Why the "Ghost Army" was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

When playing poker, a bluff is a completely logical strategy. You’ve got basically nothing and you’re trying to pressure your opponent into thinking you’ve got them completely beat via pure posturing. In a time of war, when both sides employ hundreds of scouts, do near-constant aerial reconnaissance, and have spies constantly floating around the battlefield, bluffs shouldn’t work.

You’d think that any soldier with a pair of binoculars would realize that something was amiss upon observing a bunch of plywood artillery cannons, tank-shaped balloons, cardboard cutouts of troops, and a couple commo guys messing around on the airwaves. And yet the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, better known as the “Ghost Army,” went on to fool the Nazis at every turn.

As the old Army saying goes, if it looks stupid, but works, it ain’t stupid.


Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

If you saw this from your cockpit for half a second and you had no idea your enemy was using inflatable tanks, you might fall for it, too.

(National Archives)

The Ghost Army was inspired, in part, by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s successful use of hoax tanks as part of Operation Bertram, but during Operation Quicksilver, Americans took things to the next level. British measures employed to successfully fool Axis onlookers were good, but the assets of the Ghost Army were exceedingly precise. Each inflatable tank took days to make, and they were so realistic that enemy reconnaissance couldn’t tell the difference.

To help sell the illusion, radio guys blasted the sounds of tanks through loud speakers. This way, any onlooking Nazi scout would hear what sounded like an entire division of tanks rolling through the area, quickly glimpse the balloon tanks in the distance, and promptly run back to their commander to prepare for the impending “fight.” The inflatable Sherman tanks weren’t alone — they also employed wooden mock-ups of artillery guns in dugouts that would draw out enemy fire.

Visual deception was key, but another crucial task was sending out relevant radio transmissions in hopes that they’d be intercepted by the Germans. The illusion worked best when several types of deception worked in concert. The Nazi code-breaker would “intercept” a message about the 23rd moving to a certain point on the Rhine, the Luftwaffe would fly ahead and see the “tanks,” and, if any Nazi scouts were to see soldiers of the 23rd, they’d likely see troops donning high-ranking officers uniforms — and this is exactly what the Ghost Army wanted them to see: a seemingly ripe target.

The 23rd drew the attention away from many key Allied movements, leaving the Germans easily flanked by the actual Army that came to fight. The Germans were too distracted by the Ghost Army to realize that the Americans started crossing the Ruhr River and, as a consequence, they arrived first at the Maginot Line many, many miles away from where the Americans would break through.

All thanks to a bunch of artists and jokers.

To learn more about the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, check out the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine survived a shot from a .50-cal at point-blank range

After volunteering to deploy to Iraq four times, the Marine Corps finally sent Cpl. Jared Foster to Baghdad in February 2005. He was assigned as a personal security detail driver for VIPs in the Baghdad area when tragedy struck.


Just a month later after being sent to Iraq, Foster was just sitting down in his tent after a fire watch when a weapon discharged. With all the smoke in the tent, Foster thought a grenade had gone off. He was wrong.

“I saw smoke,” he told AZCentral in a 2007 interview. “Then I looked down because I felt something really cold, and when I lifted my hand up, it had blood all over it.”

Foster couldn’t move and couldn’t hear, but tried to yell for help. A .50-caliber rifle discharged from just five feet behind him. The shot should have torn him in half. Instead, it missed his spine and exited through his stomach.

 

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
U.S. Marines man an M2 Browning .50-cal machine gun. (U.S. Marine Corps)

His friends cut off his blouse to tend to his wounds and his intestines fell out. When they told him he was shot by a .50-cal, he didn’t believe them.

“Nah, that would rip your head off, he told them.” He lost consciousness shortly after.

What kind of BMG round went through Foster’s body isn’t clear but the various types of 50-caliber ammunition are commonly used to penetrate vehicle armor or chew through protective cover – like concrete.

Two years later, the Marine told AZCentral that he was evacuated to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center and subsequently underwent some 45 surgeries. He lost his tailbone and suffered damage to his large and small intestines. He was even told he would never walk again.

“I say I don’t have a butt to sit on now, and I really don’t,” Foster is quoted as saying in a Marine Corps Safety Corner. “The only thing that saved my life is I was maybe five to 10 feet away from the .50-cal when it went off, and it didn’t have time to tumble and pick up speed and velocity. It went through me, three feet of wood, four feet of a dirt berm, went another 300 yards and hit another dirt berm.”

Not only did Foster survive the wound, but he was also on his feet and walking within two years of being shot.

“The doctors said they didn’t know if they could save me,” he told the Marine Corps Safety Corner. “They didn’t know how to put me back together because they’d never seen anyone shot by a .50-caliber. The hole in my back was huge. But whatever they did worked.”

