Navy SEALs: 10 Key Missions – History

Though President John F. Kennedy founded the first Navy SEAL teams in the early 1960s, the origins of Naval Special Warfare can be traced back even further, to the middle of World War II. Predecessors of today’s Navy SEALs—including Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) and Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs)—played crucial roles in both Europe and the Pacific. After the Vietnam War, which forged the SEALs’ battle skills and reputation, they adapted to confront a new era of more limited wars, hostage rescue operations and the rise of global terrorism. From World War II to today, here are 10 of the most memorable missions taken on by one of the most admired—and feared—elite special operations forces in the world.

D-Day Landings – 1944

On June 6, 1944, some 175 members of Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs)— predecessors of the Navy SEALS–were among the first invading forces to arrive on the beaches of Normandy. Approaching under heavy German fire, the demolitionists used explosives to clear the way for the massive invasion of some 5,000 vessels, 11,000 planes and more than 150,000 Allied soldiers and sailors. The NCDUs at Omaha Beach were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, one of only three presented for military actions at Normandy. Of the NCDU personnel on Omaha and Utah Beaches, a total of 37 were killed and 71 wounded; all casualties were the result of enemy action, not mishandling of the explosives. This 52 percent casualty rate represented the bloodiest single day in the history of Naval Special Warfare.

Invasion of Okinawa – 1945

After the loss of more than 3,000 Marines in the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943, the U.S. military turned to the Navy’s special operations forces to gather intelligence and navigate the islands of the South Pacific ahead of Allied invasions. Before the invasion of Okinawa on April 1, 1945, the crucial last step in the Allies’ island-hopping campaign toward mainland Japan, nearly 1,000 members of the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) performed reconnaissance, surveyed and cleared the beaches for the landing of some 450,000 U.S. Army and Marine forces. In all, some 3,500 UDT “frogmen” served during World War II, taking part in almost every major amphibious operation in the Pacific; a total of 83 were killed. The UDTs were one of the most heavily decorated combat units in the war, earning 750 Bronze Stars, 150 Silver Stars, one Navy Cross and several Presidential Unit Citations.

Vietnam War – 1965-72

During the Vietnam War, the newly created SEAL teams—called SEALs for their ability to operate in the environments of Sea, Air and Land—were initially tasked with training indigenous South Vietnamese forces to operate as maritime commandos. Later in the conflict, 12-men SEAL platoons rotated in and out of deployment in South Vietnam, honing their battle skills and launching their reputation as an elite special ops force. They often operated at night, deploying from boats and helicopters to carry out short direct-action missions like ambushes, hit-and-run raids, personnel recovery, intelligence collection and reconnaissance patrols. The Viet Cong dubbed the fearsome SEALs the “men with green faces” for the camouflage face paint they favored.

SEAL members training for a beach assault. (Credit: U.S. Department of Defense)
SEAL members training for a beach assault. (Credit: U.S. Department of Defense)

Invasion of Grenada – 1983

Growing tensions between the United States and Grenada boiled over in late 1983, when President Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. forces to invade the tiny Caribbean island-nation and overthrow its new hard-line communist government. Operation Urgent Fury, as it was officially known, marked the first time Navy SEALs had seen combat since Vietnam. SEALs provided pre-assault reconnaissance during the invasion and successfully rescued and evacuated Sir Paul Scoon, Grenada’s governor general, who had been placed on house arrest after he invited the United States and other Caribbean nations to intervene militarily. One group of SEALs tasked with capturing the island’s only radio tower narrowly avoided disaster after communication failures left them holed up and under heavy attack from Cuban and Grenadian forces. After destroying the tower and fighting their way to the water, they managed to swim to the open sea, where they were picked up several hours later by a reconnaissance plane.

Capture and arrest of Manuel Noriega – 1989

Six years after the invasion of Grenada, the SEALs were called into action in another Caribbean nation: Panama. Not only had the country’s president, Manuel Noriega, been indicted on drug trafficking charges in the United States, but his security forces were accused of harassing American citizens living in Panama. In December 1989, President George Bush launched Operation Just Cause, aimed at deposing Noriega and bringing him to justice. A SEAL mission to disable Noriega’s Learjet at Paitilla Airfield to prevent him from escaping succeeded at a heavy cost, as four SEALs were killed and eight wounded. Eventually, several SEAL platoons tracked down and surrounded Noriega, who had taken refuge in the Vatican embassy in Panama City, before he ultimately surrendered on January 3, 1990.

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm – 1991

When Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the Navy SEALs—along with the rest of the U.S. military—faced their first large-scale conflict since Vietnam. During the buildup to the first Gulf War, SEALs performed key reconnaissance along the Kuwaiti coastline. With the international coalition’s ground operations set to begin in early 1991, SEAL operators planted explosives on the coast that, when detonated, convinced the Iraqi defenders that an amphibious landing was imminent. The Iraqis committed more forces to the coast, making them more vulnerable to the subsequent thrust into central Kuwait by the U.S. Marine Corps.

Operation Red Wings – 2005

On June 28, 2005, a four-man SEAL patrol on a mission to capture a high-ranking Taliban leader in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province crossed paths with several local goatherders. After determining they were not enemy combatants, the SEALs let them go according to the rules of engagement. All too soon, however, Taliban fighters attacked the patrol; three of the four SEALs were killed, while the fourth, Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, was left unconscious and seriously wounded. (Luttrell was later rescued, and would write about the mission in his best-selling memoir “Lone Survivor.”) Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions trying to save his team, and the two other SEALs killed in the firefight weren’t the only casualties of the day: Eight SEALs and eight members of the Army’s 160th Special Forces Operations Regiment (SOAR) deployed to rescue Murphy’s team also died when the enemy shot down their Chinook helicopter.

