Enlisted pilots have not been in the Air Force since its inception in 1947. They were not paid well, they did not have many opportunities for promotion, and were treated “harshly” in training. Even the title of the book about enlisted pilot heritage is called They Also Flew.
The lack of commissioned officers to handle global aircraft transport and other monotonous work led to three generations of enlisted pilots. Non-commissioned officers were usually certified to fly in the civilian world, but not qualified to be commanders.
After “months of study,” the Air Force is working to fix the issues of its drone operations programs. Drones have become the signature tool in the Global War on Terror in recent years, operating in intelligence, counter-terrorism, and surveillance roles. Drone pilots complain they are overworked and stressed out while Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says Air Force commanders demand more and more drone operations.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk (U.S. Air Force photo/Bobbi Zapka)
Now enlisted personnel will be allowed to pilot the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk spy drone and may eventually be permitted to operate the missile-firing MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones. The Air Force says the initial step of opening the Global Hawk is because it is easier to operate.
In days gone by, enlisted pilots usually were assigned to fly light reconnaissance and artillery-spotter aircraft, cargo aircraft, and medium- and heavy-weight bombers. In 1942, Congress passed the Flight Officer Act, which replaced flying sergeants with Warrant Officers, which were also discarded by the Air Force. In 1943, all enlisted flyers were promoted to the new “Flight Officer” rank. The enlisted legacy is a long and storied one. Enlisted pilots taught Charles Lindbergh to fly. One of the last members of the enlisted pilot training program was Gen. Chuck Yeager, who would become famous for breaking the sound barrier later in his career.
Drone pilots already complain that they are held in lower regard than traditional fighter pilots and that allowing enlisted airmen in will only increase the stigma.
Every day, countless men and women who served in the armed forces return home from war with wounds that are invisible — most never reach out to seek help.
As new mental health treatments are developed, many don’t want to be placed on a cocktail of medication they can’t pronounce and put them in a fog. That’s where an organization called Mutual Rescue can help.
David Whitman and Carol Novello created a national animal-welfare initiative that aims to connect loving and homeless pets with people who are in need of specialized care.
“Even before he was my cat, before he even knew me that well, Scout saved my life,” said Josh Marino, an Iraq war vet. “He put me on a different path. He gave me the confidence to try to come back from all the adversity that I was feeling.”
Check out Mutual Rescue‘s video for Josh Scout’s uplifting story of how animals can rescue their owners.
When people talk about the aircraft carriers of World War II, some names jump out right away. Maybe the USS Enterprise (CV 6), both versions of the USS Yorktown (CV 5 and CV 10), or the USS Hornet (CV 8)?
But one carrier that was present at the start of World War II and survived throughout the war isn’t that well known. Meet America’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4).
The Ranger, like many pre-war American ship designs, was heavily influenced by the Washington Naval Treaty. This limited aircraft carriers to 27,000 tons per ship, and the United States Navy’s carrier force could have a total displacement of 135,000 tons. The conversion of the under-construction battle cruisers Lexington (then-CC 1) and Saratoga (then-CC 3) to CV 2 and CV 3 put them both at 33,000 tons.
As such, the Ranger was limited to 14,500 tons – and the U.S. wanted to cram as much as it could on this ship. She received eight 5-inch, 25-caliber guns, as well as a host of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. She also could carry around 75 aircraft.
Nine Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters and five Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers are visible on the flight deck of USS Ranger (CV 4) prior to Operation Torch. Note Ranger´s distinctive stacks in the left foreground. (US Navy photo)
When World War II broke out, the USS Ranger was in the Atlantic as part of the Neutrality Patrol, along with the carrier USS Wasp (CV 7). According to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships,” the Ranger was sent to patrol the South Atlantic. After returning for repairs, the Ranger then was tasked with delivering P-40 Warhawks to Africa. She made two runs in the spring and summer of 1942, delivering 140 of those planes – some of which were destined to reinforce the Flying Tigers.
In November of 1942, the Ranger took part in Operation Torch, launching 54 F4F Wildcats and 18 SBD Dauntless dive bombers. Her planes sank or damaged two French warships, and also gave the landings fighter cover.
After Torch, the Ranger was overhauled, then delivered 75 more P-40s — this time for the North African Theater of Operations. She carried out training missions during most of 1943, until she was attached to the Home Fleet.
In October, 1943, the USS Ranger joined the British Home Fleet, and carried out a number of strikes on German naval forces around Norway. After that, she again served as an aircraft ferry, delivering 76 P-38 Lightning fighters to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.
After making that delivery, the Ranger finally went to the Pacific, where she was a training carrier until the end of the war. After the war, the USS Ranger was decommissioned and sold for scrap.
Rambo. Just the name brings to mind a mix of hyper-masculine imagery and badassery. Big guns, big knives, and big, luscious hair. It doesn’t get more classic 1980s action hero than Rambo.
Despite First Blood’s now iconic status, here are some interesting facts you might not know about this blockbuster.
A War you won’t believe
What do you think the body count for First Blood is — 20, 30, 300? I mean, it would have to be high, right? It’s Rambo! The film is centered around a hardened Vietnam War-era Green Beret running around with a giant knife and an M60 waging a one-man war against a local sheriff and his deputies and the National Guard. Well, this hardened killer showed more restraint than lethality in his debut feature, racking up a surprising number of kills: one. That’s right, one kill … and he did it with a rock … by accident. Go watch it again if you don’t believe me.
Stallone wasn’t the first choice for the role
Several actors were considered for the role of Rambo before Sylvester Stallone was cast as the lead. Al Pacino considered the role, but he ultimately turned it down, as he felt that Rambo wasn’t eccentric or crazy enough — this likely came as a surprise to no one. James Garner, a Korean War veteran with two Purple Hearts, also turned it down as he felt the lead character represented veterans poorly. Paul Newman, who was considered not only for the role of Rambo but also Rocky, declined, too. Clint Eastwood also was considered, but he ultimately declined as he was too busy being an absolute legend.
People got hurt
As one might expect with the filming of an action movie, a few people were injured during the making of First Blood. Most notably, in the scene where Rambo escapes the local jail, he slide-kicks and then elbows a sheriff’s deputy in the face, leaving him lying on the floor screaming in pain. Fun fact: Those screams were real. Stallone broke the stuntman’s nose during that take, and they used the footage in the final film.
Also, during the chase scene following Rambo’s jailbreak, a stuntman flipped a cruiser going 70 mph and rolled it several hundred feet, causing the stuntman to sustain a broken back among several other injuries. Stallone also managed to break a rib on a tree branch during filming. It’s rumored the branch will make a comeback as Sly’s next opponent in the 20th sequel to Rocky.
The actual military had to get involved
Filming of First Blood actually took place in Canada, and due to Canada’s strict gun laws, these weapons had to be imported from the United States. Unfortunately, $50,000 worth of those firearms were stolen from the set and never recovered. The weapons were modified to fire blanks but could have been changed back to fire live rounds. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian military were brought in to provide security for the set after the theft.
The movie came from a much more violent novel
Believe it or not, the movie actually is based on a 1972 novel called First Blood by David Morrell. The film and book are comparatively similar, but they do have a few distinct differences. Sylvester Stallone himself wanted the changes to make Rambo more palatable to moviegoers. Some notable changes from novel to movie: Rambo didn’t carry around a giant knife in the novel, he killed a lot of people, and at the end of the novel, he dies. Stallone decided to dial back Rambo’s killing ways to make him more likable and sympathetic. Did it work? That’s for you to decide.
“In nonviolent technique, as I have said, there is no such thing as defeat. It is all ‘do or die’ without killing or hurting,” Gandhi wrote to Hitler. “It can be used practically without money and obviously without the aid of science of destruction which you have brought to such perfection.
“It is a marvel to me that you do not see that it is nobody’s monopoly. If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud.”
That I address you as a friend is no formality. I own no foes. My business in life has been for the past 33 years to enlist the friendship of the whole of humanity by befriending mankind, irrespective of race, colour or creed.
I hope you will have the time and desire to know how a good portion of humanity who have view living under the influence of that doctrine of universal friendship view your action. We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents. But your own writings and pronouncements and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human dignity, especially in the estimation of men like me who believe in universal friendliness. Such are your humiliation of Czechoslovakia, the rape of Poland and the swallowing of Denmark. I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity. Hence we cannot possibly wish success to your arms.
But ours is a unique position. We resist British Imperialism no less than Nazism. If there is a difference, it is in degree. One-fifth of the human race has been brought under the British heel by means that will not bear scrutiny. Our resistance to it does not mean harm to the British people. We seek to convert them, not to defeat them on the battle-field. Ours is an unarmed revolt against the British rule. But whether we convert them or not, we are determined to make their rule impossible by non-violent non-co-operation. It is a method in its nature indefensible. It is based on the knowledge that no spoliator can compass his end without a certain degree of co-operation, willing or compulsory, of the victim. Our rulers may have our land and bodies but not our souls. They can have the former only by complete destruction of every Indian—man, woman and child. That all may not rise to that degree of heroism and that a fair amount of frightfulness can bend the back of revolt is true but the argument would be beside the point. For, if a fair number of men and women be found in India who would be prepared without any ill will against the spoliators to lay down their lives rather than bend the knee to them, they would have shown the way to freedom from the tyranny of violence. I ask you to believe me when I say that you will find an unexpected number of such men and women in India. They have been having that training for the past 20 years.
We have been trying for the past half a century to throw off the British rule. The movement of independence has been never so strong as now. The most powerful political organization, I mean the Indian National Congress, is trying to achieve this end. We have attained a very fair measure of success through non-violent effort. We were groping for the right means to combat the most organized violence in the world which the British power represents. You have challenged it. It remains to be seen which is the better organized, the German or the British. We know what the British heel means for us and the non-European races of the world. But we would never wish to end the British rule with German aid. We have found in non-violence a force which, if organized, can without doubt match itself against a combination of all the most violent forces in the world. In non-violent technique, as I have said, there is no such thing as defeat. It is all ‘do or die’ without killing or hurting. It can be used practically without money and obviously without the aid of science of destruction which you have brought to such perfection. It is a marvel to me that you do not see that it is nobody’s monopoly. If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride in a recital of cruel deed, however skilfully planned. I, therefore, appeal to you in the name of humanity to stop the war. You will lose nothing by referring all the matters of dispute between you and Great Britain to an international tribunal of your joint choice. If you attain success in the war, it will not prove that you were in the right. It will only prove that your power of destruction was greater. Whereas an award by an impartial tribunal will show as far as it is humanly possible which party was in the right.
You know that not long ago I made an appeal to every Briton to accept my method of non-violent resistance. I did it because the British know me as a friend though a rebel. I am a stranger to you and your people. I have not the courage to make you the appeal I made to every Briton. Not that it would not apply to you with the same force as to the British. But my present proposal is much simple because much more practical and familiar.
During this season when the hearts of the peoples of Europe yearn for peace, we have suspended even our own peaceful struggle. Is it too much to ask you to make an effort for peace during a time which may mean nothing to you personally but which must mean much to the millions of Europeans whose dumb cry for peace I hear, for my ears are attended to hearing the dumb millions? I had intended to address a joint appeal to you and Signor Mussolini, whom I had the privilege of meeting when I was in Rome during my visit to England as a delegate to the Round Table Conference. I hope that he will take this as addressed to him also with the necessary changes.
Deep in the Nevada desert — approximately 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas — sits a small town where the human population on a non-work day is zero. But this town wasn’t made for real people to inhabit. Rather, it was specially built just to test atomic blasts that would consume the area with its crushing power and unbelievable heat.
In the 1950s, nuclear testing began at the Nevada National Security Site as technicians mounted the Apple-2 bomb on top of a detonation tower.
The tower stood 1,500 feet above ground level so that when the colossal explosion occurred, the fireball blast wouldn’t effect or damage the monitoring equipment.
The testing facilities’ employees manufactured and assembled shops, gas stations, and homes made of brick and wood — dubbing these areas “Doom Towns.”
Inside these buildings, the workers staged the interiors with full-size mannequin families wearing various types clothing to witness how the different fabrics would hold up during the energy bursts and extreme heat. After denotation, the homes that were within 6,000 feet from ground zero lost rooftops, suffered broken windows and the several coats of paint blistered and scraped off in a matter of a few moments.
By contrast, the homes that were located near the initial blast zone were completely incinerated and their ashes sailed into the wind.
Ask any kindergartener what Santa looks like, and they’ll probably tell you he has a red suit, a big, round belly and a long, white beard. The classic Christmas song “Must Be Santa,” written in 1960 by Mitch Miller, describes him in even greater detail, with a cap on his head and a cherry nose. That’s how most of us picture Santa Claus, and it’s no wonder – the American image of Santa has remained virtually unchanged for over 100 years.
Glance back through time, and a different picture of Santa appears.
In the 1800s and the centuries preceding it, Santa looked a lot more like a traditional saint. That is how the tradition of Santa started, after all. As the story goes, a poor man had three daughters. With nothing to offer as a dowry, his daughters had no hope of getting married. A kind bishop named Nicholas took pity on the family, dropping bags of gold down the chimney to provide a dowry for each daughter. For this good deed along with many others, Nicholas was dubbed the saint of children. (He was also the saint of sailors, but that’s another story.)
While I’m quite thankful that I don’t have to rely on an old man to throw gold into my fireplace to secure my future, St. Nicholas was the official inspiration behind modern-day Santa. As the popularity of St. Nicholas waned, his name evolved. First, he became Father Christmas in England, then the Christkind in Austria and Germany, then Kris Kringle. Finally, Dutch settlers invented the name “Sinterklaas,” aka Santa. Despite the new name, however, 1800s Santa maintained his saintly image. So what changed?
Political satire and the Civil War reinvented Santa.
Enter political cartoonist Thomas Nast. Known by many as the father of the American political cartoon, Nast began as a gifted artist from humble beginnings. At the age of 15, he began working as a staff artist for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News, and a few years later for the New York Illustrated News. Finally, he moved on to create cartoons for Harper’s Weekly. At this point, it was 1862 and the Civil War had begun.
In Nast’s cartoons, he didn’t hesitate to make his political opinions known. He made his Union loyalties quite clear, and on January 3rd, 1863, Santa Claus helped send his message home. In a particularly festive piece of propaganda, Nast depicted Santa Claus decked out in stars and stripes handing out gifts to Union soldiers. If you look closely, you can see Union Santa clutching a puppet resembling the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, with a rope around its neck. In a Christmas Eve version, Nast drew a jolly Santa Claus climbing down the chimney to deliver presents, while a woman in the next frame prays for her husband’s safe return.
With these two simple illustrations, Nast cemented Santa as a sentimental Union symbol and reinvented St. Nick’s wardrobe in one go. While Nast refrained from making too many additional Santa-themed political statements, his jovial Father Christmas became an annual tradition. Although he skipped 1864, he published a new Santa illustration every holiday season for the rest of his years on staff at Harper’s. From then on, the tall, stately St. Nicholas was replaced with the stout, jolly old elf that we know and love today.
That could be the response from more Marines and even other military service members of this Millennial generation, as fewer troops are claiming a religion than those of previous decades.
Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, issued an all-hands message to encourage his men and women and Navy sailors assigned to their units to take note of their own “spiritual fitness.”
“During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task,” Neller, a veteran infantry officer entering his second year as the service’s top general officer, wrote in the Oct. 3 message. “By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our nation expects.”
The general’s mention of honorable warriors and model citizens – most Marines serve four to eight years and then return to civilian life – harkens to a generation ago. In the 1990s — with a military facing force cuts, ethical scandals and retention concerns — then-commandant Gen. Charles Krulak often spoke with Marines about the importance of integrity, having a “moral compass” and courage to do the right thing.
It wasn’t specifically directed at religion or spirituality but took a broad, holistic approach at building better “citizen-soldiers.”
In this generation, will that challenge to look inward at their spirituality, however they define it to be, resonate with Millennial Marines? And, if so, how?
If religious affiliation is any measure of that, military leaders might well be worried.
Last year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer Americans were identifying as religious. In its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identified with a Christian-based religion, with “Evangelical Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mainline Protestant” the top groups. Almost 6 percent claimed non-Christian faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, for example.
But almost 23 percent in the survey of 35,000 Americans said they were unaffiliated – known as “nones” – or nonbelievers, and 15.8 percent of them claimed no ties even to agnostics or atheists. That was a significant change from 2007, when 16 percent identified as “nones.”
The biggest group, 35 percent, among “nones” are Millennials, considered those born between 1981 and 1996, and “nones” as a whole “are getting even younger,” Pew found. It’s also an age group — 20 to 35 — that’s well represented within the military services.
So how will today’s Marines receive this latest message?
The Marine Corps hasn’t detailed just what the push for spiritual fitness will entail, but it’s described as part of leadership development and a holistic approach to overall fitness along with physical, mental and social wellness. The service’s deputy chaplain, Navy Capt. William Kennedy, said it wasn’t a program but “an engagement strategy to enable leaders at every level to communicate the importance of faith, values and moral living inside the Marine Corps culture of fitness.”
“Spiritual fitness is for everyone,” Kennedy said in an email response to WATM. “Every Marine has a position on matters of spirituality, belief in a higher being and religion. The individual Marine chooses if and how they will grow in spiritual fitness, enabling them to fulfill their duties successfully while deployed and in garrison.”
Scott said the Navy’s top chaplain Rear Adm. Brent Scott sent a letter to all Marine Corps’ chaplains, challenging them to “engage their commanders and the Marine Corps in conversations on spiritual fitness.”
A non-profit group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has criticized the Corps’ plan as an attempt to push religious, if not Christian, values on all Marines.
Mikey Weinstein, the group’s founder and president and a former Air Force lawyer, has threatened to sue the Marine Corps to stop it from mandating spiritual fitness training for every Marine rather than having it be voluntary. Weinstein told Military.com last week that the service’s plan to include spiritual fitness with some training and education courses is “nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”
“If they call this ‘mental fitness,’ that’s great,” Weinstein told WATM. But while Marines are regularly tested in physical fitness and military proficiency, he said, “who gets to decide what Marines are spiritually fit?”
While troops can be required to sit through legal discussions with a judge advocate or medical training with medics, they can’t be required to attend teachings or preaching by unit chaplains, he said, citing separation of church and state. If the Marine Corps sets mandatory lectures, testing or measuring tools or classes that discuss things like faith or “a higher power,” for example, that will push it into religious beliefs and violate the constitutional prohibition against religious tests, Weinstein said.
“If they do it, they’ll be in court,” he said.
In 2010, MRFF threatened to sue the Army when it pushed out a similar assessment program on spiritual fitness for soldiers, and Weinstein said the service eventually revised it.
But “spiritual fitness” remains a popular concept around the military — a phrase that might seem to avoid any specific religion to many but still retains an element of a belief. The Air Force considers it one of its comprehensive fitness pillars, along with mental, physical and social. And spiritual fitness is often mentioned in programs to help build resiliency among troops, including those grappling with combat or post-traumatic stress and even in programs to strengthen relationships among military couples and families.
Navy chaplain Kennedy described spirituality generally as something “that gives meaning and purpose in life.” It also might “refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living,” he said. “For some this is expressed in commitment to family, institution or esprit de corps. For others, it may apply to application of faith.”
Military chaplains have the duty to advise commanders and service members on “spiritual matters.” They “are required to perform faith-specific ministries that do not conflict with the tenets or faith requirements of their religious organizations. Additionally, chaplains are required to provide or facilitate religious support, pastoral care and spiritual wellness to all service members, regardless of religious affiliation,” according to a July 2015 Defense Department Inspector General report on “rights of conscience protections” for troops and chaplains.
Weinstein, who said he’s Jewish but “not that religious,” said his group isn’t anti-religion and counts 48,000 active-duty troops among its members, with 98 percent who affiliate with a religion. Many supporters don’t want the military services telling them what or whether to believe, he said, adding that “thousands of military people [say] that’s my personal business.”
But is spiritual fitness inherently a part of something religious, or is it separate from a religious belief?
It may depend on who is defining it. A spiritual fitness guide briefing slide by the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, whose members advise Navy and Marine Corps units, describes spiritual fitness this way: “A term used to capture a person’s overall spiritual health and reflects how spirituality may help one cope with and enjoy life. Spirituality may be used generally to refer to that which gives meaning and purpose in life. The term may be used more specifically to refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living.”
Would having no religious affiliation or belief render one without spirituality? For some Leathernecks, the Marine Corps itself is like a religion, with its own spirituality that “non-believers” – like POGs or people-other-than-grunts – can’t understand.
The Marines’ own institutional bible, so-to-speak, the warfighting publication “Leading Marines,” stated in its 1995 edition: “This manual is based on the firm belief that, as others have said in countless ways, our Corps embodies the spirit and essence of those who have gone before. It is about the belief, shared by all Marines, that there is no higher calling than that of a United States Marine.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct attribution from the Marine Corps Deputy Chaplain.
“The Fighting Season,” is a six-part documentary from actor and veteran supporter Ricky Schroder and DirecTV. But it’s not just another war documentary.
The series culls out many of the hard-to-explain details of deployment in Afghanistan — the frustrations and setbacks and small victories. And in so doing, it gets it right.
“The Fighting Season” drops the viewer into the war without injecting any pretense or agendas. The film captures the nuance of asymmetric war, how soldiers suss out the difference between friendly locals and insurgents. It shows how the bad guys build an ambush against a backdrop of relative calm.
The infantry platoon talks about how happy they are that the Afghan National Police didn’t accidentally shoot them when the American platoon approaches the Afghan base in the dark. An American security team is in open disagreement with their colonel about how to complete their mission. The American’s sense of progress takes a major step backward as an Afghan National Police sentry allows a vehicle with an armed passenger right through their checkpoint in Kabul.
And the documentary feels like Afghanistan. It’s gritty and unpolished. The soldiers smoke, dip, and cuss. They forget to wear eye protection.
It feels like being back on the FOB and at the outpost.
“The Fighting Season” will debut on Audience Network Tuesday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
In lieu of a traditional advertising campaign, DirecTV is pursuing a social media campaign using the hashtag #TheFightingSeason. For every post with the hashtag, they’ll donate $1 to Operation Gratitude.
He had been suspiciously summoned to Moscow. They had got him drunk on cognac while a KGB general grilled him for four hours. He’d be executed if they could catch him. They seemed to be closing the net. But the MI6 double agent couldn’t risk openly fleeing.
After he sobered up at home, Oleg Gordiyevsky turned to his last resort — an emergency escape plan devised by the British intelligence services that was hidden in invisible ink in a collection of Shakespeare sonnets.
Pulling bed sheets over his head to elude surveillance cameras in the ceiling and walls of his Moscow apartment, Gordiyevsky soaked the book cover in water, revealing a set of instructions. He set about memorizing them.
The plan sketched out a risky rendezvous with two British diplomatic cars at the bend of a road near Finland. From there, Gordiyevsky would be smuggled across the border in the trunk of a car right under the nose of Soviet guards.
If the plan failed, the British security services would lose a prized asset, sometimes considered the West’s most valuable Cold War intelligence source. The plan was backed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: if uncovered it would spark a major diplomatic incident; for Gordiyevsky it would mean certain death.
Recruited in 1974 in Copenhagen by MI6, Gordiyevsky, a KGB colonel, was an unparalleled source within the secretive Soviet state, passing reams of information to the British, who shared it with the CIA. It led to him being compromised. Gordiyevsky blames Aldrich Ames, a KGB mole in the CIA, who he says told Moscow there was a leak in the KGB London station where Gordiyevsky was posted.
‘Toward Death’s Embrace’
Gordiyevsky was summoned to the KGB’s Lubyanka headquarters in Moscow, ostensibly so that he could be confirmed as station chief. But Gordiyevsky suspected something was up.
“I realized I was going toward death’s embrace. But I still decided to go to show that I’m not scared,” he said. He took with him a backup escape plan written by British spy John Scarlett, the man who went on to become “M,” the head of MI6.
All he had to do was inform the British of the proposed date of his extraction. But even that proved hard.
A first “control” meeting arranged at Kutuzovsky Prospekt was botched. A second rendezvous was planned at St. Basil’s Cathedral, where he was meant to pass a note to a British spy on the narrow staircase leading up to the iconic tourist site’s second floor.
But after walking for three hours to shake off his KGB tail, Gordiyevsky arrived to find the plan had been foiled — the whole of Red Square was closed for renovations.
Finally, a third control meeting was successful. The plan was on.
At five o’clock on a Friday afternoon on July 19, 1985, a short, thick-set man in a worn jacket and corduroy trousers stepped out of a west Moscow apartment. Staying close to the bushes to avoid detection by a surveillance vehicle, he quietly slipped across to an adjacent street.
Within an hour Gordiyevsky was at Moscow’s Leningrad train station, where he bought tickets to Leningrad before travelling by suburban electric train to Zelenogorsk. From there, he jumped on a bus to Vyborg.
Hours Of Waiting
The meeting place was somewhere along the way, but he had only a description of the meeting place and no precise location.
Unsure exactly where to get off but having passed a big bend in the road that resembled the meeting place, he feigned sickness and nausea to convince the driver to let him off, and walked back along the road until he found the designated meeting place.
“I was surrounded by woodland where I laid down waiting for the diplomatic car of the [British] embassy. I lay there three hours waiting for the moment when the car was meant to come. At 2:20 a.m. two cars with two drivers arrived. They managed to hide around the bend for a few minutes away from the KGB car following them from Leningrad.”
“I dived into the trunk of one of the cars. The whole operation took no longer than a minute, we managed to get going again before the KGB tail appeared round the corner.”
Luckily, a slow goods train chugging through a railway crossing had separated the British diplomats from the KGB tail and put considerable distance between them. The KGB sped forward to catch up, but the British cars had waited by a small hill out of sight and the KGB overshot them.
“Our pursuers, having reached a traffic police post, asked the police: ‘Where are the English cars?'”
“‘What cars? No one has passed,’ [they answered]. And then our cars appeared. They surrounded the English: ‘Right, that’s it, now they’re going to arrest us,’ they thought. But the KGB were also tired. It was half past five, Saturday, end of the working day. They’d been on duty since about 7 that morning and let us go through to the border point without checking us.”
From the trunk of the car, all Gordiyevsky could hear was the driver turn on a piece of music by Sibelius called Finlandia.
“That’s how I realized we were on Finnish territory.”
In Finland, Gordiyevsky was let out of the stuffy trunk of the car and met by a young British diplomat named Michael Shipster. He called MI6, Gordiyevsky recalls, and announced: “The luggage has arrived. It’s all in order.”
Best Last Stand: Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan, “Anthropoid”
Operation Anthropoid was the Czech government-in-exile’s plot to kill SS General Reinhard Heydrich – the man who designed Hitler’s extermination of Europen Jews. Two Czech agents do the job and are tracked down in a cathedral by what seems like a battalion of Nazi soldiers. They and other members of the Resistance opt to not surrender.
Best Depiction of a Veteran Who Still Fits in his Old Uniform: Hugo Weaving, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Weaving plays Tom Doss, father of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who earned the medal of honor as a medic in WWII. In the film, he uses his status as a WWI veteran to get access to a general, but first he has to get in his old uniform. You know, for dramatic effect.
The elder Doss was at the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918. Since Hacksaw Ridge takes place in 1942 when the younger Doss enlisted, we have to give credit to Tom Doss for being able to fit in that thing 24 years later.
I’ve only been out for eight years and I doubt I could get my blues pants up to my waist.
Best Trailer: “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”
No military movie was as anticipated as “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” the film adaptation of Ben Fountain’s book of the same name. Ang Lee’s movie looked spectacular but was received to mixed reviews.
Viewers may disagree but the one thing you can’t argue about is how great this trailer is.
So if you don’t like the movie, think of this as a trailer for the book. The book is really good. Really, really good.
Best Acting: Steven Lang, “Beyond Glory”
Most actors get an award nod for playing one role, but if WATM were handing out actual statues, we’d give Steven Lang eight of them for “Beyond Glory.” The actor travels around the world, for troops and civilians, telling the story of 8 Medals of Honor, as the guys who received them.
Go ahead, try to watch this movie without getting goosebumps. If you can, then check yourself into the nearest psych ward, because you might not be capable of feelings.
Breakout Performance by a Duo: John Krasinski and David Denman, “13 Hours”
The two men from the NBC series “The Office” reunited on the silver screen in 2016 as Jack Silva and Dave ‘Boon’ Benton in this obscure indie hit. They portray two security contractors working for the U.S. State Department in Libya in a plot to bring down Hillary Clinton. Or something. I don’t know, I don’t follow politics.
Krasinski’s career as an operator clearly began while he was an Air Force pilot at Joint Base Hickam-Pearl Harbor, when he asked Chris Kyle to teach him how to be operator AF.
Best Villain: The Sharks, “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage”
It’s hard to blame the Japanese submarine for sinking the Indianapolis. the Pacific War was still a war, after all (besides, the skipper of the Japanese boat came to Capt. McVay’s defense at his court-martial). What you can blame are the sharks who ate the survivors of the ship’s sinking.
For the days they spent waiting to be rescued, the sailors of the Indianapolis just hung out, waiting to be gnawed on like some shark’s pickled chum.
Best Combat Action Sequence: Mel Gibson “Hacksaw Ridge”
Leave it to the guy who brought you a medieval combat scene where someone gets hit in the face with a hammer to bring you World War II combat that tosses body parts around like confetti.
Nothing says “war is terrible” like showing the worst parts of it. Mission complete, Mel Gibson. On that note…
Best On-Screen Improv: This guy from “Hacksaw Ridge”
Using what’s left of your Battle Buddy like Captain America uses his vibranium shield isn’t exactly in the Army field manual, but the guys who wrote that weren’t writing it at Okinawa. If your Battle is supposed to save your life, then this guy did the right thing.
Best “Eat Pray Love”-style war movie: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”
That movie would have been waaaaaaaay different if Julia Roberts went to Afghanistan instead of, say, Italy.
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” even calls itself “the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard” in the middle of the movie. Special props to WTF for having Margot Robbie explain the “Desert Queen” principle, a longtime staple of deployment lore.
Best Director Who Actually Looks Like He’s In Combat: Michael Bay, “13 Hours”
I’m starting to believe everything Michael Bay does features explosions. Like, when he goes to get coffee or to the post office, a car down the street explodes. Most of us will never have a work photo take that looks this cool.
Drill Sergeant of the Year: Vince Vaughn, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Many cinematic instructors have come and gone over the years, from ones as memorable as Gunny Hartman to the less memorable Merwin Toomey.
You can decide where Vince Vaughn’s Sgt. Howell falls in the pantheon, but for 2016, he’s tops.
On November 19th, Harrier Jets from the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge to carry out airstrikes against ISIS targets, according to a US Navy press release.
The Kearsarge was assisting the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, whose area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of the Middle East and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean, on November 1.
“We will continue to work with our coalition partners to drive ISIL out of Iraq and Syria,” said commanding officer Col. Brian T. Koch, of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, whose aviation combat unit is aboard the Kearsarge, according to the Navy press release.
Watch clips of the fully loaded Harrier jets taking off from the Kearsarge below:
We’ve all heard of fighter aces. We’re talking legends like Robin Olds, Duke Cunningham, Pappy Boyington, James Howard, Jimmy Thach, and Swede Vejtasa. Germany had their own aces, and while Erich Hartmann and Adolf Galland are just some who attained immortality with their feats in the skies, others, like Otto Kretschmer and Gunther Prien, were renowned for what they did under the sea.
Kretschmer and Prien were both considered “U-boat aces,” and according to uboat.net, they were part of an elite group. Out of 498 men in World War I, and 1,401 in World War II who commanded U-boats, only a total of 71 men sank more than 100,000 tons of enemy shipping. The tonnage totals are eye-popping in comparison to American commanders, many of whom were rotated out of front-line duty to train new crewmen, similar to the policy used for ace fighter pilots like Thach.
America’s top sub skippers, like Eli Reich or Joe Enright, earned their notoriety on single missions. Reich sank the only battleship to be sunk by American submarines during the war, avenging fallen shipmates, while Enright holds the distinction of sinking the Shinano, the largest vessel ever sink by a submarine.
Germany’s U-boat aces pulled some incredible feats, themselves. Prien, for instance, earned his fame by sneaking into the British naval base of Scapa Flow and sinking the battleship HMS Royal Oak. 825 British sailors died when the Revenge-class battleship was hit by three torpedoes.
Kretschmer was the top-ranking U-boat ace of World War II, sinking 46 ships totaling over 274,000 tons of displacement. Compare that to the JANAC total credited to USS Tang (SS 306), Medal of Honor recipient Richard O’Kane’s command, which sank 24 ships totaling 93,824 tons of displacement.