American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods - We Are The Mighty
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American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

For more than five centuries, farmers, treasure hunters, and others have applied a pseudoscientific practice known as “dowsing” to find water, caves, graves and more.


During the Vietnam War, American troops tried using the method to divine the location of Viet Cong tunnel networks.

It didn’t work.

Continually frustrated by the underground networks, the Pentagon made locating and destroying the subterranean passages a main goal in 1967. A year later, defense contractor HRB Singer told the Office of Naval Research that dowsing might hold the answer.

“Undoubtedly, any system that offers some promise of improving the odds above pure chance of discovering and locating the enemy is worth a try — if nothing else is available,” the scientists explained in a 1968 report. The U.S. Army and Navy had both so far failed to build a machine that could reliably detect the tunnels.

In spite of repeated studies failing to prove any scientific basis for dowsing, the practice has endured to the present day. HRB Singer was optimistic that dowsing could help in South Vietnam.

Debates have raged about whether dowsing works since the practice first evolved in Germany in the 15th century. In 1518, Christian theologian Martin Luther decried the practice as occultic — and an affront to God.

A common understanding surrounding dowsing is that certain people can either innately sense small shifts in Earth’s magnetic fields that indicate open underground areas such as caverns. These individuals can train others to feel these changes. Others have linked the diving to psychic abilities or other factors.

Dowsers may use a Y- or L-shaped wood or metal pole —typically called a “divining rod” or “witching rod” — to help in their search. However, some practitioners don’t use any special tools.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
U.S. Army troops investigate a Viet Cong tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Despite widespread skepticism, HRB Singer was quick point out dowsing’s clear military applications — if it worked. In South Vietnam, Communist rebels routinely ambushed American troops from camouflaged spider holes and bunkers linked to extensive underground networks.

“The evidence suggests that this network of underground installations which has been under construction for more than 20 years is an even better base for communist guerrilla … than was Castro’s Sierra Maestra range in Cuba,” HRB Singer’s Richard Bossart wrote in the report.

The Pentagon was trying pretty much anything it could think of to close these tunnels. In 1963, the Army tried using anti-tank rockets to blast into the underground pathways.

Three years later, the ground combat branch started working on a handheld device that could accurately measure differences in magnetic fields to find the Viet Cong hideaways. Dogs were another option.

In 1967, the Air Force looking into trying liquids that would change colors if surface temperature was markedly colder from that underground. This could indicate a large heat source such as a mass of people or a cooking fire.

None of these projects were working out. Between 1966 and 1971, the Army spent more than $500,000 on the portable magnetometer — nearly $3 million in 2016 dollars — and only got a dozen prototype devices to South Vietnam for tests.

With few options, American troops had already turned to dowsing in the field before HRB Singer started their research. Around the same time HRB Singer started their research, the U.S. Marine Corps went so far as to “train” a small group to dowse for tunnels.

The Marine Corps Development and Educational Command put the leathernecks through a four-hour course in the practice. In March 1968, Associated Press reporters spotted the troops near their base at Khe Sanh using bent brass rods to find their subterranean foes.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
U.S. Army specialist Marvin Miller drops a smoke grenade into a tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Bossart and his colleagues hadn’t been able to figure out if the Marines’ had any luck with their witching rods. But it wasn’t enough to dissuade him from moving forward with his own investigations.

“The fact that detecting and locating tunnels is so critical that the niceties of scientific rigor can be de-emphasized, if necessary,” the HRB Singer researcher noted. In his opinion, the fact that American forces were doing it already made objections “somewhat academic.”

After reviewing the available literature, the HRB Singer team — including a number of employees who were amateur spelunkers — kicked off its own experiment. Having already used dowsing in their hobby, these individuals were happy to explore the phenomenon.

The company’s experts worked together with locals and students in and around Pennsylvania State University. The test subjects found a underground cavern in one case and a septic tank in another.

“These experiments are by no means meant to indicate proof of dowsing,” Bossart was quick to acknowledge in his conclusions. “They are in general uncontrolled and subject to reasonable doubt.”

Still, Bossart felt the results showed the potential of dowsing and the need for more and better studies. The key was trying to conclusively prove whether the practice was a science, an art or pure luck.

In the end, neither HRB Singer nor the Marine Corps could prove a scientific underpinning for dowsing. In 1971, with the Vietnam War steadily winding down, the Marines canned their program.

