Why the Viet Cong's tunnels were so effective - We Are The Mighty
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Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

The communist forces of Vietnam were largely successful, and for a lot of reasons. They were willing to undergo extreme discomfort and suffer extreme losses for their cause, they were resourceful, and they became more disciplined and well-trained over time. But there was a nightmare infrastructure that they created that also led to success: Those terrifying tunnels.


The fighting in Vietnam dated back to the 1940s when corrupt democratic officials turned the population largely against it. Communist forces preyed upon this, rallying support from the local population and building a guerrilla army, recruiting heavily from farming villages.

The ruling democratic regime patrolled mostly on the large roads and through cities because their heavy vehicles had trouble penetrating the jungles or making it up mountains.

By the time the U.S. deployed troops to directly intervene, regime forces had been overrun in multiple locations and had a firm foothold across large patches of the jungle, hills, and villages.

Viet Cong Tunnels and Traps – Platoon: The True Story

And while U.S. forces were establishing a foothold and then hunting down Viet Cong elements, the Viet Cong were digging literally hundreds of miles of tunnels that they could use to safely store supplies, move across the battlefield in secret, and even stage ambushes against U.S. troops.

The original Viet Cong tunnels were dug just after World War II as Vietnamese fighters attempted to throw off French colonial authority. But the tunnel digging exploded when the U.S. arrived and implemented a heavy campaign of airstrikes, making underground tunnels a much safer way to travel.

And with the increased size of the tunnel network, new amenities were added. Kitchens, living quarters, even weapon factories and hospitals were moved underground. The Viet Cong now had entire underground cities with hidden entrances. When the infantry came knocking, the tunnels were a defender’s dream.

Wikimedia Commons

The tight tunnels limited the use of most American weapons. These things were often dug just tall and wide enough for Viet Cong fighters, generally smaller than the average U.S. infantryman, to crawl through. When corn-fed Nebraskans tried to crawl through it, they were typically limited to pistols and knives.

Even worse for the Americans, the Viet Cong were great at building traps across the battlefield and in the tunnels. Poisoned bamboo shoots, nails, razor blades, and explosives could all greet an attacker moving too brashly through the tunnel networks.

This led to the reluctant rise of the “Tunnel Rats,” American warfighters who specialized in the terrible tasks of moving through the underground bases, collecting intelligence and eliminating resistance. Between the claustrophobia and the physical dangers, this could drive the Tunnel Rats insane.

Wikimedia Commons

Once a tunnel was cleared, it could be eliminated with the use of fire or C4. Collapsing a tunnel did eliminate that problem, and it usually stayed closed.

But, again, there were hundreds of miles of tunnels, and most of them were nearly impossible to find. Meanwhile, many tunnel networks had hidden chambers and pathways within them. So, even if you found a tunnel network and began to destroy it, there was always a chance that you missed a branch or two and the insurgents will keep using the rest of it after you leave.

And the tunnels even existed near some major cities. Attacks on Saigon were launched from the Cu Chi Tunnels complex. When U.S. and South Vietnamese troops went to clear them, they faced all the typical traps as well as boxes of poisonous snakes and scorpions.

And the clearance operation wasn’t successful in finding and eliminating the bulk of the tunnels. The Cu Chi Tunnels were the ones used as staging points a weapons caches for the Tet Offensive.


Feature image: National Archives

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel releases details of documents captured in a spy raid in Iran

Israel has revealed new details of how its spy agency smuggled out nuclear documents from Iran in early 2018, although the material does not appear to provide evidence that Iran failed to fulfill its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.


The information reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post on July 15, 2018, shed more light on the Mossad operation in January 2018 but offered few other details beyond what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in April 2018 when he announced the results of the raid.

Netanyahu claimed Israeli intelligence seized 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs on Iran’s disputed nuclear program dating back to 2003. Iran maintains the entire collection is fraudulent.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

President Donald Trump

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

After his announcement in late April 2018, the Israeli leader gave U.S. President Donald Trump a briefing at the White House and argued it was another reason Trump should abandon the 2015 nuclear deal.

In May 2018, Trump withdrew from the deal.

Tehran has always claimed its nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes.

The New York Times reported on July 15, 2018, that Mossad agents had six hours and 29 minutes to break into a nuclear facility in the Iranian capital, Tehran, before the guards arrived in the morning.

In that time, they infiltrated the facility, disabled alarms, and unlocked safes to extract the secret documents before leaving undetected.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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This veteran invented Jell-O shots to beat base alcohol rules

Before he became one of musical comedy’s darkest satirists, musician Tom Lehrer served in the U.S. Army. The brilliant mathematician was an enlisted draftee from 1955-1957, serving at the National Security Agency.


He stood out from all the other enlisted troops. Specialist Third Class Tom Lehrer had a Master’s degree from Harvard at a time when his fellow enlisted troops barely had a high school education. He also had a hit record, one he self-published around Harvard but would become a nationwide hit.

