NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number - We Are The Mighty
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NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

This year, NORAD — the North American Aerospace Defense Command  — celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of tracking Santa’s progress as he delivers presents to the good boys and girls of the world. Every year on Christmas Eve, NORAD purports to track Santa Claus as he leaves the North Pole and delivers presents to children around the world. This year, starting at 12:01 am on December 24, interested folks can track Santa via NORAD’s Santa Tracker Website, mobile phone apps, and through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ via the handle @NORADSanta.


NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Volunteers monitor phones and computers while tracking Santa Claus at the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. More than 1,200 volunteers from across the base and community join to cover shifts spanning the 23 hours of tracking that the North American Aerospace Defense Command hosts annually. (Photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh)

The program started somewhat by chance on December 24, 1955 when a Sears department store placed an ad in a Colorado Springs newspaper telling children they could telephone Santa Claus. However, the telephone number printed was erroneously that of the Crew Commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center (CONAD), NORAD’s predecessor.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Santa visited Peterson AFB for his NORAD mission brief in preparation for Christmas Eve Dec. 16. People can find out where Santa is Dec. 24 all day by calling NORAD at 1-877-Hi-NORAD or by visiting www.noradsanta.org. (Photo by: MC2 (AW) Bansil, Jhomil,) NORADSanta

Santa visited Peterson AFB in 2014 for his NORAD mission brief in preparation for Christmas Eve. (Photo by: MC2 (AW) Bansil, Jhomil)

Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup was on duty that night and told his staff to give all children who called in a “current location” for Santa Claus — and a Christmas Eve tradition was born, now known as the “NORAD Tracks Santa” program. 

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Colonel Harry Shoup, USAF

OnStar subscribers can press the button in their vehicles and ask for Santa’s location, Windows Phone users can ask Cortana, and starting at 6 a.m. Eastern Time, the kids can just dial  toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or send an email to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com.

NORAD’s Santa operation has come a long way. Today it seems as complex as the hunt for Osama bin Laden but when it first started it was just a number children could call.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, told NPR’s StoryCorps about how the tradition began.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.“The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ “

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’

Read the full story of Col. Shoup establishing NORAD Santa Tracker at NPR’s StoryCorps.

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Just-released ‘Battlefield’ trailer shows new game set in World War I

After a rather unexceptional outing in cop-and-robbers shenanigans, the Battlefield franchise is returning to its military warfare roots by exploring a setting that may as well be uncharted territory in the modern shooter genre.


The ‘Battlefield 1’ reveal trailer confirms existing rumors of a WWI setting, while clearly seeking to dispel concerns that the entrenched stalemates of the Great War are a poor choice for Battlefield’s signature fast-paced, vehicle-centric gameplay. After all, who wants to spend the majority of a multiplayer match ducking machine gun fire and waiting to die of trench foot?

Instead, the trailer presents a visceral montage of bi-plane dogfights, lumbering tanks, and shovel-to-shovel melee combat, accompanied by the thrumming bass of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.”

Check out the trailer below:

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Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)


On December 2, 2015 Air Force Captain Costas Dracopoulous was on leave in Kyoto, Japan when he got word of the San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others. The news got his attention, not just due to the scale of the tragedy, but because San Bernardino is his home town.

And it was even more personal than he originally thought.  When he logged on Facebook he saw messages that a friend of his was among the victims of the shooting.  The friend was also a father of six.

Dracopoulous, who’s currently serving as the flight safety officer for the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron, wanted to do something for his friend’s children along with all the other children left without parents as a result of the senseless tragedy.  After consulting with a chaplain and the Red Cross, he decided the best way to help from afar was to hold a toy drive back at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.

While most servicemen overseas are usually the recipients of care packages from home, Dracopoulous was asking the 961st squadron to help pack one going the other way, and a pretty big one at that.

His fellow airmen answered the call. Within a matter of days, they rounded up over 50 toys for the victim’s children. Before shipping, he coordinated with the local police and mayor’s office of San Bernardino to ensure the items would be delivered to the right homes.

“He is an amazing warrior. ” said Air Force Lt. Col. Kyle Anderson, 961st AACS commander. “He has the idea and ideals to push forward and take care of the folks that the tragedy affected.”

