The time an American battleship flooded itself...on purpose - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

Unless it’s a submarine, you generally don’t want your ship filling with water. Of course, all ships have some amount of ballast water held in ballast tanks and cargo holds. This provides stability and maneuverability on the sea. In combat though, extreme and unconventional measures are sometimes necessary to accomplish the mission.

Launched on May 18, 1912 and commissioned on March 12, 1914, USS Texas (BB-35) sailed almost immediately into action. In May 1914, she steamed for Mexico in response to the detention of an American gunboat at Tampico. Despite skipping the usual shakedown cruise, Texas remained on station off the coast of Mexico in support of American forces on shore for just over two months.

During WWI, Texas fired the first American shots of the war. On April 19, 1917, while escorting the merchant ship Mongolia, one of Texas’ batteries opened fire on a surfaced German U-boat. Although the enemy vessel wasn’t sunk, the attack on the merchant vessel was deterred. For the remainder of the war, Texas sailed with Britain’s Grand Fleet escorting convoys and minelayers.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Crewman aboard USS Texas pose on one of the ship’s main 14-inch gun batteries (U.S. Navy)

Texas again made history during the inter-war period when she became the first American battleship to launch an airplane on March 10, 1919. She was also overhauled with a new powerplant and given additional guns at the sacrifice of her torpedo tubes. She briefly served as the flagship of the Pacific Fleet before returning to the Atlantic just before the outbreak of WWII.

Before America’s entry into WWII, Texas conducted neutrality patrols and escorted lend-lease convoys across the Atlantic. Additionally, in February 1941, the legendary US 1st Marine Division was activated aboard the Texas. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Texas escorted allied convoys to a variety of Atlantic destinations like Panama, Sierra Leone, and the United Kingdom.

During Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, Texas broadcasted Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Voice of Freedom” speech imploring the Vichy French not to oppose the allied landings. During the invasion, Texas fired less than 300 shells in supporting fire, a number that would be quickly dwarfed during her next major operation.

Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, D-Day. Texas sailed with the Western Taskforce for Normandy on June 3, 1944. On June 6, she took up her station off of Pointe du Hoc and began her bombardment of the coast in support of the 29th Infantry Division, 2nd, and 5th Ranger Battalions. In 34 minutes, Texas had fired 255 14-inch shells into Pointe du Hoc. Afterwards, with the help of aerial observers, she shifted her main batteries to fire on German reinforcements, artillery batteries, and other strong points further inland.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
USS Texas fires a salvo from her 14-inch guns (U.S. Navy)

As allied forces pushed off the beach, Texas moved closer to shore to support them. Originally stationed 12,000 yards offshore, she moved to just 3,000 yards from the beach. On June 7 and 8, she continued to bombard German positions. She was forced to return to England to rearm and was on station off of France again on June 11. By June 15 though, allied forces had pushed so far inland that their targets were now out of Texas’ range. In order to fulfill the requested fire missions, Texas’ crew had to get creative.

The ship’s massive 14-inch guns did not have the elevation required to lob their shots as far inland as the invasion forces needed. So, if the guns facing port couldn’t be raised any further, then the starboard side needed to be lowered. The starboard torpedo blister, a sponson on the hull below of the waterline, was flooded with water. This listed Texas two degrees to starboard and gave her main batteries enough elevation to complete the fire mission. Talk about improvise, adapt, overcome. However, the next day, the designated targets were too far for the flooding solution to work and Texas retired to England on June 18.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention and combat has proved this time and time again. The next time someone pitches you a solution that sounds crazy, remember that it might be just crazy enough to work.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why the 1st Marine Division ships out to ‘Waltzing Matilda’

When considering music that we’d want to play as we ship out to a combat zone, very few of us would think of choosing a 19th century Australian folk song about a hobo who stole a sheep. And yet, that’s exactly what the Marines of the 1st Marine Division do en masse. It may seem odd that United States Marines choose to deploy using Australia’s unofficial national anthem, but a closer look at the history of the unit (and how the song ends) helps make sense of it all.

