The Second World War gave us all a lot of crazy ideas that turned out to be really great things for the United States and, after a few years, the world. It gave us microwaves, the mass production of penicillin, and, later, Batman.
The idea all started in California, already a central hub of America’s most creative types. Those creative minds were focused on repelling what seemed like an imminent invasion of Japanese troops at the time, and no idea was deemed too crazy at the brainstorming sessions — as long as it meant pushing Japan back into the Pacific Ocean when the time came. Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson of the California State Guard came up with the idea of “Bat-Men,” modified paratroopers who could avoid enemy ground fire by gliding through the air and into the coming fight.
Major Nicholson conceived the idea while watching free-jumpers at air shows who used wingsuits to control their descent before opening their parachutes. He enlisted (not literally) the aid of a famous wing suit jumper named Mickey Morgan to spearhead the new paratrooper unit idea.
The Major, as he came to be called, was a U.S. Army cavalryman who served under Gen. John J. Pershing during the Punitive Expedition in Mexico and fighting Moros in the Philippines. During World War I, he was sent on diplomatic and intelligence missions in Siberia, documenting the movements of Russian and Japanese troops.
Nicholson had a long history of publishing, writing his first two books in the 1920s. During the Great Depression, he realized that with so many people out of work, books were just out of reach of most people, so he devised a way to sell printed material at an affordable price: the comic book.
Before World War II, Nicholson founded one of the first-ever comic book companies, called National Allied Publications in 1934. With titles like Fun Comics and New Fun Comics, Nicholson published an entirely new concept in comics. Rather than reprinting funnies from daily newspapers, he introduced new characters and continuing storylines. In 1935, the Major hired Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who sent him the concept of a superpowered hero on butcher paper – it was the blueprint for Superman.
Later on, National Allied Publications would morph into what we know today as DC Comics. The company’s first sensational character came in Detective Comics #27, featuring the new character, Batman.
In some ways, the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program — which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide — started with a tuba.
“The Latvian military band needed a big tuba,” said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. John Conaway, the 22nd chief of the NGB and “father” of the SPP. “And we hauled a tuba over there.”
The trip with the tuba was part of the early planning stages for the program, which turns 25 in 2018.
“We delivered that tuba to the Latvian band and they were amazed to get it,” said Conaway. “That started the program with the first, initial visit.”
That first visit lead the way to a program that now has 74 partnerships with countries throughout the world. But it all started with three: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
“We were received in grand fashion in all three places,” said Conaway, referring to that initial trip. Where it would go from there, he added, was then still unknown.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “But, we had the visit. That was the start.”
That first visit was the result of a simple directive from Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, then-supreme allied commander in Europe with NATO, and who would be appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993.
“He called me up and said “we’ve got to help these new emerging democracies [in the Baltics],'” said Conaway, adding that after additional planning with Pentagon officials, he formed a small team and they started working with the State Department. That led to meeting with the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as military officials in those countries.
“It looked like they wanted our help and we started talking about putting liaison officers from the National Guard on orders with them,” said Conaway. “Our role was to help make the transition [to democracy] as smooth as we could.”
The idea of liaison officers grew into tying specific Guard elements with specific countries.
“The [team] and I huddled and thought, “We’ve got tons of Lithuanians and Lithuanian-Americans living in Pennsylvania,'” Conaway said. “It fit. We’ll tie Lithuania to the Pennsylvania National Guard.”
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)
The idea grew from there.
“There were a lot of Latvian-Americans in Michigan, so we got with the adjutant general [of the Michigan National Guard] and tied them together with Latvia,” said Conaway. “There are Estonian-Americans in Baltimore, and so we tied [Estonia] together with the Maryland National Guard.”
Conaway added there was little precedent to follow while developing the program.
“We were doing this off the back of an envelope back then,” he said. “It was happening so fast.”
By the time Conaway retired in November 1993, the SPP had 13 partnerships, primarily with former Eastern Bloc countries in Europe.
The following years saw new partnerships added from across the globe.
“It’s grown to 74 partnerships and that’s been an incremental growth of about two to three partnerships a year,” said Air Force Col. Donald McGuire, chief of the international affairs branch at the NGB.
As the program has expanded, the process for adding new partnerships has become more refined.
First, the country has to request to be a member of the program, said McGuire, adding that input from the State Department and the combatant command — the U.S. military command element overseeing specific geographic regions — goes along with that request.
