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This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster

Only in Patton’s Army could a mild-mannered history teacher from Moline, Illinois, join the service and become forever immortalized as “Bazooka Charlie.”


Charles Carpenter joined the Army as a pilot shortly after America’s entry into World War II. He became an aerial artillery observer with the 4th Armored Division of Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army. It was here Carpenter became a legend on both sides of the war.

By the time he arrived in Europe in 1944, then-Maj. Carpenter had a lot of flying time training for artillery observation and reconnaissance. However, his first great feat in Europe was not in the air, it was on the ground.

While scouting for advanced landing fields in a jeep near Avranches, France, Carpenter came across a unit pinned down by Germans holding a nearby town. He ran up to the lead tank, jumped on the .50 cal machine gun, fired off a burst at the Germans, and yelled, “Let’s Go!”

Although technically not the leader of the unit, the men followed his commands and assaulted the town, capturing it in minutes. Unfortunately, Carpenter ordered the tank he was riding to fire at what he thought was an enemy tank. The shot took the bulldozer plow off a fellow American tank.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Carpenter next to his L-4. (Library of Congress photo)

He was arrested after the incident and threatened with a firing squad before his commanding general came to his rescue. He was told to expect a court-martial — until word of his exploits reached Gen. Patton. Patton personally stopped the court-martial proceedings and instead awarded Carpenter a Silver Star for his bravery, saying Carpenter was “the kind of fighting man I want in my army.”

After the incident, Carpenter kept to the skies, but he certainly wasn’t out of the fight. Though discouraged by his plane’s lack of armament and offensive capability, he heard rumors of other scout pilots attaching weapons to their planes. He conceived an idea that would truly make him famous in the European Theater.

With the help of an ordinance tech and a crew chief, Carpenter attached two M1 bazookas to the struts of his L-4 Grasshopper (the military version of a Piper Cub), which he then promptly dubbed “Rosie the Rocketer.” Each bazooka was controlled electronically from switches in the cockpit and could be fired individually or at the same time.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster

It wasn’t long before Carpenter scored his first kill, taking out a German armored car. He wasn’t satisfied with just blasting light vehicles, so he added four more bazookas. He also managed to acquire the improved M9 bazooka, which was capable of firing M6A3 High Explosive Anti-Tank rounds.

Carpenter’s methods for destroying German armor earned him another nickname, the “Mad Major.” His technique was to perform a shallow dive at enemy tanks and then blast them from 100 meters before pulling up and out of range of enemy small arms fire.

Although the technique was effective, it was downright crazy. Many of Carpenter’s fellow pilots who heard his exploits decided they would give it a try as well “but found that driving their frail aircraft into a hail of German small arms fire was extremely unhealthy,” the Lawrence Journal-World reported, “and returned to their observation duties.”

“Bazooka Charlie” soon racked up more kills – including two of the feared German Tiger tanks. In one instance, Carpenter destroyed a German column, then landed in a field to check out the still-burning remnants of his work. While on the ground, he captured six Germans with a discarded rifle he happened to pick up.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
A German Tiger tank in Sicily, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

In another instance, he spotted infantry forces under attack by German armor. He dove into the fray and fired all his rockets. He then returned to his airfield to reload then returned to the battle. Carpenter made three trips to the battlefield. He helped break up the attack, destroying two German tanks in the process.

“Some people around here think I’m nuts,” Carpenter once said, “but I just believe that if we’re going to fight a war, we have to go on with it 60-minutes an hour and 24-hours a day.”

And get on with it he did. By war’s end, Carpenter was credited with destroying six enemy tanks, making him a tank ace, though his total count and contributions are likely much higher.

It wasn’t just the Americans who took notice of Bazooka Charlie’s exploits. Carpenter himself once said “Word must be getting around among those Krauts to watch out for Cubs with bazookas on them. Every time I show up now, they shoot with everything they have. They never used to bother Cubs. Bazookas must be bothering them a bit.”

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Crew chiefs attach a bazooka to Carpenter’s L-4. (U.S. Army photo)

Despite flying an unprotected aircraft right into the enemy to score his kills, Carpenter was never wounded. For his exploits during the war, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster to go with his Silver Star.

After the war, “Bazooka Charlie” once again became Mr. Carpenter and went back to teaching high school history in Illinois before losing a battle with cancer in 1966.

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This is the Russian infantry weapon that has the US military so worried

Soviet military weapons have an odd tendency to stay both dangerous and relevant decades after they’re issued. They might lack the creature comforts and modularity of modern firearm designs, but whether a bullet finds its mark from a World War I Mosin Nagant rifle, or a next generation Russian bullpup SVD sniper rifle, the result is the same.


The largest example of this, is the infamous AKM/AK-47. Every tin-pot dictatorship or ex-Soviet satellite nation has churned out terrifying numbers of these reliable automatic rifles. While the AKM is a deadly adversary at close and medium range, it is handily outclassed (both in accuracy, and effective range) by modern Western-made military rifles like the M4A3 and M16A4.

