17 signs that you might be a military aviator - We Are The Mighty
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17 signs that you might be a military aviator

It’s not just about the squadron plaques on your “I love me” wall or the vanity plate on your ‘Vette. Here are 17 other signs that you might be a military aviator:


1. You talk with your hands a lot.

2. Your speech is so full of acronyms and jargon that it almost qualifies as a foreign language.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

3. You notice what kind of watch others are wearing.

4. You judge fellow military aviators by things like radar cross section and tail hook thickness.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

5. You consider crew rest sacrosanct.

6. Your first meal of the day is lunch (as a function of the previous bullet).

7. You sneer at any mention of the movie “Top Gun,” but you’ve seen it hundreds of times and can’t look away if you happen to stumble across it on cable.

8. You’re not really all that dangerous but sometimes you act like you are. (See previous bullet.)

9. You’re most comfortable wearing Nomex and speed jeans.

No, not those speed jeans . . . these speed jeans:

10. Your grooming is always pushing military standards.

11. You say things like, “Older whiskey, younger women, and faster fighters” with a straight face.

12. You’re all about the shades.

13. You’ve taken recreation to an art form.

14. You can sleep sitting upright (even while strapped into an ejection seat).

15. The crazier a situation becomes, the more focused you get.

16. You’re only impressed by celebrities and other public figures insofar as they make enough money to buy themselves airplanes.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

17. You feel like you can get away with texting while driving because the government trained you to keep your scan going while you multitask.

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These quirky tanks helped the British crack Hitler’s Atlantic Wall

The Allied invasion of Normandy was a challenge on a grand scale. Every single aspect of the plan drew new challenges for commanders. Luckily, the greatest military minds of the day were leading the Allied forces. They came up with some ingenious solutions. For example, in the absence of securing a usable harbor, they created the Mulberry, a harbor that could be shipped and built on site to keep the flow of supplies going.


To confuse the Germans as to where the D-Day attacks would come, Operation Fortitude created an entire fake army aimed at the Pas-de-Calais. The soldiers on the invasion beaches still faced the many natural and man-made obstacles that would hinder their ability to effectively storm the beaches. One man was tasked to create overcome these obstacles and protect the assault forces.

Major General Percy Hobart, an unconventional yet very successful armored and engineering officer, created specialized vehicles designed to help amphibious forces overcome the natural and man-made obstacles common during a landing. These vehicles helped the British and Canadians during their assaults on Gold, Juneau, and Sword beaches. Collectively these vehicles were known as “Hobart’s Funnies.”

Sherman DD Tank

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Pictured: The Sherman DD (Duplex Drive) amphibious tank with waterproof float screens. When in the water, the float screen was raised and the rear propellers came into operation.

The most well-known of Hobart’s Funnies was the Duplex Drive Sherman Tank — or Sherman DD. This tank had a large canvas floatation screen that was erected to make the tank seaworthy and included a secondary drive mechanism that powered a propeller to drive the tank through the water. The idea was to launch these tanks a few miles from shore and have them come ashore with the infantry without the need to bring a large landing craft too close to shore. Their use on D-Day saw mixed results.

Churchill Crocodile

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
A Churchill Crocodile fires its flame thrower in August 1944.

The Crocodile was a British Churchill tank that replaced the hull mounted machine gun with a flamethrower. An armored trailer behind the Croc carried fuel for the weapon. This weapon was adept at clearing German fortifications and later inspired American versions used in the Pacific.

Crab Tank

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
A British M4 Sherman Crab in Normandy

The Crab was a Sherman tank fitted with a cylindrical flail with weighted chains. When activated, the flail cleared a tank-width path by detonating any mines in its way with the weighted chains. This tank was an improvement over previous versions as the Sherman’s engine drove the flail, rather than needing to fit a separate engine on the tank. It was also equipped with numerous ways to mark the cleared path for the following infantry or tanks.

AVRE (Armored Vehicle Royal Engineers)

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

The AVRE were a family of engineering vehicles designed for specific tasks. All AVRE were Churchill tanks with the main gun removed and replaced with a Petard mortar that could fire 40-pound shells against German fortifications. The British then attached various equipment for specific tasks. One tool was a Bobbin, a canvas sheet that was rolled down in front of and then under the tank to provide a path to keep it, and following tanks, from sinking into the soft ground of a beach. There were also attachments for dealing with gaps such as a fascine, a bundle of wooden poles that could be dropped into a ditch for the tank to drive over, or a small box girder bridge that could clear 30-foot gaps. For breaching, there was an attachment the British called the Double Onion, two explosives on a metal frame that could be pressed against a bunker or fortification to breach it.

ARK (Armored Ramp Carrier)

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Look closely.

The ARK was a Churchill tank with the turret removed and folding ramps installed in both front and back. The tank could drive up to an obstacle, extend a ramp, and have other vehicles drive up it and over the obstacle. It could also drive into a gap and act as a bridge if necessary.

