Ken Burns' epic 'Vietnam' documentary tackles war that 'drove a stake into the heart of America' - We Are The Mighty
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Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

When filmmaker Ken Burns and his collaborators previously tackled sprawling documentaries about the Civil War and World War II, their first obligation, he said, was to strip away the “barnacles of sentimentality” attached to both events.


That was never a problem with his latest military epic, “The Vietnam War.”

“No such sentimentality attaches itself to Vietnam,” Burns says. “So there’s a through line to the tragedy and the the essential horror and cruelty of war that is manifested everywhere.”

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
A Viet Cong prisoner is interrogated at the A-109 Special Forces Detachment in Thuong Duc, 25 km west of Da Nang, 1967. Photo under Public Domain,

Covering 18 hours over 10 installments, the film recalls one of the most tragic chapters in American history — a conflict so divisive that, in the words of a soldier quoted in the film, it “drove a stake right into the heart of America.”

Ten years in the making, “The Vietnam War” (Sept. 17, 8pm, PBS) might be Burns’ greatest achievement yet in a career that dates back to 1981. It’s certainly his most complicated and challenging. To get to the heart of it all, he and co-director Lynn Novick relied on a wealth of archival materials, including stunningly revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.

Most notably, they solicited accounts from more than 80 witnesses from all sides of the war’s vast social divide: soldiers who fought in the war and Americans who opposed it, as well as North and South Vietnamese combatants and civilians. It was what the filmmakers call a “bottom up” approach with a preference toward mostly ordinary people with incredible stories to tell, rather than the usual talking heads. John McCain, John Kerry, and Jane Fonda, for example, are not interviewed.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Members of the military police keep back protesters during their sit-in at the Mall Entrance to the Pentagon. Image from US Army.

Along the way, the filmmakers didn’t encounter as much reticence from their subjects as some might expect. Credit the passage of time.

“We generally found that there was enormous interest in having their story told,” Novick says. “They saw it as a chance to share experiences with the wider world that were very important to them and seminal, informative, and sometimes very, very painful.”

The result is a panoramic, immersive, intensely intimate and often heart-wrenching film experience that captures the human stories embedded within a war that claimed the lives of more than 58,000 Americans, and more than 3 million Vietnamese military personnel and civilians.

Burns, of course, realizes that many viewers will bring their “personal baggage” and hardened perspectives to the film. But he and Novick insist that they were intent on being as even-handed as possible.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Filmmaker Ken Burns. Wikimedia Commons photo from user David Hume Kennerly.

“There isn’t a single truth in the war,” Burns says. “In fact, there’s many truths that can coexist, and that might help to sort of take the fuel rods out of the division and polarization that was born in Vietnam that continues to this moment.”

The Vietnam conflict had long been on Burns’ cinematic to-do list. But early in his career he felt the wounds were too fresh. And when he finally did approach the subject, he went in thinking he knew a lot about it, only to immediately learn he didn’t.

“It was a daily humiliation,” he recalls. “And the humbleness that you have to assume in order to get through the next 10 years is just that — humbling. So we just kept our heads down and worked to get it right.”

According to Novick, one of the key discoveries they encountered along the way was the continual privately expressed skepticism from government officials that the US could prevail in the conflict, which was carried out under five presidents.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
President Lyndon B. Johnson greets American troops in Vietnam, 1966. Image fro US State Department.

“There never was a time when the people in our government who were pushing the war forward had total confidence that it was winnable,” she says. “You hear this drumbeat of doubt and lack of sureness that it can come out well, that we can accomplish our goals, that it’s sustainable. And that goes back to the earliest days of American involvement in Vietnam. … That was rather revelatory and devastating.”

It’s Burns’ hope that the film can open a national dialogue about Vietnam and get people to talk about it in a “calm way.” After all, so much of what occurred during the war resonates with the present: Images of mass protests across a deeply divided nation; a White House paranoid about leaks and at odds with the media; disagreements over American military strategy in far-off territories; acrimony over what defines patriotism…

“History doesn’t repeat itself. We’re not condemned to repeat what we don’t remember,” he says. “It’s that human nature never changes.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

We still don’t know how many Raptors were damaged in hurricane

The U.S. Air Force is not ready to say just how many F-22 Raptors left behind at Tyndall Air Force Base sit damaged or crippled following Hurricane Michael’s catastrophic incursion on the Florida installation.

