The history of WWII is brimming with legends of incredible heroism, death-defying bravery and sometimes, stories that are just too ridiculous to be true.
The tale of Jasper Maskelyne, the British magician who joined the Royal Engineers once the King declared war on Germany, dances on the line of the third category.
Many people believe that Maskelyne’s “war contributions” are mostly tall tales that have grown more and more fantastical over time, while others contest that his feats of deception are completely factual and actually happened. We may never know for sure how much of history’s account of Maskelyne’s contributions are folklore because there are very few pictures detailing his accomplishments, which is exactly why so many people are skeptical.
Whether or not the illusionist was the real deal or just smoke and mirrors, the story of his contributions to the Allied war effort are too incredible to ignore.
Maskelyne had magic in his blood — he was a third-generation illusionist, so you could say that being awesome ran in his family. He also really, really hated Hitler. Because of this, rather than enlist as a common foot soldier or sailor when Britain began to gear up for WWII, he wanted to offer a flashier form of service: military magician. For whatever reason, the Allies thought that they could actually benefit from having a magic man amongst their ranks, and promoted Maskelyne to major.
But they didn’t stop there — Maskelyne was allowed to assemble a team of the best artists, tricksters, engineers and illusionists around to help him pull off his stunts. The team’s official title was the A-Force, nicknamed “The Magic Gang,” as if The A-Force wasn’t cool enough.
The one and only objective of the A-Force was simple: take down Hitler and the Axis powers in the coolest way possible. Or, to put it simply, to win the war with magic.
And we’re not talking the lame sleight-of-hand card trick stuff you saw on a cruise that one time with your mom. Though, that is apparently what British command was expecting when they brought him on the team. At first Maskelyne was merely used as a troop entertainer, a cheap way to boost morale between training sessions and military operations.
Maskelyne was not down with this. And here is where the first instance of did-he-or-didn’t-he history comes into play. According to history, Maskelyne convinced the Allies to use him for bigger and better things by creating a fake version of the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee and floating it down the river Thames for everyone to see.
How did he do it? Reportedly with an inflatable model and mirrors situated to enlarge the fake ship, making it appear as if it were really as big as the German watercraft. The Allies were apparently impressed, and decided to actually let Maskelyne do what they had promised him in the first place. This piece of history is particularly questionable because there are no photos of the model, but is one of the more entertaining pieces of Maskelyne’s repertoire.
Once he was formally accepted by his higher-ups, it was time to dazzle them with his first and arguably biggest trick for the Allied war effort: hiding the Suez Canal.
If you think this sounds impossible then you’re pretty much correct — the landmark is so recognizable and large that it wouldn’t be possible to actually hide the canal with tarps or create a faux canal as a decoy.
In order to protect this vital body of water from German bombers, they would need a much flashier strategy — literally. Knowing that the Germans carried out their air raids at night, Maskelyne decided that the best means of distracting the bombers would be to try and blind them, or, more realistically, at least make it more difficult for them to find their target.
The Magic Gang supposedly built a system of rotating searchlights and mirrors that created beams of light that were nearly ten miles across, washing whatever came into its path with blinding white light. However, many still debate whether or not this event was actually carried out, or if Maskelyne was even directly involved with the project itself.
Still, the story is pretty dang awesome, and there are several other accounts of Maskelyne’s hijinks during the war that have been recorded.
Even after 340 days in zero-gravity weakened his muscles, astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly successfully returned to Earth strong enough to give a fist pump and thumbs up.
Kelly’s 144 million-mile star trek ended when his Souyuz capsule landed in Kazakhstan.
“The air feels great out here,” Kelly reportedly said as he was lifted out of the capsule.
His yearlong stay on on the International Space Station (ISS) gives him more days in space than any other U.S. astronaut. While on board, he worked alongside Russian, European, and Japanese personnel, circling the Earth 5,440 times.
Mars is a 2.5 year round-trip journey. Trouble starts with muscular atrophy.
Maintaining muscle is tough in zero gravity. Astronaut calf muscles compared after a six month mission on the ISS show even after aerobic exercise five hours a week and resistance exercise three to six days per week, muscle volume and power both still decrease significantly. In one of the more extreme cases, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield returned to Earth after two months and had to undergo strength training for a few weeks to re-acclimate to Earth’s gravity.
