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The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

Sergeant David Bleak was set to go out on a normal patrol. It was 1952 and the young medic was accompanying a U.S. Army recon patrol with the mission of probing Chinese defenses and capturing an enemy soldier for intel and interrogation. What he didn’t know, however, was that by the patrol’s end, he would kill four enemies with his bare hands while saving his comrades.

He would have decades to think about that night after the war.


Bleak rolled out with 20 soldiers in an American-occupied area of North Korea near the front lines. By 1952, the Chinese were fully committed to North Korea, which resulted in what would be, more or less, considered a stalemate for the duration of the war.

“WE HAVE AN ARMY”

The hill they were traversing, Hill 499, was bare. It lacked significant vegetation after all the weeks of fighting in the area and offered little in the way of concealment, but the enemy was out there and the Army needed more information about their positions. The 21-man unit set off at 0430 to see what they could learn while another company distracted the Chinese on the other side of the hill with a frontal attack (where another soldier was earning the Medal of Honor, strangely enough).

Unfortunately, that didn’t prove to be enough of a distraction. Bleak’s formation was spotted as soon as they began to hike their way up. Quickly, the unit came under Chinese small arms fire. A few soldiers were injured immediately. Sgt. Bleak ran up from the rear to treat them just as fast as they were hit.

The mission soon continued, as did Sgt. Bleak.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
“We have an Army!”

Once more they took surprise small arms fire, but this time, Bleak bum-rushed the enemy trench and dove in head-first. He snapped the neck of the first soldier he could get his hands on and then crushed the windpipe of another. As a third Chinese soldier attacked him, Bleak drew his knife and killed him with a stab to the chest.

The medic returned to his unit and began treating the soldiers wounded by the second surprise attack. As he worked, a Chinese grenade bounced off the helmet of a man standing over him. Bleak zipped into action, throwing his body over his fellow GI to shield him from the shrapnel. Luckily, no one was injured.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
“We have a Bleak.”

After succeeding in its mission, Bleak’s patrol was returning to United Nations lines as they were again ambushed — this time, wounding three. Bleak was shot in the leg as he tried to get to those who needed aid. After treating everyone (including Bleak himself), the group went to leave, but one man was so injured that he couldn’t stand. So, Bleak picked him up and carried him out of there. On his way back to base, Sgt. Bleak ran into two Chinese soldiers who tried to assault him with fixed bayonets.

Not one to be easily intimidated, Bleak rushed back at them. Deftly avoiding being bayoneted, he smashed the two Chinese men’s heads together so hard that he broke their skulls. He picked up his patient and returned to friendly lines. Because of Sgt. Bleak, every man of the 20-man patrol that was ambushed multiple times that night came home. Their mission was completed, with captured enemy soldiers and all, and only sustained a few wounds in exchange.

Later the next year, President Eisenhower presented Bleak with a well-earned Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Bleak would live on until age 74, dying on the same day as fellow Army medic and Medal of Honor recipient, Desmond Doss.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
Warning: Do not confuse Desmond Doss with David Bleak. David Bleak will f*cking kill you.
Intel

How numbers stations like the ones in ‘Black Ops’ worked

The 2010 smash-hit video game Call of Duty: Black Ops featured many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Cold War. While some of them have been proven false, others are impossible to debunk — but a select few are very much true. One such example is the true-to-life way in which the protagonist receives orders throughout the campaign: through a “numbers station.”


In the game, your character, Alex Mason, listens to a shortwave radio station transmitting from a boat off the coast of Cuba that intends to send a message to Soviet sleeper agents in the States. Unlike the more fantastical elements of the game, there is historical precedent for remote numbers stations being used by spy agencies of the time.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
Even though thereu00a0wasn’t a gigantic,u00a0climactic battle that took place on one… that we know of…
(Activision)

Before the era of radio encryption, anyone with a radio receiver could listen in on any conversation. Single-channel military radios operate much like the radio in your car, just at a much lower frequency — one that car radios can’t receive. To make sure a secret message wasn’t intercepted by a random person with a radio, agencies used cryptic codes. A well-known example of such secret speech is the American military’s use of Code Talkers.

