From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

The next time you’re stuck in a conversation that feels as awkward as an FRG meeting, try inserting one of these random and obscure military facts. They’re just weird enough to help divert a boring conversation into something a little livelier (no guarantee that they’ll work though since FRG meetings are notoriously rough).


The ultimate Commanders-in-Chief

How many US presidents served in the Army? Thirty Presidents have served, with 24 serving during war. Bonus fact: Two have earned the rank of 5-star General (Washington and more recently, Eisenhower). One earned the Medal of Honor (T. Roosevelt).

Speaking of presidents, only one served as an enlisted soldier. James Buchanan didn’t go on to become an officer, either.

Only two presidents served as airmen. Ronald Reagan served in the USAF when it was still known as the Army Air Force, and George W. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before being transferred to the Air Force Reserve.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

Mascots for the win

The Legend of Bill the Goat

Every great military academy needs a solid mascot. Bill the Goat has been the Naval Academy mascot since the early 1900s. Legend says that way back in its history, a Navy ship used to keep a goat on board as a pet. On the way back to port, the goat unfortunately died, so two ensigns were supposed to have the goat stuffed. As ensigns are known to do, the pair got distracted by a football game. Sometime before halftime, one of the ensigns dressed up in the goatskin that was supposed to be stuffed. The crowd loved the new mascot, and Bill the Goat has been around ever since.

For their part, the USMC has an English bulldog named Chesty as their mascot. Chesty was named after Marine Lt. Gen. Louis “Chesty” Puller. Puller was the only Marine to earn five Navy Crosses.

Honorary Titles

The Marines have issued the title of “Honorary Marine” to less than 100 people. This honor can only be bestowed by the Commandant of the USMC and comes with rank. Notable people to receive the title include Chuck Norris and Bob Hope.

Female Marines recently got an update to their wardrobe in the way of authorization to wear small, polished gold or silver-colored round or ball earrings. Earrings can only be worn when the women are dressed in uniform, but this is still a big change of policy for the USMC.

Speaking of Marines, now both male and female Marines are authorized to carry umbrellas while in uniform. This recent 2019 change allows for a small black umbrella to be carried with either a dress or service uniform. This update to policy took 200 years!

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

Maps, maps and more maps

The Army was tasked with mapping out the entire continental United States, and that started with Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Army officers were some of the very first to explore and see places like the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak.

Unlucky Eating

Marines are a superstitious bunch. Take, for example, their avoidance of certain foods.

Marines won’t eat the Charms that come in MRE because they think they’re bad luck. The multi-flavored fruit candy has routinely been tossed from MREs since 2003. Even more spooky is the Marine rating system for Charms. Lemon Charms spell vehicle disaster, and lime ones mean rain is going to be on its way.

So there you have it. Ten random facts that probably won’t ever help you win Jeopardy but might keep you entertained the next time you’re stuck in a “voluntold” meeting.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 Toys from the ’70s that are worth some serious cash

No, we’re not talking about Pet Rocks. We’re talking about toys from the ’70s that defined play for countless kids with bell-bottoms and feathered haircuts, like Mego, G.I. Joe, and the Six Million Dollar Man. Maybe that’s you. Maybe that was one of your older brothers or sisters. Either way, if any of you stashed some of your prized playthings from the seventies in your folks’ basement when you moved out, you could be sitting on some serious cash.


While the seventies is remembered now as a fabulously dated era of toy gimmicks (stunt cycles, flashy paint, etc.), the decade also marked a cultural shift in how toys were marketed to kids. “It was the first time you saw advertisers go after kids instead of their parents,” says toy expert Mark Bellomo, who’s written books on Star Wars and other popular toy franchises including Transformers. Toy companies started to consider the voice of the kids rather than the voice of the parents, he adds. And while commercials included an appeal to parents to purchase the toy, for the first time they spoke directly to the child.

