That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt's orders with a 90-mile ride - We Are The Mighty
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That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

In today’s Army, you can be the toughest general in the U.S. military, but when you turn 64, it’s time to go.


It’s well known most bodies just can’t take the rigors of duty and deployment beyond that (though Gen. Jim Mattis might be the exception), but history does have examples of military leaders who went well past their sexagenarian limitations.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

The 73-year-old Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher of the Battle of Warterloo fame did it, and so did the 62-year-old Gen. George Sears Greene, whose men fought off repeated Confederate assaults at Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Army Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles was another one of these timeless warriors who shattered this stereotype and demonstrated that age does not provide a restriction to some men.

Nelson Appleton Miles spent nearly 42 years in the U.S. Army leading up to his 64th birthday in 1903. During the American Civil War, He rose from a lowly lieutenant to the rank of major general of volunteers by the age of 26-years-old. He fought in such notable battles as Seven Pines, Antietam, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863, he earned the Medal of Honor as the colonel of the 60th New York Infantry for his “distinguished gallantry while holding with his command an advanced position against repeated assaults by a strong force of the enemy.” He was severely injured in this action and suffered three other wounds through the course of the war.

Miles decided to remain in the army after the American Civil War. He is best remembered for his service on the western frontier during the 1870s and the 1880s — immortalized for his capture of the famed Apache leader Geronimo. By 1895, he rose to overall command of the Army.

Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight.

Miles’ time for retirement crept up in 1903. He felt that he was still fit for soldiering, so he set out to prove that he was still physically fit to endure the hardships of active campaigning.

At dawn on July 14, 1903, Miles, sporting a summer helmet and light blue shirt, rode out of Oklahoma’s Fort Sill headed toward Fort Reno 90 miles away, intending to shatter Roosevelt’s age barrier. He was accompanied by several younger officers and cheered on by a large crowd of observers.

The tanned and muscular Miles knocked out the first 34 miles in a record time of just under 2.5 hours. Only the 34 year old cavalry officer Capt. Farrand Sayre of the Eight Cavalry was able to keep up with the grueling pace Miles set under the punishing sun and sweltering heat.

Miles tackled the 90 mile ride in just over nine hours, arriving at Fort Reno to the salute of gunfire from the soldiers of the garrison showing “no signs of fatigue.” Within 40 minutes of arriving, Miles changed out of his dusty uniform, reviewed the troops of the garrison, and rode another four miles to catch a 4:00 p.m. train back to Fort Riley, Kansas.

Miles boasted afterward to the papers that, “I enjoyed every moment of the trip, and there was one time that I felt particularly good; that was when I came up to the men who had charge of the pack teams just south of the Canadian river. They had lunch ready and I enjoyed it with them. It made me feel extra good.”

Despite displaying that he was still very much fit for active service, Miles was forced to retire in August of 1903. At 77, the Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient offered his services to Woodrow Wilson’s administration with the American intervention during World War I. The offer was politely refused by the secretary of war who wrote back to Miles, “in time of emergency out government may need to take advantage of your great experience. Please accept appreciation of your most patriotic offer.”

Miles was still spry enough to serve on the battlefield even in 1916. He did not pass away until 60 years after the American Civil War ended in May of 1925 from a heart attack, outliving President Theodore Roosevelt by six years.

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That real time three ex-Navy pilots fought a Hollywood-style brawl at 19,000 feet

FedEx flight 705 was scheduled for a routine flight from Memphis, Tenn. to San Jose, Calif. on a clear April day in 1994. Its captain, David Sanders, was an experienced ex-Naxy pilot. First Officer James Tucker was an ex-Navy flight combat instructor.


FedEx Flight Engineer Auburn Calloway – also an ex-Navy pilot –  didn’t know that when he tried to hijack the plane in midair.

Calloway was flying for free with the shipment, a perk for FedEx employees, so it wasn’t strange when Calloway informed the officers he would be hitching a ride. What was strange was that the official Flight Engineer for 705, Andy Petersen, kept finding the circuit breaker for the plane’s cockpit voice recorder turned off. He kept an eye on it, pre-flight checks were cleared and the plane headed for San Jose.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
A FedEx DC-10 like the one Sanders commanded that day.

At 19,000 feet, with a total of four passengers, Calloway pulled a hammer from his guitar case – it was well before the increased security introduced after 9/11 – and attacked Petersen with repeated blows to the head. Next, Calloway assaulted Tucker and readied to attack Captain Sanders.

Calloway and Sanders wrestled before Sanders took a blow to the head himself, but this gave time for the other crewmen to wake up. Calloway retreated to the back to grab a speargun and, with the new weapon in hand, ordered them to sit down.

That’s as far as the hijacking got.

Tucker pulled on the controls and pulled the DC-10 into a steep climb. The other three men were tossed out of the cockpit. Captain Sanders and Petersen were wrestling over the speargun with the uninjured Calloway. Petersen had a fractured skull, severed temporal artery, and profuse bleeding. Sanders was a little better off, but not by much. They wouldn’t last long.

The First Officer and ex-Naxy flight combat instructor took control of the fight by taking control of the helm. He took the plane on its side, then upside down. As Calloway hit Captain Sanders in the head again, Tucker took the plane into a steep dive. But Tucker’s own fractured skull was starting to cause motor problems in his body. He began to lose movement and sensation as the plane plummeted to Earth.