Lists

The 5 fighter aircraft of the US Air Force

The Air Force has a different kind of plane for every task, but its fighter jets are often its most visible aircraft, carrying out a variety of missions over any kind of terrain.

The first F-15 arrived in the early 1970s, and the highly advanced (though technically troubled) F-35 came online in the past few years. In that period, the Air Force’s fighters have operated all over the world, adapting to new challenges in order to dominate the battlefield and control the skies.


Below, you can see each of the fighter jets the Air Force has in service:

1. F-15 Eagle

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
First Lt. Charles Schuck fires an AIM-7 Sparrow medium range air-to-air missile from an F-15 Eagle here while supporting a Combat Archer air-to-air weapons system evaluation program mission.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Ammons)

The F-15 is an all-weather, highly maneuverable tactical fighter designed to gain and maintain air superiority over the battlefield. It first became operational in 1975 and has been the Air Force’s primary fighter jet and intercept platform for decades.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
An F-15 Eagle from the 142nd Fighter Wing takes off from Portland Air National Guard Base in Oregon during an operational-readiness inspection.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Hughel)

The F-15’s superior maneuverability and acceleration are achieved through high engine thrust-to-weight ratio and low wing loading, or the ratio of aircraft weight to its wing area. Combined with the high thrust-to-weight ratio, low wing loading lets the aircraft turn tightly without losing airspeed.

The F-15’s multimission avionics system includes the pilot’s head-up display, which projects all essential flight information gathered by the integrated avionics system onto the windscreen. This display allows the pilot to track and destroy an enemy aircraft without having to look down at cockpit instruments.

2. F-15E Strike Eagle

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
An F-15E Strike Eagle over Afghanistan. The F-15E’s primary role in Afghanistan is providing close-air support for ground troops.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

The F-15E Strike Eagle is a two-seat variant of the F-15 Eagle that became operational in late 1989. It is a dual-role fighter designed for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

It can operate day or night, at low altitude, and in all weather conditions, thanks to an array of avionics and electronics systems.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
An F-15E dropping a bomb.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

“One of the most important additions to the F-15E is the rear cockpit, and the weapons systems officer,” the Air Force says. “On four screens, this officer can display information from the radar, electronic warfare or infrared sensors, monitor aircraft or weapons status and possible threats, select targets, and use an electronic ‘moving map’ to navigate.”

3. F-16 Fighting Falcon

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing, April 8, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-16 is a compact, multirole fighter that first became operational in early 1979. It has all-weather operating capability and better maneuverability and combat radius against potential adversaries.

There are more than 1,000 in service, and it is able to fulfill a number of roles, including air-to-air combat, ground attack, and electronic warfare.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
An F-16 pilot over Iraq can been seen wearing a Santa hat during a Christmas Day operation, December 25, 2016.
(U.S. Defense Department photo)

“It provides a relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system for the United States and allied nations,” the Air Force says.

4. F-22 Raptor

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
A US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft over Alaska after refueling January 5, 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-22, introduced in late 2005, is considered the US Air Force’s first 5th-generation fighter. It’s low-observable technology gives it an advantage over air-to-air and surface-to-air threats.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
(Photo by Todd Miller)

“The F-22 … is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances and defeat threats attempting to deny access to our nation’s Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps,” the Air Force says.

5. F-35A Lightning II

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
The first F-35A Lightning II to land at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrives Sept. 13, 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-35A is the most recent addition to the Air Force’s fighter ranks. Variants are being built for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.

It’s designed to replace aging fighter and attack platforms, including the A-10 Thunderbolt and F-16.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
The first external-weapons test mission flown by an F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing aircraft, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, February 16, 2012.
(Lockheed Martin photo)

F-35s have been introduced to some air forces, but the program is still in development in the US and continues to face challenges.

The Pentagon said in April 2018 that it would stop accepting most deliveries of the jet from Lockheed Martin because of a dispute over which party was responsible for the cost of a production error found in 2017.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army SSGT performs the ultimate Van Halen tribute and it goes viral

On October 6, legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen lost his battle with cancer. The death of the rocker shocked not just his legions of fans but people around the globe. As a tribute to the late great, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the internet to play through his grief and offer one of the most fitting tributes to the musician.


Eddie Van Halen Tribute

www.youtube.com

West knew what many of us inherently understand – music unites us, both in times of hope and in times of grief. Of course, West wasn’t the only person who took to the internet to offer their tributes, but his was definitely the best.

The three-minute video of West has been viewed more than a million times. West, who is a recruiter based in Watertown, New York, instantly became a viral sensation, not just because of West’s stellar guitar skills but also because it’s so very clear that his tribute to the late rocker is so heartfelt.