With its continued popularity in certain regions of the United States, the practice continues to pop up in military circles. In 1988, Air Force lieutenant colonel Dolan McKelvy made the case for dowsing among other types of “psychic warfare” as part of an Air War College research project.

The Marine Corps “did not discredit dowsing, but merely pointed out it is a special skill his marines hadn’t mastered,” according to Dolan. “It probably requires more than a four-hour short course for use operationally.”

In 1990, Lewis Carl, a “professional dowser,” tried again to get the Army interested in dowsing. Carl claimed the practice could help solve water problems for American troops rushing to the Persian Gulf following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

Four years later, David Gaisford conducted his own experiments into the procedure as a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology. In reviewing the historical record, he noted that the Marines had concluded there was no “scientific basis” for the practice.

The ground combat branch wasn’t interested in Carl’s offer. And just like those before him, Gaisford couldn’t find any solid evidence and called for more research.

Today, civilian scientists and engineers and their military counterparts generally rely on advanced magnetometers, radars and lasers to see enemy tunnels and other threats beneath the surface. So far, no one has been able to convince the Pentagon to add witching rods to soldiers’ packs.

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North Korea just tried to show how it would ‘take on’ the US Navy

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, presided over the launch of a new anti-ship cruise missile system on June 8 in Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast. And though the missiles performed well and struck their target, it was a pretty weak showing.


The missiles flew about 125 miles, South Korea said, and fired from tracked launchers with forest camouflage. The missiles themselves were not new, according to The Diplomat, but they showed off a new launcher that can fire from hidden, off-road locations within moments of being set up.

But those are about the only nice things you could say about these missiles.

In the photos released by North Korean media, it’s clear the missiles are striking a ship that isn’t moving.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
The ship appears anchored, with no wake. Photo by Rodong Sinmun

In a combat situation, the ships would move and take countermeasures. For the US, South Korean, and Japanese navies, that often means firing an interceptor missile.

North Korea also lacks the ability to support these missiles with accurate guidance. The US would use planes, drones, or even undersea platforms to observe and track a target.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Photo by Rodong Sinmun

North Korea waited to test these missiles until two US aircraft carrier strike groups armed to the teeth with missile defense capabilities left its shores, perhaps to avoid embarrassment should the US knock them down.

Unlike its practice with ballistic-missile tests, which are banned under international law, the US did not publicly comment on this launch. North Korea is well within its rights to test a cruise missile in international waters.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Photo by Rodong Sinmun

But despite the rudimentary technology used in the launch, North Korea did show that it poses a real threat. Not only do the missile launchers leverage the element of surprise, but they represent yet another new missile capability.

In a few short months, North Korea has demonstrated a range of capabilities that has surprised experts and military observers. Though the missiles don’t pose a threat to the US Navy, Kim showed he’s serious about fighting on all fronts.

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Pentagon confirms death of IS leader in Afghanistan

The Pentagon says a military raid last month killed the head of the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan.


In a statement May 7, the Pentagon confirmed the death of Abdul Haseeb Logari. At the time of the raid officials said they thought Logari had been killed, but were not certain.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
ISIS fighters in Iraq. (Photo via Flickr)

U.S. officials said Logari was among several high-ranking Islamic State in Afghanistan leaders who died in the April 27 raid. It was carried out by Afghan Special Security Forces in partnership with U.S. forces.

Also read: US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

The Pentagon says Logari directed the March 8 attack against Kabul National Military Hospital, which killed or wounded more than 100 people.

The raid targeted a compound in eastern Afghanistan. Two U.S. Army Rangers were killed by what officials believe was friendly fire.

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Here’s how these 3 legends each earned two Medals of Honor

Since the introduction of the Medal of Honor at the beginning of the Civil War, only 19 men have received it twice.


Five received both the Army and Navy version for the same action. Four Navy sailors received two for actions during peacetime. Before the 20th Century, a number of Medals of Honor were bestowed for any valorous action – because it was the only medal at the time.

However, there are still 3 men who earned the Medal of Honor as we’ve come to know it – by gallantry in the face of the enemy – twice.

Those three men were John McCloy, U.S. Navy, and Daniel Daly, and Smedley Butler, both U.S. Marines .

