American television personality Montel Williams wants the Democratic presidential candidates to talk about a Marine veteran imprisoned in Iran, and he’s using his star power to make it happen.
In addition to questions asked by the moderators at Tuesday’s debate, CNN is soliciting questions from anyone via Facebook and Instagram, some of which will end up being asked by Don Lemon. In a video posted to his Facebook page, Williams — who served in the Marine Corps and Navy — asks about Amir Hekmati, a Marine veteran held in Iran for more than four years, the longest of any American held there.
“What will the candidates do to bring him home so that his father’s dying wish to see his son just one more time comes true?” Williams asks.
Born in Arizona to Iranian immigrants in 1983, Amir Hekmati served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps — mostly as a translator — and he was discharged in 2005 as a sergeant. In 2011, he decided to visit his extended family in Tehran, but soon after he arrived, he was arrested and sentenced to death by an Iranian court on charges of spying for the CIA, according to Al Jazeera America.
Iran later released a videotaped confession of Hekmati, where he admitted to being recruited into companies affiliated with the CIA with the goal of infiltrating Iranian intelligence.
“Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for or was sent to Iran by the CIA are simply untrue,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told CNN in 2012. “The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons.”
Hekmati’s death sentence was later repealed in March 2012 and a new trial was ordered, though that has yet to take place. He continues to be held in prison in Tehran with little contact with the outside world, though he was able smuggle a letter out of jail, according to The Guardian. In it, in which he addressed Secretary of State John Kerry, he wrote:
For over 2 years I have been held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement. This is part of a propaganda and hostage taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges. Iranian intelligence has suggested through my court-appointed lawyer Mr. Hussein Yazdi Samadi that I be released in exchange for 2 Iranians being held abroad. I had nothing to do with their arrest, committed no crime, and see no reason why the U.S. Government should entertain such a ridiculous proposition.
The bravery and heroism demonstrated by America’s forefathers during the American Revolution has been widely documented and celebrated. Patriot rebels not only fought against the British forces on the battlefield, but worked to bring them down undercover, taking missions to gather intelligence that would often require them to pose as the enemy, cause strife amongst their neighbors, and risk the lives of their family and friends.
When people think of these early American spies, many think of the work of Nathan Hale, but few people know that women were also working to destroy British occupiers from the inside out.
These are some of the most prominent female spies of the American revolution:
1. Agent 355 was a prominent member of the Culper Spy Ring
There were several Patriot spy rings that worked to overthrow British occupation during the Revolutionary War, but very few of these secret groups had women who actively took part in the espionage. The Culper Spy Ring, however, is known mainly for a very unusual agent, a spy known then and now only as 355 — the group’s code number for the word “woman.” The mystery woman’s identity was kept secret to protect herself and likely her family, but her daring contributions to the American cause have been remembered in history. She took part in several counterintelligence missions, including spy operations that resulted in the arrest of major John Andrew — the head of England’s intelligence operations in New York — and the discovery of Benedict Arnold’s treason.
Some historians guess that Agent 355 was likely a shop keeper or a merchant who learned information about Red Coat military operations from chatty British customers, and that she would then divulge this information to George Washington. Regardless of her methods, Agent 355 made critical contributions to the Revolutionary cause.
2. Anna Smith Strong used her laundry as a coded Patriot communication system
Agent 355 wasn’t the only woman who operated under the Culper Spy Ring, however. Another woman, Anna Smith Strong, worked alongside 355 and her male compatriots in Long Island, and was known for her fierce patriotism and fearlessness. Strong’s sleuthing wasn’t quite as flashy as Agent 355’s, but the communication system she developed for the saboteurs was incredibly influential. Abraham Woodhull, a member of the ring, needed a way to find the location of Caleb Brewster‘s boat undetected, so he could then give him the top-secret information gathered for Gen. George Washington. It was too risky to search in multiple ports for the ship or ask for its whereabouts — if he drew attention to himself, he could be arrested and hanged for treason to the Crown.
To remedy this, Anna Strong developed a coded line of communication using her family’s wash line. Woodhull would hide his boat in six different locations in various patterns, and each one of these places was identified by a number. Smith would then hang clothes on the line in concordance with the code. The number of handkerchiefs hung out to dry signaled the number of the secret location, and she would add a black petticoat to signal that Brewster was close by. This system, as simple as it sounds, allowed the Culper Ring to operate undetected, and made huge gains for American freedom.