All of the vehicles Hobart created were assigned to the 79th Armoured Division under his command. All these designs were offered to the Americans as well, but since they did not have a specialized unit to operate the vehicles, they turned them down with the exception of the Sherman DD tanks. The 79th did not fight as a unit on D-Day but was instead assigned to support different elements making the assault. After the success of Hobart’s Funnies on D-Day, the 79th remained in action and used its special vehicles many times throughout the remainder of the war.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 4 weirdest ammunitions ever used

Humans have a long history of being creative with their weapons. Necessity is the mother of invention, and there’s no necessity greater than not dying because you can’t shoot back. As a result, humans have come up with more than their share of surprising weapon systems – with varying degrees of success.


17 signs that you might be a military aviator

Tround

The tround, short for triangular round, was designed by David Dardick in the mid-1950s for use in his open-chamber line of weapons. It may sound strange, but the open cylinder allowed rounds to be fed into the weapon via the side as opposed to the front or rear. But the real draw was that triangular rounds would allow a weapon’s user to carry fifty percent more ammunition in a case.

Trounds also allowed for different cartridges to be used in place of the tround ammo, where the triangular casings were used as chamber adapters.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

Rocket-propelled ammunition

The gyrojet weapon was developed by an engineer who worked at Los Alamos who was trying to scale down the bazooka concept to create an antitank weapon that was also compact. The gyrojet was a rocket launcher shaped like a gun firing ammunition that actually accelerated as it got further from the weapon.

It had no recoil, could be fired underwater, and could penetrate armor at 100 yards. The only problem was that its accuracy was so terrible that hitting anything at 100 yards was problematic.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

Puckle rounds

The Puckle Gun was an early development in the history of automatic weapons. It was a single-barreled flintlock weapon that was designed to keep boarders from getting onto another ship. The weapon was never actually used in combat, but it featured two rounds of ammunition; circular rounds for fighting Christians and square bullets for shooting Muslims, because square bullets apparently cause more damage. According to the patent, its purpose was to “convince the Turks of the benefits of Christian civilization.”

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

Lazy Dog missiles

What you see is what you get with the lazy dog ammo. There’s no cartridge, no propellant, no explosive – just a solid piece of metal attached to fins. They were dropped from high altitudes en masse and by the time they reached the ground were able to penetrate light armor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everybody involved in that dino puppet reenlistment video just got fired

In the worst military overreaction since the Faber College ROTC pledge pin incident of 1962, the Tennessee National Guard’s adjutant general announced April 18, 2018, that everyone involved in a recent viral video of a kooky reenlistment ceremony would have their careers wrecked, because that’s how you honor our military traditions, dammit.


The controversy revolved around an Air National Guard master sergeant in the Volunteer State who took her oath of reenlistment with a tyrannosaurus rex hand puppet mouthing her words. The internet being the internet, video of the ceremony got around, and some watchers decided it just wasn’t in keeping with the highest traditions of service… unlike all that readily available online imagery of service members reenlisting as imperial stormtroopers; at gunpoint; underwater; in gas chambers; in GameStops; or with rigged-up explosions behind them.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

Unlike all those clearly well-intentioned, lighthearted reenlistments, this sinister dino-puppet thing “goes against our very foundation,” according to the Air National Guard’s commanding general. That grave assessment led to this not-at-all bonkers Facebook post from Maj. Gen. Terry M. Haston, the Tennessee Guard’s top cheese, announcing that the master sergeant with the puppet, the colonel who administered the oath to her, and the NCO who acted as cameraman are all fucked, absolutely and utterly fucked (emphasis added):

I am absolutely embarrassed that a senior officer and a senior NCO took such liberties with a time-honored military tradition. The Tennessee National Guard holds the Oath of Enlistment in the highest esteem because that oath signifies every service member’s commitment to defend our state, nation and the freedoms we all enjoy. Not taking this oath solemnly and with the utmost respect is firmly against the traditions and sanctity of our military family and will not be tolerated…
Over the past few days, the leadership of the Tennessee National Guard has conducted a thorough investigation of the event with the following results:
The Colonel (O-6) administering the oath was immediately retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (O-5).
The Senior NCO taking the oath has been removed from her full-time position with the Tennessee Joint Public Affairs Office and other administrative actions are underway.
The Senior NCO who recorded the event has been removed from his position as a unit First Sergeant and has received an official reprimand, but will be retained in the Tennessee Air National Guard…

Let’s get this straight: A colonel was reduced in rank and sent packing, a senior enlisted leader who was reupping is now being drummed out, and the dude with the camera lost his billet and career momentum. Because of a dinosaur hand puppet.

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7 canceled weapons that you’ll wish were standard issue

Thousands of whiteboards owned by inventors and military contractors around the world contain designs for military technologies that could change the way that battles are fought if they’d ever see active service.


But as the U.S. military learns time and time again, these weapons don’t always work as well as hoped. Here are seven designs that would be awesome to fly, ride, or carry into battle if designers had just been able to work the kinks out:

1. XM29

 

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
(Photo: U.S. Army)

While the M4 and M16 are fine weapons, the Army has tried to replace it a few times. Its sexiest candidate was definitely the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, a rifle and airburst grenade launcher hybrid that could be fired around corners. The airburst rounds were programmed to fly customized distances before exploding.

But high costs and weight problems kept the weapon from reaching its potential.

