Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot - We Are The Mighty
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Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Visiting the space center as invited guests of STS-63 Pilot Eileen Collins, the first female shuttle pilot and later the first female shuttle commander, are (from left): Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman. (Photo: NASA)


Dr. Randy Lovelace was a Harvard-educated flight surgeon with the U.S. Army who became a pioneer in aeromedicine and aviation physiology — particularly with the issues surrounding high-altitude flight. He was instrumental in developing the first oxygen masks and other adaptive equipment that allowed aviators to survive in low space.

In 1940 Lovelace met Jackie Cochran, a record-holding air racer who petitioned First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to use women as pilots on the homefront in a variety of non-combat missions. That idea turned into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, better known as “WASPs,” during World War II. These female aviators served in crucial roles — test pilots, ferry pilots and maintenance check pilots — that freed up more male pilots to fight the battles that were raging across the globe. A few years later Cochran, by virtue of her friendship with Chuck Yeager, became the first woman to break the sound barrier. After that, she became the first woman to land an airplane on an aircraft carrier.

So when NASA started fielding candidates for what would eventually become the Mercury 7 astronauts, Lovelace and Cochran started a parallel effort that mirrored NASA’s rigorous testing — doable because Lovelace was a key player in designing the official program for the space agency. Along the way they asked another record-breaking female aviator, Jerrie Cobb, to join the effort. The three of them scrubbed the veteran WASP community — a population of over 700 pilots — and came up with 13 qualified females willing and able to go through their NASA-like testing.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Jerrie Cobb with Mercury capsule. (Photo: NASA)

Cobb dubbed the group “Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees” or “FLATs.” The 13 went through a series of stressful evaluations designed to see if they could hold up under the conditions in space. Ice water was injected into their ears to induce vertigo. Painful electric shocks were administered to test reflexes. Weighted stationary bicycles were used to rapidly push candidates to exhaustion. And that was just Phase I of the testing.

All 13 of the women passed Phase I, but because of family and job commitments, only three of them — Jerrie Cobb, Rhea Hurrle, and Wally Funk — were able to travel to Oklahoma City for Phase II. Phase II involved psychological evaluations — including one that had them sit in an isolation tank for an extended period. All three woman passed.

After Jerrie Cobb passed Phase III, which included actual flights in military jet aircraft, the rest of the FLATs were invited to follow suit. But before they could gather at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the designated location, U.S. Navy officials at the base sent a telegram to the candidates that informed them that support for the project had been withdrawn because the request hadn’t come through NASA channels.

That ruling infuriated Cobb, and in 1962 she flew to Washington, D.C., to petition lawmakers to make the FLATs program an official part of NASA. Her efforts led to Rep. Victor Anfuso, R-NY, convening public hearings before a special Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. Cobb’s testimony introduced gender discrimination into the Hill’s conversation well before the Civil Right Act of 1964 made it illegal.

But the way forward for the FLATs was plagued by infighting among the principals more than unresponsive congressmen. Jackie Cochran, of all people, sensing she was losing clout among her peers, testified that setting up a special program to help women would hurt NASA. Cochran’s negative view was multiplied by the opinions of a handful of Mercury 7 astronauts, including John Glenn, who said that the absence of women in the program was “a fact of our social order.”

Glenn also pointed out that astronaut candidates were required to be graduates of one of the military’s test pilot schools, something women were not qualified to apply for in 1962, and NASA had already indicated it had no desire to waive the requirement by giving females credit for the massive amount of flight experience they had — in some cases many more flight hours than the Mercury 7 selectees. Although some in congress were sympathetic to the FLATs’ plight, Cobb’s Capitol Hill visit didn’t result in any meaningful support.

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963. In response, “Life” magazine published an article criticizing NASA and American decision makers. The article included photographs of all 13 FLATs, which made the entire group of women public for the first time.

NASA did not select any female astronaut candidates until 1978. Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983, and in 1995 Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. At Collins’ invitation, seven of the surviving FLATs attended her launch.