Back in the galley, Calloway hit the Captain in the head one last time, but the Captain had enough. He caught the hammer, forced it from the attacker’s hands and beat him with his own hammer until Calloway stopped moving. They informed the Memphis air traffic control of the situation, requested an ambulance and a SWAT team and headed back to Tennessee.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Auburn Calloway’s FedEx ID Badge.

As the crew flew with the autopilot on, Tucker kept the speargun on Calloway. But the moment Tucker’s injuries caused the speargun to dip from his hands, Calloway attacked again.

They tried to pin him down, but their injuries restricted their movements. Once Sanders was able to help his fellow crew mates, Tucker beat Calloway with the hammer again.

By the time the captain got back to the cockpit, alarms were blaring. The fully-loaded and fully-fueled plane would not have enough room to stop on the runway provided. Even worse, Calloway was waking up again, so there was no time to do another pass. At the last second, Sanders hit another runway that had more room.

Just 300 feet off the ground, Calloway was struggling for the hammer one more time. The plane landed hard, barely stopping with just 900 feet of runway left. Petersen and Tucker were in critical condition. Luckily all three men survived. Though they received medals for their heroism, they were medically unfit to fly from then on.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Captain Sanders walking off an ambulance after landing FedEx flight 705.

It turns out Calloway was a martial arts expert and originally planned to be the official flight engineer. He would have only had to kill two people.

The assailant’s life had taken a turn in the past four years. He lost his wife and children and was on the verge of losing his job for forging flight documents. So after transferring large amounts of cash and securities to his wife, he planned to disable the cockpit recorder then crash a plane so his kids would get his life insurance settlement, ensuring they could go to school.

Instead, he got two life sentences without parole.

Articles

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the oldest and most intense forms of Chinese martial arts. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and a number of other martial arts movie stars have also made Kung Fu one of the most famous forms.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

As a part of a religious order, the Shaolin monks were persecuted by Chinese Communists during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The temple was mostly destroyed and stayed that way for years. But when Jet Li made “Shaolin Shi,” it was enough to make Mao give in: the temple was rebuilt and some much-needed tourism revenue came in as Kung Fu made a comeback.

Here are a few things you may not have known about Kung Fu and the elite Shaolin Monks.

1. The founder of Shaolin Kung Fu was from India.

Legend has it that the founder of the Shaolin order, a Buddhist monk from India named Bodhidharma, spent nine years meditating in a cave near his monastery. The legend has it that to keep him from falling asleep, the monk cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Pre-Workout would not be invented for another 1,500 years.

Green Tea began to grow from the spot where he threw his eyelids and now Buddhist monks use green tea to maintain their focus during meditation.

2. Kung Fu is studied in a “Kwoon.”

The word “dojo” is reserved for places that teach Japanese martial arts, like Aikido. When entering a kwoon, bow at a 45-degree angle with your hands at your chest — the right in a fist, and the left open-palm.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

This represents the yin and yang and that your heart is at peace.

3. Kung Fu practitioners wear a different uniform.

Again, much of the look of the loose-fitting gi and colored belts comes from the Japanese practice. Traditional Chinese Kung Fu doesn’t use colored belt levels (though some Western teachers might use them as a teaching tool). Chinese Kung Fu uses a uniform that is tight at the ankles and sometimes even at the wrists.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

4. The most elite Shaolin monk was a werewolf.

Ok, he wasn’t an actual werewolf. In the late 19th century lived a monk named Tai Jin. The poor guy suffered from a condition known as hypertrichosis. Also known as “Werewolf Syndrome” because of the insane amount of body hair that grows on affected areas.

It might have helped his self-esteem to know that, according to legend, he was the best fighter in all of China.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
No comfort for Chewbacca here.

Tai Jin was abandoned at the monastery as a baby because of his body hair. The monks raised him and trained him. He eventually dedicated himself to one form of martial art. Legend also has it that upon meeting the 12 masters of Shaolin, the boy threw a dagger into the ceiling, killing a would-be assassin. He explained to the masters that he could hear 13 people breathing, not just 12.

For more about the Shaolin monks and their founder, check out the above episode of Elite Forces.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Everything you didn’t know about FDR’s monument

One of the most overlooked monuments at the National Mall, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is located in West Potomac Park between the Tidal Basin along the Cherry Tree Walk and the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. The memorial dedicated to America’s 32nd president is about halfway between the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

President Roosevelt led the nation during both the Great Depression and WWII during his four terms as president. The sprawling memorial is designed to guide visitors through a walk back through each of those terms. There are more than seven acres of space to explore the FDR Memorial. Each feature at the site is designed to help a visitor understand more about this dynamic president and how he directly impacted modern-day America. 

The memorial was dedicated on May 2, 1997, by President Bill Clinton. 

There are sculptures at the memorial inspired by photographs of DRF seated alongside his dog Fala. There are also scenes from the Great Depression, ranging from bread lines to people gathered at a radio to listen to FDR’s Fireside Chats. A bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt standing in front of the United Nations emblem honors her dedication to the UN and global causes. FDR’s memorial is the only one at the national mall which depicts a First Lady. 

Capstone Achievement for Designer

The memorial was designed and developed by Lawrence Halprin. He called this his crowning achievement because of the difficulty in creating the monument and because of Halprin’s fond memories of listening to Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. 

Halprin won a design competition to create the memorial back in 1974, but Congress didn’t appropriate funds for more than 20 years. The final design features Halprin’s work and ideas and several other prominent architects and designers, including Leonard Baskin, Robert Graham, Thomas Hardy, George Segal, and Neil Eastern. 