3. Ann Bates posed as a peddler to glean military information — for the British
The contributions of female spies to the American Revolution is incredibly impressive, but the Patriots weren’t the only ones with ladies working undercover. The British forces had women working for them as well, and Anna Bates was one of the best. Bates was a Loyalist schoolteacher in Philadelphia who began spying for the Red Coats in 1778, posing as a peddler and selling knives, needles, and other dry goods to the American military.
While she sold her wares to the rebel forces, she also took note of how many weapons and soldiers each camp held, and would pass this information along to loyalist sympathizers and British officers. Luckily, though Bates’s work was helpful to the British military, it wasn’t enough to derail the coming success of the American Revolution.
4. Lydia Darragh risked the lives of her sons for the American cause
While many spies were part of complex underground networks, some worked alone — like housewife Lydia Darragh. When British officers began using a large room on the second story of the Darragh’s home for military meetings, Darragh was quick to capitalize on the opportunity to gain information. Before the officers would file into the room, Darragh would hide inside an adjoining closet and press her ear to the wall, taking notes on the clueless officers’ battle plans.
She would then have her husband, William, translate her work into a coded shorthand on little pieces of fabric or paper. She would then fold the slip to fit over the top of a button mold, cover the mold with fabric, and then sew the message-filled buttons on to the shirt of her teenage son, John. Darragh would then send John on “visits” to his older brother Lt. Charles Darragh’s house, who would then take the buttons and present the stolen information to other rebel military leaders. It was an incredibly risky endeavor, but Darragh was willing to risk her own safety — and the safety of her family — for the American cause.
These NASA nerds set a record for how quickly a plane was returned to flight status after being sent to AMARC. They did an impressive job of grafting together parts from the WB-57 Canberra from the boneyard with parts from a second Canberra near Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, as well as F-15 parts for the main wheels, the ejection seats from the F-16, and the tires from an A-4 for the nose wheel.
But some Army Air Force mechanics in Australia pulled off something similar in World War II, and did such a good job that their Franken-bomber is still around today. That plane is currently at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio.
She’s called “Swoose,” and she is not only the only B-17D to survive, she is the oldest surviving B-17.
Swoose started out being assigned to the Philippines in 1941, flying in combat from Dec. 7, 1941, to Jan. 11, 1942. The plane suffered serious damage, but the mechanics used a tail from another damaged B-17 and replaced the engines. The plane then served as an armed transport for the rest of the war, including as a personal transport for Lt. Gen. George Brett (no relation to the star baseball player from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s).
The Industrial Revolution, which spanned over the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, was a pivotal period in history. It brought Europe and the United States into modern times. It is defined by its technological advancements, which revolutionized the means of industrial production and had a deep and long-lasting impact on the demography of the countries it touched.
The faster and more economical production processes led to lower prices, which meant more widespread access to commodities that were previously considered a luxury. The technological discoveries also encouraged the thirst for new knowledge, leading to groundbreaking innovations such as the lightbulb, the telephone, and the X-ray. The wave of discovery also spread to medicine and hygiene, which in turn led to improved health and quality of life, leading to a sharp rise in the population during that period.
The Industrial Revolution also introduced a major shift in energy consumption. Steam power quickly became the main source of power used by machinery or even for the production of electricity. Although it was first produced by burning wood, that resource was eventually replaced by coal.
America controlled energy
The American coal industry became a major player in the Industrial Revolution. It went on to shape the face of the USA in the most profound ways. Until the 18th century, the production of coal in Europe and the USA was marginal. It was a source of power only the wealthy could afford. But with the development of technology and industry, coal quickly became the primary material used to power up industries throughout the two continents. Thanks to the expansion of the iron, steel, and textile industries, the demand for coal rose sharply to fuel steam engines. Coal was also used to power up steamships and steam trains, leading to the development of the transportation system. Coal powered up the machines and allowed them to transport even greater quantities of coal through regions that were previously difficult to service.
The development of the various industries and the transport system caused a sharp increase in the need for manpower, leading to the creation of many factory, mining, and construction jobs, and a burgeoning blue-collar class. It led to a massive demographic exodus that saw a mostly rural population migrate towards the cities, where jobs were widely available, as well as the rise of wage labor.
