4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

Shock troops are designed to lead an attack from the front with the goal of inflicting heavy enemy casualties and severely damaging defenses. When the dynamic of the battlefield changed with the Great War, it brought with it measures to break the stalemate of trench warfare.

With the need to find a way to gain ground during World War I, military leaders around the world were struggling with the new battlefield, not yet experienced to the scale or intensity that was introduced. After analyzing what the combat troops were experiencing, the concept for the shock troop was born.


Here are a few of those who really left their mark in history.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
An Arditi flag hangs in the office of a former soldier.
The Great War/ YouTube

The Arditi

“The Daring Ones” were Italy’s response to a deeply entrenched enemy. Initially made up of volunteers and later by men who were recommended by their superior officers, they were among the bravest, most physically fit, and best hand-to-hand fighters in the Italian army during that time. Needless to say, they were not the type of soldiers you would want to see coming for you. Here’s why:

Most of them didn’t even carry rifles — they considered them to be too bulky to use in the trenches and usually opted to use daggers. What they would do is advance under the cover of an accurate artillery barrage and, once it lifted, they would flood the trenches to stab the enemy in the face. The goal wasn’t just to assault their positions with the goal of gaining ground but to overrun and destroy them.

The job was so dangerous that an Arditi soldier would get paid three times the rate of the average Italian soldier. Which isn’t bad considering they suffered 25-30% casualties in almost every attack. They were so dope their logo was a skull with a dagger clenched between it’s teeth and their motto was, “O la vittoria, o tutti accoppati,” which roughly translates to, “We either win, or we all die.”

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
German Stormtroopers assaulting enemy trenches.
Marinamaral

German Stormtroopers

Easily the most famous of World War I era shock troops, and for a good reason. The German ‘Sturmbattalions’ were famous for their aggressive fighting style and decentralized command. These units made it easier for the German Army to break through enemy defenses and reap their souls since most forces weren’t prepared for an all-out assault when it hit them.

The use of these shock troops was so impressive and so effective that they were not only used during World War II but they also influenced tactics of other shock troops to include the Austro-Hungarian Jagdkommandos.

Their emphasis on decentralized command allowed junior leaders to make more of their own choices on the battlefield, which is a concept heavily employed and focused on in U.S. Marine Corps infantry units.

Despite Germany’s defeat in the war, it would be ridiculous not to recognize their tactics as well-planned and highly effective.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
This iteration of the Jagdkommandos is still in service to this day, punching terrorists in the face all over the world.

 

Jagdkommandos

Adopted by Austria-Hungary from a Russian concept, the Jagdkommandos or, “hunting commandos,” were initially used as scouting units. Developed well before the outbreak of the Great War, Austria-Hungary wasn’t really sure how to employ them until they started getting their asses kicked by the Italians and Russians during the war.

They were under-equipped and under-trained until Russia nearly destroyed the Austro-Hungarian army. But, after the leadership recognized the need to have pipe hitting shock troops, they rose one full battalion and trained an additional 7,700 in close-quarters combat.

After they managed to kick some serious Italian ass, they were able to get their hands on good equipment and weapons which allowed them to succeed in plenty of subsequent battles until they were finally defeated during a summer offensive by the Italian defenses, which had vastly improved through heavy loss.

Following the loss of the war and collapse of the Austria-Hungary empire, the Jagdkommandos disappeared until 1962, when Austria named their Special Forces after them.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
Belleau Wood is one of the most definitive battles in Marine Corps history.
Photo by Lance Cpl. Bryan G. Carfrey

 

U.S. Marine Corps Infantry

Though the U.S. Marine Corps Infantry existed long before the first World War, their aggressive tactics and fighting spirit gained their modern reputation during the war as “shock troops,” as the Germans classified them. In every war prior, the Marines had been notorious for sending souls to the afterlife all across the globe.

The Marine Corps earned its reputation most notably during the battle of Belleau Wood in 1918, when Marines were aggressively taking real estate from German forces, despite the employment of chemical weapons. Germans were terrified when they charged through clouds of mustard gas, describing some as having “glowing red eyes,” and having the appearance of “hounds from hell.”

Marines to this day credit the battle as the suspected origin for their beloved nickname “Devil Dogs” and live up to their notoriously bad ass reputation they earned during the first World War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 6 best defensive stands in military history

What happens when a military unit is outnumbered, outgunned and low on supplies? Most of the time, they get overrun and the defenders are killed to the last man. It’s probably happened more times than we can count, but the world will never know because the victors write history. 

The most incredible stories we do hear about are the ones where the outnumbered defenders win the day. This could happen for a lot of reasons, but the most common is simply the attackers are outclassed. All the numbers and advanced weapons in the world have a hard time standing up to a unit that is simply better than the rest. 

Some stories come because the defenders emerged victorious. Others are remembered because their stand was so great, the story had to be told. Here are 6 of the best. 

1. The Siege of Jadotville, 1961

What do 158 Irish soldiers with little to no combat experience do when upward of 5,000 African rebels and mercenaries start barging in on their position with no end in sight? Ask for some whiskey, of course. 

Congolese rebels declared independence from the rest of the country after Belgium granted Congo its independence. One rebel sect decided to seize the mineral deposits in the Katanga region by force and claim it for themselves. The only thing standing in their way was a UN peacekeeping force of Irishmen carrying WWII-era weapons. 

defensive stand
The siege was so legendary that it was made into a Netflix movie.

When the rebels came at them with heavy mortars, human wave attacks and even air support, the Irish just dug in. For three days, low on water and ammunition, and getting strafed from the air, the Irish fought off the rebels, killing 300 and losing zero. Eventually the defenders of Jadotville had to surrender or die of thirst. They were taken prisoner but were soon released to the UN, still with no losses.

