A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs - We Are The Mighty
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A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

The World War II story of “Jumpin'” Joseph Beyrle gives a whole new meaning to the saying: “Oh yeah? You and what army?”


Actually, the Red Army, to be exact.

Beyrle was a paratrooper with the legendary 101st Airborne, 506th Infantry Regiment. A demolitions expert, he performed missions in Nazi-occupied France with the resistance there before flying into Normandy on D-Day.

Beyrle had mixed luck during the war, but he would end it as a legend.

When his C-47 came under intense enemy fire during the D-Day invasion, Beyrle had to jump at the ultra-low altitude of 120 meters. He made the drop successfully but lost contact with his unit. Not one to be deterred by being alone in Fortress Europe, he still performed sabotage missions to support the D-Day landings.

He even managed to destroy a power station but was captured by the Wehrmacht shortly after.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs
Beyrle’s POW ID photo.

Over the next seven months, Sgt. Beyrle was moved around quite a bit. He managed to escape twice, but, unlucky for him, he was recaptured both times. One time, he and other fugitives tried to hop onto a train bound for Poland but ended up on the way to Berlin instead.

He was beaten and nearly shot as a spy when he was handed over to the Gestapo, but the Wehrmacht took him back after military officials stepped in, saying the Gestapo had no authority over POWs.

Once back in the hands of the German military, they sent him to Stalag III-C, a prisoner of war camp in Brandenberg. The camp was notorious for the number of Russian prisoners who were starved or otherwise killed there.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs
Beyrle’s POW ID.

In January 1945, he escaped Stalag III-C and moved east, where he linked up with a Soviet tank brigade. He convinced them he was an American by waving a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes and persuaded the battalion’s commander (the Red Army’s only female tank officer of that rank) to let him join her unit. He spent a month in the Red Army tank corps, assisting in the liberation of his old POW camp, Stalag III-C.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs
Aleksandra Samusenko, Beyrle’s Red Army commander.

Beyrle was wounded by a German Stuka dive bomber attack and evacuated to a Red Army hospital in Poland. When Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov learned there was a non-Soviet in the hospital, he visited Joseph Beyrle.

Amazed by his story, Zhukov gave Beyrle the papers he needed to rejoin U.S. forces in Europe.

The now-recuperating former POW headed to Moscow on a Soviet military convoy in February 1945. When he arrived at the U.S. embassy, he discovered he was listed as killed in action four days after the D-Day landings. His hometown of Muskegon, Michigan, held a funeral mass for him.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs
Scan of original War Dept. telegram received by Joe Beyrle’s parents in Sept. 1944 informing them (erroneously) that he was KIA

Beyrle was hailed as a hero in both the U.S. and Russia. In 1994, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin presented him with medals in honor of his service to the countries. His son even served as Ambassador to Russia between 2008 and 2012.

The famed war hero died at 81 while visiting the area in Georgia where he trained to be a paratrooper in 1942.

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Cocaine bust highlights growing Air Force role in Southern hemisphere

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs
U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry AWACS, an RC-135, and KC-135s sit at the CURACAO/ARUBA Cooperative Security Location. | Photo via SOUTHCOM.


The line of cocaine the Air Force and Joint Interagency Task Force-South seized last month in the Caribbean would stretch “from the Pentagon to the center of Philadelphia.”

The Air Force’s top civilian shared that detail with reporters Wednesday when describing how the service is working harder to train pilots in the Southern hemisphere while aiding the global anti-drug war.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the service is looking for ways to use more assets in the Southern Command region that would be “of training benefit to our forces, but also contributing to counter drug and counter transnational crime commission.”

“The idea of all of this was to see if we could get more of a double ‘bang for your buck,’ ” James said at a Pentagon briefing.

And during a five-day training operation, they did.

Led by Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, commander of the 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern, the service and the Key West, Florida-based task force seized 6,100 kilograms (13,448 pounds) of cocaine between Aug. 22-26, James said.

The large-scale air operation in the Caribbean included a number of U.S. aircraft, including HC-130s, DH-8s, B-1Bs, B-52s, AWACS, JSTARS, Global Hawks, KC-135s and KC-10s, James said. Space and cyber assets “were also brought into the mix,” she said, but didn’t elaborate.

The use of airpower as well as the other partners in the interagency effort led to the seizure of as much as $500 million worth of the cocaine and the arrest of 17 drug traffickers by appropriate authorities, James said.

