The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo - We Are The Mighty
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The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

In September 1961, the Irish Army under the United Nations flag was engaged in operations against Katanga, a breakaway region in Congo. Some 155 Irish troops were stationed at a little base near Jadotville in order to protect the citizens of the small mining town. But the locals in Jadotville wanted nothing to do with the Irish, believing the U.N. had taken sides in the conflict between the Congolese government and Katanga.

For five days, the 155 Irish fought for their lives against as many as 4,000 mercenaries and rebels who tried to take them captive.


The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo
Commandant Pat Quinlan, leader of the Irish Defence Forces led a team that was not prepared for the battle ahead.

The enemy came at the Irish in the middle of a Catholic Mass. Luckily for the Irish, one of their sentries, Pvt. Billy Ready (seriously, his name was “Ready”), fired the shots that alerted the Irishmen to their enemy. What they saw when they went to their posts was 3,000-5,000 hired guns ready to take down their position – the Irish numbered just 155. The mercs brought with them not only heavy machine guns, but also artillery and heavy mortars. They also had air cover in the form of an armed trainer aircraft. It didn’t rattle the Irish one bit, as they later radioed U.N. headquarters:

“We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey.”

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo
Fouga Magister similar to the one used by the Katangese during the siege (Wikimedia Commons)

As far as weapons go, the Irish had only light machine guns and 60 mm mortars to defend their position. But in a testament to warfighting fundamentals, the Irishmen were able to shut down their enemy’s mortar and artillery capabilities using just accurate mortars and small arms. It was the pinpoint accuracy of the U.N. troops that would sufficiently level the playing field. This exchange lasted four days. Now, down to 2,000 men, the Katangese asked the Irish for a cease-fire.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo
“And that’s when they asked us to stop killing them for a few minutes. Damndest thing.”

 

Meanwhile, a U.N. relief force of Swedes and Indian Army Gurkhas were making a move on the Katangese positions from the other side. They were held down at a bridgehead on the road from the main U.N. base at Elisabethville and despite inflicting heavy losses on the defending Katanga fighters, they could not breakthrough. Meanwhile, the Irishmen could not break out. They were running out of water and ammunition. With no help forthcoming, they were forced to surrender.

Luckily, the mercenaries didn’t slaughter the Irishmen, despite the brutality of the fighting. They were taken prisoner and held captive to extort the United Nations for favorable cease-fire terms. They were released after a month and returned to their Elisabethville base and eventually sent home. The Irish surrender was considered a black eye to the Irish Defence Forces, despite Commandant Pat Quinlan’s brilliant defensive perimeter tactics, which are now taught in military textbooks worldwide. Quinlan also ensured each of his men survived and came home.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why Gerard Butler rescued popcorn with a Navy submarine

Scottish actor Gerard Butler stopped by the Pentagon in October 2018 to promote his upcoming movie “Hunter Killer” by speaking to the press about how he worked with the Navy to research his role as an submarine captain.

Among the details he revealed about his time aboard the nuclear-powered attack sub USS Houston at Pearl Harbor was a peculiar aspect of how a crew reacts after someone falls overboard.

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but when you are doing a man overboard, rather than putting a man overboard, they throw a bag of popcorn into the water,” Butler told reporters.


“Then you spend the next — you have four minutes, because if you are in cold water, he’s not going to make it, and neither is the popcorn — because, actually, the bag breaks open,” he added. “So you spend the next four minutes maneuvering an 8,000-ton sub to try and get next to the popcorn so somebody can jump in and rescue it.”

There’s more than a kernel of truth to Butler’s anecdote.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

Sailors stand watch on the conning tower of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee as it returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Feb. 6, 2013.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class James Kimber)

While it isn’t standard, most US submarines do use popcorn for man-overboard drills, Cmdr. Sarah Self-Kyler, a public-affairs officer for the Navy’s Atlantic submarine forces, told Business Insider on Oct. 16, 2018.

The popcorn and the bag it comes in are biodegradable. The bag, once the popcorn is popped, is also about the size of the human head and equally hard to see when its bobbing in the ocean, Self-Kyler added. It will also float for a short period, usually less than 10 minutes, and disappear, adding time pressure to the exercise.

Sometimes crewmen will tape two bags together, but once the popcorn is away, Self-Kyler said, it “most accurately represents what a man overboard looks like from a submarine.”

Though different subs will handle things differently, such drills are typically only done while entering or exiting port, as that is generally the only time subs are surfaced. Many crew members have to be involved to carry it out.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

Sailors point to “Oscar,” a training dummy, during a man-overboard drill aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence, June 22, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jessica O. Blackwell)

The popcorn, usually pulled from the sub’s general inventory, is popped in a microwave then sent to the top of the conning tower, where it gets thrown overboard.

At that point, Self-Kyler said, sailors on watch will shout that a man has fallen overboard and crew members in the control room will mark its location.

It then becomes the job of navigators and sub drivers on duty to steer the boat back to the location where the popcorn went overboard, “work[ing] together to pinpoint that location.”

Above deck, watch-standers have to keep their eyes on and fingers pointed at the popcorn the whole time, so as to stay focused on the very small object as the submarine manuevers to come back alongside it.

