Troops die in battle — it’s an unfortunate fact, but it’s the nature of the job. Countless men and women have sacrificed themselves to protect their fellow service members, their friends and family back home, and the lifestyle we enjoy here in the U.S. “Battlefield crosses” were created to honor the fallen. A deceased troop’s rifle is planted, barrel-first, into their boots (or, in some cases, the ground) and their helmet is placed atop the rifle. Like all things military, this cross is part of a long-standing tradition — a tradition that has evolved since its first use on the battlefields of the American Civil War.
Despite the fact that it’s called a cross, there’s no single religious ideology attached to the practice.
The tradition of marking the site where a troop met his end began in the Civil War. Historically, large-scale battles meant mass casualties. After armies clashed and the smoke settled, bodies were quickly removed from the field to stop the spread of disease. Blade-cut, wooden plaques were placed at temporary grave sites so that others could pay respects.
It wasn’t until World War I, when troops were issued rifles and kevlar helmets, that these wooden blocks were replaced with the crosses as we know them. To many, it was the equipment that made a trooper, so creating a memorial from that same gear was poignant.
In World War II, dog tags were standard, making troop identification easier. The tags were eventually placed on the memorials, giving a name to the troop who once carried the gear on which it was draped. When available, a pair of boots was placed at the bottom of the shrine, too.
A pair of boots, a rifle, a helmet, and some identification — there’s something eerily, symbolically beautiful about the battlefield cross, composed of the core components of a troop.
Today, given the technology, photos of the fallen are also sometimes placed near the memorial. These crosses help give troops closure and a way to pay their respects to their brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
From action-packed eyewitness accounts such as Guadalcanal Diaryto devastating Holocaust memoirs like The Diary of Anne Frankand Nightto the thrilling espionage tale of Operation Mincemeat, World War II is the subject of some of the most fascinating and influential nonfiction books ever written. Every year, seemingly dozens of new titles emerge to offer fresh perspectives and uncover fascinating details about the deadliest conflict in human history. These nine classics cover the war from the Eastern Front to the South Pacific and investigate its murky origins and complex legacies. Make your next great read one of these essential World War II books.
By John Hersey
Originally published in the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker, this compassionate and richly observed portrait of six survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima caused an immediate sensation. It was the first–and only–time the magazine had devoted an entire issue to a single article. Newsstands sold out within hours, and radio stations interrupted their regular programming to broadcast readings of the complete text.
More than a year after the Japanese city was destroyed, Americans were getting the first full account of the horrors of nuclear warfare. Hersey described stone facades permanently etched with the silhouettes of vaporized people and soldiers whose eyes were melted by the atomic flash. Widely recognized as one of the earliest examples of New Journalism (the style of reporting made most famous by Joan Didion), Hiroshima profoundly impacted the debate over nuclear weapons and played a key role in the healing process between America and Japan.
2. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
By E.B. Sledge
With brutal honesty and lucid prose, Eugene Bondurant Sledge provides a grunt’s-eye view of infantry combat in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Nicknamed “Sledgehammer” by his comrades, Sledge fought with the 1st Marine Division in the grueling battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Using notes he secretly kept in a pocket-sized New Testament, Sledge describes the terror of life on the front lines and documents acts of savagery committed by both sides. But he also admires the courage of his fellow soldiers and pauses, when he can, to observe his natural surroundings–an interest that would lead to a later career as a biology professor. With the Old Breed was one of the main sources for Ken Burns’s documentary The Warand helped to form the basis for the HBO mini-series The Pacific.
3. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
By William Shirer
First published in 1960, this National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller traces the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from Adolf Hitler’s birth in 1889 to the end of World War II in 1945. As a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and one of “Murrow’s Boys” at the CBS Radio Network, Shirer reported from Berlin and Vienna in the years before the war and followed the German Army during the invasion of France.
After the war, he drew on his own experiences and a wealth of newly available documents, including the diaries of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and General Franz Halder and testimony from the Nuremberg trials, to write this 1,250-page volume. The book was a huge commercial success, selling one million hardcover copies and going through twenty printings in its first year. Although its scholarly reputation is often debated, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remains one of the most influential tomes about World War II to this day.
