Firefighting is dangerous, scary work even when it’s done on solid ground where firemen can fall back if the flames get too fierce.
Sailors at sea, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury. They have to battle the fire on a ship filled with fuel. And failure means that the ship, the only home they have on the waves, will sink and take some of their brothers with it.
To keep everyone as safe as possible, the Navy uses dedicated firefighters and cross-trains some sailors to assist them in an emergency. Here’s how they prepare to protect their floating cities from burning up:
1. They conduct frequent drills in their firefighting equipment.
2. They keep full firefighting suits on board and practice using them in hallways and other tight areas.
3. To help them spot flames behind bulkheads or in sections filled with thick smoke, firefighters carry thermal imaging devices.
4. The Navy Firefighting Thermal Imager displays infrared video that can show sources of heat even when there’s no visible light or thick smoke obscures firefighters’ vision.
5. Firefighters have to operate as teams to stay safe in flame-filled areas of the ship.
6. The ship’s spaces can turn into a living hell once the flames start to spread.
7. Frequent communication is key to keeping everyone safe and fighting the fire.
8. While firefighters are forced to concentrate on saving the ship, rescuing injured personnel is also a huge part of the mission.
9. If an aircraft is aflame on the flight deck, sometimes the best option is to cut out any survivors and then throw the plane or helicopter overboard. The Navy practices for this possibility on land.
10. It’s best to fight fires while they’re small, which is why suited up firefighters will position themselves to respond during dangerous landings.
11. Ships have some automated systems to help firefighters. Here, sailors practice with firefighting foam during ship trials.
12. Sailors often compete in “Damage Control Olympics” where they try to show who’s the best at putting out fires and other damage control activities.
13. Other preventative training includes simulated firefighting on the ship.
14. Different flags are used for various types of fire, and observers will keep track of how teams respond.
15. Teams learn to respond during an actual emergency through realistic training scenarios.
16. There’s just a thin yellow line between sailors and the potentially catastrophic danger of a fire, and the Navy works hard to make sure that line is as robust as possible.
The whole 13.6-ton shebang can be thrown out of the back of a plane with the crew already inside. The crew of three can be joined by five infantrymen. As a special bonus, they can swim and fire in the water.
The BMD-3 is a predecessor to the BMD-4M and features the same Konkurs ATGM launcher, machine guns, and a 30mm automatic cannon, but it’s a little lighter at 13.2 tons and lacks the 100mm main gun. It also features a 40mm grenade launcher.
It can carry five infantrymen in its standard configuration and eight in an emergency. Like the 4M, it’s amphibious.
The BTR-MD is based on the BMD-4 chassis but is designed as a multi-role armored transport. It has a crew of two and can be configured as a command and control vehicle, ammo or fuel transport, ambulance, or infantry fighting vehicle.
The BTR-ZD is an anti-aircraft vehicle based on the older BTR-D armored personnel carrier. It has little permanent armament, just a pair of 7.62mm machine guns. But it usually packs a ZU-23-2 antiaircraft gun either strapped to the roof or towed on a trailer. The ZU-23-2 has two 23mm machine guns.
The weapon is amphibious and, like many of the vehicles on this list, can be airdropped with the crew inside.
6. 2S23 Nona
This self-propelled mortar can fire standard rounds to distances of over 5.5 miles, rocket-assisted ones to nearly 8 miles, and anti-tank rounds to over a half mile. The 2S23 Nona can swim and jump from planes.
Based on the BTR-80 armored personnel carrier chassis, the 2S23 rolls on eight tires rather than tracks.
“The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade,” she said in an email. “Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations.”
The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.
Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn’t disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor — the highest military award for combat action.
The service’s review was part of the Defense Department’s push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.
The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. “We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses,” he said at the time.
The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn’t ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.
Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.
In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.
Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.
Most recently — but separate from the Air Force review — Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.
In the 1950s France, in the midst of dealing with insurgencies in its colonies in Algeria and Indochina, recognized a military need for easily transportable artillery that could quickly be deployed to the front lines. It happened upon one very novel solution: a militarized Vespa scooter with a built-in armor-piercing gun.
The Vespa 150 TAP, built by French Vespa licensee ACMA, was designed expressly to be used with the French airborne special forces, the Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP).
The Vespa TAP was designed to be airdropped into a military theater fully assembled and ready for immediate action. This high level of mobility made the TAP the perfect anti-guerilla weapon, since enemy irregulars could appear at a moment’s notice even in remote locations.
Outfitted with an M20 recoilless rifle, the TAP proved more than capable of destroying makeshift fortifications used by guerrillas in Algeria and Indochina. The M20 was designed as an anti-tank recoilless rifle that was outfitted with a high-explosive anti-tank warhead. Under ideal circumstances, the rifle could penetrate 100mm of armor from 7,000 yards away.