The working conditions for miners were extremely difficult. The lowering of production costs and the increase in distribution should have led to an improvement in these conditions, but mine owners refused to follow the general trend. The numerous strikes led by coal miners led to discontent in the population. The country had grown completely dependent on coal. In turn, those worries led to reforms in the working laws that still have an impact to this day. President Roosevelt‘s interventionist attitude in the American economy was partially inspired by the coal miners’ plight. Thus, the coal industry helped to shape both the bureaucratic corporation that came for profit-bent owners and the progressive reforms that stemmed from the wish for humane treatment of the American workforce.
Yankee coal won the war
Another major impact of the coal industry was felt during the Civil War. At that time, most of the coal production was located in the north of the country. In fact, the North was producing 38 times more coal than the South. It gave the Union’s war industries such as iron, steel, and weapons. It was a massive advantage over the Confederacy, eventually leading to the Union’s victory.
Despite the environmental and humane controversy stirred by the coal industry, its lasting impact on Europe and the USA is undeniable. The smoke of the coal-powered factories has been the mark of a century that brought about a worldwide transformation so deep that it clearly defined a “before” and an “after.” The coal industry played an important role in shaping the western world as we know it.
Marine Special Operations Command is the most junior of America’s elite commando units and while they have plenty of door kickers and shooters, they’re hurting for Leathernecks with specialized training to work in its support units.
To help source Marines for the needed support units, special operations leaders are putting on a week-long course to introduce interested Leathernecks to life as a special operations Marine and the missions they could be a part of.
The MARSOC Combat Support Orientation Course is scheduled for late March and commanders hope to not only introduce the command to interested Marines but also to get a better idea of what’s out there for the specialized units to pick from.
“Combat support Marines should consider MCSOC an opportunity to ‘look before you leap.,’ ” said Col. J.D. Duke, commanding officer of the Marine Raider Support Group. “MCSOC will give interested Marines the chance to learn what a tour might look like, understand the training pipeline upon assignment, and dialogue together with MARSOC senior combat support leaders and MMEA if the career and personal/family timing is right for them.”
Any interested Marines should bring their A Game, though, as part of the intro course will include interviews, PT tests and “mental performance discussions.”
Specifically, Marine special operators are looking for people to serve as fire support specialists, communications experts; canine handlers; explosive ordnance disposal technicians; signals intelligence specialists; geospatial intelligence specialists; counterintelligence and human intelligence specialists; and all-source intelligence specialists.
The release notes that these Marines will deploy with MARSOC companies, creating a unique combination of capabilities across the entire spectrum of special operations and missions.
“Special Operations Capability Specialists deploy with Marine special operations companies and their teams, filling vital roles as the organic SOF fire support specialists, fused intelligence sections, the robust communications capability built into each company headquarters and as SOF multipurpose canine handlers,” the Corps says. “This combination of specialists and their capabilities is unique within the special operations community and allows the MSOC to conduct the full spectrum of special operations in a wide variety of operating environments.”
To be able to attend the MARSOC Combat Support Orientation Course, interested Marines must meet a number of requirements, including holding the rank of corporal, being free of any pending legal or administrative proceedings and be eligible for the security clearance appropriate to their MOS.
Young veterans often ask me why they should care about resilience. It’s a fair question. At this point, the term is almost meaningless – an overused buzzword.American military culture in particular has packaged “resilience” into an unsexy powerpoint training requirement. It seems like an add-on. An annoyance.
It’s unfortunate, because resilience practices are key to maximizing performance. And when you’re performing optimally, your family, your team, and the other people around you benefit significantly. We’re better off in every area of our lives – personally and professionally – when we practice resilience trait cultivation.
The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.
I promise not to spend the next few paragraphs trying to convince you to drink green smoothies and sit on a therapist’s couch. There’s a lot more to wellness than that. Instead, we’ll examine some simple tactics you can start using today to build a better life.
1. Social Support: Surround Yourself With Good People
The first and most important step in building resilience is making the hard choice to surround yourself with great people. If you don’t have them around you, you can’t get started. You won’t start or keep growing.
This seems like an obvious step, but it’s a real challenge for some. It was for me.
The truth is, you’ve got a battle ahead and you’re most likely to succeed if you have like-minded people to walk with you as you make some changes. I’m not saying you have to hang out with people who look, think, and talk like you, but you do have to spend time with people who are supportive and interested in their own growth and development.
Take a moment to honestly evaluate the influence of the people in your life. Is their influence negative and destructive or positive? If you don’t have great people around you right now, that’s ok. It means you have plenty of room to grow.
You may need to make some serious life changes to find a more positive tribe. You may also need to put yourself in some uncomfortable situations to meet new people. Perhaps you’ll find your new group volunteering, on a sports team, or as part of a faith community.
