Edwards Air Force Base in California certainly has its fair share of oddball aircraft and eccentric pilots.
But a dude flying a top-secret airplane in a monkey suit?
In 1942, Bell aircraft was developing its P-59 Airacomet, the first jet engine fighter designed by the United States. And although it never saw action, it was an important step in the development of U.S. air power.
It was also a top-secret project at the time. The British had a jet fighter airframe in development since 1941 as did the Nazis.
It was so secret, in fact, that when the P-59 was taxiing, airmen put a fake wooden propeller on her nose so onlookers wouldn’t notice anything odd about the aircraft.
In the air, however, it was a different story. Pilots flying the usual piston-driven aviation engine would report back to base with sightings of a fast-moving plane without a propeller. They also said the plane was flown by a “gorilla, wearing a derby hat, waving a stogie at them.”
The Chief test pilot for Bell Aircraft was Jack Woolams. By the time Bell was testing its P-59 design, Woolams had already served 18 months in the Army Air Corps. He was the man behind the gorilla mask.
Other pilots who were exposed to Woolams’ prank were convinced by Air Force psychologists that they hadn’t really seen the gorilla flying the plane, “because everyone knows you can’t fly without a propeller.”
Woolams was also the first person to fly a fighter aircraft coast-to-coast nonstop and set an altitude record in 1943. Woolams died preparing for an air show in 1946, but he was a man ahead of his time — a harbinger of the nonstop, record-breaking, years of air power development to come for test pilots in the 1950s and 1960s.
As the Marine Corps enters the final stages of preparing to receive the CH-35K King Stallion, its new heavy-lift workhorse helicopter, aviation officials are already looking forward to the Corps’ next generation of rotorcraft.
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant of aviation, told reporters Friday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., that the Corps had asked for optionally manned capability for the Pentagon’s future vertical lift plan, which aims to develop replacement choppers for the Army and other services.
“We’ve told them it’s what we want,” Davis said. “Why wouldn’t we want it?”
Davis said he envisioned a vertical lift platform that might be operated unmanned to deliver cargo and manned for more sensitive or technically complex missions.
Potentially, he said, such a platform, equipped with a sensor, could also serve as an unmanned sentry of sorts from the air in defense of a deployed ship.
Davis noted that the future vertical lift, or FVL, program is currently in the down-select phases, and acquisition was expected to take place in the 2030s.
“The future of aviation is operationally manned,” Davis said.
The Air Force and Marine Corps are both part of the FVL program, which is led by the Army.
One candidate to satisfy FVL requirements is Bell’s V-280 Valor aircraft, a next-generation tiltrotor that does feature a fly-by-wire control system. The other aircraft being evaluated in the FVL program, the medium-lift Sikorsky/Boeing SB-1 Defiant, also features fly-by-wire capabilities.
Davis said Marine officials had communicated with both contracting teams about their interest in optionally manned technology.
Meanwhile, the Marine Corps continues to evaluate concepts for a separate unmanned or optionally manned air cargo and logistics platform.
In May, two Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-MAX optionally manned rotorcraft arrived at Marine Corps’ Operational Test Evaluation Squadron 22 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, for testing and development designed to evaluate their ability to perform surveillance and reconnaissance.
Marine logistics officials have also expressed interest in DARPA’s Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES), an unmanned vertical lift platform designed for cargo resupply, medevac and surveillance.
Last weekend, we got to spend time with a hero named Walter Jorgensen. Mr. Jorgensen is one of the oldest living U.S. Marines to survive the bloody battles in the Pacific Theater during World War 2.
Alongside a group of fellow veterans, Mr. Jorgensen attended the graduation of our youngest Marines at the USMC Recruit Base.
This is the same place Mr. Jorgensen went through boot camp and graduated at in 1939. Seventy-seven years ago. From here, he would prepare for America’s entry into WW2.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, his path into war would send him and his buddies to the islands of the Pacific to battle the Japanese Empire.
There he would fight in 3 of the deadliest conflicts: Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan. During these battles, Mr. Jorgensen served as a Company Commander with the 2nd Division, 2nd Battalion from the 6th Marines.
The following photos are just a glimpse of the horrors Mr. Jorgensen experienced as a leader of the legendary “Easy Company”.
The battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands began on August 7th of 1942.
The Marines were tasked with securing airfields for our aircraft to take-off from for both aerial defense of our Navy’s ships and ultimately to send bombers to the main land of Japan. This was the objective of America’s “Island hopping” campaign.
Unlike the battle at Normandy (D-Day), this beach landing was uneventful…however, holding the airfield at Lunga Point would cost thousands of lives.