West successfully manages to play half a dozen of Van Halen’s best-known guitar riffs, including “You Really Got Me,” “Panama” and “Eruption.” The Army musician reportedly told Stars and Stripes that he feels connected to both his guitar and the late musical legend.

The 26-guitar player first picked up an ax after listening to an AC/DC cassette. He was hooked and immediately wanted to learn how to play. Then, he saw Van Halen live in 2008, and that sealed the deal. He’s been playing for 13 years now, and he once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band.

That tribute was never rehearsed and played flawlessly, West said, so it’s no surprise that his Van Halen tribute has had so many views and rings so true.

In an interview with the Watertown CBS affiliate WWNY, West said that even his earliest attempts at learning Van Halen’s music made him feel like a “rock god,” and that’s one of the many reasons he kept practicing.

During his Army career, West has worked as both a signal soldier and then held a post as a guitarist for the US Army Bank.

A soldier spotlight video for the US Army Recruiting Command, released in February, features West. In the video, he says that getting out of bed every morning is easier knowing he’s going to help someone, “whether it be in recruiting and helping change someone’s life and hearing their success stories or going out and playing in front of all these beautiful people.”

The Van Halen tribute video isn’t the first time that West’s guitar playing has reached countless fans. Back in 2015, he performed in a tour with the US Army Soldier Show. The Soldier Show is an annual production that visits installations around the country to feature the musical and theater talents of service members and to help raise awareness that creative positions in the Army exist. During West’s participation in 2015, the Soldier Show stopped at 74 installations.

In a time of increasing social isolation, music is one of the few shared creative outlets that can exist across all communities. Uniting through music, no matter if it’s Van Halen or Mozart, can help bring people together in a way that other media can’t. West’s touching tribute proves that viral videos don’t need to be over the top or extreme to be shared, liked, and appreciated by people all around the country. Music is all around us and helps provide us the foundation to share our stories, which is exactly what West has been able to do with his tribute to Eddie Van Halen. As a universal language, it helps unit us across cultures and can comfort people in times of need, grief, or sadness – emotions all felt when the world learned of Van Halen’s untimely death.

Once his recruiting billet is complete, West will be joining the Army pop-rock group, As You Were, for a three-year assignment.


MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things women need to know before enlisting

Women are capable of incredible things, including feats of physical strength, athleticism and tremendous bravery. I have always been a strong supporter of equality for women, and women in the military are no exception. With that in mind, the playing field between men and women in the military isn’t level. Equal doesn’t mean identical.

Often, they’re unaware of these potential hardships until they experience them firsthand. Women are assets to the military without a doubt, but they also deserve to know the details before they sign up. Here’s what any prospective female recruit should consider before they enlist.


Sexual assault is a real threat. 

Of all the risks to women in the military, sexual assault is the most widely publicized. While male soldiers are also at risk, women have a heightened risk in comparison. The risk is highest for those stationed on ships; at some high-risk installations studied in 2014, 10% of women were assaulted – and that’s only what was reported. At the two most dangerous, 15% of women were assaulted. The risk is much lower for most military bases, but because studies are done after the fact, it’s impossible to know which bases are the most dangerous currently.

All branches of the military have been working to improve these sobering stats, but between 2016 and 2018, the number of assaults actually increased. Some of the pinpointed factors included alcohol use and off-base parties. Victims also had certain common qualities, like joining the military at a younger age and having a prior history of sexual abuse. On average, one in 17 civilian women will be sexually assaulted in the US. For military women ages 17 to 20, the risk is one in 8, and around 25% of women report sexual harassment at some point during their time of service.

Experiences like these have an impact on mental health. 

Many women choose not to report their assaults for fear that their case won’t be taken seriously, or that it will impact their career potential. Either way, victims are more likely to experience PTSD, depression and anxiety that can last for years.

More women in service will serve safely than not, but it’s important to be aware that fending off male attention can be part of the job…even though it shouldn’t be.

Women have a much higher risk of injury in certain military roles.

In close-combat positions and others that require ongoing heavy lifting and extreme physical exertion, women are more likely to experience injuries like stress fractures and torn muscles. Women are more than capable of holding their own in combat, but the particularly physical roles don’t come without risks. Pelvic floor injuries are a particular problem related to carrying heavy weights, potentially leading to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

Irregular meals have a more pronounced effect.

Eating inconsistently impacts women more heavily than it does men. Many women experience irregular menstruation, or none at all, with potential impacts on future fertility. Since periods can be irritating to deal with when you’re taking on a role that’s heavily physical and allows very little downtime, some opt to take birth control that eliminates periods completely. The hormones they include can have substantial side effects when taken long term, including low bone density and metabolic issues.

