Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

It seems like, every so often, every branch of the military updates its tattoo policy. It’s done for various reasons, but ultimately, it’s to keep an orderly and professional appearance. But ever since the first tattoo parlor opened its doors in 1846, tattoos have had a well-seated place in the hearts (and on the skin) of many troops and veterans.


The art of body-marking and tattooing as a status symbol for warriors dates back well over five thousand years. Everyone from the Ancient Greeks to the Maori tribes of New Zealand marked their warriors as a sign of their strength. Even before tattoos were widespread among the U.S. military, Revolutionary War sailors tattooed personal identifiers on their skin to avoid being illegally conscripted by the British Navy.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
And Teddy Roosevelt knew this guy (David E. Warford) would be perfect for the Rough Riders. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

During the American Civil War, early tattoo artist Martin Hildebrant traveled the battlefields and decorated the troops with various, patriotic designs. Even Marine Corps legend, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, was said to have an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattooed across his chest

Despite a general disinterest in tattoos among civilians in a post-WWI society, the 1925 book, The History of Tattooing, states that a whopping 90% of U.S. Sailors were tattooed. This was the golden age of sailors using their bodies as secondary service records of their achievements. Sailors would get a shellback turtle for crossing the equator, a golden dragon for crossing the International Date Line, and a golden shellback for crossing both at the same spot. Even rarer is a purple porpoise, which is for making this same crossing during the sacred hour of the spring equinox.

Related: Here are the meanings behind 19 classic sailor tattoos

Seeing a tattoo on an older sailor means either they sailed through a very specific spot at a very specific time — or they just really like purple dolphins.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

In today’s military, the old traditions still ring true. Sailors will still mark themselves for their Naval achievements. Marines still get the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on their first liberty. Soldiers will still get one or more of the same six tattoos. And airmen will probably get something nice in a spot that doesn’t hurt too much.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Ross Perot was a veteran to be admired

Nowadays, people may not remember much about H. Ross Perot outside of his boisterous personality, his third-party Presidential run, or maybe even just comedian Dana Carvey’s spot-on impression of the Texas billionaire. Perot was a naval officer and eight-year veteran whose work ethic and subsequent success is the very ideal vets strive to achieve. He not only helped himself, he helped others achieve their potential.

The onetime Eagle Scout even demonstrated his love for country after leaving the military, by remembering POWs, supporting American troops by opposing a war, and taking care of the Americans who worked for him. His Presidential run was just the most visible part of the former Midshipman’s life.


As far as Dana Carvey’s impression goes, Perot loved it.

“The number one rule in leadership is to always be accountable for what you do,” Perot famously said in the middle of the 1992 Presidential Debate. “When you make a mistake, step up to the plate and say you made a mistake. That’s leadership, folks.”

Perot knew a thing or two about leadership. He joined the Navy via the Naval Academy at Annapolis, becoming the class President for the Academy’s 1953 class. It was there he helped establish the Academy’s honor concept, a code of conduct that forbids Midshipmen from lying, cheating, or stealing. He graduated from the USNA a distinguished graduate, forever changing the experiences of Midshipmen at the Academy.

“I had never seen the ocean, and I had never seen a ship — but I knew that I wanted to go to the Naval Academy,” he reportedly said of his appointment to Annapolis.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

But his determination didn’t end with his service. Like most of us, Perot transitioned into civilian life and found the standards much lower than he was used to. In his first post-military job as a salesman for IBM, he filled his entire annual quota in two weeks. He would eventually go on to found his own information technology company, Electronic Data Systems, the one that would make him a billionaire. Within a week of going public, he increased the EDS stock price tenfold. It was the fastest fortune ever made by any Texan.

When called upon to serve his country as a civilian, he did so, traveling to Laos in 1969 to investigate the conditions of American POWs held by the North. Perot was apparently appalled, as he tried to organize a relief airlift that rubbed the Cold War superpowers the wrong way. He also took care of his people, as many veterans instinctively do, even when he was at the top. When two of his employees were taken captive by Iranians in 1979, he organized and paid for the rescue operation that freed the two hostages.

It was with this life of service, hard work, and success that Perot was able to take the fight to two entrenched parties represented by longtime politicians, and change the American political scene forever. For all the jokes made about his demeanor, Perot earned nearly 20 percent of the popular vote, a return that forced President Bill Clinton to reconsider his economic policies and end his term with a budget surplus – a practically unthinkable feat in today’s politics.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the fighter that was flown by the first US president to go supersonic

A number of U.S. presidents have served in the military. One, though, flew jets and went supersonic. That was George W. Bush, who served as a fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard- the first President to break Mach 1.


Though his Air National Guard service was heavily criticized during his runs for the White House, it’s beyond dispute that Bush flew the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger when he was in the ANG.

This plane had a top speed of Mach 1.25, a maximum range of 1,350 miles, and could carry six AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missiles and 24 unguided rockets.

 

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
F-102As over South Vietnam. (USAF photo)

In a 2004 report, NationalReview.com noted that Bush sought to get into the Palace Alert program, which involved F-102s being deployed to Vietnam. He was passed over due to a lack of experience. The F-102 provided air defense and served as a bomber escort during the Vietnam War, and 15 were lost to hostile action, including one shot down by a MiG-21.

The F-102 was a replacement for the F-89 Scorpion and other first-generation interceptors like the F-86D and the F-94, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. Development was troubled, and while in service, the F-102 had a Class A mishap rate of 13.69 per 100,000 flight hours.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
A F-102A Delta Dagger with the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, the unit George W. Bush flew with. (USAF photo)

 

The F-102 served from 1956 to the 1970s with the Air Force, and was with Air National Guard units until 1976. The plane also saw service with Greece and Turkey – helping protect NATO’s southern flank. A refined version of this plane became the F-106 Delta Dart.