“I’m ecstatic that our 961st family supported him, and it also bodes well for the squadron for one of our own to put on an event like that,” Anderson said. “We live in a small world and it shows how a tragedy stateside can affect service members over here.”

In a letter expressing gratitude to Dracopoulous and his squadron, Carey Davis – mayor of San Bernadino wrote the following:

I am proud of the united manner by which our nation has responded to the tragic events that forever impacted several lives. Your willing and generous response to the crisis and your selflessness are greatly appreciated. Thank you for going out of your way and facilitating the process between my staff and your squadron. San Bernardino is fortunate to have the support of individuals like you and your base. Once again, please accept my sincere and personal thanks. Your generosity and your willingness to give have significantly impacted the morale of our staff and community.
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America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Aaron R. Butler was killed by an Islamic State booby trap in eastern Afghanistan Aug.16.


Butler was on a mission to clear a building on a partnered mission with the Afghan National Security Forces when his unit was struck. Eleven other members of the Utah National Guard were wounded in the incident but are expected to survive. Butler joined the Utah National Guard in 2008 and went on a Mormon mission trip to Africa as a young man.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Butler was on a mission with Utah National Guard troops during a raid. (US Army photo)

“He was an absolute force of nature,” his family spokesman told local Utah media. “Ultimately, what we do is very dangerous business,” his commander Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken when we lose one of our own. We know these people personally, they are our friends, we respect them and it’s very painful.”

Butler is the 10th U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2017, many of whom were killed in the same geographical region fighting the terrorist group. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
An Italian paratrooper prepares for a static line jump in a US Air Force C-130J during exercise Swift Response 16. | Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force


Staging aircraft carriers offshore or using drones from far away can be great assets in modern warfare. However, sometimes it’s necessary to go back to the basics when responding to a global crisis.

Exercise Swift Response 16, a month-long operation led by US forces, was conducted to keep up with traditional and newer methods of combat. Over 5,000 troops from nations such as France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy took part in this massive airborne exercise to conduct a rapid-response, joint forcible-entry scenario. While working with their European allies, US forces also participated in notable scenarios, such as staging a base within 18 hours of notification.

Here are several pictures of the multinational airborne exercise:

US Army and Italian paratroopers board a US Air Force C-130J Hercules during exercise Swift Response 16, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force

A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off for Germany within several hours’ worth of notice.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford/US Air Force

British paratroopers conduct a static-line jump.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force

Dutch Army paratroopers jump into Bunker Drop Zone at Grafenwoehr, Germany.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger/US Army

A US paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division lands with his parachute.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach/US Army

A French soldier watches soldiers descend from a Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

US soldiers locate a target on a map.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

Multinational soldiers move toward their target.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Multinational soldiers cut through the foliage.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Soldiers weren’t the only ones dropped from the sky. Here, a US soldier prepares to untie a vehicle that had landed in the drop zone.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A US paratrooper radios higher command while conducting defensive operations.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

A Polish soldier provides security while conducting defensive planning operations.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

Airplanes weren’t the only machines dominating the skies. Here, a United Kingdom Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma conducts an aerial-reconnaissance training mission.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

A British Parachute Regiment soldier prepares to load a helicopter while conducting a simulated medical evacuation.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Sgt. Seth Plagenza/US Army

In any real-life war scenario, bridges will be critical to both defensive and offensive forces. Here, military tactical vehicles prepare to engage their targets.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A Polish soldier reloads his weapon while securing a bridge.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Bridges will be fought for, from above and below.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A British soldier provides security while conducting medical-evacuation simulations.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Spc. Nathaniel Nichols/US Army

The US wasn’t the only country that brought out their toys. Here, German Bundeswehr soldiers provide security while conducting a mounted patrol.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Allen/US Army

A French paratrooper aims his antitank weapon at an enemy tank.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez/US Army

A US soldier from the legendary 82nd Airborne Division readies a 60 mm mortar system for a simulated-fire mission.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

US soldiers of Chaos Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division prepare to move out with their Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicles.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

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Mattis taps former Army colonel for defense position

One of the more important national security jobs in Washington, D.C. — Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for South and Southeast Asia — will be filled by a former Army officer with extensive foreign affairs and counterinsurgency experience, reports Breaking Defense.


