Army posts aren’t typically known for their beauty, but an exception can be made with Fort Ord. Between the rocky cliffs, the fantastic ocean views, and the excellent weather, this Army post was, well, actually pretty decent.
Located about 100 miles south of San Francisco, California on the Monterey Bay, millions of Soldiers have trained here over the years. No, we’re not exaggerating. Literally millions of Soldiers passed through Fort Ord. That’s because it used to be one of the Army’s principal training centers. As many as 50,000 soldiers trained at Fort Ord in just one year when it was at its peak.
Fort Ord Beginnings
In 1940, Fort Ord was first constructed and designated as a fort. Before that, the military used the land as a field artillery target range and maneuver area. The 7th Infantry Division was first activated at Fort Ord in 1917, during World War I, and it remained there for the majority of its history.
The 7th Infantry Division is particularly special because is it the only active-duty multi-component division headquarters in the entire US Army. It is most famous for its placement at Ford Ord in the Pacific theater of World War II to fight off US enemies. These days, 7th ID calls JBLM home. Not a far stretch from Fort Ord, but they’re definitely not getting California sunshine in Washington state.
A Booming Monterey Bay Thanks to Fort Ord
After the Vietnam War, training missions at Ford Ord were redesigned with technology in mind. Both education and physical training occurred here. Throughout the years, Soldiers all lived in town, spending a lot of their hard-earned money supporting many of the neighboring communities. You could say business was always booming thanks to the Soldiers. Often, it was the first taste of Army life as well as the last stop before deployment for many soldiers.
Fort Ord closed in 1994 after the Base Realignment and Closure Act passed in 1988. At the size of San Francisco, 28,000 acres, it is the largest army base to ever have closed in the US. Unsurprisingly, the nearby cities took an economic beating as a result.
What to Do with All That Land?
The neighboring communities received divided portions of the land, with proposals to use it for artist colonies, amusement parks, golf courses, you name it. No one could agree on how to use the ex-Fort Ord land, which caused more than a few scuttles. In the end, the State of California had to step in and make the final decision.
Their verdict was to use Fort Ord for education, the environment, and economic vitality. California State University – Monterey Bay was established on Fort Ord grounds. As of 2009, the majority of the land became Fort Ord Dunes State Park and National Monument. That was an easy choice because ot its wildlife variety and lush natural beauty. Both the educational and environmental uses of the land also helped the economy.
While thousands of acres of toxic buildings and empty lots still remain on Fort Ord land, the decisions about what to do with them and the rest of the land lie in the hands of the community. Hopefully, they will keep the best interest of the land and its rich history in mind.
Did you ever wonder why the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy?
Historically, marines serve as a navy’s ground troops. In fact, the word “marine” is the French word for sea, which may be why the French military historically called English troops — who all had to arrive by sea — “marines.”
Marines Aboard USS Wasp Engage HMS Reindeer. June 1814.
(Copy of painting by Sergeant John Clymer., 1927 – 1981.)
Back in the day, there wasn’t much difference between a sailor and a soldier on a ship. After all, most sea battles ended with the ships tangled together and the crews fighting each other hand to hand. So, if you were on a ship, you had to be able to fight. But you also had to be able to fight once your ship got where it was going.
Italy was the first country to use specially trained sailors as naval infantry. Back in the 1200s, the chief magistrate of Venice put 10 companies of specialized troops on a bunch of ships and sent them off to conquer Byzantium in present-day Greece. That went well for the Italians, so they decided that having marines was a good idea and kept them around, later calling them “sea infantry.”
The idea of marines eventually caught on with other naval powers. The Spanish marine corps was founded in 1537 and is the oldest still-active marine corps in the world, while the Netherlands marine corps, founded in 1665, is the second-oldest. But, even today, marines in most countries are specially trained sailors who are part of the navy.
The British Royal Marines, which is what the U.S. Marine Corps was modeled on, were probably the first naval infantry to not actually be sailors. During the 1600-1700s, marine regiments would be formed by taking soldiers from the British Army, and disbanded when they weren’t needed. This practice continued until 1755, when England’s parliament made the Corps of Royal Marines permanent.
When the Continental Marines were founded in 1775, the Continental Congress recognized the importance “that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required.”
Marine Capt. Brenda Amor helps to prepare an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter assigned to the “Black Knights” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 264 (Reinforced) for flight operations on the flight deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), Jan. 30, 2019. Arlington is on a scheduled deployment as part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group in support of maritime security operations, crisis response and theater security cooperation, while also providing a forward naval presence.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brandon Parker)
So, maritime knowledge has always been a critical part of being a marine, but the U.S. Marine Corps hasn’t always been part of the U.S. Navy.
Until 1834, the Marines were an independent service. President Andrew Jackson wanted to make the Corps part of the Army. However, the Marine Corps commandant at the time, Archibald Henderson, had proven that Marines were important in landing party operations, not just ship-to-ship battles, so Congress decided to put the Navy and Marine Corps into one department, forever linking these two “sister services.”
What do you think are major spy targets? Troop movements? Strategic plans? New weapon designs?
Sure, those are all great choices, but what about space shuttles and planetary probes?
(Illustration from Soviet Military Power 1985, courtesy U.S. Armed Forces)
Rivals have always kept a close eye on America’s space program, especially after the U.S. edged ahead of the Soviets in the ’60s by first copying their manned orbit of the earth in 1962 and then beating them to the Moon in 1969.
For the Soviet Union, this presented a dire threat.
After all, while NASA and the Soviet’s Federal Space Agency — now reorganized as a corporation and known as Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities — were both scientific enterprises, both did a little moonlighting for spy agencies and provided a lot of important technical know-how to spooks.
