These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller is probably known best for his legendary actions in World War II where he led Marines at Guadalcanal and in Korea when he and his men broke out from the Chosin Reservoir.


But Puller originally enlisted in the Corps to fight in World War I.

He was eventually assigned to train new Marines and then sent officer school — which combined to keep him away from the front lines of The Great War.

But in 1919 he was offered a deployment to Haiti if he came back to active duty.

 

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

 

The trip was described to young Marine officers as a sort of consolation prize after their trip to France was canceled. Writing about Puller and another Marine officer in Counterinsurgency and the United States Marine Corps, Leo J. Dougherty III wrote:

They saw service in Haiti as a means of compensation for not having served in the World War, and, as then Capt. William H. Rupertus told the young second lieutenants, as a way to “make money and have some fun.”

But Haiti was a real war zone.

Most of the recent Marine Corps officer training graduates were sent to Haiti as American noncommissioned officers who held officer ranks in the Gendarmerie d’Haïti. This was basically a police and counterinsurgency force whose enlisted ranks were filled with local soldiers but whose officers were mostly Marine Corps officers and noncommissioned officers.

 

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler served as the commander of Nicaragua’s national guard when he was a major. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

 

The first commander of the Gendarmerie d’Haïti was then-Maj. Smedley Butler, another Marine Corps legend. And the Marines and their gendarmerie fought tooth and nail against determined Caco rebel attacks.

The rebels would hit targets — usually government buildings and forces — and then escape into the jungle.

To catch the rebels, Puller and other gendarmerie officers led their men on hard marches through the jungle and into the mountains, fighting off ambushes along the way.

Puller — who was deployed to Haiti from 1919 to 1924 — later estimated that he fought in about 40 engagements against the Caco rebels in Haiti and learned a lot of lessons, which helped him later in Nicaragua.

Puller was promoted to second lieutenant in 1924 and deployed to Nicaragua for the first time in 1926.

Nicaragua had been racked by political turmoil for over a decade despite an American intervention in 1912, causing instability in Latin America and headaches for American fruit companies. The Marines arrived in 1927 to protect American interests in the country.

 

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

 

In 1928, Puller arrived and again led a local force, this time it was an element from the Guardia Nacional of Nicaragua. These government forces and their Marine mentors were tasked with disrupting rebel operations.

During his first tour of Nicaragua, Puller served for over two years and was awarded a Navy Cross for leading his men through five major engagements from February to August of 1930. Puller’s element was successful in each of the engagements, killing nine of the enemy and wounding more.

After a year break for training at Fort Benning, Puller returned to Nicaragua and commanded local forces once again. He received a second Navy Cross for actions taken in 1932. Puller was leading 40 Nicaraguans alongside Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. William A. “Iron Man” Lee.

 

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

The men forced their way into rebel territory a full 80 miles from their base and any reliable reinforcements or lines of communication. Rebels ambushed them, and Puller was in the center of the first attack. When a Nicaraguan fell right next to him and Lee was hit with what were thought to be mortal wounds, Puller quickly rallied the men and got them fighting against the 150 or more rebels.

Despite the fact that they had been ambushed by a numerically superior force, the Marines and Nicaraguans were able to throw off the attack. They killed 10 of the enemy.

Puller led his men back to their base to the south, a full hundred miles away.

But on Sept. 30, 1932, 10 days after the first ambush, the rebels attempted two more attacks designed to wipe out Puller and his men. Both attacks were rebuffed with heavy losses for the rebels, allowing the American-Nicaraguan patrol to arrive at the base on Oct. 31.

Lee survived his wounds and later fought in World War II where he became a prisoner of war. He was awarded the Navy Cross three times for his actions in Nicaragua.

Puller would later take a series of staff and command positions, including a deployment to guard Americans in China, before leading Marines throughout the Pacific in the World War II and Korea battles that made him an icon of the Corps.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pepsi Navy: When the Soviets traded warships for soft drinks

Just before the fall of the Soviet Union, the communist state was so desperate for Pepsi that they traded the American beverage company some 20 warships for a shipment of their sugary elixir; making the Pepsi Navy the sixth-largest in the world at the time.

In 1959, just two years after the first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test forced both the U.S. and Soviet Union to reassess their approach to nuclear deterrence, then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev both attended the American National Exhibition in Moscow’s Sokolniki Park. As the two men exchanged barbs about the efficacy of each nation’s respective economic model, Head of Pepsi International Donald Kendall decided to break the ice with a few small cups of their namesake soda.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sipping Pepsi next to (then) Vice President Richard Nixon.

As luck would have it, the Soviet Premier was immediately smitten by the sugary, carbonated drink, and a deal was struck for the Soviets to begin receiving shipments of the beverage. Pepsi had secured the first such agreement between a capitalist American company and the communist Soviet Union… but there was one serious problem. Soviet money was effectively useless outside of the nation’s borders.

But while the Soviets may have lacked hard currency, they did have something else to trade: vodka. So Pepsi and Khrushchev made a deal: Pepsi would provide shipments of soft drinks, and in return, the Soviet Union would provide vodka from their state-owned brand Stolichnaya, for resale in the United States.