If you’re not in a great place right now, or you don’t have many skills when it comes to connecting with other people, you might be feeling shame or a lack of confidence. Do some outreach anyway. Be willing to risk sharing things that feel deeply personal. You’ll be surprised at how supportive people can be when you open up.
Think about this intense challenge in terms of improving yourself for the people you love.
2. Self-Care: Calm Your Body and Mind
Start here by choosing just one or two healthy practices you can incorporate as daily habits, then track how they benefit your life. Don’t worry about trying to change everything at once.
By practicing effective self-care to calm your body and mind, you can become less reactive to external stressors. When you’re less reactive, you’re more capable of engaging in positive social interactions. Better social interactions result in increased social support. Improved social support increases your physical and emotional health. There’s a ripple effect here that’s really exciting.
Self-care can be as simple as cooking at home or going back to the gym. What you’re looking for is something that makes you feel relaxed. You might be working hard, but you’re going to feel your sympathetic nervous system (body and mind) calm down. Some people call it a click. An exhale. A downshift. When you feel it, you’ll know you found your thing.
Think of your sympathetic nervous system like a dashboard: It’s where your perception, speech, and moving about in the world happens. It’s where you live when you’re alert. Our goal through self-care is to pump the brakes and calm down this side of our nervous system.
When our brains shift to rest, our bodies and minds are refreshed and we’re more capable of controlling our emotions, focusing, and engaging in high-level thinking. You can reach this rested state by sleeping, but you don’t have to be sleeping to be in this zone. You may also get there by swimming, snowboarding, gardening, praying, meditating, or hitting flow in some other activity you enjoy. Most of us – particularly those of us with stress injuries – are sadly lacking in this rested state.
As you begin incorporating daily self-care practices into your life, track your progress. Take note of how you feel two weeks in. Do you feel better? More focused? Do you sleep better at night? Are you feeling less pain?
Remember that self-care will differ for every person. For example, if meditation isn’t for you and you keep trying it, it can actually increase your stress. You may not be a meditator – you may be a trail runner. It’s about trial and error. Don’t be surprised if what works for you changes over the years. The most important thing is to maintain your willingness to practice, and understand that it may take time to discover what works best for you.
3. Spirituality: Find Your Meaning
Finally, there’s a clear correlation between physical, mental, and emotional resilience and a sense of meaning in our lives. We all need a connection to someone higher – with God, or a sense of personal purpose. Whether you approach this aspect of resilience from a secular perspective (think Maslow’s hierarchy with transcendance at the top) or with a theological view, give yourself some time to ask questions about the source of purpose and meaning in your life.
To plug into a community that supports you as you explore this aspect of resilience, consider getting involved with your church, synagogue, or specific faith group, volunteering, giving generously, or taking time to study a faith practice you’ve been curious about.
Editor’s note: Each week WATM will be presenting a new column by Dr. Hendricks Thomas on topics important to the veteran community.
About the Author
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance, here.
We Are The Mighty and Marine Corps veteran, actor and comedian Rob Riggle present The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran/celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund. The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic will take place at the world-class Valencia Country Club in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 2016.
During this high-octane golf tourney, veteran and celebrity teams will contend for the lowest scores and most laughs to raise funds and awareness for the renowned Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofits. Semper Fi Fund provides immediate and lifetime support to post-9/11 critically ill and injured service members from all branches of the military. Since inception, Semper Fi Fund has assisted over 16,800 service members and their families totaling more than $133 million in assistance.
“The #InVETational celebrates two of my greatest passions – veterans and golf,” Riggle said. “I am excited to partner with We Are The Mighty, a media brand that veterans love and trust, and Semper Fi Fund, which assists thousands of veterans and their families. It’s truly an honor to serve my fellow veterans with this special event.”
“We are honored to partner with Rob to give serious golfers and entertainers the chance to use their sport to bring attention to the great work of Semper Fi Fund,” said David Gale, WATM’s CEO and cofounder. “We Are The Mighty is committed to sharing the experiences of our nation’s military and will feature the remarkable stories of the veteran athletes participating in this tournament.”
Semper Fi Fund President and Founder Karen Guenther added, “As a Marine veteran, Rob Riggle truly understands the sacrifices our nation’s military heroes make for us every day, and how important it is to be there to support these men, women and their families for a lifetime. We are thrilled to be working with Rob and WATM to bring attention to the many needs of recovering and transitioning veterans and their families.”
