Watch this amazing police dog traverse tricky obstacles - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this amazing police dog traverse tricky obstacles

A Belgian Malinois named Lachi has earned some celebrity for his video in which he traverses two thin ropes in order to retrieve his tennis ball.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The impressive Cheyenne attack helicopter was way ahead of its time

The Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne is one of the greatest what-ifs in helicopter history. This unique chopper was arguably decades ahead of its time, reaching an incredible top speed of 245 miles per hour. Although it never made it past the prototype stages, the Cheyenne’s potential was obvious from the beginning.


The Cheyenne was originally intended to replace the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, which entered service in the 1960s. Unfortunately, the project’s development was marred by multiple technical delays and a fatal crash during testing. The original planned production run was then cut from 600 to 375. Despite the fact that this futuristic helicopter packed a powerful punch — provided by a 30mm cannon and the BGM-71 TOW missile — it was cancelled.

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From behind, you can see the push-rotor that gave the Cheyenne its impressive performance.

(US Army)

But the Cheyenne didn’t just have powerful weapons. The Cheyenne was also intended to carry an array of sophisticated sensors, including a laser rangefinder, infra-red systems, and night vision capabilities. Its navigation suite was also extensive, including a terrain-following radar, Doppler radar, and an inertial navigation system. The helicopter was capable of flying at high speed at altitudes as low as fifteen feet.

In essence, the Cheyenne, which had a maximum range of 629 miles, was more than just a killer of enemy tanks, it could also fulfill reconnaissance roles deep behind enemy lines. The Cheyenne could not only attack targets itself, but could also direct attacks from other Army assets, like artillery batteries.

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The AH-56 Cheyenne had impressive performance, sensors, and firepower.

(US Army)

While the Cheyenne never saw front-line service, its cancellation did lead to the funding and production of the universally loved A-10 Thunderbolt, as well as the competition that eventually produced the AH-64 Apache. Furthermore, the push-rotor that was the signature of this advanced recon/attack helicopter made a comeback on the S-97 Raider.

Learn more about the incredible capabilities of the Cheyenne in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebH4Vz7IVB8

www.youtube.com

Humor

7 things troops do on deployments that they won’t admit to

There are many things that troops do that keep mom and dad proud. The truth is, there is a lot more downtime during war than civilians expect. Part of this just feeds into the “disgruntled sheepdog” mentality that leaves us being the only ones not disgusted by our own jokes.


Deployment downtime is basically all of us getting together and doing dumb sh*t that would make our prim and proper grandmas question their “Support the Troops” bumper sticker.

7. Working out

There’s an interesting trend with deployment fitness: either troops give up two days in country or spend every waking second of downtime in the gym. There is no in between.

Although, by “gym” we mean minimal equipment usually left behind by someone. And for some reason, tire flips are the big thing.

Just trying to look for RR. via GIPHY

6. Sleeping through Indirect Fire (IDF) sirens

Command policy is usually that whenever the incoming mortar siren goes off, you run your ass to the bunker — regardless of what you’re doing.

Mortars go off constantly. Day or night. And if you’re asleep…f*ck it — the boom already went off and you still have the same amount of blood in you.

Nope. Not dead. Cool. via GIPHY

5. Pirating movies

Back in the heyday of pirating, everyone was doing it. Nowadays, more and more people stateside are willing to pay for a subscription based services like Netflix or Hulu. Not deployed troops.

Netflix doesn’t stream to Trashcanistan and troops still want to catch up on the shows they’re missing stateside. Meanwhile, the local who sells sh*tty rips doesn’t have the film they wanted. There’s really no other choice if you think about it…

And they’re not going to watch AFN. via GIPHY 

4. Make deployment videos of us doing dumb sh*t

Maybe they have their combat camera guy make an “overly-hooah” video of them remixed to Drowning Pool. Maybe it’s them lipsyncing along to some pop singer. Or maybe they make a video of them clearing a portajohn and they all stuff themselves in there for comedic effect.

We’ve seen them all. And yet they’re still funny.

Except the “overly-hooah” videos. Those can stop. (YouTube, Jessiannmc)

3. Insect fights

Give a bunch of troops too much free time, a good amount of money, and nothing to spend it on. They’ll start gambling it away.

A common form of gambling that is sure to piss off PETA is betting on which insect will win a battle to the death. So think of it less of us being cruel to animals and more of us being aspiring Pokemon trainers.

I choose you! Deathstalker Scorpion! via GIPHY

2. Way too intimate web-chats with a significant other

We get it. Troops get lonely and miss their other half back home. With Skype or Facetime, troops sometimes put on one of those shows with their loved ones back home.

You do you. But seriously. We all hear you. You’re not subtle.

And we’re all disgusted by your filth. via GIPHY

1. Laptops in portajohns

For those soldiers who probably don’t have that special someone to have that “video-chat” with, and even if they do, they’ll probably still grab their computer or smartphone with headphones and take a stroll to the latrine.

The dude spending more time than required in a 130-degree Portajohn is handling more than his normal business, if you catch my drift.

Especially if he comes out walking like this. via GIPHY

MIGHTY CULTURE

Dear America: It’s time to fly your flag

Dear America,

I hope you already know this, but it is going to be ok. These are uncertain times, but don’t forget where we’ve been. We have been through the wringer before, and yet we always come out stronger. Sometimes someone messed with us, sometimes we messed with ourselves and sometimes shit just happened.


We got through a civil war, world wars, depressions, recessions, slavery, segregation, pandemics, famines, dust bowls, droughts, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, terrorist attacks and a whole bunch of other crazy things.

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Life is pretty interesting right now, to say the least. As we battle through this outbreak and hope it’s not as bad as the experts think it will be, it is hard to feel positive right now.

We are worried about our health, kids, parents, grandparents, family, friends, neighbors, jobs, bank accounts, stocks, food, gas, security and a lot of other things right now. And it’s ok to worry.

But it’s also a time to come together. Don’t think that can happen? I don’t blame you for thinking that. Social media, the news and your crazy relatives make it really hard to think this country is unified. We seem to fight over literally everything nowadays. We fight over politics, religion, race, foreign policy and even trivial things like sports, music and the color of a dress.

If you think this is a new thing in America, you don’t know American history. We have been at each other’s throats since we became a country and will probably be that way until the end. We like to stand up for what we think is right, about everything. It’s one of the best parts about a democracy and the freedom of thought.

But we also rally together well. We saw that after major disasters like Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

Remember 9/11.

It was a terrible day and one that we will never forget. There was a great fear of what would happen next. Would there be more attacks, when would we go to war, how long would it last, how much would our lives change and whether things would ever go back to normal were questions we asked ourselves and each other in the immediate aftermath.

But in the darkest moments then, we rallied together. Remember? We all started flying our flags. Everywhere you went — houses, apartment balconies, windows, cars, pickup trucks, jackets, hats, there was a collective sense of American pride.

Everywhere we went, we saw that these displayed flags were an act of unity. Like a family, we might mess with each other, but you don’t mess with us.

I know the virus isn’t a terrorist, it’s not an enemy country, it’s not the commies or the fascists. It’s nothing we are going to beat with bombs or our fists. There will be no raising of the flag on Iwo Jima or marching through the streets of Paris.

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But we can show our unity to each other and remind ourselves that we are in this together, and we can only get through this together.

So break out the flags again.

I know, if I am stuck in my house how am I going to see it? If everyone else is inside, how are they going to see it? Flying a flag isn’t going to stop a virus.

You’re right. It isn’t going to stop a virus.

But it isn’t about that.

There are doctors and nurses and hospital staff that have to go to and from work. There are police and firefighters and EMTs that will have to take care of us. There are grocery store workers that have to make sure there is food on the shelves. There are people that still have to go to work. There are farmers who still have to grow the food we eat. There are truck drivers that need to transport goods so we can live. Dockworkers too. There’s going to be a lot of people from all walks of life delivering food, so we don’t have to leave the house.

Maybe on their way to and from work, on their way to care for us and feed us, we can show them that we are behind them. We are thinking of them. We are in this together.

So, go fly your flag. If it’s already out, great. If not, go ahead and run it up. If you don’t have a flagpole, hang it from the balcony, in the window, on your car, or from your truck, let them colors flow.

Now is the time to stick together. Now is the time to support those who are helping us. Now is the time to show what it means to be an American.

Fly the flag.

MIGHTY CULTURE

To DITY or not to DITY?

With each set of PCS orders, I wonder whether we should consider a Personally Procured Move (PPM), which is the official name of what most of us call a DITY, or Do It Yourself move. It’s tempting — you hear stories of military families making tons of money, and it seems like there is less chance of damaged goods. If you’re considering a DITY move this PCS season, here are six questions you need to ask yourself:

How much reimbursement will you get?

For most people, the main reason to consider doing a DITY move is to make a little money. Before you get started, be sure you understand exactly what you will and will not receive, whether you do a DITY, a full government move, or something in between.

All service members who are executing PCS orders are entitled to a wide range of travel entitlements, including:

  • temporary lodging,
  • monetary allowance in lieu of transportation (technically called MALT, but often just called mileage),
  • per diem for travel days,
  • dislocation allowance.

When you do a DITY move or a partial DITY move, you’ll also get an allowance for moving your belongings, based upon the distance and weight moved. From that allowance, you pay all the expenses of the move: packing materials, hired help, the actual transportation of your goods, and unpacking. Any excess reimbursement beyond your actual expenses is taxable income.

Contact your personal property office to be sure you understand your entitlements and the reimbursement requirements for your branch, including when you need to have your vehicle weighed (empty/full/both? start/finish/both?).

Can you manage an upfront cost?

All branches have a process for getting an advance of a portion of your anticipated move reimbursement, but it doesn’t always work out as expected. If you decide to do a DITY move, you should plan to pay for all expenses out-of-pocket and expect that it may take months to be reimbursed.

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Is moving yourself realistic?

Doing a DITY move is work, especially if you have a lot of stuff or heavy things like a piano or old-school entertainment center. Do you realistically have the time, mental energy and physical strength to pack up everything you own, load it safely onto a truck — or into a moving container — and unload it all on the other end?

Do you have a lot of professional gear?

One major limitation of a full DITY move is there is no way to separate out professional gear weight. Service members and their spouses are permitted to deduct the weight of certain specified work-related items from the overall weight of goods. Separating professional gear is a big help if you are close to your weight allowance.

Will you be able to keep track of the paperwork?

DITY moves require extra paperwork and receipts, particularly when you go to file your income tax return. You’ll need weight receipts to get reimbursed by the military — requirements may vary by branch. Then, because DITY reimbursements are taxable income, you’ll need all your expense receipts to deduct from your income.

TIP: Experienced DITY movers recommend a designated folder or envelope for receipts, but also taking a photograph of every single receipt when you get it. Upload the picture to the cloud to ensure you’ll always have access to a copy.

Have you considered a partial DITY?

One of the easiest ways to get the benefits of a DITY move without the work is to do a partial DITY, which separates your move into two parts. The government movers take care of the things you don’t want to move, and you get reimbursed for the portion you do move. A partial DITY is a good solution if you aren’t sure you want to do a full DITY, or if you have certain items you want to move yourself.

DITY moves are a good option for different situations, but they are a lot of work and they may or may not make money. Understanding the reimbursements and the process will help you decide if it is the right option for you.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Every sports team needs their very own cartoony mascot to get the fans going. Sure, it’s a goofy tradition, but it gets the people cheering and those cheers spur the players on to victory, so no one ever questions it. Military academies are no different.

The Air Force Academy sports the high-flying falcon because it’s the apex predator across much of America’s sky. West Point is represented by the mule because it’s a hardy beast of burden that has carried the Army’s gear into many wars. The Naval Academy, in what seems like a lapse of logic, decided long ago that the best representation of the Navy and Marine Corps’ spirit is a goat.

The use of a goat as their mascot began in 1893 with El Cid the Goat, named after the famed Castilian general. Eventually, they settled on the name “Bill” because, you know, billy goats… And it just gets weirder from there.


Watch this amazing police dog traverse tricky obstacles

From 1847 to 1851, the Naval Academy used a cat as their mascot, which we can presume would’ve hated being paraded in front of large crowds.

(National Archives)

In the Navy’s defense, goats actually served a purpose on Navy vessels back in the days of fully rigged ships. Unlike most livestock that required specialized food, a goat can eat just about any kind of scraps, which is handy on a long voyage. And, once it fulfilled its purpose as a walking garbage disposal, as grim as it sounds, it provided the cooks with a fresh source of meat.

Yet, when the U.S. Naval Academy was founded in 1845, then-Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft chose his favorite animal to be the official mascot of his newly established military academy: the monkey. This didn’t last long because the logo was actually of a gorilla and, as most people know, gorilla’s aren’t monkeys. The next idea was a cat (which actually have a place in Naval history), then a bulldog (before the times of Chesty Puller), and then a carrier pigeon.

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Ever since, sailors have enjoyed a long tradition of giving their goats the clever name of ‘Bill.’

​(U.S. Navy Historical Center)

There are two different versions of the story of how the Navy finally got the goat.

The first of those version is simple: The previously mentioned El Cid the Goat appeared at the 1893 Army-Navy football game and its presence, supposedly, helped carry the team to victory. The Navy continued to bounce back and forth between mascots until officially sticking with the goat in 1904. Said goat was re-branded as “Bill,” named after the Commandant of Midshipmen, Commander Colby M. Chester’s pet goat, and the rest is history.

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The biggest takeaway from the legend is the difference between becoming a legend and getting a Captain’s Mast is whether or not you can attribute a Navy victory over West Point on your actions.

(U.S. Navy photo by Joaquin Murietta)

The other version is steeped in legend — and is entirely bizarre. As the story goes, a ship’s beloved pet goat had met its untimely end. Two ensigns were tasked with heading ashore to bring the goat to a taxidermist so that its legacy could live on. The ensigns got lost on their way to the taxidermist, as most butter bars do, and wound up at the Army-Navy game.

The legend never specifies who, exactly, came up with this brilliant idea, but one of them apparently thought, “you know what? f*ck it” and wore the goat’s skin like a cape. During halftime, one ensign ran across the sidelines (because sporting arena security wasn’t a thing then) donning the goat skin and was met with thunderous applause.

Instead of reprimanding the two idiots for clearly doing the exact opposite of what their captain had asked of them, the Naval Academy rolled with it and attributed their victory over the Army to the goat.

This version is kind of suspect because El Cid the Goat was at the fourth game so the goat-skin midshipman would have had to been at one of the three games prior. The first and third games were held at West Point (which is clearly far away from any wandering ensigns) and second Army/Navy game was a victory for Army. But hey! It’s all in good fun.

popular

This unit received 21 Medals of Honor and 4,000 Bronze Stars while dealing with America’s mistrust

After Pearl Harbor, Hawaii did not see widespread internment, unlike the mainland where there was a great deal of distrust towards Japanese residents in the face of possible invasion from Imperial Japan. The local Japanese population was too key to Hawaii’s economy to simply round up, but there was still deep fears they posed a sabotage threat, especially since the fears of an invasion by Imperial Japan were very real.


These fears extended to military personnel of Japanese descent. More than 1,300 soldiers of Japanese origin from the Hawaiian National Guard were pulled from their regiments and were formed into the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) or “One Puka Puka.” They were sent to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, as much as to remove them as a security risk as to train them.

The 100th performed well in training, and the War Department decided to form a Japanese-American combat unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Nisei men, composed of the children of immigrants who had American citizenship, could sign a loyalty questionnaire and be registered for the draft, though many refused and hundreds spent time in federal prison.

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(Photo: U.S. Army)

The vast majority of the volunteers came from Hawaii, but over 800 were recruited from the internment camps on the mainland. The 100th and the volunteers joined at Camp Shelby, Miss., and formed the 442nd, designed as a self-sufficient combat unit with its own artillery and logistics.

It was almost a given that the 442nd or any other Japanese-American unit would not see service in the Pacific, since there were still widespread suspicions concerning their loyalty, but many of the recruits were assigned to the Military Intelligence Service. They were then trained in language and intelligence skills, and were assigned as an interpreters, interrogators, and spies in the Pacific theatre, playing a crucial intelligence role.

While the rest of the unit trained in Mississippi, the 100th departed to join the 34th Infantry Division in North Africa, which was preparing for the invasion of Italy. After joining the Italian Campaign at Salerno, the 100th participated in the terribly bloody fighting at Monte Cassino in early 1944, site of a famous Benedictine monastery that was destroyed by Allied bombing. The battalion took such heavy casualties that some war correspondents starting referring to them as the “Purple Heart Battalion.” By the time the battalion was pulled of the line, some of the platoons were down to less than 10 men. The 100th later received its first of four presidential unit citations.

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(Photo: U.S. Army)

Following further intense fighting at Anzio and assisting in the capture of Rome, the 100th was joined there by the rest of the 442nd, though the 100th was still considered a quasi-separate unit due to its distinguished record. Entering combat together on June 26, 1944, they faced a series of bloody actions conquering Italian towns and strong points, including major actions at Belvedere, Castellina Marrittima, and Hill 140. After months of grinding combat, they were sent to Marseilles in southern France, and the most celebrated episode in the 442nd’s history occurred with the rescue of the “Lost Battalion.”

The 442nd was sent north into the Vosges mountains to seize the city of Bruyere, whose surrounding hills had been heavily fortified by the Germans. They succeeded in taking the city after a bloody series of attacks and enemy counterattacks, but received almost no rest before being sent to the rescue of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, originally part of the Texas National Guard. It had been cut off and surrounded by German forces after a failed attack near the town of Biffontaine, and all attempts to resupply it by air or break it out had failed.

Faced with heavy fog, steep terrain, dense forests, and heavy enemy artillery, the 442nd saw their most intense combat of the war, suffering more than 800 casualties before linking up and relieving the 211 besieged survivors of the 141st. After the rescue, they continued to press on to Saint-Die until being pulled off the line on Nov. 17. In a little over three weeks, the 442nd had suffered more than 2,000 casualties. The 100th alone was down from a strength of over 1,400 a year prior to less than 300 men. When the commander of the 36th Division called an inspection of the 442nd later, he grew angry over what he saw as soldiers missing formation, only to be told that those present were all that were left.

The 442nd would go on to see further action in France, Italy, and Germany and scouts from the unit were among the first to locate and liberate the German concentration camp of Dachau. By the time the unit was deactivated after the war ended, it was awarded 21 Medals of Honor, more than 4,000 Bronze Stars, and over half of the 14,000 men who had served in the unit had been wounded, making it by far the highest decorated unit of its size in U.S. history.

Articles

Former Navy Commander: What the US should have built instead of the F-35

Lockheed Martin announced the F-35 program in 2001. Since then, hundreds of billions of dollars and 15 years of testing have brought the program to where it is today — on the verge of becoming the world’s premier fighter/bomber and the future of the US Air Force, Marines, and Navy.


But while the idea of launching a single, advanced, stealthy plane for all three service branches seemed good on paper, and ultimately won approval from US military planners at the highest level, it was never the only option.

Also read: The Pentagon wants a half-billion more dollars for the F-35

Former US Navy Commander and aviator Chris Harmer, also a senior naval analyst for the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider that the F-35 only really holds a single advantage over the Cold War-era legacy aircraft it’s set to replace — stealth.

“The F-35 is very capable in a very specific way. The only thing it does that legacy can’t do is stealth,” said Harmer.

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Lockheed Martin photo

Indeed the F-35’s low observability and integrated stealth design are central to the plane’s mission and tactics. Throughout its development, the F-35 notoriously lost to older legacy fighters in up-close dogfights. Combat-aviation expert Justin Bronk told Business Insider flat-out that the F-35 could “never in a million years” win a dogfight with an advanced Russian or British plane.

However, defense officials never planned for the F-35 to revolutionize dogfighting, but rather aerial combat as a whole. The F-35, nearly impossible for enemy aircraft to spot, can simply shoot down foes from long distance before they’re ever close enough to really dogfight.

But according to Harmer, who has spent much of his life around carrier-based aircraft, the F-35’s advantages begin and end with stealth. Harmer suggests that instead of building the F-35, the US simply should have updated existing aircraft, like the F-15, F-16, and F-18.

These platforms — proven, legacy aircraft — could easily be retrofit with the advanced avionics and helmet for targeting that set the F-35 apart.

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An air-to-air view of two F-15 Eagle aircraft armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. | McDonnell Douglas photo

“For a fraction of the cost for F-35 development, we could have updated legacy aircraft and gotten a significant portion of the F-35 capabilities.” said Harmer. The F-18 for example, has already undergone extensive reworkings, and the F-18 Super Hornet, which is 25% larger than the original F-18, has a smaller radar cross section than its predecessor and is one of the US’s cheaper planes to buy and operate.

However, an F-15, the Air Force’s best air-dominance fighter, with fifth-generation avionics and targeting capability, still lacks the integrated stealth design of an F-35. Stealth must be worked into the geometry of the plane and simply won’t do as an afterthought. In today’s contested battle spaces, a legacy fighter, no matter how you update it, still lights up brightly and clearly on an enemy radar and is therefore less survivable to the pilots — something US military planners have refused to accept.

“The only advantage of the F-35 is to go into highly contested airspace,” said Harmer, adding that the US has “literally never done that.” Additionally, the US already has another fifth-generation aircraft with an even better stealth in its inventory — the F-22. In fact, when the US does discuss operations in the world’s most contested airspaces, it’s the F-22 they talk about sending.

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The US already has a super-stealthy fighter — the F-22. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

“There are other, less expensive ways to address highly contested airspace — cruise missiles, standoff weapons, radar jamming,” Harmer added.

But the F-35 ship has sailed. Despite a very troublesome development, the program is now at or very near readiness with all three branches.

“As a practical matter, the F-35 is a done deal; we’ve incurred the ‘sunk cost’ of the R D, and neither the USAF or USMC has any intentions of buying any more legacy airframes.”

Humor

6 crazy things MPs have found during vehicle inspections

Anyone who drives up to a military base’s front gates trying to gain access can expect some kind of inspection. The process can be as simple as getting your ID checked, but other times you’ll be instructed to drive into the vehicle examination lane, where MPs, or military police, bust out the undercarriage mirror and drug-sniffing dogs.


Most people don’t care because they have nothing to hide, but on some occasions, MPs make some interesting discoveries.

Related: 9 examples of the military’s dark humor

We asked a few our of MP friends about the craziest things they’ve found during their vehicle inspections. Here’s what they said:

6. Male-enhancement pumps

We’re told this is the most embarrassing one to be caught with… Strangely, nobody ever claims ownership.

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5. Steroids

Yup. Those are illegal no matter how much they improve your bench press. Unsurprisingly, this product is commonly found among servicemembers who carry the infantry MOS.

4. Marijuana

Even if the plant is legal in your state, it’s still illegal on military bases. The amounts vary from a few grams to several ounces. Often, the substance is hidden in shoe boxes and gas tanks.

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This smuggler decided to hide their stash in a shoe box. (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

3. Inflated blow-up dolls

Nope! You’re not getting a visual, but you can use your brilliant imagination… failing that, there’s always Google.

2. Ninja weapons

You never know when you need to fight evil forces.

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Also Read: 6 crazy things actually found in boot camp amnesty boxes

1. Urine bottles

Some servicemembers have to work as duty drivers, and they log several hours in government vehicles. They, too, are subject to inspections. If the servicemember is under time constraints and making a pit stop isn’t on the schedule, an empty bottle of Gatorade works just as well.

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Maybe it’s Gatorade?

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Winnie the Pooh’ was created by a vet explaining war to his boy

There is nothing more heart-wrenching to veterans with families than having to explain why daddy hasn’t been the same ever since he returned from the war. A reasonable adult can grasp the idea that war is hell and that it can change a person forever, but an innocent kid — one who was sheltered from such grim concepts by that very veteran — cannot.

A. A. Milne, an English author and veteran of both World Wars, was struggling to explain this harsh reality to his own child when he penned the 1926 children’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh.


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This might help give you a picture of just how awful the Battle of the Somme was. Fellow British Army officer and writer J.R.R. Tolkien fought in the Battle and used it as inspiration for the Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

(New Line Cinema)

As a young man, Alan Alexander Milne stood up for King and Country when it was announced that the United Kingdom had entered World War I. He was commissioned as an officer into the 4th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as a member of the Royal Corps of Signals on February 1, 1915. Soon after, he was sent to France to fight in the Battle of the Somme.

The description, “Hell on Earth” is apt, but doesn’t come close to fully describing the carnage of what became the bloodiest battle in human history. More than three million men fought and one million men were wounded or killed — many of Milne’s closest friends were among the numerous casualties. Bodies were stacked in the flooded-out trenches where other men lived, fought, and died.

On August 10, 1915, Milne and his men were sent to enable communications by laying telephone line dangerously close to an enemy position. He tried warning his command of the foolishness of the action to no avail. Two days later, he and his battalion were attacked, just as he had foreseen. Sixty British men perished in an instant. Milne was one of the hundred or so badly wounded in the ambush. He was sent home for his wounds suffered that day.

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A.A. Milne, his son, Christopher Robin, and Winnie the Pooh.

(Photo by Howard Coster)

Milne returned to his wife, Daphne de Selincourt, and spent many years recovering physically. His light finally came to him on August 21, 1920, when his son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born. He put his writings on hold — it was his therapeutic outlet for handling his shell shock (now known as post-traumatic stress) — so he could be the best possible father to his baby boy.

One fateful day, he took his son to the London Zoo where they bonded over enjoying a new visitor to the park, a little Canadian Black Bear named Winnipeg (or Winnie for short). Alan was drawn to the bear because it had been a mascot used by the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI. Despite being one of the most terrifying creatures in the zoo, Winnie was reclusive, often shying away from people.

Alan saw himself in that bear. At the same time, Christopher loved the bear for being cuddly and cute. Understandably, Alan bought his son a teddy — the real-life Winnie the Pooh bear.

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It all kind of makes you think about that line Winnie’s says to Christopher, “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

(New York Public Library)

The demons of war followed Milne throughout his life. It was noted that when Christopher was little, Alan terrified him when he confused a swarm of buzzing bees with whizzing bullets. The popping of balloons sent him ducking for cover. Milne knew of only one way to explain to his son what was happening — through his writing. A.A. Milne started writing a collection of short stories entitled Winnie-the-Pooh.

It’s been theorized by Dr. Sarah Shea that Milne wrote into each character of Winnie-the-Pooh a different psychological disorder. While only A. A. Milne could tell us for certain, Dr. Shea’s theory seems pointed in the right direction, but may be a little too impersonal. After all, the book was written specifically for one child, by name, and features the stuffed animals that the boy loved.

It’s more likely, in my opinion, that the stories were a way for Milne to explain his own post-traumatic stress to his six-year-old son. Every stuffed friend in the Hundred Acre Woods is a child-friendly representation of a characteristic of post-traumatic stress. Piglet is paranoia, Eeyore is depression, Tigger is impulsive behaviors, Rabbit is perfectionism-caused aggression, Owl is memory loss, and Kanga Roo represent over-protection. This leaves Winnie, who Alan wrote in for himself as Christopher Robin’s guide through the Hundred Acre Woods — his father’s mind.

The books were published on October 14, 1926. As a child, Christopher Robin embraced the connection to his father, but as the books grew in popularity, he would resent being mocked for his namesake character.

Christopher Robin Milne eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and they both served in the Second World War. His father was a Captain in the British Home Guard and he served as a sapper in the Royal Engineers.

It was only after his service that he grew to accept his father’s stories and embraced his legacy, which endures to this day.

In fact, Christopher Robin, a film starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Marc Forster (known for Finding Neverland), is opening this weekend. Be sure to check it out.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Having your own personal APC makes sense when things to haywire

In 2010, a standoff with police in Hoonah, Alaska, on the northeast shore of Chichagof Island led to a shootout that resulted in two officers being killed and the suspect barricading himself inside a house. Alaska State Trooper Rodney Dial responded to the call that day and came to a sobering realization — local law enforcement needed an armored vehicle. Alas, not one could be found in the entire state. After the situation came to an end, his search began for a platform that could be used to respond to similar confrontations in the future.


Rodney took it upon himself to research this category of vehicles and quickly discovered how cost prohibitive it’d be to get a modern one with all the bells and whistles better-funded departments had. That led to scouring forums and websites dedicated to surplus military vehicles that could be purchased for considerably less. After poking around the interweb for a while, Rodney found this six-wheeled beast owned by a militia member in the Midwest who had a brush with the law and was forced to sell it. Upon dropping around $22,000 for the vehicle itself, and then about another $5,000 having it shipped to Alaska, he was now the proud owner of a 1956 Alvis Saracen FV603 Mark V.

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The owner fabricated a one-piece removable front cowling with extra armor and ballistic glass.

Courtesy of Recoilweb

To provide a little background, the Saracen FV600 series was an armored personnel carrier (APC) produced by British manufacturer Alvis from the early ’50s up to the mid ’70s. Many of them are still in use today throughout the globe. This model of APC was often seen during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and you may have also recognized a few of them in Stallone’s Judge Dredd movie. The Mark V is an up-armored variant of the FV603 model and, according to Rodney, can withstand a 20-pound landmine as well as .50-caliber armor-piercing rounds. The factory ballistic glass is around 6 inches thick. The vehicle can hold 10 people including the driver and gunner, but it isn’t amphibious.

After taking delivery of the vehicle, it quickly became a maintenance nightmare. The startup procedure required checking dozens of fluid levels, and the amount of oil it leaked rivaled the Exxon Valdez. The recurring mechanical issues, coupled with the fact that parts had to be shipped over from Europe, consistently sidelined it. The original Rolls-Royce powertrain with its fluid flywheel system was only getting a top speed of about 40 mph — when it ran.

Some additional research, and the good fortune of being located near one of the best diesel mechanics in the state, led to swapping out the drivetrain with a Navistar DT 466 six-cylinder diesel engine with an Allison automatic transmission, which was sourced from a dump truck. With the addition of a handmade gas tank, KN custom intake, and specially made exhaust system, the performance was dramatically improved. Top speed is now about 70 mph, and mileage is up to a surprising average of 15 mpg (not bad for 11 tons).

Rodney also installed a new bumper system, reinforced deck plating on the sides, custom front armor, interior gun mounts, a ladder for the turret, additional lighting, and a police radio, among other touches. Although Rodney has retired from active duty and is currently mayor of Ketchikan, the vehicle is still available to local law enforcement if needed. Operating it is similar to driving a heavy truck, although visibility is understandably limited.

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www.recoilweb.com

Like any heavy-duty commercial vehicle, it uses air brakes. Currently, the vehicle is only two-wheel drive but can be made 4WD — at the moment Rodney has it disconnected. The independent center wheels serve as backup to keep the vehicle stable and driving in case the others are destroyed and function on a hydraulic system that can be raised to make tighter turns. Rodney tells us it has a better turning radius than his pickup.

You might be asking yourself how it’s possible to own one of these unless your golfing buddies work for the State Department. It’s actually easier than you might think. Rodney tells us no special permitting was required to purchase it because it was shipped over as “demilitarized,” meaning the grenade launchers and guns are disabled. The main armament was originally a Browning .30 cal, but Rodney replaced the barrel with one from a 20mm Vulcan cannon, which is merely for looks. Rodney does have a .50-cal BMG that he could use in the periscope-equipped turret if needed.

“People interested in purchasing a vehicle like this should search the military forums online,” Rodney says. “There’s a few different companies that sell military surplus vehicles. It’s not easy to find one like this for sale in the country, but you can definitely find one in Europe and import it. Sometimes they have similar ones on eBay under the military vehicles section. If you buy one, you have to do one of two things: Understand that it’s something you can just drive on a limited basis because they break down periodically, or you’re going to have to modernize it with a current drivetrain and other components.”

As was the case with Rodney, owning one will require finding a specialized mechanic who knows how (and is willing) to service it, upgrade it, and can possibly fabricate parts. Given the inflated weight, if you get it stuck somewhere you better have the number for a big-rig tow truck company saved on your phone.

To comply with the formalities for street legality, Rodney had to get it inspected, pay for a surety bond, and register it as a special-use vehicle. Believe it or not, it’s insured through a well-known insurance provider and only costs him about 0 annually. “People need to make sure they get a vehicle like this titled so they can register it,” Rodney says. “Every state is different on what they’ll allow and consider ‘special use,’ but I registered it in a similar manner as companies that take old amphibious WWII vehicles and use them for tourists.”

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www.recoilweb.com

If you’re part of the thin blue line and having trouble convincing the tribal elders why they should appropriate funds to acquire a vehicle like this, be sure and remind them about the situation that prompted Rodney to purchase his. If that doesn’t work, try mentioning Shawn Nelson, who stole an M60A3 Patton tank from a National Guard armory in 1995 and went on a rampage in San Diego, California. You could also relay the “killdozer” case of Marvin Heemeyer, who rigged up his D355A bulldozer with extra armor before deciding to go out and demolish several buildings in Granby, Colorado, in reaction to his ongoing disputes with city officials.

Rodney’s vehicle might’ve already looked familiar to you, as it’s also been featured on an episode of Doomsday Preppers. If you’re looking to get one for a SHTF situation, it’s perfectly legal (and we think commendable) for private citizens to procure a Saracen and vehicles of the same ilk. See the sidebar for used military vehicle resources. Just like having an AR, though, you’re bound to get resistance from the local yokels who want to undermine your ability to own it on the grounds that it’s impractical, threatening, and that you “don’t need it.” We’re sure you’ve heard all these arguments before. Anyone who thinks the worst examples of human nature only exist in third-world countries is clearly well on their way to Mensa membership. Think we’re immune to a failed state? Go repeat remedial world history. Go directly to remedial world history. Do not pass “Go.” Do not collect 0.

At this point Rodney estimates he has about 0,000 of his own money sunk into the Saracen, but has it out on the road regularly and might even be spotted in a local drive-thru. Something about a politician who owns an APC makes us want to reach deep into our pockets to help him with his future campaign endeavors. Hopefully, his next step is running for Congress.

1956 Alvis Saracen FV603 Mark V

Motor: DT 466 six-cylinder diesel
Transmission: Allison automatic
Length: Approx. 15 feet
Width: Approx. 8 feet
Height: Approx. 9 feet, 5 inches
Weight: Approx. 22,000 pounds

Top speed: Approx. 70 mph

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the legendary Memphis Belle was brought back to life

Through the cockpit windscreen, Capt. Robert Morgan saw flashes of light from the wings and engine cowling of a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at his 12 o’clock and closing at an incredible rate. Each wink of light from the fighter’s wing root meant another 20mm cannon shell was heading directly at his B-17F Flying Fortress at over 2,300 feet per second.

Having no room to dive in the crowded formation of B-17 bombers of the 91st Bomb Group, he pitched up. The Luftwaffe fighter’s shells impacted the tail of the aircraft instead of coming straight through the windscreen.


Over the intercom Morgan heard his tail gunner, Sgt. John Quinlan, yelling that the aircraft’s tail was shot to pieces and what was left was in flames.

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(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

It was January 23, 1943. Morgan and his nine crewmen aboard the “Memphis Belle” had just fought their way through a swarm of Luftwaffe fighters, dropped their bombs on a Nazi submarine base in the coastal city of Lorient in occupied France and were fighting to survive the return trip to the Eighth Air Force base in Bassingbourn, England. Morgan began calculating if the crew should bail out and become prisoners of war before the tail tore completely off the bomber trapping the crew in a death spiral culminating in a fiery crash.

A moment later, Quinlan reported that the fire in the tail had gone out. The “Memphis Belle” and its crew would survive the mission; the crew’s eighth and the bomber’s ninth.

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(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

They would have to survive 17 more missions to complete the required 25 to rotate home. All would be flown during a period of World War II when the Luftwaffe was at the height of its destructive powers.

Against all odds, the “Memphis Belle” crew flew those missions, their last to once again bomb the U-boat pens at Lorient on May 17, 1943, before returning safely to England for the final time. Bottles of Champagne were uncorked and radio operator Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Hanson collapsed onto the flightline and kissed the ground.

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(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

For the “Belle” itself, it was only mission 24 and the plane had to fly once more with an alternate crew on May 19.

The B-17 and its crew would be the first to return alive and intact to the U.S. They were welcomed as heroes and immediately embarked on a 2 ½-month, nationwide morale tour to sell war bonds. The tour was also to encourage bomber crews in training that they too could make it home. It made celebrities of both the “Belle” and its crew.

Ironically, the two and a half months of press conferences, parties and glad-handing officers and politicians was about the same amount of time during the “Belle’s” combat tour that 80 percent of the 91st Bomb Group’s B-17s and their crews were lost to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

“Eighty percent losses means you had breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of those 10,” Morgan said in an interview after the war. During the totality of the air war over Europe more than 30,000 U.S. Airmen aboard heavy bombers, like the B-17, would be killed.

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(U.S. Air Force photo)

Seventy-five years to the day after that 25th mission, the Museum of the U.S. Air Force will honor the bravery of those bomber crews, some of the first Americans to take the fight to the Nazis in WWII, when they unveil for public display the largely restored B-17F, Serial No. 41-24485, “Memphis Belle” as part of a three-day celebration, May 17-19, 2018.

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Download the Museum Brochure Here

According to the museum curator in charge of the “Memphis Belle” exhibit, Jeff Duford, the weekend will include more than 160 WWII re-enactors showcasing their memorabilia, WWII-era music and vehicles, static displays of other B-17s, flyovers of WWII-era aircraft and presentations of rare archival film footage. The “Memphis Belle” will be the centerpiece of an exhibit documenting the strategic bombing campaign over Europe.

“The ‘Memphis Belle’ is an icon that represents all the heavy bomber crewmen who served and sacrificed in Europe in World War II,” Duford said, “In many ways the ‘Memphis Belle’ is the icon for the United States Air Force.

“You look at the U.S. Marines, they have this wonderful icon of the flag being raised over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and everyone recognizes that. It symbolizes service and sacrifice and tenacity and teamwork. Well, the Air Force has that symbol too, and it’s this airplane. It demonstrates teamwork. The crews had to work together. The planes in formation had to work together. The formations had to work together with the fighter escorts.”

The service and sacrifice of the young men still leaves Duford awestruck even after working on the “Belle” project for a decade.

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(U.S. Army photo)

“How does one climb inside of this aircraft knowing that they are probably not going to come home? And they don’t do that one time; two times; three times; 10 times – they have to do it 25 times,” said Duford. “Once they got inside the airplane, they had no place to run. There were no foxholes to be dug. The skin on those airplanes is so thin that a bullet or flak fragment would go through it like a tin can because that’s essentially what it was.

“The odds were that every 18 missions, a heavy bomber was going to be shot down. So when you think the crew had to finish 25 missions to go home, statistically it was nearly impossible. It was one-in-four odds that a heavy bomber recruit would finish their 25 missions. Those other three crew members would’ve been shot down and captured, killed or wounded so badly they couldn’t finish their tour.”

The fact the “Memphis Belle” crew survived their tour was of great value to the U.S. Army Air Forces in maintaining support for the daylight strategic bombing campaign over Europe, which was still, in fact, an experiment.

“Back then, there was no book on high altitude strategic bombing. The generals didn’t know any more than we did. They had to figure bombing strategy as we went along,” said Morgan in a book he would write after the war, “The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle”.

The B-17 was named the “Flying Fortress”, because it was bristling with .50 caliber machine guns covering every angle of attack by German fighters, save one. The theory was that all that defensive firepower would be amplified by heavy bombers flying in tight formations, called “boxes”, enabling them to protect each other from attacking fighters.

While the German Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf fighters sometimes paid a price for attacking the formations, they soon developed tactics that exploited a design weakness in B-17Fs, like the “Memphis Belle”.

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German Luftwaffe models used in fighter pilot training show the fields of fire covered by the machine guns of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While twin .50 caliber machine guns in top and belly turrets and the tail and single .50 cal. gunners protected the bomber, the 12 o’clock position was covered by a lone .30 caliber machine gun – no match for the German fighters. Because the bomber formations had to fly straight and level to initiate their bombing run, the Luftwaffe fighter pilots began attacking the formations head on. The ensuing carnage was ghastly.

“The secret to the B-17 was the capability of flying in tight formations, so tight that the wings were often almost touching,” wrote Morgan. “We were able to put out an amazing amount of firepower… but, I also positively feel that was a bit of divine intervention for our crew.”

While the addition of Allied fighter escorts helped fend off some German attackers, the fact that the B-17s had to fly at 25,000 feet or lower to maintain any semblance of accuracy on target put them in the range of the deadly German 88mm anti-aircraft gun. No amount of machine guns or friendly fighters could counter the dense flak approaching targets while flying straight and level.

Bomber crews had to just grit their teeth and pray.

“They felt like they were a great crew. They were tightly knit, confident and dedicated to what they were doing,” said Duford. “However, being in those formations, flying straight and level with enemy anti-aircraft and fighter aircraft, there certainly was a little bit of luck for them too.”

Luck, both good and bad, was also a factor in the “Belle” crew, despite not being the first crew to complete 25 missions, being the one to return to the U.S. for a bond and morale tour.

The “Belle’s” selection for the morale tour was the result of a film project about the strategic bombing campaign that was the brainchild of USAAF Gen. Hap Arnold and a Hollywood director, William Wyler, who had volunteered to serve his country in the best way he knew how.

It was hoped that a film documenting a bomber crew as they successfully completed a combat tour would calm new recruits, who were hearing stories of the carnage overseas, and assuage the doubts of the public, press and politicians that strategic bombing was a failure.

Wyler, an immigrant who was born in the Alsace region of modern-day France when it was part of the German Empire prior to World War I and who would go on to win three Best Director Academy Awards, including one for “Ben-Hur”, was commissioned as a major and headed to England with a film crew to document the fight in skies over Europe.

Wyler and his cameraman flew with B-17 combat crews and began filming missions of a B-17F of the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group named “Invasion II”. His staff also began interviewing and making publicity photographs of the crewmembers, as they drew closer to completing 25 missions.

However, on April 17, 1943, the reality of war spoiled the Hollywood ending during their 23rd mission to Bremen, Germany. Invasion II crashed after being hit by flak over Borhmen, Germany, setting the cockpit and wing on fire. The crew managed to bail out, but all became prisoners of war.

Wyler regrouped and found a plane and crew with the 324th Bomb Squadron that was also close to completing their combat tour. The “Memphis Belle”, named for Morgan’s girlfriend, Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee, and its crew took center stage.

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The crew of the 358th Bomb Squadron Boeing B-17F ‘Hell’s Angels’ completed its 25th mission on May 13, 1943.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While the crew of “Hell’s Angels” completed their tour on May 13, 1943, four days before the “Belle”, there was no film of that plane and crew. Consequently, it was the “Belle” and its crew that would fly mission 26 back to the U.S. and receive a hero’s welcome.

Wyler’s film, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”, would be released and distributed by Paramount Pictures the following year.

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(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)

It was a film that came with a high price tag. One of Wyler’s cinematographers, 1st Lt. Harold J. Tannenbaum, a veteran of World War I, was killed in action during the filming when the bomber he was in was shot down over France on April 16, 1943.

Until the end of the war, the “Belle” was used as a training aircraft, but instead of being torn apart for scrap like most of the other 12,700 B-17s built during the war, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, put the aircraft on display for nearly 50 years.

The historic aircraft came to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in October 2005, when work began on a careful, multi-year conservation and restoration effort including corrosion treatment and the full outfitting of missing equipment.

Casey Simmons arrived shortly after the “Memphis Belle” as a restoration specialist for the museum.

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(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

From the beginning, it was apparent that priority one in the restoration was getting it right. His first assignment was to fabricate a glycol heater that was missing from inside the left wing. No visitor to the museum would ever see it.

“I know it’s there and that’s cool because it’s going to get all the parts that it needs to be a complete aircraft,” said Simmons. “When you don’t have the part you try and find a part from another airplane or you go to the blueprints and make the part completely from scratch.”

While the museum has other B-17s in its collection, the “Memphis Belle” requires a whole other level of patience and dedication.

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(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Other restoration projects are typically a general model of a certain aircraft. So it represents a lot of them. This one is a specific aircraft, so you have to get it right; exactly to the rivet,” said Simmons.

The museum specialist did not try to restore the “Belle” to how it rolled off the Boeing line, but utilized films, photos and records from its time in combat to bring the B-17F back to fighting trim, scars and all.

“There are certain damage spots on the “Memphis Belle” that were fixed over time, so we have to make sure that those show up on the aircraft the way they were,” said Simmons. “If they put five rivets in an area as opposed to the standard four that are supposed to be there, we have to get that correct… When you go through video footage, old film footage, or photographs, and you do find a little glimpse of what you’re looking for, that’s a big moment. We have to get it right for those bomber crews.”

The bravery of those bomber crews continued after all the whoopla back home died down. Even Morgan was eager to get back in the fight.

While on a morale tour stop in Wichita, Kansas, Morgan caught a glimpse of the future of strategic bombing, the still secret B-29 Superfortress. He volunteered immediately to train on the new bomber and earned command of his own squadron of B-29s that deployed to Saipan in the Pacific Theater.

On November 24, 1944, his 869th Squadron of the 497th Bomb Group was the first, other than Doolittle’s Raiders in 1942, to bomb Tokyo. He would go on to complete another 24 combat missions in the B-29 before the end of WWII. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1965 as a colonel.

While the restoration and display of the “Memphis Belle” will ensure the story of the dedication, bravery and airmanship of its 10 crewmembers that returned home safely in 1943 honors all the Airmen that fought in WWII, Duford is particularly enthusiastic that the exhibit will allow Museum of U.S. Air Force visitors to learn the story of the little known 11th crewmember of the “Memphis Belle”.

As much as any Airman, he embodied the spirit and sense of duty shared by all the heavy bomber crews.

“It’s the story of one of the waist gunners, Emerson Scott Miller,” said Duford. “You don’t see him in any of the war bond photos and you don’t see his name listed as one of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew members. He came overseas as a technician repairing the autopilot systems on B-17s. He was safe. He didn’t have to fly the missions but he decided he wanted to do more and volunteered to fly in combat. He joined the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew after they had flown about nine or 10 of their missions. So he had flown 16 of his missions when the rest of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew completed their 25th.

“Capt. Robert Morgan really wanted Scott Miller to come back on the war bond tour, but Miller hadn’t finished his 25th mission, so he had to stay. While the ‘Belle’ crew was celebrated and famous and there were parties for them, Scott Miller was still flying in combat.”

Fittingly, Miller finished his 25th mission aboard another B-17 on July 4, 1943, but for him, there were no parades, no press conferences, no meeting movie stars and no special duties.

“We got in touch with Scott Miller’s family,” said Duford. “They donated a trunk full of artifacts, and so Scott Miller has a place in the exhibit and his story will be told… He could have just simply done his duty repairing those autopilot systems and gone home safe. But he put his life on the line and then was forgotten. Now he’s going to be remembered now and for generations to come.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

1917′ cinematographer had to ‘literally stand around for hours waiting for a cloud’

Roger Deakins has dazzled moviegoers for decades with visuals that have gone on to become the most memorable in modern film history.

The frigid vistas in “Fargo,” the dreamy Western plains in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” the gritty underground world of drug cartels in “Sicario,” and the washed out future in “Blade Runner 2049” (which finally earned him his first-ever Oscar), all came from Deakins.

It’s hard to imagine he could do anything that would top this legendary body of work.

But he has with “1917.”


Marking Deakins’ latest collaboration with Sam Mendes (the two worked together on “Jarhead,” “Revolutionary Road,” and “Skyfall”), the story follows two British soldiers during World War I who have to travel behind enemy lines to deliver a message that will stop 1,600 of their allies from walking into a trap. And in telling that story, Deakins makes it feel like the entire movie is done in one continuous shot.

The hugely ambitious idea paid off. The movie, currently in theaters, has found critical acclaim, box-office glory, and award-season praise as it won three Golden Globes (including best director for Mendes and best drama) followed by 10 Oscar nominations.

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“Blade Runner 2049” is the only movie for which Roger Deakins has won an Oscar.

(Warner Bros.)

Among them was Deakins for best cinematography, the 15th time he’s been nominated.

If you were looking for a sure bet this Oscars, it’s that Deakins will take home his second Oscar when the awards are handed out on February 9. But don’t count on the man himself to get too excited.

The 70-year-old Englishman has been the frontrunner too many times before, only to leave empty-handed, to listen to any Oscars handicapping. In fact, he’s so modest it’s hard to get many details out of him on how he actually pulled off the ambitious shooting technique that has become the biggest draw of the movie.

“We had a lot of prep and we could just work through all the problems,” he said in a laid-back tone to Business Insider hours after the Oscar nominations were announced on Monday.

But finally he let out something that did scare him. It was something that even a legend like himself, who has come across seemingly every scenario behind the camera, could not control: the weather.

“That was a bit tricky,” he said, with just the hint of dry English humor.

Most of “1917,” which takes place over two days, is shot over grey skies. The gloom adds to the despair of the story’s war-torn surroundings. But Deakins said it was also a choice he kept pushing for early on in preproduction.

“Just practically we had to shoot in cloud,” he said, looking back. “Either you shoot it in real time, at the right time of day, which you never do unless you have months and months of time. Or you shoot in cloud and time it to look that way.”

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“1917.”

(Universal)

Knowing most of the filming would be done at Shepperton Studios in Scotland, the movie’s production office looked up what the weather was in the area the year before at the time they were going to shoot. Deakins was disappointed in the answer: “Apparently it was gorgeous.”

But the movie moved forward, which included Deakins and his team rehearsing the shots constantly with the small, light-weight cameras made especially for the movie from Arri Alexa.

Everyone was ready when the first day of shooting came in April of last year, but there was one problem.

“There wasn’t a cloud in the sky,” Deakins said. “It certainly made me anxious.”

While producers were on the phone explaining to the studio, Universal, and financiers why they couldn’t begin production because the weather was too nice, Mendes, Deakins, and the rest of the actors and crew were back to rehearsing in the trenches made for the movie.

Thankfully, the second day was a cloudy one and production was able to get back on track as they also made up the previous day’s shooting. Deakins said that’s how it was for most of production. If clouds weren’t in the forecast, everyone waited around until the day came when there was — and then everyone doubled their efforts to stay on schedule.

“We would literally stand around for hours waiting for a cloud to come by,” Deakins said. “I had five different weather apps on my iPhone. Every radar I could get. You look at them and try to find the one that will tell you what you want.”

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Shooting a scene from ‘1917.’

(Francois Duhamel / Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)

Then the day came when he wanted some sun. At the end of the movie, for a shot where the movie’s lead, Schofield (George MacKay), is sitting by a tree, Deakins said he wanted the shot to show some rays of sunlight in the sky.

“There was this little cloud coming over the sun so before we shot that section we called everyone over and said, ‘Let’s shoot it, we might get lucky,’ and sure enough when it got to the end of the take the sun came out,” he said.

“That was the first take,” Deakins continued, with a certain pride he didn’t show earlier in our conversation. “We shot it another fifteen or twenty times, but Sam liked that first one. And it was the only one where the sun came out. We never got that again.”

Looking back on the experience, Deakins said he would be up for shooting a movie again like this — though he wonders if anyone would want to.

“I don’t think many directors would want to tell the story in that way,” he said. “But it doesn’t scare me off at all. It would be quite fascinating to do it on something else.”

It’s good to see that even a legend has dreams for what the future could hold.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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