A service spokeswoman told Military.com on Oct. 15, 2018, that officials are still assessing the damage and cannot comment on the issue until the evaluation is complete.

Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright were briefed by base officials as they toured Tyndall facilities on Oct. 14, 2018. The leaders concurred there was severe damage, but were hopeful that air operations on base may one day resume.


“Our maintenance professionals will do a detailed assessment of the F-22 Raptors and other aircraft before we can say with certainty that damaged aircraft can be repaired and sent back into the skies,” the service leaders said in a joint statement. “However, damage was less than we feared and preliminary indications are promising.”

Officials have yet to describe what kind of maintenance was taking place on the stealth jets that led officials to leave them at Tyndall instead of moving them to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where the other F-22s from the 325th Fighter Wing were evacuated to.

It is rumored that anywhere from seven to 17 aircraft may have been damaged by the Category 4 storm. Photos of F-22s left behind in shredded hangars that have surfaced on social media have some in the aviation community theorizing that a significant chunk of the F-22 fleet — roughly 10 percent — may be left stagnant for good.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

John W. Henderson, left, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, right, look at the aftermath left from Hurricane Michael from a CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron above northwest Florida, Oct. 14, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Joseph Pick)

The Air Force has not confirmed any of these numbers.

In the meantime, the unspecified number of F-22s that were able to escape the storm to Wright-Patterson have now been moved to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, Air Combat Command said Oct. 15, 2018. Officials have not said how long the aircraft will remain there.

Experts say this is a perfect argument for why the Air Force should have invested more heavily in its greatest “insurance policy” in an air-to-air fight.

“This storm shows they should have purchased more,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president and analyst at the Teal Group, told Military.com in a phone call Oct. 15, 2018. “If history ever does resume, and a near-peer fight is in our future, you need to keep the skies clean.”

While some aircraft have been moved out of active status for testing purposes, the Air Force has 183 of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-22s in its inventory today. More than 160 belong to active-duty units; the remainder are with Air National Guard elements. Four aircraft were lost or severely damaged between 2004 and 2012.

Production was cut short in 2009, with original plans to buy 381 fighters scaled down to a buy of just 187.

As with any small fleet, the limited number of F-22s has presented its own challenges over the years.

According to Defense News’ fiscal 2017 statistics, F-22s had a 49.01 percent mission-capable rate, meaning less than half were flyable at any given time. In 2014, more than three-quarters of F-22s were deemed mission capable.

The Pentagon wants to increase readiness rates for the F-22, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35 Lightning II and F/A-18 Hornet to 80 percent by September 2019 — a 31 percent bump for the Raptor alone.

In July 2018, the Government Accountability Office found that the F-22 is frequently underutilized, mainly due to maintenance challenges and fewer opportunities for pilot training, as well as the fleet’s inefficient organizational structure.

But the recent misfortune does not mean the F-22 is no longer valuable. In fact, it may be the opposite, experts say.

So far, the U.S. has not seen what the F-22 is truly capable of, one defense analyst told Military.com on Oct. 15, 2018. It remains, like intercontinental ballistic missiles, a capability for assurance and deterrence. And that’s reason enough for it to be prized for any fleet.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

Airmen build shelters at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 15, 2018, during reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

“Remember the example of the B-36 [Peacemaker], the bomber that was supposed to be so intimidating, no one would mess with us,” said the Washington, D.C.-based defense analyst, referencing the Air Force’s largest wing spanned strategic bomber with intercontinental range, used between 1948 to 1959.

“It was solely intended for strategic conflict, and so never flew an operational mission. Was that a success? Was it worth its money? The same kind of question can apply to the ICBM fleet,” the defense analyst, who spoke on background, said.

