It’s that time of year again: Memorial Day weekend. A solemn moment for the troops to reflect on those we’ve lost along the way and for our civilian friends and family to join us in honoring our fallen.
Now, I don’t fault the civilians who just take the weekend to relax and barbecue as the summer officially starts. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single fallen troop who’d wish to take away someone’s enjoyment. Sparking up the grill and enjoying friends and family is a big part of the American way of life that we fought for — and some paid the ultimate price for.
My gripe is with the complete oxymoron that is the phrase, “have a happy Memorial Day.” It’s just extremely awkward in context. Like, even if someone was a open-bar-at-my-wake kinda person, ‘happy’ and ‘memorial’ just don’t really mesh.
So, I leave you with this… Have a good Memorial Day weekend, however you choose to spend it. Place flags at your local veterans’ cemetery. Crack open an extra cold one for a fallen comrade. Start up the barbecue and tell the kids about the good times you had with your buddy who didn’t make it back. If we’re being honest with ourselves, they all would have wanted us to have a good day in their honor.
Yeah, that wasn’t your typical opener where I practice my stand-up, but I have a feeling I’m not the only one irked by the expression.
Also, here’s a SPOILER ALERT. We joke about the final episode of Game of Thrones in the final meme.
This week’s meme roundup is dedicated to the friends you go to war with: Your battle buddies. These friends would do anything for you, even take a bullet, or in the case of Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, jump on a grenade. The bond between battle buddies is second to none, and most people will never experience friendship on this level. Although it’s difficult to capture the bromance in 13 memes, here’s our attempt:
1. Battle buddies depend on each other.
When the leadership fails, your buddy won’t.
2. Battle buddies aren’t always human.
Man’s best friend is just as dedicated.
3. War is intense, so jokes and pranks are also elevated to the same level.
This is their version of “kick me.”
4. You get in trouble together.
No worries, it’s a just a mouth lashing.
5. You find creative ways to entertain each other.
This would make a great, “shut the fu– up Carl” meme.
6. Their idea of going to the movies is a little different.
Their camaraderie makes up for the lack of screen size.
7. They fight together, they watch movies together, and they also drink together …
… because sometimes you need someone to stagger home with.
8. Buddies look after each other, they don’t report each other.
The United States Marine Corps turned 244 on Nov. 10, 2019. To celebrate, the Devil Dogs probably did whatever it is Marines do after their respective Marine Corps Balls. The U.S. Navy, often called the Marines’ Taxi Service, laid aside sibling rivalry for the day, and fired a shot from the oldest warship in the Navy and the only active ship to have sunk an enemy in combat, the USS Constitution, in their honor.
They even let a Marine pull the trigger.
The Constitution was first laid as a 44-gun frigate in 1794, outfitted with 24-pound long guns and 32-pound carronades. In combat, she would carry around 54 guns. The carronades would be on the spar deck, a long 18-pound “chase” gun would be mounted forward, and 30 24-pounders would be loaded on the gun deck. The guns on her gun deck, like the one fired by the Sergeant of Marines in the above video, are not her original guns. In 1883, Constitution became a housing ship for sailors in the port of Boston, and her guns were removed. They were soon replaced, however, with replica guns.
Her centennial refit saw 55 replica guns made for the ship by the end of 1931. Cast in the Charleston Navy Yard in 1929, these are the guns aboard her today. Two War of 1812-era carronade replicas were placed aboard in 1981. All her guns were restored and refurbished during Constitution’s 21st-Century restoration.
The only problem with the ship’s new guns is that they were never intended to be fired. It wasn’t until 1976 that the Constitution’s commanding officer decided it would be a novel idea for the oldest active warship in the U.S. Navy to be able to give a salute from its era. Two of the 24-pound long guns were sent to the Naval Ordnance Station in Louisville, Ky. to be retrofitted to fire a saluting charge in time for the United States Bicentennial Celebration.
The Marines aren’t the only ones who receive a salute from the USS Constitution. Past recipients include anyone from Chief Petty Officer selectees to Queen Elizabeth II. The day after the Queen received the salute, she boarded Constitution for a tour with Prince Philip. It was the only time a reigning British monarch ever stepped foot aboard the ship.
It seems we’ve been forgiven for the whole HMS Guerriere incident.
Unless there is a lead-lined refrigerator lying around, we’re guessing none of you reading this would be too keen on standing at ground zero of a nuclear blast. But it turns out this is exactly what six men chose to do with their afternoon in July of 1957 — five of them even volunteered, with the sixth not told what he’d be ordered to do that day until he showed up to work… So who were these men, why were they there, and what happened after?
As the Cold War began heating up and the U.S. and Soviets were each attempting to set a record for money spent stock piling thousands of weapons not intended to be used, the general public were getting a little nervous about both the testing of said weapons and what would happen if one of the two super powers decided to take things to the next level, particularly as rockets and missiles tipped with nukes started to become a thing. Despite assertions that there was nothing inherently dangerous about a rocket with a nuclear warhead detonating directly above you, the citizens of the United States weren’t buying it.
