Soldiers and 'Dear John' letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

In 1972, Jim Croce released “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels),” a song about a one-sided conversation with a telephone operator. The singer is trying to find an old flame who seems to have run off to Los Angeles on a tryst with his old friend. The caller expresses his disbelief at being betrayed by someone he once trusted. It’s an all-too-common story, especially among those serving in the military — Jody ran off with the singer’s girl.

In fact, Jody is exactly what inspired Croce to write the song, except it wasn’t about his old flame, it was about everybody else’s on the base where he was stationed, back in the days when a phone call cost a dime.


Operator, well could you help me place this call?
See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded
She’s living in L.A. with my best old ex-friend Ray
A guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated

Croce enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1966 with hopes of being able to avoid active service and a potential trip to Vietnam. He ended up serving on active duty for a few months, having to go through basic military training two times. Explaining that he was not good with authority, he once said he would be totally prepared if he “had to go to war with a mop.”

Still, he had a unique experience in the Army, one he probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. Some years later, his wife relayed the story of Jim waiting in the rain at the Post Exchange, listening to soldiers make calls on the payphones. He would overhear many, many “Dear John” stories as the soldiers called their ex-lovers to find out if the fateful letters they’d received were serious.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

Jim and Ingrid Croce during Jim’s Army service.

Croce, who died in 1973, remarked:

There wasn’t a phone booth; it was just stuck up on the side of the building and there were about 200 guys in each line waiting to make a phone call back home to see if their ‘Dear John’ letter was true, and with their raincoat over their heads covering the telephone and everything, and it really seemed that so many people were going through the same experience, going through the same kind of change, and to see this happen, especially on something like the telephone and talking to a long-distance operator, this kinda registered.

Later, after Croce left the military, he worked in a bar and noticed the same phenomenon happening at the bar’s payphone. People always wanted to check up on someone but end up talking to the operator.

By the end of the song, the caller tells the operator he’s over the whole thing, but it’s clear that the caller isn’t. After all, nothing is going to change in one phone call. Jody worked fast, even in 1972.
MIGHTY GAMING

This gaming charity sends troops the greatest care packages

There’s nothing in this world that makes a deployed troop happier than opening a care package from the folks back home. Some of momma’s cookies, hygiene stuff, and little sentimental things are always appreciated. But everyone gets hyped the moment the MWR gets some new video games.


One of the unspoken realities of deployment life is, between missions, there’s almost nothing to do. Boredom causes complacency — and complacency is cause for concern. This is where Operation Supply Drop comes in.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song
When this is all you have between missions – video games are a life saver.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Khoa Pelczar)

Since 2010, Operation Supply Drop has impacted 471 deployed units, supporting over 361,271 troops. The care packages include some of the top video games that troops miss while overseas, consoles to play them on, peripherals to enjoy them, and some coffee to help work gaming into their schedule.

Glenn D. Banton, Sr. CEO & Executive Director of Operation Supply Drop, tells We Are The Mighty “Being able to provide a positive impact and morale boost to our troops at this scale is a huge driver for OSD. What really keeps us going is that many of these men and women then become active members in our community programs when redeploying back home. OSD provides relevant services to the military community during service, through transition, and into civilian life.”

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song
And as a leader, it’s always great to know exactly where your troops are… playing video games at the MWR.
(Photo by Maj. Erik Johnson)

While this is their most well-known program, it’s only about half of their mission statement. They’re also making great things happen in a program they call Respawn, through which they supply injured troops at military medical centers around the world with video games. There have been many studies conducted on the physical and mental health benefits of playing video games. Mentally-challenging and thought-provoking games have been instrumental in assisting those who sustain traumatic brain injuries.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song
Video games are one of the most effective, and most positively received, rehabilitation tools at Fort Sam Houston.
(Photo by Mr. Steven Galvan)

Other amazing programs run through Operation Supply Drop include Heroic Forces, which provides one-on-one professional development support to troops leaving the service; Thank You Deployments, where the community nominates fellow veterans for VIP events, like attending the E3 Expo or meeting sports legends; and an awesome, recent addition in Games to Grunts, which gives free game codes to veterans. There’s no catch: Just sign in with a verified account from ID.me and you get some pretty sweet games.

Insurgency is a lot of fun, but the one I’ve personally been hooked on is Party Hard.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is fighting to the death in Iraq and Syria

The Trump administration’s plan to bring US troops in Syria back home is being complicated by renewed attacks from the terrorist group ISIS, according to The Wall Street Journal.

