In 168 BCE, the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes IV set to quash Judaism among his subjects. Matthias the Kohein and his five sons fled to the hills and assembled a rag tag group of revolutionaries known as the Maccabees. The Maccabees fought the seemingly endless mercenary army until they reached Jerusalem and reclaimed the Temple Mount.
Three years to the day of Antiochus’ rampage against the Jews, the Maccabees held the dedication. The Festival of Lights as we know it came from this celebration and when the tiny jar of oil managed to keep the menorah lit for eight days.
As a fun thought experiment, and because I love AlternateHistoryHub, lets re-imagine and contextualize the Maccabean Revolt with today’s weaponry, training, and armies. To keep the completely fictional and arbitrary scenario fair, Matthias the Kohein and his sons are the Shayetet 13 – the Israeli equivalent to the Navy SEALs. They serve as both instructors and fighters for the rest of the revolt: made up of IDF personnel — because being a “normal” civilian isn’t exactly a thing in modern Israel.
The modern equivalent of the Seleucid Empire is a bit of a gray area. They hired many Syrian mercenaries, but they weren’t exactly modern Syria. Though it spanned across Turkey to India, its culture, customs, and religions were Hellenic. Since Greece and Israel are allies in real life, this seems to help avoid any pitfalls.
As anyone who is aware of Israeli war history knows, Israel has a strong and constantly-tested military. While it has a 176,500 strong standing military, the number of fit military service troops is around 3,00,000. Their current defense budget if $18.6 billion annually and their Merkava main battle tanks are one of the most devastating in the world. All of that on top of a nuclear-triad option.
As for the Hellenic Armed Forces, their peacetime strength is around 113,500 troops with a total 4,000,000 fit for service troops. Their current defense spending budget is around $9.3 billion and they are the largest importer of conventional weapons in Europe and they have the highest G.D.P percentage towards military spending in the EU.
Just by pure numbers alone, Israel would take the fight. That’s not even including the home-field advantage of an insurgency. Even if the Greeks were to hire entire mercenary companies to fight for them, an average mercenary company only has roughly 10k personnel and would eat most of their already dwarfed budget. In $366 billion dollar industry, the modern equivalent Seleucid Empire would just not have the funds to match the Maccabean Forces.
Just as they did over two thousand years ago, the Maccabees would reach the Temple Mount and rededicate it by lighting the golden menorah.
In the early 1950s, the U.S. and Russia got into a race to develop the first aircraft-deliverable nuclear bomb. But the Americans accidentally created a much more powerful bomb than they anticipated.
What they thought would be a 5-megaton explosion generated a 14.8-megaton blast.
The Castle Bravo test at the Bikini Atoll in 1954 was the first dry hydrogen explosion that the U.S. attempted and it used lithium deuteride as the fusion fuel. But lithium deuteride is much stronger than the scientists thought.
So the Americans set up the islands and the safe zones for an explosion of 5-6 megatons. The immediate area was evacuated, they checked the wind speeds to limit the spread of contamination, and they positioned all of their facilities in safe areas.
But the 14.8-megaton explosion in Castle Bravo rendered many of these preparations moot. The small strip of land that the device was tested on was wiped out and became a crater 6,510 feet wide and 250 feet deep.
All the soil that had been an atoll flew into the atmosphere along with disintegrated coral reef. These later fell as a powdery ash on unsuspecting Japanese fishers and Pacific Islanders.
One of the Japanese fishermen soon died of acute radiation poisoning while the rest of the victims affected suffered dramatically increased rates of cancer and other diseases.
Despite the costs, the Castle Bravo test did lengthen America’s lead of the nuclear arms race, but it didn’t keep the top spot for nuclear explosions.
In retrospect, Germany’s decision to attack merchant ships and carry out unrestricted submarine warfare seems incredibly stupid. They knew – or should have known – that killing citizens of a neutral country (specifically the United States) even unintentionally was a damn good way to get America in the war on the side of the Allies.
Well, it turns out that Germany was relying on submarines to throttle British commerce. When the war started, the Germans had their submarines play by what had been the accepted rules of warfare when it came to merchant ships.
You approached them, you got them to stop, and you allowed the passengers and crew to abandon ship before you sank the ship. When it came to warfare, it was reasonably civilized, given that you were sending those people from a relatively safe merchant vessel and into open lifeboats and rafts, with only oars and the ocean current for travel and not that much in the way of supplies.
