There has long been a dispute between the towns of Lexington and Concord over which fight sparked the Revolution, but the first shots were fired at Lexington, which was less of a battle and more of a massacre. The debate was so fierce that President Ulysses Grant almost avoided the centennial celebrations there to avoid the issue. Taken together, however, there is little doubt that the spark of the Revolution started on this day in April, 1775.
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolution, pitting members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia against British regular army forces. The militia was not under the royal governor, but controlled by the rebel Massachusetts Provincial Congress.
Seven hundred British troops were dispatched from Tory-held Boston to capture and destroy rebel arsenals at Concord, Mass. The rebels knew the British would come and had already moved the weapons and supplies. The British force moved through Lexington on the way to Concord.
At first light on April 19, 1775, the Redcoats met some 70 colonial militiamen moving into ranks on the local common. They were vastly outnumbered. Their commander, John Parker, was not willing to risk his men at such odds, and so placed them in formation, but not blocking the road to Concord. He ordered his men not to fire unless fired upon.
Rather than just march on to Concord, a British Marine lieutenant led his men onto Lexington Common to disarm the militia. Instead of disarming, the colonists moved to disperse. That’s when a shot rang out from an unknown source. Before this encounter, there was no war declared in the colonies. The British had come and gone to seize arms and supplies many times, retreating back to the major cities each time. This time was different.
The idea of Americans in open rebellion against the British Crown was likely a shock to the subject of the British Empire. At the time of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the British controlled territory on every inhabitable continent across the globe. Down on Lexington Common, however, those opening salvos left eight Americans dead and an equal number injured, along with one injured British regular. The engagement soured the chances of reconciliation between the colonies and the Crown.
The British would continue to Concord, where the Battle of North Bridge in Concord would kill two colonists and three Redcoats. The British retreated all the way back to Boston and were harassed by colonial militias the entire way home.
Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson composed the “Concord Hymn” in 1837, immortalizing the two events for the unveiling of a battle monument at Concord’s North Bridge.
“By the rude bridge that arched the flood/Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/Here once the embattled farmers stood/And fired the shot heard round the world.”
This story would one day lead to the defeat of the British at the hands of a Franco-American force, the birth of America, and eventually, School House Rock.
The French military doesn’t get a lot of love these days; their crushing defeat and capitulation in 1940 still colors the way the world sees the armed forces of France. It’s a completely undeserved reputation, however. The French are much better at fighting wars than you might think.
One part of this is the French Foreign Legion and its cadre of criminals, strongmen, war junkies, and other badasses who decided to get a clean slate by joining the Legion. In World War II, the Legion was just a capable as it is today — and they capitulated to no one. In 1942, they were joined by a group of Jewish soldiers who decided they had enough of the anti-Semitism in Europe.
At a small oasis in Libya, guarding an old Turkish fort, the Free French Foreign Legion begin to reinforce their position. The fort, called Bir Hakeim, was a sort of last stand for the Allies. If Field Marshal Erwin Rommel could punch his army through the French position, he could take the vital port city of Tobruk. Near the end of the Legionnaires’ lines was a place called Bir-el Hamat.
This is where the Jewish fighters of WWII would make their presence felt.
They were a small group of 400 minelayers sent by the British and led by Maj. Félix Liebmann to reinforce the French position. They had no heavy weapons and were generally poorly armed and equipped. Rommel’s men targeted the Jewish position as the weakest point and sent a truce flag over to demand the Jewish surrender. When they refused, the Nazis hit the Jewish defenders with everything they had.
Unable to radio the French a few miles up the road, the Jewish fighters held their position using molotov cocktails on the tanks that didn’t get destroyed in the minefield. For eight days — low on water, ammunition, and supplies — the Jewish troops withstood relentless, constant bombardment and fought the Afrika Korps to a standstill.
On the last day, the French and Jewish forces got the word to retreat. They held off the Nazis long enough for the British 8th Army to retreat — and they did, in the middle of the night. Three-fourths of the unit were killed or wounded at Bir-el Hamat and they marched 60 some miles all the way to Gasr el-Abid.
