Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

The date was April 23, 1975, the war in Vietnam was winding down and the world was waiting to see what America would choose to do. President Ford gave a speech to the people from Tulane University. During that speech he told the citizens of the U.S. and the rest of the world that as far as America was concerned, the war was over.

He stated, “Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by re-fighting a war.” With these words he made it very clear that he would not be sending troops back over, despite the pleas for support from the South Vietnamese.


Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

At this time, North Vietnam was surrounding the city of Saigon, preparing for a final assault on the capital city. The military leaders of South Vietnam ordered their troops to withdraw to the Highlands to a more defensible position. The biggest issue was that the South Vietnamese were largely outnumbered by the North Vietnamese. When they met in battle at Xuan Loc on April 21, it was clear that the end was near. Between the loss at that battle and President Ford’s speech at Tulane, South Vietnam had little hope that they could emerge victorious.

By the time April 27 dawned, North Vietnam forces had completely surrounded Saigon. They soon began their final push and assault on the city. On April 30, when North Vietnamese tanks burst through the gates of the Presidential Palace, the South Vietnamese were battered and beaten, and surrendered there and then. The war in Vietnam was officially over.

The Vietnam War was controversial from day one, especially in the U.S. It remained so through its duration, and beyond. President Ford made the choice to pull the American troops out of Vietnam and not send them back, even though South Vietnam pleaded with him to do so. This too was surely a controversial decision. The Vietnam War was an instance where no matter what was done, someone felt it was the wrong choice. The people of the United States at that time were not shy about shouting their opinions from every rooftop, either.

Those who were against the war, which was a good portion of the country, even made sure the soldiers returning home knew how they felt. The soldiers were not met with fanfare and welcome homes as were the soldiers of past wars, or as the soldiers of future wars would be. They were not given help or support in adjusting back to their lives at home. It seemed the people, the government and the country as a whole were perfectly happy to sweep the entire war and all those involved under the rug and simply move on.

Even now, 45 years after the war ended, the Vietnam War is still considered one of the most controversial wars in history. It is still often talked about in whispers, or not talked about at all. While there have been movements over the past two decades to give the Vietnam Veterans the recognition they deserve, it is still a fight everyday against the stigma felt during that time.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

America as a country did as Ford said, “Regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam.” For those who fought in the war, however, there was no sense of pride found. They each had no choice but to go through the process of living a ‘normal’ life. For many this proved impossible, the war having taken every piece of them away.

It’s been 45 years since Saigon fell, 45 years since the war in Vietnam ended. Many of those men who fought in those jungles still live with the realities of that war every day. Now is the time to give them the recognition and appreciation they have always deserved. They didn’t choose to fight that battle. But, they answered the call when heeded. Today and every day, thank our Vietnam Veterans and show them the appreciation they never and should have received when they came home.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the tragic history of the flying aircraft carrier

The world is well aware of how the Navy uses its massive fleet of aircraft carriers to dominate the oceans while protecting America. Each monstrous aircraft carrier houses thousands of sailors and dozens of aircraft just waiting for the word to deploy. 


But there was another breed of the aircraft carrier that doesn’t get as much attention these days — the type that actually flew.

In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers made the history books when they showcased the first successful flight of a working hot air balloon. Months later, they copied the flight, but this time they had passengers inside the cargo basket — a sheep, a duck, and a rooster.

Though accurately steering the ballon was haphazard, the flying technique still gained public interested.

 

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
The Montgolfier brothers. (Pinterest)

 

Within the next year or so, this new technology rapidly progressed as Jean Baptiste Meusnier designed the cigar-shape airship which we recognize today.

At the turn of the 20th century, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin introduced the rigid airship that came with a solid internal frame — dubbed the “Zeppelin.” At the time, Zeppelins were highly utilized as they could stay airborne longer, travel further and carry heavier cargo — by that we mean bombs.

 

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
The Zeppelin. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

 

Although the Zeppelin sacred the sh*t out of people as it flew over them, it didn’t take long to realize the lighter than air craft were vulnerable to even the most primitive fighters. Basically, it was an aircraft carrier that needed more aircraft around to protect it. 

So planners came up with the idea of having fighter planes escort the beastly airships, and what better way than to have these airships carry the fighter escorts themselves?

England constructed the 23-class Vickers rigid airship that could carry three Sopwith Camel biplanes that could deploy from hooks beneath the airship’s hull.

Four of these aircraft carriers were built, and the all four were decommissioned by 1920 for various reasons. The U.S. took note of the clever engineering and constructed both the USS Los Angeles and the USS Akron.

The USS Akron had the distinct ability to launch and recover fighters in mid-air. The planes would just fly up, and the pilot would attach to a T-shape mount which would pull the aircraft into the Akron’s internal hanger.