The analyst continued, “F-22 has yet to be in the fight it was designed for. So there’s no way to say if it’s a good value or not. You certainly don’t need it to blow up drug labs….[But] you don’t ever want to use them” for what they’re intended because that means you’re in a high-scale war.

“Until such time that it gets to perform its intended function, value is hard to evaluate. [But] that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad investment,” the analyst added.

Aboulafia agreed, but added now that there may be even fewer Raptors, the clock is ticking down for the next best thing. And it may not be the Pentagon’s other fifth-generation fighter, the F-35.

“I would tell the Air Force to…cut back on F-35 [Joint Strike Fighter] purchases and move forward with [Next-Generation Air Dominance],” Aboulafia said.

The service in 2016 debuted its Air Superiority 2030 roadmap, which includes the sustainment of old fighters and new jets such as the F-22 and F-35, but also outlines next-gen air dominance, defined as the use of advanced fighter aircraft, sensors or weapons — or all of the above — in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.

Officials say the Air Force’s next-generation platform may defy traditional categorization, with service leaders opting for a “family of systems” approach, but the aviation community remains eager for news of an advanced fighter.

“Either an all-new air vehicle or a hybrid,” Aboulafia said of what he’d expect from a potential sixth-generation fighter.

His reasoning? Because the F-35 may not be able to step up to the F-22’s designated role.

“The F-35 is great for situational awareness, great for ground attack. Is it the best for air-to-air [combat]? Far from it,” Aboulafia said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how Pendleton will honor Marines and Sailors who died in Vietnam

A memorial honoring Marines and sailors who died during the Vietnam War and were part of the “Fighting Fifth” Marine Regiment is getting closer to being set in stone.


The groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial, a work of passion for Vietnam veterans Steve Colwell and Nick Warr, was held Friday, Oct. 27 in the memorial garden at Camp San Mateo. Participants included members of the 5th Marine Regiment, representatives from the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, and active-duty Marines.

“The construction of this new memorial at the 5th Marine Regiment command post symbolizes the respect, gratitude, and honor today’s generation of Marines hold for Vietnam veterans,” said Lt. Col. John Gianopoulos, Executive Officer, 5th Marine Regiment. “This memorial will remind today’s Marines of the tenacity, courage, and character of the Vietnam Marines at Khe Sanh, Da Nang, An Hoa, and many more battles. It will provide us with a powerful reminder of what we owe to our nation and how we must represent the Marine Corps.”

The $400,000 to fund the memorial is coming from private and public sources. Four South Orange County cities have stepped up so far to help: Dana Point, with $10,000; San Clemente, $5,000; Rancho Santa Margarita, $2,500; and Irvine, $10,000. Colwell said he will ask the Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel city councils for help in the next few weeks.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Concept of the planned monument honoring Marines and sailors lost in the Vietnam War. Image from 5th Marine Regiment Support Group.

“After four years of fundraising, this is finally becoming a reality,” said Colwell, who was severely wounded in a bomb blast Dec. 16, 1967, in Vietnam. “It’s exciting to honor the 2,706 Marines and sailors. It will validate for the families the bravery and service of those lost in Vietnam.”

The garden was created and is funded by the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group. It is home to Marines who have died in action and is a place of reflection for those who remember them. Two monuments there honor Marines and sailors who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Purple Heart Monument was installed in the garden in February.

Also Read: 18 of the greatest photos of Marines fighting America’s wars

“Our Vietnam veterans suffered untold injures by our nation not acknowledging them,” said Terry Rifkin, executive director of the Dana Point group. “Vietnam veterans are as great a generation as any our country has ever produced. This monument of epic proportions, and unlike anything else at Camp Pendleton, will be a remarkable way to say thank you to those who served by recognizing those who did not make it home.”

The 50-ton black granite memorial is being crafted by Vermont’s Rock of Ages. It will have six panels honoring the 2,706 Marines, Navy corpsmen, and a chaplain who died in Vietnam while serving in the 5th Marine Regiment. Their names will be etched on the panels surrounding a 14-foot-tall black granite spire. It also will include the names of Marines and sailors who died as part of the 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marines.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
A battle cross sits on display during sunrise, April 15, 2016, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. USAF Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan.