“Every watch-stander is required to be qualified on this kind of operation,” Self-Kyler said. They “have to show the captain they can drive the ship back to that bag of popcorn.”

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

A sailor throws “Oscar,” a man-overboard training dummy, off the port side of the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan during a man-overboard drill, Jan. 14, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford)

In the event of a real man-overboard, the submarine would also send out an alert to all mariners in the area, telling them via a radio call to keep an eye out for a sailor in the water and relaying their last known position. The sub’s crew would also be mustered for a roll call to identify the missing crewman.

Bags of popcorn aren’t the only things submariners use for man-overboard exercises. They can also use cardboard boxes, Self-Kyler said, though whatever they use also has to be biodegradable. There are also specialized floats or mannequins that sailors use for search-and-rescue drills.

Navy ships do not use popcorn in their man-overboard drills, Jim DeAngio, a spokesman for the Navy’s Atlantic surface forces command, said in an email.

“They primarily use what is referred to as a ‘smoke float,’ a canister that, when dropped into salt water, activates itself,” De Angio added. “It floats and smokes and provides an object to target for rescue.”

A sailor going overboard is not a common occurrence, but it does happen.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

A Navy search-and-rescue swimmer rescues “Oscar” and brings him back to the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale, July 15, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class David A. Cox)

“In a man overboard situation, obviously, we want to recover the sailor as quickly and efficiently as possible,” DeAngio said.

A decade ago, the Navy introduced a Man Over Board Indicator for the float coats sailors working on deck are required to wear. A transmitter in the coat, a receiver in the ship’s pilot house, and a directional finder on a rigid-hull inflatable boat deployed to pick up the sailor were to be used in conjunction to make the rescue process a matter of minutes.

Aircraft carriers, which have open flight decks and carry more crew members than other Navy ships, have nets along the deck to catch sailors before they hit the water. They don’t always work though.

Peter von Szilassy, an airman on the USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2002, was blown by a jet blast in a bomb-disposal chute, one of the only areas without a safety net. He fell 90 feet into the Persian Gulf and was sucked toward the ship’s 66,000-pound propeller. But he was able to swim free and was picked up with little more than bruises.

Navy search-and-rescue swimmers go through rigorous training to be able to pluck sailors out of the water within minutes — a life-or-death time limit when the sea is freezing.

“When the three whistle blasts are broadcasted you have to be out there. It’s not about you. It’s about the person in the water,” Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Adam Tiscareno said in 2018.

“Whoever is out there, it’s their worst day. They don’t know if they’ll make it back.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This stunning Nazi attack came 2 months before Pearl Harbor

On Oct. 23, 1941, US Navy destroyer USS Reuben James left Newfoundland to escort a convoy bound for Britain. Two days later, the German U-boat U-552 left the French port of St. Nazaire to prowl the North Atlantic on its sixth patrol.

The US was not a belligerent in the war in Europe at the time, but Washington had set up neutrality zones in the Atlantic in which its ships would guard British and neutral merchant ships. US ships would also notify convoys of U-boats’ locations.


The James and the U-552 sailed a few weeks after a U-boat fired on the Navy destroyer USS Greer without hitting it. After that incident, President Franklin Roosevelt told the public that “if German or Italian vessels of war enter the waters, the protection of which is necessary for American defense, they do so at their own peril.”

In the early-morning hours of October 31, when the Reuben James and the U-552 crossed paths near Iceland, the de facto state of war between the US and Germany in the Atlantic intensified.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

German Capt. Lt. Erich Topp and other crew members aboard the U-552 in St. Nazaire, France, Octo. 6, 1942.

The James and four other US destroyers were escorting the more than 40 ships that made up HX-156, a convoy of merchant ships sailing from Halifax in Canada to Europe. At that time, US warships would escort convoys to Iceland, where British ships took over.

As day broke on October 31, the Reuben James was sailing at about 10 mph on the left rear side of the convoy. Just after 5:30 a.m., the U-552 fired on the James, its torpedoes ripping into the left side of the destroyer.

“One or more explosions” occurred near the forward fire room, “accompanied by a lurid orange flame and a high column of black smoke visible for several minutes at some miles,” according to the Navy’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

The ship’s forward section was blown off, and it sank rapidly. Only two sailors on that part of the ship survived the blast. Others who made it out were sailors “berthed, or on watch, [aft of] the forward fireroom.”

No official order came to abandon ship, but crew members launched three rafts and started to leap overboard as the sea swallowed the ship. The captain had issued life jackets to the crew and told them to have them on hand at all times, which meant many sailors were able to get to them as they fled the ship.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

A German U-boat.

While many men made it off, a number of those in the water around the ship were killed or later drowned after at least two depth charges on the ship detonated as it sank.

The escort commander sent two destroyers to investigate. With a smooth sea and little wind, they were able to spot the James’ sailors just before 6 a.m. and began rescuing them minutes later. The destroyers’ crews used cargo nets, Jacob’s Ladders, life rings, and lines to pull survivors, many covered in oil, out of the water.

Rescue operations were over by 8 a.m.; 44 of the crew were recovered, but 93 enlisted men and all the ship’s seven officers were killed.