 

 

Lehrer even wrote a submission for the Army song that talks about picking up cigarette butts, officers who can’t spell, bad food, and junior enlisted shenanigans.

What he did have in common with his brothers in arms was a fondness for having a few drinks at a party. But the party in question was on a naval base in Washington, D.C. — and no alcoholic beverages were allowed.

So he and a friend went right to work before the big day.

“We wanted to have a little party, so this friend and I spent an evening experimenting with Jell-O. It wasn’t a beverage…” he told San Francisco Weekly, “…so we went over to her apartment and we made all these little cups…”

After a few experiments with gin and vodka and number of different Jell-O flavors, they found that vodka and orange Jell-O worked best.

 

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

“I would bring them in, hoping that the Marine guard would say, ‘OK, what’s in there?’ And we’d say, ‘Jell-O.’ and then he’d say, ‘Oh, OK.’ But no, he didn’t even ask. So it worked. I recommend it. Orange Jell-O.”

True genius.

I wonder what the now 89-year-old Lehrer would think about smuggling alcohol in with mouthwash bottles and food coloring.

Incidentally, Lehrer’s record, a 10-inch LP titled “Songs by Tom Lehrer,” was a dark comedy album, but is considered by many to be one of the most influential of all time. He wrote songs about a Russian mathematician, the periodic table, and Christmas commercialism just to name a few.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

In all, Lehrer released 11 albums, with great titles like “An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer” and “The Remains of Tom Lehrer.” He even wrote a song for the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command for the 1963 film “A Gathering of Eagles.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

50 WWII ships sank during the battle for Guadalcanal

In August 1942, the Allies and Japanese would meet in the pivotal battle for Guadalcanal.


With the Americans precariously holding Henderson Field, the Japanese desperately sought to reinforce the island and to drive the Americans back into the sea.

To accomplish this, the Japanese would run warships with troops and supplies down “the Slot” (New Georgia Sound) at night to avoid the Cactus Air Force operating out of Henderson Field.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
Map of the location of World War II shipwrecks in Ironbottom Sound in the Solomon Islands. Some wreck positions are not exactly known. (Photo by Wikipedia user Vvulto)

The quick, nocturnal nature of the trip led the Japanese to call it Rat Transportation. To the Americans, it was the Tokyo Express.

The New Georgia Sound ended at Savo Sound, just off Guadalcanal where the American fleet was stationed to protect the Marines on Guadalcanal.

After a number of brutal, pitched naval battles, this place would earn a new name: Ironbottom Sound.

The first night, after the landings on Guadalcanal, a small Japanese naval force of seven cruisers and a destroyer surprised a larger American force and decisively defeated them at the Battle of Savo Island.

The Allied contingent, eight cruisers and fifteen destroyers, paid dearly. The Americans lost three heavy cruisers while the Australians were forced to scuttle another.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
USS New Orleans, after surviving Guadalcanal, lost her bow in a battle in December 1942. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The USS Chicago left its bow on the bottom as well.

The American and Japanese navies would meet again in October 1942, in what became known as the Battle of Cape Esperance. This time the Americans had a surprise of their own for the Japanese thanks to a bad radio call between American commanders.

Despite the confusion, Rear Adm. Norman Scott deftly commanded his ships in a ferocious night time engagement.

The American ships hit the unsuspecting Japanese with everything they had. In a quick, violent action at close range the American ships sent a Japanese cruiser and destroyer to the bottom, heavily damaged another cruiser, and killed the Japanese commander.

The engagement cost the Americans one of their destroyers with damage to two other ships.

Undeterred, the Tokyo Express continued down the Slot and into the carnage of Ironbottom Sound.

A month after the action at Cape Esperance, the Japanese and Americans would square off once again. Often called the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the incident was actually two separate battles on back-to-back nights.

The first night of the battle, November 13, 1942, saw an inferior American force intercept a larger Japanese force intent on shelling Henderson Field.

Leading the American force was Rear Adm. Daniel Callaghan. His second-in-command was Rear Adm. Scott who, a month earlier, had turned back the Japanese at the Battle of Cape Esperance.

In the confusion of the night, the two forces nearly ran right into each other. When Callaghan realized he was surrounded by the enemy, he gave a simple order to his column: “Odd ships fire to starboard, even ships fire to port!”

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
Real Admiral Norman Scott. (U.S. Navy)

Despite being outgunned and mismatched, the American ships unleashed a maelstrom of fire on the Japanese.

The situation quickly deteriorated and turned into the naval equivalent of knife-fight in an alleyway at night. Ships fired on one another with virtually flat trajectories. The battleship Hiei blew two American destroyers out of the water before being incapacitated herself.

After 40 minutes of intense fighting, the two sides broke contact. The engagement had cost the Japanese one battleship and one destroyer, along with damage to nearly every other ship. The Americans had once again paid dearly.

Two cruisers and four destroyers joined their sisters at the bottom of the sound. Both Admirals Callaghan and Scott had also been killed. Both were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, along with three other sailors in the battle.

