With 240 years of history, the U.S. Army has been around the block a few times. Artifacts from its history are put up in museums around the country, but a surprising number of awesome artifacts are kept in storage at a facility in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Here are five of the coolest things tucked away in the U.S. Army Museum Support Center.
(The Army is attempting to build a museum to display many of the artifacts in their collection. To see how to support its construction, check out the museum website. You can also find information on their Facebook.)
1. Badass weapons from history
The firearm collection in the Museum Support Center features weapons used since the start of the American Army. In addition to weapons carried by the average soldier, they have weapons that belonged to historic figures such as the sidearm carried by Maj. Walter Reed, the Army doctor credited with defeating yellow fever.
2. Original artwork by Norman Rockwell
The center is filled with awesome artwork commissioned by the Army, but the crown jewel of the 16,000 works of art is this painting by Norman Rockwell depicting a machine gunner firing into the night. Two other Norman Rockwell paintings are also in the collection.
3. Paintings from active duty soldiers
Famous civilians aren’t the only artists represented in the collections. Since World War I, the Army has maintained an art program in every major conflict. Now, artists in residency usually work in studios at the Museum Support Center in tours of duty two-three year long. They create original artwork that captures the emotion of the Army at war.
4. Uniform items from the Revolution to today
Carefully preserved in a series of shelves, gear and uniform items from the last 150 years are stored in the collection. This drum and hat were worn by Buffalo Soldiers in the Civil War. Gen. William Westmoreland’s uniform is in the collection as well. They even have a powder horn from 1775 that belonged to a Minute Man.
5. Captured enemy artwork and propaganda
Some of the most stunning displays in the collection were captured during war. This depiction of Hitler was bayoneted by the soldier who found it. America has 436 artifacts taken from Nazi Germany under the peace treaty as part of an effort to ensure the Nazi Party never rose again.
To learn more about the collection, check out the video below.
Daenerys Targaryen FINALLY landed on Westeros in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” She’s even started using the dragons and Dothraki on Westerosi armies! Even though she hasn’t (yet) moved on King’s Landing, there’s a lot of reason to believe it’s just a matter of time before the “game” is over.
This gives us a chance to stop and reflect on all the battles and strategies in the game that led us here. Even better, it gives us a chance to laugh at the worst leaders in the place and question why the hell they thought they could hang in the first place. At least Tommen knew he just wasn’t cut out for it.
7. Theon Greyjoy
Theon’s big victory wasn’t even really a fight. He told the Stark Army there was an attack somewhere else, and when they left he forced Bran to concede Winterfell to him. Then, right before the Iron Born immediately turned on him, he killed some farmer’s family and torched their two kids. Cool.
You know who the real loser was in the sack of Winterfell?
Rickon Stark. Rickon is the real loser in all this. By the time the Starks retake Winterfell, Bran can see through time, Arya has face-melting assassin skills, Jon Snow is hanging with the Mother of Dragons, and Sansa runs the place. What did Rickon get?
Theon sucks. He knew it, his men knew it, the Boltons knew it. And he’s at number seven on this list because we knew it too.
6. Ramsay Bolton
Sure, he seized the North (after it was decimated by the Iron Born, but whatever). We’ll give that to him. But the thing about the way a ruler like Ramsay Bolton operates is that there has to be an element of fear to fighting for him. That also means that there has to be a good chance you’ll survive. If you know you’re going to die no matter what, it makes it difficult to fight for survival.
In the Battle of the Bastards, Ramsay so casually mows down his own troops with arrows to the point that they’re indistinguishable from the enemy in the pile of bodies. See if you can spot the point when a bunch more guys from the Bolton Army would have really come in useful during the Battle of the Bastards:
Where was the shirtless Ramsay Bolton who fought the Iron Born at the Dread Fort?
5. Joffrey Baratheon
If only Stannis Baratheon had attacked King’s Landing with a bunch of prostitutes, then Joffrey would know how to kill the enemy. Donning the King’s Armor in the one time he had a chance to be a real leader, he bravely left the battlefield to go see what his mom wanted.
And don’t forget, Arya was embarrassing Joffrey before it was cool…and before she even had face-wrecking assassin powers.