During World War II, the Marines of “the Old Breed,” the 1st Marine Division, famously began the first Allied offensive against Japan in the Pacific at Guadalcanal. Armed with old Springfield M1903 rifles and meager stores of food and ammunition, the Marines wrested control of the island from Japan in just over six months, earning them their first of three Presidential Unit Citations in WWII and a well-deserved rest in Australia.


The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

Say “no” to Bull Halsey. See what happens.

After the months of fighting and privation, the Marines were looking worse for wear. Sick from dysentery and weak, the men were just worn out. When they first docked in Brisbane, they were housed in what amounted to a series of shacks in swampland.

When the Marines’ commander, General Alexander Vandegrift, ordered that the entire division be moved, the Navy told him there was no way to spare the number of ships needed — and they had nowhere to go, anyway. That’s where Admiral William “Bull” Halsey and the city of Melbourne came in. Australia’s second-largest city offered to take them with open arms and Halsey would get them there.

Camps of already-pitched tents and bunks were waiting for them as they landed in Melbourne. The sick and wounded were transferred to a newly-finished hospital in nearby Parkville and the rest were given unlimited liberty for the next 90 full days. One account says the citizens of Melbourne opened their homes to the Marines. It was a mutual love affair for the guys who left their homes in the U.S. to fight with and for the Aussies.

On George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, 1943, the Marines marched a parade through Melbourne. During this parade, the 1st Marine Division Band decided to play the Australian folk favorite, Waltzing Matilda. The Australian onlookers loved it and cheered loudly for the procession.

Thus began the love affair between the 1st Marine Division and Australia.

When winter came, the Australians even gave the Marines their winter jackets, which were soon adopted by the USMC uniform board (no small feat). This is also where 1st Marine Division’s now-famous blue diamond patch was designed. Aside from the the red “one” and “Guadalcanal” markings, the patch also features the constellation Southern Cross, which is a symbol of Australia.

Every camp set up by the 1st Marine Division is called “Matilda.”

Marines hit three feet of rough water as they leave their LST to take the beach at Cape Gloucester, New Britain.

(National Archives)

The Australians were jubilant for the Marines’ victory on Guadalcanal. It was bad news for the Japanese who had invaded nearby Papua New Guinea, an Australian protectorate. After their rest, the Marines’ next move prevented the Imperial Japanese Navy from invading mainland Australia by taking the war to them yet again, invading New Guinea via Cape Gloucester.

As for the sheep thief in Waltzing Matilda, he was confronted by police for his theft and refused to surrender, instead throwing himself into the nearby body of water, a billabong, to evade capture.

Articles

Once upon a time, this ‘little kid’ was a lethal Vietnam War fighter

Before the American military draft was overturned in 1973, nearly 2.2 million Americans between the ages of 18-25 were pulled for service, including baby-faced 20-year-old, Mike Allen.


Nicknamed the “little kid” by the Vietnamese, Allen’s fellow soldiers suspected he shouldn’t be deployed because of his apparent age. But he’d simply reply: “My government says I do.”

Assigned to an Army swing battalion, Allen’s unit would rapidly deploy to the most dangerous areas at a moment’s notice, so he saw a lot of action.

Related: The first man killed in the Vietnam War was murdered by a fellow airman

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Mike taking a moment for a photo op while waiting in the bush. (Source: Wisconsin Public Television/YouTube/Screenshot)

Weighing in at approximately 120 pounds, Allen said in an interview he had to carry a grocery list of munitions like Claymore mines, trip flares, hand fragmentation grenades and at least 2,000 rounds of M60 ammo, just to name a few.

With all that gear strapped to his back, Mike humorously said, “you didn’t want to run short in case you hit the sh-t.”

Like most grunts, Mike had to live in the hot and muggy jungles and wore his first set of clothes for roughly 80 days, with only four 0r five changes to last during the deployment.

Allen earned an Air Medal for surviving at least 25 operational flights into unsecured landing zones.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Proud Vietnam Veteran Mike Allen (Source: Wisconsin Public Television/YouTube/Screenshot)

“You were scared but you couldn’t feel scared because it would overtake you,” Mike said. “You know they’re watching you, and you try to keep your distance.”

