life, O’Malley had an ongoing battle with Sir Richard Bingham, an English officer who was responsible for the Tudor conquest of England. Irish nobles like O’Malley were unwilling to give up their freedom of rule and fought viciously against the Tudor monarchy. After her sons were captured during a battle, O’Malley decided to visit the Tudor court to plead for their freedom.
She and Queen Elizabeth spoke in Latin, their common language (Elizabeth spoke no Irish, O’Malley no English). O’Malley refused to bow to the queen, as doing so would recognize her rights as the Queen of Ireland. The court was scandalized by O’Malley’s behavior, including blowing her nose in front of the queen. Their meeting resolved in O’Malley’s sons’ freedom and the removal of Bingham from Ireland. O’Malley continued to support the Irish insurgency by sea and land until her death in (approximately) 1603.
Beloved by Irish nationalists, O’Malley was renamed Gráinne Mhaol after her death and held up as a symbol of Irish indepence.
4. Sadie Farrell
Though there is some speculation about whether she actually existed, Sadie Farrell, also called Sadie the Goat, was an American criminal, gang leader, and river pirate who operated primarily in and around Manhattan. Her nickname emerges from how she would attack her victims on land: ramming headfirst into her target’s gut while a nearby acquaintance readied their slingshot.
When she tired of thieving on land, Sadie traveled to the waterfront in West Side Manhattan. It was here that she witnessed a failed attempt by the Charlton Street Gang to board a small riverboat and rob it. She offered up her services to the group and soon became their leader. Within days, she’d organized a highly successful theft which ignited her career as a pirate.
She and the Charlton Street Gang would soon be seen sailing up and down the Hudson and Harlem Rivers raiding small villages with a Jolly Roger flying from their sloop’s masthead. She was notorious for kidnapping men, women and children for ransom and is said to have made countless men walk the plank. Within a few months, people began anticipating the gang’s raids and what successes they had became smaller. Eventually, the gang returned to the Bowery for the more consistent life offered there.
This Breton pirate sailed the English Channel during the 1300s, and in these years earned the title Lioness of Brittany. Born in 1300, de Clisson was married first at 12. She had two children during her first marriage. Her husband, despite being only seven years older than her, died in 1326. Jeanne remarried twice after this. Her third and final marriage was rather unusual for the time—it seemed to be a love match. She and Oliver de Clisson had five children together, one of whom may have been born before they were actually married.
Her path to piracy began during the Breton War of Succession. For most of the fight, she sided with the French. That is, until her husband was lured onto French soil under the guise of achieving some kind of peace deal. He and his companions were captured, with their peers alleging that they had committed treason with the British. They were all tried and beheaded.
As revenge, de Clisson raised a force of loyal men and started attacking French forces in Brittany. With the English king’s help, she decorated three warships completely in black and, so the tale goes, wrote “My Revenge” across the vessels. It was on these ships that she patrolled the English Channel, hunting down and destroying French ships for 13 years before calling it quits. Jeanne seemingly decided that she had achieved sufficient vengeance out of nowhere and simply stopped wreaking terror upon the high seas. She died in a small port town on the Brittany coast in 1359.
Though Sayyida al Hurra never sailed much, if at all, she was regarded as a queen of the pirates in the Mediterranean. Between 1515 and 1542, she was both the actual Queen of Tétouan in northern Morocco and a pirate queen. She controlled the western Mediterranean Sea and was well-respected throughout the Mediterranean for her ability to rule on her own terms and to resist occupation when her power was threatened. In fact, her name means “noble lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority.”
She was born into a family of power in 1485, and quickly rose in ranks, marrying Tétouan’s ruler in her teens. When he died, she became ruler in her own right, at about 30. Not long after, the King of Fez, another Moroccan city, sought Sayyida’s hand. They were married, and Sayyida began realizing how piracy could revitalize her city after invading Christian forces devastated it.
By 1523, Sayyida was running the Mediterranean Sea. Her pirates stalked Portuguese shipping routes, stealing goods and money for the benefit of Tétouan. Although it’s possible that Sayyida was never actually on board any of her ships, her strategy and skill were able to create the opportunities that her people needed to rebuild Sayyida’s most beloved city.
7. Charlotte de Berry
De Berry is another possibly mythic female pirate. Stories of her life only appear in writing two centuries after her supposed death. Despite this, many believe that Charlotte de Berry did in fact exist and did take to the seas.
Born in the mid-1600s, de Berry grew up in England. In her late teens, de Berry fell in love with a sailor, married him, and started on her journey to piracy. Disguised as a man, she joined her husband onboard and fought valiantly alongside her crew. After one of the ship’s crew discovered that de Berry was a woman, her husband was killed. De Berry barely managed to escape, shedding her sailor garb and posing as a woman working on the docks.
While she was working on the docks, a captain kidnapped de Berry and forced her to marry him. He was brutal to de Berry. In order to escape him, she convinced the crew to betray their captain. De Berry decapitated him before the crew, and took his role as captain of the ship.
For many years following, she sailed the seas, attacking ships and stealing their treasures. She fell in love with a Spaniard, and invited him to join her crew. Shortly after they were shipwrecked. Most of the crew perished, including de Berry’s lover. The survivors were rescued by a Dutch ship, but de Berry jumped into the ocean rather than leave her lover behind. Her fate after this is unknown.
This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.
Any enlisted Navy sailor can tell you that their dress uniform wouldn’t be as famous today without one of its most iconic pieces — the historic neckerchief.
Reportedly, the neckerchief made its first appearance in the 16th century and was primarily worn as a sweat rag and to protect the sailor’s neck from rubbing raw against their stiff collared shirts.
In some cases, the 36-square-inch silk fabric could also be used as a battle dressing or tourniquet in a life saving situation.
The color black was picked to hide any dirt or residue that built up during wear.
In 1817, the Navy wanted each one of its sailors to tie their neckerchief the same way, so it introduce the square knot. The square knot was hand-picked because it was commonly used on ships to secure its cargo.
The knot was later added to the dress blue uniform to represent the hardworking Navy tradition, and it remains that way today.
How to tie a square knot:
During the inspection, each sailor is carefully examined by a senior at least twice a year. While under observation, the sailor must display a properly tied square knot which needs to hang at the bottom of the jumper’s V-neck opening, and the ends of the neckerchief must appear even as shown above.
Do you remember your first uniform inspection? Comment below.
Garlin Conner charged alone into the cold abyss, toward the massive silhouettes of German tanks in the distance.
Clutching a telephone, radio and wire, the first lieutenant carried himself through the frigid January air, toward 600 encroaching Germans and the enemy rounds he knew were coming.
Conner could not turn back if he wanted to.
His company needed a guide to cut into the surging German infantry or risk getting overrun. The Kentucky marksman always fought in front of his men, and his fellow soldiers trusted him to lead. Conner often fired at the opposition standing while others ducked for cover.
Conner could see the enemy before they spotted him, fellow soldiers wrote.
The thunder of the German rifles didn’t rattle him. His father had raised him to be fearless while hunting wild game in the woods of southern Kentucky. A bullet wound in his left hip could not keep him from returning to the front lines, nor could orders to remain at a military field hospital. On a frigid winter morning in 1945, Conner would once more put himself between his fellow soldiers and the onslaught of enemy fire.