When they arrived, they folded up their flag, a gold Star of David on a blue and white striped background — a precursor to the modern-day state of Israel’s flag. Observing the men folding their colors, French Foreign Legion commander General Marie-Pierre Koenig demanded why they stopped flying their flag. Under the British, Maj. Liebmann explained, they were not allowed to fly their own colors.
Koenig had the flag attached to his jeep, next to the Free French flag, at equal stature.
The British 8th Army was able to to defeat the Afrika Korps at el-Alamein the very next month, in a pivotal battle that kept the Axis from advancing into Egypt and capturing the Suez Canal. By 1944, the Jewish Brigade (as they came to be called) was formed to take the fight to the Nazis in Italy.
In 1961, the United States military was ordered to try to make a single airframe serve the needs of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. That project was called the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) project. It later became the General Dynamics F-111, known affectionately as the Aardvark.
As just about any military aviation buff can tell you, the results were not what the then-Secretary of Defense had been hoping for. The F-111 made an excellent all-weather attack plane, capable of delivering 31,500 pounds of ordnance onto a target. If anything, had there been another round of modernization in the early-to-mid 1990s, allowing the Vark to use GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions or Joint Stand-Off Weapons or the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, it might still be carrying out that mission today.
The efforts to fill the needs of the other services didn’t go so well. The close-air support versions for the Marines and Army never happened. The Navy’s F-111B, intended as a fleet air-defense plane, just didn’t work, prompting Vice Admiral Thomas Connolly to tell a Senator, “There isn’t enough power in all Christendom to make that airplane what we want!” The results of Connolly’s career-ending honesty included the Navy developing the F-14 Tomcat, which proved to be very effective as an interceptor and air superiority fighter.
But the Air Force, Navy, and Marines all ended up using a common airframe from the 1960s to the 1980s. It just wasn’t the airframe many would have picked to be a joint strike fighter before there was ever a thought of having a Joint Strike Fighter.
The iconic McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom started out as an all-weather interceptor for the Navy. Equipped with four AIM-7 Sparrows and four AIM-9 Sidewinders, this Mach 2 plane had a combat radius of almost 370 miles, and was also capable of carrying almost 19,000 pounds of bombs. The Marines also bought the plane as well.
The Air Force, looking for a new fighter-bomber, tried out the F-4. Very quickly, the Air Force realized that the Phantom was working out very well, and soon they, too were buying hundreds of F-4s. The Air Force was even able to add an internal M61 cannon to the plane – something the Navy never really got around to.
The Phantom saw service in the Vietnam War – and it was the plane flown by America’s aces in that conflict: Randy Cunningham, Willie Driscoll, Steve Richie, Charles DeBellevue, and Jeffrey Feinstein. The Phantom shot down 147 enemy planes in the Vietnam War. It also saw service with numerous American allies: including Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, Iran, Egypt, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and Greece. It still remains in service, now as a fighter-bomber.
The F-35 seems to have taken a few pages out of the F-111’s playbook; notably, the three versions have similar missions – even though one is intended for use from normal air bases, the other is V/STOL, and the third is carrier-capable. But the F-35 program is now pushing 15 years since Lockheed won the Joint Strike Fighter competition) — twice as long as the F-111’s.
The F-35 also shares something in common with the F-4: The Air Force version is the only one with an internal cannon. The Navy and Marine Corps versions (as well as the one used by the RAF) don’t. And whether the F-35 can become a classic like the Phantom is something that only time will tell.
When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.
Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”
But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.
1. A new car or motorcycle
The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.
That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.
2. Post-deployment booze
I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.
But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.
3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)
When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.
That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.
Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.
4. Engagement rings
Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…
5. Divorce lawyers are, unfortunately, another common deployment side effect
Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.
There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.
Just make sure you get it spell-checked.
What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.