Kelly is part of a NASA experiment on the effects of extended time in space on the human body. It just so happens his brother Mark is also an astronaut, but more importantly, he’s a genetic twin. Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was the control subject on the ground. Both gave blood, saliva and urine samples, ultrasounds and bone scans, received flu shots and more, to be compared when Scott returned.
While in space, Kelly sent more than a thousand tweets, including beautiful images of Earth.
And he watched as the newsworthy events of the year unfolded from his high perch.
He stood with France after the terrorist attacks in Paris, even though his feet couldn’t reach the ground.
And he saw epic sunrises we on Earth could only dream.
Edwards Air Force Base in California certainly has its fair share of oddball aircraft and eccentric pilots.
But a dude flying a top-secret airplane in a monkey suit?
In 1942, Bell aircraft was developing its P-59 Airacomet, the first jet engine fighter designed by the United States. And although it never saw action, it was an important step in the development of U.S. air power.
It was also a top-secret project at the time. The British had a jet fighter airframe in development since 1941 as did the Nazis.
It was so secret, in fact, that when the P-59 was taxiing, airmen put a fake wooden propeller on her nose so onlookers wouldn’t notice anything odd about the aircraft.
In the air, however, it was a different story. Pilots flying the usual piston-driven aviation engine would report back to base with sightings of a fast-moving plane without a propeller. They also said the plane was flown by a “gorilla, wearing a derby hat, waving a stogie at them.”
The Chief test pilot for Bell Aircraft was Jack Woolams. By the time Bell was testing its P-59 design, Woolams had already served 18 months in the Army Air Corps. He was the man behind the gorilla mask.
Other pilots who were exposed to Woolams’ prank were convinced by Air Force psychologists that they hadn’t really seen the gorilla flying the plane, “because everyone knows you can’t fly without a propeller.”
Woolams was also the first person to fly a fighter aircraft coast-to-coast nonstop and set an altitude record in 1943. Woolams died preparing for an air show in 1946, but he was a man ahead of his time — a harbinger of the nonstop, record-breaking, years of air power development to come for test pilots in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Marine Corps wants to buy some second-hand Tigers. No, they’re not trying to replace Sigfried and Roy; they want to buy some F-5E/F Tiger fighters.
According to a report at Soldier of Fortune, the Marine Corps is looking to bolster its force of aggressors. The F-5E/F had long seen service as an attack airframe. In fact, F-5E/F aggressors portrayed the fictional MiG-28 in “Top Gun.”
So, why is the Marine Corps looking to expand the aggressors? One reason is the age of the fighters. The Marine F/A-18Cs are in some of the worst shape — it’s so bad that last year, the Marines had to pull Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Currently, the Marines have VMFAT-101 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, in Arizona. The goal is to place detachments of F-5s at three other Marine Corps air bases. This will help meet the needs of the Marine Corps.
One of the reasons ironically had to do with a new capability for the AV-8B Harrier force in the Marines: the ability to shoot the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. The AMRAAM capability required training to help the pilots use it.
So, why not just ask the other services? Well, the Navy and Air Force are having similar problems in terms of airframe age.
SOF also notes that the Air Force has resorted to using T-38 Talon trainers to provide high-speed targets for the F-22, largely because the F-22 force is both very small and expensive to operate. The Marines face the same issue with operating costs if they were to use the F-35B as aggressors.
The Marines are also looking to add light attack capability, possibly using one of two propeller-driven counter-insurgency planes, the AT-6C Coyote and the AT-29 Super Tucano. If such a unit were to be created, it could very well be assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 4th Marine Air Wing.
1. The Green Beret founder of SERE training used a math problem to trick the Viet Cong.
In the grand scheme of things, the Vietnam War tends to get the short end of the stick when it comes to great stories of war — maybe it’s too recent or painful an event to be remembered with the nostalgia associated with WWII.
Regardless, the story of James Nicholas “Nick” Rowe is one that deserves a spot in the limelight, and might be one you haven’t heard before. Not only was Rowe a Green Beret during Vietnam, he would also create the Army SERE course, a grueling training course detailing methods of “survival, evasion, resistance, and escape” when captured by the enemy. One of the training’s more notorious tasks is learning how to drink snake blood to keep up your calorie intake, so it’s safe to say Rowe was a pretty hardcore guy.
