This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

During World War II, American troops dreaded hitting the beach in the Pacific Theater. They knew full-well that they would be in for a fierce fight when going up against Japanese troops, who fought fanatically, either with furious banzai charges or from well-built fortifications. But in one invasion, troops caught a break — the enemy wasn’t there.

On Guadalcanal, Marines manged to hold down a heavily supply line — a task that famously marked by vicious battles. When American troops went on to reclaim the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska, they expected a similar fight.


This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
Almost immediately after Japan seized Attu and Kiska, American air strikes rained death and destruction.
(DOD)

 

The islands had been taken by Japanese troops in June, 1942, as part of an effort to divert American attention from Midway. While Japan did assume control over the islands, the distraction didn’t work, largely due to a brilliant piece of work by Jasper Holmes.

The occupation was not pleasant for Japanese garrisons. From almost the very moment those islands were seized, American air and naval forces constantly pounded the islands with air strikes and bombardments. In March, 1943, an outnumbered and outgunned U.S. Navy task force drove away a heavily-escorted Japanese convoy in the Battle of the Komandorski Islands.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
USS Pennsylvania (BB 38) opens fire on Japanese positions on Kiska.
(US Navy)

 

Two months later, American forces stormed the beaches of Attu. After 18 days of fighting, which culminated in a banzai charge on May 29, 1943, the Japanese garrison was wiped out. 580 American troops and well over 2,000 Japanese troops were killed in action.

Three more months of air raids and naval bombardment followed for Kiska. But when the invasion force arrived, the island was empty. Japanese forces had managed to evacuate this garrison. Still, between accidents, disease, friendly fire, and frostbite, American and Canadian forces suffered over 300 casualties, which shows that even a lucky break can be costly.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This failed nuclear engine might be able to power your city

During the Cold War, the Air Force and the Atomic Energy Commission (which was later folded into the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) set out to create an all-new nuclear reactor that not only would be more efficient than the reactors we have today, but would propel aircraft in flight for up to 15,000 miles without stopping.


That would’ve allowed for a bomber that could fly from California to Moscow and back with enough miles left to grab ice cream in Greenland on the way home.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
The Air Force’s experimental nuclear reactor is flown in an NB-36 airplane. (Photo: Convair)

Starting in 1946, the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion program aimed to make the idea a reality. A physicist named Alvin Weinberg helped lead the reactor development. Though he had previously invented and championed the liquid-water reactor that provides almost all nuclear power today, he thought LWRs were wrong for the airplane.

The LWRs are kept relatively cool at 572 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot, but not hot enough to superheat air for jet engines. The LWR design is also less efficient, relying on solid fuels which can only be about 3 percent consumed before the fuel must be changed out.

Instead, Weinberg turned to a design that got kicked around during the Manhattan Project, the molten salt reactor, or “MSR.”

In an MSR, the nuclear material is dissolved into superheated salts. They’re heated so high that they become a liquid, then that heat is maintained because of the continuing nuclear reaction inside the molten salts.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
The Heat Transfer Reactor Experiment-3 was the option selected by the Aircraft Reactor Propulsion Program to turn reactor power into jet propulsion for an aircraft. (Photo: U.S. Department of Energy)

 

In the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion program’s final design, air traveled through a compressor and then through the reactor, picking up the reactor’s heat. The immense heat of the reactor, generally about 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, caused the air to rapidly expand and jet out the back of the plane, generating thrust.

The Air Force did fly with a different reactor on a modified B-36 bomber, but only to test the plane’s nuclear shielding for protecting the crew. During the tests, it was still powered by conventional jet engines.

President John F. Kennedy’s administration canceled the nuclear aircraft program in 1961 and sent the funds to the space race. But some scientists want to bring the reactor back, this time as a powerplant on the Earth’s surface for the generation of electricity.

Molten-salt reactors are much more efficient than LWRs and typically produce waste that is more stable and takes less time to become safe for handling — we’re talking hundreds of years instead of thousands.

