Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Los Angeles, 1942, just a few months after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. Panic was in the air. People imagined another attack, but this time on the city of angels, a place which was churning out aircraft with impressive speed. Folks envisioned the Hollywood hills on fire, people fighting in the streets, and then it came, the fateful day. February 25. Coastal radar picks up an unidentified flying object about 125 miles west of Los Angeles. “Oh God,” the radar technician thinks, “It's heading straight for the city.” Half an hour later and more radars pick up the object. Air-raid sirens fill the air. Citizens of LA watch in horror as anti-air artillery and .50 caliber rounds fire above their heads. The Japanese are here, they think. They imagine their houses on fire. Their windows being shot to pieces. This was the Battle of Los Angeles, and we imagine many of you have never even heard of it. It's just one fact of many you are going to hear today, part of a history lesson that will blow you away. Settle in, secure your position and watch the facts fly by. 50. Battle of Los Angeles: Continued. Ok, so we couldn't just leave it there. You're thinking, there was a Battle of Los Angeles and no one even told me about it. I must have missed that bit in my high school history class. It's not quite as it seems. It is certainly true that people feared that the Japanese might move an aircraft carrier closer to the USA and start an invasion from there. In Oakland schools were closed because of this fear. There were blackouts, too. In Seattle businesses were smashed up by angry mobs because they left their lights on, making them a bullseye for fearsome Japanese bombers. The situation got hairier on February 24, 1942, when U.S. Naval Intelligence warned that an attack might be imminent. At 2.25 am the next day the sirens sounded, and a blackout was ordered. The 37th Coast Artillery Brigade started firing .50-caliber machine guns and anti-aircraft shells. Imagine being there, imagine seeing that as you rubbed your sleepy eyes early in the morning. But nothing came. Not one Japanese plane was spotted. Buildings and cars were damaged, and five people died, three in car accidents related to the chaos and another two people's hearts gave out during that very stressful hour of hearing gunfire. The next day the headlines were all about this Los Angeles attack, or non-attack. But what had actually happened? Some media said “war nerves” and others called it a false alarm. But the people, the people were rightly concerned. Was there something the government wasn't telling them? They had to wait to get answers. After the war ended the Japanese stood up and said, “Hey guys, we never went anywhere near Los Angeles. You were all tripping.” To cut a long story short, that flying object that had been picked up by radar was an off-course weather balloon. The Battle of Los Angeles had been part-panic, part missing balloon. Some folks said the object was an alien UFO, but we won't get into that today. 49. So, that was more of a story than a hard fact, and there will be many more insane stories, but let's have a look at some facts, too. The U.S. army is massive, absolutely massive. In total, it contains around 1.4 million personnel, a few more people than the country of Estonia. But it's not the biggest army. That would be the North Korean army, at around 2.2 million personnel. 48. Believe it or not, the U.S army is actually older than the U.S. Americans celebrate the birth of their nation on July 4. The year the nation was established was 1776, but the date that the army was established was June 14, 1775. It makes sense really. If they were gonna kick out those damned imperialist Brits they needed an army to do it, well the French helped a bit, too, as did some heroic foreign military leaders that we'll talk about later. 47. We just said that the army employs about 1.4 million people, with some of them being in the reserves. Still, that means it is the second largest employer in the USA behind Walmart, which employs around 2.3 million people. Amazon is a long way behind, employing something close to 800,000 people. 46. 16 of the 45 U.S. presidents have served in the U.S. army. Dwight D. Eisenhower served in the army in both world war one and world war two. Theodore Roosevelt is the only president to have won the distinguished Medal of Honor for his service in the army. During the Spanish-American War he “led a desperate and gallant charge up San Juan Hill”, risked life and limb under a barrage of enemy fire, and then he jumped into a trench and killed a man, making it possible for the boys behind him to advance. 45. We guess some of you have at one point have owned a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, but we also guess that you didn't know they were the brainchild of the U.S. army. That's right. There used to be a thing called the United States Army Air Corps, which was the flying part of the army before the US Air Force was created. In 1929, there was a guy that was tasked with working with a glasses producer to make glasses that would make life easier for pilots. His name was John A. Macready, Colonel John Macready. He was up to the task, and he got working on some glasses that wouldn't fog-up like goggles and at the same time would reduce the glare from the bright blue sky. In the late thirties the Ray-Ban Aviator glasses were patented, and the rest is history. 44. The U.S. army created the world's first submarine. This was called the Turtle, and it was introduced in 1774 when the army was fighting the British during the American Revolutionary War. While the vehicle looked pretty cool, it never really did what it was supposed to do. That was to affix explosives to British warships in New York Harbor. They never pulled that off, and then poor old Turtle sank into the sea when it was aboard a vessel. 43. It's thought that about 2.1 million soldiers fought for The Union during the Civil War. What's maybe quite surprising is that about one quarter of them were immigrants. If you count the sons of immigrants that fought, then it is closer to half the army's population. 