'You have to follow your heart.' A WWII War Bride's story of tragedy and love - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

An estimated 300,000 “war brides,” as they were known, left home to make the intrepid voyage to the United States after falling in love with American soldiers who were stationed abroad during World War II. There were so many that the United States passed a series of War Brides Acts in 1945 and 1946. This legislation provided them with an immigration pathway that didn’t previously exist under the Immigration Act of 1924, which imposed quotas on immigrants based on their nation of origin and strategically excluded or limited immigration from certain parts of the world, particularly Asia.

Equipped with little but a feeling and a sense of promise, war brides left everything that was familiar behind to forge a new identity in the United States. Many spoke little to no English upon their arrival in the country, and they were introduced to post-war American culture through specially designed curricula and communities. To this day, organizations for war brides in the United States provide networks for military spouses and their children, helping them keep their heritage alive and share their experiences of their adopted home.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 2, 2020, We Are The Mighty is proud to collaborate with Babbel, the new way to learn a foreign language. Babbel conducted interviews with surviving war brides as much of the world endured lockdown. Many of these women are now in their 80s and 90s, and their oral histories celebrate the challenges and successes of adapting to a new culture and language, as well as reflect on the leap of faith they all took to travel across the world to an unknown country. Spoiler alert: there are few regrets.

War Brides is a 5 part series.

Huguette Coghlan

My maiden name is Huguette Roberte Fauveau, and I am now 95 years old. I was born in Courbevoie, a suburb of Paris, and grew up in a nearby suburb called Chatou. I moved to America with my husband in 1946, and I still live there now.

I had a happy childhood before the war. My parents eloped when they were about 20, and they had me and my younger brother, Serge. My dad worked in a factory as a tool and dyes maker. They did not have a lot of money in the 1930s. During the war, I remember bombs falling very close to my home. So close that my dad, my brother and I all lost our hearing. It eventually returned, but as I have gotten older, I have lost my hearing again.

We were blessed that we did not get hurt during the German occupation. My grandparents had a little farm, so food was not scarce. We always had food to eat, but bread was something we did not have enough of. At one point, the Germans took over the factory where my father worked. While we remained unhurt, I heard and saw terrible things.

I met my husband when I was on vacation with my grandparents. I was walking to a dance with my friend, Jacqueline. We had missed our ride, so we had to walk over a mile in our high heels. While we were walking, a large Jeep stopped next to us and asked if we wanted a ride.

Naturally, we said no. When we eventually arrived at the venue, our feet were a little bruised, but this did not stop us from dancing. I noticed that two soldiers came in, and after a while, one of them approached me. I knew it was one of the men from the jeep. He told me I had nice legs, and we talked for a long time after that. He told me he was part of the military police and was tasked with supervising the dance. His name was Rodger Murray Rusher and he was 20, like me. He asked me if I would go on a date with him the next day, so I told him where I lived and said yes, but I never thought he’d find my house. He did.

Photo of one of the war brides and her husband

My parents and my brother, Serge Lucien, liked Rodger straight away. My parents, and above all my brother, were extremely sad when I told them I wanted to move to America. But they loved and trusted Rod. His mother had written a letter to my mother, so they had faith that he and his family would take care of me.

I married Rod in Chatou on the 23rd of September, 1945, in the Sainte-Thérèse Church.

I had studied English for four years in school, so I could read and write English. I was pretty good at speaking it, but I spoke with a strong French accent. When I got to America, I discovered that some people had a hard time understanding me. Many still do! I became keen to learn English. I remember I read a lot, did lots of crossword puzzles, and always had my nose in a dictionary. It didn’t take me long to become fluent.

Rod and I first arrived in New York on the 19th of May, 1946. I spent my 21st birthday in New York. After that, we traveled to where Rodger’s family was from — a place called Roundup, Montana. My extended family made me feel very welcome when I arrived, and they hosted a party to introduce me to all their friends from around the town. They all wanted to hear about France, and all were very nice and welcoming. Up until then, I’d thought my English was good, but this is when I discovered that I had a hard time understanding them, and vice versa.

My in-laws had a four-bedroom log ranch. They did not have electricity, and their water came from a well. The bathroom consisted of two holes in a little outhouse. It was a very pretty ranch, but it was a shock for me. I came from a very modern house in a big city. But when you are young, you adjust easily to changes.

I have returned to France many times over the years. The first time was not long after Rod died. He wanted to be a pilot, and he was learning to fly under the GI Bill. When I was still pregnant with our second child, Rod was killed in a plane accident with his brother in 1948. A year or so after that, I returned to France. I stayed for six months, and then made the very difficult decision to return to America. It was hard to leave my parents and brother again, but by then I knew that I wanted my children to be American. I didn’t have any formal lessons to learn how to be an American, but I soon grew to love America very much.

In Roundup, I missed the symphony and the opera that I used to attend at home. But when I moved to a bigger city in Montana, Bozeman, I could start to enjoy them again. I spoke French with my children at home. My first two children were born in Roundup. I remember once overhearing some other children make fun of Gerald and Gregory for speaking French, so that’s when I thought, “No more French. They are American, they live here, and I want them to be American!” That was a mistake, but I didn’t know it then. It was difficult as a widow, and things were very different back then.

one of the original war brides

Three years after Rodger died, I remarried to a man named Terry James Coghlan. We had a girl, who we named Jacqueline. She speaks a little French, is very keen to learn, and is taking lessons now! I would tell people who were considering moving to another country for love to not be afraid, and to follow your heart.

Part I: Alice Lawson

Part II: Nina Edillo

Part III: Emilia Zecchino

MIGHTY HISTORY

This two-line order to Eisenhower defines modern leadership

Future U.S. General of the Army and President Dwight D. Eisenhower was just a recently promoted and temporary brigadier general when the U.S. was dragged into World War II on December 7, 1941. One week later, he would have a meeting with Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall that would change the trajectory of his career and life.


‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower speaks to paratroopers before D-Day invasions.

(U.S. Army)

It’s easy to forget that Eisenhower was a relatively junior officer with no battlefield experience at the start of World War II. Like future-Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr., Eisenhower saw the potential of tanks in World War I and helped create American armored doctrine and units. But where Patton was sent forward to lead the tanks into combat in France, Eisenhower was kept in America to oversee production and logistics.