But even the best of the best can get caught by surprise. While on a mission supporting South Vietnamese irregulars against the Viet Cong, Rowe and his fellow Green Berets walked into an ambush. The men fought valiantly, but after exchanging fire they were overpowered and taken as prisoners. When they reached the POW camp they were separated and locked in cages, entering a living hell that they would endure for the next five years.
It only got worse for Rowe. The Viet Cong knew he was the leader of his unit, and suspected he had information. They were right. Rowe served as the captured unit’s intelligence officer, and possessed exactly the kind of information the Viet Cong desperately needed. As a result, Rowe had to endure near-constant torture, on top of the already deplorable conditions of the prison. At one point Rowe confessed his “true” position, claiming he was just an engineer, but the VC weren’t going to let him off easy.
They cut the torture to give Rowe engineering problems to solve. Amazingly, despite the fact that he was starving, living in a cage and was not an engineer, he completed it correctly. His torturers were satisfied, and Rowe thought he could rest easy thanks to West Point’s mandatory engineering courses.
He was wrong. Around the same time, a group of American peace activists were on a mission to visit American officers in Vietnamese prisoner of war camps. The goal of the excursion was a little fuzzy, but they essentially wanted to prove that the North Vietnamese’s prison methods were above board. Rowe’s name was on their list of officers to visit, along with the fact that he was a Special Forces intelligence officer.
When the Viet Cong discovered the lie, they forced Rowe to stand naked in a swamp for days on end, leaving him ravaged by mosquitos and dizzy with lack of food or water. They were fed up with this phony engineer and his multiple escape attempts, and decided enough was enough. They gave Rowe an execution date, eager to rid themselves of his antics.
When the day finally came, Rowe was led far away from the camp, when suddenly a group of American helicopters thundered overhead, rustling the jungle trees and giving Rowe the split second of time he needed to break free, fend off his captors and sprint after the helicopters. Amazingly, one of the choppers noticed Rowe waving like a maniac in a clearing, and was able to rescue him from his scheduled death.
2. The British soldier who escaped The Gestapo’s “unescapable” castle
Escaping a prisoner of war camp is no easy feat, and many who have made it to freedom recount plotting their escape plans for months, even years, to execute it right on the first try. This, apparently, was not Airey Neave’s style. Instead of biding his time, the British soldier escaped his WWII POW camps whenever he could, undeterred by failed attempts.
Finally, when he and his friend were caught in Poland after escaping German POW camp Stalag XX-A, he was collected by the Gestapo, who sent him to Oflag IV-C, AKA the castle of Colditz, AKA the last stop for all troublemaking POWs.
It may look like a summer home fit for the Von Trapp family, but don’t be fooled, this place was no joke. If you’re doubtful you can read up on some accounts of the “escape proof” castle here.
The castle’s prisoners weren’t as confident in its “inescapable” qualities, and instead just came up with ridiculously complex plans of escape.
Failed attempts included the construction of a small wooden glider, a network of underground tunnels, and prisoners sewing themselves into mattresses to be smuggled out with the laundry. Tempting as these flashy failures were, Neave decided to take a more theatrical approach to his escape.
After he secretly acquired pieces of a Polish army uniform, he painted the shirt and cap green to resemble a German officer’s ensemble. Then he put on his new duds and strolled out of the prison like a Nazi on his way to Sunday dinner with his girl. What he didn’t anticipate, however, was how reflective the paint would be; once outside, he lit up like a Christmas tree under the guard’s searchlight passed over him. It didn’t end well.
But Neave still thought the idea was pretty awesome, and pulled the stunt a second time a few months later, with an updated “uniform” of cardboard, cloth, and more Nazi-green. He also had a partner in crime this time, another prisoner named Anthony Luteyn, who was also sporting a mock German getup.
During an all-inmate stage production that the prison sponsored and put on, Neave and Lutyen quietly slipped off stage, crawled underneath the floorboards that held the dancing inmates and right above the guard’s headquarters.
From there the pair dropped into the room from the ceiling and acted natural, strolling about and exchanging pleasantries in German as if they were simply visiting officers. Once they had ensured no one was suspicious, they calmly made their exit. Once outside of the prison, they threw away the homemade German uniforms and pretended to be two Dutch workers on their way to Ulm from Leipzeg, with (fake) papers to prove it. Unfortunately, the phony documents ended up getting the two stopped by German police, but they bought the disguises and sent them to the foreign aid office, believing they were just confused immigrants.
