Many service members can recall their recruiter’s insistence that they will be swarmed with the attention of beautiful women as soon as they graduate from basic. For the most part, this claim is incorrect.
There are those who are absolutely into the fact that you signed on the dotted line. One can usually find them within close proximity to a military base, keeping always on the alert, and searching for their future spouse. Of course this would never happen to you but, if you think your buddy is in a relationship with someone like this, there are signs to look for:
You walk into the bar just outside base, have a seat with your boys, you all are celebrating finally making it to fleet. You walk to the bar for another round when she taps you on the shoulder. She is gorgeous — you’ve never talked to girl like this, much less had one approach you. Must be your lucky day right? Well…
5. She asks if you are married, not if you’re single
Ok, maybe it’s just you — after all, you’re much more fit than you used to be and she doesn’t even know you serve. How could she? (haircut, farmer’s tan, affliction t-shirt) Then she asks if you are married. Not if you are single — but if you are married. This is a little to the point but maybe she just knows what she wants. Maybe she saw you and just fell in love.
4. She knows your contract better than you
You let her know that you are not married, that you live in the barracks, and have your meals at the chow hall. She informs you that if you were married you could live off base and could eat whatever you want, whenever you want.
3. She explains BAH to you
You kindly explain to her that you wouldn’t be able to afford to live off base and the cost of groceries is also a little steep. She smiles at you the same way an adult does a child, pats you on the head and says, “Oh sweetie, you sweet ignorant little thing, the basic allowance for housing is X amount of dollars here which is more than enough for us to live in a small place, not to mention the basic allowance for subsistence which would get you off that prison food in the chow hall.”
2. She proposes to you just before deployment.
So you’ve been dating now for two-weeks and things are getting serious. She sits on your rack and stares at her phone while you play video games in your barracks room. Things are perfect, until you hear her say it. “You should get married before you deploy.” (Pauses game, turns slowly)
“They’d pay you so much more: BAH, SAH, separations pay, hazardous duty pay, baby you’d clean up.”
So you are married now, congratulations. First deployment is about to be underway, and where is your new bride? She was at the dentist on Monday, the dermatologist on Tuesday, optometrist Wednesday, and seems to have a healthy relationship with the ear nose and throat doctor. It may be time for you to make an appointment with the proctologist, because this is all highly suspect.
A well-made whiskey cocktail is a nice reward at the end of any day. But sometimes classic cocktails are too much. For one thing, unless you’re a seasoned drink-slinger, many whiskey cocktails are often too complicated — or intensive — to whip up at the end of a long day (Hey if you want to shake the hell out of that classic whiskey sour, go right ahead). For another, the alcohol content of one concoction can quickly equal that of two or three regular drinks. Sometimes this is great; other times, not so much. Because while we’d like this to not be the case, “falling asleep in the chair” is not really a regular item on the nightly to-do list.
That’s what inspired this list of one-shot whiskey cocktails. They’re all great to sip at the end of the day but won’t put you on your ass — or require four kinds of hooch and one of those hilariously long copper mixing spoons. They’re simple, refreshing, and very drinkable. What more do you want from a summer cocktail?
What is it? The Blinker is a simple, refreshing drink made with grapefruit juice and rye whiskey. While they might not seem like the most obvious combination, one sip and it might just become your new summer go to.
Try it with: Michter’s Rye. It’s bold enough to shine through the intensity of the grapefruit tang.
How to make a Blinker:
2-3oz fresh grapefruit juice
1oz raspberry syrup
Instructions: Shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass.
2. Bourbon and Georgia Peach Coca-Cola
What is it? A way better version of the classic whiskey and Coke.
Try it with: Knob Creek. The strong vanilla notes compliment the peach flavoring.
How to make a Bourbon and Georgia Peach Coca-Cola:
1-2oz Knob Creek Bourbon
4-6oz Georgia Peach Coca-Cola
Garnish with a fresh slice of peach
Instructions: Fill a highball glass with ice and add all the ingredients.
What is it? It’s just an Old Fashioned made with Scotch instead of rye or bourbon. The Old Fashioned is a perfect cocktail and normally we don’t like to tinker with perfection. But, variety is the spice of life and Scotch is, and always will be our first love.
Try it with: Ardbeg 10. This single malt adds a big peaty smoke as well as a touch of salt and pepper for a more layered drink.