If you’d like to see the fighter in action, you can catch a video on the supersonic F-102 below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines

America’s defense of the Philippines from December 1941 to April 1942 was a desperate one. It was a time when the most powerful military leaders in the world, including America’s renowned General Douglas MacArthur,  scrambled to get basic food and ammunition to American, Filipino, and other forces gallantly holding out against what was the one of the world’s fiercest fighting forces, the Imperial forces of Japan.


Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
U.S. Army troops move up against Japanese Forces in March 1945, nearly three years after Japan conquered the Philippines.
(Army photo by Lt. Robert Fields)

 

For Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur and other military leaders tasked with preventing a complete collapse, the solution was clear: Run the blockade by any means available, including hiring smugglers and submarines, offering bonuses to civilian or Navy crews who successfully delivered supplies to the islands and survived.

The first Japanese attacks on the Philippines began just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, with Japanese aircraft catching American interceptors on the ground between patrols. Japanese landing parties arrived hours later, and the Japanese march on Manila was underway.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
​Army air crews pilots and ground personnel pose in front of a P-40 pursuit aircraft in the Philippines in 1942, just before the islands were conquered by Japan.
(U.S. Army Air Corps)

American defenders outnumbered their Japanese attackers, but the Japanese forces were battle-hardened veterans from other theaters of the war while the American and Filipino forces included a lot of green troops, some of them recruited as recently as that fall.

With the Japanese fleet dominating the ocean around the islands and elite Japanese forces pushing the Americans back, it quickly became clear that American forces were fighting a delaying action. MacArthur, desperate to hold the ground and keep his men alive, pushed for immediate resupply.

One early proposal was that the Navy put together a task force of submarines to smuggle supplies, especially rations, in under the Japanese blockade. But the Navy resisted the plan, saying that their submarines were needed to keep pressure on the Japanese Navy, and that their naval clashes tied up large numbers of Japanese ships and planes that would otherwise be used against American forces ashore.

This argument carried the day at first, but as January arrived with no real resupply, the defenders were forced onto reduced rations. Worse, jungle diseases were taking an increasing toll on the Americans, especially those forced to fight in low-lying and jungle areas.

So, leaders, from colonels on the ground to Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall, pushed for creative options with next to no regard for cost. Planes from other islands and Australia were sent to airdrop what supplies they could, but they were mostly limited to relatively light items, like medicine and bandages, with almost no capability for the heavy stuff, like rations and ammo.

MacArthur requested anti-aircraft ammunition via submarine, but was turned down. Marshall, meanwhile, dictated orders for ships and funds in Australia to be used to resupply the Philippines:

Use your funds without stint. Call for more if required. Colonel Chamberlin has a credit of ten million dollars of Chief of Staff’s fund which can be spent in whatever manner latter deems advisable. I direct its use for this purpose. Arrange for advance payments, partial payments for unsuccessful efforts, and large bonus for actual delivery. Your judgement must get results. Organize groups of bold and resourceful men, dispatch them with funds by planes to islands in possession of our associates, there to buy food and charter vessels for service. Rewards for actual delivery Bataan or Corregidor must be fixed at level to insure utmost energy and daring on part of masters. At same time dispatch blockade runners from Australia with standard rations and small amounts of ammunition on each. Movement must be made on broad front over many routes. . . . Only indomitable determination and pertinacity will succeed and success must be ours. Risks will be great. Rewards must be proportional. Report initiation of plan

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
​The USS Narwhal, one of the submarines eventually pressed into service to deliver supplies to beleaguered American forces in the Philippines.
(U.S. Navy)

But the blockade runners also had issues getting through, and precious few were even sent. Eventually, the need to remove MacArthur, by order or President Frankiln D. Roosevelt, as well as precious metals and Filipino officials before Japan could capture them necessitated the use of submarines for evacuation.

So, the armed forces went ahead and put food and bullets on the submarines for the way in. A few more submarines were loaded with supplies in late winter and early spring, including three from Hawaii, but few were able to find their dropoff point and get fully unloaded before Japanese forces either captured their destination or preemptively forced the their withdrawal.

After all, submarines aren’t made to be rapidly unloaded, especially outside of normal port facilities. And the supplies typically had to be stored in ballast tanks, increasing the challenge.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur returns to the Philippines in 1944.

(U.S. Army)
Gen. Douglas MacArthur returns to the Philippines in 1944.
(U.S. Army)

So, by March, some units were on quarter or starvation rations, and Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to evacuate himself and his family. MacArthur still believed that sufficiently determined commanders could run the blockade, and he effected his escape in in a patrol torpedo boat.

But, despite aerial, surface, and submarine attempts at resupply over the following month, adequate supplies just couldn’t make it through to the men. Finally, Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright IV, acting commander of all Allied forces in the Philippines, was forced to surrender the garrison. Before he did so, he put large sections of his command back under the direct control of MacArthur so that they wouldn’t be included in the surrender.

Still, Japan took over 60,000 prisoners, and forced most of them on the Bataan Death March where over 10,000 died on their way to prison camps. American and Filipino forces that were not part of the surrender fought on for the duration of the war, celebrating MacArthur and conventional forces’ return to the islands in October, 1944.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 Air Force pararescuemen who risked it all ‘that others may live’

This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

Troops headed into combat know that an entire medical chain exists to keep them alive and as healthy as possible for as long as possible if they’re hit. The goal is to get them out of harm’s way within the “Golden Hour,” the first hour after injury, to maximize their odds of survival and recovery. But while medics and corpsmen are the backbone of that chain, the Air Force has teams of specially trained personnel who exist solely to put their lives on the line to save others in the most dire of combat medical crises.


