How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today - We Are The Mighty
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How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today


The files were stored in cardboard boxes stacked on steel shelves lining the sixth and top floor of a large, rectangular federal building in a small, northwest suburb of St. Louis. They were packed so tightly within the thousands of boxes that, when the fire erupted, it burned so intense, so quickly, so out of control, it took the responding 43 fire departments more than two days to smother. When the smoke settled and the interior temperature cooled, the building’s staff found that up to 18 million of “the most fragile records in our nation” had been reduced to smoldering piles and puddles of ash.*

There was no motive, no suspect, and few clues. The person(s) responsible for destroying 80 percent of Army personnel records for soldiers discharged between 1 Nov 1912 to 1 Jan 1960 and 75 percent of the Air Force records of Airmen discharged between 25 Sep 1947 to 1 Jan 1964 (with surnames beginning with Hubbard and running through the end of the alphabet) has never been found.

The NPRC records fire is 42-year old news, yet even today it continues to impact the lives of our most sacred Veterans and their dependents and survivors.

How does an Army Air Forces bombardier from our Greatest Generation apply for VA healthcare and benefits without records of his service? What can be done for the fiduciary of an Army Nurse Corps Veteran looking for records to piece together his grandmother’s legacy? How does NPRC staff deal with the thousands of records requests from this time period it fields each year?

In the days following the fire, NPRC used experimental treatments to recover about 6.5 million burned and water-damaged records. Today, it has a preservation program, split between two teams (1 2), reconstructing what was recovered. This has proved helpful and hopeful for the many “treasure hunt” stories that occasionally surface in media profiles.

But, what about those whose records were not recovered?

You can help VA help NPRC reconstruct the damaged record. There is a specific request you must fill out that gives VA the authority to ask NPRC to reconstruct that file. This request provides information that allows the NPRC to search for other types of documents, such as individual state records, Multiple Name Pay Vouchers from the Adjutant General’s Office, Selective Service System registration records, pay records from the Government Accounting Office, as well as medical records from military hospitals (current Army list; current Air Force list), unit records and morning reports, and entrance and separation x-rays and organizational records, that would assist you with your VA healthcare access or compensation claim, or for valuable research on your family member’s service history.

When it comes to VA compensation, however, maybe you don’t have time to play detective. It is critical, in the request you send to VA, that you provide as much information as you can, including the units you were assigned to, as well as the name of the company, battalion, regiment, squadron, group, and/or wing.

VA will accept, as alternate sources for records, statements from service medical personnel, certified “buddy” statements or affidavits, accident and police reports, Employment-related examination reports, letters written during service, photographs taken during service, pharmacy prescription records, insurance-related examination reports, medical evidence from civilian/private hospitals, clinics, and physicians that treated you during service or shortly after separation, and photocopies of any service treatment records that you may have in your possession.

It is important to note that, although these details can significantly help, VA does not rely only on service treatment records when deciding claims for cases that are related to the 1973 fire.

While this can appear daunting, there is help available; VA encourages you to work with an accredited representative or agent if you need assistance. You can also request an attorney, claims agent, or Veteran Service Organization representative online.

The ramifications of this tragedy have been longstanding and well documented, and it couldn’t have happened to a more heroic group of Veterans at a worse time—when those files were needed most. Archaeologists two centuries from now are not going to magically dig up microfiche duplicates that were never created. Those records are lost to time. With NPRC’s assistance, VA is committed to ensuring that no eligible but affected Veteran goes without the benefits and services (or information) to which he and she have earned.

*In 2012, NPRC relocated to a new building housing 60 million records (from the Spanish-American War to about the year 2000) in 1.8 million boxes “in a climate-controlled warehouse with a constant temperature of about 35 degrees and with a relative humidity that never dips below 40 percent.”

Some information within this post has been sourced from outside, non-VA media. Each instance has been hyper linked to the original material.

Jason Davis served five years in the 101st ABN, including two combat tours to Iraq. He’s currently an M.A. candidate in Writing at Johns Hopkins University and serves as social media administrator for the Veterans Benefits Administration.

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7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces

TEL AVIV — At the end of the day, Israel’s greatest weapon to fight its enemies is people who serve in the IDF. This tiny country had to fight for its survival against all its neighbors on three separate occasions.


But even when they fought for independence using a patchwork force of militias and prayer, they still needed weapons.

Nowadays, Hezbollah; Hamas; Islamic Jihad; and the 9,482* other groups bent on Israel’s destruction aren’t held back with prayer.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Ok, so they use prayer, but also weapons.

Related: That time a handful of Israeli airmen led by a former US Marine attacked 10,000 Egyptians – and won

Maintaining Israel’s security is a unique strategic challenge that has forced the Jewish state to adopt the technology of others, while also innovating some of its own solutions to keep the peace — and fight when needed.

*estimated with zero evidence. But there are a lot of them. Trust me.