42. During the Second World War the brand Coca-Cola was already a kind of symbol that represented the American Way. And you know what, American soldiers fighting abroad really pined for stuff. Most of them couldn't get their hands on Coke. Coca-Cola Company president Robert W. Woodruff heard about this and decided it wasn't good enough, so he made a promise. He told soldiers that wherever they were, they would be able to get a Coke for the cost of five cents. But he needed the help of General Dwight Eisenhower to get the Cokes to them. Together they cooked up a plan to get those addictive cans of tooth-rotting liquid to the soldiers. Coca-Cola opened up a bunch of plants overseas, but it went one step further when it introduced people called “Technical Observers”. These Coke workers wore army uniforms and looked the part, but they weren't actually military. They were only there to make sure the plants were built and those soldiers got their fix. It actually boosted morale a lot, with one soldier writing this in a letter: “Dear Folks, You'll never guess what I had to drink this evening. Not whiskey, not gin, not Calvados, not beer, but good old fashioned “Coca-Cola” in the bottle that's made to fit the hand.” Suffice to say, Coca-Cola did ok out of the deal, too. It had entered Europe and it wasn't about to leave. 41. There are some sources that will tell you that the US army pioneered modern guerrilla warfare, but that's debatable. A lot of armies could claim that, but it is certainly true that the man named General Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion was an excellent guerrilla warfare tactician. This guy, also credited with being the man that led the first special forces in the US, got his nickname because he'd take militiamen into the swamps where they'd wait in hiding for Loyalists and British regulars. They didn't fight the regular way, but would jump out of the swamps and kill. His men, who weren't paid and supplied their own arms and sometimes food, frightened the hell out of their enemy. So we don't get in trouble, we should add that he was despised by many and criticized for being more than harsh to his men and someone who committed many atrocities. 40. From the years 2006 to 2020, 17,645 active-duty personnel died serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. 39. 53,402 U.S. soldiers died in combat during World War One, and most of those served in the army. 38. The war that saw the most deaths in the U.S. was the Civil War. When you count Union soldiers as well as Confederate soldiers the number of deaths is between 755,000 - 800,000 victims, which was about 449 per day. That makes it the worst war that U.S. soldiers have ever fought in. Ok, now for something even more surprising. 37. The U.S. army used to use the Swastika as a symbol. You heard that right. The 45th Infantry used to pin it on their sleeves, but they only did that to honor their native American brothers in arms. What you have to remember is that before Adolf Hitler hijacked that symbol, it was used for thousands of years in many different cultures and was a symbol of good luck. For instance, in Sanskrit it means, “conducive to well-being.” That's why you can still see it today all over Asia, something that surprises less educated travelers. It won't surprise you, though, because now you know where it came from. Needless to say, when Hitler started using it the 45th Infantry dropped it. 36. Batteries, the US army needs them, and any soldier will tell you that they weigh quite a bit. You see, if you want to go on a mission you need to power stuff. It takes around 400 pounds (181 kg) of batteries for 30 men going on a 3-day mission. You can actually find a slew of articles talking about the army's battery problem. 35. In the late 1960s, the army introduced something called the Walking Truck, or if you want to get technical, the Cybernetic Anthropomorphous Machine. The giant robot had four big legs and while it looked like something from a sci-fi movie it wasn't exactly nimble. The plodding machine was designed to solve the army's age-old problem of carrying stuff. Like in the movie Alien, a person would sit inside it and control with their feet and hands. It weighed 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg) and travelled at 5 miles per hour (8 km/h). While it looked like a good idea, it wasn't. It was so tiring to operate that a person could only move for a short amount of time. 34. Only 28 percent of folks aged 17-23 in the US qualify to serve in the army. It has high standards. One recruiting commander said this about those standards, “We don't want to sacrifice quality. If we lower the quality, yes we might be able to make our mission, but that's not good for the organization.” 33. In 2020, the Pentagon's budget meant $178 billion would go to the Army, $207.1 billion for the Navy and Marine Corps, a further $191.8 billion for the Air Force, and just $15.4 billion for the Space Force. 32. Who first looked at the Grand Canyon and thought, wow, nice, can't wait to tell everyone about this and put it on a map? It was the army. You see, the US army was responsible for mapping much of the USA. In the early 1800s the US government wanted to map the entirety of the USA, which was no easy feat. The Lewis and Clark Expedition was the solution, and that was led by the U.S. army. 31. George Washington didn't actually want to be the commander of the army. He didn't think he was up to the task. He was happy when the war was over, but then he resigned. This is what he told Congress: “Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task.” A man of humility! As you'll soon see, there were many more great military leaders. 30. After World War Two and for many years on, the US army had a dump-athon. In total, the army admitted to secretly dumping 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard gas agents in the sea. Also thrown in were 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, landmines and rockets, and with that 500 tons of radioactive waste. It was revealed that storage was expensive and dangerous and destroying was difficult, so overboard the stuff went. 29. During World War One the German military was unhappy with the US Army. It didn't much like the shotguns the army were using, claiming that being hit by a shotgun was unnecessarily painful. 28. The US hasn't fully banned the use of landmines. Under President Obama there was a ban on the use of landmines except for the defense of South Korea, but under the Trump administration restrictions were lifted. In 1997, the Mine Ban Treaty was signed by most countries, but the US, along with China, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan and Russia did not sign. 27. The problem with landmines is that they tend to kill your own. In 1997, the New York Times cited a Pentagon report that said thousands of US army soldiers in the Vietnam and Korean Wars were killed or severely injured by American-made land mines. Ok, sorry to sound so depressing. We promise something amusing soon. 26. Who doesn't like a good dog story? The US Army during World War One, like other countries, employed dogs for various tasks.