The M20 outfitted on the Vespa was never actually meant to be fired while the vehicle was in motion. Instead, the Vespa frame functioned as a way of transporting the artillery to the front line. Once there, the rifle would be removed from the Vespa and placed on a tripod for accurate firing.
Remarkably, aside for a slight overhaul of the engine, plus the inclusion of the rifle and ammunition mounts, the standard Vespa and the TAP were designed almost identically. The TAP had a strengthened frame and lower gearing, but besides that it drives just as any Vespa would.
About 500 total TAPs were produced throughout the 1950s.
However ingenious the TAP was, the vehicle was never used outside of the French military during engagements in Algeria and French Indochina.
Friday the 13th is more than just a classic movie series. It’s estimated that 17-21 million people are affected by Paraskevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th. This fear has its roots in biblical history, referencing the thirteen people present at Jesus’ last supper on the 13th day on the night before his death on Good Friday. Another legend links the superstition to the liquidation of the Knights Templar by French king Philip IV.
No matter its origin, in Western culture, the 13th day of the month falling on a Friday has been an unlucky day for at least 200 years. Around the Western world, businesses take an estimated $800-900 million hit on Friday the 13th. A 1993 study in the British Medical Journal even revealed “a significant level of traffic-related incidences on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day.” Maybe it’s just superstition, maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, maybe it’s not a bad idea to stay in bed. Warfighters aren’t exempt. These five events added more than a few warriors to the ranks of the paraskevidekatriaphobic:
1. The Aztecs get pwned by Cortes
Stubbing your toe on Friday the 13th is bad luck. Losing your entire empire is literally the end of the world. At least, YOUR world. Losing your empire despite outnumbering a bunch of foreigners 200 to 1 is almost tragic.
On Friday the 13th, 1521, Conquistador Hernán Cortés captured Tenochtitlán with 1,500 Spaniards against 300,000 Aztecs after a two month siege. They chained the Emperor of the Aztec Empire and then tortured the city’s aristocracy, looking for hidden treasure. They held him as a slave for four years before executing him. Bad luck.
2. Robert E. Lee accidentally loses the Civil War
One of the famed general’s officers wrapped a copy of Lee’s Special Order 191, the secret instructions for the invasion of Maryland, around three cigars in his camp. The order was a detailed, ten-part instruction for units involved in the rebel invasion. Somehow, the paper was dropped in an abandoned campsite and spotted by a Union scout, who picked it up on Friday, September 13, 1862 and sent it up the chain. It would affect every Confederate invasion of the North for the rest of the war.
Knowing the entire set of instructions, Union forces were able to beat the Confederates at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single battle of the entire war, and the bloodiest day in American military history. It ended Lee’s first invasion of Union territory. It allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which would be instrumental in keeping foreign powers out of the war, and set the stage for Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
3. The King of England gets a up-close view of WWII
Nazi Germany was relentlessly bombing London during the Blitz, a period of intense aerial attacks on Britain where the Nazis dropped 100 tons of high explosives on the city. Just a week after the Blitz began, King George VI and Elizabeth the Queen Mother (not the current Queen Elizabeth, but rather her mom) were having tea when the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on Buckingham Palace. Elizabeth recalled “battling” to remove an eyelash from the King’s eye, when they heard the “unmistakable whirr-whirr of a German plane” and then the “scream of a bomb”.
The King and Elizabeth only had time to look foolishly at each other before the bombs exploded nearby. The King and his wife were as stiff-lipped as the rest of the British people, refusing to flee London, which won them the respect of the British people. The bomb destroyed a glass ceiling and the palace chapel.
4. Japanese admiral decides to have an actual “Battle of Friday the 13th”
Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto led a 39-ship task force against the small American presence around Guadalcanal on Friday, November 13th, 1942. The idea was to land 7,000 Japanese troops on the island and retake the strategically-located Henderson Field (though that’s probably not what the Japanese called it).
Yamamoto lost two battleships, three destroyers, a heavy cruiser, and seven fully-loaded troop transports sunk and four destroyed on the beach. The Japanese also lost 64 aircraft and nearly 2,000 killed. The Americans lost seven destroyers, two light cruisers, 36 aircraft and more than 1,700 men, including Admirals Daniel Callaghan and Norman Scott, the highest ranking officers to die in combat during the war. The American win cemented the Guadalcanal campaign in U.S. favor.
5. The Cold War in the Baltic teeters on becoming ballistic
Soviet Fighter planes shot down a Swedish military C-47 Dakota cargo plane over international waters on Friday, June 13, 1952. The plane was unarmed and all eight crewmen died in the attack. The Swedes send out two PBY Catalina aircraft to search for the missing plane. One of those is intercepted and shot down as well. The crew of the rescue plane survived, but Moscow denied the incident until 1991.