Putting their money where their mouths were, Colonel Arthur Oldfield of the Continental Air Defense Command decided to prove the assertion, ordering to have just this sort of thing filmed happening. This particular test, named John, was a part of the five month long Operation Plumbbob series of nuclear tests.
(National Nuclear Security Administration)
Besides the men involved with John, these tests also included over 18,000 other members of the military being put in relatively close proximity to nuclear blasts, with the point being to determine how troops would react in battle with nukes detonating nearby. The tests also included over a thousand pigs being used to study the biological effects of the detonations when the subjects were much closer to the blasts than officials were comfortable putting humans. (Squeal piggy!!!)
The five men who volunteered to insert themselves into John were Colonel Sidney Bruce, Lt. Colonel Frank P. Ball, Major Norman “Bodie” Bodinger, Major John Hughes, and Colonel Donald Lutrell. The sixth individual was a cameraman named Akira “George” Yoshitake — simultaneously the only one who did not volunteer for the gig and the only one who had a job to do during the blast. His job, of course, was to capture the entire event for a nice little propaganda film to demonstrate that these nuclear tipped rockets were perfectly safe to use in air combat scenarios above populated regions.
And so it was that on July 19, 1957, the five exceptionally brave men and one cameraman, no doubt re-evaluating his career choices and decision making paradigm, found themselves standing around 70 miles northwest of Las Vegas as the crow flies, or about 100 miles by road, in the Yucca Flats in the Area 10 Test Site. Next to them was a sign that read “Ground Zero. Population 5”, casually disregarding the key contributions of Yoshitake, which has been a theme for the few hundred filmmakers who were so critical to these nuclear tests and data gathering, yet have been largely ignored by history.
Soon enough an F-28 jet flew overhead, shooting a Genie rocket equipped with a 1.5 kiloton W25 nuclear warhead. This was actually the first test of a live nuclear tipped Genie rocket, but, thankfully for the men, the unguided rocket did not malfunction and instead flew straight for about two and a half miles at a height of around Flight Level 180 (about 18,000 feet or about 5.5 km). It then detonated almost directly above them.
Said Major Bodey as it happened, “We felt a heat pulse. A very bright light. A fireball it is red. The sky looks black about it. It is boiling above us. It is rapidly losing its color…”
Then a massive blast sound could be heard, at which point Bodey stated, “There is the ground wave! It is over folks, It happened! The mounds are vibrating. It is tremendous! Directly above our heads! It is a huge fireball. … Wasn’t that a perfect, perfect shot.”
Seemingly remembering the whole thing was to be a propaganda film showing it was just good family fun to stand under a nuclear blast, Colonel Bruce then stated, “My only regrets right now are that everyone couldn’t have been out here at ground zero with us.” Shortly thereafter he no doubt thanked the Academy and noted he felt humbled to be there.
You might at this point be thinking that while the blast itself didn’t do them any harm, other than maybe a stubborn case of tinnitus — the little talked about silent killer associated with nuclear blasts — surely these men must have been exposed to copious amounts of ionizing radiation. But this turns out not to have been the case. It was later determined they were exposed to negligible amounts of such radiation. In fact, less than the pilot of the F-89 jet and significantly less than the pilots ordered to fly through the region of atmosphere the blast occurred at a mere ten minutes later.
A formation of three F-89Ds.
(US Air Force photo)
The blast occurring reasonably high in the atmosphere also ensured that no ground materials were sucked up, thus no large cloud of radioactive particles was present. And as for the radioactive materials from the bomb and any dust already in the atmosphere nearby, these would have spread out quite widely before coming down.
Ironically, however, while the whole thing was meant to show the safety of such nuclear rockets detonating high over head, radioactive particles from these tests frequently settled on nearby towns, even as far away as Utah. As you might expect from this, the U.S. government has paid a pretty penny, to the tune of around a billion dollars to date, to the inhabitants of these regions who later had health problems possibly related to being exposed to high amounts of ionizing radiation during the tests.
All this said, it is noted that every one of these six brave men did later in life get cancer at one point or another. However, it’s not thought this test in particularly probably contributed much to that. All of them were involved in a number of nuclear tests, many of which saw them exposed to far more ionizing radiation, with the cumulative effect of it all probably also not helping matters.
In the end, Major Hughes lived to the age of 71, dying of cancer in 1990. Lt. Col. Ball lived until 2003, dying at the ripe old age of 83 of cancer. Colonel Bruce actually made it to 86, dying in 2005 of, you guessed it, cancer. Major Bodinger also died of cancer, we believe in February of 1997, though it’s not clear here as his grave is not listed in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs grave site locator. But we found a grave in Oklahoma for someone that appears to match up with what we know about Bodie. Next up, Colonel Lutrell at one point got colon cancer, though it isn’t clear whether this is what he died of. Whatever the case, he seems to have shuffled off this mortal coil in 2014 at the age of 91. As for the cameraman George Yoshitake, while he did have to battle stomach cancer to do it, he lived to 84, dying in 2013 of a stroke.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Sit across the table from Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili for just a few seconds and you’ll see a basic outline emerge fairly quickly. His manners and easy smile, the way he leans forward when he talks, and — not least of all, of course — his affection for Starbucks Doubleshot energy drinks make him the typical — almost archetypal — 30-year-old soldier; busy, eager, and always ready for the next task, the next challenge. But dig a little deeper and you will see, quite clearly, the details that color the world inside that simple sketch. To map the entire terrain, however, you’ll need to travel some 15,000 miles.
