Monks to Mausers

The small German town of Oberndorf am Neckar is famous for one thing: weapons. Heckler and Koch and Mauser both are headquartered there and have been for over a century. The strange thing about Mauser’s factory is what it was originally- an Augustinian monastery.

Image result for oberndorf am neckar
The town of Oberndorf am Neckar

The monastery, built in 1264, was abandoned by the 19th century as Augustinian monks were kicked out by the Duke of Wurttemburg in 1806 at the orders of Napoleon himself. In 1811, King Frederick I said that the monestary would be converted into a weapons factory since there were plenty of resources around the Black Forest town. One worker, Franz Mauser, continued to work there with his 13 children well into the mid-19th century. Wilhelm and Paul Mauser, two of Franz’s sons, began experimenting with different rifles. The two produced the M71 Mauser rifle after the Franco-Prussian War as the French Chassepot had a devastating affect on German troops. Over 99,000 rifles were ordered by the Kingdom of Wurttemburg and later 120,000 were purchased by the Serbs.

Advertisements

Wahai Mohammed!: The Red Devils’ Cry

The British Paratroopers, also known as the Red Devils, have the strange battle cry of “Wahai Mohammed!” The Arabic phrase seems odd to many. How did the Paras get it?

Image result for british paratroopers ww2
British Paratroopers in WWII

The cry originated with the 3rd Parachute Battalion during WWII during the raid on Bone, Tunisia. Allegedly, the Paras had seen an Arab man yelling to his donkey “Wahai Mohammed” to get the animal moving. The Brits took a liking to the phrase and began using it as a rallying cry. The British Paratroopers used the phrase everywhere, including during bar fights with American Airborne. Paratrooper veteran Dennis Edwards explained how “we [Paras] used to yell at the top of our voices ‘Wahai Mohammed’ and here the guys used to leave their girlfriends, whatever they were doing, leave other pubs […] and they’d all come piling in.”

 

Tootsie Roll: the United States’ Unlikely Hero

In the winter of 1950, the Korean War was in full swing as North Korean forces had been turned back from the Pusan perimeter and over the 38th parallel as US and UN forces arrived to assist the South Koreans. Douglas MacArthur sent troops ever closer to the Yalu River, the border between the Korean peninsula and China, and disobeyed President Harry S. Truman. By winter, the US forces had become bogged down as millions of Communist “volunteers” from China streamed into North Korea and hammered back an under equipped American force.

Image result for tootsie rolls 1950

At the Battle of Chosin, the Americans became surrounded and had to fight their way out in brutally freezing temperatures. US Marines of the 1st USMC Division fought bravely to escape the Communist forces surrounding them. When calling in a resupply of 60mm mortar rounds, the US airdropped something out of the ordinary to the stranded Marines: Tootsie Rolls. Why? The code name for mortar rounds was “Tootsie Roll” and a mixup in intelligence led them to believe the Marines were asking for the candy, not the ammunition.

Related image
Members of the 1st Marine Division at Chosin. Those who served there were nickamed “the Frozen Chosen.”

Surprisingly, Tootsie Rolls were a blessing for the troops. Their high sugar kept the Marines energized in the nights, and the candy didn’t freeze when kept in their coat pockets, making them one of the only things the Marines could eat.

Book Review: Malta 1940-42

Osprey Publishing have recently released their newest series- Air Campaign- which discusses some of history’s greatest air battles. This is the fourth title in the series since they released four titles early this year. The book talks about the Axis air raids on the British-controlled island of Malta. Malta, a crucial naval base for the North African Campaign, sits off the coast of Sicily and prompted Mussolini’s Air Force (Regio Aeronautica) to lead multiple assaults on the island. As years dragged on, the X and II Fliegerkorps of the Luftwaffe arrived on the scene to attempt to neutralize the Allied presence in the Mediterranean. Steady reinforcements from the British mainland helped the Allies survive in a crucial campaign for North Africa and the later campaign in Italy.

