In the ultimate example of “fake it til you make it,” Ferdinand Demara boarded the HMCS Cayuga, a Canadian Navy destroyer during the Korean War. He was impersonating a doctor, which was fine until the ship started taking on more serious casualties and Demara was left as the ship’s only “surgeon”.
This is the point where most people would throw up their hands and announce the game was up, but Demara wasn’t ultimately labeled “the Great Imposter” for nothing. He had a photographic memory and a very high IQ.
So the new doctor went into his quarters for a few minutes with a medical textbook, came back out and then operated the 16 badly injured troops — including one who required major chest surgery — and saved them all.
There is no word on which textbook you can read to learn how to perform surgery in a few minutes, but whichever one it is, it’s totally worth the money. There is also no mention of how Demara managed to board the vessel and how no one recognized there was a new crewman aboard with no papers.
Demara’s identity was somehow discovered after this incident and he could no longer live under different identities (he was even featured in Time Magazine). He previously worked as civil engineer, a zoology graduate, a doctor of applied psychology, a monk (on two separate occasions), an assistant warden at a Texas prison, philosophy dean at a Pennsylvania college, a hospital orderly, a lawyer, cancer researcher, and a teacher.
There was even a movie made about his life starring Tony Curtis. After that level of recognition, Demara could no longer blend in and integrate himself as he once did.
An interesting note, Demara never sought financial gain, just the experience of the job. He died in 1982.
USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) achieved a major milestone this week as it successfully launched from dry dock and moored pierside at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Nov. 27.
This milestone is an important step in the ongoing effort to repair and restore one of the U.S. Navy’s most capable platforms, and reflects nearly a year’s worth of wide-reaching and successful coordination across multiple organizations. The ship entered dry dock at the Navy’s Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) Yokosuka in February.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) prepares to depart from a dry dock at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tyra Watson)
“After the initial repair assessments were conducted, we had to quickly mobilize and determine the most critical steps to develop an executable repair and modernization plan,” explained Deputy Commander for Surface Warfare and Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center (CNRMC), Rear Adm. Jim Downey. “As we began the restoration process, we assembled cohesive teams capable of delivering both materially ready and more modernized ships to the fleet.”
To begin the repair and restoration effort, the Navy immediately reached out to personnel at Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Bath, Maine. BIW is the company that originally constructed the ship and currently serves as the planning yard for work on in-service Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The BIW employees worked alongside representatives from Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) Supervisor of Shipbuilding, also in Bath, Maine, to conduct a material assessment of the ship. That information was then used by SRF-JRMC and the local Japanese repair contractor, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, to plan and swiftly execute the work ahead.
The McCain crew has been involved in every aspect of the availability.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is pulled towards a pier after departing from a dry dock at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)
“I’m proud of and thankful for every person who has worked together to move USS John S. McCain another step closer to both normalcy and sailing again with U.S. 7th Fleet,” said Cmdr. Micah Murphy, commanding officer, USS John S. McCain. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but I remain impressed by the incredible teamwork, determination and flexibility shown daily by this crew as well as the SRF Project Team to return a better, more lethal warship to the fleet.”
Today, McCain has a fully restored hull, a new port thrust shaft, and newly constructed berthing spaces.
The ongoing availability also includes completing maintenance work that had previously been deferred, which reflects the Navy’s commitment to ensuring that required maintenance on ships is no longer deferred. Additionally, the U.S. Pacific Fleet implemented a new force generation model to protect maintenance, training, and certification requirements prior to operational tasking for ships forward-deployed to Japan, like John S. McCain.
The ship’s crew worked alongside personnel from NAVSEA’s Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Philadelphia and Port Hueneme divisions who were challenged to develop a test plan concurrent with repair efforts.
“All key players and industry partners continue to execute the McCain effort with maximum intensity in an environment built on trust and shared goals,” said Capt. Garrett Farman, SRF-JRMC commanding officer. “Our mission is to keep the 7th Fleet operationally ready, and everyone on the team recognizes the immense value that this mission brings to U.S. and Japan mutual interests in keeping our waters safe.”
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) prepares to undock as a dry dock is flooded in order to test the ship’s integrity. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)
The complex repair and restoration required support and collaboration from all aspects of the U.S. Navy maintenance enterprise, including NSWC Philadelphia and NSWC Port Hueneme; Engineering Directorate (SEA 05); Deputy Commander for Surface Warfare (SEA 21); Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center (CNRMC); Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC); Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC); Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC); Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS); and Forward Deployed Regional Maintenance Center (FDRMC) Naples and Rota detachment.
Over the next few months, efforts will focus on testing the repaired ship’s systems in preparation for a return to operational tasking.
The Navy’s enterprise leadership continues to make improvements with routine, close oversight provided by the fleet commanders and the Navy staff to generate ready ships and aircraft on-time and on-plan. Improved ship-class maintenance plans are capturing a more robust understanding of fleet maintenance requirements, and the elimination of work deferrals are improving the material condition of the fleet.
This summer, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer inducted Sen. John S. McCain III into the ship’s official namesake alongside his father and grandfather in a ceremony on board, July 12. The crew’s messdecks, known as the Maverick Café, re-opened for business on Nov. 19, the late Senator’s birthday.
John S. McCain is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan as part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The ship is expected to complete repairs in late 2019.
“Would you like to spend 30 days on an island where the fishing is good, food is excellent, housing quarters are modern and free movies are shown every night?” That was the Air Force’s pitch to attract volunteers to serve aboard the Texas Towers, a series of offshore early warning radar platforms built in the 1950s off the coast of Cape Cod and Long Island. These bizarre-looking structures, named for their resemblance to Texas oil rigs, were built to give our air defenses an additional 30 minutes of warning time in the event of an attack by Soviet bombers.
The call for volunteers, which appeared in The Airman magazine, brought a rush of applications. To further sweeten the deal, Airmen who served aboard the Towers were given two weeks of leave for every six at sea. But the reality of life aboard was nothing like what the Air Force had promised. The Air Force never found a safe way to take men on and off the towers, even in calm seas (which are rare in that part of the Atlantic). Supplying the towers was a logistical nightmare. It wasn’t long before the boarding procedures had cost the lives of two airmen and caused untold injuries.
Emergency plans and procedures were woefully inadequate. The same stability issues that would eventually lead to disaster earned Texas Tower 4 (TT4) the nickname “Old Shakey” among the crew.
Five towers were planned, three were built, one was doomed.
On the night of January 15, 1961, Texas Tower 4 toppled over in heavy seas and was swallowed by the North Atlantic, taking 14 Airmen and 14 civilian contractors to the bottom with it.
This is a story of WTF?!? Cold War engineering.
It’s a story of leaders who had all the warnings and ignored them.
And it’s the all too common story about what happens when service members are put in harm’s way by blatantly flawed technology and lowest-bidder contracts.
Design, Construction, and Good Intentions
The Texas Towers were designed to take anything the North Atlantic could throw at them. Probability studies at the time established a criterion of 125 mile-per-hour winds and 35-foot breaking waves, so they were expressly designed to withstand that.
No such structure had ever been built in the open Atlantic or anywhere in a depth of 185 feet. For reference, TT2’s legs measured only 160 feet long; the first 48 feet settled snugly into the seabed, the middle 55 feet were immersed in water, and the top 60 feet rose above the water’s surface.
