10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein - We Are The Mighty
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10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

Dictators tend to be colorful people. They’re constantly alone, afraid of lots of weird things, and really paranoid everyone’s going to kill them. They have absolute power but their egos are eggshell thin. They’re fragile, volatile and worry all the time. Or maybe they’re just a little crazy from the non-stop high of having absolute power. 

A look back at other dictators shows that all of them have strange quirks. For example, Hitler refused to eat meat but thought it was fine to take meth every day. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was so obsessed with JKF that he sent someone to collect the air around the late president’s grave. Duvalier though the air would help him control JKF’s spirit. Spoiler alert: that didn’t work. Muammar Qaddafi’s crush on Condoleezza Rice rivals anything we’ve ever seen come out of Hollywood.

And that’s just the beginning. The deeper you look at dictators, the more bizarre you realize they are. They’re all a little bizarre. Saddam Hussein was no different. 

1. He penned a best-selling romance novel

His book was originally published anonymously, but everyone knows Hussein wrote “Zabiba and the King“. In the decade between its publishing and the Gulf War, the Iraqi dictator encouraged Iraqi artists to tell stories fabricated stories about the “idyllic life” of citizens in Iraq. He wanted to “bring the feats of the ‘Mother of All Battles’ home to the people.”

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

Typical of an ego-driven dictator, the author of the book claimed he wanted to remain anonymous … all the while feeding leaks to the news. Iraqi newspapers started to report that Hussein might be the author and the legend was born. The novel became an immediate bestseller. Then it was turned into a musical spectacular. We’re not sure if we’d ever be able to sit through that performance, though. 

The CIA believes the book was probably ghostwritten with Hussein’s guidance. 

2. He received a UNESCO award for raising Iraq’s quality of life

Hussein served as the Ba’ath Party vice-chairman from 1968 to 1979. In that time, he created a nationwide literacy program, setting up reading circles in Iraq’s cities. Missing these classes was punishable by three years imprisonment.

He built roads, schools, and hospitals and carved out a public health system that was tops in the region. The UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization honored his achievement in helping to eradicate illiteracy in his country.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Iraqi News Agency)

Then, in 1979, he seized power. His actions in the coming years would make his development work look like a planned deception.

3. A Saddam-like character was featured in a Justice League comic

In a 1999 comic book, the Justice League of America – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Arrow, and others – watched as UN weapons inspectors were ejected from the rogue Middle East nation of Kirai. Meanwhile, a well-meaning but naive new member of the League name Antaeus kills the dictator (who looks a lot like Saddam) of the country rather than do things the JLA way.

The country descends into a multi-faction civil war, ethnic conflict, regional powers exerting military influence, and a battlefield for the ongoing fight between Sunni and Shia Islam.

This was in 1999. If only President Bush read DC Comics.

4. He wiped out an entire civilization

Saddam accused Iraq’s Marsh Arabs of colluding with the Iranians during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. In order to kill them all easier, he drained the legendary marshes – once thought to be the biblical garden of eden. The 9,000-square kilometer area was slowly dwindling to 760 by the time of the 2003 American invasion.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Photo by Salim Virji, used by permission)

The people inhabiting those wetlands were either killed or forced to flee Saddam’s paranoid wrath. After the dictator’s ouster, the Iraqis destroyed the dams preventing water from flowing back into the wetlands and its ancient inhabitants started to return.

In 2016, UNESCO named the wetlands a World Heritage Site.

5. Hussein pledged $94 million to help America’s poor

Well before September 11, 2001, changed the future of American foreign policy and the day before President George W. Bush took office, Saddam Hussein sought to send $94 million to the United States. The reason: “humanitarian aid for the “homeless and wretched Americans living in poverty.”

6. He received the key to the city of Detroit

The year he took power in Iraq, Hussein received a congratulatory note from Reverend Jacob Yasso in Detroit. The dictator sent Yasso and his congregation of Chaldean Christians $250,000. Chaldeans are a sect of Christianity with roots in modern-day Iraq.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Yasso (right) presents the Key to Detroit to Saddam Hussein. (Iraqi State Media)

Saddam invited Yasso to come to Baghdad for a meet and greet. Yasso decided to gift the Iraqi dictator with the key to the city of Detroit, courtesy of then-Mayor Coleman Young. As a way of saying thanks, Hussein then gave the church another $200,000.

7. He hated Froot Loops

The personal jailer for Saddam, while he was a prisoner, fell to U.S. Army Spc. Sean O’Shea, a Pennsylvania National Guardsman. O’Shea mopped the floors in Saddam’s cell, served him meals, and was essentially a sort of valet for Saddam Hussein.

The old man gave him advice on everything from women to home remedies. One of the few times O’Shea ever “saw him look defeated” was when the jail ran out of Raisin Bran Crunch and had to serve the guy Froot Loops. The dictator hated them.