Retired Col. Joe Felter, who now works at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, “led the International Security and Assistance Force, Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team, in Afghanistan, reporting directly to Generals Stanley McChrystal and and David Petraeus and advising them on counterinsurgency strategy,” his bio says.

According to Breaking Defense, he also performed counterterrorism work in the Philippines, experience that may be crucial in coping with the unpredictable populist, Rodrigo Duterte.

Mattis reportedly knows him well, so he’ll be able to reach out to him should it become necessary and has that extra credibility going in.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
U.S. Marine military police conduct immediate action drills alongside Philippine Marines at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, Oct. 7, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Tiffany Edwards)

Felter’s nomination would mark the addition of another American soldier whose primary experiences are in counterterrorism, which, while sometimes global in reach, is largely confined to certain regions and rarely requires knowledge or experience of great power politics.

This new job does.

Felter’s new job copes with an immense swath of geography and enormous challenges:

South and Southeast Asia (SSEA): India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Diego Garcia, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Island nations.

He’s familiar with quite a few of the region’s hottest spots, having “conducted foreign internal defense and security assistance missions across East and Southeast Asia,” the Hoover bio says.

The Chinese will be watching Felter closely as he will be the lead in the Pentagon on India, Australia, Vietnam, and a host of other countries warily watching the rising Pacific power.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 21 edition)

Here’s what happening in and around the military world right now:


Now: Which US President was the greatest military leader? 

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Listen to the famed “Rebel Yell” as yelled by real Civil War rebels

The Library of Congress hosts a number of historical treasures, including, as a writer for the Smithsonian Magazine discovered in the library’s archives, a video from the 1930s that shows actual Confederate veterans doing their famed “Rebel Yell.”


The yell was used as a battle cry by Confederate soldiers, usually during charges. It was never recorded during a battle because audio recording technology was in its infancy during the war. The first known recordings were created in 1859 and 1860, just before the Civil War started. The first popular audio recording device wasn’t invented until 1877, 12 years after the war ended.

So, recordings of Civil War veterans from the early 1900s are likely the closest modern people can come to knowing what Union soldiers heard as a Confederate charge barreled at them. Listen to the yell in the video below:

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7 revolutionary ideas the British Navy wants to use in its new warship

From the Ship of the Line to the Dreadnought battleship, the British have been advancing the art of naval warfare for hundreds of years. 2015 was no different.


This past summer, the Combat Systems Team at BMT Defence Systems unveiled Dreadnought 2050, a multifunctional stealth submersible design that, as the company puts it, “maximizes naval effectiveness while mitigating risks to British sailors.” Here are seven new ideas the BMT team is bringing to the high seas:

1. The “Moon Pool”

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

A floodable pool area the ship can use to deploy Marines, divers, drones, or other special operations.

2. Drone Launcher

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

A flight deck and hangar used to remotely launch drones, all of which could be 3D printed on board the ship.

3. Quad-Copter

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

A hovering device to give the ship a 360-degree view of the battlespace around the ship, complete with electromagnetic sensors to detect enemy ships. The quad-copter itself could be armed for fights in close quarters around the ship.

4. “Smart Windows”

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

An acrylic hull, coated in graphene that could turned semitransparent by applying an electric current.

5. Stealth Propulsion

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

Highly efficient turbines would drive electric motors on what would be the first surface ship to have parts of its structure below the water line, making it difficult to detect.

6. Holographic Command Center

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

A holographic command table will offer a 3D rendering of the battlespace in real time.

7.  Next-Level Naval Weapons

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

Hypersonic missile systems, rocket-propelled torpedoes, and an electromagnetic rail gun round out a definitive “don’t mess with me” message to the enemies of Great Britain.

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The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number


If not for a twist of fate, the 1948 VC-121A Lockheed Constellation that once transported the nation’s 34thpresident might have become a crop duster or turned into scrap metal.

The Columbine II was the first plane to fly with the call sign “Air Force One” when it carried President Dwight D. Eisenhower for the first two years of his administration. However, the aircraft would have been lost to history without the intervention of three men – one who bought the plane almost 50 years ago, the friend who helped save it from the scrap heap, and the man whose aviation company purchased it two decades later with plans to restore it to its 1950s glory.