Women are more likely to receive a physical disability discharge. 

According to one study published by the Army surgeon general’s office, women are 67% more likely to leave on a physical disability discharge due to a musculoskeletal disorder. That statistic was also from 2011, before the most intense combat jobs allowed women to apply.

Side effects can take years to show up. 

It’s possible that even women who leave the military feeling healthy will feel the consequences of hard, physical labor later in life. Some female veterans have reported issues like osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, low endurance and infertility, which they believe to be the result of their time in the military.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

Military careers can be rewarding for women, too. As long as they know what to expect.

The point of this piece isn’t to tell women they should stay out of combat or avoid the military. That said, since there are risks unique to female members of service, it would be unfair to encourage them to enlist without offering full transparency.

Some military roles can increase the risk of pelvic floor and musculoskeletal injuries, and sexual harassment and assault is an issue that is far from solved, but many women also climb the ranks proudly without a hitch. Now you know the risks. If you still feel a combat role is where you belong, don’t let any statistic hold you back.

MIGHTY TRENDING

17 Russian jets buzzed and threatened a British destroyer

Footage released as part of a documentary about life aboard a British warship shows an incident in which 17 Russian warplanes swarmed the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan as it sailed near Crimea in the Black Sea earlier this year.

Russia intervened in Ukraine and annexed Crimea in early 2014, and tensions between Russia and other countries in the West have been elevated since then, particularly in the Black Sea region and eastern Europe.


Tour of HMS Duncan

www.youtube.com

The Duncan’s transit near Crimea, sailing just 30 miles from the peninsula, is the closest any British navy ship has come to Crimea since Moscow annexed it.

SNMG2 exited the Black Sea after that tour on May 20. (An international treaty limits which warships from countries that do not border the Black Sea can enter it and restricts them to 21 days there.)

Commodore Mike Utley, who was leading the NATO group from the Duncan at the time, said in the clip that the British ship was “probably the only maritime asset that has seen a raid of that magnitude in the last 25 years.”

“To me it felt unprecedented,” said Cmdr. Eleanor Stack, the Duncan’s captain. “There were more aircraft than we have seen in a long time.”

The clip posted by Sky News shows the Duncan’s crew reacting as call signs and bearings are issued for Russian jets as they appear on radar.”

Our long-range radars are picking up air contact. The air team are trying to work out what type of aircraft that contact is and whether or not that contact poses any threat,” a British sailor in the Duncan’s command center explains.

“The assumption is that they are Russian, because they’re coming from Russian airspace and from a Russian point of origin,” another crew member says.

The herd of Russian jets flying out of Crimea — a mix of fighters and fighter-bombers — zoomed over the Duncan, sometimes as low as a few hundred feet, alarming crew members trying to determine whether they were there to attack or just intimidate.

The jets came so close that electronics systems they carried could have been affected by the Duncan’s radar, potentially causing a crash.

Upon departing, one of the Russian pilots sent the Duncan a brief message — “Good luck, guys” — which one of the Duncan’s crew members interpreted as a final rattle of the saber.

Utley scoffed at the show of force. “I think their tactics are naive,” he said. “What they don’t know is how capable the ship is.”

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

A Russian Su-27 fighter jet intercepts a US Navy EP-3 Aries reconnaissance plane over the Black Sea in January.

(U.S. Navy Screenshot via YouTube)

“When you see that much activity, I think it reinforces the nature of what people expect at the moment and why there is a challenge from Russia,” Utley added.

“They had 17 aircraft. We’ve got 48 missiles. I think we’re going to win that one,” a lieutenant commander in the Duncan’s command center said in the clip.

The Russian jets departed without incident, but earlier in the deployment the British ship scrambled its Merlin Mk2 helicopter to track down a Russian spy ship detected by the Duncan’s radar.

British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson praised the Duncan’s crew members, saying they “epitomized the nation we are going to be as we exit the EU — a truly global Britain.”

“As NATO flagship, she has faced down brazen Russian hostility in the Black Sea with jets buzzing overhead, been stalked by Russian spy ships and played a vital role protecting NATO allies during the British, American and French strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities,” Williamson said of the Duncan.

Tensions between Russia and Western countries have led to close encounters on and above the Black Sea.

In July, British fighter jets in Romania were scrambled to intercept a Russian fighter that flew close to NATO airspace over the sea.

Earlier this month, in the second close encounter publicized this year, a Russian jet flew close to a US Navy reconnaissance plane over the Black Sea and suddenly banked right, forcing the US aircraft to fly through turbulence.