(Read more about Spc. O’Shea’s life with Saddam over at GQ)

8. He offered to debate George W. Bush on live TV

In an effort to prevent the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, the dictator offered to debate U.S. President George W. Bush on live TV. In a three-hour interview with CBS News, he offered a satellite link-up to debate the U.S. President.

“I am ready to conduct a direct dialogue – a debate – with your president,” CBS quoted Saddam as saying. “I will say what I want and he will say what he wants.”

The White House said the offer wasn’t a serious one but Hussein reiterated his stance.

“This is something proposed in earnest out of my respect for the people of the United States and the people of Iraq and the people of the world. I call for this because war is not a joke.”

9. He commissioned a Qur’an written in his own blood

Despite the fact that using blood to write a Qur’an is considered haram – forbidden – in every sect, branch, an offshoot of Islam, that never stopped Saddam Hussein. He commissioned one on his 60th birthday. Calligrapher Abbas Shakir Joudi wrote 6,000 verses and 336,000 words of the Qur’an using 50 pints of blood over the course of two years.

 

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

 

If you’re a blood expert who questions if it’s possible to give that much blood over two years, you aren’t alone. A blood donation expert once estimated it would have taken at least nine years to safely donate that much blood. That sort of thing never stopped Saddam Hussein either.

10. Young Saddam was raised by a single mother and wanted to be a lawyer

Saddam was raised by his mother after his father popped smoke one day. His dad was a shepherd, so there’s no real telling where he went. But the major male influence in Saddam’s life was his uncle, who was a member of the Ba’ath Party. Saddam’s brother died from cancer. Then his mom couldn’t afford to take care of him. So, Saddam got shipped off to live with his Arab nationalist uncle and a dictator was born. Saddam eventually went to Egypt to study law. But that was only after a failed assassination attempt on the sitting Iraqi president, Abd al-Karim Qasim. 

When Qasim was ousted for good in 1963, Saddam the educated lawyer returned to Iraq and the Ba’ath party.

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Army to deploy Armored Brigade Combat Teams to Europe

To address the potential Russian threat, the Army will start rotating Armored Brigade Combat Teams to Europe, starting next year.


According to a report by the Army Times, the first unit to handle a rotation will come from the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado. The European rotation will join Armored Brigade Combat Team rotations in South Korea and Kuwait.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(PHC D. W. HOLMES II, U.S. Navy)

The Army also announced that a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart in Georgia, will be converted from an Infantry Brigade Combat Team to an Armored Brigade Combat Team.

An Armored Brigade Combat Team with the 1st Armored Division will also be moved from training duties to the active rotation. The deployments to Europe, South Korea, and Kuwait are for nine months.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
A U.S. Army Bradley during a training exercise. (Photo by Private 1st Class James Dutkavich)

At present, there are only nine Armored Brigade Combat Teams in the Active Army, with five more in the National Guard. The conversion of the 3rd Infantry Division’s brigade will make it ten active Armored Brigade Combat Teams.

The only U.S. Army unit permanently deployed to Europe is the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker unit. Earlier this year, the Army received the first M1296 Dragoon, a Stryker modified with the Mk 46 Bushmaster II 30mm chain gun.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
The first prototype Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle outfitted with a 30mm cannon was delivered Thursday to the Army. (Photo Credit: Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems)

An Armored Brigade Combat Team has three battalions, each with two companies of M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and two companied of mechanized infantry that each have 14 M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

The brigade also has a reconnaissance squadron with three troops of 12 M3A3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles each.

The Army had to withdraw its Armored Brigade Combat Teams from Europe five years ago due to budget cuts caused by sequestration. A 2015 Army Times report outlined that the cuts reduced the number of brigade combat teams from 45 in 2012 to 30.

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7 craziest commando missions of World War II

World War II was an exciting time for special operations and commandos. The advent of airborne operations gave them a whole new angle of approach, and the sheer scale of the war guaranteed that they’d have plenty of chances to use their skills.


But even accounting for those things, operators on both sides of the war distinguished themselves with daring missions.

Here are eight of the craziest:

1. A costly canoe raid against German ships

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Photo: Royal Marines Museum)

The “Cockleshell Heroes” were a group of British Royal Marines assigned the task of launching from a submarine and canoeing miles up the River Gironde to place limpet mines against the hull of German ships. The mission hit problems almost immediately as canoes were lost to tide and river obstacles.

Only two of the original five made it to the Bordeaux-Bassens docks. The four men who crewed the canoes placed mines on a few ships, which damaged some commercial vessels. While the material damage was limited, it boosted British morale and forced the Germans to devote more resources to defense in a way similar to the U.S. Army Air Force’s Doolittle Raid.