Related: This C-130 landing on an aircraft carrier will make you rethink physics

“I didn’t want to see somebody drinking a beer and wonder if the metal from that can came from that plane,” said Karl D. Stoltzfus, whose Dynamic Aviation Company purchased the “Connie,” as Lockheed Constellations are commonly called, in 2015.

In March, Stoltzfus had the aircraft flown for the first time in 13 years, except for a brief test flight a few days earlier, to Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Virginia. Lockie Christler, son of the late Mel Christler, who bought the plane from the Air Force in 1970, flew the Columbine II from Marana Regional Airport, Arizona, where it had sat since 2003, to Virginia. The almost 60-year-old plane made a stop at the Mid-America Flight Museum in Mount Pleasant, Texas, before Christler made the final four-hour flight to Bridgewater, with Stoltzfus piloting the chase plane, a Beechcraft King Air.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

Christler gives most of the credit for the Columbine II’s restoration to his father, who died in 2005, Stoltzfus and Harry Oliver, who emphasized the importance of saving the plane and was the majority owner when it was sold.

“If it weren’t for men like my father, Harry and Karl, along with others, a lot of these airplanes wouldn’t be around,” Christler said. “Once we realized this was Eisenhower’s airplane, we couldn’t let it be scrapped.”

The plane was built as a C-121A at Burbank, California, and converted to a VC-121A-LO to carry VIPs in 1953. The Columbine II, named after the Colorado state flower by first lady Mamie Eisenhower, became the official presidential aircraft later that year. Over New Charlotte, North Carolina the following year, an Eastern Airlines flight had the same call numbers as the Columbine II, and confusion ensued when both planes shared the same airspace. Because of the incident, the “Air Force One” call sign became used for any plane the president was on board.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

The plane, while hardly resembling the Air Force One flown by presidents from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, included marble floors and a mahogany desk where Eisenhower wrote the “Atoms for Peace” speech he gave to the U.N. General Assembly in 1953. The Columbine II also took him to Korea, both as a president-elect and during his administration.

Related: The last original P-51 Mustang is up for sale

In 1954, the aircraft was replaced by the Columbine III, which Eisenhower used for the remainder of his presidency. The Columbine II continued in service as a VIP transport for Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard M. Nixon, and others, such as Queen Elizabeth II, before it was finally retired to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in 1968. The Air Force stripped the aircraft and fitted it with mismatched landing gear, an error that, in an odd twist of fate, led to the aircraft being spared from destruction long enough for its historical value to be discovered by its new owners.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

Up for auction

The Columbine II was sold to Christler as part of a package lot with four other Connies for $35,000 in a surplus auction at the Davis-Monthan AFB aircraft “boneyard.” He didn’t know one of the five planes had a presidential past and planned to make it part of his crop-dusting operation. Christler rebuilt the other four VC-121s for spraying operations, but didn’t convert the Columbine II because its starboard main gear had been replaced with the wrong part from a Lockheed 1049 Super Constellation. The incorrect landing gear, again, saved the Columbine II from being converted to a crop-duster. Instead, it was used for supplying the other four Connies with parts.

Mel Christler was considering cutting the aircraft up as scrap when Robert Mikesh of the Smithsonian Institution contacted him in 1980 and informed him that his Connie with the serial number 48-610 was a former presidential aircraft.

“The first time we saw it, we obviously didn’t realize whose plane it was,” Lockie Christler said, “but when you find out it was Eisenhower’s, now you’re stuck with it. You have a presidential plane you can’t melt up because people wouldn’t think very highly of you. So, for all of these years, it’s kind of been a liability, and it finally turned into an asset.”

Christler tried to find a buyer who could restore the Columbine II, but couldn’t find one. He was struggling to decide what to do with the plane when Oliver visited him at his Greybull, Wyoming, home in August 1989, and asked about his plans for the Columbine II. Oliver said Christler planned to send the plane to the smelter if he didn’t have a buyer by November.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
U.S. Air Force photo.

“I just said, ‘Now we can’t do that,'” Oliver said. “‘It’s a little bit of history, and it should be saved.”

