America’s oldest fighting force was founded officially on December 13th, 1636, when the first Militia fighting forces gathered in Massachusetts. 382 years later, here are some of the lesser-known facts about the US National Guard:
1. The very first national guard consisted of militia forces that were divided into three regiments (these units were the first “minutemen,” known for their quick response times).
2. Today, the descendants of those regiments are the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. They are the oldest units in the entire U.S. military.
3. Two U.S. presidents have served in the National Guard – Harry S. Truman, and George W. Bush
4. President Kennedy once used national guard troops to enforce integration legislature after governor George Wallace blocked the doorway of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa to prevent integration.
5. National Guard soldiers have fought in every single war since their founding.
6. 50,000 members took on missions during the 9/11 attacks.
7. There have been 780,000 mobilizations of National Guard units since September 11, 2001. They provided about half of the troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.
8.) The National Guard is second only to the U.S. Army in terms of members.
U.S. Army Spc. Josh Sadler, of Regimental Higher Headquarters Troop, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard participates in training in preparation for deployment to Iraq at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Dec. 12, 2009. This will be the units second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in five years. DoD photo by Russell Lee Klika, U.S. Army. (Released)
9. As each state has their own National Guard units, members must swear to uphold both Federal and State constitutions.
10. The National Guard name was not official until 1916, but it was first popularized by the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. Lafayette went on to become the leader of his own National Guard in France.
Lafayette as a lieutenant general, in 1791. Portrait by Joseph-Désiré Court
11. The National Guard was the first to create an African-American unit, 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, during the Civil War. One member of this unit, Sgt. Carney, was the first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor.
A secret plan was passed around the Roosevelt Administration in 1940 and 1941 that called for dozens of American bombers with American crews masked by Chinese markings to fly bombing missions against Japanese cities, crippling crucial war production facilities and, hopefully, keeping Japan too busy with China to attack British and American interests in the Pacific.
For President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the late 1930s and early 1940s were a minefield of grave threats to the American people. The war in Europe posed a significant threat to American allies while growing tensions in the Pacific were looking disastrous to both allied and American interests and territory. All the while, the American economy was still trying to scramble its way out of the Great Depression.
There is debate today about whether Roosevelt was trying to pull a reluctant America into war with Japan in 1940 and 1941, but it is certain that he saw American and British interests as being threatened by the island nation — and he wanted to make sure that the Japanese were either deterred from attacking Western interests or so hamstrung by the war with China that they couldn’t attack.
One of the plans that emerged from his administration would later become known as “JB 355.” It called for the formation of a new Chinese front company using money from the Lend-Lease Act. This company, headed by former Army pilot and then-director of the Chinese Air Force flight school, Claire Chennault, would be a Second American Volunteer Group. Like the First American Volunteer Group, it would be disguised as a Chinese mercenary group but manned by American pilots and supplied with American planes.
The 1st AVG was already formed and undergoing training in the summer of 1941 when JB 355 was approved. With 100 American fighter aircraft and 99 American pilots, it was preparing to attack Japanese air forces and disrupt their shipping operations.
Some of the pilots in the First American Volunteer Group pose with their P-40.
(U.S. Air Force archives)
The mission of the 2nd AVG, approved in July 1941, would be very different. Comprised of 50 American bombers and the appropriate crews, the 2nd AVG was to drop incendiary weapons on Japanese cities, like Tokyo, that were essential to Japan’s war production.
The attacks were tentatively scheduled for November.
So, why didn’t American bombs strike Tokyo the month before Japanese bombs hit Pearl Harbor?
The first planes ordered for the Second American Volunteer Group were Lockheed Hudsons, but they were never delivered because shortages delayed their production until after the Pearl Harbor attacks made the company unnecessary.
(National Museum of the Air Force)
Because American industry was not yet on a full, wartime footing. There simply weren’t enough supplies to fulfill all the approved requests.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall was struggling to get supplies everywhere they were needed throughout 1941. He detailed some of his efforts and setbacks in a February letter to Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short who had just taken command at Pearl Harbor. In the letter, he explained where all of his supplies were going but promised that his priority was to protect the Navy’s fleet:
You, of course, understand the pressures on the Department for the limited materiel we have, for Alaska, for Panama, and, most confidentially, for the possible occupation of the Azores, not to mention the new leased bases. However, as I have already said, we are keeping clearly in mind that our first concern is to protect the Fleet.
When a revolution starts, there eventually comes a time for everyone to start picking sides. For the southern colonies in the American Revolution, the time to choose came in 1776. Both loyalist and patriot armies began recruiting drives for soldiers to fight for their respective goals – would the colonies free themselves from tyranny or would the unruly Americans be put in their place?
In the months that followed the revolution’s start, the British hoped to recruit brave Scotsmen who were still loyal to the crown in North Carolina. The patriots weren’t going to just let that happen.
After the shooting battles at Lexington and Concord touched off the powder keg that would eventually become the United States of America, patriot and loyalist leaders scrambled to shore up their supporters, whether they were providing money, arms, or soldiers. In 1776, almost a full year after the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” North Carolina’s governor raised a militia of loyalist Scotsmen to join a force of British regulars in the Carolinas, then led by Gen. Henry Clinton. They were successful in raising the men, but the local committee of correspondence – the patriot shadow government and intelligence network – got wind of the plan and was determined to prevent the two groups from linking up.
