Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades

A few World War II movies feature incredible scenes of troops — usually soldiers or Marines — fighting tooth and nail against an enemy until they’ve expended most of their ammo, all of their grenades, and are stuck in their final defensive position.


That’s when someone does something crazy and starts throwing mortar rounds at the oncoming onslaught. The huge bursts of shrapnel wipe out groups of the enemy forces, breaking up the attack and allowing the heroes to emerge victorious.

Skip ahead to 0:28 in this clip to see this happen:

“Saving Private Ryan” was called out by some for this scene as many thought it impossible, and “Hacksaw Ridge” features a similar scene that caused a few raised eyebrows.

But most mortar rounds in World War II could be thrown this way. It was just incredibly dangerous and rarely done.

While new proximity fuzes — those which detonate a specified distance from the surface — were developed during World War II, most mortar rounds carried impact fuzes that used the physical force of the mortar striking a rock or something to trigger the charge.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
World War II mortarmen attack German positions in 1944. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

This caused surface bursts, and most mortarmen wanted their rounds that were detonating against the surface to explode immediately. The further the main charge makes it into the ground before it explodes, the greater amount of the explosion that will be absorbed by the mud and dirt.

So weapon designers made fuzes that were very sensitive. To prevent the fuzes from exploding prematurely, designers incorporated impact fuzes with a two-step arming process. This meant a safety pin had to be removed followed by a sudden force such as the propellant exploding to fire the round from the tube.

For soldiers looking to use these mortar rounds as a grenade, they had to remove the safety pin and slam the tail of the mortar round against something solid to simulate the force of the weapon firing. After that, the round would explode from any sudden force applied to the fuze.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
An American mortar crew attacks German positions on the Rhine in 1945. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

This method of triggering, combined with the greater explosive force of a mortar, made them way more deadly than grenades.

Most grenades work using a timer, meaning that a soldier throws it and hopes that the enemy can’t grab the weapon and throw it back before it detonates.

But a hand-thrown mortar round will usually explode as soon as it hits the ground or a solid object, making it nearly impossible to throw back.

At least two soldiers used this to their advantage in World War II. Technical Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson threw mortar rounds to drive off a Japanese attack on Okinawa, and Cpl. Charles E. Kelly used mortar ammunition during his final defense of a storehouse being overwhelmed by the Germans in Italy.

This procedure comes with high risks. A round that falls short of the intended throw will almost certainly go off, potentially killing friendly troops and the thrower, and a round that is dropped after arming could go off, killing the operators. Still, for a happy few, the risk was worth the reward.

Articles

A Ranger describes what being a ‘towed jumper’ is actually like

Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.


One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, bounces against the skin of a C-17 over the skies of Fort Benning, Georgia. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)

For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, tries to keep his gear together while flapping in the wind like a dog’s jowls. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.

This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

Why it sucks to report to the ‘Good Idea Fairy’

This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

MIGHTY TRENDING

The telecommunications jobs that are looking for vets

The telecom sector is rife with opportunities that align perfectly with the skills and experiences of veterans just like you. For starters, degrees aren’t required for many positions, which is a boon to the thousands of vets who choose to transition right into careers without first attending college. This industry also demands innovative leaders who are skilled at using technology and have excellent customer-service and relationship-management skills, requirements veterans often fit to a T.

“At T-Mobile, we’ve found veterans often make the strongest leaders and are high performers, and we are committed to helping give them access to the best job opportunities available. To show our commitment, we’ve pledged to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses in the next five years, and we’re getting closer to this goal every day,” says Donna Wright, senior manager of Military and Diversity Sourcing for T-Mobile.


Family friendly

The telecom industry also boasts some of the country’s top Military Friendly® Employers, such as T-Mobile, Teleperformance and Verizon*. If you want to score a civilian career while you’re still in the military, many of these companies offer you the flexibility to do just that. And because most are nationwide, you can relocate and remain with the same company. What’s more, telecom organizations are, more and more, extending their Military Friendly® programs and perks not just to vets, but to their spouses and families, too.

“We recognize that being the spouse of a military person can be very challenging from an employment perspective,” explained Amber Brown, director of talent acquisition at Teleperformance. “To help address these challenges, we launched the Military Spouse Work at Home Project, which offers positions that allow military spouses to work from home, with flexible schedules based on the unique military lifestyle. In the event of a PCS move, we work with the spouse to transition the job to the next duty station.”