By Art Spiegelman
This Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel recasts the Holocaust with Nazis as cats, Jews as mice, and Poles as pigs. Originally serialized in the alternative comics magazine Raw, the story moves back and forth between present-day Rego Park, New York and Nazi-occupied Poland. In New York, cartoonist Art Spiegelman tries to mend his fractured relationship with his father, Vladek, by drawing a book-length comic based on Vladek’s wartime experiences. In Poland, Vladek and his wife, Anja, endure forced relocation to the Sosnowiec Ghetto; the death of their first son, Richieu; and imprisonment in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust,” Maus elevated the critical reputation of comics and inspired countless artists, including Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, and Marjane Satrapi.
5. The Longest Day
By Cornelius Ryan
Based on interviews with more than 1,100 D-Day survivors, The Longest Day is the definitive account of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Ryan experienced the battle firsthand as a 24-year-old reporter for the Daily Telegraph. When the bomber he was flying in was hit and had to return to England, he jumped into a patrol boat and returned to cover the fighting on the French beaches. Fifteen years later, Ryan set out to tell “what actually happened, rather than what generals or others thought happened.” The result is a masterpiece of military history packed with novelistic details, from the U.S. paratrooper who won $2,500 at cards on the eve of the battle but deliberately lost it all so as not to run out of luck to Field Marshal Rommel’s reason for being 600 miles away when the invasion began–he was bringing his wife her birthday present.
6. In the Garden of Beasts
By Erik Larson
This #1 New York Times bestseller is the riveting story of William E. Dodd, the American ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937. Dodd, a history professor, was not Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first choice for the job, and he arrived in Berlin with little appetite for the endless socializing expected of a diplomat and little sense of the dangers posed by Germany’s newly-appointed chancellor, Adolf Hitler.
While Dodd struggled to find his place, his 24-year-old daughter, Martha, took to her glamorous new life with verve. Beautiful and sexually adventurous, her high-profile paramours included Rudolph Diels, the chief of the Gestapo, and Boris Winogradov, an attache to the Soviet Embassy who recruited her as a spy. Part political thriller, part family drama, In the Garden of Beasts brings fresh perspective to the question of why it took the world so long to recognize the threat of the Third Reich.
7. An Army at Dawn
By Rick Atkinson
While most American history buffs are well versed in the Allied push across Europe after the Normandy landings and the key battles for control of the Pacific, the North African campaign is a less familiar subject. Drawing on personal diaries and letters from soldiers as well as official documents kept in British, American, French, Italian, and German war archives, Rick Atkinson corrects the record in this Pulitzer Prize-winning history, the first volume in The Liberation Trilogy. From the amphibious invasion of Morocco and Algeria in November 1942 to the Allies’ watershed victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein and the US Army’s coming-of-age at the Battle of Hill 609 in Tunisia, An Army at Dawn seamlessly integrates big-picture military strategy with boots-on-the-ground perspective. Atkinson is particularly insightful on the clash of egos between the old-school British commanders and their upstart American counterparts.
8. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943
By Anthony Beevor
With more than one million casualties, the five-month siege of Stalingrad was the bloodiest battle of World War II and a decisive turning point in the fight for Europe. Antony Beevor, a former British Army officer, brilliantly balances the huge scale of the conflict with a soldier’s-eye view of some of the most horrific conditions in the history of modern warfare.
He begins with Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union that was plagued by bad weather, long supply lines, and difficult terrain, and analyzes how the Luftwaffe’s carpet bombing of Stalingrad helped to create the treacherous, rubble-strewn conditions that allowed Soviet snipers to wage a gruesome war of attrition. Most captivatingly, Atkinson portrays Stalingrad as the terrifying outcome of totalitarianism: Hitler lived in a fantasy world and refused to listen to German officers who tried to save the Sixth Army from complete destruction, while Stalin’s demands for total obeisance resulted in the executions of 13,500 Red Army soldiers.
9. Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization
By Nicholson Baker
In this highly unusual and captivating work, novelist Nicholson Baker tells the story of the buildup to World War II in vignettes. Each short piece contains a fact or a quotation drawn from primary sources including newspaper articles, radio speeches, personal diaries, and government transcripts.
Through the steady accumulation of detail, Baker suggests that Allied leaders were not as reluctant to enter the global conflict as most historians contend. He goes back to as far as 1920 to quote Winston Churchill on the proposed bombing of civilian targets in Iraq (“I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes”), then skips ahead to the prime minister’s preferred military strategy in 1941: “One of our great aims is the delivery on German towns of the largest possible quantity of bombs per night.” Turning to the American scene, Baker draws from sources suggesting that Franklin D. Roosevelt may have deliberately goaded the Japanese into bombing Pearl Harbor so the US could enter the war.