In March, a B-1B Lancer flew a low pass over a drug smuggling boat in the Caribbean Sea, prompting those onboard to dump 500 kilos of cocaine into the deep blue.

The secretary visited command units in April to discuss the potential for more training operations in Latin America.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This website will help you find old service-friends

The United States military is a brotherhood and sisterhood like no other. Those who serve together form a common sense of purpose and devotion to duty. It’s a level of trust not commonly found in civilian life. Those military friendships last forever. But as life moves, and when people leave the military, they often lose touch with those friends, some of whom they would have given their life for.

Tracking down old friends, particularly if you have been out of the service many years, is not always easy. But there is one company that can help. Together We Served (TWS) is a veteran-only website, launched in 2003. It provides veterans a highly-effective means to reconnect with old service-friends by simply entering their service history on their TWS Military Service Page.


TWS built an individual website for each branch of service and, with over 1.9 million veteran members, the chances of finding people you served with is high.

The secret behind TWS’s ability to connect more veterans is the depth of its databases. Over the past 16 years, TWS has built one of the most comprehensive databases of U.S. Military training and operating units in existence. Its databases span from WW2 to present day.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

Military Service Page.

Sample Together We Served Military Service Page

By creating your Military Service Page on Together We Served, you can not only find veterans who went to the same basic training as you, or served in the same units or duty stations, but also those who participated in the same combat or non-combat operations. TWS’s search engine automatically matches the service information you enter on your Military Service Page with the service information on the Military Service Pages of all other TWS members. Those members, whose entries could match yours, get listed on your Service Page. That is what enables you to make contact with those you may know. This powerful feature helps veterans remember forgotten names.

Finding key people on TWS can be very helpful, especially if you need or can provide witness account to support a potential VA claim.

Take this opportunity to reconnect with the servicemen and women you shared some of the most important times of your life with. In recognition of your service, Together We Served provides all VA veterans with a FREE one year premium membership, providing unlimited people searches, when you join TWS via the following link:

Free one-year premium Together We Served membership

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Sig Sauer will make new rifle scope for special ops units

The Pentagon has selected Sig Sauer’s rifle scope and scope mount to for use by U.S. special operations forces.

The $12 million contract award is for an indefinite quantity of Sig Sauer’s TANGO6T SFP 1-6×24 Second Focal Plane Rifle scope and ALPHA4 Ultralight Mount, according to a recent press release from Sig Sauer.

The TANGO6T 1-6×24 rifle scope is a ruggedized, second focal plane scope, so the reticle will appear to stay the same size to the shooter no matter the magnification setting.


The scope features an M855A1 Bullet Drop Compensation, illuminated reticle with holds for close-quarters to medium-range engagements and an ultra-bright red Hellfire fiber-optic illumination system for fast daylight target acquisition, according to the release.

It also has a locking illumination dial, Power Selector Ring Throw Lever, and a laser-marked scope level indicator for intuitive mount installation, the release states.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

A special operations airman aims his weapon to designate the location of a threat Oct. 9, 2014, during a training mission.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

“The TANGO6T riflescope line combines ruggedized MIL-SPEC810-G mechanical systems and HDX high definition optical design with advanced electronic technologies,” Andy York, president of Sig Sauer Electro-Optics, said in the release. “We are firmly committed to supporting the Department of Defense with this riflescope to provide greater adaptability, increased lethality, and enhanced target acquisition for our special operations forces.”

The DoD award also procures the new ALPHA4 Ultralight Mount, which was designed by the Sig Sauer’s Electro-Optics division for the TANGO6T series of rifle scopes to attach to a MIL-STD-1913 rail, the release states.

The mount is machined from a single piece of 7075 aluminum for added strength and weight reduction, and hardcoat anodized to provide additional environmental protection.

The rifle scopes and mounts will be built at Sig Sauer’s Electro-Optics facility in Wilsonville, Oregon, over the next five years, the release states.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy Veteran beaten by police in Portland speaks out

It is better to protest than to accept injustice.
– Rosa Parks

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Over the weekend, two videos emerged that made their rounds — not just in the military community, but all over the world. In Portland, Oregon, where civil rights protests have occurred daily since the murder of George Floyd, there has been a mix of mostly peaceful demonstrations with some outbreaks of violence and destruction.