Osprey’s Newest Series: Air Campaign

Praise:

The ORBAT is really nice here with information on all of the planes used in that particular squadron. There’s a description of some of the main aircraft used which is helpful for people who aren’t very familiar with planes. There are also handy charts comparing dimensions, engines, and armament of numerous planes. The illustrations and photographs are all good, as you’d expect from Osprey

Criticism:

The maps in this book look nice, but make no sense. Some of the numbers indicating units are repeated and some are completely left out. The difference between times of maneuvers or altitude isn’t specified well and they’re just extremely confusing. It feels like this book was rushed to be printed and they missed some pretty basic errors.

Rating: 3/5

Movie Review: 7 Days in Entebbe

7 Days in Entebbe recounts the events of the 1976 Israeli Operation Thunderbolt to rescue over 100 passengers from a hijacked Air France flight. The film, directed by Jose Padilha, came to theatres in mid-March and stars Daniel Bruhl, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Marsan, and Lior Ashkenazi. I saw the movie last weekend and felt I should review it, since a lot of critics have been saying it does not live up to its expectations.

Related image
Wilfried Bose (Bruhl) and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Pike) in front of the plane at Entebbe Airport

THERE WILL BE SOME SPOILERS IN THIS POST

First, we need to know a very basic background to Operation Thunderbolt. Air France flight 139 was hijacked by members of the PFLP (People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine) on its way to Paris from Tel Aviv, Israel via Athens. Two Germans, Brigitte Kuhlmann and Wilfried Bose, assisted in the hijack. The plane was taken to Benghazi and refueled, before arriving in Entebbe, Uganda. A large portion of the passengers were Israelis, prompting worry from Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Over a period of 7 days, Israel teetered over whether to negotiate with the terrorists or not. Rabin launched Operation Thunderbolt in which Israeli commandos and IDF paratroopers landed at Entebbe and rescued the captives while killing all of the terrorists and a number of Ugandan soldiers sent by Idi Amin to help guard the airport.

Praise:

The variety of foreign languages in this film is fantastic. We hear Greek at the Athens Airport where the hijackers boarded the plane. Bose and Kuhlmann speak German throughout the film. The French pilots and stewardesses speak French. Palestinians speak Arabic. Israelis speak Hebrew. While this is not a major part of the film, it gives a great asthetic to it and helps convey the global reach of the incident. The personal motives of the terrorists are all explored separately; the Germans have their ideals, the other terrorists have theirs. The film jumps from a variety of points-of-view as we see Rabin’s, Defense Minister Shimon Peres’, and the view of an Israeli commando. This was a little confusing at parts, but the jumps back and forth help you understand each person clearly and what they feel. There is a lot of period style in this movie and everybody smokes. The font style, camera lighting, and other aspects all scream 1970s. The movie is also accurate. A British-Israeli is let off the plane after faking a miscarriage, just like in real life. The raid itself is not very long, just as it was in real life. Israeli commandos use AK-47s and -74s as they did in the actual raid. The portrayal of Idi Amin as a lunatic obsessed with hunting and saying he is sent from God is all true. The casting is also very well done, especially for Israelis. Yoni Netanyahu, elder brother of Benjamin, looks extremely similar to his real-life counterpart. Rabin and Peres are also very well casted. The emotional tension of both sides is captured in great detail in the film as well. Another thing I specifically liked was the use of newscasts and historical film blended into the movie to help demonstrate the raid better.

Related image
Israeli commandos on a practice run of the Operation in “7 Days in Entebbe”

Criticism:

There are a number of things left out of this movie, notably the rest of the Israeli paratroopers. The only troops shown are just commandos, but that makes sense since we are mostly focused on the main terminal. There is also an obsession with interpretive dance for some reason in the movie. The commando we meet, played by Ben Schnetzer, has a girlfriend who dances and there are a lot of scenes about her. I tried to find some reason for this, but I can’t really think of any good theories to say about it. At some points, I felt the movie was trying to change your opinion on the German hijackers, making them seem much more sorry for their choices. Yes, this does show we’re all human, but they did hijack an airplane and threaten to kill 106 people. It could have done a bit better of a job on the raid itself, and not put some random dancing in it, since that sorta killed the mood.