And while the MSR in the B-36 was fueled by uranium, future MSRs could use thorium, a more stable fuel that is also very plentiful. Thorium is present in nearly any sample of dirt on the planet and is commonly extracted in rare Earth mining and discarded as waste. Or, MSRs could use uranium depleted in LWRs.

Either way, a bunch of waste products could be converted into plentiful energy thanks to a failed nuclear engine from the Cold War. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works is teasing a nuclear fusion reactor. If it works, it could fulfill the 15,000-mile promise of the Aircraft Reactor Propulsion Program.

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This Confederate regiment was nearly wiped out in minutes

The 1st Texas Infantry Regiment was a group of veteran soldiers by the time they took part in the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. That day still stands as the bloodiest single day for American soldiers in history, and the hardest hit was the 1st Texas.


This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
The Battle of Antietam. (Photo: Public Domain)

Antietam was the disastrous end to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s attempt to liberate Maryland from the Union ahead of the 1862 midterm elections. Lee’s advance north was initially successful as the Southerners hit Union garrisons in Maryland and forced the surrender of 13,000 Union soldiers at Harper’s Ferry.

But Union Gen. George B. McClellan had found a copy of Lee’s strategic plans and used them to maneuver into position on the Confederates, and Lee’s army was woefully undersupplied and had low morale.

The two armies finally came together on Sep. 16 and began scoping out each other’s positions. By that night, small skirmishes were breaking out as forces maneuvered for better position for the following day.

On Sep. 17, the 1st Texas Infantry was part of a defensive position near a church. A Union advance through a nearby cornfield was overzealous, and the Union forces were relatively scattered when a Confederate brigade that included the 1st Texas suddenly leaped up from the ground and began firing on the soldiers in blue.

Union Maj. Rufus R. Dawes would later say, “Men, I can not say fell; they were knocked out of the ranks by dozens.”

Dawes and his men retreated, and the Confederates gave chase, led by the 1st Texas Infantry.

But the 1st Texas made the same mistake that the Union soldiers had. The men advanced too fast and became disorganized.

“As soon as the regiment became engaged . . . in the corn-field, it became impossible to restrain the men, and they rushed forward,” 1st Texas Commander Lt. Col. Philip A. Work later said.

The 1st Texas had advanced until there were Union soldiers not only to their front, but also to their flank and rear. Its flanks were especially hard hit as Union 12-pound guns began firing into it.

Work ordered a retreat and the regiment began a disorganized withdrawal, but three Union regiments chose that moment to hit the 1st Texas with volleys.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
The Burial of the Dead on the Antietam battlefield. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The regimental colors were dropped at least twice as the men carrying them were shot. The colors were lost and the 226-man regiment suffered 186 men killed.

That was a loss rate of 82.3 percent, most of whom were killed in those few minutes in the cornfield. This was the greatest casualty rate suffered by any infantry regiment in the entire war, and most of the men were lost in the 45 minutes between the counterattack at the church and the retreat from the cornfield.

The regiment’s Company F was wiped out. Companies A, C, and E combined had only six men. In total, the regiment had only 40 men.

The 1st Texas was later partially rebuilt. It was one of the Confederate units that attempted to take Little Round Top at Gettysburg and then helped break the Union lines at the Battle of Chickamagua.

The lost colors were found by Union soldiers and taken as a trophy, but were returned to Texas in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

MIGHTY HISTORY

All Green Berets are inspiring. Here are 5 of the best

It’s the mission of all branches of the U.S. military to protect all citizens, defend liberty and uphold the Constitution. Being a good citizen entails giving back to each branch in every way we can.

The Green Berets, founded in 1952 by John F. Kennedy, are celebrating their 68th birthday today. Take a moment to honor some special members of the “warrior-diplomat” ranks as they continue to protect and honor our country.


This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

Matthew Williams

Look to the heroic acts of Sergeant Matthew Williams, who took heroic action to save the lives of his fellow soldiers in the Battle of Shok Valley, which took place in Afghanistan in 2008.

According to other Berets who had been in Williams’ regimen, Williams helped to evacuate two soldiers who had been shot from the battle. Williams saved the soldiers’ lives and endured minimal casualties.