“I always wanted to be a soldier,” says Dzamashvili, sitting in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade on a warm September morning. “When I was a kid that was always something I thought would be cool, being a soldier for the American Army.”
Those words, and indeed his affinity for the Army and America as a whole, are repeated so often and with such calm conviction that he could almost double as a motivational speaker; one specializing, perhaps, in writing simple daily mantras for busy professionals to read on their daily commutes. Instead, Dzamashvili is a board-certified medical doctor who enlisted in the Army just last year, in early 2018. It’s a commitment, he says, that doubles as a gift to the country that gave him opportunities he never would have had in his native Georgia — a tiny, still-emerging country located at the intersection of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili speaks with a coworker at his desk located in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade.
(Photo by Mr. Ramin A. Khalili)
“Honestly,” says Dzamashvili, “the reason I wanted to become an American soldier is because America has given my family everything.”
The first 5,000 miles
“When I was born in Georgia,” says Dzamashvili, reaching back to the late 1980s, “it was still part of the U.S.S.R. This was just before the U.S.S.R. split up, and so there was instability and there was upheaval … there was an ongoing fight for power.”
It was that atmosphere of decline that Dzamashvili’s father, Konstantin, sought to flee when he reached out to a friend living in Chicago for help in the early 1990s. Political and cultural strife in the country of — at the time — barely more than four million people had led to the breakdown of living conditions and, in some cases, the basic application of law. And so Konstantin, a neurologist by trade, was hoping America could provide safety for his wife, son, and young twin daughters.
“My father was waiting in breadlines for hours just to feed the family,” says Dzamashvili. “So when he came here, it was for a better life.”
But that opportunity came with a catch. In order to pay for his family’s move to America, Konstantin had to travel to the U.S. alone first in order to save up enough money. He wound up bunking with that same buddy in Chicago for a year —eventually re-starting his medical career at 40-years old — before bringing the rest of the family to Illinois.
Says Dzamashvili of his father, “He was out there for a year, alone, while we were still in Georgia, until he had passed all his boards and started his residency program, which would then fund us coming over here.”
And so at age five, Sergo was finally in the place he wanted to be all along … for a little while, at least.
Return to Georgia
For Sergo, it all started with his grandfather — his father’s father. He was the catalyst, the inception point. He passed away when Konstantin was in his late teens and so Sergo never got a chance to meet him, but he did have pictures — volumes of mementos from Georgia.
“I would always hear stories about his bravery,” says Sergo, “about what kind of man he was. From early on, I was always intrigued — the way he was standing there in his [military] uniform with all these medals.”
Those pictures, coupled with Sergo’s newfound affinity for the United States, stuck with him during his formative years and carried through to his entrance into medical school — which he ultimately chose to attend at David Tvildiani Medical University back in Georgia.
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili (foreground, right) conducts Army Warrior Tasks (AWT) drills during the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)
The decision to both leave home (to leave again, in a manner of speaking) and reconnect with family roots was daunting to say the least, as Georgia had been rife with the same political instability from Dzamashvili’s youth up until pro-democratic forces rose to power in the mid-2000s. The tiny, burgeoning country was still — much like Sergo at the time — moving through its adolescent years.
There was contrasting comfort, however, in the medical training itself. Turns out Dzamashvili’s chosen university not only came highly recommended from family friends practicing medicine in Chicago, it was designed specifically to cater to regional students who wanted to ultimately enter U.S.-based medical professions. To that end, all university textbooks were written in English and, further, the overall cost of schooling was substantially less than a U.S.-based medical education — all perks unavailable to his father just a decade-or-so earlier. Ironically, Georgia would eventually, in 2014, become home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Georgia, a subordinate command of the USAMRDC’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
“Going back to Georgia really brought me that perspective,” says Dzamashvili. “There was a long time where my family wouldn’t go back, even though we had a chance to go back in the 90s.”
Just twelve years after touching down in America’s Heartland — and just a few years after becoming an American citizen — Sergo was back on a plane at age 17 for a new and different journey.
Homecoming, part II
When you ask him how Georgians speak — ask about the language they use, the way they talk, the casual slang terms they use, even — Dzamashvili is quick to make it clear that Georgia is a singular and unique entity; a hard-fought identity that he clearly still respects.
“Georgians have their own language,” he says quickly, almost as a sly-but-gentle rebuke to those who think the country may still be hindered by its turbulent past in any way. “They have their own alphabet, everything — and so I had to re-learn how to read and write, essentially, when I went back for school.”
Dzamashvili’s university stay would last for six years until his graduation in 2013; at which point he’d not only navigated the rigors of initial medical training, but had reached a poignant understanding of the country of his birth (“people there are very hospitable,” he says), gained a greater understanding of the government’s democratic efforts (“I see hope,” he says), and, with regards to cultural differences, had also determined that Georgia had substantial culinary shortcomings as compared to the U.S. (“I did miss burritos over there,” he says).
