World War II saw the decline of the battleship, the rise of the aircraft carrier, and the maturation of the destroyer and submarine. However, there was another type other major combat vessel in that conflict that often goes ignored: the cruiser. This ship was arguably very important for several reasons.
First, for the initial part of the war, cruisers served as heavy escorts for a carriers against surface threats. Battleships were often too slow to keep up with the carriers and destroyers packed a potent anti-ship punch in the form of torpedoes, but they couldn’t take much punishment. Cruisers were the perfect match.
USS Galveston (CL 93), one of 27 completed Cleveland-class light cruisers. She packed 12 six-inch guns and 12 five-inch guns.
Second, cruisers also were able excellent for maintaining a presence at sea. It took fewer personnel to fully crew a cruiser and they were comparatively cheaper to build than other major vessels. Despite their lower cost, they were still deadly vessels, equipped with either six-inch guns (on light cruisers) or eight-inch guns (on heavy cruisers).
Third, cruisers also fought it out when other options weren’t available. For example, during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, a force of two heavy cruisers, a light cruiser, two anti-aircraft cruisers, and eight destroyers were led by Admiral Daniel Callaghan and took on two Japanese fast battleships, a light cruiser, and a number of destroyers. Callaghan’s outnumbered ships managed to turn away the Japanese force, leaving the fatally wounded Hiei behind.
While it’s best known for being sunk by a Japanese submarine in 1945, USS Indianapolis (CA 35) also served as the flagship of Admiral Raymond Spruance.
Fourth, cruisers could serve as flagships. The Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA 35) was the flagship for Admiral Raymond A. Spruance during the Central Pacific offensive in 1943 and 1944. It was also common for Japanese admirals to choose heavy cruisers as their flagships in surface engagements instead of battleships when they had the option.
While all of the major powers had cruiser designs, the most successful was the American Cleveland-class light cruiser. There were plans to build a total of 52 of these vessels. Of those, 27 were completed. The others were either cancelled or converted into light cruisers. Other notable cruiser classes include Japan’s Mogami-class heavy cruisers and the British County-class heavy cruisers.
Other powers in World War II operated cruisers, too. HIJMS Atago served as a flagship in several engagements, including her last one at Leyte Gulf.
(Imperial Japanese Navy)
With the end of World War II, cruisers began to fade away, especially as guided missiles emerged and submarines became more of a threat. Today, the United States Navy has the most of these vessels, with 22 Ticonderoga-class vessels in service.
Though the cruiser’s heyday has come and gone, there’s a chance they’ll make a comeback. The United States Navy intends to replace the Ticonderoga-class ships with a new, modern class of cruiser.
With more than 900 missions under his belt, Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff was one of the most famous German fighter pilots during WWII and was reportedly known as the “Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe.”
Operating everywhere from the western to the eastern fronts, Steinhoff squared off with some of the world’s best pilots at the time and racked up 176 victories. But he was also shot down a dozen times.
The German ace nearly rode his damaged plane all the way down to the ground every time because he didn’t trust that the parachutes would properly deploy if he jumped out.
Although he was very efficient during the war, Steinhoff was known for spearheading the fighter pilots’ revolt of January 1945 by voicing concerns to the corrupt leadership in the Third Reich’s high command who in return accused their pilots of cowardice and treason.
For this role in the rebellion, Steinhoff was threatened by his commanders with court-martial and banishment to Italy.
Towards the end of the war, Steinhoff took flight on a mission in his Messerschmitt Me-262 jet but was shot down soon after by Allied forces — officially ending his involvement in war.
The German ace fighter was so badly burned in his last crash he would receive 70 operations to help restore his facial structures.
In February 1994, the German general passed away from heart failure at the age of 80.
Audie Murphy was an American actor known for his Western films. However, his initial claim to fame came from being the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of World War II. He was born in 1925 in a small Texas town to poor sharecroppers. Murphy joined the Army in 1942 after falsifying his birth certificate to ensure he could enlist before he was eligible.
During WWII, Murphy was credited with killing 240 members of enemy forces and capturing or wounding many others. In his three years of active service, he became a legend among the 3rd Infantry Division, and is considered one of the best fighting combat soldiers of this or any other century. The U.S. Army has declared that there will never be another Audie Murphy. That is most likely the case too, with modern day technology and modern warfare, it is unlikely any soldier will ever live up to the legend of Audie Murphy.
Murphy became the most decorated soldier of WWII by earning 33 awards and decorations. He was awarded every decoration for valor the United States offers, some more than once. These awards included the Medal of Honor, the highest military award for bravery that can be given to an individual. His awards from the war also included five decorations from France and Belgium.
Audie Murphy was released from active duty on September 21, 1945. After his release, he went to Hollywood at the invitation of actor James Cagney who had seen his picture on the cover of Life Magazine. After years of hardship, struggle to find work and sleeping in a local gymnasium, Murphy finally received token roles in his first two films.
