4 unusual military units - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

4 unusual military units

From a faith-based U.S. Army unit to an entire “ghost” army, take a look at the four most unusual military units of all time.


4 unusual military units

An inflatable tank, styled after the M4 Sherman (Wikimedia Commons)

The Ghost Army

Inspired by a trick that the British pulled in North Africa, the summer of 1944 found soldiers of the U.S. Army undertaking a very unusual task – building a phantom army. To achieve this goal, the Army gathered artists, designers and sound effects experts to encourage confusion behind enemy lines. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops is better known as the Ghost Army because it used inflatable rubber tanks and jeeps, along with sound effects and subterfuge to deceive Germans during WWII.

The 23rd took part in more than 20 missions, many of which used illusion and artistry that rivals any Hollywood set. Painters and illustrators worked collaboratively to design uniforms and create dummy vehicles. Sound engineers helped by broadcasting phony radio traffic and mimicked the sounds of an army on the move. There were even actors hired to spread misinformation that would hopefully get picked up by Nazi spies.

The Germans fell for it, and the ruse worked. With the Ghost Army in place, Germany had no clear idea of the US forces’ actual size. The Ghost Army was so convincing that they were even plugged a hole in General Patton’s lines for several days without being discovered. It wasn’t until 1996 that the Ghost Army’s contribution became public knowledge, and by then, many of its members had gone on to illustrious careers in art and design.

The Monuments Men

This particular unit was tasked with attempting to preserve Europe’s cultural heritage during WWII. The Monuments, Fine Arts and Archies unit included handpicked art historians, museum curators and academics who skirted the front lines of combat to prevent historically essential buildings and art from being destroyed.

Members from the unit created special maps for the Allies to ensure that culturally significant structures weren’t inadvertently destroyed as the Allies pushed deeper into Europe. To do this, the unit drew plans that showed aircraft pilots where to avoid on bombing runs. While the war was in full swing, the Monuments Men even set about restoring landmarks that were already damaged.

As the war wound down, the unit shifted its focus from preservation to rescue. It tracked down and recovered sculptures and paintings looted by the Nazis. As the Nazi regime crumbled, Monuments Men found thousands of pieces of art stolen from Jewish families and museums. Most of these pieces of art were placed deep in salt mines and castles to avoid detection. The Monuments Men did their part in finding the pieces, and then after the war, the artwork was returned to its original owners.

The Mormon Battalion

Composed entirely of Latter Day Saints service members, the Mormon Battalion has the unique and unusual honor of being the only faith-based battalion in all of U.S. Army history. When negotiations between Brigham Young’s church leaders and the US military reached an impasse, it was suggested that a battalion be formed made up of all Mormons. The Mormons hoped their unit might pave the way for their planned exodus to the American West by providing training, equipment and pay. But President Polk saw it as a way to make allies of the Latter Day Saints.

The 500-person battalion never saw any combat, but it became one of the most well-traveled units in all of American history. The service members marked the start of their service by making a grueling might from Iowa through indigenous lands all the way to Santa Fe. From there, they marched on through the untamed lands of Arizona and then to southern California. Once in SoCal, the battalion performed garrison duty in both San Diego and Los Angeles.

Just two years after being formed, the battalion was retired in July 1847. Most of its members headed back north to the Utah Territory to join the rest of their religious pioneers.

4 unusual military units

King Frederick William I (Wikimedia Commons)

The Potsdam Giants

Everyone always wants to have the biggest army, but for King Frederick William I of Prussia, the idea of having the strongest soldiers in the world was an obsession. At the start of the 18th Century, the monarch tried to gather the tallest troops he could find in all of Europe and create an elite regiment called the “Potsdam Giants.” Records indicate that several of the service members were over seven feet tall.

To entice this elite unit, King Willian spent a fortune hiring tall soldiers from other militaries in the world. He even instructed his own covert agents to conscript unusually tall civilians into the unit. At one point, William tried to encourage his tallest soldiers to marry tall women. The unit eventually disbanded, but not before William managed to spend a significant amount of money.

From a ghost army to a unit dedicated to preserving history, these four units prove that there’s a lot more to being part of a military than just standing in formation.


popular

Before he wrote children’s books, Roald Dahl was a menace to Axis forces in the sky

Roald Dahl is often considered to be one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century. Among his most popular publications are classic stories like “James and the Giant Peach,” “Matilda,” “Fantastic Mr Fox,” “The BFG” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Even if you haven’t read the books or seen their film adaptations, the titles of these stories have achieved a mythical status in the world of children’s entertainment. Those that have read his second autobiographical publication, “Going Solo,” will know that Dahl served as a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force during WWII. In the book, he details his service to King and Country and his combat experiences against Axis forces.

After finishing school and taking a hiking trip through Newfoundland in 1934, Dahl went to work for the Shell Petroleum Company. Following two years of training in Britain, he was assigned to Mombasa, Kenya and then Dar es-Salaam, Tanganyika (present-day Tanzania); the former German colony was still home to many Germans. In August 1939, as a second war with Germany loomed on the horizon, Britain made plans to round up the hundreds of Germans living in Dar es-Salaam to prevent any sort of rebellion or uprising. Dahl joined the King’s African Rifles, receiving a commission as a lieutenant and command of a platoon of indigenous askari soldiers.