This time, in a snow-covered forest, 5-foot-6-inch Conner faced the full brunt of German forces. On Jan. 24, the Nazi-led German army mounted a desperate surge to split American units near the French-German border.
Conner headed toward the flurry of bullets until he ducked into a shallow, snowy ditch.
Here in the frozen French countryside, amid rampant automatic fire, Conner would make what could be his final stand, guiding American artillery toward the German infantry. Here, Conner would remain until American forces stopped the Germans, or until a bullet stopped him.
When locals in the rural farming town of Albany, Kentucky, would ask Garlin “Murl” Conner about his time in World War II, he’d hush them quickly.
“I’d done what I had to do,” Conner said in soldier accounts, “and that’s all there is to it.”
After returning to Clinton County following the war and starting a tobacco farm, the decorated Army veteran decided he had seen enough of the world and the horrors of armed combat. Conner had found peace plowing fields in the shadows of the Appalachians.
Conner never boasted about his acts of bravery.
For more than 53 years until his death in 1998, he rarely spoke about the war again — not to his wife, Pauline, or even to a fellow soldier.
During the two decades since Conner died of complications related to heart and kidney failure, others took up the cause the farmer so adamantly declined. Former Army Green Beret Richard Chilton, with the support of seven retired generals, presented Conner’s bid for the Medal of Honor to the Army’s personnel records office.
The curious case of Conner, who held a war record so compelling that it rivals the accolades of the more famous veteran Audie Murphy, baffled those who knew him. In all, Conner spent more than 800 days on the front lines in World War II. He suffered seven combat wounds while earning four Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the French military decoration Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross.
And yet, in an effort to get Conner recognized with a Medal of Honor, Chilton and his team endured a difficult quest that spanned decades. A federal district court rejected Conner’s initial bid for the award. In the 2014 ruling, a federal judge in Kentucky told a heartbroken Pauline that she had not filed her husband’s paperwork in time.
Conner had for decades shied away from talk of the award, much like he avoided any conversation of his four years in the Army. Still, his family continued to cling to hope that one day Conner would earn the U.S. military’s highest distinction.
Old Kentucky home
A curving paved road leads to Murl and Pauline Conner’s red brick farmhouse wedged near the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Kentucky, two miles north of the Tennessee state line.
Blue skies hang over Albany’s green rolling landscape, as plowed fields seem to shine under the midday sun. Cardinals outside the one-story house chirp as a light wind sweeps by. This farm, cradled in the hilly terrain of Clinton County, hid the story of a man whose steely courage withstood the gravest circumstances.
Just footsteps down the road from the farm, Murl’s son Paul, and his wife Kathy, live in a modular home that was built to replace their home that had been destroyed by a tornado. Paul took over the farm after his father suffered a heart attack on a spring day in 1979.
He spent long hours planting tobacco plants before the farm transitioned into raising cattle as its primary product.
Born nine years after Conner returned from the war, Paul contrasts his dad in appearance. Burly and stout, he sports a much larger frame than his father, who had been thin and wiry, at 5-foot-6-inches tall, and weighing only 120 pounds during active duty.
Paul shares his father’s love of animals. And Paul raised his four children with the same grounded morals he learned from his father. Paul said his father offered sound advice that Paul would later instill in his children. “Be a man of your word,” Paul recalled his dad saying. “Do what you say. If you can’t fulfill a promise, don’t make it. Be mindful of people around you because everyone has feelings.”
In the family’s living room, Paul sits next to a black and white portrait of Murl as a young soldier, flanked by faded portraits of Paul’s children and grandchildren. Decorated with beige ceramic lamps, rustic wooden chairs and shelves, the room has changed little since Pauline and her husband moved into the home more than 50 years ago.
For decades the photo loomed over the room. As a boy, Paul occasionally would stare at the black and white picture in awe.
When he asked his father about his time in the Army, he’d receive the same cold response: “We went over there, we did what we had to do,” Paul recalled his father saying. “And it needs to stay over there.”
Paul grew up without knowing the full extent of his father’s achievements on the battlefield. And for the most part, so did Pauline.
Generations have passed since the soldier with only an eighth-grade education used wit and intelligence to thwart enemy advances. But buried in eyewitness accounts and in the testimonials of fellow soldiers, Conner’s heroic deeds remained etched in history, unknown to his family and many of Albany’s residents.
“I just thought he was a farmer and he did a little something in the war,” said Walton Haddix, a family friend of the Conners. “But he never would talk about it. He never mentioned anything he did in the military.”
Outside of his war medals, this 200-acre farm on the lower east end of Clinton County is Conner’s lasting legacy. The family purchased the plot of land in 1949, after the government bought the family’s previous farm to make way for the Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland Reservoir. With his time in service long behind him, Conner turned his attention to his farm and raising Paul.
He never boasted about his wartime achievements, telling his wife he didn’t want to appear to be bragging. After all, Conner’s five brothers also served in the military: four in World War II and one in the Korean War.
As a farmer, he took pride in working on his farm, where he could often be found in his long-sleeved khaki shirt, farmer’s billed cap and overalls, riding a tractor or teaching Paul how to grow tobacco from the soil.
But the war never truly left him. Sometimes, at night, Conner would wake, gripped with tension and reliving moments from the battlefield, said his wife. Instead of returning to bed, Conner would retreat to the family’s wooden porch, where he lingered for hours smoking cigarettes.
The episodes at times became so traumatic, Pauline declines to talk in detail about them. Pauline said her husband suffered symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness that had not yet been widely identified until the Vietnam War.
“If anyone had PTSD, it was Murl,” Pauline said.
Conner carried the burden internally, never voicing his anguish to his family. The last time Conner had spoken publicly about the war, it happened to be the same day Pauline laid eyes on her future husband for the first time.
A hero’s welcome
On a bright spring day in May 1945, the Wells family heard that a war hero, a native of Clinton County, would be returning after four years overseas.
The local American Legion post organized a parade in the town square to welcome back a war veteran whose bravery had townspeople talking. They traveled from surrounding counties, some by wagon. Others drove in by car, while some came on foot.
Garlin Murl Conner, a farmer’s son who voluntarily joined the Army in 1941, had come home from the war.
Pauline Wells, still in her teenage years, climbed into the back of the family’s horse-drawn wagon along with her two brothers, two sisters and her parents at the family’s farm in northern Clinton County. They drove the wagon along a dirt trail, 10 miles to the town square. The county’s schools dismissed classes early so students could attend the parade.
Pauline’s family learned that following the parade, Conner would be speaking to the crowd about the war. So townspeople crowded into the second floor of the old courthouse. Sergeant Alvin C. York, the most decorated soldier of the First World War, also attended, beginning what became a lifelong friendship with Conner. Pauline leaned onto the wooden bench in the back row to hear Conner speak.
“I was expecting a giant of a man,” Pauline said.
When Conner finally emerged before the crowd, his appearance stunned Pauline. Wearing his olive-colored military dress uniform, the lieutenant’s small stature underwhelmed the young Pauline. With narrow shoulders, and a slender frame, Conner hardly appeared like heroes in storybooks.
“That little wharf rat,” Pauline said to her mother, Tressie. “He couldn’t have done all the things they said he’d done.”