“Today, a lot of seventies toys are having a resurgence,” says Bellomo, who also works on Netflix‘s The Toys That Made Us.“Once a toy line reaches a decade-based anniversary, they start to gain traction on secondary markets.” And with toys from the early seventies fast approaching their 50th anniversary, demand is only likely to intensify. But which seventies toys specifically are taking off, or are poised to do so, in terms of value? We asked Bellomo for the top five toys from the seventies that are worth a lot of money today.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Mego Museum)

1. Mego Action Figures

For many collectors, Mego action figures and celebrity dolls were the ultimate toy line for kids growing up in the seventies. Not only were they incredibly adaptable ⏤ thanks to their brilliant use of an 8-inch tall stock body ⏤ but Mego had the foresight to cash in on licensing agreements to create toys for boys.

Mego created figures based on Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Chips, Buck Rogers, Action Jackson, The Dukes of Hazard, and so many more. “If you look at the amount of money that Mego paid to corporations to license their images, superheroes, TV stars, and movie stars,” Bellomo says, “It was a pittance to what’s being paid today.”

The holy grail Mego toy line for collectors, however, remains the World’s Greatest Super Heroes! based on both Marvel Comicsand DC Comic book characters. “The reason why that line was so successful was the scale,” Bellomo says. “A kid could put Spider-Man or Bo Duke in the Batmobile. For the company to hold Marvel and DC licenses at the same time — that made Mego a dominant force.” It sounds like an impossibility today to have Superman and Iron Man under the same umbrella, but it was the norm for years.

Surprisingly, Bellomo says the most sought-after superhero toys aren’t even full action figures ⏤ it’s the accessories to the toys kids already owned, the Secret Identity Outfits. “It was a head and the outfit and no body, and it was the only way for you to get Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Peter Parker, and Clark Kent,” he says. “There were such limited numbers manufactured, it’s like they don’t exist.” A Peter Parker Outfit recently sold on eBay for nearly id=”listicle-2629642946″,000.

While Bellomo says you can find original pieces if you’re patient ⏤ for example, Clark Kent’s eyeglasses are just a couple of hundred bucks ⏤ an entire set intact can put a kid through college. Then again, they’re very rare. “It’s like a Faberge egg,” he says. “They’re so absolutely, supremely rare that I don’t care if you come to the table with ,000.”

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

2. Six Million Dollar Man

Kenner is known for giving the world Star Wars toys in the late seventies, but their first big hit was the Six Million Dollar Man. Much like the sci-fi series, the toy line was a smash success and Bellomo credits that to a lack of superhero shows on TV at the time. “There was a void in live-action super heroic programming for kids. I don’t think the show was targeted to kids, but Kenner realized they couldn’t compete with Mego’s [expansive toy line] so they offered something different and unique.”

That offering included not only a 12-inch-tall Steve Austin toy with a litany of features (bionic eye, interchangeable limbs, bionic grip, just to name a few), but also some colorful secondary characters to match including Maskstron and Bionic Bigfoot. “The Six Million Dollar Man has ticked up the last few years. People love kitsch, and the line has a kitschiness that makes it more attractive. And they’re all so wonderfully dated,” says Bellomo. Most toys from the 40-year old line can sell for hundreds of dollars (as high as 0 on eBay) if it’s still in its original packaging and in mint condition.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

3. Hot Wheels Redline

When Mattel debuted their new toy car line in 1968, it went toe-to-toe with the biggest car toy manufacturer at the time, Matchbox. And Hot Wheels nearly put the king out of business. Known as the “Redline” Series because the cars had a literal red line on every wheel, Mattel offered something new to kids by creating concept cars and muscle cars in a dynamic new paint treatment called Spectraflame.

“When Hot Wheels starting making those first 16, they were revolutionary,” says Bellomo. “Hot Wheels made Matchbox reconsider what they were doing. Mattel wasn’t using standard paint. It was like a lacquer that had a very realistic effect. The paint, the detailing, they just stood out.”

