Military History

historical-article-screaming-bird-of-preyAlthough obsolescent even before World War II began, the Ju-87 Stuka terrorized ground troops and found a late-war niche as a tank-buster.

By Stephan Wilkinson @ Historynet.com

Never has a warplane so obsolete, vulnerable and technologically basic wrought so much damage to its enemies as did the Junkers Ju-87 Stuka. Even as Germany invaded Poland and triggered World War II, its Ministry of Aviation (ministerium, or RLM) was hard at work on a replace- Reichsluftfahrtment for its dive bomber, and the early Ju-87B was intended to be the last model made. No surprise, since typically an air force begins development of the next-generation aircraft the instant the current machine goes into service. But hard as they tried, the Germans never came up with a Stuka successor, so the angular, archaic “little bomber,” as the Luftwaffe called it, was the airplane that on September 1, 1939, dropped the first bombs of the war, and on May 4, 1945, flew the final Luftwaffe ground-assault mission. The very last propaganda film made by the Luftwaffe showed Stukas attacking Soviet tanks on the outskirts of Berlin, smoke streaming from their big antitank cannons. That’s 5½ years of nonstop combat by an airplane adjudged by some to be too primitive, too slow and too vulnerable before the war even began.

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historical-article-type-xxi-u-boatBy Steven Trent Smith @ Historynet.com

At the end of the war, American technical teams fanned out across Germany in search of Nazi Wunderwaffen, or Wonder Weapons: guided missiles, jet aircraft, super-heavy tanks. Of most interest to the U.S. Navy was a submarine capable of operating submerged continuously for days on end—the Type XXI U-boat. Americans had known of its existence for nearly two years, after the British had passed along sketchy intelligence about a “fast submarine.” They knew even more in January 1945, when Allied forces captured plans for the U-boat at a steel plant in Strasbourg, France.

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American Dead After D-Day LandingsBy Joseph Conner @ Historynet.com

The new soldiers arriving at Building 341 at Fort Warren, Wyoming, in November 1943 were blissfully unaware of what the future held. Told they were a “GR outfit,” they speculated on what that meant. Maybe guerilla raiders, one suggested. They liked the sound of that. The next day, their commanding officer, Captain Thomas A. Rowntree, snapped them to attention and informed the men that they were now the 612th Graves Registration Company.

You could hear the sucking in of breaths and the gasps of disbelief and feel a sudden numbness,” recalled Private Thomas J. Dowling. “It was a job that had to be done in war; it was certainly no disgrace, but it was something you always thought about being done by someone else.

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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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Military History | Donster | |