A U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government told the AP that talks about keeping U.S. troops in Iraq were ongoing.
The U.S. official emphasized that discussions were in early stages and that “nothing has been finalized.” Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
In his statement, Haider al-Abadi emphasized that there are no foreign combat troops on Iraqi soil and that any American troops who stay on once IS militants are defeated will be advisers working to train Iraq’s security forces to maintain “full readiness” for any “future security challenges.”
While some U.S. forces are carrying out combat operations with Iraqi forces on and beyond front lines in the fight against IS, al-Abadi has maintained that the forces are acting only as advisers, apparently to get around a required parliamentary approval for their presence.
Any forces who remained would continue to be designated as advisers for the same reason, the Iraqi government official had told the AP.
Regardless of how the troops are designated, talks about maintaining American forces in Iraq point to a consensus by both governments that a longer-term U.S. presence in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once IS militants are driven out — a contrast to the full U.S. withdrawal in 2011.
Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000, before the complete withdrawal in 2011.
The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since expanded, given the Iraqi forces’ need for support.
As a US-led coalition hammers ISIS’s oil infrastructure and other financial institutions in the Middle East, the terrorist group has cut salaries and infighting has broken out within the rank and file and senior leadership.
Reports of infighting within ISIS — aka the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh — aren’t new, but increased financial and territorial losses might be worsening the stress fractures that are splintering the group.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that ISIS is now facing an “unprecedented cash crunch” as the coalition ramps up strikes on its sources of wealth. Strikes have been hitting oil refineries and tankers as well as banks and buildings that hold hard cash.
ISIS salaries are taking a hit as a result of the financial losses. Some units reportedly aren’t being paid at all, and some fighters’ salaries have been cut in half, according to The Post.
The salary cuts specifically appear “to have significantly hit the organization’s morale,” according to Charles Lister, a resident fellow at the Middle East Institute.
“There are more and more frequent reports … of infighting, armed clashes breaking out in the middle of the night in places like Raqqa between rival factions,” Lister said on Friday during a panel discussion in Washington, DC, referring to ISIS’s de-facto capital in Syria.
“These are all indications of a significant drop in morale and a decrease in internal cohesion. And the cohesion argument was always something that analysts like myself always said was one of ISIS’ strongest strengths,” he said.
Part of what has made ISIS’s message so potent is the money that has come along with it — which is said to be a major factor in ISIS’s recruiting success. For locals in war-torn Syria especially, ISIS has been able to offer more money than people could hope to make elsewhere.
But the salary cuts have strained the loyalties of fighters to the group.
Abu Sara, a 33-year-old engineer from Iraq, told The Post that ISIS members are becoming disillusioned.
“Their members are getting quite angry. Either they are not getting salaries or getting much less than they used to earn,” Sara said. “All of the people I am in contact with want to escape, but they don’t know how.”
Some fighters “throw down their weapons and mingle with the civilians” in battle, according to Sara.
ISIS’s financial problems are compounded by the group’s territorial losses. Syrian forces recently retook the ancient city of Palmyra, while Iraqi forces are starting to move in toward Mosul, ISIS’s stronghold in Iraq.
Territorial losses could hurt ISIS’s recruiting efforts because they run counter to the group’s central message of “remaining and expanding.”
The losses also hit at ISIS’s coffers because taxation and extortion make up a large share of ISIS’s revenues. Unlike other terrorist groups that rely on outside donations from wealthy individuals, ISIS squeezes money from the local populations it controls.
But ISIS isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon.
Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi military strategist, told The Post that ISIS still controls significant oil resources across the territory it holds in Iraq and Syria.
“They’re not going through a financial crisis that will lead to their collapse,” Hashimi told the newspaper. “They still have 60 percent of Syrian oil wells and 5 percent of Iraq’s.”
In the late 1960s the United States Marine Corps fell in love with the idea of an attack airplane that could take-off and land vertically. In theory, that airplane could be based very close to the action on the battlefield because it wouldn’t need a long runway to operate, and that short range would allow for quick close air support response times.