For a bit less than a decade, the agreement between the Soviet Union and Pepsi stood without any issue, but in 1980, geopolitics soured the deal. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan, and the American people responded by boycotting Soviet-sourced products, including the Stolichnaya vodka Pepsi was getting in trade for their soda. Within a few years, Stolichnaya sales had dropped enough for Pepsi to no longer consider the deal worthwhile.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
(C Watts on Flickr)

But the Soviet Union’s love for America’s second-tier cola was too strong to let the deal lapse, and Soviet officials began looking for other ways to reimburse Pepsi for shipments of soda. By 1989, they had a solution. In exchange for Pepsi’s soft drinks, the Soviets offered them a veritable Navy. Pepsi agreed to the deal, taking possession of a Soviet cruiser, a frigate, a destroyer, 17 submarines, and a handful of oil tankers — instantly making the drink distributor the owner of the sixth-largest navy on the planet.

But despite that significant bragging point, the newly established Pepsi navy was far from battle-ready. The fleet of submarines was in a terrible state of disrepair, with many listing to one side and nearly all of them showing signs of serious rust. The surface ships in Pepsi’s new navy weren’t in much better shape, with perhaps only one that was truly seaworthy and at least one other that required constant pumping to keep it afloat.

The Pepsi Navy waiting to be scrapped.

Nonetheless, the United States government wasn’t particularly pleased to see a corporation suddenly command enough naval firepower to square off with some entire nations. Pepsi’s CEO, Donald Kendall, who had first introduced Khrushchev to the beverage, responded to America’s complaints with all the aplomb one might expect from the admiral of Pepsi’s navy, reminding the Pentagon that he had just managed to reduce the number of ships at the Soviet’s disposal by a considerable number.

Soviet submarine in the Pepsi Navy

“I’m dismantling the Soviet Union faster than you are.”

-Donald Kendall (PepsiCo CEO)

Of course, his comment may also have had something to do with the Soviet people’s love for his capitalist product. A number of things ultimately led to the downfall of the Soviet Union, including Ronald Reagan’s efforts to spend the communist regime into oblivion and later, Mikhail Gorbachev’s “Glasnost” policy of more open governing… but it’s tough to dispute the effect products like Pepsi had on the Soviet populous.

Shortly after taking possession of the Pepsi navy, the soda brand sold all twenty warships to a Swedish scrap-recycling company in order to recoup the cost of their Pepsi shipment.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 of the stupidest wars ever fought in world history

There are a lot of good reasons humans have gone to war in the past few centuries, believe it or not. Halting or preventing genocides, declaring independence to give oppressed people a homeland, and of course, defending ones homeland from an invader would all be good reasons to take up arms against another country.

These wars were none of those things, and are presented in no particular order.


These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

It is, admittedly, a nice bucket.

The War of the Oaken Bucket

While the War of the Oaken Bucket sounds more like a college gameday rivalry, it was really a 1325 war between two Italian states, Bologna and Modena, that killed 2,000 people. It was really a proxy war between supporters of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy and before I get too far into the details here, what you really need to know is that it was started because some Modenese soldiers took the bucket from Bologna’s town well.

Even dumber is lopsided victory the Modenese won in defending that bucket. At the Battle of Zappolino, some 32,000 Bolognese marched on 7,000 Modenese – and were chased from the battlefield.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

Surprisingly unrelated to the ongoing debate over Canadian bacon being real bacon.

The Pig War

This is a war that could have devolved into a much larger conflict, which makes it even stupider than it sounds. On San Juan Island, between the mainland United States and Canada’s Vancouver Island, was shared by both American settlers and British employees of the Hudson Bay Company. While the island was “shared” in practice, both countries had a claim to the northwestern island and it created a lot of tensions in the region. Those tensions boiled over in June 1859 when an American farmer shot a British boar for tearing up his potato crop. Arguments ensued and the farmer was almost arrested by the British.

The U.S. Army got wind of the situation and sent Capt. George Pickett (later of Pickett’s Charge fame) with a company of soldiers, who promptly declared the island American property. Of course the British responded by sending in its trump card, the Royal Navy. For weeks, it appeared the standoff would spark a greater war between the two powers, but cooler heads prevailed and the sides took joint custody of the island.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

Adwarable.

War of the Stray Dog

Another war that is exactly what it sounds like, except this one really did cause a number of deaths, as well as a 1925 fight that saw 20,000 Greeks meet 10,000 Bulgarians on the battlefield. The catalyst was a dog that had gotten away from a Greek soldier. The soldier chased after the dog, even though it ran across the Greek border with Bulgaria. Bulgarian border guards, seeing a Greek soldier running through their territory, of course shot him.

The Greeks then began an invasion of Bulgaria, occupying border towns and preparing to shell and take the city off Petrich before the League of Nations intervened, negotiating a cease fire.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

Air Transat Flight 236 was on its routine route from Toronto, bound for Lisbon, Portugal. It was a day like any other for the experienced crew – at least it started off like a normal day. By the end of it, 306 people would be saved from extreme danger, and two pilots would set a world record, all while pretty much arriving at their destination.


Flight TS236 was a late-night flight from Toronto to Lisbon, taking off just before 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 4, 2001. It took off without incident, fully fueled and flew pretty much normally for the first four hours of its flight. But what the pilots didn’t know was the fuel line to their number two engine had ruptured and was leaking fuel the entire time. Still, everything on the instruments read normal – until they didn’t.

The first sign of trouble came with a high oil pressure warning and a low oil temperature warning. With there being no obvious cause of the oil warnings, the seasoned pilots determined it must be a false warning. They reported the situation but continued with the flight. An hour later, they got another warning. This time, the plane was warning them of a fuel imbalance. Easily remedied, the pilots began to transfer fuel from the left wing to the right, pouring the fuel right out through the leak.

Ten minutes later, they radioed a fuel emergency.

At the controls of TS236 were probably the best pilots to be in this situation. First Officer Dirk de Jager was just 28 years old had nearly 5,000 hours at the stick of an airplane, and hundreds of those were with the Airbus 330 he was copiloting. Captain Robert Piché was 48 and had more than 16,000 hours in an aircraft. Luckily for everyone aboard, Capt. Piché was also an experienced glider pilot. He would need those skills in the coming hours.

Five hours after taking off from Toronto, engine #2 on Air Transat Flight 236 flamed out due to lack of fuel. Three minutes later, its other engine flamed out. To make matters worse, without their main power source, the plane’s flaps, brakes, and spoilers were without power. Falling at a rate of 2,000 feet every second, the pilots reasoned they had a good 15 minutes or so before they would have to ditch in the ocean. But luck was on their side, they were coming up on Lajes Field Air Base in Portugal.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

Capt. Piché actually had to do a number of turns to lower his altitude before coming into Lajes Field. Almost seven hours after taking off, the plane touched down, and it touched down in a rough way. With no brakes, the landing gear locked up, the tired deflated and the landing gear took massive damage from the impact. A number of the passengers and crew sustained some injuries, but everyone was alive – and in Portugal.

TS236 glided powerlessly and with no fuel for almost 20 minutes, flying some 75 miles, setting the world record for the longest glider flight. The Airbus 330 Piché landed that day is still in service and is now known as the “Azores Glider.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 worst military defeats in modern history

It’s easy, when you’re one of the world’s great powers, to think that most battles will go your way. And the ones that won’t? Well, you can only lose so badly when you’ve got better technology, larger formations, and/or God on your side. Unfortunately, that’s not true, and even great powers can get themselves curb stomped in surprising ways.

Here are seven military defeats where someone thought they could be the big dog in a fight only to find out they were facing a bear:


These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

Painting depicting the final minutes, and Russian losses, at the Battle of Tsushima Strait where a Russian fleet was annihilated by a larger, better prepared Japanese fleet in 1905.

Battle of Tsushima

It’s sometimes hard to remember that Russia once fielded a top-tier navy that made enemies around the world quiver in their boots. That actually changed during the Battle of Tsushima, when Russia sent a massive fleet to defend their claims in and around Korea from a growing Japanese Navy. The Japanese Navy used their better ships, tactics, and telegraphy (think ship-to-ship Morse code) to demolish the Russians.

The two fleets closed with each other on May 27, 1905, and the Japanese ships were in better condition, allowing them to sail slightly faster. Even better for the Japanese, there was a heavy fog that their telegraph traffic could penetrate, but the Russians couldn’t communicate as well with their lights and flags.

Japan’s five battleships and 84 other ships and boats were able to twice “cross the T” of Russia’s 38 ships, pounding the Russians with broadsides while the Russians could only reply with forward guns. The Russians were forced to flee, sinking only three Japanese torpedo boats while losing 28 ships.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

Ottoman soldiers man machine guns in 1916, similar to the troops that maintained the Siege of Kut.

(Library of Congress)

Siege of Kut

The Siege of Kut took place in 1915 in what is now Iraq. British-Indian forces, retreating from a defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, decided to stop at Kut, a position easily defended, but difficult to resupply. Since we’re talking about a siege, you can probably guess how that went.

Approximately 11,000 British and Indian infantrymen reached the fortress on December 3, and the Ottomans arrived four days later with 11,000 troops of their own — and with more reinforcements on the way. The British sent away cavalry and other forces that could escape and then settled in for the siege. The Ottoman forces, under command of a German adviser, cut off river and land access to the city.

British forces outside the city attempted to relieve it three times, but all three attempts failed dismally. While the Ottomans suffered approximately 10,000 casualties, the British were eventually forced to surrender after suffering 30,000 casualties and the capture of an additional 10,000 troops, including six generals.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

Australian troops man captured Italian tanks during the capture of the port city of Tobruk in 1941 after Italian forces spread themselves too thin.

(Australian War Memorial)

Italian Western Desert Campaign — World War II

The Italian invasion of Egypt in 1940 was a fine if uninspired victory for the Italian fascists. They moved forward about 12 miles per day for about a week in September, 1940. During the campaign, the Italians failed to keep their troops close enough together to properly support one another, and the British took advantage of that fact the following December in Operation Compass.

The British planned a five-day raid in response. The goal was simply to push the Italians back a little, but the British made a note before the first attacks stating that they should be prepared to keep pushing, just in case — and this came in handy. The British forces quickly made much more progress than expected.

The Italians were occupying a series of fortified camps and, one after another, they fell to a force of 36,000 British soldiers. The British attacked from December 9 to February 9, 1941, and lost less than 600 troops killed and missing while inflicting over 5,000 kills and capturing over 125,000 Italian soldiers, 420 tanks, 564 aircraft, and multiple cities, including the key port of Tobruk.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

​Colorized photo of French artillerymen during the defense of France in 1940 as the German blitzkrieg thunders towards Paris.

(Cassowary Colorizations)

Battle of France

As we head into this one, let’s take a quick break to say that WATM actually really respects the performance of the French military from conflicts like the 100 Years War to the American Revolution to World War I. But the Battle of France in World War II was, uh, not France’s finest moment.

The French military knew that an invasion by Germany was likely in 1940, and they tried to prepare through modernization efforts and training. But, they made two big assumptions that would turn out to be false: The Ardennes Forest’s challenging terrain would prevent an invasion through there, and Belgium would last for weeks or months, allowing France to re-deploy troops as necessary if the Germans invaded through there.

