This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made - We Are The Mighty
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This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

Samurai are some of the most popular and enduring figures of Japanese culture. They are the heroes of poems, stories and movies in Japan and Western countries alike. The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, is perhaps the best-known example of that fascination. Samurai were part of the military noble class in feudal Japan, an era that stretched from the 12th century until 1876. Their role was mostly that of military officers, although they have also taken on the role of administrators when the need arose. Administrator-like samurai were mostly seen during the Edo-era, which spanned from 1603 to 1868.

The Warrior Class

This class of highly-trained warriors adhered to a very strict moral code that placed loyalty and honor above everything else. They had to be fearless, disciplined and stoic in the face of pain or danger. To give their lives on the battlefield for the sake of their master was not only a matter of course, it was a great honor. They obeyed the orders of their lord without question or hesitation. To fail in a task, to be cowardly or to disobey led to shame, disgrace and dishonor. In order to regain this honor, they could commit seppuku, a ritual suicide. However, there could be a conflict of interest when a higher lord was in disagreement with a samurai’s master. There have been records of samurai betraying their lord to follow the Emperor’s command.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
Painting of Ōishi Yoshio committing seppuku in 1703 (Public domain/ Wikimedia Commons)

Symbols of the Samurai

The mark of the samurai was the right to bear two swords. Katana, tachi, wakizashi or tantō, the distinctive curved shape of these swords have made them memorable in war history. The smiths who forged these weapons were often considered both artisans and artists. As the weapon was considered an extension of the warrior’s soul, there was a spiritual dimension to the making of a samurai sword, and often, the smith was blessed by a priest before the beginning of his work.

A samurai sword was made from high-quality steel called tamahagane, which was obtained by smelting iron sand and charcoal in a clay furnace for 72 hours without interruption. The obtained steel was then broken to bits and sorted through by carbon content. The combination of high and low carbon-content steel forged a sword both sharp and strong. The pieces of steel were then heated, hammered and folded repeatedly by the smith (up to 16 times). It helped to distribute carbon more evenly, eliminating impurities and air bubble which could have weakened the sword, as well as creating layers that reinforced the blade.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
This exhibit features the samurai-style sword of Lt. Col. Richard Sakakida, a Japanese American U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps agent who served in the U.S. Army during World War II (U.S. Army)

Once the steel was ready, it was time to properly forge the blade. The core of the blade was made of low-carbon content steel for toughness, while the outer shell was made with high-carbon content steel, providing sharpness. The signature curved shaped was obtained through the cooling process. The blunt side of the blade was covered with a thick coat of clay while the sharp side was only lightly dusted. The blade was then taken out of the fire and plunged into water. The difference in cooling speed caused the blade to contract on one side, thus giving it a curved shape. The slower cooling process of the upper side of the blade also added a lot of flexibility to the weapon. The finished sword was thus meant to ally sharpness, toughness, and flexibility. It was a weapon designed for slashing and was very difficult to break.

Quality Assurance

Before being handed to a samurai, the blade was then polished, mounted and tested. The polishing process could take weeks to obtain a razor-sharp edge. As the samurai’s sword was such a powerful symbol, the creation of the hilt, guard, and scabbard was an art in itself. They were often made with precious materials (ivory, gold, silver, and rare woods) and depicted incredibly detailed carved or hand-painted scenes of Japanese mythology. The final step was to test the quality of the blade, as a samurai had to rely on his sword to survive on the battlefield. It was done by cutting through bamboo or corpses, to verify that it could easily cut through flesh and bone. It’s even speculated that new swords were tested by executing prisoners, as it was considered an honorable way to die.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Nicole Zurbrugg

The samurai’s final sword was as much a work of art as it was a lethal weapon. The quality of their swords, the rigidity of their moral code, their martial talents, and their fearlessness in the face of death all turned the samurai into warriors of legend–legends that still inspire fascination to this day, over 150 years after their disbanding.


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

Recently, the United States Navy celebrated the 98th anniversary of the commissioning of its very first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley (CV-1).

CV-1 was named after American aeronautics engineer, Astronomer, aviation pioneer, bolometer, and physicist, Samuel Piermont Langley (the same guy whose name is on a NASA research center, an Air Force base, a mountain, three other ships — two of which are USN ships — and a slew of schools, buildings, labs, and a unit of solar radiation measurement). The USS Langley was converted from the Proteus-class collier USS Jupiter (AC-3), which itself was commissioned in April or 1913.