2. The failed attempt to kill Erwin Rommel

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Photo: German Federal Archives)

Operation Flipper had the lofty goal of crippling an Italian headquarters and intelligence office as well as killing Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. The mission was beset by bad weather and the assault force that hit the German officer’s headquarters was smaller than planned.

Still, the British commandos broke into the headquarters building only to learn that Rommel had been delayed in Rome by his own weather problems. Only two raiders survived, but even Rommel admitted that it was a “brilliant operation.” He had the senior officer, British Lt. Col. Geoffrey Keyes, killed and buried with full honors and photos sent to the family.

3. Norwegian resistance destroys Germany’s nuclear stockpile, twice

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Photo: Public Domain)

A first attempt on the Norsk Hydro Plant, where radioactive heavy water was processed and stored, failed but the survivors and their reinforcements hit the plant on Feb. 28, 1943, despite suffering from starvation and exhaustion. They were able to blow the storage facilities, setting German nuclear research back by at least months.

Months later, a new stockpile of German heavy water was being transported on a ferry when the Norwegian Resistance attacked once again, sinking the ferry and ending Germany’s last best chance at a nuclear reactor or bomb. One man, Knut Haukelid, participated in both raids.

4. German paratroopers take the world’s strongest fort

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fortress in May 1940, but it fell to 85 German paratroopers with the right plan. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In 1940, the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fort. Constructed from 1932-1935, it was heavily armed and guarded by upwards of 800 soldiers. But Germany had to destroy or negate it to get the blitzkrieg into Belgium.

They did it in a single morning with 85 paratroopers. The men landed on the fort in gliders and quickly took hold of large sections of it, destroying or capturing the guns aimed at the countryside. When the rest of the German army arrived, the remaining defenders surrendered.

5. Benito Mussolini is rescued from a mountaintop retreat by German paratroopers

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In July 1943, Italian defeats turned the country against Benito Mussolini and he was exiled to a series of locations. A German commander was able to track the dictator to Gran Sasso, a mountaintop ski resort accessible only by cable car or glider. At 6,300 feet, it was too high even for an airborne assault.

German Capt. Otto Skorzeny led the glider assault. The paratroopers brought along an Italian general in the hopes that he would prevent a shootout. It worked. The Italian guards decided not to fight when the gliders crashed into the mountains and the paratroopers stormed out. Skorzeny and Mussolini departed on a small, high-altitude plane.

6. British commandos steal a German radar station

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Photo: Royal Air Force Squadron Leader A.E. Hill)

The insane plan for Operation Biting called for five groups of British paras to land in German-occupied France, capture a German radar station, and then make off with key pieces of the technology. The men landed under cover of darkness and quickly captured the building. They even managed to grab two technicians with intimate knowledge of the advanced German radar.

Paratroopers who missed their drop zone arrived late to destroy a German pillbox, a situation that almost ended with the withdrawing commandos being killed. Luckily, the men arrived in time to destroy the pillbox as it swept fire on the other commandos. The British escaped with their prize.

7. The British turn an entire ship into a bomb

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
The HMS Campbeltown sits on the lip of the Normandie dock after crashing into it. (Photo: German army archives)

Dubbed the “Greatest Raid of Them All,” the St. Nazaire Raid targeted the only German-held dry dock for heavy ships on the Atlantic that was accessible without passing German defenses. But the dry dock was heavily armed and far upriver.

The British sent a small flotilla of vessels led by the converted HMS Campbeltown. Sixteen were small motorboats, twelve of which were destroyed without reaching shore. But the Campbeltown managed to ram the gates of the dry dock. The Germans captured 215 of the 600 attackers and killed 169 more, but explosives hidden in the Campbeltown exploded the next morning, crippling the facilities.

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USAA marches into the esports scene with new Call of Duty League Sponsorship

SANTA MONICA, Calif.—Feb. 10, 2021—Today, USAA and the Call of Duty League™, the official esports league of Call of Duty®, announce a multi-year deal that will see USAA become the League’s Official Insurance Sponsor, the presenting partner of the League’s match day pre-show program and its first-ever Military Appreciation Week.

Call of Duty League, which launched in 2020, returns with the start of its 2021 season on Feb. 11. This season, fans around the globe will watch as the world’s greatest Call of Duty players compete in the newly released “Call of Duty®: Black Ops®  Cold War” in exciting 4 vs. 4 competition.

As part of the sponsorship, USAA will be the exclusive presenting partner of the Call of Duty League’s match day pre-show segment – titled the “USAA Pre-Show” – streaming live at the beginning of each League match broadcast throughout the season.

Photo courtesy of Call of Duty

USAA will also be the exclusive presenting partner of the League’s inaugural “Military Appreciation Week.”

“We understand how gaming can strengthen bonds and connect friends and families across the world. We are excited to join the Call of Duty League as an ally in the trenches for our military community gamers, and young currently serving and veterans in particular,” said Eric Engquist, USAA vice president of enterprise brand management and U.S. Army veteran. “This partnership will allow us to meet military members where they are and provide them with unique experiences and benefits through the Call of Duty League.”