After the incident, Swedish authorities discovered a life raft with remnants of a Soviet shell. The Swedes would later admit the first plane was conducting signals intelligence. The name of the rescue plane lent itself to color the name of the event, which became known as the “Catalina Affair.” In 2003, both aircraft were located in the Baltic Sea and when the first plane was raised from the ocean, the bullet holes showed the it was shot down by a MiG15. The clock in the cockpit read the exact time the plane went down and all eight crewmen’s remains were recovered.
After masterminding the attacks at Pearl Harbor, Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto knew that his country’s dominance of the Pacific Ocean would not last against the U.S.’s industrial might.
He began forming plans for a weapon that could terrify the U.S., especially eastern cities like New York and Washington D.C. He thought a campaign of vicious attacks on the east and west coasts would convince the U.S. to quickly sue for peace.
At the time, some submarines carried a reconnaissance plane. Yamamoto asked his engineers if they could devise a submarine that would instead carry three bombers each and have range to carry the bombers around South America to the east coast of the U.S.
The planes landed on the water and were recovered using a crane on the deck. The M6A1 Seiran torpedo-bombers were designed for the I-400. They had wings that rotated and folded along the fuselage and even the tail folded down to fit in its tiny hangar.
In addition to their aircraft, the subs carried a 140mm cannon, 4 anti-aircraft guns, and had 8 torpedo tubes.
To help the subs avoid U.S. Navy sonar, the subs were coated in a rubber and asphalt blend that absorbed sound waves.
By the time the first sub took to the water at the end of December 1944, Japan was in rapid retreat across the Pacific. The original I-400 mission to attack the U.S. mainland had been scrapped long before.
The idea of using the planes to deliver biological weapons was considered, and then a Kamikaze attack on the Panama Canal was planned and canceled.
Finally, the I-400 and I-401 were sent to destroy the U.S. carrier fleet at Ulithi Atoll before they could invade the Japanese mainland. The subs were to send their six bombers on Kamikaze attacks against the 15 carriers there.
To maximize the chance that the planes would reach their targets, the Japanese admiralty ordered the planes be painted silver with U.S. markings. Though the pilots protested, the illegally camouflaged planes were placed in the subs and sent to sea.
Luckily, Japan surrendered while the subs were staging for the attack. Both subs were captured by the U.S. Navy. American officers studied the ships but then sank them before Soviet officers could ask to see them. There was concern that the Soviet Union would develop its own version if it saw the I-400.
The U.S. Army will soon begin to produce new high-tech, crew-served thermal weapons sights able to automatically adjust range, see through adverse weather, detect targets with a lightweight laser range finder and use a wireless targeting link between weapons and a soldier-worn helmet display, service officials said.
Designed for the M2 .50-cal, M240 machine gun and Mk 19 grenade launcher, the system brings higher-resolution thermal imaging technology and increases field of view, developers explained.
“This is the first time the soldier will have a system which combines a true day and night capability with a laser range finder to adjust for the ballistics of the various ammunition types for the crew served weapons,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
BAE Systems was recently awarded an Army contract to develop the technology, called Family of Weapons Sights – Crew Served (FWS-CS), in a deal worth up to $384 million.
Using a wireless link, gun-mounted thermal sights send a targeting reticle from the gun to a soldier head-worn display, allowing soldiers to hit targets without needing to physically “look” through the gun-sights themselves in a certain physical position — such as crouching, lying down or standing exposed in a vehicle-mounted gun-turret, the Army official explained.
A wireless helmet mounted display is designed to provide a more natural firing position as well as allow soldiers to remain more protected, a BAE systems statement said. Crew-served weapons, such as the .50-cal machine gun, are often used to “blanket” enemy areas so that troops can maneuver while under attack or deliver suppressive fire.
A wireless link allowing soldiers to remain in a standing position or different configuration than what is otherwise needed to look through the sights naturally lowers the risk of exposing soldiers to enemy fire.
BAE Systems’ FWS-CS system is also engineered to improve targeting speed and precision. It uses a 12-micron sensor technology to provide soldiers with greater clarity and range, developers said.
“FWS-CS also, for the first time, incorporates a high-resolution day camera and laser range finder into the weapon sight, allowing the user to engage targets with a range correct reticle,” John Koltookian, technical director at BAE Systems, told Scout Warrior.
With an initial development order of $10.5 million, work will be performed at the company’s facilities in Hudson, New Hampshire and Austin, Texas.
This crew-served weapons technology is engineered to function alongside a similar Army program called Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I); in similar fashion to the FWS-CS, this system uses a wireless link to connect thermal sights on an M4 rifle with an individual soldier’s night-vision goggles display.
