You sing it, but do you really know what 'The Star-Spangled Banner' is about? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

The “Star-Spangled Banner” is American lyrics laid on top of a British song to make one glorious national anthem. It details the endurance of American troops against a British naval bombardment at the Battle of Fort McHenry in 1814.


But while Americans singing the song at baseball games know that the U.S. came out victorious, Francis Scott Key and other witnesses of the battle had little to be optimistic about. The British brought more ships to the fight than the Americans had cannons on the fort.

 

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?
Lots of ships versus one teeny fort. (Image: Public Domain)

 

In Sep. 1814, America was reeling from the sacking and burning of Washington D.C. The first lady, Dolly Madison, had made it out of the city with crucial documents and a portrait of George Washington, but the presidential mansion and much of the capital was destroyed. The victorious British military made its way up the coast, this time targeting the important port at Baltimore.

The British planned a two-pronged assault on the city. The army would march overland to attack the city on foot while the navy was to destroy Fort McHenry and follow the river to the city. There, it would bombard the city and assist in its capture.

The ground attack seemed doomed from the start. About 12,000 American troops, many more than the British had expected, were guarding the city. So the British troops sat back and waited as dozens of British ships, including five of Britain’s eight bomb ketches, moved forward to bombard the fort that only had 19 guns with which to defend itself.

Luckily for the Americans, shallow waters around the fort kept some of the ships away. Unluckily for them, 16 ships were able to get within range of the fort while staying outside the range of the American guns.

Starting early on Sep. 13, the British fired on McHenry with rocket ships and bomb ketches. Bomb ketches were ships with a mortar or howitzer built into the deck. The gun could not be turned, so the ships were pointed at the fort and kept in place with spring-loaded anchor lines. The “bombs bursting in air,” came from these devastating ships.

Meanwhile, ships firing Congreve rockets sailed into range as well. The rockets were made in a variety of sizes. The ones that lit the night at Fort McHenry were mostly 32-pound rockets that carried seven pounds of explosives. They could explode in the air but were designed to be incendiary weapons, setting fires within forts and enemy ships.

 

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?
Col. William Congreve, the inventor of Congreve rockets, created this lithograph to show how rocket ships worked in fleet action. (Image: Public Domain by British Col. William Congreve)

 

One moment was more dangerous than any other for the defenders; a bomb fired from one of the ketches landed in the fort’s gunpowder supply. It failed to go off and the troops were able to split the gunpowder into smaller stores around the tiny island.

At another point, British Rear Adm. George Cockburn thought the fort had been badly damaged and moved the ships closer for better accuracy. American artillerymen rushed through the incoming shells and began firing when the British came within range, driving them back.

The intense naval attack lasted for 25 hours.

Key watched the battle play out from a small American sloop behind the British force. He had been rowed into the harbor to negotiate the release of a friend held prisoner by the British. He and his friend were both allowed to leave the British prisoner ship as long as they did not return to shore until after the British bombardment.

The men weren’t allowed to row ashore because the British suspected they had heard the British plans to destroy the city. Key had and knew that a collapse of Fort McHenry spelled certain doom for Baltimore. Throughout the night, he watched the fort’s small storm flag wave through the wind and rain as rockets and bombs rained on the defenders below.

In the morning, he looked to the flagpole at first light to see if the fort had survived. If British colors were flying, Baltimore would be destroyed and America would lose a second major city in less than a month.

 

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?
Spoiler alert: The flag still flies over Fort McHenry. (Photo: Owen Byrne Halifax CC BY 2.0)

 

The flag had changed overnight, but not to the Union Jack. A storm that raged throughout the battle had forced the fort to fly its smaller American flag. Since the morning dawned clear, the garrison changed to its normal flag, a 42-foot by 30-foot beast.

Key saw the garrison flag filling the morning sky and wrote the lyrics to the future national anthem in a fit of inspiration. Contrary to popular belief, the amateur poet wrote them as lyrics from the start, not as a poem. He was familiar with the popular song, “To Anacreon In Heaven” and wrote the lyrics to match up with it.

Meanwhile, the British troops ashore saw the American flag flying and knew that the naval assault had failed. They withdrew and left Baltimore in relative safety.

The “Star-Spangled Banner” would be published in newspapers up and down the coast over the following few days under a variety of names, usually “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” One publication called it, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the name stuck.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time Colonel Sanders shot a man in a gunfight over a sign

The world of American small business was a very different place a hundred years ago. Business in America has always been a sort of fight to the death, but in the days before we were all connected by things like the internet, television and the rule of law, things could go south in a hurry.

That fact is especially true in the South, which has always moved at its own pace. Back in the 1920s, taking a guy to court to stop painting over your business’ sign wasn’t the easiest way to get things done. Shooting him wasn’t either, but that’s what happened to Harland Sanders. 

Kentucky Colonel Sanders in the 1970s, in character
Kentucky Colonel Harland Sanders in the 1970s, in character. (Dan Linsay, Wikipedia)

Everyone’s favorite chicken mascot used to be a real guy and yes, he did served in the U.S. military — only he wasn’t a colonel. He was an enlisted teamster who lied about his age to join at 16. After a year in Cuba, he returned home and was discharged. 

