Hollywood is really, really good at killing the bad guys. And even though they haven’t quite gotten to ISIS just yet, there is a trail of bloody, dismembered evil in the wake of action stars like Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, and everyone else who may have been considered for a part in The Expendables.
Despite Hot Shots! Part Deux and Charlie Sheen’s claim to the contrary, there is an undisputed number one deadliest action star in the annals of Hollywood military history. That title goes to the Terminator: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Granted, this is before the Expendables 3 and the newest Rambo movie, but unless Rambo kills an entire Colombian drug cartel (which I admit, he might), the winner should still be pretty clear.
Randal Olson, a data scientist at Life Epigenetics, merges cutting edge epigenetics research with advanced machine learning methods to improve life expectancy predictions. He put data collected from MovieBodyCounts.com to put together data visualizations for the deadliest action heroes. At the top, was the star of Predator, Total Recall, and my personal favorite, True Lies.
Thank you, sir.
As of Olson’s 2013 writing, Arnold was at the top of the list with 369 kills. His highest single movie record came in Commando where in the final island scene alone, he managed to off 74 guys, mostly using firearms but featuring the best use of a toolshed. Hey, Alyssa Milano ain’t gonna rescue herself.
Of the 200 actors listed in the data, the top ten include Chow Yun-Fat in second, Sylvester Stallone in third, and then Dolph Lundgren (thanks, Punisher!), Clint Eastwood, Nic Cage, Jet Li, Clive Owen, and Wesley Snipes. In fourth place comes Tomisaburo Wakayama, who got 150 of his 266 onscreen kills in a single movie, 1974’s Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell.
The top 25 deadliest actors, visualized.
Olson notes that the deadliest woman onscreen is Uma Thurman, who has 77 kills because remember: the Crazy 88s only had 40 members.
We’ve all seen the famous painting, Spirit of ’76. In it, a young Revolutionary War drummer boy is marching alongside two other musicians. The boy is in his Continental Army uniform, looking up to an older drummer who is not in uniform. Another uniformed musician is wounded, but marching and playing the fife.
(Painting by Archibald Willard)
Today, Civil War veteran Archibald Willard’s 1875 painting still evokes patriotism in many Americans. It was, after all, painted on the eve of the United States’ centennial. Willard was the grandson of one of the Green Mountain Boys who, led by legendary patriot Ethan Allen, invaded Canada and captured Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolution. But there are a few errors in the painting: The scene it depicts never happened, the flag in the background wasn’t approved by Congress until much later, and the musicians are not wearing the right uniforms.
None of that really matters, it’s still a painting that resonates with Americans 100 years later. However, questions remain. What did the musicians wear in the Revolution? And why was it a different uniform from their fellow colonials?
In those days, musicians in an army existed to expedite communications on the battlefield. Music was loud enough to be heard over the din of combat and varied enough so that American troops would be able to respond to orders given from battlefield commanders without confusing them for other orders. They could even tell the enemy that the rival commanders wanted a parley. Incredibly (and accurately depicted in the painting), these communications were done by old men and boys who were either too old or too young to fight.
Boys that were younger than age 16 and men older than age 50 were enlisted as musicians. At the time, the average life expectancy for an American colonist was around 36 years, so a man older than 50 was both honored for his longevity and hard to find. Finding them on a dirty, smokey battlefield was just as difficult, so the uniforms they wore needed to be slightly more visible. There was also an economic component involved with the decision.
The regular Continental soldier wore a blue coat with red cuffs. Musicians, on the other hand, wore a red coat with blue cuffs. The red made them stand out on a battlefield where visibility was limited. It also made them stand out to the enemy, so if they were discovered, it was immediately clear that the small figure ahead was a musician — unarmed and not a threat (drummers were considered noncombatants). As an added bonus, the inverted uniforms were made from leftover materials in creating soldiers’ garb.
By the time Ohioan Archibald Willard was serving in the Civil War, musicians were wearing the same uniforms as their armed, regular battle buddies. Their purpose on the battlefields and in camp were the same — and Civil War armies still, by and large, used young boys (some as young as age 9) as drummers and buglers, but many also included full bands, with as many as 68 members in some units.
As battlefield communication methods improved, drums soon gave way to the bugle and, eventually, musicians disappeared from the battlefield altogether. Their role has since been replaced by radio and satellite communications, but for the time that musicians served in their battlefield communications role, the boys and men that filled those ranks were some of the bravest who ever marched with an army.
The United States has added its voice to international calls for China’s communist-led government to give a full public accounting of those who were killed, detained or went missing during the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
In a bold statement from Washington to mark the 29th anniversary of a bloody crackdown that left hundreds — some say thousands — dead, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Chinese authorities to release “those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”
To this day, open discussion of the topic remains forbidden in China and the families of those who lost loved ones continue to face oppression. Chinese authorities have labeled the protests a counter-revolutionary rebellion and repeatedly argued that a clear conclusion of the events was reached long ago.
In an annual statement on the tragedy, the group Tiananmen Mothers urged President Xi Jinping in an open letter to “re-evaluate the June 4th massacre” and called for an end to their harassment.
(Photo by Michel Temer)
“Each year when we would commemorate our loved ones, we are all monitored, put under surveillance, or forced to travel” to places outside of China’s capital, the letter said. The advocacy group Human Rights in China released the open letter from the Tiananmen Mothers ahead of the anniversary.
“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” the letter said.