These Air Force pararescue personnel deploy forward with other elite forces and fly into combat to save troops already under fire. They live by the motto, “that others may live.”

Here are six of them that epitomized those words.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

(U.S. Air Force)

1. Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger

William Pitsenbarger was the first enlisted airman to receive the Air Force Cross, later upgraded to the Medal of Honor, and his sacrifice is still the standard to which modern pararescuemen strive to honor with service. Now, his amazing story is finally reaching the masses when The Last Full Measure hits theatres on January 24, 2020.

Check out the trailer below:

The Last Full Measure Official Trailer | Roadside Attractions

www.youtube.com

William Pitsenbarger embodied service. He volunteered for service in Vietnam, he volunteered to be lowered into a minefield to save a Vietnamese soldier, and, in April 1966, he volunteered his way into a massive firefight that would claim his life.

When an Army company stumbled into an ambush, the mortar, machine gun, and rifle fire came so quick and thick that the soldiers were soon unable to defend themselves while evacuating their wounded. Pitsenbarger recognized what was happening and got special permission to join them on the ground and prepare the wounded for evacuation. Pitsenbarger got nine of the wounded out on three flights before it became too dangerous for the helicopters to operate.

Still, he stayed on the ground, running ammo to American positions under fire. Sadly, due to at least two gunshot wounds, he was killed. He was credited with directly saving nine lives and with medical aid and battlefield actions that may have helped save dozens more.

His award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, making him the first airman to earn the award.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

(U.S. Air Force)

2. Chief Master Sgt. Duane Hackney

Duane Hackney is arguably the most decorated airman in U.S. history. We can’t go into all of his heroics here, but he served from Vietnam to Desert Storm and amassed an Air Force Cross, a Silver Star, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Purple Hearts, and 18 Air Medals.

His first Purple Hearts came almost immediately after he arrived in Vietnam. A .30-caliber round struck him in the leg and he got a fellow pararescueman to treat it so he could stay in the fight. He was awarded the Air Force Cross for extracting a downed pilot from a fierce firefight, immediately getting shot out of his helicopter during extraction, and then doubling back to the crashed helicopter to check for survivors before finally evacuating again. He received that award in a ceremony where he also got the Silver Star for bravery during a completely unrelated rocket attack. In short, he’s built one hell of a resume.

Despite surviving a combat tour of Vietnam that started with a Purple Heart and ended with an Air Force Cross, Hackney volunteered to stay for another three years.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

(From left to right) Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham and Staff Sgt. Gabe Brown pose for a photo just weeks before March 4, 2002, where Miller and Cunningham would earn the Air Force Cross and Brown would earn a Silver Star.

(U.S. Air Force)

3. Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller

Pararescue specialist Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller was involved in the Battle of Takur Ghar in Paktia Province, Afghanistan. On March 4, 2002, he was inserting with an Air Force Combat Search and Rescue Team to rescue two service members that had become separated after their helicopter was shot up on the ridge. Miller’s team faced heavy fire while landing and was forced down, crashing onto the mountain.

Miller quickly led the establishment of a hasty defense and then began rendering aid to the wounded. Four of his team were killed almost instantly and five were wounded, but Miller re-distributed ammo to those able to fight and maintained the medical interventions on the wounded for the next 15 hours in bitter cold. He was credited with saving wounded men, allowing the soldiers and airman to keep fighting until rescued, and allowing for the successful recovery of seven sets of U.S. remains.

4. Senior Airman Jason Cunningham

Senior Airman Jason Cunningham was on the same MH-47E helicotper as Tech Sgt. Miller when it was shot down. Cunningham immediately began treating the wounded when they hit the ground and moved injured personnel from the burning helicopter. He was critically wounded while defending patients, but he kept doing everything he could to save others.

He directed the disposition of the wounded and handed their care over to a medic before succumbing to his injuries. He was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross on Sept. 13, 2002.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

(Video Still by Air Force Senior Airman Stephen Ellis)

5. Master Sgt. Ivan Ruiz

On Dec. 10, 2013, pararescue craftsman Master Sgt. Ivan Ruiz was attached to an Army Special Forces and Afghan Commando team for a raid in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. The nighttime operation met enemy contact almost immediately, and Ruiz’s team took out four insurgents. Ruiz moved forward with two others into a courtyard where the others were hit.

Rather than withdraw to cover, Ruiz laid down heavy fire, killing one insurgent and suppressing the others long enough for him to reach the wounded men. Despite heavy machine gun fire, grenades, and accurate rifle fire, Ruiz stayed exposed until other teammates reached him, then he gave lifesaving care to his buddies under fire.

He’s credited with saving their lives and helping to pin down and kill 11 enemy insurgents.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

(U.S. Air Force)

6. Staff Sgt. Thomas Culpepper

Pararescueman Staff Sgt. Thomas Culpepper was part of a call to rescue three members of an Army Pathfinder team trapped in an IED belt on May 26, 2011. One Pathfinder was severely injured and the other two were trying to keep him alive, but extracting them from what was essentially a minefield would be tricky.

As Culpepper was raising the second soldier to the helicopter, it suddenly lost power and entered free fall. Culpepper kept control of his casualty and the helicopter came to a stop just a few feet from the ground. They escaped the IED belt and made it home — the injured soldier, tragically, did not survive his wounds.

Culpepper later received the Distinguished Service Cross with Valor Device.