How to make a Single Malt Old Fashioned:
1-2oz Single Malt Scotch
2-3 Dashes of bitters
1 Tsp of simple syrup
Top with 1oz club soda
Orange peel for garnish
Instructions: Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add the ingredients.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The military is known for its rules. There are books upon books filled with them. But even when there’s no official documentation to back them up, troops adhere to rules laid out before them (usually). No unofficial rule is followed by as many troops as not walking on grass.
It’s so prevalent in military culture that most NCOs don’t even know why they’re yelling at a private for walking on grass — they just know that first sergeant is looking.
To any civilian or new recruit, it’s mind-blowing. Troops will do PT on the grass in the morning but once they’re told to shower for work call, they’re not allowed back on the grass until the following day (unless they’re cutting it).
But why? A few footsteps aren’t going to hurt anything.
(Photo by C. Todd Lopez)
To be completely straightforward: Your sergeant major doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the grass itself. The grass will still grow all over the world with or without “blood, bright red blood.”
The restriction is symbolic and it’s about not taking literal shortcuts. The idea is that if a troop takes a shortcut once, they’ll see no problem cutting corners the next time.
Since military sidewalks are usually straight lines that intersect each other at 90-degree angles, a young private may save a half of a second by cutting through the grass. If enough troops cut that same corner, then the grass will die and become a path, thus destroying the need for the sidewalk to begin with.
Another reason for the rule is that it requires a level of attention to detail. If you’re not capable of noticing that you’re now walking on soft grass instead of the sweat-stained concrete, then this is very likely not the only ass-chewing you’ll see in your career.
Your sergeant major probably isn’t a staunch environmentalist who’s trying to preserve the sanctity of poor, innocent blades of grass. They and the NCOs below them have ten million more important things to do than to knife-hand the fool who’s careless enough to do it — but they will. Stepping on the grass and spending the half-second required to stay on the pavement is symbolic of a troop’s discipline.
H/T to the Senior NCOs at RallyPoint for clarifying this mystery.
The US Army wants a cannon that can fire a round over 1,000 miles, with the aim to blow a hole in Chinese warships in the South China Sea should a conflict occur, according to Army senior leadership.
“You can imagine a scenario where the Navy feels that it cannot get into the South China Sea because of Chinese naval vessels, or whatever,” Secretary of the Army Mark Esper revealed Jan. 23, 2019, “We can — from a fixed location, on an island or some other place — engage enemy targets, naval targets, at great distances and maintain our standoff and yet open the door, if you will, for naval assets or Marine assets.”
The Army, relying heavily on the newly-established Army Futures Command, is undergoing its largest modernization program in decades, and it is doing so with a renewed focus on China and Russia, the foremost threats to US power in the National Defense Strategy.
A key priority for the new four-star command is Long-Range Precision Fires, a team which aims to develop artillery that can outrange top adversaries like Russia and China.
Soldiers fire 155 mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer weapons system.
(U.S. Army photo by Evan D. Marcy)
“Our purpose is to penetrate and disintegrate enemy anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) systems, which will enable us to maintain freedom of maneuverability as we exploit windows of opportunity,” Col. John Rafferty, head of the LRPF cross-functional team, explained to reporters in October 2018.
The Chinese and Russians have made significant advancements in the development of effective stand-off capabilities. Now, the Army is trying to turn the tables on them.
“You want to be outside the range that they can hit you,” Esper told Task Purpose Jan. 23, 2019.
“Why was the spear developed? Because the other guy had a sword. A spear gives you range. Why was the sling developed? Because the spear closed off the range of the sword,” he explained. “You want to always have standoff where you can strike without being struck back. That’s what extended-range cannon artillery gives us.”
An M777A2 155 mm howitzer.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Katelyn Hunter)
The ERCA is an ongoing project that may eventually create opportunities for the development of a supergun with the ability to fire a round over 1,000 miles. The extended-range cannon artillery currently has a range of 62 miles, which is already double the range of the older 155 mm guns.
The Army is also looking at adapting current artillery for anti-ship warfare.
During the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in 2018, Army soldiers fired multiple rockets from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) at the ex-USS Racine during a combined arms sinking exercise. The drill highlighted what a war with China in the Pacific might look like.
China has one of the world’s largest navies, and there is significant evidence that it intends to use its growing military might to drive the US out of the region.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China’s rapidly growing fleet of electric buses could be the biggest existential threat to oil demand in the future as more and more vehicles shun fossil fuels.
