Since the halcyon days of World War II frogmen, Navy SEALs have completed some of the most dangerous missions ever largely in the shadows — until the book comes out, that is.
When done correctly, Hollywood has produced a few films that give those brave men credit where it’s due. However, some films try to capitalize on the respected SEAL image by creating characters that are so far-fetched, many veterans call bullsh*t on it right way.
So check out our list of unrealistic Navy SEAL characters we’d love to forget.
1. Lt. Dale Hawkins
Played by Charlie Sheen, the action film “Navy SEALs” showcased Hawkins as being the “wild child” within the SEAL team. The movie decided to show his recklessness by having the character leap out of a moving car and into a river — it worked.
2. Chief Casey Ryback
Steven Seagal plays Chief Casey Ryback, a decorated Navy SEAL who specializes in explosives, weapons, and counter-terrorism turned culinary specialist, spending his remaining years in the Navy as a cook.
3. John “Bullfrog” Burke
OJ “The Juice” Simpson, played a Navy SEAL in 1994’s TV movie “Frogmen,” but unfortunately it never saw action. The show focused on Simpson’s character “Bullfrog” who conducted secret operations out of a dive shop in Malibu.
Unfortunately, 1994 was a big year for Simpson but not in a good way.
4. Lawrence Hammer
Rob Lowe plays a young rebel navigating through life as an elite member of the Navy SEALs as he’s sent off to fight in Desert Storm in 1992’s “The Finest Hour.”
Talented musician Ice Cube plays Stone in “XXX: State of the Union,” where the character’s backstory just happens to include being a Navy SEAL — imagine that. Stone is released from jail and given the mission to stop a coup attempt against the President and save the day.
6. The whole cast of “Seal Team Eight: Behind Enemy Lines”
Starring Tom Sizemore, the mission is to locate a secret mining operation in the Congo and stop international terrorists from selling uranium.
Demi Moore plays the motivated Navy SEAL candidate in 1997’s “G.I. Jane” directed by Ridley Scott. Although the film doesn’t show her earning her trident, the implication that she will soon enough is there.
We’re not saying women aren’t tough enough to be a Navy SEAL, it just hasn’t happened yet.
Command of the seas sometimes means taking control of a non-complaint ship by forceful means, and, as they’ve demonstrated a number of times in recent years while dealing with pirates off the coast of Somalia, U.S. Navy SEALs possess a specific set of skills required to get the job done. This mission is known as “vessel boarding search and seizure” or “VBSS.”
Here’s how VBSS missions generally go down:
Mission planning begins between all the players in the intelligence center aboard the strike group’s aircraft carrier. Elements beyond the SEALs are members of the ship’s crew who need to know where to position their vessels and aviators from the air wing. HH-60 pilots will carry the SEALs to the target ship, and Super Hornet pilots will fly high cover in case things get sporty and more firepower is required.
Super Hornet launches off of Cat 4. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
The Super Hornets launch first, armed with precision guided bombs and a nose cannon. They’ll establish a combat air patrol station high overhead in order not to tip off the bad guys.
HH-60s — the special ops configured variant of the Seahawk — launch with the SEAL team aboard.
Generally a pair of HH-60s is enough for the average VBSS. The helos transit a very low altitude and approach the target ship from off of the stern.
At the last second, the HH-60s pop over the target ship’s fantail . . .
. . . and deliver the SEALs by fast rope.
On deck, the SEALs make best speed for the superstructure.
Out of the open area, the team consolidates for the assault on the control points, usually the bridge of the ship.
The trick is maintain the element of surprise and to get to the bridge undetected. If that happens, neutralizing the bad guys is an easier proposition. If it doesn’t happen then the SEALs are ready to deal, armed with M-4s, 9mm pistols, concussion grenades, and knives.
Once maintaining the element of surprise is no longer a factor, the H-60s can close in . . .
. . . and provide cover in the event the SEALs missed something that was hiding on the way to the bridge.
After any threat is neutralized, the SEALs can inspect the ship to see if there’s any contraband aboard.
With tasking complete, the SEAL team gathers on the bridge for a quick “hot wash up” of the mission and to call for pickup back to the carrier.
Santa has received DARPA research the past two Christmas seasons under the High-speed Optimized Handling of Holiday Operations initiative. The HO HO HO initiative has previously gifted Santa with the tools to protect his network from hacks, land more safely on slanted roofs, and more effectively scout homes for people who are awake before he places the presents.
