The US-led annual multinational military exercise Cobra Gold kicked off in Thailand on Monday, despite a faltering relationship between the two countries following Thailand’s military coup in May 2014.
Cobra Gold 2015 is scaled down due compared to past years because of the frosty relations between Thailand’s ruling military junta and the US. But it’s still a massive military exercise even in a reduced form. This year 13,000 personnel from 7 participating nations have joined in the exercises, the AP reports.
The participant countries are Thailand, the United States, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Malaysia, while India and China are taking part in humanitarian training missions. Even though the exercise is smaller than in the past, the scope of Cobra Gold has grown since the first one was held in 1982 and involved only the US and Thailand.
Exercises in Cobra Gold 2015 include jungle survival training and civic assistance programs in underdeveloped regions of Thailand.
Survival training is a big part of Cobra Gold. Thai Marines demonstrate how to capture a cobra in the wild.
US Marines then help decapitate the cobra and take turns drinking its blood. Cobra blood is surprisingly hydrating and can be used as a temporary replacement for water if a Marine is lost without supplies.
Thai Marines also teach their counterparts how to recognize edible jungle fruits.
Like cobra blood, several of the fruits can serve as an improvised source of hydration.
Marines are also instructed in the proper way to eat scorpions and spiders. Spiders are eaten after their fangs are ripped off, while scorpions are edible once the stinger is removed.
Aside from survival lessons, participant countries also take part in construction projects to build greater regional cooperation in the event of disasters like typhoons or plane crashes. Here, Chinese and US soldiers work together to build a school as part of Cobra Gold 2015.
Army veteran Sgt. 1st Class Howard “Howie” Sanborn was an all-star on active duty. He was an Airborne Ranger infantryman who conducted long-range surveillance for the XVII Airborne Corps before doing five years as a member of the U.S. Army’s premier high-altitude demonstration team, the Golden Knights.
As a Golden Knight, it was Howie’s job to share his experiences in the Army with civilians and act as a brand ambassador. Now, he uses a wheelchair and is off active duty, but he still spreads the Army message far and wide as an adaptive athlete.
“For me,” Howie said, “the Warrior Games are an amazing opportunity to get back with my team. I’m part of Team SOCOM. Once you leave the military and you’re retired or you just get out, you don’t necessarily lose that sense of camaraderie but you’re kind of separate from your buddies. So when you get to do events like this together or training events together, it’s a chance to rub shoulders with guys who’ve been through the same thing you’ve been through.”
At the 2016 Warrior Games, Howie competed in his racing chair in track events, taking home three gold medals for Men’s 1500 Run 2.0, Men’s 800 Meter Run 3.0, and Men’s 400 Meter Dash 3.0, as well as one silver medal in Men’s 200 Meter Dash 2.0.
Military veterans and adaptive athletes prepare for the start of the 2016 Warrior Games. Sgt. 1st Class Howard Sanborn is in the grey shirt in the foreground. (Photo: WATM)
Author’s Note: The events are broken down by each athlete’s functional ability. The 2.0 and 3.0 notations in the event titles refer to Howie and his competitors’ functional ratings.
Outside of the Warrior Games, Howe competes on the Parathriathlon Team for the U.S.
As an alumni of the Golden Knights and an adaptive athlete, Howie was the obvious choice for narrator during the Golden Knight demonstration in the opening ceremonies.
As part of his duties in the opening ceremony, Howie presented a special award to Gen. Frederick M. Franks. Franks was pioneer in the wounded warrior community, fighting his way back into combat units after losing his left leg below the knee.
Pantelleria and Lampedusa, two islands located about 50 miles off the Tunisian coast, were strategically located in the middle of the intended path of the Allied fleet for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. Pantelleria was garrisoned by an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 Axis troops, mostly Italian, and was home to radar stations that tracked Allied ship and air traffic. Its defenses included 15 battalions of coastal guns, pillboxes, and other defensive works.
Allied Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had long been an advocate of seizing the two islands, stating that if “left in the enemy hands, they would be a serious menace; secure in our hands they would be a most valuable asset.” The “asset” was Pantelleria’s airfield, the only one close enough and large enough to accommodate the five squadrons of short-range Allied fighters needed for close air support for the invasion.
Eisenhower initially encountered resistance from his British senior subordinate commanders, who felt that defenses on Pantelleria were so strong that assaulting forces ran a serious risk of failure. But Eisenhower insisted, assigning Lt. Gen. Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, commander of Northwest African Air Forces, “with the mission to reduce the island’s defenses to such a point that a landing would be uncontested,” making Pantelleria “a sort of laboratory to determine the effect of concentrated heavy bombing on a defended coastline.”