A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggests that China’s electric-bus revolution could kill off oil demand in the future with 6.4 million barrels a day displaced by electric vehicles by 2040.
By the end of 2019, a cumulative 270,000 barrels a day of diesel demand, predominantly from China, will be removed from the market. China’s revolution in electric vehicles has been astonishing and looks set to continue into the future. For example, in the growing mega city of Shenzen, the entire 16,000 strong fleet of buses run on electric engines and taxis will soon follow suit.
Bloomberg estimates that electric buses and cars collectively account for 3% of global oil demand growth since 2011. The market is still small, making up around 0.3% of current consumption, but is set to expand rapidly in the coming years.
Global energy demand is still growing despite the boom in electric vehicles, with the US set to become the world’s largest oil exporter in the coming years.
A number of American cities and universities, such as the University of Utah, have unveiled electric-bus fleets in recent years. And in 2017, 12 major global cities agreed to buy only all-electric buses starting in 2025, according to Electrek.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet at approximately 3 p.m. EST Nov. 26, 2018, and viewers everywhere can watch coverage of the event live on NASA Television, the agency’s website and social media platforms.
Launched on May 5, 2018, InSight marks NASA’s first Mars landing since the Curiosity rover in 2012. The landing will kick off a two-year mission in which InSight will become the first spacecraft to study Mars’ deep interior. Its data also will help scientists understand the formation of all rocky worlds, including our own.
InSight is being followed to Mars by two mini-spacecraft comprising NASA’s Mars Cube One (MarCO), the first deep-space mission for CubeSats. If MarCO makes its planned Mars flyby, it will attempt to relay data from InSight as it enters the planet’s atmosphere and lands.
This is an illustration showing a simulated view of NASA’s InSight lander about to land on the surface of Mars. This view shows the underside of the spacecraft.
InSight and MarCO flight controllers will monitor the spacecraft’s entry, descent and landing from mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, where all landing events will take place.
Broadcast Schedule (all times Eastern)
Times and speakers are subject to change. Media can participate in the news conferences by phone. Plus, media and the public can ask questions on social media during the events by tagging them with #askNASA.
From the time he was a boy, Merian C. Cooper wanted to be an adventurer, a wish that propelled him into journalism, the National Guard, military aviation, two world wars, and the cinematic killing of King Kong. During that time, he took part in historic events, like the hunt for Pancho Villa, and contributed to others, like the Doolittle Raid.
When he was six, he read a book by a French explorer who traveled Africa, and he was hooked on the idea of adventure. In 1916, that led the journalist and Georgia National Guardsman to Mexico, where he took part in the punitive expedition against Pancho Villa.
That only fueled his desire more, so he got a billet at a military pilot school in Georgia and graduated in time to go to France for World War I. He became a bomber pilot, but was shot down over Germany and declared dead until the American officers learned he had survived and been taken prisoner.
But he wasn’t done with Europe, soon heading to Poland as a captain and taking part in the Polish-Soviet War. He formed a new squadron, the Polish 7th Air Escadrille, with volunteers from France. The men saw protracted combat, and Cooper himself was shot down two times. The second time, he was captured by the Soviets and sent (a second time) to a prisoner of war camp.
After two attempts, he successfully escaped and was rewarded for his wartime service with Poland’s highest decoration for valor.
After returning to a peaceful America, he became a movie producer and writer, working on some cinematic classics, including the game-changing King Kong of 1933. He even played one of the pilots in the film.
But war came knocking again when the U.S. entered World War II. So, Cooper returned to service as a colonel and was sent to India where he served as a logistics expert for the Doolittle Raid, the legendary attack by carrier-based bombers against Tokyo itself in 1942. He was even eventually invited to see Japan’s surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri.
American women risk their lives for their country every day. In fact, women have served alongside men in combat long before they were legally “allowed.” That being said, women didn’t have the option of joining the military in fields outside of nursing until after the Vietnam War. With such a history, it’s important to tell the stories of the women who served and lost their lives while defending our country.
Honoring our fallen warriors is a longstanding, sacred traditional in our military. It’s part of our DNA to recognize the sacrifice of those that die in combat.
Piestewa is the first American Indian woman to die in combat on foreign soil. (U.S. Army photo)
Hailing from her hometown of Tuba City, Ariz., Piestewa was from a military family. She was the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and the granddaughter of a World War II veteran. Her own interest in the military began in high school, where she participated in a junior ROTC program. Piestewa enlisted in the Army and was attached to the 507th Maintenance Company in Fort Bliss, Texas and deployed to Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Piestewa was driving the lead vehicle in a convoy when one of their vehicles broke down. They stopped to make a repair, then continued north to catch up to the rest of the convoy. Along the way, they made a wrong turn and were ambushed by Iraqi troops.
The missing numbered 15 total.
A few days later, Pfc. Jessica Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital. Nine members of the 507th were killed in action, including Piestewa. A rocket-propelled grenade hit the Humvee she was driving.
Piestewa left behind a son, a daughter, and a mother and father, Terry and Percy Piestewa, who toured the country attending memorial services held in her honor.
She was posthumously promoted to Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa and Arizona’s offensively-named “Squaw Peak” was renamed Piestewa Peak. It was “given the name of hero,” as her tribe described it.
Lori Piestewa will live forever in our memory and in the memory of her fellow soldiers as the Hopi woman warrior that gave her life for her country: White Bear Girl.
The Navy marked a first earlier this year when a woman completed Navy SEAL officer assessment and selection, Military.com has learned.
At the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services in December, a Navy official disclosed that the woman had reached the end of the physically and mentally demanding two-week SOAS process in September. Ultimately, however, she was not selected for a SEAL contract, officials said.
While the military formally opened SEAL billets — and all other previously closed jobs — to women in 2016, no woman has yet made it to the infamous 24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to date. If the woman had been selected for a SEAL contract at the end of SOAS, she would have been the first to reach BUD/S.
Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare, said the candidate had not listed the SEALs as her top-choice warfighting community. She was awarded placement in her top choice, Lawrence said.
US Navy SEAL candidates during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
“We do not discuss details of a candidate’s non-selection so it does not interfere with their successful service in other warfighter communities,” she said.
Candidates for SOAS are taken from college Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, service academies, and the Navy’s Officer Candidate School, all prior to getting their first Navy contract. Lawrence declined to specify which pathway the recent female candidate had taken out of concern that doing so would reveal her identity.
Lt. Grace Olechowski, force integration officer with Naval Special Warfare Command, said five women had been invited to participate in SOAS since the pipeline was opened to women. Three had entered SOAS to date, but only one had completed assessment and selection.
Military.com broke the news in 2017 that a first female student had entered SOAS — an ROTC student at a U.S. college. She ultimately exited the process before reaching the selection panel, however.
Lawrence said the SEAL officer selection process is candidate-neutral, meaning the selection board does not know the gender or other personal information of the candidates.
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participating in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Furey)
“Selection is based on the candidate’s scores during the two-week SOAS assessment,” she said. “This process ensures every candidate has a fair and equal chance based on Naval Special Warfare standards.”
It’s also possible that not listing the SEALs as a primary career choice would factor against a candidate in the selection process.
The selection panel is made up of senior SEAL officers, Lawrence said, who use SOAS assessment data along with resume information to select “the most competitive candidates.”
Roughly 180 candidates are selected every year to attend SEAL officer assessment and selection, she said; on average, the top 85 candidates are chosen to continue on to SEAL training. There are four two-week SOAS blocks held every year.
While SOAS precedes the award of a final SEAL contract, it is not for the faint of heart. It was previously called “mini-BUD/S” in a nod to its grueling and rigorous nature.
“Physical stress and sleep deprivation are applied to reveal authentic character traits,” the Navy says on its official Naval Special Warfare recruiting site. “Performance and interview data on every candidate is meticulously documented and presented to the NSW Selection Panel.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Deploying is just one of those things every troop knows will happen eventually. There are two ways troops look at this: Either they’re gung-ho about getting into what they’ve been training to do for years or they’re scared that they’ll have to do what they’ve been training years to do for years. No judgement either way, but it’s bound to happen.
The truth is, combat only makes up a fraction of a fraction of what troops do while deployed. There are some troops who take on an unequal share of that burden when compared to the next, but everyone shares some of the same downsides of deployment.
Today’s troops have it nicer than those that came before them and some units may inherently have an easier time of things. Still, everyone has to deal with the same smell of the “open air sanitation pits” that are lovingly called “sh*t ponds.”
Yep. And the VA is still debating whether this is unhealthy or not.
Sand will get everywhere no matter how many times you sweep. Black mold will always creep into your living areas and cause everyone to go to sick call. That’s normal.
What’s not normal is the amount of lazy, disgusting Blue Falcons that decide that using Gatorade bottles as piss pots is more convenient than walking their ass to a proper latrine but get embarrassed by their disgusting lifestyle so they horde that sh*t under their bunk in some sick, twisted collection. True story.
That is, if you can get to an uncrowded USO tent to actually talk to your folks back home.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Carmichael)
Everyone knows they’re going to have to be away from their family, but no one really prepares you for the moments when you’re going to have to tell them you can’t talk a few days because something happened — “Comms Blackouts.” They’re totally normal and it freaks out everyone back home. it’s up to the troops to explain the situation without providing any info that would incur the wrath of the chain of command.
We’ve all heard the constant, nebulous threats. “The enemy is always listening!” “All it takes is one puzzle piece to lose the war!” Such concerns aren’t unfounded — and it leaves troops clammed up, essentially without anything interesting to talk about while deployed.
I’m just saying, we’re doing you a favor by not saluting you where there could be snipers…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)
Other units’ officers
Every unit falls under the same overarching rules as set forth by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So, if someone’s doing something that breaks said code, any troop can (and should) step in to defuse the situation. That being said, every unit functions on their own SOPs while downrange and there’s always going to be a smart-ass butterbar who raises hell about not being saluted in a combat zone.
Don’t worry, though. This guy will probably have a a “totally legitimate” copy of all the seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ on DVD.
(Official Marine Corps Photo by Eric S. Wilterdink)
Everything you’re going to miss out on
Being deployed is kind of like being put in a time capsule when it comes to pop culture. Any movie or television show that you would normally be catching the night of the release is going to end up on a long checklist of things to catch up on later.
To make matters worse, troops today still have an internet connection — just not a very good one. So, if some big thing happened on that show you watch, it’s going to get spoiled eventually because people assume that, after a few weeks, it’s all fair game to discuss. Meanwhile, you’re still 36 weeks away from seeing it yourself.
You’d think this isn’t comfy. But it is.
Sleep (or lack thereof)
Some doctors say that seven to nine hours of sleep are required for the human body to function. You will soon laugh in the face of said doctors. You’ll be at your physical peak and do just fine on five hours of constantly interrupted sleep.
War is very loud and missions occur at all hours of the day. What this means is just as soon as you get tucked in for the night, you’re going to hear a chopper buzz your tent while a barely-working generator keeps turning over which is then drowned out by the sounds of artillery going off. Needless to say, when the eventual IDF siren goes off, you’ll legitimately debate whether you should get out of bed or sleep through it.
Ever wonder why so many troops make stupid films while in the sandbox? Because we’re bored out of our freakin’ minds!
The fact that you’re actually working 12-hour days won’t bother you. The fact that you’re going to get an average of five hours of sleep won’t bother you. Those remaining seven hours of your day are what will drive you insane.
You could go to the gym and get to looking good for your eventual return stateside. You could pick up a hobby, like learning to play the guitar, but you’d only be kidding yourself. 75 percent of your time will be spent in the smoke pit (regardless if you smoke or not) and the other trying to watch whatever show is on at the DFAC.
“Oh, look! It seems like everyone came back from deployment!”
All that money (and nothing to spend it on)
Think of that episode of The Twilight Zone where the world’s end comes and that one dude just wants to read his books. He finally finds a library but — plot twist — he breaks his glasses and learns that life is unfair. That’s basically how it feels when troops finally get deployment money. It’ll be a lot more than usual, since combat pay and all those other incentives are awesome, but it’s not like you can really spend any of it while in Afghanistan.
If you’re married, that money you’re be making is going to be used to take care of your family. Single troops will just keep seeing their bank accounts rise until they blow it all in one weekend upon returning.
With the new Godzilla movie coming out this Friday (May 31), we thought it would be a good time to remind everyone that we only have the iconic movie monster—or the more than dozen other kaiju of the Godzilla universe—thanks to the survival of a particular Japanese platoon sergeant who was taken prisoner by Chinese forces in World War II.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters Final Trailer (2019) | Movieclips Trailers
While we don’t typically advocate the success of Japanese soldiers in World War II (they were fighting America, after all), I think most of us can agree that Ishiro Honda’s survival was a lucky get. He was an up-and-coming director in Japan in the 1930s who was working for a popular director and film instructor at the time, Kajiro Yamamoto.
But in 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army came calling, and Honda was drafted as an infantryman who served multiple tours in his country’s invasion of China, a republic and ally of America in World War II. Most biographies of Honda paint him as a reluctant member of that military, serving only because it was demanded of him, not because he believed in Imperial Japan’s invasions or fascist ideology.
In between combat tours in China, he continued to make movies, predominantly in Tokyo. One movie that he cited as an inspiration during the war was the propaganda film The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya, which he thought had great special effects.
But the reluctant warrior eventually fell to the realities of the prolonged war. After all, Chinese citizens fighting for their survival didn’t particularly care if the guys firing at them were reluctant or not. And in 1945, Chinese troops were able to capture Honda.
Ishiro Honda holds a Godzilla model while filming his iconic movie.
He would spend the next six months in confinement, learning of the atomic bombings and the Japanese surrender from a Chinese prison. He returned to Japan in 1946 and traveled through Hiroshima, one of the cities that suffered a direct hit from an atomic bomb.
For anyone who didn’t catch that, Gojira was Godzilla, and Honda’s success creating and directing the movie would change his career. It set a new record for Japanese film budgets at the time, and it was an international hit translated into multiple languages and even re-shot and re-cut in America with a Hollywood star at the time, Raymond Burr.
A still image from the trailer for Mosura, the Japanese film centered on the giant moth Mothra.
The former Japanese soldier did not rest and bask in the praise, though, he catapulted from Godzilla to other large monster movies, helping to create and popularize the kaiju film genre characterized by massive monsters, helping create the movies and characters such as Rodan and Mothra, both of whom will appear in the new Godzilla: King of the Monsters on Friday. He also created King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962.
A sandy white beach. Swaying palm trees. Cocktails made from coconut juice.
As frigid air and snowstorms whip across most of the U.S., service members may dream of trading their current duty station for an exotic Pacific paradise.
But they might want to think again, according to Bob Cunningham, a former Air Force radar operator whose first duty station was a tiny, oblong blister of land in the South China Sea. He knows it as North Danger Island.
For six months in 1956, Cunningham lived on a remote knob approximately 2,000 feet long and 850 feet wide in the Spratly Islands group located midway between the Philippine Islands and Vietnam. His home was a canvas tent and he manned radio and radar equipment for a secret Air Force project mapping the earth.
The mission was an aerial electronic geodetic survey. Specially equipped aircraft flew grid patterns and triangulated electromagnetic pulses sent between temporary ground stations hundreds of miles apart. The data, computed into highly accurate coordinates, would eventually provide targeting information for intercontinental ballistic missile development.
It was a ‘million dollar experience’ that he wouldn’t give two cents to repeat, Cunningham jokes today.
Not that it wasn’t an adventure, he admits.
Cunningham’s four-man team and all its equipment was helicoptered to the island from the deck of a Landing Ship, Tank (LST), along with the drinking water, fuel and rations the men would need to survive. Resupply occurred every 4-6 weeks by helicopter, supplemented by occasional parachute drops. A radio relay team of six Airmen had already established itself on the island and shared the same copse of trees.
“I was 22 years old. I was the kid on the island so it was a real experience,” Cunningham remembers. “I didn’t have a lot of sophistication psychologically, and that was a real psychological test for human beings, to be going like that.”
He was an Airman 2nd Class, a two-striper, with just over a year of service in the Air Force and some college education. His sergeants had seen combat during World War II and were wise to what the isolated team would endure. Their ingenuity, humor and direct leadership kept young Cunningham and the others on the island from mentally cracking.
To keep a low profile, the Airmen were ordered to stow their uniforms and wear civilian shorts and sneakers, sandals and cowboy hats instead.
The men also kept their pistols and M-1 Garand rifles ready, knowing that pirates and other possible threats roamed the waters surrounding them.
“The Chinese nationalists came by with a gun boat. A big, long vessel. Military. Chinese Navy,” Cunningham said. “And they had this big three-inch cannon on the front on a turret, and they swung that baby in toward our island, and they had some machine gun turrets, and pretty soon we saw boats come over the edge and some officers got on that and they came in to see who we were and what we were doing.”
The Airmen placed palm fronds along the beach to spell out U-S-A-F. The gunboat crew was satisfied and the standoff ended.
On another occasion, Okinawan fishermen came ashore to trade their fish for drinking water.
“They saw our 50-foot antenna that we put up for our radar set, our pulse radio, and so they were curious,” Cunningham said. “They came onboard and they were quite friendly.”
