Vietnam Forward Observers - We Are The Mighty
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Vietnam Forward Observers

During the Vietnam War, all too often the chaos of battle found Allied forces trapped and facing annihilation in hostile territory. The situation called for courageous men to rise above their fears and carry out some of the deadliest missions in the history of warfare. Forward Observers, often alone, moved ahead of the Allied forces to secure vital vantage points. They served as the eyes of the artillery gunner in delivering rounds on enemy targets. In this episode, Medal of Honor recipients Barney Barnum and Brian Thacker tell their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.

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These 7 military movies are so good that even the trailers will move you

This year the GI Film Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary of sharing the military experience in and out of the arena of war. The festival is the first in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film.


Over the last 10 years, the GIFF has presented films from new and established international and domestic filmmakers that honor the heroic stories of the American military and the universal lessons of war and conflict.  All of them in some way express the courage and selflessness of our fighting men and women and the value of their work.

The GI Film Festival is open to filmmakers of every experience level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers.  Prizes are awarded annually to winners in three main categories: feature, documentary, and film shorts.

Here are the trailers of 7 of this year’s best. Watch them and be moved:

1. The Last Man Club

https://player.vimeo.com/video/165420834?color=f3ec19byline=0portrait=0

The Last Man Club is a story about four World War II veterans who served together on a B-17 Bomber. After losing touch over the years they each find themselves trapped in life circumstances and are all too compliant to live out their last days in their own “private little hell”. Pete is dying in a veteran’s hospital and it’s his nurse, Ripley who helps him find the last known address of Eagle, his captain and the pilot of their beloved B-17.

Pete’s letter finds Eagle living in his son’s home, stripped of his privileges and housebound. The letter informs him that he is the last man after Pete passes and he must fulfill the oath they had all taken after the war. What Eagle first sees as impossible, he is jarred from his fears when he learns that he will soon be going to a retirement home.

Dressed in his reunion military uniform he steals the battery from his son’s car and escapes in his late wife’s 1958 Ford Fairlane. At the start of his journey, Eagle meets up with the most unlikely of accomplishes. Romy is an attractive young woman on the run from her abusive gangster boyfriend. Through a series of happenstances, Romy becomes Eagle’s unwilling tour guide. As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.

As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.

2. Ride the Lightning

Ride The Thunder is the true heroic story of a friendship between American military legend and recipient of the Navy Cross, John Ripley and one of South Vietnam’s most decorated Heroes, Le Ba Binh. The film is based on a book by the same name by Richard Botkin, former Marine Infantry Officer (1980-1995) The storyline follows Ripley’s and Binh’s fight together against the communists at the Battle for Dong Ha during the Vietnam War and the aftermath of the fall of Saigon, as Ripley goes home to a divided America while Binh is imprisoned in a communist re-education camp. After the war, their wives struggle to adjust to their changed lives. Immersed in this true story are interviews and rare historical footage that educates the moviegoers on the truth of the war along with the heroes who fought in it, while exposing the opportunists who betrayed them. The main Vietnamese actors in the film are Vietnamese refugees.

3. Thank You For Your Service

The U.S. military faces a mental health crisis of historic proportions. Thank You for Your Service takes aim at our superficial understanding of war trauma and the failed policies that have resulted. Director Tom Donahue interweaves the stories of four Iraq War veterans with candid interviews of top military and civilian leaders. Observing the systemic neglect, the film argues for significant internal change and offers a roadmap of hope. Interviews include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, Generals David Petraeus and Loree Sutton, Sebastian Junger, Nicholas Kristof, Dexter Filkins, Senator Patty Murray, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Colonels Lawrence Wilkerson and Dave Sutherland.

