13 US Coast Guard Legends - We Are The Mighty
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13 US Coast Guard Legends

In a service whose mission includes rescuing lives in peril, it’s hard to pick and choose legends among so many heroes. The Coast Guard’s history is filled with ordinary men who rose to the challenges presented by extraordinary circumstances. Here is a list of 13 folks who embodied the Coast Guard ethos:


1. Douglas Munro

 

13 US Coast Guard Legends
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The ultimate hero of the Coast Guard is arguably Douglas Munro. As he commanded a group of Higgins boats at the Battle of Guadalcanal, Munro coordinated the evacuation of more than 500 Marines who came under heavy fire, using his boat as a shield to draw fire. During the evacuation, he was fatally wounded, but his last words were, “Did they get off?”

2. Thomas “Jimmy” Crotty

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Lt. Thomas “Jimmy” Crotty was the first Coast Guard prisoner of war since the War of 1812 and served at the front lines of the Battle of Corregidor as the Japanese took the Philippines. A 1934 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy where he was an accomplished athlete, Crotty served as an skilled cutterman before being attached to a Navy mine warfare unit. After several different positions in the Pacific Theater, Crotty found himself attached the Marine Corps Fourth Regiment, First Battalion, as the Japanese forces attacked the last American stronghold. One eyewitness report says that Crotty supervised army personnel manning a howitzer dug-in until the American surrender on May 6, 1942. Crotty was captured by the Japanese and taken to Cabanatuan Prison, where he died of diphtheria.

3. William Flores

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

On January 28, 1980, the USCGC Blackthorn collided with a tanker in Tampa Bay, Florida. Seaman Apprentice William Flores, just eighteen years old and a year out of boot camp, stayed on board as the cutter sank, strapping the life jacket locker open with his belt, giving his own life jacket to those struggling in the water, and giving aid to those wounded on board. He was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard’s highest non-combat award, the Coast Guard Medal.

4. Ida Lewis

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

After her father had a stroke, Ida Lewis took over as the keeper of Lime Rock Lighthouse, Rhode Island. Over her 39 year career, Lewis saved 18 lives. She was one of the earliest women in the Lighthouse Service, which later was combined with four other services to become the Coast Guard. Lime Rock Light has since been renamed Ida Lewis Light, and a coastal buoy tender was named in her honor.

5-8. Bernie Webber, Andy Fitzgerald, Ervin Maske, and Richard Livesey

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The rescue of the crew of the SS Pendleton in the icy waters offshore of Chatham, Cape Cod, Mass. had been a legend told by generations of Coasties. Bernie Webber, Andy Fitzgerald, Ervin Maske, and Richard Livesey climbed aboard a 36-foot-long motor lifeboat and saved the lives of 32 sailors after their tanker split in half during a storm in February 1952. For their heroism, the crew received the Gold Lifesaving Medal and their heroic efforts were immortalized in the Disney movie, The Finest Hours.

9. Nathan Bruckenthal

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal is one of the modern Coast Guard heroes. In April 2004, Bruckenthal and a team including Navy and Coast Guard personnel intercepted a small dhow in the North Arabian Gulf. As they attempted to board, one of the terrorists aboard detonated a bomb that was powerful enough to overturn the American vessel alongside, wounding several of the men. Bruckenthal later died from his injuries, the first Coast Guard war casualty since the Vietnam War. He is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

10-12. David Jarvis, Ellsworth Bertholf, and Samuel Call

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

David Jarvis, Ellsworth Bertholf, and Samuel Call snowshoed more than 1,500 miles to Point Barrow, Alaska to rescue hundreds of fishermen who were trapped in ice after winter came early in 1897. During the three months it took them to reach their destination they engaged with native communities along their route, healing illnesses, teaching more effective hunting techniques, and arbitrating legal disputes. For their heroism, the trio received Congressional Gold Medals. All three have Coast Guard cutters named in their honor.

13. Miles Imlay

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Coast Guard Captains Edward Fritzche (left) and Miles Imlay (right) discuss the invasion of Omaha Beach on a relief map laid out in the hold of the Samuel Chase. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Captain Miles Imlay commanded a group of Coast Guard landing craft at the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, as well as during all other major amphibious landings across the shores of Europe in World War II. Imlay was the second in command of one of the groups that landed at Omaha Beach and under constant, heavy fire, commanded a vessel off the beaches during the entire invasion to make sure that the landing craft went to the correct location. He received a Silver Star for his actions on D-Day, and the Legion of Merit for invasions in Italy.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how early World War II cluster bombs worked

The Joint Direct Attack Munition gets a lot of attention for its ability to strike within 30 feet of a target, no matter what the weather is like. But with all that attention, other bombs get short shrift it seems. Take, for instance, the cluster bomb.