In the midst of this, the first video shows presumed law enforcement officials in military fatigues without any sort of identification yanking protestors off the street into unmarked cars. This drew a furious reaction from lawmakers on both sides, lawsuits from the state or Oregon to civil rights groups, and drew out even more protestors who were not very happy that federal officials would resort to such tactics.

One of those men was Christopher David, a Navy veteran, who showed up to make his voice heard. David’s interaction with the police was recorded and immediately went viral after he was attacked, beaten and maimed — but not broken in spirit.

David, age 53, spoke to the Associated Press about the incident, why he went out there and what he hopes happens now.

“It isn’t about me getting beat up. It’s about focusing back on the original intention of all of these protests, which is Black Lives Matter,” David told the AP.

David said he was hanging back as this was the first time he ever protested anything. He also wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt to show the police that he wasn’t some crazy anarchist. He said the protest started as a bunch of pregnant women standing with linked arms. He said he was trying to talk to the men in fatigues. He said he told them, “You take the oath to the Constitution; you don’t take the oath to a particular person,” when one officer pointed a weapon at David’s chest. Another pushed him back and he stood there with his hands at this side. That is when the video shows a law enforcement officer strike David five times with a baton. The attack seems to not faze David at all, but then he gets pepper sprayed in the face. Only then does he fall back, but not before giving the officials a hand gesture to show his displeasure.

While various people on Twitter spoke of him standing tall like a mountain and not being hurt, David says he actually has two broken bones in his hand which will require surgery to fix.

David is a 1988 graduate of the Naval Academy and served in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps before getting out. He doesn’t plan on going back out to protest anytime soon. “My ex-wife and my daughter would kill me if I did that. They’re so angry at me for doing it in the first place because I got beat up,” he said. “I’m not a redwood tree. I’m an overweight, 53-year-old man.”

According to CNN, the Portland Police and Customs and Border Protection have denied the officers belonged to their respective departments. So far, Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals have refused to acknowledge if the men belong to their departments.

Articles

The Air Force just shut down ISIS drone attacks

Air Force intelligence analysts and operational leaders moved quickly to develop a new targeting combat plan to counter deadly ISIS explosive-laden drone attacks in Iraq and Syria.


In October of this year, ISIS used a drone, intended for surveillance use, to injure troops on the ground. Unlike typical surveillance drones, this one exploded after local forces picked it up for inspection, an Air Force statement said.

The emergence of bomb-drones, if even at times improperly used by ISIS, presents a new and serious threat to Iraqi Security Forces, members of the U.S.-Coalition and civilians, service officials explained to Sout Warrior. Drone bombs could target advancing Iraqi Security Forces, endanger or kill civilians and possibly even threat forward-operating US forces providing fire support some distance behind the front lines.

Related: ISIS has come up with a new, more diabolical way to use drones in Mosul fight

Air Force officials explained that many of the details of the intelligence analysis and operational response to ISIS bomb-drones are classified and not available for discussion.

Specific tactics and combat solutions were made available to combatant commanders in a matter of days, service experts explained.

While the Air Force did not specify any particular tactis of method of counterattack, the moves could invovle electronic attacks, some kind of air-ground coordination or air-to-air weapons, among other things.

However, the service did delineate elements of the effort, explaining that in October of this year, the Air Force stood up a working group to address the evolving threat presented by small commercial drones operated by ISIS, Air Force Spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Scout Warrior.

Working intensely to address the pressing nature of the threat, Air Force intelligence analysts quickly developed a new Target Analysis Product to counter these kinds of ISIS drone attacks. (Photo: Scout Warrior)

“The working group cuts across functional areas and commands to integrate our best experts who have been empowered to act rapidly so they can continue to outpace the evolution of the threat they are addressing,” Yepsen said.

Personnel from the 15th IS, along with contributors, conducted a 280-plus hour rapid analysis drill to acquire and obtain over 40 finished intelligence products and associated single-source reports, Air Force commanders said.

Commercial and military-configured drone technology has been quickly proliferating around the world, increasingly making it possible for U.S. enemies, such as ISIS, to launch drone attacks.

“Any attack against our joint or coalition warriors is a problem. Once it is identified, we get to work finding a solution. The resolve and ingenuity of the airmen in the 15th IS (intelligence squadron)” to protect our warriors, drove them to come up with a well-vetted solution within days,” Lt. Col. Jennifer S. Spires, 25th Air Force, a unit of the service dealing with intelligence, told Scout Warrior.

