6 top secret bases that changed history - We Are The Mighty
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6 top secret bases that changed history

Secrets are hard to keep, and secrets that require a lot of real estate are even harder to keep. Here are six examples of large-scale efforts that managed to maintain the utmost secrecy and wound up changing the course of history as a result:


1. The entire city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee

6 top secret bases that changed history
Photo: US Army Ed Westcott

Oak Ridge, Tennessee is now a mostly normal city that houses about 30,000 people, but it was originally established to create the nuclear bomb.

Army engineers tasked with building the infrastructure for the Manhattan Project chose the site of modern Oak Ridge and secretly created a top-secret facility with a peak population of 75,000 people. Oak Ridge was where the bulk of the nuclear material for the bombs was created.

In 1949, the site was opened to the general public and it was incorporated as a city in 1959.

2. The Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific

6 top secret bases that changed history
Photo: US Navy Greg Senff

Most people know Bikini Atoll, the site of many U.S. nuclear tests and the inspiration for the bikini. But Bikini Atoll was supported and largely ran by U.S. military forces at Kwajalein Atoll.

U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll still exists and sensitive operations are still conducted there, mostly missile testing and target practice.

3. Tonopah

6 top secret bases that changed history
F-117 Stealth Fighter (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Tonopah was a secret even among military aviators in the 1970s. Those in the know were sent to practice dogfighting against captured Soviet jets near Tonopah, Nevada.

But Tonopah had a different secret that would change military aviation. Stealth aviation was developed there and the F-117 flew many of it’s test flights from Tonopah.

READ MORE: The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program

4. Area 51

6 top secret bases that changed history
Photo: CIA.gov

If you don’t know what the cultural significance of Area 51 is, then stop lying because you definitely know what Area 51 is. The rumors around the test site spurned its own sub genre of entertainment with big movies like “Independence Day” and video games like “Area 51.”

Area 51’s military significance is that it was a testing ground for the U-2 and the SR-71 predecessor, the A-12 Oxcart. Officially, the site is named the Nevada Test and Training Range at Groom Lake.

5. Wendover Army Air Base

6 top secret bases that changed history
Photo: Wendover Air Force Base History Office

Wendover Army Air Base was a tiny establishment when it was activated in 1942, serving primarily as a school for aviators headed to Europe.

But by 1944 a shroud of secrecy descended over the remote base with FBI agents and military police monitoring conversations and limiting movements of base personnel and their families. That’s because the base was being used to train the men who were hand-selected to drop the atomic bombs on Japan.

6. Muroc Army Air Base/Edwards Air Force Base

6 top secret bases that changed history
Photo: US Air Force

Muroc Army Air Base started as a bombing and gunnery range in the 1930s but became a proper base and school for pilots during World War II. A few years after the war, its name was changed to Edwards.

Top secret projects began at Muroc in 1942 when the Army Air Force’s first jet, the Bell P-59 Airacomet, was tested there. It also served as an early testing site for the B-29s modified to drop nuclear weapons on Japan, was the base Chuck Yeager flew from when he first broke the sound barrier, and assisted in the testing of the space shuttle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Despite Russian shoot down, U.S. planes will remain in Syria

U.S. officials expressed sorrow over the shoot-down of a Russian military surveillance plane off the Syrian coast and said it would not affect the U.S. campaign against Islamic State (IS) fighters.

The comments on Sept. 18, 2018, came as Russian officials said that Syrian antiaircraft forces brought down the Il-20 plane inadvertently, but also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces at around the same time.


U.S. officials said U.S. forces were not involved in the incident.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement expressing sorrow for the shoot-down, which killed 15 Russian servicemen. He also criticized Iran, which has reportedly shipped sophisticated weaponry to the Hizballah fighters in Lebanon.

6 top secret bases that changed history

Israel has struck targets in both Lebanon and Syria, seeking to thwart Hizballah’s ambitions.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, told reporters that the shoot-down complicates relations between Syria and Russia but would have “no effect whatever” on the U.S. campaign to defeat the extremist group IS in Syria.

Mattis also said the incident was a reminder of why the United States supports the United Nations’ effort to end the seven-year civil war.

President Donald Trump also expressed concern about the downed Russian plane, calling it a “very sad thing” and “not a good situation.”

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Israel against conducting air raids on Syria.

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Putin to express sorrow over the plane’s loss but insisted that Syria bore responsibility.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

In an interview with PBS News Hour’s Judy Woodruff, retired Adm. Bill McRaven, the former SEAL who oversaw the 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound as the head of Joint Special Operations Command, told Woodruff that there’s only thing a SEAL recruit has to do during their grueling training: “Not quit.”

“So, the one thing that defines everybody that goes through SEAL training is that they didn’t ring the bell, as we say,” McRaven said. “They didn’t quit. And that’s really what you’re trying to find in the young SEAL students, because, in the course of your career, you’re going to be cold, wet, miserable. You’re going to kind of fail often as a result of bad missions, bad training.”

McRaven started out his Navy career as a SEAL, rising through the ranks until he was charged with overseeing the entire special forces community as the commander of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

While tenacity is an essential part of being a great SEAL, there’s a lot of training that goes into being a part of the Navy’s most elite fighting squad.


6 top secret bases that changed history

A U.S. Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land) candidate navigates a suspended cargo net at a Naval Special Warfare elevated obstacle course, May 11. SEAL candidates use the obstacle course in preparation for attending the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) course.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Les Long)

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

2. Candidates learn the ropes at Naval Special Warfare orientation, which lasts three weeks and orients trainees to what lies ahead at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.

“During Orientation, officers and enlisted candidates become familiar with the obstacle course, practice swimming and learn the values of teamwork and perseverance. Candidates must show humility and integrity as instructors begin the process of selecting the candidates that demonstrate the proper character and passion for excellence,” according to the SEALs and Surface Warfare Combatant Craft website.