The upcoming Call of Duty League season will be highlighted by several high stakes ‘Majors,’ or tournaments that will feature all 12 teams competing in double-elimination competition. Like the inaugural season, teams will earn CDL Points for each match win throughout the season – with these points determining 2021 season standings, giving them a shot at becoming one of eight teams to qualify for the 2021 Call of Duty League Playoffs, to be hosted later in 2021. As part of the new sponsorship, USAA will be the presenting sponsor of the ‘Major’ to occur in May.

“The Call of Duty franchise continues to deliver, amassing over the years an enormous and passionate fan base that extends to the Call of Duty League, and to esports fans around the globe,” said Brandon Snow, Chief Revenue Officer of Activision Blizzard Esports. “USAA is a world-class brand, building its sterling reputation on taking care of U.S. service members and their families – a mission close to the hearts of the Call of Duty community. We look forward to working together to create meaningful, engaging moments for fans throughout the 2021 and 2022 seasons.”

Photo courtesy of Call of Duty

The Call of Duty League’s 2021 season begins with the Atlanta FaZe Home Series, Feb. 11-14. For more information on the new Call of Duty League, sign up for updates at callofdutyleague.com or tune in to the action at youtube.com/codleague

About USAA

Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 35,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com

About Call of Duty League

Call of Duty League™ is the official esports league of the Call of Duty® franchise, from publisher Activision. The Call of Duty League includes 12 teams from four countries and spotlights the best Call of Duty esports players from around the world. The Call of Duty League launched in 2020 and features fresh ways for pro players, amateurs, and fans to come together around one of the world’s most beloved games. To learn more about the Call of Duty League, visit callofdutyleague.com.

About Activision Blizzard Esports

Activision Blizzard Esports (ABE) is responsible for the development, operation, and commercialization of Activision Blizzard’s professional gaming properties including the Overwatch League™, the Call of Duty® League™, and Hearthstone® Grandmasters, among others. It is ABE’s vision to be the most innovative, scalable, and valuable developer of competitive entertainment. 

About Activision

Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision is a leading global producer and publisher of interactive entertainment. Activision maintains operations throughout the world and is a division of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI), an S&P 500 company. More information about Activision and its products can be found on the company’s website, www.activision.com or by following @Activision.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-looking Statements: Information in this press release that involves Activision Blizzard’s expectations, plans, intentions or strategies regarding the future, including statements about the availability, dates, programming, features and functionality of the Call of Duty League, including the 2021 season, Playoffs and Majors, are forward-looking statements that are not facts and involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause Activision Blizzard’s actual future results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements set forth in this release include unanticipated product delays and other factors identified in the risk factors sections of Activision Blizzard’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K and any subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. The forward-looking statements in this release are based upon information available to The Call of Duty League, LLC, Activision Publishing and Activision Blizzard as of the date of this release, and none of The Call of Duty League, LLC, Activision Publishing or Activision Blizzard assumes any obligation to update any such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements believed to be true when made may ultimately prove to be incorrect. These statements are not guarantees of the future performance of The Call of Duty League, LLC, Activision Publishing or Activision Blizzard and are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond its control and may cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations

CALL OF DUTY, CALL OF DUTY BLACK OPS and CALL OF DUTY LEAGUE are trademarks or registered trademarks of Activision Publishing, Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.  The CALL OF DUTY LEAGUE team names, logos and other team trademarks are the properties of their respective owners.

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This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD


Army veteran Russell Davies knows all about taking the big plunge back into civilian life after military service. As a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, he served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and became a recipient of the Purple Heart.

Now a professional whitewater kayaker, Davies has made a name for himself both in competition and as a dominator of the biggest, burliest whitewater on the planet.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
“Yeah, sometimes Class V just isn’t enough.” “Totally.” (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

“Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis caught up with Davies in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, to see what a day on the water is all about, but what he found there goes a whole lot deeper.

As a civilian, Davies has given himself a new mission: to help returning veterans address the challenges of PTSD and depression through participation in extreme sports. His organization aims to connect vets to the kind of positive, purpose-driven adrenaline rush that he found through kayaking.

But, lest you fear the day was all mutual support and quiet healing, our host — true to form — came through with an 11th hour challenge that once again pushed him to the brink of washing out.

Watch as Davies shows Curtis why real men wear (spray) skirts and the only water worth knowing is white in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

This Army vet is crazy motivated

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

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This Is China’s Version Of SEAL Team 6

The Snow Leopard Commando Unit is the China’s most elite counter terrorism unit, similar to America’s SEAL Team 6. Surprisingly, the unit is a federal police unit and not part of China’s Army.


Tasked with protecting the capital of Beijing, their activities are largely secret. Still, the glimpses the world gets are pretty impressive.

The unit is reported to have been established soon after China’s capital was selected for the 2008 Olympics. From 2002 to 2007, they trained in secret under the name “Snow Wolf Commando Unit.”

In 2007, their existence was finally announced just before a ceremony that changed their name to “Snow Leopard Commando Unit.” That same year, SLCU conducted some flashy training with Russian police.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaTvmTeCOH4
SLCU continued service after the Olympic’s closing ceremonies. The elite unit is rarely reported on, but they made news in 2013 and 2014 for winning top honors at the Warrior Competition, a sort of combat Olympics held in Jordan every year.
The Chinese police very rarely leave China, but the Snow Leopard Unit does, providing security for Chinese dignitaries. They’ve also been dispatched domestically to stamp out unrest in China’s West.

If China has a need to conduct a hostage rescue mission against ISIS or other extremists, it would likely be the Snow Leopard Commando Unit that goes.

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This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

By all accounts, Vietnam combat veteran John P. Baca has lived a quiet, humble and selfless life in the decades since he made the split-second decision to jump on an enemy grenade.


The fragmentation grenade landed amidst the soldiers of his recoilless rifle team responding to help an Army platoon facing a nighttime barrage of enemy fire inPhuoc Long province on Feb. 10, 1970. Then-Specialist 4th Class Baca, a 21-year-old drafted the previous year, removed his helmet, covered the grenade and prayed through what he thought was his final moment on Earth.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Medal of Honor recipient and community activist John Baca got the attention of former Marine and MOH recipient Dakota Meyer for his work with the community in San Diego. (Photo from Gidget Fuentes)

Baca, seriously wounded by the concussion and shrapnel from the exploding grenade, survived the blast. So did eight fellow soldiers. His actions didn’t go unnoticed. The following year, President Richard Nixon placed the Medal of Honor medal, the nation’s highest award for combat valor, around his neck in the nation’s recognition of the “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

Baca’s “gallant action and total disregard for his personal well-being directly saved eight men from certain serious injury or death,” states the award citation.

On Oct. 29, Baca, now 67, stood among a crowd of several hundred attending the first-annual “Ride to Live.”

The American Soldier Network, a Mission Viejo, California-based, all-volunteer non-profit group, and the all-veterans Forgotten Sons Motorcycle Club organized the fundraiser in Oceanside to raise awareness about suicides, post-traumatic stress and struggles of military veterans. About a dozen motorcycle clubs joined in the event outside the Elks Lodge, where scores of motorcycles crowded the parking lot.

“It seems like we flock to our own,” said Dave Francisco, a retired Marine and member of all-veterans Forgotten Sons MC who helped organize the event.

Annie Nelson, ASN’s founder, told the crowd the broader message of the day is about “keeping your battle buddies alive and living for them and fulfilling their bucket list.”

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Baca’s need for a set of reliable wheels to attend events, visit injured vets and even deliver local apple pies got the ear of others, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Marine vet, Dakota Meyer, who mentioned it to Michael Smith of Toyota USA. (Photo from Gidget Fuentes)

Unbeknownst to Baca, who arrived with friends from San Diego, the organizers were about to fulfill one wish tailored just for him: A fully-loaded, red Toyota Tundra Platinum 4×4 pickup truck.

The reluctant hero, who keeps busy volunteering and working with many veterans’ groups and military-related causes — and once insisted a Habitat for Humanity house meant for him be given to the next person on the list — has been getting around with the help of friends. His need for a set of reliable wheels to attend events, visit injured vets and even deliver local apple pies got the ear of others, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Marine vet, Dakota Meyer, who mentioned it to Michael Smith of Toyota USA, himself a former Marine rifleman.

Baca’s story of service and “sacrifice deserves a lifetime of stuff for us to pay him,” said Smith, president of the Toyota Veterans Association. Toyota and San Diego-area dealers joined in providing the truck along with an extended-service contract and $3,500 for gas, he said. The company also presented a large banner honoring Baca and signed by workers at the San Antonio, Texas, plant where the truck was assembled. The Nice Guys of San Diego, a local charity organization, will pay the taxes Baca will owe in receiving the donation, and another donation will cover a year of insurance for him. And Baca also gotdonatoins for his trusty companion and service dog, Jo-Jo, with a year’s worth of dog food and basket of treats, toys, a blanket and seat cover for the truck.

“I no longer have to give you a ride,” a woman in the crowd said as Baca, with the light-blue and starred ribbon and medal around his neck, took hold of the microphone.

Baca, visibly moved, spoke softly as he relayed some moments of his post-war life, reconnecting with a former North Vietnamese soldier and with his estranged daughter and connecting with families through Snowball Express. He is a dedicated volunteer, as reflected by the cap on his head of the nonprofit group that helps the children of the military’s fallen men and women.

Jumping on that grenade was a moment, too. “It was no pain,” he said. “You crossed that veil… I believe we all had that Guardian Angel with us, and mine was holding me that night.” His lieutenant, John Dodson, “wouldn’t let me go to sleep. The angels were ready to take me to heaven and my mom was going to be mad at me for getting myself in this stupid situation,” he said. “But, um, it wasn’t my time.”

Baca returned to Vietnam in 1990 and helped build a village health clinic with former North Vietnamese soldiers, including a former teenage soldier who he had encountered on Christmas Day 1969 and instead let him surrender.

“And I’ll always remember this moment,” Baca said, choking up as he pointed out longtime friends, some who knew him from high school days outside of San Diego. “Thank you so very, very, very much.”

When Baca checked out the truck,  the crowd swelled around him. He peered inside and then climbed into the back seat of the quad cab, and Jo-Jo soon followed. “Get in the driver’s seat, John,” insisted a women, who said she first met him when he visited her husband in a local hospital earlier this year. “When another brother’s in need, he’s always there.”

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That time West Point kidnapped the Academy’s mascot and started its losing streak

Around Veterans’ Day, 2002, a crack team made its way towards a high-value target located in a farm near Gambrillis, Maryland.


They’d gone in mufti, and waited until the coast was clear before they carried out their plan. In a few minutes, the daring personnel carrying out this special operation had succeeded: “Bill the Goat” was now a prisoner of the United States Military Academy.

A New York Times report shortly afterwards quoted a Navy academy spokesman as saying, “I can confirm that one of our goats is missing. However, we would be surprised that a West Point cadet is involved, given that we have had an agreement for a number of years that mascots will not be stolen.”

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

The Naval Academy soon got a photo showing an Army cadet next to Bill. The cadet was in uniform – albeit he had hidden his identity with a ski mask.

“It behooves us to keep a low profile until the game, but we’re trying to keep this lighthearted and not get in anyone’s face,” the anonymous cadet told the New York Times. “And we want to assure Navy that we’ve been treating our guest with utmost deference. In fact, he’s been putting on weight.”

Bill was later returned to the Navy. Plans to shave an “A” for Army on him were not implemented, and the cadets were given amnesty in exchange for coming forward and revealing where they had stashed Bill the Goat.

He was returned before the Army-Navy game. That year, Navy beat Army, 58-12. Since then, the Navy has not lost to Army in the annual game.

That said, since then, the Navy has twice been victimized by operations aimed at this high-value target. In 2007, the Washington Examiner reported that Army cadets again pulled off this masterpiece of pranks, posting the video on YouTube (it was called “Operation Good Shepherd”).

In 2012, unidentified individuals snatched Bill and left him tied to a pole near the Pentagon, according to the Navy Times.

Past kidnappings also included the first in 1953, which prompted an order from President Dwight D. Eisenhower for the animal’s return. In 1960, the Air Force Academy captured Bill and flew him to a Colorado farm. An A-26 Invader was used as the getaway plane. A 1995 operation by Army cadets resulted in the capture of all three Navy mascots.

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This Ranger-veteran Santa granted a dying child’s final wish

An Army Ranger veteran who plays Santa was called for an emergency visit to a dying child in Tennessee, arriving just in time to present the boy with a present and hold him as he passed away.


Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a 60-year-old engineer and the president of Packing Seals Engineering, according to Fox News. He carefully cultivates Saint Nicholas’s appearance and performs at approximately 80 events throughout each year.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Photo: Facebook/Eric Schmitt-Matzen

A nurse contacted him from a hospital near his home in Tennessee to ask that he rush over and comfort a dying child. According to the BBC, he was given a PAW Patrol toy by the child’s mother.

“She’d bought a toy from [the TV show] ‘PAW Patrol’ and wanted me to give it to him,” he told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job.’ ”

Schmitt-Matzen told the sick boy that he was Santa’s “Number One Elf” and that no matter where the boy went next, that title would get him in. Schmitt-Matzen gave the boy the gift and the child asked, “Santa, can you help me?”

“I wrapped my arms around him,” Schmitt-Matzen said, according to the Independent. “Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Photo: Facebook/Eric Schmitt-Matzen

The Ranger veteran left the hospital in tears that any soldier could easily understand. Rangers Lead The Way.

The first reference to this story that WATM has been able to find comes from Sam Venable at the Knoxville News Sentinel. You can learn more about Eric Schmitt-Matzen and his visits as Santa Claus there.

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Oliver Stone thinks Edward Snowden is a hero

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowdon in Oliver Stone’s new movie coming out in September. (Photo: Open Road Films)


In the first full trailer for Snowden, Oliver Stone’s biopic of the NSA contractor who leaked classified documents to the media in 2013, the director makes clear that he thinks Edward Snowden is an American hero.

 

The movie version of Snowden (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a good soldier who trains on broken legs without complaint for two weeks, aspired to serve in special forces and wants to join the CIA to serve his country. He is shocked by what he sees at the NSA and wants the rest of America to make an informed decision in the privacy versus security debate.

All of this matches up perfectly with Vietnam veteran Stone’s long-time movie obsessions with shadowy government figures and national security. After getting delayed twice, the movie finally opens in theaters on September 16.

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5 things you learned about America while being deployed overseas

Being deployed overseas means time away from family, friends and embarking on a life-changing journey that will probably change the way you think forever.


You may not see it at first, but the longer you’re away, you’ll start to form your own opinions about the world around you — especially the home you left.

Related: 7 ways to surprise your spouses when they return from deployment

So check out what we learned about America from our time deployed overseas.

1. There’s no place like America

After the first few months, your fighting spirit usually tends to die out, then you really do begin to believe those classic words Dorothy from Kansas once spoke. This motivation is usually what gets you through the rest of the deployment.

She ain’t lying. (Images via Giphy)America and its people are certainly flawed, but we love them anyway.

2. Bigger problems

Stateside you have all types of bills, some family drama and if you’re living in the barracks, room inspections.

Now that you’re deployed half way around the world, those issues still exist, but you put them on the back burner. Although combat stress can get pretty jarring, many prefer that headache over fighting heavy traffic.

Let’s face it, blowing sh*t up is a great stress reliever. (images via Giphy)Punching out a bad driver is illegal. Blowing up an ISIS village is totally legal.

3. Americans are true supporters

Mail call doesn’t come around too often, but when it does, it’s like Christmas no matter the time of year. Many don’t have families back home to support them while they’re off fighting the bad guys. So Americans from across the U.S. often come together and pack up goodies and send them off to deployed service members around the world.

YES! New socks and fresh baby wipes! (Image via Giphy)It’s an amazing feeling to get a package from someone you don’t know.

4. How good American air smells

Being stationed on a small patrol base, you incinerate all the trash you accumulate in a burn pit not far away from where you eat, sleep and stand post. The smell can be pretty nasty.

Come home after a year-long deployment and smell that good old fashion America breeze.

Yes, it is. (Images via Giphy)God bless America and its plumbing system.

Also Read: 4 insane things service members can do to stay awake

5. How little stuff we need to survive

As Americans, we buy a lot of crap we don’t need but convince ourselves we do. Live for months on an aircraft carrier or on a patrol base and you’ll have maybe 10 square feet of personal storage — you’ll still get by just fine with a whole lot less stuff.

 

That is all. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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5 wild conspiracy theories that turned out to be true

Take off your tin-foil hats for a second, because sometimes an insane-sounding conspiracy theory actually turns out to be true. From the government making up an enemy attack to justify war to “mind control” experiments, some stories are hard to believe until declassified documents or investigations prove they actually happened.


Here are five of the wildest former conspiracy theories we found:

1. The US Navy fired on North Vietnamese torpedo boats that weren’t even there.

On the night of Aug. 4, 1965, the USS Maddox engaged against hostile North Vietnamese torpedo boats following an unprovoked attack. The only problem: there were no torpedo boats. Or attack. The Maddox fired at nothing, but the incident was used as a justification to further escalate the conflict in Vietnam.

President Lyndon Johnson reported that at least two of the enemy boats were sunk, and American media outlets backed up that story in numerous articles. But conspiracy theorists thought it looked a lot like a “false flag” attack. They were right, according to the National Security Agency’s own declassified documents.

Others who were present, including James Stockdale (a Navy pilot who would later receive the Medal of Honor), disputed the official account:

“I had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there … There was nothing there but black water and American fire power.”

Even LBJ wasn’t convinced: “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

2. The FBI infiltrated, surveilled, and tried to discredit American political groups it deemed “subversive.”

When it wasn’t investigating crimes and trying to put people in jail, the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Director J. Edgar Hoover kept busy trying to suppress the spread of communism in the United States. Under a secret program called COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program), the FBI harassed numerous political groups and turned many of its members completely paranoid.

Though they could never be sure, many activists suspected the FBI was watching them. And the Bureau was able to mess with groups it didn’t like and influence what they did.

From the book “The United States of Paranoia” by Jesse Walker:

Under COINTELPRO, FBI agents infiltrated political groups and spread rumors that loyal members were the real infiltrators. They tried to get targets fired from their jobs, and they tried to break up the targets’ marriages. They published deliberately inflammatory literature in the names of the organizations they wanted to discredit, and they drove wedges between groups that might otherwise be allied. In Baltimore, the FBI’s operatives in the Black Panther Party were instructed to denounce Students for a Democratic Society as “a cowardly, honky group” who wanted to exploit the Panthers by giving them all the violent, dangerous “dirty work.” The operation was apparently successful: In August 1969, just five months after the initial instructions went out, the Baltimore FBI reported that the local Panther branch had ordered its members not to associate with SDS members or attend any SDS events.