In his statement, Pompeo also said that on the anniversary “we remember the tragic loss of innocent lives,” adding that as Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”
Liu was unable to receive his Nobel prize in person in 2010 and died in custody in 2017. The dissident writer played an influential role in the Tiananmen protests and was serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he passed.
At a regular press briefing on June 4, 2018, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States over the statement on Tiananmen.
“The United States year in, year out issues statements making ‘gratuitous criticism’ of China and interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Hua said. “The U.S. Secretary of State has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything,” she added.
In a statement on Twitter, which is blocked in China like many websites, Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-backed Global Times, called the statement a “meaningless stunt.”
In another post he said: “what wasn’t achieved through a movement that year will be even more impossible to be realized by holding whiny commemorations today.”
Commemorations for Tiananmen are being held across the globe to mark the anniversary and tens of thousands are expected to gather in Hong Kong, the only place in China such large-scale public rallies to mark the incident can be held.
Exiled Tiananmen student protest leader Wu’Er Kaixi welcomed the statement from Pompeo.
However, he added that over the past 29 years western democracies appeasement of China has nurtured the regime into an imminent threat to freedom and democracy.
“The world bears a responsibility to urge China, to press on the Chinese regime to admit their wrongdoing, to restore the facts and then to console the dead,” he said. “And ultimately to answer the demands of the protesters 29 years ago and put China on the right track to freedom and democracy.”
Wu’er Kaixi fled China after the crackdown and now resides in Taiwan where he is the founder of Friends of Liu Xiaobo. The group recently joined hands with several other non-profit organizations and plans to unveil a sculpture in July 2018 — on the anniversary of his death — to commemorate the late Nobel laureate. The sculpture will be located near Taiwan’s iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper.
In Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy that China claims is a part of its territory, political leaders from both sides of the isle have also urged China’s communist leaders to face the past.
On Facebook, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen noted that it was only by facing up to its history that Taiwan has been able to move beyond the tragedies of the past.
“If authorities in Beijing can face up to the June 4th incident and acknowledge that at its roots it was a state atrocity, the unfortunate history of June 4th could become a cornerstone for China to move toward freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.
Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party or KMT, who saw close ties with China while in office, also urged Beijing to face up to history and help heal families’ wounds.
“Only by doing this can the Chinese communists bridge the psychological gap between the people on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait and be seen by the world as a real great power,” Ma said.
Many great warriors throughout history enjoyed having rare, exquisite weapons. The fictional King Arthur had his Excalibur. The real-life Charlemagne had Joyeuse. But it was some unknown Inuit tribesman who had the rarest, most magical weapon of all – a spear made from the horn of a Narwhal, tipped by iron from a meteor.
For centuries, the horn of what we know today as the Narwhal was a pretty uncommon sight in European countries. European kings as recent as just a couple of centuries ago believed the “horns” sold to them by Viking traders were from the mythical unicorn and used them in everything from crown jewels to their drinking goblets. In reality, they were actually the tusks of a medium-sized whale; what we know today as a Narwhal. While this didn’t make the tusk any less rare, it did mean the source was less mythical and just really cold – the Narwhal preys on other sea life in the cold Arctic waters of the North.
Meanwhile, much further back in Earth’s history, a particular meteorite collided with Earth. The iron-based ball hit what we know as Cape York, Greenland today. It left a chunk of iron ore that weighed 31 metric tons embedded in the Earth’s surface. The local Inuit called it Saviksoah, or “Great Iron” and used it as a source of metal for hunting and building their communities.
Explorer Robert E. Peary with a chunk of the Saviksoah meteor.
The tusk of the now-endangered Narwhal can grow anywhere from five to ten feet in length and is a sensory organ, covered with nerves on the outer part of the tusk. So that tusk (which is actually a long, spiral tooth) doesn’t just fall out or shed naturally. For every Narwhal tusk, there’s a dead Narwhal out there somewhere. For the Inuit, they use the occasion to make hunting weapons from the tusks, and the length is ideal for making a spear.
To form an arrowhead, the natives need a source of metal, and, being unable to mine iron ore, they used the meteor as a source of the metal. Instead of using the blacksmithing techniques we all know through movies, televisions, renaissance faires, and whatnot, the Inuit had to use cold forging techniques – that means they just stamped the cold metal until it was beat into the shape they needed.
So it’s not impossible that this lance is the only example of a spear-like weapon forged from the cold iron of a million-year-old meteor then wedged atop the rare ten-foot tooth of a near-mythical Arctic whale. It’s just highly unlikely. And while people have been making weapons from the Ivory of Narwhals for decades now, know that killing one for its tusk is just as illegal as killing anything else for its ivory – only the Inuit are still allowed to hunt the creatures.
So, you just became friends with a Recon veteran and he’s got a decorated wooden paddle on his wall. What the f*ck is that all about? Well, it’s a tradition. Simple as that. But there’s history behind that tradition and, if you really want to really wow your new Recon Marine friend, you can throw this little tidbit out there.
In fact, there’s a good chance they don’t even know the true story behind it.
Much like Recon, everyone wants to be a viking until it’s time to do viking sh*t.
(Painting by Frank Dicksee)
The Viking misconception
A lot of people believe Recon inherited the paddle tradition from Vikings. While there certainly are similarities between these seafaring badasses of old and today’s Marines, the paddle is not one of those traditions.