In November of that year, Dahl joined the RAF as an aircraftman and made the 600-mile drive from Dar es-Salaam to Nairobi where he was accepted for pilot training. Of the sixteen other men that joined with him, only three would live to see the end of the war. After just seven hours and forty minutes of instruction in a De Havilland Tiger Moth, Dahl made his first solo flight.

Following his initial flight training, Dahl received advanced flight training at RAF Habbaniya outside of Baghdad. He trained there for six months on Hawker Harts before he was commissioned as a pilot officer on August 24, 1940.

4 unusual military units
A Gloster Gladiator. The fact that he had the courage to fly a biplane in WWII tells you something already. (Wikimedia Commons)

Dahl was assigned to fly the obsolete Gloster Gladiator, the RAF’s last biplane fighter, with No. 80 Squadron RAF. Though he received no training on the Gladiator nor any specific instruction on aerial combat, Dahl received orders on September 19, 1940 to fly his Gladiator from Abu Seir to No. 80 Squadron’s forward airstrip near Mersa Matruh. On the last leg of his flight, Dahl could not locate the airstrip and was running low on fuel. With night approaching, he attempted an emergency landing in the desert. The undercarriage of his Gladiator hit a boulder and Dahl crashed, fracturing his skull, smashing his nose, and emerged from his aircraft’s wreck temporarily blinded. He passed out and was rescued by friendly forces who took him to the aid station at Mersa Matruh before being transferred to the Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria. An RAF inquiry later revealed that Dahl had been given an incorrect location and was mistakenly sent to the no man’s land between the British and Italian forces.

In February 1941, Dahl was discharged from the hospital and returned to flight status. By then, No. 80 Squadron had been transferred to Eleusina, near Athens, as part of the Greek campaign. The squadron had traded in their Gladiators for the new Hawker Hurricane and Dahl was ordered to fly one across the Mediterranean in April after just seven hours in the aircraft. Luckily, Dahl made it to Greece without incident and rejoined his squadron. At this point in the Greek campaign, the RAF combat aircraft in the operating area consisted of just 14 Hurricanes and four Bristol Blenheim light bombers.

4 unusual military units
A Hawker Hurricane. That seems more like it (Wikimedia Commons)

On April 15, Dahl got his first taste of action flying solo over the city of Chalcis. He intercepted a formation of six Junkers Ju 88 bombers that were attacking ships and managed to shoot one of them down. The next day, he scored another kill on a Ju 88.

On April 20, Dahl took part in the Battle of Athens alongside his friend David Coke and Pat Pattle, the highest-scoring British Commonwealth ace of the war. The battle was an absolute furball which Dahl described as “an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side.” Five of the twelve Hurricanes involved in the battle were shot down and four of their pilots were killed including Pattle. Greek observers counted 22 German aircraft shot down, but because of the chaos of the aerial melee, none of the pilots were able to take credit for specific kills. Dahl received credit for one kill, though he likely shot down more.

In May, as the Germans closed on Athens, Dahl and No. 80 Squadron were evacuated to Egypt and reassembled in Haifa. From there, Dahl flew daily sorties over the course of four weeks. On June 8, he shot down a Vichy French Air Force Potez 63 heavy fighter, and on June 15, he shot down his third Ju 88.

Following this period, Dahl began to suffer from headaches that caused him to blackout and he was invalided home to Britain. He would serve the rest of the war as a diplomat and an intelligence officer, attaining the rank of wing commander by its end. In 1946, he was invalided out of service with the rank of squadron leader. His combat record of five aerial victories, confirmed by post-war research and cross-referenced with Axis records, qualify him as a fighter ace.

4 unusual military units
Dahl’s leather flying helmet on display in the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden (Wikimedia Commons)

Dahl would go on to write the aforementioned children’s stories and many more besides. His kindhearted books and their warm sentiment serve as the antithesis to his violent wartime experiences.

popular

9 reasons why you should have joined the Army instead

If you didn’t pick the U.S. Army that day you walked through your local strip mall mulling over which branch to choose, then you missed out.


Let’s face it. The demonym most people use for troops and service members is soldier. And there’s a damn good reason for that!

#1. We do awesome sh*t constantly.

Can you believe that civilians actually pay to go camping or to the shooting range?

You can forever play the “Oh, you think that is cool? Well I did…” stories in the lunch room at work.

4 unusual military units
This is just a Thursday for us. (U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist, Erich Backes)

#2. Because James Earl Jones.

The Marines may have Kylo Ren from the new Star Wars films, but we had his grandpa, Darth Vader.

4 unusual military units
Who else can claim they have two Emmys, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, two Tonys, and a Ranger Tab?

#3. No one ever wanted to dress up as a Marine, Sailor, or Airman as a kid.

Kids running around with toy guns? They’re playing Army.

G.I. Joe? Mostly associated with the Army.

Those little green Army men? You get my point.

4 unusual military units
You never see these guys eating crayons, so you know they’re not Marines (Image by 41330 from Pixabay)

#4. We actually get to play with our cool toys.

Show of hands. How many airmen and sailors actually got to fly the planes or steer the ships their branch is known for doing? Now how many soldiers got to use the weapons our branch is known for using? Thought so.

4 unusual military units
Photo by U.S. Air Force civilian photographer Justin Connaher

#5. The Army has style.

We have always had the freshest looking uniforms throughout military history. Even when you’ve low crawled in the mud, Army uniforms look better than whatever the hell the Navy calls their blueberry uniforms.