ISIS has lost the vast majority of its territory and fighters over the past year or so, but many of the fighters who remained fled to the desert and are using stashed weapons and ammunition to stage attacks in both Iraq and Syria.

Prior to retreating from its strongholds in cities like Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq, ISIS reportedly dug tunnels and set up sleeper cells in the desert that stretches across Iraq and Syria.


According to the report, this is a sign ISIS was more prepared for a military collapse than the US may have anticipated. It also means US troops in Syria might have to stay longer than the Trump administration previously thought because removing them could create a big window of opportunity for ISIS.

As Defense Secretary James Mattis said in late in June, 2018, “Some of you are questioning whether ISIS was completely taken down. … Just bear with us; there’s still hard fighting ahead.”

Mattis added, “It’s been hard fighting, and again, we win every time our forces go up against them. We’ve lost no terrain to them once it’s been taken.”

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis

(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The situation in Iraq and Syria is exceptionally convoluted as an array of players with competing interests, including Russia and Iran in addition to the US, fail to find common ground in terms of what should be prioritized moving forward.

Moreover, the conflicting goals of foreign forces in Iraq in Syria often clash with the priorities of local forces, further compounding the already complex circumstances on the ground.

ISIS has seemingly taken advantage of the confusion by staging attacks on an “array of adversaries,” according to The Journal, including US allies.

In early July, 2018, for example, ISIS staged its first attack in its former de facto capital, Raqqa, since it was driven from the city in October 2017. The group reportedly targeted US-backed Kurdish forces near a mosque in this attack.

Meanwhile, a recent Soufan Center report warned ISIS is looking to make a comeback by targeting Iraqi law enforcement, a tactic it embraced in 2013 before it rose to power and established a caliphate.

The Iraqi government recently executed 12 ISIS members, which was reportedly in response to the “high-profile assassination” of eight Iraqi security personnel.

Accordingly, it seems the roughly 2,000 US troops stationed in Syria will not be leaving anytime soon.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

The Saab Gripen is a beautiful fighter with a nifty little mane on its nose, and it’s popular with small militaries around the world because it’s cheap to operate, has high-mission readiness, and can take off from nearly anywhere. Seriously, if you’ve got a half mile of level pavement, you can probably get a Gripen in the air from it.


Gripen – Always combat ready

www.youtube.com

You might need to cut down some light poles or whatever, but that’s on you.

The Gripen fighter, which recently saw its E-variant enter serial production, is squarely aimed at fighting whatever it needs to, including fifth-generation fighters like Russia’s Su-57. That might be surprising since it’s not as fast. Or have as many weapons. Or have much stealth coating or many materials.

But the Gripen’s manufacturer, Saab, isn’t trying to win at air shows, and it isn’t accepting the price point required to develop stealth aircraft. (Even Russia can’t actually afford its stealthy Su-57, which might not even be that stealthy.)

That’s because Saab makes weapons for Sweden and for export to countries like Thailand, Hungary, and South Africa. These countries don’t have the money to drop 0 million per F-35, a plane that costs ,000-,000 per hour of flight. And they don’t have the billion to develop a Su-57 and fail like Russia did.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

A Saab Gripen takes off from a public road.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

So Saab built the Gripen around a few complementary ideas. The first was that they could develop a capable jet fighter with a low cost per flight hour. Right now, new Gripens cost up to million per copy and come out to ,000 per flight hour.

Part of this low-cost per flight hour is making it easy to refuel, rearm, and maintain the plane on the ground. And, the way they did this allows operators to work the plane from nearly anywhere a 20-foot cargo container can be delivered on a truck, provided there are at least 875 yards of runway-ish concrete for the plane to take off from. So, Gripens can easily disperse during combat. Sure that’s not scary for an aggressor who has to face them.

But operators, obviously, still need them to be lethal. Paper planes are cheap and hard to spot, too, but there’s a reason they aren’t popular with militaries. But the Gripen is lethal, partially because it can fire most NATO-produced missiles and partially because the entire plane was designed around electronic warfare.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

A Saab JAS-39 Gripen in flight.

(Oleg V. Belyakov, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Electronic warfare, using radar and other signals to mask your own forces while also jamming the enemy’s machines, is one of the tools that’s supposed to keep the F-35 safe. But where the F-35 was laboriously and expensively built with its antennas and sensors in the stealth skin of the aircraft, Gripen took a more traditional route and just built fighters with electronic and conventional weapons, akin to the EA-18G Super Hornet.