Of the original set, the least popular colors at the time are the most sought after by collectors today. Especially, pink. “That’s the one worth more money to collectors,” says Bellomo. “To get one of the original sweet 16 in mint condition, in pink… good luck.” Although any of the original Redline toys in the package can sell for thousands of dollars, Bellomo is quick to warn that if you’re going to seek out any original Redline, however, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable dealer. Novice buyers are known to shell out big bucks for what they think is an original, but is actually just a re-release.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

4. Lord of the Rings Action Figures by Knickerbocker

Based off of the divisive animated film by Ralph Bakshi, the Lord of the Rings action figures are some of the hardest to find figures from the decade. According to Bellomo, the toys were on shelves for just weeks because of the criticism the film received. “They’ve always been relatively expensive because the devotees of Lord of the Rings are huge, even without the Peter Jackson films,” he says.

But for some time, they were the only toys for the franchise, and it was a tiny toy line of six figures. Time has only made these figures harder to find, especially after the lauded Peter Jackson films, and virtually all of the figures from the series sell for top dollar ⏤ even the accessories. “About a month ago, Frodo’s horse went for id=”listicle-2629642946″,200 and that wasn’t even an AFA graded sample. Gandalf mint on card goes for about 0. I saw a Ringwraith cape — just the cape — sell for .”

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

5. Evel Knievel

The stunt performer transcended American culture with his death-defying, and at times, bone-shattering performances on his motorcycle. So of course it made sense to create a toy that not only could recreate said stunts, but also be unbreakable. “The great irony of his action figure is that it’s a bendy toy,” Bellomo says. “It’s plastic over wire. The head is vinyl plastic, but the accessories and costumes made it an action figure that couldn’t break.”

Despite being a wildly popular toy, mostly due to the stunt cycle’s ability to totally rip, Knievel with a working, sealed bike could fetch a couple of big ones. “A factory sealed Stunt Cycle Set, depending on the condition of the box, can go for 0 or more,” says Bellomo.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force needs more ‘bird cannons’ to protect bombers

Four years ago, a US military helicopter crashed in the UK, killing all four crew members. The cause: a flock of geese.

Birds and wildlife pose a deadly threat to American military aircraft and their crew. Between 1985 and 2016, bird strikes killed 36 American airmen, destroyed 27 US Air Force aircraft and cost the service almost a billion dollars, according to the 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Defensive technology has improved, reducing the number of incidents, but destructive accidents continue to occur. Between 2011 and 2017, the USAF experienced 418 wildlife-related mishaps, resulting in $182 million in damages, according to Military Times.


Canadian Geese alone cost the USAF almost 0 million between fiscal year 1995 and fiscal year 2016.

To counter the threat posed by birds, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota installed an automated bird deterrent system — special cannons designed to keep the animals away.

The 0,000 bird abatement system consists of a rotating cannon and a propane tank. The cannon produces a loud sound similar to a shotgun blast to scare the birds away. Some units, the Associated Press reports, are equipped with speakers able to blare the distress calls of several different bird species.

“Birds are a huge problem for our aircraft operations,” James McCurdy, a 28th Bomb Wing flight safety officer, explained to the AP. “In the middle of our migration season (October, November, April and May), it’s not abnormal for us to hit and kill a bird at least once a week. They cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”

The bird cannons only require around ,000 a year to maintain, which could mean significant savings for the base.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

Bird strikes are problems the world over. This photo shows an Israeli Air Force UH-60 Blackhawk after a bird strike.

Some of the other tools, outside of manpower, that have been used to keep birds away from US aircraft in the past include the Avian Hazard Advisory System (AHAS), a weather radar that can keep track of flocks of birds, and a bird detection radar for monitoring individual birds.

Not every Air Force base is equipped with these defense systems though. At Ellsworth, which is home to one of the two Air Force B-1 Lancer bomber wings, the previous approach to dealing with wildlife was to send someone out with a shotgun.

Ellsworth now has 24 bird cannons installed along the runway to protect the bombers, each of which reportedly costs around 0 million.