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(WikiMedia Commons)

As the Langley, she had a full-load displacement of 13,900 long tons, a length of 542ft, beam of 65ft 5in, draft of 24ft, and 3 boilers. This was also the United States Navy’s first tubro-electric-powered ship. She was commanded by Commander Kenneth Whiting, upon commissioning.

The USS Langley saw service as both an aircarft carrier and a seaplane tender. In the seaplane tender role, she was commissioned as AV-3 on 11 April 1937. She served as AV-3 until 27 February 1942, when she was struck by Japanese bombers. She now rests on the seafloor near Cilacap Harbor, Java, Indonesia.

The USS Langley was the first step in what would help the Navy — and the United States — project global reach and force. A unique feature of the Langley (among all USN aircraft carriers) was its carrier pigeon house. USN carriers (and signals) have come a long way since then.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

(SDASM Archives Via Flickr)

Since the commissioning of the USS Langley as the first aircraft carrier, the United States Navy has fielded 80 total carriers. There are currently 11 in service. Both of these numbers vastly outcounts every other nation’s number of aircraft carriers. With a current global total of 44 active carriers (some of those are arguable), America owns 25% of those. But the strategic value of those 11 carriers is much more than 25% of that global total.

The first purpose-built aircraft carrier to be commissioned ever, anywhere, was the Japanese Hōshō, which was commissioned two days after Christmas, 1922.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

The United States Army Air Force’s daylight bombing campaign in Europe involved thousands of bombers, and tens of thousands of crewmen. While there were pilots, crew chiefs, radiomen, bombardiers, and navigators on planes like the B-17, about 40 percent of the crew were aerial gunners.


This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
A U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress flying through flak over a target. A hit by flak lead to the capture of Brigadier General Arthur Vanaman, placing ULTRA at risk. (USAF photo)

What did it take to get these specialists ready? In some ways, it didn’t take long – maybe a few weeks. But these gunners had to learn a lot. Maintenance of their machine guns was vitally important. But they also had to learn to hit a moving target – because the Nazi fighters trying to shoot the bombers down were not going to make things easy for them.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
Messerschmidt Bf 109. (Photo: Kogo CC BY-SA 2.0)

So, what did it take to teach gunners how to hit a moving target? Well, for starters, there were lessons on maintenance for both a .30-caliber machine gun (mostly used early in the war) and the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and how fix them when they jammed. Then, they had to learn how bullets traveled downrange, and how to adjust for the drop of the bullets from the guns.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
A look at the ball turret of a B-17 Flying Fortress, carrying a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When that was done, the trainees were started on full-auto BB guns at an indoor range. Once that was mastered, they then did a lot of skeet shooting with 12-gauge shotguns.

Yep, a popular shooting sport was used to train the folks whose job involved keeping Nazi fighters from shooting down a bomber with ten airmen on board.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

The training went on to include live-fire of the machine guns, as well as how the turrets used on planes like the B-17 and B-24 worked. Aircraft recognition — including knowing an enemy fighter’s wingspan — was also very important.

Following that, they took to the air, and learned how to fire the guns while wearing the gear they’d need on board a bomber – including a life vest, parachute, and the helmet.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
B-17 gunners wearing bulky sheep-shearling flying clothing to protect against the deadly cold at the altitudes typically flown in Europe.— At 25,000 feet, the temperature could drop below -60 degrees Fahrenheit. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As you can imagine, this included a lot of learning and skills to master. You can see an introductory video for aerial gunners made during World War II below.

Articles

10 fabulous military Halloween costumes for your kids

Halloween is just around the corner and if your children are anything like mine, the focus of the month is what costume they’ll be wearing. This year, skip the Superman and Elsa outfits and help them dress like real American heroes: their parents. Halloween provides the perfect opportunity to teach your little ones about the incredible breadth of military career choices, while having fun dressing up like mom or dad.


10 Great Military Themed Halloween Costumes for Kids

1. Dress uniforms

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

Regardless of your occupation, there is nothing sweeter than your little guy or gal dressed in your branch’s best. Take this opportunity to teach them some of the traditions with your service. Whether it’s what the empty table at a dining out represents or the history behind who gets the first piece of cake at a birthday ball, this costume selection could serve as an excellent conversation piece between you and your child. Not to mention, adorable. Find it here.