North Carolina’s loyalist governor managed to raise an army of about 6,000 strong, which was no small feat. This militia force was supposed to meet 2,000 regulars and then march to the sea in preparation for fighting the patriots. But when the British didn’t make the rendezvous, loyalists began to desert the army rather than fight patriot militias every step of the way.
When the Committee of Correspondence got wind of the loyalist plans, they put a similar plan of theirs to work. The Continental Congress raised a force of Continental Army regulars while North Carolina raised forces of patriot militia – each in a hurry. Their goal was to meet the mixed British force before it could reach the coast. After some maneuvering, the two met at Moore’s Creek Bridge, a battle across a creek the British tried to avoid.
For both sides, that meant a war council to determine if fighting in that place was really the best course of action. They both decided that it was, but the patriots took it a step further. After night fell, they sabotaged and greased up the bridge, coating it with a layer of lard that the Scottish loyalist militia wouldn’t soon forget – those who would survive, anyway.
The Scottish troops approached the bridge and decided to identify themselves in the mists of the early morning. The only reply they received was a patriot sentry firing a shot to warn the patriot army that the British were on the move. The battle was on for the patriots, and the Scottish snipers’ leadership also decided this was the time and place. A force of 100 or more swordsmen hopped off their mounts and rushed the bridge.
When the Scots got within 30 paces of the bridge, a body of colonials hiding behind earthworks on the other side opened up on the loyalists, ripping through formations and devastating the army’s ranks. The leaders of the swordsman militia were torn to shreds by the musket fire, and the Scotsmen retreated in a hurry. The entire army dissipated and broke, never fighting another battle.
Even if the Scottish conscripts actually made their way to the Atlantic coast, there would have been no reinforcements to meet them. The British forces that were supposed to link up with them didn’t even make it to the Carolinas until May of 1776, a full three months later. As for the Scottish loyalists in North Carolina, their support was only vocal from that point forward. Never again would they answer the call to arms for the British.
Long before obstacle-course races became the dad fitness fad du jour, kids enjoyed crawling, jumping, and swinging from station to station in PE class. And they still do, even if not all of them want to train for a Mini Mudder. Most young kids have a good notion of what obstacle courses are (the world looks like one when you’re small enough) so getting them to race through homemade gauntlets is fairly easy and, when it comes to tiring them out, incredibly effective. It’s an activity that naturally builds on itself because kids will want to provide feedback on specific obstacles and courses can have endless permutations, at least until someone breaks something. The perfect obstacle course should be challenging, silly, and easily deconstructed or reconstructed. But, most importantly, it should be safe ⏤ so no fire pits!
Prep Time: About 30 minutes. Entertainment Time: 20 minutes to two hours. Energy Expended by Child: Mostly physical, unless you want to throw in a puzzle or two.
Things to crawl under or through. If you don’t already have a play tunnel, pull a sheet taut and have them crawl under it, army style.
Things to throw. Make a station where aim is important. Throwing is a skill very young kids can develop.
Things to balance on. An extra piece of woods in the shed can be a balance beam. So can a floorboard if everyone agrees it’s surrounded by lava.
If you’re setting an outdoor obstacle course up in the backyard, there are plenty of ready-to-buy obstacles, as well.
How to Play:
The best way to play ‘Obstacle Course’ is by building several stations, each with their own challenge. Depending on the age of the kids, they can help with this part. Here’s an example (note that writing it down can be helpful and make comprehension part of the game):
Knock down all the cans.
Jump from block to block.
Ride the tricycle across the living room while making a silly face.
Crawl through the tunnel.
Drag a heavy thing past the line.
Walk a ping pong ball with a spoon.
The individual stations can be anything and are only limited by space and imagination. You can add special challenges as kids figure out how to manage certain obstacles. It’s also important to note that stations can reoccur in each running of an obstacle course. It is, for instance, a great idea to get kids to jump multiple times between activities that require more precise muscle control. This forces kids to engage different muscles and tires them out.
It’s also important to note that obstacle course are not merely physical. They are based on rules. It’s good to establish a points system that informs timing (plus 10 seconds for falling off the balance beam) because it incentivizes kids to really do the thing while turning you into a referee and arbiter of success, which puts you in a better position to encourage certain approaches or dish out positive feedback so kids feel like they’re making progress over time. If they aren’t, it also puts you in a prime position to obscure that fact.
To that end, it’s smart to make yourself one of the obstacles. Make kids dodge balls you’re throwing, chase you down, or play the levels game. This allows for you to make the course increasingly difficult and gets you directly involved, which is likely to ramp up interests (kids are predictable like that). On that same note, it’s a good idea to try to do the course — the parts you can fit through — to set a baseline time for your kid to beat. A bit of competition, no matter how silly, provides kids with a way to compete with mom and dad and understand their abilities and bodies in relation to other people’s. This leads to an ability to do a kind of athletic self-assessment that can be helpful later in life. It also tends to lead to absolute exhaustion.
Obstacle courses are a great way for your kids to burn off excess energy. And if they ever get tired of the same old course, change the theme or turn it into a narrated adventure: Superhero tryouts, ninja training, find the hidden treasure. Younger kids will especially enjoy embarking on the course as a character on an expedition. In the end, not only is it satisfying to watch your kids challenge themselves but also to watch them enjoy something you all built … even if it was made with couch cushions.
From original programming to the biggest movies released in theaters (albeit, a while ago), there’s a lot to watch on HBO. So we’re here to point out what you need to see right away on HBO Go or HBO Now.
In August 2019, you can finally watch the lord of the seas, “Aquaman,” from the comfort of your own home. You can also check out one of the best movies of 2018, “The Favourite.” And if you are looking for a classic, can we interest you in “The Lost Boys”?
