Archive for the ‘Military History’ Category

Oct. 18 in U.S. military history

Nicknamed “The Bone,” The B-1B can carry 75,000 lbs. of ordinance and its four engines can push the heavy bomber to Mach 1.2

1775: A small British fleet commanded by Capt. Henry Mowat bombards the town of Falmouth, Mass. (modern-day Portland, Maine), setting most of the coastal settlement on fire with incendiary cannonballs. Mowat then sends a landing party ashore to destroy any buildings that were still standing, and the “Burning of Falmouth” will provide the inspiration for the Continental Congress to establish the Continental Navy.

1917: A convoy bearing the newly created 42d “Rainbow” Infantry Division sails from Hoboken, N.J. for France. The unit consists of federalized National Guard soldiers from 26 states and the District of Colombia, and its chief-of-staff is Col. (later, five-star general) Douglas MacArthur.

1942: Adolf Hitler issues his “Commando Order”, stipulating that any captured Allied commandos – even if they are wearing uniforms – will be executed without trial. Numerous Office of Strategic Services (OSS) agents and Army Air Force pilots and crewmembers are killed because of the order, and German officers carrying out illegal executions under the Commando Order will be tried for war crimes during the Nuremberg Trials.

1943: After 11 months of intense training, the 29th Ranger Battalion (Provisional) is disbanded before the American commandos can participate in combat action. The Rangers return to their original units, bringing with them advanced skills they can share with the regular troops, like penetrating deep behind enemy lines, staging raids, and intelligence gathering.

1983: Two years after the project was revived by President Ronald Reagan, the Rockwell B-1B “Lancer” supersonic bomber makes its first flight. Originally envisioned in the 1960s to combine the speed of the B-58 “Hustler” and the payload of the B-52 “Stratofortress”, the B-1 had been cancelled in 1977 after just four swept-wing prototypes were built. Lancers, originally intended to carry nuclear payloads, would later be fitted for conventional weapons and will not see combat until the 1998 bombing of Iraq (Operation “Desert Fox”). During the War on Terror, 40 percent of the munitions dropped during the Afghanistan campaign have been delivered by B-1Bs.

Posted on October 18, 2017 at 15:03 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 16 in U.S. military history

1821: The schooner USS Enterprise (the third of 12 so-named Continental and U.S. Naval vessels) intercepts a flotilla of four ships led by the infamous Capt. Charles Gibbs as the pirates attack American and British-flagged ships in Cuban waters. Although outnumbered, Lt. Cmdr. John Kearney and his crew quickly defeat the pirate force, and Gibbs escapes into the jungles of Cuba as three of his ships are burned. Gibbs will eventually be caught and is one of the last people executed for piracy in the United States.

1859: A small party of abolitionists, led by John Brown, occupies the military arsenal at Harper’s Ferry (modern-day West Virginia), hoping to inspire a slave rebellion. However, Brown’s hoped-for uprising does not take place and local militia force the rebels into a firehouse. A company of Marines under the command of Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee is dispatched to the scene and after an unsuccessful attempt by Lt. J.E.B. Stuart to get Brown to surrender, the Marines assault the barricaded fire station and bring an end to the crisis.

1918: When all other members of his machine gun detachment are killed or wounded, Pvt. Thomas C. Neibaur foils an entire German counterattack by himself. Four enemy soldiers attempt to kill him at close quarters, but the wounded Neibaur manages to kill them, and captures another 11 with his pistol. For his actions, Pvt. Neibaur is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1942: As Japanese planes attack a ship unloading badly needed supplies for Guadalcanal’s “Cactus Air Force”, Lt. Col. Harold W. “Indian Joe” Bauer – dangerously low on fuel following a 600-mile ferry flight from Espirito Santo – single-handedly engages the enemy warplanes, shooting down one bomber, four fighters, and damaging another before running out of fuel. The commander of Marine Fighting Squadron 212 (VMF-212) is awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

1946: After nine months of trials, ten Nazi war criminals are executed by hanging, including top Wehrmacht officers Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, and SS officer Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Also sentenced is former Luftwaffe boss (and World War I fighter ace) Hermann Göring, who committed suicide the night before his execution.

1956: The Pan American airliner Clipper Sovereign Of The Skies (a Boeing 377 “Stratocruiser”, which is based off the B-29 “Superfortress” bomber) experiences failures in two of its four engines while in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a around-the-world flight and has to ditch in the water. The Coast Guard cutter USCGC Pontchartrain is only a half mile away from the crash site and rescues all passengers and crew before the plane slips under the waves after 20 minutes.

