The original 'Air Force One' is being restored to its 1950s condition - We Are The Mighty
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The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition


If not for a twist of fate, the 1948 VC-121A Lockheed Constellation that once transported the nation’s 34thpresident might have become a crop duster or turned into scrap metal.

The Columbine II was the first plane to fly with the call sign “Air Force One” when it carried President Dwight D. Eisenhower for the first two years of his administration. However, the aircraft would have been lost to history without the intervention of three men – one who bought the plane almost 50 years ago, the friend who helped save it from the scrap heap, and the man whose aviation company purchased it two decades later with plans to restore it to its 1950s glory.

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“I didn’t want to see somebody drinking a beer and wonder if the metal from that can came from that plane,” said Karl D. Stoltzfus, whose Dynamic Aviation Company purchased the “Connie,” as Lockheed Constellations are commonly called, in 2015.

In March, Stoltzfus had the aircraft flown for the first time in 13 years, except for a brief test flight a few days earlier, to Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Virginia. Lockie Christler, son of the late Mel Christler, who bought the plane from the Air Force in 1970, flew the Columbine II from Marana Regional Airport, Arizona, where it had sat since 2003, to Virginia. The almost 60-year-old plane made a stop at the Mid-America Flight Museum in Mount Pleasant, Texas, before Christler made the final four-hour flight to Bridgewater, with Stoltzfus piloting the chase plane, a Beechcraft King Air.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

Christler gives most of the credit for the Columbine II’s restoration to his father, who died in 2005, Stoltzfus and Harry Oliver, who emphasized the importance of saving the plane and was the majority owner when it was sold.

“If it weren’t for men like my father, Harry and Karl, along with others, a lot of these airplanes wouldn’t be around,” Christler said. “Once we realized this was Eisenhower’s airplane, we couldn’t let it be scrapped.”

The plane was built as a C-121A at Burbank, California, and converted to a VC-121A-LO to carry VIPs in 1953. The Columbine II, named after the Colorado state flower by first lady Mamie Eisenhower, became the official presidential aircraft later that year. Over New Charlotte, North Carolina the following year, an Eastern Airlines flight had the same call numbers as the Columbine II, and confusion ensued when both planes shared the same airspace. Because of the incident, the “Air Force One” call sign became used for any plane the president was on board.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

The plane, while hardly resembling the Air Force One flown by presidents from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, included marble floors and a mahogany desk where Eisenhower wrote the “Atoms for Peace” speech he gave to the U.N. General Assembly in 1953. The Columbine II also took him to Korea, both as a president-elect and during his administration.

Related: The last original P-51 Mustang is up for sale

In 1954, the aircraft was replaced by the Columbine III, which Eisenhower used for the remainder of his presidency. The Columbine II continued in service as a VIP transport for Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard M. Nixon, and others, such as Queen Elizabeth II, before it was finally retired to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in 1968. The Air Force stripped the aircraft and fitted it with mismatched landing gear, an error that, in an odd twist of fate, led to the aircraft being spared from destruction long enough for its historical value to be discovered by its new owners.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

Up for auction

The Columbine II was sold to Christler as part of a package lot with four other Connies for $35,000 in a surplus auction at the Davis-Monthan AFB aircraft “boneyard.” He didn’t know one of the five planes had a presidential past and planned to make it part of his crop-dusting operation. Christler rebuilt the other four VC-121s for spraying operations, but didn’t convert the Columbine II because its starboard main gear had been replaced with the wrong part from a Lockheed 1049 Super Constellation. The incorrect landing gear, again, saved the Columbine II from being converted to a crop-duster. Instead, it was used for supplying the other four Connies with parts.

Mel Christler was considering cutting the aircraft up as scrap when Robert Mikesh of the Smithsonian Institution contacted him in 1980 and informed him that his Connie with the serial number 48-610 was a former presidential aircraft.

“The first time we saw it, we obviously didn’t realize whose plane it was,” Lockie Christler said, “but when you find out it was Eisenhower’s, now you’re stuck with it. You have a presidential plane you can’t melt up because people wouldn’t think very highly of you. So, for all of these years, it’s kind of been a liability, and it finally turned into an asset.”

Christler tried to find a buyer who could restore the Columbine II, but couldn’t find one. He was struggling to decide what to do with the plane when Oliver visited him at his Greybull, Wyoming, home in August 1989, and asked about his plans for the Columbine II. Oliver said Christler planned to send the plane to the smelter if he didn’t have a buyer by November.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
U.S. Air Force photo.

“I just said, ‘Now we can’t do that,'” Oliver said. “‘It’s a little bit of history, and it should be saved.”

At Christler’s request, Oliver drove to Tucson, Arizona, with a friend to look at the plane and saw the damage, but thought it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be repaired. The two men completed a $150,000 functional restoration of the Columbine II in 1990 and had it flown to Abilene, Kansas for Eisenhower’s centennial celebration. Afterward, they moved the Connie to Roswell and Santa Fe, New Mexico, before it was flown to Marana, where it remained under a lease agreement until it was sold to Stoltzfus in 2015.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

Restoration

Stoltzfus, a self-proclaimed history buff, learned about the Columbine II from an article in an aviation magazine and wanted to see the plane restored to its 1950s condition so he asked one person what he should do – his then-8-year-old grandson. “I think we should buy it,” the boy told him.

Then Stoltzfus asked his twin brother Ken to check out the plane in Arizona. After hearing that there wasn’t any damage that couldn’t be overcome, he sent Dynamic Aviation mechanics to begin repairs. When he first saw the plane, it was in rough condition.

