Military photographers from all branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked through the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found:
Tech. Sgt. Donnie McCorkle watches a C-17 Globemaster III land at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
A C-5M Super Galaxy sits on the flightline as Airmen clear snow Feb. 17, 2015, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Winter Storm Octavia dumped a total of four inches of snow on the base and throughout the local area.
SEMBAWANG, Singapore (Feb. 19, 2015) Culinary Specialist 1st Class Robert Parks, from Fostoria, Ohio, heaves a mooring line on the forecastle of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) during a sea and anchor detail.
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (Feb. 18, 2014) Cmdr. Ron Neitzke, Camp Lemonnier command chaplain, places ashes on the forehead of Chief Hospital Corpsman Alvin Cruz during an Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a Christian religious observance that covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday.
An Army Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), provides security for a mule carrying the Mk 47 grenade launcher during MULE Packing Training on Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 27, 2015.
Army Medicine researchers are investigating possible long-term effects of exposure to dust and other airborne particulate matter.
ARLINGTON, Va. – Sergeant Major Micheal Barrett, the 17th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, relinquished his post to Sergeant Major Ronald Green, the 18th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, during a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Virginia, Feb. 20, 2015.
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina – Lance Cpl. Zachary Painter (left) and Lance Cpl. Reymond Kane, machine gunners with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and natives of Roanoke, Va. and Long Island, N.Y., respectively, simulate firing at an enemy during a gun drill at training area G-G aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 18, 2015.
A USCG helicopter stands ready as the sun sets on another day of service to nation.
USCG crew responds to 13 yr. old boy needing medical attention aboard cruise ship.
Called the “Counter-External Operations Task Force” – and dubbed “Ex-Ops” in the Pentagon – it takes the JSOC targeting model and expands it to a global scale, bypassing regional combatant commanders, answering to the Special Operations Command, to expedite the U.S. efforts to attack global terror networks, the story says.
Previously, methods used to target and kill individual terrorists or small cells involved deploying a unit under SOCOM command to regional combatant commands, who would direct the SOCOM assets. The new changes under the Obama administration will, in practice, elevate SOCOM to a regional combatant command.
The Post cites anonymous sources who say the new task force is the “codification” of the U.S. military’s best practices honed over the past 15 years in the War on Terror.
Some fear that elevating SOCOM authority and allowing its mission to bypass existing commanders will cause friction between commands, but reducing layers of authority and red tape is the purpose of the Ex-Ops mission.
“Layers have been stripped away for the purposes of stopping external networks,” a defense official told the Washington Post. “There has never been an ex-ops command team that works trans-regionally to stop attacks.”
World War One airplanes began as primitive, unarmed artillery spotters that could barely take offensive action – and ended as powerful bombers and sleek modern fighters. Germany, the UK, and France led the way in aircraft development, creating iconic aircraft like the SPAD, Sopwith Camel, and the scourge of allied pilots, the German Fokker.
This was a time when air-to-air combat was quite literally being made up as pilots went along. The first fighter planes were little more than lumbering artillery spotters with an extra man carrying a revolver. Soon, the interrupter gear was invented, giving aircraft the ability to shoot through their propellers. German technology quickly took control of the skies, first in the “Fokker scourge” of 1916, then “Bloody April” 1917. But Allied pilots fought back, and by the end of the war, both sides had thousands of the most sophisticated planes available, and experienced pilots to fly them.
Aircraft technology developed so quickly that fighters would be rolled out in mass quantities, and be obsolete by the time they were actually used. Even so, the war pioneered many of the tactics used in World War 2 aircraft, including heavy bombers escorted by fighters, deep-penetration reconnaissance planes, night fighters and bombers, and innovative technology.
Here are some of the most important, widely-produced, iconic, and effective planes of World War 1. Vote up your favorites or add your own.
Three is better than one, right? That’s the basic idea missile developers had in mind when designing the Starstreak, a deadly man-portable air-defense system.
“Three darts give us the very high probability of at least one dart hitting the target and we would normally expect two darts to actually hit the target,” said Hill Wilson, the weapon’s technical director. “Three gives a very good punch.”
Manufactured by Thales Air Defense in Belfast, United Kingdom, the Starstreak accelerates towards targets at speeds faster than Mach four, making it one of the fastest short-range surface-to-air missiles in the world. It was developed in the 1980s to replace existing shoulder-launched missiles and officially entered service in 1997. Troops can fire the round from various portable launcher systems including the THOR Multi-Mission System as demonstrated in the following video.
