Historian Patrick K. O’Donnell joined War Room on Memorial Day to recount the many miraculous events in America’s history where the young country was saved by the ultimate sacrifice of its heroes.
O’Donnell revealed America’s version of the Battle of Thermopylae, the Battle of Brooklyn, where through defeat the revolutionary war was saved in August 1776.
“They were being vaporized by cannister [fire]…it was horrendous casualties,” he said.
“You know when you’re on that charge your last minutes on earth are upon you,” said Stephen K. Bannon.
O’Donnell said the battle was the reason he wrote the book Washington’s Immortals. “I wanted to know who these men were,” he said.
“We literally wouldn’t be here,” O’Donnell said. “Their sacrifice in the Battle of Brooklyn has an incredible importance because the war hung in the balance.”
O’Donnell also told the story of the American version of Dunkirk, when the Marbleheaders helped General George Washington retreat across the East River.
“Washington has a decision to make,” O’Donnell said. “Does he stand and fight or does he retreat?”
In the middle of the storm, 10,000 men were transported on “rinky dink boats” by the Marbleheaders, who had “spent years fishing in the most treacherous waters.”
“It was a nightmare, Steve,” O’Donnell said. “It was mission impossible.”
O’Donnell reveals the miraculous fog that set in, and Washington’s stand as one of the last men to leave, and the horrors of the brave men left behind to suffer in British prison ships.
These were “floating concentration camps,” O’Donnell explains. Many soldiers starved to death, and were unceremoniously thrown overboard.
“Their bones were washing ashore for 70 years,” he said.
They now lie at the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Brooklyn.
O’Donnell’s new book The Indispensables: The Diverse Soldier-Mariners Who Shaped the Country, Formed the Navy, and Rowed Washington Across the Delaware, tells the story of the little known diverse regiment the Marbleheaders.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’s Perilous Trip Across the Ocean
Finally, O’Donnell revealed how the tomb of the tomb of the unknown soldier traveled from France to America, and was almost lost at sea on the USS Olympia.
“The casket was on top of the ship as it went across the ocean and hit a storm,” he said. “And it almost went overboard. But the Marines that were on that ship literally latched themselves to the casket and prevented it from happening.”
The ceremony in 1921 was a “who’s who in America,” and honored all who served in World War I, and the prior wars.