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

Articles

The 5 most decorated troops in American history

Distinguishing between the bravery of warfighters like these is tough. After all, what’s the exchange rate between five Navy Crosses and two Medals of Honor? These men cannot be ranked, but they can and should be commemorated. And in that spirit WATM presents this lineup:


1. Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts
Photo: US Marine Corps

Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly was called the “fightenest Marine I ever knew” by the famed Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. In perhaps his most famous action, he encouraged the Marine advance at Belleau Wood in 1918 by turning to his men and yelling, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

Daly was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his actions at Belleau Wood, but received the Distinguished Service Cross. He also received two Medals of Honor, a Navy Cross, and a Silver Star in addition to a number of foreign awards for other battles during his career.

2. Maj. Audie Murphy

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts
Photo: US Army

Commonly called the most decorated soldier of World War II, Maj. Audie Murphy received the Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, and two Bronze Stars with Combat V.

Murphy’s foreign awards were especially impressive. He received the French Forrager, Legion of Honor, and Croix de Guerre with Palm and Silver Star and the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm. He also received the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor.

3. Col. Edward V. Rickenbacker

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts
Photos: Wikipedia

When America entered World War I in 1917, race car driver Edward Rickenbacker volunteered for service. He started off as a staff driver but a chance meeting with Col. Billy Mitchell, an aviation pioneer, saw him reassigned to the new Army Air Corps where he became an “Ace of Aces” with 26 kills in only nine months.

During his military service, he received the Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre for single-handedly engaging a flight of seven German planes and downing two. He also received seven Distinguished Service Crosses.

4. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts
Photo: US Marine Corps

Marine Corps legend Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller holds a record-tying 5 Navy Crosses as well as an Army Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and two Legions of Merit.

The Distinguished Service Cross and one Navy Cross were received for actions Puller took at the Chosin Reservoir where he personally oversaw the Marine and Army defenses while under withering machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire over five days of fighting.

5. Boatswain’s Mate First Class James Williams

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts
Photo: US Navy

Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James Williams holds every level of valor award with a Medal of Honor, a Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, two Navy and Marine Corps Medals, three Bronze Stars with Combat V, and two Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V.

In his Medal of Honor action, Williams was commanding a river patrol boat when he took fire from two enemy Sampans in Vietnam and gave chase. He was lured into an ambush but fought against overwhelming odds for three hours, leading a fight that saw 65 enemy ships destroyed by Williams’ crew and a detachment of helicopters that eventually reinforced him.

MIGHTY HISTORY

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Seventy-five years ago, tens of thousands of men were churning their way through the hedgerows of Normandy, fighting tooth and nail to liberate French towns and to ensure the security of the tenuous toehold that the Allies had opened against Germany in Operation Overlord on D-Day. This toehold would grow until it was a massive front that made it all the way to Berlin in less than a year.


Now, 75 years later, the U.S. and Allied militaries are celebrating their forebears’ success with a series of events in the U.K. and France. As part of these celebrations, the U.S. Air Force flew two F-15E Strike Eagles with special, heritage paint jobs over the fields and hedgerows of modern day Normandy on June 9, 2019. Here are 13 photos from an Air Force photographer sent to document the event:

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The special Strike Eagles are part of the 48th Fighter Wing and took off from Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath, England, for the flyover. During the D-Day invasion, U.S. Army Air Corps fighters and bombers took off from English air bases to support the landings on the beaches, pushing back the Luftwaffe screens and reducing the number of bombers and dive bombers that troops on the ground would have to endure.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The Army Air Corps’ bombs softened targets and reduced enemy artillery positions and other defenses, but the fight in the hedgerows was still bloody and vicious. And the German coastal artillery had to be eliminated to keep as many pilots in the sky as possible.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

But the pilots who preceded the modern Air Force began the important preparations for D-Day months ahead of time, sending increased bomber formations against Germany, including Berlin, for five months ahead of D-Day. These bomber formations doomed the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, in two ways.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