“They collectively decide that this is a good country we want to nominate for selection into the program,” said McGuire, adding that from there staff work is done to determine the best course of action with pairing up elements for a partnership.
“It’s very analytical what the staff here does,” said McGuire. “They put a lot of hard work and brain cells against making sure they’re doing a good analysis to give the chief [of the NGB] the best recommendation they can.”
The long-term success of the program has come about, in part, from that intrinsic relationship with both the State Department and the combatant command, said McGuire. The SPP is nested with the command’s theater security cooperation plan and the State Department’s country study plan.
“It’s in tune with the combatant commanders, therefore, it’s in tune or synchronized with the National Defense Strategy,” McGuire said.
Building relationships, said McGuire, is one of the hallmarks of the program.
“This provides, perhaps, the most well-known and established international partnership capability the National Guard is involved with,” he said. “These are relationships that have grown over the course of time and continue to grow.”
Those relationships have not only seen partners in the program train together, but also work together in the wake of natural disasters and large-scale emergencies.
It’s also seen co-deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas.
“You wouldn’t have these countries and units deploying together, necessarily, if they didn’t already have this relationship.”
McGuire added that’s a significant element.
“That tells you a lot about the program,” he said. “These co-deployments are real-world operations, named contingencies that represent the next level of collaboration and coordination.”
Building collaboration and coordination is also key to building greater regional security, said Army Brig. Gen. Christopher F. Lawson, the NGB’s vice director of strategy, policy, plans and international affairs.
“In order to promote greater peace and stability in the world long into the future, we will need a program like the SPP because it helps nations transition from security consumers to security providers,” he said.
For Conaway, the continued growth of the program is more than he imagined 25 years ago.
“It is beyond my wildest dreams and imagination that it would be this passionate and this popular and the good the National Guard has done,” he said. “Here we are, 25 years after it started and the National Guard is just as enthusiastic as ever.”
The pairing of the West Virginia National Guard with Qatar was announced in April 2018, and McGuire said additional partnerships are in the coordination phase.
“We have a few more partnerships in the queue,” he said, adding he sees continued growth of the program over the next 25 years and beyond.
“It really is the entry point to a lot of good things that happen,” McGuire said.
World War I wounds were horrific, as an opening in the skin created easy access for all the nasty diseases that swam through the trenches and crawled through the mud of No Man’s Land. A bullet wound, shrapnel puncture, or even a few scratches from barbed wire could get infected quickly. And so Britain looked to history and other countries for potential methods of quickly producing a higher quality material for bandages. A surprising solution was found in peat moss, the layer of plants that grow on top of many bogs and peat fields. So, they wanted to pack their wounds with plants that grew from decay-filled ground. Seems legit.
But there’s actually a long history of packing wounds with plants, especially moss. Ancient Irish warriors used mosses, as did French and German soldiers in the 1890s. Germany was even using moss bandages during World War I, and Britain decided to copy their foes.
So what made moss so great a bandage material? A few things. First, there weren’t conflicting needs for moss. While cotton was also a great material, belligerent countries needed cotton cloth for uniforms and gun cotton for ammunition, so there wasn’t enough to go around.
Next, some species of moss were actually more absorbent than cotton. Spaghnum moss, by weight, can hold twice as much liquid as cotton can, meaning that a similarly sized bandage can sop up a lot more blood while protecting the wound. This is thanks to how moss grows, basically creating cells and allowing them to die in order to create reservoirs for storing water. Those tiny reservoirs can hold blood as well, drying out the wound and allowing it to clot faster.
Sphagnum moss was a valuable bandage material in World War I.
(Katja Schulz, CC BY 2.0)
Even better, some species of moss have special cell walls with an electrical charge that, long story short, makes them naturally antiseptic. These bandages kill bacteria without the need for any fancy chemical solutions or coatings. They were also naturally resistant to mildew.
But the bandages did make a difference on the front, outperforming cotton bandages to the point that America, the only combatant still flush with cotton, traded gas masks components to get its hands on the moss because the plant-based bandages were better.
When the war ended, there were obviously much fewer volunteers willing to walk through the elements for no pay or willing to assemble the final bandages, so they fell out of favor. But some medical manufacturers continued to make the bandages and sell them. They were rare, though.
Just go full National Treasure and you, too, can enjoy the benefits of sphagnum moss bandages. That was the most popular moss for bandages in World War I, so they’re even the most relevant historically.