2. XM25

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
(Photo: U.S. Army)

When the XM29 was canceled, its airburst grenade technology was split off as its own weapon with 25mm rounds in the XM25. The new weapon even saw combat tests in Afghanistan, but a malfunction that resulted in injury in 2013 caused the grenade launcher to be pulled from theater.

The XM25 is technically still in testing, but the program has been basically shuttered since the safety incidents. A recent inspector general report urged the Army to come to a final decision soon and said that the funds required for the XM25 could be put to better use if the program is canceled.

Would’ve been nice to fire airburst rounds though.

3. Comanche

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
A RAH-66 Comanche prototype flies with an AH-64 Apache. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Comanche was supposed to be the attack/reconnaissance helicopter to rule them all. It was quiet, featured incorporated stealth technologies, and carried a 20mm machine gun and Hellfire and Stinger missiles.

But the development process dragged on for far too long. A 1991 contract netted two prototypes in 2004, by which time the Army had put stealth helicopters on the back shelf while they hunted insurgents.

4. Arapaho

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
(Photo: U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs)

The ARH-70A Arapaho was supposed to replace the Kiowa in the reconnaissance business after the Comanche was canceled. It was a Bell 407 helicopter with a stronger engine, weapons, and sensors added. They could have been rapidly deployed around the world with two fitting aboard a C-130H Hercules transport.

And their high maneuverability would have allowed them to fly through cities and hover near buildings.

Unfortunately, the militarization of the 407 was not as smooth as anticipated. Delays and cost overruns got the program put on ice for a few months in 2007 and formally canceled in 2008.

5. Airborne Laser

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
The YAL Airborne Laser Testbed’s turret assembly. (Photo: YouTube)

The Airborne Laser was supposed to be the ultimate ballistic missile destroyer. It would fly over or near enemy territory watching for enemy ballistic missile launches. When one took off and entered the boost phase, the plane would fire three lasers. Two were for acquiring and tracking the target and the third would punch through the missile’s body and blow it up.

But the laser had a limited range and loitering capability, meaning that planes would have to spend a lot of their time flying within an enemies’ borders to actually have a shot at the missiles. Luckily, this program could get revived using a new kind of laser and flying on high-altitude, stealthy drones.

6. Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle provided better range, better speed, and better armor than the AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle it was meant to replace. It featured two 30mm cannons and was propelled through water with jets and it operated on land using its treads.

The EFV suffered some small setbacks during testing and development and then fell victim to budget cuts across the Department of Defense in 2011. The Marine Corps has wrestled with how to best move supplies and Marines from the ships to the shore since then.

7. SL-AMRAAM

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
An AMRAAM-Extended Range missile is fired from a NASAMS launcher. The missile successfully engaged and destroyed a target drone during a flight test at the Andoya Space Center in Norway. (Photo: courtesy Raytheon Company)

The Surfaced-Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile would have been the Army’s premiere system for defending troops from cruise missiles, helicopters, many jets, and other low and mid-altitude aerial threats. It featured a proven Air Force missile, the AIM-120C-7, originally designed for air-to-air battles.

Norway and Spain field the SL-AMRAAM under the name NASAMS, but the U.S. Army pulled out of the program in an effort to save money and invest in counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar systems instead. Some NASAMS are in U.S. service defending Washington D.C. from cruise missile attack.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Navy SEALs wore blue jeans in Vietnam

Nothing screams Americana more than rock and roll, blue jeans, and the toughness of our fighting men and women. If you mix them all together, you get the Navy SEALs who fought in the jungles of Vietnam. They were unquestionably rugged, they were probably rocking out to some CCR, and they wore blue jeans throughout.

In a speech delivered to Congress in May, 1961, President John F. Kennedy recognized the need for special operations as a measure against guerrilla warfare. Meanwhile, the Navy was already putting together elite units for exactly that task. The Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams grew into the SEALs we know today and they were baptized in the waters of Vietnam.


17 signs that you might be a military aviator

Navy SEALs are truly masters of both hiding and seeking.

(U.S. Navy)

These men were experts in hand-to-hand combat, high-altitude parachuting, demolitions, and foreign languages — all skills that would prove useful in Vietnam. At the beginning of 1962, SEALs were mobilized into South Vietnam to take on an advisory role. Less than a year later, they were participating in the covert, CIA-sponsored Phoenix Program.

Details of the Phoenix Program are blurry (as covert CIA stuff tends to be), but what is known is that it involved the SEALs doing what they do best: Capturing and assassinating high-value targets. This meant that they would infiltrate deep behind enemy lines and directly engage the enemy when they thought they were safe.

The SEALs were constantly on the move through rough and unforgiving terrain to complete their mission. As anyone who’s ever donned a military uniform can tell you, the “lowest bidder” joke wears off after you’ve ripped a hole in the crotch of your seventeenth pair of trousers.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

So, which one of these guys are you gonna scold for wearing blue jeans? None of them? Good choice.

(U.S. Navy)

So, SEALs wore whatever was durable enough to complete the mission — and Vietnam demanded blue jeans. It allowed the SEALs to sneak into enemy compounds without worrying about catching their pants on a branch, loudly ripping some fabric, and blowing the element of surprise. It also didn’t hurt that jeans are damn comfy.