Here are 7 movies to check out on HBO in August 2019:
1. “Body Heat” (Available August 1)
A modern-day telling of the classic film noir “Double Indemnity,” William Hurt is persuaded by his lover, played by Kathleen Turner, to murder her rich husband.
2. “The Lost Boys” (Available August 1)
This late 1980s classic stars Jason Patric and Corey Haim as two brothers who move into a town that turns out to be a haven for young, good looking vampires, led by Kiefer Sutherland.
3. “The Favourite” (Available August 3)
Olivia Colman walked away with the best actress Oscar for her role as Queen Anne in this twisted dark comedy set in early 18th century England. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz also deliver incredible performances.
4. “Aquaman” (Available August 10)
James Wan’s ridiculously fun superhero movie looks at the origin story of Aquaman. Jason Momoa is perfect in the role of Arthur, while the CGI in this movie is mind-blowing.
5. “Mortal Engines” (Available August 24)
I still have no clue what “Mortal Engines” is. I guess it was a book people liked? Peter Jackson is involved? Hey, this is an example of why HBO exists — see movies you would never dare buy a ticket for.
6. “The Mule” (Available August 27)
Clint Eastwood plays a 90-year-old Korean War vet who, in the hopes of getting some cash, finds himself becoming a drug mule for the Mexican cartel.
A recent ambush of British special operations forces in Mosul reportedly required hand-to-hand combat for survival.
Military sources told The Daily Star on July 2 that an intelligence gathering operation by Special Air Service personnel in Iraq turned into a firefight with roughly 50 ISIS terrorists. Over 30 were killed near a riverbed before the British troops ran out of ammunition.
“They knew that if they were captured, they would be tortured and decapitated,” a source told the Star. “Rather than die on their knees, they went for a soldier’s death and charged the ISIS fighters who were moving along the river bed. They were screaming and swearing as they set about the terrorists.”
The Daily Star reported that the SAS operators had roughly 10 rounds between them, so they charged the ISIS bad guys with knives, bayonets and improvised weapons.
One terrorist was reportedly drowned in a puddle by an operator.
“[The warfighter] then picked up a stone and smashed it into the face of another gunman wrestling with one of his colleagues,” the source said. “Another killed three of the fighters by using his assault rifle as a club. Others were stabbing at the gunmen who wanted to capture the British troops alive.”
The team, all suffering injuries, eventually met up with Kurdish allies after the remaining ISIS fighters fled.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, left, and Kobe Bryant talk at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, July 15, 2012. (Department of Defense photo by D. Myles Cullen)
Only a few hours after the tragic news broke of famed basketball player Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashing, killing all nine passengers (including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna), the social media debates started: Why are we so sad about a celebrity dying but when our service members are killed in the line of duty seemingly no one notices?
An article from 2005 began circulating again, reminding us all of another helicopter tragedy: the horrible Al-Anbar CH-53E crash that killed all 31 troops when it went down outside Ar-Rutbah in Iraq this same weekend, 15 years ago.
Veterans everywhere concur: you can, and should, be sad about both.
We’re all allowed to feel empathy at a wife losing her husband and daughter and three girls losing their dad and sister, not to mention the other families on board. You’re allowed to grieve someone who inspired thousands and thousands of kids and adults alike to pursue their dreams. At the same exact time, as Americans, we all should know the names of our service members dying for us every day.
And: That’s not why anyone signs up to serve.
Veterans took to the internet to express their sympathy as well as their own experiences with Kobe and his support for our military community.
Competing in his first Army Ten-Miler against 35,000 registered runners didn’t faze Spc. Frankline Tonui. He and World Class Athlete Program teammate, Sgt. Evans Kirwa, led the pack for most of the race on a warm October 2018 Sunday morning.
Tonui actually trailed just behind Kirwa for much of the run, but as the pair reached the final stretch, he made a push and confidently raised his left hand in victory as he crossed the finish line. Tonui beat Kirwa by mere tenths of a second to finish at 50 minutes, 23 seconds.
“Always you have to run smart,” said Tonui, a 25-year-old 91D tactical power generation specialist from Fort Carson, Colorado, “because my teammates are all the best, so I was waiting for them to wear out. So the last 100 meters I kicked and was able to win.”
Tonui, a former Division I Track and Field runner for the University of Arkansas, placed second nationally in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 2016. He faced a different type of challenge though in the Army Ten-Miler, which features a winding course that begins at the Pentagon and moves along the streets of Washington, D.C.
Spc. Susan Tanui crosses the finish line to become the first-place female finisher for the second straight year in the Army Ten-Miler, Oct. 7, 2018. Tanui finished 56:33, 17 seconds better than her 2017 time.
(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)
“I just thought he was ready to run a really good race,” said All-Army team coach Col. Liam Collins. “He’s just always been a tough competitor, good hard worker and he just knows how to put it up on race day.”
Kirwa humbly conceded victory to his WCAP teammate but feels confident he has made strides toward both runners’ ultimate goal: qualifying for the 2020 Olympics at next year’s World Trials. Kirwa made a significant leap from his 2017 finish of eighth place, when he admittedly struggled with the wet and muggy conditions in 2017.
In 2018 Kirwa was in front for the majority of the race before Tonui’s final kick.
“I had led probably 90 percent of the race,” Kirwa said. “I knew that somebody was going to kick cause I hadn’t seen him take the lead. We kicked with about 40 yards to go. He came ahead of me and I just had another gear and he had another gear.”
