Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

Did friendly fire really kill Confederate Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, or is this just a myth of the Civil War?


We all know the story (or should).

On May 2, 1863, Jackson was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the last stages of the Battle of Chancellorsville when he was accidentally shot by Confederate troops. He would die eight days later, after an operation to amputate his left arm.

 

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

Today, were someone to be wounded in the left arm and right hand, combat medics would rapidly be working on him to stabilize his condition. Once that was done, a MEDEVAC flight would get him to a combat hospital for further evaluation. Surgery on the arm might not even take place in a combat hospital – Jackson would likely have been transported to a place like Walter Reed for the actual surgery.

He might not lose the arm. He probably would not have died.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

But this was 1863, and Jackson died. Why? According to one coroner in a History Channel video, the wounds Jackson received when he was accidentally shot by Confederate sentries while on a reconnaissance mission during the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, were not the direct cause of his death.

Instead, the blame may very well fall on the poor medical treatment he received after his wounds. The methods used to keep General Jackson under while his arm was amputated using the techniques of the time triggered the pneumonia that killed him, the coroner claims.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

Is he right? Watch the video for yourself and let us know what you think!

History, YouTube

MIGHTY HISTORY

Robert E. Lee may have lost Gettysburg because of a heart attack

In July 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee hatched an audacious plan to invade the North, defeat the Union Army, and force an end to the war – with a Confederate victory. Everything – perhaps the entire Civil War – depended on the outcome at Gettysburg.


So maybe Lee should have stayed home to recover from his heart attack.

A study from the National Institute of Health’s Center for Biotechnology Information reviewed the general’s medical history in 1992. Despite his relatively good medical condition from 1864 to 1867, by the end of the decade, he suffered from exertional (stable) angina – chest pain from blocked arteries caused by activity. By 1870, his angina became unstable and he died at age 63.

“It often was stated that the loss of the war broke the heart of Lee, but in view of our modern day understanding, it probably is more accurate to say that advancing coronary atherosclerosis was the culprit,” the NIH said.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

Harvard studies show the cardiac impact of six major risk factors: high total cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking. Anyone with two or more of these factors has a 69 percent chance of developing a cardiovascular disease – and 11 fewer years of life.

Lee had been suffering from what his doctors diagnosed as pericarditis since March 1863, which had a sudden onset and came with pain in his chest, back, and arms. It affected his ability to ride a horse and he was known to be anxious and depressed in the days and years after, both common conditions after heart attacks.

“It came on in paroxysms, was quite sharp,” he wrote. Doctors look at “my lungs, my heart, circulation, etc. and I believe they pronounced me tolerable sound.”

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

Pericarditis is an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart but the NIH study refutes that diagnosis because American doctors were unfamiliar with the idea of angina. The researchers proposed instead that Lee suffered from ischemic heart disease, which would keep blood and oxygen from getting to the muscles of the heart.

His heart disease may have affected his judgement in all areas of life, which would explain some of the inexplicable and uncharacteristic decisions he ordered that day, namely Pickett’s Charge.

Lee’s March 1863 episode was a heart attack, not Pericarditis. As the NIH diagnosis says, the loss at Gettysburg didn’t break Lee’s heart, it was broken when he got there.

Articles

That time drunk samurai didn’t realize they were under attack

In 1560, a Japanese leader attempting to capture the capital of Kyoto lost his head and most of his men when his army got too drunk and loud to realize it was under attack by a much smaller force until the enemy had cut its way to the leader’s tent.


Japanese samurai leader Imagawa Yoshimoto launched an offensive in 1560 to invade to Kyoto, leading approximately 20,000-35,000 samurai west and capturing a series of small castles on his way.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
Oda Nobunaga as painted by an Italian Jesuit. (Painting: Giovanni Nicolao, Public Domain)

Meanwhile, Oda Nobunaga controlled a small garrison approximately 60 miles east of Kyoto, right in the path of Imagawa’s massive force. While other garrisons and castles adopted a defensive posture or surrendered to Imagawa, Oda raised a small force of approximately 2,500 men, between one-twelfth and one-tenth the size of Imagawa’s army, and led it east.