World War II has always been a popular subject for wargamers. On land, sea, or air, this conflict has an extensive library of options, whether it be a board game, a computer game, or miniatures rules. But all games are not equal. There are also tradeoffs – each type of game has its pros and cons.
Command at Sea is now in its fourth edition since 1994. This version has been harmonized so that its simulations are in the same format as the other games in the Admiralty Trilogy, Harpoon and Fear God and Dreadnought. This means that those who have these games could cover a war from 1989 to 2018 with very little difficulty.
Can you, as America, did, turn back the Japanese in the Pacific, despite having power ships like the heavy cruiser Takao and the battleship Kirishima?
(Imperial Japanese Navy photo)
A substantial number of additional modules, supporting every major combatant and theater of the war, are available. One that came with earlier versions of the game is The Rising Sun in the Pacific, which covers the first half of the Second World War in the Pacific Theater, where pivotal battles like the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal can be re-fought on one’s own tabletop, along with possible battles that could have taken place had history gone differently.
USS Enterprise (CV 6) preparing to launch planes against the Japanese.
(US Navy photo)
Other modules include American Fleets, which covers just about every ship class and aircraft the United States used during the war, and a few, like the Montana-class battleships, which didn’t make it to the fleet. Another module is Steel Typhoon, which covers the second half of World War II in the Pacific with 36 scenarios of both historical and hypothetical battles. The system doesn’t just cover World War II. The Spanish Civil War, fought before World War II was seen as inevitable is covered in a module.
With Command at Sea, USS Tuscaloosa (CA 37) could have a very different service career during World War II.
In the Pacific Theater of World War II, many of the battles were either curb-stomp affairs by one side or the other — either because Japan was “running wild” in the early parts of the war, or because America brought its industrial might to bear.
Many historians view Midway as an exception to that one-sided rule since America’s victory is often viewed as a pure luck.
But one engagement where the two sides stood toe-to-toe occurred during the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.
On the night of Nov. 14, 1942 — less than 48 hours after Rear Adm. Daniel Callaghan had defied the odds to turn back an attempt to bombard Henderson Field — the Japanese made another run for the airfield that was the big prize of the Guadalcanal campaign. They went with the battleship Kirishima, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and nine destroyers to do the job.
Against this force, Vice Adm. William F. Halsey was scraping the bottom of the barrel. He stripped the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV 6) of most of her escorts, sending in four destroyers and the fast battleships USS Washington (BB 56) and USS South Dakota (BB 57), under the command of Rear Adm. Willis A. Lee.
Admiral Lee was an expert on naval gunnery, and according to The Struggle for Guadalcanal, written by naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison, “knew more about radar than the radar operators.”
That knowledge would soon be put to the ultimate test.
The Japanese force cut through the American destroyers, sinking two outright, fatally damaging a third, and crippling the fourth. The battleship USS South Dakota then turned and was silhouetted by the burning destroyers. The South Dakota took 26 hits from the Japanese guns, but the Japanese lost track of the Washington, which closed to within 8,500 yards of the Japanese battleship Kirishima.
USS Washington was about to slug it out with a Japanese battleship in a one-on-one fight. Using radar control, the Washington opened fire on Kirishima, and scored as many as 20 hits with her 16-inch guns. The Kirishima was rendered a sinking wreck.
The Japanese tried to even the score with Long Lance torpedoes, but missed.
The Japanese made a very hasty retreat, leaving Kirishima and a destroyer to sink. Their last chance at shutting down Henderson Field for the Allies was gone.
But the fad didn’t make its debut on a famous red carpet or in an elegant fashion show — it’s the brilliant invention of the U.S. Navy.
Although no one has been officially accredited with inventing the bell bottom trouser, the flared out look was introduced for sailors to wear in 1817. The new design was made to allow the young men who washed down the ship’s deck to roll their pant legs up above their knees to protect the material.
This modification also improved the time it took to take them off when the sailors needed to abandon ship in a moments notice. The trousers also doubled as a life preserver by knotting the pant legs.
June 6, 2019, marks 75 years since D-Day, when Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War II.
On June 6, 1944, roughly 160,000 troops landed in Normandy, France, on five beaches with the code names Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.
D-Day involved astonishing coordination between Allied forces. Over 13,000 paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines before daybreak. At approximately 6:30 am, the first wave of assault troops hit the beach.