This grated at Eisenhower, but he did his duty and rose to temporary lieutenant colonel during the war. When the armistice went into effect, and the Army contracted in size, he reverted to his permanent rank of captain, before quickly receiving a promotion to major.

For the next few decades, he would serve in staff and command positions, earning accolades of nearly all the officers he served with. He dabbled in aviation, though he never earned his military wings, and kept abreast of other military developments in order to prepare for future conflict.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall picked Eisenhower for a leading position on his staff and then in North Africa from a pool of over 400 qualified candidates, many of them with more experience than Eisenhower.

(Dutch National Archives)

In 1940, it was clear that the fighting in Europe would likely boil over, and Japan was already years into its own warpath in the Pacific. So, the Army held massive war games to test its readiness for war, and Eisenhower once again rose to the top, earning him a temporary promotion to brigadier general in September 1941.

So, in December 1941, Eisenhower was still untested in battle, had never commanded above the battalion level, and was younger, less experienced, and lower ranking than many of the officers that an Army chief of staff would reach out to for help. But Marshall, who had only met Eisenhower twice, knew that the man had a reputation for natural leadership.

So Marshall ordered Eisenhower to meet him, and the Army chief gave the younger officer a daunting task: Plan the war in the Pacific. When he closed the conversation, Marshall told Eisenhower two lines that would stick with him for decades:

Eisenhower, the department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well but feel always compelled to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they’ve done.
‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

The Queen Mary in June 1945.

(U.S. Navy)

Eisenhower would later write that, after saying those words, Marshall “looked at me with an eye that seemed to me awfully cold, and so, as I left the room, I resolved then and there to do my work to the best of my ability and report to the General only situations of obvious necessity or when he personally sent for me.”

This relationship between the men would soon be tested. Eisenhower, trying to keep the unnecessary work off Marshall, made the decision to send 15,000 men to Australia on the British ship Queen Mary to reinforce allies there. He did not ask Marshall for guidance, and he ordered that the ship could proceed without escort, trusting secrecy and the ship’s speed to get the division to safe harbor.

When the ship stopped for fuel in Brazil, though, an Italian official spotted it and sent word to his superiors in Rome. Italy was an Axis power, and any valuable intelligence known in Rome would likely be passed to German U-boats quickly.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

General of the Army Eisenhower and Marshall greet pass crowds at an Army air field in July 1945.

(Abbie Rowe, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Eisenhower’s office received an intercepted copy of the message.

The Queen Mary just refueled here, and with about 15,000 soldiers aboard left this port today steaming southeast across the Atlantic.

Knowing that he could not recall the ship or send it an escort without creating more dangers, Eisenhower sat on the news and waited to see how it would play out. When the ship arrived safely in port, he breathed a sigh of relief and then went to his boss, prepared to confess and face the consequences. “I suspected—with obvious reason—that I might be ignominiously dismissed from the presence of the Chief of Staff, if not from the Army,” he later wrote.

Instead, Marshall heard the news and grinned, telling Eisenhower that he had received the same intercept at the same time, he just wasn’t going to burden Eisenhower with the worry until he knew how the gamble played out.

Marshall’s faith in Eisenhower proved well-placed, and the two men worked together even as Eisenhower’s meteoric rise made him Marshall’s peer instead of subordinate. (Eisenhower was promoted to General of the Army, a five-star rank, only four days after Marshall.)

In December of 1945, the war was over, and America was preparing for a turbulent peace. Eisenhower once again reported to the Army Chief of Staff’s office, this time to replace his old boss.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the only combat jumps US troops have made since 9/11

It was once the most heroic thing a soldier could do. They’d strap themselves up with the barest of combat essentials and jump out of the back of a perfectly good aircraft into uncertain danger — often ending up miles away from their intended drop zone and, sometimes, completely on their own.

Combat jumps led the Allied Forces to victory in WWII. These same tactics were employed during the Korean War and Vietnam War and, eventually, were used by Rangers and Green Berets in Grenada and Panama. When it came time for the Global War on Terrorism, well, let’s just say there are only a handful of combat jumps that come without asterisks attached.


It should be noted that this list cannot be exhaustive, as there are likely some jumps that that have yet to be declassified. Also, there were many airborne insertions done in-theater, but those don’t qualify you for the coveted “mustard stain,” so they don’t make the list.

The following are the only jumps that have happened since September 11, 2001 that satisfy all the requirements to fully classify as combat jumps.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

Now it is known as Kandahar Airfield, home to the ISAF command, several NATO nation’s commands, a TGI Fridays, and a pond full of human excrement.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman)

Objective Rhino

Just 38 days after the horrific attacks of September 11th, the 75th Ranger Regiment sent 200 of their most badass Rangers to meet with the 101st Airborne Division 100 miles south of Kandahar, Afghanistan — the last bastion of complete Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Rangers landed on a derelict strip of land and expected heavy resistance. In actuality, they found just one, lone Taliban fighter who presumably sh*t himself as 200 Rangers dropped in on him.

There, they established a sufficient forward operating base, called FOB Rhino, which opened the way to take back Kandahar for the Afghan people.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

​Fun fact: they technically beat the next entry by a few days, forever solidifying their bragging rights.

(U.S. Army)

Objective Serpent

The 75th Rangers, who are featured heavily on this list, led the way into Iraq by making combat jumps into Iraq in March, 2003 — the first in Iraq since Desert Storm.

The Rangers landed in the region a few weeks earlier by airborne insertion to capture the lead operational planner of the September 11th attacks. They accomplished this within three days of touching boots to the ground. The next wave of 2nd Battalion 75th Rangers came to secure al-Qa’im and Haditha before making their way into Baghdad.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

If you didn’t know about this one… Don’t worry. Literally everyone in the 173rd will remind you of this whenever their personal Airborne-ness is brought into question.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Adam Sanders)

Operation Northern Delay

In the early morning of March 26th, 2003, 996 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Division jumped into the relatively empty Bashur Airfield and stopped six entire divisions of Saddam’s army from continuing on to Baghdad.