Kirwa finished nearly a minute better than his 2017’s 50 minutes 13 seconds. The native of Eldoret, Kenya, has his eye on larger goals though: returning to his peak running form in college. A 12-time NAIA All-American, Kirwa gave up running after enlisting in the Army in 2014. For four years, the sergeant focused on his military career as a UH-60 Blackhawk mechanic. He stayed in shape by playing recreational soccer at Fort Carson, Colorado. Then he reconnected with old friends who happened to be WCAP athletes.
A wave of runners begins the annual Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., Oct. 7, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)
He got the itch to run again. And shortly after, he joined the WCAP program.
“These are the guys I ran against in college — day in, day out,” Kirwa said. “So when I came back, they motivated me.”
Kirwa next plans to compete at the USA Track and Field National Club Cross Country Championships Dec. 8, 2018, in Spokane, Washington.
Spc. Susan Tanui ran so far ahead of the other female leaders on Oct. 7, 2018, that she found motivation by pacing herself with male runners. She finished with a personal-best 56:33 — 17 seconds, better than her 2017 finish and 44 seconds ahead of the second-place female finisher, Julia Roman-Duval, of Columbia, Maryland.
Tanui placed first among female runners for the second straight year.
“It’s like running on a treadmill — it hooks you in a starting pace,” said Tanui, a 31-year old 68E dental specialist. “And that helps keep you moving. Some males would pass me, but at least I would find a pace that I am consistent with.”
Tanui, competing in her fourth Army Ten-Miler, has consistently improved in each race after finishing second in 2016. But she said she did not see the biggest jump until she joined the WCAP program 18 months ago. The Kenyan native hopes to qualify for her first Olympic games in 2020.
Maj. Kelly Brown-Calway, a master’s candidate at the National Intelligence University, gets a hug from family members including her father, Gen. Robert Brown (right), U.S. Army Pacific commander. Brown-Calway competed in the Army Ten-Miler for the tenth time, finishing third among female runners.
(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)
“She’s made miraculous progress in the program,” Collins said.
The race has served as a reunion of sorts for Maj. Kelly Brown-Calway, a master’s candidate at the National Intelligence University in Washington. She completed her 10th Army Ten-Miler, finishing third overall among female runners. She said the race has reunited her with former cadets she trained while serving as former coach of the West Point marathon team. One of her former students, Cadet Third Class Chase Hogeboom, managed to finish ahead of her.
“I’m really proud of him,” Brown-Calway said. “He wasn’t sure if he wanted to come to West Point and I showed him around. I got to coach him on the team and it’s been neat to see him grow.”
Brown-Calway estimates as many as 50 of her former cadets competed on Oct. 7, 2018.
In 2018, Brown-Calway’s husband, Maj. Chris Calway, also competed in the race, as well as her brother-in-law, Capt. Matthew Buchanan, a Downing scholar at Duke University. And her father, Gen. Robert Brown, U.S. Army Pacific commander, cheered her on.
The Army Ten-Miler has grown into the third-largest 10-mile race in the world, featuring 650 running teams and both civilian and military competitors.
“I’ve gotten to see the evolution of the course,” Brown-Calway said. “The course has changed so much. I think this was the best year. The extra two long miles going over the Key Bridge instead of the Memorial Bridge was nice. I thought the whole route was fantastic this year.”
A runner crosses the finish line during the 2018 Army Ten-Miler Oct. 7 in Washington, D.C.
(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)
As expected, the WCAP athletes and All-Army team dominated the field on Oct. 7, 2018.
The third-place overall finisher, Spc. Girma Mecheso, had just recently finished Initial Entry Training. The squad had to shuffle its lineup after three competitors were unable to compete in Washington due to injuries.
“What they wanted to do was come out here and run as a team, stay grouped together as long as possible,” said Collins, who also competed in the race. “And it really just came down to the end — who had the better kick and who had the guts to put it to the finish line first. We had a pack up front running together with a group of three for a while and there was a second pack running together, a group of four.”
Throughout the 1930s pilots around the world were continually trying to push the limits of anything that had been done before in the air. While the likes of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart are more familiar names in the Western World, the Soviets had their own equivalents such as Mikhail Gromov who, in 1937 along with his two man crew, managed to break the world distance record for non-stop flight, flying 6,306 miles from Moscow to California via a rather dangerous North Pole route. Hailed as heroes upon their return, Premier Joseph Stalin decided the Soviet Union should follow this up in 1938 by having a group of women pilots attempt to set the distance record for non-stop flight for a female crew. The selected trio, who each already held one or more world records for female aviators, were Polina Osipenko, Valentina Grizodubova, and Marina Raskova.
And so it was that on Sept. 24, 1938 the three ladies took off from an airfield in Shchcyolkovo near Moscow, in a Tupolev ANT-37, which normally had a range of about 5,000 km or 3,100 miles. Their destination was Komsomolsk-on-Amur over 3600 miles away. Unfortunately for them almost immediately upon departing they encountered a number of issues including a thick layer of clouds and icing conditions which forced them to climb above said clouds, in the process losing all sight of the ground for the duration. Not long after this, their radio stopped working. Without a clear view of the ground for almost the entire flight, Raskova used the stars, a compass, and their airspeed to roughly determine their position as they flew. When the clouds finally broke, they found themselves flying over Tugur Bay in the Sea of Okhotsk, about 500 km or 300 miles directly north of their intended destination.
Low on fuel, they desperately attempted to find an alternate place to land, but the engines died first. With some form of a crash landing inevitable and a navigator no longer having anything to do, Grizodubova ordered Raskova to parachute out of the plane from about 6,500 feet with the hope that it would increase her odds of survival. Of course, decreasing her odds slightly, she chose to leave her emergency survival kit for the other two women, reportedly only taking two chocolate bars with her for rations to trek through Siberia with. When Raskova safely hit the ground, she noted the direction the plane was gliding and began hiking after it.
As for the pilot and co-pilot still aboard, they were forced to make a gear up, dead-stick landing in a frozen swamp near the upper part of the Amgun River, in the end successfully executing what is termed in pilot-speak as a “good landing”- in that all occupants survived and were able to walk away from the wreckage.
As for Raskova, she hiked for a full ten days before finally locating the downed aircraft and her comrades. Not long before she arrived, a search crew located the plane. While this was a good thing for the women, unfortunately two of the search planes collided overhead and killed all 15 aboard as the horrified pilots watched from below. A few days later, the women were picked up via boat.
When they arrived back in Moscow, their harrowing journey, which managed 3,671.44 miles in 26 hours and 29 minutes (though in truth they had flown some 6,450 km or 4,007 miles total), had indeed set the distance record for a straight line, non-stop all-woman crew. That, along with how they handled themselves in such adverse conditions saw them lauded as heroes across the Union, including quite literally being given the “Hero of the Soviet Union” award, among other honors.
Fast-forwarding about three years later in June of 1941, Germany decided to invade. During Operation Barbarossa, almost 4 million troops were thrown at the Soviet Union, and in one fell swoop the Axis managed to destroy approximately 66 airfields and about 80% of the military aircraft in the Soviet Union at the time.
German troops at the Soviet state border marker, June 22, 1941.
With an abundance of pilots and few planes, you might think this was not exactly an ideal environment for female pilots of the era to be given a job- especially not in combat- but two factors saw Stalin convinced establishing all female squadrons was something they should do. First, Raskova wouldn’t stop berating Stalin about it, noting both in the air and on the ground that forgoing using half your populace when the enemy was almost at the doorsteps of Moscow was foolish. Another factor was that among the planes still available were a large number of Polikarpov Po-2’s- an open cockpit two seat 1928 biplane made of wood and fabric, mostly meant for flight training and crop dusting.
Slow and plodding, the Polikarpov cruised along at a breakneck pace of about 68 mph (109 km/hr) and a never exceed if you don’t want your wings to fall off speed of 94 mph (151 km/hr). Combine that with a maximum climb rate of a mere 500 feet per minute (152 meters) while traveling at a speed not that much faster than Usian Bolt while ascending, and these weren’t exactly planes male pilots were itching to fly to the front in…
For reference here, the Luftwaffe were flying such planes as the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger, which had an engine possessing about 25 times the horsepower as the Polikarpov, cruised along at 280 mph (450 km/hr), with maximum speeds of 426 mph (685 km/hr), and could climb in excess of 3,000 ft/min. That’s not to mention this plane came equipped with dual 13 mm MG 131 machine guns. The pilots of the Polikarpov Po-2’s, on the other hand, were given hand pistols as their air to air combat weapon… No doubt when in a dog fight, they also were instructed to make “pew pew pew” sounds to increase the effectiveness of their arsenal.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, should one get shot down or the fabric of the aircraft catch fire, which occasionally happened when tracer bullets ripped through them, as weight was at a premium, the pilots weren’t given parachutes… On top of that, the planes themselves did not come equipped with radios or any other such equipment. A map, a compass, a pistol, and their wits were what the stick and rudder Po-2 pilots brought with them on their combat missions.
A damaged and abandoned Po-2 forced to land in Ukraine, and subsequently captured by German troops, 1941.
Now, you might at this point be wondering what possible use these pilots could serve flying these planes into combat other than reducing the Soviet population by a couple hundred pilots. Well, the one marginally potent weapon the planes did come equipped with was bombs- up to six of them, weighing approximately 110 lbs each (50 kg).
Planes few wanted to fly sitting on the ground and Raskova refusing to shut up about it, Stalin ordered her to form three all female squadrons, though the 588th Bomber Regiment, who would come to use the Polikarpov Po-2’s, was the only one to remain exclusively staffed by women throughout the war.
As for the young ladies who volunteered to fly in these death traps, they ranged from about 17 years old to their early 20s. And while you might think the name they’d soon be given would be something along the lines of “Target Practice”, their incredible effectiveness and near non-stop bombardment of the Germans at the front starting on June 8, 1942 and continuing all the way to Berlin, earned them another nickname — The Night Witches.
So just how effective were they? For the approximately four years they were active, they flew close to an astounding 30,000 missions, with an average of about 250 missions each. To put this in perspective, airmen aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress in 1944 had a 1 in 4 chance of surviving to the 25 mission mark for their rotation. But in the case of the Night Witch bombers, some flew near or greater that number in under a week. One, who we’ll discuss shortly, almost managed that number of missions in a single night. Despite the incredible number of missions they flew, over the course of the war, of the 261 women that flew in the 588th, only 32 died, and a handful of those not from combat, but tuberculosis.
A Polikarpov Po-2, the aircraft type used by the regiment.
This bring us to Nadezhda Popova, who managed the record of 18 missions in a single night when she helped chase the Axis as they retreated from Poland. Popova, who started flying at aged 15, was a flight instructor by 18, and decided to join up not long after her brother, Leonid, was killed in the early stages of the conflict. She states, “I saw the German aircraft flying along our roads filled with people who were leaving their homes, firing at them with their machine guns. Seeing this gave me feelings inside that made me want to fight them.”