Related: This is what you should know about the return of the ‘pinks and greens’

4 unusual military units
Photo by Catherine Lowrey

#6. Our boy, Captain America, is one of the most recognizable fictional characters.

Show a picture of Captain America to nearly anyone. I bet you that they can tell you exactly what his name is and his branch of service.

4 unusual military units
His hair and uniform are definitely out of regulations, but screw it. Once you have a Combat Infantryman Badge you can pretty much get away with whatever. (Film distributed by Paramount Pictures)

#7. No guts. No glory.

Yeah. Things suck some times. No denying that.

But if you don’t embrace the suck, live the suck, love the suck, and become the suck — you don’t have the privilege of calling yourself a bad ass.

4 unusual military units
These are some of the best times and the worst times we ever had. (U.S. Army Photo by Maj. Kamil Sztalkoper)

#8. You personally get to deliver 5.56mm of freedom at a max effective range at 500 meters to piece of sh*t terrorists.

Every branch has POGs (Persons Other than Grunt.) Every branch has a version of a grunt. The Army has the highest “Hooah Sh*t” per capita. At least our POGs try to elevate themselves above their “glorified cheerleader” status.

The only down side is knowing that when you get out, you will never be as bad ass as you were when you were doing “Hooah Sh*t.”

4 unusual military units

#9. Almost every iconic General officer in American history was in the Army.

Crack open a history book. Nearly every great General gained their notoriety in the U.S. Army. You’re in good hands.

Not to discredit the other branches who have given our country the best military tacticians the world has ever seen (because this list is done ‘tongue in cheek’ and at the end of the day, we’re all brothers and sisters on the same team).

4 unusual military units

Related: 9 reasons you should have joined the Air Force instead

Articles

This is why going mudding in a World War I era tank is a bad idea

The front line of WWI was a dangerous place. From bullets to bombs to poison gas, the death that could be dealt on the battlefield came from many directions.


Mother nature included.

Excessive rains made mobility difficult as troops were forced to navigate through the mud-choked battlefields, making resupply and transport nearly impossible. With both sides bogged down, tanks were thought to enable a breakthrough, but they too soon succumbed to the clutches of mud.

Known as “Mark 1,” the first tank was constructed with 105hp Daimler engine and carried two Hotchkiss six-pound (57mm) guns. The crew consisted four gunners and three drivers, and the tank maneuvered on caterpillar tracks with separate gearboxes.

Soldiers had to endure intense heat in the crew compartment, extreme noise and would sometimes be trapped for days if the tank got stuck.

After multiple design failures, the British considered canceling their tank program, but supporters kept them in the Empire’s arsenal.

Related: Why WWII soldiers nicknamed the Sherman tank ‘death trap’

New tactics breathed new life into the lumbering beasts, focusing them into mass attacks that took advantage of proper terrain.

Check out the History Channel‘s video below to see how these first tanks made an impact on the battlefields of the War To End All Wars.

(History Channel, YouTube) 
Intel

The military’s best air combat exercise is getting a new twist

Red Flag is legendary among fighter pilots. This exercise, held several times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, located near Las Vegas, is where American combat pilots have gone to hone their skills since the end of the Vietnam War.

“Red Flag-Nellis was originally created to give fighter pilots their first 10 combat missions in a large force exercise before deployment to contingency operations,” Lt. Col. Christopher Cunningham said in an Air Force release. “Vietnam War analysis had proven that pilot survivability increased dramatically after surviving 10 combat missions.”


4 unusual military units

The success of the original Red Flag has left Air Force pararescue personnel, like those taking part in a 2016 demonstration, little to do.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

In terms of military exercises, Red Flag has been a blockbuster hit. The first major conflict since Vietnam, Desert Storm, saw very few pilot losses. While new technology certainly contributed, Red Flag played a vital part as well, giving pilots their first taste of “combat” over the course of two weeks. Other countries, like Israel and the Netherlands, have come up with their versions of this exercise. One of the unintended consequences of this improved readiness, however, is that it has made combat search-and-rescue missions less frequent. Less real-world experience means an increased need for specific training exercises.

To address that need, a spin-off of Red Flag was created. Red Flag Rescue took place last month at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. This exercise replaced Angel Thunder, a program for Air Force pararescue personnel (along with foreign air forces) who are responsible for carrying out the combat search and rescue mission.

4 unusual military units

Red Flag Rescue was not just for the Air Force. Army personnel, like this soldier taking part in a 2017 demonstration, also took part, as did the Marines and Navy.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)

Red Flag Rescue brings together Air Force pararescuemen and the other armed services for fifteen days to practice combat search and rescue in contested, degraded, and operationally-limited environments. While Air Force pararescue personnel — and others who handle combat search-and-rescue — have gained much from this, the ultimate beneficiaries will be the pilots saved from dire circumstances in the real world.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War battalion was just college kids

During the Civil War, an entire battalion was formed by pulling the students of two colleges out of school, putting them under the command of their professors, and shipping them off to war. And these college kids really did fight, possibly firing some of the first and last shots of the war and earning battle streamers for seven different engagements before the war ended.


Citadel cadets recreate the firing on the Star of the West

www.youtube.com

The college students were cadets at The Citadel and The Arsenal Academy, both establishments for training future military officers. So, when South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, there was obviously a question of roles for these men who had already signaled an interest in military service.

