Look out Navy, the tides are turning – the Army Black Knights are ranked #23 going into the 2018 Army-Navy Game. The AP Poll puts them at 23 while the Coaches Poll puts them at 24. The last time Navy was ranked going into the game was the 2017 game, where the Midshipmen were ranked 25. They lost that game, but the year prior, the Mids were ranked 21 and pulled out the W, topping Army 21-17.
A pre-game ranking seems to mean very little to Navy, but for the Black Knights, it could be a game-changer. The last time Army came in ranked was in 1996, when they were #23 — and won the game 28-24
Now, a #23 ranking may mean little to the NCAA powerhouse teams in Columbus, Tuscaloosa, or Norman, but at West Point, it’s a big deal. As the Plebes get ready to meet the Mids this year in Philadelphia, there’s a lot on the line for the Black Knights. After topping Air Force on Nov. 3, the Army is in a position to win its first back-to-back Commander-in-Chief trophy ever while beating Navy for the third year in a row.
The last time Army extended a multi-year winning streak over Navy was in 1996 – which happens to be the last time they came into the contest as an AP Poll-ranked team. In their snowy 2017 win over the Naval Academy, the Black Knights secured their first Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy since — you guessed it — 1996.
The stars might be aligned once again for the Black Knights. Air Force took down Navy 35-7 on Oct. 6, which means Army can be the clear winner with a victory in Philadelphia on Dec. 8. If they lose and the trophy is shared, the previous winner retains the trophy but… c’mon. No one wants to win by default. That’s not the Army way.
This year’s Army team is playing without West Point standout Ahmad Bradshaw, whose collegiate career ended with last season’s incredible win over Navy. The quarterback left West Point as the academy’s number five all-time rushing leader. His replacement, Kelvin Hopkins, Jr., has stepped well out of Bradshaw’s shadow, leading the Black Knights to a 9-2 record and a #23 spot on the AP Poll.
Bradshaw is now a leader in the U.S. Army as Hopkins leads the Army West Point team to its third ranking season since 1963. This is Army’s third winning season since 1996, and the Plebes seek to make it their second 10-win season in two years. Their last L came on Sept. 22, in a crushing overtime loss to Oklahoma, 28-21.
No shame in that — especially because the Black Knights went on a 7-game winning streak afterward.
It’s great preparation for the biggest game of the season – just look at last year’s Army-Navy Game.
The 2018 Army-Navy Game presented by USAA takes place on Dec. 8, 2018 in Philadelphia at noon Eastern.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a brutal attack on Pearl Harbor, killing over 2,300 American military personnel and catapulting the U.S. into World War II. After nearly four years of fierce fighting, Japan agreed to the terms of surrender as laid out in the Potsdam Declaration. On August 14th, 1945, this decision was broadcast across Japan.
A few weeks later, thousands of brave men gathered on the USS Missouri to witness a historic event as Gen. Douglas MacArthur, accompanied by Adms. Chester Nimitz and William Halsey, met with the Japanese delegation. Officials signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945, finally putting a stop to the war and securing victory for the Allies.
Tragically, between the announcement of the surrender and the signing of the document, despite an active ceasefire, one last American life was lost.
During the war, Sgt. Anthony J. Marchione served as an aerial photographer with the 20th Combat Reconnaissance Squadron. On August 18, 1945, Marchione was on a mission to gather evidence that the Japanese were indeed complying with the ceasefire when the B-32 he was aboard took enemy fire.
Japanese machine guns ripped into the side of the B-32’s metal skin, creating a shower of shrapnel inside the cabin. Marchione noticed one of the crew members was gravely wounded and he rushed over. As the brave photographer helped his brother-in-arms, another barrage of enemy gunfire rained down on the American bomber.
The second round of incoming fire struck Marchione. He bled to death aboard his plane in the skies over Tokyo that Saturday afternoon. Sgt. Marchione’s tragic, untimely death has the dubious distinction of being the very last of World War II.
The aerial photographer was about a month away from celebrating his 20th birthday.
With the entire world focused on COVID-19, it’s a great time to build your bug out bag.
A bug-out bag isn’t just for secret agents anymore.
We Are The Mighty’s resident operator, Chase Millsap, served three combat tours as a Marine Infantry Officer in Iraq and as a Green Beret leading counter-terrorism missions in Asia.
We asked him what he’s packing in his bag in case he needs to escape on short notice for any reason. Here’s what he says you must have, at minimum.
12. Water filter.
Given optimal conditions, a person can last up to a week without water. Extreme conditions are likely to cut that time (and yours) short. Additionally, drinking water from untreated sources can lead to a number of infections and diseases.
If you’re unfamiliar with a “woobie,” it’s how some U.S. troops refer to their issued poncho liner. It makes for a great blanket, cushion, or pillow. It’s not waterproof, but in temperatures above freezing, it’s very effective at keeping in body heat.