Codenamed “Operation Corkscrew,” the air offensive kicked off on May 18, 1943. From then until the invasion date of June 11, the island came under constant air attack from heavy and medium bombers and fighter-bombers.
One of the squadrons flying missions to Pantelleria was the 99th Fighter Squadron, commanded by Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the son of the nation’s first African-American general, the first squadron of African-American pilots of the “Tuskegee Experiment” program to see action in the war. The squadron arrived in Morocco on May 1, 1943.
As this was a time of Jim Crow in the United States, the pilots and ground crew encountered the indignities and slights of segregation and racism they had experienced back home. But one pleasant surprise was Col. Philip “Flip” Cochran, the inspiration for cartoonist Milton Caniff’s hero Flip Corkin in the syndicated newspaper strip Terry and the Pirates and later co-commander of the 1st Air Commando Group, who enthusiastically went out of his way to give the pilots combat training.
Lt. Spann Watson remembered Cochran as “a great guy” and said, “Cochran helped the 99th learn how to fight.” Davis added his praise, noting, “We all caught [Cochran’s] remarkable fighting spirit and learned a great deal from him about the fine points of aerial combat.”
Pantelleria would be the 99th’s baptism of fire. The squadron averaged two missions a day. In addition to escorting bombers, the pilots also conducted dive-bombing and strafing missions. Though the pilots did not shoot down any enemy planes, they did damage several and were successful in driving away air attacks on the bombers – which suffered minimal or no losses, a foretaste of defensive tactics that would define the Tuskegee Airmen’s reputation in the war.
In the three-week air campaign, 6,400 tons of bombs were dropped on targets on Pantelleria. On June 11, assault craft carrying troops from the British 1st Division headed toward Pantelleria’s beaches. But, contrary to British predictions of beaches bathed in blood, before the troops could land, the Italian governor capitulated. The garrison on Lampedusa surrendered the next day. The only casualty was a soldier bitten by a mule.
The swift fall of the islands went straight to the heads of some senior strategic air commanders, who now believed airpower alone could change the course of the war. Spaatz went so far as to claim “the application of air [power] available to us can reduce to the point of surrender any first-class nation now in existence, within six months from the time that pressure is applied.”
For the 99th, Corkin’s training assistance had a payoff beyond the battlefield. Following the surrender of Pantelleria, Davis received a message from area commander Col. J. R. Watkins: “I wish to extend to you and the members of the squadron my heartiest congratulations for the splendid part you played in the Pantelleria show. You have met the challenge of the enemy and have come out of your initial christening into battle stronger qualified than ever. Your people have borne up well under battle conditions and there is every reason to believe that with more experience you will take your place in the battle line along with the best of them.”
Davis would have a long and distinguished career in the Air Force, retiring in 1970 with the rank of lieutenant general. In 1998, he was advanced to the rank of general (retired list). He died in 2002.
Watching Star Trek as a kid was awesome. Space battles, morality plays, explosions… everything about it was what a budding young nerd needs to ensure he doesn’t get a date until after high school.
But when you grow up and enlist in the real military, you start to notice a few things you never considered when you watched the shows for the first time.
1. Almost everyone is an officer. And enlisted people don’t fare well.
Only in the old Star Trek movies did we ever see enlisted Starfleet personnel.
When we do see enlisted people, they’re usually running away or struggling to survive.
2. There was only one main character who was enlisted.
Chief Miles O’Brien was the only main character – who was also enlisted – in any series that warranted a spot in the credits. It still didn’t get him his due respect. Captain Sisko once told him to do something that would take two weeks. He ordered O’Brien to do it in three days.
As a matter of fact, the chief is always working, even when others are just hanging around. He doesn’t even get credit, recognition, or even a thank you. It’s so egregious, there’s even a Tumblr cartoon about it.
3. There are definitely Starfleet hair regs.
4. The entire crew of the 2009 movie were grossly unqualified.
They pretty much went from Starfleet Academy to being the ranking officers on the Enterprise. This is like an entire crew of O-1s being tasked to command an aircraft carrier. And Captain Kirk made it into the academy because he lost a barfight. If that’s the criteria, there’s a fleet of Marines ready to go to Annapolis.
Everyone in Starfleet should be dead.
5. Captain Kirk was probably not the best captain ever.
Someone actually calculated how many people die under Kirk’s command in Star Trek: The Original Series. Kirk lost 12 percent of the crewmen who served with him. If the USS Gerald Ford lost 12 percent of its crew in five years, that would be almost 600 sailors.
That captain would likely not be eligible for promotion. This still doesn’t settle one of the Internet’s first controversies: the Picard vs. Kirk debate. Captain Picard lost two ships (almost a third), and Kirk only lost the one, but he took out a bunch of Klingons in the process. Picard also rammed his into another ship, without giving the crew time to escape.