Most importantly though, the Americans had saved Henderson Field.

Also read: The reason Japanese battle ships dwarfed American ships during WWII

The Japanese weren’t done though and on the night of Nov. 14 once again sent a force to attack Henderson Field. They sent a battleship, four cruisers, and nine destroyers and this time were accompanied by troop transports intent on landing men and materiel on the island to retake the airfield.

Running low on serviceable ships, Adm. Halsey dispatched two battleships and four destroyers from his carrier’s escort. Most of the ships had never operated together as a unit. Their saving grace was their commander, Rear Adm. Willis Lee, an adept seaman and master of radar.

As the Americans intercepted the Japanese, the four destroyers were badly mauled. The battleship South Dakota was quickly pounced on as well and endured a terrific shelling. However, Lee, aboard the battleship Washington, had managed to maneuver around the Japanese undetected.

At near point-blank range, he opened fire with his ships’ 16-inch guns. In one of the few battleship-on-battleship fights of the Pacific, the Washington achieved a quick, decisive victory and sent the Kirishima to a watery grave.

Though the Japanese landed their transports, they were quickly destroyed by American aircraft sinking desperately needed supplies.

With the situation on Guadalcanal becoming dire, on Nov. 30 the Japanese made plans to reinvigorate the Tokyo Express in a last ditch effort to hold onto the island.

Alerted to the plan by intelligence, a superior American force moved in to intercept. American destroyers spotted the Japanese first and, after a command order delay, fired a spread of torpedoes that all missed their mark — the Battle of Tassafaronga was on.

The Japanese destroyers were prepared for American interference and, according to plan, unleashed a torrent of torpedoes of their own at the American ships.

As the American cruisers pounded one of the destroyers, the torpedoes found their marks.

The cruiser Minneapolis had her bow collapsed in front of the number one turret. New Orleans took a torpedo strike in her forward magazine and lost a full 125 feet of hull, including the forward turret, but remained afloat.

The cruisers Pensacola and Northampton also took torpedo hits, sending Northampton down.

Though the Americans had paid a high price, their efforts began to convince the Japanese to abandon Guadalcanal.

By the time the fight for Guadalcanal was over, Ironbottom Sound had become the final resting place to some 50 ships and thousands of sailors from both sides.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coronavirus and PCS Orders: What the travel ban means for you

As the United States continues to take preventative steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus known as Covid-19, the Pentagon has issued number of statements pertaining to the coronavirus and PCS orders, as well as official and non-official travel, in the coming months.


If you have a family member or loved one currently attending recruit training, make sure to check our regularly updated article explaining audience attendance restrictions at graduation ceremonies across the force here.

It’s important to remember that most service members and even their families are not at high risk even if they are exposed to Covid-19. These precautionary measures should be seen as responsible steps aimed at preventing the spread of the infection, but not as cause for significant worry. This story will be updated as more changes manifest.

You can follow these links to jump directly to sections explaining different changes pertaining to military snd civilian travel, the coronavirus and PCS orders.

Military Travel

Family and Civilian Travel

PCS and Transfer Orders

CDC Designated Level 3 Nations

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Military Travel

On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced new travel restrictions that will go into affect on Friday, March 13. The restrictions include a 60-day ban on travel to any nation designated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a “Level 3 Location.” This ban includes all TDY and PCS related travel.

“This restriction includes all forms of travel, including Permanent Change of Station, Temporary Duty, and government funded leave,” the Defense Department announcement states. “The Level 3 countries are set by the CDC and may change. The DoD guidance will follow those changes. Service secretaries and commanders may issue waivers to this policy as they determine necessary to ensure mission readiness and address specific cases”

The Pentagon also advises that service members that are traveling to unrestricted nations take specific care to ensure their travel arrangements do not involve stops or layovers in areas designation by the CDC as “Level 3.”

“Authorized Departures are delayed until appropriate transportation and reception procedures are in place for their intended route of travel as prescribed in this memorandum,” the memo states.

Military Families and Civilian Personnel Travel

Military families and civilian personnel are also barred from traveling to “Level 2” locations for 60 days. Some “level 2” designation nations include the UK, Japan, Singapore, and Bahrain — where the U.S. Navy’s Central Command is currently located.

“The Department of Defense’s top priority remains the protection and welfare of our people,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a released statement. “While directing this prudent action, I continue to delegate all necessary authority to commanders to make further decisions based on their assessments to protect their people and ensure mission readiness. While we deal with this fluid and evolving situation, I remain confident in our ability to protect our service members, civilians and families.”
Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

PCS and Transfer Changes

The Department of Defense’ Customer Movement Portal has updated its page to include brief answers to many of the most frequently asked questions among service members and their families pertaining to coronavirus PCS order changes.

Here are the Defense Department’s answers to the questions you have about the Coronavirus and your PCS orders, sourced directly from the Pentagon’s FAQ:

Q: My PCS is rapidly approaching–how do I know if my planned move is covered by this order?