Instead, the Germans proved the many of their tanks could make it through the Ardennes Forest, and Belgium fell within days. France, despite having more modern equipment and slightly more troops, fell to Germany in only 46 days with 1.9 million troops taken prisoner, thousands of tanks and aircraft destroyed or captured, and most of their country under German control.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

Oil tanks burn on Midway Atoll after a Japanese air attack at the outset of the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

Battle of Midway

The Battle of Midway was supposed to be Pear Harbor: The Sequel. It was an ambush set only six months after the attacks at Pearl. The Japanese goal was to draw the American fleet into a battle the Americans would think they could win, then slam them with additional forces and wipe out much America’s remaining carrier and capital ship strength.

Instead, America captured Japanese communications traffic and set an ambush of their own. Japan was working on the assumption that America would only have two carriers and a fleet full of demoralized sailors. Instead, America intercepted the plans and showed up with an extra carrier and prepped over 120 aircraft on Midway itself to join the battle.

On June 4, 1942, the fleets clashed, and Japanese aircraft were outnumbered by a vengeful U.S. presence in the air. Japan would lose three carriers and almost 250 aircraft in the fight while sinking one U.S. carrier and downing approximately 150 U.S. aircraft. The battle tipped the balance of power in the Pacific in World War II.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

Soviets celebrate holding the city of Stalingrad in February 1943 after the German assault failed.

Battle of Stalingrad

The German invasion of Soviet Union relied on a number of horrible assumptions, including the idea that Soviets, especially the Slavs, were racially inferior and part of an uncoordinated system that would crumble at the first real assault from German armor. Unfortunately for them, racism and hope aren’t viable strategies.

Instead, the Soviets forced Germany to fight for nearly every foot of Soviet territory they took, and Stalingrad was arguably the worst of all. For nearly six months, German forces slogged their way through the city, street by street, and some of the streets were impossible to take. At “Pavlov’s House,” an infantry platoon turned an apartment building into a fortress and wiped out German armored formations for weeks.

The Germans threw well over 1 million men against the city and lost over 800,000 of them killed, captured, and wounded. The Soviets actually lost more (over 1.1 million), but they bled the German formations dry of food, ammo, and in some cases, men, allowing the Soviet Union to take the offensive and begin pushing the enemy back towards Berlin.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

The Bridge at Arnhem stands after British paratroopers were pushed back by a German counterattack in 1944.

(Imperial War Museum)

Operation Market Garden

In 1944, the allies hoped they could end the war in Europe before Christmas — push into the German heartland, take out industry, and push into Berlin by December and give all the Allied citizens the world’s best Christmas present. The plan called for a two-force approach, airborne assaults to take key bridges and a ground campaign to envelope portions of the Ruhr River.

The assault on Sep. 17, 1944, didn’t go as planned. German forces had learned lessons from previous Allied offensives, like a little thing called D-Day, and they made sure to reinforce bridges where possible and blow them up when they couldn’t hold them.

In a series of nine key bridges, the capture of most of them was either delayed or prevented. So, the airborne forces remained isolated as the armored forces couldn’t punch through the German defenders without bridges. Over 15,000 troops were killed, captured, or wounded while inflicting somewhere around 10,000 casualties and failing to take the key terrain, guaranteeing that the war would continue into 1945.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This sea battle claimed the lives of 5 brothers in World War II

On November 13, 1942, the USS Juneau went down in the Pacific Ocean after being struck by a Japanese torpedo in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Only 10 members of the over 700-man crew survived. Onboard were the five Sullivan brothers. They all perished in the battle.


George, Francis, Joseph, Madison, and Albert Sullivan joined the U.S. Navy out of Waterloo, Iowa in January 1942. George and Francis were prior service enlistees, serving on the USS Hover before the war. During the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the brothers lost five friends in combat.

 

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
The Sullivan brothers pose on the USS Juneau. Photo: US Navy

George and Francis immediately began preparations to rejoin the Navy and convinced their brothers and two friends from a motorcycle club to enlist with them. They wrote a letter to the secretary of the Navy asking to be allowed to train and serve together.

The boys went through training together and the Sullivans were later assigned to the USS Juneau, an Atlanta-class light cruiser completed in October 1941. Meanwhile, back home, the Sullivans bonded with each other and the Navy. Albert’s wife and son lived with the Sullivan parents and Alleta Sullivan, their mother, sponsored a ship for the Navy, the USS Tawasa.

As the U.S. Navy tried to halt Japanese advances in the Pacific and began pushing them back, modern cruisers like the Juneau were needed to protect carrier groups from air attack as well as bombard shore positions. The Juneau saw action first in the Atlantic but was sent to the Pacific where it protected the USS Wasp, USS Hornet, and USS Enterprise in fierce combat against the Japanese.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
The USS Juneau in 1942. Photo: US Navy

The Juneau was tasked with protecting reinforcements being ferried ashore to Guadalcanal on November 12, 1942. In the early afternoon, 30 Japanese planes attacked the ships and the Juneau went into action. The gunners picked off six torpedo planes and helped drive off the Japanese attacks.

The American ships prepared for a surface attack. The next day, 18-20 Japanese ships bore down on the small U.S. force. Juneau and the USS Atlanta teamed up and successfully brought down a Japanese ship but the Juneau was struck by an enemy torpedo shortly after. The Juneau withdrew with the damaged USS San Francisco but was engaged again by Japanese torpedoes.

A Japanese sub fired a three-torpedo spread and the Juneau avoided two of them, but the third either passed through the earlier damage into the center of the ship or struck in almost the same spot.

