J.R.R. Tolkien started building his 'Lord of the Rings' universe as a soldier in WWI - We Are The Mighty
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J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

For five months in 1916, German artillery shells rained down on British trenches, contributing to the more than 1 million casualties incurred at the Somme. Futile attempts to seize ground were traded back and forth until England finally claimed one of the deadliest battles in history — a Pyrrhic victory. During the battle, a young J.R.R. Tolkien penned the foundation for Middle-earth.

“You might scribble something on the back of an envelope and shove it in your back pocket,” Tolkien wrote 50 years after the battle.

In the introduction for Unfinished Tales, his son Christopher Tolkien said one of those first scribbles was on Tolkien’s official orders while serving as a lieutenant in the 11th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. These small notes were the beginning of “The Fall of Gondolin”: Tolkien’s first story of Middle-earth. 

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Soldiers of the Lancashire Fusiliers fix bayonets in July 1916. Photo by Ernest Brooks, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tolkien turned those early scribbles into a full story once he was evacuated from the front lines due to trench fever. Anything beyond scribbles was all but impossible while living in the trenches. Dispelling the common misconception that he wrote The Lord of the Rings while fighting, Tolkien once said the claims are “all spoof.” But the notes and scribbles he wrote on the backs of his orders marked the first descriptions of gnomes (later dwarves), elves, and epic battles between good and evil: essential elements to the rest of his work. 

Just like the myth of his writing The Lord of the Rings while in the trenches, Tolkien fervently denied the suggestion that his time under fire inspired him to create Middle-earth as an allegory for World War II.

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. […] An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience, but the ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extremely complex,” Tolkien wrote in the foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings. 

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Tolkien famously modeled the Shire after rural England. Photo by Nikhil Prasad, courtesy of Unsplash.

His experiences in World War I provided the seed for most of his work. In “The Fall of Gondolin,” the heroic unit of the House of the Hammer of Wrath is completely annihilated, a fate shared by Tolkien’s own company, the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, who were destroyed at the Somme after his evacuation to Birmingham.

While Tolkien typically shied away from pointing out direct connections between his work and the war, he admitted in a letter that “The Dead Marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to northern France after the Battle of the Somme.” 

The Fellowship of the Rings, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, was published July 29, 1954. The Two Towers followed on Nov. 11, 1954, and The Return of the King on Oct. 20, 1955. Since its release, Tolkien’s definitive trilogy has sold over 150 million copies, but the sapling of his “vast tree of tales” sprouted in the trenches of World War I over 100 years ago, scribbled on the back of his orders.

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

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Former US Navy vessel attacked by Yemeni rebels in Indian Ocean

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI


HSV-2 Swift came under attack off the coast of Yemen this past weekend and suffered serious damage from what appears to be multiple hits from RPG rockets. Photos released by Emirates News Agency show at least two hits from rockets that penetrated HSV-2 Swift’s bow, in addition to substantial fire damage.

According to media reports, HSV-2 Swift is being assisted by the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Mason (DDG 87) and USS Nitze (DDG 94) as well as USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15). The vessel is currently being towed away from Yemen.

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

HSV-2 Swift was acquired by the Navy from Incat, a shipbuilder in Tasmania, in 2003, where it served for a number of years in Pacific Command, European Command, and Southern Command until 2013, when the first Joint High-Speed Vessel, USS Spearhead (JSHV 1) replaced it. During its deployments, HSV-2 Swift primarily carried out humanitarian missions, including for relief efforts in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War. The vessel also took part in a number of deployments, like Southern Partnership Station while in U.S. service.

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
HSV-2 Swift in happier times. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

In 2013, the vessel was returned to Incom, where it was refitted and then acquired by the National Marine Dredging Company in the United Arab Emirates, where the ship was used to deliver humanitarian aid. HSV-2 Swift was on such a mission to not only deliver medical supplies but to extract wounded civilians when it was attacked this past weekend. Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, claimed to have sunk the vessel.

HSV-2 Swift displaces 955 tons of water, has a top speed of 45 knots, and has a crew of 35. The vessel can carry over 600 tons of cargo on  nearly 29,000 square foot deck.

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Paris attack planners obliterated in drone strike

Two Islamic State leaders behind the terrorist attacks in Paris last year were killed in a U.S.-led drone strike Dec. 4 in Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.


The two targets, Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou, worked with external terror operations and recruitment of foreign fighters in Europe. They were directly involved in facilitating the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.

