Is the Dark Side stronger?” Luke Skywalker first asked the question as he trained with Master Yoda on Dagobah, wondering if all his hard work could ever make a difference against the full power of the Dark Side of the Force. Yoda insisted that while the Dark Side is “more seductive,” it is inferior to the Light Side of the Force. It’s a nice sentiment that reassures Luke (and viewers) that good will triumph over evil. But wise as he is, Yoda is also a Jedi and might be a little biased.
So to prove once and for all whether a Jedi or Sith Lord is the most powerful warrior in the galaxy, one YouTuber figured out an alternative to just taking Yoda’s word. He had 20,000 Jedi Knights face off against 20,000 Sith Lords in the ultimate Star Wars battle royal. Despite being amazing, the only tragedy of this fan-made simulation is that it likely won’t find it’s way in the next big Star Wars movie, Episode IX.
YouTuber SergiuHellDragoonHQ used the PC game Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator to initially pit one Sith (who is pretty clearly Darth Maul) against one Jedi. All fine and good, but he soon realized that things would get more interesting if the battle was considerably grander. He upped the simulation to 20,000 warriors per side. Not surprisingly, the battle quickly descended into total chaos and, well, never really stopped ⏤ at least not for 26 minutes. Still, the absolute beautiful insanity of the battle is worth checking out at least for a few of them.
So who ended up winning? Sadly, it looks like Yoda may have bet on the wrong side of the Force, as the Sith handily defeated the Jedi Knights. By the end, there were still nearly 14,000 Sith Lords standing, while only 5,000 Jedis remained alive.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
No matter what anyone’s personal feelings about what goes on the site’s many boards, there’s no doubt about its contributions to internet culture. 4Chan brought us lolcats, Chocolate Rain, and RickRolling.
Now the site’s humor has a purpose, making fun of the Islamic State (a.k.a.: “Daesh”). This could be bad for an organization whose international recruitment strategy depends so much on the tone of its social media strategy (ISIS, not 4Chan, that is).
Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft is still going strong after nearly 14 years of being at the top of the video game world. One of the ways that Blizzard has maintained such success is by releasing a constant stream of new content for subscribers to enjoy. This trend continues with next week’s release of the game’s seventh expansion, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.
This time around, instead of focusing on fighting some giant, world-ending bad guy, the developers are taking a different approach and are returning to what made the game so beloved: the faction-based conflict between the Alliance of humans, dwarves, and night elves and the Horde of orcs, trolls, and undead.
Players had little idea that a simple choice between left side or right side would mean so much fourteen years down the road.
The game has always drawn players in by carefully scaling a character’s level of badassery with the amount of time spent playing. Couple this enrapturing, eventual rise to power with the ever-looming threat of attack by the opposing faction and you’ve got a recipe for player investment. When players are invested in the game, they start to care about the world — and its well-being.
The last expansion, World of Warcraft: Legion, saw players putting an end to the series’ primary antagonist, Sargeras. The fight against such a massive threat required that the Horde and Alliance mend bad blood and work together (mostly) to fend off a universal danger.
With the major threats quelled, players are rejoicing as opposing factions can finally go back to killing each other — and things have started off with a bang. As a lead-up to the expansion’s release, the Horde burnt down the capital city of the night elves, Darnassus. In return, the Alliance laid siege to the undead capital, The Undercity.
Right now, players are taking part in said attacks, storming the battlefield as either the defenders or the attackers, depending on which faction you chose when making your character — an event that, for some, happened nearly 14 years ago.
The Alliance-versus-Horde aspect of the game has long been a fan favorite. A huge section of player base has always taken their faction identity to heart. In the older days of World of Warcraft, if you made an Alliance character on a server, that was it. If you wanted to try life on the Horde, you had to pick a new server and start all over.
Back in 2004, it wasn’t uncommon for a group of friends to be split over something as simple as deciding to play as a dwarf or a troll because it meant they couldn’t play together. These restrictions have since been loosened and many players have characters on both factions — but they’ll remain fiercely loyal to their first, arbitrary choice.