Best known for his roles in “The Hangover,” “21 Jump Street,” “The Other Guys,” “Step Brothers,” “Modern Family,” “Dumb and Dumber To,” and “The Daily Show” among other popular movies and TV shows, We Are The Mighty’s InVETational host Rob Riggle served over twenty years in the U.S. Marine Corps and Reserves as a Civil Affairs Officer and Public Affairs Officer across the globe including in Afghanistan. Riggle cares deeply about our veterans and has used his success as a comedian and actor to support those who have served our country.
The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic will be produced by We Are The Mighty in conjunction with charity golf tournament expert Bob Levey of Independent Events & Media. The tournament will be featured on wearethemighty.com and shared via WATM, Riggle, and Semper Fi Fund social media sites. Celebrity and veteran golfers from Semper Fi Fund’s athletics program will be announced soon.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Comedian Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show, poses for a photo with the Air Force team during the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games in West Point, N.Y., June 15, 2016. Stewart emceed the opening ceremonies for the games.
Staff Sgt. Sebastiana Lopez Arellano, a patient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, does pushups during a therapy session at the center’s Military Advanced Training Center, which provides amputee patients with state-of-the-art care, in Bethesda, Md. Lopez, who lost her right leg and suffered several other injuries in a motorcycle crash in 2015, is competing in the Department of Defense Warrior Games, which end June 21.
The U.S. Army Fort Leonard Wood group put up an impressive 238 miles from Sunday morning to just before Tuesday morning’s 3-mile division-style run.
1st Lt. Carey Duval, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team “STRIKE”, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), answers 15th SMA Dailey’s call to show us one way he trains to stay ready by performing a deadlift at U.S. Army Fort Campbell, Ky., June 8, 2016. This Soldier for Life became an amputee during a deployment in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
DAYTON, Ohio (June 15, 2016) During Navy Week Dayton, Ohio, Sailors from USS Constitution’s Color Guard Parade the Colors before a baseball game between the Dayton Dragons and the South Bend Cubs. Dayton is one of select cities to host a 2016 Navy Week, a week dedicated to raise U.S. Navy awareness through local outreach, community service and exhibitions.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (June 16, 2016) Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, left, observes an underway replenishment with Adm. Giuseppe De Giorgi, chief of the Italian navy, while aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). This was the U.S. Navy’s first underway replenishment where the fuel was made from alternative sources and transferred from a partner nation’s ship. The Italian navy auxiliary ship ITS Etna (A5326) provided Mason with biofuel, made from waste fat beef and inedible vegetable oil, as part of the Great Green Fleet initiative.
A Marine carrying a flashlight walks in front of the Base-Ex tents constructed for Marines assigned to 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (LAAD), following a live fire exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 7, 2016. 2nd LAAD conducted a live fire exercise to maintain proficiency and accuracy with the FIM-92 Stinger missile launcher.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Kyle Hancock, a fire team leader with Company C, Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command 16.2, fires an M249 light machine gun during a familiarization range at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, June 8, 2016. SPMAGTF-CR-CC is forward deployed in several host nations, with the ability to respond to a variety of contingencies rapidly and effectively.
A Marine with Headquarters Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion, performs mountain climbers during Battalion physical training on Parris Island, S.C., June 15, 2016. Battalion PT is led by the Battalion Commander every month in order to build unit cohesion.
An Air Station Houston MH-65 Dolphin helicopter practices landing on the Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless during a training exercise in the Gulf of Mexico, June 10, 2016. Keeping crews regularly trained ensures a high level of competency and efficiency service-wide. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin R. Williams.
An Air Station Corpus Christi MH-65 Dolphin helicopter lands on Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless Nov. 14, 2013. The Dauntless crew then performed a hot refuel, a refuel of the helicopter while its engines are still engaged.
Before the advent of stealth technology, the variable that mattered more than any other in terms of tactical aircraft survivability and lethality was speed. So in 1955 the U.S. Air Force issued a request for a high-altitude, long-range bomber that could go Mach 3 while carrying either a conventional or nuclear payload. After a few trips to the drawing board and some mods to the Air Force’s requirements, North American Aviation was awarded a developmental contract based on their submission.
Enter the B-70 Valkyrie, a revolutionary scream-machine that was nearly four times as fast as the legacy B-52s it was designed to replace. The Valkyrie was huge — 185 feet long and 30 feet tall with a maximum takeoff weight at a whopping 542,000 pounds. The bomber was powered by six General Electric J-93GE turbojet engines that could each deliver 30,000 pounds of thrust in full afterburner. But it’s massive size and power was belied by sleek lines that made it arguably the most aesthetically-pleasing aircraft ever built.
