West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

The Vietnam War went on for a long time, from 1955-1975. The war killed over 58,000 Americans and had a total death count of millions. For US soldiers, many of whom were drafted, one of the worst parts of the whole deal was that they knew their efforts were in vain. Why? No one likes to admit defeat, least of all America. At a certain point, it became clear the US couldn’t win the war.

Vietnam has never been an easy conversation

Talking about war has never been easy. Vietnam was the first war that was televised and reported on in real-time, so the public formed opinions as events unfolded. As anyone who’s spent time downrange can tell you, that’s not always a good thing. As the country navigated 20 years of war, the American people continued to feel its effects more and more. That’s no more true than in smaller communities like those in the West Virginian mountains.

The town of Wheeling, West Virginia’s population hovers just over 20,000 today. During the Vietnam Era, it was even smaller. The tight-knit community endured funeral after funeral of fallen Vietnam War soldiers. In late February 1967, Wheeling buried another one of their own, Marine Corporeal George Edward McRobbie. He was only 21 years old. By that time, two other Wheeling soldiers had already been laid to rest that year. And in 1967 alone, Wheeling lost 26 young men to the war.

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam
One of the several West Virginian veterans interviewed shares his experiences.

West Virginians sure showed up in large mumbers for the Vietnam War

It wasn’t just Wheeling, either. More West Virginians served and fell in the Vietnam War per capita than any other state. In total, 36,578 West Virginians served, and most of them began as teenagers. Of those, 1,128 were killed. Throughout the 1960s in West Virginia, burying fathers, sons, husbands, and brothers was a common occurrence. 

Among the West Virginians who served was a conscientious objector and medic Thomas W. Bennett from Morgantown. He was the only conscientious objector in the Vietnam War to earn the Medal of Honor. 

In general, rural guys from West Virginia and even some women were ready to fight in the Vietnam War, draft, or no draft. Once in active combat, many of their assignments were things like walking points in the jungle, thanks to the fact that they already had experience tracking and with guns. This prior experience may be the key to understanding why West Virginia soldiers had such a high fatality rate per capita in the war. So many were put on the front lines in dangerous positions because they could handle it. 

But the West Virginian youth eventually turned their backs on the war

As we all know, the news coverage of the war, particularly the brutal series of attacks by the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive, turned many citizens against the conflict. Unfortunately, the young soldiers often took the brunt of the criticism. By 1968, West Virginia high schoolers who had once been eager to serve their country no longer viewed the war as honorable and began to dread the potential of being drafted. 

Regardless, the brave soldiers from West Virginia and throughout the country who served in Vietnam simply did what their country required of them.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why you need to know about Juneteenth

There are moments in history that are nothing short of monumental, but they aren’t broadly celebrated or acknowledged. Juneteenth is one of those days.

You may have heard the word Juneteenth at some point in your life but have no idea what it’s about. It’s a turning point in our country that isn’t emphasized in history books, so it’s easy to skate past the day with little care. But it’s time we give the respect it deserves.


Here’s the story about Juneteenth, and why we all should know it.

Remember learning about when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery during the Civil War? The executive order went into effect on January 1, 1863, but it wasn’t an immediate victory. It would take two and a half more years before the news that slavery had ended would reach remote Texas.

Up to this point, black people (who were captured and brought to America) were viewed and treated as property and animals, not humans with rights. Their purpose was that of free labor for farming, working as servants and basically doing whatever their owners commanded. Many people saw slavery as immoral and wanted to end it. Confederates didn’t agree that the federal government had the right to do so, which was a major factor in them separating from the Union. Subsequently, the Civil War began.

In 1865, the Confederate states were defeated.

Two months after the Civil War ended, General Gordon Granger announced federal order in Galveston, Texas, the last Confederate state holding onto their human property. Granger declared that all previously enslaved people were free, and he was backed by Union troops to enforce the decree.

This climax of freedom took place on June 19, 1865, therefore, Juneteenth. It is the annual celebration of African Americans being released from the last shred of slavery in this country. Some communities hold gatherings, parades and festivals in commemoration.

The happenings of June 19 were major progress, not just for black Americans, but for our nation! It was a beginning step toward equality and to be treated as people and not property.

Our country explodes in celebration recognizing July 4, 1776 (Independence Day). But black people were still enslaved. Juneteenth is the African American day of freedom. To acknowledge it is to say, this happened, and it is a day we honor, value and will make noise about in celebration together.

Changes are happening as Americans of varying nationalities are screaming in the streets that Black Lives Matter and demanding social justice. Recognizing Juneteenth is a part of that package.

Nike, New York Times, Target, Lyft, JCPenney and many other companies are making Juneteenth an annual paid holiday. They encourage employees to use this time to reflect on the many injustices black people have faced in America, and to connect to the community.

While 47 of the states acknowledge Juneteenth in some capacity (North Dakota, South Dakota and Alaska do not), Texas, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania are the only ones recognizing it as an official paid holiday for state employees.

While Juneteenth is not yet a national holiday, the significance of this time is starting to catch hold. While many white Americans are acknowledging the pattern of struggle that African Americans still face daily, we have long strides to make.

Recognizing the ending of slavery as a nation is a good start! Happy Juneteenth!

MIGHTY HISTORY

An Army officer disobeyed orders and stole four tanks to save 65 soldiers in Korea

In April 1951, Lt. Dave Teich heard a call from about 65 U.S. Army soldiers from the 8th Ranger Company. They were completely cut off from the rest of the main force and some of them were wounded. 

Meanwhile, some 300,000 Chinese soldiers were on their way to overrun their position. The Rangers were calling for help from Lt. Teich’s tank company. Teich asked his captain if he could go to their rescue. His response was a firm no. Teich went anyway.