First, there’s the obvious. The bombers destroyed German factories and war machines, annihilating German equipment and crippling the country’s ability to rebuild it. But Germany responded by sending up their fighters to stop the bombers, and that’s where new American fighters came into the fray.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The P-47s with drop tanks led the charge in 1943, but other fighters joined the fray at the end of ’43 and start of ’44. The P-51B, along with other fighters including the British Spitfires and Typhoons, slayed the German fighters that rose to counter the bombers. By June 1944, the Luftwaffe was a shadow of its former self.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Army Air Corps pilots gave their lives to prepare for June 6, 1944, and other pilots would make the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day and in the weeks and months that followed. But that perseverance and sacrifice paid dividends, allowing for the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Articles

These are some of the most fascinating discoveries of lost ships and planes

There has always been something alluring about lost ships and planes. Maybe it’s the massive treasure some wrecks hold in their belly, or maybe it’s the clues to lost history that some ghost ships provide.


Some of these wrecks were civilian vessels, like the former USS West Point (AP 23), which also had names like SS America. Others were planes that crash-landed like the Akutan Zero did. Mostly, there is just this sense of mystery around them.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts
The ill-fated crew of the B-24D Lady Be Good. (USAF photo)

Take for instance the Lady Be Good, a B-24 Liberator that got lost during a sandstorm that ended up flying two hours south of its base. It was missing for over a decade until discovered by an oil exploration crew. All but one of the crew were accounted for, but when parts of the B-24 were used on other planes, several suffered mishaps. A curse? Or just coincidence?

The Lady Be Good is not the only B-24D on the list – another one, which landed on Atka Island in the Aleutians, also made the list. This time, the plane was found sooner but left in place. It now constitutes part of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Also on the list is an RB-29 called Kee Bird, whose crew survived, but which caught fire during a salvage attempt.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts
The wreck of the SS American Star, formerly USS West Point (AP 23), among other names. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the craziest story is that of the Sverdlov-class cruiser Murmansk. This was a powerful ship, with a dozen 152mm guns in four triple mounts, 10 533mm torpedo tubes in two quintuple mounts, 12 100mm guns in six twin mounts, and 32 37mm anti-aircraft guns. However, her end was sad.

Sold to India to become razor blades, she broke from her towline and ended up on the Norwegian coast.

So, check out the video below to see some of the world’s most fascinating ghost ships and planes.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why finding war allegories in Tolkien’s work is complicated

There’s an old saying within the writer’s world. “Write what you know.” Meaning that every artist should always put a bit of their own life experiences into their creations to help create the feeling that the world they’re creating is real enough – regardless of its fictional setting. This is especially important when it comes to analyzing works created by war veterans when they tell stories dealing with war.

This leads us to literature’s biggest question about authorial intent: Is The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien an allegory for WWI? From the mouth of Tolkien himself, it’s not. Yet scholars still debate this.

The honest answer is that it’s much deeper than a surface level “the orcs are really these guys” and “the ring actually means this thing.”


From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

If you’re still not convinced… If the One Ring was about the bomb, then the eagles would have definitely been the ones to drop the Ring in Mt. Doom and not about the struggles of two hobbits going in on foot.

(United States Department of Energy)

The novel was released in 1954, and, as people do, there was speculation that it was about either World War I or World War II. The straight-forward nature of Sauron being purely evil and the works of the Fellowship purely good puzzled Tolkien’s life-long friend and Jesuit priest, Father Robert Murray, who also questioned if it was a message about Christianity – since Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic.

His response to both was included into the forward to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien has this to say:

As for any inner meaning or ‘message,’ it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical…. I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.

Later on in life, many questioned if the One Ring was also symbolic of atomic weapons. This is easily debunked by the simple fact that he began writing The Lord of the Rings in 1934 – many years before the Manhattan Project was even known.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

Need to come up with a war-torn hellscape that’s riddled with death and decay? Tolkien’s mind went to the worst hell he could imagine: the swamped trenches of the Battle of the Somme.

(Warner Bros.)

In Tolkien’s eyes, his work were, and always should be viewed as, a fairy tale. This is why the chapters of The Hobbit feel slightly disconnected from each other – because they’re meant to be bedtime story-sized chunks to read to children at night.