This year, DARPA’s gift features five major programs.
1. New tools for seeing through snow, dust, and fog
The Multifunction RF program is working on creating new sensors for aircraft that can detect obstacles, terrain, and other aircraft during flight — even in severe dust and snowstorms. The military wants the technology to prevent crashes during dangerous operations.
But Santa can use it to more safely approach houses in severe snowstorms and dust storms. This will become increasingly important as Santa fights to maintain his tight timeline with more kids to serve every year.
2. A fancy new Santa suit will help prevent strain injuries
While Santa’s average load from the sleigh to the tree is unknown, his sack sometimes has to accommodate dozens of toys, books, and electronic devices. Hopefully, a new Santa suit featuring Warrior Web technology will help Santa more safely move up and down the chimneys.
3. The TRADES program will lead to new toy designs
The Transformative Design program is trying to give engineers new tools to model the properties of possible equipment designs and to figure out manufacturing processes to create those products.
For top elves, this means that they can start fabricating new toy designs that would have been impossible just a few years ago. The new technologies will be especially useful for 3D printing.
4. New computer chips will keep the North Pole’s computers cool
As Santa and his staff serve a growing population, DARPA has become worried that the computer servers processing all that information will overheat.
To help prevent this, they’ve offered the Man in Red access to their Intrachip/Interchip Enhanced Cooling research. Computer chips integrating this technology are cooled more efficiently and are less likely to fail during high-demand tasks such as when Santa makes his list and checks it twice.
5. Programs from the Cyber Grand Challenge will defend against hacks by the naughtiest of children
Now, DARPA has turned some of that research over to Santa to help him keep his computer systems secure. While there’s little evidence that any hackers have made it into the system so far, the Naughty/Nice list is too obvious a target to be unprotected.
Drones save lives on the battlefield and engineers are finding new uses for them everyday. But, not all drone innovations are good things. Here are seven things that drones are quickly ruining.
Paintball was once about grown children shooting each other with tiny blobs of paint, but drone operators are shoehorning themselves into the mock combat. Suddenly, paintball has pogues. You can also see drone-on-drone aerial paintball if you don’t like excitement.
Firefighters keep running into problems with drones. Hobbyists fly them close to wildfires to get video of the flames, blocking aircraft needed to fight the fire. Helicopters and airplanes filled with fire retardant and water have to wait on the ground until the drones get out of the way.
3. Fight clubs
Fight clubs are supposed to be filled with angry people pummeling each other, not flying lights slowly colliding.
Sure, flying a drone at the wedding gives a lot of shots that you couldn’t otherwise get. But, maybe focus on not injuring the bride instead of getting better angles.
5. Security of military installations and The White House
Remember when underground racing was about fast cars and outrunning the police when they inevitably arrived? Well, drones have ruined that too. Now it’s basically mosquitoes flying around a parking garage.
7. Flying saucer theories
The idea of little green men spying on humans holds a draw for certain segments of the population, but modern “sightings” of potential alien craft are almost always drones which can easily be made to look like flying saucers.
The bravery and heroism demonstrated by America’s forefathers during the American Revolution has been widely documented and celebrated. Patriot rebels not only fought against the British forces on the battlefield, but worked to bring them down undercover, taking missions to gather intelligence that would often require them to pose as the enemy, cause strife amongst their neighbors, and risk the lives of their family and friends.
When people think of these early American spies, many think of the work of Nathan Hale, but few people know that women were also working to destroy British occupiers from the inside out.
These are some of the most prominent female spies of the American revolution:
1. Agent 355 was a prominent member of the Culper Spy Ring
There were several Patriot spy rings that worked to overthrow British occupation during the Revolutionary War, but very few of these secret groups had women who actively took part in the espionage. The Culper Spy Ring, however, is known mainly for a very unusual agent, a spy known then and now only as 355 — the group’s code number for the word “woman.” The mystery woman’s identity was kept secret to protect herself and likely her family, but her daring contributions to the American cause have been remembered in history. She took part in several counterintelligence missions, including spy operations that resulted in the arrest of major John Andrew — the head of England’s intelligence operations in New York — and the discovery of Benedict Arnold’s treason.