One of the trapped Rangers, E.C. Rivera, told NBC News he’d risked his life in a slow low crawl to make his way to a ridge just so he could get line of sight to use his radio. When he peeked over the ridgeline, he saw four American tanks. 

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam
Rangers E.C. Rivera (left) and Joe Almeida (right) recline against an M39 Armored Utility Vehicle. Rivera carried the radio that was the 8th Ranger’s only link to friendly forces during the battle of Hill 628. Photo Courtesy USAHEC Ranger Photo Collection

He called it “the most beautiful sight of my life” 60 years after the end of the Korean Conflict, which is a title the view still held when the veterans met up for their 60th reunion.

The tankers and the rangers were about five miles south of the 38th parallel, which divided the two Koreas then, as it does today. When the Rangers radioed that they were in “bad shape,” Lt. Teich asked his captain if they could move to assist. The answer was a surprise to Teich. 

“We’ve got orders to move out. Screw them. Let them fight their own battles,” he said. 

Teich disagreed with his captain’s assessment. He stayed behind with four tanks as the main force moved out, disobeying order from both the captain and higher command. Teich felt he had a moral obligation to help the wounded and cut-off Rangers as both an Army officer and a human being. 

“I know I did the right thing in my heart because if I didn’t and those guys got wiped out,” Teich said, “I could never live that down.”

The Chinese were coming in what the Rangers then described as a “river of soldiers,” blocking the Rangers’ escape from the napalm-charred hill they were defending. The Chinese came in hot, firing a barrage of bullets at the beleaguered Americans. They all had to move as fast as they could, even if they were wounded to rendezvous with the waiting tanks. 

After carrying their wounded and sick comrades over a mile’s distance, a total of 65 wounded Rangers were loaded onto Teich’s four tanks, who sped them all to safety as the rest of the Rangers who could move beat a hasty retreat in the face of the Chinese wave coming at them.  

Ever since that day in Korea that gave Dave Teich the opportunity to fulfill his moral obligation to the wounded and stranded soldiers of the 8th Ranger Company, he’s received calls and letters from the men he helped pull from the jaws of death.

“Though we don’t always say it, Dave Teich saved our lives,” the leader of the Ranger company, then-Capt. James Herbert said. “If it wasn’t for him, we figure all of the survivors of the battle would have been killed or captured by Chinese. We look upon Dave as our savior.”

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam
8TH Ranger Company commander Capt. James Herbert (left) and his second in command Lieutenant Giacherine (right) confer with an unknown officer (middle). Photo Courtesy USAHEC Ranger Photo Collection.

Herbert himself had a hole in his neck from the Chinese attack. He survived by plugging the hole with his finger until he could get to an aid station.

Teich doesn’t know many of the men who send him cards, calls, and letters every year, but he knows their names, at least. 

“If somebody asks for help, you can’t deny them,” Teich said.

Articles

This WWII commander avenged his fallen shipmates

There is nothing like a good revenge story. From Paul Kersey’s vigilante rampage in in “Death Wish” to Eric Cartman’s diabolical payback in the South Park Episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die,” revenge tales are deeply satisfying.


Here is one from World War II involving the revenge one naval officer took upon Japan for his fallen shipmates.

It started during the earliest days of America’s involvement in World War II. On Dec. 10, 1941, the Sargo-class submarine USS Sealion (SS 195) was hit by Japanese bombs during a strike on the American naval base in Cavite where it sunk pier-side.

Four of her crew — Sterling C. Foster, Melvin D. O’Connell, Ernest E. Ogilvie, and Vallentyne L. Paul — were killed. Eli T. Reich, the submarine’s executive officer, was among those evacuated.

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam
USS Sealion II (SS 315). (US Navy photo)

According to retired Navy Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood’s book, “Sink `Em All,” when Reich was due for a command of his own, he asked if Lockwood could get him the new USS Sealion (SS 315), a Balao-class vessel. Lockwood, who was the commander of the Pacific Fleet’s submarines, arranged for that assignment – and Reich was soon out, seeking revenge.

Four of the torpedoes USS Sealion II carried were stamped with the names Foster, O’Connell, Ogilvie, and Paul.

On Nov. 21, 1944, while the Sealion was patrolling in the Formosa Strait, Reich then came across a Japanese surface that included the battleship HIJMS Kongo (in reality, a re-built battle cruiser). Reich moved his submarine into position, then fired a spread of six torpedoes from his bow tubes — including the ones with the names of his fallen shipmates.

He then fired a second spread from his stern tubes.

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam
Two views of HIJMS Kongo as she looked in 1944, the year she was sunk by USS Sealion (SS 315). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Accounts differ as to the exact sequence of events after the two spreads of torpedoes were fired.

According to “Leyte,” the tenth book in Samuel Eliot Morison’s 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, the first spread Reich fired was intercepted by a Japanese destroyer that blew up and sank as a result, and the second spread scored one hit that eventually sank the Kongo.

At CombinedFleet.com, Anthony Tully relates a different version, with Kongo taking multiple hits from one of the spreads.

Lockwood claims Reich’s first spread scored three hits.

No matter what version, the Kongo eventually blew up and sank. Reich had avenged his shipmates. He would receive three awards of the Navy Cross, among other decorations, for his service, and died in 1999. His command, USS Sealion, would serve in the Navy until 1970, then was sunk as a target in 1978.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy declassifies 300 pages of probe into 1963 USS Thresher disaster

Nearly six decades after a Navy submarine plummeted to the bottom of the sea during a deep-dive test, families of those lost in the tragedy are finally getting a look at hundreds of documents about the accident the service has long kept under wraps.

