The 9 most essential World War II books - We Are The Mighty
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The 9 most essential World War II books

From action-packed eyewitness accounts such as Guadalcanal Diary to devastating Holocaust memoirs like The Diary of Anne Frank and Night to the thrilling espionage tale of Operation Mincemeat, World War II is the subject of some of the most fascinating and influential nonfiction books ever written. Every year, seemingly dozens of new titles emerge to offer fresh perspectives and uncover fascinating details about the deadliest conflict in human history. These nine classics cover the war from the Eastern Front to the South Pacific and investigate its murky origins and complex legacies. Make your next great read one of these essential World War II books.


1. Hiroshima

The 9 most essential World War II books
Vintage; Reprint edition

By John Hersey

Originally published in the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker, this compassionate and richly observed portrait of six survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima caused an immediate sensation. It was the first–and only–time the magazine had devoted an entire issue to a single article. Newsstands sold out within hours, and radio stations interrupted their regular programming to broadcast readings of the complete text.

More than a year after the Japanese city was destroyed, Americans were getting the first full account of the horrors of nuclear warfare. Hersey described stone facades permanently etched with the silhouettes of vaporized people and soldiers whose eyes were melted by the atomic flash. Widely recognized as one of the earliest examples of New Journalism (the style of reporting made most famous by Joan Didion), Hiroshima profoundly impacted the debate over nuclear weapons and played a key role in the healing process between America and Japan.

2. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

The 9 most essential World War II books
Presidio Press

By E.B. Sledge

With brutal honesty and lucid prose, Eugene Bondurant Sledge provides a grunt’s-eye view of infantry combat in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Nicknamed “Sledgehammer” by his comrades, Sledge fought with the 1st Marine Division in the grueling battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Using notes he secretly kept in a pocket-sized New Testament, Sledge describes the terror of life on the front lines and documents acts of savagery committed by both sides. But he also admires the courage of his fellow soldiers and pauses, when he can, to observe his natural surroundings–an interest that would lead to a later career as a biology professor. With the Old Breed was one of the main sources for Ken Burns’s documentary The War and helped to form the basis for the HBO mini-series The Pacific.

3. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

The 9 most essential World War II books
RosettaBooks

By William Shirer

First published in 1960, this National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller traces the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from Adolf Hitler’s birth in 1889 to the end of World War II in 1945. As a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and one of “Murrow’s Boys” at the CBS Radio Network, Shirer reported from Berlin and Vienna in the years before the war and followed the German Army during the invasion of France.

After the war, he drew on his own experiences and a wealth of newly available documents, including the diaries of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and General Franz Halder and testimony from the Nuremberg trials, to write this 1,250-page volume. The book was a huge commercial success, selling one million hardcover copies and going through twenty printings in its first year. Although its scholarly reputation is often debated, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remains one of the most influential tomes about World War II to this day.

4. Maus

The 9 most essential World War II books
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

By Art Spiegelman

This Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel recasts the Holocaust with Nazis as cats, Jews as mice, and Poles as pigs. Originally serialized in the alternative comics magazine Raw, the story moves back and forth between present-day Rego Park, New York and Nazi-occupied Poland. In New York, cartoonist Art Spiegelman tries to mend his fractured relationship with his father, Vladek, by drawing a book-length comic based on Vladek’s wartime experiences. In Poland, Vladek and his wife, Anja, endure forced relocation to the Sosnowiec Ghetto; the death of their first son, Richieu; and imprisonment in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust,” Maus elevated the critical reputation of comics and inspired countless artists, including Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, and Marjane Satrapi.

5. The Longest Day

The 9 most essential World War II books
Simon & Schuster

By Cornelius Ryan

Based on interviews with more than 1,100 D-Day survivors, The Longest Day is the definitive account of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Ryan experienced the battle firsthand as a 24-year-old reporter for the Daily Telegraph. When the bomber he was flying in was hit and had to return to England, he jumped into a patrol boat and returned to cover the fighting on the French beaches. Fifteen years later, Ryan set out to tell “what actually happened, rather than what generals or others thought happened.” The result is a masterpiece of military history packed with novelistic details, from the U.S. paratrooper who won $2,500 at cards on the eve of the battle but deliberately lost it all so as not to run out of luck to Field Marshal Rommel’s reason for being 600 miles away when the invasion began–he was bringing his wife her birthday present.