Like many veterans, he bounced around from job to job before finding his true calling: entrepreneur. He opened a Shell station in North Corbin, Kentucky. This is where he first started serving food to hungry travelers and locals. But he found competition in the oil business could be a little bit aggressive. 

A competing gas station owner named Matt Stewart ran the local Standard Oil station in North Corbin. As a business tactic, he would paint over Sanders’ Shell Oil sign that told motorists where to find the station. He repeatedly warned Stewart to stop, until one day Sanders caught his competition in the act. 

Maybe you’ve heard about the hot tempers of old time Southerners. Harland Sanders was no different. He threatened to shoot Corbin for painting over the sign, which is a nicer way to say what Sanders actually said, which was that he would “blow [his] g-d head off.” 

But when Sanders approached Stewart that day accompanied by two Shell Oil managers, it was Stewart who opened fire on Sanders. Stewart killed one of the managers, while Sanders retrieved the dead man’s gun. Sanders and the remaining manager returned fire, wounding Stewart. 

When the dust settled, Stewart would survive getting shot by Sanders, but he was on his way to prison for murder. Sanders, acting in self-defense, was not charged. With his competition eliminated, Sanders’ business thrived. He was able to pursue his true passion, the one that would soon involve 11 herbs and spices. 

He became a Kentucky Colonel by Gov. Ruby Laffoon in 1935 for founding the restaurant next to his gas station. His colonelship was later reaffirmed in 1949. In the 1950s, he was able to found and grow Kentucky Fried Chicken, his claim to fame. The days of shootouts with the competition long behind him.

Articles

This shocking video illustrates the huge number of WWII fatalities

A new data-driven video produced by Neil Halloran illustrates the massive number of fatalities of Second World War like never before.


The video, which was released on Memorial Day, “uses cinematic data visualization techniques to explore the human cost of the second World War, and it sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including recent conflicts,” according to a press release. “Although it paints a harrowing picture of the war, the documentary highlights encouraging trends in post-war battle statistics.”

The video features a number of eye-opening insights, such as the relatively small number of German losses during the initial invasions, or the huge numbers lost — both civilian and military — by the Soviet Union during the war. At one point, the chart showing Soviet deaths continues to grow higher, leaving the viewer to wonder when it will ever stop.

“As the Soviet losses climbed, I thought my browser had frozen. Surely the top of the column must have been reached by now, I thought,” a commenter wrote on Halloran’s fallen.io website.

From Fallen.io:

The Fallen of World War II is an interactive documentary that examines the human cost of the second World War and the decline in battle deaths in the years since the war. The 15-minute data visualization uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history.

The film follows a linear narration, but it allows viewers to pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.

Now watch:

The Fallen of World War II from Neil Halloran on Vimeo.
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Boston Tea Party and the ungrateful colonists who started it all

On December 16, 1773 a bunch of rebel colonists from Massachusetts got sassy and decided to defy their one true king. While disguised as Indians, they dumped 342 chests of perfectly good tea into Boston Harbor – setting off a chain of events they’ll never come back from. 

Ungrateful, that’s what they were. How dare they throw a tantrum over another tax imposed by King George of Britain and the North Ministry. Didn’t they know that the temporary tax was for a good reason? Without it, the East India Company would have gone under and the British would lose money. The seven year French and Indian War depleted the treasury of Britain, the colonists needed to do their part and shore it up! Maybe the British screwed up by initially trying to hide the tax and collect it later on, but it’s only because they didn’t want to trouble colonists with the headache of knowing what it was really for. It was for their own good after all. But all those colonists cared about were their merchants who were illegally smuggling in Dutch tea to make a living and their so called “rights” for representation when taxed.

Selfish!

So, under the cover of painted faces and Indian garb, men snuck onto the ships that had pulled in and dumped all the tea into the harbor under protest against the British. Even Benjamin Franklin said it was wrong and that the East India Company should be paid back for the destruction of tea. After catching wind of the colonists despicable behavior, the rightfully angry Parliament enacted The Intolerable Acts law. For some reason, this made these heathens even more angry. Rules are for everyone’s good!

They didn’t need to be able to govern themselves anyway and what was so bad about having the British military keeping everyone safe in town? Britain was doing them a favor! Maybe the troops had to be housed inside the homes of colonists and empty buildings, but wasn’t it a small price to pay for safety and security? Well, apparently they didn’t think so because they got all of the colonies to rise up in indignation against Britain. 

What followed would be events that would live on in infamy. 

colonist

How dare these colonists thing they could “declare” independence. Who would have thought of such a thing? Certain people should have a place, especially the colonists, who were basically the step-children of the British. Equality disrupts too much, rules and rankings were put in place for a very good reason: order and decorum, staples of the British. Instead of remaining appreciative of this gift to be able to call oneself British, the colonists rebelled and fought. The American Revolutionary War would lead to the formation of a united country that fought for “liberties” and “freedom” for everyone. Sure those colonists eventually may have also won the war against the world’s leading power against all odds, but whatever. And okay, maybe the United States of America now has the world’s oldest written constitution that has been duplicated by numerous free countries since, but so what. 