The Navy on Wednesday released the first 300 pages of a court of inquiry on the catastrophic 1963 loss of the nuclear-powered submarine Thresher. The documents provide details into the Navy’s worst undersea accident, which claimed the lives of 129 men onboard.


While Navy leaders say they’re committed to being transparent with the families and the public about what caused the Thresher — the first sub in its class — to sink, it took a court order to reach this point.

Capt. Jim Bryant, a retired Navy submarine officer, sued his former service in 2019 to get it to release the full 1,700-page report on the Thresher accident. A federal judge ordered the Navy in February to begin releasing portions of that report monthly to the public.

“I think I’m doing the Navy a favor,” Bryant told Military.com this week. “This is a significant historic event … and the reactions were very sound. It’s a really good story here for the Navy.”

Rear Adm. Bill Houston, director of the Undersea Warfare Division at the Pentagon, told reporters Tuesday that Navy leaders don’t believe the newly released Thresher documents “will shed any additional light on her loss.” Still, he added, the Navy is committed to releasing additional portions of the report monthly, despite much of it remaining classified.

“This process requires coordination between many organizations, and takes time to be done correctly,” Houston said. “But the Navy knows this is the right thing to do.”

He declined to comment on Bryant’s lawsuit prompting the documents’ release.

The first batch of documents released this week includes witness and exhibits lists, findings of facts, opinions, recommendations and initial testimony. Families were notified in a letter sent last month from Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander of Naval Submarine Forces, that the Navy was working to declassify the documents and make them public.

Joy MacMillan and her brother Tim Noonis lost their father, Walter “Jack” Noonis, to the Thresher accident. Both credited Bryant for the time he put into pushing the Navy to release the documents. The decision to do so “should have been automatic,” MacMillan said.

“We would definitely want to know,” she said. “We know it won’t bring them back, but it does help to understand how something like that could have happened to our family.”

MacMillan’s mother, who passed away in 2016, had four children under the age of 10 when the Thresher sank.

“It was intense, but I think my mom did a fabulous job picking her boots up and marching forward, but I would never say that it was easy,” MacMillan said. “I feel that it would’ve been an honor to all the moms to get this information.”

Bryant said the families — along with the rest of the public — deserve access to the answers.

“Naval history is important,” he said. “And when the technology is no longer of danger to national security — well, I think we should know about it.”

How Tragedy Led to Change

The Thresher had just completed a months-long overhaul period when — on April 10, 1963 — the sub began dive tests off the coast of Massachusetts.

It was accompanied by the submarine rescue ship Skylark, which received garbled communications about the Thresher experiencing minor difficulties.

The court of inquiry determined that the Thresher sank due to a piping failure that resulted in a loss of power and the inability to blow ballast tanks quickly enough to avoid sinking. Houston said this week that the Navy stands by those initial determinations.

Bryant wanted to know more, though, and was unsatisfied with the Navy’s original decision to publicly release just 19 of the 1,700 pages of documents from the court of inquiry. It was only after a Freedom of Information Act request failed to shake loose the documents that he took the Navy to court.

The families and the public have a right to know more about the decisions that led up to the accident, he said. In 2018, Bryant wrote a piece for the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine arguing that data showed the Thresher “very likely had already sunk below her 1,300-foot test depth limit when she reported minor difficulties.”

“The result,” he wrote, “was a hull collapse that could have been avoided with more testing and better planning.”

Noonis, who said he’s read everything he could find publicly on the Thresher, said he’d like the Navy to further analyze acoustical recordings of the Thresher accident that were picked up by the Navy’s Sound Surveillance System, known as SOSUS.

Bryant described an analysis Navy Reserve Lt. Bruce Rule provided during 1963 testimony about what the SOSUS picked up on the Thresher’s sinking. According to Bryant’s April 2020 Proceedings article titled “USS Thresher (SSN-593) Disaster: Ten Questions Our FOIA Lawsuit Hopes to Answer,” Rule’s observations reject the Navy’s assessment that there was major flooding on the sub before implosion.

While Noonis said he’d like to see the Navy take another look at that claim, he isn’t holding out much hope — especially since the service isn’t releasing the documents by choice.

“They were forced to release it,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of faith in the government coming out and changing their conclusion. … Bureaucracies aren’t fond of finding fault with themselves.”

People who study technology need access to any information available about major accidents to understand the decisions leading up to them, so they don’t repeat the same mistakes, Bryant said this week.

Despite the battle over the documents, though, Bryant credits the Navy with taking important steps in the aftermath of the Thresher tragedy to help prevent other undersea mishaps. That’s why he said he wants to see the service share any documents it has that can help others understand what went wrong.

Houston said the Thresher remains a defining event for the submarine service. Every new Navy submariner learns about the vessel.

“From day one, every new submariner checking onboard discusses the impact of Thresher to the submarine force, and the significant improvements that transpired as a result of her loss,” he said.

The Navy’s Submarine Safety program, known as SUBSAFE, was born out of the Thresher accident. SUBSAFE has “drastically improved quality control and assurance in the fabrication, construction and maintenance of submarines,” Houston said.

“Since the program’s inception, no SUBSAFE-certified submarines have been lost at sea,” he said.

MacMillan said she’s grateful the accident led to change, but said without the Navy releasing the full probe, no one can be certain all possible steps have been taken to prevent something similar from happening again.

“Was it the main coolant pump? Was it just a push too fast for a deeper dive in the Cold War?” she said. “It really does feel like it’s been [more than enough] time to know what really occurred.”

Now, as the Navy begins releasing never-before-seen documents on the accident that prompted those changes, Houston said the service must balance being transparent while still protecting information relating to national security.

Bryant said he and his attorney feel the Navy’s plan to release about 300 pages connected to the Thresher probe every month is reasonable, but noted they’ll be closely monitoring what is held back or redacted.