Despite this and other close calls, Neave and Lutven continued their journey — all on foot — until they made it to Switzerland and were finally free. Neaves would later work to ensure there were quality escape lines for other POWS in Europe, and would also serve on the Nuremberg Trials.
3. The three-prong tunnel system that led 3 POWs to safety
While the above escapists have steered clear of the old tunnel-digging prison cliche, it’s still an effective method. In fact, U.S. airmen Roger Bushell took the wartime tradition a step further by constructing a system of three tunnels in a German Air Force POW camp at the height of WWII. The tunnels, nicknamed “Tom”, “Dick”, and “Harry,” were each 30 feet deep. This way, Bushell hoped, they wouldn’t be detected by the camp’s perimeter microphones. Each tunnel was also only about two feet wide, though there were larger sections that contained an air pump and a space full of digging supplies. Pieces of wood were used to ensure the stability of the tunnel walls.
Electric lighting was also installed and attached to the prison’s electric grid, allowing the diggers to work and travel by lamplight 10 yards under the ground’s surface. The operation even advanced far enough to incorporate a rail car system into their tunnel network, which was used to carry tons and tons of building materials back and forth during the 5-month construction period.
Just as the “Harry” tunnel was completed in 1944, the American officers who had toiled over the escape route were moved to a new camp. The rest of the prisoners attempted an escape about a week later on March 24, but they had unfortunately miscalculated where their tunnels would end. Initially believing the secret tunnel would dump them inside a forest, they emerged to realize that they were short of the tree line and completely exposed. Still, over 70 men crawled through the dark, dank tunnels to the other side, rushing to the trees once they surfaced. Tragically, on March 25th, a German guard spotted the 77th man crawling out of the tunnel, leading to the capture of 73 of the men, and later the execution of 50 of them. Only three would survive and make it to freedom, but the escape had gone down as one of the most elaborate in history.
4. Bill Goldfinch and Jack Best’s plan to fly the Colditz coop
You didn’t really think we were going to just breeze by that wooden glider story, did you? There have been plenty of wacky escape methods, but none as bold or sophisticated as literally building yourself a two-man wooden plane to peace out in.
At least, this was the plan. Jack Best and Bill Goldfinch were similar to Neave in their can-do, slightly certifiable approach to escape. The men were pilots, and decided that the best way to bust out of the German castle was to do what they do best: fly. Or, more accurately in this case, glide. The Colditz castle was built atop a large cliff, perfect for launching a secret and probably highly unstable aircraft off of.
Goldfinch and Best began building the glider’s skeleton in the attic above the prison chapel, figuring the height would give it enough time to glide across the Mulde river, which was situated about 200 feet below the building. To keep the Germans from walking in on the construction, the pair built a false wall out of old pieces of wood, the same stuff they constructed the glider out of. The plane was mostly made up out of bed slats and floor boards, but the men used whatever material they could get their hands on that they thought the Germans wouldn’t miss. Control wires were going to be created from electrical wiring that was found in quieter sections of the castle.
Though the operation was deemed moot before it could ever be carried out (the Allies released the prisoners before it could be flown), we felt this almost-escape deserved some recognition because by many accounts, it would have worked. In 2000, a replica of the Colditz glider was constructed for a documentary entitled “Escape from Colditz”, and was actually flown successfully at RAF Odiham. It gets even cooler, though. Best and Goldfinch were able to watch the whole thing go down, and witness their “escape” firsthand.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
An F-35A Lightning II team parks the aircraft for the first time at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Feb. 8, 2016. The aircraft arrived at the base to conduct operational testing in order to determine its combat capabilities.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II takes off from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 28, 2016. The A-10 has excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude, and is a highly accurate and survivable weapons delivery platform.
Senior Airman Daniel San Miguel, an aerospace propulsion journeyman with the 35th Maintenance Squadron, oversees an F110-GE-129 engine being tested during its afterburner phase at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Feb. 4, 2016. Each engine is tested multiple times for consistency and safety to ensure each engine has the capability to reach peak performance.
A U.S. Army paratrooper, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conducts airborne operations at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 9, 2016.