Now they are stuck with a country that continues to extend equality for all people, evolving and modernizing with the changing times. This new country even apologizes for mistakes and changes its mind on issues by amending rules and law. Blasphemous. I hope the ancestors of those ungrateful tea throwing colonists are happy being American. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This unlucky general was forced to surrender to Washington and Napoleon

British Gen. Charles O’Hara was, by most reports, a dedicated and brave officer. He began his military career at the age of 12 as an ensign and then fought in the Seven Years War, attacked through a raging river while under fire in the Revolutionary War, and continued leading his men forward after being struck in both the chest and thigh during a battle with Nathaniel Greene.


You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

British Gen. Charles O’Hara had a distinguished career punctuated by multiple surrenders and some time in jail.

Which made things sort of awkward when it came time for him to surrender British forces to groups of ragtag revolutionaries.

Twice.

While the surrender at Yorktown is generally referred to as Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrendering to Gen. George Washington, Cornwallis actually claimed illness, preventing him from conducting the surrender personally. Instead, he sent O’Hara, a brigadier general at this point, in his stead.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

It’s titled ‘The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown,’ but then-Brig. Gen. Charles O’Hara actually conducted this surrender.

O’Hara initially tried to surrender to a French general who promptly pointed out that he wasn’t in command. O’Hara would have to give his sword to that guy over there, Gen. George Washington, a farmer and colonial who had been deemed too country for a British officer commission.

So, O’Hara presented Cornwallis’s sword to Washington. Accounts differ at this point as to exactly what happened.

In most accounts, Washington did not even let O’Hara reach him, directing the man instead to present the sword to Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, who had been forced to surrender in May, 1780, in Charleston.

Whatever the case, O’Hara got out of it alright. He was promoted to major general as he began his trip back to Britain, so it appeared that he wasn’t blamed for the failure in the colonies and his reputation as a rising star remained intact. As a major general, he was later named military governor of Gibraltar.

But then he got promoted to lieutenant general and was appointed military governor of Toulon — and that was a huge problem.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

The British and Spanish arrival at Toulon was nearly unopposed, but still a little chaotic.

See, Toulon was an important French city, housing nearly half of the French fleet, but the French Republic wasn’t super popular there. Many of the (rich) people who lived there wanted a return to royal rule, and so they allowed an Anglo-Spanish fleet to take the city nearly unopposed and everyone’s old friend, O’Hara, was soon named the governor.

The French Republic, unsurprisingly, wanted neither a return of the monarchy nor to give up such an most important city and port.

O’Hara still could have come out of this well. He was a brave warrior with plenty of troops, artillery, and a massive fleet at his back. He held the city. He was a hero once again. He could’ve been on easy street for the rest of his career. General. Governor. Pimp.

But there was one problem across the trenches from him: a young artillery officer named Napoleon.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

Napoleon was young, relatively inexperienced, but still skilled as all hell.

Napoleon was not yet famous, but this battle would lay the major groundwork. The French siege at Toulon initially floundered, despite Napoleon offering very sound artillery advice and strategies. Two commanders were relieved before a third arrived, heard a couple ideas from Napoleon, and said, “well, get on with your bad self, then.”

Napoleon took command of additional forces and gave the suggestions that would form the major plans. The battle started to shift with the French taking many of the outlying forts and redoubts.

O’Hara, always bold, saw too many French guns in redoubts around his city and decided to personally lead an attack against them.

On Nov. 28, 1793, he and 3,000 men marched out of the city under the cover of artillery fire at 4 a.m. and were able to surprise the French positions at Hauteur des Arenes near Toulon. The French Republicans retreated quickly and messily. O’Hara, instead of focusing on spiking the guns, reducing the position, and returning to the city, decided to give chase.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

But Napoleon was always watching… waiting…

O’Hara was fighting his way toward the French division commander when Napoleon and a few other officers charged into his flank with hundreds of men. O’Hara’s force broke and began a hasty retreat back to the city, struggling to stay ahead of Napoleon.

Unfortunately for O’Hara, always one to lead from the front, he had no chance of getting back around the French and was forced to surrender. He was taken prisoner and sent to Paris for confinement.

The British general spent two years in a French prison before returning to England. He would survive seven more years, long enough to see Washington serve as America’s first president and Napoleon become the First Consul of the French Consulate.

Probably sour grapes for the general who fought ably against both of them, but not quite well enough to defeat either.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Air Force General remembers being shot down and rescued

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein has a direct answer when asked what echoes to this day, what continues to influence his thinking and actions even now, 20 years after he found himself on the ground in hostile surroundings, his F-16 Fighting Falcon in the distance smoldering and destroyed.

“Where it echoes most for me is trying to lead with character,” Goldfein said May 7, 2019. “When I talk to young commanders I tell them, ‘As an officer, we never know when some young airman will risk everything to save our lives, to pull us out of bad-guy land, to pull us out of a burning vehicle. They risk everything they hold dear and their families hold dear to save us.’


“And the question at that moment is, am I worthy of their risk?”

For Goldfein, of course, the question and his answer are both meaningful and literal. It is especially potent this month, which marks the 20th anniversary of his shoot-down and rescue during a mission over Serbia.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

The facts of that incident are well known. Goldfein was a squadron commander for the May 2, 1999 mission to find and destroy anti-aircraft batteries. The mission was part of Operation Allied Force, which was NATO’s response to Serbian attacks on Kosovar Albanians that had risen to an ethnic cleansing. The 78-day air campaign ultimately convinced Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to capitulate.