The paddle is a little more of a contemporary tradition. It got its start with the Marine Raiders of WWII.
Obviously, no one actually stole it. Who would steal government property?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
The Raider origin
According to legend, modern Recon Marines can trace their military family tree back to the Raiders of the Pacific, who had military-issued paddles because, well, clandestine means f*ck your boat motor, you got good, ol’ fashioned manpower.
Like all most issued gear, these paddles had to be returned prior to parting ways with the unit. Thing is, after spending so much time with these paddles, they started to feel more like yours than the government’s. So, boat-mates would break into supply lockers and steal the paddles back for their “true” owners.
Marine Brad Colbert Discusses the History of the Paddle
Upon successfully stealing your paddle back, your boatmates would decorate that sh*t and give it to you before you left as a going-away present. Today, even non-Recon Marines are gifted paddles, but the tradition started out with the Raiders.
Would you like to know more? Watch the video below for the full story, as told by Brad “Ice Man” Colbert (of Generation Kill fame). Of course, there’s some explicit language in there, so be aware.
SpaceX hopes to fire off its next Falcon 9 rocket mission on Nov. 19, 2018. If the launch goes well, Elon Musk’s aerospace company may not only break spaceflight records, but also help fight nefarious behavior on the open ocean.
The goal of SpaceX’s upcoming mission, called SSO-A, is to put 71 satellites into orbit all at once. A company called Spaceflight Industries organized the mission, and it claims this is the largest-ever rideshare mission in US history, as spacecraft from 35 different companies and organizations will fly aboard the rocket.
However, three microwave-oven-sized spacecraft on the mission — a cluster called Pathfinder — are particularly worth noting.
The trio of spacecraft belong to a startup called HawkEye 360, and they’re designed to “see” radio signals from space. The company’s software will take unique radio signals coming from ships to “fingerprint” vessels, track them over time, and even forecast future movements.
An illustration of the SSO-A payload deploying CubeSats and microsatellites.
If Pathfinder works, authorities around the world could gain a major leg up in hunting “dark ships”: vessels that turn off GPS location transponders, often to hide their whereabouts and engage in illicit activity.
Such activity includes illegal fishing, smuggling, drug trafficking, and piracy, and it amounts to roughly trillion each year, says John Serafini, the CEO of HawkEye 360.
“We care about the folks that are not doing the right thing. We care about the vessels that don’t want to be found,” Serafini told Business Insider. “We’re focused on detecting those and stopping them.”
A HawkEye 360 data visualization that shows every instance over a month in which a boat turned off its automatic identification system (AIS) for more than 8 hours.
HawkEye 360 claims it’s unique not only for its radio-signal-detecting technology, but also artificial-intelligence-powered software the startup has developed to process data.
“You couldn’t have started this company 10 years ago,” Serafini said. “The costs were too high, and the technology wasn’t there.”
He added that HawkEye 360 exists today because of the increasing miniaturization of electronics, SpaceX’s lower-cost rocket launches, and advancements in machine learning.
Pathfinder, like the other satellites SpaceX is launching, will sweep around Earth from pole-to-pole in what’s called a sun-synchronous orbit — hence the “SSO” in the mission’s name. (The “A” signifies that it’s the first of multiple rideshare missions.) This orbit keeps sunlight drenching a spacecraft’s solar panels while allowing it to fly over every square inch of the planet.
The antennas of Pathfinder can detect a wide range of radio signals above about 1 watt in power. (“Cell phones are well below a watt in power,” Serafini said. “We don’t have the ability or the focus to do that.”)
This means the cluster can triangulate normally hard-to-pinpoint signals from satellite phones, push-to-talk radios, and marine radar. Ships need these and other radio-emitting tools to navigate the seas, the thinking goes.
This is especially true for “dark ships,” since those vessels turn off a mandatory device called an automatic identification system, or AIS. The AIS broadcasts a ship’s GPS location to avoid collisions, but turning it off is a common trick vessels use if they’re slipping into unapproved fishing zones or trafficking illegal drugs, wares, or people.
Serafini said that may soon cease to be an effective way to avoid getting noticed.
“If you’re turning on and off the AIS, we’re going to track your other emitters. If you try to turn them all off, you’re effectively negating your operation. You need to use them to navigate and communicate,” Serafini said. “If you do that, we’ve won. You can’t be effective.”
HawkEye 360’s three microsatellites that will form its Pathfinder constellation.
The Pathfinder system relies on the fact that every radio transponder on Earth is built differently, even if it’s made by the same person in the same factory. Minor variations in parts and assembly lead to subtle differences in radio emissions that HawkEye 360 says it can detect and exploit.
More importantly, by tracking a mix of radio emissions on a ship and pairing those with AIS signals (when the devices are turned on), the company can “fingerprint” every ocean vessel on Earth. That way, even if a ship is “spoofing” its AIS data, the company says it will know; AIS data will report one location, but the vessel’s radio fingerprint will reveal its true location.
HawkEye 360 says it has already proved that its system works by equipping three Cessna jet airplanes with Pathfinder technology, flying them over the Chesapeake Bay, and detecting ships that were spoofing their AIS data.
“We were able to not only detect the AIS spoofing but also geolocate the ships using their other radio signals,” Chris DeMay, the founder and CTO of HawkEye 360, told Business Insider. “We were able to map where the ship actually was and compare that to where the ship said it was.”
