If you’ve seen the 1960 classic, The Gallant Hours, starring James Cagney as Admiral William F. Halsey, then you saw a very dramatized version of how the United States Navy got the information that would eventually lead to the demise of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. But Hollywood blockbusters have a way of twisting history for the sake of entertainment.
In the movie, Capt. Frank Enright, an intelligence officer, passes on the information to Halsey who then flies to Guadalcanal, where he gives the command to Thomas G. Lanphier, Jr. Lanphier would later bring justice to Isoroku Yamamoto in the skies over the island of Bougainville.
Historically, Halsey didn’t get the information about what would be Yamamoto’s last flight directly from the officer who recommended the mission. In fact, the officer who urged the mission to go ahead was in Pearl Harbor, right by the side of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. That officer was Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton.
In his memoirs, “And I Was There,” Layton related his service as a naval attache in Tokyo prior to the war. He was one of a number of officers fluent in Japanese — the most notable of the others being Joe Rochefort, best known as the officer who saved Midway. Layton had been assigned as the chief intelligence officer for the Pacific Fleet in 1940 and witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nimitz chose to retain Layton, who would be the one officer Nimitz kept by his side throughout the war.
By April of 1943, Rochefort had been sidelined from code-breaking by jealous Washington bureaucrats, but Layton was still at Pearl Harbor when the message with Yamamoto’s itinerary was decoded. Having met Yamamoto a number of times in Japan (he had even played cards with him), Layton had a knowledge of the Japanese commander. He told Nimitz,
“Aside from the Emperor, probably no man in Japan is so important to civilian morale. And if he’s shot down, it would demoralize the fighting Navy.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Eighteen P-38s were slated to carry out the mission of intercepting the Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers carrying Yamamoto and his staff. Two of the P-38s had to turn back. The rest tangled with Japanese forces, gunning for aircraft containing the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack. Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier landed the shot that ended Yamamoto.
After World War II, Layton served in the Navy until 1959, taking up his position as chief intelligence officer during the Korean War. He died in 1984, before his memoirs were published. Even though Layton played a crucial, yet unheralded role in America’s victory over Japan, no ship has been named in his honor.
Germany’s highest awards for valor, the Iron Cross, was the most awarded of the top tier medals of any nation in World War II. But Germany awarded more top-tier valor awards than any other country for two very good reasons. First, most German troops fought for the duration or the war unless they were crippled.
As German ace Gunther Rall put it, that meant Third Reich troops’ destiny “was either the Iron Cross or the wooden cross.” They would be heroes or they would die in the attempt.
Second, German troops could earn the Iron Cross with a series of events, like succeeding in enough aerial battles, rather than for just a single act of extreme valor like in most militaries. While the medal was awarded for singular military achievements and bravery, it was also automatically warranted after a service member completed a challenging act.
Here are four things that would get a World War II German soldier an automatic Iron Cross:
1. Destroying a set number of enemy tanks
For German tankers, the “easiest” way to earn an Iron Cross was to achieve enough tank victories to qualify. While the number required increased as the war ground on, 50 was the magic number for a few years. That’s 50 Allied tank kills before a single tank managed to kill them.
2. Killing a set number of Allied planes
German Luftwaffe pilots could net an Iron Cross by accruing an ever-increasing number of points. Single-engine aircraft were worth one point, dual-engines netted two points, and four engines were worth three points. Fighters could get the Iron Cross second class for becoming an ace (downing five enemy aircraft).
3. Sinking a set amount of Allied shipping
For submariners, the Iron Cross was usually awarded for sinking tons of Allied supplies. The Iron Cross second class usually required sinking 50,000 tons of shipping, while the Knight’s Cross, a higher level of the same award, would be granted to those who sank 100,000 or more tons.
These were older, frail planes piloted by Soviet women who would carry a few bombs at a time and drop them on Nazi massed forces, breaking up German attacks on Soviet positions. But the planes were so slow and quiet that they were hard to find and harder to fight, so the Luftwaffe promised an Iron Cross for a single kill.
When American servicemen fall and are buried, it’s generally assumed that their resting place will be their last. Whether it’s a troop who was killed in World War I and buried in an American cemetery in France or a hero brought to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, the honored dead are not to be disturbed. However, some of these fallen heroes, whose identities were once unknown, are being disinterred.
