A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation - the Blue Angels - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

You might think intense physical training and serious mental workouts only apply to Special Ops teams in the military. The truth is that the Blue Angels training schedule is just as intense and just as serious as any Special Ops team out there. In this video, we get a rare behind the scenes glimpse at what it takes to become the rock stars of aviation.

From Recruit to Pilot

In this series, we get to see just what it’s like to go from recruit to Blue Angel pilot. During the first show of the season, the recruits wear their old khaki uniforms and talk among the crowd gathered to watch the show. For these officers, this is their first experience of what life will be like as a Blue Angel.

History of the Blue Angels

The US Blue Angels collectively represent almost a quarter-century of aviation exploration. Way back in 1946, Admiral Chester Nimitz (who helped play a serious role in the Navy’s involvement during WWII) got it in his mind that the only way the public would understand aviation would be to bring it out front and center. And by highlighting Navy pilots, Nimitz thought for sure that he’d help boost unit morale, too.

Turns out he was right.

blue angels

Since the 1940s, the Blue Angels have been captivating and entertaining audiences with daredevil airshows that feature death-defying acrobatics. Within a decade, this elite flying team had refined its approach and perfected the six-aircraft Delta Formation – the same one that’s in use today. But that doesn’t mean just anyone can become a Blue Angel.

The pilots’ maneuvers are all based on combat tactics, and the show is designed with a crowd in mind. Shows might be fun to watch, but that doesn’t mean getting the title of Blue Angel is easy.

Rookies are put to task with seriously difficult tests, and most liken the experience to “relearning hot to fly.” That means in addition to flying with precision, these aircraft pilots also have to successfully execute tight maneuvers over and over again and do them perfectly without error – or run the risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But for those who are committed and dedicated to the training, the payoff is immense. Ten weeks of intense training prepares pilots with the right skills to perform their first airshow.

On the ground at the first show, recruits will watch, pay attention, and imagine what it’ll be like for them once they’ve completed their training.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The only time a US blimp was ever lost in World War II combat

Airships like zeppelins and blimps lost their appeal somewhere between World Wars I and II. It might have had something to do with the Hindenburg going down in a massive, fiery wreck in front of the whole world. By the time World War II came about, airships were a thing of the past for every military except the United States, which is a shame because you did not want to f*ck with an airship.


They seem like goofy floating targets just begging to be shot down but getting to them was a lot harder than anyone might think. More than that, they were really effective at locating enemy submarines and then blowing them into oblivion. Of the 89,000 ships protected by airships during WWII, only one was ever lost.

And only one airship was ever lost, and it happened off the coast of Florida in July 1943.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

Blimp-Submarine combat seems like it would be adorable.

The missions of blimp crew was an easy one, use the massive range of sight the blimp had over the ocean waters, locate enemy submarines, then call in for fighters and bombers to come finish the subs off. They had some weapons, a few depth charges, and a .50-cal machine gun, but not something to take on a submarine head-to-head. But K-74 did just that.

A 252-foot airship, K-74 was performing its usual mission in the Florida Straits when it spotted German U-boat 134 on radar. The airship came down from the cover of the clouds to find the boat on the surface of the water. Seeing that the U-boat was headed for a merchant convoy, Lt. Nelson Grills decided he couldn’t just wait for backup and had to act fast. As the ship moved to intercept the boat, the sub’s conning tower exploded with 20-mm rounds.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

U-134 under attack from the RAF earlier in 1943. The sub survived the meeting.

K-74 was able to drop two charges on the sub as it flew overhead, but the charges did nothing to silence the 20mm guns. The blimp returned fire, but the submarine had hit one of the airship’s engines, and she was losing altitude fast. Then it caught fire. The next thing he knew, the crew had begun to abandon ship – all because he couldn’t follow protocol. But the ship didn’t explode in a Hindenburg-like burst of flame. It gently fell to the surface of the water, and the crew climbed aboard the deflated ship.

Gills helped his crewmen escape, but as they climbed the balloon part of the ship, Grills got separated when he stayed behind to destroy the ship’s classified documents and top-secret cargo.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

The ship’s commander was found when another K-ship spotted him in the water below just a few hours after his ship went down. His crew was in the water all night and was found by a seaplane the next day. Most of them survived, except for one. The crew was being circled by sharks as planes flew overhead and surface ships moved in for a rescue. The USS Dahlgren had come on scene to pick them up, and even though the Dahlgren’s crew managed to keep some sharks away with small arms, one of the K-74 crewmen was pulled under by a shark and disappeared.

All was not lost, however. K-74 damaged the enemy submarine in the action. The U-boat was forced to limp home heavily damaged. Eventually, it was found at sea by the British Royal Air Force, who swiftly finished it off near the Cies Islands.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Boston Tea Party: How coffee became the official morning beverage of America

How does one start a revolution? It begins with a group of like-minded individuals who are bold enough to carry out an action against a superior entity, ultimately to change control of power. In the days of the American Revolution, these individuals were known as the Sons of Liberty, and their supporters — patriots like Sarah Bradlee Fulton, among others — predicated their success on secret preparation. How could they lead a rebellion against England’s powerful King George III and inspire townspeople to join their cause?

