Have you ever looked at the old SR-71 Blackbird and wondered how awesome it would be as a fighter jet? So did the United States Air Force (for the most part). The SR-71 is based on the super-secret CIA’s A-12 reconnaissance plane. When the Air Force got a glimpse of the A-12 and its capabilities, their minds got to work.
The first idea to come from the A-12 design was the YF-12, a single-seat interceptor aircraft that closely resembled the A-12 but came packing with guns and missiles instead of photographic and signals intelligence monitoring equipment.
Lockheed’s YF-12 first took off in August 1963 and unlike its predecessor, the A-12, or its successor, the SR-71, there was nothing really secret about it. The President of the United States first revealed its existence but that might have been a strategic move. It covered up the CIA’s super-secret aircraft and provided enemies a window into the advancements Air Force fighters were making.
The YF-12 was every bit as great as expected, and every bit as great as both the A-12 and the SR-71. It could fly at supersonic speeds of more than 2,000 miles per hour and at altitudes of more than 80,000 feet. It is still the largest and fastest interceptor aircraft ever built.
It also had an advanced fire control radar system to operate the AIM-47 missiles that could be mounted under its wings. Unlike other missile systems at the time, the AIM-47 was much more accurate and reliable in air-to-air combat. This would have made the YF-12 the deadliest aircraft in the world at the time.
The Air Force was understandably excited at the prospect of integrating such a fighter aircraft into its air defense network. After successfully testing the AIM-47 missile integration, the USAF placed an order for more than 90 of these flying behemoths, ready to implement them into the defense of the United States. It was a little war brewing in Vietnam that would be the program’s demise.
As the intensity of the fighting in Southeast Asia increased, so did the American commitment to South Vietnam. Spending on the war increased along with it. Concerned about the cost of the YF-12 program, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara declined to support the interceptor program and it was ultimately cancelled in 1968.
All was not lost for the unique airframe, however. Though there was no need for a supersonic, high-altitude interceptor for airspace defense in the U.S., there was a need for an ultra-fast, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft to fly over places other aircraft wouldn’t dare. The SR-71 Blackbird was born from this need.
The Blackbird looks exactly like its predecessors but outperforms both of them. It has a greater operational range than the YF-12 and is still the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft ever built, a record set in 1976.
SR-71s were a brief view of what the YF-12 could have been: a fighter aircraft so accurate, it could hit a target on the ground while flying at three times the speed of sound. If another fighter or a surface-to-air missile came up at it, all the pilots had to do was hit the throttle and outrun it. The A-12s, YF-12s and SR-71s were titanium masterpieces of Cold War technology.
History would have been much different if George Washington was born a 90-pound weakling. As it was, he was an abnormally large man, especially for the American Colonies. At 6’2″ and weighing more than 200 pounds, he was literally and figuratively a giant of a man. This might be why nine diseases, Indian snipers, and British cannon shot all failed to take the big man down.
It’s not just that the man was fearless in battle (even though he really was). Washington suffered from a number of otherwise debilitating, painful ailments and diseases throughout his life that would have taken a lesser man down — but not the man who founded the most powerful country ever to grace the Earth.
He should have died at the Battle of the Monongahela
Near what we today call Pittsburgh,a British force under General Edward Braddock was soundly defeated by a force of French Canadians and Indians during the French and Indian War. Braddock died of wounds sustained in the fighting, but Washington survived despite having two horses shot out from under him. When all was said and done, he also found four musket-ball holes in his coat.
He had dysentery the whole time
During much of the French and Indian War, Washington reported bouts of dysentery, an infection that causes (among other things) persistent diarrhea. He suffered from this while dodging bullets at the Monongahela River. The discomfort from it actually made him sit taller on his horse.
He trotted 30 yards from enemy lines
During the 1777 Battle of Princeton, Washington rode on his horse as bullets fired from British rifles 30 yards away whizzed around him. When troops worried about their leader getting shot, he simply said, “parade with me my fine fellows, we will have them soon!”
Trenton was cold as hell.
Crossing the Delaware was actually much more dangerous than the stories would have you believe. Giant chunks of ice were in the dark water that night and each threatened to overturn the longboats. Washington set out with three boats to make the crossing, and only his made it. Falling into the water likely meant a slow, freezing death for any Continental, even if they managed to get out of it.
Two Continental soldiers who survived the crossing stopped to rest by the side of the road and were frozen by morning.
He had six of the most lethal diseases of his time.