Some historians guess that Agent 355 was likely a shop keeper or a merchant who learned information about Red Coat military operations from chatty British customers, and that she would then divulge this information to George Washington. Regardless of her methods, Agent 355 made critical contributions to the Revolutionary cause.
2. Anna Smith Strong used her laundry as a coded Patriot communication system
Agent 355 wasn’t the only woman who operated under the Culper Spy Ring, however. Another woman, Anna Smith Strong, worked alongside 355 and her male compatriots in Long Island, and was known for her fierce patriotism and fearlessness. Strong’s sleuthing wasn’t quite as flashy as Agent 355’s, but the communication system she developed for the saboteurs was incredibly influential. Abraham Woodhull, a member of the ring, needed a way to find the location of Caleb Brewster‘s boat undetected, so he could then give him the top-secret information gathered for Gen. George Washington. It was too risky to search in multiple ports for the ship or ask for its whereabouts — if he drew attention to himself, he could be arrested and hanged for treason to the Crown.
To remedy this, Anna Strong developed a coded line of communication using her family’s wash line. Woodhull would hide his boat in six different locations in various patterns, and each one of these places was identified by a number. Smith would then hang clothes on the line in concordance with the code. The number of handkerchiefs hung out to dry signaled the number of the secret location, and she would add a black petticoat to signal that Brewster was close by. This system, as simple as it sounds, allowed the Culper Ring to operate undetected, and made huge gains for American freedom.
3. Ann Bates posed as a peddler to glean military information — for the British
The contributions of female spies to the American Revolution is incredibly impressive, but the Patriots weren’t the only ones with ladies working undercover. The British forces had women working for them as well, and Anna Bates was one of the best. Bates was a Loyalist schoolteacher in Philadelphia who began spying for the Red Coats in 1778, posing as a peddler and selling knives, needles, and other dry goods to the American military.
While she sold her wares to the rebel forces, she also took note of how many weapons and soldiers each camp held, and would pass this information along to loyalist sympathizers and British officers. Luckily, though Bates’s work was helpful to the British military, it wasn’t enough to derail the coming success of the American Revolution.
4. Lydia Darragh risked the lives of her sons for the American cause
While many spies were part of complex underground networks, some worked alone — like housewife Lydia Darragh. When British officers began using a large room on the second story of the Darragh’s home for military meetings, Darragh was quick to capitalize on the opportunity to gain information. Before the officers would file into the room, Darragh would hide inside an adjoining closet and press her ear to the wall, taking notes on the clueless officers’ battle plans.
She would then have her husband, William, translate her work into a coded shorthand on little pieces of fabric or paper. She would then fold the slip to fit over the top of a button mold, cover the mold with fabric, and then sew the message-filled buttons on to the shirt of her teenage son, John. Darragh would then send John on “visits” to his older brother Lt. Charles Darragh’s house, who would then take the buttons and present the stolen information to other rebel military leaders. It was an incredibly risky endeavor, but Darragh was willing to risk her own safety — and the safety of her family — for the American cause.
Scenario #1: A young service member walks into their newly assigned barracks room and notices how nasty it is. And on top of that, they have to share the small space with two or three other people that may or may not be very clean. The struggle is real.
Scenario #2: A service member may just have received orders to go on a 13-month deployment wants to make some cash while they’re gone.
Both of these very real circumstances of military life can be strong motivators for troops to tie the knot — and not for love.
Often called a “contract marriage,” these pairings are purely for monetary gain or medical benefits. No one is suggesting you do this versus saving your money or getting a second job if your command allows, but if you do it, keep these very important things in mind.
If you do get a divorce, the military typically won’t stop the extra pay right away. So don’t go spending all that extra cash too fast. The government will take back every cent from your paycheck until they recoup what’s theirs.
The answer is, yes. (images via Giphy)You’re welcome America!
The Great War – World War I – raged through Europe and the Middle East 100 years ago. These are some of the most unbelievable photos of troops and tech from the “War to End All Wars.”
Losing incredible photos to history could happen for any reason. Perhaps there were so many, these were rejected by publications, locked away in a box for us to find a century later. Or maybe they were just the personal keepsakes of those who fought the war. Whatever the reason, we can marvel at what wartime life was like, both in and out of the trenches.
