How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll - We Are The Mighty
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How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

“If you are qualified, fate has a way of getting you to the right place at the right time – tho’ sometimes it appears to be a long, long wait,” professed Marine Col. Dave Shoup.


Fate was certainly on Shoup’s side at Tarawa Atoll, and he didn’t shrink from the occasion.

The 38-year-old Indiana native was one of the four Marines awarded the Medal of Honor for their deeds at Tarawa Atoll in November 1943, one of the most brutal engagements fought in the Pacific during WWII.

Shoup was the only recipient to survive the battle and receive this honor in person.

The battle as a whole was plagued by bad planning and poor decision making, but individual acts of heroism and the sheer willpower of the troops engaged in combat won the day for the Americans.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
General David M. Shoup (1904-1983), Medal of Honor recipient and 22nd Commandant of the United States Marine Corps (1960-1963). (Photo courtesy of the United States Marine Corps)

Shoup was born in December 1904 on a farm in Battle Ground, Indiana, near the site of General William H. Harrison’s victory at Tippecanoe in 1811. Shoup would mirror the same bold leadership qualities of the leader of that battle fought in his backyard 90 years before.

Upon completing high school, Shoup desired to attend college and not remain as an “Indiana plowboy” for the remainder of his life. He attended DePauw University as an ROTC student and successfully graduated in 1926. He transferred to the Marines in the same year after spending only one month in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant.

Leading up to 1943, Shoup spent time on a number of assignments in the United States, China, and Iceland. He slowly climbed up the ranks in his 15 years of service leading up to WWII, when he was promoted to colonel.

He had a reputation of being a straightforward officer, earning the praise of the men under his command for sharing in their hardships on and off the battlefield. One correspondent described him as “a squat red-faced man, with a bull neck,” known by those who surrounded him as a “profane shouter of orders.”

The greatest trial of Shoup’s life came during the invasion of the Japanese-held Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands.

Tarawa Atoll consisted of a series of islands surrounded by a large coral reef stretching up to 1,100 yards from the shoreline. The Japanese occupied Tarawa Atoll in December 1941 and spent two years leading up to the battle turning it into a formidable obstacle. They fortified the islands with barbed wire and a network of trenches and built an airfield.

The Japanese garrison consisted of about 5,000 men, all willing to die to the last man. Occupation of the island was critical for the U.S. to establish forward operating bases in the Pacific, and the Japanese continued to fortify it up to the day of the invasion.

Shoup was one of the 20,000 Marines of the 2nd Marine Division to land at Tarawa Atoll on November 20, 1943. The Marine division — meshed with veterans of Guadalcanal and raw recruits — made their way to the beach transported by amtracs and landing craft.

The small perimeter of the beachhead became cluttered with bodies and debris as parties of Marines attempted to gain a foothold and power their way inland, while exposed to a barrage of Japanese machine gun and mortar fire. Chaos reigned supreme as the some of the vehicles loaded with reinforcements became bogged down on the reef.

For a time, it appeared the attack on Tarawa Atoll would falter, as many men were pinned down in the shallow water near the reef, either unable or unwilling to move to reinforce the beachhead.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Marines storm the beach at Tarawa Atoll, November 1943. (U.S. Archives)

Shoup ordered his men to advance forward from the reef to the beachhead as Japanese artillery, machine gun barrages, and rifle fire rained down on them. Suddenly, a Japanese mortar round exploded nearby, flinging shrapnel into his legs.

He refused to be evacuated despite the severity of the debilitating wound.

At one point, the defiant colonel shouted to his men, “Are there any of you cowardly sons of bitches got the guts to follow a colonel of the Marines?” The Marines were inspired by his valor and selflessness, and followed him forward.

Shoup assumed command of all land troops upon reaching the beachhead. He ignored the agony of his wounds, and marched up and down the line with his pistol unholstered, coolly directing the advance of Marines further inland.

Success was measured in yards, and the Marines methodically overcame the Japanese defenses.

By the time the battle ended, less than 200 of the original 4,000-man Japanese garrison remained to surrender. They had inflicted a staggering 3,000 casualties on the Second Marine Division. Shoup remained on his feet directing the fight for about 50 hours, finally relinquishing command to be treated for his wounds only when most of Tarawa Atoll was in Americans hands.

Without Shoup’s direction and valor, Tarawa Atoll may well have been a catastrophic defeat. Shoup lived for another 40 years until his death in 1983 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Take a look at these historic French military weapons

Last year marked the fifth consecutive year I’ve visited France, but this time, the mood was markedly different. Terrorist attacks had changed both the topics and the nature of civil discourse, and there was a dramatic increase in physical security around all public events. It was noticeable as soon as I stepped off the plane.


In years past, you’d see pairs of uniformed soldiers of various noncombat arms strolling around Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris looking bored, checking out the young women, and trying to feign interest in a largely symbolic duty. In contrast, last summer I saw squads of jocked-up infantry veterans deployed to even second-string airports, where they were actually patrolling and even — horror of horrors — had magazines in their weapons.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Seventeenth century armor from both France and Germany is on display. Much of the museum’s Medieval collection is in the open, outside of glass cases. (All photos by Kenda Lenseigne, Recoil Magazine)

The rifle they carried was the FAMAS, the iconic “Bugle” and the last service weapon to be produced in a nation that at one time led the world in firearms innovation. In 2016, France was in the process of selecting a replacement, which would come from either Belgium — on whose soil hundreds of thousands of French servicemen died — or from Germany, whose conscripts faced them across artillery-scarred mud and from behind the sights of K98 Mausers. France wound up choosing the HK version of America’s service rifle. But hey, we’re all Europeans now.