The image of the iconic battle cross — helmet, rifle, bayonet, and boots — will be etched on all four sides of the granite. The monument also will have a combat chronology of the 5th Marines during the Vietnam War.

The 5th Marines, the most highly decorated regiment in the Marine Corps, deployed March 5, 1966, to Vietnam. They remained there for five years, until April 1971.

Colwell and Warr — who also was wounded in Vietnam — came up with the idea for the monument in 2014 after returning to Camp Pendleton for a 1st Marine Division reunion.

Colwell, 73, who served as an officer with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and Warr, 72, who fought as an infantry officer with Charlie Company in the 5th Marines, noted during the visit that there was nothing in the garden recognizing those who lost their lives in Vietnam.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

“I feel strongly there should be a representation for the Marines and sailors who were killed in Vietnam,” said Colwell. “These young men raised their hands and enlisted in the Marine Corps for an unpopular war.”

The hardest job, they said, was finding the names of those who served with the 5th Marine Regiment and died in Vietnam. That fell to Brian Coty, a board member of the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, who has worked more than two years with the Coffelt Database of Vietnam casualties to make sure no name is left out.

Among the names are 13 Marines awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor for personal acts of valor.

The monument is set to arrive at Camp Pendleton on March 29, declared National Vietnam Veteran’s Day by President Donald Trump. It will be installed in the garden during a ceremony on Memorial Day, May 28, 2018.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Community providers: How to submit medical documentation to VA

VA strives to provide Veterans with seamless care and encourages community providers to support these efforts by the timely submission of medical documentation within 30 days of providing services.

One of the best ways for community providers to submit medical documentation is to use HealthShare Referral Manager (HSRM), the main system VA uses for managing referrals, authorizations and medical documentation exchange.


Dr. Megan Stauffer, a community provider at In-Home Care Connection in Sterling, Ill., shares her positive experience with HSRM. “It has drastically cut down phone calls and faxes that I’m having to receive daily, because now all the information I need is there at my fingertips.”

In addition to HSRM, VA offers more options for community providers to submit Veteran medical documentation. Community providers can:

Using convenient electronic options to send medical documents to VA enables you to comply with the 30-day requirement for medical documentation submission.

Visit our care coordination page and review our Medical Submission Requirements Fact Sheet for details on what documentation should be submitted for care coordination purposes based on the type of service provided.

Thank you for your commitment to caring for our nation’s Veterans.

Resources

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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This teen was accepted into all four US military academies

A Virginia teenager has received an appointment to all four major US military academies, a rare feat he’s been working on since he was a child.


Tim Park of Fairfax, Va. recently received appointment letters for the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., according to USA Today.

Also read: This SEAL Team 6 vet idolizes ‘Rough Rider’ Teddy Roosevelt

Getting into just one military academy is an achievement in itself, since it takes a bit more than having good grades and submitting an application. Applicants need to first receive an official nomination from their congressman (with the exception of the Coast Guard Academy), ace an interview with an officer at the school, and have exceptional grades and civic achievements to boot.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Tim Park | Fox5/screenshot

Park told USA Today he was inspired by his own family’s service in and around the military, which began with his grandfather — who was a child during the Korean War. Park’s grandfather, who went on to become a doctor, offered free medical care to Korean War veterans in Pennsylvania.

“What he said is he had a debt of honor he wanted to repay,” Park told USA Today.

Park’s father currently serves in the military in the US Army Reserve. That may explain why he’s leaning toward West Point, the academy in upstate New York that has been commissioning Army officers since 1802.

“I would say when I was about 8 years old, there was a documentary on the History Channel talking about these four service academies and I thought to myself that day, I want to do that,” Park told Fox5 DC.

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4 things that got a Nazi an automatic Iron Cross

Germany’s highest awards for valor, the Iron Cross, was the most awarded of the top tier medals of any nation in World War II. But Germany awarded more top-tier valor awards than any other country for two very good reasons. First, most German troops fought for the duration or the war unless they were crippled.