(Skip to 5:30 to watch the portion about the Starstreak missile.)
Not planning a two-day Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon right before seeing “Avengers: Infinity War?”
Nobody has time for that.
To accommodate fans who want to freshen up their knowledge, we collected a list of the most essential MCU movies to watch right before you see “Infinity War,” which is scheduled for release April 27, 2018.
From “Captain America: The First Avenger” to “Thor: Ragnarok,” here are the 8 MCU movies you need to catch up on.
(To see where to watch, check this list of where to stream all 18 movies in the MCU.)
Here’s 7 MCU movies to watch before seeing “Infinity War”:
1.”Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)
In addition to debuting Captain America, this movie introduces us to the Infinity Stones, setting up the story years before “Infinity War.” The film’s villain, Red Skull, is trying to gain the power of the Tesseract, which contains the blue Space Stone.
2. “The Avengers” (2012)
In “The Avengers,” Loki is working for Thanos. He makes a failed attempt to get the Tesseract and take over Earth. It’s also an introduction to the Avengers team, and Mark Ruffalo’s version of the Hulk. In 2012, this movie felt like the biggest movie of all time, but now it feels so small.
3. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)
“Civil War” is important because it divides the team right before “Infinity War.” It’s also essentially an Avengers movie. Captain America and his friends are now on the run from the law because of what happens in this movie, so it will be interesting to see how a team that is so divided sets aside their differences and comes together.
“Civil War” is available to stream on Netflix.
4. “Doctor Strange” (2016)
Doctor Strange will play a pretty prominent role in “Infinity War” since he has the Time Stone, which Thanos needs to achieve his goal of wiping out half the universe. “Doctor Strange” is a really good movie, and it will help you better understand Strange’s complicated and cool powers.
“Doctor Strange” is available to stream on Netflix.
5. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)
“Ragnarok” — which is a weird, fun action-comedy that defies all action movie laws in the best way — directly sets up “Infinity War,” so you absolutely have to see it. If you don’t, you’ll be very confused. The film focuses on Thor and Loki’s complicated relationship, which could be important in “Infinity War,” depending on where Loki’s loyalties lie.
6. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)
Since Thanos, the primary villain in “Infinity War,” is the father of two Guardians of the Galaxy, these films are worth revisiting to get an idea of how Gamora and Nebula feel about their dad. They don’t like him, but it’s complicated. This dynamic could play a huge role in “Infinity War.”
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is available to stream on Netflix.
7. “Black Panther”
You’ve seen the trailers. There’s clearly a huge battle scene in “Infinity War” that takes place in Wakanda, and it looks like some of the characters from the movie will make an appearance. You’ll have to go to a theater to see “Black Panther,” since the DVD and Blu-ray release isn’t until May 8, 2018, but it’s worth it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Despite Hot Shots Part Deux‘s claim to be the bloodiest movie ever, we actually did the math and found the top body counts for war films featuring the U.S. military. These counts are only for onscreen, confirmed dead. If they’re still moving when the director cuts to the next shot, it doesn’t count. The results are surprising.
9. Delta Force
Despite his online reputation for ceaseless badassery, Chuck Norris’ seminal work Delta Force only has 78 confirmed kills. Though admittedly, 43 of those are at the hands of Chuck Norris himself.
8. Rambo Series
First Blood (commonly known as “the Rambo movie”) is the most surprising. With a body count of one confirmed kill, you wonder how John Rambo earned the reputation of being Hollywood’s biggest military badass… until you see the rest of the Rambo films (lots of cops go through windows, though). Body counts rise at a near exponential rate after the commies kill Rambo’s love interest, with 80 kills in First Blood Part II, 158 in Rambo III, and a whopping 273 in 2008’s Rambo. At that rate, I imagine that Rambo: Last Bloodwill maim more people than a movie starring 100 untamed lions.
7. The Patriot
Another surprise is the number of onscreen deaths in The Patriot. Mel Gibson’s Revolutionary War film, based on the Southern colonies’ fight against brutal British Colonel Banastre Tarleton, only had 123 onscreen kills.