But unbeknownst to Pauline and her family, Conner had long proved his mettle to U.S. forces, the Allies, and fellow soldiers, his commanding officer would say.
Conner was a quiet man of few words. The native of nearby Aaron, Kentucky, stood before the crowded courtroom and said what would be his last public statements about his time in the war.
“It gives me great pleasure,” Conner began, “to be able to come out here today. I am not a speaker, and did not come here to make a speech.”
“But,” Conner continued, “I will try to explain to you a small part of the war in Europe and some of the things I saw.”
Conner didn’t mince words. He talked first about the early November morning in 1942 when his unit first landed on the shore of Fedala, Morocco, in support of Operation Torch. American and Allied forces wrested control of North Africa from the Axis powers in only three days.
He moved onto the invasion of Licata, Sicily, a war-ravaged city that lay in tatters after 38 days of continuous fighting. Through his 10-minute testimony, Conner didn’t talk about his medals, or the times he fought on the front lines ahead of his men. Instead he spoke of his unit’s achievements, and how they survived the changing elements and terrain.
Finally, Conner touched on his unit’s trek into southern France and a difficult battle in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. But he didn’t say a word about any of his selfless, valorous acts. Nor did he mention a fateful January morning near a small French village during the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, when for three hours in the winter of 1945, he risked his life so his unit could survive.
At any cost
On the morning of Jan. 24, 1945, the men of the K Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division entered the Brunwald Woods near Houssen, France.
As U.S. troops scrambled to reinforce their position in the small village near the German-French border, a bitter cold swept over eastern France, creating a stinging chill.
As the frigid wind stung their faces, K Company’s soldiers marched into the snow to take on a Battalion of desperate German soldiers.
Conner had rejoined his unit in the French countryside while still recovering from a sniper bullet wound in his left hip. Conner, knowing a crucial battle loomed, had earlier slipped out of the field hospital in northern France and returned to the front lines.
Upon his return, Conner learned that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, had made arrangements to send him home. Conner had earned eligibility to return to Kentucky based on his time served and accolades earned. Ramsey removed Conner from the front lines and reassigned him to serve as his intelligence officer in battalion headquarters for his own safety.
Hitler’s army, facing looming defeat, countered American forces with desperate barrage after barrage, attacking U.S. forces with ruthless resolve. The German assaults gravely concerned Ramsey. The day before, the Germans had rallied for a fierce offensive against another company, costing the Americans 25 men.
Ramsey needed a patrol team to scout the enemy’s position, but resources ran thin.
Conner, still ailing from his hip injury, once again volunteered to take a patrol and said he would attempt to use direct artillery to halt the German offensive. Ramsey, knowing the weight of Conner’s previous contributions and his pending return home, reluctantly agreed.
“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote. “(He was) always willing to do more than his part.”
Conner had built a reputation as an expert scout and marksman. The soldier from the Bluegrass State had earned the respect of his fellow soldiers by fearlessly confronting the enemy and taking dangerous missions. Maurice Williams, a soldier who served under Conner, said Conner’s background as a Kentucky outdoorsman helped prepare him to go undetected in combat. Raised on a farm during the Depression era, Conner learned to become a skilled marksman and hunter.
“He could go through the woods unnoticed,” Haddix, the family friend, said. “And if a squirrel (was) in a tree somewhere and move its tail, he could see it.”
While other soldiers would go on night scouting missions with team members, Conner operated alone.
Conner had fostered such a respect from his fellow soldiers, and had performed with such distinction, that he earned a battlefield commission at Anzio. Conner, along with the highly-decorated Murphy, both served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which suffered more casualties than any other during World War II.
“He always led from the front,” wrote Williams, who fought alongside Conner earlier in the war. “And his platoon felt safe following him.”
At about 8 a.m. on Jan. 24, a sudden barrage of light artillery swept on the American troops. Six German Panzer tanks emerged from the frigid air, flanked by a battalion of 600 German soldiers descending on K Company. The powerful, 9-foot tall tanks nearly spanned 27 feet across and 12 feet wide.
“The Americans, the Allies, had nothing like it,” said Luther Conner, President of Clinton County’s historical society. “It was the most potent war weapon at that time. It was just a monster. It caused fear just for a soldier to see the size of it.”
Two thirds of the battalion pushed toward K Company, attempting to split and divide the Americans. A week earlier, a German Panzer division attacked Second Battalion’s 600 soldiers. About 100 returned to their units. Germans killed or took the remainder as prisoners.
Near Houssen, K Company faced similar odds. Conner knew his unit’s only chance in the wintry conditions rested in his hands. He needed to guide artillery fire on the Germans.
Conner saw the towering frames of German Panzers barrelling through the forest. Without a moment’s hesitation, the soldier sprinted straight toward tanks, carrying a telephone, radio, and wire reel.
Conner uncoiled the wire as exploding shells and wood splinters from the surrounding woods showered upon him. Conner ran nearly 400 yards toward the enemy, ignoring warnings from his unit, said Chilton.
He did not stop until he had advanced 30 yards past the American Infantry front line.
There, in a shallow ditch beneath the January snow, Conner planted himself before the oncoming German fire. And for three hours, Conner laid like immovable rock under a violent wave, directing artillery rounds onto the German infantry. As swarm after swarm of German soldiers came like an avalanche upon him, Conner, barked directions and coordinates to battalion headquarters.
“Although he was in a prone position, the ditch only covered part of his body,” wrote 1st Lt. Harold Wigetman, who served as the S-3 in 3rd Battalion. “He was wedged in there so tight, that it was almost impossible for him to move or shift his position.”
The Germans soon grew aware of the lone figure in the snow guiding the American artillery. German soldiers began to swarm and surround Conner and the Americans. The German army mounted a final surge to overwhelm the American forces.
Conner, seeing the enemy close, made a lasting, drastic choice to defeat the German infantry.
Conner directed American artillery rounds toward his position, and the surrounding Germans. As the enemy attack continued to unfurl, Conner put himself in peril so that his unit could achieve victory.
“He cared about his men more than he cared about himself,” Chilton said.
With bullets flying toward him from both directions, Conner never wavered. At one point, a German soldier ran within five yards of Conner clutching a grenade before an American stopped him. Haddix said Conner dispatched German soldiers with his submachine gun.
“With icy self-control, he kept telephoning his directions,” Wigetman wrote, “although he must have seen that the (Germans) would have killed him before he could get on his feet.”
The American onslaught led by Conner overwhelmed the German attack. By the time the final rounds fell, Conner’s actions had resulted in killing 50 German soldiers and leaving more than 150 wounded. American munitions destroyed the six German tanks.
“I saw elements waver … their fighting spirit broken by the deadly concentration of (American) fire,” Wigetman wrote.
Conner paid a heavy toll for his valor during the war. The injury to his left hip would hamper his mobility for the rest of his life. Like many veterans of his generation, Conner did not think highly of anything he had achieved in Europe, his wife said.
“He was always very humble,” Pauline said. “He did what he felt like he had to do to protect our freedom to vote and our freedom of speech, which we have truly earned from what he did and others like him.”
Ramsey called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen. Troops who remembered him noted Conner’s cool resolve under the most difficult conditions.