Williams had been deployed multiple times, serving in Afghanistan and in other areas of need. Trump upgraded Williams’ Silver Star, which he earned in 2008, to a Medal of Honor on October 3, 2019.

Regarding Williams’ actions, Trump noted that, “Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the battle of Shok Valley.” Further, he noted that,””Matt is without question and without reservation one of the bravest soldiers and people I have ever met. He’s a brave guy. And he’s a great guy.”

Williams added, “”I hope I can wear the Medal with honor and distinction and represent something that’s much bigger than myself, which is what it means to be on a team of brothers, and what it means to be an elite Special Forces soldier.”

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

Ronald J. Shurer

Additionally, another Special Forces Soldier who fought in the same battle was also awarded a Medal of Honor: Ronald J. Shurer. Shurer, a medic, ran through open fire to aid a soldier who had shrapnel stuck in his neck. In total, Shurer aided four wounded soldiers despite suffering gunshot wounds himself.

The deep moral dedication needed to selflessly aid others in the face of a surprise attack by 200 soldiers is astounding and something to be proud of.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace

The valor of the Green Berets stretches back to their inception. Humbert Roque Versace (nicknamed “Rocky” by his colleagues) joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk in 1937, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his heroic actions as a prisoner of War in Vietnam.

In addition to his prestigious Medal of Honor, Versace was honored in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

Melvin Morris

Like Versace, a number of Green Berets have been awarded a Medal of Honor for heroic action in Vietnam. However, soldier Melvin Morris was awarded a MOH not for heroic action as a prisoner of war, but for retrieving the body of a fallen sergeant after pushing back enemy lines single handedly with a bag of grenades. The Beret even was able to free his battalion from the enemy forces that oppressed it in this crusade.

That’s badass.

Morris was shot three times in the endeavor but survived after being rushed to medical care. He was awarded a MOH by President Obama in 2014 and was later indicted into the Hall of Heroes.

Kyle Daniels

The Green Berets are not only heroes – they are also innovators. 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels was tired of seeing the American Flag burned in times of trial, such as the ones we’re in now, and invented a flag that physically won’t burn. The Firebrand Flag Company now proudly boasts fireproof flags, a symbol of the America we know and love. Fire and oppression won’t bring us down.

Each member of the U.S. Armed Forces, before being indicted to the military, pledges to:

“Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [that I will] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [that I will] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”

President Kennedy established the Green Berets with the promise that the elite unit of the military would be, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” The Green Berets are not just capable of their mission, they are excellent in upholding their duty to our country.

Honor any Green Berets you may know, today and any other day. It’s all too easy to forget that the life of an American soldier is dedicated to the well-being of our country, something which, in good conscience, should not be forgotten and honored in every way possible.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Screaming Eagles wear cards on their helmets

The pop culture lexicon often depicts troops from WWII and Vietnam as having a playing card, usually the Ace of Spades, strapped onto their helmet. Although the Vietnam-era “Death Card” is an over-exaggeration of Screaming Eagles believing the urban legend that Vietnamese feared the Spade symbol (they didn’t) and later as a calling card and anti-peace sign, it remains a symbol for unit identification.


Most specifically within the 101st Airborne Division.

The practice of painting the symbol onto a helmet was created in England just before the Normandy Invasion. The purpose was that when a soldier jumped or glided into Normandy and got separated from a larger portion of the unit, the easily identifiable symbol would easily mark a soldier as being apart of a specific regiment and a small dash at the 12, 3, 6, or 9 o’clock position specified the battalion.

 

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
In March 1945, Gen. Eisenhower awarded the 101st Airborne Division with a Presidential Unit citation for defending Bastogne.

Spades were designated for the 506th Infantry Regiment, Hearts for the 502nd, Diamonds for the 501st, and clubs for the 327th Glider Infantry. The ‘tic’ marks went from 12 o’clock meaning HQ or HQ company, 3 o’clock being 1st battalion, 6 o’clock being 2nd, and 9 o’clock being 3rd battalion.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

Today, the symbols are still used as a call back to the 101st Airborne’s glory days in WWII.