It seemed appropriate, therefore, to visit the city in which France produced the millions of rifles, bayonets, machine guns, and pistols needed to equip their armed forces, who just 100 years ago were locked in a bloody, existential battle for their nation’s survival. The factory where thousands of workers toiled in a desperate race to put weapons in the hands of those who were battling the Teutonic hordes had been shuttered and bulldozed in the 2000s, but their remarkable product line had been placed behind glass for visitors to gawk at.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
French cuisine is rightly famous worldwide. A couple of meat tenderizers illustrate why.

Saint-Étienne was, during the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, one of the most important manufacturing centers in Europe, producing textiles, machine tools, bicycles, and farm equipment, but its history as an arms maker dates to the Middle Ages. Swords and armor were manufactured for French kings and emperors to equip their armies, and as edged weapons transitioned to powder, the musket of 1777 became the most prolific firearm ever produced until the advent of WWI.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Carbide-powered sporting rifle from the 19th century.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Exquisitely engraved sporting rifle from the golden age of French gunsmithing.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Gallic Buntline Special. Revolving carbines were developed around the same time on both sides of the Atlantic.

Over 7 million examples were made (though not all by Saint-Étienne), and troops so equipped faced off against those armed with the Brown Bess in Europe and Asia. French firearms featured prominently in the early days of American history too. Although the famed Charleville musket of the Revolutionary War was named after the eponymous state arsenal in the Ardennes, many were produced in Saint-Étienne and made their way across the Atlantic. Later, in the Civil War, France supplied cannons, Minie rifles, pistols, submarines, and ironclads to both sides.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Pair of presentation pistols from the workshop of maître Nicholas Boutet.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Early breech-loading percussion pistol.

While the history of French firearms development in Saint-Étienne could easily fill its own building, the collection shares space with other notable local trades and is housed almost entirely on the upper floor of the Musee d’Science et Industrie. The building itself is reached by crossing a small town square that’s quintessentially French; while we were there, the weekly market was well underway and townsfolk were stocking up on locally grown produce, meat, and cheese.

Climbing a few limestone steps to the entrance, the ballistic pilgrim enters the usual foyer-slash-gift-shop, ponies up their entrance fee, and then climbs the stairs past displays of glass and lace.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Chamelot-Delvigne, 1887.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
An 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne cutaway next to its replacement, the Model of 1887.

Examples of medieval armor, swords, and halberds greet the museum’s visitors as they enter the third floor space of the Museum of Science and Industry. Inside, displays cover both combat and jousting, with examples of both highly decorated plate armor and mail in evidence, along with the lances and shields every well-equipped nobleman needed in order to win the heart of a fair maiden.

The period where armor was being supplanted due to the ability of commoners to punch big frickin’ holes in it with their comparatively cheap matchlocks overlaps the birth of several of the most notable area workshops. Locks from this time are displayed in wall-mounted cases and some are quite stunning in both design and execution. The earliest service firearms on display are a pair of wheel-lock cavalry pistols dating from 1550, while a suit of Maximilian armor dates all the way back to 1415.

Although Alexandre Dumas’ characters were fictitious, his father was an honest-to-God general in the French revolutionary wars, and there really were two companies of Musketeers who served as the king’s bodyguard. The only remaining example of a Musketeer pistol is on display in the MSI, along with corresponding Mousquetons, or cavalry carbines.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne.

At around the same time, an enterprising gunsmith by the name of Nicholas Boutet was hiring the best artisans he could find to produce what could be fairly considered some of the finest guns the world has ever seen. As arquebusier, or gunsmith to the court of Louis XVI, he was given free reign to create extraordinary works of art, such as the pair of cased pistols shown here.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Eighty years of French service rifles: MAS-36, MAS-49/56, and FAMAS.

As the industrial age progressed, cartridge arms replaced flintlocks in a process familiar to amateur historians on both sides of the pond. Production became both codified and centralized, with Saint-Étienne’s place as a strategic asset to the French Empire cemented in place with every one of the bricks laid to enclose the new factory. Revolvers from the 1870s are showcased and demonstrate just how advanced their designs were in comparison to contemporaries on the world stage.

While we were taming the west with Colt single-actions, the French were fielding their first sophisticated D/A revolver, which for a military pistol was exquisitely made (in the officer’s variant anyway — rank has its privileges). The 11mm 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne was made until 1886 and continued in service until well into the Second World War. Civilian versions were widely distributed, with Belgian copies hitting the market soon after the military adopted the pistol; we encountered examples of both at a local flea market, where, due to being over 100 years old with no currently manufactured ammunition, they’re freely traded.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Case showing the progressive development of the French service revolver. They were replaced in general service in 1935 by the forerunner to the SIG P210.

The MSI has numerous, well-preserved samples of drop-dead gorgeous French sporting arms from the golden age of gun making, but it’s the oddballs and one-offs that are particularly eye-catching. Such as the carbide-powered rifles and the high-powered airguns, along with early semi-auto shotguns that show a level of development that surpass their American counterparts. This is, after all, the country that was the first to field a self-loading service rifle, over 20 years before the Garand stepped onto the stage.

