If there’s one thing every military veteran has in common, it’s that we all went through a recruiter — but experiences may vary. For example, some recruits had either high-value skills or were willing to take any job the recruiter might offer and, thus, were pursued by military recruiters. Others had to seek one out. Either way, our feelings about our recruiters rise and fall as our career progresses.
At first, many feel like they were bamboozled by their recruiter. As if somehow, they lied to us.
Maybe they made us promises they had no intention of keeping. Maybe they said we were going to get a bonus when we didn’t, or maybe the bonus wasn’t as big as promised. Or maybe the recruiter told us we could go in “Open General” and then choose to be an Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst when we’re in basic training and we wouldn’t have to take whatever the Air Force chose to give us.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Ave I. Pele)
The fact of the matter is that every U.S. enlisted troop has a recruiter story. The recruiting process is the one thing every branch of the military has in common. From MEPS to the naked duck walk to going on a trip with a group of strangers whose only common bond is a manila envelope full of personal information, this is the area of the military that transcends branch of service — one that all Coast Guardsmen, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines experience equally.
But what we don’t realize until we’re grown up a little and have a little rank on our sleeves or collars is that recruiting is a really, really tough job.
“Yeah, we all totally love this uniform.”
1. Everyone thinks recruiters are g*ddamn liars.
I know I kinda covered this one, but it’s a big deal. Not because the recruits think recruiters are lying — who cares what they think? They can go home if they want to. It’s that people already in the military think recruiters are liars. That’s the whole thing about recruiters — the one tired joke that never stops playing.
People think you’re out there luring high school kids into a Marine Corps-painted Astro van with promises of chest candy. Or that you somehow prey on minorities and low-income communities. Or that you’re filling the ranks with sub-par people just to make an invisible quota of some kind. The Army doesn’t exactly sell itself, so recruiters must be tricking these kids somehow.
“What’s the matter, you already have the haircut.”
2. Recruiters are competing with a great job market.
The unemployment rate of Americans between 16 and 24 — prime military recruiter targets — fell to a 50-year low in 2018. For recruiters, people who have to bring in a certain number of recruits to keep the Army, Air Force, and Navy Departments going for the foreseeable future — this is a terrible thing.
For some, joining the military is something that provides access to opportunity. If someone from Podunk, Conn. (which is a real place, by the way) has the choice of working at the Ice Cream Factory (which does not exist in Podunk, it’s just an example) or joining the Marines during a 17-year-long war, which do you think they might be more inclined toward? As a Marine Recruiter, you have to convince him that a lifetime of mud, dirt, paperwork, and potentially killing ISIS fighters is a better choice than riding dirtbikes at the bonfire Saturday night.
3. Most wannabe recruits aren’t cut out for service.
The Pentagon believes that 71 percent of American youth aren’t able to enlist for a number of reasons. They may be overweight, they may have drug use issues or ear gauges, or maybe they can’t score well on the ASVAB. No matter what the issue is, of the 29 percent left, the Army estimates only seven percent of the remainder is even interested in serving.
So, your job is basically to find those needles in all that haystack.
“Pew pew! … And that’s how you do Army. Just sign your name in crayon.”
4. Training and living as a recruiter is actually incredibly difficult.
Recruiters train to go into a local community and pull out the most potentially exceptional recruits from neighborhoods that might hate you. At the same time, the recruiter has to typify everything that makes the perfect U.S. troop, from physical fitness and on down the line. If you even pass the screening process, every branch of the military has an in-depth intense training school that involves professional development and very detailed instructional lessons on all the ins and outs of your chosen branch of service.
Remember, recruiters are supposed to be demi-gods with all the answers, so it makes sense that to be an example for youth to follow, potential recruiters have to train incredibly hard at it.
In case you didn’t believe me when I said people will hate you. Because they will.
5. You’re (mostly) alone out there.
More than that, a recruiter lives far from a military community, where things might be way more expensive than in your standard military base area. There may be no other military personnel to lean on except for the other recruiters in your area and since none of you are exactly keeping banker’s hours, a potluck jamboree might be hard to schedule.