SEALs, along with the rest of the Special Operations community, have an advantage over most conventional troops: No one outside of Special Operations is ballsy enough to walk up to a bearded SEAL and berate them for not being in uniform. Anyone who dared was quickly laughed at and then soiled their regulation uniform trousers as they watched the SEAL flex.

If you want to operate like a SEAL, then you need to dress like one. 5.11 Tactical‘s got you covered.


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This black tank battalion earned 11 Silver Stars and the Medal of Honor

“Patton’s Panthers” was one of the most effective tank battalions in World War II, fighting a continuous 183 days at the front and inflicting heavy casualties on the Germans while crews racked up accolades from their peers, including three Medal of Honor nominations in their first month of combat.


In the end, the men of the 761st Tank Battalion were awarded a Medal of Honor, 11 Silver Stars, and about 300 Purple Hearts despite facing racism as the first black armored unit in combat and the second in U.S. military history.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Tank Commander Harvey Woodard of the 761st Tank Battalion assesses terrain near Nancy, France, in November 1944. (Photo: Gen. George Patton Museum and Center of Leadership)

The first black armored unit was the 758th Tank Battalion which received 98 black enlisted men in 1941. The 761st followed in March 1942 as a light tank battalion but converted to medium tanks in September 1943.

At a time when most tank units were getting months of training, as little as three months in some cases, the 761st received over two years before shipping to France in October 1944. A historian for the unit, former Sgt. Wayne D. Robinson, theorized that this extended training time came because big Army couldn’t decide what to do with black forces.

But the Panthers got called to the show in 1944 and landed in France that October. Immediately, they made an impact on the attitudes of their peers in other units. Its first day of combat came on Oct. 31 when it fought for a vital hill. After just over a week of fighting, it was tasked with hitting German-held towns on Nov. 8.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Tank crews from the 761st Tank Battalion await orders to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany, April 25, 1945. (Photo: National Archives)

It was on that day that the battalion struck a German roadblock that could spell doom. The tanks were forced to stop, making them easy targets for German guns.

Despite fierce German fire, Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers rushed out of his tank and attached a cable to the roadblock before dragging it out of the way. The American tanks pushed forward through the opening and the attack was successful.

The next day, Charlie Company 1st Sgt. Samuel Turley found his company under heavy German fire with wrecked tanks. He ordered the crews to dismount and organized a resistance before climbing from a ditch to lay down cover fire. His gamble saved his men, but he was cut down by German machine gun fire.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Soldiers from Dog Company of the 761st Tank Battalion check equipment before leaving England for combat in France in the fall of 1944. (Photo: Gen. George Patton Museum and Center of Leadership)

The day after that, on Nov. 10, Sgt. Warren G.H. Crecy fought his way forward to save his men under fire until his tank was destroyed. He then commandeered another vehicle and killed his attackers with a .30-caliber machine gun before turning the weapon on German artillery observers.

On Nov. 11, Crecy was back at it. His tank was immobilized and he attempted to get it going until he saw German units attacking the nearby infantry. So he climbed onto his .50-cal. and gave them cover. Later that day, he destroyed machine gun nests and an anti-tank weapon.

Rivers was back in the spotlight Nov. 16-19. A mine shot fragments through his leg and destroyed his knee on Nov. 16. Despite the recommendation that he immediately evacuate, Rivers led the way across a brand-new bridge the next day and took on four German tanks, killing two and driving two more back.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Lt. Gen. George Patton awards the Silver Star to Pvt. Ernest A. Jenkins of the 761st Tank Battalion. (Photo: Gen. George Patton Museum and Center of Leadership)

By Nov. 18, Rivers’ leg was infected but he still refused to go home. The next day, Rivers directed fierce fire onto German anti-tank guns until two rounds pierced his own tank and went through his head, killing him instantly.

All three men, Rivers, Crecy, and Turley, were nominated for the Medal of Honor but only Rivers received it.

The next month the 761st conducted assaults aimed at breaking up the German forces at the Battle of the Bulge, slowing German resupply and taking the pressure off the units under siege despite the fact that the 761st was fighting a numerically superior enemy.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Gunner Cpl. Carlton Chapman poses in his M4 Sherman tank near Nancy, France, Nov. 5, 1944. (Photo: National Archives)

After another month and a half of fighting, the 761st threw itself against a dug in and numerically superior enemy once again while leading the armored spearhead through the Siegfried Line and fought “the fiercest of enemy resistance in the most heavily defended area of the war theater” for 72 hours according to its Presidential Unit Citation.

On May 5, 1945, the 761st linked up with Russian Forces in Steyr, Austria. Over the course of the war, the unit had lost nearly 50 percent of its starting forces and 71 tanks. It was also credited with inflicting 130,000 casualties.

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Top US Pacific commander wants the Army to start sinking ships

The always-candid U.S commander in the Pacific declared that “the Indo-Asia-Pacific region is the most consequential region for America’s future.” He added that he did not see any change in the United States’ commitment to his theater as a result of the presidential election or the public turmoil with the leaders in the Philippines and South Korea.


Addressing a Defense One forum Nov. 15, Adm. Harry Harris expressed concern about North Korea’s nuclear weapons technology and “Chinese assertiveness” in the South China Sea, but said “America has critical national interest in the region and must alleviate the concerns of our allies and partners.” He added the need to deter any potential adversaries as well.

“The United States is the guarantor of security in the region and will remain so,” he said.

To support that view, Harris noted that America is sending its best military systems to the region before they go anywhere else.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg)

He cited the decision to send the Marine Corps’ F-35Bs to Japan next year, saying it sends a “signal that we’re sending our most powerful aircraft to the Indo-Asia-Pacific before anywhere else. No other aircraft can approach it. I’m a big fan. But in a bigger sense, it’s a signal that Indo-Asia-Pacific is important.”

Harris also noted that the Navy’s new massive destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, is homeported in the Pacific. The Navy is increasing the number of Virginia-class attack submarines in the theater and sent the new P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to Japan on its first deployment.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
A Zumwalt class destroyer and Navy F-35C. (U.S. Navy photo)

Although the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program has been plagued with problems, Harris gave a strong endorsement for the relatively small, fast and modular ships. Recalling the concern he and other Navy officers had during the Cold War over the Soviet Union’s force of small, fast missile craft, the admiral said if the LCS were equipped with anti-ship missiles it would force a potential adversary to spread its defenses against that threat.

And despite the usual naval focus of his vast command, Harris praised the Army’s increasing strength and capabilities in the Pacific.

What the Army brings, he said, “is what it always brings: mass and fire power.”

Harris said he also encourages Army leaders to contribute more to what he called “cross-domain fires,” which would include cyber and information warfare.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Defense contractors are working with the Army to develop a land-based launcher for the Long-Range Anti-Ship missile. (Photo from US Army)

He added, “I think the Army should be in the business of sinking ships with land-based ballistic missiles,” which is similar to what the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force is planning to do in response to China’s aggressive claims in the East China Sea.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley recently declared anti-ship weapons as a necessary Army capability. And the Marine Corps, in its recently released Operating Concept, said the Corps should be able to support the Navy’s ability to project power by developing anti-ship systems.

Harris said he thought that if the Army would put those kinds of weapon systems in place, it would be “a threat to potential adversaries in the Western Pacific,” which apparently referred to China.

While criticizing China’s “assertiveness” and its construction of military facilities on artificial islands in the South China Sea, Harris said his personal relations with his Chinese counterparts were good and he stressed the importance of continued military-military contact.

The admiral also insisted that, despite the anti-American rants of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, there has been no change in U.S. access to bases there and no orders to remove Special Operations forces advising Philippine troops in their anti-terrorist actions.

Harris carefully avoided any questions about the possible changes in his command due to the election of Donald Trump, but said, “America never has a lame-duck commander in chief…I continue to serve President [Barack] Obama until January 20, at which point I’ll serve President Trump.”

“That said, I have no doubt we will continue our steadfast commitment to our allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he added.

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These are 4 of the most underrated American military commanders ever

We’ve all heard about military leaders from American history who totally rock. Washington, Stonewall Jackson, and Ike are certainly among them.


But it’s worth noting some military commanders who didn’t get the accolades, but really should have.

Some, you may know a little bit about, and some you might never have heard of until now.

Let’s take a look at who might need some more compliments for their military prowess.

1. Raymond A. Spruance

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Raymond A. Spruance, the victor of Midway. (U.S. Navy photo)

Samuel Eliot Morison called Raymond Ames Spruance “the victor of Midway” in his “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.”

Morison noted in that Spruance, upon reviewing the text, requested that “the victor of Midway” be changed to “who commanded a carrier task force at Midway.” Morison declined to make the change, but it shows the modest character of Spruance, who was arguably America’s best naval combat commander in the Pacific Theater.

Look at his results.

At Midway, Spruance smashed and sank four Japanese carriers. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, his fleet pulled off the Marianas Turkey Shoot, and later sank a carrier and two oilers (American subs sank two more carriers). Here’s how thoroughly Spruance beat the Japanese: At the start of the battle, CombinedFleet.com noted the Japanese had 473 aircraft on their carriers. After the battle, WW2DB.com noted the Japanese carriers had 35 planes total among them.

In the Navy, it is an honor to have a ship named after you. When your name goes on the lead ship of a class of destroyers, it speaks volumes about how you did.

Spruance’s name was on USS Spruance (DD 963), the first of 31 Spruance-class destroyers. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer (DDG 111) also bears his name.

2. John Buford

Sam Elliot gave a memorable performance of this general in “Gettysburg.”

We may very well owe the fact that the Union won the Civil War to John Buford. Everything that happened at Gettysburg was due to Buford’s actions on June 30 and July 1, 1863. An excerpt from a U.S. Army training manual notes, “Buford’s deployment and delaying tactics blocked Confederate access to Gettysburg while gaining time for reinforcing Union columns to arrive on the battlefield.”

He identified the terrain that mattered, he then bought time for the Union Army to arrive, and to eventually regroup on Cemetery Ridge. The U.S. Army manual says that, “[H]is morning actions ensured that the Army of the Potomac secured the high ground. Over the next two days, General Lee’s army would shatter itself in repeated attacks upon these heights. The battle of Gettysburg very much reflected the shaping influence of Buford’s cavalry division.”

3. Ulysses S. Grant

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mathew B. Brady

Butcher. Drunk. Those are common perceptions of Ulysses S. Grant, but they miss the point.

If Robert E. Lee’s biggest fault was the failure to keep in mind the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the two sides in the Civil War, Grant was someone who keenly grasped them. Yes, Union troops suffered heavy casualties at battles like Cold Harbor or the Wilderness, but where other generals pulled back, Grant pressed forward.

Edward H. Bonekemper noted at the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable that in the Overland Campaign, “Grant took his aggressiveness and persistence beyond the levels he had demonstrated in the Western and Middle Theaters.” Bonekemper also expressed his belief that had Petersburg not held, Grant’s campaign would have won the war in two months.

Eventually, he broke Lee’s army, and with it, the Confederacy.

4. Daniel Callaghan

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Like John Buford, Callaghan really had one big moment. But what a moment it was.

Against overwhelming odds, Daniel Callaghan saved Henderson Field from a massive bombardment, making the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. Yet far too many historical accounts, like Richard Frank’s Guadalcanal (see pages 459 and 460), act as if Callaghan blundered into the fight.

On the contrary, Callaghan, by forcing a melee, bought enough time that the Japanese had to postpone having a battleship bombard Henderson Field for two critical days — enough time for American fast battleships to arrive.

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This is what it means to make a ‘Fini Flight’ in the US Air Force

The final day of work comes upon everyone. Some people take a long lunch with coworkers to hand out gifts and going away mementos. Others choose to quietly go out as they either prepare for retirement or moving on to their next job.


US military pilots take to the skies and soar one last time alongside wingmen from their unit.

Their emotional last day at a unit isn’t just celebrated like a last day at an office. Pilots stick to a tradition that’s as old as the Air Force itself: the final flight, known widely amongst aircrew members as the ‘fini flight.’

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel

The tradition was initially celebrated to accompany milestones in the career of Airmen of all ranks and positions. To find the first documented fini flight, one would have to reach back in history as far as Vietnam, when an aircrew commemorated the completion of 100 missions.

Since then, the way final flights have been celebrated has changed, but the sentiments have remained.

“Traditions such as this are great examples of esprit de corps throughout the Air Force community,” said Steven Frank, 27th Special Operations Wing historian. “It can also help create strong bonds of camaraderie and teamwork among past, current, and future generations of Airmen.”

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
USAF photo by Senior Airman Lauren Main

Today, these final flights are celebrated not for one Airman’s accomplishments but an entire crew’s across the Air Force. They’re used for all ranks and positions to honor their contributions to the unit.

Once the plane lands, it is acknowledged with a formal water salute, where two firetrucks shoot water over the plane creating an arch with plumes of water collapsing down on the plane as it taxis in.

Upon halting the plane, the pilot exits to an immediate barrage of water as their family, friends, and coworkers douse them with fire hoses. Celebratory champagne follows soon after (or whenever their peers decide they had enough water) and thus gives them time to reflect with friends and loved ones on the time they’ve had together at that unit.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
USAF photo by Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht

Frank says it’s one of the many examples of military cultural institutions that Airmen are proud to participate in.

“Fini flights are just one example of over a hundred years of Air Force traditions and heritage that honors the sacrifices and victories previous generations of Airmen have made to secure our freedoms,” Frank said. “Every Air Force organization continues to make contributions to the Air Force story and the exploration and awareness of each unit’s past can help encourage a sense of increased pride and respect for every Airman’s career field and organization.”

Whether they’re pilots who’ve tallied thousands of hours in a particular aircraft or crew who man weapons that deliver air power, fini flights are a longstanding tradition that remain one of the most exhilarating ways to recognize the very best amongst the Air Force’s ranks.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens to North Koreans caught trying to defect

Scott Kim first escaped North Korea at the age of 17 in 2001. At the time, he and his mother only wanted to get across the border to China so they could eat hot meals. Growing up during North Korea’s deadly famine in the late ’90s, Kim had spent much of his childhood starving.

Today, Kim owns a business trading automobile and railway parts in South Korea. He is currently working on an English-language memoir about his experiences with the help of Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), a volunteer-run organization in Seoul helping defectors develop English skills.

But it was a long and dangerous six years in and out of China and North Korea before he got to Seoul.


Most North Koreans defect by crossing North Korea’s northern border to China via the Tumen or Yalu rivers. Then they must smuggle their way across China’s vast expanse to its southern border with Laos or Vietnam. From there, they cross into Thailand or Cambodia and go to the South Korean embassy to ask for help. It’s a journey that can cost up to $5,000, which must be paid to “brokers” in each country to arrange the escape.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Inscription stone marking the border of China and North Korea in Jilin

Paying $5,000 to make it to South Korea or the United States was far out of reach for Kim and his mother. Instead, he and his mother lived as undocumented immigrants and worked as farm laborers. But one year after escaping North Korea, Kim’s neighbor reported his status to the police, who brought him and his mother back to North Korea. Kim was taken to a detention center, where authorities determine where to send defectors next.

“When we reached the detention center in North Korea, we lost all our rights as human beings,” Kim told Business Insider. “We were treated like animals, literally. We had to crawl on the floor to move from place to place.”

Kim was put in a cell with 20 other defectors. There was one toilet in the corner and no space to lie down. Day and night, the defectors sat on the ground.

“It was our punishment because we were sinners. I don’t know why we were sinners,” he said.

When he or other defectors were told to down the corridor to the warden’s office, they were made to crawl on their hands and feet. Officers beat them with gloves and sticks as they went.

An estimated 100,000 North Koreans or more currently live in detention centers, political prisons, or labor camps where they endure hard labor, torture, and starvation.

Kim’s description of his experience comes amid President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has been accused of killing his own people. But when asked about the North Korean dictator’s human rights violations, Trump appeared to be an apologist for the dictator’s actions.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

The first time Kim was caught, he got lucky.

Despite the fact that one of North Korea’s biggest reeducation camps is in Chongori, near his hometown in Musan, Kim was sent to a center further south. Because no one knew him — and internet and phone service was nonexistent at the time — he was able to lie about his age. He told the guards he was only 15 years old and had been in China looking for his mother.

Rather than send him to one of the country’s brutal labor camps or political camps, he was sent to a medical center for orphaned children. Shortly after arriving, he escaped and went back to China, where he got work as a farm laborer near Helong, a city in northeastern China.

“Everyday, I planted, farmed, logged on the mountain. Corn, beans, potatoes,” he said. “Life was better because I was not starving. I could eat and be full at meals. It was enough food for me … At the time I left North Korea, I was starving.”

Kim was caught a second time when he visited a friend in China looking for his mother. A neighbor again reported him to the police. The second time he was sent back to North Korea, he wasn’t so lucky. He was sent to the concentration camp near his hometown. From there he was sent to a labor camp, where he chopped down trees on a mountain for months.

He escaped one day when he realized that all his fellow laborers were at the top of the mountain chopping while he was at the bottom. He ran away as fast as he could until he found a train that he could take him north to cross the border with China again.

After some time in China, he was caught a third time and sent to a camp for political prisoners — the worst place to be sent, as imprisonment there is interminable. He escaped the camp by bribing the authorities through a broker, who helped him make it across the border with China a final time.

After six years, Kim reunited with his mother and made it to South Korea

17 signs that you might be a military aviator
Seoul, South Korea

In China, he went back to work to pay off his debt to the broker. One day, he got a call from a North Korean woman from Musan who told him that he had to come visit his mother. She was dying of cancer. For the first time in many years, the two saw each other.

“When I opened the door of my mother’s house, I froze, and couldn’t say anything, because my mother looked incredibly different,” he said. “There was no fat on her, and her whole body looked like a triangle, I just went outside and cried for a long time and came back again, and I embraced my mother and we cried together.”

Several days later, a friend of his mother offered his mother the opportunity to escape to South Korea via Laos and Cambodia. A broker was taking a group through; they had an extra space.

Unable to walk, Kim’s mother told Kim he had to go and become educated. Once he was settled, she said, he could bring her and help others in need. He decided to go.

The night before Kim and the group of defectors were to cross the border into Laos, he received a call telling him that his mother had died. The man on the phone said he had to come back for the funeral.

“After hanging up, I couldn’t say anything, I just cried all night. I really, really wanted to go back, but I thought that if I go back there, I couldn’t do anything for her,” he said. “I decided to go to South Korea, believing that my mother would agree with my decision.”

In 2007, six years after he first escaped, Kim finally made it to South Korea.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this rendition of the West Point alma mater made to honor a lost classmate

Every military branch, office, and unit has its own unique traditions. Military culture develops within us from the very beginning of our service. The plebes at the United State Military Academy are no different in that regard. Every class has a unique motto and crest while each cadet company has a unique mascot. But no matter what class or company, they all come together for the West Point Alma Mater.


West Point alum, Army officer, and filmmaker Austin Lachance is known among plebes and old grads alike for his skills in producing high-quality, West Point-centric films. In 2017, he produced a music video of the U.S. Military Academy’s glee club singing a rendition of the 1911-era West Point Alma Mater that will give you chills.

In 2018, Lachance remastered the piece in stunning 4K video in order to honor 1st Lt. Stephen C. Prasnicki, an Army football player from the West Point class of 2010 who was killed in action two years later.

Called “Sing Second,” the video references the tradition of the end of the annual Army-Navy Game, where each side sings the other’s alma mater. The losing team sings theirs first and the winning team sings second. But the rendition is more than an Army-Navy Game spirit video, like 2017’s “Lead From the Front” — it’s a tribute.

Lachance, now an Army officer on active duty, remastered the moving video to honor fellow West Pointer Stephen Chase Prasnicki, who was killed by an enemy improvised explosive device in Maidan Shahr, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, on Jun. 27, 2012.