Long-term commitment

Verizon, our 2018 Military Friendly® Company of the Year, already employs more than 11,000 service members, veterans and reservists, and leverages special military and military-spouse hiring programs aimed at recruiting thousands more.

“We continue to see opportunities to place veterans across our business, especially in customer-facing roles and those related to technology such as cybersecurity and enterprise sales,” said Tommy Jones, leader of Verizon’s Military Recruitment Team.

You already know your skills and experience are a match for telecom. Now turn the page to learn more about the types of jobs available to you and find out which ones align with your career interests and aspirations!

Hot jobs in telecom

Cyber Security Analyst

You’ll plan, implement, upgrade or monitor security measures for the protection of computer networks and information. You may ensure appropriate security controls are in place that will safeguard digital files and vital electronic infrastructure and respond to computer security breaches and viruses. Knowledge of computers, programming and/or telecommunications may be required.

Median Salary

,510

15% or higher growth through 2026

Bachelor’s or equivalent experience

Communications Tower Equipment Technician

You will repair, install or maintain mobile or stationary radio transmitting, broadcasting and receiving equipment, and two-way radio communications systems used in cellular telecommunications, mobile broadband, ship-to-shore, aircraft-to-ground communications, and radio equipment in service and emergency vehicles. You may also test and analyze network coverage. You’ll need to know how to read blueprints and be comfortable climbing equipment or structures.

Median Salary

,060

2-4% growth through 2026

High school diploma or equivalent

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades

Master Sergeant Janine “J9” Rodriguez

Project Home Ambassador, Teleperformance

Date of hire: July 2014

Age: 42

Military Service:

Master Sergeant (E-7),

Air Force (1994-2014)

AFSC: Personnel (3S071)

Education:

  • Associate degree, human resources,
    Community College of the Air Force, 2005
  • Bachelor’s degree, business management,
    Park University, 2010
  • Professional Manager Certification,

Community College of the Air Force, 2013

What do you do? I act as the champion to our military families, servicing them as they relocate due to PCS moves and providing service and assistance during military deployments. I also develop and manage a network of Teleperformance military families to ensure connectivity across sites.

What did you do in the military? I provided contingency support to 10,000+ staff, advised senior managers on HR issues and requirements, served as subject matter expert for management-level performance evaluations, and drove the process for hundreds of promotion recommendations for officers.

Why did you decide to retire from the military? I decided to retire because my mom was terminally ill and I wanted to help take care of her with the little time we had left.

Why did you choose this career path? I started with Teleperformance in the human resources department in an entry level position and then was presented with promotion opportunities within the HR department, including the opportunity to help broaden our military footprint in my current role. I just couldn’t resist.

What military skills do you apply to your job? Definitely my work ethic, integrity in all that I do, and the importance of following direction and supporting the mission.

Best advice? Attending TAP prior to my retirement was essential for me to be prepared. Ensure that your military experience is translated to civilian language, know your worth, and research your employment location.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades

Petty Officer Third Class, Kevin Battles

Solutions Manager, Verizon* Wireless

Date of Hire: March 2014

Age: 34

Military Service: Petty Officer Third Class (E-4),
Navy (2004-2007)

Rating: Ships Serviceman

Education: Bachelor’s degree, mass communications, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2018

Why did you decide to separate from the military? Family is very important to me. I had two young daughters who needed their father in their lives, so I decided to pursue other career opportunities closer to home.

Why did you choose this career path? I knew my military experience in managing the ship’s store, laundry, barber shop and vending operations would help me transition into a career in retail sales. At first, it was attractive to be in a position that provided a good living, but over the last 10 years it has evolved into a fulfilling career and personal growth opportunity.

What worked best in your job search? Military-oriented hiring sites were the best source of job opportunities. I basically scoured these sites daily in my job search.

What skills learned in the military do you apply to your job today? Leadership, self-discipline, respect, and mentoring are all qualities I’ve taken into civilian life. These skills helped me in my current leadership role and prepped me to help support other veterans as the leader of our Verizon Veterans Advisory Board Employee Resource Group, which provides assistance, guidance and representation regarding veterans’ issues to Verizon leadership and serves as an advocate for veteran employees.