Gourmat and Djedou were close associates of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s former chief spokesman who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.

Walid Hamman, the third terrorist killed in the drone strike, was a suicide attack planner, Hamman was convicted in absentia by a Belgian court for a terror plot foiled in 2015.

“The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.

All three were part of a terror network led by Boubaker Al-Hakim, who died in another U.S.-led airstrike Nov. 26.

“Since mid-November, the coalition has now successfully targeted five top ISIL external plotters, further disrupting ISIL’s ability to carry out terrorist operations beyond Syria and Iraq,” Cook said.

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This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD


Army veteran Russell Davies knows all about taking the big plunge back into civilian life after military service. As a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, he served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and became a recipient of the Purple Heart.

Now a professional whitewater kayaker, Davies has made a name for himself both in competition and as a dominator of the biggest, burliest whitewater on the planet.

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
“Yeah, sometimes Class V just isn’t enough.” “Totally.” (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

“Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis caught up with Davies in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, to see what a day on the water is all about, but what he found there goes a whole lot deeper.

As a civilian, Davies has given himself a new mission: to help returning veterans address the challenges of PTSD and depression through participation in extreme sports. His organization aims to connect vets to the kind of positive, purpose-driven adrenaline rush that he found through kayaking.

But, lest you fear the day was all mutual support and quiet healing, our host — true to form — came through with an 11th hour challenge that once again pushed him to the brink of washing out.

Watch as Davies shows Curtis why real men wear (spray) skirts and the only water worth knowing is white in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

This Army vet is crazy motivated

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

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Listen to Reagan’s chilling speech about soldiers who scaled cliffs under heavy fire on D-Day

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
President Ronald Reagan salutes during a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-day, the invasion of Europe.


Seventy-one years ago on June 6, 1944, the largest seaborne invasion in history began. It was known as D-Day.

The climactic World War II battle featured waves of amphibious landings on the beaches, airborne drops behind enemy lines, and an incredible group of American Rangers who scaled cliffs at Point Du Hoc. On the 40th anniversary of D-Day, President Ronald Reagan told their story, and it’s a speech that everyone should hear.

Standing on top of that same cliff on the northern coast of France, Reagan detailed the story of the Rangers, who had to climb a rock wall as Germans fired on them with machine-guns and cut their ropes.

“When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again,” Reagan said, to an audience of world leaders and veterans of D-Day at the Ranger Monument there. “They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After 2 days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.”

Roughly four miles from Omaha Beach, where soldiers were also landing on June 6, 1944, Pointe Du Hoc was vital to the American effort, as the Germans had placed heavy artillery at the position that could rain fire down on the beaches.

“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” Reagan continued, looking toward the Rangers from that campaign sitting before him. “These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”

Now 31 years after Reagan finished his speech, and 71 years from that terrible day in World War II, his closing remarks still ring true:

“Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.”

Now watch:

SEE ALSO: Medal Of Honor hero Kyle Carpenter just gave an inspiring speech that everyone  should read

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13 funniest memes for the week of April 7

Tomahawks are flying, tensions are rising, and we’re just over here collecting memes and giggling. Here are 13 of our favorite funny military memes from this week, starting with a little shout out to the ships that conducted the strikes:


1. Congrats to the Navy for getting to set off some fireworks last night (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
But y u no shoot more?

2. Digital security is important (via Team Non-Rec).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
ISIS is coming for you with stock photos of models.

ALSO READ: The only time the Soviet Union officially fought the US was in brutal air combat

3. Navy Capt. Bender got the hookers out before the NCIS raid began (via Military World).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Best. Cruise. Ever.

4. You’ve got to earn that nap time by holding up that book she’s going to read to you (via Decelerate Your Life).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

5. If it’s stupid but it works … actually, this is still stupid (via Coast Guard Memes).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Would love to the new safety briefing when this goes awry.

6. Poor Jody never gets any respect (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
#JodiesServeToo

7. Grade-A, Tier-One killers (via Devil Dog Nation).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Just make sure they’re home before dark.

8. Every paratrooper’s spirit animal on a Saturday jump (via Military World).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Unless it’s a Chinook, Sherpa, or foreign jump. Then, it’s all smiles all around.

9. Shut up, POG (via Pop smoke).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
POGs who wish they weren’t POGs are 1,000 percent more likely to call people POGs than an infantryman is.

10. Yeah. This is worth the next four years of my life (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Career counselors are basically Mephistopheles made flesh (Google it, then print one out and tape it to the career counselor’s door).