It’s okay. Those yeomen knew what could happen when they enlisted.
6. Starfleet ships explode really easily.
Every space battle will toss around a few crewmen.
7. Federation ships are really easy to fly.
Literally anyone can fly these ships. Imagine a random Marine taking control of the USS Gerald Ford. You’d probably just abandon ship right away to save time. On Star Trek, if a helmsman goes down, just a few buttons will keep the Enterprise flying.
8. At least there are some PT standards.
The only overweight officer was Scotty, played by James Doohan – who is a national hero, so shut your mouth.
Besides, he didn’t put on weight until he was much older, so those Federation PT standards must also be adjusted by age. It should be noted that he and Uhura are the only living red shirts.
9. Hand to hand combat is much slower in the future.
Sure, I was in the Air Force, but anyone who’s seen a bar fight knows the stuff hits the fan pretty fast. Much faster than they fight on Star Trek.
It’s also much slower in the past. Every time a Star Trek crew goes back in time the fighting never seems to get any more intense. When Kirk went back to the 1960s, it took longer for an Air Force officer to pass out than it took to punch him in the face.
10. Klingon warriors are also not that good at fighting.
Every time the Klingons attack the Enterprise (or any Star Trek crew) they really come up short. In “Generations” they attacked the Enterprise and made the ship’s shields useless. And they STILL lost. Also, they tend to be disposable.
The captain of the Enterprise routinely goes to the ship’s bartender for advice on the latest missions.
Forget that she’s 500 years old, she’s never been in Starfleet and her biggest enemy is an immortal who is not restricted to the limits of space and time. It just seems like a bad idea to tell her everything.
Aerial refueling has always been risky business. Tankers fly through the sky, loaded to the gills with flammable fuels while dragging long hoses or booms behind them as jets chase after them like hungry mosquitos.
But if that’s risky, the first aerial refueling was straight-up crazy. Wesley Mays, a famous daredevil of the late-1910s and early-1920s, climbed from one biplane onto another with a 5-gallon jug of fuel strapped to his back.
From there, he waited for Daugherty to bring his wingtip in range and grabbed it. Mays lifted himself onto the wing and worked his way between the planes’ wings and into the cockpit. He poured the gas into the engine and strapped himself into his waiting seat, sealing his place in history.
The Army Air Corps got in on the aerial refueling action 2 years later in Jul. 1923, but they needed a way to transfer much more than 5-gallons at a time. So they opted to use a tanker aircraft, a hose, and a receiving aircraft. First Lt. Virgil Hines flew a DH-4B outfitted as the tanker ahead of 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert’s DH-4B receiver. Hines dangled the hose behind and beneath his aircraft where Seifert could reach it.
The fuel was transported without incident, but engine trouble in Seifert’s plane prevented the duo from achieving a planned endurance record. Still, they developed techniques that allowed another Air Corps team to set the record with a 37-hour, 25-minute flight in Aug. 1923.
Fort Carson soldiers trained Sept. 6 to tackle an unseen enemy — disease.
As part of a month-long, annual disaster drill at the post, soldiers practiced to fight a bacterial pandemic. It’s a new twist for the post, where soldiers have trained against fictional terrorist threats and even militant hackers in recent years.
But of all the exercises, fighting a microscopic enemy may be the toughest, Lt. Col. Renee Howell explained.
“I’m going to have to stay on my toes,” said Howell, who is the head of preventive medicine at Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital.
The training has roots in recent Army history. In 2014, 200 Fort Carson soldiers were sent to western Africa to help nations there combat an Ebola outbreak that claimed 11,000 lives.
The post exercise began as a mystery, with leaders working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to determine what caused the imaginary sickness spreading through Fort Carson’s 24,500 soldiers and their family members.
“We have a huge population,” she said.
Troops used their detective skills and practiced ways to control the disease including quarantine measures. They also practiced working with local authorities who would also have to deal with a quick-spreading disease that could easily leave the 135,000-acre post.
On Sept. 6, they turned a gymnasium on post into the county’s biggest pharmacy.
Soldiers from Evans worked alongside medics and military police to quickly process patients and dispense mock antibiotics.
They were able to handle about 200 patients an hour, each leaving the gym with an empty pill bottle.
“People will get the right medication at the right time,” Howell said.
While the drill centered on an imaginary infection, the procedures used could come in handy against all kinds of disasters, including the hurricanes menacing the East Coast and the wildfires raging in the West.
Howell said the common key to dealing with disasters is keeping track of people and efficiently meeting their needs.
“This operation is to make sure we screen people properly,” she said.
Away from the gym, the exercise drilled other troops in disaster skills. The hospital’s nurses and medics trained with a mass casualty exercise, overwhelming the emergency room with dozens of mock patients in need.