But the Gripen’s electronic warfare is robust, so much so that Saab believes the plane can blind nearly all of the Russian fighters the Gripen is designed to deter, especially the large number of Flankers in Russia’s inventory but also the Su-57. Even better, Saab thinks the E-variant can fight the Su-57 on equal terms.

There is one serious caveat, though. Sweden doesn’t want the fighter jet’s electronic warfare tools recorded by adversaries who could create exploits against them. (Electronic warfare in combat turns into a game of tit-for-tat as each side tries to reconfigure their signals to defeat the other.) So, Sweden has rarely allowed pilots to turn on the full electronics suite in exercises with England.

And so, no one can be really certain how the Gripen E will perform against advanced air defenses and fighters. They can hide in the brush, they can take off from anywhere, but they can only probably cut their way through Russia’s air force.

Humor

11 of the best military movie memes ever written

Great military movies impact audiences by entertaining the crap out of them. Then, inspired, the viewer’s own creative sense of humor sparks and memes are born.


Memes are an excellent way to put images together to make hilarious jokes that only a select group of people understand.

Related: 11 Army memes that will keep you laughing for hours

So, check out 11 of the best military movie memes ever written (probably).

11. The military does have some interestingly lousy tattoo policies in place. Unfortunately, getting some “tatts” might have been a mistake, but it’s never hurt anyone in battle… Right?

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

10. Yes, grenades explosions aren’t as cool-looking as you thought they’d be. Hollywood movies have screwed your war fantasies once again!

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

9. Although Chief is headed out for the day, the common spaces look dirty just 30 minutes after they were scrubbed.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

8. Animal Mother is as stoic as he is brutally honest — and we love that.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

Also Read: The 13 funniest memes for the week of Feb. 2nd

7. In war, we continuously quote other films that relate to the situations we find ourselves in. It’s part of our dark humor.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

6. We age in the military in record time. But, make a remark like this, and you’ll see your sergeant age right in front of you.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

5. When a single frame in an Academy Award film gets it so wrong, but only we see it.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

4. Oh, burn! He has a dirty mind — and we like that.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

Don’t Forget: 11 memes that are way too real for every Corpsman

3. If you’ve ever deployed to the Middle East, you may have had to defend your seabag against a giant spider-looking thingy.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

2. Not every pirate can be as intelligent and charming as Jack Sparrow, but it’s funny to watch them try.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

1. The struggle of going to the VA is real, people! Even near-death, no vet wants to check in for an appointment that’s already been rescheduled twice — by them.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why some military survival kits include condoms

Listen, condoms will save your life. You may not believe it, but the condom is a multipurpose force multiplier that does more than protect one’s little trooper from NBC threats during unarmed combat. The idea of having condoms isn’t even all that new, so this may be old news to many readers. Even the Army’s official survival handbook lists condoms as a necessary item for survival kits.

The reasons are many, and I’m going to list them without a single dick joke. Sorry.


Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

Water.

Water is the number one reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a U.S. troop. Water is the number two reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a civilian. Condoms, of course, are designed to keep fluids in – and they are really, really good at it. When properly handled, a condom can carry two liters of water. Just tie it off with a stick and wrap it in a sock, and you’ve got yourself a durable water container.

You should probably use non-lubricated condoms for this purpose.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

Tinder.

I don’t mean you should be using condoms just for the Tinder dating app (although you should definitely be using condoms if you’re on the Tinder dating app). A condom can carry a lot of flammable material and – as I mentioned – the condom is totally waterproof so it will keep your cotton, newspaper, Doritos, whatever you use as tinder, dry.

We use dryer lint.

Also, be advised that a condom will go up in flames faster than you’re going to be comfortable watching. You can use them as tinder themselves and will even start a fire.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

Barrels.

Turns out condoms are good at protecting a rifle and a gun, whether you’re fighting or having fun. This is actually a fairly common use among survivalists who spend a lot of time outdoors. You may see (again, non-lubricated) condoms over the barrel of a weapon to keep mud, dirt, and water out. They even make little condoms for this purpose.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

First Aid.

If you haven’t noticed by now, the condom’s greatest strengths are its elasticity and waterproofing. You can use the condom as a crude tourniquet in case of injury, but you can also use it as a rubber glove to protect both yourself from blood-borne disease and protect your patient from whatever muck is on your grubby little hands.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Air Force F-35As make first combat appearance

Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft conducted an airstrike at Wadi Ashai, Iraq, in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, April 30, 2019.

This strike marked the F-35A’s first combat employment.

The F-35As conducted the airstrike using a Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched Daesh tunnel network and weapons cache deep in the Hamrin Mountains, a location able to threaten friendly forces.