Wrote Williams in his journal, “I had such confidence in (Lt.) Conner. I would have followed him anywhere he wanted to go.”
In the years after Conner’s heart attack in 1979, he found a new calling. He listened with concern to stories of soldiers who had not received their veteran’s affairs benefits. Some servicemen struggled with living expenses after they left the service.
Conner and his wife would drive across Clinton County’s 196 square miles of rolling hills and farmland to meet with vets. They extended their travels to 10 neighboring counties. Once a month they would place their paperwork and a suitcase in their Buick sedan and travel to veterans’ homes or meet them at their office in the courthouses. Pauline acted as his secretary, fielding phone calls and helping her husband coordinate his appointments with the veterans in need.
The night episodes continued through the years, Pauline said. And Conner still struggled to sleep on some nights. But helping other veterans, she said, helped him find peace.
“(Assisting veterans) became his life,” Paul said.
But listening to the tales of other soldiers and hearing about their struggles awakened a longing in Conner he thought that he had long buried.
Throughout his four years in the Army, Conner’s concerns rested with his soldiers, never seeking personal glory, but always on the lookout for how he could help, whether scouting the enemy position, or finding ways to help retired vets file their military records. But hearing their stories, Pauline said, she noticed for the first time regret.
That regret became clear in 1996, his wife said.
Chilton, a former Army Green Beret from Wisconsin, wrote a letter to Conner in search of information on his late uncle, Pfc. Gordon Roberts, who was killed after landing at Anzio. Conner, no longer able to speak or write, invited Chilton to his Albany home.
Chilton visited Conner on a fall day in 1996. He sat with Conner in the family living room, and asked him questions about his uncle and the war, while Conner nodded his answers from his wheelchair.
Chilton learned that Conner had indeed served with his uncle, and that Conner had carried his uncle in his last moments to a medical aid station. Conner, reliving a moment from 50 years prior, began to weep.
Pauline suggested that she could sort through her husband’s old war records to search for documentation of Roberts’ service. She carried her husband’s weathered, military green duffel bag out of the living room closet and pulled out old paperwork, records and medals contained inside a cardboard box.
As Chilton skimmed through the pages, his eyes widened. Chilton saw the decorations: the Purple Hearts and Bronze Star and Silver Stars. The Kentucky native had participated in eight major campaigns and had been wounded in each of the countries he toured.
“My God,” a stunned Chilton said to Pauline. “This man should have been awarded the Medal of Honor.”
Chilton, feeling sudden inspiration, asked Pauline and Garlin if he could pursue an application for the medal on Murl’s behalf. Pauline turned to her husband.
“I looked at [Garlin],” she said. “And he was looking at me so straight with tears in his eyes.”
Conner nodded his head yes. After 50 years, he was finally ready to apply for the honor that he had for so long been reluctant to seek.
“He’s my hero,” Pauline said, sitting in the Conner family’s living room, clutching the brown picture frame holding her husband’s black and white service photo. “He always has been.”
Wearing a black blazer and rose-colored blouse, her once-blonde locks have faded into gray. Now 89 years old, her voice wavers when she talks about the life of her late husband. She fondly recalls his humility and his quiet way of voicing his approval.
Finally, she talks about that spring night in 1945, when she and Garlin slipped away from Clinton County in his convertible with nothing but a homemade dress to get married at a courthouse in Rossville, Georgia. They would stop at a neighboring town on the way to Georgia to purchase clothing for Pauline. Pauline said Garlin’s patience and understanding swayed her to marry him after two weeks of dating.
Though their early marriage suffered the occasional bumps, Pauline stood by her husband’s side for more than five decades. Conner suffered a heart attack in 1979, after falling ill riding on the tractor. He underwent open heart surgery later that year, and a second surgery 11 years later.
In the years before his death, Garlin had battled numerous illnesses, including kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. He suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and no longer able to speak. Pauline took on the role of caretaker, cooking his meals and driving him to his medical appointments. She took a part-time job for additional income.
Conner passed mercifully on a November day in 1998. He was 79.
“The last few years my dad was alive, he wasn’t really alive,” Paul said. “It progressively got worse. I wish I hadn’t have had to see that part of it. But we can’t choose how we’re going to live and how the last days are going to be.”
At the Weldon Haddix Funeral home along Business Route 127 in Albany, hundreds waited in line to view Conner’s remains. In the rectangular, brick building nestled between local businesses on the north side of Albany, farmers, neighbors and veterans paid their respects. Veterans whom Conner had helped approached Pauline to express their gratitude for Conner’s assistance years ago. Neighboring farmers whom Conner helped as president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau also attended. To this day, Pauline said, veterans still greet her.
“They come up and hug me for what I’ve done, for what [Garlin] has done,” Pauline said. “And I always hug them and tell them I love every one of them.”
Conner’s acts left a lasting impression on Ramsey. The two remained in touch for decades through letters and phone calls. Ramsey later retired as a major general and suffered five combat wounds during his time in service. He encouraged Conner to apply for the medal over the years, Pauline said. But each time, Conner declined and the medals and decorations remained mostly untouched inside the duffel bag, in the living room closet.
Ramsey, whose 34-year career spanned three wars, wrote in 2006: “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve had the privilege of commanding.” The Army medically retired Ramsey in 1974.
A final plea
Chilton continued to press on Conner’s application for the Medal of Honor, writing letters and contacting politicians.
New evidence had been uncovered by Congressman Ed Whitfield’s office in the National Archives in Washington, including three eyewitness accounts written by fellow soldiers who fought on the front lines with Conner. The three affidavits painted in vivid detail accounts of Conner’s acts in January 1945. But even the affidavits would not be enough.
The Army Board for Correction of Military Records rejected Chilton’s original application for Conner’s eligibility for the medal. Haddix assembled a legal team, headed by Dennis Shepherd of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs as lead trial counsel, and included Luther Conner, who also serves as the Conner family’s lawyer, to begin work on a lawsuit which was filed in federal court. That lawsuit would obtain a ruling ordering the Board to grant Pauline a new hearing and to consider the new evidence.
In 2014, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell ruled that the statute of limitations to correct Conner’s military record had expired and that the family could no longer continue to seek the award.
After the judge dismissed Pauline’s case in 2014, she said she had lost hope. She returned to Albany and resigned herself to the idea that her husband’s decorated service record would remain as it was, without the addition of the honor that Conner’s family and friends felt he deserved. Despite the backing of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, several generals and Congressman Ed Whitfield, Conner’s chances for the Medal dimmed.
But then, on March 2, 2015, Conner’s case reached a turning point at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. During the appeal for Conner’s Medal of Honor bid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill was assigned to represent the government’s stance against Conner’s case. For 15 minutes, Hill defended the Army’s previous stance during the proceedings, saying the case should be left alone.
But then, in a closing moment of abject candor, Hill revealed her true feelings.
Hill broke into tears, as she discussed her father’s service as an officer in the same unit as Conner during World War II. She said her father suffered a severe leg injury on Jan. 25, 1945, one day after Conner’s heroic acts.
“For all I know,” she said. “Garlin Conner may have … helped save his life.”