U.S. Marines and Navy SEALs debrief during a joint visit, board, search and seizure exercise as part of composite training in the Atlantic Ocean, July 20, 2015. (Credit: Cpl. Andre Dakis/26th MEU Combat Camera/Released)
U.S. Marines and Navy SEALs debrief during a joint visit, board, search and seizure exercise as part of composite training in the Atlantic Ocean, July 20, 2015. (Credit: Cpl. Andre Dakis/26th MEU Combat Camera/Released)

Rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates – 2009

Among the best-known SEAL successes of recent years was the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, master of the merchant ship MV Maersk Alabama, after four Somali pirates took him hostage in April 2009. Three of the pirates fled the ship in a small lifeboat with Phillips and headed for the Somali coast, with U.S. Navy ships in pursuit. During the standoff that followed, a contingent of Navy SEALs parachuted into the area and boarded the destroyer USS Bainbridge. On Easter Sunday, April 12, when it looked as if the pirates were about to shoot Phillips, the crisis came to a dramatic end. Three SEAL snipers on the fantail of the Bainbridge aimed and squeezed their triggers simultaneously, killing all three pirates in the bobbing lifeboat some 90 feet away. Details of the hostage rescue were later made public, and the events would later be depicted on the big screen in the hit movie “Captain Phillips,” starring Tom Hanks.

Killing of Osama bin Laden (Operation Neptune Spear) – 2011

The 10-year manhunt for the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks concluded on May 2, 2011, when helicopters from the Army’s SOAR (Airborne) deposited some two dozen SEALs, along with a Pashto translator and a Belgian Malinois combat dog, at the compound of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. After methodically clearing the first and second floors of the compound, the SEALs advanced to the third floor, where they found the Al Qaeda leader and killed him. In addition to bin Laden, several other adults were killed in the raid, but some dozen children in the compound were left unharmed. The entire operation took less than 40 minutes. Like the snipers who took out Phillips’ captors, the SEALs who killed bin Laden were reportedly operators from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), better known as Team Six. When their involvement later became public, the SEALs and particularly Team Six became the subject of global fascination, as the elite fighters who pulled off the highest-profile special ops raid in history.

Rescue of aid workers in Somalia – 2012

American aid worker Jessica Buchanan and her Danish colleague, Poul Thisted, were working for a nongovernmental organization called the Danish Relief Council when they were kidnapped in late 2011 and held for three months by armed men near the town of Adado in north-central Somalia. On the night of January 25, 2012, an Air Force Special Operations plane carried around two dozen operators—mostly from DEVGRU—to a location about two miles from where the hostages were being held. After parachuting down and walking through darkness to the camp, the SEALs managed to surprise the kidnappers, killing all nine of them within minutes. Buchanan and Thisted were evacuated in helicopters to an American base in Djibouti, where they received medical treatment. Buchanan later chronicled the experience in her book “Impossible Odds,” describing the moment on the helicopter when one of her rescuers handed her a folded American flag. “I just started to cry,” she wrote. “At that point in time I have never in my life been so proud and so very happy to be an American.”

Inspired by real SEAL Team Six missions. SIX premieres Wednesday, January 18, at 10/9c.

10 Things You May Not Know About the Harlem Globetrotters – History

The exact beginnings of the Harlem Globetrotters are uncertain, although the team considers that their first-ever road game took place on January 7, 1927, in Hinckley, Illinois. Over the past nine decades, the hoopsters have entertained 144 million fans in more than 100 countries with their comedy routines and basketball skills. Explore 10 surprising facts about the world-famous barnstorming basketball team.

The Harlem Globetrotters originated in Chicago.

Members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. (Credit: David Reed)
Members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. (Credit: David Reed)

In spite of the team’s name, the squad was born 800 miles west of Harlem in the south side of Chicago. In 1926, a group of former basketball players from Chicago’s Wendell Phillips High School reunited to play for the Giles Post American Legion basketball team that barnstormed around the Midwest. The following year, the team became known as the Savoy Big Five while playing home games as pre-dance entertainment at Chicago’s newly opened Savoy Ballroom. After a pay dispute, several players bolted the Savoy Big Five in 1928 to form a new barnstorming team known as the Globe Trotters.

A white Jewish immigrant gave the team its name.

Professional basketball executive Abe Saperstein. (Credit: Public Domain)
Professional basketball executive Abe Saperstein. (Credit: Public Domain)

Abe Saperstein from Chicago’s north side became the manager of the newly formed Globe Trotters. A master promoter, Saperstein re-christened the team as the New York Harlem Globe Trotters in the belief that the name would make the team a greater draw in Illinois and Iowa by giving the impression that they had traveled far to be there. The shortest member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Saperstein also thought that attaching Harlem to the squad’s name would help advertise it as an all-black basketball team at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Not until 1968 did the team actually play a game in Harlem.

The Harlem Globetrotters played serious basketball in their early decades.

Composite of five photographs of some members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, 1931. (Credit: Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)
Composite of five photographs of some members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, 1931. (Credit: Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)

Although now known primarily for their on-court antics, the Globetrotters played straight-up basketball games at their outset. The team lost the national championship game in 1939 to another all-black team, the New York Renaissance, but defeated the Chicago Bruins to capture the prestigious World Professional Basketball Tournament the following year. The Globetrotters didn’t start to incorporate ball tricks and dribbling exhibitions into their games until the late 1930s. In 1948, the Globetrotters shocked the basketball world by defeating the Minneapolis Lakers, champions of the all-white National Basketball League, the precursor to the National Basketball Association (NBA). The following year, they proved it was no fluke by beating the Lakers again.

The NBA’s first African American players were Harlem Globetrotters.

Nat Sweetwater Clifton, of the New York Knickerbockers, holding a basketball in each hand. (Credit: Bettmann / Contributor)
Nat Sweetwater Clifton, of the New York Knickerbockers, holding a basketball in each hand. (Credit: Bettmann / Contributor)

The victories by the Globetrotters over the Lakers demonstrated the talent of African American basketball players at a time when the NBA, unlike professional baseball and football, had yet to integrate. That changed in May 1950 when the Globetrotters’ Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton became the first African American player to sign a contract with an NBA team by inking a deal with the New York Knicks. Earl Lloyd and Chuck Cooper, who also broke the color barrier in 1950, had also played briefly with the Globetrotters.

Wilt Chamberlain began his professional career with the team.

Wilt Chamberlain. (Credit: Underwood Archives / Contributor)
Wilt Chamberlain. (Credit: Underwood Archives / Contributor)

One of the greatest basketball players of all-time, the seven-foot, one-inch Chamberlain signed a one-year contract with the Globetrotters reported to be worth $50,000 after leaving the University of Kansas in 1958 following his junior year. Chamberlain often said the year he spent with the Globetrotters was the most enjoyable of his career. He joined the team on an historic 1959 tour of the Soviet Union during which he shook hands with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. He was the first Harlem Globetrotter to have his number retired.