The B-70 had a crew of four — a pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, and defense systems operator each seated in comfortable cocoons with clamshell doors. In the event of an emergency each cocoon could rocket away from the aircraft individually.
The Valkyrie used “compression lift” — a phenomenon that occurs when a conical body (the fuselage) under the center of a wing pushes air to the sides, which increases pressure and therefore lift — to travel upwards of 7,500 nautical miles supersonic. At takeoff the wingtips were straight, but a high speeds they’d angle down as much as 65 degrees to create the necessary compression.
The bomber had a number of unorthodox moving parts including movable canards on the nose and a ramp in front of the windscreen that would raise at high speed to create a more aerodynamic airframe (and it also gave the pilot very poor visibility in that regime).
Mach 3 creates a lot of air friction, and friction creates heat, so the Valkyrie was built with honeycomb stainless steel and (sparingly, like 9 percent) titanium, which was expensive and in short supply back in those days.
North American was funded to built a single test aircraft — designated the XB-70 — at a cost of $750 million. The inaugural test flight was delayed by maintenance and other technical issues by three years. All of the Valkyrie’s revolutionary subsystems came with their own problems — honeycomb structures broke, hydraulic systems hemorrhaged fluid, and control surfaces didn’t fit right.
At the same time the tactical world began to change. Better ICBMs made Air Force planners wonder whether they needed long-range bombers at all. And the introduction of the Soviet-made SA-2 surface-to-air missile rendered even the speedy B-70 vulnerable. Based on these factors as well as the projected cost of the Valkyrie, the Eisenhower administration grew sour on the program. The Air Force reduced the program funding to a single asset that would be used for experimental research testing only.
But the presidential election of 1960 changed the landscape. President Kennedy believed the Valkyrie was important in the arms race. The program budget was upped by $265 million and the test plan was reworked to include warfare capabilities and not just research.
A year later the Kennedy administration understood the Eisenhower administration’s issues with the airplane, and the Valkyrie was once again relegated to a research program — however the requirement was reworded with the caveat that if the Air Force requirement necessitated the need for the B-70 the program would be quickly modified to also test for combat operational capabilities.
The Valkyrie’s maiden flight occurred on May 11, 1964 out of Edwards Air Force Base. The plan was to take the airplane supersonic on the first flight, but a landing gear problem kept them subsonic. The XB-70 also had a minor hydraulic fire but managed to land safely.
North American XB-70A Valkyrie in flight. (Official USAF photo)
The airplane finally went supersonic on it’s third test flight and eventually broke a number of speed records including 70 sustained minutes of supersonic flight, 50 of them at greater than Mach 2.
But the test team also discovered that extended supersonic flight punished the airframe beyond its existing design limits, and they had to modify parts of the intake system and fuselage as the test plan went forward.
The first XB-70 reached Mach 3 only once — on it’s 18th test flight on October 14, 1965 — and that speed did substantial damage to the leading edge of one of the wings. (Luckily nothing was sucked into the intakes.) After that the airplane was limited to no greater than Mach 2.5.
A second XB-70 was built after comprehensive wind tunnel testing that yielded a modified design of the intake system, the hydraulics, and the wings. The new design made the airplane more stable, especially at high speeds. On May 19, 1966 the second Valkyrie flew Mach 3 for 33 minutes.
But test problems persisted. One flight forced test pilot Joe Cotton to jump a circuit breaker with a paper clip to get the landing gear to come down. (Basically, a $750 million airplane was saved with a 39 cent paperclip.)
Then one of the contractors pushed the notion of a “family photo,” an idea that proved to be the true beginning of the end for the Valkyrie. General Electric wanted to use a private Learjet to shoot both film and still photos of the XB-70 flying in formation with a T-38, F-4, F-104, and an F-5 — all GE-powered jets.
The requisite approvals were obtained, and on June 8, 1966 the four Air Force test jets launched to rendezvous with the XB-70 at the end of a test event. The five-jet formation flew around the Edwards AFB airspace for about 40 minutes without incident while the Learjet got the desired footage and photos. But as the formation was breaking up to return to base, disaster struck.
