79 cringeworthy errors in 'Top Gun' - We Are The Mighty
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79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

‘Top Gun’ is a classic and arguably one of the most visually stunning aviation movies ever made. Few movies in cinematic history have been as prolific in contributing to the pop culture lexicon, as well. (Who among us hasn’t said, “I feel the need for speed” in random social situations?) And if you ask military aviators who signed up for flight school after 1986 why they did it chances are they’ll list ‘Top Gun’ as one of the reasons.


Paramount had a huge challenge when they decided to make ‘Top Gun.’ Real-life air-to-air combat doesn’t lend itself to the silver screen in that it’s super technical, very chaotic, and generally takes place at ranges that would prevent two jets from being in the frame at the same time. So, of course, writers Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. and the late-great director Tony Scott had to take some liberties to make the dynamic world of fighter aviation into something that might entertain movie-goers.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

But, even allowing for that, ‘Top Gun’ has a bunch of cringe-worthy technical errors that cause it to be as much cartoon as tribute. Here’s WATM’s list of the big ones (annotated by the exact time they occur). After reading them we guarantee you’ll never look at the movie the same way again.

(4:23) CATCC controller is sweating. Those spaces on the ship are usually freezing cold to protect the electronics.

(4:26) Bald-headed guy (played by actor James Tolkan) walks in wearing cover, something the crew doesn’t do on Navy ships unless they’re on watch on the bridge. What is this guy’s billet anyway? CAG? Carrier CO? Tomcat squadron skipper? (He’s an 0-5, so that would make him too junior for the first two, but he acts like he’s in charge of everything.)

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(4:33) (Not an error but a technical note): MiGs-28s are actually F-5Fs painted black. (Top Gun still uses F-5s as aggressor aircraft.)

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(4:45) GCI controller refers to crews by their callsigns: “Cougar and Merlin and Maverick and Goose.” A controller would refer to jets by aircraft side numbers.

(4:56) Maverick and Goose are sweating in the cockpit, which they’d only do if the pilot had the environment control system (ECS) jacked up uncomfortably high and the RIO didn’t bitch at him to turn it down.

(5:00) RIO’s radar presentation shows a 360-degree PPI presentation. Tomcat’s radar only sweeps 65 degrees either side of the nose. (Wouldn’t want a radar that pointed back at the crews. That would be a huge radiation hazard, to put it mildly.)

(6:00) Tomcat’s wings are swept fully aft, which means — at that altitude — that the aircraft is going supersonic or the pilot commanded them into that position, which he wouldn’t do because the airplane doesn’t turn that well in that configuration.

(7:21) Standby gyro is un-caged as Maverick “goes for missile lock” by twisting a nob on the mid-compression by-pass selector — a system that has nothing to do with the Tomcat’s weapons suite.

(8:00) Cougar transmits: “This bogey’s all over me. He’s got missile lock. Do I have permission to fire?” Well, whatever the ROE, the question is moot until you do some pilot shit and actually maneuver your jet into a position to commit a weapon.

(9:01) As far as Maverick’s “4-G inverted dive” (as Charlie later labels it) goes, if the two airplanes were that close the Tomcat’s vertical stabs would be jammed into the MiG-28.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(9:03) The RIO wouldn’t be carrying a Polaroid camera. He’d have a regular “intel” camera, and if he didn’t get good photos of an airplane that nobody had ever been that close to before (as Goose says) then he would have failed in his part of the mission, big time.

(9:59) Merlin taps on a fuel gauge that doesn’t exist in the rear cockpit of the F-14, only in the front cockpit. (The RIO only has a fuel totalizer.)

(10:06) Cougar rips his oxygen mask off to breathe more oxygen, which would be in short supply at high altitude.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(10:12) Cougar has a photo of his wife and baby taped over the airspeed gauge to the left of the altimeter. Meanwhile the vertical speed indicator shows he’s descending at 6,000 feet per minute, which would be an aggressive dive. At the same time the altimeter, which shows he’s at 31, 500 feet, is set to standby with the barometric pressure dialed to 28.32 when it should be at 29.92.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
F-14 A Tomcat cockpit. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

(10:26) ICS comms (intra-cockpit chatter) can be heard in air ops.

(10:48) A ball call (the transmission indicating the pilot sees the Fresnel lens that gives him glide slope information for landing) would not include the pilot’s call sign.

(10:57) Goose has the same non-existent rear cockpit fuel gauge as Merlin.

(10:58) Maverick crosses the ramp with his hook down and then a second later he has the hook up. (It takes several seconds to cycle between fully up and fully down.) Then he pulls the throttles aft to go around, which would reduce engine power, as somebody screams “Cougar!” over the radio.

(11:06) Maverick instantly bolters — in full burner, no less — with the hook down again.

(12:25) Cougar never calls the ball when instructed but gets a “roger, ball” from the LSO.

(12:27) There’s no way Cougar wouldn’t have been waved off based on that wild approach. He gets at least five “power” calls and no “wave off” call. The Air Boss would have had Paddle’s ass after that.

(12:51) Cougar traps, leaves lights on (Case I or Case III approach? Unclear here), and immediately shuts the jet down instead of taxiing out of the landing area. Maverick is still airborne, low on gas, and needs to land but can’t now because Cougar has fouled the landing area and has to be towed out of the wires.

(13:00) Nice stateroom for a squadron CO. (He’s an 0-5, fer crissakes.) Again, what’s this guys’ billet?

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(13:58) First glimpse of random patch assortments on flight suits as Maverick and Goose get chewed out by skipper in his really nice stateroom. (And everybody’s sweating.)

(14:19) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “With a history of high-speed passes over five air-controlled towers.” Not sure what those are but they must be different than ground- or water-controlled towers.

(15:36) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “You can tell me about the MiG some other time” and dismisses the crew to head for Top Gun, thereby committing professional suicide by not getting the only information that anyone above him in the chain of command would care about that particular day.

(16:06) “Um, tower, there’s some dork riding a motorcycle down one of the taxiways shaking his fist at us.”

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(16:59) There is no Santa Claus. And there’s no such thing as the Top Gun Trophy.

(17:46) Slider is a lieutenant (junior grade). That’s too junior for a Top Gun slot.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(18:32) Navy leaders would be reprimanded for encouraging arrogance because the Navy spent money on posters that read “excellence without arrogance.”

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(20:02) Goose quips, “Slider, thought you wanted to be a pilot, man; what happened?” So he’s a RIO slamming a fellow RIO for being a RIO? Not likely. And the “RIOs as second class citizens” vibe left the community with the F-4.

(25:52) A hangar isn’t the most conducive place for detailed flight briefs.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(26:29) Charlie briefs, “The F-5 doesn’t have the thrust-to-weight ratio that the MiG-28 has.” Must be because black paint is lighter than other colors.

(26:37) Charlie briefs, “The MiG-28 does have a problem with its inverted flight tanks.” Those must be different than upright flight tanks.

(26:54) Anybody who showed up to a flight brief wearing a cowboy hat would have his or her wings pulled on the spot.

(27:36) Maverick makes a big deal about how the information regarding his MiG encounter is classified and then proceeds to reveal it in front of the entire group with no idea of whether they have clearance or not. Again, they’re briefing in a hangar. Not exactly a SCIF.

(28:42) Jester says, “All right, gentlemen, we have a hop to take. The hard deck on this hop will be 10,000 feet. There will be no engagements below that.” Of course we haven’t briefed any of the other details of this event — including ACM rules of engagement — because Charlie has wasted our time hitting on Maverick, but whatever . . .

(29:53) Smoke effect is actually the Tomcat dumping fuel . . . a stupid idea when you’re about to enter a dogfight.

(30:01) First merge happens very low to the ground over the desert, not exactly a hard deck of 10,000 feet.

(30:51) Goose says “Watch the mountains!,” words never spoken during an air combat maneuvering event with a hard deck of 10,000 feet.

(31:31) Maverick “hits the brakes” by pushing the throttles forward, which would increase power, not decrease it.

(31:49) Jester’s evasive maneuver in the A-4 is an aileron roll – not exactly an effective move in terms of creating the sort of lateral displacement that might defeat an enemy’s weapons solution.

(32:08) Goose says, “We’re going ballistic, Mav. Go get him,” which makes no sense because a pilot has no control over a ballistic airplane.

(33:34) Maverick does a barrel roll after the tower fly-by in full afterburner, a violation of Federal Aviation Regulations to the extreme without an FAA waiver, which he certainly didn’t get at the spur of the moment. That would have cost him more than an ass chewing by Viper. He would have lost his wings.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(35:52) Maverick explains, “We weren’t below the hard deck for more than a few seconds. I had the shot. There was no danger. So I took it.” The hard deck simulates the ground, so basically Maverick is saying, “We didn’t hit the ground for more than a few seconds . . .”

(37:10) Any lieutenant whose fitness report reads “He’s a wildcard. Completely unpredictable. Flies by the seat of his pants” would be done flying, not to mention unqualified for a Top Gun slot.

(38:26) Goose says to Maverick, “They wouldn’t let you into the Academy ’cause you’re Duke Mitchell’s kid.” There are lots of reasons not to get admitted into a service academy — low SAT scores, for instance. Being the dependent of a veteran isn’t one of them; in fact, that status qualifies the candidate for a Presidential nomination.

(39:26) Maverick explains to Charlie during a TACTS debrief, “If I reversed on a hard cross I could immediately go to guns on him.” She replies, “But at that speed it’s too fast.” Um, what are you guys talking about, and what language are you even speaking?

(51:43) Charlie says, “That’s a big gamble with a $30 million plane.” Tomcat unit cost (cost per jet) circa ’86 was $42 million. Maybe she wasn’t including the cost of the two engines, which could have been a subtle dig on his energy management skills.

(55:31) Why is Hollywood eating an orange on the flight line?

(55:45) More dumping of gas going into a dogfight.

(56:30) Crews are surprised that Viper is one of the bandits. They would have briefed with him (in accordance with safely of flight rules).

(57:26) Logic of the engagement is ridiculous. Maverick lets Jester go and then flies in parade formation behind Hollywood who’s saddled in super-close behind the other bandit. Hollywood whines at Maverick not to leave him when he should just shoot the bandit right in front of him, and then Maverick leaves to go after Viper and ultimately winds up getting shot because Goose does a shitty job of keeping their six clear (at 59:23).

(57:49) More fuel dumping.

(58:42) HUD display looks nothing like the real thing.

(59:04) Maverick switches to guns but HUD symbology stays the same.

(1:06:16) Iceman transmits, “I need another 20 seconds then I’ve got him” while flying so close that if he took a gun shot he’d probably FOD his own engines with the debris from the airplane in front of him. What does he need 20 seconds for?

(1:06:56) Goose says “Shit, we got a flameout. Engine 1 is out.” The RIO has no engine instruments in the rear cockpit of the F-14.

(1:07:13) Iceman transmits, “Mav’s in trouble. He’s in a flat spin and headed out to sea.” When an airplane is in a flat spin it is not heading anywhere except straight down.

(1:07:22) Goose reports, “Altitude 8,000. 7,000. Six, we’re at six.” They should have ejected already. NATOPS boldface (immediate action steps committed to memory) procedures read like this: “If flat spin verified by flat attitude, increasing yaw rate, increasing eyeball−out G, and lack of pitch and roll rates: 8. Canopy – Jettison. 9. EJECT – RIO Command Eject.”

(1:07:23) Goose says “We’re at six [thousand feet]” while the altimeter shows 2,200 feet.

(1:07:48) See step 8 above. If Goose had followed procedures he wouldn’t have died.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(1:14:20) A Field Naval Aviator’s Evaluation Board (FNAEB — pronounced “fee-nab”) would not look like a judicial proceeding held in a courtroom.

(1:23:08) Viper tells Maverick about the day his dad died like this: “His F-4 was hit. He was wounded but he could have made it back. He stayed in it. Saved three planes before he bought it.” And Maverick doesn’t respond by saying, “That makes no sense, sir. How does a pilot save three planes after his jet is hit? Why are you bullshitting me?”

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(1:23:20) Viper explains, “It’s not something the State Department tells dependents when the battle occurred over the wrong lines on some map,” which ignores the fact that the Pentagon would be pissed if some random State Department dude spoke to surviving family members at all.

(1:26:50) Aviators wouldn’t get orders at the Top Gun graduation. They’d get them via a frustrating process of arguing with their detailers on the phone over the period of a few months.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(1:27:24) Again: What. Is. This. Guy’s. Billet?

(1:28:56) Pilots salute cat officers for launch with oxygen masks off.

(1:29:08) Maverick walks on the flight deck during flight ops without his helmet on.

(1:32:10) Tomcat does an aileron roll right off the cat, which it wouldn’t have the speed to do — not to mention that maneuver would be a gross violation of Case I departure procedures.

(1:33:08) Random lieutenant reports, “Both catapults are broken. We can’t launch any aircraft right now,” which ignores the fact that modern aircraft carriers have four catapults.

(1:34:47) Controller says, “Maverick’s re-engaging, sir.” There’s no way his radar displays would give him any indication of that.

(1:36:41) Ice says, “I’m going for the shot” while at close range behind a bandit, but he switches from ‘Guns’ to ‘Sparrow/Phoenix’ — the long range, forward-quarter weapons.

(1:36:54) Missile magically transforms from an AIM-7 Sparrow into a AIM-9 Sidewinder in flight.

(1:37:48) Maverick shoots a Sparrow in the rear quarter at short range, which wouldn’t work because the AIM-7 needs a lot of closure to guide.

(1:38:02) Again the missile magically transforms from a Sparrow into a Sidewinder in flight.

(1:38:54) Once again Maverick ‘hits the brakes’ by advancing the throttles, which would make the airplane speed up.

(1:39:47) Maverick leads a two-plane fly-by next to the carrier with a wingman that’s been riddled with bullets and most likely has sustained major damage to the hydraulic system that powers the flight controls.

(1:41:14) Iceman says, “You can be my wingman any time,” which ignores the fact that unless he’s the ops officer or schedule officer or squadron CO who signs the flight schedule then he just needs to shut up and fly with whomever he’s assigned to fly with.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

(All photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures except as otherwise indicated.)

Lists

The 7 best ways to prove your ‘sham shield’

Specialists in the Army are known as the E-4 Mafia. The rank insignia they wear — shaped like a shield — is known as the sham shield because members of the mafia are guaranteed to sham off of work at every opportunity. To see how they escape their duties in a strict environment like the Army, just study these seven strategies.


1. Make appointments. So many appointments.

Noncommissioned officers only make appointments for emergencies. Privates make an appointment when told to by a sergeant. Specialists make appointments for everything. They eat lots of sugar and excessively brush their teeth for maximum cavities. They get every twinge in their joints, real or imagined, checked out extensively at the medical center. They sign up for any college classes that take place during the duty day and enroll for help fighting addictions they don’t have.

2. Get privates to do the work.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

Specialists may be junior-enlisted, but they’re the highest-ranking junior enlisted in the Army. When tasked with duty, the first thing a specialist will do is find a private too far from his or her NCO, so the specialist can pass duties off to the private. The specialist is still guaranteed to take credit though.

3. Do the visible parts of the job.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

Every once in a while, the E-4 gets hit with a task when there are no privates available. The specialist will then pantomime doing the work, turning tools, pulling dipsticks, and rubbing baby wipes on something. But actually checking the oil? Properly cleaning the weapon? Correctly filing the papers? That’s what privates are for.

4. Have the proper inventory.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

 

Whether he’s confiscated it from a private or procured it himself, a member or the E-4 mafia is never without tobacco, energy drinks, and contraband. Contraband can take the form of alcohol, adult entertainment, or unauthorized gear like reflective sunglasses. Usually all three.

5. Be a ghost.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
Photo: US Army

Some of the Army’s uniforms for extreme cold weather don’t have velcro for unit patches or name tags; only a fabric loop to hold rank. This is the uniform of the shammer. Since NCOs primarily correct members of their own unit, specialists are sure to always appear like they belong to no unit. When truly caught by a superior and asked which unit they belong to, the specialists are guaranteed to lie, claiming another company and first sergeant. This way, nothing they do will make it back to their own chain of command.

6. Make deals.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

The E-4 is always ready to strike a bargain. Want to get drunk this weekend but not wake up dehydrated? There’s an E-4 medic with a bag of saline that fell off a truck. Items missing from a hand receipt? Spc. Snuffy can get that taken care of. Just be sure to have something to trade.

7. Become promotable, but never get promoted.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

To get promoted above specialist, a soldier has to clear two hurdles. First, they get selected by their unit and gain promotable status. Then, they have to earn enough promotion points to clear a cutoff score that changes every month.

Promotable status allows the soldier a little extra rank and leeway in the unit without yet saddling them with extra responsibilities. Dons in the E-4 mafia manage to get promotable status and then stay permanently a few points below the cutoff score for promotion. If promotion points are rumored to drop soon, you can bet Spc. Godfather is about to bomb a rifle qualification or physical training test.

MORE: 18 Terms Only Soldiers Will Understand 

AND: 11 things First Sergeants say that make troops lose their minds 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

An Israeli company made this double-barrel AR-15 for the US

In following the grand tradition of “if one is good, then two must be great” thinking, Israel’s Silver Shadow firearms manufacturer is marketing this double-barreled AR-15 for sale in the United States. Check out this double-barrel rifle no one asked for that the military will never, ever use.


But just because the military won’t ever use it doesn’t mean civilians won’t try to have fun with it. After all, this isn’t the first time someone thought two barrels was better than one.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
That kind of thinking goes all the way back to the Civil War.

Besides, it works for shotguns, right? Why not AR-15s?

Originally marketed as an AR variant under a company named Gilboa, Silver Shadow makes this line of double-barreled weapons here in the U.S., where the 16-inch barrel, twin-trigger rifle is legal for civilian use. The twin trigger is how the company avoids the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ definition of a machine gun.

Each barrel of the Gilboa Snake has its own independent gas block and tube, meaning it can fire multiple rounds with each trigger without the delay and recoil of the weapon cycling between trigger pulls. It also has two separate ejection ports, so hot brass can go down the shirt of the person laying prone to your left and right.

Everything else about the rifle is made with standard AR-15 parts and it still fires the 5.56mm NATO round. Most importantly (in the unlikely event someone were to use the rifle in combat), the weapon also utilizes two standard magazines, one feeding into each barrel.

How to zero the Gilboa Snake

Zeroing the weapon requires zeroing both barrels independently of each other and then zeroing them relative to one another. Then you need to zero them together, as shown in the video below.

Firing a double-barrel AR

The guys over at Guns and Ammo got their hands on an early version of the rifle a few years back and demonstrated firing it at a range.

Articles

Ronda Rousey is spending tonight at a Marine Corps Ball

Ronda Rousey will be attending a Marine Corps ball tonight as she famously agreed back in September after Marine Jarrod Haschert invited her via viral video:


Rousey accepted back in Sep. 2015 for the ball on Dec. 11. There was wide speculation after her defeat against Holly Homs that she might not attend, especially after a relative of Haschert said that Jarrod hadn’t yet heard back from the UFC fighter.

But journalists caught up to Rousey on her way to the airport Dec. 11 and she told them she was flying to meet the young Marine. Expect her to be all over #marinecorpsball tonight.

Articles

Here Are The Best Military Photos Of The Week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

An 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot flies an A-29 Super Tucano March 5, 2015, over Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The A-29 is a two-seat training aircraft flown by an instructor pilot and student pilot.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
Photo: Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan/US Air Force

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform their demonstration March 2, 2015, in preparation for the commander of Air Combat Command at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The Thunderbirds perform their show several times a year at multiple locations across the U.S. The solo pilots integrate their own routines, exhibiting some of the maximum capabilities of the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter jet.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
Photo: Senior Airman Thomas Spangler/ US Air Force

NAVY

A French navy Rafale Marine aircraft from Squadron 11F embarked aboard the French navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91) launches from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during carrier qualifications.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner/US Navy

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 returns to the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11) after depositing supplies on the flight deck of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), not pictured, during a replenishment-at-sea.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin V. Cunningham/US Navy

ARMY

An Army paratrooper, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, trains for the upcoming Army’s Best Ranger Competition by maneuvering through the Pre-Ranger Obstacle Course on Fort Bragg, N.C., Mar. 2, 2015.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
Photo: Sgt. Eliverto V. Larios/US Army

Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment participate in a live-fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area located near Rose Barracks, Germany, March 5, 2015.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
Photo: Sgt. William Tanner/US Army

MARINE CORPS

A U.S. Marine with the Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, cleans up a training area aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 6, 2015. The Marines made drinking water by running ocean water through a tactical water purification system during Amphibious Squadron/Expeditionary Unit Integration Training (PMINT).

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
Photo: Cpl. Elize McKelvey/US Marine Corps

Marines with Tank Platoon, Company B, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, send rounds down range via lanyard fire at Range 500, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, March 1, 2015.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
Photo: Cpl. Paul S. Martinez/US Marine Corps

COAST GUARD

In 1979, Beverly Kelley became the first woman to command a Coast Guard Cutter (Editor’s note: While this is an old picture, the USCG published this photo this week in honor of Women’s History Month).

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
Photo: US Coast Guard

Cutter Alert returned home today following a 61-day patrol, in which the crew accomplished missions ranging from law enforcement operations to protecting living marine resources.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’
Photo: Petty Officer David Mosley/US Coast Guard

NOW: Female Vet Says ‘They’ll Have To Pry My Uniform Out Of My Hands’

And: This Female Vet Is One Of History’s Most Decorated Combat Photographers

OR WATCH: What Life Is Like In The US Marine Infantry

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first African-American regiment to serve in the US military earned their ‘glory’

In 1989, Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of Private Silas Tripp, a runaway slave-turned-freedom fighter, in Glory. Although Private Tripp was not a real person, the movie took its inspiration from a real-life volunteer unit in the Civil War — the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

The first African American regiment to serve in the United States military, the 54th Massachusetts was led by a 25-year-old abolitionist. The men were a pivotal part of the frontal assault of the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, one of the Civil War’s most memorable battles. Made up of hundreds of volunteers, the 54th Massachusetts regiment achieved incredible things — easily meriting their nickname, the “Glory” regiment.


Established in February 1863, just one month after the Emancipation Proclamation officially authorized the recruitment of African American soldiers, the 54th Massachusetts regiment spent the next three months recruiting and training their soldiers before going on to become one of the most iconic units ever to serve in the U.S. military.

The 54th was comprised of 1,100 soldiers, the majority of whom were recruited by local abolitionists — white and black alike. The likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass boosted morale, helping recruit black Americans into military service for the first time. Douglass even contributed two of his own sons to the cause, both of whom enlisted in the 54th.

The Northern states knew that strong African American enlistment could help turn the course of the war, as both a symbol and as additional manpower for the bloody conflict. President Lincoln’s Secretary of War personally charged John Andrew, governor of Massachusetts, with staffing the officer corps of the 54th regiment. Andrew selected a bright-eyed, 25-year-old man, the son of abolitionists, to lead the 54th. His name was Robert Gould Shaw. Although Shaw was only a captain at the time, he was quickly promoted to colonel, and his second-in-command, Norwood Penrose “Pen” Hallowell was promoted from captain to lieutenant colonel–just a few days after his 24th birthday.

At first, the all-white officers were controversial. Both white and black citizens were dismayed that a black regiment would have to be led by white men. But the recruiting efforts of men like Douglass soon turned the tide, and volunteers began showing up in larger and larger numbers.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

Frederick Douglass.

Morale was strong during enlistment, and the 54th received an influx of hopeful recruits — so much so that the unit implemented a “rigid and thorough” medical exam, with the aim of enlisting only the most physically and mentally fit into its ranks. The company trained at Camp Meigs just outside of Boston, for a period that lasted only several weeks.

On May 28th, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts regiment marched out of Boston on its way to Beaufort, South Carolina. They did so despite a December 1862 proclamation by President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, which stated that any captured African American soldier or white officer in charge of an African American company would be put to death.

As portrayed in Glory, the 54th Massachusetts’s first action was the looting and burning of a small town in Georgia. The action came on the orders of Colonel James Montgomery, a rabid abolitionist and controversial officer in the Northern Army who often implemented extreme tactics when dealing with pro-slavery populations.

Montgomery had been charged with raising an African American regiment around the same time as Colonel Shaw. His 2nd South Carolina unit rampaged through the South with their most famous battle, the Raid at Combahee Ferry, coming just before they linked up with the 54th Regiment Massachusetts. With the help of Harriet Tubman’s underground railroad, Montgomery and his men freed nearly 800 slaves at Combahee Ferry.

But Colonel Shaw wasn’t impressed with Montgomery’s tactics. He wrote a sternly-worded letter to the military higher-ups, complaining of Montgomery’s rampant destruction of Confederate towns and wanton cruelty towards their civilians. As a result, the 54th was shipped off to fight in a skirmish on James Island, South Carolina, in which they repelled a Confederate assault.

It was then that the 54th entered into its most famous battle: the raid on Fort Wagner, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

The climactic scene of Glory, depicting the Battle of Fort Wagner.

(TriStar Pictures)

Charleston was considered a prize by many in the North, having been the birthplace of the Confederate rebellion. Charleston’s Fort Sumter was where the Confederacy fired its first shots, overtaking a Union garrison and precipitating the Civil War.

Colonel Shaw was tasked with leading the 54th Regiment on a dangerous frontal assault of Fort Wagner, with the aim of keeping the 6,000 men garrisoned inside occupied long enough for a rear-guard attack to penetrate the fort’s walls. It was a bold proposition, and the 54th was a mere 48 hours removed from their battle at James Island. Yet on July 18, 1863, the men of the first African American regiment bravely charged the battlefield and made history in the process.

The raid on Fort Wagner was ultimately a failure and led to the loss of many lives. No unit was more decimated than the 54th Massachusetts. 270 of its 600 men who charged the fort were killed, wounded, or captured. Colonel Shaw was among the dead, having been shot three times through the chest just outside the fort’s parapet.

Despite the heavy losses, the 54th Massachusetts regiment was commended for its valor. Tales of the unit’s bravery spread far and wide, prompting many African Americans to enlist in the Union army. President Lincoln ultimately cited the mobilization of African American troops as a key ingredient in the North’s victory over the South.

Many decades later, in 1900, Sergeant William Harvey Carney, then 60 years old, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery at the Battle of Fort Wagner. Carney had spotted the flag bearer fall during battle, and quickly rushed over to raise the American flag. Carney then led troops to the parapet, waving the flag high to boost morale despite receiving multiple gunshot and shrapnel wounds in the process. Upon the Union’s call to retreat, Carney somehow escaped with the flag intact, and crawled back to his encampment. As he handed the flag off to fellow soldiers, he famously told them, “Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground.”

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The 4th United States Colored Infantry, mustered in Baltimore, Maryland

Although numerous African American soldiers received the Medal of Honor prior to Carney, his actions at the Battle of Fort Wagner preceded theirs. As such, he is considered the first African American to be granted the military’s highest honor.

Despite the bravery of the many men amongst their ranks, the 54th Regiment had still often been treated as second-class soldiers. Upon enlisting, the men who joined the 54th Massachusetts regiment were promised the same wages as white men who enlisted: a month, with food and clothing included. But as soon as the regiment arrived in South Carolina, they discovered that they would only be paid — and three of those hard-earned dollars would be taken by the Department of the South to pay for their clothing. Rather than accept this, the men of the 54th refused all pay. It would not be until late September 1864 that equal pay for the regiment was issued. Most of the men had served 18 months at this point.

After the Battle at Fort Wagner, the 54th Massachusetts continued to fight in several more battles and skirmishes, with and without pay, right up until the end of the war. The regiment gained international fame after the war, and was immortalized by poets and artists both in America and Europe. A memorial to Colonel Shaw and the 54th was erected on the Boston Common as part of its Black Heritage Trail. The bust serves as the closing shot of Glory, over which the final credits roll.

On Nov. 21, 2008, the 54th Massachusetts regiment was reactivated as part of the Massachusetts National Guard. Today, the unit conducts military honors at funerals and state functions.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 ways the US could strike targets in Syria

President Donald Trump warned Russia on April 11, 2018, that US missiles are coming for Syria, whether or not Russia will try to defend against them.

Such a strike would call on the US’s most high-end platforms and present one of the most difficult military challenges on Earth.


Russia has deployed advanced air-defenses to Syria, and they’re pretty much the top of the line. A Russian diplomat and several Russian lawmakers also threatened to shoot down US missiles, the platforms that fired them, and to otherwise impose “grave repercussions.”

But the US has stealth jets and Navy destroyers that can send missiles over 1,000 miles. If the US does intend to strike targets under Russia’s air defenses, it will carry out perhaps the most complicated, technologically advanced military skirmish of all time.

1. The US’s best stealth jets vs. Russia’s best air defenses

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F-22 deploys flares.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute, an expert on Russian missile defense systems and strategic armaments, previously told Business Insider that US planes can beat Russian air defenses, but not without a fight.

“Yeah they can do it. In theory, they can do it because they will be launching stand off weapons,” Sutyagin said, referring to long-range missiles as “standoff weapons.”

“The tactics of these low-visibility planes, as they were designed originally, was to use the fact that detection range was decreased so you create some gaps in radar range and then you approach through the gap and launch standoff weapons,” he said.

“If American pilots will be not experienced in their fifth-gens, they will be shot down. If they are brilliant, operationally, tactically brilliant, they will defeat them,” Sutyagin concluded.

Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col David Berke, a former F-35 squadron leader and an F-22 pilot, also told Business Insider that US stealth jets were built to take on Russia’s air defenses specifically.

2. The Navy option

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UGM-109 Tomahawk missile detonates above a test target, 1986.
(U.S. Navy photo)

But the US already struck Syria’s government successfully in 2017, using cruise missiles launched from US Navy guided-missile destroyers.

“One air defense battalion with an S-300 [advanced Russian air defense system] has 32 missiles. They will fire these against 16 targets (maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio) but to prevent the target from evading, you always launch two … but what if there are 50 targets?” Sutyagin said.

“The Russian military in Syria has air defense systems theoretically capable of shooting down US Tomahawk missiles but these can be saturated and, in the case of the S-400 [another Russian air defense system] in particular, are largely unproven in actual combat use,” Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at RUSI, told Business Insider.

But the cruise missile strike of April, 2017, did little to actually stop chemical weapons attacks or violence against civilians from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Within 24 hours, warplanes took off from the damaged airfield again.

Russia has heavy naval power in the region, but Bronk predicted that Moscow won’t have the stomach for a full-on fight against the US Navy, as it could easily escalate into all-out war between the world’s greatest military and nuclear powers.

3. Trump’s next strike may make the last one look tiny

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Battle damage assessment image of Shayrat Airfield, Syria, is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image, released by the Pentagon following U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes from Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS Ross and USS Porter on April 7, 2017.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)

President Donald Trump is now weighing a much larger strike to send a clear message, the New York Times reports.

To do this, the US will have to carefully weigh how much it wants to risk against Russia, a competent foe.

The scale of the US’s strike “depends on the risk appetite,” Bronk said, as the US will be “risking escalation directly with the Russians.”

“If the US decides on an option that involves more than cruise missiles and potentially a few stealth aircraft, it will have to suppress the Syrian air defense network and threaten or potentially even kill Russians,” Bronk said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US just unleashed the most dangerous ‘hunter-killer’ on earth

The US Navy commissioned the USS South Dakota on Feb. 2, 2019, and, in doing so, ushered in a new era of millennial undersea war fighters and the most technologically advanced submarine hunter-killer on Earth.

“I think we can honestly call South Dakota ‘America’s first millennial submarine’ from construction to operation,” Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut said at the South Dakota’s commissioning.

While millennials across the board make up the majority of the US’s combat service members in any service, the South Dakota was built by the shipbuilder General Dynamics Electric Boat, whose workforce is more than half millennial, The Day reported.


“The rise of the millennial generation emerging to lead Electric Boat’s important work for the country, I believe, is a powerful rebuttal of cynics and naysayers that say that American manufacturing and technological excellence are a thing of the past,” Courtney said.

In the slides below, meet the young sailors and new submarine that makes the South Dakota the most modern and fearsome submarine in the world today.

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The color guard parade the ensign during a commissioning ceremony for the Virginia-class attack submarine USS South Dakota on Feb. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Hoskins)

The South Dakota is a fast-attack boat.

The South Dakota is a fast-attack submarine, which trades the world-ending nuclear might of a ballistic-missiles submarine, or “boomer,” for Tomahawk cruise missiles, mines, and torpedoes.

Boomer submarines hide in oceans around the world on the longshot chance the US may call upon them to conduct nuclear warfare. These submarines are not to be seen and avoid combat.

But fast-attack subs such as the South Dakota meet naval combat head-on.

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(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason

One weapon makes the South Dakota a force to be reckoned with up to 1,500 miles inland: the Tomahawk. The South Dakota can hold dozens of these land-attack missiles.

Fast-attack submarines like the South Dakota serve as a door-kicker, as one did in 2011 when the US opened its campaign against Libya with a salvo of cruise missiles from the USS Michigan. These submarines also must hunt and sink enemy ships and submarines in times of combat, and the South Dakota is unmatched in that department.

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(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

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Members of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two prepare to launch one of the team’s SEAL delivery vehicles from the back of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Philadelphia during a training exercise.

(US Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Andrew McKaskle)

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The US Navy Virginia-class attack submarine USS South Dakota.

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Russian Typhoon-class submarine.

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(US Navy photo)

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Type 039 submarine.

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Capt. Ronald Withrow, outgoing commanding officer of the South Dakota, right, returns a salute from his relief, Missouri native Cmdr. Craig Litty, left.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Steven Hoskins)

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(US Navy photo)

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(US Navy photo)

Submarine combat is a very dangerous and tricky game. Any sonar or radar ping can reveal a sub’s location, so the ships need to sit and listen quietly to safely line up a kill.

The South Dakota can detect ships and subs with an off-board array of sensors that it can communicate with in near real time. This represents a breakthrough in undersea warfare.

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Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Durocher, a pre-commissioned unit South Dakota submariner.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jared Bunn)

But submarines are only as good as their crews. The South Dakota will live or die based on its crew’s ability to stick together and problem solve.

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

MIGHTY FIT

6 ways to deal with this heat wave


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Socks on water bottles

Got a water bottle you’re trying to keep cold? This one holds up just as well on the homefront as it does on deployment. Soak a sock in some cold water before you head out, and then toss a water bottle in it. It’ll help keep it cooler for longer. Sure, it might make the outside of the bottle smell like a McDonald’s Playplace, but if it keeps you hydrated—it’s worth it. Which brings us to point number two…

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(Giphy)

Seriously, drink a ton of water

The old adage “if you’re thirsty then you’re already dehydrated” is a wise one to live by this summer. Soldiers hauling 60 pounds of gear in 90 degree weather (while blanketed in insulated cammies) can’t stay cool—their only option is to drink an assload of water continually throughout the day. It’s usually recommended to drink 1 1/2 quarts of water per hour to avoid “heat injuries” such as heat stroke. Your pee shouldn’t be the color of a Lakers jersey. It should be the color of, uhh, nothing.

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(Giphy)

Set up a shady canopy

Look, if you had… one shot, or one opportunity, to make your patio a little cooler outside, would you canopy it, or let it spit-fry? Your palms are sweaty. Sure, that’s understandable. Your knees are weak (from heat), and your arms are heavy (also from heat). If there’s vomit on your sweater already, you are suffering from heatstroke and should contact medical services immediately. Don’t be nervous, just be calm and ready. Sometimes a little bit of shade, also known as slim shady, goes a long way.

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(Giphy)

Dunk your arms in an ice bucket of water

Everyone knows that you can hit an ice bath to drastically regulate your body temperature. However, if you’re too hot, the extreme change in body temperature can actually send you into shock. To mitigate this risk, some on-base soldiers will roll up their sleeves and dunk their arms into an ice bucket (sometimes called an “Arm Immersion Kit” by higher-ups with too much time on their hands) full of water and allow them to soak until their blood temperature drops a bit.

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Jury rig a ghetto A/C unit

What you see before you is the latest innovation in hood engineering. Many a budget-restricted renter has pulled off a MacGuyver A/C attempt, but none succeeded like this anonymous Twitter user. Put this baby on full blast, grab a cheap beer from the back of your (roommate’s) fridge, sit in your inflatable mini kids pool (that you definitely didn’t steal from your nephew’s birthday), and enjoy a freezing blast that rivals the arctic winds.

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(Giphy)

Slap on some camouflage cream

If you’re enlisted, this sh*t is basically free sunblock. This one won’t help keep you cool, necessarily, but it will protect your skin from harmful UV rays and prevent sunburn. Not to mention it can make you look like an intimidating linebacker, an overrated 60s rock guitarist, or Arnold Schwarzenegger—depending on how you apply it.

Articles

4 crimes you learn to commit in the military

We’re not saying everyone in the military does these things, just that it’s almost impossible to complete an enlistment without someone either encouraging you, or even teaching you, to:


1. Commit petty theft

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)

“Gear adrift is a gift” and similar maxims are just cute ways of saying that it’s sometimes okay to steal. But it’s not. There’s no law that says it stops being government property or someone else’s personal property if they forgot to lock it up or post a guard.

This includes “acquiring” needed items for the squad by snatching up unsecured gear or trading for someone’s off-the-books printer. We know you have to get your CLP, but at least try to get some from the armorer before turning to theft.

2. Smuggle alcohol through the mail

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If their breath never smells minty fresh, maybe get suspicious of their constant mouthwash use.

It’s only legal to ship alcohol through the United States Postal System if you have a license or if it’s in a product like mouthwash. Of course, that mouthwash isn’t supposed to be 80 proof.

But every time a unit gets ready for deployment, the veterans start talking about the super illegal practice of asking family members to pour vodka into empty mouthwash bottles, mix in a few drops of blue and green food coloring, and send it to the base in the mail. Many of the old timers are just making jokes, but it still spreads the knowledge of the tactic. (Which this article also does. Crap.)

3. Lie on federal forms

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The Defense Travel System is reasons 1-3 that no one should ever re-enlist. (Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

Let’s be honest, perfectly filled out Defense Travel System vouchers and unit packing lists are the exception to the rule. Sometimes, this is because it’s hard to track every little change in a connex’s contents or a trip. But other times, it’s because units on their way out the door on an exercise or deployment are willing to put whatever they need to on the paperwork to get it approved.

It’s an expedient way to get the mission done, but it’s also a violation of Title 18 United States Code 1001, which prohibits false claims to the federal government. Of course, no one is going to prosecute when a connex shows up with three more cots than were on the list, but don’t listen to the barracks attorney telling you that the per diem is higher if you just change this one thing in DTS.

4. Abuse prescription medication

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Perfectly legal in training and combat, actually a crime when using it to avoid a hangover with a prescription. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nicholas Farina)

Most troops aren’t out there injecting illegally acquired morphine, but most people would probably be surprised to learn that intravenous saline is a prescription medical device (yeah, saltwater in a bag). So are those 800mg Motrins.

And teaching a bunch of troops to give saline injections to each other does help them save lives in combat, but it also prepares them to tack an extra criminal charge onto their alcohol-fueled bender when they get home and stick themselves with a needle to try to avoid getting hungover (which, seriously guys, stop giving yourselves IVs while drunk).

Lists

13 thoughts I had during Coast Guard boot camp graduation

The one thing that binds generations of Coast Guardsmen together is the boot camp experience at Cape May, New Jersey (and for a time, Alameda, California). Eight long weeks of physical, mental, and emotional training concludes with a pass and review – and finally – the graduation ceremony that turns recruits into seaman apprentices, fireman apprentices, seamen, and firemen.


The first promotion a recruit receives is on graduation day, making for an emotional and exhausting day. These are just a few of the thoughts I (and many other) Coasties have on their last day at Cape May.

1. “This is it. I’m a big Coastie now. I’m joining the fleet. I’m doing it.”

(As I was getting my uniform on in the morning.)

 

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The Nation’s newest Coast Guardsmen from Recruit Company Lima 188 march in front of family and friends during Pass and Review during recruit graduation at Training Center Cape May, Aug. 2, 2013. Training Center Cape May is the service’s only enlisted basic training facility, which creates more than 80 percent of the Coast Guard’s workforce. (Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)

2. “This is never going to end. This is the longest hour of my life. I’m never gonna make it outside. I’m gonna die here.”

(As I was getting my uniform inspected.)

3. “I wonder if they packed the clothes I asked. I can’t wait to wear real clothes again. I miss shorts. I hope they brought snacks. I’m so hungry already.”

(As I was getting into formation to march to the parade field.)

4. “I wonder where they’re sitting. Did everyone find it okay? Did they even make it on base? I hope mom didn’t say something stupid and get denied entry.”

As I was marching to the parade field.)

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Mom made it just fine. (photo courtesy of Mary-Elizabeth Pratt)

5. Oh my god, I see them. Oh, my god, I’m gonna cry.

(As I was marching to the stands.)

6. “Okay I get it, you’re really proud of us. I’m proud of me, too. Can we get this over already?”

(As I was listening to the CO’s opening remarks.)

7. “Yes, you were here in my shoes forty years ago and you’ve done big things since then. You should know I wanna get out of here. Can we get this over already?”

(As I was listening to the guest speaker’s remarks.)

8.”I don’t remember what I’m supposed to do. I hope I don’t screw this up.”

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(photo courtesy of Mary-Elizabeth Pratt)

(As I was standing in line to receive your certificate.)

9. “This is the happiest I’ve been ever. I finally did it and they can’t kick me out of boot camp now!”

(As I was receiving my certificate.)

10. “Can we get this over with already?”

(As I was listening to the CO’s closing remarks.)

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Petty Officer 1st Class Gus Casey, a company commander at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J., leads the unit’s Recruit Precision Drill Team through a performance during the graduation for Recruit Company Lima 188, Aug. 2, 2013. Training Center Cape May is home to the U.S. military’s only Recruit Precision Drill Team. (Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)

 

11.”I’m free! Where’s my family? Where’s my mom? I missed you guys!I have so much to tell you

(As I’m finally released.)

12. “I cannot wait to not have the same bag as everyone else. Damn, I hate these shirt-stays. I wanna get this thing off.”

(As I was getting my stuff.)

13.”That is the most fun I never want to have again.”

(As I was sitting in the car, finally leaving Cape May after 8 long weeks.)

Articles

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July

Do you think you know everything about the 4th of July? The U.S. national holiday has a surprising, enlightening, and sometimes worrying history that you probably don’t know about. Millions are unaware of the truths behind how and why America really celebrates Independence Day. Some of those nagging questions you have at the back of your mind will be answered in this revealing fact list about Independence Day in the United States.


What is the true story behind 4th of July? Why is it celebrated and how? From the number of hot dogs consumed, to inside jokes with Nicolas Cage (he was kind of right, you guys), to historical untruths revealed for what they really are, you’re about to learn the secrets behind one of the most popular national holidays in America.

15 Things You Didn’t Know About the 4th of July

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Nazi rescued 200,000 Chinese civilians from a massacre

It’s a difficult thing to heap praise on a Nazi, but with German businessman John Rabe, it’s hard not to. Rabe was sent to Nanjing (then called Nanking) to work for the German corporation Siemens AG. There were many foreigners living in Nanking at the time, as it was the capital of Nationalist China.

By the time the Japanese Army was sent to capture Nanking in 1937, the high-ranking Nazi party boss had been in the country for nearly 30 years and was ready to flex that power. As the Japanese rained death on the city, there was one area left untouched by the devastation along with hundreds of thousands of civilians.


Rabe was a die-hard Nazi. He joined the National Socialist movement in its earliest days, but he was not prepared for the massacres and atrocities committed by the German-allied Japanese forces. When it became clear the Japanese were going to capture Nanking, Rabe organized an International Safety Zone inside the city – despite being told to leave by Japanese officials.

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There’s no time for war, John Rabe has sh*t to do.

For his dedication to the Chinese people of the city, the Japanese were humbled. They respected his loyalty to the people he lived alongside for three decades. An angry Japanese mayor, installed after the capture of the city, railed Rabe for staying, wondering why he would ever choose to stay. Rabe replied that he was treated well and respectfully by the Chinese people and he wouldn’t leave their side in an emergency.

He took a step back, mumbled some words about Samurai obligations, and bowed deeply,” Rabe said of the mayor.
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In every photo of John Rabe, his face says “take your bullsh*t elsewhere.”

This average-sized, bespectacled, bow-tied man was a force to be reckoned with. He was determined to protect his Chinese workers and keep them safe. More than that, he established a two-and-a-half-mile international safety zone in the embassy area that housed an estimated 250,000 Chinese civilian refugees. For two days, Rabe ushered civilians into his own house and urged them to be quiet. He even sent a telegram to Hitler himself to persuade the Japanese to recognize and protect the Safety Zone.

But even that couldn’t entirely stem the tide of the Japanese atrocities. As the streets and ponds of Nanking filled with corpses, John Rabe decided to do the one thing he could beyond protecting the International Safety Zone: Go out into the streets and personally protect civilians.

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Did you see that coming? I didn’t.

Rabe would chase Japanese soldiers away from women being raped, going so far as to physically remove them from a room. He was completely unarmed, with only his signature Nazi swastika armband to protect him. He was appalled at the Japanese treatment of the Chinese civilians. Homes were burned, women were gang-raped, mutilated, and killed, and businesses were looted.

The Japanese troops feared the Nazis in Nanking, so much so that Rabe was able to chase them away from nearly every situation while protecting the hundreds of thousands of civilians in his Safety Zone. Because of Rabe, scores of Chinese civilians survived what became known as the “Rape of Nanking,” and he is remembered and revered in the city to this day, the city where his remains are buried.

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