The DeLong Corp — an engineering and construction company specializing in the design and construction of docks and similar structures — evaluated all the problems of TT4, installing in 180 feet of water, and formatted a fair estimate for all three towers. Their estimate for TT4 was a million dollars more than TT1 or TT3, given TT4’s greater depth. J. Rich Steers Inc., a competing engineering and construction company, submitted an estimate in the competition of DeLong and outbid them. Steers’ bid for TT4 was less than a quarter-million higher than their bid for TT3. DeLong would later testify that he assumed lack of knowledge on Steers’ part was the reason for this bid–which failed to consider the depth difference between the two towers. (See the table below.)
J. Rich Steers, Inc. and Morrison-Knudsen, Inc.
Raymond Concrete Pile ad DeLong Corp
Merritt-Chapman and Scott Corp
“The sea doesn’t get tired…”
In a hearing following the disaster, Delong testified the K-bracing for TT4 was the best-known construction method for the situation. He further explained any bracing generates additional resistance against the structure from the sea. To work properly, bracing needs to be left out of the water motion zone, meaning they had to keep bracing below any wave action. He said the use of pins in the legs of the tower would cause trouble because,
“The sea works on it at all times, causing an impact at the clearance. There is one thing we can all be sure of, the ocean is not going to get tired. You will get tired, or metal, or anything else will tire, before the ocean will get tired.”
According to Mr. DeLong’s testimony, the base of TT4 was not moored deep enough into the seabed. TT2’s bases were sunk 48 feet into the substrate. This was sufficient, based on DeLong’s experience in the Gulf of Mexico. TT4’s base extended just 18 feet into the sand bottom. He would testify, “you are on awful shaky assumptions that 18 or 20 feet is enough.”
J. Rich Steers built TT3 and TT4, and Mr. Rau, as the Vice President and chief engineer of J. Rich Steers, Inc., testified he was fully aware of the construction of TT3 and TT4. In addition, the Navy had a representative present during tower construction and erection. Captain Foster was a U.S. Naval Civil Engineer Corps commander who oversaw many large-scale projects before becoming responsible for Texas Tower 4. The legs, with their bracing, and platform were all constructed in Portland, Maine. The contractor, J. Rich Steers, requested an increase in the space between pins and the holes on the leg braces, originally designed to be 1/64inch. Pin tolerance increases to 1/16-inch for above water pins and expansions to 1/8 inch below water. The request for larger holes underwater was because the water made them difficult to insert. Upon consulting the design engineers, Captain Foster agreed to all of the tolerance increases.
Not the Navy’s Problem
TT4 would be damaged by the sea before it was even in position. After floating the legs into position out at sea, the construction crew had to ride out a storm. The rough weather damaged the legs’ diagonal braces. One brace broke off entirely.
There were only two options:
Sail the legs back to Portland, put the legs in dry dock, and install braces properly.
Or an engineer could rig braces underwater.
The Navy representatives managing the construction decided to upend the legs and design and install permanent underwater braces. The underwater braces were supposed to fit exactly as the originals had. But because only a stub against the leg remained when the brace broke off, the new braces were attached to the leg by two half sleeves, forming a collar which had to be bolted underwater around the joint.
These retrofitted braces didn’t solve the tower’s stability issues. A December 4, 1958 report detailed a series of underwater inspections called “Texas Tower No. 4; Stability and Deficiencies.” It explained that approximately half of the bolts were loose and could be extracted by hand. Immediate details established that the bolts were not of design diameter and length, something Captain Foster approved, and some holes were oversized. Effective July 1, 1959, Commander Foster was detached from his duty associated with TT4, and the Navy was no longer directly involved in any of its problems.
Tower Operations & Life Aboard
By the end of 1955, the first Tower, TT2, began radar operations. Its three radar domes protected an FPS-3A and twin FPS-6 height radars that were programmed to detect “targets of B-47 size, flying about 50,000 feet, up to 200 nautical miles away.”
Unfortunately, It was only after the tower was in place that the Air Force found low-altitude radar gaps in the tower’s range. The same targets flying at low altitudes, around 500 feet, were only noticeable by radar up to 50 nautical miles away. Airborne Early Warning and Control, also known as AEW&C, aircraft needed to patrol the oceans to provide adjunct coverage to the Texas Towers.
TT2 and TT3 stood firmly in waters that were 56 and 80 feet from their installation, respectively. TT4 was different in its design because it had underwater bracing to compensate for the extra stresses of being in 185 feet of water. Despite constant reports of excessive wobbling aboard TT4 and the crewmembers’ nicknaming it “Old Shaky,” in the summer of 1960, the contractor reported the original design strength restored. Each of the towers was different as each had its unusual movement. The crewmembers on TT2 reported the platform had a juggling motion, while TT3 was a twisting motion. TT4, however, weaved, wobbled, and lurched like a living thing.
On September 12, 1960, Hurricane Donna produced winds of 132 miles per hour and breaking waves over 50 feet, forces that exceeded all of the design specifications of up to 125 miles per hour and breaking waves up to 35 feet. These surpassing forces broke part of the below water bracing. The post-storm damage estimates afforded an overall strength of 55% of what it was before the hurricane.
Storm damage after Donna forced the Air Force and its construction contractor to begin renovating TT-4 on February 1, 1961. Donald Slutzky was a technical representative with the Burroughs Corp., who serviced computer data for a year on TT4. After the November hurricane, Slutzky and others aboard the Tower decided to leave, believing that the structure was unsafe.
The tower would shake, and the noise aboard was constant, and then there were the Russians. “Some nights, the lights were so thick you thought you were back at Coney Island,” one airman remembers thinking about the fleets loitering of Russian fishing trawlers swarming the towers.
There were even rumors of infiltration by Soviet frogmen. “A body of legends grew up telling of “damp footprints encountered in passageways and of mysterious strangers furtively sipping coffee in the mess hall at 3 a.m.”
What the towers lacked in comfort, they made up for in food, beer, movies, and calls home
The Airforce spared no expense in making life aboard the towers comfortable. Funds were 70% above their parent squadron, and food allowances were 14% over stateside allowances. The towers had hobby shops, pizza parties, barbeques, daily beer rations, and movies every night, but weeks aboard the platforms was enough to give even the most stable airman “tower fever.”
The isolation, bone-chilling cold, and screaming wind didn’t help, and unbearable noises were built into the tower. Diesel engines roared incessantly while air blowers whined, and radios echoed unnervingly down the steel hallways. In foggy weather, the world’s largest blow horn blasted every twenty-nine seconds. The horn of TT2 once hollered for three weeks straight while hidden in the fog.
Communication was essential for the towers and the shore. Not only was it vital for the radar reports to be transmitted back to the SAGE system, but without this line of communication, the tower would be incapacitated. Unlike so much about the towers, comms actually worked as intended.
Point-to-point tropospheric scatter systems, officially called FRC-56 but known as the troposcatter, transmitted and received messages from shore and were generally unaffected by atmospheric disturbances. They worked well for SAGE communications and the telephone circuits patched in. Voice communications through the troposcatter were reliably maintained, and anyone could call home after duty hours by merely dialing the Otis Operator through the troposcatter.
Supply and Evacuation
The 4604th Texas Support Squadron had its headquarters at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod. It provided the Texas towers with staffing and controlled the towers’ activity. In addition, a supply ship, the USNS New Bedford or AKL-17, under Captain Manguel’s supervision, supported the Air Force Islands.
