A group of tank restorers was working on a World War II Hellcat when they realized that the man who worked that exact Hellcat from Omaha Beach to V-E Day, Don Verle Breinholt, happened to live just a few miles down the road from them.
The restorers rushed to finish their restoration in time for Breinholt and his tank to reunite at a veteran appreciation event.
The M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer was one of the fastest and most agile armored vehicles of World War II. It was custom designed to cripple Germany’s Panzer Corps, quickly moving to the heart of the action and firing its 76mm main gun into Nazi armor. It would also dart ahead of an enemy thrust and then lie in wait to launch an ambush.
The Hellcat was so fast that America’s modern and feared Abrams Main Battle Tank, widely praised for its speed, is actually slower than the Hellcat. The Abrams can book it across the battlefield at 45 mph. The Hellcat can swing past it at 53 mph.
And the ammo on the Hellcat was vicious. While the gun itself was similar to the one on most American medium tanks, Hellcats carried high-velocity, armor-piercing rounds designed to jet molten metal right through German armor.
While Hellcats were lethal, they were also vulnerable. The Hellcats carried minimal armor and could be killed with everything from tank rounds to panzerfausts to heavy machine guns.
That’s what makes it so amazing that Breinholt made it from Omaha as a gunner to where he met up with the Russians as a vehicle commander without suffering his own life-threatening injury or losing his Hellcat.
You can watch the restoration and learn a lot more about the M18 Hellcat and the modern M1 Abrams in the video below. Breinholt speaks throughout the video, but you can see him meet his old vehicle for the first time since May 1945 at the 46-minute mark:
Well into the attack, the USS Arizona took four devastating direct hits from 800kg bombs dropped from high altitude Japanese planes. One of the bombs ripped into the Arizona’s starboard deck and detonated. The explosion collapsed the ship’s forecastle decks, causing the conning tower to fall thirty feet into the hull.
Due to the events of that traumatic day, 1,177 Sailors and Marines lost their lives, but the numbers of those men buried at the historic site continue to increase.
Master Chief Raymond Haerry (ret), served as a Boatswain’s Mate on the Arizona as it was bombed by enemy forces in the pacific fleet, which threw him from the ship and caused him to land in the oil and fire covered water.
Haerry had to swim his way to Ford Island — then got right back into the fight by firing back at the enemy. He was just 19 years old.
75 years after the attack, Haerry returned; his ashes were laid to rest inside the sunken ship’s hull, rejoining approximately 900 of his brothers. More than 100 people gathered at the USS Arizona Memorial for the symbolic funeral in his honor — a ceremony only offered to those who survived the deadly attack.
The retired Master Chief became the 42nd survivor to be placed at the site out of the 335 men who survived.
The Navy tends to be very strict when people recover items from sunken wrecks. In fact, when an Enigma machine was taken from the wreck of U-85, the Navy intervened. They even tried to grab a plane they left lying around in a North Carolina swamp for over 40 years.
According to a 2004 AP report, the plane in question was very valuable. It was the only known surviving Brewster F3A “Corsair.” Well, let’s be honest here. The F3A can best be described as a Corsair In Name Only, or CINO. Brewster’s Corsairs had problems — so much so that in July, 1944, the Navy cancelled the contract and Brewster went out of business less than a month after D-Day.
Brewster was also responsible for the F2A Buffalo, a piece of crap that got a lot of Marine pilots killed during the Battle of Midway.
According to that AP report, the story began with a fatal accident on Dec. 19, 1944, which killed Lt. Robin C. Pennington, who was flying a training mission in the F3A. The Navy recovered Pennington’s body and some gear from the Corsair, then left the wreck. Eventually, the plane was recovered by Lex Cralley in 1990, who began trying to restore the plane. A simple case of “finders keepers, losers weepers,” right?
Nope. The Navy sued Cralley in 2004 to get the plane back. After the report appeared, comments were…not exactly favorable towards the Navy at one normally pro-military forum.
Eventually, then-Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) got involved. According to a May 28, 2004 report by Hearst News Service, Jones eventually authored an amendment that settled the lawsuit by having the Navy turn the F3A over to Cralley.
The Navy usually has been very assertive with regards to wrecks. According to admiraltylawguide.com, in 2000, the Navy won a ruling in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal preventing Doug Champlin from salvaging a TBD Devastator that had survived both the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.
Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.
“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”
The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.
“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.
Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the
Small Arms Review.
Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.
This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:
American special operators teamed with Arab fighters in Syria are poised to take a key town north of the Islamic State stronghold in Raqqah. If they succeed it would be an important blow to the Islamic insurgency and assist the government of Iraq in taking back its second largest city.
Since late June, jets from the United States, France, and Australia have been pounding ISIS positions in the city of Manbij, a key northern crossroads town north of the ISIS-held town of Raqqah in Syria. Kurdish and Syrian-Arab fighters who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, are squeezing hundreds of ISIS fighters in the town, said to be a key transit point for bootleg oil and illicit arms for the terrorist group.
“I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with the performance of our partner forces, the Syrian-Arab coalition, in particular,” said Central Command chief Army Gen. Joseph Votel during a press conference at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
“This has been a very difficult fight. This is an area that the Islamic State is trying to hold onto,” he added.
Pentagon chief Ash Carter said the campaign in Manbij is part of an effort to squeeze ISIS into Raqqah in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Defense officials have hinted that a full-on assault on Iraq’s second largest city is imminent, with regional leaders meeting July 20 at Andrews to flesh out a post-takeover plan.
“In play after play, town after town, from every direction and in every domain, our campaign has accelerated further, squeezing ISIL and rolling it back towards Raqqah and Mosul,” Carter said. “By isolating these two cities, we’re effectively setting the stage to collapse ISIL’s control over them.”
Al Jazeera reports that ISIS has lost nearly 500 fighters in Manbij as SDF fighters with American help have squeezed the terrorist enclave. The SDF has suffered less than 100 dead.
Carter said the anti-ISIS coalition, dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve, is looking into the allegations.
“We’re aware of reports of civilian casualties that may be related to recent coalition airstrikes near Manbij city in Syria,” Carter said. “We’ll investigate these reports and continue to do all we can to protect civilians from harm.”
Votel added that Kurdish and Syrian-Arab parters are working to keep the 70,000 civilians in Manbij out of harms way.
“What I’ve been most impressed with is the deliberateness and the discipline with which our partner forces have conducted themselves,” Votel said. “They are moving slowly, they are moving very deliberately, mostly because they’re concerned about the civilians that still remain in the city.”
“And I think that that speaks very highly of their values and it speaks very highly of what they’re about here. We’ve picked the right partners for this operation,” he said.
Being in combat is one of the craziest experiences a person can have. Bullets are zipping by your melon and impacting the wall behind you, eyes wide and on the alert as the incoming rounds blanket your position. Sounds crazy. Because it is.
War is hell.
Well-trained military minds know, winning the battle is the most important aspect of winning the war. In combat, the rules are different than in any other situation you’ll probably find yourself. All available fingers need to be pulling triggers.
So if allied forces take a mass casualty, the guy who is hurt the worst isn’t necessarily the one who gets treated first.
During combat, the rules on who receives care first changes in a matter of moments. If a squad is under heavy attack and a few trigger pullers get hurt, then the unit is down a few bodies.
After the field medic takes care of their wounds, let’s say subject “A” sustained a “GSW” or gunshot wound to the chest, they are now out of the fight. If subject “B” took a bullet to their leg, they’re still considered in the fight because it’s not life-threatening.
So during wartime rules, subject “B” is supposed to be treated first to allow them the chance to get back on their weapon system and return to the fight. Hopefully subject “A” will be okay and pull through.
A new initiative from BAE Defense Systems wants to create a system for “growing” drones in vats in a next-generation version of 3-D printing.
The process would be very quick, allowing military planners to manufacture new drones only weeks after a design is approved. That would allow custom aircraft to be grown for many major operations.
If the Air Force needed to get bombers past next-generation Russian air defenses, they could print drones specifically designed to trick or destroy the new sensors. If a group of troops was cut off in World War III’s version of the Battle of the Bulge, the Army could resupply them with custom-designed drones carrying fuel, batteries, ammo, and more. Different designs could even be grown for each payload.
The drones would grow their own electronics and airframes, though key parts may need to be manufactured the old fashioned way and plugged into new drone designs. BAE’s video shows a freshly grown aircraft receiving a final part, possibly a power source or sensor payload, on an assembly line after the craft leaves its vat and dries.