Soldiers on all sides are more than just cannon fodder. These photos show people’s hearts, souls, and personal beliefs. They show the innovation on the battlefield – the gruesome killing power of the world’s first industrialized war. They also show the efforts made to improve technology that could save lives by ending the war.
Most of all, it shows that we who fight wars are still human, no matter which side of the line we maintain.
1. This listening device.
Before the advent of radar, aircraft had to be located by hearing the direction from which the aircraft approached. The horns amplified sound and the tech would wear headphones to try to pinpoint the location of the incoming enemy.
2. Holy rolling.
German infantryman Kurt Geiler was carrying his bible when a four centimeter piece of shrapnel embedded itself in the book, likely making a lifelong Christian out out of Geiler.
3. Lady Liberty takes 18,000 soldiers.
This depiction of the Statue of Liberty was made to drive war bonds and is made up of 18,000 troops – 12,000 just for the torch, which is a half mile away.
4. Realities of war.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affected troops even 100 years ago. Called “shell shock” at the time, up to 65,000 troops were treated for it, while thousands of others were charged with cowardice for it. Blasts from shells would leave lesions on the brain, resulting in symptoms similar to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) experienced by post-9/11 veterans.
5. This Austro-Hungarian war face.
This war face would make Gunnery Sergeant Hartman proud. It looks like William Fichtner’s great-grandfather.
6. These Italian troops mummified by the cold.
The next time you complain about being in formation in the winter, remember it could always be worse. These Italians froze in the Alps, fighting Austrians.
7. This gay couple flaunting DADT before it was controversial.
Proof that DADT was garbage in the first place.
8. This pigeon is ready for your close up.
Both sides used animals for reconnaissance and communication. Pigeons were especially useful for their homing ability and attitude.
9. This woman looks ready to take the whole German Army.
There’s so much so-called “great man history,” that we often forget about women’s contributions. Women worked in many industrial areas during the Great War. Look at this photo and realize most of you couldn’t chop wood all day on your best day.
10. This incredibly brave little girl.
Where are this girl’s parents? This is 1916, and child rearing was slightly tougher back then, but that’s still unexploded ordnance. (Europeans still find unexploded bombs from both world wars.)
11. This is the “Ideal Soldier.”
This propaganda photo depicts what the French public thought the ideal French soldier looked like.
12. These Vietnamese troops who did not fit #11’s profile.
A total of 92,411 Vietnamese men from what was then called French Indochina were in the service of France and were distributed around Europe, of which around 30,000 died.
It doesn’t matter if the sun is shining, if a hurricane is passing through Washington, DC or if a Tomb Guard accidentally gets stabbed in the foot. There will always be an American soldier of the highest caliber “walking the mat” at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For 24 hours a day, seven days a week since 1937 there has always been a guard on watch.
Stationed at Arlington National Cemetery’s most popular tourist attraction, the Tomb Sentinels have the hardest and most coveted job in the entire U.S. Army. No other special assignment has such strict standards, and for good reason.
But there is a lot that goes into being the most visible symbol of America’s dedication and honor for its fallen heroes that the public may not know about.
1. They don’t wear rank insignia for a reason
Unlike every American soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier do not wear rank insignia on their coats when guarding the tomb. Since the fallen inside the tomb are unknown, and no one knows what rank they actually were, Tomb Guards don’t wear visible rank so they don’t outrank who they might be guarding.
Only when the relief commanders come out to change the guard, do they wear an NCO’s rank. Their actual rank is separate from the uniform they wear while on duty at the tomb.
2. The Tomb Guard Badge is the 3rd least awarded badge in the Army
In third place behind the Military Horseman Identification Badge and the Astronaut Badge, acquiring the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Guard Identification Badge is not just rare, it’s incredibly difficult. Only 20% of applicants are accepted for training and the washout rate is astronomical.
3. It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle.
This is not just a lifestyle in the way that the Army life is a different way of life. When serving as a Tomb Guard, the job becomes your life for 18 months. The average sentinel take 8 hours to prepare everything required to go on duty for his next and that shift is a 24-hour shift.
4. Being on duty means the world’s strictest schedule
Tomb Sentinels stand two-hour watches in 24 hour shifts. In that time, they will repeatedly count to 21, which is representative of the 21-gun salute, the highest military honor given. The guard’s motions are a seven step process.