This marked the first wave of conventional troops in the region and the beginning of the end of Saddam’s regime. This was also the only jump conducted by conventional USAF airmen as the 786th Security Forces Squadron also jumped with them.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

Come on, 75th Rangers! You guys are leaving out all the good, juicy details of your classified missions!

(U.S. Army)

Various Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment jumps in Afghanistan

Very little is known about the last two publicly-disclosed combat jumps, as is the case with most JSOC missions, other than the fact that they were both conducted by the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company Teams 3 and 1.

RRC Team 3 jumped into Tillman Drop Zone in southeast Afghanistan on July 3rd, 2004, to deploy tactical equipment in a combat military free-fall parachute drop.

This was the last RRC time made a jump until Team 1 jumped five years later on July 11th, 2009, into an even more remote location of Afghanistan — but this time, scant reports state that the jumps including a tandem passenger to aid in deploying tactical equipment.

We’ll just have to wait for the history books to be written, I guess.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Josephine Baker: Roaring ’20s symbol of the jazz age, WWII spy, civil rights activist

Sitting on a bar stool at the bar of Le Jockey, a classy nightclub in Montparnasse on the Left Bank of Paris, was Ernest Hemingway. African American musicians on stage were playing their saxophones, horns, and drums, while beautiful women danced along.

“One of those nights, I couldn’t take my eyes off a beautiful woman on the dance floor—tall, coffee skin, ebony eyes, long, seductive legs: Very hot night but she was wearing a black fur coat,” Hemingway recounts in A.E. Hotchner’s memoir Hemingway in Love: His Own Story

“She was dancing with a big British army sergeant, but her eyes were on me as much as my eyes were on her. I got off my bar stool and cut in on the Brit who tried to shoulder me away but the woman left the Brit and slid over to me. The sergeant looked bullets at me. The woman and I introduced ourselves. Her name was Josephine Baker, an American, to my surprise. Said she was about to open at the Folies Bergère, that she’d just come from rehearsal.”

She told him the fur coat was because she had nothing else on underneath. The Brit followed them as they were leaving, exchanging words the entire way, and pulled Hemingway’s sleeve and slammed him against the wall. Hemingway dropped the burly Brit with his fist as the police whistles were sounding. Hemingway spent the night at Baker’s kitchen table, drinking champagne sent from an admirer. They talked all night, “mostly bullshit,” but also about love and their souls.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Josephine Baker often performed onstage in Paris nightclubs with her pet cheetah Chiquita. Chiquita wore a diamond collar and sometimes, during a performance, Chiquita would decide to jump off the stage and into the orchestra pit, causing quite a ruckus. Screenshot via YouTube.

“Cruel vibes can offend the soul and send it on to a better place,” Baker told Hemingway. “You need some good stuff to happen in your life, Ernie, to rescue you with your soul.”

Baker was as mysterious as she was captivating, and when asked about her flamboyant persona, Hemingway recalled she was “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw … or ever will.”

The American-born performer moved to France from a poverty-stricken home in St. Louis during the Roaring ’20s. Blacks in the United States weren’t welcomed as they were in Europe. The early success of Black entertainers can be credited to Harlem Hellfighter James Reese Europe, who introduced the jazz scene that would rumble across the continent during World War I. 

Baker performed in the Harlem music-and-dance ensemble La Revue Nègre. She dressed in provocative outfits, including a skirt strung with bananas (and not much else), while on stage and gained a reputation for her comedic and silly style. Soon she became a star, entertaining open-minded white crowds under the stage name the “Creole Goddess.” 

When the Germans invaded Paris in 1940 in the early years of World War II, Baker fled among thousands of others. The 34-year-old was in an interracial marriage with a French-Jewish sugar broker named Jean Lion. She was also openly bisexual and had frequent affairs with women. Had she not fled, she could have been the target of Nazi sympathizers. 

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Josephine Baker was one of the first Black superstars. Current American icons have paid her homage: Beyoncé wore a banana skirt in her 2006 Fashion Rocks performance, and Rihanna memorably wore a sheer Baker-inspired dress in 2014 at the CFDA Fashion Awards. Screenshot via YouTube.

She poured out champagne from several bottles and replaced it with gasoline to endure a 300-mile journey to her country estate, Chateau des Milandes. Here she harbored refugees fleeing the Nazis and was later approached by Jacques Abtey, the head of French counterintelligence, to join the French resistance.

“France made me what I am,” she told him. “I will be grateful forever. The people of Paris have given me everything. […] I am ready, captain, to give them my life. You can use me as you wish.”

And he did. She procured visas at her chateau for French resistance fighters and used her celebrity status to attend diplomatic functions held at the Italian embassy. Axis bureaucrats, diplomats, and spies spoke about the war, and she was nearby listening in. She collected intelligence on German troop movements and gathered insight into enemy-controlled harbors and airfields. She’d write notes on her arms and legs with confidence she wouldn’t undergo a strip search. 

The Nazis paid her a visit, as they suspected she may have been involved in resistance activities. She charmed her way out of having them search her home, which was filled with hidden resistance fighters, but was spooked enough to contact Abtey to leave France. Gen. Charles de Gaulle instructed the pair to travel through neutral Lisbon, Portugal, to London. Between the two of them, they carried 50 classified documents, including Baker’s notes scribbled in invisible ink on her sheet music.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Josephine Baker wearing a French military uniform. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Rosette de la Résistance, and became a Chevalier de Légion d’honneur, the highest order of merit for military and civil action. Screenshot courtesy of YouTube.

After the Allies liberated Paris, she returned to her beloved city wearing a French military uniform. De Gaulle awarded her the Croix de Guerre and the Rosette de la Résistance and named her a Chevalier de Légion d’honneur, the highest order of merit for military and civilian actions.

This war hero then became a vocal advocate against segregation and discrimination in the United States in the 1950s and ’60s. 

“You know, friends, that I do not lie to you when I tell you I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents,” she said in 1963 at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. “And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) named May 20 Josephine Baker Day. She also had a family of adopted children she called her “rainbow tribe” to show that “children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers.”

Josephine Baker died on April 12, 1975, at age 68. She preached equality, lived with moxie, and inspired generations of not only Black Americans but all Americans to bring change where it was needed: “Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one’s soul; when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the tragic history of the flying aircraft carrier

The world is well aware of how the Navy uses its massive fleet of aircraft carriers to dominate the oceans while protecting America. Each monstrous aircraft carrier houses thousands of sailors and dozens of aircraft just waiting for the word to deploy. 