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili assigned to HHC, 21st Signal Brigade, conducts M9 weapons qualification as part of the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)
Touching back down in Illinois, Dzamashvili eventually passed his medical board examinations, shadowed professional doctors, and even performed clinical research at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. But when it came time for residency training, instead of waiting a year to attend either Loyola University of Chicago or the University of Illinois at Chicago, he opted for a different path: the U.S. Army.
“Screw waiting,” says Dzamashvili of his mindset at the time. “I’m going to join the Army. I was always told the fastest way to get into the Army was to just go and enlist anyways, so that didn’t bother me to go enlist for a couple of years as long as I got into the medical field.”
Desire, meet destiny
Now, after thirty years and medical training efforts on two different continents, Sergo Dzamashvili is both a medical doctor and a member of the U.S. Army; his first assignment is here at Fort Detrick. His unique qualifications have bred an understandable eagerness to move forward — a chomping at the bit, of sorts — as, indeed, he’s already started the process of entering the Army’s medical occupation; taking the steps required to become a physician. But if you think the man who’s waited nearly three decades to realize his dream is put off by a little time in the waiting room, then you don’t know Sergo.
“My ultimate goal is to practice medicine in the Army,” says Dzamashvili. “That’s what I want, to give back. I’d like to serve for at least eight years, to give back that entire time in service.”
Just how long it will take to reach that goal is yet to be seen, though it should come as no surprise that Dzamashvili has already attempted to plot the arc of his military medical career even before his training has been completed. Even now, serving as a Human Resources Specialist in the S-1 Office until his next assignment, he finds in each day’s shift what so many others would gladly welcome into their own lives: a sense of purpose, the feeling of belonging, and the satisfaction of a job that truly has meaning.
In the end — if these kinds of stories can have an end — the service career of Sergo Dzamashvili is, in reality, just beginning. It would be an exaggeration, perhaps, to say that Dzamashvili has already lived multiple lives; though it wouldn’t be such a stretch to say that’s the truth, either. In any capacity, his life’s work as currently constructed already stands as an impressive feat; a soldier coupling the desire to serve America with the talent required to make a lasting impact.
Not too bad for a typical 30-year-old.
Says Dzamashvili, “If there’s nothing else I do in my life, I can always say I was a soldier. That’s the way I look at it. If there’s nothing else that I accomplish, I will always know that I served my country.”
There is a rad group of military spouses trekking through your neck of the woods worldwide ready to take you from quarantine strolls to hilltop plateaus. Military Wild is blazing trails in the outdoor space connecting all skill levels to the profound beauty waiting close to each duty station.
Hannah Wolt, President of Military Wild, founded the organization after realizing her tribe was out there but hiking alone without connection. “The first group formed in Guam, where my husband was stationed. We had a blast, and when members came closer to a PCS date, the idea of planting groups wherever we went took flight,” Wolt said, who, after vacationing in New Zealand, knew she needed to get back to the outdoors regularly.
She explained, “It takes time to find what you’re looking for at a duty station, the same goes for hikes and trails, just generally knowing the area takes a while. With Military Wild, the goal is to establish that knowledge base and give our community members instant access, they’ll arrive ready to go with the research.”
Each local chapter is organized simply, an Ambassador serves as the area organizer who has working knowledge to assist all participant levels and establishes their perks program offering discounts for members in the area. “We have a highly active community online (Facebook and on their website) where things are organized. You’ll know exactly what to expect before you step out, from gear to difficulty to whether kids are recommended or not,” she said.
A large portion of hikes organized across all chapters are free, eliminating any financial barriers and opening more opportunities for all. “If a trek does have a cost, that’s outlined in the details. Our Ambassadors have been awesome to facilitate things at a discounted rate for the group if and when cost is a factor,” she said.
All too often, groups can be polarized by whether they are open to families or geared toward those without. That is simply not the case, and Wolt wants everyone to know that kids do not equal an automatic limitation outdoors. “I see moms with kids in the hiking backpack having a much easier time than I am on trails. It’s amazing what they can do, and only they know where their limits are.”
Wolt emphasized that Military Wild is a place for everyone, every level. “We once had a spouse who started terrified of water and by the end of her time was wading through waist-deep water up to a waterfall.”
Finding a niche over and over can be a daunting task for any spouse. Forging a connection to nature, working on goals and milestones which can be achieved anywhere in the world is a relationship no PCS can cut off. What starts with a simple willingness to walk can turn into a lifelong pursuit of adventure and self-discovery.
“This year we are building even more community. We are adding groups, outlining great trips nationwide, gaining even more discounts at local businesses, holding contests for kids, and creating unique patches for members,” Wolt said, who has used the international pause to really expand their mission.
“We’re a young organization but we’re growing. If there is not a group in your area, you can apply to start one on our website. We work to mentor our Ambassadors to cultivate their chapters and gain outdoor skills along the way. You don’t have to be a professional to lead,” Wolt said.
The organization is open to veterans, military service members, and spouses and are quickly popping up and mapping out the best recreation spots surrounding installations near you.
A joint surgical team comprised of three separate branches assembled at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, in December 2018 to perform an operation.