It was one of the most important moments in the war and represented the largest amphibious invasion in world history. D-Day marked a turning point in the fight against Nazi Germany, which would surrender less than a year later in May 1945.
But it was by no means an easy victory, and cost many lives along the way: roughly 22,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded on June 6 alone.
On that day, and in the seven and half decades since, world leaders have delivered legendary speeches about D-Day — including on the blood-stained beaches where it occurred.
Here are five of the most powerful speeches on D-Day.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In their 75 years building, fighting and serving on every continent – even Antarctica – only one Navy Seabee has been bestowed with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.
Marvin G. Shields was a third-class construction mechanic with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 and assigned to a nine-member Seabee team at a small camp near Dong Xoai, Vietnam. The camp housed Army Green Berets with 5th Special Forces Group, who were advising a force of Vietnamese soldiers including 400 local Montagnards.
Shields, then 25, who enlisted in 1962, was killed in an intense 1965 battle in Vietnam. His actions under fire led to the posthumous medal, awarded in 1966, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
On June 10, 1965, Dong Xoai came under heavy fire from a regimental-sized Viet Cong force, who pummeled the camp with machine guns and heavy weapons. The initial attack wounded Shields but didn’t stop him.
“Shields continued to resupply his fellow Americans who needed ammunition and to return the enemy fire for a period of approximately three hours, at which time the Viet Cong launched a massive attack at close range with flame-throwers, hand grenades and small-arms fire,” his award citation states. “Wounded a second time during this attack, Shields nevertheless assisted in carrying a more critically wounded man to safety, and then resumed firing at the enemy for four more hours.”
Still, Shields kept fighting.
“When the commander asked for a volunteer to accompany him in an attempt to knock out an enemy machinegun emplacement which was endangering the lives of all personnel in the compound because of the accuracy of its fire, Shields unhesitatingly volunteered for this extremely hazardous mission,” reads the citation. “Proceeding toward their objective with a 3.5-inch rocket launcher, they succeeded in destroying the enemy machinegun emplacement, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of their fellow servicemen in the compound.”
But hostile fire ultimately got Shields, mortally wounding him as he was taking cover.
“His heroic initiative and great personal valor in the face of intense enemy fire sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service,” the citation states.
The five-day Battle of Dong Xoai also garnered a Medal of Honor for a junior Green Beret officer, 2nd Lt. Charles Q. Williams, who was wounded several times in the battle and survived the war.
Shields’ unit – Seabee Team 1104 – had come together just four months before the attack on their Dong Xoai camp, Frank Peterlin, the team’s officer-in-charge, recalled in a 2015 Navy news article about the Navy’s 50th commemoration of the battle and Shields’ award.
“In the evening, he [Shields] would have his guitar at his side and would love to sing and dance, especially with the Cambodian troops at our first camp,” said Peterlin, who attended the ceremony. “Marvin was always upbeat. At Dong Xoai, he was joking and encouraging his teammates throughout the battle.” Peterlin, a lieutenant junior-grade at the time, was wounded amid the fight and earned the Silver Star medal for his actions leading the men.
Shields, who was survived by his wife and young daughter, has been long remembered by Port Townsend, Washington, his hometown.
At the time of his death, the Port Townsend Leader newspaper wrote of him and his service: “A 1958 graduate of Port Townsend High School, Shields was one of the first employees on the Mineral Basin in Mining Development at Hyder, Alaska, when the locally organized project was initiated there by Walt Moa of Discovery Bay. He worked at Mineral Basin during the summer before graduating from school and returned there as a full time construction worker in 1958. He was called into the Navy early in 1962, and was due to be discharged in January.”
The Navy honored his memory with a frigate in his name (retired in 1992). The official U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, California, has a large display about him its Hall of Heroes. Navy Seabees have never forgotten Shields, who is buried in Gardiner, Washington. Inscribed on his black-granite headstone is this: “He died as he lived, for his friends.”
For decades, our troops have faced awful weather, separation from their families, and a diet consisting of the same daily rations, and yet they still complete their vital missions.
In our eyes, that’s badass!
However, as time moves forward, so, too, does technology. Because of that, many modern troops don’t face the same problems as those that came before them. It’s important to always remember and respect just how tough our brothers and sisters-in-arms had it way back in the day.
