How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces - We Are The Mighty
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How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces

Brig. Gen. Robert Scott was probably the most bombastic Air Force personality this side of Curtis LeMay. Scott made it his personal mission to be the best fighter pilot in the Army Air Forces by flying as much as he could. In the early 1930s, at a time when most airmen were logging 48 hours per year, Scott was logging 400. 

By the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Scott was itching to get into combat. The problem was Scott was much older than most pilots. So Scott had to do what many men who wanted to fight World War II did when they were disqualified: he lied. 

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
“I aM tWeLvE.” (Museum of Aviation)

In order to get into a theater of war – any theater – the former flight instructor told his superiors that he was proficient in flying B-17 Flying Fortress. He had never even flown one. But it was good enough to get him into the China-India-Burma theater. Luckily, he never had to fly one in combat. 

Scott was part of the effort to bomb Japan from China, which required C-47 transports to airlift fuel over the Himalayas into China for the bombers. That effort fell through too, as flying over “the hump” (as the route became known) often required the transports to take on more fuel. 

With this failure in air strategy, Robert Scott was finally about to get his taste of air combat. Brig. Gen. Claire Chennault, who famously led the “Flying Tigers,” a unit of American volunteer airmen flying for China before the war, noticed his bravado. Chennault placed him in command of the 23rd Fighter Group.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Col. Robert L. Scott Jr. in front of a P-40 Warhawk in 1943. (Courtesy photo/Museum of Aviation)

The pilots of the 23rd Fighter Group would fly Curtiss P-40 Warhawks in support of the Allies’ operations in China, support for transports flying over the hump, and had the mission of destroying Japanese aircraft, either in the air or on the ground anywhere in China they could find them. 

On Scott’s first mission Japanese anti-aircraft guns penetrated the armor of his P-40 Warhawk and stuck its pilot full of metal shards. He made it home and landed his aircraft just like it was any other mission but was immediately taken to a cave overlooking the airfield for medical treatment. It was there he conceived the now-famous phrase.

Dr. Fred Manget treated Scott’s wounds, removing the metal splinters without the benefit of an anaesthetic. As he sat there working on the pilot, his Chinese aide reportedly asked Scott, “Colonel, you fly plane, shoot guns, talk radio, all-time fight barbarian. You do all these things alone?”

Scott looked at the man and replied, “Where in hell would anybody else sit? No, I don’t need any help. I’m a fighter pilot!”

The doctor, without missing a beat, interjected and told Scott simply, “You are never alone up there. Not with all the things you came through. You have the greatest co-pilot in the world even if there is just room for one in that fighter.”

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Brig. Gen. Robert L. Scott Jr., being more awesome at 89 than any of us at 29. He flew this B-1 in 1997 for his birthday. (Courtesy photo/ Museum of Aviation)

The response blew Scott’s mind. He sat up and thought of the phrase, “God is my co-pilot.” He would later give his autobiography the same title. With this idea in mind, Scott returned to combat, becoming a fighter ace in just two months. He would be a double ace by the end of 1942. By January 1943, the end of his time in World War II, Scott would claim 13 enemy kills.

Scott would write and release his book, God Is My Co-Pilot, that same year. It became an instant bestseller, selling millions of copies and was made into a film by Warner Brothers.


Feature image: Museum of Aviation

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This pilot crashed his plane into the guns that shot him down

Air Force Maj. Charles J. Loring Jr. was a veteran of World War II, former prisoner of war, and an accomplished fighter and bomber pilot when he took off on a mission over Korea on Nov. 22, 1952. When North Korean batteries scored hits on his plane that would normally force the pilot to abort the mission, Loring turned his dive bomber into a kamikaze plane instead.


How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Maj. Charles Loring, U.S. Air Force pilot and Medal of Honor recipient. (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

 

Loring received his commission in the Army Air Forces in late 1942 and flew combat missions over Europe, notching up 55 combat missions and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross before he was shot down on Christmas Eve 1944 over Belgium and made a prisoner of war.

He survived the ordeal and was promoted to captain. He served as an instructor for the first few years of the Korean War but was sent forward in 1952. He once again stacked up combat missions quickly, flying another 50 in four months.

When Chinese and North Korean forces concentrated their artillery—including their anti-aircraft artillery—in two locations, Loring was called up to lead a bombing mission against them. Loring’s target featured 133 large guns and 24 rocket launchers for use against ground troops and 47 anti-aircraft weapons to keep men like Loring at bay.

Loring, newly promoted to major, was in the cockpit of an F-80 with three other jets on November 22 when he initiated the dive-bombing run against the Chinese positions.