Just a few weeks later, on Jan. 9, cadets were manning artillery emplacements in Charleston Harbor when a merchant ship, Star of the West, loaded with supplies and reinforcements for Fort Sumter, entered the harbor. The Citadel’s superintendent, Col. Peter Stevens, ordered gunners to fire on the ship in an attempt to turn it around.

A single warning shot across the bow failed to deter the ship, but a short volley a few minutes later caused multiple strikes against the ship’s hull and forced it to withdraw.

A later attack by Confederate forces on Fort Sumter in April 1861 is generally regarded as the first attack of the war, but the cadets were awarded a streamer for their January attack.

4 unusual military units

An illustration of The Citadel during the Civil War.

(Alfred Rudolf Waud)

The next streamer for the academy came in November 1861, at Wappoo Cut, but they didn’t actually meet with Union forces. On Nov. 7, Union naval forces had shelled and seized two Confederate forts near the South Carolina capital, and political leaders worried that the Union would press forward. They called on the cadets to man defenses at Wappoo Cut, but the Union soldiers didn’t press the attack, and the cadets eventually returned to school.

Around the same time, Union forces landed on James and John’s islands, and Confederate counterattacks failed to re-take the beachheads, and on James Island, they were even forced back along a bridge. These were islands key to Charleston’s defense, and the cadets were sent again to hold the line. They brought eight light artillery pieces to James Island and manned them against Union attack.

At this point, though, The Citadel and The Arsenal were still functioning as military academies despite their students and faculty being called away from time to time to perform training, logistics, or even defensive duties. But by June 1862, there was a body of cadets that was ready to go to war without waiting for their commissions at graduation. At least 37 cadets resigned from the school and formed the “Cadet Rangers,” a cavalry unit.

This sort of pattern would continue for the next few years, with the cadets being called out to defend Charleston for a few days or weeks and then being sent back to the school to train, frustrating some of them. In early 1863, cadets manned guns in a defensive battery on a bridge between Charleston and James Island.

Union forces shelled the city during this period, and some of the cadets were sent to guard stores of weapons and supplies. But they returned to school again until the first half of 1864, when they were once again sent to defend James Island.

At the end of 1864, the cadets were called to a defense that would actually result in combat. Union Marines, soldiers, and sailors were sent to break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and their attack surprised the infantrymen defending the position. The cadets, stationed a few miles away at the time, rushed to the fight at the double-time.

4 unusual military units

Union Marines and other troops attacked cadets at the Battle of Tulifinny near Charleston, South Carolina, and the cadets earned praise for their disciplined fire and poise under attack.

(David Humphreys Miller)

During that first night, on Dec. 6, the cadets did little because they arrived as the Union troops were digging into their defensive positions while the Confederate attacks gave way.

But the next morning, the cadets were one of the key components of an attack on the Union positions. They came under rifle fire and responded with a bayonet charge, but were driven back. They secured their wounded and dropped back to their own defenses. In this role, they earned praise from nearby infantry units for their disciplined fire. They even pursued the Marines attacking them during the final Union retreat. During the fight, they suffered eight casualties.

The following year, in May 1865, cadets would once again engage in direct combat with Union forces. They were sent to guard infrastructure in Williamston, South Carolina, when Union forces attempted to reach a bridge over the Saluda River and burn it. The cadets beat back the attack successfully, saving the bridge.

Even as the Confederacy’s prospects in the war suffered under the Union Anaconda Plan, the cadets held their lines when ordered. They never surrendered and were one of the last forces to disband, not doing so until May 9, 1865, one month after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tyndall gets QF-16 drone as operations resume

The recent delivery of a QF-16 from Boeing to the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron marks an important milestone on the road to recovery for Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

“The arrival of this QF-16 brings us one step closer to resuming operations,” said Col. Steven Boatright, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group commander. “It is vital to the warfighter that we resume operations when it is deemed safe to do so.”

The QF-16 enables live fire weapons testing in the Joint Gulf Range Complex, which is made up of 180,000 square miles that stretches from Key West to northwest Florida, and allows for joint test and training exercises.


The 82nd ATRS currently has 18 QF-16s assigned to Tyndall AFB. Six QF-16s are unmanned, but all of them are modified to be flown remotely. The manned configuration of the aircraft can be used with a pilot in the cockpit to train the remote pilots flying from the ground station.

“It is important that we continue to accept new target aircraft into the fleet to keep test programs on schedule and to deliver capability to the warfighter,” said Lt. Col Ryan Serrill, 82nd ATRS commander. “Our people are safe and are eager to get the flying mission back off the ground. Our mission is one that will continue at Tyndall and we look forward to getting back to flying operations.”

4 unusual military units

A QF-16 is prepared for takeoff during an unmanned live fire exercise at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., June 25, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Montoya)

In addition to supporting the test community, the WEG hosts visiting fighter aircraft units from around the globe to participate in Combat Archer. During their two week stay at Tyndall AFB, units are evaluated on all phases of air-to-air combat operations including an end-to-end kill-chain evaluation of man, weapon, and machine in a realistic combat environment.

“No other Air Force in the world comes anywhere close to the same scale of weapons testing as the Air Force,” said Serrill. “We recognize the importance of this data to continually improve our warfighters ability which is why it’s so important that the WEG mission continue.”