To all past, present, and future veterans out there, WATM salutes you for your outstanding service. Be thankful that you don’t have to worry about these problems that once plagued the old-timers.
Two trusty SAPI plates.
Getting shot by a small-caliber round
We understand that getting shot sounds like a huge deal — because it is. However, allied troops on the modern battlefield wear a particular type of body armor, called “SAPI plates.” The inserts are made from a ceramic material and are worn over vital organs. These plates protect from small-arms fire and they’re a massive step up compared to what troops wore in Vietnam.
In Vietnam, troops wore only the uniforms issued to them as protection. Taking a round to the upper torso was, almost without exception, a profound injury that left long-term effects.
Lance Cpl. Eric W. Hayes makes a phone call to his mother from the phone center at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
(Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Mark E. Bradley)
Not hearing from your family back home
Back in the day, the art of letter-writing was a troop’s only avenue of communication with family and friends back home. Those letters could take weeks to be delivered.
Today, we still have a mail service up and running, but we also have this thing called “the internet” — ever hear of it? — that can keep deployed troops in the loop. Soldiers, sailors, and Marines today also have access to phones through the USO and, sometimes, satellite phones to connect them with home in a matter of seconds.
Frequent weapon jams during a firefight
Those of us who’ve fired a weapon or two in our lives may have experienced a jam at some point. Even those of us who have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan rarely experience weapons malfunctions while sending rounds downrange because modern weapons are so well-manufactured and well-maintained.
It hasn’t always been this way. Ask any Vietnam veteran and they’ll tell you that their weapons would jam “just by looking at them.” We can’t imagine anything worse than losing your primary weapon when fighting the enemy on their home turf.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Robbins calls in for mortars during a live-fire exercise.
(Photo by Cpl. Jonathan Wright)
Communication issues between troops
Today, calling a service member from another platoon or company is as easy as picking up the comms gear headset and requesting someone’s call sign.
Although troops have had verbal communication systems in place for decades, they weren’t nearly as mobile or readily available as they are today. Back then, the radioman was in charge of carrying the proper equipment and usually stuck closely to their superior to make sure they maintained quick access. If that unit’s radio was down, replacing it wasn’t as easy as going to Radio Shack and buying another.
Today, many key members of the infantry platoon carry vital gear, making communication easy as f*ck. If a radio goes down, you can have it replaced in a few hours.
By 1972, American efforts in Vietnam were being drawn down. In Paris, North Vietnamese negotiators were unwilling to settle for peace as they felt victory was within their grasp. President Nixon had other ideas.
The Air Force was going to bring the communists to their knees.
This led to the development of a new plan, Operation Linebacker II. Linebacker II would not be limited in its objectives like its predecessor. The new objective was the strategic destruction of North Vietnamese infrastructure. Some 200 B-52s, along with numerous types of tactical aircraft, prepared to strike at the heartland of North Vietnam – Hanoi and Haiphong.
Arrayed against the Americans was one of the most formidable air defense networks ever conceived.
The North Vietnamese had over 100 MiG fighters ready to launch at a moment’s notice. They also had over 20 SAM sites in the vicinity of the target area, along with all manner of anti-aircraft artillery and a vast radar network.
Dec. 18, 1972, aircrews took to the skies, intent on destroying their enemy.
A veritable clash of the titans ensued. Massive SA-2 missiles, the size of telephone poles, soared into the sky after the intruding bombers — oftentimes in four-to-six missile salvos. At one point, bomber crews tracked 40 missiles in the air at one time.
Despite the frenetic fire from the North Vietnamese, only three B-52s were lost on the first night along with a single F-111 on a mission against Radio Hanoi.
The B-52 crews also got in on the action. Not only did they drop tens of thousands of pounds of bombs on enemy targets, but SSgt. Samuel Turner, a tail gunner on one of the B-52s, shot down an attacking MiG-21 — the first since the Korean War and the first for a B-52.
Just as the B-52s were entering the threat area, Turner’s radar screen lit up with two bogeys at 6 o’clock low. One MiG came in hot pursuit, closing fast on the bomber from behind. When his instruments indicated the bogey was in range Turner let loose a long burst from his quad .50s. A terrific explosion lit up the night and Turner’s radar now showed only one threat. After seeing his wingman obliterated, the second MiG disengaged.
After a successful second night of bombing, in which no American aircraft were lost, disaster struck on the third night.