Best advice for transitioning service members? Build your resume before you leave the service, look for jobs that leverage your specific role in the military, and focus on companies that consistently rank high as being Military Friendly®.

Company is a paid advertiser in this issue.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades

Lieutenant Colonel, Tana Avellar

Manager, HR Project Delivery, T-Mobile

Date of hire: January 2016

Age: 38

Military Service: Lieutenant Colonel (O-5),
Army National Guard (1998-Present)

MOS: Military Intelligence Officer (35D)

Education: Bachelor’s degree, business administration (BBA), Gonzaga University, 2002

Why did you choose this career path? While I have not separated from the military completely, I decided I wanted to find a civilian career that would provide better work-life balance for my family as well as broaden my skillset and have career options if I ever left the military. I selected project management and people management as a career focus because they required a skillset that was a natural fit based on my military background. I’ve been leading people in the military for over 15 of my 20 years in the Guard. Project management is also a core skillset of most military officers.

What worked best in your job search? The best approach to my job search was networking. I landed my position as a contractor through a friend who referred me to her company. I also tailored my resume to be specific about what I was looking for in a position. While I have varying skills, being focused and specific generated far more success in my search and helped to open doors.

Did you use social media in your job search? If so, how?I used LinkedIn for my job search and to connect with people from companies I was interested in pursuing. The most effective approach was to seek out a recruiter or hiring manager directly for positions I was interested in. I worked to land informational interviews before applying, which helped me better determine which roles were a fit.

Companies hiring for telecommunication jobs

Verizon: Verizon Communications Inc. is a global leader in delivering the promise of the digital world. Verizon Wireless operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with 112.1 million retail connections nationwide.

VIEW TELECOMMUNICATIONS JOBS WITH VERIZON

Oracle: At Oracle, our vision is to foster an inclusive environment that leverages the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of all of our employees, suppliers, customers and partners to drive a sustainable global competitive advantage.

VIEW TELECOMMUNICATIONS JOBS WITH ORACLE

IBM: From helping transform healthcare to improving the retail shopping experience, it’s what IBMers do.

VIEW TELECOMMUNICATIONS JOBS WITH IBM

AECOM: AECOM is built to deliver a better world. We design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries.

VIEW TELECOMMUNICATIONS JOBS WITH AECOM

Companies appearing in this section are paying advertisers

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 has a massive onboard threat library for any enemy

The Air Force is now adding new information about enemy aircraft to the F-35’s “threat library” database designed to precisely identify enemy aircraft operating in different high-risk areas around the globe — such as a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA 5th Gen fighter, service leaders said.

Described as the brains of the airplane, the “mission data files” are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in areas where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.


“New threat changes are monitored and incorporated into updated mission data files based on the established priorities. Mission Data Files have been fielded to the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force, in support of operations, test, training, and exercises,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files continue to be worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials said.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
F-35
(Lockheed Martin photo)

The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and incoming hostile fire. The concept is to use the F-35s long range sensors to detect threats — and then compare the information against the existing library of enemy threats in real time while in flight. If this can happen at a favorable standoff range for the F-35, it will be able to identify and destroy enemy air-to-air targets before being vulnerable itself to enemy fire.

The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.

“The Mission Data Files are based on the requirement,” Grabowski said

While progress at the Eglin laboratory has been steady, the integration of the mission data files for the F-35 have experienced some delays, prompting the current effort to quicken the pace so that the operational aircraft has the most extensive threat library possible.

Overall, the Air Force is developing 12 different mission data files for 12 different geographic areas, Air Force officials have told Warrior Maven in previous interviews.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
F-35
(Lockheed Martin photo)

While Grabowski said that Mission Data File information on particular enemy platforms and specific global threat areas was naturally not available for security reasons, she did say the technology is now supporting the latest F-35 software configuration — called 3f.

As the most recently implemented software upgrade, Block 3f increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.

“Mission data has been fielded in support of version 2B, 3i, and 3f,” Grabowski added.

The Air Force is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat. The service is also working to massively quicken the pace of software upgrades as a way to respond quickly to new threats.

Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.

Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the U.S. variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.

In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 — both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.


Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
F-35 Lightening II

The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.

The emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU-12 (laser-guided aerial bomb) JSF program officials said.

Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and the now operational 3F brings a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A stealth drone is in line to be Russia’s next-generation fighter

Russia says that it will turn its new drone, which is about to make its maiden flight, into a sixth-generation aircraft, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“Okhotnik will become a prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,” a Russian defense industry official told TASS, adding that the sixth generation fighter “has not yet taken full shape, [but] it’s main features are known.”


The single-engine Okhotnik (“Hunter” in Russian) drone has a top speed of 621 mph, and might make its maiden flight in 2018, according to Popular Mechanics, citing TASS.

Popular Mechanics also published a supposed picture above of the Okhotnik, which was posted on a Russian aviation forum called paralay.iboards.ru.

Russia “may use [the Okhotnik] as a platform to develop technologies for an ‘autonomous’ or more likely pilotless drone,” Michael Kaufman, a research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades

Possible picture of the Okhotnik drone.

(Screenshot / paralay.iboards.ru)

But Kaufman added that the claims are rather questionable since TASS sourced a Russian defense industry official.

“Any technological advances from the Okhotnik development could be carried into future aircraft or drone design,” Sim Tack, the chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider, “and this [TASS] source may be a proponent of that route.”

“As far as I see it, this is a large drone similar to X-47B, with sizable payload,” Kaufman said. Popular Mechanic’s Kyle Mizokami likened the Okhotnik to the American RQ-170 Sentinel drone.

Still, it’s unclear exactly what the Okhotnik’s capabilities are now, and what they would be if turned into a sixth-generation fighter — a concept that is still not fully realized.

The Okhotnik drone in its current capacity has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection, Popular Mechanics reported.

In any event, Russia appears to be aiming for some sort of sixth-generation aircraft, recently testing sixth-generation onboard systems on the Su-57 and even researching a radio-photonic radar for the potential aircraft.

Featured image: An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator.

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

Articles

The proud World War II history of Navy ship DD-214

The Army has a saying, “Ain’t no use in looking down, ain’t no discharge on the ground.” But for some old sailors, looking down would have revealed a DD-214, just not the kind of DD-214 that are discharge papers.


Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
(Meme via Sh-t my LPO says)

That’s because the USS Tracy — a destroyer and minesweeper — was commissioned as the DD-214, the Navy’s 208th destroyer (DD-200 through DD-205 were canceled).

The Tracy was laid down in 1919 and commissioned in 1920 before serving on cruises around the world prior to World War II. It was at Pearl Harbor undergoing a massive overhaul when the Japanese attacked in 1941.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
The USS Tracy in Bordeaux, France, sometime prior to 1936. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Tracy’s gun batteries, boilers, ammunition, and most of her crew had been removed during the overhaul but that didn’t stop the skeleton crew on the ship from taking action that December morning.

The duty watch kept a log of all their actions, including dispatching fire and damage control crews to other ships and setting up machine guns with borrowed ammunition to fire on Japanese planes attacking the nearby USS Cummings and USS Pennsylvania. The Tracy suffered one man killed and two lost during the battle.

The crew of the Tracy got it back in fighting shape quickly and the ship took part in minelaying activities in March 1942. A few months later, the Tracy joined Task Force 62 for the assault on Guadalcanal.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
The USS Tracy sometime before 1936. (Photo: Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum)

As part of the fighting around Guadalcanal, Tracy led the minelaying mission that doomed the Japanese destroyer Makigumo just a year after it was launched.

The Tracy then supported the American-Australian offensive at Bougainville Island before heading back north to take part in the Okinawa invasion, rescuing survivors of a ship hit by a suicide boat attack.

The war ended a short time later and Tracy emerged from the conflict nearly unscathed with seven battle stars.

While it’s great to imagine an entire generation of sailors that had to serve on the DD-214 while dreaming of their DD-214 papers, no old seamen were that unlucky. The DD-214 discharge form wasn’t introduced until 1950, four years after the Tracy was decommissioned and sold for scrap.

The primary source of USS Tracy history for this article comes from the Naval History and Heritage Command article on the ship.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A hidden Civil War fort in Queens, NY is the reason the Corps of Engineers have the insignia they do

What does a building supposedly designed by Robert E. Lee have to do with the US Army Corps of Engineers insignia? More than you think.

