This is how the 'Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe' lost his looks - We Are The Mighty
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This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

With more than 900 missions under his belt, Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff was one of the most famous German fighter pilots during WWII and was reportedly known as the “Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe.”


Operating everywhere from the western to the eastern fronts, Steinhoff squared off with some of the world’s best pilots at the time and racked up  176 victories. But he was also shot down a dozen times.

The German ace nearly rode his damaged plane all the way down to the ground every time because he didn’t trust that the parachutes would properly deploy if he jumped out.

Related: These 7 American legends were pilots for the Flying Tigers

Although he was very efficient during the war, Steinhoff was known for spearheading the fighter pilots’ revolt of January 1945 by voicing concerns to the corrupt leadership in the Third Reich’s high command who in return accused their pilots of cowardice and treason.

For this role in the rebellion, Steinhoff was threatened by his commanders with court-martial and banishment to Italy.

Towards the end of the war, Steinhoff took flight on a mission in his Messerschmitt Me-262 jet but was shot down soon after by Allied forces — officially ending his involvement in war.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
This photo was taken during Steinhoff’s recovery. (Source: WW2 Gravestone)

The German ace fighter was so badly burned in his last crash he would receive 70 operations to help restore his facial structures.

In February 1994, the German general passed away from heart failure at the age of 80.

Also Read: These were some of the ballsiest pilots of WWII, and their planes didn’t even have engines

Check out David Hoffman‘s video below to hear this story from Johannes Steinhoff himself.

(David Hoffman, YouTube)
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Here is how Soviet flight crews entered the Tu-22 bomber

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks


The Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder might just have been one of the least pilot-friendly aircraft ever built by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, and that’s saying something, considering that MiG fighters were notorious for their cramped quarters and poor pilot visibility. The very first supersonic bomber to enter service with the Soviet Air Force, around 311 models were produced with a number going to Iraq and Libya as part of large export deals brokered by the USSR in the 1970s. Not only did the Blinder look like something out of a space-age comic book, it seemingly functioned like one as well. I mean, at least with how its aircrew entered the aircraft. Its performance characteristics were anything but next-generation, far from what the Soviets had hoped to accomplish with such an aircraft.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

The Tu-22 flew with a pilot, a navigator and a weapons officer as its full complement. Each crewmember sat in front of the other, and had to be “lifted” into the aircraft using a motorized chair. Unluckily for them, they were also firmly strapped to downward-firing K-22 ejection seats, which could not be used at altitudes below 820 feet. The runway handling dynamics of the aircraft were atrocious, leading to numerous mishaps without the Blinder even leaving the ground. But, at least it looked cool, right?

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The Navy’s new electronic warfare technology

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Boeing


The Navy is engineering a new, more powerful, high-tech electronic warfare jamming technology designed to allow strike aircraft to destroy enemy targets without being detected by modern surface-to-air missile defenses.

“The whole idea is to get the enemy air defense systems from seeing the strike package. It does not matter what type of aircraft we are protecting. Our mission is to suppress enemy air defenses and allow the mission to continue. This is not just designed to allow the aircraft to survive but also allow it to continue the mission – deliver ordnance and return home,” Cmdr. Earnest Winston, Electronic Attack Requirements Officer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The Next-Generation Jammer consists of two 15-foot long PODs beneath the EA-18G Growler aircraft designed to emit radar-jamming electronic signals; one jammer goes on each side of the aircraft.

“It is able to jam multiple frequencies at the same time — more quickly and more efficiently,” he said.

The emerging system uses a high-powered radar technology called Active Electronic Scanned Array, or AESA.

“It will be the only AESA-based carrier offensive electronic attack jamming pod it DoD. What it is really going to bring to the fleet is increased power, increased flexibility and more capacity to jam more radars at one time,” Winston added.

The NGJ, slated to be operational by 2021, is intended to replace the existing ALQ 99 electronic warfare jammer currently on Navy Growler aircraft.

One of the drawbacks to ALQ 99 is that it was initially designed 40-years ago and is challenged to keep up with modern threats and digital threats with phased array radars, increased power, increased processing and more advanced wave forms, Winston explained.

The Next-Generation Jammer is being engineered with what’s called “open architecture,” meaning it is built with open computing software and hardware standards such that it can quickly integrate new technologies as threats emerge.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Raytheon

For example, threat libraries or data-bases incorporated into a radar warning receiver can inform pilots of specific threats such as enemy fighter aircraft or air defenses. If new adversary aircraft become operational, the system can be upgraded to incorporate that information.

“We use threat libraries in our receivers as well as our jammers to be able to jam the new threat radars. As new threats emerge, we will be able to devise new jamming techniques. Those are programmable through the mission planning system through the mission planning system of the EA-18G Growler,” Winston explained.

While radar warning receivers are purely defensive technologies, the NGJ is configured with offensive jamming capabilities in support of strike aircraft such as an F/A-18 Super Hornet or F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The jammer is intended to preemptively jam enemy radars and protect aircraft by preventing air defenses from engaging.

“With surface-to-air missile systems, we want to deny that track an engagement opportunity. We try to work with the aircraft to jam enemy radar signals,” Winston added.

The NGJ could be particularly helpful when it comes to protecting fighter aircraft and stealth platforms like the B-2 bomber, now-in-development Long Range Strike-Bomber and the F-35 multi-role stealth fighter. The technology is designed to block, jam, thwart or “blind” enemy radar systems such as ground-based integrated air defenses – so as to allow attack aircraft to enter a target area, conduct strikes and then safely exit.