2. Sihang Warehouse, 1937

There aren’t a lot of Chinese victories to celebrate in the early days of World War II, but the story of the 800 Heroes in Shanghai is definitely one of them. After massively crushing the Chinese for months, the Japanese entered Shanghai with the intention of defeating the Chinese nationalist government decisively. The Chinese were able to leave the city relatively intact only because of the fighting at the Sihang Warehouse.

Only around 450 untested Chinese troops actually made it to the six-story warehouse, but their goal was to buy time for the Chinese to retreat to the west. An estimated 20,000 Japanese soldiers laid siege to the warehouse for five days as wave after wave of attack was repelled. 

They couldn’t level the building with naval guns, bombs, artillery or chemical attacks, because the Western powers were watching across the nearby Wusong River. Any collateral damage might bring them into the war. 

The Chinese soldiers’ last stand allowed the Chinese army to survive, and for Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek to focus the world’s attention on Japanese aggression in China. 

3. The Battle of Camaron, 1863

While the U.S. was fighting the Civil War, Mexico was engulfed in a conflict of its own. The French had invaded Mexico to install a monarch friendly to French interests in the Western Hemisphere. At Camaron, 65 members of the French Foreign Legion found themselves besieged by 3,300 Mexican soldiers whose only goal was their demise. 

When the Mexicans demanded the French surrender, the Legionnaires responded they still had plenty of ammunition. Over the course of the next few hours, the French used it to good effect. Although they systematically lost ground and men with that ammunition, the Mexicans paid dearly for their repeated attacks. When the ammo was gone, the few remaining men launched a bayonet charge. 

When all was said and done, the French finally negotiated a surrender, which allowed for them to keep their weapons and gear. All but 19 Legionnaires were killed in the siege, but the Mexicans lost 490, killed or wounded.

4. The Battered Bastards of Bastogne, 1944

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
Photo taken by a U.S. Army Signal Corps photographer on 26 December 1944 in BastogneBelgium as troops of the 101st Airborne Division watch C-47s drop supplies to them. Jeeps and trucks are parked in a large field in the near distance.

The Battle of the Bulge was one hell of a way to spend Christmas. It was the last German offensive of World War II, and it was supposed to retake the harbor of Antwerp from the Allies and blunt the European offensive that would soon see the fall of the German Reich. It all depended on who controlled the converging roads at Bastogne, which cut through the dense Ardennes forest. 

Unfortunately for the Germans, it was controlled by the men of the 101st Airborne Division. The Bulge eventually surrounded Bastogne, and when the the German Army demanded the 101st’s surrender, they got the now-famous reply: “Nuts!” 

For a week the Germans relentlessly attacked the Americans at Bastogne. For more than a week, they hit the paratroopers, who were outnumbered 5-to-1, lacked cold weather gear in the December snows, had no senior leadership or air power to support them. But the Germans couldn’t advance without Bastogne.

They never got the chance. The day after Christmas, the U.S. Third Army under Gen. George S. Patton made contact with the German Army and broke the siege, eventually pushing back the armored advance. 

5. Battle of Longewala, 1971

Even though the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 lasted just under two weeks, there was still a lot of heroism to be found. Pakistan launched a surprise air attack on 11 Indian air bases on Dec. 3, 1971. The next day, its ground forces began rolling toward India. One of the first stops for Pakistan was the lightly-defended outpost at Longewala but they threw 2,000 soldiers and 40 tanks at it just for good measure. They should have brought more.

The defenders of Longewala decided that they could either stand and defend their base or try to outrun a tank battalion on foot. Even though there were only 120 of them and just a recoilless rifle to use against the tanks, they decided to stay and fight. The recoilless rifle was much more effective than expected and wreaked havoc on the attackers. 

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
One of the three HAL Marut used by the IAF against Pakistani armor at Longewala (Ayush 1988, Wikipedia)

With the full moon in play and the tanks burning against the night sky, the oncoming infantry was a shooting gallery for Indian machine guns. By the time the sun came up the next day and the cloud cover cleared, the Indian Air Force made mincemeat of the Pakistani attack. They lost nearly every tank and a tenth of their infantry. The Indian defenders lost just two men. 

6. Pavlov’s House, Stalingrad, 1943

The Battle of Stalingrad might have been the most pivotal battle of World War II. For six months, Soviet and German Forces fought each other in some of the war’s most brutal urban combat. The Germans were fighting to take Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin’s namesake city while the Soviets were fighting for their existence. 

As the USSR sustained terrible losses, one soldier, Sgt. Yakov Pavlov, took a building that became a symbol of the Soviet struggle against the German invader. Just a month after the Germans began the assault on the city. Pavlov captured a four-story building looking over what was once a city square. The building defended a key bank of the Volga, which the USSR needed to cross to send troops and supplies. Pavlov would hold the building at all costs.

For 60 days, he reinforced and rebuilt the building, destroying tanks with a roof-mounted anti-tank rifle and mowing down wave after wave of attackers, several times a day. Pavlov and his comrades held the building for 60 full days, defending Soviet landings and civilians hiding inside the structure. The Soviet troops said more Germans died trying to take Pavlov’s House than did trying to take Paris.

The apartment building still stands in what is today Volgograd, with a memorial to Sgt. Pavlov attached to one corner. 

Articles

Watch how the Marines held out against the brutal siege of Khe Sanh

During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese were trying to find ways to force the United States out, as they had the French. In December 1967 they figured the Marine base at Khe Sanh would be the perfect place to replicate Dien Bien Phu, their decisive victory against the French in 1954.


Well, the French didn’t have the air power of the United States Air Force and United States Marine Corps. Nor did they have cargo planes like the C-130 Hercules and the C-123 Provider.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
First-generation C-130As performing an airdrop (Photo US Air Force)

This was one of two big game-changers in the years since Dien Bien Phu. The cargo planes France had back then were C-119 Flying Boxcars – which could haul almost 14 tons of cargo. The French had as few as nine planes in that theater.

The American C-123s could carry 12 tons, but the C-130s could carry over 22 tons – and the Americans had a lot more airlift assets. This meant a lot of supplies got to the Marines – 12,430 from just the Air Force, and another 4,661 tons via Marine helicopters.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
Photo: Wikimedia

One other big difference: The B-52 Stratofortress. Yes, BUFFs were at Khe Sanh, compared to second-hand A-26 Invaders. A B-52 could drop 51 M117 750-pound bombs on a target. The A-26 could carry 6,000 pounds of bombs – or up to 12 500-pound bombs.

That did not include the support from other planes like the F-4 Phantom and A-4 Skyhawk.

Over 20,000 sorties were flown in defense of Khe Sanh – 2,500 of which were flown by B-52s. When all was said and done, the North Vietnamese lost 15,000 personnel trying to take Khe Sanh – making the siege a costly error. The base was eventually relieved, and a lot of abandoned gear was captured.

The video below from the DOD provides an excellent outline of just how American air power caused the siege of Khe Sanh to fail.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQjdNK6lhdM
popular

4 surprising things North Korean spies have to learn

North Korea and the United States don’t have a lot in common. What they do share is a need for gathering intelligence — typically about each other. While the United States’ intelligence agencies might have a difficult time penetrating the North’s rigid class system and meticulous tracking of its citizens, the Hermit Kingdom can exploit the open societies of the West to plant its operatives – and it does.


Kim Hyon-hui was one of those operatives. The daughter of a high-level North Korean diplomat during the Cold War, she trained rigorously in the North as an intelligence operative. She went on a number of missions, including the infamous 1987 bombing of Korean Airlines flight 858, which was personally ordered by President Kim Il-Sung to frighten teams from attending the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Much of her training would not surprise anyone, but some of it might.

Japanese national Yaeko Taguchi was kidnapped after dropping her kids off at school at age 22. She’s been training spies ever since.

Japanese

There’s a special school for North Korea’s spy agents, located outside the capital city of Pyongyang. There, they learn the usual spy stuff we’ve all come to expect from watching movies and television: explosives, martial arts, and scuba diving. What’s most unusual is not just that this school also teaches its agents Japanese, but who teaches it to them.

For the longest time, North Korea denied ever having abducted Japanese citizens for any reason. But a number of defectors, including the captured spy, Kim Hyon-hui, described learning Japanese from a native speaker, Yaeko Taguchi. North Korea has been accused of abducting a number of Japanese citizens to put them to work for similar reasons. The North’s disdain for Japan dates back to World War II, owing to the atrocities committed on Koreans by Japanese troops. North Koreans like Japan as much as they like the United States. Maybe less.

North Korean spies
Image by tragrpx from Pixabay

Supermarkets

It may or may not surprise you to learn that North Korean grocery stores are very much unlike any Western grocery stores. Most of the time, North Koreans don’t actually go to supermarkets, no matter how much food is available to them. North Korea doesn’t have supermarkets as we know them.

North Korean spies
Image by Free stock photos from www.rupixen.com from Pixabay

Credit Cards

The idea of using plastic instead of hard currency was a huge surprise to Kim. She had to be trained not just to use a credit card, but how credit cards work in general, considering much of the technology used to create this system of payment wasn’t available to North Korea back then (and still isn’t, but that’s by choice).

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
It somehow took practice to dance like this

Nightclubs

The nightlife of North Korea seems like something from the pre-sexual revolution 1960s. While beer and soju are widely consumed in Pyongyang, even in the capital there are no obvious bars or nightclubs. Many North Koreans spend their evenings with their families at the dinner table or by going to concerts and family fun parks, small carnivals that stay in the same place all the time. To go to a European disco and party like a Westerner required training.


-Feature image by Ryan McGuire via Pixabay

MIGHTY HISTORY

Women making WAVES in the Navy

The women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve during WWII is better known as WAVES – Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. It was established on July 21, 1942, by Congress and signed into law by President Roosevelt just nine days later. This law authorized the Navy to accept women into the Naval Reserve as commissioned officers and enlisted service members, effective for the duration of the war plus six months. This legislation allowed the release of officers and sailors of sea duty and replaced them with women in shore positions.


History of WAVES

In May 1941, Edith Nourse Rogers, a Congresswoman from Massachusetts, introduced a bill to Congress to establish a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). Opposition delayed the bill’s passage until 1942, but it was at the time that the Navy realized having women serve would also be beneficial. However, Read Admiral Chester Nimitz was against having women serve in the Navy, saying there was “no great need.” The Bureau of Naval Personnel recommended that Congress be asked to authorize a women’s organization. Eventually, the director of the Bureau of the Budget opposed the idea but agreed to legislation similar to the WAAC.

However, the notion of women serving in the Navy wasn’t widely supported by Congress or by the Navy. Public Law 686 was put forth largely due in part of the efforts by the Navy’s Women’s Advisory Council, along with support from Margaret Chung and Eleanor Roosevelt. Margaret Chung was the first known American-born Chinese female physician who faced significant sexism in her attempts to have a medical career.

Chung and Roosevelt, along with support from Rogers, asked women educators to bring the bill to fruition, first contacting Virginia Gildersleeve, Dean of Barnard College. The Women’s Advisory Council was formed shortly after that, which boasted an impressive roster of several prominent women. Chosen to lead the commission was Mildred McAfee, president of Wellesley College. McAfee became the first director of WAVEs and was commissioned as a lieutenant commander on August 3, 1942, as the first woman officer in the US Naval Reserve. Later, McAfee was promoted to the rank of captain. McAfee played a significant role in the development of policies relating to how women should be treated in the Navy, and the types of assignments female reserve officers and enlisted sailors should be given.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

To be eligible for OCS, women had to be between 20 and 49 and possess a college degree or have at least two years of college and two or more years of professional experience. Enlisted volunteers had to be between 20 and 35 years old and have a high school or business school diploma. Most WAVES officers were trained at Smith College in Massachusetts, and specialized training was conducted on several college campuses and naval facilities around the country. Most enlisted WAVES received their training at Hunter College in the Bronx, New York.