Data from HawkEye 360’s airplane-based test of its core technology. Blue dots show reported locations, based on automatic identification system (AIS) data, while orange dots show radio-frequency-based locations. Red circles indicate a zone of 95% certainty.
In addition to fingerprinting such vessels, HawkEye 360’s machine-learning algorithms will also be able to determine typical activity patterns for a ship and flag any unusual deviation.
Over time, the company says, it could even forecast the future locations of individual vessels based on their past behavior.
“Because we’ll be the first ones to do this, we’ll be the first ones to bring it to the commercial market,” Serafini said.
The future of tracking radio signals from above
The Pathfinder satellite cluster will give HawkEye 360 a global view of certain radio transmissions on Earth once every four to six hours. But DeMay and Serafini say that’s just the beginning.
According to them, HawkEye 360 is backed by about million in funding (enough to operate for 18 months), has 31 employees, and has secured 0 million in contracts. In the future, they aim to launch six more three-satellite clusters, which will create a constellation that can map Earth’s radio signals once every 30 to 40 minutes.
Launching larger and more capable satellites will also improve the company’s ability to detect weaker signals.
“Trucks use radio emitters that we could detect and track,” Serafini said. “If a truck is known to have a history of illegal border crossing, we might want to track that particular object.”
The company expects the US military to be increasingly interested in the technology, especially considering that HawkEye 360 can deploy its sensors on airplanes and high-altitude balloons (in addition to satellites). That feature could allow for real-time tracking of drones and weak signals on a battlefield.
An illustration of a cell tower transmitting data.
Another planned use of Pathfinder is more down-to-earth: The technology could detect improper use of the radio-frequency spectrum, including interference between cell-phone towers. Such interference can cause data loss between mobile devices and towers, leading to slow and unreliable internet, among other problems.
Ground crews with trucks typically drive around towers to search for and identify such problems, but such teams and equipment can expensive to deploy, especially on a nationwide scale.
“It’s like that Verizon ‘Can you hear me now?’ guy, but in space,” DeMay said — and possibly a lot cheaper and more effective.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
27 years ago, the Black Hawk Down incident was unfolding on the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, when a pair of US Army MH-60 Black Hawks were shot down by Somali militia toting rocket propelled grenades.
Of the many incredible stories of bravery and brotherhood that emerged from the day, one in particular stood out enough that two of the soldiers within would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for their heroism and sacrifice.
In August of 1993, a task force consisting of members of America’s elite special operations units were deployed to Somalia after a deadly IED attack on American military personnel who were, at the time, in country conducting a humanitarian mission.
Known as Task Force Ranger, the deployment package consisted of Rangers from the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, Night Stalkers from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and operators from Delta Force, among many others.
Attached to the Delta contingent were a pair of sharpshooters — MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart. Both Gordon and Shughart were old hands in the special operations community, the former having served with 10th Special Forces Group before being selected to join Delta Force, and the latter having served with the 75th Ranger Regiment.
On Oct. 3, an operation was launched with TF Ranger running the show entirely. It would be known as “Gothic Serpent,” though in later years, it would more popularly be known as the Black Hawk Down incident. The mission’s primary intent was to capture a pair of high-ranking officials of the Habr Gedir clan, led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aided.
The events of Gothic Serpent were documented in Mark Bowden’s best seller, “Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War,” and helicopter pilot Mike Durant’s book, “In The Company of Heroes.”
Delta operators and Rangers would be inserted from the air by Night Stalkers in MH-60s near the target building, secure the site and capture the high value targets. A convoy of Humvees and trucks would roll in immediately after to pick up the assault team and the prisoners back to the Mogadishu International Airport, where TF Ranger maintained its headquarters and garrison.
Things began going awry during the mission, however, and Somali irregulars and militia began amassing in considerable numbers, putting up an unexpectedly ferocious fight. Things went south, entirely, when Super 61, one of the Black Hawks attached to the assault element, was shot down killing both pilots and seriously injuring its crew chiefs and two Delta operators in the main cabin during the crash.
Though the momentum of battle was still on TF Ranger’s side, it was firmly lost when a second Black Hawk — Super 64 — was shot down just 20 minutes after Super 61. A nearby Black Hawk, callsign Super 62, circled near the crash site to provide covering fire. Gordon, Shughart and SFC Brad Hallings, another Delta sniper, were aboard Super 62, picking off targets one by one.
The three operators realized that it was highly likely that one if not all of the crew in Super 64 had survived the crash, at least initially. They quickly resolved to request an insertion near the crash site to set up a defensive perimeter to war away an angry lynch mob of Somali civilians and militia starting to stream towards the site. Should the militia get their hands on the survivors, a horrible fate worse than death would potentially await them.
When Gordon radioed in the request, it was nixed twice. Commanders, back at the airport, figured that the three operators would be of more use in the air to Super 64, than on the ground. Repeating his request a third time, Gordon and Shughart were given the go-ahead to insert at the crash site.
Knowing that a supporting ground element wasn’t anywhere nearby, both snipers were fully aware that this would essentially be a suicide mission. Their objective: to buy the crew of Super 64 a little more time until help arrived, even if it meant giving up their lives in the process.
Super 62 swooped in low near the crash site, Gordon and Shughart jumping out with Hallings staying behind to man a minigun in place of an injured crew chief. Super 62 took to the skies again, covering the two operators on the ground as they fought their way to the fallen Black Hawk. Super 62 would soon have to return to base after being hit by an RPG – thankfully, they made it.
