6 of France's greatest military victories that people seem to forget - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget

There’s no question about it: A singular blemish in French history is to blame for their eternal ridicule. The moment Marshal Philippe Petain surrendered (kind of) to the Germans after being the main target of the blitzkrieg was the moment people started associating “s’il vous plaît” with “surrender.”

Ridicule against Vichy France, the German puppet state, isn’t without merit — we get it. But to overlook the storied nation’s thousands of years of badassery is laughably incorrect. Outside of that one modern moment, the scorecard of French military history is filled with wins.


Author’s Note: It’s a fool’s errand to try and rank these by historical significance or how they each demonstrate French military might, so they’re listed in chronological order:

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
Coincidentally, this would also be the last time England was taken over.

 

Battle of Hastings

If you want to get technical, this battle happened before the formation of France proper. Still, it’s generally agreed that France began with the Franks. Sorry, Gauls. Their legacy of military might includes (successfully) fighting off vikings, Iberians, and, occasionally, the Holy Roman Empire.

But the single landmark victory for the Franks came when Duke William the Bastard of Normandy pressed his claim over the English crown in 1066. At the Battle of Hastings, outnumbered Normans fought English forces, led by King Herald Godwinson. The Normans, led by William, pushed through English shield walls to take out the crown. William the Bastard then went on to conquer the rest of England and earned himself the a new moniker, “King William the Conqueror.”

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
Surprisingly enough, feeding your troops makes them fight better.
(Jean-Jacques Scherrer, “Joan of Arc enters Orleans,” 1887)

 

Siege of Orleans

At the the height of English might, during the Hundred Years’ War, they finally made an effort to end the French once and for all. The city of Orleans was put under siege — and the throne was thrust into dire circumstances. All the English had to do was starve city. That was, until a young peasant girl arrived: Joan of Arc.

Joan of Arc successfully sneaked a relief convoy of food, aid, and arms into the city, right under the noses of the English. This bolstered the strength of the defenders. With food in bellies and morale on the rise, the besieged made a stand and finally pushed the English out of France.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
Seriously. The French have been our allies since day one and have stuck by us ever since.
(John Trumbull, “Surrender of Lord Cornwallis,” 1820)

 

Battle of Yorktown

This is the battle that won the Americans the Revolutionary War, so it’s most often seen as a major victory for the Americans. But the victory would have never been if it weren’t for massive support from the French.

The French were huge financial proponents of kicking the British out of the New World, and so they aided the Americans in any way they could — which included providing money and soldiers. Everything came to a head at Yorktown, Virginia when Lord Cornwallis went up against General George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau. It was an effort of equal parts — both Washington and Rochambeau flanked Cornwallis on each side, forcing his surrender and officially relinquishing British control over the Colonies.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
If you gotta go out, go out in a blaze of glory… I guess.
(William Sadler, “The Battle of Waterloo,” 1815)

 

Most of the Napoleonic Wars

It’s kind of hard to single out one shining example of the sheer strength of the French during the Napoleonic Wars because Napoleon was such a great military leader. If you break down his win/loss ratio down into baseball statistics, like these guys have, he outshines every general in history —from Alexander the Great to modern generals.

Let’s look at the Battle of Ligny. Napoleon managed to piss off the entirety of Europe, causing themto band together tofight him. He was cornered in Prussia andhis enemies were closing in. In a last-ditch effort, he took a sizable chunk out of the Prussian military and forced them to retreat. This all happened while the English, the Russians, the Austrians, and the Germans were trying to intervene.

Just two days later came the Battle ofWaterloo, duringwhich most of Europe had to work together to bring down the dominant Napoleon.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
This is why Petain remains such a polarizing figure. He may have given up France in the 40s, but he saved it thirty years earlier.
(National Archives)

 

The Battle of Verdun

Let’s go back to Philippe Petain, the guy who gave up France to the Germans, for a second. Today, many see him as a traitor, a coward, and a weakling — but these insults can’t be made with putting a huge asterisk next to them. In World War I, he was known as the “Lion of Verdun” after he oversaw and won what is known as the longest and single bloodiest battle in human history.

For almost the entirety of the year 1916, the Germans pushed everything they had into a single forest on the French/German border. It was clear within the first six days that after the Germans spent 2 million rounds, 2 million artillery shells, and deployed chemical warfare for the first time, that the French would not budge. 303 days later, the Germans finally realize that the French wouldn’t give in and gave up.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
​So maybe lay off the “French WWII Rifle for sale” jokes. It might be funny if it weren’t completely inaccurate.
(National Archives)

 

Operation Dragoon

In the opening paragraph, there was a “(kind of)” next to mention of French surrender during WWII. Well, that’s because not all of France gave in — just parts of it. France was split into three: Vichy France (a powerless puppet state), the French Protectorates (which were mostly released back to their home rule), and the resistance fighters of Free France.

The Free French resistance fighters were widespread across the French territory, but were mostly centralized in the South. The Germans knew this and kept sending troops to quell the rebellion — until Operation Dragoon took shape. Aided by Allied air power, French resistance fighters were able to repel the Germans out of Free France in only four weeks and give the Allies the strong foothold they needed in the Mediterranean until the fall of fascist Italy.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

John Anderson was many things: a skilled seaman, a ship’s surgeon and charming drinking buddy. All three of these qualities would help him seize control of the island of Guam, briefly, before ceding it back to the Spanish governor. 

