The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert - We Are The Mighty
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The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

1963’s The Great Escape told the story of British POWs escaping the Nazi camp Stalag Luft III. The film was based on a firsthand account of the real-life escape, where the British troops attempted to get 220 men out of three tunnels in a single night. Of the 149 escapees, 76 actually escaped Nazi Germany and 73 were recaptured.


Of those recaptured, 50 were shot on Hitler’s personal order. The remaining 23 captives were relocated. Four of those would be chained in their cells following another escape attempt. Those POWs made the Germans use an estimated 5 million men over the course of the following weeks searching for them, which is exactly how POWs are supposed to aid the war effort.

The Nazi Great Escape turned out a little different. During the second World War, the U.S. held some 400,000 enemy prisoners of war at 500 camps across the United States. Just as American POWs would burden their captors with escape attempts, the Germans were no different, attempting more than 2,200 escapes throughout the war.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

Security unit #84 in Arizona’s Papago Park housed captured Nazi Kriegsmarine U-boat commanders and their crews. It was the POWs from #84’s compound 1A who would trigger the biggest manhunt in Arizona history. The U.S. military would call in local and state law enforcement, the FBI, and Papago Indian scouts.

John Hammond Moore’s book about the escape, The Faustball Tunnel, documents the entire episode. There were three main problems with the situation at #84. First, the Germans were housed in a way that put all the troublemakers together. Second, there was a blind spot in the guard tower’s view, one the Provost Marshall, Capt. Cecil Parshall knew the Germans would exploit. Finally, German officers and non-commissioned officers were exempt from work details under the Geneva Conventions, so all they had was time to plan their escape.

They began tunneling sometime in September 1944. Capt. Parshall was right, they used the blind spot in the guard towers. The Germans worked in 90 minute shifts of three-man crews digging near a bathhouse. They would go in, ostensibly to shower, sometimes excavate up to three feet per night, and a fourth crew would get rid of the dirt the next day. They eventually convinced the Americans to let them build a faustball (volleyball) court, which the Germans smoothed out with rakes provided by their captors.

Most were apt to make the 130-mile trek to Mexico. They were going to use toasted bread crumbs that would be mixed with milk or water for sustenance. They also needed things they could only get by co-opting the Americans. American photographers took snapshots of them to send home to Germany, and the Germans used those photos to make fake passports and other items. They would pose as foreign sailors making their way to the coast. They also earned U.S. money by making fake Nazi paraphernalia out of toothpaste tubes and bootblack.

Three other prisoners would instead plan to make their way 30 miles West to the Gila River, and so built a flatboat from scavenged lumber. The boat was designed to be folded up and carried in 18-inch segments. The guards just thought they were making handicrafts.

On December 23, compound 1B began to loudly celebrate news of the Battle of the Bulge as compound 1A quietly began their escape. Ten teams of 2-3 men left with packs of clothing, provisions, and false credentials, escaping by crawling through their tunnel. 25 men in all escaped into Papago Park that night.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

The next evening, by the time Parshall knew there had been an escape, five of the escapees had turned themselves in because they were tired of being cold, hungry, and wet. A sixth would also be captured that day.

Soldiers, FBI agents, sheriff’s deputies, police, border patrol, and customs agents all joined the search for the nineteen remaining Germans. Ranchers and Indian scouts were drawn by the $25 reward posted for the capture of each escapee. Newspapers carried mug shots of the men.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

By January 8th, 1945, only six men remained at large. The three boatmen were capture three days later, after discovering the Gila wasn’t much of a river and that their boat was largely useless.

The last three escapees didn’t try too hard to escape at first. They hid out in a shallow cave near Papago Park. They even went bowling in Phoenix and had a few beers one night. One of those would exchange places with other prisoners on work details outside of camp, then sneak back out on another detail, allowing another POW some time outside the camp. Eventually he was discovered and the last two men would be captured outside of Phoenix.

“Conceiving of it, digging it, getting out, getting back, telling about our adventures, finding out what happened to the others…why, it covered a year or more and was our great recreation,” one of the escapees recalled years later. “It kept our spirits up even as Germany was being crushed and we worried about our parents and our families.”

None of the 25 escapees were shot or killed by their American captors as retribution for their escape. No German POW ever escaped the United States and made his way back to Germany.

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13 top American CEOs with military experience

There are plenty of differences between America’s biggest companies but for some there is a common bond: CEOs with military backgrounds.


While it’s not a requirement that a company leader have time in uniform, a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research showed it certainly doesn’t hurt. CEOs with military backgrounds are fairly conservative with company financials and often outperform peers during stressful times, the paper found.

Unfortunately, the number of corporate CEOs with backgrounds in the military is shrinking, but here are 13 of the biggest names, along with what they did in the military.

1. Alex Gorsky

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: Johnson Johnson

Currently: CEO of Johnson Johnson

Military experience: Graduated from West Point, then served six years in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of Captain. Ranger and Airborne qualified with service in Europe and Panama.

2. Lowell McAdam

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

Currently: CEO of Verizon

Military experience: Spent six years in the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps and attended Cornell on a Naval ROTC scholarship.

3. Bob Parsons

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

Currently: Founder and CEO of YAM Worldwide, Inc., and board member at GoDaddy, which he founded. He previously served as CEO of GoDaddy.

Military experience: Served as a U.S. Marine rifleman in Vietnam, where he was wounded by enemy fire while on patrol. He received the Combat Action Ribbon, Purple Heart, and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

4. Fred Smith

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

Currently: Chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx Corporation

Military experience: Came up with the business model for Fedex will an undergrad at Yale, but took a break from school to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served two tours in Vietnam before he founded what would become FedEx in 1971.

5. Robert S. Morrison

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

Currently: Serves in board positions at Aon plc, 3M, and Illinois Tool Works Inc, among others. He previously served as the Vice Chairman at Pepsico, Inc., and the CEO of The Quaker Oats Company.

Military experience: Served as a Marine during the Vietnam war, where he received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart for combat wounds. He left the Corps at the rank of captain.

6. Daniel Akerson

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

Currently: Special advisor at the Carlyle Group. Akerson previously served as the chairman and CEO of General Motors from 2010 to 2014.

Military experience: Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1970 and served on the destroyer USS Dupont.

7. Robert McDonald

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

Currently: The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He previously served as the CEO of Procter Gamble.

Military experience: A West Point graduate, McDonald served in the 82nd Airborne division and attained the rank of captain.

8. Scott Wine

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: Polaris

Currently: Chairman and CEO of Polaris

Military experience: Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1989 and served in the Navy Supply Corps.

9. Stuart Parker

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

Currently: CEO of USAA

Military experience: Served in the U.S. Air Force for nearly ten years, flying combat missions during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

10. James Mulva

CurrentlySits on the board of directors at GE. He previously served as the president and CEO of ConocoPhillips.

Military experience: Graduated from Navy ROTC from The University of Texas in 1969 and served as a Navy officer until 1973.

11. Robert Stevens

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: Lockheed

Currently: Retired. Served as chairman, president, and CEO of Lockheed Martin, and later as Executive Chairman.

Military experience: Stevens enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1970, serving three years in III Marine Amphibious Force.

12. Jim Skinner

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: McDonalds

Currently: Chairman of Walgreens. Previously, he was the vice chairman and CEO of McDonalds.

Military experience: Over nearly ten years of service, completed two tours in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War with the U.S. Navy.

13. Robert Myers

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert

Currently: Chairman and CEO of Casey’s General Stores, Inc.

Military experience: Enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966, and served for 22 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He served in Germany, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, according to Fortune.

SEE ALSO: 17 wild facts about the Vietnam War  

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7 rules of medieval knighthood that will make you re-think chivalry

People say “chivalry is dead” like that’s a terrible thing.

In the popular imagination, chivalry seems to harken back to some mythical era when armored knights rode about the land going on quests, saving maidens, and fighting evildoers.

But chivalry is really a word “that came to denote the code and culture of a martial estate which regarded war as its hereditary profession,” Maurice Keen writes in “Chivalry.”

He argues that medieval chivalry had a major part in molding “noble values,” and, as a result, has had an impact felt long after troubadours and jousting tournaments fell out of fashion. The romantic notion of the daring, pure-hearted knight errant lingers on, even today.

It’s difficult to speak broadly about the medieval era in Europe, given that it encompasses several centuries and an entire continent. Generally speaking, however, in many cases, knights and medieval warriors served as a local lord’s private military. That meant that sometimes, regional conflicts set a group of armed toughs tearing through the countryside and doing whatever the heck they wanted.

Codes of chivalry didn’t take hold in vacuum. There was no uniform “code of chivalry,” and those codes that existed were often far more religious in nature than our modern concept of “hold the door for ladies.” They also cropped up in part to keep knights and warriors from acting on their worst impulses and attacking or extorting weaker individuals.

Starting in the late 900s and lasting till the thirteenth century, a movement known as the Peace and Truce of God rose in Europe. Basically, the Church imposed religious sanctions in order to halt the nobility from fighting among themselves at certain times and committing violence against local noncombatants. You can think of these as rules for knighthood.

One 1023 oath, suggested by Bishop Warin of Beauvais for King Robert the Pious and his knights, gives us a good sense of some of the unexpected rules warriors might be asked to adopt, in response to their often violent behavior.

It includes some rather unusual injunctions and “illustrates the kind of oath that parties were expected to swear after having been caught breaking the peace,” according to Daniel Lord Smail and Kelly Gibson, who edited the sourcebook “Vengeance in Medieval Europe.” A main idea behind the movement was to use spiritual sanctions to give people a break from all the conflict and fighting that plagued certain areas at some points during the Middle Ages.

With that in mind, here are some of Bishop Warin of Beauvais’ proposed rules for knights, which indicate some truly bad and largely unchivalrous behavior on the part of medieval warriors:

1. Don’t beat up random members of the clergy

Bishop Warin of Beauvais barred knights from assaulting unarmed clerics, monks, and their companions, “unless they are committing a crime or unless it is in recompense for a crime for which they would not make amends, fifteen days after my warning.”

Gunald of Bordeaux also condemned anyone who “attacks, seizes, or beats a priest, deacon, or any other clergyman who is not bearing arms — shield, sword, coat of mail, or helmet — but is going along peacefully or staying in the house,” according to Fordham University’s medieval sourcebook.

Instead of formally cursing the offenders, Gunald vowed to excommunicate any attackers “unless he makes satisfaction, or unless the bishop discovers that the clergyman brought it upon himself by his own fault.”

2. Don’t steal livestock or kill farm animals for no reason

The oath includes an injunction against making off with bulls, cows, pigs, sheep, lambs, goats, donkeys, mares, and untamed colts.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

It also came out against seizing mules and horses at certain times of the year: “I will not exact by extortion mules and horses, male and female, and colts pasturing in the fields from the first of March to All Souls’ Day, unless I should find them doing damage to me.”

However, the bishop of Beauvais allowed that knights could kill villagers’ animals if they needed to feed themselves or their men.

In Gunwald’s proclamation, he also announced that any knight who robbed a poor person of a farm animal would be formally cursed.

3. Don’t assault, rob, kidnap, and torture random people

This rule should have probably gone without saying, but Bishop Warin of Beauvais felt that he needed to include it in the oath.

The bishop wanted knights to swear against mistreating male and female villagers, sergeants, merchants, and pilgrims. This abuse he cited included robbery, whipping, physical attacks, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom.

4. Don’t burn down or destroy houses unless you have a good reason

Arson was a big no in the bishop of Beauvais’s oath — for the most part.

Exceptions were made in the event a knight discovered “an enemy horseman or thief within” a certain house.

That sounds harsh, but Kaeuper writes that, while wrath was a sin, “vengeance is a cornerstone of the chivalric ethos, the harsh repayment justly given for an dimunition of precious honor.”

“Nocturnal fire” by Egbert van der Poel (1621–1664)

Knights were also warned against plundering and stealing from the poor, even “at the perfidious instigation” of a local lord.

Kaeuper cite’s Alan of Lille’s declaration that knights achieved the “highest degree of villainy” by supporting themselves by looting from impoverished people.

5. Don’t assist criminals

Knights had a bad rap in certain parts.

Kauper writes that Alan of Lille once said that knights had the “cruel nature of marauders” and that “soldiers have been made the leaders of pillaging bands; they have become cattle-thieves.”

Photo by Glenn Brunette

Considering such a borderline criminal element, it’s not surprising that the Bishop Warin of Beauvais wanted knights to swear not to harbor and assist any “notorious public robber.”

He allows that, if a criminal comes to a knight for protection, that the knight should either make amends for the wrongdoer, force him to make amends within fifteen days, or deny him protection.

6. Don’t attack women — unless they give you a reason

The oath included a stipulation telling knights not to assault noblewomen traveling without their husbands. It also expanded protection to those attending them, along with widows and nuns, in general.

However, this shield was revoked if a knight “should find them committing misdeeds against” him.

7. Don’t ambush unarmed knights from Lent to Easter

A major part of the Peace and Truce of God movement was declaring that fighting should not take place during certain parts of the year.

Photo from Public Domain

Yale Law School’s Avalon Project features a 1085 decree from Emperor Henry IV, which declares that peace should be observed every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, on apostles’ feast days, and from the ninth Sunday before Easter until the eighth day after Pentecost, among other times.

In a similar vein, Bishop Warin of Beauvais ordered medieval warriors not to attack unarmed knights “from the beginning of Lent until the end of Easter.”

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Watch the Air Force test fire one of its nuclear doomsday weapons

The US Air Force test launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile on the California coast early August 2, which follows a similar missile test by North Korea.


Vandenberg Air Force Base said the operational test occurred at 2:10 a.m. PDT.

“The seamless partnership of Team V and our Air Force Global Strike Command mission partners has resulted in another safe Minuteman III operational test launch,” U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Hough, the commander of the 30th Space Wing who made the decision to launch, said in a statement. “This combined team of the 90th Missile Wing, 576th Flight Test Squadron and 30th Space Wing is simply outstanding. Their efforts over the past few months show why they are among the most skilled operators in the Air Force.”

The Air Force released a video of the test launch.

The US launch comes after North Korea launched an improved ballistic missile with intercontinental range late last week — Pyongyang’s second missile launch in less than a month.

Last month, North Korea threatened a nuclear strike against the United States.

“Should the U.S. dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the U.S. with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time,” North Korea’s foreign ministry said. “The likes of [CIA Director Mike] Pompeo will bitterly experience the catastrophic and miserable consequences caused by having dared to shake their little fists at the supreme leadership.”

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MACV-SOG: The covert special operations unit you’ve never heard of

If a conflict in U.S. history ever came with baggage, it has to be the Vietnam War. Although the service and actions of the millions of Americans who fought in Southeast Asia have been slowly recognized, the unpopularity of the war at the time, and for many years after, left a scar in American society. This unpopularity also meant that extraordinary men and units, such as the Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), have fallen through the cracks of America’s consciousness, and are only known to a few old comrades, their families, and a handful of military history enthusiasts.

The innocuous-sounding MACV-SOG is such an organization, although its obscurity also has to do with its highly secretive nature.

SOG operators pulled off some of the most impressive special operations of the entire war; including some that seemed to defy logic itself. As successive U.S. administrations claimed that no American troops were outside South Vietnam, several hundreds of special operations troops fought against all odds, and against an enemy who always enjoyed a numerical advantage that sometimes exceeded a ratio of 1:1000.  

The most secret unit you’ve never heard of

Activated in 1964, MACV-SOG was a covert joint special operations organization that conducted cross-border operations in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and North Vietnam.

Composed of Army Special Forces operators, Navy SEALs, Recon Marines, and Air Commandos, SOG also worked closely with the Intelligence Community, often running missions at the request of the CIA.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
The unofficial logo of MACV-SOG (USASOC).

During its eight-year secret war (1964-1972), SOG conducted some of the most daring special operations in U.S. history and planted the seed for the creation of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

Related: ST IDAHO: THE SPECIAL FORCES TEAM THAT VANISHED IN THE JUNGLE

SOG’s main battleground and focus was the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, a complex stretching for hundreds of miles above and below ground, from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam, which the North Vietnamese and Vietcong used to fuel their fight in the south.

What was peculiar about SOG operations was the fact that they happened where U.S. troops weren’t supposed to be. Successive U.S. administrations had insisted that no American troops were operating outside South Vietnam.

SOG commandos, thus, wore no name tags, rank, or any other insignia that might identify them as Americans. Even their weapons had no serial numbers.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
The Ho Chi Minh Trail slithered throughout Indochina and supplied the insurgency in South Vietnam (USASOC).

Duty in SOG was voluntary and strictly confidential. SOG troops weren’t allowed to disclose their location, missions, or any other details surrounding their covert outfit and they couldn’t take photographs—like all good commandos. However, SOG broke that rule frequently, as the numerous pictures from the time suggest. But as far as the general public was concerned, they were each just another American soldier fighting Communism in Vietnam.

SOG was commanded by an Army colonel, called “Chief SOG,” reflecting the predominance of Green Berets in the organization, and divided into three geographical sections: Command and Control North (CCN), Command and Control Central (CCC), and Command and Control South (CCS).

Service in the unit was highly selective. Not only did it recruit solely from special operations units, but the inherent risk required that everyone had to be a volunteer. Approximately 3.2 million Americans served in Vietnam. Of that number, about 20,000 were Green Berets, of those, only 2,000 served in SOG, with just 400 to 600 running recon and direct action operations.

Service at SOG came with an unspoken agreement that you’d receive either a Purple Heart or body bag. SOG had a casualty rate of 100 percent—everyone who served in SOG was either wounded, most multiple times, or killed.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
In Laos, a MACV-SOG team reconnoiters the Ho Chi Minh Trail for installations and pipelines (Wikimedia.org).

Our “Little People

What enabled SOG operations was a steady supply of loyal and fierce local fighters who passionately hated the North Vietnamese—and sometimes each other. These local warfighters worked with the American commandos as mercenaries. The “Little People,” as the Americans affectionally called them, proved their worth on the field, against impossible odds time and again.

These local partner forces included Montagnards, South Vietnamese, and Chinese Nungs, among other tribes and ethnicities. Indeed, local mercenaries made up most of SOG recon teams and Hatchet Forces (more on them later). For example, most recon teams would run cross-border operations with between two and four Americans and four to nine local mercenaries. Locals had an uncanny ability—some SOG operators would say a sixth sense—to detect danger. This ability made them perfect point men during recon operations.  

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
An American commando surrounded by local mercenaries (USASOC).

Usually, when launching a cross-border recon operation, SOG teams would enter a pre-mission “quarantine,” much like modern-day Army Special Forces operational detachments do before deploying. During this quarantine period, they would eat the same food as the North Vietnamese, that is mostly rice and fish, so they—and their human waste—could smell like the enemy while in the jungle.

Related: COWBOY, A LEGANDARY COMMANDO

Today, where pre-workout and energy drinks are borderline mandatory, even on active operations, such measures might sound extravagant. But in a moonless night, in the middle of the Cambodian jungle, surrounded by thousands of North Vietnamese trackers and troops, something as trivial-seeming as your smell could mean the difference between a SOG team getting wiped out or making it home.

The local troops, having a great understanding of the operational environment, were crucial in the survival of many SOG recon teams. When the war ended, some of them, such as the legendary “Cowboy,” managed to escape to the West and come to the U.S.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
MACV-SOG Recon Team Alabama, including legendary local commando Cowboy. Notice the extended magazines for the CAR-15 rifle (Courtesy picture).

Death-defying special operations

SOG specialized mainly in strategic reconnaissance, direct-action, sabotage, and combat search-and-rescue.

Although SOG’s primary mission-set was strategic reconnaissance through its recon teams, it also specialized in direct-action operations, such as raids and ambushes. For these larger operations, there were different outfits within SOG.

The “Hatchet Forces” specialized in raids and ambushes, but also acted as a quick-reaction force for recon teams. Usually, Hatchet Forces were platoon-size and composed of five Americans and 30 indigenous troops. Sometimes, several Hatchet Forces would combine to create a company-size element, called either “Havoc” or “Hornet,” that could be very effective against known enemy logistical hubs or headquarters.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
MACV-SOG operators Lynne Black Jr. (left) and John Stryker Meyer (left) on the range (Courtesy Picture).

In addition to the Hatchet Forces, there were also the “SLAM” companies, standing for Search, Locate, Annihilate, Monitor/Mission, which were full-sized SOG companies with a few dozen Americans in leadership roles and a few hundred indigenous mercenaries who SOG had recruited.  

The first SOG recon teams were called “Spike Teams” (ST), for example, ST Idaho, with the term “Recon Teams” (RT), for instance, RT Ohio, becoming more popular later in the war. Usually, SOG commandos named teams after U.S. States, but they also used other titles, such as “Bushmaster,” “Adder,” and “Viper.” The number of active recon teams fluctuated throughout the war, reflecting casualties and increasing demand. For example, at one point, CCC ran almost 30 recon teams.

Related: ELDON BARGEWELL, AN AMERICAN SPECIAL OPERATIONS LEGEND

Some notable SOG missions include Operation Tailwind, a Hatchet Force operation in Thailand and one of the most successful missions in SOG’s history; the Thanksgiving operation, when SOG operator John Stryker Meyer’s six-man team encountered and evaded 30,000 North Vietnamese; the Christmas mission, when Meyer’s team went into Laos to destroy a fuel pipeline but almost got burned alive by North Vietnamese trackers who lit the jungle on fire; Operation Thundercloud, in which SOG recruited and trained captured North Vietnamese troops and sent them to recon operations across the border dressed like their former comrades; and Recon Team Alabama’s October 1968 mission that accounted fora whopping 9,000 North Vietnamese killed or wounded in action.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
MACV-SOG commandos training on the obstacle course. Fitness meant survival (USASOC).

What stands out about SOG is how much responsibility was placed on its young operators. Legendary SOG operator John Stryker Meyer, for example, was running recon as a One-Zero (team leader) at the age of 22 and just an E-4. And rules of engagement were quite different, with less bureaucracy impeding the guys on the ground.

“The Bright Light missions [combat search-and-rescue] would seldom be deployed under today’s Rules of Engagement,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.

“And, today, they call can’t believe lowly E-4s were directing air strikes, total control on the ground, and experienced troops had final say on teams, regardless of rank. Experience over rank.”

Meyer has written extensively about SOG and his hair-raising experiences in the unit.

Although techniques, tactics, and procedures were generally the same among the three SOG subcommands, SOG teams adjusted their approaches according to their geographical area. Laos, for example, has more mountains and jungle than Cambodia, which is flatter and more open.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
A MACV-SOG Hatchet Force boards a CH-53 Sea Stallion during Operation Tailwind (Wikimedia.org).

Saviors from above: SOG’s Air Commandos

Pivotal to the success and effectiveness of MACV-SOG operations across the border were several aircraft squadrons from across the services and also South Vietnam.

The Air Force’s 20th Special Operations Squadron was dubbed the “Green Hornets.” They flew the Sikorsky CH-3C and CH-3E and Bell UH-1F/P Huey. First Lieutenant James P. Fleming, a Green Hornet pilot, earned the Medal of Honor for saving a SOG recon team from certain death in 1968.

The Green Hornets’ Hueys came packed with an assortment of weapons, including M-60 machine guns, GAU-2B/A miniguns, and 2.75-inch rocket pods. If ammo ran out, door gunners would lob grenades or shoot their individual rifles.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Alfonso Rivero, a Green Hornet gunner, on his work desk (Courtesy Picture).

In addition to the Green Hornets, the South Vietnamese Air Force 219th Squadron, which flew H-34 Kingbees, was a dedicated supporter of SOG operations. These South Vietnamese pilots and crews were truly fearless, always coming to the rescue of compromised recon teams regardless of the danger. Captain Nguyen Van Tuong, a legendary pilot, stands out for his coolness and steady hand under fire.

Related: THE GHOST FIGHTER ACE OF THE VIETNAM WAR

Other notable rotary-wing units that supported SOG missions were the USMC Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, which flew the AH-1 Viper attack and the UH-1 Venom transport helicopters; the 189th Assault Helicopter Company “Ghost Riders,” which flew assault and transport variants of the UH-1 Huey helicopter.  

SOG commandos on the ground could also rely on fixed-wing close air support, with the turboprop A-1 Skyraider being a favorite platform for close air support and the F-4 Phantom a good choice on any given day.

“Military politics always interfered, and our leadership had to fight from close air support assets, such as the A-1 Skyraider squadrons,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.

“For example, SOG brass had to fight to keep the 56th Special Operations Wing, operating from Location Alpha in Da Nang.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Captain Nguyen Van Tuong of the 219th South Vietnamese Special Operations Squadron in his H-34 Kingbee supporting MACV-SOG operations (Courtesy Picture).

“That unit’s SPADs [A-1 Skyraiders] were consistent and fearless and were considered the backbone of CAS during Operation Tailwind. On day 4, for example, the NVA were about to overrun the HF [Hatchet Force] when Tom Stump made devastating gun runs that broke the back of those frontal attacks, giving McCarley time to get them off the LZ and out of the target as weather closed in.”

Close air support was vital and probably the most important factor in the survival of numerous SOG teams. However, although SOG commandos enjoyed air superiority and North Vietnamese aircraft never posed a danger, the Air Commandos supporting SOG had to face the extremely potent anti-aircraft capabilities of the North Vietnamese, which included anything from light machine guns to heavy anti-aircraft cannons to surface-to-air missiles. Every hot extraction forced a penalty of downed helicopters and fighters/ or bombers, or at least a few riddled with bullets.

SOG commandos called in close air support themselves, usually by using a compass and smoke canisters. Forward air controllers, nicknamed “Covey,” flew overhead and assisted in coordinating with the team on the ground and controlling all air assets and close air support. In CCS, Covey usually flew solo, doing both tasks while also flying his plane. In CCN, however, Covey was a two-man affair, usually entailing an experienced SOG operator joining the pilot and helping out with his unique experience, having been on the receiving end of close air support numerous teams.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Some never made it back, dead or alive. MACV-SOG operator Master Sergeant Jerry “Mad dog” Shriver, still missing in action (Courtesy picture).

Years after the Vietnam War ended, it was discovered that there was a mole at the SOG headquarters in Saigon who had been passing information on team missions and locations to the enemy.

SOG operators, including special operations legends like Colonel Robert Howard and Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez, earned 12 Medals of Honor throughout the conflict.

Although service at SOG came with the unspoken agreement of a perilous life full of danger and risk, it also came with an unbreakable sense of loyalty and trust between the men who served there. A sense of loyalty and trust that time and again SOG operators proved through their commitment to leave no man behind, dead or alive. That effort, that commitment, continues to this day.


This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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The Pentagon wants a half-billion more dollars for the F-35

Defense officials at the Pentagon say they need up to $500 million more to finish the development phase for the F-35, the troubled fifth-generation fighter that’s already gone 50% over its original budget.


The F-35 program office requested the money last month to the Defense Acquisition Board, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the news Wednesday. The call for additional funds is pretty familiar at this point, since the program — known as the Joint Strike Fighter since it will be used by the Navy, Marines, and Air Force — has been plagued by lengthy delays and enormous cost overruns.

Also read: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

Its overall lifetime budget has ballooned to more than $1.5 trillion, making it the most expensive weapons system ever built by the US.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has in the past called those cost overruns a “disgrace.”

“It has been both a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule, and performance,” he said in April.

Rising costs haven’t been the only problem of note for the F-35. The jet has had plenty of incidents while being built, such as electrical problems, major issues with its software, and problems related to its advanced helmet system.

Just four months ago, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester wrote in a memo the F-35 program was “not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver.”

Still, the Air Force and Marines have both declared the fighter “combat ready” and have begun integrating it into their squadrons. The military has only taken delivery of about 180 of the aircraft from Lockheed Martin so far, though it plans to buy more than 2,400.

The fighter, which features stealth and advanced electronic attack and communications systems, is a project with roots going back to the late 1990s. Lockheed won the contract for the fighter in 2001.

“Strong national security is an expensive endeavor but the existing concerns with the F-35 make calls for even more money harder to green light,” said Joe Kaspar, chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“And the Pentagon never seems to be able to help its case on the F-35. Technical superiority is not cheap, but whether or not costs can be driven down is something Congress must look at it before throwing more money in the Pentagon’s direction.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine survived a shot from a .50-cal at point-blank range

After volunteering to deploy to Iraq four times, the Marine Corps finally sent Cpl. Jared Foster to Baghdad in February 2005. He was assigned as a personal security detail driver for VIPs in the Baghdad area when tragedy struck.


Just a month later after being sent to Iraq, Foster was just sitting down in his tent after a fire watch when a weapon discharged. With all the smoke in the tent, Foster thought a grenade had gone off. He was wrong.

“I saw smoke,” he told AZCentral in a 2007 interview. “Then I looked down because I felt something really cold, and when I lifted my hand up, it had blood all over it.”

Foster couldn’t move and couldn’t hear, but tried to yell for help. A .50-caliber rifle discharged from just five feet behind him. The shot should have torn him in half. Instead, it missed his spine and exited through his stomach.

 

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
U.S. Marines man an M2 Browning .50-cal machine gun. (U.S. Marine Corps)

His friends cut off his blouse to tend to his wounds and his intestines fell out. When they told him he was shot by a .50-cal, he didn’t believe them.

“Nah, that would rip your head off, he told them.” He lost consciousness shortly after.

What kind of BMG round went through Foster’s body isn’t clear but the various types of 50-caliber ammunition are commonly used to penetrate vehicle armor or chew through protective cover – like concrete.

Two years later, the Marine told AZCentral that he was evacuated to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center and subsequently underwent some 45 surgeries. He lost his tailbone and suffered damage to his large and small intestines. He was even told he would never walk again.

“I say I don’t have a butt to sit on now, and I really don’t,” Foster is quoted as saying in a Marine Corps Safety Corner. “The only thing that saved my life is I was maybe five to 10 feet away from the .50-cal when it went off, and it didn’t have time to tumble and pick up speed and velocity. It went through me, three feet of wood, four feet of a dirt berm, went another 300 yards and hit another dirt berm.”

Not only did Foster survive the wound, but he was also on his feet and walking within two years of being shot.

“The doctors said they didn’t know if they could save me,” he told the Marine Corps Safety Corner. “They didn’t know how to put me back together because they’d never seen anyone shot by a .50-caliber. The hole in my back was huge. But whatever they did worked.”

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of June 3rd

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:

A fly away security team from the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment provides security for a C-130J May 26, 2017, during a cargo mission in Somalia, supporting the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. CJTF-HOA promotes prosperity and security in East Africa by assisting partner nations with countering violent extremist organizations, fostering regional security cooperation, and by protecting U.S. personnel and facilities in its 10-country area of responsibility.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf

U.S. Air Force firefighters from the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron, Osan Air Base, and Republic of Korea Air Force firefighters, spray water at a fire during combined fire training at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, May 23, 2017. U.S. and ROKAF firefighters trained together to help bridge communication gaps and improve their efficiency in responding to real-world scenarios.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee

Army:

Soldiers of the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Mississippi Army National Guard, provide security while transporting residents during an evacuation exercise during the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team’s National Training Center rotation May 31, 2017, at Fort Irwin, California.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Mississippi National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Veronica McNabb, 102d Public Affairs Detachment

A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter sits under Milky Way galaxy in the Mojave Desert May 30, 2017, at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. The 25 second exposure was taken when the moon was setting, lighting up the clouds on one side of the horizon. Further detail in the Milky Way galaxy was brought out by stacking 10 images together. Soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation Regiment, are at NTC conducting combat training to strengthen their individual and combat readiness skills.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Mississippi National Guard illustration by Staff Sgt. Tim Morgan, 102d Public Affairs Detachment

1st Sgt. Tyler S. Brownlee, second from left, Company B, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, briefs Company B soldiers April 25, 2017, about their role in the following day’s air assault mission during the “Operation Raider Focus” exercise at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.

 

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
US Army Photo by SPC Anthony Bryant

Navy:

WESTERN PACIFIC (May 26, 2017) A wave breaks on the forecastle of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) as the ship begins her approach to fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) for a replenishment-at-sea. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams

SEA OF JAPAN (June 1, 2017) The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), operate with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group including, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), CVW-5, USS Shiloh (CG 67), USS Barry (DDG 52), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS Mustin (DDG 89), and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships (JS) Hyuga (DDH 181) and JS Ashigara (DDG 178) in the western Pacific region. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and U.S. Navy forces routinely train together to improve interoperability and readiness to provide stability and security for the Indo-Asia Pacific region.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers

Marine Corps:

Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363 insert Marines with 3rd Marine Regiment in a long range raid simulation during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, May 27. ITX is a combined-arms exercise enabling Marines across 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing to operate as an aviation combat element integrated with ground and logistics combat elements as a Marine air-ground task force. More than 650 Marines and 27 aircraft with 3rd MAW are supporting ITX 3-17.

Marines conduct raid exercise U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. David Bickel

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dustin Pagano, combat marksmanship coach, Combat Marksmanship Company, Weapons Training Battalion, sites in on a target at Altcar Training Camp, Hightown, United Kingdom on May 24, 2017. The U.S. Marine Corps travels to the United Kingdom annually to compete in the Royal Marines Operational Shooting Competition and learn with their allies while building relationships.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gregory D. Boyd

Coast Guard:

An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter hoists a rescue swimmer during a search and rescue demonstration for Fleet Week New York, May 29, 2017. This year commemorates the 29th annual celebration of the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes

Congressman Charlie Crist, U.S. Representative for Florida’s 13th District, right, speaks with Air Station Clearwater crew members Tuesday, May 30, 2017, prior to an aerial assessment of beach erosion along Pinellas County, Florida’s coast. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew members provided the overflight for the congressman and Army Corps of Engineers personnel.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
U.S. Coast Guard by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse

Articles

Army relaxes standards on beards, turbans and dreadlocks

Female Soldiers may now wear dreadlocks and male Soldiers whose religious faith requires beards and turbans may now seek permanent accommodation.


Army directive 2017-03, signed earlier this month, spells out changes to Army Regulation 670-1, the uniform policy, for the turban, worn by male Soldiers, the under-turban; male hair worn under a turban; the hijab, which is a head scarf worn by females; and beards worn by male members.

Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Moore, the uniform policy branch sergeant major inside the Army’s G-1, said the policy change was made largely as a way to increase diversity inside the service, and to provide opportunity for more Americans to serve in uniform.

“This is so we can expand the pool of people eligible to join the Army,” Moore said. “There was a section of the population who previously were unable to enlist in the Army. This makes the Army better because you’re opening the doors for more talent. You’re allowing people to come in who have skills the Army can use.”

Female Soldiers have been asking for a while for permission to wear “locks,” or dreadlocks, Moore said.

“We understood there was no need to differentiate between locks, corn rows, or twists, as long as they all met the same dimension,” Moore said. “It’s one more option for female hairstyles. Females have been asking for a while, especially females of African-American decent, to be able to wear dreadlocks, and locks, because it’s easier to maintain that hairstyle.”

The Army directive says that each lock or dreadlock “will be of uniform dimension; have a diameter no greater than 1/2 inch; and present a neat, professional, and well-groomed appearance.”

All female Soldiers can opt to wear the dreadlocks, Moore said.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Spc. Harpal Singh, with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, watches as his fellow Soldiers go through the Slide to Victory obstacle at the Fort Jackson Confidence Course. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons)

The Army has granted waivers to Sikh Soldiers since 2009 to wear a turban in lieu of issued Army headgear, and allowed those same Soldiers to wear the turban indoors when Army headgear would normally be removed. Moore said for those Soldiers, the waivers were permanent, but that it was unclear Army-wide that this was the case. That is no longer true, he said.

The new policy is that religious accommodation for Soldiers wanting to wear the turban needs to be requested only once, and that the accommodation will apply to them for their entire Army career.

In an Army directive dated Jan. 3, then-Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning made official the policy regarding the wear of turbans, beards, hijabs, and under-turbans.

“Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations, and I direct that the wear and appearance standards established in … this directive be incorporated into AR 670-1,” Fanning wrote in the directive.

“With the new directive, which will be incorporated into the Army regulation, religious accommodations are officially permanent for Soldiers,” Moore said.

Also a change: whereas in the past requests for such accommodation rose to the Pentagon before they could be approved, permission can now be granted by brigade-level commanders. Bringing approval down to that level, Moore said, speeds up the approval process dramatically.

That was the intent, Moore said. “They are trying to speed up the process for the Army and for the Soldier.”

Moore said the same religious accommodation rules apply for those Soldiers seeking to wear a beard for religious reasons, and to female Soldiers who want to wear a hijab as well.

If brigade-level commanders feel it inappropriate to approve the accommodation for some reason, he said, then they can recommend disapproval, but it must be channeled to the GCMCA for decision. Under the new policy, requests for religious accommodations that are not approved at the GCMCA-level will come to the secretary of the Army or designee for a final decision.

Still at issue for Soldiers is wear of a beard in conjunction with a gas mask.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
A Marine makes sure his gas mask has a proper seal to keep contaminants away from his face. Beards can inhibit a proper seal. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“Study results show that beard growth consistently degrades the protection factor provided by the protective masks currently in the Army inventory to an unacceptable degree,” Fanning wrote in the Army directive. “Although the addition of a powered air-purifying respirator and/or a protective mask with a loose-fitting facepiece has demonstrated potential to provide adequate protection for bearded individuals operating in hazardous environments, further research, development, testing, and evaluation are necessary to identify masks that are capable of operational use and can be adequately maintained in field conditions.”

Moore said that until further testing is completed, and alternatives are found to protect bearded Soldiers in environments that are affected or are projected to be affected by chemical weapons, Soldiers with beards may be told to shave them in advance, with specific and concrete evidence of an expected chemical attack.

If a chemical warfare threat is immediate, Moore said, instructions to shave their beards would come from higher up, at the General Court-Martial Convening Authority-level — typically a division-level commander.

Likewise, Soldiers who seek religious accommodation to wear a beard will not be allowed to attend the Army schools required for entry into chemical warfare-related career fields, Moore said.

For wear of the beard, Moore said, the new directive allows for beards to be as long as the Soldier wants, so long as the beard can be rolled up and compressed to less than two inches from the bottom of the chin. Additionally, for those Soldiers wearing a beard under a religious accommodation, the rules for wearing a mustache are also new. Mustaches may extend past the corners of the mouth, but must be trimmed or groomed to not cover the upper lip.

Maj. Kamaljeet Kalsi, a civil affairs officer in the Army Reserve’s 404th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Dix, New Jersey, is a Sikh Soldier who wears both a turban and a beard. He said he welcomes the new policy change as an indication that the Army is now looking to both accolade his faith, and to open its doors to talent in the United States that might have been previously untapped.

“It means a lot to us,” Kalsi said. “And not just to Sikh Americans, but I think Americans that value religious freedom and religious liberty, and value diversity. I think it means a lot to all of us. To me it says the nation is moving in a direction that the founders intended, a pluralistic democracy that represents all. I think we’re a stronger nation when we can draw from the broadest amount of talent, the broadest talent pool. And it makes us a stronger military when the military looks like the people it serves.”

Capt. Simratpal Singh, with the 249th Engineer Battalion prime power section, said the policy is for him about acceptance.

“On a personal level, it means that I can serve freely and without having to worry about any stipulations or constraint,” he said. “That’s all I want: is to serve in the U.S. Army just like any of my peers.”

Because the next edition of AR 670-1 is expected to be published next month, the Army will not be able to include the new rules. But Moore said Soldiers can expect to see these most recent changes in the AR 670-1 that comes out at this time next year.

 

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Medal of Honor recipient who held off 9 German attacks has died

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society announced that Medal of Honor recipient Wilburn K. Ross died on May 9, 2017. According to a press release, Ross, who was working in a shipyard before he was drafted, was 94 years old and is survived by six children.


According to his Medal of Honor citation, Ross’s company — assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division — had taken heavy casualties in combat with elite German troops near St. Jacques, France, on Oct. 30, 1944 – losing over 60 percent of the troops. Ross then set his machine gun 10 yards ahead of the other Americans and used it to hold off German forces for eight attacks – receiving less and less help as the other troops ran out of ammunition.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Troops from the 3rd Infantry Division in Nuremburg. (US Army photo)

Ross, too, was running low. After the eighth attack, Ross was also out of ammunition. As American troops prepared for a last stand, salvation came in the form of a resupply of ammunition. Ross was able to use that ammunition to defeat the ninth and final German attack.

A profile of Ross on a VA loan site adds some more background. Ross was a dead shot, practicing a trick shot that involved using a .22 rifle to light a match. He later described how he had selected his position beforehand. He also related that he had no idea that a dead soldier he’d been shooting over wasn’t dead at all – it was an Army lieutenant who was alive, and who reported Ross’s actions.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
The Medal of Honor

Ross would be presented the Medal of Honor on April 14, 1945. During his service in World War II and in the Korean War, he’d be wounded four times. He served in the Army until 1964, when he retired  as a Master Sergeant. Afterwards, he settled down in DuPont, Washington, where he raised his kids. A park in that town was named in his honor, and includes a monument that displays his Medal of Honor citation on a plaque.

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos this week

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


NAVY

Sailors spell out #USA with the American flag on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in honor of the nation’s upcoming Independence Day weekend.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jackie Hart/USN

Sailors run after chocks and chaining an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) on the flight deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48).

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: Mass Communications 3rd Class David A. Cox/USN

MARINE CORPS

Marines assigned to Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare to conduct a high altitude high opening (HAHO) jump from a CH-53 Super Stallion during category 3 sustainment training in Louisburg, North Carolina.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: Cpl. Andre Dakis/USMC

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, watch the sunset as the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima sails through the Suez Canal.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: Lance Cpl. Austin A. Lewis/USMC

AIR FORCE

An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron increases altitude shortly after takeoff at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich/USAF

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Armament Flight perform an inspection on an F-16 Fighting Falcon 20mm Gatlin gun at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/USAF

ARMY

Soldiers, assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo, help load a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter onto a United States Air Force C-17 at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, for transport to Fort Bragg, N.C.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: Staff Sgt. Jessica Condit/US Army

A Soldier, assigned to 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, conducts explosives-detection and bite training with his working dog, Andy, on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: CW2 Ryan Boas/US Army

Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, conduct a patrol during Exercise Marne Focus at Fort Stewart, Ga.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Photo: Sgt. Joshua Laidacker/US Army

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR WATCH: ‘America Ninja Warrior’ made a course inspired by Navy SEAL training:

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Medal of Honor recipient and former POW dies at 85

Air Force Col. Leo K. Thorsness, an F-105 pilot awarded the Medal of Honor for multiple feats of bravery in an aerial engagement who was later shot down and held as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton for six years, died May 2 at the age of 85.


His death was announced by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which did not disclose the cause of death.

Thorsness was deployed to Vietnam as a Wild Weasel, an aircrew that deliberately baited enemy missile and radar sites with their own jets. Once the site gave itself away by tracking the American plane or firing on it, the Weasels or accompanying aircraft would bomb the site.

Thorsness was leading a flight of four F-105s on April 19, 1967, when the dangerous mission went sideways. Thorsness and his electronic warfare operator had taken out two sites when another member of the flight was hit by an enemy missile.

The two-man crew was able to eject, but the pair was descending into hostile territory. Thorsness flew circles so that he could pinpoint where they landed to facilitate a rescue, but spotted an enemy MiG as he maneuvered.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Then-Maj. Leo K. Thorsness, at left, poses with his electronic warfare operator, Capt. Harold Johnson, next to their F-105 Fighter-Bomber. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Rescue crews were en route and Thorsness quickly attacked and killed the first MiG before flying to the tanker for fuel. Immediately after he refueled, he heard that the helicopter crews attempting the rescue were being threatened by a flight of four MiGs, and Thorsness flew through enemy anti-aircraft fire to reach the fight.

Thorsness and his EWO were on their own when they initiated the attack against the four MiGs. Thorsness quickly downed one and engaged the other three in aerial combat for 50 minutes, outnumbered and low on ammo but flying fiercely enough to drive them off.

Once again low on fuel, Thorsness headed back to the tanker but learned that another plane was lower than his. He gave up his fueling spot to allow the other to dock and so ran out of gas, forcing him to glide his aircraft back to friendly lines.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
Then-Maj. Leo K. Thorsness, second from left, stands with other Wild Weasels. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Only 11 days later, Thorsness and his EWO were shot down during a mission and became prisoners of the Hanoi Hilton. Thorsness was kept for years with another famous POW, Arizona Senator John McCain, a Navy pilot at the time.

Thorsness spent six years in the prison, three of them under nearly constant and brutal torture before international pressure relieved the conditions somewhat. His Medal of Honor was approved during that time, but it wasn’t announced until after his 1973 release for fear that the North Vietnamese would torture him worse if they knew about the medal.

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This is what a $17 million investment in laser technology gets the US military

The US Defense Department is making another multi-million dollar investment in high-energy lasers that have the potential to destroy enemy drones and mortars, disrupt communication systems, and provide military forces with other portable, less costly options on the battlefield.


US Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and longtime supporter of directed energy research, announced the $17 million investment during a news conference Wednesday inside a Boeing lab where many of the innovations were developed.

The US already has the ability to shoot down enemy rockets and take out other threats with traditional weapons, but Heinrich said it’s expensive.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
The Sodium Guidestar at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Starfire Optical Range resides on a 6,240 foot hilltop at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The Army and Navy is developing its own laser weapons systems. Photo from USAF.

High-energy lasers and microwave systems represent a shift to weapons with essentially endless ammunition and the ability to wipe out multiple threats in a short amount of time, he said.

“This is ready for prime time and getting people to just wrap their head around the fact that you can put a laser on something moving really fast and destroy it … has been the biggest challenge,” said Heinrich, who has an engineering degree.

Boeing has been working on high-energy laser and microwave weapons systems for years. The effort included a billion-dollar project to outfit a 747 with a laser cannon that could shoot down missiles while airborne. The system was complex and filled the entire back half of the massive plane.

With advancements over the past two decades, high-powered laser weapons systems can now fit into a large suitcase for transport across the battlefield or be mounted to a vehicle for targeting something as small as the device that controls the wings of a military drone.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

“Laser technology has moved from science fiction to real life,” said Ron Dauk, head of Boeing’s Albuquerque site.

The company’s compact laser system has undergone testing by the military and engineers are working on a higher-powered version for testing next year.

While the technology has matured, Dauk and Heinrich said the exciting part is that it’s on the verge of moving from the lab to the battlefield.

The Nazi version of the Great Escape happened in the Arizona desert
A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

Another $200 million has been requested in this year’s defense appropriations bill that would establish a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.

Heinrich said continued investment in such projects will help solidify New Mexico’s position as a leading site of directed-energy research and bring more money and high-tech jobs to the state.

Boeing already contributes about $120 million to the state’s economy through its contracts with vendors.

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