11. “Potato” isn’t too shabby (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

12. Good ol’ National Training Center (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
So many great memories there.

13. You’ll never run faster than when you’re told you don’t have to run that morning (via The Salty Soldier).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
One word. One syllable. So many feelings.

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Here’s the difference between Russian and American jets

This NOVA video shows the difference between Russian and American tactical aircraft from an American fighter pilot’s perspective.


Related: Watch one of the baddest A-10 pilots ever land after being hit by a missile

“[The Russians] build airplanes like tanks,” says a U.S. Navy pilot in the video. “The U.S. Air Force and the West build airplanes like fine watches.”

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpPSPQq7oas

The News Sports Channel, YouTube

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DoD to deliver counter-ISIS review to White House next week

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday completed his first trip to the Middle East, where he gained valuable insight as he prepares to make key policy decisions, including submitting the results of a review of the department’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to the White House, Pentagon press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.


J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Iraqi forces practice traveling in tactical formations at Besmaya Range Complex, Iraq, Jan. 20, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joshua Wooten)

In a memorandum signed Jan. 28, President Donald Trump ordered the Defense Department to come up with a new plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS. Davis said the review is due early next week, and added, “we’re on track to deliver it on time.”

Whole-of-Government Plan

The captain called the review a comprehensive, whole-of-government plan.

“It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.”

Davis said the White House memorandum “puts the bull’s eye of the target squarely on DoD to lead it, but it is absolutely being done with the input of other agencies. We chair it. We’re developing the strategy, but we’re doing it together with other departments.”

Review Involves Many Countries

The review will be an outline of a strategy that encompasses numerous issues surrounding the defeat of ISIS, he said. “We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments.”

Related: Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

The captain said that the proposed plan will go to the president, who will make decisions based on the recommendations contained in the review.

Countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya and others in the Southeast Asia region are included in the review, he said, “in the sense that this is going to explore the strategy for how we combat ISIS outside of Iraq and Syria, where we’ve seen ISIS spring up in other places.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)

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13 funniest military memes for the week of March 3

Military memes are some of the best things on the internet. Here are some of the best military memes available.


1. Every military career should have a deadpan narrator (via Pop smoke).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Also, things are almost never good. They are sometimes rewarding, but very rarely good.

2. None given, none expected (via Sh-t my LPO says).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Now we want to know what that code means.

3. Everyone should bring a friend with three years remaining when they go to meet the career counselor (via The Salty Soldier).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

ALSO SEE: Watch China launch planes from its only aircraft carrier

4. Ummm, families, you’ve been sent a template. You’re supposed to put your soldier’s rank, their last name, and their first name (via The Salty Soldier).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

5. Getting punished for Course 15 isn’t a big deal for people already at their personal peak rank (via @texashumor).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
So keep your Course 15. And 14. And any others you come up with.

6. For reals? Did you take a particularly hard hit on your head this week?

(via Team Non-Rec)

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Just wait till he reverses the direction on his rifle as well.

7. Think about how apathetic the original terminal lances were when the Marine Corps was much smaller (via Team Non-Rec).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
That apathy must’ve been more concentrated than the salt in their cammies.

8. Gonna be honest, we would give everything to a properly tuxedoed penguin (via Sh-t my LPO says).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Little bow tie and everything.

9. That bar owner is gonna have to work hard to get open in time for lunch chow (via Military Memes).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

10. “Wait, we’re done? I can leave? Already?”

(via Air Force Nation)

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

11. Yeah, it’s pretty magical (via Air Force Nation).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
That’s why everyone should buy their own jet.

12. The chipping paint and rust is just seasoning (via Coast Guard Memes).

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Dropped meat: It’s what’s for dinner.

13. “What? I closed the door and stuff.”

(via Shit my LPO says)

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

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A Navy F-14 Tomcat once shot down an Air Force RF-4C Phantom

Exercise “Display Determination 87” was supposed to be a routine NATO exercise, pitting U.S. Air Force Phantoms out of Zweibrucken Air Base in West Germany against F-14 Tomcats from the USS Saratoga in the Mediterranean Sea. All the Phantoms had to do was find the Saratoga and engage in an exercise attack, if the Tomcats didn’t find them first. 

The Tomcats only had to fly close enough to the Air Force planes to read their hull numbers. One pilot would do much more than that. In an act the Navy would call “deliberate” and “illogical,” Lt. Timothy Dorsey would engage his Air Force counterparts with a real-world sidewinder missile.