He found himself on Guam after being convicted of breach of trust while serving aboard a ship in the Royal Navy. He escaped to the island, where he started a new life.

Once there, his only real behavioral issues came when in the port with fellow Englishmen. They would tip a few glasses and get proper drunk. He first first came to Guam in 1819 and liked it so much, he decided he would stay.

He eventually got married, had several children and began to work in the port of the Spanish-held island. One day he decided that maybe Spain shouldn’t control the island – maybe he could do a better job. 

Anderson and his fellow Englishmen there hatched a scheme that would leave them in charge of Guam. He would simply get the governor stinking drunk and take it by force. 

The plan began with ingratiating themselves to the ruling class of the island. Now going by the name Juan Anderson, he integrated himself and his colleagues into the inner circles of Guam’s most important people, eventually meeting the governor and earning his trust. 

By 1831, Don Francisco Villalobos, Spanish Governor of the Mariana Islands, appointed Juan Anderson as the Port’s Adjutant, acting with full authority of the Captain of the Port. He was also granted the honorific title of “Don” himself. 

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
The Mariana Islands are circled in red. (Wikipedia)

One night, they sat to have drinks with the Spanish Governor of Guam, Pablo Perez. After getting Perez “as drunk as a boiled owl,” the English took control of the palace, along with all the weapons and ammunition on the island. With possession of the island in their hands they began to celebrate.

They also had to decide who would rule as the new governor, a decision to which no one could agree. So the English did what good Englishmen do, and had a drinking contest. The last man standing sober would win the governor’s palace. The winner was Anderson, the expert-level drinker. 

But even Anderson was so drunk he couldn’t stand. With the Englismen passed out drunk, the Spanish calmly took back control of the situation, the palace, and the island. The English were subsequently tied up and arraigned for their treason, then sentenced to be placed on a raft and cast away at sea. 

Once convicted, their sentence was carried out right away and the men drifted around the Pacific Ocean for several days before coming ashore at Tinian island. They made the best of their new home on Tinian, but longed to return to Guam. 

The conspirators wrote a letter to the once-deposed Spanish governor pleading for forgiveness and expressing their regret for what they’d done. Governor Perez pardoned them with the condition that they swear allegiance to the Spanish government and the island of Guam and spend the rest of their lives as loyal citizens. 

Articles

This mistress tried to get a future president to back Germany in World War I

President Warren G. Harding served for just over two years as president before dying in office. Before that, his administration was known more for back-door cronyism than sound public policy.


6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
President Warren G. Harding. (Photo: Public Domain)

But Harding had a secret that wouldn’t come out until well after his death. He had a long-time mistress who was a deep and vocal supporter of Germany during the buildup to World War I, and she lobbied hard for her lover to gain similar sympathies.

Carrie Fulton Phillips was the wife of a store owner in Ohio. Phillips and Harding began their affair in 1905 when Harding was the lieutenant governor of Ohio. Harding spent the next 15 years sleeping with Phillips when possible and campaigning for various Republican offices when she wasn’t.

This included Harding’s time as a senator and his run-up to the presidency. During this period, Phillips wrote at length to Harding about the glories of Imperial Germany and her sympathies with the German people. Harding famously replied on official Senate stationery with descriptions of his penis.

Ironically, his nickname for his penis was “Jerry,” the nickname American troops gave to German soldiers.

Phillips’ support of Germany only became more open when Harding took office as a senator. Eventually, this led to surveillance by the Bureau of Investigation, now the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and rumors that she was a spy.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
Carrie Fulton Phillips still wanted Americans charging on this hill, she just wanted them to charge the other direction. (Photo: Public Domain)

While the idea of Phillips convincing a rising senator and future president to support Germany in World War I makes for an interesting alternate history where Germany wins World War I or the two countries get the team back together for World War II, the reality was that Harding was never very pro-German.

A post on the National Archives and Records Administration blog says “Harding praised Phillips’s ‘perfect thighs’ and ‘beautiful form’ but found her pro-German sympathies less attractive.”

Phillips interrupted a session of lovemaking in April 1917, the same month America entered the war against Germany, to lobby on behalf of Germany and threaten Harding with exposure. The senator was angered by her arguments and later wrote of his shock at her actions.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
President Warren G. Harding was surprised that he had to stop having sex. These U.S. soldiers on their way to the front in 1918 were probably more annoyed that their next president had a pro-Germany girlfriend. (Photo: Public Domain)

All of her lobbying largely failed. While America could have gone either way or stayed neutral early in World War I, the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 by a German sub had tipped the U.S. strongly against the Central Powers.

Harding voted in support of the America’s entrance into World War I in 1917 and most laws that paid for it. When he opposed a bill in 1918 that would have expanded the president’s powers, he had to deal with rumors that Phillips was changing his vote.

For what it’s worth, Phillips probably wasn’t a spy for Germany, just a fan of the country. Historians who looked into German records could find no evidence of a spy sleeping with a senator, something German spymasters in America would have reported as a major achievement.

And Phillips’ and Harding’s relationship ran cold before he took presidential office. While Harding was campaigning for the presidency, Phillips threatened him with exposure if he didn’t send her a large sum of money. Harding eventually agreed to $5,000 per month for as long as he was in public office. This amounts to $62,572.75 per month when adjusted for inflation.