2. Aviator 

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

Is there anything more comfortable than wearing a flight suit to trick or treat the neighborhood? Use this opportunity to teach your child about the different aircraft and their respective missions. Whether your son wants to fly Seahawks or Strike Eagles or your daughter Chinooks or Super Hornets, let your little aviator pick his or her favorite aircraft and patches. Bonus: have a name patch made for your son or daughter with a call sign.

3. Paratrooper 

For your little daredevil, the perfect costume might be the perfect career choice. This Halloween, let your son or daughter join the elite, complete with a deployed parachute to help him or her soar. Here’s how.

4. Rescue Swimmer 

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

After a summer of swimming, your son or daughter might think they’re ready to take on the open seas. Grab some scuba gear and read Mayday! Mayday! A Coast Guard Rescue to learn more about what rescue operations look like in a storm.

5. Doctor or Nurse 

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

This year, skip the Doc McStuffins costume and teach your children about the incredible humanitarian missions our services’ doctors and nurses perform. Whether it’s sailing aboard the USNS Comfort to Latin America or treating patients in Landstuhl, your little caregiver can certainly dress the part with a stethoscope and kit or even go back in time to World War II, with this costume.

6. Chef

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

For your budding baker, get a chef’s coat and hat, sew on some patches to look like this military chef and let your son or daughter help prepare Halloween treats. Teach them the history of the White House Mess and the science behind MREs.

7. K-9 Handler

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

Perfect for your animal lover — put a harness on your pup, ACUs on your kiddo and hit the town. No dog in your house? This costume would be complete with a stuffed German Shepherd. For your K-9 enthusiast, read Lionel Paxton’s Navy Seal Dogs to learn even more about these incredible animals.

8. Special ops

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

For your hide and go seek lover, the kids ghillie suit is perfect for ghouling. Watch the fun as your child ducks from house to house trying not to be seen. Be sure to add a chem light so that at least you can spot your camouflaged cutie. Bonus: no one will notice if this costume gets dirty.

9. Toy Soldier

This impressive do it yourself costume is the perfect outfit for your little soldier in Army green! Check out these step-by-step instructions for what will be, without a doubt, one of the most unique costumes walking down the street.

10. Rosie the Riveter

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

There’s nothing like a Halloween costume to provoke a discussion about the important roles spouses, families, and community members have in supporting our troops. This year, teach your child about Rosie the Riveter and the contributions the home front made for the war efforts.

Whether your child dresses like Rosie or a rescue swimmer, a pilot or a paratrooper, use this holiday to celebrate the vast opportunities and capabilities within our military.

Articles

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet has entered military service, according to multiple news reports.


Reuters late Thursday reported the development, citing a Chinese military report that didn’t offer additional details.

Related: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

The twin-engine fighter, built by Chengdu Aerospace Corp. for the People’s Liberation Army’s air force, first flew in 2011 and made its public debut in November when the PLAAF showed off two of the aircraft at an airshow over coastal city Zhuhai.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
China’s J-20 | Chinese Military Review

Also in the fall, China downplayed reports that the J-20 was spotted at the Daocheng Yading Airport near Tibet or that it may be deployed near the Indian border.

With a reported top speed of 1,300 miles per hour and the ability to carry short- and long-range air-to-air missiles, the jet is often compared to the twin-engine F-22 Raptor, a fifth-generation stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. for the U.S. Air Force.

But the J-20 is believed to be far less stealthy than the F-22.

“The forward-mounted canards, poorly shielded engines and underside vertical stabilizers all limit the amount that its radar cross section — which determines how visible the aircraft is to a radar — can be reduced,” Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, has written.

Even so, the apparent arrival of an operational J-20 highlights China’s growing role as a military power.

The country, the second-largest spender on defense after the U.S., is also developing with private funding the Shenyang FC-31, a twin-engine multi-role fighter that resembles Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A production variant of the FC-31 may fly in 2019.

U.S. lawmakers have in the past questioned Pentagon officials why the government hasn’t retaliated against China for copying the designs of its most advanced fighter jets.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

“What they’ve been able to do in such a rapid period of time without any RD … I understand there might be some differences as far as in the software and the weaponry and this and that,” Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, asked during a hearing in 2015. “But they’re making leaps, which are uncommon, at the behest of us, and we know this, I understand, but we’re not taking any actions against them.”