The regiments are more commonly known by as Brigade Combat Teams and the symbols are each given as Clubs to the 1st BCT, Hearts to the 2nd BCT, Spades to the now deactivated 4th BCT, and Diamonds to the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade along with the 1st Battalion, 501st out of Alaska under the 25th ID. The Rakkasans of the 101st Airborne’s 3rd BCT wear a Japanese Torii for their actions in the Pacific and being the only unit to parachute onto Japanese soil at the time.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

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That time President Jackson threw a rager at the White House

On March 4, 1829, newly inaugurated President Andrew Jackson threw a party at the White House that grew so epically out of control there were washtubs full of what can only be described as 19th-century jungle juice and an odor in the carpets that made the place smell like cheese for months.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

Andrew Jackson, the current face of the twenty-dollar bill, was born in poverty in 1767. He became a lawyer and quickly rose to wealth and political popularity by the time the War of 1812 broke out, during which he also made a name for himself as a military hero. The next few decades, however, would mark him as a polarizing character in our nation’s history.

Jackson supported the expansion of slavery into new western territories, as well as the forced relocation of Native American tribes living in the Mississippi valley, otherwise known as the Trail of Tears.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
Historians refer to both as “the ultimate dick move.” (Painting by Thomas Sully/ public domain)

In 1824, he narrowly lost the Presidency to John Quincy Adams, but four years later, in a campaign that was characterized by an unusual degree of negative personal attacks, the Tennessee frontiersman became the seventh president of the United States.

To celebrate, he upheld an inaugural tradition begun by Thomas Jefferson and hosted an open house at the White House. 

And ohhhhhhh the people came. More than 20,000 of them.

The White House became a mob scene. Guests tracked mud and debris into the rooms, compacting food and broken glass into the carpets. White House staff reported a stench for months after the event. Servants tried to lure the crowds outside by placing washbins of juice and whiskey out on the once-dignified White House lawn.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

Senator James Hamilton of South Carolina, a Jackson supporter, struck a balance when he described the event as a “regular Saturnalia,” but with the qualification that most of the damage was trivial. Tell that to the people who had to clean up.

According to History.com, the White House open-house tradition continued until several assassination attempts heightened security concerns. Finally, in 1885, Grover Cleveland opted instead to host a parade, which he viewed in safety from a grandstand set up in front of the White House.

Featured Image: Painting of Andrew Jackson’s Rowdy Party. Louis S. Glanzman, image courtesy the White House Historical Association.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How we got a pilot’s-eye view of dogfights in the Korean War

If you’ve watched documentaries about the battles of World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War, then chances are you’ve seen gun-camera footage. Whether it’s air-to-air or air-to-ground action, these attention-grabbing videos give us an idea of the intensity of combat aviation — but how do we get them?


In this day and age, we’re lucky to have plenty of digital tools to easily capture footage, download it to a hard drive, and upload it to YouTube or some other cloud storage service. Back in the day, however, all they had was film — and this film was often very useful. It gave intelligence officers some idea of what the pilots actually did. After all, it wasn’t unusual for a fired-up pilot to inflate their kill counts upon return.

But it wasn’t always easy to get that film.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

This gun-camera footage from a Navy F9F Panther shows a MiG-15 in its last few seconds of life.

(US Navy)

The process was a lengthy one. The film was first taken to a central processing laboratory. To save space, the film was placed in a number of magazines and then placed into one large roll. Loading that roll had to be done in total darkness. Why? In order to view film, it must first be developed and if the film is exposed to light prematurely, it’s ruined.

The entire process included rinsing to fully process the negatives, editing the processed negatives (which was done without computers, by the way), adding timestamps, and more. All in all, there were ten steps, including a test screening.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

This is the final product of a long process done by specialists who did hard work.

(Jeff Quitney / YouTube)

You can see how some Air Force specialists did this job during the Korean War in the video below. As an added bonus, after they give you a run-down of all the developmental steps, you get to see a MiG-15 in the sights of a F-86 Sabre’s gun-camera. The folks who made it possible for you to see that footage never faced enemy fire, but they certainly worked almost as hard as the Sabre’s pilot did!

