This was how the military reacted after terrorists attacked on Sept. 11
On the day that 19 terrorists from the radical Islamic group al-Qaeda attacked the United States using airliners as cruise missiles, the U.S. military jumped to respond.
And it was a response that began even before the Pentagon was hit.
Some stories of 9/11 are well-known, including then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld racing to the scene of devastation at the Pentagon to aid victims of the attack, or the pilots plan to ram Flight 93 foiled hadn’t by passengers on the plane.
But there were other heroic deeds during the attack.
According to the 9/11 Commission report, when word reached North American Aerospace Command, also known as NORAD, of the first hijacking, two F-15 Eagles from the Massachusetts Air National Guard were scrambled to try to intercept the planes. They took off just as Flight 11 hit the North Tower – WTC 1 – at 8:53 AM on that Tuesday morning.
NORAD had last dealt with a hijacking in 1993. One thing that worked against NORAD during that terrible day was the fact that that there were very few sites from which interceptors could launch.
During the Cold War, the 9/11 Commission Report noted, there had been 26 sites.
Other military jets — F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton Virginia, and F-16s from the District of Colombia Air National Guard based at Andrews Air Force Base — had also scrambled. Pilots from the latter unit were armed only with dummy rounds for their M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon.
The F-15 pilots, according to the commission report, didn’t even know they were looking for hijacked airliners. The lead pilot would later be quoted in the report as saying, “I reverted to the Russian threat. …I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea.”
It as a credit to NORAD, that even though they were unable to keep the airliners from hitting targets, military personnel were able to face an unprecedented threat and challenge with an improvised air-defense system cobbled together in a matter of hours, despite having never trained to face that threat.
On the first day of what one unidentified officer called “a new type of war,” they reacted with skill and professionalism.
This is the history behind the Navy's 'dixie cup'
The famous "dixie cup" is one of the most iconic symbols in the military today. You can spot a sailor from a mile away just from seeing this headgear.
The threats just keep coming from Russia over Syria strikes
Russia has warned the US that it will retaliate if Syrian government forces come under fire from positions held by a US-backed, Kurdish-led militia.
These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
Since June, Coast Guard vessels patrolling the US's southern approaches have stopped seven stealthy ships that ride low in water to spirit illicit cargo.
The Marines' Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
The U.S. Marine Corps has bravely served our country since 1775, and The Marines’ Hymn reflects that legacy. Here's what you might not have known about it.
This is why Morgan Freeman is Russia's newest target
A new video features Morgan Freeman railing against Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Russian diplomats say he's been duped by political interests.
The Marine Corps could soon have its first female infantry officer
The unidentified lieutenant just finished a three-week combat exercise, the last graded portion of the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course.
This new tool shows what nukes would do to your home
Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science, has created an interactive map you can use to see how a nuclear detonation would impact your city.
How to kidnap Marines — according to a combat training role player
In this episode, we speak with Kelvin Garvanne about his life as an Arabic/Iraqi role player, and how he takes training troops to a whole new level.
This is how you fight when the waters are rising
Underwater, all the fitness in the world won't save you if you can't keep your head. But dying is dumb. Time to summon a little amphibian ambition.
THE MIGHTY SURVEY GIVE-AWAY
We want to hear your thoughts. Complete our survey for a chance to win 1 of 5 gaming consoles