If the Navy refuses to declassify information they feel should be made public, Bryant said, “We’re going to fight them over it.”

MacMillan said she hopes the documents being released prove to the public that it’s possible to take on powerful organizations that might be reluctant to release information. Bryant didn’t have a stake in the Thresher accident, she said, but fought to do the right thing.

“If you work long and hard enough, you can get to the truth,” she said. “… As a 6-year-old child kind of still frozen in that time period, I think it’s high time that they come up with something.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 13 scariest dictators in history

Power struggles and war have existed since the dawn of humanity. Even today, we struggle with international relations and division within our own country. On numerous occasions, however, twisted political leaders have risen to power. Dictators like Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler crossed far beyond the boundary of war and genocide, initiating unspeakable atrocities. While we hope history never repeats itself, it’s important that we don’t forget our past either – even the ugliest parts. These dictators were among the evilest despots in world history. Which do you think is the most terrifying?


1. Qin Shi Huang

Reign: 247-210 B.C.

Qin Shi Huang was, you guessed it, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. The grade school taunt, “first is the worst” comes to mind because he was an absolutely brutal ruler. If scholars disagreed with him, he sentenced them to death. Any books that criticized his views were burned.

He also was responsible for the first version of the great wall, which was a small version of the one we know today, and for the construction of a massive mausoleum including an army of life-sized terra-cotta soldiers. Many conscripts died during the wall’s construction, but wall duty was the better option; those who worked on the mausoleum were automatically killed after their job was complete to keep the tomb on the down-low. In addition to all the casually ordered death, he opted to castrate prisoners of war and force them into slavery.

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

(Wikimedia Commons)

2. Julius Caesar

Reign: A.D. 37-41

Julius Caesar, also known as Caligula, wasn’t always despised. At the beginning of his rule, he freed wrongfully imprisoned citizens and nixed excessively high sales tax, but as time went on, his health suffered. Historians believe he may have suffered from several small strokes and possibly depression, and his personality changed drastically. He killed his rivals and forced their parents to watch, among other malicious acts. His political actions were increasingly bold. He was eventually overthrown by a group of 60 senators…and in this case, overthrown means murdered. He was stabbed 23 times, ending his pivotal role in Roman society.

3. Attila the Hun

Reign: AD 434-453

The Hunnic Empire was located near present-day Hungary, and it was home to the infamous Attila the Hun. He liked to invade other empires. A lot. He successfully led invasions of the Byzantine empire, devastated the Balkans, and attempted many failed, yet extremely destructive, raids on the Western Roman Empire, Roman Gaul, and Italy. While he didn’t ultimately win, his aggressive tactics and eagerness to fight made him a formidable opponent. He died shortly after razing much of Italy to the ground, and likely would have continued to plunder his way across the continent had he remained alive. Surprisingly, he died off the battlefield from unspecified internal bleeding on the night of his marriage (one of several).

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

(Wikimedia Commons)

4. Genghis Khan

Reign: 1206-1227

Genghis Khan was born to be tough. His father, chief of his tribe, was killed when Khan was only nine by poisoning, and the fatherless boy was raised in poverty. He was raised by his mother who taught him the importance of strong political alliances, and while he was captured by his father’s former allies for some time, he escaped and began to unite the Mongol tribes on his own. He proceeded to conquer much of China and Central Asia, and his methods were heartless. He killed civilians en masse more than once, including a massacre of the aristocrats of the Khwarezm Empire. He had so many wives and concubines that up to eight percent of men living in the region of the former Mongolian empire are genetic descendants of Khan.

5. Timur

Reign: 1370-1405

There were honestly too many empires to remember them all, but Timur was responsible for founding the Timurid Empire. He led ruthless military raids throughout much of western Asia, covering the area of modern-day Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. His military conquests weren’t the scary part, though. As a leader, he was heartless. To end a rebellion after he successfully invaded the city of Delhi, he ordered a bloody massacre. When it was over, he mounted thousands of heads up on minarets. He also had a tower built out of live men, glued together with bricks and mortar.

6. Vlad III

Reign: 1448; 1456-1462; 1476

Vlad III was known as Vlad the Impaler for a reason. According to his reputation, when he first became ruler of Wallachia he invited his rivals to a formal dinner. When they arrived, he stabbed and impaled them all. Needless to say, he wasn’t the best host. Impaling became his favorite means of execution. While he did attempt to stabilize the tumultuous nation, he did so by bloody and lawless methods. He was also known as Vlad Dracula, based on his family name. You can see where this is going. Because of his lust for blood, the legend of the vampire Count Dracula was born. Thanks, Vlad.

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

(Wikimedia Commons)

7. Queen Mary I (aka Bloody Mary)

Reign: 1553-1558

Religious wars and persecution were always a thing, but Queen Mary I took it to the next level. She was the only child of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and a devout Catholic. When Mary I became Queen of England, she wanted to share her beliefs with all of England. By share, I mean mandate. She married Philip II of Spain, who was also Catholic, and began a campaign of murdering hundreds of Protestants. Hanging sounds almost gentle compared to her methods; she had them all burned at the stake.

8. Vladimir Lenin

Reign: 1917-1924

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, always had rebellious political views. He was outspoken about his communist views and pushed for socialism to replace capitalism. In 1917 after the Russian Tsar was overthrown and a provisional government was put in place, Lenin saw his chance. That October, he led a revolution of his own and took power. He redistributed land throughout the country and withdrew from WWI, but it all went downhill from there. His approach to his opponents was merciless, killing thousands in concentration camps and disregarding the famine and poverty his people endured.

According to the BBC, “During this period of revolution, war and famine, Lenin demonstrated a chilling disregard for the sufferings of his fellow countrymen and mercilessly crushed any opposition.”