Some scholars were harsh in their judgment of Human Smoke, but by returning to the primary material, Baker rescues pacifism as an honorable concept and reminds readers that when military leaders rush to apply new technologies to warfare, it is often civilians who suffer the most.
The beginning of December is a wonderful time in the military. We all get to watch those from the southern states lose their minds as they watch a little dusting of snow settle on the pavement, nobody’s sure if it’s time to switch over to winter PT uniforms, and troops express extreme pride in their respective branches with the Army-Navy Game on the horizon.
All the while, everyone starts mentally clocking out because block leave is quickly approaching and no one wants to do sh*t until then. It’s a sweet, sweet waiting game.
So, here’re some memes to enjoy as you’re sitting around the training room, just waiting to finally take your happy ass home.
D-Day, June 6, 1944, the largest amphibious invasion in history. Over 150,000 American, British, and Canadian troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, but over 15,000 airborne soldiers dropped in behind enemy lines on D-Day. Most parachuted in, but over a thousand landed in Normandy inside gliders made of plywood.
Ninety-seven-year-old Millcreek, Utah, resident John “Jack” Whipple piloted one of the hundreds of gliders to set down in the fields of France on that June morning.
Tow planes delivered Jack and hundreds of other fearless flyers to the air over Northern France. Whipple was behind the controls of an Airspeed Horsa the day of the invasion.
“When we came over Utah Beach we received some ground fire,” said Whipple. “Then we flew over the Germans, and received a lot more fire.”
Allied forces used two gliders in the invasion: the Waco CG-4A and the Airspeed Horsa. These were not the modern sail planes of today, but cargo and troop carriers. The CG-4 carried a pilot and co-pilot, 13 soldiers and their equipment, or a jeep and two or three soldiers.
Whipple’s Horsa carried him and co-pilot, a jeep, an anti-tank gun, four soldiers that morning, but the Horsa could also be configured to carry 30 soldiers and their gear. The total weight of a loaded Horsa hovered around 15,000 pounds.
After the tow planes cut the gliders loose, pilots had just moments to find their landing zone.
“The quicker the better,” said Whipple. “They were shooting at us – probably 3 to 4 minutes.”
To make matters worse, reconnaissance photos given to pilots were months old.
“The photos had been taken in January or February and the trees had no leaves,” Whipple recalled. When we got there, the trees were in full leaves and we missed our main check point.”
Losing altitude, Whipple picked a field to land in, but quickly realized it wasn’t big enough. He slammed the glider in to the ground, ripping off the landing gear. He then performed an intentional ground loop, digging one wing into the ground, thus slowing the glider and protecting the fuselage. A maneuver, which all these years later, Whipple points out, was authorized.
“We landed, didn’t hurt anybody or the major equipment,” he said.
At this point, his role shifted.
“Glider pilots did the flying, and right after we landed we became infantry men. Most glider pilots were trained as infantry men, but we couldn’t wear the infantry badge because we weren’t in their unit. We were still in the air corps.” Whipple said.
“We landed behind enemy lines. We had about perhaps five or six Horsa gliders. We got together after landing and helped those who were injured. We got attacked that night, but we were able to keep the group together and able to keep the enemy away.”
The airborne assault on German forces was a key part of the allied invasion.
“It made it easier because the Germans then had to fight both sides of a squeeze,” said Whipple, squeezing his hands together. “The people coming on the beach—and the airborne.”
And while hundreds of gliders may not sound like a lot, the gliders provided the airborne units equipment to combat heavy and mechanized infantry, and needed supplies to operate behind enemy lines. Whipple flew two additional combat glider missions—one in Holland and the final one as part of the Rhine Crossing.
After returning from the war, he earned his private pilot license, and flew all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
In September, 2013, four masked men entered the Westgate Shopping Mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. In the terrorist attack that ensued, 71 people died, including 62 civilians, five Kenyan troops, and the shooters themselves. More than 200 others were wounded in the attack, which included the collapse of a significant part of the building after a three-day siege. Caught in the attack were oil workers from an international firm who stopped for lunch.
The oil company’s staff were in a second-floor sushi restaurant when their security personnel back at the office learned of what was originally reported as a robbery. Given their background, the two men (their names were never given) immediately identified it as more – it had to be a terrorist attack. They were right. That day, four militants from the Somali terror group, al-Shabaab, infiltrated their way into Kenya and into the mall carrying assault rifles and grenades. The two men headed over to the mall to rescue their embattled comrades.