The three men’s paths would cross during the Boxer Rebellion in China, the Caribbean campaigns, and World War I.

The Boxer Rebellion

In early 1900, the United States and seven other nations dispatched forces to China to quell the Boxer Rebellion and to protect their national interests.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
I’ll Try Sir,

During the fighting, McCloy and Daly both earned their first Medals of Honor while Butler, an officer (who was ineligible for the Medal of Honor at the time), received a Brevet promotion – an award for officers who had displayed gallantry in action – in lieu of the Medal of Honor. Butler rushed out of a trench in the face of withering enemy fire to rescue a wounded Marine officer before being wounded himself.

John McCloy earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during four battles throughout the month of June 1900. At that time, Navy seamen called “Bluejackets” left the ship with Marines to fight as infantry. McCloy was one of those Bluejackets.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
U.S. Marines in China, ca. 1900

Dan Daly found himself alone on a wall outside the American Legation in Peking after his commanding officer left to get reinforcements. From his position, he single-handedly held off attacks by Chinese snipers. He also fought off an attempt to storm the wall holding his position, alone, through the night until reinforcements arrived. His actions earned him his first Medal of Honor.

The Occupation of Veracruz

Over a decade later, the three men found themselves fighting in the Caribbean during the Banana Wars and the Occupation of Veracruz.

During the tumultuous Mexican Revolution in 1914, the United States received word of a weapons shipment inbound to the port of Veracruz. President Woodrow Wilson ordered the port captured and the weapons seized. He dispatched several warships and Marine contingents for the mission.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
The first American sailors land at Veracruz, 1914. (U.S. Navy photo)

During the initial battle, John McCloy, now a Chief Boatswain, commanded three picket boats unloading men and supplies in the port. When his force came under fire from a nearby building, he drove his force into harm’s way and fired a volley from the boats’ one-inch guns.

The Mexicans fired in response, revealing their positions which were then silenced by the USS Prairie. During the fighting, McCloy was shot in the thigh but remained at his post as beachmaster for 48 hours before being forced to evacuate by the brigade surgeon. McCloy’s was awarded his second Medal of Honor for this.

Meanwhile, then-Maj. Smedley Butler was leading his battalion of Marines through the streets of Veracruz. For conspicuous gallantry while leading his forces against the enemy on April 22, Butler received his first Medal of Honor. Butler attempted to return this Medal of Honor because he didn’t feel he adequately earned it. He was rebuffed and told to wear it well.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
U.S. troops march through Veracruz in 1914. (National Archives)

Daniel Daly was with the Marines at Veracruz but (in an uncharacteristic move for Daly) earned no medals for bravery during the action.

The U.S. Occupation of Haiti

While McCloy was employed elsewhere, Maj. Butler and Gunnery Sgt. Daly embarked with the 2nd Marine Regiment for duty in Haiti in 1915. While fighting the Caco rebels, both men received their second Medals of Honor.

On October 24, 1915, Maj. Butler was leading a reconnaissance patrol of the 15th Company of Marines, which included Gunnery Sgt. Daly. That evening, the patrol was ambushed by 400 Cacos. The Americans lost their machine gun and were forced to retreat to high ground.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
A U.S. Marine inspect Haitian soldiers, ca. 1915 (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

That night, Daly ventured out to retrieve the machine gun. He killed three Cacos with his knife in the process. The next morning, Butler ordered the patrol to organize into three sections to attack and disperse the rebels. Daly led one section. They drove the Cacos into Fort Dipitie before the Marines assaulted and captured it. This action earned Daly his second Medal of Honor.

Less than a month later, Butler led a group of 100 Marines and sailors against Caco rebels holed up in Fort Rivière. Under heavy cover fire, Butler and 26 of his men entered the fort through an opening in the wall. Once inside, they dispersed the rebels, killing 51 with only one Marine wounded. This is how Butler earned his second Medal of Honor.

World War I

Although by the time the U.S. entered World War I, the three gallant men already wore two Medals of Honor each. But their bravery was not finished. Brig. Gen. Butler would sit out the war in command of a depot, Dan Daly further cemented his place in Marine Corps lore at Belleau Wood – where he shouted his famous “do you want to live forever?” quote.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Marines depicted at Belleau Wood (U.S. Marine Corps museum)

He earned the Navy Cross during the battle, reportedly because having a third Medal of Honor would have simply been ridiculous.

McCloy commanded the minesweeper USS Curlew during the Great War. He received a Navy Cross for his part in clearing the North Sea mine barrage after the war.

Articles

Beware the American booby trap rigger in Vietnam

Booby traps are terrifying weapons of choice for the troops who want to seriously wound their enemies without having to spend precious time waiting for them to show up.


Placed at specific areas on the battlefield where the opposition is most likely to travel, these easily assembled devices have the ability to take troops right out of the fight or cause a painful delayed death.

Snake pits, flag bombs, and cartridge traps are just a few of the creative inventions the Viet Cong engineered to bring harm to their American and South Vietnamese adversaries.

With mortality rates in Vietnam reaching almost 60,000, trip wires or land mines contributed to 11% of the deaths during the multi-year skirmish.

Related: These are the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

Although VC troops were productive in their dead trap concepts, Americans like Tom Schober were just as creative and clever.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Tom Schober cooling himself down in a Vietnamese river (Source: Wisconsin Public Television/YouTube/Screenshot)

“The VC weren’t the only ones who rigged up booby traps,” Schober admits, “We got pretty good at rigging up mechanical ambushes with claymores.”

Sporting a 1st Cav jacket throughout his time in the war, Tom managed to use the basic materials the Army gave him to get some much-earned payback against his VC enemy.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Proud American and Vietnam veteran Tom Schober (Source: Wisconsin Public Television/YouTube/Screenshot)

“I feel kind of strongly that we all owe a debt to those who didn’t make it,” Schober says. “To live our lives better.”

Also Read: Once upon a time, this ‘little kid’ was a lethal Vietnam War fighter

Check out Wisconsin Public Television‘s video for Schober’s thrilling tale of how he would use an old battery, blasting cap, some string and a spoon to help take down the enemy.

(Wisconsin Public Television, YouTube)
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This battle against ISIS could be seen from space

The oil refinery in Bayji, a city in Tikrit, Iraq, has been heavily contested since ISIS first assaulted it in Jun. 2014. It was during that initial battle for Bayji that ISIS, attempting to force out hundreds of Iraqi troops and oil workers, launched a series of attacks that set the refinery on fire.


The smoke from Iraq’s largest refinery was so thick and dark that it could be seen on NASA satellites.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Photo: USGS/NASA

ISIS began the assault on Jun. 10 when a convoy of over 60 vehicles took the city of Bayji. They then turned to the refinery where 200 Iraqi troops held off 300-500 ISIS fighters for nearly a week.

On the morning of Jun. 18, a renewed ISIS assault broke through the Iraqi perimeter. Oil workers sheltered underground while the fighting ignited 17 gas tanks, creating the smoke that would be seen from space.

After hours of fighting in the clouds of oily smoke, the Iraqi survivors surrendered. ISIS took the facility and executed the 70 soldiers who had surrendered to them.

The Iraqi government launched an offensive and successfully captured the facility in Nov. 2014, but the back and forth ownership of the facility has continued ever since.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVD4n0NGleo

Currently, the facility is in the hands of the Iraqi government, taken by a combination of U.S. air support, Iranian-backed Shiite militias, and Iraqi government forces in Oct. 2015.

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New ‘Dunkirk’ trailer focuses on pilots, civilians who saved thousands

The main trailer for ‘Dunkirk’ is out, and it seems that Christopher Nolan will be telling the amazing story of Operation Dynamo from all angles as weekend sailors, Royal Air Force pilots, nurses, fishermen, and others appear in the footage.


Operation Dynamo, often called “The Miracle at Dunkirk,” was the evacuation of nearly 400,000 British and allied troops from the coast of France in 1940 after the German blitzkrieg cut through Allied defenses much faster than anyone anticipated.

The German invasion was expected to take months, but Nazi forces slashed a corridor through France to the English Channel in just over two weeks before they halted their advance. But the Nazis hadn’t been stopped by force of arms.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
French troops fill a ship evacuating Dunkirk. (Photo: Public Domain)

Rather, the high command decided that they didn’t want to risk panzers in pitched fighting near Dunkirk. So the German army kept the expeditionary force pinned down on the beach and sent the Luftwaffe to kill British ships in the English channel and strafe and bomb survivors on the beaches.

On May 26, the British launched Operation Dynamo, a Hail Mary attempt to rescue those dying troops through Royal Navy assets and, when those proved to be too few, hundreds of small fishing and pleasure boats piloted by civilians. Nearly 340,000 troops were evacuated from May 26 to June 4.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

Previous trailers for Nolan’s movie about the event have focused on the plight of soldiers on the beach who waited for days, sometimes in shoulder-deep water while under fire from the Luftwaffe, for rescue. The new trailer shows them, but it also spends a lot of time on a father crossing the channel with his sons, as well as the nurses and pilots who made the mission possible.

It looks like World War II buffs may get to see one of the war’s most miraculous moments played out on the screen through perspectives of everyone who made it possible. Many of the troops rescued from the beaches went on to fight in North Africa, the D-Day landings, and on to Berlin.

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Air Force drone pilots are about to make bank if they agree to re-up

If you fly a killer drone and you’re thinking of pulling chocks when your commitment ends, the Air Force has some cold hard cash to entice you to stay.


Top Air Force officials announced Aug. 10 that Remotely Piloted Aircraft operators who re-up for another five-year contract would receive $35,000 per year in bonus cash. That nets out to a whopping $175,000 when all is said and done and is $10,000 more than previous bonuses.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Maj. Bishane, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. RPA personnel deal with the stressors of deployed service members while maintaining the normalcy of their day-to-day lives through programs designed to enhance communication skills, family and spiritual growth. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

“The Air Force recognizes the important contribution RPA pilots make every day, and retaining these valued aviators to execute our current operations and shape the future is critical,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “While we applaud this effort, we recognize we have similar challenges across our entire pilot force, and we’d like the opportunity to offer higher retention bonuses for all our pilots.”

Drones are some of the most sought-after air assets for ground commanders worldwide, from launching missiles at bad guy convoys to snooping around insurgent bases and scooping up radio chatter, the RPAs can go deep behind enemy lines without risking the lives of American pilots and crew.

But as the demand increases, so does the pace of pilot operations and both the drones and their crew are burning out fast, Air Force officials say.

“What we are doing in the world of our RPAs [is] to try to lessen some of the strain and improve quality of life,” said Air Force Sec. Deborah James. “With respect to our ‘get well plan,’ is that it is proceeding at pace. It is not all done yet, but there is a lot going on – a lot in process.”

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
An MQ-9 Reaper performs a low pass during a first-ever air show demonstration May 29, 2016, at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. The 2016 Cannon Air Show highlights the unique capabilities and qualities of Cannon’s Air Commandos and also celebrates the long-standing relationship between the 27th Special Operations Wing and the High Plains community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.)

To relieve the stress, the Air Force plans to establish a new MQ-9 Reaper aircraft wing and is in the midst of surveying potential bases to host it. Officials say the service is also supplementing drone crews with Air National Guard pilots and has hired on contractors to fly some surveillance missions.

The service has also doubled the number of drone pilots in the force since 2015.

“Producing more pilots of course means a better quality of life for all of our RPA airmen, because it will give them more family time and more opportunities to pursue developmental opportunities,” James said.

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13 funniest memes for the week of Oct. 28

Halloween is coming up, so we hope everyone has a great costume lined up, unlike most years when everyone just trades uniforms with a member of a different service for the night. Soldiers going as airmen, sailors going as Marines. It’s all cutting edge stuff.


Before you head into the housing areas to beg your first sergeants for candy, check out these 13 funny military memes:

1. Wait. Do airmen get only three shots?

(via Air Force Memes Humor)

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Didn’t everyone have to do the walk of needles?

2. Well, at least you can apply that penny to the repair bill (via Military Memes).

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Only a couple billion more pennies to go.

3.  Back to basics, Marines (via Marine Corps Memes).

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Grab your powder horns.

ALSO READ: That time US soldiers pretended to be vampires and ghosts to scare the hell out of the enemy

4. “Meh. This is the next watch’s problem.” (via Coast Guard Memes)

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Better write it up in the log, though.

5. Uh, Germany did this and got to stay Airborne (via Do You Even Airborne, Bro?).

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
They did it a couple of times in one day.

6. Make your life decisions carefully, folks (via Military Memes).

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Going to college starts to look a lot better after you’ve already enlisted.

7. When your tie-down job lasts longer than the trailer, truck, or load:

(via Team Non-Rec)

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Good job, whoever did the loading. Driver, not so much.

8. Russia fields its new, rapidly deployable force:

(via Military Memes).

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

9. Combat rock painter:

(via The Salty Soldier)

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
There are some Army details that almost no one writes home about.

10. “A-10 a song” is the best (via Air Force Nation).

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

11. Someone doesn’t appreciate the Air Force (via Coast Guard Memes).

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
And some meme writer doesn’ love the Coast Guard much.

12. In his defense, there’s a solid chance that he’s faking it (via Military Memes).

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
I know some people who might fake it in this situation.

13. When your vehicle recovery plan leaves something to be desired:

(via Military Memes).

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Maybe bring a wrecker with you next time.

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The Ranger the Taliban called ‘the giant’

Alejandro Villanueva is a former West Point lineman and Army Ranger who got his first start at tackle on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. He took on the high-pressure role of protecting the “blind side” of backup quarterback Landry Jones, who’s in due to starter Ben Roethlisberger’s injury.


But Villanueva knows a thing or two about pressure, like, the life-or-death kind that soldiers face during wartime on a daily basis. And for him one night in particular stands out among many pressure-filled missions he carried out over the course of four tours in Afghanistan.

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Villanueva was serving as a 2nd lieutenant in Afghanistan. Stationed in the Kandahar Province, he was the rifle platoon leader of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. A firefight had broken out between the Taliban and Afghan civilians, and, in trying to protect them, Lt. Villanueva had unknowingly led his troops into an ambush. The Taliban was waiting in the dark for Villanueva, the 6-foot-9 man known as “The Giant,” and opened fire, wounding three soldiers. Two of them survived, but Pfc. Dietrich, 20, bled out through the hole in his back moments after Lt. Villanueva had carried him from the fray and loaded him onto a helicopter.

Less than a month after Pfc. Dietrich died, Staff Sgt. Simon was shot three times, and Lt. Villanueva’s was the last face he remembered as he was loaded onto the helicopter. Staff Sgt. Simon nearly died twice, and Lt. Villanueva was given his dog tags and asked to prepare a memorial speech for his parents. But Staff Sgt. Simon lived, and he planned to watch his friend play against the Chiefs, his favorite team, from the stands of Arrowhead Stadium.

“It’s going to be crazy,” said Mr. Simon, now retired from the military.

And, along with knowing pressure, these war veterans know crazy.

Related: This why the national anthem is played before sporting events

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The 18 greatest fighter aircraft of all time

Results are what make a weapons system great, not just technology.


In the case of fighter aircraft, it’s all about the kills, and with that as the main selection criteria, here’s WATM’s list of the 18 greatest fighters of all time:

1. Fokker Triplane

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

The iconic aircraft behind the World War I success of Manfred von Richthofen’s Flying Circus was actually designed after a Sopwith Triplane crashed behind German lines in 1917. The Fokker Triplane was relatively slow and hard to see out of, but it possessed an impressive turn rate that “The Red Baron” leveraged towards his war total of 80 confirmed kills.

2. Sopwith Camel

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
(Photo: The Canadian ace William Barker with his Sopwith Camel B6313.)

The Sopwith Camel had a more powerful engine and more firepower than the German fighters it went up against, and although the big engine made it hard to handle, in the hands of an experienced pilot the fighter was very lethal. The Sopwith Camel accounted for 1,294 air-to-air kills, the most of any model during World War I.

3. Mitsubishi Zero

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

At the outset of World War II in the Pacific, the Zero owned the skies, including those over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Zero was primarily carrier-based, highly maneuverable, and could fly long range. Because of this the Japanese enjoyed a 12-to-1 kill ratio over the allies during the first few years of the war.

4. Bf-109

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

Often incorrectly called the “Me 109,” the Bf-109 remains the most produced fighter aircraft in history and was one of the Luftwaffe’s air-to-air workhorses. The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories among them. Through constant design improvements and development by German engineers, the Bf 109 remained lethal in the face of allied technical advances throughout the war.

5. Focke-Wulf Fw-190

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

The Fw-190 was generally considered superior to the Bf-109 because of it’s bigger engine (a BMW inline 12) and greater firepower. Some of the Luftwaffe ‘ s most successful fighter aces flew the Fw 190, including Otto Kittel with 267 victories, Walter Nowotny with 258, and Erich Rudorffer with 222.

6. P-51 Mustang

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the clear need for an effective bomber escort starting in 1943. General James Doolittle told the fighters in early 1944 to stop flying in formation with the bombers and instead attack the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. The Mustang groups were sent in well before the bombers in a “fighter sweep” as a form of air supremacy action, intercepting German fighters while they were forming up. As a result, the Luftwaffe lost 17 percent of its fighter pilots in just over a week, and the Allies were able to establish air superiority. (Wikipedia)

7. P-38 Lightning

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

In spite of the fact that the twin-boom design limited roll rate performance, the P-38 tallied impressive kill numbers in the Pacific and the China-Burma-India areas when piloted by America’s top aces like Richard Bong (40 victories) and Thomas McGuire (38 victories).

8. P-47 Thunderbolt

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

In Europe during the critical first three months of 1944 when the German aircraft industry and Berlin were heavily attacked, the P-47 shot down more German fighters than the P-51 (570 out of 873), and shot down approximately 900 of the 1,983 claimed during the first six months of 1944. In Europe, Thunderbolts flew more sorties (423,435) than P-51s, P-38s and P-40s combined. Indeed, it was the P-47 which broke the back of the Luftwaffe on the Western Front in the critical period of January–May 1944. (Wikipedia)

9. Spitfire

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

The Spitfire achieved legendary status during the Battle of Britain by racking up the highest victory-to-loss ratio among British aircraft. Spitfires were flown by British aces Johnnie Johnson (34 kills), Douglas Bader (20 kills), and Bob Tuck (27 kills). The Spitfire was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft and was the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. (Wikipedia)

10. F4F Wildcat

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

The first of the Grumman “Cat” series, the carrier-based F4F was slower, shorter ranged, and less maneuverable than the Japanese Zero. However it’s ruggedness and the development of group tactics like the “Thatch Weave” allowed the Wildcat to ultimately prevail, tallying a nearly 7-to-1 kill ratio over the course of the war.

11. F6F Hellcat

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

The F6F was designed to improve on the Wildcat’s ability to counter the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and help secure air superiority over the Pacific Theater. Hellcats were credited with 5,223 kills, more than any other Allied naval aircraft.

12. F-4U Corsair

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

Know to the Japanese as “whistling death,” Corsairs claimed 2,140 air combat victories and an overall kill ratio of over 11-to-1. Legendary F4U pilots include Marines Joe Foss, Marion Carl, and Pappy Boyington.

13. MiG-15

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

With the Chinese entry into the Korean War, the MiG-15 began to appear in the skies over Korea. Quickly proving superior to straight-wing American jets such as the F-80 and F-84 Thunderjet, the MiG-15 temporarily gave the Chinese the advantage in the air and ultimately forced United Nations forces to halt daylight bombing until the F-86 arrived to level the air combat playing field.

14. F-86 Sabre

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

The F-86 was the U.S. answer to the MiG-15 that had dominated the skies over Korea in the early part of that conflict. Engagements in MiG Alley between the two aircraft were numerous, and that period is considered by many as the glory days of air-to-air warfare between jet aircraft. F-86s ended the war with a 10-to-1 kill ratio over the MiG-15s they faced.

15. F-4 Phantom

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

The F-4 was the fighter and attack workhorse for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for several decades and Phantom crews were the last to attain “ace” status in the 20th Century. The most noteworthy event happened on May 10, 1972, when Lieutenant Randy “Duke” Cunningham and Lieutenant (junior grade) William P. Driscoll shot down three MiG-17s to become the first American flying aces of the war.

16. MiG-21

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

One of the most widely used fighter aircraft in history, MiG-21s tallied impressive kill numbers during the Vietnam War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the India-Pakistan and Egypt-Israeli conflicts.

17. F-14 Tomcat

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

The Tomcat didn’t make this list because of it’s long service as the U.S. Navy’s front-line carrier-based fighter (in spite of the fact that “Top Gun” remains the greatest military movie of all time), but because the Iranian Air Force had more than 160 kills with it during the Iran-Iraq War.

18. F-15 Eagle

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

Eagles made dogfighting history during Operation Desert Storm, primarily because of their superior weapons suite, including state-of-the-art (at the time) identification capability. F-15s had 34 confirmed kills of Iraqi aircraft during the 1991 Gulf War.

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Meet the first woman to lead a Marine Corps tank platoon

Second Lt. Lillian Polatchek made history on Wednesday when she became the first female graduate of the Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course, and the first woman to lead a Marine tank platoon.


Polatchek graduated from the Army-led Basic Armor Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, at the top of her class of 67 Marines and soldiers.

She will soon report to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where she will serve as a tank officer with the 2nd Tank Battalion.

Also read: The Marine Corps just spent $6 million on a war tool invented in the barracks

Despite being a trailblazer, she downplayed her accomplishment in a video posted by the Marine Corps.

“Ultimately, I am sort of just looking at it as another Marine graduating from this course.”

The 19-week course at Fort Benning is required for service members to become armor officers. Polatchek’s class had only five Marines in it, but they all graduated in the top 20% of their class, including three in the top five, according to a Marine Corps press statement.

“The small group of Marines in the class worked really well together and that reflects in the class rankings,” Polatchek said.  “So it shows the success of all of our training up to this point and then how we worked well together as a group thanks to our instructors here.”

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
Polatchek presents an instructor with a graduation gift during the Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning. U.S. Marine Corps U.S. Marine Corps

“I think she’s an inspiration for other female Marine who’ve been looking at the corps and considering joining a ground combat military occupational specialty,” Capt. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for Marine Training and Education Command, told Business Insider in a phone interview. “She’s an example, and we’re very proud of her.”

She is the third female Marine officer to complete training for a front-line combat position. The military opened all combat jobs to women in April 2016.

Two female Marines finished artillery officer training in May 2016. Both are currently serving with the 11th Marines at Camp Pendelton in California, Pena said. Two more female Marine officer will start the Marine’s Infantry Officer Course this month to try to become the first women to serve as infantry officers.

More than 30 female Marine officers have previously washed out from the course.

Polatchek is a native of New York, and attended Connecticut College before being commissioned in November 2015. She reported to the Marine Corps Detachment at Fort Benning after graduating from The Basic School at Marine Corp Base Quantico, Virginia.

“A tank platoon has 16 Marines, and that small leadership-size really gives you, as a platoon commander, the ability to directly work with the Marines you’re leading,” Polatchek said. “I’m excited to take everything we’ve learned here and to get a chance to go out to the fleet and apply it.”

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Russian warplanes buzz an American destroyer in the Baltic Sea

Two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea on April 11 and 12, according to the U.S. Navy, who captured the aggressive moves and posted them to YouTube and the official Navy website.


American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) Two Russian aircraft simulating attacks over USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

The USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) tried to contact the Russian aircraft via the radio, but received no response. Such incidents happened routinely during the Cold War, but a joint agreement in 1972 by then-Secretary of the Navy John Warner and Soviet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov ended the practice by creating a policy of avoiding provocative interactions at sea.

The Cook, a guided missile destroyer, was operating in international waters in the Baltic Sea when the events took place over the two days. On April 11, Cook was conducting deck landing drills with an allied military helicopter, once while the helicopter was refueling on the ship’s deck.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very low altitude pass by USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

The U.S. military said the maneuvers were one of the most aggressive interactions in recent memory. Repeated flights by the Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes also flew so close they created wake in the water.

The SU-24 fighters made 11 passes, according to the Department of Defense. Although their maneuvers were aggressive, the planes carried no visible weaponry.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low altitude pass by USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

U.S. officials are using existing diplomatic channels to address the interactions while the incidents are also being reviewed through U.S. Navy channels. The nearest Russian-controlled territory was about 70 nautical miles away in the enclave of Kaliningrad, sitting between Lithuania and Poland.

 

The close calls on April 12 came when the Cook was still in international waters. This time a Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter conducted circles at low altitudes, making seven passes around the ship.

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Kamov KA-27 HELIX helicopter flies low-level passes near the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) while the ship was operating in international waters April 12, 2016. Donald Cook is forward deployed to Rota, Spain, and is conducting routine patrols in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy expressed its deep concerns about the Russian flight maneuvers, saying these actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death. Flight operations aboard the Cook were canceled until the Russians were clear of the area.

“In my judgement these maneuvers in close proximity to the Donald Cook are unprofessional and unsafe,” said Adm. Mark Ferguson, the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.