But visitors were the exception. Day after day, interaction was limited to within the tiny community of Airmen.
A feud between two staff sergeants took a bad turn when one threatened to kill the other.
Cunningham’s technical sergeant knew he had to step in and confront the enraged man. But first he warned Cunningham and the other radar operator that the situation could explode and that they might have to use their weapons.
“He said, ‘I’m calling him in here, I’m going to present this to him, our concern,'” Cunningham recalled. “‘If he gets up and breaks like I’ve seen a guy do it, he’ll run right over to the ground power tent where those guys live and he’ll just start shooting people.'”
Fortunately, there was no violence and the conflict was resolved.
“We had to stay up around the clock for a day or so to see what would happen in case we had to call for an SA-16 (amphibious flying boat) to come out with Air Police and come in and capture this guy, and we’re going to have to tie him up to a palm tree or something,” Cunningham said. “We didn’t know what was going to go on.”
The veteran sergeants kept up morale in other ways.
They improved the camp with funny signs, hand-made furniture and a wind-driven water pump. They cooked sea turtles for the men. And they improvised a way to make alcohol from coconut juice and cake mix.
Cunningham remembers the technical sergeant busy at his distillery ‘making moonshine.’ When the sergeant was asked why he was wearing his pistol, he replied that revenuers might come through and he couldn’t be interrupted.
That sense of humor was “what you really needed on a place like that to keep from cracking up,” Cunningham said.
For recreation, Cunningham would walk around the island and photograph the thousands of birds it attracted. He also tried diving off the reef once and became terrified by the absolute darkness.
“I opened up my eyes and it scared the bejeepers out of me,” he said. “It was total black. I couldn’t see anything. I got so danged scared, I came up and I got off and I got back to that reef and I never went back again.”
In the final month, he and the sergeant were the only humans left on the island. Two members of his team were evacuated. The radio relay team was relocated, taking their noisy generator with them. For the two men remaining, the silence at night was now ‘spooky’ – a lone coconut dropping from a tree was enough to send them scrambling for their weapons.
Cunningham’s experience on the reef forever changed how he relates to other people.
“I have an expression,” he said. “‘This guy sounds like a North Danger kind of guy,’ meaning somebody compatible, smart, you can get along with him, he’s got a good temper. Or this guy, I would not want to be with him on North Danger.”
We in the west have a tendency to focus on the European tensions that led to World War II. And while the rise of Mussolini and Hitler caused a massive conflict that rocked Europe and Russia, open fighting was going on in Asia for years before Germany’s encroachment into Sudetenland. And Japanese officers triggered a round of fighting in 1931 by attacking their own railroad.
Japanese troops enter Tsitsihar, a city in northeast China.
(Japanese war camerman, public domain)
The Mukden Incident took place in 1931. Japan had ambitions on the Asian continent, but the Japanese political establishment was, shall we say, less aggressive about it than the Japanese military would have preferred.
There was a railroad running through the Liaodong Peninsula near Korea. It connected key cities in the peninsula to the rest of the continent. Japan acquired the railroad and peninsula after the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905, giving it a much larger foothold on the continent. The railroad became one of Japan’s most economically important assets on the continent.
And, worse, China was politically unifying at the time. It created a real risk that China may become resilient to further expansion. There was even a possibility that Japan would eventually be kicked off the continent.
The site of the 1931 railway sabotage that became known as the Mukden Incident and kicked off the fighting in Asia that would become World War II.
So, in the middle of all this tension, someone blew up a short section of the railroad on Sept. 18, 1931. An under-powered bomb did little lasting damage, and the railway was operating again almost immediately.
But even more immediate was the counter-attack. In just a day, Japanese artillery was sending rounds into Chinese-held territory. In just a few months, Japan had conquered the most resource-rich areas bordering the peninsula. The limited damage, the quick Japanese retaliation, and the brutal invasion has led some historians to believe that mid-level Japanese Army officers conducted the bombing to give themselves a pretext for invasion.
Japan occupied the area for the next 14 years, and its troops continued to conquer China. It attacked Shanghai in 1932, threatening European and American interests as well as, obviously, Chinese security and sovereignty.
The American and European navies stepped up their game in the Pacific, reinforcing Pacific outposts and building new ships. Meanwhile, Japan remained on the march, continuously expanding until 1942. It would conquer vast portions of China and all of Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Burma, and more.
And it all started with a shady as hell attack against its own railroad in 1931.