In total, 1,600 were killed with 4,200 wounded along with 24,000 Japanese soldiers killed during the first island destination of the Pacific Campaign.
Bullets weren’t the only killers during these campaigns. Malaria ran rampant in parts of the Pacific.
The next island would be one of the costliest battles for the Marines of “Easy Company”. This was War; this was the battle for Tarawa.
“There were 180 of us from Easy Company that hit the beach that morning. No more than 40 of us walked off the island.” — Marine Schultz Miller
“Early on the morning of Nov. 20, 1943, the order came: ‘Hit the beach with everything you’ve got’. It was the first day of the assault on Betio Island – the struggle would come to be known as the Battle of Tarawa.”
“Easy Company was a bonded group. I was part of a replacement unit, which was reinforcing Easy after the battle for Guadalcanal,” the 79-year old veteran recounted. “If there was one thing that was easy about Easy Company, it was that they really took all the younger fellows in. They didn’t treat us bad like some other units did with their new guys.”
“We were taking machine gun fire from both sides of us as we came up to the beach,” he said. “Easy was one of the first companies to assault the island. Soon after that, all of our officers were dead.”
With the absence of commissioned leadership, Schultz described how the non-commissioned officers took over the company and carried on with the mission.
“At one point the highest ranking person was a sergeant. However, we were trained well and every man knew the job of the guy above him. If a machine-gunner went down, the guy behind him picked up the weapon and kept moving forward,” Schultz said.
It was all close combat as we took the island, Schultz said. Japanese were deeply entrenched in concrete and metal pillboxes with machine guns, cutting down Marines with raking fire right and left.
“I saw a few Marines make suicide runs, sprinting into the pillboxes with grenades or satchel charges,” he said. “After losing so many Marines, it was a last (recourse).”
The next destination was Saipan in the Mariana Islands.
In Saipan a total of 3,426 Americans died with 10,364 others wounded.
Like the horrors on our side, 29 thousand Japanese soldiers died with an additional 22,000 civilians lost (many from suicide).
Walter Jorgensen said little about what he experienced during the first 3 battles. He simply told me the following: “We began those campaigns with 29 Commanding Officers, all of them died on the battlefield.”
The loss of leaders would result in the following for Mr. Jorgensen, he would become a leader of his men at the battle for Okinawa. His new title was Executive Officer of the 6th Div., 3rd Battalion with the Marine’s 29th Regiment.
Like the first 3 battles, the numbers lost were unimaginable. The totals are so high that it becomes an estimate.
That estimate ranges from 77-110,000 Japanese killed. Along with the men from multiple Divisions of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps., the Marines battled for this final runway.
America’s total lost at Okinawa was 55,162 wounded and Thirty-Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Fifteen men killed in battle.
Back to the Marine’s graduation.
That morning we got to watch the band play as they raised the flag on base.
While driving into the base, Mr. Jorgensen pointed to a small building which he said, “that use to be the main entrance to the base”. The building in front of us, during the raising of the flag, was “new”.
After the band played, we introduced Mr. Jorgensen to Brigadier General Jurney, the Commander of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. Their conversation would later be called out during the up-coming graduation.
After the soon-to-be United States Marines marched onto the grounds, Brigadier General Jurney asked any Vietnam Vets to stand in the crowd followed by calling out any Veterans from the Korean War.
Finally he said, “We have a guest in the crowd. This man fought as a Marine in Guadacanal, Tarawa, Saipan and Okinawa. Please stand Walter Jorgensen”.
The pride and power of his memories were both unmistakable.
This is what a 95 year old United States Marine looks like…this is “Easy Company” Commander Walter Jorgensen.
U.S. media outlets say terrorist groups have been testing explosive devices that can be hidden in a laptop and that can evade some commonly used airport security screening methods.
CNN and CBS said on March 31 that U.S. intelligence officials had told them militants with al-Qaida and Islamic State have been developing innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices.
Military Police Company conduct security at entrance to Main Command Post, Rafha Airport, Northern Province, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 8, 1991. (XVIII Airborne Corps History Office photograph by SSG LaDona S. Kirkland)
The news organizations said the new intelligence suggested that the terror groups have obtained sophisticated airport security equipment to test how to conceal the explosives in order to board a plane.
They said the intelligence played a significant role in the Trump administration’s recent decision to prohibit travelers flying out of 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa from carrying laptops and other electronic equipment onboard in the cabin area.
