Military Myths and Legends

Did a Scottish Soldier Really Play Bagpipes at Normandy?

Did a Scottish Soldier Really Play Bagpipes at Normandy?

On June 6, 1944, the Allied forces launched Operation Overlord, the largest and most complex amphibious landing in history until that point. Invading Hitler's Fortress Europe was no small matter, even with all the preparations and forethought Allied planners made in advance of the landings. In the years and decades that followed, D-Day became one of the most thoroughly studied and documented events of World War II. Still, it seems like more and more personal stories, fascinating accounts, and even urban legends from the invasion emerge every day.  Only those who were there can really know what it was like to hit the beach that day. But given recollections from veterans, photos and film reel taken that day, and Steven Spielberg's realistic depiction of the event in the 1998 film "Saving Private Ryan," we have a pretty good idea of what it looked like. Legend of the Scottish Soldier So it's all the more shocking to hear the legend of the Scottish soldier who walked up and down...

read more
Lost Battalion

Lost Battalion

Immediately after Japan's December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and other American bases in the Pacific, the United States declared war on Japan. Several days later Nazi German and Italy declared war on the U.S., embroiling the world into World War II. The war heightened American prejudice against German Americans and Italian Americans but the racism directed against Japanese Americans was particularly vicious. The calculated response culminated in the forced removal and unconstitutional incarceration of 120,000 residents of Japanese ancestry, including the complete elimination of communities and individuals from the entire West Coast of the United States. This racism was precipitated by the attack on Pearl Harbor but it had deep antecedents in the near half-century of legal, social, and economic policies directed against Asians in general within the United States. As the war progressed, however, more American units were needed to successfully fight the Axis powers. One such unit...

read more
A Leadership Lesson From a Janitor

A Leadership Lesson From a Janitor

William "Bill" Crawford was an unimpressive figure, one you could easily overlook during a hectic day at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Mr. Crawford, as most of us referred to him back in the late 1970s, was our Squadron janitor. While we Cadets busied ourselves preparing for academic exams, athletic events, Saturday morning parades, and room inspection, or never-ending leadership classes-Bill quietly moved about the squadron mopping and buffing floors, emptying trash cans, cleaning toilets, or just tidying up the mess 100 college-age kids can leave in a dormitory. Sadly, and for many years, few of us gave him much notice, rendering little more than a passing nod or throwing a curt, "G' morning!" in his direction as we hurried off to our daily duties. Why? Perhaps it was because of the way he did his job - he always kept the squadron area spotlessly clean, even the toilets and showers gleamed. Frankly, he did his job so well; none of us had to notice or get involved. After all, cleaning...

read more
The Ghost of Kyiv

The Ghost of Kyiv

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, they came with an estimated 190,000 troops across Ukraine's border with Russia. Minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the Russian invasion, Russian aircraft from Belarus struck the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. The Russians had launched a northern front across the border with Belarus. The target of the north front was Kyiv, and Russian forces were trying to break the will of Ukraine's people and its armed forces. But stories began to spread about a mystery jet fighter that had fought seemingly for days in skies above Kyiv, downing at least six Russian fighters, maybe more. The mystery pilot became known as "The Ghost of Kyiv," Though it was later found to be nothing more than a story, it inspired the Ukrainians to fight off the attack on their capital and defeat the Russian offensive. Russia's northern push from Belarus was an estimated 30,000 strong, with hundreds of attack helicopters, ground vehicles, airborne assault...

read more
The Bigfoot of the Vietnam War

The Bigfoot of the Vietnam War

Paratrooper Gary Linderer deployed to Vietnam with the 101st Airborne and often went out into the jungle with a six-man Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. During one patrol, he claimed to have encountered a creature with "deep set eyes on a prominent brow… five feet tall, with long muscular arms, walking upright with broad shoulders and a heavy torso." Linderer had no idea what he saw, but he wasn't the first American to report seeing an ape-like creature while out on patrol, and he definitely wasn't the last. Some Army platoons reported coming under attack from the apes and even fighting them in hand-to-hand combat. There are no known species of apes native to Vietnam, but that didn't stop reports of large, ape-like creatures dwelling in the country's jungles during the entire Vietnam War.  US Troops Thought that They Saw Bigfoot in Vietnam Bigfoot didn't get drafted or come over to Vietnam as a figure of the American imagination, either. The Vietnamese, Cambodians and even Laos had...

read more
Mary Bowser: the Civil War’s Most Productive Spy

Mary Bowser: the Civil War’s Most Productive Spy

Espionage was big business during the American Civil War. Both sides had thousands of spies including hundreds of women. Many of the spy rings were located in each of the capital cities, Washington D. C. and Richmond, sending valuable information back to their respective governments, and each side had a number of independent spies working for them. Some of these independent spies were under contract, but others did their dangerous work out of love for their country. To be sure, it was a very dangerous business and inevitable, some were caught and often the penalty was hanging. Others were placed in prison or released. Of all these thousands of spies, there was one who many Civil War historians considered the most productive espionage agents of the entire war. Her name was Mary Bowser, a freed black slave working in the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Mary Bowser Was a Free Woman Mary Elizabeth Bowser was born in Richmond, Virginia, as a slave to John Van Lew, a wealthy...