In 1976, senior Soviet leadership finally signed the decree authorizing the program, and the Soviet-designed “Spiral” space plane was quickly removed from contention. Russia specifically wanted a weapon with all the same capabilities as the Shuttle, including the imagined ability to bomb enemy capitals.
“Space Shuttle Door Gunner” isn’t as cool when they have them, too.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo by Master Sgt. Dave Casey)
“It is no secret to anyone in our sector … that the Energia-Buran system was ordered from us by the military,” said Yuri Semenov, who worked on the boosters for the Soviet craft. “It was said at meetings on various levels that American shuttles, even on the first revolution, could perform a lateral maneuver and turn to be over Moscow, possibly with dangerous cargo. Parity is needed, we needed the same type of rocket-space system.”
What resulted from all of this was a craft known as the Buran, Russian for ‘blizzard,’ that looked almost identical to the Space Shuttle.
But it actually had some nifty capabilities not found on the American version. For one, the Buran could conduct automated flights with no human occupants. In fact, it did so in its one and only flight in space in 1988.
Second, the Buran used Energia boosters, liquid-fueled boosters that were safer and more powerful — but more costly — than American solid-propellant boosters.
The first woman to lead a military op might not meet your stereotype. Instead, envision the Civil War, and a woman who has been working as a spy for the Union Army. She has been gathering valuable information to help the Union turn the tide in the war. She has come to be relied on by generals for the information that she supplies. And with that, she is given the opportunity to lead a military operation called the Combahee Ferry Raid.
Do you have the woman pictured in your mind?
Her name is Harriet Tubman and you might have learned her story as one of the leaders of the Underground Railroad. Even referred to as the “Moses of her people,” but being a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad is just part of her story.
Harriet was born into slavery between 1820 and 1825. In 1844, even though it wasn’t allowed, she married a free, Black man named John Tubman. She was ready to escape slavery in 1849, but her husband did not want to leave Maryland. She left anyway and eventually he remarried in 1851. It was after she was freed from slavery that she began to go back countless times to help other slaves find their way to freedom on the Underground Railroad. She is remembered in history for never being caught or losing a passenger on the road to freedom.
But this is only the beginning of her story.
Because of her extensive knowledge of the South due to the Underground Railroad, Tubman became a key informant for the North (Union Army). She knew the towns and transportation routes of the South and long before GPS or reliable maps, this made her insight an invaluable tool. Not only would she dress up as an aging woman and wander Confederate streets and talk to enslaved people and gather information such as troop movement/placement and supply lines, but her work made her a respected guerrilla operative. So much so that in 1963 she began to plan a military operation under the command of Colonel James Montgomery.
The Union officers knew that the people of the South didn’t trust them, but did trust Harriet. Her demeanor and way with people were just part of the asset she provided to the military. Although she was illiterate, she was able to capture intelligence with her memory. To make the Combahee Ferry Raid a success, they traveled upriver in three boats: the John Adams, Sentinel and Harriet A Weed. They relied on Harriet’s memory where the slaves were at strategic points to collect the fleeing slaves while also using those points as places; they could destroy Confederate property. She also helped them navigate around known torpedoes.
At around 2:30 AM on June 2, they were down to two ships as the Sentinel had run aground early on in the mission. The two remaining ships split up to conduct different raids. Harriet Tubman led 150 men on the John Adams toward the fugitives. Once the signal was given, there was chaos. Slaves running everywhere. Angry slave owners and rebels tried to chase down the slaves, even firing their guns on them. As the escaped slaves ran to the shore, black troops waited in rowboats to transfer them to the ships. In the chaos, Tubman broke out into popular songs from the abolitionist movement to help calm everyone down. That night, more than 700 slaves escaped. The troops also disembarked near Field’s Point, torching plantations, fields, mills, warehouses, and mansions. Overall, it was a huge success and caused a humiliating defeat for the Confederacy.
The first story written by a Wisconsin State Journal noted Harriet as the “She Moses,” but didn’t actually include her name. A month later Franklin Sanborn, the editor of Boston’s Commonwealth newspaper picked up the story and named Harriet Tubman, a friend of his, as the heroine.
Even with the mission’s success, Harriet was not paid for her contribution. She petitioned the government many times and was denied because she was a woman.
After the war, she dedicated her life to helping impoverished former slaves and the elderly. She also continued to petition for recognition from the military with a military pension. She also remarried a Black Union soldier, Nelson Davis. And eventually, Tubman received military compensation after his death. Although she often found herself in financial constraints, she was always giving her time and money.
If you would like to learn more about Harriet Tubman you can check out these resources and books:
Throughout the years, the meeting between the two largest rivals in college football has been known as “The President’s Game” because of how intertwined the game is with the Commander-in-Chief.
Many of the traditions surrounding the game — and perhaps the game itself — are owed to President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1893, after first four Army-Navy games, football was deemed “too unsafe” by President Grover Cleveland and future games were prohibited. After all, players were bloodied, fights broke out between fans, and, at one point, an Army General and Navy Admiral nearly dueled to the death over a game.
It wasn’t until 1897 that President Roosevelt — undeniably the manliest president America has ever seen — wrote a letter urging the reinstatement of the game. In 1899, it returned, but was as dangerous as ever. Later, President Roosevelt also saw to revamping the rules of the game. He made sure pads and gear were worn, adding safety but maintaining the sport’s intensity. Roosevelt attended the game in 1901 and laid down traditions for future presidents to emulate.