That said, there is one Soviet firearm that continues to confound and frustrate American military forces in the Middle East: the PKM.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
The internal workings of the PKM aren’t dissimilar to those of the AK, and because of this, the PKM is remarkably reliable and resilient to negligent treatment. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The PKM or Modernizirovanniy Pulemyot Kalashnikova (PK Machinegun Modernized) is a belt-fed, open-bolt, long-stroke light machine gun chambered in the hard-hitting 7.62x54R cartridge — the same round used by Russian infantry in World War I, Vietcong snipers in Indochina, and modern Russian Federation snipers wielding the infamous Dragunov.

The internal workings of the PKM aren’t dissimilar to those of the AK, and because of this, the PKM is remarkably reliable and resilient to negligent treatment.  This robust construction combined with its powerful cartridge, make for an extraordinarily dangerous weapon against Western militaries — especially since the PKM has an effective range of 1,000-1,500 meters, putting it on par or surpassing most DMR rifles, and light machine guns in service.

Personally, after firing less than 100 rounds through a stateside PKM at an ordnance-testing facility in Nevada, I was able to successfully engage human-sized steel targets with iron sights at 600 yards with frightening regularity. This was with 60-year-old ammunition out of a PKM built in the 1970s with more than a half-million rounds fired through it.

The threat posed by this LMG to American and NATO forces is not lost on military thinkers or modern weapon-makers. In fact, the PKM is the impetus behind the latest evolution of the medium machine gun – the lightweight, medium machine gun, or LWMMG.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (Offical Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado/released)

Historically, machine guns are grouped into three categories: light, medium and heavy (and occasionally general purpose). The last two, medium and heavy, are crew-served weapons, normally fired from either a tripod or vehicle mount. These are generally not considered man-portable, but are designed to provide constant fire on an area.

The light machine gun, or LMG generally fires a smaller caliber round than the medium or heavy machine gun, and is designed to be used and transported by a single soldier. These weapons are fired from a bipod, but are light enough to be quickly repositioned in the field.

The 5.56mm caliber M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) is a prime example of a light machine gun, while the .50 BMG M2 is a perfect example of a heavy machine gun. The M2 is tremendously more effective at all ranges than the M249, but its tremendous weight and size make it a poor choice for urban environments.  The M240B almost splits the difference, but its 7.62 cartridge is still out-ranged by the Soviet PKM.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
The General Dynamics Lightweight Medium Machine Gun chambered in .338 Norma Magnum has the reach and lethality of a .50 cal M2. (Photo from General Dynamics video screen grab)

Thus the idea behind the LWMMG, is to combine the lightweight, portable nature of the the LMG with the extended range, and increased ballistic effectiveness of the MMG.

The engineers at General Dynamics are attempting this by incorporating a new “Short Recoil Impulse Averaging” method of operation coupled with a new modified .338 cartridge. At first glance, this seems like the scribblings of someone with no practical experience behind any of these weapon systems. On paper, a man-portable machine gun with the effective range of a .50 BMG, that weighed at little as the M240B with no more recoil than the 240, seems impossible.

If the footage of the new LWMMG released by General Dynamics is any indication, the new machine gun is more than just a concept. What remains to be seen, is whether or not the Pentagon puts enough importance on infantry combat and their equipment, to justify spending millions on upgrading it.

If nothing else, the likelihood of the General Dynamics LWMMG finding its way into the hands of US Special Forces is all but guaranteed. And while the increased effective range of the new cartridge is very impressive, the .338 round lacks the ballistic effectiveness of the .50 BMG. After all, it isn’t intended to double as an anti-material round, nor does it have the anti-vehicle lineage of the .50 BMG cartridge.

That said, the .338 is designed with an ideal ballistic coefficient in mind — meaning the projectile itself sails through the air with minimal resistance. In effect, this means the rounds travel closer to where the soldier aims them.

In the traditional role of an MMG or HMG, this is sometimes seen as detrimental, as the weapon is supposed to be used to provide a field of fire to an area. If the rounds are too precise, the area might be under less wide-spread fire, and potentially leave some enemy combatants unsuppressed.

However, in this case, precision is key. Since the impetus behind the design is to counter insurgent PKM/PKP light machine guns. Conceptually, this should allow our soldiers to out-range insurgent elements, as well as provide more accurate counter-fire.

As for results, we’ll have to wait and see if the idea gains more traction – and if it does, wait a few months or years for an official reports of its combat effectiveness to surface.

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This is how Christopher Nolan faithfully revives ‘The Dunkirk Spirit’

Not many film sets have to scan for unexploded ordnance before production can begin — but filming “Dunkirk” required just that. Luckily, nothing was left behind from a battle now more than 75 years old, and director Christopher Nolan was able to bring “The Dunkirk Spirit” back to life.


This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
(Warner Bros.)

In 1940, the outcome of World War II looked bleak for Europe. France fell within weeks of the start of the German blitzkrieg, and the British Expeditionary Force — along with its French and Belgian allies — was trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk by the Nazi war machine.

Their salvation wasn’t coming from the Royal Navy or Air Force. No reinforcements were on the way. There would be more battles to fight, and those ships, planes, and men would be needed for the coming days.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay put Operation Dynamo, a planned evacuation of the British forces from Dunkirk, into action. In Dynamo, the British military enlisted the aid of British civilians and their personal boats to ferry the men off the beaches and take them back to the home island.

The 400,000 stranded at Dunkirk would just have to survive.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster

Sometimes, survival is enough.

Survival is what Christopher Nolan’s new film “Dunkirk” is about. The director has said numerous times that “Dunkirk” is not a war movie.

“People will call it what they want to call it when they see it,” Nolan told We Are The Mighty. “For me, having never fought in a war, the idea of diving in and telling a war story is daunting, it felt presumptuous. This is not something that I profess to be knowledgeable about. What I was fascinated by was the evacuation itself which to me, it’s not so much a conventional war story, it’s an honor story. It’s a race against time.”
The men on the beach at Dunkirk had to maintain their grit and their stiff upper lip in the face of an enemy that had them outgunned and surrounded. This spirit of determination became known in British culture as “The Dunkirk Spirit.”

“It has a deep meaning for the English people,” says Mark Rylance, who plays one of the Little Ship captains who sails for Dunkirk. “We were the underdogs on that beach but we rose to the occasion and eluded the enemy. The Dunkirk Spirit has to do with that perseverance, endurance, and also selflessness.”

An experience is an apt description of Dunkirk. The movie is shot on 65mm IMAX film, making for a truly immersive WWII moviegoing experience for the viewer. “Dunkirk’s” visual beauty comes from the attention to detail Nolan brings to telling the stories — from filming the movie at the beaches of Dunkirk, to the British .303 rifles, and the use of the real “Little Ships” (as they came to be called) in the film.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Mark Rylance portrays Dawcett, a Little Boat captain. (Warner Bros.)

Nolan even crossed the English Channel on a small vessel, similar to one of the little ships. His voyage took 19 hours in the choppy seas of the channel.

“It was a very arduous crossing,” the director notes. “And that was without anyone bombing us. What really stuck with me was the notion of civilians taking small boats into a war zone. They could see the smoke and the fires for many miles. So their willingness to do that and what that says about communal spirit are extraordinary.”

The director was even able to sit down with veterans of the BEF at Dunkirk, who told him of their experience and added to the historical value of the film.

“There are very few left since 1914 so it was an honor for me to experience,” Nolan says. “They very generously met with us and told us of their experiences. It’s one thing to study history with books. It’s another to sit across the table from someone who’s actually lived it and listen to their story.”

Dynamo’s plan was to save at least 40,000 men from encirclement and destruction. The Little Ships helped pull a total of 338,000 troops off the beach.

The “Dunkirk” story extends beyond the beaches and seas of the French coast. Nolan’s film tells the story from three points of view, using fictional characters to tell the full story of what happened on the land, seas, and in the air. It took about a week for ground troops to get off the beach via a mole (a large breakwater, often with a wooden pier built atop it), a day to cross the channel by boat, and an hour to cross by air.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster

Nolan’s story spans all three time frames and he faithfully recreates the extraordinary measures everyone at Dunkirk — including those in the skies above — took to survive. The operation to pull the recreation together was like a military operation in itself: thousands of extras, real French destroyers, and roaring British Spitfire and German ME-109 engines.

The effort took a toll on the filmmakers as well.

“I chose to really try and put the audience into that situation,” Nolan says. “Make them feel some degree of what it would be like to be there on that beach. I’d like the audience to go home with an understand of what happened there and hopefully some interest and respect for the war and the history of the real-life events”

“Dunkirk” opens in theaters July 21st.

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Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words

The Imperial Stormtroopers featured in Star Wars are a big deal. Culturally, they are one of the most recognizable henchmen and foot soldiers in all of American pop culture history. So when we see so many iterations of the iconic armor, it makes sense that so many want to know more about them… and that they care about what lies beneath.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens features new kinds of specialty Imperial troops as well as updates on the original, iconic Imperial Stormtrooper, not to mention Gwendoline Christie’s chrome-plated trooper armor she wears as Captain Phasma.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
I mean, shiny armor in combat seems like a bad idea, but it doesn’t seem so bad here.

The First Order Flametrooper is a specialized Stormtrooper. They carry incendiary weapons that “turn any battlefield into an infernal blaze.” Flamethrowers are not exactly a battlefield innovation, though since this was “a long time ago,” it might have been for them. It does speak to the evil nature of the First Order since the weapon was banned by the Geneva Convention.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
… But it still uses liquid fuel, pumps, and hose technology.