Witnesses described a massive explosion that nearly disintegrated the center of the ship. The two remaining pieces sank in only twenty seconds while the captain and most of the crew, including at least two of the brothers, were killed.

Around 100 sailors made it to the life rafts, including George Sullivan and possibly two other Sullivans. Over the next eight days, sailors died as sharks, exhaustion, and dehydration claimed them. According to a survivor on the same raft as George, he fell into the ocean and was claimed by the sharks.

Only 10 survivors were found and rescued from the USS Juneau and none of the Sullivan brothers were among them. Back home, rumors of the Juneau’s sinking had reached Waterloo and Alleta was desperate to learn whether or not her sons had survived. She wrote to the Bureau of Naval Personnel.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
National Archives and Records Administration

Only days later, she received a personal letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt that expressed his condolences for her sudden loss.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
National Archives and Records Administration

 

The Sullivan Brothers were survived by both of their parents. Albert also left behind a wife, Katherine, and a son, Jim.

Alleta Sullivan continued to be a friend to the Navy after the death of her sons, christening the USS Tawasa as promised but also participating in war bonds drives, encouraging ship builders, and volunteering with the USO to make service members’ lives easier.

 

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
USS The Sullivans fires a Standard Missile-2 during a training exercise. Photo by US Navy Information Specialist 1st Class Steven Martel

The Navy was since named two ships for the Sullivan brothers. USS The Sullivans (DD 537) was a destroyer that now serves as a museum in Buffalo, New York. USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) is an Aegis-class guided missile destroyer that served in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Articles

Motorcycle soldiers used to rush parts to tanks under fire

They were quite possibly the ballsiest men to serve in World War I — a group of motorcyclists who would wait for tanks to get bogged down or disabled and ride on their two-wheeler’s to the rescue.


Motorcyclists provided a number of services to the tank corps including signaling, dispatch riding, and delivering replacement parts or crewmembers to tanks under attack — even when the area was being targeted by enemy artillery or machine gun fire.

Motorcycle soldiers were envisioned by then-Army Capt. George S. Patton, Jr. when he was first standing up the American tank units. Patton wanted at least two motorcycles and riders for each tank company as well as an additional two riders and bikes for the battalion headquarters.

Motorcycles were necessary for traversing the shell-pocked landscape between World War I trenches — areas with mud so deep and inclines so steep that tanks would often get stuck or break.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
U.S. Marine Corps motorcycle riders in Tientsin, China, in 1927. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Archives)

But the motorcyclists may not have had the worst job supporting the fledgling tank corps in World War I. That award probably goes to the salvage corps whose members had to yank tanks from the battlefield.

In the worst cases, members of the salvage corps would map out where all disabled tanks were in No Man’s Land, then crawl out to them through the mud and under artillery fire at night. If they could get the tank running again, they’d drive it off the battlefield. If not, they would strip it for parts as German snipers and machine gunners hunted for them in the dark.

Luckily, a young tanker whose name was lost to history eventually suggested a better idea — outfit one tank as a recovery vehicle to bring necessary parts and mechanics to their comrades under fire.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
American Army Renault FT light tanks in the Argonne Forest in 1918. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

The recovery tanks could also deliver new crewmembers to the battlefield and could tow away damaged tanks, preventing the necessity of motorcycle riders to roar in under artillery fire.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

In 1940, William P. Bonelli, 19, had no desire to join the military. The nation was not yet at war, but Bonelli, who followed the war news in Europe and Asia, said he knew deep inside that war was coming, and probably soon.

Rather than wait for the war to start and get a draft notice, Bonelli decided to enlist in the Army to select a job he thought he’d like: aviation.


Although he wanted to be a fighter pilot, Bonelli said that instead, the Army Air Corps made him an aviation mechanic.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

William P. Bonelli visits airmen at the Pentagon, Dec. 18, 2019.

(Photo by Wayne Clark, Air Force)

After basic training, he was assigned to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, where he arrived by boat in September 1940.

On Dec. 6, 1941, Bonelli and a buddy went to a recreational camping area on the west side of Oahu. That evening, he recalled seeing a black vehicle parked on the beach with four Japanese men inside. The vehicle had two long whip antennas mounted to the rear bumper. Bonelli said he thought it odd at the time. Later, he added, he felt certain that they were there to guide enemy planes to targets.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii with his girlfriend.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

Early Sunday morning, Dec. 7, Bonelli and his buddy drove back to the base. After passing Wheeler Army Airfield, which is next to Honolulu, they saw three small, single-engine aircraft flying very low.

“I had never seen these aircraft before, so I said, jokingly to my friend, ‘Those aren’t our aircraft. I wonder whose they are? You know, we might be at war,'” he remembered.

A few minutes later as they were approaching Hickam, the bombing started. Since they were on an elevation, Bonelli said, they could see the planes bombing the military bases as well as Ford Island, where Navy ships were in flames, exploding and sinking.

Bonelli and his buddy went to the supply room at Hickam to get rifles and ammunition.

“I got in line,” he said. “The line was slow-moving because the supply sergeant wanted rank, name and serial number. All the time, we were being strafed with concentrated bursts.

“Several men were hit but there were no fatalities,” he continued. The sergeant dispensed with signing and said, ‘Come and get ’em.'”

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

By 8:30 a.m., Bonelli had acquired a rifle, two belts of bullets and a handgun with several clips. He distinctly remembered firing at four Japanese Zero aircraft with his rifle and pistol, but there was no indication of a hit.

Bodies were everywhere, and a bulldozer was digging a trench close to the base hospital for the burial of body parts, he said.