A: Contact your chain of command immediately!

Q: I’ve confirmed that my PCS is impacted by a stop movement order, but I have already submitted my movement request to the Personal Property Office. What will they do with my shipment?

A: It depends.

  • – If your shipment has not yet been awarded to a moving company, it will be put in a hold status pending further guidance (e.g. either the stop movement order is rescinded or you receive approval from your chain of command to continue with your move).
  • – If your shipment has been awarded to a moving company, but has not yet been serviced (e.g. packing has not begun), please contact your servicing Shipping Office. They will work with you to change your pickup dates to a future date in coordination with your mover and in line with DOD guidance.

Q: My shipment has already been picked up by the moving company. What will happen to it now?

A: Contact your Shipping Office to determine your shipment’s status. Depending when it was picked up, it may be in storage in the local area, en route to your planned destination, or in storage near your destination.

Q: What about my POV? I have an upcoming appointment to drop my car off at the Vehicle Processing Center (VPC). What should I do?

A: If you are unsure if the stop movement order applies to you, contact your chain of command. If the stop movement order does not apply to your PCS—or your chain of command has approved an exception to the order—proceed to the VPC as planned.

Q: I’ve already dropped my POV off, but my PCS has been delayed. Can I get my car back?

A: If you’re interested in retrieving your vehicle, contact the VPC immediately. VPCs are postured to assist customers with changing appointments, vehicle retrieval, and answering any other POV-related questions you have.

The DoD also advises that service members contact their local Personal Property Office for answers to their specific questions, or you may be able to find more answers on their customer service page.

You can also contact USTRANSCOM’s 24-hour hotline Toll Free at (833) MIL-MOVE, (833) 645-6683.

CDC Designated Level 3 Travel Health Notice Nations

The Center for Disease Control currently designates these nations as “Level 3,” barring any travel to these countries for service members for at least the coming 60 days, starting Friday, March 13.

The CDC has also designated the entire continent of Europe as a Level 3 region. This list includes:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • Vatican City

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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Our highest honor: Top medals from countries around the world

From simple stars to elaborate medallions, here are 12 of the world’s ultimate civilian awards in all of their splendor.


Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Kazakhstan’s Order of the Golden Eagle

The medal shimmers with gold, diamonds, and rubies.

The award has been given to more than a dozen foreigners, but only two Kazakh citizens have received it: Nursultan Nazarbaev and Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, the only two presidents of Kazakhstan.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Order of the Star of Romania

The medal comes with the unusual reward of a free burial site and a military salute when the recipient dies.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Hero of Ukraine

In 2017, Belarusian Mikhail Zhyzneuski posthumously became the first foreigner awarded the title. Zhyzneuski was shot dead in 2014 during the Euromaidan protests. Many countries’ medals come with miniature versions of the honor (seen here on the right) that can be pinned to clothing.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

The United States’ Presidential Medal of Freedom

The medal rewards Americans, and occasionally non-Americans, for “exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Hero of the Russian Federation

This award is usually bestowed for “heroic feats of valor.” Two recent recipients were the Ural Airlines pilots who in 2019 guided their seagull-stricken passenger aircraft into a cornfield. There were no fatalities or serious injuries among the 233 people aboard.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun

The handmade medal represents a dawn sun made from a polished garnet stone surrounded by a star made of gold and enamel which is suspended from the leaf of a Paulownia tree.

Order of New Zealand

The number of ordinary awardees is limited to 20 living people. After a holder of the medal dies, the badge must be handed in and it is then “passed to another appointee to the order.”

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

The United Kingdom’s George Cross

Among the hundreds of recipients of this award “for acts of the greatest heroism,” perhaps the most unusual is the island of Malta, which was awarded the cross in 1942 for “heroism and devotion” during the Nazi/Italian siege of the British colony in World War II. The cross was later incorporated into the top left corner of independent Malta’s flag.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Order of Pakistan

This award is usually announced each year on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day. The latest recipient of the award was St. Lucian cricketer Darren Sammy for his “invaluable contribution to Pakistani cricket.”

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Bulgaria’s Stara Planina

The spiky medal was previously reserved for foreign dignitaries but is now also awarded to Bulgarians who have given “outstanding services” to their country.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Jewel of India

The platinum-rimmed medal is in the shape of a leaf from the Bodhi tree — the same type Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment under. The Hindi script says “Bharat Ratna” (Jewel of India). A maximum of three people receive the award each year.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Albania’s Honor of the Nation

This medal is awarded by Albania’s president to Albanians or foreign nationals “as a token of gratitude and recognition for those who by their acts and good name contribute to honoring the Albanian nation.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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The artillery mission that made Truman a criminal and hero

Future President Harry S. Truman was a new artillery captain in World War I during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive where his battery would be called to provide artillery fire for advancing American troops. One of his unit’s barrages would get him threatened with a court-martial, but the men who were saved by the barrage named him a hero.


Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
Tanks push forward into action. (National Archives)

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive in September and November in 1918 was the largest American offensive in history at the time with over a million men taking part. The job of Capt. Truman and most artillery units in the battle was to both clear enemy trenches with artillery and to take out German artillery units, thereby protecting American troops.

But the rules for artillery during these engagements were strict. Every division had a specific sector of fire, and these sectors were often further broken down by artillery regiment and battery. So Truman had specific targets he was supposed to hit and could engage basically anything else in the 35th Division’s sector.

The start of the offensive was legendary. Truman was part of the 60th Field Artillery Brigade which fired 40,000 rounds during the opening barrage, Truman’s battery, specifically, was firing in support of Lt. Col. George S. Patton’s tank brigade as the armor churned forward.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
“Truman’s Battery” depicts Battery D in battle in World War I. (Dominic D’Andrea)

But the overall offensive would not, immediately, go well for America. The German defenses were still robust, even after the opening salvo. And the limits on American artillery allowed German batteries to fire on American advances, sometimes with impunity.

Worst, America wasn’t yet used to dealing with the traffic jams that came from rapid advances through mud, and Germany made it harder for them by bombarding roads as they withdrew, filling them with shell craters that would trip up horses and cars.

Even with these and other setbacks, Battery D was typically in position to support their infantry and armored brethren.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
Artillery soldiers fire in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in World War I. (U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Truman and Battery D focused on fire support of Patton and the other advancing troops, but they also fired at any threats to the 35th Division’s flank. So, when Truman saw an American plane drop a flare near his position on the 35th flank during the second day of the offensive, he grabbed his binoculars and tried to find what the pilot was pointing to.

Underneath the falling flare he spotted an entire German artillery battery setting up to send rounds into the American troops, either attacking Truman and his men or hitting the maneuvering forces ahead of him. The Germans were technically in the 28th Division’s sector, not Truman’s. If Truman turned his guns from their current mission to hit this threat, the action would break a direct order.

But the Germans were nearly within rifle range, and Truman wasn’t going to sit on his hands while a threat to Americans matured. He ordered his guns to take on the new mission, holding fire only until the German horses were pulled away. This ensured that the Germans wouldn’t be able to quickly withdraw. They would be forced to die at their guns or abandon them.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
Traffic snarls slowed the American advance as artillery and supplies struggled to get into place to support the forward line of troops. (National Archives)

It worked. Battery D’s fire crippled the Germans before they could get firing, and the survivors abandoned their guns permanently. But Truman, knowing that his own position had been spotted, pulled his own troops to the southwest and resumed operations.

All good, right? Well, no. The regimental commander, Col. Karl Klemm, somehow got it in his head that wiping out a German artillery battery was less important than following orders to a T, and he threatened Truman with a court-martial.

It didn’t seem to have much effect on Truman, though. After all, the 129th Field Artillery Regiment was already short qualified leaders, so it was unlikely he would get relieved of command on the spot. So he filled some notes and letters home with choice insults for Klemm, but he also kept his men moving forward with the advance.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
Artillery Observers worked to find enemy targets and direct artillery fire onto them. (National Archives)

And the next day, despite the threat of court-martial, Truman fired out of sector again. Twice. The first breach came the very next morning when Truman saw a German observation post being set up in an abandoned mill right in the middle of the 28th Infantry Division’s sector. Truman ordered his 75mm guns to smack it down.

And just hours later a German artillery battery tried to re-position in the 28th sector, and Truman spotted it. Again, he turned his guns and slammed them with his own artillery fire.

Later that same day, the order restricting artillery units to their own sectors of fire was withdrawn. From then on, artillery units could engage anything in their sector as well as any target they directly observed, exactly as Truman had been fighting the whole time.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A ‘$30 Million Sandwich’ almost derailed the space program

Gemini 3 was the first American space mission to be crewed by more than one astronaut. Gemini 3 performed the first orbital maneuver ever by shifting its orbit mid-flight. This breakthrough performance also showed that a re-entry vehicle could change its touchdown point. What it will be remembered for in the annals of NASA history, however, is a corned-beef sandwich.

For just shy of five hours, the Gemini 3 mission experienced very few setbacks — none of them major. From the takeoff aboard a Titan-II Rocket to the capsule’s recovery by the USS Intrepid, the crew would tell you it was a very smooth, well-run mission. The 89th U.S. Congress, however, had a different opinion.


Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

The crew of Gemini 3. Not pictured: pocket sandwich.

(NASA)

Strangely enough, one of Gemini 3’s other mission requirements was to test space food in the capsule — specific food, not just whatever food the astronauts wanted to bring. The mission took five hours, but the non-rated food incident lasted less than a minute. The two astronauts were working in the capsule when pilot John Young, who was on his first spaceflight, pulled out a corned-beef sandwich.

“I was concentrating on our spacecraft’s performance, when suddenly, John asked me, ‘You care for a corned-beef sandwich, skipper?'” Grissom later recounted. “If I could have fallen out of my couch, I would have. Sure enough, he was holding an honest-to-john corned-beef sandwich.”

“Where did that come from?” Grissom asked. Corned-beef sandwiches were his favorite. “I brought it with me,” Young answered. “Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?” The smell of corned beef did indeed fill the spacecraft. The astronaut picked up the sandwich from a local deli called Wolfie’s inside the nearby Ramada Inn in Cocoa Beach. Wally Schirra gave the sandwich to Young, who stowed it away in a pocket in his spacesuit.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Grissom took a bite, but the sandwich was not holding its integrity in zero gravity. The astronauts opted to put the sandwich away. Young admitted that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to bring the sandwich into low earth orbit. Grissom told him the sandwich was “pretty good, if it would just hold together.” With crumbs of rye bread floating around the cabin, the crew continued their mission.

“It didn’t even have mustard on it,” Young wrote. “And no pickle.”

While mission control at NASA and Young’s superiors were less-than-thrilled with the smuggled sandwich, the rest of the mission went ahead as planned and though the two were given slaps on the wrists and told, in no uncertain terms, that non-man-rated corned-beef sandwiches were out for future space missions, nothing more was really thought of it.

Until Congress stepped in.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Vietnam, civil rights, and corned beef.

It was the height of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Gemini 3 was supposed to be the first orbital mission ever to have more than one astronaut, but the Soviets had beaten NASA to the punch by a week — when it launched the Voskhod 2 mission. Regardless, the United States was behind in the race and the costly program was under close scrutiny.

The House Appropriations Committee began a full review of the incident, concerned that those rye crumbs were a serious threat to the safe operation of the spacecraft. It’s true that the greasy crumbs could have played havoc on the craft’s electronics and computer systems. The sandwich was nicknamed the “-million sandwich.”

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

A replica of the million sandwich.

(Grissom Memorial Museum)

Congress thought the astronauts were ignoring the space food they were sent to evaluate and were wasting taxpayer money. John Young later wrote that he didn’t think it was that big of a deal and that it was common to carry sandwiches aboard. The offending corned-beef sandwich wasn’t even the first smuggled sandwich — it was the third. These days, astronauts make sandwiches in space all the time, they just use ingredients that keep the crumbs to a minimum.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

What they were supposed to be eating.

(NASA)

Young commanded the first space shuttle mission in 1981. And carried aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia was a menu that included corned beef. The smuggled sandwich itself is lost to history, but a good likeness of the original can be found preserved in acrylic at the Grissom Memorial Museum in Mitchell, Indiana.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress will force the military to stop burning old munitions

The next round of Department of Defense funding will come with an important requirement: Congress wants the Pentagon’s outmoded and highly toxic practice of burning old munitions and other explosives in the open air to finally come to a stop.

The language of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act made public in early May 2018, which proposes $717 billion in spending, also demands that the Pentagon report back to Congress with a specific plan for ending the centurylong burning of munitions.


ProPublica investigated the Pentagon’s open burn program as part of a series of reports on Department of Defense pollution last year. We highlighted a little-known program to incinerate millions of pounds of materials containing dangerous contaminants in the open air at more than 60 sites across the country, often without common-sense protections. The burns posed a substantial risk to service members and nearby civilians, including schoolchildren.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
For decades, residents near the Radford ammunition plant in Virginia have worried about the threat from munitions burning.
(Photo by Ashley Gilbertson)

“The Pentagon will have to tell us what it plans to do to stop this practice,” wrote U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat from New Hampshire, in an emailed statement to ProPublica. Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the amendment to the spending bill that deals with open burns. Shea-Porter earlier led efforts to curb the Pentagon’s use of open burn pits at overseas bases — a practice believed by medical experts to have sickened thousands of U.S. soldiers — and she has often pressed for action against other defense-related pollution risks at home.

“If these answers aren’t satisfactory, I am hopeful that the Armed Services Committee will require the Defense Department to take appropriate action to curb this disturbing practice,” she wrote.

Shea-Porter told New Hampshire Public Radio that she and the Armed Services Committee took up the burn issue in 2018, after reading ProPublica’s reporting.

Neither a spokesperson for the office of the Secretary of Defense nor for the Army’s munitions department immediately responded to requests for comment. But in previous statements to ProPublica, the Department of Defense has maintained that its open burn practices have already been vastly curtailed over the past decade, and where they still take place today, they are both safer and far less expensive than alternatives.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
The Pentagon

Congress has pressed the Pentagon to phase out open burning for more than a quarter-century. In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine began studying the risks and impacts of the Pentagon’s burn practices.

The new bill would force the Defense Department to report back to Congress on the findings of this study and set out exactly what it will do to implement any recommendations made by the National Academies. The measure appears designed to spur the Pentagon to propose its own solutions, but could well lead to a law requiring regulatory action.

If the Defense Department cannot lay out a specific course of action, “it is essentially telling the Committee that it won’t do anything after the Committee explicitly said it was concerned about the practice,” a Congressional staff person with knowledge of the bill told ProPublica. “That typically doesn’t go over well. The intent here is to get DoD to take this seriously.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Photos show moment President George W. Bush learned of the 9/11 attacks

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, heart-wrenching images surfaced and stirred the world.

Photos released by the US National Archives in 2016 show exactly when President George W. Bush learned the US was under attack.

See how Bush responded to what would be the defining moment of his presidency.


Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(US National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(US National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(US National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(US National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

(The U.S. National Archives)

After addressing the nation, Bush meets with his National Security Council in the President’s Emergency Operations Center.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘I met a hero:’ Air Force Doctor who treated Alwyn Cashe says he’s never forgotten him

Maj. Mark Rasnake was exhausted. The 32-year-old Air Force infectious disease specialist had worked through the night treating some of the worst trauma he’d seen in his life — seven soldiers who’d been brought in after sustaining catastrophic burns when their Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an improvised explosive device near Daliaya, Iraq, and erupted in flames. But back at his bunk at Balad Air Force Base, north of Baghdad, he couldn’t sleep.

He opened his laptop and began to type a letter home. “I met a hero last night,” he wrote. “I did not realize it at the time … This is a place where the word “hero” is tossed around day in and day out, so much so that you sometimes lose sight of its true meaning. His story reminded me of it.”


As a medical professional, Rasnake never identified his patient, even in a letter only intended for family members. As it happened, though, his words would travel further than he imagined. His local newspaper in Eastern Tennessee took it as a submission and reprinted it; and eventually, Air Force officials reached out to the paper so the service could publish it too.

Rasnake’s letter survives on the Air Force’s official website as the first public account of the bravery of Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who sacrificed his life running again and again into the fiery vehicle, ignoring his own burning uniform. It has been 15 years to the day since Cashe hauled his teammates out of the Bradley on Oct. 17, 2005; but Rasnake, now the residency program director for the University of Tennessee’s Division of Infectious Diseases, says he’s never stopped thinking about him.

“I kind of think about the guy all the time,” Rasnake told Military.com in an interview earlier this month. “I’ve got a helmet bag that I use to carry stuff to and from work, and I put a 3rd Infantry Division patch on that thing, just to always have the visual thing to remember what he did. That’s just always been important to me, to at least carry that memory.”

Cashe, the most severely burned of the soldiers, was ultimately evacuated to Germany for intensive treatment, and then to Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he would succumb to his injuries Nov. 8, at age 35. As the anniversary of his death approaches, those who loved him are newly hopeful: in August, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he’d support a push to award Cashe the Medal of Honor. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed a bill waiving a five-year time limitation for awarding the medal; a similar measure is expected to pass soon in the Senate.

Rasnake said he didn’t learn Cashe’s story until a few hours after he and more than a dozen other military medical professionals had finished treating the soldiers and loaded them on an air evacuation flight bound for Germany. He can’t remember who shared the account of what happened in the aftermath of the Bradley explosion. But as word spread among his colleagues and across the base, it provoked a common feeling of awe.

“The discussions we had is, you know, if his actions don’t deserve the Medal of Honor, we had trouble imagining anything that did that would,” Rasnake said.

Cashe was initially nominated for a lesser award, the Silver Star, by his battalion commander, Gary Brito, now a major general. Brito, by his own account, pushed for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor as soon as he learned of the severity of Cashe’s injuries. But as the years passed, no medal upgrade came.

At issue, according to various reports, was difficulty ascertaining accurate witness statements of what took place. While initial accounts led the Army to determine Cashe’s heroism did not take place in active combat, current descriptions — championed by lawmakers — say he dodged enemy fire while hauling body after body out of the vehicle: six soldiers plus an interpreter, who died on the scene. Cashe refused medevac until the others were taken away, according to his Silver Star citation.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Mark Rasnake (right) along with doctors Col. Ty Putnam and Maj. James Pollock, Oct 17, 2005. (Photo courtesy of Mark Rasnake)

What Rasnake saw is in none of those accounts, but speaks to the pain and trauma Cashe’s body endured because of his choice not to leave his brothers-in-arms behind.

“The surgeons worked for hours on his wounds and we worked for hours in the intensive care unit to stabilize him for transport. In the end, damage to his lungs made him too sick to be safely transported by plane to our hospital in Germany and then on to a burn center in San Antonio,” Rasnake wrote in his later-published letter home. ” … Our air evac team loaded him into the plane for the six-hour flight to Germany. They had to deliver every breath to him during that flight by squeezing a small bag by hand.”

Rasnake still has clear memories of that night, although the conditions and treatment of specific soldiers is a blur. Off-duty medical staff were called back up before the casualties arrived. A field intensive care unit was heated to treat those suffering from the hypothermia sometimes brought on by severe burns. Doctors had to intubate to keep the badly burned soldiers’ blood oxygenated, and some required surgical incisions to allow burn-traumatized limbs to swell.

Six of the men needed ICU treatment; ultimately, three would succumb to their injuries.

Rasnake had arrived in Iraq earlier that fall, and it wasn’t common for doctors at Balad to keep track of the wounded troops they’d treated once they moved on for additional care. But this case was different.

“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “For the next two weeks … Some of them didn’t make it, including Sgt. Cashe ultimately, and he was the last one to expire of the ones that ultimately died. And it was just heart-wrenching for us to hear what was happening back home … he had the entire [Air Force] 33nd Medical Group following daily what was happening.”

As Rasnake sat typing that first night in his sleeping quarters, not knowing the fate of Cashe or the other men he’d treated, he thought of a hero from his hometown of Greeneville, Tenn.: Marine Sgt. Elbert Kinser, who threw himself on a Japanese grenade in 1945, saving his men and earning the Medal of Honor. A bridge in the city of Tusculum, Tenn., bears his name.

“How many of his friends are still alive to remember the story? How many grew old and had grandchildren because of his sacrifice?” Rasnake wrote. “Did they thank him every day of their lives? The next time I cross that bridge I will stop for just a few minutes of my life to read about a man that gave all of his.”

Now 47, and 13 years out of the Air Force, Rasnake said he never lost hope that Cashe would receive the Medal of Honor that he never doubted the soldier deserved.

“The fact that he’s up for the MOH, reliving this and kind of seeing some closure for him and his family is just amazing,” Rasnake said. “I’m so glad; it’s probably the first piece of good news I’ve gotten in 2020.”

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy vet built his own car from a top-secret jet engine

The first thing one might notice about the barracks at a military base is that there are a lot of nice, shiny, new cars parked there. It’s not a secret that troops like to buy new vehicles when they join the military. When someone with a love for cars and speed learns how to rebuild and maintain jet engines, like many in the military do, no one should be surprised that they use those skills in their post-military career.


Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Pictured: The TAPS Class of the future.

Arthur Arfons didn’t actually become a jet engineer when he joined the Navy in 1943. He was a diesel mechanic who worked on landing craft in the Pacific Theater of World War II, even landing at Okinawa to support the Marines invasion of the Japanese island. He may have been a Petty Officer Second Class, but his mechanic’s skills were first-rate. It was just something he loved to do. By 1952, he had returned to his native Ohio and started building drag racing cars with his brother, Walt.

That’s how Art Arfons would make history.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

Art Arfons in the “Green Monster 2.”

In their first outings, they used a classic V6 Oldsmobile engine that barely peaked at 85 miles per hour. Their next attempt was a significant step up. They put an Allison V12 aircraft engine, normally used in a Curtiss P-38 Lightning fighter plane. Called the “Green Monster 2,” and painted to resemble the nose of a P-38, it would break the existing land speed record by clocking at 145.16 miles per hour.

When Art Arfons split from Walt, he somehow picked up a General Electric J79 jet engine from a scrap dealer. The engine had sucked up a bolt and was considered unsalvageable by the U.S. military. Art bought it from scrap for just 0. GE and the U.S. military were very much against Arfons purchasing the J79, considering it was Top Secret technology at the time.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective

The “Green Monster” featuring a Starfighter engine arrives to set a record.

Arfons rebuilt the jet engine, capable of 17,500 pounds of static thrust with its four-stage afterburner. His newly rebuilt engine, normally used in an F-104 Starfighter, was put into the next iteration of his “Green Monster” vehicles (he named all his vehicles “Green Monster”), where he used it to set the land speed record three more times between 1966 and 1967, topping out at 576 miles per hour.

Articles

9 examples of the military’s dark humor

It’s not unusual for troops to have a nonchalant or comical attitude about the worst of humanity. Sometimes comedy is all they have to make it through hardships that are unimaginable to most, and those who have deployed to remote locations and hot zones know this all too well.


It’s a mechanism to keep their sanity in the midst of snipers, ambushes, and IEDs, according to an article in Esquire. Sometimes the worse a situation gets, the more they laugh. One thing is for sure, troops go to comical heights to cope with the hand they’re dealt.

Here are nine examples of dark humor in the military:

1. Santa Visit to the Korengal Valley 07

YouTube, TheFightingMarines

2. Marine uses megaphone to call out insurgents. (live leak videos may not appear on all devices)

LiveLeak video

3. “Shoot him.”

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
Photo: Pinterest

4. Wait for the flash.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
Photo: Pinterest

5. Getting shot at by single shot Freddy.

YouTube, RestrepoTheMovie

6. Troops pretending to be insurgents. (live leak videos may not appear on all devices)

Liveleak video

7. Here’s how EOD technicians prank each other.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
Photo: Pinterest

8. Robots driving an APC.

Why the Viet Cong’s tunnels were so effective
Photo: Pinterest

9. This bored Marine wants to play with insurgents.

YouTube, danr9595

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