10. Two days of food.
This should be self-explanatory, but in case it isn’t, remember: You can go for weeks without food. If you’re on the move, however, that time is cut short. You can’t carry all the food you need with you, but you should have enough to last until you can make it to an area where you can get more or be rescued.
9. Lockpick kit.
The reason one carries lockpicks is fairly obvious: to get into things that are locked. We can’t predict why you’ll be evacuating your home, but if you’re going to be out on foot for a while, you may need this. Think about it: When the looting stops, everything that was easy to get is already gone. What’s left is under lock and key.
8. Fire starter with dryer lint.
You can’t depend on a lighter or matches. You’re going to need to start a fire the old-fashioned way: with sparks and kindling.
7. Solar or hand-crank battery.
You should have electronic devices with you, namely your means of communication. A zombie apocalypse notwithstanding, you’re going to want to be rescued at some point, so secure the means of keeping your phone and/or radio alive and at the ready.
6. 550 cord and a carabiner.
Anyone who’s served in the military knows how useful 550 cord and carabiners are. If you want to augment their usefulness, learn to braid and to tie knots.
5. Medical kit.
Let’s be honest, most of you are not Green Berets — and if you were Navy SEALs, you would have told us by now. Since the name of the game is surviving in a potentially hostile environment, we should be prepared for injuries sustained on our way out of the disaster area. If we want to be prepared to help ourselves and others, we need a med kit.
4. Face mask.
Dirt and debris fly everywhere during a disaster or in a disaster area. Heck, the air itself can be chalked full of dirt and harmful particles.
Be prepared for it.
3. Gloves and boots.
You shouldn’t need to be told this: Bring your boots. The best part about these items is they don’t add to the weight on your back.
If you need to be seen from a distance (namely, by rescue aircraft), nothing is more effective than what the U.S. military already uses, the VS-17 signal marker is the thing for the job. Best of all, that’s exactly what search and rescue teams are trained to look for.
The Naval Air Weapons Command has collected a lot of footage at their China Lake Ranges in California, and it released a new video that’s just five minutes of bombs hitting targets, piercing the ground, crushing towed vehicles, and creating massive light shows.
The video includes rockets, missiles, and bombs, and even has a little surface-to-air action at the start, with shoulder-fired missiles taking out aerial drones.
There are plenty of live weapons in the videos, as well as some inert ones. You can tell the inert ones because they’re blue, and also they’re the ones that don’t create a massive fireball after they explode. While the footage, from armored vehicles and tanks blowing up to trucks getting crushed, is exciting, that’s obviously not why the Navy does it.
The range has a crap-ton of cameras and sensors, allowing weapon designers and testers to see exactly how current and prototype weapons act when hitting a variety of targets. That’s why you see some munitions slam through a target just before flying across a wall with black and white grids.
Personnel rail launch an Integrator unmanned aerial vehicle at Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake, California.
The high-speed cameras capture the rotation, flight path, and speed of the round as it flies past the grid, either during normal flight or right after flying through a wall or two. That lets designers figure out the best way to tweak a weapon for stable flight or for performance after piercing a bunker wall or two.
And the large ranges and massive restricted airspace allows Navy and other pilots to train in realistic conditions. So, when you want to learn to nail a fast-moving Land Rover, come to China Lake!*
*Must bring your own jet and bombs.
The range can be used for surface-to-surface warfare, but that isn’t featured much in the video, so this one is mostly for the aviation geeks. Check out the video at top.
China’s military has surged in capability and size in the recent decades, but that rise has come, partially, as a result of stealing, copying, or imitating technology developed by the U.S. and other countries. From drones to ships, here are six of the most recent copies:
A Chinese Type 726 landing craft.
LCAC / Type 726
The Chinese Type 726A Landing Craft, Air Cushioned is a near carbon copy of the Navy LCAC, the hovercraft used by the U.S. Navy uses to deliver everything, from bullets to tanks, to bare enemy beaches. The two vessels even have similar capabilities — both can carry 60 tons, but the U.S. LCAC can “overload” to 75 tons.
It’s unclear whether Star UAV System gained intel as a result of cyber espionage or through the Chinese government, if at all, but the similarities between the X-47B and the Star Shadow are hard to ignore.
But, they do manufacture it more cheaply, leading to an edge in exports. An answer to the MQ-9 Reaper drone also exists, the CH-5, but it lacks the altitude of the proper Reaper. It can reach a paltry 9,000 meters, compared to the 15,000 meters of the Reaper.
The Chinese heavy lift Y-20 aircraft at the Zhuhai Airshow in 2014.
(Photo by Airliners.net, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Y-20 / C-17
Rolling off the line in June, 2016, the Y-20 is slightly smaller and carries slightly less weight than the American C-17, to which it appears to be a close cousin. Despite its relative smallness, it’s still a massive transport aircraft capable of carrying Chinese main battle tanks and other gear across the planet.