7. The F-16I “Sufa”

There’s nothing new about an F-16 Fighting Falcon, especially considering it’s been the workhorse of the free world since long before Communism fell. While the world oohs and ahhs at the F-35’s ultra-expensive helmet, the F-16I’s (I for Israel) helmet uses and integrated radar and helmet system that allows the pilot to fire the fighter’s weapons just by looking at its target.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today

6.  Sa’ar 5 Corvette

Israel has coastline only in the Mediterranean and Red Seas, but the nautical border shared with many of its traditional enemies makes it vitally important for Israel to have effective Naval force. Enter the Sa’ar 5.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
A Barak-8 missile fired from a Sa’ar 5 Corvette. (IDF Blog)

The Sa’ar 5 packs a wallop for a ship of its size and class. It features two 324-mm torpedo tubes, eight Harpoon missiles, 16 Barak-8 and 32 Barak-1 surface-to-air missiles. And let’s not forget the mighty Phalanx CIWS to protect it from surprises, like Hezbollah’s radar-guided missiles.

5. Protector Drones

The Israel Defense Forces are the first to field armed seaborne drones for surveillance missions in and around Israeli territory. It’s remotely controlled by two operators and uses a Typhoon remote weapons system attached to a machine gun and grenade launcher.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
(IDF Blog)

Variants of the protector can even be fitted with a SPIKE “fire-and-forget” missile system.

4. Tavor-21 Assault Rifle

The Israeli military uses a number of small arms developed by various countries, including the U.S.-designed M4 carbine. Their homegrown weapons are the ones for which they’re most proud, especially the Tavor-21 rifle and all its variants.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Nahal’s Special Forces conducted a firing drill in southern Israel with a range of different weapons. The firing course was part of their advanced training where they learn to specialize in a certain firearm. (IDF Blog photo)

The Tavor is more compact and easier to maintain than the M4A1 carbine. The “bullpup” design maintains a shorter overall length while still using a standard-length barrel for better ballistics. The Tavor fires NATO 5.56 ammunition. It is set to replace the M4A1 as the standard issue rifle for the IDF as early as 2018.

3. Merkava IV

The Merkava has a number of tank innovations for the Israel Defense Forces’ unique needs. Its weapons include a 124-mm cannon that can fire Lahat anti-tank missiles. Other weapons include three heavy machine guns, smoke launchers, and a 60-mm mortar.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
The Merkava IV. (IDF Blog)

Its fire control system also allows for defense against enemy attack helicopters. None of that is as awesome for the crew as the Merkava’s…

2. Trophy Tank Defense System

Guided anti-tank missiles weren’t something the developers of WWII-era armor had to worry about. These days, anti-tank missiles are cheap and plentiful — especially for Hezbollah. For anyone who’s ever wanted to order “Star Trek’s” Enterprise crew to raise shields, you can do that in the IDF.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
No, really. (IDF Blog)

The Trophy Active Tank Defense System creates a full sensor shield to detect incoming missiles and then launches its own missile to intercept the incoming anti-tank missile. Which is almost as cool as…

1. The Iron Dome

When your most persistent and determined enemy’s biggest tactic is to randomly fire missiles into your territory and hope it hits something important, you need a way to mitigate that threat because Hamas might actually achieve that some day. The Iron Dome is how Israel has been doing it since 2011.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
The Iron Dome at work during Operation Protective Edge, 2011.

The Iron Dome uses radar stations to detect rockets as soon as they’re fired. Once detected, the rocket’s trajectory is analyzed from the ground. If the analysis reveals the potential for hitting a target, two Tamir high-explosive missile are launched to intercept.

Israel says the Iron Dome’s success rate is an incredible 90 percent.

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More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

With the Pentagon poised to announce details of a troop increase for the US mission in Afghanistan, the pending decision raises questions about the effect additional boots on the ground will have on the 16-year conflict.


Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford made the rounds July 19 on Capitol Hill, reportedly briefing lawmakers on the White House’s strategy for Afghanistan and on the ongoing coalition campaign to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon repeatedly has said its Afghanistan war plan would be on President Trump’s desk by mid-July.

For several weeks, defense officials led by Mr. Mattis have been assessing the progress of the Afghanistan war, determining what level of support — including a 3,000- to 5,000-troop increase — will be required to stabilize the country’s security forces.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Government-led analysis and reviews by private sector analysts say upwards of 60 percent of Afghanistan is heavily influenced by or under the direct sway of the Taliban. Afghan troops, advised by US and NATO forces, have suffered heavy casualties to maintain control over the 40 percent of the country ruled by the central government in Kabul.

The war in Afghanistan received little attention on the campaign trail last year, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump focusing on the US-led coalition to defeat the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. But Washington refocused on Southwest Asia amid Taliban gains this spring and the increased Islamic State presence in the eastern half of Afghanistan.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

His comments echoed those of US Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel and Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in the country.