The post’s firefighters and ambulance crews also practiced their tactics for dealing with simultaneous emergencies.
Most Army training drills focus on combat troops, who learn how to use their weaponry and work as a team.
This one had the doctors and nurses in the spotlight.
“We are usually in the background,” Howell said.
But putting medical crews on the front lines for training has given Fort Carson piles of new plans that can be quickly implemented.
A United States Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government Su-22 Fitter near the village of Ja’Din. The incident was first reported by a Kurdish official on Twitter.
Tom Cooper, a freelance military aviation analyst and historian, told WATM that it would mark the first kill for the Super Hornet and the first Navy kill since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 “if I didn’t miss any UAV-kills.” In 1981, the F-14 scored its first kills for the United States Navy by shooting down Libyan Su-22 Fitters.
According to a release by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the incident occurred roughly two hours after Syrian government forces had fired on pro-democracy rebels, driving them from Ja’Din. Coalition aircraft carried out “show of force” missions to halt the firing. The coalition contacted Russian forces through a de-confliction line in the wake of that incident.
Roughly two hours later, the Syrian Su-22 Fitter attacked, dropping bombs near the position. A Navy F/A-18E responded by shooting down the Syrian plane. The Syrian Ministry of Defense admitted to the loss of the plane, calling it an “act of aggression” by the United States on behalf of Israel.
There have been past incidents where American forces have fired on pro-government forces to protect pro-democratic rebels. One notable incident took place June 8, when an F-15E Strike Eagle shot down an Iranian drone after it attacked pro-democracy rebels.
The Su-22 was the primary target of a Tomahawk strike on Shayrat air base this past April after the Syrian government used chemical weapons. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Ross (DDG 71) fired 59 missiles in the strike.
According to a United States Navy fact sheet, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet entered service in 2001 with Strike Fighter Squadron 115. It has a top speed in excess of Mach 1.8, a range of 1,275 nautical miles, and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.
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:
Firefighters from the 151st Civil Engineer Squadron extinguish a simulated airplane fire June 7, 2016, at the Salt Lake City Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighters Training Center. The state-of-the-art facility is equipped with a simulator, which allows for interior and exterior training and includes a multitude of various fire scenarios.
An A-10C Thunderbolt II assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron performs a low-angle strafe during the Hawgsmoke competition at Barry M. Goldwater Range, Ariz., June 2, 2016. The two-day competition included team and individual scoring of strafing, high-altitude dive-bombing, Maverick missile precision and team tactics.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, carry equipment through a pond during the team obstacle course at the French Jungle Warfare School near Yemen, Gabon, June 9, 2016.
A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, provides security during Decisive Action Rotation 16-06 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., May 16, 2016.
DILI, Timor Leste (June 8, 2016) Crew members assigned to the Blackjacks of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 move an MH-60S helicopter into the hangar aboard hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). Deployed in support of Pacific Partnership 2016, Mercy is on its first stop of the 2016 mission. Pacific Partnership has a longstanding history with Timor Leste, having first visited in 2006, and four subsequent times since. Medical, engineering and various other personnel embarked aboard Mercy will work side-by-side with partner nation counterparts, exchanging ideas, building best practices and relationships to ensure preparedness should disaster strike.
PACIFIC OCEAN (JUNE 4, 2016) An F/A-18E from the Flying Eagles of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-122) launches from the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) flight deck during night flight operations (left) while an EA-18G Growler from the Vikings of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ-129) taxis onto a catapult (right). The ship is underway conducting command assessment of readiness and training (CART) II off the coast of Southern California.
Marines with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division conduct military operations on urban terrain during a field exercise (FEX) at Camp Pendleton, California, May 24, 2016. FEX is designed to sharpen the battalion’s combat capabilities.
Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division advance down range during the Eager Lion 16 final exercise in Al Quweyrah, Jordan, May 24, 2016. Eager Lion is a recurring exercise between partner nations designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships, increase interoperability, and enhance regional security and stability.
Flight Mechanics serve a dual role in the aircraft. First, they help the pilots monitor performance and flight instruments. Their knowledge of the aircraft and technical expertise make them invaluable resources for identifying and troubleshooting aircraft malfunctions. Second, they are responsible for operating the helicopter’s hoist. This entails both physically manipulating the hoist as well as providing conning commands to the pilot at the controls.
The pilots at Air Station Savannah come from a myriad of backgrounds. For some, this is their first operational aviation tour. Others have completed multiple tours around the country in places like Kodiak, AK and Puerto Rico. We also have a large number of Direct Commission Aviators who transferred over to the Coast Guard from other services such as the Army and Marines.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has recently observed, via satellite imagery, China placing radar outposts and weapons, including antiaircraft and antimissile systems, on the islands in international waters.