So you only need to be the perfect picture of physical, mental, and financial health with unlimited energy and money to stay up all night to recognize talent and have all the answers required to get them to give you the first years of their adult life while their parents (who might really, really hate you) look on. No sweat, right?
More than nine years after the Battle of Kamdesh claimed eight lives and left 27 injured, a soldier killed there received a posthumous medal upgrade Dec. 15, 2018, to the nation’s second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross.
Army Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos, 27, had been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Combat Outpost Keating, the location of the assault by Taliban insurgents that led to one of the bloodiest battles of the war in Afghanistan.”
The Distinguished Service Cross was presented here to Gallegos’ son, MacAidan Justin Gallegos,14, who lives in the area with his stepfather and mother, Amanda Marr. Marr and Gallegos were divorced at the time of his death.
“A couple weeks ago, when I heard the news that Justin’s Distinguished Service Cross had finally been approved, I knew that one of the great discrepancies in the long narrative of the battle of Combat Outpost Keating had finally been corrected,” Maj. Stoney Portis said during the ceremony. Portis was Gallegos’ commander at the time of the battle.
Distinguished visitors bow their heads during the invocation at Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)
Called “a day for heroes” because of the number of heroic acts during the Oct. 3, 2009, battle, COP Keating was all but overrun when, just before dawn, Taliban fighters assaulted the outpost with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.
With what the citation calls “extraordinary heroism,” Gallegos, a team leader for Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, maneuvered “under heavy sniper and rocket-propelled grenade fire to reinforce a [High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle] battle position that was critical to the Outpost’s defense,” the citation states.
“While under heavy fire for nearly an hour, Staff Sergeant Gallegos continued to suppress the oncoming enemy with the crew-served weapon. Once the weapon’s ammunition was exhausted, he engaged the enemy with his M4 carbine to allow fellow soldiers in a nearby truck to evacuate from their position,” it states.
As they attempted to join the unit defending the outpost, Gallegos retrieved and moved a wounded soldier to safety while under fire, then exposed himself again to ongoing machine-gun fire while trying to provide suppression and cover so the rest of his team could move to his position.
“During this final act, Staff Sergeant Gallegos paid the ultimate sacrifice,” the citation states. “Staff Sergeant Gallegos’ actions enabled a section of soldiers to regroup and provide necessary security to stave off enemy forces from the west side of the camp. His actions played a critical role in the defense of Combat Outpost Keating, and Troop B’s subsequent counterattack against a numerically superior Taliban force.”
Soldiers assigned to U.S. Army Alaska listen during Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)
Medals of Honor have been awarded to two soldiers who fought at Keating, while 37 have received Army Commendation Medals with combat “V” device for valor, 18 were awarded Bronze Star Medals with “V” device, and nine received Silver Star Medals.
Upgrading Gallegos’ medal was not a quick or easy process, requiring a literal act of Congress. The order for the upgrade was included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Dec. 15, 2018’s ceremony marked the end of that journey, Marr said, shining a spotlight on Gallegos’ heroic actions.
“We never really know what we’re going to do in any situation that’s like that, but I would’ve known that Justin would’ve been that person,” Marr said. “When I was notified, even, of his death, I knew that it had to be something extraordinary … there was not another explanation. Justin didn’t die — he just fought hard. So I just knew.”
Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sgt. Ty Carter and Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha were in attendance at the medal ceremony, as was Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who presented a flag to MacAidan Gallegos and a handful of veterans of the unit.
Gallegos’ other medals and commendations include the Silver Star; Bronze Star; three Purple Hearts; two Army Commendation Medals; two Army Achievement Medals; the Army Good Conduct Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; the Army Service Ribbon; two Overseas Service Ribbons; the NATO Medal; and the Combat Action Badge.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
On this week’s episode, Borne the Battle features guest Nathan Goncalves, who shares his story of struggle and perseverance.
While Goncalves didn’t have the intrinsic calling to join the military, he enlisted at 23, seeking reform and discipline. It was in the Army that Goncalves sharpened his focus and developed lifelong friendships and mentors.
However, Goncalves’ transition back to civilian life was not easy. In fact, it turned out to be some of his lowest valleys–involving addiction, PTSD, and anger management.