As the two forces marched towards one another, each made its own small stop. Oda stopped to pray at the Atsuta Shrine. The priests there would later comment on how calm the samurai leader was.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
Monuments to the two samurai leaders at the site of the Battle of Okehazama. (Photo: Tomio344456 CC BY-SA 3.0)

Imagawa, however, stopped to loot a few castles.

That night, Imagawa’s forces got hammered and feasted as Oda took advantage of the terrain and confusion.

First, he had a small group set up false battle flags from behind a ridgeline, giving the impression that he was firmly camped for the night. Then, he led most of his men through a careful maneuver under cover of darkness and thunderstorms.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
Painting of the Battle of Okehazama where Oda Nobunaga defeated an enemy samurai against huge odds. (Image: Utagawa Toyonobu, Public Domain)

Oda’s force crept close to Imagawa’s camp and then attacked with its full force. The partying in the camp was so loud and the attack so sudden, that many of Imagawa’s samurai failed to realize they were in a fight.

Imagawa himself is said to have stormed from his tent to yell at his men for their level of drunkenness only to be immediately attacked by a spear-wielding enemy. Imagawa cut through the spear and injured his attacker, but was tackled and beheaded by another samurai.

The battle ended a short time later as Imagawa’s senior officers were cut down. Oda went on to consolidate his own power and ruled half of Japan before he was killed in 1582 by an assassin.

If you’ve ever seen that hilarious video about the history of Japan, Oda’s story is told from 3:15 to 3:40:

The site of the battle is now a park in Japan and a re-enactment is held every year in June.
MIGHTY HISTORY

That one time Eisenhower lost a B-17 bomber in a bet

The liberation of Sfax, Tunisia on April 10, 1943 was a joyous occasion for nearly everyone involved. The Allies gained an important Mediterranean port, the Tunisians in the city were liberated, and British Lt. Gen. Bernard Montgomery won a B-17 bomber from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.


That last one may need some explanation.

Rommel retreats to the Mareth line

 

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Montgomery had been fighting German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel for months in North Africa. Though the campaign was slowly succeeding, Rommel and his Italian allies were inflicting heavy casualties on the British. Britain wanted to increase forces in North Africa to keep Rommel off-balance. Meanwhile, the other Allied nations wanted to capture North Africa so they could begin invading Italy from the south.

So in late Oct. 1942, Montgomery launched Operation Lightfoot. British tanks and other forces moved under cover of massive artillery barrages through minefields against dug-in German positions. By November 2, Rommel was in a rapid withdrawal east, sacrificing troops by the hundreds to try and keep his lines of retreat open.

This put the German units in disarray when Operation Torch was launched on Nov. 8. More than 73,000 troops landed along the north coast of Africa in a deliberate attempt to squeeze the Axis east. It worked, but Germany and Italy still held Tunisia and conducted their own surge, landing nearly 250,000 troops in and around the ports at Mareth and Sfax. They would settle into a defense along the Mareth Line.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
Photo: German Federal Archives

The bet is made

The battles in North Africa raged back and forth as German reinforcements tried to hold the line. The Allied forces were slowly gaining ground, with Maj. Gen. George S. Patton and Montgomery both attempting to be the first to capture key cities, but Eisenhower wanted them to move faster.

Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Bedell Smith, was visiting Montgomery at his headquarters in the spring of 1943. Exact accounts of the conversation vary, but Montgomery asked about getting a B-17 for his personal use. Smith told Montgomery that if Montgomery captured Sfax by April 15, Eisenhower would give him whatever he wanted.

Smith reportedly meant it as a joke wager, but the notorious gambler Montgomery was serious.

Sfax falls and Montgomery gets his B-17

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
Photo: US Air Force

On April 10 — five days ahead of the deadline — Montgomery captured Sfax and immediately asked for payment. Eisenhower honored the bet and sent Montgomery a B-17 bomber and crew even though the bombers were needed for the war effort.