Also Read: That time CBS captured an intense firefight in Vietnam

Check out Wisconsin Public Television‘s video below to watch Mike Allen’s patriotic story of what life was like for the “little kid” of Vietnam.

(Wisconsin Public Television, YouTube)Fun Fact:  According to the  National Archives, 27 million American men were eligible for service and only 2.2 million were drafted between 1964 and 1973. That is all.
MIGHTY HISTORY

4 things you didn’t know about the easiest medal you’ll ever earn

When young men and women join the military, the majority of them dream of making a huge impact, day one, on America’s armed forces — if not the world. From the moment we touch the training grounds of boot camp to the graduation ceremony, we show up ready to make our mark on history by earning different accolades.


Those accomplishments are represented in form of certificates, letters of recommendation, and, of course, ribbons and medals.

Although some of those distinguishments are tough-as-hell to earn, others get pinned on our chest just for making it through boot camp.

One of those earnings, the National Defense Service Medal, or NDSM, is one of the simplest medals you’ll earn.

Related: 5 things you didn’t know about the Navy’s Medal of Honor

Here’s what you didn’t know about the NDSM:

4. Its origin

The NDSM was inked into existence when former President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10448 on Apr. 22, 1953. It was to serve as a “blanket” campaign medal for service members who honorably served in the military during a period of “national emergency.”

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
President Eisenhower, 1954. (Photo under public domain)

3. You actually earned the medal?

Since the medal’s establishment, there have been periods of time in which the U.S. isn’t been involved a major conflict. Many veterans who served during those times don’t rate to wear this medal since they didn’t serve during “national emergency” periods.

Those who served during the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the Global War on Terrorism all rate to wear the ribbon above their heart if they’ve served for more than 89 days — including boot camp.

2. The medal’s front design

The medal features an eagle perched on a sword and palm branch. The eagle, of course, is the national symbol for the United States, the sword represents the armed forces, and the palm branch is symbolic of victory.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

Also Read: 5 reasons why the Volunteer Service Medal is the most ridiculous medal

1. The meaning behind medal’s reverse side

The center showcases the great seal of the United States, flanked by laurel and oak, which symbolize achievement and strength.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Navy constantly checks on this sunken cruiser

In the early months of World War II, the United States Asiatic Fleet had been given an impossible job — hold the line against the might of the Japanese Navy. The ships and men did their best, but they were ultimately forced to retreat towards Australia. Unfortunately, not all of them made it.


One of those ships that didn’t make it was the Northampton-class heavy cruiser, USS Houston. She was sunk by Japanese forces 76 years ago in the Battle of the Sunda Strait alongside the light cruiser, HMAS Perth. Of the 1,061 men aboard, only 291 survived both the sinking and being held as prisoners of war.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The heavy cruiser USS Houston was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet prior to World War II. (US Navy photo)

In 2014, the wreck of USS Houston, the final resting place of 650 sailors and Marines, including Captain George Rooks (awarded the Medal of Honor), was located. The problem was that the vessel sank in shallow waters, providing easy access for divers.

A 2014 release by the Navy noted that there were signs that the wreck had been disturbed. In 2015, the United States Navy and the Indonesian Navy teamed up to survey the wrecks of Houston and Perth to ascertain their condition.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Navy Divers assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11, Mobile Diving Salvage (MDS) 11-7, survey HMAS Perth (D29) during dive operations held in support of search and survey operations of the sunken World War II navy vessels USS Houston (CA 30) and Perth. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez)

The good news was that the survey showed no signs of recent salvaging. However, the same couldn’t be said for wrecks from battles that took place off the coast of Indonesia, which have been seriously damaged by illegal salvage operators seeking to acquire the pre-1945 steel onboard sunken warships. Some of the vessels, which are considered war graves under international law, have been almost completely stripped for a few Indonesian rupiahs. Each rupiah is worth .0073 cents.