Robert Work, deputy defense secretary, at the time acknowledged that the Chinese “have stolen information from our defense contractors and it has helped them develop systems,” but he added, “we have hardened our systems.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Fighting fire with chainsaws

The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.

With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.


The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.

Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”

id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE

Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.

Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.

The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.

What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.

A BLUE-SKY OPERATION

The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.

Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.

Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.

Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.

I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”

FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS

M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.

She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.

Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.

Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.

Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”

OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY

It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.

Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”

Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”

By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.

On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.

Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


popular

The last soldier drafted by the US Army retired in 2011

America’s history with conscription is a contentious one at best. Most of the men drafted to fight from the Civil War to the Vietnam War probably sucked it up and served as required. But after years of citizens rioting over the draft, burning draft cards, and running away to Canada to dodge the draft, the U.S. moved its military to an all-volunteer service in 1973.

But there was at least one man who found that Army life suited him well, and he wore the uniform of the United States Army for the next 39 years.


The man who would one day become Command Sgt. Major Jeffery Mellinger was the son of a Marine working as a drywall hanger in his hometown of Eugene, Oregon when he received his draft papers. Thinking they were written by President Nixon personally, he excitedly reported for duty at Fort Ord in California. He was just 19 years old.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

What he found was less than the picture of military discipline that he expected. There was a lack of respect for the military as an institution, both inside and outside of the service. He found himself in West Germany working as a clerk. Around him, he saw rampant drug use, racism, and indifference. He could not wait to get out.

“If somebody told me I’d be in the army for 40 years on that day I would’ve just laughed at them, you know,” Mellinger told ABC News, chuckling.

But the commander of his first unit told him what military service meant – and that lesson stuck with him. The would-be onetime file clerk draftee soon became an Army Ranger, Jumpmaster, Special Forces instructor, jungle warfare expert, freefall expert, drill sergeant, and of course, Command Sergeant Major.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
Mellinger in Army jump school in 1972, left, and on patrol in Baghdad in 2005. (Jeffery Mellinger)

 

Re-enlisting, he once said, was the best decision of his life. He has since made more than 3,700 jumps with 33 total hours in freefall. Although he was drafted during the Vietnam War, he never saw combat there. He deployed to Iraq, spending more than 33 total months in country. His convoys hit some 27 roadside improvised explosive devices, and on two occasions completely destroyed his vehicle. He was uninjured by any of them.

“We lost count of how many times Mellinger’s convoy was hit,” said his boss in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus. “He’s a national asset.”

Mellinger was just one of two million men drafted by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War era and says the Army is better off with an all-volunteer force.

“You get people who want to do this work,” he told Time Magazine. “If you had a draft at any other business in the world, you’d get people who maybe weren’t suited to be accountants or drivers or mathematicians. We’re doing just fine, thank you, with the all-volunteer force.”

Articles

Congress passes Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act

Almost 42 years after the Vietnam War officially ended, veterans of that unpopular campaign in Southeast Asia will finally get some official recognition.


Thanks to the efforts of Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and his colleague, Indiana Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly, Congress recently passed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, and it is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump soon.

On March 26, Toomey hosted a conference call with reporters to discuss his legislation.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner was awarded a Silver Star for his service as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

The Toomey-Donnelly bill also designates March 29 as “National Vietnam War Veterans Day.” March 29 marks the anniversary of the day that combat and combat support units withdrew from South Vietnam.

The Senate approved the bipartisan bill Feb. 8, and it was approved by the House on March 21. It’s now been on President Trump’s desk since March 23 awaiting his signature.

“In many cases, Vietnam veterans did not receive the warm welcome they deserved when they came home,” Toomey said. “It’s time we put a heartfelt thank you to Vietnam veterans into law.”

He added that all Americans should be grateful to those who served in Vietnam.

Related: How to honor Vietnam War Veterans

Toomey was joined on the call with Harold Redding, a Vietnam veteran from York who came up with the idea for the legislation, and John Biedrzycki, a Vietnam veteran of McKees Rocks and past national commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Redding said he worked on getting the legislation passed for 27 months. He thanked Toomey for his efforts in seeing it through.

“I can’t tell you what this means to me and all Vietnam veterans,” Redding said.

Biedrzycki said the legislation was long overdue.

“Every day is Veterans Day,” he noted.

Toomey said he would like to see more public recognition for Vietnam veterans, such as at civic events. Those veterans should be emphasized in our classroom as well, he believes.

“Teachers should teach about the Vietnam War,” the senator explained. “These were difficult times in our history.”

In a news release issued by Toomey’s office after the Senate approved the measure, Donnelly said, “This bipartisan bill would help our country honor this generation of veterans who taught us about love of country and service and who deserve to be honored for their selflessness and sacrifice.”

Here’s what other veterans groups had to say about the legislation:

— Steven Ryersbach, past state Commander/AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania: “It’s outstanding that Sen. Toomey is working to support and honor our Vietnam vets. Sen. Toomey’s overall work on behalf of veterans is commendable and we thank Sen. Toomey for all his efforts.”

— Tom Haberkorn, president of Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America: ” The Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America supports the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, which recognizes the service and sacrifice of those who answered our country’s call and served, with honor, in Southeast Asia.”

— Thomas A. Brown., Pennsylvania VFW State Commander: “All Vietnam War veterans deserve high honor and respect that many of them did not get when they returned home from war. Designating March 29 of each year to say ‘welcome home’ and ‘thank you’ to our Vietnam War veterans is a strong signal that America appreciates the service of these special patriots of freedom.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Awesome footage of the last time US battleships fired in anger

During Desert Storm, a massive portion of America’s firepower came from two floating relics, battleships of another time and age that would have to be pulled off of mothballs to take part in the war. These ships, however, provided a massive show of fire and fury that would convince Iraqi leaders that they were the source of an amphibious invasion, allowing for the Coalition’s massive victory.


Desert Shield was the 1990 military operation to prevent further aggressive acts by Iraq after it invaded Kuwait. As 1990 closed and 1991 opened, it became clear that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would not pull his forces out voluntarily, and so the massive force created to break his armies prepared for combat.

One part of that force buildup was a pair of Iowa-class battleships, the USS Wisconsin and USS Missouri. The ships had been mothballed, but they were pulled out of retirement to provide naval artillery against the Iraqi forces. Their 16-inch guns could hurl armor-piercing shells weighing up to 2,700 pounds, but they more commonly fired 1,900-pound shells with massive bursting charges, creating craters 50-feet wide.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
The battleship USS Wisconsin has impressive 16-inch guns. (US Navy Photo by Civilian Public Affairs Officer Max Lonzanida)

When the ships were first deployed against Iraq, they conducted standard naval artillery support and also flew drones and OV-10 Bronco spotters over the battlefield to track Iraqi troop positions. But military planners would rely on them for a lethal light show that could prevent hundreds of thousands of friendly deaths.

See, the U.S. had called on lots of allies to help get Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, but Iraq had one of the largest armored corps in the world at the time. So the balance of forces was in the Coalition’s favor, but it would likely have to suffer massive losses if it pushed Iraq out solely by strength of arms.

Military planners came up with a clever trick: Launch a three-pronged assault.

There would be an amphibious assault that would look like the main invasion but was actually a diversion, a primarily infantry assault that would tie up enemy troops and secure some objectives, and a massive “left-hook” led by armored units that would strike at Baghdad.

But that meant that the first prong, the amphibious diversionary one, had to look like the real assault even though most infantry and armored units would be miles away.

So the military called on the massive battleships.

They asked for weeks of shore bombardment by the battleships’ guns as well as Tomahawk missile strikes in Baghdad and across Iraq. All of this would culminate in a withering barrage during the invasion that would demoralize and overstimulate the defenders on the beach.

As Iraqi forces suffered a dense bombardment by the Wisconsin and Missouri, they would send up damage report after damage report. And when troops started landing on the beaches, Iraq would be convinced that a true amphibious landing was underway.

And so the battleships eagerly acquiesced and attacked Iraqi targets, leading to the footage at the top. The ships were returned to retirement after the war and would go on to become museum ships. Check out the video, and if you happen to be around Pearl Harbor or Norfolk, Virginia, be sure to check out these awesome ships.


Feature image: National archives

MIGHTY CULTURE

New ASMR videos will put you to sleep … but that’s totally the point

It’s that brain-tingling, hard-to-describe oddity. The sort of peculiar sensation that’s hard to describe and even harder to articulate. Sometimes people call it a “silvery sparkle” or the feeling of getting goosebumps on the scalp. It came in waves for Jennifer Allen, like warm bubbles, before making its way down her spine. In its wake, a feeling of being complete, whole, and of gratitude.