A key advantage of this technology is, by design, to allow soldiers to target and attack enemies without having to “shoulder” the weapon and bring it up to their face.
FWS-I is already in Low-Rate-Initial Production and slated to be operational by 2018, service officials said.
“What we’ve found so far is it revolutionizes the way we fight,” Love told Military.com. “It used to be a squad would be dispersed out over maybe 100 yards, so the squad leader couldn’t really communicate with the members at the far end because of all the noise of the weapons. Now they can actually just communicate, and be able to command and control and effectively direct those fires.”
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the division’s gunner, or infantry weapons officer, said the Lima companies in two other battalions — 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, and 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines — now had silencers, or suppressors, on all their rifles, including the M27 infantry automatic rifles. All units are set to deploy in coming months. The combat engineer platoons that are attached to these units and will deploy with them will also carry suppressed weapons, he said.
Suppressors work by slowing the escape of propellant gases when a gun is fired, which drastically reduces the sound signature. Used by scout snipers and special operations troops to preserve their stealth, the devices are also valuable for their ability to minimize the chaos of battle, enabling not only better communication but also improved situational awareness and accuracy.
“It increases their ability to command and control, to coordinate with each other,” Wade told Military.com. “They shoot better, because they can focus more, and they get more discipline with their fire.”
The noise of gunfire can create an artificial stimulus that gives the illusion of effectiveness, he said. When it’s taken away, he explained, Marines pay more attention to their shooting and its effect on target.
“They’ve got to get up and look, see what effect they’re having on the enemy because you can’t hear it,” he said.
He added that suppressors were already in common use by near-peer militaries, including those of Russia and China.
Wade said he is working on putting suppressors on the Marines’ M249 light machine gun and M240G medium machine gun, using equipment from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. The third and final objective will be the suppression of the .50 caliber heavy machine gun, he said.
As the units conduct training and exercises with suppressors, 2nd Marine Division is collaborating with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to collect and aggregate data. Weapons with suppressors require additional maintenance and cleaning to prevent fouling, and the cost, nearly $700,000 to outfit an infantry battalion, might give planners pause.
But Wade said he will continue to gather data for the next year-and-a-half, following the units as they deploy. And he expects the idea to have gained significant traction among Marine Corps leadership by then, he said.
“When I show how much overmatch we gain … it will have sold itself,” he said.
A U.S. commander in Alaska has expressed concern about Russia’s recent military buildup in the Arctic, saying it threatens the historically peaceful region.
“What concerns me about Russia is not that they have icebreakers and not that 25 percent of their economy is based in the Arctic. It’s the offensive military capability that they are adding to their force that’s Arctic-capable,” Air Force Lieutenant General Ken Wilsbach told the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce on May 25.
“If you really want to keep the Arctic a peaceful place where heretofore it has been, then why are you building offensive capabilities?” he asked. “My question is, are the Russians taking a page out of the Chinese playbook…whereby they declare an area is now Chinese sovereign territory [and] have overwhelming military force in that area?”
On the growing threat from North Korea, he said that while Pyongyang had been test-firing missiles that have an increasing capacity to reach parts of Alaska, the United States had “strong defensive capabilities” to deal with them.
Based on reporting by AP and the Fairbanks Daily News Miner
On July 6, at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, US Marines carried out the first successful test of the F-35B’s GAU-22 gun pod, Business Insider has confirmed.
Five days later, the gun pod fired it’s first 80-round burst. Both tests were resoundingly successful, and the video is posted below.
Business Insider previously reported on the first test of the F-35A’s integrated gun, but the gun pod, which will be used on the F-35B and C variants, is an entirely different animal.
Instead of the integrated design of the US Air Force’s F-35A, the Marine Corps’ F-35B and the US Navy’s F-35C will feature a 220-round, 25 mm gun in a modular pod.
This means that the Navy and Marine variants, which launch from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels, will have the option of excluding the gun to save weight and increase fuel efficiency.
Here’s the GAU-22 ripping a target with pinpoint accuracy:
While the F-35 has fielded some criticism for its gun, which at 55 rounds per second can empty its entire magazine in under four seconds, the gun actually makes sense for the type of close air-support environment that the F-35 is expected to operate in.
The much-loved A-10 Warthog, which holds 1,350 rounds, is ideal for flying low and slow, loitering in the sky, and delivering its precise fire to provide close air support. But this makes sense in only uncontested air space.
The F-35’s smaller magazine capacity reflects the future of close air support as military planners envision it. The F-35 will usher in an era of quick and precise strikes that leverage a suite of sensors, electronic-warfare capabilities, and stealth.