This past September, the Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) laid a wreath at the Houston‘s location. The ceremony took place during the multi-national CARAT exercises, which have sometimes seen divers survey the wrecks.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

In the Battle of Fallujah, Marines swept in to take the city away from insurgent forces, only to have politicians pull them out — and send them right back in months later. The first and second Battles of Fallujah have entered Marine Corps lore, alongside Iwo Jima and Chapultepec.


But what many don’t know is what happened at the Battle of Najaf, which played out before the 2nd Battle of Fallujah kicked off.

An Najaf is another sacred city in Iraq. It has approximately seven square miles of cemeteries — as above, so below. Under the cemeteries are miles of catacombs, haunting places where enemy fighters could be hiding, concealed in the dark.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
A U.S. soldier performs a security patrol outside An Najaf cemetery where Anti-Iraqi Forces have recently launched attacks at Multi-National Forces. The patrol’s focus was on finding weapons caches, Improvised Explosive Devises (I.E.D.s), and Anti-Iraqi Forces that might be hiding in tombs or catacombs within the cemetery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Ashley Brokop)

A major player in the battle was the insurgent leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric who brought disgruntled Iraqis together under the idea of an Islamic democracy. To enforce that idea, he created a military wing, Jaysh al-Mahdi, also known as the Mahdi Army. He suddenly turned on the coalition, demanding an immediate withdraw of all coalition forces from Iraq.

Though the mayor of An Najaf brokered a ceasefire between the coalition and the Mahdi Army in June 2004, this only lasted until the end of August. In July of that year, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit took over operational command from Task Force Dragon. That’s when the fighting in the city started to escalate.

In August, the Mahdi Army attacked the 1st Battalion 4th Marines, starting a significant battle of the new Iraq War. The next days were long and drawn out, characterized by house-to-house fighting, open-street engagements, and fighting across open farm fields. For eight days, the battle raged through the city.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
A U.S. Marine Corps M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Special Operations Capable (SOC), in convoy along the streets of An Najaf, An Najaf Province, Iraq, on Aug. 12, 2004, during a raid of the Muqtada Militia strong points in the area. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel J. Fosco)

Much like what happened in Fallujah a few months earlier, Marines and soldiers were taking the fight to insurgents. American troops were surprised by incoming small arms fire and indirect fire. Though the enemy forces were not well trained, there was a lot of them, which compensated for their lack of real infantry tactics.

At one point, the battle swept over the city’s huge cemetery, which was the stage for some of the most intense fighting of the entire Iraq War. Surrounded by the resting dead, Marines fought against extreme numbers and both sides suffered heavy casualties. Fighting on the surface was so brutal that soldiers and Marines were also forced to fight in the catacombs below.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
U.S. troops at final limit of advance during a morning of clearing operations.

Fallujah was the biggest urban battle since Hue City and An Najaf saw the first tunnel fighting since Vietnam.

The end of the battle brought with it a final tally of dead and wounded. Twelve Americans were killed in action and 94 were wounded. Iraqi soldiers also saw significant losses. The numbers for the Mahdi Army, however, are far greater, with 1,500 killed in action and an unknown number wounded, estimated to be in the thousands.

The battle removed Al-Sadr and most of those loyal to him from the city. Marines began to secure their area of operations and returned to rebuilding Najaf and the surrounding region. However, some of the Mahdi Army’s militiamen stayed in the city, challenging the 1st battalion, 4th Marines at every opportunity.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Marines patrol the streets of Najaf in 2004.

Instead of their normal black militia uniforms, they now wore street clothing. This allowed them to blend into the local populace. Coalition troops could no longer differentiate between friend or foe when the streets turned to a battlefield.

Marines and soldiers at the Battle of Najaf should be proud of the accomplishment of securing the city. As time passes, they remain hopeful that Americans will know about the heroes that came out of the battle and the ones who fell there — that we never let this battle be lost to history.

It will be remembered, just as much as The Battles of Fallujah.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War II soldier was the real Private Ryan

Sergeant Fritz Niland had more to do with Band of Brothers than Saving Private Ryan – save for being the inspiration for the movie’s central plot. Historian Steven Ambrose even wrote about Niland in his book, “Band of Brothers – E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.” Niland, like the fictional Ryan, lost three brothers in combat, and found out about them all in the same day.