As you might imagine, the folks on those merchant ships didn’t want to go through that kind of ordeal of they could avoid it. So, the British started by arming merchant ships. Soon the submarines were being fired on as they surfaced. The invention of the Q-ship made following the rules for submarines even more hazardous – and a good way for the sub to be sunk. When subs sank, the casualty rate amongst the crew often was 100 percent.
German sub commanders didn’t want to have that sort of end-of-life experience. Nor did their crews, for that matter. So, the Germans decided to carry out unrestricted submarine warfare where they shot the merchant ships on sight. And thus began the chain of events that would bring the United States into World War I on the side of the Allies.
In the early months of 1943, the USS Wahoo was on its third war patrol when the sub and its crew found themselves under the new leadership of Lt. Commander Dudley Morton after relieving Marvin Kennedy from his duty.
After serving in the Asiatic Fleet, the Kentucky native and Naval Academy graduate recognized that many of the submarine skippers weren’t as aggressive as he felt they needed for certain victory.
Highly motivated to prove his worth, Morton sailed his crew to New Guinea’s Wewak Harbor to attack a Japanese Destroyer. After firing five torpedoes at the enemy vessel and missing, the Japanese ship began to charge the Wahoo at full-speed.
Morton prepared his sailors and instructed them to remain calm. Once the enemy destroyer was within an 800-meter range, Morton once again ordered his crew to fire a torpedo, which resulted in a direct hit.
The Wahoo would sink four additional ships before heading back to home base, Pearl Harbor.
After a brief period back at Pearl Harbor to reload, the Wahoo set sail for the Sea of Japan and sank four other ships in the first week of October — bringing the tally up to 19.
It’s reported that on Oct. 11th, the Wahoo was hit by Japanese depth charges and aerial bombs, which damaged Morton’s submarine and caused her to sink near the near La Pérouse Strait — killing everyone on board.
Morton was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross for his work as USS Wahoo’s skipper.
With your next military ball around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how you can ruin the whole event. With a few ill-timed drinks and a flair for the dramatic, your entire night can go up in flames, so long as you try hard enough!
Jot down these disastrous effects for a quick way to turn any military ball terrible.
That one guy who made everyone mad? Or the investigation that’s ongoing and hush-hush? Now is the perfect time to bring it up. Loudly. Ask for all the juiciest gossip and pass it along to the high ups. Be sure to sprinkle your own opinions and conspiracy theories for maximum effect.
Who’s calling JAG? Get the press involved. WTF Moments will be in the know if you have anything to say about it!
Wear the wrong kind of undergarments
We’re talking a too-small strapless bra that cuts off circulation, layers of Spanx that require you to get completely naked for a bathroom break. Maybe one of those pasties that comes unstuck right in the middle of your main course. Get creative! The worse the fit and function, the rockier your night will fare! Dresses with heavy sequins or glitter that trails your every move are also among top contenders.
Drink ’til you drop
Chug a lug! Nothing screams “disaster” quite like throwing up after on your spouse’s boss. Extra points if you can get a few of them with your booze-soaked contents. Where’s the general at, anyway? Take shots — the louder you are about it, the better. Shots! Shots! Shots! Don’t forget to make your way up to the grog, either. Your night will not be complete without it, obviously.
Rub ALL the pregnant bellies
See those sober ladies watching you with wide eyes? It’s because they want you to rub their growing bellies for good luck. They won’t say it, but it’s all they can think about. Talking to each in-utero babe will bring added wonder to your night of joy. Unsure if it’s a baby in there? Better rub that belly anyway! How else would the night remain as one of the worst of all time?!
Help yourself to the desserts
Did you know that when you arrive, dessert is already on the table? Get there first, and you can have your pick of the lot. Or better yet, you can just have it all! Be sure to stack up dirty dishes and to discuss — loudly — how good it was to finish dessert for the table. Leave the napkin for later, though; chocolate on the face will help complete your overall vibe.
Ready to have your worst military ball yet? Best of luck to all who stand in your path — in fact, it’s best to push them out of the way — especially as you run to the stage for an impromptu speech. Stiff arms out and spirit in your heart.
Johnie Webb’s corner office is full of memories from a grim but fulfilling mission.
As the Army veteran leans over his desk — strewn with gifts given to him over the course of a 40-year career — he grabs a wooden box and pulls out a modest bracelet. Engraved on stainless steel reads the name of a staff sergeant killed in the Vietnam War.