“Every hose, I mean every piece of rubber was bad,” Stoltzfus said. “There were a lot of things about the airplane that gave you reason to say this was going to be a lot of work. They hadn’t really run the engines, but you knew there was going to be a lot of trouble with them, and there was. But the good part was it didn’t have any corrosion. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have bought the airplane.”

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
Karl D. Stoltzfus Sr., founder of Dynamic Aviation, bought the Columbine II at less than $1.5 million. The plane was flown to Virginia after Dynamic Aviation mechanics did significant work on the plane in Arizona in preparation for the flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Although he can’t divulge the actual price he paid, Stoltzfus said it was less than the $1.5 million listing price. Dynamic Aviation will begin a full restoration project on the Columbine II in three to six months, which Stoltzfus expects to be completed in two to three years. He has obtained drawings and documentation that he hopes will help him restore the plane to its original color codes and original manufacturer materials.

“I think the airplane can be used to educate people on the 1950s, not just about Air Force One and not just about Eisenhower,” he said. “These were generally considered to be good years in America. They weren’t perfect, but they were generally good. We got out of the Korean War, so it was a peaceful time, and it was a good time economically and was when we started to build the interstate. So it was just a good time in American history.”

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

When it’s fully restored, Stoltzfus hopes to take the historic aircraft to air shows and display it for the public at the company’s airport in Bridgewater. In the meantime, he’s looking for anyone who might have aircraft parts or stories to share from the Connie’s era.

Oliver is grateful that somebody was interested enough in saving the plane.

“When I started this project, I was 52 years old, and I’m 77 now,” he said. “I don’t have the energy to do it anymore, and I’m just glad that somebody does. It is a piece of history, and now it’s going to be where people can see it, smell it and touch it.”

Once the silver Connie with the purple flower on its nose is restored to its Air Force One glory, it will have three men to credit for saving this piece of American history for future generations.

Even though one of the three didn’t live to see the Columbine II’s restoration, his son thinks it would have made him proud.

“Oh, he’s got a big smile on his face right now,” Christler said. “I know he’s proud that it has a great home where it’s supposed to be. It’s within a hundred miles of Washington, D.C, where it had some important flying to do.”

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Watch the effects of an A-10’s GAU-8 cannon on an enemy building

What happens when U.S. troops in Afghanistan take fire from Taliban fighters, fortified inside a building?


It’s pretty simple. Call in the Warthogs to bring on the BRRRRRT.

The BRRRRRT comes from the A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger cannon. The Avenger fires beer-bottle-sized 30 mm chunks of aluminum alloy at 3,342 feet per second.

More than one re-upload on the internet says the attack is from a Pakistani F-16, but the distinctive BRRRRRT from the GAU-8 is an unmistakeable sound.

So whatever this building is made of – concrete, cinderblocks, who knows – didn’t stand a chance. It’s no wonder everyone who calls in close air support and gets an A-10 gun run has the same reaction to the jaw-dropping power of the GAU.

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15 astounding technologies DARPA is working on right now

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is responsible for some of the world’s most significant scientific and technological breakthroughs.


DARPA has had a hand in major inventions like GPS, the internet, and stealth aircraft. And it’s always developing new technologies — military or intelligence-related systems that could end up having a huge impact outside the battlefield as well.

We’ve looked at some of DARPA’s active projects, and found some of the more astounding systems that are currently in the works.

Bullets that can change direction in flight

Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) are the military’s first self-guided bullets.

EXACTO bullets are able to change their path during flight to correct for the movement of a target or any other factors that might have driven the bullet off course.

The bullets feature optical tips that can detect lasers on a target. Tiny fins on the bullets then guide the bullet towards that laser.

The Pentagon successfully conducted a live-fire test utilizing these rounds.

High-energy lasers

The High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) program is an ambitious DARPA project aimed at neutralizing surface-to-air missile threats that aircraft may encounter.

Generally, surface-to-air missiles are faster than the plane they’re targeting, making it difficult for an aircraft to evade fire. The HELLADS program attempts to use lasers to disable incoming missiles.

DARPA is also planning on increasing the strength of the HELLADS laser in order to make it an offensive weapon capable of destroying enemy ground targets.

Flying trucks

The ARES program, a Skunk Works extension of DARPA’s Transformer program, is an attempt to develop an actual flying car.

ARES will be a dual-mode vehicle capable of both driving on the ground and achieving high-speed vertical takeoff and landing. Twin tilting fans will allow the vehicle to hover and land. The vehicle can also configure itself for high-speed flight.

DARPA hopes that the ARES will be especially resistant to IEDs — while also being able to evade aerial threats, like air-to-air missiles.

Robotic pack animals

The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) introduced by DARPA and in development by Boston Dynamics is a mobile, semi-autonomous, four-legged robot that can function as a beast of burden on the battlefield.

Boston Dynamic’s AlphaDog can currently go70% to 80% of the places that troops are capable of walking. The prototype can carry hundreds of pounds of gear, lightening the burden for soldiers. It is currently taking part in testing trials alongside Marines in Hawaii.

Self-calculating gun scopes

DARPA’s One Shot XG program aims to improve the accuracy of military snipers through a small mountable calculation system that can be placed either on a weapon’s barrel or on its spotting scope.

The One Shot system is designed to calculate a number of variables, such as crosswind conditions, the maximum effective range of the weapon, and weapon alignment, using an internal Linux-based computer. The system would then indicate an ideal aim point for the marksman.

The One Shot XG began testing in March 2013.

A system that provides almost immediate close air support

The tactic of close air-support — in which soldiers call in attack aircraft to gain advantage in the midst of a ground engagement — has remained relatively unchanged since its emergence in World War I. In conventional close air support, pilots and ground forces focus on one target at a time through voice directions and a shared map.

DARPA’s Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) program is aimed at radically redefining the concept.