6. Black Hawk Down
Black Hawk Down is considered one of the most realistic portrayals of any military action ever depicted onscreen, but the 135 deaths (122 Somalis, 13 Americans) doesn’t reflect the real-world body count of 1,500 Somalis, 18 Americans, 1 Malaysian and 1 Pakistani.
5. Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg’s WWII epic Saving Private Ryan defined the distinctive WWII onscreen look and feel, replicated again and again. Appropriately, the film starts with his vision of the intense D-Day landings at Normandy. The final tally, including the dog tags of the KIA, stands at 243.
Platoon’s 277 kills are enough to give anyone a thousand-yard stare.
3. We Were Soldiers
The 305 total onscreen deaths between US forces and the North Vietnamese Army in We Were Soldiers gives Mel Gibson war film extras a higher mortality rate than Sean Bean in any film or TV show ever.
2. Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s films have a reputation for violence and his WWII masterwork Inglourious Basterds delivers Lieutenant Aldo Raine’s scalps and then some with a confirmed kill count of 315.
The all-time top body count of any movie featuring US troops in combat goes to Nicolas Cage’s Windtalkers with a whopping 548 onscreen kills.
When the Japanese attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, they did so in a coordinated effort that spanned across the Pacific.
Having been weakened by sanctions imposed by the United States, the Japanese sought to deliver a crushing blow to the U.S. and its allies, claiming much of the territory in the East and leaving little means for resistance.
These are the five battles that occurred simultaneously (though on December 8 because they were across the international date line) as the attack on Pearl Harbor, effectively beginning the war in the Pacific:
1. Battle of Guam
Along with the air attacks at Pearl Harbor the Japanese also began air raids against the island of Guam on the morning of December 8, 1941. Two days later an oversized Japanese invasion force landed on the island. After quickly defeating the local Insular Guard force, the Japanese moved on to the under-strength Marine Corps detachment led by Lt. Col. William MacNulty. After a brief resistance, the Marines were ordered to surrender by the islands governor. However, six men from the U.S. Navy fled into the jungle in hopes of evading capture. Five were eventually captured and executed but one, George Ray Tweed, managed to hold out with the help of the local Chamorro tribe for over two and a half years until U.S. forces retook the island in 1944. To the locals he represented the hope of an American return to the island. When the Americans returned he was able to signal a nearby destroyer and pass on valuable targeting information.
2. Battle of Wake Island
When the Japanese first launched their air attacks on Wake Island, they caught the U.S. off guard and managed to destroy precious aircraft on the ground. However, when the Japanese invasion came on Dec. 11, 1941, the Americans were ready and threw back the initial Japanese landing attempt. The Japanese proceeded to lay siege to the island. Aerial bombardment continued but Wake Island became a bright spot in the Pacific as American forces were pushed back elsewhere. The media dubbed it the “Alamo of the Pacific.” Eventually, on Dec. 23, 1941, the Japanese launched another assault on the island. Again the defenders put up a staunch resistance. With no more flyable planes, the Marine aviators — as well as civilians trapped on the island — joined in the fight. Capt. Henry Elrod would become the first Marine aviator to earn the Medal of Honor for his actions there. Despite the intrepid defense, the island was surrendered. The defenders joined the others across the Pacific in their brutal treatment by the Japanese.
3. Battle of the Philippines
When the first Japanese forces hit the islands north of Luzon, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, brought out of retirement for just such an occasion, had over 31,000 American and Philippine troops under his command. These forces put up a determined resistance throughout December, but on Christmas Eve MacArthur called for a fighting withdrawal to the Bataan Peninsula. Once his forces were consolidated on Bataan and the harbor islands of Manila Bay, they dug in to make a final stand against the Japanese onslaught. For several months they held out until shortages of all necessary war supplies dwindled.
The survivors were rounded up and subjected to the brutal Bataan Death March on their way to POW Camps. A lucky few were able to withdraw to Corregidor. A defensive force centered on the 4th Marine Regiment and, augmented by numerous artillery units numbering 11,000 men, prepared to defend Corregidor from the Japanese. That attack came on May 5, 1942. The next day Gen. Wainwright, in the face of overwhelming odds and no prospects of relief, decided to surrender the American forces in the Philippines.
4. Battle of Hong Kong
The Americans were not the only targets of the Japanese and so at 8:00 a.m. local time, Japanese forces from mainland China attacked the British Commonwealth forces defending Hong Kong. British, Canadian, and Indian troops manned defensive positions but were woefully undermanned.