4. The Unimaginable Journey of Peter Ertel

At the time of filming, Peter Ertel is 95 years old. He is a published author and an avid pianist. Using his skill as a riveting storyteller, Ertel recounts his experiences as a soldier in the German army – from his early days as an “unsoldierlike” recruit who was deemed an “unreliable follower of the Fuhrer” to his becoming a highly respected platoon leader, who routinely risked his life to save the lives of his men, as well as the lives of the enemies he encountered on the battlefield. Though Peter takes us through the hell of front-line combat in both France and Russia, perhaps the most ‘unimaginable’ part of his journey begins after he becomes a prisoner of war. The Unimaginable Journey Of Peter Ertel is a documentary portrait of a man who maintained his humanity despite being thrust into a world of hatred, destruction and death. Peter Ertel tells his own story as only he could tell it – with unflinching honesty and raw emotion.

5. Rising Fear

https://player.vimeo.com/video/165078202?color=f3ec19byline=0portrait=0

Marine Ryan Taylor is given a phone number by a pretty, mysterious girl. Believing it’s hers, he calls and it detonates a bomb in downtown Pittsburgh. The marine then becomes the main suspect in the bombing. Now, he must evade the authorities and hunt down the people who set him up before they can launch a second attack. Rising Fear is an indie action thriller boiling with twists, turns, and a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy the US government–and freedom itself. Buckle in as writer director Tom Getty takes you on a roller coaster ride that starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until its explosive finale.

6. The Last Time I Heard True Silence

https://player.vimeo.com/video/165078200?color=f3ec19byline=0portrait=0

Noah Cass was a machine gunner for the Marine Corps during the 2005 Operation Spear in Iraq. During an over-watch mission, his team was ambushed and a mortar round hit his truck leaving him with permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. When Noah returned home, he dealt with issues common to veterans transitioning into civilian life: aggressive behavior, alcohol addiction, depression, difficulty keeping a job, and relationship problems. Noah eventually hit rock bottom and was desperate for a change. He decided to get sober and started running in the woods nearby. Noah, now a father and husband, enters the 50-mile wilderness race having only completed one 26-mile marathon. This race represents the journey a young soldier faces to help cope with a past that haunts him every day.

7. No Greater Love

Chaplain Justin David Roberts served 6 years active duty as an Army Chaplain. Before he left the Army in 2015, he found that beneath the collar of ministry he was struggling with depression and PTS. Wondering what kind of father he would be if he didn’t face his issues, he set out on a journey to meet up with members of his old unit. Along the way, they recall their tour of duty. In total, 17 soldiers were killed in action and over 200 were wounded during the deployment. Almost all of the men lost died while either trying to save someone or protect others. The common thread in every one of these stories of valor is love. This film layers the footage Roberts shot on missions in Afghanistan with heartfelt interviews of the men he served with, as well as surviving family members. Through telling these stories, the soldiers that deployed with the legendary No Slack battalion are finding healing and purpose after combat.

For show times for these films and a complete rundown of the other films and events going on at this year’s exciting GI Film Festival go here. If you’re in the greater DC metro area you’re not going to want to miss it.

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Guadalcanal

The unrelenting ferocity of the Pacific War was without a doubt the bloodiest and most savage of the two theaters of World War II. The memories of brutal battles like Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Midway and Iwo Jima are forever seared into minds of the courageous men who fought there.  The island of Guadalcanal represented one of the last chances for the Allies to turn back the Japanese advance in the Pacific.  Marine veteran Victor Croizat experienced the “hell of earth” of the battle for Guadalcanal.

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Here’s the amazing story of the famed “Flying Tigers”

Vietnam Forward Observers
R.G. Smith painting of the Flying Tigers’ P-40s in formation over China.


Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek knew he had a problem. The Chinese air force was in terrible shape, beset with a lack of trained pilots and aircraft, and the war brewing with the highly professional military of Imperial Japan in 1937 made reforms a priority. His decision to bring in American experts to help led to the formation of one of the famed air groups of the war, the Flying Tigers.

Captain Claire Chennault had resigned from the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1937 over dissatisfaction with his promotion prospects. A former tactical instructor, he took an offer to help train and survey the Chinese Air Force. When the second Sino-Japanese war broke out later that year, Japanese air superiority let them bomb China with virtual impunity. The massive destruction and loss of life would presage the terrible destruction wreaked on Japan by American bombing years later, with biological weapons taking the place of nuclear ones.

