This mobster went to Italy to sell weapons to Fascists and left wanting to kill Nazis - We Are The Mighty
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This mobster went to Italy to sell weapons to Fascists and left wanting to kill Nazis

Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel pulled himself out of poverty by joining a gang headed by immigrant Meyer Lansky. During the Prohibition Era, Lansky and Siegel ran a large bootlegging operation and were influential in Jewish and Italian immigrant crime syndicate communities. In the 1930s, after organized crime made the gangster fabulously wealthy, Siegel moved to sunny Southern California, where he would continue his illegal activities.


Siegel’s 1928 Mugshot

It was there he met Dorothy di Frasso, an Italian Countess, at one of the her extravagant Beverly Hills parties. They began to travel the world together. Eventually, they invested in a new explosive called “radium-atomite” and sail for Italy in 1941, hoping to sell it to Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini.

The Countess Di Frasso with Cary Cooper

Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law and foreign minister, was skeptical of the invention after the demonstration of the weapons went poorly. Ciano took a pass. Unfortunately for the Italians that very next year, the scientist developing the explosive would refine his product into a form of jellied nitroglycerin, an explosive more powerful and cheaper to produce than TNT and easier to transport than liquid nitroglycerin. When that scientist patented the explosive, Di Frasso’s name was on the patent as the owner.

While Siegel and Di Frasso were in Rome, the Nazi Luftwaffe commander, Gestapo founder, and Reichstag President Hermann Göring was there as well — fresh from annexing Czechoslovakia and ready to discuss the invasion of Poland. Meanwhile, the Beverly Hills couple were meeting all sorts of notable figures, including the new Pope Pius XII, Italian King Victor Immanuel II and his son Umberto II, and Mussolini himself.

Siegel and di Frasso eventually ran into Reichsmarschall Göring. Siegel’s daughter, who was eight-years-old at this time, remembered that her father was so angered by one of the men he met in Italy that he “wished he had shot him.” The story goes that the villa the couple were supposed to stay in as guests of the Italian government was taken by Göring, so the couple would have to be moved to less lavish quarters. Siegel, a Jewish American, unhappy with the treatment of Jews in Nazi-occupied areas and with the government anti-Semitic ideology, told friends and associates he wanted to kill the German Reichsmarschall, after meeting Göring just one time.  

Göring does have one of history’s most punchable faces . . .

It was rumored Siegel also wanted to take out infamous Nazis Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, but those rumors are unsubstantiated. The mobster would outlive Göring. The Reichsmarschall would famously kill himself with cyanide before he could be hanged at Nuremburg after the war.

For his part, Siegel would be gunned down in his Beverly Hills home by a different mistress in 1947.

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Police say this WWII veteran saved kids by fighting off a knife-wielding attacker

Morton, Illinois Police say Dustin Brown rushed into the Morton Public Library last week brandishing two hunting knives, each at least five inches long. He allegedly announced he was there “to kill some people” and focused his ire on sixteen home school students in a chess club.


Pictured: Dustin Brown’s mug shot

He allegedly approached the children, but standing in his way was 75-year-old James Vernon, a World War II-era Army veteran who was trained but never served in combat. Noticing Brown would back away when he moved closer, Vernon positioned himself between the alleged attacker and the door, and told the kids to get out of the library.

“I gave them the cue to get the heck out of there, and, boy, they did that! Quick, like rabbits,” he told the Pekin Times, the local newspaper.

Once the room was clear, Vernon said “there was no more talking.” Reports say Brown slashed at Vernon from his right, but Vernon says he knew he was right-handed by small cuts on his left arm and blocked the slash.

“I should have hit his wrist. That’s how you’re trained, but it’s been half a century,” he said. Vernon says, despite “bleeding pretty good,” he overcame Brown, throwing him on a table, pinning his left hand under his body, and hitting Brown’s collarbone until he dropped the knife.

hero [heer-oh]: noun, 1. a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.A library employee finally came to help and keep the assailant pinned until the authorities arrived. Vernon suffered wounds to two arteries and a tendon on his left hand from the attack.

“I failed my mission to kill everyone,” Brown reportedly told police.

Brown was facing prosecution on charges of child pornography. Now he’s looking at attempted murder.

NOW: This indestructible Medal of Honor recipient jumped on two grenades and lived

OR: Watch an elderly Vietnam Vet fight off a woman trying to take his wallet

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This once-classified film was used to train American bomber pilots how to survive enemy flak

B-17 taking flak during bombing run over Germany. (Photo: Army Air Corps Archives)


As the allies moved east after the D-Day invasion, air power was used to soften Germany’s defenses and eliminate the Third Reich’s ability to make the tools of war. The American Army Air Corps and the British Royal Air Force bombed around the clock, with the Americans covering the daylight hours.

Losses were high. Over 100,000 allied bomber crews were killed over Europe during World War II. And casualties would have been even higher had the pilots not adjusted their tactics along the way. This film was used to train replacement crews on how to survive enemy air defenses. Because of the level of detail — specific tactics and techniques — it was highly classified during the war.

So imagine you’re a newly B-17 winged pilot on your way to England for your first combat tour. This is one training session you’re going to pay attention to.

Watch this flick:

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11 best-ever nicknames of military leaders

A lot of people get nicknames in the military, usually something derogatory. But not these guys. These 11 military leaders got awesome nicknames by doing awesome stuff.


Check out the WATM podcast to listen to the author and other vets discuss how some of these and other military leaders ended up with their nicknames.

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Here’s what they are and how they got them:

1. Group Capt. Sir Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader

(Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A)

Group Capt. Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero of the second World War known for his exploits in the air and frequent escape attempts as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. He did all of this despite the fact that he lost his legs in 1931 in an air show accident. He was drummed out of the service due to disability but returned when Britain entered World War II. He wore two prosthetic legs and earned his insensitive but inarguably awesome nickname.

2. Capt. Michael “Black Baron” Wittmann

Capt. Michael Wittman was an evil Nazi with an awesome nickname. (Photo: German military archives)

Michael Wittman was an SS-Hauptsturmführer, the SS equivalent of an army captain, in command of a tank crew in World War II. From his time as a young enlisted man to his death as a captain, he was known for his skill in tanks and scout cars. As the war ground on, Wittman became one of the war’s greatest tank aces, scoring 138 tank kills and 132 anti-tank gun kills.

He was recognized with medals and a message of congratulations from Adolph Hitler. He was giving the nickname “The Black Baron” as an homage to the World War I flying ace, “The Red Baron,” Manfred Von Richtofen.

3. General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing

(Photo: US Army)

General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces through World War I and became one of America’s highest ranked officers in history, second only to President George Washington.

Pershing’s nickname was originally a horrible epithet given to him by students while he instructed at West Point. They angrily called him “[N-word] Jack” in reference to his time commanding a segregated unit. The name was softened to “Black Jack” and has become a part of his legacy.

4. Gen. Norman “The Bear” Schwarzkopf

(Photo: US Army)

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf is probably best known for his leadership of Desert Storm. He sported two colorful nicknames. He didn’t like the most famous one, “Stormin’ Norman,” probably because it alluded to his volatile temper. But he seemed to have a fondness for his second, “The Bear,” an allusion to his 6ft., 4in. height and nearly 240-pound size.

In his autobiography, he described his wife as “Mrs. Bear” and he named one of his dogs “Bear” as well.

5. Lt. Gen. James “Jumpin’ Jim” Gavin

Lt. Gen. James Gavin is probably best known for the same achievement that gave him his nickname, commanding one of America’s first airborne units and literally writing the book on airborne operations, FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of the Air-Borne Troops.

Even after he rose to the rank of general officer ranks, he kept conducting combat jumps with his men. He landed in Normandy as a brigadier general and jumped in Operation Market Garden as a major general, earning him another nickname, “The Jumping General.”

6. Gen. Sir Frank “The Bearded Man” Messervy

Gen. Sir Frank Messervy was a successful cavalry officer in the British Indian Army in both World Wars and later served as the first commander of the Pakistan Army. In garrison, he had the appearance of a stereotypical, well-groomed Englishman. But he famously neglected to shave during battles, leading to a thick beard when he was engaged for more than a few days.

7. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller

One of the greatest heroes of the Korean War, Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller tried to join World War I but the conflict ended just before he could ship out. Instead, he fought in anti-guerilla wars, World War II, and the Korean War. But for all of his battlefield exploits, he received a nickname for his physical appearance. His impeccable posture and large frame made him look “chesty,” so that became his name.

8. Maj. Gen. Smedley “The Fighting Quaker” Butler

Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was born into a Quaker family in Pennsylvania in 1881. Despite the Quakers’ aversion to violence, Butler lied about his age to become a Marine Corps second lieutenant in 1898, developed a reputation for being fierce in a fight, and made his way to major general while receiving two Medals of Honor in his career.

Butler also received a brevet promotion to captain when he was 19 for valorous action conducted before officers were eligible for the Medal of Honor. In recognition of his huge brass ones, his men started calling him “The Fighting Quaker.”

9. “The Constable” Gen. Charles de Gaulle

Gen. Charles de Gaulle was the highest ranking member of France’s military in World War II and led Free French Forces against the Nazis after the fall of France.

De Gaulle gained the nickname “The Constable” on two occasions. First, in school where he was known as the “Grand Constable.” After the fall of France, the nickname was bestowed anew when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called him “The Constable of France,” the job title of ancient French warriors who served Capetian Kings until the 10th century.

10. Staff Sgt. William “Wild Bill” Guarnere

Photo: US Army

Staff Sgt. William Guarnere fought viciously against the Germans as a paratrooper in Europe and gained a reputation for it, leading to his nickname “Wild Bill” and his portrayal in Band of Brothers.

Because of his exotic last name, he also gained the unfortunate nickname of “gonorrhea.”

11. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion

Brig. Gen. Francis Marion was best known for leading guerilla fighters through the woods and swamps of the southern colonies during the American Revolution. After repeatedly being harassed by Marion and his men, the British sent Col. Banastre Tarleton to hunt him down.

Marion evaded Tarleton over and over again. When a 26-mile chase through the swamps game up empty, Tarleton complained that he would never find that “swamp fox” and the name stuck.

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Here are 10 things everyone experiences in jump school

The U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia is where U.S. military members of all branches go to become military parachutists. The school is three weeks of intense physical drills, training on towers, and of course, “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane” five times to earn the coveted silver parachute badge (also known as “jump wings”).


Here are 10 things Airborne students will encounter when going through Jump School:

1. Black Hats

Airborne Instructors in 1977

An Airborne instructor’s nametag may read “Jones” but students will address him or her as “Sergeant Airborne.” New Airborne trainees are received by the school’s instructors known as “Black Hats,” because of their headgear, a simple black baseball cap with their rank and wings display on the cap.

The instructors are mostly Army personnel, but the Marine Corps Air Force, and Navy also provide instructors since the school is open to all eligible DOD service members. Black Hats are skilled parachutists who are responsible for training Airborne students, and they do with ‘tough love. They will make their students repeat physical drills and exercises over and over until they get it right.

No matter how exhausting, they won’t stop until a student gets it right. They are doing it for the trainees own well-being.

2. The Airborne Shuffle

Army 2nd Lt. Nelson Lalli runs with an Airborne School classmate to report in after his first jump.

Not to be confused with the popular dance the ‘Cupid shuffle’ or the Chicago Bears Super Bowl shuffle, the Airborne shuffle is not a dance nor is it fun. This shuffle refers to the pace or speed of a formation run during Airborne school. It is typically about a 9-minute mile.

The shuffle is meant to build stamina, not speed. At Airborne School, trainees run everywhere especially in combat boots or with their equipment. The Airborne shuffle is also commonly known for the short choppy steps students take on the aircraft before the jump out, just like the cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door.”

3. Wearing Helmets all day

At Jump School, aspiring paratroopers will wear their helmet everywhere they go. Students will run and train with it on every day. The chin strip and helmet pads will reek so bad after the first week of training that a squirt of Febreze is simply not enough to contain the smell of sweat and bacteria.

4. Falling all day

Airborne students will spend a lot of time hitting the ground during Jump School. Learning how to properly fall during a parachute landing is a core fundamental taught at the Basic Airborne Course. This is especially true when doing parachute landing fall (PLF) drills. Trainees will jump off platforms of different heights into large pits over and over until they get it right. Airborne students can expect to do hundreds of PLFs before they leave the school.

Along with PLFs, trainees will jump from tall towers like the 34-foot tower to learn proper aircraft exiting techniques and the iconic 250-foot tower, although not all Airborne class get to do the tower.

Just remember to “keep your feet and knees together!”

5. The smell of Bengay in the morning

Week one, ground week, focuses on the proper landing fall techniques, emphasizing the importance of keeping feet and knees together during a landing to prevent injuries. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kuande Hall)

Before long, the smell of Bengay, the over-the-counter analgesic cream used to relieve muscle and joint pain, will fill the barracks each morning to help students with their joint and muscle pain.

6. Swing Landing Trainer

A student practices proper landing techniques on the Swing Landing Trainer.

The Swing Landing Trainer is not fun. Students are strapped into a harness to step off a platform and swing back and forth. The discomfort experienced on this device when swinging, especially for male students, is terrible. Students will continue to swing on the harness until they are released by the Black Hats. Trainees must perform several proper PLFs to pass this stage of training.

Most hit the ground like a stack of potatoes.

7. “Hurry up and wait” goes to a whole new level

Airborne Students wait to board an aircraft.

Finally, it’s jump week… but the wait isn’t over. Students will wake up early, run to the chute shed, rig up, and just wait and wait for many hours. Students are not allowed to sleep or talk as they wait. It’s the ultimate example of “hurry up and wait.”

8. A mix of emotions

Time to jump! There’s certainly level of excitement and fear at this point, as jumpers hook up to the static line and prepare to jump. Some people question their judgement at this point, as butterflies flutter in their stomachs and thoughts of “why the hell am I doing this” circle in their head. For others, this is the best moment of their life!

9. Jumping Out

Paratroopers with 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), exit a C-130 aircraft Feb. 12, 2010, at Al Asad Airbase, Iraq, as part of the largest airborne training exercise conducted by U.S. forces in Iraq since the beginning of the war. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

Probably the two most common reactions: “This is awesome” or “Holy Shit!”

10. Pinning of the Wings

After completing five parachute jumps, Lt. Col. Kay Wakatake has her wings pinned on by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Richardson at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo by Captain Greg Peterson)

The pinning of parachute wings is the crowning achievement of three weeks of training. The badge is pinned (or slammed) on the graduate’s chest. This rite of passage solidifies an individual as a member of the Airborne family. The best part of all of this: You’re no longer a leg!

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11 ways people dodged the Vietnam draft

If you’re looking for tips on how to shirk military service, you’re about forty-some years too late. And if you’re looking to dodge a draft, you are also probably not our target audience.


For those unfamiliar with their civic duty, U.S. law says all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants, too) have to register for the Selective Service System (SSS — aka “The Draft”) within 30 days of their 18th birthday. You are not joining the military but registering with the government to be available in a time where a draft would be necessary.

The U.S. first started drafting civilians during the Civil War. Back then, rich men had many other options open to them avoiding Civil War service. To dodge the Civil War draft, people could pay a less wealthy person to take their place in the draft, pay a crooked doctor to give them a bad health exam, or outright bribe draft officials.

The modern Selective Service system was established to raise an army to fight in Europe during World War I. It was used again from 1940-47 to raise troops to fight World War II, and then again to meet the needs for the Korean War. Between the end of WWII and the Korean War, men could just be drafted to serve, regardless of the demands of a national emergency.

After Vietnam, President Gerald Ford abolished the draft entirely in 1975 but President Carter established the draft system in place today as a response to the potential threat posed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

President Nixon established a draft lottery in 1969 but stopped drafting military-age males in 1973 when the U.S. military became an all-volunteer force, but not before an estimated half million people avoided conscription.

There were two kinds of methods to avoid being drafted when you number was called: illegal and legal. There were a few laws in place relevant to Selective Service meant to keep necessary men in their homes and with their families. Purposely pursuing a legal waiver or deferment for any reason is draft avoidance. Those who could not meet the criteria for legal would mitigate their responsibilities by illegal means, this is called draft evasion or more popularly known as “draft dodging.”

Those who received deferments (especially politicians and other people who like to closely associate themselves with the military) will fervently argue there is a distinct difference. Here are 11 ways people beat the draft in the 1970s.

1. Be a Conscientious Objector

Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites, the Amish, and Quakers are all considered Peace Churches who are opposed to any kind of military service. They were allowed to serve in other ways, however, but in a civilian capacity. Dishonest conscientious objection would be illegal. You can still be awesome as a CO, by the way. Clergymen and missionaries were also exempt from the draft, which is how Mitt Romney deferred while spending two years in France as a Mormon missionary.

2. Make up a health condition

The military is surprisingly strict about the medical conditions of those it enlists, even if they really need the manpower. Gastritis, ulcers, hepatitis and anemia are all common, treatable conditions the military will flat-out reject you for having. Diabetics are out, too.

If you don’t have one of these or you’re in perfect health, just make up a health problem! During the Vietnam draft, people would stay awake for days ahead of their medical screening, do a lot of illegal drugs, or otherwise make themselves appear generally unhealthy to avoid being draft. Ask Ted Nugent about doing meth and crapping his pants to avoid the draft.

That’s nice, Ted.

3. Have children who need you

Men with children and families who depend on those men for their livelihood are in a lower draft priority than single men or childless husbands.

4. Be a homosexual

And if you’re not a homosexual, pretend to be! In the 1960s and 1970s, it was perfectly fine to both ask and tell. If men out to dodge the draft were afraid they wouldn’t be asked, they would wear women’s underwear to the medical exams.

5. Run away to Canada

Upwards of 40,000 draft dodgers fled to Canada between 1965 and 1975. Many stayed in Canada after the war’s end, and some even stayed after President Carter pardoned them all on his first day in office. Those who stayed became Canadian citizens. 

6. Go to college

Student deferments were very common ways of beating the draft, though many students were really in school to be in school and not simply to avoid Vietnam. Notable examples of those receiving student deferments include Bill Clinton (1 deferment), Joe Biden (5 deferments), and Dick Cheney (5 deferments).

While a college deferment was very common, it is still a major point of contention for politicians seeking office today.

7. Have a high lottery number

366 plastic capsules, each with one date of the year, were dumped in a large glass container, then drawn, opened, and assigned sequentially rising numbers. The first capsule was September 14. So all men born on that date, from 1944 through 1950, received the first priority for call to duty.

(Selective Service Photo)

The remaining capsules were drawn and assigned a number.  A second lottery was also conducted for the 26 letters of the alphabet, to determine the order of priority (by last name) for each date. The highest draft number drawn was 195.

8. Hold an “essential” civilian job

These are also known as “reserved occupations” and are so necessary to a country’s war effort, drafting them is illegal. The jobs cannot be done by others and cannot be completely abandoned, but those men were required to continue working that job.

9. Get married

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson changed  the draft law to allow married males to be drafted, if they didn’t have children. Before August 26, 1965, however, getting hitched was a Get Out of Vietnam Free card. Johnson quietly changed the rules to keep up with the demands of the war. Hundreds of couples on the West Coast ended up in shotgun marriages to avoid serving.

10. Forge military ID or reserve papers

Some men in Northern states formed groups which made fraudulent National Guard or Reserve papers, identifying men who bore them as having already enlisted. For upwards of $5000, men could acquire these papers and take them to the local draft board to be relieved of their obligation.

11. Enlist anytime

Even during Vietnam, men received credit for serving. If you completed a military service obligation, you couldn’t be forced to re-enter the military. If you called up to be drafted, you could avoid it by enlisting and choosing your service.

Sajak didn’t need to be told. He just spun the wheel of destiny. That’s how Sajak rolls.

If you couldn’t remember any of these tips, you could just learn the words to Phil Ochs’ “Draft Dodger Rag”

Failing to register for the draft could mean ineligibility to hold a government job, the inability to apply for student loans through the Department of Education, and a condition of citizenship for immigrants who arrived before their 26th birthday. It is also punishable by a 250,000 fine and up to five years imprisonment, among other consequences.

So it’s a good idea to register. The U.S. is unlikely to have a war which requires national conscription anytime soon and there hasn’t been a real draft since the last days of the Vietnam War.

NOW: 17 Wild facts about the Vietnam War  

OR: Why Vietnam vet and Hollywood legend Dale Dye thinks ending the draft was a ‘terrible mistake’

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This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

Many military historians argue that the Maschinengewehr 42 – better known as the MG 42 – was the best general-purpose machine gun ever made. It fired up to 1,800 rounds per minute in some versions. That’s nearly twice as fast as any automatic weapon fielded by any army in the world at the time.


But veterans of World War II rarely remember dry statistics about the weapon. They remember its fearsome nicknames – and why the machine gun earned them. American GIs were rightly terrified of the capabilities of the MG 42, so they gave it an apt name: “Hitler’s buzz saw,” because of the way it cut down troops is swaths. The Red Army called it “The Linoleum Ripper” because of the unique tearing or ripping sound it made because of its extremely high rate of fire.

And German soldiers knew they had a weapon so fierce that the Wehrmacht built its infantry tactics around squads of men armed with the Hitlersäge or “Hitler’s bone saw.”

“It sounded like a zipper. It eats up a lot of ammunition and that makes for a logistical problem, but it eats up a lot of people, too,” Orville W. “Sonny” Martin Jr., who was a second lieutenant with the U.S. Army’s 13th Armored Division, said in an oral history of infantry and armor operations in Europe. “When there’s a group of people advancing, you can really rip them up with that machine gun.”

When the war began in 1939, the Germans had a solid, reliable general-purpose machine gun: the MG34.  But like so many German weapons, it was exquisitely – and expensively – made and difficult to produce. But the German high command wanted front-line troops to have more machine guns. That meant a weapon designed to deliver a high rate of fire like the MG34 but cheaper and quicker to produce.

Mauser-Werke developed a machine gun that fired a 7.92-millimeter Mauser cartridge fed into the gun from either a 50-round or 250-round belt. What’s more, the company manufactured the machine gun from stamped and pressed parts, welding the components together with a technique that reduced production time by 35 percent. That manufacturing method reduced the cost as well. The result was the MG 42, and German soldiers soon swore by its lethal effectiveness.

The MG 42 had a range of up to 2,300 feet, weighed 25 pounds and possessed a barrel that could be changed in seconds.

True, the machine gun had its weaknesses: It used ammunition like crazy, possessed no single-shot capability and could quickly overheat. But the amount of firepower it brought to the battlefield had ghastly results.

A Waffen SS soldier totes an MG 42 with a shoulder strap. (German Bundesarchiv photo.)

The sound alone of the MG 42 took a psychological toll on troops. The situation became so bad the U.S. Army produced a training film intended to boost the morale of U.S. soldiers terrified of the machine gun’s reputation:

In one of the film’s dramatized scenes, a green replacement is portrayed pinned down by MG 42 fire while the narrator says that nobody else in the platoon seems particularly bothered by the sound – nobody but the raw G.I. who “can’t get over the fast burp of the German gun.”

“Well, so it does have a high rate of fire,” the narrator continues. “Does that mean it is a better fighting weapon than ours?”

What comes next is a “shoot off” between various U.S. machine guns and the MG 42 along with other German automatic weapons. The narrator of the training film soberly describes the accuracy and slower-but-steady rate of fire of U.S. weapons, saying, “The German gunner pays for his impressive rate of fire. But you get maximum accuracy with a rate of fire that isn’t just noise! The German gun is good – but ours is betters. Their bark is worse than their bite.”

But the reality is the MG 42 bit hard, killing or grievously wounding many thousands of Allied soldiers. James H. Willbanks, author of Machine Guns: An Illustrated History of Their Impact, writes that the MG 42 was nearly everywhere on the European battlefield, either in machine gun emplacements or vehicle-mounted on everything from halftracks to Panzers.

In fact, it was so deadly the MG 42 shaped German infantry tactics during the war.

U.S. and British tacticians emphasized the importance of the rifleman, with machine guns tasked to support infantry assaults.

Because of the MG42’s devastating power, the Wehrmacht placed the machine gunner in the central infantry role with riflemen in support. Each MG42 ideally had a six-man crew: a gun commander, gunner, a soldier who carried the weapon’s tripod, and three additional troops who carried spare barrels, additional ammunition, and tools.

When Allied troops attempted infantry assaults against positions protected by the MG42, the German machine gun crew would lay down withering suppressive fire. In most cases, all the infantrymen could do was wait for a barrel change, for the gun to run out of ammunition, or for a tank to show up so it could blast the machine-gun nest to oblivion.

The MG42 survived World War II to continue service in the West German Bundeswehr.  Rechambered so it would fire the NATO 7.62-millimeter cartridge, the Germans designated the weapon the MG3 – but it still kept its blistering rate of fire and basic design.

The MG3 is used to this day, not only by the German army, but also by the militaries of 30 nations.

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This is why ‘peaceful nukes’ ended in utter disappointment

When Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, there were talks of creating a secondary canal. As U.S. and British officials were considering how it could be built, someone in the room must have said something along the lines of, “Why not nukes?”


No matter how it went down, something sparked the testing of Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (PNEs) and Operation Plowshare.

The codename “Operation Plowshare” comes from Isaiah 2:4: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Proposed canal would have connected the Pacific to the Caribbean through Lake Nicaragua (Photo via Rotary Club)

The Suez Crisis ended after nine days and plans for a second canal were abandoned, but the idea of using nuclear warheads for non-military purposes stuck.

Between 1961 and 1973, twenty seven nuclear detonations were used for various purposes. Experiments were done to see if detonations could stimulate the flow of natural gas. They also helped with excavation for aquifers, highways, more canals, and an artificial harbor in Cape Thompson, Alaska, under Project Chariot.

Project Chariot was the most ambitious out of all of the tests. The idea was to detonate five hydrogen bombs to give the population of just over 320 a harbor. It was ultimately scraped — the severe risk and expense couldn’t be justified for how little potential it offered.

The United States didn’t followed through with any of the testing of PNEs, but they weren’t the only nation who played with nuclear experiments. The Soviet Union had their own version in the “Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy.”

The Soviets performed 239 tests between 1965 and 1988. One of the few tests that yielded positive results was the Chagan nuclear test (which created a 100,000 m3 lake that’s still radioactive to this day). Another was the sealing of the Urtabulak gas well that had been blowing for three years.

This was later cited as a possible alternative to sealing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Geiger reading at Lake Chagan. For comparison, the center of the Fukushima disaster was 7.47 microsieverts per hour in 2011 (Photo via Wikimedia)

Peaceful Nuclear Explosions were regulated in 1974 by President Gerald R. Ford and then banned entirely by the multilateral Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996 by the United Nations. This treaty prohibits all nuclear explosions, peaceful or not.

Nuclear energy is still being researched, however, most notably in nuclear pulse propulsion for spacecrafts.

Check out the video below to learn more about Plowshare in a (very campy by today standards) 1960’s atomic science educational film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0F6HQfzjvA

(YouTube, Tomorrow Always Comes)

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VA and PGA bring golf to disabled Veterans

You don’t have to play like Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus to appreciate a round of golf. Veterans of all ages with many types of disabilities can enjoy playing the game. That was certainly true of Veteran graduates who completed a six-week program through their local VA Recreational Therapy service in October.

With the help of the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in Reno, Nevada, the Professional Golf Association’s “Helping Our Patriots Everywhere” (HOPE) program introduced, and in some cases reintroduced, the game of golf to 14 Veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.

Seven professional golfers donated their time to share their love of the game. “Golf is a game that can be played for life. There are so many benefits for Veterans who want to learn,” said Mike “Mazz” Mazzaferri, PGA golf pro at Sierra Sage Golf Course.

“What other game do you know where four family generations can play together?”

Mazz remembered the day when he, his father, his grandfather and his son played a round of golf together.

OIF combat Army Veteran Daniel and his family.

PGA helping to prevent Veteran suicides

“This program is all about Veteran suicide prevention. If a Veteran suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome or a traumatic brain injury, is blind, or even an amputee, we can make adaptions to still enjoy playing golf. PGA wanted to join VA to eliminate Veteran suicide,” said Bob Epperly, PGA HOPE lead instructor.

The HOPE Program is free to Veterans who participate.

Three of the 14 Veterans who participated are blind. Dennis, a Vietnam Veteran, can see very little in one eye and is completely blind in the other. But his limitation never bothered him on the golf course. “I just love being outside with other Veterans,” he said, laughing.

“I know I need practice, but it feels good to be active. To do something different than sit at home and listen to the news.” After graduation, Dennis was presented with a new set of golf clubs. He was surprised and grateful to VA and PGA for making this day possible.

Blind Vietnam Veteran Dennis receives a gift of new golf clubs.

Veterans from the Cold War to Iraqi Freedom

The camaraderie between the Veteran golfers was evident by the smiles and banter. Their military service spanned from the Cold War in the late 1950s to serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2010, and represented most military branches of service.

One OIF combat Army Veteran, Daniel, brought his family. Daniel suffered severe injuries due to an IED blast that ultimately led to the amputation of his left lower leg. The HOPE Program has put on smile on Daniel’s face and now he is aspiring to go pro. That’s him in the top photo, teeing off, and with his family in the golf cart

For more information of how to bring the HOPE program to your community, contact your local VA Medical Center or reach out to the PGA Foundation.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood

Ellis behind the controls of a U.S. Army Blackhawk. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)


By the time Nate Ellis reached the sixth grade he knew there were two things he wanted to do with his life: make movies and fly airplanes for the military.

Ellis was raised in a family with military experience. His father had joined the Coast Guard during the Vietnam era as a way to avoid the draft and his older brother had joined the Air Force ROTC program as a way to pay for college. He says he was the first among them to go in actually motivated to serve.

“All I wanted to do was Army aviation,” he said.

Ellis attended Austin Peay State University in Tennessee on a ROTC scholarship and wound up the top-ranked cadet nationwide among aviation selectees. Three days after graduation he found himself at Fort Rucker ready to start flight school. A year or so later he was a Blackhawk pilot.

In time he found himself in Afghanistan, stationed at Shindand Air Base in the western area of the country as part of the 4th CAB contingent there. He was assigned as the “battle captain,” overseeing all of the unit’s air operations, a position of great responsibility.

He was also flying Blackhawk sorties, and one night he launched as part of an air assault package comprised of three Blackhawks and two Chinooks. The helicopters carried a total of 99 troops — Italian special operators and Afghan National Army regulars — for a raid to capture a “high-value target,” one of the Taliban’s bad guys.

The helicopters touched down at the LZ around 3 AM, and after the troops jumped out they immediately came under fire. The helos took off and held nearby.

“We were at the holding point listening to the chaos, waiting, burning gas,” Ellis said. “It was the worst.”

There were two Apache attack helicopters on station, but one ran out of ammo and the other took an enemy round through the cockpit. The ground force, facing overwhelming numbers, wanted to get out of there immediately. But, by the helicopters’ operating procedures, it was too hot for them to fly back in to pick them up.

The mission commander, a lieutenant colonel, made the call to go in, but only after taking a quick survey of his fellow pilots over the radio to see what they thought about the risk.

“We went up and down the line, and all aircrews said they wanted to go in,” Ellis remembered. “But everyone was concerned at the same time. Everyone knew what they were getting into.”

The LZ was in the middle of a valley, what Ellis described as “the worst place to fly into.”

He saw the gunner in the Blackhawk ahead of him return fire on a group behind a wall as his own gunner froze, unable to pull the trigger. Sixty of the troops came running at them trying to load up. The Blackhawk only had room for 12 of them, so Ellis’ crew chief heroically jumped out and sorted the situation out as the bullets landed around them. After “the longest 3 minutes of my life,” they lurched back into the air at the Blackhawk’s maximum takeoff weight.

“Because we were heavy we couldn’t yank and bank,” Ellis said. “We had to fly straight ahead. My missile warning gear was going off the whole time.”

Once he was out of harm’s way, he had an epiphany.

Nate Ellis in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)

“I was more present than I ‘d ever been in my life,” he said. “It was like all of the bullshit in my life came to the surface and skimmed off. I heard my inner voice: ‘Life is short. Live with a purpose. Do what you love.'”

And Ellis realized — along with flying Army helicopters — that he loved making movies, something he’d continue to dabble in even during the most demanding parts of his military life.

“I was always working on something while I was in,” Ellis said. “Short films — writing and directing. I’d edit them on my computer and post them to YouTube or wherever.”

After his war tour, he was stationed in South Korea while his marriage to another Army helicopter pilot came apart. “Long story short, we were separated for 18 months,” he said.

He was ready for a change in his life. So after 7 years of active duty, he resigned his commission and entered USC to get a master’s degree in filmmaking. While he immersed himself in the curriculum, he also found himself processing a lot of anger.

“I’d lose my temper if somebody jumped in front of me at a bar or cut me off in traffic,” he admitted. “I felt this sense of entitlement, like, who are they to treat me like that? Don’t they know who I am and what I’ve done?”

By his own account, it took him three years of grad school to process his emotions.

“I don’t want to be that person,” he said. “I don’t want to feel that way. Now it’s more like who cares? That guy, that girl, they have their own thing going on. They have their own path.”

He made a name for himself among the talented grad students at USC. He created five short films, including “10,000 Miles,” his thesis film that had a $30,000 budget plus a $350,000 Panavision grant.

Ellis also made “The Fog,” which he describes as “very personal,” another short that won a faculty screenwriting award and “Best Narrative Short” at the 2016 GI Film Festival. “The Fog” was also a semi-finalist for the student Academy Awards.

Ellis left USC with an impressive body of work, and an effective Hollywood network that included his USC-assigned mentor who also happened to be the president of a major studio. With his master’s degree in hand, he’s wasted little time in making some things happen. He wrote a screenplay based on “Chickenhawk,” the classic Vietnam-era story about a helicopter pilot, and he said Harrison Ford is “interested.”

At the same time, he worked as a production assistant on “The Wall,” directed by Doug Liman (who also directed “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Bourne Identity”), wrote another screenplay targeting both Chinese and American audiences, and co-created an animated web series called “Thrift Video” that he described as “‘Adult Swim’-type humor.”

And, somewhat ironically, Ellis’ work in Hollywood placed him behind the controls of a helicopter again.

“My USC mentor introduced me to the president of Studio Wings, Steve Stafford, a Marine vet,” he explained. “I’ve been flying a Huey, one of the types of helicopters I flew during my time in the Army.”

And the Studio Wings Huey is owned by one Vince Gilligan, the creator of the hit series “Breaking Bad.” Ellis and Gilligan have co-piloted the Huey on several occasions.

Ellis in action as a director. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)

“Vince is a super-nice guy and very interested in my active duty experience,” Ellis said. “He’s also interested in my screenplay.”

Ellis is quickly learning that success in the movie business is about two things: who you know and how much talent you have.

“All this stuff is just coming out of the blue,” Ellis said. “But I love the non-linear aspect of Hollywood. You’re thrown into the big mix with everybody. How do you set yourself apart?”

Ellis has also learned when and where to leverage his military experience and the limits of it.

“The whole reason I’m flying helicopters with Vince Gilligan is because I flew helicopters in the Army,” he said. “But after that, it’s about the quality of my work.”

 

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This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II

(This story was provided courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division)


Mother’s Day 1943 was not a day of celebration in the Sullivan house in Waterloo, Iowa.  Just four months earlier, Alleta Sullivan along with her husband Tom, her daughter Genevieve, and her grandson James received official word that all five of her sons had been lost after the ship on which they all served, USS Juneau, was sunk Nov. 13, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

News spread across the country of the enormous sacrifice made by the Sullivans and honors were heaped onto Alleta and her family including posters honoring the brothers’ sacrifice, extensive media coverage and even a 1944 motion picture based on their story.

Alleta became an important figure in the war effort. She volunteered at the United Serviceman’s Organization (USO) to help make life easier for troops stateside and abroad. With her husband and daughter, Alleta visited more than 200 manufacturing plants and shipyards offering encouragement to employees in the hopes their efforts would bring the war to an end sooner. By January 1944, Alleta and her family had spoken to more than a million workers in 65 cities and reached millions of others over the radio.

On Sept. 30, 1943, Alleta was present as the ship’s sponsor when the Navy commissioned USS The Sullivans (DD 537). The ship served the Navy until final decommissioning on Jan. 7, 1965. In 1977, the destroyer was donated to the city of Buffalo, N.Y., as a memorial in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Servicemen’s Park.

The second ship to be called The Sullivans (DDG 68) was commissioned April 19, 1997, and was sponsored by Kelly Sullivan Loughren, Alleta’s great granddaughter.  The ship’s motto is “We Stick Together.”  Today the ship, which returned home from a six month deployment just in time for the holidays on Dec. 22, 2013, is based at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.

Alleta Sullivan works alongside actress Marlene Dietrich as they serve servicemen in the USO Hollywood Canteen, Calif., Feb. 9, 1944. (Photo: Navy Historical Center)

Kelly obviously admires her great-grandmother’s courage and continued service to the nation in the face of the most devastating loss a mother can suffer. But the story that sticks with her the most is that long after the war, after the movie, the media and the ceremonies had faded, Alleta would receive house calls from Sailors that either knew her sons or who just wanted to stop by and extend their condolences. Kelly said her great-grandmother would often cook them a hot meal and offer them a place to stay for the evening or the weekend.

On this Mother’s Day, America’s Navy salutes the quintessential Navy Mom – Alleta Sullivan, as well as all the mothers who have served, or who have stood on the shore as their sons and daughters went down to the sea in ships.

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An FBI Agent Explains How Russia Spies On Foreign Targets

The FBI announced on Monday that it has identified three individuals believed to have been spying for Russia in New York.


FBI agent Gregory Monaghan has charged the three alleged spies — Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev, and Victor Podobnyy — with “willfully and knowingly” conspiring to commit an offense against the US as a member of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

Buryakov is in custody.

Monaghan, in a sealed complaint, outlines how the three individuals were primarily involved in gathering “economic and other intelligence information.” Within the sealed complaint, Monaghan also details how the SVR goes about carrying out its operations.

According to Monaghan, the SVR operates abroad through three classes on foreign agents.

The first class of agents the SVR deploys are “sent on ‘deep cover’ assignments, meaning they are directing to assume false identities, work seemingly normal jobs, and attempt to conceal all of their connections to Russia.”

The second class of SVR agents sent abroad do not attempt to conceal their connections to Russia. Instead, these agents “often pose as official representatives of the Russian Federation, including in positions as diplomats or trade officials.”

SVR agents in these positions have an added benefit, as they are “typically entitled to diplomatic immunity from prosecution.”

The third category of SVR agents operate abroad under “non-official cover — sometimes referred to as ‘NOCs.'”

NOCs typically pose as private business employees and “typically are subject to less scrutiny by the host government, and, in many cases, are never identified as intelligence agents by the host government.”

All three types of agent operate fully under the control of the SVR. Despite their differing cover stories, each agent has the same mission of gathering “information for Russia about the foreign country” as well as recruiting “intelligence sources that could assist in influencing the policies of public and private institutions in the foreign country.”

Here’s Monaghan’s description from the complaint:

Also from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2014. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This group has launched a fellowship program to put more veterans in Congress


HillVets has announced a new Congressional Fellowship program exclusively for veterans seeking to begin careers in Washington, called HillVets House. Phase I of the program will feature six Congressional Fellows to be hosted and placed in staff positions on Capitol Hill and is set to begin with the first cohort in July 2016.

HillVets is a bipartisan group of veterans, service members, and supporters focused on empowerment through networking, community involvement, and education. HillVets strives to increase veterans involvement in government and advocacy. This is the first time the effort is being made to get more veterans onto Capitol Hill.

The program is the result of a survey taken by the organization in 2014 in an effort to connect vets on Capitol Hill. The surveyors found that not many veterans were active in Congress. The veterans organization says if they were to rank agencies by number of veterans, the Federal legislative body would be dead last. They are making this effort to change that with the help of the Atlantic Council and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

Capitol Hill experience is largely considered a key component and invaluable experience for a long-term career in government and politics. Currently, less than three percent of staff members working for the United States Congress are military veterans. As hundreds of veterans continue to come to the Washington, D.C. area, they are often frustrated by an inability to quickly build an adequate network and open the initial doors necessary for long-term success.

HillVets House is designed to help veterans overcome the many challenges they face beginning second careers by providing a comprehensive introduction to government, politics, and advocacy. HillVets says this program will provide the first premiere access point for veterans wishing to continue their service in unique roles across all government agencies and branches.

Veterans with honorable discharges, Bachelor’s degrees, or who will be in their final semester at the time of the fellowship, and are ready and able to take permanent employment will receive preference. HillVets will focus on recently-separated vets or those who just completed school.

The HillVets Fellowships will start twice a year, with the first class to start in July 2016 and the second in January 2017. Fellows will have a mandatory commitment to their host offices for a period of three months, the second three month period is to focus on finding a permanent, paid position on Capitol Hill, while continuing to work in the Congressional Host office. The placement will be sensitive to the individual’s political party affiliation.

In addition to full-time placement, Fellows will receive housing and/or a living stipend, educational and career development programs, and extensive networking opportunities.

Look for the program application on the HillVets House website by November 17, 2015. All applications are due by March 25, 2016 and should be sent to contact@hillvets.org.