Normally, if you’re reading about someone in the 1700s contracting tuberculosis, dysentery, pneumonia, malaria, smallpox, or diphtheria, it’s because that’s how they died. Not only did Washington survive all of these conditions, he knew how to inoculate his army against smallpox, claiming the British tried using as an early form of biological warfare. It was the first mass military inoculation in history — and it worked.
In the end, Washington was felled by what modern doctors think was a case of epiglottitis, an acute bacterial inflammation of the little flap at the base of the tongue that covers the trachea.
Like the Rebel Alliance finding an exhaust port in the Death Star plans, life found a way to take down one of history’s greatest. It took 67 years and a whole lot of trial and error.
A Canadian sniper operating in Iraq set the world record for a long-distance confirmed kill at 3,450 meters, or 2.14 miles just last month.
According to Robert Fife of the Globe and Mail, this soldier functions as part of Canada’s contribution to the war against ISIS, and serves as a member of Joint Task Force 2, the country’s top-tier special operations unit.
Fife reports that the shot was part of a response to an ISIS attack on Iraqi security forces. To break up the attack, coalition forces, including sniper teams, engaged the enemy element from a distance, picking out targets and dropping them from afar. The JTF2 sniper’s kill shot took around 10 seconds to reach its mark after exiting the barrel of the rifle.
Yet-to-be-released video footage of the shot apparently further adds credence to the claims surrounding this incredible feat.
It may surprise you that this isn’t the first time Canadians have held the record for a longest confirmed kill. In 2002, Cpl. Rob Furlong, a marksman with 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry set a record for a kill at 1.5 miles breaking the previous record set at 1.43 miles, held by… you guessed it, another Canadian – Master Cpl. Arron Perry, also of the same unit.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, during a 2017 military exercise. Photo by Sgt JF Lauzé (Canadian Army)
Furlong’s shot was exceeded in 2009 by a British army sniper, Craig Harrison, who dropped a pair of Taliban machine gunners while serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
The JTF2 sniper reportedly used a McMillan Tac-50 rifle, known as the C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon in Canadian service. The C15 is chambered to fire the same .50 caliber round the M2 heavy machine gun utilizes, though for shots that require considerable amounts of precision.
Interestingly enough, the record prior to Perry’s 2002 kill stood at 1.42 miles, held by legendary US Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock, who actually used a modified M2 outfitted with a scope to take his shot in early 1967. Both Furlong and Perry used the C15 for their long-distance shots in 2002.
The secretive JTF2 exists in the same vein as the US Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU. Like its American counterpart, the Canadian unit is primarily tasked with counterterrorism, though it can be used for direct action, high value target capture, and reconnaissance operations as needed. It’s also one of the smallest units of its kind in the world, recruiting very selectively from the three branches of the Canadian military.
Potential JT2 “assaulters” are put through a difficult selection and training phase, designed to weed out candidates quickly so that only the toughest remain. Following selection, assaulters can be assigned to various specialties within two operational fields, air/land and sea. The unit regularly cross-trains with foreign partners around the world and at home in Canada.
Though JTF2, in comparison with similar units like the Special Air Service and DEVGRU, is very young in its history, it has already racked up a number of commendations for its actions on the battlefield, especially with its service in Afghanistan over the past 15 years.
In 2004, members of the unit were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation because of their actions as part of Task Force K-Bar, the first Canadian unit to hold such an honor since the Korean War.
Very little is known today about what JTF2 does in Iraq. It is known that the unit was first deployed late last year to the beleaguered country, supplementing other coalition special operations units currently active in the area.
Though it’s possible that JTF2 has carried out direct action assaults, it’s generally understood that their primary mission in-country is to serve in a training and advisory role with Kurdish fighters in the battle against ISIS.
Most travelers have a number of things to worry about during the holiday season.
For TSA agents at the country’s airports, there’s also a variety of things to worry about — knives, fake grenades, swords hidden in canes, knives hidden in guns, throwing stars, and all sorts of other contraband.
The TSA has taken to documenting some of the weapons and other prohibited items it encounters at security checkpoints, posting them on the agency’s Instagram account, which has accumulated more than 500,000 followers and rave reviews.
“I knew it would be popular and I knew we’d have a never-ending source of content,” Bob Burns, who runs the Instagram account, told The Washington Post. “But I didn’t know how popular we’d be.”
Below, you can see a selection of strange weaponry or look-alike weaponry that the TSA has come across and put on its Instagram, which Rolling Stone recently ranked as the fourth-best account on the social-media site.
“We’re pretty sure this isn’t a letter opener. A bladed dragon claw perhaps??? Whatever it is, it should be packed in checked baggage. It was discovered in a carry-on bag at Atlanta (ATL).”