Government civilians and contractors provide the backbone of QF-16 operations in both its manned and unmanned configurations. They are critical to our unique unmanned mission, as they are the only ones that operate the target in its final unmanned configuration.

“Our group is comprised of military, civilians and contractors,” said Boatright. “These are men and women who have called Panama City home for decades, and have poured so much of their life into Tyndall AFB and Panama City. We couldn’t do what we do in the WEG without them. I am proud to be able to serve alongside not just our uniformed military, but our local civilians and contractors. It is devastating to see what the hurricane did to this community, but we will rebuild. The men and women who survived Hurricane Michael are just as eager as I am to be fully mission ready again.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Army Corps finds ‘cremains’ among ashes is utterly fascinating

In November 2018, the Camp Fire decimated the rural town of Paradise, California, becoming the state’s most destructive and deadliest wildfire ever. The windswept wildfire razed more than 14,000 residences, and at least 86 people were killed.

While Sacramento District’s official involvement following the Camp Fire has been minimal, that hasn’t prevented district employees from getting involved.


Joanne Goodsell was recently hired as a Cultural Resources Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She is also an archaeologist, and wanted to find a way to use her skill-set to help victims of the fire. She would have been motivated to help regardless of where the fire took place, but this one hit home — literally. Goodsell grew up in Paradise.

4 unusual military units

(Courtesy Photo)

“It was personal. I had wanted to do something to help, but there’s not much you really can do outside of donating. But sometimes you want to help firsthand, to find a way to do more,” said Goodsell.

She did donate money, but was still looking to find how she could do more. That’s when she came across a Facebook post leading her to a group called the Institute for Canine Forensics.

4 unusual military units

(Courtesy Photo)

The ICF, in coordination with two Northern California archaeological consulting firms, was asking for archaeologists to come out and help with the unfortunate task of trying to find people’s ashes; not of those who perished in the fires, but the ashes (also called cremains) of previously deceased and cremated loved ones that were now intermingled with the ashes and debris of their burned out homes.

4 unusual military units

(Courtesy Photo)

“A friend had posted a link where the ICF was asking for archaeologists to help with the recovery efforts,” said Goodsell. “So I got in contact with them and found this was a good fit for my skill set as an archaeologist.”

Goodsell’s involvement soon inspired other archaeologists in her section at the Corps to volunteer as well. Joe Griffin, Chief of the Cultural, Recreational, and Social Assessment Section soon got involved, as did archaeologists Hope Schear and Geneva Kraus.

4 unusual military units

(Courtesy Photo)

Finding ashes among ashes would seem an impossible task, but the ICF brought in dogs that are specifically trained to locate human cremains. After a client has requested service, an ICF handler speaks to the client to determine the approximate location of the cremains and what kind of container they were in. The dogs then sniff through the debris field and either sit or lay down when they find a scent. From there it’s up to the teams of archaeologists.

4 unusual military units

(Courtesy Photo)

Nature’s chemical reactions also provide some help in the archaeologists’ searches. First, the texture of the human ashes are different from ashes of say, burned drywall or wood. Second, when the cremains burn a second time, they turn a different color than the typical gray or white ash surrounding them, making them easier to see.

Dressed in protective clothing, the archaeologists would determine a search area, set up a perimeter and begin excavating down to ground level, removing layers of ash and debris as they worked toward where they believed the cremains to be.

4 unusual military units

(Courtesy Photo)

Most often, they eventually found the cremains on the ground, surrounded or mixed in with other ash and debris. Original ceramic containers almost never survived the fire, and metal urns melted. It was helpful that sometimes the searchers also found the original metal medallion that stays with a cremated body, making recognition of the human ashes a bit easier.

“One set of cremains were in a fireproof safe, and even it burned, but we still found some cremains in there,” said Goodsell. “Our highest recovery rates were often for cremains that were in the original containers and had been sitting on the floor of a closet.”

4 unusual military units

(Courtesy Photo)

The loss of a loved one’s ashes can add a sense of guilt to the already heavy burden of losing a home, especially for those who had yet to fulfill a promise to spread a loved one’s cremains as requested in person or in a will. Fortunately, Goodsell said they had close to a 70 percent success rate in recovering and returning entire cremains and medallions.

4 unusual military units

(Courtesy Photo)

The job of searching for cremains at the Camp Fire is finished, at least for now, but Goodsell hopes that in the near future cremains recovery will become standard operating procedure following wildfire disasters.

“This is not going to be the last time this is needed,” said Goodsell. “Finding and returning the cremains means a great deal to these family members. Even if it was a small, token amount, people were very, very grateful.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s new supercarriers can’t deploy with the new stealth fighters

The new Ford-class supercarriers are being delivered to the US Navy without the ability to deploy with the service’s new stealth fighters, and lawmakers have decided to put a stop to it.

It’s very difficult to get something like an aircraft carrier cheaply and quickly and have it work well. In the case of the Ford-class carriers, the Navy program is facing cost overruns, delivery delays, and missing capabilities.

The Navy has been accepting unfinished aircraft carriers that are lacking critical capabilities, such as the ability to deploy with fifth-generation fighters.


The service has been planning to complete the necessary work after delivery to skirt the caps imposed by Congress to keep costs from soaring, USNI News reported this week. The workaround ultimately results in higher costs in the long run.

4 unusual military units

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni)

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), which should be delivered back to the fleet this fall, currently lacks the ability to deploy with F-35s, and the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), which is still in the works, will not be able to deploy with F-35s either, at least not upon initial delivery.