Using the same tactics for the third night in a row, the bombers flew into a maelstrom. Six B-52s were sent earthward along with a Navy fighter. Reeling from the loss but intent to carry on the mission, the Air Force quickly revamped its tactics.
The fourth day of missions saw the loss of two B-52s and another Navy fighter, but the Americans were putting their experience to good use. For the next three days, the Air Force bombers pounded North Vietnamese targets without the loss of any B-52s. Each bomber demolished entire grid squares.
On the seventh night, Christmas Eve, the Americans got an early Christmas present and another morale boost. A1C Albert Moore became the second B-52 tail gunner to score a kill on an enemy fighter. He is also the last known aerial gunner in history to accomplish such a feat.
In similar fashion to the MiG that attacked Turner’s B-52, a lone bogey charged the bomber from 6 o’clock low. The eighteen-year-old Moore steadied himself, called out his target, and let loose a burst.
He fired another burst. This, too, failed to connect with the encroaching fighter.
Desperate to protect his crew and with scant few seconds remaining before the MiG began firing itself Moore unleashed a torrent of bullets from his guns. Unable to see the MiG directly, he watched as its radar signature grew to three times normal size and disappear.
A fellow tail gunner saw the action and confirmed that Moore had destroyed the enemy aircraft.
On Christmas Day, the Americans took a tactical pause to evaluate their efforts, give their weary crews some rest, and signal to the North Vietnamese that it was time to come back to the negotiating table.
The North Vietnamese instead restocked their supply of SAMs and prepared to do battle once again.
Undeterred, the bomber crews came back with a vengeance. Employing new tactics and hitting more targets, they wore the North Vietnamese down.
In the days after Christmas, four more B-52s were shot down, but the pressure on the North Vietnamese was intensifying. Their defenses were crumbling.
After the losses on Dec. 20, the Air Force had called for more attacks against SAM sites and radar stations. Both bombers and fighters struck with deadly precision, crippling the North’s ability to defend itself.
By the final day of bombings on Dec. 29, the communists were only able to muster 23 SA-2 attacks throughout the entire mission.
From Dec. 18 to Dec. 29, American aircraft flew over 1,500 sorties, dropped over 15,000 tons of bombs, and succeeded in bringing the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. The 11 Days War, as it came to be known, was just the success the United States had been looking for in the war in Vietnam. The only question on many veterans’ minds at that point, though, was why hadn’t they employed strategic air power sooner?
The Tiger tank had brutally efficient front armor. (Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)
Out of nowhere, a shot cuts through the last Sherman tank in the column, blowing its turret off. The three remaining Shermans reverse from the road as another shot whizzes into the dirt, narrowly missing them. Backed into a wood line, the Shermans spot their ambusher – a German Tiger I tank. With no way out, the Shermans return fire and charge the Tiger. The shots from the Shermans bounce off of the Tiger’s 100mm frontal armor with no effect.
Undeterred, the Tiger fires an 88mm shell straight through the front of a second Sherman. Continuing their charge toward the Tiger, a third Sherman is hit, its turret blown off of its hull. The last surviving Sherman finally gets around the Tiger and traverses its gun to aim at the weaker armor at the rear of the tank. Only after taking two shots through its vulnerable engine compartment does the deadly Tiger grind to a halt. With their tank ablaze, the surviving German crew members abandon the Tiger and are cut down by Sherman’s hull-mounted .30-cal machine gun.
This scene from Sony Pictures’ “Fury” has been viewed by millions of people online. Produced with the help of The Tank Museum in Bovington, UK, the scene features the only operating Tiger I tank in the world today.
Officially called the Panzerkampfwagen VI, Tiger I, Sd.Kfz. 181, the Tiger tank was heavily armored and equipped with the deadly 88mm gun. Paired with a well-disciplined crew, the Tiger was a menace to the allied armies during WWII. However, it was prone to track failures and mechanical breakdowns. The Tiger’s operational range was also restricted by its high fuel consumption.
Built in February 1943, Tiger 131 was issued to the German 504th Heavy Tank Battalion and was shipped to Tunisia in March 1943 to reinforce the German defense of North Africa. As the allies prepared a major push toward Tunis, German forces launched a spoiling attack in April. On April 24, the British 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters, a line infantry regiment, took a location known as Point 174. The Germans immediately counter attacked with armor, including Tiger 131.
