Military Myths and Legends

Civil War – Andersonville Prison

Civil War – Andersonville Prison

There were 150 prison camps on both sides in the Civil War, and they all suffered from disease, overcrowding, exposure, and food shortages. But Andersonville was notorious for being the worst. Some men agreed to freedom and fought for the South as galvanized soldiers, fearing the dangers of imprisonment to be greater than those of the battlefield. Officially named Camp Sumter, the most notorious Civil War stockade was hastily constructed in early 1864 near the town of Andersonville in southwest Georgia. The number of Union soldiers held near Richmond had swelled with the breakdown of prisoner exchange agreements, posing a threat to the Confederate capital's security and taxing Virginia's already limited resources. Andersonville Was Jammed with over 32,000, Almost All Enlisted Men In late February, Federal prisoners began to be transferred to the still-unfinished Georgia facility. By July, Andersonville, built to accommodate up to 10,000 captured soldiers, was jammed with over 32,000,...

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The Loss Of Coast Guard Cutter USS Tampa

The Loss Of Coast Guard Cutter USS Tampa

USS Tampa's short story began on August 9, 1912, when the U.S. Revenue Service Cutter (UCRC) Miami, built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Corp, was commissioned at Arundel Cove, MD. The ship was named for the Miami Indian tribe rather than for the then little settlement in South Florida. At the time, several revenue cutters were named after Indian tribes. The Miami was 190 ft long, with a 14.6-ft draft and a displacement of 1,181 tons. Her normal crew complement was 70 Officers and men, she carried three quick-firing six-pounders and various small arms, and she could do 13 knots. The Miami's first duty was with the International Ice Patrol, operating out of Halifax and looking for icebergs. Subsequently, she was based in Tampa, Florida, and developed a relationship with the city. In January 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service and the Lifesaving Service were merged and renamed the U.S. Coast Guard. It was then decided that the Indian tribal names were to be phased out, so in...

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Cold War Double Agents Within the CIA

Cold War Double Agents Within the CIA

How much do you know about Cold War double agents within the CIA? Just recently, news has been released by a CIA analyst that, during the Cold War, there were double agents who worked for the CIA while remaining secretly loyal to communist spy agencies. There were nearly 100 fake CIA “agents” in East Germany, Cuba, and the Soviet Union. These “agents” made up false intelligence that was then passed on to the U.S. policymakers for years.

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Frank Buckles, the Last Surviving American Veteran of World War I

Frank Buckles, the Last Surviving American Veteran of World War I

Though legendary American veterans may live forever in our hearts, no one truly lives forever. There will always be a last survivor, and of the estimated 4.7 million Americans who served in the First World War, West Virginia's Frank Buckles was the last American witness to the horrors of the Western Front. Buckles died on February 27, 2011, but it was after a long, extraordinarily eventful life – and World War I was just the beginning. The Last Survivor of World War I: Frank Buckles' Journey Buckles was born into a long line of veterans on February 1, 1901. He said his ancestors had served in the American Revolution and the Civil War. So, it should have been no surprise that a young Frank Buckles attempted to enlist to go to war just a few months after the United States declared war on Germany in 1917. He was rejected by the Marine Corps and the Navy for physical issues, but the Army felt so good about the young man that they accepted the lie that he was older than 16.  Anxious to...

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Was Mr. Rogers a Vietnam-Era Sniper?

Was Mr. Rogers a Vietnam-Era Sniper?

At some point in their military career, U.S. troops will likely hear the rumor that television's Mr. Rogers, host of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," was a death-dealing, hardcore Vietnam-era sniper in either the Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, or the Marine Corps.  Fred Rogers and his past are just one more file to add to the mounting list of military myths and urban legends. It might be fun to think of a man as smart and wholesome as Fred Rogers picking off a North Vietnamese general or Viet Cong guerrilla, but that's just not the case.  Who is Mr. Rogers? In reality, Rogers was a Presbyterian minister before the Vietnam War ever started, and during the war, he was studying Child Development at the University of Pittsburgh. He helped develop his first children's show in 1955, and by 1968, he was the host of the now-famous "Mister Rogers Neighborhood."  Since the show ran on PBS for 33 years, and Fred Rogers was the showrunner, he had little time to pop rounds off at...

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US Navy C-130 Hercules Plane Lands & Takes Off From An Aircraft Carrier

US Navy C-130 Hercules Plane Lands & Takes Off From An Aircraft Carrier

Aircraft carriers are enormously important. They serve as mobile bases for warplanes at sea. They have flight decks for planes to take off and land. They carry equipment for arming warplanes and recovering planes that have been damaged. An aircraft carrier is considered a capital ship, the most important ship. This is because the Navy can use it to extend its power anywhere in the world. Countries that want to exercise influence need to have aircraft carriers. History of the C-130 Hercules Plane Aircraft carriers arose from cruisers that had been converted to carry aircraft in the early twentieth century. They were important during World War II, especially in the Pacific. Nowadays, they are some of the largest ships on the water and carry all kinds of aircraft, including helicopters, fighters, reconnaissance planes, and strike aircraft. They are, of course, enormously expensive to build. When on duty, and especially in war zones, they are protected by other ships. When it comes to...

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Did Ronald Reagan Scare Iran Into Freeing Hostages?

Did Ronald Reagan Scare Iran Into Freeing Hostages?