That’s a big problem for Congress.

“CVN-79 will not be able to deploy with F-35s when it’s delivered to the Navy,” a congressional staffer said this week, telling reporters that it’s “unacceptable to our members that the newest carriers can’t deploy with the newest aircraft.”

The Navy argues that while the newest carriers may not be ready to carry F-35s upon delivery due to the need for additional modifications, none of which require significant redesigns to the ship, they will be ready to go by the time the air wing is stood up and the carrier-based F-35Cs are ready for operational deployment aboard the Navy’s new flattops.

4 unusual military units

An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter conducts a touch and go landing.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Eli K. Buguey)

The “F-35C modifications for CVN-78 and CVN-79 are currently scheduled for a future post-delivery modernization maintenance period that will occur prior to the planned F-35C operations on those carriers,” Captain Daniel Hernandez, a spokesman for the Navy acquisitions chief, told Business Insider.

The two follow-on Ford-class carriers, CVN-80 and 81, “will be constructed with those modifications made during construction and will not require a post-delivery modification,” he further explained.

Congress isn’t having it

Lawmakers, however, are not satisfied with the Navy’s plans.

The House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces has included a line in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which is still ongoing legislation, requiring that the USS John F. Kennedy be capable of deploying with F-35s before the Navy takes delivery of the new carrier.

4 unusual military units

Artist impression of the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy.

(U.S. Navy photo illustration courtesy of Newport News Shipbuilding)

Experts agree that it’s time for action.

“I think it’s a good idea to drive the Navy to make the ship more complete when it’s delivered because that’s a problem that’s getting worse, not better,” Bryan Clark, a defense expert and former Navy officer, told Business Insider, explaining that Congress will need to provide financial relief as changes to the service’s current approach to aircraft carrier development will likely result in higher upfront costs.

Lawmakers have proposed amending the cost caps on the new supercarriers, a change the Navy welcomes.

“The Navy supports the lifting of cost caps on CVN78 – CVN81 so that it can take full advantage of opportunities to deliver capability earlier and more rapidly incorporate new requirements into the ship baseline,” Hernandez told Business Insider.

The new legislative measures could address a serious problem for the Navy that truthfully extends well beyond the ability of its new carriers to carry F-35s.

With the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy has faced challenges with the electromagnetic aircraft launch system and the arresting gear for recovering planes, the propulsion system, and the advanced weapons elevators, basically everything required for an effective next-generation aircraft carrier.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These 5 innovative Civil War weapons changed combat forever

The American Civil War was a bloody affair, where many battles were fought with infantry tactics that had been around for 100 years. But some weapons designers pushed the envelope of technology during the violent conflict and developed arms that would revolutionize the way militaries fight for centuries.


1. The Repeating Rifle

Although the primary weapon on both sides of the war was the rifled musket, the repeating rifle made its combat debut during the Civil War. The introduction of the percussion cap and the cartridge allowed for the creation of breech-loading rifles, far superior in reloading speed than muzzle-loaders. The weapon truly came into its own though in the form of the Spencer repeating rifle. The rifle fired seven .56 caliber bullets from a tube magazine in the buttstock. A lever-action discharged and loaded the rounds.

 

4 unusual military units
President Lincoln is said to have tested the Spencer Rifle himself on the White House grounds.

The real revolution from the weapon came from a change in infantry tactics. The cartridge and ability to fire multiple rounds in quick secession meant soldiers no longer had to stand massed against each other. Instead, they could maneuver more and even take advantage of cover and concealment by kneeling and lying down while still being able to fire. Unfortunately, the generals of the time were worried that troops would waste too much ammunition so the rifles only saw limited use.

2. The Gatling Gun

Before John Gatling’s invention, there was no way to provide sustained high rates of fire. Although not a true automatic weapon, the hand-cranked, multi-barreled weapon could deliver rounds down range at upwards of 450 per minute. With no links or feed belts, the weapon was gravity fed. The use of multiple barrels limited overheating and allowed for longer sustained rates of fire.

4 unusual military units
An 1865 Gatling in the British Imperial Artillery Museum.

The introduction of rapid fire weapons quickly changed the nature of warfare. No longer could mass infantry formations be used – they would be mowed down by the higher rates of fire. This was a lesson that would not be sufficiently learned until the brutal combat of World War I.

During the Civil War, Gatling guns saw limited action because, once again, the war department feared a waste of ammunition. Most guns used in combat were purchased personally by generals. The rotating barrels of the Gatling gun would later come to prominence in automatic weapons like the GAU-17 minigun and Vulcan 20mm cannon.

3. Ironclads

At the outbreak of the Civil War, warship design was just beginning to incorporate steam power. Most vessels were still wooden and powered by sail, but the British and French started to add armor-plating the sides of existing ship designs. From the beginning of the war, both the Union and the Confederacy sought to acquire ironclad warships. Their homegrown designs first met at the Battle of Hampton Roads in March 1862.

4 unusual military units
The Monitor fighting the CSS Virginia at the Battle of Hampton Roads. (National Archives)

The Confederate CSS Virginia, a casemate ironclad, defeated three Union ships before encountering the Union’s USS Monitor. Though the battle ended in a draw with neither ship able to defeat the other, naval warfare was forever changed. In particular, the Monitor gave its name to a new type of warship.