Initial attempts to stop the Japanese at the Gin Drinker’s Line, a defensive line to the north of Hong Kong island, were unsuccessful due to a lack of manpower. The defenders also lacked the experience of the Japanese troops that were attacking. Within three days, the defenders had withdrawn from the mainland portion of the colony and set up defenses on the island of Hong Kong.
The Japanese quickly followed and, after British refusal to surrender, attacked across Victoria Harbor on Dec. 19. Less than a week later, on Christmas day 1941, the British surrendered Hong Kong to the Japanese. The survivors endured numerous atrocities at the hands of the Japanese.
5. Malayan Campaign and the Battle of Singapore
Another British target of the Japanese was Singapore for its important strategic location and because it was a strong base for British resistance. In order to capture Singapore, the Japanese launched the Malayan Campaign on Dec. 8, 1941. On the first day of the campaign the Japanese also launched the first aerial bombardment against Singapore.
In an attempt to intercept the Japanese invasion force, the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Repulse were sunk by Japanese aircraft. This left very little in the means of naval power for the British fleet in Singapore.
On land the Commonwealth forces fared no better. The Japanese stormed down the peninsula, forcing the defenders back towards Singapore. By the end of January 1942 the entire peninsula had fallen and the British set in to defend Singapore. The Japanese launched their assault on Singapore on Feb. 8, 1942. Some 85,000 troops stood ready to defend the city but could only hold out for a week before capitulating. This ended British resistance in the Pacific area.
The British lost nearly 140,000 men — the vast majority of whom were captured — in the campaign. As with the fighting elsewhere, the campaign was marked by Japanese cruelty.
Let’s be honest, punching paper at the range is boring.
If the RO is a hardass, it’s standard targets, a second between shots and no movement or draws.
But when you get out to the wilds and can really stretch out your irons, it’s a perfect time for a little trickery.
These 12 trick shots performed by the crew at Dude Perfect take some serious skill to ace. If you’ve got a range where you can shoot props, stick to the four rules, and give ’em a whirl.
1. The Rainbow Six kick shot
This is more of a physics problem than anything else, but nailing a three-point shot with help from the butt end of a scattergun is kinda rad.
via GIPHYNot sure if I’d want to heft a basketball hoop into the backcountry for that one though.
2. Splitting the bullet
First of all, rocking a Kriss Vector with a can is badass enough, but splitting those 230 grains of .45 ACP ballistic goodness on the edge of an axe? Now that’s taking it to a whole new level of awesomeness.
Who doesn’t love drones bro? Who doesn’t hate the idea of one snooping on you? This is one all “people of the gun” should embed firmly into their muscle memory for the day when the government goons come to take our pieces.
via GIPHYJust don’t try it on that $1,000 DJI Phantom.
4. Firepower versus fruit
It’s the bread and butter shot of folks like FPSRussia and the Fruit Assassin, but who doesn’t like seeing the pulp fly with a little 30-06 fun through a watermelon?
But still, shot placement is key here — get it right in the sweet spot and you’re go for throttle up.
7. The blind shot
OK, now this one gives us a case of the heebie jeebies since we’re technically violating one of the four rules of firearm safety here (“know your target and what’s beyond”). But it’s such a radical shot that no tactard out there could admit to not wanting to try at some point on their ballistic bucket list.
Few substances have done more to sex up the art of backyard plinking than the mix-and-go explosive fun of Tannerite. I mean, you can buy buckets of it at Walmart so why not race your friends to blow up buckets of it?
And we like the fact that the bolt gunner smoked the competition here.
9. Fog blaster
We’re not sure what’s so tricky about this one, but like the “splitting bullet” shot, it’s kind of all about the blaster. And pairing a .50 caliber SASR with a bucket of Tannerite? That’s like washing down a dry aged Strassburger ribeye with a 1947 Cheval Blanc.
via GIPHYIt looks like a hand-me-down .22 with iron sights. Could there be some ballistic app running in the background there?
Not sure, but this is one we’re definitely going to try the next time the RO isn’t breathing down our necks.