China purchased Sikorsky S-70 helicopters, the civilian variant of the UH-60 Black Hawk, back in the 1980s. Eventually, they wore out, so China created the “homegrown Z-20,” which are basically UH-60s. They’re so closely related that commentators took to calling the Z-20 the “Copy Hawk.”
The Chinese Type 052 destroyer is an imitation of the U.S. Navy Arleigh-Burke class. The Chinese Haribing (DDG 112) is pictured above.
(U.S. Department of Defense)
Arleigh-Burke / Type 052
China’s Type 052 guided-missile destroyers have large radars, vertical missile tubes that can attack everything from submarines to enemy missiles, and a helicopter hanger, just like the rival Arleigh-Burke class in the U.S. arsenal — and their designs and appearances are very similar.
This is one case, though, where the technology appears to be more imitation than theft. Unlike the drones, the Y-20, and other programs, there’s little evidence that China gained direct access to Arleigh-Burke designs or technology. More likely, Chinese leaders observed the capability of the destroyer, tried to steal it, but figured they could approximate much of the system with their own engineers if necessary.
Today’s military has many antiquated training plans still written into the calendar. Troops will still practice drill and ceremony despite the fact that the need for marching into combat died out more than a hundred years ago. We still sharpen our land navigation skills despite the fact that we have overwhelming technological advantages that make the use of more primitive tools highly improbable.
However, the one training that always draws the loudest “but why?” from the back of the formation is bayonet warfare. And you know what? That loud, obnoxious dude isn’t entirely wrong — the last time “fix bayonets!” was officially ordered to a company-sized element in combat was by Col. Lewis Millet during the Korean War.
But bayonet training isn’t about just learning to attach a “pointy thing to your boomstick and poking the blood out of people,” as an old infantry sergeant once told me. It’s about laying the fundamentals of everything else.
It’s only silly if you make it silly. If you do, the other guy will knock the silliness out of you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Marnell)
Bayonet training was officially taken off the Army’s basic training schedule back in 2010 because it created scheduling conflicts with other needed skills. Still, some drill sergeants find a way to work it in on their own time. The Marine Corps still learns the skill, but it’s a part of the greater Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
The training is always conducted in stages. The first stage is to have the recruits train on pugil sticks — giant, cotton-swab-looking sticks. This teaches a warfighter the importance of maintaining a positive footing while trying to overpower an opponent. Literally anyone can take on anyone in a pugil stick match because it’s not about size or strength — it’s about control.
Learning to control your body while asserting dominance on your enemy is crucial in close-quarters combat. Once you’ve mastered the pugil stick, you can move on to bayonets.
“Yeah! Take that, tire! F*ck you!”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II)
Fighting with a bayonet is less like fighting with a rifle that happens to have a knife attached and more like using a spear that has a rifle on it. Much of the same footwork learned while training with pugil sticks plays a role here. Maintain good footing, thrust your bayonet into the enemy, and send them to their maker.
Maintaining good footing is a fundamental of nearly every single martial arts form known to man. Instead of having troops learn a martial art (which would take years to yield workable results), troops can come to understand the importance of footwork by just stabbing a worn-out tire — much more efficient.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Maximiliano Bavastro)
The third and most vital lesson that’s secretly taught behind the guise of bayonet training is when the troops line up to conduct a full charge toward targets.
Sure, without the real threat of danger, the point may be missed by some, but it’s important nonetheless. If you and your unit are tasked with making a last-ditch effort to stop the enemy and all you have is your bayonet, many of you may die. But when you know for certain that you and your brothers will charge into death head-on with the hopes of gutting at least that one, last son of a b*tch… you’ve embraced the warrior lifestyle.
Sure, missing out on that life lesson doesn’t hurt the “combat effectiveness” that training room officers love to care about, but there’s little else that compares to the ferocity of a bayonet charge.
Every branch of the service has that place their soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines just dream of getting orders for.
That place could be anywhere that might appeal to an individual… maybe they love the cultural experience of being in Europe, or they enjoy the sun in Hawaii, or maybe they’re just away from their hometown.
These aren’t those places.
Army: Fort Polk, Louisiana
Ever hear of Leesville, Lousiana? No? Good for you. Living in a swamp is not something anyone grew up dreaming about. The nearest towns are at least an hour away, and the nearest fun is in New Orleans, a long drive away.
Sure, the PX is supposedly great thanks to a facelift, but it had better be: There’s nothing else to do. Fort Polk will supposedly ruin your car, ruin your marriage, and make you hate biting lizards.
Navy: NAS Lemoore
Hey, how does being cast out into one of the most polluted cities on the planet sound? Because NAS Lemoore is a great place to get asthma.
Most people who haven’t been to Clovis will argue that I spelled “Minot” wrong. I argue that any place referred to as “Afcannonstan” is probably far worse.