It didn’t happen overnight, but a series of events emboldened them to launch into action with an idea that was formed behind closed doors. It became known as the Boston Tea Party and is one of the most impactful political protests in history.


A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

1773: Working men disguised as Mohawks throw chests of tea into the harbour in protest against direct taxation by the British.

(Original Artist: Robert Reid. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.)

In the 1760s, the colonists living in Boston, Massachusetts, felt that the British were taking advantage of them. Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers who later penned America’s first political cartoon under the namesake “Join, or Die,” saw firsthand the strength and influence of a unified people. He shared these observations about his displeasure with the British through the written word, including poetry:

We have an old mother that peevish is grown,

She snubs us like children that scarce walk alone;

She forgets we’re grown up and have sense of our own,

Which nobody can deny, which nobody can deny.

Meanwhile, Boston’s economy thrived; they had successful taverns, the richest shipyard on the waterfront, 3,000 wooden and brick homes, and some 500 shops. The population of 16,000 were hardworking and young — half of them were teenagers. The majority in Boston were educated enough to read the ever-popular Boston Gazette newspaper and follow updates on how the British bullied and used them as pawns to fund their wartime debts (from the French and Indian Wars).

In 1765, Parliament, England’s governing body of the colonies, imposed the Stamp Act, which taxed Americans for anything made from paper after it arrived in colonial shipping ports. The Quartering Act followed, which demanded that citizens open their businesses and homes to British soldiers for housing and food. Two years later, the Townshend Act added paint, glass, lead, and tea to the list of taxable goods.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

Join, or Die. by Benjamin Franklin (1754), a political cartoon commentary on the disunity of the North American British colonies, was later used to encourage the former colonies to unite against British rule.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

The American colonists were naturally angry, and tensions were consolidated to an upheaval in anarchy. By this time, the secret society of rebels known as the Sons of Liberty had formed. Frontman Samuel Adams — among other members such as John Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere — held public gatherings at Faneuil Hall to gain notoriety. In secret, the future Founding Fathers also held private meetings at the Green Dragon Tavern or the “House of the Revolution,” previously located on Union Street in Boston’s North End. Samuel Adams’ individual actions had the British publicly cast him as “the most dangerous man in Massachusetts.”

Their freedoms were being infringed upon, writes Kathleen Krull in her book “What Was The Boston Tea Party?” They protested in small boycotts and skirmishes against loyalist businesses (those who sided with the British), which made the headlines in the next day’s newspaper — but, most importantly, it caught the attention of the royal tyrants. Adams encouraged other patriots who believed in their cause to act in defiance. They used intimidation, vandalism, and even defamation of tax collectors through a shameful punishment called tarring and feathering.

On Feb. 22, 1770, one of these strong-armed attempts turned violent when British customs officer, Ebenezer Richardson, fired his musket upon a group in his backyard, killing 11-year-old Christopher Seider. A month later, on March 5, 1770, Private Hugh White, a British soldier, used his bayonet against a patriot at the Custom House on King Street.

White escalated the verbal altercation to a physical one, and the angry mob countered with a volley of snowballs, rocks, and ice. Bells rang signalling a disturbance, and loyalists and patriots entered the street to see the commotion. As the riot ensued, the British fired their muskets, killing five colonists in what is today known as the Boston Massacre.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Boston Massacre” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1870.

After these two incidents of bloodshed, the final straw was the imposition of the Tea Act, which was passed in May 1773. The Sons of Liberty had illegally smuggled tea from Holland because anything associated with the British infuriated them. Parliament countered with the enforcement of the British East India Company, the only tea that could be purchased. The once-adored tea from India and China, all 18 million pounds of it, had been outcasted by the colonists. So a group of American women began to make their own.

Women also played important if lesser-known roles in the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party. Similar to the Sons of Liberty, a group comprised of approximately 300 women was referred to as the Daughters of Liberty, and they had significant influence. Sarah Bradlee Fulton was an important figure who became known as the “Mother of the Boston Tea Party”; she later became one of the first women to come under the orders of George Washington as a spy during the American Revolution.

Fulton’s role in the Boston Tea Party wasn’t the infamous actions of dumping tea into Boston Harbor — it was more subtle, though equally important. Fulton is credited with suggesting that the patriots wear disguises during their great tea-dumping campaign to ensure that they couldn’t be recognized from a distance and would remain incognito when they ditched their outfits after the event.

Colonists also spread propaganda about British tea in the newspapers, instead valuing “Liberty Tea” made by American women in homemade batches. “Let us abjure the poisonous baneful plant and its odious infusion,” wrote one colonist. “Poisonous and odious, I mean, not on account of the physical qualities but on account of the political diseases and death that are connected with every particle of it.”

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

The Green Dragon Tavern, the meeting place where the Sons of Liberty planned the Boston Tea Party.

(Photo courtesy of The Green Dragon Tavern Museum.)

The Liberty Tea used the red root bush herb found growing on riverbanks. Red sumac berries and homegrown leaves were used to make Indian Lemonade Tea. Other recipes meticulously crafted delicious Raspberry Leaf Tea. It was declared “as good as any other tea, and much more wholesome in the end.”

While the Daughters of Liberty generally voiced their dissatisfaction with the British in quieter ways, they occasionally had to get a little rowdy. One such incident involved a merchant who was hoarding coffee, which was later dubbed the “Coffee Party.” Abigail Adams wrote about it to her husband, John, on July 31, 1777.

“There has been much rout and noise in the town for several weeks. Some stores had been opened by a number of people and the coffee and sugar carried into the market and dealt out by pounds. It was rumoured that an eminent, wealthy, stingy merchant (who is a bachelor) had a hogshead of coffee in his store which he refused to sell to the committee under 6 shillings per pound. A number of females some say a hundred, some say more assembled with a cart and trucks, marched down to the warehouse and demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver, upon which one of them seized him by his neck and tossed him into the cart. Upon his finding no quarter he delivered the keys, when they tipped up the cart and discharged him, then opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee themselves, put it into the trucks and drove off. It was reported that he had a spanking among them, but this I believe was not true. A large concourse of men stood amazed silent spectators of the whole transaction.”

But what happened in Boston Harbor four years prior was a pivotal moment in the fight for American independence.

On Dec. 16, 1773, an assembly was called at the Old South Meeting House, the largest building in colonial Boston. This is where John Hancock made a passionate demand: “Let every man do what is right in his own eyes!” The historic meeting amassed an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 colonists unified together against tyranny. The Boston Tea Party was put into motion to resist British oppression and to rally against taxation without proper representation.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Destruction of the tea” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1881.

That evening, disguised as American Indians, “Adams’ Mohawks” marched toward Griffin’s Wharf carrying axes and tomahawks, wearing feathers on their caps and warpaint on their faces. The only opposition between the liberators and 342 chests of tea was a British officer who had drawn his sword. He was no match for them and simply stepped aside as he was heavily outnumbered. The men split into three groups and boarded the three ships: the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver. They ordered the crew below deck, then used ropes and pulleys to hoist 90- to 400-pound chests of tea up from the cargo area, onto the deck, and into the harbor.

A large crowd gathered on the shoreline and cheered on their patriots as they emptied the tea into the shallow harbor. With low tide, the harbor’s height was only two feet, therefore the “Indians” had to stomp the piles of overflowing tea leaves to get them to sink. Some of the raiding force tried to sneak tea into their pockets — one was even brave enough to use a rowboat to collect his stash, but these canoes were overturned. After they emptied all of the crates, enough to fill 18.5 million teacups, the “Indians” ducked into safe houses, through the help of the Daughters of Liberty, and were home by 10 that night.

John Andrews, an observer, later wrote, “They say the actors were Indians… Whether they were or not to a transient observer they appear’d as such, being cloth’d in blankets with the heads muffled and copper color’d countenances, each being arm’d with a hatchet or ax, and pair pistols, nor was their dialect different from what I conceive these [sic] geniusses to speak, as their jargon was unintelligible to all but themselves.”

To this day, due to a pledge of secrecy, it remains unclear of who was directly involved in the historic action of dumping tea into Boston Harbor. But the event — known now as the Boston Tea Party — has become one of the most iconic events of the American Revolution, igniting a revolt against British rule and the beginning of a new unified nation.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time America stood its ground against invasion

Despite the United States landing an impressive victory against Great Britain during the Revolutionary War, the British kept coming back for more. The Battle of 1812 would span years and multiple attacks but on December 1, 1814 – General Andrew Jackson was ready for them. 

A British fleet had sailed into the Gulf of Mexico during the fall of 1814 in hopes of taking the territory of Louisiana, which was newly acquired by the United States. Jackson foiled their plans. As the commander of the 7th Military District, he was well prepared to prevent their attack with a surprise of his own. Knowing their intent to attack, he left Alabama and arrived in New Orleans to rally the city and establish his base on that fateful December day.

Not long after Andrew Jackson arrived, the British were sighted. After declaring martial law, he commissioned every man and weapon for use against the potential invaders. People rallied to support the cause, including military members, civilians, freed slaves, Choctaw people and a pirate by the name of Jean Lafitte. Supporters of the cause arrived from all over; many came in to join the fight from neighboring states.  

After hearing of the landing of the British on December 23, 1914, Jackson led a nighttime surprise attack on the unsuspecting British troops. Although this fight was inconclusive, it left an obvious sting. Jackson retreated, making more strategic plans to foil further attempts to invade New Orleans. The United States militia of over 4,000 men were well poised to defend Louisiana and they dug in to build the barrier defense system known as ‘Line Jackson’. This wall of mud, logs, cotton and earth would be a key part in the success of the official Battle of New Orleans. 

The pre-planned attack by the British on the western bank of Louisiana finally came in January, but the military and militia were well prepared to defend it. The Battle of New Orleans would last approximately two hours with the United States wounding over 2,000 British soldiers but only suffering 65 casualties themselves. It was this battle that would seal Jackson’s ability to be elected into the presidency later on in 1828.

andrew jackson

What those fighting didn’t know was that a peace treaty had been signed weeks before in Belgium, officially ending the War of 1812. Although the Battle of New Orleans could have been avoided if word had reached those in charge, the victory over the British sent an undeniable message: the United States wouldn’t be taken, ever. Following the victory, it led to the ‘Era of Good Feelings’  or nationalism, in which Americans were united in their pride for their country. 

Although the relationship between the two countries is now friendly, the road to getting there was paved with struggle and continued wars for power. In the end, despite overwhelming odds – Andrew Jackson and the United States prevailed and held steady. A young country with endless potential and possibilities, America has continually proven herself capable of demonstrating strength, conviction and the commitment to the endless pursuit of liberty for all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 American jet fighters that later became devastating bombers

Some planes have long had a reputation for being deadly in air-to-air combat. That is an arena built for the fast and evasive — and planes get faster and more evasive all the time. But what do we do about the older fighters? Retirement or being passed on, second-hand, to other countries happens to some models, and some of these designs are so good, they last for decades (the P-51 served in a military role until 1985). Other planes, however, undergo a little role change and start dropping bombs instead.


A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
An F-51 Mustang of the U.S. Fifth Air Force’s 18th bomber wing releases two Napalm bombs over an industrial military target in North Korea. The Mustang was a preview of jet fighters that later proved very capable at bombing the enemy. (USAF photo)

In fact, when you look at the most prominent fighters from World War II (the P-51, the F6F Hellcat, the F4U Corsair, the P-47 Thunderbolt, and the P-38 Lightning), they were all multi-role fighters. The jet age was no different — many planes designed for air-to-air became very good at dropping bombs on the enemy on the ground. Here are some of the most prominent.

1. North American F-86 Sabre

The F-86 Sabre dominated the skies during the Korean War, but as the war went on, this plane also had a significant impact as a fighter-bomber. This plane did so well dropping ordnance that the Air Force eventually bought the F-86H, a dedicated fighter-bomber version of the F-86, which served until 1972.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
F-86H Sabres deployed during the Pueblo Crisis. While F-86A/E/Fs were rapidly retired, the F-86H served until 1972. (USAF photo)

2. North American F-100 Super Sabre

Like the F-86, the F-100 was initially intended for air-to-air combat. But the F-100A had its teething problems, and it never saw much combat as a fighter. The F-100D version, however, became a very reliable fighter-bomber. In fact, a later model, the F-100F operational trainer model, was among the first of the Wild Weasels — Vietnam-era bombers that were responsible for taking out enemy air defenses. The F-100 fighter-bombers stuck around until 1979.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
A North American F-100D Super Sabre drops napalm on enemy positions. This plane hung around with the Air National Guard as a fighter-bomber until 1979! (USAF photo)

3. McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom

The Navy’s version of the Phantom, the F-4B, was an all-weather interceptor. The Air Force was the first branch to use this airframe as a tactical fighter, and the others quickly followed suit. As F-14s and F-15s emerged into service, F-4s took on more ground-attack missions. Today, those still in service with Turkey and other countries are primarily used for bombing.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
20 years after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, the F-4 was still a reliable plane for attack missions, dropping precision-guided weapons like this TV-guided GBU-15. (USAF photo)

4. Grumman F-14 Tomcat

Lessons learned from Vietnam and the development of new Soviet bombers spurred the development of the F-14 as a pure fighter. It had quite the long reach, too. With the end of the Cold War, though, the Tomcat quickly ran thin on targets in the air and was quickly retooled to attack ground targets. Sadly, it also saw its production ended shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union and was retired in 2004. It leaves us to wonder just what could have been for carrier air wings.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
Maverick, Goose, and Iceman made the Tomcat a movie star as a fighter in Top Gun, but in the War on Terror, it was carrying laser-guided bombs to blast terrorists on the ground. (DOD photo)

5. McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle

While the Navy replaced its F-4s with the F-14, the Air Force chose to replace them in the air-to-air role with the F-15. The F-15 dominated as an air-superiority fighter (it still hasn’t lost a for-real dogfight). Then, the Air Force sought to replace the F-4 for the ground-attack missions – and the F-15 was selected. Today, the F-15E is still going strong, bringing the fight to ground forces.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

The fact is, an air-superiority fighter need not despair when newer jets come along. It can earn a second lease on life by dropping bombs on the bad guys. It might not be as thrilling as a dogfight, but it’s plenty effective.

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This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

Since 9/11, almost 58,000 American troops have either been killed or wounded in the war on terrorism. And according to the Pentagon, each of those casualties qualifies for the Purple Heart medal — whether awarded in person or posthumously.


But it turns out that most of those pinned with the distinctive badge would wear an actual medal that’s been in DoD stocks for over 70 years.

How is this possible? Believe it or not, according to a Dec. 2003 report by HistoryNewsNetwork.com, the military had over 120,000 Purple Heart medals in stock at the time, even after suffering almost 81,000 killed in action and nearly 257,000 wounded in action between the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
The Purple Heart, the oldest American military decoration for military merit, is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy. It is also awarded to soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war. Purple Heart day is dedicated to honoring service members, past and present, who have received the Purple Heart medal.

How did the Department of Defense end up with so many spare Purple Hearts on hand? The answer goes back to 1945.

We may remember it as the year the war ended, but back then, the question was how it would end.