While some analysts projected that developing a solution could take 11 to 12 weeks, the 15th IS personnel were able to cut that time by nearly 90 percent, Air Force officials said.

“While we cannot talk about the tactics and techniques that the 15th IS recommended, we can say that in every case, any targeting package sent to the air component adhered to rules that serve to protect non-combatants,” Spires added.

The 363rd Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing provides a targeting package in support of the Air Component. (Photo: Scout Warrior)

“The supported command makes the final decision about when and how to strike a specific target. Once the theater receives the targeting package it goes into a strike list that the Combatant Commander prioritizes,” Spires said.

Also, Air Force Secretary Deborah James recently addressed an incident wherein two Air Force ISR assets were flying in support coalition ground operations — when they were notified of a small ISIS drone in the vicinity of Mosul.

“The aircraft used electronic warfare capabilities to down the small drone in less than 15 minutes,” Erika Yepsen, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Scout Warrior.

While James did not elaborate on the specifics of any electronic warfare techniques, these kinds of operations often involve the use of “electronic jamming” techniques to interrupt or destroy the signal controlling enemy drones.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the first American to die in combat in Afghanistan after 9/11

Among the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks were members of the Central Intelligence Agency’s shadowy Special Activities Division, along with elite special operations personnel from the US military’s various branches.


A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs
Mike Spann during operations in Afghanistan in 2001. (Photo from CIA)

Tragically, it would be one of the CIA’s Special Operations Group – the armed paramilitary branch of the SAD – who would be the first to lay down his life in the War on Terror, becoming the first American casualty in Afghanistan.

In November 2001, Johnny “Mike” Spann, an SOG operative, found himself at Qala-i-Jangi, a century-old fortress positioned near Mazar-i-Sharif, where hundreds of Taliban fighters were held prisoner by Afghan Northern Alliance militia, having been captured during the Siege of Kunduz that same month.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

Spann was a graduate of Auburn University and a former Marine, having served six years as an artillery officer before being recruited to the CIA in 1999. He later went on to join the SAD’s SOG soon afterwards, delving deeper into the world of black operations.

The CIA tasked Spann and another officer – an Uzbek language specialist – with interrogating the captives to glean intelligence on Taliban and Al Qaeda activity. The prisoners, as one might expect, were extremely uncooperative, and were additionally very poorly screened by their Afghan captors.

In a matter of minutes, the situation devolved into chaos.

A number of the prisoners rebelled against their captors, pulling out hidden hand grenades and detonating them in suicide attacks. Prisoners crowded around Spann during his questioning session began lunging at the SOG officer.

Spann and a fellow CIA operative immediately brought their guns to bear – the former pulling a pistol, and the latter grabbing an AK-47 from a Northern Alliance guard. In the blink of an eye, Spann was mobbed from all sides and disappeared under a mass of Taliban fighters, while his colleague attempted to make his way to his fallen comrade.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs
Northern Alliance troops in 2001 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Reports estimate that Spann put down anywhere between three to seven enemy fighters with his pistol, before succumbing to the onslaught. The remaining CIA officer systematically dropped more Taliban fighters who had, by now, killed a number of Northern Alliance troops and took possession of their weapons, before running over to warn Red Cross and other civilian workers in the area to escape.

After contacting US diplomatic services in Uzbekistan, a quick reaction force consisting of American and British special forces hailing from Task Force Dagger was assembled and deployed to the area. The QRF established contact with the sole remaining CIA agent, while digging in for a long fight.

American fighter aircraft were directed to drop smart bombs on the fortress, while a pair of AC-130 Spectre gunships, operating under the cover of night, arrived on station, pounding the resistance into submission with concentrated fire.

After a two-day siege, the fort was retaken and most of rebels had escaped to the fort’s main dungeon.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs
A memorial to Spann, built at Qala-i-Jangi (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The prisoners holed up in the dungeon finally surrendered after it was flooded with cold dirty irrigation water from nearby fields. Spann’s body was recovered with care in the aftermath of the battle, having found to be booby trapped by Taliban fighters. Of the 300-500 Taliban prisoners taken captive at the fortress, only 86 were recaptured alive.

Spann’s remains were repatriated to the US , and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Intelligence Star – equivalent to a Silver Star – and the Exceptional Service Medallion.