Both places are pretty remote, and while Minot has a seemingly endless winter, the people of Clovis are annually subjected to a wave of giant insects. Also, the stink of cow dung doesn’t travel as far in the cold. Cannon’s airmen would tell you to be happy it’s so cold.
Marine Corps: Twentynine Palms, California
All of the duty stations on this list have one thing in common: They’re pretty far from real American life. Twentynine Palms is no different. These guys are smack-dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
So, Marines can prep for sandstorms in the Middle East with sandstorms right here at home. And remember, when airmen complain about the smell of cow manure in the desert, Marines can complain about the lake of sewage.
Coast Guard: You tell me.
The Coast Guard talks about its districts like it’s in the world of The Hunger Games. Everyone seems to love district 13. In fact, as much flak as the Coast Guard gets for being the awkward child of the military, the Coast Guard doesn’t seem to have a “worst” station among them.
I’m told the station at Venice, Louisiana can be pretty bad and that the CG will let you choose your follow on orders for doing a tour there. But no one ever seems to talk Twentynine Palms-level smack about any station.
The internet is a powerful tool for veterans. It allows them to keep up with friends, access their hard-earned benefits and shop for the things they need. Unfortunately, former service members are more likely than civilians to be targeted by online scammers while doing these things. Veterans are twice as likely to lose money to fraud because of identity theft, phishing, impostor scams, and investment, loan, or donation deceptions.
Many of these scammers target Veterans to alter or access their government-provided aid, swindling them out of the money or benefits they have earned. This is a widespread issue. Nearly 80% of Veterans say they have been targeted by scams due to their service, according to an AARP survey. These scams are diverse and range from phishing attempts to solicitations for fraudulent Veteran-focused charities.
“Help the Vets” is one example of a fraudulent charity targeting Veterans. It claimed to fund medical care and mental health services for Veterans. An investigation found that “Help the Vets” spent 95% of donations on administrative costs and compensation for its founder. Just 5% of proceeds were actually used to benefit Veterans.
Scammers and identity thieves also target financially stressed Veterans with promising investment opportunities. Recently, a man defrauded about 2,600 people—many of whom are pension-holding Veterans—in a Ponzi scheme. The investor told these pension holders to make monthly payments and disguised them as cash flows.
Identity thieves have developed both low-tech and high-tech ways to steal Veterans’ data, like shoulder surfing and skimming. Shoulder surfing requires that someone physically look over your shoulder to steal your password, PIN, or credit card number. Skimming utilizes a device that fits onto regular credit card machines, allowing scammers to steal your credit card information.
How to protect your information
Veterans can take simple actions to better protect their information:
Use unique passwords for your online accounts. Re-using passwords increases the risk of cyber theft.
Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). This combines more than one authenticator type based on information users know and information users receive. It also adds another level of security when Veterans log in to access and manage VA services and benefits.
VA works hard to prevent Veteran identity theft. VA delivers cybersecurity awareness training for all VA employees. It ended the use of Social Security numbers in its business processes. Lastly, VA gives free credit monitoring to Veterans and beneficiaries whose data was compromised by a VA breach. Veterans or beneficiaries of identity theft not caused by a VA breach can contact the toll-free Identity Theft Help Line at 1-855-578-5492 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
Veterans can also find additional information on protecting their identity and what VA is doing to help by visiting the More Than a Number website.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Troy, New York — In the earliest days of 1945, the infantrymen of the 42nd Infantry Division, now a part of the New York Army National Guard, spent their first days in desperate combat against German tanks and paratroopers during Hitler’s final offensive in Western Europe.
Operation Nordwind, sometimes called “the other Battle of the Bulge” kicked off on New Year’s Eve 1944 in the Alsace region of France. The American and French armies fought desperately to halt the attack and hold onto the city of Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace.
Three regiments of 42nd Infantry Division soldiers, who had been hurried to France without the rest of their divisional support units, had arrived in Strasbourg, France just before Christmas 1944. They expected to spend time in a quiet sector to learn the ropes of combat.
They could not have been more wrong.
The 42nd Infantry Division had been made up of National Guard troops during World War I and nicknamed “the Rainbow Division” because it contained elements from 26 states.
In World War II the division was reactivated but filled with draftee soldiers. With a desperate need for infantry troops in Europe, the soldiers of the 222nd, 232nd, and 242nd Infantry Regiments had been pulled out of training in the United States and shipped to southern France.
The three regiments were named Task Force Linden, because they were commanded by the division’s deputy commander Brig. Gen. Henning Linden. They were committed to battle without the artillery, armor, engineers and logistics support the rest of the division would normally provide.
The attack came as a shock to the newly arrived infantrymen, explained Capt. William Corson in a letter to a 42nd Division reunion gathering in 1995. Corson commanded Company A in the 1st Battalion, 242nd Infantry.
“The green, inexperienced troops would occupy a small town named Hatten since the Germans had nothing more than small patrols in the area. At least that was the information given at a briefing, but someone forgot to tell the enemy,” he wrote.
German paratroops and panzer forces with tanks and self-propelled guns crossed the Rhine River 12 miles north of Strasbourg and clashed with the thinly stretched Rainbow Division infantry at Gambsheim on January 5.
For the next three weeks, the three regiments defended, retreated, counterattacked and finally stopped the Germans.
The first week of was a frenzied effort to halt the German advance, with companies and battalions moved around the front like firefighters plugging gaps, Corson said. The fighting was so desperate that the 42nd Division even threw individual rifle companies into the fight whenever they became available.
“Officers knew little more than the GI,” Corson said. “One morning my company moved to a barren, frozen hillside with orders to dig defensive positions covering an area about three times larger than we were capable of adequately defending. After four hours of chipping away at the frozen ground, we were told that this position would not be defended, so we moved to another frozen spot about ten miles away and started digging again.”
At Gambsheim the odds were too great for the American infantry. The majority of its defenders from the 232nd Infantry Regiment were captured or killed.
In a failed January 5-7 counterattack at Gambsheim, units from all three regiments were combined in a patchwork force that was ultimately repulsed.
Dan Bearse, a rifleman with the 242nd Infantry in the counterattack, recounted the events in an oral history.
“They had tanks and heavy artillery, endless infantry troops,” Bearse recalled. “We were outnumbered two or three to one. So we were quickly repulsed. Lost lots of people, killed, wounded and captured. And we were thrown back immediately,” he said of the January 6 battle. “We were badly mauled and it was very demoralizing. That was our baptism of fire. And it was a loser.”
At Hatten, on January 10, 1945, the 242nd Infantry Regiment and a battalion from the 79th Division tried to stop the German tanks and paratroopers again. The defenders were overrun.
Capt. Corson was wounded and captured with dozens of his Soldiers.
But one soldier from the 242nd Infantry, Master Sgt. Vito Bertoldo decided to stay. Bertoldo, who was attached from Corson’s Company A to the battalion headquarters, volunteered to hold off the Germans while other soldiers retreated.
Bertoldo drove back repeated German attacks for 48 hours. He was exposed to enemy machine gun, small arms and even tank fire.
US Army soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division’s Task Force Linden prepare a defensive position at their log and dirt bunker near Kauffenheim, France, January 8, 1945.
Moving among buildings in Hatten to fire his machine gun, at one point Bertoldo strapped it to a table for stability. He fired on approaching German tanks and panzer grenadiers, repeatedly defeating the German attacks and killing 40 of the enemy. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“On the close approach of enemy soldiers, he left the protection of the building he defended and set up his gun in the street,” his Medal of Honor citation states, “There to remain for almost 12 hours driving back attacks while in full view of his adversaries and completely exposed to 88-millimeter, machine gun and small arms fire.”
“All I did was try to protect some other American soldiers from being killed,” Bertoldo would tell newspapers back home after the war. “At no time did I have in mind that I was trying to win something.”
The 1st Battalion, 242nd Infantry paid a heavy price for its defense of Hatten. At the beginning of the battle there were 33 officers and 748 enlisted men in the battalion. Three days later there were 11 officers and 253 enlisted men reporting for duty.
The Germans launched their final assault just seven miles from the fight at Hatten on January 24, looking to cut American supply lines back to Strasbourg in the town of Haguenau.
They attacked straight into the 42nd Division.
Troops of the 222nd Infantry were dug in inside the nearby Ohlugen Forest, with thick foliage and dense fog concealing both American and German positions.
The regiment had two battalions in the defense, covering a frontage of 7,500 yards, three times the normal frontage for a regiment in defense, according to the “42nd “Rainbow” Infantry Division Combat History of WWII.”
Facing the Americans were elements of a German tank division, a paratroop division and an infantry division.
During the fighting, 1st Lt. Carlyle Woelfer, commanding Company K in the 3rd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, captured a German officer with maps detailing the German attack. The officer and another prisoner were put on an M8 Greyhound armored car for transport to the rear. But the German officer signaled for other Germans to come to their aid.
Three Germans moved on the vehicle, killing one American Soldier, but were then killed in turn by Woelfer.
The back and forth fighting continued through the rest of the night as the 222nd fought to contain the German breakthrough towards Haguenau. The regiment earned a Presidential Unit Citation for its actions.
The 232nd Regiment was brought up from reserve to help in the defense. The defense had held as reinforcements from the divisions which had been fighting in the Battle of the Bulge arrived to push the Germans back.
By mid-February 1945 the rest of the 42nd Infantry Division arrived in France and the infantry regiments were rebuilt. The division then went on the attack against German units that had been severely ground down by the Nordwind attack.
For the Rainbow Division, their attack would lead into Germany and capture the cities of Wurzburg, Schweinfurt, Furth, Nuremberg, Dachau and Munich before the war ended in May of 1945.
The first time the radio was used in an aircraft, the message wasn’t one about science, technology, or even the wild blue yonder. It was much more mundane – but still unexpectedly hilarious. When the crew of the Airship America decided to attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, they opted to take a radio system with them along with a cat that had been living in the airship’s hangar, one named Kiddo. The first message transmitted by the airmen was about Kiddo.
“Roy, come and get this goddam cat!”
It was 1910, and America’s airman Walter Wellman loaded five companions onto the airship America in an effort to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air. Though the mission would end in a kind of disaster (and not cross the Atlantic), it would still be historic, setting a number of firsts and records for traveling by air. The ship traveled more than a thousand miles and stayed in the air for a whopping 72 hours. Wellman also decided he would take a radio system and an engineer with him so he could communicate with ships below.
He also brought a stray cat, one they named Kiddo. But Kiddo wasn’t as daring as his human companions – at least not at first. And he made his wariness known to the rest of the crew.
“We can never have luck without a cat on board,” said navigator Murray Simon, a superstitious former sailor.
Kiddo was especially vocal with the radio engineer, Melvin Vaniman. Vaniman didn’t seem to like cats that much in the first place but when Kiddo began meowing loudly, crying, and running around “like a squirrel in a cage,” Vaniman decided enough was enough, and he made the first-ever ship-to-shore radio transmission to a secretary back on terra firma:
“Roy, come and get this goddam cat!”
The crew weren’t heartless. They tried to lower Kiddo into a trailing motorboat down below using a canvas bag, but the seas were much too rough to successfully do it, so they had to take him back up. Kiddo eventually got his air-legs and began to grow more accustomed to the floating dirigible. He even became a valuable member of the crew, warning them when the barometer dropped and a storm was on the horizon.
Wellman’s airship from the deck of the SS Trent.
It was the weather that would force the crew of the America to abandon ship and that particular plan to cross the Atlantic. Just a few hours into the journey, two of their engines failed. They proceeded with the remaining engine to drive them, but they soon realized it was throwing a lot of sparks into the area of a very hydrogen-filled balloon. Averting the likely fire, they ditched the airship and headed for the attached lifeboat. Kiddo came along too.
The America also sent the first radio distress signal from an aircraft when the airmen decided to abandon the ship. When the lifeboat detached from the airship, the balloon lifted off like never before – and was never seen again. The crew were rescued by a British steamer, the SS Trent. Kiddo and the crew returned to New York. Kiddo received a hero’s welcome and spent the rest of his days as an attraction at Gimbel’s department store.
In the early morning hours of May 7, 1945, the remnants of Nazi Germany’s military leadership signed an unconditional surrender to Allied forces.
When the news broke the next day, soldiers and civilians around the world heralded Victory in Europe Day — the Soviet Union would mark Victory Day on May 9 — exuberant about the end of nearly six years of war that had destroyed much of Europe.
When German and Allied military officials gathered again in Berlin near midnight on May 8 to sign surrender documents, the atmosphere in the room was laden with emotional and political weight.
The Germans, characteristically severe, went through the proceedings in a mix of resignation and resentment, while the Soviets, Americans, and other Allies were relieved at the war’s conclusion.
All of them were uncertain what would come next.
Historian Antony Beevor’s sweeping history of the final months on the eastern front, “The Fall of Berlin 1945,” captured the mood in the room as victors and vanquished gathered to bring their conflict to an end:
“Just before midnight the representatives of the allies entered the hall ‘in a two-storey building of the former canteen of the German military engineering college in Karlshorst.’ General Bogdanov, the commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army, and another Soviet general sat down by mistake on seats reserved for the German delegation.”
“A staff officer whispered in their ears and ‘they jumped up, literally as if stung by a snake’ and went to sit at another table. Western pressmen and newreel cameramen apparently ‘behaved like madmen’. In their desperation for good positions, they were shoving generals aside and tried to push in behind the top table under the flags of the four allies.”
The German delegation then entered the room — its members looking both “resigned” and “imperious.”
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, commander of the Nazi armed forces during the final days of the war, “sat very straight in his chair, with clenched fists,” Beevor wrote. “Just behind him, a tall German staff officer standing to attention ‘was crying without a single muscle of his face moving.'”
Gen. Georgy Zhukov, a senior Soviet commander during the war’s final days, stood to invite the Germans “to sign the act of capitulation.” Keitel, impatient, gestured for the documents to be brought to him. “Tell them to come here to sign,” Zhukov said.
Keitel walked over to sign, “ostentatiously” removing his gloves to do so, unaware that the representative for the chief of Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, was lingering just over his shoulder.
“‘The German delegation may leave the hall,'” Zhukov said once the signing was complete, Beevor wrote, adding:
“The three men stood up. Keitel, ‘his jowls hanging heavily like a bulldog’s’, raised his marshal’s baton in salute, then turned on his heel. As the door closed behind them, it was almost as if everybody would in the room exhaled in unison. The tension relaxed instantaneously. Zhukov was smiling, so was [British Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur] Tedder. Everybody began to talk animatedly and shake hands. Soviet officers embraced each other with bear hugs.”
“The party which followed went on until almost dawn, with songs and dances. Marshal Zhukov himself danced the Russkaya to loud cheers from his generals. From inside, they could clearly hear gunfire all over the city as officers and soldiers blasted their remaining ammunition into the night sky in celebration. The war was over.”
The chaos of the war had ceased, but for Soviets and Germans other hardships were to come.
Zhukov, long a confidant of Stalin, earned glory for his command during the war, but he would soon find himself on the outs with the mercurial Soviet leader.
Keitel would face war-crimes charges, including crimes against humanity. He was convicted and hanged in October 1946. Like other Nazi leaders who were hanged, Keitel’s body didn’t drop with enough force to break his neck. He dangled at the end of the hangman’s rope for 24 minutes before dying.
Germans, many of them under the yoke of the Soviet Union, would struggle to rebuild both physically from the war and emotionally from their encounter with Allies forces — Soviet soldiers in particular. Berlin, buffered by two weeks of intense urban fighting, was shattered.
The Soviet Union’s drive for political vengeance and economic advantage lead it to hobble or strip much of East Germany’s infrastructure and resources.
On November 12, former Navy SEAL Kaj Larsen was part of an impromptu mission to land on the beaches of Malibu and recover people hemmed in by California wildfires. Thanks to the Navy SEAL, his friends, and a private yacht, medical personnel were able to reach stranded survivors and several residents could finally make it past the fire line to safety.
The adventure started when the president of a music management company, Jeff Jampol, learned that a friend’s house was made inaccessible by the quick progress of the Woolsey Fire around Malibu, California.
This is distinct from the Camp Fire burning in northern California, but together, the two fires have killed at least 50 people. A third fire, the Hill Fire, is burning in Ventura County but is largely contained.
Jampol offered the use of his private yacht to help the friend check on his home, but quickly realized that other people attempting to survive the fires might need assistance as well. The Woolsey Fire has forced the closure of many roads and some airspace in the area nearby. This has limited the flow of necessary supplies, like water, food, and medical equipment. It also stranded some pets behind the closed logistics lines, leaving some owners eager to attempt a rescue.
So, Jampol asked friends Kaj Larsen and Mace Camhe to help plan the mission and ferry supplies. The men quickly agreed and a call was put out on social media for people who needed to get into Malibu and people who needed to get out. They called emergency coordinators before departing to ensure that their mission wouldn’t cause headaches for the already over-tasked first responders.
The video below comes from Kaj Larsen and shows the small boat leaving the yacht en route to the beach:
“[Jampol] called me up and said he was going to take his yacht up to Malibu to assist people, he needed me to help,” Larsen told WATM. “Last thing I wanted to do was head up in the dark to the smoke and fires and get in the ocean as the winds were kicking up, but as you know, everyone wants to be a frogman on a sunny day. It’s moments like this that you earn your trident.”
“We headed up through the smoke to multiple points along the Malibu coast where we could insert folks close to their homes, before extracting them for safety,” Larsen said. “Because the roads are still closed, going over the beach was the only way people could check on their homes and lives. The anxiety among the group was palpable because the potential loss was great.”
Jampol told Variety that they were able to land 12 people who needed to get in, including a doctor and his assistants, as well as pull out 10 people who needed to evacuate. They also landed necessary supplies before retrieving all 12 people they had landed on the shore. Larsen, as one of the most experienced with coastal operations, spent most of his time going back and forth with the small boat and inflatable paddle boards.
These were necessary because the yacht could not come in past the surf line without risking running aground.
“I made about 30 trips over the beach through the surf line and back, double paddling people and supplies onto the beach,” he said. “I wore a mask because the air quality was so sh*tty, which made paddling people in and out through the surf intense. It was like a supercharged workout. One of the doctors had about 150 pounds of O2 that I swam in over the beach to get the supplies to first responders.”
One of the property owners who was able to grab valuables from his home and give it a quick coat of water, Ron Stoliar, sent WATM a quick statement of gratitude for the men who organized the mission (lightly edited for clarity):
“No words can describe my gratitude to Jeff for allowing me the privilege of being part of the adventure and his kindness of supporting our efforts, what a ship. To both Mace and Kaj for their professionalism, knowledge, toughness, dedication to the mission, and, most importantly, brotherhood. You gentlemen are the epitome of warriors. You brought me back 20 years to my days of service and reminded me of relationships built by men of tremendous respect and kinship, and can mostly be described by ‘I’d take a bullet for you brothers.'”
In the end, the men were able to, over a six-hour window, land hundreds of pounds of supplies and get 10 stranded people out. During the final movement from the shore back to the ship, Larsen was forced to jump into the water and be towed behind as his vessel began taking on water.
Jampol and Larsen have both made it clear that the best part of it for them was seeing how people came together in the face of the deadly fires.
“There are only so many multi-million dollar yachts in Marina Del Rey,” Larsen said, “…it was an honor to do our small part and an honor to be of service with those two guys. As sad as I am about the fires devastating the state, if there is a silver lining, it’s in all the amazing members of the community who have rallied to donate and volunteer and help. This is the definition of Charlie Mike. Continuing the Mission.”
They weren’t the only ones out there over the past few days, either. The Malibu Chamber of Commerce sent out a message to those still in the city that seven boats were at Paradise Cove with fuel and supplies around the same time as Larsen’s mission. Howard Leight, a billionaire possibly best known for his winery, piloted his yacht near the city on Tuesday as well.
“For years and years and years people just thought truck driving was driving a truck,” said Sammy Seay, a US Army veteran who helped build the Ace of Spades gun truck. “Well normally it is. Not in Vietnam.”
On Sept. 2, 1967, 37 cargo trucks from the 8th Transportation Group carried aviation fuel on a supply run from Pleiku through “Ambush Alley” to reach An Khe. While en route, the lead vehicle was disabled and the rest were trapped in the kill zone. The Viet Cong staged a coordinated ambush with land mines, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and AK-47 rifle fire. The unprepared and largely unarmed force was quickly overwhelmed. In a span of not more than 10 minutes, 31 vehicles were disabled or destroyed and seven American truck drivers were killed.
Truck drivers in Vietnam realized if they were going to return home alive, they needed to upgrade their firepower. The soldiers of the 8th Transport Group who drove in vehicle convoys took readily available deuce-and-a-half cargo trucks and added twin M60 machine guns to create makeshift gun trucks. The back where the troops were typically transported got a gun box, and others carried M79 grenade launchers and M16 rifles.
“The transportation companies became rolling combat units because they ran through the combat zone every day,” Seay said.
Formerly green cargo trucks were painted black for intimidation and given names painted in big, bold letters on the side. The names were inspired by the pop culture of the time: Canned Heat. The Misfits. King Cobra. The Untouchables. Snoopy. Hallucination. The Piece Maker.
The dirt and paved roads they traveled on were filled with potholes and land mines. Early on, the two-and-a-half-ton cargo trucks had mechanical problems, and within a handful of months they switched to using five-ton trucks. The wooden two-by-fours and sandbags that had initially protected the gunners from incoming bullets and shrapnel were replaced with steel-plated armor.
“There wasn’t a gun truck in Vietnam that was authorized by the Army,” said Stephen M. Peters, who provided convoy and nighttime security on the gun truck called Brutus during a tour in 1969. “But all of the brass knew we had them.”
The gun truckers were resourceful, scrounging for spare parts, materials, and weapons. The majority of their upgrades came from the Air Force and other service members in Vietnam, looking out for fellow Americans in need. “If a VC was hiding behind a tree and we had an M60, we could pepper the tree and hope he’d step out sooner or later and hit him,” Roger Blink, the driver of the gun truck Brutus, told the Smithsonian Channel. “With a M2 .50-caliber machine gun we simply cut the tree down.”
The M60s and the M2 Browning machine guns were certainly an asset, because without them, the convoys wouldn’t stand a chance. The real game changer came in form of their acquisition through back-end deals of the M134 minigun. The Piece Maker gun truck crew salvaged a minigun from aviation maintenance along with several boxes of ammo; Brutus’ crew stole a minigun off one of the Hueys on an airbase.
The dust, the monsoons, and the firefights were relentless. On Feb. 23, 1971, a convoy with three gun trucks was ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) in An Khe. “On the way in, an NVA jumped up in a ditch and fired a B40 rocket right at me,” recalled Walter Deeks, who was driving the Playboys gun truck. “It looked about the size of a softball, and it was just a flame you could hear crackling, like a rocket.”
A tank, helicopters, and other gun trucks responded as quick-reaction forces in support.
Specialist 4th Class Larry Dahl, assigned to the 359th Transportation Company, was a gunner on Brutus. Dahl let loose his minigun on several NVA positions, then there was silence. Dahl and another member of the crew worked to get the minigun back into the action. The gunfight raged on until an enemy hand grenade was tossed in the back and plopped into the gun box where Dahl was standing. He made a split-second decision and hurled his body on top of the grenade before warning his teammates of the danger. He sacrificed his life for his fellow gun truckers and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
“Every crew was proud of their truck,” said Deeks. “And you loved those guys like brothers. It was a very close camaraderie.”