Arriving at the crash, the two snipers were proven right when they discovered pilot CW3 Mike Durant alive and conscious, and the other members of the crew – Ray Frank, Tommie Field and Bill Cleveland – still clinging to life, though barely so. They worked quickly to extricate the Night Stalkers from the carcass of the Black Hawk, giving Durant a gun to use defensively while they engaged the oncoming mob.
Dropping targets with the efficiency and effectiveness Delta operators are known for, Shughart and Gordon inflicted major casualties on the mob. Gordon was the first to fall, having succumbed to numerous wounds sustained in the fight. Shughart was killed soon after, having depleted most of his ammunition. Durant was taken alive as a prisoner of war, while the rest of Super 64’s crew tragically died, either due to their injuries from the crash or torture inflicted by the mob.
Gordon and Shughart’s sacrifice was not in vain — Durant would survive his ordeal in captivity, and would later return to fly with the 160th SOAR before retiring. The two operators were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor the following year in 1994, a token of remembrance for their incredible valor and sacrifice in the midst of battle that fateful October day.
Usually as planes get older, they become less capable. The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been a decided exception to that rule.
In fact, as it gets older it get even more deadly.
Part of this venerable bomber’s ascent to a new level of combat capability is new electronics. The short version: The B-52 is becoming “smarter” through the addition of the Combat Network Communication Technology package, or CONECT.
According to a 2014 Boeing release, CONECT allows a B-52 to use intelligence in real time on moving map displays, the re-targeting of weapons in flight, and also gives the BUFF a state-of-the-art computing network. This makes the B-52 a much more flexible asset, meaning ordnance doesn’t have to be brought back if the target is gone for one reason or another.
In 1965, the Air Force modified most of the B-52D versions of the Stratofortress to carry a lot of conventional bombs. The modifications increased the number of bombs from 27 to either 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs or 42 750-pound M117 bombs. These bombers proved effective, first in the bombing missions in support of ground troops, then during Operation Linebacker II.
When the modification program is complete, the B-52H bombers in service will be able to carry a dozen missiles like the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile on the wing pylons and eight in the bomb bay. In essence, each B-52 will be able to carry 20 weapons, as opposed to 12 — that’s a 66 percent increase in targeting capability.
It means fewer sorties, and less strain on a force that has just turned 65 years old.
That’s not a bad thing. You can see a video about the upgrades to the B-52 below.
Erwin Rommel entered France in 1940 in command of a panzer division, moving around the Maginot Line with the bulk of German attackers and slamming into the French defenses from behind. He would go on to lead troops in North Africa as Hitler’s favored general.
But the bloom was off the rose in 1944 when Hitler made Rommel kill himself.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and senior officers in France.
(German Bundesarchiv Bild)
The Desert Fox made his legend in France, and then fought in the African desert in 1941. His troops there loved him, and he fought tooth and nail to hold the oil fields and ports in that part of the world. With limited numbers and supplies, he bloodied the nose of British forces and their French and American allies over and over again.
The British tried to kidnap him. They tried to kill him. But mostly, they tried to beat him. And, eventually, with the crushing weight of American armor at their back, they did.
Rommel evacuated north with his surviving forces, and he was put in command of the Atlantic Wall, the bulwark of Fortress Europe. He was brilliant in the role, predicting that the Allies would try to land somewhere other than a deepwater port, and suspecting portions of Normandy beaches in particular. He pushed his men to build defenses, and he pushed the government to send him more supplies.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his staff in North Africa.
(German Bundesarchiv Bild)
But all the while, from North Africa to the Atlantic Coast, he was lamenting the clear resource advantage that America had given the Allies. He worried that the war was lost and that further fighting would just cost German blood and weaken its place at the bargaining table.
In 1943, while preparing those defenses in Normandy, he began to see signs that the anti-war movement was right, that Germany was conducting heinous acts besides just prosecuting the war. He could stomach battles, but he was unsettled when he ran into evidence of the rumored death camps, especially when was given an apartment that had, until that very morning, been the property of a Jewish family.
And so he whispered more and more about how Hitler wasn’t to be trusted, about how the war was bad for Germany, and about how the Third Reich couldn’t possibly survive what was coming. When the Allies hit the beaches in June 1944, Rommel’s pessimism became too much to bear.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s command tank in World War II.
(German Bundesarchiv Bild)
And so, when an attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944 failed, it didn’t matter that there was no strong evidence linking him to the plot. The perpetrators had all been senior military officers, so it was easy to pin a little blame on Rommel, especially since both his chief of staff and his commanding officer were implicated and executed.
Rommel was popular, though. So, he couldn’t just be dragged out back and shot like many of the Valkyrie plotters. Instead, Third Reich officers were sent to Rommel’s home on October 14, 1944. He was there, healing from wounds sustained in a July 17 attack by a British aircraft.
‘At twelve o’clock to-day two Generals are coming to discuss my future employment,’ my father started the conversation. ‘So today will decide what is planned for me; whether a People’s Court or a new command in the East.’
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
(German Bundesarchiv Bild)
Despite Rommel’s worries about Germany’s aggression, he believed that a Soviet conquest of Europe would be devastating for all the rest of Europe, worse than any outcome under Germany. And so he told his son that he would take a command in the Eastern Front, if it was offered.