The other, equally ingenious method was the use of numbers stations. At a given moment and on a known frequency, a one-way message was sent. That message could be, as the name implies, just a string of numbers, either simply spoken or hidden within a specific song or Morse code. The listener would then use a cipher to translate what those numbers meant.

An outed numbers station transmission, The Swedish Rhapsody, sounded like this.

Someone could, for instance, turn on their car radio at exactly 12:34 PM and tune to a station that’s normally just static and hear a person call off a string of numbers, which could then translate into something like, “continue the mission.”

In the case of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, this method was used for espionage purposes. The radio station from which these messages were broadcast roamed the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding detection.

The use of open radio frequencies meant that more than one spy could listen in at the same time. Although never officially confirmed, many spy agencies from around the world have alluded to using them in such a manner.

Numbers stations are, allegedly, still in use. The confirmed Cuban numbers station, Atención, was at the center of an espionage case in the late 90s. Cryptic messages are still broadcast in Cuba at random times to this day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what ‘eternal patrol’ means for submarines

As of this writing, it appears there is little hope for an actual rescue of the crew of the Argentinean submarine ARA San Juan. Some reports indicate an explosion was picked up by both American and United Nations underwater acoustic sensors.


The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
USS Thresher (SSN 593) in 1961. (U.S. Navy photo)

When submarines are lost, they are said to be “on eternal patrol.” This comes from the fact that many times, the term submariners use for deployment is “patrol,” a term that predates World War II (a 1938 movie focusing on a subchaser was called Submarine Patrol). A combat deployment is often called a “war patrol,” and American ballistic missile submarines are on “deterrent patrols.”

These patrols begin when a sub leaves port, and end on their return. When a sub sinks, and doesn’t make it home, the patrol is “eternal.”

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
USS Scorpion (SSN 589) in 1960. (US Navy photo)

The loss of a peacetime submarine is not unheard of. Since the end of World War II, the United States lost four submarines. Two, the nuclear-powered attack submarines USS Thresher (SSN 593) and USS Scorpion (SSN 589), were lost with all hands. In the late 1940s, two Balao-class diesel-electric submarines, USS Cochino (SS 345) and USS Stickleback (SS 415) also sank as the result of accidents.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
An Oscar-class submarine similar to the Kursk, which sank after an accidental explosion in 2000. (DOD photo)

The United States has not been alone in losing submarines. Most famously, in 2000, the Russian nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine Kursk, an Oscar-class vessel, suffered an on-board explosion and sank with all hands. The Soviet Union had five nuclear-powered submarines sink, albeit one, a Charlie-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine, was raised, and they lost other subs as well, including one in a spectacular explosion pierside.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
A Whiskey Twin Cylinder-class submarine. One sank after an accident, and was not found for over seven years. (DOD photo)

It sometimes can take a long time to find those subs. A Whiskey “Twin Cylinder”-class guided-missile submarine that sank in 1961 took over seven years to find. The Soviets never did locate the Golf-class ballistic missile submarine K-129 until investigative reporter Jack Anderson revealed the existence of Project Azorian.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
A photo of the Golf-class ballistic-missile submarine K-129, which sank in 1968, and was later salvaged by the CIA. (CIA photo)

While the cause of the explosion that has apparently sent the San Juan and her crew of 44 to the bottom of the South Atlantic may never be known, what is beyond dispute is that submariners face a great deal of danger – even when carrying out routine peacetime operations.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why George Washington views Thanksgiving as a warrior’s holiday

The founding father at the center of our Nation’s creation myth is also responsible for one of our most cherished traditions. When General Washington was Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, he would sometimes reward troops with a day of thanks following victories. American folklore of pilgrims celebrating days of thanks for special occasions was not uncommon before the Revolutionary War. Once president, Washington continued to press the issue with the Continental Congress that a national Thanksgiving was something every American should take part in. 

The first Thanksgiving, technically, was in 1941 when Congress made it a legal holiday. However, the reasons for it being ratified are not the same as the vision President Washington had. It was made a legal holiday because President Roosevelt wanted to extend the holiday shopping season by moving Thanksgiving from November 3rd to the last Thursday of the month.