Watch the full video of the GAU-22 gun pod firing an 80-round burst for the first time below:
1. Marine Brian Chontosh’s incredible response to an Iraqi ambush
Working Title: Killing Up Close
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Tom Hardy
Hollywood has a reputation for embellishing “true stories” with an extra dose of drama, special effects, and too-beautiful-to-be-real actors. “Brian Chontosh: The Movie,” however, would require no exaggeration — this story of military valor is unbelievably badass from start to finish.
Then-Lt. Brian Chontosh was a Marine platoon leader during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On the morning of March 25, he was sitting shotgun in a Humvee when a large berm appeared in the distance. Before he and his men knew what was happening, Iraqi soldiers began showering the vehicle detail with machine gun fire, grenades and mortars from behind the shelter — instantly killing a medic and damaging a tank.
Most people would try to organize a hasty exit at this point. Not Brian Chontosh. As bullets and explosives screamed past their Humvee, Chontosh ordered driver Cpl. Armand McCormick to drive forward, straight through the berm. McCormick floored it as another Marine, Cpl. Thomas Franklin, manned the Humvee’s .50-caliber machine gun, crashing through the obstruction and into the trench on the opposite side.
As Iraqi soldiers began to swarm the Humvee, Chontosh swung out of his vehicle guns-a-blazing, firing from his pistol and rifle until he was out of bullets. Iraqi soldiers dropped dead left and right, and Chontosh continued to pull the trigger, machine gun fire clouding his senses as he pushed his way through the maw. It was the first time he had ever killed anyone.
“It’s nothing like TV,” Chontosh told Newsweek. “It’s ugly. It’s contorted. People fall how they fall. It’s not like the bullet hits and they’re blown back or anything like that.”
When his rifle jammed, Chontosh ripped an AK-47 off of a dead Iraqi, unloading every bullet in it before picking up a second AK as he ran, shooting everything he could. By the end of the battle, he would shoot and kill nearly two-dozen Iraqis single-handedly. At this point the exhausted Marine finally reconnected with his men and headed back towards the Humvee, when they noticed an Iraqi soldier huddled on the ground, playing dead but holding a grenade.
The men scrambled for weapons but were out of ammo. Amazingly, Chontosh saw a cluster of live M-16 rounds glinting in the dirt, where they had fallen when his rifle jammed. He dove for the rounds, loaded a single bullet — and shot the soldier in the head, saving himself and his men. Can you imagine that scene on an IMAX screen?
If that’s not Hollywood-blockbuster enough for you, they still had to get medical help for the Marines who had been wounded. Oh, and a sandstorm rolled in. Totally casual.
Chontosh would later be awarded the Navy Cross and two Bronze Stars for heroism, and is currently considered one of the top CrossFit athletes in the world. If that isn’t prime movie material, we don’t know what is. Your move, Hollywood.
2. The story of Larry Thorne’s military valor under three different flags
Have you ever watched a movie that you loved so much you didn’t want it to end? This is that movie — and don’t worry about a short running time, either. Lauri Törni’s story is filled with so many twists and turns that even a conservative film adaptation would give The Hobbit’s running time a run for its money — so maybe a two-part series would be best.
Törni’s story begins in Finland in 1938, when he joined the army at 19 years old, determined to fight the Soviet Union. It didn’t take long for his natural leadership skills and military instincts to shine, and he was soon promoted to captain — of a skiing troop. Törni and his men would pursue their enemies on skis, kicking up powder on the Finnish slopes. Is anyone else thinking of that chase scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel? Just add guns and Soviet Russians.
Everything was going great until Törni skied into a mine in 1942, leaving him badly wounded. The young soldier was soon back on his feet, however, and would later be honored with the Mannerheim Cross for his war efforts (the Finnish equivalent of the Medal of Honor).
But Törni wasn’t ready to give up the fighting — though he would give up his Finnish uniform. When Finland agreed to a ceasefire with the Soviet Union in 1944, he decided to switch teams to keep up with the action, joining the German SS for the promise of future combat against the Communists.
Unfortunately, as we know, Törni picked the wrong team. When the war ended, he was arrested by British forces for being a Nazi officer. Didn’t think the protagonist was going to get tangled up with the bad guys, did you? But he wasn’t in prison for long. Törni successfuly escaped his POW camp and snuck back into Finland, where, unfortunately, he was arrested again, this time by his own people. Things really went downhill after that skiing accident.
Luckily, however, the president of Finland had a soft spot for this adventurous turncoat, and Törni only served half his sentence before he was pardoned and released in 1948.
But wait, the story’s not over. In June of 1950, America would pass a law that would create an opportunity for foreigners to serve under the U.S. military, granting them citizenship if they stuck with it for five years. It was called the Lodge-Philbin Act, and it came right around the same time a new military unit was created — The Special Forces.