Check out the video below to see how we get that intense footage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMBGbrLBjE4

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

Did you know the Japanese planned a biological attack on the U.S. during WWII?

Following their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of America into WWII, the Japanese began to implement unconventional weapons in combat. During the Philippines campaign in March 1942, the Japanese planned to release roughly 150 million fleas carrying plague to root out the American defenders. However, the surrender at Bataan preempted their use. By the end of the war, the Japanese were itching to use their biological weapons.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
Shirō Ishii, the head of Japan’s biological weapons program (Public Domain)

Developed by the infamous Unit 731 in Japanese-occupied China, a stockpile of plague was weaponized and ready to be deployed. To deliver the disease, the Japanese developed the Uji bomb. The bomb was incredibly simple and made of a ceramic container filled with corn and plague-infected fleas. A few hundred feet over the ground, a small charge would shatter the ceramic container and shower the ground below with corn and fleas. The corn would attract local rat populations and the fleas would then mount the rats who would spread the disease throughout the target area. Unit 731 tested the Uji bomb in Manchuria to devastating effect. In some cases, entire villages were wiped out by the plague. The leader of the Unit 731, Surgeon General Shirō Ishii, was especially keen to field the weapon.

During the Battle of Iwo Jima in early 1945, the Japanese planned another plague attack against the Americans. Two gliders would be towed from mainland Japan to an airfield in the Pingfang District of China. There, they would be equipped with their Uji bombs, towed over the island, and released to deliver the pathogen over the invasion forces. However, the gliders never made it to China and the pathogen was not released.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
An Uji bomb (Association for Learning & Preserving the History of WWII in Asia)

Instead, Ishii devised a long-distance strike on San Diego, California. Using five of Japan’s new long-range aircraft carrier submarines, the I-400-class, planes would be launched off the California coast to drop Uji bombs on the city. The plan was finalized on March 26, 1945. “I was told directly by Shiro Ishii of the kamikaze mission ‘Cherry Blossoms at Night’, which was named by Ishii himself,” recalled Ishio Kobata, one of the pilots selected for the mission. “I was a leader of a squad of seventeen. I understood that the mission was to spread contaminated fleas in the enemy’s base and contaminate them with plague.”

Like most Japanese operations in 1945, Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night was a one-way suicide mission for both the pilots and submariners involved. The operation was scheduled to begin on September 22 following the completion of the necessary I-400-class submarines. Though the plan was approved, Chief of the Army General Staff Yoshijirō Umezu vetoed it for logistical reasons. However, he re-approved the plan in early August 1945 when he saw that the submarine construction was on schedule. It was only the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent Japanese surrender on August 15 that canceled Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night.

By the time the Japanese surrendered, three of the I-400-class submarines had already been built with at least two more to be completed by September 2. Arata Mizoguchi, a navy commander in Unit 731, believed that Cherry Blossoms at Night would have launched if the war had gone on. If the plan had been successful, the resulting epidemic would have been catastrophic.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
An I-400-class submarine. Note the long aircraft hangar and forward catapult (Public Domain)
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Watch how sand from Omaha Beach brightens veterans’ tombstones

On the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) shared a video on Twitter of a remarkable ceremony. “The letters on the white crosses almost disappear in the brightness of the stone, so a soldier fills the indentations with sand from Omaha Beach to bring the name forward.”

It’s a quiet practice that adds to the many rituals that honor service members, including leaving coins on gravestones, placing wreaths on graves during winter holidays, or setting the American flag at graves for Memorial Day.

This video is particularly special to watch, as it clearly shows how effective the process is:


In the video, the soldier conjures the name of William A. Richards, a fallen World War II veteran, killed in 1944, with sand from Omaha Beach, one of the D-Day invasion sites. D-Day marked the turning of the war in Europe, where millions and millions of Allied service members perished.

Also read: Hero medic remembers what it was like to land on Omaha Beach

Others began to respond to the tweet with their own experiences witnessing the ceremony, including the graves of their relatives. The sands from Normandy beaches are sent to military cemeteries throughout Europe. In the Netherlands American Cemetery, the graves of American service members have been adopted by Dutch families, who research the lives of the fallen and honor their graves with flowers.

