Ever since its inception in 1908, the FBI has been tasked with investigating the sorts of mysteries that keep Americans up at night. From foreign espionage to bank heists, the FBI has earned a global reputation for its investigative prowess for a reason; but despite all their training, resources, and pedigree, even the FBI’s most capable sometimes fall short of finding their suspect. Of course, when the suspect is Bigfoot, it seems a bit more excusable.
Back in 1976, Bigfoot was, well, big. Less than ten years after the Patterson-Gimlin footage took the country by storm with what certainly looked like a living, breathing, ape-monster trudging through the California woods, the Sasquatch had become a fixture at the box office. Theaters all across the country showed films like “Curse of the Bigfoot” and “The Legend of Bigfoot,” along with at least two other ape-man features that year, and even an episode of the “Six Million Dollar Man” had a Bigfoot cameo.
But the most intriguing place Bigfoot popped up in 1976 wasn’t on screen; it was in a file folder at the FBI.
Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film slowed down and stablised
Not everyone in the Bigfoot game back in 1976 had a Hollywood address. Just like today, Bigfoot had a fervent scientific following already scouring the North American forests for any evidence of the missing primate. One of the most respected in the field at the time was Peter Byrne, who served as the director of the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition in The Dalles, Oregon.
Byrne got his hands on a small patch of hair attached to a bit of skin that was supposedly from the ape-man himself, but soon realized that he and his team lacked the capability to conclusively determine the hair’s origin. So Byrne made the decision to send the sample to a reputable third party for analysis: the FBI.
His letter was received by Jay Cochran Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI at the Scientific and Technical Services Division. Cochran started by explaining to Byrne that the FBI isn’t in the business of chasing down unusual hair samples from the woods unless there was some kind of crime involved, but, because of the unique scientific implications, he was willing to make an exception.
Hair samples sent into the FBI for testing
(Federal Bureau of Investigation)
The FBI files on Bigfoot contain a number of letters between Byrne and FBI officials from that point forward, as Byrne prodded the FBI to take his sample (and pursuit) seriously. Byrne forwarded clippings of articles from large media outlets like the New York Times to show that not only did he have a reputation as a legitimate researcher, but the American people had a vested interest in solving the Bigfoot mystery. Finally, the FBI responded to Byrne with the results of their analysis.
“The examinations included a study of morphological characteristics such as root structure, medullary structure, and cuticle thickness in addition to scale casts. Also, the hairs were compared directly with hairs of known origin under a comparison microscope,” Cochran wrote to Byrne.
“It was concluded as a result of these examinations that the hairs are of the deer family origin.”
Letter from Jay Cochran, Jr. to Howard Curtis
(Federal Bureau of Investigation)
Cochran returned the sample with the letter, though, according to Byrne, he never received that final bit of correspondence. Because he was traveling at the time, the letter was sent to the executive vice president of the Academy of Applied Science, an organization Byrne’s Bigfoot Information Center maintained close formal ties with. Byrne was presented with the results earlier this week by the Washington Post, and reacted as though the FBI’s conclusion was entirely new to him.
That may well be true, as the files were only uploaded to the FBI’s website this week, though the documents were actually declassified years ago and have been publicly available on websites like The Black Vault ever since.
Of course, it’s impossible to say if the FBI maintains any other files on Bigfoot, but at least for now, it seems the North American ape-man has eluded authorities once again.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to order nearly five times as many fifth-generation Su-57 stealth fighters as originally planned to replace older fighters, strengthen Russian airpower, and give Russia a fighting chance in competition with its rivals.
“The 2028 arms program stipulated the purchase of 16 such jets,” Putin said during last week’s defense meeting before announcing that the Russian military had “agreed to purchase 76 such fighters without the increase in prices in the same period of time.”
The Russian president said a 20% reduction in cost had made the purchase of additional fifth-gen fighters possible. Improvements in the production process are also reportedly behind Putin’s decision to order more of the aircraft.
He added that a contract would be signed in the near future for the fighters, which he said would be armed with “modern weapons of destruction,” according to Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency. Such weapons could include the R-37M long-range hypersonic air-to-ar missile, an advanced standoff weapon with a range of more than 300 kilometers, or about 186 miles, Russian media reported.
The new Su-57s are expected to be delivered to three aviation regiments. Those units, the Russian outlet Izvestia reported May 20, 2019, include regiments in the three main strategic regions in the northwest, southwest, and far east. The report said only the best pilots would be trained on the aircraft.
Seventy-six of these fighters is a particularly tall order for the Russian military, which has had to cut orders for various programs, such as the T-14 Armata main battle tank, over funding shortages. Right now, Russia has only 10 Su-57 prototypes, and fighter development has been moving much slower than expected.
The Su-57’s chief developer argued late last year that the Su-57 was superior to US stealth fighter jets, a claim met with skepticism by most independent experts.
Su-57 stealth fighter at the MAKS 2011 air show.
Russia’s Su-57 fighters, as they are right now, largely rely on older fourth-generation engines, and they lack the kind of low-observable stealth capabilities characteristic of true fifth-generation fighters, such as Lockheed Martin’s highly capable F-22 Raptor or F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
That is not to say the Russian fighter does not have its own advantageous features, such as the side-facing radar that gives it the ability to trick the radar on US stealth fighters. And it is possible, even likely, that the Russian military will make improvements to the aircraft going forward.
Should Russia follow through in purchasing 76 Su-57s, its military would still trail far behind those of the US and its partners with respect to fifth-generation airpower. As of February 2019, there were 360 F-35s operating from 16 bases in 10 countries, according to Bloomberg. The US also possesses 187 F-22s, arguably the best aircraft in the world.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The penultimate episode of season one brings us Chapter 7: The Reckoning, wherein director Deborah Chow returns — and brings along some familiar faces.
Here’s your spoiler warning:
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Our Mandalorian-of-honor receives a transmission from Greef Carga, who has a proposition that is clearly a trap. Navarro is now overrun with Imperial troopers and Carga wants them off his back, so he’s willing to team up with Mando to kill The Client.
Our Mandalorian seems to decide that this is the best deal he can get so he decides to take Carga up on his deal — but not without reinforcement. He returns to Sorgan to recruit Cara Dune, who’s brawling for credits in a bar (fun to see Gina Carano showing off some of her moves).
To my surprise, they leave Omera behind (I’m still waiting to find out why she’s such a good marksman) and head off to Arvala-7 to grab Kuiil instead.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Here we learn that the Ugnaught has spent the time since we last saw him repairing and reprogramming IG-11. For some reason that hasn’t yet paid off, this episode spends a lot of time on the montage of IG-11’s journey back to functioning droid. I feel like I got the gist the first time Kuiil said he reprogrammed the killing out of IG-11?
Kuill finally agrees to accompany Mando but insists on bringing IG-11 and three blurrg with him.
(Side note: I basically just ignore space and time in Star Wars otherwise I’ll get too distracted wondering how those blurrg fit in the ship? And how much time has actually passed? It only feels like a few days or weeks but I guess it’s longer?)
Silly billy! No Force-choking friends without their consent!
The Mandalorian, Disney+
During their flight back to Navarro, Mando and Cara arm-wrestle. Seeing this, the Yoda Baby misinterprets Cara’s actions as an attack against Mando so he decides to Force-choke her.
“That’s not cool!” Haha but it is hilarious. Little baby Force-choke! That’s impressive!
What’s most interesting is the reaction — no one in the ship talks about the Force after the incident. Kuiil is theoretically old enough to remember the time of the Jedi Order (he mentions to Cara that he’s lived three human lifespans), but none of the group seem to know firsthand about the Force.
Beware the intelligent adversary.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
On Navarro, the group meets up with Carga and his back-up. They decide to walk until sundown, camp for the night, then head into the city at first light. Unfortunately, they are attacked by some sort of pack of flying dragons or mynocks or wyverns. The creatures carry off two blurrgs (which was deeply unsettling — why do the innocents always have to die?) and rake Carga’s arm with poisonous claws.
Here we get to learn a pretty fun new fact about the Force — it can be used for healing. The Yoda Baby walks up to Carga, places his tiny little hand on Carga’s wounded arm, and closes the wound and eliminates the poison. Cool!
Carga thought so, too, because the next day he shoots his men and confesses that they were just going to turn on Mando. Now Carga is committed to saving the baby and killing The Client.
He suggests there will only be about four Stormtroopers guarding The Client and not to worry…
Only now, Kuiil will take the baby back to the Razor Crest and they’ll pull the ol’ fake-prisoner bit, bringing in Mando in handcuffs, and just pretend the baby is in the carrier.
Insert a “we’ve got company” quote here.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Of course, the plan goes awry. Though The Client apparently believes the baby is “sleeping,” his boss doesn’t. Moff Gideon (played by Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) calls via hologram right before ordering an attack on everyone in the room. He shows up in a fancy TIE fighter to join his Death Troopers and trap Mando and Cara behind enemy lines.
Mando then decides to, for some reason, communicate with Kuiil over comms that are easily intercepted by Scout Troopers, who take off to capture Kuiil.
A very stressful race begins, with Kuiil and the Yoda Baby on a fleeing blurrg, racing toward the ship while the Scout Troopers speed off toward them. (I mean, how did the Scout Troopers know which way to go? Why didn’t Mando use clean comms — or at least some code?? Questions for another day…)
Honestly, I was waiting for IG-11 to burst out of the ship and save the day…but instead we cut abruptly to the Yoda Baby on the ground, scooped up by a Scout Trooper, leaving the dead blurrg and Kuiil in their wake.
With that, we’re left on an Empire-like cliffhanger waiting for the finale on Dec. 27.
You’ve heard of Elf On The Shelf but are you ready forpic.twitter.com/0dyFHkbkCR
On the scenic Thai island of Koh Sumai, tucked away in the Wat Khunaram temple is the mummified body of one of Thailand’s most famous monks- Luang Pho Daeng. Remarkably well preserved, Luang Pho Daeng’s body was put on display sometime in the 1970s and is still there today, virtually unchanged from the day he passed away, with the notable exception of a giant pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses that were added later. So how does his body stay so naturally well preserved and why is he wearing Ray-Bans?
Born sometime in 1894 on Koh Sumai, Luang Pho Daeng first became ordained as a Buddhist monk in his twenties. However, he only remained a monk for a few months before he decided to abandon the pursuit to raise a family and live an otherwise normal life. That said, his brief time as a monk had a profound impact on Luang Pho Daeng’s life and guided his actions throughout the ensuing decades. For example, during WW2, Pho Daeng, who was a financially successful businessman during his adult life, donated large amounts of money as well as clothing and medicine to those in need and otherwise placed high value on all life.
(Photo by Per Meistrup)
It was also around this time, in 1944 at the age of about 50 years old that he, apparently with the support of his wife and six now grown children, decided to once again become a monk.
After being ordained, Luang Pho Daeng threw himself into studying Buddhist texts and became fascinated with various meditation techniques, soon becoming a master meditator, in particular of Vipassana meditation, which literally translates to “seeing clearly”.
His skill at meditation was such that he could reportedly meditate for upwards of 15 days at a time, during which period he’d neither move nor consume food or drink. Although the man himself claimed that he needed no nourishment during his marathon meditation sessions, he was frequently warned by physicians that he was causing severe harm to his body through his regular extended bouts of no fluid or food intake.
As you might imagine, during these sessions, he lost a great deal of weight through muscle, fat, and fluid loss and was often so weakened by his meditation that he needed to nursed back to health via fluid resuscitation and the like, before ultimately he would once again resume meditating.
The true extent of the damage Luang Pho Daeng did to his body while meditating was largely lost on his followers thanks to the decidedly monk-like stoicism with which he was able to endure the withering effects of severe dehydration and hunger. As a result, Luang Pho Daeng became something of a celebrity amongst the residents of Koh Sumai and many travelled to Wat Khunaram temple to learn from him.
In addition to his impressive meditative abilities, Pho Daeng was known for his strict adherence to a simplistic lifestyle, on a normal day eating only one, simple meal and apparently always eating from the same bowl.
According to the monks of Wat Khunaram where Luang Pho Daeng served as an abbot, shortly after his 79th birthday in 1973, Luang Pho Daeng foresaw his own death and made it known that he would mummify himself, which is totally possible if excruciating and an extremely time consuming process that, given the time of his eventual death, meant he must have started the process long before he made this announcement.
In preparation for his anticipated success at this, he requested that his disciples build him an “upright coffin” made of glass in which his body should be put on display if he was successful in his goal of achieving self-mummification. His ultimate aim being that his remains would serve as an eternal testament to the Buddhist belief in the transience of human existence if he was successful.
Unfortunately for those of us who like the details, exactly how he prepared himself for self-mummification was never recorded by the monks of his temple. That said, one known method used by certain types of Buddhist monks was a total of a nine year process, about six of which the monk would be alive for.
The monks would begin by ceasing eating any food except various nuts and seeds, with some accounts stating that they were also allowed to eat fruits and berries. They would also begin a regimented program of heavy physical exercise, which they would continue throughout this first period that lasted one thousand days.
During the next one thousand days, the monks would further restrict their diet by only eating bark and various roots, again with some accounts stating that they were also allowed to eat a limited amount of fruits and berries. Near the end of this period, they would drink a concoction made from the sap of the Urushi tree. This tree’s sap is mildly poisonous and is normally used as a natural lacquer. Ingesting the drink caused the person consuming it to vomit frequently, further restricting the body’s ability to obtain nutrients from the sparse diet they ate. They would also rapidly lose bodily fluids due to vomiting. As a side effect, this sap also worked as a preservative in their bodies.
In the final stage of self-mummification, the monk’s body would be little more than skin and bones. If the monk survived to this point, he would lock himself into a stone tomb that was just large enough for him to fit in, sitting in the lotus position, which is a position he would not move from until he died. The tomb itself contained an air tube, so that the monk could live for a time after being entombed. It also contained a bell, which the monk would ring on a daily basis to let those outside the tomb know he was still alive.
While in the tomb, the monk would sit in the lotus position and meditate until death. Once the monk died and, thus, no longer rang the bell each day, the breathing tube would be removed and the tomb sealed for the final thousand day period of the ritual. At the end of this period, the tomb would be opened to see if the monk was successful in mummifying himself. If he was, the preserved body would be put on display in the temple. Having successfully demonstrated mastery over the physical, the priest would also then be declared a Buddha.
Whether some semblance of this was what Pho Daeng did or not isn’t known. Whatever the case, after his preparations were complete on an unknown date in 1973, he sat down and meditated for the final time of that particular life.
When his followers discovered that he’d passed away while meditating, they hastily constructed the upright coffin he’d requested and placed his body inside to wait and see if it would decompose or not. If it did decompose, he left instructions that his remains were to be cremated. If it didn’t, as mentioned, he requested they be put it on display.
In keeping with his final wishes, when his body failed to decompose normally, he was then put on display in Wat Khunaram.
Nearly three decades later, in 2002, his remains were still externally in remarkably good shape, spurring researchers at the Bioanthropology Research Institute to study the corpse. In the process, among other things, they performed a radiographic analyses on it.
Amazingly his organs, including brain, are all still remarkably well preserved, more or less having shrunk from dehydration, but otherwise still there and intact. In fact, one of the only parts of Luang Pho Daeng’s body that actually rotted away were his eyes, which sunk into his skull shortly after his death.
This became something of an issue for the monks of the temple wanting to display Luang Pho Daeng’s corpse as per his final wishes, because children who visited the temple were understandably terrified of his eyeless visage, rather than in awe of his self-mummification.
After contemplating the issue for some time, the monks of the temple came up with the rather novel solution of simply covering Luang Pho Daeng’s eye sockets with a pair of Ray-Bans, which would not just mask the eye sockets, but also make him look rather stylish.
Luang Pho Daeng has rocked this look ever since. And as a result of both his startlingly well-preserved state and timeless fashion sense, his former body has become the temple’s most famous attraction.
Incidentally, one other interesting thing the study by the Bioanthropology Research Institute discovered in examining the body was that at some point a Gecko or Geckos managed to lay eggs in his eye sockets and skull, as well as in his mouth and throat…
Moving swiftly on, the monks of Wat Khunaram don’t mind visitors taking pictures or even recording videos of Luang Pho Daeng body (so long as they do so in a respectful manner) and the temple is free to the public, meaning images of this fashion conscious mummy are plentiful for those who can’t make the trip.
US military units rely on wireless networks and radio-frequency communications to talk on the battlefield, sharing intelligence, targeting data, and orders.
But concern is growing that rivals like China and Russia could pick up those transmissions and jam them, change them to confuse or deceive, or track them to target the people sending and receiving them — tactics Russia and Russian-backed forces are believed to have used before.
The Pentagon has started exploring the use of laser communications systems that are harder to detect and disrupt.
Marine Corps field radio operators remove the free space optic system from a tactical elevated antenna mass at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Aug. 17, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Timothy Valero)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been working on sensors and hardware to send and receive signals from free-space optical technology — which sends light beams through the air rather than a cable — for some time.
in early 2017, the Defense Department awarded million for a three-year project involving three of the service branches, focused on developing a laser communications system — “basically fiber optic communications without the fiber,” Linda Thomas, whose team at the Naval Research Laboratory got about one-third of the grant money, told Breaking Defense at the time.
Thomas’ team’s Tactical Line-of-sight Optical communications Network, or TALON, was able to send messages through laser beams over distances similar to those of Marine Corps tactical radios, which typically can range to about 45 miles.
Free-space-optical communications systems are available commercially, but their range is limited. The Naval Research Lab team was able to exceed the range of those systems, a problem that involved sending the low-power beam through the atmosphere without it being made unintelligible, though Thomas didn’t say how they did it.
Marines have already gone into the field to test a free-space optics system developed by the Naval Research Lab.
Marines lift a tactical elevated antenna mass mounted with the free space optic system at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, August 17, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kindo Go)
Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force tested a free-space optics system that “transfers data on a highly secured and nearly undetectable infrared laser, separate from the radio frequency spectrum” in Okinawa this month, according to a Marine Corps release.
The mobile system allows more data — larger files and imagery — to be transmitted without using more of the radio-frequency spectrum, “an already constrained resource,” one of the Marines involved said.
“When it first came up, we thought it would be a lot more difficult to set up and understand,” said Marine Sgt. William Holt, a cyber-systems administrator. “When the Marines heard ‘free space optics’ and ‘lasers,’ they got nervous about that. Then when they actually got behind the gear and were able to operate it, it was easier than expected.”
Thomas and other engineers from the Naval Research Laboratory were also on hand.
“We came out to Okinawa because it was one of the harshest humid environments with highly variable weather on very short time scales,” she said. “We are looking at how the system operates and handles these conditions and how we can better fulfill the needs of the future Marine Corps.”
Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
‘The threat is out there’
US Marines are not the only ones gearing up to communicate in a contested environment.
China’s People’s Liberation Army considers electronic warfare a central component of its operations, and its EW doctrine “emphasizes using electromagnetic spectrum weapons to suppress or to deceive enemy electronic equipment,” the Defense Department said in a report about Chinese military capabilities released in August 2018.
Chinese units “routinely conduct jamming and antijamming operations against multiple communication and radar systems and GPS satellite systems in force-on-force exercises,” the report said. In addition to testing Chinese troops’ ability to use these systems, such tests “help improve confidence in their ability to operate effectively in a complex electromagnetic environment.”
Russian forces carried out similar tests during the massive Zapad 2017 exercise conducted late 2017.
A training specialist from the Army Space and Missile Defense Agency shows Army National Guard soldiers on how to detect electromagnetic interference on a GPS receiver, June 23, 2018.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)
According to Estonia’s military intelligence chief, Col. Kaupo Rosin, the amount of jamming Russia deployed against its own forces during that exercise “was at a level we haven’t seen.”
“The threat of the Russians is that if they are jammed, they can fall back into a civilian infrastructure on their own land, which gives them an advantage in operating in the vicinity of Russia,” Rosin told Defense News in 2017. “So they have that advantage.”
US troops have also tested their capacity to thwart electronic interference.
Ohio National Guard troops trained with a team from the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command in summer 2018 in order to be to detect and mitigate cyberattacks on GPS systems.
“There are adversaries out there with the capability to deny, degrade and disrupt our capabilities,” said Capt. Kyle Terza from US Army Space and Missile Defense Command. “The threat is out there and … we have to be trained and ready to operate without it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
During rescue operations on September 16, 2018 in Delco, North Carolina, Coast Guard crews found 10 beagles and four pit bulls locked in areas with rising floodwaters and were able to rescue them in the nick of time as some of the swimming dogs were reaching the end of their endurance.
The beagles’ owners were also rescued during the operation as they had become trapped inside as well. None of the animals had been abandoned, according to reporting in USA Today.
The owners told USA Today that they had evacuated to a relative’s home, but had returned when it appeared that the worst of the storm was over.
They hadn’t accounted for the rains which continued as the remnants of the storm lingered over areas already hit by the winds and torrential rain of the hurricane.
Coast Guard 16-foot punt boats approach dry land with dogs rescued from Hurricane Florence floodwaters on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina. Coast Guardsmen rescued 14 pets in a single lift after 10 beagles were discovered with their owners as the dogs, swimming in locked cages, reached the end of their endurance.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
The dogs appear excited to be rescued in the video and photos, and some dove into the water despite their narrow escape from the floods.
See more photos of the rescue from the Coast Guard below, and check out USA Today for more information on the event.
Shallow-Water Response Team 3 crew members from the U.S. Coast Guard taxi to shore with pets rescued from Hurricane Florence floodwaters on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
U.S. Coast Guard members of Shallow-Water Response Team 3 rescue civilians and pets from Hurricane Florence flooding on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina. The crew rescued 14 dogs from the waters in a single lift after the owners of 10 beagles were discovered along with their pets.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
U.S. Coast Guardsmen with Shallow-Water Response Team 3 navigate floodwaters from Hurricane Florence as they return rescued pit bulls to dry land. The dogs were discovered near 10 beagles who were rescued just in the nick of time on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
Rescued dogs roam Coast Guard punt boats as they return to dry land after a rescue operation on September 16, 2018 in Delco, North Carolina. The Coast Guard is conducting search and rescue operations in East Coast states as the final rains and winds from former Hurricane Florence die down.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
In the days of antiquity, being in the cavalry was a privilege specifically reserved for those who ranked higher in the social order than the common people. Those who were too young, too inexperienced, or too poor to have a horse, usually ended up in a type of combat unit specifically named for them: the infantry.
From the early days of warfare on up through the Middle Ages and beyond, war was a socially stratified activity, just like anything else. The leaders of a country needed able-bodied men to fight the wars, and they needed those men to already have the skills and experience necessary to fight wars. The problem is that most of those men definitely did not have the skills and experience necessary to fight wars. If a country didn’t have a standing professional army and used mostly the rabble picked from its towns and cities, chances are good, it was filled with infantry.
The word “infantry” is just as its root word suggests. Derived from the latin word infans, the word literally means infancy. Later versions of the word became common usage in French, Old Italian, and Spanish, meaning “foot soldiers too low in rank to be cavalry.
The last thing you see when you’re too poor to own a horse and no one thought to bring pointy sticks.
As if walking to the war and being the first to die from the other side’s cavalry charges wasn’t bad enough, your own cavalry referred to you as babies or children. Another possible Latin origin of the phrase would also describe infantry just as well. The word infantia means “unable to speak” or perhaps more colloquially, “not able to have an opinion.” The latter word might describe any infantry throughout history. As a conscript, you were forced into the service of a lord for his lands and allies, not given a choice in the matter.
In the modern terminology for infantry, this is probably just as true, except you volunteered to not have an opinion. At least now, you get healthcare and not cholera.
Cultural norms create a lot of stereotypes about the ideal warrior. We all know that warriors must be strong in both mind and body. Yet, there is still a perception that only men can fill military ranks while women, known as the “weaker sex” (except when it comes to childbirth), of course, must sit at home and wait.
Then, there’s the notion that even if a woman were a strong warrior, she couldn’t possibly also be attractive, right?
Now, a cadre of millennial beauty queens who serve or have served in the military are exploding stereotypes and breaking barriers everywhere with a wave of their scepters (or maybe their 9mms). This is because warriors and beauty queens actually have a lot in common.
Physical and mental conditioning
On deployment, MREs are more likely on the menu than yogurt, fish, vegetables, and fruit. But while MREs might nourish you enough to get the mission done, they’re not exactly packed with beautifying supernutrients.
Allison (Alli) Paganetti-Albers, Miss Rhode Island USA 2005, former Army Capt., and host of WATM’s ‘Troop Soup,’ had to be lean for competition, but was required to stay within Army height and weight standards. She was restricted from going on a diet that would jeopardize her ROTC scholarship. Her first commitment was to her Army contract, so she chose to stay within those standards and won her pageant anyway.
The toughness that comes from military training and experience translates into confidence on the runway. And the opposite is also true — pageantry helps in achieving military goals. Staying on task, thinking positive, turning off negative feelings, and pushing away fear of failure are all essential to thriving in the pageant world, and help build a strong discipline.
Teamwork and being part of something greater than one’s self
In the military, the team is everything. You depend upon the people to your left and right. The satisfaction of being part of a great military team is unmatched.
But aren’t queens just about themselves? Not really. Amazingly, the stereotype of extreme cattiness typically doesn’t exist.
“Pageants should be part of something greater than self. There’s no room to tear each other down. If you don’t feel a sense of teamwork in pageantry, you’re doing something wrong. There must be a sisterhood and collaboration,” says Alexandra Curtis, Miss Rhode Island America 2015 and Rhode Island National Guard Sgt.
Another way beauty queens are about others is how they use their platforms. Besides her work with the ALS Association, Alexandra is very much into helping young women get into politics. She was inspired by women who blazed the trail before her by combining political office with Reserve and Guard careers. And her sister queens devote time to great causes, such as helping wounded veterans, visiting with active military members, and inspiring schoolchildren.
There’s an extra sense of community responsibility among these contestants because they’re military women. They feel they have to be good role models in both careers as they represent the country first, themselves second.
Goals and obstacles
When you’re serving, the goal is accomplishing the mission. In pageantry, the goal is winning the title. But both military and pageant careers require facing down hurdles — just ask Marina Gray, Miss Maine USA 2018 and National Guard Sgt. Marina broke out of poverty and neglect when she became legally emancipated from her parents at age 16. From that moment on, she lived on her own and supported herself.
She enlisted in the Guard as a way to help pay for college. Her love of the Maine Coast helped, but her outlook was most important. She grew up religious. “The best way to beat adversity is to be optimistic. Don’t ask ‘why me?’ Think: ‘It happened to me because I could handle it’. Things happen for a reason.”
Marina felt some discrimination from her male peers, not because for being a beauty queen, but because of her gender. She dealt with it by working even harder and became a 2015 Soldier of the Year, a 2017 NCO of the year, and earned various fitness awards. “I’ve faced much adversity in my life and the way I’ve overcome all my road bumps is what I think makes me a beautiful person. I think character shines much brighter than any shade of lipstick.”
Yes, these women are gorgeous, but don’t be fooled by their beauty. They’re also about grit and determination. In their commitment to the warrior ethos and pageantry, two seemingly different careers, queens and warriors are more alike than not. They’ve tossed a couple of grenades at the notion that you cannot be beautiful and talented and strong and brave at the same time
GI Joe is a national treasure and the doll that has made red-blooded American males tough for decades. But not all GI Joes are created equal once the shooting starts. Here are the 10 most useless among them:
Altitude’s special abilities include making quick sketches while skydiving. It may or may not be relevant that he’s a full-blooded Apache. After the failure of syndicated cartoons, he joined the military. His photographic memory helps his sketches be as accurate as possible. According to his official filecard, he’s the first Joe ever to combine two totally different specialties – Reconnaissance and Combat Artistry.
Once the “baddest, hottest disc jockey in Boston,” Dee-Jay is a Communications expert who can work “complicated sound equipment… and coax strange sounds out of it with an infectious beat.” The only person more useless would be Cobra’s Falconer, but at least he knew how to dodge tax laws.
Metalhead is from the short-lived GI Joe EXTREME series. His specialty is computer communications and playing loud rock music in battle. He also has an “in-your-face attitude” (aka “being an asshole”).
Also, a leather vest and peace symbol necklace aren’t intimidating anyone, least of all Cobra Commander.
GI Joe’s hostage negotiator, Bullhorn is an “intervention specialist… an extremely calm individual, possessing an open and compassionate personality.” He “has the looks of a choirboy and is a good listener!”
5. Colonel Courage
The Colonel whose military specialty is “administrative strategist,” his filecard quotes him as saying “I’ll never surrender when I’m wearing a tie ’cause I can’t be beat when I’m neat!” His skills include organization and an efficient work ethic.
Colonel Courage’s filecard even says he rides a desk. Colonel Courage seems like the kind of Colonel who would deny Gung-Ho a promotion because his mustache was out of regs. Also I can’t take him seriously with a name like that.
6. Ice Cream Soldier
I don’t understand why he’s not just called “Ice Cream.” They don’t call Leatherneck “Leatherneck Marine.” Anyway, this seems like a bet between some Hasbro execs to see if they could just sell anything. Ice Cream Soldier is a Fire Operations Expert and BBQ Chef. His filecard says his name is designed to make Cobra underestimate him, but his filecard quote makes that seem like a dodge: “Eating ice cream without hot fudge is like fighting without ammunition!”
His card specifically states Sci-Fi “lives in a slow-motion world. He takes everything real easy and is never in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything.” It sounds like Sci-Fi is the biggest Blue Falcon in the whole Joe organization. Also, his specialty is shooting a laser. Forget that everyone shoots lasers, Sci-Fi’s laser takes much longer to be effective so he shoots it miles away from the battlefield.
Neon green is obviously the go-to color to wear in any small arms situation.
Chuckles, with maybe the least threatening name of any GI Joe (keeping in mind that Ice Cream Soldier still has the word “soldier” in his name), is a former insurance investigator whose greatest skill is “likeability.” He works criminal investigations, in case any Joes violate the UCMJ. No one is really sure who Chuckles works for, but he shows up every day in his Hawaiian shirt, “grinning, cracking jokes, and punching Cobras in the shoulders.”
An environmental health specialist, Ozone cleans up dangerous chemicals while fixing the holes in Earth’s Ozone layer. “Yo Joe! Ozone is here!” said no Joe ever.
“Hey, Ozone, buddy… we’re gonna need that Napalm back.”
Hardball is a failed minor league baseball player who still dresses like he’s going to play baseball at any moment, as if he just can’t accept the fact that he couldn’t make it to the big leagues and joined the military instead. His specialties include being able to judge distances quickly and his ability to be a team player.
I mean, come on man, let it go. It’s time to move on.
Tom Hanks stars in “Greyhound.” Photo courtesy of Apple TV+ press.
A new movie uses an all-star cast to bring the Battle of the Atlantic to life this Friday.
“Greyhound,” a WWII film, stars Hollywood favorite Tom Hanks, who also helped write the screenplay. It was initially set for release in theaters, but the coronavirus pandemic forced delays until it found an ultimate home exclusively on Apple TV+.
A large portion of the movie was shot on the USS Kidd (DD-661), now serving as a museum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The film, which hails from the book, “The Good Shepard” (1955) by C.S. Forester, tells the story of a newly-appointed ship captain (Hanks) and his crew’s vantage point through the Battle of the Atlantic. The 1942 event involved U.S. destroyers being attacked by a series of U-boats on their way to deliver supplies to Allied Forces in Europe.
“The Battle kind of fades into the background. You don’t really think about the logistics and dangers in it,” said Tim NesSmith, USS Kidd Museum superintendent and educational outreach coordinator. “It ran the length of the entire war. It was a long, drawn out, dangerous battle – against not only the enemy, but the elements of cold and ice. I hope [the movie] will bring more attention to the people who lived it.”
Considered to be the most accurate remaining destroyer from the war, the museum is a time machine, transporting visitors back 80 years and sharing the personal stories of the experience of sailors of the time.
One of four Fletcher-class destroyers that now exist as museums, the Kidd is the only ship to maintain its original WWII layout. It’s also listed by the Historic Naval Ships Association as one of the most authentically restored vessels in the world.
“Most have been modernized or structurally updated with the times,” said NesSmith.
The USS Kidd’s target restoration date is August 1945, which calls for scheduled restorations, cleanings and refurbished pieces. This schedule allowed the ship to remain as historically accurate as possible for the film NesSmith said.
After three months of prep work, the movie was filmed throughout April of 2018 on the Kidd. Other parts of the film were shot at the nearby Celtic Media Center. During the filming, NesSmith served as the site coordinator, outlining protocol by actors and crewmember and ensuring that the Kidd was not damaged.
Tom Hanks and crew in front of the USS Kidd. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+ press.
Film director, Aaron Schneider began scouting the Kidd for their shoot 2016.
“He researched it very well,” said NesSemith. “I think it really starts at the top and works its way down. I’ve worked on smaller sets before and this was on a whole different level. There’s a lot of planning – a lot more planning than I anticipated there would be. They did a great job.
“Everyone was really concerned about what they could and couldn’t do on the ship because they didn’t want to destroy its historical accuracy.”
Some pieces of the ship were recreated, while duplicate parts were documented and rented to the crew during filming. Museum workers also worked to obtain parts from the USS Orleck (DD-886), a fearing-class destroyer, now a museum ship, that’s based in Orange, Texas.
USS Kidd at sunset. Photo courtesy of the USS Kidd Veterans Museum.
On Greyhound’s release, NesSmith said WWII is important to remember. For him, its importance lies in average folks coming together in large numbers in order to create “the greatest fighting force that had ever been seen at that time.”
“They created freedom for those who lost it, and it’s an important story that needs to be told.”
In the Air Force, squadrons are the basic level of operations, its “beating heart” as Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein calls them.
To better understand how significant the squadron is to the Air Force, it’s also important to know what a squadron is.
Within the Air Force, the squadron is the lowest level of command with a headquarters element. Squadrons are typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel, though smaller squadrons may be commanded by majors, captains and sometimes even lieutenants. Squadrons can also vary in size and are usually identified numerically and by function. An example would be the 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron or the 355th Communications Squadron.
Two or more squadrons form a group. In the Air Force, groups are usually based upon the assignment of squadrons with similar functions. For example, the supply squadron, transportation, and aircraft maintenance squadron would be assigned to the Logistics Group, the flying squadrons would be assigned to the Operations Group and the Dental Squadron and the Medical Squadron would be assigned to the Medical Group. Groups, in turn, are then assigned to a wing with the same number. For instance, the 49th Logistics Group is assigned to the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
However, the squadron actually predates the Air Force. In March 1913, the first squadron was created when the Army ordered the creation of the Army Air Services’ 1st Provisional Aero Squadron – known today as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, the U.S. military’s oldest flying unit.
The creation of higher echelons came later as the role of air power grew during World War I. Groups and wings were formed in order to remedy the difficulty of coordinating aerial activities between dispersed aero squadrons. Though WWI saw the first great military mobilization, it also saw the first huge drawdown. What was more than 660 aero units diminished to a little over 70 squadrons by 1919, with an air component that was 19,000 soldiers strong reduced to around 5 percent of what it used to be. No one would have predicted that after two decades, the air component found itself expanding once again.
108th Bombardment Squadron during the Korean War activation formation in 1951.
(US Air Force photo)
With the advent of World War II, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged the growing importance of airpower. He believed, according to his adviser, Harry Hopkins, “that airpower would win the war.” What was then renamed to the Army Air Corps was well funded and grew rapidly, seeing more planes and squadrons than it ever will in its history – from a workforce comprised of 26,500 soldiers in 1939 to a staggering 2,253,000-strong by 1945.
The aerial component saw a considerable drawdown after the war ended, and, despite becoming its own department through the National Security Act of 1947, the number of airmen and squadrons continued to fluctuate and shrink over the years.
In the current Air Force, led by Wilson, Goldfein, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, the push for revitalizing squadrons, empowering airmen and supporting innovation is stronger than ever, but unbeknownst to many, these concepts have been implemented by many successful military leaders of the past. A prime example is one of the U.S. Air Force’s most iconic figures: a man known for his prowess in the aerial battlefield and his famously distinctive lip foliage, Big. Gen. Robin Olds.
“Wolfpack” aviators of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing carry their Commanding Officer, Colonel Robin Olds, following his return from his last combat mission over North Vietnam, on 23 September 1967. This mission was his hundredth “official” combat mission, but his actual combat mission total for his tour was 152. Olds led the 8th TFW Wolfpack from September 1966 through September 1967, as it amassed 24 MiG victories, the greatest aerial combat record of an F-4 Wing in the Vietnam war.
(US Air Force)
Along with inspiring the Air Force tradition, Mustache March, Olds was known as a triple ace for shooting down 17 enemy aircraft during his career. Along with the accolades he received as a skilled fighter pilot, Olds was known for his innovative leadership. In Vietnam, he led the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing to 24 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet aircraft kills – an unsurpassed total for that conflict.
One of the most significant moments in his career was on Jan. 2, 1967, during Operation Bolo, where he, as a colonel, entrusted the planning of an experimental and high-stakes mission to a quartet of veteran junior officers and pilots in his unit. Operation Bolo was conceived in response to the North Vietnamese use of MiG-21s to successfully shoot down F-105 Thunderchief aircraft. Olds noticed that F-4 Phantoms and F-105 Thunderchiefs routes became predictable. Enemy intelligence analysts would listen in on radio transmissions and were able to recognize F-105 and F-4 call signs and flight patterns and used the information to target the more vulnerable F-105s. Olds charged his men to come up with a plan to trick the North Vietnamese into thinking the F-4s were the F-105s. The F-4s were then fitted with the jamming pods usually carried by F-105s so that their electronic signature would be the same and also used the same call signs and flew the same routes and pod formations as the F-105s. Needless to say, the operation was a success and lead to the most MiGs shot down during a single mission.
Francis S. Gabreski (left) congratulates another World War II and Korean War ace, Maj. William T. Whisner (center). On the right is Lt. Col. George Jones, a MiG ace with 6.5 kills.
(US Air Force)
In a commentary commemorating Olds in March of 2018 written by Lt. Col. Bobby Schmitt, 16th Space Control Squadron commander, he said that Operation Bolo “showed innovation could work when the leader trusted and empowered his people to think of and implement new and better ways to do business.”
He also referred to Olds as “an innovative leader” at a time when the Air Force was in dire need of innovation to face difficult missions where a lot of people’s lives were at stake.
Just like Olds, Goldfein and Wilson ask airmen to help come up with ideas to reinvigorate squadrons for the force to be ready for the 21st-century fight.
They have gone as far as reviewing all Air Force instructions and empowering commanders to maneuver and make decisions as well as encourage wing commanders to let squadron commanders make important decisions.
Capt. Lacey Koelling, the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge, and 34th Bomb Squadron members Capt. Lillian Pryor, a B-1 pilot; Capt. Danielle Zidack, a weapon systems officer; Capt. Lauren Olme, a B-1 pilot; and 1st Lt. Kimberly Auton, a weapon systems officer, conduct a preflight briefing prior to an all-female flight out of Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 21, 2018. The flight was in honor of WomenÕs History Month and consisted of routine training in the local area.
(Air Force photo by Sgt. Jette Carr)
During an Air Force update in September 2017, where Goldfein talked about creating healthy squadrons who excel in multi-domain warfare and ready to lead the joint force, he concluded by saying, “It’s the secretary and my job to release the brilliance found throughout the airmen in our Air Force,” a sentiment that echoes the voices of great Air Force leaders of the past, the present and the future.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Robert O’Neill, the former SEAL Team Six operator who is credited for firing the shots that killed Osama bin Laden, has a new venture. This time the only “pop-pop” coming from O’Neill is the pop of a beer tab.
He has a pre-IPO investment opportunity for anyone who’s both a fan of the armed forces of the United States and of craft brews: Armed Forces Brewing Company.
O’Neill made a fun, goofy and at times purposely over-the-top commercial/investment pitch video, recently shared on YouTube. The video takes shots at foreign breweries, beer hipsters and more, all to get you to invest in the company.
The former Navy SEAL kills aliens, trashes the competition and even pokes fun at himself, referencing the Delta Airlines flight in which he refused to wear a mask and was subsequently banned from the airline. Have a look:
The new venture is a brewing company comprising three brands: Seawolf Brewery, Soldier Brewery and Airmen Brewery. As of July 2021, only two beers under the Seawolf brand appear on the website. Launched by O’Neill and other special operations veterans, it’s designed to pay tribute to all branches of the military (yes, even the Space Force).
If beers like Special Hops IPA and Cat Shot American Craft Lager sound good to you, then you can not only buy one, you can own a piece of the company. Armed Forces Brewing Company is looking to raise $7.5 million in a campaign to grow its business. With a $200 minimum investment at $10 per share, interested parties can not just get a piece of the company, they can score some fun perks.
According to the investment site, there’s more to the brews than a gimmicky commercial and one of the world’s most famous special operators. The site says its products are brewed by an award-winning brewmaster, that it’s run by successful, seasoned hospitality industry veterans and that there are plans to hire a workforce made up of 70% military veterans.
Right now, the beer is available only in a handful of states but will soon be available in as many as 46. The company also says it’s planning a national expansion and already has a foothold to get three of its beers into military exchange stores.
As for the perks, $200-$499 will get investors an Armed Forces Brewing Company logo stick, challenge coin, a 5% discount online, along with your name on its online wall of investors and an invitation to the company’s annual shareholder event. Other levels offer VIP access at events, early tastings and even the chance to create and name one of the company’s beers.
Perks are all well and good for a casual investor who wants a stake in a veteran-owned business. The biggest question for any serious investor is: is it a sound investment? According to the company’s SEC filing, Armed Forces Brewing Company has some big obstacles:
It’s a relatively new entity with limited tangible assets and its continued operation may require substantial additional funding
The company has a very short operating history and no assurance that the business plan can be executed
The company has entered a highly competitive industry and within this highly competitive industry are companies with established track records and substantial capital backing.
The industry in which the company participates is highly speculative and extremely risky.
But there’s no significant reward without significant risk, as Robert J. O’Neill would likely tell you. Armed Forces Brewing Company could become the veteran-owned longshot-turned-competitor, in the vein of great companies like Black Rifle Coffee and Hire Purpose.
Sensational press accounts were just plain rabid about this man from the time he “escaped” a post-WWII “Officers'” holding camp, until the start of the Vietnam conflict. All he ever really wanted to be was a Mechanical Engineer and to serve his country honorably. Most of us would never have heard of this Commando’s successes were it not for the British desire to explain WWII in detail to the world (in terms of their victorious achievements). This man was Otto Skorzeny.
In the frantic change of the Austrian government on 12 March 1938, Skorzeny was a member of the Gymnastic Club which was trying to support the police and keep antagonistic political factions from breaking into rioting. He was a big man with a strong sense of duty, an energetic attitude, and a loud, commanding voice. It is reported that he personally prevented two armed groups from coming to blows at a critical moment. Then the war came on 1 September 1939, and he tried to get into the Luftwaffe, but, at the age of 31, was labeled “too old” to be a pilot — so he ended up in the Army.
In his regular army training regimentation, Skorzeny saw individuality and personality broken in most of the younger men by the time-honored methods heralding back to 19th century Prussia. Sent on a tour of France after its surrender as an officer-cadet (~E5) he amazed superiors by obtaining the cooperation of Dutch workers to construct a ramp that he designed for loading heavy tanks on to ships in preparation for the invasion of Britain. Later when his trucks needed new tires to complete a mission, he threatened the NCO of a supply depot with harm if he (without written authorization) didn’t get what he needed to carry out his verbal orders. He was reprimanded by a general for being aggressive and transferred to a unit in Yugoslavia.
When he was leading his first combat patrol, a larger group of enemies walked right into his area. Instead of opening fire, Skorzeny jumped up and demanded their surrender — and got it, without firing a shot. He brought in 63 prisoners, including three officers, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on the spot. He thought his next assignment would be in the battle for North Africa, and picked up a copy of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by T.E. Lawrence for reading on the train. The train stopped short and his unit was instead offloaded to participate in Operation Barbarossa and an extremely bloody Axis invasion of Russia, which began 22 June 1941.
He fought well and hard in the endless Russian forest and plains for the next six months, including during the Russian winter of 1941, when the German Army had no winter uniforms. Skorzeny developed colic, was invalided home to Vienna, and assigned as an Engineering Officer to a reserve regiment in Berlin. In the autumn of 1942, Waffen SS divisions were being converted into armored divisions, so he applied for a transfer and became the regimental Engineer of the 3rd SS Armoured Division. In mid-April 1943, he was sent to Waffen SS headquarters and informed that a technically trained officer was required for a special unit.
Why reserve 1st Lt. Skorzeny? What was going on?
The German scarface.
British commandos were causing a problem, so Hitler wanted to develop a commando team. Here was a reserve officer with combat experience, but not quite an exemplary service record. For the General Staff, Lt. Skorzeny was perfect — suitable, presentable, technically trained, and non-political. (It might be noted that Hitler’s Commando Order of 18 October 1942 clearly stated that all Allied commandos captured “should be killed immediately without trial.”)
Skorzeny was promoted to captain and told to get to work on creating a special operations unit or two. Firstly, however, he had to be introduced to the “secret” side of the German military and was introduced to Admiral Canaris of the Military Secret Service (Auslands-Abwehr). He tried to get a number of junior officers transferred to his new unit — and was turned down. LTC Schellenberg of the General Staff advised him that he needed to collect all the information he could and start a School for Espionage and Sabotage while looking for men and equipment. His new command was already penciled in to take over a mission in Iran that was going badly.
Fortunately, the platoon of men he inherited were all combat veterans. Added to their number was a platoon size group of legal specialists from the Political Intelligence Section that knew how to gather surplus equipment and personnel. Finally, he was in contact with the Director of the State Security Department who he had known in his student days in Austria. This was the source of many enlightening discussions about Reichführer Himmler, who eventually became the sabot in all Military and Political machinery.
Fighting furiously against red-tape, Skorzeny located a 19th-century hunting lodge in a tract of forest and meadowlands at Friedenthal (Valley of Peace), close to Berlin. He then requested after-action reports on the British Commando attacks perpetrated since 1940 and received a vast dossier, which had been meticulously collected, but not well-reviewed. He learned from the apparent British mistakes. Immediately he realized that all training should be conducted at night because that is when small groups can beat larger formations. Everyone was to be trained to competency on every weapon and piece of equipment the units might carry into battle. Other training included parachutes and operation (and repair) of all sizes of transportation vehicles.
On 26 July 1943, Skorzeny took an afternoon off for lunch and a quiet chat with an old university professor — and the whole world changed. Checking with his admin office in mid-afternoon, he was advised that a plane would be at the aerodrome at 1700 to take him to the Führer’s Headquarters [FHQ]. He directed his XO to gather his uniform and meet him at Tempelhofer. No one in his office knew what or why. Upon arrival, he and five other officers — all more senior than him — were led into the command center of the Wolf’s Den and lined up according to rank. All made short statements about their military careers; his was the shortest. The Führer began asking about their knowledge of Italy and their thoughts on the Axis partner. The other five spoke the “party line,” but Skorzeny stated, “I am an Austrian my Führer.”
In order to understand that comment, it should be mentioned that as a result of WWI Italy took a portion of Austria — South Tyrol — that it could not win by combat. Hitler was also Austrian and understood what Skorzeny meant. The five other Commanding Officers of Special Force units were dismissed. Hitler personally charged Skorzeny with the rescue of Mussolini who had been arrested by Italian police in preparation for Italy’s surrender to the Allies and its change of sides. The location of the Duce was unknown.
Furthermore, Hitler did not want the German Army Commander in Italy or the German Ambassador in Rome to know of the operation. Skorzeny and his force were transferred to the Luftwaffe and reported directly to General Student. While discussing the situation with General Student, Himmler showed up to dominate the conversation with a short history of Italian vacillation since the Allied invasion of Sicily, and a ranting monologue of names of reliable Italians and traitors, and how to deal with each.
During a pause in the performance, Skorzeny requested to step out and call his commandos to put them on alert status. While waiting to have his call put through, he lit a cigarette to think of the scope of the assignment. Himmler came down the hall and chewed him out for smoking and declared him possibly unfit for the job. One of Hitler’s Staff Officers who overheard the remarks assured him that this was a trait of Himmler and General Student would fix everything once the operation got rolling. So began one of the great commando stories and the start of an amazing two years that ended with Skorzeny being declared “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.”
Skorzeny’s phone call to his Chief-of-Staff was short and terse. Fifty of his best men and officers needed to be ready not later than 0500 for extended action in Tropical Uniform, with parachute gear, six days of emergency rations, and a teletyped list of equipment. Due to the mission’s classification, he could not tell them what they would do, or where and why they would be deployed. As he thought about a short nap, he realized that he had never made out a will. That was resolved immediately. He took a shower around 0600 and met General Student at 0730 at the aerodrome.
Skorzeny and Benito Mussolini surrounded by German commandos and soldiers.
The tale of the 12 September 1943 rescue of Mussolini is one of great adventure for both Skorzeny, as a leader, and his commando team. There was even a delayed-and-failed first effort due to confusing intelligence. (The Nazi Propaganda machine created a motion picture of the event to splash across the theater screens and demonstrate Nazi invincibility when the General Staff knew they were losing.)
Because of the mission’s success, he was rewarded by being allowed to recruit from the Brandenburg Division. This was the original German Army Special Force. The Division would slip behind the enemy front line and carry out sabotage or prevent vital bridges from being destroyed. By 1943 however, the German Army was on the defensive or preparing for the next Allied invasion. These highly-skilled and qualified soldiers were being used as gap-stopping cannon fodder in Africa and Eastern Europe. The now-famous Skorzeny, as a Division Commander, began to “borrow” supplies and equipment from every depot within reach, based solely on his relationship with Hitler. While training the enlarged command, he was called upon to plan the abduction of other well-known figures who seemed to be potential or actual problems. First on the list was Marshal Pétain, the Vichy France Head of State. Skorzeny and his commandos made plans and practiced to perfection while waiting for the order to go. After over a month of waiting, they were told to stand down and returned to the Valley of Peace in time for Christmas.
Next on the list was Marshal Tito of the Yugoslavian Partisans. Skorzeny dispatch his division intelligence team to the area. A great deal of work was expended to locate Tito’s constantly shifting HQ — then in western Bosnia. Skorzeny sent his Chief of Staff to meet with the German Army Commander in the area to work out last-minute details. The liaison did not go well. Out of the blue, Skorzeny’s intel team reported that the local Army Corps was preparing their own operation against Tito, which would commence on 25 May 1944. Skorzeny realized that if his people knew about it in advance, so did Tito. The operation failed. (If you are interested in the details of this failure see KOMMANDO by James Lucas.)
Skorzeny brought his intel team home and began to train for the next problem proposed by the High Command. Off and on during the first half of 1944, he had been working with the Italian Decima Flottiglia MAS, led by Commander Junio Borghese, on special weapons for sinking ships. He received an order to report to Vice Admiral Heye who was forming up the Naval Small Battle Units (Kleinkampfverbånde) and was ordered by Himmler to assist in the training of the “K-men.” He also got involved with Luftwaffe Squadron 200, Hanna Reitsch, and the concept of piloted V-1 buzz bombs. Yet, most of his effort was spent dealing with entrenched bureaucracy. Once again, he was asked to train special pilots, but could not get any flight fuel for the effort.
The Western Front became active on 6 June 1944 and Skorzeny’s Commando Battalion 502 was put on alert. He was on his way to observe some frogmen exercises in Vienna on 20 July, when word of the attempted assassination of Hitler came. He was pulled off the train at the last station in Berlin and told to return to Berlin to deal with a military revolt. Confusion ran rampant and rumors were faster than speeding bullets. He was somehow detailed to protect the HQ of the Commender-in-Chief, Home Forces. High ranking officers were committing suicide or were being executed in the parking lot. Fear was gripping the staff at the Headquarters, and, according to Skorzeny, he took responsibility and got all the clerks back to work. Whatever he did, it raised his standing, and that of his battalion, in the eyes of Himmler and the political leadership. The Military Section D— the Counter-espionage unit — was attached to his command.
On 10 September 1944, he received a call to report to FHQ at a newly constructed Wolf’s Den in Berlin’s vicinity. After a three-day round of conferences and situation reports, he was briefed on his next mission. With Russian Armies breaking through Hungary’s defenses, the designated Hungarian head of state, Admiral Horthy, commenced secret negotiations with the Allies for surrendering. If successful, it would mean the loss of many German Army Divisions and Austria would become the next battleground.
Multiple German units were to be placed under Skorzeny’s command and he was directed to Budapest to see what could be done to prevent Hungary’s break away from the Axis camp. He was given a document that stated that he was on a personal and confidential mission for the Führer, and all political and military authorities were to assist him. It was essentially a Carte Blanche, personally signed by Hitler. The object this time was not to rescue anyone but to keep Hungary as a functioning Axis partner. Skorzeny sent in his command intel section and started quietly gathering his forces in and around Budapest. His favorite group was a battalion of cadets from the southern Austria Wiener–Neustadt Kriegsakademie. This may have been the first time he realized that he had become a legend.
Intelligence discovered that the son of Admiral Horthy was meeting with delegates from Tito’s partisan Army who was working for Russia as well. Another meeting was scheduled for the morning of October 15th. Working with great efficiency Skorzeny’s team rushed the meeting while others were fighting the Royal Hungarian Military guards. Within five minutes the son of Horthy and the Yugoslavians were captured, rolled up in carpets and loaded on a truck to the aerodrome, then flown across the border to Vienna. At 2 o’clock that afternoon a special announcement came over Hungarian radio: “Hungary has concluded a separate peace with Russia!” Orders for the German response “Operation Panzerfaust” were issued and German forces immediately took up planned positions around the Hungarian Government Citadel.
What occurred that evening and the next morning seems like a scripted scene from “Mission Impossible.” Skorzeny, with literally a handful of highly trained commandos, captured the whole Government Complex and Citadel and took the necessary steps to keep Hungary and its armed forces in the fight for the Axis. The whole action took less than thirty minutes and resulted in the death of three Hungarian soldiers and four Germans. Skorzeny was greeted by Hapsburg Archduke Frederick.
On October 18th, Skorzeny, now a LTC, escorted Admiral Horthy to meet with the Führer. He immediately returned to Budapest for joint ceremonial burial service. He would not see Admiral Horthy again until both were war-crime prisoners at the Nuremberg trials. Allied Intelligence took note of this event.
That evening, returning to Berlin with his primary commando officers, Skorzeny was given a written order to report to FHQ. After explaining details of the Hungarian Operation to Hitler, he was informed of the secret plan for December called the “Ardennes Offensive.” The big picture was to score a success in the West and work an armistice with Britain and the United States. Then Germany could send all remaining forces to fight Russia and thereby “save” Europe. His mission would be simple “just rush in to capture and hold three essential bridges, and, dressed in captured uniforms, have commando teams cause confusion behind Allied lines. All this was to be held in the strictest secrecy. Within a week, German High Command posted an order for English-speaking soldiers to be sent to LTC Skorzeny at Friedenthal for “Secret Commando Operations.”
Skorzeny, his Chief of Staff and one of his Battalion Commanders, held tight to the actual mission. Meanwhile, rumors were running wild through the collected gaggle of volunteers. Only half of about 400 English-speakers could communicate in that language. Captured American transportation equipment, which was promised, never materialized, and there was practically no ammunition for the larger U.S. guns. They only had one working Sherman tank, so a dozen Panther tanks were painted olive-drab with big white stars.
In the final phase of training, the rumor mill of the organization decided that the “real” mission would be to make a rapid dash to Paris and capture the Allied Headquarters and Eisenhower. Some of the junior officers and NCOs worked on various plans to get the organized groups to an assembly point in Paris — the Café de la Paix. Allied Intelligence and Security teams would spend the better part of December and January focused on that area.
There was a series of delays in commencing the operation and a series of final briefings at the Wolf’s Den. At some point, Hitler personally forbade Skorzeny from going behind enemy lines. This completely dismayed him. He was directed to coordinate the action by radio and stay with the 6th SS Armoured Army battle headquarters. His commando teams would operate in the battle area of the 1st SS Armoured Regiment under Colonel Peiper. At 0500 on Saturday, 16 December, the attack, known to the Allies as the Battle of the Bulge, began.
The primary mission of his battalion-sized “brigade” was to capture and protect three bridges across the River Meuse so that the Panzer Divisions could stream into Holland on their second day of the attack. When German forces failed to even make their first day goals, it became obvious to Skorzeny that making it to the Meuse wasn’t going to happen. His “brigade” was now used as a regular infantry unit.
However, he had sent half a dozen teams of English-speaking commandos in American uniforms to create confusion by changing or removing road signs and cutting phone lines between American front-line units. A rumor got out that Germans dressed like G.I.s were everywhere. The rumor took on a life of its own and a couple of hundred soldiers were arrested behind the lines, roughed-up to get information, and left in jail for a week — or more.
The outcome of Skorzeny’s last operation: German commandos disguised as American soldiers.
General Bradley was stopped numerous times by over-zealous MPs while trying to visit his front lines. General Montgomery could no get through to discuss the situation with his American counterparts. In Paris, Eisenhower became a virtual prisoner of his own Intel and MPs for five critical days of the battle. An officer resembling Ike was dressed up and driven around Paris trying to trick “Kraut Commandos” into making their move. The rumors’ results would haunt Skorzeny for decades.
The Battle of the Bulge ended in German defeat. It was supposed to impress the Allies of the German Army’sviability and hopefully lead to negotiations about a separate peace treaty on the Western Front. It was the last straw for any German commando action. The remaining German forces were thrown into the losing battles — usually in the East. All that remained was the relentless closing in of the Russian Eastern Front and the Allied Western Front until Berlin was taken.
To cover faulty intel about Skorzeny’s activities, in December the U.S. Army circulated a “Wanted Poster” describing him as a “SABOTEUR, SPY, ASSASSIN” and declared him “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.” He was tried in Nuremberg by the “Hanging Judge” but saved by the testimony of a British Special Operations Officer who claimed that everything Skorzeny was charged with (in violation of the pre-WWI “Rules of War”) had been done by Allied commando teams against the German Army. He spent years in courtrooms and prisons until finally cleared of all charges and false accusations.
He continued to be held in a detention center because the new German government was afraid to let him go. Finally, he told the warden he had enough and escaped. Not wanted for any crime, he quickly ended up in Spain and started a new life as a Mechanical Engineer.
A number of books were written about his actions: Charles Foley’s “Commando Extraordinary” was published in 1955. Ballentine’s illustrated history, compiled by Charles Whiting, and titled “Skorzeny,” was out in 1972. (Special forces were in the news then and back in vogue.) Skorzeny also released his own memoirs “Skorzeny’s Special Missions” which was written in 1957, immediately translated in English and published in London.
Editor’s note: This article was written by LCDR Sankey Blanton USNR (retired) and submitted by Robert Adams.