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Lynn F. Andrews)

3. SEAL candidates start the Surf Passage, one of the most well known parts of SEAL training.

Surf Passage is a notoriously challenging part of BUD/S training, as Business Insider previously reported. During orientation, SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen candidates, usually divided into teams of six or seven, carry their boats above their heads down the beach toward the ocean. They must take their boats waist-deep into the water before they can get in, and paddle out toward breaking waves, which can be three to five feet high — or larger.

Sometimes boats flip over, scattering crew and gear in what’s called a “yard sale.” But if teams successfully make it out past the breakers, they get to ride the waves back to shore.

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

4. You’re basically guaranteed to get sandy at BUD/S or Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, which lasts 24 weeks.

BUD/S training takes place at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California.

Before prospective SEALs even enter training, they must take a physical exam, as well as a test called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), one called the Computerized-Special Operations Resilience Test (C-SORT), and a physical screening test consisting of a 500-yard swim, push-ups, pull-ups, curl-ups, and a 1.5-mile run.

The ASVAB assesses a candidate’s ability to learn, while the C-SORT determines his maturity and mental toughness, according to the Navy SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman (SWCC) website.

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

5. Push-ups are another part of life for SEAL trainees.

Potential SEALs must be able to do at least 50 push-ups in two minutes to even qualify for BUD/S.

6 top secret bases that changed history

6. SEALS have to be able to do pull-ups — lots of them.

The minimum number of pull-ups to be considered for BUD/S? At least 10 in two minutes.

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau)

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

6 top secret bases that changed history

Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL students wade ashore on San Clemente Island.

(U.S. Navy photo by Kyle Gahlau)

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

10. It’s important to stay hydrated during training, which is designed to push candidates to their breaking points.

BUD/S has an attrition rate of between 73% and 75%, the Navy told NPR in 2017.

“So, while it is important to be physically fit when you go through training, you find out very quickly that your background, your social status, your color, your orientation, none of that matters,” according to McRaven, who recently wrote the memoir, “Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations.”

“The only thing that matters is that you go in with this purpose in mind and this — the thought that you are just not going to quit, no matter what happens.”

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy)

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd class Megan Anuci)

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy photo/Petty Officer 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle)

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

6 top secret bases that changed history

SEAL Team seven members jump from an MC-130J Commando II during Emerald Warrior/Trident at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., January 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erin Piazza)

6 top secret bases that changed history

SEAL Qualification Training students endure a long hike after finishing their second day of close quarters combat instruction.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Menzie)

16. SEAL recruits participate in a land training exercise during the Seal Qualification Training, a 26-week course after BUD/S.

Recruits also receive weapons training, medical training, and demolitions training during SQT. They also learn how to operate in cold weather.

6 top secret bases that changed history

(U.S. Navy photo)

17. After 24 grueling weeks in BUD/S, SEAL candidates receive their SEAL Qualification Training diploma.

After receiving the SQT diploma, SEALS are assigned to their SEAL team to prepare for deployment.

Enlisted and officers must complete SQT and be designated as SEALs to earn the coveted Trident insignia worn on a SEAL’s uniform.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

When coronavirus hits home: How to quarantine the sick

Most people in the U.S. will be exposed to the coronavirus, according to the National Institutes of Health. But not everyone with COVID-19 develops a cough and fever. For every infected person who shows symptoms, five to ten others are asymptomatic, meaning they look and feel just fine for the duration of having the virus, but are spreading the virus fast. This is what social distancing is all about: Stay home, wash your hands often, clean your space and hopefully you’ll be able to avoid the asymptomatic spread. But when someone in your house is showing symptoms or simply knows that they’ve come into contact with someone who has been tested and found to have the virus a different kind of quarantine is required. You need a quarantine within a quarantine. The infected need to isolate within your own home.


In these situations, the goal is to isolate the sick person from the world, and the members of their household, for two weeks. It isn’t easy, but there are steps to take that can give those not infected a fighting chance. Here’s how to proceed.

This Is the Time for a Mask

While there has been much controversy over masks — primarily aimed at those healthy folks hoarding them while hospitals run out — if you have someone sick at home, they should be wearing one while around others in the house. If they don’t own one, you can try making your own out of household materials or cover your mouth with a bandana. “In this critical time we’re having, anything is better than nothing,” says Sophia Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Leave Them Alone

Designate a room in your house where those who are sick can spend the next two weeks, and stay out of it as much as possible. If you don’t have a bedroom they can hole up in alone, keep your distance. “The most important thing is to try to stay six feet away from one another,” says Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Association. Don’t let visitors into the home, especially those at high risk, such as grandparents.

If the sick person does have a room of their own, check up on them several times per day. Ask how they’re doing through the door or give them a video call if they aren’t too ill. If the infected person has more serious symptoms, you may have to venture inside, but take precautions including distance and gloves. If the person feels well enough to bend down, leave their meals outside the door.

Of course, sending a five-year-old to their room for two weeks is basically impossible. Don’t panic. “You do the best you can,” Benjamin says. Reduce your risk of infection by cleaning surfaces kids touch frequently, such as toys. Pay attention to your own cleanliness, too. “The most practical thing for most parents is to simply wash their hands as often as they can,” Benjamin says.

6 top secret bases that changed history

p1.pxfuel.com

Clean the House Like You Mean It

If a surface is visibly dirty, first clean it with a detergent and water. Then, disinfect it with a product that can kill viruses, such as bleach. Even if they look clean, wipe down high-touch surfaces with detergent and water often, including doorknobs, counters, tables, light switches, remote controls, cabinet handles, and sink handles. “The more frequently, the better,” Thomas says, but at least once daily. Use disposable gloves while cleaning, and don’t reuse them.

Appoint a bathroom for those who are ill, or, if you only have one, make sure it has good airflow. If the whole family must share a bathroom, immediately clean and disinfect after the sick person uses it.