When the Tomcats catapulted off the Saratoga’s flight deck, they were immediately alerted to a radar contact, an Illinois Air National Guard KC-135 tanker that was refueling a lone RF-4C Phantom. The Tomcats moved in to check it out. 

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
The USS Saratoga in 1980s (U.S. Navy)

Dorsey moved in but was not able to move in close enough to read the Phantom’s hull number. The airmen, 1st Lt. Michael Sprouse as Weapons Systems Officer and pilot Capt. Michael Ross, finished their refueling and went looking for their target. They found it 22 miles out to sea.

As the Phantom approached, Ross began his simulated attack run. Dorsey, in his F-14, requested instructions from the ship. Saratoga gave the exercise’s command to engage, “’Red and free on your contact.”

Dorsey, seemingly confused, asked his Radar Intercept Officer if the Saratoga really wanted him to shoot at the RF-4C. The RIO responded with an affirmative, not realizing Dorsey was asking if he should really shoot down the Air Force plane. Dorsey tried to fire his first sidewinder, but it failed. His second one went off without a hitch. 

The sound of a missile firing alerted the RIO to what was actually happening. Dorsey had shot down the Phantom. 

Aboard the USAF plane, fire lights were flashing and the plane began to shake itself apart. Ross and Sprouse ejected just before the fireball engulfed the aircraft. They ejected into 500-knot winds and though they were rescued and taken aboard the Saratoga, over the years, Ross’ spine began to degenerate. 

After a series of surgeries and screws in his back, Col. Ross was forced to retire in 1997. A promising officer on course to be a general was, by 2012, barely able to walk and living on disability and his retirement money. 

Dorsey, the naval aviator who shot down Ross and Sprouse was disciplined and was stripped of his flying status. He never flew for the Navy again, but was never forced to resign. He remained in the Navy as an intelligence officer and then went into the Naval Reserve. In 2012, his name was sent to the Pentagon for a possible promotion to rear admiral – a move that required confirmation by the Senate. 

When Ross learned that Dorsey had advanced so far while the error Dorsey made cut Ross’ own career so short, he was understandably upset.

“I almost got sick,” said Ross. “He ruined my life.”

The Navy determined that Dorsey’s actions were “not the result of an accident, but the consequence of a deliberate act. His subsequent reaction [to the radio command] demonstrated an absolute disregard of the known facts and circumstances.”

“He failed to utilize the decision-making process taught in replacement training and reacted in a purely mechanical manner. The performance of Lieutenant Timothy W. Dorsey on September 22, 1987, raises substantial doubt as to his capacity for good, sound judgment.”

The Senate never responded to the nomination, effectively ending any chance of promotion for Dorsey. 

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Jordan soldier to be charged for killing American trainers

A government official says a Jordanian soldier faces murder charges in the shooting deaths of three US military trainers at a Jordanian air base.


He says the soldier will be tried by a military court, starting June 7th. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

The US Army Green Berets were killed November 4 at the Al-Jafr air base in southern Jordan. They came under fire as their convoy entered the base.

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
US Army photo by Rachel Larue/Arlington National Cemetery

Jordanian officials initially said the trainers sparked the shooting by disobeying orders from Jordanian soldiers.

The slain Americans were 27-year-old Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, of Kirksville, Missouri; 30-year-old Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe of Tucson, Arizona; and 27-year-old Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty of Kerrville, Texas.

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North Korean nuke fears prompt interest in abandoned ICBM sites

As the owner selling an excavated underground Minuteman II missile site in Missouri on eBay, California investor Russ Nielsen reads the pulse of America’s darkest fears.


The number of people visiting the historic property’s eBay information page spikes like an EKG in a heart attack.

Ordinarily, the curious property located near Holden, MO, may get some 70 online views a day, Nielsen said by phone this week from California.

When Donald Trump won the presidency last November? Boom. The site was getting 140 to 150 hits a day.

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

And now, as North Korea’s volatile leader Kim Jong Un defiantly sends ballistic missiles over Japan, survivalists and the frightened are back at some 150 views a day.

“It’s definitely a ‘prepper’ kind of thing,” Nielsen said, referring to the slang term for people who want to be prepared in the event of widespread calamity and disorder.

Bomb shelter companies across the nation are reporting a boost in sales.

The selling price for Nielsen’s unique property, though, is steep for most people, he said. It’s going for $325,000. He’s had five potential buyers who were serious since he put it up for sale in the fall of 2015, he said. A couple of them are still trying to raise the financing.