The Nazis would soon come to regret making an enemy of Popova, who shortly was about to go all John Wick on them for killing her brother. But before that, unfortunately for her, when she tried to enlist, she was turned away, with Popova later stating of this, “No one in the armed services wanted to give women the freedom to die.”
Nevertheless, given her credentials, when the 588th was formed when she was 19 years old, they had a place for her. She would go on to fly an incredible 852 missions during the war, despite, as she stated in an interview in 2009, “Almost every time, we had to sail through a wall of enemy fire. In winter, when you’d look out to see your target better, you got frostbite, our feet froze in our boots, but we carried on flying…. It was a miracle we didn’t lose more aircraft. Our planes were the slowest in the air force. They often came back riddled with bullets…”
On that note, after returning from one mission where she was tasked with dropping supplies to ground troops who were bottled up in Malaya Zemlya, she found 42 bullet holes in her plane, one in her helmet, and a couple in her map. It was then that she joked with her navigator, “Katya, my dear, we will live long!”
In truth, Popova, who became a squadron commander, survived the war, among other honors receiving the Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin, and was a three time Order of the Red Banner recipient (awarded for extreme heroism and courage demonstrated in battle), twice awarded the Order of the Patriotic War 1st class… and the list goes on and on- badass. She was a badass basically.
As for her life after, she married an airmen, Semyon Kharlamov, who she met after the two had separately been shot down on Aug. 2, 1942. While she couldn’t see his face as it was covered in bandages, they hit it off as they joked around together during their trek back to safety. They got hitched almost immediately on war’s end. For work after, she continued her pre-war career as a flight instructor, ultimately living to the ripe old age of 91 years old, dying on July 8, 2013.
Going back to the squadron as a whole, given their extreme vulnerability in the air, you might at this point be wondering how these women not only almost all survived, but proved to be so incredibly effective?
Well, given their slow speed, the fact that in a dogfight they’d quickly be made into Swiss cheese by enemy planes, and the fact that they needed to deploy their paltry payloads at extremely low altitudes to actually accurately hit a target, meaning ground based crew could likewise easily turn the pilots of these craft into wreckage riders, flying missions in daylight with any regularity wasn’t really an option if one liked to keep breathing.
Thus, in an era before incredibly accurate terrain mapping and GPS systems to help avoid said terrain, these women voluntarily hopped inside their antiquated pieces of equipment and ascended to the heavens in darkness- the darker the better.
Stealth was their only way of surviving, and they used it to their advantage at every opportunity. Navigating in darkness towards their assigned enemy targets, usually hugging the ground as much as possible until getting close to their targets to avoid being spotted by enemy aircraft, once they located their targets, the women would employ a number of strategies to actually get close enough to deliver their deadly payloads. These included doing things like flying in groups and intentionally having one or two of the planes up high attract the attention and fire from those on the ground, while others would idle their engine and try to slip in closely undetected. Another strategy was to do what is generally considered in aviation 101 as a great way to die, especially in the often frigid environments these women were flying in- cut their engines completely in flight and at relatively low altitudes.
They’d then silently descend onto their targets until almost literally right over the heads of the enemy and finally drop their bombs, kick the engine back to life (hopefully) and get back to base as fast as possible to be loaded back up and sent out again and again to the front line.
Describing this, the chief of staff for the 588th, Irina Rakobolskaya, noted, “One girl managed to fly seven times to the front line and back in her plane. She would return, shaking, and they would hang new bombs, refuel her plane, and she’d go off to bomb the target again.”
Popova would state of this strategy, “We flew in sequence, one after another, and during the night, we never let them rest… the Germans made up stories. They spread the rumor that we had been injected with some unknown chemicals that enabled us to see so clearly at night…. This was nonsense, of course. What we did have were clever, educated, very talented girls…”
Effective, one German soldier would later state in an interview after the war of the Night Witches, they were “precise, merciless and came from nowhere.”
Dedicated to delivering their payloads no matter what, one former 588th member stated that occasionally the bombs would get stuck when trying to drop them just over the target. The solution was simply to have one of the two women in the plane scramble out on the wing and kick it loose, often while under heavy enemy fire- all leading author Kate Quin to note, “You women are crazy. You’re incredibly brave, but my god you’re crazy.”
A sentiment Popova would later echo in her waning years, stating, “I sometimes stare into the blackness and close my eyes. I can still imagine myself as a young girl up there in my little bomber and I ask myself, Nadia, how did you do it?”
Moving on to the nickname the Germans gave them and which they would so proudly embrace once they learned of it, it is widely speculated that this was because of the wooshing sound the planes made as they glided down through the air, like the sound a witch flying on her broomstick. However, there is no primary documentation backing this speculation up at all, despite it being almost universally repeated. And, for our part, we’re just guessing not a single German soldier ever actually had heard the wooshing sound of a witch flying on a broomstick to compare. So allow us to suggest our own alternate hypothesis- that it wasn’t so much the sound that was the inspiration, but, instead, the name “The Night Witches” was actually because these were women, flying at night, on aircraft made of wood, not unlike a witch flying on a broomstick.