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The German SD2 bore a resemblance to a butterfly, getting the nickname “Butterfly bomb.”

(U.S. Army)

JDAMs can’t do everything

The truth is that cluster bombs can do things that JDAMs simply can’t. In fact, the bombs are so useful that, this past December, Secretary of Defense James Mattis decided to reverse the Obama Administration’s plan to ditch these valuable weapons. Despite recent controversy and efforts to ban their use, systems like these have been around for decades.

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The CBU-103 is a modern cluster bomb, able to hit within 85 feet of its aimpoint with 202 BLU-97 submunitions from 10 miles away.

(U.S. Air Force)

Germany’s lethal “butterflies”

Cluster bombs first saw widespread use by both sides in World War II. The Germans used a version called the “Butterfly bomb,” also known as the SD2, which carried a number of “bomblets,” or four-and-a-half-pound submunitions. One attack in 1943 on British cities used over 3,000 of these bombs — some were set to go off immediately, others had a delayed detonation.

The system proved effective, so the United States made copies of that bomb: the M28 (100lbs) and the M29 (500lbs). The Americans added a proximity fuse to some of the bomblets, making them even more devastating to troops caught in the open.

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Modern cluster bombs are more lethal

Today, modern cluster bombs, like the CBU-97, make attack planes like the F-15E Strike Eagle or strategic bombers like the B-1B Lancer capable of wiping out dozens of tanks in a single pass. Other cluster bombs opt to replace the boom with the ability to knock out a country’s electrical grid.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 ways the year 1968 traumatized America

There are going to be a lot of significant 50-year anniversaries in 2018. This is because 1968 was probably the most tumultuous year in American history since the Civil War. To this day, we still haven’t fully recovered as a country.


The tumult began immediately. Americans were buffeted by watching the Prague Spring roll over Czechoslovakia with the election of reformist Alexander Dubcek on January 5th. He instituted many meaningful reforms that spelled the end of Communism in the country. But the hopes of a peaceful collapse of the Iron Curtain were crushed by August, when Soviet and Eastern Bloc tanks rolled over the same ground.

That was only the beginning. Americans orbited the moon for the first time, Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss, and African-American athletes in the Mexico City Summer Olympics made the most political statement in the history of the games.

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The captured crew of the Pueblo.

1. The USS Pueblo is captured by North Korea

The Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship. On January 23rd, she was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters. But Pueblo’s crew didn’t go down without a fight. As the ship attempted to evade capture and destroy captured intel, it took two North Korean subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to stop Pueblo. One U.S. sailor was killed and 83 others were captured and held for the next 355 days. They were beaten and used as propaganda tools the entire time.

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South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, shoots Vietcong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street on Feb. 1, 1968.

(Photo by Eddie Adams)

2. The Tet Offensive begins in Vietnam

The U.S. was fully engaged in the Vietnam War by 1968 and, although there was evidence of a coming attack, it was not really suspected to come during the Tet holiday. At midnight on January 30th, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces assaulted some 100 towns and cities, catching American and South Vietnamese troops completely by surprise. The next day, they hit the U.S. embassy in Saigon. Although most losses were quickly recaptured, the ancient capital of Hué was held for a full month.

The Tet Offensive, while a technically a battlefield failure, shook much faith in the Americans’ ability to win the war, including reporter and “Most Trusted Man in America,” Walter Cronkite. In February, the execution of Viet Cong Nguyễn Văn Lém by Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, a South Vietnamese police chief, as captured by famed photographer Eddie Adams, further turned the U.S. against the war.

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3. President Johnson did not seek re-election

Johnson soundly beat Eugene McCarthy’s anti-war candidacy in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire. But just a few days later, Senator Robert F. Kennedy announced his candidacy and the Democrats were split between pro-war and anti-war Democrats, along with segregationist Democrats from the South. Johnson, unable to unite the party and concerned he wouldn’t survive another term, announced he would not seek another term as president on March 31st.

The president was right about uniting the party. Divided Democrats did not rally to their candidate Hubert Humphrey’s cause and Richard Nixon won the election.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with King in the White House Cabinet Room, 1966

4. Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot and killed

The famed Southern preacher and civil rights leader was killed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4th. Riots erupted in major American cities, some lasting for days. His assassin, James Earl Ray, was a fugitive from justice who escaped the Missouri State Penitentiary. Ray was apprehended at London’s Heathrow Airport on June 8th.

During the ensuing riots, President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, The Fair Housing Act, into law.

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(Photo by Boris Yaro for the Los Angeles Times)

5. Robert F. Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel

Kennedy, fresh from his win in the June 4th California primary election, just finished addressing supporters at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel. As he walked through the hotel’s kitchen, he was shaking hands with staff members and other supporters when Sirhan Sirhan rushed in and repeatedly shot him with a .22-caliber pistol. He died of his wounds the next day. Sirhan’s motive was Kennedy’s pro-Israel views.

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Police and demonstrators clash near the Conrad Hilton Hotel during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

(Bettmann Archive – Getty Images)

6. Democratic Convention protests become a battle with police

From August 22-30, Democrats met to nominate Hubert Humphrey as their candidate for president. Outside, some 10,000 protestors descended upon Chicago’s streets. Mayor Richard Daley met them with 23,000 policemen in riot gear and National Guardsmen. At 3:30pm, police moved to arrest a man who lowered the American flag in Grant Park and began to beat him. The crowd responded by throwing rocks, concrete, and food at them. Violence spread throughout the area and America decided to vote for Richard Nixon.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China sends ship to spy on war games

The Australian military is monitoring a Chinese surveillance vessel believed to have been sent to spy on the Talisman Saber war games being held along the coast of Queensland.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 815G Dongdiao-class Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) ship is now sailing toward Australia, presumably to observe the joint military exercises involving American, Australian, and Japanese forces, Australia’s ABC News reported, revealing that up to 25,000 troops will be participating in the “high-end” warfighting exercises.

“We’re tracking it,” Lt. Gen. Greg Bilton, Chief of Defense Joint Operations, explained July 6, 2019. “We don’t know yet what its destination is, but we’re assuming that it will come down to the east coast of Queensland, and we’ll take appropriate measures in regards to that.” He did not elaborate on the response.


He did, however, acknowledge that the Chinese ship is in international waters, where it has the right to sail and, if it so desires, conduct surveillance operations.

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Type 815G Dongdiao-class Auxiliary General Intelligence ship.

(Australian Defence)

“All nations have the right under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to conduct military surveillance operations in international waters outside a state’s 12 nautical mile territorial sea,” Ashley Townshend, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the United States Studies Centre in Sydney, told news.com.au.

“While the US and Australia — along with most other nations — accept this principle and grant it to China, Beijing does not extend this right to other nations in the South China Sea, where it routinely chases away foreign vessels.”

China has long objected to “close-in surveillance” by the US Navy near its shores, despite the People’s Liberation Army Navy routinely doing the same.

Chinese AGI vessels have, in recent years, been making frequent appearances at the joint military exercises in the Pacific. The Australian Defence Department told reporters that it is “aware that there will likely be interest from other countries in exercise Talisman Saber.”

One of China’s AGI vessels was spotted lurking off the Australian coast 2017 during the last iteration of the Talisman Saber exercises.

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The U.S. guided-missile destroyer Sterett fires its MK 45 5-inch gun during a naval surface fire support exercise as part of Talisman Saber 17.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Byron C. Linder)

The Chinese navy was disinvited from participating in 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in response to the militarization of the South China Sea by Chinese forces. Nonetheless, China sent one of its spy ships to monitor the exercises from off the coast of Hawaii.

“We’ve taken all precautions necessary to protect our critical information. The ship’s presence has not affected the conduct of the exercise,” US Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown told USNI News at the time.

By allowing the Chinese military to engage in these types of surveillance activities, the US and its allies are hopeful that China will eventually offer the reciprocity it has thus far been unwilling to grant, Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat, argued.

“For international rules to function they must be reciprocated,” Townshend told news.com.au.

Australian military officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told local broadcaster ABC News that they suspected that a new aspect of Japan’s participation in this year’s Talisman Saber drills has piqued China’s interests.

“This year’s Talisman Saber involves the Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, which was created last year primarily as a response option for potential Chinese incursion in the Senkaku Islands,” one official told reporters, adding, “Their capability and interoperability with Australia and the United States will be of interest to Beijing.”

The Australian Defence Department said the Chinese ship will be “taken into account during the planning and conduct of exercises.”

China has not yet commented on the matter.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

V-22 reaches key milestone, heads to Navy fleet

The Navy received its first fleet CMV-22B Osprey this summer, signaling a new phase for the tiltrotor program.

The Bell-Boeing designed aircraft has expanded range needed for fleet operations, according to a Bell press release, with specifications to enhance Navy readiness. It replaced the Navy’s C-2A Greyhound earlier this year.


“This first fleet delivery marks a new chapter of the V-22 Tiltrotor program providing enhanced capabilities and increased flexibility to the U.S. Navy as they conduct important operational missions around the globe,” Shane Openshaw, Boeing vice president of Tiltrotor Programs and deputy director of the Bell Boeing team, stated in a press release.

The CMV-22B delivery to Naval Air Station North Island, California — a key acquisition milestone — is the third delivery from the program, with the first two aircraft located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River for development test, Marine Col. Matthew Kelly, V-22 Joint Program Manager, said in an email.

” … The fleet will prepare for and execute operational test, slated to begin later this year followed by initial operational capability (IOC), expected in 2021,” Kelly said in an email.

It officially took over the Carrier Onboard Delivery Mission in April, bringing more versatility and capability to the carrier strike group commander. It is the only aircraft in the airwing capable of landing on a carrier with the power module, Kelly added.

New V-22 is designed specifically for the Navy

Beyond the versatility a tiltrotor brings, the Navy variant is designed to operate on all of the types of ship certified for the MV-22B, including:

  • Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser (CG),
  • Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer (DDG),
  • Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS),
  • Independence-class littoral combat ship (LCS), for Vertical Replenishment (VR)
  • Tarawa and America-class landing helicopter assault ships (LHA),
  • Wasp-class landing helicopter dock ship (LHD),
  • San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship (LPD),
  • Nimitz and Ford-class aircraft carriers (CVN) for both VR and Launch and Recovery (LR) operations, along with VR and/or LR operations to numerous naval supply ships in use today.

“It’s notable that a CMV-22B is expected to be able to fly directly to any of these types of ships operating further afield thanks to its available range,” Kelly said.

The aircraft will be used to transport personnel, mail, supplies and high-priority cargo from shore bases to aircraft carriers at sea, NAVAIR stated in a news update.

It also differs from the Marine Osprey by extended operational range, a beyond-line-of-sight HF radio, a public address system for passengers, and an improved lighting system for cargo loading. The extended range is provided by two 60-gallon tanks installed in the wing for an additional 120 gallons of fuel with the forward sponson tanks enlarged for increased fuel capacity.

The CMV-22B is anticipated to be fully operational by 2023, with 44 aircraft in its fleet.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Union troops changed the words to ‘Dixie’ to make fun of the South

Making fun of the enemy is nothing new, especially for American troops. When U.S. troops like something, they’ll probably still come up with their own term for it. Even if they respect an enemy, they will still come up with a short, probably derogatory name for them. For American troops in the Civil War, many of which took the war very seriously (and rightly so), they would take any opportunity to denigrate the “Southern Way of Life.”

That started with the pop song “Dixie,” which became a de facto national anthem for the Confederates.


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But even Abe Lincoln loved the song. Why? It was written in New York for use in traveling shows.

“Dixie” was actually written by an Ohioan, destined for use among blackface performers in traveling minstrel shows throughout the United States. These shows were wildly popular before, during, and after the Civil War everywhere in the United States, and were usually based on the premise of showing African-Americans as slow, dumb, and sometimes prolifically horny. It’s supposed to be sung by black people who are depicted as preferring life in the South, rather than as free men in the North.

“Dixie” is one of the most enduring relics of these shows, still retaining popularity today, although without the connection to the minstrel shows of the time. It’s safe to say almost every Confederate troop knew the words to “Dixie,” as the song depicts an idyllic view of what life in the American South was like in the 1850s, around the time the song was written, with lyrics like:

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton
Old times there are not forgotten
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land!

Union troops who were dead-set on killing Confederates, eventually came up with some new lyrics for the song. Like a group of murderous Weird Al fans, the Northerners wanted to poke fun at their deadly enemy in the best way they knew how – a diss track. The Union lyrics are harsh and the tune to the song just as catchy.

“Away down South in the land of traitors
Rattlesnakes and alligators…
… Where cotton’s king and men are chattels,
Union boys will win the battles…
Each Dixie boy must understand
that he must mind his Uncle Sam…”

The Union version of “Dixie” rates somewhere between “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the list of All-Time Greatest Civil War Songs That Make You Want to March on Richmond.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This unique French destroyer takes down ships and aircraft

While France, at times, has been the butt of many jokes when it comes to military prowess, we must not forget one historical fact: The French Navy arguably won the battle that secured American independence by defeating the Royal Navy’s effort to relieve General Cornwallis at Yorktown. The Battle of the Virginia Capes, at the time, was a rare setback for the Royal Navy – it was like the Harlem Globetrotters losing a game.


It’s a reminder that the French Navy is no joke, even if it has left a lot of the heavy lifting in the World Wars to the Royal Navy. In fact, France has one of the more modern air-defense destroyer classes in the world. They didn’t design this vessel on their own, however.

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The French destroyer Chevalier Paul operating with the United States Navy. (US Navy photo)

In 1992, the French Navy, the Royal Navy, and the Italian Navy began development of what they called the Common New Generation Frigate. The goal was to come up with a common design that would help cut costs for the three countries. The British planned to buy 12 vessels, France four, and the Italians four. However, increasing expenses and disagreements lead to the British dropping and instead building six Type 45 destroyers.

France and Italy ended up building a grand total of four ships, two for each country. The French vessels were named Horizon-class frigates and the Italian vessels were labeled Orizzonte class frigates.

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The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the French Navy destroyer FS Forbin (D620) are conducting operations in the Arabian Sea supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and maritime security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rafael Figueroa Medina)

The Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World notes that the French Horizon-class vessels are armed with eight MM.40 Exocet anti-ship missiles, a 48-cell Sylver A50 vertical-launch system, two 76mm guns, and two 20mm guns. They can also carry a NH-90 helicopter for anti-submarine warfare or to mount additional Excoet anti-ship missiles.

Learn more about this destroyer in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbDb9VncOGk
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The daring sabotage raid that kept Nazis from getting The Bomb

For much of the Second World War, German engineers and scientists were at the top of their game in developing nuclear fission. As early as 1939, the best minds in Germany were put to work on splitting the atom. They were attempting to use heavy water to control the fission process. Their main source of heavy water production was in occupied Norway, which was a devastating mistake.

They would never get the chance to develop an atomic bomb because Norwegian resistance fighters would blow up the heavy water facilities rather than help the Nazis win World War II.


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Their objective, the Vemork Heavy Water facility in Norway. (Wikimedia Commons)

British commandos tried to destroy the Vemork heavy water facilities in 1942 but were unsuccessful. Operation Grouse planned for Norwegian scouts to recon the area and provide intelligence for British commandos, who would land in gliders and assault the facility under Operation Freshman. But the gliders carrying the Freshman commandos crashed in the local area. One hit a mountain, killing everyone aboard. The other crashed, and some of the commandos survived, but were summarily executed by the Gestapo.

But the Grouse Norwegians were still operating in the area, living off the land, waiting for further instructions.

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These are Norsemen we’re talking about, after all. (Wikimedia Commons)

With the Norwegians still in position, the plan was given a second go-ahead. The Grouse scouts were now called Operation Swallow and the second raid on Vemork was dubbed Operation Gunnerside. The Gunnerside assault team would be an all-Norwegian squad, parachuting in to rendezvous with the Swallow team. Gunnerside launched on Feb. 16, 1943 – and immediately, things went wrong.

Though not as catastrophic as the first raid on Vemork, these problems caused major delays. The infiltrating Norwegians were dropped into Norway under the cover of snowfall, but they were accidentally dropped miles away from their target. It took the team five days to get to Vemork. They made it, though, and were able to connect with the Swallow group.

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Reconstruction of the Operation Gunnerside team planting explosives (Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately for the new raiders, the failure of the previous raid on Vemork prompted the Nazis to improve the facilities defenses. All the direct routes into the facility were now heavily guarded or mined. The raiders were forced to climb down into a gorge, cross a frozen river, and then climb a 500-foot cliff wall to access the building. There was a piece of luck for the Norwegians, however. A railroad line in the gorge led to the facility and was relatively unguarded.

After cutting into the facility’s fence, the group split into two teams: a four-man explosives unit and a five-man cover unit. The explosives team was accidentally split up after two men entered the facility through an access tunnel. The two others, presumably lost, broke in through a window. Each team set their explosives independently, cut their timing cord from two minutes to thirty seconds, and bolted.

Operation Gunnerside
Members of the team for Operation: Swallow meeting King Haakon VII in 1948

The successful saboteurs fled on skis toward the town of Rjukan, where they split up. The four men in the explosive unit skied in full British uniforms the entire 200 miles to the border with Sweden. The cover team spread out to draw the Germans away. The Nazis launched a full search for their infiltrators, but none were captured or killed in their pursuit.

The commanding officer of all German forces stationed in Norway called the damage caused by Operation Gunnerside as “the most splendid coup.” The facility was up and running again soon after, but an American bombing raid would force the Germans to move their heavy water production to Germany. All the heavy water from the plant was moved to a ferry for safekeeping in Germany.

That ferry was sunk by Norwegian saboteurs on its way back to the Reich.

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Almost every rifle recovered at Gettysburg was fully loaded and no one knows why

In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate Army was in full retreat, forced to abandon all of its dead and most of its wounded. The Union Army and citizens of Gettysburg had an ugly cleanup task ahead of them. Along with the numerous corpses littered about the battlefield, at least 27,574 rifles (I’ve also seen 37,574 listed) were recovered. Of the recovered weapons, a staggering 24,000 were found to be loaded, either 87% or 63%, depending on which number you accept for the total number of rifles. Of the loaded rifles, 12,000 were loaded more than once and half of these (6,000 total) had been loaded between three and ten times. One poor guy had reloaded his weapon twenty-three times without firing a single shot. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.


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Springfield 1861 rifle | Smithsonian

One could draw any number of conclusions from this data. But an obvious one might be that for some reason, large numbers of soldiers were not discharging their weapons during the battle but continued to reload anyway, perhaps to give off the appearance that they were participating in volleys. The thick smoke, mass confusion, and thunderous sounds of musket and cannon fire would probably prevent a neighbor on your line from definitively observing that you weren’t actually firing your weapon. You could even mimic the rifle’s kickback as you pretended to fire. In his book on the psychological impact of killing in war, On Killing, Dave Grossman argues this very point, coming to the conclusion that the discarded but loaded weapons recovered after Gettysburg mostly represent soldiers who were psychologically unable or unwilling to fire at the enemy.

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US National Archives

Paddy Griffin highlights a few other possibilities in her well regarded book, Battle Tactics of the Civil War. For one, Griffin argues that the high rate of misfire in Civil War era rifles combined with the inability of many soldiers to reload properly under hectic battle conditions would render a large number of rifles unusable in a short period of time. Loading a civil war rifle, such as the Springfield 1861, was a complex and time consuming process. In the heat of battle, it is to be expected that some number of soldiers will panic, lose focus, or act in fear, leading them to misload and thus misfire their weapon, rendering them useless.

The rifles of the era were prone to overheating and often malfunctioned on their own and the rate of misfire only increased with each successful shot. Inserting the percussion cap, the final step before firing, was easy to bungle or forget, potentially leading a soldier to think that he had discharged his weapon when he hadn’t. There is also the chance that a soldier accidentally fires his ramrod (essential for reloading), then begins to reload his weapon only to find he cannot complete the job. These weapons would likely be abandoned. A new weapon would be claimed but it too could be a discard. The soldier would reload the newly acquired weapon only to find that it cannot fire, and then immediately drop it. Now the rifle is double loaded. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that in some instances the misfire rate could be as high as 25% during combat. We might believe then that many of the loaded rifles were discarded on the battlefield precisely because they couldn’t fire. Functioning rifles might be desirable enough to be claimed from the battlefield long before an official tally of leftover weapons was made.

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Wikimedia commons

Finally we must consider the high attrition rate of artillery fire, which could engage the enemy at much longer ranges than musket volleys. During Pickett’s Charge, the confederate army marched slowly towards the union lines and only began anything resembling a spirited jog once they had closed to a few hundred yards. Throughout the war, both sides were reluctant to fire until they had their intended target within their sights. By the time they reached volley range, cannon fire would have already decimated whole sections of the line, leaving behind dead or dying men clutching fully loaded rifles.

These factors probably all contributed. It’s certainly believable in light of other studies that some percentage of soldiers intentionally fired over the head of the enemy, or perhaps double, triple, or quadruple loaded their rifles to avoid firing them at all. But 90 or even 60%?  That seems ludicrous. The number of casualties at the battle alone (33,000 between the two sides), not all of which could have been caused by artillery, attests otherwise. Those who misloaded or misfired their weapons were among the lucky ones. Plenty were killed before they could fire off a single pre-loaded shot.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Almost seven years ago, Spc. Dakota Williams lost more than his stepbrother. He lost his hero.

His stepbrother, Spc. Dylan Johnson, had been deployed in Iraq’s Diyala Province just north of Baghdad for less than a month when a bomb detonated next to his vehicle. The explosion killed him.


Inspired by his service to the country, Williams later joined the Army to follow in his footsteps.

On May 24, 2018, he personally honored his stepbrother when he placed an American flag at his headstone in Section 60 of the Arlington National Cemetery during the annual Flags In event.

“He’s not here, but he’s here,” said Williams, 23, of Salina, Oklahoma. “He’s still such an important part of my life.”

All Soldiers, including Williams, in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” participated in some way in 2018’s Flags In. The regiment has conducted the event before every Memorial Day since 1948. It was then when the regiment was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit.

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(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Over a course of four hours, more than 234,000 small flags were laid in front of headstones across the 624-acre cemetery. Flags were also placed inside the Columbarium as well, where the cremated remains of service members reside. In all, enough flags were placed to account for the more than 400,000 interred or inurned within the cemetery. Regiment Soldiers also placed about 11,500 flags at the nearby Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.

“It’s a great commitment by these Soldiers to do this, to place them at the hundreds of thousands of graves here,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “What it does is it pays respect and homage to those who served before them, going all the way back to the Civil War and signals the importance of their service and that they will never be forgotten for what they did. So that they know, these young Soldiers today, much as I knew when I was in uniform, that should I have to pay that ultimate price, I would not be forgotten either in America’s hearts and minds.”

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(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Col. Jason Garkey, the regiment commander, said Flags In is also a time of reflection for the Soldiers who participate.

“For every one of those headstones where we put a flag at, we have the solemn honor to put that flag in for a family member who can’t be here to do it themselves,” he said. “That’s a privilege.”

Each Soldier who took part in the event had the opportunity to place hundreds of flags into the ground, about 1 foot centered in front of every headstone.

When doing so, Garkey encouraged his Soldiers to read the name engraved onto the headstone.

“I tell them that the cemetery is alive,” Garkey said. “If you pay attention, it will tell you things.”

Buried throughout the cemetery are Medal of Honor recipients, young service members who were killed in war, retirees and spouses — all with a story to share.

Garkey, who took part in his sixth Flags In, recalled one time seeing two graves next to each other with the same last name. From the dates on the headstones, he believed they belonged to a father who had served much of his adult life in the military and his son who had died in combat years before him.

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(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“There’s no worst thing than for a parent to bury their child,” he said. “But they ended up there for eternity.”

When his Soldiers recognize those sacrifices, he said, it helps put things into perspective while they perform their ceremonial duties.

“You realize there are many stories in the cemetery and that brings the cemetery to something more than just a place where we go to work,” the colonel said. “It makes it a living, breathing entity where we honor our fallen.”

For Sgt. Kevin Roman, who serves with Williams in the regiment’s Presidential Salute Battery that is responsible for firing blank howitzer rounds during ceremonies, Flags In gives him the chance to appreciate those who came before him.

“Memorial Day is a day to pay your respects to the [service members] who have made the ultimate sacrifice or who have served honorably,” said Roman, 23, of Bronx, New York. “For some people, it’s just a holiday and the unofficial start of summer.”

Before he participated in his fourth Flags In, he said every time he gets to place flags it is still meaningful to him.

“When you get out there and start reading tombstones, you gain that respect back that you may have lost during those hard days in the cemetery,” he said. “Everything comes flooding into you and you get that sense of proudness and that American spirit.”

Some gravesites are even more significant to other Soldiers in the regiment, whether they belong to a family member or a service member they once served with.

Garkey places a flag at the headstone of retired Lt. Col. Toby Runyon, a Vietnam War veteran and a family friend who died two years ago.

“I’ll take a photo and send it to his spouse just to say that we were thinking of Toby today,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said, the regiment’s sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will stop at the gravesites of former sentinels.

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(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“Everybody has got their specific places that they go to,” Garkey said. “There’s a healing aspect that goes into it for us. It’s more than just a task, it’s an experience.”

Esper also placed flags at gravesites in the cemetery. A former Soldier himself, he said, he knows comrades in arms who have died in service to their country.

“On a day like this, I think about also my West Point classmates,” Esper said. “I know one for sure who passed away during my war, Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I had another one who was killed when the Twin Towers were felled on 9/11. And another one killed in Afghanistan. And I think about them as well, because they are peers, and like me, I can relate more to their point in life, where they got married or had children, or maybe never had the opportunity to do either. I think about them especially.”

Over Memorial Day weekend, Esper said, he hopes that Soldiers, family members, and Americans across the country will be thinking about those who fought for and died to secure freedom for the United States.

“Hopefully they will all reflect upon the great sacrifices that America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines make in defense of our country and in defense of our liberties,” Esper said. “Particularly those fallen heroes that are here in Arlington National Cemetery.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

9 epic photos of riverine sailors preparing for combat

The U.S. Navy’s Coastal Riverine Squadron 1 is proving itself right now in preparation for mobilization, and its sailors have been showing off at tasks from convoy security to medical aid to speeding around in boats (a fun and major part of their mission) in complex tasks at Camp Pendleton, California.


So, it’s a bunch of badass sailors playing with machine guns and boats in Southern California. Wanna see some photos? Yeah, of course you do.

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(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

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(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Engineman 2nd Class Christian McCain of Arlington, Texas engages opposing forces while dismounted with a M240 machine gun.

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(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

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(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

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(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

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(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

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(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

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(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

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(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

MIGHTY MOVIES

LA veterans bring ‘Henry IV’ with Tom Hanks to the stage

Those attending the current four-week run of The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles’ production of “Henry IV” at the West Los Angeles VA Campus may immediately recognize Tom Hanks as Falstaff, but what they probably don’t realize is that a crew of veterans not only built the stage, but are also working behind the scenes to make the production a success.

“It’s exciting to partner with The Shakespeare Center to provide our veterans incredible opportunities like the chance to work alongside professional actors, and to view live entertainment right here on the West LA VA campus,” said Ann Brown, director of VA’s Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. “Partnerships like this one are vital to bringing the vision for this campus to life and to transform it into a vibrant, welcoming, veteran-centric community.”


“Henry IV” performances began June 5, 2018, and run through July 1, 2018, at the Japanese Garden located on the West Los Angeles VA Campus. The Shakespeare Center, in partnership with West LA VA, set aside 2,000 tickets for eligible veterans and active duty service members free of charge. To find out more on these tickets, visit http://www.ShakespeareCenter.org to receive information about reservations when they become available.

“We’re grateful to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the leaders of the West LA VA for this opportunity to bring our company to the Japanese Garden at the VA,” said Ben Donenberg, the founder and executive artistic director of The Shakespeare Center prior to construction. “We’re hiring and training 40 veterans to work on this production alongside consummate theater professionals to tell a riveting story about the forging of a Shakespearean hero. We’re proud to bring the vision of one of the American theatre’s most esteemed Broadway directors and the talents a world-class cast lead by Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, our long-time supporters, to this very special venue.”

Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, have been long-time supporters of the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles through their 26 consecutive years of hosting and participating in Simply Shakespeare, a no holds barred impromptu reading of a Shakespeare comedy with celebrity casts and musicians that raises funds and awareness.

“The VA location speaks to our mission to present Shakespeare in urgent, vital, relevant and accessible ways that reflect the history, landscape and people of Los Angeles,” Donenberg said. “Our work with the VA and veterans inspires personal and community transformation.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What changes when drug cartels are listed as foreign terrorists

Earlier in 2019, President Trump wanted to send U.S. troops into Mexico to assist the Mexican government in fighting drug cartel violence. But even after the brutal killing of an American family in Mexico, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declined Trump’s offer to accept American troops inside Mexico. Trump wanted to “wipe them off the face of the Earth,” saying we just needed a “call from your great new President.” But that call never came.


In order to expand the range of options for American intervention, Trump is looking into designating the cartels as a foreign terrorist organization, a move he says will come in the next 90 days.

“They will be designated,” Trump said in the interview. “I’ve been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy. You have to go through a process and we’re well into that process.”

That process means the cartels acting like a foreign terrorist organization, specifically meeting certain criteria set by the State Department. The organization must be foreign, have the capability to engage in terrorist activities, and present a threat to U.S. national security.

Under the ‘terrorist activity defined, they meet the criteria for being engaged in hijacking and sabotage conveyances, detaining/murder/injuring an individual or a government organization to keep them from doing any act as a condition for the release of an individual,” Lenny DePaul, Chief Inspector/Commander of the U. S. Marshal Service, told Fox News.

The groups are also guilty of targeted assassinations, using explosives to threaten and destroy government institutions, and posing a danger to individuals and property.

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Once designated a foreign terrorist organization, cartel members would no longer be able to enter the United States, Americans would no longer be able to do business with these groups, their sub-organizations, or legitimate organizations with ties to the cartels. This includes doing business with any known member of any cartel. Domestic law enforcement would also be able to prosecute gang members and drug dealers using anti-terrorism laws. An estimated 80 percent of weapons used by cartels come from the United States, and the violence is only getting worse.

Since 2006, some 250,000 people have been killed in cartel infighting. The reason? The Mexican Government under President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in an effort to end drug and gun violence. It began with 6,500 troops sent to Michoacán state and ended with 45,000 being sent in. By the end of Calderon’s term, 120,000 Mexicans were dead due to cartel-related violence. Since the escalation of violence, the cartels have turned into full-on insurgent groups.

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(Drug Enforcement Agency)

The cartels have begun to hire mercenaries and recruit paramilitary forces to protect their trade routes and territories. They use insurgent tactics and propaganda methods to intimidate journalists and influence the Mexican populace. When their public relations campaigns have little effect, they all turn to violence and targeted killings.

But Mexico is pushing back against the United States.

“Our problems will be solved by Mexicans,” President Andres Manuel Lopez said a press conference. “We don’t want any interference from any foreign country.”

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