Today, a memorial still stands today at Qala-i-Jangi, commemorating Spann – the first American casualty in Afghanistan post-9/11.

Articles

Cpl. Kyle Carpenter jumped on a grenade and saved his best friend’s life

On Nov. 21, 2010 while providing security on a rooftop in Afghanistan, then-Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter jumped on a grenade to save his best friend’s life, an action he later received the Medal of Honor for.


“I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me previously when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”

The scene was near Marjah, with Carpenter and his squad — supported by engineers, an interpreter, and Afghan National Army troops — moved south of their main base to establish a small outpost to wrestle control of the area from the Taliban. It was Nov. 19, 2010, and as Carpenter told me, they were guaranteed to take enemy fire.

That “contact” came one day later, when their small patrol base came under blistering attack from small arms, sniper fire, rockets, and grenades. Two Marines were injured and evacuated. “The rest of the day it was sporadic but still constant enemy [AK-47] fire on our post that was on top of the roof,” he said.

While the Marines took sporadic fire while setting up their new base over the next two days, it was on Nov. 21 that Carpenter would distinguish himself with his heroism.

“Enemy forces had maneuvered in close through the use of the walls of the compound across the street to the east,” according to Carpenter’s summary of action. The Taliban threw three grenades into the compound.

One landed in the center of the base, injuring an Afghan soldier. The second harmlessly detonated near the post that was destroyed the previous day. The last landed on the roof, dangerously close to him and his friend, Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio. He didn’t remember actually jumping on the grenade, but multiple eyewitnesses and forensics showed that was exactly what happened.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

“The majority of the grenade blast was deflected down rather than up, causing a cone-shaped hole to be blown down through the ceiling of the command operations center,” the summary reads.

Carpenter was severely wounded, with injuries to his face, jaw, and upper and lower extremities. Eufrazio received shrapnel to the head. Both were immediately evacuated and survived. Eufrazio is still recovering from the attack, while Carpenter has bounced back from his devastating wounds in a fashion that’s nothing short of remarkable.

He received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, on Jun. 19, 2014.

“I mean I would grab that [grenade] and kick it right back,” Carpenter told me half-jokingly, when I asked if he had any regrets. “But besides that … I wouldn’t change anything. We’re both alive and we’re here and I’m fully appreciating my second chance.”

Here’s his full citation, courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps:

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this Army vet clears unexploded ordnance in Vietnam

The United States dropped more than seven million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia between 1957 and 1975, more than twice what it dropped on Europe and Asia during all of World War II. That’s a lot of ordnance. This doesn’t take into account the rockets, mortars, tank rounds, etc. used by American and allied infantrymen on the ground in Vietnam. An estimated ten percent or more of that tonnage didn’t explode – which means it’s still there.


It also means someone, now nearly 50 years later, is going to find it – a mother, father, or child. That’s where Chuck Searcy, a U.S. Army veteran, comes in. He’s on a mission to clear those UXOs.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

Chuck Searcy is a Georgia-based Army vet on a new mission.

Searcy co-founded Project RENEW in 2001, a million effort to clear unexploded weapons from the former war zone while teaching children about the bombs and helping those affected by them.

Since the war’s official end in 1975 – when North Vietnam invaded and forcibly unified the South – more than 100,000 Vietnamese civilians have been killed by unexploded ordnance in the country. Some of them were farmers or other kinds of laborers, clearing paths through fields as they’ve done time and time again. Others injured by the bombs were metal scrappers, gathering what they could to make extra money.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

Ten percent is a lot of explosive still sitting around.

In 2017, Searcy and Project RENEW cleared some 17,000 munitions found in the middle of Vietnam. Over the project’s lifetime, the group has cleared more than a million. Searcy first returned to Vietnam in 1995, the year after the United States formally normalized relations with the still-Communist country. Back then, he was helping kids find orthopedic devices for missing limbs, but he kept reading about the problems with explosives in the countryside.

“We kept reading about kids and farmers getting blown up by unexploded ordnance,” Searcy told Georgia’s Ledger-Enquirer. “Why aren’t we helping?”

Now they do. When someone finds a bomb and reports it, the group will send out a team to dispose of it as they always have. But in the last 20 years, they’ve become more proactive, more methodical. They not only interview villagers asking about bomb sightings, they examine U.S. Air Force databases, reviewing every single bombing run of the war.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

Chuck Searcy now and in his Vietnam-era years.