Currently 8,400 US troops are in Afghanistan, training and advising local security forces. Should the top-end troop increase proposal go into effect, it would raise the number of US forces in the country to more than 10,000.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
DoD photo by Sgt. Edward Siguenza

On top of the increases sought by the Pentagon, NATO leaders have agreed to send surge forces into the war-torn country. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced the decision during an alliance ministerial earlier this year.

Inside the Pentagon, hopes were high that President Trump’s emphasis on military might to achieve US national security objectives coupled with a hands-off management style would give the department the resources and leeway it needed to bring the Afghan war to an end. Those hopes were bolstered when the administration announced decisions on troop numbers would be the exclusive domain of Mr. Mattis and his staff.

But recent reports claiming that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster instituted a soft cap of 3,900 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that could be sent to Afghanistan has put a damper on such assumptions.

The Trump White House’s management of the Pentagon “is not the free hand that has been advertised,” said Bill Roggio, managing editor of the Long War Journal and an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Furthermore, any close study of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign would have proven things would be business as usual at the Pentagon. “The [war] policies are fundamentally the same at this point in time just with the reins loosened,” Mr. Roggio said.

The proposed 3,900-man troop cap is less an example of the war micromanagement of the Obama administration and more a way to get some breathing room as the Trump administration pulls together a long-term Afghan strategy, he added.

“It is a stopgap until we can come up with a complete strategy. It is not a permanent cap,” said Mr. Roggio.

Congressional hawks, led by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, have taken Mr. Trump’s national security team to task over its lack of an Afghanistan war plan.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Arizona Senator John McCain. DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

Last month Mr. McCain told Mr. Mattis and Gen. Dunford that he hopes they can “understand the dilemma you are presenting to us” each day the Trump administration holds off on issuing a new strategy for America’s longest war.

But for all the rhetoric, the US does have an Afghanistan strategy in place — the one drafted by the Obama White House.

Mr. Roggio said he understands the frustration at the Defense Department and on Capitol Hill regarding the White House’s slow pace on the Afghanistan plan.

“But there is a strategy in place right now, and until there is a new one, you follow that,” he said, referring to the Obama plan.

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Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Silver Star | Public Domain


An airman who braved enemy fire to save fellow troops during a river evacuation in Afghanistan in 2009 will receive a Silver Star for his bravery, a general said.

Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the military’s third-highest valor award in April and will receive the honor during a ceremony Nov. 4 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, an official said.

Also read: Possible Medal of Honor upgrade would be the first based on drone imagery

His heroic actions during a three-day period through Nov. 6, 2009, were recounted during a speech by Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference near Washington, D.C.

“This is an example of our airmen,” Carlisle said.

Hutchins and a team of soldiers were on the west bank of the Bala Murghab River looking for a supply airdrop, Carlisle said. One of the canisters fell off target into the swift-moving river, and two soldiers swam out to retrieve it.

But Taliban militants on the east side of the river were watching.

The soldiers were swept out by a “strong current they weren’t anticipating,” Carlisle said. “Airman Hutchins jumps into the river after [them] … but the Taliban start[ed] shooting at the last man in the water.”

Hutchins, swimming around the frigid waters for roughly an hour, evaded Taliban fire by skimming the surface “with [only] his nose and mouth” while diving back down to find the troops.

Additional soldiers with the 82nd Airborne soon came to the aid of all three men. But the Taliban began another firefight — with machine guns, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades — on the east bank the following day.

“They come out, and start running across an open field and take on the Taliban. They take out the rocket propeller, the machine gun. There’s still dealing with the snipers, but Hutchins, being a TACP, gets on the radio … calls in a [strike] from an MQ-1 Predator in a danger-close situation, but … it takes out the Taliban,” Carlisle said.

The award’s narrative, written by the airman’s former supervisor, Master Sgt. Donald Gansberger, describes the action in even more detail.

“Airman Hutchins moved under heavy and accurate rocket propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire across an open field with little to no cover or concealment,” it states. “While continuing to move forward, he managed to direct the sensors of overhead close air support while simultaneously providing accurate supporting fire with his M-4 rifle.”

“He killed one enemy armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher, at close range, before the enemy could fire and wounded an additional enemy fighter all while providing targeting and controlling information to an overhead unmanned aerial vehicle that destroyed a second enemy fighting position with a Hellfire missile,” the document states.

“Airman Hutchins’ quick, decisive actions, tactical presence and calm demeanor enabled friendly forces to eventually overwhelm the enemy stronghold,” it states. “His actions forced the enemy fighters to break contact and relinquish critical ground to friendly forces which enabled the safety of the recovery efforts for the two missing Soldiers.”

In an ironic twist, Carlisle said, “they did eventually get their container back.”

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

Hutchins medically retired from the Air Force in 2014 with injuries sustained as a result of enemy attack during a separate deployment in 2012, Air Combat Command told Military.com.

The Defense Department is reviewing more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced in January.

In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

The latest review is due to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter by Sept. 30, 2017.

