Articles

This is why the Navy SEAL swim challenge is not for just anyone

Navy SEAL candidates go through some of the hardest military training in the world before earning their beloved Trident.


Before graduating BUD/s, they must successfully pass “drown-proofing” which is a series of swim challenges that must be completed without the use of their hands or feet — which are tied together.

This swim challenge is comprised of five difficult tests that not only pushes the mind but the body to its limits.

Can this Buzzfeed host use both his mental and physical strength to overcome and complete this challenge? Let’s find out.

Related: This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

Note: This challenge was done in an eight-foot deep pool versus the nine-foot one the Navy uses during the training.

Phase 1: Bobbing up and down 20 times for five minutes.

Success! (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

Phase 2: Float on your back for five minutes

The key here is not to panic. (Images via Giphy)Result: Fail

Phase 3: The Dolphin swim

Where endurance kicks in. (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

Phase 4: Front and back somersault

One of the test’s hardest challenges. (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

Phase 5: Retrieve a GoPro at the bottom of the pool

He made that look easy. (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

4 out of 5 isn’t bad.

Also Read: 7 unrealistic Navy SEAL characters in the movies

Check out the Buzz Feed Blue’s below to watch this host attempt the whole Navy SEAL water challenge for yourself.

(YouTube, BuzzFeedBlue)Do you think this guy passed the Navy SEAL swim test? Comment below.
MIGHTY HISTORY

6 things that will surprise you about Mojave Viper

Fire and maneuvering drills, mock IEDs and RPG attacks, and scrambled medical evacuations are just some of the exercises Marines and sailors conduct during their training at Mojave Viper.


The “Viper” takes place in Twentynine Palms, California, the largest training base of the Marine Corps.

Although each scenario the Marines encounter is under strict supervision, it’s the closest thing to war young infantrymen are exposed to before going toe-to-toe with the real enemy.

To make the setting as real as possible, the combative minds behind the training keep a few surprises in store for those who dare train in the desert landscape.

Related: 4 Asian-American heroes you should know about

1. The role players are out to beat you

Although this is training, the hired role players who pretend to be the enemy are plotting all types of sh*t behind your back. Just like while deployed, the enemy will smile to your face and then shoot you in the back when it comes time.

Lance Cpl. Mary C. McKenna (center) uses a HIDE system to document the iris of a man displaying suspicious behavior during Mojave Viper. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Mark Stroud)

2. Those are real amputees you’re dealing with

To make it as real as possible, when an IED attack occurs and all hell breaks loose, the government spares no expense. They cast role players who have previously lost limbs to help better immerse the Marine or sailor into the setting.

It’s pretty fun at times.

3. They use Hollywood practical effects

Just like in the movies, practical effects are used to make the chaos feel more organic. Hollywood makeup artists and special effects personnel are brought in to add realism to the mock suicide bombings and carnage.

Marines have no clue when something will pop off, so they must be ready at all times.

Marines with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment treat casualties from at mock explosion during a first responder drill in a mock Afghan town at Range 215, as part of Mojave Viper. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

4. You can be taken as a POW

Remember when we said, “the role players are out to get you”? Well, we weren’t kidding. Some of the role players, like Kelvin Garvanne, were given the okay to kidnap Marines when the situation called for it.

Once a Marine is taken as a POW, it’s “game-on” for a rescue mission.

“We kidnapped Marines,” Mr. Garvanne explains. “One of the things we wanted to do in real time was capture a Marine.”

Kelvin Garvanne teaches these Marines cultural immersion. The Leathernecks learn about Afghan culture and customs from the experts.

5. The stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Mojave Viper

People, we sh*t you not!

Although the desert is hot all damn day long, once the sun drops off the horizon and the stars come out, you’ll forget where you are.

Cue the cheesy music.

Stargazing at Joshua Tree. (NPS photo by Lian Law)

Also Read: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

6. Although it’s training, you can still get hurt big time

To make it as real as possible, most of the training scenarios include plenty of live fire live, not excluding artillery and mortar rounds. With all this gear and tech being used, Marines can get all kinds of hurt.

And let’s not forget about all the freakin’ snakes that live in the area.

Running into this fang-filled snake could ruin your day in a heartbeat.

Articles

These American units will be first on the scene if World War III erupts

It seems like every week brings another potential flashpoint for global conflict. North Korea acts like it wants to go 12 rounds over its nuclear program. China threatens war to protect its control of Taiwan and the South China Sea. Russia stages major exercises near NATO borders and is currently occupying two regions of Ukraine.


And that’s without touching the cluster that is the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

But Americans can still sleep soundly because its military keeps teams ready to deploy at a moments notice, projecting power to any part of the globe within hours.