When it came time for his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, it was intended as a more mature follow-up to that world while still holding true to its fairy tale spirit. Sauron is the unequivocal embodiment of evil. Frodo Baggins, though flawed and unlikely to be the hero, was a nuanced embodiment of good. The core of the series is always that good, no matter where it comes from, will always triumph over evil.

The debate lies in the unexpected journey of how that happens, which brings us back to writing what you know.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

To be fair, this place would be what Tolkien’s friend Father Murray may have called an allegory for Heaven.

(Warner Bros.)

As every combat veteran can tell you, war is a hell that you can never really get out of your mind. Tolkien himself saw his two best friends die within the first day of combat, a first aid station he was at destroyed with many inside, and he would be sent back to the rear for health reasons. He would eventually learn his battalion, and everyone he knew would be destroyed by the end of the war.

Tolkien’s survivor’s guilt would haunt him throughout the rest of his life. This is reflected in the most powerful moment of The Lord of the Rings – Frodo’s return to the Shire. Frodo lost many of his friends along the way. What was once a happy, cheery little town felt alien to him. He couldn’t just slip back in like nothing had happened because, it did. His scars healed but still hurt while his mind wandered. This is not unlike what happened to Tolkien, but it’s not unique to him.

But this isn’t where Frodo’s story ends. Neither is it for every returning veteran. For all of his good deeds, Frodo is allowed passage into the Undying Lands. He can be free of his pain and know that he fought the good fight. His battles with his trauma were over. This pained and injured hero can finally have his happy ending.

There is no allegory for the pure good and pure evil of The Lord of the Rings. The Orcs weren’t the Germans (from either war), and the Hobbits weren’t the peaceful Welsh. The story is meant to be interpreted by anyone who sees themselves in Frodo’s shoes (well, in the metaphorical sense. Hobbits never wear shoes.)

Tolkien wrote the fairy tale he’d have wanted to hear as a returning veteran. To be told that no matter where you’re from, no matter how big or small, no matter the pain you endure, no matter the friends you lose along the way, your story will eventually have a happy ending.

This is the basis for the Fox Searchlight film Tolkien about how his life experiences influenced his writing. Check it out in theaters May 19th.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US warships ignore China, sail through Taiwan Strait

Two US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Feb. 25, 2019, sending a message to Beijing, which has warned the US to “tread lightly” in the closely watched waterway.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem and the supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez navigated a “routine” Taiwan Strait transit Feb. 25, 2019, the US Pacific Fleet told Business Insider in an emailed statement.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” the Pacific Fleet said.


The two US Navy vessels that passed through the Taiwan Strait were apparently shadowed by People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships.

The passage is the fourth since October 2018 and the fifth since the US Navy restarted the practice of sending surface combatants through the strait July 2018.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Marcus D. Mince)

The Taiwan Strait is a roughly 80-mile international waterway that separates the democratic island from the communist mainland, and China regularly bristles when US Navy vessels sail through. When a US destroyer and a fleet oiler transited the strait in January 2019, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the passage “provocative behavior,” accusing the US of “threatening the safety” of those nearby.

Beijing considers Taiwan, a self-ruled territory, to be a renegade province, and it firmly opposes US military support for the island, be that arms sales, protection assurances, or even just the US military operating in the area. China fears that US actions will embolden pro-independence forces in Taiwan that want to declare it a sovereign state separate from China.

China has repeatedly urged the US to keep its distance from Taiwan, but the US Navy has continued its “routine” trips through the strait. “We see the Taiwan Strait as another (stretch of) international waters, so that’s why we do the transits,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in January 2019.

The rhetoric used by the Navy to characterize the Taiwan Strait transits is almost identical to that used to describe US freedom-of-navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea.

The Navy has already conducted two FONOPs this year, angering Beijing both times.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Historic direct talks with North Korea have already started

President Donald Trump said on April 17, 2018, that the US had already started speaking with North Korea ahead of a proposed meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018.

“We’ve also started talking to North Korea directly,” Trump said, according to Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg’s White House reporter. “We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea.”