Hill’s words, according to an Associated Press report, convinced the panel to submit Conner’s case to a federal mediator. The mediator then directed the ABCMR to grant a new hearing and to consider all evidence, including the recently discovered eyewitness accounts. The following October, the Board granted “full relief” to Pauline’s request to upgrade Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.
Still, Conner’s bid for the medal needed further approval from the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Defense, and the president.
Last March, Pauline received a call from a military officer at the Pentagon who told her to expect an important phone call from a high-ranking DOD official regarding her husband. Could this be the phone call she had been waiting for? It must be a trick, Pauline thought, and she called Luther Conner, the family’s attorney, to confirm its validity. When Luther gave his assurances, Pauline still asked Luther, and his wife Susan, to sit with her for the important call.
The following Monday the phone rang.
“Is this Lyda Conner?” asked a man with a gruff, New York accent.
“I go by Pauline,” she said.
“You sound just like an old country gal,” the man said.
“I am,” Pauline said, soon realizing the caller was the president.
“It’s a beautiful place down there where you live,” President Trump said.
“Yes it is,” Pauline said, as she sat in the family’s tidy living room, amid family photos of Conner, her son, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Outside, redbirds chirped in the cool spring air.
“You are the widow of Lieutenant Garlin Conner?” Trump asked.
“I am,” she confirmed.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Trump said, “Well I’ve got some good news for you. He has a wonderful military record — one of the best I’ve ever seen. I am going to award him the Medal of Honor.”
The news soon spread to the rest of the Conner family, Conner’s legal team and Clinton County’s residents. Chilton, who spent much of his own time and money on Conner’s journey, could breathe a sigh of relief. Chilton traveled across the country in his quest to bring the Medal of Honor to the Conner family. He’d conducted dozens of interviews with former veterans who knew Conner. Nearly all have since passed. Chilton also penned what he said could be hundreds of hand-written letters to congressmen and to the Army.
A 22-year quest for a man who left everything on the battlefield had finally ended. Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony June 26.
“It gets you kind of numb, you know?” Chilton said. “It sinks in and you understand it. You realize how long you’ve been after it and how long you’ve been doing it. I was just kind of numb … I felt good for him. I felt good for his wife; she suffered through all this stuff. I felt good for (Paul). They’ll all know this forever: (he’s) a hero.”
Pauline was asked what she thought her husband would say if he was still alive. Pauline thought for a moment. And she recalled how her husband might not want the honor, and might brush it aside once more. He might defer credit to the men he fought alongside. But Pauline said she sensed her husband’s attitude toward the honor had changed during his waning years. She remembered his regret in the 1996 meeting with Chilton.
Maybe, Conner might just tip his cap, and smile.
“More than anything I miss him,” Pauline said wistfully. “And I wish he was here so he could go get the Medal himself. Because I think he would have been proud of it. I know he would have.”
“I always kept thinking he didn’t want it in his younger days. And he didn’t really. … When he got older, he wished he had.”
The story of Garlin Conner doesn’t lie in his heroic acts or in his courage under the grimmest of odds. His family says it lies in his unending desire to help others, whether guiding soldiers on the battlefields of Western Europe, or helping veterans in the rolling hills of Clinton County, Kentucky.
Chilton, a military veteran of 20 years, traveled the world with both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army during Desert Storm. Perhaps the Wisconsin resident put it best.
“I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve seen a lot,” Chilton said. “But I’ve never met anyone like Garlin Conner.”
Editor’s note: Garlin Murl Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House June 26, 2018. President Trump will present the Medal to Conner’s widow, Pauline, at the ceremony.
The “Star-Spangled Banner” is American lyrics laid on top of a British song to make one glorious national anthem. It details the endurance of American troops against a British naval bombardment at the Battle of Fort McHenry in 1814.
But while Americans singing the song at baseball games know that the U.S. came out victorious, Francis Scott Key and other witnesses of the battle had little to be optimistic about. The British brought more ships to the fight than the Americans had cannons on the fort.
The British planned a two-pronged assault on the city. The army would march overland to attack the city on foot while the navy was to destroy Fort McHenry and follow the river to the city. There, it would bombard the city and assist in its capture.
The ground attack seemed doomed from the start. About 12,000 American troops, many more than the British had expected, were guarding the city. So the British troops sat back and waited as dozens of British ships, including five of Britain’s eight bomb ketches, moved forward to bombard the fort that only had 19 guns with which to defend itself.
Luckily for the Americans, shallow waters around the fort kept some of the ships away. Unluckily for them, 16 ships were able to get within range of the fort while staying outside the range of the American guns.
Starting early on Sep. 13, the British fired on McHenry with rocket ships and bomb ketches. Bomb ketches were ships with a mortar or howitzer built into the deck. The gun could not be turned, so the ships were pointed at the fort and kept in place with spring-loaded anchor lines. The “bombs bursting in air,” came from these devastating ships.
Meanwhile, ships firing Congreve rockets sailed into range as well. The rockets were made in a variety of sizes. The ones that lit the night at Fort McHenry were mostly 32-pound rockets that carried seven pounds of explosives. They could explode in the air but were designed to be incendiary weapons, setting fires within forts and enemy ships.
One moment was more dangerous than any other for the defenders; a bomb fired from one of the ketches landed in the fort’s gunpowder supply. It failed to go off and the troops were able to split the gunpowder into smaller stores around the tiny island.
At another point, British Rear Adm. George Cockburn thought the fort had been badly damaged and moved the ships closer for better accuracy. American artillerymen rushed through the incoming shells and began firing when the British came within range, driving them back.
In the morning, he looked to the flagpole at first light to see if the fort had survived. If British colors were flying, Baltimore would be destroyed and America would lose a second major city in less than a month.
The flag had changed overnight, but not to the Union Jack. A storm that raged throughout the battle had forced the fort to fly its smaller American flag. Since the morning dawned clear, the garrison changed to its normal flag, a 42-foot by 30-foot beast.
Meanwhile, the British troops ashore saw the American flag flying and knew that the naval assault had failed. They withdrew and left Baltimore in relative safety.
The “Star-Spangled Banner” would be published in newspapers up and down the coast over the following few days under a variety of names, usually “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” One publication called it, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the name stuck.
There’s a fun fact that you can’t escape in the South: Coca-Cola used to have cocaine in it. The Coke brand is everywhere down here, and every 14-year-old will bring up the cocaine fact a couple of times a week for the first six months after they learn about it.
The fact that cocaine used to be offered in every town usually gets written off as an odd quirk of history, but it turns out the inventor had a good reason to appreciate the coca plant: he had a number of gunshot and saber wounds from the Civil War.
Coke was invented by John Stith Pemberton (the drink is named after the coca plant, not the inventor or company founder). Pemberton became a doctor at the ripe old age of 19 in 1850. He was a successful surgeon and chemist in the 1850s, but he signed up for frontline service when the Civil War broke out.
He didn’t serve as a doctor, though. He started as a first lieutenant in a cavalry unit in 1862 and climbed the ranks to lieutenant colonel. He faced his fiercest fighting when Union Gen. James Wilson attacked Columbus in 1865. Pemberton suffered multiple gunshots wounds and even a saber strike to his chest.
Pemberton would suffer for years from the wounds he took near Columbus, and he struggled against an opium addiction thanks to all the painkillers he was given. But Pemberton was, luckily, a skilled chemist and pharmacist. He moved to Atlanta after the war and developed new chemical products.