Törni, along with 200 other Eastern Europeans, joined the American military under this law. This wasn’t merely an opportunity to continue military service, however — the Soviet Union forced Finland to arrest Törni for his time fighting alongside the Nazis. When he found out he would be shipped to Moscow and tried for war crimes, Törni knew it was time to get out of dodge and start a new life. So he escaped — again — and changed his name to Larry Thorne, ready to embrace an American identity.
Not surprisingly, Thorne thrived in his new military environment. Originally enlisting as a private, he was quickly singled out for his skill and experience, and began teaching at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, where he instructed recruits on guerrilla fighting tactics and survival skills. Soon after, he would become a Captain in Special Forces, and successfully retrieved classified documents from a U.S. Air Force plane that went down in the mountains near the Turkish-Soviet border.
Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed. It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment. This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.
If this wasn’t cool enough, Thorne was also awarded five Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star medal for his military bravery. His last ever mission was in Vietnam in 1965, when he led the premiere MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos. While his men successfully entered a clearing within Laos, Thorne watched and waited in a chase helicopter, ready to provide assistance if necessary. When his men had made it safe, he began flying his helicopter back to base.
Only a few minutes later, the helicopter lost control and crashed — likely the result of stormy weather conditions. The Army reported Thorne as MIA, and many of his comrades refused to believe this military legend was dead. Their beliefs were further cemented when the chopper and air crew were found without Thorne’s body, and many hoped that he had escaped the crash and was still making his way out of the jungle.
The legend of Larry Thorne and his mysterious disappearance lived on until 1999, when a second exploration of the crash site produced a body who’s DNA and dental records matched that of the beloved Special Forces soldier. His life was cut short, but the legacy he left behind was larger than life, and completely worthy of a couple hours on the big screen.
3. The story of the orthodontist who became America’s first Navy SEAL
Working Title: Another Navy SEAL Movie
Director: Stephen Spielberg
Starring: Christoph Waltz
Everyone loves a good underdog, and Navy Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor is one of the best “little guys” we’ve ever heard of. Before the start of World War II, Taylor was an orthodontist in Hollywood, California. When the U.S. declared war on Japan, however, Taylor swapped his dental scrubs for a Navy uniform, planning to teach boat handling skills to American and Allied servicemen — a pretty safe wartime occupation.
Fate had other plans for Taylor however, and they were way more exciting than pulling teeth or rigging sails.
He didn’t know it yet, but DDS Jack Taylor would soon become Lt. j.g. Taylor, and would prove his worth as the first ever Navy SEAL, undertaking ocean operations in Greece, land operations in Albania, and parachuting into Austria — 20 years before the first SEAL team had ever been assembled.
In the Maritime Unit, Taylor personally commanded fourteen missions into the enemy-occupied Greek and Balkan coasts. He and his team delivered spies, weapons, explosives, and other supplies to friendly forces from Sep. 1943 to March, 1944.
Taylor also commanded a land team in Central Albania around this time, escaping near-capture by enemy forces at least three times. For his valor, he received the Navy Cross.
Before Taylor and his men could head to Italy to meet up with American troops, the group was captured on Dec. 1, 1944, and sent to prison in Vienna before being transferred to Mauthausen, a camp that was notorious for its cruel treatment and deplorable living conditions. There Taylor was jailed as a political prisoner, and watched as inmate after inmate was executed — a brutal reminder of what his own fate would surely be.
Taylor was nearly executed on two different occasions. The first time a friend who worked in the camp’s office found his papers among a stack of to-be executed prisoners and removed it, burning it before his superiors noticed it was gone.
Eventually the Nazis realized Taylor had evaded his sentence, and scheduled a second execution. But just when it seemed that his number was up, the 11th Armored Division liberated the camp, only days before he would have been killed.
When an American film crew arrived and asked him for an interview, Taylor got the chance to tell the world what he and so many others had experienced under Nazi prison conditions, later recounting the same information at the Nuremberg trials, where his testimony of the horrors of Mauthausen would lead to the conviction of all 61 camp personnel.
4. “Mad Jack” Churchill’s sword-wielding World War II victories
Working Title: Mad Jack
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Star: Harvey Keitel
When it comes to movie characters, American viewers seem to agree on the same cinematic mantra: The more eccentric, the better. If you’re skeptical, just Google John Malkovich, or ponder how “The Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise continues to grind out terrible sequels that people continue to pay for. Sometimes, people don’t want quality, they just want crazy.
Luckily, however, we’ve found a story that fits the bill in both categories: A war account so bizarre it sounds more like an urban legend than a part of America’s WWII history.
