Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever - We Are The Mighty
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Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

In the ultimate irony of Cold War-era surveillance, one of America’s most effective spy planes — and literally the fastest plane ever built — could never have happened without the help of its intended target, the Soviet Union.


Turns out the Americans bought the metal it needed to help the SR-71 Blackbird withstand the temperatures of supersonic travel from its longtime rival Russia. These are just a few of the fun facts the Smithsonian revealed in a recent video on the plane.

The documentary features a tour of the SR-71 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Former Blackbird pilot Buz Carpenter joins the tour, giving the lowdown on what kept the stealthy plane up in the air. Carpenter flew the SR-71 hundreds of times during its time in service, and he even flew the airplane that now resides at the Smithsonian.

The SR-71 had three nose options: A training nose, a radar nose, and a camera nose capable of taking a 72-mile wide photo. The film in that camera was 5 inches wide and 2 miles long. It had to be processed in 500-foot rolls.

The radar nose wasn’t required for navigation. The SR-71 had a pod that read the location of the stars in the sky and, as long as you gave the plane its initial position on the planet, the plane would know where it was anywhere in the world. This was 12 years before the global positioning system was first imagined by the U.S. military.

While the radar nose could assist with avoiding enemy ground fire, the Blackbird’s jamming and missile countermeasures usually meant — not to mention its 2,200 miles-per-hour speed — enemy surface-to-air missiles missed by a mile. Literally.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Air Force

That top speed meant the average temperature of the plane’s skin was upwards of 600 degrees. At that temperature, it couldn’t be built with aluminum, so it had to be built with 93 percent titanium – and that titanium came from Russia.

The Russians never knew to whom they were selling the titanium, but they sold enough to build 32 SR-71 Blackbirds — planes used primarily to spy on the Soviet Union. The windows were made of quartz and the plane was built with intentional gaps in the wings and fuselage to account for heat expansion during flight. The airplane grows about 2 inches in width and 4 inches in length because of the frictional heat. The hottest part of the plane could get to 1,200 degrees.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

The plane’s engines are unique to the Blackbird because no jet engine can absorb supersonic air. So they were specially designed to expand and contract with the airspeed. The extremely high airspeed gave the jet a unique sonic boom as it broke the sound barrier, and the Air Force routinely overflew foreign heads of state to remind them the U.S. could see them.

During the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon ordered SR-71 pilots to fly over Hanoi and go supersonic to create a sonic boom as a signal to POWs held at the Hanoi Hilton. The booms let the downed pilots in the prison know that if they could escape, Navy SEALs were waiting on the North Vietnamese coast to help them.

Of the 12 Blackbirds rendered unserviceable (none were shot down), four of those came from tire failure. Engineers solved this by cutting the amount of fuel the plane carried during takeoff. A normal mission would see one or two in-flight refuelings. The plane had to refuel every two hours, either in air or on land.

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‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it

Dust off your VHS tape, grab a DVD, or search Netflix for the 1996 comedy ‘Sgt. Bilko’ starring comedic icons Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd and the late, great Phil Hartman and give it a rewatch sometime. The movie is a remake of the hit 1950’s series The Phil Silvers Show. Most will agree that the movie was not nearly as good as the show. In fact, the numbers to prove it. “Sgt. Bilko” has a 32 percent critic favorability rating on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes. Users score the film a bit better at 45 percent.


Martin plays the wheeling and dealing Army Master Sgt. Ernest Bilko, a motor pool supervisor who uses his soldiers to make a quick buck by running an illegal gambling ring on a fictional Army base called Fort Baxter. Aykroyd plays Army Col. John T. Hall, the base’s commanding officer. The colonel seems mostly unaware of or unconcerned with Bilko’s antics and Bilko practically runs the base.

It’s all smooth sailing for Bilko until an old rival (Major Colin Thorn, played by Hartman) arrives to inspect his motor pool. It’s part of a plan to punish Bilko for the fixed boxing match that sent him to Greenland years before. He also seeks his revenge by trying to steal away Bilko’s fianceé.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Phil Hartman, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Martin, 1996

The movie is also centered on the development of a Hover Tank that can rise over land and water. However, the tank is not yet ready for prime time. The fate of Fort Baxter and Bilko’s career rest on the tank performing well in a high-profile demonstration in front of a Congressional delegation and senior military officials.

Although it’s not a great military film and several blunders are clearly noticeable in the movie. The wear of military uniforms and errors in military customs and courtesies are the most egregious errors, but there are some scenes that many veterans will find funny.

Casino Clean-Up

In the opening scenes of the movie, Bilko is signaled by the base radio station that Col. Hall is on his way to his location. The motor pool is a mini Las Vegas with craps and roulette tables, full bar and massage room. The Soldiers are in a hurry to hide all the illegal activities but find themselves in a dilemma when they have to hide a horse used in a previous gambling scheme. In classic Bilko fashion, he tries to smooth talk his way out of trouble.