Getting to that point, however, was difficult and dangerous. Air power made the difference.

While officially a NATO campaign with many participants and facets, the U.S. Air Force played a prominent role, flying 30,018 sorties and striking 421 fixed targets.

It was a defining moment for the Air Force in several ways. It validated the air expeditionary force concept; it was the first time a B-2 stealth bomber was used in combat and the first significant use of what today are referred to as drone aircraft.

And for Goldfein, it was a life-shaping event that forced him to eject into a moonlit night, test his training and forge a unique command outlook.

It triggered a tight bond with pararescuemen Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hardy, Senior Airman Ron Ellis and Staff Sgt. Andy Kubik, a combat controller. All three bolted from a MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and ran toward Goldfein as he emerged from a row of trees and brought him home safely, eluding vigorous gunfire on the way out.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

A MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.

For Goldfein, the memory and the lessons from that night endure.

He remembers how the training he received 20 years before that night on the proper way to safely eject, parachute to earth and evade capture, returned clearly and instantly when needed.

“What I found that was amazing in looking back was how little I had to recall,” he said, reciting the stern admonitions of his instructors for a successful “parachute landing fall” – “knees together, don’t look down, roll like a football!”

There also was something more profound that only someone who’s been shot down and rescued can fully understand.

“I wear these stars every day for somebody else,” Goldfein said. “I wear them for some young airmen who risked everything and did a great job that night. So every day you get to serve is a day to pay it forward.”

It also forces him to return to the question, am I worth it?

“The answer is, God, I hope so,” he said.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 questions of unconventional warfare according to a top officer

Unconventional warfare is necessarily a messy business. It entails finding the enemies of our enemies and convincing them to fight our mutual foes, even if we’re not necessarily friends. It reduces America’s risk in blood, but it also means our national security rests on the shoulders of foreign fighters. In the confusing situations this creates, one top officer in the Afghanistan invasion had three simple questions to cut through the chaos.


You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

U.S. special operators pose with Hamid Karzai during the invasion of Afghanistan. Karzai would go on to be president of Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army)

During the invasion, then-Lt. Col. Mark Rosengard was in command of Task Force Dagger, and he had to greatly expand the unconventional warfare program in the country. So he couldn’t spend days or weeks of time and reams of paper figuring out whether he would trust one potential guerrilla leader or another.

So, according to reporter Sean Naylor in his book Not a Good Day to Die, Rosengard just asked three questions.

First, “Do we have a common goal today, recognizing tomorrow may be different?” Basically, do the militiamen or guerillas want the same outcome as the American forces? Including, do they want to see the same people die?

Next, “Do you have a secure backyard?” Simply, do the local forces have somewhere safe-ish to train? If the forces have to constantly quit training in order to fight off attacks, then they won’t be able to actually train. But if there’s any sort of safe compound in which to get to work, then it’s time to ask the third question.

“Are you willing to kill people?”

Yeah, that’s not a very complicated one.

Taken together, these three questions would let Rosengard know whether he could get to work with a new commander. Of course, there were additional concerns that he had to keep track of.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

Afghan forces in a discussion with a senior weapons sergeant of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.

(U.S. Army)

For instance, on the first question, you would need to keep track of whether the militias might really turn on you tomorrow. It’s a bad idea to spend too much time training foreign fighters who only have a few days or weeks of loyalty to America left.

But, overall, these three questions match up with American choices in other wars.

Gen. John “BlackJack” Pershing made alliances with Moro tribesmen in the Philippines and hired them as law enforcement officers even though he knew their long-term goals would be different. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt allied America with Russia to destroy Germany, adding the Soviet Union to the Lend-Lease Act of 1941 despite it being clear that the U.S. and Soviet Union would eventually be at loggerheads.

Rosengard’s gambles in Afghanistan largely worked out for the invasion, and U.S. special operators and unconventional forces took large sections of the country in the Winter of 2001, a period in which they had planned to take just a small foothold in the north. The operators and their guerrilla allies also were able to bring Hamid Karzai back to the country to take power, helping cement American control of the country.

But, of course, the issues with Afghan forces in the invasion were quickly felt. Pashtun tribesmen were extremely helpful in taking the country from the Taliban, but their half-hearted attacks at Tora Bora are thought to have been a major contributor to Osama Bin Laden’s escape from that mountain stronghold into Pakistan where he would successfully hide until his death in 2011.

Articles

This is how the 1/9 Marines became ‘The Walking Dead’

In the annals of Marine Corps history there are many famous units and numerous famous men. There are tales of valor and loss.


But one unit truly exemplifies these traditions through its actions and its enduring nickname: the Walking Dead.

Through nearly four years of combat in Vietnam, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines earned its place in Marine Corps history.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?
Lance Cpl. Spencer Cohen, rifleman with 1st platoon, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, traverses a path for his team through rocky terrain during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa, March 29. (Photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda)

The 1st Battalion first arrived in Vietnam in June 1965 as part of the troop increase and escalation that year as U.S. forces took over most combat operations from the South Vietnamese. By August they were involved in offensive combat operations as part of Operation Blastout — a search and clear mission.