Allen loved the feeling, but she had no idea how to replicate it when needed or why it seemed to be triggered by certain sounds. Every few years, she’d try asking the internet but got nowhere fast until about a decade ago, when she finally found something on the internet that seemed to match what she’d been feeling. Allen continued to comb through the internet forum where she discovered countless other people just like her – people who experienced sensations in their brains when they heard certain sounds or saw certain images.


So she set out to really understand what was going on with her and others. But she still didn’t know what to call this strange sensation, so she made up a new clinical-sounding name for it: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR. Allen says she started the term with the word autonomous because these are feelings that come from within. ASMR is a perceptual, sensory phenomenon that’s likened most often to a transcendent state often experienced during meditation.

Within months, her fledgling group had spread to six continents, and soon members were creating videos to produce ASMR. Videos started cropping up online and often featured an anonymous woman delivering soft-spoken voice-over narration. Now, thousands of video creators release, on average, about 500 new ASMR videos each day on YouTube. Videos range from women chewing gum, simulating eye exams, turning pages in books, and even peeling dried glue off of artificial ears.

These videos aim to relax the viewer and might work on helping lull tired viewers sleep. As everyone in the military knows, the concept of a work-life balance is pretty much nonexistent.

With that comes chronic sleep deprivation and rest deficiencies. According to sleep.org, almost 8 in 10 service members on active duty have a diagnosed sleep condition like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or sleep apnea. Medications leave personnel groggy the next morning, so the military is suggesting exploring ASMR videos instead.

Added to that is the high number of service personnel who suffer from some stress-related disorders like PTSD, MST, or combat stress. Of course, ASMR isn’t going to replace cognitive therapy, but it might help offset some of the debilitating aspects of having a PTSD related condition. There’s an entire section of ASMR videos related to promoting feelings of being safe. There are even entire channels specifically curated for veterans dealing with these issues.

There are literally countless sub-categories of sounds and experiences within the ASMR community online, so if the idea of turning pages isn’t interesting, you might find something else that works. In fact, there’s an entire subculture related to military ASMR videos. Video content ranges from MRE unboxing to WWI history told by an English Officer. There are even videos of women scratching their nails along canteens while speaking softly. All of these videos are designed to help encourage relaxation and promote a feeling of wellness.

While ASMR might seem weird at the outset, there’s really not much else to lose – especially if you are one of those eight in 10 service members who are already having trouble sleeping. Research is currently ongoing to explore whether or not ASMR benefits are clinical in nature or simply psychosomatic. But really, what’s it matter if it’s helping you feel less anxious, calmer, and eventually, more rested? It can be hard to accept the idea of a brain tingle, but for those who have experienced it, ASMR might just be the thing that helps them finally get to sleep.

Articles

Female sailor recognized for bravery during Iranian detention incident

In the fallout from an embarrassing international incident in which two Navy riverine boats strayed into Iranian waters during a transit to Bahrain and were briefly captured, some half-dozen sailors have faced punishments, but one was recognized with a prestigious award for quick actions in the face of danger, Military.com has learned.


A Navy petty officer second class, the only female sailor among the 10 who were detained, received the Navy Commendation Medal on Aug. 3 in recognition of her efforts to summon help under the noses of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard members who captured the crews.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
Picture released by Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Jan. 13, 2016.

The number two gunner aboard the second riverine boat, she managed to activate an emergency position-indicating radio beacon, used to signal distress at sea, while in a position of surrender and at gunpoint.

A Navy spokesman, Lt. Loren Terry, said the sailor had asked not to be identified and had declined interviews.

Service commendation medals are presented for heroic service or meritorious achievement.

In a recommendation within the riverine command investigation released to reporters at the end of June, investigating officers found the riverine gunner should be recognized for “her extraordinary courage in activating an emergency beacon while kneeling, bound, and guarded at Iranian gunpoint, at risk to her own safety.”

While one of the guards ultimately noticed the beacon and turned it off, help was not far off.

The Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy, which had been monitoring the journey of the riverine boats, notified Task Force 56.7, the parent unit in Bahrain, when the boats appeared to enter Iranian waters.

The investigation found the crews of the Monomoy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio should also receive recognition for their efforts to track the captured boat crews and provide assistance for their safe return.