The Harlem Globetrotters helped keep the fledgling NBA afloat.

Chriss 'Ace' Jackson  of the Harlem Globetrotters spin the ball on her finger before an exhibition game against the World All-Stars at Arena on June 2, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary. (Credit: Arpad Kurucz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Chriss ‘Ace’ Jackson of the Harlem Globetrotters spin the ball on her finger before an exhibition game against the World All-Stars at Arena on June 2, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary. (Credit: Arpad Kurucz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

While the Globetrotters played to sellout crowds in the early 1950s, the newly formed NBA struggled to draw more than a few thousand fans to its games. To drum up interest in the new league, NBA teams scheduled doubleheaders that featured the Globetrotters. As the NBA grew in stature, it could pay higher salaries than the Globetrotters, and the best African American players began to opt for the NBA.

Three Baseball Hall of Famers played for the team.

Carde 'Rocket' Pennington of Harlem Globetrotters dunks the ball during the exhibition game between Harlem Globetrotters and World All-Stars at Laszlo Papp Budapest Arena on June 2, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary. (Credit: Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images)
Carde ‘Rocket’ Pennington of Harlem Globetrotters dunks the ball during the exhibition game between Harlem Globetrotters and World All-Stars at Laszlo Papp Budapest Arena on June 2, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary. (Credit: Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images)

In addition to the hardwood legends who played for the Harlem Globetrotters, so did three diamond gods enshrined in Cooperstown. After signing with the St. Louis Cardinals, pitcher Bob Gibson spent late 1957 playing with the Globetrotters and rooming with Basketball Hall of Famer Meadowlark Lemon until the baseball club reportedly offered him more money to focus strictly on baseball. Even after winning 20 games for the Chicago Cubs, pitcher Ferguson Jenkins suited up for the Globetrotters during the off-seasons from 1967 to 1969. After winning a World Series title in 1967 with the Cardinals, speedster Lou Brock also played a handful games for the court jesters.

They have lost to the Washington Generals.

Members of the Harlem Globetrotters arrive before an exhibition game against the World All-Stars at Arena on June 2, 2016 in Budapest,Hungary. (Credit: Arpad Kurucz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Members of the Harlem Globetrotters arrive before an exhibition game against the World All-Stars at Arena on June 2, 2016 in Budapest,Hungary. (Credit: Arpad Kurucz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

When it became more difficult for the Globetrotters to find opponents as they barnstormed the country, Saperstein in 1953 asked Red Klotz, the coach and manager of the Philadelphia Sphas, to tour as the Globetrotters’ foils. The Sphas had beaten the Globetrotters on several occasions in prior years, but that would hardly be the case with Klotz’s new squad, which he rebranded the Washington Generals. Although the team took on various identities such as the Boston Shamrocks, New Jersey Reds and Atlantic City Seagulls, the players—and the losing—remained the same. It’s estimated the Generals dropped more than 16,000 games to the Globetrotters, but in one shining moment on January 5, 1971, the 50-year-old Klotz, who was a player-coach, drained a last-second bucket to beat the Globetrotters in Martin, Tennessee. Lacking champagne, the Generals poured orange soda on their coach in the locker room. “Beating the Globetrotters is like shooting Santa Claus,” Klotz was quoted as saying of the monumental victory.

The team once had a one-armed star.

Members of the Globetrotters basketball team are shown arriving in New York aboard the liner Mauretania. From top to bottom are: Louis Pressly; William "Rookie" Brown; Boyd Buie; Reece "Goose" Tatum; Frank Washington; Markus Haynes; Sammy Quee; Clarence Wilson; and (in front) manager Winfield Welch. (Credit: Bettmann / Contributor)
Members of the Globetrotters basketball team are shown arriving in New York aboard the liner Mauretania. From top to bottom are: Louis Pressly; William “Rookie” Brown; Boyd Buie; Reece “Goose” Tatum; Frank Washington; Markus Haynes; Sammy Quee; Clarence Wilson; and (in front) manager Winfield Welch. (Credit: Bettmann / Contributor)

In 1946, Boid Buie joined the Harlem Globetrotters as one of the new crop of rookies. Buie was an amazing talent considering he had lost his left arm in an automobile accident as a teenager. He overcame his handicap to star at Tennessee State and serve as captain his senior year. As a nine-year member of the Globetrotters, Buie averaged double-digits in scoring.

The Harlem Globetrotters have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The Harlem Globetrotters star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California. (Credit: Alphotographic/
The Harlem Globetrotters star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California. (Credit: Alphotographic/

The Harlem Globetrotters proved to be entertainers off the court as well, starring in two 1950s Hollywood movies, including “Go Man Go” featuring Sidney Poitier. In the 1970s they became Saturday morning television regulars, appearing in two different animated series created by Hanna-Barbera and the “Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine,” a 1974 live-action variety show. The team also solved mysteries with Scooby-Doo and played a team of robots after crash-landing on Gilligan’s Island. In recognition of their role as entertainers, the Harlem Globetrotters received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1982.

The Soviet Union’s Final Hours – History

Born in a bloody revolution and coming of age amid horrific purges, the Soviet Union died surprisingly peacefully 25 years ago. With a 10-minute speech and a tug on a flagpole, one of the most powerful empires in world history came to an end and dissolved into 15 independent states.

By December 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev was a president without a country. Three of the Soviet Union’s 15 republics had already declared independence, and days earlier the leaders of 11 others agreed to leave the USSR to form the Commonwealth of Independent States. Once the republic leaders signed the Soviet Union’s virtual death warrant, all that was left was for Gorbachev to pull the plug.

So in a 10-minute televised speech on the night of December 25, a weary Gorbachev addressed a nation that no longer existed. He announced the dissolution of the Soviet Union and his resignation as its eighth and final leader.

The Soviet Union was dead at 69.

Five years after revolutionary Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian czar and established a socialist state, Russia joined with its neighbors on December 30, 1922, to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics under its first leader, Vladimir Lenin. The communist power had been on its sickbed for several years when the 54-year-old Gorbachev came to power in 1985. Hidden behind the Iron Curtain was a decaying empire with a stagnant economy that had fallen behind the West.