Earlier in March, the U.S. government banned laptops and other large electronic devices, including iPads and cameras, from the passenger cabin on flights to the United States from 10 airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Britain also took similar measures.
Passengers on those flights must place electronic devices larger than cellphones in their checked luggage.
In a statement to media outlets, the Department of Homeland Security said, “As a matter of policy, we do not publicly discuss specific intelligence information. However, evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in electronics.”
CNN said the intelligence that contributed to the ban on electronic devices was specific, credible and reliable, according to three officials who used the same words to describe it. One official called the intelligence “hair-raising.”
North Korea has spent decades developing nuclear devices and the missiles to launch them while threatening to flatten cities in the US, Australia, and Asia.
Though experts in the past could credibly dismiss those threats as fantasy, North Korea has recently made swift progress toward that end.
“I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if it happened in the next few months,” Mike Elleman, the senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Business Insider in May of the potential for a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test.
“They have a higher tolerance for risk. If it fails, it fails. I don’t think that greatly concerns them. They’re more interested in trying to demonstrate what they’re trying to do. [There’s] a lot of political messaging going on with these tests.”
North Korea first tested a nuclear device in 2006, and it has tested missiles since 1984. The missiles started with limited capacity and could be fired only at short ranges. Initial nuclear tests were weak and ineffective.
But now the country seems poised to make a leap toward missiles that could cross the globe with almost unlimited firepower.
Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist at Stanford University, told South Korea’s Yonhap News on June 26 that the North Koreans could produce tritium, an element that can turn an already devastating atomic bomb into a hydrogen bomb.
“There is no theoretical upper limit on the maximum yield of a hydrogen bomb, but as a practical matter, it can’t be too large or heavy to fit on its intended delivery system,” said Schwartz, who noted that the largest hydrogen bomb designed, Russia’s Tsar Bomba, had an explosive yield of 100 megatons.
Such a bomb, if dropped on Washington, DC, would flatten buildings for 20 miles in every direction and leave third-degree burns on humans 45 miles out, or past Baltimore.
“Those possibilities are sufficiently worrisome that I maintain that the crisis is here now,” Hecker said, not when North Korean missiles “are able to reach the US.” He added, however, that it would take more time for North Korea to weaponize hydrogen bombs. US spy satellites have recently seen increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site, but no conclusions can yet be drawn. In the past, North Korea has claimed it has built hydrogen bombs, though not credibly.
On the missile front, North Korea has made fast progress, surprising many experts contacted by Business Insider, who now say the country could test an intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as this year.
A recent rocket-engine test from North Korea could serve as a bad omen. In the past, North Korea has tested rocket engines less than a year before testing the missiles that would use them. Experts said North Korea’s latest rocket-engine test could indeed have been in preparation for an ICBM.
Hecker urged the US to diplomatically engage with North Korea to get it to adopt a “no use” policy with its nuclear arsenal, a concession from the total denuclearization the US currently demands.
Denuclearization so far has been a nonstarter with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who has written the possession of nuclear weapons into North Korea’s constitution as a guarantor of its security.
“North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon,” Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, previously told Business Insider. “They’re not going to stop ’cause they get bored.”
For now, it seems inevitable that North Korea will get it.
The fight for Guadalcanal was a brutal first step in driving back the Japanese in the Pacific. The main objective for the campaign was to deny them use of the Solomon Islands. They threatened U.S. supply lines to Australia and the U.S. wanted to use the islands as a starting point for the larger war in the Pacific. The battle was fought on land, at sea, and in the air and involved every branch of the U.S. military. The aerial battle was fought mostly by the “Cactus Air Force” flying out of Henderson Field.
The Cactus Air Force was a conglomeration of Marine, Navy, and Army Air Corps assets operating in some of the worst conditions imaginable. Although the Marines jokingly referred to the campaign as ‘Operation Shoestring’ because of the lack of the supplies, the Cactus Air Force was actually named after the codename for Guadalcanal.
The 1st Marine Division attacked the Solomon Islands on the night of August 6th and morning of August 7, 1942 with the bulk of the division landing unopposed on Guadalcanal. The Marines captured the airfield on August 8th and immediately set to work completing the airstrip. The airfield was ready for use by August 18, and the first two Marine squadrons, one of F4F Hellcats and one of SBD Dauntless dive bombers, arrived on the 20th to begin combat operations the next day.
Two days later the Marine aviators were joined by five U.S. Army Air Force P-39 Airacobras. On August 24, eleven more Dauntless dive bombers landed at Henderson Field after being unable to return to the USS Enterprise due to damage it received during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. By the end of August, another Marine fighter squadron and another dive bomber squadron had also arrived on the island.