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

(Wikimedia Commons)

9. Joseph Stalin

Reign: 1922-1953

Lenin’s successor, Joseph Stalin, wasn’t any less aggressive. Stalin was a highly significant figure during the early-mid 20th century, but his methods have been condemned for obvious reasons. First, his Five-Year plans contributed to wide-spread famine. Then, he began “The Great Purge”, to rid Russia of the so-called enemies of the working class. Over a million people were imprisoned, with over 700,000 executed. He was also responsible for mass repressions, deportations, and ethnic cleansing. Some people today, especially in Russia, still believe that some of his political views have merit.

10. Benito Mussolini

Reign: 1922-1943

Benito Mussolini, like many members of this list, didn’t grow up in the most peaceful environment. He had always been an outspoken political activist, but when he was wounded in WWI, he gathered other disillusioned war vets into violent groups known as the Blackshirts. This was the beginning of fascism, an extreme-right totalitarian party. He began dismantling Italy’s democratic government piece by piece until he had complete power.

By 1936, he had become an ally of Hitler, bringing anti-Semitism to Italy. Despite surviving many assassination attempts, he was eventually caught and executed alongside his mistress and hung upside down from the roof of a gas station in Milan.

11. Adolf Hitler

Reign: 1933-1945

The infamous Adolf Hitler wormed his way into power as the chancellor of Germany in 1933. and then as Führer just a year later. He was largely responsible for WWII after he invaded Poland in 1939, and was the primary instigator of the Holocaust. Within two years, Hitler’s Third Reich empire included most European countries. He proceeded to order the systematic destruction of any people who did not match his vision of an “ideal master race”, throwing Jews, Slavs, and anyone else he considered socially undesirable into concentration camps.

There, his followers conducted mass genocide on his orders, killing over 19 million. That’s not including the millions of soldiers and civilians who died in WWII. He’s likely responsible for the greatest amount of human loss and destruction orchestrated by a single man in all of history.

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

(Wikimedia Commons)

12. Mao Zedong

Reign: 1949-1976

Mao Zedong was an influential communist leader of China who ruled with an iron fist. He was known for his political intellect and strategies and he made some positive changes, like modernizing China and improving education, health care, and women’s rights. Unfortunately, his regime was also totalitarian and repressive. He ordered the destruction of many religious and cultural artifacts, took control of all industry and agriculture, and snuffed out any opposition like a candle. His harsh policies encouraged forced labor and led to the death of over 40 million people through starvation and mass executions.

13. Idi Amin

Reign: 1971-1979

General Idi Amin overthrew Uganda’s government in a military coup, instating himself as the new “president.” Almost overnight, he became known for his cruelty. Known as the “Butcher of Uganda,” his rule was exceptionally immoral and murderous. During his eight years in power, he massively mismanaged the economy, persecuted multiple ethnic groups, drove Uganda’s Asian population out of the country, and killed with reckless abandon. Somewhere between 100,000-500,000 people were killed by his command.


Articles

The US Army’s plan to win the Plains Wars was to kill every American Bison

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.”

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam
Col. Richard Dodge/Wikipedia Commons

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The highest-ranking African American in the American Expeditionary Force

When people think of African Americans serving in WWI, the famous Harlem Hellfighters often come to mind. What may come as a surprise is that the highest-ranking African American in the American Expeditionary Force, Otis Beverly Duncan, was not part of this unit.

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Duncan as a Major (Public Domain)

Otis Beverly Duncan was born on November 18, 1873 in Springfield, Illinois. His family was a long-established African American family in the city. In fact, his maternal great-grandfather, William Florville, was Abraham Lincoln’s friend and barber. Duncan attended public school and went on to work as the business manager for an African American newspaper in Springfield called the State Capitol. In 1897, he went to work in the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a precursor to the State Board of Education. Duncan would remain in the department for the rest of his career.

Wishing to expand his public service, Duncan joined the Illinois National Guard. Illinois was unique during the Jim Crow era in that it was one of the few states that organized and paid for the training of an all-black regiment in its National Guard. Duncan joined the unit, the 8th Infantry Regiment, as a Lieutenant. He continued his National Guard service alongside his civilian career and rose through the ranks. By 1904, Duncan had reached the rank of Major. In 1916, the 8th Infantry Regiment was called up for national service during the Pancho Villa Expedition into Mexico. During the campaign, Duncan served on the regimental staff.

When America entered WWI in April 1917, the 8th Infantry was still in national service and was reorganized as the 370th Infantry Regiment. The 370th was one of the few black units to join the AEF and retain most of its all-black command structure. As the unit made preparations to deploy, Duncan was promoted to Lt. Col. and given command of the 3rd Battalion. When the regimental commander, Col. Franklin A. Denison, was relieved of his command and replaced by a white officer, Duncan became the highest-ranking African American in the AEF.

In May, the 370th arrived in France. However, the Army’s racist policies restricted black units from fighting alongside white units on the front. Like the Harlem Hellfighters, the 370th was assigned to the French Army. Duncan and his battalion became part of the French 10th Army in the Argonne Forrest. During the fighting, their German enemies gave them the nickname the “Black Devils” for their ferocity in combat.

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Duncan (center) with other black officers wearing their Croix de Guerre (National Archives and Records Administration)

Despite being faced with racism from their own army and bitter fighting from their enemy, the men of the 370th succeeded in pushing the German lines back. They were among the first allied troops to cross into occupied Belgium before the war ended. Duncan’s battalion pursued the Germans all the way until the Armistice on November 11.

Duncan was one of 60 officers in the 370th who were awarded the French Croix de Guerre for valor. “We have given our full contributions to this war, that we have fought, bled, and died for the grand and noble principles of the war,” he wrote in a letter home.