“Is this some kind of confangled rotisserie contraption for turkeys? Nope. These are Sai. If you’re a #TeenageMutantTurtle fan, you’ll know the Sai as Raphael’s weapon or choice. If you still have no clue, a Sai is a weapon used for striking, bludgeoning and punctures. Whatever it is you use them for, please know they must be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered in a carry-on bag at Boise (BOI).”
“This ornate flask of black powder was discovered in a carry-on bag at Allentown (ABE). While it is a fancy flask, the black powder contained within is an explosive and is strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked bags.”
“Packing list: Socks. ✅ Toothbrush. ✅ Curling Iron. ✅ Post-apocalyptic bullet-adorned gas mask. ❌ While gas masks are allowed in carry-on bags, replica bullets are not. This was discovered in a carry-on bag at Miami (MIA). Maybe he was catching a one way flight to #FuryRoad?”
“Don’t pack your homemade replica suicide vest. The traveler who packed this vest in his checked bag at Richmond (RIC) stated it was a prop intended for use in a live-action role-playing game (LARP). TSA explosives experts raced to the checked baggage room and the airport police were called immediately. Fortunately, the explosives experts determined the vest posed no danger. It has yet to be determined if the officer who searched the bag needed a change of clothing.”
“While about to receive a pat-down after opting out of body scanner screening, a Chicago O’Hare (ORD) traveler remembered that he had a throwing knife necklace under his shirt. All knives are prohibited and concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest.”
“While some travelers are worried about packing nail clippers (they are allowed), others pack a pair of five-bladed floggers. You guessed it; these are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to need your floggers, they’ll have to be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered last week in a carry-on bag at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas (IAH).”
“You’ve likely heard that you’re not supposed to bring a knife to a gunfight? Well, you’re not supposed to bring either in your carry-on bag. Both replica weapons and knives are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you find yourself needing to travel with your gun knife, please pack it in your checked bag. This gun knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).”
“This 4-bladed throwing star was discovered in a carry-on bag at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). These must be packed in your checked bags. Sorry Prince Colwyn. #Krull”
“This belt buckle knife was discovered in a traveler’s carry-on property recently at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE). Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.”
“Naruto’s ninja gear was discovered in a carry-on bag at Las Vegas (LAS). Please pack all ninja gear in your checked bags.”
“This knuckle knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at Memphis (MEM). Knives of any size are not allowed in carry-on bags. They must be packed in checked bags.”
“This impaler cane was discovered amongst a traveler’s carry-on property in Baltimore (BWI). These must be packed with checked baggage. Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.”
“Many things can be hidden in shoes, but explosives are what concern us the most. This shoe is a replica of the bomb Richard Reid attempted to use in 2001 on his flight from Paris to Miami.”
“Your trailer hitch hand grenade is prohibited from both carry-on and checked bags. So what’s the big deal if it’s inert? First off, we don’t know it’s inert until explosives professionals take a closer look, and that takes time and slows down the line. It can even lead to a complete shutdown and evacuation. Also, imagine the person sitting next to you on the plane pulling this out of their carry-on. For these reasons, anything resembling a bomb or grenade is prohibited from both carry-on and checked bags. #TSATravelTips This inert grenade was discovered in a checked bag recently at the SBP airport.”
“And yet, another confounded #batarang has been discovered in a carry-on bag. This time it was discovered at the Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport (CHO). Batarangs, along with most other items on your utility belt must be packed in your checked bag. #Bam #Kapow #Zok #Biff #Zowie”
“These swords and throwing knives were discovered recently in a carry-on bag at the William P. Hobby Airport Houston (HOU). You guessed it! Swords and throwing knives are prohibited in carry-on bags. It perfectly acceptable to pack them in your checked bags, though.”
“This knife was discovered concealed in a bottle of pills at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. Please pack them in your checked bag.”
“#TBT November, 2007 – These knives were discovered concealed in a PC/DVD-ROM game case at Gulfport (GPT). Knives are prohibited, and concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. You may pack knives, swords, machetes and other bladed items in your checked bags.”
“It’s a cane. It’s a sword. It’s a cane sword, and it’s prohibited from being packed with your carry-on items. Cane swords may be packed in your checked bag. This cane sword was discovered at LaGuardia (LGA).”
President Barack Obama commuted the majority of WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence on Tuesday, with only three days left in office.
Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act, among other charges, in 2013 after she stole secret documents from a computer system she had access to while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq and leaked them to WikiLeaks in 2010.
She received a 35-year sentence for the leak and has served seven years in Fort Leavenworth. She will now be freed in five months, on May 17.