More missions continued throughout 1965 and into 1966. In their first year in Vietnam the Marines of 1/9 would conduct hundreds of company-sized or larger missions. The Marines of the 1st battalion, as part of a greater effort by the 9th Marine Regiment, also developed the SPARROW HAWK concept. This was essentially a heliborne quick reaction force that could be called in to help win a fight in which Marines on patrol had found themselves. The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines then rotated out of Vietnam for a few brief months beginning in October 1966.

When the unit returned in December 1966 the operations tempo greatly increased. The 1st battalion Marines started 1967 with the anti-climactic Operation Deckhouse V. From there operations picked up in the 9th Marines tactical area of responsibility. This area just south of the Demilitarized Zone became known as “Leatherneck Square” for the high number of Marine casualties. The Marines there swore the wind, rather than blowing, made a sucking sound. It was in this area that the 1st Battalion 9th Marines became the legendary Walking Dead.

The battalion participated in three phases of Operation Prairie within Leatherneck Square. Casualties were heavy as the Marines conducted search-and-destroy missions. In less than a month through mid-1967, Marine casualties during Prairie IV were 167 killed, and over 1,200 wounded.

In July, 1/9 participated in Operation Buffalo, a clearing mission up Highway 561. On the first day of the operation, July 2, the Marines of A and B companies encountered strong NVA resistance. The fighting was bitter. The NVA used flamethrowers to burn the vegetation and force the Marines into the open. An NVA artillery round wiped out the entire company headquarters for B company.

Soon the commander of 1/9 sent in C and D companies to relieve the battered Marines. With significant support they were finally able to force the NVA to break contact. The battalion suffered 84 Marines killed and 190 wounded. The next day only 27 Marines from B company and 90 from A company were fit for duty.

A combination of the remnants of Companies A and C several days later was able to get some payback on the NVA, inflicting 154 enemy killed. By the middle of July Operation Buffalo came to an end. Almost immediately the men of the 9th Marines were back in action as part of Operation Kingfisher in the Western portion of Leatherneck Square. This operation drug on until the end of October 1967. The sporadic but intense combat saw another 340 Marines killed and over 1,400 wounded in Leatherneck Square.

January 1968 found the battalion reinforcing the infamous Khe Sanh Combat Base just south of the Demilitarized Zone and west of Leatherneck Square. The Marines at Khe Sanh not only held the base but also fought in the hills surrounding it. Just over a week before the Tet Offensive began on January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese began laying siege to Khe Sanh. Some 6,000 Marines, including 1/9, would endure daily shelling and close-combat for 77 days before being relieved. In all, 205 Americans were killed and over 1,600 wounded defending Khe Sanh. A further 200 Marines died in the bloody fighting in the hills surrounding Khe Sanh.

The lifting of the siege was hardly the end for the Walking Dead though. Immediately upon relief of duty from the defense of Khe Sanh they began Operation Scotland II to clear the area nearby. Following the conclusion of Scotland II, the Marines of 1/9 returned to the Con Thien area and took part in Operation Kentucky. This action would last until near the end of 1968.

In early 1969, the 1st battalion, as part of the larger 9th Marine Regiment, launched Operation Dewey Canyon, the last major Marine Corps operation in Vietnam. During this time the Marines swept through the NVA controlled A Shau valley and other areas near the DMZ. In a heroic action on February 22, 1968, then-Lt. Wesley Fox earned the Medal of Honor. The Marines suffered over 1,000 casualties during the operation. The entire regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their extraordinary heroism during Operation Dewey Canyon.

The Walking Dead — along with the rest of the 9th Marines — redeployed from Vietnam in the summer of 1969 to Okinawa.

The name “the Walking Dead” was originally used by Ho Chi Minh talking about the Marines in the A Shau valley. Later, after the 1st Battalion suffered extraordinarily high casualty rates, they used the term to describe themselves. Of a standard battalion strength of 800 Marines, the battalion had 747 killed in action with many times that number wounded. They also were in sustained combat operations for just short of four years. Both of these are Marine Corps records.

The unit was disbanded in mid-2000, reactivated for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, then was disbanded again in 2015.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was Israel’s plan to go to war with Iran in 2011

For Israel, a simple threat was all the provocation necessary to prepare for war — even if that meant a first strike. After all, Israel did it to great success in the 1967 Six-Day War with Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon.

Times were a lot more tense at this point for Iranian-Israeli relations (if you can picture that). The President of Iran, at the time, was the fiercely anti-Israel Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who infamously associated with the idea of Israel “being wiped off the map” and later described the Holocaust as a “myth.”

Israel doesn’t take kindly to this kind of talk.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?
Also, Ahmadinejad has the world’s most punchable face.

According to old Israeli spymaster Tamir Pardo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israel Defence Forces to be ready to launch an attack on Iran with as little as 15 days’ notice. Pardo knew there were only two reasons to give such an order: to actually attack or to make someone take notice that your forces are mobilizing.

“So, if the prime minister tells you to start the countdown, you understand he’s not playing games,” Pardo told Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan.