To date, only nine sitting presidents have attended the game: Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge, Truman, Kennedy, Ford, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama. Last year, then President-elect Donald Trump attended, making him the only President-elect to watch the game in person. President Truman holds the record at seven games, followed by President George W. Bush at three. Presidents that attend are usually asked to perform the coin toss at the start of the game.
President Eisenhower was the only President to ever play in the game, but never attend while in office. President Carter, despite having gone to the Naval Academy, never attended while in office. Between 1924 and 1945, no sitting President went to “The President’s Game.”
There was another gap in attendance starting in 1963, when President Ford came to cheer for both teams on for the 75th anniversary of the rivalry, and 1995. Since then, Presidents have made an appearance regularly.
Another tradition started by President Roosevelt is walking across the field at half-time. This symbolic gesture shows good will and faith between both teams and the President. Even Presidents who had served in the Navy or Army, like Kennedy and Ford respectively, put their histories aside for the sake of tradition (although they both started on their service’s side).
The only President to not do this was the seven-time attendee Truman, who stayed comfortably on one side. Don’t worry, he switched sides for the next game.
Four out of 45 US presidents have been assassinated over the course of American history.
But many more chief executives escaped assassination attempts thanks to heroic bystanders, diligent guards, misfiring pistols, and crazy luck.
Even two presidents who were eventually assassinated escaped previous attempts on their lives.
On a hot August night in 1864, a sniper shot Lincoln’s hat off his head — missing his skull by inches — as he took a solo ride on his favorite horse “Old Abe,” according to 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History. Lincoln was later shot and killed by Confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth, just five days after the surrender of Robert E. Lee.
Almost a century later, in 1960, retired postal worker Richard Paul Pavlick crammed his car with dynamite and plotted to ram the vehicle into Kennedy’s limo in Palm Beach, Florida, according to Smithsonian Magazine. He was motivated by his intense hatred of Catholics and the Kennedy family but backed off when he saw that the president was with his wife and young children. Pavlick was later arrested and institutionalized until 1966, three years after Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald while visiting Dallas, Texas.
But these 13 other presidents all experienced serious assassination threats and ultimately survived — and these are only the most dramatic, most-publicized instances. Undoubtedly, the Secret Service has thwarted many more over the years.
Here are 13 presidents who escaped attempts on their lives:
1. Andrew Jackson
On a misty January day in 1835, Richard Lawrence, an out-of-work house painter who believed he was the 15th-century English king Richard III, walked into the US Capitol Building.
President Andrew Jackson was leaving the funeral of a House representative when the English national confronted him in the East Portico, brandishing a pistol.
He raised the gun at Andrew Jackson and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
“Let me alone! Let me alone!” Jackson yelled at Lawrence, according to Smithsonian Magazine. “I know where this came from.”
Lawrence discarded the weapon, produced a second pistol, and aimed the new gun at Jackson. It also misfired.
According to legend, Jackson subsequently flew at the man and thrashed him with his cane. Whether or not that’s true, Lawrence’s assassination attempt was unsuccessful. Smithsonian Magazine reported that National Anthem lyricist, Francis Scott Key, prosecuted his trial, where he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Lawrence spent the rest of his life institutionalized.
As Time reported, the chance that both perfectly functional pistols would misfire was about one in 125,000. Jackson’s survival may have depended on the dampness in the air that day.
2. Theodore Roosevelt
President Theodore Roosevelt was saved by the length of his speech after an assassin shot him in the chest with a .38-caliber revolver in 1912.
At the time, Roosevelt was running for the presidency on the Bull and Moose ticket. Saloon-owner John Schrank had begun stalking the former president after having an unusual dream.
According to Killing the President: Assassinations, Attempts, and Rumored Attempts on U.S. Commanders-in-Chief, Schrank wrote, “In a dream, I saw President McKinley sit up in his coffin pointing at a man in a monk’s attire in whom I recognized Theodore Roosevelt. The dead President said, ‘This is my murderer — avenge my death.'”
Fortunately, Roosevelt had his notes with him when he was shot on October 14 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — 50 pages of them, folded in his breast pocket next to his metal glasses case. These objects slowed the bullet and saved Roosevelt’s life.
The ex-president continued to speak after letting his audience know he’d been shot, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Association:
“Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet — there is where the bullet went through — and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”
He finished the rest of his speech with a bullet in his ribs, where it remained until his death in 1919.
In 1928, President Herbert Hoover was nearly killed while visiting the Andes.
Argentine anarchists attempted to blow up his train, but the would-be assassin was seized before he could plant the bombs on the tracks.
After learning of the thwarted plot, Hoover tore the front page story from the newspaper so his wife Lou Henry Hoover wouldn’t worry, according to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. The 31st president is said to have quipped that while he was unconcerned, “It’s just as well that Lou shouldn’t see it.”
4. Franklin D. Roosevelt
17 days before Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first presidential inauguration, the president-elect disembarked from his yacht and made a short speech in Miami, Florida on February 15, 1933. As the Chicago Tribune reported, Chicago mayor Anton Cermak then approached Roosevelt for a short chat afterward.
At that moment, anarchist Giuseppe Zangara opened fire. Roosevelt emerged from the attack unscathed, but Cermak was mortally wounded, along with onlooker Mabel Gill.
It’s unclear who Zangara intended to assassinate. He was arrested and went to the electric chair after ten days on death row.
Ten years later, Soviet officials claimed to have uncovered a Nazi plan to murder Roosevelt and other world leaders at the Tehran Conference, according to Eureka Summit: Agreement in Principle and the Big Three at Tehran, 1943.