Faced with the utter collapse of an already Chinese inferior air force, Chennault was sent back to the United States with a Chinese delegation in 1941 to arrange for as many planes and as much logistical support as possible. Chennault had conceived of raising a small, elite air force of American personnel to fight the Japanese directly. President Franklin Roosevelt and key members of his administration were sympathetic to the Chinese cause.

As Chennault saw it, war between the United States and Japan was all but inevitable, and unlike many of his former colleagues, believed that China could serve as a base for later offensive operations against the Japanese home islands. Many senior military leaders totally opposed the idea, seeing it as draining experienced and vital personnel during a time of large scale armed buildup.

In the end it took direct presidential intervention to make the idea a reality. Roosevelt authorized Chennault to recruit U.S. pilots and support personnel to work directly for the Chinese government. An executive order was issued allowing members of the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy to resign in order to join the group. The new organization was designated the American Volunteer group.

Despite the small size of the proposed group, consisting of a few squadrons averaging a total of 60 aircraft, getting the planes needed proved difficult. In the end, they had to settle on P40B fighters that had no modern gunsights or bomb racks, necessitating the fabrication of crude substitutes. This made their later successes all the more astonishing.

Vietnam Forward Observers
The Flying Tigers personnel pose around one of their airplanes. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Corps)

The AVG essentially operated as legal mercenaries, in the tradition of privateers operating under Letters of Marque. Recruits would operate under one year contracts and the pay, ranging from $250 to $750 a month depending on the position, was excellent for the time. It included extensive allowances and paid leave, while pilots received an unofficial bonus of $500 for each confirmed kill of a Japanese plane. This served as an excellent motivation for aggressive flying.

The lack of available infrastructure was a serious problem. Chennault arranged for the formation of a large air spotting network across much of China using radios, telephones, and telegraphs, since they had no access to radar. An extensive network of airfields was built using mass Chinese civilian labor. “All over Free China these human ant heaps rose to turn mud, rocks, lime and sweat to build 5000 ft. runways,” Chennault later said.

Chennault instituted an extensive training program for his new recruits, based off everything he had learned about Japanese tactics and aircraft over the last four years of fighting. This included Japanese flight manuals captured by the Chinese and studies of crashed Japanese aircraft. This first hand knowledge would prove to be invaluable

The AVG was first deployed on Dec. 12, 1941. It was split between the vital port city of Rangoon Burma, and the southern Chinese city of Kunming. They faced overwhelming Japanese numbers, but their preparation and experience paid off. In one lopsided example, a large Japanese air raid on Rangoon on Christmas Day led to the AVG downing 29 enemy planes with no losses. After the fall of Burma to a Japanese invasion, the AVG retreated to southern China, where they would continue to score remarkable numbers of kills. In 7 months of ferocious fighting stretching to July of 1942, the small force of often less than 40 pilots shot down nearly 300 enemy aircraft, destroyed dozens more on the ground, and took out hundreds of enemy bridges, trucks, and riverboats. This kill ratio was seldom equaled in the war, and the Chinese air minister T.V. Soong later called the AVG “the soundest investment the Chinese ever made.”

In the face of a string of defeats from the Japanese, the U.S. public and media went wild over the AVG’s exploits. The media dubbed them the Flying Tigers, even though the unit itself did not use the name and actually painted shark mouths on the noses of their planes. Winston Churchill himself stated that the Tigers achievements equaled what the Royal Air Force did in the Battle of Britain against Germany. Even a wartime movie starring John Wayne was made to celebrate their achievements. Eventually the AVG was merged back with the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942, but they had achieved a romantic image of volunteers defending China and Burma against impossible odds.

American volunteer pilots fighting before war was actually declared stretched back to World War I and the Lafayette squadron, but the Tigers amazing performance in combat despite small numbers and extreme logistical difficulties made them a breed apart. They straddled the line between military and mercenary, something like the modern military contractors of today’s wars. Unlike the often unsavory reputation such quasi-mercenaries have today, they became national heroes and showed that such hybrid organizations could fight as well or better than their more formal military counterparts.

 

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Declassified photos show the US’s final preparations for the only nuclear weapons attacks in history

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives


On August 6th and 9th of 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causing significant death and destruction in both places. To this day, the bombings remain history’s only acts of nuclear warfare.

A lot has been established about the immediate preparations for the dropping of the bombs, known as “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” which were loaded onto airplanes on the North Field airbase on Tinian Island, part of the Northern Mariana Islands to the south of Japan.

Until recently few photographs were available of the final hours before the bombings. But newly declassified pictures shed additional light on the procedures leading up to the nuclear attacks, giving a chilling glimpse into how and where the most destructive bombs ever used in warfare were loaded.

(First seen on AlternativeWars.com)

Soldiers check the casings on the “Fat Man” atomic bomb. Multiple test bombs were created on Tinian Island. All were roughly identical to an operational bomb, even though they lacked the necessary equipment to detonate.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

On the left, geophysicist and Manhattan Project participant Francis Birch marks the bomb unit that would become “Little Boy” while Norman Ramsey, who would later win the Nobel Prize in Physics, looks on.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

A technician applies sealant and putty to the crevices of “Fat Man,” a final preparation to make sure the environment inside the bomb would be stable enough to sustain a full impact once the bomb was detonated.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

Soldiers and workers sign their names and other messages on the nose of “Fat Man.”

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

Here’s a closer look.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

“Fat Man” is loaded onto a transport trailer and given a final once-over.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

The bomb is then escorted to the nearby North Field airbase on Tinian, shrouded in tarp.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

At the airfield, “Fat Man” is lined up over a pit specifically constructed for it, from which it is then loaded into the plane that dropped it over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

Both pits for “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” each roughly 8 feet by 12 feet, still exist today on the island and now serve as a memorial.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photos: National Archives (L) and Flickr/Jeffrey Tripp (R)

The bomb and its trailer are lowered down into the pit using a hydraulic lift.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

Workers check “Little Boy” one last time, keeping the tarp on for security reasons. They used a similar lowering procedure for “Fat Man” three days later.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

Once “Little Boy” is ready, the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, is reversed and positioned over the trench.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

The tarp is removed and the bomb is readied for loading.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

Using the hydraulic lift, “Little Boy” is carefully raised and loaded into the belly of the Enola Gay.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

Once inside the plane, the bomb is secured and all connections and equipment are checked again.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: National Archives

From there, both “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” were flown over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, and detonated. World War II ended shortly afterwards, but at a cost: an estimated 250,000 people were killed or injured in the attacks, most of them civilians.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Hohum

Video of the preparation and loading also exists.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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survey

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THE MIGHTY

SURVEY GIVE AWAY

We Are the Mighty has partnered with a research firm, Maru/Matchbox, to provide an opportunity for you to share your opinions on how you use and interact with media and technology in your daily life.

This online survey will take about 12 minutes to complete, and can be done on either a computer or mobile device. As a thank you for your time and input, once you complete the survey you will be able to enter our sweepstakes to win one of 5 prizes! Winners will have their choice of either a Playstation 4, a Microsoft Xbox One S, a Nintendo Switch or an Amazon Gift Card for $300! Read the sweepstakes rules here.

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These are the 3 soldiers going to the 2018 Winter Olympics

Every time the Olympics roll around, we’re proud to cheer for the American veterans who make the team. Not only have they made their country proud with their service; as world-class athletes, they’ll represent the United States and try to bring home the gold.


For the 2018 Winter Olympics, three of the current 102 American competitors are U.S. Army soldiers, part of Army’s World Class Athlete Program. They are Sgt. Emily Sweeny, Sgt. Taylor Morris, and Sgt. Matt Mortensen.

Sgt. Emily Sweeny — Women’s Singles Luge

Vietnam Forward Observers
(Image via Army MWR)

Sweeny was the first soldier to secure a spot on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team. She is a military police officer in the New York National Guard. After joining the Guard in 2011, she took on more of a leadership role within the USA Luge team where she not only competes, but helps identify and recruit talented youth to the sport.

She won the Gold Medal at the 2017 Winterberg Germany World Cup sprint race. Currently, she is ranked 8th in the world for women’s luge.

Sgt. Taylor Morris — Men’s Singles Luge

Vietnam Forward Observers
(Image via Army MWR)

Morris secured his place at the Olympics when he earned the Bronze medal at the Lake Placid World Cup sprint race. He solidified his position on the USA Luge team after his career-best run. He joined the U.S. Army in 2011 as a Human Resource Specialist in the New York National Guard.

Sgt. Matthew Mortensen — Doubles Luge

Vietnam Forward Observers
(Image via Army MWR)

Mortensen is an Engineer out of the New York Army National Guard, joining in February 2010. He is a two-time Olympian who missed the bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics by a mere 0.005 seconds with his luge teammate, Sgt. Preston Griffall. For PyeonChang, Griffall chose to focus on his studies and Jayson Terdiman stepped into his role.

Mortensen and his new teammate finished the 2016-2017 seasons ranked 3rd internationally and together have won three straight Norton National Championships.

The 2018 Winter Olympics will begin Feb. 9, 2018 and end on Feb. 25, 2018.

Go Team USA!

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28 photos from the Navy’s 240-year history

Celebrate the 240th birthday of the United States Navy by taking a look at 28 photos (and a couple of paintings) that capture the spirit of the sea service past and present:


Cmdr. Christian Sewell launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in an F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter Nov. 4, 2014. The F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 is  conducting initial at-sea trials aboard Nimitz.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy

 A port security boat assigned to Maritime Expeditionary Squadron 1 (MESRON 1) patrols the waters near Kuwait Naval Base Feb. 10, 2009.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth G. Takada

A Mark 7 16-inch/50 caliber gun is fired aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) as night shelling of Iraqi targets takes place along the northern Kuwaiti coast during Operation Desert Storm.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Dillon

U.S. Navy SEALs patrol the Mekong Delta, Vietnam in 1967.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy J.D. Randal

An F-4B drops bombs on Vietnam.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy

Walt Disney and Dick Van Dyke visiting the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) with Captain Martin D. Carmody on July 6, 1965

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

The USS Missouri fires 16-inch salvo at Chong Jin, Korea in an effort to cut Northern Korean communications. Chong Jin is only 39 miles from the border of China. October 21, 1950.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: Wikipedia

The U.S. Navy tests nuclear bombs at Bikini Atoll Jul. 25, 1946.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

An unidentified man engages a penguin during a U.S. Navy expedition to Antarctica.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

View from a Navy ship navigating waters around Antarctica.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

Surrender of Japan, 2 September 1945 ; Navy carrier planes fly in formation over the U.S. and British fleets in Tokyo Bay during surrender ceremonies. USS Missouri (BB-63) , where the ceremonies took place, is at left. USS Detroit (CL-8) is in the right distance. Aircraft include TBM, F6F, SB2C and F4U types.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy

USS Idaho (BB-42), a New Mexico-class battleship shells Okinawa on 1 April 1945, easily distinguished by her tower foremast and 5″-38 Mk 30 single turrets (visible between the barrels of the forward main turrets). Idaho was the only battleship with this configuration.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

Sailor and colleague stitching thatch in the South Pacific during WWII.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

Seabees with the 111th Naval Construction Battalion landing at Omaha Beach before the Mulberry bridge was installed, Jun. 6 1944.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy/Flickr

USS Darke (APA-159)’s, LCVP 18, possibly with Army troops as reinforcements at Okinawa, sometime between Apr. 9-14 1945.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: Wikipedia

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet launches a B-25 during the Doolittle Raid.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy

USS Arizona (BB-39) sunk and burning furiously, Dec. 7, 1941. Her forward magazines had exploded when she was hit by a Japanese bomb. At left, men on the stern of USS Tennessee (BB-43) are playing fire hoses on the water to force burning oil away from their ship.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

A sailor poses on the USS Bear during an expedition to Greenland in 1941.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

Sailors pose in a train at Cardiff, Wales in 1918.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

The USS Leviathan heads to France to pick up U.S. troops in this stereo photo from 1918.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Stereo Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

The USS Colorado transits the Panama Canal.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

The “Great White Fleet” steams the Atlantic Ocean as part of the U.S. Navy mission to prove that it’s a blue water fleet in 1908.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: Wikipedia

A dog contemplates jumping from the deck of a ship while sailing with the “Great White Fleet.” According to a note with the photo in the Navy historical archive, the dog did later jump.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

Divers search the wreck of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, Cuba. The sinking of the USS Maine was one of the events that triggered the Spanish-American War.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

The USS Monitor and CSS Merrimac face off in 1862 near Norfolk, Virginia. This was the first time ironclad ships faced each other in combat.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Painting: J.O. Davidson

During the Mexican-American War, the U.S. Navy attack the city of San Juan de Ullca in March 1847.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: Wikipedia

During the War of 1812, the Navy played a large role by limiting the actions of the British fleet.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Painting: Edward Orme

A Revolutionary War painting depicting the Continental Navy frigate Confederacy is displayed at the Navy Art Gallery at the Washington Navy Yard.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth G. Takada

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The best kept secret of the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is so many things. All the football, merch, traditions and fanfare … and all the money in the land to attend.

But turns out, one of the very best parts of the Super Bowl is absolutely free.

The USAA Salute to Service Lounge is colocated with the NFL Experience, but unlike the Experience which requires purchasing a day pass, the Salute to Service Lounge is open to anyone with a valid military ID.


Of course lounge-goers love all the free drinks and chips, the swanky leather furniture and the sweet set up, but more than anything, the candid conversations with NFL superstars was second to none.

This year’s lineup was absolutely incredible. Players sat down for a one-on-one interview with lounge host Dave Farra and then the audience had the opportunity to ask questions, followed by a chance to get an autograph and chat with the individual players.

This year’s lineup:


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WATM and Roger Staubach

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Legendary Dallas Cowboys QB and Navy QB Roger Staubach

Tessa caught up with legendary Cowboys football player and Vietnam Veteran Roger Staubach to hear about his ongoing relationship with the military…

WATM and Deshaun Watson

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Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson

Listen as Tessa interviews Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson about growing up in a Habitat for Humanity house, the importance of paying it forward and the…

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Christian McCaffrey at the USAA Salute To Service Lounge at the Super Bowl LIV NFL Experience.

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Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey

Arguably the best running back in the NFL, Christian McCaffrey talks with Tessa about his Super Bowl pick, his love for the military and his harmonica.

Steelers running back James Conner at the USAA Salute To Service Lounge at the Super Bowl LIV NFL Experience.

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Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner

Tessa catches up with Pittsburgh Steelers’ James Conner to talk about his brother’s military service, his Super Bowl prediction and his unbelievable…

Also joining the Salute to Service Lounge was Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill and Washington Redskins Coach Ron Rivera. Next year, join USAA at the Super Bowl in Tampa and don’t miss this once in a lifetime experience.

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Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sept. 18, attended the week-long war games with Belarus that have demonstrated the Russian military’s resurgent might and made neighboring countries nervous.


Putin observed the Zapad 2017 drills — tank attacks, airborne assaults, and air raids that got underway Sept. 14 — at the Luzhsky range in western Russia, just over 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) east of Estonia’s border.

As part of the maneuvers, the Russian military on Sept. 18 also test-fired its state-of-the-art cruise missile at a mock target in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, showcasing the weapon’s extended range and precision strike capability.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Russian Zapad ’17 military exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Some nervous NATO members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized an alleged lack of transparency about the war games and questioned Moscow’s intentions.

Related: This video of a Russian helicopter accidentally firing on observers is crazy

The exercises, held in several firing ranges in Belarus and western Russia, run through Sept. 20. Russia and Belarus say 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops are participating, but some NATO countries have estimated that up to 100,000 troops could be involved.

With Russia’s relations with the West at a post-Cold War low point over the fighting in Ukraine, worries about the war games ranged from allegations that Russia could permanently deploy its forces to Belarus to fears of a surprise onslaught on the Baltics.

Russia and Belarus have said the exercises simulate a response to foreign-backed “extremists” and insisted the maneuvers don’t threaten anyone.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Russian Zapad ’17 military exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Their troops are fighting three invented “aggressor countries” — Veishnoriya, Lubeniya, and Vesbariya. However, the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — and Poland see the monikers for the made up enemies as thinly disguised references to their nations.

NATO has rotated military units in the Baltics and Poland and staged regular drills in the region, activities Moscow has criticized as a reflection of the alliance’s hostile intentions.

Also read: Watch Russia kick off this year’s massive ‘Zapad 2017’ wargame

Russia and Belarus kept the stated number of troops involved in the drills just below 13,000, a limit allowing them to dodge more intrusive inspections by NATO in line with international agreements. The practice maneuvers nonetheless have put Russia’s massive military mobilization capability on display.

They also have involved various branches of the Russian military, including the air force’s long-range bombers and missile forces. In a reflection of the drills’ broad scope, they featured the Sept. 18 launch of the Iskander-M cruise missile, a new weapon that has drawn concern from the United States.

Vietnam Forward Observers
USMC Photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon.

The missile, launched from the Kapustin Yar firing range in southwestern Russia, hit a mock target at a range in Kazakhstan, some 480 kilometers (nearly 300 miles) away, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The US has accused Russia of developing cruise missiles banned by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with a goal to threaten US facilities in Europe and the NATO alliance. Moscow has rejected the accusations and insisted it has adhered to the pact.

The INF Treaty bans an entire class of weapons — all land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 and 3,410 miles). The Iskander-M’s stated range puts it just below the pact’s threshold.

The Zapad 2017 maneuvers are intended to underline the close military cooperation between Russia and Belarus, but also revealed signs of strains between the allies.

While Putin watched the previous drills in 2013 with his Belarusian counterpart, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said he would watch them separately on Sept. 20.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Zapad ’13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Lukashenko has relied on subsidized Russian oil and gas supplies and billions of dollars in loans to keep his nation’s Soviet-style economy afloat. At the same time, he often has bristled at what he described as the Kremlin’s attempts to subdue Belarus and force it to surrender control over prized economic assets.

Lukashenko also has flirted with the West to try to reduce his dependence on Russia. His decision to dodge a joint appearance with Putin at the military exercises was seen by observers as an attempt to put some distance between Belarus and its giant eastern neighbor.

“Lukashenko is trying to mend ties with the West to get new loans, and the Kremlin’s military games don’t help that,” Alexander Klaskovsky, a Minsk-based political analyst, said.

Asperiores odit

Episode 204: Medal of Honor & Battlefield Recordings

Medal of Honor recipient Walter Ehlers tells his dramatic stories of combat in North Africa and Europe and details the events surrounding his heroic actions during the Normandy campaign.  He also offers his unique perspectives on the infantry, his fellow soldiers and the enemy.This episode also features rare recordings of live combat, direct from the battlefields of World War II.

Asperiores odit

These 32 photos show a rare side of World War II

World War 2 pictures capture everything from presidents and prime ministers to ordinary soldiers. As cameras became smaller and more portable, World War 2 images were taken in every country at war, and of virtually every battle. These rare World War 2 pictures capture not just the combat and danger, but the mundane moments in the lives of troops on both sides.


Many unseen pictures of World War 2 are just of soldiers goofing around, mugging for the camera, or posing with their weapons. Such candid pictures aren’t just found on the Allied side, but on the Axis as well, as many young German soldiers were captured playing around and carrying out their daily tasks. The photos make the war come alive in a way that most WWII documentaries or history books don’t – showing young men in difficult situations trying to retain their humanity and have a little bit of fun, even with danger all around them.

Here are some of the best old school photos of WW2, taken all over the world.

Old School Pictures from World War 2

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