All in all, I don’t think this movie deserves the amount of criticism it gets. I really enjoyed it, and while it is not an extremely violent and explosion-filled film, it shows the abruptness of the raid itself and focuses a lot on the motivations behind each personality involved. I would highly recommend seeing it.

Rating: 4/5

 

Grenada 1983: The Overlooked Invasion

Grenada- a small island nation near Venezuela which only gained her independence in 1974. In the early 1980s, the tiny country was the subject of immense controversy after a US-led invasion and disposal of the new Cuban-supported government. Grenada was headed by Prime Minister Maurice Bishop ever since he led a revolution to establish a People’s Government. Bishop was assassinated in a military coup a week before the invasion, and the nation was thrown into disarray. The US invaded to fulfill the Truman Doctrine and prevent the USSR from building airstrips on the island, but the invasion itself gained global attention since Grenada was a former British colony.

Image result for grenada invasion
American paratroopers leading away captured Grenadans.

President Ronald Reagan ordered a force of 2,000 troops to invade the island on October 26th in what is called Operation ‘Urgent Fury’. The USSR immediately jumped in on the situation, saying the US attack was a breach of international law and an act of terrorism. Grenada’s army was small and armed with little anti-air weaponry. They had a few BTR-60 APCs but no tanks. The 82nd Airborne landed and captured a large portion of their objectives, while the 75th Rangers captured and secured a LZ. The 8th Marines Regiment attacked and captured another airport and helped the US forces claim victory on the first day of the invasion. 2 Americans were killed and another 23 were wounded.

US troops had little intelligence and had to improvise constantly in order to secure positions against the Grenadan and Cuban forces. US Navy SEALS failed to take their objectives, attacking wrong buildings and becoming mixed up due to a lack of maps. The advancing American troops had no idea of the number of forces they were facing, and assumed they were heavily outnumbered by Cuban troops.

On the 27th, the US 2/325th attacked Cuban positions at Calliste, where they managed to capture a large number of weapons. This ended the Cuban forces’ ability to counter the American invaders since a large portion of their equipment was lost. Meanwhile, US Rangers safely transported over 200 American students offshore in fear of the citizens getting killed in the fighting. Marines continued to push inland the next morning and pushed Grenadan troops back while bombing runs from planes of the USS Independence strafed the enemy positions. Missiles from the USS Clifton Sprague and support from the destroyers USS Caron, Koontz, and Moosbrugger ended the resistance from Grenadan forces. 19 Americans were killed.

Image result for grenada invasion
American MPs standing over captured weapons.

The United Kingdon, headed by Margaret Thatcher, was furious that Reagan had attacked a member of the Commonwealth without consent. Democrat members of the US Congress disagreed with Reagan. Sen. Lawton Chiles asked if the US was “looking for a war to win?” While Democrats primarily disagreed with the invasion, Republicans supported it. Senator John Tower said “the island is strategically located and a Marxist presence there is not in our national interest.” Conflict in Congress and pressure from the UK for an explanation prompted Reagan to apologize to Thatcher later as a result of miscommunication on his part. Grenada still celebrates the invasion to this day, even though most Americans don’t remember nor learn about it.

This is a list of the American servicemen who died in Grenada:

Kenneth J. Butcher                                     Mark A. Rademacher

Randy Cline                                                 Michael F. Ritz

Gary L. Epps                                                Russell L. Robinson

John P. Giguere                                           Robert R. Schamberger

Philip S. Grenier                                         Jeb F. Seagle

Kevin J. Lannon                                          J.R. Sharver

Keith J. Lucas                                              Stephen E. Slater

Keven E. Lundberg                                    Stephen L. Morris

Marlin R. Maynard