He became aware of a new European product already popular in Italy and France, wine infused with extracts from coca leaves. After a new business partnership in 1870, he was able to purchase the equipment to develop even more complex products.
In 1885, he made his own version of the coca-infused wines which he called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. One thing worth noting here, this isn’t technically cocaine in a drink. Coca leaves are a precursor to cocaine, but you have to use a solvent to extract cocaine sulfate from the leaves in order to get actual cocaine out. But Pemberton’s wine did have anesthetic effects like cocaine would.
The jump from French Wine Coca to Coca-Cola came when wine was threatened by alcohol prohibition in Atlanta and Pemberton decided to replace the sweetness from the wine with sweetness from sugar. After a few more changes to refine the taste, the product was renamed Coca-Cola and released in 1886.
It has gone through a few formula changes since, including switching fresh coca leaves out for spent coca leaves which have had the cocaine sulfate extracted. So, you know, you can’t get high from Coke anymore.
Kieran L. asks: Who started the conspiracy theory about the moon landing being fake?
Since the early 1970s conspiracy theorists have created ever more elaborate stories about how NASA faked the moon landings, much to the annoyance of the literal hundreds of thousands of people who worked in some capacity to make these missions a reality, and even more so to the men who were brave enough to sit in front of a massive controlled explosion, take a little jaunt through the soul crushing void of space in an extremely complex ship built by the lowest bidder, then get into another spacecraft whose ascent engine had never been test fired before they lit the candle, and all with the goal of exiting said ship with only a special suit between them and oblivion. And don’t even get the astronauts started on the paltry government salary they earned in doing all that and the hilarious lengths they had to go to to provide some semblance of a life insurance policy for their families should the worst happen during the missions. So who first got the idea that the moon landings were faked?
While it’s highly likely there were at least a few individuals here and there who doubted man could accomplish such a thing a little over a half century after the end of period in which humans were still hitching up covered wagons, the first to really get the moon landing hoax story going popularly was a writer named Bill Kaysing. How did he do it? Kaysing self-published a book in 1976 called We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle.
Released a few years after the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, Kaysing’s book popularly introduced some of the most well known talking points of moon landing deniers, such as that the astronauts should have been killed when they passed through the Van Allen radiation belts, noting the lack of stars in photographs, the missing blast crater below the lunar modules, etc. Beyond these, he also had some more, let’s say, “unusual” and occasionally offensive assertions which even the most ardent moon landing denier would probably rather distance themselves from.
Not exactly a best-seller, Kaysing’s book nonetheless laid the ground work for some of what would come after, with the idea further gaining steam in part thanks to the 1978 film Capricorn 1, which shows NASA faking a Mars landing and then going to any lengths to keep it a secret. As for the film, director Peter Hyams states he first got the idea for such a movie when musing over the Apollo 11 mission and thinking, “There was one event of really enormous importance that had almost no witnesses. And the only verification we have . . . came from a TV camera.”
Not an accurate statement in the slightest on the latter point, it nonetheless got the wheels turning and he ultimately developed a script based on this notion.
As to how Kaysing before him came to the conclusion that NASA faked the moon landings, the story, at least as Kaysing tells it, is that in the late 1950s he managed to view the results of a highly secretive internal study conducted by NASA on the feasibility of man successfully landing on the moon that concluded, in his own words: “That the chance of success was something like .0017 percent. In other words, it was hopeless.”
Kaysing doesn’t explain how NASA came up with such a precise figure given all the unknown variables at the time, nor why he put the qualifier “something like” followed by such an extremely exact number. He also did not name the report itself. And, in fact, as far as we can tell, NASA never conducted such an all encompassing study on the feasibility of a successful moon landing in the 1950s. Whether they did or not, we did find in our research looking for that report that NASA conducted a feasibility study on the proposed designs for several manned rockets immediately prior to Apollo program to decide which contractor to use. This, of course, has nothing to do with Kaysing, but we figured we’d mention it as we like to deal in facts and reading Kaysing’s various works has us feeling like we need to be cleansed a little by saying things that are actually true about NASA in this period.
Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in NASA’s training mockup of the Moon and lander module.
In any event, Kaysing would later assert that he determined from this report that there’s no way NASA could have improved these 0.0017% odds in the time between the results of this supposed study and the moon landings about a decade later.
Now, if Kaysing was just some random guy shouting in the wind, it’s unlikely anyone would have listened to him. Every conspiracy theory origin story needs at least some shred of credibility from the person starting it to get the fire going. For Kaysing’s assertions about the moon landings, this comes in the form of the fact that for a brief period he worked for Rocketdyne, a company that made rockets for the Apollo program. Not an engineer or having any similar technical expertise whatsoever, Kaysing’s background was primarily in writing, earning an English degree from the University of Redlands, after which he naturally got a job making furniture.
As for the writing gig he landed with Rocketdyne, his job was initially as a technical writer starting in 1956 and he eventually worked his way up to head of technical publications. He finally quit in 1963, deciding he’d had enough of working for the man.
After quitting, to quote him, “the rat race”, in 1963 Kaysing traveled the country in a trailer with his family, earning his living writing books on a variety of topics from motorcycles to farming.
This brings us to 1969 when he, like most everyone else in the world with access to a TV watched the moon landing. While watching, Kaysing recalled the supposed NASA study he’d seen all those years ago, as well as that engineers he’d worked with at the time in the late 1950s claimed that while the technology existed to get the astronauts to the moon, getting them back was not yet possible. He later stated he further thought,
As late as 1967 three astronauts died in a horrendous fire on the launch pad. But as of ’69, we could suddenly perform manned flight upon manned flight? With complete success? It’s just against all statistical odds.
Despite often describing himself as “the fastest pen in the west”, it would take Kaysing several years to write the book that introduced one of the most enduring conspiracy theories to the world.
As for why NASA would bother with the charade, he claimed NASA worked in tandem with the Defence Intelligence Agency to fake the moon landings to one up those pesky Russians. While certainly good for the country if they could get away with it, the benefit to NASA itself was, of course, funding. Said Kaysing, “They — both NASA and Rocketdyne — wanted the money to keep pouring in.” As to how he knew this, he goes on “I’ve worked in aerospace long enough to know that’s their goal.”
Model of Soviet Lunokhod automatic moon rover.
So how did NASA do it? He claimed that the footage of the moon landing was actually filmed on a soundstage. When later asked where this soundstage was located, Kaysing confidently stated that it was located in Area 51. As he doesn’t seem to have ever given clear evidence as to how he knew this, we can only assume because it’s not a proper space related conspiracy theory if Area 51 isn’t mentioned.
Kaysing also claimed that the F-1 engines used were too unreliable so NASA instead put several B-1 rockets inside each of the F-1 engines. Of course, in truth these wouldn’t have been powerful enough to get the Saturn V into orbit even if its tanks were mostly empty. (And given the frost and ice clearly visible covering certain relevant parts of the Saturn V here, it’s apparent the tanks could not have been mostly empty). There’s also the little problem that the clusters of B-1s he described couldn’t have fit in the F-1 engine bells and you can see footage of the F-1 engines working as advertised, with no clusters of engines anywhere in sight. Nevertheless, despite these problems with his story, he did purport that the Saturn V was launched to space as shown (though at other times has claimed that in fact as soon as the rocket was out of sight it was simply ditched in the ocean and never made it to space). Stick with us here people, he changed his story a lot over the years.