 

For so many, these rituals are powerful reminders of the cost of freedom. The sanctity of a military funeral is one that is shared across the country — and, in the case of the world wars, across the globe. It can be easy for many Americans to feel separated, through both time and distance, from the horrors of World War I and World War II; but for our allies in Europe, the wars were fought in their own backyard.

The sands of Omaha Beach bring forth the names of those who died fighting against Nazi Germany and the enemies of freedom, lest we ever forget.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous inventor designed drones before World War I

Nikola Tesla, the famed pioneer of electrical technology who rivaled even Thomas Edison, designed and displayed a working drone in 1898 — nearly 16 years before World War I — that he saw as a weapon that would end all wars.


Tesla’s drone was a 4-foot-long, remotely controlled boat that could be maneuvered via radio waves. He first displayed the craft during an 1898 demonstration in Madison Square Garden in New York.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
Nikola Tesla’s remote control boat, patented in 1898. (Photo: Public Domain via the Nikola Tesla Museum, Belgrad)

At the show, crowds were shocked to see the boat respond to Tesla’s commands without any visible connection between the control box and the small craft. When Tesla patented the invention, he billed it as a tool of exploration, transportation, and war.

Tesla’s military plan was that the drone boat would give way to other drones, each more destructive than the last. Once nations could fight wars using robots without risking their troops, the potential for unlimited destruction was supposed to stay people’s hands and bring about a “permanent peace among nations.”

Unfortunately for Tesla, military interest in the weapon was muted, and his patent expired without any serious interest from the War or Navy Departments. Drones didn’t take off as a weapon until the end of the 1900s, and their ever-widening adoption has not ended warfare.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
The Kettering Bug followed a pre-programmed flight path to its target. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Museum)

The first drones didn’t even make use of remote control technology. America’s first drone-type weapon was the Kettering Bug aerial torpedo, a plane modified to follow a pre-set course and fly into its target with a large load of explosives in World War I.

Though the Kettering Bug was based on a remote-control target aircraft, the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane, the bug had no radio controls of its own.

The Army did attempt to use remote-control aircraft as bombs in World War II in Operation Aphrodite. Engineers modified B-24s with the addition of radio controls and thousands of pounds of explosive. These flying bombs, dubbed the B-8s, would be flown to altitude by two pilots who would bail out at 10,000 feet. From there, a bombardier in a “mother ship” B-24 would fly the plane remotely to its target.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
A BQ-8 takes off. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Aphrodite was a major failure with more damage done to England by malfunctioning B-8s than was done to Germany. Some B-8 pilots were killed by premature detonations including future-President John F. Kennedy’s older brother, Navy Lt. Joseph Kennedy.

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7 awesome airpower quotes from General Curtis LeMay

The most powerful weapon in the United States’ Cold War arsenal was likely not its hundreds of nuclear warheads — it was the man whose job it was to deploy them.


There are few men in Air Force history as noteworthy and controversial as Gen. Curtis LeMay. He earned the nickname “Iron Ass” for his stubbornness and shortness once his mind was made up. When he did speak, the stout, cigar-chomping, stone-faced general had a reputation for his outspoken manner. Though not always remembered fondly by history, some of his image as a shoot-first-ask-questions-later, caveman may be undeserved.

He was the youngest general to wear a fourth star. When he retired, he had served as a four-star general longer than anyone in American history; a big deal for a general who didn’t go to a service academy, instead graduating from Ohio State. At the height of his career, he was the symbol of American military might. A bit more about one of the U.S. Air Force’s most influential founding generals can be gleaned through his more noteworthy quotes.

1. “We should always avoid armed conflict. But if you get in it, get in with both feet and get out as soon as possible.”

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

Despite his gruff, cold image, every operational goal, in LeMay’s mind, was a means to an end. Ending a war quickly meant saving American lives. During World War II, LeMay was responsible for the firebombing of Japanese cities which completely destroyed most major Japanese cities. It was his command that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Official estimates from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey determined at least 330,000 killed, 476,000 injured, 8.5 million people made homeless, and 2.5 million buildings destroyed. Almost half of 64 Japanese mainland cities were completely destroyed. The destruction was not lost on LeMay. He acknowledged that if the Japanese had won the war, he would have been tried as a war criminal.