Trump was speaking to reporters alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

According to Jacobs, Trump said talks with Kim would take place “probably in early June [2018]” or “a little before that,” or not at all. The president added that five locations were under consideration for a meeting, but he did not specify where.

The Washington Post reporter David Nakamura tweeted that he asked Trump whether any of the locations were in the US and that the president “shook his head and clearly mouthed the word, ‘No.'”

The president said he would bring up in a meeting with Kim the cases of abductees held by North Korea.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts
u200bKim Jongu00a0UNu200b

A White House official said early April 17, 2018, that three Americans being held in North Korea also factored “very much into future interactions” between the US and North Korea.

Trump also said North Korea and South Korea “have my blessing” to discuss officially ending the Korean War, which ended with an armistice in 1953 but is technically ongoing because there is no peace treaty.

Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are set to meet for the first time on April 27, 2018. The South Korean newspaper Munhwa Ilbo cited an unnamed intelligence source as saying the summit could lead to a peace announcement.

CNN reported early April 2018, that “secret, direct talks” were underway between Washington and Pyongyang in preparation for a summit between Trump and Kim, with several administration officials saying a team at the CIA was working through intelligence back-channels.

US and North Korean intelligence officials had spoken several times and met in a third country to work on settling a location for a meeting, according to CNN.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why experts think Kim Jong Un never actually attended an elite military academy

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.

North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”

Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.


North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts
(KCNA)

According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.

Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.

Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater

Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.

“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.

(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)

Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.

“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.

Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.

“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”

‘A natural at military strategy’

While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.

NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.

(KCNA)

According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”

He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.

“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.

“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.

Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.

“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(KCNA)

Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.

“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”

In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”

NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.

In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia wants Canada to hand over files on ex-Nazi death squad interpreter

Russia says it has asked Canada to hand over case files on a 95-year-old former Nazi death-squad member to help Moscow investigate the mass murder of children at a Soviet orphanage during World War II.


Helmut Oberlander, who was born in Ukraine and became a German citizen during the war, lives in Canada.

He obtained Canadian citizenship in 1960 and courts have repeatedly ruled Oberlander’s citizenship should be revoked because he lied about his participation in a Nazi death squad during the war. In December Canada’s Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal on the government’s decision to strip him of his passport, bringing him a step closer to actual deportation from Canada.

Russia’s Investigation Committee announced on February 14 that it wanted Canada’s case and legal files on Oberlander, saying it was checking his possible involvement in a 1942 “genocide” at an orphanage in the Sea of Azov town of Yeysk.

The committee said in a statement that a death squad equipped with “mobile gas chambers” was deployed in 1942 and 1943 to the German-occupied Krasnodar region.

“As a result of one such operation, on October 9 and 10, 1942, a mass murder of children at the Yeysk orphanage was committed,” it added.

At the time, Oberlander served as a translator for the Nazis’ mobile killing squads, the committee said.

Oberlander has said he was forced to join one of the squads at the age of 17 and did not take part in any atrocities.

Last year, Russian investigators said they had opened a probe into suspected genocide after declassified documents in the Krasnodar region revealed that the bodies of 214 disabled foster children who had fled the Crimean Peninsula for nearby Yeysk were found after Nazi forces were driven out of the area.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 10th

In case you haven’t heard yet, six Marine Corps lieutenants are facing separation after they were allegedly caught cheating on a land-nav course. That’s right — this isn’t something you’re reading on Duffel Blog. This actually happened, and it’s being reported on by the Marine Corps Times.

Now, I understand the whole “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” mentality of the military (I, too, was once in the E-4 Mafia), but come on! If you know that whatever you’re about to do might forever get you forever laughed at while reinforcing stereotypes that have existed since the military first gave a lieutenant a compass, you might want to think twice.

Now, these memes may not be as funny as that, but they’ll elicit a chuckle or two.


From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via Military World)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via Private News Network)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via r/oldschoolcool)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via Ranger Up)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via ASMDSS)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

(Meme by WATM)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what Spec Ops vets and female soldiers think of the first female Green Beret

For the first time in American history, a female Soldier has completed U.S. Army Special Forces training and has earned the right to don the legendary Green Beret.