Water features 

(Library of Congress)

Running water is an important metaphor that’s carried throughout the memorial. Each of the four rooms contains a waterfall, and as visitors move from one place to the next, the waterfalls become larger and more complex. This is meant to reflect the complexity of the presidency. 

The five main water features all represent something specific.

The single large drop of water represents the economy’s crash, which led the country to the Great Depression.

Stair-stepped water features are meant to pay homage to the Tennessee Valley Authority dam-building project, which was the first of its kind in the country. 

There are also several chaotic waterfalls at sharp angles, all that signify WWII. 

To commemorate President Roosevelt’s death, there’s a still water pool. 

The array of combining waterfalls is intended to be a retrospective of Roosevelt’s presidency.

The memorial is designed to give people options on how they experience it, allowing them to reverse directions, experience different sites, smells, and sounds, pause and reflect, and even be alone. All of these options are meant to indicate some of what Roosevelt did as president. 

Steeped in Controversy

Because of Roosevelt’s disability, the memorial designers wanted to create an experience that would be accessible to all. The memorial includes an area written in braille for people who are blind, and the wide pathways are accessible for those who use wheelchairs. 

However, disability advocates say that the braille is incorrectly spaced and positioned at eight feet, too high for anyone to actually read. 

One of the statues of FDR also stirred controversy. Initial designs planned to showcase FDR in his wheelchair, but the final design depicts the president in his chair with a cloak obscuring the wheelchair. This is often how he maneuvered throughout his day, even though his reliance on a wheelchair wasn’t widely publicized during his lifetime. Historians and disability rights activities wanted the wheelchair to be shown since they believe it depicts his source of strength. Finally, the sculptor decided to add casters to the back of the chair to create a symbolic wheelchair. However, the casters are only visible behind the statue.

In 2001, an additional statue was placed at the memorial entrance that shows FDR seated in a wheelchair. 

This is actually the second memorial

In a conversation with friend and Supreme Court Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1941, Roosevelt said if he were ever to have a monument erected in his honor, it should go in front of the National Archives and be no later than his desk. Roosevelt said he wanted the memorial to be simple, without any ornamentation. 

In 1965, a 3-foot tall, 7-foot long, and 4-foot wide white marble block was dedicated to Roosevelt. This memorial was placed near the southeast corner of Ninth Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The simple stone reads, “In Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” just like the president wanted.

MIGHTY HISTORY

When Britain’s top tank slaughtered America’s

During the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War, the countries fought each other with arms purchased from their allies, namely the U.S. and Great Britain. Ultimately, this lead to battle after battle in which Britain’s top tank, the Centurion, mopped the floor with America’s top tank, the M48 Patton.


That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

M48 Pattons were advanced and capable tanks during the Cold War. The M48s in this column in Vietnam were fitted with sandbags on the turrets to turn them into mobile pillboxes.

(U.S. Army)

To understand the war and its odd forces makeup, you have to go back to immediately post-World War II as the British Empire went through a controlled implosion. The longtime colony of India, which, prior to occupation, had been its own large but fractured nation, was granted independence in 1947. But, in an acknowledgement of the fact that India was filled with disparate peoples, the colony was split into two countries: India and Pakistan.

Pakistan was made up of the Muslim-majority areas of the former colony and India was made up of more secular and Hindi peoples, which had a large overlap. The big problem was that the Muslim-majority areas were on either side of the secular/Hindi area, and so Pakistan was split with almost all of northern India in the middle.

Fighting broke out in 1947 over which nation would get control of Kashmir, an area which adjoined both countries. U.N. mediation eventually resulted in splitting the administration of the area with both nations taking control of a section of the disputed area. Neither side was happy with the final line.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

A Sherman tank in action against German troops in 1944. The Sherman was a mainstay of World War II, but was outdated by the 1965 when India drove them into combat against Pakistan.

(Sgt. Christie, No. 5 Army Film and Photographic Unit)

Both India and Pakistan were granted access to U.S. and British weapon stockpiles so they could defend themselves against larger neighbors, like China. Consequently, India ended up with a large number of Centurion tanks and Pakistan had a large number of Pattons. In 1965, the re-armed and still-hostile nations fought again over their shared border and India sent forces into Kashmir territory administrated by Pakistan.

There was back-and-forth fighting, but Pakistani counterattacks were making good progress on the southern end of the battlefield. A full third of Pakistan’s entire armored force at the time, composed largely of American-made M4 Sherman tanks and cutting-edge M48 Patton tanks, conducted an armored thrust into the plains of Khem Karn.

Indian defenses in the area were limited. At the village of Assal Uttar, an Indian commander with three tank regiments totaling about 135 tanks faced a Pakistani force of six regiments and about 264 tanks.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

The British Centurion tank could’ve been a top tank in World War II, but it was released just month after the conflict ended. Instead, it became a top-tier Cold War tank, but Indian Army Centurions often lacked the numerous, vital upgrades made tot he platform between 1946 and 1965.

(Library and Archives of Canada)

And while there is an argument to be made that the Centurion fielded by India was one of the best tanks at the time, India’s Centurions lacked important upgrades and were fielded next to outdated Shermans and weak AMX-13s. Pakistan, meanwhile, had Patton tanks with decent bells and whistles, meaning they had better armor and better armor penetration then their enemies.