Getting to and from the tower was a significant problem encumbered by New England Weather. Calm days with good visibility are the exception, not the rule, in this corner of the Atlantic.
The escape procedures were limited to methods that were dangerous on a good day. Knotted ropes could be suspended over the side, and crewmembers could climb the ropes to get from the tower’s platform to ships floating in the sea below. Many crewmembers preferred helicopter transport to and from the tower, but Atlantic wind and weather ultimately dictated the service. The mission of flying to the towers was so dangerous that the helicopters only flew in pairs, so if one of them went into the sea, the other could begin rescue operations. Therefore, when one helicopter landed on the platform’s deck, the other had to hover overhead.
The only other way off the tower was referred to by tower members as the “Doughnut.” Nothing in nautical or aeronautical history resembles this device used to transfer personnel between the tower and supply ships, ninety feet below. A colossal aircraft tire innertube was inflated and picked up by the tower’s cargo crane and suspended over the black water. With passengers clinging for dear life, the tube was then lowered or plummeted straight down and onto the pitching and rolling ship. The trip was, in the words of one airman, “enough to make a paratrooper queasy.” Most mariners on the supply ships declined the invitation to come aboard after seeing the doughnut.
Too slow for missiles
Simultaneously, on November 16, 1960, the Airforce ceased the tower’s radar operations and reduced the crewmembers aboard from about 75 to 28, consisting of 14 Air Force and 14 civilian maintenance personnel. By that time, the invention of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) had rendered the towers obsolete, reducing their early warning advantage from 30 minutes to around 30 seconds.
Though their strategic usefulness was behind them, a major reason to keep the towers crewed was to prevent the Soviets from taking claiming them through salvage rights.
The collapse of Texas Tower 4
Captain Gordon Phelan was the Officer in Charge of TT4, and he made a special effort to communicate to the crewmembers onboard the day-to-day structural condition of the tower. His superiors cited his leadership for maintaining the high morale of fellow officers and subordinates aboard the doomed platform. He was recommended for the Legion of Merit when he prevented hysteria aboard the fully staffed tower during Hurricane Donna.
Phelan’s superiors would testify that the captain aboard the tower had the authorization to evacuate if he deemed conditions unsafe effective January 7. However, in a tragic miscommunication, this policy was not relayed to Captain Phelan until hours before the collapse.
Early on the morning of January 14, 1961, TT4’s weather advisory changed, calling for winds from 40 to 60 knots. At about 1330 hrs that afternoon, the AKL-17 completed its loading 202 tons of bulky equipment but no passengers from TT4 and cast off from the tower. Anticipating a North Atlantic Gale, Captain Phelan advised Captain Manguel to stay near the tower for possible evacuation as he would contact the 4604th Support battalion. Captain Manguel replied that if the evacuation was to remain an option, it needed to start while the weather was still good. Soon after, Captain Phelan informed Captain Mangual that the personnel would remain on the tower with the AKL 17 standing by. In other words, if evacuation became necessary, it would be too late to evacuate.
Texas Tower 4, as seen from the supply ship USNS New Bedford (AKL-17) PHOTO/ DOD
Major Stark, the officer in charge at the 4604th Support battalion, who could order an evacuation of the tower at any time, was back on Otis at the time and later testified that he was in a bowling tournament on base from 1300 to 1400. However, he felt confident no telephone call in from Captain Phelan because it would have been reported.
That evening, at 2130 hrs on Otis AFB, Major Stark briefed Major Sheppard that he did not believe the weather forecast was severe enough to warrant the tower’s evacuation. He spoke to Captain Phelan a couple of times during the day and thought there was no reason for alarm or concern of any kind, and that everything was going fine. Major Sheppard was not aware of the worsening forecast of 60-knot winds for TT4. Had he been, he would have directed the evacuation of the tower. Major Sheppard was not particularly concerned because the tower had “just gone through the same situation six days before without any difficulty or motion.” They concluded that Major Sheppard had no need to contact the tower, and he did not communicate until 1600hrs the following day.
On January 15, at 1018 hrs, the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office issued TT4 a wave warning beginning at 1900 hrs, calling for easterly seas 17 to 20 feet. Neither TT4 nor the 4604th support squadron ever acknowledged this receipt. The sea had continued its turbulence and the wind was forecasted for gusts of 60 knots most of the day. At 1000 hrs, Captain Phelan was asked if he was concerned about getting off the tower and he replied, “Well, you know as well as I that we can’t get off now.”
At approximately 1300 hrs, Captain Phelan called his wife, who lived near Otis Airforce Base in Falmouth, MA. They had a long conversation. He told her that the tower was “gyrating,” a word Mrs. Phelan said her husband never used to describe the tower’s behavior. Captain Phelan told her it was rough on board, and she believed he was especially concerned about the wind and waves.
She asked him what would happen if the tower collapsed. He told her that it would not float.
She asked if there were any watertight compartments, and he replied, “absolutely not.”
Captain Phelan thought it was asinine for the AKL-17 to be around because it would be impossible to use the doughnut in such rough seas. If the tower fell, Phelan told his wife, no one would be saved, and the AKL or any other craft would be useless.
She asked if the tower would float for a short time to allow them to use the boat. He said,when it went in, it would go in real fast.
Finally, he called the Skipper of the AKL-17 and told him to go back home or his vessel would soon be swamped.
The Wasp or the bottom of the sea
Around 1530 hrs, Lieutenant Roberts amended the weather forecast to maximum gusts of 75 knots. When Captain Phelan had reported one gust of 72 knots, he said, “Well, now maybe they will do something about it.” Lieutenant Roberts testified that he interpreted this remark to mean that Captain Phelan had been previously trying to contact someone without success.
At approximately 1600, Captain Phelan reported to Major Sheppard that he heard a loud noise, and the tower sway increased. He thought another brace had broken, and there could be trouble if wind direction shifted.
Captain Phelan was concerned with a second storm on its way. When he suggested it would be wise to evacuate during a predicted lull between the two storms, Major Sheppard told him that as Tower OIC, he had discretionary authority to evacuate whenever he felt it was necessary. Captain Phelan then requested helicopters for the evacuation. Some time before 1745 hrs, Mr. Sheppard Called Captain Phelan and told him that the USS Wasp, an aircraft carrier, was being diverted and would arrive sooner than choppers from shore.
At about 1800, Captain Phelan called his wife and told her they were finally sending the USS Wasp and evacuating his crew with choppers. Safes containing classified materials were being thrown overboard. All hands were on deck, clearing the way for the helicopters. He told her the waves were 35 feet, and the wind was blowing 85 knots. The tower was breaking apart, he said. At approximately 1910 hrs, Captain Phelan advised Captain Mangual on the AKL-17 supply ship of their intent to be evacuated by air and that Captain Mangual should proceed to the nearest safe port.
At approximately 1915 hrs, Mr. Schutz called Otis to inform him all hands were still clearing the deck to receive choppers and then stated, “My next call to you will either be on the Wasp, or I will be in the sea. So long.”
At about 1920 hrs, Captain Manguel observed the tower’s signal on his radar screens aboard the AKL-17 when it suddenly disappeared.
He switched to another radar screen and was still unable to locate the structure. Captain Manguel, using the radio he had been in contact with Captain Phelan, called the radar station but received no response.