A couple of senior-ranking Marine pilots went to England to take a test flight in the British Harrier, and they were impressed enough to convince the Pentagon budgeteers to buy the service 110 of them. Since DoD had a thing about foreign-built hardware, they came up with a special arrangement where the airplanes were manufactured in England and assembled in America.
Starting in 1971, Marine Corps AV-8A Harrier squadrons were stood up at Yuma and Cherry Point. Because of the unique flight characteristics, only the best pilots were accepted for Harrier training. Unfortunately, in too many cases no amount of stick-and-rudder talent was enough to make up for an airplane that was poorly designed and overly ambitious, performance-wise, for the technology of the day.
Marine Air lost 55 AV-8As between 1971 and 1982. The Harrier had a Class A mishap (over $1 million in damage or aircraft destroyed) rate of 39 per 100,000 flight hours — the worst in modern military aviation history by far. Some of the mishaps were due to the inherently dangerous aspects of the attack mission — like dropping bombs in a steep dive and flying close to the ground in mountainous terrain — but about half of them happened in the vertical flight regime, the thing that made the Harrier unique.
The Harrier’s vectored thrust is what gives it the ability to take-off and land vertically and hover like a helicopter. Unlike the Harrier II that has a computer interface that prevents the pilot from accidently commanding the nozzles in a way that would throw the airplane out of balance, the first version of the jump jet required that the pilot manually adjust each throttle precisely to maintain a hover or to launch or land vertically. The result was an airplane that pilots described as “unforgiving” and that other tactical jet communities labeled as a “widow maker.”
Now watch this awesome documentary about the Harrier:
In May of 1942, U-boat 506 sank the freighter “Heredia” approximately 40 miles off New Orleans. Most of the crew onboard were merchant seamen, but there were also a handful of civilians including the Downs family, consisting of the parents, Ray and Ina, along with their two children, eight-year-old Sonny, and eleven-year-old Lucille. When the ship exploded, chaos ensued and Ina and Lucille were separated from Ray and Sonny who found refuge in a four-foot balsa wood life raft. Father and son were joined by the Heredia’s captain, Captain Edwin Colburn, and civilian George Conyea. The following narrative, excerpted from Michael Tougias’ new book “So Close to Home,” chronicles their final hours in the life raftwhen all hope seemed lost.
The baking rays of the sun pounded down on the four souls clinging to the square life raft, that was now partially submerged. If we don’t drown, thought Ray Downs, we’re going to die of dehydration. They had been drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for over fourteen hours, and Ray worried his boy Sonny wouldn’t last another hour.
Sonny was lost in his own exhausted stupor. Then he felt something against his leg. He glanced down and could not believe what he saw: a banana, perhaps the same one he had lost earlier, was bobbing in the water.
“Dad, look!” he gasped, reaching out and snatching the green banana.
“I knew you’d find it. I think that banana is really going to help us. Why don’t you unpeel it and take a big bite and then pass it around for all of us to share?”
Sonny did as he was told. It was a struggle to swallow his piece of the banana with his mouth and throat so dry. Twenty seconds later, he felt nauseous and vomited the banana bite back into the sea.
“Well, that didn’t work so well,” Ray said. “The banana wasn’t ripe anyway.”
Sonny only nodded. He was slumped forward with his head hanging so low that it almost reached his knees.
A few minutes later, Sonny said, “Dad, can we go in now?” He said it as if they were on a fishing trip and it was up to his father when to call it quits.
Rather than try to explain the situation, his father answered, “Soon, son, soon.”
Sonny looked up at his father and just nodded.
It wasn’t long after this exchange that Ray noticed fellow survivor George Conyea staring at something directly behind where Ray was sitting. Ray turned his head and saw not one but four grey shark fins lazily cutting through the sea just five feet away from the raft. When he looked over at Conyea and the captain, he saw another couple of fins. By now, all four of the survivors could see the sharks. No one said a word.