Boxing Fix

The rivalry between Maj. Thorn and Master Sgt. Bilko is explained in this flashback scene. In anticipation of a big boxing championship match, Bilko takes in bets. Like the good con man he is, Bilko pays off one of the fighters to take a dive hoping to score some big money. But a problem arises when Bilko’s assistant pays off the wrong fighter. The miscommunication leads to a double knockout. Somehow though it’s Thorn and not Bilko who gets in trouble for the botched fight.

 

Surprise Inspection

Bilko’s platoon is given a surprise barracks inspection. The motor pool barracks are trashed. Facing certain failure, Bilko switches the signs between his barracks and a neighboring women’s barracks. In typical military fashion, the men line up in front of the rooms. When Thorn finds a bra in one of the closets, he asks the soldier if it’s his. His DADT-related reply is classic: “It is my understanding that you can no longer ask me these questions, Sir.”

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

Fake Push-Ups

Duane Doberman is one of Bilko’s most lovable soldiers. However, he is clearly out of Army weight standards. Maj. Thorn is out to get him but his battle buddies come to his rescue, helping him complete some push-ups in front of the officer. See the push-ups for yourself:

 

Viva Las Vegas

Bilko’s dream of going to Vegas comes true when he is allowed to go to a military exercise in Nevada. He is overjoyed and cruises the Vegas strip in some military hardware.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

The Hover Tank

Like a good NCO, Master Sgt. Bilko outwits Maj. Thorn and gets the tank up and running with some deceptive tactics. Eventually, it leads to the dismissal of Thorn back to Greenland. Bilko is once again the ruler of his domain. “It’s no wonder why they call him a Master Sergeant.”

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

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The Soviet conspiracy that almost started World War III will blow your mind

In 1967, a Soviet submarine armed to the teeth with a deadly payload of nuclear missiles mysteriously disappeared off the coast of Hawaii.


During the Cold War, it was not unusual for Soviet and American subs to patrol each other’s coasts for months at a time waiting for orders to pull the trigger in case the war went hot.

“The Soviets called these patrols: ‘war patrols,’ ” said Red Star Rogue author Kenneth Sewell in the video below. “To them, we were at a state of war, and they took this very, very seriously.”

Related video:

www.youtube.com

Although no one knows for sure what happened to the sub, a conspiracy has emerged painting the captain as a hero for sacrificing his ship and crew to divert the apocalyptic scenario.

According to Sewell, Soviet sub K-129 was hijacked by a band of rogue KGB commandos to provoke a war between America and China by making it appear like China attacked Hawaii á la Pearl Harbor.

“They did that to weaken the United States, to strengthen the Soviet Union. Get your two enemies to fight and you pick up the pieces,” Sewell said.

But when the captain realized the mutiny wasn’t authorized by the Soviet government, he gave the KGB operatives the wrong launch codes to his missiles, Sewell alleges.

“When you had an attempted launch with the wrong code it would detonate the warhead, which would cause the missile to explode, which sank the submarine,” Sewell said. “We owe him a really big debt of gratitude. He’s one of these unsung heroes of history that will never really get credit.”

This American Heroes Channel video portrays how the conspiracy would have played out.

Watch:

American Heroes Channel, Youtube
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How an act of mercy made fishing buddies out of airborne adversaries

In World War II, an American aircrew found itself at the mercy of a German fighter and expected to be shot out of the sky. But something else happened entirely . . .


The American aircrew takes a heavy beating

The American crew on their first mission was limping after taking heavy flak damage during a bombing run over Germany on Dec. 30, 1943. It was supposed to be just behind and beside the flight leader in its formation, but it simply couldn’t keep up with two of its four engines severely damaged. 2nd Lt. Charles Brown, the pilot, watched his formation pull slowly away.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
A damaged Boeing B-17 similar to the one that Brown as piloting. Photo: US Air Force

All alone in German skies, the situation got even worse for the crew when eight German fighters appeared ahead. The B-17 downed at least one of the attackers and possibly a second, but seven more fighters approached from the rear and began another attack.

Brown doesn’t remember exactly what happened next but thinks he must have lost oxygen and passed out.

“I either spiraled or spun and came out of the spin just above the ground,” he said in an interview on Military.com. “My only conscience memory was of dodging trees but I had nightmares for years and years about dodging buildings and then trees. I think the Germans thought that we had spun in and crashed.”

One crew member was dead and Brown was wounded with three others. Thinking the Germans had left after the plane nearly crashed, he ordered the crew in the cockpit to check on the wounded and the state of the plane. In the cockpit with the co-pilot, he looked out the window and saw a German fighter on his wing, a feared Messerschmitt Bf-109.

The German Ace

Oberleutnant Franz Stigler was a skilled pilot for the Luftwaffe. On the day of the incident, he had already shot down two B-17s and would automatically earn the Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest military honors, if he got just one more that day. He was smoking a cigarette and watching his plane be rearmed and refueled when he looked up and saw the heavily damaged American bomber fly over him. He leaped into his cockpit and flew up to get the kill.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: Wikimedia Commons D. Miller

Approaching from the rear, he lined up his shot on the tail, but was surprised to notice that the tail guns were pointed down like no one was holding them. He abstained from his shot and flew closer. What he found shocked him.

Icicles of blood were hanging from the gun barrels and the tail gunner, dead, was visible through a hole in the tail. The tail itself was nearly half gone. Pulling even with the enemy plane, he saw the rest of the plane was damaged as well. Sunlight was passing through a massive hole in the side and the whole thing was peppered from flak and cannon fire. Still unopposed, he caught up to the cockpit and saw the American pilot.

Stigler could drop back at this moment, take out the plane and become a German war hero.

But, when he was starting his career, his commanding officer had told him that he had to follow the rules of war to protect his own humanity. He told Franz that if he ever heard Franz shot at a pilot descending in a parachute, he’d kill Franz himself. Franz later said that when he saw the extreme damage to the B-17, he couldn’t fire. “… for me, it would have been the same as shooting at a parachute,” he said in a video. “I just couldn’t shoot. I just hoped that he got his wounded men home.”

There was a complication though. If Franz was caught letting an Allied plane go, he could be executed on the ground. And the planes were drawing close to German shore defenses that would spot and report him. Also, at any moment the American crew could decide to kill the threat off their wing.

The American reaction

Brown saw the German plane on his right and initially thought he was hallucinating. He squeezed his eyes shut, shook his head, and looked out the window again, expecting to see an empty sky. He did, until he turned to the left and saw that the German had simply switched sides. He was mouthing words and gesturing to the American plane while wildly exaggerating his facial expressions.

After watching this for a few moments, Brown realized that this pilot could kill him at any moment. He screamed back down the plane for the top gunner to get in the turret and shoot down the German. After he gave the order he turned back to look out the window.

Franz, already worried about how close they were getting to the German shore gunners, saw the turret begin to move. He looked Brown in the eyes, saluted the American, and flew away.

They meet again

Brown would wonder for years about what happened, but it wasn’t until 1990 that he learned what had become of the German pilot who spared him.

After placing an ad in a magazine for combat pilots, Brown received a letter in reply. He called Franz with a dose of skepticism about whether it was his real savior. Franz quickly convinced him by describing all the details of the event, right down to the salute.

They answered each others questions about the event. Franz explained that he didn’t fire because of his own morals in the war, that he had been gesturing and mouthing to try and get the American to fly to Switzerland because he was convinced the plane couldn’t make it to England, and that he had finally pulled away from the bomber because he was worried about being spotted by Germans or fired on by the Americans.

Franz had always wondered if the Americans made it back alive, if sacrificing his medal and risking his life had meant anything. Brown confirmed that the crew and the plane made it to England and were able to land. The tail gunner had died in the air, but the rest of them survived.

The two became friends. Franz had moved to Canada in 1953 and Brown lived in America, so they visited each other and fished together. Both died of heart attacks in 2008.

Adam Makos and Larry Alexander wrote a book detailing this incident as well as the men involved, “A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II.”

NOW: World War II vet recounts pulling a bullet out of his wrist with his teeth

OR: The 18 greatest fighter aircraft of all time

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There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing

Nobody spends money on arms like the US of A.


Starting with a base of $534 billion in discretionary funding, coupled with another $51 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations funding (aka the “war budget”), the Pentagon’s spending power comes to a grand total of $585 billion.

Defense industry giants, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon posted second-quarter earnings on Wednesday (Lockheed Martin earnings released last week).

Here’s a look at how they did…

Boeing

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Boeing KC-46 Tanker program first test aircraft (EMD1) flies with an aerial refueling boom installed on its fifth flight. | Boeing

Boeing, the world’s largest plane maker, reported a smaller-than-expected second Q2 loss on Wednesday. The company’s first quarterly net loss in nearly seven years amounted to $234 million.

Boeing’s KC-46 tanker program for the US Air Force is delayed from August 2017 until January 2018 due to test flight problems. Modifications to the aircraft are expected to cost Boeing an additional $393 million (after taxes).

What’s more, Boeing could end production of its most iconic aircraft.

“If we are unable to obtain sufficient orders and/or market, production and other risks cannot be mitigated, we could record additional losses that may be material, and it is reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747,” Boeing said in its filing on Wednesday.

Earlier this year, Boeing won a US Air Force contract worth $25.8 million to start work on the next fleet of Air Force One aircraft.

The aging Air Force One and it’s twin decoy will be replaced with two Boeing  747-8 and are expected to be operational in 2020.

Up to Wednesday’s close of $135.96, the company’s shares had fallen about 6% since the start of the year.

Highlights from Boeing’s quarterly earnings report:

•Operating cash flow of $1.2 billion (with 28.6 million shares repurchased for $3.5 billion)

•Cash flow of $3.2 billion, (down 2% from 2015)

•Core earnings per share loss of $0.44

•Revenue rose 1% to $24.8 billion (from earlier estimate of $24.5 billion)

• Demand still high with more than 5,700 commercial plane orders still in the works

Reuters contributed to this report.

General Dynamics

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
The littoral combat ship USS Independence operates off the Hawaiian Islands during exercise RIMPAC 2014. | General Dynamics

General Dynamics began their earnings conference call on Wednesday highlighting their “very good second quarter.”

The Falls Church, Virginia-based company announced $7.6 billion in Q2 revenue and achieved $758 million in net earnings.

General Dynamics recognized their aerospace unit (with a revenue of $2.13 billion) and maritime division.

At the end of June 2016, the defense giants’ National Steel and Shipbuilding division won a $640 million Pentagon contract to construct a T-AO 205 Class Fleet Replenishment Oiler. The contract could be worth up to $3.16 billion if the Pentagon decides to buy an additional five ships.

In March, the US Navy announced that General Dynamics will be the prime contractor for development of 12 new submarines.

Shares rose less than 1% to $145.09 in the afternoon and since the beginning of this year, the company’s stock has climbed 5.2%.

Highlights from General Dynamics’ quarterly earnings report:

•Revenue fell to $7.67 billion (down by $217 million from the Q2 2015)

•Raised 2016’s full-year earnings forecast to $9.70 per share (from $9.20, analysts’ expect $9.52)

•Profit margins could be as high as 13.8% (up from January 2016 estimate of 13.3%)

Reuters contributed to this report.

Lockheed Martin

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Behold, the F-35. | Lockheed Martin

While the F-35 Lightning II continues its turbulent march to combat readiness, the jet’s manufacturer posted better than expected quarterly revenue earnings last week.

Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier, also lifted its 2016 revenue and profit forecasts for a second time — despite significant snags in developing America’s most expensive arms program.

Considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, Lockheed Martin’s stock also posted  a record high of $261.37 in early trading on July 19. What’s more, the world’s largest defense contractor’s shares were already up approximately 18% this year.

“(The) consensus expectations are finally positive for the F-35 and for improvement in the defense budget, which has led to a higher valuation,” Bernstein analyst Douglas Harned wrote in a note, according to Reuters.

The now nearly $400 billion F-35 weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16, and F-18 aircraft.

Read more about the F-35 »

According to Lockheed Martin, sales in its aeronautics business, the company’s largest, rose 6% in the past three months due to delivery of 14 F-35s.

The company has said it plans to deliver 53 F-35 jets in 2016, up from 45 a year earlier.

Highlights from Lockheed Martin’s quarterly earnings report:

• Net sales rose to $12.91 billion (from $11.64 billion in Q2 2015)

•Net income rose to $1.02 billion (or $3.32 per share), which is up from $929 million (or $2.94 per share) in Q2 2015

•Generated $1.5 billion in cash from operations

•Raised 2016’s profit forecast to $12.15–$12.45 per share (from $11.50-$11.80)

•Raised 2016’s full-year sales of $50.0 billion-$51.5 billion (from earlier estimate of $49.6 billion-$51.1 billion)

Reuters contributed to this report.

Northrop Grumman

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Northrop Grumman/EADS Euro Hawk rollout on October 8, 2009 at Palmdale, CA, USA. | Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman’s earnings report showed sales reaching $6 billion with the company’s aerospace unit seeing a 4% increase in sales due to higher demand for drones and manned aircraft.

“Autonomous Systems sales rose due to higher volume on the Global Hawk and Triton programs, partially offset by lower volume due to the ramp down on the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance program,” the company said in a statement.

“Manned Aircraft sales rose due to higher restricted volume and higher F-35 deliveries, partially offset by fewer F/A-18 deliveries and lower volume on the B-2 program.”

It should be noted that Lockheed Martin, is the prime contractor for the F-35 Lightning II, however, Northrop Grumman develops the fifth-generation fighter jets’ center fuselage, radar and avionics suite.

Northrop is also a subcontractor to Boeing on the F/A-18 Hornet.

Highlights from Northrop Grumman’s quarterly earnings report:

•Sales increase by 2% to $6 billion (compared to $5.9 billion in Q2 of 2015)

•Earning per share increase by 4% to $2.85

•Earning per share guidance increase to $10.75 to $11.00

•Cash from operations of $604 million

Raytheon

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

Raytheon, the world’s largest missile manufacturer, announced $6 billion in net sales for Q2 2016, which is up 3% compared to $5.8 billion in the second quarter 2015.

Earnings per share was $2.38 compared to $1.65, this time last year.

“We begin the second half of 2016 with continued confidence in our growth outlook, and we have increased our guidance for earnings and cash flow as a result of our strong year-to-date performance,” CEO and Chairman Thomas A. Kennedy said in a statement.

Highlights from Raytheon’s quarterly earnings report:

•Sales increase by 3% to $6 billion (compared to $5.8 billion in Q2 2015)

•Increase in operating cash flow to $746 million (compared to $376 million in Q2 2015)

•Backlog and funded backlog at the end of the Q2 2016 was $35.3 billion and $26.1 billion, respectively.

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Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.


In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.

Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.

But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.

Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.

Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.

Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.

In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.

Also read: This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.

He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.

“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.

“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”

Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.

But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.

In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.

But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.

But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.

Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.

At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.

Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.

The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.

There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.

Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.

There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”

Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.

The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.

“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”

Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
A Marine salutes the memorial stand for his fallen brother. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.

“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”

Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.

Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.

“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.

Further reading: Here are the criteria that entitle a service member to the Purple Heart

“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.

“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”

The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.

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This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster

Only in Patton’s Army could a mild-mannered history teacher from Moline, Illinois, join the service and become forever immortalized as “Bazooka Charlie.”


Charles Carpenter joined the Army as a pilot shortly after America’s entry into World War II. He became an aerial artillery observer with the 4th Armored Division of Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army. It was here Carpenter became a legend on both sides of the war.

By the time he arrived in Europe in 1944, then-Maj. Carpenter had a lot of flying time training for artillery observation and reconnaissance. However, his first great feat in Europe was not in the air, it was on the ground.

While scouting for advanced landing fields in a jeep near Avranches, France, Carpenter came across a unit pinned down by Germans holding a nearby town. He ran up to the lead tank, jumped on the .50 cal machine gun, fired off a burst at the Germans, and yelled, “Let’s Go!”

Although technically not the leader of the unit, the men followed his commands and assaulted the town, capturing it in minutes. Unfortunately, Carpenter ordered the tank he was riding to fire at what he thought was an enemy tank. The shot took the bulldozer plow off a fellow American tank.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Carpenter next to his L-4. (Library of Congress photo)

He was arrested after the incident and threatened with a firing squad before his commanding general came to his rescue. He was told to expect a court-martial — until word of his exploits reached Gen. Patton. Patton personally stopped the court-martial proceedings and instead awarded Carpenter a Silver Star for his bravery, saying Carpenter was “the kind of fighting man I want in my army.”

After the incident, Carpenter kept to the skies, but he certainly wasn’t out of the fight. Though discouraged by his plane’s lack of armament and offensive capability, he heard rumors of other scout pilots attaching weapons to their planes. He conceived an idea that would truly make him famous in the European Theater.

With the help of an ordinance tech and a crew chief, Carpenter attached two M1 bazookas to the struts of his L-4 Grasshopper (the military version of a Piper Cub), which he then promptly dubbed “Rosie the Rocketer.” Each bazooka was controlled electronically from switches in the cockpit and could be fired individually or at the same time.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

It wasn’t long before Carpenter scored his first kill, taking out a German armored car. He wasn’t satisfied with just blasting light vehicles, so he added four more bazookas. He also managed to acquire the improved M9 bazooka, which was capable of firing M6A3 High Explosive Anti-Tank rounds.

Carpenter’s methods for destroying German armor earned him another nickname, the “Mad Major.” His technique was to perform a shallow dive at enemy tanks and then blast them from 100 meters before pulling up and out of range of enemy small arms fire.

Although the technique was effective, it was downright crazy. Many of Carpenter’s fellow pilots who heard his exploits decided they would give it a try as well “but found that driving their frail aircraft into a hail of German small arms fire was extremely unhealthy,” the Lawrence Journal-World reported, “and returned to their observation duties.”

“Bazooka Charlie” soon racked up more kills – including two of the feared German Tiger tanks. In one instance, Carpenter destroyed a German column, then landed in a field to check out the still-burning remnants of his work. While on the ground, he captured six Germans with a discarded rifle he happened to pick up.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
A German Tiger tank in Sicily, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

In another instance, he spotted infantry forces under attack by German armor. He dove into the fray and fired all his rockets. He then returned to his airfield to reload then returned to the battle. Carpenter made three trips to the battlefield. He helped break up the attack, destroying two German tanks in the process.

“Some people around here think I’m nuts,” Carpenter once said, “but I just believe that if we’re going to fight a war, we have to go on with it 60-minutes an hour and 24-hours a day.”

And get on with it he did. By war’s end, Carpenter was credited with destroying six enemy tanks, making him a tank ace, though his total count and contributions are likely much higher.

It wasn’t just the Americans who took notice of Bazooka Charlie’s exploits. Carpenter himself once said “Word must be getting around among those Krauts to watch out for Cubs with bazookas on them. Every time I show up now, they shoot with everything they have. They never used to bother Cubs. Bazookas must be bothering them a bit.”

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Crew chiefs attach a bazooka to Carpenter’s L-4. (U.S. Army photo)

Despite flying an unprotected aircraft right into the enemy to score his kills, Carpenter was never wounded. For his exploits during the war, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster to go with his Silver Star.

After the war, “Bazooka Charlie” once again became Mr. Carpenter and went back to teaching high school history in Illinois before losing a battle with cancer in 1966.

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

More memes. 13 of them. Today and every Friday. Carry on . . .


1. The kind of joke you never want to see Lt. Butterfingers play (via Combat Grunts).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

2. Your quality training does not impress the salty old Marine (via Combat Grunts).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

SEE ALSO: Watch Marines fight a Nerf war against military brats

3. They really just do it because they hate you

(via Sh-T My LPO Says).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
They’re crossing the fingers for a nice snowstorm.

4. When the Air Force tries to look hard …

(via Sh-T My LPO Says).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
… but forgets to research the weapons they’re carrying.

5. When you’re stateside, missing your main squeeze (via Arctic Specter).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

6. The Coast Guard will take what recognition it can get.

(Via Coast Guard Memes)

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
They thought the billion dollars in cocaine they captured would bring some groupies but no dice.

7. There are some vehicles AAA just won’t come for (via Devil Dog Nation).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
That’s when you call the Marines, apparently.

8. The Army has to get creative with the A-10 program in jeopardy.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
You know first sergeant saw these pictures and was just pissed about their uniform tops.

9. How your two-mile patrol suddenly takes six hours (via Pop Smoke).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
There’s nothing you can do at that point but pray to the platoon sergeant.

10. When the Air Force tries to figure out military supplies (via Air Force Memes and Humor).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
But you know the Army is just bummed they didn’t think of it first.

11. If you actually camouflage this well, gunny might actually be impressed (via Devil Dog Nation).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
He’ll still destroy you for that haircut and for avoiding him, but he’ll be impressed.

 12. How the National Guard does cold weather training.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
You can see the civilians in the stands try to figure out how much of their tax dollars went into these shenanigans.

13. Waiting on one (via Sh-T My LPO Says).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Here’s hoping your weekend starts soon.

NOW: John Oliver and Team Rubicon invite you to the ‘most American day ever’

OR: This American comedy legend defused land mines in World War II

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This TV show is tackling PTSD in a surprising way — with laughs

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Aya Cash as Gretchen Cutler, Chris Geere as Jimmy Shive-Overly, Kether Donohue as Lindsay Jillian, Desmin Borges as Edgar Quintero. (Photo: FX)


Warning: You’re the Worst (returning for season 2 this week on FXX) isn’t a comedy about characters with a few irritating quirks who ultimately mean well. It’s a very black comedy about two horrible people who manage to find each other and try to have a relationship that allows them to stay horrible. It’s most definitely not for everyone, but if you tune in and find it funny, you’ll think it’s one of the most hilarious shows you’ve ever seen, although most of you will be deeply offended and despair for the future of our culture.

What’s most interesting to us is the character of Edgar Quintero (played by Desmin Borges), a veteran who’s barely functioning as he works his way through PTSD. He ends up rooming with lead character Jimmy Shive-Overly, one of the show’s horrible lead characters. Jimmy constantly abuses Edgar, but he constantly abuses everyone in his life, so it’s not like he’s persecuting his roommate. Over the course of season one, Edgar emerges as the only character with redeeming personal qualities even though he’s still not really a capable member of society.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T57ZV8MTyeI

In an interview with the Washington Post, creator Stephen Falk talks about bringing the issue before an urban, educated audience that usually gets to ignore the reality of men and women returning from war: “It’s not something that’s super-visible or talked about. … It’s a problem of other people, like a rural thing or a lower-class thing. It’s just not something that kids who read Pitchfork, who watch ‘Rectify’ and can’t stop talking about ‘Girls,’ have to really deal with a lot. But it is a reality.”

As most of us realize, military humor can have a very funny dark side. You’re the Worst is fully committed to its bleak worldview and it’s fascinating (and even refreshing) to see a serious issue treated with something besides the overwrought reverence that so many movies bring to veteran issues. If you’re easily offended, though, you might want to stay away.

You can catch up with season 1 for free on Hulu or buy episodes from Amazon or iTunes. If you were a fan of season 1, please note that the show has moved from the FX network (the Sons of Anarchy one) to the FXX network (the one that seems to play The Simpsons all the time).

Desmin Borges and Stephen Falk gave interviews about the character last season to GiveMeMyRemote​.com and we’ve embedded them below.

This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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WATCH: The red carpet premiere of ‘You’re The Worst’ and ‘The League’

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19 photos of the crazy fire training military police go through

Lots of troops complain about the gas chamber. It’s stuffy, it’s hot, and trying to see anything through the mask sucks.


Know what’s worse? Trying to see through a riot mask while you are literally on fire. That’s what military police have to do to pass fire phobia training. Here are 19 photos of MPs getting hit with Molotov cocktails and other incendiaries in training:

1. The training is done to help military police learn how to control riots

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Sgt. Angela Parady

2. A major tool of rioters, violent protestors, and others is the Molotov cocktail

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Sgt. Cody Barber

3. Since improvised incendiary devices are so easy to make, police around the world have to be ready to combat them at all times

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Pfc. John Cress Jr.

4. Fire phobia training helps the MPs learn to not fear the fire, and to move as a unit when confronted with it

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Spc. Bryan Rankin

5. This keeps the unit from breaking down at the first sign of fire, allowing police to maintain control

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Spc. Bryan Rankin

6. Personnel hit with fire move from the flames as a group under the command of a squad or platoon leader

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Spc. Bryan Rankin

7. Once they get away from the main flames, they reform their line and stomp out any fire on their gear

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Spc. Bryan Rankin

8. Sometimes fire is thrown to restrict police movement, in which case the MPs have to advance through it as a unit and reform on the opposite side

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Ardian Nrecaj

9. The training can be done with units of varying size and in different formations

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Ardian Nrecaj

10. Soldiers can face the heat alone …

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Ardian Nrecaj

11. … or entire squads and platoons can work together.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Sgt. Melissa Parrish

12. The military police often line up in multiple rows, so one force backs up the other during an attack.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Sgt. Angela Parady

13. The U.S. and partnered nations train together, sharing best practices

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Pfc. Lloyd Villanueva

14. The training is especially valued in Europe where certain military forces are more likely to face off against actual rioters or protestors

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Sgt. Tracy R. Myers

15. The trainees where the same riot gear they would have on for actual operations, including shin guards that extend below a riot shield

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Sgt. Samantha Parks

16. MPs keep their legs tight when being attacked, reducing the gaps the fire can slip through

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Sgt. Samantha Parks

17. But multiple attacks can still be overwhelming

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: KFOR Multinational Battle Group-East

18. This is when the unit commander will order an advance or a short retreat, allowing the officers to get away from the flames

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Sgt. Samantha Parks

19. Firefighters and medics are on hand to assist students and prevent burns

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army Sgt. Joshua Stoffregen

Now check out this video:

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Inside the USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s most advanced warship

The United States Navy’s newest destroyer, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), is the most advanced ship in the ocean today. So what actually goes into making this ship the hottest of maritime hotrods?


Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) sails under the Pell Bridge. (US Navy photo)

According to All Hands magazine, the 15,656-ton vessel is equipped with many new advances. The most visible is the 155mm Advanced Gun System. Now, the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile program was cancelled, but this gun has other ammo options. The Zumwalt also features 20 Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, each with four cells, capable of launching a variety of weapons, including the BGM-109 Tomahawk and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) emerges past a point. (US Navy photo)

But the Zumwalt has more than just new firepower. The wave-piercing tumblehome design and the composite superstructure help reduce the ship’s radar cross-section, and the ship is also one of the quietest vessels in the world.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
The 1,000-ton deckhouse of the future destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is craned toward the deck of the ship to be integrated with the ship’s hull at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works. The ship launch and christening are planned in 2013. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The ship also has the new Integrated Power System, a highly-survivable system that allows the power output from the ship’s LM2500 gas turbines to be used for anything from propulsion – taking the ship to a top speed of over 30 knots — to charging a crewman’s Kindle to powering the AN/SPY-3 radar.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
The future USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is underway for the first time conducting at-sea tests and trials on the Kennebeck River. The multi-mission ship will provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support special operations forces, and operate as an integral part of joint and combined expeditionary forces. (U.S. Navy photo /Released)

The ship can also carry two MH-60R multi-role helicopters and has a crew of 158.

Below, take a look at a pair of videos of this American maritime hotrod.

Articles

Army Rejects M9A3 Proposal, Opts For New Pistol

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Army


U.S. Army weapons officials will not evaluate an improved version of the service’s Cold War-era 9mm pistol, choosing instead to search for a more modern soldier sidearm.

In early December, Beretta USA, the maker of the U.S. military’s M9 pistol for 30 years, submitted its modernized M9A3 as a possible alternative to the Army’s Modular Handgun System program — an effort to replace the M9 with a more powerful, state-of-the-art pistol.

The US Army Is Ditching The M9 Beretta Pistol – Here’s What Could Replace it

The improved M9 features new sights, a rail for mounting lights and accessories, better ergonomics and improved reliability, Beretta USA officials said.

But by late December, it was all over for Beretta’s engineering change proposal for the M9. The Army’s Configuration Control Board decided not to evaluate the M9A3, according to a source familiar with the decision.

The move clears the way for the Army to release a pending request for proposal that will launch the MHS competition.

Program Executive Office Soldier would not comment for this story until Army Public Affairs has approved a statement, PEO Soldier spokesman Doug Graham said Thursday night.

The Army began working with the small arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the joint effort has been in the works for more than five years. If successful, it would result in the Defense Department buying nearly 500,000 new pistols during a period of significant defense-spending reductions.

Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 handguns from a single vendor, with delivery of the first new handgun systems scheduled for 2017, according to PEO Soldier officials. The Army also plans to buy approximately 7,000 sub-compact versions of the handgun.

The other military services participating in the MHS program may order an additional 212,000 systems above the Army quantity.

The effort is set to cost at least $350 million and potentially millions more if it results in the selection of a new pistol caliber.

Beretta USA officials said they have not received official notification of the Army’s decision.

“Obviously, they didn’t take a whole lot of time on this,” said Gabriele De Plano, vice president of military marketing and sales for Beretta USA, reacting to the news of the Army’s pre-Christmas decision after the M9A3’s December 10 unveiling.

Army officials “didn’t ask a single question; didn’t ask for a single sample” for evaluation, De Plano said.

The Army maintains that the M9 design does not meet the MHS requirement. Soldiers have complained of reliability issues with the M9. One problem has to do with the M9’s slide-mounted safety. During malfunction drills, the shooter often engages the lever-style safety by accident, Army weapons officials say.

The M9A3’s “over-center safety lever” can be configured to act as a de-cocker, a change that eliminates the accidental safety activation, De Plano said.

As part of the joint requirement process for MHS, Army weapons officials did a “very thorough cost-benefit analysis” that supported the effort, Army weapons officials said. The old fleet of M9s is costing the Army more to replace and repair than to buy a new service pistol, officials said.

The M9A3 is not a perfect pistol, De Plano says, but the Army should at least evaluate it.

The M9 pistol can be “improved for hundreds of millions less than a new MHS pistol,” De Plano said. “We can sell them this new pistol for less than the M9 pistol.”

Beretta currently has an open contract for M9s that the Army awarded in September 2012 for up to 100,000 pistols. Deliveries of about 20,000 have been scheduled, leaving 80,000 that could be ordered in the M9A3 configuration for less than the cost of the current M9, De Plano said.

“Why not do a dual-path like they have done in other cases,” De Plano said.

The Army was determined to do just that when it set out to search for a replacement for the M4 carbine. The service launched a competition to evaluate commercially available carbines while, at the same time, it evaluated improvements to the M4.

In the end, the service scrapped the competition and ended up adopting the M4A1 version used by special operations forces.

“They could explore this,” said De Plano, by ordering 10 M9A3s. “What’s the downside?”

— Matthew Cox can be reached at Matthew.Cox@military.com.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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ISIS has reportedly captured two Turkish soldiers

The fate of two Turkish soldiers now hangs in the balance as they have become the unwilling guests of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also known as ISIS).


Supporters of the terrorist group have reportedly been debating what to do with the captured soldiers.

According to a report by al Jazeera, the two Turkish troops were captured during a battle near the Syrian village of Elbab. The announcement from the terrorist group about the captives caused a celebration on Facebook and other social media sites.

The celebration then turned to into a debate when one ISIS dirtbag solicited opinions on what to do with the prisoners.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
ISIS fighters in Iraq | Photo via Flickr

“Expect a nifty video with the soldiers of the tyrant infidel Erdogan,” one ISIS supporter tweeted, adding two knife emojis. ISIS has routinely beheaded some of its captives, including American journalist James Foley. “Jihadi John,” the ISIS jihadist who was responsible for the terrorist group’s most notorious beheadings, became a good jihadist in Nov. 2015.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0QO2fKVbdc
Others advocated not beheading them, but treating them humanely and educating them about Islam, with one saying, “it would only give the members a momentary boost of adrenaline but not much more.”

Most followers of jihadists, though, were calling for the summary execution of the Turkish troops, whom they deemed “nonbelievers.” One of the senior terrorists claimed, “All the options are on the table for the Islamic State organization to decide what to do with the two Turkish soldiers.”

The terrorist group burned a captured Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot alive in February 2015 after his F-16 crashed due to a mechanical failure.

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