5. Harry S. Truman
According to the New York Times, Harry Truman’s daughter Margaret Truman Daniel alleged in her father’s biography that a Zionist gang had sent him and several other White House officials mail bombs in 1947. The alleged incident was never publicized and apparently ended with the Secret Service defusing the explosives.
The more famous attempt on Truman’s life came about on November 1, 1950. Puerto Rican nationalists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola attempted to storm the Blair House, where Truman lived while the White House was being renovated, according to the Harry S. Truman Library.
Torresola and White House police officer Leslie Coffelt died in the attack. Truman commuted Collazo’s death sentence to life, which was then commuted to time served by Jimmy Carter in 1979.
6. Richard Nixon
Arthur Bremer, who ultimately shot and paralyzed Alabama governor George Wallace, first considered targeting President Richard Nixon, according to the Washington Post.
A more high-profile Nixon assassination attempt came about on February 22, 1974. According to the LA Weekly, Samuel Byck shot and killed a police officer at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, raced through the security checkpoint, and broke onto a Delta flight to Atlanta. Hours earlier, he had mailed a tape to the Washington Post detailing his plan to hijack an airliner and crash it into the White House, in order to kill Nixon.
Once onboard the aircraft, he shot both pilots, killing one, after he was told that they could not take off. Police shot Byck through the plane’s window, and he killed himself before he could be arrested.
President Gerald Ford survived two back-to-back assassination attempts in California during September of 1975.
At a packed park in Sacramento, California on September 5, Manson Family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme drew a gun after Ford reached into the crowd to shake her hand.
There was no round in the firing chamber, so the gun misfired and she was grabbed by Secret Service, as NBC reported. After receiving a life sentence, Fromme was released from prison in 2009, two years after Ford’s natural death.
Only a few days later, self-proclaimed radical Sara Jane Moore shot a revolver at Ford in San Francisco on September 22. The shot missed thanks to the efforts of ex-Marine and bystander Oliver Sipple, who grabbed Moore’s arm, according to the San Francisco Gate. Moore was paroled in 2007, a year after Ford died.
8. Jimmy Carter
On May 5, 1979, police arrested drifter Raymond Lee Harvey outside of the Civic Center Mall in LA, ten minutes before Jimmy Carter was scheduled to give a speech there.
He had a starter pistol, with several blank rounds, according to the Atlantic. Harvey claimed to be part of a cell that sought to assassinate Carter, but due to his history of mental illness, the men he named as co-conspirators were later released.
John Hinckley Jr., who would later attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan, also considered shooting Carter in 1980, but backed out, according to the Dayton Daily News.
9. Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan came close to losing his life in an assassination attempt on March 30, 1981.
As the New York Times reported, John Hinckley Jr. opened fire as the president walked to his limousine from the Washington Hilton around 2:30 p.m. Press Secretary James Brady suffered brain damage from the attack and eventually succumbed to his injuries years later, and Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and DC police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded.
Reagan was shot once in the chest and suffered serious internal bleeding and a punctured lung. He received emergency surgery at George Washington University Hospital, where he remained for several weeks.
After the attack, Reagan famously retained his sense of humor. He’s quoted as telling his wife, “Honey, I forgot to duck” and jokingly asking whether the surgeons due to operate on him were Republicans, according to Time.
Hinckley claimed to have carried out the attack to impress actress Jodie Foster, whom he was stalking. He was institutionalized and released in 2016, after being deemed to no longer pose a threat to others.
10. Bill Clinton
President Bill Clinton was the subject of several assassination plots during his stint in the White House.
Three alone occurred in 1994. Ronald Gene Barbour sought to kill the president on his daily jog through the National Mall, according to the New York Times.
Later that year, Frank Eugene Corder rammed a red and white single-engine airplane onto the White House lawn, in an attempt to kill Clinton, according to the New York Times. Corder died when the vehicle “crashed through the branches of a magnolia tree planted by Andrew Jackson and came to rest in a crumpled heap two stories below the Clintons’ unoccupied bedroom.”
A month later, in October, Francisco Martin Duran slipped a suicide note into his pocket and fired numerous shots at the north lawn, according to the Los Angeles Times. A group of tourists ultimately tackled Duran and he was arrested.
An assassination attempt later took place abroad, during Clinton’s visit to Manila in 1996. A bomb was discovered under a bridge that the president’s motorcade was scheduled to travel over. The bomb plot was apparently masterminded by Osama bin Laden, according to the Telegraph.
11. George W. Bush
Robert Pickett, an ex-IRS employee with a history of mental illness, fired several bullets at the White House in February 2001, before a Secret Service agent shot him in the knee, according to the New York Times. President George W. Bush was exercising in the residential area of the White House at the time. Pickett was treated in a Bureau of Prisons psychological institution for two years following the incident.
A few years later, in 2005, Bush had a closer call while traveling abroad.
Bush and then-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili appeared at a 2006 rally in Tbilisi, Georgia. During the event, Georgian national Vladimir Arutyunian tied a red handkerchief around a live hand grenade and threw it at the presidents and other officials, according to the Washington Post.
However, the explosive didn’t detonate. The handkerchief had blocked the grenade’s safety lever. Arutyunian escaped from the rally, and later killed a Georgian agent during his arrest. He was sentenced to life in prison for the assassination attempt.
While Barack Obama was still a presidential candidate in 2008, two white supremacists named Paul Schlesselman and Daniel Cowart conspired to murder 102 African American men — while driving around in a getaway car with the words “Honk if you love Hitler” scrawled on it.
Their conspiracy would culminate with the assassination of Obama. As CBS News reported, police uncovered the detailed plot and arrested the duo long before they were close to launching their cross-country murder spree.