This is useful in today’s modern environment because radar-evading stealth configurations, by themselves, are no longer as dominant or effective against current and emerging air-defense technologies.

Today’s modern air defenses, such as the Russian-made S-300 and multi-function S-400 surface-to-air missiles, will increasingly be able to detect stealth aircraft at longer distances and on a wider range of frequencies. Today’s most cutting edge systems, and those being engineered for the future, use much faster computer processors, use more digital technology and network more to one another.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Raytheon

“Multi-function radars become much more difficult because you have a single radar source that is doing almost everything with phased array capability. However, with the increased power of the next-generation jammer we can go after those,” Winston said.

“It is a constant cat and mouse game between the shooter and the strike aircraft. We develop stealth and they develop counter-stealth technologies. We then counter it with increased jamming capabilities.”

The NGJ is engineered to jam and defeat both surveillance radar technology which can alert defenses that an enemy aircraft is in the area as well as higher-frequency “engagement” radar which allow air defenses to target, track and destroy attacking aircraft.

“The target engagement radar or control radar has a very narrow scope, so enemy defenses are trying to search the sky. We are making enemies search the sky looking through a soda straw. When the only aperture of the world is through a soda straw, we can force them into a very narrow scope so they will never see aircraft going in to deliver ordnance,” Winston said.

Winston would not elaborate on whether the NGJ’s offensive strike capabilities would allow it to offensively attack enemy radio communications, antennas or other kinds of electronic signals.

“It can jam anything that emits or receives and RF frequency in the frequency range of NGJ — it could jam anything that is RF capable,” he explained.

The U.S. Navy recently awarded Raytheon Company a $1 billion sole source contract for Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) for Increment 1 of the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), the advanced electronic attack technology that combines high-powered, agile, beam-jamming techniques with cutting-edge, solid-state electronics,” a Raytheon statement said.

Raytheon will deliver 15 Engineering Development Model pods for mission systems testing and qualification, and 14 aeromechanical pods for airworthiness certification.

The NGJ contract also covers designing and delivering simulators and prime hardware to government labs and support for flight testing and government system integration, Raytheon officials said.

Overall, the Navy plans to buy as many as 135 sets of NGJs for the Growler. At the same time, Winston did say it is possible that the NGJ will be integrated onto other aircraft in the future.

“This is a significant milestone for electronic warfare,” said Rick Yuse, president of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “NGJ is a smart pod that provides today’s most advanced electronic attack technology, one that can easily be adapted to changing threat environments. That level of sophistication provides our warfighters with the technological advantage required to successfully prosecute their mission and return home safely.”

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Here are the winners of the 2015 US military photographer awards

Every year, the U.S. military’s photographers, videographers, and graphic artists submit their work to a panel of seasoned photographers in the Visual Information Award Program at Fort Meade, Maryland. There are nine separate categories in which photographers compete, including Military Photographer of the Year.


Here are this year’s winners along with detailed explanations of each photo:

Military Photographer of the Year: Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston, United States Air Force

“Generations of Battle”

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Dan Kelsey, a farmer from Clyde, N.Y. and World War II veteran who served in the Army Air Corps, sits on the rear bumper of his van, crouched over with both hands covering his face due to exhaustion and body ailments brought on by a long day of selling produce at the Central New York Regional Market, Sept. 5, 2015, Syracuse, N.Y. Dan and his son Carl Kelsey raise and harvest their own produce to sell at the market each week. Dan has been selling his crops at the market since 1938, in between his time in the military where he served as an aircraft mechanic on the B-26 Invader. While some years in the farming industry are better than others, 2015 has proven to be a tough one for Dan and his son as the production of their crops has been down due to weather conditions thus resulting in a loss of money. The father and son team normally bring approximately 150 baskets of tomatoes to sale at the market along with other produce which earns them nearly $1,500 on a good day but they have only been able to bring about 40 baskets each time this year knocking their earnings down to about $600, less than half their normal profit. As summer narrows and the weather changes, it could possibly be a long winter for the WWII veteran and his son. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston)

“No More”

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Residents of Baltimore, Md. protest, riot, and loot after the funeral of Freddie Gray, April 27, 2015. Gray, died April 19, 2015 from a severe spinal injury that allegedly occurred while in police custody. Looting and riots broke out in Baltimore after the funeral. The Maryland governor declared a state of emergency and enlisted the aid of 2,000 soldiers from the Maryland National Guard to help disseminate the riot. Some of the people participating in the riot/protest explained that their actions were a part of the Black Lives Matter movement which began sweeping across the nation in 2012 after Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman fatally shot Martin who was a 17-year-old African American. Zimmerman, was the neighborhood watch coordinator. He shot Martin, who was unarmed, during an altercation between the two of them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Kenny Holston)

“The Heroin Highway”

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Allen Sanford, a homeless man with several health issues, a severe drug addiction and an impending divorce says he feels trapped and thinks he will be stuck on the streets and addicted to heroin for the rest of his life. Recently, Syracuse, N.Y. was statistically ranked number one for poverty and several town hall meetings have been held to come up with ideas on how to resolve the increasing heroin problem sweeping across the city. These images depict Sanford’s daily struggle with his addiction and surviving on the streets of Syracuse. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston)

“Tucked In”

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
A U.S. Air Force crew chief assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron, crawls out of the intake of an F-16 Fighting Falcon as she completes her post flight inspection on the aircraft, Jan. 15, 2015, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. Crews chiefs work around the clock to keep Shaw’s fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons mission ready at all times.(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston)