According to Business Insider, “To assuage the fears of retail lobbyists, FDR moved Thanksgiving forward a week that year. The change divided the country, with 16 states refusing to move up the date of the holiday. Thanksgiving remained an issue as hot as a bowl of scalding mashed potatoes until the president admitted defeat in 1941.” 

Now we have Black November, not just a Friday, and we’ve extended the holiday shopping season by an entire month – gross.

President Washington’s vision of Thanksgiving was rooted in giving thanks to God for watching over the country during the revolution and providing us a country of our own. 

According to mountvernon.org, Washington issued a proclamation on October 3, 1789, designating Thursday, November 26 as a national day of thanks. In his proclamation, Washington declared that the necessity for such a day sprung from the Almighty’s care of Americans prior to the Revolution, assistance to them in achieving independence, and help in establishing the constitutional government. 

In the eyes of our greatest commander, Thanksgiving is about being grateful that we are able to govern ourselves. That we have a constitution that protects our rights and liberties with checks and balances. 

In his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789, President Washington wrote about the things we should offer thanks for, to include, “… that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.” 

We’re not a perfect nation but we’re still better than everyone else. 

Thanksgiving, according to President Washington, is also about reflecting on the wrongs we’ve done and work toward fixing them. It’s a day to remember those who fell at the birth of the Nation. Thanksgiving is a warrior tradition giving gratitude to God for our successful revolution. 

In these uncertain times it is important to look back upon our history and listen to words of the founding fathers. May their intent continue to guide our country forward by the hands of Almighty God.

Articles

This was America’s first operational supersonic strategic bomber

America has seen some supersonic strategic bombers serve. Notable among these is the FB-111A Switchblade and the B-1B Lancer. But one bomber blazed the trail for these speedsters with a pretty huge payload.


The Convair B-58 Hustler was the first operational supersonic strategic bomber in American service. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that Strategic Air Command was looking for a high-performance bomber.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
Convair B-58 Hustler at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-58 made its first flight in 1956, but didn’t enter service with the Strategic Air Command until 1960, due to a number of hiccups, and wasn’t ready to stand alert until 1962. However, when the bomber entered service with the 43rd Bomb Wing, it was soon proving it had a lot of capability.

However, in 1961 and 1962, even as it dealt with the teething problems, it set numerous aeronautical records. The plane had a top speed of Mach 2.2 at high altitude, a maximum range of 4100 nautical miles, could carry five nuclear bombs (it never had a conventional weapons capability), and reached an altitude of 85,360 feet.

It also had a M61 Vulcan cannon in the tail with 1,200 rounds of awesome.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

A 1981 Air University Review article outlined that the Hustler had a lot of problems. To load the weapons, the plane actually needed to be de-fueled and then re-fueled. And before the loading, the ground crews would need to hand a four-ton weight on the Hustler’s nose. Forget that step, and the plane would tilt back onto its tail.

Maintenance crews also came to dislike the plane, due to the complexities the plane’s high technology imposed on them.

The plane’s teething problems, the development of surface-to-air missiles like the SA-2 Guideline, and the increasing costs killed hopes for newer versions, especially since the B-58 was optimized for high-altitude operations.

One of the proposed new versions, the B-58B, was to add significant conventional capabilities to the Hustler. Proposed passenger/cargo versions never took off, either, and a planned export sale to Australia didn’t happen (the Australians did eventually get the F-111).

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
Hustler memorial plaque in Memorial Park at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ultimately, the B-58 was retired, and replaced by the FB-111A. The FB-111A not only was supersonic, but it was able to operate at low altitudes and carry conventional bombs – addressing the B-58’s two shortcomings.

Most B-58s went to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base where they entered the boneyard and were eventually scrapped.

MIGHTY FIT

7 of the most common mistakes you’re making in the gym

Every day, when we hit the gym, we see the same thing: Men and women of various ages doing everything they can to bulk up or lean out. Getting in the gym and doing a solid workout helps relieve all the stress you’ve accumulated over the last few days or hours.


However, there are countless gym patrons who show up and don’t know what they’re doing. They lift heavy weights to impress the cute girl wearing yoga pants or count by threes while doing a set of push-ups.

There’s a long list of mistakes we see happening at the gym, but addressing even half of them would take too damn long. So, here are the top seven.