One shark turned toward the raft and then glided directly under it. The group could see the outline of its body as it passed directly beneath them. It looked to be about five to six feet long.
Sonny quickly pulled his feet out of the water.
“Take it easy, Sonny, don’t thrash around,” said his dad. “They’ll move on.”
But they didn’t move on.
The four survivors now counted seven different sharks making slow half-loops around the raft before making a pass directly underneath it. This was by far the most terrifying experience of the ordeal for both Sonny and the three adults. The raft was too small for the men to try and get their legs on top of the balsa wood. Ray was right: their best defense was not to make a commotion.
The men did not know what kind of sharks they were, only that they were as big as themselves. The life raft probably acted like a magnet for sharks, attracting their interest simply because it was a floating object, and the sharks, with their keen sense of smell, could also have been drawn in by the scent of the blood from the wound on Ray’s leg. And any movement the group made, such as switching position, would have caused a vibration in the water, and that too would attract sharks. It’s also possible that smaller fish were holding position under the shade of the raft, and the sharks came in to investigate this potential prey, and then became inquisitive about the humans.
Whatever kind of sharks were circling the Heredia survivors, they were curious and gradually moved in closer to the life raft, making their lazy half-loops just a couple of feet off the side of the raft before they submerged and swam directly under it. One shark, when passing under the raft, rolled on its back, and an anxious Sonny could see its half-opened mouth. The boy almost let out a scream, but his dad, who had seen the same thing, reached over and put his hand on Sonny’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry, they are just checking us out. We are something new to them.”
Ray had no idea if what he was saying was true or not, but the last thing he needed was for his son to go into a panic. He also hoped his words calmed the captain and George Conyea, because they were as wide-eyed as Sonny, watching every move their new visitors made.
Ray felt despair like he had never known. Sundown was just three and a half hours away, and the thought of the sharks gliding beneath them at night was too terrible to contemplate. He felt absolutely helpless.
Minutes crawled by and the four survivors kept still, eyes glued on the fins lazily cutting through the water on all sides of the raft. The behavior of the sharks stayed the same; they came within a foot or two of the castaways but there was no direct contact with either the raft or the group’s legs or feet.
“How long will they stay?” asked Sonny, looking at his father.
“Don’t know, Sonny; but like I said, they are just curious.” Ray paused and continued his calming words: “If we don’t bother them, they won’t bother us.”
An hour went by and the group tried to ignore the sharks, but with little success. There was nothing else to look at, nothing else to take their mind off the seven fins circling them.
About two hours after the sharks first arrived, more fins appeared in the water not far from the raft. Sonny was terrified, thinking, not more sharks. . . .
Captain Colburn spoke up. “Hey, those are dolphins.”
Like the U-boat that had caused their ordeal, the sharks submerged and were not seen again.
Sonny experienced an incredible sense of relief and joy with the dolphins’ arrival and the sharks’ departure. He felt as if he had been holding his breath for the past two hours, afraid to move a muscle. There was no doubt in his mind that the dolphins had driven the sharks off to help him.
The dolphins’ presence not only relieved Sonny’s concern over the sharks, they also gave him something new to watch. Unlike the sharks, the dolphins swam quickly around the raft, their entire backs almost coming out of the water, and then briefly submerge and repeat the process. Up and down came their fins. But after just three or four minutes, they moved on and were gone from sight.
The group didn’t speak. Without the fear of sharks, their minds went back to the predicament of time running out for a rescue. It would be dark within the hour. Their thirst was unbearable and all felt extremely weak. Sonny was in the worst shape because of his small body. Now that the sun was low in the sky, he was shivering again. His father noticed and had him move back on his lap where he wrapped his big arms around the boy, trying to stop his shaking.
Sonny looked up at his father. “Shouldn’t a boat be here by now?” he asked.
Ray needed to keep his son’s mind occupied. So instead of discussing the lack of a rescue boat, he said “Let’s play a game. See those seagulls way up there? You choose one and I’ll choose one and we’ll count how long they go without flapping their wings. Whoever’s bird flies the longest without using its wings wins.”
Sonny perked up a bit. He didn’t really want to play the game because he was so chilled and his mouth so parched that he’d rather not talk. But he thought maybe this game was what his father needed to do.
“Okay, I’m picking the one over there,” Sonny said as he lethargically pointed at a shape off to the west.
“And I’ve got the one straight up,” answered Ray.
With heads tilted back, father and son watched the birds they had chosen. It was easy to look up because the sun was almost touching the ocean.
“Mine just flapped,” said Ray. “You win.”
Sonny gave a half-hearted nod.
“Well, let’s play another round,” said Ray.
Again they chose birds. Sonny chose one high in the sky and way off on the eastern horizon. This time the captain and George Conyea also looked up to see which birds the father and son chose. Anything to take their minds off their body’s demands for water.
Again Ray’s bird flapped its wings quickly. “You win again,” he said.
Sonny kept his eyes on his own bird. “Wow, Dad, mine is still going along without flapping.”
Ray looked closer at the bird in the distance.
“Captain, let me use your binoculars,” Ray said.
The captain removed the strap from around his neck and handed them to Ray, who hurriedly put the binoculars to his eyes. He adjusted the focus and stared intently at the bird far in the distance.
“That’s no seagull, it’s a plane!” he shouted.
“Yes, yes!” shouted the captain.
The survivors still could not hear its engines or tell what kind of plane it was, but there was no doubt it was a plane and that it was heading toward the raft.
“Quick, Sonny, take off the captain’s coat! I’ve got to get it on the board.”
Within seconds, Ray was waving the board with the white coat on it, and the others were waving their arms.
Ray couldn’t tell if the pilot had spotted the white coat, and the tension was unbearable. Please, please, he said to himself. His son’s very life was at stake. The boy could not make it through another cold night. He waved the white coat wildly.
As the plane drew closer, its metal skin briefly glittered when the sun’s rays hit it. Now they could hear the dull drone of the engine, and Sonny shouted “Help!”
“Keep waving the flag!” shouted the captain, his excitement growing. “It’s got to see us. It’s our last chance. I think it’s coming our way.”
Ray could make out the outline of the plane and, because of its unique construction, realized it was a Navy PBY. The single wing was elevated on a pylon above the fuselage rather than coming straight out from the sides. This allowed unobstructed visibility for its aviators to scan the ocean during either patrols for U-boats or search-and-rescue missions. Two engines with propellers were mounted on the wing, one on each side of the aircraft.
The plane came ever closer but it did not descend. Ray thought maybe it was going too fast to see them.
But Sonny’s heart soared. He was certain the plane was coming for them. And he was right. In one swift motion, the PBY started descending and adjusting its course slightly so it was just fifteen feet off the ocean and heading right toward the raft, banking hard so that Sonny could actually see the pilot, who was giving a thumbs-up. The boy let out a croak of joy along with the cheers of his father, the captain, and George Conyea.
The four raft passengers watched with awe as the plane circled back toward them. Its 104-foot wingspan and 63-foot length made it appear enormous so close to the water. Just as the plane was barreling over their location, they saw the pilot drop a package out the window, landing just ten feet from the raft. Using the board and their hands, all four survivors paddled furiously toward what they hoped was their salvation floating in the water.
The captain grabbed the package and ripped it open. Inside were two flares, a large container of water, and a note. The captain read the note out loud: “We will send shrimp boats to come and get you. If anyone is seriously hurt, wave me in and I’ll pick them up.”
Ray thought for a minute. He knew the plane was going to search for other survivors in the few minutes of daylight left and he didn’t want to slow it down. Someone, maybe Lucille or Ina, might be hurt and the plane could rescue them. He thought Sonny could make it the half hour or hour that he expected the shrimp boat to take to arrive.
The plane made a broad circle above the raft and then moved off.
“We made it, son,” said Ray; “we’ll be on the boat in no time.”
Then the captain passed the water container to Ray, saying, “Let’s all take a drink. We may want to let our bodies adjust to the water before we take a second drink.”
When Sonny took his gulp of water, he thought he had never tasted anything so good, so sweet. It was as if the water had magical powers, because he felt better immediately. He couldn’t wait for the container to come around again for his second drink of the life-giving fluid. But the captain said again that they shouldn’t drink too much all at once, and the other adults agreed.
A few minutes later the plane reappeared, then moved off. The survivors had no way of knowing that the pilot had dropped a note to shrimp boats a few miles off that said: “Watch my direction. Follow me. Pick up survivors in water.”
A half hour went by and the survivors bobbed on their little raft in the darkening shadows. They all had another drink of water, and the captain said that he thought a shrimp boat could reach them within the next half hour.
Sonny shivered in his father’s arms. The hydrating water had eased his thirst but did nothing for his growing hypothermia.
“That plane can land on water, right, Dad?”
“Then why didn’t they just do that and pick us up?”
“They needed more time in the air to find others. But the boat will be here soon.”
“What if the boat can’t find us?”
“They will. And remember, we’ve got flares to use if we see a boat.”
Sonny had forgotten about the flares. But he also wondered how his dad would see a boat in the distance in the pitch black of night.
More time went by. The sun had set, but the survivors could still differentiate between the horizon and the ocean in the twilight. Sonny had forgotten all about the sharks, but Ray hadn’t. Ray still scanned the dark ocean around the raft for any sign of a fin. He wondered what to do if a shark appeared and thought that should one come, he could use the strong light from a flare to scare it off. But with only two flares. . . .
The prospect of another night in the water scared Ray to the core—not for himself but his concern over Sonny, who he could feel shivering in his arms. He second-guessed himself about not waving in the plane. Now there was nothing he could do to change that decision.
Editor’s note: Michael Tougias is a New York Times bestselling author and co-author of 25 books including “The Finest Hours,” “A Storm Too Soon,” “Rescue of the Bounty,” “Overboard,” “Fatal Forecast,” “Ten Hours Until Dawn,” and “There’s a Porcupine in my Outhouse.”
His latest work is an inspiring historical narrative titled “So Close to Home” that tells the story of all four members of the Downs family as they struggle for survival. Their story is contrasted against that of the daring U-boat commander, Erich Wurdemann, who pushed his crew to the limit of endurance as he laid waste to ships throughout the Gulf.
Now, when this video first appeared, it was believed to have been from the cockpit of a F-16. According to FlightGlobal.com, though, the actual plane was a CT-155 Hawk assigned to NATO Flying Training Canada.
For a single-engine fighter like the CT-155, this bird strike prove to be very fatal. As heard in the video, the two pilots on board tried to get the engine to re-start. When that fails, there’s only one option left for the pilots: GTFO.
That’s exactly what these pilots did, leaving the stricken Hawk to its fate.
The pilots who ejected, RAF Flight Lieutenant Edward Morris and Captain John Hutt of what was then the Canadian Defense Forces Air Command (now the Royal Canadian Air Force), were both recovered alive and well. It was a close call. You can see that close call from their perspective below.
Tahseen claims to have killed at least 173 fighters since joining the Shia militia in May 2015, but that number could have gone substantially higher since the filming of this video.
His first mission is to push ISIS from the Makhoul Mountains, and he’s determined to get as many kills as possible before the war is over. Tahseen’s story has also inspired others to take up arms against the enemy.
This video shows the veteran shooting militants in the mountains of Iraq.
Halloween is just around the corner and if your children are anything like mine, the focus of the month is what costume they’ll be wearing. This year, skip the Superman and Elsa outfits and help them dress like real American heroes: their parents. Halloween provides the perfect opportunity to teach your little ones about the incredible breadth of military career choices, while having fun dressing up like mom or dad.
10 Great Military Themed Halloween Costumes for Kids
1. Dress uniforms
Regardless of your occupation, there is nothing sweeter than your little guy or gal dressed in your branch’s best. Take this opportunity to teach them some of the traditions with your service. Whether it’s what the empty table at a dining out represents or the history behind who gets the first piece of cake at a birthday ball, this costume selection could serve as an excellent conversation piece between you and your child. Not to mention, adorable. Find it here.
Is there anything more comfortable than wearing a flight suit to trick or treat the neighborhood? Use this opportunity to teach your child about the different aircraft and their respective missions. Whether your son wants to fly Seahawks or Strike Eagles or your daughter Chinooks or Super Hornets, let your little aviator pick his or her favorite aircraft and patches. Bonus: have a name patch made for your son or daughter with a call sign.
For your little daredevil, the perfect costume might be the perfect career choice. This Halloween, let your son or daughter join the elite, complete with a deployed parachute to help him or her soar. Here’s how.
4. Rescue Swimmer
After a summer of swimming, your son or daughter might think they’re ready to take on the open seas. Grab some scuba gear and read Mayday! Mayday! A Coast Guard Rescue to learn more about what rescue operations look like in a storm.
5. Doctor or Nurse
This year, skip the Doc McStuffins costume and teach your children about the incredible humanitarian missions our services’ doctors and nurses perform. Whether it’s sailing aboard the USNS Comfort to Latin America or treating patients in Landstuhl, your little caregiver can certainly dress the part with a stethoscope and kit or even go back in time to World War II, with this costume.
Perfect for your animal lover — put a harness on your pup, ACUs on your kiddo and hit the town. No dog in your house? This costume would be complete with a stuffed German Shepherd. For your K-9 enthusiast, read Lionel Paxton’s Navy Seal Dogs to learn even more about these incredible animals.
8. Special ops
For your hide and go seek lover, the kids ghillie suit is perfect for ghouling. Watch the fun as your child ducks from house to house trying not to be seen. Be sure to add a chem light so that at least you can spot your camouflaged cutie. Bonus: no one will notice if this costume gets dirty.
9. Toy Soldier
This impressive do it yourself costume is the perfect outfit for your little soldier in Army green! Check out these step-by-step instructions for what will be, without a doubt, one of the most unique costumes walking down the street.
10. Rosie the Riveter
There’s nothing like a Halloween costume to provoke a discussion about the important roles spouses, families, and community members have in supporting our troops. This year, teach your child about Rosie the Riveter and the contributions the home front made for the war efforts.
Whether your child dresses like Rosie or a rescue swimmer, a pilot or a paratrooper, use this holiday to celebrate the vast opportunities and capabilities within our military.
Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of 3rd Fleet, agreed with that assessment, saying that hostilities with the North Korean regime would be the “number one probability.”
The fleet commanders made their comments on a panel discussion titled, “Are we ready to fight — today and in the future?”
“Are we ready to fight? You bet we are,” said Vice Adm. Jamie Foggo, a former 6th Fleet commander who now serves as director of the Navy’s joint staff.
Foggo pointed to recent provocations out of Pyongyang as worrisome. Earlier this month, North Korea launched a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that traveled 300 miles before splashing into the Sea of Japan.
“Frankly, it was pretty impressive,” Foggo said. “It was like a submarine missile launched from a tank. Solid fuel. Pretty impressive.”
Still, Aucoin pointed to the US’ strong relationship with South Korea and Japan as helping to counter aggression out of Pyongyang, along with a number of moves of sophisticated weaponry and early-warning assets to the region, including E2D Hawkeye aircraft, F/A-18 Super Hornets, and F-35B fighters being placed in Okinawa.
The US also has Patriot missile batteries and is moving forward with placing the more-advanced THAAD interceptor on the ground in South Korea. There are more than 28,000 US soldiers stationed there.
Aucoin said those assets provide a “pretty good umbrella.”
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.
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.
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.
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.