This is actually the heart of what makes the advertisements for the new expansion so funny. Moments like the one in the video below really do happen between World of Warcraft players.
My excuse is going to be “massive diarrhea to the point that I’d rather not risk seeing a doc.”
It kind of goes without saying that the next expansion is heavily based on player-versus-player interactions. Players are highly encouraged to fight with their faction against their enemy and are given some pretty sweet in-game rewards for doing so. Ambush unsuspecting foes while they’re out exploring or take part in skirmishes in designated battlegrounds in the pursuit of honor — ‘honor’ here means both for the love of your faction and for literal ‘honor points.’
New to the expansion is the introduction of Warfronts, massive battlefields for which players fight to control. Victory means capturing a city that their faction retains until the next battle. There are also plenty of new zones filled brim with quests tailored specifically for your faction to help you reach the new max level, getting you ready to join the fight.
So, get ready to fight for your faction’s pride on Tuesday. Or, if you don’t play, get ready for some of your nerdy friends to sick call for a “totally valid” reason early next week.
During World War II, George H.W. Bush served in the U.S. Navy. A pilot assigned to a torpedo squadron in the Pacific Theater, Bush flew the TBM Avenger, a torpedo bomber capable of taking off from aircraft carriers that would famously see combat during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.
Bush enlisted in the Navy’s flight training program fresh out of high school, becoming one of the Navy’s youngest aviators. He first saw action in May 1944 and would go on to fly 58 combat missions. Then, on Sept. 2, 1944, he was hit by anti-aircraft fire during an attack run on the Japanese-occupied island of Chichi Jima.
“Suddenly there was a jolt,” Bush wrote later, “as if a massive fist had crunched into the belly of the plane. Smoke poured into the cockpit, and I could see flames rippling across the crease of the wing, edging toward the fuel tanks.”
His two crewmembers were killed in the attack, leaving the young pilot to complete his bombing run against a radio facility and bail out alone over the Pacific into jellyfish-infested waters. During the egress, he struck his head, which bled profusely as he swam to a life raft and hoped for rescue.
He was one of the lucky ones. Many aviators struck down during that battle where captured and executed and, according to Bradley James’ bestselling novel Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, their livers even eaten by their captors.
After four hours, the USS Finback, a lifeguard submarine, found him. Now you can watch the video from the moment when the Finback’s crew pulled from the water the man who would go on to become the Director of Central Intelligence and the 41st president of the United States, serving from 1989 to 1993. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions during the mission.
President George H.W. Bush died on Nov. 30, 2018, at the age of 94 years old.
In 1952, an accident at Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories near Deep River, Ontario caused a partial meltdown in an experimental nuclear reactor. Hydrogen explosions followed and hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive water flooded the core, heavily damaging the reactor. When the Canadian government turned to U.S. nuclear experts for help, “Father of the Nuclear Navy” Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover sent his protégé – Lieutenant James Earl “Jimmy” Carter – to lead a team of maintainers into the reactor core to shut it down.
The admiral was famous for the demands he put on the people who worked for him. His unorthodox methods almost kept him from making flag rank, but President Truman intervened on his behalf. It was a good call: the Navy’s 300 nuclear warships have never had a single nuclear incident.
Rickover’s team had access to the latest in nuclear energy technology because they were developing nuclear-powered ships for the U.S. Navy (the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, was completed in 1955). The Navy knew the technology the Canadians were using and how best to fix it.
Rickover volunteered Carter to the Canadians to take the failing reactor apart so it could be replaced, a testament to the extraordinary faith and training the U.S. Navy places in its sailors – and to the good judgment of Adm. Rickover. First, the reactor had to be shut down, then it could be disassembled and replaced.