“We have the ability to gather, fuse and pass so much information that we make every friendly aircraft more survivable and lethal,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron commander and F-35A pilot. “That, combined with low-observable technology, allows us to really complement any combined force package and be ready to support AOR contingencies.”

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

A KC-10 Extender refuels an F-35A Lightning II above an undisclosed location, April 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

The F-35As, recently deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, joined the Combined Forces Air Component team in the U.S. Central Command area of operations on April 15. This marks the F-35A’s third deployment and first to the CENTCOM AOR. In preparation for deployment, crews prepared and trained on the aircraft for the AFCENT mission.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

A KC-10 Extender boom operator refuels an F-35A Lightning II above an undisclosed location, April 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

“We have been successful in two Red Flag exercises, and we’ve deployed to Europe and Asia,” said Morris. “Our airmen are ready and we’re excited to be here.” Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise which includes U.S. and allied nations’ combat air forces.

There are many airmen ensuring the planes are ready for their combat missions.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

A F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxis down the flightline before taking off from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, April 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

“This jet is smarter, a lot smarter, and so it can do more, and it helps you out more when loading munitions,” said Staff Sgt. Karl Tesch, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons technician.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

A F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. takes off from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, April 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

A central tenant to the F-35A’s design is its ability to enhance other battlefield assets. In this case, the aircraft joins the combined joint airpower team already in place to maintain air superiority and deliver war-winning airpower.

“The F-35A has sensors everywhere, it has advanced radar and it is gathering and fusing all this information from the battlespace in real time,” said Morris. “Now it has the ability to take that information and share it with other F-35s or even other fourth generation aircraft in the same package that can also see the integrated picture.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Lists

The 12 most essential Civil War books

The Civil War is cemented in history as the deadliest war fought on American soil. For four years, the Unioners of the North fought the Confederates of the South, hoping to dismantle the institution of slavery. This led to the loss of over 600,000 lives and, ultimately, the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865.

Thousands of Civil War books have been written since the first shot rang out in 1861. Though no single book can attempt to cover the endless tragedies or important events that occurred over those four years, the following works add valuable new perspectives to the narrative. Between fictionalized accounts and battle retellings to soldiers’ eye-opening diaries, this list will satisfy any Civil War history buff.


1. Dee Brown on the Civil War

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song
Open Road Media

By Dee Brown

This trilogy focuses on the some of the Civil War’s most influential but lesser-known figures. In Grierson’s Raid, a former music teacher leads almost 2,000 Union troopers from Tennessee to Louisiana. Their attack diverts attention from General Grant’s crossing of the Mississippi—an instrumental distraction for the subsequent Siege of Vicksburg.

The Bold Cavaliers stars Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, whose cavalrymen wreak havoc on Alabama. Meanwhile, The Galvanized Yankees tells the widely unknown story of a group of captured Confederate soldiers. Faced with the prospect of serving time in a prison camp or in the Union Army, they choose the latter. When they’re tapped to guard outposts in the Western frontier, their experiences have profound effects on their own loyalties—and make for a fascinating Civil War story.

2. Battle Cry of Freedom

By James. M. McPherson

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book charts the period between the 1846 outbreak of the Mexican-American War to Robert E. Lee’s surrender in 1865. Author James McPherson examines the economic, political, and social factors that led to the Civil War, particularly how small, violent outbursts evolved into America’s deadliest war. Both sides believed they were fighting for freedom—though their definitions of this freedom differed greatly. With in-depth analyses of nearly every major event, Battle Cry of Freedom is an indispensable addition to any history buff’s collection.

3. The Civil War: A Narrative

By Shelby Foote

In the first book of Foote’s three-volume series, the author opens with Jefferson Davis’ resignation from the US Senate. The Democratic politician was destined for another, bigger role: the first presidency of the Confederate States. So begins an extensively researched account of the events—and war—that followed, which culminates in the Union’s victory four years later. Maps are a welcome addition to the narrative, providing useful visuals of important battle sites and travel routes.

4. Mary Chesnut’s Diary

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song
Penguin Classics

By Mary Chesnut

A native of South Carolina, Mary Chesnut kept a detailed account of her life as an upper class woman during the Civil War. Though her husband was a senator and a Confederate officer, Mary secretly hated the institution of slavery. From her reflections on witnessing the first shots fired in Charleston to hearing parts of her husband’s meetings, Chesnut’s diary is one of the few complete firsthand accounts of the war written by a non-soldier.