A 21 step march down the 63-foot-long black mat.
A turn toward the Tomb for 21 seconds.
A turn and face the opposite direction of the mat, weapon change to outside shoulder, and wait 21 seconds.
March 21 steps down the mat.
Turn and face the tomb for 21 seconds.
Turn and face the opposite direction, weapon shifted to outside shoulder, and wait 21 seconds.
Repeats the routine until the soldier is relieved at the Changing of the Guard.
5. The weapons and the gloves used to handle them are special
The gloves worn by Tomb Sentinels are usually wet to give them better control of the rifle in their hand as they switch it from shoulder to shoulder. Their weapons are special versions of whatever infantry rifle is standard issue at the time they’re posted, with ceremonial stocks. Currently, they use a fully functional but unloaded and well-cleaned M-14.
Non-commissioned officers wear a special sidearm during the Changing of the guard ceremony. The pistol is also whatever is standard-issue for the Army, but Sig-Sauer, the company that makes the Army’s standard-issue sidearm, created four special pistols just for the Old Guard, which includes wood from a ship that served in the Spanish-American War.
The Army originally placed guards at the Tomb of the Unknown to deter picnickers from having lunch on top of the hallowed gravesite. In the years that followed, the threat to the tomb became greater than having a good view during lunch and guards are posted to keep people from defacing or touching the monument. or even failing to show proper respect.
These are not the Buckingham Palace guards, and they will take steps to deter any encroachment on the tomb, by any means necessary.
Every military professional has his or her favorite war novel and picking the “greatest” is a tall order. But that’s what we do here at WATM. These are our picks for the greatest war novels ever written:
1. Catch 22
Written from several third person points of view with a circular dynamic centered around the paradox that is Catch-22, this Joseph Heller classic was in many ways years ahead of its time in that the wider audience didn’t relate to his reading of the military until well into the Vietnam War years. Beyond the biting satire and staccato pacing Catch-22 captures the personalities that populate the military to this day: inept commanders, opportunistic junior officers, and enlisted men staying sane by not taking anything around them too seriously. This is a must-read before every major deployment.
2. The Things They Carried
Tim O’ Brien’s Vietnam-era literary masterpiece is brimming with pathos. The novel’s strength isn’t necessarily in how it deals with war straight-on, but it lies in O’Brien’s atmospherics and states of mind and the resultant permanent scars of an ill-defined conflict carried out by a nation riven by it.
3. Mr. Midshipmen Hornblower
Most people think of Patrick ‘O Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series as the definitive historical fiction works around the heyday of warfighting sailing ships, but Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, the first book in C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series, skips getting bogged down in technical detail and instead offers timeless lessons in military leadership at sea and amazing perspective around what 17-year olds had to tackle responsibility-wise in the fledgling American Navy.
4. The Hunters
James Salter’s poetic prose elevates this Korean War-era story about Air Force pilots to timeless art as well as a definitive reading of those drawn to that particular warfare specialty. The Hunters has it all: a burned out CO, a confused chain of command, cocky junior officers, and significant others complaining about being ignored for the glory of air combat.
5. The Hunt for Red October
Tom Clancy was an insurance salesman who couldn’t interest anyone in his manuscript until the Naval Institute Press – a publisher that had never done fiction – decided to take a chance based on the story’s level of technical detail that bordered on classified. The book’s sales were relatively flat until President Ronald Reagan was seen carrying a copy, and from that point The Hunt for Red October became the title that launched a thousand technothrillers as well as Clancy’s prolific and lucrative career.
6. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Author Ben Fountain paints an all-too-accurate portrait of what “support the troops” has come to mean a decade and a half after 9-11. “Halftime Walk” is set at the Dallas Cowboys stadium where an Army unit is feted by the team’s owner and his circle of Texas fat cats who demonstrate the distance between the American population and those sent to do their fighting. More than a novel about war, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a national indictment.
7. All Quiet on the Western Front
Remarque’s groundbreaking World War I novel was among the first to dispel any laudable mystique surrounding war through its detail about trench warfare and mustard gas attacks and the portrayal of the protagonist’s decent from idealistic recruit to member of a generation forever scarred by “The Long War.” Paul Baumer’s heartbreak is that of the hundreds of thousands of service members who followed him into battle in the decades after his war ended, many of whom certainly read the book but went anyway.
An instant classic. Phil Klay’s much heralded debut novel about the Iraq War is worthy of the praise heaped upon it. Redeployment is at once timely and timeless in capturing the nuance of the emotions and states of mind of Marines at war and back home between tours. To get to what’s honorable about service you have to face the realities of an unclear mission without end and what accepting them does to those involved. In this effort Klay emerges as the de facto spokesman for the post-9/11 cohort of warfighters.
9. Slaughterhouse Five
Kurt Vonnegut’s best-known novel if not his masterwork, Slaughterhouse Five builds off of the author’s real-life experiences as an eyewitness to the aftermath of the Dresden firebombing during World War II and adds a time-traveling protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, to create a book that deftly illustrates the pointlessness and futility of war. (Also recommended by Vonnegut: Mother Night.)
So check out our list of stupid mistakes boots immediately regret during that special adjustment-to-active-duty period:
1. Talking back to a superior
Sometimes you feel the need to tell off someone higher ranking than you just to show your bros how tough you are. In many cases, the punishment given for that action can be worse than the crime committed.
Someone’s getting extra duty (Images via Giphy)
2. Marrying just for the benefits
Sure, the extra pay to buy beer for your friends sounds good now, but there are so many things that can go wrong right after saying the words, “I do.”
3. Sleeping with a grenade for your friend
We do a lot for our military brothers and sisters; this can include sleeping with someone’s friend as a personal favor.
This one is rarely a repeat mistake…
4. Over-sleeping and missing formation
It happens quite frequently, especially after a long night of drinking. I hope that sleep was worth it, because you’re gonna get reamed.
Being super cute won’t get you out of trouble every time. (Images via Giphy)
5. Getting caught with someone hiding in your trunk
After a set time, most military bases won’t allow people to enter the front gate without proper ID. So there’s only one way to sneak that special someone through security — stow them in the trunk.
Hopefully, your date will fit. (Images via Giphy)
6. Negligent discharge
Everybody wants to look cool while carrying a weapon around. But don’t be the one who accidentally fires the damn thing.
Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re prepared to fire. (Images via Giphy)
7. When you break something expensive because you don’t know how to work it
It happens, but now you either have to man up and face the situation or cover the mistake up somehow.
Military test pilots are a rare breed, undertaking the responsibility of flying new aircraft to their design limits . . . and then beyond. In his classic book The Right Stuff Tom Wolfe puts it this way:
A career in flying was like climbing one of those ancient Babylonian pyramids made up of a dizzy progression of steps and ledges, a ziggurat, a pyramid extraordinarily high and steep; and the idea was to prove at every foot of the way up that pyramid that you were one of the elected and anointed ones who had the right stuff and could move higher and higher and even–ultimately, God willing, one day–that you might be able to join that special few at the very top, that elite who had the capacity to bring tears to men’s eyes, the very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff itself.
Here are six of those who over their test pilot careers proved they were badasses with ample amounts of the Right Stuff:
1. Jimmy Doolittle
Jimmy Doolittle felt the test pilot itch very early in his life. At age 15, he built a glider, jumped off a cliff, and crashed. He stuck the pieces back together and tried again. The second crash was worse, and when he came to rest there was nothing left to salvage.
In 1922, Doolittle made a solo crossing of the continental United States in a de Havilland DH-4 in under 24 hours. Two years later, he performed the first outside loop in a Curtiss Hawk. In 1929, he flew from takeoff to landing while referring only to instruments — a feat The New York Times called “the greatest single step in safety.”
During World War II Doolittle was sent off to train crews for a mysterious mission, and he ended up leading the entire effort. On April 18, 1942, 15 B-25s launched from the USS Hornet and bombed Tokyo. Most ditched off the Chinese coast or crashed; other crew members had bailed out, including Doolittle. Though he was crushed by what he called his “failure,” Doolittle was awarded the title Brigadier General and a Congressional Medal of Honor, which, he confided to General Henry “Hap” Arnold, he would spend the rest of his life earning.
2. Bob Hoover
After his Spitfire was shot down by a Focke-Wulf 190 over the Mediterranean in 1944, Hoover was captured and spent 16 months in the Stalag Luft 1 prison in Barth, Germany. He eventually escaped, stole a Fw 190 (which, of course, he had never piloted), and flew to safety in Holland.
After the war Hoover signed up to serve as an Army Air Forces test pilot, flying captured German and Japanese aircraft. He befriended Chuck Yeager and eventually became Yeager’s backup pilot in the Bell X-1 program. He flew chase in a Lockheed P-80 when Yeager first exceeded Mach 1.
Hoover moved on to North American Aviation, where he test-flew the T-28 Trojan, FJ-2 Fury, AJ-1 Savage, F-86 Sabre, and F-100 Super Sabre, and in the mid-1950s he began flying North American aircraft, both civil and military, at airshows. Jimmy Doolittle called Hoover “the greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived.”
3. Chuck Yeager
As a young Army Air Forces pilot in training, Yeager had to overcome airsickness before he went on to down 12 German fighters, including a Messerschmitt 262, the first jet fighter. After the war, still in the AAF, he trained as a test pilot at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, where he got to fly the United States’ first jet fighter, the Bell P-59.
Yeager then went to Muroc Field in California, where Larry Bell introduced him and fellow test pilot Bob Hoover to the Bell XS-1. On October 14, 1947, ignoring the pain of two cracked ribs, Yeager reached Mach 1.07. “There was no ride ever in the world like that one!” he later wrote. The aircraft accelerated so rapidly that when the landing gear was retracted, an actuating rod snapped and the wing flaps blew off.
He test piloted the Douglas X-3, Northrop X-4, and Bell X-5, as well as the prototype for the Boeing B-47 swept-wing jet bomber. And on one December day in 1953, he tried to coax an X-1A to Mach 2.3 to break Scott Crossfield’s Mach 2 record attained in the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket. At 80,000 feet and Mach 2.4, the nose yawed, a wing rose, and the X-1A went out of control. He managed to recover the airplane at 25,000 feet.
Yeager was sent to Okinawa in 1954 to test a Soviet MiG-15 that a North Korean had used to defect. When he stopped test-flying that year, he had logged 10,000 hours in 180 types of military aircraft.
4. Scott Crossfield
In 1950 former Navy fighter pilot Scott Crossfield was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and sent to Edwards Air Force Base in California to fly the world’s hottest X-planes, including the X-1, the tail-less Northrop X-4, the Douglas D-558-I Skystreak and D-558-II Skyrocket, the Convair XF-92A and the Bell X-5. He made 100 rocket-plane flights in all.
On November 20, 1953, he took the D-558-II to Mach 2.04, becoming the first pilot to fly at twice the speed of sound.
He gained a reputation as a pilot whose flights were jinxed: On his first X-4 flight, he lost both engines; in the Skyrocket, he flamed out; the windshield iced over in the X-1. After a deadstick landing in a North American F-100, he lost hydraulic pressure and the Super Sabre slammed into a hangar wall, which caused Chuck Yeager to proclaim: “The sonic wall was mine; the hangar wall was Crossfield’s.”
In 1955, he quit NACA and started flying the sinister-looking X-15. Crossfield made the first eight flights of the X-15, learning its idiosyncrasies, and logged another six after NASA and Air Force pilots joined the program.
On his fourth X-15 flight, the fuselage buckled right behind the cockpit on landing. But his most serious mishap happened on the ground while testing the XLR-99 engine in June 1960.
“I put the throttle in the stowed position and pressed the reset switch,” Crossfield wrote in his autobiography Always Another Dawn. “It was like pushing the plunger on a dynamite detonator. X-15 number three blew up with incredible force.” Fire engines rushed to extinguish the blaze, and Crossfield was extracted from the cockpit.
“The only casualty was the crease in my trousers,” he told reporters. “The firemen got them wet when they sprayed the airplane with water. I pictured the headline: ‘Space Ship Explodes; Pilot Wets Pants.'”
5. Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong’s path to being the first man on the moon was a somewhat circuitous one. He entered Navy flight training right out of high school and wound up flying 78 missions over Korea. He left active duty at age 22 and went to college at Purdue where he earned an engineering degree that, in turn, landed him a job as an experimental research test pilot stationed at Edward Air Force Base.
Armstrong made seven flights in the X-15 from November 1960 to July 1962, reaching a top altitude of 207,500 feet and a top speed of Mach 5.74. He left the Dryden Flight Research Center with a total of 2,400 flying hours. During his test pilot career, he flew more than 200 different models of aircraft.