Despite how often people get the moniker wrong, Special Forces is only a title that applies to the U.S. Army’s elite special operations Green Berets. SEALs, Rangers, Marine Raiders and others all fall under the broader term of “Special Operations,” but only the Green Berets are rightfully called Special Forces.


“Good for her! It was only a matter of time and I would guess it will become more and more common over the next few years, across USSOF.”
-Former Navy SEAL/CIA Officer Frumentarius
From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

Special Forces Assessment and Selection (US Army)

In 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the formal ban on women serving in combat roles, and in 2016 all military occupational specialties were opened up to female service members, including those in elite special operations fields.

“There will be no exceptions,” former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in 2015. “They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”

The identity of the woman that fought her way through all six phases of Special Forces training has not been revealed, citing privacy concerns for the Army’s newest Green Beret, but the impact of her accomplishment remains.

We don’t need to know her name or see her to be inspired by her, just knowing that there is a female green beret can motivate any Soldier to do better or to reach for their goals.”
-Specialist Hannah Johnson, Utah National Guard

What we do know about this history-making Soldier is that she was among only a handful of females that made it through the initial 24-day assessment that serves as a screening to eliminate those who may not have the mental or physical capacity to complete the training. Now, even with Special Forces training behind the America’s female Green Beret, her days of training are far from over. Once you earn a spot in a Special Operations unit, training is continuous to ensure special operators are well prepared for any challenges they may face.

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

Special Forces Green Beret soldiers from each of the Army’s seven Special Forces Groups stand silent watch during the wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of President John F. Kennedy (U.S. Army Photo)

Former Green Beret NCO and Warrant Officer Steve Balestrieri used to oversee portions of the selection process, and earlier this year wrote an article for Sandboxx News entitled, “Women Passing Special Forces Selection? Yes you can,” in which he outlines the challenges all aspiring Green Berets must face, as well as some that are specific to females serving in that capacity. We asked Balestrieri how he feels about seeing this historic event unfold.

“I think that (from what I heard from those who know), this woman had no corners cut for her, and not only met but exceeded the standards. For her, now the journey really begins. I truly wish her all the best.”
-Former Green Beret Steve Balestrieri

As Balestrieri writes in his piece, some members of the Special Operations community may well harbor some outdated beliefs when it comes to women serving in these elite roles, but as he points out (and our discussions with other Special Operations veterans seem to further prove), many of America’s elite warfighters are happy to see their female peers work their way into their elite company.

“I wish her all the best, I hope she crushes it. There are a lot of outside opinions that ultimately don’t matter so long as she does her job and does it well.”
“At the end of the day, SOF is a place where politics don’t really matter as long as you can do your job to standard.”
-Luke Ryan, Former Army Ranger
From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier with the National Guard shares best practices to U.S. and Chile counterparts. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite/Released)

Green Berets are tasked with a number of difficult mission sets in combat environments, from direct action operations to training foreign military forces to provide their own defense. Alongside their peers in the Special Operations community, Green Berets have served as part of the backbone of America’s presence in Global War on Terror operations the world over.

Earning the right to wear the Green Beret is an incredible feat for any Soldier, but becoming the first female to earn one is not only historic, it’s an important message to Soldiers of all types across the force: Being a man is not a prerequisite to becoming one of America’s most elite war fighters. Because the history-making Soldier serves in the National Guard, it also shines a valuable light on the opportunities service members of both genders have in both active and reserve capacities.

“I mean it’s a major win for females everywhere, it’s bigger than just the Army, especially the National Guard. It’s proof that women are capable and that institutions are capable of change. She’ll be able to bring her own strengths and capabilities to that community, which will make it better. “
-Specialist Hannah Johnson, Utah National Guard

In 1981, a female Soldier named Capt. Kathleen Wilder was failed as she very nearly completed Special Forces training. After an investigation into her dismissal, it was found that she had “been wrongly denied graduation.” Now, nearly four decades later, significant challenges remain for women in military service, but this momentous occasion is a step in the right direction.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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