But Indian officers had a plan. Pakistani forces parked for the night near a low-lying area surrounded by mature sugarcane fields. Indian forces slowly crept up through the large sugarcane stalks and other troops released stored water into the low-lying areas, turning them into a swamp overnight.

When dawn came on September 10, 1965, the Pakistani tanks continued their advance but quickly sunk into the mud, some of them sinking down to their turrets. The forward tanks were stuck, and the tanks behind them couldn’t maneuver well without abandoning their peers. And then the Indians attacked.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

A military officer stands with a destroyed, American-made Sherman tank during the Indo-Pakistani War. At Assal Uttar, Indian Sherman and Centurion tanks took on American-made Patton tanks and annihilated them.

(Public Domain)

With the sugar stalks as concealment, the Indian Shermans and Centurions were able to fire first even though the Pattons had longer range weapons, and Pakistani tanks that were unable to maneuver couldn’t point their thicker front armor towards the threat, especially since shots were coming from three sides.

The Indian tanks poured their fire into the valley and were joined by infantry and artillery forces, quickly dismantling the Pakistani column. The destruction was so widespread that historians weren’t able to pinpoint the exact number of Pakistani tanks destroyed, but Pakistan acknowledged that over half of its tank losses in the war came from that battle. It’s estimated at 99 tanks or more were lost on that single day.

India lost 10 tanks, which is tragic for the crews and still expensive, but an outstanding outcome in a battle where the enemy lost approximately 10 times as many.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Discovering the North Pole: Who got there first?

Since the dawn of humanity, people have been as competitive as hell. We want to be the best. The first. While most of the world has already been explored today, the tallest peaks, darkest caves, and iciest tundras were once undiscovered mysteries, and humans were obsessed with discovering every corner. Before the 1900s, the North Pole was one of those untouched corners. All early attempts failed, upping the allure of the so-called top of the world. 

In 1909, that changed. First, US Navy engineer Robert Peary claimed to have reached the pole on April 6th of that year. But shortly after, an American explorer named Frederick Albert Cook declared he had actually reached the pole first, nearly a year prior. So who was right? 

The Race for the North Pole Was Cutthroat and Controversial

The North Pole is both barely habitable and intensely difficult to reach. Situated in the moddle of the Arctic Ocean, accessing the pole is impossible without first traversing treacherous, unpredictable sea ice. Every attempt before the 20th century fell flat. William Edward Parry, a British Naval officer, tried but didn’t even get close. An American explorer named Charles Hall tried and failed in 1871. Over two decades later, a pair of Norwegian explorers, Fredrik Hjalmar Johansen and Fridtjof Nansen, got painfully close before having to return home defeated. An Italian explorer got marginally farther before giving up as well. 

Then came Peary and Cook. They began as friends, but their differences were pointed. Peary was born in 1856, and he was deadset on achieving fame. His expeditions, like most, relied heavily on the assistance of the locals in each region he explored, but he treated them more like chess pieces than friends. He went as far as to dig up graves to sell to New York’s Museum of Natural History. Cook, born nearly a decade later in 1865, was an ambitious, young doctor with a more modern approach. He was genuinely interest in the lives of indigenous peoples, diving into their culture and learning their languages. 

The two traveled together to Greenland once, but Cook turned down a second invitation. Peary wanted him to sign a contract preventing any accounts of the expidition from being published before Peary did it first. Left with a bad taste in his mouth, Cook broke contact with Peary for several years. They were reunited when Peary was lost in the Arctic and Cook was called upon to rescue him. Rescue him he did, treating him for scurvy and several other conditions. On a later expedition to Greenland, Peary badly broke his leg and Cook stepped in once again to treat his injury. Still, the two were very different men. Instead of colleagues, they were competitors. 

Peary, one of the last imperialistic explorers, would have died for fame. 

In a message to his mother about his longing to conquer the elusive North Pole, he wrote, “My last trip brought my name before the world; my next will give me a standing in the world….I will be foremost in the highest circles in the capital, and make powerful friends with whom I can shape my future instead of letting it come as it will….Remember, mother, I must have fame.”

Peary did travel to the Arctic once more, but whether or not he made it all the way to the pole is highly disputed. According to him, he made it to the North Pole on April 6th, 1909, but he straight up refused to share any definitive proof. According to a later review conducted in 1989 by the US National Geographic Society, the photos Peary took suggest that he did make it within eight kilometers of the official North Pole. 

Even with this supposed endorsement, the truth of his claims remained controversial. Firstly, no one else on the expedition had the navigational skills to confirm or deny Peary’s reports. They did, however, mention multiple, agonizingly long detours, while Peary claimed to take a direct route. Secondly, even on his own expedition, he may not have been the first to arrive at the pole. He was joined by four Inuit men and his assistant, a black man named Matthew Henson. Henson was a skilled explorer of his own right, adventuring in the Arctic alongside Peary on seven different occasions. 

Yet Peary considered himself to be superior to Henson, and was unwilling to share the credit with him. In fact, he intended to abandon Henson to reach the Pole first on his owe. He lost track of the distance, however, and according to Henson, he was livid that five others shared “his” glorious North Pole victory. He later took all the credit, and it wasn’t until Henson published a book in 1947 that he began receiving recognition for his achievements. 

Whether they truly made it to the pole or not, their unopposed rule of polar discovery didn’t go unopposed for long. 

Cook claimed that he reached the pole nearly a year earlier, but his evidence was unconvincing. 

The daring Doctor Cook was just as keen on finding the far north as Peary was. After a Mount Denali expedition that was also shrouded in suspicion, Cook headed straight for the Arctic. He set off from Annoatok, a settlement in Greenland, February, 1908. He claimed to have arrived at the pole on April 21st, yet he didn’t make it back to Annoatok until the next spring, nearly starving along the way. 

In total, they were gone for 14 months, and it remains unclear where they ended up. Cook was never able to produce convincing navigational records. According to him, he left the records in a box along with some of his other belongings at Annoatok. There, an American hunter, Harry Whitney, attempted to load the box onto Peary’s ship, the Roosevelt, Peary forbid it. The contents of that box were never seen again. 

By December 1909, experts at the University of Copenhagen determined that Cook’s records were insufficient to prove he had reached the pole. Some researchers have noted that Cook’s account of the journey, which he tracked in a diary, describes the landscape with remarkable accuracy. If he didn’t reach the pole, how could he have known what it looked like? 

Whoever got there first, both men were intrepid adventurers who paved the way for later, less disputable expeditions. 

north pole
Personnel at an Antarctic Base, circa 1946-47. Back Row:(left to right) Dustin; Cox; Dr. Paul A. Siple; Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, USN; and Boyd Kneeling: (left to right) Morency; Shirley; Amory H. Waite: Richardson; and Wiener U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

The true “first man to the North Pole” is nearly impossible to determine, but many have followed in their footsteps. About 60 years later, American Ralph Plaisted, along with three companions, were the first to reach the pole without a shred of controversy…by snowmobile, in 1968! Other adventurers have succeeded as well, by plane, submarine, and on their own two feet. I wonder which murderous wasteland will explorers fight over next. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

A year in the life of the rock stars of aviation – the Blue Angels

You might think intense physical training and serious mental workouts only apply to Special Ops teams in the military. The truth is that the Blue Angels training schedule is just as intense and just as serious as any Special Ops team out there. In this video, we get a rare behind the scenes glimpse at what it takes to become the rock stars of aviation.

From Recruit to Pilot

In this series, we get to see just what it’s like to go from recruit to Blue Angel pilot. During the first show of the season, the recruits wear their old khaki uniforms and talk among the crowd gathered to watch the show. For these officers, this is their first experience of what life will be like as a Blue Angel.

History of the Blue Angels

The US Blue Angels collectively represent almost a quarter-century of aviation exploration. Way back in 1946, Admiral Chester Nimitz (who helped play a serious role in the Navy’s involvement during WWII) got it in his mind that the only way the public would understand aviation would be to bring it out front and center. And by highlighting Navy pilots, Nimitz thought for sure that he’d help boost unit morale, too.

Turns out he was right.

blue angels

Since the 1940s, the Blue Angels have been captivating and entertaining audiences with daredevil airshows that feature death-defying acrobatics. Within a decade, this elite flying team had refined its approach and perfected the six-aircraft Delta Formation – the same one that’s in use today. But that doesn’t mean just anyone can become a Blue Angel.

The pilots’ maneuvers are all based on combat tactics, and the show is designed with a crowd in mind. Shows might be fun to watch, but that doesn’t mean getting the title of Blue Angel is easy.

Rookies are put to task with seriously difficult tests, and most liken the experience to “relearning hot to fly.” That means in addition to flying with precision, these aircraft pilots also have to successfully execute tight maneuvers over and over again and do them perfectly without error – or run the risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But for those who are committed and dedicated to the training, the payoff is immense. Ten weeks of intense training prepares pilots with the right skills to perform their first airshow.

On the ground at the first show, recruits will watch, pay attention, and imagine what it’ll be like for them once they’ve completed their training.

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This pilot defected with the Soviet Union’s most advanced plane

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

 


Lieutenant Viktor Belenko decided he had had enough. Despite being considered an expert fighter pilot with one of the Soviet Union’s elite squadrons, with all the perks that went with it, Belenko was tired of the shortages and propaganda that defined much of life in the USSR. He feared that reports of plenty in the U.S. were also exaggerated, but he decided to take a chance. On September 6, 1976 during a routine training mission, he switched off his radio and bolted to Hakodate airport in Japan. After nearly running out of fuel, barely avoiding a civilian jetliner, and overshooting the runway, he set down in Japan with only a busted landing gear. It turned out to be one of the great intelligence coups of the Cold War.

Given this gift, including a flight manual that Belenko had helpfully brought along, Western intelligence agencies proceeded to tear the plane to bits analyzing the fighter whose capabilities up until now were only an assumption. When the Soviet Union demanded its return, Japan agreed on the condition that they recoup shipping costs. The plane showed up at a docked Soviet vessel in dozens of crates, and when the Soviets realized at least 20 key components were missing, they demanded $10 million in compensation. As befitted the Cold War, neither ever paid.

The MiG-25 “Foxbat” was the newest and most advanced fighter the Soviet Union possessed. The United States and its allied NATO countries were genuinely concerned over its capabilities, and it was generally assumed to be an advanced fighter bomber that could outfly anything NATO had. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Mig-25 was very cutting edge in its way. It was one of the fastest fighters ever produced, with a theoretical top speed of mach 3.2 at the risk of engine damage, putting it near the vaunted U.S. SR-71 spy plane. It’s radar was one of the most powerful ever put on a plane of its size.

 

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Viktor Belenko

 

But those strengths were where it ended. The MiG-25 was built around its extremely heavy engines, and it showed. It had a ridiculously short combat range, and even its unarmed cruising range was too short, as Belenko’s journey could attest. It was so specialized in high-altitude interception that flying it at low altitude and speed could be very difficult. It could not carry weapons for ground attack, did not have a integral cannon, and the large wings NATO interpreted as making it a formidable dogfighter were simply meant to keep its heavy airframe in the air. In reality, it was maneuverable and would be mincemeat in a conventional dogfight once it closed to short range. Its electronics were still vacuum tube technology, and its airframe would literally bend itself out of shape if the pilot was not careful. It was made to be a high speed missile carrier targeting bombers or U.S. high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft like the U-2 inside Soviet airspace, and not much more.

Despite its flaws, the Soviet Union built over a thousand of them, and it was widely exported to a number of countries, where its combat record in several wars was mixed at best. An updated version called the MiG-31 was later built that shared aspects with the original, including many of its shortcomings.

Belkov, for all his doubts, received a welcome beyond his skeptical hopes. In an old saw that applied to many Soviet visitors, he was flabbergasted by his first visit to an American supermarket, and wondered if it was a CIA hoax. He was granted citizenship by an act of Congress in 1980, and he co-wrote an autobiography called MiG Pilot that had some success. He reportedly works as an aerospace engineer to this day. His daring escape still stands as one of the defining moments of the Cold War.

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China’s newest infantry fighting vehicle takes a page out of Russia’s armor book

China didn’t just unveil a new tank during a demonstration at a NORINCO-owned range in Inner Mongolia, its military also unveiled a new infantry fighting vehicle. The demonstration of the VN-17 took place alongside that of the VT-5 light tank.


According to a report by Janes.com, the VN-17 is based on the chassis, powerplant, transmission, armored protection, and tracks of the VT-5. This is not a new set-up, as Russia’s Armata family of armored fighting vehicles includes both a tank and infantry fighting vehicle. The VN-17 has a 30mm cannon in an unmanned turret, along with two anti-tank missiles.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
NORINCO VT-5 light tank. (Youtube screenshot)

According to deagel.com, the VN-17 has a crew of three and weighs about 30 tons. No information is available about the number of dismounted troops it can carry, but other Chinese infantry fighting vehicles in service, like the ZBD04 and ZBD05 carry seven or 10 personnel. Janes noted that the VN-17’s turret is similar to that of the VN-12 infantry fighting vehicle, which according to some sources is an export version of the ZBD04.

While the ZBD04 is lighter, it is reported to have a 100mm main gun, a main weapon similar to that on the Russian BMP-3. Russia’s T-15 Armata infantry fighting vehicle has the Vietnam-era S-60 57mm gun as its primary armament.

IFV turrets can be customized, and many Russian IFVs and armored personnel carriers can be equipped with new turrets featuring a wide variety of weapons.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
A Chinese ZBD-04 infantry fighting vehicle. A new IFV in development is replaces the combined 100mm gun and 30mm cannon turret with an unmanned turret with a 40mm gun. (Chinese Defense Ministry photo)

The United States operates the Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles using the same concept as the Armata family of vehicles and China’s VT-5/VN-17 combination.

The Stryker family includes an infantry fighting vehicle, a mobile gun system, a mortar carrier, a reconnaissance vehicle, an ambulance, and a command vehicle.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

The U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Retired Reese Hines poses for a portrait showing his Explosive Ordnance Disposal occupational badge prosthetic eye, during the archery competition at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games held at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, June17, 2016.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. from Joliet, Ill., listens to instructions for adjusting the sight on his compound bow during the archery competition at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games held at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., June 17, 2016.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever

ARMY:

Soldiers scan the seafloor for obstructions and take depth measurements to ensure ships can safely maneuver in the waters near the port during a logistics exercise in Alameda, Calif., June 18, 2016.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
U.S. Army Reserve photo by Cpl. Timothy Yao

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (June 22, 2016) USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) Sailors clime back aboard after jumping from the USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) aircraft elevator during a swim call. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Bryan Niegel

PACIFIC OCEAN (June 22, 2016) Midshipmen 2nd Class Alex Harper is transferred from the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) to the fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7) during a high line passenger transfer. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Chung-Hoon is operating as part of the John C. Stennis Strike Group and Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Marcus L. Stanley

MARINE CORPS:

Sgt. Anthony Lee, a reconnaissance Marine with Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, awaits the execution of a reconnaissance and surveillance mission during the MEU’s Realistic Urban Training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, June 13, 2016. Reconnaissance and surveillance of an objective area allows the MEU commander to gain a greater understanding of the enemy’s presence and geographical details on the battlefield.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, a crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, rides in the back of a UH-1Y Venom as it approaches a landing zone during a training exercise near Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 17, 2016. Familiarization flights familiarize pilots new to the unit with the different landing zones and flight procedures around the Camp Lejeune area.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron K. Fiala

COAST GUARD:

Members of Coast Guard Sector Juneau inspections division arrive at the cruise ship Crystal Serenity moored in Juneau, Alaska, to conduct a certificate of compliance exam June 22, 2016. The exam tests the crew’s ability to react in the case of an emergency covering a range of different scenarios.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon-Paul Rios

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb stand ready for a uniform inspection prior to the cutter’s change of command ceremony held at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach on June 16, 2016. The change of command ceremony is a time-honored tradition, deeply rooted in Coast Guard and Naval history. The event signifies a total transfer of responsibility, authority and accountability of the command.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson

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A new quad-copter that swims and flies could one day help special ops

It’s a bird! It’s a fish! It’s … the Naviator.


At the Office of Naval Research’s annual Science and Technology Expo on July 21 in Washington, DC, a development team from Rutgers University demonstrated the unusual quadcopter, which can swim at depths of up to 10 meters, then seamlessly launch to the surface and soar into the air.

The drone, developed with sponsorship from the Office of Naval Research, shows promise as a tool for mine countermeasures and port security, to name a few possibilities.

There’s also interest from the special operations community, said Dr. Marc Contarino, vice president of technology for the program. It carries a 360-degree waterproof camera, making it well-suited for security and bridge and ship inspections, among other missions.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

“Special ops have not told us exactly what they want. But we know for special ops, it’s all about speed and not being detected,” Contarino told Military.com. “So we’re building our system to be as fast as possible.”

While current prototypes are not much larger than a typical commercial quadcopter, Contarino said there are plans to build a six-foot-diameter model capable of carrying the 30-pound payload the Navy wants for its mine countermeasure mission. That UAV will be able to operate in waves of three-to-five feet and in 30-mile-per-hour winds, he said.

Developers have already put the Naviator through its paces in real-world conditions, launching the drone from the Delaware Memorial Bridge over the Delaware River and from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

“Since we’re a Navy sponsor, I tried to find the biggest boat I could to showcase it,” Contarino said.

When a Phase Two development contract begins for the Naviator in 2018, Contarino said the team plans to expand its operational envelope, including work to develop a model that can operate at depths of up to 30 meters, and development of pressure-resistant features that could support much greater depths.

Whether the Naviator spends more time underwater or flying over it depends entirely on the mission.

“[It acts as if] air is a fluid, water is a fluid, and it doesn’t care,” Contarino said. ” … So we think the Navy really likes it because it does the air, the surface, and the underwater mission.”

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4 key differences between the Green Berets and Delta Force

The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta — or “Delta Force” or CAG (for Combat Applications Group) or whatever its latest code name might be — is one of the best door kicking-units in the world.


From raining hell on al Qaeda in the early days of the war in Afghanistan to going after the “deck of cards” in Iraq, the super-secretive counterterrorism unit knows how to dispatch America’s top targets.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy. Courtesy of Dalton Fury.

But during the wars after 9/11, Delta’s brethren in the Army Special Forces were tasked with many similar missions, going after top targets and kicking in a few doors for themselves. And Delta has a lot of former Special Forces soldiers in its ranks, so their cultures became even more closely aligned.

That’s why it’s not surprising that some might be a bit confused on who does what and how each of the units is separate and distinct from one another.

In fact, as America’s involvement in Iraq started to wind down, the new commander of the Army Special Warfare Center and School — the place where all SF soldiers are trained — made it a point to draw the distinction between his former teammates in Delta and the warriors of the Green Berets.

“I hate analogies like the ‘pointy end of the spear,’ ” said then school chief Maj. Gen. Bennett Sacolick.

“We’re not designed to hunt people down and kill them,” Sacolick said. “We have that capability and we have forces that specialize in that. But ultimately what we do that nobody else does is work with our indigenous partner nations.”

So, in case you were among the confused, here are four key differences between Delta and Special Forces:

1. Delta, what Delta?

With the modern media market, blogs, 24-hour news cycles and social media streams where everyone’s an expert, it’s tough to keep a secret these days. And particularly after 9/11 with the insatiable appetite for news and information on the war against al Qaeda, it was going to be hard to keep “Delta Force” from becoming a household name.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Delta Force is part of Joint Special Operations Command, which targets high value individuals and terrorist groups. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The dam actually broke with Mark Bowden’s seminal work on a night of pitched fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, which later became the book “Black Hawk Down.” Delta figured prominently in that work — and the movie that followed.

Previously, Delta Force had been deemed secret, it’s members signing legally-binding agreements that subjected them to prison if they spoke about “The Unit.” Known as a “Tier 1” special operations unit, Delta, along with SEAL Team 6, are supposed to remain “black” and unknown to the public.

Even when they’re killed in battle, the Army refuses to disclose their true unit.

Special Forces, on the other hand, are considered Tier 2 or “white SOF,” with many missions that are known to the public and even encourage media coverage. Sure, the Green Berets often operate in secret, but unlike Delta, their existence isn’t one.

2. Building guerrilla armies.

This is where the Special Forces differs from every other unit in the U.S. military. When the Green Berets were established in the 1950s, Army leaders recognized that the fight against Soviet Communism would involve counter insurgencies and guerrilla warfare fought in the shadows rather than armored divisions rolling across the Fulda Gap.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
This Green Beret is helping Afghan soldiers battle insurgents and terrorists in that country. (Photo from U.S. Army)

So the Army Special Forces, later known as the Green Berets, were created with the primary mission of what would later be called “unconventional warfare” — the covert assistance of foreign resistance forces and subversion of local governments.

“Unconventional warfare missions allow U.S. Army soldiers to enter a country covertly and build relationships with local militia,” the Army says. “Operatives train the militia in a variety of tactics, including subversion, sabotage, intelligence collection and unconventional assisted recovery, which can be employed against enemy threats.”

According to Sean Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” — which chronicles the formation of Joint Special Operations Command that includes Delta, SEAL Team 6 and other covert commando units — Delta’s main mission was to execute “small, high-intensity operations of short duration” like raids and capture missions. While Delta operators surely know how to advise and work with foreign guerrilla groups, like they did during operations in Tora Bora in Afghanistan, that’s not their main funtion like it is for Green Berets.

3. Assessment and selection.

When Col. Charles Beckwith established Delta Force in 1977, he’d spent some time with the British Special Air Service to model much of his new unit’s organization and mission structure. In fact, Delta has units dubbed “squadrons” in homage to that SAS lineage.

But most significantly, Beckwith adopted a so-called “assessment and selection” regime that aligns closely with how the Brits pick their top commandos. Delta operators have to already have some time in the service (the unit primarily picks from soldiers, but other service troops like Marines have been known to try out) and be at least an E4 with more than two years left in their enlistment.

From what former operators have written, the selection is a brutal, mind-bending hike through (nowadays) the West Virginia mountains where candidates are given vague instructions, miles of ruck humps and psychological examinations to see if they can be trusted to work in the most extreme environments alone or in small teams under great risk of capture or death.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Army Special Forces are the only special operations group trained specifically to aid insurgents in overthrowing foreign governments. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Special Forces, on the other hand, have fairly standard physical selection (that doesn’t mean it’s easy) and training dubbed the Q Course that culminates in a major guerrilla wargame called “Robin Sage.”

The point of Robin Sage is to put the wannabe Green Berets through a simulated unconventional warfare scenario to see how they could adapt to a constantly changing environment and still keep their mission on track.

4. Size matters

Army Special Forces is a much larger organization than Delta Force, which is a small subset of Army Special Operations Command.

The Green Berets are divided up into five active duty and two National Guard groups, comprised of multiple battalions of Special Forces soldiers divided into Operational Detachments, typically dubbed “ODAs.” These are the troopers who parachute into bad guy land and help make holy hell for the dictator du jour.

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Delta is a small, elite unit that specializes in direct action and other counter-terrorism missions. (Photo from YouTube)

It was ODA teams that infiltrated Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance and Pashtun groups like the one run by Hamid Karzai that overturned the Taliban.

These Special Forces Groups are regionally focused and based throughout the U.S. and overseas.

Delta, on the other hand, has a much smaller footprint, with estimates ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 operators divided into four assault squadrons and three support squadrons. Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” even hints that Delta might have women in its ranks to help infiltrate operators into foreign countries for reconnaissance missions.

And while Special Forces units are based around the world, Delta has a single headquarters in a compound ringed with concertina wire at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

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Troops pick which Army job is the best

People approach joining the Army as if all soldiers are the same, but there are actually a ton of different jobs recruits can enlist for. And since soldiers are willing to leave reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com, it’s easy to see which recruits might re-enlist without prompting and which will spend the next few years counting down to the end of their contract.


1. Human Resources Specialists

 

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Photo: US Army Sgt. Jason Means

Human resource specialists apparently love being in the Army, giving it a rating of 4.3 out of 5. It looks like sitting behind a desk at headquarters isn’t a bad way to earn the GI Bill.

2. Psychological Operations

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Samuel Bedet

Psychological Operations soldiers gave their career a 4.3 as well. Multiple reviewers cited their free foreign language training and incentive pays as reasons they like their job.

3. Artillerymen

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Photo: US Army

Artillery has the highest rating of the combat arms branches with a 4.1. Considering the fact that they get to pull strings and make stuff go boom all day, this isn’t a huge shocker.

4. Combat Engineer

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret

 

Considering the fact that combat engineers are stuck with missions like route clearance, it’s surprising that they rated their time serving as a 4 out of 5. But sappers are crazy like that and explosives are fun.

5. Communications specialists

 

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Pfc. Chris McKenna

 

The Commo guys also gave the Army a 4 out of 5. This is a broad category, including everyone from Satellite Communications Operators to Cable Systems Installer-Maintainers.

6. Army Pilots

 

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Photo: Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rissmiller

 

Helicopters are awesome, and their pilots rated serving at 3.9 out of 5. Some of the lower ratings came from OH-58 pilots who are understandably disappointed that the Army has gotten rid of their scout aircraft.

7. Cavalry

 

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Photo: US Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Edward Martens

 

Cavlarymen cited their long work hours and the danger of combat arms as drawbacks, but the adrenaline rush, The benefits, and working outside were huge positives. The average review was a 3.9.

8. Army Special Forces

 

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bradley C. Church

Like the cavalry, Special Forces soldiers gave the Army a 3.9. Reviews cited the incentive pays for Special Forces and the professional environment as big positives. SF guys also get free language training.

9. Intel Analyst

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Photo: US Army Spc. Nathan Goodall

 

Intelligence analysts gave the Army a 3.8 out of 5. In charge of collecting data from the battlefield and figuring out what the enemy is doing, these guys spend a lot of time locked in secure offices seeing photos and reports no one else gets to.

10. Army Infantry

 

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann

 

The iconic rifleman may be all over the recruiting posters, but sleeping on rocks and rucking 100 pounds of gear isn’t exactly an ideal weekend. They still gave their employer a 3.7 rating, so it must not be all bad.

11. Army Medic

 

That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Kaily Brown

Everyone loves medics, but they only rated the Army as a 3.6, so the feeling isn’t mutual. That 3.6 probably comes from their easy access to IV bags for curing hangovers, not from having to look at everyone else’s infections.