The 3-D printer that would be used, dubbed the “Chemputer” and trademarked by BAE, could potentially even recycle some of its waste and use environmentally friendly materials.
Since each aircraft is being custom built for specific missions or niche mission types, they can be highly specialized. One vat could print an aircraft optimized for speed that needs to outrun enemy missiles while the one next to it needs to act as a radio relay and has been optimized for loiter time.
The project is headed by University of Glasgow Regius Professor Lee Cronin. Cronin acknowledges that roadblocks exist to getting the Chemputer up and running, but thinks his team is ready to overcome them.
“This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry,” Cronin said. “We have been developing routes to digitize synthetic and materials chemistry and at some point in the future hope to assemble complex objects in a machine from the bottom up, or with minimal human assistance. Creating small aircraft would be very challenging but I’m confident that creative thinking and convergent digital technologies will eventually lead to the digital programming of complex chemical and material systems.”
She is what’s known as an “Arlington Lady,” officially representing the Chief of Staff and dedicated to the families of those who served. She’s not there to grieve, but to honor the fallen.
Since 1948, these ladies have attended every military funeral at Arlington to ensure that “no Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman is buried alone.”
After World War II, Air Force Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg would attend Arlington funeral services with his wife. The general noticed that many of the funerals were attended only by a chaplain. According to Arlington’s website, the Vandenbergs formed a group to ensure a member of the Air Force was present at every airman’s funeral.
Slowly, the other branches caught on, creating their own groups. Army Gen. Creighton Adams’ wife Julia started the Army’s in 1973. The Navy started in 1985 and the Coast Guard in 2006.
The Marines have always sent an official representative of the Marine Commandant to every funeral of a Marine or retired Marine.
“It doesn’t matter whether we are burying a four-star general or a private,” Margaret Mensch, head of the Army ladies, told NBC News. “They all deserve to have someone say thank you at their grave.”
Mensch is married to a retired Army colonel. Many of the Arlington Ladies she organizes are also the spouses of veterans and soldiers.
Some of her ladies joined the Arlington Ladies after being visited by one, because they know first hand the crucial the role these women played when their own husbands died.
Joyce Johnson joined the Army Arlington Ladies in 2004. She lost her husband, Lt. Col. Dennis Johnson in the September 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon.
“It was a way I felt I could honor my husband,” she told Soldiers Magazine. “I just wanted to help make someone else’s life better so I asked to join the Arlington Ladies. … It’s really an honor to be able to do this.”
Most sailors who go out on deployment don’t get into trouble. Others may find themselves on the wrong side of the shore patrol, though. Much of that can be minor, and is usually addressed with a loss of pay, or placing a sailor on restriction. But in some cases, that sailor needs to be confined.
Now, when you’re deployed to the Middle East, Mediterranean, or some other hot spot, it’s hard to ship the guy (or gal) back to the States to lock them up. So, on carriers and other large ships, the jail is brought with them – and it’s called the brig.
And in case you think that an upcoming battle earns some leeway for misbehavior, you’d best keep in mind that heading towards a fight won’t keep a sailor from getting tossed in the brig. In the book “Miracle at Midway,” historian Gordon Prange related how Marc Mitscher, captain of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8), threw a couple of sailors in the brig for minor infractions prior to the Battle of Midway.
In many cases where that is necessary, the sailors are sent to the brig after what is known as a “Captain’s Mast,” which is covered under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. According to Naval Orientation, the amount of time someone may be confined is limited. The exact limits depend on the rank of the commanding officer and the rank of the accused. The chart below from the linked manual explains those limits.
The video clip below is from the 2008 documentary mini-series “Carrier,” produced by Mel Gibson’s production company. It provides a tour of the brig on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as it was in 2005.
If you fly a killer drone and you’re thinking of pulling chocks when your commitment ends, the Air Force has some cold hard cash to entice you to stay.
Top Air Force officials announced Aug. 10 that Remotely Piloted Aircraft operators who re-up for another five-year contract would receive $35,000 per year in bonus cash. That nets out to a whopping $175,000 when all is said and done and is $10,000 more than previous bonuses.
“The Air Force recognizes the important contribution RPA pilots make every day, and retaining these valued aviators to execute our current operations and shape the future is critical,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “While we applaud this effort, we recognize we have similar challenges across our entire pilot force, and we’d like the opportunity to offer higher retention bonuses for all our pilots.”
Drones are some of the most sought-after air assets for ground commanders worldwide, from launching missiles at bad guy convoys to snooping around insurgent bases and scooping up radio chatter, the RPAs can go deep behind enemy lines without risking the lives of American pilots and crew.
But as the demand increases, so does the pace of pilot operations and both the drones and their crew are burning out fast, Air Force officials say.
“What we are doing in the world of our RPAs [is] to try to lessen some of the strain and improve quality of life,” said Air Force Sec. Deborah James. “With respect to our ‘get well plan,’ is that it is proceeding at pace. It is not all done yet, but there is a lot going on – a lot in process.”
To relieve the stress, the Air Force plans to establish a new MQ-9 Reaper aircraft wing and is in the midst of surveying potential bases to host it. Officials say the service is also supplementing drone crews with Air National Guard pilots and has hired on contractors to fly some surveillance missions.
The service has also doubled the number of drone pilots in the force since 2015.
“Producing more pilots of course means a better quality of life for all of our RPA airmen, because it will give them more family time and more opportunities to pursue developmental opportunities,” James said.
“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 13. “And we will correct this as soon as possible.”
A resurgent Taliban coupled with Islamic State militants have challenged U.S. forces in the region and are taking back territory formerly under control of U.S. and Afghan troops. As of February, the Afghan government controls 59 percent of all districts in the country, which is down 11 percentage points from the same time period in 2016.
Four months ago, Army Gen. John Nicholson, who commands U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, said he needed several thousand more troops.
Most of the new troops heading to Afghanistan will play the role of training and advising Afghan troops. A small minority will directly participate in counter-terrorism operations against Taliban and ISIS fighters.
Afghanistan is America’s longest war, beginning in 2001. More than 2,300 Americans have been killed so far and 17,000 more wounded.
As such, Mattis is looking to end the war as soon as possible.
“We’re not looking at a purely military strategy,” Mattis told a House Appropriations panel June 15. “All wars come to an end. Our job is to end it as quickly as possible without losing the very mission that we’ve recognized, through several administrations, that was worth putting those young Americans on the line for.”
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General Charles Denis Bourbaki forged a long career fighting in the French Second Empire’s wars in North Africa, the Crimea, and Italy. He served as a lieutenant with the Zouaves from 1836 to 1838 and received a promotion to captain in June of 1842. He quickly rose to the rank of Colonel by 1851 and received advancement to general of division in 1857. He served with distinction at the Battles of Alma, Inkerman, and the assault of Sebastopol during the Crimean War. He fought in the Franco-Austrian War of 1859 and in July of 1870, was nominated as aide-de-camp to Emperor Napoleon, earning renown as one of his most resourceful generals.
With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, he took command of the First Army of the North. Like most of Napoleon III’s most senior generals, he too proved to be unprepared and unqualified for the war. The Prussian superiority in modern firearms and tactics proved to be too much for the French, who at one time seemed to possess the best army in the world. The Franco-Prussian War ended the myth of French military superiority.
Famed Marxist philosopher and war correspondent Friedrich Engels called the January 1871 Battle of the Lisaine “Bourbaki’s shipwreck.” The battle and subsequent flight of Bourbaki and his army left most of his surviving soldiers without winter clothing, ammunition, or provisions.
Five days after his First Army of the North met defeat at the hands of the Prussians, Bourbaki and 80,000 surviving troops reached the French city of Besançon on their way to the Swiss border in search of sanctuary. They were cold and dispirited.
The choices were grim: flight across the neutral Swiss border or surrender to the victorious Prussians. The condition of his shattered ranks, coupled with the censure for his indecisiveness and poor decision-making during the battle, proved to be unbearable for Bourbaki. In thirty-plus years of campaigning, the general had never experienced defeat on this scale.
“The whole behaviour of Bourbaki, from the 15th to the 26th, seems to prove that he had lost all confidence in his men and that consequently he also lost all confidence in himself,” Engels reported in The Pall Mall Gazette on February 18, 1871. No one ever questioned Bourbaki’s bravery, but his ability to command an army left much to be desired.
Bourbaki’s staff officers worried about his mood over the days leading up to January 26. They intentionally hid his sidearm from him because they were afraid that he would attempt to take his life. Bourbaki located a gunsmith in the city to purchase another weapon, but the gunsmith turned him away, warned of Bourbaki’s suicidal intentions.
But the stubborn general was resolute. He would not be joining his men on their journey to Switzerland.
He commandeered a pistol from one of his aides and retired to his quarters. It was exactly seven o’clock on the evening of January 26, 1871 when his aides heard the single crack of a gunshot echo from Bourbaki’s room.
Bourbaki likely used a weapon like this “Pistolet Cavaliere Modele 1822 TBIS” – the sidearm issued to French officers at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War.
One of Bourbaki’s aides burst through the door of his room and discovered the general slumped over on his bed with his face and head covered with blood. He was miraculously still alive, still able to speak but unable to recall the names of his staff officers.
Two doctors rushed to perform immediate surgery. They discovered a 12mm ball lodged into his temporal muscle. No fracture of the skull was found and the general appeared to only suffer slight amnesia from the concussion of the bullet’s impact.
Bourbaki attributed his attempted suicide to the fact that he was denied a glorious death in battle. But by June, the war was over and he resumed his duties in the French Army.
He lived another 26 years and died in Cambo-Les-Bains on September 22, 1897, well-established among the public as the French general whose failed suicide became his legacy.
One of the reasons the U.S. Army is so capable and successful is its ability to think outside the box to achieve its major objective. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean it includes unintended consequences into its calculations.
One of the major examples of this include using Agent Orange to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam. The United States could see the enemy on the ground after using Agent Orange, but it also gave everyone cancer, from the soldiers and airmen who used it to generations of Vietnamese people, decades after the war ended.
The Army’s disregard of the laws of unintended consequences isn’t strictly a 20th Century occurrence (it’s also not limited to the Army, or to the United States). In the drive to push Indian Tribes onto reservations during the last part of the 1800s, the Army’s plan to subdue the hunter-gatherer tribes of the American West involved an unorthodox, but not well thought-out idea: destroy their resources.
At the time the frontier was disappearing, the U.S. government and U.S. Army was full of Civil War veterans, who saw victory on the battlefields through destroying the meager resources of the Confederacy. The trio that managed the final destruction of the Confederate Armies, President Ulysses S. Grant, Gen. Philip Sheridan, and Gen. William Techumseh Sherman devised a plan to do the same to the Indian tribes in the West.
The Indians didn’t have farms, factories, or shipping ports, though. If they did, the U.S. Army would have been less inclined to engineer the tribes’ destruction. Their goal was to get the roving bands of Native tribesmen off the plains and onto plows, where they would stop harassing settlers, destroying rail and telegraph lines, and stop killing soldiers.
In 1868, the massive buffalo herds that once roamed North America had dwindled into two giant herds, but the tribes still relied on them for everything from clothing and shelter to food. Army leadership recognized that destruction of the herds was the only means of controlling the native population. While the Army never officially adopted a policy of slaughtering buffalo, they helped it along.
“Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone,” Col. Richard Dodge said of the slaughter. “Kill every buffalo you can.”
So they made a most uniquely American solution, promoting a market-based solution to the destruction of the herds. A 2016 article from the Atlantic notes that buffalo hides in 1868 fetched $3.50 each, nearly $70 today. Cartridges for the popular hunting rifles of the time cost just under $5 each in 2021 dollars. It could be a big business, and it was. Killing bison was a cheaper alternative to cattle ranching.
Businessmen hunting hides decimated what was left of the herds, taking what would sell and leaving the meat to rot in the plains of the frontier. In just a few short years, the American Bison was facing extinction and the Grant Administration would do nothing to protect them. By the turn of the 20th century, there were just 300 left.
In the end, the plan worked. Tribes who were most affected by Sheridan’s plan, the Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne and Arapaho were eventually forced onto their reservations as their food sources dwindled away. Since the buffalo was so important to their society, the tribes also became heavily dependent on the U.S. government for food and other supplies.
The bison survived by migrating to the protected lands on Yellowstone National Park. Today the American Bison is making a comeback, with more than 500,000 in public and private herds, including the herds Native tribes have also reintroduced onto their lands.
Featured image: Left: Screenshot – Red Cry, YouTube; Right: stock image