 

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
A Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk coming in for ‘landing.’ (Source: Not Exactly Normal/ Screenshot)

Test flights began in the fall of 1931, but the Akron had loads of trouble flying and crashed — a lot. Several months later, the carrier was docked in San Diego where it unexpectedly took off taking three men with it. Two of the men fell to their deaths.

A few years later, the airship would crash one last time off the coast of New Jersey killing 73 passengers — more than double that of the infamous Hindenburg crash.

These events made the flying aircraft carrier very unpopular for war-time operations causing engineers to cease their development.

Check out Not Exactly Normal‘s video below and see the crash footage for yourself.

YouTube, Not Exactly Normal

MIGHTY CULTURE

This might be the best Ranger panties ad ever made

For the first time ever, I find myself seriously considering buying Ranger panties. And not just buying them; wearing them to all sorts of events. These are about to be the centerpiece (and possibly only piece) of my Valentine’s Day outfit. And it’s all thanks to this ad from Dog Company of some battalion or another:


Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

Look at it. Really look at it. It’s got puns, it’s got rhymes, it’s got suggestive language, it’s got a joke at the expense of cavalry scouts (thanks for securing our routes, sorry about all the jokes).

It even suggests that Ranger panties are perfect for signing into the unit when you get to Dog Company, which, come on, if you’re not checking to see if they have openings for your MOS already, you’re doing it wrong. My old MOS, unfortunately, does not appear in any infantry MTOEs, so I have to long after these shorts from afar.

But not Dog Company. No, these guys apparently get to throw on their Ranger panties, smack their significant other on the Ranger panty-clad butt, and then charge into battle against communists with guns firing and thighs open to the air, absorbing the sun’s rays and warmth while the commies are absorbing the bullets.

When they’re done with that, they get to have a short meeting with first sergeant, still in the Ranger panties and ostensibly still covered in the gore of their enemies, before going to a wedding or two and a few children’s parties.

The clown isn’t going to be the scariest thing at that party. Thank Valhalla for that.

We’re still not sure which infantryman found a keyboard and typed up this beautiful masterpiece. The fact that they found a keyboard indicates maybe an XO, but the fact that the final advertisement is quality indicates a specialist or corporal.

Maybe it was a team-up? Regardless, grab a pair if you happen to be in Dog Company (all proceeds benefit the FRG!). If you’re not, just get your panties from Ranger Joe’s or your own FRG or whatever. We can’t help you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how soldiers illegally brewed beer on deployment

Alcohol is a staple of military culture and troops have been consuming it en masse since the first sailor left port for lands unknown. But as times have changed, so, too, have the rules of consumption. Since the good ol’ days, the rules for drinking have become much stricter — especially in combat zones. But, that doesn’t stop service members from finding a way to get their fix.

Reddit user Lapsed_Pacifist shared a story of how he and his buddies essentially made home brews out of their makeshift barracks room during one of their deployments — violating the UCMJ for a cold one.


If you plan to brew beer out of your barracks room (we don’t recommend it), make sure you do plenty of research beforehand and exercise extreme caution — and, of course, don’t go telling people we gave you the idea.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

Of course, no one has control over what someone else sends them… Right?

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brian Ferguson)

It all started when a soldier deployed to Iraq wanted the taste of the sweet nectar known as beer but, of course, couldn’t find enough to quench his thirst. He had friends mail him some hoppy, carbonatedcontrabandknowing that not all of the mail coming into base would be checked, and that worked out for a while— butit just wasn’t enough.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

This is what one of these kits looks like.

(Photo by Coin-Coin)

This soldier had heard tales of another member of his unit stashing brewing equipment in locations throughout another base but, where he was living, obtaining such materials was no easy task. After a discussion with some friends, they decided to risk it all by ordering, directly from Amazon, a home-brewing kit.

After a tense waiting period, their equipment finally arrived and they were able to begin their own underground (and highly illegal) brewing operation.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

Don’t f*ck with the UCMJ.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Naomi Griego)

Now, possessing alcohol in a combat zone violates the Uniformed Code of Military Justice — but it seems like these guys didn’t give a flying f*ck. Their goal was to have the sweet taste of alcohol bless their tongues, fill their bloodstreams, and mingle with their livers.

In no time at all, their room began to smell like a chemist’s lab and their adventure in illicit alcohol picked up speed.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

This is how the professionals do it.

(Photo by Hong Reddot Brewhouse)

You see, the home-brewing kit they ordered only could only produce 3 gallons of beer with every fermentation cycle, which took a couple of weeks. They had several months left of their deployment, and they simply couldn’t wait that long to drink so little.