Locking your joints out

Contrary to popular belief, your joints don’t contain muscles — but they are attached to a few nearby. When unprofessional gym scholars hit the bench and raise their weighted bar, many think that completing a rep means locking our your joints.

The fact is, stopping the rep right before you straighten out that joint is the sweet spot. Fully extending your elbow or knee joints takes physical stress off the muscle group you’re trying to work.

So, please stop.

Swinging the weights

Many people in the gym want to look as strong as possible. There’s an unspoken air of competition that blankets the gym, born of peoples’ egos, which can flourish out of control.

Using bad form to up the weight impresses nobody. In fact, to people who often exercise, you’ll just look stupid.

Taking too long between reps because you’re looking at your phone

Taking a short break allows us to briefly recover between sets. However, don’t keep checking the messages on your phone because you’ll end up losing track of time.

Challenging your muscles means causing them to tear in a controlled manner. It’s harder to get them to tear if you rest for too long between sets.

Not using manageable weight

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Lifting heavy weights to look cool will, ultimately, make you look dumb. It’s easy to laugh at someone in the gym when they’re trying to lift beyond their physical stature, but it’s dangerous for everyone

Not focused on the ‘negative’

Outstanding, you lifted the bar! Now, lower that sucker down even slower than you raised it. Many uneducated people believe that lifting a weight is their only battle — not true. It’s actually only half the fight.

When we say “negative,” we’re talking about the process of lowering the weight back to its original position, not the opposite of the word “positive.”

The negative portion of the rep helps to tear the muscle a lot more in a controlled setting. More controlled tear, the more muscle we will build during the recovery cycle.

Using a gym machine the wrong way

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. No? Okay, well check out the gif below for a better understanding. We’re not sure what this exercise is called.

Stopping the set before hitting failure

If your set requires you to push out 12 reps and you do it without much of challenge, you’re wasting your time. You can only build muscle if you challenge the sh*t out of yourself and push your muscle beyond its limit.

This limit literally means you’ve reached muscle exhaustion. If you’re not using a manageable weight, you might as well just text on your phone because you’re not accomplishing anything.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Shanahan extends US deployment to Mexican border

US troops deployed to the US-Mexico border will remain there until at least the end of September 2019, the Pentagon revealed in an emailed statement Jan. 14, 2019.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who took over for former Secretary of Defense James Mattis at the beginning of 2019 has approved Department of Defense assistance to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through Sept. 30, 2019.


The decision was made in response to a DHS request submitted in late December 2018.

The initial deployment, which began in October 2018 as “Operation Faithful Patriot” (since renamed “border support”), was expected to end on Dec. 15, 2018. The mission had previously been extended until the end of January 2019.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

U.S. Marines with the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, walk along the California-Mexico border at the Andrade Point of Entry in Winterhaven, California, Nov.30, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Valetski)

Thousands of active-duty troops, nearly six thousand at the operation’s peak, were sent to positions in California, Texas, and Arizona to harden points of entry, laying miles and miles of concertina wire. The number of troops at the southern border, where thousands of Central American migrants wait in hopes of entering the US, has dropped significantly since the operation began.

The Department of Defense is transitioning the support provided from securing ports of entry to mobile surveillance and detection activities, according to the Pentagon’s emailed statement. Troops will offer aviation support, among other services.

Shanahan has also given his approval for deployed troops to put up another 115 miles of razor wire between ports of entry to limit illegal crossings, according to ABC News.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

U.S. Marines with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, secure concertina and barbed wire near the California-Mexico border at the Andrade Port of Entry in California, Nov. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Asia J. Sorenson)

The extension of the border mission was expected after a recent Cabinet meeting. “We’re doing additional planning to strengthen the support that we’re providing to Kirstjen and her team,” Shanahan said, making a reference to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Military.com reported early January 2019.

“We’ve been very, very closely coupled with Kirstjen,” he added. “The collaboration has been seamless.”

The cost of the Trump administration’s border mission, condemned by critics as a political stunt, is expected to rise to 2 million by the end of this month, CNN reported recently.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Let this Swedish metal band be your war history teacher

Even the band’s name is a reference to medieval knight’s armor – the Swedish metal band Sabaton makes music about war, history’s greatest battles, and daring feats of combat badassery. Their latest album, The Great War, features songs about just World War I. If you’ve never had an interest in military history, Sabaton might make the difference for you.