The event caused a strain between Eisenhower and Montgomery as well as between Eisenhower and Patton. Patton was incensed that a British general had a personal B-17 while he was struggling for rides or moving in convoys. Eisenhower was angry that Montgomery would actually accept a B-17 when they were needed to actually bomb targets.

Eisenhower mentioned it to Montgomery’s boss, Sir Alan Brooke, who berated Montgomery for crass stupidity. The plane was written off after a crash-landing a month later and never replaced.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened when two Civil War flag bearers fought each other

It was the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Everyone involved in this Southern invasion of the Union knew how critical a victory would be for either side – and everyone was willing to risk everything to get the upper hand. That’s when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered Lt. Gen. James Longstreet to charge the Union lines and take Cemetery Hill from Union Gen. George G. Meade.

Among the Union defenders was Joseph H. DeCastro – and he was about to become the first Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient.


Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

As a matter of pride, often times damaged Civil War flags would not be repaired.

DeCastro was the flag bearer for the 19th Massachusetts Infantry, a job that was arguably one of the most important in any unit. Troops put a lot of faith on their flag and the man who held it. They would give their lives to protect their regimental flag, and there were few humiliations worse than losing the unit colors to an enemy. In practical use, the flags told the men attached to those units where they were on the battlefield. When they couldn’t hear commands over the din of the fighting, they would still be able to see their colors.

For the flag bearers, the job was an incredibly important honor. Walking the battlefields unarmed, the color bearers could never run away from the fighting and always had to be in front towards the enemy. If the colors broke and ran for safety, the rest of the entire unit might instinctively follow. This is why Joseph H. DeCastro was so brave: He spent the entire Civil War as a bright-colored, slow-moving artillery target.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

But the flag bearer for the 19th Virginia infantry didn’t know that. So when Pickett’s Charge slammed right into the Union lines near Cpl. DeCastro’s position, the two unarmed flag bearers began to go at it like everyone else in the melee around them. DeCastro used the staff of his regimental flag, knocked out the opposing flag bearer, stole the 19th Virginia’s flag, and then left the battlefield to present it to Gen. Alexander Webb. Webb remembered the event:

“At the instant a man broke through my lines and thrust a rebel battle flag into my hands. He never said a word and darted back. It was Corporal Joseph H. De Castro, one of my color bearers. He had knocked down a color bearer in the enemy’s line with the staff of the Massachusetts State colors, seized the falling flag and dashed it to me.”
Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

Color guards used to be serious business, guys.

DeCastro then went right back into the fighting at Gettysburg, again taking up his position as regimental flag bearer in the fighting. He would survive Gettysburg and the Civil War, but not before being awarded the Medal of Honor for his courageous capture of the enemy’s colors in the middle of a battle that became well-known as the Confederacy’s high water mark, in a victory that ensured the Confederate Army could never again mount an invasion of the North, that sealed the South’s fate forever.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How one pilot became Santa Claus to the kids of West Berlin

After the Second World War ended, Germany was split in two. The Allies took control over Western Germany while the communists shrouded the eastern half behind the Iron Curtain. Berlin, Germany’s capital, was also famously split in two. The city is nestled deep into the heart of Eastern Germany, leaving the West Germans living there to fend for themselves in a war-torn city without supplies.

Starting in June of 1948, the communists tried their best to cut West Berlin off from the outside world. In what was later dubbed the “Berlin Blockade,” the Soviets shut down all railway, road, and canal access to Western citizens. Just as quickly, allied humanitarian missions were carried out to get food and supplies to the starving people of West Berlin. Between June 24th, 1948, and September 30th of the following year, 278,228 air missions, collectively called “Operation Vittles,” delivered over 2,326,406 tons of supplies to keep the city alive.

But one man, Lt. Gail Halvorsen, went behind his commander’s back to deliver a little extra and help raise the children’s spirits. His personal mission was dubbed Operation Little Vittles.


Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

For this, the kids gave him the exceedingly clever nickname, “Uncle Wiggle Wings.”