Consisting of a Navy surgeon, Air Force nurse, and Army technician, the team was organized to perform a functional endoscopic sinus surgery to restore a patient’s sinus ventilation to normal function.
“It’s always a great experience working with different branches in the operating room where we are able to learn from each other and share different perspectives,” said Army Spc. Travona Parker, Specialty Care Unit surgical technician.
Providing health care in a joint environment works to improve readiness by ensuring that health care providers have the capabilities they need while providing patients with convenient access to care.
U.S. service members assigned to a joint surgical team prepare for surgery at Joint Base-Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Dec. 11, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)
At the end of August 2018, Fort Eustis’ McDonald Army Health Center closed its operating room and joined the Navy in conducting surgical procedures at Hospital Langley. While operating-room time has always been a hot commodity, having both the Army and Navy integrated into the Hospital Langley facility has maximized their utilization.
According to U.S. Air Force Maj. Erni Eulenstein, Surgical Operations Squadron Operating Room flight commander, “Allowing multiple services to operate at Langley has helped reduce the duplication of effort while also increasing efficiency.” If an operating room is not being used by the Air Force, it is often able to be filled by an Army or Navy surgeon to help increase utilization.
Of the surgical operations currently going on at Hospital Langley, roughly 68 percent are done by Langley providers, 28 percent are done by Fort Eustis providers, and the rest are done by Portsmouth providers.
With different services coming together, challenges would be expected. However, besides a few scheduling issues, things have run smoothly. “Everyone seems to be integrating and working well together,” Eulenstein said.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Mandy Giffin, Surgical Operations Squadron operating room nurse, prepares the OR for surgery on Dec. 11, 2018 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dinchen Jardine, Navy Medical Center Portsmouth Department of Otolaryngology, served as the lead surgeon during the FESS procedure and appreciates the opportunity to utilize Hospital Langley’s facilities while working side-by-side with the Air Force and Army. “It definitely helps everyone see and understand best practices that then in turn can add to providing the best care possible for patients.”
Air Force Maj. Mandy Giffin, Surgical Operations Squadron operating room nurse, has served in all three branches, bringing a lot of experience into the operating room. She enlisted in the Army before joining the Navy reserve as a surgical technician. She then joined the Air Force and went to nursing school where she now serves on active duty at Hospital Langley.
Giffin believes there are many benefits to working as a joint surgical team. “You are able to hear what everyone’s different experiences are and you can compare them to how you do things yourself.”
I’m known among my friends as a bit of a heartless cynic (#NotPopularAtParties #PleaseStopInvitingMe #HowManyOfTheseDoIHaveToRuinToBeLeftAlone). Maybe that’s why We Are The Mighty’s president and CMO, U.S. Air Force veteran Mark Harper, sent me this heartwarming story about Admiral Nimitz arriving at Pearl Harbor after the attack.
But then, I ruined it.
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, a bold and brave man too busy being optimistic for your “history facts” or his own notes.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
The story is entitled God and the 3 Mistakes, and it makes the rounds on the internet every once in a while. Here’s a version of it from armchairgeneral.com:
Tour boats ferry people out to the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii every thirty minutes. We just missed a ferry and had to wait thirty minutes. I went into a small gift shop to kill time. In the gift shop, I purchased a small book entitled, “Reflections on Pearl Harbor” by Admiral Chester Nimitz.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941 — Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.
Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat–you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war. On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters every where you looked.
As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, “Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?” Admiral Nimitz’s reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. Admiral Nimitz said, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?”
Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, “What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?” Nimitz explained:
Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
Mistake number two: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.
Mistake number three: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That’s why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.
I’ve never forgotten what I read in that little book. It is still an inspiration as I reflect upon it. In jest, I might suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan, born and raised in Fredricksburg, Texas –he was a born optimist. But anyway you look at it–Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.
President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job. We desperately needed a leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair and defeat.
There is a reason that our national motto is, IN GOD WE TRUST.
Look, an optimistic photo of a re-floated battleship. Let’s all go get coffee and not read the rest of this.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Stop here to remain happy. No? Alrighty, then.
Was that heartwarming and satisfying for you? Good. Stop reading. Go away. Be happy. Don’t let my factual poison into your soul. Ignore the holes and historical discrepancies and return to the world as a satisfied human being.
Or, let’s go through this together and destroy joy.
(Author’s note: For some of the debunking done here, we’re turning directly to Adm. Nimitz’ notes from December, 1941, compiled in his “gray book,” which the Navy put on the internet in 2014. Citations to that document will be made with a parenthetical hyperlink that will give the PDF page, not the printed page number. So, “(p. 71)” refers to his December 17 “Running Summary of Situation” that is page 71 of the PDF, but has the page numbers 9 and 67 printed on the bottom.)
Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Navy Adm. Chester W. Nimitz.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
That phone call on December 7 didn’t happen
First: “Sunday, December 7th, 1941 — Admiral Chester Nimitz was … told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.“
Nope. At the time, no one knew exactly what had happened or who to blame, and Adm. Husband E. Kimmel was still very much in charge. How screwed up would it have been if Roosevelt’s first action, while the fuel dumps were still burning and sailors were still choking to death on oil, was to fire the guy in command on the ground rather than shifting supplies and men to the problem or, you know, investigating what happened?