When he begins to share the story of how he received it, his light blue eyes well up with tears.
“I keep it on my desk, because this is what we’re all about,” said Webb, deputy of outreach and communications for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Since 1975, Webb has traveled dozens of times to former combat zones as a Soldier and later as a civilian for the joint agency or one of its predecessors. The agency is responsible for locating the remains of the more than 82,000 Americans who are still missing from past conflicts.
While much of his time had been in search of those fallen service members, Webb, 72, is now an advocate for their families who continue to wait for updates.
“I’m not going to say closure, because I’m not sure if there ever is closure when you lose a loved one. But at least [we can] provide them answers and give that loved one back,” he said. “That’s extremely important and I’m honored to play a small part.”
Early in his Army career, Webb, a retired lieutenant colonel, led convoys as a logistics officer all over Vietnam to ensure bases had fuel for operations during the war.
Under the constant threat of roadside bombs and ambushes, he briefed his Soldiers to move their vehicle out of the road if it were ever hit so other vehicles could escape.
“If you block the road, then we’re all done,” he recalled saying.
During one of those missions, a Soldier did just that after a rocket-propelled grenade struck the cab of his 5-ton vehicle and left him with severe burns.
His sacrifice was something Webb never forgot.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t survive,” he said. “But he probably saved the rest of us by doing what we were trained to do and that was to get his truck off the road.”
A few years after his tour, the Army assigned Webb to the Central Identification Laboratory-Thailand, which was later moved to Hawaii and consolidated into DPAA.
The role of the new unit was to find the remains of Americans from the Vietnam War.
At first, he was confused, he said, since he knew nothing about the organization or its mission. In the Army’s eyes, though, he was qualified for the job because as a young lieutenant he once took a course on graves registration.
It would eventually come full circle for Webb in 1985, when he was chosen to lead the first recovery team into Vietnam only a decade after the end of the war.
“It became very personal for me,” he said, regarding the sacrifices made by fallen comrades. “We couldn’t let them be forgotten.”
Being back in Vietnam was initially “unnerving,” he said. After all, he had once fought an enemy there and it was uncertain how his team would be treated.
The mission was to search for human remains from a B-52 bomber crash site near Hanoi. But the team’s visit to Vietnam was also an opportunity to rebuild the diplomatic relationship between the former warring nations.
The Vietnamese still distrusted Americans then, he said, and even photographed his team with cameras that were crudely hidden in briefcases.
Now, more than 30 years after that first mission, Vietnamese officials work closely with the DPAA teams that rotate in and out of the country each year. The agency is even permitted to permanently base one of its detachments in Hanoi to support teams as they search for roughly 1,600 Americans missing from that war.
“We were there before we had diplomatic relations. We were there before an embassy was ever established,” Webb said. “A lot of groundbreaking effort went into getting us to where we are today.”
While the agency’s mission started with the work to account for those lost in Vietnam, it grew to include sites from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and other conflicts.
Webb was again behind another pioneering effort, but this time in North Korea. He and others took several trips to the country and helped negotiate with the North Koreans so teams could conduct missions at former battle sites from 1996 to 2005.
They even traveled from the capital, Pyongyang, to the Chosin Reservoir, where a decisive battle had taken place in the winter of 1950. As they were driven through the country, Webb recalled seeing how desperate the North Koreans had lived.
“It was very interesting times,” he said, “but it made sure you were really appreciative of being an American.”
As U.S. and North Korean governments currently aim to thaw relations between each other, Webb hopes it will lead the reclusive country to reopen its borders to the agency’s teams.
About 7,700 Americans are still unaccounted for from the Korean War, with the majority believed to be in North Korea.
“If we want to get answers to the families, and we definitely want to get them answers, we’re going to have to get access back into North Korea,” he said.
With the days of digging at excavation sites now behind him, Webb maintains a pivotal role in keeping families, distinguished visitors and veterans service organizations apprised of agency efforts.
“I couldn’t say enough good things about Johnie Webb and the fact that he is literally one of the staunchest contributors to this mission,” said Kelly McKeague, the agency’s director.
McKeague, a former Air Force major general, credits Webb’s “Texas roots” for his compassion and calm demeanor. There is no better person, McKeague said, to speak with families struggling with loss.