On February 17, 1919, the 370th returned home to a welcoming parade in Chicago. Many African Americans from Springfield made the trip north to attend it. When Duncan and the other Springfield natives returned to their hometown, they were greeted by Governor Frank O. Lowden and a celebratory banquet at the Leland Hotel.

For his successful command of the 3rd Battalion during the war, Duncan was promoted to Colonel and given command of the regiment. He was tasked with reorganizing the reformed 8th Infantry back into the Illinois National Guard. He also resumed his civilian career.

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Duncan was featured in the New York Tribune on February 10, 1919 (Library of Congress)

Col. Duncan retired from public service in 1929. He died eight years later on May 17, 1937 and was buried at Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield. Col. Duncan broke a color barrier at a pivotal moment in American and world history and blazed a trail for colored military leaders in the wars to come.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This unstoppable artillery bombardment doomed Nazi Berlin

In what is sometimes described as the largest artillery bombardment in history, the Soviets opened the road to Berlin in 1945 at the Battle of Seelow Heights with a massive barrage that saw over 9,000 Soviet guns and rockets firing along a front approximately 18.5 miles long. That’s one artillery piece every 11 feet.


 

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Like this, but more cannons. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

 

The Seelow Heights defenses were a mere 35 miles from Berlin and were the last truly defendable position before Berlin.

Estimates vary about the exact number of shells and rockets fired in the wee hours of April 16, but some think that as many as 500,000 shells were fired in the first 30 minutes. The German defenders, counting reserves held near Berlin, totaled less than 150,000 men.

For comparison, the massive Allied assault on the Gustav line in Italy in 1944 featured “only” 2,000 guns firing 174,000 shells over 24 hours. The British bombardment at the Battle of the Somme in World War I boasted 1,537 guns which fired 1.5 million shells over 4 days. The Soviet crews at the Seelow Heights could have hit that total in about 90 minutes.

Unfortunately for the Russian soldiers, their generals followed Soviet military doctrine nearly to the letter, and the Germans had grown used to their tactics. Anticipating a Soviet bombardment, the German generals had pulled most of their men back from the first defensive lines and reduced the number of men in the second lines.

“As usual, we stuck to the book and by now the Germans know our methods,” said Colonel General Vasili Kuznetsov, a Russian commander. “They pulled back their troops a good eight kilometers. Our artillery hit everything but the enemy.”

So a Soviet bombardment with three times as many shells as there were defending troops managed to obliterate one line of trenches, damage another, but kill very few of the defending troops. It also left German mortars, machine guns, tanks, and artillery emplacements.

 

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A Russian T-34 tank burns during World War II. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

 

The Soviets continued the battle with a rolling barrage that did begin softening the German army positions. But, by that point, Soviet tanks and infantry were struggling to get through the soft ground around the Ober River which had been flooded and turned to marshlands.

The German weapons which had survived the artillery bombardment were able to inflict heavy losses on the attacking Soviet columns.

But the Soviet numbers were simply too much for the German defenders. Over the next few days, the Russians lost approximately 33,000 men while inflicting 12,000 casualties on the Germans. But Russian planes took the skies from the Luftwaffe and the army brought up the artillery, allowing them to force their way forward with tanks and infantry.

Despite the heavy losses, the Red Army took the Seelow Heights on April 19, 1945, and launched its final drive to Berlin. Soviet troops surrounded the city and forced their way in. German leader Adolf Hitler killed himself on April 30 and Germany surrendered on May 8.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This combat medic saved lives in the field despite his immobilized legs

Drafted in the Army in 1967, Clarence Sasser trained as a combat medic before heading to Vietnam with the Army’s 9th Infantry Division.


As the first helicopters were inserting in the Mekong Delta for a reconnaissance mission, the enemy forces began to engage the incoming aircraft.

One of the helos suffered a direct hit and crashed into the rice patties. Soon after Clarence’s chopper landed, he quickly exited the bird and dashed toward the downed craft — taking a grazed bullet to his leg.

“With the helicopter down, there wasn’t another choice but to go in,” Clarence recalls.

Related: This drill sergeant saved 8 soldiers in the most heroic way

While under a curtain of gunfire, the young combat medic rushed to aid those who called out his name in pain.

After successfully rendering care on multiple troops, an enemy mortar round landed just shy of his position — spraying his back with hot shrapnel.

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Medal of Honor recipient Clarence Sasser, speaks to attendees at the Living Legends Banquet Museum at the Sheppard AFB Community Center. (Source: U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Litteken)

To combat the heavy amount of incoming fire, Clarence crawled to each man who called out for his aid.

“They see your bag, they know you’re a medic,” Clarence explains. “You kill a medic, a lot of people will probably die.”

As he moved from patient to patient, Clarence was hit by machine-gun fire in both of his legs — nearly causing him to become immobile. The strong-willed medic refused medical attention and continued with his mission — to search and save his brother’s lives.

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam
Clarence Sasser at his MOH ceremony.

Clarence and his unit spent the remainder of the day fighting in the rice patty. After witnessing several hours of intense firefights, Clarence and his brothers were evacuated the area.

Also Read: A Navy SEAL describes what it’s like to receive the MoH

After recovering from his wounds at the dispensary, Clarence was notified that he was to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in combat.

President Richard Nixon awarded Clarence at the White House on March 7, 1969.

“I just did my job,” Clarence humbly states.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear Clarence’s story from the man himself.

Medal of Honor Book, YouTube
MIGHTY HISTORY

8 disgusting diseases older troops had to worry about

So, it turns out there’s a reason your local medic wants to look at your body parts and fill you with pills, and it’s not because they’re a pervert — I mean, they probably are, but that’s not why they’re doing it. See, your ancestors fought in wars where it was fairly common their kidneys to swell up and burn, their genitals to start dripping pus, and their livers to grow holes and leak bile into their blood.

If you consider any of the descriptions above humorous or entertaining (sicko), then read on!


West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

Soldiers undergo delousing on the Serbian front of World War I, an effort to reduce diseases like trench fever.

(Popular Science Magazine)

Trench fever

Trench fever was a fever characterized by skin lesions, sore muscles and joints, and headaches — yeah, not much fun. It was first recognized in 1915 as it spread through the trenches of World War I, but it also broke out in some German units in World War II.

It was spread through infected body lice and usually cleared up in a couple of months, but became chronic in rare cases. At least, with trench fever, the lesions were mostly confined to your skin and back… unlike the next entry.

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

Front and back cover of a truly disturbing book given to World War I troops headed back to the states, apparently filled to the brim will all sorts of disgusting genital bacteria.

(National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology)

Literal blue balls (thanks to genital lesions!)

We’re not including a photo here for obvious reasons. A soft chancre is an “infectious, painful, ragged venereal ulcer” that develops at the site of Haemophilus ducreyi. The bacteria can also cause “buboes, or ‘blue balls'” according to a 1918 pamphlet issued by the War Department.

After a regrettable Google search and lots of crying, this author can confirm that the ulcers look very painful, but nothing about the affected organs looks particularly blue.

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

Treatment for gonorrhea in 1911. Yes, the doctor is holding what you think he is, and that injection is going where you hoped it wouldn’t.

The clap and syphilis

While gonorrhea — also known as “the clap” — and syphilis are still common STDs, early detection on military bases and a lack of fraternization with locals has made it less of a problem in modern wars than when your grandparents fought. But for troops marching across Europe, hitting on as many French girls as they could, getting a series of sores on their genitals or seeing the dreaded discharge come out of their naughty bits was a real possibility.

And, back then, the only sure-fire test available for diagnoses was getting “rodded off the range,” a test where a doctor slid a cotton swab into a man’s “barrel” and swirled it around 5-10 times. Now, blood and urine tests are used instead. Big win for modern science.

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

Not today, tuberculosis. Not today.

Tuberculosis

Another disease that was a bigger problem for grandpa than it is for you, tuberculosis is a nasty infection that usually hits the lungs, causing bloody coughs, but can also wreck your liver, kidneys, and other organs. It causes chest pain, breathing troubles, fatigue, chills, and other issues that absolutely suck, especially while in a World War I trench.

It is spread through the air and infected surfaces, which is a big problem when thousands of dudes are sleeping on top of each other in crowded bunkers.

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Typhoid Mary, famous for being imprisoned by New York authorities after she was found to be a carrier of typhoid fever.

(Public domain)

Typhoid fever

Typhoid fever, caused by salmonella that infects the intestines, was a huge problem in the Civil War and World War I. Back then, the particularly bad sanitation practices allowed fecal material from infected troops to make it into the food and into the digestive tracts of healthy ones. It triggered skin lesions, diarrhea or constipation, trouble breathing, and fever, among other symptoms.

In the Civil War, doctors hadn’t even figured out the disease yet, and treatment basically involved throwing a bunch of home remedies at the problem while continuing the study the disease’s spread. By World War I, we at least knew what caused it and had a vaccine, but still no cure. It wasn’t until after World War II that the disease became treatable.

War nephritis

Nephritis is inflammation of the kidneys. “War nephritis” was named by doctors in World War I who were looking into a sudden increase in cases with additional symptoms, like headaches, vertigo, and shallow breath.

While it’s still very possible to experience nephritis in war today, the worsened symptoms observed in World War I were thought to be tied to conditions in the trenches and along the front. Nephritis limits the kidneys’ ability to filter the blood, and exposure to the cold and wet conditions of wartime Europe made the problem much worse.

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

This is your intestines on dysentery.

Dysentery

Dysentery has a reputation for being a particularly bad case of diarrhea, but that’s not a full picture of the problem. It’s diarrhea that can last for months and include bloody stools. Even when treated, it could lead to secondary infections, like hepatitis and liver abscesses. The liver degradation leads to a buildup of toxins in the blood and body.

So, yeah, pretty horrible. And troops shifting between different fronts and battlefields in World War I allowed different versions of the disease to reach new places and vulnerable populations. Today, it’s easier to diagnose and treat, but the best safeguard is good hygiene and sanitation.

“Soldier’s heart” or effort syndrome

Effort syndrome, also known as “soldier’s heart syndrome,” wasn’t well understood, but it was a tendency for soldiers in the Civil War and World War I to experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, exhaustion, and cold extremities. It’s thought that the syndrome may have been caused by a previous disease, like fever, jaundice, dysentery, etc. combining with the stress and rigors of war.

Over 36,000 troops were discharged in World War I for heart ailments.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The U.S. military is getting a nuclear-powered space vehicle

A nuclear thermal propulsion system meant to operate in low Earth orbit may sound like the stuff of the future, but the future will come much sooner than most of us expect. 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (better known by its acronym, DARPA)  just announced three companies will be designing America’s most futuristic engine – and it’s expected to be operational by 2025. 

This engine is not known by its acronym, DRACO, which stands for Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations. DARPA says the three big contractors designing over the next four years will be General Atomics, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin.

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Aerospace company Lockheed Martin is known for making some of the fastest fighters, including this U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter from the 58th Fighter Squadron.

DRACO is not only advanced because the propulsion system will be the first of its kind, it’s also advanced because electric and chemical systems don’t give current technology anything close to the kind of maneuverability we’ve come to expect from space vehicles that don’t actually exist, like X-Wing fighters and Federation Runabouts. 