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This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers

John W. “Jack” Hinson was a man who found himself firmly on both sides at the outset of the Civil War. He claimed neutrality and achieved it by giving intelligence reports to both sides, including one report to then-Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.


How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Jack Hinson

Hinson was a farmer on the Tennessee-Kentucky border who seemed to be trying to just get through the war intact. He owned slaves but had opposed secession. One son joined the Confederate Army and another joined a militia, but the family hosted Grant after his victory at Fort Donelson.

But Hinson lived in a region that was fiercely contested by the North and South, and the Hinsons were caught in the crosshairs.

Two of Jack Hinson’s sons, George and Jack, went into the woods with rifles in late-1862. The boys claimed they were hunting deer, but Union soldiers suspected them of guerilla attacks that were claiming the lives of many Union soldiers.

An Army lieutenant ordered the boys tied to a tree and shot. After the execution, the officer cut off their heads and ordered them placed on gate posts at the Hinson plantation.

Jack Hinson did not respond well to this. He buried the bodies and then cleared the plantation, sending away his family and slaves.

He ordered a custom sniper rifle. Like the Whitworth Rifle that achieved the longest sniper shot in the Civil War, Hinson’s rifle fired hexagonal rounds through a rifled barrel. Unlike the Whitworth, the rifle weighed 17 pounds and fired .50-caliber rounds accurately to 880 yards.

At the age of 57, Hinson became a guerilla fighter against the Union. Army estimates at the time put the number of men he killed at 130, but modern historians have adjusted the number down to just over 100. Hinson only tracked the officers he killed, marking 36 circles on his barrel.

He reportedly began his campaign by killing the lieutenant who ordered the boys killed, decapitated them, and then ordered their heads onto the gate posts. His second kill was the sergeant who placed the heads on the posts.

After that he began searching out targets of opportunity, focusing his attacks on the vital river trade up and down the Tennessee River.

In one instance, a gunboat attacked by Hinson even surrendered under the belief that they were under fire by a large rebel force. Hinson couldn’t accept the surrender because, again, he was on his own in the woods of Tennessee with a single rifle.

Hinson is also believed to have killed a group of pro-Southern renegades who attacked a neighbor, so he carried some of his “neutrality” into his single-man campaign against the North.

By the time the war closed, Hinson had been hunted by four Union regiments but survived. He gifted his rifle to Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Forrest and returned to private life.

Most of what is known about John “Jack” Hinson was researched by Marine Corps Lt. Col. Tom C. McKenney. His books on Hinson include “Battlefield Sniper: Over 100 Civil War Kills” and “Jack Hinson’s One-Man War, A Civil War Sniper.”

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These are 4 of the most underrated American military commanders ever

We’ve all heard about military leaders from American history who totally rock. Washington, Stonewall Jackson, and Ike are certainly among them.


But it’s worth noting some military commanders who didn’t get the accolades, but really should have.

Some, you may know a little bit about, and some you might never have heard of until now.

Let’s take a look at who might need some more compliments for their military prowess.

1. Raymond A. Spruance

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Raymond A. Spruance, the victor of Midway. (U.S. Navy photo)

Samuel Eliot Morison called Raymond Ames Spruance “the victor of Midway” in his “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.”

Morison noted in that Spruance, upon reviewing the text, requested that “the victor of Midway” be changed to “who commanded a carrier task force at Midway.” Morison declined to make the change, but it shows the modest character of Spruance, who was arguably America’s best naval combat commander in the Pacific Theater.

Look at his results.

At Midway, Spruance smashed and sank four Japanese carriers. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, his fleet pulled off the Marianas Turkey Shoot, and later sank a carrier and two oilers (American subs sank two more carriers). Here’s how thoroughly Spruance beat the Japanese: At the start of the battle, CombinedFleet.com noted the Japanese had 473 aircraft on their carriers. After the battle, WW2DB.com noted the Japanese carriers had 35 planes total among them.

In the Navy, it is an honor to have a ship named after you. When your name goes on the lead ship of a class of destroyers, it speaks volumes about how you did.

Spruance’s name was on USS Spruance (DD 963), the first of 31 Spruance-class destroyers. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer (DDG 111) also bears his name.

2. John Buford

Sam Elliot gave a memorable performance of this general in “Gettysburg.”

We may very well owe the fact that the Union won the Civil War to John Buford. Everything that happened at Gettysburg was due to Buford’s actions on June 30 and July 1, 1863. An excerpt from a U.S. Army training manual notes, “Buford’s deployment and delaying tactics blocked Confederate access to Gettysburg while gaining time for reinforcing Union columns to arrive on the battlefield.”

He identified the terrain that mattered, he then bought time for the Union Army to arrive, and to eventually regroup on Cemetery Ridge. The U.S. Army manual says that, “[H]is morning actions ensured that the Army of the Potomac secured the high ground. Over the next two days, General Lee’s army would shatter itself in repeated attacks upon these heights. The battle of Gettysburg very much reflected the shaping influence of Buford’s cavalry division.”