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

What Nielsen recovered — at great cost and effort over a span of two years — is the “Mike-1” Minuteman II missile launch facility that housed the missileers who controlled the triggers to 10 of the 150 intercontinental missile sites scattered across central Missouri under the command of Whiteman Air Force Base.

Most of the Minuteman II sites — including all of the Missouri sites — were decommissioned some 20 years ago. Their shafts were buried under a mix of concrete, mud, and rock that was meant to deter any thoughts of reactivating them.

The project, including the maddening bureaucracy in getting his quixotic venture approved, turned into such a laborious boondoggle that Nielsen admits he wouldn’t have done it knowing what he knows now.

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Russ Nielsen stands at the entrance of his Minuteman-II silo, before renovation. Photo by Joe Ledford of The Kansas City Star.

But, having endured it, he has relished the many inquiries he has received from veterans who served underground those many decades ago — “Ratmen,” they called themselves. The history of America’s Cold War has been fascinating.

The Minuteman II missiles represented the height of America’s Cold War arsenal, with about 1,000 of them forever ready to launch.

Some 450 sites with Minuteman III missiles remain ready in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Image from the Kansas City Star

Not surprisingly, some of Nielsen’s most interested potential buyers have had an eye on the site’s unique history as well as its accommodations in the event of a national disaster.

One potential buyer has been trying to gather financing for an historical movie project, he said. Another has interest in turning it into a residential training facility for martial and military arts.

Not surprising for a property whose curb appeal requires a bit of imagination.

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This botched air strike on Lebanon changed Naval Aviation forever

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
A-7E Corsair II aircraft line the bow of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62) about the time of the air strike against Syrian gun emplacements in Lebanon. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


American air power going against targets in the Middle East didn’t start with Operation Enduring Freedom or even Desert Storm. The first significant strike was conducted in December of 1983 by carrier-based assets against Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and it was in many respects a disaster, one that radically changed the way the U.S. Navy conducted strike warfare.

The Bekaa Valley strike was supposed to be in direct retaliation for the Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines on October 23, but the mission was delayed for months by lawmakers in Washington and the operational planners at the European Command in Germany. Finally Syrians firing SAMs at F-14 reconnaissance flights over Lebanon compelled decision-makers to action.

The strike planning process was cumbersome and not tactically agile.  Pentagon and EUCOM higher-ups made the call on strike composition, weapons loadouts, ingress and egress routes, and times on target. As a result, aviators who would ultimately fly the mission had little say in how it would be carried out.

The 28-plane strike package launched from two carriers – Kennedy and Independence (both decommissioned now) – on the morning of December 4, which proved to be the perfectly wrong time as the metrological conditions made it hard for the attack aircraft to see their targets (remember, these were the days before smart bombs, when pilots had to actually maneuver their airplanes toward the ground and pickle their bombs with a high level of skill). At the same time the weather and sun angle highlighted the American airplanes in the sky for Syrian anti-aircraft gunners. The strike package also flew toward their targets along the same route, which made it easy for gunners to train their weapons.

The Syrians managed to shoot down two A-7E Corsairs and an A-6E Intruder.  One of the A-7 pilots and the A-6 pilot were killed.  The other A-7 pilot – who also happened to be the Air Wing commander aboard the Independence – managed to get his jet over the Mediterranean before he ejected.  He was picked up by Lebanese fisherman and eventually returned to the Americans unharmed.

The A-6 bombardier/navigator, Lt. Robert Goodman, was captured by Syrian troops and taken as a hostage. The month-long stalemate between governments on his release was finally broken by Jesse Jackson, who took an interest in the young aviator because he was an African-American.

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI
Lt. Robert Goodman in the back of a car with a Syrian soldier after being shot down during an air strike against targets in Lebanon. (AP photo)

As a result of this fiasco the U.S. Navy established the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at the air station in Fallon, Nevada, basically taking a page from the Top Gun playbook a decade or so earlier when that school was created to fix the problem of fighters getting shot out of the skies over North Vietnam because of inferior tactics. The staff at NSAWC studied better ways of getting bombs on target while surviving intense SAM environments, and their research yielded more thorough mission planning processes (including streamlining strike coordination up and down the chain of command), off-axis attack profiles, and the improved use of jammers to better suppress the SAM threat.

Although times have changed in recent years with the advent of stealth technology and precision-guided munitions, many of the lessons learned from Bekaa Valley are still relevant today.

Now: Top secret files detail how drone strikes target terrorists — and how they go wrong 

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