5. For Cause and Comrades

By James M. McPherson

After countless bloody battles and widespread death, how did Civil War soldiers find the will to keep fighting? In For Case and Comrades, James McPherson explores what drove them—namely, their unshakeable belief in the necessity of their actions. For both sides, victory was worth everything.

McPherson analyzed over 250 diaries and 25,000 letters to truly understand the soldiers’ thought processes. He was shocked by their eloquence and honesty, and the frequency with which they wrote of their daily lives. Their writings reveal how they were not just hardened men of war—but brothers, sons, fathers, and husbands who simply wanted to go home with their dignity in tact. The result is a humanizing study of war, and of the men who fought unwaveringly for their ideals.

6. The Black Flower

By Howard Bahr

As a war veteran and novelist, Bahr was a master of well-paced, engaging Civil War fiction—and lucky for us, he wrote three books. The first installment in his Civil War trilogy is The Black Flower, a New York Times Notable Book. When a 26-year-old Confederate soldier is wounded, the bond he forms with a medic gives him hope for a brighter, post-war future.

The Year of Jubilo sees a similar hero: Gawain Harper, who only fights in the Confederate army to be with the woman he loves. His return home is not as charmed as he anticipated when he discovers the rebels’ plot to incite new warfare—which Gawain must stop.

In the final book, The Judas Field, Civil War veteran Cass accompanies a friend to Tennessee, where they’ll retrieve the bodies of her brother and father. As they pass through devastated Southern towns, Cass cannot escape his haunting memories of the battlefield. All three novels explore the violence of warfare, the endurance of hope, and the lengths to which men and women fought to return to their loved ones.

7. The North and South Trilogy

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song
Open Road Media

By John Jakes

In the trilogy that has sold millions of copies, John Jakes examines how war can disintegrate even the closest of bonds. While training at West Point, Southerner Orry Mains quickly befriends Northerner George Hazard. But when the Civil War places them on opposite sides of the battlefield, tensions reverberate through their relationship, their families, and the rest of Jakes’ bestselling trilogy. Part war story, part family drama, the books were adapted into a wildly popular miniseries starring Patrick Swayze and James Read.

8. Murder at Manassas

By Michael Kilian

With the Civil War still in its earliest days, Virginian Harrison Raines is torn between his abhorrence of slavery and his love for his home state. He is also in love with actress Caitlin Howard—though her affection for John Wilkes Booth (yes, that one) poses a serious threat. Raines’ personal dramas reach new heights when, after taking Caitlin to watch the Battle of Bull Run, he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery involving a wrongly-disgraced major. What ensues is a fast-paced whodunit full of rich historical detail and real-life figures like Abe Lincoln.

9. Cold Mountain

By Charles Frazier

Nothing, not even war, can prevent Inman from reaching his true love, Ada, in North Carolina. After being gravely wounded in battle, Inman deserts the Confederate army, determined to return to the woman he left behind. As he journeys across the ravaged American landscape, Ada struggles to restore her late father’s farm back to its former glory. But with only a few moments shared between them, have Inman and Ada pinned their hopes on a foolish dream?

Frazier’s National Book Award-winning novel is based on stories he heard from his great-great-grandfather as a child. Gorgeously written and unrelentingly heartbreaking, Cold Mountain is at once an unforgettable tale of war and a deeply moving love story.

10. The Killer Angels

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song
Ballantine Books

By Michael Shaara

Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel recreates the bloodiest battle in American history: Gettysburg. Over the four days of fighting, countless men died—men with families, men with futures, men who might have done great things for the nation. Shaara imagines who these men, whether Northern or Southern, may have been.

Told through the perspectives of multiple historical figures, the story begins with a very confident Robert E. Lee as he and his troops travel to Pennsylvania. But instead of finding the victory they envisioned, Lee and his fellow Confederates are demoralized by the battle—and many know they’re unlikely to win the war, or even see its end.

11. Cain at Gettysburg

By Ralph Peters

Another Gettysburg-centered novel, Cain at Gettysburg is a fictional retelling of what is considered “the turning point of the Civil War.” It follows a misfit group of characters—including desperate generals, a German refugee, and an Irishman who fled the famine—as they fight for their cause, unsure of their futures. Compelling and jam-packed with action, Cain at Gettysburg is a fascinating tale of battle, bravery, and brotherhood that no lover of Civil War history should miss.

12. Gone with the Wind

By Margaret Mitchell

If you ever had access to the Turner Classic Movie channel, then you’ve probably heard of the film version of Gone with the Wind. But before Vivien Leigh starred as Scarlett O’Hara, there was Margaret Mitchell’s epic book, which offers a more detailed look at Georgia during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. At the center, of course, is Scarlett—a Southern belle and the daughter of a wealthy planter—who is forced to change her spoiled ways once war divides the country. Though her enduring relationship with Rhett Butler is considered one of the greatest love stories of all time, the novel is also one of the best portraits of the effects of war on a place and its people.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why cursing shouldn’t be prohibited in the military

Technically swearing is prohibited in the military. But should it be? Maybe not!

Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits “indecent language” or that which can offend a person’s decency, modesty, or propriety or is morally shocking because of its filthy, vulgar, or disgusting nature or tendency to create lustful thoughts. Any language that can corrupt morals is subject to the offense.

Service members can actually get a bad conduct discharge and even forfeiture of allowances and even some confinement.

But here’s the thing. The military swears all the d*mn time. There’s a phrase “curse like a sailor” — troops are literally known for it. And that actually might not be a bad thing.


Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

We all served with someone like this.

An article in National Geographic even suggested that swearing is f**king good for you. Emma Byrne, author of the book, Swearing is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language, revealed that swearing promotes trust and teamwork and even increases our tolerance to pain.

Oh except for women. For women it’s un-f**king-feminine — but it wasn’t always. In 1673, a man named Richard Allestree published a book called The Ladies Calling where he said swearing was unladylike and that women who did it would begin to take on masculine characteristics, like growing facial hair.

People actually believed him and still carry a prejudice about women who swear today. Women are judged more harshly when they swear. According to Byrne, women who swear can actually lose friends and social status while men who swear bond more closely with their peers.

F*** you, Richard Allestree. F*** you.

Related: This battle decided which cuss words you can use

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

Researchers from Stanford and Cambridge published a study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science that suggested that people who curse more tend to be more honest. Swearing provides more nuance and thus allows people to express emotions more truthfully.

In an interesting turn of events, a study from Lancaster University and Cambridge University Press found that women are now more likely to swear than men. The female use of the f-word grew 500% in the past two decades, while men cut their use nearly in half.

I guess we don’t f***ing like being censored!!!

Also read: Dumb military rules I absolutely hate

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

This gif just felt important.

I’m less curious about the habits of men and women and more curious about which branches of the military are more likely to swear. I haven’t been able to find any research on it so let me know in the comments what your experience was. It also might vary from job-to-job. I know that when I worked with pilots, they cussed all the time. Then when I PCS’d and was talking to a bunch of spooks, I was reprimanded for saying that something was sh*tty.

They were trying to deploy a guy who was expecting his first child and I wanted to swap his band with a guy eager to volunteer for his first deployment and they wouldn’t let me swap them and it was sh*tty.

Interestingly, the reason I’m using the word “sh*tty” instead of…I don’t know…”merde-y” is because of the Battle of Hastings, which determined which cuss words we use today.

If you guys want to know more about dumb military rules, check out my rant about it and leave me a comment telling me what you think about swearing in the military.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how much the Milky Way weighs (probably)

We can’t put the whole Milky Way on a scale, but astronomers have been able to come up with one of the most accurate measurements yet of our galaxy’s mass, using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite.

The Milky Way weighs in at about 1.5 trillion solar masses (one solar mass is the mass of our Sun), according to the latest measurements. Only a tiny percentage of this is attributed to the approximately 200 billion stars in the Milky Way and includes a 4-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the center. Most of the rest of the mass is locked up in dark matter, an invisible and mysterious substance that acts like scaffolding throughout the universe and keeps the stars in their galaxies.


Earlier research dating back several decades used a variety of observational techniques that provided estimates for our galaxy’s mass ranging between 500 billion to 3 trillion solar masses. The improved measurement is near the middle of this range.

“We want to know the mass of the Milky Way more accurately so that we can put it into a cosmological context and compare it to simulations of galaxies in the evolving universe,” said Roeland van der Marel of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. “Not knowing the precise mass of the Milky Way presents a problem for a lot of cosmological questions.”

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

On the left is a Hubble Space Telescope image of a portion of the globular star cluster NGC 5466. On the right, Hubble images taken ten years apart were compared to clock the cluster’s velocity. A grid in the background helps to illustrate the stellar motion in the foreground cluster (located 52,000 light-years away). Notice that background galaxies (top right of center, bottom left of center) do not appear to move because they are so much farther away, many millions of light-years.

(NASA, ESA and S.T. Sohn and J. DePasquale)

The new mass estimate puts our galaxy on the beefier side, compared to other galaxies in the universe. The lightest galaxies are around a billion solar masses, while the heaviest are 30 trillion, or 30,000 times more massive. The Milky Way’s mass of 1.5 trillion solar masses is fairly normal for a galaxy of its brightness.