The United States was planning for the invasion of Japan, codenamed Operation Downfall. The fight was expected to be very nasty. A 1998 article in Air Chronicles cited one estimate of 394,859 casualties. The Department of Defense ordered nearly half a million Purple Heart medals to award to casualties.

According to a 2015 post at HotAir.com, Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyushu involving 14 divisions of troops, was slated to take place on Nov. 1, 1945. Operation Coronet, the invasion of Honshu with 25 divisions, would have begun four months later.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Photo: AP)

Thanks to a pair of airplanes named Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, the invasion of Japan never took place. Many of the implements used to win World War II were either scrapped, sold off, or disposed of. But the medals were kept. The book “Blood Trails” by Christopher Ronnau described how Vietnam vets received Purple Hearts originally meant for use two decades earlier.

HistoryNewsNetwork.com reported that in 2000, the government finally ordered the production of more Purple Heart medals, but only to re-stock what was then known as the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia.

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4 badass Canadians who received the Medal of Honor

America’s highest honor for military service, the Medal of Honor, has been awarded to Canadian-born service members 61 times — but only four times since 1900. These four Canadians saved American lives in battles from the Occupation of Veracruz to the Vietnam War.


1. Specialist Peter C. Lemon

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
Then-Spc. Peter C. Lemon helped beat back a Vietnamese assault that broke into his fire base. (Photo: U.S. Army).

Army Spc. Peter C. Lemon was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1950 but moved to America as a child and later joined the Army. When he was 19, he was serving as an assistant machine gunner at a fire support base in Vietnam near the border with Cambodia.

The base was overrun in the early hours of April 1, 1970, when North Vietnamese soldiers managed to breach the perimeter, triggering hand-to-hand fighting. Lemon fired his machine gun until it malfunctioned, then did the same with his rifle before lobbing grenade after grenade into the oncoming Vietnamese.

He killed the final enemy in his area with his bare hands before running to another section and engaging with more grenades. Severely wounded, he refused medical evacuation until those more seriously wounded were all flown out.

2. Sergeant Charles A. MacGillivary

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
American infantrymen of the 290th Regiment fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium on Jan. 4, 1945. (Photo: U.S. Army)

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 71st Infantry Regiment, 44th Infantry Division was one of the units hard pressed by German forces. After the death of the company commander, some soldiers began talking of surrender. That’s when Sgt. Charles MacGillivary assumed command and slipped off into the forest on his own.

He slowly made his way around one of the machine gun positions that targeted his company and got within three feet before firing on the two gunners, killing both. He returned to base but went back to the forest the following afternoon.

Once again, he snuck up on a machine gun nest and took it out with a single grenade. He then grabbed a submachine gun from the ground and crept close to a third nest, killing the attackers as they tried to swing their own gun onto him. Finally, he hit a fourth machine gun nest and took it out with a grenade and close fighting. He lost his left arm in this final engagement, but survived the war.

3. Signalman 1st Class Douglas A. Munro

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Painting: U.S. Coast Guard)

The only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor, Signalman 1st Class Douglas A. Munro was part of the task force that assaulted Guadalcanal during World War II. On Sept. 27, 1942, he commanded a group of landing craft that carried Marines from one section of the island to another in order to bypass a Japanese defensive line.

Munro dropped the Marines without incident and returned to base only to learn that, soon after the boats left, the Marines were ambushed. They had fought their way back to the base, but were under heavy assault and needed evacuation.

His landing craft were made of wood and filled with fuel, but Munro took his boats back and piloted his own craft into the thick of the fighting as the other crews embarked Marines and began their withdrawal. The boats made it out, but one was stuck on a sandbar. Munro used his ship to help pull it off, but was shot through the head just as the job was finished.

4. Lieutenant John Grady

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Photo: Public Domain)

 

On April 22, 1914, Navy Lt. John Grady was leading an artillery regiment at the Battle of Vera Cruz. He deployed his artillery in exposed positions that gave his crews the ability to rain steel on the enemy, but also left them susceptible to counter artillery.

Despite the risk, Grady led from the front, ignoring enemy fire to keep the enemy in his crosshairs, helping bring about the American victory.

Grady later commanded a U.S. ship and led it through mine and submarine-infested waters to reach European ports in World War I, leading to the award of a Navy Cross.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 things to know about the Gallic Wars

Julius Caesar is known as one of the greatest generals of all time. He was so inspiring that he persuaded his army to cross the Rubicon River and march on Rome, to overthrow the politicians who threatened to strip Caesar of his military command. Caesar had to earn their loyalty, though, and he earned his reputation as a brilliant commander in the Gallic Wars. These conflicts were fought between 58 and 50 BC in the land the Romans called Gaul (and we call France). Here are six things to know about the Gallic Wars.

1. Caesar fought the wars to pay off his debts

In the year 59 BC, Caesar served as consul, one of the highest positions in the Roman government. In Roman politics, you won votes through bribery, and Caesar spent so much money that by the end of his consulship he was riddled with debts. There was an easy solution to this problem: give himself a province. Provincial governors could enrich themselves through conquest and plunder, and Caesar ended up receiving a stunning three provinces to govern: Transalpine Gaul, Cisalpine Gaul, and Illyricum (southern France, North Italy, and the western Balkans, respectively). But to the north, there was Gaul, ripe for the taking.

2. The conflict started out small

When Caesar learned that a Gallic tribe called the Helvetii were planning on migrating through Transalpine Gaul, he started to fortify the Rhone River to stall their movement. The Helvetii were denied the right to cross, so they doubled back to find a different route, all the while raiding and plundering other Gauls. These oppressed tribes came to Caesar asking for help defending themselves from the Helvetii, and Caesar obliged. Over the course of a few months, the Romans pursued the Helvetii and whittled down their forces before finally defeating them at the Battle of Bibracte.               

3. Many Gauls wanted Caesar there…

Many Gauls were impressed with Caesar’s defeat of the Helvetii and so asked him to defeat the Germanic tribe of the Suebi that was invading Gaul. Caesar could not declare war just yet because the Suebi king Ariovistus was technically a Roman ally, but repeated harassment of the Gallic tribes gave Caesar the justification he needed to declare war. By the end of the year 58 BC, Caesar had defeated Ariovistus. The next year Caesar and his legions marched to fight the Belgae, a Gallic confederation that was harassing a Roman-allied tribe. The most warlike of the Belgae were the Nervii, who surprised the Romans at the Battle of the Sabis and nearly defeated them. Caesar, however, was able to turn the tide of battle and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The Belgae surrendered to Caesar shortly after. Lots of Gauls were happy that Caesar was there to protect them from dangerous tribes, but others were starting to chafe under Roman rule.

4. …until they didn’t

In 54 BC, the Eburones tribe under king Ambiorix revolted against Caesar’s rule, slaughtering thousands of Romans at the fortress of Atuatuca. The Romans responded by attacking Ambiorix’s allies and isolated the Eburones until the rebellion fizzled out. This, however, was only the precursor to a much larger rebellion. Vercingetorix, king of the Averni tribe, had been making alliances with other tribes for a while now, and in 52 BC, Vercingetorix and his united tribes rebelled against Rome. The Romans chased the Gauls throughout Gaul until Vercingetorix holed up in the fortified city of Alesia, which Caesar could not take. On top of that, Vercingetorix summoned his Gallic allies to attack the Romans who were stationed outside Alesia. The Romans were able to defend themselves from Gallic attacks within and without the city until Vercingetorix surrendered. There were more campaigns to wipe out the last elements of resistance, but Caesar had successfully conquered Gaul for Rome.

5. Caesar went as far as Britain and Germany

Back in 56 BC, Caesar started a new campaign against the Veneti tribe, which had taken Roman hostages and threatened to kill them unless the Romans sent them food. The Romans were victorious after a long campaign on sea and land. Afterwards Caesar started two controversial campaigns: one across the Rhine River in what the Romans called Germania, and one across the English Channel in what the Romans called Britannia. Neither campaign yielded much fruit, but the fact that Caesar had crossed into the “barbarian” lands of Britain and Germany left an impression on the minds of many Romans.

6. Caesar wrote about the Gallic Wars himself

One of the most important historical sources for the Gallic Wars is the Commentari de Bello Gallico, or Commentary on the Gallic Wars, written by Julius Caesar himself. With this book, Caesar could record the history of the Gallic Wars for posterity, while also defending his actions to the Romans, many of whom were suspicious of his imperialist tendencies. Although Caesar is most famous for his dictatorship over the Roman Republic, his conquests during the Gallic Wars supplied him with the support and resources he would require to change the course of Roman history.

Articles

This soldier showed up without an eye and was reprimanded…then given the MOH

When Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Ray Drowley arrived alone at an American camp on the Solomon Islands with a gaping wound in his chest, a missing eye, and a shredded uniform, a junior officer threatened to court-martial him for abandoning his defense post.


Instead, Drowley was put on the path to history.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

On Jan. 30, 1944, Drowley was a rifle squad leader with B Company, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, when he displayed the bravery that would earn him the Medal of Honor.

The Americal Division arrived on Bougainville on Dec. 25, 1943, as part of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The division was unique in World War II as it carried a name and not a numerical designation.

It got its name from “American, New Caledonia,” the South Pacific island on which the unit was provisionally formed for defense in May 1942. Though officially known later as the 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal name remained.

Also read: Meet the 4 heroes who earned Medals of Honor for heroism on D-Day

A month after the unit’s arrival, Drowley was assigned a defensive role with his company as a neighboring unit launched an attack against Japanese defensive positions.

The staff sergeant witnessed three wounded soldiers from the neighboring company collapse. Intense enemy fire prevented their rescue. That’s when Drowley made a fateful decision.

Fearless Rescue

According to his Medal of Honor citation, Drowley “fearlessly rushed forward to carry the wounded” one-by-one to cover.

After moving two of the men to safety amid a hail of gunfire, Drowley discovered an enemy pillbox that American assault tanks had missed. The enemy fighters within were “inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking force and…a chief obstacle to the success of the advance.”

The dire situation didn’t deter him.

Drowley directed another soldier to complete the rescue of the third wounded soldier. Meanwhile, he darted out across open terrain to one of the American tanks. Drowley climbed the turret and signaled the crew.

He exchanged his weapon for a submachine gun and rode the deck of the tank while firing toward the pillbox with tracer fire.

As the tank ambled closer to the enemy position, Drowley received a severe wound to the chest. He refused to leave his position for medical treatment, instead continuing to direct the tank’s driver to the pillbox.

He was shot again — losing his left eye — and knocked to the ground.

But Drowley remained undaunted. Despite his injuries, he continued to walk alongside the tank until it was able to open fire on the enemy pillbox and destroy it. In the process, American forces discovered another pillbox behind the first and destroyed it as well.

Heroes: Audie Murphy is one of the most decorated war heroes of World War II

With his mission finally completed, Drowley returned to camp for medical treatment.

When he reached the safety of the American outpost, his platoon leader admonished him for leaving his post. But the reason he left was quickly learned, and he was eventually recommended for the nation’s highest military honor.

Drowley was awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 6, 1944.

After receiving the accolade, he was offered a commission and a chance to speak at war rallies, but Drowley declined and eventually left the service. He lived a quiet life for the rest of his years.

In 1991, he told The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Washington, that he shied away from the title of hero.

‘What Did You Do?’

“People say, ‘What did you do to get the Medal of Honor?’ You were only doing your job,” Drowley said. “You’re fearless, all right. You’re so damned scared you’re past fearless. But you’re going to get killed if you don’t do anything.”

Along with the Medal of Honor, Drowley was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Stars.

He was the first Americal soldier to be awarded the medal and the division’s lone recipient for action in World War II.

While recovering from his wounds at a hospital in Spokane, he met his future wife, Kathleen McAvoy. He returned to Washington after the war from his native St. Charles, Michigan. He operated a service station before working as a civilian employee at Fairchild Air Force Base. He retired in 1980.

Drowley died May 20, 1996. He was 76. He was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane Communist plan to overthrow the Afghan government

In April 1978, an Afghan tank commander rushed to tell President Mohammed Daoud Khan of a coming coup attempt. The President ordered his tank commander to circle to the presidential palace. Khan did not want to be caught off guard. He had only taken the reins of power from the King of Afghanistan five years before and didn’t want the monarchists coming back to power.

But when the critical moment to stop the coup came, the tank commander, with tanks surrounding the president, turned his guns on the palace. He was part of the coup all along.


A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

The day after the revolution.

As coup attempts go, it was relatively bloodless, and thankfully short. But this coup would set Afghanistan on a path that would destroy it from within for the next fifty years or more. Daoud Khan and his family were killed in the palace that day, and the Communists under Nur Muhammad Taraki would ascend to the presidency of Afghanistan. Daoud was himself not a member of the Communist party, but the Communists did help him overthrow the monarchy. Once in power, the new president tried to keep Afghanistan non-aligned in the Cold War.

But when you share a border with the Soviet Union, that just doesn’t seem likely to happen.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

Khan, on the right, shaking hands with senior Afghan military leaders

The problem with being non-aligned is that you can really lean one way or the other. When you ask for favors from a superpower, they expect you to fall in line. So it went for Daoud, who asked for help from the Soviets to settle a border dispute with Pakistan. He struggled to keep the USSR out of Afghan foreign policy thereafter. When a rivalry in the Afghan Communist Party ended with the murder of a faction leader, the Afghans were convinced it was Daoud whose hands were dirty – and that they were next. He didn’t have any of them assassinated, but he did have them arrested after protesting the government.

That sealed his fate.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

The palace on the day of the coup.

It was on April 27, 1978, that Daoud’s trusted tank commander turned on him. He had already defected to the Communist party. By noon, more tanks were rumbling to the palace, the Army occupied important areas of the city, and the Afghan Air Force took to the skies, all against Daoud and his supporters. When the rebels captured the radio station Radio Afghanistan, they announced to the people what was happening.

By the next morning, the President and his family were dead, the palace was lit up like swiss cheese, and the Communists were in control of the country. It turns out Daoud and his brother charged out of the palace toward the army, guns blazing, like a scene out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

Which eventually led to a Soviet invasion.

The reforms implemented by the Communists were mixed, as was the public reaction to the change in power. The new regime was brutally repressive, executed political prisoners, and brutally put down any resistance from the countryside. This repression turned the people against their Communist government, which triggered the Soviet Union’s Brezhnev Doctrine – any threat to Communist rule in any Communist government is a threat to all Communism everywhere.

The Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan for some nine years. The war was a brutal stalemate that severely set back the development of both countries and may have led to the downfall of the USSR.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: No Progress without a Machete

Roughly 2,700,000 men and women served in the Vietnam War. The war lasted from 1965 to 1975 and killed roughly 58,000 American troops. Among those were 1,000 were from Louisiana. It’s been almost 50 years since the Vietnam War ended. Many Louisiana Veterans are still around to tell their stories. And like all veteran stories, some of them are far from the norm.

Not all Vietnam War memories are sad

Like many who served in Vietnam, William Dimattia was also drafted. He served as a surgeon for the US Army Medical Corps in 1967. His service mainly consisted of providing medical care to his assigned Special Forces as well as the nearby Vietnam hospital outside of Saigon. Dimattia was the only physician there. While he took care of American troops, most of his patients were Vietnamese people who lived in the area. He actually has some happy memories from his time in Vietnam, as he repaired a lot of cleft lips for Vietnamese children. He said it turned their frowns into smiles.

No progress without a machete

Just like the doc, Vincent Alexander was drafted. His role in Vietnam was as a Combat Infantry Soldier. As you might expect, he said the only goal was to find and kill the enemy. So he and his team walked single file through the thick, swampy jungle. Their only way forward was with a machete. Once, they accidentally found themselves on a Viet Cong Base Camp while already deep into the jungle. Only 12 survived of the 28 after the Viet Cong fired on them. Alexander said he saw people get killed daily. The threat of being killed himself was always on his mind. 

The invisible enemy

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
Guerrilla forces from North Vietnam’s Vietcong movement cross a river in 1966 during the Vietnam War (Public Domain)

Sgt. Charles Stroud was Combat Infantry. He said the “good thing” about fighting in the jungle was that the enemy couldn’t see them. The Viet Cong would start firing when they heard their footsteps, but without aim. Of course, the same was true on the reverse end. Each side was shooting based on noises, but they couldn’t see. Stroud said they rarely actually caught a glimpse of the enemy. Eventually, he got hit by a booby trap and a fellow Soldier saved him. After the hospital fixed him up, Stroud was sent home grateful to have his life.

Working out of an air-conditioned hut

Captain Paul Marks, Jr served in the US Army Judge Advocate General’s Court in 1970. His arrival in Vietnam was different than you’d expect. He filled out what was called a Dream Sheet, selecting the ideal work he would be doing as his service. Since he was a lawyer who had passed the bar, he ended up doing legal work. The courtroom was an air-conditioned hut. Most of his work was prosecuting money laundering drug cases and black marketeering, including some Officers. 

The moral of the story here is clear: You never know what a Vietnam Veteran’s story is until you ask. 

Watch Cpt. Marks story and more here.

Related: Here’s a roundup of the 8 service members with the most Purple Hearts.

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.


A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

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 HISTORY

What America’s last military parade looked like

President Donald Trump apparently wants a parade — a military parade.


“President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.”

Inspired by a French military parade in honor of Bastille Day, Trump reportedly wants it complete with marching soldiers and rolling tanks.

While it’s still in the brainstorming stages, critics have called the idea troubling because of its potential authoritarian overtones, as well as noting how the infrastructure in Washington DC may not be able to support modern heavy equipment on the streets.

Also read: This is why Trump wants a massive military parade on Pennsylvania Avenue

The parade, however, would not be America’s first. The last one was held in June 1991 under President George H.W. Bush to celebrate the end of the Gulf War.

Here’s what it looked like:

The parade started off with an F-117 stealth fighter fly-over, followed by a convoy of military helicopters seen below, which included Chinooks, Hueys, and others.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

Then came General Norman Schwarzkopf walking down Constitution Avenue with a Central Command Unit.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

Next were multiple army units, including VII Army Corps, the 1st and 4th Army Armored division, the 3rd US Army, and marching bands.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

M-1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles also came rolling down.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

As well as multiple launch rocket systems.

Related: North Korea wants to scare the US with a huge military parade

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

M109 Howitzers, seen below, were featured with M198 Howitzers, and heavy expanded mobility trucks.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

The 101st and 82nd Army Airborne Divisions then followed.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

Along with Patriot Missile systems.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

Multiple Marine units followed along with Marine main battle tanks.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

Then came the 7th Navy fleet, along with a combat logistics composite unit, a construction battalion unit, and others.

More: The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

Tomahawk cruise missiles were on hand with a strike group composite unit.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

Then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney was present, too, along with other cabinet members, including Secretary of State James Baker.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

The parade featured a US Navy fly-over with a standard naval fighter triple diamond formation.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

Then the Air Force did a fly-over with F-15s, F-16s, harriers, and others.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

Including A-10 Warthogs, EA-6B Prowlers, Hornets, KC-130s, KC-135s, B-52s, AWACs, and more F-117s.

Related: The US Air Force has an absurd plan for replacing the A-10 Warthog

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

Lastly came fireworks, a “God Bless America” sing-along, and a thank you float.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

President Bush was picked up Marine Squadron One and flown back to the White House.

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels
(Screenshot/CSPAN)

The National Victory Celebration Parade cost $12 million, and lasted nearly 2 hours.

The U.S. invaded Iraq in August 1990 after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, which was a U.S. ally that supplied America with oil.

Hussein was angry that Kuwait kept oil prices down by overproducing, and even reportedly was slant-drilling Iraqi oil under the border.

Knowing that an invasion of Kuwait might upset the U.S., Hussein infamously asked U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie about the prospective invasion.

Further reading: 21 facts about the First Gulf War

Glaspie, under the orders of the Bush administration, told Hussein that the U.S. had “no position” and failed to warn him that the U.S. would oppose such aggression.

More than a dozen years later, President George W. Bush invaded Iraq again, claiming that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. troops would find thousands of chemical munitions, but never any nuclear weapons that the Bush administration had claimed.

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