Later, in 2011, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez open fire on the White House after claiming that Obama was the anti-Christ, according to the Washington Post. He crashed his car while escaping, and was later arrested and sentenced to 27.5 years in jail. The Obamas were not in the White House at the time of the shooting.
In April 2013, a letter addressed to Obama tested positive for ricin, a deadly poison. James Everett Dutschke was sentenced to 25 years in jail for the ricin mailing plot, according to Politico.
Then, in 2015, CNN reported that three men — Abror Habibov, Abdurasul Juraboev, and Akhror Saidakhmetov — had been arrested after plotting to kill Obama and bomb Coney Island in their efforts to join ISIS.
13. Donald Trump
At a campaign rally in a Las Vegas Strip hotel-casino, Michael Steven Sandford attempted to grab a police officer’s gun. As he was taken into custody, the British national told officers that he was hoping to assassinate then-presidential candidate, Donald Trump.
The Guardian reported that Sandford has a history of mental illness, which Judge James Mahan acknowledged in his hearing, saying that Sandford needed help and wasn’t a “hardened criminal” — or even intent on assassinating Trump.
“I know saying sorry is not enough,” Sandford told the court, according to the Guardian. “I really do feel awful about what I did. I wish there was some way to make things better. I have cost taxpayers so much money. I feel terrible.”
On May 6, KYT 24 reported that Sandford had been deported to the UK, after being in US custody for about 11 months.
There were multiple versions of the rules, all with variations in wording. But they all carried the same eight sentiments:
Oscar Boelcke was once the world’s top fighter pilot, and he wrote eight rules to help other pilots survive to be like him.
Try to secure advantages before attacking. If possible, keep the sun behind you.
This is one of the rules that has shifted over time, but target acquisition in World War I was done almost exclusively through pilots simply scanning the skies. For that reason, Boelcke recommended the pilot keep the sun at their backs when heading into enemy territory or when deciding on an angle of attack against an unwary enemy pilot.
This would blind the adversary to the threat until the German pilot was already letting loose with his first machine gun burst. Nowadays, it does work a little different since targets are generally acquired via radar and other sensors. Still, Boelcke would certainly recommend hiding the approach and only engaging with the advantage.
Always carry through an attack when you have started it.
This one was far from hard and fast, but it was aimed at a particular shortcoming of young pilots. While Boelcke would allow for the occasional need to bug out (more on that in a later rule), he worried for new pilots who would see an enemy and attack, but then would turn and run after the first burst. That allowed the enemy to get a good bead on the fleeing German and shoot them down.
Instead, he recommended, only engage if you’re certain you can succeed and then stick with the fight unless you lose all advantage and have no other options left to fight. In more modern terms, “Finish the fight.”
A German pursuit squadron in World War I.
(German military archives)
Fire only at close range, and only when your opponent is properly in your sights.
This was another rule squarely aimed at a common mistake by rookies. Overeager pilots would fire from hundreds of yards away, giving away their position with little chance of a hit. (Aerial marksmanship is famously difficult as, even in World War I, the shooter and the target are moving in different directions at dozens or even hundreds of miles an hour.)
Boelcke insisted that pilots wait until 100 meters or so, about 110 yards, before firing if at all possible. This helped in two ways. First, the attack pilot would only give away their position when there was a chance of success. But two, it hedged against the common problem of aviation guns jamming. So withholding fire until it was most likely to kill the enemy reduced the chances of a jam on a mission because the pilot fired less overall.
Always keep your eye on your opponent, and never let yourself be deceived by ruses.
This one may feel obvious: Always keep your eye on your enemy. But American pilots, following their British counterparts, had learned to fake their deaths in the air by seemingly going into an irrecoverable spin during combat when they needed to bug out.
Boelcke wanted to make sure his pilots were ready for this and other tricks, and so he recommended that they always watch their enemy, even if the foe seemed dead or doomed.
Lt. Baldamus, a German ace fighter pilot.
(German military archives)
In any form of attack it is essential to assail your enemy from behind.
Again, rookie pilots would do stupid stuff, like attack an enemy flying from one side to the other, or coming head-on, both attack angles that were extremely challenging for even a veteran pilot to accomplish. So Boelcke directed his younger pilots to always focus on getting behind their enemy and attacking from there. There was one exception featured in the next rule.
If your opponent dives on you, do not try to evade his onslaught, but fly to meet it.
Yup, no need to try to navigate to the enemy’s rear if they’ve already gotten the jump on you. Instead, treat it like an “ambush near” on the ground and immediately turn to face the threat and shoot at it. Then, if at all possible, get to the enemy’s rear.
Rookie pilots had often made the mistake of running from their enemy instead. If they weren’t close to enemy lines, this resulted in them shedding altitude and pointing away from their attacker, allowing the attacker a series of free and easy shots at the fleeing pilot.
Baron Manfred von Richthofen became the top fighter pilot of World War I, following in the footsteps of his mentor who achieved 40 kills before anyone else.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
When over the enemy’s lines never forget your own line of retreat.
This is the exception to a number of the rules above. Yes, you should always try to finish the fight against an enemy, whether you initiated the fight or were responding after they attacked you. But, you should always know which way to go if you have to run. If the guns jam, if the engine fails, if you’re hit with a potentially mortal wound, you have to know which way help is.
Attack on principle in groups of four or six. When the fight breaks up into a series of single combats, take care that several do not go for the same opponent.
This one was aimed at younger squadron leaders. Basically, try to fly in groups whenever possible so that pilots can support each other. But, when fighting one group against another, be sure that you have each enemy plane on the run. If you’re matched man-to-man, but two of your pilots accidentally go after the same target, then there’s an enemy plane free to go after one German after another.