Such encounters have led observers to describe a return to Cold War behavior over Eastern Europe.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 wacky sights from the Sturgis motorcycle rally

Every year, thousands of motorcyclists descend on Sturgis, South Dakota for days of camaraderie, fanfare and riding. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s rally is still happening. Here are 5 wacky sights you have to see to believe.

Zac Brown Midget Bowling

www.youtube.com

1. Zac Brown bowling a midget

The human bowling ball named Short Sleeve Sampson is considered by some as a rite of passage at Buffalo Chip and the Sturgis Rally. With his assistants, Lady Victoria and Summer, the midget wrestling icon lines up to be hurled down the lane at a set of bowling pins. Seeing country-music star Zac Brown partake in the action is like an odd cherry on top of a wacky sundae. That said, Zac Brown is joined on the list of midget bowlers by other famous artists like Rob Zombie, John 5 and Eric Church.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Rapid City Journal)

2. The kangaroo at the wedding

When Lady Victoria married Marco Webber at the 2009 Sturgis Rally, she was escorted down the aisle by Jack the Kangaroo of Roo Ranch. Lady Victoria noted that her previous marriage ceremonies were very traditional and wanted to change things up. For his services, Jack received a BreathSavers mint, a favorite treat of his.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Rapid City Journal)

3. Rhett Rotten and the Wall of Death

Sure, you could argue that it’s simple physics: counteracting gravity with sufficient velocity and centrifugal force. But, there’s just something fantastic about a man riding his motorcycle around on a wall. Did we mention that the wall is 12 feet high, 30 feet wide and 81 years old? If only Humvees were as reliable as the Wall of Death.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Rapid City Journal)

4. Riding through a beer wall

If you’re riding, it means you’re not drinking. So what’s the next best thing? How about riding through the drink? Bursting through a wall of cold ones results in a fantastic display of foam that we can only imagine must be supremely refreshing and satisfying.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Rapid City Journal)

5. A man in a barrel

This one is pretty self-explanatory. We’ll just leave it here for you to enjoy.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 Holocaust survivors who served with distinction in the US military

The United Nations General Assembly has designated Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This day honors the memories of the 6 million Jewish victims and millions of others whose lives were impacted during the Holocaust. International Holocaust Remembrance Day also provides educational programs to prevent future genocides.

Many who survived the atrocities of the Holocaust persevered despite the trauma they endured, and several even served with distinction in the US military. Here are three of their stories.

SIDNEY SHACHNOW, ARMY SPECIAL FORCES

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
Sidney Shachnow, front row center, was posthumously honored in 2019 with the Bull Simons Award — given to those who embody “the true spirit, values, and skills of a Special Operations warrior.” Photo courtesy of arsof-history.org.

Sidney Shachnow compartmentalized the horrors he experienced while imprisoned in a Jewish ghetto during World War II. He authored a book in 2004 called Hope and Honor: A Memoir of a Soldier’s Courage and Survival. It was within these pages he broke his code of silence. “I found it painful and I wasn’t sure anyone would believe me,” he wrote in the preface.

Born Schaja Shachnowski in 1934 in Kaunas, Lithuania, Shachnow’s entire family and 40,000 of the Jewish population of Kaunas lived in a fenced-off ghetto called Concentration Camp No. 4, Kovno.

“There was no infrastructure, no water pipes, no sewage system, and no access to running water,” Shachnow wrote. “Not only the brutality of the Gestapo, but the threat of disease was an ever-present terror to the population.” He and his family lived in constant fear for three years before the Soviets reoccupied Lithuania.

He survived the Holocaust and went on to have a historic career in the US Army. “I have been involved or played a part in some of the most significant times in history from the beginning of Special Forces, the Vietnam War and the Tet Offensive, to the fall of the Berlin Wall while living in the former home of the Treasurer of the Third Reich as Commander of US Forces,” he wrote. “The irony of circumstance has always been exceptional in my life, from being enemies with the Germans, friends with the Soviets as they rescued me and my family from Kovno, and later enemies of the Russians during the Cold War and protecting West Germany.”

When he became a US citizen in 1958, he changed his name to Sidney Shachnow. He went to Vietnam both as a Green Beret and as an infantry officer and was twice awarded the Silver Star for actions in combat, as well as two Purple Hearts. He later served as the commander of Detachment A, a covert Army Special Forces unit based in Berlin that conducted some of the most sensitive operations of the Cold War from 1956 to 1984. He retired from the US Army as a major general in 1994 with almost 40 years of active-duty military service. Shachnow died in 2018.

JACK TAYLOR, OSS MARITIME UNIT

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
Lt. Jack Taylor, right, earned the Navy Cross through his service with the OSS Maritime Unit during World War II. Photo courtesy of The OSS Society.