But that was not what the officers were coming to offer him. And they were not going to put him in front of the People’s Courts either. Instead, after Rommel met with the men for a short time, he went upstairs, and Manfred Rommel, his 15-year-old son, followed him upstairs.
‘I have just had to tell your mother,’ he began slowly, ‘that I shall be dead in a quarter of an hour.’ He was calm as he continued: ‘To die by the hand of one’s own people is hard. But the house is surrounded and Hitler is charging me with high treason. ‘ “In view of my services in Africa,” ‘ he quoted sarcastically, ‘I am to have the chance of dying by poison. The two generals have brought it with them. It’s fatal in three seconds. If I accept, none of the usual steps will be taken against my family, that is against you. They will also leave my staff alone.’
And so that was the deal that Rommel accepted. His family would be made safe. His staff would be made safe. But he would have to drink a fast-acting poison. Manfred briefly pitched the idea of fighting free, but his father was certain they lacked the numbers or ammunition to be successful.
So Rommel left. He carried his field marshal’s baton to the car, shook the hands of his son and his aide, and got in the car of the two generals. They drove a few hundred yards into an open space in the woods and Rommel drank.
He was given a state funeral just four days later. Hitler would follow him into death the following May. But where Rommel committed suicide to save his family, Hitler did it to escape judgment for that and thousand of other actions.
Sitting in the driver’s seat with his foot on the gas, Major Gerald “Jerry” Johnson drove to the Alert Tent in the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 1943, as jeeps carrying other pilots from the 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force trailed in a column behind. On his mind were the names of other pilots who were lost in a mission the night before, friends of his with whom he had shared pancakes in the mornings and gambled his valuables away in late-night poker games. They were briefed on the mission and sat around for hours in boredom at Horanda Air Field, a large stretch of land that was formerly just another patch in the New Guinea jungle.
When Johnson and his squadron of eight P-38 Lightnings were alerted, they took to the air to intercept a massive aerial convoy of 18 dive bombers supported by 20 agile fighters. They were outnumbered and outgunned, but Johnson wasn’t entirely concerned about that as all he could focus on was reaching the enemy before they dropped their payload over Oro Bay, an advanced military shipping installation.
9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group. Squadron posing in front of a P-38 Lightning commemorating the first USAAF pilots to land and operate in the Philippines after the landing on Leyte, October 1944. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
As his plane climbed through the clouds, the bombers came closer into his sights. He maneuvered his aircraft and issued orders over the radio to communicate their approach. The Japanese were unaware that they were being trailed in the air when Johnson and his squadron ambushed the enemy, walking his rounds from the nose of the aircraft into one of the dive bombers, igniting the plane’s fuselage.
Black smoke and a flash of flames burst through the plane’s side as the bomber plummeted out of the sky. The Japanese zeros peeled off, and an all-out dogfight ensued. On numerous passes, Johnson evaded the tracers shot by Japanese fighters, diving and climbing, rolling and tilting before his rounds struck and downed a second enemy bomber. Their surprise attack netted him three aerial victories, two bombers and one enemy fighter, a solid day’s work that impeded the enemy formation from reaching its target.
A P-38 Lightning prepares to land after flying a heritage flight with the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter April 3, 2016, during the Luke Air Force Base air show, 75 Years of Airpower. Photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller/U. S. Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.
The large enemy force diverted away from their intended target as Johnson’s small but ferocious display of aerial finesse surprised and overwhelmed the Japanese. For his actions on this day he was awarded his first of two Distinguished Service Crosses. In his following tours, Johnson was a nightmare for the Japanese in the Pacific, earning 22 aerial victories with 21 probables to secure his status as a quadruple ace (five aerial victories are required to achieve “ace” status).
Sadly, while on a courier mission after the war, the B-17 or B-25 he was in entered severe weather, and a violent mixture of rain, lightning, and turbulence knocked out all radio communications. One of the passengers neglected to bring along a parachute, and knowing the consequences of giving up his own, Johnson handed it to the passenger, who then bailed out of the plane. Everyone with a parachute was rescued and survived, while Johnson fought with the controls until he perished. Accounts vary as to whether he was the pilot or a passenger on the plane.
Johnson’s remains were lost with the rest of the aircraft. Since he wasn’t on a combat mission, his heroic last act on Oct. 7, 1945, did not warrant a posthumous Purple Heart; however, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for heroism at the risk of life in a non-combat-related incident. A hero in the sky even on his final flight. Gerald R. Johnson is sometimes confused with Gerald W. Johnson, another ace pilot during World War II, but the latter’s aerial dominance was in the European Theater and not the Pacific.
Butch O’Hare: The Irish-American Who Became the US Navy’s First Combat Ace
Last year, President Trump drew headlines all over the world with the announcement that he intended to establish a new branch of the American armed forces dedicated solely to orbital and deep-space defense. This new Space Force would be responsible for defending America’s sizeable satellite infrastructure from potential attack and hardening the means by which America has come to rely on orbital technology in day to day life as well as defense.
The concept wasn’t without its critics, with some discounting the very idea of space defense as a flight of fancy and national level competitors accusing America of militarizing an otherwise peaceful theater… but the truth of the matter is, space has been a battlespace since mankind first started lobbing rockets at it.
The Space Race, which was in every appreciable way an extension of the Cold War that benefited from good PR, may have ended with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon in 1969, but the race to leverage space for military purposes continued going strong for decades to come. In fact, one could argue that reaching the moon marked only the end of the public-facing space race, but not the end of the competition between American and Soviet space programs.