Instead, the pilots should be aware of where each other are, and they should coordinate their attacks as best as possible to keep the enemy on their back foot.
The actual translation of Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak’s epic nickname might be “The White Lily of Stalingrad,” depending on the language you speak. Considering the Lily’s association with death and funerals, it’s rather fitting for such an incredible pilot.
Litvyak was only 20 years old when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The young girl rushed to the recruiter and tried to join to be a fighter pilot. The recruiters sent her packing. In their minds, she was just a small, young girl.
In truth, she was flying solo at 15 and was an experienced pilot. A biographer estimated she trained more than 45 pilots on her own. She knew she could do this. So instead of giving up, she went to another recruiter and lied about her flying experience, by more than a hundred hours. That did the trick.
The Soviets, probably realizing that this fight was going to kill a lot of Soviet people (and it did, to the tune of 27 million), were foresighted enough to consider gender equality when it came to their military units. Where American women pilots were only allowed to transport planes, Stalin was forming three fighter regiments of all-female pilots.
Young Lydia Litvyak flew a few missions with the all-female unit before transferring to a mixed-gender unit — over Stalingrad. It was here she earned her illustrious moniker, “The White Rose of Stalingrad.” She flew around a hail of anti-aircraft fire to engage an artillery observation balloon from the rear. She shot it down in a blaze of hydrogen-fueled mayhem — a notoriously difficult task for any pilot.
Litvyak wasn’t finished; she later became one of two women to be crowned “first female fighter ace” as well. She wasn’t flawless — she was shot down more than once and bled more than her share over Russian soil.
But even when forced to make belly landings, she hopped right back into the closest cockpit.
She was so good, the Russian command chose her to be Okhotniki, — or “free hunter” — a new tactic that involved two experienced pilots who were free to hunt the skies on seek and destroy missions. She terrorized German pilots all over the Eastern Front.
“The White Rose of Stalingrad” was last seen being chased by eight Nazi ME-109 fighters on an escort mission south of Moscow. Her body was lost until 1989 when historians discovered the unmarked grave of a female pilot in the Russian village of Dmytrivka.
The next year, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev awarded Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak the title “Hero of the Soviet Union,” the USSR’s highest military honor.
The days after the September 11th attacks were very different from the United States’ “business as usual” of post-Cold War days gone by. As the days stretched into weeks, the culture of the U.S. changed a little bit, and you could see it everywhere, from entertainment media to individuals across the country. The mood suddenly shifted.
For retired four-star general Wesley Clark, the mood shift was an entirely different level when he met old friends at the Pentagon.
Clark was a Presidential candidate in 2004.
In a 2007 interview, Clark tells Democracy Now that life at the Pentagon was markedly different from the military world he knew after 34 years in the Army. The former NATO Supreme Allied Commander got a little insight from his old friends about how the United States was preparing to respond to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Some ten days after the attacks, Clark says he was in the Pentagon visiting friends at the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was called into a former colleague’s office. Without divulging which colleague, Clark tells Democracy Now that the general told him they were preparing for a war with Iraq. This was just ten days after Sept. 11, 2001. Clark confirmed that there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, but the general was firm on the decision to invade.
“I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail,” Clark remembered the general saying.
Clark returned to the Pentagon a few weeks later. By this time, the United States was conducting bombing operations in Afghanistan. He poked his head into the same four-star colleague’s office and asked if the war was still on – it was. Not only was the war with Iraq still going on as planned, but the plan had since been expanded to also include other countries that were traditionally hostile to the efforts of the United States.
The general showed Clark a classified memo from then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that listed seven countries that were to be toppled by the U.S. military in the coming five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. In that order.
Clark believes Iran needed the US to oust Saddam Hussein, something it could never do.
Clark believed that by that time, Iran already saw itself at war with the U.S., considering the calls for regime change and the ongoing proxy war in neighboring Iraq. In 2007, the United States military was implementing the famous “surge” strategy for defeating the insurgency in Iraq, a strategy that had not yet reaped benefits by the time of Clark’s interview. Clark was trying to stop the momentum for war with Iran.
Of course, the list of countries mentioned by Gen. Clark’s friend in the Pentagon have their own set of issues or were later beset with them. Libya and Syria fell victim to the Arab Spring five years later. The government of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya eventually fell, which led to his death. The government of Bashar al-Asad in Syria was rescued from collapse by Russian intervention in the country’s ongoing civil war. Lebanon was wrecked by an Israeli invasion in 2006. Sudan has since split into two countries as a result of civil strife, and Iraq would infamously suffer at the hands of ISIS after the U.S. withdrawal.
It was the moment in history that every Western film has tried to emulate. The Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan, and their friend, Doctor John Henry Holliday, made their stand in October, 1881, against the outlaw Cochise County Cowboys who had been terrorizing the streets of Tombstone, Arizona.
As the clock struck 3:00, Marshal Virgil Earp issued a warning to the outlaws, telling them to “throw up [their] hands.” Moments later, shots rang out and black smoke filled the narrow streets. A half-minute later, three of the five outlaws had been gunned down and the other two ran like hell. The heroic lawmen stood tall.
Moviemakers and novelists have flocked to this moment and heaped praise onto Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday — and that’s not without good reason. I mean, their lives and friendship make for a goldmine for potential stories and, if you want some protagonists who’ve earned an abundance of cool points, they’re your huckleberries. What’s not to love about a couple of gunslinging bros laying down the law in the Wild West?
Yet, noticeably absent from the spotlight is the man who actually confronted the outlaws. The actual lawman of the group (not just appointed as one) who actually knew the ins and outs of gunfighting: Marshall Virgil Earp, Wyatt’s older brother.