At 1933 hrs, he transmitted a “Triple X” message to the Coast Guard that “Texas Tower #4 had disappeared from radar contact, and he presumed that it was lost.”
Major search and rescue efforts recovered no survivors. One body was recovered from the radio room of the sunken Tower.
The exact cause of the tower’s collapse is unknown, but the most probable cause is the failure of the leg structure due to the ineffective bracing system between the A and B legs.
TT4’s platform leg design would never pass modern code checks, even for dead load only. Many structural members were loaded beyond yield, explaining the extensive damage TT4 suffered during Donna.
It was nothing short of a miracle that TT4 hadn’t gone down during Donna.
A recent inquiry into the collapse has yielded hindsight calculations that tell a more accurate story of what was going on structurally before and during the collapse. Design engineers had totaled the mass around 7500 tons, but current predictions automatically generate masses and include the hydrodynamic added weight of the water in flooded members. Therefore, design engineers omitted the extra 3,200 tons, and the structure’s predicted mass is a total of about 10,800 tons. Using pin connections over fully welded joints to eliminate secondary bending in joints, an accumulation of wear happened at the pin connections, causing the holes to enlarge.
Another weak point in the tower’s construction was the point where the legs met the seabed. TT4s legs were steel tubes with an outer diameter of 12.5 ft, reinforced with stiffening concrete to 50 feet below the surface. The lower part of the leg was hollow and used as ballast during transportation and installation and as a fuel tank after installation. This section is the weak part of the leg which broke near the footings during the fatal storm. The design engineers likely overlooked the possibility of the legs buckling.
TT 2 and 3
After the collapse of TT4, the remaining towers, TT2 and TT3, were inspected for safety, and their practicality was reassessed. New policies were drafted, but the lingering threat from the Soviet trawlers that loitered around the towers had to be accounted for. From 1961 on, if extreme weather conditions were forecasted, a tower evacuation down to a seven-member standby crew was to be ordered.
The purpose of the standby crew was to guard against the Soviet Sailors attempting to board the platform and claim possession on the grounds of salvage rights.
Considering the towers’ safety issues and their obsolescence, the Air Defense Command decided to phase out TT2 and TT3. A newer system, the Automatic Long Range Input (ALRI), would become fully operational by radars mounted on AEW&Con aircraft based out of Otis AFB, Massachusetts.
These planes already flew constant missions to scan the Texas tower radar web gaps, so they only had to increase their flight time to replace the coverage from the towers. The EC-121 aircraft flew countless radar surveillance missions by their nineteen-member crews in the 1950s and 1960s. The EC-121H Super Constellation, or the “Warning Star,” carried more than six tons of radar and computer communications equipment.
In 1963, ALRI stations became operational, and the towers were no longer needed. On January 15, 1963, TT2 was decommissioned, stripped of its communication and electronic equipment. The next phase would be to dynamite the legs and float the platform to shore. When the legs were dynamited, however, the platform plunged into the ocean and sank to the bottom.
Salvage was not possible. Like TT4, TT2 sits on the bottom of the ocean. TT3 was filled with urethane foam to make it buoyant, floated home, and scrapped.
Fall of the warning stars
On March 2, 1965, the 551st Wing at Otis AFB celebrated “more than 350,000 hours of early warning radar surveillance missions over the North Atlantic without an accident involving personal injury or a fatality.” Thse were the “warning star” early warning aircraft that had supplemented and eventually replaced the Texas Towers.
Less than 19 weeks later, on July 11, 1965, their good safety record was shattered when one of the Super Constellation aircraft developed fire, and the crew ditched the plane in the North Atlantic, approximately 100 miles from Nantucket. Of the 19 crew, there were three survivors, nine bodies were recovered, and the remaining seven were missing and presumed dead.
A similar accident happened the following year on Veterans Day when another Super Constellation crashed in the same general area as the first one. All 19 crew members were killed, and their bodies were never recovered.
Five months later, on April 25, 1967, the 551st AEW’s commander, Colonel James P. Lyle, was piloting another EC-121H when an engine fire broke out. The aircraft went down in the North Atlantic one mile south of Nantucket while attempting an emergency landing. There were fifteen fatalities and one survivor. Only two bodies were recovered. Colonel Lyle had presented folded flags to the next-of-kin of the men under his command from the previous crashes. Now it was his family’s turn to receive one.
The EC-121H aircraft was phased out, and the 551st Wing was deactivated on December 31, 1969. In total, 50 service members died in these three plane crashes, bringing the death toll of the North Atlantic Advanced Early Warning mission to over 78.
Image: U.S Air Force Museum
“You either drown, or you don’t.”
When Captain Phelan and the men of TT4 went down, there was no helm to command, no wheel or tiller to steer, and there was nothing they could have done on the night of January 15, 1961, to save themselves. They died in a structure that was built more like a building than a ship, and it certainly wasn’t watertight. As the captain told his wife on the telephone hours before the tower did this, if it goes in, it will go in real fast.
As he did during Hurricane Donna, Captain Phelan likely maintained command of the military and civilian men on board. There’s no evidence of panic, even though there was nothing to do but panic. The Airmen and civilians fought for each other and their lives to keep the helicopter landing area clear, but the helicopters had not taken off from the Wasp yet when the legs buckled and the tower went down.
We will never know if tower leadership was trying to contact Major Stark between 2 and 3 p.m., while the Major was occupied at a Bowling Tournament on Otis Air Force Base. All we know is that no action was taken by his command until it was too late.
The Texas Towers themselves are relics of the scrapheap of forgotten Cold War technology. But, this sort of preventable catastrophe, where military brass has all the warnings and fails to act, has repeated itself again and again.
Most recently, in July 2020, eight Marines and a sailor drowned when their twenty-six-ton amphibious assault vehicle sank off a California island. The incident resulted from inadequate training, a vehicle in “horrible condition,” and lapsed safety.
Untrained for the situation, in forty-five minutes after water first leaked inside, most service members hadn’t shed their combat gear and body armor. “The key moment in the mishap was when water was at ankle level… and the vehicle commander failed to order the evacuation of embarked troops, as required by the Common Standard Operating Procedures for AAV Operations,” the investigation officer wrote. “Instead, the vehicle commander was more focused on getting back to the ship, vice evacuating the embarked personnel.”
Water flooded the troop compartment, causing the AAV’s nose to rise, and then it quickly sank with eleven men still inside. Only three Marines made it to the surface — and only two of them survived. After the Navy recovered it from a depth of three-hundred and eighty-five feet of water, technical inspections and analyses of the amtrac revealed anomalies, loose or missing parts, and worn seals.
Sebastian Junger writes in The Perfect Storm, “everyone takes their chances, and you either drown or you don’t.”
It is that stark simplicity that makes seafaring professions so alluring and so deadly.
Men and women who earn their living at sea, in the military or as civilians, have long embraced the superstition that some among them are marked and that the sea will reclaim them eventually.
Whether it was nautical providence or just bad luck, the Atlantic had marked many among the original crew of the Texas Towers. After Hurricane Donna, the Air Force had ceased radar operations on TT4 and scaled the crew back from 75 to just 14, supported by an additional 14 civilian support personal. These were the 28 who went down that night in January 1961. Of the 50 fatalities from the subsequent “Warning Star” crashes, many had been survivors of Hurricane Dona, chosen by deep to join their fellow airmen another day.
About the authors:
Joshua Maloney served in the First Cavalry Division as an M1A2 SEP V2 loader and driver and as an HMMWV driver, dismount, and gunner. He has been a part of numerous combat and humanitarian aid missions. He has since gone on to advocate for student veterans as president of the Student Veterans of America Chapter at Cape Cod Community College.
Charles Daly is the co-author of Make Peace or Die: a life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares.
A Colonial Space Marine without a pulse rifle is like cake without candles; good, but not great. While a Space Corps has been proposed, it’ll be a long time before we see our science fiction dreams of sweet, sweet xenomorph murdering fully realized. In the meantime while we wait for the apocalyptic space future promised by 1980’s movies, there’s an opportunity to get your hands on an original prop of arguably the most iconic movie weapon in a generation: The M41A Pulse Rifle from Aliens.
You’re going to have to pay a hefty price for the pleasure, however.
Where else but eBay can we find details on the original prop?
The item description features a decent breakdown of the parts used. Like many other movie props of the era, the M41A Pulse Rifle consists of actual firearm components intermixed with custom fabricated elements.
Aliens original hero Colonial Marine M41-A Pulse Rifle. (TCF, 1986) One of the most famous Sci-Fi firearms, the M41-A Pulse Rifle was featured heavily in James Cameron’s 1986 action sequel Aliens.
Designed by Cameron himself and constructed under the supervision of renowned armorer Simon Atherton at Bapty Armory, the Pulse Rifle is viewed by many as the pinnacle of Sci-Fi prop weaponry. This is an original prop Pulse Rifle that was originally constructed for and used in Aliens, and later re-built and re-used in Alien 3.
The prop is constructed around a WWII era M1A1 Thompson submachine gun, which was originally modified to fire blanks for the production and has since been fully decommissioned. The Thompson is fitted with a custom-made pistol grip, and a custom-made extended barrel.
A SPAS-12 shotgun cage mounts below the Thompson barrel via a custom-stamped barrel shroud, simulating the grenade launcher. The grenade launcher features the original SPAS-12 pump handle, which was cut down for a different look in the film. It slides freely back and forth, allowing the pump-action loading of the launcher to be simulated. As only one version of the Pulse Rifle had a practical grenade launcher (actually a Remington 870 shotgun) fitted, this piece has a dummy grenade launcher filling the SPAS cage…
…The ends of the piece are capped with a custom-made steel shoulder stock, and a custom-made aluminum barrel cap at the front of the grenade launcher. The entire assembly is housed in a vacuum-formed ABS outer casing, which completes the unique profile of the prop. While all other components on the piece were used in Aliens, the casing was installed specifically for the production of Alien 3.
After Aliens, all of the Pulse Rifle props were struck back to their original firearm components, and most of the casings used were discarded as they were no longer deemed necessary. When the decision was made for Weyland scientists to carry Pulse Rifles during the climax of Alien 3, Bapty had to re-assemble the Pulse Rifles and were now lacking the outer casings. New outer casings were therefore manufactured by vacuum-forming over one of the original casings from Aliens, and the new ABS casing was fitted to the prop with bolts, brackets and custom-riveted plates.
The outer casing was originally painted black for use in Alien 3, as are all Pulse Rifle props in the film, but was later re-sprayed green by Bapty to return the piece to its classic Aliens form. The clip base is made from wood and is installed with a screw at the front of the casing. The Pulse Rifle is complete and in good film-used and weathered condition.
All of the moveable components-the shoulder stock, grenade launcher pump handle, and original Thompson selector switches and trigger-can be moved and positioned. This is a rare opportunity to own a masterpiece of film prop weaponry. Special shipping must be arranged through a federal firearms licensed dealer. $12,000 – $15,000
This famous prop is part of Hollywood Auction 89 – a live auction being held on June 28th at 14:00 PST. Details of each item up for grabs can be found on the auction page.
If you don’t have a spare $15k set aside for a rainy day, the game isn’t over quite yet. You can build a functional M41A for yourself, or for the less mechanically inclined, obtain an airsoft version.
As for us, we’ll stick to spending that kind of coin on actual machine guns, with a healthy side of late night Aliens screenings
Mike Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, made some worrying admissions about China’s growing military capabilities, and the US’ decline in technological advances.
“Our adversaries have taken advantage of what I have referred to as a holiday for the United States,” Griffin said April 18, 2018, referring to the West’s victory over its communist rivals in the Cold War. The Pentagon official was speaking at a hearing for the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.
“China has understood fully how to be a superpower,” Griffin said. “We gave them the playbook and they are executing.”
One problem discussed was anti-access/area denial through the use of hypersonic weapons— missiles or glide vehicles that fly at mach 5 or above, making them so fast that they can bypass almost all current missile defense systems.
“China has fielded or can field … hypersonic delivery systems for conventional prompt strike than can reach out thousands of kilometers from the Chinese shore, and hold our carrier battle groups or our forward deployed forces … at risk,” he said.
He also added that the US does not have a weapon that can similarly threaten the Chinese, and that the US has no defenses against China’s hypersonic missiles.
(U.S. Air Force graphic)
“We, today, do not have systems which can hold them at risk in a corresponding manner, and we don’t have defenses against those systems,” Griffin said, adding that “should they choose to deploy them we would be, today, at a disadvantage.
The statements echo similar warnings that Griffin told the House Armed Services Committee a day before. In that hearing, Griffin said that hypersonic weapons were “the most significant advance” made by the US’ adversaries.
“We will, with today’s defensive systems, not see these things coming,” he said April 17, 2018.
China has already made huge gains over the US when it comes to hypersonic glide vehicles. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also said that Russia successfully tested an “invincible” hypersonic cruise missile.
Months after Putin’s announcement, the US Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin with a $1 billion contract to create what is calls “hypersonic conventional strike weapon.”
Boeing made a hypersonic vehicle similar to a cruise missile called the X-51 Waverider which first flew in 2010. The device flew mach 5.1 for 6 minutes during one test.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Every year, thousands of Americans in the military spend their holidays serving their country abroad. This year is no exception. In 2020, there are service members on every continent, in over 170 countries. 14,000 are deployed in Afghanistan, 13,000 in Kuwait, and thousands more in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia, and countless other countries. Being away from home on Christmas can be lonely and painful, but it has a certain beauty of its own.
Tradition is a big part of the military community, and celebrating the holidays is no exception. While stationed abroad, service members do whatever they can to make the season bright. It’s never the same as being home for the holidays, but the special moments spent on base make future Christmases at home all the brighter.
Each base celebrates differently, but holiday celebrations are pretty universal.
Just after Thanksgiving, the preparations begin. Decorations vary, but soldiers do their best to deck the halls with makeshift trees, wreaths, and even lights. Some recreation programs host decorating contests with prizes to get everyone in the Christmas spirit.
When the big day arrives, it’s often kicked off with a Christmas 5 or 10K. As the day goes on, you can expect to see service members going the extra mile to spread some smiles. Some might dress up as elves, Santa, or the Grinch, while others stroll about the base singing carols. It’s not all silliness, though. For those who want to, Christmas church services are usually offered all day long at the base chapel.
Christmas is one of the few days that just about everyone is invited to relax and enjoy themselves. Soldiers spend time calling family, playing games, or spending time outside if the weather allows. On some bases, it’s even warm enough to go for a celebratory snorkel!