“Johnie has a sense about him to be able to communicate with them, to be empathetic to them, and to literally not just be their friend but be their confidant,” he said. “They have so much confidence in him.”
Whether in a foreign country or back at the headquarters in Hawaii, Webb said the younger troops at the agency have always impressed him.
“Most of them weren’t even born when the guy who they are trying to recover was lost,” he said. “Still, they feel that kinship to that military buddy who wore the uniform for them.”
The “grunt work” these troops — many of whom are Soldiers — do at an excavation site can take months to years to find remains, if there are any. Once recovered, it can take even longer to identify them by lab staff.
While the long process sometimes leaves families irritated, the agency wants to ensure human remains are properly excavated and identified.
“Not only is it frustrating to the families, it gets frustrating for us as well because we want to provide those answers,” Webb said. “We want to return that loved one, but we want to do it right.”
When the answers do come, some family members do not want to believe them.
Inside a wooden box on his desk, the engraved bracelet reminds Webb of one such family member.
The father of the staff sergeant whose name is on the bracelet often spoke to Webb about his missing son before he was found. He had hoped his son was still alive and pleaded to Webb to bring him back.
A team then discovered remains from a site of a crashed helicopter, which the staff sergeant was on. Shortly after, Webb advised the father to prepare to receive his son’s remains so he could honor his life.
“It was clear that he was not wanting to hear that,” Webb remembered.
Webb asked other families who knew the grief-stricken father and had also lost loved ones to talk to him so he could come to terms with the news. He finally did.
When his son’s remains were returned to the family, there was a huge outpouring of public support. The funeral had full military honors and even dignitaries showed up to it.
“It was a day of celebration for this young man to come back home,” Webb said. “I was happy that he had honored his son the way he should have been honored.”
A few weeks later, a brown envelope addressed to Johnie Webb came in the mail. In it, there was a “thank you” note along with the bracelet, which the father always wore.
“I’m giving to you the POW bracelet that I have worn since my son was lost,” Webb said, recalling what the father wrote. “I finally took it off when he came back home. I want you to have it as a token of my appreciation.”
There is perhaps no photo more iconic to the Post-9/11 generation of warfighters than the one that graced the cover of a Stars and Stripes article in 2011. The article, which was about how MEDEVAC pilots have a single hour to get wounded troops to medical facilities, went viral arguably because of the this photo. The powerful picture was of a critically wounded Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry and the tattoo across his ribs, which reads, “For those I love I will sacrifice.”
The photo quickly spread across both social and print media and his ink became the rallying cry for all American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It just so happened that Stars and Stripes journalist Laura Rouch was also on this flight.
(Photo by Laura Rouch, Stars and Stripes)
Kyle Hockenberry had always wanted to serve in the U.S. Army. From the time he joined, he had one phrase in the back of his head that he felt compelled to have permanently etched on himself. He graduated basic training in January 2011 and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division’s 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment “Pale Riders” who would deploy to Afghanistan the following month.
As many troops tend to do right before shipping out, he got some ink. He had the iconic phrase tattooed onto his ribs. By February, he was at Forward Operating Base Pasab outside of Haji Rammudin.
Then, on the 15th of June, 2011, a pressure plate triggered an IED while Pfc. Hockenberry was moving to cover. It would take both of his legs above the knee and his left arm above the elbow. The blast would also take the life of his friend, Spc. Nick Hensley. He was immediately rushed to the medical facility at Kandahar Air Field.
Laura Rouch of Stars and Stripes was on-site with the crew of Dustoff 59 for her article. Saving Hockenberry was no easy feat.
“They began working on him immediately. They started cutting his clothing off and as they’re getting tourniquets on, they cut away his uniform and this tattoo emerged. I saw the tattoo and it just reached up and grabbed me.” explained Laura Rauch to the Marietta Times.
The severity of the blast and commitment of the flight medics were in constant conflict. Hockenberry’s heart stopped three times and each time the crew pulled him from the brink. He entered a coma as he reached the hospital. Rouch held hold onto the article until Hockenberry recovered enough to give his blessing for publication.
And of course, the still proudly rocks the hell out of the greatest military tattoo.
(Vanilla Fire Productions)
Hockenberry was then transported to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas to begin walking the long road to recovery. In time, he would marry his loving wife, Ashley, and be promoted to corporal before being medically discharged in 2013. The pair welcomed a happy baby boy, Reagan, in 2016.
Recently, he has been working closely with documentary filmmakers Steven Barber and Paul Freedman on an upcoming documentary, World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route. The film is an inside look and history of Stars and Stripes. Heavily featured in this film is the iconic photo and the incredibly badass life of Kyle Hockenberry.
If you look at the enlisted ranking system put in place by every branch of the United States Armed Forces, everything makes a good deal of sense. You start at the bottom — generally at E-1, but there are ways to get in at a higher pay grade — and work your way up to a certain point where you become an NCO. Officers have their own linear path, starting at O-1, and warrant officers are half way between the two.
But the Army has its very own conundrum with the E-4 ranks. Years ago, the hierarchy of ranks looked a little different: it went private first class, then corporal, then sergeant. Today, both specialist (the highest junior enlisted rank) and corporal (the lowest NCO rank) share the same pay grade. This means that, in a sense, being a specialist is just like being a corporal — only without the NCO benefits.
To understand the specialist rank we know it today, you’ll have to look back at the Army’s long-gone specialist ranks.
The same insignia that would later be used for private first class.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt)
In 1920, there was a consolidation that distilled 128 different rank insignia and titles into just seven. The results of this consolidation left us with something similar to what we use today — with a few key differences.
Since warfare involves much more than just general “infantrymen,” there was a need to identify the support soldiers, those who were specialists in their given field of expertise. Back then, it was assumed that all 5th-grade soldiers (corporals) fully understood what their job entails, but there needed to be a way to offer a little incentive to a privates to become known as a “private/specialist,” which was the name of the MOS at the time. That incentive came in the form of bonus pay — despite being paid more, a private/specialist was still officially of lower rank than a private first class.
The insignia of the private/specialist was a single chevron with a single rocker.
Think of the difference like today’s version of a master sergeant and a first sergeant. Same pay grade, same respect, but two very different positions and mentalities.
(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
The next major overhaul came in 1942 when a need arose to differentiate between those who earned their rank because of how good they were at their job and those who earned it because of leadership abilities. And so the “technician” ranks were created, ranging from technician fifth grade (or “tech/5”) up to technician third grade (or “tech/3”).
They were distinguished from their peers by placing a ‘T’ under their chevrons. For all practical purposes, a technician third grade and a staff sergeant were on equal footing — same pay and same respect — but the staff sergeant was in a leadership position while the tech/3 was more of an instructor.
The joke used back then was “the NCOs may have been the backbone of the Army, but the specialists were the brains.”
The final shakeup came in 1955 when these two previous iterations of separating specialists in their given field from general leadership culminated an entirely new ranking system — the specialists. This took the original insignia of the 1920s private/specialist, inverted it, and added the Army Eagle to it. Promotions within the specialists meant adding another rocker to the top instead of a chevron.
A young private could prove themselves ready to enter the non-commissioned officers as a corporal — or they could focus on their MOS as a specialist. Between the years 1959 and 1968, it was entirely possible to make it all the way to E-9 as a specialist. Throughout the years, the highest achievable rank dwindled down and down until 1985, when only the Spec/4 remained.
Since all other grades of specialists were obsolete, the rank is now just called “specialist.” In essence, the rank holds the same meaning as it did in the 1920s — except now it’s more of a holdover rank before most E-4s make sergeant.
The German Kriegsmarine was once one of the most feared military forces on Earth, particularly the U-boat fleet. While the German surface fleet was smaller and weaker than the navies of its opponents, the “wolf packs” patrolled beneath the waves, shattering Allied convoys and robbing Germany’s enemies of needed men and materiel.
A German sailor works on U-boat communications.
But the U-boats didn’t do this on their own. One of the most successful code-breaking efforts in the war was that of the Beobachtung Dienst, the Observation Service, of German naval intelligence.
The German service focused its efforts on decoding the signals used by the major Allied navies — Great Britain, the U.S., and the Soviet Union — as well as traffic analysis and radio direction finding. With these three efforts combined, they could often read Allied communications. When they couldn’t, the traffic analysis and radio direction finding made them great guessers at where convoys would be.
Allied merchant marine and navy personnel were rightly afraid of U-boat attacks, but they seem to have underestimated how large a role the B-Dienst and other German intelligence services played. This led them to make errors that made the already-capable B-Dienst even more effective.
First, Allied communications contained more data than was strictly necessary. The chatter between ships as they headed out could often give German interceptors the number of ships in a convoy, its assembly point, its anticipated speed and heading, where it would meet up with stragglers, and how many escorts it had.
A destroyer, the USS Fiske, sinks after being struck by a German U-boat torpedo.
This allowed B-Dienst to identify the most vulnerable convoys and guess where and when the convoy would move into wolf-pack territory.
Nearly as damaging, the British would sometimes send out the same communications using different codes. When the British were using some codes the Germans didn’t know, these repeated messages end up becoming a Rosetta Stone-like windfall for the intercepting Nazis. They could identify the patterns in the two codes and use breakthroughs in one to translate the other, then use the translations to break that code entirely.
When the Allies weren’t repeating entire messages, they were sending messages created with templates. These templates, which repeated the same header and closer on each transmission, gave the Germans a consistent starting point. From there, they could suss out how the code worked.
All of this was compounded by a tendency of the British in particular and the Allied forces in general to be slow in changing codes.
So, it took the British months after they learned that the Germans had broken the Naval Code and Naval Cypher to change their codes. The change was made in August 1940 and was applied to communications between the U.S. and Royal navies in June 1941.
But with the other missteps allowing the B-Dienst to get glimmers of how the code worked, the code was basically useless by the end of 1942.
German U-boats in World War I had to hunt for their targets. Their World War II counterparts still hunted, but frequently benefited from their great intelligence services.
(Painting by William Stower, The Sinking of the Linda Blanche)
This had real and devastating effects for Allied naval forces who were attempting to pass through U-boat territory as secretly as possible. 875 Allied ships were lost in 1941 and 1,664 sank in 1942, nearly choking the British Isles below survivable levels.
But, despite the B-Dienst success, the Battle of the Atlantic started to shift in favor of the Allies in 1942, mostly thanks to increases in naval forces and advanced technology like radar and sonar becoming more prevalent. Destroyers were more widely deployed and could more quickly pinpoint and attack the U-boats.
After the North Koreans poured across the 38th Parallel in 1950, starting the Korean War, the United States rapidly responded. The 24th Infantry Division was ordered to quickly make their way to South Korea from Japan while American carriers began launching strikes to delay the Communist advance.
One of the first ground units to arrive was called Task Force Smith. According to official United States Army history, this unit eventually consisted of two under-strength companies of infantry, four 75mm recoilless rifles, four 4.2-inch mortars, half of a communications platoon, and a battery of six 105mm howitzers. Most importantly, this force would be the first “boots on the ground” to face the Communist hordes on the Korean peninsula.
Their mission was to delay the North Koreans, affording others the time to get spun up for combat.
As the unit moved toward battle, they were faced with all the signs that things might not go so well. American planes hit a number of supply dumps and installations controlled by friendly forces — one such incident killed over 200 South Korean troops. Meanwhile, some of the C-54 Skymasters carrying the unit had to return to Japan due to thick fog and being unable to locate airfields.
Soldiers assigned to Task Force Smith arrive in South Korea.
When they finally met North Korean troops, it was a disaster. The North Koreans, equipped with Soviet-built T-34 medium tanks, approached. At 8:16 AM on the morning of July 5, 1950, near the city of Osan, American ground troops opened fire on the Communist forces. The fight was short — it didn’t go well for the United States. Bazookas and recoilless rifle rounds did practically nothing to the T-34s.
North Korean T-34s blew through the positions held by the unprepared American soldiers.
The North Korean forces blew through the infantry and went at the artillery. By the time all was said and done, of the roughly 440 soldiers in Task Force Smith sent to South Korea, only 185 made it back to friendly lines the next morning (a few dozen others would make their way back over the next few days and weeks).
Today, Task Force Smith is remembered for their courage — and for the lessons learned from the Battle of Osan.
The experience of this brave but unprepared unit led to major changes, at least through the Cold War. The mantra became, “No More Task Force Smiths.”
In essence, the troops who fell that day are remembered by efforts to continually keep American troops ready for combat, ensuring that sacrifices made by those who came before them are not in vain.
Most people know of Spain’s disastrous effort to invade England with a massive fleet of ships that quickly ended up at the bottom of the English Channel, but that’s not where the rivalry between Spain and England ended. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 happened very early on in a series of wars between the two kingdoms.
The Anglo-Spanish War (as it’s known today) first broke out in 1585 as an effort to resist the rule of the Habsburg family in the Netherlands, which was controlled by Spain.
European history at this time was mostly filled with kings and royal families jockeying for power here and there, but during the early years of the conflict between Spain and England, it would be a commoner woman who would set the tone for a while.
In 1589, England launched an armada of its own against Spain in retaliation for Spain’s armada fiasco. The English Armada was an expedition led by Sir Francis Drake to burn the Spanish Navy while it was undergoing repairs in Santander in Spain. England’s plan was to burn the warships, capture Spanish treasure fleets from the New World, and wrest Portugal from Spanish domination.
That did not happen for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the English Armada never got the chance to torch Santander because bad weather forced the fleet to bypass Santander completely. Instead, they landed their troops at a town called Coruna.
Coruna was not much of a city. It was populated mostly by fishermen, but legend had it that it had a lighthouse made of gold, which was probably the real reason Drake bypassed Santander. He wanted that golden tower.
The English Armada was much bigger than the Spanish Armada and carried more than 23,000 men. Drake’s massive force overwhelmed the measly defenses of the lower town and a relief force that arrived shortly after. Expecting the attack on Santander, the bulk of the Spanish Army was there and Coruna seemed an unlikely target. Its defenses were a handful of ships, a militia force led by the governor and a civilian named Maria Pita.
The Spanish defenders abandoned the lower town and retreated to the old, “upper” city. A massive fight between English artillery and Spanish ships resulted in losses on both sides. That night English soldiers looted the areas of the city under their control and murdered civilians. The next day, they prepared to assault the upper part of Coruna.
After numerous assaults and mines under the old city walls, cracks in the defensive fortifications began to form. The English poured in through the cracks, led by an English commander, believed to be Sir Francis Drake’s brother. Then the women of Coruna arrived on the scene, carrying pikes. They had not forgotten what the English did in the lower city the night before.
The women were led by a commoner and civilian, a woman named Maria Pita. Pita led a charge against the oncoming Englishmen. The English commander, carrying the banner of the army on a spear, met her. She tore the spear from his hands and killed him with it, flag still attached. When the 12,000 Englishmen saw their commander on the wrong end of a spear, they broke and ran.
Pita then led a counterattack outside the old city walls, following the English to the sea. Completely demoralized, the English failed to capture the sleepy fishing town. Reinforcements from Santander were soon on their way, and the English departed. They lost 1,300 men in the effort and had to leave much of their supplies behind.
King Philip II gave Maria Pita the rank of “permanent second lieutenant of the city.” The English also failed to capture Lisbon and liberate Portugal from French rule. After sacking a few coastal towns, Drake sailed back to England in failure.
Feature image: Monument of the heroine Maria Pita in the Square of the Town Hall of A Coruña (Wikimedia Commons)
There were thousands of families that sent sons, fathers, brothers, and—when the families allowed it—daughters and sisters. But one family with five sons sent four of them to war as officers in the Revolution, and they fought at some of America’s crucial battles, eventually earning special honors from Gen. George Washington at Yorktown.
Col. Richard Butler, the eldest brother, later served as a general and died fighting Native Americans after the Revolutionary War.
Obviously, this was a fateful time to set up life in the colonies. And, soon enough, the four elder brothers were serving in the Continental Army. Richard was recommended for commission as a major in 1776, and he received it. He was quickly promoted to lieutenant colonel and sent to Morgan’s Riflemen, The 11th Virginia Regiment. He received credit for the constant state of readiness in that unit.
The Battle of Monmouth, where three of the Butler brothers fought.
Richard’s younger brother William was commissioned as a captain in 1776 and promoted to major during October of that year. He fought in Canada and, after promotion to lieutenant colonel, at Monmouth. He then fought defensive actions against Native American tribes and took part in the successful Sullivan-Clinton Expedition to break the Iroquois Confederacy and its British allies in 1779.
The third brother, Thomas, was commissioned as a first lieutenant in early 1776 and promoted to captain later that year. His bravery at the Battle of Brandywine allowed him to rally retreating Colonials and stop a British thrust, earning him accolades from Washington. Later, he fought at Monmouth and was cited for defending a draw against severe attack, allowing his older brother Richard to escape as the British forces were tied up.
The youngest brother to fight in the war was Percival, who was commissioned as a first lieutenant in 1777 at the age of 18. He fought at Monmouth with two of his brothers after a winter at Valley Forge.
Most fathers are happy to receive a tie or some other type of keepsake from their children for Father’s Day — especially once their children are grown.
For Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, he will have something far more valuable to see while he is forward deployed to Qatar this Father’s Day. He serves alongside his oldest son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, and both are members of Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar.
“It’s a satisfying feeling with your children being in the military and seeing their accomplishments,” said Robert, who is the Base Defense Operations Center noncommissioned officer in charge for Area Support Group-Qatar. “If anybody has an opportunity to do it, do it. If you could, give it a shot because it’s nice to have somebody around.”
The Scott’s family history of military service extends back to World War II. Robert’s father, and John’s grandfather, was drafted into the 114th Infantry Regiment for World War II service. Robert first enlisted in the Army in 1985 as a military police officer. After serving for six years in assignments in Panama, Korea, California and Missouri, he returned to civilian life and eventually became a police officer.
John, who is now the headquarters platoon sergeant and operations noncommissioned officer for Centurion Company, first enlisted at 17, while still a senior in high school, in 2006. This led to a fateful question John asked his father.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment.
(SGT Zach Mott)
“He was active duty long before I even joined, then he decided to get out,” John said. “When I joined, I can only remember me looking at him and saying, ‘don’t you miss it?'”
With that simple question, the ball began rolling and shortly thereafter Robert again found himself at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, this time training to become a 74 Delta: chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) specialist.
“He went in the Guard so I had him recruit me,” Robert said. “At the time, they had a little bonus program so it made him a little extra money.”
In addition to Robert and John’s military service, Robert’s second oldest daughter Jamie is a National Guard military intelligence officer and youngest son Robert is currently serving on active duty in Germany. Robert has four other children, one who manages a bar and restaurant in New Jersey, another who is a firefighter in New Jersey, one who recently finished high school and one more who is still in school. In total, their ages range from 32 to 15.
Robert, a Brick, New Jersey native, is proud of all of his children and happy to see that they’ve applied the discipline and structure that his military training instilled in him.
“He always had that military mentality that everything needs to be dress right dress, everything needs to be lined up perfectly. We grew up with it,” said John, a Toms River, New Jersey native. “Him being a cop didn’t help.”
This is the second time the Scott’s have been deployed at the same time. The first time, in 2008 to 2009, Robert was at Camp Bucca, Iraq, and John was at Camp Cropper, Iraq. While the two were separated by more than 300 miles then, they now have only about 300 feet between them.
“We would talk to home more than we were able to talk to each other,” Robert said of that 2008 to 2009 deployment. “This is kind of like we’re both at home. We’ll run into each other. The communication here is a lot better. It’s face-to-face. It’s good to see everything’s going good. I can tell by the way (he’s) looking at me that something’s up.”
John, who is also a police officer in New Jersey, likes to spend his off time, or “overtime” as he calls it, visiting with his dad in the BDOC, sharing a meal together at the dining facility, smoking cigars or doing typical father and son type games.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment
(SGT Zach Mott)
“The other day we were just talking and we just started tossing a roll of duct tape around, just catching back and forth,” Robert said. “If there was a ball there we probably would have picked it up and just started playing catch. We were both standing there throwing it back and forth to each other, he looks at me and he goes, ‘This turned out to be more fun than I thought.'”
Whether it’s the father-son relationship or the military rank structure, John remains deferential to his father when it comes to off duty activities.
“I don’t know, he outranks me so whatever he wants to do,” said John, who is on his fourth tour in the Central Command area of operations. Once to Iraq in 2008 to 2009, once to Afghanistan in 2009 to 2011, Qatar in 2014 to 2015 and again to Qatar now.
What the future holds for both remains open — and competitive. Robert said he wants to finish out his current contracted time of two years and see what options are available. John, who has 13 years of service, is looking for a broadening assignment as an instructor in the New Jersey Army National Guard next.
“He’s hoping I either die or retire because my brother was a retired sergeant first class,” Robert said. “I’m going to stay in. I’m going to drive him into the dirt. He’ll have to shoot for E-9 first.”
“He’ll retire, I’ll outrank him. Then I’ll rub it in his face,” John said.
The jokes continue and the smiles grow as father and son talk about the unique opportunity to serve together while deployed.
“How many other people get to go overseas with their father? I don’t hear much about it,” John said. “I’d say it’s a rare case. I get to have family support while deployed. I don’t have to reach back home to see what’s up.”