The 83rd Infantry were renown for their sharpshooting skills. Something that would prove useful in the Wild West.
(National Park Services photo)
Virgil’s story begins a week after his 18th birthday on July 26, 1861, when he joins the Union Army. He’d fallen in love and fathered a child with Ellen Rysdam in secret. Her parents strongly disagreed with her choice in him but they married anyway. They’d spent time together raising their daughter, Nellie Jane, before he was mustered into the Illinois Volunteer Infantry for three years.
When the Civil War broke out, he was reassigned into the 83rd Illinois Infantry and sent down to Tennessee. Detailed records are gone with time, but he did something to earn a court-martial and was docked two weeks of pay. By that point, his loving wife was informed that he’d fallen in combat by her father before being unceremoniously shuffled toward a guy he did approve.
After Virgil returned from the war, his wife and daughter vanished with the new man. He did what any recently-returned veteran would do at the time and ventured west to ease his heartache. This is when he reunited with his brothers, Wyatt and Morgan, and met an unusually badass dentist by the name of Doc Holliday in Dodge City, Kansas. In Dodge City, Virgil used his military experience to become a deputy town marshal.
For historical perspective, this was Tombstone and the one street was where the showdown happened.
He’d soon get the heck outta Dodge when he was informed that the Cochise County Cowboys down in Prescott, Arizona Territory, were causing mayhem. On one of his first patrols, he first encountered the outlaw gang robbing a stagecoach at the edge of town. He picked up his Henry rifle and plucked them off from a great distance.
He was promptly given the role of Prescott’s night watchman and was later elected as constable for his hard-line stance against the outlaws. Virgil wrote to his brothers, who were in need of work. that a new silver-mining town, Tombstone, was perfect for them, and so they headed south. The U.S. Marshall over Arizona appointed Virgil as the Marshal of the Tombstone District of Pima County. His main goal was to stop all of the coach robberies that occurred between Prescott and Tombstone.
In order to keep the rates of violence and crime down, Virgil enacted an ordinance that prohibited deadly weapons in Tombstone. All weapons must be turned into a stable or saloon upon entering town. This ordinance, as you might imagine, didn’t stop the Cowboy gang from harassing innocent bystanders and making constant threats against the lives of the Earp brothers.
Everything came to a head on October 26, 1881, after the outlaws refused to drop their weapons at Virgil’s command.
And the scene of that infamous gunfight is now the biggest tourist trap in the area, bringing money into the middle-of-nowhere town.
(Photo by Ken Lund)
Once upon a time, Wyatt Earp was a lawman. But his days of being officially on the blue side ended in Dodge City and Witchita. In Tombstone, Virgil had appointed Wyatt as his temporary assistant, along with Morgan and Doc as temporary “special policemen.”
It should be noted that prior to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Morgan and Doc had never been in any documented firefights, and Wyatt Earp had only one officially under his belt — but all three had remarkable track records in fist fights. Virgil. however, was well-versed in firefights. It should also be noted that while everyone else was using their iconic (but tiny) western revolvers, Virgil was unloading his big-ass coach gun into the outlaws, despite being shot through the femur.
Sam Elliot played Virgil in 1993’s ‘Tombstone,’ which we think is a pretty well-deserved tribute.
(Buena Vista Pictures)
The gunfight came to an end and the lawmen rose victorious — but the fighting would continue. For their actions that day, they were all reprimanded. Virgil continued as marshal over Tombstone after being cleared of all wrongdoing.
The Cowboys would unrelentingly go after the Earps. Virgil would later be severely wounded by three shotgun-wielding assassins who simultaneously fired on him. This attack ended his career in law enforcement and he ceded marshal duties to his brother, Wyatt. Assassins killed Morgan Earp a few months later.
Wyatt and Doc would eventually bring those responsible to justice and their names would be remembered throughout history for being the toughest lawmen in the West. Virgil needed many years to recuperate, but never fully recovered.
He would eventually cross paths with his former-wife, Ellen, and his daughter when he was an old man. There wasn’t any bad blood, and he was happy to meet three grand-kids he never knew existed.
After members of the Native American Blackfeet Nation overwhelmed an Army recruiting office in 1941, those waiting in line cried, “since when has it been necessary for Blackfeet to draw lots to fight?“
Hitler surely didn’t realize the fight he was picking.
Japan kicked off their war with the U.S. with a bang — no declaration necessary. Their formal declaration came the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. One by one, the United States and the Axis countries declared war on one another. But the war between Native American nations in the United States and Germany had never actually been resolved, so they just resolved to continue fighting.
The Iroquois Confederacy declared war against the Kaiser’s Germany in 1917 alongside the U.S. after 16 members of a traveling circus were detained by the Germans, ostensibly for their own protection. The capture of those 16 prompted the leaders of the Iroquois to issue a declaration of war and implored members of the Iroquois Nation to enlist to fight alongside their U.S. ally, even though they were ineligible for American citizenship.
Some 12,000 Native Americans enlisted in the U.S. military during World War I, mostly volunteers, serving as scouts, snipers, and code talkers. Their incredible service in World War I prompted the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, John J. Pershing, to write:
“The North American Indian took his place beside every other American in offering his life in the great cause, where as a splendid soldier, he fought with the courage and valor of his ancestors.“
Beyond code talkers
When World War II came about, the Iroquois hadn’t yet made peace with Germany, so they were already ready to go back to Europe to give Germany more of the same. The Chippewa and Sioux Nations, this time around, also issued formal declarations of war.