(National Archives)

Lt. Gail Halvorsen arrived in Germany in July, 1948, and was given orders to fly one of the C-54 Skymasters into the city to ferry supplies. On his day off, he decided to walk around the airfield with a camera to get a couple good shots of aircraft taking off and landing. When he made it to the fence at the end of the runway, he noticed that a group of children were gathered to watch the planes.

They asked him all sorts of questions about the planes and their mission and, as a demonstration of good faith, he gave them the two sticks of gum he had in his pocket. The impoverished kids divvied the two sticks, splitting it evenly amongst the large gathering — they didn’t fight over who got the biggest piece. In fact, it was said that the kid missed candy so much that just smelling the wrapper was good enough.

Halvorsen was heartbroken. He promised the children that he’d return with more. He told them that he’d always “wiggle his wings” when he was flying overhead with candy.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

Among all the fan mail and shipments of candy, Halvorsen also received plenty of marriage proposals from the ladies back home. Take notes, fellas.

(National Archives)

The very next day, he tied a bunch of candy to handkerchief parachutes and tossed it out of his plane to the kids waiting below as he took off. Halvorsen continued to do this every single day and, as he did, the daily gathering of kids grew larger.

His commanding officer, Lieutenant General William H. Tunner, heard of what he was doing and was reportedly upset. It wasn’t until every newspaper in the region (and back home) started reporting on the heroics of “Uncle Wiggly Wings” or “The Chocolate Flier” that the general officially allow Halvorsen to continue.

Soon enough, people began sending candy to Halvorsen’s unit. Folks back in the States started sending candy by the box, large candy makers donated to Halvorsen’s cause, and the West German children shared the bounty amongst themselves.

As Christmas, 1948, drew nearer, Halvorsen knew he’d have to do something big. By this point, candy makers had supplied him with 18 tons of candy and another 3 tons was given by private donors. In a single night, instead of tossing it to the kids gathered by the runway’s end, Halvorsen spread it across the entire city.

For one night, the spirit of Christmas was brought to the people of West Berlin. The kindness of Lt. Halvorsen, his crew, and the innumerable candy donors would never be forgotten.

To more on this story, listen to the silky smooth narration of Tom Brokaw below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s a rundown of the main weapons at the Battle of the Coral Sea

The Battle of the Coral Sea was a game-changer in terms of naval battles. Not only did it mark the first time the Allies turned the Japanese back during World War II, it was the first time ships fought without sighting each other. That means the primary weapons weren’t guns, as they had been for centuries — they were planes.


At that point in World War II, the air groups on fleet carriers usually consisted of three types of planes: fighters, dive-bombers, and torpedo planes. We’ll look at the aircraft that did most of the fighting.

Captain Joseph J. Foss peers from the cockpit of a Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, the fighter type in which he scored all 26 of his victories. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

F4F Wildcat

The Grumman F4F Wildcat walked a long road in becoming one of the most successful naval fighters of all time. At first, the US Navy didn’t even want the plane, opting instead to field the Brewster F2A Buffalo. By the time the war started, however, the Wildcat won out. The F4F-3 that fought at the Coral Sea packed four .50-caliber machine guns. 20 F4F-3 s were on USS Yorktown (CV 5), and 22 were on USS Lexington (CV 2).

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
A Mitsubishi A6M Zero takes off from the Zuikaku.
(U.S. Navy)

 

Mitsubishi A6M Zero – “Zeke”

This was Japan’s best fighter in World War II. In China, it racked up a huge kill count and went on to dominate against British, Dutch, and even American fighters over the first six months of World War II. It packed a pair of 7.7mm machine guns and two 20mm cannons. The Japanese fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku each had 21 Zekes on board, and the light carrier Shoho added 12 more.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
A Douglas SBD Dauntless assigned to VS-2 on USS Lexington in flight. “Lady Lex” had 36 of these planes at the Coral Sea.
(U.S. Navy)

 

Douglas SBD Dauntless

This plane became America’s most lethal ship-killer in World War II —and it did so using 1,000-pound bombs. The plane also packed two .50-caliber machine guns in the nose and a twin .30-caliber machine gun mount used by the radioman. That combination proved lethal to a number of Zekes. USS Yorktown had 38 on board, USS Lexington had 36.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
An Aichi D3A Val during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had 41 of these planes on Shokaku and Zuikaku.
(U.S. Navy)

Aichi D3A – “Val”

Japan’s primary dive bomber was only capable of carrying a 550-pound bomb, which left it unable to land a killing blow. Even after suffering repeated strikes, a target could still float, lingering. Still, it was capable of doing damage. Shokaku had 20 Vals on board, Zuikaku had 21 at the start of the battle.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
A Douglas TBD Devastator drops a Mk 13 aerial torpedo just prior to World War II. The two American carriers at the Coral Sea had 25 of these planes.
(U.S. Navy)
 

Douglas TBD Devastator

The Douglas TBD Devastator is best known as the plane that was decimated at Midway. It could carry a single Mk 13 torpedo, but also was able to be used as a level bomber. It had a single .30-caliber machine gun in the nose, and was built for a single .30-caliber machine gun to be used by a rear gunner, who doubled as the radioman. USS Lexington had 12 planes on board, USS Yorktown had 13.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
A Nakajima B5N “Kate” on Shokaku during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Japanese carriers brought 51 of these planes to the Coral Sea.
(Imperial Japanese Navy)

 

Nakajima B5N – “Kate”

This was the plane that a Japanese carrier used as its ship killer. It carried a crew of three and could carry a torpedo or be used as a level bomber. Unlike the Devastator, the Kate’s mark in history can be listed in the ships it sank: USS Arizona (with a level bomb), USS Oklahoma (with torpedoes), and USS Lexington (torpedoes) were three of the most notable prior to the Battle of Midway. It had a single 7.7mm machine gun used by the radioman and some additional guns in the wings. Shokaku and Zuikaku each had 21 of these planes on board, and Shoho added nine more.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This ‘Nasty Nick’ obstacle course is part of SF Heritage

North Carolina’s Camp Mackall is not your average US Army training facility. It is home to the Nasty Nick Special Forces Obstacle Course, one of the toughest obstacle courses ever created. In order to complete Special Forces training, men and women must pass Nasty Nick, and it’s no cakewalk.

Who was Nasty Nick?

Nasty Nick is named after its creator, a Vietnam War veteran, the late US Army Special Forces Colonel James “Nick” Rowe. Col. Rowe was a Prisoner of War during the Vietnam War. He was held captive for over five years. Col. Row is one of only 34 American POWs to make it out alive. 

After that brutal experience, Rowe took all he knew about what it’s like to be a POW to make an obstacle course. Today, it serves as a survival, evasion, resistance and escape training program – SERE school. Since its creation, all Special Forces Soldiers have had to complete Nasty Nick before they are officially able to be sworn in. 

US Army photo

Phobias and the Special Forces don’t mix 

Nasty Nick includes 25 obstacles that span across two miles. They are specifically designed to confront candidates’ fear of confined spaces and heights, not to mention test strength and stamina overall, both physically and mentally. Additionally, without upper body strength, coordination, and balance, making it through the course is nearly impossible. The idea behind this training is to prove that they’d be reliable in real-life situations that those in the Special Forces are likely to encounter. 

One of Nasty Nick’s obstacles is a 50-foot wall that Special Forces candidates have to climb over with no safety rope. A fall could be deadly, but this is exactly the kind of test needed to make sure all Special Forces officers are prepared for the things they will inevitably have to face on the job. Fear of heights is just not compatible with the Special Forces. 

US Army photo

They don’t call it ‘Nasty Nick’ for nothing

Special Forces operations often occur in urban environments, meaning that Soldiers have to be ready for anything that comes at them. For instance, their hands should be on a weapon instead of holding on to something for balance. After all, there might be bullets flying at them, and they’ll need to defend themselves. 

Nasty Nick tests many of these more subtle abilities. Not only do Soldiers have to make it through the course, but it’s also timed. That means simply getting through isn’t enough. The method of getting through is important too. Crawling out of fear when you could be walking won’t cut it. Yet it’s all necessary to prove that any and all Special Forces will be able to perform accordingly when they need to.

Related: The intriguing history of the term special operator

MIGHTY HISTORY

Warriors In Their Own Words: The sniper that scored 16 headshots in 30 seconds… at night

Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney was one of the most lethal snipers of the Vietnam War with 103 confirmed kills. In a particularly daring engagement, Mawhinney stopped a Viet Cong assault by hitting 16 headshots in 30 seconds at night in bad weather.

So, what does it take to be a precise, lethal sniper? Hear from the man himself as he describes his experience in the jungles of Vietnam.


“Chuck was extremely aggressive,” retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Limpic, Mawhinney’s squad leader, later told LA Times. “He could run a half-mile, stand straight up, and shoot offhand and drop somebody at 700 yards.”

Mawhinney was operating out of a base near Da Nang in what the U.S. military called, “Arizona Territory.” A large North Vietnamese Army force was spotted moving its way south towards the U.S. base, but a monsoon shut down air support. So, Mawhinney volunteered to cover a river crossing where the force was expected to march.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
A US Marine Corps sniper in Vietnam.
(US Marine Corps archives)

Mawhinney left his sniper rifle at the base and moved forward with an M14 semiautomatic rifle and a Starlight scope, an early night-vision device.

The sniper and his spotter positioned themselves overlooking the shallowest river crossing. A few hours later, the NVA appeared.

A single scout approached the river first, but Mawhinney waited. When the rest of the NVA began to cross the river, Mawhinney kept waiting. It wasn’t until the men were deep into the river that Mawhinney began firing.

He engaged the enemy at ranges from 25 to 75 meters, nailing one man after the other through the head. As he describes it,

“They started across the river and as soon as the first one started up the bank on our side, I went to work. I got 16 rounds off that night as fast as I could fire the weapon, every one of them were headshots. They were dead center… …They never did cross the river that night.”

The two Marines then hastily fell back as the NVA tried to hit them with small arms and machine gun fire.

“To this day,” Mawhinney continues, “I’ve always wondered what their company commander’s report was of what happened to them… “

To hear more war stories from the men and women who were there, check out Warriors In Their Own Words.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Medal of Honor recipient shot down 7 enemy aircraft on his first time out

After graduating at the top of his flight school class, James Swett decided to join the Navy — until a Marine colonel talked him into flying for the Corps instead.


Once he received his Marine officer commission, Swett shipped out to serve in War World II, where he would mark his mark sooner than he could ever expect.

Stationed on the island of Guadalcanal, Swett’s impressive 450 hours of pre-war flight time was about to be put the ultimate test.

Related: This Medal of Honor recipient saved 18 Marines from an enemy minefield

In the early morning of Apr. 7, 1943, a Japanese attack fleet was preparing to bombard the island of Guadalcanal. That day, Swett had embarked on two standard flight patrols that resulted in nothing but clear skies.

But the third scheduled flight was about to turn very deadly. Swett received intel that 150 Japanese planes were en route to his position and he was prepared to defend it. Soon after making his very first enemy contact, Swett managed to shoot down a handful of enemy fighters.

After a several of defensive maneuvers, Swett took a few rounds to his starboard wing. Heading back to base, Swett discovered a series of enemy dive bombers headed toward him — so he engaged with short bursts, scoring additional kill shots.

Also Read: This WW2 Ace fought for both sides of the war

After shooting down seven dive bombers, Swett’s fighter plane was severely damaged and crash-landed into the ocean as he attempted to make it back to Guadalcanal.

Once Swett surfaced, a Coast Guard boat picked up the now salty Marine aviator. Swett shot down a total of seven enemy fighters on his very first day in combat.

Swett was credited with shooting down 15 1/2 enemy planes during his time in the war and received the Medal of Honor on Oct. 10, 1943.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear this flying ace retell his heroic story for yourself.