None of the riverine crew members involved in the incident has spoken publicly about the experience. They were returned to U.S. custody following a 15-hour period of detention, during which their captors filmed them and took photographs later used for propaganda purposes by the Iranian media.

Photos indicate the female gunner was made to wear a headscarf while detained.

A military source with knowledge of planning said the Navy’s administrative personnel actions regarding the Jan. 12 riverine incident were nearing completion.

In all, three officers were removed from their posts and four officers were sent to admiral’s mast, with two receiving letters of reprimand for disobeying a superior officer and dereliction of duty, according to a statement this week from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and first reported by Navy Times.

One of the officers was found not guilty of dereliction of duty, and a fourth officer still awaits completion of “accountability actions.”

Two enlisted sailors received letters of reprimand for dereliction of duty, according to the statement.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in June the Navy plans to implement better predeployment training and training on rules of engagement for sailors, as well as enhanced equipment checks and unit oversight.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 dumb things Marines would do in the Space Force

Marines never change. We’re simple creatures. Whether it’s in the air, on the land, at sea, or in the outer reaches of space, we’re going to find a way to restrict everyone’s liberty by doing what we do best: getting drunk and fighting things.

Any place we go, you’ll know we were there. Not just because of the trail of destruction and bodies we leave in our wake, but because we’ve found a way to distinguish ourselves by looking and acting like the most primitive humans to ever exist in the modern era.

This type of thing will not change in space, no matter how far we go. Here are a few things that Marines will still do, even if we’re in the Andromeda system:


1. Get married to an alien stripper in their first month

Once we establish colonies on other planets, you know there will be tons of alien strip clubs and tattoo parlors set up just outside the gates of any military installation — and you know where they’ll get their business? The Space Force Marines. One of the FNGs is bound to fall in love with an alien stripper and marry it within a month of arriving on station.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

It’ll become a competition to see who can hit someone on a planet’s surface from orbit.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. Throw space rocks at each other

When Marines get bored of waiting, they end up finding rocks to throw at each other. No, I’m not kidding. This is a popular pastime among Marines.

This won’t change, even if they’re in space. If anything, the lowered gravity will only make this more enjoyable.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

We might even try to eat it.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

3. Find dangerous alien creatures to interact with

If you’ve ever been in a desert with Marines, then you know we’ve got some uncanny ability to find rattlesnakes and scorpions to play with. Here’s what would happen in the Space Force: Marines arrive on a new planet and find some kind of acid-spitting alien creature and decide it would be a good idea to pick it up and keep it as a pet.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

Pro-tip: Don’t touch anything you aren’t familiar with.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

4. Eat strange, alien plants

There’s always that one Southern guy in your platoon who, while in a jungle, will just rip moss off trees and drink the water from it — or they’ll see some leafy plant and chew on it when they run out of tobacco.

Chances are, they’ll do the same on some distant planet.

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

The Mars rover already did it, but it lacked a human touch.

(NASA/JPL/Cornell)

5. Draw penises on everything

Marines have this weird obsession. If you’ve ever seen the inside of an on-base porta-john, then you know what I’m talking about.

The Navy recently had an incident where a pilot drew a penis in the sky using contrails, which means Marines must to find a way to top that somehow.

Articles

Here’s who’d win in a dogfight between Russia’s and the US’s top fighter jets

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
We Are The Mighty | Lockheed Martin | Creative Commons


Russia’s air force recently grabbed the international spotlight with its bombing campaign in support of Syria’s Bashar Assad. But how does it stack up against the world’s greatest air force?

During Russia’s stint in Syria, four of their latest and greatest Su-35 Flanker jets flew sorties just miles from the only operational fifth-generation fighter jet in the world, the US’s F-22 Raptor.

Given the fundamental differences between these two top-tier fighter jets, we take a look at the technical specifications and find out which fighter would win in a head-to-head matchup.

F-22 specs

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John Dibbs | Lockheed Martin

Max Speed: 1,726 mph

Max Range: 1,840 miles

Dimensions: Wingspan: 44.5 ft; Length: 62 ft; Height: 16.7 ft

Max Takeoff Weight: 83,500 lb

Engines: Two F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with two-dimensional thrust-vectoring nozzles

Armament: One M61A2 20-mm cannon with 480 rounds, internal side weapon bay carriage of two AIM-9 infrared (heat seeking) air-to-air missiles, and internal main weapon bay carriage of six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-air load out) or two 1,000-pound GBU-32 JDAMs and two AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-ground loadout).

Source: Af.mil

Su-35 specs

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Dmitriy Pichugin | Creative Commons

Max Speed: 1,490 mph

Max Range: 1,940 miles

Dimensions: Wingspan: 50.2 ft; Length 72.9 ft; Height 19.4 ft

Max takeoff weight: 76,060 lb

Engines: Two Saturn 117S with TVC nozzle turbofan, 31,900 lbf/14,500 kgf each

Armament: One 30mm GSh-30 internal cannon with 150 rounds, 12 wing and fuselage stations for up to 8,000 kg (17,630 lb) of ordnance, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, rockets, and bombs.

Source: CombatAircraft.com

Maneuverability

Montage showing the different phases of an acrobatic maneuver performed by a Sukhoi Su-35 piloted by Sergey Bogdan at the 2013 Paris Air Show.

Russia based the Su-35 on the rock-solid Su-27 platform, so its status as a “supermaneuverable” fighter is a matter of fact.

Russian pilots familiar with previous generations of the Sukhoi jet family’s thrust-vectoring capabilities have carried out spectacular feats of acrobatic flight, like the “Pugachev’s Cobra.”

On the other hand, the F-22 has a great thrust-to-weight ratio and dynamic nozzles on the turbofan engines. These mobile nozzles provide the F-22 with thrust-vectoring of its own, but they had to maintain a low profile when designing them to retain the F-22’s stealth edge.

Most likely, the Su-35 could out-maneuver the F-22 in a classic dogfight.

Electronic warfare

This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made
F-22 deploys flares | U.S. Air Force

Both Russia and the US classify their most up-to-date electronic-warfare capabilities, but it should be assumed that they are both state of the art and nearly equal in efficacy.

Firepower

A fully loaded Su-35.

Both planes are equipped with state-of-the-art missiles capable of shooting each other out of the sky. The Su-35’s need to carry ordinance outside the fuselage is a slight disadvantage, but in general, the first plane to score a clean hit will win.

The Su-35 can carry 12 missiles, while the F-22 carries just eight, but as Justin Bronk from the Royal United Services Institute notes in an interview with Hushkit.net, the Su-35 usually fires salvos of six missiles with mixed seekers, meaning the 12 missiles only really provide two credible shots.

The F-22 could engage the Su-35 from farther away as it is harder to detect due to its stealth advantage, so it could potentially make more economical use of its missiles.

Stealth

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor flies over the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, January 27, 2016.

This is where things get interesting: In the arena of stealth, the F-22 is head and shoulders above any other operational jet in the world right now.

For perspective, the Su-35’s radar cross-section (area visible to radar) is between 1 and 3 square meters, or about the size of a large dinner table. The F-22’s radar cross section is about the size of a marble.

As Justin Bronk notes:

Whilst the Su-35 does have the hypothetical capability to detect the F-22 at close ranges using its IRST (Infa-Red Search and Tracking) and potentially the Irbis-E radar, both sensors would have to be cued to focus on exactly the right part of sky to have a chance of generating a target track. By contrast, the F-22 will know exactly where the Su-35 is at extremely long range and can position for complete control of the engagement from the outset with superior kinematics.

Conclusion: USA.

An F-22 Raptor pilot from the 95th Fighter Squadron based at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, gets situated in his aircraft.

So the F-22 and the Su-35 prove to be two planes of significantly different talents. The Su-35 carries more missiles, can fly farther, and is significantly cheaper. The Su-35 is a reworking of earlier Sukhoi models that are proven to be effective in traditional dogfighting.

But the F-22 wants no part in traditional dogfighting. Battles that occur when the two planes are within visual range of each other seem to favor the Russian jet, but importantly, battles begin beyond visible range.

A single Su-35 simply stands little chance against a similar number of F-22s because the US jets employ far superior stealth technology.

F-22 pilots need not worry about out-turning or out-foxing the agile Su-35, as they could find and target the aircraft from much farther away and end the dogfight before it really starts.

Additionally, the US Air Force trains F-22 pilots to some of the highest standards in the world.

Historically, US-made planes have battered Russian-made ones, and the newest generation of US warplanes reimagines aerial combat in a way that future pilots won’t even have to get their hands dirty to deter or defeat the enemy.

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