Related video:

These are the U.S. military units who, in conjunction with NATO and other allies, would be in charge of drawing first blood in a knockdown fight. We modeled the conflict based on the war in Syria erupting into something larger, but the scenario would play out similarly in other regions of the world.

Listen to the author and other vets discuss this World War III scenario on the WATM podcast.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher

1. U.S. Air Force’s first move is to achieve air superiority.

The F-22 Raptor. Photo by: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase

The Air Force is likely going to find itself the first one in the ring. Strikes in Syria fall under U.S. Central Command, but command and control for a conflict that spills into Turkey would shift to U.S. European Command.

As USEUCOM began coordinating the other military branches, the Air Force in Europe would defend itself and allied air forces. The six F-16s temporarily based in Turkey would likely be the first to fire. As they begin intercepting Russian jets, the Air Force would likely send in some of the other F-16s stationed around Europe and the four F-22s deployed there in order to achieve air superiority over Turkey.

F-16s. Photo: US Air force Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

Within 24 hours, the Air Force would dispatch 1-2 “Rapid Raptor” teams. Each consists of four F-22s that can refuel in the air as they race to any spot on the planet in 24 hours. Their support crew and additional equipment follow them in a C-17. The rest of the planes in each squadron would come later.

And of course, the Air Force would support necessary ground operations. In Jul., A-10 pilots practiced operating from an abandoned Warsaw Pact Airfield in Poland and proved they could fly from nearly anywhere.

2. The Navy moves to protect major ships from submarine attack and push Russian assets back in the Mediterranean.

Photo: US Navy Patty Officer 2nd Class Evan Kenny

The U.S. Navy 6th Fleet covers the Mediterranean and Black Seas and would find itself in a fierce fight if it suddenly had to secure itself from a full spectrum attack by Russia.

Putin commands an impressive fleet of extremely quiet submarines and the surface vessels of Russia’s Black Sea fleet are also impressive.

But the 6th Fleet has been preparing for these possibilities, training with allied navies with a focus on anti-submarine warfare. The destroyers of 6th Fleet have been conducting patrols through the Mediterranean and training to operate in the Black Sea.

Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

Currently, the 6th Fleet has no aircraft carrier or Marine expeditionary unit, but the USS Harry S. Truman is on its way to 5th Fleet and could be sent through the Suez Canal to 6th Fleet if necessary. Until the actual carrier arrived, the planes could fly missions supporting 6th Fleet by launching from the Truman and grabbing gas from a tanker over the Middle East on their way to the Mediterranean.

Also, other ships could surge from the U.S. into the fight if required. The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) recently left the Arabian Sea and could be sent back if necessary. The USS H. W. Bush (CVN 77) is in Norfolk going through training exercises.

3. Marines quickly secure U.S. nationals and evacuate embassies while preparing for a massive fight.

Photo: US Marine Corps Staff. Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

Marines stationed at vulnerable embassies throughout eastern Europe would quickly evacuate embassy personnel and destroy classified information. Obviously, the Moscow embassy would face the shortest timeline.

Deploying to back these Marines up, recover downed aircrews, and evacuate civilians as required is the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response–Africa. SPMAGTFCR-AF recently trained on how to work with regional allies and quickly deploy their 500 troops, six Mv-22s, and two KC-130Js.

Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler

Marines deployed to the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania would provide expertise and assist in defending Romania’s coast from potential attacks by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Marines across the rest of the continent would prepare to repulse a land invasion from Moscow.

4. The Army looks to hold the line across over 750 miles of border.

Photo: US Army

U.S. Army Europe has units across the continent, but most of the major unit headquarters are in Germany. USAREUR soldiers would rapidly deploy from there to plus up smaller garrisons. This deployment would include the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, the Strykers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, and the helicopters of the rotational aviation task force in Europe.

They would be backed up by the Global Response Force from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

5. Supporting all of this activity would be the special operators of Special Operations Command Europe.

Photo: US Army Spc. Travis Jones

Special Operations Command Europe has operators from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Army fields its oldest Special Forces group, the 10th, in Europe. Navy Special Warfare Unit 2 mostly supports forward deployed SEAL platoons but could also pivot missions to leading a Naval Special Warfare Task Unit that would support U.S. European Command.

Meanwhile, the Airmen of the 352nd Special Operations Group would plan the complex air missions supporting these other operators. The Air Force special operators from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron would provide pararescue, air traffic control, and reconnaissance capabilities.

As the fight progressed past the opening salvos, the branches and their subordinate units would slip into the NATO command structure with many U.S. troops deploying as part of NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corps.

Articles

What it was like in the bunker Hitler died in 72 years ago


While hiding in a fortified two level 3,000-square-foot underground bunker, one of history’s most brutal tyrants promised the world that his empire would reign for 1,000 years.