12. Rainbow Six half mile shot
At the end of the day, making long shots is impressive in its own right. And while stretching it out to about 900 yards isn’t totally, wickedly difficult, dropping a b-ball into the hoop by popping a balloon at 900 yards is kinda darn awesome.
via GIPHYBe sure to watch the entire Dude Perfect trick shot video for more gun fun.
Adam West was born, and drafted into the Army, as William West. In the military, he was in charge of standing up TV stations at San Luis Obispo, California, and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. But if it seems odd that the star of a farcical show like the 1966 version of “Batman” got his start in the Army, it was actually the perfect way to prepare for such a ridiculous show.
Here are six reasons why:
1. Renaming everything to some arbitrary standard like “bat cuffs,” “bat time,” and “bat channel,” makes sense for anyone who has had to relearn names for Velcro, Duck Tape, and zipper
Those are ridiculous ways of referring to Velcro, Duck Tape, and zippers, which are all brand names that the Army can’t use in official doctrine. So young Billy West would have gotten used to using the Army names. It was probably easy to start calling everything “bat” later in life.
2. Dealing with a group of ne’er-do-wells like the “Batman” villains is old hat for anyone who has dealt with an Army squad
Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Archer, and other crazy villains were always hatching insane schemes in the Batman TV show. But, once again, the Army would’ve prepared the future Bruce Wayne for this.
Soldiers decide to get high with spice and bath salts? Yup, sounds about right. Troops smuggling liquor overseas by pouring it into Listerine bottles and mixing in food coloring? Seen it. Enlisted hijinks are basically Silver Age Batman ridiculous, just without the fancy gadgets and costumes.
3. Having to mentor a grown adult while treating them like a child is how all specialists deal with new privates
One of the more awkward truths about the Batman is that Robin, the Boy Wonder, was actually a 21-year-old man when the show began. The grown adult Adam West had to act like mentoring another grown man while treating him like a child wasn’t sort of weird.
But again, the Army is perfect preparation for this. After all, most specialists have only been in the military for a few years and they can be assigned responsibility of a private first class who has been in the Army a couple of years. So, 24-year-old supervising 20-year-olds.
4. Spending all of your time with an attractive lady without giving in is easy for any NCO who had to ignore their co-ed lieutenant’s good looks
One of Batman’s greatest villains was Catwoman, who definitely had a thing going on with Batman. But Batman refused to give in to it (though he almost kissed her once, and a later incarnation of Batman ran off to Europe with her).
But any specialist or sergeant who has pulled overnight duty with an even moderately attractive officer knows what it’s like to weigh the consequences of “fraternization” over and over. Chances are, young and attractive Billy West had to say no to a few female sergeants and officers, or at least find the right place to give in without getting caught.
5. Only in the military and “Batman” can the little stuff be crucial during an emergency
This is a small one, but most organizations will let little things go during an emergency. But Batman doesn’t accept any of that crap from Robin. Proper grammar is important, and Batman corrects Robin even as Catwoman tries to get away on a rocket.
You know, just like a sergeant major yelling about gloves during a firefight or reflective belts during literally anything.
6. Working within made-up rules is easy for anyone who has dealt with UCMJ and Rules of Engagement
Batman runs into some pretty stupid bureaucratic problems during the show, like that time the Riddler sues Batman (while using riddles to explain his scheme, because of course he did) for false imprisonment and assault.
We all know Santa’s making a list, checking it twice… probably with some help from the NSA. Meanwhile, North American Aerospace Defense Command is also making a list and checking it twice to ensure their considerable assets are ready to help ensure that Santa accomplishes his mission safely.
This long-running tradition started by accident during the height of the Cold War. But it’s stuck around, even in the post-9/11 era. According to a 2008 Air Force release, the accident occurred in 1955, when NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense command, or CONAD, got a call from a kid. A newspaper had misprinted a phone number to allow kids to track jolly old St. Nick. Instead of the local Sears store, they got the operations hotline for CONAD.
Colonel Harry Shoup was the director of operations on that Christmas Eve. Tracking Santa had not been something he’d prepared for or had been briefed to do. But when each kid called, he provided them Santa’s position, saving Christmas for the kids by assuring them that Santa was safe and on the job. The next year, CONAD did it again, and did so the year after that. When NORAD took over for CONAD in 1958, they assumed that Christmas Eve duty – and tradition – as well. In 2015, a DOD release noted that over 1500 volunteers helped carry out the mission.