By September, 108 women were commissioned as officers in the WAVES.

Reception among male counterparts

The mission of WAVES was to replace male sailors in short stations for sea duty. This led to hostility from those who didn’t wish to be released. Most instances of hostility were tacit, though there were several occasions when the hostility was open and overt. Sometimes women were assigned to roles for which they were not physically suited, making many historians wonder if these cases of overt sexism were curated to encourage the failure of WAVES. There are several examples of women being assigned to jobs formerly occupied by two men.

WAVES served at 900 short stations in the continental US but were initially prohibited from serving on ships or outside the country. IN 1944, Congress amended the law to allow WAVES to volunteer for service in Hawaii and Alaska. WAVES officers held professional positions, serving as physicians, attorneys, engineers, and mathematicians.

Facts & Figures 

By the end of WWII, 18% of naval personnel assigned to shore stations were WAVES.

Seven WAVE officers and 62 enlisted WAVES died during WWII.

The Distinguished Service Medal was awarded to Captain McAfee for her efforts as the director of WAVES.

Two WAVES received the Legion of Merit, three received a Bronze Star, 18 received the Secretary of the Navy’s letter of commendation, and one received an Army Commendation Medal.

Demobilization

At the end of WWII, the Navy established five separation centers for the demobilization of WAVES and Navy nurses. Separation processes began on October 1, 1945, and within 30 days, almost 10,000 WAVES were separated. By September 1946, the demobilization was almost complete. At the time, it wasn’t clear whether or not demobilizing WAVES meant an end to women in the military altogether. On July 30, 1948, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was signed into law by President Truman, allowing women to serve in both the Army and the Navy permanently. The wartime prohibition of women serving in any unit having a combat mission was carried over in the 1948 Act, keeping women from being fully integrated into the military for another 25 years.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time when British Commandos rode an AH-64 Apache helicopter to combat

“No one left behind” is an often-heard mantra in military units. Popularized by feats like the ‘Black Hawk Down’ operation, it enhances esprit de corps in a unit. It also emboldens warriors to perhaps go a step further during combat, assured that they wouldn’t be left alone in case things turn sour. But how far would a unit go to recover one of its own?

Helmand Province, Afghanistan, January 15, 2007.

Royal Marines Commandos from Z Company of 45 Commando launch an assault on a Taliban fort. The 200 Commandos enjoy armor and 155mm artillery support. Overhead, U.S. B-1 bombers and British Apache Longbow AH-64 helicopters provide a silent assurance with their potent arsenal and infrared cameras.


The Jugroom Fort, a strategically vital position in Garmsir, Southern Helmand, overlooks the Helmand River. Today, it’s packed with Taliban fighters.

The Marines ford the river in their Viking APCs and assault the fortified structure. Heavy combat ensues. Despite their overwhelming firepower, the Commandos are forced to withdraw. Once back in their launching position, a muster goes around, and a grim discovery is made: Lance Corporal Mathew Ford is missing.

Using its infrared camera, one of the AH-64 Apaches spots a lone figure pulsing with a weak heat-signature tucked away in a corner of the Fort. The Taliban all around seem impervious to its existence—but for how long?

A rescue operation must be shift before the insurgents realize what’s going on.

The Commando officers argue for a ground rescue operation, but the higher-ups back in Camp Bastion waiver fearing more casualties. Meanwhile, LCpl. Ford’s brothers-in-arms fume. They decide to take the situation into their own hands. Alongside some of the Apache pilots, they devise a bold rescue plan. Four Commandos strap themselves to the wings of two of the Apaches. A third chopper will follow and try to suppress any Taliban.

The Army Air Corps’ pilots fly their Apaches just 20ft above the ground, at 60mph.

The British Commandos land within the Fort’s walls. The Commandos jump from the wings and begin searching for the missing comrade. A few of the pilots join them armed with their personal sidearms.

They find LCpl. Ford—he is unconscious.

Recovering their fallen comrade, they re-mount the choppers and safely fly back to their positions.

It was later discovered that the 30-year-old Ford was dead when the rescue force arrived. But the grimmest discovery came in the autopsy. Ford had been zipped by friendly-fire. It later became known that one of his buddies mistook a hand-grenade flash close to Ford’s position for gunfire and shot him.

Despite rumors of a court-martial for their actions, the whole rescue team was honored. Two of the Apache pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the highest military awards. The rest of the pilots alongside the four Commandos received the Military Cross.

So, if you find yourself alongside Royal Marines Commandos or any British Apache pilots, you can rest assured that they won’t leave you behind.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how close we came to killing off our national bird

The bald eagle is a North American national treasure and the symbol of United States. Before the ink had dried on the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress issued the order to create an official seal for the nation.


4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
Well, since you asked…

This task of creating a suitable design was entrusted to Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and (in true congressional fashion), two other subsequent committees. Their work was judged and ratified by Charles Thomson, the Secretary of Congress at the time. A final decision wouldn’t come for years.

Thomson selected the best elements from several drafts and combined them. One draft of the seal featured a small, white eagle as designed by William Barton. Thomson switched out the small bird with the American bald eagle we know today and the result officially became our National Symbol on June 20th, 1782.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

But the eagle that came to symbolize the American Dream almost died out before its time.

It was identified after World War II runoff from farms treated with pesticides were poisoning the environment. A colorless, tasteless, and almost-odorless chemical pesticide known as DDT seeped into waters and contaminated local fish. Tainting the food source of the bald eagle lead to the laying of eggs with weakened shells. The shells were so fragile that they would break if the parent attempted to incubate them.

Amendments to the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act were made protect the bald eagle from anyone possessing (dead or alive), taking, transporting, killing, harming, or even bothering one. Any interaction required a strict permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

If a freedom bird bald eagle decides to build a nest on your property, it is illegal to motivate it to move. Disturbing the nest in any capacity — even when empty — is also illegal. The only thing you’re allowed to do with a bald eagle is take a picture. That’s not a joke.

For your first offense, expect a fine of $100,000 to $200,000, a one-year imprisonment, or both. The second offense is a felony with increasing penalties.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

The eagle’s astounding population recovery is a legislative success story. Over the last several decades, the bald eagle has endured challenges with determination and persevered. Here’s a short timeline:

1960: There were an estimated 400 mating pairs.

1972: The Environmental Protection Agency outlaws the use of DDT as a pesticide after studies determined it was weakening bald eagle eggshells.

1973: The bald eagle is added to the endangered species list.

1995: The bald eagle’s status is elevated from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened.’

2007: The bald eagle is removed from the list entirely and thrives.

Present day: Bald eagle population is estimated at 70,000 strong.

There you have it. The story of how the bald eagle became the national bird… and how close we came to losing it.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened when the VC attacked a Special Forces base

It was a small airbase on the border with Cambodia. It bordered a town of 6,000 that survived on the proceeds of local rubber plantations. The airbase was guarded by a few hundred South Vietnamese regulars supported by 11 U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers. But it would host a 10-day battle that would see hundreds of North Vietnamese forces killed while that tiny force held the ground.


4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

The Civil Irregular Defense Group compound at Loc Ninh. The airstrip is to the right of the photo.

(U.S. Army)

The small town and airbase were important for two reasons. First, the airbase was a logistical hub for military and espionage operations conducted by the U.S.; something communist forces were keen to excise. But the town was also the district capital. With a new president awaiting inauguration in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese wanted to embarrass him before he took office.

And North Vietnam was looking for a tasty target. A new commander and staff needed to try out the 9th Division in the field and build up its combat proficiency ahead of larger, corps-level offensives. So, in late 1967, North Vietnamese Senior Col. Hoang Cam, gave orders to get his regiments in position and supplied for an attack on the base at Loc Ninh.

One of his key units ran into an immediate problem, though. U.S. forces were working to secure a hey highway and clear out communist forces that could threaten it, and they swept through an area where Cam’s top regiment was hiding. That regiment was able to set an ambush just in time and killed 56 Americans, but they also suffered heavy losses and fled to Cambodia.

So Cam was down a regiment before the battle started. Still, his men were facing 11 Special Forces soldiers, 400 Civilian Irregular Defense Group soldiers, and about 200 South Vietnamese regulars. The largest weapons on the base were a few mortars and machine guns.

But the North Vietnamese forces failed to hide their buildup. South Vietnamese and U.S. forces intercepted radio traffic, discovered a field hospital under construction, and discovered elements of a specific unit typically employed in major offensives, the 84A Artillery Regiment.

U.S. Gen. William Westmoreland was too savvy to overlook all this evidence of a coming attack. He suspended some operations and ordered his subordinate to plan for a major defensive operation in that part of Vietnam, especially the district capitals at Loc Ninh and Song Be.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

U.S. Special Forces soldiers and South Vietnamese troops in September 1968.

(U.S. Army)

On Oct. 27, 1967, just five days after Westmoreland issued his warning to subordinates, Cam launched the North Vietnamese attack on Song Be. His division attacked a South Korean division but was rebuffed, partially thanks to American artillery and air power. Before South Vietnamese Rangers and American infantry joined the fight the next day, Cam pulled his men back.

As the Rangers looked for the enemy near Song Be, Cam launched a new attack. This time, he struck at Loc Ninh and fully committed to the fight.

Rockets and mortars flew into the base with no warning. The town itself caught on fire, and the South Vietnamese soldiers, with their Special Forces allies, rushed to send their own mortar rounds out.

Before reinforcements could arrive, North Vietnamese sappers blew through a wire obstacle and forced the defenders into the southern part of the compound. With the American and South Vietnamese defense collapsing, the Army rushed in UH-1Bs with machine guns mounted, and the Air Force sent in an AC-47 Spooky gunship that rained metal into the jungle.

The helicopters were able to put some fire on the attackers within the compound, but the AC-47 couldn’t strike there without threatening the defenders. Eventually, that became beside the point, though, as the South Vietnamese called artillery strikes onto the compound. He specifically called for proximity fuses, detonating the rounds a little above the surface to maximize shrapnel damage.

That’s the call you make to shred humans behind light cover. Many of the defenders were in bunkers that would hold back the shrapnel, but the Viet Cong in the open were shredded. The Viet Cong in the jungle finally withdrew under aerial bombing, but attackers remained in the conquered bunkers of the northern part of the compound.

The South Vietnamese were forced to clear these bunkers one-by-one with LAWs, light anti-tank weapons.

The allies found 135 North Vietnamese bodies. They had suffered eight dead and 33 wounded.

But the U.S. knew it had nearly lost the district that night, and it wasn’t willing to go round two with the same setup. So it not only watched the South Vietnamese clear those bunkers, it flew in two artillery batteries and another infantry battalion. Those infantrymen dug into the jungle and established light bunkers.

The U.S. and South Vietnamese alliance struck hard, rooting out platoons in the rubber plantations. In one case, an impatient South Vietnamese soldier grabbed a U.S. officer’s pistol from him and used it to attack a North Vietnamese machine gunner. When he couldn’t chamber a round in the pistol, he used it to pistol-whip the machine gunner instead.

This back and forth continued for days. On Oct. 30, the North Vietnamese sent additional forces to threaten other cities and positions, potentially trying to draw away some of the American defenders. But the allies knew the fight for Loc Ninh wasn’t over and sent other forces to protect Song Be and other locations.

Just after midnight on Oct. 31, another rain of mortars and rockets flew into Loc Ninh. But this time, the fire was more accurate, and North Vietnamese forces used anti-aircraft fire the moment the helicopters and AC-47 showed up. But proximity fuses were again used to slaughter North Vietnamese attackers.

At least 110 North Vietnamese were killed while the allies lost nine killed and 59 wounded.

The next night, artillery and machine gun fire rained onto the air base, but then the main thrust came at the new infantry base in the jungle. Observers posted in the jungle detonated claymores to blunt the attack but then had to melt away as the attackers continued their assault. The U.S. infantry pushed the attack back in just 30 minutes of concentrated machine gun fire and claymore use.

One U.S. soldier had been killed and eight wounded. Over 260 bodies were found, and there were signs that even more had been lost.

Additional forces were flown in, and the U.S. commanders were finally able to go on the attack. The attacks did not go perfectly, however. On Nov. 7, a U.S. battalion moving down a dirt road moved into the jungle and came under a furious assault. An RPG took out most of the U.S. battalion command team, including the commander.

One soldier in that fight was Spc. Robert Stryker who stopped one attack with a well-aimed M79 grenade launcher shot, but then died after diving on a grenade to save others. He’s one of the two Medal of Honor recipients for whom the Stryker vehicle is named.

But the 9th Division finally withdrew, ending the Battle of Loc Ninh. The U.S. had lost 50 dead and hundreds wounded, but the North Vietnamese lost somewhere over 850 dead and failed in its objectives to take either Loc Ninh or Song Be. But the Tet Offensive was on the horizon.

(Most of the information for this article came from an official Army history from the Center of Military History, Combat Operations: Staying the Course, October 1967 to September 1968 by Erik B. Villard. It is available here.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the sad story behind the Great Buddhas of Afghanistan

There aren’t many bucket list destinations in Afghanistan, but before 2001, there were at least two man-made wonders that were revered around the world.


Built in Bamyan around the 2nd century, they were some of the largest standing Buddha carvings in the world. The Buddhist Kingdom in the “Graveyard of Empires” withstood many attacks. That was until Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban in 1996.

The region was a part of the Buddhist Kushan Empire. The Bamyan region was directly on the Silk Road and was a hub for Buddhism, with tens of thousands of monks worship at the site.

The valley was home to several monasteries. The intricate cave system throughout the cliffs were beautifully decorated and painted.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
The caves even hold some of the world’s oldest oil paintings. (Image via Digital Journal)

Many kingdoms seized control of the region, but it was the Huns who decimated the local population — but left the statues. The Mughal Empire would be the first to attack the statues in the 18th century. Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and Persian King Nader Afshar would both order attacks to destroy the statues.

Afghan King Abdur Rahman Khan ordered the destruction of the faces and many of the cave oil paintings. This is how they remained for centuries. Although Islam became the dominant religion, most Afghan people loved the statues — not because of faith, but because they were iconic.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
A drawing by Alexander Burnes in 1832 sparked curiosity and travel to the region. (Image via Wikicommons)

Then the Taliban took over and declared them idols.

Mirza Hussain was from the town of Bamyan and a prisoner of the Taliban at the time. He told the BBC of how they captured him.

They forced him at gun point to plant explosives in both of the Buddhas for three days straight. The statues were destroyed in March 2001 — leaving nothing but craters where they once stood.

The Taliban used the caves for arms and munitions until troops from the United States, New Zealand, and Afghanistan retook control in 2003.

Talks continue years later whether they should rebuild the statues using fragments of the old ones, to use holograms to project them as they were, or to leave them as a brutal reminder of the horrors of the Taliban regime.

(NATO, YouTube)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy initially denied Grace Hopper’s enlistment. Then she revolutionized computers.

Grace Hopper, WAVE mathematician, assigned to Harvard University to work on the computation project with a Mark I computer, was instrumental in ushering in the computer age. Hopper went on to become a Rear Admiral, held a Ph.D. from Yale, and tried to enlist during WWII but was rejected because of her age. As a computer scientist, Hopper made significant strides in coding languages. Here’s a profile of her life and how she directly impacted yours.

Who was she?


The fact that you’re able to read any of these words on your device is thanks, in part, to Grace Hopper, one of the most formidable American computer scientists. Serving as a Navy Rear Admiral, Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer. Her impact on our modern lives is significant and nothing to be trifled with; let’s take a look at how Hopper directly impacted everything we do today.

In 1934, Hopper earned a Ph.D. in math from Yale. Her dissertation was published the same year. By 1941, she was an associate professor at Vassar.

Hopper’s great grandfather was an admiral in the U.S. Navy and fought in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. At the onset of WWII, Hopper tried to enlist in the Navy but was turned away because of her age. At 34, she was too old, and her height to weight ratio was too low for Navy standards. Hopper’s enlistment was also denied based on the criteria that her job as a mathematician was valuable to the war effort.

Undeterred, Hopper took a leave of absence from Vassar in 1943 and then joined the United States Navy Reserve. She was one of several women who volunteered to serve in WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Service), as part of the US Naval Reserve.

What were her contributions?

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

Hopper had to receive an exemption to enlist because she was fifteen points underweight. After training at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smooth College, Hopper graduated first in her class in 1944. She was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard. There, she and Howard Aiken co-authored three papers on the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, also known as Mark I.

Mark I was used during the war effort during the latter part of WWII. It helped compute and print mathematical tables and directly contributed to the Manhattan Project. Specific sets of problems were run through the Mark I to help create simulation programs to study the atomic bomb’s implosion.

Despite her contributions, Hopper was denied a transfer to the Navy at the end of the war because of her “advanced” age of 38.

Hopper moved on to the private sector and set at work recommending the development of a new programming language that would entirely use English words. She was told that this was impossible since computers didn’t understand English and it took three years for the idea to be accepted. That was the beginning of COBOL – Common Business Oriented Language, a computer language for data processors. During this time, Hopper served as the director of the Navy Programming Languages Group and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1973.

What was her impact?

Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve as a commander in 1966 at the age of 60. She was then recalled to active duty in August 1967 for what started as a six-month assignment but turned into an indefinite appointment. Then in 1971, she retired again … only to be called back once more to active duty. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt presided over her promotion in 1973.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

(Wikimedia Commons)

A joint resolution originating in the House of Representatives led to her promotion in 1983 to commodore by special appointment from President Reagan. Hopper remained on active duty for several years after the mandatory retirement age. IN 1985, the rank of commodore was renamed rear admiral, and Hopper became one of the Navy’s few female admirals.

Admiral Hopper’s career spanned more than four decades, and she retired in 1986. She was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded by the DoD.

At the time of her retirement, Admiral Hopper was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the Navy. To commemorate her 42 years of service, Hopper’s retirement ceremony was held aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy. Admiral Hopper is interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.


MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War II

During World War II, 22 Asian Americans earned Medals of Honor, but, due to prejudices that lasted until decades after the fighting, only one received the award during the war: a young infantryman who fought in Italy and France before giving his life to save his comrades by eliminating machine gun nests and then throwing his body on an enemy grenade.


4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

100th Infantry Battalion soldiers receive grenade training in 1943.

(U.S. Army)

Pfc. Sadao Munemori trained in civilian life as a mechanic but, unable to find work, ended up joining the Army instead in February, 1942, just a couple of months after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Like most Asian Americans at the time — and nearly all Japanese Americans — he was sent to noncombat units to conduct menial duties.

But patriotic Japanese Americans like Munemori got a new chance in early 1943 when the Army formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated combat unit for Asian Americans. Munemori was assigned to the 100th Infantry Battalion and shipped to Europe in April, 1944.

Munemori first saw combat in Italy, but he was then sent to France, where he took part in the historic rescue of the Lost Battalion. The 100th Battalion had already distinguished itself multiple times when the 1st Battalion, 141st Texas Regiment, found itself cut off with limited food and water.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

A painting illustrates the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Combat Team, breaking through the German lines to rescue the 1st Battalion, 141st Texas Regiment.

(U.S. Army)

The 100th was sent to rescue it, an order that remains controversial as it’s unclear whether the 100th was sent because of its already-impressive combat record or because the Japanese soldiers were considered expendable next to their white counterparts.

Either way, the 100th threw itself to the task, pushing forward for six days in a slow but unstoppable crawl. An apocryphal story claims that Hitler himself ordered that the trapped unit be be blocked off and exterminated. But, on October 30, the Japanese American soldiers breached the Axis perimeter and allowed the 1-141st to escape.

The 141st, who already knew about the 442nd’s combat prowess, was overjoyed to see the Japanese Americans attacking the German troops.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team stands in the snow while their citations for rescuing the “Lost Battalion” are read out.

(U.S. Army)

“To our great pleasure it was members of the 442nd Combat Team,” said Major Claude D. Roscoe of the 141st Regiment. “We were overjoyed to see these people for we knew them as the best fighting men in the ETO.”

Nearly every 442nd soldier involved in the rescue received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, or both, and the 442nd received the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions. They rescued 211 Texans, but suffered 800 killed and wounded while doing so, earning them the name, “Go For Broke Battalion.”

In early 1945, the 442nd was sent back to Italy, where Munemori would make his last heroic sacrifice. On April 5, Munemori was part of an attack on mountain positions near Seravezza, Italy. German machine gun fire from higher altitude pinned down members of his unit and wounded his squad leader.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

Pfc. Sadao Munemori was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor whose wartime recommendation for the Medal of Honor was originally approved. An additional 22 Asian Americans would be awarded the top medal in 1995 after a review of their actions.

(U.S. Army)

Munemori took over as squad leader, but twice ran through enemy fire on his own to get close to machine gun nests and destroy them with grenades. While making his way back from the second nest, enemy machine gun fire and grenades rained down around him.

He was still uninjured as he approached the shell crater that he and his men were using as cover, but an enemy grenade bounced off of his helmet and into the hole. Munemori dove onto the grenade and his body absorbed the blast. The other soldiers in the crater were still injured, but survived thanks to Munemori’s sacrifice.

He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in early 1946, and was the only recipient whose recommendation during the war was approved. During a review of Distinguished Service Cross and Navy Cross awards in 1995, 22 other Asian Americans medal recipients were recommended for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor for actions in world War II. Three of these upgrades were awarded to members of the 100th Battalion for their role in rescuing the “Lost Battalion” in France.

Articles

5 real life games you can play to get ready for war

Most service members played Army when they were kids. And throughout our childhood educational years, we were presented with a host of games that stretch our minds and hone our analytical skills.


In the military, the goal isn’t much different — though the information is just delivered through alternative means like “death by PowerPoint.” And isn’t nearly as much fun

Related: 5 crazy games you played while in the military

So to avoid the boredom of paper and screens, we compiled a list of real life games you can play stateside that will increase your unit’s communication, physical stamina, and mental toughness.

1. Laser Tag

Running into a low-lit terrorist cell with weapons at the ready with your adrenaline pumping and still being ready to “expect the unexpected” while you clear the room can be incredibly stressful.

Dial back the dangerous nature of the mission and you could have a friendly game of laser tag.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

2. Treasure hunt

In grade school, we used to bury or hide objects at the playground, draw a detailed map where we left them and dare our friends to hunt down the prize — sounds easy.

Pretty much what land navigation is today minus the prize, it’s now your objective.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

3. Flag football

It was in the late 1860s that the football game kicked off between Princeton and Rutgers — and at the time, players typically played both offense and defense. This game requires plenty of communication and sets each player into different jobs and rolls.

While on patrol or in a convoy, if allied forces take contact from the bad guys, it’s up to the leader to “quarterback” the defensive strategy and instruct men how to bring the fight to the enemy.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
The Company Grade Officers Council goes for another touchdown during their flag football game at Eglin Air Force Base, (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

4. 52 cards

You can pull many different infantry games from a deck of playing cards. The main focus is to develop a game to build muscle memory. Assign an exercise or action drill for every suit in the deck and use the cards’ face value for the number of repetitions.

First one through the deck is the winner.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

Also Read: 5 things I wish I knew before deployment

5. Blindfolded tag

We conduct military operations at night, attacking the enemy once the sun goes down when they least expect it. There’s no better way to learn to fight if your night vision goes down while you’re stateside than blindfolded tag.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

What could’ve happened if the Cuban missile crisis had turned into all-out nuclear war

The most intense period of the Cold War came during the Cuban Missile Crisis on Oct. 27, 1962, but it could have been much worse had it escalated into a shooting war. Here is how it may have gone down.


After months of building tensions, the discovery of ballistic missile sites on Cuba on Oct. 14 forced a confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

 

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
A CIA map showing the range of the medium range ballistic missiles successfully deployed to Cuba in Oct. 1962. The intermediate range ballistic missiles with their range shown by the larger arrow never arrived in Cuba. Photo: Wikipedia/James H. Hansen

On Oct. 27, multiple events nearly triggered a war. Perhaps the most dangerous moment was when the Soviet B-59 submarine deployed to Cuba was “signaled” by the USS Beale and USS Cony through the use of sonar, practice depth charges, and hand grenades. The Soviet submarine was carrying a 15-ton nuclear torpedo but was ordered to use it only if American forces blew a hole in the hull or orders came down from Moscow.

Despite the orders limiting use of the torpedo, submarine commander Capt. Vitali Savistky was urged by his political officer to fire. It was only through the urging of Capt. Vasili Arkhipov that it wasn’t fired. If it had, the Cuban Missile Crisis could have easily erupted into all-out nuclear war.

The most obvious target for the torpedo would have been the aircraft carrier USS Randolph that was part of the force shadowing the B-59. With a 15-kiloton warhead, the torpedo would have sank the Randolph and likely other nearby ships.

For comparison, an 8-kiloton explosion looks like this:

Just the loss of the Randolph would have meant over 3,000 sailors and Marines were dead. The fact that the B-59 would have also been destroyed would be little solace and America would be forced to respond. Since a U-2 had already been shot down and the pilot killed over Cuba, the most likely retaliation route for the Americans would have been the bombing of Soviet missile sites in Cuba.

The Air Force had a plan for this, but it expected hundreds of sorties would be needed to wipe out 90 percent of the missiles. With only a few sorties available before a Soviet response, at least one-third of the 24 sites and 36 medium-range ballistic missiles would survive.

To prevent those missiles from being used, America could have ordered an amphibious invasion, an airborne assault, and an overland push from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
The proposed invasion of Cuba would have been over four times the size of the landings at Inchon, Korea in 1950. These massed troops would’ve been easy targets for Soviet tactical nuclear missiles. Photo: US Navy

This would’ve likely triggered a massacre of American troops.

The U.S. plans for an invasion of Cuba projected 18,500 casualties in the first 10 days of fighting to take the island. But they estimated Soviet forces on the island at 10,000 to 12,000 with no tactical nuclear weapons.

In reality, the Soviets had 40,000 troops and 92 tactical nukes. 12 Luna missiles carried 2-kiloton warheads to a maximum range of 17 nautical miles. 80 Sopka-variant cruise missiles with a range of 40 nautical miles carried 12-kiloton warheads.

With tactical nuclear weapons on the island, America would have actually lost nearly all of the 180,000 troops in the invasion as well as all the Marines still on Guantanamo Bay. Luckily, the family members had already been evacuated.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
Guantanamo Bay would’ve quickly fallen to tactical nukes. Photo: Department of Defense

At this point, both sides would be forced into full nuclear war. Russia would have to attempt a pre-emptive strike to limit the number of nukes coming at them. America would try to limit the Soviet attack as well as punish Russia for its losses in Cuba.

More: This is what the Air Force thought nuclear war would look like in 1960

The surviving missile launchers in Cuba would be the first to fire. Air Force strikes that made it through during the attempted invasion and bombing would have wiped out at least 16 launchers and 24 missiles. But the surviving eight launchers would begin preparations to fire as soon as the first sites were struck.

They would get off their first wave of missiles with a 1-megaton warhead on each. Two would be sent to Washington D.C. and the other six to major U.S. bases and cities in the American Southeast. The launchers, and nearly all of Cuba, would be wiped out before the remaining four missiles could be prepared for launch.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
Photo: US Air Force

This is because the Strategic Air Command bombers around the U.S. and NATO countries would take off and begin striking targets in Russia and Warsaw Pact countries. The force consisted of 1,306 bombers with 2,962 nuclear bombs.

Brand new Minuteman-I missiles as well as older Atlas missiles would fly from U.S. silos while Thor and Jupiter missiles would take off from Italy, Britain, and Turkey. These 308 ballistic missiles were capable of delivering 761 megatons of devastation to targets across the Soviet Union.

4 of the most hardcore World War I shock troops
Photo: US Navy

 

Seven American nuclear missile submarines, dispatched to staging points in the oceans since Oct. 22, carried 112 Polaris A-1 and A-2 submarine launched ballistic missiles. Each missile carried a 1-megaton nuclear warhead.

Facing off against this force was the relatively modest Soviet arsenal: 36 intercontinental ballistic missiles carried a combined yield of 108-204 megatons. Only 138 bombers were available. A mere 30 submarines carried about 84 missiles with a combined yield of less than 100 megatons.

The exchange would go wildly in America’s favor, but vast swaths of Europe, China, and North America would lay in ruins alongside the deceased Soviet Union. The American military would count losses in the hundreds of thousands in a single day of fighting.

Fortunately, none of this ended up happening. Through secret back-channel negotiations, U.S. President Kennedy and Soviet Secretary Nikita Kruschev worked out a deal that removed Russian missiles from Cuba, as long as the U.S. removed its missiles from Turkey and Italy.

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