US merchant ships had already been sunk in the Atlantic, and in mid-October, another US destroyer was hit by a torpedo but made it to Iceland. But the James became the first US warship sunk by the enemy in World War II.

“The news of the torpedoing of one of our destroyers off Iceland was the first thing that the President spoke of this morning, and that has cast a shadow over the whole day,” Eleanor Roosevelt wrote on November 1. “I cannot help but think of every one of the 120 men and their families, who are anxiously awaiting news.”

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

US Coast Guard cutter Spencer crew members watch a depth charge blast a German submarine attempting to break into a large US convoy, April 17, 1943. The U-boat was critically damaged and sunk off the coast of Ireland.

Germany was unapologetic, saying US ships were escorting British ships in a war zone and had fired on German vessels before. The US didn’t declare war, but the sinking drew the US further into the conflict in Europe, which was already more than two years old.

On November 1, Roosevelt signed an executive order reassigning the US Coast Guard from the Treasury Department to the Navy. About two weeks later, under pressure from the president, Congress further amended the Neutrality Acts passed in the 1930s, revising them to allow US merchant ships to be armed and to sail into war zones.

On December 8, the US declared war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Three days later, Germany declared war on the US.

The James was stricken from the Navy’s official register on March 25, 1942. The U-552 continued the fight. It joined U-boats that preyed on US ships along the East Coast in 1942 but was later transferred to waters closer to Europe.

The U-552’s success waned, as did that of the rest of the U-boat force, as the Allies improved their convoy and anti-submarine tactics and invaded Europe, recapturing ports. In early May 1945 — days before the surviving Nazi leadership surrendered in Berlin — the U-552 was scuttled in waters off the North Sea.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Warrior culture: America’s class of warfighters

There exists a population within America’s bravest. A culture of warriors who heard and answered the call throughout history- American warfighters.


The military is an expansive network, full of various roles and professions. While any service is honorable, there’s no arguing that some join for the battle- to run as fast as possible toward the danger.

We call upon these warriors in times of conflict, to utilize their fighting spirit, ready to charge into any battle without hesitation. During times of peace, this subculture faces rejection when the focus shifts to training for a mission in the unknown future instead of the dependable cycle of deployments during surges. To the warrior, who gains self-worth in their ability to live through combat, the blank space where a deployment slot belongs destroys the mind and soul. War rages on within them, awaiting the time when they can again serve to their true potential.

“I don’t have an answer for why I keep going back, why ‘getting into it’ is what I feel I need to do. There’s nothing else to do with the intensity or specific skillset I’ve acquired, so I guess it’s more like- why not” explains Staff Sergeant Bradford Fong, Army Infantryman and aptly known warfighter to those who served with him.

With several combat deployments, he is among a rare breed of active-duty leaders today – those who embarked on combat deployments to remote combat outposts.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

“Yes, I’m intense, but I have a good damn reason for it. Training soldiers now is frustrating, to be honest. I was ‘raised’ through a lineage of leaders who when things varied slightly from the books, you knew it was due to their fresh combat experience.” The aggravation was clear in his tone when he explained how this once invaluable knowledge has become borderline unwanted and potentially misunderstood by leadership and peers without the same background.

“The Army has this tremendously valuable crop of soldiers- as we age, we clearly aren’t the fastest, but we damn sure have a lot to offer mentally, developing other combat leaders and the kind of knowledge you won’t find in any FM guide” he states. “I wish there was a space where that’s all I could do because anything less feels a bit meaningless.”

Training those in his command specifically for combat as an Infantryman is a conversation that brought an audible smile to his face. “I’m not here to train them into textbook soldiers,” he says. The training of his men clearly means a great deal to Fong, who has no problem with discussing the blunt reality of the job.

On his second deployment to Afghanistan, Fong was one of the only members of his platoon that had seen combat before. While the other Soldiers awaited their own baptism by fire and showered him with questions about combat and how to react, Fong knew what was coming. The men around him naively prayed for a chance to prove themselves. Toward the end of their tour, they got their wish.

“I’d been there already (Afghanistan), seeing and experiencing what this new platoon had waited ten months for. After it happened, there were a lot of them who didn’t come back mentally,” said Fong while recalling his 2010-2011 deployment.

Operational tempo changes during times of drawdown or withdrawal pose a significant risk to the warrior culture. Schedules are intense but intently purposeful with a clear goal in mind- to remain a highly capable and rapidly deployable unit. The aftermath of coping with what is witnessed in war remains a struggle, one which Fong admits he’s put away, but not packed neatly enough to never surface.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

“A lack of empathy is required to remain in this profession. It’s not nice to say, but it is true.” Fong explains how shutting off parts of himself for his job has become slightly problematic with the new dynamic of adding a family in the last few years.

Stories like Fong’s remind us all of the reality of what’s being asked of soldiers. We sound the horn for these men and women to rush in when we need it most. We will always need true warriors, unafraid and unapologetic of their calling. And now, during a new era, we must find an honorable space for them to thrive, for their purpose to continue to feel fulfilled within the ranks- creating the next line of warriors within.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Peter W. Singer and August Cole’s latest book Burn-In has everything you need to pass the pandemic time a little quicker

Their last book, Ghost Fleet, had parts that rang truer than others, but I really enjoyed it. Ghost Fleet’s portrayal of US Marines liberating a US state from foreign occupation added up. As a former grunt, I could absolutely see a senior leader eating an Osprey ramp under full combat load on insert, breaking his nose and getting stuck fighting that way for days.