In their first efforts to get into mall via basement delivery ramp in the parking garage, they ran into a hail of bullets and were forced to double back. On their way back, they ran into 100 people cowering behind an armored car. They rallied the civilians and helped guide them to the safety of the main road in front of the mall. As they exited, they could see bloody hands waving for help as shots were fired on the roof of the car park. The hand disappeared into a mall coffee shop. The SAS veteran enlisted two Kenyan plainclothes policemen and two Kenyan policemen with assault rifles to help them attack the fire escape.
Onlookers during fighting at the Westgate Mall area.
When the six men arrived at the coffee shop, they found 20 dead and 100 more sheltered in place. As one of the officers watched the stairs, the men persuaded the others to climb down the fire escape. There was a “bloodbath” in the adjacent car park rooftop. As the civilians went down the fire escape, the 18-year SAS veteran and the Irish Ranger split up. The SAS operator went out onto the rooftop as the Ranger continued on toward the sushi restaurant where his charges were held.
The SAS paired injured people with the uninjured to hasten their retreat and covered the bodies of the dead. Meanwhile, the Ranger had come under fire from the militants, and his two Kenyan policemen returned fire. He bolted toward the restaurant, where he found the oil company staff hiding in a storeroom, then convinced them to race back to the coffee shop while the policemen held the terrorists at bay. The two men reconnected in the cargo area, hustling the oil company’s staff into a company car. With their charges safe, they pleaded for the Kenyan police to assault the car park, but were rebuffed. The police were waiting on a SWAT team and would not advance without them.
Inside the Westgate Mall after it reopened.
The Brit and the Irishman couldn’t wait. With the help of a uniformed Kenyan soldier and a Sikh civilian who had already escaped the mall, they went back into the fray. They found a Red Cross ambulance that was struggling to remove the dead and wounded people from the roof of the car park. The men worked for an hour with the emergency medical personnel before doctors could arrive. They were about to leave when they got a text from another friend inside the mall.
They went in to retrieve him, too. The three remaining men exited via the trusted route of the fire escape just three hours after the terror attack began. The men rescued all of their personnel and friends, along with hundreds of trapped civilians, aided in the triage of the wounded, and exited the danger zone without any injury to themselves. By the time they left the mall, the police had still not cordoned off the local area. The siege of the mall would last almost two more full days.
Air Force District of Washington conducted an arrival ceremony in honor of World War II Army veteran and former Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) Feb. 12, 2019.
Dingell, 92, passed away in Dearborn, Michigan, Feb. 7, 2019.
Dingell’s family and his remains arrived at JBA on board a C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
AFDW is responsible for the Air Force operational and ceremonial support to Dingell’s funerals and all other joint military service ceremonies in the national capital region and elsewhere, as directed by U.S. Army Military District of Washington.
The U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Regiment body bearer team carries the casket of former World War II Army veteran and Congressman John D. Dingell at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Feb. 12, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael S. Murphy)
Military support for Dingell’s funeral is provided by the Defense Department as an exception to policy at the request of the speaker of the House of Representatives and includes an Army body bearer team, a firing party and a bugler at the funeral and interment ceremonies. Military funeral honors at the interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, are provided according to Dingell’s military service.
Dingell, who served in the U.S. House from 1955 to 2015, was not only the longest-serving representative in American history, but one of the final two World War II veterans to have served in Congress.
He was the last member of Congress who had served in the 1950s and during the presidencies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.
A C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Charleston, S.C., carrying the casket of former World War II veteran and Congressman John D. Dingell lands on Joint Base Andrews, Md., Feb. 12, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael S. Murphy)
The day he died, Dingell dictated reflections to his wife at their home. The following is an excerpt of those words, which were published as an op-ed piece Feb. 8, 2019 in the Washington Post.
“I never forgot the people who gave me the privilege of representing them. It was a lesson learned at home from my father and mother, and one I have tried to impart to the people I’ve served with and employed over the years.”
“As I prepare to leave this all behind, I now leave you in control of the greatest nation of mankind and pray God gives you the wisdom to understand the responsibility you hold in your hands.”
The Congressional funeral in honor of Dingell concluded with a public funeral mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in the District of Columbia Feb. 14, 2019, at 10:30 a.m. He will later be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in a private ceremony.