Lt. Jack Taylor was a US Navy sailor recruited into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II. He served with the OSS Maritime Unit — one of the several predecessors of Navy SEALs — and had 18 months of operational experience in the Balkans. In October 1944 he became the first Allied officer to drop into Austria. After a mission to infiltrate Vienna and set up a resistance network code-named Operation Dupont went sideways, Taylor was captured by the Gestapo.

He was held in a Vienna prison for four months. When the Russians neared Vienna, he was transferred to Mauthausen concentration camp — a horrible place in Germany where people were sent to be exterminated. 

The US Army’s 11th Armored Division liberated the camp on May 3, 1945. Taylor later spoke about his experiences in front of a film crew from within the camp. One of the liberators asked how many ways people in the camp were executed, and Taylor answered honestly. “Five or six ways: by gas; by shooting; by beating, beating with clubs; by exposure, that is standing outside naked for 48 hours and having cold water thrown on them in the middle of winter; dogs; and pushing over a 100-foot cliff.”

Taylor’s path differed from the others on this list as he was already serving his country before he was imprisoned. He recovered 13 “death books” kept by prisoners who acted as camp secretaries at Mauthausen. These recorded the “official” deaths, but unbeknownst to their German captors, the records had a secret code to mark deaths by lethal injection and by the gas chamber. This evidence was later presented during the Nuremberg Trials and was called “some of the best war crimes evidence” produced.

In May 1946, Taylor was called as a star witness for the prosecution at the Mauthausen-Gusen Camp Trials held at the Dachau concentration camp. He was later awarded the Navy Cross for his service during World War II and suffered from severe post-traumatic stress in his life as a civilian.

TIBOR RUBIN, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT AND POW

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
Tibor Rubin survived the Holocaust only to face more bigotry in the US Army while serving in the Korean War. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor four times and helped save 35 to 40 lives as a prisoner of war. Composite by Kenna Milaski/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Tibor Rubin was only 13 years old when he was deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp. “When we get into the camp the German commander said right away, ‘You Jews, none of you are going to get out alive,’” Rubin remembered. “It was a terrible life. Their aim was to kill you. Nothing to look forward, just when am I going to be next.”

His turn never came. The US Army liberated the camp. He was separated from his family but alive. Rubin later discovered his parents and sister were murdered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. He vowed to one day become like one of the liberators who saved his life.

“I have a debt to pay,” he said. “So I made a promise. If Lord help me if I ever go to America, I’m gonna become a GI Joe.”

He became more than an average soldier. He joined the US Army and deployed to Korea in 1950. Alone on a hilltop at 4 a.m. Rubin single-handedly repelled a force of more than 100 enemy troops during a 24-hour gun battle. “I figured I was a goner,” Rubin later recalled. “But I ran from one foxhole to the next, throwing hand grenades so the North Koreans would think they were fighting more than one person. I couldn’t think straight — a situation, like that, you become hysterical trying to save your life.”

He was recommended for the Medal of Honor but was denied due to discrimination against his Jewish heritage by senior leadership. One of them, a sergeant, even sent Rubin on one-way suicide missions expecting him not to make it back alive — but he always did.

On the night before Halloween, Rubin’s position was overrun by Chinese forces and he became a prisoner of war. While in the camp he would sneak out at night and steal food from the guards. He made soup for the sick, acted as a doctor for his wounded friends, and was a therapist for those who had given up hope. 

From April 20 to May 3, 1953, the Chinese forces conducted a POW exchange of the sick and wounded. He was personally responsible for saving the lives of 35 to 40 soldiers who otherwise would have succumbed to their injuries. When Rubin returned to the US he devoted 20,000 hours to helping veterans in Long Beach, California. In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Rubin the Medal of Honor, which he’d been recommended for on four separate occasions.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

When people mention “Pappy” — otherwise known as Gregory P. Boyington of VMF-214 — the “Black Sheep Squadron” immortalized in the late 1970s series “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” comes to mind.


There is a good reason; Boyington, a Medal of Honor recipient, is the top-scoring Marine Corps ace with 28 kills. He was also an ace with the Flying Tigers (six kills).

But there is another Pappy who did much to help turn back the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. This was Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn.

“Pappy” Gunn had served in the U.S. Navy for twenty years before retiring to start airlines in Hawaii and the Philippines. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, he returned to the service — and received a Distinguished Flying Cross for flying in medical supplies to besieged troops on the Bataan Peninsula. He was evacuated to Australia, and in the summer of 1942, he began his major contribution to the war effort.

Gunn started to add M2 .50-caliber machine guns to the noses of A-20 Havoc light bombers. The planes had been okay, able to carry a ton of bombs, but bombing from high altitude often didn’t work with ships. So Gunn began modifying the A-20s, and later the B-25s, with M2s scavenged from fighters that had brought back their pilots, but which wouldn’t be repaired. He also developed the tactics these planes would use.