Upon graduating from high school, Prasnicki was a highly-recruited prospect for college football. As a quarterback in a highly competitive area of Virginia high school football, he might have chosen to play at Virginia Tech under legendary coach Frank Beamer. He could have played in bowl games and for national championships. Instead, he chose West Point.

Chase was a leader in every aspect of his life,” Prasnicki’s surviving spouse, Emily Gann, told CBS Sports. “People wanted to follow him onto the football field, and they wanted to follow him into battle.”

The former Army Black Knights backup quarterback and defensive safety was a platoon leader assigned to the 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He was only in Afghanistan for five days before sustaining his wounds.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Is the rereleased version of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ worth your time?

“Avengers: Endgame” just got re-released in theaters with bonus content.

The movie, which initially hit theaters in April 2019 and went on to hit $1 billion at the box office, returned on June 28, 2019. Prior to the re-release, Marvel revealed that the new version would have an introduction from Anthony Russo, an unfinished scene that didn’t appear in the final movie, and a sneak peek at “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (which comes out on July 2, 2019).

Keep reading for a breakdown of what to expect from the latest version of “Endgame,” and whether or not it’s worth seeing in theaters.


17 signs that you might be a military aviator

Anthony and Joe Russo.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Before the movie plays, codirector Anthony Russo shares a few words with viewers

“On behalf of all of us at Marvel Studios, we want to thank you for joining us on this journey,” Russo says. “Make sure you stick around after the credits. We have something special to share with you. Enjoy.”

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

After the film, there’s a touching tribute to Stan Lee

Once the three-hour film ends, you’ll have to wait for all the credits to roll before Marvel honors the comic book legend who died in November 2018 at the age of 95. The tribute, which lasts about three minutes, is stuffed with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage that shows Lee interacting with cast and crew members over the years. There’s also a recap of his cameos and Lee says that he remembers every single one.

You can see him chatting with Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau on the set of 2008’s “Iron Man,” and you can spot Brie Larson leaning on him while filming his quick appearance in the 2019 movie “Captain Marvel.”

“Not only did I not think I would be doing a cameo in such a big movie, I hadn’t dreamt it would be such a big movie,” Lee says. “In those days, I was writing those books, I was hoping they’d sell so I wouldn’t lose my job and could keep paying the rent.”

He goes on to talk about the success of his comic characters and the “blockbuster movies.”

“In the days [when] I was writing these things, I never thought it would turn into something like this,” Lee says.

He adds: “I can’t believe I lucked out.”

The tribute concludes with silver text on the screen that says, “Stan We Love You 3000,” a heartwarming nod to Tony Stark’s line from “Endgame.”

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

Mark Ruffalo in “Avengers: Endgame.”

(Disney/Marvel)

The unfinished deleted scene shows Hulk being heroic

Russo returns to the screen to say that it’s a moment that they “loved, but just couldn’t keep in the final cut of the film.”

The scene opens with a burning building and several firefighters arriving at the site. Then Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) shows up, looking a little different because the CGI work hasn’t been completed. As the firefighters panic over how to rescue people stuck on the 40th floor, the superhero valiantly arrives and gets the job done. Then Hulk answers a phone call and says, “Steve who?,” presumably referring to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).

It’s unclear where this scene would have fit into the final version of “Endgame,” but perhaps it was meant to highlight what he was doing after the Avengers tracked down Thanos and killed him in the garden. Following the five-year jump, Professor Hulk seemed to become popular in town, as shown during one “Endgame” scene in which three kids approached him at a diner so they could snap a photo with him.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson in “Avengers: Endgame.”

(Sony Pictures/Marvel)

The final treat gives fans a glimpse of what to expect from ‘Far From Home’

The scene opens in Ixtenco, Mexico and shows Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) evaluating the damage done in the area by a cyclone that seemingly had a face. Then, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio appears and says, “You don’t want any part of this.”

That sneak peek just reiterates what fans have already seen in the trailer for the “Spider-Man” sequel. The movie focuses on new threats, referred to as Elementals, who take the form of earth, fire, water, and air.

17 signs that you might be a military aviator

“Avengers: Endgame” is the culmination of several Marvel movies.

(Walt Disney Studios)

Is the new version of ‘Endgame’ worth your time?

“Endgame” is not too far from surpassing “Avatar” and becoming the highest-grossing film of all time, and this re-release of “Endgame” seems like Marvel’s attempt at dethroning James Cameron’s 2009 movie. But fans flocking to the theater might not feel like the new content was worth the time or money spent.

If you’re lucky, you might snag a cool “Endgame” poster from the theater you attend. But other than that, you might be left feeling unsatisfied. While the Lee tribute is emotional and full of nostalgia, it’s not necessary to see it now.

“Endgame” will be available on digital on July 30, 2019, and you can purchase the Blu-ray beginning on Aug. 13, 2019, and it’s likely that the tribute will be included as an extra.

And because “Far From Home” hits theaters in a few days, the sneak peek at the end of “Endgame” isn’t strong motivation to catch the re-release. You’re better off just waiting to see “Far From Home” when it’s released, since it marks the final film in phase three of the MCU and teases where future movies in the universe will be headed.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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