As German ace Gunther Rall put it, that meant Third Reich troops’ destiny “was either the Iron Cross or the wooden cross.” They would be heroes or they would die in the attempt.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
The Iron Cross second class. (Photo: Public Domain)

Second, German troops could earn the Iron Cross with a series of events, like succeeding in enough aerial battles, rather than for just a single act of extreme valor like in most militaries. While the medal was awarded for singular military achievements and bravery, it was also automatically warranted after a service member completed a challenging act.

Here are four things that would get a World War II German soldier an automatic Iron Cross:

1. Destroying a set number of enemy tanks

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
A German Tiger tank rolls forward in the Battle of Kursk. (Photo: German Army archives)

For German tankers, the “easiest” way to earn an Iron Cross was to achieve enough tank victories to qualify. While the number required increased as the war ground on, 50 was the magic number for a few years. That’s 50 Allied tank kills before a single tank managed to kill them.

2. Killing a set number of Allied planes

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
(Photo: Public Domain)

German Luftwaffe pilots could net an Iron Cross by accruing an ever-increasing number of points. Single-engine aircraft were worth one point, dual-engines netted two points, and four engines were worth three points. Fighters could get the Iron Cross second class for becoming an ace (downing five enemy aircraft).

3. Sinking a set amount of Allied shipping

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: German Federal Archives

For submariners, the Iron Cross was usually awarded for sinking tons of Allied supplies. The Iron Cross second class usually required sinking 50,000 tons of shipping, while the Knight’s Cross, a higher level of the same award, would be granted to those who sank 100,000 or more tons.

4. Downing a “Night Witch”

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
(Photo: Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 Douzeff)

Oddly enough, pilots could earn an Iron Cross for downing a single wooden biplane, as long as it was being flown by the Night Witches.

These were older, frail planes piloted by Soviet women who would carry a few bombs at a time and drop them on Nazi massed forces, breaking up German attacks on Soviet positions. But the planes were so slow and quiet that they were hard to find and harder to fight, so the Luftwaffe promised an Iron Cross for a single kill.

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9 steps to getting a soldier into (and out of) a war zone

The Army has a few ways it breaks down deployments, chief among them is the “Army Force Generation Cycle.” But that looks at how Big Army assigns different units to different missions. Here’s how deployment cycles actually work for soldiers.


1. It starts by getting sweet new uniforms.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: US Army Sgt. Cooper T. Cash

For soldiers, pre-deployment is a special time when one can shed the Universal Camouflage Pattern and put on a camouflage that actually works. Also that switch and the IR flags lets everyone know that a soldier is about to go to combat, allowing them to feel really special at the PX and commissaries.

2. Packing, repacking, then packing other stuff

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
The Army is just one long series of packing lists.

Those new uniforms will get sweaty quickly as the unit packs, repacks, and stows gear for the deployment. Connexes and vehicles traveling by ship go first, then everything moving by plane, and then personal gear has to get packed away. All of it will have to be unpacked for inspection at least once during the process, and probably twenty times.

3. Being jammed like sardines into a flying can

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: US Army Capt. Henry Chan

Finally, the soldiers get to actually deploy. To do this, they get on a plane with limited access to hygiene facilities and then jam themselves in so tight that they can barely breath without inhaling each other’s sweat. Ladies, tell us again how you like a man in uniform, but go ahead and cover your nose while you do it.

4. “OMG, this place is so hot/cold/wet/dry!”

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: US Army Cpl. Trisha Betz

Coming off the plane is always punctuated with a lot of curses for the local weather. This is kind of dumb since complaining won’t help and the weather isn’t going to change. But in troops’ defense, it really is stupid hot, cold, wet, and/or dry, and sometimes all four at once somehow.

5. No sleep till fully mission capable

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: US Army Sgt. Jason Nolte

Arrival in country kicks off a long series of briefings, gear checks, travel, acclimation, orientation, set-up, and more. Sleep is hard to come by until all of this is done. Sometimes, troops get lucky and are replacing a unit that streamlined the process. More often, the sergeant major decides the previous unit built the base wrong and orders it redone from scratch.