Murphy’s first starring role came in 1949. In 1950, he received a contract with Universal-International (now known as Universal). He starred in 26 films over the next 15 years, 23 of which were Westerns. Murphy also filmed 26 episodes of a Western television series which went to air on NBC in 1961. Despite good reviews, Murphy’s series was deemed too violent. Only 20 episodes were aired before it was cancelled.
Audie Murphy suffered from what is known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was plagued for years by insomnia and depression. By the mid-1960s, Murphy became dependent on a prescribed sleeping medication, Placidyl. When he realized he had become addicted to the medication, he locked himself inside of a motel room, stopped taking the pills and suffered through the withdrawal symptoms for a week.
Murphy used his fame to help advocate for the needs of U.S. veterans. Unlike most during that time, he chose to speak out about his experiences and struggles with PTSD, known as “Battle Fatigue” at the time. He called out the U.S. government to look closer at and study the emotional impacts of war and urged them to extend health benefits to address PTSD and other mental health issues of returning war veterans.
On May 28, 1971, while on a business trip, Audie Murphy’s plane crashed just outside of Roanoke, Virginia. He and five others, including the pilot, were killed in the crash. Murphy was 45 at the time of his death.
On June 7, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. His gravesite, which is near the amphitheater, is the second most visited grave at Arlington, surpassed only by John F. Kennedy’s grave.
Audie Murphy remains a legend among the members of the U.S. Army. While he was well known for his work as an actor in Hollywood, his memory will live on as a true American hero.
Scott Kim first escaped North Korea at the age of 17 in 2001. At the time, he and his mother only wanted to get across the border to China so they could eat hot meals. Growing up during North Korea’s deadly famine in the late ’90s, Kim had spent much of his childhood starving.
Today, Kim owns a business trading automobile and railway parts in South Korea. He is currently working on an English-language memoir about his experiences with the help of Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), a volunteer-run organization in Seoul helping defectors develop English skills.
But it was a long and dangerous six years in and out of China and North Korea before he got to Seoul.
Most North Koreans defect by crossing North Korea’s northern border to China via the Tumen or Yalu rivers. Then they must smuggle their way across China’s vast expanse to its southern border with Laos or Vietnam. From there, they cross into Thailand or Cambodia and go to the South Korean embassy to ask for help. It’s a journey that can cost up to $5,000, which must be paid to “brokers” in each country to arrange the escape.
Inscription stone marking the border of China and North Korea in Jilin
Paying $5,000 to make it to South Korea or the United States was far out of reach for Kim and his mother. Instead, he and his mother lived as undocumented immigrants and worked as farm laborers. But one year after escaping North Korea, Kim’s neighbor reported his status to the police, who brought him and his mother back to North Korea. Kim was taken to a detention center, where authorities determine where to send defectors next.
“When we reached the detention center in North Korea, we lost all our rights as human beings,” Kim told Business Insider. “We were treated like animals, literally. We had to crawl on the floor to move from place to place.”
Kim was put in a cell with 20 other defectors. There was one toilet in the corner and no space to lie down. Day and night, the defectors sat on the ground.
“It was our punishment because we were sinners. I don’t know why we were sinners,” he said.
When he or other defectors were told to down the corridor to the warden’s office, they were made to crawl on their hands and feet. Officers beat them with gloves and sticks as they went.
An estimated 100,000 North Koreans or more currently live in detention centers, political prisons, or labor camps where they endure hard labor, torture, and starvation.
Kim’s description of his experience comes amid President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has been accused of killing his own people. But when asked about the North Korean dictator’s human rights violations, Trump appeared to be an apologist for the dictator’s actions.
The first time Kim was caught, he got lucky.
Despite the fact that one of North Korea’s biggest reeducation camps is in Chongori, near his hometown in Musan, Kim was sent to a center further south. Because no one knew him — and internet and phone service was nonexistent at the time — he was able to lie about his age. He told the guards he was only 15 years old and had been in China looking for his mother.
Rather than send him to one of the country’s brutal labor camps or political camps, he was sent to a medical center for orphaned children. Shortly after arriving, he escaped and went back to China, where he got work as a farm laborer near Helong, a city in northeastern China.
“Everyday, I planted, farmed, logged on the mountain. Corn, beans, potatoes,” he said. “Life was better because I was not starving. I could eat and be full at meals. It was enough food for me … At the time I left North Korea, I was starving.”
Kim was caught a second time when he visited a friend in China looking for his mother. A neighbor again reported him to the police. The second time he was sent back to North Korea, he wasn’t so lucky. He was sent to the concentration camp near his hometown. From there he was sent to a labor camp, where he chopped down trees on a mountain for months.
He escaped one day when he realized that all his fellow laborers were at the top of the mountain chopping while he was at the bottom. He ran away as fast as he could until he found a train that he could take him north to cross the border with China again.
After some time in China, he was caught a third time and sent to a camp for political prisoners — the worst place to be sent, as imprisonment there is interminable. He escaped the camp by bribing the authorities through a broker, who helped him make it across the border with China a final time.