The official web site, www.NORADSanta.org, includes videos, games, music, and a gift shop. There is also a Facebook page for that in this era of social media. And yes, there are apps for tracking Santa on Windows phones, Android phones, and iPhones. NORAD says that starting at 2:01 AM Eastern Standard Time on Dec. 24, they will have video of Santa making preparations for his mission. At 6 AM EST that day, live phone operators will be available at 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to email@example.com. And check out this video of the history of how NORAD got started.
Two Kurdish peshmerga troops were killed in the attack, and two French special operators were also seriously wounded. One is still in critical condition. Both were whisked away back to France immediately.
Due to the rapid proliferation of drone technology and the fact that component prices have dropped significantly over the past few years, militant groups are quickly adopting drones as a new weapon.
And yet, the use of drones with explosives, much less against Western forces, is uncommon. In many cases, ISIS simply uses drones for surveillance footage to use in propaganda films.
U.S. forces in Iraq now carry the equipment to bring down these kinds of drones, such as a Battelle DroneDefender, which actually doesn’t even use bullets. Rather, the technology works by disrupting the communication line between the drone and its operator.
It’s unclear if France possesses the same counter-drone technology in the field.
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As of 2015 the Berlin Wall has been down almost as long as it stood separating the German people. The wall built by the Communist German Democratic Republic (GDR – better known as East Germany) around the Western sectors of Berlin became a longstanding symbol of the divide between Western Capitalism and Eastern Communism during the Cold War. In the 28 years it stood, no place on Earth was so central to world events as Berlin and the reason for that is the Berlin Wall. Twenty-six years after its fall, it’s worth a look to see the how Cold War history played out surrounding such a central, divisive symbol.
After World War II, West Germany was occupied by France, England, and the United States, East Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union. Berlin, despite being deep in Soviet-occupied territory, was also partitioned in a similar way. After the Berlin Airlift ended a Soviet blockade — really an attempt to push the West out of Berlin through economic strangulation — fears of further drifts toward a full Communist state in the East prompted many to emigrate to West Germany in exponential numbers. These were mostly young, well-educated Germans whose flight became known as a “Brain Drain” of East German intelligentsia and workers. Only 61% of the East’s working age population remained. Something had to be done and what better way to make people want to stay in your country than by walling them in and threatening them with constant torture and execution?
The borders around West Berlin were closed on August 13, 1961 as the Soviets tore up the streets, erected fences, and placed barbed wire. Families were suddenly split, jobs were lost and the United States had no official response. The U.S. didn’t actually think there was valid reason for its permanent erection. Then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk said, “The Wall certainly ought not to be a permanent feature of the European landscape. I see no reason why the Soviet Union should think it is—it is to their advantage in any way to leave there that monument to Communist failure.”
Erected in 1961, it was called the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall” by the GDR, who placed rows of barbed wire a guard towers along the wall. It would soon become a symbol for the corruption and lack of freedom for those living in the Soviet Union-dominated Eastern Bloc, as the world recognized it as a true “Iron Curtain,” a means to keep East Germans from getting to West German freedom, instead of keeping West Germans out of the East Germany. It would be upgraded three times after its construction.
President Kennedy denounced its construction and appointed retired Army General Lucius D. Clay as Ambassador. Clay was the mastermind of the Berlin Airlift, former military governor of American-controlled Germany, nicknamed “the Kaiser” and was wildly popular with Berliners. Following Kennedy’s order to reinforce the Allied defenders of West Berlin, Clay ordered 1,500 men with vehicles and trailers from West Germany, through East Germany to West Berlin, where they were met by Clay and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson as a show of strength and a reassertion of the Allies’ access to Berlin.
In June, 1963, President Kennedy visited the Berlin for the first time with General Clay to reaffirm the U.S. dedication of support for West Germany and to remind the Soviet Union of that support.
Hundreds of East German died trying to get to freedom on the other side of the wall, thousands were successful in defecting across the wall. They would dig tunnels below the wall, flying hot air balloons, through the sewers, or just driving cars at max speed through weaker sections. One East German guard even drove his tank through the wall to defect. Western guards were not able to help defectors until they were on the Western side of the wall.