So, what did they do? They started fermenting in plastic water bottles. To use a direct quote from the story,

Professional brewers and distillers don’t brew or distill in plastic 2-liter water bottles of dubious origin because, in short, they are not f*cking morons.
Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

Cheers!

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Evan Loyd)

Needless to say, their illicit brewing company, referred to as “Riyadh Brewing Corporation, Ltd. (Established 2008),” ended up blowing up in their faces — literally. The plastic bottles couldn’t withstand the pressure build-up and they ended up losing more of their stock than they wanted.

Thankfully, they were able to clean up the mess and cover their tracks before anyone too high in their chain of command could find out — and now we have this beautiful story to laugh about.

To read the full story, check it out here.

Articles

11 of the craziest lines ever spoken in battle

In the heat of battle, some people freeze up, some charge forward, and some drop awesome lines like they’re trying to win a rap battle.


These quotes are from the third category.

1. “Two kinds of people are staying on this beach! The dead and those who are going to die! Now, let’s get the hell out of here!”

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
Troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Photo: public domain)

This was shouted by Army Col. George Taylor as he urged his men forward at Normandy on D-Day. According to survivors, Taylor yelled a few different versions of this quote during the landings at Omaha Beach and all of them had the desired effect, spurring American soldiers forward against the Nazi guns firing on the beach.

2. “All right. They’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us … They can’t get away this time.”

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller gave us tons of great quotes. This particular one he spit out while Chinese forces surrounded his men at the Chosin Reservoir. The Marines were expected to fight what essentially amounted to a doomed delaying action as the Chinese wiped them out. Instead, the Marines broke out and slaughtered their way through multiple enemy divisions.

3. “Nuts!”

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Army Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe led the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge. The Americans were outnumbered, surrounded, and running short on supplies when a German delegation requested their surrender. McAuliffe was awoken with the news and sleepily responded “Nuts!” before heading to meet his staff who had to draft the formal response to the German commander.

The staff decided that the general’s initial response was better than anything they could write. While under siege and near constant attack, the paratroopers typed the following centered on a sheet of paper:

December 22, 1944

To the German Commander,

N U T S !

The American Commander

4. “Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!”

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
Admiral David Farragut during the Civil War. (Photo: Public Domain)

In April 1862, Vice Adm. David Farragut was leading a fleet to capture Mobil Bay, Alabama, and cut off the major port. While sailing into the city, a Union ship hit Confederate mines in the water that were then known as torpedoes. Farragut yelled his now immortal line, sailed through the mines, and was victorious.

5. “Another running gun battle today … Wahoo runnin’, destroyer gunnin'”

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

The USS Wahoo was an enormously successful U.S. submarine in World War II that sank five Japanese ships totaling 32,000 tons — including an entire four-ship convoy — during its third cruise. Near the end of the patrol, the Wahoo tried to sink a second convoy but was surprised by a previously unspotted Japanese destroyer outfitted for anti-submarine operations.

The Wahoo was forced to run, evading a barrage from the destroyer’s cannons and a depth charge attack. The commander signaled Pearl Harbor with the above message and escaped. The quote was slightly changed and ran as a headline in the Hawaiian Advertiser after the patrol.

6. “I may sink, but I’m damned if I’ll strike.”

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
John Paul Jones was vilified as a pirate in Britain, but was a hero in America. (Photo: Public Domain)

Navy legend John Paul Jones helped create the sea service during the American Revolution and, in an epic battle with the HMS Serapis, gave at least a couple of epic quotes including this one when he was asked to surrender.

A more famous quote from the battle was “I have not yet begun to fight!” but the Navy isn’t sure that Jones actually said it since the words were first attributed to him 46 years after the battle.

7. “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!”

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

During the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Navy chaplain was trying to keep the men of the USS New Orleans going. He saw a group of men tiring as they carried anti-aircraft ammunition to the guns and patted one of them on the back while speaking this phrase to motivate them. It was later incorporated into songs during the war.

8. “They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.”

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Augustine)

While Gen. George S. Patton gets most of the headlines for liberating the 101st during the Battle of the Bulge, another tank legend was leading the charge through German lines, Col. Creighton S. Abrams, who allegedly uttered the awesome words above.

Stephen E. Ambrose’s famous book “Band of Brothers” attributes a similar quote, “They’ve got us surrounded — the poor bastards,” to an unknown Army medic. As the story goes, the medic was telling an injured corporal why none of the wounded had been evacuated.

9. “Goddamn it, you’ll never get the Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!”

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
(Photo: U.S. National Archives)

A few different books attribute this quote to Marine Capt. Henry P. Jim Crowe. Crowe commanded a regimental weapons company during the land battle on Guadalcanal. A Japanese machine gun had pinned down a Marine advance and Crowe yelled these words to the men huddling in a shell hole. As a group, they charged the guns behind Crowe and took out the enemy position.

10. “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
(Painting: The Battle of Bunker’s Hill by E. Percy Morgan)

Americans most often associate this line with the Battle of Bunker Hill, but there’s evidence it was said by different officers at a few points in history. At Bunker Hill in 1775, the order was given by at least one of the leaders of Patriot forces building new fortifications on Bunker and Breed’s Hills near Cambridge, Massachusetts. The intent was to preserve the limited powder and shot.

The gambit worked, allowing the Patriots to inflict major damage with their initial volleys, but it wasn’t enough for the outnumbered and outgunned Americans to hold the hills.

11. “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?”

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The above line is commonly attributed to Marine Corps legend Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly, though there’s some question on whether he said it and — if he did — if those were his exact words. Daly once told a Marine historian that he yelled “For Christ’s sake, men — Come on! Do you want to live forever!”

The Marine who recounts hearing “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?” was in another part of the battlefield, so it’s possible that two Marines yelled similar lines in different parts of Belleau Wood or that someone misremembered a line yelled in one of World War I’s most dramatic battles.

Either way, the quote is pretty awesome.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What Snowden has to say about theory that the government is hiding aliens

Edward Snowden shut down the conspiracy theory that the US government is secretly harboring aliens at its top secret facilities during an episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, which aired on Oct. 23, 2019.

Snowden, an American whistleblower who revealed details of classified US government surveillance programs in 2013, addressed rumors about secret extraterrestrial lifeforms in his recently released memoir “Permanent Record.”

“I know, Joe, I know you want there to be aliens,” he said. “I know Neil deGrasse Tyson badly wants there to be aliens. And there probably are, right?”

“I do,” Rogan responded.


Speaking to Rogan from Russia, where he has been granted asylum, Snowden said as far as he knew the US government has not made contact with aliens and is not housing them at their facilities, like that of Area 51 in Nevada.

“But the idea that we’re hiding them — if we are hiding them — I had ridiculous access to the networks of the NSA, the CIA, the military, all these groups. I couldn’t find anything,” he asserted.

He said, he found no evidence of extraterrestrial life during his time spent snooping through government databases when he worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Joe Rogan Experience #1368 – Edward Snowden

www.youtube.com

He admitted that it was entirely possible that knowledge of alien contact were “hidden really damn well” from people with direct access to classified information.

“Everybody wants to believe in conspiracy theories because it helps life make sense,” he told Rogan. “It helps us believe that somebody is in control, that somebody is calling the shots.”

In his book, which came out September 2019, Snowden shut down other popular conspiracy theories, like the idea that the US faked the moon landing, or that climate science is a hoax.

“For the record, as far as I could tell, aliens have never contacted Earth, or at least they haven’t contacted US intelligence,” he wrote.

“Yes, man really did land on the moon. Climate change is real. Chemtrails are not a thing,” he added.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The mysterious disappearance of an EC-47 crew during the Vietnam War

In the early morning of Feb. 5, 1973, a USAF EC-47 was shot down over Laos. The plane, callsign Baron 52, had a crew of eight airmen aboard. Only four sets of remains were recovered from the wreckage. The other four were never found. 

The EC-47 was a converted Douglas C-47 cargo aircraft, first built during World War II. It carried specialized electronics and flew top secret missions. The nature of its mission has led many to believe the four missing crew members were actually captured and taken back to the Soviet Union. They were never recovered. 

Just a week before the downing of Baron 52, the United States agreed to end its involvement in the Vietnam War during the Paris Peace Accords. The plane was carrying electronic warfare equipment on a mission to monitor the Ho Chi Minh Trail for North Vietnamese tanks.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
A modern Douglas C-47 Skytrain similar to the Baron 52.

It was shot down in Salavan Province, Laos that morning, with the fuselage upside down and its wings completely stripped away. Air Force search and rescue arrived on the scene within an hour, finding the bodies of pilot Capt. George R. Spitz, copilot 2nd Lt. Severo J. Primm III  and navigator Capt. Arthur R. Bollinger still in their seats in the cockpit. 

The remains of the third pilot, 1st Lt. Robert E. Bernhardt, was in the rear of the plane but outside of it, near the jump door. The door, the top secret radio equipment, the four members of the rear crew and their parachutes were removed and never found. 

The Air Force listed all eight of the crew as killed in action, but some Missing in Action/Prison of War advocacy groups question that assessment, considering four of them are still unaccounted for. Still the four were declared “accounted for” and were part of a mass memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Lynn O’Shea, one of the advocates, said her research shows that the four missing men may have been captured after bailing out of the plane and taken to the Soviet Union. The information they had on the sensitive equipment in the plane would have been extremely valuable to the USSR at the time. Sadly, O’Shea died in 2015. 

In the years following the end of the war in Vietnam, researchers discovered that American intelligence had intercepted NVA radio traffic describing the capture of four airmen who were transported to the USSR. 

For months, the United States heard radio traffic about airmen who were shot down the same day as Baron 52 and a Laotian intelligence asset reported seeing four prisoners held captive by the NVA. The incident and its aftermath remained classified.

The families of radiomen SSgt. Todd M. Melton, Sgt. Joseph A. Matejov, Sgt. Peter R. Cressman, and systems repair technician Sgt. Dale Brandenburg still believe their loved ones survived the crash and ended up captives in the Soviet Union. Many hope the airmen are still alive. They believe that the Nixon Administration didn’t pursue the missing airmen because the Laos flight was illegal under the terms of the Paris Peace Accords. 

In November 1992, the government of Laos allowed a team of Americans to survey the crash site. That team turned up a number of bone fragments and a dog tag belonging to one of the missing airmen, but the results of the bone fragments were not conclusive. The United States maintains their status as “accounted for.” 

MIGHTY TRENDING

These Army drink packets can deliver the hydration of an IV

The Army used to have a powder chock full of electrolytes to add to water for rehydration. But there was a problem.


“It was terrible — tasted so bad that nobody would use it,” said Gregory Sumerlin, senior director of Government Military Accounts for DripDrop ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions).

Enter DripDrop, with packets of lemon-, cherry- and watermelon-flavored powders that were on display Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention in Washington.

Sumerlin said the packets, which cost about $1.82 a piece, have been used by the Army for about four years. The other services also have shown interest, he said.

Medics in Afghanistan and Iraq have carried a supply of the packets, and troops also can keep a few stuffed in their packs, he said.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
DripDrop is medical grade rehydration. (Image DripDrop Facebook)

According to DripDrop’s website, the powders have “proven to hydrate better and faster than water or sports drinks, and are comparable to IV therapy.”

“By solving the taste problem, DripDrop ORS has made the most highly effective oral hydration solution known to medical science, practical for use by anyone who finds themselves with a hydration need where water and sports drinks just aren’t enough,” the site says.

The packets contain a balanced amount of electrolytes, including sodium citrate, potassium citrate, chloride, magnesium citrate, zinc aspartate and sugars to provide what DripDrop called “a fast-acting, performance-enhancing hydration solution.”

The product also has an endorsement from Bob Weir, co-founder of the Grateful Dead:

“There is no better test of a hydration drink’s effectiveness than a summer tour. If I didn’t have DripDrop, I’d have to rethink about how I would go about performing a 3.5-hour show.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

13 rarely seen illustrations from the Revolutionary War

If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with what happened during the American Revolution. But the heroics, triumphs, and defeats of the first American citizens have inspired artists for centuries. Here are 13 illustrations of the war that are often left out of the history books and popular culture:


Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(John Trumbull, Yale University Art Gallery)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(Alonzo Chappel via Good Free Photos)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(A.H. Ritchie via National Archives and Records Administration)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(M.A. Wageman via National Archives and Records Administration)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(E.L. Henry via National Archives and Records Administration)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(James Peale via National Archives and Records Administration)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(Augustus G. Heaton via National Archives and Records Administration)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(Ezra Winter via National Archives and Records Administration)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(A.I. Keller via National Archives and Records Administration)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(Turgis via National Archives and Records Administration)

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 reasons why the Winged Hussars are among the greatest fighters of all time

Everyone always remembers the sheer bad*ssery and battle prowess of the vikings, the samurai, and the Roman legionnaires — but the Winged Hussars of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth a rarely find a way into the conversation.

Don’t let the flamboyant wings fool you. These shock troops were some of the most devastating cavalrymen to ever mount a horse.


Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

Creighton Abrams may be remembered for it, but Polish-Lithuania lived by the mantra, “they’ve got us surrounded again? The poor bastards…”

They defeated nearly every “unstoppable” empire that came at them

When history buffs bring up the three most formidable empires in history, they’ll often include the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, and the Khanates. Smack dab in the middle of those three was the little commonwealth of Polish-Lithuania. As history buffs also know, everyone always tries to come grab a piece of Poland. What kept them at bay for so long were Winged Hussars.

The Ottomans? The Hussars charged through Vienna like it was nothing. The Russians? They toppled Ivan the Terrible in the dead of winter. The Khanates? There’s a reason the Mongols, and, eventually, the succeeding khanates, never made it past Poland and into Europe.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

Marching into battle looking like Roman angels was steeped religious symbolism. After all, Polish-Lithuania was (and Poland remains) a very Roman Catholic nation.

Their wings weren’t just for decoration

It might sound silly that heavily armored cavalrymen felt the need to include giant, feathery wings on either their saddles or their backs, but it wasn’t just a fashion statement — it was an effective strategy.

Hussars were shock troops, meaning that they needed to instill as much fear as they could as fast and effectively as they could — before the enemy has a chance to realize what’s going on. In an era when it was unlikely that you’d ever even see a neighboring city, what were you supposed to make of the rapidly approaching, heavily armed legion of vengeful, glittering angels?

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

Best thing about a sword is that you never have to reload it.

They adapted extremely well to firearms

As new technologies are introduced to the battlefield, old tactics get thrown out. No single piece of military tech changed warfare quite like firearms.

Firearms instantaneously made arrows obsolete and swords pointless — if you can keep your distance. The Hussars never really got the memo, though, and they’d still charge into battle, decked-out in armor that could take a bullet or two and close the distance before their enemy got a chance to reload.

The Hussars eventually got their own firearms, which meant their enemies now had to deal with a heavily armored Hussars charging at them with spears, swords, warhammers, and rifles.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

Seriously, Hollywood? Why isn’t this a movie yet?

They put the Battle of Thermopylae to shame.

Everyone praises the Spartans for pitting 300 troops against the mighty Persian army. But when you start looking deeper into it, you’ll quickly realize there are plenty of things they left out for the sake of the comic (and, later, film adaption), like the actual numbers of Greeks aiding them and how poorly trained most of the Persians were. The Spartans were bad*sses, yes, but some elements of their most famous tale are questionable.

Want to know who undoubtedly pulled off a heroic victory when faced with 62-to-1 odds? The Polish Winged Hussars.

A 400-strong Hussar unit was being attacked on two fronts by the 25,000+ Crimean Khanate forces and they were backed into the tiny village of Hodow. The Hussars had only a single night to turn the town into a fortress, to defend themselves with no supplies and no backup.

The Crimean forces raided the half-defended town and ran out of ammunition so fast that they needed to turn enemy arrows fired at them into improvised rounds for their long rifles. Six hours of intense fighting later and the Crimean Khanate started to retreat. The dust settled and thousands of the Khanate Tatars lay dead on the floor while less then a hundred Hussars had fallen.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

The famous winged banners weren’t needed.

They never really went away

As tanks took over the battlefield, people generally stopped riding into battle on horses. For the Polish, that was kind of true. Officially, the Winged Hussars ended in the 1770s because of political reforms, but heavily geared-out, horse-mounted, Polish troops existed throughout World War I and World War II.

Since Poland was being attacked from all sides and had little room to breathe, local militias needed to pick up some of the slack. The militias didn’t have tanks, but the farmers did have horses, rifles, and an undying will to fight.

Today, their spirit lives on with the Polish Land Forces’ 11th Armored Cavalry Division.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Allies built all-new harbors in a matter of days after D-Day

There was a reason that the Nazis thought the original D-Day invasions were a feint: Aside from the misdirection operations conducted by the Allies, the geography of the beaches made it seemingly impossible to fully supply a large invasion force.

It was seemingly impossible, even with landing ships and Higgins boats, to move enough beans and bullets over the sands.


Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

A line of U.S. Liberty ships deliberately sunk off the coast at Omaha beach to form a breakwater for the Mulberry harbor there.

(U.S. Army)

But the Allies had a secret. They didn’t need to fully supply the invasion for months using only the landing craft, and they didn’t need to race to a port and try to wrest it from fierce defenses. Instead, they had a plan to build their own port, complete with two man-made harbors, in a matter of days just after D-Day. These “Mulberry harbors” would tip the logistics battles in favor of the landed forces.

The inspiration for Mulberry harbors came from the failed Dieppe Raid, which pitted about 6,000 troops against the heavily defended port at Dieppe, France, and resulted in 2,000 Canadians being taken prisoner.

The Allies realized that taking a deepwater port would be a tall order. While the plan for Operation Overload included a follow-on operation against the port of Cherbourg, to be completed in eight days, military planners realized they needed a Plan B.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

A sectional concrete breakwater for the Omaha Beach breakwater is floated towards the French shore, June 1944

(U.S. Navy)

That Plan B ended up being Mulberry harbors, sort of the Ikea solution to deepwater ports. The British needed eight months to build the concrete sections and prepare them for deployment. On June 6, when they got the word that the landing forces were likely to succeed in taking the assigned beaches, a fleet of ships took off towards France carrying these concrete sections.

But the British engineering plan was ambitious. It called not just for a few large piers, but two entire artificial harbors. For those who aren’t familiar with naval activities, this meant that the engineers had to construct what was, essentially, a massive horseshoe stretching hundreds of feet into the ocean to shelter the piers from the worst ocean currents.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

The Mulberry artificial harbor at Arromanches, France, September 1944.

(British Army Sgt. Harrison)

Each harbor had multiple piers with a combined length of six miles. The concrete caissons that made up the piers required 330,000 cubic yards of concrete, 31,000 tons of steel, and 1.5 million yards of steel shuttering.

When the call came to begin construction, the ships took off across the channel and began placing gear in position. Some older ships were deliberately sunk to help form the breakwaters, and the piers were ready to receive supplies a shocking three days after the invasion began.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

But it was hardly a charmed undertaking. The American forces controlled one harbor and the British, Canadian, and Free French forces controlled the other. The British piers were anchored to the seafloor, but the American ones were not, and a June 19 storm demolished the American harbor.

According to an article by Michael D. Hull on Warfare History Network:

The Americans’ harbor was harder hit than Port Winston. The Utah Beach Gooseberry lost several blockships that were torn open, and the Mulberry harbor off St. Laurent was devastated. The breakwaters were overwhelmed by waves, two blockships broke their backs, and only 10 out of 35 Phoenix caissons remained in position. The piers and bombardons were wrecked, and the harbor was eventually abandoned. When the gale finally blew itself out on June 23, Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, commander of the U.S. 12th Army Group, went down to the beach to see the damage for himself. “I was appalled by the desolation, for it vastly exceeded that on D-Day,” he said.
Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

This was a huge problem because Cherbourg — slated for liberation on June 21 — was still in German hands. The decision was made to shift what pieces were still functional in the American harbor to the British one and shut down the U.S. effort, doubling the necessity of taking the French port.

While Cherbourg would end up being the greater logistics hub for the Allies through the conclusion of the war, it was the Mulberry harbors that kept Allied logistics alive long enough for Cherbourg to fall. At the height of their use, the Mulberry harbors moved 12,000 tons of cargo and 2,500 vehicles a day.

The harbors were designed for 90 days of hard use, but the British installation actually functioned for a full eight months. The American harbor was used, without the broken piers, for most of the rest of the war as well.

MIGHTY MOVIES

VET Tv’s ‘A Grunt’s Life’ will be a cult-classic among troops and vets

It’s hard to find a good military film that truly encapsulates the spirit of the military. There’s a huge pile of duds. You know the ones I’m referring to. Then you have your epics like Saving Private Ryan, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and Bridge over the River Kwai. They’re expertly crafted, but they still lack that personal flair. Platoon comes close, and it earned all four of its Oscars because director Oliver Stone served in Vietnam – but it’s toned down for a wider audience.

Then you have VET Tv’s Kickstarter-funded film A Grunt’s Life. What it lacks in not having a widespread cinema release, it easily makes up in authenticity. And holy f*ck… It’s really f*cking good.


With that authenticity, it paints a more accurate picture of the post 9/11 wars than any other film. Warts and all. That being said…

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

There’s also plenty of fantasies about killing the buddy-f*cking commanding officer. You’ll learn to empathize with the platoon leader throughout the film.

(VetTV)

First thing’s first. A Grunt’s Life is not intended for family-friendly movie night. In fact, it’s a film that you kind of have to explain to your civilian friends/family before it shatters any previously held misconceptions about the military. Keep very much in mind that this film is basically what would happen if all of the deployment smoke pit conversations came to life and played out like we joked they would.

The film opens on the protagonist, Lt. Vince Murphy jacking off in the middle of a firefight and debating whether to join in or finish. A feeling anyone who’s ever been stuck on a Patrol Base could tell you is all too real. Even keeping an eye out on the background extras throughout the film, you’ll also almost always see them jerking it on guard duty. You’ll see plenty of dicks, but that’s kind of how deployments are…

There are also plenty of moments in the film that would be war crimes if committed in real life. Obviously, the filmmakers are not advocating them and even address them as being horrific with the characters entertaining the idea being called out as being horrific pieces of sh*t. But, well, that comes with the dark comedy that troops in the same grueling conditions adapt to.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

This film was done so well that you can’t even tell A Grunt’s Life was actually 185 times cheaper to make than Jarhead 2.

(VetTV)

One thing that I can’t stress enough about this film is the level of effort and quality that went into it. And it shows!

The production design is just as sh*tty as I remembered Afghanistan, and the little details in the costuming are spot on. The script is solid for a satisfying arc. The acting perfectly portrays real grunts (probably because much of the cast are vets.) The camera work is gorgeous, even if what’s on camera is absolutely disgusting. You can tell that everyone involved in the project poured their hearts into this film.

The film is crude. It’s so f*cking dark at times. I feel like a monster for laughing at moments that would make my family terrified. I f*cking love this film. It’s not going to see much play with a wider audience. Amazon banned it, the Department of Defense isn’t affiliated with it, and the only way to view it is on Vimeo at this link here.

And that’s alright. This film isn’t made for everyone. It’s made by vets, for vets. Time will tell that this film is going to endure and be a beloved classic among troops and veterans for years to come.

I give it 5.56 Stars.

You can watch the trailer below.

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I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 50 years

I didn’t even get a t-shirt. In North Korea, it was too expensive. 


Everything in North Korea takes you in through the gift shop and out through the same gift shop in an attempt to milk cash from visitors so they can buy Hennessy en masse from the duty free shop at Beijing Airport. That’s not a joke: 20 people boarding our flight from Beijing to Pyongyang were carrying boxes of cigarettes, cognac, and chocolate.

The plane’s aisles and free spaces overflowed with what looked like supplies for a party at DMX’s house.

In late 2012, I visited the country that honestly believes it won the Korean War by virtue of not being annihilated completely. So it makes sense (in a weird way) they would believe capturing an American ship outside its territorial waters 15 years after the fighting stopped is a giant feather in their cap.

The Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship which was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters. The crew didn’t go down easily. As the ship attempted to evade capture, the North Koreans opened up on her. One U.S. sailor was killed by the 57mm guns aboard a North Korean subchaser.

After that volley, the crew signaled compliance and began to destroy the immense amount of classified material aboard. It took two subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to subdue the Pueblo and its crew, who weren’t even able to man the ship’s guns due to restrictive Navy regulations. The ship’s crew were simply outgunned and outnumbered.

The capture was also unfortunate in timing, since the year it was captured, 1968, was probably the most eventful year in modern American history. The week after the Pueblo’s capture, North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive, drawing attention away from their plight and putting the media spotlight on America’s first “Television War.”

The Pueblo was sent to Wonsan while its crew was taken to North Korean POW camps. They were starved and tortured but the crew resisted even as the North Koreans attempted to use them as propaganda pieces in photos. The crew was a bit smarter than that.

 

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

They literally gave the finger to the Kim regime. At every opportunity they flashed the “Hawaiian good luck sign.” When the captives realized the communists didn’t know what the gesture meant, they flashed it for every camera, ruining all the potential propaganda value. When the North Koreans read what it actually meant in Time magazine, they were beaten for a week.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
Thanks, Time Magazine.

Fifty years later, her crew repatriated, the Pueblo is still held by North Korea. In 1999 it was moved from Wonsan to Pyongyang, moored on the Taedong River. This is where I saw the ship.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
(photo by Blake Stilwell)

The woman in the bottom right of the above photo was one of our two guides/minders/spies who were present with us for every waking moment of our time in North Korea — except at our hotel — which was on an island in the middle of the same river where the Pueblo was moored.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends

(photo by Blake Stilwell)

The tour of the Pueblo was just one event in a day packed with them telling their American visitors how awful our government is, how they definitely won that war we had (their holiday marking the end of the war is called “Victory Day”) despite overwhelming material and personnel losses, and how without Marshal Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear weapons, the Yankees and the corrupt regime in the South would immediately try to take over North again. Obviously.

The Pueblo is only the seventh ship to be captured since the American War with the Barbary Pirates and is the second oldest ship still commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The crew of the Pueblo (like Don McClarren, below) sure havn’t forgotten about it.

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
(Photo Credit: BJ Small, Mechanicsburg, PA)

As of August 2012, the ship seemed in good condition, or as good as North Korea would allow it. Like everything else there, it could have used a coat of paint – which rumor has it – the ship has since received from the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (Yes, that’s the real name of the museum and that’s really what the North Koreans call the Korean War, which is almost as ridiculous as the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War. Because nobody does statues like Communists).

Regaining the sense of pride: Saigon falls and the Vietnam War ends
(photo by Blake Stilwell)

Before exiting through another gift shop, the tour of the Pueblo includes a trip below decks, where photography was strictly prohibited. They monitor Americans pretty closely so I wasn’t able to take a direct video of the presentation of the North Korean version of the Pueblo Incident. Luckily, finding a copy of it wasn’t too difficult.

The film is a priceless taste of the kind of propaganda the people in Pyongyang experience all the time.

Don’t let this accent fool you. North Koreans study for decades just to master foreign languages. One of our guides spoke four fluent languages and one North Korean randomly approached us on the street to say welcome — in perfect English, with a midwestern American accent.

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