read more
American Nurses in WWI

American Nurses in WWI

As a German plane buzzed overhead, nurse Helen Dore Boylston dropped face down in the mud. Boylston, an American nurse, serving at a British Army base hospital near the Western Front in 1918, had been running between wards of wounded patients that night, trying to calm their nerves during the air raid. Now, all she could do was brace herself for the hissing bomb that hurtled toward her. She covered her eyes and ears against the deafening roar and "blood-red flare." About a half-hour later, finally realizing she had not been hurt, Boylston stopped shaking. The Account of World War I Experience as a Nurse Boylston's vivid account of her World War I experience as a nurse, published in 1927, depicts her work with the first Harvard Unit, a U.S. medical team that treated more casualties than any other American doctors group and nurses during the conflict. In May 1917, U.S. medical teams became the first American troops to arrive in the war zone, and many remained through mid-1919. Over...

read more
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...

read more
The Death of the Red Baron

The Death of the Red Baron

In 1915, von Richthofen transferred to the Imperial German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkrafte). He studied aerial tactics under the master German strategist, Hauptman Oswald Boelcke, flying his first combat mission after less than thirty hours of flight instruction. Despite an indifferent start as a fighter pilot, he nonetheless was invited to join Boelcke's Jagdstaffel 2 squadron and soon excelled in combat following the Boelcke Dicta, which included approaching his enemy from above with the sun behind him, firing only at close range, always keeping his eyes on his target, and attacking in a group of four to six planes. The History of The Red Baron At the beginning of 1917, he had 16 confirmed kills, had been awarded Germany's highest military decoration, Pour le Merite, and was commander of a squadron, Jasta 11, of elite fighter pilots.  In April 1917 alone, he downed 22 British planes. Flying a series of Albatros aircraft, his vanity led him to have each painted red. As the...

read more
Escape from Libby Prison: The Largest Successful Prison Break of the Civil War

Escape from Libby Prison: The Largest Successful Prison Break of the Civil War

On February 9, 1864, more than 100 Union prisoners tunneled their way to freedom in an audacious escape from Libby Prison in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. More than half of the prisoners made their way to Union lines while others were recaptured and returned to the confines of Libby. Libby Prison started as an old food warehouse on Tobacco Row along the James River. Captain Luther Libby, along with his son George W. Libby, leased the three-story brick building where they operated a ship chandlery and grocery business. In 1862, the Confederacy took over the building and turned it into a prison for Union officers. Colonel Thomas E. Rose, a Union officer from the 77th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, was captured during the Battle of Chickamauga and taken to Libby Prison. He found conditions appalling and immediately started plotting his escape. He devised an ambitious plan to dig a tunnel from the cellar of the prison to a tobacco shed that stood just outside the...

read more
Where Are the Alien Bodies?

Where Are the Alien Bodies?

By now, we all know the gist of the story. An unidentified flying object crashed in the desert near Corona, New Mexico, in 1947. Military and government agents from nearby Roswell Army Air Field rushed to the site and found alien bodies hidden among the wreckage and debris. Then, they immediately covered it up and left the American public in the dark.  The Army didn't help matters any, releasing a report claiming to have captured some kind of "flying disc." It immediately retracted that claim, saying it was instead a kind of weather balloon, fuel for the conspiracy theory fire that would burn for the next 50 years.  The Government Hide the Alien Bodies Conspiracy theorists went wild in the years following the Roswell Incident. Self-proclaimed UFO-ologists claimed to have pieces of the alien wreck and claimed that at least three sets of extraterrestrial remains were found on the site. But where did the government hide the bodies? Theories pointed to one of two places. One is the...

read more
The Hero Dog Of Verdun

The Hero Dog Of Verdun

A courageous World War I war dog was widely hailed a hero, after battling bravely through no man's land to deliver a life-saving message to French troops during the Battle of Verdun in WWI. The Hero Dog Of Verdun Service The wonder dog - named, oddly enough, Satan - was assigned the dangerous task of delivering the message from French commanders that contained the words that would bring vital relief to the besieged soldiers under heavy attack by the Germans. The life-saving message read: " For God's sake hold on. We will relieve you tomorrow."  With the gas mask in place, two baskets containing carrier pigeons on his back, and a brass tube attached to his collar with the communication securely stored inside, Satan dashed determinedly towards the desperate men Employing the skills he had been trained to use, Satan zigzagged his way through a hail of bullets fired by German soldiers, whose single-minded aim was to bring him down before he could complete his mission. Despite his...

read more