But things started to change when Goncalves heard he was going to be a father. In this episode, he discusses how an intense work ethic allowed him to achieve a bachelor’s degree at UCLA in less than three years.
Goncalves applied to UCLA’s Law school to study corporate law. He was accepted, but a bitter divorce hampered those plans. Through his own experiences, Goncalves realized there was no advocacy for situations like his own. So he sacrificed a potentially lucrative corporate law career and switched to family law to offer services to homeless and low-income veterans.
Goncalves is now hosted by Harriet BuHai Center for Family Law and sponsored in house by Equal Justice Works. He continues to fight for family integration for homeless and low-income veterans as they transition back into the civilian communities.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Army Lt. Col. Ron Cole, 49, a public health nurse with the Army Public Health Center, doesn’t exactly look the part of the long-distance runner. He’s a big guy.
This 5 feet, 10-inch tall former professional body builder and wrestler will tell you his physique is more suited for short bursts of speed, but he loves distance running. This year marks an important milestone for Cole — he’s turning 50 and he’ll be competing in his ninth Army Ten-Miler in October.
“Age is not on our side always and I’m not the smallest of guys,” said Cole. “My joints have been in the military for 28 years and pounding the pavement has had its toll, but my motto for this year’s race is ‘Forged at 50’. I’m not slowing down, I’m getting better with age, and I’ve gotten creative with the knowledge I’ve learned over the years to either keep the pace or even improve my pace.”
Cole, who also serves as the APHC Performance Triad action officer, understands the importance of sleep, activity and nutrition. He hopes to improve on his best 9:30-minute mile ATM pace by incorporating the 10-mile training plan (linked to this article) offered through the ATM website and endorsed by APHC’s health and fitness experts.
“One of the things I’m doing is incorporating the Performance Triad of sleep, activity and nutrition as well as some of my weight training background and personal nutrition experience to enhance my muscle endurance as I prepare to run,” said Cole.
Cole plans to run hills, incorporate treadmill sprints, follow a good sleep and nutrition plan, and do some cross training to optimize his performance.
“I live in Havre de Grace, Maryland, which has a lot of hills that I also use for shorter sprints instead of resting on the inclines,” said Cole. “I also like to cross train and do walking lunges with weights in the hallways during my breaks from my desk.”
Cole was first introduced to the run through his then girlfriend and now wife Shanekia, who was training for the run in 2006 as part of the Kirk Army Community Hospital Team at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He trained with the team on some of their practice runs and cheered her on at the finish line.
Lt. Col. Ronald Cole, a public health nurse with the Army Public Health Center, hydrates in between exercises June 21, 2019, in preparation for competing in his ninth Army Ten-Miler in October. Cole is following the APHC-expert recommended Army Ten-Miler training plan as well as APHC guidance on proper hydration.
(Photo Credit: Graham Snodgrass)
The two married in August 2008 and planned to compete together for the 2009 race, but Shanekia was diagnosed with cancer in October 2009, and he ended up doing his first ATM that year with no training or preparation, which he does not recommend.
“The race was going well until I reached mile seven, which was the entrance of the 14th Street ramp,” said Cole. “The ramp is about a 1 degree incline and continues to rise at 1 degree for approximately 2 miles.”
It was at that moment that Cole felt like a pack of gorillas had jumped on his back and he wanted to quit. However, he looked to his right to find a wounded warrior changing his prosthesis; this sight made him realize that he had nothing to complain about.
“So I started running from that point on and every time I wanted to quit — he was my motivation,” said Cole. “So that first run wasn’t my best run, but it was my most inspiring.”
Cole is committed to running the race every year until he can no longer run. He also does this to honor Shanekia, who suffered complications from chemotherapy and can no longer compete in the race, but remains one of his biggest supporters. She is now free of cancer and helps with his meal prepping and comes out to cheer every run.
Cole’s story and commitment to the race have motivated some of his co-workers to make the run.
“His energy and spirit and story of why he runs has also inspired me to run the Army Ten-miler this year,” said Joanna Reagan, an APHC registered dietitian who recently retired from the Army. “Although I’ve run it in the past, Lt. Col. Cole has inspired me to shoot for my own personnel best this year.”
