The Mission You’ve Never Heard Of: The Hours Before D-Day

Soldiers of D-Day

by Giles Milton

Who was Denis Edwards? And why was he dropped behind enemy lines some six hours before the beach landings on D-Day? Turns out he was tasked with one of the most dangerous missions to take place on 6 June 1944.

Welcome to Season 3 of Unknown History: D-Day Stories. I’m your host, Giles Milton, and today we’re talking about a specialist team who was sent on a mission in which failure was not an option.

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Posted in Military History, Modern History

Blood Money—A Short History of Mercenaries in Modern Warfare

by J. R. Olson

Mercenary. A noun with a lot of historical and literary baggage. Dictionary.com defines the term as “a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army… a soldier of fortune”. I’ve always liked the term “hired gun,” like the characters in the movie The Magnificent Seven, or the more poetic “dogs of war,” the title of the Frederick Forsyth novel and a movie starring Christopher Walken.

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Posted in Military History

The Kennedy Heirs: A Legacy of Courage

by J. Randy Taraborrelli

As is well known by now, the Kennedys have always been a family of dreamers. Long-standing prejudices against the Irish combined with anti-Catholic sentiment had imbued them with great strength and resiliency and also a desire to seek justice for others. The members of the third generation have memories of their grandparents, Joseph and Rose, talking about discrimination against the Irish and showing them newspaper clippings from the Boston press where the letters NINA (“No Irish Need Apply”) were splashed on want ads for job opportunities. These young Kennedys came to understand that when Grandpa Joe was appointed ambassador to England back in 1938, it had been a real victory considering it had been just two generations since the family was of Irish peasantry. The way Grandpa had advanced in society while carving out his fortune in the Manhattan banking industry, on Wall Street, in politics, and, later, even in Hollywood would always inspire them.

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Posted in Modern History

D-Day: What Happened on the Eve of D-Day?

American troops approaching omaha beach on DDay

by Giles Milton

Who was Howard Vander Beek? And what happened to him on the night before D-Day? Well, it turns out that his quick thinking saved the lives of no fewer than 21,000 men.

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Posted in Military History, Modern History

D-Day: What Was Operation Tarbrush X?

Invasion of Normand

by Giles Milton

General Eisenhower and the architects of D-Day knew that the Allied landings would only be successful if they had up-to-the-minute information about the German coastal defenses.

They already had French spies working on their behalf—and we’ll get to more of this a little later—but they also needed to smuggle daring agents across to the beaches of Normandy in order to undertake close inspections of the enemy fortifications.

It was not for the faint-hearted. It was highly dangerous, with the certainty of death at the hands of the Gestapo, if captured. So who on earth would volunteer for such work?

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Posted in Military History, Modern History

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