This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the only combat jumps US troops have made since 9/11

It was once the most heroic thing a soldier could do. They’d strap themselves up with the barest of combat essentials and jump out of the back of a perfectly good aircraft into uncertain danger — often ending up miles away from their intended drop zone and, sometimes, completely on their own.

Combat jumps led the Allied Forces to victory in WWII. These same tactics were employed during the Korean War and Vietnam War and, eventually, were used by Rangers and Green Berets in Grenada and Panama. When it came time for the Global War on Terrorism, well, let’s just say there are only a handful of combat jumps that come without asterisks attached.


It should be noted that this list cannot be exhaustive, as there are likely some jumps that that have yet to be declassified. Also, there were many airborne insertions done in-theater, but those don’t qualify you for the coveted “mustard stain,” so they don’t make the list.

The following are the only jumps that have happened since September 11, 2001 that satisfy all the requirements to fully classify as combat jumps.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

Now it is known as Kandahar Airfield, home to the ISAF command, several NATO nation’s commands, a TGI Fridays, and a pond full of human excrement.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman)

Objective Rhino

Just 38 days after the horrific attacks of September 11th, the 75th Ranger Regiment sent 200 of their most badass Rangers to meet with the 101st Airborne Division 100 miles south of Kandahar, Afghanistan — the last bastion of complete Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Rangers landed on a derelict strip of land and expected heavy resistance. In actuality, they found just one, lone Taliban fighter who presumably sh*t himself as 200 Rangers dropped in on him.

There, they established a sufficient forward operating base, called FOB Rhino, which opened the way to take back Kandahar for the Afghan people.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

​Fun fact: they technically beat the next entry by a few days, forever solidifying their bragging rights.

(U.S. Army)

Objective Serpent

The 75th Rangers, who are featured heavily on this list, led the way into Iraq by making combat jumps into Iraq in March, 2003 — the first in Iraq since Desert Storm.

The Rangers landed in the region a few weeks earlier by airborne insertion to capture the lead operational planner of the September 11th attacks. They accomplished this within three days of touching boots to the ground. The next wave of 2nd Battalion 75th Rangers came to secure al-Qa’im and Haditha before making their way into Baghdad.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

If you didn’t know about this one… Don’t worry. Literally everyone in the 173rd will remind you of this whenever their personal Airborne-ness is brought into question.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Adam Sanders)

Operation Northern Delay

In the early morning of March 26th, 2003, 996 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Division jumped into the relatively empty Bashur Airfield and stopped six entire divisions of Saddam’s army from continuing on to Baghdad.

This marked the first wave of conventional troops in the region and the beginning of the end of Saddam’s regime. This was also the only jump conducted by conventional USAF airmen as the 786th Security Forces Squadron also jumped with them.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

Come on, 75th Rangers! You guys are leaving out all the good, juicy details of your classified missions!

(U.S. Army)

Various Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment jumps in Afghanistan

Very little is known about the last two publicly-disclosed combat jumps, as is the case with most JSOC missions, other than the fact that they were both conducted by the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company Teams 3 and 1.

RRC Team 3 jumped into Tillman Drop Zone in southeast Afghanistan on July 3rd, 2004, to deploy tactical equipment in a combat military free-fall parachute drop.

This was the last RRC time made a jump until Team 1 jumped five years later on July 11th, 2009, into an even more remote location of Afghanistan — but this time, scant reports state that the jumps including a tandem passenger to aid in deploying tactical equipment.

We’ll just have to wait for the history books to be written, I guess.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 4 most poorly named military weapons

Some military vehicles are given names that accurately reflect what they do and how well they do it. Others, however, are not so fortunate — they’re given military monikers that simply don’t fit.

The following tools of war were either given names so lofty that it makes a mockery of their actual performance or a name so low-class that it’s a disgrace to the weapon.


Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

At Midway, the Devastator got devastated by Mitsubishi A6M “Zeke” fighters.

(U.S. Navy)

Douglas TBD Devastator

This plane’s name would have you thinking it’s something that can deliver a huge amount of firepower, sufficient enough to destroy whatever ship lays in its path. Unfortunately, this was far from the reality of the Douglas TBD Devastator.

At the Battle of Midway, a total of 41 Devastators attacked the Japanese carriers. Torpedo Squadron Eight, based on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8) and accounted for 15 of those Devastators — all of which were wiped out. In total, only six Devastators survived. ‘Devastated’ is a much more fitting title.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

The KC-97 Stratofreighter was really an aerial refueling tanker, as seen in action with these A-7 Corsairs.

(USAF)

Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter

This plane found quite a bit of success in its lifetime: 811 were built by the United States and it saw plenty of peacetime work. It was introduced in 1951 and stuck around until 1978 with the Air National Guard. So, what makes ‘Stratofreighter’ such a poor name choice?

This plane wasn’t a transport — it was a tanker. This plane refueled the bombers and fighters who took the fight to the enemy. Really, this plane should have been called the ‘Stratotanker’ (a name later used by the KC-135) because there’s no ‘freighter’ involved.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

The only things mauled by the MIM-46 Mauler were the reputations of those who thought it was a good idea.

(U.S. Army)

MIM-46 Mauler

This missile was intended, as the name implies, to maul enemy planes that approached on close-air support missions. Well, as it turns out, the only mauling the missile did was in theory. In reality, it suffered from all sorts of problems, ranging from failing launch canisters to malfunctioning guidance systems.

Ultimately, the Army instead turned to the MIM-72 Chaparral and Navy went with the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow. The MIM-46 was test fired in 1961 and, by 1965, the Mauler mauled no more.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

This was what the M247 Sergeant York was supposed to be. Reality was very different.

(U.S. Army)

M247 Sergeant York

Sergeant Alvin York was known for his marksmanship, earning the Medal of Honor for heroic acts performed during World War I. The M247 Sergeant York, conversely, was anything but a marksman. When it came time to test this vehicle, which was equipped with a pair of 40mm cannon and the radar of the F-16, it couldn’t even hit a hovering drone. The radar simply couldn’t track anything.

Surely, Sergeant York rolled in his grave over sharing a name with this lemon.

What weapons do you think have unfortunate names? Let us know in the comments!

Articles

These 6 women earned medals for gallantry in World War I

The trenches and battlefields of World War I are some of the last places one would expect to read about women who were decorated for valor. Yet, in the “War to End All Wars,” six women received medals for valor. Three received the Citation Star, the forerunner to the Silver Star, and three others received the Distinguished Service Cross – second only to the Medal of Honor in recognizing valor in action.


All were with the Army Nurse Corps at the time, one of the very few outlets women had to serve in the military. While medical units weren’t supposed to come under fire, these six women were among the nurses who did come under fire – and would distinguish themselves.

1. 2. Beatrice MacDonald  Helen Grace McClelland

According to the Army Medical Department’s website, these two women earned the Distinguished Service Cross in the same action.

On Aug. 27, 1917, they were with British Casualty Clearing Station 61 in France when a German air raid hit the hospital.

MacDonald braved the fire to continue treating patients until a German bomb wounded her severely. McClelland then treated MacDonald’s wounds, despite continued German bombing.

MacDonald would survive, but lose her right eye. According to a 2012 release by Harvard University, she insisted on returning to duty despite the wound.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
Nurses treat a wounded soldier during World War I. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. Isabelle Stambaugh

Stambaugh was at a British Casualty Clearing Station on March 21, 1918, when it came under attack from German planes. The bombing attack wounded Stambaugh, who continued to treat patients despite the wound, according to a 1919 New York Times report.

4. Jane I. Rignel

According to Military Medical, the first woman to earn a Silver Star (known as the Citation Star in World War I), was Jane I. Rignel. At 7:30 AM on July 15, 1918, Mobile Hospital 2 came under attack. Rignel aided in the evacuation of the patients while under artillery fire – and kept going until the hospital itself was shelled by the Germans.

5. 6. Linnie E. Lecknore  Irene Robel

Military Medical reports that these two nurses received the Citation Star for their actions while part of an ad hoc unit known as Shock 134, attached to Field Hospital 127. When the hospital came under fire on July 29, 1918, they continued to treat wounded soldiers who were brought in.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
U.S. Army Reserve Nurse Linnie Lecknore with her brothers in World War I. (U.S. Army photo)

The tale of the Silver Star recipients takes an ironic turn. While the recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross got recognition at the time in publications like the Journal of Nursing, the Citation Star recipients slipped through the cracks. The Silver Stars were eventually presented to the families of Jane Rignel and Linnie Lecknore.

No relatives of Irene Robel have come forward – and her Silver Star remains unclaimed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Kitty Hawk rammed a Soviet sub

Sinking an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier would be quite a feat for any vessel or aggressor. Not only because they each carry an air force greater than the air forces of most countries, and pack a punch with more power than anything most countries could ever hope to bring to bear, but also because they’re really, really hard to sink. American carriers are the biggest warships ever built and move fast enough to outrun submarines.

But that didn’t stop one Soviet sub from trying.


In March 1984, the USS Kitty Hawk was part of Team Spirit 1984, a massive naval exercise in the Sea of Japan, along with the navy of South Korea. The carrier’s 80 aircraft and eight escorts were so engaged in the exercise that they didn’t detect a Soviet Submarine chase the Kitty Hawk into the area. The submarine, K-314, was noticed by the carrier much later than it should have been. The Kitty Hawk turned on its engines to outrun and outmaneuver the Soviets.

It was the height of the Cold War, and both ships were carrying an arsenal of nuclear weapons. Games like this could have ended with a spark that ignited World War III. Instead, it ended in one of the most unforgettable naval engagements of the entire Cold War.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

The 5,200-ton Soviet Victor I-class attack submarine chased the American carrier for a week or so until the Yellow Sea began experiencing some pretty foul weather. K-314 would eventually lose sight and all contact with the Kitty Hawk and the other American ships. The skipper of the sub, Captain Vladimir Evseenko, decided to rise up to periscope depth and assess the situation from 10 meters below the surface. What he saw surprised him – the American carrier strike group was only four or five kilometers from his boat.

And the submarine and the Kitty Hawk were approaching one another very, very fast. At those speeds, it would be very difficult for any two ships to avoid a collision. Capt. Evseenko ordered an emergency dive as fast as he could, but it was all for naught. The 80,000-ton Kitty Hawk hit the sub at full speed.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

“The first thought was that the conning tower had been destroyed and the submarine’s body was cut to pieces,” recalled Evseenko. “We checked the periscope and antennas – they were in order. No leaks were reported, and the mechanisms were ok. Then suddenly another strike! In the starboard side! We checked again – everything was in order…. We were trying to figure out what happened. It became clear that an aircraft carrier had rammed us. The second strike hit the propeller. The first one, most likely, bent the stabilator.”

“I was on the bridge at the time of the incident, monitoring one of the two radars,” Capt. David N. Rogers told reporters aboard the carrier. “We felt a sudden shudder, a fairly violent shudder. We immediately launched two helicopters to see if we could render any assistance to them but the Soviet sub appeared to have suffered no extensive damage.”

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

The carrier ran over the submarine’s stern, a point in the Victor I-class where the submarine’s sonar is blind due to the sounds of its own engines. The submarine, it turns out, failed to turn on its navigation lights. The Kitty Hawk suffered no damage when running over the sub. The Soviet Union had no response.

Navy officials were quick to point out that in a wartime setting, a Soviet submarine would never have gotten so close to a carrier strike group. In peacetime, losing a Soviet submarine’s location was fairly common. Ramming an adversary, during war or peace, has never been all that common.

Articles

How Rangers ‘left their mark’ on the Italians at Sened Station

In early 1943, the 1st Ranger Battalion, known as Darby’s Rangers, was still relatively unknown and rather untested. All of that was about to change.


The Rangers had been formed less than a year before at the insistence of Gen. George Marshall. Marshall believed that the Americans needed a commando unit and ordered Major Orlando Darby to make it happen. On June 19, 1942, the 1st Ranger Battalion was activated from “volunteers not adverse to dangerous action.”

Though over 2,000 men had volunteered, only 575 officers and enlisted men were accepted into the battalion. The British Commandos then trained these men at their training facility at Achnacarry, Scotland.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
William Darby. (U.S. Army photo)

Less than six months after their formation, the Rangers spearheaded the Allied invasion of North Africa by taking out Vichy French artillery batteries at Arzew, Algeria. In a quick but decisive move, the Rangers captured the guns and some 60 prisoners.

After helping secure the port facilities and a nearby town, the Rangers were withdrawn from action. They began an intense training period, focusing on forced marches and night fighting. Both would prove useful in the near future.

With the rapid advance of Allied forces across North Africa, and commanders unsure of what to do with a specialized raiding force like the Rangers, they were not involved in the ongoing combat.

That changed in February when the Rangers were called upon to conduct raids against Axis forces to gather intelligence and weaken enemy morale.

Darby devised a plan to attack the Italians at Sened Station.

Trucked to within 20 miles of their objective the Rangers set off in total darkness. The Rangers set a blistering pace and stealthily covered some fourteen miles before taking shelter among the rocks for the day.

Word was passed around for that night’s mission — the Rangers would leave their mark.

“They’ve got to know that they’ve been worked over by Rangers,” Capt. Roy Murray said. “Every man is to use his bayonet as much as he can. Those are our orders.”

While his men concealed themselves among rocks and brush, Darby and his executive officer, Major Herman Dammer, conducted a leaders’ reconnaissance of the Italian outpost.

With the final plan set, the Rangers prepared to move out as the sun set. Faces were blackened and anything that jingled or rattled was secured to ensure silence. Helmets had been traded for wool caps the night before.

Once the moon set, the Rangers began their movement toward the objective.

The raiding force consisted of three line companies and a detachment of 81mm mortars. They moved out three companies abreast, toward positions within 500 yards of the outpost.

Darby was able to track the movement of his men by an ingenious method. Using red-lensed flashlights covered with a shroud mounted on the pack of a few men, he was able to see when his units were in position. This also ensured that no man wondered off course.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
Rangers train on the terrain of the 8 November assault at Arzew (U.S. Army Photograph)

When all was ready, Darby sent forward the order to fix bayonets and move out.

Slowly, silently, the Rangers crept toward the unsuspecting Italian garrison.

Some amount of noise must have made it to the Italians at their posts because they became suspicious. With the Rangers still some 200 yards out, Italian machine guns opened fire. In the pitch black, their fire was wild and inaccurate. The Rangers held their fire and continued to creep forward.

As the Rangers made it to within 50 yards of the wire, the Italian’s fire became too close for comfort. Italian sentries called out into the night, “Qui va la? Qui va la?” (“Who goes there?”)

All at once the Americans responded. The Rangers leapt up and charged across the short distance to the Italian perimeter. American Tommy Guns riddled the outpost as riflemen tossed hand grenades and stormed across the Italian defenses with their bayonets.

One Ranger, Cpl. James Altieri, stumbled into a trench and right on top of an Italian soldier. In the brief struggle, Altieri dispatched the man by stabbing him in the stomach. It was his first hand-to-hand kill. He immediately vomited before continuing the fight.

Altieri later described the fighting by saying, “We worked them over furiously, giving no quarter.”

As the Rangers cleared the outpost, the 81mm mortars pounded the Italian positions and cut off their retreat.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. (Dept. of Defense photo)

In just 20 minutes, the Rangers were victorious. The Rangers had killed some 75 Italians and captured eleven more from the elite 10th Bersaglieri Regiment. The Italian artillery and machine guns were destroyed in place.

The victory had cost the Rangers one man and another 20 wounded.

As Darby conferred with the assault commanders and consolidated his position, he could hear the distant rumble of tracked vehicles — German armor. This was expected; the raid had been intended to draw out the Germans to help commanders determine their strength. But it also meant it was time for the Rangers to get out of Dodge.

Also read: 8 more awesome nicknames that enemies gave the U.S. military

Retracing their steps, the Rangers set out on a forced march back to the French outpost with their prisoners in tow.

The sudden ferocity with which the Rangers struck earned them the nickname “the Black Death” among the Italians.

The daring raid also garnered Darby and eleven other Rangers a Silver Star for gallantry.

Darby and the Rangers would see more intense combat in North Africa before spearheading assaults into Sicily and Italy.

Their success convinced the Army to stand up four more Ranger battalions in the European theatre.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is every American President’s favorite drink

No one knows more about political drinking than author Mark Will-Weber, whose book, Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking, explores the stories behind each president’s favorite alcoholic beverage.


“Presidents drink for the same reasons we all drink,” Will-Weber recently told Business Insider. “Sometimes because it’s part of the job, sometimes it’s because they’re lonely or depressed — there’s a whole gamut of reasons of why people drink.”

For Will-Weber, knowing what the former presidents like to drink brings a “human side” to those who we “normally hold on a pedestal.”

Ahead, take a look at the presidents’ favorite alcoholic beverages, rounded up from Will-Weber’s book and The New York Post.

Our first president, George Washington, was a whiskey drinker, as were Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, and Andrew Johnson. According to Will-Weber, Johnson was so inebriated when he arrived at the 1865 inauguration as Lincoln’s vice president that he had to be pulled off the stage.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
Cheers.

John Adams reportedly started every morning with a hard cider. William Henry Harrison was also a big fan.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
Fermentation tanks and barrels for crafting hard cider. (Photo by Scott Bugni)

According to Will-Weber, Thomas Jefferson purchased so much wine it put him on the brink of financial ruin.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Also read: Historians ranked the top 20 US Presidents of all time

James Madison, James Monroe, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Ulysses S. Grant were all champagne lovers. Of these, Polk was the most modest drinker. Will-Weber told us about a small scandal that happened under Monroe, when a whopping 1,200 bottles of Burgundy and Champagne from France were charged to the White House.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo by Maman Voyage via Flickr)

John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore, and James Buchanan enjoyed Madeira wine, which gets its flavor by being heated repeatedly.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo by Luis Villa del Campo via Flickr)

According to Will-Weber, Franklin Pierce was one of the heaviest drinkers to fill the White House. He died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 64.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo from Library of Congress)

On the flip side, Abraham Lincoln apparently drank the least while in office. Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Harrison, and Calvin Coolidge were also light drinkers.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Image from Library of Congress)

Beer was the drink of choice for James Garfield and Grover Cleveland.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

According to Will-Weber, the temperance movement tried to convince Chester A. Arthur to have a dry White House, but he refused.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
The 21st President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur. (Image from Library of Congress)

The McKinley’s Delight was coined for President William McKinley. It was a strong drink made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, and absinthe.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo by Sam Howzit via Flickr)

Related: 13 Presidents who narrowly escaped assassinations

Teddy Roosevelt used fresh mint from the White House garden to make his famous mint juleps.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

Woodrow Wilson and Dwight D. Eisenhower enjoyed scotch.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo via Flickr user morberg)

Although Warren G. Harding was president during Prohibition, that didn’t stop him from enjoying some whiskey before playing a game of golf.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo by Markus Reinhardt via Flickr)

President Herbert Hoover requested a dry martini while suffering from pneumonia in his 80s, and Franklin D. Roosevelt was known for loving cocktails, especially gin-based martinis.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
Although, I doubt his martinis ever looked like this…

One of Will-Weber’s personal favorite presidential drinking stories is about Harry S. Truman, who would down a shot of bourbon every morning before starting his day.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo by Arkadiusz Benedykt via Flickr)

According to Will-Weber, President John F. Kennedy drank various cocktails, such as daiquiris, but his favorite was the bloody mary.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo by William Clifford)

A Texas native, President Lyndon B. Johnson enjoyed sipping a cold Texas-brewed Pearl beer while driving around his ranch.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo from Pearl Beer via Facebook)

Will-Weber said President Richard Nixon enjoyed expensive bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild — but he’d often serve cheaper wine to his guests.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

While serving in the House of Representatives, Gerald Ford would drink martinis at lunch. When he became president, his staff suggested he stop that habit.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo by Ken30684 via Flickr)

More: This is how US Presidents almost got to choose their own entrance music

President Jimmy Carter didn’t drink much — so when he met with Soviet leaders, instead of taking a shot of vodka, he’d arrange for a small glass of white wine.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo by Didriks via Flickr)

President Ronald Reagan enjoyed Orange Blossom Specials, made with orange juice, vodka, and sweet vermouth.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo by Cesar I. via Yelp)

George H.W. Bush dabbled in a bit of everything, from beer to vodka. However, his son George W. Bush didn’t drink while in office.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush

When he was a student, Bill Clinton regularly made snakebites: hard cider mixed with beer.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(Photo by Liza P. via Yelp)

President Barack Obama is a big fan of beer. Under his administration, the White House has brewed its own honey ale, using honey from hives on the grounds.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
I just like to imagine that he plays Beer Pong… (Image via Flickr)

Although President Donald Trump unsuccessfully launched his own brand of vodka — and his family operates Trump Winery in Charlottesville, Virginia — the man himself doesn’t drink.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
President Donald Trump is not a fan of the sauce.

Articles

This Marine Pearl Harbor survivor can crush the pullup bar

CLEMSON, S.C. — Expect to be impressed when you meet a Marine, but when that Marine is a 96 year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who challenges you to a pull-up contest, prepare to be blown away.This is one of many things Clemson University student Will Hines of Spartanburg has learned in conducting the Veterans Project, an ongoing undergraduate research project to collect and preserve the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations can hear those stories directly from the men and women who lived them.


Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

Former Marine Staff Sgt. Robert A. Henderson’s story begins in Hawaii on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, as a plane with a perplexing paint job thunders overhead “close enough that I could have thrown a rock and hit it” toward a row of U.S. Naval ships docked in the harbor, he said.

He thought it was part of a drill until the plane dipped and released a torpedo. The violent chaos in the two hours that followed would define much of the 20th century.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

Henderson, relaxed in a comfortable chair in his Spartanburg living room, describes in gripping detail the 51 months of combat he experienced, culminating in the Battle of Okinawa.

“I was in the first and last battles of the war,” he said.

Hines videotapes every word. One copy will go to Henderson and his family, and one copy will go to the Library of Congress to be preserved forever.

When asked how he stays so healthy at 96. Henderson takes Hines out to his garage to show off his home gym, where he exercises three times a week. He demonstrates by doing 12 pull-ups without breaking a sweat, and dares Hines to match him.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

Interactions with truly amazing veterans like this are just some of the fringe benefits students who participate in the project enjoy. The Veterans Project is an example of community-engaged learning at Clemson, which has a military history dating back to its founding in 1889.

Hines, a junior business management major from Spartanburg, became involved in the project because of his life-long fascination with history.

“I’ve been interested in veterans since I was little. I met my great uncle when I was about 7 years old. I found out he landed on five islands in the Pacific, and I asked him a ton of questions,” he explained. “I was able to interview him in high school — for fun, not for anything specific — which helped me become closer to him. He was wounded twice — once on Okinawa from a grenade rolled down a mountain. Meeting him really influenced how I became interested in studying the history of America’ s conflicts.”

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Night Witches: The female pilots who struck fear into the Nazis

With what is arguably one of the most badass names in military history, the story of the female aviators nicknamed Nachthexen, or “Night Witches” by German soldiers, tends to fly under a lot of people’s radar (bad pun intended). Flying no-frills wooden planes with ill-fitting uniforms and no parachutes, these Soviet pilots not only faced off against Nazis, but also judgment, doubt, and mistreatment by many of their male counterparts. 

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
The women of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, with their aircraft in the background. (U.S. Air Force)

From the start of WWII, Russian women were looking for ways to contribute in both support roles at home and in hands-on roles near the front lines. These women had a seasoned advocate in their corner, in the form of Soviet pilot Colonel Marina Raskova. 

Raskova, known to many as the “Russian Amelia Earhart,” had already made a name for herself as the first female navigator in the Soviet Air Force, with an impressive number of long distance flights already recorded. Once Raskova began receiving letters from women asking how they could help, she used her position within the military to open up new opportunities for them. Her success was helped by the fact that Joseph Stalin personally knew and respected Raskova and her efforts, and in October of 1941, he ordered her to create three female-only air squads. While two of them inevitably became mixed-gendered, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment remained exclusively women for the entirety of its existence.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
A stamp portrait of Marina Raskova in uniform with the insignia of a major of the Soviet Air Force. (WikiMedia Commons)

Around 400 women, ranging in age from 17 to 25, were selected and moved to Engels, where they began training at the Engels School of Aviation. In addition to having to learn years worth of training and information in just a few short months, they also had to deal with misogyny from many of the male soldiers within the Soviet ranks.

Since the women of the 588th were seen by many to be less than, or as “little girls,” they weren’t taken seriously or provided proper equipment. The female pilots were given ill-fitting male uniforms and oversized boots, which they would have to stuff with their own torn up bedding to ensure a better fit. With sexual harassment and ridicule a daily occurrence, these women had to learn quickly how to be stronger both in and outside of battle. 

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
Night Withes in 1943 (WikiMedia Commons)

They also weren’t able to equip their planes with things like parachutes due to a lack of funds and strict weight limits for the outdated aircraft they were provided. These planes were crop dusters from the 1920s and typically only used for training purposes. Made predominantly of canvas and plywood, the two-person Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes were considered by most to be a death wish if used in combat. 

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
(WikiMedia Commons)

Since the plane itself already posed so many of its own safety issues, flying at night was really their only way to ensure any sort of stealth and safety. Most runs would happen with three planes, the first two meant to draw attention and enemy fire, with the third being the one to drop the bomb. What made this so dangerous is the fact that the third plane, to avoid detection, would have to cut their engine and glide over their target as quietly as possible.

Getting the engine back up and running after the drop was always a “fingers crossed” kind of scenario, given the age and ability of the aircraft. One of the only things these planes offered in their favor was the fact that, due to their slower top speed, they were able to maneuver faster than the German planes, making it harder to get a target on them. In terms of defense munitions on board, there was little to none. Many pilots would have only a loaded pistol, typically leaving the last bullet for themselves, as suicide was preferrable to being captured.

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
Irina Sebrova flew 1,008 sorties in the war, more than any other member of the regiment. (WikiMedia Commons)

The main goal of the 588th was to disorient and sleep deprive the enemy, and soon after beginning their runs, it became clear that they were successful. Not only were the Nazi’s thrown off by the near-nightly attacks, but they were also particularly incensed when they learned that an all-woman regiment was responsible. The name Night Witches was given by the Nazis — due to the noise the planes would make when they would glide, engines cut, overhead. They described it as the sound of “brooms sweeping.”

Despite their clear aptitude and success, the Night Witches, a name they wore with pride, continued to receive criticism and contempt from many of the males in the Soviet military throughout their time in the war. They were arguably never given the complete appreciation and recognition they deserved. That didn’t seem to bother them too much, however, and they went on to fly around 30,000 sorties and have 23 of their pilots awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions
Group photograph of several members of the Night Witches, all of whom became heroes of the Soviet Union. Left to right: Tanya Makarova, Vera Belik, Polina Gelman, Yekaterina Ryabova, Yevdokiya Nikulina, and Nadezhda Popova. (WikiMedia Commons)

While the roles of women in the military have continued to grow and evolve across the globe, the Night Witches were instrumental in showing that women are just as capable, even with minimal support, respect, equipment, and with all the odds stacked against them. It’s stories like these, the lesser-known tales, that add so much to history. It’s these stories that set the stage for where we are today.

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

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