The attack would have featured a large air force component, as evidenced by the fact that IDF fighter bombers engaged in a massive air exercise shortly after the anticipated order failed to come in. The Israelis would also have used its Jericho missile systems, a “bunker buster” that can be fired from Israel and hit targets throughout the Islamic Republic.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?
(IDF)

In the end, the Israelis didn’t go through with the attack because Mossad wasn’t 100 percent certain the attack would be legal – or that Netanyahu had the authority to take Israel to war without the approval of Israel’s security cabinet. This wasn’t the first time Netanyahu tried to take Israel on the offensive against Iran under his tenure. The previous head of Mossad and IDF Chief of Staff were also given the same order by Netanyahu.

They also pushed back against pressure from the Prime Minister, convinced he was trying to ignore Israeli law.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the only living African-American from WW2 to earn MoH

After enlisting in the Army in June of 1941, Vernon Baker was assigned to the 270th Regiment of the 92nd Infantry Division — the first black unit to head into combat during WWII.


After completing Officer Candidate School, Baker was commissioned to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Soon after, he landed in Naples, Italy, and had to fight his way north through the enemies’ front to the central portion of the country.

His unit was then ordered to attack a German stronghold in the mountains of Viareggio. Several allied battalions before them were unsuccessful in taking the enemy region, but Baker was up to the task.

The mountain-top consisted of three hills, “X, Y, and Z.” Baker and his troops began taking the heavily fortified area one hill at a time.

Facing fierce opposition, Baker often came in close enemy contact and managed to survive each deadly encounter as it presented itself.

“Somebody was sitting on my shoulder,” Baker says.

Full of adrenaline from taking the first hill, Baker was handed a submachine gun from a superior officer and instructed to proceed on to the next area.

Patroling nearly on his own, Baker spotted a small German firing position built into the side of the mountain. Armed with a few grenades, he chucked one and landed a perfect strike.

After it detonated and the smoke cleared, a German soldier stuck his head to look around. Baker quickly engaged the troop, killing him on the spot.

Also Read: The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

Baker continued to maneuver his way around the mountain and spotted two more firing position — tossing grenades inside each one — killing the enemy troops inside.

After learning the company commander was egressing for resupply, Baker knew he was on his own to lead his remaining troops. Carefully moving through the dangerous terrain, Baker and his men managed to secure the area after several intense firefights.

The next morning, Baker and his men moved through the dangerous terrain and secured the area after several hours of allied bombardment.

52-year later, Baker was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and courage from former President Bill Clinton.

1st Lt. Vernon Baker became the only living African-American serviceman from WWII to receive the Medal of Honor.

Check out Medal of Honor Book’s video below to listen to Vernon extraordinary story from the legend himself.

(Medal of Honor Book, YouTube)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

In 1964, country music star Johnny Cash released an unconventional album. It was called Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian, and it was a radical departure from Cash’s previous release five months prior, “I Walk the Line.” The album was a concept album and was entirely dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of Native Americans.


The lead single of the album was called “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.” Most Americans at the point had either forgotten who he was or had no idea who he was to begin with. But everyone in the United States and most people around the world had definitely seen his picture. He was in one of the most famous photographs in world history.

Ira Hayes
Ira Hayes
Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

Ira Hayes was one of six Marines that were photographed by Joe Rosenthal on the summit of Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. He was part of a group that was ordered to take down the first flag raised and replace it with a bigger flag so that it would be seen better. As the flag went up, Rosenthal took a couple of snaps (he almost missed the flag raising looking for rocks to use as a stand) and had the pictures flown out to Guam. When the film was developed, the photo editor of the AP claimed it was “one for all ages” and had it sent to New York. It was immediately sent around the world 17 hours after it was taken. It won the Pulitzer Prize that year and became one of the most iconic photographs ever taken. And it was about to push into the limelight a young man who had always tried to avoid it.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

www.history.navy.mil

Gather ’round me people
There’s a story I would tell
‘Bout a brave young Indian
You should remember well
From the land of the Pima Indian
A proud and noble band
Who farmed the Phoenix Valley
In Arizona land
Down the ditches a thousand years
The waters grew Ira’s peoples’ crops
‘Til the white man stole their water rights
And the sparkling water stopped
Now, Ira’s folks were hungry
And their land grew crops of weeds
When war came, Ira volunteered
And forgot the white man’s greed

Ira Hayes was born on the Gila River Indian Community, a reservation in Arizona. He was the son of a World War I vet and was the eldest of six children, of which two died in infancy, and two died in their 20s. Life on the reservation was hard. His father was a farmer but farmed on land that was almost unsuitable for farming big crops. He was only able to grow enough to sustain the family. Hayes was a Pima Indian, who were traditionally famers. However, the U.S. government moved the Pima to an area around the Gila River where the land was not too agreeable with an agricultural lifestyle. An effort to build a dam that would send water to the community instead flowed toward a nearby white community, which led many Pima to think the government was trying to kill them off. Hayes grew up as one of the few kids that could speak English and learned to read and write. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he was one of the millions of kids that went to join the military.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war
There they battled up Iwo Jima hill
Two hundred and fifty men
But only twenty-seven lived
To walk back down again
And when the fight was over
And Old Glory raised
Among the men who held it high
Was the Indian, Ira Hayes

Hayes graduated from boot camp in San Diego and was designated a Paramarine (this was a shortlived MOS that was essentially an airborne Marine). He earned his wings and went off to fight in Bouganville in the South Pacific. He then was assigned to 5th Marine Division and started training for the upcoming invasion of Iwo Jima.