 

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
9th Air Force Douglas A-20G or A-20H over France. Note the solid nose holding six M2 .50-caliber machine guns. (US Air Force photo)

It was a very lethal masterpiece. Word filtered back to the manufacturers, Douglas and North American, and soon new versions of the B-25 and A-20 were out, built and inspired by Gunn’s field modifications. One version of the B-25 would carry 18 forward-firing M2s — the firepower of three P-51 Mustangs!

These planes would make their mark in the Southwest Pacific. Japan was trying to reinforce troops in New Guinea, where the Americans and Australians were fighting fiercely. Gunn’s modifications would be put to the test in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Japan sent eight transports, escorted by eight destroyers to deliver nearly 7,000 troops to Lae from Rabaul.

On March 3, 1943, they began. The Japanese force was simply unprepared to handle the Allied firepower. Despite cover from 100 fighters, their convoy was savaged. The strafing, combined with skip-bombing and mast-height bombing, tore the transports and half the destroyers apart. Only 1200 troops and practically no equipment made it to Lae.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy
Planes from the 5th Air Force carry out a low-level attack during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. (US Air Force photo)

Gunn would serve throughout the war, retiring as a full colonel. He then went back to re-building the airline he had started prior to World War II breaking out. In 1957, he was killed when his plane crashed during a storm. While not well-known, Gunn’s legend is one that does the United States Air Force proud.

MIGHTY TRENDING

USAF apologizes for its hilarious ‘yanni vs. laurel’ A-10 tweet

The US Air Force has apologized for a tweet referencing the ongoing social media debate over the Yanny vs. Laurel viral sound clip.

“We apologize for the earlier tweet regarding the A-10. It was made in poor taste and we are addressing it internally. It has since been removed,” the Air Force tweeted on May 17, 2018.


The initial tweet, which was apparently meant to be a joke about the viral trend, said the Taliban in Farah, Afghanistan would have much rather heard “Yanny” or “Laurel” than the sound of approaching A-10 Warthogs sent to repel the insurgents.

“The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10,” the tweet said.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

The Yanny vs. Laurel trend has seemingly driven the internet crazy, as people continue to argue over what is actually being said in the clip. The debate began after a short, one-word audio clip was posted on Twitter and Reddit. Some people believe the robotic voice in the clip is saying “Yanny,” while others hear “Laurel.”

It seems the Air Force wanted in on all the fun, but now regrets its attempt to join in.

The battle in Farah has been intense as the Taliban has launched a series of attacks to take the city. The Air Force sent the A-10s in to help Afghan forces on the ground push the insurgents back.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White on May 17, 2018, told reporters she hadn’t seen the tweet but said it shouldn’t be forgotten that Afghans are “dying to secure their own future.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S.-Taliban deal signing expected next week, if reduction in violence is successful

A deal between the United States and the Taliban is expected to be signed on February 29 provided a “reduction in violence'” due to enter into force at midnight proves successful, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on February 21.


The United States and the Taliban have been engaged in talks to facilitate a political settlement to end the conflict in Afghanistan and reduce the U.S. presence in the region, Pompeo said in a statement.

“In recent weeks, in consultation with the Government of National Unity, U.S. negotiators in Doha have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” Pompeo said.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

“Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward. We are preparing for the signing to take place on February 29,” Pompeo said, adding that intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter, with the final aim of delivering “a comprehensive and permanent cease-fire and the future political road map for Afghanistan.”

In a written statement, the Taliban confirmed the planned signing of a deal on February 29 “in front of international observers” and said that “the groundwork for intra-Afghan talks will be resolved,” although it did not mention when such talks would start.

The Taliban had previously refused to speak directly to the Afghan government, which it labeled a U.S. puppet.

archive.defense.gov

Earlier on February 21, a senior Afghan official and several Taliban leaders said that the week-long “reduction in violence” will begin at midnight local time on February 22.

“We hope it is extended for a longer time and opens the way for a cease-fire and intra-Afghan talks,” Javed Faisal, Afghanistan’s National Security Council spokesman, was quoted as saying.

The talks between U.S. and Taliban representatives began in Qatar in 2018.

Afghan government troops will keep up normal military operations against other militants, such as the Islamic State (IS) group, during the reduction in violence period, Faisal said.

He added that Afghan troops will also retaliate to the smallest violation of the understanding by the Taliban.

“Local government and security officials have been instructed by the president [Ashraf Ghani)] himself on how to follow the regulations agreed upon for the period [reduced violence],” Faisal said.

One Taliban leader based in Qatar’s capital, Doha, told Reuters that the week-long lull could not be called a “cease-fire.”