PCAS would enable ground agents to share real-time situational awareness and weapons data with aircraft crews. This would allow an aircrew to focus on multiple targets simultaneously.

The PCAS is also designed to significantly reduce the time between calling in an airstrike and an aircraft’s arrival on the battlefield.

Material that allows soldiers to climb up walls

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

www.darpa.mil

Geckskin supporting 660 pounds on a glass panel

US soldiers must operate in ever condition imaginable, including environments rife with physical obstacles that require soldiers to rely on ropes, ladders, or other heavy-climbing tools.

To overcome this challenge, DARPA has initiated the Z-Man program.

Z-Man seeks to replicate the natural climbing ability of geckos and spiders. One of the main products of the Z-Man program is “Geckskin,” a synthetically produced high-grip material. In a 2012 trial, a 16-square-inch sheet of Geckskin successfully attached to a glass wall — and managed to hold a static load of 660 pounds.

Technologies that eliminate language differences

The Broad Operational Language Translation (BOLT) program is exploring ways to allow translation and linguistic analysis for both online and in-person communications.

The initial phases of the program are aimed at aiding soldiers and officials with active translation of English into a listener’s native language and vice versa. DARPA plans on eventually expanding BOLT into a tool that could allow everyone to communicate fluidly without having to learn each other’s language.

A drone that can stay airborne for years

DARPA awarded a $89 million contract to Boeing to develop the Solar Eagle unmanned drone.

Part of DARPA’s Vulture II program, the Solar Eagle is designed to stay in the air for a minimum of five years using solar energy. The drone will have a 400-foot wing span, equivalent to a forty-story building, and can fly at stratospheric altitudes.

The drone will have intelligence, communications, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions.

A system that gives soldiers enhanced optical awareness

The Soldier Scentric Imaging via Computational Cameras (SCENICC) began in 2011 but is still at an early point in development. The program imagines a final system comprised of optical sensors that are both soldier and drone-mounted, allowing a synthesis of information that greatly increases battlefield awareness.

The program could provide soldiers with second-by-second information relating to their missions using a completely hands-free system.

A stratospheric airship

The Integrated Sensor IS Structure (ISIS) is a joint DARPA/Air Force project of “unprecedented proportions.”

The program aims to create an autonomous, unmanned high-altitude airship capable of conducting persistent wide area surveillance, tracking, and engagement of air and ground targets for a ten-year period. The airship will be fully solar powered as well.

Naval supply payloads hidden at the bottom of the ocean

Re-supply in remote sections of the ocean is one of the key difficulties that the Navy faces.

The Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) program envisions the deployment of supply stockpiles throughout the bottom of the earth’s oceans. These supplies will be placed in capsules that can survive for years under extreme ocean floor-level pressure.

When needed, a passing ship would be able to send a signal to the supplies, causing them to rapidly rise through the water to the ship.

Helicopters that can function like planes

The VTOL X-Plane further pushes the boundaries of hybrid-wing aircraft beyond what the V-22 Osprey can already accomplish.

DARPA’s VTOL X-Plane envisions a new type of aircraft that can maintain a flight speed of 345 to 460 miles per hour, but is still capable of super-efficient hovering while carrying at least 4,800 pounds of cargo.

The X-Plane is scheduled for three phases of development between October 2013 and February 2018.

Satellites that can provide on-demand imaging

DARPA wants military personnel to be able to call upon satellites to provide up-to-date imagery for tactical pre-mission planning. Its Space Enabled Effects For Military Engagements (SeeMe) program would allow soldiers to look at updated satellite imagery on-demand.

The SeeMe program would consist of a number of satellites that travel in a set band across the earth. This satellite constellation would provide precise imagery for any location within the pre-set band within a 90-minute time frame, making the program a potentially invaluable asset for military intelligence.

The constellation satellites would fly for 60-90 days before burning up in the atmosphere, leaving behind no space debris behind.

A precise lightweight laser weapon

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

DARPA

The Pentagon is constantly attempting to reduce combat risk in urban situations where less-precise conventional weapons may cause unintended collateral damage.

DARPA’s Excalibur program is aimed at allaying these fears through light-weight laser weapon. Eventually, DARPA hopes the program will produce a 100-kilowatt laser that could be used in precision strikes against ground and air targets.

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Congressman and former Marine officer raises concerns about SEAL fighting techniques

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
U.S. Navy SEALs train with Special Boat Team (SBT) 12 on the proper techniques of how to board gas and oil platforms during the SEALs gas and oil platform training cycle. SEALs conduct these evolutions to hone their various maritime operations skills. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson


A veteran in Congress is calling on the secretary of defense to examine the current Navy SEAL combat training program, saying it’s less effective than a previous method and not conducive to SEAL operations.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, former Marine officer and member of the House Armed Services Committee, sent an April 5 letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter requesting that Carter provide “clarity” on Naval Special Warfare’s 2011 move to replace its Close Quarters Defense institutionalized training system with Mixed Martial Arts.

“I have concerns with the process for considering and awarding the contracts that have led to the removal of CQD from SEAL training,” Hunter wrote. “NSW operators and leadership have consistently determined CQD to be the most operationally effective training to prepare SEALs for combat, evidenced by more than 11,000 positive critiques and numerous complimentary reports.”

Hunter is raising the issue as the Senate prepares to consider the nomination of Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski to be commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, which oversees all Navy SEAL teams.

Szymanski, currently the assistant commander of Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, would replace current NSW commander Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who was denied a second star last month amid complaints that he had engaged in whistleblower retaliation.

An official with Hunter’s office indicated the congressman had concerns about Szymanski’s fitness for the new post.