After six years, Kim reunited with his mother and made it to South Korea
In China, he went back to work to pay off his debt to the broker. One day, he got a call from a North Korean woman from Musan who told him that he had to come visit his mother. She was dying of cancer. For the first time in many years, the two saw each other.
“When I opened the door of my mother’s house, I froze, and couldn’t say anything, because my mother looked incredibly different,” he said. “There was no fat on her, and her whole body looked like a triangle, I just went outside and cried for a long time and came back again, and I embraced my mother and we cried together.”
Several days later, a friend of his mother offered his mother the opportunity to escape to South Korea via Laos and Cambodia. A broker was taking a group through; they had an extra space.
Unable to walk, Kim’s mother told Kim he had to go and become educated. Once he was settled, she said, he could bring her and help others in need. He decided to go.
The night before Kim and the group of defectors were to cross the border into Laos, he received a call telling him that his mother had died. The man on the phone said he had to come back for the funeral.
“After hanging up, I couldn’t say anything, I just cried all night. I really, really wanted to go back, but I thought that if I go back there, I couldn’t do anything for her,” he said. “I decided to go to South Korea, believing that my mother would agree with my decision.”
In 2007, six years after he first escaped, Kim finally made it to South Korea.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Imagine looking out your window to see an eerie green glow resonating from your neighbor’s shed. Or seeing government trucks being loaded with barrels marked radioactive by men dressed in hazmat suits outside your home.
The residents of Golf Manor, Michigan, don’t have to imagine it, because in 1995, a young teenage boy built a nuclear breeder reactor in his mother’s potting shed, an idea he came up with while working on his Atomic Energy merit badge in attempt to earn Eagle Scout status.
At an age when most adolescents are consumed with sports, friends, or dating, Hahn spent his free time conducting chemical experiments. Much to the chagrin of his parents, he had several chemical spills and even created an explosion that rocked their tiny house and left David “lying semi-conscious on the floor, his eyebrows smoking.”
Even his scout troop was not immune to his scientific curiosity. David once appeared at a scout meeting, “with a bright orange face caused by an overdose of canthaxanthin, which he was taking to test methods of artificial tanning.” Then there was the night at camp where his fellow scouts accidentally ignited a pile of powdered magnesium he had brought to make fireworks.
There’s no question that David was increasingly bold in his attempts to learn more about the chemical compounds of our world, but even with the goal in mind to build a nuclear breeder reactor, you have to wonder how he obtained the radioactive elements.
David worked a series of jobs at fast-food joints and grocery stores after school to finance his experiments. He admitted to Harper’s that he used several aliases and a string of mail communications with individuals working for agencies that control nuclear elements. None were as helpful as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where David was able to engage the agency’s director, Donald Erb.
Erb provided David with a list of contacts who provide commercial sale of some elements and how to harvest others. David broke apart smoke detectors to obtain americium-241, commercial gas lanterns provided him thorium-232, and with the help of a Geiger counter, he found an antique luminous clock that contained a vial of radium paint used to keep the clock face glowing. He even purchased $1000 worth of batteries to extract the lithium.
After several attempts to create energy, David was finally successful but he soon learned that his small reactor was producing so much radiation that it was spreading through his neighborhood. Unfortunately, his safety precautions only consisted of wearing a makeshift lead poncho and throwing away his clothes and shoes following a session in the potting shed. So he took apart the reactor.
Stashing some of the more radioactive elements in his house and the rest in his car, he was later found by the police after a call was made about a young man trying to steal tires. The police opened his trunk to find an array of scientific materials and a tool box locked with a padlock and sealed with duct tape. The police were rightly concerned about the box, and after David advised that it was radioactive, they were worried he had a nuclear bomb.
While being questioned by the police, David’s parents became afraid that they would lose their house, so they ransacked his room and his “laboratory” and tossed everything they could find. This left the authorities with nothing but what was in the car.
“The funny thing is, they only got the garbage, and the garbage got all the good stuff,” Hahn told Harper’s.
David never went back to his experiments and later served four years in the U.S. Navy – including service aboard the USS Enterprise, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. He also briefly served in the Marine Corps before returning home to Michigan. In 2016, David died from alcohol poisoning – not from exposure to radiation.
Though David Hahn is gone, the small town of Golf Manor will never forget their “Radioactive Boy.”
The U.S. Army Truck, 1/4-ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance light utility vehicle was the primary light-wheeled transport of the U.S. and many of its allies during WWII. Today, these trucks are still used in Third-World countries as reliable transportation. Made by Willys-Overland as the MB and Ford as the GPW, the vehicle is better known by its nickname: Jeep.
Despite the prevailing theory, the Jeep did not derive its nickname from the pronunciation of its “GP” designation. After all, the GPW name was an internal Ford naming convention. In fact, the Jeep name was given to other 4×4 vehicles before it was applied to the Willys MB/Ford GPW.
On March 16, 1936, the Popeye the Sailor comic strip introduced the character Eugene the Jeep. A mysterious animal with magical or supernatural abilities, Eugene was Popeye’s jungle pet. Moreover, his small size and inexplicable powers allowed him to walk through walls, move between dimensions, and generally go anywhere to overcome otherwise impossible situations.