4. Balon Greyjoy
Remember Balon? No? Funny how the worst among us are completely forgotten as soon as someone with skills and ability comes along.
The thing about Balon that’s different from most of the people on this list is that the other people had a reputation for valor, daring, and strategic thinking before the events depicted on the show. Not Balon. Before the events of the show, Balon led a rebellion from the Iron Islands and was quickly owned by Ned Stark. His biggest win was having Theon taken hostage.
Everyone spends the first season making fun of Balon in front of Theon. Only Yara gave a damn when Euron threw the old man over a bridge. In fact, the whole Game of Thrones series got exponentially better as soon as someone killed Balon.
3. The Night King
The Night King has existed since the age of the Children of the Forest. He has practically unlimited manpower that only grows the more he fights. And it’s next to impossible to stop his army in close quarters combat…unless you can figure out the three things that can actually hurt them. And the Night King is giving the living SO MUCH TIME TO FIGURE IT OUT.
Seriously, what is he doing beyond the wall? Every time we see him, he and his army of White Walkers look like they’re just walking around endlessly. Don’t they know they’re supposed to attack in the winter? I know it’s supposed to be the longest winter ever but that doesn’t mean he has to wait until the last minute to attack.
If he just started attacking now, he could swarm The Wall before Jon Snow can mine the Dragon Glass. Or before Dany can beat Cersei and focus the dragons on the North. But no, he’s going to walk around the land beyond The Wall because it’s apparently much more fun than winning. People who are older than history love to take walks.
2. Jaime Lannister
For all the stories you hear about Ser Jaime’s fighting ability, all he ever seems to do is get captured or almost die. When he does win, it’s not because he’s actually fighting. He makes the disappointment list because you feel like he should be better at fighting. And yet we have come to love him anyway.
Jaime didn’t kill Tyrion even though he believed Tyrion killed his son. Jaime failed to kill a small child by throwing him out a window. Even in combat, we’ve seen more success from Samwell Tarly. Tyrion managed to get a few kills in at the Blackwater — the most Jaime ever did was kill his cousin and lose a hand for his trouble.
It’s mind-boggling why Tyrion is the most disappointing Lannister (to the Lannisters, I mean). Jaime is the biggest liability in Westeros and all Tyrion has to do is tell an Army, “Let’s go kill those dudes attacking our city,” and he wins the day.
“But what about Riverrun?” you might ask. Early on, we hear about Jaime taking Riverrun from the Riverlords but by season six, he has to go retake it from the Blackfish. Taking a castle doesn’t do you any good if you can’t keep it. Ask Theon Greyjoy about that.
For the ultimate in Jaime Lannister’s bad decision-making skills, see the last five minutes of the seventh season episode “The Spoils of War” and remember Jaime’s quote: “We can hold them off.” Hey bud, everyone knows she’s got fire-breathing dragons and a barbaric horde of Dothraki horse archers.
Not only did Jaime do nothing for his troops, he didn’t even get the anti-dragon gun ready to fight. That thing stayed in the wagon waaaaaaaaaay too long.
1. Stannis Baratheon
For what all the bookreaders have to say about Stannis Baratheon, we sure expected some magic from this guy. The only magical thing about Stannis came out of Melisandre.
At the Battle of the Blackwater, Stannis drove his Navy into the bay, which would seem like the best idea. But a little bit of intel work and he would have known the Lannisters poured a ton of electric green stuff into the bay in anticipation of the battle, which everyone knew was coming. Then, Stannis did exactly what everyone expected him to do – a frontal assault. No wonder the Lannisters knew exactly how to wipe the floor with his gate crashers.
Also, underestimating the wealthiest family on the continent was a terrible call. They control Casterly Rock and King’s Landing. Why did Stannis never consider the possibility of a relief force from Casterly Rock? Tywin Lannister was known for his ability as a soldier and general and the Lannisters were allied with the Tyrells. Stannis, whose moves surprise no one, never considers outside forces. Like…did he forget he was in The War of Five Kings?
To top that, the real heir to Robert Baratheon led a depleted army against Winterfell. A real commander would work to prepare the army, maybe get some more allies at the last minute, work on a secret plan or weapon to even the odds of assaulting a fortified position. Not Stannis. His ace in the hole was to roast his daughter alive.
Founded more than 130 years ago, Sears is one of the most recognizable brands in America.
With everything from power tools, to appliances and auto parts — and a myriad other products for every American home — Sears has been a part of making life better for generations.
But the company has gone well beyond simply supplying consumers with the products they need and has played a key role in helping America’s veterans have a safe place to live. For almost a decade, Sears has sponsored the Heroes at Home initiative where it has helped raise more than $20 million to rebuild 1,600 homes across the United States.
This year, Sears teamed with the non-profit Rebuilding Together to construct wheelchair access ramps for vets in need. Dubbed the “Heroes at Home for the Holidays” program, Sears shoppers donated more than $700,000 to support the campaign, exceeding the program’s goals.
According to the Center for Housing Policy and the National Housing Conference, 26 percent of post-9/11 veterans (and 14 percent of all veterans) have a service-connected disability and face housing accessibility challenges as they transition from military to civilian life.
“We’re thankful for the incredible generosity of our Shop Your Way members and associates who have carried on Sears’ long tradition of supporting our nation’s veterans and military families,” said Gerry Murphy, Chief Marketing Officer, Sears. “The holidays are not only about giving, but giving back. Our members have proved once again that simple, small gestures by many can result in immediate, long-term impact for America’s veterans.”
See a video of the first Heroes at Home for the Holidays ramp project which was built with the help of celebrity designer Ty Pennington for Air Force vet and non-profit director Missy Melvin and her veteran care facility.
The Italian Renaissance had a pretty cutthroat political climate, but King Ferrante I of Naples carved out his own niche of crazy. Born the illegitimate son of Alfonso V of Aragon in 1423, Ferrante (“Ferdinand” in Italian) spent most of his life wrangling his Neapolitan realm into submission. The experience turned him into a real brute.
Ferrante didn’t let most of his enemies go free. Instead, he killed and mummified them—keeping their preserved corpses in the castle of Castelnuovo for his own enjoyment. He loved having them close by, according to nineteenth-century historian Jacob Burckhardt, “either in well-guarded prisons, or dead and embalmed, dressed in the costume which they wore in their lifetime.” A contemporary chronicler described them as “a frightful sight,” having been “pickled with herbs,” as a warning to future royal enemies.
Ferrante I as a bust, not a mummy
How did Ferrante get so twisted? King Alfonso didn’t have any legitimate male heirs of his own at the time, and he really wanted his not-so-secret love child to rule over at least part of his burgeoning empire. Thus, he gave Ferdinand the best education he could afford: tutoring by Rodrigo Borgia (later Ferrante’s mortal enemy when he became a cardinal, then Pope Alexander VI). Despite his legitimization, Ferrante struggled to hold on to his territory, facing opposition from numerous popes and the Frenchcandidate to his throne, Duke Jean II of Anjou.
Needless to say, Ferrante hated Jean and his French pals, even after he beat them, so he devised his own morbid revenge. After he dominated the French in 1465, Ferrante invited a bunch of his rebellious nobles and their families over to his castle for dinner. He ostensibly was showing his benevolence, and who wouldn’t want to make up over a meal? Unfortunately for his guests, Ferrante wasn’t in a forgiving mood. He fed some of them to the crocodiles in his moat and threw the rest in prison—keeping some of them there for the next thirty years. The King threw another enemy out the window (the Neapolitans loved defenestration). Some of these guys probably wound up in his mummy collection.
What makes her unique is that the Sao Paolo is one of the last conventionally-powered aircraft carriers in service.
Most aircraft carriers today are nuclear-powered. The Foch and her sister ship Clemenceau — both named for French leaders in World War I — were to be replaced by a pair of nuclear-powered carriers. Only one of the new carriers was built, but France disposed of both carriers, selling the Foch to Brazil, and the Clemenceau to a scrapyard. The Foch was commissioned in 1963, and served with the French Navy for 37 years before she was sold to Brazil, where she served another 17 years.
The French had hoped to keep her in service until 2039, but the Foch was proving to be the maritime equivalent of a hangar queen.
The demise of the Foch is part of a larger trend. Most navies seeking a carrier that launch high-performance planes (as opposed to those that operate V/STOL jets like the AV-8B Harrier and Sea Harrier) have gone nuclear. The United States has 11 nuclear-powered carriers, France has one.
India, Russia, and China each have one conventionally-fueled carrier that launch high-performance jets, and India and China are building more. But Russia and China are planning to go to nuclear-powered carriers. The British are building the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, but they’re only flying the V/STOL version of the F-35 Lightning.
Why are conventional fuels like oil or gas fading out for supercarriers? It’s very simple: endurance matters. When you’re launching a conventional plane from a carrier, you need to get them up quickly or they go in the drink.
The Foch’s forward deck, showing some of the planes she operated in French service. (Wikimedia Commons)
To get those planes to climb quickly, carriers use catapults, but it helps when they can turn into the wind and go at speed. A nuclear-powered carrier can do that for years. Really, the only limits are how much ordnance and gas for the planes and food for the crew it can carry.
For a conventionally-fueled carrier, well… it’s got to refuel, too. That means you need to invest in a lot more ships.
So, as the Foch heads off to become razor blades, joining many other conventionally-fueled aircraft carriers not designed to use high-performance jets, it marks the departure of one of these magnificent vessels. The United States has been scrapping many of its old conventionally-fueled carriers, too. The fact is, if you want a carrier that can operate high-performance jets, you gotta have a nuke – and that leaves no future for ships like Foch.
Undaunted by the need for a proprietary algorithm and the fact that Twitter wasn’t founded until 2006, a group of military historians were able to dig up these tweets under the third ‘O’ of the HOLLYWOOD sign (just above WATM’s headquarters) after receiving a tip from the ghost of Jimmy Stewart in the American Legion Post 43’s men’s room. Like all important artifacts, these 9 tweets shed light on history (in this case in 140 characters or less):
The military has a lot of rules and some of them are hard to follow every day in every instance. We’re not saying that everyone should be prosecuted under any of these articles, we’re just saying that a lot of people technically break these rules.
1. DISRESPECT TOWARD SUPERIOR COMMISSIONED OFFICER (ART. 89)
“Any person subject to this chapter who behaves with disrespect toward his superior commissioned officer shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
“Can’t spell lost without the LT!” called in cadence in the presence of an officer is technically a violation of Article 89.
Interestingly, this is one of the few times where the word, “toward,” in an article doesn’t require that the victim be present. Service members can be prosecuted under Article 89 for disrespecting an officer even if that officer didn’t hear or see anything. For the NCO equivalent listed below, the NCO or warrant officer must be present and hear or witness the disrespect.
(1) strikes or assaults a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer, while that officer is in the execution of his office;
(2) willfully disobeys the lawful order of a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer; or
(3) treats with contempt or is disrespectful in language or deportment toward a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer while that officer is in the execution of his office;
shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
Anyone who has mouthed off to a superior NCO or warrant officer is guilty, provided they knew that the person was an NCO or warrant officer at the time. Talking back to a squad leader could trigger Article 91. This also covers assaulting or disobeying a lawful order from a superior NCO or warrant officer.
3. MILITARY PROPERTY OF UNITED STATES-LOSS, DAMAGE, DESTRUCTION, OR WRONGFUL DISPOSITION (ART. 108)
“Any person subject to this chapter who, without proper authority–
(1) sells or otherwise disposes of;
(2) willfully or through neglect damages, destroys, or loses; or
(3) willfully or through neglect suffers to be lost, damaged, sold, or wrongfully disposed of;
any military property of the United States, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
Getting the corpsman or medic to give an unnecessary I.V. or walking off with a couple of MREs falls under Article 108. Even painting hilarious graffiti on a bunker counts.
Side note: Some people like to claim that this article forbids troops from getting sunburn because that’s damage to “government property.” The Stars and Stripes Rumor Doctor investigated this and experts in military law told him this isn’t true for two reasons. First, service members are not military property. Second, the government has to quantify the damage done to the property which is nearly impossible when referring to a human being.
4. PROPERTY OTHER THAN MILITARY PROPERTY OF UNITED STATES – WASTE, SPOILAGE, OR DESTRUCTION (ART. 109)
“Any person subject to this chapter who willfully or recklessly wastes, spoils, or otherwise willfully and wrongfully destroys or damages any property other than military property of the United States shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
This article is pretty broad, referring to any willful or reckless destruction of someone else’s personal property. So service members who vandalize a porta-potty rented from a vendor are technically guilty. In practice of course, the damage needs to be worth investigating and the government has to prove a certain person committed the act at a specified place and time.
5. GENERAL ARTICLE (ART. 134)
“Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.”
There are many ways to fall foul of Article 134, but the most common is probably using indecent language. Any indecent language, especially if it causes “lustful thoughts,” can trigger the article.
New aircraft make up half the Navy’s $5.3 billion unfunded requirements list of items that didn’t fit in the 2018 budget request. But while the wishlist includes several upgrades to existing vessels, as well as new landing craft and barges, it doesn’t ask for any new warships.
Instead of ships, the unfunded requirements list prioritizes aircraft: $739 million for 10 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters takes first place, followed by $1 billion for six P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance planes, and $540 million for four F-35C Joint Strike Fighters. The fourth and fifth items are for upgrades to the Navy’s long-neglected infrastructure of shore facilities, reflecting military leadership’s desire to patch major holes in readiness.
about $3.4 billion of the request, or 63 percent, goes for weapons procurements. (The way the items are listed means this sum includes a small amount of RD funding as well). Of that, the lion’s share, $2.7 million, goes to buy new aircraft: the F-18s, P-8As, and F-35Cs, plus four cargo variants of the V-22 Osprey.
$1.3 billion, 24 percent, goes for facilities, counting both readiness funding (from the Operations Maintenance account) and Military Construction. $480 million, 9 percent, goes for other readiness needs, $330 million of it for aviation: logistics, spare parts, and general support.
$101 million, 2 percent, goes to research, development, testing, evaluation. (That’s not including small RDTE sums wrapped up in weapons upgrades we counted as procurement).
Just $90 million, 2 percent, goes to military personnel, filling holes in short-handed units rather than growing the force.
If you break the list up by priority ranking, you see some striking patterns. Almost all the procurement requests, $3.1 billion, are in the top 12 items, with the best odds of passing. What little RD money there is almost all comes in the top half of the list (items #1-24). Personnel requests, however, are clustered in the middle, with middling odds of being funded. Facilities is split: 53 percent of the request are in the top 12, 38 percent in the bottom 12, very little in the middle. Non-facilities readiness requests are almost entirely in the bottom half.
Specifically, when you discount lower-priority requests, procurement’s share jumps even higher, to 75 percent; facilities drops to 18 percent; other readiness to four percent; RD stays at 2 percent; and personnel falls to one percent of the request.
Yet despite all that emphasis on procurement, there are still no new ships. Congress will want to change that.
Being in combat is one of the craziest experiences a person can have. Bullets are zipping by your melon and impacting the wall behind you, eyes wide and on the alert as the incoming rounds blanket your position. Sounds crazy. Because it is.
War is hell.
Well-trained military minds know, winning the battle is the most important aspect of winning the war. In combat, the rules are different than in any other situation you’ll probably find yourself. All available fingers need to be pulling triggers.
So if allied forces take a mass casualty, the guy who is hurt the worst isn’t necessarily the one who gets treated first.
During combat, the rules on who receives care first changes in a matter of moments. If a squad is under heavy attack and a few trigger pullers get hurt, then the unit is down a few bodies.
After the field medic takes care of their wounds, let’s say subject “A” sustained a “GSW” or gunshot wound to the chest, they are now out of the fight. If subject “B” took a bullet to their leg, they’re still considered in the fight because it’s not life-threatening.
So during wartime rules, subject “B” is supposed to be treated first to allow them the chance to get back on their weapon system and return to the fight. Hopefully subject “A” will be okay and pull through.
Mobile gaming is awesome, and all the rage. Here are 8 great military ones:
1. Modern Combat 5: Blackout
Good graphics and an awesome storyline for mobile combine with player vs. player modes to make MC5: Blackout a gem. Be warned though, the game gives an even larger than normal advantage to those players who use in-app purchases to get better equipment.
Call of Duty: Strike Team allows the player to control a fire team of special operators as they seek out those responsible for a surprise attack on the U.S. in 2020. In both first and third-person mode, it features great graphics and gameplay, but the settings all start to look the same after a few missions.
Battle Supremacy focuses on tank warfare from World War II. It’s graphics are great for a mobile game and features player vs. player combat. Players can use cover and concealment and the maps are large enough to allow for some real strategy.
The player can also use planes or rocket-ships in a couple of instances.
A turn-based strategy game that centers around a four-man Special Forces team, Arma Tactics drops the player into modern combat. The game features a campaign mode as well as randomized levels so there’s always something new to play.
A World War II version is available on iOS and Android.
6. SAS: Zombie Assault 4
It’s all in the title. Drop in as a single SAS operative or join a squad of four elite soldiers battling the undead. SAS: Zombie Assault 4 is a topdown shooter that keeps it simple, gratuitously violent, and fun.
Build a base and marshall forces in this strategy game set in the Star Wars universe. You can choose which side to fight for and raise armies of storm troopers or Rebel soldiers along with a selection of vehicles and spaceships.
Frontline Commando is an older game that pits the player as a sole survivor of an attack against the entire army of the dictator who killed his team. This third-person shooter has lots of weapons and power-ups to try and the storyline can keep you entertained for hours. Unfortunately, there’s no multiplayer.
The American Legion is calling on Congress to reconsider its position on marijuana, asking lawmakers to remove the drug from Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act and reclassify it as a drug with “potential medical value.”
In a resolution passed at the 98th National Convention of the American Legion on Sept. 1, the Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Convention Committee unanimously recommended the delegates pass a resolution urging the DEA to “license privately-funded medical marijuana production operations in the United States to enable safe and efficient cannabis drug development research.”
Officials with the American Legion say there’s some evidence marijuana helps in the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD. Research conducted by the Legion’s Ad Hoc Committee on TBI/PTSD found that the conditions cost the economy $60 billion.
“The response of the membership has been very positive,” says William Detweiler, the chairman of the Legion’s Ad Hoc Committee on TBI/PTSD. “Our veterans deserve the best medical care that we can offer. We believe that funding additional medical research in this field will provide another ‘tool’ in the physician’s toolbox for treatment.”
In 2011, the Ad Hoc Committee was formed to look into the issues surrounding the treatment of veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress. The goal was to determine what treatments are being employed by VA and DoD currently and what other treatments and protocols that may be available that are not being currently used or approved.
Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act includes drugs like marijuana, heroin, and LSD while Schedule 2 includes oxycodone, morphine, and Ritalin.
Now that the national convention passed the resolution supporting medical marijuana research for veterans with certain conditions, the National Commander of the American Legion and the staff can urge Congress and the DEA to provide funds for research on medical cannabis.
Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West said marijuana is still an illegal drug and soldiers using it will face discipline, but she sees some benefit to using chemicals within pot to treat PTSD and TBI.
“Using marijuana has a lot of adverse health effects, it’s surprising that’s not brought out when they’re trying to legalize it. … It’s more dangerous that some of the carcinogens that are in tobacco,” West said during a media roundtable in Washington. “But if there’s some component of [marijuana] that can be useful to treat our service members, anyone who has post-traumatic stress disorder … I’m for that.”
The American Legion did not survey the 2.4 million veterans it represents to find their feelings on medical marijuana but has found their constituents to be generally receptive to the idea.
“Veterans are exhausted and feel like guinea pigs; they’re getting desperate,” said Dr. Sue Sisley, a researcher from Arizona who spoke at the Legion’s National Convention. “It’s a big breakthrough. While I can’t say definitively that medical marijuana works for PTSD – we are three years away from published data – we owe it to veterans to study this plant.”
Standing proudly in front of a B-25 Mitchell on display for a recent airshow in the central Texas town of Burnet, retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole slowly walked up to the antique bomber and clutched one of its propeller blades.
The last surviving Doolittle Raider, who had just marked his 101st birthday a few days before, smiled as he reminisced in the shadow of the bomber — a link to his storied past.
“When we got the B-25, it was a kick in the butt,” he later said, adding that he first flew the B-18 Bolo out of flight school. “It was fast and very maneuverable, with a good, steady bombing platform. You could fly it all over.”
Seventy-plus years ago, he co-piloted a similar bomber alongside then-Lt. Col. James Doolittle during a pivotal mission April 18, 1942, that helped turn the tide for the allies in the Pacific theater of World War II.
As the final member of the famed 80-man Army Air Forces unit, Cole was chosen to announce the name of the Air Force’s newest bomber, the B-21 Raider, at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference on Sept. 19 in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve never flown in any of the modern bombers so it’s pretty hard to realize how all of the improvements have meant to aviation,” he said at the Sept. 10 airshow. “All I can say is that the B-25 was like having a Ford Model T, (and now pilots are) getting into a Mustang.”
Following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle developed a plan to retaliate with a daring air raid on Japan. Without escort fighters, he and the other crewmembers flew 16 modified Army B-25s off an aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet, for a one-way trip that had the makings of a suicide mission. The plan called for the aircraft, which were incapable of landing back on the aircraft carrier, to bomb industrial and military targets in five cities on the Japanese home islands and then continue on to friendly airfields in China.
Forced to launch 10 hours earlier than planned, due to the task force being spotted by a Japanese patrol boat, many aircrews later had to bail out of their fuel-parched aircraft after dropping their bomb loads. Doolittle’s crew, including Cole, parachuted into China and linked up with Chinese guerillas operating behind Japanese lines who helped them escape.
“The main memory I have was when my parachute opened,” Cole said of the mission. “But that was part of the job. I’d rather be sitting here than worried about a parachute jump.”
Being alone to tell the Raiders’ story these days has been something of a paradox for Cole.
“You can’t help but be happy that you’re here but on the other side of the coin you also wish that the people who were with you were here too,” he said. “But you know that that’s not possible so you have to live with it.”
The average age of the Raiders during the mission was 22, while Cole was a 26-year-old lieutenant, according to his daughter, Cindy Cole Chal.
“Dad was older on the raid,” she said. “Nobody thought that Dad would be the last one, even though he’s been in excellent health.”
Former Staff Sgt. David Thatcher was the second to last living Raider before he died at the age of 94. He was buried with full military honors June 27 in Montana.
As a 20-year-old gunner in Flight Crew No. 7, then-Cpl. Thatcher saved his four other crewmembers when their B-25 crash-landed into the sea near the Chinese coast after it bombed Japanese factories in Tokyo. He pulled them to safety on the surrounding beach and applied life-saving medical treatment, despite having injuries himself. He later earned the Silver Star for his actions.
Meanwhile, Cole parachuted into rainy weather at night and landed in a tree located on precarious terrain.
“I was fortunate in that I never touched the ground. My parachute drifted over a tall pine tree and caught on top leaving me about 10 feet off the ground,” he recounted in a 1973 letter posted on the official Doolittle Raider website. “At daybreak I was able to see that the terrain was very rough and had I tried to look around at night; probably would have fallen down a very steep hill.”
Once the sun rose, Cole walked westward and the next day he found an outpost belonging to the Chinese guerillas, the letter states.
On April 18, 2015, Cole and Thatcher were presented the Congressional Gold Medal for the Raiders’ efforts, the highest civilian honor given by Congress.
In his speech, a playful Cole couldn’t resist a touch of humor.
“Tonight’s affair couldn’t have been planned more accurately,” Cole said. “As I remember, the mission was over, it was Saturday night on the 18th of April and about this time David Thatcher was on the beach in China saving the rest of his crew and I was hanging in my parachute in a tree.”
Also at the ceremony, Thatcher spoke candidly as he gave advice to today’s Airmen.
“Be prepared for anything you run into — we weren’t,” he said. “Learn everything you possibly can, and be good at it.”
Seven Raiders died during the mission: three were killed in action while another three were captured and executed and one died of disease in captivity.
The bombing runs did little damage but the mission rekindled the morale of the American people and struck fear into the Japanese with aircraft reaching their homeland.
“Knowing that we did the mission and did it like it was supposed to be done, we felt pretty good about it,” Cole said.
In response, the Japanese maneuvered their forces from around Australia and India to the Central Pacific, and sent two aircraft carriers to Alaska.
“The Japanese thought we were going to make more visits. But we didn’t have any equipment to do it and we had no plans for it,” Cole said. “For some reason they moved two carriers to Alaska, thinking that’s where we came from. When they did that, it evened up the number of carriers we had available for Midway.”
The Battle of Midway proved to be a major turning point in the war. Believing their Central Pacific flank to be vulnerable because of the Doolittle Raid, the Japanese launched an invasion force to secure the isolated atoll of Midway to establish a base and airfield. Unaware that U.S. Naval Intelligence had broken their naval codes and knew the date and location of the impending attack, the Japanese sailed directly into an ambush set by three U.S. carriers.
When the smoke cleared, U.S. Navy dive-bombers had sunk four Japanese carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all members of the six-carrier force that had launched the attack on Pearl Harbor, and more than 3,000 men, including many experienced combat pilots. The U.S. lost one carrier, the USS Yorktown, and about 300 men. The Japanese remained on the defensive for the rest of the war.
“When the time came for the Battle of Midway, the (U.S.) Navy was able to win and that started the Japanese on the downhill,” he said.
Nowadays, Cole has shifted his focus away from the twin-engine bomber to his tractor and lawnmower. He refuses to let his age stand in the way of his daily chores. So when not traveling for events, he tends to his acreage in Comfort, Texas, about an hour’s drive northwest from San Antonio.
“People ask me if I’m getting any flying time and I say, ‘Well, I’m getting a lot of single-engine time with the lawnmower,” he said, chuckling.
To keep the memory of Doolittle and the rest of the Raiders alive, he helps sell his book, “Dick Cole’s War,” which documents not only the Doolittle Raid, but his service after that mission with the First Air Commandos in Burma. Proceeds from the book go into a scholarship fund in Doolittle’s name for students in the aviation field.
Cahl estimates her father has put in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sales of books and signed lithograph prints into the fund to honor Doolittle, who died in 1993.
“All the time when I was flying with Colonel Doolittle, I was in awe over the fact that I was sitting next to him,” Cole said. “He put the word ‘team’ in the forefront of the English language.”
Now the sole survivor, Cole wants no part being the poster child for the historic mission.
“You did the mission. You did what you were supposed to do,” he said. “The people who were involved are all passing (away) and that’s the way it ends.
“I didn’t think any of the Raiders wanted to be singled out. We just wanted to be part of the big picture.”
The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been in production longer than any other, and it’s easy to see why troops love it.
Since the 1930s, “Ma Deuce” has been serving troops on the ground, in vehicles, and in aircraft, and with its effectiveness and reliability, it doesn’t look like this weapon is going out of style any time soon. Originally developed during World War I by John Browning, the weapon is now in the hands of U.S. troops and a number of NATO allies.
The M2 .50 cal has served troops well in Iraq and Afghanistan as a fearsome automatic weapon usually mounted to vehicles.
But it was just as deadly in Normandy in 1944 …
… As it is overlooking remote bases in Afghanistan today.
With a belt-fed .50 BMG round, it packs serious punch that can effectively hit targets out to 1,800 meters.
The weapon can fire a variety of ammunition types, such as standard ball, blanks, armor-piercing (AP), armor-piercing incendiary (API), armor-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) …
… And the crowd favorite: Saboted Light Armor Penetrator (SLAP), which can bust through steel.
Troops can find the .50 cal everywhere from the perimeter of the forward operating base …
Once it’s ready to go, soldiers place the rounds on the feed tray, make sure the cover is closed, and pull the bolt to the rear to load the weapon.
Then it’s ready to rock and roll. The .50 can fire in single shot or fully automatic mode.
At the rear, soldiers grab the “spade” handle and fire it using a butterfly trigger. They need to be careful however: There’s no safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge (Some variants have been fielded which feature a positive safety selector).
While it’s most often mounted to vehicles in a rotating turret …
… Ma Deuce can also be found on the side of helicopters.
And with the use of a tripod, it can also be fired very effectively from the ground.
Correction: This post was updated with new information to reflect the fielding of the M2A1 variant and other versions, which feature safety selectors, and don’t require the need for adjustments to headspace and timing.