Sadly, his mother did too.


The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

From left to right, the Niland Brothers, Edward, Preston, Robert, and Fritz.

No one had to go searching for Sgt. Niland. He didn’t need to be saved. Niland went looking for his brothers after D-Day, while assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Europe. His brother Bob was in the 82d Airborne, also fighting in Europe. While looking for his brother Bob, he discovered Bob was killed on D-Day. According to Ambrose, Bob Niland’s platoon was surrounded, so Bob manned a machine gun to harass the Germans so his unit could break through. They did, and Bob went through three boxes of ammo before he was killed in action. Fritz then went searching for another brother, Preston.

Preston Niland was a second lieutenant and platoon leader in the 4th Infantry Division. He too landed on D-Day, but with his men at Utah Beach. Fritz discovered that Preston Niland was killed in action on D+1 at Normandy’s Crisbecq Battery. Fritz returned to the 506th with the heartbreaking news. The news got worse from there.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

Frederick “Fritz” Niland is buried at Fort Richardson National Cemetery, Alaska.

Upon returning to his unit, Father Francis Sampson informed Fritz Niland that a third brother was killed by the enemy. Technical Sergeant Edward Niland, who had been imprisoned by the Japanese in the China-India-Burma theater was considered killed in action. Fritz Niland was now the sole surviving son of his family. The Army decided to send him home as soon as possible. His mother had received all three War Department telegrams on the same day. No platoon was sent to take him home, instead, Father Samson escorted Niland to Utah Beach, where he was flown home to complete his service stateside.

Luckily, Edward Niland wasn’t actually dead. He’d been held prisoner by the Japanese after being shot down in May 1944. He was held for over a year before being liberated in 1945. Word had not yet come to the European theater when Fritz found out about his brothers. The two surviving brothers actually moved to their native Tonawanda, N.Y. when they left the Army, and Edward actually outlived Fritz by a full year. Edward died in 1984, while Fritz passed in 1983.

Robert and Preston are buried side-by-side at the American Cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.

MIGHTY HISTORY

15 photos of the first black Marines in US history

The U.S. Marine Corps didn’t allow black men into its ranks until 1942, months after America joined World War II and decades after the Army and Navy began accepting black troops. But that delayed start means that cameras were common when the first black Marines earned their Eagle, Globe, and Anchors. Here are 15 photos from those first pioneers.


(Writer’s note: These images come from the National Archives which have a whole section dedicated to black troops in World War II with over 250 images. The captions below were updated for language and clarity, but the information contained comes from that archive. You can find more images and historical context by visiting them here.)

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
MIGHTY HISTORY

The US invaded Iraq 15 years ago today

The US invaded Iraq 15 years ago on March 20, 2018.


The invasion was approved by Congress and had majority support among the American public, but is now considered one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in US history.

Former President George W. Bush’s administration sold it on the pretext that Saddam Hussein had, or was trying to make, weapons of mass destruction (most notably nuclear weapons), and that Iraq’s government had connections to various terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

Also read: John Bolton still thinks the Iraq War was a good idea

While Hussein’s links to terrorism and nuclear ambitions turned out to be untrue, the US occupied the country for nearly eight years before pulling out, creating a power vacuum that ISIS filled.

Two years later, the US military was back in the country — this time fighting a completely different enemy.

Here’s a look back at the last 15 years:

“The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade,” Bush said during the 2002 State of the Union Address.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
U.S. President George W. Bush at the 2002 State of the Union address in January 2002. (Wikipedia)

For more than a year after 9/11, the Bush administration made similar comments about Hussein’s nuclear ambitions, and also his ties with terrorism.

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Vice President Dick Cheney said in August 2002.

“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN in September 2002.

These statements, and others made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, turned out to be based on faulty intelligence.

Some disagreed with the Bush administration’s intelligence assessments, including former Commander of US Central Command Gen. Anthony Zinni, and even argued that the administration lied about Hussein’s nuclear ambitions and links to terrorism.