The bulk of the losses at Pearl weren’t even announced until December 15 (p. 51) because no one, even at Pearl, could be sure of the extent of the damage while the attack was ongoing.
In reality, Nimitz wasn’t ordered to Hawaii until December 17, the same day that Kimmel was told he would be relieved (p. 71).
National ensign flies from the USS West Virginia during the Pearl Harbor attack.
No, it wouldn’t have been worse if the Japanese had lured the ships to sea
The single most non-sensical claim in this story is that Nimitz was glad Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack.
Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
What? Nimitz thought he would’ve lost more men if the Japanese had lured them into a fight near the island? Does anyone believe that he had that little belief in the skills of his men?
If the Japanese had tried to lure the American ships to sea, we would’ve only sent the ones ready to fight, with full ammo loads and readied guns with crews. We would’ve tried to recall the carriers conducting exercises at sea. Yes, losing 38,000 sailors is worse than 3,800, but we’ve never lost 3,800 in a fair fight.
Meanwhile, at Pearl, the U.S. lost over 2,000 killed while inflicting less than 100 enemy deaths. Who the hell would be glad it was a surprise attack?
In his notes on Samoa dated December 17, Nimitz specifically cites Japan’s use of surprise as to why it had been so successful (p. 64).
The largest fuel dumps at Pearl Harbor did survive the attack, but they weren’t enough.
Yes, Japan did ravage America’s fuel dumps and hit drydocks
Nimitz, when he got the actual call on December 17, quickly tied up his duties in Washington, D.C., and reported to Pearl Harbor. (He arrived Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve.)
There, he found an island still burning and heavily damaged. The Japanese planes absolutely did hit fuel dumps at Pearl Harbor. They hit drydocks as well, heavily damaging three destroyers that were in the docks at the time.
Luckily, Pearl Harbor didn’t have “every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war” in December 1941 as the story says, but the other dumps were under attack as Nimitz was supposedly giving this pep talk. Fuel dumps on the Philippines and Wake Island were destroyed or isolated by the Japanese attack in the days and weeks following December 7.
(Seriously, how would you even run a Pacific fleet if your only gas station was in Hawaii? That would mean ships patrolling around the Philippines and Australia would need to travel 10,000 miles and over three weeks out of their way every time they needed to refuel.)
But, what damage was done to these facilities was important, changing the strategic calculation for America at every turn.
On December 17, Nimitz wrote a plan to reinforce Samoa that specifically cited the lack of appropriate fuel dumps being ready or filled at Pearl or Samoa (p. 63 and 70). It even mentioned how bad it was to shift a single oiler from replenishing Pearl to getting ships to Samoa. The fuel situation was dire, and Nimitz knew it.
Two heavily damaged U.S. destroyers sit in a flooded drydock. Both destroyers were scrapped and the drydock was damaged, but it did return to service by February 1942.
The ship repair situation was worse
If the fuel situation was bad, the repair situation was worse. Drydocks were attacked during the battle. Two ships were destroyed in Drydock number one, and Floating Drydock number 2 was sunk after sustaining damage. Both were back in operation by February 1942.
But the number of drydocks wasn’t the biggest factor in whether a ship could be repaired at Pearl, because there weren’t nearly enough supplies and skilled laborers in and around the harbor, anyways. Capt. Homer N. Wallin, the head of the salvage effort from January 1942 onward, lamented shortages of firefighting equipment, lumber, fastenings, welders, carpenters, mechanics, engineers, and pumps for the duration of salvage.
That’s why three battleships left Pearl Harbor for repairs on the West Coast on December 20, and ships were heading back to the continent for repairs as late as the end of 1942, nearly a year after the attack, because drydocks had insufficient space or supplies to repair them on site.
But the worst problem facing Pearl Harbor was invasion
But the most naive claim of this entire story is that Nimitz was optimistic as to the situation in December 1941. His actual notes from the period paint a much grimmer picture of his mind.
In the wee hours of December 17, hours before Nimitz was ordered to replace Kimmel, Nimitz sent Kimmel a message on behalf of himself and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. Kimmel was ordered to “reconsider” his beliefs that Pearl Harbor was safe from further attack (p. 74).
Knox and Nimitz wanted Kimmel to keep ships out of the harbor as much as possible, to reinforce defensive positions. Most importantly:
Every possible means should be devised and executed which will contribute to security against aircraft or torpedo or gun attack of ships, aircraft and shore facilities [on Hawaii];
Given that Nimitz was actively cautioning about how vulnerable Pearl Harbor was on December 17, it would be odd for him to feel cocky and optimistic on December 25 (the earliest he could have actually taken this supposed boat tour).
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Doris Miller at Pearl Harbor on May 27, 1942.
While it took most of 1942 and 1943 to fully ramp up America’s wartime production, the seeds were all in place in 1941 thanks to Roosevelt’s Cash-and-Carry and Lend-Lease policies. Nimitz was no fool. He knew he could win, even though the challenge facing him on Christmas 1941 was still daunting.
We can honor him, the sailors lost at Pearl Harbor, and the stunning achievements of the greatest generation without sharing suspect anecdotes about a Christmas Eve boat ride.