In the past, China has unilaterally declared “no sail” and “no-fly zones” in the region, despite a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that its claims to the South China Sea, based on old maps, lacked merit.
China flouting international law has strained relations with the US.
Those ties took another big hit when President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of US foreign-policy tradition and accepted a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and later tweeted about China’s “massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea.”
In response, China flew bombers along the perimeter of its contentious claims in the South China Sea in what it intended as a “message” to Trump, though it has flown the same bombers in a similar fashion before.
Harris characterized Beijing’s activity as “aggressive” and vowed to act against it if needed, Reuters reports.
The US has repeatedly challenged China’s claims in the region with freedom-of-navigation patrols, in which guided-missile destroyers sail near the disputed islands.
In July, Chinese officials warned that these patrols could end in “disaster.”
“We will not allow a shared domain to be closed down unilaterally no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea,” Harris said. “We will cooperate when we can, but we will be ready to confront when we must.”
Before the advent of stealth technology, the variable that mattered more than any other in terms of tactical aircraft survivability and lethality was speed. So in 1955 the U.S. Air Force issued a request for a high-altitude, long-range bomber that could go Mach 3 while carrying either a conventional or nuclear payload. After a few trips to the drawing board and some mods to the Air Force’s requirements, North American Aviation was awarded a developmental contract based on their submission.
Enter the B-70 Valkyrie, a revolutionary scream-machine that was nearly four times as fast as the legacy B-52s it was designed to replace. The Valkyrie was huge — 185 feet long and 30 feet tall with a maximum takeoff weight at a whopping 542,000 pounds. The bomber was powered by six General Electric J-93GE turbojet engines that could each deliver 30,000 pounds of thrust in full afterburner. But it’s massive size and power was belied by sleek lines that made it arguably the most aesthetically-pleasing aircraft ever built.
The B-70 had a crew of four — a pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, and defense systems operator each seated in comfortable cocoons with clamshell doors. In the event of an emergency each cocoon could rocket away from the aircraft individually.
The Valkyrie used “compression lift” — a phenomenon that occurs when a conical body (the fuselage) under the center of a wing pushes air to the sides, which increases pressure and therefore lift — to travel upwards of 7,500 nautical miles supersonic. At takeoff the wingtips were straight, but a high speeds they’d angle down as much as 65 degrees to create the necessary compression.
The bomber had a number of unorthodox moving parts including movable canards on the nose and a ramp in front of the windscreen that would raise at high speed to create a more aerodynamic airframe (and it also gave the pilot very poor visibility in that regime).
Mach 3 creates a lot of air friction, and friction creates heat, so the Valkyrie was built with honeycomb stainless steel and (sparingly, like 9 percent) titanium, which was expensive and in short supply back in those days.
North American was funded to built a single test aircraft — designated the XB-70 — at a cost of $750 million. The inaugural test flight was delayed by maintenance and other technical issues by three years. All of the Valkyrie’s revolutionary subsystems came with their own problems — honeycomb structures broke, hydraulic systems hemorrhaged fluid, and control surfaces didn’t fit right.
At the same time the tactical world began to change. Better ICBMs made Air Force planners wonder whether they needed long-range bombers at all. And the introduction of the Soviet-made SA-2 surface-to-air missile rendered even the speedy B-70 vulnerable. Based on these factors as well as the projected cost of the Valkyrie, the Eisenhower administration grew sour on the program. The Air Force reduced the program funding to a single asset that would be used for experimental research testing only.
But the presidential election of 1960 changed the landscape. President Kennedy believed the Valkyrie was important in the arms race. The program budget was upped by $265 million and the test plan was reworked to include warfare capabilities and not just research.
A year later the Kennedy administration understood the Eisenhower administration’s issues with the airplane, and the Valkyrie was once again relegated to a research program — however the requirement was reworded with the caveat that if the Air Force requirement necessitated the need for the B-70 the program would be quickly modified to also test for combat operational capabilities.
The Valkyrie’s maiden flight occurred on May 11, 1964 out of Edwards Air Force Base. The plan was to take the airplane supersonic on the first flight, but a landing gear problem kept them subsonic. The XB-70 also had a minor hydraulic fire but managed to land safely.
North American XB-70A Valkyrie in flight. (Official USAF photo)
The airplane finally went supersonic on it’s third test flight and eventually broke a number of speed records including 70 sustained minutes of supersonic flight, 50 of them at greater than Mach 2.
But the test team also discovered that extended supersonic flight punished the airframe beyond its existing design limits, and they had to modify parts of the intake system and fuselage as the test plan went forward.
