One of the sad truths about our little human race is that, far too often, we just don’t like each other. This goes for the little guy and heads of state equally. Of course when the latter don’t like each other, war is often the result.
We all know the famous battles glorified by history books: Gettysburg, Bunker Hill, Iwo Jima, and the like. But not all battles are created equal. Some get buried in the minds of the few who ordered it or participated in it. Not because the story isn’t interesting; it’s just that somebody up high doesn’t want you to hear about it, for one political reason or another. Luckily, we’re not those people, and we believe your fragile little mind can handle hearing stories like:
10. Canada vs Croatia
In 1993 while the former Yugoslavia disintegrated, the UN was sent into keep various ethnic groups from killing each other. A Canadian contingent found itself part of a UN force separating Croat and Serb military forces. The Croats really wanted to move the Serbs out of the area, and didn’t think much of the Canadians who were preventing them from doing it. When the Croats attacked, the resulting action was the biggest battle that Canadian troops had taken part in since the Korean War. The professionalism and ability of the Canadian forces to rout a 3-1 larger hostile force, and walk away with no fatal causalities, should have been the pride and joy of the Canadian government.
The battle should have been publicized to the world to show that UN forces were a force to be reckoned with, that couldn’t be pushed around, a force that warring parties, like rest of the squabbling groups in Yugoslavia, should respect. But the then Prime Minister of Canada, Jolly Jean Chretien, put a gag order on it for nine years, effectively covering up the engagement because the ruling party was afraid of the reaction of the Canadian public (who thought their government were a bunch peace-loving hippies and not bloodthirsty warriors) and Canada’s large Croatian community.
9. Roosevelt’s Secret War
1941 saw Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the United Kingdom fighting the Nazis alone. It wasn’t until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor that America officially entered the war. Yet months before the Pearl Harbor attack, President Franklin Roosevelt started a secret war against Nazi U-boats, in response to Germany attacking ships in the Atlantic. American ships were escorting Allied shipping in International waters. War had still not been declared between America and Germany, but a number of both US merchant and warships were attacked, and even sunk. Roosevelt had to keep it secret because there was such a powerful anti-war group, and it wasn’t until the Pearl Harbor attack that the American public would finally back going to war.
8. Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord
There is a famous quote from the Vietnam War when an American Colonel told a North Vietnamese official, Colonel Tu, “You know, you never defeated us on the battlefield.” Tu replied, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.” Revisionist commentators have used this quote to further their argument that the America military never lost a fight in Vietnam and that it was the Media who defeated the great USA. Yet the Americans did lose…often spectacularly. These battles were either not covered by the media, or the battles were covered up by the military, as in the Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord.
Ripcord was the last major battle between the North Vietnamese and the Americans. The Vietcong started a fire fight that lasted almost all of July 1970, overrunning the American base, and causing the encircled Americans to flee via a huge helicopter airlift. The operation was hidden from the public until veterans created the Ripcord Association newsletter in 1985.
7. The Utah War
In the 19th century, Mormons had migrated from the American East and set up a successful settlement in Utah. They would later join America, and allowed federal elements of the government into their colony. However not all officials were honest, and one judge pissed off the locals so much he was chased out of Salt Lake City due to his corruption.
Arriving in Washington, he managed to convince the federal government that the Mormons in Utah were in open revolt. The White House sent an army. The Utah government got word that an Army was on its way and raised a force to block this invasion. Through the ineptness of the American leader, they proceeded to lose engagement after engagement while advancing on Salt Lake City. Causalities were kept low, but the heightened tension resulted in Mormon forces killing a convoy of civilians on their way to the West Coast, as the Mormon forces thought they were American agents. The event would be remembered as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Finally, after many had died, the Mormons and Washington made peace and the whole affair was quickly brushed under the carpet.
6. 1941 Syria–Lebanon Campaign
In 1941 the Australian “Silent Seventh” Division, silent because they got little-to-no media coverage, invaded Syria and its Vichy French Forces. The Allies were worried that the Germans might use the Vichy French-controlled areas of Lebanon and Syria to attack Egypt. Vichy French had allowed Axis forces to refuel their planes, and were supplying Iraqi revolutionaries who wanted to overthrow British rule of that country and British control of its valuable oil reserves. The Allies swept through Syria, fighting Vichy resistance that killed thousands on both sides. After almost a month of intense fighting, the French commander surrendered his forces. Afraid that the Allied public would be demoralized to hear there was active fighting against French forces, censors covered up the action, and it was quickly forgotten.
5. New Year’s Day Battle of 1968
Near the Cambodian border there is a volcanic cone called Black Virgin Mountain. Throughout the war it was in a unique position where the Americans controlled the peak and the Vietcong controlled the base. Close to the mountain was the base where the American 25th Infantry Division was stationed. On January 1st, the men were reading their newly-arrived Christmas mail, when an all-out attack erupted with some 2500 NVA soldiers trying to overrun the base. In human wave attacks, they were cut down by the American defenders, but some managed to breach the perimeter. Faced with being overrun, the base commander ordered aerial and artillery strikes almost on top of the base. Future director Oliver Stone, as well as famous writer Larry Heinemann, was among the young men stationed at the base.
One month later the Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, burying any coverage of the battle. When Stone returned home, he was puzzled that the January 1st battle got no media attention and, for a long time, thought he had imagined the whole thing. It was only until he went to the 25th Division reunion that he was reassured by men in his unit that the attack had, in fact, taken place. Much of the plot of Platoon is based on this battle.
4. Battle of Hürtgen Forest
As the Allied armies advanced across Europe, the American Forces rammed smack into a huge fortified Nazi line based on German soil in the Hürtgen Forest. For months, the Americans tried to break through, and the battle became the longest one ever fought by the American Army. Trudging through the forest, advancing GIs faced a new German strategy: exploding trees. Nazi artillery had discovered that, if their shells exploded 80-100 feet off the ground, the men would be showered with deadly pieces of wood shrapnel. While American replacements streamed in they couldn’t keep up with the wounded, and often entire units were wiped out.
Over 30,000 American men died in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, but it is largely forgotten for the very reason the German refused to budge, as on December 16, 1944 the Germans launched the Ardennes Offensive from the staging area they were defending. The Ardennes Offensive, which would become known as the Battle of the Bulge, captured the world’s attention and Hürtgen was forgotten.
3. War in Tibet
Seven Years In Tibet and Brad Pitt tried to convince us that Tibet just rolled over and let the Red Chinese take over, but the Tibetans didn’t all roll over. After the Communist Invasion, there was a general uprising against the occupying forces of China. Known as Chushi Gandrug, the Tibetan resistance were trained by the CIA and waged a highly successful campaign of resistance before, by China’s sheer numbers, they were eliminated by communist Chinese forces in the 1960s.
Thousands fought in, and were killed, during this secret war. One of the biggest problems was the bravery of the Tibetan units, who often insisted on frontal charges of Chinese lines. The war was very important for America, as the Tibetan soldiers captured incredibly valuable info which they passed on to America about the Communist bloc’s nuclear and diplomatic secrets. The insurgency was covered up by the Chinese, and Americans buried it too, after Nixon tried to ally with China against the USSR.
2. Soviet–Japanese Border Wars
In 1930’s Japan, the Japanese military establishment that ruled the country were split into two camps. One wanted to expand the Japanese Empire north at the expense of the Soviets, while the other wanted to expand to the South into the Asian colonies of Europe. As Japan took over Korea and large parts of China, they began to move on land the Soviets thought was part of their sphere of interest. Border skirmishes turned into full-blown war between the Japanese Empire and the Soviets. The USSR were able, with their superior tank support and mass troop movements, to crush the out-matched Japanese.
This defeat destroyed the military clique that wanted to take on Soviets, and so the Japanese establishment turned to the south for resources and, ultimately, war against America. The Japanese covered the battle up, as their supposedly invincible army was defeated by the Soviets. The Soviets covered it up in their quest to minimize any information, even victories, emerging from the Soviet Union. It wasn’t until the end of the Cold War that Soviet accounts of the battle started to emerge.
1. The Battle of Penobscot Bay
Three years into America’s War of Independence, the State of Massachusetts had purged itself of the dreaded British Redcoats. However, in the summer of 1779, the British, in a tactical blunder, sent a small force of 700 soldiers to Penobscot Bay in order to set up a colony and harass American forces. They landed successfully and started building a fort in case the Americans tried to dislodge them.
The good citizens of Massachusetts quickly found out about this violation of their land, and sent out a mighty military force composed of over 42 ships, the largest fleet assembled in the entire Revolutionary War. The fleet sailed into the bay on July 28, 1779 and attacked! The small British naval force was quickly overwhelmed, and the only thing stopping the Americans from victory would have been a quick-armed invasion to wipe out the unfinished fort.
However, General Paul Revere (Yes THAT Paul Revere) got into an argument with the Admiral of the American fleet, Dudley Saltonstall. While the two were arguing and trying to establish who the alpha male was, the American leaders noticed that the British had completed the fort, and that now it didn’t matter as the Army couldn’t attack until it got more reinforcements. While they were waiting for more troops to storm the fort, a large British Naval Fleet arrived. The American ships panicked and tried to flee, but were blocked by the Royal Navy who, in a turkey shoot, destroyed all but ONE ship of the greatest fleet ever assembled during the entire Revolutionary War.