Hitler’s Third Reich lasted 12 years, and officially ended on April 30, 1945, when the Führer committed suicide in his bunker with his new wife after learning Allied Forces had surrounded Berlin.

Hitler’s last hours

Hitler with his long-term mistress, Eva Braun.

The day before his death, 56-year-old Hitler married his long-term mistress, 33-year-old Eva Braun.

After his brief wedding ceremony Hitler began preparing his last will and political statement with his secretary Traudl Junge at approximately 4:00 p.m.

“What I possess belongs – in so far as it has any value, to the Party. Should this no longer exist, to the State; should the State also be destroyed, no further decision of mine is necessary,” Hitler’s will stated.

“I myself and my wife, in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation, choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of a twelve years’ service to my people.”

Later on that day Hitler learned his Italian counterpart Benito Mussolini was executed by a mob of anti-fascist partisans.

Here’s a summary of Hitler’s last day as reported by MentalFloss:

1 a.m.: Field Marshal William Keitel reports that the entire Ninth Army is encircled and that reinforcements will not be able to reach Berlin.

4 a.m.: Major Otto Günsche heads for the bathroom, only to find Dr. Haase and Hitler’s dog handler, Fritz Tornow, feeding cyanide pills to Hitler’s beloved German Shepherd, Blondi. Haase is apparently testing the efficacy of the cyanide pills that Hitler’s former ally Himmler had provided him. The capsule works and the dog dies almost immediately.

10:30 a.m.: Hitler meets with General Helmuth Weidling, who tells him that the end is near. Russians are attacking the nearby Reichstag. Weidling asks what to do when troops run out of ammunition. Hitler responds that he’ll never surrender Berlin, so Weidling asks for permission to allow his troops to break out of the city as long as their intention never to surrender remains clear.

2:00 p.m.: Hitler and the women of the bunker—Eva Braun, Traudl Junge, and other secretaries—sit down for lunch. Hitler promises them that he’ll give them vials of cyanide if they wish to use them. He apologizes for being unable to give them a better farewell present.

3:30 p.m.: Roused by the sound of a loud gunshot, Heinz Linge, who has served as Hitler’s valet for a decade, opens the door to the study. The smell of burnt almonds—a harbinger of cyanide—wafts through the door. Braun and Hitler sit side by side. They are both dead. Braun has apparently taken the cyanide, while Hitler has done the deed with his Walther pistol.

4:00 p.m.: Linge and the other residents of the bunker wrap the bodies in blankets and carry them upstairs to the garden. As shells fall, they douse the bodies in gas. Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda, will kill himself tomorrow. Meanwhile, he holds out a box of matches. The survivors fumble and finally light the corpses on fire. They head down to the bunker as they burn.

Hitler’s body

The bloodstained sofa where Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide.

itting on a sofa next to each other in the living room of the Führerbunker, Hitler and his new bride Braun poisoned themselves with cyanide pills and then for good measure, the Nazi leader reportedly shot himself in the head.

While various historians dispute the scenario of Hitler actually ending his life with a gunshot, the Russian government claimed they had a portion of Hitler’s alleged skull complete with a bullet hole, The Guardian reports.

The fractured skull, which was reportedly taken from the bunker went on public display in Moscow in 2000. Paired with the skull was what Russian intelligence said is Hitler’s jawbone.

Almost a decade later, American researchers claimed by way of DNA testing that the cranial fragment actually belonged to a woman approximately 40 years old, The Guardian reports.

The orders to be “burnt immediately” were reportedly followed when SS officers wrapped the bodies of the Führer and Braun in blankets and then placed them on a small pyre where SS officer Otto Günsche set the remains ablaze.

Articles

This is what made the M1919 Browning machine gun so deadly

John Browning’s most famous creation, at least in the United States, is the ubiquitous Model 1911. It’s everywhere, and probably within reach of well more than a few people reading this article. The 1911’s active service life in military organizations is pretty much over. However, another of Browning’s continues to serve — the Model 1919 Machine Gun.


GIs from the 77th Infantry Division man a machine gun nest on the island of Shima, May 3, 1945. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. Unlike most ground-mounted WWI-era machine guns, the 1919 was air cooled, had a heavier barrel, and was easier to maintain under combat conditions than its water-cooled cousins.

It didn’t require all the accouterments of a water-cooled gun, such as a bulky water jacket, water, and a condensing can. The 1919 was originally fed by a cloth belt and designed for vehicles—or a very solid (and heavy) tripod. It had a reasonable rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute on average. By WWII, it was the standard U.S. light machine gun, serving alongside Browning’s M1917 and the legendary Browning M2 HMG.