Whatever the case, in all initial cases, he claims the astronauts were not aboard.
(And if you’re now wondering how the U.S. fooled the Soviets and other nations tracking the rockets during these missions, he claims a way to fake signals was devised, allowing for tracking stations on Earth to think the craft was headed for the moon and, critically, successfully fooling the Soviets who were indeed closely tracking the missions to the moon and back.)
So what did Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins do during the mission if they weren’t zipping around in space? In the first edition of his book, Kaysing claims that they flew to Las Vegas where they mostly hung out at strip clubs when they weren’t in their rooms on the 24th floor of the Sands Hotel.
We can’t make this stuff up, but apparently Kaysing can.
Kaysing goes on that at one point one of the trio got into a fistfight with someone in broad daylight over a stripper. Sadly Kaysing doesn’t reveal which of the men did this, nor how he knew about it, so we’re forced to assume it was Buzz Aldrin who is the only member of the three we definitely know actually has gotten in a fist fight.
The Apollo 11 lunar landing mission crew, pictured from left to right, Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot.
In this case, in 2002, a 72 year old Buzz Aldrin punched Bart Sibrel who is a “we never landed on the moon” conspiracy theorist, “documentary” maker, and cab driver. Sibrel invited Aldrin to a hotel with Sibrel telling him he was making a children’s TV show on space. Once Aldrin arrived at the hotel, Sibrel pulled out a Bible and tried to get Aldrin to put his hand on it and swear that he had walked on the moon. Needless to say, Aldrin was pretty irritated at this point. Things got worse when Sibrel called Aldrin a “liar” and a “coward”, at which point Aldrin punched him.
As for his defense, Sibrel states, “When someone has gotten away with a crime, in my opinion, they deserve to be ambushed. I’m a journalist trying to get at the truth.” Unwilling to sway on what that truth is, however, Sibrel states, “I do know the moon landings were faked. I’d bet my life on it.” Not all is lost, however, because he states, “I know personally that Trump knows the moon landings are fake and he’s biding his time to reveal it at the end of this term, or at the end of his second term if he’s re-elected.” So, rest easy everyone, the truth will come out soon enough apparently.
In any event, going back to Kaysing’s book, he states that shortly before the astronauts were supposed to begin broadcasting from the moon, all three men arrived on a soundstage deep within the confines of Area 51 and ate cheese sandwiches. He also states that along with cheese sandwiches, NASA provided the men with buxom showgirls while at Area 51. Presumably this was the only way to pry the astronauts away from the strip clubs.
After eating the no doubt delicious sandwiches, Aldrin and Armstrong put on some space suits and pretended to walk across a fake moon set while reading out some, to quote Kaysing, “well-rehearsed lines” in a performance he called “not great” but “good enough”.
A description we personally feel is a little unfair considering it has apparently fooled seemingly every scientist on Earth then to now, including ones working for the nation directly competing with the US to land on the moon who would have relished any opportunity to even allege the whole thing was faked in a credible way, let alone prove it and embarrass the U.S. utterly in front of the whole world. But, unfortunately, as you might imagine, the Soviets at the time were monitoring the whole thing quite closely with their newfangled technology and so never got the opportunity to disprove the landings.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during an Apollo 11 Extravehicular Activity on the lunar surface.
Amazingly Kaysing also claimed in his book that the fake moon landing footage was filmed live and that there was only “a seven second delay” between Armstrong and Aldrin’s performance and the broadcast the world was watching. Thus, had even a fly buzzed across the set, NASA would have only seconds to notice and cut the feed, lest such a mistake or inconsistency be noticed in the footage people would be watching for the rest of human history.
As for the splash down and recovery, he claims the astronauts were eventually put on a military cargo plane (a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy) and simply dropped from it in the capsule. As for how he knew this, he did provide a source for once, claiming that an airline pilot he talked to had seen the Apollo 15 module drop from a cargo plane. Who this pilot was, what airline he worked for, if he offered any evidence to support his claim, such as a flight log showing him piloting a plane in the area during the time of the splash down of Apollo 15, or even when he talked to said pilot, however, he fails to mention.
As for the moon rocks brought back, these were apparently meteorites found in Antarctica as well as some that were cleverly made in a NASA geology lab.
As to how NASA was able to keep the lid on things, despite nearly a half a million people working on the Apollo Program in some capacity, not just for NASA but countless independent organizations, he claims NASA simply only let those who needed to know the whole thing was a hoax know.
So following this reasoning that means all these scientists, engineers, etc. working on all the components and various facets of the mission were genuinely trying to make the moon landing happen, including knowing the requirements to make it happen and testing everything they made until it met those requirements… Meaning what was built and planned should have been capable of doing what the mission required…
That said, Kaysing admits a handful of people here and there would have had to know the whole thing was a sham, and thus NASA simply paid off those who could be paid off, promoted those who preferred that reward, threatened those who still wouldn’t go along, and murdered those who still resisted, which we’ll get into shortly.
The ridiculousness of many of these claims and how easily they crumple under the slightest bit of scrutiny is likely why in the 2002 re-release of his book Kaysing changed his story in various ways, including claiming that the engines on the Saturn V actually did work and that Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong did go to space after all, instead of going to hang out with strippers in Vegas. He then states that all three men orbited the planet while pre-recorded, not live, footage was shown on Earth.
The swing arms move away and a plume of flame signals the liftoff of the Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle.
Despite, to put it mildly, straining credibility on pretty much everything he said from start to finish and him providing absurdly specific details, generally without bothering to provide any evidence whatsoever backing up these claims and changing those specific details frequently over time, Kaysing’s book and subsequent work nonetheless helped spawn the still thriving moon landing hoax conspiracy theory.
As for Kaysing, he didn’t stop there. He continued to sporadically come up with new allegations against NASA, including that the agency murdered the astronauts and teacher aboard the Challenger explosion. Why would they do this when the whole Christa McAuliffe thing was supposed to be a publicity stunt to get the public more interested in space travel, science, and what NASA was doing? According to Kaysing, “Christa McAuliffe, the only civilian and only woman aboard, refused to go along with the lie that you couldn’t see stars in space. So they blew her up, along with six other people, to keep that lie under wraps…”
Speaking of things that Kaysing said that are ridiculously easy to debunk with even a modicum of effort, we feel obligated to point out that Christa McAuliffe was not the only woman on board. NASA astronaut Judith Resnik was also killed in that tragedy.
Not stopping there, Kaysing also claimed the deaths of the Apollo 1 astronauts were intentional as one or more of the astronauts aboard was about to blow the whistle on the upcoming hoax plan. We feel obligated to point out here that, as previously mentioned, he also used this fire as evidence of NASA lacking expertise to get a man to the moon… Meaning according to Kaysing this fire was somehow both intentional to murder a few astronauts and also accidental owing to NASA’s incompetence.
Moving swiftly on, NASA officials also apparently had others killed, including safety inspector at North American Aviation Thomas Baron who wrote a report on NASA safety protocol violations after that tragic Apollo 1 fire.