6. “Groundhog’s Day”

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: Sgt Harold Flynn

Once taking over the area, Army units find themselves in a “Groundhog’s Day” situation where they just experience the same things over and over again for months. The places may change a little bit, like going to a school in the morning instead of the district center, but that’s about it.

6. “Groundhog’s Day”

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock

Once taking over the area, Army units find themselves in a “Groundhog’s Day” situation where they just experience the same things over and over again for months. The places may change a little bit, like going to a battalion base in the morning instead of the shura, but that’s about it.

7. Short-timer

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn

Oddly, getting down to the last 100 days of a deployment is generally considered a bad thing. This is because troops can get cocky or lazy as they dream of heading home. First sergeants have to walk around saying, “Complacency kills,” and “It’s just as easy to die on the last day as it was on the first.”

8. Social media offensive

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

As the time dwindles down, troops will start spending more time on Facebook, Tinder, and anywhere else they can find people who might want to party once they land. They have to create a long list of potential “Welcome Home!” partygoers, since only about 10 percent will show up and at least half of those will leave once the first staff duty runner is tossed over a barracks railing.

9. Packing, flying, and partying

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: US Army Capt. William Carraway

Getting to that “Welcome Home!” banner is basically repeating steps two and three. Pack, pack, pack, get onto a crammed plane, build up a thick layer of funk, and then march into a hangar to hug family members and friends. Then, party.

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The 17 coolest DARPA projects

Since its founding in 1958, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has kept the United States as a technological leader in robotics, electronics, communications, and combat. President Eisenhower first authorized what was then known as ARPA as a response to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, and the Agency quickly became known for its far-fetched research,  its startling advances, and its secrecy.


Inventions by DARPA have changed the way we communicate, work, and travel – both in peace and war. Our list of DARPA projects includes concepts crucial to the internet, GPS, interactive maps, advanced computing, and transportation. And DARPA researchers are currently working on an astounding array of projects, everything from robotic dogs to healing microchips. Much of it won’t work, and some of it won’t ever see the light of day – but everything DARPA does keeps the US on the forefront of technological dominance.

This DARPA projects list features some of the coolest, most attention-getting innovations DARPA has been involved with. Which inventions and breakthroughs do you think are the coolest in DARPA history? Vote them up below!

The Coolest DARPA Projects

Articles

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the oldest and most intense forms of Chinese martial arts. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and a number of other martial arts movie stars have also made Kung Fu one of the most famous forms.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

As a part of a religious order, the Shaolin monks were persecuted by Chinese Communists during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The temple was mostly destroyed and stayed that way for years. But when Jet Li made “Shaolin Shi,” it was enough to make Mao give in: the temple was rebuilt and some much-needed tourism revenue came in as Kung Fu made a comeback.

Here are a few things you may not have known about Kung Fu and the elite Shaolin Monks.

1. The founder of Shaolin Kung Fu was from India.

Legend has it that the founder of the Shaolin order, a Buddhist monk from India named Bodhidharma, spent nine years meditating in a cave near his monastery. The legend has it that to keep him from falling asleep, the monk cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Pre-Workout would not be invented for another 1,500 years.

Green Tea began to grow from the spot where he threw his eyelids and now Buddhist monks use green tea to maintain their focus during meditation.

2. Kung Fu is studied in a “Kwoon.”

The word “dojo” is reserved for places that teach Japanese martial arts, like Aikido. When entering a kwoon, bow at a 45-degree angle with your hands at your chest — the right in a fist, and the left open-palm.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

This represents the yin and yang and that your heart is at peace.

3. Kung Fu practitioners wear a different uniform.

Again, much of the look of the loose-fitting gi and colored belts comes from the Japanese practice. Traditional Chinese Kung Fu doesn’t use colored belt levels (though some Western teachers might use them as a teaching tool). Chinese Kung Fu uses a uniform that is tight at the ankles and sometimes even at the wrists.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

4. The most elite Shaolin monk was a werewolf.

Ok, he wasn’t an actual werewolf. In the late 19th century lived a monk named Tai Jin. The poor guy suffered from a condition known as hypertrichosis. Also known as “Werewolf Syndrome” because of the insane amount of body hair that grows on affected areas.