Astronomers used Hubble and Gaia to measure the three-dimensional movement of globular star clusters — isolated spherical islands each containing hundreds of thousands of stars each that orbit the center of our galaxy.

Although we cannot see it, dark matter is the dominant form of matter in the universe, and it can be weighed through its influence on visible objects like the globular clusters. The more massive a galaxy, the faster its globular clusters move under the pull of gravity. Most previous measurements have been along the line of sight to globular clusters, so astronomers know the speed at which a globular cluster is approaching or receding from Earth. However, Hubble and Gaia record the sideways motion of the globular clusters, from which a more reliable speed (and therefore gravitational acceleration) can be calculated.

The Hubble and Gaia observations are complementary. Gaia was exclusively designed to create a precise three-dimensional map of astronomical objects throughout the Milky Way and track their motions. It made exacting all-sky measurements that include many globular clusters. Hubble has a smaller field of view, but it can measure fainter stars and therefore reach more distant clusters. The new study augmented Gaia measurements for 34 globular clusters out to 65,000 light-years, with Hubble measurements of 12 clusters out to 130,000 light-years that were obtained from images taken over a 10-year period.

When the Gaia and Hubble measurements are combined as anchor points, like pins on a map, astronomers can estimate the distribution of the Milky Way’s mass out to nearly 1 million light-years from Earth.

Hubblecast 117 Light: Hubble & Gaia weigh the Milky Way

www.youtube.com

“We know from cosmological simulations what the distribution of mass in the galaxies should look like, so we can calculate how accurate this extrapolation is for the Milky Way,” said Laura Watkins of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, lead author of the combined Hubble and Gaia study, to be published in The Astrophysical Journal. These calculations based on the precise measurements of globular cluster motion from Gaia and Hubble enabled the researchers to pin down the mass of the entire Milky Way.

The earliest homesteaders of the Milky Way, globular clusters contain the oldest known stars, dating back to a few hundred million years after the big bang, the event that created the universe. They formed prior to the construction of the Milky Way’s spiral disk, where our Sun and solar system reside.

“Because of their great distances, globular star clusters are some of the best tracers astronomers have to measure the mass of the vast envelope of dark matter surrounding our galaxy far beyond the spiral disk of stars,” said Tony Sohn of STScI, who led the Hubble measurements.

The international team of astronomers in this study are Laura Watkins (European Southern Observatory, Garching, Germany), Roeland van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute, and Johns Hopkins University Center for Astrophysical Sciences, Baltimore, Maryland), Sangmo Tony Sohn (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland), and N. Wyn Evans (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom).

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Space Force to include National Guard

The U.S. Space Force will incorporate National Guard units that already have a space-related mission, according to the head of Air Force Space Command.

“We rely very heavily on the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve forces, and that’s going to continue in the future,” said Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to become the new head of U.S. Space Command.

“They operate really critical capabilities. They provide a capacity, a resource capacity, and we’re going to rely on them. They’re seamlessly integrated,” he said June 4, 2019.


In March 2019, officials announced that Raymond had been nominated to lead U.S. Space Command. Pentagon officials said at the time that, if confirmed, he would continue leading Air Force Space Command along with U.S. Space Command. The current Senate version of the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act legislation would also require Raymond to lead Space Force for at least a year.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discusses U.S. space operations with Gen. Jay Raymond, the Commander, Air Force Space Command, and Joint Force Space Component Commander; and Gen Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, April 15, 2019.

Guard units across seven states already have space missions, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, said during the hearing. That includes roughly 1,500 airmen conducting space-related operations in Ohio, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, New York, Arkansas, and California.

Raymond’s comments come as other officials want to make sure there is a place for the Guard in the Space Force structure.

Last month, Air National Guard director Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice said that, while details are still being worked out, ANG units are “all in” for space operations.

During an Air Force Association breakfast in Washington, D.C., Rice said the Pentagon is looking to leverage the state forces that already have space-related operations.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

U.S. Air National Guard Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Director of the Air National Guard (right) answers questions from airmen of the 142nd Fighter Wing during a town hall session at the Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Oregon, March 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

“My job is to make sure it works. How would I present the operational piece and the bureaucracy for a new Space Force? I would do it from those seven states. I would not do 54 states and territories of Space National Guard,” he said.

However, the Air National Guard is setting up two new space squadrons in two more states, which would also be incorporated into the Space Force structure in the near future, Rice said.