Fort Totten is a stunning piece of land located on Cross Island Parkway between Totten Avenue and 15 Road in Queens, New York, which is actually an abandoned Civil War fort – hidden in plain sight. 

It’s even on the MTA subway map, even though it’s partially obscured by the legend explaining the different symbols on the map mean. 

The underfunded and almost obscure city park is located in the Bayside area of Queens. As a military installation, it was built in 1862 to protect against Confederate ships from approaching New York via the East River. 

Civil War History

Fort Totten was initially called Fort at Willets Point. The government purchased the land in 1857 from the Willets family, but the name was changed to Fort Totten in 1898. The original intent of Fort Totten was to defend the East River, but it was also to add auxiliary support to Fort Schuyler, which faces the East River in the opposite direction. Fort Totten was part of several installations of seacoast defense in the US that started during the first year of the Civil War. The initial design was created by Robert E. Lee in 1857 and modified by Chief Engineer Joseph G. Totten, where the installation got its name.

Fort Totten was designed with four tiers of cannons facing the water, for a total of 68 defensive guns. The only other installations in the US to share this feature are Castle Williams, Fort Wadsworth, and Fort Point. 

Construction on Fort Totten was abandoned after the Civil War, in part because masonry forts were considered obsolete after the war. Only one tier and part of a second tea of the two seacoast walls were completed.

(NYC Parks)

WWI and onward 

When the United States entered WWI, coastal defensive installations got an upgrade. Because threats from German shifts seemed unlikely, these installations became mobilization and training centers. Garrisons were reduced to provide trained heavy artillery crews for the Western Front. 

After WWII, Fort Totten’s last heavy armament, the mortars of Battery King, were removed, and the Harbor Defenses of Eastern New York were inactivated. 

In December 1941, Fort Totten became the headquarters for the anti-aircraft portion of the Eastern Defense Command. Then in 1954, the installation became a Project Nike air defense site. No Nike missiles were located at Fort Totten, but it was the regional headquarters for the New York area. By 1966, it was home to the 1st Region, Army Air Defense Command. It also headquartered the 66th Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion and the 41st AAA Gun Battalion. 

(NYC Parks)

Currently, the 77th Sustainment Brigade, subordinate units, and the 533rd Brigade Support Battalion of the Army Reserve call Fort Totten home. But most of the installation is a public park and open for tours. Most of the Civil War-era buildings are in ruins, giving Fort Totten an old world-new world sort of offset vibe. Visitors can also explore the Cold War era buildings, including a movie theater, former officer’s quarters, a laboratory, and a hospital. The entire area has a spooky stopped-in-time feel, especially if you’ve never seen any old military ruins. 

In the middle of the part is a building called The Castle, which was once the officer’s club. Now it’s home to the Bayside Historical Society. The Castle hosts historical exhibitions, cultural programs, and events. In 1986, The Castle was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Like the rest of the Civil War buildings, The Castle was designed by Robert E. Lee in his pre-Civil War capacity as a military engineer. Some historians suspect that Lee didn’t actually design it, just signed off on the plans. 

The building was designed in a neo-Gothic style and wasn’t created specifically for Fort Totten but was the approved generic design for use in all military installations during that time. Identical structures could be found at installations around the country during that time, and the Corps of Engineers eventually adopted the design as their insignia.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What the Korean War can teach us about the future

While often labeled “the forgotten war,” the Korean War left a distinct stain on the collective memory of the American military community.

The short, but extremely bloody, conflict saw hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians die from combat and non-battle causes—forcing America to reevaluate how it had approached the war. The first war in which the United Nations took part, the Korean War exposed discrepancies between calculated diplomacy, a nation’s moral imperative, military readiness, and the innate complexities of warfare—all issues that T.R. Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War examines in detail.


Fehrenbach’s book has been regarded as essential reading by military-minded leaders in America, including Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, a Marine Corps Reserve lieutenant colonel who served in Afghanistan, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. While North and South Korea seem to have found some kind of peace as they recently agreed to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, Fehrenbach’s work—as a definitive and cautionary tale about the promises and perils of military action—is still a particularly timely perspective.

Read on for an excerpt from This Kind of War,which offers a blow-by-blow account and analysis of America’s past military action in the Korean Peninsula.