But it all went to hell from there. The Chinese troops manning the guns were accurate, and they scored some hits when Loring lined up to dive on them. According to after-action reports and his medal citation, Loring had plenty of time to abort the drop, but he didn’t:

Major Loring aggressively continued to press the attack until his aircraft was hit. At approximately 4,000 feet, he deliberately altered his course and aimed his diving aircraft at active gun emplacements concentrated on a ridge northwest of the briefed target, turned his aircraft 45 degrees to the left, pulled up in a deliberate, controlled maneuver, and elected to sacrifice his life by diving his aircraft directly into the midst of the enemy emplacements.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Maj. Charles J. Loring Jr. (second from left) poses with other members of the 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron at Suwon Air Base, Republic of Korea, in 1952. (U.S. Air Force)

Yeah, Loring turned his already stricken plane into the guns, hitting a cluster of them and burying them in the metal and burning fuel of his F-80. Of course, he lost his own life in the maneuver.

The U.S. Air Force nominated him for the Medal of Honor which he later received posthumously. He was one of only four airmen to receive the honor. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower awarded the medal to Loring’s wife, he also announced that a new Air Force base in Maine would be named in his honor.

Articles

9 Awesome Military Christmas Cards

Christmas away from home is tough, and it doesn’t get any easier with more deployments under your belt. But getting a good card from a loved one or dear friend can help brighten the mood. Here are nine of the best:


How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
F/A-18 Hornet with Santa in the cockpit aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Cammo tree (and cammo snowflakes) . . .

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
‘Tis the season for Tier One.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
How does Santa do it? F-15 Eagle. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
From the holiday wayback machine. (Christmas card from the USS Saratoga.)

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Rappelling Santa. (Design by John Cudal)

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Git some, Santa. (Photo by SORD)

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
All hands Santa. (Photo: DoD)

 

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Amen.

Merry Christmas to all of our deployed forces from the entire team at We Are The Mighty.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This oiler saved the American carriers at Coral Sea

The humble fleet oiler doesn’t get a lot of attention. Today’s version of this vessel, the Henry J. Kaiser-class replenishment oiler, is still relatively slow (capable of reaching a top speed of 20 knots), but it is huge (displacing over 40,000 tons). It makes sense that the ship responsible for hauling gas enough to fuel an entire carrier strike group — both ships and planes — would be a lumbering sea giant.

During the Battle of the Coral Sea, however, one humble oiler did more than provide fuel for the ships in the fight.


That oiler, the USS Neosho (AO 23), saved the American carriers. The Neosho was a Cimarron-class vessel that joined the fleet in 1939. She wasn’t as big (displacing 7,500 tons) or fast (capping out at 18 knots) as today’s oilers, but she was still able to top off the fleet’s tanks.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces

USS Neosho (AO 23) refuels the carrier USS Yorktown (CV 5) before the Battle of the Coral Sea.

(U.S. Navy)

According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Neosho fulfilled her primary mission prior to the Battle of the Coral Sea, refueling USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Astoria (CA 34) after planes had carried out strikes against Japanese-occupied Tulagi. It was on the first day of the coming battle, however, that she would do much more than provide fuel.

At the time, the Navy was so short on hulls that she had only one escort, USS Sims (DD 409). A Japanese plane found the Neosho and her lone escort on May 7. The enemy pilot mistook the ship for a carrier. So, the Japanese carriers, Shokaku and Zuikaku, sent their air groups after the oiler. The Sims was quickly sunk and Neosho took seven bomb hits and had a Japanese plane crash into her.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces

USS Neosho (AO 23) pictured while taking the Japanese attack meant for the carriers USS Lexington (CV 2) and USS Yorktown (CV 5).

(Japanese Defense Agency)

The vessel stayed afloat for four days when Allied search planes finally found her. The destroyer USS Henley (DD 391) arrived on the 11th. The 123 survivors that were taken off of the oiler then learned that the United States Navy had turned back the Japanese — in no small part because the Neosho took a strike intended for Lexington and Yorktown.

The Neosho was scuttled, but two other fleet oilers have since borne the name.

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Here’s how the US is sticking it to Beijing in the South China Sea

China has for years been whittling away at the US military’s asymmetrical advantage in conventional military strength with a naval buildup, building and militarizing artificial islands in the South China Sea, and creating systems and weapons custom built to negate the US’s technological advantage.


By all indications, China is building aircraft carriers and getting ready to place surface-to-air missiles deep into the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, China’s neighbors have grown increasingly worried and timid as it cements a land grab in a shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in annual trade and has billions in resources, like oil, waiting to be exploited.

Related: These 4 islands could be America’s unsinkable aircraft carriers in the Pacific

Six countries lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, and the US isn’t one of them. But the US doesn’t need a dog in this fight to stand up for freedom of navigation and international law.

Here’s how the US counters China in the region.

For the US, checking Beijing in the Pacific often means sailing carrier strike groups through the region — something the Navy has done for decades, whether China protests or not.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Kurtis A. Hatcher

As Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of 7th Fleet, said recently at a military conference: “We’re going to fly, sail, operate wherever international law allows.”

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman

The strike group has plenty of aircraft along with them, like this A F/A-18E Super Hornet and a nuclear-capable B-1B Lancer from Guam.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Navy photo by Lt. Robert Nordlund

Unlike submarines and ICBMs buried under land or sea, the US’s strategic, nuclear-capable bombers make up the most visible leg of the nuclear triad. Placing a handful of B-1Bs in Guam sends a message to the region.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Air Force

Here’s the US’s entire strategic bomber force lined up in Guam, representing more than 60 years bomber dominance.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
The B-52, the B-1, and the B-2 (right to left) on runways at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.US Air Force

It also doesn’t hurt when the US Navy shows off its complete mastery of carrier-based aircraft. There are F-18 pilots in the Navy that likely have more carrier landings than the entire Chinese navy combined.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

Those jets benefit from the support of about 7,000 sailors on the ship, who keep them running around the clock.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

Airborne early warning and control planes like the E-2 Hawkeye use massive radars to act as the eyes and ears of the fleet. Not much gets past them.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

But carriers don’t sail alone either. Here a guided missile destroyer knocks through some rough seas accompanying the Vinson.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Mortensen

The US Navy may be the most professional in the world, with a very serious mission in the South China Sea, but they still make time for a swim on one of the US’s newest combat ships, the USS Coronado.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amy M. Ressler

The Coronado doesn’t look like an aircraft carrier, but it does have serious airpower in the form of a MH-60S Seahawk with twin .50 caliber door guns.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amy M. Ressler

But the key to the US’s success in far away waters is allies. The US doesn’t do anything alone, if you’re noticing a pattern here. Here US and Royal Brunei Navy sailors practice boarding a ship.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Navy Photo

In February, US Marines partnered up with Japanese self-defense forces to practice amphibious landings — a skill that may one day come in handy on artificial islands.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Marine Corps by Lance Cpl. Tyler Byther

Sometimes working with allies means getting down and dirty. Here a Seabee gets neck deep in Japan.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Seabee participating in the endurance course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Henderson

The bottom line is that the US military has decades of experience sailing, training, and fighting with its allies in the Pacific. China has come a long way in shifting the balance of power in the region, but the US remains on top — for now.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

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This crucial 1942 naval battle was captured on film by a Hollywood director

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces


On June 4, 1942, the Battle of Midway kicked off between the U.S. and Japan. When it was all over on June 7, it was hailed as a decisive American victory — and much of it was captured on film.

That’s all because the Navy sent director John Ford to Midway atoll just days before it was attacked by the Japanese. Ford, already famous in Hollywood for such films as “Stage Coach” and “The Grapes of Wrath,” was commissioned a Navy commander with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and thought he was just going to document a quaint island in the South Pacific.

“The next morning – that night we got back and evidently something was about to pop, great preparations were made,” Ford told Navy historians after the battle. “I was called into Captain Semard’s office, they were making up plans, and he said ‘Well, now Ford, you are pretty senior here, and how about you getting up top of the power house, the power station, where the phones are?’ He said, ‘Do you mind?” I said ‘No, it’s a good place to take pictures.’

He said, ‘Well, forget the pictures as much as you can, but I want a good accurate account of the bombing,” he said, “We expect to be attacked tomorrow.'”

From History.com:

A thousand miles northwest of Honolulu, the strategic island of Midway became the focus of his scheme to smash U.S. resistance to Japan’s imperial designs. Yamamoto’s plan consisted of a feint toward Alaska followed by an invasion of Midway by a Japanese strike force. When the U.S. Pacific Fleet arrived at Midway to respond to the invasion, it would be destroyed by the superior Japanese fleet waiting unseen to the west. If successful, the plan would eliminate the U.S. Pacific Fleet and provide a forward outpost from which the Japanese could eliminate any future American threat in the Central Pacific. U.S. intelligence broke the Japanese naval code, however, and the Americans anticipated the surprise attack.

The three-day battle resulted in the loss of two U.S. ships and more than 300 men. The Japanese fared much worse, losing four carriers, three destroyers, 275 planes, and nearly 5,000 men.

Ford was wounded in the initial attack, but he continued to document the battle using his handheld 16mm camera. Here’s how he described it:

“By this time the attack had started in earnest. There was some dive bombing at objectives like water towers, [they] got the hangar right away. I was close to the hangar and I was lined up on it with my camera, figuring it would be one of the first things they got. It wasn’t any of the dive bombers [that got it]. A Zero flew about 50 feet over it and dropped a bomb and hit it, the whole thing went up. I was knocked unconscious. Just knocked me goofy for a bit, and I pulled myself out of it. I did manage to get the picture. You may have seen it in [the movie] “The Battle of Midway.” It’s where the plane flies over the hangar and everything goes up in smoke and debris, you can see one big chunk coming for the camera.

Everybody, of course, nearly everybody except the gun crews were under ground. The Marines did a great job. There was not much shooting but when they did it was evidently the first time these boys had been under fire but they were really well trained. Our bluejackets and our Marine gun crews seemed to me to be excellent. There was no spasmodic firing, there was no firing at nothing. They just waited until they got a shot and it usually counted.”

Now see his 1942 film “The Battle of Midway,” which won the Academy Award for best documentary:

SEE ALSO: Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

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Military officers in WWI were the masters of the word ‘f**k’

There are a lot of words that carry a certain weight when said by the right person at the right time.


And you’ll be sure to remember it if it’s dirty enough.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
As proven by John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight.

American troops are no exception. The only problem is that from the moment we join the service, we get indoctrinated into a world of shouting and expletives.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
We should all get service-connected for hearing loss. Seriously. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

It turns out World War I was no different, and it wasn’t even the beginning.

Etymologists – people who study the history of languages and trace word meanings – found it difficult to follow the lineage of the word “f**k” for a long time. The word itself is so taboo in the English language that no one would ever write it down — even for historical documentation.

 

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
And they all have Inigo Montoya tattoos. (MGM/20th Century Fox)

Luckily for us, the Oxford English Dictionary started following it in 1897, just in time for the First World War.

The OED only followed the word’s history but never included it in its dictionary – it was illegal to print in publications by the Comstock Act of 1873. The law stopped absolutely no one from using it in everyday speech, least of all the military troops in the trenches.

Some of the OED’s research includes this line from John Brophy’s “Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918.”

“It became so common that an effective way for the soldier to express this emotion was to omit this word. Thus if a sergeant said, ‘Get your f—ing rifles!’ it was understood as a matter of routine. But if he said ‘Get your rifles!’ there was an immediate implication of urgency and danger.”

Sometimes what you don’t say really is as important as what you do.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Somewhere out there, there’s a smug First Sergeant, nodding their head.

The definition of the word itself survived intact from its initial meaning, “to have sexual intercourse with,” and has been similarly pronounced and spelled since its first appearances in the 16th century.

OED found mention of the word as “fuccant” in a “scurrilous” Latin-Middle English hybrid poem, called “Flen Flyys,” about what local monks did with the wives of the nearby town of Ely, and thus why they did not get into heaven.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This anti-aircraft tank was the worst thing ever built for the US military

The M247 Sergeant York was officially designated as a “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun” but was for all intents and purposes a tank chassis with anti-aircraft guns attached to the top. The vehicle was named for one Alvin York, a famous and highly decorated WWI hero who captured over 100 German soldiers pretty much single-handedly. Unfortunately for the U.S. tax payers who spent just shy of $2 billion on it (about $4.8 billion today or, humourously enough, after appropriately adjusting for inflation to make the dollar values match, about 1/11th what the entire Apollo program cost), the final version of the weapon ended up being so useless its automatic targeting system couldn’t distinguish between a toilet vent fan and a jet plane, the vehicle itself couldn’t keep up with the tanks it was designed to protect, and it was made obsolete by advances in enemy weaponry after only a few dozen faulty units were made. Here now is the story of the forgotten M247.


This particular weapon was developed by the defunct off-shoot of Ford known as Ford Aerospace in response to a contract put out by the U.S. Army in 1977 requesting what they referred to as an, “Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System.” This was later re-dubbed, “Division Air Defense” which was itself shorted to DIVAD in official documentation.

In a nutshell, the Army wanted a drivable anti-aircraft system that was to serve alongside their newly developed M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley tanks in battle. The contract was put out in direct response to a battle tactic known as “pop-up” which essentially involved helicopters harassing tanks from a distance by hiding behind cover and then popping up briefly to let loose a volley of anti-tank missiles (which themselves were a newly developed technology) before hiding once again.

The U.S. Army found that the tactic was almost impossible to counter with the ground-based weapons it had available at the time as their leading anti-aircraft weapons system, the M163 Vulcan, only had a range of 1.2 KM (3/4 of a mile), while newly developed anti-tank missiles, such as the 9K114 Shturm used by the Soviets, could hit from a range almost five times greater than that. To add insult to injury, the Soviets had no problem countering the pop-up attack method thanks to their ZSU-23-4 Shilka, which is essentially what the United States wanted to copy.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
An M247 Sergeant York on display at Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park, Tennessee. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

To minimize production time and cost, the Army specified that the basis of the newly developed system had to be mounted atop an M48 Patton tank chassis (something the Army had in great surplus). Further, the system had to more or less use off-the-shelf parts, rather than anything being developed from scratch.

As to the final specific capabilities it was supposed to have, it had to be able to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed and be able to lock onto any target within 8 seconds, all with a minimum 50% chance to hit a target from 3 KM (1.9 miles) away with a single 30 second volley. It also had to be able to continually track up to 48 moving aerial targets, automatically identifying enemy aircraft, and intelligently prioritizing which should be shot down first. All the gunner had to do then was to select the target from the generated list and fire.

Several companies responded to the request with proposed systems, with the Army ultimately narrowing it down to two entrants- one developed by Ford Aerospace and one by General Dynamics, with both companies given $79 million to develop prototypes.

After extensive testing of two prototypes made by each company, in which General Dynamics’ reportedly shot down 19 drones vs. Ford’s 9, Ford was awarded the contract…

As you might have guessed, this decision was controversial, not just because the General Dynamics prototype outperformed Ford’s by a considerable margin, but because, unlike every other entrant, the M247 used more costly 40MM shells instead of 35MM ones which were extensively used by NATO at the time. Rumour had it that Ford stood to make more money from the use of 40MM rounds due to a business deal they had with the manufacturer. However, it should also be noted that the Army may have had good reason to favour the 40MM given its larger size and a newly developed 40mm round that had a proximity sensing fuse built in.

Whatever the case, Ford Aerospace won the lucrative contract and began immediate production of M247s in 1981.

And this is where hilarity ensued.

Read More: In World War I, Alvin York captured 132 German soldiers pretty much single-handed

Every M247 Ford produced had problems, mainly centered around their automatic targeting system. This ultimately led one soldier to speculate that the only way the M247 would manage to take out an enemy would be by “driving over the top of it.”

As an example of some of the issues here, in 1982 Ford was set to demonstrate the M247 to a gathered crowd of VIPs and military brass. However, the moment the M247’s tracking system was turned on, it immediately targeted the stands the gathered people were sitting in, resulting in complete chaos as those present trampled one another to get out of the way. Of course, the M247 required the operator to tell it to fire, so there was no real danger here, but one can imagine staring down a pair of 40mm cannons in a live demo would be a tad frightening.

After a while, the engineers thought they’d managed to fix the issue and the demo resumed, only to see the M247 shoot into the ground rather than the drone target it was “locked on” to.

In the aftermath, a Ford Aerospace executive claimed the “glitch” had been caused by the M247 being washed before the demonstration, damaging the targeting system. This explanation didn’t sit well with military brass or the many journalists present, one of whom, Gregg Easterbrook, mused that perhaps Ford Aerospace didn’t realize that it rained in Europe where the M247 was to be deployed.

Other problems with the M247’s targeting system included its seeming inability to tell the difference between helicopters and trees and its penchant for locking onto random other ground-based objects as threats. The most infamous example of this was that time an M247 ignored a passing drone it was supposed to be targeting and instead locked onto a nearby latrine exhaust fan, marking it as a low priority, slow-moving target.

The M247’s targeting system was so poor that even when presented with an unrealistically favorable scenario, such as a helicopter hovering completely still in mid-air, it still missed and took an agonizing 12 seconds just to acquire the target.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
M247 Sergeant York DIVAD (Wikimedia Commons photo by Ryan Crierie)

How was this targeting system so bad, given that it was developed using off-the-shelf parts that were shown to be reliable already? Mainly because the radar was one designed for the F-16 fighter jet. (In fact, it worked very well in the open air.) However, despite the efforts of the Ford and Army engineers, the random objects on the ground continually wreaked havoc on the radar’s ability to track low flying aerial targets like pop-up attacking helicopters. It also had significant problems tracking high flying targets because when the turrets were raised up they got in the way of the radar… (*queue Yakety Sax*).

On top of all this, the M247’s turret also couldn’t turn fast enough to track fast-moving targets and the hydraulics leaked in even marginally cold weather. Not a problem, of course, given it’s always balmy in the regions that were once the former Soviet Union… (In truth, even if it was balmy, it turns out the tracking system also struggled in high ambient temperatures and had trouble dealing with vibrations, such as generated continually when the M247 moved over the ground.)

Another major problem, as previously mentioned, was that the M247’s top speed wasn’t sufficient to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed, meaning it literally couldn’t drive fast enough to travel with the things it was specifically designed to protect. You might at this point be thinking that one’s on the Army because they’re the ones that made Ford use the M48 Patton tank as the base, and that’s not an entirely unfair thought. However, it should be noted that the M48 was previously capable of keeping up here, but Ford added about 17 tons to the original 45 in their modifications of the turret, making the tank much slower than it had previously been.

Despite all these problems to units being delivered, the Army continued to pump money into the project, mostly because there wasn’t a backup option and there was a very pressing need for such a weapon. However, rumors of the Army faking positive results for the M247 via putting it in unrealistically favorable conditions (such as hovering the drones and attaching radar reflectors), including Oregon state representative Dennis Smith going so far as to publicly accuse them of this, ultimately led to something of an inquiry on the matter. Specifically, in 1984, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger decided to oversee a set of amazingly expensive tests costing $54 million ($144 million today) to better determine what this weapon could and couldn’t do.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
The man for whom the M247 Sergeant York was named. This battle scene was painted in 1919 by artist Frank Schoonover. The scene depicts the bravery of Alvin C. York in 1918. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The tests did not go well. When the system utterly failed to hit any realistically flown drones, they resorted to having them fly in a straight line.  After further failures to actually hit a target, the drones were made to hold still and equipped with radar reflectors… (Rather ironic for a weapon named after a famed WWI soldier known for his incredibly sharpshooting ability.)

All was not lost, however. In one of the rounds of tests where a drone was moving the M247 did manage to slightly damage it, knocking it off course, at which point the safety officer remotely self-destructed it as he was supposed to do if a drone did such a thing. Nevertheless, this was interpreted by the press as the military trying to make it look like the M247 had actually managed a kill, leading to even more outcry that the Army was just trying to fake the results to make the massively expensive M247 look good.

(As to that cost, while it’s widely reported today that the project cost close to $7 billion (about $18 billion today), in fact, that number includes about three decades of anti-aircraft weapon development leading up to and including the actual figure of about $1.8 billion (about $4.8 billion today) spent on the development of the M247s.)

In any event, around the same time of the debacle that was the 1984 tests, the Soviet Union were deploying longer-range anti-tank missiles that were capable of being fired outside of the then current range the M247 could effectively counter the attacks, even if the system did aim properly.

Thus, despite the pressing need for such a system with little in the way of a backup, Weinberger, with support from Congress, some members of which had been present at the test, canceled the project rather than trying to sink more money into it to fix it. In the coming years, most of the M247s found their way onto target ranges where they were destroyed in various tests by weaponry that could actually aim properly. Today, only a handful of M247s still exist, one of which can be found at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park.

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5 facts you probably didn’t know about ‘Rambo: First Blood’

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.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Rambo tries not to get shot as Deputy Sergeant Art Galt fires at him from a helicopter. Screenshot from First Blood.

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.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Rambo stares remorsefully into Deputy Sgt. Art Galt’s bloody, dead face. Screenshot from First Blood.

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.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
A tree branch gets the best of Rambo in First Blood. Screenshot from First Blood.

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.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Rambo and Col. Samuel Trautman, played by Richard Crenna, come face to face in the climactic scene of First Blood. Screenshot from First Blood.

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.


This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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This is why the US must win the ‘Cyberspace Race’

The cyber threat is now our greatest national security challenge, a 21st Century “weapon of mass destruction” that is currently having serious impacts on America and is getting worse – militarily and economically – across public and private sectors, and socially across all segments of society.


Our adversaries around the globe, from rivals like Russia and China to belligerents including ISIS, Iran, and North Korea, have developed significant cyber capabilities.  This “global cyber proliferation” is serious and growing worse by the minute.  In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the emerging Cold War’s battlefront included the Space Race with the Russians, and eventually a symbolic American on the moon. Today, we have a similar situation: A “Cyber Space Race” which will represent the dominant high ground for decades to come.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Louisiana Army National Guard photo by Spc. Garrett L. Dipuma

We are being hacked and attacked every day in America. Our personal accounts and lives, our critical infrastructures, and there are undoubtedly many serious incursions that we have not detected or have gone unreported.  A few recent examples illustrate this point: State-backed Iranian hackers conducted a denial of service attack against US banks to attack United States infrastructure, and not just the banks themselves.

Russian-backed hackers sought to influence elections in the United StatesFrance, and throughout Europe.  The Chinese military has carried out cyber-espionage attacks against US companies, hacking intellectual property from US public and private entities, including sensitive military IP worth billions. North Korea foreshadowed their cyber capabilities when hacking Sony Pictures, but has recently demonstrated a far more robust cyber arsenal, an alarming threat to the public and private sectors of America and its allies. Equally alarming is the Islamic State’s recruiting of jihadists who are then connected to encrypted sites for further radicalization and operational instructions.

The worst-case scenario is a potential “Cyber Pearl Harbor” or a “Cyber 9/11.” While once found only in doomsday thrillers, a massive cyber threat is now very real.

Related: Get hacking! America’s cyber warfare force is now operational

While America’s public and private sector cyber defenses have grown since the mid-1990s, the threat to all elements of national power has grown even more rapidly. America is at high risk. Of particular concern is our soft commercial-sector underbelly, which comprises 85% of Internet use in the United States.  Cyber breaches present an unprecedented and often disastrous risk to the value of commercial entities.

Consider the Target, Home Depot, Sony, and Equifax cyber intrusions. Each cost the companies billions in market valuation, lost revenue, employee productivity, reputation, and expenses. While it is harder to quantify than a stock price, companies and institutions are successful in large part due to trust. An individual company violating that trust with their customers can have devastating effects for that company, but the magnitude of recent data breeches strikes fear in the hearts of all Americans and undermines trust in the fundamental institutions of our society.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Cadets, pay attention — our future could be in your hands. (U.S. AF photo by Raymond McCoy)

Just as techniques and technology developed in America’s space program resulted in innovations benefitting the full range of American life, so, too, can military-grade cyber capabilities be leveraged to harden vulnerable government and commercial entities. Techniques and technologies such as the commercial sector onboarding of military-grade technologies, implementing network segmentation to protect sensitive information, applying advanced encryption techniques to protect large databases, ensuring protection from insider threats, and using advanced analytics to uncover risks to commercial internal or external networks.

America must win the 21st Century “Cyber Space Race.” We must mobilize the entire spectrum of American enterprise, from the cyber education of our children to the highest levels of academia, business, and government. The US commercial sector must do everything possible to protect themselves, their customers, and this nation. This includes using military-grade cyber defense capabilities to ensure commercial viability, thus securing America’s increasingly vulnerable economic engine.

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Memes time! It’s like MRE time, except you laugh instead of getting constipated. Great Navy memes seem to be the hardest to find, so thanks go to Sh-t My LPO Says for numbers 7, 8, and 12.


1. Everyone is feeling the sting of budget cuts.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Maybe you could divert some cafe and cable TV money to the training budget.

2. They’re both used to being top dog …

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
… and neither knows that the civilians don’t care.

SEE ALSO: The inside joke names that soldiers have for different unit patches 

3. Has the Navy been spending the war years doing donuts in the oceans?

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Sort of makes the Navy seem more appealing.

 4. This also could factor into deciding which service branch to join.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Seriously? Come on, Navy and Air Force. This mud isn’t going to sleep in itself.

5. First sergeant will either join in or lose his mind in 3, 2, 1 …

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces

6. Maybe he’ll shoot the emergency azimuth properly and everything will be fine.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
You should probably make sure you have lots of water and your sleeping system, just in case.

7. Follow the letter of the rules, not the spirit.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Still, kind of ingenious.

8. Careful what you wish for.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Nah. The first thing you see is that fancy bulkhead or the underside of a nice sleeping rack.

9. In their defense, if it wasn’t mandatory, they wouldn’t wear that costume.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Side note, maybe do some mandatory training on the spelling of mandatory.

10. Artillery: not the King of the Battle because of their oratorial skills.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Really, wanting to kill everyone should be the threshold for bringing Marine infantry as well.

11. A pilot demonstrates his ability to shake.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
First dog in space: 1957. First Air Force pilot in space: 1961.

 12. At least he didn’t lose his shower shoes.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
This is why he showers fully clothed.

13. Ancient, timeless wisdom.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
The composite risk management process was the first appendix in the Art of War.

NOW: 9 text messages from First Sergeant you never want to read 

OR WATCH: 11 incredible videos of weapons firing in slow motion 

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America’s most patriotic pin-ups are back for 2017

Once again this year a host of beautiful women dressed in 1940s “pin-up” outfits adorn a retro-style calendar to help raise money for America’s wounded warriors. The effort was born of the inspiration these images delivered to the “Greatest Generation” fighting in the battlefields and in the air during World War II in hopes they’d do the same for the post-9/11 military.


Founder Gina Elise began Pin-Ups for Vets 11 years ago at the height of the Iraq War. She saw the horrifying wounds U.S. troops sustained while fighting the Global War On Terrorism and she felt compelled to do something for hospitalized veterans.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Gina Elise on the cover of Pin-Ups for Vets’ 2017 Calendar (photo by Mike Davello)

And she has.

Elise and her pin-ups raised more than $50,000 for medical and rehabilitation equipment at VA hospitals all over the country since she started her nonprofit.

This year, she’s back with a new calendar full of veterans in their full pin-up glory. Her retinue includes veterans from every branch of the military as well as male vets in similar classic styles.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Army veteran Carmen with WATM’s own Marine Corps veteran Weston Scott (photo by Mike Davello)

“We shot with a DC-3, at a fire museum, at a train museum. We like to have really unique backgrounds,” Elise says. “The calendar is going to be hanging for a month. It’s going to be hanging in hospital rooms and in barracks with our deployed troops, so I want it to be very colorful and happy; something that can bring some joy when someone looks at it.”

The calendar brings more than just a visual pick-me-up as the money raised from sales also helps fund visits by the pin-up models to hospitalized veterans. And the pin-ups who do the hospital visits are often veterans themselves.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Army veteran Kaleah Jones (photo by Mike Davello)

“We have 24 veterans featured in our 2017 edition,” says Elise. “Their total combined service is 162 years.”

Elise and other Pin-Ups for Vets have visited about 10,000 veterans at VA and military hospitals so far, with more on the schedule.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Deployed troops sporting Pin-Ups for Vets t-shirts.

A Marine Corps veteran who deployed twice to Iraq, pin-up Vana Bell appreciates Elise’s vision and is enthusiastic about the organization’s cause.

“I’m comfortable in sweats, I rarely wear makeup, I wear glasses, and my hair is usually in a ponytail,” Bell says. “To see those professional shots leaves me kind of awestruck. Who’s that girl they managed to uncover?”

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
The veterans of Pin-Ups for Vets. Vana Bell is pictured Top Row, Left (photo by Mike Davello)

The annual calendar even features some veteran celebrities as well. Mark Valley and Maximilian Uriarte of “Terminal Lance” fame appeared in previous editions. And this year YouTube star, beauty expert, and Army veteran Dulce Candy is Miss August 2017.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Dulce Candy in the 2017 Calendar (photo by Mike Davello)

“She’s really this incredible Army veteran that’s doing some pretty big time things, so we’re very lucky to have her,” Elise says. “She was a generator mechanic when she was in the Army. She deployed, came back, and became a superstar beauty blogger.”

Veterans interested in being part of Pin-Ups for Vets should start with the organization’s website. Any veterans interested in being part of the 2018 calendar should follow Pin-Ups for Vets on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and keep an eye out for the casting call.

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These badass Marines held off an entire Viet Cong battalion

In the summer of 1966 the United States was ramping up operations in Vietnam. For the Marines of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, this meant deep infiltration and reconnaissance into the Que Son Valley.

Dubbed Operation Kansas, the recon teams moved deep into enemy-held territory to observe and strike at the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong operating in the area.


This mostly consisted of calling for artillery or air support to take out small concentrations of enemy fighters. When larger groups were observed, they were dealt with by calling in reinforcements in the form of Marine rifle companies and battalions.

There was little intention of the recon Marines making direct contact.

Thus, 18 Marines from Team 2, C Company, 1st Recon inserted onto Hill 488 to begin their observation mission.

The team was led by Staff Sgt. Jimmie E. Howard. Howard had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 and was assigned to the 1st Marine Regiment in Korea.

While serving as the forward observer to the regimental mortar company in 1952, Howard was awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts while defending outposts along the Main Line of Resistance.

After his tour in Korea, Howard stayed in the Marine Corps and entered Marine Reconnaissance. In early 1966 he returned to combat in Vietnam, leading a platoon of Reconnaissance Marines.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Jimmie E. Howard was a Staff Sergeant when he led the defense of His 488. (U.S. Marine Corps)

On the night of June 13, 1966, Operation Kansas began with the insertion of numerous recon teams into the Que Son Valley. Team 2 on Hill 488 quickly set up positions to observe the valley. Over the course of the next two days, the recon teams disrupted enemy activity with air and artillery strikes. Howard and his team were doing so well that they turned down an offer to be extracted in order to remain one more day.

Unfortunately, the accuracy and effectiveness of the firepower Howard’s team brought to bear also served to alert the Viet Cong that these were not simply random attacks; they were being watched. The enemy had also surmised that the observation must be coming from Hill 488. Alerted that a Viet Cong battalion of approximately 200-250 men was heading their way, the Marines prepared to defend themselves.

As the Marines waited for the inevitable, the Viet Cong were creeping up the hill toward the Marine positions. Howard had ordered his men to pull back to a rocky knoll at the top of the hill the moment contact was made. Under the cover of darkness, the first Viet Cong made it to within 20 feet of the Marine perimeter. The first shots from the Marine defenders rang out. Under a hail of gunfire and grenades, the Marines fell back to the final defensive position.

The Marines took casualties almost instantly but they responded with determined resistance. Grenades and mortars rained down on their position as heavy machine gun and rifle fire covered the advance of the attackers. But the Marines mowed down the first wave of attackers and blunted the advance. The remaining enemy took a more cautious approach and searched for an opening.

Howard used the brief lull in fire to call for extraction. Before help could arrive, the Viet Cong mounted another determined charge to take the hill but were again driven back. By this time the Marines were out of grenades, running low on ammunition, and all eighteen had been wounded or killed. But there was still more fighting to do.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
US Air Force

After some three hours of fighting, air support arrived overhead. As Air Force planes dropped flares to illuminate the valley, gunships and fighters made strafing runs. They dropped napalm on the advancing enemy. To say the air support was danger-close would be an understatement. Despite the air attack, the enemy was persistent and continued to charge the hill.

At one point the Viet Cong began yelling at the Marines, taunting them. The young Marines of the recon team looked to Howard who gave them the go-ahead to yell back.

Then, with the enemy still shouting taunts, the remaining Marines literally looked death in the face and laughed their heads off. The whole team joined in a chorus of laughter that silenced the Viet Cong.

The Viet Cong came again.

With the enemy still probing their lines, the beleaguered Marines relied on their expert marksmanship and a little trickery to even the odds. Out of grenades, the Marines would watch for movement and then hurl a rock at the enemy.

Intending to escape the impending explosion the Viet Cong would expose their position. Then with deadly accuracy the Marines would take a single shot, conserving ammunition and racking up the body count.

How the phrase ‘God is my co-pilot’ started with the World War II Air Forces
Two UH-1s were shot down by the Viet Cong forces during medevac and air support attempts. (U.S. Army)

A rescue attempt at dawn resulted in one lost helicopter, with a medevac waved off due to the intense fire. Eventually it was decided to bring in a Marine infantry company to clear the hill and allow the recon team to be pulled out. Reportedly there remained only eight rounds of ammunition between the survivors; the rest had picked up enemy weapons.

Howard’s steadfast leadership and cool under fire during the battle for Hill 488 earned him the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded a Purple Heart, along with every other member of the team. Thirteen members of the team were awarded the Silver Star for their bravery. The remaining four members of the team received the Navy Cross. Six of the Marines of Team 2 received their awards posthumously. The recon platoon was the most decorated unit for its size ever in the history of the American military.

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