Whatever the case, in the end, for their heroism, almost 1 in 10 of the women of the 588th were honored with the Hero of the Soviet Union award. For reference here, while that award was given out almost 13,000 times over the entire life of the Soviet Union, the badass ladies of the 588th accounted for approximately 1/4 of all women who ever received it.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
It was tempting to make the headline for this review-interview “‘Terminal Lance’ creator Maximilian Uriarte gets dark with The White Donkey. That wouldn’t be truthful, at least not completely.
Much of Uriarte’s self-published graphic novel could be considered dark — and likely will be. But the word “dark” could also be substituted with the word real. Though the book opens with a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction, veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom will find a lot of familiar feelings in its pages.
“It’s 90 percent true and then there’s a lot of fictional elements put into it,” Uriarte says. “I don’t like saying that it’s a true story because it’s not. It’s fictional. I feel like once you add one fictional element to anything it becomes a fictional story. The white donkey was real. I really did run into the white donkey in real life, which I write about it in the back of the book. In real life, I only saw the donkey once when we stopped for convoy and that was it. I thought about it a lot every day after that though.”
The White Donkey is a departure from his bread and butter work on Terminal Lance. But Uriarte’s graphic novel was a long time coming. He first conceived the idea in 2010, and launched the Kickstarter for the project in July 2013, a funding process Uriarte will not soon repeat.
“I don’t think I would ever do a Kickstarter again because I hated that. I still hate it,” he says. “It’s one thing to have an investor to answer to. It’s another thing to have 3,000 investors to answer to when things take too long. It’s really stressful.”
Uriarte may be producing the first graphic novel written and illustrated by an Iraq veteran about the Iraq war, but the process of telling this story far outweighed the stress of the financing, in Uriarte’s opinion.
He loves writing, even though he didn’t even know how to make a graphic novel at first. But writing is writing, except when it comes to novels. It’s important to note there’s no corporate ownership to his work. His graphic novel is an independent endeavor, the culmination of more than five years of work.
“I love writing,” he says. “I wrote this book as a screenplay first and that was how I approached it. I went through a few different processes of trying to figure out how to make this into a graphic novel because I had no idea how to make a graphic novel when I got into it. I started writing it out really novel-like, as a book. It didn’t really do me any favors because I needed a screenplay. I needed a script for the graphic novel. Waxing poetic in sentences and paragraphs didn’t really do me any favors. I thought, ‘Why write all this beautiful poetic language that no one is going to see?'”
Fans of Terminal Lance may wonder why The White Donkey seems so different from the comic strip. The reason is because that’s the reality of war, or at least Max Uriarte’s experience with war.
“I wanted it to be a grim war story,” he says. “I wanted it to be more self-aware in a way. I think the usual Hollywood narrative is always very heroic. I feel like a lot of being a Marine is not heroic in the slightest sense of it. I think I wanted to have a narrative that combats that idea of that glorified American ideology, that going to war is heroic. Even the “personal journey” aspect of it is pretty arrogant of people to think they’re going to experience some enlightenment at the expense of people dying. It’s a very sad and a very false reality I think.”
The White Donkey is a thought-provoking, poignant work, on the level of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and is bound to raise Uriate’s profile beyond the large and loyal audience he’s already earned. Still, no matter how successful The White Donkey is, he wants fans to know Terminal Lance isn’t going anywhere.
“Terminal Lance is going to be around for a while if I can help it,” he says. “There’s going to be some changes on the site. I want to open it up more for op-eds and some other content. I want it to be a place any branch can come to for entertainment.”
The White Donkey will available on Amazon in February.
There you are, happily performing a police call through the training areas and thinking about how great it will be to get off at 1600 when you all are done, just like first sergeant promised. Then, you see something that dooms your whole night.
A single Marine sits in a pile of crayon wrappers and empty Rip It cans. Looks like a lack of Marine oversight just became your problem. Here’s what you do next:
The hat will look like these ones.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin Rodriguez)
First, look for a Marine sergeant
Hopefully, the Devil Dog has a devil master (or whatever they call themselves) nearby who can police him up and bundle him out of there. Marine sergeants can be quickly identified by the loud string of profanities, like an Army sergeant but with a strangely rigid hat on. They will likely punctuate their profanities with, “OORAH!”
Too much running around in the woods, too much beer, not enough showering.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Antonio Rubio)
Don’t touch it
If you can’t find a Marine sergeant, then, for the love of god, don’t touch the boot. It’s not that the sergeants won’t accept it after it gets some Army on it, it’s that you don’t want to get any Marine on you. Sure, Marines are famous for some of their grooming standards, like haircuts, but there are only so many pull-ups you can do with beer sweating out of your pores before becoming a walking Petri dish.
You can let it pick its own, but remind it that Army MREs have no crayons whatsoever.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Scott L. Eberle)
Feed it (MREs, not DFAC)
The easiest thing to do with a lost Marine is get it some food while you’re waiting for some embarrassed platoon leader to show up. Don’t give it DFAC food or it’ll spend all day complaining about how bad the food is in their chow halls and kennels. Give it MREs — the older the better. If you have ones with Charms, give them those, but expect them to throw the Charms away and then tell you how cursed they are.
No, it doesn’t matter that the boot is too young to have possibly been deployed, let alone deployed with Charms. They have all seen Generation Kill, just like all soldiers have seen Black Hawk Down and all sailors have seen Down Periscope.
Don’t worry. They won’t drown. They’re super good with water.
(U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Scott Thompson)
Throw it into a pool or small lake — NOT AN OCEAN!
If the Marine has been with you for more than an hour or two, then it probably needs a swim or its pelt will dry out. The trick here is to find a small body of water, nothing larger than a large lake.