Today, Bell is a company known for its UH-1 Iroquois and AH-1 Cobra helicopters, but Bell was once much more than a helicopter company. The corporation built front-line fighters during World War II and was also responsible for making America’s first jet fighter.
The P-59 Airacomet was never much more than a flying testbed. It had an armament that consisted of three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a single 37mm cannon — the latter being a common feature in Bell’s primary propeller-driven fighters, the P-39 Airacobra and the P-63 Kingcobra. The P-59 was also able to haul a fair load for air-to-ground ass-kicking, in the form of either two 1,000-pound bombs or eight 60-pound rockets.
The P-59, however, would make its greatest impact without ever firing a shot at the enemy.
By the early 1940s, both the Germans and the British were pursuing jet technology, having flown experimental jets before. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, General Henry Arnold saw England’s E-28/39 jet in 1941 and asked if the Americans could use the then-groundbreaking technology. The British gladly handed it over, and General Electric was given the task of building the engine.
While Bell is known for its helicopters today, during World War II, they built fighters.
Bell, which was located next to GE’s jet engine plant, then got the contract to build the jet fighter around the new engine. The process was kept very secret — a “black project.” The project was dubbed XP-59, a designation recycled from an older Bell design for a propeller-driven fighter that had a “pusher” arrangement. That design was modified to carry two J31 turbojet engines.
In addition to the three .50-caliber machine guns and the 37mm cannon, the Airacomet carried eight 60-pound rockets or two 1,000-pound bombs.
The Airacomet never made it to the front lines. Despite being technologically advanced, it just didn’t have the performance needed to join the fight. The two jets were heavy and while it had a top speed of 413 miles per hour, its range was very short. On internal fuel alone, the P-59 only could go 240 miles. External tanks more than doubled its range (carrying it up to 520 miles), but a P-51 Mustang could go as far as 2,300 miles.
The pilots who flew the P-59 didn’t see combat, but did learn lessons that paid off for pilots of more advanced jets down the road.
The P-59, despite never seeing combat, was very valuable for the United States. It taught pilots how to fly jets — and this experience that would pay off big time when more practical aircraft emerged for the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
Learn more about this jet-powered pioneer the video below!
Whisper is a mobile app which allows its users to post anonymous messages (called “Whispers”) out into the ether and receive replies from other users who might be interested in what they have to say. The messages are text superimposed over a (presumably) related photo to illustrate the point.
A recent update allowed Whispers to be categorized into a few firm subcategories: Confessions, LGBTQ, NSFW, QA, Faith and Military. Military members and those with an interest in the military can “anonymously” (quotes included because the app still tracks users with their phone’s GPS) post their thoughts, feelings, and interactions with military members. Some of the confessions can be funny, but others give insight into real struggles veterans face when they feel alone and have no one to turn to and the struggles their families face trying to help their loved ones reintegrate after war.
So you’re spending Thanksgiving downrange (again) and it’s looking like instead of being home, surrounded by family, friends, liquor and an impressive spread, you’ll be “camping” and dinner will be an MRE. Kind of samesies, right?
We know you’d rather be watching football with your dad and making fun of your creepy uncle in real time, but if you can’t be home, bring home to you with our MRE Thanksgiving cooking hacks. That’s right: We’re taking boring to the next level of slightly less boring by combining some of your ingredients to give you 5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving. It kind of feels like cooking, right?
We know you are well aware that everything is better with sriracha. Douse your chicken, noodles and vegetables dish with as much of that godsend that you can handle and then stir in the surprise ingredient: warmed peanut butter. Sprinkle with some peanuts and it’s almost like you’re sitting in Thailand or at least somewhere in Chicago. (We said almost.)
We know the burrito bowl doesn’t really even do the name justice. Take your orange powdered drink, mix it with the hot sauce and stir that concoction into your chicken and rice. We’ll wait while your tastebuds rejoice at something different.
It’s not quite Taco Bell and you might already be south of the border, but if you heat up your cheddar cheese spread and put it on a tortilla, top with crumbled cheddar crackers and then roll it all up into a little taquito situation, we promise you won’t be mad. Let’s be honest: you’d be eating that same thing at your bachelor pad back in the States if your leave wasn’t approved to go home anyhow.
No, we don’t really know what this would look like, so here’s the traditional all-American classic instead.
Chocolate apple pie
We are using the term “pie” pretty loosely here, but if you take mocha cappuccino drink mix and add just a tiny bit of water and stir, it makes the consistency of frosting. Spread that bad boy on your spiced apple cake and you can practically feel the fall air around you. If by fall we mean July 132nd. Still delicious! And isn’t it fun to pretend you’re in a place with seasons?
Yeah, we know. You’re probably hungry now. Sorry.
Key lime goodness
Mix the lime beverage powder with vanilla pudding and spread it on top of crackers. Just like mom used to make. Sort of. Fine, not really, but it is good. And maybe next year instead of pumpkin pie, you can make her this key lime MRE treat.
We know it’s hard to be away from family, especially on a day that’s dedicated to being thankful for them. Whether you’re experimenting with drink powder as frosting or making taquitos, we hope your meal is shared with great friends. Happy Thanksgiving.
After a century, World War I is finally getting the treatment in American cinema it so richly deserves. While some of the best war movies were World War I movies, Paths of Glory, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Lawrence of Arabia, there were also many misses. What’s surprising is that there are relatively few WWI movies, when compared to those depicting other wars.
No longer. 1917 is a new movie based on the Great War, coming in December. And it looks like it could be the definitive WWI movie.
The film takes place during the Third Battle of Ypres, where a British contingent of 1,600 men is due to walk into a German trap. Two Tommies are given the assignment to proceed on foot to warn the unit about their orders – the ones that take them directly into an ambush. Their mission takes them across the Ypres battlefields and through the deadly trench warfare that is now synonymous with the Great War.
What’s more remarkable about 1917 is that it’s based on a true story, one told to director Sam Mendes by his own grandfather, Alfred. Alfred Mendes received the Military Medal for “acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire” during the war. The Military Medal was replaced by the Military Cross in the UK armed forces in 1993, and would be the fifth-highest medal awarded by the United Kingdom today.
Relentless rain, mud, and death marked the Battle of Ypres.
The elder Mendes ran through snipers, trenches, moving artillery barrages, and machine-gun fire to deliver messages for two full days during the Battle of Poelcappelle. Mendes’ grandfather was raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad but left to join the fight against Germany, joining the British Army in 1916, at the age of 19. He saw action at the WWI Battles of Passchendaele (Ypres) and Poelcappelle. He was sent to go find survivors of a failed attack during Poelcappelle. It was a dangerous assignment, one his commander said he might not return from.
Despite encountering all of World War I’s signature death traps, he still managed to find survivors while surviving himself. He made it back to his company’s shell hole intact.
“In spite of the snipers, the machine-gunners and the shells, I arrived back at C Company’s shell hole without a scratch but with a series of hair-raising experiences that would keep my grand and great-grandchildren enthralled for nights on end,” he would later write in his autobiography.
1917 is based on Medes’ experiences on this mission. The film is set to release on Dec. 25, 2019.
During more than five decades of operational service, the Boeing B-52 heavy bomber has been the backbone of the strike capability of the U.S. Air Force. Its long range, ability to operate at high altitudes and capability to carry nuclear or precision-guided conventional ordnance to any point on the globe, has made it a key component of nuclear deterrence and U.S. National Security Strategy.
Development and design
Born of specifications for a new heavy bomber presented by Air Materiel Command in 1945, the first iteration of what would become the B-522, was the Boeing 464-40 created in 1946. This airframe was powered by turboprop engines, as jet engines were not yet seen as reliable or fuel efficient enough for long-range missions.
As development continued through the end of the decade, the project became the keystone for the fledgling U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command under the direction of Gen. Curtis LeMay. At his insistence, the XB-52 and YB-52, which had more operational equipment, featured 35-degree swept wings with eight Westinghouse turbojet engines.
The YB-52 first took flight in April 1952 and subsequent ground and flight testing lead the Air Force to order 282 of the new heavy bombers, beginning with the delivery of three B-52As and 10 B-52Bs by 1954.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
During the rollout ceremony, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Nathan Twining described the B-52 as “the long-rifle of the air age.”
The B-52 has since received many upgrades to communications, electronics, computing and avionics on the flight deck, as well as engines, fuel capacity and the weapons bay. These upgrades enable the B-52H to integrate into the new digital battlefield and precisely deliver a large array of weapons, from conventional, nuclear and smart bombs to conventional or nuclear cruise missiles, on targets anywhere in the world.The use of aerial refueling gives the B-52 a range limited only by crew endurance.
Further development included a reconnaissance variant, as well as a model used as a launch platform for 93 NASA X-15 missions to explore the boundaries of space. A B-52H is currently used for launching other research vehicles by NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California.
