Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

They were made of wood, carried no heavy guns, and would sink at the drop of a hat. But they were fast, hard to hit, and could kill nearly anything afloat. Pound for pound, the deadliest boats of World War II weren’t the carriers or the legendary battleships, they were the humble patrol torpedo boats.


Battle Stations: PT Boats (War History Documentary)

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America invested heavily in capital ships in the inter-war years, concentrating on battleships and carriers that could project power across the deep oceans. Combined with destroyers and cruisers to protect them, this resulted in fleets that could move thousands of miles across the ocean and pummel enemy shores. It was a good, solid investment.

But these large ships were expensive and relatively slow, and building them required lots of metal and manpower. There was still an open niche for a fast attack craft like the Italian motor torpedo boats that had famously sunk the SMS Szent Istvan in World War I.

Boat builders who had made their name in racing lined up to compete for Navy contracts. They held demonstrations and sea trials in 1940 and 1941, culminating in the “Pinewood Derbies” of July 1941.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

PT-658 transits the water at the Portland Rose Festival in 2006. The boat was restored by volunteers and features its full armament and original engines.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ralph Radford)

These were essentially races between different boats with either weapons or copper weights installed to mimic combat armament, allowing the Navy to see what designs were fastest, most nimble, and could survive the quick turns with a combat load.

Not all the vessels made it through. Some experienced hull and deck failures, but others zipped through the course at up to 46 miles per hour. A few boats impressed the Navy, especially what would become the ELCO Patrol Torpedo Boat. Higgins and Hulkins also showed off impressive designs, and all three contractors were given orders for Navy boats.

The Navy standardized the overall designs and armament, though the contractors took some liberties, especially Higgins. They were all to be approximately 50 tons, made of mahogany, and carry two .50-cal. machine guns. Many got up to four torpedo tubes and a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, while a few even got mortars or rockets.

They were powered by aviation fuel and three powerful engines.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

U.S. Navy patrol boats zip through the water during exercises of the U.S. east coast on July 12, 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

All of this combined to create a light, powerful craft that was fast as hell. Two gunners on a PT boat at Pearl Harbor were credited with the first Japanese kill by the U.S. in World War II when they downed an enemy plane.

The little boats would distinguish themselves over and over again, even though there were only 29 in the Navy at the start of the war. Gen. Douglas MacArthur slipped out of the Philippines on a two-day trip through the enemy fleet with Lt. John D. Bulkeley on a PT boat. Bulkeley would earn a Medal of Honor for his actions.

The boats launched constant attacks against Japanese ships, hitting them with Mk. 8 torpedoes. The Coast Guard used 83-foot designs for their submarine hunters and patrol boats, many of which saw service at D-Day where they served as the “Matchstick Fleet” that rescued drowning soldiers.

Also at D-Day, similar landing craft made by Higgins were modified to fire rockets at the shore to suppress shore positions.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

Navy Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy on PT-109.

(U.S. Navy)

But it was during island hopping across the Pacific where the torpedo boats really earned their fame. As Japan’s fleet took heavy losses in 1942 and 1943, it relied on its army to try and hold islands against the U.S. advance, and the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” was sent to prey on the ships of the “Tokyo Express.”

Japan’s destroyers and similar vessels could slaughter torpedo boats when they could hit them, but the U.S. patrols generally operated at night and would hit the larger ships with their deadly torpedoes, using their speed to escape danger. It wasn’t perfect, though, as Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy would learn when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, forcing Kennedy and 11 survivors to swim through shark-infested water for hours.

The patrol boats served across the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and thousands of sailors from the Coast Guard and Navy served on these small vessels, downing tens of thousands of tons of enemy shipping.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force is rolling out changes for new OCP uniform

The Air Force announced April 23, 2019, new rules on Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms that aim to better fit the needs of airmen and the jobs they do while also holding fast to tradition.

The changes highlighted include authorization of the two-piece Flight Duty Uniform in garrison and updated patch guidance for the OCP uniform.

“During the initial rollout of the OCP, we originally matched our sister services regarding patch configurations as we sought to emphasize our role as a joint warfighting force,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.


“In response to overwhelming feedback received from airmen, we will make an easy ‘sleeve swap’ of the patch configuration to further elevate our focus on honoring the heritage of squadrons as the war-fighting units of the world’s greatest Air Force. We will now place the squadron patch on the right sleeve along with the U.S. flag and move the higher headquarters patch to the left sleeve of the OCP.”

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

OCP uniform guidance.

Additionally, to provide commanders with expanded uniform options to fit myriad missions, on April 15, 2019, the two-piece flight suit, otherwise known as the 2PFDU, will be authorized to be worn in both garrison and deployed locations. The 2PFDU continues an effort to provide airmen with improved form, fit and function to perform their duties in any environment.

The traditional flight duty uniform will also continue to be an option. Squadron commanders will now have the flexibility to make combat uniform decisions based on what is best for their airmen to meet mission requirements.

“The new unit patch configuration of the OCP and 2PFDU also aligns with the traditional FDU, elevating the significance of squadron focus and identity, which supports CSAF’s intent to revitalize squadrons,” said Lt. Gen. Mark D. Kelly, Headquarters Air Force deputy chief of staff for Air Force operations.

In May 2018, Air Force leaders decided to transition to the OCP following feedback from airmen that it is the best, battle-tested utility uniform available. It will also eliminate the need to maintain two separate uniforms – one for in-garrison and one for deployments.

The service expects to fully transition to OCPs by April 1, 2021.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Articles

Watch the Army test its upgraded Stryker vehicles armed to destroy Russia’s best tanks

Army personnel recently traveled from Germany to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland for testing and training on new variants of the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.


The soldiers tested out Strykers armed with a 30mm cannon as well as with a common remote-operated weapons station that allows soldiers inside the vehicle to fire Javelin antitank guided missiles.

Twelve of the Stryker variants — six with 30 mm cannons and six with Javelin missiles — will head to Germany in January for more evaluation by US troops before the Army hopes to deploy them to a forward position in Europe next summer.

Troops from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, who took part in the testing in Maryland, spoke highly of the new features on the vehicle, which has been nicknamed “Dragoon” after the regiment.

(Army News Service (ARNEWS) | YouTube)”It’s doing a lot more damage and you’re getting better effects,” Staff Sgt. Randall Engler said.

Previous variants of the Stryker have been armed with either an M2 .50-caliber machine gun or an MK19 grenade launcher. The request for more firepower came in response to recent military operations by Russia.

“This capability coming to [2nd Cavalry] is directly attributable to Russian aggression and we are actively working with our foreign partners in how to help shape our formation,” said Lt. Col. Troy Meissel, the regiment’s deputy commanding officer, according to the Army.

The new armaments don’t make the Stryker a fighting vehicle, but Meissel said the search for heaftier weapons stems from the reduction in manpower in Europe from 300,000 during the Cold War to about 30,000 now.

“How do we, as an Army, make 30,000 soldiers feel like 300,000?” Meissel said. “This new ICV-D is one of the ways that can help us do that.”

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II
A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle-Dragoon fires 30 mm rounds during a live-fire demonstration at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Aug. 16, 2017. Army photo by Sean Kimmons

Advancements in Russian armor have been cause for concern among military planners in the West. Moscow’s new Armata tank will reportedly be outfitted with an active-protection system, which uses radar and projectiles to detect and counter antitank and anti-armor weapons.

The US Army is also looking at APS for the Stryker and its Abrams tank, though the latest variant of the RPG is rumored to have an APS countermeasure.

Relations between Russia and US allies in Eastern Europe have grown more contentious in recent months, particularly in the run up to Russia-Belarus military exercises in September that will reportedly see 60,000 to 100,000 Russian troops deployed to Belarus and western Russia.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II
Russian T-14 Armata. Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin.

Countries in the Baltics have warned of more ambitious Russian espionage efforts, and NATO aircraft have tangled with their Russian counterparts numerous times in over the last year.

The US has done several military exercises with partners in the region this year and increased deployments, including of Patriot missile air-defense systems, to NATO member-states in Eastern Europe.

Military.com has more footage of the new Stryker variants in action.

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Good news, airmen: The Air Force put all of your basic training photos online

Did you go through U.S. Air Force BMT after the creation of the modern Air Force? Whether you passed through Lackland in 1947 or 1997, the Air Force is making your memories available online for all to see.


 

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II
BMT Photo, 1944

Not all of the flights are on the Air Force’s BMT Flight Photos Site just yet. The airmen charged to collect and post the photos have a huge backlog to get through and also don’t have access to all the historical flight photos. They’re relying on donations from former airmen to donate theirs to the cause.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

They need high quality scanned images of your Air Force BMT Flight Photo. Ideally, the pictures can be sent via email to lacklandbmt.photo@us.af.mil. Photo images of pictures can be sent via U.S. mail to:

37 TRW/HO

2320 Carswell Ave (Bldg 7065 Room 2)

Lackland AFB TX 78236-5155

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

For now, those curious about the history of Air Force basic training, uniforms, and/or culture can peruse through years and years of basic training photos from the 1940’s to today’s graduating airmen. It’s a fascinating look at the evolution of the Air Force, the Armed Forces of the United States, and — for that matter — the changing culture of America in general.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Navy boot camp trainers must spend 90 days away from families in lockdown measure

Sailors who train Navy recruits at boot camp will no longer be allowed to go back to their own homes at night as the service hit hardest by the coronavirus continues rolling out new policies to try to stop the spread.


Starting Thursday night, Navy recruit division commanders and other boot camp staff will spend 90-day cycles at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois. Command Master Chief David Twiford announced the new rules in an email to the command, telling them “No one will be allowed to leave the installation,” Navy Times reported on Wednesday.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

The unusual decision is based on the effect the highly contagious coronavirus has had on the force, Lt. Cmdr. Frederick Martin, a spokesman for Recruit Training command, told Military.com. The boot camp lockdown will “minimize the chance of the virus infecting this vital accessions pipeline for the Navy and ensure our ability to man the Fleet.”

The Navy on Tuesday had 57 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, in the ranks. On Wednesday, the service announced that 12 more sailors tested positive for the disease.

Martin said the command recognizes the new 90-day tours would place extra burdens on its sailors “who are already performing an arduous mission during their shore duty, and together with their families, trying to navigate this national crisis.”

“We understand and greatly appreciate the sacrifice these sailors and their families are making, but given the extraordinary circumstances we are in, this action must be taken to ensure the ability to protect our recruits and staff while creating basically trained sailors,” Martin said.

Case-by-case exceptions for staff with family issues or other considerations are being evaluated, he added. But Twiford told the command families would “have to be able to for the most part function without us for a bit, just like when we deploy,” according to Navy Times.

The move at Great Lakes is one of several aggressive policies Navy leaders have enacted amid the global pandemic. The service has 14-day required quarantines between port calls at sea and also postponed selection boards, advancement exams and fitness tests to help prevent personnel from having to congregate.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

It also announced the relaxing of some grooming standards to keep its personnel from having to make routine trips to the barbershop or salon, where they wouldn’t be able remain six feet away from other people.

New recruits showing up to boot camp are screened for coronavirus symptoms before they’re allowed to start training.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

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

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

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


Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

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

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

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

We have an old mother that peevish is grown,

She snubs us like children that scarce walk alone;

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

Which nobody can deny, which nobody can deny.

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

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

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

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

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

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

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

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

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

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

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

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

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

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

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

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

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

(Photo courtesy of The Green Dragon Tavern Museum.)

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

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

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

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

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

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how far Mario ran and swam to save the Princess

Now you can do the Mario saves Princess Peach workout on a daily basis, thanks to Boston-based computer programmer Ian Albert and Mental Floss magazine. After a reader asked the magazine how many miles the Italian duo had to run, jump, and swim to get to the Princess, they were actually able to calculate it using some simple standard measurements.

There are some ground pounders out there who probably do harder workouts for fun.


Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

Not to take anything away from your childhood or anything.

Mental Floss’ Nick Green took the maps created through Ian Alberts screenshots of the game, calculated how large Mario and Luigi would be as normal human beings – that is, using their pre-mushroom growth hormone size – a human with their feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, an average of 26 inches.

Then, using no bonus areas or warp tunnels, Green calculated the distance from Mario’s starting point to saving the princess, relative to that 26 inches between his feet. The final tally comes to 17,835 feet – 3.4 miles. Barely more than running a 5K fun run, though this number increases to 3.7 miles if you also calculate running all the bonus areas.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

Super Mario PT will not be coming to your console anytime soon.

If we were going to make this a partial triathlon, then calculating the swimming distance would be 371 feet, roughly eight laps in an Olympic-sized pool, and another 344 feet with the bonus areas, so around 15 laps.

Keep in mind this is just running and swimming straight through, without calculating the physical toll of jumping, climbing stairs, crawling in tubes, and murdering birds and turtles or of running in a lava-filled enclosed castle. There’s no doubt that rescuing the princess would be a little more difficult than we’re making it out to be, but the Princess Rescue Workout would still be short work for many military members.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 historical events that happened on Christmas

Who’s ready for some holiday cheer? Christmas has been a federal holiday since 1870, so we’re pretty accustomed to having a couple of days off to spend with family and drink too much eggnog. Christmas wasn’t always such a big party, however. Throughout most of human history, important political figures didn’t let a pesky holiday get in the way of their plans. 

Let’s check out a few of the most significant historical events that happened on December 25th. 

1066: William the Conqueror was crowned king. 

Ever heard of William, Duke of Normandy? What about his more ominous nickname- William the Conqueror? The man was a pretty big deal. In October of 1066, he invaded the British Isles and conquered King Harold II at the legendary Battle of Hastings. After his victory, he wasn’t going to keep his boring old title. What better day to get a new one than Christmas? 

On Christmas Day at Westminster Abbey, William was crowned king of England. This was the beginning of a highly influential 21-year long rule. True to his French roots, the Norman king infused his own culture and language with those of the English people he governed. In doing so, he changed the development of the English language. He also offered generous land grants to his French allies, which was partially responsible for the birth of the feudal system that continued throughout most of the Middle Ages. 

1776: Washington crossed the Delaware. 

George Washington wasn’t our first president for no reason. During the American Revolution, he wasn’t about to take a cocoa break on Christmas. No way. At 6 pm, Washington pushed his exhausted, borderline hopeless troops across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania at McConkey’s Ferry. For those who have only seen the Delaware as a blue line on a US map, that might not sound like such a remarkable feat. In reality, the crossing was treacherous and daring to the extreme. 

When Washington first arrived at the riverside, he was short on supplies and at least 1,700 of his soldiers were too ill or injured to fight. Even more of his men were needed to stay back to guard them. That left 2,400 to prepare a variety of boats and ferries for the crossing. The river was over 30 feet deep in some areas and freezing cold. The boats were loaded with cannons and artillery, and the crossing began. Over the course of several hours, the men made picked their way across, dodging floating ice through the night. 

Their eventual success marked a turning point in the Revolutionary War. After the crossing, Washington led a series of attacks while the opposing forces were still off their game from nights of holiday merrymaking. His risky move resulted in victories in Trenton and Princeton shortly after the new year, restoring hope to the weathered Continental Army. 

1814: The Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812

After the Revolutionary War was won, America was far from finished arguing with the British. Great Britain continued trying to restrict U.S. trade and expand its own territory, and Americans weren’t having it. They took on the naval superpower in a conflict that would last nearly three years. The fighting was destructive and costly, reaching a peak when the British burned down the White House

It wasn’t sustainable for either party, so they met in Ghent, Belgium to negotiate a peace agreement. After four months of arguing, a settlement was finally agreed upon. The treaty basically called the war a truce, and all prisoners and captured ships were returned to their home nations. The Treaty didn’t go into effect until February of 1815, so the war didn’t instantly cease. The Battle of New Orleans actually took place in January after it was signed on Christmas. Still, the Treaty of Ghent was effectively responsible for ending the war. 

1868: Andrew Johnson pardoned confederate soldiers

The Civil War isn’t exactly America’s most shining moment, but after it was over, unifying the country was necessary to restore stability. Lincoln’s vice president and successor, Andrew Johnson, did this by doling out a truly massive Christmas gift: With Proclamation 179, he offered amnesty to every single person who fought against the US throughout the Civil War. 

The proclamation was actually the fourth order of its kind, with earlier agreements reestablishing legal rights to confederate soldiers if they signed oaths of loyalty to the United States. The Christmas proclamation brought the postwar agreements to a close. 

1968: Apollo 8 went into orbit around the moon

Not all holiday historical events were political. Gazing at the winter moon on Christmas Eve sounds romantic enough, but In 1968, three astronauts spent the night orbiting around it. Originally, the Apollo 8 mission was intended to be no more than a test run for a lunar landing. When progress on the lunar module took longer than anticipated, NASA decided to adjust their mission plan, transforming it into a full-blown moon mission. 

The mission was a huge success. Borman, Lovell, and Anders were the first men to escape  Earth’s gravitational pull, see the Earth from space, and orbit the moon, and it all happened on Christmas Eve! From orbit, the astronauts broadcasted a report back to Earth, ending in, “Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.” To date, that moment is one of the most-watched in all of television history. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is bombing Afghanistan more than ever in 2018

The 591 weapons released over Afghanistan in May 2018 were the most in a month so far, according to new statistics released by the Air Force.

Those 591 topped the previous high, which was 562 in April 2018 — a count that includes bombs, missiles and ground-attacks. The record for a month is the 653 weapons released in October 2017 — that month, August 2017, and April and May 2018 are the only months to exceed 500 weapons released.

Overall, the US aircraft conducted 726 sorties as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in May 2018, 73 of which included the release of at least one weapon.

The total weapons deployed by manned and remotely piloted aircraft through May 2018 is 2,339, more than were dropped in both 2016 and 2015 and close to the 12-month totals for 2013 and 2014 — 2,758 and 2,365, respectively.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II
A U.S. Army soldier from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry.u00a0Qalat, Afghanistan, Aug. 13, 2011.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

The 2,339 weapons used through May 2018 puts the US on pace to release 5,613 weapons this year, which would well exceed the 4,361 used in 2017.

President Donald Trump said in 2017 that the US would increase its troop presence in Afghanistan to combat the resurgent Taliban as well as the growing presence of a local offshoot of ISIS called Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

Since then, a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack aircraft have been stationed in Afghanistan, as have MQ-9 Reapers used for intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance. F-16 Falcon fighter jets and EC-130H Compass Call electronic-warfare aircraft, among others, are also in the country.


Trump also delegated more authority to the Pentagon and commanders on the ground.

“We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing,” Trump said in April 2017, after the Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon was dropped on an ISIS-K targetin northwest Afghanistan — the first battlefield use of that weapon.

In recent months, the US has stepped up its targeting of the Taliban’s drug labs and other revenue-generating infrastructure, using advanced aircraft like the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter to bomb rudimentary buildings around Afghanistan.

The Taliban has deepened its involvement in the drug trade, and many of its labs are easily rebuilt.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II
ISIS-K fighting positions targeted by airstrikes in Momand Valley, Achin District, Nangahar Province, Afghanistan, Oct.u00a019, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo)

“US air operations in May put tremendous pressure on every branch of the Taliban’s network,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, combined force air-component commander, said in a release. “We struck Taliban leadership with precision strikes, and consistently pummeled their revenue-producing facilities, weapons caches, and staging facilities.”

The May 2018 airstrike data was released as Army Lt. Gen. Austin Scott Miller went before lawmakers as the nominee to be the commander of US Forces Afghanistan. He would be the ninth US general to take command since the invasion in late 2001 and the first appointed by Trump.

Miller acknowledged that the 17 years the US has spent in Afghanistan “is a very long time” but said he “cannot guarantee you a timeline or an end date” for the deployment of the 16,000 US troops now in the country.

The Pentagon believes that the Taliban controls or is contesting control of about one-third of Afghanistan, while the Afghan government controls the rest.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II
U.S. Army Pfc. Richard Mills, Security Forces rifleman attached to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, secures his eyes and ears as Afghan National Army soldiers conduct a controlled detonation of a Taliban-planted Improvised Explosive Device found on a road in Shinkai, Afghanistan, Oct. 8, 2011.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras)

“I’ve learned a lot in the last 17 years,” Miller, who currently oversees Joint Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’ve learned there are groups that want nothing more than to harm Americans.”

“I’ve learned these groups thrive in ungoverned spaces,” he added. “I’ve also learned that when we maintain pressure on them abroad, they struggle to organize and build the necessary means to attack us.”

When pressed by senators, Miller admitted the Pentagon needed to be considering pulling out of Afghanistan in the coming years but stressed that a “precipitous and disorderly withdrawal” would lead to “negative effects on US national security.”

Miller, who deployed to Afghanistan as a lieutenant colonel in 2001, underscored the generational nature of the war by gesturing to his son, a second lieutenant in the Army, during the hearing.

“This young guy sitting behind me,” Miller said. “I never anticipated that his cohort would be in a position to deploy [to Afghanistan] as I sat there in 2001 and looked at this.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened to this stealth fighter remains a mystery

More pieces from an F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared in the Pacific have been found, the Japanese defense minister revealed May 7, 2019.

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter piloted by Maj. Akinori Hosomi mysteriously vanished from radar on April 9, 2019. The day after the crash, pieces of the tail were found floating on the surface of the water, but the rest of the fifth-generation fighter was nowhere to be found.

The fighter, believed to be lying somewhere on the ocean floor, has been missing for weeks, despite the best efforts of the US and Japanese militaries to find it.


Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya announced May 7, 2019, that parts of the flight recorder and cockpit canopy had been discovered at an unspecified location on the ocean floor, CNN reported. The flight recorder was retrieved by a US Navy salvage team dispatched to assist in the search.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

First operational F-35A Lightning II presented to JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing at Misawa Air Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)

The defense minister said the flight recorder is in “terrible” condition. Critical memory components are reportedly missing, meaning that key data about the crash, the first for an F-35A, may be unavailable. Exactly what happened to the stealth fighter remains a mystery.

The downed F-35, which was built by Lockheed Martin but assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Ltd., is one of a growing fleet of Japanese stealth fighters. In response to the crash, Japan grounded its remaining F-35s. They will remain on the ground while the related investigation is ongoing.

Japan currently has 12 F-35s, but it has another 147 stealth fighters on order. B variants with that need little runway to take off and land are expected to eventually serve on Japanese light aircraft carriers while the A variant will become the primary fighter of the Japanese air force.

The search for the missing fighter and its pilot is expected to continue.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukraine is one step closer to NATO membership

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has reiterated that Kyiv is seeking a Membership Action Plan (MAP), a formal step toward joining NATO.


Poroshenko, in a post on Facebook on March 10, 2018, said a MAP was Ukraine’s “next ambition” on the path toward eventual membership in the 29-country Western alliance.

“This is what my letter to Jens Stoltenberg in February 2018 was about, where, with reference to Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, I officially [set out] Ukraine’s aspirations to become a member of the Alliance,” Poroshenko wrote.

A Membership Action Plan is a multistage process of political dialogue and military reform to bring a country in line with NATO standards and to eventual membership. The process can take several years.

Also read: In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

Poroshenko’s comments came after NATO updated its website to include Ukraine alongside three other countries — Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, and Macedonia — that have declared their aspirations to NATO membership

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. (Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC)

“Countries that have declared an interest in joining the Alliance are initially invited to engage in an intensified dialogue with NATO about their membership aspirations and related reforms,” the NATO website said.

The next step toward possible membership is a MAP. But a NATO official told RFE/RL that the alliance has not changed its position on Ukraine.

“NATO’s policy remains the same,” the official said. “There has been a change in Ukraine’s policy, which the website reflects.”

Related: How Ukraine punked North Korea’s nuclear missile scientists

Under former President Viktor Yanukovych, Kyiv said it was not interested in joining NATO. But Kyiv has sought NATO membership since the 2014 antigovernment Maidan protests that toppled Moscow-friendly Yanukovych and ushered in a pro-Western government.

Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on June 8, 2017, passed a law making NATO integration a foreign policy priority.

In July 2017, Poroshenko announced that he would seek the opening of negotiations on a MAP with NATO.

Ukraine is currently embroiled in a war with Russia-backed separatists in part of its eastern regions that has killed more than 10,300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands since April 2014.

Articles

Navy ratings are back — ‘effective immediately’

The Navy has reversed its decision to remove the 241-year-old tradition of referring to its sailors by their job and rank after months of fierce backlash and petitions.


Previously, the Navy claimed the change was made to allow sailors to more easily cross-train into different positions and to make assignments more fluid. But ratings are a core part of a sailor’s experience and both service members and veterans began asking for their titles back.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

As of Dec. 21, they have them.

Sailors began celebrating early as a draft of the Navy administrative message began making the rounds on social media. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson took to Facebook to confirm that while the version being shared was an early draft, the message was right.


According to the U.S. Naval Institute, Richardson acknowledged the role of sailor feedback in the message saying, “We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored. The feedback from current and former sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals.”

“This course correction doesn’t mean our work is done – rating modernization will continue for all the right reasons. Modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us,” Richardson wrote.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano holds an all-hands call to discuss the Navy’s rating modernization efforts at 3rd Fleet headquarters in San Diego on Nov. 7. The decision to scrap Navy ratings has since been reversed. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis Spencer)

So, “choose your rate, choose your fate,” will still become more flexible than it currently is, but ratings are back.

When the official NAVADMIN is released, it will appear here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This pilot shot down an enemy fighter with his 1911

When Army Air Forces bomber pilot Owen Baggett was trying to take out a bridge in WWII at Burma, he ended up having to bail out in the skies over the bridge. He landed in the history books.


In March 1943, Baggett and other airmen in his B-24 Liberator squadron were met by a baker’s dozen of Japanese Zero fighters as they went over their target. Baggett’s B-24 was hit numerous time in its fuel tanks and Baggett and his crew were forced to bail out.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II
What a B-24 looks like when its fuel tanks are hit by AA fire.

Baggett, the co-pilot, covered their escape in the B-24’s top gun turret. He and the rest of the crew barely got out before the plane exploded.

The deadly Japanese attack kept coming, however, attacking the pilots in their parachutes as they gently fell to earth. Baggett decided to play dead in his rig, trying to avoid getting strafed by a fighter plane.

That’s when one of the Zeros got a little too close.

A Japanese pilot approached Baggett in his chute with the Zero’s nose up and at near-stalled speed. The enemy pilot opened his canopy to get a look at the American. Baggett, who was sneakily holding his M1911 pistol, snapped up and angrily fired four rounds into the Zero’s cockpit. The Zero spun to the ground.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II
This alleged photo of Baggett shooting down the Zero is not real.

Colonel Harry Melton, commander of the 311th Fighter Group, was also shot down that day. He said he saw the Japanese pilot’s body thrown clear of the downed plane and that the pilot was killed by a bullet to the head, not the plane crash.

But Melton himself was killed on a ship that was sunk as it headed toward Japan. If Baggett really did take down a fighter with a pistol, he would be the only person to ever shoot down an aircraft with a pistol.

When Baggett hit the ground, the enemy pilots were still trying to strafe him. He hid behind trees until ground forces captured him. Baggett spent two years as a POW in Rangoon, Burma. He was later rescued by OSS agents and stayed in the newly-created U.S. Air Force after the war’s end.

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II
Baggett during WWII.

Baggett retired from the Air Force as a Colonel and later worked on Wall Street. He died in 2006 and firmly believed he was successful in shooting down the Zero with his 1911.

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