Christmas dinner is typically a much-anticipated event. The meal is always next-level, with turkey or ham, all the fixings, and enough dessert to go around. In a touching twist, commanding officers often volunteer to serve their subordinates at dinner as a sign of appreciation and gratitude for their service. Often, the meal is accompanied by concerts or other live entertainment to raise morale. After dinner, soldiers gather for game nights or to watch classic Christmas films to bring the festivities to bring the evening to a peaceful close.
Every base is a little different, but at the end of the day, their individual traditions are part of what makes a Christmas deployment a special experience.
The people you share the season with might surprise you.
Many Americans are stationed in countries that don’t typically celebrate Christmas. One would expect to celebrate alone, but that’s not always the case. In some areas, like Bahrain, soldiers have been pleasantly surprised when the locals wished them a Happy Christmas. The culture on base often lightens up, too. Some soldiers have been surprised with pajama days, cocoa, and other luxuries that would normally be off-limits.
The holiday reminds you of your priorities.
More than anything, Christmas reminds soldiers of why they enlisted in the first place. When you sit down to Christmas dinner on deployment, you’re breaking bread with those who have vowed to protect their country, their families, and each other. You’re sacrificing your holiday to help protect your traditions back home. It’s not easy, but a Christmas spent serving your country is one you’ll never forget.
With at least five littoral combat ships needing time in the repair yard after engineering problems, and USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) suffering her own power plant problems, the Navy took another hit when USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) ended up on the binnacle list as well.
According to a report by USNI News, the 16,000-ton destroyer suffered a seawater leak in an auxiliary system for one of the ship’s propeller shafts. The destroyer is currently undergoing repairs at Norfolk Navy Yard. The repairs are expected to take up to two weeks.
The Zumwalt has had other issues – the new integrated power system caused extensive delay – and was cut from a planned purchase of 32 destroyers to three. Each ship in the class is armed with two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, the largest guns to see Navy service since the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships. The vessels also carry 30-millimeter Mk 46 Bushmaster II chain guns, and twenty four-cell Mk 57 vertical launch systems. They have a top speed of over 30 knots.
The three vessels being built with cutting-edge technology will cost a total of $22 billion, including $9.6 billion for RD. Each of the three hulls, therefore, is bearing $3.2 billion in RD costs. Had the original 32 ships been procured, the per-ship RD burden would have been only $300 million per ship.
The cut in program size nearly led to the entire cancellation of the program under Nunn-McCurdy, which requires that the Department of Defense notify Congress if unit cost exceeds estimates by 15 percent. When the unit cost exceeds estimates by 25 percent, Nunn-McCurdy requires that the program is to be terminated unless DOD can certify that certain conditions have been met.
In a release about the incident, the Navy noted, “Repairs like these are not unusual in first-of-class ships during underway periods following construction.”
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — May, 3, 2021 — Call of Duty League™, the official esports league of the Call of Duty® franchise, today announces two new initiatives with the support of USAA, the League’s Official Insurance and Military Appreciation Partner. Call of Duty League will launch its first-ever Military Appreciation Week and the Call of Duty League Gives Back initiative, aimed at supporting the military community. Timed to Military Appreciation Week, USAA will also be the presenting partner of Call of Duty League Major III, broadcast May 13-16, 2021.
Military Appreciation Week will take place the week of May 10th, and is the Call of Duty League’s inaugural celebration of community members who have served in the United States military.
To further show support and advocacy for the military community, USAA is joining the Call of Duty League Gives Back program, which unlocks unique experiences and more for the military community. As part of this new program, Minnesota RØKKR provided in-game training to the official United States Space Force Call of Duty competitive team as they prepare to defend their championship in the 2021 C.O.D.E Bowl.
As Call of Duty League Gives Back expands, it intends to also open avenues for fans to participate. The program will support the Call of Duty Endowment (C.O.D.E), a nonprofit organization which helps veterans find high-quality jobs after their service.
“Call of Duty League is proud to partner with USAA to shine a spotlight on the brave U.S. service members that serve our communities. USAA’s position as the presenting sponsor of the next Call of Duty League Major Tournament unlocks an opportunity to give back to the military community in a myriad of ways, including exclusive experiences in collaboration with the teams in the League,” said Brandon Snow, Chief Revenue Officer of Activision Blizzard Esports. “Military Appreciation Week is a celebration of those who have served our country, and we’re excited that USAA has helped create this important moment.”
From May 3-31, Call of Duty League and USAA will host a giveaway on callofdutyleague.com/usaa for current and former U.S. military members, while highlighting key figures who have made a positive impact on military communities. The giveaway includes a free C.O.D.E Battle Doc Pack (valued at $9.99), available in both Call of Duty®: Black Ops Cold War and Call of Duty® Warzone™. The pack features an Operator skin, weapon blueprint, calling card, weapon charm, and emblem.
“USAA’s sponsorship of Call of Duty League enables us to honor our military who love the game and reach them in an authentic and meaningful way,” said Eric Engquist, USAA vice president of enterprise brand management and U.S. Army veteran. “The new initiatives allow us to more specifically celebrate our military members and provide a lasting program that will impact and support the whole military community.”
In its second season, the Call of Duty League includes 12 teams from four countries and brings together the best players from around the world. For more information on the League, sign up for updates at callofdutyleague.com or tune in to the action at youtube.com/codleague.
Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to more than 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs approximately 36,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.
About Call of Duty League
Call of Duty League™ is the official esports league of the Call of Duty® franchise, from publisher Activision. The Call of Duty League includes 12 teams from four countries and spotlights the best Call of Duty esports players from around the world. The Call of Duty League launched in 2020 and features fresh ways for pro players, amateurs, and fans to come together around one of the world’s most beloved games. To learn more about the Call of Duty League, visit callofdutyleague.com.
About Activision Blizzard Esports
Activision Blizzard Esports (ABE) is responsible for the development, operation, and commercialization of Activision Blizzard’s professional gaming properties including the Overwatch League™, the Call of Duty League™, and Hearthstone® Grandmasters, among others. It is ABE’s vision to be the most innovative, scalable, and valuable developer of competitive entertainment.
Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision is a leading global producer and publisher of interactive entertainment. Activision maintains operations throughout the world and is a division of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI), an S&P 500 company. More information about Activision and its products can be found on the company’s website, www.activision.com or by following @Activision.
So if a zombie were to come lumbering up your block right now, what would you do? Reach for your weapon? Bolt the doors and windows and stay inside? Rush to your nearest gun shop? Maybe try to make it on post? If you’ve watched even one episode of The Walking Dead, or if you’re a fan of any of the jokey zombie movies that have come out in the last few years, you and your buddies have probably spent at least one evening over beers talking about what you would do if zombies suddenly decided to rush you.
It turns out that you’re not the only one thinking about these plans. In fact, the DoD has been considering what the military should do if a zombie apocalypse were to take place.
“This plan was not actually designed as a joke.” So starts out CONPLAN 8888, better known as the Counter Zombie Dominance Plan (CZDP), unveiled by the Joint Combined Warfighting School back in 2009.
It’s easy to make fun of, for sure, but there might be some real training gems nestled inside this strange idea. The plan’s overall purpose isn’t to actually train and prepare for zombies, but what the military should do to “preserve non-zombie humans” from the very significant threats posed by a zombie horde. It’s also endearing that the DoD is thinking outside the box when it comes to training. Even more comforting is knowing that even if an army of the undead were to attack civilization, there’s no chance they’d win. Here’s why.