“There have been reports that Szymanski is a central player in the selection of MMA over CQD,” Joe Kasper, Hunter’s chief of staff, told Military.com. “And it’s important before any promotion proceeds that there’s clarity on that role and assurances that it was all above board.”

The letter also notes that CQD costs just $345 per SEAL compared to $2,900 for MMA training. It also refers to a 2015 Defense Department Inspector General review of NSW contracts that found about 25 percent of contracts inspected were not awarded in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulations. While the MMA contract in question was not considered, Hunter suggested it too could contain problems.

“It is my firm belief that contracting decisions involving the transition from CQD to MMA must be thoroughly reviewed to include any personal interests and relationships that could have created conflicts of interest in the selection process,” Hunter wrote. “A review should also include all instances of open competition between CQD and alternative systems, with specific focus on NSW solicitations in 2003 and 2009. I also ask that you provide me with the full results of these competitions and any reports and documentation that were generated as a result.”

Kasper said Hunter planned to talk with members of the Senate about holding Szymanski’s nomination until the matter raised in his letter could be resolved.

Articles

The M79 isn’t perfect, but we love it anyway

Every soldier wants maximum firepower.


Firepower is something that can make the difference between life and death in a battle. It’s even better if the firepower is readily portable, so a single soldier can deliver death and destruction anywhere needed.

That’s why soldiers love the M79 grenade launcher. First used in Vietnam, the weapon has a well-deserved reputation for putting the power of a mortar in the hands of the individual Joe.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
An M79 grenade launcher with the leaf-type site unfolded. (Photo courtesy of Airman Magazine)

It isn’t a perfect weapon. The 40-mm round the M79 fires sometimes has less-devastating results than a hand-lobbed grenade.

But it is a simple weapon to use.

First deployed in 1961, the M79 grenade launcher is a single-shot, break-open, shoulder-fired weapon. It is breech-loading and fires a 40 x 46-mm grenade that is easy to load and easy to fire.

“The M79 broke in the middle like a shotgun and loaded in the same way,” wrote Dean Muehlberg, a Special Forces operator who fought in Vietnam during 1979, in his book War Stories. “They were an awesome and deadly weapon.”

No wonder the M79 earned the nickname “The Thumper.”

The M79 uses a “high-low” propulsion launching system that reduces recoil and increases its effective range to up to 400 yards.

It also extends the “reach” of an infantryman. Designed to bridge the effectiveness between the maximum range of a hand grenade and the minimum range of a mortar, the M79 quickly proved its effectiveness during the Vietnam War.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
An M79 grenade launcher rests atop a Marine bunker beside an M249 squad automated weapon. (Department of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Laird)

U.S. soldiers and Marines could usually shoot grenades best at targets from 150 yards to 300 yards away. Small infantry units benefited the most from the M79 because it increased the destruction they could inflict on enemy targets such as Viet Cong bunkers and redoubts.

The M79 was not only used throughout the Vietnam War but remains in the arsenal to this day.

During the early years of the Iraq War, there were Marine convoy units that carried the M79 to destroy IEDs at a comfortable distance. An explosive round from the grenade launcher often did the job of keeping a road clear more quickly and safely than calling in bomb disposal units.

U.S. special operators also reportedly keep the M79 on hand because it remains a simple and accurate means of destroying an entrenched adversary — even though the M203 rifle-mounted grenade launcher was first introduced into the arsenal in 1969.

The M79 also fired flechette rounds, known as Beehive Rounds because of the sound they made when traveling down range, that dispensed 45 small darts in a plastic casing that could shred flesh and bone when they hit the target point first. Unfortunately, many times the flechettes simply bounced off the target.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
A coast guardsman loads a non-lethal round into an M79. (U.S. Marine photo by Sergeant Brannen Parrish)

It can also fire buckshot, smoke, and tear gas rounds. In Vietnam, the M576 buckshot round replaced flechettes, producing far more lethal results.

The grenade launcher also has the capability of firing less-than-lethal rounds for crowd control and riot suppression. Used by police forces around the world, the M79 is often used to fire sponge rounds or rubber-coated crowd dispersal rounds to break up mobs and restore order.

Time tested, the M79 is proof that newer isn’t always better.

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That time an admiral used his own Navy Cross to decorate a hero

Coast Guard Signalman Ray Evans was a legend in World War II who drew machine gun fire from Japanese soldiers while pulling Chesty Puller’s Marines out of a hairy situation on Guadalcanal in 1942. The Navy awarded him a Navy Cross, but Vice Adm. Joseph Stika had no medal to hand to Evans, so he took off his own Navy Cross and pinned it on Evans.


For Stika, the groundwork was laid in 1918 when he was serving near a munitions yard in Morgan, New Jersey. The Gillespie Ammunitions Yard suffered a series of explosions on Oct. 4 that continued for two days.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
Shattered cars sit near the site of the T.A. Gillespie Plant explosion in 1918. (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

It was one of the largest ordnance activities in America at the time, handling 10 percent of all artillery shells used by American forces at the Western front. When the first explosions started, they triggered a chain reaction that turned the entire area into a Hellscape, detonating more explosives and spreading unexploded ordnance across the surrounding area.

Stika, then a Coast Guard first lieutenant (which the Coast Guard used to have), led a team of five Coast Guardsmen and two soldiers into the explosions to secure and remove ordnance before it could go off. For two days, they repaired rail lines and drove trains out of the blaze, sometimes while the trains themselves were on fire or within burning areas.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
Soldier feeds orphans created during the T.A. Gillespie Plant explosion in 1918. (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Twelve members of the Coast Guard, including Stika, were awarded Navy Crosses for their actions that October.

Stika rose through the ranks during the interwar period and was serving as a vice admiral in 1942 when Evans and Coast Guard Signalman Douglas Munro were called to service at Guadalcanal. The two enlisted men had joined at the same recruiting station on the same day and been assigned to the same cutter, leading to a deep friendship.

The two were split up for different missions but were reunited at Guadalcanal where their orders intersected. On the island, they were asked by a Marine Corps major to take part in a mission planned by then-Lt. Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
Coast Guardsmen and sailors unload supplies at Guadalcanal in support of the U.S. Marine Corps. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Marines had been trying to get across the Matanikau River for some time with no success. Puller wanted to try an amphibious assault that would deliver Marines onto a beachhead behind the river. These Marines would then clear the Japanese and allow their compatriots to cross.

Munro and Evans agreed, and the initial landings went well. But as the Coast Guardsmen were headed back to base, they learned that the Marines had been ambushed soon after the boats left, and they desperately needed extraction.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
American troops of the 163rd Infantry Regiment, hit the beach from Higgins boats like those piloted by Chief Signalmen Ray Evans and Douglas Munro at Guadalcanal. (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Puller rushed to Navy ships in the ocean to direct artillery fire in support of his men, and the Coast Guardsmen were sent back to pull out the Marines. Evans and Munro volunteered to stay back from the beach and lay heavy fire on the Japanese, drawing their attention while the rest of the flotilla loaded up the Marines.

The extraction went well and the boats turned to head back to base, but one of the boats became stuck on a nearby beach. Munro and Evans towed the boat off the sand, but a Japanese machine gunner spotted them and opened fire as they did so.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
(Painting: U.S. Coast Guard)

Munro was hit in the head. He would die later that day and become the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor.

Evans was put in for the Navy Cross. He only found out about the award when he made it back to Alameda, California, and was ordered to the ceremony. But when he arrived, something unexpected happened.

The orders for the award had come without a physical medal. So, Stika removed his own Navy Cross, earned more than 20 years before in the munitions explosions, and placed the medal on Evans for his actions on Guadalcanal.

The two men became friends and Evans routinely visited Stika after the older man’s retirement. Evans would go on to be a Coast Guard commander before retiring from the service.

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Turkish President Erdogan holds on to power as military coup fails

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: sputniknews.com)


Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan has apparently survived a bloody coup attempt that has left over 160 people dead, over a thousand injured, and over 2800 military personnel detained. Massive protests by Erdogan supporters, who were rallied by an address by the Turkish President on FaceTime, helped thwart the coup. The coup was condemned by many elements in Turkey, as well as President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Among events Friday night and Saturday were the shutdown of power for Incirlik Air Base, where the 39th Air Base Wing is deployed. British, Saudi, and German forces are operating from the air base, which is less than 70 miles from the Syrian border. That is a convenient locale for operations against the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attack in Nice Saturday that left 84 people dead.

Air operations from Incirlik ordered to stop, although aircraft currently flying missions were allowed to land. American troops have not been threatened, although the apparent blockade of Incirlik, which has gone to THREATCON DELTA in the wake of the coup, is not a good sign. Nor is the FAA shutting down flights to and from Turkey. The Federation of American Scientists estimated in 2015 that the United States reportedly has many as 50 “special stores” located at Incirlik, adding to the stakes at Incirlik.

Erdogan in the past has not exactly been a friend to the United States. One of the more notorious incidents came early in his rule as prime minister, in 2003, when he suddenly denied permission for the 4th Infantry Division to land in Turkey and attack into northern Iraq during the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lately, during his rule, he has shown a decided pattern of suppressing dissent, including seizing control of newspapers, throwing people in prison for “insulting” him, and drawing charges of both acting like a dictator and turning a blind eye to foreign fighters transiting Turkey to join ISIS.

Erdogan has accused Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who is residing in the United States after falling out with the Turkish President in 2013 over a corruption scandal and the closure of schools run by his group, Hizmet. According to reports, Gulen is a true moderate Moslem and a supporter of democracy, interfaith dialogue, and education.

With the failure of this coup, Erdogan will move to ensure that there will not be a chance to launch a more successful one. The Turkish president has declared the attempted coup a “gift from god” and has vowed to use it as a pretext to “cleanse our army” and said the elements who took part in the coup are guilty of “treason” and vowed they will “pay a heavy price” for trying to topple his regime.

The effects of this coup will reverberate through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Middle East. Turkey will likely slide further into an Islamist regime, one that becomes increasingly repressive as Erdogan asserts his rule in Turkey.

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Pentagon looks to laser-armed drones for enemy missile shootdowns

The U.S. Department of Defense is exploring options that would see drones fitted with lasers that could shoot down incoming enemy missiles.


The U.S. Missile Defense Agency tested a “directed-energy airborne laser” that can be fired from a drone, according to a report by the Last Vegas Review-Journal. Theoretically, the new weapon would allow the U.S. to fly drones over suspected enemy ballistic missile launch sites, allowing them to shoot down any missiles shortly after launch.

“Our vision is to shift the calculus of our potential adversaries by introducing directed energy into the ballistic missile defense architecture,” agency spokesman Christopher Johnson told the Review-Journal. “This could revolutionize missile defense, dramatically reducing the role of kinetic interceptors.”

The laser-mounted drones would add another layer of missile defense to U.S. capabilities. The drones offer an advantage over current missile defense systems, which rely on an intricate system of radars and satellites that guide a missile interceptor to a target. The laser drones would be much simpler and possibly just as effective, as they could loiter in a potential launch area and take out an enemy missile before it gets too far in its course. Current systems require an enemy missile to be in mid-course or descent phases before a traditional interceptor can be deployed.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
Image via General Atomics

North Korea would be a likely potential deployment for such a system. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has engaged in more than 20 missile tests, the most recent of which occurred Feb. 12. The missile tested was propelled by solid fuel, as opposed to combustible liquid, marking a major advance in missile technology. Solid fuel missiles are more dangerous, as they can be concealed on mobile launchers.

The idea for drones armed with lasers originated with former President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” missile defense shield, part of which envisioned using space-based lasers to shoot down incoming Soviet missiles. While Reagan’s contemporary critics scoffed at the project, it helped spawn missile defense systems used today.

Laser-armed drones as an effective missile deterrent is still in the planning stages. The top major defense contractors — including Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon — are all currently involved in a $230 million, five year-long demonstration program at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The Pentagon will engage in the first official demonstrations of laser-armed drones in 2020 and 2021, according to Johnson.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Russia will deploy a division of troops about 50 miles from the US

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
Google maps


At a recent event, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that a division of troops would be stationed in Chukotka, Russia’s far-east region, just slightly more than 50 miles from Alaska.

“There are plans to form a coastal defense division in 2018 on the Chukotka operational direction,” said Shoigu.

He said that the deployment was “to ensure control of the closed sea zones of the Kuril Islands and the Bering Strait, cover the routes of Pacific Fleet forces’ deployment in the Far Eastern and Northern sea zones, and increase the combat viability of naval strategic nuclear forces.”

Japan and Russia dispute ownership of the northern Kuril Islands, where Russia plans to deploy missile-defense batteries. The Bering Strait is the narrow waterway that separates Alaska from Russia.

Broadly, Russia has taken the lead in militarizing and exploring the Arctic region, as melting ice caps open up new shipping lanes between the East and West. In that context, the deployment of a division to the sparsely populated Chukotka region makes sense.

In the past, Russia has bemoaned NATO and US troop deployments near to its borders. How the US will respond to this deployment remains to be seen.

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Disabled Veteran’s Specially-Adapted Home a Dream Come True

(This is a sponsored post.)


A specialized VA lender, a military-friendly real estate agent and a national homebuilder joined forces to help a disabled veteran use his VA loan benefits with a government grant to build the home he’d dreamed of for almost 2 decades.

Real VA Loan Stories by iFreedom Direct®

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

John Swanson comes from a long line of military members. He was born at Southern California’s Fort MacArthur. His grandfather was in WWII and retired as a full bird Colonel. His father was an Army Sergeant in the Korean War, and his Uncle was an Army Captain. John was determined to carry on the family tradition. The Vietnam War was in full swing in 1971, and while he was more than ready to join, he was too young. Just before his seventeenth birthday, John enlisted in the U.S. Army Delayed Entry Program (DEP) to ensure an active duty slot when he came of age.

During an infantry training exercise, John fell 50 feet repelling from a helicopter. The medics found nothing broken, so John was ordered to keep training under advisement. He was ordered on a 10-mile compass run in shower shoes, during which John’s ankles collapsed underneath him. This time, the doctors determined he could not continue training. He was released under the discharge category “undesirable conditions. ”

“My whole purpose was to serve my country, but it wasn’t meant to be,” John shares. The Vietnam Era veteran had to fight for his honorable discharge, which he eventually received. Meanwhile, he had darting pain and decreased mobility in his arms and legs. Upon further medical examination, he was diagnosed with a chronic neurological syndrome called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Now confined to a wheelchair, John was upgraded from 60 percent to 100 percent disability.

“It was hard not to notice the wheelchair,” says John’s finance Terry Kaut, whom he met at a singles club 13 years ago. “But John was so full of life and joy. Later I found out how much pain he was in, which made his outlook even more amazing,” she added. After 10 years of dating, John and Terry decided to live together in a two-bedroom apartment near Sacramento. The only room suited for John’s disability was the bathroom.

“I’ve bruised my knee caps and broken several toes,” shares John, referring to the narrow halls and doorways in typical rentals. “I chased the American Dream for a long time, but accessible homes just don’t come up that often,” John explains. “So I lived in what was available.”

John’s housing frustrations turned to hope when he heard of a grant administered under the VA Loan Guaranty Division. Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants help veterans with certain service-connected disabilities build or modify homes to best suit their needs. He applied for the grant in 2012 and searched for a VA-approved mortgage lender to help him use his VA benefits.

John applied for a loan with iFreedom Direct®, a nationwide lender that specializes in home loans for veterans. Later John was connected to Sherry Dolan, a Sacramento-based Keller Williams® real estate agent familiar with the VA loan process. Sherry says, “I’ve sold a lot of homes to a lot of veterans, but this was the most challenging and most rewarding.”

The first issue was the grant. It had been months and John still hadn’t heard back from the VA. Debbie had a connection at the Department of Veterans Affairs that reported the paperwork had either been lost or never received. Together, Sherry and Debbie helped John reapply. Sherry enlisted the help of Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui’s office to expedite the second application to make up for lost time. Within just a few months, John was awarded the fully-allotted $67,555.

Meanwhile, Sherry set out with the couple to look for a house. She saw John struggling. “Terry and I lugged a heavy ramp around just so he could get up the front steps,” she explained. “He couldn’t access back rooms or step-down garages.” Sherry also saw that sunken living rooms, common in California, were a problem.

Then another issue surfaced regarding renovation. John’s respiratory problems required that they live in their apartment until any construction dust settled. With John’s fixed disability income and Terri ‘s modest income as a middle school registrar, they could afford rent or a mortgage payment. Not both.

Sherry thought to seek help from a builder. She approached several, but only one took an active interest in helping John. Lennar Homes had a new subdivision in Rancho Cordova with six model homes. The company agreed to adapt a single-story floor plan under SAH guidelines to suit John’s disability. Lennar® also financed the construction phase so John and Terri could keep renting until the home was finished.

The original blueprint was modified with John and Terry in mind. The specially-adapted model resulted in a 1,794 square-foot, three-bedroom home with 42-inch doorways, wheelchair-friendly flooring, an accessible master bathroom with roll-in shower, a ramped garage, flat front and back entrances, left-handed light switches, and many more customized details.

“The home represents a unique situation for us, but the project has definitely increased our awareness and the need for adaptable homes,” says Division President Gordon Jones. “We were honored to be able to serve a veteran in this way.”

Given the venture’s success, the builder welcomes the opportunity to serve other veterans. According to Lennar®, John’s house was the first-ever specially adapted home built by the Northern California division with money from an SAH grant.

“Thanks to this dedicated team of professionals who worked together, Mr. Swanson was finally able to get into a home,” shares iFreedom Direct’s Customer Experience Director Tim Lewis, a Retired U.S. Army Major.

John may have never gotten the opportunity to serve on foreign soil, but, as fiancé Terry relays, he has served for years from his wheelchair. “He counseled GIs and other individuals with RSD and answered a hot line for years,” says Terry. “And, now because of John, the way is paved for other disabled veterans to build a Lennar® home to fit their needs.”

A housewarming party took place shortly after John and Terry moved into their new home. The entire team came together to celebrate, along with many of the couple’s new neighbors and some local veterans. To honor the special occasion, iFreedom Direct had installed a 20′ flagpole in the front yard and Tim Lewis presented John with an American flag during an emotional dedication ceremony.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
(Left to Right: In front of the specially-adapted Lennar home after flag raising ceremony are iFreedom Direct loan officer Debbie Losser, Keller Williams real estate agent Sherry Dolan, homeowner John Swanson and fiancé Terry Haut and Dolan’s real estate partner Belinda Mills)

When asked what this house meant to him, John fought his emotions to get these words out, “It means the world. It’s hard holding back the tears when I think how everybody came together to make it happen for us.”

Veterans with permanent and total service-connected disabilities may be eligible for SAH grants. To apply, submit VA form 26-4555 to your VA Regional Loan Center. For information about VA loans, contact iFreedom Direct®.

iFreedom Direct®, a top VA-approved lender, has served America’s brave men and women by providing quality VA loans since 1996. These zero-to-low down payment mortgages, backed in part by the Department of Veteran Affairs, help eligible borrowers purchase and refinance homes at competitive interest rates. Pre-qualify at www.ifreedomdirect.com or 800-230-2986.

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Watch this Marine describe his personal battle at Tarawa

Louis Mamula was one of the Marines assigned to take Betio Island of the Tarawa Atoll in the Pacific.


What was supposed to be a tough but short battle where the Marines would quickly win became some of the bloodiest 76 hours in American history as obstacles on the approach and determined Japanese defenders made the Marines bleed for every bit of sand.

The idea behind capturing Betio Island in the Tarawa Atoll was that it would serve as the opening blow in a new front across the Japanese and give the Navy and Marine Corps a corridor through the Central Pacific to Japan.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
Casualties and destruction after the battle for the Tarawa Atoll. (U.S. Navy)

But the landings ran into trouble as coral reefs and man-made obstacles in the water proved more troublesome than originally expected. Troops headed to the beaches sometimes had to get out of their amphibious vehicles and wade through chest-deep water to the beaches under fire.

On land, the situation wasn’t much better. The relatively flat island gave defensive machine gun positions wide fields of fire and favored the defender.

Mamula landed in this chaos and pushed forward with the other Marines of the 2nd Marine Division. In the video below, he discusses what it took to capture the island so well defended that the Japanese boasted, “a million Americans could not take Tarawa in 100 years!”

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Thursday Threesome: A trio of new blasters

A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo at Breach-Bang-Clear.


We’ve got the scoop on some new blasters for you. Three of them, actually. Because today’s Thursday, and everyone knows that Thursday is good for threesomes.

You’re welcome.

Remember. At the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you – this is just an advisement, a public service if you will, letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.

Grunts: Orgulous.

 

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
1. Inland Manufacturing T30 Carbine.

Inland Manufacturing (not Indigo Augustine) has released an M1 Carbine style blaster called the T30 Carbine, complete with “M82 Vintage Sniper Scope.” The T30 is intended to resurrect and revive interest in the WWII- and Korean War-era T3 originally fitted with the (state of the art, by contemporary standards) M3 infrared night vision optic. Inland says the new-old T3 will come fitted with a ‘period-correct’ Redfield-style scope welded to the receiver, as the optics on the original were.

The M82 Hilux scope looks correct for the period, but has been constructed to modern standards, including better guts for improved light transmission and clarity. Apparently it also has better windage and elevation capability. The T30 ships with a period-correct clamp on a conical flash hider, oiler, magazine, and sling.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

Unfortunately, although the MKS Supply press release indicated the T3 had been released, it doesn’t appear to be on their website (and they did not provide a direct link to the specific product). Nor are the T3 Carbines (as of this writing) on the Inland Manufacturing website, which is apparently different than Inland Depot.

All three sites are pretty anemic and a little confusing, which is both irritating and frustrating. You might be best served just contacting them here if you want to avoid the aggravation.

Sorry, we don’t have candid imagery or lifestyle shots either. They may make great guns (we haven’t shot any yet) but their comms plan blows.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

Here are the details they sent us.

Specifications:
  • Weight: 5.3 pounds without scope, 6.0 pounds with scope
  • Barrel length: 18 inches
  • Caliber: .30 Carbine
  • Capacity: 15 as sold (one magazine)
  • Stock: Walnut; low wood design
  • Scope: M82 sniper scope – 2 .5 power by Hilux with 7/8-inch tube
  • MSRP: $1,695 with Hi-Lux M82 scope and Redfield style rings
  • MSRP: $1,279 without scope-without rings
  • NOTE: The Inland T30 will also take 1-inch and 30mm Redfield rings.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

2. The Bushmaster Minimalist

Bushmaster (not Bonnie Rotten) has a new rifle out, as long as we’re on the subject of irritating websites and limited information. Take a look at the Bushmaster Minimalist SD. The company describes it as its “latest modern sporting rifle” — i.e. an AR with a more politically correct name — that provides “…exceptional accuracy, reliability, and performance in a rifle that is highly featured, lightweight and economical.”

It’s chambered in 5.56mm NATO or 300 AAC Blackout, and each weighs approximately 6 lbs. Interestingly, they all feature an ALG Defense trigger and Mission First Tactical furniture, which is nice.

Here are the details Bushmaster sent over. First, take a look a this video Bushmaster

Bushmaster Minimalist-SD Feature and Benefits:

  • 16-inch, lightweight, 4150 FNC treated barrel
  • Rifle Length AAC Square Drop Handguard – For attachment of KeyMod accessories at seven different angles
  • ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger (ACT) – Consistent, smooth 5.5-pound trigger pull
  • Mission First Tactical Minimalist Stock – Comfortable and versatile with QD cup and rounded rubber buttpad
  • Mission First Tactical Grip and Magazine – High-quality furniture and magazine with similar styling91056 – BFI Minimalist-SD 556 Specifications
    Mag Capacity Barrel Length Twist Rate Overall Length Upper Receiver Barrel Material Barrel Finish Barrel Contour Avg. Weight
    30 16″ 1:8″ 35″ A3 Flattop 4150  FNC Lightweight 6lbs

    90924 – BFI Minimalist-SD 300 BO Specifications

    Mag Capacity Barrel Length Twist Rate Overall Length Upper Receiver Barrel Material Barrel Finish Barrel Contour Avg. Weight
    30 16″ 1:7″ 35″ A3 Flattop 4150 FNC Heavy 6.3lbs

The Bushmaster Firearms website is still under construction, so you’ll need to go to page 2 of their online catalog to get a better look at the Minimalist-SD…which you can’t order from, so you’ll have to figure out a different way to buy one if you’re so inclined (or find a distributor who has them in stock).

There’s more on their “official fan page” if you’d like to take a look. Find that here. They have an IG account (@bushmaster_firearms) but they haven’t posted anything there yet.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

3. The Chiappa Little Badger rifle

The Chiappa (not Charity Bangs) Little Badger Rifle looks interesting. Now available in 17 WSM and .17HRM (both increasingly popular calibers as .22 becomes ever harder to find), the Little Badger is described as an “ultra-compact, lightweight, break-open rifle designed to go anywhere at any time.”

Seems reasonable enough.

The rifle is only 17-inches long with the action opened and weapon folded. This should make it easy to stow away in your road bag or the pouch doohickey it ships with.

Chiappa says,

“The wire frame stock keeps weight to a minimum and the integrated shell holder in the back holds twelve cartridges so ammo is always at the ready. The Little Badger comes equipped with an M1 Carbine style front and rear sight. Picatinny rails are mounted top, bottom and on both side just forward of the receiver for mounting optics and accessories. An optional handle/cleaning kit combination accessory screws into the bottom of the receiver. Compact length and weighing only 2.9lbs, the Little Badger can truly be taken almost anywhere when the situation calls for a lightweight, versatile rifle.”

The barrel of this single-shot little blaster is 16.5 inch carbon steel with six groove RH 1:16 twist, with muzzle threads at 1/2 in. -28TPI. Sights are fixed, weigh is less than three pounds and overall length is 31 inches.

Apparently there’s a cleaning kit that stows in the pistol grip too.

All the different versions of the Little Badger can be found right here…unfortunately, the new 17WSM isn’t on this website yet either, so you’ll have to just keep your eye out or check their dealers.

The 17HRM isn’t on their home page either, but it looks like it can be found on some other sites if you want to do a little digging.

About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition

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Germany just threw a UXO party for 50,000 people

Unexploded ordnance, often called “UXO,” has long been a problem after wars. In World War II, the Allies dropped almost 1.6 million tons of bombs on Germany – the equivalent of 6.4 million 500-pound bombs. Every major city was hit.


The problem is that not all the bombs exploded — not surprising when so many were dropped. These have been hanging around – and even now, 72 years after V-E Day, some of them still turn up.

And in Hanover, Germany, on May 7, 2017, three of those UXOs were found by construction crews, according to the BBC.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
A 2,500 pound German bomb, buried opposite University College Hospital, London, was removed by Army sappers. Before the bomb, which fell in 1941, was de-fused, people in the area were evacuated to a safe distance. (National Archives)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the city government evacuated 50,000 people, the largest since an unexploded bomb was found in Augsberg, Germany, last Christmas. In February, a German bomb that failed to detonate was discovered in the United Kingdom while construction work was underway to improve the intended home port for the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.

With so many people affected, the city decided to throw a big UXO party. Numerous events were set up, including screenings of films for kids, sporting events, and museum tours. There were also efforts made to provide food and other essential supplies to the evacuees while the Allied bombs were secured.

The original ‘Air Force One’ is being restored to its 1950s condition
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Sean Carnes)

There’s no doubt about it, UXO can still kill, even after decades under ground. The BBC reported that in 2010, three German EOD techs were killed while trying to defuse a World War II leftover. In 2012, a construction worker was killed when his equipment hit an old bomb. Old World War II ordnance has sometimes been discovered during training exercises, notably in the Baltic Sea.

In the United States, most of the UXO is from the Civil War. In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a number of cannonball left over from that conflict were unearthed.