(Medal of Honor Book, YouTube)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last battle of the American Revolution was fought in India

Despite what high school textbooks would have us think, the American Revolution didn’t end at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. A 2015 article in the Journal of the American Revolution reminds us that the final peace of Paris was still two years away and there was a lot of fighting left to be done.

american revolution
Troops wearing the Revolutionary War uniforms of the 9th Virginia Regiment, Corps of the Continental Line

The war to shake off Great Britain wasn’t just a North American war. What started out as a means for keeping the unruly colonies in the fold quickly devolved into a global war among major European powers. By the time the Siege at Yorktown was over, there were actually 44 more battles to be fought for American independence. 

Peace talks were ongoing when news of the Franco-American victory reached negotiators in Paris, but that didn’t hurry matters along. A preliminary deal wouldn’t happen until the next year. In the meantime, the Founding Fathers knew that Britain would continue fighting and India would be the last place anyone would learn of a treaty. 

Back on the Indian subcontinent, the British were having trouble with the locals there too. One of them, Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore, had long aligned himself with the French. Mysoreans had been fighting the British for years while the Americans were fighting. But the very capable Hyder Ali died in 1783, leading the British to believe the time was right to end the nuisance once and for all. 

The crown quickly dispatched an army and a fleet of warships to lay siege to the Mysorean city of Cuddalore. In response, the French sent a force of their own. The two sides would meet there in June 1783, three months before the ink on the Treaty of Paris would dry. 

The city was blockaded by the Royal Navy by sea as British and Bengali troops surrounded it by land. Though equally powerful on land, the French fleet was outgunned by the British as they sailed toward Cuddalore. Using reinforcement troops meant for the city as gunners, the French attacked the British for three hours, forcing the British to leave the waters around the city. 

With the Royal Navy on its way out, the French were free to reinforce the defenses of Cuddalore, which they did. But the British Army didn’t relent. For a month, the French attempted to break the siege but were repelled over and over. Disease and thirst soon took over as the major force on the battlefield, but that didn’t matter either.

What finally broke the siege was news from Paris that the American Revolution was over and that a preliminary deal had been signed in November 1782 – the news was just late getting to India. 

In the end, Cuddalore was returned to the British anyway with France receiving its old possession of Pondicherry in the exchange, and the Americans receiving their independence from King George III.  

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Rag-tag Circus begged, borrowed, and stole vehicles in its drive across Germany

The 83rd Infantry Division, nicknamed Thunderbolt, first entered combat in Normandy in late June 1944. Generally fighting as part of Patton’s Third Army, they were involved in major combat across Northern France and Europe.


Their first action was as a part of Operation Cobra to breakout of the Normandy hedgerows. They then fought against stiff resistance until they finally entered Germany.

This is where the 83rd would come to notoriety as the “Rag-tag Circus.”

Once American forces crossed the Rhine in March 1945, it became an all-out sprint for Berlin with the fast-moving Armored Divisions of the 12th Army Group leading the way.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

But the 83rd was a light division with very little in the way of organic transportation assets.

According to the After Action Report of the 329th Infantry Regiment, the Rag-tag Circus was born of necessity when the regiment’s ten non-organic trucks were detached for other duties. As the battalion commanders protested, word came down from the division commander, “utilize to the fullest extent the captured German transportation they had in their possession.”

The 83rd took the idea and ran with it.

Any German vehicle they could get their hands on got a coat of OD green paint and some white stars and was pressed into service.

They commandeered all manner of vehicles: trucks, staff cars, motorcycles, buses, German tanks, and even a Messerschmitt BF 109 was confiscated and piloted by a member of the division.

One of the more famous vehicles pressed into service was a German fire truck. Loaded with infantrymen, it proudly displayed a banner with the division’s intentions, Next Stop: Berlin.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
Photo from Public Domain.

These commandeered vehicles complemented the already-taxed vehicles the 83rd had. Pushing the limits of reason, tanks carried more than 30 troops on top while jeeps, with and without trailers, were carrying more than a dozen.

Men were packed on so tight that the assistant division commander quipped, “it looked like the men were sprayed on the tanks.”

But this motley crew of vehicles and men that made up the Rag-tag Circus wasn’t the only amazing thing about the 83rd Infantry Division’s drive across Germany.

The Rag-tag Circus had the Germans on the run and was moving at a blistering pace. Pockets of German resistance were quickly overcome and the division moved on.

Oftentimes, division headquarters would displace forward as much as five times per day. The grunts on the ground almost never stopped.

They moved so fast that the lead elements of regiments were often moving out of the other side of a town before the Germans had even had a chance to retreat.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson
Photo from Public Domain.

This led to some rather comical instances.

As the Rag-tag Circus sped east through yet another town, an erratic driver entered their column. The vehicle was just another German staff car like so many others in the convoy and since speed was the order of the day, it might not have otherwise drawn much attention. But the erratic driving and continual horn-honking alerted some of the GIs. PFC David Webster took a closer look as the car sped by his vehicle and noticed there was something different about this German car – it still had Germans in it. In fact, sitting in the rear was a Wehrmacht General who was oblivious to the fact that the column he was speeding through was actually American — not German. The GIs stepped on the gas and blocked the path of the Germans, leading to the capture of a German general by almost sheer luck.

In another instance, the Rag-tag Circus was simply travelling so fast that they overtook a column of German vehicles attempting to retreat to the east. This time, the 83rd bagged themselves a German Colonel to go with their prized General.

But those weren’t the only prisoners the 83rd took. In their fourteen day, 280-mile dash across Germany from the Rhine to the Elbe, they captured some 12,000 German POWs and 72 German towns. They also liberated over 75,000 Allied POWs from German camps and liberated a number of concentration camps as well.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

The Rag-tag Circus was also the first unit to cross the Elbe River on April 13, 1945, securing a bridgehead after engineers built a treadway bridge across the river.

Despite Berlin being less than 50 miles away and German resistance virtual nonexistent, the 83rd was told to hold their position.

Although they were known as the Rag-tag Circus during their courageous run up to the Elbe, the division sought a more appropriate name to commemorate the achievement. The men of the division settled on “Thunderbolt,” which became the official division nickname.

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

The Elbe would end up being the closest the Americans would get to Berlin before the war ended and on April 25, 1945, elements of the 65th Infantry Division linked up with Russians advancing from the east.

Despite its heroic and record-breaking efforts, the 83rd was denied a Presidential Unit Citation. After occupation duty in German, the 83rd returned to the United States in March 1946 and was inactivated the following month.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘The Attack of the Dead Men’ was a horrifying WWI infantry charge

Just in time for Halloween, the horrifying tale of a Russian infantry charge gone bad. Listen, everyone knows the Russian infantry historically gets the worst of every war, but World War I was especially horrific for the Russians fighting Germany. For the Russians defending Osowiec Fortress, it was especially horrible.

Welcome to the age of poison gas. You know something was intense if Sabaton has a song about it.


In true, stupid World War I fashion, the German high command ordered a full-frontal assault on Osowiec Fortress, using 14 battalions of infantry, along with sappers, siege guns, and artillery. The Russians had roughly 900 men defending the fortification, with less than half of that being conscripted militiamen. Instead of the usual artillery pounding, the Germans decided to use poison gas on the fort, opting to use chlorine gas on the Russians.

Well, it turns out the gas and the water in the air, along with the water in the lungs of the Russian defenders didn’t just choke the Russians; it turned the chlorine into hydrochloric acid and began to dissolve the Russians from the inside out. Russians tried to stem the gas using wet rags, but they had no chemical defenses, and the skin on their faces soon began to melt as well.

Instead of just taking the assault, the beleaguered Russians decided to counter attack.

The 100 or so men who formed up to charge the Germans ran into 12 battalions of enemy troops, but kept on running anyway. What the Germans saw coming through the mists was the difference-maker. A horde of face-melting zombies charged through the darkness and slammed into an army of 7,000. The Germans panicked and bolted at the sight of the undead Russians.

German troops turned and ran from the horrifying scene so fast, they ran into their own booby traps and barbed wire. The bold, outnumbered counter-charge was short-lived, however. The fortress would have to be abandoned as other fortifications surrounding Osowiec were starting to fall, and the Russians would soon be trapped. They demolished the fort and fell back.

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