At Christler’s request, Oliver drove to Tucson, Arizona, with a friend to look at the plane and saw the damage, but thought it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be repaired. The two men completed a $150,000 functional restoration of the Columbine II in 1990 and had it flown to Abilene, Kansas for Eisenhower’s centennial celebration. Afterward, they moved the Connie to Roswell and Santa Fe, New Mexico, before it was flown to Marana, where it remained under a lease agreement until it was sold to Stoltzfus in 2015.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

Restoration

Stoltzfus, a self-proclaimed history buff, learned about the Columbine II from an article in an aviation magazine and wanted to see the plane restored to its 1950s condition so he asked one person what he should do – his then-8-year-old grandson. “I think we should buy it,” the boy told him.

Then Stoltzfus asked his twin brother Ken to check out the plane in Arizona. After hearing that there wasn’t any damage that couldn’t be overcome, he sent Dynamic Aviation mechanics to begin repairs. When he first saw the plane, it was in rough condition.

“Every hose, I mean every piece of rubber was bad,” Stoltzfus said. “There were a lot of things about the airplane that gave you reason to say this was going to be a lot of work. They hadn’t really run the engines, but you knew there was going to be a lot of trouble with them, and there was. But the good part was it didn’t have any corrosion. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have bought the airplane.”

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Karl D. Stoltzfus Sr., founder of Dynamic Aviation, bought the Columbine II at less than $1.5 million. The plane was flown to Virginia after Dynamic Aviation mechanics did significant work on the plane in Arizona in preparation for the flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Although he can’t divulge the actual price he paid, Stoltzfus said it was less than the $1.5 million listing price. Dynamic Aviation will begin a full restoration project on the Columbine II in three to six months, which Stoltzfus expects to be completed in two to three years. He has obtained drawings and documentation that he hopes will help him restore the plane to its original color codes and original manufacturer materials.

“I think the airplane can be used to educate people on the 1950s, not just about Air Force One and not just about Eisenhower,” he said. “These were generally considered to be good years in America. They weren’t perfect, but they were generally good. We got out of the Korean War, so it was a peaceful time, and it was a good time economically and was when we started to build the interstate. So it was just a good time in American history.”

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

When it’s fully restored, Stoltzfus hopes to take the historic aircraft to air shows and display it for the public at the company’s airport in Bridgewater. In the meantime, he’s looking for anyone who might have aircraft parts or stories to share from the Connie’s era.

Oliver is grateful that somebody was interested enough in saving the plane.

“When I started this project, I was 52 years old, and I’m 77 now,” he said. “I don’t have the energy to do it anymore, and I’m just glad that somebody does. It is a piece of history, and now it’s going to be where people can see it, smell it and touch it.”

Once the silver Connie with the purple flower on its nose is restored to its Air Force One glory, it will have three men to credit for saving this piece of American history for future generations.

Even though one of the three didn’t live to see the Columbine II’s restoration, his son thinks it would have made him proud.

“Oh, he’s got a big smile on his face right now,” Christler said. “I know he’s proud that it has a great home where it’s supposed to be. It’s within a hundred miles of Washington, D.C, where it had some important flying to do.”

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3 heroes who gave all for their friends at Saipan

When American forces stormed ashore at Saipan on June 15, 1944, they knew they were in for a fight. Saipan was strategically important to both the Americans and the Japanese. It is the largest island in the Marianas chain and close enough to the Japanese mainland for American B-29’s to launch bombing missions.


Though it is often overshadowed by other battles, the battle of Saipan was the most costly operation for the Americans in the Pacific up to that point. 31,000 Japanese stood ready to defend the island from some 71,000 Americans of the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions and the Army’s 27th Infantry Division.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Army reinforcements arrive in Saipan, June/July 1944. (U.S. Army photo)

Through June and into July, American forces made slow but steady progress across the island. Brutal fighting occurred in places that earned names such as “Death Valley” and “Purple Heart Ridge.”

By July 6, the situation was desperate for the Japanese. With the defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, there was no hope of rescue or reinforcement for the remaining defenders on Saipan.

Gen. Saito, the Japanese commander on Saipan, ordered all remaining defenders, wounded or not, and even civilians on the island to conduct a massive banzai charge against the American positions. “There is no longer any distinction between civilians and troops,” Saito said. “It would be better for them to join in the attack with bamboo spears than to be captured.”     