2002: Congress grants President George W. Bush the authority to use military force against Iraq, however the U.S.-led coalition will not invade Iraq until March of 2003.

Posted on October 16, 2017 at 10:20 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 12 in U.S. military history

Pres. Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Cpl. Desmond Doss on Oct. 12, 1944.

1862: Confederate cavalry commander Gen. James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart completes his “second ride” around Union Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.

1870: Five years after surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Gen. Robert E. Lee passes away after suffering a stroke. The revered general served his country 44 years, fighting alongside Grant in the Mexican-American War, and against him in the Civil War.

1944: U.S. Army Air Force 1st Lt. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager and his 357th Fighter Group surprise a flight of 22 Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters near Hanover, Germany. Yeager’s P-51D “Mustang”, named Glamorous Glenn II, Yeager will score five of the group’s eight victories – two without firing a shot – becoming an “ace in a day.” Yeager finishes World War II with 11.5 kills, and will go on to fly 127 missions during the Vietnam War. The former Army private will retire a Brigadier General in 1975, but continues flying for the Air Force and NASA.

That same day, aircraft from seven U.S. aircraft carriers of Carrier Task Force 38 attack targets on Japanese-held Formosa (modern-day Taiwan).

1945: President (and former artillery officer during World War I) Harry S. Truman awards the Medal of Honor to Cpl. Desmond Doss for saving the lives of 75 wounded soldiers on Okinawa’s Hacksaw Ridge. Since Doss was a conscientious objector, the Army made him a combat medic. Prior to his service on Okinawa, where Doss was wounded four times, he also saw action on Guam and the Philippines, where he earned two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor device.

1954: World War II ace, now chief test pilot for North American Aviation, George S. Welch dies when his F-100 “Super Sabre” disintegrates during testing. An Army Air Force pilot with 16 victories during World War II, Welch was one of two pilots able to get airborne and engage Japanese aircraft during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his actions on December 7th, but having taken off without orders, he only receives the Distinguished Flying Cross. While serving as an instructor and test pilot for North American during the Korean War, he reportedly shot down several MiG-15 aircraft, but again did so against orders, so he did not receive credit for the kills.

2000: While the destroyer USS Cole stops to refuel in Yemen, two suicide bombers ram an explosive-laden fiberglass boat into the warship, blowing a massive hole in the side of Cole, claiming the lives of 17 U.S. sailors and injures another 39.

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 10:20 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 11 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1st Lt. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (with pipe) in Nicaragua, 1931

1939: A letter written by Hungarian-born physicist Leo Szilard, and signed by Albert Einstein, reaches President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning that the Germans could develop an atomic weapon and that the United States should begin their own nuclear research. Roosevelt quickly authorizes a committee on uranium, setting in motion what will eventually become the Manhattan Project.

1942: U.S. Naval forces under the command of Rear Admiral Norman Scott intercept a Japanese fleet, commanded by Rear Adm. Aritomo Gotō, attempting to reinforce troops on Guadalcanal in the Battle of Cape Esperance. Fighting begins shortly before midnight off the northwest coast of the island when the Japanese are caught by surprise. The heavy cruiser Furutaka and destroyer Fubuki are sunk during the gun battle, and Adm. Gotō is mortally wounded. Planes from Henderson Field strike the retreating Japanese fleet the next morning and sink two additional Japanese destroyers the following day. Japanese sailors who jumped overboard refuse to be rescued by American ships, instead choosing to remain in the shark-infested waters.

1945: Marines of the III Amphibious Corps land in China to assist in repatriating hundreds of thousands of Japanese and Koreans and to protect American lives and property. By the time the Marines depart China the following year, 35 have been killed and 43 wounded in clashes with Mao Zedong’s Communist forces.

1968: Astronauts Walter M. Schirra (Capt., USN), Donn F. Eisele (Col., USAF), and Walter Cunningham (Col. USMCR ) blast off aboard Apollo 7. The crew, commanded by Schirra, would orbit the Earth for 11 days and transmit the first live television broadcasts from orbit.

1971: Marine legend Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, the highest decorated Marine in history, passes away. Among his numerous decorations, Puller earned the nation’s second-highest award for valor (five Navy Crosses and a Distinguished Service Cross) six times – second only to Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s top flying ace of World War II. The 37-year veteran served in the Nicaraguan and Haitian campaigns, as well as World War I and the Korean War.

Posted on October 11, 2017 at 18:30 by Chris Carter · Permalink · One Comment
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Oct. 10 in U.S. military history

A U.S. Air Force Sikorsky SH-19B helicopter from the 3rd Air Rescue Group, hoisting USAF Capt. Joseph McConnell – America’s top jet ace – from the Yellow sea off Korea on Apr. 12, 1953.

1845: Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft founds the Naval School in Annapolis, Md. – later renamed the U.S. Naval Academy. The nation’s second-oldest service academy (the U.S. Military Academy was established by Thomas Jefferson in 1802) is built on the grounds of Fort Severn, which traces its roots to the American Revolution.

1944: Although assigned as a gunnery instructor and advised not to actively seek out combat, Maj. Richard I. Bong, America’s all-time leading ace, volunteers for several missions between Oct. 10 and Nov. 11, shooting down eight Japanese warplanes from his P-38 “Lightning” fighter. For his actions during this period, Bong is awarded the Medal of Honor. After scoring his 40th victory, Bong is sent back to the states where he becomes a test pilot. He will perish just before the Japanese surrender, when his P-80 “Shooting Star” jet fighter malfunctions and crashes in California.

1950: As the 1st Cavalry Division begins crossing the 38th Parallel near Kaesong, helicopter crews with the 3rd Air Rescue Squadron apply plasma to a rescued pilot for the first time as they return to base. During the Korean War, members of the Air Force’s 3rd Air Rescue Group will rescue thousands of downed aviators.

1985: After Palestine Liberation Front terrorists – part of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization – take over the Italian-flagged cruise liner MS Achille Lauro, U.S. Navy F-14 “Tomcats” intercept a Boeing 737 passenger jet carrying the terrorists to Tunisia, forcing the jet to land at a NATO airbase on Sigonella, Sicily. Once on the ground, the terrorists are brought to custody following a five-hour jurisdictional standoff between an 80-man group of Delta Force and SEAL Team SIX commandos and hundreds of Italian military police.

Posted on October 10, 2017 at 09:58 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 6 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Soldiers of the 77th Division parade through New York City on Feb. 22, 1918, to mark George Washington’s Birthday. The division was nicknamed the “Metropolitan” Division because the bulk of its soldiers came from New York. On March 27, 1918, the division shipped out for France. (Library of Congress photo)

1777: Near what will soon become the United States Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.), British troops simultaneously attack – and defeat – Continental forces at Forts Clinton and Montgomery, and also destroy the chain that had been placed across the Hudson River to prevent British ships from sailing upriver. The engagement is sometimes called the Battle of the Clintons since the British troops are led by Gen. Sir Henry Clinton, and the garrisons are led by Gens. (and brothers) James Clinton and George Clinton – who is also the governor or New York.

1918: 500 men of the 77th “Metropolitan” Division under the command of Maj. Charles W. Whittlesey have been surrounded by German forces after the French and American units advancing on their flanks have been held up. With no communication other than carrier pidgeons and no other means to send supplies, 1st Lt. Harold E. “Dad” Goettler and 2nd Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley volunteer to fly through withering enemy fire to drop much-needed supplies to the “Lost Battalion” in a DH-4 “Liberty Plane.” On their second trip, both airmen are killed, and will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor – America’s highest award for combat valor.

Also killed while attempting to locate the force is Capt. Eddie Grant, the former leadoff hitter and third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. Grant was one of the first baseball players to join the Armed Forces during World War I. All but 194 members of the Lost Battalion are killed, wounded, or captured, and five 77th Division soldiers – including Whittlesey – will earn the Medal of Honor during the six-day engagement.

1942: Five battalions of Marines, supported a group of scout snipers, cross Guadalcanal’s heavily defended Matanikau River and engage the Japanese. Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller’s battalion traps a Japanese battalion in a ravine, creating what he called a “machine for extermination,” when heavy artillery, mortar fire, and small arms annihilates the enemy. The operation plays a major role in the American victory on Guadalcanal, when Japanese planners opt for an exhausting overland march for their major offensive against Lunga Point later in the month, instead of crossing the Matanikau.

1993: Three days after leading an assault at the Bakaara Market in the bloody Battle of Mogadishu, Delta Force’s Sgt. 1st Class Matt Rierson is killed by enemy mortar fire at the Mogadishu airport. 12 other soldiers are wounded in the attack. Another two soldiers are wounded during a mission to reach one of the downed Black Hawks.

Posted on October 6, 2017 at 17:29 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 4 in U.S. military history

Before becoming a CIA station chief, Buckley served in the Special Forces during Vietnam and was a company commander in the 1st Cavalry Division during the Korean War

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1777: A week after losing Philadelphia to the British, Gen. George Washington decides to surprise Gen. Sir William Howe’s force encamped at Germantown (Pa.). 11,000 Continental troops and militia have marched 16 miles through the night, and begin their assault at 5:30 a.m.. Although initially successful, heavy fog, insufficiently trained troops, and stiff British resistance unravel Washington’s coordinated assault and the attack falls apart. Washington’s army suffers over 1,000 casualties and will have to spend the winter at Valley Forge.

1822: Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States, is born in Delaware, Oh.. Despite having no military background, Hayes will be appointed Major in the 23rd Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The talented officer will be wounded five times during the Civil War, ultimately reaching the rank of Brevet Major General. Also serving in the 23rd Regiment is Pvt. – and future Pres. – William McKinley.

1918: An explosion at the T. A. Gillespie Co. Shell Loading Plant in Sayreville, N.J. ignites a fire, leading to several more explosions that will last for three days. 300 buildings are destroyed, 100 people are killed, and hundreds are wounded. The plant is said to have on hand enough ammunition to supply the Western Front for six months. 12 Coast Guardsmen will be awarded the Navy Cross for their actions during the incident, and two will perish.

1943: USS Ranger conducts the only American carrier operation in the northern Atlantic, when its Dauntless and Avenger crews attack a German convoy near Bod, Norway, sinking or damaging ten enemy vessels.

1985: The terrorist group Hezbollah announces that they have executed former CIA Beirut station chief William F. Buckley. Buckley, a former Special Forces Lt. Col. and veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, had been held captive for over 14 months.

Posted on October 4, 2017 at 12:04 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Today in U.S. military history: Wally Schirra’s ride, and Black Hawk Down

Cmdr. “Wally” Schirra

1794: President George Washington calls on the governors of Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia to mobilize troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Washington himself will lead the army – the only time a sitting president commands troops in the field. Henry “Light Horse” Lee, veteran of the American Revolution and father of Confederate general Robert E. Lee will also lead troops, and also participating in the campaign is Pvt. Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

1912: Four Marine battalions – including one led by Maj. Smedley Butler – converge and assault the fortress atop the 500-ft. Coyotepe Hill. Nicaraguan rebel commander Gen. Benjamin Zeledón is killed during the battle, and the rebellion effectively ends once the Marines capture the city of León in two days.

Butler, a veteran of the Boxer Rebellion, Banana Wars, Mexican Revolution, and World War I, is the only Marine in history to be awarded two Medal of Honors and the Marine Corps Brevet Medal. His Medal of Honor citations can be read here: 1st award / 2nd award

1950: Major League Baseball rules that Philadelphia Phillies’ 17-game winner Curt Simmons, who had been drafted by the Army for service during the Korean War, would not be eligible to pitch in the World Series, despite the fact that he was on furlough.

1962: Cmdr. Walter M. “Wally” Schirra, Jr. (USN) becomes the fifth American in space when he orbits the earth six times in his Sigma 7 capsule. After a nine-hour flight, he splashes down just half a mile from the recovery ship USS Kearsarge (CVS-33), joking that his target was the carrier’s “number three elevator.”

1993: Special operations forces board several Army Black Hawk helicopters and set out to capture the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The snatch-and-grab operation was supposed to take only one hour, but when a rocket-propelled-grenade takes out one of the helicopters, Operation “Gothic Serpent” begins to spin out of control. As the vehicle convoy, originally intended to haul the captured leaders of the Habr Gidr clan, races through barricaded streets to establish a security perimeter around the first Black Hawk, another Black Hawk is shot down.

With resources stretched to the maximum and the vehicle convoy unable to reach the crash sites, Delta Force snipers Master Sgt. Gary I. Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall D. Shughart volunteer to land and provide cover fire for the second downed helicopter. Both are overrun and killed while protecting the four wounded crew members in the face of overwhelming numbers, and will be awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Maj. Gen. William F. Garrison assembles a quick reaction force of 100 UN and 10th Mountain Division vehicles as the task force battles through the night. 19 American service members will be killed and 73 wounded during the intense urban combat of the Battle of Mogadishu. Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Durant, one of the downed Black Hawk pilots, is captured and held as a prisoner for 11 days.

2010: 92 years after the end of World War I, Germany makes its last reparation payment demanded by the Treaty of Versailles.

Posted on October 3, 2017 at 10:39 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Today in Medal of Honor history

On Oct. 2, 1969, Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Novosel gets the call that a team of South Vietnamese are pinned down in Vietnam’s Kien Tuong Province, and the medevac pilot heads to the rescue. As he circles overhead to rally the beleaguered troops while they prepared to be lifted out, enemy fire is so intense that his helicopter is driven away six times. Undeterred, Novosel – who would be wounded by close-range automatic weapons fire during the daring mission – performed 15 extractions under fire, saving 29 soldiers.

This was Novosel’s second tour flying medevac helicopters in Vietnam. The “Dean of the Dust-Offers” flew an amazing 2,543 missions, rescuing 5,589 personnel. He had flown B-29s during World War II, and also served during Korea. By the time Novosel retired in 1985, he was the last World War II aviator still on active duty. His son also flew medevac choppers, and both father and son would take turns rescuing each other during the Vietnam War.

Novosel’s full Medal of Honor citation can be read here

On Oct. 2, 1952, Private First Class Jack W. Kelso’s platoon is hit by a heavy enemy assault that takes both the platoon commander and platoon sergeant out of action. Kelso exposes himself to enemy small arms and mortar fire, attempting to rally his fellow Marines. Met by a hail of fire, he seeks cover in a bunker, which is quickly targeted by an enemy grenade. Kelso picks up the grenade and moves to an exposed position to throw it back at the enemy when it goes off after leaving his hand – peppering Kelso with shrapnel. Instead of remaining in the bunker, the mortally wounded Kelso opts to expose himself to the withering fire and provide cover fire while his men move to another position.

Kelso’s full Medal of Honor citation can be read here

On this date 73 years ago, as the 85th Infantry Division fights their way across Italy, Sgt. Christos H. Karaberis’ platoon was pinned down by enemy fire. Karaberis – who changed his name to Chris Carr following the war – crept to the rear of an enemy machine gun position. Leaping forward and shooting his submachine gun into the position, he caught the occupants by surprise – capturing eight enemy soldiers. Carr moved on to the next position – this time maneuvering to avoid enemy fire – killing four soldiers and capturing another. Carr then moved against a third machine gun position, forcing the enemy troops to surrender. Incredibly, Carr would charge two more positions, bringing his total to five machine gun nests, killing eight enemy soldiers, and capturing 22.

Carr’s full Medal of Honor citation can be read here

Posted on October 2, 2017 at 10:28 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 29 in U.S. military history

2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr. in front of his SPAD XIII fighter, near Verdun, France on Sept. 19, 1918 (Photograph by Lt. Harry S. Drucker, Signal Corps, United States Army)

1909: Construction begins on the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. when President (and former commander of the “Rough Riders”) Theodore Roosevelt lays the cornerstone. 81 years later – to the day – work on the church is completed when the “final finial” is placed with Pres. (and former World War II torpedo bomber pilot) George H.W. Bush in attendance.

1918: During the opening days of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a battalion of African-American soldiers serving under French command secures Sechault, France, but is quickly surrounded when the French units on their flanks retreat. German troops surround the “Hell Fighters from Harlem”, as the Americans hold their ground through the night despite numerous assaults and artillery barrage that devastates the town.

Once relief arrives, the former members of the 15th New York Infantry have nearly exhausted their supplies, and have suffered 982 casualties. One officer receives the Medal of Honor, two soldiers will earn the Legion of Honor (France’s highest award for valor), and another 100 are decorated for valor.

That same day, 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr. takes to the skies on a voluntary patrol, shooting down four German observation balloons despite hot pursuit by eight enemy fighters. Luke exposes himself to additional ground fire when he strafes German troop positions, crippling his SPAD XIII warplane. The fate of America’s second-leading ace of the war remained a mystery until after the armistice, when America learns that Luke pulled out his pistol after crash-landing and the wounded pilot fought off approaching German infantry until he was finally killed.

Luke, whom America’s top ace Eddie Rickenbacker described as “the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war,” shot down an incredible 14 enemy aircraft in ten days – a feat surpassing all aviators during the war. Luke is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, and Arizona’s Luke Air Force Base is named in his honor.

1941: Outside of Kiev, Ukraine, German SS troops massacre 33,371 Jews in just two days at the Bibi Yar ravine. The captives are driven from town, stripped, and forced to lay down on the pile of corpses when they are systematically shot in the back of the neck by a submachine gun.

1942: Three new U.S. fighter squadrons are formed, consisting of American pilots that had crossed into Canada to join the war in Europe. The aviators had previously flown for the Royal Air Force, under English squadron commanders, until rejoining the Army Air Forces.

1946: A Lockheed P2V “Neptune” patrol aircraft takes off from Perth, Australia for a non-stop, unrefueled flight to the United States. The Truculent Turtle manages to cover 11,235 miles, in 55 hours and 17 minutes – setting a record that will stand until 1962.

1990: The YF-22, predecessor for the F-22 “Raptor” makes its first flight. Although slower and less stealthy than Northrop’s YF-23, the jointly produced Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics YF-22 is far more agile, and will soon win the Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter competition.

Posted on September 29, 2017 at 08:38 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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