A total of 744 B-52s were built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
In a conventional conflict, the B-52 can perform strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, offensive counter-air, and maritime operations.
Throughout the Cold War, B-52s were a cornerstone of the Nuclear Triad, which was comprised of nuclear missile submarines, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and bombers capable of delivering nuclear bombs.
(U.S. Air Force graphic by Maureen Stewart)
Throughout the Cold War B-52s were continuously airborne on alert patrols armed with nuclear weapons should hostilities erupt with the Soviet Union. These missions ended in 1991.
During the Vietnam War, beginning with Operations Arc Light and Rolling Thunder in 1965 and concluding with Operations Linebacker and Linebacker II in 1972, B-52s carried out various bombing campaigns.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, B-52s flew over 1500 sorties and delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces. They struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard.
They also bombed targets in Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force in 1999 and Operations Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraqi Freedom in 2003, providing close air support through the use of precision guided munitions. They have most recently engaged in missions against ISIL targets in Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.
All B-52s can be equipped with electro-optical viewing sensors, a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and advanced targeting pods to augment targeting, battle assessment, and flight safety, further improving its combat ability, day or night and in varying weather conditions utilizing a variety of standoff weapons, such as laser-guided bombs, conventional bombs, and GPS-guided weapons.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Austin M. May)
Did you know?
The B-52 is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory, including gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions.
Current engineering analyses show the B-52’s life span to extend beyond the year 2040.
B-52s also assist the Navy in ocean surveillance.
The lower deck crew of the B-52, the navigator and radar navigator, eject downward.
In 1972, a B-52 tail-gunner, Albert Moore, shot down a MiG-21 over Vietnam. It was the last recorded bomber-gunner to shoot down an enemy aircraft.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, 365 B-52s were destroyed under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The aircraft were stripped of usable parts, chopped into five pieces with a 13,000 pound steel blade and sold for scrap at 12 cents per pound.
(Photo by Senior Airman Curt Beach)
General characteristics – (source: AF.MIL)
Primary function: Heavy bomber
Contractor: Boeing Military Airplane Co.
Power plant: Eight Pratt & Whitney engines TF33-P-3/103 turbofan
Thrust: Each engine up to 17,000 pounds
Wingspan: 185 feet (56.4 meters)
Length: 159 feet, 4 inches (48.5 meters)
Height: 40 feet, 8 inches (12.4 meters)
Weight: Approximately 185,000 pounds (83,250 kilograms)
Maximum takeoff weight: 488,000 pounds (219,600 kilograms)
Fuel capacity: 312,197 pounds (141,610 kilograms)
Payload: 70,000 pounds (31,500 kilograms)
Speed: 650 miles per hour (Mach 0.84)
Range: 8,800 miles (7,652 nautical miles)
Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,151.5 meters)
Armament: Approximately 70,000 pounds (31,500 kilograms) mixed ordnance: bombs, mines and missiles. (Modified to carry air-launched cruise missiles)
Crew: five (aircraft commander, pilot, radar navigator, navigator and electronic warfare officer)
Unit cost: $84 million (fiscal 2012 constant dollars)
Marines will have better situational awareness on missions in dark areas thanks to new night-vision goggles.
The Binocular Night Vision Goggle II, or BNVG II, is a helmet-mounted binocular that gives operators improved depth perception at night, and uses white phosphor image intensification technology to amplify ambient light, with a modular thermal imaging overlay capability. BNVG II helps Marines identify potential buried explosive devices, find hidden objects in foliated areas and safely conduct tasks that require depth perception.
Marine Corps Systems Command began fielding the BNVG II to force reconnaissance and explosive ordnance disposal Marines this spring, and full operational capability is planned for early 2019.
The BNVG II includes a binocular night-vision device and a clip-on thermal imager, or COTI. The BNVD amplifies the small amount of existing light emitted by stars, the moon’s glow or other ambient light sources and uses the light to clearly display objects in detail in very dark conditions. The COTI uses heat energy from the Marine’s surroundings to add a thermal overlay that allows the image to be viewed more clearly, helping Marines with situational awareness in conditions with little to no light.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci)
“The BNVG II helps Marines see enemies at a distance, and uses the COTI to detect ordnance or power sources for an explosive device that gives off heat,” said Nia Cherry, an infantry weapons program analyst. “The COTI intensifies Marines’ ability to see anything in dark conditions, rain, fog, dust, smoke and through bushes that the legacy binoculars couldn’t.”