Army readiness is paramount to accomplishing a full range of military operations and winning the nation’s wars. The 82nd Airborne Division is a critical component of this requirement by being prepared to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Javier Orona
Members of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, perform a drag plane during a training demonstration at Skydive Arizona. The Leap Frogs are in Arizona preparing for the 2016 show season.
Sailors assigned to the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) render honors to a column of Indian naval vessels to mark the conclusion of India’s International Fleet Review (IFR) 2016. IFR 2016 is an international military exercise hosted by the Indian Navy to help enhance mutual trust and confidence with navies from around the world. Antietam, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
Capt. Robert Mortenson, a company commander with Black Sea Rotational Force, spends time with a Norwegian search-and-rescue dog during cold-weather training aboard Skoganvarre, Norway, Feb. 5, 2016.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Immanuel Johnson
U.S. Marines provide security for a Japan Ground Self Defense Force CH-47 Chinook during Forest Light 16-2 in Yausubetsu Training Area, Hokkaido, Japan, Feb. 1, 2016. The exercise strengthens military partnership, solidifies regional security agreements and improves individual and unit-level skills.
“I will maintain a guardian’s eye on my crew at all times, and keep a cool, yet deliberate, hand on the throttle.” – Coast Guard Surfman’s creed
U.S. Coast Guard crews work hard and train hard to be ready – regardless of weather conditions!
Since its introduction, the Army Combat Fitness Test has attracted a lot of attention in the ranks. Designed to replace the APFT with a gender-neutral fitness test with performance requirements based on MOS, the ACFT has seen many changes over the past few years. With the Army now in the ACFT 3.0 data collection period, updated guidance for the new test is expected in 2022. In the meantime, all soldiers will be taking the ACFT. This includes astronauts.
Dr. Andrew “Drew” Morgan is an Army Colonel and NASA astronaut. A 1998 West Point graduate, Morgan earned his Doctorate in Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland in 2002. He served extensively in Joint Special Operations Command. During his time on a JSOC medical team, Morgan also worked as a part-time physician for the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the “Golden Knights.” He went on to become the Battalion Surgeon for 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) where he served three years on flight, combat dive and Airborne status. In addition to his dive and parachute training, Morgan has also earned the coveted Ranger tab.
In 2013, Morgan was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class. His spaceflight experience includes Expedition 60, 61 and 62. NASA reports that Morgan has conducted seven spacewalks totaling 45 hours and 48 minutes, an American record for a single spaceflight. Continuing to lead from the front, Morgan took the ACFT in space, with some modifications to adjust for the lack of gravity. Check out the U.S. Army video by Staff Sgt. Dennis DePrisco, Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Rognstad and Master Sgt. Robert Segin.
North Korea publicly unveiled a special operations unit for the first time during a military parade marking the Day of the Sun, the anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, reports Yonhap News Agency.
The soldiers were armed with grenade launchers and presented with night-vision goggles on their helmets.
“Once Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un issues the order, they will charge with resolve to thrust a sword through the enemy’s heart like lighting,” a North Korean broadcaster said.
The North Korean special operations forces marched across Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang behind the Navy, Air Force, and other strategic forces. The new unit is believed to be led by North Korean Col. Gen. Kim Yong-bok.
North Korea’s special operations forces could be used to counter allied pre-emptive strike plans. Special operations troops recently drilled in preparation for a possible strike on an enemy missile base, the Korean Central News Agency reported. The force also practiced combating enemy commandos.
U.S. and South Korean reports have suggested that allied war plans include the possibility of “decapitation strikes” designed to eliminate the North Korean leadership. South Korea reported that this year’s Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills included exercises focused on “incapacitating North Korean leadership.”
“The KPA will deal deadly blows without prior warning any time as long as the operation means and troops of the U.S. and South Korean puppet forces involved in the ‘special operation’ and ‘preemptive attack’ targeting the [Democratic Republic of Korea] remain deployed in and around South Korea,” the North Korean military warned in late March.
The North also unveiled several new missiles, intercontinental ballistic missile models, during the parade.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The HMS Conquerer is the only nuclear-powered submarine to engage an enemy with torpedoes. In a sea engagement during the Falklands War in the 1980s, two of the three shots fired at an Argentine cruiser hit home. Her hull pierces, the General Belgrano began listing and her captain called for the crew to abandon ship within 20 minutes.
In line with Royal Navy tradition, the Conquerer flew a Jolly Roger – a pirate flag – to note her victory at sea.
