Military History

historical-forgotten-story-of-midways-marine-defendersOutnumbered 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.

Read on…

Military History | Donster | |

historical-slaughter-of-the-stukasWhen American P-38s covering a British naval force in the Aegean Sea encountered a group of attacking German Ju-87s, a massacre ensued.

By Anthony Rogers @ Historynet.com

In October 1943 U.S. Lockheed P-38 Lightnings were briefly involved in an ambitious British operation in the Aegean Sea, providing cover for the Royal Navy, carrying out fighter sweeps and bombing enemy ground installations. Despite chalking up multiple victories during one of the most lopsided air actions of the war, no sooner had they made their presence felt, than the P-38s were withdrawn to continue operations over southern Europe.

Read on…

Military History | Donster | |

historical-fire-in-the-skiesFor the U.S. Navy aviators of Task Force 38, the air war over the pacific ran right to the limit

By David Sears @ Historynet.com

FROM HIS HELLCAT OVER coastal Honshū—the main Japanese home island—U.S. Navy Lieutenant (junior grade) Henry J. O’Meara marveled to see a Tokyo Plain “so thickly studded with airfields that 10 or a dozen were visible from almost any point.” O’Meara, 21, had experienced combat, but many of his fellow aviators in the aircraft carrier Yorktown’s Fighter Squadron 88 were getting not only their first glimpse of Japan’s heartland, but a first exposure to aerial warfare. After plastering enemy fields with tons of fragmentation bombs on July 10, 1945, O’Meara and mates were brimming with swagger. However, O’Meara wrote afterward, the fliers also were “quite disappointed over the lack of Jap planes in the air.”

Read on…

Military History | Donster | |

historical-from-german-ss-to-green-beretThe fierce anti-communism of Finland’s Larry Thorne put him on different sides in two wars

By David Kindy @ Vietnam Magazine

U.S. Army Capt. Larry Thorne had just arrived at the Chau Lang Special Forces camp in South Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta in early 1964. The Green Beret, a member of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), reported for duty, stowed his gear and grabbed binoculars to study the terrain around the base. Thorne noticed something on a nearby hill: a Viet Cong flag blowing in the breeze above the dense tropical jungle. The captain set down his binoculars and called for volunteers to join him on a mission. The men silently crept around enemy positions to reach the VC site, where Thorne ripped down the flag and stuck it in his backpack. He would not allow the enemy to flagrantly display its colors in sight of his base.

That was pure Thorne (pronounced THOR-nee). A warrior in in the classic sense. He lived for battle and prepared endlessly for combat.

Read on…

Military History | Donster | |

historical-article-alex-vraciu-the-indestructible-aceU.S. Navy fighter pilot Alex Vraciu downed 19 Japanese airplanes, but in the process lost three Hellcats, earning him a reputation as “Grumman’s best customer.”

By Barrett Tillman @ Aviation History Magazine

Lieutenant (j.g.) Alexander Vraciu was one frustrated fighter pilot. On June 19, 1944—the biggest day of air combat in the Pacific War—his Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat struggled to keep pace with the rest of Fighter Squadron 16. The “Fighting Airedales” had scrambled from the aircraft carrier Lexington (CV-16) in response to the second Japa­nese attack of the morning against Task Force 58, whose 15 carriers outnumbered the nine Japa­nese flattops.

Vraciu was already a double ace with 12 victories, and he was positioned to increase his score in a sky full of targets. But his Pratt & Whitney engine was stuck in low blower, depriving him of maximum speed and climb. He watched in frustration as his squadron mates pulled away to intercept incoming enemy bombers.

Read on…

Military History | Donster | |

historical-article-the-destruction-of-c-forceBy Bob Gordon @ Military History Magazine

Just after dawn on Christmas Day 1941 wounded Canadian Pvt. Sid Vale lay in his bed in Hong Kong’s St. Stephen’s College, then in use as an Allied military field hospital. Immobilized by his injuries, he could only shudder at the screams of a nurse being raped by Japanese soldiers in the next room. Minutes earlier the invading soldiers had marched off two British medical officers—hospital commander Lt. Col. George Black and adjutant Captain Peter Witney—who had rushed to head off the Japanese beneath a Red Cross flag at the building entrance. The men’s bayoneted, mutilated corpses turned up the next day on the ground floor of the hospital. A third officer, Sgt. William Parkin, was shot as he sought to flee.