See Also: EA releases combat stats for ‘Star Wars Battlefront’ and the results are amazing

And then there’s the updated First Order Snowtrooper. Let’s be honest, the Snowtroopers were the only troops from the original trilogy who had any effectiveness on the battlefield. The Snowtroopers captured the Rebel base on Hoth, where regular Stormtroopers couldn’t duck while entering doorways and Imperial Scouts couldn’t even beat Ewoks on a planet they occupied long enough to build the Death Star.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Also, the original Snowtroopers don’t seem all that warm.

But even though no one in the audience ever saw the faces underneath Stormtrooper armor in the previous films, the idea of a Stormtrooper being a black man caught a few people by surprise when audiences first saw actor John Boyega in the armor. It doesn’t make much sense for people to be surprised since the Armed Forces have historically led the way for racial and other forms of integration.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Draftees in Korea on their way to the front.

Finn (played by John Boyega) doesn’t think it’s important either.

“I really don’t care about the black stormtrooper stuff,” he said.  “This is a movie about human beings, about Wookiees, spaceships, and TIE fighters, and it has an undertone and a message of courage, and a message of friendship, and loyalty. And I think that’s something that is ultimately important.”

Which is pretty much the same takeaway anyone who served had when President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 in 1948, which abolished racial discrimination in the U.S. military. Three years later, the U.S. was fighting in Korea. In war, as one Korea-era Marine Corps officer once told me, “after you’ve fought alongside a man, it doesn’t matter what color he is, you gotta respect his fighting ability.”

See Also: Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq Afghanistan

Joe Owen, then a Marine Corps lieutenant and author of Colder Than Hell, a retrospective about his time in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, remembered getting two young black men in his mortar company.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Joe Owen, age 90.

“We had some black guys who came to us who were named squad leaders. Some of our people objected to this. Two Marines from the first platoon approached me and asked for a transfer to my outfit because a black guy was their squad leader. They refused to take orderes from him,” Owen recalled. “I told them they were going to take orders from a  Sergeant of Marines and that they were to go back to their outfit. After one night of fighting the Chinese, that squad leader was killed. I was on the detail of carrying the dead and wounded to battalion, and as I’m taking my column down, those same two Southerners came up to me and said they wanted to go with their squad leader and carry his body down because they said they wanted to pay proper respect to the best goddamn squad leader in the Marine Corps. That’s how that was settled.”

What the First Order Stormtrooper needs most is the ability to stop and aim. Kylo Ren was a Marine for crying out loud. Empire Fi.

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Watch this huge guided missile destroyer turn on a dime

The Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers is huge – and they are some of the most powerful ships in the world.


These 9,000-ton ships are armed with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems (with 90 to 96 cells), two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, and a 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System. Some even carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
USS Gonzalez at a more sedate pace. (US Navy photo)

But sometimes, the firepower ain’t the solution. Far from it, in some cases. Say the Iranians are up to their usual… antics. That is when the destroyer will need to move.

The ship can go fast – over 30 knots, thanks to her gas turbine propulsion. She also can turn – and for a ship this big, she turns on a dime.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
USS Farragut (DDG 99) comes out of a high-speed turn. (US Navy photo)

Do those turns matter? You bet they can. The fast turn can help avoid one of those “fast attack craft” the Iranians use. If a torpedo is fired, the turn can also buy time once the ship’s AN/SLQ-25 Nixie goes off.

Torpedo seekers do not have a long range, so the turn at high speed can allow the ship to escape an attack.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
What can happen when a torpedo hits: South Korean and American officers walk past what os left the ROK Navy corvette ROKS Cheonan (PCC 772). A non-contact homing torpedo or sea-mine exploded near the ship March 26, 2010, sinking it, resulting in the death of 46 ROK Navy sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jared Apollo Burgamy)

You can see the destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) make one of these high-speed turns in this video below. Making such a turn does take practice – mostly because if the gear ain’t stowed right, there is likely to be one hell of a mess. But a mess to clean up is much better than a torpedo hit.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

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What German soldiers thought about Americans in the aftermath of World War I

American intelligence wasn’t particularly developed around the time of World War I. In fact, Americans, especially President Woodrow Wilson, didn’t much care for the idea of American spies. 

As the war raged on in Europe, the positive results of intelligence activities conducted by the British began to change people’s minds. In fact, British intelligence collecting the Zimmerman Telegram helped get the U.S. into the war in the first place. The note was an offer by Germany to support Mexico in a war with the United States, should the U.S. enter World War I. The British intercepted the note and published it for the world to see. 

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
A satirical political cartoon by Rollin Kirby depicts a bomb, labelled “Zimmerman note,” exploding in German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman’s hands. (Wikimedia Commons)

After the war, American military intelligence officers reviewed troves of documents that detailed interrogations and intercepted diplomatic cables. They compiled the opinions of German soldiers and citizens upon meeting Americans for the first time. 

It was released in a 1919 report called “Candid Comment on The American Soldier of 1917-1918 and Kindred Topics by The Germans.”

The preface of the 84-page report says it contains the unedited, “unfavorable criticism” of Germans against Americans and soldiers in the American Expeditionary Forces and that “much of the comment is favorable is, therefore, significant.”

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Library of Congress

Here are the top 10 comments about the American soldier from the point of view of their German enemy:

1. Chief of Staff for General von Einem, commander of the Third German Army:

“I fought in campaigns against the Russian Army, the Serbian Army, the Roumanian Army, the British Army, the French Army, and the American Army. All told, in this war I have participated in more than 80 battles. I have found your American Army the most honorable of all our enemies. You have also been the bravest of our enemies and in fact the only ones who have attacked us seriously in this year’s battles. I therefore honor you, and, now that the war is over, I stand ready, for my part, to accept you as a friend.”

2. M. Walter of Minderlittgen:

“The attitude of the American officer towards enlisted men is very different than in our army in which officers have always treated their men as cattle.”

3. Letter extract:

“We shall have a look at the American: the embitterment against him is great. We should have been relieved, but now the American Division has been identified and therefore our Army General Staff has selected the best of our divisions for use against it.”

4. Intelligence from German Deserter: 

“The Americans have a reputation for irresistible courage.”

5. A Captured German Officer:

“One of the captured officers was profoundly impressed by the manner in which the Americans fight. He speaks of their valor, their energy and their scorn of danger. “We shall be obliged to take into account troops which are so well-armed and infused with such a spirit.”

6. German troops in Alsace:

“The troops recently arrived in Alsace were strongly impressed by the good showing of Americans under fire. They mention occurrences in a battle in which they took part, where groups of American soldiers were killed to the last man rather than surrender. Most of the men are still completely dumbfounded. The declare that all is lost.”

7. Escaped Russian Prisoners:

“We have seen numerous French, Italian and British prisoners, but no Americans. The Germans fear the Americans more than any other enemy forces on the front.”

8. Germans at Verdun:

“The soldiers were against the Rainbow Division near Verdun and said they don’t want any more such fighting as they encountered there. The Americans were always advancing and acted more like wild men than soldiers.”

9. James Levy at Remagen

“The Germans have nothing but words of praise for the manner in which American soldiers fight. Admiring their nerve and courage. Their way of advancing greatly discouraged the Germans. The American way of making drives also disheartened them considerably as they were followed up in such quick succession that no opportunity was given to the German to make a quick stand and to dig in and fortify themselves.”

10.  Ludwig Kreuger of Carweiler

“No one can tell me now that they [the Americans] are green and untrained boys, for I know better.”

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The 9 day jobs of brutal dictators

Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s not as if a young boy from Tikrit woke up one day and decided he would be known as “the Butcher of Baghdad.” It’s far more likely such a boy would just become a butcher. (And for the record, Saddam Hussein was trained to be a lawyer.)


This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Dictators at the Syrian Arab Summit, arguing about the most efficient ways to kill their own people. The winner was Hafez al-Asad, who decided to bulldoze the city of Hama, killing people and burying them at the same time.

Dictators are just like the rest of us (at least, at first). If they’re not born into powerful families, they will likely need to help their families make extra cash to survive or just make a living on their own until circumstances afford them the chance to take hold of the state’s coffers while stomping on the necks of their enemies real and perceived.

Here are the ways a few brutal dictators made ends meet while waiting for their big breaks:

Ho Chi Minh – Baker

The leader of the Vietnamese independence movement that liberated his home country from colonial France, as well as the figurehead for the North Vietnamese who fought the United States during the 1960s and 1970s also brought a brutal form of Communism to Vietnam. 50,000 to 100,000 people are thought to have been killed in his rise to power. He once said: “Anyone who does not follow the line determined by me will be smashed.”

Ho Chi Minh in 1921 (French National Library photo) Ho Chi Minh in 1921 (French National Library photo)

Before that, he claimed to be a baker at the Parker House Hotel while living in Boston in the early years of the 20th Century. He also spent time living in New York City, working in a series of menial labor jobs.

Pol Pot – Teacher

Born Saloth Sar, Pol Pot studied a number of disciplines as young man, but proved as capable a student as he was a capable leader, which is to say, not at all. He failed as a student in both France and his native Cambodia. When he came back, he taught at a school in the capital of Phnom Penh until he was forced out by the government.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Pol Pot’s students of life. (via Flickr User totalitarism)

In response, he changed his name to Pol Pot and took charge of the Khmer Rouge, ousting the government and installing himself as leader in 1975. He ruled for four years, presiding over the deaths of a million Cambodians after implementing disastrous economic, agricultural, and cultural reforms. Luckily for the average Cambodian, Vietnam invaded in 1979 to overthrow the regime.

Adolf Hitler – Artist

The boy who was all set to become a priest dropped out of the seminary in 1903 to be come a professional painter. His works were exact, unremarkable, unemotional landscapes that “was ripe for instruction he never received.” He moved to Vienna in 1908 and struggled there as a poor artist while the city’s culture incubated his racist and anti-Semitic ideas.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Hitler’s German Service Photo (Wikimedia Commons)

He left Vienna to dodge the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s draft for World War I. He was deemed unfit for service later anyway. He did volunteer in the Bavarian Army as a dispatch runner.

François Duvalier – Doctor

Haiti’s 40th president was a democratically elected black nationalist and classically trained doctor, which made him an excellent butcher of 30,000-60,000 Haitians. His education also earned him the nickname “Papa Doc.”

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Papa Doc with Nelson Rockefeller (Center for Latin American Studies)

The 41st President of Haiti was his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was handed the name “Baby Doc,” despite not being a doctor at all. Baby Doc fled Haiti after a 1986 rebellion toppled the government.

Benito Mussolini – Author

Many dictators penned books. Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book is one of the bestselling books of all time. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. Mussolini wrote romance novels. That’s right, romance novels.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Mussolini at the March on Rome (Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain)

The Cardinal’s Mistress tells the tragic story of,a 17th-century Catholic clergyman and his mistress. Lines like “cast a ray of your light into my darkened soul,” do much toward explaining why he was made to take the other fork in the career road, the one marked “dictator.”

Bashar al-Asad – Opthalmologist

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
(Kremlin Photo)

A graduate of Damascus University, Asad spent time as a doctor in his father’s (Syrian “President” Hafez al-Asad) army. He studied ophthalmology at London’s Western Eye Hospital. He returned to Syria when his brother Bassel was killed in a car crash to be groomed to take over for his father as “President” of Syria. Before ascending to leadership, his only administrative role ever, was head of the Syrian Computer Society.

Than Shwe – Mailman

The man who shipped almost a million Burmese people off to jungle gulags and work camps led one of the most repressive, autocratic regimes in the history of Earth. The military junta led by Than Shwe even executed Buddhist monks by the hundreds, dumping their bodies in the wilds and countrysides of Burma.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Shwe is rumored to have colon cancer that can’t metastasize fast enough. (Government of Thailand photo)

As a younger man, fresh from school, Than Shwe worked at the Meikhtila Post Office as a postal clerk before enlisting in the Burmese Army and becoming an officer who would later be Prime Minister.

Muammar Qaddafi – Goat Herder

No one knows exactly when Qaddafi was born, but it’s widely known his family comes from a Bedouin tribe of nomads who were illiterate and didn’t maintain birth records. His father was a camel and goat herder who wanted his son to attend school.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Obviously no longer a goat herder.

Qaddafi would seize power in 1969 while the pro-Western King Idris was away on state business. Qaddafi increased the Libyan quality of life at the cost of mass political repression and extrajudicial killings. In the early days of the Civil War that would lead to his overthrow and death, he ordered his army to starve the citizens of his own cities and kill any government troops who surrendered to the rebels.

Stalin – Weatherman

Joseph Stalin, the brutal Russian dictator and one of the deadliest dictators in history was actually born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, a Georgian seminary student with webbed toes. He dropped out of the seminary and worked as a meteorological clerk before joining Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Movement. He started using the name Stalin around 1912.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Also he was apparently a god-damned hipster 70 years before it was a thing.

The estimated number of people killed by Stalin’s regime and its policies range between three and sixty million Soviet citizens, with the higher victim estimates being more common among experts.

 

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The only time the Soviet Union officially fought the US was in brutal air combat

In October 1944, WWII was still raging all across Europe. On the Eastern Front, Red Army troops in Yugoslavia were making their way to bolster other Soviet forces in the region when American P-38 Lightning fighters started raining lead on them.


In response, the Soviet Air Force launched two groups of its premiere fighter of the time, the Yakovlev Yak-3. The Yaks fought the Yanks for a good 15 minutes over the Yugoslav (now Serbia) town of Niš. No one knows exactly how or where the error started, but each side fought the other viciously, thinking they were fighting Nazis.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Soviet Yak-9s in flight. ‘The pilots who flew it regarded its performance as comparable to or better than that of the Messerschmitt Bf-109G and Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-3/A-4. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Americans’ small taste of the brutality of Eastern Front combat cost dozens of Soviet and American lives.

The Soviets claimed the American fighters were 400 kilometers off course, and thus saw the Red Army ground forces as an unknown German force. Others believe the meetup was intentional, but that the Red Army moved faster than anticipated. When the Americans encountered a significant force 100 kilometers ahead of the expected Allied position, they engaged.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
(Norwich University)

No matter what, the result was an intense air battle that both countries have kept classified for decades. Norwich University calls it the 8th largest air battle in history, even though the exact number of American fighters is unknown.

In fact, most official details are still classified, but both the United States and Russia admit the event occurred. An estimated 30 Soviet ground troops and airmen died in the fighting and Soviet accounts tell of P-38 fighters being shot down.

Another account of the battle, from Soviet Colonel Nikolai Shmelev, details American fighters strafing the airfields near Niš as Russian Yakovlev-9 planes were taxiing to fend off the U.S. Lightnings.

This would not be the only time Soviet and American fighter pilots would tangle with each other in the coming years. They would also fight (unofficially) over the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam, not to mention the numerous Cold War incidents of airspace violations and interceptions.

Enjoy some WWII gun camera footage from the P-38:

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These 5 military drills would be amazing Olympic events

The U.S. Olympic team’s stars – Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles – stole the show during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, performing record-breaking feats on the world stage.


But what if the Olympics featured elite athletes crawling under barbed wire or running with an 80-pound rucksack for 5, 10, or even 20 miles? Our men and women in uniform could be winning gold if the following military activities were official competitions:

1. Obstacle course

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
During a team-building challenge, 1st Lt. Alan Roy (right), a platoon leader from Strawberry, Minn., and Sgt. Luis Garcia, a squad leader from Bryant, Texas low-crawl through an obstacle course. The two Soldiers’ teams endured six other events after completing the obstacle course. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski)

Obstacle courses are a full body workout consisting of running, climbing tall structures, jumping over walls, and (of course) crawling in the mud under barbed wire. These courses are mental as much as they are physical, testing courage and willpower. Obstacle courses would make up for some interesting drama if it was an Olympic event – add live fire for a fun twist.

2. Drill and Ceremony

Drill and Ceremony teams have to be disciplined, precise, and work as a single unit. Timing and repetition are vital for a successful routine. DC routines are sort of like synchronized swimming — without the water and shiny outfits.

3. Log drills

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Plebes carry a modified telephone pole during the log PT station of Sea Trials, the capstone training exercise for Naval Academy freshmen. (U.S. Navy photo by Midshipman 3rd Class Dominic Montez)

Usain Bolt may be the fastest man in the world, but what if the Jamaican track and field star was carrying a large log on his shoulder instead of holding a baton?

Military members are no strangers to doing PT with a large wooden log that could weigh in excess of 150 pounds or more. From overhead presses to squats and running with the heavy log, this exercise tests the strength and cardiovascular endurance of service members. This event would sure make for an interesting 4x100m relay in Rio.

4. Ruck marching

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
U.S. soldiers assigned to the Florida Army National Guard conduct a 12-mile ruck march with 218th Regiment (Leadership). (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

The Olympic marathon is one of the original events of the modern Olympic Games that started in 1896. The 26.2-mile race is definitely a grueling event but at least the runners do not have to carry a heavy rucksack on their back, wear boots and full military uniform. U.S. service members would certainly have an advantage if rucking was an Olympic competition.

5. Javelin

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
U.S. Army soldiers with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division shoot the Javelin, an anti-tank weapon, at the Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, on July 28, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

The Javelin throw is a track field event where a competitor throws a long spear for distance. But why throw a spear when you can fire an FGM-148 Javelin – an anti-tank missile – for both distance and accuracy? Now that’s must-watch TV.

What military training do you think would make interesting Olympic events? Write your thoughts in the comments.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

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7 signs you’re a Blue Falcon

Everyone knows being a Blue Falcon is bad, but no one believes that they’re the blue falcon. Here are 7 indicators that maybe you should start shopping for nests.


1. When someone asks for volunteers, you immediately start thinking of who isn’t doing anything.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster

Look, it’s the platoon sergeant’s or the chief’s job to figure out who is doing what. If they don’t have a grip on their troop-to-task, that doesn’t make it O.K. for you to start naming who’s free for a tasking.

2. You find yourself saying, “Well, so-and-so did it earlier, first sergeant.”

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Blue falcons have their own barracks.

Keep your mouth shut, snitch. First sergeant doesn’t need to know who snuck to the barracks first during those engrossing Powerpoint presentations battalion put together. Let him yell at you until he runs out of steam, then go back to the stupid briefings and suck it up.

3. You make the kind of mistakes that trigger company recalls.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster

Everyone screws up a few times a year, which is normal. Not everyone screws up so badly that the entire rest of their unit has to come in Saturday morning. Maybe keep your infractions a little more discreet in the future.

Or, make your mistakes epic enough that the unit will enjoy the recall just because they get to hear the story. “Wait, we’re here because Schmuckatelli crashed the general’s car with the installation command sergeant major’s daughter in the front seat? Can I make popcorn before you start, first sergeant?”

4. You frequently hear bus sounds or the words, “Caw! Caw!”

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster

Yeah, your friends are trying to give you a hint, dude. You’re throwing people under the bus and then buddy f-cking them as they crawl out.

5. You take too much credit — especially for stuff you didn’t do with your own hands.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster

Always share credit. When you’re praised for rifle marksmanship, mention who helped you train. If you perform superbly at the board, mention the guys in your squad who quizzed you.

But, when you weren’t there, you shouldn’t take any credit. Say who actually did the work. Do not take the recognition, do not take the coin, do not tell stories about it later.

6. You’re always the guy that the team or squad leader has to pull aside.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster

Look, sucking at your job is a version of being the blue falcon. It’s not as malicious or direct as being a credit hog or a snitch, but not learning how to fulfill your position in the squad screws everyone else over. Read the manuals, practice the drills, watch the other guys in the squad. Learn your role.

7. Someone sent you this list or tagged you on Facebook in the comments.

Yeah, there’s a reason someone thought you, specifically, should read this list. Go back through it with a comb. Read each entry and keep a tally of which apply to you. Then, stop being a blue falcon. Caw caw.

NOW: The 7 biggest ‘Blue Falcons’ in US military history

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Enlisted airmen may begin flying drones this year, general says

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster
Northrop Grumman


Enlisted airmen could be piloting the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the Air Force’s biggest drone aircraft, before the year is out, according to a senior Air Force official.

Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Lt. Gen. John Raymond told lawmakers on Tuesday that “starting in the end of FY ’16 or FY ’17 we’re going to begin the transition to enlisted RPA pilots for Global Hawk aircraft.”

That means the first enlisted airmen to pilot the high-altitude surveillance drone made by Northrop Grumman Corp. could be in place before the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Raymond offered his remarks during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee, which is headed by Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced the move toward enlisted Global Hawk pilots just three months ago. They will fly the remotely piloted aircraft under the supervision of rated officers, she said.

Under questioning Tuesday by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Raymond confirmed that only the RQ-4 would be piloted by enlisted personnel — at least for now.

“I grew up in Space Operations,” Raymond said. “Years ago we started out with engineer officers who flew the satellites, then went to operator officers — you didn’t have to have an engineering degree — and then we transitioned to enlisted operators.

“We’re taking a very deliberate approach to this,” he added. “We’re going to start with the Global Hawk. We’re very comfortable our enlisted airmen are going to be able to do that [mission].”

The Air Force then will look at the possibility of having enlisted airmen fly the MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, which carry out strike in addition to surveillance missions, Raymond said.

McCain, noting the Air Force has a shortage of rated officers, asked whether it would not have been better to start off using enlisted personnel.

“I wasn’t in this position or this job at the time, but it’s where we are,” Raymond said. “I think it was important that we have a capability. It was a technology demonstrator with significant growth and I think using the pilots we had to do that was a smart move at that time.”

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Heroic Coast Guard ship from ‘Perfect Storm’ sunk for reef

The ship made famous in the book and subsequent film “The Perfect Storm” has been intentionally sunk off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts so it can become part of an artificial reef.


The sinking of the Tamaroa, a 205-foot (62-meter) Coast Guard vessel, took place May 10. The sinking initially was scheduled to occur several months ago, but was repeatedly delayed by rough seas and other related issues.

The vessel was sent down about 33 nautical miles (61 kilometers) off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey. It was deployed in water more than 120 feet (36.5 meters) deep after patches were removed from holes that were pre-cut into its hull, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The pre-cut holes were part of the extensive work that had to be done before the ship could be sunk, including the removal of interior paneling and insulation as well as emptying and cleaning the vessel of all fuel and fluids.

This daring Army aviator turned a scout plane into a tank-buster

The ship turned on its side as it slowly went down in the calm water, then turned straight up as the bulk of the vessel went under water. It then disappeared from view as a person on board a neighboring vessel thanked the Tamaroa for its long service.

A tugboat had started hauling the Tamaroa from a Norfolk, Virginia, shipyard on Monday afternoon and it slowly made its way up the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday without any issues.

The Tamaroa was first commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1934 under the name Zuni and saw action during World War II when it helped tow damaged vessels across the war-torn Pacific Ocean. It was transferred to the Coast Guard and renamed in 1946, then continued to serve until it eventually was decommissioned in 1994.

The vessel’s most notable mission came in October 1991, when three strong storm systems came together off the New England coast, generating 40-foot (12-meter) waves and wind gusts of more than 70 mph.

The Tamaroa’s crew helped save three people aboard a sailboat that was caught in the storm. They also rescued four of five crewmen of an Air National Guard helicopter that ran out of fuel during a similar rescue mission and had to be ditched in the ocean.

Both events were documented in Sebastian Junger’s 1997 book, “The Perfect Storm,” and a movie of the same name starring George Clooney.

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Special operators take the fight to the drug cartels in ‘Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ trailer

In the world of “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands,” the U.S. government has had enough of the shenanigans of the South American drug cartels and has dispatched their deadliest operators to kill the snake by cutting off its head.


The newly released trailer focuses on the tactics and capabilities of the “Ghosts,” Clancy’s fictional spec-ops creation and the subject of his games and novels dating back to 2001. So far, we know that “Wildlands” will allow small teams of players to fight in battlefields modelled after the Bolivian jungle.

Game developer Ubisoft Paris clearly wants to paint ‘Wildlands’ as a smarter alternative to more aggressive offerings from the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises, and to that end the trailer showcases the Ghosts using an assortment of tactics and technology — stealth takedowns, scout drones, etc. — to overpower the cartels’ lethal enforcers.

Check out the trailer below:

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