It might have helped his self-esteem to know that, according to legend, he was the best fighter in all of China.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
No comfort for Chewbacca here.

Tai Jin was abandoned at the monastery as a baby because of his body hair. The monks raised him and trained him. He eventually dedicated himself to one form of martial art. Legend also has it that upon meeting the 12 masters of Shaolin, the boy threw a dagger into the ceiling, killing a would-be assassin. He explained to the masters that he could hear 13 people breathing, not just 12.

For more about the Shaolin monks and their founder, check out the above episode of Elite Forces.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

10 things you need to know about dating someone in the military


They move fast.

This may not go for everyone, but typical military life usually means being away for months at a time. Because of this unique schedule, members of the armed forces tend to move on different romantic timelines than the average Joe. Often, that equates to getting a lot more serious a lot more quickly.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

Being in the military might run in the family.

There are plenty of young adults who opt to join the military all on their own. That said, it’s not uncommon for military life to be passed down through generations. Serving one’s country is a badge of pride in many families. What does that mean for you? If you decide to settle down with someone in the armed forces, be prepared for your own kids to follow a similar path.

They’ll love you, but they also love their country. A lot.

Even if military life is completely new to you (or even seems a little crazy), respecting their decision to serve their country is non-negotiable. They’re doing it to protect not just you, but everyone else, too. That’s a lot of love!

You might have to move, more than once. 

The military brat title exists for a reason. It’s not uncommon for military families to have to hop from base to base over the years, so prepare yourself for that possibility.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

They’ll be gone often.

This goes without saying, but their schedules won’t be predictable. They’ll be gone for major holidays and life events, and you won’t have a say. If you can’t roll with the punches, stay out of the military dating game.

Their squad will be their second family. 

Seriously. Whether they’re in the Army, the Navy, the Marines, or the Air Force, they learn right off the bat to stand by their team. They have each other’s backs, for better or worse. They’re responsible for getting each other home safely. When your partner’s battle buddies (brothers and sisters, really), are around, embrace it and give them time to catch up.

They may keep a few secrets.

The harsh reality is that veterans have seen a lot more than most civilians can imagine. They’ve seen pain, made tough calls, and experienced a different kind of heartbreak. When they return, they may not want to talk about it. If they seem like a closed door, don’t take it personally. They probably don’t want to burden you with difficult memories, and they may not be ready to relive them. It can take time to open up! At the end of the day, some secrets might just stay secret…and you have to be okay with that.

Complete strangers will take over your lives.

In a way, the government will dictate where you live. Where your kids go to school. When you can take that family vacation. People you’ve never met will decide whether your partner is home for the holidays. Flexibility is a must, as is loyalty. Starting a life with someone in the military means that you, too, will live a military lifestyle. Before you take that leap, make sure you can handle it!

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

Being a military spouse is scary.

When your partner is deployed, nothing is guaranteed. You can pray they are safe, but you can’t always be sure. It’s scary, but it also makes their return home so much sweeter. You really learn to cherish every moment together.

media.defense.gov

When they’re home, they’re all yours.

If members of the armed services know one thing, it’s devotion. Life with them may be complicated, but it will be filled with adventure, new experiences, and lots of love.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An American citizen fighting for ISIS has been captured in Syria

An American-born ISIS fighter has been captured in Syria by Kurdish forces, Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast report.


The Beast report cited multiple US military spokespersons as being “aware of reports” that a US citizen was captured, while a source familiar with the situation told the site the unnamed fighter had “surrendered.”

US military officials confirmed the capture to CNN and Fox News. CNN’s Ryan Browne reported the American was in the custody of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the US-backed militia spearheading the push into the ISIS capital of Raqqa.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. Photo from SDF via Facebook.

“We are aware of that report,” a State Department spokesperson told Business Insider, referring to The Daily Beast. “We have no information to share at this time.”

A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, the US military-led coalition leading the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

This would not be the first case of an American being captured while fighting for the terror group. Mohamed Khweis, 27, originally from Virginia, joined the group and later surrendered to Kurdish authorities in 2016, according to NBC News. He was later convicted of providing material support to ISIS and faces a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment.