The first XB-70 reached Mach 3 only once — on it’s 18th test flight on October 14, 1965 — and that speed did substantial damage to the leading edge of one of the wings. (Luckily nothing was sucked into the intakes.) After that the airplane was limited to no greater than Mach 2.5.
A second XB-70 was built after comprehensive wind tunnel testing that yielded a modified design of the intake system, the hydraulics, and the wings. The new design made the airplane more stable, especially at high speeds. On May 19, 1966 the second Valkyrie flew Mach 3 for 33 minutes.
But test problems persisted. One flight forced test pilot Joe Cotton to jump a circuit breaker with a paper clip to get the landing gear to come down. (Basically, a $750 million airplane was saved with a 39 cent paperclip.)
Then one of the contractors pushed the notion of a “family photo,” an idea that proved to be the true beginning of the end for the Valkyrie. General Electric wanted to use a private Learjet to shoot both film and still photos of the XB-70 flying in formation with a T-38, F-4, F-104, and an F-5 — all GE-powered jets.
The requisite approvals were obtained, and on June 8, 1966 the four Air Force test jets launched to rendezvous with the XB-70 at the end of a test event. The five-jet formation flew around the Edwards AFB airspace for about 40 minutes without incident while the Learjet got the desired footage and photos. But as the formation was breaking up to return to base, disaster struck.
The F-104 drifted left until its left wing hit the XB-70’s right wing. At that point the Starfighter flipped over and rolled inverted over the top of the Valkyrie, striking the vertical stabilizers and left wing of the bomber. The F-104 exploded, destroying the Valkyrie’s rudders and damaging its left wing. With the loss of both rudders and damage to the wings, the Valkyrie entered an uncontrollable spin and crashed into the ground north of Barstow, California. NASA Chief Test Pilot Joe Walker (who was flying the F-104) and Carl Cross (the XB-70’s co-pilot who was on his first Valkyrie flight) were killed. Al White (XB-70 pilot) ejected, sustaining serious injuries, including one arm crushed by the closing clamshell-like escape crew capsule moments prior to ejection.
The investigation concluded that Walker was unable to properly perceive his motion relative to the Valkyrie, leading to his aircraft drifting into contact with the XB-70’s wing. The accident investigation also pointed to the wake vortex off the XB-70’s right wingtip as the reason for the F-104’s sudden roll over and into the bomber. There was also a lot of CYA and finger-pointing among Air Force leadership regarding who had actually approved the “family photo,” and ultimately the punishment for improperly vetting the event fell to the lowest levels of the chain of command.
Although the remaining Valkyrie continued to fly test events, the mishap crushed any chance of the airplane being used as an operational asset. On February 4, 1969 the XB-70 flew to Wright-Patterson AFB to be made into an exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force — the final flight for a powerful and visually stunning airplane the likes of which will never be seen again.
I went to the LA Film Festival to watch a film about a female Marine, expecting to be bored and disappointed. I was neither.
“Blood Stripe” is a well-crafted piece of cinematic art that describes bluntly – and accurately – the difficulties faced by the main character “Sarge” (Kate Nowlin) when she comes back home after serving in the Marine Corps. She realizes she has changed, and those around her cannot fully relate to the person she has become. Her circle questions her emotions, reactions, and behavior, oblivious to the trauma she just left.
As I said, my initial expectations were low. What could civilians know about making war movies, especially war movies about women? I assumed the film would be some “GI-Jane” type of nonsense, a cliché like Jessica Simpson’s character in the atrocious “Private Valentine.” Simpson, clad in a full face of makeup, hair out of regs, clean, and completely un-military is the type of Hollywood characterization that could well make women avoid watching military movies at all. I anticipated a tepid film with a fairytale ending where everyone solves their problems and proclaims “the war is over, let’s all be happy!” In life, especially the military, there is rarely a fairytale ending.
In life, especially the military, there is rarely a fairytale ending. Sarge comes home to the husband she left behind, she gets a job, she drinks a lot of beer; her life may not be great, but it’s okay. Something deep inside keeps nagging at her, memories she would rather forget bubble to the surface. We see a very broken woman, unable to put the pieces of her life back together after an intense military experience. As she slides deeper into alcoholism, Sarge decides to run away from her life and work at Camp Vermillion, the summer camp snuggled deep in the woods of Minnesota, which she attended as a child.
But something deep inside keeps nagging at her, memories she would rather forget bubble to the surface. We see a very broken woman, unable to put the pieces of her life back together after an intense military experience. As she slides deeper into alcoholism, Sarge decides to run away from her life and work at Camp Vermillion, the summer camp snuggled deep in the woods of Minnesota, which she attended as a child.