The two train together, which Reagan says helps keep her motivated.
“We are holding each other accountable with our running plans, trying to eat eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day and getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night,” said Reagan. “Having a ‘running buddy’ really helps with accountability and commitment.”
Cole hopes to keep running for years to come.
“The energy of the Ten-Miler keeps me enthusiastic and motivated to run,” said Cole. “Every time you’re running it may be painful, but along the course of the run you’re surrounded by at least 30,000 other people and you feel you want to do that again.”
The Performance Triad website at https://p3.amedd.army.mil/performance-learning-center/nutrition is a good resource for nutrition, nutrient timing and hydration recommendations for this year’s ATM competitors.
The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.
A black hole and its shadow have been captured in an image for the first time, a historic feat by an international network of radio telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). EHT is an international collaboration whose support in the U.S. includes the National Science Foundation.
A black hole is an extremely dense object from which no light can escape. Anything that comes within a black hole’s “event horizon,” its point of no return, will be consumed, never to re-emerge, because of the black hole’s unimaginably strong gravity. By its very nature, a black hole cannot be seen, but the hot disk of material that encircles it shines bright. Against a bright backdrop, such as this disk, a black hole appears to cast a shadow.
The stunning new image shows the shadow of the supermassive black hole in the center of Messier 87 (M87), an elliptical galaxy some 55 million light-years from Earth. This black hole is 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun. Catching its shadow involved eight ground-based radio telescopes around the globe, operating together as if they were one telescope the size of our entire planet.
“This is an amazing accomplishment by the EHT team,” said Paul Hertz, director of the astrophysics division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Years ago, we thought we would have to build a very large space telescope to image a black hole. By getting radio telescopes around the world to work in concert like one instrument, the EHT team achieved this, decades ahead of time.”
To complement the EHT findings, several NASA spacecraft were part of a large effort, coordinated by the EHT’s Multiwavelength Working Group, to observe the black hole using different wavelengths of light. As part of this effort, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory space telescope missions, all attuned to different varieties of X-ray light, turned their gaze to the M87 black hole around the same time as the EHT in April 2017. NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was also watching for changes in gamma-ray light from M87 during the EHT observations. If EHT observed changes in the structure of the black hole’s environment, data from these missions and other telescopes could be used to help figure out what was going on.
Chandra X-ray Observatory close-up of the core of the M87 galaxy.
(NASA/CXC/Villanova University/J. Neilsen)
While NASA observations did not directly trace out the historic image, astronomers used data from NASA’s Chandra and NuSTAR satellites to measure the X-ray brightness of M87’s jet. Scientists used this information to compare their models of the jet and disk around the black hole with the EHT observations. Other insights may come as researchers continue to pore over these data.
There are many remaining questions about black holes that the coordinated NASA observations may help answer. Mysteries linger about why particles get such a huge energy boost around black holes, forming dramatic jets that surge away from the poles of black holes at nearly the speed of light. When material falls into the black hole, where does the energy go?
“X-rays help us connect what’s happening to the particles near the event horizon with what we can measure with our telescopes,” said Joey Neilsen, an astronomer at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, who led the Chandra and NuSTAR analysis on behalf of the EHT’s Multiwavelength Working Group.
Chandra X-ray Observatory close-up of the core of the M87 galaxy.
(NASA/CXC/Villanova University/J. Neilsen)
NASA space telescopes have previously studied a jet extending more than 1,000 light-years away from the center of M87. The jet is made of particles traveling near the speed of light, shooting out at high energies from close to the event horizon. The EHT was designed in part to study the origin of this jet and others like it. A blob of matter in the jet called HST-1, discovered by Hubble astronomers in 1999, has undergone a mysterious cycle of brightening and dimming.
Chandra, NuSTAR, Swift and Fermi, as well as NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) experiment on the International Space Station, also looked at the black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, called Sagittarius A*, in coordination with EHT.
Getting so many different telescopes on the ground and in space to all look toward the same celestial object is a huge undertaking in and of itself, scientists emphasize.