Carter, then 28 years old, had been in the Navy for six years. He was assigned to the Naval Reactors Branch of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. Rickover’s demanding perfectionism was as instilled in Carter as it is today’s nuclear sailors.
Rickover (left) served 61 years on active duty and saw Carter get elected President.
In his book “Reflections at Ninety,” Carter recalls preparing for the task. The team built a replica of the reactor on a nearby tennis court to practice their next move and track the work they’d already finished. Every pipe, bolt, and nut was rebuilt exactly as it was in the damaged reactor area.
Lieutenant Carter divided himself and his 23 guys into teams of three. Each worked 90-second shifts cleaning and repairing the reactor as per what they practiced on the tennis court. A minute and a half was the maximum time the human body could handle the amount of radiation in the area.
By today’s standards, it was still way too much radiation – Carter and his men were exposed to levels a thousand times higher than what is now considered safe. He and his team absorbed a year’s worth of radiation in that 90 seconds. The basement where they helped replace the reactor was so contaminated, Carter’s urine was radioactive for six months after the incident.
It makes sense that the ship named after President Carter would be a Seawolf-class nuclear submarine, as Carter helped develop the nuclear Navy and was the only U.S. President to be qualified for submarine duty. The USS Jimmy Carter was commissioned in February 2005.
The effects of this exposure eventually caught up to him. Carter developed cancerous tumors on his liver and brain at age 91 but was screened as cancer-free a year later.
Only 55% of Americans know what Memorial Day is about, and only about one in five plan to fly a flag at half-staff or attend a patriotic event on May 27, according to a Harris poll survey commissioned by the University of Phoenix.
The survey, conducted April 9-11, 2019, among 2,025 adults, showed that only 28% had attended a local ceremony or patriotic event on a previous Memorial Day. It also found that only 23% had flown a flag at half-staff, while 22% had left a flag or flowers at a gravesite or visited a military monument.
Only 55% could correctly describe Memorial Day as a day to honor the fallen from all the nation’s wars, the Harris survey states, and 45% said they either always or often attended a commemoration activity.
About 27% of those surveyed thought Memorial Day honored all military veterans, 5% thought it honored those currently serving, and 3% thought the day marked the official beginning of summer, the survey states.
(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)
Of those who said they had participated in some form of commemoration activity on Memorial Day, 52% said they had thanked a veteran, 14% said they had worn a Memorial Day button, and 14% said they had joined in a National Moment of Remembrance, according to the survey.
Older adults are more likely to observe Memorial Day and describe it correctly, the survey found. About 53% of those aged 55-64 commemorated Memorial Day, compared with 40% of those aged 18-34, according to the survey’s findings.
Former Army Sgt. Brian Ishmael, director of Military and Veterans Affairs at the University of Phoenix, said in a phone interview that it is “a little bit disappointing” to know that so many Americans are unaware of the true meaning of Memorial Day.
Staff Sgt. Steve Sandoval of the 147th Combat Communications Squadron pays respects to his wife’s grandfather, James C. Peebles, U.S. Army, who served in World War II. Sandoval was among thousands of volunteers from the local community who placed flags on 67,000 grave sites at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in honor of Memorial day.
(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Julie Avey)
Ishmael, who served two tours in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, said that “being a combat veteran myself, that has to be a bit disappointing.”
At the University of Phoenix, “we put a lot of emphasis” on explaining the real meaning of Memorial Day, he said. For this Memorial Day, the mostly online university will continue a 10-year tradition of planting flags on the Phoenix campus.
This year, the university plans to plant 15,000 flags with the theme “Their Legacy Lives On,” Ishmael said.
However, the for-profit University of Phoenix has had a checkered history of serving veterans and its use of GI Bill funds for tuition.
Navy captain places flags at the grave of his uncle, who served during the Vietnam War.
(U.S. Navy photo by Greg Vojtko)
In 2009, the university agreed to a .5 million settlement with the federal government on allegations that it was illegally paying recruiters based on the number of students enrolled.