Also, their music videos are pretty great.


Their songs are poetic and thoughtful, about real historical events. From the Serbians fighting in World War I, to Poland’s legendary Winged Hussars, and even the Russians at Stalingrad – the heroes aren’t Swedish, they’re anyone who did something amazing for their comrades on the battlefield. Other songs are about the Night Witches (Russian female aviators who terrorized the Nazis), the Brazilian Expeditionary Force in World War II, and Audie Murphy’s postwar struggle with PTSD.

I know the video below looks like a broken link, but it’s really a music video for a Sabaton’s heavy metal song about the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, called “Screaming Eagles.” The music video begins with Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe’s now-famous reply to the German surrender demand – “Nuts.”

The band’s entire fourth album was inspired by Sun Tzu’s Art of War, another album is about World War II and the Finnish-Russian Winter War. They have released singles about the World War II-era battleship Bismarck and World War I’s Lost Battalion; nine companies of the United States 77th Infantry Division who lost more than half its manpower at the Argonne Forest in 1918.

Sabaton has won almost every metal award for which they were nominated, including Best Breakthrough Band, Best Live Band, and they were nominated for the 2012 “Metal as F*ck” Award for their album Carolus Rex, which actually was about the rise of the Swedish Empire under King Charles XII.

The song below is about 189 Swiss Guards who defended the Vatican during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

SABATON – The Last Stand (Official Music Video)

www.youtube.com

SABATON – The Last Stand (Official Music Video)

Heavy metal bands re-enacting famous battles is all I’ve ever wanted in life. Thank you, Sabaton.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ trailer takes on the Reagan era

After defeating Ares — the god of war himself — during World War I, you’d think Wonder Woman’s job would be complete but luckily for us, mankind still needs a hero.

This time, it’s 1984 and the Cold War — and big hair — is at full max.

(Did you catch my Maxwell Lord pun there? No? Okay, let’s jump to the trailer.)


Wonder Woman 1984 – Official Trailer

www.youtube.com

Wonder Woman 1984 – Official Trailer

The flawless Gal Gadot, a military veteran herself, returns as Diana of Themyscira, a warrior empowered by love. Wonder Woman 1984, directed by Patty Jenkins (the woman who helmed the highly successful 2017 film), also brings back Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor (who has been presumed dead since 1918).

This trailer also introduces Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal as classic DC villains Cheetah and Maxwell Lord respectively.

Set to a remix of New Order’s Blue Monday, the trailer gives us mystery, 80s glam, and plenty of badass Diana.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

“Nothing good is born from lies and greatness is not what you think,” declares Diana, probably to Lord, a power-hungry businessman known for tampering with questionable technologies and powers.

He should probably listen to her because that lasso doesn’t just force people to tell the truth — it can literally Spider-Man her across lightning.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

Looks like she’s also upgraded her armor. I can already see the cosplayers gathering up their gold…

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

The long-awaited trailer premiered at Brazil’s Comic Con Experience and the film will hit theaters June 5, 2020.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
MIGHTY TRENDING

US troops found rockets and bombs on island ISIS was using ‘like a hotel’

On Sept. 10, 2019, US Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles and F-35 Lightning II aircraft dropped 80,000 pounds of ordnance on 37 targets on Qanus Island in Iraq’s Tigris River. Approximately 25 Islamic State (ISIS) fighters were killed in the operation, according to Sabah Al-Numaan, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).

Al-Numaan told Insider that US aircraft hit 37 targets, “trenches and caves,” on the island ISIS fighters were using as a stopoff on the way into Iraq from Syria. The island, which has thick vegetation, was “like a hotel for Daesh,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab Al-Saadi, commander of the Iraqi CTS told Insider, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.


Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi’s team made a sweep of the island after it was partially destroyed by US strikes. He told Insider that his team found rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs), several rockets, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve confirmed on Sept. 10, 2019, that a weapons cache was found on the island after the air strike.

Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi said that US drones had provided surveillance data for the secret operation, and that there were no civilians on the island.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

(OIR Spokesman Myles B. Caggins / US Air Force / Twitter)

One of the reasons the island was an ideal hideout for ISIS militants on the move was the absence of Iraqi troops nearby, Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi said. According to a Pentagon Inspector General report on Operation Inherent Resolve, the US operation in Iraq, Iraqi security forces on the whole don’t have the infrastructure to consistently counter ISIS.

Part of Qanus Island was destroyed in the airstrike, Al-Numaan, the CTS spokesperson told Insider. “The important [thing is] that Daesh lose this area and they cannot use [it].”

ISIS has ramped up its presence in Iraq and Syria since the US drew down troop presence in Syria and decreased its diplomatic presence in Iraq. Although President Donald Trump proclaimed that ISIS’s caliphate was completely defeated at a July cabinet meeting, there are still an estimated 14,000 to 18,000 ISIS fighters. Combatants in Iraq and Syria continue to carry out suicide bombings, crop burnings, and assassinations.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The brutal attack that made Dracula so famous

The book character Dracula is based on Vlad Dracula, a 15th-century royal often known as Vlad the Impaler for his tendency to place human beings on spikes, largely because of a stunning June, 1462, attack on the armies of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II.


The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

Vlad III, the ruler of Wallachia who would be known as “The Impaler” and “Dracula.”

First, let’s acknowledge that Vlad is world famous because he was a literal monster who would later be immortalized as a fictional vampire. His actions, including the ones discussed herein, were horrible — some of which would be considered war crimes today. So, you know, don’t keep reading if you don’t want to hear about Vlad the Impaler’s war crimes. (Also, in the future, don’t click on articles about Dracula’s brutal attacks. There’s no way these articles won’t be monstrous.)

Vlad was the son of a smart and capable ruler of the realm of Wallachia, a small territory on the Black Sea that was trapped between the then-large and powerful Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Vlad and his brother were taken by the Ottoman Empire as hostages when young, growing up in the sultan’s court. Vlad’s brother took to Ottoman life and converted to Islam, but Vlad developed a deep hatred of the sultan and his kingdom.

When Vlad ascended to the throne, Sultan Mehmed II sent envoys to demand a tribute from the young ruler. Vlad, giving a hint as to how he would also rule his own people, ordered the two Ottoman men executed and their heads impaled with long nails. The sultan was understandably angry at this treatment and sent a top general to exact revenge.

But Dracula, which translates to “Son of the Dragon,” was an heir to a successful military leader and a smart tactician in his own right. He led his own forces against the sultan’s army and set a successful ambush, capturing many of the Ottoman soldiers sent against him.

Mehmed II had been engaged in a lengthy siege, but he abandoned it to answer this new threat. Vlad had marched into the sultan’s lands and laid waste, poisoning water, burning villages, and yes, impaling soldiers and civilians. Some were even impaled alive, and the sultan’s men began finding some still breathing and gurgling on the spikes as the Ottoman army closed on the forces of Wallachia.

It was these attacks on Turks and Bulgarians that would cement Vlad’s status as the “Impaler.” By his own estimates, Vlad and his men killed 23,844 people, not counting those who burned in their homes rather than come out and face the Wallachians’ spears and swords.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

Mehmed II was a great military leader of the Ottoman Empire.

(Paolo Veronese)

Mehmed II ordered mercy killings for those who were on spikes but still alive, and the sultan prepared to go on the warpath within Wallachia. But Vlad had continued his devastation within his own country. Vlad had done many of the same things to his own people while withdrawing ahead of the much larger Ottoman army.

The scorched earth campaign worked; the Ottomans could find little food or water for them or their horses. Any foragers who strayed too far were killed by Vlad’s men. The rest of the Ottoman army were forced to make camp and resupply.

But they did so near the fortress of Targoviste, and Vlad was waiting for the sultan. When he saw the large tents going up, he disguised himself as a senior member of the Ottoman army and walked right up to the gate guards, using his accent-free Turkish that he had gained as a hostage in the Ottoman court to get in unchallenged.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

The Battle With Torches depicts the attack by Vlad the Impaler against Mehmed II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

(Theodor Aman)

He carefully paced the camp and searched out all the key targets, then walked right out. That night, Vlad returned and ordered the gates opened, again. This time, he entered with a column of horses and got hundreds in before the guards even knew to raise the alarm. By the time the sultan’s camp was rousing itself for the fight, Vlad had between 7,000 and 10,000 troops burning a path to the sultan’s tent.