“Remembering a Legend”

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

Combat Operations Category

1st place: “Rushing to Save Lives,” by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey D. Anderson, USMC

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
A U.S. Air Force pararescueman with Joint Task Force 505 helps evacuate earthquake victims from an area near Cherikot, Nepal, after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the country, May 12. JTF 505 along with other multinational forces and humanitarian relief organizations are currently in Nepal providing aid after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country, April 25. At Nepal’s request the U.S. government ordered JTF 505 to provide unique capabilities to assist Nepal. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Jeffrey D. Anderson)

2nd place: “Operation Enduring Freedom Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa,” by Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Soldiers from Alpha Company,1st Armored Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, East Africa Response Force (EARF) bound to cover by section during a live fire training exercise at the Arta training range in Djibouti, May 30, 2015. The EARF is a quick reaction force designed to defend U.S. assets within the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook)

3rd place: “Delivering Hope,” by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey D. Anderson, USMC

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Nepalese army soldiers unload aid and relief supplies, delivered by Joint Task Force 505, from a UH-1Y Venom in the Kavrepalanchowk District, Nepal, May, 11, during Operation Sahayogi Haat. The Nepalese Government requested the U.S. Government’s assistance after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country, April 25. The U.S. government ordered JTF 505 to provide unique capabilities to assist Nepal. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Jeffrey D. Anderson)

News Category:

1st place: ” Dueling Demonstrations, by “Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Dueling demonstrations clash as the Klu Klux Klan holds a protest rally on the steps of the S.C. State House building at the same time as a New Black Panther Party rally coupled with other black activist groups, July19, 2015, Columbia, S.C. The KKK held the rally to protest against the removal of the Confederate Flag from the State House grounds which was taken down July 10, 2015. The demonstration groups nearly went head-to-head as both rallies concluded and ended up face-to-face in the streets of downtown Columbia. In this photo young African American men push past medal barricades which are the only thing between them and several KKK members as they shout at the Klan members to leave or die. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston)

2nd place: “Goodbye,” by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brett Baker, assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing, kisses his wife before leaving for a deployment from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Oct. 6, 2015. Members of the Air Force typically deploy several times throughout their career, often times leaving family members behind. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham)

3rd place: “Chairman In Thought,” by Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp, USA

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
38th Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, and 39th Chief of Staff of the Army Mark A. Milley stand in line prior to the start of the United States Army Change of Responsibility ceremony held at Summerall Field on Fort Myer, Va., Aug. 14, 2015. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno relinquished command of the U.S. Army to Gen. Mark A. Milley during the ceremony hosted by Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp)

Combat Training Category:

1st place: “Chow time,” by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
U.S. Air Force Combat Control trainees assigned to Operating Location C, 342nd Training Squadron, laugh with each other while sharing a meal ready to eat during a long day of training Feb. 13, 2015. Working as a team and keeping morale high within the unit is vital to each Airman’s success as they push through training. At the 342nd TRS both CCT and Special Operations Weather Team trainees go through four months of grueling tactical and class room training. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston)

2nd place: “Air Force Basic Military Training,” by Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Trainees practice proper security procedures before being sent out to their field training exercise. The week-long event exposes the trainees to conditions similar to what they’d see in a deployed environment and also gives the trainees an opportunity to work together as a team without the guidance of their instructors. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin)

3rd place: “View Behind the Lens,” Senior Airman Damon Kasberg, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Airman 1st Class Lane Plummer, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, photographs paratroopers from multiple allied nations as they exit a C-130J Super Hercules during International Jump Week, July 9, 2015 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The five-day event was led by the 435th Contingency Response Group and provided multiple nations the opportunity to work side-by-side, increasing interoperability and strengthening relationships. Paratroopers traveled from throughout Europe and as far away as New Zealand to build stronger partnerships by jumping out of aircraft assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein. (U.S. Air Force photo taken by Senior Airman Damon Kasberg)

Features Category:

(This category is for storytelling pictures, not news-related; usually situations that have strong human interest or a fresh view of a commonplace occurrences.)

1st place: “Tug Of War,” by Lance Cpl. Ryan P. Kierkegaard, USMC

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
U.S. Marines with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division participate in a tug of war competition during warrior night at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 1, 2015. Warrior night is an annual event held to build camaraderie in the battalion. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan P. Kierkegaard)

2nd Place: “Warrior CARE Event,” by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
A U.S. Air Force wounded warrior engages her core in preparation for exercises during an Air Force hosted North East Regional Warrior CARE event at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Nov. 17, 2015. The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program is a federally mandated program that provides personalized care, services and advocacy for wounded, ill and injured service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

3rd Place: “Koalafying,” by Master Sgt. Michel A. Sauret, USA

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

Illustrative Category:

(This category shows photographs produced to illustrate a pre-conceived theme, concept or idea, and does not include text or graphics.)

1st place: “The Last Patrol,” by Sgt. Matthew Callahan, USMC

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Advanced Recon Commandos rush to cover after being ambushed by separatist forces. The troopers were conducting a security patrol outside their company forward operating base when the droid forces attacked.
This image of 12-inch action figures is part of a larger photo essay telling the stories of the rank-and-file ground troops of the Star Wars universe through the lens of a combat correspondent. Conflict generally has been one of the biggest informants in the way pop culture creates stories. This photo essay, entitled “Galactic Warfighters” tethers the real and fictitious worlds more closely to each other. All elements of this image were captured in-camera. The image was converted to black and white with a contrast adjustment, sharpening and minor burning of the vignetted edges in post. (U.S. Marine Corps illustration by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)

2nd Place: “Smoking Costs,” by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
The average smoker spends more than 1,500 dollars a year on cigarettes. Most smokers overlook how much they are spending because buying cigarettes come in small, frequent purchases. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

3rd Place: “Let Them Speak,” by Staff Sergeant Douglas Ellis, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Three women die each day at the hands of their intimate partner according to the National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The military provides its members and families a variety of programs to reduce occurrences and aid victims. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sergeant Douglas Ellis)

Portrait Personality Category:

1st Place: “Arvin,” by Senior Airman Jordan A. Castelan, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Maj. Sherrill Arvin (ret.) has his portrait taken during an interview recapping his time in service during the 1940s 50s, 60s and 70s as an aviator in the Airman Heritage Museum on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, April 16, 2015. Arvin began his military involvement on JBSA-Lackland at the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center and continues by volunteering at the Airman Heritage Museum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan A. Castelan)

2nd Place: “Cowboy Al,” by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy, New York Air National Guard

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
At 95 years old, Al still works as the manager of a small ranch in Norco, California. A veteran of the Second World War, Al fought with the Seventh Armored Division, landing on the beaches of Normandy and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Additionally, Al has survived a major propane explosion and open heart surgery (New York Air National Guard photo by Staff Sergeant Christopher S. Muncy)

3rd Place: “Cowgirl,” by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl, USA

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Susan Peterson rests on her horse barn’s door in Norco, Calif., June 18, 2015. Peterson spent the morning playing with her horses and mule. The photo was taken during the 2015 Department of Defense Photography workshop held in Riverside, Calif. The workshop brought photographers and videographers from across the DOD together, while industry and military leaders mentored and developed them for a week. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl)

Pictorial Category:

(This category contains photographs that exploit the visual qualities of the subject with primary emphasis on composition and aesthetics.)

1st place: “Dusky Night,” by Cpl. Matthew Howe, USMC

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
A U.S. Marine with Bravo Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, stands untop of a Light Armored Vehicle 25 during duck for Steel Knight 16 (SK-16), at National Training Center Fort Irwin, Calif., Dec. 13, 2015. Steel Knight is an annual field training exercise that enables 1st Marine Division to test and refine its command and control capabilities by acting as the command element for a forward-deployed Marine Expeditionary Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Howe)

2nd place: “Gone, but Not Forgotten,” by Master Sgt. John R. Nimmo, Sr., USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Headstones pave the lawns of Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, Calif., June 17, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by by Master Sgt. John R. Nimmo, Sr.)

3rd place: “USNS Mercy Steams Forward,” by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark El-Rayes, USN

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) steams ahead during Pacific Partnership 2015. Pacific Partnership is in its tenth iteration and is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark El-Rayes)

Sports Photography Category:

1st place: “Catch!,” by Senior Airman Jordan A. Castelan, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Two soldiers play catch with a football while a fellow soldier watches the perimeter of the training grounds during the Expert Field Medic Badge course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Sept. 24, 2015. The EFMB is the non-combat equivalent of the Combat Medical Badge and is awarded to medical personnel of the U.S. military who successfully complete a set of qualification tests. (U.S. Air Force photo by by Senior Airman Jordan A. Castelan)

2nd place: “Overcomer,” by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr., USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly leaps over a gutter during training at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. In 2011, Connelly was involved in a motorcycle accident where he lost his left leg below the knee. He rehabilitated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC. Connelly was returned to duty and currently serves at the 175th Maintenance Squadron. Connelly takes part in many of the adaptive sports events and his main love is sprinting. He is training to be a part of the Paralympic track and field team for the 2016 Paralympic Games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

3rd place: “Fight Night,” by Cpl. Elize McKelvey, USMC

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
U.S. Marine Cpl. Roman Fernandez, left, and 1st Lt. Paul Hollwedel duke it out in the hangar bay of the USS Essex (LHD 2) at sea in the Pacific Ocean, May 29, 2015. Fernandez is a team leader and Hollwedel is the executive officer with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The Marines found unique ways to continue to maintain combat readiness during their seven-month deployment through the Pacific and Central Command areas. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Elize McKelvey)

Picture Story Category:

(This category is for photos that reveal a storyline or a single theme.)

1st place: “Air Force Boot Camp,” by Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Air Force Basic Military Training is an 8-week life changing program of physical and mental training required in order for an individual to become an airman in the U. S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force picture story by Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin)

2nd place: “Norco.” by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl, USA

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Citizens of Norco, Calif., share a lifestyle that stands as an oasis of Americana in the middle of Southern California, here, Jun. 18, 2015. (U.S. Army picture story by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl).

3rd place: “Obstacle Course.” by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos, USAF

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
U.S. Marine Corps recruits endure a 54-hour long training called the Crucible, a test that gauges their physical, mental and emotional strength. As recruits use different parts of their bodies to accomplish tasks and challenges along the way, they also have to work together and move as a unit in order to conquer the Crucible and become Marines. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos, USAF)

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US Army gives heroic Marine a posthumous medal upgrade to Silver Star

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff in Afghanistan in 2011. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps, Cpl. Joshua Murray)


The family of a decorated special operations Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2011 received his Silver Star after the U.S. Army took the unusual step of upgrading one of his prior medals.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff, 28, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with MARSOC’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion earned the Bronze Star with combat valor device in 2011 for working heroically to disarm a bomb in Afghanistan before an explosion left him fatally wounded.

But a prior deployment to Afghanistan with an Army unit in 2007, Sprovtsoff had already distinguished himself as a hero. While serving as a sergeant with Marine Corps Embedded Training Team 5-1, attached to the Army’s 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, Sprovtsoff had conducted himself with distinction during a 48-hour firefight.

According to a medal citation obtained by Military.com, he fought with “disregard for his own safety and in spite of wounds sustained in combat,” coordinating his unit’s defense during the long fight.

The medal was approved and awarded as a Bronze Star, but upgraded to a Silver Star last year, said Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for MARSOC. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times Friday.

“[Sprovstoff’s] command at the time nominated him for a Bronze star with “V,” Morris explained. “As it went up the chain, his actions were so heroic, the Army upgraded him to a Silver Star; but at the end of the day, when someone hit the approve button, it was approved as a Bronze Star, rather than a Silver Star.”

Morris said the Army ultimately caught the error and coordinated with the Marine Corps to upgrade the award.

Calls from Military.com to the Army’s awards branch, which oversaw the medal upgrade, were not returned Friday.

The commander of MARSOC, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, presented Sprovstoff’s widow, Tasha, with the award in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to Marine Corps Times.

“[Sprovtsoff’s] courage, dedication and sacrifice inspire us on a daily basis to help others, to cherish our freedom, and to try to make a positive difference in the world,” Osterman said in a statement. “Also, the individual sacrifices [his] family have made is extremely important for MARSOC to recognize. We will always be inspired by the actions of our fellow Raiders and we will strive to operate at a level that honors them and their family.”

Sprovtsoff was killed Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan and buried in Arlington Cemetery Oct. 6 of the same year.

According to his Bronze Star citation from that deployment, Sprovtsoff had fearlessly and safely led a team of Marines through a region filled with improvised explosive devices following an enemy ambush. His work during the deployment had led to the elimination of 40 IEDs.

Sprovstoff and his wife Tasha are featured in Oliver North’s 2013 book “American Heroes on the Homefront.”

While Sprovtsoff’s award upgrade appears to be an outlier due to an administrative error, there could be more upgrades coming for American troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.The Pentagon announced in January that it would review all Silver Stars and service crosses awarded after Sept. 11, 2001 — some 1,100 awards — to determine whether a higher upgrade is warranted. The military services have until Sept. 30, 2017, to turn their recommendations in to the secretary of defense.

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Japanese prime minister pays his respects at Pearl Harbor in solemn ceremony

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Dec. 28 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to pay their respects to the victims and honor the survivors of the attack 75 years ago that drew the United States into World War II.


Speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe in Honolulu, President Barack Obama reflects on how war tests people’s most enduring values, Dec. 27, 2016.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, Yeoman 2nd Class Michelle Wrabley, assigned to U.S. Pacific Fleet, President of the United States, Barack Obama, and U.S. Pacific Command Commander, Adm. Harry Harris pause to honor the service members killed during the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor. Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu/Released)

“It is here that we reflect on how war tests our most enduring values,” Obama said. “How even as Japanese-Americans were deprived of their own liberty during the war, one of the most decorated military units in the history of the United States was the 442nd Infantry Regiment, and its 100th Infantry Battalion, the Japanese-American Nisei.”

“America’s first battle of the Second World War roused a nation,” Obama said. “Here, in so many ways, America came of age. A generation of Americans — including my grandparents, that greatest generation — they did not seek war, but they refused to shrink from it.”

On the front lines and in factories, Americans did their part to win that war, Obama said. To the World War II veterans in his audience, he declared, “A grateful nation thanks you.”

The meeting of the two leaders, the president said, was intended to “send a message to the world that there is more to be won in peace than in war, that reconciliation carries more rewards than retribution.”

“Here in this quiet harbor, we honor those we lost,” Obama said. “And we give thanks for all that our two nations have won, together, as friends.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

How leftover WWII jeeps kicked off a public transportation craze

The U.S. Army Truck, 1/4-ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance, better known as the jeep, was the primary light wheeled transport vehicle of the U.S. military during WWII. President Eisenhower called it, “one of the three decisive weapons the U.S. had during WWII.” By the end of the war, nearly 650,000 Jeeps had been produced. They saw use across the globe from Africa, to Europe and Asia. After the war, many jeeps were sold to or given to locals, or simply left behind rather than having to be transported back to the states. In the Philippines, hundreds of jeeps made their way into the hands of locals.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
U.S. troops with jeeps in the Philippines (Public Domain)

Reportedly, the Philippines saw a huge black market for surplus jeeps after WWII. Regardless of how they were left behind, the local Filipinos saw the jeep as a rugged, dependable and adaptable vehicle. These qualities made it perfect for the post-war Filipinos who were still recovering from years of Japanese occupation. Many Filipinos lost their mode of transportation, be it car, horse or bicycle, during the war.

The Filipinos stripped the military jeeps down and rebuilt them to suit their needs. The soft-top utilitarian trucks were given metal roofs for shade from the tropical sun, painted with vibrant colors, and adorned with chrome-plated ornaments. The decoration of the jeeps helped to return some element of beauty to the country’s capital, Manila. Known as the Pearl of the Orient, the city saw heavy fighting and suffered a great deal of damage during WWII.

The backs of the jeeps were also altered. The two side-by-side rear seats were replaced with parallel benches in order to accommodate more passengers. Over time, the vehicles were lengthened and given a longer wheelbase to increase their passenger capacity. The stretched jeeps became a popular form of public transportation and started to operate on regular routes like buses. Operating like jitneys, the jeeps became known as jeepneys.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
A jeepney in Davao City, Philippines (University of Hawaii at Mānoa)

Through the second half of the 20th century, the jeepney became a cultural icon of the Philippines. It was used by school children and adults alike and served as a major form of public transportation across the country, and especially in Manila. Fares were posted on the jeepney itself and people could hop on and off at their leisure. Passengers hanging on to the back or riding on top of a full jeepney was a common sight. Jeepneys are also heavily decorated and even themed by their drivers.

The heavy use of and increased demand for the jeepney quickly stretched the supply of WWII-surplus jeeps. Modern jeepneys are produced and maintained with imported parts, generally from Japan or South Korea. However, the stretched jeep appearance is maintained from the original jeepneys.

Seeing the widespread use of the jeepneys, the Philippine government began to regulate them. Drivers must now obtain a special jeepney license, routes are prescribed, and fares are fixed. However, private jeepneys still operate outside of this governmental oversight.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
There’s still room for a few more (Loyola Marymount University)

Though indigenous to the Philippines, the jeepney has been exported. Nearby Papua New Guinea determined that importing new buses and vans for their public transportation would be too expensive. The cheap and reliable jeepneys were suggested as a more affordable alternative to conventional vehicles. In 2004, 4,000 jeepneys were exported from the Philippines to Papua New Guinea.

Today, there are many threats that could lead to the removal of the old jeepneys. Increased restrictions and regulations on emissions have led to many builders abandoning jeepney production for other products or going bankrupt entirely. Modern mini-buses and ride-sharing services also cut into the traditional jeepney passenger market. Despite these factors, the jeepney continues to drive the roads of the Philippines and carry on the legacy of the WWII jeep.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
A collection of jeepneys in Manila (Stanford University)
MIGHTY HISTORY

The US is obligated by treaty to defend these 67 countries

There are Americans who are sick and tired of the United States playing “policeman to the world.” There’s good news and bad news for these people. The good news is that the U.S. isn’t actually the world’s policeman. The bad news is that they’re actually the world’s policeman, fire department, emergency medical technicians, doctors, nurses, and any other global-scale first responder analogy you can think of.

The U.S. military is basically the Avengers.


This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

“Avengers Assemble.”

While the United States doesn’t respond to every trouble spot on the planet they sure respond to a lot of them. Of the 195 officially recognized countries in the world, the United States has military members deployed to 150. So if there is a trouble spot, there’s a very good chance that U.S. troops could go handle a large percentage of them. Luckily, Earth’s mightiest heroes are usually reserved for bigger problems, like keeping North Korea in check, punishing ISIS, and trying to bring food to hungry people.

But some of those countries are actually protected by the United States military, even if that protection isn’t specifically promised. For example, the U.S. military has long been considered a pillar of Saudi Arabia’s stability, because Saudi Arabia’s military can’t invade and win against a much-smaller neighbor, even when 20 other countries are helping them.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

Seriously, the Salvation Army could have invaded Yemen and won by now.

But despite how terrible the Saudis are at things like strategy, tactics, and planning, they will never have to worry about being overcome by Iranian interference or military force because they have a substantial force they can rely on to protect their homefront: the United States military. And they aren’t alone.

Treaty obligations tie the U.S. to come to the defense of 67 different countries around the world, going well beyond the 29-member NATO alliance. The U.S. has bilateral defense agreements with six different countries, as well as every individual member of the Organization of American States and the ANZUS agreement.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

While the United States is no longer required to defend New Zealand and West Germany doesn’t exist as West Germany anymore, the United States military still has a pretty big job on its hands. And even though relations with some of the members of the Organization of American States aren’t so hot with the U.S. right now, it’s still a way for Americans to find themselves fighting alongside the likes of Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela or helping defend countries with no military at all, like Costa Rica, Panama, or Haiti.

It might be worth noting that our Venezuelan allies have asked Russia to help with whatever it is they’re planning to do down there, rather than ask the United States. But along with Venezuela, the U.S. has promised to defend a full one-quarter of all the humans on the planet.

That’s a big job.

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This is how infantrymen learned about their weapons in World War II

During World War II, military trainers had to quickly get recruits ready for combat on the front lines of Nazi Europe and the Pacific Theater. As a result, the U.S. Army created this infantry training video in 1943.


This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Infantrymen emplace the 105mm howitzer, their largest weapon in World War II. Today, the 105mm belongs to the artillery battalions. Photo: YouTube/Weaponeer

The video covers all of the major infantry weapons from their ammunition types and ballistic properties to how to best use each weapon in combat. It even shows how soldiers could make Molotov cocktails to take out tanks and the infantry could use 105mm howitzers, “the infantry’s bulldog.”

The film contains some great one-liners, including, “He’ll need more than aspirin after that,” while a Nazi mannequin takes .30-cal. rounds to the dome.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Yeah, aspirin won’t fix this. GIF: YouTube/Weaponeer

“Don’t think this pillbox is Heaven. The bazooka makes it Hell,” during the anti-tank rocket portion is pretty great as well.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Not photographed: Heaven. GIF: YouTube/Weaponeer

The whole film runs through carbines, improvised weapons, mortars, anti-tank rifles and rockets, and more. It’s funny, but it also makes you think (about dying Nazis). Check it out below:

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Memorial Day: It’s not just for service members lost in combat

Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day, originated after the Civil War as a way to honor those who died on the battlefield. There are multiple stories in history as to where it started but the federal government officially designated Waterloo, New York as its birthplace. For a long time, each war had different days to honor the fallen. World War I would change that. 

The leader of the Northern War Veterans declared May 30 as Decoration Day in 1868 in a speech at Arlington National Cemetery. It would be held on that date until 1968 when the Uniform Monday Holiday act was passed, making it the last Monday in May going forward. 

But just like the country evolved to include all lives lost on every battlefield in every war on the somber day of remembrance, it’s time for us to evolve once again as a country. 

In the 1980s, we were losing thousands of active duty service members every single year and not to war, but training for it. By 1999, we’d lost almost 25,000 troops to accidents and suicide. Since the War on Terror began in 2001, America has lost more service members to training accidents and suicide than combat with the enemy. 

 Honolulu, Hawaii (May 31, 2016) Karen Spofford and Cos Spofford look over the grave of Air Force Maj. Melvin Souza, Ms. Spofford’s Father, before the Honolulu Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Maj. Souza was a pilot who mentored many current pilots, said Ms. Spofford. He died in 2014.

Not only are we continually losing men and women to suicides and accidents, but we lose them to sicknesses associated with their time in service. Agent Orange is still wreaking havoc from the Vietnam War and now we have proof that the current war’s burn pits are creating devastating health impacts, too. Let us not forget all the implications of service.

Whether a service member dies in combat, training for it, illness or by suicide due to invisible wounds while serving this country, the loss is the same. Their family and friends don’t grieve any less or more depending on how they died. The cost and risk of wearing the uniform remains high, but it’s something they willingly do because they believe in the purpose they’re serving. 

It is with this in mind that Memorial Day should truly begin focusing on honoring all service members America has lost in the line of duty and not just those who died directly in combat. This is the way that we can truly honor every single sacrifice in the name of American security and freedom, by leaving no one behind. The weight of service to the country is heavy and it’s a burden that they carry for all of us. The very least we can do is take time to remember them and sit in gratitude for what they gave up so we didn’t have to.

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Pyongyang says North will talk to Trump

A top North Korean diplomat said Saturday that Pyongyang would be willing to meet with the Trump administration for negotiations “if the conditions are set.”


Choi Son Hui, director general for North American Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, spoke briefly to reporters in Beijing en route to Pyongyang. She was traveling from Norway, where she led a delegation that held an informal meeting with former U.S. officials and scholars.

Choi did not elaborate on what the North’s conditions are, but her comments raise the possibility of North Korea and the U.S. returning to negotiations for the first time since 2008, when six-nation talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program fell apart.

President Donald Trump opened the door this month to talks, saying he would be “honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Tensions have mounted in recent months after the Trump administration said it would keep “all options on the table” to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, including a military strike. The North responded by pledging to retaliate with a devastating nuclear counterattack, a threat it has made in the past.

In recent weeks, North Korea has arrested two American university instructors and laid out what it claimed to be a CIA-backed plot to assassinate Kim. Choi did not address the matter of the detained Americans on Saturday.

In Norway, Choi met with former U.S. officials and scholars for what are known as “track 2” talks. The talks, which cover a range of nuclear, security and bilateral issues, are held intermittently, and are an informal opportunity for the two sides to exchange opinions and concerns.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 lesser-known facts about the most decorated soldier in American history

No other soldier in American history has ever come close to earning the level of respect dutifully given to Lieutenant Audie Murphy. To date, no other soldier has managed to earn every single award for valor — including the Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars, and three Bronze Stars.

His legendary story has humble beginnings — he was a 5’5″, 17-year-old kid from Texas who tried to enlist with every branch and wasn’t admitted until he falsified his age to get into the Army. His heroic exploits are countless: Jumping on a burning tank and mowing down Nazis, single-handedly taking out German armor, and out-shooting snipers at every turn. If you’ve seen it in an action film and thought to yourself, “no way,” Audie Murphy probably did it.

But this isn’t a retelling of his high-profile heroics. If you’ve served in the U.S. military and don’t know the story of this man, then you should probably be doing push-ups and ordering a book about him right now. For the rest of you, enjoy these lesser-known facts about the legendary Audie Murphy


This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

Then, of course, came what he would be known for — fighting in Germany.

(Signal Corps Archives)

His rise in the ranks

After Pearl Harbor, Murphy was desperate to enlist. He finally got into the Army as a private on June 30, 1942 — just ten days after his 17th birthday. By February 20, 1943, he was shipped to Casablanca as part of the North Africa Campaign.

He was promoted to PFC while training for Sicily in May and, upon landing at Licata in July, he made corporal. After taking Campania in December, he was promoted to sergeant. He was again promoted to staff sergeant just a month later. He earned the Bronze Star with a “V” device and an oak leaf cluster before finishing up in Italy and moving onto the rest of Europe.

In less than a year, he went from private to staff sergeant.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

Murphy wanted to make a second film, titled ‘The Way Back,’ that chronicled his life after service, but it never came to fruition.

(Universal Pictures)

His acting career

After the war, he was offered the opportunity to attend West Point, but instead decided to pursue a career in acting. He practiced Shakespeare in his free time until he landed his first major role in The Kid From Texas, in which he played Billy the Kid.

Meanwhile, Murphy was working alongside one of his Army buddies to write a semi-autobiographical novel, To Hell and Back, which was adapted to film — Murphy played the lead role. In both the book and resulting film, he downplayed some elements of his service during the war as to avoid accusations of exaggeration. That’s how badass his actual actions were.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

Even in his darkest hours, he was still a fantastic human being.

(Whispering Smith)

He never wanted to sell out 

To put it bluntly, Audie Murphy had hit rock bottom in the 60s. He suffered from an addiction to the prescription drug Placidyl – a habit that he kicked by locking himself in a motel room until he was clean – became reclusive, attempted suicide several times, and lost much of his money to gambling and poor investments.

Throughout all of his struggles, however, he got offers to star in commercials for cigarettes and alcohol. Taking a single deal would have put him back on his feet, but he knew that if he took the money, he’d be setting a bad example for the countless children who looked up to him — so he declined them all.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

The gravestone was made before it came to light that he and his sister had falsified his year of birth so he could serve in WWII. He was actually born in 1925.

His grave is one of the most visited graves at Arlington

On May 28, 1971,Audie Murphy boarded a private jet in Atlanta, Georgia, and made hisway toward Martinsville, Virginia. There was heavy fog but the pilot chose to fly through it. The Aero Commander 680 carrying Murphycrashed into the side of Brush Mountain, 20 miles west of Roanoke. There were no survivors.

He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery,Section 46, headstone number 46-366-11. Outside of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldierand President John F. Kennedy, Murphy’s headstone is the most-visited grave. The volumeof tourists visiting to pay respects was so great that they had to buildan entirely new flagstone walkway to accommodatethe foot traffic.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

I’ve had the honor of serving under a few S.A.M.C. members. To this day, many years later, I know that they’d gladly give me the shirt off their back at the drop of a dime.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kamaile Chan)

A club of the finest NCOs in the Army is named in his honor

The spirit of Audie Murphy lives on through the outstanding non-commissioned officers of the United States Army. Formed in 1986, the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club recognizes the most professional, most intelligent, and most decorated leaders in the Army today.

The requirements for entry into this club are stringent, but above all, an NCO must be known for putting the well-being of his or her soldiers above their own. Earning the medallion is one of the surest ways to let the troops serving under you know that they’ll be well taken care of.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These important tools are made from sunken warships

Let’s say you need to make a very sensitive tool to detect radiation. Maybe you need to use it for medical purposes, detecting specific isotopes as they move through a human body. Or perhaps it’s for the tools to detect radiation to prevent dirty bombs and nuclear smuggling. Wherever your radiation is, if you want super accurate measurements of it, you have to make your tools out of low-background steel, and that’s hard to get.


This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
U.S. Navy divers extract oil from the World War II German cruiser Prinz Eugen to prevent it leaking into the environment. The steel of the hull would be worth billions for use in scientific experiments and medical instruments.
(U.S. Navy)

Here’s the problem with new steel: It’s made in a radioactive environment. The very air we breathe contains little molecules leftover from the approximately 2,000 nuclear tests conducted since 1945. Irradiated coral from Bikini Atoll tests, snow melted by the Tsar Bomba, and air particles in the wrong spots during the development of the Genie air-to-air rocket are all still radioactive.

It’s not enough to be a big threat to life around the world, but disasters like those at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island have created background radiation in the atmosphere that will last for centuries. And making steel requires that air is passed through molten steel. If that air has any radioactive molecules in it, which it often does, then the steel will be slightly radioactive.

That doesn’t make it useless for detecting radiation. But any radiation in the steel makes the resulting device less sensitive. It’s like if you’re trying to listen for a distant sound while a band plays. The louder and closer the band is, the harder it will be for you to hear a distant or faint sound. A radiation detection device with radioactive steel in it will never be able to detect radiation that’s beneath the threshold its own components put out.

But steel can last. And any steel manufactured before the first nuclear tests in July 1945 is filled with low-background radiation steel. Basically, since it has much fewer radioactive particles in it, it can detect radiation at much lower levels. So, if you need to run a radioactive dye through a medical patient, you can use a much lower level of radiation if the detector is made with low-background steel.

Same with scientific and law enforcement instruments.

But how to get low-background steel today? If you mine ore now, melt it down, and mix it with limestone, you’ll be most of the way through making low-background steel. But you also have to pass air through it. And the only air available has radiation in it.

So, instead, you could go find steel manufactured before 1945. Preferably steel that wasn’t exposed to the air during the testing or in the years immediately afterward.

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks
Medical scanners often require low-background steel, a material most easily obtained through World War II and earlier salvage.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

You read the headline. You know where this is going.

Sunken warships have literally tens of thousands of tons of steel in them, and the water has shielded them from radiation for decades.

So, with the consent of governments, some warships have their steel removed. It’s done carefully both to prevent contaminating the metal as well as to avoid disturbing the dead. And it’s not just steel. A British warship from before the Revolution had a large amount of lead that is now maintained by the University of Chicago.

There’s even speculation that the Voyager 1 or Explorer 1 satellites may contain World War I German warship steel.

It’s even been suggested that some illegal salvage efforts were conducted by black market outfits looking to make millions by stealing entire ships off the ocean floor. And at least two British ships lost in World War II have disappeared, though some researchers think it was more likely straight steel salvage. It doesn’t appear the thieves had the wherewithal to properly protect the salvage from modern radiation, so it was probably sold as normal scrap.

So the thieves disturbed the grave of thousands of sailors and contaminated tens of thousands of tons of rare low-background steel.

And some artifacts from long before World War II are now being used for scientific experiments. Historians and scientists have a tense tug of war when it comes to lead from ancient Chinese and Roman sites and wrecks.

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