But there was another breed of the aircraft carrier that doesn’t get as much attention these days — the type that actually flew.

In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers made the history books when they showcased the first successful flight of a working hot air balloon. Months later, they copied the flight, but this time they had passengers inside the cargo basket — a sheep, a duck, and a rooster.

Though accurately steering the ballon was haphazard, the flying technique still gained public interested.

 

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
The Montgolfier brothers. (Pinterest)

 

Within the next year or so, this new technology rapidly progressed as Jean Baptiste Meusnier designed the cigar-shape airship which we recognize today.

At the turn of the 20th century, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin introduced the rigid airship that came with a solid internal frame — dubbed the “Zeppelin.” At the time, Zeppelins were highly utilized as they could stay airborne longer, travel further and carry heavier cargo — by that we mean bombs.

 

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
The Zeppelin. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

 

Although the Zeppelin sacred the sh*t out of people as it flew over them, it didn’t take long to realize the lighter than air craft were vulnerable to even the most primitive fighters. Basically, it was an aircraft carrier that needed more aircraft around to protect it. 

So planners came up with the idea of having fighter planes escort the beastly airships, and what better way than to have these airships carry the fighter escorts themselves?

England constructed the 23-class Vickers rigid airship that could carry three Sopwith Camel biplanes that could deploy from hooks beneath the airship’s hull.

Four of these aircraft carriers were built, and the all four were decommissioned by 1920 for various reasons. The U.S. took note of the clever engineering and constructed both the USS Los Angeles and the USS Akron.

The USS Akron had the distinct ability to launch and recover fighters in mid-air. The planes would just fly up, and the pilot would attach to a T-shape mount which would pull the aircraft into the Akron’s internal hanger.

 

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
A Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk coming in for ‘landing.’ (Source: Not Exactly Normal/ Screenshot)

Test flights began in the fall of 1931, but the Akron had loads of trouble flying and crashed — a lot. Several months later, the carrier was docked in San Diego where it unexpectedly took off taking three men with it. Two of the men fell to their deaths.

A few years later, the airship would crash one last time off the coast of New Jersey killing 73 passengers — more than double that of the infamous Hindenburg crash.

These events made the flying aircraft carrier very unpopular for war-time operations causing engineers to cease their development.

Check out Not Exactly Normal‘s video below and see the crash footage for yourself.

YouTube, Not Exactly Normal

Articles

This famous pilot flew 50 combat missions as a civilian

Charles Lindbergh, America’s most famous pilot at the time, went on a tour of Pacific aviation bases during World War II and secretly flew approximately 50 combat missions where he actively engaged Japanese planes and was almost shot down despite the fact that he was civilian with no active military affiliation.


Lindbergh had become a pilot in a roundabout way. He took flying lessons in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1922 but didn’t progress to solo flight. Instead, he joined a barnstorming show that summer and worked as an aerial daredevil, walking on plane wings and parachuting off.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Cadet Charles Lindbergh graduates from the Army Aviation Cadet Program.He later rose to the rank of colonel in the Army Reserve. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The next April, he bought a surplus Curtiss JN-4 biplane still in the box, put it together, and tried to fly it. He nearly crashed it soon after takeoff and damaged the wing while landing a moment later. An experienced pilot saw his struggle and offered him a few quick lessons. That afternoon, Lindbergh made a safe solo flight.

He progressed quickly and became an Army Air Reserve pilot and a U.S. Mail Service pilot.

Then, in 1927, Lindbergh took the flight that made him famous. He took off from New York City in a specially modified monoplane and flew for 33.5 hours to Le Bourget Field near Paris in the first solo transatlantic flight.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Charles Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis in the first solo flight across the Atlantic. (Photo: San Diego Air and Space Museum)

From that day, Lindbergh was known as the “Lone Eagle.” He was awarded the Medal of Honor and the first Distinguished Flying Cross and went on a 48-state tour of America (Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states).

Lindbergh was, unsurprisingly, well-liked in the Army Reserve and promoted, reaching the rank of colonel by the 1930s. But he became friendly with the leaders of Nazi Germany, accepting a Service Cross of the German Eagle from Hermann Goering and championing an “America First” policy that would have seen the U.S. sign a neutrality pact with Adolph Hitler.

In the public fallout that followed, President Franklin D. Roosevelt attacked Lindbergh in the press and Lindbergh resigned his commission in the Army Reserve in 1941. He came to regret the decision that December when he was barred from re-entering the service for World War II.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
The Pearl Harbor attacks propelled America into World War II. Charles Lindbergh was not allowed to return to military service because of enduring questions about his loyalty to the U.S.  (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Unable to fly as a military pilot, Lindbergh got himself a job working for Chance Vought Aircraft, touring Pacific bases and suggesting ways that military pilots could get the most out of their machines, especially when it came to conserving fuel for long flights.

It was during this tour of the Pacific that Lindbergh began suggesting to the services that he be allowed to participate in combat.

The Marines took him up on the offer first and Lindbergh went on a combat patrol, escorting bombers to Rabaul, Papa New Guinea, in a Corsair fighter. Lindbergh did everything the Marine normally in his spot would have done, including strafing Japanese ground targets.

He flew another 13 missions with the Marines before heading to an Army air unit that flew P-38 Lightings.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
The P-38 Lightning was the premiere twin-engine American fighter in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Museum)

The parent company of Chance Vought was looking to produce a twin-engined fighter and the P-38 was the premiere twin-engine of the day. Lindbergh pitched that flying with the squadron would allow him to suggest fuel-saving measures and he would be able to evaluate the P-38 design.

He joined the 475th Fighter Group on June 27 and flew five missions before the brass got wind of his presence.

Army Gen. George C. Kenney initially protested Lindbergh’s presence and was considering expelling him until Lindbergh suggested that he could get the P-38’s combat radius from 570 miles to approximately 700 miles while maintaining a 1-hour time on target.

Kenney relented with the stipulation that Lindbergh not fire his guns. Lindbergh promptly ignored the rule but did work on how to best milk every possible mile out of the P-38’s tank without risking the engine.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh with Maj. Thomas B. McGuire. (Photo: U.S. Air Force archives)

On July 28, 1944, Lindbergh scored his only aerial victory, downing a Japanese fighter in head-to-head flight during a bomber escort mission. The next week, Lindbergh found himself in the crosshairs as a Japanese Zero nearly shot him before one of the American aces in his group killed the Japanese plane with a machine gun burst.

Kenney heard of both Lindbergh’s kill and his near miss and ordered him grounded. Lindbergh left the 475th, but its pilots had already learned his lessons and were able to extend their combat radius to 700 miles, allowing them to protect more American bombers.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
The Corsair was predominantly used as an aerial fighter in World War II and was armed with machine guns. But work by Charles Lindbergh and others allowed it to carry a wider array of munitions, including rockets and bombs, as the war continued. It would later see service in Korea. (Photo: U.S. Air and Space Museum.)

On his way home, Lindbergh detoured to visit Marine Corsair units and helped them devise the best way of carrying bombs on the Corsair. He began with a single 1,000-pound bomb but worked his way up to a 2,000-pounder under the fuselage and a 1,000-pound bomb under each wing.

On at least some of these trials, Lindbergh dropped the bombs on Japanese forces bypassed by the American island-hopping strategy. So Charles Lindbergh, a civilian, flew dozens of flights as a bomber, a fighter escort, and in a ground attack role in just a few months, April to September 1944.

Articles

This is how many of some of the most heroic WW2 planes are left

According to a 2014 report by USA Today, 413 World War II vets die each day on average. However, the men (and women) who served in uniform are not the only things vanishing with time.


Many of the planes flown in World War II are also departing one by one from the skies.

In one sense, it may not be surprising – after all, World War II has been over for 72 years. But here are the production totals of some of the most famous planes: There were 20,351 Spitfires produced in World War II. Prior to a crash at a French air show near Verdun in June, there were only 54 flying. That’s less than .3 percent of all the Spitfires ever built.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Spitfire LF Mk IX, MH434 being flown by Ray Hanna in 2005. The Spitfire served with the USAAF in the Mediterranean Theater from 1942-1944. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Of the over 15,000 US P-51 Mustangs built, less than 200 are still flyable – about one percent of the production run. Of 12,571 F4U Corsairs built, roughly 50 are airworthy. Of 3,970 B-29 Superfortresses built, only two are flying today.

Much of this is due to the ravages of time or accidents. The planes get older, the metal gets fatigued, or a pilot makes a mistake, or something unexpected happens, and there is a crash.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Fifi, one of only two flying Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. (Photo by Ilikerio via Wikimedia Commons)

Finding the spare parts to repair the planes also becomes harder – and more expensive – as time passes. A 2016 Air Force release noted that it took 17 years to get the B-29 bomber nicknamed “Doc” flyable. Kansas.com reported that over 350,000 volunteer hours were spent restoring that B-29.

Many of the planes built in World War II were either scrapped or sold off – practically given away – when the United States demobilized after that conflict.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
P-47 P-51 — Flying Legends 2012 — Duxford (Photo by Airwolfhound)

As David Campbell said in “The Longest Day” while sitting at the bar, “The thing that’s always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer.” Below, you can see the crash of the Spitfire at the French air show – and one of the few flyable World War II planes proves how true that statement is beyond the veterans.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time US scientists launched a manhole cap towards space

On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first satellite into an elliptical, low-Earth orbit. It was only 184lbs with a 23″ diameter and managed to stay in orbit for 21 days before the battery powering the transmitter ran out. It burned up in the atmosphere three months later. This marked the beginning of what would be known as the “Space Race” between the Soviets and the U.S. However, according to legend, America may have accidentally beaten the Soviets at launching something into space — a manhole cover.


In the summer of 1957, during Operation Plumbob, American scientists were testing the capabilities of nuclear explosions in all fashions at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. They tested different alloys, various yield sizes, and, controversially, how troops react to exposure, but this story’s all about using a nuclear explosion as a propellant.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

During the Pascal-A test on July 26, scientists tested a nuclear warhead underneath the surface of the Earth, marking the first U.S. underground nuclear test. The test yield was 50,000 times greater than expected and the blast spewed out of the 500-foot, deep-cased hole. It destroyed the five feet of concrete that was used to cap the explosion.

Like every good scientist, they tried it again on Aug. 27 to test “safety.” Instead of the 55-ton yield of the previous test, they used 300 tons and placed a 2-ton concrete cap just above the bomb. Sitting atop the hole was the destined-for-greatness manhole cover. Scientists expected the concrete plug to vaporize, but when the vapors expanded, the pressure was forced up the shaft and blew the 4-in thick, 500lb, steel manhole into the air. The only high-speed camera, capturing one frame per millisecond, was only able to capture the manhole cover in a single frame.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Fun Fact: Many tourists came from Las Vegas to witness the nuclear blasts. Probably not the best idea. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

When asked about the manhole cover, Dr. Robert Brownlee, the designer of the experiment, said that there was no way to account for all the variables at play and determine the fate of the steel cover. When pressed by a supervisor, he said that it must have reached six times the escape velocity of Earth (which is 11.2km/sec). A more modern estimate puts the speed of the steel cap at around 56 km/sec. For comparison, the speed of sound in air is 0.33 km/sec — or if you need a more veteran-friendly comparison, the muzzle velocity of an M4 is 0.9km/sec. The fastest man-made thing is the Helios 2, which travels 70.2km/sec.

There was no way to verify any of this, as the manhole cover was never found, but if the math was right and the manhole cover survived the extreme pressure and heat, Dr. Brownlee may have made it to space first, created the fastest object while in Earth’s atmosphere, and the third-fastest object known to man.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 times Americans left to fight in foreign wars

In the past few years, dozens of veteran and civilian Americans left the comfort and safety of their homes to tackle what they saw as an unspeakable evil growing from the Middle East — the Islamic State. A new television documentary series from History followed those Americans as they fought with Kurdish fighters in Syria. The show pulls no punches in showing what combat looks like on the front lines of the fight against the world’s most ruthless terrorists.

You can catch Hunting ISIS every Tuesday at 11pm on History but read on and learn about how and why Americans fought the good fight long before their country was ready.”I heard the stories, I knew that ISIS was evil,” says PJ, a Marine Corps vet who served in Iraq. “But you can never understand the brutality that they’re capable of until you see it with your own eyes… Most people in America aren’t able or willing to come over here,” he says. “And for them, I will carry what weight I can.”


The group that came to be dubbed ISIS by Americans came to global recognition in 2014 while capitalizing on power vacuums in Iraq and Syria. The group managed to capture large swaths of both countries. In Iraq, ISIS captured most of Fallujah, took the provincial capital of Mosul, and even approached the outskirts of Baghdad.

 

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
The ISIS terror state at the height of power in 2014.

(UnderstandingWar.org)

In Syria, ISIS occupied most of the country’s eastern half, basing out of the group’s de facto capital, Raqqa. At the height of its power in 2014, the would-be terrorist state controlled the lives of some 10 million people. What was most horrifying about life under ISIS control was not only the restrictions on personal freedoms for those 10 million people, but the punishments for breaking ISIS law, executions of political prisoners and POWs, and the genocides committed against “apostate” ethnic groups, especially Yazidis.

Horrified by the ongoing violence, many American veterans of the war in Iraq were inspired by the dogged resistance of the Kurdish Peshmerga as they fought to push back the dark tide of ISIS’ brand of Islamic extremism. The Peshmerga has long been the most effective fighting force in the region and a natural U.S. ally against ISIS.

Long before that alliance was solidified, and long before other regional powers, like Iran and Russia, decided to intervene in the two countries, some American veterans decided to travel to Iraq and join that fight alongside the region’s only remaining stand against terrorist domination. For them, they would be fighting the good fight and doing the right thing against the wishes of the U.S. government and military. They fight unpaid and unsanctioned. Worst of all, they face jail time if they’re caught by Americans — execution if they’re caught by the enemy.

“This battlefield called out to me personally, being that I have blood, sweat, and tears on that sand,” says PJ. “How many of my brothers lost their lives fighting those scumbags in Iraq? And now here they are from Raqqa to Mosul… we can stop this if we stand together.”

But the Islamic State isn’t the only evil Americans fought before their country was ready.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Members of the Lafayette Escadrille pose in front of their Nieuport fighters at the airfield in Verdun, France circa 1917.

1. World War I – Lafayette Escadrille

Named for the Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who was instrumental in the success of the American Revolution, the Lafayette Escadrille was a squadron of American airmen who volunteered to fight for the French against Germany in the first world war in 1916 – almost a full year before the United States entered the war on the side of the Entente.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
American volunteers Merian C. Cooper and Cedric Fauntleroy, fighting in the Polish Air Force. The Soviets placed a large bounty on Cooper’s head.

 

2. Kosciuszko Squadron – Polish-Soviet War

For three years, Poland fought Soviet Russia for control of parts of Eastern Poland and Ukraine. American volunteers, wary of the spread of Communism to the West, volunteered for the Polish Air Forces against the Soviets with notable successes — the Soviets put half-million ruble bounty on one aviator’s head. One Polish general said of the Americans,

“The American pilots, though exhausted, fight tenaciously. During the last offensive, their commander attacked enemy formations from the rear, raining machine-gun bullets down on their heads. Without the American pilots’ help, we would long ago have been done for.”

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Tom Mooney Company from the Lincoln Battalion. Jarama, Spain circa 1937.

 

3. Lincoln Battalion – Spanish Civil War

Fascism was the true enemy in Spain, where those loyal to the democratic Second Spanish Republic fought Francisco Franco’s nationalism for three years before their defeat in 1939. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were among the countries who officially supported the Nationalists, while the Soviet Union supported the left-leaning Republicans. Meanwhile, Britain and the U.S. officially stayed out of the fighting.

Many, many volunteers poured in from all over the world to fight for the Republican army in the International Brigades. For the Americans, they joined what was known as the Abraham Lincoln brigades, an amalgamation of English-speaking British and American volunteers.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
American pilots of No 71 ‘Eagle’ Squadron rush to their Hawker Hurricanes at Kirton-in-Lindsey, March 1941.

 

4. Eagle Squadrons – The Battle of Britain

The early days of World War II were dark days for the British. The threat of Nazi invasion loomed large over the whole of the island. We know today that they were relatively safe across the English Channel, but they hardly thought so back then. But after the seeds of our “special relationship” with the United Kingdom were sown in World War I, many Americans eschewed American neutrality to join the RAF in giving Jerry a black eye.

Those men would join the RAF’s three Eagle Squadrons. The first was formed in September 1940 and fought with the British until their units were transferred to the U.S. 8th Air Force in 1942.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

5. The Flying Tigers – WWII China

A truly joint operation, the Flying Tigers were formed from a bold group of Army, Navy, and Marine Corps airmen and placed under the command of a retired American general attached to the Chinese Air Force. Three squadrons of 90 aircraft trained in Burma well before the U.S. entry to World War II. So, when their first combat mission came calling just 12 days after the attack at Pearl Harbor, they were more than ready.

When the U.S. came to take them back, they were made part of the U.S. Army’s 14th Air Force – the 23rd Fighter Group. The 23rd still flies planes with shark teeth nose art on their A-10 fleet, an homage to the P-40 Warhawks flown by the Flying Tigers.

Articles

Who is ‘Roger?’ Military lingo explained

Between colloquial humor and slang, the military says some weird stuff (don’t even get me started on acronyms), but some of the lingo has origins in so-called “voice procedure” and actually kind of makes sense.


Voice procedure is a set of techniques, protocols, and phrases used in two-way radio communications to reduce confusion and maximize clarity.

Here are a few of the big ones:

1. Roger

Saying “Roger” over the radio is shorthand for “I have received your message or transmission.”

If you’ve ever tried spelling your last name over the phone with someone, you know that the English alphabet has letters that sound the same, so phonetic or spelling alphabets were created to convey letters.

I wonder why they got rid of ‘Nuts’…

In the ’50s, this alphabet was standardized to the alphabet NATO militaries use today (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc), but when the radio use in the military became prevalent, the word ‘Roger’ was used for “R.”

The “R” in “received” was conveyed with “Roger” — and even though today “Romeo” stands for “R,” good ol’ “Roger” stuck.

2. Mayday

“Mayday” is a signal word used to convey distress. It was deliberately chosen for this purpose in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio official in England.

At the time, much of the radio communication was between French and English speakers, so Mockford needed a word that would be understood in both languages and wouldn’t be commonly spoken.

“Mayday” is a rather unique phrase in English, but is also similar to the French word for “help me.”

This is an appropriate time for the use of ‘Mayday.’ (Painting by Pierre Dénys de Montfort, 1801)

To further reduce confusion, “Mayday” is used three times in the beginning of a distress call. It is reserved for incidents where loss of life or craft is imminent — misuse is considered a serious crime.

3. Copy

“Copy” has its origins in Morse Code communications. Morse Code operators would listen to transmissions and write down each letter or number immediately, a technique called “copying.”

-.– — ..- / .- .-. . / -. . .- – (Image via Public Domain)

Once voice communications became possible, ‘copy’ was used to confirm whether a transmission was received. Today it still means “I heard what you said” or “got it,” similar to “roger.”

4. 10-4

10-4″ does not actually have its roots in military-speak. Then ten-codes are used primarily by law enforcement to communicate common situations with brevity. For example:

10-4 Message Received

10-9 Repeat

10-10 Fight In Progress

10-32 Person With Gun

Be careful: ’10-4′ has…alternative meanings…according to Urban Dictionary. (Image via imgflip)

What are your favorite or most baffling military terms?

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens if a PT boat took on a Littoral Combat Ship

The littoral combat ship was intended to carry out a wide variety of missions for the United States Navy in the 21st century. From mine-countermeasures to coastal anti-submarine warfare to combating small and fast enemy surface craft, these vessels are intended to fight and win. But how well would they fare against perhaps the epitome of the small fast surface craft in World War II?

The PT boat was built in very large numbers by the United States during World War II. While its most famous exploits were in the Philippines in late 1941 and early 1942, particularly the evacuation of General Douglas MacArthur, these boats saw action in all theaters of the war. There were two primary versions of the PT boat: The Higgins and the Elco.


These boats had slight variations in a number of sub-classes, but their main armament was four 21-inch torpedoes. In addition to the powerful torpedoes, the PT boats also packed two twin .50-caliber mounts. Other guns, ranging from additional .50-caliber machine guns to a variety of automatic cannons ranging from 20mm Oerlikons to the 37mm guns used on the P-39 Airacobra, to 40mm Bofors also found their way onto PT boats – and the acquisitions may not have been entirely… official.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

USS Freedom (LCS 1) is one of the lead ships of the two classes of littoral combat ship in service at present.

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

Now, the littoral combat ships also come in two varieties: The Freedom-class monohull design and the Independence-class trimaran design. Their standard armament consists of a 57mm main gun, a number of .50-caliber machine guns, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and two MH-60 helicopters. Modules can add other weapons, including 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns, surface-launched AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and even the Harpoon or Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile as heavier anti-ship missiles.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

This was one of 45 PT boats at the Battle of Surigao Strait in October 1944.

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

Looking at just the paper, you’d think that the littoral combat ship has an easy time blowing away a PT boat. In a one on one fight, you’re correct. But the whole point of the PT boat wasn’t to just have one PT boat – it was to have a couple dozen attacking at once. The classic example of this was the Battle of Surigao Strait, part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, in October 1944. According to Volume XII of Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, “Leyte,” the Japanese force heading up Surigao Strait was facing 45 PT boats.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

A Mk 13 torpedo is launched from a PT boat. Now imagine that over a hundred have been launched at your force.

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

Never mind the fact that those PT boats were backed by six older battleships, four heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and 28 destroyers, the sheer number of PT boats had an effect against a force of two Japanese battleships, one heavy cruiser, and two light cruisers. Incidentally, only one Japanese destroyer survived that battle.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

USS Independence’s helicopters and onboard weapons would help it put up a good fight, but sheer numbers could overwhelm this vessel.

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

The same situation would apply in a PT boat versus littoral combat ship fight. The littoral combat ship’s MH-60 helicopters would use AGM-114 Hellfires to pick off some of the PT boats, but eventually the numbers would tell. What could make things worse for the littoral combat ship is if those PT boats were modified to fire modern 21-inch torpedoes. Such a hack is not out of the question: North Korea was able to graft a modern anti-ship torpedo onto a very low-end minisub and sink a South Korean corvette.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how North Korea thinks the Korean War started

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when North Korea suddenly and unexpectedly invaded South Korea. Their first stop was the 24th Infantry Division stationed at Taejon. Since the U.S. and South Korean armies were already exhausted from trying to stop the North Korean People’s Army every step of the way from the border, Taejon didn’t stand much of a chance. 

But to hear the North Koreans tell the story of Taejon, you’d think the Americans started the war and that Taejon was “liberated” when the KPA captured the city after a week of fighting. That’s what Singaporean tourist Aram Pan learned on a visit to North Korea’s Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. 

Pan uploaded a video of his visit to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War museum in May of 2020. There, he saw a massive panoramic diorama of the Battle of Taejon from the North Korean point of view. The tour was led by a North Korean tour guide wearing the uniform of the Korean People’s Army.

“The U.S. imperialists provoked the Korean War on June 25, 1950,” said the guide. “Our soldiers liberated Seoul, the enemy’s capital on June the 28th, 1950, only three days after the outbreak of the Korean War.” 

What the tour guide said is mostly accurate. The war did start on June 25th and North Korea did capture Seoul on the 28th of June. 

“After losing Seoul, the enemy went to Taejon city as their second capital,” she continues, “and they were going to block the advance of our soldiers in the Taejon area.”  

This is also mostly correct. The North Koreans did advance on Taejon after taking Seoul, and the Americans did stand a Taejon in an attempt to block the North Koreans from advancing further south. But there’s nothing different about that battle plan. Most defending armies in a war are going to try to block the advances of an invader. 

crew of an m24 during korean war
Crew of an M24 tank along the Naktong River front. On the ground is Pfc. Rudolph Dotts, Egg Harbor City, N.J. gunner (center); Pvt. Maynard Linaweaver, Lundsburg, Kansas, cannoneer; and on top is Pfc. Hugh Goodwin, Decature, Miss., tank commander. All are members of the 24th Reconnaissance, 24th Division. (Army, KOREAN WAR)

The guide then shows off the massive panoramic display that was created in 1974. The exhibit shows what it would have looked like if you had been standing on a southwestern hill two kilometers away from Taejon during the June 14-21, 1950 battle there. 

It also depicts what the North Koreans are taught about the Korean War. The guide says that President Kim Il-Sung personally oversaw the Battle of Taejon from Seoul. It’s highly unlikely Kim was so close to the fighting at the time. It was important to him to unify the Korean Peninsula under his regime, but Taejon was just another city to take from the Americans. 

Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il probably enjoyed hearing this when they visited the exhibit’s opening in 1974, but it’s factually inaccurate. 

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
A Russian made T34/85 tank knocked out in Taejon, Korea, on 20 July stands at testimony to the heroic action of Major General William F. Dean, Commanding Officer,24th Infantry Division. (Korean War Signal Corps Collection)

“This battle was very famous because at this battle, the enemy’s technical superiority was defeated by our tactical superiority under the wise command of President Kim Il-Sung,” the guide continues. 

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Victorious War Museum Entrance (Uri Tours, Wikipedia)

The panoramic exhibit is 50 feet high, 433 feet long, and 137 feet in diameter but it gives a 25 mile view of the battlefield. The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum also features a number of captured or destroyed aircraft, tanks, and other vehicles from the United Nations and United States – of which it claims to have destroyed more than 10,000.  

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what the Army’s ‘Iron Men of Metz’ and Attila the Hun have in common

When the 95th Infantry Division joined the struggle in Northern France, they could not possibly have imagined the enormous task they would soon face. They landed in France in September and first entered combat towards the end of October. Their first actions were in support of the larger attack on the fortress city of Metz.


The last force to conquer the city was commanded by Attila the Hun in 415 AD, more than 1,500 years before WWII.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Game recognizes game.

While the city was always heavily defended, the French updated the fortifications prior to the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. These fortifications included some fifteen forts that ringed the city.

After France’s capitulation in the Franco-Prussian War, the region of Alsace-Lorraine, which included Metz, was annexed by Germany.

Prior to the First World War, Germany enhanced the fortifications around Metz by adding an additional 28 forts and strongpoints in a second ring outside the first. When the French retook possession of the city after the war, they incorporated the new German defenses into the Maginot Line. This included upgrading many positions with rotating steel turrets housing artillery.

American forces first encountered these defenses in September 1944 after Patton’s Third Army drive across France towards Germany came to a halt.

By October, when the 95th joined the fray, little progress had been made in cracking the cities defenses.

Beginning in early November, the division’s first order of business was to secure several bridgeheads in the area. This was done under the guns of the German forts and against stiff resistance on the ground. 1st Battalion 377th Infantry Regiment reported over 50% losses after successfully making a river crossing at Uckange.

At the same time the 2nd Battalion, 378th Infantry Regiment secured a bridge at Thionville.

With the Americans approaching the forts, the Germans launched numerous counterattacks to drive them from their bridgeheads. All along the line the Americans threw the Germans back with heavy casualties.

Now with their positions across the river were secured, it was time to go to work on the forts.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Troops of 5th Infantry Division conducting a house-to-house search in Metz on Nov. 19, 1944.

Under the command of Colonel Robert Bacon, the two battalions that made the river crossing joined the division reconnaissance troop and a tank company to form Task Force Bacon.

The task force tore down the east bank of the Moselle towards Metz, capturing five towns in the first day. The next day, an additional six towns were captured by the task force. A journalist traveling with the task force described the attitude of its commander:

“Col. Bacon was given a self-propelled 155, but he didn’t use it exactly as the books say it’s supposed to be used. His idea of correct range for the big gun was about 200 yards. Result was that a considerable number of buildings required remodeling later.”

That night the task force reached the outskirts of Metz.

While Task Force Bacon was giving the Germans hell, the rest of the division was driving down the west bank of the Moselle and reducing German forts. The division then executed an assault crossing of the river under heavy fire and also made their way into the outskirts of the city.

At this point, the outer ring of forts was broken and the men now faced the formidable inner ring.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
The US Army’s remodeling of Metz.

On Nov. 18, ten days after joining the fight for Metz, a patrol from the 95th linked up with elements of the 5th Infantry Division attacking from the south. They now had Metz surrounded.

The two divisions then launched an all-out attack on the city. As the men of the 5th Infantry Division stormed the forts to the south, the 95th instead decided to use deception.

Col. Samuel Metcalfe of the 378th Infantry Regiment, tasked with leading the assault, wanted to do an end run around the line of forts to his front but he needed to keep the Germans distracted to do so. A small task force of infantry and support personnel was left in front of the forts and told to make as much noise as possible. The trick worked like a charm and within several hours the regiment rolled up six of the forts from the rear.

As the onslaught continued, American forces entered the fortress city of Metz. It was an achievement unmatched in over 1,000 years.

Still the fighting continued.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love
Men of the 378th Infantry, 95th Division enter Metz (Nov. 17, 1944).

During the heavy fighting to take the city, the 95th Infantry Division had its first Medal of Honor recipient. Over the course of several days Sgt. Andrew Miller repeatedly led his squad in reducing German pillboxes and machine gun positions. Often single-handedly and at close range, Miller stormed the positions and captured German prisoners. At one point – outnumbered four-to-one – he convinced his would-be killers to instead surrender to him.

In a week of fighting in and around Metz, Miller was responsible for the destruction of at least five enemy machine gun emplacements, killing three German soldiers, and capturing 32. Unfortunately, Miller was killed in action a week after the capture of Metz while once again leading his men from the front.

During the valiant fighting, the war correspondents covering the battle took to calling the 95th Infantry Division “the bravest of the brave.”

However, a more fitting name came when the division captured Lt. Gen. Heinrich Kittel, commander of the German garrison, who informed them of the name the Germans had bestowed upon them – “the Iron Men of Metz.”

The division chose to adopt that as their official nickname.

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

The city was finally declared secure on the afternoon of Nov. 22. The Iron Men and the rest of Third Army then drove on into Germany.

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