This assortment of men and planes were the beginning of the Cactus Air Force, and they were in for a hell of a time.
At the time of the Guadalcanal campaign, the Japanese Empire was at its peak and, aside from being denied at the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway, had yet to lose any territory they gained and were loath to do so. As such, the American airfield and its inhabitants were under near constant bombardment and attack. The Imperial Japanese Navy would shell Henderson Field from the sea while the Japanese Air Force sent daily bombing missions against the Americans. The constant bombardment continually damaged the runway, destroyed valuable aircraft, and inflicted numerous casualties.
To make matters worse, the island was not yet secure and the Japanese were continually attacking the perimeter attempting to dislodge the Americans from Guadalcanal. The 1st Marine Division reinforced by the 164th Infantry Regiment of the newly formed Americal Division held the line against Japanese assaults. During the Battle of Henderson Field, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines held out against some of the worst attacks, and it was during this action John Basilone earned the Medal of Honor and Lt. Col. Chesty Puller earned his third Navy Cross.
If the constant attacks on Henderson Field wasn’t bad enough, the living conditions were terrible as well. When the Americans captured the airfield it was far from complete and had no permanent living quarters. The pilots and mechanics were housed in mud-floored tents in a flooded coconut grove they referred to as “Mosquito Grove.” The squalid living conditions led to many diseases, including malaria, dysentery, dengue fever, and fungal infections.
The local climate contributed to the misery too. In the heat, black volcanic dust covered everything and when it rained the ground turned into a quagmire. Major Marion Carl, a Marine aviator stationed at Henderson Field, commented that it was “the only place on Earth where you could stand up to your knees in mud and still get dust in your eyes.”
Just surviving at Henderson Field was difficult enough, but the Marines, sailors, and soldiers still had to fly and fight. The dust fouled the engines of the planes, the mud kept them from moving, and the Japanese bombardment destroyed the planes and the runway. The runway was in such poor condition in the early stages of the battle that nearly as many Cactus Air Force planes were damaged just using it as they were in fighting against the Japanese. There were also no facilities for the aircraft: no hangers, no fuel trucks, and no bomb hoists. Damaged aircraft were cannibalized where they stood for their spare parts. Bombs had to be loaded by hand as did the fuel. Without fuel trucks the only way to fuel the planes was to hand pump it out of 55 gallon drums.
Despite all of these challenges, the Cactus Air Force fought tenaciously and was successful in helping the U.S. achieve victory. Six different airmen were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions while serving with the Cactus Air Force. An even greater number of pilots became aces during the campaign. Though total victories for the Cactus Air Force cannot be confirmed for the six months they were involved in combat, they claimed over 250 aerial victories. The dive and torpedo bombers from Henderson Field sank seventeen large Japanese naval vessels and damaged another eighteen. Most importantly, they sank transport ships that were attempting to deliver supplies and reinforcements to the Japanese on the island. These victories came at the price of 94 pilots killed or missing and a further 177 wounded or evacuated due to illness plus numerous ground crew killed or wounded. After the Guadalcanal campaign, the Cactus Air Force was consolidated with other allied air units under Aircraft, Solomons (or AirSols) which continued to support Allied operations in the Solomon Islands and Southern Pacific.
1. The Army has more aircraft than the Air Force and more boats than the Navy.
This is something that gets passed around Army circles with pride and is occasionally mentioned by other services with embarrassment. Well, buck up little sailors and airmen, the top rankings actually do go to their respective services.
The Army has 5,117 aircraft which is surprisingly high, but the Air Force still wins with 5,199 according to the 2015 Aviation Plan from the Department of Defense. Sometimes, the myth says the Navy has the most aircraft, but even when counting the Marine Corps helicopters and planes, the Department of the Navy comes in third with 3,847.
This is one of the claims we can’t outright debunk, but it’s still ridiculous. The story goes that at the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, there is actually just an empty vault. A former head of the mint claims the gold is all there and points out that a full audit in 1953 found that all of the gold was present, a visit by Congressional leaders and the news media in 1974 found nothing suspicious, and annual inspections by the Treasury Department and the U.S. Mint always report that the gold is in place.
4. At base flagpoles, there are items to destroy the flag with honor in case the base is overrun.
The story goes that military installation flags are supposed to be destroyed if a base is overrun, and there is a kit with each flagpole to accomplish the task. The items stored at the flagpole change depending on who’s telling the story. Generally, there is a razor or match for destroying the flag, a set of printed instructions, and a pistol round. Either these items are in the truck, the ball at the top of the flagpole, or they are buried in a footlocker nearby. There is supposedly also a pistol, almost always in a buried footlocker, that the service member uses with the pistol round to kill themselves when they’re done destroying the flag.
This is insane for a few reasons. First, if a base is being overrun, the military has bigger problems than the flag. Flags are important symbols, but the tanks, ships, classified documents, and personnel on military bases are typically more important. The military Code of Conduct orders service members to resist the enemy as long as they can, so they should use the pistol round to kill the enemy rather than themselves. Finally, as a military historian pointed out to Stars and Stripes, few service members would actually be able to climb the flagpole which can be as high as 75 feet tall.
5. There are self-destruct buttons on bases and ships.
The idea that military bases, ships, or manned vehicles have self-destruct buttons likely comes from Hollywood, which uses the trope a ridiculous amount. Some foreign military vehicles have had self-destruct charges in rare instances, but the U.S. military typically guards its secrets in other ways.
Navy ships can be scuttled and the Air Force can bomb any downed airplanes or damaged vehicles. Modern computers can be “zeroized” to get rid of sensitive information. Any infrastructure on a military post that might need to be quickly destroyed could be destroyed with incendiary grenades nearly as quickly as with a built-in self-destruct mechanism.
Out of 15 U.S. presidents targeted for assassination (that we know of), four were successful. No matter who the “leader of the free world” is, he or she will always have haters. While assassins were successful targeting Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy, here are 12 attempts you may know little about:
1. Andrew Jackson
Richard Lawrence ambushed Andrew Jackson in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Lawrence shot at him, but his gun misfired. Infuriated, the 67-year-old Jackson proceeded to club him with his old hickory cane. Lawrence pulled a second pistol, and it too misfired. Jackson beat Lawrence senseless until his aides wrestled Lawrence away.
2. Theodore Roosevelt
John Flammang Schrank shot President Roosevelt during a speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 14, 1912. Roosevelt continued to give his speech after being shot, even joking about it where at one point he said:
Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet — there is where the bullet went through — and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best. — Theodore Roosevelt, Address at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 14, 1912
Roosevelt lived with the bullet in him for the rest of his life. Schrank claimed the ghost of William McKinley told him to shoot the President; doctors found him insane.
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Italian immigrant Giuseppe Zangara attempted to assassinate President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 15, 1933, during an impromptu speech in Miami, Florida. Five people were hit, including Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who later succumbed to his wounds. On the way to the hospital, Cermak allegedly told Roosevelt, “I’m glad it was me instead of you,” which was later inscribed on his tombstone plaque. Some speculated it was a mob hit on the mayor and not Roosevelt.
“I have the gun in my hand,” confessed Zangara in the Dade County Courthouse jail. “I kill kings and presidents first and next all capitalists.” He was sentenced to death by Circuit Court Judge Uly Thompson.
4. Harry S. Truman
Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola — two supporters of the Puerto Rican independence movement — tried to assassinate President Truman while he was napping on the second floor of the Blair House. Truman was staying at the Blair House while the White House was undergoing renovation. The would-be assassins saw their opportunity because unlike the White House, the Blair House was less secure.
In what was described as “the biggest gunfight in Secret Service history”—27 shots fired over 40 seconds—Terresola and a police officer were killed. Collazo was sentenced to death, which President Truman later commuted to a life sentence.
5. Richard Nixon
Samuel Byck attempted to assassinate Nixon on February 22, 1974, by hijacking a plane in hopes of crashing it into the White House while the President was there. Byck carried out his plan with .22 caliber revolver he stole from his friend and a suitcase bomb. His plan was foiled, and the plane never left the Baltimore/Washington International Airport gate. He killed a police officer and committed suicide in the process.
6. Gerald Ford
President Ford had two attempts on his life by two women in California in the same month. One by Charles Manson follower Lynette Fromme, who fired a pistol at him in a crowd in Sacramento on September 5, 1975. The second attempt was by Sara Jane Moore in San Francisco on September 22, 1975 — just 17 days after Fromme. Both women were sentenced to life in prison.
7. Jimmy Carter
The Secret Service arrested Raymond Lee Harvey ten minutes before President Carter gave a speech at the Civic Center Mall in Los Angeles on May 5, 1979. The Ohio-born drifter was caught with a starter pistol and blank rounds. Although he had a history of mental illness, the police investigated his claims of being part of a four-man operation to assassinate the president. Charges against Harvey were dropped for insufficient of evidence.
8. Ronald Reagan
John Hinckley Jr. Photo: By United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI Field Office Washington) [Public domain]. Ronal Reagan (US president photo: Executive Office of the President of the United States).John Hinckley Jr. shot President Reagan outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., on March 30, 1981. He fired six shots from his .22 caliber revolver wounding the president and three others. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity on June 21. He said the assassination attempt was a love offering to actress Jodie Foster.
Reagan famously joked about it with one-liners to keep the country’s spirits up. “Please tell me you’re Republicans,” he said to the surgeons when he entered the operating room. To an attentive nurse, he said, “does Nancy know about us?”
9. George H.W. Bush
Three months after President Bush left office, Kuwaiti officials foiled a 16-man assassination ring led by the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The perpetrators planned to assassinate President Bush with a car bomb during a speaking engagement at the Kuwait University.
President Clinton responded in kind with 23 Tomahawk missiles against the Iraqi Intelligence Service headquarters building in Baghdad. In a televised address to the nation, he ordered the attack to convey three messages, “We will combat terrorism. We will deter aggression. We will protect our people.”
10. Bill Clinton
Osama bin Laden came close to assassinating President Clinton with a car bomb in the Philippines in 1996. Intelligence agents picked up on the plot via a choppy transmission with the words “bridge” and “wedding” — a terrorist code word for assassination, reported the Telegraph.
The secret service averted the scheme by re-routing the presidential motorcade away from the bridge containing the bomb.
11. George W. Bush
Robert Pickett — a former Internal Revenue Service accountant — fired his handgun at the White House while President Bush was inside. He was shot in the knee and arrested by secret service agents. Pickett was sentenced to three years in prison.
12. Barack Obama
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez fired his rifle at the White House. The 21-year-old claimed to be the second coming of Christ, and that Obama was the devil. He talked about Nostradamus and receiving a “message through time.” Ortega-Hernandez was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The commandant of the Marine Corps paid tribute to a staff sergeant killed by Islamic State rocket fire in Iraq last week, shedding new light on the circumstances surrounding the loss.
Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, 27, a member of Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was killed by indirect fire March 19 at a new artillery outpost near Makhmour, Iraq, shortly after he and a small element of Marines had detached from the MEU in order to support the small post.
Speaking at a Marine Corps Association awards dinner near Washington, D.C. Thursday night, Gen. Robert Neller said three other Marines wounded in that same rocket attack were due to arrive back in the United States that evening, headed for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Reflecting on Cardin’s loss, Neller did not prevaricate about a fight that US officials still refuse to describe as a combat operation.
“The loss of a Marine is sad, but I thought about it: He was leading his Marines in combat,” Neller said. “They were in indirect fire and he made sure everybody got in the bunker, and he just didn’t make it in time. Is that sad? That’s sad. But if you’re going to go, you want to go in the fight.”
During a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon on Friday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the circumstances of Cardin’s death, the second combat death since the coalition fight against Islamic State militants began, does not change the nature of the operation or indicate an increase in the Marines’ ground combat role.
“This is not a fundamental shift in our approach to support the Iraqi forces,” he said. “This happens to be what was the most appropriate tool that the commander assessed needed to be in that particular location.”
In his talk, Neller encouraged Marines to remain sharp, reminding them that the Corps was forward deployed all over the world to remain ready and train for future fights.
“[Cardin’s] death, and the things we see every day, from the attacks in Brussels by those murderous cowards that we’re fighting, that’s part of our world today,” he said. “So whether [The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] continues to use terror to intimidate us and kill innocents, at the same time other adversaries, as they have since we’ve been engaged in the Middle East, are developing their capabilities to challenge us on future battlefields.”
Neller also fired a shot across the bow at another geopolitical threat, hinting that Marine Corps leaders were eager to answer the saber-rattling of Russian president Vladimir Putin with a show of force.
About 1,800 Marines, he said, had recently wrapped up a massive cold-weather exercise in Norway, Operation Cold Response.
“It’s the biggest exercise we’ve done in Norway in some time,” he said. We were working to repopulate our [pre-positioning equipment] in the caves, and the Norwegians were happy to see us and I’m sure our Russian friends were paying attention. Mr. Putin has done us a great favor.”
An experimental Pentagon program has already developed two types of a highly advanced, Terminator-like prosthetic arm.
What’s more, a quadriplegic woman with sensors implanted onto her brain controlled one of the robotic limbs to grab a cup, shake hands and eat a chocolate bar. She even flew an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter simulator using just her thoughts.
Now, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to expand on that cutting-edge work to build other potential breakthrough medical technologies, including a pacemaker-sized device that might someday improve the memory of troops who suffered a traumatic brain injury. Think of it as a hard drive of sorts for the brain.
“We know we need a next-generation device that doesn’t exist today,” said Justin Sanchez, who manages DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office in Arlington, Virginia. “That’s what these new programs are all about — not only understanding the brain and these conditions, but building the hardware that enables us to address those issues. You need both.”
Over more than a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, roadside bombs and other explosive devices took a toll on the U.S. military. An estimated half to two-thirds of the more than 7,100 Americans killed or wounded in combat were victims of such blasts and some 1,800 lost limbs, according to USA Today. Hundreds of thousands more suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
While researchers have been scanning the brain for years, very little is known about memory, which is stored in the side parts of the brain known as temporal lobes, Sanchez said. Like epileptic patients, troops who damage this part of the brain can suffer from memory loss and other issues.
One of DARPA’s newer projects, Restoring Active Memory, seeks to build a prosthetic device that could aid in the formation and recall declarative memory, a form of long-term memory that can be recalled such as a fact. For example, a future experiment might involve a patient who is asked to identify a series of faces and names with the aid of an implant.
“The twist on this is he or she will be interacting with a prosthetic device,” Sanchez said. “So at some face and name presentations, maybe we’ll stimulate the part of the brain that is involved in the memory formation and see if there are particular patterns of stimulation that can facilitate the formation and recall of that memory.”
The research builds on the work of a precursor program, called Revolutionizing Prosthetics, which dates back almost a decade and reflects the cornerstone of the agency’s research into neural signaling.
Jan Scheuermann, one of two patients in the program, in 2012 agreed to let surgeons at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center implant a pair of pea-sized electrodes onto her left motor cortex — which controls movement — and connects her to a robotic arm. She hoped she might feed herself for the first time in a decade. She did that and more.
Scheuermann, a 55-year-old mother of two who became paralyzed in middle-age due to a rare neurological disorder known as spinocerebellar degeneration, became so adept at manipulating the arm developed by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory that her participation in the study was extended until October, when the electrode arrays were removed.
“That is the first program in the agency where you have humans interacting with really advanced prosthetic devices to do something extremely useful,” Sanchez said.
Reading the Mind
The sensors on Scheuermann’s brain measured just four-millimeters long, yet included hundreds of contact points designed to pick up signals from individual brain cells called neurons.
“When you intend to move your arm, for example, there are certain places in your brain that become active, the neurons that are there become active, and that activity can occur when you physically move your arm or even if you imagine moving your arm,” Sanchez said.
The signals were relayed to a computer running software that matched the activity to patterns associated with physical movements, such as raising or lowering an arm. Scientists used vector mathematics to build algorithms that determined the intended motion of the not only the arm, but also the wrist and fingers. The code translated into operating instructions for the robotic prosthesis.
“Neurons in this particular part of your brain are tuned to certain movement directions,” Sanchez said. “You can imagine how you can use that information to operate a robotic arm. Once you know those associations, you can say, ‘Oh, whenever I see that guy firing, I’m trying to go in this direction.”
Flying the F-35
While the program’s potential real-world applications aren’t limited to prosthetics, patients won’t be flying drones into combat anytime soon. When Scheuermann piloted the F-35 simulator, she didn’t drop bombs or launch missiles. Rather, she simply cruised along — sometimes erratically — and tried to bank the aircraft on simple flight patterns.
The process of linking her brain to the aircraft’s motion was similar to the robotic arm. Scientists would tell her to imagine trying to steer the plane to the right and left, and then would have to figure out how the neural activity would connect to control of the rudders.
“You have to try to find this functional mapping,” Sanchez said. “This is a real core part of this from a science perspective: How do you learn what those signals in the brain mean when you intend to do something and how do they relate to the device you’re trying to actuate, whether it’s a robotic arm or an airplane?”
Scheuermann also virtually piloted a small Cessna plane around the Eiffel Tower in Paris — an experience she found “liberating,” Sanchez said.
“That’s a really powerful statement,” Sanchez said. “We think of neurotechnology as hardware, but we don’t often think about it in terms of how it can improve somebody’s life or change somebody’s life.”
Bringing Back Sensation
The next and final phase of the program will seek to reverse the signaling process by understanding the patterns for sensation in the central nervous system.
“It’s really easy to say, ‘We want to bring sensation back,’ but it’s really difficult to actually do it,” Sanchez said. “You have to go to a different part of the brain that’s involved in the perception of touch — the primary central cortex — and again the challenge is the same: You have an electronic device that is measuring something and we need to translate that into signals that the brain understands.”
His office is working to identify potential civilian patients for the program. The agency doesn’t perform experiments on troops, even though the research is designed to help those who serve.
“Military personnel make the ultimate sacrifice,” Sanchez said. “They serve our nation and their lives often are changed through their injury. The very least we can do is develop a technology that will help to improve their quality of life. We have to stay true to that. It’s essential.”
In the early 2000s, connecting a brain to a robotic prosthesis would have required multiple rooms full of computers, cables and other hardware. While its recent work proved it could be done with more advanced systems and less space, the agency still wants much smaller components.
“All of the new programs have fundamentally by their design the goal of developing medical devices that are fully implantable — the size of a cardiac pacemaker that could be implanted somewhere in the body,” Sanchez said.
Under another new effort called Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (Subnets), DARPA is funding the development of implantable devices designed to more precisely identify and treat psychiatric diseases.
“All of these procedures, at least the ones we’ve talked about thus far, are reversible,” he added. “Neurotechnology is being designed in such a way that it’s reversible, so if it’s not providing a benefit for you, you don’t use it. You just take it out.”
But what if 300 Marine infantrymen, along with a couple thousand other fighters, had to repeat what Leonidas, 300 Spartans, and their Greek allies did in 480 B.C. against a modern foe?
First, the battlefield at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. was very friendly to defenders. The mountains pressed close to the sea, leaving only a thin gap of land through which Xerxes could press his army. This gap was further constricted by the Spartans when they repaired a low wall.
For the modern Marines, the gap could instead be narrowed with fighting holes, barbed wire, machine gun positions, and mines. Similarly, the fatal back path that Xerxes marched his “Immortals” through to doom Leonidas and his men could be blocked the same way, forcing an attacker to pay for every yard in blood.
Unfortunately for the Marines, their enemy can afford a few bloody engagements. While the Marines would boast 300 infantrymen and 6,000 other combat arms Marines, their enemy would number somewhere around 100,000.
The first thing the Marines would want to do against an enemy attack is copy the advantage that the Spartans used at Thermopylae, greater infantry range and stronger defenses. The Greek Hoplite carried a spear with slightly better range than the Immortal’s swords, and Hoplite armor was constructed of bronze strong enough to protect from Persian arrows.
The Marines would need to reach back in their armories for a similar range advantage. While the M4 has an effective firing range of 500 meters, the same as the AK-74 and other common infantry weapons, the M16 has a 550-meter range against a point target, a 10 percent boost. And the Marines’ body armor and defensive fortifications would give them an advantage over attackers similar to the Hoplites’ bronze armor.
Unfortunately for the Marines, modern warfare isn’t limited to infantry fighting infantry, and so they would need to reckon with enemy artillery and air assets.
Air defenders would also need to position themselves up the mountains to provide an effective screen to protect their troops from enemy air attacks.
Luckily for the Marines, the Corps is one of the few military organizations that has invested heavily in short takeoff, vertical landing aircraft — meaning that Ospreys and Super Stallions can deliver supplies to the besieged Marines while F-35s and Harriers provide air support either from small, forward refueling and rearming points near the front or from a nearby ship.
Even better, their artillery could force the enemy guns to fire from afar and break up forces massing for an attack, advantages that the Spartans lacked.
But, like the Spartans before them, the Marines would eventually be overcome by their numerical limitations. Even with approximately 6,000 other Marines, the 300 infantrymen simply could not hold out forever.
Enemy assaults would make it deeper into the pass each time as engineers whittled away at the Marines’ defenses and artillery crews braved American guns to get rounds onto the defenders’ heads.
After a few days, the Marines would have amassed a stunning body count, possibly even as high as the 20,000 Persians credited to Leonidas and his forces, but they would be burned out of Thermopylae.
But if they could buy enough time, it’s unimaginable that the Navy and Marine Corps would not be able to get follow-on forces to Greece. And, using the Marine Corps’ amphibious capabilities, reinforcements could be rushed to the beaches just south of the battle.
Meanwhile, the Navy could press its jets into the fight, ensuring air superiority and providing a reprieve for the defenders.
Thanks to the mobility of America’s sea services and Thermopylae’s location on a coast, the battle could end much differently for the Marines standing where the Spartans once fell.
It’s Saturday, but most of you enlisted fellows blew your paycheck last weekend and are now looking forward to sitting around the barracks this week. To alleviate your boredom, here are 13 military memes that made us laugh.
See, we know about you, privates.
Yay, submarines! A phallic object filled with phallic objects!