Submarines were considered “underhand, unfair and damned un-English,” by Sir Arthur Wilson, who was First Sea Lord when subs were introduced to the Royal Navy. Hs even threatened to hang all sub crews as pirates during wartime.
The insult stuck. When the HMS E9 sunk a German cruiser during WWI — the Royal Navy’s first submarine victory — its commander had a Jolly Roger made and it flew from the periscope as the sub sailed back to port.
The pirate flag soon became the official emblem of Britain’s silent service.
The 1982 sinking of the Argentine General Belgrano was only the second instance of a submarine sinking a surface ship since the end of World War II.
Argentinian sailors reported a “fireball” shooting up through the ship, which means it was not cleared for action. If the crew was ready for a fight, ideally, the ship’s doors and hatches would have been sealed to keep out fire and water, author Larry Bond wrote in his book “Crash Dive,” which covers the incident.
The Royal Navy’s Cmdr. Chris Wreford-Brown, the captain of the Conqueror, later said of the sinking:
“The Royal Navy spent 13 years preparing me for such an occasion. It would have been regarded as extremely dreary if I had fouled it up.”
Ships from Argentina and neighboring Chile rescued 772 men over the next two days. The attack killed 321 sailors and two civilians.
The Argentine Navy returned to port and was largely out of the rest of the war.
The Super Bowl is where the stakes are highest in the world of professional football.
But for some who have played in that big game, they have staked far more than whether or not they help hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy — they’ve served in the military, signing “a blank check to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including my life,” to paraphrase a popular quote.
Here are some of the more famous names (and not-so-famous) names who served in the military and played in the Super Bowl:
1. Hall of Fame OLB Kevin Greene
While Greene is not well known, he is one of the NFL’s all-time great pass rushers, and played in Super Bowl XXX with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also served in the Alabama Army National Guard, according to a 1986 article in the Poughkeepsie Journal, getting paratrooper wings and also at times commanding a tank platoon.
In the 2017 season, he will coach linebackers for the New York Jets.
According to NFL.com, Greene totaled 160 sacks and five interceptions over 15 seasons.
2. New England Patriots LS Joe Cardona
Cardona will be playing in Super Bowl LI with the New England Patriots, serving as a long snapper. He did the same with the U.S. Naval Academy’s football team – starting as a freshman and for all four years.
A 2015 DoD feature on military-NFL ties reports he serves on active duty, and has assignments with the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport and with the destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000).
3. Hall of Fame QB Roger Staubach
Prior to Pat Tillman, Roger Staubach was probably the most famous person who had his feet in both the military and National Football League. He played 11 years in the NFL, all with the Dallas Cowboys, throwing 153 TD passes according to NFL.com. He played in four Super Bowls, winning Super Bowls VI and XII.
Perhaps best known for his Super Bowl XXI heroics as a member of the New York Giants, including a 6-yard TD catch, McConkey wasn’t drafted by an NFL team when he graduated from the Naval Academy.
His naval service included time as a helicopter pilot, but he decided to go for his dream of playing pro football. A 2013 Buffalo News article revealed that it was a family connection to New England Patriots coach Bill Belicheck (whose father was an assistant coach at the Naval Academy) that launched McConkey’s NFL career.
A 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash didn’t hurt, either. Over his six-season professional football career, NFL.com notes that McConkey had 67 receptions for 1,113 yards and two TDs for the Giants, Chargers, Cardinals, and one other team.
5. Retired DT Chad Hennings
Though Hennings won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, he also was very well known as an Air Force pilot flying the A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support plane, according to GoAirForceFalcons.com. According to NFL.com, Hennings had 27.5 sacks over his nine-season NFL career.
6. Retired RB Rocky Bleier
Rocky Bleier was overshadowed in the Steelers’ backfield that won four Super Bowls by NFL Hall of Fame legends Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris.
One reason may have been the fact that in December, 1968, he was drafted by the Army and volunteered to serve in Vietnam. According to a 1969 AP report printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bleier was wounded on Aug. 20 of that year — shot in the thigh and hit by grenade fragments, losing part of his right foot.
According to NFL.com, Bleier only played six games in 1971 after missing all of 1970. He would rush for 3,865 yards and 23 TDs, while catching 136 passes for 1,294 yards and two more TDs.