As visitors make their way past case after case of well-preserved and displayed products of the gunmakers’ craft, they eventually fetch up at the usual Euro-bullshit display of modern art, the message being, of course, that guns are bad m’kay? It’s ironic then that the last exhibit before having to suffer the artists’ smug self-righteousness is of the final products of the Saint-Étienne factory, which is, of course, where our story started. We can only hope that the gamble of neglecting and then destroying the remnants of their domestic arms industry doesn’t come back to bite them. History’s a bitch, ain’t it?

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The Navy’s ruling just came down on the USS Fitzgerald’s top leaders — and it isn’t good

The commander of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the executive officer have been permanently detached from the ship and face non-judicial punishment over the deadly collision in June with a container ship, the Navy announced August 17.


Cmdr. Bryce Benson, commander of the Fitzgerald, and Cmdr. Sean Babbitt, the executive officer, are “being detached for cause,” meaning that the Navy “has lost trust and confidence in their ability to lead,” Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, said during a press conference.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet, has also decided that the top enlisted sailor aboard the Fitzgerald and several other sailors on the watch crew at the time of the collision on June 17 will also face non-judicial punishment, Moran said.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
YOKOSUKA, Japan (June 17, 2017) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart

Aucoin ruled that “serious mistakes were made by the crew,” Moran said.

The Fitzgerald was hit nearly broadside by the ACX Crystal cargo ship in the early morning hours of June 17 in Japanese waters. Seven sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Fitzgerald were killed.

The service members, whose bodies were found in flooded berthing compartments, on August 17 were posthumously promoted.

The top enlisted sailor on the Fitzgerald was later identified as Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin. He, Benson, and Babbitt were all in their berths when the collision occurred.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Honoring the seven Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald who were killed in a collision at sea. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Raymond D. Diaz III

However, Aucoin found that all three bore chief responsibility for the watch crew on the bridge losing “situational awareness” as the destroyer was proceeding at about 20 knots on a clear moonlit night in relatively calm seas, Moran said.

When asked if the non-judicial punishment against Benson, Babbitt, and Baldwin would be career-ending, Moran said: “Look at what happened here — it’s going to be pretty hard to recover from this.” Moran said investigations were continuing but he declined to speculate on whether courts martial might be pursued against any of the Fitzgerald’s crew.

Since the accident occurred, naval experts have pondered how a fast and agile destroyer carrying some of the world’s most advanced radars and proceeding on a clear moonlit night in calm seas could have been hit nearly broadside by a slow and plodding cargo ship.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock after sustaining significant damage in the June 17 collision. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Leonard Adams.

The speculation has centered on whether the bridge watch crew was either poorly trained or simply not alert. Moran said only that collisions should not happen in the US Navy — “We got it wrong.”

A “line of duty” investigation released by the Navy earlier August 17 on actions following the collision gave evidence of the enormous damage inflicted on the Fitzgerald and the heroic actions of the crew in saving the ship and their fellow sailors.

Berthing Area 2, two decks below the main deck where 35 sailors were sleeping in three-decker buns, was exposed to the open sea, the investigation said. The bulbous nose of the ACX Crystal had ripped a 13×17 foot hole into the side of the Fitzgerald.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Repairs to a hole punctured into the side of the USS Fitzgerald after colliding with a merchant vessel on June 17, 2017. Navy photo by Daniel A. Taylor.

“As a result, nothing separated Berthing 2 from the onrushing sea, allowing a great volume of water to enter Berthing 2 very quickly,” the investigation said. The seven sailors killed in the collision were all in Berthing 2. They were “directly in the path of the onrushing water,” the investigation said.

The force of the collision knocked the Fitzgerald into a 14-degree list to port before the ship rocked back violently into a seven-degree list to starboard. “One sailor saw another knocked out of his rack by water,” the investigation said.

“Others began waking up shipmates who had slept through the initial impact. At least one sailor had to be pulled from his rack and into the water before he woke up,” the investigation said.

The sailors were in water up to their necks as they scrambled to reach a ladder to safety. The last rescued sailor had been in the bathroom at the time of the crash. Other sailors “pulled him from the water, red-faced and with bloodshot eyes. He reported he was taking his final breath before being saved,” the investigation said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most hardcore resistance fighter of WWII might surprise you

Born in Wellington, New Zealand on August 30, 1912, Captain Nancy Wake, Resistance leader and Special Operations Executive agent, wasn’t joking when she talked about her lack of fear. Wake was one of New Zealand’s most highly decorated soldiers with 12 decorations from the United States, the UK, France, the British Commonwealth, Australia, and New Zealand. Her many awards included France’s Legion D’Honneur and Croix de Guerre; Britain’s George Medal; and the U.S. Medal of Freedom.

In the process, Wake became one of the Gestapo’s most wanted enemies. They nicknamed her the White Mouse, put a five million franc price on her head, and still they couldn’t find her.


But she could–and did–find them, usually with lethal effect. A fellow resister later described her as “the most feminine woman I know until the fighting starts. Then she is like five men.”

Wake was ready to dedicate her life to fighting against the Nazis even before World War II began. A visit to Berlin and Vienna in 1935 allowed her to witness Nazi persecution and anti-Semitism first-hand. She resolved that, if ever the opportunity arose, she would do all she could to fight it. Later that same year, she married French industrialist Henri Fiocca, who would join the Resistance with her in 1940. In the meantime, the couple set up home in Paris.