One such ceremony took place in mid-July, 2018, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific near Honolulu, Hawaii. This cemetery, also known as the Punchbowl, is where thousands of servicemen who fell during operations in the Pacific Theater of World War II and the Korean War have been buried (some prominent civilians and non-KIAs are also buried there).
The reason for disturbing this rest is a damn good one, though.
U.S. service members with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) conduct a disinterment ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Devone Collins)
Perhaps the most high-profile disinterment for the purpose of identifying a fallen serviceman was of the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War, who had been interred at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1984. In 1998, evidence pointing to the identity of that soldier resulted in the decision to disturb the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to conduct DNA testing.
In 1998, the Department of Defense disinterred the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War to conduct DNA tests to determine his identity,
The tests eventually led to identifying the remains asthose of Air Force First Lieutenant Michael Blassie, killed in action when his A-37 Dragonfly was shot down. Blassie’s remains were turned over to his family and he was buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. You can see the July 2018 disinterment at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in the video below.
British commandos conduct close target reconnaissance on the enemy-held villages. (National Army Museum)
Sierra Leone, September 2000.
The West Side Boys, a well-armed but poorly trained gang, has taken hostage 11 British soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment and is threatening to execute them if London doesn’t meet its demands.
Back in the UK, the British government is dealing with its first significant hostage crisis since the Iranian Embassy Siege of 1980. As negotiators bargain for the hostages’ release, the British military is preparing for a rescue operation.
A brutal civil war had ravaged Sierra Leone since 1991. The West Side Boys, never more than a few hundred members strong, took advantage of the power vacuum, operating with impunity and terrorizing locals. Their trademark was amputating victims’ arms with machetes. Men, women, and children all suffered from their wanton violence.
The West Side Boys’ leader was the self-titled “Brigadier” Foday Khalley, with “Colonel Cambodia” serving as his second-in-command.
Both men and their gang used drugsand alcohol heavily and frequently. Their resulting instability pushed the British toward a military response instead of negotiations. (Khalley’s demands varied from a new satellite phone to the formation of a new government.)
A task force centered around D Squadron of the SAS and A Company, 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, and augmented by Special Boat Squadron, or SBS, operators and support troops, gradually deployed to Dakar in neighboring Senegal and then outside Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
D Squadron was chosen because of its familiarity with the region. Its operators had been in East Africa conducting jungle and mountain training when the West Side Boys kidnapped the British soldiers. Once they were notified of a potential operation, they were so eager to return to the UK and begin preparing that two troopers were killed in a car accident as they rushed to the airport. The operation had started on the wrong foot.
The gang held the hostages in the small village of Gberi Bana, adjacent to the Rokel Creek. On the other side of the creek, there was a substantial and heavily armed force of gangsters in an abandoned village.
Throughout the negotiations, the British had eyes on the ground from well-hidden SAS observation posts close to the two villages. Additionally, a special-operations signals team intercepted Khalley’s frequent publicity calls to the BBC and pinpointed his location.
Their combined reports led commanders to rule out a ground or waterborne assault because of the gang’s heavily armed roadblocks in the villages and the treacherous currents of the creek. The rescue force would go in by helicopter.
At one point, the negotiators, which included two SAS operators in disguise, were able to secure the release of six men, leaving five British soldiers captive. The freed troops told horror stories of mock executions and psychological violence. But more releases seemed unlikely. A rescue operation was necessary, and time was of the essence.
At dawn on September 10, the rescue force flew in on three CH-47 Chinook helicopters with two Lynx and one Mi-24 gunships providing close air support. The combined SAS/SBS force would rescue the hostages in Gberi Bana, while members of the Parachute Regiment, known as Paras, would eliminate the gang members on the opposite side of the river.
The British commandos hit Gberi Bana hard. Half the assault force fast-roped into the village while the other half landed in a soccer field. In the first moments, heavy enemy fire pinned down the teams on the soccer field. But the commandos achieved fire superiority and silenced the resistance with machine guns and anti-tank rockets.
Despite some confusion, the SAS and SBS operators swept the village and secured the hostages.
However, on the other side of the river, the Paras were in the thick of it. Because of a lack of Chinooks, the Paras had to be transported in two groups. Alerted by the helicopters’ approach and the firefight on the other bank, the gangster there were better prepared.
The Chinook dropped the first wave of Paras in a chest-deep swamp, which they had to navigate under heavy fire. In the first few moments, they took several casualties, including their commanding and executive officers.
Reinforced by the second wave and displaying their characteristic aggression, the Paras took the initiative and overpowered the gangsters after a fierce firefight that lasted hours.
As the smoke settled, the Chinooks came in to pick up the hostages, rescue force, and some captured vehicles. At the cost of one SAS operator, Bombardier Brad Tinnion, and 12 Paras wounded, the rescue force managed to secure all the hostages and kill scores of gang members.
A wave of change
Operation Barras brought significant changes to British special operations.
The resistance put up by the heavily armed West Side Boys showed the need for a specialized support unit that would assist the SAS and SBS in future large-scale hostage rescues and special operations.
Until that point, the Paras and the Royal Marine Commandos had been called up to complement their elite brethren only when necessary. Even though there were close links between the units — most SAS operators came from the Paras, and the SBS at that time recruited solely from the Royal Marines — they didn’t train together and didn’t use the same procedures.
As a result, the British military created the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) in 2006.
The SFSG is composed of Paras, Royal Marines, and Royal Air Force personnel who have passed an additional selection process. Its main task is to be a quick reaction force for SAS and SBS operations, but it can also complement those units in domestic counterterrorism operations.
Moreover, Operation Barras was a much needed confidence boost for British special-operations forces after bad publicity in Northern Ireland, where they fought a politically complicated campaign against the IRA. British policymakers could once more be confident in their commandos.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to uproot life around the world, it’s easy to feel, well, uneasy. After all, there are a lot of unknowns. But there are plenty of ways to arm yourself with proper information and feel a bit more grounded. Doctors, for instance, are all mandated to take state-mandated infection courses online. Available to the public, and free unless someone wants to take a test to pass, the courses offer a wealth of public information. While they are a bit of a slog to read (and nary an educational video in sight) they’re helpful for anyone who wants to know everything from if their bleach is strong enough to kill bacteria or how to put on gloves without covering them in germs.
So, which courses might be useful? One, administered by Access Continuing Education Inc., intended for doctors in New York State, and aptly (and drily) titled Infection Control: New York State Mandatory Training, contains a wealth of worthwhile information. The course isn’t like a typical virtual classroom — there are no teachers, no video sessions, and no mandated quizzes at the end. There are no hours required to finish the course and each ‘Element,’ a full-text article that reads about a page long, touches on a different process of how to limit transmission.
Is it an exciting read? No, but the pages are full of very, very important information, including hand washing technique, what the proper etiquette and technique is when coughing, and how to clean spills of bodily fluids. Other relevant information for parents within the text include what protective gear people can wear to limit transmission (including gloves, masks, and goggles) and how to put them on while also keeping them clean. The text also defines the different levels of sterilization and what recommended, medical grade sterilizers can be used and how to dilute bleach.
Now, a large chunk of the course does focus on safe usage of needles — which is not exactly relevant for parents and Coronavirus — but the text is free to read online for anyone who wants to be educated on best practices and how to stay safe. There’s a test at the end of the course, which does not need to be taken, obviously, as parents could just be reading this for their own information, but could be fun if you’re very, very bored.
The average parent won’t be using scalpels or lancets, but they can learn the differences between cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, learn how professionals limit potential exposure from patients when dealing with infectious diseases, and learn strategies for how to limit the spread of pathogens in the home and use those in their own spaces.
Knowledge, at a time like this, can be empowering. It can also be scary if that knowledge is not actionable. That’s why these courses are an excellent resource. They provide parents a sense of control of a situation over which no one has control. They can help parents do all that they can to help keep their families healthy. And that is what it will take to limit the spread of this disease: serious, educated action, social distancing, and disinfecting.
Nazi Germany may have been one of the most evil regimes in history, but that regime also had some very good equipment. The Tiger tank, the Bf 109 and FW 190 fighters, the U-boat, and the MG42 machine gun were all very good.
Perhaps the most notorious weapon they had was called the “88.” Technically, it was called the 8.8 centimeter Flak 18, 36, 37, or 41, but most folks just described it with the number that referred to the gun’s bore diameter in millimeters. That was a measure of how notorious the gun was.
The first 88s were intended as anti-aircraft guns to kill bombers. They were very good at that – as many allied bomber crews found out to their sorrow. But the gun very quickly proved it was more than just an anti-aircraft gun, starting with its “tryout” in the Spanish Civil War. The gun also proved it could kill tanks.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, it could kill tanks from a mile away. When the Germans discovered that, they began to churn out 88mm guns as quickly as they could. As many as 20,700 were built, and they found themselves used on everything from Tiger tanks to naval vessels. Even after the war, the gun hung around, and during the war, it was something that allied forces quickly tried to neutralize. The 88 was even pressed into service with some Seventh Army units due to an ammo shortage.
The gun had a crew of seven, and weighed nine tons. The gun could be fired at targets as far as nine miles away. Very few of these guns are around now, but in World War II, many Allied troops wondered if the Germans would ever run out.
You can see video of one of the few surviving “88s” being fired below.
The Afghan Air Force has been making major changes in its inventory lately. Once a user of primarily Russian aircraft, the Afghans are switching to American systems — and they’re buying a lot of them.
At present, the Afghan National Air Force is operating four Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters, 40 Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters, 12 A-29 Super Tucanos, 10 UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters, 24 MD530 attack helicopters, and four UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters. This is already a varied force, with more on the way.
An Afghan Air Force member inspects a UH-60 Black Hawk as air crews prepare for their first Afghan-led operational mission on this aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erin Recanzone)
The Afghan Air Force has 154 MD530s on order along with 155 UH-60As. This gives them a lot of rotary-wing capability for taking on the Taliban and is a level of force the country hasn’t seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. What few planes and helicopters remained flyable after Soviet support evaporated with the end of the Cold War were taken out by the United States of America. Rebuilding that lost capability has been a long process.
The UH-60A, the baseline version of the highly versatile H-60 airframe, has a crew of three and can haul 11 troops or up to 8,000 pounds of cargo. It entered service in 1979 and has been used internationally ever since. By comparison, the Mi-8/Mi-17 entered service in 1967, has a crew of three, and can hold 26 passengers or up to 8,800 pounds of cargo.
A graduate from UH-60 Mission Qualification Training proudly holds his certificate of training at a graduation ceremony the day before the Afghan Air Force launched its first operational mission with the UH-60A Blckhawk.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erin Recanzone)
One step on that long road to restoring a national force was recently taken when three Afghan Air Force UH-60s took part in a mission to support provincial elections in Afghanistan. The mission took place the day after Mission Qualification Training for the Afghan personnel.
The United States has been fighting the Taliban for almost 17 years, but this mission is a clear sign that the Afghan government is starting to bring more power to the fight.
Watch the Afghan Black Hawks leave for their first mission in the video below.
Working in a hotel is no joke – those jobs are hard. Think about how hard you worked in basic training under the latrine queen, using a dirty sock to dust the day room, and how clean the barracks had to be to pass a drill sergeant’s inspection. Even if you’re looking to work in management, Hilton hotels host hundreds of thousands of event every year. It’s suddenly your job to manage that. Wherever you’re working in a hotel, it takes grit, organization, and attention to detail.
Do those traits sound familiar? They do to Hilton Hotels.
And to Hilton founder Conrad Hilton, a World War I veteran who served in France.
This might be part of the reason Hilton is all aboard with the mission of hiring 20,000 veterans by 2020. That is a good chunk of the hotel brand’s overall employees. As a matter of fact, when Hilton completes its most current mission, hires from the military-veteran community will comprise more than 17 percent of the company’s overall workforce. It first launched the initiative to hire 10,000 vets and spouses by 2020 but upon completing that mission two years early, Hilton set the goal to hire an additional 20,000 in the same time frame. That’s an astonishing dedication to the community of veterans.
It’s part of an initiative named Operation: Opportunity. The company and its CEO Chris Nassetta believes in what they call “the military skill set.” The hotel chain believes veterans bring incredible assets to their team and are affecting the company culture for the better as a result. So it makes sense for Hilton to hire as many veterans as possible. These skills include discipline, organization, problem solving, and teamwork.
Yeah, vets might know a little something about all that.
The company says hiring veterans is not only the right thing, but is also helping the company achieve its own goals.
“Operation: Opportunity is a shining example of the convergence of doing something that is good for society, good for our business, and good for our culture,” says CEO Chris Nassetta.
Hilton has a long history of supporting veterans, dating back to founder and Army vet Conrad Hilton’s postwar years. The elder Hilton had a knack for hiring vets after World War II, giving Korean War veterans and their families free nights (and spending money!) at some of his most popular hotels. Even during Vietnam, troops could get a free RR stay at the Hiltons in Hawaii.
The decision to hire veterans picks up where Conrad’s legacy left off, ensuring veterans have sustainable employment in a growing industry with one of the world’s top hospitality brands. Hilton is even supporting a number of veteran-related non-profits, no more appropriate than the Military Influencer Conference.
These days, Hilton may not be able to give veterans their own Hilton to run, but they do provide opportunity and training to run their own businesses through donating to events like the Military Influencer Conference. If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.
Over the years, the varied iterations of the Star Trek franchise have inspired countless young men and women to pursue careers in cutting edge technologies, space sciences, and the like. As a kid growing up on a steady diet of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” however, I saw something else that spoke to me: a command structure that each and every crewmember had the utmost faith in.
The crew of the Enterprise each knew where they fell within the decision-making hierarchy, what their role and responsibilities were, and most importantly, who to look to when it came time to make hard decisions.
Breaking the chain of command or violating direct orders, of course, played a pivotal role in a number of episodes and movies–but in my young mind, that only further emphasized the importance of command: where starship captains were forced to decide between their orders and what they knew to be right. Almost universally, the captain that erred on the side of ethics got off scot-free, no matter how egregious their crimes. Good leadership, I learned, is about looking failure in the eye, accepting the consequences, and doing what has to be done.
Leadership in Starfleet, like in today’s real-world military, is a near constant life-or-death matter. Fortunately for the Star Trek universe, they have a test to see if you have what it takes to lead in such an environment.
The Kobayashi Maru test was first shown on screen in 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” The premise is simple: a cadet is placed in command of a starship simulator and tasked with responding to the distress call of a damaged fuel carrier: the Kobayashi Maru. The stranded vessel is adrift in the neutral zone dividing Starfleet’s Federation Space from the Klingon Empire. The cadet-turned-captain has to make a hard decision: do you risk war with Star Trek’s Cold War Russian stand-ins, the Klingons… or do you allow the civilians to die?
The right thing to do, of course, is rescue the civilians–but the moment a cadet issues that order, things go bad. Communications with the civilian vessel are immediately lost just as multiple Klingon warships appear in pursuit. In clear violation of the treaty between their peoples, the cadet-in-command can try to talk their way out of trouble, turn and fight, or leave the civilians to their fate and run, but it doesn’t matter. The cadet’s ship is invariably destroyed. All crew members are lost. It’s a failure that’s spectacular in measure, both in terms of the lost vessel and in terms of lost lives. For an aspiring Starfleet captain, it’s a living nightmare… and that’s the point.
The “no win scenario”
No matter how long you serve in the military or how competent a leader you are, failure comes for us all. If you’re fortunate, your most egregious failures will all come in training environments, and you’ll never have to go home with the weight of lost brothers or sisters on your conscience. In the worst of scenarios, victory or failure may be entirely outside of your control, but the burden of loss remains. When someone dies under your command, be it in combat or otherwise, it sticks with you.
You’ll keep moving, you’ll keep working, but late at night, when you’re alone with yourself, you can feel the weight of it bearing down. Good leaders know they’re going to hurt, but importantly, know how to get the job done anyway. They know that sometimes failure is unavoidable… often because they’ve faced their own Kobayashi Maru somewhere along the way.
The measure of a good leader
I lost a Marine to suicide only weeks after being given my own squad. It tore our team apart and reshaped my approach to leadership and service. If I could be called a good leader after that, it wasn’t because I was born with an innate ability to rally the troops or because I had the decision making prowess of Jean Luc Picard. It was because I’d already felt the crushing weight of failure pulling me down into the darkness. I’d already been up at night, assessing what I did wrong. I’d already looked a grieving mother in the eyes and choked as I stammered an apology.
Failure is an unavoidable part of any military operation, but good leaders know how to roll with even the most crushing of punches. Some may come to the table with that ability, others, like me, have to learn it the hard way–by failing. The measure of a leader is their ability to recover from those failures, their ability to lead in adverse conditions, and their ability to shoulder the weight of their conscience without compromising the task at hand.
Every military leader needs to face the Kobayashi Maru sooner or later. Starfleet is just smart enough to add it to the training schedule.
The very moment a United States Armed Forces recruit steps foot off the bus, they’ll be greeted by a non-commissioned officer wearing a campaign hat and, in that moment, their life will change forever. Every branch in the Armed Forces (with exception of the Navy) uses a variation of the same, broad-brimmed hat. When you see someone wearing it, you know they’re dedicated to breaking the civilian out of young prospects and molding Uncle Sam a batch of new, capable warfighters.
But long before the campaign hat became the official headgear of every private’s nightmares, it was used by soldiers in the Old West, who casually wore it for so long that it just kind of became an official thing.
Don’t get this confused with the Stetson worn by cavalrymen. The campaign hat was mostly worn by infantrymen.
The campaign hat was first worn back in the 1840s by soldiers making their way across the country toward the Pacific. The typical forage cap used out east simply wasn’t a suitable option for blocking out the blinding sun that hung relentlessly above the American deserts.
The soldiers heading west were so far away from the brass (and military regulations was comparatively relaxed in those times) that they simply substituted regulation gear with whatever else made more sense. It was said that they were inspired by the sombreros of the Mexican Vaqueros, but the soldiers made their hats smaller to be more practical for longer rides.
The new unofficial hat finally got recognition and was authorized in the 1870s. This version was made of black felt, had a softer brim, and was still missing the distinctive pinch on the top. Over the years, the hat underwent several slight adjustments until becoming the campaign hat we know and love/fear today.
Technically speaking, Smokey the Bear has been around longer (1944) than the Army has officially had drill sergeants (1964). So they kinda took his hat.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Stephen Linch)
The British took note of the campaign hat and soon incorporated it into the wardrobe of their armies located around the Empire, as many fought under conditions similar to those of the Wild West — like the Boer Wars in South Africa. Canadian, South African, and Kiwi troops all adapted the hat — the Canadian Military then famously handed it down to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
By the turn of the century, the hat also became synonymous with the Buffalo Soldiers — in fact, they were responsible for sewing in the iconic “Montana Pinch” we all recognize today. The Buffalo Soldiers were tasked into various national parks and became some of the first national park rangers.
Later, park rangers, CBP agents, and highway policemen would all wear similar campaign hats in honor of the Buffalo Soldiers who’d, essentially, laid the foundation for their careers. Meanwhile, the troops tossed the hat at the advent of WWI as helmets were the preferred combat headgear.
Never thought we would all have to thank the Coast Guard for keeping this terror-inducing hat alive and well… but they adopted it during the Spanish-American War and never abandoned it during the World Wars.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm)
One by one, each branch began putting recruits through more extensive and intense recruit training programs, helmed by the finest NCOs each branch had to offer. The Marines were the first in 1956 — and they needed an easily identifiable symbol to distinguish the drill instructor from everyone else.
They chose the campaign cover for all the same reasons the soldiers of the Wild West did — the fact that recruits couldn’t clearly see the eyes of the DI under the brim was just an added bonus. Other branches quickly followed suit. The Army adopted it in 1964 and the Air Force and Coast Guard did so in 1967
Which leaves out the Navy. Fact is, the Navy has just never had a reason to use the hat and has never showed any intentions of switching.
You know the 13 stripes represent the original colonies. You know the 50 stars represent the states. You were taught in elementary school that Betsy Ross was the original creator…But here’s a handful of facts about Old Glory that you might not know.
Betsy Ross might not have even designed it.
We’re not gonna pull any punches with this list, and this first one might hit you in the gut. In a twist of history hearsay that rivals that of the William Shakespeare conspiracy—it turns out Betsy Ross might not have designed the fledgling flag. That’s right, while Betsy Ross was a prolific seamstress, there is no empirical evidence that supports the notion that she was responsible for the original American flag. In fact, according to the records, her name isn’t mentioned alongside the flag until 1876 (100 years after the foundation of the U.S.). Oh, and these “records” were from her grandson, by the way. So Betsy Ross was most likely not the original creator. She has a pretty catchy name though.
The 1st flag was commissioned for “three strings of wampum.”
“Three strings of wampum (cylindrical beads and shells strung together)” were promised to Congress to expedite the creation and design of the flag. Thomas Green pushed forth this commission so that he would have a flag while traversing dangerous territory.
The current flag was designed by a high school student.
When Alaska and Hawaii joined the USA to make 50 states, President Dwight D. Eisenhower received thousands of (probably unsolicited) ideas for an updated flag design. One from the bunch was selected as the perfect subtle move forward to a 50-star flag. The chosen design was made by Robert G. Heft, a 17-year-old who made the flag for a design project.
America Colt’s Game Crowd Flag Stadium People
…And that kid got a -B for his project.
In a move that solidifies the nationwide notion that teachers simply throw a dart at a board to come up with grades—Heft got a -B for his project. Why the minus? Why a B? Why not just give the kid an A? What did the teacher want from him— an American flag remix? At any rate, Heft showed his teacher that his design was chosen as the new American flag design, and (in a move that solidifies the neo-nationwide notion that you can simply whine to a teacher and get a grade raise) Heft was given an A upon further review.
“Old Glory” was actually the nickname of one particular flag.
“Old Glory” was actually the name of one American flag owned by sea captain William Driver. Nobody knows exactly why he gave his flag the name “Old Glory,” but I would wager it was because he liked the name. He hung it on his ship’s mast, then in front of his house, and then (just like people calling the Dallas Cowboys “America’s Team”) it caught on arbitrarily.
The flag that inspired the “Star Spangled Banner” still exists.
The Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key, in 1812 at Ft. McHenry. Scott Key wrote the song in honor of one resilient 15-star, 15-striped, flag he saw “banner yet wave.” That flag is still on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
If we add a 51st state, the flag can’t be updated until Independence Day.
The United States Flag Code reads as follows: “On the admission of a new State into the Union one star shall be added to the union of the flag; and such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission.” So, on the off-chance that we pick up another state officially, it will have to wait until the next time we break out the fireworks and hot dogs for a proper welcome.
The Pledge of Allegiance was basically invented as a way to sell more flags.
Francis Bellamy, a Christian socialist minister, wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance (without the “under God” that was tossed in in 1954 during the Red Scare) for an 1892 issue of The Youth’s Companion. The publication offered flags to subscribers, and Bellamy and the Youth Companion lobbied American schools to use his newly penned Pledge of Allegiance as a show of “patriotism.” Don’t get any more “traditionally American” than that.
The colors of the flag have (retroactively decided) meanings.
The red symbolizes hardiness and valor. The white symbolizes purity and innocence. The blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice. These colors were not attributed to their respective vague platitudes until 1782, when Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson pulled the reasoning out of his crack like a day-late book report for “The Great Gatsby” talking about how the green light represents “jealousy.”
Neil Armstrong’s flag fell over.
Of the six flags on the moon: all are American, 5 are standing, and one fell over. The singular fallen flag was the first flag ever placed on the moon. Or, as mouth breathing moon-landing deniers would say, Stanley Kubrick directed it to fall.
No American cookout would be complete without ketchup. Millions of Americans douse their french fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, and other cookout favorites with the condiment every day. The tomato-based sauce is even a staple for military personnel and astronauts!
Catsup, now more commonly known as “ketchup,” was a British term designated for any “spiced” sauce. The British had access to a myriad of spices from their exploits across the world. Their ketchup was made of oysters, cloves, cayenne, cherries, walnuts, vinegars, mace, and more.
Americans were the first to create ketchup with tomatoes, a crop native to North America, and an 1896 issue of The New York Tribune even declared tomato ketchup to be America’s national condiment found “on every table in the land.” The most famous tomato ketchup is the Heinz 57 variety. Apparently, founder Henry Heinz purposely created his own spelling of “ketchup” to differentiate from his “catsup”-peddling competitors.
Early tomato ketchup was made from fermented skins and cores. But these fermenting tomato leftovers could explode and burst their containers! The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, finally made this dangerous condiment safe to consume – and keep in the cupboard.
The U.S. military has spent billions of dollars on ketchup since the late 19th century, from manufacturing the condiment to supplying all soldiers with packets of the sauce to spruce up their rations of mass-produced food.
Astronauts even carry ketchup into outer space! NASA provides nonperishable, shelf-stable food, but crews like to amp up the products with their favorite condiments.
Wherever you are this Fourth of July, we hope you are enjoying this historic condiment on your favorite foods!
This article originally appeared on National Archives. Follow @USNatArchives on Twitter.