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told The New York Times on Tuesday that there’s a “pretty stark difference” between Manning’s case and that of former government employee Edward Snowden.
“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” Earnest said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”
Snowden declared his support for Manning on Twitter.
“In five more months, you will be free. Thank you for what you did for everyone, Chelsea. Stay strong a while longer!” Snowden tweeted.
The president has not granted clemency to Snowden.
Obama pardoned 64 other people on Tuesday and shortened the sentences of 209 prisoners. Over his two terms, Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,385 people and granted 212 pardons.
In the early morning of Apr. 7, 1943, a Japanese attack fleet was preparing to bombard the island of Guadalcanal. That day, Swett had embarked on two standard flight patrols that resulted in nothing but clear skies.
But the third scheduled flight was about to turn very deadly. Swett received intel that 150 Japanese planes were en route to his position and he was prepared to defend it. Soon after making his very first enemy contact, Swett managed to shoot down a handful of enemy fighters.
After a several of defensive maneuvers, Swett took a few rounds to his starboard wing. Heading back to base, Swett discovered a series of enemy dive bombers headed toward him — so he engaged with short bursts, scoring additional kill shots.
Let’s be honest, punching paper at the range is boring.
If the RO is a hardass, it’s standard targets, a second between shots and no movement or draws.
But when you get out to the wilds and can really stretch out your irons, it’s a perfect time for a little trickery.
These 12 trick shots performed by the crew at Dude Perfect take some serious skill to ace. If you’ve got a range where you can shoot props, stick to the four rules, and give ’em a whirl.
1. The Rainbow Six kick shot
This is more of a physics problem than anything else, but nailing a three-point shot with help from the butt end of a scattergun is kinda rad.
via GIPHYNot sure if I’d want to heft a basketball hoop into the backcountry for that one though.
2. Splitting the bullet
First of all, rocking a Kriss Vector with a can is badass enough, but splitting those 230 grains of .45 ACP ballistic goodness on the edge of an axe? Now that’s taking it to a whole new level of awesomeness.
Who doesn’t love drones bro? Who doesn’t hate the idea of one snooping on you? This is one all “people of the gun” should embed firmly into their muscle memory for the day when the government goons come to take our pieces.
via GIPHYJust don’t try it on that $1,000 DJI Phantom.
4. Firepower versus fruit
It’s the bread and butter shot of folks like FPSRussia and the Fruit Assassin, but who doesn’t like seeing the pulp fly with a little 30-06 fun through a watermelon?
But still, shot placement is key here — get it right in the sweet spot and you’re go for throttle up.
7. The blind shot
OK, now this one gives us a case of the heebie jeebies since we’re technically violating one of the four rules of firearm safety here (“know your target and what’s beyond”). But it’s such a radical shot that no tactard out there could admit to not wanting to try at some point on their ballistic bucket list.
Few substances have done more to sex up the art of backyard plinking than the mix-and-go explosive fun of Tannerite. I mean, you can buy buckets of it at Walmart so why not race your friends to blow up buckets of it?
And we like the fact that the bolt gunner smoked the competition here.
9. Fog blaster
We’re not sure what’s so tricky about this one, but like the “splitting bullet” shot, it’s kind of all about the blaster. And pairing a .50 caliber SASR with a bucket of Tannerite? That’s like washing down a dry aged Strassburger ribeye with a 1947 Cheval Blanc.
via GIPHYIt looks like a hand-me-down .22 with iron sights. Could there be some ballistic app running in the background there?
Not sure, but this is one we’re definitely going to try the next time the RO isn’t breathing down our necks.
12. Rainbow Six half mile shot
At the end of the day, making long shots is impressive in its own right. And while stretching it out to about 900 yards isn’t totally, wickedly difficult, dropping a b-ball into the hoop by popping a balloon at 900 yards is kinda darn awesome.
via GIPHYBe sure to watch the entire Dude Perfect trick shot video for more gun fun.
Thirty percent of the current veteran population is suffering from some level of post traumatic stress, according to VA statistics. Treatments vary, but researchers and doctors are aggressively responding to the crisis.
As marijuana begins to gain traction in treating veteran PTS (the Veterans Administration maintains its position that marijuana has only an “anecdotal effect” on veteran post-traumatic stress) researchers are examining other recreational drugs to treating the unseen wounds of war. And the newest drug under scrutiny is methylene-dioxy-meth-amphetamine, better known as “MDMA,” “Molly,” or “ecstasy.”
Pure MDMA is of interest to neuroscientists because of its effect on human empathy, fear, and defensiveness. In a recent Popular Science article, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mithoefer said that 83 percent of his treatment resistant patients not only responded positively to MDMA treatment, they soon showed no symptoms at all.
Other reports show the drug works in treating end-of-life anxiety and alcoholism. Rick Doblin, who runs the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, thinks the FDA could allow the use of MDMA as a viable treatment option as early as 2021.
In studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, MDMA was found to be addictive in “rare cases.” One being a veteran self-medicating with MDMA to treat his own post-traumatic stress. Clearly, more study is needed.
Since Nov. 10th, 1775, the Marine Corps’ rich history of kicking ass and taking names has charmed Americans and earned their respect all across the United States. Because of that, civilians see Marines in a different perspective than the Navy, Air Force, or even Army.
Since every branch of the military has a particular image that the general population associates them with, we asked several civilians, “What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about the Marines?”
Most of them are, but others just couldn’t see themselves serving in another branch.
Now I’m joining the Corps! (Images via Giphy)
2. All Marines have to go war and fight
Not true. The Marines Corps is made of several different elements other than the infantry, like aircraft maintenance, logistics, and duties that cause your Marine to sit in an office and analyze intel all day — so breathe easy, momma bear.
Dammit, Carl! (Images via Giphy)
3. They’re all excellent shots with a rifle
Most are, but a low number of recruits score just high enough to earn the “rifle marksman” medal, a.k.a. the “pizza box.” All Marines must rifle qual before they can graduate from basic training, but it takes extra training and skill to earn higher levels of marksmanship.
Ask a Marine to explain this joke. (Images via Giphy)
4. They’re buff and strong
Most are pretty jacked, but many are just normal size — they make it up by having tons of heart.
Oh, Master Sergeant! (Images via Giphy)
5. They are mean and scary as hell
Marines can get pretty intense, but that just shows their passion. While a Marine can get super scary (especially when they gain rank or come in contact with people they just don’t like), some get by with just a quiet intensity.
But most of the time they’re fun loving. (Images via Giphy)
6. They’re brainwashed in boot camp
Negative, Ghost Rider.
They are just influenced to love their country and branch of service at an exceptionally high level through various mental and physical activities.
They have to be, to carry out the missions they’re are asked to do.
Sometimes this involves screaming while brushing their teeth — which may happen. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.
Barrage balloons cover the landings at Normandy (U.S. Navy photo)
The salty spray of the ocean battered their faces as the boat rocked with the waves. High above in the thick grey clouds, the thunderous drone of Allied planes could be heard. In the words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, these men were, “about to embark on the Great Crusade.”
Operation Overlord, D-Day, the invasion of Normandy, Omaha beach—these words invoke the memory of the events of June 6, 1944 when the combined allied nations assaulted the Western Front of Hitler’s Fortress Europe. As a result of media entertainment, the images that are associated with these words are often historical films of men running ashore through the high surf, John Wayne and Henry Fonda in The Longest Day, and Tom Hanks and Tom Sizemore in Saving Private Ryan. Unfortunately, this remembrance of D-Day omits the contributions of the African-American troops who supported the invasion at Normandy.
The 621 men of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion were split up amongst the thousands of troops who would storm the beaches on June 6. Their job was to go ashore and raise hydrogen-filled barrage balloons to protect the landings from strafing runs by enemy aircraft. Despite their defensive mission, these men were not immune to the merciless fire of the German guns.
“…the 88s hit us. They were murder.” Waverly Woodson Jr., a corporal and medic with the 320th, recalled during a 1994 interview with The Associated Press. “Of our 26 Navy personnel, there was only one left. They raked the whole top of the ship and killed all the crew. Then they started with the mortar shells.” Woodson was wounded in the back and groin by a mortar shell. After receiving aid from another medic, he went on to tend to the other wounded men aboard the landing craft.
Despite his own injuries, Woodson went ashore and continued to provide medical aid to his wounded comrades. For the next 30 hours on the blood-soaked beach, Woodson removed bullets from wounds, dispensed blood plasma, reset broken bones, amputated a foot and saved four men from drowning. Only after he collapsed from exhaustion and his own wounds, was Woodson evacuated to a hospital ship.
For his actions on D-Day, Woodson received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Woodson’s commanding officer had originally recommended him for a Distinguished Service Cross, and a memo from the War Department to the White House uncovered in 2015 revealed that Woodson had been recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor. The push to upgrade Woodson’s award continues to this day.
Waverly Woodson in his Army photograph (photo provided by Joann Woodson)
Another corporal in the 320th, William Dabney, had his barrage balloon shot out above him. Without a replacement balloon to raise, Dabney dug in and did everything he could to survive. “The firing was furious on the beach. I was picking up dead bodies and I was looking at the mines blowing up soldiers…I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not,” Dabney recalled in a 2009 interview with The Associated Press. Dabney survived D-Day and continued the war providing barrage balloon cover for an anti-aircraft gun team. “I followed the big gun wherever it went. I went to Saint Lo, then near Paris, and then later to Belgium and Holland.” In 2009, Dabney was awarded the French Legion of Honor at the 65th Anniversary D-Day Ceremony at Normandy.
William Dabney and his son, Vinnie Dabney, at the French Embassy in Washington D.C., before their trip Normandy in 2009 (photo provided by Vinnie Dabney)
The men of the 320th that survived the invasion of Europe were eventually reassigned to the Pacific Theater. They trained at Camp Stewart, Georgia, to fight the Japanese and protect friendly forces from the suicidal kamikaze planes. The 320th made it as far as Hawaii before the war ended.
Johnnie Jones, Sr. was a warrant officer responsible for unloading equipment and supplies at Normandy. As he came ashore, Jones and his men came under fire from a German sniper. “The bullets were going in front of you, back of you, side of you, everywhere,” Jones recounted. He grabbed his weapon and returned fire with his fellow soldiers. As he attempted to suppress the sniper, Jones witnessed another soldier rush the pillbox concealing the enemy. “I still see him, I see him every night. I know he didn’t come back home. He didn’t come back home but he saved me and he saved many others.” Jones is one of the last surviving African-American veterans of D-Day.
The contributions of these men and their African-American comrades was invaluable in saving lives and achieving victory in WWII. Though many of them have passed away, their memory lives on in our remembrance of D-Day as their stories are finally told.
Almost 42 years after the Vietnam War officially ended, veterans of that unpopular campaign in Southeast Asia will finally get some official recognition.
Thanks to the efforts of Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and his colleague, Indiana Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly, Congress recently passed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, and it is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump soon.
On March 26, Toomey hosted a conference call with reporters to discuss his legislation.
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner was awarded a Silver Star for his service as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
The Toomey-Donnelly bill also designates March 29 as “National Vietnam War Veterans Day.” March 29 marks the anniversary of the day that combat and combat support units withdrew from South Vietnam.
The Senate approved the bipartisan bill Feb. 8, and it was approved by the House on March 21. It’s now been on President Trump’s desk since March 23 awaiting his signature.
“In many cases, Vietnam veterans did not receive the warm welcome they deserved when they came home,” Toomey said. “It’s time we put a heartfelt thank you to Vietnam veterans into law.”
He added that all Americans should be grateful to those who served in Vietnam.
Toomey was joined on the call with Harold Redding, a Vietnam veteran from York who came up with the idea for the legislation, and John Biedrzycki, a Vietnam veteran of McKees Rocks and past national commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Redding said he worked on getting the legislation passed for 27 months. He thanked Toomey for his efforts in seeing it through.
“I can’t tell you what this means to me and all Vietnam veterans,” Redding said.
Biedrzycki said the legislation was long overdue.
“Every day is Veterans Day,” he noted.
Toomey said he would like to see more public recognition for Vietnam veterans, such as at civic events. Those veterans should be emphasized in our classroom as well, he believes.
“Teachers should teach about the Vietnam War,” the senator explained. “These were difficult times in our history.”
In a news release issued by Toomey’s office after the Senate approved the measure, Donnelly said, “This bipartisan bill would help our country honor this generation of veterans who taught us about love of country and service and who deserve to be honored for their selflessness and sacrifice.”
Here’s what other veterans groups had to say about the legislation:
— Steven Ryersbach, past state Commander/AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania: “It’s outstanding that Sen. Toomey is working to support and honor our Vietnam vets. Sen. Toomey’s overall work on behalf of veterans is commendable and we thank Sen. Toomey for all his efforts.”
— Tom Haberkorn, president of Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America: ” The Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America supports the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, which recognizes the service and sacrifice of those who answered our country’s call and served, with honor, in Southeast Asia.”
— Thomas A. Brown., Pennsylvania VFW State Commander: “All Vietnam War veterans deserve high honor and respect that many of them did not get when they returned home from war. Designating March 29 of each year to say ‘welcome home’ and ‘thank you’ to our Vietnam War veterans is a strong signal that America appreciates the service of these special patriots of freedom.”
“Consider that, first of all, you are a United States Marine. That is the beginning,” Joseph Owen said just days before his death in August 2015.
He said it as if he were addressing all Marines.
“You are something beyond ordinary people. Now you want to take a step up from there. If you’re not the best, you’re gonna be. If you’re not trying to be the best the Corps has, you’re not worth a sh*t. Why are you here?”
Owen commanded a mortar platoon as a 2nd lieutenant in Baker Company, 1-7 Marines during the Korean War. Owen enlisted during World War II but saw the bulk of his service in Korea. As an officer, he was charged with turning an undisciplined group of reservist mortarmen into a force to confront the enemy.
“You always have to perform to your limit,” he said. “Myself and a fellow officer, we used to sit around and talk about leadership all the time. Combat leadership doesn’t mean a goddamn thing unless you have Marines that will continue the fight no matter what.”
Becoming an officer changed his world.
“I’m not bragging, I’m just saying the facts: two Navy Crosses and a Silver Star – we know what the hell we’re talking about,” he said.
1. His most vivid memories:
“The North Koreans had much more initiative,” he said. “They would come on you tenaciously and keep on the attack until you killed them. And in defensive positions, they were aggressive and used offensive tactics. Even pinned down they would get out and come at you. I had great respect for them. They fought with their brains individually. The Chinese were only tenacious because there was no going back.”
“Some of the Chinese front line soldiers didn’t even have weapons, they had stakes. They would try to get in close and kill you with that. The ones who came after them would try to pick up the burp guns of the first wave. If they got killed the third wave would come and pick up the weapons.”
“The Chinese were wearing sneakers in 30-below-zero temperatures,” he remembered. “Sometimes we came up on them, and some of them would still be in position, frozen solid. They’d put their hands up to surrender. We would take them, pull them out, and find they were just stumbling around on frozen feet.”
2. On racial integration of the military:
“Two Southerners came to request to be in my platoon when they received a black squad leader, a Sgt. Long. When Sgt. Long was killed during a night fight with the Chinese, those two Marines requested to carry Long’s body, because they wanted to pay proper respect to ‘the best damn squad leader in the Corps.’ When the fighting started, everyone was a Marine.”
3. His take on modern American warfare:
“Today’s troops cannot fight the way I know how to fight. You have to take the battle to the enemy and kill them. These days you have to go through rules of engagement, which ties the hands of soldiers behind their back. You have to keep on going and do not stop. Keep going and kill those bastards. No pity, no mercy, just kill them. As many as you can.”
4. On North Korea today:
“We fought them to a defeat and now they have risen back and are – in effect – giving us the finger and getting away with it. What are we gonna do? We shouldn’t let that little son of a bitch play around with atomic weapons. That pisses me off.”
5. On harboring ill will toward an enemy:
“Hell no. They were fighting under the same orders I had. They were out to kill me, as I was out to kill them. Hell no. I respect them. I’d love to sit down with one of them and bullshit with them about what they were doing at such and such a time, especially if they were in the same battle as I was.”
6. Why he wrote a book:
“I had been thinking for a long time something should be done to honor the Marines I fought with,” Owen said. “I knew if I wrote about Baker Company it would also cover Able Company. We were all the same, formed up by the numbers, and we bonded very quickly. If I said Baker was the best, they’d say ‘F– you, we’re the best.’ We were the same. So I quit my business and wrote the book. This was a story that needed to be told.”
“What I wrote about getting to Fox Company after they were under fire for five nights… we came up to Fox Company’s positions. They had stacks of Chinese bodies set up as protective walls against enemy fire. They were using those walls to put down fire on the oncoming Chinese. When we came up on them, I was able to walk 50 yards on just Chinese bodies. There must have been hundreds of them thrown against Fox Company. This is the kind of thing I needed to write.”
7. On life after the Corps:
“Stay active, be proud of what you do. What I say about the pride of being a Marine. That’s all over the place — the rest of your life, make it a good one. Do good things for people to the best of your ability. I had a hell of a life, way beyond the Marine Corps. I look back at night before I go to sleep… I got millions of great, great memories. I remember everything. I think ‘son of a bitch… you were able to get away with that!’ ”
8. Advice for anyone, military or civilian:
“If you’ve never been scared sh*tless, what kind of life have you led?”
Over the course of fighting America’s most recent wars, troops faced the threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs on a daily basis. More than a decade later, the U.S. Army is building a new crash test dummy to better understand the physical risks these crude but deadly weapons pose to soldiers downrange.
In addition to registering the location of impacts and stress during tests, the new design will be coupled with an extensive database to help predict how likely an individual is to suffer a serious injury. The ground combat branch has dubbed the program the Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin, or WIAMan. As anyone in the military probably already knows, “WIA” is also the acronym for “wounded in action.”
The Army hopes that the new device will help provide more information on just what happens when a bomb goes off underneath a vehicle. “There is a wide range of test conditions and environment parameters” and “no two sets of system responses are the same,” engineers and scientists working on WIAMan explained in a briefing in June.
The individuals from the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command and the Army Research Laboratory sat down with defense contractors to talk about the state of the program. The service wants to start looking for a company to make WIAMan dummies by the end of 2017.
By that point, IEDs were a well-known threat. In Iraq and Afghanistan, huge bombs routinely ripped through unarmored Humvees and better-protected vehicles. The Pentagon had responded by rushing mine-resistant trucks, bomb detectors and jammers and other gear to troops in the field. Though this equipment saved lives, it did not eliminate serious injuries.
During Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, explosives had accounted for more than three quarters of all military injuries, according to a study Dr. Narayan Yoganandan, Chairman of Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Neurosurgery and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University, led and published in Clinical Biomechanics in 2013. Explosions underneath vehicles specifically were likely to cause severe damage to the pelvis, spinal column, legs and feet, Andrew Merkle, a principal professional staff member at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory, and his colleagues explained in another 2013 piece.
At that time, Army researchers had to rely on modified auto industry manikin, called Hybrid III. The manufacturer, Humanetics, only intended the original dummy for testing head on collisions in commercial cars. On top of that, the design reflected an outdated 1970s body shape.
Instruments in this surrogate person only show damage and strain in broad areas and joints. To help engineers and scientists log potential injuries, the Army’s version only has five so-called “biofidelity response corridors,” or BRCs.
By comparison, WIAMan will have more than 800 BRCs. This means that instead of simply sensing impact on a section of chest or foot as a whole, the manikin would report dangerous forces on particular ribs or the soles or heel specifically.
The prototype dummy was structured around a 50th percentile male soldier. After the Pentagon removed the last restrictions preventing women serving in combat roles in December 2015, the full production run will have to include female body shapes.
Combined with an extensive and growing knowledge-base of injury data, WIAMan should not only be able to highlight possibly dangers but predict them, too. This means that when the Army considers a new tank or truck in the future, researchers might be able to gauge the likelihood of the drivers and occupants suffering specific injuries if they run over a roadside bomb.
And capturing more data from the dummy itself means engineers won’t have to try and cram secondary cameras or sensors inside armored vehicle compartments or truck cabs to gather additional significant information. These spaces are cramped to begin with and these sensitive systems are often damaged in testing.
A “blast test of a surrogate vehicle structure … provided realism,” another one of the June presentations noted. “However, it is costly, not repeatable and occupant response cannot be fully observed.”
Unfortunately, WIAMan alone won’t be able to fill all of the Army’s research gaps by itself. The manikin will not be able to test for a slew of effects beyond an underbody blast.
In its prototype form, the soldier stand-in cannot determine whether troops might be at risk from shrapnel or burns. In Iraq and Afghanistan, IEDs often set off fuel or ammunition in vehicles leading to serious burns.
In 2006, the Marine Corps notably banned leathernecks from wearing synthetic clothing, including popular Under Armour undershirts, because of their low melting points. The Corps found evidence that the garments could fuse to skin with horrific results in a fire.
More importantly, WIAMan will not be able to help gather badly needed information about the potential for traumatic brain injuries, commonly called TBIs. Concussions and other TBIs have been increasingly linked to long-term brain damage and increased risk of serious health conditions.
Since 2000, the Pentagon has diagnosed more than 340,000 active service members with various kinds of TBIs, according to statistics compiled by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Medical professionals classified 5,000 of these cases as “penetrating,” instances where an actual object pierces the skull and physically hits the brain.
By far, the majority of the instances are “mild,” a synonym for concussions. However, research shows that people who suffer from multiple instances of these injuries suffer far from mild consequences.
While scientists are still studying the exact relationship between concussions and other health issues, there is significant correlation between the injuries and a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Also seen in boxers and other professional athletes, this is a form of dementia characterized by declining memory, cognition and motor control and itself linked to depression, suicidal behavior, and aggressive outbursts.
American troops have already spent some 15 years in a state or near constant combat operations. Given the rise of new terrorist groups like Islamic State, the Pentagon’s high operational tempo seems unlikely to change in the near future.
In the meantime, soldiers and other service members will likely continue to suffer TBIs and other injuries from IEDs. Though not perfect, WIAMan will give scientists and engineers critical information to help protect our men and women in uniform.