By the late 1930s, Eugene the Jeep’s ability to go anywhere resulted in troops nicknaming their four-wheel drive vehicles Jeeps. These vehicles included converted four-wheel drive civilian tractors supplied to the Army, and 1/2-ton and 3/4-ton Dodge Reconnaissance/Weapon Carrier trucks. The Canadians also nicknamed their Ford Marmon-Herrington half-track, “Jeep.”
However, the nickname was not exclusive to the go-anywhere trucks and tractors. Small anti-submarine escort carriers were nicknamed “baby flattops” and “jeep carriers”. The nickname was also given to several aircraft including the Kellett autogyro prototype, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress prototype and the Curtiss-Wright AT-9 trainer plane.
Upon America’s entry into WWII, the majority of its light trucks were actually Dodge 1/2-tons and 3/4-tons. It wasn’t until 1943 that the Willys and Ford 1/4-tons outnumbered their heavier Dodge counterparts. Despite their differences, all three light truck variants were nicknamed Jeeps. However, the Jeep name is best associated with the 1/4-ton truck whose appearance has been preserved in popular media and the modern Chrysler/Stellantis North America Jeep Wrangler.
The general narrative of World War II credits the Marines and Navy for the victory in the Pacific and the Army and U.S. Army Air Corps for victory in Europe. In reality, there are actually a few Marine veterans of fighting in Europe and a massive number of Army veterans who fought in the Pacific.
Here are six times that U.S. soldiers took the fight to the Japanese and and laid waste.
U.S. Army artillerymen fire a 155mm rifled field gun on Guadalcanal on Dec. 7, 1942.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
1. Battle of Guadalcanal
Yes, that Battle of Guadalcanal. In fact, Army forces on the island actually outnumbered Marine forces. Each branch had two divisions on the ground, but the Army had an additional regiment. The 1st Marine Division made the initial landings on August 7, 1942, but Army troops were pouring onto the island by October.
It was Army troops who first received the “Banzai” attacks against Henderson Field in late October, holding the Japanese back despite armor, artillery, air, and naval support pitted against the U.S. troops. On November 4, the soldiers took part in pushing 1,500 Japanese troops against the sea.
In December, the 1st Marine Division pulled out, and an Army general took over command on the island. He sent his forces against the Japanese headquarters on Mount Austen and it was Army soldiers who fought from mid-December to January 2 to find and destroy that headquarters. In the following months, it was predominantly Army troops who eradicated Japanese opposition on the island, fighting which resulted in three Army Medals of Honor.
The 32nd Infantry Division, a National Guard unit made up of soldiers from Michigan and Wisconsin, fought side-by-side with Australian forces to take key positions on Papua, New Guinea from November 1942 to January 2, 1943.
(U.S. Army National Guard illustration by Michael Gnatek)
2. Papuan Campaign
As the Battle of Guadalcanal raged, U.S. and Australian Army units led the fight in Papua, New Guinea, against Japanese forces there. As with Guadalcanal, a key strategic objective was the island’s airfield, but this time, the Japanese were on the attack and the Allies on defense. Unfortunately for the Japanese, their losses to the U.S. Navy at the Battle of the Coral Sea and Midway forced them to attack overland through treacherous mountain passes.
The combined force pushed Japanese foes back and then went on the offensive, attacking at Milne Bay and across the Japanese lines in late August, forcing them into general retreat on September 4. The Army launched a clearance operation on October 4, resupplying units by air as they pushed deeper into formerly Japanese territory. The final Japanese forces proved stubborn, and the Army was forced to fight desperately to take each bunker.
Finally, from mid-December the mid-January, Allied forces led by U.S. Army units brought in fresh tanks and troops, and they launched an innovative combined-arms campaign to break the Japanese backs. In one section where tanks couldn’t operate, two Army infantrymen earned posthumous Medals of Honor for heroism while clearing Japanese positions. The last resistance fell by January 22.
The second battalion of U.S. paratroopers is dropped near Nadzab, New Guinea, Sept. 5, 1943.
This was the first American airborne operation of the Pacific. Army Air Corps bombers strafed the drop zones and dropped fragmentation bombs before the paratroopers jumped into a well-timed smokescreen. From there, the paratroopers fought all day, receiving resupply from the air and assaulting one Japanese position after another.
It worked. Australian forces were able to use the airfield for their own operations the very next day, and it was grown into a major air base that supported Australian operations for the rest of the war.
U.S. Army troops navigate the mountains of Attu Island in Alaska in May, 1943.
4. Aleutian Campaign
In June, 1942, Japanese forces took two of the Aleutian Islands that are part of Alaska. While their forces lacked the numbers to truly threaten Alaska proper, they were still a problem as they threatened U.S. cities and raided trade and supply routes.
Army soldiers assaulted the beaches on Attu on May 11, 1943, with air and naval support. Despite desperate Japanese defenses, the island fell in a matter of weeks with nearly every Japanese soldier killed by May 30.
On August 15, the Army launched an even larger landing with Canadian support on the island of Kiska, but the Japanese forces had withdrawn in thick fog before the allies arrived. This Japanese withdrawal opened a northern route to attack towards the Japanese home islands, forcing Japan to send some forces north, away from where soldiers and Marines were killing them on other fronts.
U.S. Army soldiers fight at Bougainville in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Feb. 29, 1943.
5. Island hopping towards The Philippines
During the island hopping campaign back across the Pacific in 1944, the Army actually played a huge role. The Army almost single-handedly took three beaches simultaneously on April 22 on New Guinea, capturing key airfields there within days. On May 18, they took Wakde Island and its airfield. Nine days later, they hit Biak Island, a fierce fight that continued until August 20 as the Japanese repeatedly reinforced the island.
These island assaults also tied up Japanese naval assets, reducing the pressure on Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz’s forces until Japan decided to protect the Marianas at all costs, withdrawing their fleet from fighting Army units ashore and sending it North to the Mariana Islands where the Navy achieved one of its greatest victories at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division soldiers at Baleta Pass on Luzon Island in the Philippines in 1945.
6. Recapturing The Philippines
On October 20, 1944, the Army landed four divisions at once in an effort to retake Leyte, one of the major islands in the Philippines. The Army’s efforts were mostly aimed at retaking the Philippines, but it was hoped that, as the Army put pressure on Imperial Japanese land forces, it would force the Japanese Navy into another decisive engagement which Nimitz would, hopefully, win.
What resulted was a fierce land and sea battle October 23 to 26, during which Army forces were fighting bitterly for every yard of ground with limited naval support as the fleets fought each other tooth and nail. It was touch and go for a bit, but the U.S. was eventually victorious on land and at sea, liberating the Philippines and effectively eradicating the bulk of remaining Japanese naval forces.
After this large offensive, the Army took part in the capture of the Ryukyu Islands, including Okinawa, but it was predominantly a Marine show. The Army was slated for a huge role during the invasion of the Japanese home islands, but the surrender of Japan following the dropping of two atomic bombs and the entrance of Russia into the Pacific Theater ended the war and the necessity of another amphibious assault.
In the Battle of Stalingrad a group of 25 men in a nearly abandoned apartment held off thousands of German soldiers during nearly two months of fighting. Time and time again, the assaulting German forces attacked the building occupied by Junior Sgt. Yakov Pavlov and his platoon.
In the fighting at Stalingrad, Russian and German soldiers clashed in bloody, close-quarters combat. Some buildings held Germans and Russians on different floors for days, fighting the other side through the stairwells.
When 21 Russian soldiers arrived, they helped prepare the building for an extended siege. A PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle was placed on the roof, machine guns were placed in every available window facing the main square, mortars were emplaced, and walls were knocked out to facilitate communications between the men.
Then the Germans came. Armored and infantry columns would move up the streets to try and take out the building. They were forced to cross “9th January Square,” a wide open space named for Russia’s Bloody Sunday. While the Germans were in the square, the Russians would strike.
The Russian soldiers would open fire with the anti-tank rifle on the roof, piercing the thin turret armor of the tanks. The men found that if they waited until the tanks were within 25 meters of the building, the enemy tanks could not elevate their own guns high enough to retaliate.
Meanwhile, machine gunners would begin firing from the windows, shattering the bodies of German infantrymen. When they had the rounds, the men would begin lobbing mortars out of the building and onto the attacking column.
The Germans were devastated in the fight for the building that they eventually marked on their maps as a fortress. Inside, the Russians were sticking to Order 227 which demanded that Soviet soldiers take, “Not one step back!”
They held out until Nov. 25 when a Russian counterattack allowed fresh soldiers to replace Pavlov and his men in the defense of Pavlov’s house. The civilians in the basement were also allowed to evacuate.
The building was reconstructed after the war. Bricks and materials from the bombed out structure that Pavlov and his men held was used to construct a monument on the corner of the new building.
For much of the Second World War, German engineers and scientists were at the top of their game in developing nuclear fission. As early as 1939, the best minds in Germany were put to work on splitting the atom. They were attempting to use heavy water to control the fission process. Their main source of heavy water production was in occupied Norway, which was a devastating mistake.
They would never get the chance to develop an atomic bomb because Norwegian resistance fighters would blow up the heavy water facilities rather than help the Nazis win World War II.
British commandos tried to destroy the Vemork heavy water facilities in 1942 but were unsuccessful. Operation Grouse planned for Norwegian scouts to recon the area and provide intelligence for British commandos, who would land in gliders and assault the facility under Operation Freshman. But the gliders carrying the Freshman commandos crashed in the local area. One hit a mountain, killing everyone aboard. The other crashed, and some of the commandos survived, but were summarily executed by the Gestapo.
But the Grouse Norwegians were still operating in the area, living off the land, waiting for further instructions.
With the Norwegians still in position, the plan was given a second go-ahead. The Grouse scouts were now called Operation Swallow and the second raid on Vemork was dubbed Operation Gunnerside. The Gunnerside assault team would be an all-Norwegian squad, parachuting in to rendezvous with the Swallow team. Gunnerside launched on Feb. 16, 1943 – and immediately, things went wrong.
Though not as catastrophic as the first raid on Vemork, these problems caused major delays. The infiltrating Norwegians were dropped into Norway under the cover of snowfall, but they were accidentally dropped miles away from their target. It took the team five days to get to Vemork. They made it, though, and were able to connect with the Swallow group.
Unfortunately for the new raiders, the failure of the previous raid on Vemork prompted the Nazis to improve the facilities defenses. All the direct routes into the facility were now heavily guarded or mined. The raiders were forced to climb down into a gorge, cross a frozen river, and then climb a 500-foot cliff wall to access the building. There was a piece of luck for the Norwegians, however. A railroad line in the gorge led to the facility and was relatively unguarded.
After cutting into the facility’s fence, the group split into two teams: a four-man explosives unit and a five-man cover unit. The explosives team was accidentally split up after two men entered the facility through an access tunnel. The two others, presumably lost, broke in through a window. Each team set their explosives independently, cut their timing cord from two minutes to thirty seconds, and bolted.
The successful saboteurs fled on skis toward the town of Rjukan, where they split up. The four men in the explosive unit skied in full British uniforms the entire 200 miles to the border with Sweden. The cover team spread out to draw the Germans away. The Nazis launched a full search for their infiltrators, but none were captured or killed in their pursuit.
The commanding officer of all German forces stationed in Norway called the damage caused by Operation Gunnerside as “the most splendid coup.” The facility was up and running again soon after, but an American bombing raid would force the Germans to move their heavy water production to Germany. All the heavy water from the plant was moved to a ferry for safekeeping in Germany.
That ferry was sunk by Norwegian saboteurs on its way back to the Reich.
Charred weapons recovered from the wreckage of an Arrow Air DC-8 commercial aircraft are stored in a Gander Airport hangar for analysis by members of the Canadian Air Safety Board. The aircraft crashed at the airport with no survivors on December 12, 1985, while carrying 248 members of the 3rd Bn., 502nd Inf., 101st Airborne Div. They were returning to the United States after participating in peacekeeping duty with the Multi-national Force and Observers in the Sinai Desert. (Wikimedia Commons).
Arrow Air Lines flight 1285 was carrying 248 members of the unit back home to Fort Campbell from Egypt when it suddenly crashed after a layover in Canada.
There were no survivors from the Screaming Eagles or from the flight crew. The Canadian Aviation Safety Board would also become a casualty of the accident.
And the crash was ruled an accident. The flight was chartered by the U.S. government to take members of the 101st back to their home base of Fort Campbell, Kentucky after a six-month deployment as part of a multinational peacekeeping force in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The plane would make two stops before landing in Kentucky, the West German capital of Bonn and Canada’s Gander Airfield in the province of Newfoundland.
It had no issues taking off from both Cairo and Bonn, but shortly after its takeoff at Gander airfield, the plane had trouble getting aloft. The plane began to rapidly descend, hitting trees and breaking up until it smashed into an empty building. Full of jet fuel, the plane exploded.
There were no survivors. It remains the deadliest plane crash in Canadian history and the Army’s single deadliest peacetime crash.
When the Canadian Aviation Safety Board (CASB) investigated, they found the pilots had not asked for the plane to be de-iced, even though icy conditions existed and the wings could have been iced over.
“… shortly after lift-off, the aircraft experienced an increase in drag and reduction in lift which resulted in a stall at low altitude from which recovery was not possible. The most probable cause of the stall was determined to be ice contamination on the leading edge and upper surface of the wing.”
At least, that was the majority opinion of the CASB. Four dissenting members of the board announced their own conclusion that there was no evidence of ice on the wings. They also cited witness reports of glowing red and/or exploding pieces of the fuselage during the takeoff attempt. Combined with other evidence they say ice can’t explain, they were apt to believe the cause was a terrorist attack.
To make matters worse, the terror group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the crash as a terror attack that same day. American and Canadian intelligence agencies denied their claim as an attempt to bolster recruiting numbers. At least one member of the CASB maintains it was a terror attack caused by an onboard explosive.
The two opinions of the CASB satisfied no one, especially the government of Canada, who liquidated the agency and replaced it with a new agency, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
In reality, the crash was caused by numerous factors, and terrorists were not one of those factors. The first is that ice could have been present on the plane, but went unnoticed by both pilots and ground crew. This kind of thin but significant ice would later cause another crash in 1989, that of Air Ontario flight 1363. That crash led to a change in Canada’s deicing procedures.
Another cause was human error. The pilots did not check the functionality of the cockpit voice recorder, so not much is known about what was going on in the cockpit prior to the crash, but officials believed the pilots may have misjudged how heavy the plane was, due to the amount of material each soldier carried aboard.
While not the only determining factor, combined with other possibilities, the misjudged weight would be more than enough to keep the plane from achieving proper lift, and thus causing it to crash.
Today there are memorials to the men and women who died in the Gander plane crash, both at the crash site in Newfoundland and on Fort Campbell.
RMS Titanic in Southampton England April 9, 1912 (Wikimedia Commons).
Who has never been daunted by the idea of packing gear for an extended field op? You have to make a list of everything you will need or you think you will need, you have to make sure that your gear’s weight is what the S-3 says it’s supposed to weigh, everything has to fit. When it’s only for leave, your life doesn’t depend on these preparations. You might get chewed out, but you rarely run the risk to freeze to death or turn to cannibalism.
However, when it comes to exploration, expeditions, adventures and other journeys, preparedness is everything. In the most remote corners of the planet, what you carry is all you have, and every decision can be a matter of life or death. Indiana Jones, with his bullwhip, Fedora hat, and roguish charms, might make exploration look easy, but it takes a lot more than an impish smile and witty replies to survive through those expeditions. It requires planning, knowledge, grit and leadership to be a successful adventurer. Some expeditions made it, leading to great discoveries and the retreat of the world’s frontiers. Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance, as it is said in the Corps.
It might seem strange to imagine that Christopher Columbus, a man celebrated for opening an entire continent to European exploration, might have led a failed expedition. However, it makes a lot more sense when we know that the proposed aim of the expedition that reached the Americas in 1492 was actually to reach the Indian subcontinent, then known as the East Indies, by sailing westward and circumnavigating the globe. Also, we cannot say that his voyage was a failure, but the lack of knowledge regarding world geography was sure to stand in the way of his first purpose. At first, he was so sure to have reached his destination that he called the natives “Indians.” Although he travelled four times to the Americas, he never reached India.
The Burke and Wills Expedition
What happens when you combine a man with no experience of life in the Australian bush and an exploration commission? An unmitigated disaster. In 1860, the Australian government was offering a reward of 2000 pounds to whoever would cross the continent north to south. The Royal Society of Victoria organized an expedition of 19 men, led by Robert Burke and William Wills. However, the interior of the Australian continent was largely unknown to non-natives. The expedition was ill-prepared for the challenges they would face. Scorching temperatures would reach 122°F in December. Not to mention the severe vitamin B and C deficiency caused by a lack of knowledge on the local flora. Monsoon rains and rough terrain allowed only one man to survive the return trip.
The Darien Scheme
This is a failed venture that almost bankrupted an entire country. In order to compete against England’s trading power at the end of the 17th century, Scotland tried to establish a colony that would serve as a trading post on the Isthmus of Panama. It rested on the Gulf of Darién, a region that is considered one of the deadliest on Earth. Plagued with poor planning and poor leadership, the scheme was set for failure. Due to epidemics, poor provisioning and a lack of demand for goods, the English and the Spanish Empires came together to ensure the doom of the colony. When the few survivors returned to Scotland, they were often shunned by their families, as the failure of the expedition led to the near financial ruin of the entire country.
The Terra Nova Expedition
In 1910, two rival expeditions were vying to reach the South Pole first. One, led by experienced Norwegian explorer Roal Amundsen, managed to reach its objective on the Dec. 14, 1911. However, in contrast to that team’s relatively smooth trip, the team led by British Captain Robert Falcon Scott went through Hell and never came back from it. The difference came down to planning and preparation.
The British mindset at that time had some very precise, rigid ideas about what was and wasn’t appropriate. Dogs were a no. For Scott, sled dogs were not a grand enough way to travel, unlike horses. Moreover, he didn’t train his men to ski prior to the journey, he took five men when he had packed for four, mishandled the fuel and wrongly marked the return route. The team eventually made it to the South Pole, over a month after Amundsen’s expedition, but none of them survived the return trip.
The Titanic was a tale of hubris. The ship was unsinkable… yet, it sunk on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912. At the time, it was the biggest ship afloat, not only in length but also in weight. It was nearly twice as heavy as the second biggest ship. Confident in the size of the ship despite its flawed design, its engineers thought it would be enough to withstand any collision or weather conditions, so they allowed themselves to skimp on safety measures.
In the example made famous by the movie, the Titanic only carried 20 lifeboats, which only allowed room for 1178 passengers. It was more than was legally required, but it was still not enough for the 3327 people it could take on board. As a result, out of the 2224 passengers and crew who were part of its maiden voyage, over 1500 died. To date, it is still the deadliest sinking of a cruise ship in times of peace.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines irony as the following: incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result. It’s like being run over by an ambulance that’s on its way to save you — instead of saving you (the expectation), it’s turned you into roadkill (the ironic twist).
Now, these are not to be confused with just bad moments — if you want examples of those, take pretty much any example listed in Alanis Morissette’s song, Ironic (then again, writing a song entitled Ironic and failing to cite a single example of real irony is kinda ironic…).
Another hilarious example of situational irony stems from the fact nearly every well-known “peace” symbol has a military origin. Sure, they may have been co-opted throughout the years to take on entirely different meanings, but if you go by the original definition of each symbol, you’re effectively intimating the opposite of your intent.
Pretty much every symbol for peace, shy of the Roerich Pact’sThree Jewels, has roots in military culture — in fact, many of them have been used as signals of martial might. You may be familiar with a few of these:
The “V” sign
The simple hand gesture, synonymous with counter-culture hippies, Richard Nixon, and teenage girls, actually has concrete beginnings that can be traced to one man at one moment: Winston Churchill threw up his index and middle fingers to signal a ‘V,’ for “victory,” after the Allies triumphed over the Axis Powers.
I like to think that he knew full well that he was giving everyone the forks, but wanted to see how long it took anyone to say something.
But before that, Belgian Minister of Justice, Victor de Lavaleye, began spreading the use of the finger ‘V’ across Europe. In 1941, he was using it as a quiet protest to say that “victory is coming” or “freedom is coming” in the Netherlands (“freedom” in Dutch is “vrijheid,” which also starts with a “v”). Churchill, upon co-opting the symbol, eventually turned his palm outward to avoid sending the British gesture for “up yours.”
In either case, the symbol that is now known for peace started as a way to signal impending or fresh military victory, depending on your cited origin.
You can go ahead and pick whatever color you like — it all sends the same message.
After WWI, wearing a red poppy on one’s lapel was a sign of respect for fallen troops. It was a direct homage to Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem, In Flanders Fields. In 1933, the Peace Pledge Union shifted the tradition, imploring people to wear white poppies instead of the red ones to honor the casualties of war without extolling it.
If you really want to be specific, however, the poem never really identifies which color poppy grew at Flanders Field, just that there were poppies. So, if you’re wearing poppies of any color, you’re referencing one of history’s most famous wartime poems. The only reason he chose the red version of the poppy is because it’s eye-catching.
The “peace symbol”
The most famous symbol to come out of the 1960s is actually a clever use of military speak to directly get the military’s attention for a specific issue: nuclear disarmament. Just after the UK had developed their H-Bomb and tested it near Christmas Island, the Direct Action Committee called for a pause on the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. The Committee agreed that outright pacifism wasn’t the solution — but they also agreed that nuclear weapons weren’t the answer to the Cold War, either.
The DAC needed a symbol to rally behind, so designer and DAC board member Gerald Holtom created one, incorporating the flag semaphores for ‘N’ and ‘D’ in the design, for “nuclear disarmament.”
Funnily enough, Joker is using the symbol in its proper context. His pin says that wars shouldn’t be fought by nuclear means, but through conventional warfare.
They never trademarked the design, so it was free to use among members of the counter-culture and anti-Vietnam War protesters ran with it.
The olive branch
The most misunderstood signal of peace is the olive branch. The first example of olive branches being used as a symbol dates back to the stories of ancient Greece when Athena was trying to win the patronage of Athens over Poseidon. Legend has it, she threw her spear into the ground and it blossomed into the first olive tree. The new tree was, essentially, a giant “f*ck you” to Poseidon because her olives were more useful than his salt water.
Athenians later gave olive branches out as a symbol of Athena to mighty warriors and Olympians. The olives and their branches represented prosperity after long-fought wars.
During the time of the Romans, Mars, the God of War, was often depicted holding an olive branch. To the Romans, “extending the olive branch” meant to be from a god or ruler and given to their subject. It was something more along the lines of “we fought, now enjoy this peace and prosperity.”
The Romans knew best that si vis pacem, para bellum, or “if you want peace, prepare for war.”
Although women were not allowed in combat positions in the military until way after the Vietnam War, that doesn’t mean that women were not in harm’s way during their service as nurses. Women have held nursing positions aiding the military as far back as the Civil War, and the Vietnam War was no exception. Sharon Ann Lane was the first woman killed in action in Vietnam.
Sharon Ann Lane was one such nurse. She joined the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve on April 18, 1968, as a 2nd Lieutenant. Her first assignment was at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colo., where she was promoted and sent off to Travis Air Force Base with orders to Vietnam.
During her time in Vietnam, Lane was assigned to the 312th Evac Hospital at Chu Lai. She was attached to the Intensive Care Ward before being appointed to the Vietnamese ward 4, where Lane worked five days a week, 12 hrs a day. Lane continuously denied transfers because she dedicated herself to nursing our critically injured American soldiers in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which she volunteered to do in her free time.
Although the hospital had been attacked many times, she constantly reassured her patients that things were “still very quiet around here…haven’t gotten mortared in a couple of weeks now.”
On June 8, 1969, a rocket hit the Evac Hospital, striking ward 4 and killing two people, while injuring twenty-seven. Lane was among the two that perished in the attack, due to fragmentation wounds to the chest. Lane was only twenty-five years old when she was killed in action and also the only American nurse of eight to die due to enemy fire.
Lane was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for her valiant efforts in providing the best medical care to our wounded warriors and giving her life for her country. The Daughters of the American Revolution honored Lane in 1969, by naming her Nurse of the Year. A statue was erected in her image in front of Aultman Hospital, her Nursing school Alma Mater, a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice she made for her country. Although she was killed in Vietnam, this is one woman who is not forgotten.