Articles

8 genius military uses for civilian products

The Pentagon is using more equipment and technology from the civilian sector, but service members have been finding ingenious uses for civilian items for a long time.


1. Detecting tripwires: Silly String

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Ellen Keller

Tripwires have been a problem for centuries, but a modern toy has provided a solution. Silly String can be sprayed through open doors, windows, and other choke points to check for booby traps before soldiers and Marines move through.

2. Stopping bleeding: tampons

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tampons are known for stopping a certain kind of bleeding, but deployed service members realized that small tampons can plug a bullet hole, quickly controlling bleeding while the injured awaits a medical evacuation.

3. Marking bombs: flour and ear plugs

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Once a mine or IED is found, its location has to be communicated to others. Some units will draw on the ground with flour from a squeeze bottle, making symbols that say the type of danger and its location.

Flour doesn’t work well in wet environments or anywhere the ground is a light beige or dirty white. There, disposable ear plugs can work better. Mine clearance will find a mine and drop a brightly colored ear plug on it. Soldiers following behind them know to watch out for these markers.

4. Cleaning weapons: baby wipes, cotton swabs, and dental scrapers

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Shahram Sharif

Weapons maintenance is important, but good materials can be hard to find. Still, some of the best cleaning can be done with baby wipes, cotton swabs, and dental scrapers. They’re used to wipe down surfaces, get to hard to reach areas, and remove burnt on carbon, respectively.

5. Sewing: dental floss

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Stilfehler

When uniforms rip, soldiers away from a base have to personally fix them. Dental floss is strong, easy to work with, and available to troops at the front. To make a sewing kit, troops throw floss in a cleaned out mint or dip can along with a couple of sewing needles.

6. Waterproofing: Soap dish or condoms

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, josef325

A service member’s poncho should keep their gear dry, but even recruits in boot camp know better. Wallets, maps, and notebooks are better protected in a soap travel dish. When a dish isn’t available or an awkward items needs protected, condoms can be unrolled over them. This technique works well for waterproofing boots before crossing a stream.

7. Cleaning radio contacts: pencil eraser

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Evan-Amos

This one is so effective, it’s become official Army doctrine. The contact points where microphones or antennas meet with a radio can become tarnished and dirty. Erasers can get these spotless quickly, something which has been incorporated into Army manuals such as Field Manual 44-48, “Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for the Sensor Platoon.”

8. Making terrain models: marking chalk

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Photo: US Army Cheryl Rodewig

Marking chalk is that chalk contractors use with string to mark exactly where a wire should run or a cut should be made. The chalk doesn’t come attached to the string though, it comes in 5-gallon jugs. The military, which has to build sand tables that represent the terrain in their area of operations, realized they could use different colors of this chalk to make different colored sand. Water can be represented with blue, vegetation with green, and hazardous areas with red or yellow.

Articles

13 military tweets from around the world to make you LOL

Twitter is one of those great places where you can blow off some steam with people who just get you. And in the military, blowing off some steam is necessary. What better way to do it than by cramming years of inside jokes and memories into a few short (and hilarious) sentences? Here are 15 of the funniest military tweets. 

1. Puppy tags

If dog tags really looked like this, everyone would probably join.

2. Always trust the CW03

So motivational. Who’s inspired?

3. What’s the difference?

Privates all the way.

4. I wonder why?

Seems like they should’ve paid more attention in training.

5. It really shows

You really should think more outside of the box.

6. General orders

They take orders from no one. Maybe they take it a step too far?

7. It’s all about creating an atmosphere

Gunshots? More like ambient sound machine.

8. Shells out here spitting facts

Maybe if the MREs were better, this wouldn’t be a thing.

9. I’d say that’s good reasoning

It’s more “chemical weapons” than “chemical romance”, unfortunately.

10. It takes two to tango

It’s the accuracy for me.

11. Ah, the majestic Brrrt 

You can’t beat an A-10.

12. See the world, they said…

You’ve got to love that cultured H2O.

13. Watch your back

I think NOT!

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