In 1995, while working on a film adaptation of the FLATs’ story, Hollywood producer James Cross coined the label “Mercury 13” for the FLATs. (Look for that title in a theater near you in the years to come.)

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This is how an outnumbered Navy hero earned the Medal of Honor for protecting Guadalcanal

In the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 1942, Vice Adm. William Halsey had a sleepless night. A major Japanese force was steaming towards Henderson Field bent on a massive bombardment.


Halsey had sent two small groups of ships under the overall command of Rear Adm. Daniel Judson Callaghan to stop them.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Daniel J. Callaghan. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Callaghan’s force faced long odds. He had two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers (two of which had been optimized for the anti-aircraft role), and eight destroyers. The opposing force had two fast battleships, a light cruiser, and 14 destroyers.

In essence, Halsey knew he had probably sent Callaghan and many of the sailors under him to their deaths.

Only as the seconds turned into minutes, and the minutes turned into hours, one thing was obvious: Henderson Field had not come under attack.

Dawn would soon reveal that one of the fast battleships, the Hiei, was crippled, while American sailors on two cruisers — the USS Atlanta (CL 51) and USS Portland (CA 33) — were fighting to save their ships.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
The Japanese fast battleship Haruna. (Photo from Wikimedia)

Reports trickled in. Four destroyers sunk, Callaghan and Rear Adm. Norman Scott, the hero of the Battle of Cape Esperance, were dead.

Later, when commanders sorted out what happened, it turned out Callaghan had – whether by accident or design – gotten his force intermingled with the Japanese bombardment group. When he ordered, “Odd ships fire to port, even ships fire to starboard,” he touched off a melee that scattered both forces across Ironbottom Sound.

At one point during the maelstrom Callaghan’s flagship, the USS San Francisco (CA 38), got within 2,500 yards of the battleship Hiei, and put a shell into her steering compartment. By the time the fight was over, the Japanese had exhausted most of their ammunition, and it was too close to dawn to reassemble their forces, hit Henderson Field and escape American air power.

Rear Adm. Hiroaki Abe instead ordered a retreat, leaving Hiei to its fate.

In the aftermath of the battle, Hiei would be sunk by air strikes launched from the USS Enterprise (CV 6) and Henderson Field. The USS Juneau (CL 52), damaged during the battle, would be sunk by a Japanese submarine. The officer in charge of the surviving vessels, Capt. Gilbert C. Hoover, would inexplicably fail to look for survivors, leaving over a hundred men behind. Only three would be rescued.

The Japanese tried to bombard Henderson Field again two days later, but this time the Kirishima met up with two battleships, the USS Washington (BB 56) and USS South Dakota (BB 57), with four destroyers under the command of Rear Adm. Willis Augustus Lee. Even though the Japanese put USS South Dakota out of action and sank or damaged the four destroyers, the USS Washington was able to fatally damage the Kirishima.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
The USS Callaghan in 1987. (Photo from Wikimedia)

Callaghan would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on Nov, 13, 1942, one of five presented for actions in that battle (the others were to Norman Scott, Lt. Cmdr. Bruce McCandless, Lt. Cmdr. Herbert Schonland, and Bosun’s Mate 1st Class Reinhardt Keppler). The Navy later named two ships for Adm. Callaghan. The first USS Callaghan (DD 792) would be sunk by a kamikaze attack while on radar picket duty off Okinawa in 1945. The second USS Callaghan (DDG 994) saw 20 years of service with the United States Navy until she was sold to Taiwan.

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Take a closer look at the cinematic villain helicopter of the 1980s: The Mi-24 Hind

The Mi-24 Hind had a reputation as a cinematic bad guy in “Rambo III” and the original 1980s Cold War flick “Red Dawn.”


Helping the Mujahidin kill it was the focus of 2007’s “Charlie Wilson’s War.” But how much do you really know about this so-called “flying tank?”

