Military Trivia

Carl’s POW Trivia: Challenge Coins 

Challenge Coins
Challenge Coins

A challenge coin is a small coin or medallion (usually military), bearing an organization’s insignia or emblem and carried by the organization’s members. Traditionally, they are given to prove membership when challenged and to enhance morale. In addition, they are also collected by service members. In practice, challenge coins are normally presented by unit commanders in recognition of special achievement by a member of the unit. These are typically called a “Commander’s coin for excellence”. They are also exchanged in recognition of visits to an organization. 

According to the most common story, challenge coins originated during World War I. Before the entry of the United States into the war in 1917 American volunteers from all parts of the country filled the newly formed flying squadrons. One such pilot was shot down and found by the French. Not recognizing the young pilot’s American accent, the French thought him to be a saboteur and made ready to execute him. He had no identification to prove his allegiance, but he did have his leather pouch containing the medallion. He showed the medallion to his would-be executioners and one of his French captors recognized the squadron insignia on the medallion. They delayed his execution long enough for him to confirm his identity. Instead of shooting him they gave him a bottle of wine. 

Back at his squadron, it became tradition to ensure that all members carried their medallion or coin at all times. The challenge coin tradition has spread to other military units, in all branches of service, and even to non-military organizations as well as the United States Congress, which produces challenge coins for members of Congress to give to constituents. Today, some challenge coins are given to members upon joining an organization, as an award to improve morale, and sold to commemorate special occasions or as fundraisers. Commanders of units have a special fund with which they can order “Commanders coins”.

Military Trivia

by Carl Kurfess

Can you identify this USAF Aircraft?

Military Trivia Can you identify this USAF aircraft?
  • The Sikorsky MH-60G/HH-60C Pave Hawk is a twin-turboshaft engine helicopter in service with the United States Air Force. It is a derivative or the UH·60 Black Hawk and entered service in 1982.
  • The MH-60G Pave Hawk’s primary mission is insertion and recovery operations personnel, while the HH-60G Pave Hawk’s core mission is recovery of personnel under hostile conditions, including combat search and rescue. Both versions conduct day or night operations into hostile environments.
  • Because or its versatility, the HH-60G may also perform peacetime operations such as civil search und rescue, emergency aeromedical evacuation (MEDEVAC), disaster relief, international aid and counter-drug activities.
  • Cost is approximately $30 million each.
Military Trivia - Can you identify this USAF aircraft?

Carl Kurfess’ Trivia

The Ghost Army of WWII 

Carl Kurfess’ Trivia

In spring of 1944, Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower gave General George Patton a mighty army to spearhead the Invasion of France. The First U.S. Army group consisted of eleven divisions assembled near the White Cliffs of Dover, readying to cross the English Channel at its narrowest point and invade France at Pas-de-Calais. But this was not a real army – it was a giant con job. 

The allies wanted to convince Hitler that the planned invasion at Normandy was just a diversion that the real invasion, under General Patton, would be at Pas-de-Calais. 

Carl Kurfess’ Trivia

The Ghost Army was an Allied Army tactical deception unit during World War II officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops (operation quicksilver). 

Set designers from London’s Shepperton Studios were brought in to create the illusion of a massed army where there was none. They created battalions of rubber tanks, and regiments of wooden soldiers. Canvas airplanes were parked on fake runways, harbors were filled with dummy landing craft. Radio operators sent huge amounts of bogus traffic, orders to and from units that did not exist. Soldiers wore fake unit patches and drove about England simulating units that did not exist. 

Sound effects of actual units were recorded and played elsewhere, simulating units that were never there. Trucks would be driven in looping convoys with just two troops in the seats near the rear, to simulate a truck full of infantry under the canvas cover. “MP’s” (Military Police) would be deployed at cross roads wearing appropriate divisional insignia and some officers would simulate divisional generals and staff officers visiting towns where enemy agents were likely to see them. A few actual tanks and artillery pieces were occasionally assigned to the unit to make the “dummies” in the distance appear more realistic. 

The deceptions fooled Hitler completely. Even after the Normandy beachhead on June 6, the Germans held their Panzer divisions in reserve waiting for the real invasion elsewhere. 

Works cited
 Beyer, Rick. The Greatest War Stories never told; 100 tales from military history to astonish, bewilder, & stupefy. New York: HarperCollins: 2005. Print. 

Military Trivia

(in this case, Naval) 
by Carl Kurfess 

Military Trivia

Make a pass 

Flirtatious advance. 

When naval ships-of-the-line were sizing each other up they would quite often make a side-on pass, each wishing to size up the opposition. When the expression came ashore, it was used as a tentative approach to a member of the opposite sex to gauge the likely outcome of closer engagement. 

(For you detail sensitive types, the two ships at left would actually appear to be Frigates, smaller than Ships of the line. Your friendly sailor editor) 

Military Trivia

by Carl Kurfess 

Trivia: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) slang, Part 1

Some terms commonly used in OEF, specifically in Afghanistan. 

  • At the top of the spear. Describing the leading unit in combat. 
  • Charlie Mike. Continue Mission. 
  • Indigs. Indigenous people; local natives. 
  • Optempo. OpBmum tempo. 
  • Oscar Mike. On mission. 
  • Pop smoke. Let’s get out of here. 

Works cited: Dickson, Paul. War Slang: Fighting Words and Phrases of Americans from the Civil War to the Gulf War. New York: Bristol Park, 2007. Print. 

Military Trivia

Military Trivia

by Carl Kurfess 


Inexperienced person. 

Mules have irksome and painful qualities, so those that ran the mule-trains of the mid-19th century American army would shave off the tail of any new mule as a warning to others that its behavior might be unpredictable. It was not long before the troops were using the term for any newcomer. By the time of the Spanish-American war of 1898, “Shavetail” had become specific to describe a newly commissioned lieutenant. 

Works cited: Donald, G., Wiest, A., & Shepherd, W. (2013). Sticklers, Sideburns and Bikinis: The military origins of everyday words and phrases. Bloomsbury Publishing. 

Trivia – The Commander in Chief

Commander in Chief

By Carl Kurfess 

A timely reminder following a period of discussion of the powers of the Presidency reminds us that the President of the United States, is also the Commander in Chief of all the Armed Forces. Article II, Section 2, Clause I of the Constitution, states: “…the President of the United States is commander in chief of the United States Armed Forces”. The President possess the ultimate authority, but no “rank”, maintaining civilian control of the military. 

Starting with George Washington in 1789, a number of Presidents have had military experience, but this is not a requirement. As of 2016, no member of the U.S. Marine Corps or U.S. Coast Guard has yet been elected President. The most frequent military experience is Army/Army Reserve with 15 presidents, followed by State Militias at 9, Navy/Naval Reserve at 6 and the Continental Army with 2 presidents serving. Eight presidents served during World War II, while seven served in the military during the American Civil War. 16 presidents have served in the rank of 0-6 or higher. Three, George Washington, Ulysses Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower, have served as Generals of the Army. 

The Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986 codified the default operational chain of command, running from the President to the Secretary of Defense, and from the Secretary of Defense to the combatant commander. While the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff outranks all other military officers, he does not have operational command authority over the Armed Forces. However, the chairman does assist the President and the Secretary of Defense in the exercise of their command functions. 

POW Trivia: The M1911A1 .45 caliber Semi-automatic Pistol

by Sr Vice Commander Carl Kurfess 

POW Trivia: The M1911A1 .45 caliber Semi-automatic Pistol

The M1911 is a single-action, semiautomatic, magazine-fed, recoiloperated pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. It served as the standardissue sidearm for the United States Armed Forces from 1911 to 1986. It was first used in later stages of the Philippine–American War, and was widely used in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The U.S. procured around 2.7 million M1911 and M1911A1 pistols in military contracts during its service life. The M1911 was replaced by the 9mm Beretta M9 pistol as the standard U.S. sidearm in October 1986, but due to its popularity among users, it has not been completely phased out. Modernized derivative variants of the M1911 are still in use by some units of the U.S. Army Special Forces, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. 

POW Trivia: The M1911A1 .45 caliber Semi-automatic Pistol

American units fighting Moro guerrillas during the Philippine–American War using the then-standard Colt M1892 revolver, .38 Long Colt, found it to be unsuitable for the rigors of jungle warfare, particularly in terms of stopping power, as the Moros had high battle morale and often used drugs to inhibit the sensation of pain. The U.S. Army briefly reverted to using the M1873 single-action revolver in .45 Colt caliber, which had been standard during the late 19th century; the heavier bullet was found to be more effective against charging tribesmen. The problems prompted further testing for a new service pistol and following trials conducted from 1904 to 1911 Colt pistol was formally adopted by the Army on March 29, 1911, when it was designated Model of 1911, later changed to Model 1911, in 1917, and then M1911, in the mid-1920s. Battlefield experience in WW I led to some more small external changes, completed in 1924. (Thanks for this trip down memory lane Carl. The M1911 happens to be your editor’s favorite side arm.)

VFW Trivia

Most VFW members simply attend their Post meeting and remain fairly oblivious to the hierarchy of VFW which is fine since our involvement is primarily in our local community. However, each Post is a member of a District. Post 8870 is a member of District 1 and Washington state has 16 Districts in total.
An oddity is that there is a District 17 but no District 8. The Districts are there simply to assist the Posts in their tasks. At the state level, the VFW organization is described as a “Department” and the District Commanders together with the Department line officers form a group known as the “Council of Administration” whose job it is to govern the state organization. Beyond the state level, you have a National organization made up of the various Department Commanders and line officers elected at the National Convention. Like the military, you work within your chain of command so a Post member who has a grievance about a Post Commander would first approach his Judge Advocate who in turn refers the issue to the District Commander. That’s a very quick description of the organizational chart.