Mikhail gorbachev airs about his resignation, december 27, 1991. (Credit: Sovfoto/UIG/Getty Images)
Mikhail gorbachev airs about his resignation, december 27, 1991. (Credit: Sovfoto/UIG/Getty Images)

Gorbachev believed reform was necessary for survival, and he brought desperate actions to the desperate times. He ushered in political openness (“glasnost”), which brought new freedoms and democratic elections, and perestroika (“economic restructuring”), which loosened government control on the Soviet economy and permitted limited private enterprise. The changes made Gorbachev popular abroad, but opinions of him fell at home as the USSR struggled through the transformation.

The reforms enacted by Gorbachev set the stage for a series of mostly bloodless revolutions that swept through the Soviet satellite countries of Eastern Europe in 1989. As the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet leader chose not to order a military response. The historic changes earned Gorbachev the Nobel Peace Prize and Time magazine’s “Man of the Decade” honor, but the USSR had lost its communist Eastern Bloc.

Increasingly, Gorbachev was being puled in two different directions by democrats who wanted even greater freedoms and autonomy for the republics and conservatives who wanted to end the reforms that they believed were breaking the union apart. The maverick leader of the Russian republic, Boris Yeltsin, was a particularly radical thorn in Gorbachev’s side. Yeltsin, who had dramatically quit the Communist Party in 1990, called for Gorbachev’s resignation after the Soviet army cracked down in Lithuania and other republics that sought independence and greater sovereignty.

Bust of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin at an exhibition.  (Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Bust of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin at an exhibition. (Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

In March 1991, the USSR held a public referendum to determine whether the union should be preserved or dissolved. More than three-quarters of voters wanted the USSR to endure, but six republics abstained from voting altogether. In spite of the results, the referendum did little to stop the fracturing of the country. Yeltsin and other democrats continued to push Gorbachev to introduce more radical reforms, and the Soviet president negotiated a treaty that decentralized power from the central government to the republics.

Communist hard-liners in the government and the military had seen enough. On August 18, 1991, they placed Gorbachev under house arrest at his vacation villa in Crimea. Announcing Gorbachev’s “inability for health reasons” to carry out his presidential duties, the coup leaders declared a state of emergency. While tanks rumbled through Moscow, thousands poured into the city streets to link hands in human chains and build barricades to protect the Russian Parliament, known as the White House. Outside the parliament, Yeltsin rallied the crowds from atop a tank, and the popular uprising doomed the coup to failure after three days.

Gorbachev flew back to Moscow on August 22, but it wasn’t he who became the populist hero as a result of the coup, but Yeltsin. The last gasp of the old order had been smothered with the failed coup, and an emboldened Yeltsin quickly eclipsed Gorbachev.

On December 8, the Russian president met with the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine at a villa outside of Minsk and signed an agreement to form the Commonwealth of Independent States. “The Soviet Union as a subject of international and geopolitical reality no longer exists,” read the text of the agreement. Less than two weeks later at a meeting in the Kazakh city of Alma-Ata, another eight Soviet republics agreed to join the new entity. With the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia having declared independence months earlier, the USSR was down to one republic—Georgia. The Commonwealth of Independent States also accepted Gorbachev’s resignation—although it had yet to be tendered. “We respect Gorbachev and want him to go gently intro retirement,” said Yeltsin, who had already taken control of the KGB, parliament and even Gorbachev’s presidential office.

Left with no choice, the Soviet president tendered his resignation on December 25. “Due to the situation which has evolved as a result of the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, I hereby discontinue my activities at the post of President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,” Gorbachev said in his address. “The policy prevailed of dismembering this country and disuniting the state, which is something I cannot subscribe to.”

“We’re now living in a new world. An end has been put to the Cold War and to the arms race, as well as to the mad militarization of the country, which has crippled our economy, public attitudes and morals,” he said before lamenting that “the old system collapsed before the new one had time to begin working.”

Moments after the end of the speech, Gorbachev signed the nuclear codes over to Yeltsin. Then with little pomp and even less circumstance, the red flag of the Soviet Union was lowered like that of a surrendered army from its floodlit perch atop the Kremlin in front of a smattering of onlookers. The tricolor of the Russian Federation was then hoisted up the flagpole. The end for a country that had seen such violence over its history came without a soundtrack of gunshots but just the flapping of a banner in the breeze and the wail of a drunken man stumbling around Red Square who cried out “Why are you laughing at Lenin?”

Wonder Woman at 75 – History

Seventy-five years after Wonder Woman’s debut, learn more about the connection between the female comic book superhero and the women’s rights movement as well as her unconventional creator—an inventor of the lie detector who lived a secret double life of his own in a polyamorous relationship.

Clad in a golden tiara, red bustier, knee-high boots and a star-spangled skirt, Wonder Woman first bounded onto the comic book pages in the fall of 1941 in a back-up story for “All Star Comics #8.” From the comic’s very first words, it was clear that this new superhero would be asked to represent her gender in a way that didn’t apply to male counterparts such as Superman and Batman. “At last, in a world torn by the hatreds and wars of men, appears a woman to whom the problems and feats of men are mere child’s play,” trumpeted the comic’s introduction.

William Moulton Marston (Credit: DC Comics)
William Moulton Marston (Credit: DC Comics)

Wonder Woman wasn’t the first female comic book hero, but she quickly proved to be the most popular after appearing on the cover of the debut issue of “Sensation Comics” in January 1942. That summer it was revealed that Wonder Woman’s creator was a most unlikely figure—Harvard-educated psychologist William Moulton Marston, who is often credited as the inventor of the lie-detector test.

Marston believed women were mentally stronger than men and would come to rule the United States—albeit on a lengthy timeline. “The next 100 years will see the beginning of an American matriarchy—a nation of Amazons in the psychological rather than physical sense,” Marston told the Harvard Club of New York in 1937, according to an Associated Press report. “In 500 years, there will be a serious sex battle. And in 1,000 years, women definitely will rule this country.” The New York Times reflected the gender roles of the time by printing in a sub-headline that Marston thought “bored wives will start within next 100 years to take over nation.”