The F-104 drifted left until its left wing hit the XB-70’s right wing. At that point the Starfighter flipped over and rolled inverted over the top of the Valkyrie, striking the vertical stabilizers and left wing of the bomber. The F-104 exploded, destroying the Valkyrie’s rudders and damaging its left wing. With the loss of both rudders and damage to the wings, the Valkyrie entered an uncontrollable spin and crashed into the ground north of Barstow, California. NASA Chief Test Pilot Joe Walker (who was flying the F-104) and Carl Cross (the XB-70’s co-pilot who was on his first Valkyrie flight) were killed. Al White (XB-70 pilot) ejected, sustaining serious injuries, including one arm crushed by the closing clamshell-like escape crew capsule moments prior to ejection.
The investigation concluded that Walker was unable to properly perceive his motion relative to the Valkyrie, leading to his aircraft drifting into contact with the XB-70’s wing. The accident investigation also pointed to the wake vortex off the XB-70’s right wingtip as the reason for the F-104’s sudden roll over and into the bomber. There was also a lot of CYA and finger-pointing among Air Force leadership regarding who had actually approved the “family photo,” and ultimately the punishment for improperly vetting the event fell to the lowest levels of the chain of command.
Although the remaining Valkyrie continued to fly test events, the mishap crushed any chance of the airplane being used as an operational asset. On February 4, 1969 the XB-70 flew to Wright-Patterson AFB to be made into an exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force — the final flight for a powerful and visually stunning airplane the likes of which will never be seen again.
As exciting as the sudden appearance of thousands of hatchets at the front was, it’s not clear that they were actually used violently. The mounted infantrymen carried them into battle, but the weapons’ main contribution to the war effort seems to have been logistical.
It’s unlikely that the unit would have found much use for the hatchets in combat. Each man could fire seven shots between reloads, making it unlikely that enemy forces could march into range of the hatchets. And the men rarely rode their horses during the actual fighting. Instead, they would ride quickly to the battlefield, dismount, and send the horses to the rear.
In that way, the mounted infantrymen really were the predecessors to mechanized infantry and air assault infantry rather than cousins to the cavalry.
And if they had been cavalry, they probably would have been saddled with those common sabers instead of their awesome, namesake hatchets.
There are a few things the United States military does to maintain its global supremacy. First and foremost, it maintains a standing, professional force where every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine has a function that keeps the force moving – and is paid well to do it.
It also constantly innovates, keeping abreast of the latest developments in military technology from almost every point of view. Once equipped with the latest and greatest tech, the United States places able commanders among those troops and trains them on how to operate.
The Black Army of Hungary operated on the same principles more than 300 years before the United States won its independence from Great Britain.
King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary reigned supreme in Eastern Europe and the Balkans in the mid-1400s and the Black Army is one of the reasons why. A visionary leader, Matthias recognized the importance of securing his national borders, returning order and making the locals realize who’s boss.
He managed to kick Czech mercenaries out of Hungary, fight the Holy Roman Emperor to a draw, and would have kicked the Ottoman Turks out of Europe except he saw Christian Europe do nothing to help him – so he let them stay.
Matthias’ Black Army was the secret to his success. They were well-paid mercenaries whose sole job was training for, fighting and winning battles for the Hungarian king. They were making some four to five times more money than the average peasant paid in taxes and were equipped with gunpowder weapons long before they were adopted by other armies.
When Matthias rose to power, Hungary was using the same means of raising troops as every other principality in Europe, which was drafting peasants from noble lands. At best, the King could force every nobleman and his personal guard to field their full army, but could only do it for 15 days at a time and could not leave Hungary.
Eventually, Matthias told the wealthy kingdom of Venice that he would wage a holy war against the Ottomans if they would cover the costs. They agreed and the mercenaries he purchased formed the core of the Black Army.
Matthias reformed the Hungarian tax code and currency policies to increase his income and make it easier to levy more taxes to fund his professional army. When the lords revolted against the higher taxes, the Black Army just kicked the crap out of them, and they were uniquely positioned to do that.
Unlike many other armies, the Black Army promoted its troops based on merit and their military experience translated to increased real-world training. They would effectively use this experience and training to succeed where so many other amies had failed, capturing Vienna from the Holy Roman Empire, the only time the city would fall until the Second World War almost 500 years later.
The audacity of a well-paid, well-equipped, and well-trained standing army with good leadership. Who would have thought?
The Black Army made no distinction about nationality. At its height, its ranks were filled with 28,000 troops, coming from across Europe to fight for cold, hard florins. Czechs, Germans, Serbs, and Poles joined Hungarians in defending and securing Matthias’ reign and Hungary’s borders. Taxes were high, but peace and stability reigned with Matthias.