The fall of France was the beginning of her remarkable career, the chance to honor her pledge to fight Nazism by any means open to her. Between 1940 and 1943, Wake and Fiocca helped organize escape routes for Allied servicemen and Jewish refugees trying to flee the German occupation. They were remarkably successful, a success that began attracting increasing suspicion from the Gestapo.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Nancy Wake

Until 1943, it went as well as could be expected. But things were about to take a tragic turn. Wake and Fiocca knew full well they were under suspicion and that the dreaded Gestapo would show no mercy if they were caught. That year, Wake became the Gestapo’s most wanted person–and the five million franc price was placed on her head.

Wake, who fled across the Pyrenees into neutral Spain and then England, wasn’t caught. Fiocca, who stayed in France to continue his Resistance work there, was. It wasn’t until after the liberation of France that Wake discovered what had happened to her beloved husband. Henri Fiocca had been tortured to death by the Gestapo, refusing to the last breath to give up his wife’s location.

In England, Wake immediately volunteered for SOE’s French Section run by Maurice Buckmaster and Vera Atkins. Buckmaster and Atkins immediately saw her potential and her willingness to undertake the most hazardous missions. In March 1944, Wake parachuted into France’s Auvergne region to help organize resistance fighters. Her main role was to arrange reliable communications between the local resisters and SOE headquarters in London as part of the preparations for D-Day. She was also tasked with arranging the arrival of more agents and airdrops delivering vital supplies, weapons, and ammunition. Without the airdrops, the resistance would simply have ground to a halt.

Wake set to work with typical gusto, eventually coordinating the activities of roughly 7,500 resisters in the Auvergne. She was also rigid about doing her share of the fighting. She ordered the killing of a French collaborator and even killed a SS soldier with her bare hands. As Wake later described it, “They’d taught this Judo-chop stuff with the flat of the hand at SOE and I practiced away at it. But this was the only time I ever used it–whack–and it killed him all right…”

Other exploits included joining an assault on the local Gestapo headquarters at Montluçon during which 38 German soldiers and Gestapo officers were killed. But one exploit in particular stuck in her mind. During a Gestapo raid her radio operator had destroyed the vital codes used for messages between France and London. Without the codes the radio link was severed. To re-establish communications, Wake travelled some 500 kilometers (over 300 miles) in 71 hours by bicycle, going through several enemy checkpoints and roadblocks to return with the vital codes.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Rachel Blampied as Wake in Nancy Wake: The White Mouse
(The Gibson Group photo)

With new codes the vital radio link was saved just in time for the Normandy landings. Wake and her 7,500 resisters fought using any weapons and methods available to them. In the process they did damage out of all proportion to their numbers. At one point the Germans sent 22,000 troops to destroy the White Mouse and her Maquisards. Wake’s response was characteristically devastating, her troops inflicting some 1,400 casualties while losing only 100 resisters, a 14:1 casualty rate.

With the war’s end, Wake found life somewhat dull. She moved to Australia, spending a few years in politics. Although she remarried in 1957, Wake still referred to her first husband, Henri Fiocca, as the love of her life. In 1985, Wake wrote her memoir The White Mouse, titled after her wartime nickname. When husband John Forward died in 1997 she sold her medals to live on the proceeds and returned to London in 2001. She spent the remainder of her life in England, moving into the Royal Star and Garter Home for Disabled Ex-Servicemen and Women in 2003.

Captain Nancy Wake died in August 2011 at the age of 98. At her request, her ashes were scattered in 2013 in her beloved France, in the village of Verneix. Verneix is near Montluçon, the site of her assault on the Gestapo headquarters beside the Resistance. To this day, Nancy Wake is remembered as one of the SOE’s most remarkable agents.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Four Swedish air force pilots received U.S. Air Medals during a ceremony in Stockholm Nov. 28, 2018, recognizing their actions that took place over 31 years ago. Until 2017 the details of their mission remained classified.

During the 1980s, the height of the Cold War was still being felt. The U.S. was flying regular SR-71 aircraft reconnaissance missions in international waters over the Baltic Sea known as “Baltic Express” missions. But on June 29, 1987, during one of those missions, an SR-71 piloted by retired Lt. Cols. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, experienced an inflight emergency.


Experiencing engine failure in one of their engines, they piloted the aircraft down to approximately 25,000 feet over Swedish airspace where they were intercepted by two different pairs of Swedish air force Viggens.

“We were performing an ordinary peace time operation exercise,” recalled retired Maj. Roger Moller, Swedish air force Viggen pilot. “Our fighter controller then asked me are you able to make an interception and identification of a certain interest. I thought immediately it must be an SR-71, otherwise he would have mentioned it. But at that time I didn’t know it was the Blackbird.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, Mobilization Assistant to the commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, salutes the Swedish pilots who are being awarded the U.S. Air Medal in Stockholm, Nov. 28, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kelly O’Connor

According to the Air Medal citation, once the Swedish pilots intercepted the SR-71, they assessed the emergency situation and decided to render support to the aircraft by defending it from any potential third-party aircraft that might have tried to threaten it. The pilots then accompanied the aircraft beyond the territorial boundaries and ensured that it was safely recovered.

“I can’t say enough about these gentlemen,” said Veltri, who was at the ceremony. “I am so amazingly grateful for what they did, but also for the opportunity to recognize them in the fashion we are doing. What these guys did is truly monumental.”

Noll, who was not able to be at the ceremony, recorded a message which was played to those in attendance.

“Your obvious skills and judgement were definitely demonstrated on that faithful day many years ago. I want to thank you for your actions on that day,” said Noll. “We will never know what would or could have happened, but because of you, there was no international incident. The U.S. Air Force did not lose an irreplaceable aircraft, and two crew members’ lives were saved. Lt. Col. Veltri and I can’t thank you sufficiently for what you prevented. Thank you for being highly skilled and dedicated patriotic fellow aviators.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa mobilization assistant to the commander, presented the Air Medals to Swedish air force Col. Lars-Eric Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjoberg and Lt. Bo Ignell.

“That day in 1987 showed us that we can always count on our Swedish partners in times of great peril,” said Williams. “Even when there was both political risk and great physical risk in the form of actual danger, there was no hesitation on your part to preserve the pilots on that day.”

The presentation of Air Medals to the Swedish pilots represented the gratitude from the U.S. and the continued longstanding partnership with Sweden.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how early World War II cluster bombs worked

The Joint Direct Attack Munition gets a lot of attention for its ability to strike within 30 feet of a target, no matter what the weather is like. But with all that attention, other bombs get short shrift it seems. Take, for instance, the cluster bomb.


How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

The German SD2 bore a resemblance to a butterfly, getting the nickname “Butterfly bomb.”

(U.S. Army)

JDAMs can’t do everything

The truth is that cluster bombs can do things that JDAMs simply can’t. In fact, the bombs are so useful that, this past December, Secretary of Defense James Mattis decided to reverse the Obama Administration’s plan to ditch these valuable weapons. Despite recent controversy and efforts to ban their use, systems like these have been around for decades.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

The CBU-103 is a modern cluster bomb, able to hit within 85 feet of its aimpoint with 202 BLU-97 submunitions from 10 miles away.

(U.S. Air Force)

Germany’s lethal “butterflies”

Cluster bombs first saw widespread use by both sides in World War II. The Germans used a version called the “Butterfly bomb,” also known as the SD2, which carried a number of “bomblets,” or four-and-a-half-pound submunitions. One attack in 1943 on British cities used over 3,000 of these bombs — some were set to go off immediately, others had a delayed detonation.

The system proved effective, so the United States made copies of that bomb: the M28 (100lbs) and the M29 (500lbs). The Americans added a proximity fuse to some of the bomblets, making them even more devastating to troops caught in the open.

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Modern cluster bombs are more lethal

Today, modern cluster bombs, like the CBU-97, make attack planes like the F-15E Strike Eagle or strategic bombers like the B-1B Lancer capable of wiping out dozens of tanks in a single pass. Other cluster bombs opt to replace the boom with the ability to knock out a country’s electrical grid.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Medal of Honor recipient turned ‘rejects’ into war heroes

Altering graduating from West Point Military Academy at the top of his class, Paul Bucha continued on to Stanford University, where he studied for his Master’s degree. During his summer breaks while attending the prestigious college, he received Airborne and Ranger training.

Soon after completing his MBA, Bucha started his military career at Fort Campbell before heading off to Vietnam with the 187th Infantry in 1967. There, he’d face an impossible challenge of leading a company of troops most soldiers would avoid.


How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Lt. Paul Bucha takes a moment to pause foru00a0a photo op while in Vietnam.
(Medal of Honor Book)

After Bucha settled into Vietnam, he was quickly promoted and given his first company of soldiers. His brigade commander filled Bucha’s newly formed company with those thought to be the ‘rejects’ of other units. The reputation of the soldiers placed in his company earned them the label of “the clerks and the jerks.”

Although the Army’s superior officers saw them as duds, the young lieutenant instead saw a great group of troops he was honored to lead into war.

In March 1968, Bucha and his men were the lead elements of a counterattack after the Tet Offensive. For two days, Bucha’s men destroyed several enemy strongholds and killed off pockets of resistance. As they continued to push forward, the brave men discovered a battalion-sized element of well-trained Vietnamese fighters.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
(Medal of Honor Book)

An intense firefight broke out, pinning them down. Bucha surged forward with his RTO while tossing several hand grenades to clear the way. Positioned well beyond the reach of allied artillery, the young lieutenant was unable to call for support — they were on their own.

Bucha continued to lead the men for several more hours as the fight raged on, never backing down. Through the night, he encouraged his men to press on, and that’s precisely what they did for their respected leader. Bucha continuously devised and revised plans to keep his men in solid defensive and offensive positions, which saved lives.

By daybreak, Bucha and his men had managed to fight off their overwhelming opposition, leaving over 150 dead enemy troops on the battlefield.

Paul Bucha received the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970, for personally directing the successful defense of his besieged unit.

Check out the Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to listen to this incredible story for yourself.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

A formation of F-15C Eagles, assigned to the 493rd Fighter Squadron, and an F-15E Strike Eagle, assigned to the 492nd Fighter Squadron, fly over Gloucestershire, England, to attend the Royal International Air Tattoo air show at Royal Air Force Fairford July 7, 2016. The RAF Lakenheath aircraft were on public display, along with many other military aircraft from around the U.K., to provide an opportunity for the U.S. military and its allies to showcase their capabilities.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Trower

Airmen complete the Grog Bowl ritual during a combat dining out at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, July 9, 2016. The combat dining out is a modern informal twist on the ancient tradition of the military dining in. 