Unfortunately, the sultan was absent from the tent, so Vlad burned it to the ground, attacked the tent of the sultan’s top advisers, and pulled out before the Ottomans could launch a proper counterattack. Luckily for them, the Ottomans spent the first couple of hours fighting each other in the confusion caused by the raid.

Over the following days Mehmed regrouped his forces and marched to the fortress of Targoviste, where there worst horror of the whole campaign waited for them.

Vlad and his men had erected a massive forest that covered a square mile outside the fortress. It was made of 20,000 sharpened stakes, and each stake had at least on body impaled on it. While many were prisoners of war, some were women and children. The worst were the mothers whose babies were attached to their bodies. Birds had made nests in some of the corpses.

Mehmed II had the numbers and the experience to lay siege to the fortress, but in the face of these horrors, he pulled back. Vlad ruled Wallachia off and on until 1477, when he was killed in battle. Wallachia would survive as a principality until merging with Moldovia in 1859. It would eventually become part of modern-day Romania.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first and only female Buffalo Soldier joined the Army disguised as a man

Before women were allowed to join the military, Cathay Williams decided that she wouldn’t let her gender, or the color of her skin, get in the way of her ambitions. She became the first known African American woman in American history to join the armed forces by disguising herself as a man.


Williams was born into slavery in the year 1842 in Independence, Mo. She was a house slave for William Johnson, a planter in Jefferson City, Mo. During the beginning of the Civil War, Williams was claimed to have been “freed” by Union soldiers, but was forced to work for the Federal Army as a paid cook and laundress.

During her time serving in the Federal Army, she gained an insight into military life by answering directly to two Union Generals, one of whom was General Philip Sheridan. After the war ended, Williams did not have the means of supporting herself, but she wasn’t about to let her newly garnered freedom get snuffed out like a flame.

The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage
In 1866, Cathay Williams became the first African-American woman to enlist in the U.S. Army. She posed as a man, enlisting under the pseudonym William Cathay. (Image from U.S. Army)

In November 1866, Williams disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the U.S. Army as William Cathay. Full-on medical exams weren’t mandatory at the time, and Williams was able to pas a quick, general health check before filing in among the ranks.

She was found fit for duty and assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry, Company A, an all-black regiment in St. Louis, Mo. which, eventually, became a part of the renowned Buffalo Soldiers. Apparently, the only two people knew her secret — a friend and a cousin — both of whom served alongside her in the same regiment. They never divulged her charade.

Williams traveled with her regiment and helped protect miners and immigrants from Apache attacks at Fort Cummings, Mo. Unfortunately, military service took its toll on Williams. She was in and out of the hospital for most of her service due to neuralgia (pain caused by a pinched nerve). Surprisingly, it was six months after her first hospitalization when they found out that she was a woman.

After the truth was revealed, Williams was discharged from the Army honorably on October 14, 1868. Little of her life is known after she was discharged, except for her attempts to get a pension for the disabilities that she incurred from military service.

Sadly, Williams never received compensation for her medical issues. The Pension Bureau claimed her illnesses were pre-existing and, because she was a woman, her service was not considered legal, disqualifying her from pension pay.

She may not have intended to become a prominent figure in history, but one thing is for sure, Cathay Williams will forever be regarded as the first and only female Buffalo Soldier to have served in the U.S. Army.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee: The US Navy’s First Living Female Navy Cross Recipient

The average US citizen may hear the names of US Navy aircraft carriers, battleships, and destroyers, and not realize the significance behind those namesakes. For the US Navy sailors who work and live aboard these ships, the names serve as their identity in homage to the war heroes, pioneers, and traditions of the past.  

The names of Navy destroyers are of deceased members of the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. On Nov. 13, 1944, the Navy named a warship after a woman for the first time in the Navy’s existence. The USS Higbee commissioned and was converted into a radar picket destroyer. The “Leaping Lenah,” as she was referred to by her crew, “screened carriers as their planes launched heavy air attacks against the Japanese mainland” and helped support occupying forces in the clearing of minefields during World War II. She also earned seven battle stars in the Korean War and was the first warship to be bombed in the Vietnam War. 

When the Leaping Lenah was decommissioned in 1979, she held the record for the highest score for naval gunfire support of any warship in the US Navy. It was a remarkable achievement and the ultimate tribute to Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee — the first living female recipient of the Navy Cross. 

Higbee was born in Canada in 1874 and trained as a nurse at the New York Postgraduate Hospital in 1899. She developed her knowledge of medicine at Fordham Hospital and held her own private practice as a surgical nurse until she entered the newly established US Navy Nursing Corps (NNC) in 1908. Higbee was an original member of the “Sacred Twenty” — the first group of female nurses to serve in the NNC.

Lena H. Sutcliffe Higbee was an original member of the “Sacred Twenty” and the first living woman to be awarded the Navy Cross. Three other nurses were awarded the Navy Cross posthumously. Photo courtesy of the US Navy Institute.

“Nurses were assigned to duty at the Naval Hospital, Washington, D.C.,” said Beatrice Bowman, one of the Sacred Twenty nurses who later became the third superintendent of the NNC in 1922. “There were no quarters for them but they were given an allowance for quarters and subsistence. They rented a house and ran their own mess. These pioneers were no more welcome to most of the personnel of the Navy than women are when invading what a man calls his domain.”

The Sacred Twenty spearheaded the efforts to prove women had a role in the medical field as much as their male counterparts. They held no rank and were not immediately viewed as assets; however, their reputation would soon change. In 1911, after the first NNC superintendent resigned — as the nurses were often exposed to institutionalized discrimination — Chief Nurse Higbee assumed command as superintendent. She was responsible for overseeing 86 nurses across the US, Guam, and the Philippines. She lobbied for equal pay and for healthcare for military dependents.

Higbee served on several executive healthcare committees, including the National Committee of the Red Cross Nursing Service, and between 1915 and 1917 helped increase nursing recruiting numbers for World War I.

“For two years prior to our actual entering into this conflict, warnings had been sounded and such tentative preparations as were possible had been made by those who were wise to the significance of war signs,” Higbee said.

During her tenure of 14 years of service, Higbee helped expand the NNC from 160 nurses to 1,386 nurses. She was later instrumental in assigning nurses aboard Navy transport ships, and during World War I these nurses served transport duty. Another one of her initiatives was to build a force of hospital corpsmen that assisted in “nursing training methods” as well as to “develop in the hearts and minds of these ‘pupil nurses’ the principles of conscience care of the sick.”

A graphic representation of the future guided-missile destroyer USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123) that is scheduled to be commissioned in 2024. Photo courtesy of the Navy History and Heritage Command.

After being exposed to the horrors from World War I, the complexities of battlefield wounds, and shell shock, Superintendent Higbee managed the development of Vassar Training Camp, the finishing school where nurses gained operational experience before arriving at their first assignments.

The following year, in 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic rocked the world — and as Higbee and her nursing corps did best, they adapted to the evolving demands of medicine. Their focus shifted from the war wounds to an invisible disease. A total of 431 US Navy personnel had lost their lives during World War I, and 819 more were wounded. The humanitarian crisis between 1918 and 1919, in contrast, saw 5,027 sailors die as a result of the pandemic.

“‘The most needed woman’ is the war nurse,’” wrote The Sun newspaper on June 9, 1918. “In reality the war nurse is a soldier, fighting pain, disease and death with weapons of science and skill. […] She goes prepared to share the risks and fortune of war, ready to make any sacrifice.”

Higbee and her team worked early mornings and late nights to diagnose patients and aid in their recovery. In 1920, Higbee became the first living recipient of the Navy Cross for “distinguished service in the line of her profession and unusual and conspicuous devotion to duty as superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps.” 

Three other nurses, Marie Louise Hidell, Lillian M. Murphy, and Edna E. Place, were awarded the Navy Cross medal posthumously.

Higbee passed away in 1941, and a year later the Navy granted nurses “relative rank.” In 1944, the Navy finally approved nurses for “full military rank” with equal pay.

Although the USS Higbee was decommissioned in 1979, in 2016 then-Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, announced plans to commission the USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee, scheduled for 2024 — an honor the trailblazing nurse certainly deserves.

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