Like most of Browning’s designs, the 1919 was very reliable for the day and age in which it was produced (insert Glock joke here). It was also apparent early on that the 1919 was versatile. By the end of WWII, it was mounted on tanks, in aircraft, and found in various calibers, including .303 British. It served in virtually every Allied army, and if you dig hard enough, you can even find pictures of enemy troops using captured 1919s. It was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles.

The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

In the air, the modified M1919 was called the ANM2. This variant was specifically modified for aerial warfare, boasting a blistering rate of fire at 1,200-plus rpm. The improvements in aircraft technology and design during the period meant rifle-caliber machine guns were only effective when their throw weight could be boosted by increased rates of fire, and by mounting anywhere from two to six of the guns. Feeding them with the most destructive type of ammunition available, generally one form or another of API-T (Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer), helped.

While the ANM2 served valiantly, it was not as effective as its Browning M2 brethren as an anti-aircraft machine gun. In the decade before WWII, fighter aircraft were increasingly fitted with heavier machine guns, generally .50 BMG Browning variants in the U.S., or 20mm (or larger) cannons in Europe. It wasn’t the fault of the ANM2 that it was less effective against aircraft; it was the fault of the ordnance officers who decided to mount it in aircraft in the first place.

In the infantry role, the M1919 was successful within its limitations. Keep in mind the M1919 was designed in an era when the belt-fed machine gun was essentially a static weapon. The exception to this trend at the time was the MG08/15, which was an intentional departure designed specifically to make the infantry machine gun more portable and useful. By WWII, the MG08/15 concept (a highly mobile, portable general-purpose machine gun [GPMG]) evolved into the MG34 and eventually the MG42 in German service. This is where the M1919’s combat failings became apparent.

Although accurate, reliable, and possessing a good sustainable rate of fire, it was clumsy and awkward on a mobile battlefield compared to the MG34 and MG42. The tripod was large and unwieldy, and it was not always easy to emplace. U.S. troops frequently had to improvise with the 1919, more or less propping it up against or on the WWII equivalent of “a rock or something” when the tripod simply wouldn’t work under the conditions.

The M1919 Browning machine gun was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

As a result, the M1919A6 was developed. This variant added a buttstock and a bipod to the M1919 in attempt to turn it into a light machine gun, more like the MG34 or MG42. However, it was still about a pound heavier than the standard M1919 without the tripod, weighing in at 32 pounds. It was an improvised solution akin to adding a bipod and a buttstock to a boulder. It was still awkward; although it was a bit less unwieldy and more stable, it appeared far too late in the war to have much of an impact.

Again, don’t blame the gun, blame the ordnance weenies.

Until the M60 (a less-than-fantastic GPMG, but a product of the “made here” school of ordnance development) was made widely available during the Vietnam War, the U.S. infantry were saddled with the M1919 and M1919A6 combination.

As a vehicle-mounted machine gun, the 1919 excelled. As a matter of fact, it does such a good job it’s still in service in many places across the globe. It’s been modernized, now using disintegrating link belts instead of old-fashioned cloth belts. Most 1919s still in service were converted to 7.62 NATO, as well, to ease the strain on logistics. Notably, however, one 1919 variant, the M37 Coaxial MG, was somewhat notoriously problematic, again mostly because some people just can’t resist fixing something that works.

There have been some interesting variants of the 1919 over the years. Several ANM2s were converted into a variant called the Stinger. The Stinger was basically a scavenged aircraft-mounted gun with a bipod, carry handle, and buttstock. The extremely high rate of fire was welcomed (for the six or so guns which appear to have actually made it into combat), but the Stinger only served in limited numbers. Its primary claim to fame was being the weapon “Terrible” Tony Stein used during the combat action that earned him a Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima.

If you ever get a chance to fire a ground-mounted M1919, we highly recommend you do so. As it was originally designed, it’s accurate, reliable, and very easy to shoot. As a machine gun for a fixed position, it can easily hold its own against any gun of its era. It’s easy to manipulate, strip, and clean, and it’s very robust in its most common and most current variant, the 1919A4. However, remember it’s almost a 100-year-old design; don’t expect it to perform like a modern machine gun.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Reflections of an African-American female in the Army

In basic training Annette Tucker Osborne was told ‘you are not different.’ It’s a code she’s lived by, on and off the base, ever since.

I will never forget the moment when I was told I wouldn’t do much in my life.

I was in high school in the Bronx, where I grew up, and one of my grades had dipped to a C. I was called into a counselor’s office. She was on the phone with my parents.

“With these grades,” I remember her saying, “she’ll only be a secretary.”

Before that moment, I had wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to do something good and help people. Maybe it was the color of my skin, maybe it was the expectations of women back then. Whatever it was, after that moment, I knew that I would have to fight harder to get what I wanted.


