Military History

historical-article-wars-song-barry-sadlerHow Barry Sadler’s “The Ballad of the Green Berets” became the No. 1 single of 1966.

By Marc Leepson @ Historynet.com

A little more than 50 years ago, on May 7, 1967, a 26-year-old Green Beret staff sergeant let his term of enlistment expire and took his honorable discharge at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He had served five years, including a tour of duty during 1964-65 as an A Team medic in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. He left the service, he said, to pursue a career in music and movies.

Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler had a good start on the music part. His song, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” came out of nowhere in January 1966 to become the No. 1 single of the year, selling some 9 million copies. The album sold 2 million. Sadler earned $500,000 in royalties in the first six months after the song hit. In the process Sadler—who dropped out of high school to join the Air Force in 1958, served four years and then joined the Army—went viral decades before anyone knew the word “internet.”

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historical-article-a-shattered-commandOutnumbered and outgunned, the Marine pilots of VMF-221 paid a heavy price for their heroic efforts to stem the Japanese onslaught on Midway Atoll

By Richard Camp @ Historynet.com

At 0555 hours on June 4, 1942, the heart-pounding wail of Midway atoll’s air raid siren sent the pilots of Marine Fighting Squadron 221 (VMF-221) scrambling to their aircraft. The island’s air defense radar had detected a swarm of Japanese aircraft—“Many planes, 93 miles, 310 degrees, altitude 11,000 feet”—heading their way, and no pilot wanted to be caught on the ground when they arrived.

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historical-article-the-sullivansBy Bruce Kuklick @ WWII Magazine

In the late evening and early morning of November 12-13, 1942, the United States and Japan engaged in one of the most brutal naval battles of World War II. Minutes into the fight, north of Guadalcanal, a torpedo from Japanese destroyer Amatsukaze ripped into the port side of the American light cruiser USS Juneau, taking out its steering and guns and killing 19 men in the forward engine room. The keel buckled and the propellers jammed. During the 10-15 minutes the crew was engaged in battle, sailors vomited and wept; to hide from the barrage, others tried to claw their way into the steel belly of their vessel. The ship listed to port, with its bow low in the water, and the stink of fuel made it difficult to breathe below deck.

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historical-article-the-leperThe awesome firepower of an AC-47’s miniguns was on full display when an Australian journalist bummed a ride with a “Spooky” crew.

By Steve Birdsall @ Historynet.com

In 1967 a blackened, burned-out wreck lay near the minefield on the perimeter at Bien Hoa Air Base in South Vietnam. It was just one of hundreds of American aircraft lost to enemy action, but there was something special about this one.

The airplane was a “Spooky,” an AC-47 gunship. It couldn’t seem to hold a coat of paint, so they called it The Leper, but it had logged one of the best in-commission records of any aircraft in the U.S. Seventh Air Force. The Leper had started out as a Douglas C-47 transport, serial no. 43-48356, that left the United States for Britain on August 5, 1944, to serve in another air war long ago. Between battles it had racked up time as a VC-47 with Logistics Command and Air Defense Command. In September 1965, Tactical Air Command sent the transport to Eglin Field in Florida to be modified as a side-firing gunship.

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historical-article-why-japan-armored-warfare-failedBy Jiaxin “Jesse” Du @ WWII Magazine

When people think of the Japanese military in World War II, they often picture fearsome Zero fighters or soldiers battling to the death—not tanks and armored cars wreaking havoc on unsuspecting enemies. That impression tends to be reserved for the Germans. Japan’s World War II armored force was never an important component of the Imperial war machine and its performance throughout the war was mediocre at best. But why?

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historical-article-let-there-be-lightBy Joseph Conner @ WWII Magazine

John Huston entered the U.S. Army in 1942 with distinctive credentials. In the previous two years, he had directed three hit films, including The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart, which garnered an Academy Award nomination for Huston’s adapted screenplay. The army put his cinematic talents to good use. Major Huston filmed two ambitious documentaries for the Army Signal Corps in the next three years—one on army life in the Aleutian Islands, the other about the fighting near San Pietro, Italy.

Now, he had a new assignment. As the war in Europe wound down and American forces approached the Japanese home islands, the army wanted to document the medical treatment of battle fatigue casualties evacuated back to the United States. Because the condition—an acute nervous reaction to the stresses of combat—had received little publicity during the war, the army feared that those affected would be “misunderstood, mistreated, and looked upon with suspicion” when they were discharged into the civilian workforce. It wanted to reassure the public, especially employers, that those former servicemen were not dangerous and could function as well as the next man.

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historical-article-have-you-heard-yamamotoBy Joseph Conner @ WWII Magazine

They did it. On April 18, 1943, 16 U.S. Army Air Forces fighter pilots from Guadalcanal flew more than 400 miles to ambush Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto as he flew to Balalae airfield in the Solomon Islands. They sent the Japanese Combined Fleet’s commander in chief to a fiery grave in the jungles of Bougainville. The United States had exacted revenge against the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack and one of the Imperial Navy’s highest-ranking officers—but at what cost?

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historical-article-desmond-dossBy Rachel S. Cox Historynet.com

Author Rachel S. Cox discusses Conscientious Objectors (COs) and the ways in which they served outside of the military while still adhering to their pacifist beliefs. They also include famous stars such as Hollywood actor Lew Ayres , blues legend Willie Dixon, and wartime hero Desmond T. Doss—the first CO to receive the Medal of Honor. Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist, went on to save fellow soldiers without killing a single person. The new movie, Hackshaw Ridge, based on Doss’s life, hit theaters on November 4th.

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historical-article-death-in-the-westBy Robert M. Citino @ Historynet.com

History little notes the final great confrontation in the West European theater, and not without reason. When supercharged American armies were encircling and—in an ironic echo of the Blitzkrieg—crushing the last Wehrmacht force there, Germany was scant weeks from unconditional surrender. Amid the war’s final tumult, peals of relief at Adolf Hitler’s downfall, and horrifying revelations about the Final Solution, it’s easy to overlook the Battle of the Ruhr Pocket, the climax in a tale of two armies.

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L1/Japan, Tokyo Raid/1942/pho 12Dick Cole, the man who copiloted the lead B-25 on the famous 1942 Doolittle Raid

By Michael Dolan @ HistoryNet.com

After he spent those 30 seconds over Tokyo that made him world famous, Richard Cole—Colonel Jimmy Doolittle’s copilot on the innovative April 18, 1942, raid against the Japanese capital—parachuted into China. With help he reached India where, for the better part of a year, he flew transport planes carrying cargo over the Himalayan “Hump” between New Delhi, India, and Kunming, China, and back, then transported glider-borne troops in an invasion of Burma.

Between those assignments Cole met, wooed, and wed fellow aviator Lucia Marta Harrell. Retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1966, the former B-25 pilot took up orange growing in Comfort, Texas. His neighbor Warren Reed—who once had been a P-38 pilot—was growing grapefruit. For 14 years, the two former airmen delivered produce to a circuit of customers. Now, at age 100, Dick Cole travels to aviation-related events, has closed down more than one hotel bar, and at home enjoys rummaging in his barns. He recently sat for a phone interview facilitated by daughter Cindy Cole Chal.

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(Originally published in the July/August 2016 issue of World War II magazine. Subscribe here.)

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