Then the real work began. In 1958, he was selected for the U.S. Air Force’s Man In Space Soonest program. In November 1960, Armstrong was chosen as part of the pilot consultant group for the X-20 Dyna-Soar, a military space plane under development by Boeing for the U.S. Air Force, and on March 15, 1962, he was selected by the U.S. Air Force as one of seven pilot-engineers who would fly the space plane when it got off the design board.
In the months after the announcement that applications were being sought for the second group of NASA astronauts, Armstrong became more and more excited about the prospects of both the Apollo program and of investigating a new aeronautical environment. Armstrong’s astronaut application arrived about a week past the June 1, 1962, deadline. Dick Day, with whom Armstrong had worked closely at Edwards, saw the late arrival of the application and slipped it into the pile before anyone noticed.
Astronaut Deke Slayton called Armstrong on September 13, 1962, and asked whether he would be interested in joining the NASA Astronaut Corps as part of what the press dubbed “the New Nine”; without hesitation, Armstrong said yes, which made him the first (technically) civilian astronaut.
Armstrong was ultimately given the nod to lead the Apollo 11 mission because he was generally regarded as the guy with the most analytical mind and coolest under pressure among the astronauts.
6. John Glenn
John Glenn is best known as the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, but before he was one of the Mercury 7 he was a test pilot. Then-Major Glenn flew an F8U-1P Crusader (BuNo 144608) from NAS Los Alamitos, California nonstop to NAS Floyd Bennett Field, New York at a record speed of 725.55 mph. The flight, which involved Glenn refueling from airborne tankers at waypoints across the country — the only times he pulled the power out of afterburner (besides his final approach to landing) — lasted just three hours, 23 minutes and 8.4 seconds, and that beat the previous record holder (an F-100F Super Sabre) by 15 minutes.
The purpose of the Project Bullet was to prove that the Pratt Whitney J-57 engine could tolerate an extended period at combat power – full afterburner – without damage. After the flight, Pratt Whitney engineers disassembled the J-57 and, based on their examination, determined that the engine could perform in extended combat situations. Accordingly, all power limitations on J-57s were lifted from that day forward.
(An interesting side note is that the Crusader that Glenn used for Project Bullet was reclaimed from the “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB and made into a Navy RF-8G reconnaissance aircraft. Following a photo mission over North Vietnam in December of 1972, the jet was lost while trying to land aboard the USS Oriskany operating in the Gulf of Tonkin. The pilot ejected and survived.)
Check out these five stories that you might have missed this week:
5. A U.S. drone takes out a group of al-Shabab fighters 40-miles southwest of Somalia’s capital
U.S. Africa Command reported that a drone strike took out a vehicle carrying explosives posing an “imminent threat to the people of Mogadishu.” The extremist group al-Shabab has been linked to bombings in Mogadishu that have killed over 500 people.
The U.S. has reportedly carried out over 30 airstrikes against the extremist group. The Trump administration approved expanding military operations in Africa.
4. China continues to install high-frequency radar on their man-made islands — and the U.S. doesn’t like it one bit.
Reportedly, the U.S. and allies are highly opposed to China building on the artificial islands, which cover nearly 72 acres of the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Although the construction is entirely legal, many officials believe they may have ulterior motives.
3. China threatens to invade Taiwan once a Navy ship reaches its port.
A senior diplomat from China threatened to invade the self-ruled island should any U.S. warship visit. Li Kexin, another Chinese diplomat, had told U.S. officials that China would initiate its Anti-Secession Law, which authorizes the use of force on Taiwan to prohibit the island from seceding, only if the U.S. docks their ships.
2. Pyongyang said it’s a ‘big step’ toward nuclear war if the U.S. blocks North Korean ships
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requested that all nations put a clamp on North Korea and reassert the “right to interdict maritime traffic.” North Korean officials found the remark offensive, causing the rogue nation to threaten war if their ships are blocked.
This issue surfaced after North Korea’s latest missile test raised global concern.
1. Russia wants to supply arms to the Central African Republic if UN Security Council approves
The request raised concerns from France, who has already questioned Russia’s reasoning for the sale. Russia is seeking an exemption to the arms embargo set on the Central African Republic in 2013. The UN Security Council has until next week to consider the request.
UN Security Council during a session. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)