Hayes landed with his unit at the base of Mt Suribachi 75 years ago. On February 23, the was to accompany his Sergeant, Mike Strank up Mt Suribachi to replace the smaller American flag that had just been raised with a bigger one. One of the Marines that joined him was his friend, Harlan Block. After they raised the flag, they continued on to fight for another five weeks. The battle was much more ferocious than expected with the Japanese fighting to the last man while trying to inflict as many casualites. The Marines fought bravely but endured a terrible toll in taking the island. Hayes himself watched his friend, Block die as well as Sergeant Strank.

At the end of the battle, Hayes emerged physically unscathed, but the mental and emotional toll was heavy. In his platoon of 45 men, only 5 were left when the battle was over.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore

Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war
Ira Hayes returned a hero
Celebrated through the land
He was wined and speeched and honored
Everybody shook his hand
But he was just a Pima Indian
No water, no home, no chance
At home nobody cared what Ira’d done
And when did the Indians dance
You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

Within two weeks of leaving Iwo, Hayes and the two other living flag raisers, Rene Gagnon and James Bradley were put on a plane and flown to Washington, D.C. Before he died, Franklin Roosevelt wanted them to be paraded around the country to raise money for war bonds. The war in Japan still needed to be won, and the loss of American life so far had not sat well with the public that wanted their boys home. Roosevelt and his successor Harry Truman knew the flag raisers would be instrumental in raising money for the war. Raising the Iwo Jima flag over the U.S. Capitol, they then went to New York and around the country. For Hayes, there were a few things bothering him. First, he knew that his friend Harlan Block was one of the flag raisers and somehow was misidentified as someone else. He told officers at Headquarters Marine Corps what happened, and they told him the names were released, and it was too late. He was ordered to keep quiet. The second was he was suffering from what we now know as survivors guilt and PTSD. He just wanted to head back to his unit and be with his friends. He was able to leave the tour early and headed back and was part of the occupation force of Japan.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war
Then Ira started drinking hard
Jail was often his home
They let him raise the flag and lower it
Like you’d throw a dog a bone
He died drunk early one morning
Alone in the land he fought to save
Two inches of water and a lonely ditch
Was a grave for Ira Hayes

After the war, Ira Hayes had a few years as a minor celebrity. People would stop by the reservation to say hi, he recreated his role in a John Wayne movie, and attended ceremonies honoring his role in the flag raising. He tried to make things right and hitchhiked 1,300 miles to see the family of Harlan Block. He told them their son was one of the flag raisers and wrote a letter they could present in which he gave details on how to prove it (the boots Block and Hayes wore were Paratrooper boots and different than the other Marines). But the guilt and trauma that Hayes endured were too much. He also dealt with the racism Native Americans faced when he traveled. Once he went to visit a war buddy and wasn’t allowed on the property because he was Indian. He had to wait on the road until his friend arrived home. He couldn’t hold a job and became an alcoholic. When he was back in Arizona, things got worse. Farming was impossible, there were few resources, and there was nothing to do but drink. He was arrested over 50 times for public intoxication. When asked about his drinking he said, “I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they’re not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me.”

Hayes died on Jan. 24, 1955. He was found next to an abandoned hut on the reservation, dead of exposure and alcohol poisoning. He was later buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

live.staticflickr.com

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war
Yeah, call him drunken Ira Hayes
But his land is just as dry
And his ghost is lying thirsty
In the ditch where Ira died
A decade later, Johnny Cash decided he would create an album about how Native Americans were treated in the USA. Cash at the time, believed he was part Cherokee and took up a cause that few cared or even knew about. For his Bitter Tears album, he used several songs from his friend, songwriter and Korean veteran Peter LaFarge. One of the songs was a song, LaFarge had written about Hayes.

In the lead up to its release the album proved controversial. Radio stations and fans balked at the political nature of the song, and stations refused to play it. Cash was so angered he took out a full-page ad in Billboard magazine in which he called out those who were boycotting the song and album seen here.

The song would end up being a hit, rising up to #3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles.

For Ira Hayes, his heroism and tragic life would be immortalized forever not, just by a photograph but also a song.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 games World War I soldiers played in the trenches

100 years ago, our great-great grandfathers were in the trenches of France, and fighters on both sides of the war had to while away their time when they weren’t actively working or fighting. And it takes a lot to keep your morale up and your terror down when your work hours are filled with enemy mortars, artillery, and machine guns.

Here are six games and other activities they turned to:


(Note that this article uses information from the letters of British soldiers written in 1915. Unless there’s another link cited, the letters are pulled from this digital file from the British National Archives.)

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

A large crowd of World War One soldiers watching two boxers sparring in a ring during the boxing championships at the New Zealand Divisional Sports at Authie, France, in July 1918.

(Henry Armytage Sanders)

Boxing

Unsurprisingly, some of the top activities were a little violent, and boxing was a top activity. These could be tournaments where one company or platoon fought another, but they were also often just quick, relatively impromptu matchups. Soldiers talked about the fights in letters, and it seems that the more violent the fight was, the better. One British soldier wrote:

“We are having a good time here in the way of concerts, sports, boxing tournaments etc. The latter was great especially the bout between a Farrier Sergeant and a cook’s mate. They biffed at one another until neither could stand, it was awfully funny.”
You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

The “Christmas Truce” took place around Christmas, 1914, and included some sports events, like football matches.