Later he would reveal that dropping the atomic bombs was totally unnecessary, given the level of destruction he had already waged on Japan. He said he only dropped them because of President Truman’s authority. After the war, Japan’s former Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe confirmed that the decision to surrender was based on the prolonged bombing wrought by General LeMay’s Marianas-based air forces. LeMay took command of the Marianas in January 1945. The Japanese surrendered in August of 1945.

2. “War is never cost-effective. People are killed. To them, the war is total.”

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

He was known as a tough commander, but a fair one. He earned a reputation for being stone-faced, uncaring about the needs of his men but LeMay actually suffered from Bell’s Palsey, which literally immobilized his face. When a Harvard study found Army pilots were aborting bombing missions over Germany out of fear, LeMay personally led every bombing sortie and ordered any crew who didn’t go over the target be court martialed.

The gruff general took combat losses to heart, knowing he’d sent men to die, but firmly believed if the death of one American could save a thousand, then it was the right decision to make. In The Fog of War, a documentary about the life of former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, McNamara quoted LeMay: “Why are we here? Why are we here? You lost your wingman. It hurts me as much as it does you. I sent him there. And I’ve been there, I know what it is.  But you lost one wingman, and we destroyed Tokyo.”

3. “Successful offense brings victory. Successful defense can now only lessen defeat.”

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

This is an “extremely belligerent, many thought brutal” man who believed in the power, threat and use of nuclear weapons. He wanted SAC to be able to deliver every nuclear warhead in the American arsenal on the Soviet Union at once. This military rationale earned LeMay the image of a cold man who was obsessed with starting any kind of war with the Russians.

It was Gen. LeMay who inspired the character of Buck Turgidson in “Doctor Strangelove,” willing to pay for a victory over the Soviet Union with unlimited American lives. As a bomber pilot, LeMay’s point of view was one of overwhelming force. At its height, the SAC had 1600 bombers and 800 missiles in its arsenal.

4. “We can haul anything.”

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

As the commander of U.S. Air Forces In Europe, LeMay was asked by the Commander of all U.S. forces in Europe, Lucius D. Clay, about the feasibility of an airlift (later known as the “Berlin Airlift”) to break the Soviet blockade of West Berlin.

Gen. Clay asked LeMay “Can you haul coal?” Even though he preferred the more aggressive response of an armed convoy backed by bomber aircraft, Gen. LeMay enthusiastically began the 5,000 ton per day airlift operation within weeks. He was so instrumental in its startup, it was initially called “The LeMay Coal and Feed Delivery Service.” LeMay’s response to Clay’s hauling question represents the can-do attitude and spirit of the U.S. Air Force.

5. “If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the shit out of them before they take off the ground.”

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

Robert McNamara, who served under LeMay during WWII and over him as Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy Administration, called him the finest combat commander there ever was. While he was convinced a war would happen at some point and believe the U.S. should fight it on the grounds most favorable to it, LeMay’s military upbringing taught him that true readiness required constant training and this readiness was to be in place when the civilian leaders of the military deemed it necessary to use them.

His solution was to create a force so powerful no one would dare sneak an attack. He would always advocate for a heavy military response, most notably during the thirteen-day Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, but always loyally and diligently carried out the orders and policy of his civilian superiors.

6. “To err is human, to forgive is not SAC policy”

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

When he took control of Strategic Air Command in 1948, most of his bomber crews couldn’t hit Ohio with a mock atomic bomb during exercises. The SAC under Gen. LeMay became one of the most effective military units in the world on the basis of relentless training.

One officer was quoted as saying: “Training in SAC is harder than war … it might be a relief to go to war.” Within two years, the procedures, checklists, and training implemented by General LeMay gave SAC one of the best safety records in U.S. military history.

7. “The price of failure might be paid with national survival.”