Lt. Col. John Malcom Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or “Mad Jack” as he would later be known, may have been one of the most badass — and insane — people to ever walk the earth. Picture the weirdness of Jeff Bridges a la “The Big Lebowski” crossed with sheer majesty of Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” and you’ll be in the ballpark.
Churchill joined the British military in 1926 at age 20, only to leave shortly after to pursue professional bagpiping and compete in the World Archery Championship in 1939 — because why not. But when WWII rolled around, Churchill was more than ready to jump back into the fray, and racked up a war record so unbelievable we’re shocked his story hasn’t already made it to the big screen.
Churchill stormed the beaches of Normandy carrying a Scottish sword, wore his bagpipes in battle and made many of his kills with a longbow he wore on his back. During a night raid on the Nazi lines, Churchill led his men to capture 136 enemy soldiers — and he himself captured 40 plus Germans at sword point. During a different battle on the Nazi-controlled island of Brac, “Mad Jack” fought until he was the last of his men standing. Then when he ran out of ammo, he stood his ground, playing his bagpipes on top of a hill until a grenade knocked him out and he was captured by the Germans. That scene alone could win an Academy Award.
Churchill would later escape his POW camp and meet up with American troops, only to find out — to his profound disappointment — that two atomic bombs had been dropped, and the war was essentially over. According to Vice, Churchill reportedly complained, “If it hadn’t been for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another ten years!”
Who knows, with the film industry being so sequel-happy these days (we’re looking at you, Peter Jackson), maybe his movies could go on for ten years.
A recent report from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, written by Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian and Col. Max Marosko of the US Air Force, gives expert analysis and never before seen detail into how the US’s fifth-generation aircraft would fare in a war with China.
The report starts with a broad overview of fifth-generation capabilities and their roles in the future of air combat, and it concludes with a hypothetical war in 2026 against an unnamed nemesis after “rising tensions in a key region abroad.”
However, the locations mentioned in the scenario are all in the Western Pacific and clearly seem to indicate the rival is China, whose advanced radar and missile capabilities make for very interesting challenges to the US Air Force’s force structure.
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force
As the scenario takes place ten years in the future, it is assumed that all the kinks with integrating fifth generation fighters into the force have been ironed out, and that the F-35 and F-22 work seamlessly to aid legacy aircraft via datalink.
In the opening stanza of such a conflict, the Air Force officials say that the US would send its F-35s and F-22s to a wide range of bases across the Pacific, leveraging the US’s vast network of bases and allies with some of the valuable warplanes.
Such a step denies China’s ability to land a “knockout blow” as they normally could, because typically US jets stay stationed at larger bases, presenting a more attractive target. Also, by this time, the US’s fifth-generation aircraft can find airfields on their own, without the help of air traffic controllers, allowing the force to be further spread out to present less target-rich areas.
Additionally, regional allies like Australia, who also fly the F-35, can quickly fill in for US airmen in a pinch. A US F-35 can land on an Australian airfield and receive much the same maintenance as it would at its home base, the officials claim.
With the Pacific now a patchwork of small units of F-35s and F-22s, the Chinese would seek to leverage their impressive electronic warfare capabilities, but the officials contend that the fifth-gens would weather the storm.
“Heavy radar and communications jamming confront US and coalition forces, but fifth generation aircraft leverage their networked multi-spectral sensors to detect and target enemy aircraft, while supporting a common operating picture through data links and communication architectures,” the Air Force officials write.
China’s military installations in the South China Sea create a huge area that could possibly be turned into an air identification and defense zone. | CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative
Meanwhile, legacy platforms like F-16s, F-18s, and F-15s provide a critical layer of defense closer to the US mainland. China’s formidable surface-to-air missile capabilities keep these older, more visible fighters off the front lines until the stealthier platforms, like the F-35, F-22, B-2, and the upcoming B-21 do their job.
The officials recognize the need for the fifth-gen fighters to strike quickly and get out of the heavily contested air spaces. Destruction of many of the US and allied airfields is expected, however the versatile fifth-gens continue to switch up locations as China depletes their supply of ballistic and cruise missiles on low-yield targets.
Some of China’s road-mobile missile batteries. | AUS Airpower
Some of China’s road-mobile missile batteries.AUS Airpower
Many of China’s SAM batteries are road mobile, so fifth-gen fighters will have to use their geo-location and electronic warfare capabilities to seek and destroy these sites.
The onboard sensors in the fifth-gens will provide vital leeway for the fighters to make decisions on the go.
From the report:
“Aircraft take off with minimal information—little more than a general target area that may be more than 1,000 miles away. On the way to target, the fifth generation aircraft receive minimal tanker, threat, and target information, but sufficient updates to enable them to ingress, identify, and prosecute targets successfully before returning to operating airfields.”