6. In the Garden of Beasts

The 9 most essential World War II books
Broadway Books

By Erik Larson

This #1 New York Times bestseller is the riveting story of William E. Dodd, the American ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937. Dodd, a history professor, was not Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first choice for the job, and he arrived in Berlin with little appetite for the endless socializing expected of a diplomat and little sense of the dangers posed by Germany’s newly-appointed chancellor, Adolf Hitler.

While Dodd struggled to find his place, his 24-year-old daughter, Martha, took to her glamorous new life with verve. Beautiful and sexually adventurous, her high-profile paramours included Rudolph Diels, the chief of the Gestapo, and Boris Winogradov, an attache to the Soviet Embassy who recruited her as a spy. Part political thriller, part family drama, In the Garden of Beasts brings fresh perspective to the question of why it took the world so long to recognize the threat of the Third Reich.

7. An Army at Dawn

The 9 most essential World War II books
Henry Holt and Co.

By Rick Atkinson

While most American history buffs are well versed in the Allied push across Europe after the Normandy landings and the key battles for control of the Pacific, the North African campaign is a less familiar subject. Drawing on personal diaries and letters from soldiers as well as official documents kept in British, American, French, Italian, and German war archives, Rick Atkinson corrects the record in this Pulitzer Prize-winning history, the first volume in The Liberation Trilogy. From the amphibious invasion of Morocco and Algeria in November 1942 to the Allies’ watershed victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein and the US Army’s coming-of-age at the Battle of Hill 609 in Tunisia, An Army at Dawn seamlessly integrates big-picture military strategy with boots-on-the-ground perspective. Atkinson is particularly insightful on the clash of egos between the old-school British commanders and their upstart American counterparts.

8. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943

The 9 most essential World War II books
Penguin Books

By Anthony Beevor

With more than one million casualties, the five-month siege of Stalingrad was the bloodiest battle of World War II and a decisive turning point in the fight for Europe. Antony Beevor, a former British Army officer, brilliantly balances the huge scale of the conflict with a soldier’s-eye view of some of the most horrific conditions in the history of modern warfare.

He begins with Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union that was plagued by bad weather, long supply lines, and difficult terrain, and analyzes how the Luftwaffe’s carpet bombing of Stalingrad helped to create the treacherous, rubble-strewn conditions that allowed Soviet snipers to wage a gruesome war of attrition. Most captivatingly, Atkinson portrays Stalingrad as the terrifying outcome of totalitarianism: Hitler lived in a fantasy world and refused to listen to German officers who tried to save the Sixth Army from complete destruction, while Stalin’s demands for total obeisance resulted in the executions of 13,500 Red Army soldiers.

9. Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization

The 9 most essential World War II books
Simon & Schuster

By Nicholson Baker

In this highly unusual and captivating work, novelist Nicholson Baker tells the story of the buildup to World War II in vignettes. Each short piece contains a fact or a quotation drawn from primary sources including newspaper articles, radio speeches, personal diaries, and government transcripts.

Through the steady accumulation of detail, Baker suggests that Allied leaders were not as reluctant to enter the global conflict as most historians contend. He goes back to as far as 1920 to quote Winston Churchill on the proposed bombing of civilian targets in Iraq (“I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes”), then skips ahead to the prime minister’s preferred military strategy in 1941: “One of our great aims is the delivery on German towns of the largest possible quantity of bombs per night.” Turning to the American scene, Baker draws from sources suggesting that Franklin D. Roosevelt may have deliberately goaded the Japanese into bombing Pearl Harbor so the US could enter the war.

Some scholars were harsh in their judgment of Human Smoke, but by returning to the primary material, Baker rescues pacifism as an honorable concept and reminds readers that when military leaders rush to apply new technologies to warfare, it is often civilians who suffer the most.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senate passes $740 billion defense policy bill with troop pay raise

U.S. troops are all but guaranteed a 3% pay raise next year under legislation that passed the Senate Thursday.

The Senate passed its version of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act Thursday. The $740 billion bill contains numerous personnel initiatives, including the second consecutive 3% pay raise for service members, and hazardous duty pay for troops responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.


If signed into the law, the legislation would also make changes designed to standardize the military services’ Exceptional Family Member Programs, improve housing for military families and halt a planned reduction of teachers within Department of Defense Education Activity schools.

The measure also includes incentive pay to retain military health officers, increases funding for child care facilities, adds money for research on industrial chemicals used in firefighting foam and packaging and expands the list of diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure.

“The NDAA gives our military the personnel, equipment, training and organization needed to implement the National Defense Strategy and thwart any adversary who would try to do us harm,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the committee’s ranking Democrat, called the bill an “important step” toward wise investment for the future.

“Mindful of new risks, as well as unfolding and unprecedented unemployment and budget challenges, Congress must wisely invest every defense dollar in a cost-effective and forward-looking manner,” he said.

The bill would create a commission to study removing Confederate names from Defense Department assets within three years — a measure that will need to be sorted out when the House and Senate meet to develop the final version of the bill that will go to President Donald Trump for a signature.

The House bill would force the military to take action to change the names of bases and facilities named after Confederates within a year. The Senate version of the bill incorporates similar provisions to remove Confederate names from bases over three years.

Trump has threatened to veto any measure to remove the name of Confederate leaders from Army installations. On Tuesday, the White House released a statement listing the items Trump finds objectionable in the House’s bill, saying it is “part of a sustained effort to erase from the history of the nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct.”

Other items that pertain to personnel policy in the bill include:

  • Mandating that DoD develop and field body armor that properly fits female soldiers
  • Providing additional ways for service members to report sexual assault
  • Requiring DoD to better track and respond to incidents of child abuse on military installations.

The vote was 86-14. The two chambers will next name a committee of members to develop a compromise bill. The House approved its version of the fiscal 2021 authorization bill Tuesday.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

popular

An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Two ranks occupy the same pay grade in the U.S. Army, the specialist and the corporal. The difference between the two isn’t always as clear to other members of the military from other branches.

In short, the difference between the two E-4 grades is that one is considered a non-commissioned officer while the other is not. The corporal will go to the NCO training school while the specialist might not. In practice, the corporal outranks a specialist and will be treated as an NCO by the soldiers below him or her. The specialist is still an E-4 level expert at his or her MOS.

That’s why a specialist is also known as a “sham shield” — all the responsibility of a private grade with all the pay of a corporal. Now that you know the gist of the difference, you’ll see why this Quora response is the best response ever — and why only a veteran of the U.S. Army could have written it.


When someone on Quora asked about the difference between these two ranks that share a pay grade, one user, Christopher Aeneadas, gave the most hilarious response I’ve ever seen. He served in the Army from 1999-2003 in signals intelligence. Having once been both a specialist and a corporal, he had firsthand knowledge of the difference, which he describes in detail:

The 9 most essential World War II books

A Full Bird Private has reached the full maturity of a Junior Enlisted Soldier. That magnificent specimen is the envy of superiors and subordinates alike.

The 9 most essential World War II books

The Sham Shield is the mark of the one who has taken the first steps toward enlightenment.

The Specialist knows all and does nothing.

The first two Noble Truths of Buddhism are:

The First Noble Truth – Unsatisfactoriness and suffering exist and are universally experienced.

The Second Noble TruthDesire and attachment are the causes of unsatisfactoriness and suffering.

The Full Bird Private understands that to cease suffering, one must give up the desire to attend the Basic Leader Course (BLC).

A soldier can live for many years in harmony with his squad and his command if he simply forgets his attachment to promotion. There is wisdom in this.

In the distant past, there were even greater enlighted souls. Specialist ranks only whispered of today: Spec-5s and Spec-6s. Some even reached the apotheosis of Specialist E-7!

Mourn with me that their quiet, dignified path is lost to soldiers today.

The 9 most essential World War II books

The Corporal is a soldier of ambition.

They have accepted pain without pay.

They have taken duty without distinction.

Whether they are to be pitied or admired is an open question. I take it on a case-by-case basis.

They hung those damned chevrons on me unofficially for a time. I guess they caught on that I liked my Specialist rank a bit much.

Articles

The inside joke names that soldiers have for different unit patches

For nearly 100 years, U.S. Army soldiers have designed and worn unit patches. And for roughly same amount of time, soldiers have made fun of each other’s patches.


The tradition of Army patches dates back to 1918 when the 81st Infantry Division deployed to Europe wearing a shoulder insignia they had designed for training exercises in South Carolina. Other units complained about the unauthorized unit item to Gen. John Pershing who, rather than punishing the 81st, authorized the patch and recommended other units design their own.

Since then, units have designed and worn patches that motivated soldiers, honored the unit lineage, and encapsulated military history. This is a sampling of some of those patches, along with the alternate names that soldiers remember them by.

1. “Leaning Sh-thouse” — 1st Theater Sustainment Command

The 9 most essential World War II books
Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

The arrow is supposed to symbolize the ability of the command to fulfill its mission quickly and effectively, but soldiers decided it looked like an outhouse dropped on a hill.

2. “Broken TV” — 3rd Infantry Division

The 9 most essential World War II books
Photo: US Army Spc. Luke Thornberry

The three lighter stripes symbolize the three major campaigns the division fought in during World War I while the darker stripes symbolize the loyalty of the soldiers who gave their lives. Once TVs were invented, the similarity between a broken set and the patch was undeniable.

3. “Four Lieutenants Pointing North” — 4th Infantry Division

The 9 most essential World War II books
Photo: US Army Markus Rauchenberger

4th Inf. Div. wants you to see their patch and relate the four ivy leaves to fidelity and tenacity. The Army sees it and just thinks about lieutenants getting lost on the land navigation course.

4. “Crushed Beer Can” — 7th Infantry Division

The 9 most essential World War II books
Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

This is supposed to be an hourglass formed from two 7s, a normal one and an inverted one. Of course, it really does look more like a can someone crushed in their grip.

5. “Flaming Anus” — 9th Infantry Division

The 9 most essential World War II books
Photo: US Army Steven Williamson

You see it. You know you do.

6. “Gaggin’ Dragon” — 18th Airborne Corps

The 9 most essential World War II books
Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

Their mascot is a Sky Dragon so they went with a big scary dragon … that needs someone to administer the heimlich.

7. “Electric Strawberry” — 25th Infantry Division

The 9 most essential World War II books
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth

Based out of Hawaii, 25th’s patch is a taro leaf, native to Hawaii, with a lightning bolt showing how fast the division completes its missions. Since no one knows what a taro leaf is, most soldiers call it the electric strawberry. They also sometimes get called “Hawaii Power and Light.”

8. “Days Inn” — 41st Infantry Division

The 9 most essential World War II books
Photo: US Army Steven Williamson

Like 3rd Infantry Division’s, there was nothing odd about this patch when it was adopted in World War I. Still, if you’re only familiar with the hotel chain, this patch feels like copyright infringement. Some soldiers from this unit volunteered for service in Afghanistan in 2008, an experience chronicled in Shepherds of Helmand.

9. “Alcoholics Anonymous” — 82nd Airborne Division

The 9 most essential World War II books
Photo: US Army D. Myles Cullen

The 82nd Airborne Division was named the All-American Division after a contest held in Atlanta, Ga. The patch’s two A’s are meant to call to mind the “All-American” nickname, but many people are, of course, reminded of the alcoholic support group. This wasn’t helped by the division’s reputation for hard drinking.

10. “Choking Chicken” — 101st Airborne Division

The 9 most essential World War II books
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The 101st was originally based out of Wisconsin and they based their unit patch off of “Old Abe,” a bald eagle carried into combat by the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. While Abe was a distinguished bald eagle, the unit patch could easily be seen instead as a chicken with corn stuck in its windpipe.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 missing US Marines declared dead after crash near Japan

The US Marine Corps called off its search for five missing Marines on Dec 10, 2018, after a F/A-18 Hornet fighter and C-130 Hercules cargo plane collided during a refueling exercise 200 miles off the coast of Japan on Dec 6, 2018.

“I have made the determination to end the search and rescue operations for the crew of our KC-130J aircraft, which was involved in a mishap off the southern coast of Japan and to declare that these Marine warriors are deceased,” 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force commander Lt. Gen. Eric Smith said in a statement.


“Every possible effort was made to recover our crew and I hope the families of these selfless Americans will find comfort in the incredible efforts made by US, Japanese, and Australian forces during the search,” Smith said.

The service members’ next-of-kin have been notified.

“Our most valued asset is the individual Marine,” Smith added. “We remain faithful to our Marines and their families as we support them through this difficult time.”

The 9 most essential World War II books

US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornets from Strike Fighter Squadron 115, Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, during Valiant Shield 18 out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Sept. 17, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons)

The incident is still under investigation. The Marine Corps pointed to the missing KC-130’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders, and said it was “premature to speculate about wreckage recovery.”

The accident, which involved seven crew-members, occurred around 2 a.m. local time on Dec. 6, 2018. One of the seven missing was rescued alive in “fair condition,” and another Marine, 28-year-old pilot Capt. Jahmar Resilard, was found dead around 60 miles from Shikoku island.

President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences after the collision and thanked Japan, who assisted in the search-and-rescue efforts

“My thoughts and prayers are with the @USMC (U.S. Marine Corps) crew members who were involved in a mid-air collision off the coast of Japan,” Trump tweeted. “Thank you to @USForcesJapan for their immediate response and rescue efforts. Whatever you need, we are here for you.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Fighting fire with chainsaws

The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.

With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.


The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.

The 9 most essential World War II books

Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.

Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”

id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE

Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.

Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.

The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.

The 9 most essential World War II books

Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.

What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.

A BLUE-SKY OPERATION

The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.

Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.

Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.

The 9 most essential World War II books

Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.

Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.

I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”

FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS

M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.

She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”

The 9 most essential World War II books

To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.

Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.

Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.

Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”

OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY

It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.

Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”

Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”

By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.

On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.

Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”

The 9 most essential World War II books

Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the military taught fighter pilots when to eject

The recent, fatal crash of a F-16 Fighting Falcon at Nellis Air Force Base that claimed the life of a Thunderbirds pilot is the latest in a string of accidents. We all know that flying high-performance jets comes with an element of risk — but many don’t realize just how dangerous these powerful vessels truly are.

The same people who denigrate former President George W. Bush’s service with the Texas Air National Guard forget that of the 875 F-102 jets produced, 259 crashed, leading to 70 pilot fatalities. No matter the conditions, flying these high-powered war-fighting tools comes with a great deal of risk.


The 9 most essential World War II books

An ejection seat saves Lieutenant (Junior Grade) William Belden after the brakes on his A-4 Skyhawk failed.

(U.S. Navy photo series)

You might wonder how pilots get killed, especially when they have ejection seats. Well, in some cases, pilots will choose to ride a plane in to avoid dropping several tons of steel out of the sky, potentially harming people on the ground. But when the crew does punch out, even modern ejection seats, like the ACES II, offer no guarantee of safety.

In Top Gun, Goose was killed despite hitting the loud handle in his F-14. Why is that? For the answer, let’s take a look at how ejection seats work. In essence, after the hatch or canopy is blown open, a catapult fires the seat away from the plane. Then, a rocket ignites, further propelling the seat. Then, if all goes well (which can be a big “if”), the seat then separates from the pilot, the chute opens, and the pilot drifts safely down.

A pilot with the Thunderbirds ejects from his F-16C Fighting Falcon during a 2003 air show,

(USAF photo by by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Ejection seats have limits

So, why are some pilots still killed in crashes? In some cases, the ejection simply doesn’t go well — as was the case with Goose. Other times, though, it’s a different problem entirely. Ejection seats, like planes, have envelopes. A plane can be going too fast for a seat to reliably work (one F-15 pilot survived ejecting at Mach 1.4 and later returned to flight status). The fact is, it takes a lot of force to get a pilot out of a high-performance fighter, like the F-15, safely.

Other times, pilots are determined to save their plane. Such was the case recently for the crew of an EA-18G, and their superb skills resulted in earning Air Medals for acts of non-combat heroism. Sometimes, however, pilots will try to save their vessel for too long and, by the time the ejection seats get the pilot out, they’re badly injured or even killed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PctPYyoSy0

www.youtube.com

Timing matters when you punch out

To avoid this, it’s become very important to train pilots on when they should pull the handle. Timing matters — and even a perfect ejection can compress a pilot’s spine.

To find out how pilots learn when to leave a disabled aircraft, watch the video below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this colonel rode 450 miles to get a new Army rank

By the time of his death, Col. Charles Young boasted an incredible military career. He was one of just three African-American officers to graduate from West Point. He led troops on the western frontier, became one of the first-ever U.S. military attachés overseas, and commanded troops in the Philippines and Mexico. Teddy Roosevelt even wanted him to lead a volunteer regiment in World War I.

There was just one problem: Colonel Young was black.

For the talented Young to lead troops in World War I meant that he would have to be promoted to Brigadier General. Young was a West Pointer who was so good at leading his troops in combat, he became the first black man to make the rank of colonel and even commanded Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Young literally wrote the book on why racial integration in a democratic society is good for its armed forces.


The 9 most essential World War II books

Seriously.

By the time the United States was ready to enter World War I, Young was the highest-ranking African-American officer in service. When the U.S. entered, he would likely earn a promotion to a general’s rank, which did not sit well with his inferior, white officers. These officers wrote the civilian members of the war department, complaining about the situation and then demanding a solution.

That solution was to get Col. Charles Young fired from the Army. The reason, the Army said, was that Col. Young suffered from high blood pressure. This wasn’t true, of course, it was just the best way to go about unfairly firing a skilled officer for racial reasons. Young couldn’t just complain about the fix to newspapers – he loved the Army, and he wanted that promotion. So, he did the next best thing.

The 9 most essential World War II books

Also the most badass thing, especially in 1918.

In June, 1918, Young took to his horse and rode the 450-plus miles from Wilberforce, Ohio, to the nation’s capital at Washington, D.C. to prove that not only was he fit to perform his duties, but he was also fit to take on any hardship World War I might have to offer.

He rode directly to the War Department and met with then-Secretary of War Newton Baker, who asked if he wanted to see combatant duty. When Young said that he did, Newton ordered a new physical assessment. It was done, albeit not as quickly as Young would have liked. He was sent to Illinois, awaiting the results. When the good news came, the war was conveniently nearly over.

The 9 most essential World War II books

Major Charles Young, age 52, during the Punitive Expedition with the 10th Cavalry in Mexico, 1916.

Young was ultimately sent to West Africa – a strange posting for someone allegedly too chronically ill to go to Europe for war. He posted as a military attaché in Liberia. He helped create stability and security for the country, fighting tribesmen in the wild areas away from the coast.

Unfortunately, this post is where he also met his demise. He contracted a form of kidney disease in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1922. He fell ill and died there. He was buried with full military honors in Nigeria, but his body was soon exhumed and repatriated to the U.S. Now Charles Young rests in Arlington National Cemetery.

His remains were welcomed in New York like the return of a conquering hero.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukrainian president says compensation offered by Iran for shooting down airliner not enough

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said in televised remarks that Iran offered $80,000 per victim after it shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet on January 8, but that Ukraine did not accept the offer because “it was too little.”


Zelenskiy added in comments made on Ukrainian 1+1 television that “of course, human life is not measured by money, but we will push for more” compensation for families of the victims.

Air-defense forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 shortly after takeoff in Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.

Iran has said the downing was an accident, and in mid-January said it would send the black-box flight recorders to Kyiv for analysis.

However, Zelenskiy said that Ukraine had yet to receive the recorders, and that Tehran had instead suggested that Ukrainian specialists fly to Iran on February 3 to examine the black boxes.

“I’m afraid that the Iranians might attract our specialists and then say, ‘Let’s decipher [the recorders] on the spot,’ and then say, ‘Why do you need the black boxes now?'” Zelenskiy said.

“No, we want to take these boxes [to Ukraine],” he added.

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

Articles

This epic British glider attack is getting the movie treatment it deserves

Operation Deadstick was the first engagement of D-Day but many people don’t know the awesome story of how a small group of British glider soldiers captured two bridges intact and held them against German counterattacks. Now, the epic fight is becoming a movie.


The idea was that holding these two vital bridges over the Caen Canal and a nearby river would give the Allies a route inland and would prevent a German counterattack on the Normandy beaches.

So, on Jun. 6, 1944, the men of D Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry crash-landed in gliders at only 16 minutes past midnight. A brilliant performance by pilots put the closest group of paratroopers only 47 yards from the first objective while avoiding anti-glider poles that were still being emplaced around the bridges.

The 9 most essential World War II books
When we say the gliders crash-landed, we mean it. Photos: British Army Sgt. Johnson

The British commander had a fright when thought he had gone blind, but he realized the crash had dislodged his helmet and slid it over his eyes. He put it on right and led his men up the nearby embankment and onto the first bridge.

There, Lt. Den Brotheridge led First platoon across the Caen Canal Bridge, firing from the hip. Brotheridge gunned down a German soldier on the bridges who fired a flare, achieving the first ground kill of D-Day. Tragically, he himself was shot just moments later and became the first Allied casualty of the day.

Still, the company was able to complete the assault only 10 minutes after landing, grabbing both bridges before the Germans could detonate the explosives on them. Sappers immediately got to work cutting wires and fuses to make sure a German counterattack would not be able to easily destroy them.

It turns out, the reason the bridges weren’t destroyed was two-fold.

First, the German commander had ordered the bridge wired to explode, but that the actual charges be stored nearby so that French partisans or an accident could not destroy the bridges unnecessarily. He had reasoned that the explosives could be placed and destroyed faster than a paratrooper assault could capture the bridges. He was wrong.

Second, only he could order the charges put into place and the bridges destroyed and he was busy visiting his girlfriend in the nearby village. He was drinking wine and eating cheese with her when he heard all the gunfire coming from the direction of the bridges.

The 9 most essential World War II books
Glider troops pose with a French girl on a captured German motorcycle in Jun. 1944. Apparently, both sides thought anytime was a good time to hit on French women.

He decided to investigate the noises but apparently thought an attack was unlikely because he packed a picnic basket and tried to bring his girlfriend. He ended up dropping her off when she begged and cried, but he continued to the bridge with little caution.

His driver approached the bridge so fast that the two Germans actually blew past the British lines and were on the bridge before they realized that the German defenders had been killed. The British quickly captured both Germans and the picnic basket while the commander started crying about having let down his fuhrer.

The British then got ready for the inevitable counterattacks. The first came quickly as a German tank made its way to a nearby intersection in an attempt on the bridges. One of the glider troops engaged it with a Piat anti-tank grenade launcher, killing it with a single hit.

The 9 most essential World War II books
Soldiers fire a Piat in Tunisia in 1943. Photo: British Army Sgt. Loughlin

Luckily for the British, larger counterattacks wouldn’t come for some time. While Lt. Col. Hans von Luck, the Panzer commander who would lead the counter assault, had his entire formation ready to go by 3 a.m., he wasn’t allowed to move forward without Hitler’s say-so. And Hitler slept in on D-Day.

Von Luck sent his grenadiers, one of the few units he could move forward without authorization, to the bridges but the British had been reinforced with paratroopers by that point. The British were able to stop the grenadiers’ advance and the Germans dug in, sure that armored support would be coming soon.

Forward German units did come to assist and were able to begin pushing the British back. The British were picked at by snipers and German rocket fire and were slowly surrounded, but they managed to hold out until the afternoon despite dwindling ammo and a limited number of men.

In the early afternoon, reinforcements in the form of British commandos finally came and the combined force held off German armored attacks, killing 13 of 17 tanks and plenty of German soldiers. They also had to fight off a German gunboat that attacked from the river.

The 9 most essential World War II books
British forces move across the Caen Canal Bridge, later renamed Pegasus Bridge. Photo: British Army Sgt. Christie

The successful capture and defense of the bridges is a major part of British airborne history. Both bridges were renamed in honor of the British. The Caen Canal Bridge was renamed Pegasus Bridge after the symbol of the British airborne soldiers. The nearby river bridge was renamed Horsa Bridge after the Horsa gliders the first troops rode in on.

Now, Eagles Dare Films is creating a movie that covers the efforts of the British soldiers from the assault through their eventual relief on the battlefield. Their Facebook feed is full of behind the scenes photos and a few images from their recent test shoot with re-enactors in full kit. The movie is slated for release in 2017.

(h/t to Stephen Ambrose of “Band of Brothers” fame for his book on Operation Deadstick, “Pegasus Bridge.” Check it out for much more information on the battle.)

MIGHTY MOVIES

Two Scottish combat veterans define the term Strongman, as one helps the other train for the first-ever Arnold Schwarzenegger Disabled Strongman Competition

“The measure of a man is how you react on a bad day.”

Powerful words that three-time World’s Strongest Man and Sports Hall-of-Famer Bill Kazmaier used to describe one of the newest Strongman competitors – Stevie Richardson – at the World’s Strongman competition in Ohio.

Richardson fulfilled a lifelong dream by serving his country in the Army but his service was cut short when an IED detonated in Afghanistan and took his legs. Soon after Richardson returned home and started his long road to recovery, he met a fellow vet, Royal Marines Commando and competitive Strongman, Kenny Simm, and was introduced to the world of Strongman competition.


IED – Improve Every Day – Official Trailer. BBC Scotland, Gravitas Ventures, TurnerGang Productions

youtu.be

The story of these two combat veterans and their journey to find purpose, camaraderie and pride after coming home from war is the basis for the new documentary IED: Improve Every Day. The film shows how a veteran’s bond is undying and that no injury, physical or psychological, can stand up to the strength forged by the military brotherhood.

Competing for Arnold in the World Strongman Championship is certainly a milestone event in the lives of these veterans but it also marks a new chapter for them on the road to recovery. Their journey of self-strengthening will be life-long but valuable lessons can be gleaned from the story told in Improve Every Day; that our strength can quite-often be measured by the comrades we keep around us and no matter how bad our days get, there is always a new, inspiring challenge waiting for us in the future.

Watch this multi-award nominated BBC documentary on Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google play and many other platforms. Search IED: Improve Every Day.

The 9 most essential World War II books
The 9 most essential World War II books
The 9 most essential World War II books
The 9 most essential World War II books
The 9 most essential World War II books


MIGHTY SPORTS

The new Navy football uniforms are all about the Goat

Every year, the cadets at West Point and the midshipmen of Annapolis meet to put on one of the most patriotic games of the year: the Army-Navy game. Soldiers, sailors, and Marines all cheer on their respective branch as future officers fight for bragging rights on the football field.

And while most troops are watching from the sidelines or the chow hall, gritting their teeth and waiting to see who comes out on top, there’s a secondary, unofficial contest going on — which team has the best uniform. Each year, both teams bust out a special uniform, just for this game.

This time around, West Point chose to honor the 1st Infantry Division on the centennial anniversary of the WWI armistice. The midshipmen, on the other hand, are going with a design that honors their own treasured history by showcasing Bill the Goat.

On the surface, it may seem simplistic, but in actuality, it’s steeped in Navy and Naval Academy lore.


The 9 most essential World War II books

Could it have been the gifted football players that gave their all on the field that day? Or could it have been the spirit of the goat, channeled through two goofy ensigns who did pretty much the opposite of what they were told to do? The world will never know.

(U.S. Naval Academy)

Navy’s uniform, produced by their sponsor, Under Armor, features the Navy’s traditional white, blue, and gold color scheme. Emblazoned on the right side of the helmet is Annapolis’ mascot, Bill the Goat, with the player’s number on the left — a nod to classic football helmets.

Bill the Goat, for those who don’t already know, became the Naval Academy’s mascot entirely because of the Army-Navy Game. Legend has it, two ensigns were tasked with taking the body of their ship’s beloved goat to the taxidermist. They got “lost” on their way and ended up at the Army-Navy game.

During halftime, one of the ensigns took the goat skin, wore it as a cape, and ran around the sidelines to thunderous applause from the sailors and midshipmen in attendance. The Naval Academy — and presumably the ensigns’ commander — never took disciplinary action against them because it’s believed Bill the Goat was responsible for the Midshipmen winning that day.

The 9 most essential World War II books

(Under Armour)

Each uniform also has the phrase, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” embroidered on the bottom. This was the famous battle cry (and last words) of Capt. James Lawrence as he fell to small arms fire sustained during the War of 1812. It has since become the rallying cry of all sailors as they head into battle.

The pants of the uniforms sport a stripe with six dashes. These six dashes are a reference to the Navy’s first six frigates, the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), the USS Constellation, the USS President, the USS United States, the USS Chesapeake, and the USS Congress.

Check out the unveil video below. Go Navy! Beat Army!

MIGHTY MOVIES

The ‘Chaos Walking’ trailer promises amazing new sci-fi concept

Lionsgate just dropped a trailer for their upcoming sci-fi film Chaos Walking, based on the trilogy by Patrick Ness, who also wrote the screenplay along with Christopher Ford (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Robot & Frank)

Directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow), the trailer displays an exceptional representation of the novels’ main McGuffin: the thoughts of men and animals can all be read by anyone. 

“We call it the Noise. It happened to all the men on this planet. Every thought in our heads is on display,” intones Mads Mikkelson, ominously. 

It takes incredible ingenuity to introduce a unique sci-fi concept — most everything has been done before. Mind-reading, of course, isn’t new either, but usually it is an uncommon gift. In Chaos Walking, it’s not only the default — it’s visually depicted by Liman’s incredible team. 

See it for yourself in the trailer:

Dammit this looks cool.

“In the not too distant future, Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) discovers Viola (Daisy Ridley), a mysterious girl who crash lands on his planet, where all the women have disappeared and the men are afflicted by “the Noise” – a force that puts all their thoughts on display. In this dangerous landscape, Viola’s life is threatened – and as Todd vows to protect her, he will have to discover his own inner power and unlock the planet’s dark secrets.” Official Lionsgate Promotion

“I’m sorry, I’ve never seen a girl before,” revealed Holland’s character upon seeing Ridley.

Tom Holland in Chaos Walking
(Chaos Walking | Lionsgate)

Not only does the film have a gripping concept, but Casting Directors Nicole Abellera (21 Jump Street, Keanu) and Jeanne McCarthy (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Bill & Ted Face the Music) really nailed their cast list. 

Daisy Ridley, hot off her career-launching role as Star Wars’ Rey Skywalker, and Tom Holland, currently on rise to the top as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s live-action Spider-Man, star in the film alongside Mads Mikkelson (Hannibal, Doctor Strange), David Olylowo (Selma), and Cynthia Erivo (Harriet). 

“What happened to all the women?” asked Ridley.

“They’re dead,” replied Mikkelson. 

The inherent mystery is intriguing. The implications of such a “Noise” is exciting to explore. Add in that bitchin’ score and honestly I can’t wait to watch this.