3. Ulysses S. Grant

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mathew B. Brady

Butcher. Drunk. Those are common perceptions of Ulysses S. Grant, but they miss the point.

If Robert E. Lee’s biggest fault was the failure to keep in mind the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the two sides in the Civil War, Grant was someone who keenly grasped them. Yes, Union troops suffered heavy casualties at battles like Cold Harbor or the Wilderness, but where other generals pulled back, Grant pressed forward.

Edward H. Bonekemper noted at the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable that in the Overland Campaign, “Grant took his aggressiveness and persistence beyond the levels he had demonstrated in the Western and Middle Theaters.” Bonekemper also expressed his belief that had Petersburg not held, Grant’s campaign would have won the war in two months.

Eventually, he broke Lee’s army, and with it, the Confederacy.

4. Daniel Callaghan

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Like John Buford, Callaghan really had one big moment. But what a moment it was.

Against overwhelming odds, Daniel Callaghan saved Henderson Field from a massive bombardment, making the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. Yet far too many historical accounts, like Richard Frank’s Guadalcanal (see pages 459 and 460), act as if Callaghan blundered into the fight.

On the contrary, Callaghan, by forcing a melee, bought enough time that the Japanese had to postpone having a battleship bombard Henderson Field for two critical days — enough time for American fast battleships to arrive.

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Watch this guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns get stabbed and carry on

Imagine being at your regular guard shift and your relief commander comes in and accidentally stabs you in the foot. Most of us would have trouble walking and go to the hospital. We certainly wouldn’t finish our shift.


But we aren’t The Old Guard.

A video taken by a visitor to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery captured a bayonet mishap – the last thing anyone wants to hear after the word “bayonet.”

The Old Guard – soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry guard the Tomb of the Unknowns 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in any weather and even the middle of a hurricane.

Every half hour, the guard, called a Tomb Guard Sentinel, is changed. the changing begins with a white glove inspection of the outgoing guard’s rifle.

A video captured by YouTube user H Helman shows the Tomb Guard Commander accidentally losing his grip on the rifle and putting the bayonet through the guard’s foot.

The look on the guard’s face never changes. There’s clearly a shock to the system as the bayonet slides home, but all you ever see from the guard is a very slight wince.

The Old Guard is trained and drilled meticulously to maintain their professionalism, military bearing, and discipline. Accidents and outbursts from the Sentinels are extremely rare. As a matter of fact, if you weren’t watching this incident closely, you may even miss what happened.

Instead of running away, being carted off, or even being relieved, the Sentinel who was stabbed carried on with his shift. He marched back and forth along his route, blood oozing from his foot as he walked.

Neither he, the commander, nor the other Sentinels ever missed a beat. They sharply finished their watch. This kind of discipline is the reason 90 percent of the soldiers who try to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns wash out of training.

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The Air Force just escalated its war with the airlines

The Air Force has just escalated its response to efforts by the airlines to hire away military pilots. They’re throwing huge retention bonuses to the pilots and boosting flight pay to $1,000 a month.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the flight pay boost will add an additional $1,800 a month to the paychecks of officers. Enlisted men will see their flight pay go from $400 to $600 a month, a 50 percent increase, and taking their pay up $2,400 a year.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Maj. Kurt Wampole, assisted by Capt. Matt Ward, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron pilots, taxis a C-130H Hercules back to its parking spot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ben Bloker.)

“We need to retain our experienced pilots and these are some examples of how we’re working to do that,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson in an Air Force release. “We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers.”

In addition to announcing the increased flight pay, Secretary Wilson announced the creation of an “Aircrew Crisis Task Force” under Brig. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski. This task force’s formation is a sign that the pilot shortage the Air Force is facing has not improved. The Air Force release noted that at the end of Fiscal Year 2016, the Air Force was short 1,555 pilots overall, including 1,211 fighter pilots.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet in preparation of a barnstorming performance for reporters, Feb. 1, 2017, in Houston. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)

The Air Force is looking to bring back 25 retired pilots to fill staff positions through the Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty program, allowing pilots who are still current to be returned to front-line duties. The staff positions are non-flying, but retired pilots could have sufficient expertise to handle them.

This past June, the Air Force increased its Aviation Bonus cap from $25,000 a year to $35,000. These bonuses are paid to pilots who commit to stay past their service commitment for up to nine years.

The Air Force was also seeking to reduce the number of non-flying assignments for pilots, including headquarters positions and developmental opportunities. The Air Force is also trying to reduce additional units and add more flexibility for Airmen with families and children.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 4 edition)

Here’s a quick look at what’s going on:


Now: You can be in the next ‘Call of Duty’ by supporting military veterans

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Oldest living Marine, Dorothy ‘Dot’ Cole, dies at 107

Dorothy “Dot” Cole was one of the earliest female Marine reservists to enlist following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Initially wishing to join the Navy, Dot was turned down because of her height. Standing just 4 feet 11 inches tall, Dot’s other nickname was “Half-Pint” according to her daughter, Beth Kluttz. Dot turned 107 on September 19, 2020 and was widely celebrated as the oldest living Marine. Sadly, on January 7, 2021, Kluttz confirmed that Dot passed away.

Undeterred by the Navy’s rejection, Dot set herself a new goal: to fly for the Marine Corps. However, becoming a flying leatherneck was an even greater challenge since the Marines only allowed enlisted females to perform clerical duties until 1942. In July, as the war intensified and more personnel were needed, President Roosevelt signed the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve into law. This opened the door for women to serve in administrative, training and supply roles.

Still pursuing her dream of flight, Dot was busy earning her private pilot’s license. She accumulated 200 hours in a Piper Cub when she enlisted with the Marines on July 12, 1943, becoming one of the first volunteers. Dot attended 6 weeks of boot camp at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and earned her Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Despite her experience in the air, Dot was assigned to clerical duties after boot camp. “They put me behind a typewriter instead of an airplane,” Dot told the Independent Tribune of Concord during an interview for her 107th birthday last September.

Still, Dot served with enthusiasm. “I loved the hats we were wearing,” Dot told Marine Corps Times, also in September. “It was fun when I got the first complete Marine outfit. I loved it very much and felt right at home with it.” She spent her two years of service at a firing range in Quantico, Virginia. Her duties focused primarily on typing correspondence for officers. “It was kind of a tough time and we were not welcomed too well by many of the men in the service,” Cole recalled in the Marine Corps Times interview. “But they got over it.”

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Dot in 2020 (Beth Kluttz)

Dot met her future husband, Wiley Cole, in Washington, D.C. When the war ended in 1945, Dot was discharged in December as a Marine Sergeant. “We all left on a train,” Cole said in her Independent Tribune interview, “and many of us ladies were singing.” She moved to San Francisco with Wiley where they got married. In 1953, the couple had their daughter. Both Coles worked at the Ames Research Center, (which later became part of NASA) until Wiley’s death in 1955. Dot never remarried.

Kluttz moved from California to North Carolina in 1976 and Dot followed three years later. According to her daughter, Dot was living well into the 100th year of her life. “We could still go to Walmart and I could actually leave her alone and she’d go down her own way. And I can remember having a hard time finding her because she was so short, she was shorter than…the clothes racks…so I had a hard time locating her and a lot of times it scared me trying to find her,” Kluttz told the Charlotte Observer. Dot’s health started to deteriorate after she turned 105.

It was her daughter who started the process to determine that Dot was the oldest living Marine. Around the time Dot turned 103, Kluttz began to research who the oldest Marine might be. She suspected that it could be her mother, but couldn’t prove it. “So I just put it out there through them that ‘my mother as of this date is this age, and if anybody else is out there, please step forward’ pretty much is what I did,” Kluttz said. “I think some other Marines from the Marine Corps League, when she was getting ready to turn 107, they got in touch with headquarters up by the Pentagon there in Washington, and they were able to do the research, and they said, ‘Not only is she the oldest female Marine, but she is actually the oldest Marine as of September 2020.’”

Dot was awarded lifetime membership in the Marine Corps League Cabarrus Detachment 1175 in September 2020. Despite never being able to fly for the Marines, Dot is pleased to see the progress that women in the Corps have made. “The girls now, they have an open field with what they can do,” she said, “so it’s gotten better.” Dot’s service and determination is sure to inspire future Marines just like her.

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Trump taps another Leatherneck, this time to command DHS

President-elect Donald Trump selected retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, the former commander of United States Southern Command, to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security.


The president-elect is slated to make a formal announcement next week, and is also expected to name his pick for Secretary of State as well.

According to a 2014 report by the Washington Free Beacon, Kelly made waves during his tenure at SOUTHCOM by declaring that he had only 5 percent of the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance elements needed to halt drug smuggling.

That year, he also revealed that nearly three-fourths of drug smugglers got through due to a lack of assets.

Kelly also has warned of Iranian influence in South America.

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Petty Officer 3rd Class Tanner King, a crewmember of Coast Guard Station Boston, is underway aboard a 45-foot response boat during a security escort in Boston Harbor, Thursday, July 21, 2016. The station’s crew escorted the Norwegian-flagged LNG tanker BW GDF SUEZ Boston into a terminal in Boston. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
“Over the last 15 years Iran has periodically sought closer ties with regional governments, albeit with mixed results,” Kelly testified during a Congressional hearing March 2015, according to the Free Beacon. “Iranian legislators visited Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua to advocate for increased economic and diplomatic cooperation. Iran’s outreach is predicated on circumventing sanctions and countering U.S. influence.”

Kelly, a Gold Star father, is the third general to be appointed to a high-level national security post by President-elect Trump. Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a former commander of United States Central Command, was selected to serve as Secretary of Defense while former Defense Intelligence Agency head Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was chosen to be Trump’s national security advisor.

Kelly served in the Marine Corps for 46 years, counting four in the inactive reserve. He served in Operation Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror.

His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat Distinguishing Device and a gold star in lieu of a second award, and the Meritorious Service Medal with a gold star in lieu of a second award.

Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness praised the selection, saying, “I agree with a Marine veteran friend who said of the appointment of General Kelly, ‘The Marines have landed . . . and the situation soon will be well in hand!’ After years of HHS Director Jeh Johnson’s failure to protect and defend the integrity of America’s borders, this is an inspired and reassuring choice. President-elect Donald Trump is deploying in defense of our nation a man of character who commands respect.”

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These are the 12 largest nuclear detonations in history

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Wikimedia


In a surprise announcement, North Korea has claimed that it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.

Pyongyang, which has a history of exaggerating its successes, claims that the test was a “perfect success.”

North Korea also believes that its successful miniaturization of a hydrogen bomb elevates the country’s “nuclear might to the next level.”

Since the first nuclear test on July 15, 1945, there have been over 2,051 other nuclear weapons tests around the world.

No other force epitomizes the absolute destructive power humanity has unlocked in the way nuclear weapons have. And the weapons rapidly became more powerful in the decades after that first test.

The device tested in 1945 had a 20 kiloton yield, meaning it had the explosive force of 20,000 tons of TNT. Within 20 years, the US and USSR tested nuclear weapons larger than 10 megatons, or 10 million tons of TNT. For scale, these weapons were at least 500 times as strong as the first atomic bomb.

To put the size of history’s largest nuclear blasts to scale, we have used Alex Wellerstein’s Nukemap, a tool for visualizing the terrifying real-world impact of a nuclear explosion.

In the following maps, the first ring of the blast is the fireball, followed by the radiation radius. In the pink radius, almost all buildings are demolished and fatalities approach 100%. In the gray radius, stronger buildings would weather the blast, but injuries are nearly universal. In the orange radius, people with exposed skin would suffer from third-degree burns, and flammable materials would catch on fire, leading to possible firestorms.

11 (tie). Soviet Tests #158 and #168

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Alex Wellerstein | Nukemap

On August 25 and September 19, 1962, less than a month apart, the USSR conducted nuclear tests #158 and #168. Both tests were held over the Novaya Zemlya region of Russia, an archipelago to the north of Russia near the Arctic Ocean.

No film or photographs of the tests have been released, but both tests included the use of 10-megaton atomic bombs. These blasts would have incinerated everything within 1.77 square miles of their epicenters while causing third-degree burns up to an area of 1,090 square miles.

10. Ivy Mike

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
CTBTO

On November 1, 1952, the US tested Ivy Mike over the Marshall Islands. Ivy Mike was the world’s first hydrogen bomb and had a yield of 10.4 megatons, making it 700 times as strong as the first atomic bomb.

Ivy Mike’s detonation was so powerful that it vaporized the Elugelab Island where it was detonated, leaving in its place a 164-foot-deep crater. The explosion’s mushroom cloud traveled 30 miles into the atmosphere.

9. Castle Romeo

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Wikimedia Commons

Romeo was the second US nuclear detonation of the Castle Series of tests, which were conducted in 1954. All of the detonations took place over Bikini Atoll. Castle Romeo was the third-most powerful test of the series and had a yield of 11 megatons.

Romeo was the first device to be tested on a barge over open water instead of on a reef, as the US was quickly running out of islands upon which it could test nuclear weapons.

The blast would have incinerated everything within 1.91 square miles.

8. Soviet Test #123

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Alex Wellerstein | Nukemap

On October 23, 1961, the Soviets conducted nuclear test #123 over Novaya Zemlya. Test #123 used a 12.5 megaton nuclear bomb. A bomb of this size would incinerate everything within 2.11 square miles while causing third-degree burns in an area of 1,309 square miles.

No footage or photographs of this nuclear test have been released.

7. Castle Yankee

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Screengrab | YouTube

Castle Yankee, the second-strongest of the Castle series tests, was conducted on May 4, 1954. The bomb was 13.5 megatons. Four days later, its fallout reached Mexico City, about 7,100 miles away.

6. Castle Bravo

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
U.S. Department of Energy

Castle Bravo, detonated on February 28, 1954, was the first of the Castle series of tests and the largest US nuclear blast of all time.

Bravo was anticipated as a 6-megaton explosion. Instead, the bomb produced a 15-megaton fission blast. Its mushroom cloud reached 114,000 feet into the air.

The US military’s miscalculation of the test’s size resulted in the irradiation of approximately 665 inhabitants of the Marshall Islands and the radiation poisoning death of a Japanese fisherman who was 80 miles away from the detonation site.

3 (tie). Soviet Tests #173, #174, and #147

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Alex Wellerstein | Nukemap

From August 5 to September 27, 1962, the USSR conducted a series of nuclear tests over Novaya Zemlya.Tests #173, #174, and #147 all stand out as being the fifth-, fourth-, and third-strongest nuclear blasts in history.

All three produced blasts of about 20 megatons, or about 1,000 times as strong as the Trinity bomb. A bomb of this strength would incinerate everything within 3 square miles.

No footage or photographs of these nuclear tests have been released.

2. Soviet Test #219

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Alex Wellerstein | Nukemap

On December 24, 1962, the USSR conductedTest #219 over Novaya Zemlya. The bomb had a yield of 24.2 megatons. A bomb of this strength would incinerate everything within 3.58 square miles while causing third-degree burns in an area up to 2,250 square miles.

There are no released photos or video of this explosion.

1. The Tsar Bomba

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today
Screengrab | YouTube

On October 30, 1961, the USSR detonated the largest nuclear weapon ever tested and created the biggest man-made explosion in history. The blast, 3,000 times as strong as the bomb used on Hiroshima, broke windows 560 miles away, according to Slate.

The flash of light from the blast was visible up to 620 miles away.

The Tsar Bomba, as the test was ultimately known, had a yield between 50 and 58 megatons, twice the size of the second-largest nuclear blast.

A bomb of this size would create a fireball 6.4 square miles large and would be able to give humans third-degree burns within 4,080 square miles of the bomb’s epicenter.

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RNC goes vet heavy for its ‘Make America Safe Again’ theme

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today


CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Republican National Convention started here Monday tapping into the ill-ease of the American public in the wake of terrorist attacks across the globe and domestic unrest. The theme for the first of four days was “Make America Safe Again,” a play on Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” tagline that he’s used from the beginning of his current run for president.

The prime time slate of speakers who took the stage at the Quicken Loans Arena started with Willie Robertson, one of the stars of the “Duck Dynasty” reality show, and television actor Scott Biao. They were followed by the first veteran in the lineup, former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor.

Luttrell started his remarks by stating that he was born into a patriotic family that taught him “to die for any woman and to fight beside any man.” He said his father, who served in Vietnam, was “shamed out of his uniform” but instilled in his sons to “love this country and its people more than we loved ourselves.”

Luttrell was followed by Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed during the attack on the consulate in Benghazi in 2012. “For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton,” she said, which elicited a passionate response from the delegates on the convention floor, many of whom launched into a “lock her up” chant.

The topic of Clinton’s responsibility for the failure and tragedy of Benghazi continued with Mark Geist and John Teigen, two security contractors who fought off the attacks that night. The two men, who helped write 13 Hours, a book criticizing the State Department’s response to the attacks that was made into a Michael Bay movie last year, offered the crowd a lengthy, machismo-infused version of their experiences that night and left no doubt that they believe the lives of their comrades were lost because of the inaction of then-Sec. Clinton.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division, jabbed at President Obama’s unwillingness to use the term “fundamentalist Islamic terrorist” when referring to ISIS and the associated network of lone wolves, saying that if Donald Trump was made commander-in-chief he would “call the enemy by its name.”

The energy in the building shifted into the next gear as former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani took the stage and proclaimed that “the vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe. They fear for their children; they fear for themselves; they fear for our police officers who are being targeted, with a target on their back.”

Giuliani also hit Obama for his apparent reticence around labeling the terrorist threat in religious terms, saying, “Failing to identify them properly maligns all those good Muslims around the world who are being killed by them. They are killing more Muslims than anyone else.”

The lights faded to black as Giuliani left the stage, and the classic Queen hit “We are the Champions” boomed through the PA system. Donald Trump appeared as a backlit silhouette, and when the lights came back on he stepped to the podium and announced, “We are going to win so big,” and then introduced his wife Melania, who was the keynote speaker for the evening.

Mrs. Trump’s remarks, delivered with her heavy Eastern European accent, hit a number of general themes, including the fact that she was an immigrant who went through the naturalization process and became a citizen in 2006 and that her husband wasn’t one to give up on anything in life. (Media pundits were quick to point out that parts of her speech mirrored one given by First Lady Michelle Obama at the DNC in Denver in 2008, an accusation that Trump allies dismissed. “There’s no way that Melania Trump was plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech,” New Jersey Gov. and Trump proxy Chris Christie said.)

Donald Trump retook the stage at the end of his wife’s speech, and the two walked off to raucous applause from the delegates and other faithful in attendance. And, in what has to be viewed as a case of bad showmanship planning by either the RNC or the Trump team, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a vocal critic of the Obama administration in spite of the fact that he’s a registered Democrat, walked to the podium to speak as a large majority of the audience streamed for the exits, assuming they’d seen the most important part of the program.

“The destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president,” Flynn said. “From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton.”

Flynn was followed Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, another Army veteran, who told the dwindling crowd, “Our allies see us shrinking from our place as a leader in the world as we have failed time and again to address threats. They are looking for American leaders who are willing to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.'”

And by the time Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick brought the first day’s proceedings to a close, Quicken Loans Arena was nearly empty.