Wonder Woman
Credit: DC Comics

Marston saw the need for a strong female superhero. “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, power,” he wrote. “The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.” Marston thought Wonder Woman needed to be not just entertaining, but a role model as well. “‘Wonder Woman’ was conceived by Dr. Marston to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood; to combat the idea that women are inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men,” read the 1942 press release announcing Marston as the comic’s creator.

With an origin story drawn from Marston’s knowledge of feminist utopian fiction, Wonder Woman was a trained Amazon warrior sculpted out of clay by her mother who lived free from men on the all-female Paradise Island until an American pilot, Steve Trevor, washed ashore after a plane crash. Reflecting Marston’s role in developing the lie detector, Wonder Woman wielded a “Lasso of Truth” that compelled veracity along with a pair of bullet-repelling bracelets. Her introduction coincided with the entry of the United States into World War II, and her pin-up girl looks and Rosie the Riveter spirit captured the mood of the country as she led Marines into battle against the Japanese and sat astride a white horse at the head of a cavalry charge against Nazi machine gunners.

Wonder Woman
Credit: DC Comics

“Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world,” Marston wrote. Indeed, a 1943 issue had Wonder Woman winning a presidential election over the Man’s World Party—albeit 1,000 years in the future as Marston had predicted.

Controversy grew around Wonder Woman due to her skimpy outfits and her particular proclivity for being tied or chained up in nearly every story. As Harvard historian Jill Lepore writes in her book “The Secret History of Wonder Woman,” this was no accident. From his days as a Harvard undergraduate before women had the right to vote, Marston had sympathized with suffragists and birth-control advocates such as Margaret Sanger who had symbolically used chains to represent American patriarchy. Marston thought so highly of Sanger that in 1937 he placed her ahead of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and behind only Henry Ford in their contributions to humanity. Lepore suggests the chains could have also been tied to Marston’s bondage fantasies. “The secret of woman’s allure,” Marston said in response to one objection of Wonder Woman’s constant binding, is that “women enjoy submission—being bound.”

wonder woman
Credit: DC Comics

Marston’s response may have been rooted in his liberal sexual views for the inventor of the lie-detector test lived quite a big lie of his own. Marston had married his childhood sweetheart, Elizabeth Holloway, in 1915, and a decade later the psychology professor fell in love with one of his students, Olive Byrne, who was also Sanger’s niece. Byrne’s mother, Ethel, had opened the first birth-control clinic in the United States with Sanger, and she nearly died in prison from a hunger strike after her 1917 arrest for illegal distribution of contraception. Marston, Holloway and Olive Byrne all lived together under the same roof in a polyamorous relationship with the cover story that Byrne, who penned an advice column for housewives in the Family Circle magazine in spite of her unconventional lifestyle, was a widowed sister-in-law. Marston fathered two children with both women. Byrne couldn’t wear a wedding ring, but as Lepore notes, she did wear a pair of close-fitting, wide-banded bracelets on her wrists, which inspired those worn by Wonder Woman.

When women returned to more traditional roles after the end of World War II, so did Wonder Woman, particularly after Marston’s death in 1947. The lovestruck superhero longed for marriage as she took jobs as a model and babysitter. DC Comics replaced women’s history sidebars in the comic book with wedding advice.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman in the television series. (Credit: ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman in the television series. (Credit: ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

The growing women’s rights movement of the 1960s reinvigorated Wonder Woman as a feminist icon. She was the cover girl on the first regular issue of Ms. magazine in 1972 and became a television star with both kids and adults in the 1970s with the release of a prime-time, live-action show starring Lynda Carter and the Saturday morning “Super Friends” cartoon.

Although gender relations have changed a great deal in the 75 years since Wonder Woman’s debut, the controversy surrounding the use of a scantily clad female as a role model hasn’t. This past October, the United Nations named Wonder Woman an “honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls.” The honor was short-lived, however, as the United Nations stripped her of the title less than two months later due to a public backlash. An online petition that gained 45,000 signatures objected to “using a character with an overtly sexualized image at a time when the headline news in the world is the objectification of women and girls.” Such discussion around Wonder Woman is sure to continue in 2017 when she will become the latest superhero to star in a Hollywood blockbuster.

You Won’t Believe Where the First NHL Outdoor Game Was Played – History

On January 1, the Detroit Red Wings will take to the ice in the great outdoors to play the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of the National Hockey League’s traditional New Year’s Day event. The game inside Toronto’s BMO Field, however, will be a far cry from the setting for the first outdoor game to feature the Red Wings—behind barbed wire in the yard of a maximum-security prison.

Fresh off a victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings donned their road jerseys sporting their distinctive wheeled wing logo and laced up their skates to take to the ice against their next opponent. This was no ordinary game, however, and no ordinary opponent. After being patted down by armed guards, the greatest hockey team on the planet glided onto a rink inside the maximum-security Marquette Branch Prison on February 2, 1954, to play a squad of murderers, kidnappers and thieves in the first outdoor game in National Hockey League (NHL) history.

The groundwork for the most unusual game in NHL history had been laid the previous summer when Red Wings captain Ted Lindsay and general manager Jack Adams visited the penitentiary on the southern shores of Lake Superior during a promotional tour of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula sponsored by Stroh’s Brewery. Before his guests departed, warden Emery Jacques invited Adams to return with his team in the winter to face off against the prisoners. Given that the inmates had no equipment and the prison no rink, Adams good-naturedly agreed as long as his team’s hotel, charter plane and meals were paid for. “Jack figured he’d never hear from him again,” Lindsay told Canadian sports network TSN.

Months later, the warden informed a shocked Adams that he had upheld his end of the bargain by getting the owners of the semi-professional Marquette Sentinels to pay for the $2,500 trip as long as the Red Wings also played them in an exhibition game when coming to town. The Red Wings general manager remained true to his word as well and even sent the inmates hockey equipment used by the Omaha Knights, Detroit’s recently disbanded farm team. As a joke, Adams had “Emery’s Boys” sewn onto the fronts of the uniforms in honor of the prison’s warden.

Ted Lindsay of the Detroit Red Wings, 1950s. (Credit: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
Ted Lindsay of the Detroit Red Wings, 1950s. (Credit: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

The task of building the rink fell to the prison’s newly hired recreation director, Leonard “Oakie” Brumm, who saw sports as a way for inmates to blow off steam and keep the peace. A member of the 1948 University of Michigan hockey team that captured the first-ever NCAA title, Brumm was as handy with a hammer as he was with a hockey stick. He had constructed an 18-hole miniature golf course, shuffleboard and bocce courts and a curling rink for the convicts. Brumm formed a prison football team that played outside squads, although by necessity every game was a home game. When it came to hockey, prison officials were naturally leery of stick-wielding prisoners, so oftentimes the convicts were limited to playing “kick hockey” in which they could only progress the puck with their feet.

No strangers to fights and penalties themselves, the Red Wings were tough characters in their own right and had no qualms about playing Michigan’s most-hardened criminals inside the “Alcatraz of the North.” “I was never concerned, because I figured that I could take care of myself,” Lindsay told in 2012. “But I felt very strongly from having been close to them in the summertime and mingling with them that there was no reason to be worried.”

After dressing in their makeshift locker room—a carpenter’s shack—the Red Wings skated onto the rink in the middle of the prison yard in the shadows of looming guard towers and stone walls fringed with coils of barbed wire. The entire prison population of 600 convicts—minus those still in solitary confinement—stood around the boards and cheered their hockey gods who included future Hall of Famers Lindsay, Terry Sawchuk, Red Kelly, Alex Delvecchio and “Mr. Hockey” himself, Gordie Howe. The biggest ovation was reserved for Lindsay when it was mentioned that “Terrible Ted” led the team in penalties.

The setting may have been unusual, but the conditions on the 21-degree overcast afternoon were perfect. Brumm had spent the night directing crews armed with toothbrushes as they polished the ice into a glassy surface, which Howe would say was the best that he had ever skated on. With knit caps pulled snuggly over their heads, the Red Wings shot puck after puck past the goalie for the Marquette Prison Pirates, a chronic thief named Bugsy Williams who had been released from solitary confinement for the occasion. Howe literally skated circles around the opposition, once looping three times unmolested around the Pirates’ goal before depositing the puck in the back of the net.

Detroit General Manager Jack Adams with a makeshift trophy given to the game's winner. (Credit: Detroit Red Wings)
Detroit General Manager Jack Adams with a makeshift trophy given to the game’s winner. (Credit: Detroit Red Wings)

So bored was Detroit’s goalie, Sawchuk, with the lack of action on his side of the ice that he sat on top of his net and eventually skated down the rink and tripped one of the Pirates. A referee clad in a spotless white dress shirt, crisp black pants and tie blew his whistle and dispatched Sawchuk to the penalty box. Even with Sawchuk busy in the penalty box signing autographs and no goalie in the Red Wings net, the prisoners couldn’t score.

By the end of the first period, the Red Wings were up 18-0. “The only time I touched the puck was when I pulled it out of the back of the net,” Brumm recalled years later to Richard Bak, author of “Detroit Red Wings: The Illustrated History.” The scoreboard was abandoned for the remainder of the game, and Sawchuk switched sides for the second period. Lindsay and Howe eventually pulled on the Pirates’ green jerseys as well, giving one lucky convict the thrill of skating on the same line as hockey royalty.

In lieu of a third period, the Red Wings staged an intra-squad game and put on an exhibition of shooting and passing, not that they hadn’t already done so against the Pirates. After the end of the game, the players gathered at the center of the rink where Brumm awarded Detroit a piece of hardware slightly less prestigious than the revered Stanley Cup—the “Honey Bucket Trophy,” which was a replica of the galvanized tin pails that prisoners used as makeshift toilets.

“This is a great day,” Adams told the prisoners. “The only trouble is, you guys sure have made it tough for me to recruit any of you.” The Detroit general manager hoisted the trophy engraved with the names of the Red Wings and Pirates above his head as if it was the Stanley Cup, which his squad would win 10 weeks later by defeating the Montreal Canadiens in seven games. The prisoners also presented their guests with hand-tooled leather wallets embossed with their names and the Red Wings emblem. In one final bit of sportsmanship, newspapers reported the score as a tight 5-2 victory by the Red Wings over the “prison pucksters.”

Remembering Annie Moore, Ellis Island’s First Immigrant – History

When the first federal immigration station opened on Ellis Island on January 1, 1892, a 17-year-old from Ireland became the inaugural passenger to pass through its doors. On Ellis Island’s anniversary, learn more about Annie Moore and how a case of mistaken identity obscured her true story.

While New York City ushered in the arrival of 1892 with the peals of church bells and the screeching of horns, American dreams danced in the head of a 17-year-old Irish girl anchored off the southern tip of Manhattan. Along with her two younger brothers, the teenager had departed Queenstown, Ireland, on December 20, 1891, aboard the steamship Nevada to start a new life in a new land. After spending 12 days, including Christmas, at sea, the girl from Ireland’s County Cork was just hours away from reuniting with her parents and two older siblings after spending the past four years apart.

Statue of Annie Moore and her brothers, the first of 17 million Irish to be processed at Ellis Island. (Credit: Jan Butchofsky/Getty Images)
Statue of Annie Moore and her brothers, the first of 17 million Irish to be processed at Ellis Island. The sculpture is located on Cobh, Ireland. (Credit: Jan Butchofsky/Getty Images)

Nevada had arrived too late on New Year’s Eve to be processed, which meant its third-class passengers would be the first to pass through the newly built federal immigration station on Ellis Island, which had previously been used as a gunpowder storage facility for the U.S. Navy.

At 10:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day, a flag on Ellis Island was dipped three times as a signal to transport the first boatload of immigrants. A chorus of foghorns, clanging bells, steam whistles and cheers serenaded a barge adorned with red, white and blue bunting as it ferried Nevada’s steerage passengers to the dock at Ellis Island in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.

The brown-haired Irish teenager was the first to bound down the gangplank with her brothers in tow. She entered through the enormous double doors of the cavernous three-story wooden building, described as “little more than a big business shed” by the New York Tribune, and skipped two steps at a time up the main staircase. Turning to her left, the girl was ushered into one of 10 aisles and up to a tall lectern-like registry desk.

“What is your name, my girl?” asked Charles Hendley, a former Treasury Department official who had requested the honor of registering the new station’s first immigrant.

“Annie Moore, sir,” replied the Irish girl.

Ellis Island's first building.
Ellis Island’s first building.

Wielding his pen over a fresh piece of paper, Hendley inked Moore’s name and those of her brothers, Anthony and Philip, along with their ages, last place of residence and intended destination on the first page of the first registry book. Annie was then escorted into the next room where former congressman John B. Weber, federal superintendent of immigration for the port of New York, gave her a ten-dollar gold piece and wishes for a Happy New Year. A Catholic chaplain blessed her and gave her a silver coin, while another bystander slipped her a five-dollar gold piece before she passed into the waiting room and the arms of her parents. Over the course of the next 62 years, more than 12 million immigrants would follow in the teenager’s footsteps through Ellis Island, and it’s estimated that 40 percent of the country can trace its origins back to the immigration station in New York Harbor.

Why Moore was the first of the 107 immigrants in Nevada’s steerage to be processed at Ellis Island is not known. In one story, an Italian gave up his place at the front of the line after seeing her in tears. In another, a large German man had one foot on the gangplank when a sailor held him back and called out “Ladies First!” while pushing Moore ahead.

"Sweet Annie Moore" sheet music. (Credit: Sheridan Libraries/Levy/Gado/Getty Images)
“Sweet Annie Moore” sheet music. (Credit: Sheridan Libraries/Levy/Gado/Getty Images)

As Tyler Anbinder notes in his new book, “City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York,” Irish immigrants such as Moore composed just a small portion of the passengers aboard Nevada. Although there were twice as many immigrants from southern and eastern Europe—primarily Italian and Russian Jews—aboard the ship as those from western Europe, an English-speaking, “rosy-cheeked” Irish lass was a typecast poster child for immigration at a time when Irish immigrants had already risen to the heights of American political and cultural life. Always seeking a good story, newspapers reported that Moore’s birthday was fortuitously on January 1. It wasn’t, and she wasn’t 15 as newspapers also reported—although Moore may have given that age herself to save money on the passage.

Following her brief moment of notoriety, Moore dissolved into oblivion. Not until decades after her death and the closure of Ellis Island was her memory resurrected as the immigration station underwent the largest historic restoration in U.S. history during the 1980s. Moore became the public face of the immigrants who had passed through Ellis Island, but it turned out that the face put forward was a case of mistaken identity.

For years it was thought that Moore had married a descendant of the Irish nationalist Daniel O’Connell, moved to New Mexico and met a tragic end in a 1923 streetcar accident in Fort Worth, Texas, that left her five children orphaned. For years, the woman’s descendants were invited to ceremonies at both Ellis Island and Ireland.

Annie Moore statue, Ellis Island. (Credit: Richard T. Nowitz/ Getty Images)
Annie Moore statue, Ellis Island. (Credit: Richard T. Nowitz/ Getty Images)

It was discovered in 2006, however, that the Annie Moore who died in the streetcar accident was born and raised in the United States. Genealogist Megan Smolenyak and New York City’s commissioner of records, Brian Andersson, found that the Annie Moore who passed through Ellis Island lived her entire life in a few square blocks on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “She had the typical hardscrabble immigrant life,” Smolenyak told the New York Times in 2006. Moore married Joseph Augustus Schayer, a German-American who worked at the Fulton Fish Market, and gave birth to at least 10 children, five of whom died before the age of three. The family had enough money for a family plot, but Moore’s children were buried without headstones, as was she after her death from heart failure in 1924 at the age of 50. Moore was an enormous woman, and according to family lore her casket was too big to squeeze down the narrow apartment staircase, so it had to be transported out of a window.

The massive wooden immigration station that Moore passed through in 1892 was completely consumed by a fire on June 15, 1897. The blaze was not lethal, but it destroyed the collection of leather-bound registry books listing every immigrant who had landed in New York City since 1855, including the name of Annie Moore. Today, a pair of statues of Moore and her brothers stand at the Irish port of Cobh (the present-day name of Queenstown) and on Ellis Island, where their trans-Atlantic journey began and ended.

Globetrotting Vikings: The Quest for Constantinople – History

No place on Earth was as coveted by the Vikings as Constantinople, but the Scandinavian warriors could never breach the formidable defenses of the world’s richest city in spite of repeated attacks. It was only after the Vikings became the personal bodyguards of the Byzantine emperor that they grabbed a piece of Constantinople’s wealth.

The epic voyages of the Vikings to the British Isles, Iceland, North America and points west tend to obscure the fact that the Scandinavian warriors also ventured far to the east across Europe and parts of Asia. While the Danes and Norwegians sailed west, Swedish fighters and traders traveled in the opposite direction, enticed initially by the high-quality silver coins minted by the Abbasid Caliphate that sprawled across the Middle East.

Painting of The Invitation of the Varangians: Rurik and his brothers arrive in Staraya Ladoga.
Painting of The Invitation of the Varangians: Rurik and his brothers arrive in Staraya Ladoga.

These Vikings who crossed the Baltic Sea and descended across Eastern Europe were branded “Rus”—possibly derived from “ruotsi,” a Finnish word for the Swedes meaning “a crew of oarsmen” and the term from which Russia receives its name. As the Rus migrated down the Dnieper and Volga Rivers, they established settlements along trade routes to the Black and Caspian Seas and conquered the native Slavic populations in present-day Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

By the middle of the ninth century, Rus merchants turned up in Baghdad. The capital of the Abbasid Caliphate may have been the world’s largest city with a population of more than one million people, but it failed to capture the Viking imagination like Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire that was said to harbor even greater riches.

“Silk and gold are the big lures,” says John Haywood, who chronicles the exploits of the Scandinavian raiders on four continents in his new book, “Northmen: The Viking Saga AD 793-1241.” “The Rus would have heard stories about the riches of Constantinople. The big attraction in trade was silk, which was a massively prestigious product for which they traded slaves, furs, beeswax and honey with the Byzantines. Constantinople was also one of the few places that still had gold coins, which were in short supply compared to the Roman period.”

Credit: xavierarnau/Getty Images)

Constantinople’s location on the shores of the Bosporus strait, which divided Europe from Asia, allowed it to become a prosperous crossroads of trade, the largest city in Europe and the richest city in the world. Great treasures necessitated stout defenses. The most-heavily fortified city in the world, Constantinople was encircled by a moat and three parallel walls. In addition, an iron chain that could be stretched across the mouth of the city’s harbor protected it from a naval assault.

It is not known when the Rus first reached Constantinople, but it was before 839 when Rus representatives arrived at the Frankish court as part of a Byzantine diplomatic mission. In June 860, the Rus launched a surprise attack on Constantinople at a time when the city was left largely undefended as Byzantine Emperor Michael III was off with his army fighting the Abbasid Caliphate in Asia Minor while the Byzantine navy was engaged with Arab pirates on the Mediterranean Sea.

Viking graffiti scars a balustrade in Hagia Sophia. (Credit: Jim Brandenburg/ Minden Pictures/Getty Images)
Viking graffiti scars a balustrade in Hagia Sophia. (Credit: Jim Brandenburg/ Minden Pictures/Getty Images)

In what the Greek patriarch Photius called “a thunderbolt from heaven,” the Rus plundered the suburbs of Constantinople and launched coastal raids around the Sea of Marmara in which they burned houses, churches and monasteries and slaughtered the patriarch’s servants. However, they never attempted to breach the city walls before suddenly departing in August. The Byzantines credited divine intervention, but the Rus likely departed to ensure they could arrive back home before winter set in.

A medieval Russian source details a second attack on Constantinople in 907 when a fleet of 2,000 ships encountered the iron chain blockading the harbor entrance. The resourceful Vikings responded by going amphibious, hauling their ships ashore, affixing wheels and dragging them overland before placing them back in the water on the other side of the chain before being repelled by the Byzantines. No Byzantine accounts of a Viking attack in 907 exist, however, and Haywood notes that the story could have been concocted as a way to explain a subsequent trade agreement between the Rus and the Byzantines.

A Viking ship is approached by Byzantines at Constantinople. (Credit: Michael Hampshire/National Geographic/Getty Images)
A Viking ship is approached by Byzantines at Constantinople. (Credit: Michael Hampshire/National Geographic/Getty Images)

In 941 the Rus launched a disastrous attack on Constantinople. With the Byzantine army and navy once again gone from the city, a fleet of 1,000 ships descended upon Constantinople only to be done in by 15 old dromons fitted with Greek Fire projectors that set the Viking ships ablaze. Weighed down by their armor, the Rus who avoided the flames by jumping into the sea sank to a watery demise. Others caught fire as they swam. When Byzantine reinforcements finally arrived, the Rus sailed for home.

A half-century later, the Vikings would be recruited to defend Constantinople instead of attacking it. When Byzantine Emperor Basil II faced an internal uprising in 987, Vladimir the Great gave him 6,000 Viking mercenaries known as Varangians to differentiate the native Scandinavians from the Rus who by the middle of the 10th century had assimilated with the native Slavs and lost their distinct identity. Impressed by the ferocity with which the Vikings battled the rebels, the emperor established the elite Varangian Guard to protect Constantinople and serve as his personal bodyguards. With no local ties or family connections that could divide their loyalties and an inability to speak the local language, the Varangians proved far less corruptible than Basil’s Greek guards.

The Varangian Guard. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
The Varangian Guard. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

“They were immensely well rewarded,” Haywood says of the Varangians. “They were given silk for everyday wear. If you are Scandinavian at that time, you are doing well if you have silk trim on your clothes. They get an enhanced share of the booty. It’s this trickle of well-to-do homecoming mercenaries that spreads this image of Constantinople as the promised land of fabulous wealth.”

The Varangian Guard fought in every major Byzantine campaign—from Sicily to the Holy Land—until Constantinople was captured by Crusaders in 1204. Visitors to one of the most famous sites in the city now known as Istanbul can see that the Vikings left their mark on Constantinople—literally. At least two runic inscriptions carved into the marble walls of the Hagia Sophia may have been engraved by members of the Varangian Guard.

HISTORY Vault: Special Forces – History

In this week’s featured collection, Special Forces, we are taking a look at the highly trained fighters that make up the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), who are some of the most elite soldiers across all branches of the U.S. military.

During World War II, a group of elite U.S. Army Rangers trained at an intensive commando school in Scotland, run by British fighters who wore distinctive green berets. Upon graduation from the program, the soldiers were rewarded with the same berets. Though the U.S. Army did not authorize them to wear them at the time, those who earned the beret wore it secretly while they were in the field, earning this branch of the U.S. Army Special Forces their legendary nickname, The Green Berets.

As an unconventional war, Vietnam called for many unconventional tactics. Among these was the formation of a unique group of soldiers called the Mobile Strike Force Command or “Mike Force.” Commanded and trained by Green Berets, the Mike Force was primarily staffed by indigenous forces, including the Montagnard tribesman—a group traditionally oppressed by the North Vietnamese. As a fighting unit, they were a roving S.W.A.T. team, constantly on-call to rescue platoons or camps that were under attack or under the threat of attack.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded the independent nation of Kuwait. Facing little resistance, his forces swiftly captured control of 24 percent of the world’s oil supply. The United States, with the help of Saudi Arabia and other allied forces, responded with Operation Desert Shield and then Desert Storm—an all-out attack to free Kuwait. The coalition entered with an enormous technological edge—but their greatest advantage came from Special Operations units of Navy SEALs, Green Berets and Army Rangers.

From extreme marksmen to stealthy spies, go behind the scenes of their most extraordinary covert missions with this week’s featured collection Special Forces. Here is a look at some of the episodes:

  • Fighting an enemy across searing deserts and frigid mountain peaks requires strong weaponry and sound tactics. Go inside a hillside shootout and the rescue of Special Forces snipers during the Hunt for Bin Laden.
  • The deadliest weapon on the battlefield is the lone sniper. Journey inside the science and psychology behind the greatest shots in military history through the scope of the world’s most extreme marksmen in Sniper: Inside the Crosshairs.
  • In Silent Heroes: LRRPs learn about the men who made up the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols during the Vietnam War. They sacrificed manpower for stealth and took risks far beyond conventional units, spying on the enemy in his own backyard.

Tune in to the new drama series SIX premiering on HISTORY on Wednesday January 18 at 10/9c.

Watch on HISTORY Vault, available on your computer at, Roku players, iOS devices and Apple TV (4th Generation).

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