(Illustration by A. C. Michael of the Christmas Truce created for “The Illustrated London News”)

Football (American and European)

Football was also popular, but was obviously a team-based event that lent itself well to one unit playing against another. American and European football were both played in the trenches, though it’s obvious that European football would be more popular everywhere but the American Expeditionary Force.

The famous Christmas Truce soccer game was part of this tradition, but games were commonly played between allies rather than adversaries. One soldier wrote in a 1915 letter that his unit played against a rival battery in an old cabbage patch. The patch made a bad football pitch, but the letter-writer won, so he wasn’t sore about it.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

World War I Gurkhas wrestle on the regimental transport mules.

(H. D. Girdwood, British Library)

Wrestling (sometimes on mules)

Wrestling, like boxing, was popular for the same reasons, but there is a special, odd caveat that wrestling matches were sometimes held on mules. Yeah, like the animals. This activity was featured during a special sports day in October, 1917, but it didn’t include details of the sport.

Likely, it consisted of two riders wrestling until one knocked the other off the gallant steed, but I like to imagine that the mules were combatants as well, because cartoons don’t become real as often as I would like.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

Scottish troops and other onlookers watch troops taking part in an organized sports day.

(British photo from the National Library of Scotland)

Wheelbarrow racing, pillow fights, and other improvised events

Other events on that sports day included pillow fights and “wheelbarrow” races. The events were organized to improve morale, but anyone who has spent time with troops in the field knows that games like these are common any time infantrymen get bored.

These games could include pretty much anything the soldiers could think of. The easier it is to play the game without specific gear, the better.

Plays and other performances

But when troops needed to entertain themselves in an organized way, they had more choices than just sports and fighting one another. Sometimes, this resulted in soldiers holding their own plays and concerts, but they could also enjoy performances by professionals when they came around.

Another British letter written in 1915 but digitized in 2014 was penned by a soldier who gave a short, blow-by-blow of the barracks activities. While he was writing, one soldier did a performance where he acted like a dancing monkey with a small cup for change and another soldier started playing the accordion.

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

A 1929 edition of “Mensch Aergere Dich Nicht,” a game that led to the American game of “Sorry.” The German became popular in Central Powers trenches in World War I.

(Vitavia, CC BY-SA 4.0)

“Don’t Get Annoyed With Me” and other board games

Troops on both sides of the trenches used board games to pass the time because, obviously, video games weren’t a thing yet. Plenty of games were popular in the war. Checkers could be played with bits of metal or buttons on a hand-drawn board, or a travel game of Chess could be popular. And no war has been fought without playing cards since someone figured out how to paint faces on bits of paper.

But German troops could enjoy a game that had been invented just in time for the war, “Mensch Aergere Dich Nicht,” which translates to “Don’t Get Annoyed With Me.” Players moved game pieces around a board and tried to get them “Home,” but the opposing player could knock a piece off just before it reached safety and thereby piss off the other player.

If it sounds familiar, that’s because the game “Sorry” is a close descendant.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: When airfield turns museum

World War II was a scary time in the United States. At any moment, the country could face attack by our enemies, so every branch of the military was on guard. An especially vulnerable area was Florida because it’s so coastal. So the government decided to open several airfields. Their specific purpose was twofold. First, these airfields defended the country against submarines along the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Their other function was to train pilots and aircrews. But what happened to them after the war? This post explores when airfields turn into museums.

Little Old Zephyrhills Makes Its Mark

One of these airfields was in the small town of Zephyrhills, Florida. In the early 1940s, the Army used Zephyrhills Army Airfield to provide advanced fighter pilot training before deploying to Europe. Pilots received training to fly P-51 Mustangs. The installation reached full operation by 1943. You might be thinking, “That seems like it was a little late in the war,” but it wasn’t too late to make a difference.

Zephyrhills was home to 500 men from the Army Air Corps 10th Fighter Squadron, also known as the Peashooters. The 10th Fighter Squadron trained in there between January 1943 and March 1944. Zephyrhills Army Airfield provided actual combat conditions, even going as far as using barracks and tents, to mimic what pilots and Soldiers would experience on the battlefield.

Thirteen months later, the pilots and aircrew were ready. And those combat conditions paid off as they landed at Normandy for the D-Day Invasion in June 1944.

When Airfield Turns Museum

When the war ended, the government donated the airfield to the city. There’s not a lot left now except for what the locals call the WWII Barracks. But the building is actually the old infirmary from when the post was active. After the city restored the building, they made good use of its history by turning it into Zephyrhills Museum of Military History.

The museum houses a plentiful collection of artifacts from World War II, including uniforms from the 10th Fighter Squadron. One of its standout displays is a photo of the 10th Fighter Squadron photo taken in 1945. And next to it is a photo of all who remained from the Squadron in 1996. How cool. Then, just outside the WWII Barracks is a WWII fighter plane, a C47 Sky Trooper from 1942. Zephyrhills might be small but it’s definitely mighty.

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