While often times, the difference can be difficult to measure, there is one important number to follow, and that is how many people were killed or injured by unexploded ordnance in a given area. In Quang Tri, a province that saw some of the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War, the number killed or wounded in 2001 (when project RENEW began its education program) was 89. In 2017, the number dwindled to two.

Articles

That time a parachuting airman shot down a Zero with nothing but a handgun

If you take a peek at a list of pilots who were considered flying aces during WW2, you’ll notice that the top of the list is dominated by Luftwaffe pilots, some of whom scored hundreds of aerial victories during the war. While their skill and prowess in the air is undeniable, it’s arguable that the finest display in aerial combat during WW2 was achieved, mostly by luck, by an American B-24 co-pilot when he scored a single enemy kill with nothing but a handgun, at about 4,000-5,000 feet (about 1.3 km) in altitude, and without a plane. This is the story of Owen Baggett.


Born in 1920 in Texas, after finishing high school, Baggett moved to the city of Abilene to enroll in Hardin–Simmons University. While we were unable to discern what Baggett studied from the sparse amount of information available about his early life, the fact that he went to work at Johnson and Company Investment Securities in New York after graduating suggests he studied finance, business, or another similar subject.

Whatever the case, while still working at the investment firm in New York in December of 1941, Baggett volunteered for the Army Air Corps and reported for basic pilot training at the New Columbus Army Flying School.

After graduating from basic training, Baggett reported for duty in India, just a stone’s throw away from Japanese occupied Burma with the Tenth Air Force. Baggett eventually became a co-pilot for a B-24 bomber in the 7th Bomb Group based in Pandaveswar and reached the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. During his time with the 7th Bomb Group, Baggett’s duties mainly consisted of flying bombing runs into Burma and helping defend allied supply routes between India and China.

Baggett’s career was mostly uneventful, or at least as uneventful as it could be given the circumstances, for around a year until he was called upon to take part in a bombing run on March 31, 1943. The mission itself was fairly simple- Baggett and the rest of the 7th Bomb Group were to fly into Burma and destroy a small, but vital railroad bridge near the logging town of Pyinmana.

However, shortly after taking off, the (unescorted) bombers of the 7th Bomb Group were attacked by a few dozen Japanese Zero fighters. During the ensuing dogfight, the plane’s emergency oxygen tanks were hit, severely damaging the craft. Ultimately, 1st Lt. Lloyd Jensen gave the order for the crew to bailout. Baggett relayed the order to the crew using hand signals (since their intercom had also been destroyed) and leapt from the aircraft with the rest of the surviving crew.

Not long after the crew bailed out, the attacking Japanese Zeros began training their guns on the now-defenceless crewman lazily floating towards the ground.

Baggett would later recall seeing some of his crewmates being torn to pieces by gunfire (in total 5 of the 9 aboard the downed bomber were killed). As for himself, a bullet grazed his arm, but he was otherwise fine. In a desperate bid to stay that way, after being shot in the arm, Baggett played possum, hanging limp in his parachute’s harness.

According to a 1996 article published in Air Force Magazine, this is when Baggett spotted an enemy pilot lazily flying along almost vertically in mid-air to come check out whether Baggett was dead or not, including having his canopy open to get a better look at Baggett. When the near-stalling plane came within range, Baggett ceased to play dead and pulled out his M1911 from its holster, aimed it at the pilot, and squeezed the trigger four times. The plane soon stalled out and Baggett didn’t notice what happened after, thinking little of the incident, being more concerned with the other fighters taking pot shots at he and his crew.

After safely reaching the ground, Baggett regrouped with Lt Jensen and one of the bomber’s surviving gunners. Shortly thereafter, all three were captured, at which point Baggett soon found himself being interrogated. After telling the events leading up to his capture to Major General Arimura, commander of the Southeast Asia POW camps, very oddly (as no one else in his little group was given the opportunity), Baggett was given the chance to die with honour by committing harakiri (an offer he refused).

Later, while still a POW, Baggett had a chance encounter with one Col. Harry Melton. Melton informed him that the plane that Baggett had shot at had crashed directly after stalling out near him and (supposedly) the pilot’s body had been thrown from the wreckage. When it was recovered, he appeared to have been killed, or at least seriously injured, via having been shot, at least according to Colonel Melton.

Despite the fact that the plane had crashed after his encounter with it, Baggett was still skeptical that one (or more) of his shots actually landed and figured something else must have happened to cause the crash. Nevertheless, it was speculated by his compatriots that this must have been the reason Baggett alone had been given the chance to die with honour by committing harakiri after being interrogated.

Baggett never really talked about his impressive feat after the fact, remaining skeptical that he’d scored such a lucky shot. He uneventfully served the rest of his time in the war as a POW, dropping from a hearty 180 pounds and change to just over 90 during the near two years he was kept prisoner. The camp he was in was finally liberated on September 7, 1945 by the OSS and he continued to serve in the military for several years after WW2, reaching the rank of colonel.

The full details of his lucky shot were only dug up in 1996 by John L Frisbee of Air Force Magazine. After combing the records looking to verify or disprove the tale, it turned out that while Col. Harry Melton’s assertion that the pilot in question had been found with a .45 caliber bullet wound could not be verified by any documented evidence, it was ultimately determined that Baggett must have managed to hit the pilot. You see, the plane in question appears to have stalled at approximately 4,000 to 5,000 feet (so an amazing amount of time for the pilot to have recovered from the stall had he been physically able) and, based on official mission reports by survivors, there were no Allied fighters in the vicinity to have downed the fighter and no references of anyone seeing any friendly fire at the slow moving plane before its ultimately demise. Further, even with some sort of random engine failure, the pilot should have still had some control of the plane, instead of reportedly more or less heading straight down and crashing after the stall.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army ditches search for 7.62 battle rifle — for now

Multiple sources are reporting that the Army has put on hold its search for a new battle rifle to field to troops in overseas operations that fires a heavier round than the service’s current weapon.


The Army has been facing pressure from Congress and some in the service to field a larger caliber rifle to troops fighting ISIS and other militants who use Russian-made weapons and body armor. Defense officials have said the American M4 carbine and its variants fire a 5.56mm round that cannot penetrate new Russian-designed armor and that the answer was to field an immediate supply of rifles chambered in 7.62mm.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs
The M110 SASS is the Army’s current 7.62 compact sniper rifle. Some service leaders pushed a version of this rifle for more deployed troops to penetrate Russian-made body armor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

“We recognize the 5.56mm round, there is a type of body armor it doesn’t penetrate. … Adversarial states are selling it for $250,” Army chief Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers in May. “There’s a need, an operational need [for a 7.62 rifle]. We think we can do it relatively quickly.”

But less than two months after the Army issued a request from industry to provide up to 50,000 7.62 battle rifles, sources say the service has pulled the plug on the program, citing internal disagreements on the true need for the rifle and cost savings. The shelving comes as the Pentagon is finalizing a broad-based report on the military’s small arms ammunition and what the future needs of the services are given the existing threats.

Some insiders say the service is leaning toward a rifle chambered in an entirely new caliber that has better penetration and fires more accurately at longer distances, and that pursuing an “interim” solution is a waste of time and resources.

“There are systems out there today, on the shelf, that with some very minor modifications could be adapted to munitions that we’re developing at Fort Benning that could be used to penetrate these SAPI plates that our adversaries are developing,” Milley said in May. “It’s not necessarily an either or proposition on that one. I think there’s weapons out there that we can get, in the right caliber, that can enhance the capability of the infantry soldier.”

Other experts say most hard body armor can withstand multiple hits from both 5.56 rounds and 7.62 ones, so spending limited funds on a new rifle in a caliber that current body armor can already resist is simply spending good money after bad.

So for now, it looks like the Army is going to stick with its M4 for now. But with the service holding off on buying an interim 7.62 rifle, it could be that soldiers might be looking at a whole new rifle platform a lot sooner than they thought.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

The Blackburn Buccaneer was a fast-attack jet of the Royal Navy designed to kill Russian cruisers from just above the waves with conventional and nuclear weapons in engagements lasting only a minute or so. Now, a retired oil company CEO has bought a retired Buccaneer and flies it around South Africa.


Blackburn Buccaneer – British Nuclear Bomber

www.youtube.com

The plane was sent to the fleet in 1962 and served for over 30 years. The need for the jet came in 1952 when Russia introduced the Sverdlov-class cruisers. These were a class of cruisers valuable for defending the Russian coasts and attacking British and other carriers at night when the British would be unable to launch planes.