Surging into the first-floor ward, the intruders had summarily executed nearly two-dozen patients in their beds before gang raping four Chinese nurses, three of whom they later killed. Japanese soldiers then serially raped the remaining three nurses in another room. By the time the atrocities ended at St. Stephen’s that horrific Christmas morning, upward of 70 patients and staff members had been killed, several tortured beforehand. Many of the victims were Canadians, members of a 1,975-strong force hurriedly dispatched to bolster the Crown colony’s defenses. They had arrived less than a month before war broke out in the Pacific, and those who were not killed in the defense of Hong Kong were condemned to the living hell of Japanese prison camps.

Read on…

Military History | Donster | |

historical-article-col-robert-l-scott-gods-pilotSon of the South Bob Scott was a rebel with a cause: helping the United States defeat the Japanese.

By Barrett Tillman @ Aviation History Magazine

In 1943 General Henry H. Arnold’s secretary buzzed his inner sanctum, informing the U.S. Army Air Forces chief, “Colonel Scott is here, sir.” “Hap” Arnold, who lived in a frequent boil, replied, “Oh, you mean God’s personal pilot?”

Colonel Robert L. Scott Jr., fighter ace and bestselling author of God Is My Co-pilot, was in trouble…again. He had just offered to strafe John L. Lewis, the mine workers’ union boss who had continually violated the wartime “no strike” pledge after Pearl Harbor. Called upon Arnold’s thick carpet, Scott said, “General, I was only expressing my personal opinion.”

Arnold came out of his chair, red-faced, finger jabbing. “Damn it, Scott! When you wear that uniform you don’t have a personal opinion!”

At McDill Field in Florida, Scott’s younger brother Roland was going through B-26 Ma­rauder training. His copilot noted the news reports and said, “Well, your brother’s never going to be a general now!”

Long after, Bob Scott quipped, “I think that’s when General Arnold began looking for a way to send me back to combat where I could get killed.”

Combat pilot, bestselling author, big game hunter, versatile chef and incomparable raconteur—Scott was all those and more. Reared in Macon, Ga., he was also among the last cavaliers of the Old South. He made his final flight west from Georgia on February 27, 2006.

Read on…

Military History | Donster | |

historical-article-forgotten-casualty-cuban-missile-crisisHow the shootdown of a U-2 spyplane over Cuba by a Soviet surface-to-air missile nearly led to nuclear war

By Michael J. Tougias @ Aviation History Magazine

On Friday, October 26, 1962, one day before “Black Saturday,” the most terrifying day of the Cuban Missile Crisis, CIA Director John McCone gave President John F. Kennedy more bad news about the Soviet military build-up on the island. He explained that the Soviets were spending an estimated $1 billion on their military installations and that “rapid construction activity” was contin­uing. More alarming was the discovery of a Soviet FROG-7 missile launch system (also referred to as a Luna-M), a tactical nuclear weapon that could be used against an American invasion or the U.S. outpost at Guantanamo Bay.

This information prompted Strategic Air Command (SAC) to authorize a Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance flight over Cuba for October 27. U.S. Air Force U-2s and Navy Vought RF-8 Crusaders had been used extensively in the prior days to photograph medium-range ballistic missile sites, SA-2 surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites and a variety of Soviet military installations and troop barracks. While the Crusaders were used for the low-level surveillance and close-up photographs, the high-flying U-2s could cover a much broader area with their high-resolution cameras.

Read on…

Military History | Donster | |

historical-article-saburo-sakaiLegendary Zero pilot Saburo Sakai was Japan’s most recognized ace, but few knew the man behind the legend 

By Barrett Tillman @ Aviation History Magazine

Saburo Sakai is probably Japan’s best-known pilot of World War II, with the possible exception of Captain Mitsuo Fuchida of Pearl Harbor infamy. In a seven-year combat career, Sakai survived horrible injuries and impossible odds, and almost got a chance to kill Lyndon Baines Johnson. The fact that Sakai never made a combat launch from an aircraft carrier in no way detracts from his significance as a naval aviator and Japan’s third-ranking fighter ace.

Read on…

Military History | Donster | |

historical-article-speaking-in-tonguesNear an abandoned French farm in 1918 field telephones crackled with orders in a language that baffled German eavesdroppers—and the code talkers were born

By Richard Selcer @ Historynet.com

During World War II the United States used American Indian code talkers to thwart enemy decoding of battlefield radio and telephone traffic. The exploits of these men—almost all of whom were Navajos serving with the Marines the Pacific—are justly famous, thanks to several popular written histories and the 2002 film Windtalkers.

Yet few people realize that U.S. reliance on code talkers during wartime did not originate with Navajos on some jungle-covered South Sea island. It was, instead, on the shell-pocked Western Front battlefields of World War I that American Indians—mostly Choctaws in Army uniforms—were first tasked with transmitting crucial military communications in languages the enemy could not decipher.

Read on…

Military History | Donster | |