“Scheduling all of these coordinated observations was a really hard problem for both the EHT and the Chandra and NuSTAR mission planners,” Neilsen said. “They did really incredible work to get us the data that we have, and we’re exceedingly grateful.”
Neilsen and colleagues who were part of the coordinated observations will be working on dissecting the entire spectrum of light coming from the M87 black hole, all the way from low-energy radio waves to high-energy gamma rays. With so much data from EHT and other telescopes, scientists may have years of discoveries ahead.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
Through 20 years of March Backs, Wallace Ward has seen it all.
In the beginning, the march was 15 miles, now 20 years later it is only 12. Over the years it has moved from taking place in the middle of the night to starting in the morning. There has been rain and thunderstorms that soaked and threatened the marchers. There was a hamstring injury that slowed him down, but couldn’t stop him.
No matter the obstacle, the distance or the weather, since members of the Long Gray Line were invited to the March Back 20 years ago, Wallace Ward has completed every single one.
This year, as he stepped off from Camp Buckner before dawn with India Company, Ward, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in the Class of 1958, earned the distinction of being the oldest graduate to participate in the annual tradition.
He first joined the March Back at 67 and now aged 87 he once again walked the entire way from start to finish.
“I come back to March Back every year because I love to run,” Ward said. “I’ve participated in 10 marathons and one ultramarathon that was 62 miles. I have been running and walking all my life so when they said they wanted people to hike back with the plebes I thought that was a great opportunity since I love being outside running and walking.”
Retired Lt. Col. Wallace Ward, USMA Class of 1958, marches back with the Class of 2023. Ward, 87, was the oldest grad to participate in the 2019 March Back.
(Photo by Brandon OConnor)
The decision brought him full circle as it was running that first introduced Ward to West Point.
A track athlete in nearby Washingtonville, New York, Ward competed at a regional track meet at West Point as a high schooler. He entered the meet with a single goal — earning the one point he needed to secure his varsity letter for the season — and determined to do whatever it took to secure it.
With the finish line nearby and his goal within reach, Ward dove across the line. His last bit of effort earned him his letter, but it also left shrapnel in his left elbow that has served as a, “reminder of West Point for the rest of my life.”
It would prove to be the first of many marks West Point would leave upon him as the track meet set him upon a path that eventually allowed him to enter West Point as a prior service cadet after he was not accepted directly from high school and enlisted in the Army in 1951.
“I’d never been to West Point,” Ward said of that track meet roughly 70 years ago. “I got there and saw this great fortress over the Hudson River and said, ‘Wow, this is fantastic. I’d sure like to be able to go there for school.'”
His time at West Point changed the course of his life after being abandoned along with his brothers in a Brooklyn flat by his mother. They bounced through different foster homes before finding stability and discipline after moving near Washingtonville.
West Point continued the process of instilling discipline and helped to keep him from becoming, “a kid in New York, running the streets, stealing and things like that, getting in all kinds of trouble,” Ward said.
Retired Lt. Col. Wallace Ward, USMA Class of 1958, marches back with the Class of 2023.
(Photo by Brandon OConnor)
He retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1979 after a career as an air defense officer. Now 61 years after his graduation from West Point, Ward uses his time with the new class during March Back to encourage them and teach them about the place that means so much to him.
“We spend half the time (talking), except when we are going uphill. I always tell them, ‘Cut if off, wait until we get to the top of the hill. Then we can resume the conversation,'” Ward said. “When we are walking and having a conversation with the plebes we tell them it is going to be a tough year, stick it out, keep your nose clean and work hard and things will come out alright and you will be proud of the fact you went to West Point.”
With 20 years and more than 200 miles of March Backs under his belt, Ward hasn’t decided if he’ll be back for number 21. He said he will have to, “think about it,” before lacing up his sneakers and hiking through the woods with another class seven decades his junior even though he enjoys his time spent with the plebes and talking with them as they traverse the hills.
“I get the enthusiasm of going back to West Point every year and seeing that great fortress on the Hudson River, meeting old friends and comrades and enjoying the atmosphere,” Ward said of why he has come back for the last 20 years.