John Hetlinger left the Navy pilot ranks for aerospace engineering. He succeeded in that field, working for NASA on the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA before retiring in his late 60s.
That’s when he got into karaoke, singing at karaoke bars in pleated shorts and pants and nice polo shirts. He’s apparently got a thing for polos with toucans, which is kind of sweet.
Oh, but the songs he sings are heavy metal, and Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” appears to be one of his favorites to perform:
That’s Hetlinger on his recently aired episode of “America’s Got Talent” where he wowed the judges with his performance. You can see Hetlinger perform a longer version of the song, where he includes some profanity, in this 2014 show from when he was a spry 80 years old.
The NATO Alliance was originally established 68 years ago today. Political rhetoric notwithstanding, the modern alliance is currently fighting in Afghanistan while also facing down a resurgent Russia in Eastern Europe and figuring out how to stop ISIS at home and abroad. Here are 7 facts from its proud history:
1. NATO grew out of the more limited Treaty of Brussels of 1948
The Treaty of Brussels signed in 1948 established collective defense for Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The U.S. wanted a greater stake in Western European security and so began looking for a way to join an expanded version of the treaty.
2. The U.S. invited other countries into NATO to form a “bridge” across the Atlantic
America and the Brussels signatories largely agreed on the framework of what would become NATO, but one of the original sticking points was whether other countries would be allowed to join. America wanted to invite North Atlantic countries like Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, and Portugal as these countries would form a “bridge” across the Atlantic for deploying forces.
3. Both the Treaty of Brussels and the NATO Alliance were in response to Soviet aggression
After World War II, Stalin quickly began supporting pro-Soviet and pro-communist government in Eastern Europe. After a civil war in Greece, a coup in Czechoslovakia, and the Blockade of Berlin, Western European countries were increasingly worried about the USSR trying to topple their governments. They responded with the Treaty of Brussels and then the NATO treaty.
4. The NATO Alliance formed a “nuclear umbrella” over Europe
The first mention of a “massive retaliatory power” to any Soviet incursion was made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. This established a “nuclear umbrella” over NATO, the possibility that the U.S. would respond to any attack with nuclear weapons, but it wasn’t an immediately credible threat.
It wasn’t until the development of nuclear weapons like nuclear-tipped, intercontinental ballistic missiles and the implementation of practices like Operation Chrome Dome that the U.S. could truly threaten Moscow with nukes on short notice.
5. NATO had a clear nemesis in the Warsaw Pact
The increased readiness of NATO in the mid-1950s and its expansion into new countries, especially West Germany in 1955, spurred the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The Warsaw Pact was a sort of Soviet NATO that existed between the USSR and seven Soviet-aligned countries in Europe.
6. NATO has a science program
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1956 and the West realized it had to get serious about scientific development. This led not only to the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, (now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the U.S. but also the NATO Science Programme.
Now known as the Science for Peace and Security Programme, it provides funding, expert advice, and other support to security-relevant science and research between NATO countries and partner countries.
7. A NATO training exercise nearly triggered a nuclear war
While the relationship between the Warsaw Pact and NATO was always strained, it reached a fever pitch on a few occasions. In addition to the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis, NATO military exercises in 1983 nearly triggered an actual war.
The annual war games were focused on command post operations, but the 1983 exercise included an unprecedented 19,000 troops flying in from the U.S. and jets carrying dummy nuclear warheads on simulated attack runs. The Soviets were worried that it was actually cover for an invasion and put their own troops on nuclear high alert.
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of numbered units throughout the military, many with storied histories and with extensive combat roles since the United States military began operating on the world stage in the early 20th Century. The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment can trace its lineage all the way back to the American Revolution. The 1st Infantry Division can claim to be the longest continuously serving division in the U.S. military. Even the U.S. Navy has the famed USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned sailing ship in the fleet. However, no unit has been deployed to every major conflict of the last one hundred years except for one — the 5th Marine Regiment.
The 5th Marine Regiment’s story begins on June 8, 1917, when it was activated in Philadelphia as part of the United States’ buildup for World War I. The Regiment was assigned to the 4th Marine Brigade, which became a part of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division. The 5th would establish itself in Marine Corps lore for its actions at the Battle of Belleau Wood in the spring of 1918. They would also fight at places such as Aisne and St. Mihiel, as well as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
During the regiment’s service in France, it earned its nickname, “the Fighting Fifth,” and was awarded the French Fourragère for receiving three Croix de Guerre citations, a decoration members of the 5th Marines still wear today. The unit also had five folks (3 USMC, 2 USN) receive the Medal of Honor.