These were low to the waterline and used rotating turrets to house their armament rather than the typical broadsides of a sailing ship. After news of the battle traveled abroad, many nations ceased production of wooden warships in favor of the new monitor-type. The turret has been a prominent design feature of warships ever since.

4. The Submarine

Though it was the Union that had superior industrial capabilities it was the Confederacy that launched the only submarine of the war. That submarine, the H.L. Hunley would be the first such ship to successfully attack and sink an enemy ship.

With a length of just 40 feet and a crew of eight using a hand-cranked shaft to propel her through the water, the Hunley was a far cry from the submarines that would appear in the early 20th century.

4 unusual military units
The Hunley after being pulled up from the bottom of Charleston Harbor. The sub now sits in the H.L. Hunley Museum in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Hunley was armed with just a single spar torpedo – an explosive charge attached to the end of a wooden pole –  that was used to successfully sink the USS Housatonic on February 17, 1864.

Unfortunately, the Hunley was lost with all hands shortly after her attack but she opened the way for the future of underwater warfare.

5. The Hand grenade

While grenades were not a new invention to the American Civil War, improvements to their design and function radically changed the way they could be used. Prior to this time, grenades had fuses that had to be lit before being thrown and so were only used by special troops known as grenadiers. Other times grenades were closer to Molotov Cocktails than what would commonly be called a grenade.

William Ketchum designed a new grenade that would detonate on impact.

4 unusual military units

His design consisted of a metal cylinder with a plunger on the nose that would cause the explosives inside to detonate when it landed. To ensure that it landed nose down, he attached a wooden tailpiece with four fins to stabilize the grenade. With this type of fuse, individual soldiers of any type could carry the grenades.

This meant infantry assaulting trenches and other enemy positions could carry grenades while still carrying their rifles. By the 20th century, all major militaries adopted the hand grenade for standard infantry use.

popular

13 more of the best military morale patches

The first time we posted some of our favorite morale patches, readers responded with their own and gave us more than enough fodder to present a sequel.


This time we asked Air Force veteran Julio Medina, who’s the founder of Morale Patch Armory, why these moto patches endure in popular military culture – even when a command may not fully appreciate them.

4 unusual military units

 

“Morale patches are a simplistic form of art that most people can relate to in some way or another,” Medina says. “Whether it’s humorous or something that will make you embrace your inner patriot, morale patches send strong messages.”

 

4 unusual military units

The Latin in the patch above means “not worth a rat’s ass.” During the Vietnam War, troopers who ferreted out Viet Cong insurgents hidden in complex subterranean hideouts became known as “Tunnel Rats.” These brave servicemen had to dodge human enemies, animals (like bats), and potentially deadly gasses — not to mention VC booby traps. The story alone makes for a great patch.

4 unusual military units

The DICASS (Directional Command Activated Sonobuoy System) sends submariners range and bearing data via and FM frequency.

Medina also talked about the elements of a good morale patch.

“Relevance, clean design, and a clear message are key factors in a successful morale patch drop,” he says. “There are some amazingly talented artists out there, but unless you have the ability to get relevant eyes on the patch, it will start collecting dust no matter how good it is.”

4 unusual military units
A Combat Search and Rescue patch. Old timers know a similar patch with Elvis on it. This patch, for a new generation, features Tupac.

“Military active duty, veterans, and law enforcement are the largest consumer base,” Medina says. “There are quite a few airsoft players in that bunch, too. I’m sure none of these groups come as a surprise. There are so many different styles of patches out there.”

4 unusual military units

The patch above is for the USAF’s 509 Operations Group, which pilots the B-2A Spirit stealth bombers out of Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The chicken is a reference to an old Twilight Zone episode where aliens start to eat people. Most of you will probably get the Simpsons reference better.

4 unusual military units

“FIGMO”: aka “F*ck It, Got My Orders” – Vietnam-era aviator patches

Medina believes the enduring popularity of morale patches comes from how they poke fun at the mundane or at high-stress situations. The common denominator is the camaraderie built from shared experiences – the tension and hard times that troops go through as a cohesive unit.

4 unusual military units

“Military members of all branches deal with common military-related stressors day in and day out that the average individual may not even experience in a lifetime,” Medina says.

4 unusual military units
A patch commemorating an aviation unit’s participation in the second battle of Fallujah

“Morale patches are key to lightening the mood by making things funny … making you feel like a proud American, just the way you felt when you graduated basic training and became a part of something bigger than yourself,” Medina explained.

4 unusual military units

Morale patches have always been an interest for Medina. As a former enlisted Air Force Security Forces airman, Medina kept his own collection of quirky patches since 2007.

4 unusual military units

“I kept seeing really creative patches being made and sold by hobbyists,” Medina recalls. “As opposed to the few mainstream brands in the industry that sell mass quantities of a single design.”

4 unusual military units

That’s how Medina started his own patch business. His passion for the industry combined with his appreciation of the humor and artistry led him to establish Morale Patch Armory.

“I once heard ‘Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life,’ ” Medina says. “Since the inception of Morale Patch Armory, every day has been fun and exciting even through the toughest challenges.”

4 unusual military units

Be sure to check out the Morale Patch Armory to get your unit’s patch going.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why you need hydrogen peroxide in your emergency kit

When it comes to being prepared for a disaster, there are a few things on just about everybody’s lists: clean drinking water, shelf-stable food, and maybe a firearm for security. There are some other things, however, that aren’t as commonly considered essential, but ought to be–like hydrogen peroxide.

While your neighbors with a flair for the dramatic prepare for the zombie apocalypse instead of more looming potential threats like long-term power outages or natural disasters, leave the spike sharpening up to them and swing by the pharmacy section of your local retail store to stock up on those brown bottles of goodness… because when the shit hits the fan (as people in the prepping community are so fond of saying) it’ll do you a lot more good than another stack of samurai swords.


4 unusual military units

It’s going to take more than some peroxide to bring this mannequin to life, boys. ​

(U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

Clean stuff like your scraped knee (with or without your mom’s help)

The obvious use for hydrogen peroxide is as a mild antiseptic for minor cuts and scrapes. It works just like it did when your mom was nursing your skinned knee, bubbling up as it releases oxygen that can ferry dead skin and anything else that doesn’t belong away from your cut. In fact, you can pretty effectively use hydrogen peroxide to clean just about anything outside your body as well, including clothing, eating utensils, and water carriers.

It’s important to note, however, that hydrogen peroxide is not intended for cleaning deep wounds, so although it is an antiseptic, you’ll need to find an alternative for cleaning out zombie bites or serious cuts.

4 unusual military units

We’re not all as manly as Ron Swanson

Keep your grill intact

Depending on who you ask, hydrogen peroxide is either a solid tool for mouth care (even in a non-disaster situation) or a terrible idea, and that really boils down to one factor: you absolutely cannot swallow the stuff. As long as you’re sure you can be trusted to remember that, that brown bottle can go far in keeping your mouth from becoming a magnet for infection once your bathroom sink stops working.

Swishing a bit of bubbly from the brown bottle mixed with water can help treat canker sores and other small mouth wounds that could be prone to infection in a bad situation, help ease the symptoms of a sore throat, and even keep your pearly whites white in the absence of toothpaste. Just mix 1 part standard 3% concentrate hydrogen peroxide with 2 parts water, swish, spit, and rinse. And again, kiddies, don’t swallow the stuff.

4 unusual military units

I wouldn’t use two Nick Offerman gifs in a row if they weren’t just so damn perfect.

Use it as a fertilizer to grow some food

This may be the most unusual use for hydrogen peroxide that you’ll come across, but it actually works. If you find yourself in a long-term survival situation, cultivating your own food could become essential. Tending a garden can be tough enough, but it’s tougher when your soil isn’t up to the task of producing healthy plants.

That’s where hydrogen peroxide comes in: simply mix that same 3% concentrate brown-bottle peroxide with water at a ratio of about one cup per gallon of water (or 1.5 teaspoons of peroxide per cup of water) and then use that to water your plants.

The hydrogen peroxide will help fertilize the soil and prevent fungus or mildew from developing on the plant itself. Keep that water-to-peroxide ratio in mind though, as too much will quickly kill your new tomato plant.

4 unusual military units

It’s not just a concern for the ladies.

Use it to ditch the (fungal) itch

Some of the most pressing threats in a long term survival situation aren’t the dramatic shootouts and bear attacks we often see in movies–the truth is, the slow and steady degradation of your health will keep making day to day tasks harder if you aren’t careful about managing things like hygiene.

Fungal infections like Athlete’s Foot are a nuisance in our comfortable American lives, but could quickly become a serious issue in the absence of modern amenities and treatment — and as many unfortunate souls can attest to, fungal infections aren’t relegated to the feet. Yeast infections, for instance, can become serious business, and can feel nearly debilitating even under normal conditions.

The hydrogen peroxide you get in the brown bottle (3% concentration) can safely be used as a douche for women suffering from yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis, and while it won’t work as quickly or effectively as specific treatments, it’ll do a lot more than nothing. Don’t dismiss this one, fellas – you’re able to get yeast infections too.

Articles

How the legendary U-2 spy plane landed on an aircraft carrier

The famed U-2 “Dragon Lady” reconnaissance and spy aircraft is an icon of the Cold War still in service today. It’s crewed by some of America’s most elite pilots, and even then the finicky plane is typically landed on a large runway with the assistance of a “chase car” that coaches the pilot to the ground.


4 unusual military units
A U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane comes in for a landing. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Aaron Oelrich)

The U-2 has wheels aligned like bicycle tires and an 80-ft. wingspan, forcing pilots to carefully guide the plane down the runway just to keep from accidentally banging the tips into the asphalt and ruining the plane.

That’s why it’s so crazy that a group of Air Force and CIA pilots and crew tested the U-2G, a modified version of the spy plane, and certified the Dragon Lady onboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger.

After CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Soviet airspace during a flight from Pakistan to Norway, it became harder for the State Department to convince allies to allow U-2s to be based in their countries.

To get around the sudden restriction in land bases willing and capable of handling the planes, the CIA decided to test the possibility of deploying the U-2s on Navy aircraft carriers.

4 unusual military units
(GIF: YouTube/Military Videos)

The USS Ranger was selected for the top-secret tests which went surprisingly well, but the only declassified mission of a U-2G launched from a carrier took place in the South Pacific where two Dragon Ladies flew from California to Hawaii to the USS Ranger.

The Ranger delivered the U-2s to a launching point, and the planes sampled the air around the test site to learn more about French nuclear efforts.

See more touch-and-go landings from the USS Ranger trials in the video above.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information