Dr. Jill Biden is a familiar face to military families and Americans alike, with her husband’s role as vice president for eight years. Dr. Biden is once again aiming to open the dialog with military spouses and families and you can join in too.
Speaking to military families isn’t anything new for Dr. Biden. Her own step son Beau served in the Delaware Army National Guard in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps with the 261st Signal Brigade. He was deployed to Iraq for a year, not long after his father took part in the election vice presidential debate.
With Beau serving and being deployed, Dr. Biden experienced the difficulties and challenges of being a military family firsthand as a military mom and as grandmother, watching the struggles of Beau’s children. In previous interviews, she is on record saying that it was the first issue she wanted to work on when President Obama was elected.
As a teacher, Dr. Biden wanted to dive deep into the needs of military families and find ways that the administration could stand in the gap. Alongside the first lady, she championed Joining Forces. That program was widely successful and led to multiple pieces of legislation aimed at improving issues like military spouse employment and education for dependent children.
With her husband now vying for the highest office in the United States, she is turning her focus once again on those who serve the country and their families. Dr. Biden wants to hear directly from military families themselves what their needs are and how her husband, if elected, and his administration can support those needs.
Scary Mommy is widely known and deeply influential in the millennial mother space. Their website, articles and blogs offer a no-holds barred approach to all things parenting, news, stories and trending issues. On Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at 5:30 pm eastern, the organization will host a virtual event and conversation with Dr. Biden. Interviewing her will be military spouse and mother, Kellie Artis.
The theme or title of the virtual event is Helping Families Thrive. Dr. Biden will make the case for a Biden-Harris ticket and what they will bring in the name of support for military families if elected. She will cover the presidential hopeful’s vision for the military community and the plan to uplift all families on day one of a Biden presidency. You can be part of that conversation.
To join the live steam event and listen in on the honest and unfiltered conversation with Dr. Jill Biden and military spouse, Kellie Artis – click here.
Editor’s note: We Are The Mighty is a non-partisan organization. Should the Trump Administration plan a conversation with military families, we will let you know!
New details have emerged in recent months about the exact plans for Operation Sealion, Nazi Germany’s scheme to invade England, overwhelm defenses south of London, and install the then-Duke of Windsor as the new, pro-German king of England.
While media tends to focus on the 1940 events highlighted by movies like Dunkirk and the 1944 happenings as showcased by Saving Private Ryan, there’s actually a lot of history in the years between. At the start of that period, in May 1940, Nazi Germany was clearly in the dominant position over Britain.
The encirclement of troops at Dunkirk had robbed the British army of much key equipment. The British army successfully evacuated most of its men and a lot of Free French forces out of Dunkirk, but was forced to leave nearly all of its artillery and vehicles behind, as well as thousands of tons of ammo, food, uniforms, weapons, etc.
And the British Navy was larger and more capable than the German one, but British admirals were reluctant to devote large warships to the English Channel, relying on destroyers and the occasional cruiser instead. Meanwhile, the Royal Air Force was strong, but would rely on bombers to take out German landing ships. And Germany had a plan for that.
See, Germany planned to do its amphibious invasion under the cover of darkness. The Royal Air Force’s best bombers relied on sights that only worked with plenty of light. At night, Britain’s best bombers would be next to useless.
So in 1940, despite Britain’s pseudo-alliance with the U.S. and its massive industrial base, Germany had the machinery and troops for an invasion, and Britain lacked the equipment to properly defend itself. And Germany had big plans.
First, the invasion flotilla would launch from bases on the French coast, most likely in September 1940. A diversionary attack would sail north and attack around Newcastle in England or Aberdeen in Scotland, drawing defenders north. Within a few days, the real invasion would come across the Strait of Dover.
Germany even knew what to do when it got there. German leaders believed that the then-Duke of Windsor, Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David (lots of names), held German sympathies. He was the former King Edward VIII as well, having served in the role from the start of 1936 to the end of 1936. He had abdicated out of love to avoid a constitutional crisis (long story). All Germany had to do was put him back on the throne, hopefully giving them a new ally.