Loses of US and allied airfields and troops would naturally follow in such a conflict, however the forces are integrated and use the same platforms, so they can quickly fill in for each other in the event of loses.
All the while, F-35s and F-22s whittle away at China’s air defenses, gradually lowering the threat level from high to moderate. Eventually, the bulk of the US Air Force’s fleet —legacy fighters— can operate in the area with acceptable rates of survivability.
And that’s it. Once F-16s are flying over Beijing, the conflict is essentially settled. In the moderately contested airspace, fifth generation jets can essentially data-link with legacy fighters and use them as “armada planes,” leveraging their increased capability to carry ordinance to eliminate whatever remains of China’s air defenses.
What does an expansionist country do when it needs an excuse to invade a neighbor? Create one, of course. Their smaller, weaker neighbor isn’t going to spark a conflict on their own. It’s the perfect time for a false flag attack, where one country carries out a covert attack, disguising it to look like it was done by someone else.
The term is from old-timey naval warfare, where one ship flew a different nation’s colors before attacking as a means to get closer to their target. “False flag” is not just the stuff of conspiracy theorists and the tin foil hat society, there are actually precedents for this.
False flags happen a lot more often than one might think, which is why conspiracy theorists are so quick to draw that conclusion. The four wars on this list started under false pretenses, so maybe it isn’t that crazy to think false flags aren’t completely gone for good.
1. Mukden Incident – Japanese Invasion of China
The Japanese set their sights on Chinese Manchuria as soon as they beat the Russians in their 1904-05 war. Japanese soldiers were already stationed in the provinces, ostensibly to protect the Japanese-owned South Manchuria Railway. Those troops were often bored and conducted raids on local villages. While the Chinese government protested, there was little they could do – the Japanese wanted the Chinese to attack their forces as an excuse to invade. The Japanese got tired of waiting.
A 1st Lieutenant from the Japanese 29th Infantry planted explosives on the tracks that damaged a 1.5-meter section of rail. It had little effect on the railway’s operations. In fact, a train on the track easily passed over the damaged area. The next day, September 19, 1931, the Japanese started shelling Chinese garrisons and attacked them. In one instance, 500 Japanese troops bested 7,000 or more Chinese. Within the next five months, the Japanese army occupied all of Manchuria. WWII in the Far East had begun.
2. Gleiwitz Incident – The Nazi Invasion of Poland
In August 1939, Nazi SS commandos, dressed as Poles, stormed and captured a radio station in what was then called Upper Silesia, in Germany. The attackers broadcast a short, anti-German message in Polish. The German assailants wanted the appearance of Polish aggression, murdering a German farmer who was caught by the Gestapo and killed with poison. The body was dressed as a saboteur, shot a number of times, and then left in front of the radio station.
A few prisoners from the Dachau Concentration Camp received the same treatment, only their identification was made impossible as the Germans destroyed their faces. This was all part of Operation Himmler, designed to create justification for the Nazi invasion of Poland, which began the next day. World War II in Europe was on.
3. The Shelling of Mainila – The Winter War
The Soviet Union was chafing under all of the nonaggression treaties on its Western border. Because peacetime seems to be boring for Communist regimes, Stalin decided he needed to mix things up a bit. Since a war with Nazi Germany seemed like a war he would most definitely lose on his own, he opted instead to invade Finland, a war (he thought) he could win easily. He couldn’t invade Finland legally because he signed a full three treaties that prevented him from doing so, including his entry into the League of Nations. Stalin, nice guy that he was, decided to go ahead anyway and set out to make Finland look like the aggressor.
On November 26, 1939, the Soviet Red Army shelled the Russian village of Mainila, 800 meters inside Soviet territory. The Finns even saw the explosions and offered to help investigate the incident, which Stalin declined before blaming the whole thing on the Finnish army. Mainila was out of range of the Finnish guns, but that didn’t matter. The Russians already got the propaganda boost and invaded Finland four days later. The war lasted five months and while the Russians captured 11% of Finnish territory, it came at a high cost: the Finns suffered 70,000 casualties while the Soviets had more than a million.
4. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident – The Vietnam War
On August 2nd and 4th, 1964 the USS Maddox was on a signals intelligence patrol in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of what was then called North Vietnam. She was confronted by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats who got a little too close for comfort. The Americans fired three warning shots. The Vietnamese opened up on the Maddox from torpedo boats.
The Maddox responded with 3- and 5-inch guns. The only thing wrong with that retelling of the incident is everything. The August 2nd attack happened but the Defense Department didn’t respond. The August 4th attack never happened. This is problematic because it was the justification for Congress’ passing of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving the President full authority to use the military to assist “any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty” threatened by Communist aggression without a declaration of war.