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. William Buchanan

ARMY:

Soldiers assigned to 1st Armored Division, Task Force Al Taqaddum, fire an M109A6 Paladin howitzer during a fire mission at Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, June 27, 2016. The strikes were conducted in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and aimed at eliminating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert

A soldier assigned to the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, crosses a river using a single line rope bridge at Camp Rudder, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 7, 2016. The Florida Phase of Ranger School is the third and final phase that Ranger students must complete to earn the coveted Ranger Tab.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Austin Berner

NAVY:

NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain (July 10, 2016) President Barack Obama departs USS Ross (DDG 71) after a tour aboard the ship. During the president’s visit to Naval Station Rota, he met with base leadership, toured USS Ross (DDG 71) and spoke to service members and their families during an all hands call. Naval Station Rota enables and supports operations of U.S. and allied forces and provides quality services in support of the fleet, fighter, and family for Commander, Navy Installations Command in Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian Dietrick

AMSTERDAM (June 21, 2016) Amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) makes its way through the locks of the North Sea Canal enroute to Amsterdam for its second port visit after the ship’s participation in exercise BALTOPS 2016. BALTOPS is an annually recurring multinational exercise designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, and demonstrate the capability and resolve of allied and partner forces to defend the Baltic region.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Julio Martinez Martinez

MARINE CORPS:

Lance Cpl. Mackinnly Lewis, a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, guides an MV-22B Osprey during a helicopter support team exercise aboard Naval Station Rota, Spain, July 6, 2016. This training prepares Marines to deliver and recover supplies and equipment quickly and efficiently in potential future missions around Europe and Africa.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Tia Nagle

Marines with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force Darwin, fix a humvee during Exercise Hamel at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia, July 8, 2016. Exercise Hamel is a trilateral training exercise with Australian, New Zealand, and U.S. forces to enhance cooperation, trust, and friendship.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mandaline Hatch

COAST GUARD:

Twenty-six nations, 49 ships, six submarines, about 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel are participating in the Rim of the Pacific exercise, the world’s largest international maritime exercise, from June 29 to Aug. 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

The Maritime Security Response Team is a highly specialized team with advanced counterterrorism skills and tactics.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake

Articles

ISIS is throwing reinforcements into Mosul battle as coalition tightens the noose

The Islamic State is throwing as many fighters as it can into the Iraqi city of Mosul in a desperate attempt to push back against coalition forces, according to the Pentagon.


How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq, in support of the Iraqi security forces’ push toward Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016. The support provided by the Paladin teams denies the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant safe havens while providing the ISF with vital artillery capabilities during their advance. The United States stands with a Coalition of more than 60 international partners to assist and support the Iraqi security forces to degrade and defeat ISIL. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

ISIS reinforcements from Syria and Iraq are entering Mosul from areas west of the city, which are still under the terrorist group’s control. ISIS leaders inside the city have been forced to conscript administration officials and other non-traditional fighters in order to counter the coalition’s offensive.

“ISIL continues to augment its manpower from the outside,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Monday. “We see them taking administrative and support personnel, people who are not normally involved in arms, and they are arming them.”

Davis noted that despite the reinforcements, ISIS is having difficulty with its command and control capabilities thanks in part to coalition air strikes.

ISIS’s decision to arm every potential fighter it can is not surprising. The terrorist group is woefully outnumbered, with less than 5,000 fighters in the city. In turn, the Iraqi Security Forces have deployed 18,000 men, while the Kurdish Peshmerga have fielded around 10,000. Approximately 2,000 Iraqi federal police are also supplementing the coalition force.

While coalition forces clearly have the upper hand, Davis noted they are experiencing “heavy resistance” from ISIS as they move closer to the Mosul city limits. ISIS has engaged in increasingly desperate tactics as they lose control of the city, including waves of suicide bombers, car bombs and burning oil fields. In some cases, they have resorted to using suicide bombers to cover the retreat of their personnel.

The Pentagon expects foreign fighters to be particularly dangerous targets, as many of them burned their passports upon entering the so-called caliphate.

“Those are the people we expect to stay in Mosul and fight to the death, they don’t have a lot of other good options,” said Davis.

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Articles

These artists create awesome vintage-style military posters

Like many Air Force pilots, Nick Anderson is enamored with the planes he flew. He is an ROTC graduate from Oregon State University but his lifelong passion started in the creative arts. Unlike most Air Force pilots, his first love became his full-time career. What started as a way to decorate his office now decorates homes and offices all over the world.


“When we started, my Mom would literally copy and paste shipping addresses into a poster printing site,” Anderson recalls. “She did this manually for every single order for the first year and a half, I think it was somewhere around 5,000 orders.”

Now he and his team average a new poster design every day. It’s strange now to see how hard Anderson tried to suppress his creative background, trying to get into Air Force ROTC.

“I remember interviewing with a Lt. Col. for the ROTC scholarship and I had spent a lot of time crafting my resume,” he recalls. “One thing that I kind of buried at the bottom was all of my artistic accolades… He made me pull out my portfolio and I sat there for 10 awkward minutes while he silently flipped through it all. I remember being embarrassed thinking ‘oh man, he’s onto me, an artist is not the type of person the Air Force looks for… I’m going to need to find a new way to pay for college.’  He shut my portfolio and slid it across the table back to me. I started to backpedal and save the interview: ‘I was on student council, did sports, I don’t plan on doing artwork anymore…’ He stopped me mid-sentence and said “Nick, you’re exactly what the AF needs, we need people that think different.”