Harding died of a heart attack in Aug. 1923, just over two years after taking office.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: No Progress without a Machete

Roughly 2,700,000 men and women served in the Vietnam War. The war lasted from 1965 to 1975 and killed roughly 58,000 American troops. Among those were 1,000 were from Louisiana. It’s been almost 50 years since the Vietnam War ended. Many Louisiana Veterans are still around to tell their stories. And like all veteran stories, some of them are far from the norm.

Not all Vietnam War memories are sad

Like many who served in Vietnam, William Dimattia was also drafted. He served as a surgeon for the US Army Medical Corps in 1967. His service mainly consisted of providing medical care to his assigned Special Forces as well as the nearby Vietnam hospital outside of Saigon. Dimattia was the only physician there. While he took care of American troops, most of his patients were Vietnamese people who lived in the area. He actually has some happy memories from his time in Vietnam, as he repaired a lot of cleft lips for Vietnamese children. He said it turned their frowns into smiles.

No progress without a machete

Just like the doc, Vincent Alexander was drafted. His role in Vietnam was as a Combat Infantry Soldier. As you might expect, he said the only goal was to find and kill the enemy. So he and his team walked single file through the thick, swampy jungle. Their only way forward was with a machete. Once, they accidentally found themselves on a Viet Cong Base Camp while already deep into the jungle. Only 12 survived of the 28 after the Viet Cong fired on them. Alexander said he saw people get killed daily. The threat of being killed himself was always on his mind. 

The invisible enemy

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
Guerrilla forces from North Vietnam’s Vietcong movement cross a river in 1966 during the Vietnam War (Public Domain)

Sgt. Charles Stroud was Combat Infantry. He said the “good thing” about fighting in the jungle was that the enemy couldn’t see them. The Viet Cong would start firing when they heard their footsteps, but without aim. Of course, the same was true on the reverse end. Each side was shooting based on noises, but they couldn’t see. Stroud said they rarely actually caught a glimpse of the enemy. Eventually, he got hit by a booby trap and a fellow Soldier saved him. After the hospital fixed him up, Stroud was sent home grateful to have his life.

Working out of an air-conditioned hut

Captain Paul Marks, Jr served in the US Army Judge Advocate General’s Court in 1970. His arrival in Vietnam was different than you’d expect. He filled out what was called a Dream Sheet, selecting the ideal work he would be doing as his service. Since he was a lawyer who had passed the bar, he ended up doing legal work. The courtroom was an air-conditioned hut. Most of his work was prosecuting money laundering drug cases and black marketeering, including some Officers. 

The moral of the story here is clear: You never know what a Vietnam Veteran’s story is until you ask. 

Watch Cpt. Marks story and more here.

Related: Here’s a roundup of the 8 service members with the most Purple Hearts.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how 2 Delta Force snipers earned the Medal of Honor in Somalia

27 years ago, the Black Hawk Down incident was unfolding on the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, when a pair of US Army MH-60 Black Hawks were shot down by Somali militia toting rocket propelled grenades.


Of the many incredible stories of bravery and brotherhood that emerged from the day, one in particular stood out enough that two of the soldiers within would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for their heroism and sacrifice.

In August of 1993, a task force consisting of members of America’s elite special operations units were deployed to Somalia after a deadly IED attack on American military personnel who were, at the time, in country conducting a humanitarian mission.

Known as Task Force Ranger, the deployment package consisted of Rangers from the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, Night Stalkers from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and operators from Delta Force, among many others.

Attached to the Delta contingent were a pair of sharpshooters — MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart. Both Gordon and Shughart were old hands in the special operations community, the former having served with 10th Special Forces Group before being selected to join Delta Force, and the latter having served with the 75th Ranger Regiment.

On Oct. 3, an operation was launched with TF Ranger running the show entirely. It would be known as “Gothic Serpent,” though in later years, it would more popularly be known as the Black Hawk Down incident. The mission’s primary intent was to capture a pair of high-ranking officials of the Habr Gedir clan, led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aided.

The events of Gothic Serpent were documented in Mark Bowden’s best seller, “Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War,” and helicopter pilot Mike Durant’s book, “In The Company of Heroes.”

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
Members of Task Force Ranger pose for a picture in Somalia, 1993 (Photo US Army)

Delta operators and Rangers would be inserted from the air by Night Stalkers in MH-60s near the target building, secure the site and capture the high value targets. A convoy of Humvees and trucks would roll in immediately after to pick up the assault team and the prisoners back to the Mogadishu International Airport, where TF Ranger maintained its headquarters and garrison.

Things began going awry during the mission, however, and Somali irregulars and militia began amassing in considerable numbers, putting up an unexpectedly ferocious fight. Things went south, entirely, when Super 61, one of the Black Hawks attached to the assault element, was shot down killing both pilots and seriously injuring its crew chiefs and two Delta operators in the main cabin during the crash.

Though the momentum of battle was still on TF Ranger’s side, it was firmly lost when a second Black Hawk — Super 64 — was shot down just 20 minutes after Super 61. A nearby Black Hawk, callsign Super 62, circled near the crash site to provide covering fire. Gordon, Shughart and SFC Brad Hallings, another Delta sniper, were aboard Super 62, picking off targets one by one.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
Gary Ivan Gordon during his service with Delta Force (Photo US Army)

The three operators realized that it was highly likely that one if not all of the crew in Super 64 had survived the crash, at least initially. They quickly resolved to request an insertion near the crash site to set up a defensive perimeter to war away an angry lynch mob of Somali civilians and militia starting to stream towards the site. Should the militia get their hands on the survivors, a horrible fate worse than death would potentially await them.