And in 2015, the Defense Department suspended the university from recruiting on military bases and accessing federal education funds.
It was alleged that the university had violated rules against for-profit colleges seeking to gain preferential access to potential students from the military. The suspension was lifted in 2016.
Ishmael acknowledged the allegations against the university but said they are dated, and the school is now “100% focused on our veterans” and their education.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
It always struck me as odd when I read history books as a kid: cannons are pretty much giant shotguns — why didn’t they ever make double-barreled cannon pieces? Well, I wasn’t the only genius with the idea.
A Southerner from Athens, Ga. named Pvt. John Gilleland forged one in 1862. Gilleland’s idea was to connect the two three-inch barrels by firing chain shot connected by two six-pound balls. When fired, the designer’s idea was for the balls to be shot at different angles to allow the ten-foot chain to fully extend.
If you’re not sure what chain shot does to walking bags of meat (soldiers), the guys at MythBusters demonstrated this on a pig carcass – warning: it doesn’t end well for the pig carcass.
So imagine a ten-foot nunchuck weighing in at roughly 50 pounds flying into a massed formation of people at more than a thousand feet per second. That was Pvt. Gilleland’s great idea. Except it didn’t go quite as he would have liked.
His tests showed erratic and often dangerous results. Though the gun was designed for both barrels to be fired simultaneously, they often didn’t, meaning an intense veering in an unintended direction. When they did fire, the chain would sometimes break apart, with two end of chain led by a ball, each veering three degrees away from each other at more than a thousand feet per second.
Gilleland still declared it a success and sent it to be tested with the Confederate Army. The Confederates found the cannon “not usable due to unpredictable rates of powder burn and barrel friction which led to unpredictable performance.”
So the Confederate government sent the cannon back to Gilleland in Athens. The weapons was still used in combat in just one battle. As Union raiders approached Athens on July 27, 1863, the double-barrel cannon was used as a signal gun to rouse the population to arms.
Some 9,000 Union cavalry approached Athens as part of General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Athens would be put to the torch, but not if the Georgia Home Guard Artillery could repel them.
At Barber’s Creek, just south of Athens, the cavalry hopped across the Confederate earthwork defenses. But before they could break the home guard completely, the city’s cannon and howitzers stole the initiative and fired a volley into the oncoming traffic. The yankees broke off the attack and Athens was spared.
Today the cannon is parked on Hancock and College Avenues in Athens.
President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2019, signed into law the US Space Force, the sixth military branch and first devoted to organizing, training, and equipping personnel to use and defend military space assets.
Trump signed a directive organizing the Space Force as part of the Air Force in February. With the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that Trump signed Dec. 20, 2019, US Air Force Space Command becomes Space Force but remains within the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department.
“Going to be a lot of things happening in space, because space is the world’s newest warfighting domain,” Trump said Dec. 20, 2019. “Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital … The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground.”
President Donald Trump speaks during an event at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec. 20, 2019. Trump visited Andrews to thank service members before signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 which support the Air Force’s advanced capabilities to gain and maintain air superiority and the airmen that are essential to our nation’s success.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)
Space Force is separate from NASA, the civilian space agency. Other agencies that work on space-related issues, like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, will continue operating as before.
But most of the Pentagon’s space programs will eventually be housed under the Space Force. Staffing and training details for the new branch will be sorted out over the next 18 months, Air Force officials said Dec. 20, 2019.
Space Force is not designed or intended to put combat troops into space; it will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which was set up in August and will lead military space operations.
The exact division of responsibilities and assets has not been fully worked out, but when the creation of Space Command was announced in December 2018, then-Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan compared the relationship to that of the other five military branches with the four functional combatant commands, such as Transportation Command, which manages transportation for the military, or Strategic Command, which oversees US nuclear arms.
There are “still a lot of things that we don’t know,” Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command and US Space Command, told reporters Dec. 20, 2019. Raymond can lead Space Force as chief of space operations for a year without going through Senate confirmation, which his successor will have to have.
“There’s not a really good playbook on, how do you stand up a separate service?” Raymond said. “We haven’t really done this since 1947,” when the Air Force was created.
US Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 4 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida, May 7, 2017.
(US Air Force)
While much remains to be decided about Space Force and Space Command, conversations about how the latter will support operations on earth have already started, according to Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, one of the six geographic combatant commands.
“I talk to Gen. Raymond on a very regular basis. I would say probably once a week,” Wolters said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast on December 10, when about potential partnerships between Space Command, European Command, and European allies.
“From a US EUCOM perspective, we have space componency that Gen. Raymond extends to us to allow us to better defend and better deter, and with each passing day we’re going to find ways to align the assets that exist in space to better deter and to better defend.”
Wolters spoke after NATO officially recognized space as an operational domain, alongside air, land, sea, and cyber, on November 20.
That recognition allows NATO to make requests of members, “such as hours of satellite communications,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the time. NATO members own half of the 2,000 satellites estimated to be in orbit.
Wolters called that recognition “a huge step in the right direction.”
“In our security campaign, from a US EUCOM perspective and from a NATO perspective, we always have to improve in indications and warnings. We always have to improve in command and control and feedback, and we always have to improve in mission command. And we have to do that in space,” Wolters said.
The Air Force launches a Wideband Global SATCOM satellite at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, March 18, 2017.
(US Air Force/United Launch Alliance)
Supporters see a Space Force as a national security necessity in light of other countries’ advancing space capabilities and because of potential threats in space, such as interference with systems like GPS.
Critics say it’s not clear what capabilities a Space Force brings that Air Force Space Command doesn’t already provide and that its creation will spur an arms race in space.
In recognizing space as a domain, NATO ministers agreed that space was “essential” to the alliance’s ability to deter and defend against threats, providing a venue for things like tracking forces, navigation and communications, and detecting missile launches.
Stoltenberg declined to say how NATO’s space-based capabilities could work with US Space Command, telling press on November 19 that he would “not go into the specifics of how we are going to communicate with national space commands and national space capabilities.”
“What NATO will do will be defensive,” he said, “and we will not deploy weapons in space.”
Wolters didn’t mention space-based weapons in his remarks this month but did tout capabilities offered by operations in space.
“Obviously there are things that take place in space at speeds and with a degree of precision that are very, very attractive for deterrence, and space-to-surface [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] is one of those key areas,” Wolters said, adding that he and Raymond have discussed and will continue to discuss those “big issues.”
“It all has to do with seeing the potential battle space, seeing the environment, and being able to have quick feedback on what is taking place in that environment,” Wolters said. “If you can obviously utilize the resources that exist in space, you can probably do so at a speed that makes commanders happy because they have information superiority.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Royal Air Force pilot Sydney Cohen crash landed on the Italian-controlled island of Lampedusa in 1943, he thought he would be in for the fight of his life. Lampedusa was the home of more than 4,000 Italian troops in garrison, and all Cohen had was his service weapon to fight them.
Instead, he was in for the surprise of his life, and was crowned King of Lampedusa shortly after.
A biplane similar to the one flown by Syd Cohen.
Cohen was supposed to be headed back to his home base on Malta in a Swordfish biplane but never quite made it. The pilot was flying with his two-man crew, Sgt. Peter Tait, the navigator, and Sgt. Les Wright, the wireless operator and gunner, on a search and rescue mission over the Mediterranean Sea. Their instruments failed mid-flight and they got turned around, only to run out of fuel before realizing the island below was not Malta.
The plane had a “fit of gremlins,” as Cohen later described it. The only place he could land was on the Axis-held island of Lampedusa.
Luckily for the RAF pilot, there were no Nazis on Lampedusa, only Italians. The island had a big runway and the crew saw no option but to go in and land on it, consequence be damned. They could never reach Malta in their condition and it was better than crashing into the ocean. They also didn’t know that the Allies ran heavy bombing missions on the island. So when he crash landed on the island, it made for incredible headlines back in London. Not because of a terrific battle – it was the mass surrender of 4,300 Italians.
“As we came down on a ropey landing ground we saw a burnt hangar and burnt aircraft around us,” Cohen said. “A crowd of Italians came out to meet us and we put our hands up to surrender but then we saw they were all waving white sheets shouting, `No, no. We surrender.’ The whole island was surrendering to us.”
It’s good to be the king.
Cohen got bold and asked to see the island’s commandant. As they moved toward the commandant’s villa, another Allied air raid began. The RAF pilot began to surmise the Italians were sick of getting bombed and really were ready to surrender.
“They asked me to return to Malta and inform the authorities of their offer to surrender,” he said. “They gave me a scrap of paper with a signature on it.”
So Cohen refueled and took off for the Allied base in Tunis to give the RAF the news. Upon hearing it, the RAF, the newspapers, London society, and even the British Jewish population raved about the new “King of Lampedusa.”
The play “The King of Lampedusa” performed in London’s East End.
Cohen’s story was immediately picked up and turned into a play and a musical. Hollywood even wanted to make a movie of the event as soon as possible. News of the debacle even reached the ears of Nazi propagandists in Berlin, who threatened to give the Jews in London’s East End “a visit from the Luftwaffe.”
The real life of Sydney Cohen doesn’t have a happy ending, no matter how the play, musical, and/or feature film turned out. Cohen disappeared while flying a mission near the Straits of Dover in August 1946. Neither his body nor the wreckage of his plane were ever located and no one knows exactly what happened to him.
First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.
Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.
So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?
High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.
A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.
(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)
So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.
And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.
An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.
But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.
And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.
But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.
Though “saintly” is a term quite often used to describe the virtuous actions of American troops in combat zones — from providing humanitarian aid and medicine to those in need, to placing themselves between civilians and the line of fire — it could have a very literal meaning in the near future when describing two deceased military chaplains.
Decades after their passing, Catholic priests Fr. Emil Kapaun, and Fr. Vincent Capodanno, are currently undergoing the process for canonization with the Roman Catholic Church, which could see these two Medal of Honor recipients become the first official saints to have served with the US military.
Emil Kapaun was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the US Army in 1944, seeing service as a chaplain in the Burma Theater towards the end of World War II. Briefly leaving the Army at the war’s conclusion to pursue graduate studies, he returned to active duty soon afterwards and was stationed in Japan with a cavalry unit.
The young priest, respected among his peers and often sought out as a source of advice and friendship by the soldiers he ministered to, was sent back to a combat zone during the onset of the Korean War. Using the hood of a jeep as his altar, Kapaun led prayer services and Catholic Masses in the midst of combat for soldiers who requested it, sometimes even while under withering enemy fire that would see his jeep lit up with machine gun rounds by Chinese and North Korean forces.
The chaplain was taken prisoner, along with a number of others from his unit during the Battle of Unsan, and was force-marched to a Chinese prison camp where he and his fellow prisoners of war would undergo harsh treatment at the hands of their captors. Kapaun developed a quick reputation for stealing food and medicine from Chinese storage sites at the camp to feed the malnourished and aid the sick POWs.
He would also go without his meager rations for considerable periods of time, having volunteered them to others who he felt needed it more than he did. Above that, Kapaun incurred the wrath of his Chinese guards for halting the executions of wounded American troops by tackling or shoving the soldiers lined up to commit the dastardly act.
Still ministering to his fellow POWs as best as he could, Kapaun died in captivity. His body was thrown in a mass grave by his Chinese captors along with the remains of many other deceased American POWs. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2013 by former President Barack Obama.
Lieutenant Vincent R. Capodanno was another military chaplain similarly decorated for bravery like Kapaun, who lost his life in war. After joining the Catholic priesthood and completing his studies in a seminary, the freshly-ordained reverend from New York was commissioned an officer in the Navy upon hearing of a need for chaplains to minister to Marines and sailors.
Though he could have requested to stay away from the front lines, Capodanno felt that he was called to a deployment overseas in Vietnam, ministering to infantry Marines embroiled in a brutal fight against the Communist North Vietnamese forces. In 1966, Capodanno’s request was granted and he was sent to South Vietnam to serve with the 7th Marine Regiment.
Liked unanimously by the Marines he ministered to, Capodanno was affectionately referred to as “The Grunt Padre” for his willingness to go into combat and assist corpsmen in administering aid to casualties sustained in battle. Capodanno extended his tour in Vietnam for another year, this time with 5th Marine Regiment.
It was during this last tour in 1967, that the Navy chaplain would lose his life. In the onslaught of an outnumbered fight, where small elements of Marines were pitted against an overwhelming force of NVA troops and irregulars, Capodanno ran into battle repeatedly to pull fallen Marines away from danger, sustaining critical wounds himself.
Refusing to be evacuated, the Grunt Padre continued onward, giving Last Rites to the dying while tending to the wounded with combat medical aid. A burst of machine gun fire finally cut down Capodanno as he attempted to shield a fallen Marine from enemy fire with his own body.
The Navy chaplain’s heroism and valor under fire was witnessed by every Marine and corpsman on the field of battle that day, and the following year, Capodanno’s family was notified that he would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor as a result.
In the years after their passing, Kapaun and Capodanno have generated huge followings, especially among soldiers, Marines and sailors alike, a number of whom devoted time to praying for their spiritual intercession. And interestingly enough, a number of miraculous events have occurred in the time since, apparently attributed to the assistance these two chaplains have supposedly provided from even beyond the grave, still serving faithfully.
According to the Catholic Church, a series of verified miracles attributed to a candidate for sainthood are required before someone can be confirmed through a process called the “cause for canonization.” Currently, the miracles ascribed to Capodanno and Kapaun’s intercession are under procedural investigation by the Church, and should they be approved, these two former servicemen who gave their lives for their brothers in arms could very well find themselves canonized the first American military saints in history.
Friday, August 14, honors the contributions of Indigenous people who helped the war effort during WWII. Today also marks the observance of US code relating to Indigenous languages and the participation of First nations tribe members in U.S. military conflicts. This year marks the 38th year the holiday has been observed, established by President Reagan to honor all tribes associated with the war effort including (but not limited to!) the Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, Hopi and Navajo tribes.
On this Navajo Code Talkers Day, take a step back in time to understand the history of this observance and understand a little more about covert U.S. operations, too.
A Complex Origin Story
Let’s get one thing clear – the name of this holiday has less to do with the Navajo tribe itself and more to do with the broader term that encompasses the “Navajo Code” used to help fool the fascist Nazis and imperialist Japanese during WWII.
The traditional role of an Indigenous “warrior” involved more than just fighting enemies. Warriors were men in communities who cared for people and helped during times of difficulties and were committed to ensuring their tribes survived. Because warriors were regarded with so much respect, boys trained from an early age to develop the appropriate mental, emotional, and physical strength required of warriors. Many tribes had several specific warrior subgroups within their communities, which had their own ceremonies and ways of life. The warrior tradition was integral to Indigenous life, and it was this call that encouraged many Indigenous people to serve in the military. In addition to wanting to defend the United States, the military offered economic security and a way off the reservation, an opportunity for education, training, and travel.
More than 12,000 Indigenous American Indians served in WWI, about 25 percent of the male population at the time. During WWII, an estimated 44,000 men and women served.
WWI Training and Recruitment
Navajo Code is thought to have been established from the many conflicts experienced by Indigenous people. The earliest reports of the relationship between Code Talkers and the military can be found during WWI when the Choctaw tribe language was used to relay messages related to surprise attacks on German forces.
WWI veteran Philip Johnston understood the value of code talkers and suggested that the USMC use a similar communication strategy for WWII efforts. Though he was not Indigenous, Johnston had grown up on a Navajo reservation and saw the success of the Choctaw efforts in WWI.
During the war, more than 400 Navajos were recruited as Code Talkers, and their training was intense. Some Code Talkers enlisted while others were drafted, but the majority of all Code Talkers served underage and had to lie about their age to join. At the height of the Code Talker involvement in WWII, there were service personnel from more than 16 tribes.
Constructing the Code
Many of the Code Talkers recruited simply used their tribal languages to convey messages. These were known as Type-Two Codes.
In 1942, the Marine Corps recruited the entire 382nd Platoon to develop, memorize and implement the Navajo-coded language. This language became one of many Type-One codes that translated English into a coded message. A Type-One code combined the languages of the Navajo, Hopi, Comanche, and Meskwaki.
To develop the Type-One code, the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers first decided a Navajo word for each letter of the English alphabet. To keep things simple, the Code Talkers decided to associate words with animals that were familiar to them. Here’s an example of the words they used:
Code Talkers were also required to develop specific military-related words for planes, ships and weapons. After looking at these items’ images, the Code Talker squad came up with words that seemed to fit the pictures.
To transmit code, a Code Talker was given a message in English, which was then translated and sent to another Code Talker. To avoid detection, none of these messages were written down until they were received.
Code Talker needed to be intelligent and brave to ensure some of the most dangerous battles and remain calm under fire. They served proudly and with honor and distinction, and their actions provided critical support in several campaigns in the Pacific and are credited with saving thousands of fellow Americans’ lives. The Navajo and Hopi served in the Pacific in the war against Japan, while the Comanches fought the Germans in Europe and the Meskwakis fought the Germans in North Africa. Code Talkers from other tribes served in various locations throughout the European and Pacific theaters. There are very few Code Talkers left alive today, but it’s clear that the outcome of WWII would have been much different without their efforts.
Before he became one of musical comedy’s darkest satirists, musician Tom Lehrer served in the U.S. Army. The brilliant mathematician was an enlisted draftee from 1955-1957, serving at the National Security Agency.
He stood out from all the other enlisted troops. Specialist Third Class Tom Lehrer had a Master’s degree from Harvard at a time when his fellow enlisted troops barely had a high school education. He also had a hit record, one he self-published around Harvard but would become a nationwide hit.
Lehrer even wrote a submission for the Army song that talks about picking up cigarette butts, officers who can’t spell, bad food, and junior enlisted shenanigans.
What he did have in common with his brothers in arms was a fondness for having a few drinks at a party. But the party in question was on a naval base in Washington, D.C. — and no alcoholic beverages were allowed.
So he and a friend went right to work before the big day.
“We wanted to have a little party, so this friend and I spent an evening experimenting with Jell-O. It wasn’t a beverage…” he told San Francisco Weekly, “…so we went over to her apartment and we made all these little cups…”
After a few experiments with gin and vodka and number of different Jell-O flavors, they found that vodka and orange Jell-O worked best.
“I would bring them in, hoping that the Marine guard would say, ‘OK, what’s in there?’ And we’d say, ‘Jell-O.’ and then he’d say, ‘Oh, OK.’ But no, he didn’t even ask. So it worked. I recommend it. Orange Jell-O.”
I wonder what the now 89-year-old Lehrer would think about smuggling alcohol in with mouthwash bottles and food coloring.
Incidentally, Lehrer’s record, a 10-inch LP titled “Songs by Tom Lehrer,” was a dark comedy album, but is considered by many to be one of the most influential of all time. He wrote songs about a Russian mathematician, the periodic table, and Christmas commercialism just to name a few.
In all, Lehrer released 11 albums, with great titles like “An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer” and “The Remains of Tom Lehrer.” He even wrote a song for the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command for the 1963 film “A Gathering of Eagles.”