“We are looking at standing up more capability for space control squadrons in the Pacific,” he told reporters after his presentation at the breakfast, as reported by Federal News Network.

“We are under review on where we are going to do that and how we are looking at that. The timeline is within the next month, two new squadrons in two new states.”

He did not reveal the locations under consideration.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

This toddler’s White House briefing on COVID-19 is the best thing you’ll see today

With an abundance of data points on COVID-19 — the news, your friend from high school who has turned into a respiratory and infectious disease expert on social media despite never going to med school, your family, your neighbors, that group text — it’s difficult to discern what is relevant and what is truthful.

Finally, here’s one source that absolutely nails it. Three-year-old toddler “Dr. Big Sister” Hannah Curtis delivers a spot on briefing from her very own White House.



MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the first woman to ever join the French Foreign Legion

Throughout the bloody and horrific history of human warfare, there are tons of stories of heroism in the face of great danger. Troops all over the world have been willing to risk life and limb to ensure the safety of others and that’s worth celebrating. Everyone knows about war heroes like John Basilone, but how many of you know about Susan Travers? If you don’t, you should.

Susan Travers, quite simply, was one badass woman. She left behind a pampered life and a wealthy family to do something great. One thing led to another and she eventually became the only woman to ever be allowed to join the prestigious French Foreign Legion, which only allowed male foreign nationals.

Here’s how she went from the daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral and heiress to being one of the most badass women in all of history:


Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

A Finnish ski patrol, lying in the snow on the outskirts of a wood in Northern Finland, on the alert for Russian troops, January 12, 1940.

(Imperial War Museums)

The Winter War

Travers initially joined up as a nurse, but quickly realized she didn’t like the sight of blood or sickness and subsequently became an ambulance driver with the French Expeditionary Force. She was sent to Finland to assist during their Winter War against the Soviets, but everything changed when France fell to the Nazis.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

Parade of the 13th DBLE through Roman ruins in Lambaesis, Algeria.

General De Gaulle’s Free French Forces

When the Nazis took France, Travers went to London to get in the fight. There, she was attached to the 13th Demi-Brigade of the French Foreign Legion. It was there she shed her disgust for blood and gore and became accustomed to the rough life of a warfighting badass. She earned the nickname “La Miss” from her male comrades. This was when she started driving for higher-ups.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

General Dwight D. Eisenhower with Gen. Pierre Koenig, Military Commander General of Paris, and Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley. August 27, 1944.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

1st Free French Brigade

After spending several months as a driver for senior officers and demonstrating her extreme aptitude for navigating the most dangerous conditions, including minefields and rocket attacks, she was assigned as the driver for the Commanding Officer of the 1st Free French Brigade, Colonel Marie-Pierre Koenig.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

Free French Foreign Legionnaires “leap up from the desert to rush an enemy strong point”, Bir Hacheim, June 12, 1942.

(Photo by Chetwyn Len)

Fort of Bir Hakeim

It was in May, 1942, when Rommel’s Afrika Korps geared up to attack the Fort at Bir Hakeim. Koenig ordered all the women to evacuate, but Travers refused to leave, becoming the only woman among at least 3,500 men. Rommel assumed the fort would be taken in 15 minutes but, instead, the Free French held out for fifteen days.

Eventually, their supplies ran low, and Koenig led a breakout, trying to evade minefields and German tanks. Being the Colonel’s driver, Travers truly led the breakout; however, the convoy was discovered when one of the convoy’s vehicles ran over a landmine. Travers stepped on the gas.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

Susan Travers in Northern Africa.

A “delightful feeling”

Upon discovery, the convoy fell under heavy machine gun fire, and Travers just kept laying on the accelerator. She’s quoted as saying,

“It is a delightful feeling, going as fast as you can in the dark. My main concern was that the engine would stall.”

She broke through the German lines, creating a gap through which the rest could follow. After they made it to Allied lines, she discovered the vehicle had at least 11 bullet holes in it and sustained severe shrapnel damage. After that, Koenig was sent to Northern Africa to continue the fight while Travers remained with the Legion, seeing action in Italy, Germany, and France. She was eventually wounded when she drove over a landmine.

Soldiers and ‘Dear John’ letters inspired this classic Jim Croce song

In 2000, she published her memoirs.

French Foreign Legion

In May of 1945, Travers applied to become an official member of the French Foreign Legion. She “failed” to mention her gender and they accepted her into their ranks. This made her the first — and only — woman to ever join the French Foreign Legion.

She eventually was sent to Vietnam during the First Indo-China War and, by the end of her career, earned the Medaille Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, and the Legion d’honneur (the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits).