For 13 days in 1962, the world stood on the brink of nuclear destruction. How close humanity came to a nuclear holocaust has been well-documented in the past, but a new book from Serhii Plokhy, a professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, details a lot things the CIA missed about the Russian nuclear force on Cuba at the time.
In “Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Plokhy uses newly declassified documents from Russia and Ukraine (a member of the Soviet Union at the time), to show the world a list of things previously unknown about the crisis.
After U-2 spy planes uncovered the presence of nuclear-armed missile sites on the island of Cuba on Oct. 22 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union entered a nearly two-week standoff. As diplomats and leaders wrangled to cut a deal that would end the crisis, the U.S. military went on high alert, reaching DEFCON 2 in some areas.
DEFCON 2 was the second highest state of readiness for the United States armed forces during the Cold War, one level below a full-scale nuclear exchange. The forces put on DEFCON 2 were ready to go to war with the Soviet Union within six hours. It was the highest level of readiness ever reached by the U.S. during the Cold War.
When the CIA finally got wind of the nuclear missiles on Cuba, they were in place and ready to launch, capable of hitting targets deep inside the continental United States. They were also able to strike Washington – and the U.S. intelligence community had no idea.
It was only through dumb luck they noticed at all. An analyst looking at the flyover photos saw soccer fields constructed on the island. Cubans didn’t play soccer, by and large, because they preferred baseball as a sporting pastime. Russians, however, loved soccer. And upon taking a closer look, they discovered the Soviet missile sites.
What the intel agencies missed, according to the new book, was the presence of Luna short-range nuclear missiles on the island. Moreover, there weren’t just 4,000 troops from the USSR in Cuba, there were 40,000 – a much larger number than previously known.
If the U.S. invaded Cuba, the Soviets and the Cubans were prepared to retaliate with everything available in the arsenal on the island and elsewhere. It was a strategy favored by many in the administration of President John F. Kennedy. Had Kennedy authorized the invasion, it’s estimated that 70 million Americans would have died during the exchange.
The Soviet troops stationed on the island were living in fear of the same exchange, the new book reveals. They believed an invasion and nuclear war was imminent, especially after another U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba on Oct. 27, 1962.
There were numerous close calls during the crisis, but in every instance cooler heads prevailed. A Russian submarine nearly launched a nuclear torpedo at the blockading squadron. Two F-102 fighters armed with nuclear-tipped missiles avoided two Soviet MiG-17s in the search for the downed U-2, and another nuclear submarine nearly launched a nuclear torpedo when Americans fired off a flare into the night sky.
Kennedy himself wavered between pinpoint airstrikes and a carpet bombing campaign to neutralize the threat. In the end, at the behest of the former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Tommy Thompson, Kennedy opted to “quarantine” the island, instituting an effective blockade (without calling it a blockade, which would have been an act of war).
While cutting off Cuba from receiving more men and material, he talked to Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev and brokered a deal that would remove the Soviet troops in exchange for a promise from the U.S. not to invade Cuba. It was later revealed that Kennedy removed nuclear weapons from Turkey in the deal.
At the end of the 13 Days, everyone left the deal with something they wanted. Kennedy and Khruschev both removed existential threats to their countries and nuclear war was averted. For Kennedy, the deal boosted his popularity at home. For Khurschev, it was a political disaster. The removal of missiles from Turkey remained a secret, so to the public and the Soviet Communist Party, it looked like Khrushchev balked. He was out of power two years later.
The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment is unique in the annals of airborne history. It was one of only two parachute regiments to fight in the Pacific during World War II and the only one still active today.
Paratroopers from The Rock Regiment land on Corregidor, 1945. (Photo from U.S. Army Signal Corps)
Throughout the war in the Pacific, the 503rd fought independently, first as a regiment and then as a regimental combat team.
After arriving in the Pacific in December 1942, the 503rd conducted the first combat jump in the Pacific in New Guinea on Sept. 5, 1943. A second jump occurred on the island of Noemfoor in July 1944.
The 503rd then joined in the effort to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese landing on the island of Leyte.
A combat jump onto the island of Mindoro was called off due to inadequate launch-capable airfields. Instead, the 503rd conducted an amphibious assault landing alongside the 19th Infantry Regiment. After two days of fighting, the small island was secured.
The island of Corregidor, known as “The Rock” to the Americans, posed serious challenges for an assaulting force.
For one, the island had formidable defenses and a strong garrison. While the Americans had intimate knowledge of the layout of the island (they did build it, after all), they knew how difficult it would be to overtake.
Second, the island was rather small and the only suitable area for a parachute drop was on a portion known as “Topside.” This meant that the paratroopers of the 503rd would literally be landing right on top of the Japanese. To make matters worse, any misdrops – a common occurrence among World War II combat jumps – would put the paratroopers right in the ocean.
With all this in mind, the men of the 503rd Regimental Combat Team boarded aircraft early on the morning of Feb. 16, 1945 and headed towards The Rock.
Also heading towards Corregidor was the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment that would conduct a simultaneous, amphibious assault of the island in coordination with the airborne operation.
At 0830, after several hours or naval and aerial bombardment, the first paratroopers exited aircraft over the two drop zones.
Due to the exceedingly small and narrow drop zones, the aircraft were unable to drop a full stick at one time and had to fly in two single-file columns. This meant that the aircraft had to wheel around and make multiple passes in order to successfully put their loads of paratroopers on The Rock.
To make matters worse, high winds over the drop zone blew the descending paratroopers off course and over the cliffs of the island. PT boats patrolling the area would later rescue nine paratroopers stranded on the island’s cliffs.
Eventually, the jumpmasters discovered that only at a height of 400 feet and with a five second delay upon entering the drop zone, could they successfully land the stick on target.
Once they were on target however, their problems had just begun.
Thanks to the bombardment, the Japanese took shelter in the caves and the element of surprise was retained. However, several paratroopers were killed when they landed right on top of Japanese positions.
Further complicating things, the plan called for three lifts to get all of the Regimental Combat Team onto the island. Multiple lifts over such small drop zones meant the second lift was jumping into already crowded areas. Some troopers reported that they were more likely to be hit by a fellow jumper or door bundle coming in than by the Japanese.
Although the landings were relatively unopposed, the action soon picked up, especially around an area known as Wheeler Point.
Shortly after landing in the area, Pvt. Lloyd McCarter conducted the first of three heroic actions on The Rock which would earn him the Medal of Honor.
When his unit came under fire from a Japanese machine gun, McCarter single-handedly rushed 30 yards across the bullet-swept area and destroyed the emplacement with hand grenades.
With his unit dealing with a full-on frontal assault by a Japanese Special Landing Force, McCarter noticed a force attempting to flank his position. He moved to an exposed position and engaged them. When his Thompson became unserviceable, he returned to friendly lines to retrieve a BAR. When that became too hot, he discarded it for an M1 Garand. He fired that weapon until the operating rod broke.
As dawn broke and the attack was dissipating, McCarter was shot through the chest. His comrades retrieved him and he was evacuated from the island, credited with killing over 30 Japanese during the attack.
The battle for The Rock would last another eight days before the island was declared secure. With the help of the 34th Infantry, the 503rd was able to seal off or expel the Japanese from the complex of caves and tunnels running throughout Corregidor.
The 503rd suffered some 169 men killed in action and another 531 wounded. The 34th suffered 38 killed and 153 wounded. The combined force, known as The Rock Force, inflicted well over 6,000 casualties on the Japanese defenders.
For their daring assault on the island, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and has henceforth been known as “The Rock Regiment.”
General Douglas MacArthur returned to the island on March 7 and ordered the American flag hoisted over the island.
After the outbreak of World War I, young Paul Kern joined millions of Hungarian countrymen in answering the call to avenge their fallen Archduke, Franz Ferdinand. He joined the Hungarian army and, shortly after, the elite corps of shock troops that would lead the way in clearing out Russian trenches on the Eastern front. In 1915, a Russian bullet went through his head, and he closed his eyes for the last time.
Which would be par for the course for many soldiers – except Kern’s eyes opened again in a field hospital.
Many, many other Austro-Hungarian eyes did not open again.
From the moment he recovered consciousness until his death in 1955, Kern did not sleep a wink. Though sleep is considered by everyone else to be a necessary part of human life. There are many physical reasons for this – sleep causes proteins in the brain to be released, it cuts off synapses that are unnecessary, and restores cognitive function. People who go without sleep have hallucinations and personality changes. Sleeplessness has even killed laboratory rats.
The face you make when you haven’t slept since 1915 and have time to do literally everything.
Doctors encountering Kern’s condition for the first time were always reportedly skeptical, but Kern traveled far and wide, allowing anyone who wanted to examine him to do so. The man was X-rayed in hospitals from Austria to Australia but not for reasons surrounding the bullet – the one that went through his right temple and out again – was ever found.
One doctor theorized that Kern would probably fall asleep for seconds at a time throughout the day, not realizing he had ever been asleep, but no one had ever noticed Kern falling asleep in such a way. Other doctors believed the bullet tore away all the physical area of the brain that needed to be replenished by sleep. They believed he would find only an early death because of it.
Don’t let Adderall-starved college students find out about Russian bullets.
Kern did die at what would today be considered a relatively young age. His wakefulness caused headaches only when he didn’t rest his eyes for at least an hour a day in order to give his optic nerve a much-needed break. But since Paul Kern had an extra third of his days given back to him, he spent the time wisely, reading and spending time with his closest friends. It seems he made the most of the years that should have been lost to the Russian bullet in the first place.
Götz von Berlichingen was known for a lot of things. The most obvious was that he lost an arm to cannon fire in the heat of battle. Unfortunately for him, it was his right arm, the one that swung swords and dealt death. Unfortunately for all of his enemies, he wouldn’t die until age 82 – and he had a mechanical arm built just so he could keep killing them all.
That’s not even his most enduring legacy.
He was the first to tell an enemy to kiss his ass.
When your name is literally pronounced “Guts,” it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It took him only three years to get sick of fighting for God and country for the Holy Roman Empire. So, the young von Berlichingen turned to fighting for something more tangible: money. He and his squad of Teutonic mercenaries fought for all levels of feudal lords and barons — anyone who could afford to have a soon-to-be legendary badass on their side.
It was in 1504, while fighting to take Landshut for the Duke of Bavaria, that a cannonball lopped his arm off at the elbow. He had two prosthetic arms created for himself – and one of them could still hold his sword or shield. So, von Berlichingen continued to make money the best way he knew how.
The knight seized merchant shipping, kidnapped nobles for ransom, and raided towns around Germany as a means of making money. This, unfortunately, earned him few powerful friends, and he found himself banned from the Holy Roman Empire on multiple occasions. He was even captured and held for ransom himself.
After his final ban, he joined the German peasants in exacting revenge on the leadership of the Holy Roman Empire. Despite that failure, he fought on until he was captured again. When finally liberated by Charles V, he was forced into a sort of house arrest, only allowed to come out in case Charles needed his services.
Berlichingen would assist German knights in fighting the Ottoman under Suleiman the Magnificent and invade France against the famous King Francois I. By then, however, he had already uttered his famous phrase. It was somewhere near Baden-Wurttemburg, while under siege, that the seemingly-immortal knight received a surrender demand. He was not impressed by it at all. He returned it with a famous response, telling the Swabian army (and their leaders) to kiss his ass.
After he was sick of mercilessly slaughtering Europeans all over the continent, Götz von Berlichingen decided to sit down and write his memoirs, which were apparently the greatest story ever told in German for the longest time. The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe penned a 1773 drama that is still retold to this very day, based solely on the story of von Berlichingen’s account of his life.
A decade ago, he was a young Army soldier training Iraqi troops when he noticed their primitive filing system: handwritten notes threaded with different colors of yarn, stacked in piles. For organization’s sake, he built them a simple computer database.
Now an Army reservist, the major is taking a break from his civilian high-tech job to help America’s technological fight against Islamic State extremists, part of a growing force of cyberexperts the Pentagon has assembled to defeat the group.
“The ability to participate in some way in a real mission, that is actually something that’s rare, that you can’t find in private sector,” said the 38-year-old Nebraska native who is working at U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland.
“You’re part of a larger team putting your skills to use, not just optimizing clicks for a digital ad, but optimizing the ability to counter ISIS or contribute to the security of our nation.”
Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter expressed frustration that the United States was losing the cyberwar against Islamic States militants. He pushed the Cyber Command to be more aggressive.
In response, the Pentagon launched an effort to incorporate cyber technology into its daily military fight, including new ways to disrupt the enemy’s communications, recruiting, fundraising, and propaganda.
To speak with someone at the front lines of the cyber campaign, The Associated Press agreed to withhold the major’s name. The military says he could be threatened or targeted by the militants if he is identified publicly. The major and other officials wouldn’t provide precise details on the highly classified work he is doing.
But Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, said the major is bringing new expertise for identifying enemy networks, pinpointing system administrators or developers, and potentially monitoring how the Islamic State’s online traffic moves.
He “has the ability to bring an analytic focus of what the threat is doing, coupled with a really deep understanding of how networks run,” Nakasone said, describing such contributions as “really helpful for us.” He outlined a key question for the military: “How do you impact an adversary that’s using cyberspace against us?”
The military services are looking for new ways to bring in more civilians with high-tech skills who can help against IS, and prepare for the new range of technological threats the nation will face.
Nakasone said that means getting Guard and Reserve members with technical expertise in digital forensics, math crypto-analysis and writing computer code. The challenge is how to find them.
“I would like to say it’s this great database that we have, that we’ve been able to plug in and say, ‘Show me the best tool developers and analysts that you have out there,'” Nakasone said. “We don’t have that yet. We are going to have one, though, by June.”
The Army Reserve is starting a pilot program cataloging soldiers’ talents. Among 190,000 Army reservists, Nakasone said there might be up to 15,000 with some type of cyber-related skills. But there are legal and privacy hurdles, and any database hinges on reservists voluntarily and accurately providing information on their capabilities.
Normally, Nakasone said a reservist’s record includes background, training, assignments, and schools attended.
“I would like to know every single person that has been trained as a certified ethical hacker,” he said.
Nakasone said officials were still working out costs.
“The money will come,” he said, because building a ready cyber force is necessary.
The Army major said others in the civilian high-tech industry are interested in helping.
Many would like to participate “in something bigger than themselves, something that has intrinsic value for the nation,” he said.
The major said he has signed up for a second one-year tour in his cyber job. He is looking at options for staying longer.
“I find what I’m doing very satisfying, because I have an opportunity to implement things, to get things done and see them work and see tangible results,” he said. “I’m not making as much as I was on the civilian side. But the satisfaction is that strong, and is that valuable, that it’s worth it.”
The name struck fear in the hearts of U.S. and coalition troops during the war in Iraq. A sharpshooter who could unleash his deadly round in an instant and melt away unscathed.
He was almost like a ghost — a hyper accurate sniper that built a legend around his stealth and lethality. Videos peppered YouTube and LiveLeak that reportedly chronicled his exploits, adding to the growing legend.
In fact, “Juba,” as he was known, became a media sensation in his own right, his lethal skills were condensed into the character “Mustafa” that fought a sniper duel with Chris Kyle in the popular “American Sniper” film. And he’s the central villain in the sniper thriller movie “The Wall.”
Insurgent propaganda credited Juba with 37 kills and he became well known among American troops in Iraq during the height of the insurgency in 2005 and 2007.
“He’s good. Every time we dismount I’m sure everyone has got him in the back of their minds,” Spc. Travis Burress, an sniper based in Camp Rustamiyah, told The Guardian newspaper in 2005. “He’s a serious threat to us.”
Videos purported to show several of Juba’s kills are a vivid reminder of why he was so feared by American troops. With pinpoint accuracy, the insurgent sharpshooter was able to target the gaps where heavily-armored U.S. service members remained vulnerable, dropping coalition forces with heartbreaking deftness.
And when he killed, he proved difficult to track.
“We have different techniques to try to lure him out, but he is very well trained and very patient,” a U.S. officer told The Guardian. “He doesn’t fire a second shot.”
Insurgent videos taunted U.S. troops — and even President Bush —that Juba was everywhere. (YouTube screen shot)
To hunt Juba, the U.S. dispatched the notorious Task Force Raptor, an elite unit of Iraqi special operators akin to Baghdad’s version of Delta Force. The Raptors harried Juba on his home turf of Ramadi, chasing him around the insurgent hotbed until the trail went cold. Most analysts at the time argued that Juba had fled Ramadi for another battlefield.
Though Juba became a well-known name among American troops on patrol in Iraq, there are some who argue the insurgent marksman was a myth — a composite of several enemy snipers that was built into a legend by the insurgency to frighten coalition troops. At Juba’s height, about 300 American troops had been killed by gunshots in Iraq, and one video of Juba’s exploits claimed he’d killed more than 140 soldiers and Marines.
“Speculation is [that] there was more than one Juba,” said former Special Forces and Iraq war vet Woody Baird. “My estimation is the bad guys were running a psychological operation attempting to terrorize the conventional forces by promoting a super sniper.”
It’s unclear what happened to Juba, though most agree that he was killed in action — either by American or Iraqi sharpshooters or even ISIS terrorists.
But some believe Juba is a made up insurgent meant to strike fear in U.S. troops at checkpoints and in vehicle hatches.
“Juba the Sniper? He’s a product of the U.S. military,” Capt. Brendan Hobbs told Stars and Stripes in 2007. “We’ve built up this myth ourselves.”
Most travelers have a number of things to worry about during the holiday season.
For TSA agents at the country’s airports, there’s also a variety of things to worry about — knives, fake grenades, swords hidden in canes, knives hidden in guns, throwing stars, and all sorts of other contraband.
The TSA has taken to documenting some of the weapons and other prohibited items it encounters at security checkpoints, posting them on the agency’s Instagram account, which has accumulated more than 500,000 followers and rave reviews.
“I knew it would be popular and I knew we’d have a never-ending source of content,” Bob Burns, who runs the Instagram account, told The Washington Post. “But I didn’t know how popular we’d be.”
Below, you can see a selection of strange weaponry or look-alike weaponry that the TSA has come across and put on its Instagram, which Rolling Stone recently ranked as the fourth-best account on the social-media site.
“We’re pretty sure this isn’t a letter opener. A bladed dragon claw perhaps??? Whatever it is, it should be packed in checked baggage. It was discovered in a carry-on bag at Atlanta (ATL).”
“Is this some kind of confangled rotisserie contraption for turkeys? Nope. These are Sai. If you’re a #TeenageMutantTurtle fan, you’ll know the Sai as Raphael’s weapon or choice. If you still have no clue, a Sai is a weapon used for striking, bludgeoning and punctures. Whatever it is you use them for, please know they must be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered in a carry-on bag at Boise (BOI).”
“This ornate flask of black powder was discovered in a carry-on bag at Allentown (ABE). While it is a fancy flask, the black powder contained within is an explosive and is strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked bags.”
“Packing list: Socks. ✅ Toothbrush. ✅ Curling Iron. ✅ Post-apocalyptic bullet-adorned gas mask. ❌ While gas masks are allowed in carry-on bags, replica bullets are not. This was discovered in a carry-on bag at Miami (MIA). Maybe he was catching a one way flight to #FuryRoad?”
“Don’t pack your homemade replica suicide vest. The traveler who packed this vest in his checked bag at Richmond (RIC) stated it was a prop intended for use in a live-action role-playing game (LARP). TSA explosives experts raced to the checked baggage room and the airport police were called immediately. Fortunately, the explosives experts determined the vest posed no danger. It has yet to be determined if the officer who searched the bag needed a change of clothing.”
“While about to receive a pat-down after opting out of body scanner screening, a Chicago O’Hare (ORD) traveler remembered that he had a throwing knife necklace under his shirt. All knives are prohibited and concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest.”
“While some travelers are worried about packing nail clippers (they are allowed), others pack a pair of five-bladed floggers. You guessed it; these are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to need your floggers, they’ll have to be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered last week in a carry-on bag at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas (IAH).”
“You’ve likely heard that you’re not supposed to bring a knife to a gunfight? Well, you’re not supposed to bring either in your carry-on bag. Both replica weapons and knives are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you find yourself needing to travel with your gun knife, please pack it in your checked bag. This gun knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).”
“This 4-bladed throwing star was discovered in a carry-on bag at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). These must be packed in your checked bags. Sorry Prince Colwyn. #Krull”
“This belt buckle knife was discovered in a traveler’s carry-on property recently at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE). Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.”
“Naruto’s ninja gear was discovered in a carry-on bag at Las Vegas (LAS). Please pack all ninja gear in your checked bags.”
“This knuckle knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at Memphis (MEM). Knives of any size are not allowed in carry-on bags. They must be packed in checked bags.”
“This impaler cane was discovered amongst a traveler’s carry-on property in Baltimore (BWI). These must be packed with checked baggage. Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.”
“Many things can be hidden in shoes, but explosives are what concern us the most. This shoe is a replica of the bomb Richard Reid attempted to use in 2001 on his flight from Paris to Miami.”
“Your trailer hitch hand grenade is prohibited from both carry-on and checked bags. So what’s the big deal if it’s inert? First off, we don’t know it’s inert until explosives professionals take a closer look, and that takes time and slows down the line. It can even lead to a complete shutdown and evacuation. Also, imagine the person sitting next to you on the plane pulling this out of their carry-on. For these reasons, anything resembling a bomb or grenade is prohibited from both carry-on and checked bags. #TSATravelTips This inert grenade was discovered in a checked bag recently at the SBP airport.”
“And yet, another confounded #batarang has been discovered in a carry-on bag. This time it was discovered at the Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport (CHO). Batarangs, along with most other items on your utility belt must be packed in your checked bag. #Bam #Kapow #Zok #Biff #Zowie”
“These swords and throwing knives were discovered recently in a carry-on bag at the William P. Hobby Airport Houston (HOU). You guessed it! Swords and throwing knives are prohibited in carry-on bags. It perfectly acceptable to pack them in your checked bags, though.”
“This knife was discovered concealed in a bottle of pills at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. Please pack them in your checked bag.”
“#TBT November, 2007 – These knives were discovered concealed in a PC/DVD-ROM game case at Gulfport (GPT). Knives are prohibited, and concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. You may pack knives, swords, machetes and other bladed items in your checked bags.”
“It’s a cane. It’s a sword. It’s a cane sword, and it’s prohibited from being packed with your carry-on items. Cane swords may be packed in your checked bag. This cane sword was discovered at LaGuardia (LGA).”
The Air Force Special Operations Command runs 37 Reaper drones that have just been upgraded with better sensors, upgraded weapons software, and extra fuel tanks so they can kill more targets and watch more objectives on missions against ISIS and other enemies.
Identifying ISIS targets often requires a long information-collection period, and killing them takes a rapid engagement once the kill order is given. The upgraded drones are better at both stages of the hunt.
The sensor ball from the original MQ-9 Reapers was replaced with a high-definition camera. The software that controls the camera was also upgraded to enable automatic detection of threats and the ability to track 12 moving targets at once. Better communications gear was installed to allow ground controllers and others to see the higher quality video coming from the drones.
Reapers can carry up to 14 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The upgraded version carries the same munitions but can now fire them in a “super ripple,” firing a missile every 0.32 seconds. The external fuel tanks give the Reaper pilots more time to identify targets, track them, and plan the engagement before firing.
American drones have already had a lot of success in the fight against ISIS. Jihadi John, the British-born militant who conducted many of the Islamic State’s early, high-profile executions, was killed by two Hellfire missiles fired from a drone.
Nick Palmisciano commands an empire of apparel sales, MMA sponsorships, digital content, and social media mastery as the Founder and President of Ranger Up. Started in 2006, the company is on track this year to hit $10 million in revenue, and that’s due in large part to the former Army officer’s ability to overcome significant challenges.
Palmisciano founded the company while pursuing his M.B.A. at Duke University, after he started printing funny military-themed t-shirts for ROTC students there. Now nine years later, it’s a business that continues to grow.
WATM spoke in depth with Palmisciano about his business challenges, how he overcame them, his future plans, his heroes, and much more.
We Are The Mighty: When you refused a promotion and went all-in with RangerUp, it was a huge risk. Do you remember what you were you thinking at that moment?
Nick Palmisciano: I was scared, to be honest. I was scared about giving up the security of the whole thing, but I also felt very free for the first time in ages, you know, because I just — I controlled my destiny, you know, and being able to control your destiny is a very American trait and it’s something I didn’t fully appreciate.
Like I thought of myself as an entrepreneur when I was doing it part-time, but you know, when poor performance means you don’t get a paycheck it hits home so much more, and I’m sure you realize that … but you know you feel alive because you kill what you eat, the company grows, you get a paycheck, the company grows, you get to continue paying employees. [If] the company doesn’t grow, it dies, and you fail. So it’s a lot more exciting and a lot more rewarding when you do well and hits a lot more than a normal job when you do poorly.
WATM: Do veterans have an advantage or disadvantage in starting their own businesses?
NP: We have both. So the statistics show that veterans do better than any other population in the country at starting their own businesses and maintaining their own businesses. I think that’s true for a couple of reasons: One, we have endured a lot, and we are used to a situation where at first we are not the best at something, [and] we have to work really hard at it and, over time we get a skill set. Those are incredibly helpful attributes. When you’ve actually done hard things several times, it makes the next hard thing easier to accomplish.
The other thing is that we genuinely like to work in teams and we are happy when other people succeed, but the military is built around [the idea that] you learn something, and then you achieve a level and then you teach other people how to achieve that level and your success is married to their success. That’s not true in the civilian world. People are a lot more self-centered — whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, they are focused on their own promotion, their own skill sets, their own growth, and they don’t think about the team as much as military people do.
So that’s the upside. The downside is that the military makes things very easy for us, and that’s probably counterintuitive because nobody looks back at their military experience and says “Man that was so easy” but they tell you “If you want to go to this next job, you go to this school. If you want to go to this next job, you need to do these things in the unit. You need to have these jobs.”
There’s a structure to the whole thing. There is no structure in entrepreneurship and when I see people [who] are trying to start business that are really sputtering, a lot of times they’re coming to me, they’re coming to other entrepreneurs and they’re saying that they’re looking for advice, but they’re really looking for me or others to do all of the work for them and they just want to knock down these easily set up targets. And that’s just not the way that entrepreneurship is. You have to go into nebulous situations and figure out a way through and there’s a lot of suffering in there and you might be great for two years and then something else comes in and changes the whole game, and you have to rethink everything that you’re doing.
So there’s good and bad. You know on the whole, I think you’re better off being a veteran, and the statistics show that, than not, but there are things that kind of bite us in the ass too.
WATM: How about in the corporate world?
NP: Um, again, it’s kind of — it’s a two-pronged answer — thinking that you are better than people, or that you are owed something, or that they all suck because they’re civilians, you are setting yourself up for failure. So if you go in with that approach, which a lot of people do, and then complain that no one wants to hire vets, you’re not going to do well, because frankly, nobody wants to be treated like sh-t. No one want to be looked down upon, so if you go in with a negative attitude, then people aren’t going to like you and you’re not going to get hired. If you go in with the same attitude that you had when you went into a new job in the military — “I don’t really know what I’m doing and I have to rely on the people around me to teach me everything I need to know, but be proactive in learning everything that you can,” — you’re going to do extremely well.
Every time I had a new corporate job, I spent most of my time for the first few weeks basically talking to everybody that was in the group — no different than somebody coming into a new unit [and] figuring out how the unit works what the SOP’s were — and then after that after I felt like I had a handle on it. Then I was going to best practices and other organizations, the internet, etc. to figure out how I could improve my job, the organization, and take it to the next level in any number of areas.
That’s the approach that you need to take to figure out what’s going on and then figure out how you can be most valuable and see what you can bring to the table, as opposed to “let me tell everybody here how things should really work, I was in the military.”
So just like anything else, going in humble with the intention of truly being helpful as opposed to trying to rise above other people is going to make you successful.
WATM: How do we get over that “I’m better than you” military mindset?
NP: I try to flip it around for people. You know, when people get out [of the military] and go to college and college students are making gross assumptions about them, you know about how having post-traumatic stress is going to result in them doing something insane, or about killing people or about this, that, or the other thing … all the stereotypes that you hear about college students.
How much does that infuriate them? How much does that make them want to have nothing to do with these people, does that make them feel like they’re a fish out of water in this organization?
Flip it around and treat somebody like that because they don’t have the same experiences that you had, and guess what? You’re the a–hole. You know, so stop being an a–hole.
You go in and you’re walking into their organization. You wouldn’t walk in from basic training, or for that matter, walk in off the street to basic training and [say] “alright check it out drill sergeant, let me tell you how it really is.” Because they’re gonna be like who the f–k do you think you are?
It’s no different. It’s no different walking into a company. You can’t walk in one day and tell everybody how it is or how it should be or, the way that it should work or that they’re all wrong, because you don’t know what you’re doing — no matter what experience you have — you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know how that organization [operates], what they do on a daily basis, and you don’t know the constraints and you don’t know the personalities involved.
You know if you flip it around, it suddenly sounds ludicrous, right? It’s the same thing.
WATM: What do you think was your biggest challenge with RangerUp, and how did you get through it?
NP: [Sighs] There’s a new one every year, man. Honest to God. There’s a new one every year. You know, the most dramatic challenge I went through [was that] I went through leaving corporate America and literally a month and a half later I was going through a divorce, so I rapidly ran out of personal [funds]. I sold everything that I had, mutual funds and all that stuff, and I was down to $1,300.
And the key there, just like the key has been in every other time that I’ve had a crisis with the company is to focus on one thing at a time every single day and try to improve. You know, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s inventory management, whatever, because if you take a step back and you look at all of it, all the problems and all the challenges, it’s overwhelming.
So, you know, putting it in military terms, right, if you can sit back and say I want to conquer the country of Iraq, that’s an insane task that requires many people thinking and assessing and even then it’s challenging but when you break it down: The first thing I need to do is, I need to take this city, I need to take this block, I need to take this street, [and] it becomes manageable.
So sometimes, especially when everything is sh-tty, and when cash flow’s tight and when you don’t have enough inventory … when sales are down for the month and there’s a new predator or whatever it is. When things are very challenging, you’ve got to narrow them into a list, because otherwise it’s overwhelming.
You put one thing on the list at a time, you do it until it’s done, and you do it so that it’s high quality, and then you do the second thing on the list and when you knock things out like that and you go through the formula of A, B, C, you find yourself in a better position after several miserable weeks.
If you just try to solve it all at once, you get nothing done, you can’t sleep at night, and it doesn’t improve. And so, I went from being a dude that had a lot of money to a dude that had $1,300 to his name and had maxed out credit cards.
But by knocking out one thing at a time, the next month I had $1,350, and the next month I had $1,500, and you know, I’ve taken that approach with everything. So every time something goes wrong, you have to assess, what is it?
Well, this time I have too much inventory in styles that weren’t really selling, how did that happen? So you figure all that out, and what I know is that I need money right now to make a sale on this inventory that isn’t showing, even if I take a loss on it because I need to get cash into the system, then how do I figure out how to do that next time? What led me to this?
So you need to go through the steps and at some point, like right now we have a very fancy inventory management system, we use algorithms to determine that we built based on our analysis and how many of something we should order. But that didn’t happen in a day because we f–ked up, and then we fixed it, and then we f–ked up again and then we fixed it, and as long as you don’t make the same mistakes, over time you start building a business that is very efficient and very sophisticated.
But at the beginning it’s like “hey, how many of these should we order? I don’t know, 100? 150?” And now it’s… I don’t want people rounding because we found two years ago that by rounding up to the nearest 12 shirts, we added $80,000 of inventory, 3 or 4 shirts at a time, and that money needs to be working, not sitting on the shelves.
You see what I’m saying? It all kind of builds.
WATM: I’ll follow up by asking, specifically, because you brought up the thing with $1300, how did you break that up, what was your priority there? It’s daunting, you’re looking at your account and seeing that you only have $1300, and you’ve gotta make money. What were the manageable tasks that you found got you to $1350 in the next month?
NP: The first thing was figuring out where the money was going, [and] where are we spending. One of the the big things back then was we really valued things. We were a smaller company, doing what the other people were doing, and we really valued things like athlete sponsorship and trade shows, and you know all the things that all the other companies are doing that everybody tells you are critical.
[We] just kind of walked through that and asked, is this critical? What does it really cost to do a trade show? What does it really cost to have an athlete? And then you figure out what the value of having these things really is. We almost don’t do any trade shows anymore because the average trade show ended up costing around $27,000 when all is said and done, and you just don’t get that kind of return. It’s just a thing that somebody created that people do, and everyone goes, “oh you’ve gotta be involved in this or else you’re not really in the industry.”
Well that’s not true at all, but that’s what everybody says. And you know, we do sponsor athletes, but we only sponsor our kind of athlete, and we figured out what that meant.
Inventory. It was a big issue back then and I was trying to figure out why sales weren’t growing — why we were very profitable, but we had no cash on hand. So it was a simple Excel spreadsheet where I rank-ordered all of the styles by sales and then to the right I put their inventory value and then I realized that I was getting 80 percent of our sales on about 20 percent of our inventory, and the other 80 percent of our inventory accounted for 20 percent of our sales.
It was embarrassing because I knew this stuff from business school, but it’s completely different when you’re in it, day to day, and you think about things like if I only print this smaller number, it’s gonna cost a dollar something more per shirt and that’s gonna be a ton of money — and it is a ton of money — and it’s not hundreds of thousands of dollars in useless inventory, and there’s no science to that.
It’s hard to balance what’s appropriate. Is it profitability or is it cash flow? You’ve gotta strike a balance, like you’ve gotta hold some inventory or you can’t sell but if you have too much inventory you have nothing available for investment.
So we did a fire sale on that 80 percent of the inventory and much of it we took a loss or did breakeven on, and then all of a sudden we had some cash and we invested that cash into styles that sold, and we were able to then create more styles and started developing styles more routinely.
All of these things were things I was working on over several months and the low point just happened to be at that $1,300 and so I had already been working to solve the problem. And it finally started clicking that following month, like all of a sudden these new styles were coming in, we were selling more, we had a little more cash on hand. I was able to pay myself a little more, and it wasn’t a ton more — like another $100 or $150 a month — but that little amount made all the difference. So you kind of chip away at these small things and they add up to be big things very quickly.
WATM: What are the tools you use on a daily basis to be more productive and get things done?
NP: I’m not a really fancy guy even though I have an appreciation for a lot of these crazy apps out there but really at the end of the day there are three tools that I use all the time.
Excel is the lifeblood of everything I do and I am an Excel ninja. People say that they are an Excel ninja because they can do a couple of basic formulas but there is nothing I cannot do in Excel. Spreadsheets are very complicated you know, drop down menus and like it’s just … [being] able to very quickly look at data and convert that into a few possible directions that you should go and that you should look at, is invaluable. If you’re gonna start your own business and you’re one of those people that’s like “Oh I’m not good at that, or I really don’t know that much about Excel,” take courses, start figuring out how to do analysis, [because] it’s really important.
The second thing is Quickbooks; I don’t care if you’re a brand new business and you only have $400 in sales, start using Quickbooks, start figuring out how all the different sheets work and fit together and constantly be looking at your business to see what’s going on. If you don’t know, then your success is just dumb luck.
You have to know what’s going on in the company. And then the last thing is just that I use the notepad on my iPhone and Tom [Amenta, COO of RangerUp] has Evernote or whatever the hell it’s called, and a few other fancy things but I just use the notepad every day and write down what I have to do on this day, and if I don’t get these things done then I have failed.
Or, at the very least I take it and I move it on to the notes for the next day. But every single day I am trying to knock out certain things. So those are the three very simple tools that I use constantly. You open up my computer and there’s always six or seven Excel sheets open and I get a daily Quickbooks report with a list of various things that are important to me along with a scorecard that the various managers inside the business provide me on a weekly basis and I hold myself accountable with my phone which is always with me.
WATM: I’d be really fascinated to learn what your creative process is like. You guys are churning out videos, blog posts, social media, memes, all kinds of stuff. How do you decide what’s good, who’s coming up with this stuff? Can you take me through what that’s like?
NP: We have a really good creative team and that’s me, Tom Amenta, Jack Mandaville, Patrick Thomas Baker, and all of our designers. It’s just a really good group of people, but it also extends to anybody [who] wants to be involved.
So sometimes we have, I don’t know, three organized meetings about various topics in terms of creativity every week so one is the design process, one is videos, and one might just be general ideas about projects you take on.
But then also there are people like Jack, Pat and I that are literally always thinking about this kind of stuff. Like I’ll wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and jot down some stupid video idea or an article I want to write or whatever, and it hits me and I put it down.
And you know, our whole concept is we want to entertain our friends. That’s the way that we look at our business. How can we entertain, educate, or just generally amuse our friends? If we do that right everything falls into place. And if we don’t do that right, we’re just another t-shirt company.
NP: Range 15 is a post-apocalyptic comedy. Think of it as “The Hangover” after the apocalypse with veterans leading the charge to save the world. And in terms of the plot that’s kind of what I can give up right now.
The main character in this movie is going to be Mat Best. He’s got the high cheek bones and the steely blue eyes so we thought it was a no-brainer, and then the rest of the Ranger Up and Article 15 crew who I’m with, Dakota Meyer, Leroy Petry, Tim Kennedy and we just got a really interesting call that I did not expect from another well-known military celebrity that is interested in being involved.
And he has already had a very popular movie done about him, but he has never done a comedy before, and I think we’re going to be adding his seal to the mix here. But the concept here is that veterans are always portrayed in a certain way in movies, even positive movies. It’s always about sacrifice and suffering and they always end up worse off from their experiences. And that’s really just not the case. I mean it’s the case with some people, sure, but on the whole veterans are the most industrious, fun, can-do people that I’ve ever met and that I think most people will ever meet and so we just wanted to have fun with it.
So for example, we’ve got two Medal of Honor recipients in this thing and they’re poking fun at each other and the service. And they’re in a movie that could be described as one of the most ridiculous movies that you’re ever gonna see anywhere, and they’re doing it because they should be able to do it. Nobody should be able to tell these guys, “you can only do this type of film” or this kind of documentary.
No, because they want to do the same kind of thing that we want to do. They want to amuse our friends, they want to show them that you can do anything. I mean for all, for any negative threads that are on us doing this silly movie, at the end of the day, in 24 hours we’ve raised almost $200,000 [Editor’s note: Now it’s almost $500,000] to do a movie for our community.
I’ll be honest, the folks at IndieGoGo spoke to a mutual friend and had told them that we were going to launch and they kind of ignored it. And the president of IndieGoGo called and his question to them was “Who the f–k are you guys?” Because he didn’t understand, he did not understand how we were doing it, and it’s because people don’t understand the community and understand what these kinds of things mean to the community.
It’s gonna be a good movie. It’s gonna be really funny and it’s going to be for us, and because we’re doing it for us we don’t have to compromise the message at all. We don’t care if someone’s offended by it. We don’t care if this isn’t Hollywood appropriate, and if this isn’t gonna do well in the Asian market. We don’t care about any of that stuff.
Because we’re doing a movie that our fans want us to do. And it basically breaks all the rules. Our IndieGoGo campaign wasn’t set up the way IndieGoGo says you should set up a campaign, our marketing strategy isn’t what they say you’re supposed to employ, we’re not relying on Hollywood interviews, we’re not relying on press and we’re not relying on any of this stuff and we’re doing it hardcore, direct and social.
And we’re on pace right now to be one of the largest funded movies ever on IndieGoGo, and I think that speaks less about us and more about the community.
WATM: What about the decline of the military comedy in a post 9/11 environment? Why has that happened and were you actively trying to combat that?
NP: You should be able to have fun with it. And we saw the same kind of thing with some people with “Enlisted.”
Military veterans are not saints. And I don’t mean that in like we aren’t good people, but you do not need to bow down to the altar of the veteran. We’re regular people, and we should be able to make fun of ourselves. And if you think that veterans can’t because they have to live up to some standard or stereotype, that’s your problem, not ours.
I think most veterans have a lot of fun, are funny people, enjoy life and don’t want to be stuck with this view that they are droids that are serious and boring people. I think it’s unfair and we want to shatter that.
WATM: It seems counterintuitive to work with Article 15 Clothing, which outsiders would view as a competitor. How do you explain that relationship? It seems antithetical to the norms of business to be friends with companies creating such similar products.
NP: With Article 15, we have a very similar ethos. Those guys genuinely care about the veteran community; it’s not just window dressing. So they’re genuine guys and I like them personally, but the second part of it is that I don’t think it’s a zero sum game. I don’t wish failure on anybody.
We grow, they grow. Grunt Style [another military apparel company] grows and it’s not a bad thing [because] these people are employing veterans and doing good things. I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t had a single year where we haven’t had triple or double digit growth, so I’ve got no reason to complain.
When you sit around and look at competitors and worry about what they’re doing, and worry about other people, you are stagnant, you’re not improving, you’re not creating new products. You’re just worrying and you’re trying to go backwards. When you [should] look forward you grow.
That’s what we do, so I worked with Article 15, and we became friends, I gave them some advice here and there, and as a result of that mutual trust we kind of hung out and came up with the concept of doing this together and it’s been a really good partnership.
You can ask them the same questions and I’m relentless — that’s my personality — so from the moment that we decided to do this, I’m the guy who is annoying the sh-t out of everybody like “hey, we gotta do this, here’s our timetable, hey, we’ve got to get the lawyers to do this, we’ve gotta fill out this form and here’s the script notes. I need this and I need that.”
And Jarred [Taylor] is a promotional genius, Mat is a very creative dude, he’s hilarious, Jack [Mandaville] is hilarious, and everyone is kind of bringing something to the table. Individually I’m not gonna say, “could Article 15 have not done this without us?” No, I would never say that. They’re motivated guys, and they could have done it, same with us, like we could have done the same thing.
But together, we’re unstoppable. And I truly feel that way. Working together on this, we’re unstoppable. We’re putting up numbers that are shocking on IndieGoGo because the general population has no f–king idea who any of us are. But we’re still putting up numbers that are a quarter of what Broken Lizard just did with “Super Troopers” and that’s a movie that probably 20 percent of America has seen and loves, because we work great together, and have been able to kind of check egos and just work really hard.
So, for me it’s just been a win for everybody and it’s been an awesome experience.
WATM: You were an Army officer, so I’m curious as to what terrifies you more: leading a unit of soldiers, or leading your own company? Or is it similar?
NP: It’s really different. And I also think it’s different because as you get older you think about things differently too. Like to think if I was this age, and if I were to take a platoon now, I would have been a lot more afraid than I was then, because when you’re 21 or 22 and just out of Ranger School, you feel like you’re unstoppable and you’re surrounded by guys who feel like they’re unstoppable.
Deploying was definitely nerve wracking because, a lot of people say this, but I was one of the guys that really loved everybody in my platoon even if they were a pain in the ass, and I really looked at them as my family. And it was terrifying to think of losing somebody. But I was fortunate that I wasn’t in a position where that happened. So, I was a young guy and felt invincible and never was faced with some of the bad things that happened to other people.
The stress is different though. The stress of a business is constant, and it’s not something where there is a clear, there’s no clear enemy right? It’s just this constant stress. Do we have the right inventory? Do we have the right ideas? Do we have the right advertising strategy? Oh crap, this thing went wrong. We need to fix this. The shirts came in wrong, the movie title headline is off because of X,Y, and Z, the lawyers didn’t get us the paperwork in time.
So now, my brain works 24/7, and it’s never over. In the nine years I’ve been doing this, I’ve basically had this constant stress in the back of my head, whereas the military, the stress has much higher peaks but shorter duration.
You get back from deployment and that stress drops significantly, then you deploy and the stress peaks. Within an entrepreneurial endeavor, the stress never goes away. It’s just always there. There’s always something you could be doing. That was a convoluted answer, but in the worst situation, [there’s] no question about it that the military is more stressful. On a day to day basis it’s more stressful to be an entrepreneur.
WATM: Living or dead, who are your top 3 heroes?
NP: George Washington is the best president we will ever have. I’ve read just about everything written on the man and people have no idea how much that dude did for the country and for our way of life.
Cheesy I know, but my father came over from Italy when he was eight years old, volunteered for Vietnam, served for six years, got out and used the GI Bill to be the first person to go to college in our family on either side, graduated valedictorian, and sacrificed significantly so that my mom and my brother and I grew up thinking anything was possible, and essentially made it so that we did make anything possible that we wanted to do.
And then third, gosh, you know the third one is a tough one, I’m not really a big hero worship kind of guy but I’m gonna go with Captain America. I’m serious. I’m going with Captain America because no matter how bad it gets, he sticks to doing what the right thing is and he never allows his principles to be shaken.
WATM: You want to start a new business instead of RU. What is it?
NP: That’s a tough one for me to answer because I have so many offers on the table right now. If I wanted to do something completely different I would do something that involved absolutely zero inventory.
So we’re kind of doing something that’s been a dream of mine for a long time, and that’s to get into the movie business. I mean, we might get into doing this movie and realize that we all hate movies. You know I enjoy doing advertising work, I could also see myself at some point disengaging from business and spending some time doing some nonprofit work.
It’s tough for me, because literally every day someone is trying to buy us, get us involved in a new business or hire me or Tom or somebody away from here. So I almost can’t even answer that.
At the end of the day, I want to work with really good people because the business almost doesn’t matter. I don’t even really like T-shirts. I tell people that all the time. But I really like my customers. And that’s what keeps me in the game with RangerUp.
If I had the opportunity to take over a $200 million business, but the focus was on football players or something, I don’t think my heart would be in it and I don’t think that I would be as good at it. Working with good people, and customers that I believe in, that’s kind of what motivates me. I need to care about what I’m doing.
I was in a position in corporate America where I was making a lot of money, I was on pace to make a bunch more money, and that taught me that I really don’t care about money. I mean obviously, I need to eat and I need to take care of my family, but I don’t need to be Kanye or Mayweather blowing 100K at a strip club. That’s not gonna make me happy. So whatever I do, the work has to be worthwhile.
WATM: What’s the #1 business book you find yourself recommending to people?
NP: I don’t really believe in business books. They’re just cheesy, they’re narcissistic, they’re people telling you how great they are, for the most part.
I would tell you that Ryan Holiday wrote a really cool book called The Obstacle Is The Way. It’s not really a business book but it is a great read and it’s founded on the principles of stoicism. And if you want to go back even further, read Marcus Aurelius. One of the great things that I learned from Ryan, and this is just from personal interaction with him, is that if you want to know something about a topic, any topic, walk into the bookstore and find the oldest book on that topic that’s still in print, because if it’s still in print, it’s because it’s a good book.
If it’s a new thing that someone famous just wrote, it’s probably a piece of sh-t, and I’ve found that to be true. And I’ve started reading older and older books, and the classics, and philosophy, because I find that to be a lot more valuable than reading about some dude that just launched an app and is 25 and trying to tell people how to run their life and run their business.
Sometimes people are really good, sometimes people are really lucky, [and] sometimes people are really good and can’t tell a story. Read old books.
WATM: What about a military-related book?
NP: That’s tough. I really like Gates of Fire, I really like Starship Troopers, the book, not the movie although the movie’s fun. The Long Grey Line, that’s a great book. Black Hawk Down. There [are] so many great books out there it’s hard to pick just one. Sean Parnell’s Outlaw Platoon, that’s a new one. I really enjoyed that book and Sean is a great guy. That probably makes that book even better for me, but to say that I have a favorite is pretty challenging.
WATM: Last thing: Where do people go to learn more about you? Besides RangerUp.com, do you have a personal website, Twitter account, Instagram, or smoke signal that you would recommend? Video you would want people to watch?
NP:@Ranger_Up is my Twitter, and that’s me tweeting 90 percent of the time. I don’t have a personal account yet but I’ve been getting kicked in the ass to start one so that’s coming soon [laughs].
Watch the “How to Get a Job” series. That’s what I care about. Just figuring out how to get people set up for success, so if the question is what am I about, that’s gonna be the best video for that.
Fighter aces are a rare and legendary breed: People who are not only skilled enough to fly jets in combat, but so good at it that they can knock down at least five of the enemy without dying themselves. But there’s an even more elite subset of pilots who were able to kill at least five of the enemy in a single day, sometimes a single engagement.
Here are 7 of these elite pilots:
1. 1st Lt. James Swett
Marine Corps 1st Lt. James Swett was sent against Japanese fighters near the Solomons Island on April 7, 1943. He led his four-plane flight against 15 enemy bombers and successfully shredded three of them in a single dive. Now separated from the rest of his flight, he attacked a group of six bombers and downed four of them. While lining up on a fifth bomber, he ran out of ammo.
His plane had been damaged in the fighting and he had suffered cuts to his face from a broken cockpit window. He managed to land his stricken plane into the ocean and was picked up by the Navy. His seven kills from that day were accompanied by eight more over the course of the war. He received the Medal of Honor and six Distinguished Flying Crosses.
2. 1st Lt. Jefferson DeBlanc
During fighting in the Solomon Islands on January 31, 1943, Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jefferson DeBlanc was sent up to escort dive bombers targeting Japanese ships. A swarm of Japanese Zeroes rose up against them. DeBlanc and his men were able to keep the Zeroes off the dive bombers, but then he got a call for assistance from low-flying bombers that they were under attack by Japanese float planes.
DeBlanc banked down into the fight and shot his way through three of the float planes. Low on fuel and ammo, he finally banked away towards home, only to notice that two Japanese fighters were coming up behind him. DeBlanc turned back to fight and killed the two Zeroes before being forced to bail out of his plane because of the damage from all the fighting. He earned the Medal of Honor for his actions and survived the war.
Caldwell went after a group of three bombers and took out the 2nd and 3rd planes in formation with quick bursts, then he made more passes through the now-dispersed bombers and hit two more in wings and engines. Finally, he came up towards the belly of a fifth bomber and waited until he was right against it to open fire, engulfing it in flames and sending it down.
4. Lt. Cmdr. Edward O’Hare
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edward O’Hare was a legend in early World War II, and his most famous battle came just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. On February 20, 1942, a flight of Japanese “Betty” bombers headed for the USS Lexington. One flight of Navy F4F Wildcats went after the first wave, and O’Hare and his wingman were the only ones left to defend against the second wave.
But O’Hare’s wingman experienced a gun jam, and so O’Hare had to go after eight Japanese bombers on his own. He went after the rear bombers on the right side, first, downing two of them quickly with bursts through the engines and fuel tanks. On a second pass, O’Hare destroyed two more with shots to an engine and to a left wing and cockpit. Finally, he hit two more on a third pass, leading him to believe that he had downed six. The engagement had lasted less than six minutes.
During the evacuation of Dunkirk in May, 1940, British Flight Lt. Nicholas Cooke and his gunner, Cpl. Albert Lippett, were sent to help keep the beaches open for evacuation. On May 29, they were in their Defiant when their formation engaged with a group of German Bf 109 fighters and they killed one. Later in the mission, they engaged a group of Bf 109s and Bf 110s, killing one of each.
They refueled and rearmed and headed out for another mission, this time finding a group of dive bombers attacking at the beaches. Cooke positioned the plane near the ground and gave Lippett a stable platform to shoot from. The young gunner targeted the fuel tanks that sat between the German pilot and navigator, killing five over the beaches and helping kill two more.
Only two days later, they would go missing over the English Channel.
His greatest one-day total came on September 18 when he made a run on balloons and downed two, then killed two of the German fighters that came up to kill him, and then spotted and killed a German reconnaissance plane on his way back to U.S. lines.
7. Capt. Stanley Vejtasa
Navy Capt. Stanley Vejtasa is one of the few “double aces” with 10.5 confirmed aerial kills. He achieved ace status in a single day on October 26, 1942, when he killed two Japanese dive bombers attempting to sink his carrier and then turned to interrupt a torpedo attack, killing five of them for seven kills in a single mission.
But his greater contribution to the war may have been his skill in dive bombers and other planes while attacking Japanese planes. He was credited with sinking at least five ships including a carrier and damaging seven more, making him one of the very few pilots who can claim ace status against ships.
The joke came on Aug. 11, 1984. Reagan was in the middle of a re-election campaign, and so he had a big announcement planned for his weekly radio address to America. He was going to be at his ranch in California, and so he asked National Public Radio engineers to do the address from there. They agreed.
But they weren’t the only ones who had heard the remarks. The audio was already being sent to some of the radio stations that would broadcast the remarks, and those stations were recording the feed in case they missed the start of the presidential address.
And not all of them were part of the agreement to hold recordings not meant for broadcast. Someone leaked the audio.
Most of the world got that it was a joke and the punditry class took on its typical role of either condemning or praising the remarks. Most condemned, especially in those countries in Europe that Russia’s missiles could reach. The Soviet Union was also predictably, not a fan.
But one group of Soviet soldiers weren’t entirely sure that it was a joke. There were reports of a low-level Soviet commander putting his troops in Vladivostok on a wartime footing on August 13, in the belief that America really was going to war with the Soviet Union.
The Air Force has narrowed down hundreds of airmen in the running to become enlisted drone pilots to enter the next phase of the program.
The Air Force Personnel Center on Wednesday said 305 active-duty enlisted airmen were identified for an upcoming selection board tasked with picking the next enlisted group to attend remotely piloted aircraft training.
Officials didn’t disclose how many of those airmen will then be selected for formal training, set to begin in 2017. But they’re seeing a surge of interest.
The center received more than 800 applicants during this cycle. For comparison, the program normally gets around 200 applicants. Because of the boost, the center is processing potential candidates in groups.
The Air Force last year announced it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmedRQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft. Officials in September touted that the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, or EPIC, would begin on Oct. 12 with four of 12 total students training alongside 20 recently commissioned officers.
The formal training process spans an entire year.
“We have an incredibly talented pool of enlisted Airmen, and we’re confident that this rigorous selection process will yield excellent enlisted aircrew who will continue to provide combatant commanders with the ISR they need to win today’s fight,” Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca Guthrie, career enlisted aviator assignments manager at AFPC said in a release.
Candidates selected in Phase 2 “will need to get the required medical screening and commander’s recommendation and submit completed application packages to AFPC no later than Dec. 16,” the release said. If warranted, medical waivers will be due by Jan. 27, 2017.
The enlisted RPA pilot selection board will meet Feb. 6 – 9, with results expected by the end of that month, officials said.
No, the U.S. did not suddenly become a monarchy, nor are we even starting to think about it. But Americans, despite their historical disagreements with the idea of royalty, are very much enamored with some of the world’s royal families. The Shah of Iran, Princess Grace of Monaco, and (of course) the House of Windsor in the United Kingdom have all been the subject of Americans’ interest for a time.
The fact is that the United States could well have been a kind of constitutional monarchy, with George Washington on the throne. A small cabal of Continental Army officers wanted to give that a go, being unsure of a republican government. Washington rebuffed the men, and the rest is history – but what if there had been one chair to rule all of the United States? Who today could win that game of thrones?
Deal with it.
1. Queen Elizabeth II
This one is pretty obvious. As the current reigning monarch of the last monarch that ruled what we now call the United States, reverting back to a monarchy would see the U.S. go along with who the British Empire proclaimed to be the rightful heirs to the throne throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, which brings us to Queen Elizabeth.
Looks like the Prince enjoys a few smokes with his beers. Welcome to America.
2. Ernst August V, the House of Hanover
When the United States won its independence from Britain, the reigning monarch was King George III of the House of Hanover. The Hanoverians ruled the British Empire until the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901 but if we were to give Hanover the throne of the United States to pick where they left off, the current head of the House of Hanover would be H.R.H. Prince Ernst August V, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, son-in-law of Princess Grace of Monaco, and public urination aficionado.
3. Louis Alphonse de Bourbon, Duke of Anjou
Also known in some circles as Louis XX, the Duke of Anjou is the current pretender to a French throne that no longer exists and is the direct descendant of Louis XVI. Louis XVI, of course, is the last Bourbon king of France before the French Revolution caused his head to be removed from the rest of his body. It could be argued that since the Louisiana Purchase of French North America resulted in doubling the size of the young United States, French kings have a legitimate claim to any would-be American throne.
Spanish King Felipe VI meets President Donald Trump at the White House.
4. King Felipe VI of Spain
Since many of the United States current possessions were once Spanish possessions, it makes sense that the current King of Spain, King Felipe VI, be considered for the U.S. throne. Making Felipe’s claim even stronger is that he is also descended from the Bourbon king Louis XVI and is the second cousin to France’s Duke Louis Alphonse de Bourbon.
5. Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon
Remember that time the French people got rid of their king (we just briefly mentioned it)? Eventually, the country was ruled by First Consul – later Emperor – Napoléon Bonaparte. Bonaparte ruled France as it sold its North American possessions to the United States in 1803. Well, he still has living heirs, the most prominent being Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon, a descendant of Napoléon’s youngest brother Jérôme, and the Emperor’s great-great-great-great-nephew.
Who? seen here with Pope Benedict XVI.
6. Count Maximilian von Götzen-Iturbide
Much of what is today the United States once belonged to Mexico before the U.S. took it in the Mexican War of 1846. At that time, Mexico was ruled by the dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. But before Mexico took on a republican form of government, it was ruled by a legitimate Mexican Emperor, Augustin I. He ruled very briefly before being executed and overthrown, but his living descendants include Count Maximilian von Götzen-Iturbide, the current head of Mexico’s royal family.
Who says we can’t have a Queen? Or Tsarina?
7. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna
Given the number of Russian holdings in North America, it’s not crazy to consider a Russian claim to the throne. Russia’s last possession, Alaska, was sold to the United States during the reign of Tsar Alexander II, grandfather to the last official Russian Tsar. As many are aware, the Imperial Romanov’s reign over Russia ended when the family was murdered by Bolsheviks during Russia’s transition to becoming the Soviet Union. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna is now the recognized head of the Imperial Family of Russia, now that there are no more male members of the Romanov Dynasty left.
8. Andrew Romanov, Prince of Russia
Wait, I thought I said there were no more male Romanovs? I did, but monarchy is tricky. If it were that simple, there wouldn’t be so many stupid wars about who gets what throne. Prince Andrew is a direct descendant of Tsar Nicholas I, whose reign ended with his death in 1855. His grandmother was Russian Duchess Xenia who fled Russia in 1917 aboard a British warship. Romanov is a World War II veteran of the British Royal Navy who even lived in California for a time.
How do you like them apples, your Royal Highness?
9. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Yes, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, consort of the British Monarch, actually has a claim to the throne of Imperial Russia, and as a result, a weak but possible claim to the fictional throne of the United States. Since Philip is both great-great-grandson of Tsar Nicholas I and grandnephew of the last Tsarina Alexandra Romanov, it gives him a claim to the same lands and titles.
Your potential Queen of the United States is in the center, wearing purple.
10. Princess Owana Ka’ohelelani Salazar
If Alaska gives Russia a claim to the throne of the United States, why not Hawaii? Before Hawaii became a U.S. territory by annexation in 1898, it was a sovereign republic, led by American businessman Sanford Dole. Before that, though, it was a sovereign kingdom, ruled by Queen Liliʻuokalani, a native Hawaiian. Though Queen Liliʻuokalani’s dynastic succession ended with her death in 1917, the royal lineage continued, and today the head of the Hawaiian royal family is HRH Princess Owana Ka’ohelelani Salazar, who is also an accomplished steel guitar player.