For 444 days between 1979 and 1981, 52 American citizens and diplomats who once worked at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran were held hostage by Iranian college students loyal to Iran's revolutionary Islamic cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Though no hostages died, the incident severed U.S.-Iranian relations that have never been restored. It is the date the hostages were finally released that leads many to believe it was more than negotiations that caused their release. Reagan's Inauguration: The Ronald Reagan Effect All 52 hostages were released the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States. Legend has it that the Gipper's rhetoric and forcefulness struck such fear into the hearts of the Ayatollah's revolutionary government that they were immediately compelled to send the hostages home. It's true that the hostages were released on January 20, 1981, the same day Reagan was inaugurated as President, but it had nothing to do with fear of Ronald Reagan. ...

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The Sullivan Brothers

The Sullivan Brothers

Ever since the premiere of "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998, there's been a little bit of confusion around how and why the Army might want to pull one of its soldiers out of a combat zone, even if all of his many brothers were killed in combat.  During World War II, there were very few exemptions to the military draft. Most of the time, potential recruits were rejected for things like medical issues, having jobs critical to the war effort, or religious exemptions. It wasn't until after the war that the Department of Defense began considering things like families losing multiple sons in combat.  "Saving Private Ryan" was loosely based on the story of the four Niland Brothers. Edward Niland's B-25 Mitchell Bomber was shot down over Burma in May 1945, and he was considered killed in action (he was later liberated from a Japanese POW camp). Brothers Preston and Robert Niland were both killed at Normandy in June 1944. Sgt. William "Fritz" Niland was with the famed 501st Parachute Infantry...

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The First Air-to-Space Kill

The First Air-to-Space Kill

Even before the creation of the U.S. Space Force, American military leaders have had to grapple with what a war in space might look like and what we would need to be successful. In 2022, Russia launched what U.S. intelligence believes to be an orbital anti-satellite weapon into space. China is thought to be pursuing a range of anti-satellite weapons.  The F-15 Eagle: The Triumph in Cold War Skies While that may seem surprising to some and downright frightening to others, it's important to remember that the U.S. has had the capability to shoot satellites out of orbit for almost 40 years – and it didn't require advanced rocketry, fuels, or some kind of secret weapons to do it, either.  About 50 years ago, the U.S. Air Force's newest air superiority fighter took to the skies for the first time. The F-15 Eagle was intended to take lessons learned from the Vietnam War while creating a fighter that could match the power, altitude, and speed of the Soviet Union's newest...

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Marine Corps Mascot Chesty XVI Gets Promoted to Private First Class

Marine Corps Mascot Chesty XVI Gets Promoted to Private First Class

Like any other Marine, Chesty XVI, the Marine Corps' Devil Dog mascot, has been promoted after six months of honorable, satisfactory service. Unlike every other Marine, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro dressed him for the event. Chesty XVI and Marine Corps Tradition Chesty XVI is an English bulldog, the mascot of the United States Marine Corps. He took over for his predecessor in a relief and appointment ceremony in May 2022. Lance Cpl. Chesty XV was a little too rambunctious, so the Corps decided to make him a terminal lance after a four-year enlistment. Chesty XV isn't the only mascot who's caused a scene. Sgt. Chesty XIII snarled at Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's golden retriever in 2012. Cpl. Chesty VI was demoted to Private in 1979 for destroying government property and disobeying a direct order. He was NJP-ed a year later for biting two corporals. Chesty II went AWOL on multiple occasions. So far, the Marine Corps says Chesty XVI is a much more disciplined Marine, hence his...

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George Walters, The Civilian Who Fought at Pearl Harbor

George Walters, The Civilian Who Fought at Pearl Harbor

World War II was a total war, meaning that once the United States entered the war, everyone fought it somehow. The troops, of course, did the fighting, but civilians on the home front made sacrifices, collected scrap and grew gardens to keep food fresh for the soldiers and sailors on the real front. There was also the American workforce, who built the machines and materials needed to do the job. From the very moment the U.S. was thrust into World War II, civilians were ready to do their part. There were some like George Walters who literally fought in World War II, even though he wasn't wearing a uniform. Walters was a dock worker at Pearl Harbor who happened to be on duty when the Imperial Japanese Navy launched its surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941. What he did that day may not have changed the outcome, but it made sure some Japanese airmen didn't make it to the victory celebration. George Walters: A Hero Who Worked on a 50-Ton Crane Walters was born in Colorado but came to Hawaii...

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Why Americans Use Yellow Ribbons To Support the Troops?

Why Americans Use Yellow Ribbons To Support the Troops?

You just can't keep a good tradition down. The good stuff will always come back up to the top in the ebb and flow of history. Using yellow ribbons to remember the troops is based on that kind of tradition. The Use of a Yellow Ribbons in American Popular Culture There are a lot of myths and legends surrounding when ribbons were first tied on, why the color yellow is used, and where exactly one is supposed to tie the ribbon. Those legends are only a part of the full story. For centuries, people have used items with special meaning to remember loved ones while they are away, whether they're at war or not. The use of a yellow ribbon in American popular culture first appears in a folk song, "Round Her Neck She Wore A Yellow Ribbon." This song can be traced as far back as 1838 and as far away as the United Kingdom. Versions of the song have appeared and reappeared in American culture ever since. It emerged once again in 1917, as the United States entered World War I as "Round Her Neck She...

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