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly

After retiring from the Air Force in 1965, LeMay ran with George Wallace on his segregationist party ticket. It led many to conclude that LeMay agreed with Wallace’s racial views. In truth, LeMay agreed to run with Wallace because he believed in a hard line against Communism, and an end to the War in Vietnam, and didn’t see any of the potential candidates doing these things.

LeMay was no racist. During his tenure as a commander in the Air Force, he had actually promoted the integration of units well before Truman’s executive order. Protesters would attend Wallace rallies shouting “Sieg heil” at the man who designed the bombing plans that crippled Nazi war production, even personally leading the most dangerous missions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the Roman Empire structured its military

The Roman Empire had one of the best militaries of ancient times. It steamrolled over the Carthaginians, Greeks, Egyptians, Gauls, more than held their own against many other forces for centuries.


So, how did the world’s most powerful government organize its deadly legions? Well, it started with a group of eight men known as a contubernium – which was a little smaller than a typical infantry squad (usually nine personnel). Ten contuberniums, plus the command staff, formed a century of 85 men.

 

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
Some of the specialist roles that were usually filled by auxiliaries. (Youtube Screenshot)

Six centuries – about 540 men – made up a cohort. This unit was roughly the size of a present-day infantry battalion. Ten cohorts, plus attachments including a force of cavalry, made a legion of about 6,000 men, roughly the size of a brigade.

The legions were the largest force in the Roman military. Only citizens could serve in the legions but the Roman military also had cohorts of auxiliaries which allowed non-citzens to serve in the Roman army.

These auxiliaries were usually slingers, archers, and additional cavalry. Many Roman citizens, who had to provide their own equipment, served as infantry.

After 25 years of service in the Roman army, legionnaires and auxiliaries could look forward to a generous retirement. Those who weren’t citizens gained Roman citizenship and all that meant, plus a plot of land and a generous retirement bonus.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this Soldier was nicknamed the ‘popcorn colonel’ in Vietnam will make you laugh

When Lt. Colonel Richard J. Shaw arrived in Vietnam, he had already proven himself a valorous Soldier by fighting the Germans in WWII, going toe-to-toe with the Chinese in Korea, and now he was looking to go up against the Viet Cong.


Once he had made it to the jungle, Shaw was assigned as an advisor to a Vietnamese regiment consisting of around 3,000 troops. Shaw had his work cut out for him — his troops were spread out across three different locations within his area of observation.

After getting embedded with his Vietnamese counterparts, Shaw adapted the local lifestyle and ate the indigenous foods. His daily diet consisted of three cold rice bowls, wrapped in leaves and served with some fried fish. He did this every day for 11 straight months… holy sh*t.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
Sticky rice with black beans and coconut. A standard Vietnamese dish. This is more than what the colonel ate.
(Authenticworldfood.com)

Nearly a year later, Shaw’s weight had dropped dramatically due to light diet and all the physical activity required by fighting the enemy. The determined colonel was eventually pulled out of the jungle by his superiors and sent back to the rear to “fatten him up.”

Before taking time off for R&R, Shaw had sent a letter home asking his wife to send him some popcorn. Soon enough, a railroad cart arrived at Da Nang, where he was currently stationed — the goods had arrived. Shaw divided the popcorn kernels up between the three regiments and had them shipped to his friendly counterparts to be enjoyed.

Before Shaw headed back home for some much-earned time off, he befriended one of the regimental commanders, Capt. Tang. Shaw saved him three smaller bags of popcorn so he could take it back and share it with his family.

This forgotten WWII battle shows even a lucky break can be costly
UH-1B helicopters were commonly used for resupplying troops on the frontlines during the Vietnam War.

Eventually, Shaw returned to his troops and was surprised to meet a pissed-off Capt. Tang.

Apparently, the regimental commander took the popcorn kernels home and boiled them in water instead of cooking them in oil. Shaw just laughed at what he heard from his counterpart, who was still fuming in anger.

On that day, Shaw taught the loyal captain the proper way of cooking popcorn. The event earned Shaw the nickname of “popcorn colonel.”

Later, Lt. Colonel Shaw returned home from his Vietnam deployment and retired from honorable service in 1968.

Watch the American Heroes Channel‘s video below to hear the colonel’s humorous story for yourself.

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