(As an added side note: The book this story supposedly came from wasn’t actually by Nimitz, it’s an “oral history” by William H. Ewing. And it was published five years after Nimitz died. Maybe it is a faithful account of Nimitz’ words at some point, but it doesn’t match his notes or the tactical situation in 1941.)
Okay, when you first saw the headline, you were probably wondering how the heck a howitzer can be a sniper rifle. Sniper rifles are precision instruments, designed to dish out extremely concentrated hurt while howitzers are meant to do big damage — it seems like a contradiction, right? Wrong.
With the right ammo, there’s a howitzer out capable of being a giant sniper rifle with an extremely long reach. How long? Try 22 miles.
The M777 Ultralight Field Howitzer is a towed 155-millimeter gun that’s been in service since 2005 and is capable of hitting targets from remarkable distances. Over the last decade, it’s been slowly replacing the M198 towed 155-millimeter howitzer.
But here’s where the M77 has the M198 beat: It weighs in at just 8,256 pounds, according to MilitaryFactory.com. That might sound like a lot, but it’s nothing next to the 15,792 pounds of the M198. That’s a nearly 50 percent reduction in weight, making the M777 a superb option for units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the Marines.
Marines fire a M777 howitzer at 29 Palms to prepare for the real thing.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen)
Now, to achieve that 22-mile reach and sniper-rifle accuracy, the shell of choice is the M982 Excalibur round. This GPS-guided round can hit within about 30 feet of the aim point — a level of precision that’s proved extremely useful.
Australian troops fire their M777 to support Marines during a training mission.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)
In 2012, the Marines manning a M777 howitzer received word that some Taliban were up to no good. So, the artillery crew fired a round from their base, which was in Helmand Province, and hit the Taliban who were in Musa Qala. The Taliban were accurately dispatched from miles away before any of their plans could take root.
Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., fire 155mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer.
(US Army photo by Specialist Evan D. Marcy)
The M777 is currently in service with the United States Army and United States Marine Corps. Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, and India have all bought this cannon as well.
Learn more about this over-sized sniper rifle in the video below!
The F-15 Eagle has put up one of the best records of any air-superiority fighter – ever. It has scored over 100 air-to-air kills with no losses. Yet while the development of the Su-27/30/33/35 and J-11/15/16 families of the Flanker from Russia and China have closed the gap significantly, the Eagle remains very lethal – and keeps getting better.
Part of it is the inclusion of new sensor capabilities, like the Legion pod, that enable the F-15 to do thing the Su-27 can do. Another part has been upgrades to the existing systems, like the AN-APG-63 radar, which has been replaced by a new version with an active electronically-scanned antenna version known as the APG-63(V)3.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Air Force did give the entire F-15 fleet an upgrade known as the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System, or EPAWSS, which gave the F-15C/D an improved chaff and flare dispenser, a digital radar-warning receiver, and a towed decoy. This gives the F-15 a better chance against enemy surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles.
But the F-15 from the get-go had a lot of advantages. It could carry up to eight air-to-air missiles (today, the load is usually four AIM-120 AMRAAM and four AIM-9X Sidewinders), and it had a 20mm M61 Gatling gun with 940 rounds of ammo. It has a top speed of 1,875 miles per hour, and an unrefueled range of 2,402 miles. Boeing has been pitching an Eagle 2040C that would add even more missiles to the F-15’s already formidable armament.
Over 1,500 F-15s of all types have been built, and the production line is still open, producing variants of the F-15E Strike Eagle for orders by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. You can see a video about why the F-15 is aging so well below.
Napoleon at Jena. The Vietnamese at Dien Bien Phu. Washington’s withdrawal from Long Island. What makes a military operation so perfectly complete that you can almost hear Shang Tsung himself say “Flawless Victory” in the back of your mind? A few criteria for the title of “successful” come to mind.
For one, it can’t be an overwhelming win between two countries, one being vastly superior to the other. Sure, the United States completely crushed Grenada but who gives a sh*t? So the odds need to be close to evenly matched. Secondly, a pyrrhic victory isn’t exactly what anyone would call a “success.” Yes, the British won at Bunker Hill, but they lost half of their men doing it. Also, if luck was critical to the outcome, that’s not planning. The British at Dunkirk planned only to get a tenth of those men off the beaches. Finally, there needs to be some kind of military necessity, so Putin’s “Little Green Men” don’t count.
The Six-Day War: Israel vs. Everybody.
Okay, so maybe not everyone, just its aggressive Arab neighbors. In 1967, Israel was still very much the underdog in the Middle East. But living in a tough neighborhood means you need to grow a thicker skin and maybe learn how to fight dirty. Few events have gone into the creation of modern-day Israel as we know it like the Six-Day War. In the days before the war, as tensions mounted, Israel warned Egypt not to close off the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships. Egypt did it anyway. So Israel launched a massive air campaign, destroying the Egyptian Air Force on the ground. When Jordan and Syria entered the war, they got their asses handed to them by an IDF with unchallenged air supremacy.
As the name suggests, the war lasted all of six days, with Israel taking the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.