If you throw it into an ocean or sea, it will likely try to swim out and find the “fleet.” No one is entirely sure, but the fleet is likely the original Marine spawning grounds. More research is required. But Marines who attempt to swim to the fleet will nearly always drown.
Yeah, these’ll make some booms. The machine gun .50-cals are good as well.
(U.S. Army Spc. Andrew McNeil)
Give it something loud to play with
You can ask the Marine what type it is; artillery, infantry, water purification specialist, etc. Regardless of their answer, know that all Marines like loud noises. If there are any rifle, machine gun, or howitzer ranges going on, that’s ideal. Just dig the Marine a small hole just behind the firing line and let it lounge there. Hearing protection is recommended but not required.
They like being in the cages. It reminds them of home.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Charles Santamaria)
If it has to stay overnight, build a turducken of cages
If night’s about to fall and there’s still no one there to claim the Marine, you’re gonna have to house it overnight. If your base has a veterinarian unit or working dog kennels, that’s fine. If not, you might have to house it in the barracks. If you do so, you need to have two locks between the Marine and any alcohol. Get a supply cage or dog kennel (large) if need be.
The other Devil Dogs will be happy to see it.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jessica Quezada)
If all else fails, ship it back to the nearest Marine base
It’ll probably whine about whether or not it’s a Hollywood Marine or whatever, but address it to whicever Marine installation is closest. Just pack it up with some dip and cigarettes and its mouth will be too busy to complain for a few hours. Don’t worry, you can’t put too much in there. Their tolerance is too high for a lethal dose.
And they’ll be happier back on the Marine farms. They like to be with their own kind.
Being from Texas bring a certain set of expectations. Some are good, some are funny, and some are just ridiculous.
There are many, but here are 15 clichés every recruit hears at boot camp:
1. “Only steers and queers come from Texas private cowboy, and you don’t much look like a steer to me so that kinda narrows it down” – Sergeant Hartman, “Full Metal Jacket” (1987)
You know how it goes. You get to a new unit and the first thing someone asks is what’s your name and where you’re from. You say, “my name is ____” followed by, “I’m from Texas.” The first thing you get is the Gunny Hartman quote about steers and queers. It doesn’t get more original than that (note my sarcasm).
2. The drill instructor calls you “Lone Star” to single you out.
What the hell are you doing Lone Star? Why are you out of formation!? This one is worth owning.
3. Everyone calls you “Tex” instead of your name. This usually happens for the first two weeks of boot camp while everyone is still learning names.
“There was Dallas, from Phoenix; Cleveland – he was from Detroit; and Tex… well, I don’t remember where Tex come from.” – Forrest Gump, “Forrest Gump” (1994)
4. Everyone assumes you have a horse back home.
Nope. Too expensive.
5. Everyone from Texas goes hunting.
Not really. But we do have a friend that does who’d let us tag along with if we wanted to.
6. The other recruits assume you know your way around a rifle because everyone in Texas has a gun.
… because Texas has that open carry law.
7. You eat BBQ for every meal.
We f–king love BBQ! And, we don’t settle for that nonsense other states call BBQ. Your choice of meat with pepper and salt over misquite is all you need.
8. All Texans are stupid.
They’re just mistaking our Texan drawl for being slow.
9. You grew up on a ranch.
Where do you think we do all our BBQing, shooting, and hunting? Actually, no. Cities like San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Houston are among the largest in the country. There’s no room for a ranch in the asphalt jungle.
10. You must have an oil well in your backyard.
Who do you think we are, the Beverly Hillbillies?
11. You probably have a big truck.
If we don’t have one, we really want one. Who doesn’t?
12. People from Texas are the definition of “Murica.”
We’re very patriotic, which is why there’s always a handful of recruits from the great state in your unit.
13. Football is your religion.
Yes. We go to church every Friday (high school football), Saturday (college football), and Sunday (NFL football).
14. You have long horns over your fireplace or on your vehicle.
Nope. Not so much. It would go well with UT Longhorn gear though.
15. You’re from Texas, so therefore you’re a redneck. Nope, I’m a Texan.
“Texans tend to ride horses whereas rednecks ride their cousins.” — Chris Kyle, “American Sniper” (2014)
On Oct. 18, 2006, Justin Constantine was deployed to Al-Anbar Province, Iraq when a sniper shot him in the head.
He had just stepped out of his Humvee to warn a reporter about the sharpshooter operating in the area when the enemy took the shot.
“He [the reporter] told me later that based on that [Constantine’s warning] he took a big step forward and a split second later a bullet came in right where his head had been and hit the wall between us,” Constantine, who retired a Marine lieutenant colonel, said in the video below. “Before I could react, the next bullet hit me behind the left ear and exploded out of my mouth, causing incredible damage along the way.”
Constantine’s original prognosis was “killed in action,” but thanks to a quick-thinking 25-year-old Navy Corpsman, he lived.
“Even though blood was pouring out of my skull in what was left of my face, George was somehow able to perform rescue breathing on me, and then he cut open my throat and performed an emergency tracheotomy so that I wouldn’t drown in my own blood,” he added.
The Corpsman’s first aid was so perfect that Constantine’s plastic surgeon at the Naval Hospital thought another surgeon had performed the procedure.
He retired from the Marine Corps with a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq.
Despite his recovery challenges and PTSD, Constantine has led an inspiring post-injury life, helping veterans and civilians overcome adversity. He now serves on the Board of Directors of the Wounded Warrior Project, Give An Hour, and others.