This Kind of War


More than anything else, the Korean War was not a test of power—because neither antagonist used full powers—but of wills. The war showed that the West had misjudged the ambition and intent of the Communist leadership, and clearly revealed that leadership’s intense hostility to the West; it also proved that Communism erred badly in assessing the response its aggression would call forth.

The men who sent their divisions crashing across the 38th parallel on 25 June 1950 hardly dreamed that the world would rally against them, or that the United States — which had repeatedly professed its reluctance to do so—would commit ground forces onto the mainland of Asia.

From the fighting, however inconclusive the end, each side could take home valuable lessons. The Communists would understand that the free world—in particular the United States—had the will to react quickly and practically and without panic in a new situation. The American public, and that of Europe, learned that the postwar world was not the pleasant place they hoped it would be, that it could not be neatly policed by bombers and carrier aircraft and nuclear warheads, and that the Communist menace could be disregarded only at extreme peril.

The war, on either side, brought no one satisfaction. It did, hopefully, teach a general lesson of caution.

The great test placed upon the United States was not whether it had the power to devastate the Soviet Union—this it had—but whether the American leadership had the will to continue to fight for an orderly world rather than to succumb to hysteric violence. Twice in the century uncontrolled violence had swept the world, and after untold bloodshed and destruction nothing was accomplished. Americans had come to hate war, but in 1950 were no nearer to abolishing it than they had been a century before.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
U.S. Marines move out over rugged mountain terrain while closing with North Korean forces.

But two great bloodlettings, and the advent of the Atomic Age with its capability of fantastic destruction, taught Americans that their traditional attitudes toward war—to regard war as an unholy thing, but once involved, however reluctantly, to strike those who unleashed it with holy wrath—must be altered. In the Korean War, Americans adopted a course not new to the world, but new to them. They accepted limitations on warfare, and accepted controlled violence as the means to an end. Their policy—for the first time in the century—succeeded. The Korean War was not followed by the tragic disillusionment of World War I, or the unbelieving bitterness of 1946 toward the fact that nothing had been settled. But because Americans for the first time lived in a world in which they could not truly win, whatever the effort, and from which they could not withdraw, without disaster, for millions the result was trauma.

During the Korean War, the United States found that it could not enforce international morality and that its people had to live and continue to fight in a basically amoral world. They could oppose that which they regarded as evil, but they could not destroy it without risking their own destruction.

Because the American people have traditionally taken a warlike, but not military, attitude to battle, and because they have always coupled a certain belligerence—no American likes being pushed around—with a complete unwillingness to prepare for combat, the Korean War was difficult, perhaps the most difficult in their history.

In Korea, Americans had to fight, not a popular, righteous war, but to send men to die on a bloody checkerboard, with hard heads and without exalted motivations, in the hope of preserving the kind of world order Americans desired.

Tragically, they were not ready, either in body or in spirit.

They had not really realized the kind of world they lived in, or the tests of wills they might face, or the disciplines that would be required to win them.

Yet when America committed its ground troops into Korea, the American people committed their entire prestige, and put the failure or success of their foreign policy on the line.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 weird things you didn’t know about the Civil War

Thinking back to a time where it was the U.S. against, well, ourselves, it’s hard to think about how different things were at this time. (Or maybe not … that’s your call.) Where there were two schools of thought — so divided that it was an attempt to split into two different countries. The United States fought — the Union against the South — from 1861 until 1865. But we all know the history, and we know how it ended. What we don’t know are some of the lesser talked about events of the war. 

Take a look at these strange-but-true facts that represent the corners of the Civil War:

  1. Immigrants made a huge portion of fighting forces

One-third of soldiers participating in battles were immigrants. As much as 10% of Union forces were German, with 7.5% of them being Irish. Large populations of French, English, Italian, Polish, and Scottish soldiers also helped round out military forces. By 1863 African Americans began joining the military; by the end of the war, 1 in 10 soldiers were Black. Many historians believe their involvement turned the war in the Union’s favor. 

2. The death toll was HIGH

Civil war reenactors

The Civil War was the U.S.’s deadliest war to-date. In one war alone, more soldiers were killed than in both World Wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War — combined. That accounts for a loss of 625,000 total — 2% of the total population of the time. However, two-thirds of lives were loss to disease due to poor living conditions and close-quarters. Common epidemics that took solider lives included: chicken pox, measles, mumps, and malaria. 

3. Abraham Lincoln was almost shot in 1863

No, not that assisanation attempt. Two years before the president was shot and killed, he was nearly hit while riding a horse. Traveling to his family’s summer home (away from the White House), soldiers heard a gunshot just before the startled horse sprinted their way. Lincoln, still on the horse, was hat-less. His cover was later found with a bullet hole through it. He asked the soldiers to keep the incident quiet. 

4. Lack of pay equality

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
Company I of the 36th ColoredRegiment. U .S. Colored Troops, (USCT) Infantry. (Public Domain)

Non-white soldiers refused pay in protest. White soldiers were paid around $13 per month, with officers receiving more. Other races, specifically African Americans were offered just $10 … and were charged $3 for clothing and supplies. In protest, they refused pay for 18 months. Congress altered the pay scale, allowing equal pay in September of 1864, with the adjustment including back pay for previous months. 

5. Hidden messages

It’s said that Confederate soldiers smuggled messages via brass, “rectal acorns.” The small metal containers were hollow and allowed messengers to hide and travel with messages without being intercepted. 

6. Generals led the fight

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
Albert Sidney Johnston (February 2, 1803 – April 6, 1862) served as a general in three different armies: the Texian Army, the United States Army, and the Confederate States Army. He was eventually killed in combat. (Public Domain)

Today, it’s unheard of for Generals to lead the march into battle. But during the Civil War, that was a daily norm. Generals quite literally led their troops into battle. They marched at the head of the line, making them 50% more likely to be killed in a battle over privates. Many Generals were lost in the war for this reason. During the Battle of Antietam, three Generals were lost in a single battle. 

Articles

This is the Dunkirk hero who deserted then changed his name to rejoin the army

In 1916, nine-year-old Paddy Ryan was caught in a shootout between the Irish Republican Army and British troops. One of the British men pushed Ryan to the ground, taking a bullet for the young boy. It inspired Ryan to join the Army.


Except Paddy Ryan wouldn’t join the British Army until 1930. But Alfonsus Gilligan, as Ryan was known at the time joined as soon as he could. And deserted shortly after.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades

Deserters in the era of the second world war left for many reasons; few of them were actually for cowardice. Most of them were actually because months and years of endless combat pushed many of the frontline British troops past their breaking point.

The British Empire abolished the death penalty for desertion after World War I. In World War II Europe, deserters ran the black markets of occupied countries like France and the Netherlands. In Africa, deserters were often recruited into special operations forces like the British SAS.

Alfonsus Gilligan deserted because he wanted to avoid a court martial.

The 17-year-old wore his Irish Guards uniform to a public event in County Cork, Ireland — in defiance of British Army rules. The Irish, who just fought a war of independence against Britain, started a riot. Gilligan escaped unharmed, but was brought up on charges. He never returned to his London-based unit.

He spent a few years as an itinerant farmer and day laborer before he rejoined the British Army with a new name: Frank “Paddy” Ryan.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
Frank Paddy Ryan in uniform with his wife Molly and son David taken in 1942. (via Birmingham Mail)

He and his fellow Royal Warwickshires deployed to France in 1940. He was part of the rear guard that held back the Nazis at Dunkirk, delaying them long enough for most of the men to make it off the beaches.

The Royal Warwickshire Regiment was overrun at Wormhoudt, in northern France, by the German army. They ran out of ammunition and surrendered with the expectation of proper treatment under the Geneva Convention.

Instead, a Nazi Waffen SS division called Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler took many of Ryan’s friends and brothers from the Royal Warwickshires, along with members of the Cheshire Regiment, Royal Artillery and a handful of French soldiers, to a barn near Wormhoudt, and then murdered them with grenades and rifle fire.

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades

This became known as the Wormhoudt Massacre. Paddy Ryan was not among those killed. He fought on along the Ypres-Comines Canal as they made their way to the beach, being evacuated and returning to England on June 1, 1940.

His daughter didn’t discover her father’s first life until after his death in 2000. It inspired her and her husband to explore his life in more detail.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how going to space makes you a better person

When the Space Force eventually gets off the ground and troops start making their way toward the stars, they’ll be elevated as people. No, we’re not talking about physical elevation. And no, we’re not talking about the status that comes with being one of the elite few to break the Earth’s atmosphere. We’re talking about elevation on both a spiritual and moral level.

Every astronaut that has been to space shares an experience. From up there, they can look back at this tiny, pale blue speck of space dust, and it’s a life-changing, mind-opening sensation. This isn’t to say that “many” astronauts have this experience — it happens to every single astronaut from all walks of life and from every nation. It’s a feeling that astronauts have reported completely independent of one another.

It’s what they’re calling the “Overview Effect.”


You spend your entire life in one spot on this planet, or maybe you’ve traveled across it — regardless, you’re only ever seeing a small fragment of the whole. It’s only when you can step back (or out, in this case) and truly see the big picture that you can really take it all in.

By looking down at this planet from outer space, astronauts can see everything. Every life born. Every country and its cities. And the collection of glimmering lights on the surface is its entire living population. Photography from space has been around since the 1960s — the famous Blue Marble photo, the very first full-planet photo, was taken on December 7, 1972 — but it doesn’t elicit the same response as seeing it with your own eyes.

It’s been described as being set free from Plato’s Cave. Suddenly, you’re looking at Earthly issues from a galactic perspective — and it changes everything.

Funnily enough, the phenomenon wasn’t been recognized until 1987, when philosopher Frank White put a name to it, calling it the “Overview Effect.” The very first human being in space, Yuri Gagarin, first gave clues to his experiencing of the Overview Effect by saying,

“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship, I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty and not destroy it.”

It’s also worth noting that he also never said, “I see no God up here.” That’s a myth.

Astronauts come back with a sense of purpose after taking in such an awe-inspiring view. It’s hard for minor problems to bother you, apparently, when you’ve been given a look at the true scale of such problems. They describe it as a form of transcendental meditation when they realize what they’re looking at.

Astronauts who’ve experienced this sensation say it never leaves them, and they’ll remember the feeling until the day they die. Ed Gibson, the science pilot aboard the Skylab 4 once said,

“You see how diminutive your life and concerns are compared to other things in the universe. Your life and concerns are important to you, of course. But you can see that a lot of the things you worry about do not make much difference in an overall sense.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Marine Corps legend Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller is known today for his heroics and his chest full of medals, but some Marines claimed in 1984 that the nickname was a reference to Puller’s metal ribcage, a prosthetic that was placed there after his chest was shot and chopped up by Haitian rebels.


You heard that right: The claim was that Chesty had a metal skeleton like the Marvel hero Wolverine.

 

Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades
The resemblance is uncanny. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

His nickname, “Chesty,” actually came from his impressive physique and stance, according to a Marine Corps article originally published in 1948 when Puller was a major and the acting commander of a battalion.

The writer of the article, Marine Sgt. Nolle T. Roberts, goes on to describe some stories that Puller’s men had added to his nickname after the fact, including the story of the Wolverine ribcage:

The nickname, “Chesty,” was a natural in view of the colonel’s ramrod stance and belligerent appearance and nature. However, the men of the wartime First Division boasted that Col. Puller had a false “steel chest,” apparently replacing the natural bone structure which had been hacked away by machette-swinging bandits in the Banana Wars. A few claimed that he developed the chest from shouting commands above the noise of battle.

Puller’s chest was likely made with steel because the Army was hoarding all the Adamantium to eventually create Wolverine.

For his part, Puller didn’t quite seem to understand the nickname or the stories surrounding it. In a 1954 letter to Maj. Frank C. Sheppard, Puller wrote:

I agree with you 100% I had done a little soldiering previous to Guadalcanal and had been called a lot of names, but why ‘Chesty?’ Especially the steel part?

The “little soldiering” that Puller is referring to included combat deployments to both Haiti and Nicaragua. Puller supported government forces in Nicaragua and earned his first two Navy Crosses leading units of local fighters against numerically superior rebel forces. So, “a little soldiering” was likely tongue-in-cheek, and it’s easy to see why Puller’s men may have seen him as a man of steel.

While Puller may not have understood the nickname, it’s become a part of Marine Corps culture. Puller is more commonly known by his nickname “Chesty” than by his actual name.

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