It’s at this point, we should probably note that in the 1990s Kaysing decided to sue Jim Lovell. You see, in 1996 Lovell publicly stated “The guy is wacky. His position makes me feel angry. We spent a lot of time getting ready to go to the moon. We spent a lot of money, we took great risks, and it’s something everybody in this country should be proud of.”
Lovell also wrote to Kaysing asking him to “Tear up your manuscript and pursue a project that has some meaning. Leave a legacy you can be proud of, not some trash whose readers will doubt your sanity.”
Unwilling to stand for his good name being publicly besmirched, Kaysing naturally sued Lovell for defamation, though the case was eventually dismissed and nothing ever came of it.
Kaysing continued to assert that the moon landings were a hoax right up until his death in 2005, in between writing books on cookery, motorcycle safety, farming, taxes, survival, how to subsist on very little money, and travel guides, as well as making occasional appearances on such shows as Oprah expounding on his conspiracy theory work.
A 1963 conceptual model of the Apollo Lunar Excursion Module.
On the side he also promoted micro-housing as a solution for homeless people and ran a cat sanctuary called “FLOCK”, standing for “For the Love of Cats and Kittens”. So, yes, Kaysing was a man whose passions included micro housing, cats, survival, travel, living off almost nothing, and rapidly coming up with conspiracy theories. If only he’d been born later or the interwebs invented sooner, this man could have been an internet superstar.
Whatever the case, Kaysing’s death understandably garnered a mixed reaction from the scientific community, with few finding the ability to muster much sympathy for a man who accused NASA of murdering people.
Gone but not forgotten, Kaysing’s ideas have actually gained in popularity in recent years, particularly among younger generations according to various polls, such as one done by space consultant Mary Dittmar in 2005 showing that 25% of people 18-25 doubted man had ever walked on the moon.
This is all despite the fact that it’s never been easier to definitively debunk Kaysing’s various assertions. Not just via reading the countless explanations by scientists definitively addressing point by point every idea ever put forth by moon landing conspiracy theorists, there’s also the fact that there are literally pictures taken in the last decade showing clear evidence of some of the equipment sitting on the moon, including for the Apollo 11, 14, 15, 16, and 17 landing sites. Even in some cases showing the tracks left by the astronauts and the shadows from the flags planted themselves.
Naturally, moon landing deniers simply claim these photos too were faked, although why China, India, and Japan should cater to NASA on this one when they independently took pictures of their own verifying the moon landings is anybody’s guess.
We’ll have much, much more on all this in an upcoming article on How Do We Know Man Really Walked on the Moon?
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The USS Yorktown (CV-5) was heavily damaged at the Battle of Coral Sea, but it pushed on to join other Navy forces at the Battle of Midway, where the valiant actions of the crew helped ensure a U.S. victory despite the loss of the ship.
On May 7, 1942, Task Force 17 found itself in a historic battle that would affect the direction of the war. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Japanese task force tried to invade the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby.
From May 7-8, the American and Japanese fleets clashed in the Pacific in the first naval battle where the two fleets couldn’t see each other. American planes sank the light carrier Shoho along with some smaller ships and damaged two other carriers. But Japanese forces sank the Lexington and heavily damaged the USS Yorktown.
The ship and air wing losses on each side would be important because Japan was planning an attack at Midway Atoll that could tip the balance of power in the Pacific or accelerate a Japanese victory in the war. Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz knew he needed his carriers ready to go.
And so the Yorktown, suffering from a penetrating bomb strike and eight near-misses, was far from combat ready. Its radar was out, there was a hole in the flight deck, an elevator was damaged, and she was leaking fuel and oil across the surface of the ocean.
An estimate by Rear Adm. Aubrey Fitch stated that it would take 90 days to repair the ship. Nimitz gave the ship three days before it had to ship out to Midway.
Thanks to codebreaking efforts, the U.S. was able to ambush the Japanese fleet heading to Midway. And even with the Yorktown present, America was outnumbered in all ship types. The Japanese had brought about 124 ships including six carriers against America’s 40 ships including only three carriers.
Spoiling for a fight
The first hours of the fight went horribly for the U.S., as land and ship-based torpedo planes went in waves against the Japanese carriers only to be cut down by Zeroes. Many of the planes couldn’t even get their torpedoes fired before they were shot down. Of the torpedoes that were launched, all either failed to hit or to explode.
The two flights rained dive bombs onto the Japanese carriers Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu. Recently fueled and re-armed Japanese planes on the decks went up in fireballs next to hoses and weapons strewn about the decks.
What followed was probably the most damaging few minutes of the war for the Japanese. Three carriers and much of their air arms were completely destroyed and sent to the bottom of the Pacific, largely thanks to the Yorktown which had limped into combat and still scored a staggering blow.
Another Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, was sank by other forces.
But the Japanese fleet survived and managed to exact its revenge on the Yorktown. The Hiryu’s planes found the American ship and hit it with three bombs. The already crippled ship lost its boilers and listed in the water. Navy Capt. Elliott Buckmaster ordered the Yorktown abandoned.
World War I pilots began by simply waving at each other in flight, greeting their adversary as each pilot headed to his own reconnaissance mission. But as World War I quickly became brutal—and the pilots themselves saw friends die on the ground by the thousands and in the air by the dozens—they quickly sought out ways to kill each other.
And one of the pioneers who pulled it off was Roland Garros, a daredevil pilot who barely escaped Germany with a night flight into Switzerland at the war’s start.
French Pilot Roland Garros in a plane with a canine.
Garros was a French pilot who had already made a name for himself as a daredevil and aviation expert by flying across the Mediterranean in 1913. But when World War I broke out, he was in Germany and made his unscheduled night flight into Switzerland to get away, quickly joining the Storks Squadron, a group of aviators who would be the highest ranked French air-to-air combatants in the war.
And Garros led the way. Fighter combat in the air began with pilots carrying pistols to shoot at enemy aviators and darts to drop on hostile troops on the ground. But most pilots were looking for some way to mount machine guns on their planes.
But pilots usually looked through propeller blades while flying, and that was the most logical place to mount a gun for pilots to control. But, obviously, shooting through their own propeller would inevitably cause the pilot to shoot down himself. One of the early fixes was to mount the machine gun above the propeller blades, but that pointed the gun into a weird angle, and no one was able to shoot anyone down with that configuration.
Garros figured out another way. He mounted his gun right in front of his seat so he could look down the barrel to aim. To get around the problem of destroying his propeller, he simply armored the wooden blades with a metal sheath and trusted them to deflect those rounds that would’ve downed him while the rest of the rounds flew toward his target.
It is sometimes counted as the first known aerial victory, though it’s important to note that “aerial victory” today is often used to refer to shooting down an enemy plane, not forcing it to run. That feat was first accomplished Oct. 5 by another French pilot.
An illustration of aerial combat in World War I.
But Garros would go on to down five enemy planes in March 1915, causing the American press to dub him an “ace,” one of the first times that term was used. He also may have been the first pilot to achieve five kills.
Either way, his bravery, and ingenuity helped put France at the forefront of the changing face of aerial warfare. Unfortunately, air combat was a risky business, and Garros would not survive the war. In April 1915, he was shot down and crashed behind German lines.