Operation August Storm: USSR vs. Imperial Japan
Sure it took almost the entirety of World War II to get Japan and Russia, virtual neighbors, to start fighting each other, but once they did, Stalin came through like the most clutch of clutch players. After curb-stomping the Nazi war machine, the Red Army was ready to get some vengeance for the Russo-Japanese War that embarrassed them so much before World War I. In order to bring a quick end to the Pacific War, the U.S. needed to ensure the Japanese forces outside of the home islands surrendered with the rest of Japan – and there were some 800,000 Japanese troops on the Chinese mainland, just waiting to kill Allied forces. What to do?
How about sending 1.5 million joint force Red Army troops fresh from wiping the floor with the Wehrmacht to encircle them along with 28,000 artillery pieces, 5,000 tanks, and 3,700 aircraft? That’s what happened on Aug. 9, 1945, when the Soviets split the Japanese Army in two and dismantled it over a period of days. By Aug. 22, the deed was done, and World War II was over.
The Iliad: Horsing Around
I know I’m going way back into antiquity with this one, but it must have been great if people are still warning each other about Greeks bearing gifts. The level of deception, planning, and discipline it must have taken an ancient army to pull this off is incredible. After constructing the infamous Trojan Horse, the Greeks had to move their ships out of the horizon to make the Trojans believe they’d actually fled from their invasion. Then the Greeks inside the horse had to remain completely silent and cool for as long as it took for the Trojans to pull them into the city and for night to fall. The rest of the Greek Army had to land all over again, regroup, and be completely silent as thousands of them approached a sleeping city.
Desert Storm: Iraq vs. Everybody
How Iraq came to invade tiny Kuwait is pretty easy to figure out. A miscommunication between Saddam Hussein and U.S. ambassador April Glaspie left the Iraqi dictator believing the United States gave him the go-ahead to invade his neighbor. Boy was he wrong. In a logistical miracle that would make Eisenhower proud, in just a few weeks, the United States and its coalition partners somehow moved all the manpower and materiel necessary to defend Saudi Arabia while liberating Kuwait and trouncing the Iraqi Army while taking minimal losses.
Like the biblical story of the flood, the U.S. flooded Iraq with smart bombs for 40 days and 40 nights. After taking a pounding that might as well have been branded by Brazzers, the Iraqi Army withdrew in a ground war that lasted about 100 hours.
Operation Overlord: D-Day
Everyone knew that an invasion of Western Europe was coming, especially the Nazis. But Hitler’s problem was how to prepare for it. What’s so amazing about the planning for Overlord wasn’t just the sheer logistical mastery required – Ike had to think of everything from bullets to food, along with the temporary harbors to move that equipment onto the beach, not to mention planning for a supply line when he didn’t know how long it would be from one day to the next. What is so marvelous about D-Day is all the preparation and planning that also went into fooling the Nazis about where the invasion would hit.
Operation Quicksilver, the plan to build the Ghost Army of inflatable tanks and other gear, all commanded by legendary General George S. Patton. The plan to deceive the Nazis using a corpse thrown from an airplane with “secret plans” on his person, called Operation Mincemeat. It all came together so that on June 6, 1944, the largest amphibious landing to date, along with the largest airborne operation to date could combine with resistance movements and secret intelligence operations to free Europe from the evil grasp of an insane dictator and save an entire race of people.
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians here are working with a custom-made, next-generation robot that will pick apart bombs and study them.
Brokk — a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts with pieces of high-tech ordnance disposal machinery, as well as large construction demolition mechanics — replaces 20-year-old “Stewie,” the previous EOD robot.
EOD techs haven’t had a chance to fully test Brokk’s capabilities yet, but anticipate a live bombing exercise in the next few months will put it to work.
But the $1.3 million upgrade has been worth it so far, according to Staff Sgt. Ryan Hoagland of the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron, who said the older robot had him operating more like a mechanic than an EOD technician.
“I don’t have to mop up hydraulic fluid right now. I’m not fixing wires that have [overheated] because of the sun or that have deteriorated over the years,” among other issues, he said during a tour here. Military.com spoke with Hoagland during a trip accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to the base.
The one-of-a-kind, electric-powered Brokk provides smooth extraction with its control arms, operated remotely from a mobile control trailer nearby, Hoagland said.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeff Walston)
Some movements can be programmed into Brokk, which weighs around 10,000 pounds. But typically, it takes at least two airmen to operate a controller for each arm, plus another to steer the robot, he said. Technicians will watch a live video feed from cameras fastened to it.
Brokk will allow teams to dismantle bombs — often live — after a range test, in which munitions might have penetrated 30 feet or more underground.
EOD techs then collect data from the bomb, providing more information to the weapons tester on how the bomb dropped, struck its target and or detonated.
“Basically, [it’s] data to figure out what happened, and why the item didn’t perform the way it was supposed to,” Hoagland said. “We hope the test goes well. If it doesn’t, we then go in there with this and take care of it.”
The robot, made by Brokk Inc., was named after the Norse blacksmith “who forged Thor’s hammer,” according to a base press release in April 2018. Part of its arms were manufactured in conjunction with Kraft Telerobotics.
Hoagland said the service could incorporate a few more capabilities into Brokk in the future, depending on necessity.