Sarge is dealing with issues normally portrayed by male characters — dark emotions and feelings not typically associated with women veterans. She is not looking to be a hero nor trying to find a savior; she does not want a parade nor does she want accolades. The war has followed her home, and the tentacles of a vile monster called PTSD are beginning to creep into her life.
The metaphor of running is used throughout the film. Sarge vainly attempts to work out her issues in the typical military manner: She PTs. She does scores of push-ups and sit-ups and tries to literally run from her problems. She can run, but the deep-seated internal turmoil of combat is always there.
The film highlights not only the struggles of most service members to successfully readjust to post-military life but accurately shows the obstacles female veterans explicitly face. One of Sarge’s new friends at Camp Vermillion repeats a line not dissimilar to what many female veterans often hear: “You’re a girl Marine–do they even make those?”
Yes, yes they do. These words demonstrate what females face once they have left the military: disbelief about their military service and treated as if they are not true veterans.
Society has still not fully embraced the notion that women are capable of both giving and taking life; that women can struggle with a war long after arriving back home. Kate Nowlin does an excellent job portraying a woman coming to grips with herself. Her character is both credible and authentic, and alarmingly real. Military women come from all walks of life, they look like your sister or mother or cousin or neighbor; they are unassuming women accomplishing extraordinary feats – although most of them keep their remarkable achievements to themselves.
The war gave Sarge a lot of things: a sense of purpose, pride, strength, and courage. It also took a lot of things away from her: identity, her sense of security, camaraderie. War changes us, life changes us. In the end, this was a film not merely about war and women, but also the struggles we all face during this unique human experience and a longing to find our way back home, wherever that may be.
“Blood Stripe” had its world premiere in June 2016 at the Los Angeles Film Festival to a sold-out audience. It won the coveted U.S. Fiction Award.
Paramount released the first trailer for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the film adaptation of war correspondent Kim Barker’s 2011 book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan andPakistan.
Fey plays Barker, a childless, unmarried reporter who volunteers to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan, including an embedded assignment with U.S. Marines in the region. Joining her is Margot Robbie, who of all people explains the “Desert Queen Principle” to Fey’s Barker once in country.
The film also stars Martin Freeman as a Scottish journalist, Alfred Molina (who is not of Afghan descent) as a local Afghan official, and Billy Bob Thorton as the Marine Corps commanding officer. The trailer makes the film seem like a sort of Eat, Pray, Love for reporters, which the film even outright calls “the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard.”
Barker’s original book depicted her own humorous journey from hapless to hardcore. She covered stories about Islamic militants and the reconstruction efforts in the Af-Pak area, along with her fears about the future of the region.
Today I found out Jimmy Stewart was a two star general in the United States military.
In 1940, Jimmy Stewart was drafted into the United States Army, but ended up being rejected due to being five pounds under the required weight, given his height (at the time he weighed 143 pounds). Not to be dissuaded, Stewart then sought out the help of Don Loomis, who was known to be able to help people add or subtract pounds. Once he had gained a little weight, he enlisted with the Army Air Corps in March of 1941 and was eventually accepted, once he convinced the enlisting officer to re-run the tests.
Initially, Stewart was given the rank of private; by the time he had completed training, he had advanced to the rank of second lieutenant (January of 1942). Much to his chagrin, due to his celebrity status and extensive flight expertise (having tallied over 400 flight hours before even joining the military), Stewart was initially assigned to various “behind the lines” type duties such as training pilots and making promotional videos in the states. Eventually, when he realized they were not going to ever put him in the front line, he appealed to his commanding officer and managed to get himself assigned to a unit overseas.
In August of 1943, he found himself with the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, initially as a first officer, and shortly thereafter as a Captain. During combat operations over Germany, Stewart found himself promoted to the rank of Major. During this time, Stewart participated in several uncounted missions (on his orders) into Nazi occupied Europe, flying his B-24 in the lead position of his group in order to inspire his troops.
For his bravery during these missions, he twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross; three times received the Air Medal; and once received the Croix de Guerre from France. This latter medal was an award given by France and Belgium to individuals allied with themselves who distinguished themselves with acts of heroism.
By July of 1944, Stewart was promoted chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment wing of the Eighth Air Force. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to the rank of colonel, becoming one of only a handful of American soldiers to ever rise from private to colonel within a four year span.
After the war, Stewart was an active part of the United States Air Force Reserve, serving as the Reserve commander of Dobbins Air Reserve Base. On July 24, 1959, he attained the rank of brigadier general (one star general).
During the Vietnam War, he flew (not the pilot) in a B-52 on a bombing mission and otherwise continued to fulfill his duty with the Air Force Reserve. He finally retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1968 after 27 years of service and was subsequently promoted to Major General (two star general).
Both Stewart’s grandfathers fought in the American Civil War. He also had ancestors on his mother’s side that served in the American Revolution and the War of 1812. His father served in the Spanish-American War and World War I. His adopted son, Ronald, was killed at the age of 24 as a Marine in Vietnam.
The full list of military awards achieved by Stewart are: 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 4 Air Medals, 1 Army Commendation Medal, 1 Armed Forces Reserve Medal, 1 Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1 French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
As a child, Stewart was a Second Class Scout and eventually became an adult Scout leader. He was also the recipient of the prestigious Boy Scouts of America Silver Buffalo Award, of which only 674 to date have been given out since 1926. Of the other recipients besides Stewart, 14 have held the office of President of the United States.
A brigadier general is equivalent to a lower rear admiral in the navy. A major general is equivalent to a rear admiral and is typically given 10,000-20,000 troops to command and is authorized to command them independently.
U.S. law limits the number of general officers that may be on active duty at any time to 302 for the Army, 279 for the Air Force, and 80 for the Marine Corps.
Eligible officers to be considered to promotion for the rank of brigadier general (one star) are recommended to the President from a list compiled by current general officers. The President then selects officers from this list to be given the promotion. Occasionally, the President will also nominate officers not on this list, but this almost never happens. Once the President makes their selection, the Senate confirms or rejects the selected individuals by a majority vote.
The name “brigadier general” comes from the American Revolutionary War when the first brigadier generals were appointed. At that time, they were simply general officers put in charge of a brigade, hence “brigadier general”. For a time in the very early 19th century, this was the highest rank any officer in the military could achieve as the rank of major general (two star) had been abolished. The rank of major general was later re-established just before the war of 1812.
At Princeton, Stewart excelled at architecture and was eventually awarded a full scholarship for graduate work by his professors as a result of his thesis on airport design.
Stewart and Henry Fonda were roommates early in their careers. Later in life, they still shared a close friendship and, when they weren’t working, they often spent their time building and painting model airplanes with each other.
Jimmy Stewart also was an avid pilot before his military service. He received his private pilot certificate in 1935 and used to fly cross-country to visit his parents. Interestingly, when he did so, he stated that he used rail road tracks to navigate.
Stewart was also one of the investors and collaborators who helped build Thunderbird Field, which was a pilot training school built to help train pilots during WWII. During the WWII alone, over 10,000 pilots were trained there.
After WWII, he strongly considered abandoning acting and entering the aviation field, due to personal doubts that he could still act.
His first film after the war was Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life which, at the time, was considered somewhat of a flop with the public, though it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Stewart. Partially due to this film’s poor showing at the box office, Capra’s production company went bankrupt and Stewart began to further doubt his ability to act following the war.
On January 5, 1992, It’s a Wonderful Life became the first American program ever to be broadcast on Russian television. A translated version, courtesy of Stewart and Lomonosov Moscow State University, was broadcast to over 200 million Russians on that day.
Stewart went on to act in several flops, as well as several critically acclaimed films, and by the 1950s was still considered a top tier actor over all. This was important because in 1950 he became one of the first top tier actors to work for no money up front, but rather a percentage of the gross of the film. Others had done this before, but it was rare and generally only lower end actors on the tail of their careers would agree to this. He did this on the movie Winchester ’73 where he had asked for $200,000 pay to appear in that movie and Harvey. The studio rejected, so he countered that he’d work for a percentage of the gross. He ended up taking home nearly $600,000 for Winchester ’73 alone. Hollywood’s other top-tier stars took noticed and this practiced began becoming the norm for top tier actors.
By 1954, Stewart was voted the most popular Hollywood actor in the world, displacing John Wayne. He also was the highest grossing actor that year.
Stewart was also known somewhat for his poetry. He frequently would appear on Johnny Carson’sThe Tonight Show and would read various poems he had written throughout his life. One of his poems, written about his dog, so moved Carson that, by the end, Carson was choking back tears. Dana Carvey and Dennis Miller, in 1980, parodied this on Saturday Night Live. These poems were later compiled into a book called Jimmy Stewart and His Poems.
Later in life, Stewart appeared in The Magic of Lassie (1978), much to the dismay of critics and the general public, as the film was a universal flop and seen to be beneath him. Stewart’s response to them was that it was the only script he was offered that didn’t have sex, profanity, or graphic violence.
Stewart’s final film role was as the voice of Wylie Burp, in the 1991 movie An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.
Stewart devoted much of the last years of his life to trying to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation of the U.S. constitution and the Bill of Rights as well as promote education. He died of a blood clot in his lung on July 2, 1997. Over his life, his professions included a hardware store shop-hand; a brick layer; a road worker; an assistant magician; an actor; an investor; a war hero; and a philanthropist. He also held a bachelors degree in architecture from Princeton.