It wasn’t only communist or left-leaning organizations. The FBI’s list of targets included the Civil Rights movement, and public enemy number one was Dr. Martin Luther King. Agents bugged his hotel rooms, followed him, tried to break up his marriage, and at one point, even sent him an anonymous letter trying to get him to commit suicide.

It would’ve been just a whacky conspiracy theory from a bunch of paranoid leftists that no one would’ve believed. But the conspiracy theorists — a group of eight anti-war activists — broke into an FBI field office in 1971 and found a trove of documents that exposed the program.

3. U.S. military leaders had a plan to kill innocent people and blame it all on Cuba.

Sitting just 90 miles from the Florida coast and considered a serious threat during Cold War, communist Cuba under its leader Fidel Castro was a problem for the United States. The U.S. tried to oust Castro with the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, but the operation failed. So the generals went back to the drawing board and came up with an unbelievable plan called Operation Northwoods.

From ABC News:

The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.

“These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing,” Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.

What were the “embarrassing” plans? Well, there were ideas for lobbing mortars into Guantanamo naval base, in addition to blowing up some of the aircraft or ammunition there. Then there was another idea floated to blow up a ship in its harbor. But these were rather timid compared to other plans that came later in a top secret paper:

“We could develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington … We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated) … Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.”

The paper went on to describe in detail other plans for possibly hijacking or shooting down a “drone” airliner made to look like it was carrying civilian passengers, or faking a shoot-down of a U.S. Air Force jet over international waters to blame Cuba.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
CIA headquarters

4. The CIA recruited top American journalists to spread propaganda in the media and gather intelligence.

Started in the 1950s amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency approached leading American journalists in an attempt to influence public opinion and gather intelligence. The program, called Operation Mockingbird, went on for nearly three decades.

From journalist Carl Bernstein, writing in Rolling Stone in 1977:

Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.

The Church Committee exposed much of the program, with a full report from Congress stating: “The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.”

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

5. The CIA conducted “mind control” experiments on unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens, some of which were lethal.

Perhaps one of the most shocking conspiracy theories that turned out to be true was a CIA program called MKUltra, which had the stated goal of developing biological and chemical weapons capability during the Cold War, according to Gizmodo. But it ballooned into a larger program that encompassed research (via Today I Found Out):

  • which will promote the intoxicating affect of alcohol;
  • which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness;
  • which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so called “brain-washing;”
  • which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use;
  • [which will produce] shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use; and
  • which will produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.

During the program, the CIA established front companies to work with more than 80 institutions, such as hospitals, prisons, and universities. With these partnerships in place, the agency then ran experiments on subjects using drugs, hypnosis, and verbal and physical abuse. At least two American deaths can be attributed to this program, according to the Church Committee.

Though the Church Committee uncovered much of this shocking program, many of the top secret files were ordered to be destroyed in 1973 by CIA Director Richard Helms.

NOW: Here’s a video of soldiers trying to march after getting stoned on LSD

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The US missed its chance to wipe out ISIS fighters on this road of death

A convoy of stranded Islamic State fighters has generally dispersed throughout Iraq and Syria, depriving the US of the ability to strike them in one place, The Washington Post reports.


The convoy of terrorists came to be after a complex peace deal was struck between ISIS, the Lebanese government, the terrorist group Hezbollah, and the Assad regime. ISIS agreed to evacuate an area near Lebanon in return for safe passage to area it controls near the Iraqi-Syrian border. The US military expressed anger at the deal, pledging to strand the convoy in the middle of the desert and kill as many fighters as possible without endangering the lives of women and children.

“If they try to get to the edge of ISIS territory and link up with ISIS there, we’ll work hard to disrupt that,” Operation Inherent Resolve commander Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters Aug. 31. Townsend’s spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon similarly told The New York Times, “If we do identify and find ISIS fighters who have weapons — and like I said, we can discriminate between civilians and ISIS fighters — we will strike when we can. If we are able to do so, we will.”

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve commanding general, speaks with Airmen, Marines, and coalition personnel thanking them for the many contributions in support of OIR during an all-call. USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Andy M. Kin.

The fighters, however, appear to have dispersed to different parts of Iraq and Syria, though some parts of the convoy remain marooned in the desert. A section of the fighters have found their way to towns in Iraq, which also was angry about the safe passage given to the terrorist group. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi recently called the peace deal an “insult to the Iraqi people,” adding “honestly speaking, we are unhappy and consider it incorrect.”

The Iraqi Security Forces are currently in the midst of ISIS clearing operations throughout the country after a series of battlefield victories in Mosul and Tal-Afar. The terrorist group still controls some territory and will likely be defended by some of the freed ISIS fighters.

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