On March 20, 2003, after Bush gave Hussein 48 hours to relinquish power, the US launched Tomahawk cruise missiles on Baghdad in a strategy the Pentagon called “shock and awe.”

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

The “shock and awe” bombing strategy was followed by an invasion of about 130,000 US troops.

In early April 2003, Baghdad fell, symbolized by the toppling of a state of Hussein in Firdaus Square.

In May 2003, Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a fighter jet while wearing a flight suit, and announced that major combat operations in Iraq were over.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).

A large sign reading “Mission Accomplished” hung behind him as Bush spoke, but in reality, the US military would fight a long, brutal insurgency for years after his speech.

In March 2004, a few months after Saddam Hussein was captured near Tikrit, four Blackwater contractors were killed and hung by insurgents from a bridge in Fallujah.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

The incident led to a nearly year-long battle for Fallujah.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
An Iraqi T-72 tank during the Liberation of Fallujah by Iraqi

The insurgents that US troops battled over the coming years were a diverse group, composed of criminals, former Iraqi soldiers, Sunni militias, and eventually foreign fighters such as al-Qaeda.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
al-Qaeda fighters.

In 2004, and in the coming years, US troops battled insurgents not just in Fallujah, but all across Iraq, including Mosul, Samarra, Najaf, Abu Ghraib (where it was discovered US troops were torturing and abusing detained Iraqis), and many more.

In January 2005, photographer Chris Hondros captured US troops accidentally killing the parents of 5-year-old Samar Hassan seen below.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

The incident shined light on a growing concern that US troops were often accidentally killing civilians.

One of the most egregious incidents came in 2007 when Blackwater contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad.

By 2007, as Iraq was in chaos and US troops were battling a bloody insurgency that some characterized as a game of whack-a-mole, the US decided to deploy 30,000 more troops to the country in what became known as the “surge.”

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
(Photo by US Air Force Staff Sgt. DeNoris A. Mickle)

With nearly 900 killed, 2007 was also the bloodiest year for US troops in Iraq, which added to the growing anti-war sentiment among the American population.

Some of the sentiment, however, had been tempered over the previous four years by Bush’s decision to not allow the media to photograph the coffins of returning US troops — something they knew helped the Vietnam protesters in the 1970s.

Source: NBC

Related: How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

Growing anti-war sentiment led not only to the Republicans losing Congress in 2006, but also the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

Shortly after Obama’s inauguration, he announced the drawdown from Iraq, which culminated in the last troops leaving in December 2011.

In total, the war in Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, 4,500 American troops, and cost over $2 trillion.

But the Iraqi government and army could not fill the power vacuum left behind by the departing US military. In 2014, a new terrorist group called ISIS began taking large swaths of northern Iraq.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
This photo from an ISIS video shows a painful part of the ISIS recruit training.

ISIS, which was founded by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in 2004, entered Mosul in June 2014.

In 2014, a few thousand troops were sent back to Iraq to dislodge ISIS, but this time the US had a new strategy.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
US soldiers gather at a military base north of Mosul, Iraq, January 4, 2017. (Photo by US Army)

Whether learning from old mistakes or simply because there was a new administration with a different agenda, US troops this time were deployed mainly to train and support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish militias battling ISIS.

More: The US is beginning to draw down from fighting in Iraq

In October 2016, the main battle for Mosul began, where the Iraqi military slowly retook the city with US artillery support. By July 2017, the city had fell after a long siege.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
(Photo by US Army)

An AP investigation found that 9,000-11,000 civilians were killed in the battle for Mosul.

In December 2017, the Iraqi military declared the country “fully liberated” from ISIS. Although sectarian tensions still remain, Iraq has become more stable since the fall of ISIS.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

There remains disagreement about who or what is responsible for ISIS gaining so much ground in Iraq. Some blame Bush’s initial invasion, some blame Obama’s drawdown.

While the two are not mutually exclusive, it cannot be denied that the Bush administration initiated the fighting.

Articles

This is how the Swedish air force planned to survive World War III

In the event World War III broke out between the Soviet Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Sweden intended to remain neutral.


After all, they’d managed to sit out World Wars I and II.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
An underside view of a Swedish Saab 37 Viggen fighter aircraft during Exercise BALTOPS ’85. (US Navy photo)

 

But there’s also a growing recognition that their neutrality would not be respected. A 2015 New York Times report noted that a Russian submarine sank in Swedish waters in 1916 after colliding with a Swedish vessel. In the 1980s, there were also a number of incidents, the most notorious being “Whiskey on the Rocks.” According to WarHistoryOnline.com, a Soviet Whiskey-class diesel-electric submarine ran aground off the Swedish coast in 1981, prompting a standoff between Swedish and Soviet forces that included scrambling fighters armed with anti-ship missiles.

The Soviets knew Sweden could threaten their northern flank, and the Swedes knew that they may well have to fight the Soviet Union, even though they were neutral. Should a NATO-Warsaw Pact war break out, the Swedes made contingency plans to be able to deploy their Air Force, and keep fighting in the event the Soviets attacked.

Swedish fighters serving with the Flygvapnet (Swedish air force) in that timeframe were the Saab J 35 Draken and the JA 37 Viggen. The Swedes did draw lessons from how the Israeli Defense Force hit Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in the opening hours of the Six Day War, and developed a way to make sure that the Soviets (or anyone else) would not be able to carry out a similar strike.

The new approach was called “Airbase System 90” or “Bas 90” and featured not only dispersal of the aircraft, but the widening of roads to allow them to be used as runways.

Below is a video produced by the Flygvapnet discussing the new system. While the audio is in Swedish, it has English captions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This pilot in his pajamas shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it’s hot on the work site, it’s important to stay cool. If it’s hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army’s aircraft on the ground.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol’ martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A’s fuselage.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
(U.S. Air Force photo)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Puerto Ricans gained US citizenship just in time to be drafted for World War I

In 2017, Puerto Ricans battled economic hardship and the lasting effects of Hurricane Maria at home as they celebrated 100 years of American citizenship. On March 2, 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act was passed by Congress, making the island a U.S. territory and guaranteeing citizenship to all Puerto Ricans born after April 25, 1898. With citizenship came all the requirements of citizenship: serving on juries, paying taxes, and being drafted for military service.

Just in time for World War I.


The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

Welcome to the party, pal.

It was just twenty years after the United States usurped the island’s Spanish rulers in the Spanish-American War and annexed Puerto Rico as a territory of the United States. By the end of the United States’ participation in World War I, the Selective Service Act would draft some 2.8 million men, sending an estimated 10,000 troops to France every day. The U.S. Army had come a long way from the third-rate militia it was before the war. To meet the requirements of becoming a great, global power, it needed the manpower of one.

American territories, which at the time included Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and others, were exempt from the draft. The legislature of Puerto Rico immediately asked Congress to extend conscription to American territories – namely Puerto Rico. But this was purely at the request of the Puerto Ricans.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

Puerto Rican Cpl. Ricardo LaFontaine in 1917.

In all, some 236,000 Puerto Ricans from the island signed up for selective service for a potential draft notice. Of those, 18,000 would go on to serve in the war. But they weren’t always welcome. African-American Puerto Ricans, like many minorities in the U.S., weren’t entirely welcome and ended up in segregated units. For those Puerto Ricans not of African descent, they would be assigned to some regular units in the U.S. military. Still, President Wilson, in the face of discouragement from the War Department, created a Puerto Rican Division.

A full 70 percent of those Puerto Ricans who signed up for service in World War I were rejected for no other reason than the War Department didn’t know what to do with them in a segregated Army. Despite this, there has long been a conspiracy theory that held Puerto Rico was only granted citizenship so they could fight in the war. If that were true, the U.S. would have sent a lot more Puerto Ricans than it did.

Articles

5 of the ballsiest WWII POW escape attempts – all by the same pilot

William Ash wasn’t going to wait for the United States to enter World War II. He left for Canada from Detroit in 1939 to join the Royal Canadian Air Force to take his own fight to the enemy.