During the counter attack, British tanks of the 142nd Regiment Royal Armoured Corps and 48th Royal Tank Regiment arrived to reinforce the Foresters. German and British tank shells streaked past each other as the two sides vied for control. During the exchange, Tiger 131 was hit by three 6-pounder solid shot shells from British Churchill tanks.
The first shot hit the Tiger’s barrel and ricocheted into its turret ring. The shell jammed the turret’s traverse, destroyed the radio, and wounded the driver and radio operator. The second shell disabled the gun’s elevation device when it hit the turret lifting lug. The third shot hit the loader’s hatch and deflected shrapnel fragments into the turret. Unable to aim their main gun and continue the fight, the crew of Tiger 131 abandoned their tank.
After repelling the German counter attack, British forces discovered Tiger 131 on the battlefield and were surprised to find it intact and drivable—the first Tiger to be captured in such a state. Using parts from destroyed Tigers, British engineers repaired Tiger 131 to be inspected and evaluated. The tank was displayed in Tunis where it was shown to Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI. In October 1943, Tiger 131 was sent to England and displayed around the country as a trophy to boost morale and fundraise before it was turned over to the School of Tank Technology. There, it was thoroughly inspected and assessed in order to aid future British tank design and evaluate its weaknesses to be exploited by allied troops on the front.
On September 25, 1951, Tiger 131 was transferred from the British Ministry of Supply to The Tank Museum in Bovington, UK, where it was put on display. In 1990, the tank was given a complete restoration by museum staff and the Army Base Repair Organisation, an executive agency of the UK’s Ministry of Defence. In 2003, Tiger 131 returned to the museum in a fully functional state, making it the only working Tiger tank in the world. After further work and a repainting in period colors, the restoration was completed in 2012.
Because of its rarity, Tiger 131 has been the subject of many books, toys, and models. As previously stated, the tank gained further fame after it was used in the 2014 film “Fury.” It has also been featured in the popular online tank game “World of Tanks.” The Tank Museum keeps Tiger 131 well-maintained, taking it out for a “Tiger Day” exhibition at least once a year for the public to see it in motion.
The Tiger tank inspired confidence in its crew and fear in its enemies. Today, Tiger 131 serves not as a weapon of war, but as a well-preserved piece of history for people to see and learn from. The stewards of this history at The Tank Museum take great pride in their work and hope to continue to share it with the world for many decades to come.
The distance between Washington, D.C. and the former Confederate capital of Richmond, Va. is a scant 95 miles. They’re practically neighbors. Early in the Civil War, the Union Army attempted to capture the rebel capital but the forces led by Gen. George McClellan only made it as far as the suburbs before being beaten back. Richmond wouldn’t fall to the Union Army until 1865 – but it wasn’t through lack of trying.
Meanwhile, the District of Columbia sat precariously perched between rebel Virginia and border slave state Maryland. It was the heart and nerve center of the Union but aside from the threat of an advancing enemy, it wasn’t as constantly attacked as one might think.
Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia did have a plan to threaten the Union capital. Lee’s overall strategy was to take the fight to the Union, rather than fight on Confederate soil. His advances north did threaten Washington, but Lee didn’t attack DC directly. His best chance to hit the Union capital came after his surprising win at the first Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas, for you Southerners). With the Union forces as stunned by their loss as the Confederates were stunned by their victory, the South was too disorganized to follow up. Once Washington realized the war was going to last much longer than anticipated, the District became one of the most fortified cities on Earth.
To make it more difficult for the Confederates to swing around and even conduct so much as a raid on Washington, Union Generals George G. Meade and Joseph Hooker kept their armies between the Confederates and Washington as Lee’s army advanced north toward Gettysburg in 1863.
(American Battlefield Trust)
As for the city itself, the Potomac acted as a formidable natural barrier but it wasn’t the only barrier. The city had a series of some 68 fortifications, 93 gun positions just waiting for cannon, 20 miles of trenches and 30 miles of military-use roads. It also 87 mounted guns and and 93 mortar positions and untold communications lines. These fortifications ringed the city, even in the Virginia areas. As much as the South would have liked to capture the District, it would have needed and army far beyond its capability. Still, there was one attempt.
In 1864, Confederate Gen. Jubal Early went north through the Shenandoah Valley while Lee’s army was under siege at Petersburg, Va. Early forces relieved Lee’s supply lines at Lynchburg before swinging north through the valley. He captured and ransomed Fredericksburg then moved on where he was met by a small Union defense force at Monocacy. Had it not been for this delaying action, Early might have taken Washington.