Members of the Navajo Nation overwhelmed recruiting offices in three states with recruits ready to go fight – no draft required. One fourth of the entire Mescalero Apache Nation joined the U.S. military during World War II as did all the able-bodied Chippewas at the Grand Portage Reservation. So great was the Native Americans’ desire to serve that if all Americans had joined the military during World War II in the same proportion that Native Americans did, there would have been no need for a draft. Ten percent of all Native Americans served in World War II.
Another 150,000 left the reservations and went to work in war production, serving in factories and farms while Native women took over the traditionally male roles on the reservations.
Native Americans won their citizenship after World War I with the 1924 Snyder Act, but it was World War II that disrupted so much of traditional American society, including Native American nations.
Natives came home with a new standard of living, new skills, and shaped a new way forward for pan-Native American societies. For the first time, Native Americans were able to assert themselves and their status as equals, fighting for the rights and privileges of every other American, as well as those granted to them by existing treaties with the United States.
The Hague and international community have little remorse for convicted war criminals. Generally, there are only two sentences: death and prison. This has been the case since 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was established. The Treaty distinguishes war crimes (acts committed under the guise of military necessity) from crimes against humanity (acts committed against the civilian population) and manages the overlap between the two.
Let’s take a look at how the international community punishes war criminals for their transgressions against humanity:
The most lenient of the punishments is never issued by The Hague, but is enforced by the country of the criminal to prevent the issue from going higher. The guilty are confined to their home instead of a traditional prison. If they are allowed outside communication or travel, it’s strictly monitored.
Notable Criminal: Pol Pot (1997 until death in 1998)
Although he was accused or directly responsible for the deaths of between 1 and 3 million people in Cambodia (which only had a population of 8 million people), Saloth Sar, later known as Pol Pot, was only ever tried for the execution of his right-hand man, Son Sen. Around 10 months into his sentence, he died of a lethal combination of Valium and chloroquine. It’s unknown if it was intentional suicide, accidental, or even murder.
Lengthy prison sentences
For most war criminals, lengthy prison sentences are the norm. Unless you’re found to be only an accessory to war crimes, sentences are typically twenty years and more. With such long imprisonments, life after release is still hell.
Notable Criminal: Charles Taylor (sentenced to 50 years in 2012)
Taylor was the deposed President of Liberia and one of the most prominent warlords in Africa. He rose to power during the First Liberian Civil War and was heavily involved in the Sierra Leone Civil War along with the Second Liberian Civil War. The presiding judge at The Hague, Richard Lussick, said at his sentencing, “The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.”
Life in prison
For the top echelon of war criminals — those too vile even for the sweet release of death — a life sentence is the punishment of choice.
Notable Criminal: Philippe Pétain (1945 until death in 1951)
Pétain was once a beloved General, the Lion of Verdun, hero of France — that was until the fall of France in 1940. He was immediately appointed Prime Minister of France and turned the Third French Republic into Vichy France, the puppet state of Nazi Germany. He willingly sided with Hitler’s agenda (including antisemitism, censorship, and the “felony of opinion”) while squashing the French Resistance.
After the fall of the Axis Powers, Pétain was was tried for treason and aiding the Nazi Regime. He was convicted of all charges and sentenced to death. Charles De Gaulle, the new President of France, commuted his sentence to life in prison because of his age and military service during WWI. He was stripped of all military ranks and honors except for the distinction of Marshal of France.
Surprisingly enough, the highest possible punishment for war crimes is also the most issued. A large percentage of those tried at the Nuremberg Trials received the death penalty — more specifically, death by hanging. The added benefit effect of death by hangings as opposed to use of firing squad is that it took an agonizing 12 to 28 minutes for war criminals to die.
Notable Criminals: Saddam Hussein (Dec. 30, 2006)
Numerous genocides, ethnic cleansings, invasions of foreign states, countless human rights abuses, and the responsibility for the deaths of up to 182,000 civilians, Saddam Hussein was, at one point, the world’s foremost war criminal. Captured by U.S.-led forces near Tikrit, Iraq in 2003, he was later handed to the Iraqi people for a lengthy trial process before he was eventually executed.
Check out these awesome facts you probably didn’t know about our beloved holiday.
1. Moment of remembrance at 3 pm
On Dec. 28th, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which asks all Americans to pause on Memorial Day at 3:00 pm local time for a full minute to honor and remember all those who perished protecting our rights and freedoms.
2. Wearing red poppies
You may have noticed people wearing red poppy flowers pinned to their clothing on Memorial Day. This idea was influenced by the sight of poppies growing in a battle-scarred field in WWI which prompted the popular poem “In Flanders Fields” written by former Canadian Col. John McCrae.
The American Legion adopted the tradition of wearing the red poppy flowers along with many allied countries to commemorate troops killed in battle.
3. Flag raising procedures
Americans love to proudly display their flags and let them wave high and free. On Memorial Day, there’s a special protocol to properly raise and exhibit the ensign. Here it is.
When the flag is raised at first light, it’s to be hoisted to the top of the pole, then respectfully lowered to the half-staff position until 12:00 pm when it is re-raised to the top of the pole for the remainder of the day. Details matter.
4. The origin of the holiday
Originally called “Decoration Day” by Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, in 1868, the day was intended to honor the estimated 620,000 people who died fighting in the Civil war and was celebrated on May 30th.
But it wasn’t until 1971 that Congress shifted the holiday to the last Monday of May to ensure a three-day weekend and renamed it to what we all know today.
At least five separate cities claim to be the birthplace of “Decoration Day,” including Macon and Columbus, Georgia. Of course, there’s no real written record or D.N.A test to prove who is truly the mom and dad.
California, you are not the father… or mother. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)