The only other army in Europe not made up of peasants carrying sticks was the French Army of Louis XI, and even it was no match for the Black Army and its storied leadership. Unfortunately, the leadership was the life and death of the Black Army. When Matthias died in 1490, his successor allowed for tax reforms that forced the army to disband.
Hungary’s defenses, its army, and borders eventually fell into disrepair. The Kingdom of Hungary’s golden age was over. In 1526, the Ottomans completely destroyed the Hungarian Army.
Blue falcons—buddy f-ckers for the uninitiated—are a permanent fixture of military life. There are usually a couple in every unit who are out for themselves while messing it up for the rest. You know who they are; they never show up to watch on time, they call you out in front of superiors to make themselves look better, and they never cut you any slack during a PT test.
While blue falcons are bent on passing the blame and taking the credit, they forget that NCOs can spot them a mile away. Case in point is this awesome sea story we found on reddit by LaserSailor760. The lesson learned: no one likes a buddy f-cker, not even superiors.
(The reddit post has been lightly edited for grammar.)
MA assigned to Harbor Patrol here. I got ratted out once for fishing from the back of the patrol boat while doing harbor checks. Got hauled in to see the Senior Chief and wouldn’t sign or make any statements implicating anyone else on my crew (I was the coxswain and POIC) so Senior decided that I needed some extra duties as punishment.
A major local holiday was coming up, celebrating the day US forces liberated the locals during WW2. We had to send a boat up to a local harbor and standby all night in order to have an escape route for the Admiral in case Osama Bin Laden showed up or some sh-t. I was kinda upset about it because it was supposed to be my weekend, but I figured I was getting off light, so whatever.
When my crew and I pulled the boat into the marina, the whole place was basically a block party. We hung out with the locals, ate a ton of awesome BBQ and they all laughed that this was our ‘punishment’.
After securing the boat and turning over the watch to the next crew at 0000, I went back to base for some sleep, because part two of my punishment started at 0700.
Part two was getting into my dress whites and marching in the Liberation Day parade. It was about a 3 mile march, which ended at an even bigger party. Having been dismissed, I hung out at the party and again chatted with locals, ate awesome BBQ, and proceeded to get completely hammered, without paying a dime.
A few weeks later Senior asked if I learned my lesson. I said yes I did and wouldn’t slack off on duty.
Senior, said “No, I mean the lesson about standing up for your guys,” winked at me and walked away.
Today, Adam Driver is one of the hottest actors in Hollywood with a career-defining role as Kylo Ren in the revived Star Wars series and a lead in the upcoming Martin Scorsese movie Silence. Plus he’s still playing Hannah’s weird ex-boyfriend Adam on Girls. Back in the summer of 2001, he was an aimless high school graduate wondering what to do next. September 11 inspired him to join the Marines.
In this clip from TED Talks: War Peace(airing Monday, May 30th on PBS stations nationwide) talks about why he joined the military. In his full talk, he shares how the world of theater recreated the camaraderie he missed after the military, and how drama can be used to help returning veterans transition to civilian life.
The complete program includes talks from:
Journalist Sebastian Junger, who believes that the prevalence of PTSD may have more to do with the angry and fractured America that vets come home to than their actual combat experiences.
Jamila Raqib, who promotes effective strategies of non-violent protest to people living under tyranny and shares encouraging examples of successful change around the world.
Humanitarian Samantha Nutt, who has been to some of the most war-torn places on earth and draws parallels between conflict zones in the world’s poorest nations and the proliferation of cheap automatic weapons and small arms; and
Parent Christianne Boudreau, who conveys the emotional story of her son’s conversion to radical Islam and subsequent death while fighting for ISIS in Syria.
The program also features three original short films:
Talk of War, by Geeta Gandbhir and Perri Peltz, featuring parents and their children talking about the strain that deployment takes on military families;
All Roads Point Home, by Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster, about Major General Linda Singh, Maryland’s highest-ranking soldier, who served in Afghanistan and Kosovo and was called upon to use her skills in the Baltimore riots of 2015; and
Bionic Soldier, by Anna Bowers, Mark Mannucci and Jonathan Halperin, about new advances in biotechnology that allow severely wounded vets to once again lead active lives.
Finally, there’s a musical performance by singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright.
As with all PBS programs, check with your local station for an exact time and date when they’re airing the program.