Despite reaching the Moon first, America still had pressing concerns in space.
So heated was the race to militarize space during the Cold War that the Defense Department actually already had a Space Force of sorts starting way back in the 1970s. This secretive program was vast, with a .3 billion California-based spaceport meant for secretive space shuttle launches into polar orbit, a secret group of 32 military-trained astronauts, and plans to fly more shuttle flights per yearthan NASA itself at one point.
The military astronauts weren’t actually called astronauts — they were called Spaceflight Engineers, and in total, the Air Force’s Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program had 134 military officers and civilian experts assigned to it. These men and women worked out of the aforementioned California launch complex as well as the Pentagon’s own version of mission control in Colorado, and a third facility in Los Angeles that housed the Spaceflight Engineers themselves.
In the early days of the program, some of the Pentagon’s astronauts even hitched rides on NASA shuttle missions hoping to increase cooperation and cross-train on flight methodologies.
Air Force Spaceflight Engineer Maj. Gary Payton (back left) along with NASA crew members Loren Shriver (front left) and Ken Mattingly (front right), with Jim Buchli and Ellison Onizuka (behind).
“Between these two agencies, it really was a shotgun marriage,”said retired Air Force Col. Gary Payton, who served as Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Programs until his retirement in July 2010.
“NASA thought of us as a bunch of snotty-nosed kids, outsiders, almost guests…nothing more than engineers or scientists who tended one particular satellite or experiment, and typically flew just once. We, on the other hand, thought our job was to help bridge the gulf between the military and civilian space agencies.”
The plan was for the Defense Department’s shuttles to launch from California and enter into a polar orbit, which was more beneficial for the Defense Department’s secretive missions than the equatorial orbit commonly reached from Florida launch complexes. The Pentagon’s plans called for an absolutely mind-boggling 12-14 launches per year. That was far more than NASA was prepared to manage, but the result would have been an extremely resilient and redundant space defense infrastructure long before any nation was prepared to present a viable threat to American interests in orbit.
The Space Shuttle offered a wide variety of mission sets, but with a great deal of risk.
But then in 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven crew members on board. It was a crushing blow to NASA, but hit the Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program even harder. It forced the Pentagon to acknowledge two difficult truths about manned shuttle missions: when they fail, people die — and the whole world notices.
“By 1987, it was all gone,” said William J. Baugh, director of public affairs for the Air Force Second Space Wing at Falcon Air Force Base in Colorado told the New York Times. “By that time, Challenger had its problem, and we decided to get out of the shuttle business.”
The Pentagon opted to transition toward a system of mostly unmanned rocket launches for the deployment of new satellites, leaning on NASA and the Space Shuttle for some classified missions when the payloads were too big or complex for other rockets like the Titan IV.
“It’s disappointing,” Maj. Frank M. DeArmand, a Spaceflight Engineer who never got to fly, said in 1989. “We all had the excitement and expectation of flying on the shuttle. But I’m not bitter. It was the right decision.”
If you haven’t heard about the planned Area 51 raid yet, then shut up. You have definitely heard about this crap. (And if you really haven’t, then I am so sorry. Basically, 1.6 million people have signed up for a Facebook event to rush Area 51 en masse because “They can’t kill all of us.”)
Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus, Young Thug, & Mason Ramsey – Old Town Road (Area 51 Video)
Now, this raid will almost certainly never happen. Most of the people who are “going” probably just find the idea funny. But that begs the question of, “If a bunch of as-holes attempted to Naruto-run onto Area 51, what would happen? What would they see?”
Well, they would honestly find nothing and wouldn’t get inside any facilities because the Air Force isn’t likely to conduct any sensitive outdoor tests while a bunch of civilians are rushing the fences. They’re gonna button up the base and try to protect their secrets without having to kill civilians by the thousands.
But if they did somehow get past a bunch of blast doors or the Air Force left sensitive equipment out, the runners would most likely find the same sort of experiments that Area 51 became famous for during the Cold War. No, not alien biopsies. The actual experiments that the Air Force did at Area 51, many of which are now public knowledge: aircraft testing and experimentation.
It’s easy to forget almost 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union that, when America wasn’t the only superpower, it took a lot of work and quite a bit of secrecy to stay ahead of them. The Soviet Union had a decent spying apparatus and a robust research and development industry of its own.
And the U.S. and the Soviet Union both knew that aircraft would be important in a potential war. That’s why we worked so hard to steal each other’s aircraft and radar prototypes and more. We wanted to know what their radar could detect, and we wanted our radar to be able to detect all of their aircraft and missiles. And, we wanted to develop aircraft that could outmaneuver and fight the enemy even if it was outnumbered.
So, scientists needed to work on radar, stealth technologies, and on aircraft designs and engines. All of those benefit from having lots of open space, but aircraft designs and engines require literally hundreds of square miles to adequately test an aircraft. So, the Air Force needed a big, secret base to test their new goodies in.
The dry lake bed at Groom Lake was near the center of Area 51. The area is valuable for weapons testing and pilot instruction, but probably doesn’t host aliens.
(Ken Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0)
And guess where many of those projects went? An old Army Air Force training area at Groom Lake in Nevada known as Area 51. It’s fairly common for old training areas to be re-purposed when the government goes shopping for an area to do some classified crap. In general, and in Area 51 in particular, these are areas where civilians already don’t live or work, where the few residents nearby are already used to loud and weird noises, and where a few light shows will be ignored.
And the Air Force went to extreme lengths to keep Area 51 secret. Nothing was allowed to leave the base, and you needed a security clearance to even get on the base. Even once you were on the base, if something was being tested that you weren’t cleared to see, you had to go sit in a building with the windows covered until the test was over.
We know all of this from court cases. People who worked at the base came down with weird cancers and material poisonings and so forth from all the weird chemicals used on the base. The military wouldn’t admit that the base existed for years before it finally said, “Yeah, it existed.” Then decades later, “Yeah, we played with planes there.”
But there are still all those rumors about aliens, right?
Well, yeah, there are rumors. But believing in aliens at Area 51 is literally insane. It requires that you believe that the government can keep massive, reality-changing secrets to itself for decades and generations of workers. And that there was either only one alien crash ever or that each crash was successfully controlled by the government. And that the government wants to keep all this secret in the first place.
So, what would the raiders find if they actually get into the testing range? Maybe aliens. But, way more likely, they’ll find some hypersonic missile prototypes, and maybe a B-21 Raider airfoil with some radars pointed at it. There’s a slight chance that they find a Stealth Hawk or some other piece of custom kit like that. But that’s only if you can find the good stuff on the 575 square mile base.
I mean, that stuff would be pretty cool to see. But is it really worth risking being shot by U.S. Airmen? Sure, they probably won’t hit you with the first round, but those dudes have A-10s. You’re not getting through that, not even if you run like Naruto.
Practically from the day of his birth, it was clear that Lewis Puller was destined for military greatness. Better known as Chesty Puller, the boy spent his youth listening to veterans discuss their time in the Civil War–perhaps to fill the void that the death of his father created.
Chesty Puller would go on to become a United States Marine officer whose accomplishments remain unmatched to this day. The most decorated marine in United States history, Chesty Puller was a fearless leader who dedicated his entire life to his country and his troops. Known for his sharp wit, resilience, and expertise in combat situations, Puller was truly one of the greatest troops to ever fight for our country.
Puller was born in 1898 to Matthew and Martha Puller in West Point, Virginia. The stories he heard about the Civil War fostered what would become a lifelong adulation of Stonewall Jackson. He attempted to join the army before his 18th birthday, in 1916, but his mother refused consent–Chesty would have to wait just a bit long before beginning his storied career.
In 1917, Puller joined the Virginia Military Institute as a step towards his long-desired army entrance. He quickly realized that staying in school meant staying away from the action, and, only a year later, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps
Hoping to get in on some of the action, Puller enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1918 to train and put his skills to the test. Despite his stellar performance in the Marines and being appointed a second lieutenant in the reserves, Puller missed out on World War I. Not to worry though–Chesty would have many opportunities to shine on the battlefield in the following years.
Puller served as a lieutenant in Haiti during the Banana Wars in the early 1920s. Even during his first ever experience on the battlefront, Puller’s extensive training and leadership abilities shone through during the toughest of battles. After a tough but successful campaign, Puller would continue rising through the ranks for the next few decades.
Chesty Puller at age 50.
After fighting through World War II and the Korean War, Puller had finally decided to retire in 1955. Over his astounding 37 years of fighting, Puller was able to snag over 25 military awards, and was one of two people in military history to receive the second-highest U.S. military award six times.
When asked about his nickname, Puller was never really sure how and why “Chesty” came about. Having been called plenty of names before during his time on the battlefield, Puller was always fascinated with how Chesty stuck. Regardless, he embraced the nickname, and went on to become a legend and icon in U.S Marine Corp history, even past his death in 1971. To this day, officers who are training troops will always make mention of Chesty in chants during exercises.
In life, Puller was an American hero like no other. Many of Puller’s exploits, achievements, and snarky quips can be found in Burke Davis’s beloved biography of the soldier, Marine! The New York Times bestselling author goes into riveting detail about Puller’s humble beginnings and gradual rise in the Marines. Filled with exciting war scenes and anecdotes about the accomplished marine, this book is an absolute must-read for veterans and military history buffs alike.
With a tongue just as sharp as his physical skills, Puller is easily one of the most quotable soldiers in our country’s history. Many of the marine’s famous sayings are often delivered with such undeniable American gusto that you can’t help but chuckle at each one. These Chesty Puller quotes paint an incredibly humorous, honorable image of the accomplished marine.
“I want to go where the guns are!”
When Puller attended the Virginia Military Institute during his early years, he was extremely eager to fight on the front lines. Hearing about the battles being fought during World War I, Puller had a quick response when asked why he dropped out of Virginia Military Institute and signed up for the Marines.
Chesty Puller cutting the Marine Corps birthday cake.
“Don’t forget that you’re First Marines! Not all the Communists in hell can overrun you!”
During the Korean War, Puller was caught up in Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. This decisive battle proved to be a grueling and deadly conflict that would put Puller and his troops to the test. Working through the harsh conditions, Chesty reminded his soldiers that they would be successful no matter what–if he had anything to do with it, at least.
“Where the hell do you put the bayonet?”
Chesty Puller was always ready for a good fight, and this quote sure proves it. Apparently, when he was being shown how to use a flamethrower for the first time during World War II, Puller asked this. In addition to setting his enemies ablaze, he also wanted to know whether or not a flamethrower could stab them like the old school bayonet on a rifle. Enthusiastic, in this case, is an understatement.