Let’s take a good look at this deadly bird. According to GlobalSecurity.org, this helicopter can carry a lot of firepower, including 57mm and 80mm rockets, anti-tank missiles, and deadly machine guns or cannon. But it also can carry a standard Russian infantry section – eight fully-armed troops.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
A left side view of a Soviet-made Mi-24 Hind-D assault helicopter in-flight. (DOD photo)

So, it’s really not a flying tank. It’s a flying infantry fighting vehicle.

There really isn’t a similar American – or Western – helicopter. The UH-1 and UH-60s were standard troop carries, but don’t really have the firepower of the Hind. The AH-64 Apache and AH-1 Cobra have a lot of firepower, but can’t really carry troops (yeah, we know the Brits did that one time – and it was [very] crazy!).

While the Mi-24 got its villainous cinematic reputation thanks to 1984’s “Red Dawn,” and the 1988 movie “Rambo III,” its first action was in the Ogaden War – an obscure conflict that took place from 1977-1978. After the Somali invasion of Ethiopia, the Air Combat Information Group noted that as many as 16 Mi-24s were delivered to the Ethiopians by the Soviets.

It has taken part in over 30 conflicts since then.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Mi-24 Super Agile Hind, a modernized Hind by the South African firm ATE. At the Ysterplaat Airshow 2006. Photo by Danie van der Merwe, Flikr

The Hind was to Afghanistan what the Huey was to Vietnam: an icon of the conflict. GlobalSecurity.org reported that as many as 300 Mi-24s were in Afghanistan.

In the Russian war movie “The Ninth Company,” the Mi-24 gets a more heroic turn than it did in Red Dawn or Rambo III.

At least 2,300 have already been built, and versions of the Mi-24 are still in production, according to the Russian Helicopters website. This cinematic aviation bad boy will surely be around for many years to come.

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Noah Galloway talks about joining the ranks of ‘American Grit’


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Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Noah Galloway (Image: Fox)

Noah Galloway is a veteran who sustained injuries in an IED attack on his second deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005. He lost two of his limbs and sustained severe injuries to his right leg and his jaw.

Related: JR Martinez and Noah Galloway talk ‘Dancing with the Stars’

Like many disabled veterans, Galloway became withdrawn, out of shape and depressed. The former fitness fanatic and athlete was drinking, smoking, and sleeping his days away. But late one night, Galloway realized that there was more to him than the injuries. He walked out of his room realizing that he was setting the example for his boys of what a man is. And for his little girl, the example of how a man should act and it terrified him.

He needed to make a change, and he needed to do it fast. He joined a 24-hour gym and started eating right. He participated in obstacle races and adventure races around the country, such as Tough Mudder, Spartan events, Crossfit competitions plus numerous 5K and 10K races.

Now a personal trainer and motivational speaker, Galloway doesn’t take excuses from his clients, fans, or followers – and finds ways to get things done. Galloway was a season 20 participant of Dancing With The Stars in which he took third place following his appearance on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine and numerous other publications.

Most recently Noah joined WWE Superstar John Cena and three other veterans on American Grit, a military-inspired show on the Fox Network that splits 16 of the toughest men and women into four teams of four who work together to face survival challenges. It’s Galloway’s job to push his team of civilians to act as a team and go beyond their limits.

The show airs Thursday, April 14th at 9/8 central on Fox.

Hosted by:

Selected links and show notes from the episode

•  ‘American Grit‘ on Fox

Noah Galloway website

Noah Galloway Facebook

Noah Galloway Twitter

Noah Galloway Instagram

• [00:00 – 17:00] Talk about American Grit

• [17:00] Family time after filming American Grit

• [20:00] Big fish in a little pond. Noah’s hometown fame

• [25:00] Training civilians

• [28:00] Noah’s VA experience at Walter Reed hospital

• [33:00] Noah’s regret: not integrated with the other veterans at Walter Reed

• [35:00] Noah changes his life around for his kids

• [38:00] Noah’s book and dealing with depression

• [41:00] Veterans are more successful than the American average

• [45:00] Dealing with the VA and mental health care

• [49:00] Changing the VA system survey

Music license by Jingle Punks

 

  • Drum Keys 001-JP
  • Heavy Drivers
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Exclusive excerpt from quadruple amputee Travis Mills’ new book ‘As Tough As They Come’

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot


The following is a WATM exclusive excerpt from Staff Sergeant Travis Mills’ forthcoming book, As Tough as They Come, which will hit shelves on October 27:

We hiked only about 400 yards to the village. In addition to my weapons’ team, there were other squads along on the patrol, a total of twenty-eight soldiers. My lieutenant, Zachary Lewis, went to the left with the first and second squads, heading to meet with the village elders, while the rest of our men went with me around the village on the outside to offer support in case of an attack. Along with my gun team, I had my platoon sergeant and a medic, Sergeant Daniel Bateson. All looked calm. It seemed like just another day in Afghanistan. Another normal patrol.

We approached an abandoned ANA security post (two portable buildings), and stopped near the buildings to establish a security perimeter. I called for Fessey to bring the minesweeper. It’s a wand that goes up and around his arm, and it looks like a metal detector a guy would use at the beach. If the minesweeper makes a noise, that means something’s in the soil. Typically, we’re always listening to hear a beep. If we hear one, then we mark the spot, go around it, and have the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) guys dig out and dispose of whatever’s under there. Whenever we found an IED, we’d never mess with it ourselves. Mines can be unpredictable, and you want the experts to handle them. Some IEDs aren’t even made of metal, just plastic and glass, which can sometimes fool a minesweeper. But even then, the minesweeper is designed to have ground-penetrating capability. It can usually detect if something’s in the ground and it’s not soil.

“Check this area,” was the only order I gave.

Fessey walked up a path used by villagers and scanned all around the area. He went up and back, and all was clear. No beeps. There was no reason to question anything. Fessey finished his minesweeping duties and went to set up on the far flank.

I called Riot up to me and asked him where he thought we should put up the gun. I knew where it should go, but I wanted to let him decide, making sure he knew his stuff. He motioned to exactly where I thought we should put it, a good spot, and I said, “All right. Go get Neff and bring him up here.” That was it. Riot left to go get Neff, and as he did, I set my backpack down. The backpack touching the dirt was all it took.

Such a simple act of war. My world erupted.

I saw a flash of flame and heard a huge ka-boom. Hot jagged pieces of explosives ripped through me. I cartwheeled backward end over end, hit the ground, and slammed my face hard against the compacted earth. Instantly I felt my left eye starting to swell shut. I smelled burning flesh—my own. I tasted dirt, and I was wet with sweat and moisture like I’d just walked out of a hot shower.

Dirt fell everywhere through the air. It rained down and clung to my eyes, nose, and mouth. I don’t remember rolling over but I must have because I glanced to the side and saw that my right arm was completely gone. I caught a glimpse of my left arm, covered in blood and tattered. The arm trembled as if it had a will of its own. I looked down and saw that my right leg was also gone. The stump looked like a piece of raw meat. The bottom of my left leg was still attached but held on by only a few strands of skin. I saw all this in a flash, an instant.

I felt confusion but no panic. My first thought was of my guys. I flopped my remaining arm toward the microphone clipped to my plate carrier and somehow managed to push the button. “I hit a bomb,” I said. “I need help.”

Excerpted from TOUGH AS THEY COME by SSG Travis Mills with Marcus Brotherton; foreword by Gary Sinise. Copyright © 2015 by Travis Mills. Excerpted by permission of Convergent Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Editor’s note: Travis Mills will be speaking at the Veterans Institute Heroes Work Here Conference in Chicago on November 3.

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Senators seek pension hike for Medal of Honor recipients

The country’s 72 living Medal of Honor recipients could see a huge bump in their pensions should legislation proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators pass.