But giant cannons are kind of intimidating.
At this time the city was filled with refugees and troops of varying quality. Most of the battle-hardened Union troops were out in the field fighting the Confederates, so Washington’s defenders weren’t all the best of the best the Union could muster. The Confederate advance sent the city into a panic. Union General Lew Wallace didn’t know if Baltimore or Washington was Early’s target, but the citizens of both cities were freaking out, so Wallace knew he had to at least delay Early until reinforcements could arrive. The Marylanders held Early off for a full day at the cost of more than 1,200 lives. But it was enough to delay the advancing Confederates while inflicting some heavy casualties. Early rode on, though, and came across the northernmost fortification of Washington, Fort Stevens.
When he arrived, he had a strength roughly equal to that of the District’s defenders. The defenders were mostly raw recruits and untested reservists, but combined with reinforcements, the city had a fighting chance. Going against the Confederate Army was the blazing heat of the July sun and the fact that they’d been on the march and fighting for nearly a month.The further delay allowed for more reinforcements by the Union defenders.
“Mr. President, maybe you could duck. Or at least take off your hat.”
The attack began in the late afternoon on Jul. 11, 1864. Early’s men began skirmishing with the Union fortification to test its defenses. As President Lincoln watched on, it began in earnest at 5 p.m. when veteran Confederate cavalry stormed the Union picket lines and Union artillery opened up on rebel positions across the lines. Over the coming night, more Union reinforcement would arrive and Early realized time was not on his side. Had he immediately attacked Fort Stevens, he might have taken the capital but waiting only allowed for more reinforcements and for the Union troops chasing him to catch up.
Early used skirmishers to cover his nighttime withdrawal. Fort Stevens and Washington’s fortification had held but President Lincoln was almost hit by a bullet. Early was able to retreat back to the Army of Northern Virginia, where it’s said he told Lee and his own staff officers, “”We didn’t take Washington but we scared Abe Lincoln like Hell.”
It was the height of the short-lived but intense shooting portion of the 1990-91 Gulf War. Two Marines who had been manning an essential listening post in the middle of the desert suddenly found themselves lost and wandering through Saudi Arabia like Moses trying to find his way out.
Unlike Moses, however, they weren’t going to survive for years and years on end. There was a good chance they would soon both be dead, either from Iraqi tanks and helicopters or – more likely – thirst and exposure. But luckily they found salvation in their allies.
There’s a reason even Stormin’ Norman loved the Qataris.
According to Quora user Robert Russell Payne, he and a fellow Jarhead Marine were stumbling around in the desert, unable to locate their unit or even tell anyone where their unit might have been by that point. As Payne says, reading a map in the desert is hard, which sounds like a silly thing to say, unless you’ve ever been in the desert.
Life in the deserts in and around Saudi Arabia is not an easy life. The lack of water for survival is readily apparent, but it’s not just exposure to the elements or dying of thirst that can kill you. Almost everything in the desert is adapted to maximum killability. The weather in the dry sands of the Arabian Peninsula is just the start. The highest temperature recorded on the peninsula is 53 degrees Celsius, or 127 degrees for you American readers. Remember what those Desert Storm Marines were wearing in that?
To feel it, just go to the beach wearing everything you own.
Suddenly the wandering troops saw another military post, they just happened to stumble upon. But they weren’t exactly sure who that nearby installation belonged to. If it wasn’t the Americans, then whose was it? Should they approach? Half expecting the base to just light them up as they came closer, the two Marines bravely walked on. IF they were approaching the wrong outpost or if just one of the guards had an itchy trigger finger, the whole thing could have gone belly up.
But it didn’t. It turns out the base belonged to a U.S. ally: Qatar. Payne admits the Qataris could have just lit the two men up, but they didn’t. Instead, like true professional soldiers, the Qatari troops held their ground while not just lighting up the evening sky with their remains. The Qataris didn’t speak English. They were in the middle of the same war. Yet they allowed these strangers to approach the base and explain their situation on a dark and moonless night.
Even though the Qatari troops didn’t speak much English, they were able to determine where the Marines belonged. Under the cover of darkness, the two were quickly packed up in a truck and hauled away to their unit. If it were not for the Qatari troops, those two Marines would likely have been lost forever.