On the other hand, the war widow turned murder-hooker or the grizzled Navy Chief’s love story seemed harder to buy (everybody knows Chiefs don’t have hearts). Basically, you read Ghost Fleet for the rail guns not the feels. So you can imagine my surprise when I picked up Burn-In and found the storyline of the Marine war-bot wrangler turned FBI agent’s disaster of a homelife just as compelling as the high stakes domestic terrorist hunt she was leading. It might be the pandemic talking, but the upside-down outside world following the characters home and wreaking havoc on their relationships will be equal parts release and escape for anybody who’s spent a little too much time at home over the past several months.


Big tech offers a utopian view of our connected future but Burn-In plays trends forward and explores the dystopian outcomes lurking around the corner. Ever feel a pang of guilt when you hand over your biometric data without reading the terms and conditions or connect your new toaster to the cloud? Burn-In will make you painfully aware of what all that data can do in the wrong hands.

The book is extensively researched and footnoted so the reader can link the real world to the future storyline. Did I mention there’s a ninja robot, plagues visited on DC, and elite hostage rescue FBI agents fighting in exoskeletons?

Burn-In hits the e-shelves today and We Are The Mighty recently caught up with Peter Singer to talk about the coming technological revolution, the future of terrorism, and tactical robots.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

WATM: The characters in Burn-In are living through a technological revolution not that dissimilar from the pandemic-induced disruption we’re all living through. The economic upheaval follows the characters home, straining their relationships, upending their careers and even changing their identities. How did you paint this picture so accurately?

Singer: A lot of the trends that the book explores in this future that’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction are at play in the pandemic—from the move toward AI and automation, to the challenges of greater amounts of distrust in our politics and our society, to critical infrastructure and public services that are more brittle than we ever wanted to admit—and coronavirus has drastically accelerated them. Much of the population has been rapidly thrown into distance learning, remote work or unemployment.

Telemedicine is now used at a level that no one anticipated would happen for at least a decade. Robots are policing curfews and cleaning subways and hospitals. AI and data tracking implementations are rolling out that go beyond even the most wild science fiction. It’s guaranteed that we’re not going to go back to the way it was before, so all of the tough social, political, legal, moral, security issues that our character wrestles with in this future are going to come faster for us in the real world.

WATM: The term sabotage was coined when workers fought back against technology in the Industrial Revolution. What will be the first flashpoints between workers and robots?

Singer: Science fiction is starting to come true but the reality is very different from the familiar story lines. The word ‘robot’ was coined a hundred years ago and there’s an early 1920s sci-fi play that’s informed our fears of robot overlords since. In the play mechanical servants wised up and rose up—it’s always been a story of robot rebellion. Instead, what’s happening is that we’re going through an Industrial Revolution. Revolutions have a good and a bad side. The Industrial Revolution gave us mass consumer goods and modern concepts of rights but it also gave birth to climate change and new political ideologies like fascism and communism that we spend the next 100 years working our way through.

We’re entering a technological revolution with three key trends. The first is job replacement and displacement and it won’t be just a matter of changing the tool in someone’s hand in an early factory. This is a tool that takes on the job of the people, whether they’re lawyers or soldiers. A McKinsey study argues that AI and automation will replace over 40% of current occupations in the next 20 years.

Second are the new ethical, legal, moral questions that always accompany new technology but go further this time because they’re now about machine permissibility and machine accountability. What do you allow the machine to do on its own and who’s in control? These questions impact everything from combat to your kids getting to soccer practice and there are already real world examples such as the fatal Tesla wreck. Who was responsible? The human driver that wasn’t driving? The municipality that allowed it to be deployed before there were good laws? The software programmer?

The third set of issues involve new kinds of security vulnerabilities. We’ve mostly thought about cyber security as information theft: stealing a jet fighter design or stealing credit card information. Instead as we move into this new world cyber means will be used to cause kinetic damage like any other kind of weapon. There will be new kinds of attacks and crimes such as a murder conducted via a smartphone hack or the ability to hold all of Washingtion DC hostage through critical infrastructure control (DC has flooded before). A country that’s divided politically, socially, economically is less able to weather that kind of change.

The Industrial Revolution was rife with outbreaks of extremism and worker protests that morphed into what we’d now call insurgency and terrorism. In 1814 more British soldiers were fighting Luddites at home than were deployed in the War of 1812. Luddites were craftsmen who were put out of work by the early factories and in turn, they assassinated factory owners and orchestrated street violence to try and check technological progress. What does it look like when a modern Luddite doesn’t have a hammer and a musket but a drone, an AR-15 and malware?

WATM: The book takes place decades from now but the social media landscape is recognizable. Users provide their data freely and live in a completely connected world. Events trend in real time and the characters have to navigate the consequences of the culture of influence during a terror attack. Is social media as we’ve come to know it inevitable?

Singer: There’s a lot of action in the book but the scariest scene to me is when Lara Keegan, the protagonist, takes her little girl to the Starbucks of the future and the staff greets them by name. Lara has an internal dialogue asking herself if they know her by name because she’s been coming there for years or because of face recognition technology and a record of her visits in the past. Is there a human connection or not? We’re always going to be trading back and forth between privacy, security and convenience and that balancing act is something that will touch every aspect of our lives: how we interact with government and businesses, who we are politically, and what happens at home.

Who is going to own the information and who is going to be able to access it? The individual, the private sector, or the government? We talk about this with Twitter and FaceBook now but there will soon be other dimensions including the camera on the street and the delivery robot. An observer will not only be able to know what you’re doing right now, but could access all of your life’s history, and shape the decisions you make in the future. You will not always be conscious of this shaping. What can we do? We have to understand the ecosystem—if you’re ignorant of it you’re just a target.

The next step is implementing things that support the better and limit the bad. How do we protect privacy and limit malicious influence? Deepfakes are in the book and they’re also being used to misinform during the pandemic. The Belgian premier was just targeted with a deepfake. The book explores virtual watermarks and that type of verification is possibly the policy path out of deepfakes and malicious disinformation.

If you’re stuck at home, it might as well be with a great book. Pick up Burn-In and you’ll find that your quarantine just got a whole lot more interesting.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the Bolsheviks concealed the cowardly murder of the Czar royal family

Like many heads of state who reach power through blood rather than merit, Czar Nicholas II was utterly unprepared to rule Russia as it headed into the 20th century. He made one unpopular decision after the next. His loathed intimacy with the notorious mystic Grigori Rasputin was another reason he was unpopular. The turmoil agitating the country and the world at the turn of the century proved too much for this monarch who did not want to be a Czar. In early 1917, Russia was swept over by the Revolution and the Czar deposed, signing the end of a 300 years old imperial dynasty. That was not enough for the Bolsheviks to take over Russia; they needed the royal family murdered and kept secret, but why?

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo
Nicholas II in 1912 (Public Domain)

The House of Special Purpose

After Nicholas’s removal from power, he was taken into custody along with his family by the Provisional Government. They were stripped of any title and placed under house arrest, first at the Alexander Palace, then in Tobolsk, Siberia, in August 1917. After the Bolsheviks came into power in October 1917, the Romanov’s conditions of detention deteriorated significantly. Finally, they were moved to Yekaterinburg’ Ipatiev House in the first half of 1918. There, they were openly considered as hostages.

All those under arrest will be held as hostages, and the slightest attempt at counter-revolutionary action in the town will result in the summary execution of the hostages.

Announcement in the local newspaper by Bolshevik War Commissar Filipp Goloshchyokin, in charge of the family’s incarceration in Yekaterinburg

In July 1918, pro-royalist soldiers from Czechoslovakia, called “Whites”, had been advancing through the country and closing on Yekaterinburg. The Bolsheviks feared they would try to rescue the Romanov and support the renewal of monarchy in Russia. So, on the evening of the 16th July 1918, during dinner, the entire family and their servants were ordered to go down to the cellar. There, amid a chaos of screams, escape attempts and bullets, they were summarily executed. Those who survived the shooting were dispatched with bayonets or the butts of guns. Over the next couple of months, many relatives and allies were assassinated around the country. The swift eradication resulted in 27 deaths in 84 days.

Bolsheviks controlled the media circus

A few days later, the murder of the former czar was publicly announced by the Bolsheviks, calling him “the personification of the barbarian landowner, of this ignoramus, dimwit and bloodthirsty savage” in the official party newspaper. However, the assassination of his family was kept secret. Although rumors began to spread, the official version was that Alexandra and her children had been moved for their protection. To prevent any recognition, the bodies were mutilated, burned with acid, and buried in a secret place in the forest. So why were the Bolsheviks happy to endorse the murder of Nicholas, but not that of his family?

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo
1920 Bolshevik Party meeting: sitting (from left) are EnukidzeKalininBukharinTomskyLashevichKamenevPreobrazhenskySerebryakovLenin and Rykov
(Public Domain)

It’s speculated that it was mostly an image issue. The Red Revolution already struggled with a brutal reputation outside of the country. The violent repression of any hint of opposition made the revolution quite unpopular with many governments. Socialist and communist ideas were thoroughly mistrusted by the ruling class. Moreover, king George V of England was Nicholas’s first cousin and enjoyed a friendly relationship with the former monarch. Nicholas’s murder was received with sorrow, but the massacre of the entire family might have prompted a political and military response that would have overthrown the still unstable Bolshevik government.

The cover up

The “whites” and other enemies of the communist revolution tried to use the rumors flying around on the disappearance of the family to defame the movement and its famous leader, Lenin. If speculations had turned to facts, proving the massacre beyond the shadow of a doubt, Lenin’s image as a wise and fair leader would have been severely damaged. There is no historical evidence that Lenin was the one who gave the order for the assassination. In fact, he seemed in favor of a trial, with Leo Trotsky as the main accuser.

Even a biased trial could have been used as propaganda of justice of the new regime. However, the murders, if supported by evidence, could have been laid at the leader’s door — whether he was truly implicated or not, in an attempt to weaken his newly acquired position. In addition, the mysterious fate of the family led many European monarchs on a manhunt to rescue the last Romanov. Thus squandering resources and keeping their attention away from the fate of the Russian people under Bolshevik rule.

That is why the fate of the last heirs of the Russian imperial family was kept officially hidden for decades. The truth would lay hidden until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The bodies were eventually recovered and five of the family members have now been laid in state, resting together in the St. Petersburg Cathedral.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sylvester Stallone just posted the coolest recap of the ‘Rambo’ series

The ‘Rambo’ series didn’t start off with John Rambo as a one-man Army, hell-bent on killing anyone who stood between him and his mission. But that’s what it turned out to be. And now few action movie images are more iconic than Rambo tightening up his trademark red headband.


The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

You know the one.

The series began as a very poignant, yet action-packed treatise on the treatment of Vietnam veterans in the years following the end of their war. In First Blood, there’s only one onscreen kill, a guy who falls out of a helicopter for trying to kill Rambo. Rambo isn’t purposely involved in his death. If you want to know the whole point of the first Rambo movie, you can just watch John Rambo’s speech at the end of the movie.

By First Blood: Part II, the idea that John Rambo was just a simple guy with extraordinary training in extraordinary situations, was long gone. In the second Rambo movie, John Rambo is the perfect man to lead a mission back to Vietnam to rescue POWs still held there. Rambo is twice as ripped and definitely kills people in this movie. By Rambo III, he just lays waste to an entire army.

If you don’t remember any of that, Sylvester Stallone posted a helpful reminder to his Instagram account.

From G.I. Joe-level animation for First Blood, the VCR-level graphics in between the “trailers,” the backyard, action figure quality of the trailer for First Blood: Part II, to the 8-bit Nintendo-style graphics for the Rambo III trailer, everything about this rundown of John Rambo’s life is perfect. And perfectly chock-full of late 1980s to early 1990s nostalgia. Whoever came up with this idea – and it very well could have been Stallone himself – needs an award of some kind. A webby, a grammy, a Pulitzer. Something.

The fun doesn’t stop at the original three Rambo movies. The “trailer” for the fourth installment is a nod to a hilarious “Reading Rambo” meme. This comes in the form of a Rambo IV children’s book, narrated by Sly, describing the most epic and violent Rambo scene in the series’ history.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

You know the one.

If you’re interested in watching the entire Rambo series recap, check it out on Stallone’s official Instagram feed. If you’re interested in recapping the entire series in its non-cartoon entirety, you can join me on my couch on Thursday as I attempt to contain my overwhelming excitement for the best action movie series since … ever.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Navy ship scored America’s first submarine kill of WWII

The destroyer USS Ward (DD 139/APD 16) is famous for being the first American ship to sink a Japanese vessel, a mini-sub, just hours before the main attack on Pearl Harbor. But less famous is the first American ship to sink a Nazi U-boat. That impact of that ship’s kill, incidentally, would reverberate over six decades later.


The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo
USS Roper shortly after she was commissioned in 1919. (US Navy photo)

That vessel was USS Roper (DD 147), a Wickes-class destroyer. Wickes-class destroyers were built during World War I and carried four four-inch guns, a single three-inch gun, and a dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes. These vessels were feeling their age as World War II bubbled up on the horizon but were pressed into service to hold the line until newer vessels came into the fleet.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo
Aerial view of USS Roper. (US Navy photo)

According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, the Roper had taken part in a variety of deployments in the peacetime Navy between World Wars. The vessel had been off Cape Cod when Pearl Harbor was attacked. After a quick refit, she was escorting convoys. Then came the fateful encounter.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo
On March 31, 1942, USS Roper rescued 70 survivors, including this mother and child. (US Navy photo)

U-Boat.net reports that on April 14, 1942, the Roper detected U-85 on the surface, about 20 miles from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, two weeks after rescuing 70 survivors from a sunken merchant ship. First, the destroyer opened fire, scoring a number of hits. As the fatally stricken U-boat slipped beneath the surface, the destroyer unleashed a salvo of depth charges to ensure a kill. None of U-85’s crew survived.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo
This photo, showing members of the crew of the Nazi submarine U-85, was recovered by USS Roper after the sinking. (US Navy photo)

Almost six decades after the kill, the U-85’s wreck was looted and private divers made off with an Enigma machine. In the wake of that incident, Congress passed the Sunken Military Craft Act, which provides tough penalties for looting submerged war graves.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo
This damage, done by a 1945 kamikaze hit, ended the wartime service of USS Roper. (US Navy photo)

After that kill, the Roper still served, doing a number of convoy runs. Then, she was converted to a destroyer transport and re-designated APD 20. In 1945, she was damaged by a kamikaze. Repairs were still underway when Japan surrendered. She was sold for scrap in 1946.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last battle of the American Revolution was fought in India

Despite what high school textbooks would have us think, the American Revolution didn’t end at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. A 2015 article in the Journal of the American Revolution reminds us that the final peace of Paris was still two years away and there was a lot of fighting left to be done.

american revolution
Troops wearing the Revolutionary War uniforms of the 9th Virginia Regiment, Corps of the Continental Line

The war to shake off Great Britain wasn’t just a North American war. What started out as a means for keeping the unruly colonies in the fold quickly devolved into a global war among major European powers. By the time the Siege at Yorktown was over, there were actually 44 more battles to be fought for American independence. 

Peace talks were ongoing when news of the Franco-American victory reached negotiators in Paris, but that didn’t hurry matters along. A preliminary deal wouldn’t happen until the next year. In the meantime, the Founding Fathers knew that Britain would continue fighting and India would be the last place anyone would learn of a treaty. 

Back on the Indian subcontinent, the British were having trouble with the locals there too. One of them, Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore, had long aligned himself with the French. Mysoreans had been fighting the British for years while the Americans were fighting. But the very capable Hyder Ali died in 1783, leading the British to believe the time was right to end the nuisance once and for all. 

The crown quickly dispatched an army and a fleet of warships to lay siege to the Mysorean city of Cuddalore. In response, the French sent a force of their own. The two sides would meet there in June 1783, three months before the ink on the Treaty of Paris would dry. 

The city was blockaded by the Royal Navy by sea as British and Bengali troops surrounded it by land. Though equally powerful on land, the French fleet was outgunned by the British as they sailed toward Cuddalore. Using reinforcement troops meant for the city as gunners, the French attacked the British for three hours, forcing the British to leave the waters around the city. 

With the Royal Navy on its way out, the French were free to reinforce the defenses of Cuddalore, which they did. But the British Army didn’t relent. For a month, the French attempted to break the siege but were repelled over and over. Disease and thirst soon took over as the major force on the battlefield, but that didn’t matter either.

What finally broke the siege was news from Paris that the American Revolution was over and that a preliminary deal had been signed in November 1782 – the news was just late getting to India. 

In the end, Cuddalore was returned to the British anyway with France receiving its old possession of Pondicherry in the exchange, and the Americans receiving their independence from King George III.  

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why a Civil War soldier would drop a gun to pick up his unit’s flag

If during the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, you watched the superb 1993 movie that starred Martin Sheen, Sam Elliot, Jeff Daniels, and Tom Berenger, you probably noticed something that may not have made a lot of sense at a couple of points in the movie.


Perhaps the best-known instance is at the 3:55:09 mark of the Extended Edition of “Gettysburg” (available at Amazon.com) where an artillery round takes out a group of Confederate troops, including the soldier holding the flag.

The troops re-organize to fill the gap, but one of the troops picks up the flag and drops his rifle. That’s right – that soldier has taken his gun out of the fight!

Screenshot from Gettysburg trailer

Sounds completely crazy, right? What the heck is going through someone’s mind that they would take their gun out of the fight in the middle of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle? I can just hear Gunny Hartman shouting, “What is your major malfunction?”

Well, in 1863, war was much different. There were no radios. Messages were delivered by junior aides – essentially acting as runners with messages back and forth. Blue Force Tracker was 140 years into the future. But there was still the need to tell whose units were friendly, which were okay to shoot at, and where the heck all of them were.

The answer back then was to have each regiment have a specialized flag – or “colors.” So, now everyone – from the commanding general to the lowest private knows which unit was where. This was important, as the Minnesota Historical Society noted, since it meant troops could rally behind them for a charge, or to fall back.

That meant whoever held the colors had to have a lot of guts. He was out in the open, and he was a target. During some fighting on the first day of Gettysburg, one Confederate regiment had 10 different color bearers in 10 minutes, and lost 14 color bearers that day. The Union regiment opposite them lost at least three of their own.

The colors had such importance that many a Medal of Honor citation involved either capturing an enemy unit’s colors, or saving the colors of a soldier’s own unit. Given that importance, it is not surprising then, that in 1863, a soldier’s logical response when a color bearer was hit would be to drop his gun and pick up the colors.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

All Coast Guard National Security Cutters should have ScanEagle drones aboard and available for launch to boost high seas surveillance and aid in drug interdictions and arrests, according to Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz.

Commanders who have used the ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System, or UAS, have told him, ” ‘I don’t ever want to sail without ScanEagle again,’ ” Schultz said Dec. 7, 2018, at the National Press Club. “I’d like to see every national security cutter have one on the back.”


For the past 17 years, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center has experimented with various types of UAS, including a helicopter drone and MQ-1 Predator, for cutters but found them unsuited for the Coast Guard‘s dual mission of national security and law enforcement.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

A ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle from ScanEagle Guardian Eight Site sits ready for launch.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Kristine Volk, Resolute Support Public Affairs)

In 2017, the Coast Guard tested a ScanEagle aboard the cutter Stratton on a six-week deployment to the Eastern Pacific. By the end of the deployment, the drone had flown 39 sorties for a total of 279 hours and assisted the crew in seizing 1,676 kilograms of contraband, valued at million. It also aided in the arrests of 10 alleged drug traffickers, according to the service.

The ScanEagle, made by Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, was developed from a commercial version designed to collect weather data and scan the ocean for schools of fish. The Coast Guard version is about 8 feet long, with a wingspan of 16 feet. The drone is sent aloft by a pneumatic launcher and recovered using a hook and arresting wire.

In June 2018, Insitu announced the signing of a 7 million contract with the Coast Guard for the installation of ScanEagles aboard cutters. In a statement, Don Williamson, vice president and general manager of Insitu Defense, said when ScanEagle initially deployed with the Stratton, “We recognized what an incredible opportunity we had to partner with the U.S. Coast Guard to bring dynamic improvements to mission effectiveness and change aviation history.”

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle conducts flight operation over the USNS Spearhead.

The contract was “an incredibly important first step in realizing the Coast Guard’s vision of fleet-wide UAS implementation,” said Cmdr. Daniel Broadhurst, who has served as unmanned aircraft systems division chief in the Coast Guard’s Office of Aviation Forces.

The fate of the UAS plan and other Coast Guard projects largely will depend on the outcome of the upcoming budget battles in the new Congress, Schultz said Dec. 7, 2018.

Currently, “we’re faced with more demands for Coast Guard services than fiscal resources,” he said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This American President started his day in the most veteran way possible

Our first president, George Washington, sold whiskey from one the country’s largest distilleries after leaving office — but reportedly never drank his own supply. Instead, Washington sipped a dark porter style of beer mixed with molasses that was brewed in Philadelphia. His presidential successor, John Adams, loved drinking hard cider, rum, and Madeira wine during his time off. The eighth President of the United States, Martin Van Buren, drank so much whiskey that he earned the nickname, “Blue Whiskey Van.”

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

Many of our Presidents turned to their alcohol beverage of choice in order to relax after a long day’s work. However, one president flipped the script and decided to start his days by knocking back a shot of his favorite: bourbon.


It’s reported that President Harry S. Truman liked to start his days with a nice, brisk walk and a shot of Old Grand Dad (bourbon).

Truman appreciated a strong Old Fashioned and, reportedly, would complain to his staff if he felt the cocktail was too weak. Although it may seem unhealthy for a person of his position to consume such a potent drink so early in the morning, he actually prided himself on maintaining a nutritious diet.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo
Truman sitting at a table with Roosevelt discussing some presidential stuff.

In a diary entry, dated January 3, 1952, Truman wrote:

“When I moved into the White House, I went up to 185. I’ve now hit an average of 175. I walked two-miles most every morning at a hundred and twenty-eight steps a minute, I eat no bread, but one piece of toast at breakfast, no butter, no sugar, no sweets. Usually have fruit, one egg, a strip of bacon and half a glass of skimmed milk for breakfast, liver & bacon or sweetbreads or ham or fish and spinach and another non-fattening vegetable for lunch with fruit for dessert. For dinner, I have a fruit cup, steak, a couple of non-fattening vegetables, an orange, pineapple, or raspberry for dinner. So, I maintain my waistline and can wear suits bought in 1935!”

On behalf of the veteran community, we say well done, sir.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Remembering the USS Indianapolis (CA 35) on its 75th Anniversary

In the first minutes of July 30, 1945, two torpedoes fired from Japanese submarine I-58 struck the starboard side of USS Indianapolis (CA 35). One ripped off the ship’s bow, followed by another that hit crew berthing areas and knocked out communications.

In the dead of night, chaos ensued. It took only 12 minutes for the decorated warship that had carried President Roosevelt in the interwar years and earned ten battle stars for its World War II service up to that point to begin a descent to the bottom of the Philippine Sea.

Around 300 crew died in the initial blasts and went down with the ship. Between 800 and 900 men went into the water.


Indianapolis had completed a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, an island in the Northern Marianas, days earlier. Unbeknownst to crew at the time, this mission would in the weeks to come contribute to the end of the war.

At the time of its sinking, the ship was returning unescorted to the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of mainland Japan and to resume its role as flagship of Admiral Raymond Spruance and the Fifth Fleet. Damage prevented transmission of a distress signal and misunderstood directives led to the Navy not reporting the ship’s failure to arrive.

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

Shortly after completing a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, the USS Indianapolis was struck by torpedo and sank 75 years ago today.

Surviving Sailors and Marines were adrift for four days before the pilot of a U.S. Navy Lockheed PV-1 twin-engine patrol bomber located them. It was by pure chance that, on the afternoon of August 2, that the bomber spotted an oil slick while adjusting an antenna.

A massive air and surface rescue operation ensued that night and through the following day. Out of 1,195 crew, 316 survived the ordeal; four additional Sailors died shortly after rescue.

The survivors faced incomprehensible misery. Some found themselves scattered miles apart in seven different groups. Some were fortunate to have gone in the water near rafts and floating rations. Others, including the largest group of around 400 men, had nothing but life vests and floater nets. Men suffered from exposure, dehydration, attacks by hallucinating shipmates, exhaustion, hypothermia, and sharks.

Hallucinations were contagious as many dived underwater thinking that they were entering their ship to drink ice cold milk, only to guzzle sea water and initiate a horrible death. Others swam off alone to reach hotels or imaginary islands. Crew supported each other as best they could, some at the expense of their own lives. The captain of the ship’s Marine detachment swam himself to death circling his group to keep them together. The crew’s beloved chaplain succumbed to exhaustion after providing days of last rites to dying shipmates. Rescue crews had to fire at sharks feeding on the dead with rifles in order to recover bThe crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.odies for identification and a proper burial at sea.

Today

The crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.

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

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