In 1988, the year before the Berlin Wall fell, Bruce Springsteen played the Berlin Wall in a concert organized by East German Communist authorities in an attempt to pacify East German youth. Communist authorities saw rock music as a “nefarious cultural weapon” (and for much of the music of the 1980’s, that assertion isn’t far off), so the concert was a surprising shockk to much of the world, most of all East Germans. Springsteen didn’t miss the importance of the event. After playing Born in the U.S.A. in front of 300,000 East Germans, he delivered a short speech in German:
“I’m not here for any government,” he began. “I’ve come to play rock and roll for you in the hope that one day, all the barriers will be torn down.”
The crowd went wild. Sixteen months later, on November 9, 1989, the government of the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, announced Germans living in the East would then be free to visit West Germany and West Berlin. That day, East and West Germans crowded the Berlin Wall, and systematically chipped away and demolished it.
When veterans of World War II returned home to McMinn County, Tennessee, they probably weren’t surprised to find that many of the same politicians from before the war were still running the place. A local political machine run by Paul Cantrell had been suspected of running the county and committing election fraud since 1936.
However, when the sheriff’s deputies began targeting the veterans with fines for minor arrests, the vets suspected they were being taken advantage of. One veteran, Bill White, later told American Heritage magazine:
“There were several beer joints and honky-tonks around Athens; we were pretty wild; we started having trouble with the law enforcement at that time because they started making a habit of picking up GIs and fining them heavily for most anything—they were kind of making a racket out of it.
“After long hard years of service—most of us were hard-core veterans of World War II—we were used to drinking our liquor and our beer without being molested. When these things happened, the GIs got madder—the more GIs they arrested, the more they beat up, the madder we got …”
By early 1946, the vets and the townspeople were tired of what they saw as corrupt practices by Paul Cantrell and his lackeys. The vets started their own political party with candidates for five offices. The focus of the contest was the race for sheriff between Paul Cantrell and Henry Knox, a veteran of North Africa.
Everyone knew that the election could turn violent. Veterans in nearby Blount County promised 450 men who could assist in any need that McMinn County had on election day. In response, Cantrell hired two hundred “deputies” from outside the county to guard polling places.
What happened next would go down as the “Battle of Athens,” or the “McMinn County War.”
Tensions built on election day as the veterans faced off with the special deputies. By 3 p.m., an hour before the polls closed, violence broke out. Deputies beat and shot a black farmer who tried to vote and arrested two veterans who were then held hostage in the Athens Water Works. Other veterans responded by taking hostage deputies who were sent to arrest them. Still, Cantrell was able to fill most of the ballot boxes with purchased votes and get them to the jail, ensuring he would win the election.
While the sheriff and his lackeys counted the votes in the jail, White and the other veterans were getting angry. Finally, sometime after 6 p.m., White led a raid on the National Guard armory to get guns.
White said in a 1969 interview that they “broke down the armory doors and took all the rifles, two Thompson sub-machine guns, and all the ammunition we could carry, loaded it up in the two-ton truck and went back to GI headquarters and passed out seventy high-powered rifles and two bandoleers of ammunition with each one.”
The veterans set siege to the jail, firing on deputies that were outside the jail when they arrived. One deputy fell wounded into the building while another crawled under a car after he was hit in his leg. But, Cantrell and others were safely locked behind the brick walls of the jail. The veterans needed to get through before other police or the National Guard arrived.
Molotov cocktails proved ineffective but at 2:30 in the morning, someone arrived with dynamite. At about the same time, an ambulance arrived and the veterans let it through, assuming it was there for the wounded. Instead, Paul Cantrell and one of his men escaped in it.
A few minutes later, the vets started throwing dynamite. The first bundle was used to blow up a deputy’s cruiser, flipping it over. Then, three more bundles were thrown. One landed on the porch roof, one under another car, and one against the jail wall. The nearly simultaneous explosions destroyed the wall and car and threw the jail porch off of its foundation.
The deputies in the jail, as well as some hiding out in the courthouse, surrendered immediately. The veterans were then forced to protect the deputies as local townspeople attempted to kill them. At least one deputy had his throat slit and another of Cantrell’s men was shot in the jaw.
The veterans established a patrol to keep the peace. To prevent a counterattack by Cantrell, the vets placed machine guns at all the approaches to Athens, where the jail and courthouse were located.
The rest of the incident played out without violence. Henry Knox took over as sheriff Aug. 4, 1946 and future elections dismantled what was left of Cantrell’s machine.
Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube/ Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions