During World War II, the Submarine USS ‘Barb’ Rocketed Japan
In the closing months of World War II, heavy losses and depleted fuel stocks kept many of Japan’s remaining combat aircraft grounded and warships in port, awaiting an anticipated amphibious invasion. Starting in July 1945, Allied battleships embarked on a series of naval bombardments of coastal cities in Japan... Read more
The Lessons of the 1942 Makin Island Raid
On a stormy night, U.S. Marines set off secretly from submarines to assault a remote island base. They are led by a controversial commander with radical new ideas. And the son of the sitting U.S. president is one of his officers. The Makin raid in 1942 might seem to... Read more
When Japan Invaded America
There has been growing concern in recent years over the state of U.S. Arctic defenses. In fact, few Americans remember that Alaskan islands seized by Japanese forces remain one of the only cases in which enemy forces successfully occupied U.S. territory during the 20th century. The 13-month battle over... Read more
America’s Worst World War II Fighter Was the Star of the Soviet Air Force
The P-39 Airacobra may be the least loved American fighter plane of World War II, deemed inadequate by military planners at the outset of hostilities and written off as nearly useless by many historians. Certainly, the P-39 could not match the high-altitude performance of classic American warbirds such as... Read more
The 1937 Battle of Shanghai Was Asia’s Stalingrad
Open Road Media sponsored this post on March 23, 2016. Today Shanghai is a hub of international trade and culture and one of the world’s great cities. But in 1937, it was a battlefield. Imperial Japanese troops fought the Chinese Nationalist army in the seaside metropolis in one of... Read more
The Captain of the Carrier USS ‘Franklin’ Is a Case Study in How Not to Lead
Seldom does your humble scribe come away incensed from reading history. The saga of the World War II aircraft carrier USS Franklin constitutes an exception. We normally think of Franklin’s history as a parable about the importance of shipboard firefighting and damage control. It’s about materiel and methods, in other... Read more
‘Dunkirk’ Helped Me Understand the Terror and Confusion of War
Christopher Nolan’s war film Dunkirk took lots of things I knew about World War II and made me feel them. It’s the difference between writing down “the destroyer sank with loss of half the crew” — and being a person deep inside that ship’s bowels, having just escaped the... Read more
A Nazi War Train Hauled the Biggest Gun Ever Made
This story originally appeared on July 31, 2015. War trains dominated combat for more than 100 years. Massive railborne artillery shelled the enemy while trains unloaded troops and supplies. For a brief moment, the terrifying machines were the most powerful weapon on the battlefield. But technology advanced. Improvements to... Read more
The Third Reich’s Giant Electric Submarine Fail
This story originally appeared on April 30, 2014. On May 4, 1945 one of the most advanced submarines in the world crept up to a British Royal Navy cruiser. U-2511 was one of Germany’s new Type XXI-class “wonder” submarines, and she was hunting for Allied ships. She also represented... Read more
World War II and the F-Word
According to John Babcock, a mortarman in the U.S. Army’s 78th Infantry Division, during World War II and every war before or after, the word “fuck” “was, and still is, the most frequently used crutch-word in the military.” J. Glenn Gray, another World War II soldier, agreed. “The most... Read more
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