“Every party has the right of self-defense but there would be no attacks on each other’s positions in these seven days,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

Both NATO and Russia hailed the announcement.

“It will be an important event for the peace process in Afghanistan,” Moscow’s Afghanistan envoy, Zamir Kabulov, told the state news agency RIA Novosti, adding that he would attend the signing ceremony if invited.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the agreement opened a possible route to sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

“I welcome today’s announcement that an understanding has been reached on a significant reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

NATO has a 16,000-strong mission in Afghanistan to train, support, and advise local forces.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 17th

Remember back when they first announced that the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade would be a thing and everyone lost their collective sh*ts because they’re conventional troops that wear berets like special operations, rock a unit patch that looks like special operations, and even share their first two initials (SF) with special forces?

Yeah. Well, they’re currently deployed doing grunt things with the Green Berets while your ass is setting up a Powerpoint presentation on how to teach drill and ceremony.

Funny how that works out, huh? Anyways, have some memes before you get too butthurt.


Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via Shammers United)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via Geekly)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via r/Army)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Even Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces need heroes at times — those times when the fighting gets too thick and there are wounded that need attention on the ground. Those heroes are the Air Force’s Pararescue Jumpers; highly-trained airmen who will come retrieve anyone who needs it, almost anywhere, and in nearly any situation.

Just earning the title of what the Air Force affectionately calls a “PJ” is a grueling task. Dubbed “Superman School,” Pararescue training takes two years and has a dropout rate of around 80 percent. And PJs put all of this rigorous training to use in their everyday duties, when it matters the most. It’s not exaggeration to say they are among the most decorated airmen in the Air Force — and none of them are more decorated than Duane Hackney.


Over the course of his career, Hackney stacked on an Air Force Cross, a Silver Star, four distinguished flying crosses (with combat V), two Purple Hearts, and 18 Air Medals, just to name a few highlights of the more-than-70 decorations he amassed in his life.

His achievements made him the most decorated airman in Air Force history.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

Like the rest of his fellow Pararescue Jumpers, he was in the right place at the right time to earn those accolades. Unfortunately, “right place at the right time” for a PJ means “terrible time to be anywhere in the area” for everyone else. Jumping into the dense jungles of North Vietnam to recover downed pilots and special operators was incredibly dangerous work.

With the rest of the allied ground forces in South Vietnam, once lowered into the jungles, PJs were truly on their own down there.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

Duane Hackney had no illusions about the dangers he faced when on a mission. The Michigan native joined the Air Force specifically to become a Pararescueman — and the NVA made sure Duane and his fellow PJs had their work cut out for them. The North Vietnamese air defenses were good — very good. Despite the massive air campaigns launched over Vietnam, the U.S. couldn’t always count on complete air superiority. Massive surface-to-air missile complexes and well-trained NVA pilots flying the latest Soviet fighters ensured plenty of work for the Air Force. Whenever a pilot went down, they sent the PJs to find them

Duane Hackney went on more than 200 search-and-rescue missions in just under four years in Vietnam. He lost track of how many times he went into those jungles or how many times the enemy opened up a deadly barrage as he went. It was part of the job, and it was a job Hackney did extremely well.

It wasn’t easy. Just days into his first tour in Vietnam, Hackney took a .30-caliber slug to the leg. He had another PJ remove it and treat the wound rather than allow himself be medically evacuated out of the country. He was in five helicopters as they were shot down over North Vietnam, putting himself and those aircrews in the same risk as the pilots they were sent to rescue — captured troops could look forward to a quick death or a long stay in the “Hanoi Hilton.”

On one mission in February, 1967, Hackney jumped into a dense area of North Vietnam, in the middle of a massed enemy force. He extracted a downed pilot and made it back to his HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Helicopter. As they left, the NVA tore into the helo with 37mm flak fire. Hackney secured his parachute to the downed pilot and he went to grab another parachute. The rest of the people aboard the helicopter would be killed in the explosion that shot Hackney out the side door.

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

Hackney managed to grab a chute before being fired out the side. He deployed it as he hit the trees below, fell another 80 feet, and landed on a ledge in a crevasse. The NVA troops above him were jumping over the crevasse, looking for him. Hackney managed to make it back to the wreckage of the helicopter to look for survivors. Finding none, he signaled to be picked up himself.

That incident over the Mu Gia Pass earned Hackney the Air Force Cross. At the time, he was the youngest man to receive the award and the only living recipient of it. But Hackney didn’t stop there. Despite that close call, he stayed in Vietnam for another three years — as a volunteer for his entire stay in country.

He stayed in the Air Force until his retirement as Chief Master Sergeant Hackney in 1991.

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