I went to nursing school right after high school. And though I had never considered a career in the armed forces, serving people has always been a part of what I do — it’s part of the job, being a nurse. You care for people. You do no harm.

So when, at 30 years old, I was recruited to be a nurse for the Army, I didn’t think much of it. It was another opportunity to serve. The recruiter came to the hospital I was working at and, along with my friend, we were sworn in — right in front of our patients.

From there, we were sent off to basic training at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, we were all told the same thing: You are not different. As a woman, it was actually refreshing to hear, because it was the opposite of degrading. If a man had to run this long, so did you. If a man had to do this work, so did you. We were equals in that camp.

But that’s not to say that prejudice doesn’t exist in the military, despite how diverse it is.

In 2012, when I was deployed to Kuwait, I was brought into a base camp as chief nurse to help oversee soldier health. When I met the officer — a white man from Alabama — he looked at me, then looked down at my résumé. He couldn’t put the two together. He seemed unable to equate a black woman with the well-polished and extremely qualified person on paper.

After retiring from the military, Annette Tucker Osborne became the Brooklyn, New York, chapter president of the National Association of Black Military Women.

“Sir,” I told him. “What you see on that résumé is me. I’ve worked hard for what’s on my résumé.”

After working together for quite a long time, he eventually came to trust me. After all, he kind of needed to, if he wanted to know what was going on medically with our soldiers.

And then, out in the desert, there were some young service members who don’t want to salute you. I’d stop a few every now and then, asking if they could see my rank as an Army colonel.

After I retired from the service, I was approached by the National Association of Black Military Women, a national organization dedicated to providing support and visibility for women just like me.

As the president of the Brooklyn chapter, which has only been around for a year, I’ve already seen tremendous success in our effort to get the word out to other women that they are not alone. There is a place for them in the military, as well as afterward. We aim to make the point to young women of color, just like it was made to me back in basic, that you are not different. You are just as strong. Continue to persevere and know your goals.

Take it from me: No one can tell you what you can and can’t be in your future.

This article originally appeared on NationSwell. Follow @NationSwellon Twitter.

Articles

Royal Navy bringing Dreadnought back to their fleet

HMS Dreadnought. (Photo: Ministry of Defense)


Bringing back classic names has been discussed before, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer will be named for John Basilone this past August. Now, the Royal Navy has gone to a traditional name for the first of its new class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to a release from the Ministry of Defense, the lead ship’s name will be HMS Dreadnought.

The new Dreadnought will be the tenth to bear that name – and the last two were both groundbreakers for the Royal Navy. The eighth was the first all-big gun battleship – so influential that all battleships from then on became known as dreadnoughts. The ninth was the Royal Navy’s first nuclear attack submarine – which served for 17 years.

The new submarine will be almost ten feet longer than the Vanguard-class submarines currently in service with the Royal Navy and will displace 1,300 more tons. The sub will have new features not seen before in submarines, including a dedicated gym, a “dedicated study space” for the crew, and quarters for female crewmembers.

The Dreadnought will carry 12 UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles – albeit these missiles use warheads of a British design with a maximum yield of 100 kilotons (about six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima). The Vanguard-class subs they will be replacing carried 16. The subs will also have torpedo tubes to carry the outstanding Spearfish torpedo for self-defense.

The first Dreadnought-class submarine is expected to enter service in 2028. The Vanguard-class submarines they are replacing entered service in 1993.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This entire room made of amber was stolen by Nazis before it disappeared forever

Witnesses reported seeing the 24 crates containing what has been called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” at a railroad station at Königsberg, Prussia in 1943. They had earlier been seen in the courtyard of Königsberg Castle.


They were never seen again.

Inside the crates, was an all-amber room that was built by Prussia’s Frederick I between 1701-1706 and later given by Frederick’s son, Frederick William I, to Peter the Great of Russia. The chamber, when assembled, was completely enclosed with amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors and garnished with mosaics, nymphs, cupids and angels, inlays, landscapes, and miniatures — all in amber.

Its construction nearly broke the Prussian economy when it was built, and its worth today, if it were ever found, is estimated to be near $200 million.

Can’t imagine why it was stolen…

Peter accepted Frederick Wilhelm’s gift, something, he said in a letter, he had “dreamed of for a long time.” The Amber Room was disassembled and moved to Russia, but nothing was done about reassembling it there — largely because no one was able to figure out how the badly-marked pieces went together — until the woman who would become Catherine the Great ascended the Russian throne in 1767.

Catherine, who originally came from the amber-mining region near the Black Sea, added another 900 pounds of amber to the room and implemented the work done by an Italian sculptor who had worked on the reassembly problem.  She also added large windows to the room and had it assembled at her Tsarskoye Selo palace.

The completed room was said to come alive in candlelight.

An early photo of the original Amber Room.

The room languished in the St. Petersburg — later Leningrad — Palace until June 1941, when Germany invaded Russia. Ten weeks after the invasion, Germany laid siege to Leningrad. As the siege continued, Russians in the city struggled to save what historic treasure they could, including the Amber Room. Because of the fragility of the amber and the resulting difficulty in removing and storing it, a false room was built inside the Amber Room that hid it from view. But when the Nazis took the palace in September, they discovered the room, disassembled it, and stored it in crates. Those crates were then moved to Königsberg, again reassembled, and displayed in the town’s castle, the former home of the Teutonic Knights.

As the war wound down, Königsberg became the target of frequent Allied bombing raids and the room was again disassembled, loaded in crates, and stored in the castle’s cellar. The crates containing the Amber Room were seen in the castle’s courtyard in January 1945 and later at the railroad depot in Königsberg.

From there, they disappeared.

Since the war, searches have all been unsuccessful in locating any trace of the missing crates and their contents. Numerous theories as to what happened to the famous Amber Room have also been broadcast — all unsubstantiated.

A colorized photo of the original Amber Room.

As recently as 2008, radar scans detected a large amount of metal believed to be too dense to be copper in an abandoned copper mine in Deutschneudorf, Saxony that some people, including Hans-Peter Haustein, mayor of Deutschneudorf, claim is the burial site of the Amber Room.  Others believe the Amber Room was hidden 2,000 feet down in a salt mine near Gottingen, Germany that has since been flooded. Still other researchers have speculated that the Amber Room was loaded aboard the German liner Wilhelm Gustoloff, which was being used to move refugees across the Baltic Sea, and went down with the ship when it was sunk in January 1945.

Or — perhaps the most likely of all — it was simply destroyed during the Royal Air Force bombing raids in early 1945.

Fortunately, the curious can still get a glimpse of the room’s splendor.

A Black and White photo of the Amber Room, taken before the war.

A copy of the room has been created based on black and white photos that were taken of it. Russian President Vladimir Putin dedicated the room at a celebration of the 300-year anniversary of the city of Saint Petersburg in 2003. That copy is currently on display at the Tsarskoye Selo Palace.

Articles

9 times when troops said what they really felt

Your average civilian may look at the military and think it’s like the movies, with highly-motivated soldiers doing their job without complaint, saluting smartly, and marching around a lot.


But of course, that’s not really the case. Just like with any other job, military members have good days and bad days, and often air those grievances with each other. Sometimes, they let it slip in public, and tell everyone how they really feel.

Here are 9 of those times.

1. When a soldier tells you how he really feels about his post, through Wikipedia edits.

via Reddit

2. This soldier on Yelp doesn’t really like the “Great Place” of Fort Hood, either.

3. A Marine writing a review on Amazon challenges your manhood if you don’t want to wear ultra-short “silkie” shorts.

via Amazon

4. The British Marine who makes a hilarious video poking fun at his officers.

5. When a sailor on Glassdoor compares Navy life to drinking sour milk.

6. This anonymous service member using Whisper to confess his or her love for marijuana.

7. The Marine who tells you over Yelp that Marine Corps Base 29 Palms will definitely steal your soul.

8. The British soldiers in World War I who printed a mock newspaper filled with gallows humor satirizing life in the trenches.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

9. When real-life Armed Force Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer (portrayed by Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietnam”) gives the troop version of a weather report in Vietnam.

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5 things you learned about America while being deployed overseas

Being deployed overseas means time away from family, friends and embarking on a life-changing journey that will probably change the way you think forever.


You may not see it at first, but the longer you’re away, you’ll start to form your own opinions about the world around you — especially the home you left.

Related: 7 ways to surprise your spouses when they return from deployment

So check out what we learned about America from our time deployed overseas.

1. There’s no place like America

After the first few months, your fighting spirit usually tends to die out, then you really do begin to believe those classic words Dorothy from Kansas once spoke. This motivation is usually what gets you through the rest of the deployment.

She ain’t lying. (Images via Giphy)America and its people are certainly flawed, but we love them anyway.

2. Bigger problems

Stateside you have all types of bills, some family drama and if you’re living in the barracks, room inspections.

Now that you’re deployed half way around the world, those issues still exist, but you put them on the back burner. Although combat stress can get pretty jarring, many prefer that headache over fighting heavy traffic.

Let’s face it, blowing sh*t up is a great stress reliever. (images via Giphy)Punching out a bad driver is illegal. Blowing up an ISIS village is totally legal.

3. Americans are true supporters

Mail call doesn’t come around too often, but when it does, it’s like Christmas no matter the time of year. Many don’t have families back home to support them while they’re off fighting the bad guys. So Americans from across the U.S. often come together and pack up goodies and send them off to deployed service members around the world.

YES! New socks and fresh baby wipes! (Image via Giphy)It’s an amazing feeling to get a package from someone you don’t know.

4. How good American air smells

Being stationed on a small patrol base, you incinerate all the trash you accumulate in a burn pit not far away from where you eat, sleep and stand post. The smell can be pretty nasty.

Come home after a year-long deployment and smell that good old fashion America breeze.

Yes, it is. (Images via Giphy)God bless America and its plumbing system.

Also Read: 4 insane things service members can do to stay awake

5. How little stuff we need to survive

As Americans, we buy a lot of crap we don’t need but convince ourselves we do. Live for months on an aircraft carrier or on a patrol base and you’ll have maybe 10 square feet of personal storage — you’ll still get by just fine with a whole lot less stuff.

 

That is all. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 surprising things North Korean spies have to learn

North Korea and the United States don’t have a lot in common. What they do share is a need for gathering intelligence — typically about each other. While the United States’ intelligence agencies might have a difficult time penetrating the North’s rigid class system and meticulous tracking of its citizens, the Hermit Kingdom can exploit the open societies of the West to plant its operatives – and it does.


Kim Hyon-hui was one of those operatives. The daughter of a high-level North Korean diplomat during the Cold War, she trained rigorously in the North as an intelligence operative. She went on a number of missions, including the infamous 1987 bombing of Korean Airlines flight 858, which was personally ordered by President Kim Il-Sung to frighten teams from attending the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Much of her training would not surprise anyone, but some of it might.

Japanese national Yaeko Taguchi was kidnapped after dropping her kids off at school at age 22. She’s been training spies ever since.

Japanese

There’s a special school for North Korea’s spy agents, located outside the capital city of Pyongyang. There, they learn the usual spy stuff we’ve all come to expect from watching movies and television: explosives, martial arts, and scuba diving. What’s most unusual is not just that this school also teaches its agents Japanese, but who teaches it to them.

For the longest time, North Korea denied ever having abducted Japanese citizens for any reason. But a number of defectors, including the captured spy, Kim Hyon-hui, described learning Japanese from a native speaker, Yaeko Taguchi. North Korea has been accused of abducting a number of Japanese citizens to put them to work for similar reasons. The North’s disdain for Japan dates back to World War II, owing to the atrocities committed on Koreans by Japanese troops. North Koreans like Japan as much as they like the United States. Maybe less.

Supermarkets

It may or may not surprise you to learn that North Korean grocery stores are very much unlike any Western grocery stores. Most of the time, North Koreans don’t actually go to supermarkets, no matter how much food is available to them. North Korean doesn’t have supermarkets as we know them.

Credit Cards

The idea of using plastic instead of hard currency was a huge surprise to Kim. She had to be trained not just to use a credit card, but how credit cards work in general, considering much of the technology used to create this system of payment wasn’t available to North Korea back then (and still isn’t, but that’s by choice).

It somehow took practice to dance like this.

Nightclubs

The nightlife of North Korea seems like something from the pre-sexual revolution 1960s. While beer and soju are widely consumed in Pyongyang, even in the capital there are no obvious bars or nightclubs. Many North Koreans spend their evenings with their families at the dinner table or by going to concerts and family fun parks, small carnivals that stay in the same place all the time. To go to a European disco and party like a Westerner required training.

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Legendary WWII Gen. Carl Spaatz offered great advice to military leaders — and it still rings true today

When one considers those pioneers whose command of air power strategy led to an independent U.S. Air Force after WWII, General Carl A. Spaatz is usually among those names. Spaatz would come to command the overall Army Air Forces in Europe, design the strategy for bringing down Hitler’s Luftwaffe, and cripple Nazi war production. Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander remarked Spaatz (along with Omar Bradley) was one of two men who contributed most to the victory in Europe.


So when it comes to how he views the people who serve in the military, you might be apt to consider his advice.

After V-E Day, Spaatz held a victory party at a chateau near Paris. The guest list included a who’s who of who would come to found the modern Air Force such as Hoyt Vandenberg and James Doolittle. It also included one Major: triple ace Robin Olds (pre-mustache). Spaatz was a friend of the Olds family, and he invited Robin to his party after he learned Maj. Olds would stay in the Army after the war.

 

Olds recounted the advice he received from Spaatz in his memoirs, Fighter Pilot, more than sixty years later:

” … In the military, they mostly divide themselves into four major categories. There are the ‘Me-Firsters,’ the ‘Me-Tooers,’ the ‘Deadwood,’ and the ‘Dedicated.’ You are among the minority, the Dedicated. Stick with them, search them out, and work hard to be worthy of their company. You won’t be popular with a lot of your bosses who act dedicated but really aren’t and that can make life difficult at times. Beware of the Deadwood. Most of them mean well and, in their own way, try hard, are loyal, and are even useful. But too often they’ll botch things up and get you and your outfit in trouble.”

“Watch out for the Me-Tooers. These guys will tell you whatever they think you want to hear. They borrow thoughts and ideas from others and present them to you as though they were their own. They are the opportunists who look for every avenue to advance themselves without sticking their own necks out. They ride someone’s coattails and try to make themselves indispensable to the boss. Believe me, they are not to be trusted. You don’t want yes-men around you, but you can’t always avoid them.”

Spaatz went on to warn:  “The worst and most dangerous are the Me-Firsters. Most of them are intelligent and totally ruthless. They use the service for their own gain and will not hesitate to stick a knife in your back at the slightest indication you might stand in their way. They seem arrogant, but don’t be fooled. They are really completely lacking in true self-confidence.”

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Here’s what this Tuskegee Airman has to say about his time in service

“I’ve come a long way from picking cotton in the fields with my grandfather,” said retired Master Sgt. Leroy Mazell Smith, who has lived a life few could probably imagine.


He was born on an Arkansas bridge during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927; son of a logger and farmer, Smith grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. His mother, who cared for him and his two siblings, left school at the age of 13.

Also read: 6 tips to live the best life ever from USAF vet Bob Ross

He credits his upbringing to his grandfather who Smith picked cotton with. He said his grandfather taught him the value of hard work and perseverance.

Retired Master Sgt. Leroy Smith became a Tuskegee Airman at the age of 16 in 1943. Smith said getting to know the Tuskegee aircrew was one of his best memories. | U.S. Air Force image by Staff. Sgt. Regina Edwards

Smith graduated from high school in Fordyce, Arkansas, at the age of 16. While there, he attended preflight aeronautical classes, changing the course of his future.

“I wanted to be a doctor,” he said, “but the military said they needed black mechanics, so I was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Corps at 16. Looking back now, they did me a favor I’d say.”

Smith said he vividly remembered being a scared boy from the country in 1943, riding a bus from Camp Robinson to Sheppard Field, Texas, for basic military training, and then later to Chinook, Arkansas, for aircraft and engine training.

“Everything was segregated,” he said. “The ride to training, the barracks we lived in, even the hours we had to shop at the base exchange and eat at the mess hall were separate.

“I remember (white) people asking us, ‘What are you doing here?’ and assuming we blacks were the cooks and bottle washers,” Smith said.

However, segregation did not break his zeal. Smith charged forward and met every obstacle with faith and optimism. He said he leaned on his Baptist upbringing and grandfather’s lessons about having strength — especially during the harder days.

“I never retaliated,” Smith said. “I just believed those people were ignorant and someday it would be better. My grandfather always said, ‘There’s only one race of people: the human race.'”

Tuskegee Airman in an undated photo. | U.S. Air Force

And so, while the human race was focused on World War II and which side would prevail, Smith set course for the European theater. He was assigned to the Tuskegee unit, where all barriers fell away. He was no longer a black mechanic. He was simply an Airman.

“I was scared and proud when I arrived in Italy,” Smith said. “I was with an all-black crew that I could identify with. I could actually communicate with the pilots; the officers respected us as the younger members. I didn’t have to just do my job and shut my mouth. We all had a good relationship; it was one of my best memories.”

The Tuskegee Airmen are typically known as an all-black fighter and bomber pilot aircrew who fought in WWII. However, that name, Tuskegee Airmen, also encompassed navigators, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks and other support personnel for the aircrews.

“I loved being called a Tuskegee Airman,” he said. “I didn’t know that name would be what it is today, but we sure had a lot of unit pride, and there was reason for it.”

The crew was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group and flew heavy bomber escort missions with P-47 Thunderbolts and later the P-51 Mustangs. To distinguish themselves, they painted the tails of their aircraft red, coining themselves the Red Tails.

“We never lost a bomber,” Smith said. “Nope, we never lost a plane. It did me proud to say I was a part of this. We were good, and we were finally recognized for it. I’m a low profile guy, but the recognition was nice.”

In 1947, Smith’s tour with the Tuskegee Airmen ended, but the Red Tails’ legend influenced the integration of races in the armed forces. Smith soldiered on as he transitioned from the Army Air Corps to the Air Force.

He continued serving throughout the Korean War and Vietnam War, fulfilling 25 years in the Air Force and retiring in 1968 as a master sergeant.