When Gordon radioed in the request, it was nixed twice. Commanders, back at the airport, figured that the three operators would be of more use in the air to Super 64, than on the ground. Repeating his request a third time, Gordon and Shughart were given the go-ahead to insert at the crash site.

Knowing that a supporting ground element wasn’t anywhere nearby, both snipers were fully aware that this would essentially be a suicide mission. Their objective: to buy the crew of Super 64 a little more time until help arrived, even if it meant giving up their lives in the process.

Super 62 swooped in low near the crash site, Gordon and Shughart jumping out with Hallings staying behind to man a minigun in place of an injured crew chief. Super 62 took to the skies again, covering the two operators on the ground as they fought their way to the fallen Black Hawk. Super 62 would soon have to return to base after being hit by an RPG – thankfully, they made it.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget

Arriving at the crash, the two snipers were proven right when they discovered pilot CW3 Mike Durant alive and conscious, and the other members of the crew – Ray Frank, Tommie Field and Bill Cleveland – still clinging to life, though barely so. They worked quickly to extricate the Night Stalkers from the carcass of the Black Hawk, giving Durant a gun to use defensively while they engaged the oncoming mob.

Dropping targets with the efficiency and effectiveness Delta operators are known for, Shughart and Gordon inflicted major casualties on the mob. Gordon was the first to fall, having succumbed to numerous wounds sustained in the fight. Shughart was killed soon after, having depleted most of his ammunition. Durant was taken alive as a prisoner of war, while the rest of Super 64’s crew tragically died, either due to their injuries from the crash or torture inflicted by the mob.

Gordon and Shughart’s sacrifice was not in vain — Durant would survive his ordeal in captivity, and would later return to fly with the 160th SOAR before retiring. The two operators were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor the following year in 1994, a token of remembrance for their incredible valor and sacrifice in the midst of battle that fateful October day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This E-4’s grave is the most dangerous gravesite in the world

In January 1961, the U.S. Army suffered its only nuclear accident and the only fatal nuclear accident in the United States. The accident was caused by the manual removal of a control rod in a nuclear reactor in Idaho. The resulting explosion killed two Army specialists and a Navy Electrician’s Mate. One of the Army specialists, Richard McKinley, was so irradiated that his body had be interred in a lead-lined casket, covered in cement and placed in a metal vault before burial.

The special grave is now at Arlington National Cemetery where it is under special watch, unable to be moved without permission from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.


6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget

That’s not really what we think of at Arlington National Cemetery.

The official cause of the explosion was ruled an accident, although some suspect it might have been a suicide due to the nature of the accident. In the nighttime hours of Jan. 3, 1961, three enlisted men working the reactor at an experimental Idaho-based Reactor Testing Station were killed when one of the nuclear core’s control rods were removed manually.

That is to say one of the men removed the uranium-235 control rod 50 centimeters – with his hands. Just 40 centimeters was enough to send the reactor to critical.

And it did send the reactor critical, immediately unleashing 20,000 MW in .01 seconds, causing the nuclear fuel to melt. The melted uranium began to interact with the water in the reactor and produced a violent explosion of steam that caused part of the core to rise three meters in the air.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget

In the late 1970s, it was even alleged that the incident was an intentional murder-suicide.

Army Specialist John Byrnes and Navy Electricians Mate Richard Legg were also killed in the incident, the first and only deadly nuclear incident on U.S. soil. They were buried in their hometowns. Specialist Richard McKinley would have to be buried elsewhere – somewhere his irradiated body could not harm anyone else.

When the specialist removed the control rod by hand, he had already absorbed enough radiation to kill him a few times over but the resulting steam explosion sent the rod flying through his body, contaminating it with long-life radioactive isotopes.

He was placed in a lead casket, covered in concrete and sealed in a metal container. His body now rests in Arlington National Cemetery. Along with delivery of the body came the orders from the Assistant Adjutant General of Arlington Cemetery:

“Victim of nuclear accident. Body is contaminated with long-life radio-active isotopes. Under no circumstances will the body be moved from this location without prior approval of the Atomic Energy Commission in consultation with this headquarters.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

While spies typically try to hide as much of their communication as possible, there is one method of intelligence communication that is literally broadcasted so that everyone for thousands of miles around can listen in to the messages, but no one else can understand the message.


The Secret Radio Stations Used to Communicate with Spies

www.youtube.com

These were known as “numbers stations,” an apt name since they exist solely to broadcast number sequences to spies operating in the area. Governments dispatch their spies with books of codes, and then the numbers broadcasted are used with these books to assemble messages years after the spy was dispatched.

These are typically done with “one-time pad” encryption where the message cannot be cracked without the book of numbers. The list of numbers is compared to a single line of numbers in the book, and comparing the numbers will give the spy the message intended for them. But, importantly, each line in the book is used a single time.

So, someone listening in cannot piece together messages through careful listening or tracking, only through stealing the book, if they can find it. So, governments can broadcast their numbers in the clear, usually from a radio station bordering the country they are spying in, without worry.

America has suffered spies that listened to these stations, like Ana B. Montes, one of the highest ranked spies in U.S. history. But we’ve also used the method ourselves especially during the Cold War. Our allies in Britain had done so, running a station in Cyprus for years.

Some spies during the Cold War, including some from the U.S. and Britain, were captured with their code books intact. America had its own numbers coup in the 1980s when it turned a source in the Soviet Government that fed them the codes used to instruct communists in the U.S. at the time.

To listen in yourself, you need to live in range of a broadcasting station and to have a “shortwave” radio, a receiver that listens to high-frequency signals. Few places still track the broadcasts.

Articles

Taco Rice is what happens when Japanese and American tastes collide

Spoiler alert; it’s delicious!:


6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
American-style taco – shell + sushi rice = a dish to heal the wounds of WWII. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Kon’nichiwa, TACO RICE.

Meals Ready To Eat explored the advent of one of Japan’s most popular street foods when host August Dannehl traveled to Okinawa in search of taco rice, a true food fusion OG.

If you were to suggest that spiced taco meat dressed in shredded lettuce, cheese, and tomato, would seem a bastard topping to foist upon sushi rice, Japan’s most sacred and traditional foodstuff, well, in Okinawa at least, you’d find yourself on the receiving end of a lesson in local history.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
Distinguished inventor of taco rice, Matsuzu Gibo, c. 1983. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Taco Rice is the result of two post-WWII cultures: that of the Japanese and the American troops stationed in Okinawa, finding a way to transcend their differences through the combination of comforting foods.

An influx of American delicacies, most notably Spam, flooded the island following the cessation of hostilities and led to a heyday of culinary cross-pollination. Spam is still featured in many now-traditional Okinawan dishes, but taco rice is, for modern Okinawans and American military personnel, the belle of the mash-up Ball.

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

These military chefs will make you want to re-enlist

This veteran farmer will make you celebrate your meat

This is why soldiers belong in the kitchen

What happens when a firefighter’s secret identity is revealed

This Galley Girl will make you want to join the Coast Guard

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 of the best National Anthem performances in Super Bowl history

Outside of being the most important football game of the year, the Super Bowl gives us the chance to gather with friends and family and also makes for a good excuse why we’re still a little intoxicated the next day.


One of the most exciting parts for many of us, however, is the performing of the National Anthem. It’s a chance for all of us to get patriotic and be awed by some of the best voices in music (most of the time). Here are seven of the best National Anthem performances in the history of the Super Bowl.

7. Jordin Sparks — Super Bowl XLII

Fresh off of her American Idol win, Jordin Sparks showcased amazing pipes while keeping it simple and classy

(muffy223 | YouTube)

6. Luke Bryan — Super Bowl LI

The lone male soloist on this list, Luke Bryan came out and represented country music — and he did it well.

(Atheneum Group | YouTube)

5. Lady Gaga — Super Bowl L

This was a surprisingly great rendition of our country’s anthem. Save for some weird pronunciation (Lady Gaga is from Jersey but found an accent on the way up to the microphone, apparently), Gaga amazed the crowd.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zv2f5r5O0-c
(Anything Slays | YouTube)

4. Vanessa L. Williams — Super Bowl XXX

Former Miss America, Vanessa L. Williams, showed her versatility with this impressive performance.

(kramertony | YouTube)

3. Mariah Carey — Super Bowl XXXVI

The highest-selling female recording artist ever didn’t disappoint with this performance.

(StarpeemReturns | YouTube)

2. Combined Armed Forces — Super Bowl XXXIX

One of only two performances in Super Bowl history by anyone directly enlisted, commissioned, or committed to service. This combined chorale demonstration showed what military focus and vocal talent add up to: perfect pitch!

(Lunatic Angelic | Youtube)

1. Whitney Houston — Super Bowl XXV

They didn’t call her “The Voice” for nothing.

(CavBuffaloSoldier | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Joshua T. asks: What were all those metal things you see on the beaches in pictures of the Omaha landing?

The Normandy Invasions represented one of the single largest military maneuvers in history. Beginning on June 6, 1944, the invasion was the largest amphibious assault of all time and involved what basically amounted to the collective might of a large percentage of the nations in the industrialized world working in tandem to defeat the Nazi war machine. One of the most iconic images of the invasion was that of a French beach covered in oppressive-looking metal crosses. As it turns out, those crosses were merely a small part of an expansive network of sophisticated defences the Allies managed to somehow circumvent in mere hours.


Dubbed “the Atlantic Wall” and constructed under the direct orders of Adolf Hitler himself in his Directive 40, the formidable defences stretched and astounding 2000 miles of the European coast. Intended to ward off an Allied invasion, the Atlantic Wall consisted of endless batteries of guns, an estimated five million mines (of both the sea and land variety) and many thousands of soldiers who occupied heavily fortified bunkers and fortresses along its length.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget

German soldiers placing landing craft obstructions.

The wall has been described as a “three-tier system of fortifications” where the most valuable and vulnerable locations were the most heavily fortified while positions of lesser importance became known as “resistance points” that were more lightly defended but would still pose an imposing obstacle to any invasion force.

In the rush to create defences, gun batteries were haphazardly thrown together, consisting of basically whatever the Nazis could get their hands on. As a result, everything from heavy machine guns to massive cannons cut from captured French warships were utilized in the construction of fortresses and bunkers. Though they looked threatening, this “confusing mixture of sizes and calibres” proved to be an issue for the Nazis when they couldn’t scrape together the ammunition to arm them all. Still, the guns, in combination with the several other layers of defences, were believed to make the coast of Europe “impregnable”.

The largest of these guns represented the first line of defence of the Atlantic Wall and the Germans spent countless hours practise shelling “designated killing zones” experts predicted Allied ships would most likely use to invade. After this were expansive submarine nets and magnetic mines chained to the ocean floor to deter submarines and ships. In shallower water, the Nazis attached mines to sticks and buried large logs deep in the sand pointed outwards towards the ocean — the idea being boats would either be taken out by the mines or have their bows broken against the poles.

After this was a defensive emplacement known as the Belgian gate which were large heavy fences attached to steel rollers which could be positioned in the shallows. Following this were millions of mines lying just beneath the sands waiting for soldiers who managed to make it ashore.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget

Czech hedgehogs.

Along with all of this, there were also those metal cross thingies — or to give them their proper name, Czech hedgehogs.

As the name suggests, the Czech hedgehog was invented in Czechoslovakia and was mostly designed to serve as a deterrent for tanks and other armoured vehicles, as well as in this particular case if the tide was right, approaching ships attempting to land on shore.

Originally designed to sit along the Czechoslovakia-Germany border as part of a massive fortification effort conducted in the 1930s, the hedgehogs never ended up serving their original purpose when the region was annexed by Germany in 1938.

It’s reported that the Czechs originally wanted to build a large wall between the two countries, but a cheaper solution was found in the form of these hedgehogs, which could be mass-produced by simply bolting together beams of steel.

So what purpose did they serve? Put simply, if a tank or other such vehicle tried to drive over one, the result was inevitably it becoming stuck on the thing, and even in some cases having the bottom of the tank pieced by the hedgehog. When used on a beach like this, as previously alluded to, they also had the potential to pierce the hulls of ships approaching the shores if the tide was high at the time.

On top of that, particularly the anchored variety of hedgehogs proved difficult to move quickly as even massive explosions didn’t really do much of anything to them.

Speaking of anchored hedgehogs, it isn’t strictly necessary for the hedgehogs to be anchored to anything normally. It turns out that tanks trying to drive over the unanchored ones had a good chance of getting themselves stuck just the same. In these cases what would usually happen was the hedgehog would roll slightly as the tank tried to power its way over, with then the weight of the tank often causing the steel I-beams to pierce the bottom of the tank, completely immobilizing it. In fact, in testing, unanchored hedgehogs proved slightly more effective than their anchored variety against heavy vehicles.

Czech Hedgehog (World War II Tech)

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However, because of the tide issue in this case, to keep the hedgehogs in place, those closest to the water did have thick concrete bases anchoring them in the sand.

Using about a million tons of steel and about 17 million cubic meters of concrete, the broken wall these Czech Hedghogs created was a much more viable option than trying to create a solid wall over such a span, while also not giving the enemy forces too much cover, as a more solid wall would have done.

That said, while initially a deterrent, the hedgehogs ended up helping the Allies after the beaches were secured, as they proved to be a valuable source of steel and concrete that was repurposed for the war effort. For example, almost immediately some of the steel beams were welded to tanks, turning them into very effective mobile battering rams.

Yes you read that correctly — the Allies cut up dedicated anti-tank fortifications and welded them to their tanks to make them even more badass of weapons.

The Soviets also made extensive use of Czech hedgehogs, often using the concrete to literally cement them in place in cities and along bridges to halt German armored divisions in their tracks. As you can imagine, just one of these in a narrow street proved to be an extremely effective barrier that also left the enemy trying to get rid of it open to weapon fire.

While some Czech hedgehogs were constructed to specific factory specifications, which stipulated exact measurements (usually 1.4 meters in height) and materials (anything sturdy enough to survive around 500 tonnes of force), most were made of scavenged materials.

In the end, the hedgehogs along with the countless other fortifications proved to be a formidable, but not impassable obstacle for the Allies. In fact, thanks to a massive, concerted bombardment effort from the naval and air-based forces of the Allies, strategic commando strikes, and the bravery of the hundreds of thousands of troops who physically stormed the beaches all those years ago, all of the defences were bypassed in a matter of hours, though at the cost of several thousand lives on D-Day alone.

Bonus Facts:

  • The beaches of Normandy were shelled so heavily and so thoroughly mined that to this day it’s estimated that 4% of the beach still consists of shrapnel.
  • Czech hedgehogs are near identical in design (save for their massive size) to caltrops — a tiny metal device designed to always land with a jagged spike pointed straight into the air used extensively throughout history to hinder advancing enemy, particularly effective against horses, camels, and elephants, but also foot soldiers.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How an Air Force veteran started the Make-A-Wish Foundation

To say Make-A-Wish Foundation founder Frank Shankwitz had a rough childhood is an understatement. Shankwitz was born in Chicago and his mother left him when he was young. His grandparents took him, which he recalled as “happy times,” until one day his mother kidnapped him off a playground and told him they were heading back to Arizona.

They stopped in Michigan for five years.


When he was 10, they finally reached a tiny town in Arizona on Route 66. “We were broke,” Shankwitz said. “We had no gas, no food, no money, but a family took us in. We slept on their kitchen floor. It was the first time we’d ever been permanent somewhere, kitchen floor or not. A man named Juan became like a father-figure to me, and he introduced me to the idea of giving back. This was the 1950s – ‘give back’ was not a real popular term yet. But he taught me that you can always give back. It doesn’t have to be money – it can be your time or your talents.”

In the seventh grade, Shankwitz’s mom informed him that she could no longer afford to keep him; she was moving and he needed to find a new place to live.

Juan found him a place to stay in town with a widow and Shankwitz paid the weekly rent by finding a job as a dishwasher that paid per week. “All of a sudden I had an extra a week,” he said. “Juan taught me how to turn a negative into a positive and that has been something I’ve carried with me through my entire career.”

Shankwitz went to the Air Force after high school. “It was the Vietnam era,” he recalled, “but they decided I needed to protect England. I remember when we were informed we were not to wear our uniforms during traveling – they were afraid we’d offend the public. I’m so proud today to see our service members wearing their uniforms at airports. I love hearing people thanking them and clapping for them. You should never be embarrassed of the uniform. It’s so important that our military always be proud of their service.”

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget

Following his time with the Air Force, Shankwitz went to work for Motorola. He describes himself then as “somewhat of an adrenaline junkie,” so when a friend of his suggested joining the Arizona Highway Patrol, he jumped at the chance. Shankwitz got involved with the Special Olympics in his off time. “I began to think about Juan,” he shared, “and how maybe I was starting to give back. I enjoyed that so much.” At work, Shankwitz was asked to join a motorcycle patrol that traveled to schools to teach kids about bike safety and he felt like he was getting closer to where he needed to be in serving others.

In 1978, Shankwitz was in a high speed chase with a drunk driver when another drunk driver broadsided him going 80 miles per hour. “I was pronounced dead immediately,” he explained, “and they’d already radioed in ‘963, Officer killed in the line of duty.’ An emergency room nurse from California stopped at the scene and did CPR for four minutes, and brought me back to life. I love California! They said the crash was spectacular. I’d gone through the tunnel and I saw the light. And then I came back. I remember when my senses came back. The sense of smell was first. I smelled this very nice perfume. Then the sense of touch; something was tickling my face. Then the sense of hearing – sirens all around and someone saying, ‘We’ve lost him.’ Last was the sense of sight. And I saw that a beautiful blonde had her lips locked on me and I thought it was heaven! Later, I was told I was saved for a purpose, and that God believed I had more to do. I needed to find out what that purpose was.”

Not two years later, Shankwitz received a radio call from his dispatcher saying she needed him to find the nearest telephone, which was 40 miles away. She put him through to a border patrol agent who had an assignment for him. Shankwitz remembers verbatim: ‘There’s a little boy named Chris. He’s 7 years old. He has leukemia, and he has 2 weeks to live. He likes to watch a show called CHiPs and he wants to be a motorcycle cop just like Ponch and Jon. We’re going to pick him up and have you standing by so he can meet a real motorcycle cop.’ I was in. I got on the bike and flew to the hospital.”

When the helicopter landed, Shankwitz was surprised that Chris wasn’t super sick looking. “Instead,” he said, “this tiny pair of red sneakers jumped out and came running over. He knew every button and switch on that motorcycle. I am watching him thinking, ‘He’s a typical 7 year old, and yet he’s going to die.’ Then I saw his mom, tears in her eyes, seeing her little boy again instead of just this sick patient. Chris became the first and only honorary officer of the Arizona Highway Patrol. We felt pretty good about what we’d done but we knew there was more for him.”

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget

The troopers rallied around Chris. “We went to the uniform store, and asked if they could make Chris his own uniform,” Shankwitz said. “Two women spent all night custom-making a uniform for him. The next morning, we took several motorcycles and cars, lights going, and brought the uniform to him and a smokey hat. He was ecstatic. He asked if he was an official motorcycle police officer, but we told him that he had to earn his wings. We set up traffic cones for him in his driveway and gave him a test, which of course he passed.”

Chris told Shankwitz, “I’m so happy my wish is coming true.” It was the first time Shankwitz had really ever heard that: “my wish.”

Shankwitz and his team went to pick up the custom-made wings they had commissioned for Chris when he got a radio call: the little boy had been taken to the hospital and was in a coma. Shankwitz was devastated.

“We took the wings to his room anyway,” he said, “and just as I pinned his wings on the uniform, Chris came out of the coma. He started giggling. ‘Am I a motorcycle officer now?’ he asked. I told him yes. A few hours later he passed away. I like to believe those wings carried him to heaven.”

The Arizona Highway Patrol did a full police funeral for Chris. Shankwitz explained, “In Chris, we lost a fellow officer that day. When we got to Illinois where he was going to be buried, we were pulled over by the Illinois State Police. When we told them what we were doing, they escorted us. We were met at the cemetery by Illinois Police, all in dress uniform. Like I said, we lost a fellow officer that day.”

“Chris was buried in his uniform. His tombstone reads Chris Greicius, Arizona Trooper. It was a truly unbelievable sight. When we got home, we asked, ‘Why can’t we do this for other children?’ And Make-A-Wish was born. It started with in a bank account. There are now 60 chapters in the United States and Make-A-Wish International has 39 affiliates, serving children in nearly 50 countries on five continents. Over 480,000 wishes have been granted.

Shankwitz said, “Every 26 to 28 minutes a child gets a wish, because of one little boy. Never underestimate the difference one person can have on the world.”

More about Frank Shankwitz and the Make-A-Wish Foundation can be found in his memoir, Wish Man, which has also been developed into a movie by the same title, available on Netflix.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This German city faked its way to safety during WWII

The city of Konstanz put itself in the record books in World War II. Not for its fighting heroics or involvement in the war, however. But for something else altogether: bluffing their way to safety. With their creative fix to making it through the war unscathed, this town was able to save its citizens and its buildings, coming out on the other side completely intact. 

And how they did it is less sophisticated than you might think. They didn’t crack hidden communications or scramble GPS — this was WWII after all — they left their lights on. Yes, just like Motel 6, the town refused to go dark.

This is significant because, at the time, German towns went under blackouts during bombing raids. These were nighttime attacks when bombs were sent upon Germany and their Axis partners.

It’s a concept that’s so simple, it’s smart; without allowing American pilots light to see their targets, it was harder to be hit by subsequent bombs. 

They got the idea as the neighboring town, Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, kept their lights on. Konstanz simply followed suit, pretending to be another country.

And it worked. While flying overhead, U.S. pilots assumed the lights were in Switzerland — a neutral country in the war — and avoided them as a target. 

Bombing raids in WWII

During the second World War, bombing raids were a regular event. Known as air raids or strategic bombings, these events targeted key areas, with the goal to cripple enemy forces. Target areas included civilian housing, political buildings or important infrastructure, industrial markets, such as warehouses or factories, and areas of transportation, like railways or harbors. The attacks were often paired with ground forces and were most common at night to cause destruction and disrupt enemy activity. 

Berlin alone saw 314 bombings, leaving at least a third of the city in ruins, and by 1945, Germany lost an average of more than 13,000 civilians a month to bombings. 

The history of Konstanz

Konstanz is more than 1,000 years old and is located in South Germany near Lake Constance. It sits near the edge of the Swiss Alps and was home to a Roman Catholic principality for more than 1,200 years. Unlike actual Switzerland, however, they were quite active in the war. The town created parts for submarine radars, developed flying torpedos, and manufactured gun parts. 

It’s a town full of cobblestone streets, epic stone buildings, and plenty of old world charm. Because of their successful stunt, the town is also one of the few German cities that has original buildings that are still intact. Because of this, it’s now a common tourist attraction. 

The impact on the future

While something as simple as lights near the border was effective against technology during WWII, it’s unlikely that a similar tactic could be pulled off today. With more sophisticated machines, like GPS targeting down to the exact coordinate, a city — even right against the border — would likely have a different fate. 

However, their braveness and ingenuity is still celebrated to this day, including their buildings and structures, which can still be toured today. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: Billy Mitchell proves planes could sink battleships

After World War I, there was a consensus that the airplane had a place in warfare, but the different missions they would be used for was still a matter of debate. Colonel Billy Mitchell, a World War I air commander, believed that control of the air would matter a lot in future warfare.


According to a biography at the website of the National Museum of the Air Force, Mitchell spent time after the war arguing his case – often alienating many senior officers in the process. So, despite the fact that Mitchell had led over 1,400 planes during the Battle of St. Mihiel, won control of the air, and devastated German forces, not many people were willing to listen to the air warrior.

 

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
Billy Mitchell as a brigadier general. (US Army photo)

In one case, Mitchell considered the effect air power could have on the huge, lumbering ships of enemy navies. Many higher ups blocked his proposed tests to prove his theory but he got the chance to show what air power could do to ships partially due to the Washington Naval Treaty of 1921, which called for the United States to scrap or otherwise dispose of large portions of the United States Navy.

The Navy had tried to block Mitchell with a rigged test involving the old battleship USS Indiana (BB 1), but Congress found out about the way the Navy rigged it, and ordered new tests.

So the Navy agreed to let planes drop bombs on the obsolete battleships USS Virginia (BB 13), USS New Jersey (BB 16), USS Alabama (BB 8), and Ostfriesland.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget

The first of these ships to face Mitchell’s bombers was the Ostfriesland on July 20, 1921. According to an official U.S. Navy history, Mitchell’s planes dropped a number of smaller bombs – scoring some hits. The real damage was being done by near-misses, which started flooding. The next day, further attacks were made with bigger bombs, and the Osfriesland sank after a number of near-misses.

The next attack was on the old battleship USS Alabama on September 25, 1921. A series of bombs scored hits, but while one 1,000 pound bomb and one 2,000 pound bomb did a lot of damage, the real killing effect came from five near-misses, which caused Alabama to sink. On Sept. 5, 1923, Mitchell’s bombers would sink the battleships USS Virginia and USS New Jersey.

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget
A 2,000-pound bomb scores a near miss on the Ostfriesland. (US Navy photo)

The results, though, didn’t completely sway high-ranking officials. When Mitchell made intemperate remarks after the loss of the Navy dirigible Shenandoah, he was court-martialed and dismissed from the Army. He would die in 1936, five years before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Below is video from Mitchell’s 1921 and 1923 tests. Take a look and see a preview of what planes would do to ships in World War II.

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