With that Anderson was on his way to the Air Force, via a Business degree from Oregon State.

Once in pilot training, he found himself looking for decent art with which to decorate his new office. Like most in the Air Force with a fresh new office, he came up predictably short.

“I was looking for something to hang in my office with each of the aircraft I’ve flown so far,” he says. “All I could find was the white background side profile photos of aircraft which were extremely boring and not what I envisioned in my man cave.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Pictured: Vanilla

“I remembered those awesome WWII propaganda posters and wondered what happened. The world’s most iconic posters are those art deco and vintage-travel-posters. That entire genre has been lost to modern cheesy photoshopping of photos.” So Anderson made a poster for himself, designing a T-6 Texan flying over rolling hills, with the text “Vance AFB,” his duty station.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

“I loved it,” Anderson says. “This is what I could see hanging in my future office, when I showed it to my wife she also thought it was really cool. I made a few more to cover the planes and bases I’d been to so far and I left it at that for over a year.” And so, Squadron Posters was in its infancy. Anderson would soon enter graduate school for a business degree. As part of one of his classes, he had to actually start and register a business.

“I remember racking my brain in my office on what I could do only to look up and see the posters,” Anderson says. “I immediately registered the website squadronposters.com and uploaded a handful of the designs. The entire thing was very crude and barely functional, but it got the point across.” Anderson linked the page to Reddit, where Redditors voted it to the front page. The site received some 10,000 views in the first week.

“Some of my friends started requesting more posters once they saw it,” he continues. “I just started making posters for them — I did an F-15E over Afghanistan print for my buddy Lloyd and he bought it. He was our first customer. This is what makes us different, our art represents not just aircraft, it represents adventure and travel.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

“Since Day 1, we’ve really had some simple goals,” Anderson says. “Our military members do some really incredible things and we want to turn those things into really cool posters, they deserve that. We want our posters to be what Tony Stark would hang in his office. We’ve created almost 1,000 original designs for hundreds of units and you can see everything: helicopters and fighter aircraft, Submarines in Hawaii, GPS satellites, the SR-71 blackbird, Army Rangers, the Coast Guard’s active sailboat, fighter combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq… the list is so massive you just have to go to the site and spend a few hours browsing, it’s really incredible.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

“Immediately after launching we had a very good problem,” he says. “We had so many requests there was no way I could do this alone. That’s where my buddy said to me one day; ‘sounds like you need more artists.’ So we went out and found new artists; Max, Sam, Sergio, Steve and almost a dozen other artists have joined the team. These are world class artists and we attracted them by offering royalties for life and guaranteed payout for new art pieces. They also get creative freedom to make anything they think that might be cool and we guarantee to pay them for those as well. This is how we stay relevant and keep refreshing the site.”

“We’ve done all this without ever charging design fees to our customers because who likes fees? If you have an idea for a new poster, our team of artists will make it happen. The response from the community has been amazing, I can’t even begin to describe the amount of times people have relied on us for retirement ceremonies, going aways, deployment welcome homes, spring office remodeling projects, birthdays, Christmas etc. It’s very humbling and inspiring to think that thousands of walls around the world now have our artwork hanging there.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

“If you go to our site it looks very polished like what you’d see from a big company, but if you call our phone my dad answers, we’re still a small family business.”

NOW: The Incredible Story of the SR-71 Blackbird in 3 Minutes

OR: 9 Reasons You Should Have Joined The Air Force Instead

Articles

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons

Some people prefer holsters made from Kydex. Others would rather use a rig made from the skin of a dead beast (sad face).


Either way, a good holster isn’t just important to have; if you’re gonna go heeled, it’s vital. Sure, sometimes you don’t have a choice (like you poor bastards what hafta use Serpas), but when you do, you should make an informed, intelligent decision.

Here are three holsters released recently for your consideration. Note that this is a gear porn bulletin, a public service for those of you epistemophiliacs out there who want to Know Things. It’s neither a review nor a denunciation.

Grunts: Epistemophilia

1. Some Bawidamann Boltoron

First up, a couple sumthin’s from Bawidamann Shenanigans (Bawidamann Industries).

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Holsters with a side of sexy. (Photo: Bawidamann)

These Glock 17 holsters are open-bottomed (just how we like a bottom to be) and will fit a KKM compensated barrel.

They’re built from .09 Boltoron for Glocks with the X300U aboard; they’re for AIWB carry and utilize IWB (that’s “inside the waistband” for you youngins out there) and softloops or overhooks.

These are an adjustable depth, one piece design built with the seam on top of your slide. This is intended to keep the part that touches your inner leg rounded and smooth — because you don’t want it rough or scratchy unless you’re going for a mustache ride, right? These holsters are available for right or left-handed carry and are handmade in the distant reaches of faraway Ohio. They will fit G17s, G23s, or G34s, and they make use of the RCS (Raven Concealment Systems) claw to help minimize printing.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
We like our holsters like we like our drinks: stiff and bottomless. (Photo: Bawidamann)

Gonna carry a blaster? You’re going to want to gas it up. You can do that with one of Bawidamann Industry’s “Uber CC Mag carriers.”

Why? Because, as Andrew Bawidamann says (and we’re not making this up), “…you never know if the exotic woman on your bed is the high priced whore you asked for or an assassin.”

Finally, someone besides us gets it.

Find Bawidamann Industries holsters here and mag pouches for concealed carry are here.

Bawidamann Industries is on Instagram, @bawidamann_industries, but you’d do better to follow Andrew personally, @abawidamann. On Facebook at /bawidamannindustries/.

2. DeSantis Thigh Hide — Guns and Garters

Next up, the DeSantis Gunhide Thigh-Hide. We like this for all sorts of reasons, though admittedly none of our minions have actually tried one.

First, it can be used to carry concealed by women who otherwise might resort to off-body carry (not our preferred method at all, though off-body gun is admittedly better than no gun). Second, it has removable straps to attach it to a garter belt.

Garter. Belt.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
This is real life. (Photo: DeSantis Gunhide)

Now, this looks like it’d only be truly useful in a skirt- or kilt-wearing situation, and it’s possible it would present the same sort of problems a traditional thigh rig does (serious, it’s not the 90s anymore, quit using them unless you have to)…but it is something worth looking at.

The images on the DeSantis Gunhide website seem to indicate it’s intended for a cross-draw situation, which is less than ideal. If we wind up giving one a try we’ll see if that’s mandatory or an option. They make ’em for something like 30 different firearm manufacturers, usually with multiple models of each. The MSRP is $59.95

Meantime, for more information check out the product page right here or an informative video below:

Plus, Gene DeSantis dual-wields shotties…

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Pew pew. (Photo: DeSantis)

That’s enough reason to look at his gear right there. You can check out DeSantis on Facebook here if you’re so inclined, or follow them on Instagram: @desantisholster.

3. Comp-Tack L Line — Lasers and Lights

Lastly, we’ll take a quick look at the new L series holster from Comp-Tac. Coming to you in any color you want (as long as it’s black), the L-Line is a sorta universal: right- or left-handed, strong side modular pancake holster for pistols with WMLs attached.

The L-Line will fit (or so Comp-Tac tells us) blasters with Surefire XC-1, Crimson Trace 201/206, Lasermax Micro, and the TruGlo Micro Tac, but not (not) this thing:

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
She might need a little elbow grease before your next duel. (Photo: Breach Bang Clear)

More on that here, if you’re interested — it’s real.

The current L-Line (presumably they’re going to expand it) has adjustable tension and will will fit the Sig P250/320 9.40/45 all lengths and the XD 9/40/45 in all lengths, as well as an assortment of SW MPs and Walthers. It ships with multiple mounting clips (because if you’re like us you like to mount in all sorts of different ways) and is optics-ready. It’s also open at the bottom to accommodate a threaded barrel. MSRP is $79.99.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
We like it when the colors match. (Photo: Comp-Tac)

We don’t have much in the way of imagery. Their social media presence kinda sucks balls (like, 793 1/2 posts about Black Friday) and there wasn’t much presented in the press release that went out — don’t let that stop you from giving their gear a look, however.

They’re on Facebook and on Twitter as well (@comptac).

Articles

The US is supplying weapons to Kurdish fighters in Syria

The United States started to deliver weapons to Kurdish fighters closing in on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon said.


Spokesman Eric Pahon said the May 31 weapons delivery to the Syrian Kurds included small arms and ammunition. It marks the beginning of a campaign to better equip Kurdish allies that the U.S.-led coalition believes are the best fighting force against the Islamic State, even though arming them has infuriated NATO ally Turkey.

Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters to be terrorists. The U.S. has promised to mete out the equipment incrementally, based on the mission, to ensure weapons aren’t used by Kurdish groups in Turkey.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

On May 30, Kurdish-led fighters in Syria closed within about 2 miles (three kilometers) of Raqqa, where they expect to face a long and deadly battle. Roadside bombs and other explosive devices are believed to be planted along their routes and inside the city.

U.S. officials have said the weapons deliveries will include heavy machine guns, ammunition, 120mm mortars, armored vehicles and possibly TOW anti-tank missiles. They said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

Separately May 30, the Pentagon ratcheted up threats against pro-Syrian government forces patrolling an area near the Jordanian border where the U.S.-led coalition is training allied rebels. Officials described the pro-government forces as Iranian-backed.

The U.S. dropped leaflets warning the forces to leave the area and American military officials said the same message was conveyed in recent calls with Russian commanders. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the leaflets told the pro-government forces to leave the established protected zone, which is about 55 kilometers around an area where U.S. and coalition forces have been operating.

Related: US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

Less than two weeks ago, the U.S. bombed Iranian-backed troops who were in that same area of Syria and didn’t heed similar warnings to leave.

According to Syrian and U.S. officials, the bombing killed several soldiers and destroyed vehicles and other weapons and equipment.

Davis said the U.S. has seen the militias operating in the desert around Tanf. The area has been considered a “deconflicted” zone under a U.S.-Russian understanding.

“Hundreds” of pro-government forces are in the region, Davis said, but he was unsure how many are actually inside the zone.

Pentagon officials said they were not certain if those troops are Syrian, Iranian, Hezbollah or from other militias fighting on Assad’s behalf. At the Tanf military camp near the Jordanian border, U.S. special operations forces have been working with a Syrian opposition group in operations against IS.

Articles

A Ranger describes what being a ‘towed jumper’ is actually like

Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.


One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, bounces against the skin of a C-17 over the skies of Fort Benning, Georgia. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)

For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, tries to keep his gear together while flapping in the wind like a dog’s jowls. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.

This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

Why it sucks to report to the ‘Good Idea Fairy’

This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is