Designers aren’t exactly thinking that the new system will give any space vehicle the kind of handling current air fighters enjoy, but it’s fun to think about what the future may hold. Military planners are hoping for any kind of advanced agility in orbit, something that offers the best of the chemical and electric propulsion currently used by orbiting vehicles. 

Current chemical systems are only half as efficient as the nuclear thermal system will be. Chemical systems create water as a waste product

“The performer teams have demonstrated capabilities to develop and deploy advanced reactor, propulsion, and spacecraft systems,” Maj. Nathan Greiner, the project’s Air Force program manager, said in a statement. “The NTP technology we seek to develop and demonstrate under the DRACO program aims to be foundational to future operations in space.” 

The first phase is (appropriately) the foundational phase of the design plan. General Atomics will develop the system’s reactor and propulsion mechanics. The other two companies will build off of that design and each create a concept for a spacecraft. 

This won’t be the first time The United States has conceived the idea of a nuclear-powered engine in space. In 1961, NASA built nuclear reactors for use in rocket engines with its Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application (NERVA). 

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam
1 December 1967: The first ground experimental nuclear rocket engine (XE) assembly is shown here in “cold flow” configuration, as it makes a late evening arrival at Engine Test Stand No. 1 in Jackass FlatsNevada. The engine is in the left background with a shield structure in the mid/foreground.

Then-Director for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center conceived the idea of manned missions to Mars using spacecraft powered by three NERVA engines each, eight years before man landed on the moon. The proposed mission was supposed to embark in 1981 and land on Mars by 1982. Instead it was scrapped in 1972. 

DARPA’s nuclear thermal rocket system will use fission to heat liquid hydrogen and fire that heated element in its gaseous from the rear of the rocket. As it expands through a nozzle, it will create thrust in space. 

If you’re worried about the possibility of an exploding rocket filled with radioactive elements spewing those elements all over the Earth, you’re not alone. But scientists assure us that nuclear thermal rockets will use low-enriched uranium, which would not be usable as a weapon if that happens. 

They also assure us that the uranium used in the propulsion system won’t be radioactive until the rocket is well clear of Earth’s atmosphere. 

Right now, DRACO rockets are being considered for transit between the Earth and its moon, but it would significantly cut down on travel times inside the solar system, potentially reaching Mars in as little as three months.  

MIGHTY HISTORY

Tuxedo Park: The Secret Palace of Science that helped us win WWII

Millionaire scientist and Wall Street tycoon Alfred Lee Loomis who personally funded scientific research at his private estate and later went on to lead radar research efforts during WWII.

But the technological developments of Tuxedo Park didn’t happen in a vacuum. In fact, Winston Churchill gave the US access to British intel and research that fueled Loomis’ efforts, ultimately leading to our Allied victory.

Loomis was born in Manhattan, and his family were privileged, well-connected members of society. Most of his relatives were physicians, though several of his cousins held cabinet positions in various presidential administrations. After studying math and science at Yale, Loomis then went on to graduate in law from Harvard.


In 1917, Loomis volunteered for military service and was commissioned as a captain. During his time in service, he earned the rank of Lt. Col and worked primarily in ballistics at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

It was at Aberdeen that Loomis invented the Aberdeen Chronograph, the first instrument to accurately measure the muzzle velocity of artillery shells and could be transported and used on the battlefield.

Anticipating the Wall Street crash of 1929, Loomis managed to save his fortune by converting his assets to gold. With liquid resources, he was able to purchase stocks that had plummeted in value. This fortune allowed him to work closely with President Roosevelt in preparing the United States for WWII. Loomis used his contacts in the financial and law sectors of New York to finance early developments in radar. It was with this vision in mind that he opened up his expansive enclave in Tuxedo Park and turned it into a research facility.

At Tuxedo Park, Loomis and his small research staff conducted experiments into the emerging field of spectrometry, electro-encephalography, capillary waves, and the measurement of time. His laboratory was state of the art and contained equipment that several top-tier universities couldn’t afford. Because of this, Loomis’ reputation spread quickly as a patron of science. Several prominent European scientists traveled to Tuxedo Park to meet with American peers and collaborate on projects. Enrico Fermi, Werner Heisenberg, and Albert Einstein all visited the luxurious estate.

In as much as Tuxedo Park provided scientists with access to state of the art materials and equipment, the location also served as a socializing spot, where like-minded individuals could come together to discuss current issues in technology.

By the late 1930s, Loomis was interested in radio detection studies and worked with his research team to build the first microwave radar. Deployed from the back of a van, the team drove it to a golf course and aimed it at a nearby road to track cars and trucks. Then they took it to the local airport to track small aircraft.

Several prominent UK scientists were working on radar experiments in hopes that a technology might emerge, which could prevent the nightly bombing of the Luftwaffe. These scientists developed the cavity magnetron, allowing their radar tech to be inserted into aircraft.

Loomis then invited the cavity magnetron developers to Tuxedo Park to continue their work on the magnetron. Because Loomis had more experience than anyone else in the US, he was appointed to the National Defense Research Committee as the chairman of the Microwave Committee and the vice-chairman of Division D.

With so many scientists working toward the same goal, Tuxedo Park soon grew too small. So Loomis closed the research facility and moved to the Rad Lab, headquartered at MIT, where he and the team worked tirelessly toward the development of radar technology. What started as a handful of people working toward a common goal quickly grew to a staff of over 4,000. The Rad Lab’s innovation directly resulted in helping us win the war.

The resulting 10cm radar was the key technology that enabled U-boats to be sunk, along with allowing British forces to spot incoming German bombers. This radar also provided the cover the American troops needed for the D-Day landing.

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