Family members should not clean the room of someone who is ill, though the sick person may clean their own room if they’re up to the task. The sick person should use their own lined trash can, and family members should wear disposable gloves while disposing of the bag. Household members should also use gloves while doing the sick person’s laundry and washing their dishes.

Holy Crap, Is It Ever Time to Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands often, for at least twenty seconds after using the bathroom, before eating, and after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. Don’t share towels to dry your hands on. In fact, don’t share anything, including unwashed dishes and eating utensils. Avoid touching your face and wash laundry thoroughly, particularly if it is soiled by bodily fluids.

6 top secret bases that changed history

Hopefully Your Dog’s Loyalty Lies With the Quarantined

“We want to keep all of our family members healthy, and that includes our furry family members,” Thomas says. Though there are no cases of pets contracting COVID-19, sick family members should avoid petting their cats and dogs and should ask a different household member to care for them. If the sick person must pet a pup, they should wash their hands before and after contact and wear a facemask while interacting. They should also avoid sharing a bed with their fur baby.

How to Feed Yourself 

If you’re anything like the rest of the country, you probably have a sufficient stockpile of snacks. If you do run out of food, don’t go to the grocery store. Stock up your pantry using an online grocery service or order delivery from a restaurant. Pay online beforehand and ask the deliverer to leave the package outside your front door. You can also ask a neighbor or relative to deliver a care package to your door.

5 Signs You Need to Go to the Emergency Room

Before you go to the ER, call ahead. Let them know if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and any other symptoms you may be experiencing.

  • Difficulty breathing: If breathing is painful or hard to do, seek immediate help.
  • Blue around the lips: A blue tint to the lips, tongue, and skin of the face means you may not be getting enough blood flow to your head.
  • Fever that won’t come down: If medications such as Tylenol can’t bring down your fever, seek help.
  • Chest pain: Though many people with COVID-19 may feel chest pain, significant pain deserves an emergency call.
  • Worsening of other conditions: The virus can exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as asthma.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Seventy years ago, with Adolf Hitler’s crumbled Third Reich still fresh in their memories and Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union having a choke hold on their future, Berlin’s children were starving.

With the Nazi surrender in 1945, the Allies divided the defeated Germany. The French, British, and Americans took the western half of the nation spreading the ideals of democracy, while the Communist Russians occupied the eastern half of Germany. Berlin itself was divided into sectors between the allies, but was completely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled sector of Germany.


More than three years after World War II ended, Russian forces blockaded the Allied-controlled areas of Berlin on June 24, 1948, shutting off access to food, coal, and medicine to two million German citizens.

Berlin became the first front line of The Cold War and the nine-month old U.S. Air Force was charged with keeping Berliners alive while keeping the Cold War from turning hot.

The Berlin Airlift began two days later, with U.S. Air Force C-47 Skytrains and C-54 Skymasters delivering milk, flour, and medicine to West Berlin. Throughout the duration of the blockade, U.S. and British aircraft delivered more than 2.3 million tons of supplies. At the height of the Berlin Airlift, aircraft were landing every three minutes, supplying up to 13,000 tons of food, coal and medicine a day, according to the Air Force Historical Support Division.

6 top secret bases that changed history

German children who live near the Tempelhof Air Base use model American planes which were sold in toy shops throughout the western sector of Berlin to play a game called “Luftbrucke” (air bridge) while pretending they are American pilots delivering food and supplies for “Operation Vittles” during the Berlin Airlift in West Berlin.

(National Archive photo)

Then-1st Lt. Gail Halvorsen, who retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1974, was one of the American pilots flying around-the-clock missions from Rhein-Main Air Base in West Germany to Tempelhof Air Field in Berlin. He flew 126 missions delivering supplies and food from July 1948 to February 1949.

“We learned very clearly that the new enemy was Stalin. He was taking over where Hitler left off. We knew exactly what Stalin had in mind,” Halvorsen said.

However, some Airmen had mixed emotions about aiding the former enemy that had been shooting at American pilots just three years before. Halvorsen admitting that he had issues at first with the mission, but it quickly changed when he talked with a fellow crewmember.

“He told me that it is a hell of a lot better to feed them (rather) than kill them and that he was glad to be back. That is service before self. That is what causes your enemy to become your friend,” Halvorsen said.

On one of his first missions, the American pilot learned in a conversation with German youth through the perimeter fence at Templehof, that West Berliners may have needed food, but they were even more hungry for hope and freedom.

Between missions, Halvorsen was filming aircraft landings with his Revere movie camera when he encountered about 30 German children between the ages of 8 and 14, he said in his autobiography, “The Berlin Candy Bomber.”

6 top secret bases that changed history

Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin sometime during 1948-49 after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.

(US Air Force photo)

He greeted them with practically all the German he knew, but surprisingly, one of the group spoke English. Halvorsen was soon answering questions about how many sacks of flour and loaves of bread the airplanes carried and what other types of cargo were being airlifted.

He talked with the children for an hour before he realized not one had asked him for anything. Instead, they gave him something he didn’t expect: the best lesson on freedom he’d ever heard.

“I got five steps away from them, and then it hit me,” said Halvorsen, commonly known as the Berlin Candy Bomber. “I’d been dead-stopped for an hour, and not one kid had put out their hand. Not one.”

The contrast was so stark because during World War II, and dating all the way back to George Washington, if you were in an American uniform walking down the street, kids would chase you and ask for chocolate and gum.

“The reason they didn’t was they were so grateful to our fliers to be free. They wouldn’t be a beggar for more than freedom,” said Halvorsen. “Hitler’s past and Stalin’s future was their nightmare. American-style freedom was their dream. They knew what freedom was about. They said, ‘Someday we’ll have enough to eat, but if we lose our freedom, we’ll never get it back.’ These were kids, and they were teaching me about freedom. That’s what just blew me away… That was the trigger. I reached into my pocket, but all I had were two sticks of gum. Right then, the smallest decision I made changed the rest of my life.”

6 top secret bases that changed history

Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin sometime during 1948-49 after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.

(US Air Force photo)

When he reached into his pocket for the two sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum, Halvorsen debated the wisdom of giving it to them. Perhaps they’d fight over it. Yet, he broke each in half and passed four halves through the barbed wire, then braced for the rush of children to the fence.

It never came.

The children who didn’t get any of the gum only asked for a piece of the wrapper so they could smell the aroma. Their reaction, along with the surprise the pilot felt when they didn’t beg for anything, led to his decision to do more for them.

The man the German children would later call “Onkel Wackelflugel” or Uncle Wiggly Wings, came up with an idea that would not only change the lives of those children, but would also help the West win the ideological war with the Soviets for Germany’s future.

Halvorsen told the kids he would drop something to them on his next landing at Templehof if they promised to share. He would signal them on approach that it was his plane by wiggling the wings, something he’d done for his parents after he received his pilot’s license in 1941.

Back at Rhein-Main Air Base, just 280 miles away, he combined his candy rations with those of his co-pilot and engineer, made parachutes out of handkerchiefs and string and tied them to chocolate and gum for the first “Operation Little Vittles” drop from his C-54 Skymaster July 18, 1948.

“The only way I could get back to deliver it was to drop it from the airplane, 100 feet over their heads, on the approach between the barbed wire fence and bombed-out buildings,” Halvorsen said. “A red light came on that said you can’t drop it without permission. But I rationalized it by saying that starving 2 million people isn’t according to Hoyle, either, so what’s a few candy bars?”

The amount of candy steadily increased, along with the number of waiting children, for three weeks until a Berlin newspaper published a photo of the now famous “Candy Bomber.”

Soon, stacks of letters began arriving at Templehof base operations addressed to “Der Schokoladen Flieger” (the Chocolate Flyer), or “Onkel Wackelflugel.”

6 top secret bases that changed history

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gail Halvorsen, known as “The Candy Bomber”, reads letters from grateful West Berlin children to whom he dropped candy bars on tiny parachutes during the Berlin Airlift.

(US Air Force photo)

One day, after he returned from Berlin, Halvorsen was summoned by Col. James R. Haun, the C-54 squadron commander. Haun had received a call from Brig. Gen. William H. Tunner, deputy commander of operations during the airlift, who wanted to know who was dropping parachutes over Berlin.

Halvorsen knew he was in trouble when Haun showed him the newspaper with the picture of little parachutes flying out of his C-54.

“You got me in a little trouble there, Halvorsen,” Haun told him.

“I’d had a long relationship with him, but he was put out because he was sandbagged,” Halvorsen said. “So when I talk to kids, especially high school kids, I say, ‘when you get a job, don’t sandbag your boss.’ He said to keep [dropping candy], but keep him informed. It just went crazy after that.”

Fellow pilots donated their candy rations. Eventually, they ran out of parachutes, so they made more from cloth and old shirt-sleeves until noncommissioned officers’ and officers’ wives at Rhein-Main AB began making them.

Later, the American Confectioners Association donated 18 tons of candy, mostly sent through a Chicopee, Massachusetts school where students attached it to parachutes before sending to Berlin through then-Westover Air Force Base.

By the end of the Berlin Airlift in September 1949, American pilots had dropped 250,000 parachutes and 23 tons of candy.

“Willie Williams took over after I left Berlin,” Halvorsen said. “And he ended up dropping even more candy than I did.”

Since the Berlin Airlift ended, Halvorsen has met countless Germans whose lives were changed because of “Operation Little Vittles.”

6 top secret bases that changed history

During the Berlin Airlift, then Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen dropped candy attached to parachutes made from handkerchiefs to German children watching the airlift operations from outside the fence of the Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. One of those children was then seven-year-old Mercedes Simon whose father was killed during WWII. She and Halvorsen became pen pals and friends meeting many times later in life. The beginning of their friendship is recounted in the children’s book, “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot” by Margot Theis Raven held by Halvorsen.

(US Air Force photo)

One of them, a 7-year-old girl named Mercedes, wrote in a letter in 1948 that she loved “Der Schokoladen Flieger,” but was concerned for her chickens, who thought the airlift planes were chicken hawks. Mercedes asked him to drop candy near the white chickens because she didn’t care if he scared them.

Halvorsen tried, but never could find Mercedes’ white chickens, so he wrote her a letter and sent her candy through the Berlin mail.

The two would finally meet face-to-face 24 years later when Halvorsen returned to Berlin as Templehof commander in the early 1970s.

Mercedes’ husband, Peter Wild, convinced the Templehof commander to come to his home for dinner. Mercedes showed him the letter he’d written her in 1948, along with the chickens she’d written about in her own letter.

It was a friendship immortalized in Margot Theis Raven’s children’s book, “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot.”

6 top secret bases that changed history

Crews unload planes at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift.

(US Air Force photo)

Halvorsen has returned to Berlin nearly 40 times since the airlift. In 1974, he received one of Germany’s highest medals, the Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz, and carried the German team’s national placard into Rice-Eccles Stadium during the opening march for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Halvorsen participated in a re-enactment of “Operation Little Vittles” during the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the Berlin Airlift and also dropped candy from a C-130 Hercules during Operation Provide Promise in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Even at the age of 97, Halvorsen keeps a busy schedule as he and his wife, Lorraine, split their time between their homes in Arizona and Utah. Several times a year he would fly the C-54 “Spirit of Freedom,” with FAA certification to fly second-in-command.

He’s also visited many schools, both stateside and overseas, and visited Iraq to review Air Mobility Command transport operations and visit troops deployed in Southwest Asia.

Seventy years since the Berlin Airlift, the colonel remains universally beloved as the “Candy Bomber,” but enjoys one thing about his perpetual notoriety the most.

“The thing I enjoy the most about being the ‘Candy Bomber’ is seeing the children’s reaction even now to the idea of a chocolate bar coming out of the sky,” he said. “The most fun I have is doing air drops because even here in the states, there’s something magical about a parachute flying out of the sky with a candy bar on it.”

Halvorsen believes the praise he receives for bringing hope to a generation of Germans through his candy bombing deflects much of the credit to that first group of children at the barbed wire fence at Templehof.

Their gratitude and thankfulness for the pilots’ efforts to keep them free during the Berlin Airlift inspired him to reach into his pocket for those two sticks of gum.

That “smallest decision,” as Halvorsen calls it, led to 23 tons of candy dropped from the sky to the children of West Berlin and changed countless lives, not to mention the life of the Candy Bomber, himself.

Halvorsen’s dedication to helping those in need didn’t end after he retired with 31 years of service in the Air Force. In 1994, his request to assist in another humanitarian airlift was approved. He would fly with the Air Force again, this time delivering food to 70,000 refugees fleeing from the conflict in Bosnia.

“We have our freedom to choose, and when the freedom is taken away, air power is the only quick way to answer a crisis like that,” he recalled.

6 top secret bases that changed history

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” stands in front of C-54 Skymaster like the one he flew during WWII at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona.

(US Air Force photo)

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia absolutely hates these American weapons in Europe

The U.S. Navy’s Aegis Combat System is primarily a defensive weapon (Aegis was first used in English as a synonym to “shield”), but it can also be used to attack enemy land and sea targets. Many American allies have sought to have Aegis installed on their ships or land installations, a trend that Russia hates and often protests.


6 top secret bases that changed history

The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex fires during a flight test in December 2018.

(Missile Defense Agency Mark Wright)

Aegis is a bit of a legend in the military community, especially air defense. The core of the system is an extremely capable radar that can operate through a months or even years-long cruise at sea if properly maintained. This, of course, allows the operators to track threats from ballistic missiles to navy vessels to surfaced submarines. But, when properly wedded to missiles, the Aegis gets the ability to attack these targets on land, at sea, or in the air.

For America’s allies around the world, this can be a godsend. Japan has to constantly worry about the possibility of a Korean nuclear missile attack. So, a package deal for highly capable radar and compatible missiles is highly desirable. But when Japan bought two of them for use ashore, Russia lodged protests.

Russia is a regional power. While it doesn’t have the might or clout of the Soviet Union, it did inherit a lot of the Soviet treaties and nearly all of the Soviet nuclear weapons when that nation collapsed. And so it doesn’t want to see its own missiles made obsolete in the unlikely chance of war with Japan, especially when it can lodge protests under treaties like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

But when it comes to Europe, Russia is even more sensitive. The Soviet Union used to hold sway over all of Eastern Europe, but American diplomatic expansion after the Soviet collapse has allowed the U.S. to find friends in places like Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, and more that border Russia or its enclave at Kaliningrad.

And for the past few years, an American and European agreement has seen Aegis systems deployed on land in places like Romania and Poland with more sites to come. But Aegis Ashore has one huge difference from the Aegis systems at sea: what missiles its launchers can house and fire.

While Aegis ships at sea can be equipped with everything from Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles to the entire family of Navy Standard Missiles, Aegis Ashore was initially equipped with just the ballistic defense missile known as Standard Missile-3. But some American leaders have floated the idea of adding the missiles SM-2 and SM-6, missiles capable of killing enemy cruise missiles, jets, and helicopters.

6 top secret bases that changed history

Aegis Ashore Site in Poland under construction in August 2019.

(U.S. Navy Lt. Amy Forsythe)

For Russia, this creates obvious problems. While it has sought to fight in the so-called “grey zone” just short of open warfare in the last few years, it has previously invaded neighbors like Georgia and would like the option of doing so again. A network of missiles that could shred its jets would make the situation worse.

But Russia’s diplomatic protests against Aegis are all aimed at the Tomahawk missile, a potential treaty-violating weapon that would truly terrify Russia if deployed near its borders in large numbers. Aegis at sea can control these missiles and rain them down on America’s enemies like it did against Syria.

When America fired Tomahawks in the recent Syria strikes, Russia declined to engage the missiles or American bombers with its own air defenses, possibly because it isn’t certain it can actually take down the Tomahawks in significant numbers. Though, again, Aegis Ashore is specifically configured to be incapable of firing Tomahawks.

Russia is so against Aegis Ashore installations that it deployed strategic bombers to Crimea earlier this year to threaten the installations and NATO.

But as long as Aegis systems are going in across the world, Russia is going to be protesting. The Tomahawk problem is just the part they can protest against. It’s likely that the real problem for Russia is its missile threat being negated and its bombers and fighters threatened.

But, you know, sucks to be you, Russia. Get on our level.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US needs to accelerate its hypersonic weapon development

The Defense Department is looking to step up its development of hypersonic weapons — missiles that travel more than five times faster than the speed of sound — DOD leaders said at the National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored “Hypersonics Senior Executive Series” here today.”

In 2018, China has tested more hypersonics weapons than we have in a decade,” said Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. “We’ve got to fix that.”

Russia also is involved in hypersonics, Griffin said. “Hypersonics is a game changer,” he added.


If Russia were to invade Estonia or China were to attack Taiwan tomorrow, Griffin said, it would be difficult to defend against their strike assets. “It’s not a space we want to stay in,” he told the audience.

DOD is looking at air-breathing boost-glide hypersonics systems, the latter being used by China, Griffin said. The United States has the boost-glide system competency to get these developed today, he noted.

On the flip side, he said, the U.S. needs to develop systems to counter adversary hypersonics. The place to take them out is in their relatively long cruise phase, in which they don’t change course suddenly. It’s not a particularly hard intercept, he said, but it requires knowing they’re coming. Current radars can’t see far enough. “They need to see thousands of kilometers out, not hundreds,” Griffin said.

6 top secret bases that changed history

Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin.

(U.S. Army photo by Bryan Bacon)

The Western Pacific is a particularly difficult area, he noted, because “it’s not littered with a lot of places to park radars, and if you found some, they’d likely become targets.”

Space-based sensors, along with tracking and fire-control solutions, are needed in the effort to counter adversaries’ hypersonics, Griffin said, pointing out that hypersonics targets are 10 to 20 times dimmer than what the U.S. normally tracks by satellites in geostationary orbit. “We can’t separate hypersonics defense from the space layer,” he said.

Getting to production, fielding

Congress has given DOD the funding and authorities to move ahead with hypersonics development, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said, and the department wants competing approaches from industry.

Tough decisions lay ahead, he said in the development and engineering phase, operationalizing the technology and then in acquisition. Those decisions include how much to invest and how many hypersonics to produce. “Should it be tens of thousands or thousands?” he said.

Industry will respond, Shanahan said, but government needs to clear a path and help fuel the investments up front, as with the effort field intercontinental ballistic missiles decades ago.

DOD is not risk-averse, the deputy secretary said. “Break it,” he added. “Learn from the mistake. Move on. Break it again and move on, but don’t make the same mistake.” It’s much more expensive to do the analytics to prevent it from breaking than it is to break it, he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

‘One of the largest human experiments in history’ was conducted on unsuspecting residents of San Francisco

San Francisco’s fog is famous, especially in the summer, when weather conditions combine to create the characteristic cooling blanket that sits over the Bay Area.


6 top secret bases that changed history
Photo: Flickr/capnvynl

But one fact many may not know about San Francisco’s fog is that in 1950, the US military conducted a test to see whether it could be used to help spread a biological weapon in a “simulated germ-warfare attack.” This was just the start of many such tests around the country that would go on in secret for years.

The test was a success, as Rebecca Kreston explains over at Discover Magazine, and “one of the largest human experiments in history.”

But, as she writes, it was also “one of the largest offenses of the Nuremberg Code since its inception.”

The code stipulates that “voluntary, informed consent” is required for research participants, and that experiments that might lead to death or disabling injury are unacceptable.

The unsuspecting residents of San Francisco certainly could not consent to the military’s germ-warfare test, and there’s good evidence that it could have caused the death of at least one resident of the city, Edward Nevin, and hospitalized 10 others.

This is a crazy story; one that seems like it must be a conspiracy theory. An internet search will reveal plenty of misinformation and unbelievable conjecture about these experiments. But the core of this incredible tale is documented and true.

‘A successful biological warfare attack’

It all began in late September 1950, when over a few days, a Navy vessel used giant hoses to spray a fog of two kinds of bacteria, Serratia marcescens and Bacillus globigii — both believed at the time to be harmless — out into the fog, where they disappeared and spread over the city.

“It was noted that a successful BW [biological warfare] attack on this area can be launched from the sea, and that effective dosages can be produced over relatively large areas,” concluded a later-declassified military report, cited by the Wall Street Journal.

Successful indeed, according to Leonard Cole, the director of the Terror Medicine and Security Program at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. His book, “Clouds of Secrecy,” documents the military’s secret bioweapon tests over populated areas. Cole wrote:

Nearly all of San Francisco received 500 particle minutes per liter. In other words, nearly every one of the 800,000 people in San Francisco exposed to the cloud at normal breathing rate (10 liters per minute) inhaled 5,000 or more particles per minute during the several hours that they remained airborne.

This was among the first but far from the last of these sorts of tests.

6 top secret bases that changed history
Photo: Flickr/Roman Kruglov

Over the next 20 years, the military would conduct 239 “germ-warfare” tests over populated areas, according to news reports from the 1970s (after the secret tests had been revealed) in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, and other publications (via Lexis-Nexis), and also detailed in congressional testimony from the 1970s.

These tests included the large-scale releases of bacteria in the New York City subway system, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and in National Airport just outside Washington, DC.

In a 1994 congressional testimony, Cole said that none of this had been revealed to the public until a 1976 newspaper story revealed the story of a few of the first experiments — though at least a Senate subcommittee had heard testimony about experiments in New York City in 1975, according to a 1995 Newsday report.

A mysterious death

When Edward Nevin III, the grandson of the Edward Nevin who died in 1950, read about one of those early tests in San Francisco, he connected the story to his grandfather’s death from a mysterious bacterial infection. He began to try to convince the government to reveal more data about these experiments. In 1977, they released a report detailing more of that activity.

6 top secret bases that changed history
Serratia marcescens turns bread red as a bacterial colony grows. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/DBN

In 1950, the first Edward Nevin had been recovering from a prostate surgery when he suddenly fell ill with a severe urinary-tract infection containing Serratia marcescens, the theoretically harmless bacterium that’s known for turning bread red in color. The bacteria had reportedly never been found in the hospital before and was rare in the Bay Area (and in California in general).

The bacteria spread to Nevin’s heart and he died a few weeks later.

Another 10 patients showed up in the hospital over the next few months, all with pneumonia symptoms and the odd presence of Serratia marcescens. They all recovered.

Nevin’s grandson tried to sue the government for wrongful death, but the court held that the government was immune to a lawsuit for negligence and that they were justified in conducting tests without subjects’ knowledge. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Army stated that infections must have occurred inside the hospital and the US Attorney argued that they had to conduct tests in a populated area to see how a biological agent would affect that area.

In 2005, the FDA stated that “Serratia marcescens bacteria … can cause serious, life-threatening illness in patients with compromised immune systems.” The bacteria has shown up in a few other Bay Area health crises since the 1950s, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, leading to some speculation that the original spraying could have established a new microbial population in the area.

While Nevin lost his lawsuit, he said afterward, as quoted by Cole, “At least we are all aware of what can happen, even in this country … I just hope the story won’t be forgotten.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army just bought a ridiculous number of Bradleys

The Army is massively revving up its fleet of Bradley Fighting Vehicles through a recent deal to add up to 473 of the new infantry carriers, service officials said.

The move represents a key portion of a broader Army push to prepare its arsenal of armored combat vehicles for major power land war — and further pave the way toward a new generation of combat platforms for the 2030s and beyond.

While the Army of course has thousands of Bradleys in its inventory, the size of this buy is extremely significant because, among other things, it it acquires the newest generation of Bradley vehicles — something designed to lay key groundwork for longer-term high-priority ground vehicle modernization plans.


The service acquisition plan, advanced through a large-scale Army deal with BAE Systems, calls for the most modern Bradley M2A4 and M7A4 vehicles. These newest Bradleys are part of a strategic push to bring the Bradley platform into a new era with advanced computing, digital processors, long-range sensors, and a range of new weapons applications.

“After a decade of modifications in response to threats in Iraq, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is at or exceeds Space, Weight, and Power-Cooling limitations,” Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for Program Executive Office, Ground Combat Systems, told Warrior Maven.

6 top secret bases that changed history

Space, Weight, and Power considerations, as Army developers describe it, are an indispensable element of the calculus informing Bradley modernization; this means managing things like weight, mobility, on board electrical power, ammunition storage space, and electromagnetic signatures as they pertain to vehicle protection and firepower.

Essentially, some survivability enhancements needed to counter threats in Iraq wound up maxing the Bradley’s weight and on-power capacity. For instance, Army developers explain that equipping the Bradley with new suspension, reactive armor tiles, and APS can increase the vehicle weight by as much as 3,000-pounds.

In order to address this, the Army decided to execute a series of Engineering Change Proposals for the Bradley, specific technical adjustments to the platform designed to bring a host of new capabilities and enable faster and more seamless integration of emerging systems and technologies.

Givens explained that the newest Bradley A4s include upgrades to the engine and transmission, cooling system modification, electrical system upgrades, and introduction of vehicle diagnostics.

“These improvements buy-back lost mobility, as well as create margin to allow future technologies to be hosted on the platform. As an example, none of the Active Protection Systems currently being explored by the Army could be installed on the A3 Bradley due to its shortage of electrical power. The A4 corrects this shortcoming,” she added.

6 top secret bases that changed history
A Bradley firing a TOW missile
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)

More on-board power can bring the technical means to greatly support advanced electronics, command and control systems, computing power, sensors, networks and even electronic warfare technologies.

The A4 configuration also upgrades the Bradley engine and transmission, Alicia Gray, BAE Systems Combat Vehicles spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

The Army is also working on a new future A5 Bradley Fighting Vehicle variant possibly armed with lasers, counter-drone missiles, active protection systems, vastly improved targeting sights and increased on-board power to accommodate next-generation weapons and technologies.

Designed to be lighter weight, more mobile, and much better protected, emerging Bradley A5 lethality upgrades already underway as part of a plan to build upon improvements with the A4.

These improvements include integrating 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared sensors for Commanders and Gunners sights, spot trackers for dismounted soldiers to identify targets and an upgraded chassis with increased underbelly protections and a new ammunition storage configuration, Army developers tell Warrior.

Also, while Army Bradley developers did not specifically say they planned to arm Bradleys with laser weapons, such innovation is well within the realm of the possible. Working with industry, the Army has already shot down drone targets with Stryker-fired laser weapons, and the service currently has several laser weapons programs at various stages of development.

This includes ground-fired Forward Operating Base protection laser weapons as well as vehicle-mounted lasers. A key focus for this effort, which involves a move to engineer a much stronger 100-kilowatt vehicle-fired laser, is heavily reliant upon an ability to integrate substantial amounts of mobile electrical power into armored vehicles.

Land War vs. Russian & Chinese Armored Vehicles

The Army is accelerating these kinds of armored vehicle weapons systems and countermeasures, in part because of an unambiguous recognition that, whoever the US Army fights, it is quite likely to encounter Russian or Chinese-built armored vehicles and advanced weaponry, senior service leaders told Warrior.

As part of this equation, recognizing that Army warfighters are often understandably reluctant to articulate war plans or threat assessments, it is indeed reasonable and relevant to posit that service war planners are looking at the full-range of contingencies — to include ground war with Russian forces in Europe, Iranian armies in the Middle East or even Chinese armored vehicles on the Asian continent.

Citing Russian-built T-72 and T-90 tanks, Army senior officials seem acutely aware that the US will likely confront near-peer armored vehicles, weapons systems and technologies.

6 top secret bases that changed history

“If the Army goes into ground combat in the Middle East, we will face equipment from Russia, Iran and in some cases China,” a senior Army official told Warrior. “The threat is not just combat vehicles but UAVs (drones), MANPADs and other weapons.”

Bradley upgrades are also serving as a component to early conceptual work on the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle, an entirely new platform or fleet of vehicles slated to emerge in the 2030s.

Next Generation vehicles, for the 2030s and beyond, Army developers say, will be necessary because there are limits to how far an existing armored vehicle can be upgraded. This requires a delicate balancing act between the short term operational merits of upgrades vs. a longer-term, multi-year developmental approach. Each has its place, Army acquisition leaders emphasize.

The emergence of these weapons, and the fast-changing threat calculus is also, quite naturally, impacting what Army developers call CONOPS, or Concepts of Operations. Longer range sensors and weaponry, of course, can translate into a more dispersed combat area – thus underscoring the importance of command and control systems and weapons with sufficient reach to outrange attacking forces. The idea of bringing more lethality to the Bradley is not only based upon needing to directly destroy enemy targets but also fundamental to the importance of laying down suppressive fire, enabling forces to maneuver in combat.

As part of these preparations for future ground warfare, Army concept developers and war veterans are quick to point out that armored vehicles, such as a Bradley or even an Abrams tank, have also been impactful in certain counterinsurgency engagements as well. Accordingly, the term “full-spectrum” often receives much attention among Army leaders, given that the service prides itself on “expecting the unexpected” or being properly suited in the event of any combat circumstance. The Army has now evolved to a new Doctrinal “Operations” approach which places an even greater premium upon winning major power land wars.

“We need to be ready to face near-peers or regional actors with nuclear weapons. It is the risk of not being ready that is too great,” a senior Army official said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

US Army weapons acquisition just got a much-needed kick in the pants

6 top secret bases that changed history
A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team passes before the rising sun during a patrol into a village May 4, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. The equipment on his back is used to block remotely detonated improvised explosive devices. | US Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod


On Wednesday, the US Army announced the creation of the Rapid Capabilities Office to “expedite critical technologies to the field in an effort to counter urgent and emerging threats.”

Essentially that means the Army now has an office with the authority to fast track technologies through the hulking, bloated, wasteful defense acquisition system that tried and failed three times to pick out something as simple as a new handgun.

Even vital systems can take 10 years to reach the field, which has greatly hamstrung the Army and made their tactics stale, predictable, and therefore vulnerable.

“Russia goes into the Ukraine and Russia goes into Syria [and] we realize that they’ve been watching us and learning from us and adapting. So we see some areas where we want to have a more pronounced ‘overmatch,”‘ Army Secretary Eric Fanning told Bloomberg News in an interview.

Fanning told Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio that the office would focus on “improvements to cyber operations, electronic warfare, survivability and GPS-enabled positioning, navigation and timing.”

As Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said of the US armed forces in 2015, “our greatest advantage is the vibrant technological community in the United States, and the vibrant technological communities in our defense industrial base.”

However, as Daniel Gouré, Ph.D., of the Lexington Institute points out, with the current lag between technology’s inception to its deployment on the front lines, adversaries like Russia and China could gain technological supremacy over the US in as little as five years.

“There’s no denying we have a troubled acquisition past,” Fanning told Bloomberg. “We are bringing all elements of the Army together,” he said of the Rapid Capabilities Office.

“We’re serious about keeping our edge, so we need to make changes in how we get soldiers the technology they need,” Fanning said in a US Army release. “The Army Rapid Capabilities Office is a major step forward, allowing us to prioritize cross-domain, integrated capabilities in order to confront emerging threats and advance America’s military dominance.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A stealth drone is in line to be Russia’s next-generation fighter

Russia says that it will turn its new drone, which is about to make its maiden flight, into a sixth-generation aircraft, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“Okhotnik will become a prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,” a Russian defense industry official told TASS, adding that the sixth generation fighter “has not yet taken full shape, [but] it’s main features are known.”


The single-engine Okhotnik (“Hunter” in Russian) drone has a top speed of 621 mph, and might make its maiden flight in 2018, according to Popular Mechanics, citing TASS.

Popular Mechanics also published a supposed picture above of the Okhotnik, which was posted on a Russian aviation forum called paralay.iboards.ru.

Russia “may use [the Okhotnik] as a platform to develop technologies for an ‘autonomous’ or more likely pilotless drone,” Michael Kaufman, a research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.

6 top secret bases that changed history

Possible picture of the Okhotnik drone.

(Screenshot / paralay.iboards.ru)

But Kaufman added that the claims are rather questionable since TASS sourced a Russian defense industry official.

“Any technological advances from the Okhotnik development could be carried into future aircraft or drone design,” Sim Tack, the chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider, “and this [TASS] source may be a proponent of that route.”

“As far as I see it, this is a large drone similar to X-47B, with sizable payload,” Kaufman said. Popular Mechanic’s Kyle Mizokami likened the Okhotnik to the American RQ-170 Sentinel drone.

Still, it’s unclear exactly what the Okhotnik’s capabilities are now, and what they would be if turned into a sixth-generation fighter — a concept that is still not fully realized.

The Okhotnik drone in its current capacity has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection, Popular Mechanics reported.

In any event, Russia appears to be aiming for some sort of sixth-generation aircraft, recently testing sixth-generation onboard systems on the Su-57 and even researching a radio-photonic radar for the potential aircraft.

Featured image: An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator.

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

Articles

112-year-old veteran and his secrets to life will make you smile

When Richard Overton fought at Pearl Harbor, he was already 35 years old. But the Army veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War II is still alive and, as America’s oldest known living veteran at 112 years old, has a lot of wisdom to share.


He still lives on his own, walking around his home and driving when he needs to. He even downs whiskey, smokes cigars “the healthy way,” and takes his lady friend out on a regular basis.

Watch the video below to get some life lessons from Overton. The documentary was filmed when he was 109 years old (his birthday is May 11th):

MIGHTY MOVIES

GOT author puts rumors about the final two novels to rest

Unless you live under a rock, you remember the series finale of “Games of Thrones and massive fan uproar that ensued. The criticism lead many to question whether George R.R. Martin, author of the unfinished book series that inspired the show, would alter his plans for the end of the novels. Finally, Martin is speaking out about the speculation and putting rumors to rest.

The author told Entertainment Weekly that despite pressure from fans, he’ll proceed with the final two “A Song of Ice & Fire” installments as planned. “You’ve been planning for a certain ending and if you suddenly change direction just because somebody figured it out, or because they don’t like it, then it screws up the whole structure,” he said.


6 top secret bases that changed history

George R.R. Martin

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Martin also revealed that he was not immune to the immense pressure from fans, especially because the TV show got ahead of the books. “Yes, I told [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] a number of things years ago,” he said. “And some of them they did do. But at the same time, it’s different. I have very fixed ideas in my head as I’m writing “The Winds of Winter” and beyond that in terms of where things are going.”

6 top secret bases that changed history

David Benioff and Dan Weiss.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

But in the end, the author decided to stay true to the world he had built. “I want to write the book I’ve always intended to write all along,” Martin said. “And when it comes out they can like it or they can not like it.” The release date for the final two novels, “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring,” has yet to be announced.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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