And he lost his American citizenship for his effort.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Bill Ash at the cockpit of his Spitfire, greeted by the Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King. (Bantom Press)

By 1941, the Texas native was in the Battle of Britain, flying his Spitfire fighter over London and the English Channel, taking down Hitler’s Luftwaffe one plane at a time. In 1942, Ash was shot down over the Pas-de-Calais.

He only ever managed to shoot down one bogey.

After his capture in northern France, he would spend the rest of the war as a prisoner, but he wouldn’t make it easy on the Nazis. Instead, Ash became something of an escape artist, attempting to break out of Nazi prison camps so many times, he lost count.

“My idea was always to get on the other side of the wire and run like hell,” he once told a close friend.

His schemes were as simple as running away from a work detail to more complex plans like digging a 100-yard tunnel through a latrine hole.

Here are five of his ballsiest POW escape attempts.

1. The Tourist.

The best way to avoid detection is to simply pretend you belong in whatever place you’re in. After Ash was first shot down, he made his way to Paris with the help of the French Resistance.

Instead of evading into the woods, the pilot attempted to hide in plain sight — by visiting museums, bathhouses, and galleries as if he were simply a tourist.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Ash’s POW file.

He was eventually captured by the Gestapo, who brutally beat the pilot and almost executed him. Luckily for Ash, the Luftwaffe intervened and claimed him as its prisoner, considering his RCAF status.

2. The Latrine Tunnel.

A BBC Magazine story about Ash’s time in camp Oflag XXIB in Poland details this complex escape plan. For three months, a team of diggers would crawl through a trap door in a toilet seat attempting to dig a 100-yard tunnel from the latrine to the woodline.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Ash in his RCAF Spitfire.

It was March 1943 when the POWs made their move through the tunnel. Disguised in modified uniforms and carrying forged passports, 35 of the men escaped the camp. Unfortunately, most were hastily recaptured.

3. Trading Places.

The daring Ash traded identities with another POW, Don Fair, as Fair was being transferred to Stalag Luft IV in modern-day Lithuania. Since the guards of Stalag Luft IV didn’t know he had a record of trying to escape, so they wouldn’t be ready for his many escape attempts.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Ash’s wartime RCAF Portrait

He immediately escaped his new camp and made his way to a beach, where he found a boat. Ash ran into a few guys in the middle of a field, and after telling them he was a downed American pilot, they informed him that they were German soldiers growing cabbages.

4. The shower drain.

Ash’s first major escape attempt involved a shower drain. The idea was to stay put for a while, living under the shower huts until life outside the camp went back to normal. Then he and another prisoner planned to leave without anyone sounding the alarm for missing POWs.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose
Ash in 1941 (Bantom Books)

He and his fellow escapee filled their pants full of a high-calorie mixture of chocolate and nuts from Red Cross packages and slipped into a manhole in the shower. When the other POWs emerged to be counted, the Germans noticed the missing men and found them in the manhole.

Ash and his partner couldn’t let the Nazis know about the survival food the men used to prepare for an escape, so they ate it all. They were pulled from the shower with their faces covered in chocolate.

5. Walking Out the Front Door.

At one point, he joined up with a group of Soviet detainees on a slave labor detail. As they walked out of the prison on their way to work, Bill Ash worked his way into the group and attempted to make his exit from from the front gates.

Ash was liberated by Allied forces after a final escape in April 1945. His exploits as an escapee and the unbelievable amount of time he spent in solitary confinement (aka “the cooler) for those exploits may have earned him a spot in Hollywood lore.

According to his New York Times obituary, the character Virgil “the Cooler King” Hilts in the 1963 film “The Great Escape” was famously portrayed by Steve McQueen.

The time an American battleship flooded itself…on purpose

Ash denied the character was supposed to be him. He maintained that even though the escape from Stalag Luft III depicted in the film was real, he could not have joined it – he was in the cooler at the time.

Ash’s exploits are recounted in 2015’s “Under the Wire: The World War II Adventures of a Legendary Escape Artist and ‘Cooler King.’ ”

Ash died in 2014 at 96.