According to a report by MilitaryTimes.com, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a retired Air Force Reserve colonel who made multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced the legislation in order to not only more than double the pensions, but to also provide a travel stipend to allow recipients to tell their stories. Congress.gov notes that the legislation, S. 1209, was introduced on May 23, 2017, but no text was available.

In a May 25, 2017 release, Senator Graham noted that his legislation would increase the pension from $1,303.15 per month to $3,000 per month. These pensions are in addition to other military benefits that these servicemen have earned.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

“Medal of Honor recipients represent the best among us. These heroes have served our country with distinction, and this modest increase is the least we can do to convey our gratitude for their sacrifices. I urge my colleagues to support this bill so that we can do right by our Medal of Honor recipients,” Graham said in the statement.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq War veteran and an original co-sponsor of S.1209, added, “We can never repay our Medal of Honor recipients for everything they’ve done for our country. But we can and should support them on behalf of a grateful nation.”

Many of the Medal of Honor recipients have often traveled to tell their stories at their own expense. The last stipend increase was passed in 2002, according to the release issued by Senator Graham’s office.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Col. Lindsey Graham, a Senior Senator from South Carolina, chats with Command Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Narofsky, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Command Chief, during a briefing int the wing conference room April 9, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ian Carrier)

S. 1209 is expected to cost about $1.5 million per year over the next ten years, according to Senator Graham’s office, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are also original cosponsors of the legislation. Blumenthal was caught up in a stolen valor controversy during his 2010 campaign for the Senate after his claims of service in the Vietnam War were disproven. The controversy re-surfaced this past February.

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The Apache is about to get more lethal against jets and helicopters

The Apache is the big brother in the sky that grunts love to see, hear, and feel flying above them. Its racks of Hellfire missiles are designed to destroy heavy tanks and light bunkers with ease, its rockets can eviscerate enemy formations, and its chain gun is perfect for mopping up any “squirters.”


But the vaunted Apache is getting a lethality upgrade that will allow it to more easily carry the anti-air Stinger missile, reports IHS Janes.

The Stinger missile was originally designed as a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile. Operators aim the weapon, and it detects the infrared energy of the target. When the missile is fired, it homes in on that signature for the kill.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Soldiers fire the Stinger Missile on Sep. 6, 2016, during training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. The air-to-air version of the missile will be easier to mount on Apache helicopters purchased after 2017. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Kyle Edwards)

Apaches currently cannot carry a dedicated air-to-air weapon unless the operators buy an upgrade kit. Even then, the missiles have to be mounted on the outer wingtips instead of on actual weapons pylons.

But missile maker Raytheon and Apache maker Boeing reached an agreement in May to incorporate the attachments for the air-to-air Stinger missile into all new Apaches starting in 2018, Jane’s reports.

The new build will also move the mounting location for Stinger missiles from the outer wingtips to the dedicated weapons pylons.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
The Apache helicopter is a deadly killer of ground targets that is becoming more capable against enemy air assets as well. (Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson)

It will then be much easier for Apaches to engage enemy air assets, something that attack helicopters are surprisingly good at. During the military’s Joint Countering Attack Helicopter exercises in 1978, helicopters with air-to-air weapons racked up a 5:1 kill ratio against jets.

Even if Boeing adds Stinger missile mounts to Apaches, that doesn’t guarantee the Army will buy them. The service is still fighting a long battle about whether it will keep any Apaches in the National Guard due to shortfalls of the aircraft for active duty missions.

So, there’s a very real chance that the Army would rather keep all of its Apaches supporting ground troops rather than re-tasking some to provide anti-air coverage — no matter how cool it would be to see an Apache shoot down an enemy jet.

Still, many of America’s allies like using the Apache to protect their ground units from enemy aircraft. For those who can’t afford many dedicated fighters, a more Stinger-capable Apache gives them the ability to quickly shift anti-air coverage during combat.

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The top 15 military memes of 2015

2015 was a great year with a lot of hilarious military meme wars. Here are 15 of WATM’s favorite from the past year. Share your favorites on our Facebook page.


1. Because 2015 was the year of “F-ck ISIS.”

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
And nothing gets that point across as well as a giant flying pig that fires grenades and rockets while dropping bombs.

2. While American ground troops have seen little combat against Daesh, they have been getting ready.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Just wait till ISIS feels the full effects of Anti-Terrorism Level 1.

3. ISIS was making headlines, but most troops were still just trying to pass inspection:

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Those pants may be ready in time, but that sling is UNSAT.

4. 24-hour operations took their toll:

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

5. Because someone needs to make the ground parade ready.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
They probably get a Combat Action Badge for hitting a mouse with a mower.

6. The Air Force is the chess club of the military.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
It may be the smartest, but no one is jealous.

7. Seriously LT, it’s for your own protection.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
And also our protection. You are definitely not ready for an AT-4.

8. How about, “All the shots, all the kills?”

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
We just need a little more ammo.

9. The worst way to find out your old unit wasn’t exactly “up-to-regs”:

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
You know the old unit is hastily burning all the evidence before the MPs show up to ask questions.

10. The 5.56mm flash bulb.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Lighting the way to victory, one trigger pull at a time.

11. Motorpool says it’s user-level maintenance.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
It’s not deadlined if the commander says to risk it.

12. Cross the mafia at your own risk.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Even the commanding general knows he can’t win without them.

13. The Army is a 9-5 job that starts at 0300.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
The armorer had to be there at 0115.

14. ‘Twas beauty that killed the beast.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
No really, she killed him. With a knife hand. Like, she literally chopped him up using the side of her hand. Marines are dangerous.

15. When chief has more years in service than most of the ships:

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

See you in 2016!

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Released Gitmo detainees implicated in terror attacks on Americans

According to the Washington Post, at least twelve detainees released from the U.S. Navy’s prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba attacked Americans in Afghanistan. The Post claims at least six are dead from these attacks. The attacks were primarily directed at U.S. military personnel, but at least one American aid worker is also dead. Many of the more than 600 detainees released since the U.S. began housing prisoners in Cuba have returned to or entered militancy — the twelve are just a portion of the total who were able to attack American citizens abroad.


Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of Military Police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility on Jan. 11, 2002. The detainees will be given a basic physical exam by a doctor, to include a chest x-ray and blood samples drawn to assess their health. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy)

A Pentagon report from May 2009 suggested that one in seven of the 534 prisoners transferred out of the camp by that time turned (or returned) to terrorism or some other kind of radicalism. At that time, President Obama had plans to close the prison facility at Guantanamo, but strong opposition in the U.S. Senate voted 90-6 to cut the $80 million Obama needed to implement the shutdown.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay during prayer (DoD photo)

The same Pentagon report released by the New York Times in 2009 found that fourteen percent of released Gitmo detainees return to terrorism or homegrown radicalism. By 2014, CNN found that number had grown to 17 percent. The rates of recidivism among these detainees is far, far lower than the average U.S. prisoner. In the U.S. prison system, parolees lapse back into criminal behavior at much higher rates, as high as sixty percent.

Then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller stated that moving the prisoners to U.S. soil comes with an increased terror threat. Michele A. Flournoy, who was then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and is now Hillary Clinton’s presumptive nominee for Secretary of Defense, believes some of the detainees may need to end up in the United States. The closing of the prison in Cuba is likely shelved for the foreseeable future, given that no one knows what to do with the prisoners still housed there.

The 2016 report from the Director of National Intelligence estimates 17.5 percent of the total 676 released detainees since 2002 returned to the battlefield. Half of the total returning militants are now dead or in custody with foreign governments. The 2016 DNI Report does not include the numbers of Americans or American troops killed in action against former detainees.

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This presidential nominee’s campaign was tanked by a tank

In the 1988 presidential campaign, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee for President, had a problem: he needed to look credible as a commander-in-chief during a time when Democrats were being criticized for their defense policies.


Throughout the 1980s, the Reagan Administration had been pushing through a major peace-time military build-up.

According to CQ Researcher, a large portion of the Democrats in Congress had opposed that build-up in the 1984 elections. That caused the perception that the Democrats were being weak on defense, which led to Reagan’s 49-state landslide.

Dukakis had been among those who were critical of the buildup, the mainstays of which — the B-1B Lancer, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, and a host of other weapon systems – are in service today (with a few exceptions).

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
An E-2C Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft flies over the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zackary Alan Landers/Released)

Worse, according to a 2013 article in Politico, during the month of August, Dukakis had gone from leading Vice President George H.W. Bush by 17 points to trailing him, and one big reason was that 54 percent of Americans felt that then-Vice President Bush would do a better job on national security, while only 18 percent thought Dukakis would.

To counter that, Dukakis went on a swing that discussed defense, but one event was marked by defense workers jeering him. Then, he went on a visit to a General Dynamics plant in Michigan where he planned to ride in an M1 Abrams tank, a key part of the buildup that Democrats had criticized.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Aerial drone image of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew. (Dept. of Defense image)

However, to do the ride, Dukakis was told he had to wear protective headgear. He did so, and ended up sealing his fate.

Within a week, the photo of Dukakis in the helmet had become a joke (think Kushner in his vest), but the worst was to come when operatives with Bush’s campaign developed an attack ad. Using 11 seconds of footage, they highlighted Dukakis’s opposition to the Reagan buildup and foreign policy.

Dukakis, who had already been trailing, and already saw 25 percent of Americans less likely to vote for him, was now in freefall. He eventually lost the 1988 election by seven million votes.

You can see a video by Politico on the infamous tank ride below.

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This Holocaust survivor joined the Army and earned a Medal of Honor

Army Cpl. Tibor Rubin was not the average soldier in the Korean War.


The Hungarian Jew was a survivor of the Third Reich’s concentration camps who pledged to join the Army if he ever made it to America.

He made it to the U.S., joined the infantry, fought to his last round against a massive Chinese attack, and then refused an early release from a Chinese prisoner of war camp so that he could use his lessons from the concentration camps to save his peers.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Army Cpl. Tibor Rubin received the Medal of Honor in 2005. Photo: Public Domain

Rubin began trying to join the U.S. Army in 1948, but he had to study English for two years before he could speak it well enough to enlist. That allowed him to enter the service in 1950, just in time for the Korean War.

Unfortunately, Rubin’s first sergeant in Korea was extremely anti-semitic. Multiple sworn statements from members of Rubin’s unit say that the first sergeant would make remarks about Rubin’s religion and then assign him to the most dangerous missions.

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Soldiers man the perimeter at Pusan in Sept. 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. Thomas Nebbia)

In 1950, Rubin was assigned to hold a hill near Pusan as the rest of the unit fell back to a more defendable position. Rubin filled the foxholes near his position with grenades, rifles, and carbines.

When the North Koreans attacked, Rubin fought viciously for 24 hours, throwing grenades, firing weapons, and single-handedly stopping the attack. Rubin was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the first sergeant trashed the orders.

Instead of receiving a Medal of Honor, Rubin was sent on more and more dangerous missions. In one, an American position was slowly whittled down by incoming fire until only one machine gun remained.

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A soldier of the 120th Engineer Battalion, 45th Infantry Division sets up camouflage net near the front lines in Korea in 1952. (U.S. Army photo)

After three other soldiers were killed while manning the gun, Rubin stepped forward and began firing until his last round was expended. That was when he was severely wounded and captured by Chinese forces.

In the prisoner of war camp, the Chinese offered Rubin a deal. If he was willing to leave Korea, he could return to his home country of Hungary and sit out the rest of the war.

Rubin declined, opting instead to stay with his brothers and help them survive the prisons. In the camps, he ran a makeshift medical clinic, scavenged for food, and even broke out of the camp to steal supplies and broke back in to deliver them to other soldiers in need.

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A grief-stricken American infantryman whose buddy has been killed in action is comforted by another soldier in the Haktong-ni area, Korea, on August 28, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Al Chang) (Cutline: National Archives and Records Administration)

For decades after he returned to the U.S., Rubin lived in relative obscurity. It wasn’t until President George W. Bush ordered a review of the denied recommendations for high valor awards that Rubin’s story came back to light.

In 2005, Bush placed the Medal of Honor around the old soldier’s neck during a White House ceremony.

The citation for the medal includes his solo defense of the hill near Pusan, his manning of the machine gun, his role in helping to capture hundreds of enemy soldiers, and his actions in the prisoner of war camp.

To hear Cpl. Tibor Rubin tell his story in his own words, watch the video from Medal of Honor: Oral Histories below:

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Russia appears to now be aiding the Taliban

Back in the 1980s, the US supported Afghan “freedom fighters” against the Soviet Union. Those fighters later morphed into the Taliban. And now, the Russians seem to be returning the favor.


Moscow said last month it was in contact with the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, with the stated reason being that Russia was sharing information and cooperating on strategy to fight the local ISIS affiliate there, according to The Wall Street Journal. So far, cooperation apparently doesn’t involve cash or guns.

But it understandably has US commanders there spooked.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top American military commander in Afghanistan, has spoken out against Russia’s extension of an olive branch to the Taliban as offering “overt” legitimacy to a group intent on toppling the Afghan government.

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Russia’s “narrative goes something like this: that the Taliban are the ones fighting Islamic State, not the Afghan government,” Nicholson said at a Pentagon briefing last month. “So this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO efforts and bolster the belligerents.”

Surprisingly, even Taliban officials say the excuse of offering help to fight ISIS doesn’t add up. Two officials disputed that characterization, including the group’s spokesman, who toldReuters that “ISIS is not an issue.” In fact, both groups forged a shaky truce in August 2016 to turn their guns away from each other, and instead target US-backed Afghan forces.

“In early 2008, when Russia began supporting us, ISIS didn’t exist anywhere in the world,” one senior Taliban official told Reuters. “Their sole purpose was to strengthen us against the US and its allies.”

As the Journal reported, it’s still unclear how a Trump administration will handle Afghanistan. The situation there has steadily declined since the Obama administration ended its “combat mission” in the country in 2014, and government forces only control about  two-thirds of the country now, according to Reuters.

Besides potential Russian meddling, Afghanistan is rife with political corruption and tribalism, while many civilians report to a “shadow” government run by the Taliban instead of the national one.

The Pentagon announced it was sending roughly 300 Marines back to the southern Helmand province this spring, where Marines haven’t been on patrol since leaving in 2014.

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Report finds VA suicide hotline lets many crisis calls go to voicemail

The Veterans Affairs Inspector General found calls at the main VA suicide hotline center in Canandaigua, New York allowed calls to go to voicemail, and that some are never returned due to inadequate training and an overloaded staff.


The hotline was the subject of the 2014 Academy Award-winning documentary “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” which profiles several Veterans’ Crisis Line counselors who work the 24-hour service to provide support and guidance to active and retired servicemen dealing with emotional, physical and financial troubles.

“We substantiated allegations that some calls routed to backup crisis centers were answered by voicemail, and callers did not always receive immediate assistance,” said a VA report filed in February 2016.

The VA estimates every sixth call is going to the backup center, where callers listen to Muzak while they wait for an operator. The VA has no information on how long the callers wait or how many give up because the backup centers are not monitored by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Since the suicide hotline was created in 2007, it has received more than two million calls and intervened on 53,000 separate occasions. The new report recommends obtaining and analyzing data on hold times, implementing call monitoring for the crisis line staff, more rigorous training with a rigorous quality assurance process.