Britain could either build a new fleet of its own to counter Russia’s new fleets and the Sverdlov cruisers or, it could find a way to negate the new Russian assets. The British decided to build a new plane that could launch day or night, and that could quickly attack enemy ships and get away before the ship could retaliate.

This was a tall order against the Sverdlov which had cutting-edge radar and anti-aircraft weapons. British designers got around this by making the Buccaneer capable of flying just over the waves, below the radar of the enemy ships. And when they reached the target, the Buccaneers would launch their weapons in less than a minute and make their escape.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

A Blackburn Buccaneer with its wings folded.

(Paul Lucas, CC BY 2.0)

The Buccaneer was supposed to eventually receive a custom-made nuclear air-to-surface missile, but actually spent most of its career carrying conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. Despite the failure to create the nuclear air-to-surface missile, the Buccaneer was equipped with nuclear free-fall bombs.

The aircraft performed plenty of training in the Cold War and were used for a number of missions, including extensive duties in Iraq during the Gulf War, but was retired in 1994 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

And that was where Ian Pringle came in. A successful oil businessman, Pringle had the money to scoop up a Buccaneer when it went up for sale. He had the plane transported to Thunder City, South Africa, where civilians are allowed to fly nuclear-capable aircraft.

Once there, he took lessons in how to fly the aircraft, a dangerous process. His plane was an operational one, and so it only has controls in the front seat, so his trainer had to sit in the back seat and coach him from there. If Pringle had panicked in flight, there was no way for the instructor to take over.

But Pringle figured it out, and now he races the plane low over the grass of South Africa when he can. The plane was made to allow pilots to fly just above the water, and so he can take it pretty low to the grass.

He’s one of only two civilians ever to fly the plane, though he obviously can’t fly it with missiles or bombs on board.

Articles

Top secret files detail how drone strikes target terrorists — and how they go wrong

Newly unveiled British intelligence documents detail how the National Security Agency worked with its British counterpart when carrying out drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan and how they targeted terrorists, The New York Times reports.


The documents, released to the Guardian newspaper by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and shared with The New York Times, also detail how often those strikes go wrong.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

The documents also reveal that US forces conducted a strike in 2012 to kill a doctor, identified as Khadim Usamah, who the US believed was surgically inserting explosives into potential Al Qaeda operatives.

Britain’s military has carried out drone strikes in war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, but the documents suggest that British intelligence also helped guide strikes by the US outside of those zones.

Drone attacks carried out by the US have been heavily criticized in the past, and prompted thousands to protest against their use. Critiques say that drone attacks are not specific enough and often end up killing a lot of civilians.

Outcries against the use of drones were renewed when President Barack Obama disclosed in April that two Western aid workers who were held hostage by Al Qaeda had been killed after a strike against the terrorist group in Pakistan.

Instances in which civilians have been killed and uncertainty about drones’ accuracy in hitting their target has led to increased public scrutiny of the use of drones. In the case of the hostages who were killed, intelligence officers were unaware they were present at the time of the strike.

Meanwhile, an Algerian terrorist who had been reported dead by the Pentagon after a strike appears to still be alive, according to the Times. And American officials only learned a few days after an attack in Yemen that they had killed the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Officials argue that missiles fired from unmanned aircrafts are the most precise way to target terrorists. But for the shots to be as precise as possible, the documents highlight the importance of surveillance and eavesdropping in order to determine not only the exact location, but also whether everyone in a strike zone poses a threat. The documents also detail how that use of technology is flawed.

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

The British Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) guide to targeting outlines the importance of identifying whether a phone is used by one or more people, as tracking smartphones is often used to identify a target. Because of the obvious flaw in targeting people only by the location of their smartphones, the agencies also try to identify terrorists by voice and physical appearance.

The guide also says that whether a call was terminated right after a strike is a good way of knowing whether it hit its target.

Amid a parliamentary investigation into whether the UK was part of unmanned aerial vehicle strikes (UAV) in Yemen, British defense minister Mark Francois said “UAV strikes against terrorist targets in Yemen are a matter for the Yemeni and US governments,” according to the Times.

But the new documents suggest that the country provided intelligence for different American strikes, including one in Yemen.

The NSA and CIA both declined to comment to the Times. But the GCHQ said in a statement that it expects “all states concerned to act in accordance with international law and take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties when conducting any form of military or counterterrorist operations.”

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