The BNVG II is a follow-on to the legacy, battle-proven AN/PVS-15 binocular, but offers more features, such as the COTI, for increased survivability. The BNVD component is a compact, lightweight, third-generation, dual-tube night -vision goggle with an ergonomic, low-profile design. It offers superior situational awareness compared to the AN/PVS-15 used by reconnaissance Marines and the single-tube AN/PVS-14 monocular night-vision device used throughout the rest of the Marine Corps, officials said. It mounts to the enhanced combat helmet and may be used individually or in conjunction with the COTI.
“In March 2018, we held an exercise in San Diego where Marines provided positive feedback on their ability to easily maneuver with the goggles,” said Joe Blackstone, optics team lead in infantry weapons. “The depth perception provided by the BNVG II enhances precision and increases the operator’s survivability while on missions with limited lighting.”
When veterans of World War II returned home to McMinn County, Tennessee, they probably weren’t surprised to find that many of the same politicians from before the war were still running the place. A local political machine run by Paul Cantrell had been suspected of running the county and committing election fraud since 1936.
However, when the sheriff’s deputies began targeting the veterans with fines for minor arrests, the vets suspected they were being taken advantage of. One veteran, Bill White, later told American Heritage magazine:
“There were several beer joints and honky-tonks around Athens; we were pretty wild; we started having trouble with the law enforcement at that time because they started making a habit of picking up GIs and fining them heavily for most anything—they were kind of making a racket out of it.
“After long hard years of service—most of us were hard-core veterans of World War II—we were used to drinking our liquor and our beer without being molested. When these things happened, the GIs got madder—the more GIs they arrested, the more they beat up, the madder we got …”
By early 1946, the vets and the townspeople were tired of what they saw as corrupt practices by Paul Cantrell and his lackeys. The vets started their own political party with candidates for five offices. The focus of the contest was the race for sheriff between Paul Cantrell and Henry Knox, a veteran of North Africa.
Everyone knew that the election could turn violent. Veterans in nearby Blount County promised 450 men who could assist in any need that McMinn County had on election day. In response, Cantrell hired two hundred “deputies” from outside the county to guard polling places.
What happened next would go down as the “Battle of Athens,” or the “McMinn County War.”
Tensions built on election day as the veterans faced off with the special deputies. By 3 p.m., an hour before the polls closed, violence broke out. Deputies beat and shot a black farmer who tried to vote and arrested two veterans who were then held hostage in the Athens Water Works. Other veterans responded by taking hostage deputies who were sent to arrest them. Still, Cantrell was able to fill most of the ballot boxes with purchased votes and get them to the jail, ensuring he would win the election.
While the sheriff and his lackeys counted the votes in the jail, White and the other veterans were getting angry. Finally, sometime after 6 p.m., White led a raid on the National Guard armory to get guns.
White said in a 1969 interview that they “broke down the armory doors and took all the rifles, two Thompson sub-machine guns, and all the ammunition we could carry, loaded it up in the two-ton truck and went back to GI headquarters and passed out seventy high-powered rifles and two bandoleers of ammunition with each one.”
The veterans set siege to the jail, firing on deputies that were outside the jail when they arrived. One deputy fell wounded into the building while another crawled under a car after he was hit in his leg. But, Cantrell and others were safely locked behind the brick walls of the jail. The veterans needed to get through before other police or the National Guard arrived.
Molotov cocktails proved ineffective but at 2:30 in the morning, someone arrived with dynamite. At about the same time, an ambulance arrived and the veterans let it through, assuming it was there for the wounded. Instead, Paul Cantrell and one of his men escaped in it.
A few minutes later, the vets started throwing dynamite. The first bundle was used to blow up a deputy’s cruiser, flipping it over. Then, three more bundles were thrown. One landed on the porch roof, one under another car, and one against the jail wall. The nearly simultaneous explosions destroyed the wall and car and threw the jail porch off of its foundation.
The deputies in the jail, as well as some hiding out in the courthouse, surrendered immediately. The veterans were then forced to protect the deputies as local townspeople attempted to kill them. At least one deputy had his throat slit and another of Cantrell’s men was shot in the jaw.
The veterans established a patrol to keep the peace. To prevent a counterattack by Cantrell, the vets placed machine guns at all the approaches to Athens, where the jail and courthouse were located.
The rest of the incident played out without violence. Henry Knox took over as sheriff Aug. 4, 1946 and future elections dismantled what was left of Cantrell’s machine.