The next major action for the Fighting Fifth was battling their way across the Pacific in World War II. The 5th landed on Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942 and endured four months of grueling combat on there before being relieved with the rest of the division on December 9, 1942. For their efforts during Guadalcanal, the 5th Marines and the entire 1st Marine Division received their first Presidential Unit Citation.
After a rest and refit in Australia, the 5th Marines returned to combat in the late stages of Operation Cartwheel in late December 1943. They landed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain and would fight there until February 1944 when they were relieved by the 40th Infantry Division. The Marines had another period of rest and refit before encountering their greatest challenges of the war, at Peleliu and Okinawa.
The 5th Marines entered combat on Peleliu on September 15, 1944. Unbeknownst to them, the Japanese changed their tactics from attempting to stop landings at the beach to fortifying the entire island and creating a defense in depth. The lack of this knowledge would cost the Marines dearly. After the seizure of the airfield, the rest of the division set about clearing the remainder of the island.
By late October, the 5th Marines were the only regiment still combat effective and their commander, Col. Harold Harris, turned to siege tactics to remove the Japanese, telling his officers “be lavish with ordnance and stingy with men’s lives.” The Marines handed over operations of the island to the 81st Infantry Division and moved on to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa.
The 5th Marines final action of the World War II was at Okinawa, where they landed along with the rest of the 1st Marine Division and 6th Marine Division on April 1, 1945. They were able to quickly clear the northern part of the island but Japanese resistance to the south would require extraordinary effort to reduce. The fight on Okinawa made places like Sugar Loaf Hill and Shuri Castle famous.In all of World War II four Marines from the 5th were awarded the Medal of Honor. Following the fall of Okinawa and the Japanese surrender, the 5th was sent to China for occupation duty.
War soon found the 5th Marines again when they were deployed as part of the Provisional Marine Brigade to the Pusan Perimeter in South Korea to shore up defenses against the invading North Koreans. The Fighting Fifth then rejoined their World War II counterparts, the 1st and 7th Marines, in reforming the 1st Marine Division to take part in the landings at Inchon and the liberation of Seoul.
That winter the 5th Marines fought for their lives at the “Frozen Chosin” Reservoir. When the situation looked bleak and the Marines were falling back Gen. Oliver Smith told his command, “Retreat, Hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction!”
After their withdrawal from North Korea, the 5th Marines remained in the war and would hold off the Chinese attempts to break the Main Line of Resistance until the armistice in July 1953. The heroic efforts of the 5th Marines garnered ten more Medals of Honor and another Presidential Unit Citation. The regiment left Korea in 1955.
Peacetime would not last long for the 5th as just over a decade after leaving Korea they were deployed as part of the troop buildup in Vietnam in May 1966. The 5th Marines and the rest of the 1st Marine Division would spend six years battling the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong. Their fighting spirit would make their name known once again, this time at places like Huế during the Tet Offensive. During the Vietnam War, seven members of the regiment received the Medal of Honor before returning to Camp Pendleton in 1971.
The 5th Marines returned to combat once again against the forces of Saddam Hussein in 1991 as part of Operation Desert Storm. 1st Battalion served as part of Task Force Ripper, while the 2nd and 3rd Battalions joined later and participated in the Liberation of Kuwait. The 5th Marines returned to the Middle East in 2003 as part of the Invasion of Iraq where they spearheaded the Marine Corps efforts. After defeating Iraqi forces, the 5th Marines remained in Iraq until October 2003, conducting security and stability operations. They would return to Iraq two more times, each time completing a 13-month deployment. Beginning in 2009 separate battalions of the 5th Marines began deployments to Afghanistan until the deployment of Regimental Combat Team 5 in 2011. 2nd Battalion was the last to deploy serving with RCT 6 in 2012.
In the nearly 100 years since the 5th Marine Regiment was first formed, 24 Marines from the regiment have received the Medal of Honor, second only to the 7th Marines 36 recipients. The 5th Marines have also been a part of the 1st Marine Division when it received all nine of its Presidential Unit Citations, as well as earning two of its own during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. According to the Marine Corps website, the 5th Marines are the most decorated regiment in the Corps.