Saito would not join his troops in the attack, though. After transmitting an apology to Tokyo for his failure, he committed ritual suicide.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
The aftermath of a banzai charge on Guadalcanal, 1942. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

At 0445 on July 7, 1944, a human wave of Japanese soldiers descended on the positions of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. It was the largest banzai charge of the Pacific war.

Leading the way were soldiers carrying a massive red flag, followed by sword-wielding officers and the rest of the infantry. Behind them came the wounded and what civilians decided to join the attack. There was an insufficient number of rifles for all, so many wounded came with bamboo spears, rocks, or anything else they hoped could do damage.

As some 4,000 Japanese swarmed over the American lines, intense close quarters combat broke out.

Leading the 1st Battalion was Lt. Col. William O’Brien. Since the first days his unit had landed on Saipan, he had shown his bravery and skill as a commander. O’Brien had personally led several assaults to reduce Japanese strongpoints while continually exposing himself to enemy fire.

When the Japanese came at the 1st Battalion that morning, O’Brien was once again in the thick of the fighting and leading from the front.

As the enemy swept over his lines, O’Brien steadfastly held his ground and rallied his men. Like a modern-day Call of Duty character, he dual-wielded two .45 caliber pistols and shouted encouragement to his men as he blasted the onrushing attackers.

As the attack continued, O’Brien received a painful wound to his shoulder but refused to quit. When his pistol ammunition was exhausted, he picked up a discarded rifle and continued to fight. When he again ran out of ammunition, he manned a .50 caliber machine gun and poured fire into the advancing Japanese.

O’Brien was last seen alive surrounded by sword-wielding Japanese, blasting the .50 caliber machine gun and yelling at his men, “Don’t give them a damn inch!”

Elsewhere on the 1st Battalion line, one Thomas Baker, a private in A Company, was also giving the Japanese hell. Like O’Brien, from the early days of his unit’s involvement on Saipan he had exhibited tremendous bravery in fighting the Japanese.

As the Japanese rushed his position, Baker delivered deadly fire with his rifle. When he was wounded he refused to be evacuated and continued to fight on. With his ammunition exhausted, Baker turned his rifle into club and desperately fought off the Japanese attackers until his weapon was battered beyond use.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
U.S. Marines take cover as Japanese snipers attack. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

At this point, a fellow soldier withdrew him from the line, but in carrying him from the field was himself wounded. Baker refused to be taken any further due to the risk to his friends. He made a simple last request — to be left propped against a tree, facing the Japanese, with a .45 pistol with eight shots.

When friendly forces retook the position in the following days, they discovered Baker’s body, just as they had left it, with eight dead Japanese laying in front of him — each killed with a single shot from his .45.

Further down the line from the 1st Battalion, the 2nd Battalion was having problems of its own. Japanese forces had breached the perimeter and were attacking the battalion aid station just behind the front lines.

Seeing Japanese soldiers bayoneting wounded Americans, the battalion surgeon, Capt. Benjamin Salomon, sprang into action. Salomon, a former infantry soldier and the regimental dental officer, had volunteered to take the original battalion surgeon’s place when he had been wounded. Letting his former infantry training take over, Salomon began to fight back.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
U.S. Marines secure their first hold on the beach of Saipan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

As Japanese continued to infiltrate his aid station, Salomon, with the help of wounded soldiers, expertly dispatched them until he realized the situation was untenable. Ordering the wounded to make their way back to the regimental aid station, Salomon joined the defenses and manned a machine gun.

Salomon was later found slumped over the machine gun, his body riddled with bullet and bayonet wounds, with scores of Japanese dead in front of his position. It was later determined that he had been wounded over 20 times and had moved the machine gun four times in order to get a clear field of fire around the bodies before he was overcome.

The battle for Saipan would be declared over two days later. Afterwards, O’Brien, Baker, and Salomon would all be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Articles

Two Marine veterans playing ‘Pokemon Go’ catch an attempted murder suspect

Two Marine veterans playing “Pokemon Go” in a Los Angeles suburb on Jul. 12 ended up catching an attempted murder suspect instead of a Pikachu.


NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
The game is designed to allow people to catch fictional animals, not real criminals. (Screenshot: YouTube/Lachlan – Minecraft More)

Javier Soch and Seth Ortega were hunting Pokemon near a museum when they saw a man who appeared to be scaring a woman and her three sons, according to reporting in the Los Angeles Times. The Marines talked to the man, who was agitated but coherent. He asked for cigarettes and shelter and the Marines told him to check the local police station for help.

The Marines kept their eyes on the man as he walked off. “We kept our distance. We didn’t want to alert the guy and escalate the situation,” Soch told reporter Matt Hamilton.

The man interacted with two more families. He continued to act suspiciously but did not do anything illegal — at first.

“[We] walked across the street and the gentleman actually walks up and touches one of the children, one of the boys, his toe, and starts walking his way up to the knee,” Ortega told an ABC affiliate.

The veterans sprung into action. Soch stayed with the family while Ortega sprinted after the man. The man attempted to flee, but he couldn’t get away from the Marine.

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Running from Marines is not generally a winning idea. Photo Credit: 26th MEU

He was arrested on suspicion of child annoyance, but the police then learned that the man had a warrant out for attempted murder in Sonoma, California. He will be extradited to face charges there.

Articles

Hello, Seaman: Navy ditches ratings after review

NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number
Rear Adm. speaks to the crew of USS Iwo Jima during an all hands call. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Murray


The Navy is jettisoning its complex ratings system to make sailors’ jobs more understandable and allow them to more easily transfer occupations.

The move, which allows sailors to be addressed by rank, such as seaman, petty officer and chief, aligns the service for the first time with the other three military branches, which address troops by rank instead of job specialty.

“I’ve never heard of a Marine who introduced himself as ‘Infantry Corporal Smith,’ ” Cmdr. John Schofield, a spokesman for Navy Personnel Command, told Military.com. “This is exactly what every other service does; it completely aligns us with the other services. I would just say that it makes complete sense in terms of putting more emphasis on rank and standardization.”

The changes are the result of an eight-month review initiated by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in January in as part of an effort to make job titles gender neutral as women entered previously closed fields.

In June, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke announced that the review was being expanded with input from the master chief petty officer of the Navy and other senior leaders to examine ways to make job descriptions more inclusive, improve the job assignment process, and facilitate sailors’ transition between military jobs or into civilian ones.

A Navy administrative message published Thursday announced that the ratings system that included job and rank information — intelligence specialist first class or chief hospital corpsman — is being replaced with a four-digit alphanumeric Naval Occupational Specialty, or NOS, parallel to the military occupational specialties used by the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force.

Sailors in ranks E-1 to E-3 will be addressed as “seaman;” those in ranks E4 to E-6 will be called petty officers third, second or first class; and those in ranks E-7 to E-9 will be called chief, senior chief or master chief, in keeping with their paygrade, according to the message.

“There will no longer be a distinction between ‘Airman, Fireman, and Seaman.’ They will all be ‘Seamen,’ ” the message states.

The new NOSs will be categorized under logical job fields, similar to the organizational system used by the other services. According to a ratings conversion chart provided by Navy officials, the old ratings of Navy diver, explosive ordnance disposal specialist, and special warfare operator will be classified as NOS E100, E200 and E300, respectively.

Schofield said sailors will be able to hold more than one NOS, a shift that will allow them to collect a broader range of professional experience and expertise while in uniform. Each NOS, he said, will be ultimately matched with a parallel or similar civilian occupation to “enable the Navy to identify credentials and certifications recognized and valued within the civilian workforce.”

“This change represents a significant cultural shift and it is recognized that it will not happen overnight, but will take time to become fully adapted,” the message states.

While the review began with an eye to gender neutrality, the ranks of “seaman” in the Navy and “midshipman” at the Naval Academy will stay, Schofield said. The terms were allowed to remain, he said, because they are ranks, not job titles.

While the new NOSs will largely retain the original ratings titles, some — such as yeoman — may change to become more inclusive or more descriptive of the sailors’ jobs. The updated list of job titles is still being finalized, Schofield said.

The Navy’s message to sailors is that the process isn’t over yet, and it’s not setting timelines for the completion of the ratings changeover.

“Changes to personnel management processes, policies, programs and systems will proceed in deliberate and thoughtful phases that will enable transitions that are seamless and largely transparent to the fleet,” the message states. “Fleet involvement and feedback will be solicited during each phase of the transformation. All aspects of enlisted force management to include recruiting, detailing, advancements, training, and personnel and pay processes are being carefully considered as we move forward.”

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