All of the hangars with aircraft inside were bombed, while the empty ones weren’t, he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Japanese pilots had radio contact from the ground,” he added.

In 1942, Bonelli’s squadron was relocated to Nadi, Fiji. There, he worked on B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers as a qualified engineer, crew chief and gunner.

In 1943, Bonelli resubmitted his papers for flight school and was accepted, traveling back to the United States for training in Hobbs, New Mexico.

He got orders to Foggia, Italy, in 1944 and became a squadron lead pilot in the 77rd Bomb Squadron, 463rd Bomb Group. They flew the B-17s.

Bonelli led his squadron in 30 sorties over Austria, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia until April 1945, just before the war ended.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

The second sortie over Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, on Oct. 23, 1944, was the one he recalled as being the worst, with much of the cockpit blown apart and the rest of the aircraft shot up badly.

For the next few days, Bonelli said, he felt shaken. The Germans on the ground were very proficient with the 88 mm anti-aircraft weapons, and they could easily pick off the U.S. bombers flying at 30,000 feet, he said.

Normally, the squadrons would fly in a straight line for the bombing runs. Bonelli said he devised a strategy to deviate about 400 feet from the straight-line trajectory on the next sortie, Nov. 4 over Regensburg, Germany.

The tactic worked, he said, and the squadron sustained lighter damage. So he used that tactic on subsequent missions, and he said many lives of his squadron were undoubtedly saved because of it.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy with his flight crew. Back row, left to right: Army Staff Sgt. Harry Murray, later killed in action; Army Staff Sgt. Freeman Quinn; Army Staff Sgt. James Oakley; Army Staff Sgt. Karl Main; Army Tech. Sgt. John Raney; and, Army Tech. Sgt. Howard Morreau. Front row, left to right: Army 1st Lt. Charles Cranford, navigator; 1st Lt. Steve Conway, co-pilot; Capt. Fred Anderson, bombardier; and Bonelli, the pilot.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

When the war ended, Bonelli had a change of heart and decided to stay in the Army Air Corps, which became the Air Force in 1947. He said he developed a love for flying and aviation mechanic work. He stayed in and retired after having served 20 years.

He also realized his dream to become a fighter pilot, flying the F-84F Thunderstreak, a fighter-bomber, which, he said, was capable of carrying a small nuclear weapon.

After retiring, Bonelli got a career with the Federal Aviation Administration, working in a variety of aviation specialties.

Looking back over his military and civilian careers, he said he was blessed with doing jobs he loves, although there were, of course, some moments of anxiety when bullets were flying.

He offered that a stint or career in the military can be a rewarding experience for ambitious young people.

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

MIGHTY HISTORY

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

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

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

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


These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

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

(National Archives)

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

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

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

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

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

(National Archives)

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Former slave and Civil War veteran Reddy Gray died on Sep. 4, 1922, when he was 79 years old. He was buried in Baltimore’s Loudon Park National Cemetery — the first VA burial site included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Gray’s experience is representative of African Americans who risked travel through the Underground Railroad to find freedom, but his story is significant for the wealth of information gleaned from public records. His life is a reminder of the fight for civil rights that began in the 1860s to continues today.


These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

Deed of Manumission and Release of Service,” 1865.

Gray went by Reddy, short for Redmond, Redman or Reverdy. Born at Loch Raven, Maryland, to John and Lydia Talbott Gray, he was enslaved by the Thomas Cradock Risteau family in Baltimore County from birth to until the middle of the Civil War. Likely a field worker or carriage driver, he resisted servitude by escaping in March 1863. It is not clear what happened, but Gray’s “Deed of Manumission and Release of Service” retroactively corresponds with his enlistment. President Abraham Lincoln had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and the U.S. Army was recruiting black soldiers.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

U.S. Army, Gray Muster-Out record, 1865.

Gray enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops at Baltimore City on March 23, 1864. His Company B, 39th U.S. Colored Infantry, fought in Virginia at the Sieges of Petersburg and Richmond, and in the expeditions and capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington in North Carolina. Reddy mustered out in Wilmington on Dec. 4, 1865, and that record remarks, “slave when enlisted.”

His life after the Civil War shows personal accomplishment and community involvement. He learned to read and write. He returned to Baltimore and had four children, including son Redmond, with second wife Susan Gray, who worked as a laundress. In the army he suffered from rheumatism, for which he received a disability pension in 1890; however, he worked as a manual laborer doing light work like trimming lawns or gathering rags and as a carriage driver.


These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

Reddy Gray Burial Site Certificate of Acceptance, NPS 2018.

As “Redmond” Gray, he appears in the Baltimore Sun, Sep. 15, 1894, as judge for a running race at the “Colored People’s Fair” in Timonium, Maryland; and a few years later as a member of the Colored-Odd Fellows. Reddy (also Reverdy) Gray is honored with his name on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Other black soldiers who found their freedom through the Underground Railroad are buried at Loudon Park National Cemetery along with Gray, but their stories are not so easily documented.

The Network to Freedom program is managed by the National Park Service, per the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998. Loudon Park National Cemetery was one of the 14 original national cemeteries established under the National Cemetery Act of July 17, 1862; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the 3rd Infantry Division is called ‘Rock of the Marne’

The 3rd Infantry Division, then known simply as the 3rd Division, was activated in November 1917 for service in World War I. They were fighting the Germans by April 1918. The green troops of the 3rd Division were thrown into the line in the midst of a strong German attack along the Marne River.


The Marne had been the site of a significant battle that had turned back the German onslaught into France in 1914. It would be remembered once again in 1918.

Also read: This is why 3/2 Marines call themselves ‘the Betio Bastards’

After the Germans’ Spring Offensives had ground to a halt, they still sought a breakthrough of the Allied lines. Hoping to draw forces away from Flanders, where the Germans hoped to eventually drive through to Paris, they launched a large scale offensive to the south in the vicinity of Reims.

In the early morning darkness of July 15, 1918 the Germans began crossing the Marne River in assault boats.

Under a massive artillery barrage, the German Seventh Army smashed into the French Sixth Army. Under the brutal bombardment and onslaught of German stormtroopers, the French fell back in disarray. All along the line the Germans were quickly gaining ground – except for one spot on their right flank.

This was the position held by the 3rd Division. Particularly stubborn resistance came from the 38th Infantry Regiment under the command of Col. Ulysses McAlexander. It was dug in along the riverbank with a secondary line holding a raised railroad embankment. As the Germans crossed the river they were met with murderous fire from the Americans.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

As they landed, the Germans quickly found themselves engaged in brutal hand-to-hand combat.

Unfortunately for the Americans, there were simply too many Germans and slowly but surely the advanced platoons on the riverbank were wiped out. The Germans were then met at the railroad embankment, where according to Capt. Jesse Woolridge, they gave a thousand times more than they took, but even those positions became untenable. Reinforcements were quickly rushed in and smashed the beleaguered German troops.

This effort finally broke up the attack.

In Woolridge’s account, he states “it’s God’s truth that one Company of American soldiers beat and routed a full regiment of picked shock troops of the German Army.”

While the rest of the 3rd Division was pushed back, the 38th Infantry was giving the Germans hell.  Refusing to relinquish his position despite his exposed flanks, Col. McAlexander pulled his two battalions on the flanks back to form a horseshoe shape. The shape of his defense and the stubbornness with which he held it earned McAlexander and the rest of the regiment an enduring nickname – the Rock of the Marne.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
General Ulysses Grant McAlexander.

The nickname eventually came to encompass the entire division for their stellar defense of their sector during the massive German attack. The Division would later adopt the special designation The Marne Division as well for their part in the battle.

At the Second Battle of the Marne, the 3rd Division also received its official motto. As French troops retreated, 3rd Division soldiers rushed to the scene to hold the line. The division commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Dickman, gave his famous orders, in French so their allies would understand, “Nous resterons la!” – We shall remain here!

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start

The battle was significant. Not just to the 3rd Division but to the entire American war effort. The Americans were relatively untested at the time and their success in holding back the Germans at the Marne garnered great respect from their European counterparts.

Stopping the German offensive also opened the way for the immediate counterattacks of the Aisne-Marne Offensive and finally the Hundred Days offensive that would eventually lead to Germany’s capitulation. The division’s stand was called “one of the most brilliant pages in the annals of military history” by the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, Gen. John Pershing.

The 3rd Infantry Division would go on to distinguish itself once again during the Second World War. The 3rd was the only division to meet the Nazis on every front fighting from North Africa to Sicily, onto the Italian mainland, into Southern France before ending the war in Germany.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
The 3rd Infantry Division starts the long road home after WWII.

During its spectacular march against the Axis, some 35 members of the division were awarded the Medal of Honor for their action in combat including their most famous member, Audie Murphy.

The Marne Division later fought in the Korean War before spending the Cold War guarding Germany against possible Russian aggression. Since 2003, the division has been actively involved in the Global War on Terror and led the US Army’s invasion of Iraq.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
The U.S. 3rd Infantry Division secures an abandoned UN position on the Kuwait-Iraqi border in March 2003.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This entire room made of amber was stolen by Nazis before it disappeared forever

Witnesses reported seeing the 24 crates containing what has been called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” at a railroad station at Königsberg, Prussia in 1943. They had earlier been seen in the courtyard of Königsberg Castle.


They were never seen again.

Inside the crates, was an all-amber room that was built by Prussia’s Frederick I between 1701-1706 and later given by Frederick’s son, Frederick William I, to Peter the Great of Russia. The chamber, when assembled, was completely enclosed with amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors and garnished with mosaics, nymphs, cupids and angels, inlays, landscapes, and miniatures — all in amber.

Its construction nearly broke the Prussian economy when it was built, and its worth today, if it were ever found, is estimated to be near $200 million.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
Can’t imagine why it was stolen…

Peter accepted Frederick Wilhelm’s gift, something, he said in a letter, he had “dreamed of for a long time.” The Amber Room was disassembled and moved to Russia, but nothing was done about reassembling it there — largely because no one was able to figure out how the badly-marked pieces went together — until the woman who would become Catherine the Great ascended the Russian throne in 1767.

Catherine, who originally came from the amber-mining region near the Black Sea, added another 900 pounds of amber to the room and implemented the work done by an Italian sculptor who had worked on the reassembly problem.  She also added large windows to the room and had it assembled at her Tsarskoye Selo palace.

The completed room was said to come alive in candlelight.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
An early photo of the original Amber Room.

The room languished in the St. Petersburg — later Leningrad — Palace until June 1941, when Germany invaded Russia. Ten weeks after the invasion, Germany laid siege to Leningrad. As the siege continued, Russians in the city struggled to save what historic treasure they could, including the Amber Room. Because of the fragility of the amber and the resulting difficulty in removing and storing it, a false room was built inside the Amber Room that hid it from view. But when the Nazis took the palace in September, they discovered the room, disassembled it, and stored it in crates. Those crates were then moved to Königsberg, again reassembled, and displayed in the town’s castle, the former home of the Teutonic Knights.

As the war wound down, Königsberg became the target of frequent Allied bombing raids and the room was again disassembled, loaded in crates, and stored in the castle’s cellar. The crates containing the Amber Room were seen in the castle’s courtyard in January 1945 and later at the railroad depot in Königsberg.

From there, they disappeared.

Since the war, searches have all been unsuccessful in locating any trace of the missing crates and their contents. Numerous theories as to what happened to the famous Amber Room have also been broadcast — all unsubstantiated.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
A colorized photo of the original Amber Room.

As recently as 2008, radar scans detected a large amount of metal believed to be too dense to be copper in an abandoned copper mine in Deutschneudorf, Saxony that some people, including Hans-Peter Haustein, mayor of Deutschneudorf, claim is the burial site of the Amber Room.  Others believe the Amber Room was hidden 2,000 feet down in a salt mine near Gottingen, Germany that has since been flooded. Still other researchers have speculated that the Amber Room was loaded aboard the German liner Wilhelm Gustoloff, which was being used to move refugees across the Baltic Sea, and went down with the ship when it was sunk in January 1945.

Or — perhaps the most likely of all — it was simply destroyed during the Royal Air Force bombing raids in early 1945.

Fortunately, the curious can still get a glimpse of the room’s splendor.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
A Black and White photo of the Amber Room, taken before the war.

A copy of the room has been created based on black and white photos that were taken of it. Russian President Vladimir Putin dedicated the room at a celebration of the 300-year anniversary of the city of Saint Petersburg in 2003. That copy is currently on display at the Tsarskoye Selo Palace.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Cabanatuan Raid: The largest rescue in American history

Pacific theater, late 1944. Allied forces have been gradually uprooting the Japanese forces and pushing them back to Japan.

As its foothold in the Pacific shrinks by the day, the Imperial Japanese Army is getting desperate. Already the Japanese have shown a willingness to fight to the last man, an echo of the country’s ancient martial tradition.

However interesting to the outsider the Japanese warfighting culture might be, it bellies a darker side; a side full of disdain and often unfathomable brutality against a defeated foe, regardless of if it’s a civilian or a prisoner of war.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
Rangers who participated in the Cabanatuan Raid (Wikimedia.org).

In December 1944, Japanese troops burn alive and shoot 139 Allied prisoners of wars, many of whom were survivors of the Bataan Death March and the desperate fight at the Corregidor, in the Philippines’ Palawan province.

A handful of Americans manage to escape and join the Filipino guerillas. Through them, they succeed in getting the word about the massacre to the approaching American forces. The intelligence makes Allied commanders realize that Allied prisoners of war in several other camps in the region face imminent execution.

They decide to rescue them.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
American commandos who participated in the Cabanatuan Raid (Wikimedia.org).

A daring raid of the Cabanatuan Prison Camp

Cabanatuan Prison Camp, January 30, 1945.

Cabanatuan is the largest internment camp in the region, housing over 5,000 prisoners of war at its peak. By January 1945, there are approximately 500 Allied troops held there.

The hostage rescue force is comprised of approximately 120 Rangers and Alamo Scouts, a special operations unit, and about 200 Filipino guerillas. To get to the camp, the rescue force will have to march 30 miles through enemy lines, no small feat considering the size of the force. The Filipinos’ knowledge of the area and the friendly local population somewhat simplify the logistics of the movement.

Led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci, commander of the 6th Ranger Battalion, the raid force is divided into two elements. With 90 men, the assault element will storm the camp through the main, kill any Japanese who resist, and rescue the prisoners. The 30 men of the support element will flank the camp from the east and destroy several guard towers and provide fire support where needed.

Two additional elements, primarily comprised of Filipino guerrillas with some American commands to help, set up blocking positions to the east and west of the camp to hold off any attempt by the Japanese to interfere with the rescue.

A P-61 Black Widow aircraft, which is designed for nighttime operations, will signal the attack with an overpass of the camp in order to distract the Japanese guards.

These are the rebel wars where Chesty Puller got his start
American commandos and Filipino guerrillas after the Cabanatuan Raid (Wikimedia.org).

At exactly 1945, the raid begins.

The largest hostage rescue in American history

The P-61 succeeds in distracting the Japanese guards, allowing the rescue force to approach the camp without getting detected. In a matter of minutes, the American commands overwhelm the Japanese guards and rescue the prisoners, many of who can’t walk following years of forced labor, scant rations, and brutal punishments.

The two blocking positions stop several Japanese relief attempts, killing numerous enemies and destroying several tanks, before collapsing to the camp, where the rescue force has evacuated anyone they could find.

Rescuers and rescued make their way back through enemy lines, using several wagons and stretchers to carry those who can’t walk. After a dangerous and soul-draining forced march, the whole force arrives in friendly lines the next morning. Mission success.

In the Cabanatuan Raid, the American commandos rescued 489 prisoners of war and 33 civilians, while suffering four Americans killed in action (two commandos and two prisoners) and four wounded.

The Cabanatuan Raid is the largest rescue in American history. In the following three weeks, American commandos conduct two similar operations, in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp and Los Banos, rescuing more Allied prisoners of war.   

Among the Rangers who took part in the raid was an officer named Arthur “Bull” Simons, who was the executive officer of the 6th Ranger Battalion. Simons would go on the become a legend in the US special operations community and play a key part in the Son Tay hostage rescue during the Vietnam War. Today, the US Special Operations Command recognizes one of its members every year with the Bull Simons Award.

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