No matter if we get attacked by fast or slow zombies, they’re no match for modern aircraft. Fighter jets have serious destructive potential, and they’re incredibly accurate. And since we’re pretty sure zombies never got the training on how to shelter in place, they’d probably just stand out in the open with fighter jets zipping overhead.
This goes without saying but putting on your gear will definitely help prevent you and your buddies from being bitten by zombies. In most zombie scenarios, they’re limited to human strength, so we’re pretty sure they can’t chew through your IOTV.
Landmines are nothing to mess with, but fortunately, most humans know to stay away from minefields once the first device is detonated. We’re counting on zombies not being so smart and would expect them to continue navigating the field, even while the mines exploded all around them. And since zombies are fairly easy to predict, herding them into minefields could be an effective way to deal with them.
Mass charges are all zombies really do. They overrun their target and bite them until they become zombies too. Machine gun fire would put a stop to that quickly.
This one is pretty obvious, but so often overlooked in a takeover of the undead scenario. The truth is that the explosive firepower of tanks means that very few zombies could survive an attack. Even if ammo was low, tanks could easily just run over swarms of zombies, fixing the problem.
Training against fake nations and fake enemies is nothing new
CZDP explores what would happen after a political fallout, a broken chain of command, and a target-rich environment, as would happen if zombies were to suddenly take over the earth. It’s just like when the military issues training guides to combat fictional nations like the “Pineladians” or the “Krasnovians,” both fictional countries the military trains to fight against.
Fictional countries the military trains to fight aren’t new. In fact, it’s a standard part of lots of military training. Zombies aside, the military does this by design – in part to ensure that they don’t set off any political red flags by having our service members train against nation-states, and because it helps things stay light in the face of what could be some really dark scenarios.
Of course, the Pentagon doesn’t actually believe that a zombie takeover is likely, but the training for battling the undead is remarkably useful for other training events. And, since the training manual is so absurd, students at the Joint Warfighters College actually paid attention, were engaged in the lesson, and explored the basic concepts of planning and order development – all very important things for the future leaders of the military.
Green Beret Travis Wilson is like most members of the Special Operations community. He normally looks at problems and sees two options: find a way around or blow your way through it. The latter worked for Travis downrange, but after multiple IED strikes, enough flashbangs in the face to make even Chuck Norris cringe, and a freefall accident (yeah, seriously, you read that right), Travis, now CEO of Time for a Hero, is taking on a problem that has stopped even the most talented doctors in the world: traumatic brain injury, or TBI.
TBI is often the result of an explosion or crash, both of which are common in the Special Operations community. However, unlike a broken leg or even a gunshot wound, brain injuries just don’t heal like the rest of the body. Even worse, no brain injury is the same, which is what keeps doctors from finding an effective treatment.
As a result, symptoms such as confusion, amnesia, insomnia, and depression can last for months and even years. This is exactly the world Travis found himself in after six deployments and numerous doctors reporting that there was no long term cure for his injuries. So, Travis took matters into his own hands or, more accurately, his own mind.
Travis serving as a Green Beret in Afghanistan
(Courtesy of Travis Wilson)
“It just didn’t make sense to me,” Wilson said. “The doctors were saying there is no cure, but having been a medic, I knew the body was resilient and could heal from all kinds of trauma. I knew there had to be a better answer.”
As a combat medic and exercise science major, Travis knew that the body had an uncanny method to fix itself, but he searched for a treatment that could specifically help brain cells repair themselves. That’s when Travis stumbled upon the founder of Time for a Hero and an unlikely, out-of-the-box solution: stem cells.
I know what you’re thinking: Stem cells? The highly politicized, seemingly creepy, and crazy expensive voodoo treatment that relies on cells harvested like something out of The Matrix? Yep, that’s right, except that Travis and the founders found a stem cell treatment that relies upon the host’s own cells and can be applied to multiple injuries, including TBI.
There was only one problem: The treatment was offered out of the country and was exclusive to the super wealthy and celebrities — you don’t think Tom Cruise has really aged backwards, do you?
Even though you may see stem cell “clinics” in the states, the truly innovative “body heal thyself” kind of treatments aren’t currently approved by the FDA, and aren’t covered by most insurance companies.
Even though the treatment costs roughly ,000 per session, access was a problem Travis could overcome. Travis paired with the founder of Time for a Hero to underwrite all costs for SOF veterans to travel to undergo stem cell therapy. The procedure uses the patient’s own stem cells harvested from the adipose tissue using liposuction (a plus if you’ve been out of the gym for a minute) and then injects the cells into the body using an IV therapy and direct injection into multiple joints.
Mesenchymal Stem cells, which are basically cells that haven’t figured out what they want to be when they grow up (much like most of us), travel through the body and, once they reach the brain, attach themselves to regenerate growth in trauma areas. To date, Travis and his team have sponsored over twenty SOF veterans through this remarkable treatment, and the veterans have reported significant improvement in their cognitive and physical wellbeing.
Travis undergoing Mesenchymal stem cell treatment
(Courtesy of Travis Wilson)
“We’ve seen some remarkable improvement in overall quality of life and thought processes,” Travis said. “These guys are sleeping again and are thinking more clearly for the first time in a long time. Many of these veterans feel alive again.” But there is an added bonus here that we didn’t expect: anti-inflammation, which Travis thinks can be used on the battlefield.
Travis went on to explain that millions of stem cells flooding the body results in positive anti-inflammatory (think bigger than just motrin) effects that allow the body to heal more rapidly. Travis and his team are starting to explore the idea of stem cell treatment on the battlefield, before years of trauma is left untreated.
“The research and data we are collecting from these SOF veterans during their stem cell treatment could help save lives on future battlefields. As a former combat medic, I know how critical it can be to reduce trauma in the first few minutes of an injury. We have a chance to help the body start to heal almost immediately.”
Travis and the Time for a Hero team are planning to treat many SOF veterans this year and will continue to collect data to support other stem cell programs. Travis and his team have even recently been using an app to monitor cognitive growth after the treatment. “I don’t know if the treatment will make you smarter, but it sure as hell has made things more clear for me.”
“We have hundreds of special ops men — and women — on our waiting list and that list is growing everyday. So we’re out spreading the word, letting people know what we’re doing, and asking for help every chance we get.”
For more information on TBI, or how to sponsor a SOF veteran’s treatment, please visit www.timeforahero.com.
Warning: Contains spoilers from Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5.
After last week’s sh*t show, Khaleesi fans have been waiting for her revenge against Euron Greyjoy. Who knew that the secret to destroying the Iron Fleet would be found in the Bloody Red Baron’s playbook?
(Maybe we all should have — there’s a reason he’s the most infamous fighter pilot of all time…)
One move in particular was the key to her success:
Daenerys attacking Iron fleet with dragons | Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5
Baron Manfred von Richtofen has been credited with 80 kills, most of which were won in planes painted bright red — not exactly the camouflage used on military aircraft today. He faced many obstacles in his military ambitions, but he had one major thing going for him: he was recruited by Lt. Oswald Boelcke, one of the most skilled fighter pilots of his time.
In World War I, Boelcke codified 8 rules for rookie combat pilots. The Red Baron — and the Mad Queen, it turns out — would secure victory through number 1: keep the sun behind you.
When target acquisition is accomplished through a visual scan of the skies, keeping the sun to their back blinds an aviator’s adversary. Just ask Euron Greyjoy.
Oh wait. You can’t.
There were many ways Daenerys could have attacked those ships. The nice thing about airpower is that gravity will really step up when taking care of your enemies. I always envisioned staying out of range and dropping barrels of burning pitch onto the ships, but of course she’d lose accuracy.
Instead, she chose to reward his ambush with one of her own, popping in from the clouds to overwhelm the naval sharpshooters. She then took advantage of their slow recovery time and destroyed them at close range as they attempted to re-load.
Game of Thrones may have come to an end on HBO Sunday night but the saga continues off-screen, in the yet-unfinished series of books penned by George R.R. Martin which inspired the hit show. On May 20, 2019, the author reacted to the finale and also hinted at what’s to come for fans.
“Let me say this much — last night was an ending, but it was also a beginning,” Martin wrote in a post on his website, Not a Blog. “There are characters who never made it onto the screen at all, and others who died in the show but still live in the books… if nothing else, the readers will learn what happened to Jeyne Poole, Lady Stoneheart, Penny and her pig, Skahaz Shavepate, Arianne Martell, Darkstar, Victarion Greyjoy, Ser Garlan the Gallant, Aegon VI, and a myriad of other characters both great and small that viewers of the show never had the chance to meet.”
George R. R. Martin speaking at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con International, for “Game of Thrones”, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.
The 70-year-old went on to add that he’s still working on the next installment in the series, The Winds of Winter, which was originally supposed to be published in 2015. “Winter is coming, I told you, long ago… and so it is,” he promised. “[The next book] is very late, I know, I know, but it will be done. I won’t say when, I’ve tried that before, only to burn you all and jinx myself… but I will finish it.”
And that won’t even be the last book. Martin said that fans can also expect A Dream of Spring to round out what he thinks will be a total of 3,000 pages between the final two reads.
As for whether the books will end the same way as the show, Martin remained vague, saying, “well… yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Commonly referred to as the “Boneyard,” the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., contains about 5,000 retired military aircraft throughout 2,600 acres.
Crews at the Boneyard preserve aircraft for possible future use, pull aircraft parts to supply to the field, and perform depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. | U.S. Air Force video/Andrew Breese
An F-86 Sabre sits forlorn in the field, in the shadow of its former glory. The old plane is in parts now, its wings detached and lying beside it. The canopy is missing, along with most of the interior parts of the cockpit, and the windshield is shattered – now bits of broken glass hang precariously from a spider web of cracks.
To retired Col. Bill Hosmer, it’s still beautiful. He walks around the old fighter and stares in admiration. He slides a hand over the warped metal fuselage and a flood of memories rush over him.
“I haven’t been this close to one of these in years,” he says. “Of course, that one was in a lot better shape.”
So was Hosmer. Time has weathered and aged them both, the plane’s faded paint and creased body match Hosmer’s own worn and wrinkled skin. Even the plane’s discarded wings stand as a metaphor for Hosmer’s own life now – a fighter pilot who can’t fly, standing next to a fighter jet with no wings.
Age has grounded them both, but they share something else time can’t take away: A love of flight.
“Retiring from flying is not an easy thing,” Hosmer said. “Flying is a bug you just can’t shake.”
Hosmer has done his share of flying, too. He spent more than 20 years in the Air Force, where he flew the F-86, the F-100 Super Sabre and the A-7 Corsair II. He even served a stint with the USAF Thunderbirds, the service’s air demonstration team that chooses only the best pilots.
The Sabre has always had a special place in his heart, though. It was the first plane he flew and his favorite.
“We’ve shared a lot of time together, me and this plane,” he said, patting the plane’s weathered hulk.
Ironically, Hosmer’s favorite plane is also the one that almost made him give up flying. He was in pilot training, learning how to fly the F-86, when he crashed one. The physical injuries weren’t all that bad – a busted mouth, some fractured bones and multiple bruises – and he healed from them without issue.
The damage to his psyche, though, that was a different story.
“I was scared to fly for a while after that crash,” he said. “It took me a long time to get the courage to get back in the cockpit.”
Eventually, his love to fly overtook his desire not to and he hopped back in the cockpit and rekindled his love affair with flight.
So, looking at the old F-86, Hosmer doesn’t see a broken, battered and discarded jet; he sees past glories, feels loving memories and is saying hello to an old friend.
“I made a living flying this plane,” he said. “It seems like just yesterday I was in the cockpit. But, it was really a long time ago.”
Like Hosmer’s memories, the Sabre is also a thing of the past. The plane is replaced with newer, sleeker and more technologically advanced airplanes, and those few that do remain are typically found in museums and airshows.
The one Hosmer is standing next to is different. This one now sits as part of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Commonly referred to as “the Boneyard,” the AMARG is basically a 2,600-acre parking lot and storage facility for about 5,000 retired military aircraft.
The planes range from older ones, like the F-86 and B-52 Stratofortress, to newer ones, like the C-5 Galaxy. Though retired from active duty, each aircraft still performs a vital mission.
“Parts,” said Bill Amparano, an aircraft mechanic with the 309th AMARG. “These planes offer parts to the fleet. If a unit can’t find a replacement part for one of their aircraft, they’ll send us a request and we’ll take the part off one of our planes and send it to them.”
In other words, the AMARG is like a giant “pick-and-pull” for the Air Force, offering hard-to-find parts to units around the world. And, while it’s said the Boneyard is where planes go to die, it’s the opposite that’s true.
“They don’t come here to die, they’re just taking a break,” Amparano said.
When a plane arrives at the AMARG, it goes through an in-depth preservation process. Guns are removed, as are any ejection seat charges, classified equipment and anything easily stolen. Workers then drain the fuel system and pump in lightweight oil, which is drained again, leaving an oil coating that protects the fuel system.
A preservation service team then covers all the engine intakes, exhaust areas and any gaps or cracks in the aircraft with tape and paper and plastic. This job can take about 150 hours per aircraft.
Larger openings, such as bomb outlets and large vents, are then covered with a fiberglass mesh to keep out birds.
“If you don’t catch them in time, they can really do some damage,” said Jim Blyda, also an aircraft mechanic with the group.
This preservation process doesn’t just prepare the planes for storage; it also keeps them ready. The fully preserved planes can be called back into military service, be used as firefighting planes or even be sold to customers.
“Although some of them look like they are sitting here dead, if we reverse the process, in a couple of days, they are ready to roll,” Amparano said.
The AMARG also performs depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. Each year, the Boneyard receives and teams preserve nearly 400 aircraft, dispose of nearly another 400 aircraft and pull and ship some 18,000 parts.
Even the AMARG’s location serves a purpose. Because of Tucson’s low rainfall, low humidity and high-alkaline soil, corrosion and deterioration are kept to a minimum.
“The weather here is really perfect for storing all these planes,” said Col. Robert Lepper, 309th AMARG commander. “So if we need them, they’re ready. Some have been sitting here for decades.”
For Hosmer, this is a good thing. Without the AMARG and its preservation of the thousands of planes confined within its fences, he would not be able to stand in a field, rubbing his weathered hands over the warped, aged fuselage of an old F-86.
Neither he nor the jet fly anymore, but just the sight of the old fighter brings back memories Hosmer had long since forgotten.
Remembering them now, the memories are brought back to life – just like many of the planes within the AMARG are waiting silently, patiently, to do.