So Germany had the forces, the plan, and the follow-up, all staged and ready to go right as Britain was at its weakest. So why didn’t it happen? Why didn’t America have to join the war in Europe with no convenient staging place off of France? With Britain’s colonies split between opposition to Germany and loyalty to Edward VIII?
But, stupidly enough, part of it was some comments Hitler had made during the initial planning for Operation Sealion.
When the Kriegsmarine was briefing Hitler in the summer of 1940, the Fuhrer had emphasized the need for complete air superiority over the channel before an invasion was launched. As previously discussed, this was unnecessary, but Hitler had emphasized it during planning, and few leaders were willing to try to go to him with a plan that ignored it.
So, when the Royal Air Force surprisingly won the Battle of Britain, the invasion was delayed from September 1940 to early 1941, then back further as Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, got underway in June 1941. The Soviet Union successfully resisted the invasion in late 1941, and the attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, drew America more firmly into the war.
In just over a year of fighting, Germany had gone from ascendant, with the machinery and manpower to potentially invade England, to the defensive, with too few troops to resist Soviet counterattacks. Allied counters in Africa, France, and D-Day sealed the deal.
Ancient Rome is credited with major contributions to modern day language, religion, law, art, and government. Indeed, the Roman Empire was filled with breathtaking architecture and an intricate and fascinating socio-economic culture. But it was also full of drama.
Most people know at least a few key facts about Julius Caesar and his infamous assassination on the Ides of March. But as the Roman Republic crumbled with him and the Roman Empire rose in its place, the rulers that came after him were no less controversial. Extravagance, executions, and extreme religious persecution stand at the forefront of many Roman emperor’s legacies. And that’s not mentioning the sex scandals.
So here’s a list of the absolute worst Roman emperors, in order from the mildly incompetent to the devastatingly unstable.
Diocletian, 284-305 CE
Emperor Diocletian deserves some credit, as his rule marked the end of the Crisis of the Third Century. His governmental reforms are cited as being one of the main contributors to the Roman Empire’s longevity for the next millennium. Diocletian regained control over a wild military force, suppressed enemy threats along the Empire’s borders, and revised the tax system in a broken economy.
However, he’s also credited with one of the most brutal attempts to purge Christianity in history, which definitely resides in the “cons” column. Diocletian revoked the legal rights of Christians, trying to encourage his citizens back to a more traditional worship of the old Roman gods. He razed churches and destroyed religious scriptures, and went even further to prohibit Christian’s from even gathering to worship. After a suspicious fire within the imperial palace, Diocletian’s belief in a Christian conspiracy led to a spree of scourging, torture, and beheading.
In 305 CE, after becoming greatly weakened by a severe illness, Diocletian resigned from his rule, passing the torch to someone with the strength to bear the Empire’s burdens. The first person to willingly abdicate from the role, the former Emperor spent the rest of his days tending a vegetable garden—sounds like a pretty fulfilling retirement.
Elagabalus, 218-222 CE
Elagabalus became Emperor at the tender age of 14, kicking off a reign that would be known for sex scandals and religious controversy—not exactly the sort of things you expect from someone fresh out of puberty.
Emperor Elagabalus started out in life as a high priest serving the Syrian sun god he shared a name with. When he came to rule over Rome, his devotion to the god drove him to try and elevate him to the same status as Jupiter, a move which greatly displeased the Empire. He even insisted upon marrying a Vestal Virgin, Aquilia Severa, which was in direct opposition to not only Roman tradition, but to the law.
On the more salacious side, it’s said that Elagabalus prostituted himself throughout the palace. He was married to five different women, and took on countless lovers of all sexes. He sent servants out into the city to procure lovers for him, and even opened the imperial baths up to the public to enjoy the spectacle of watching others bathe.
Some historians say that Elagabalus might have been one of the first transgender historical figures, offering large amounts of money to any physician who would be able to successfully administer gender reassignment surgery. This was regarded as wholly scandalous by the people of Rome, casting him in a negative light he couldn’t hope to overcome.
Elagabalus’s general incompetence on the throne led to the devaluation of the Roman currency. Showing his immaturity further, he began appointing lovers to crucial political positions. So while history tends to be unfavorable towards him for his personal choices, it does seem likely that he was unfit as an emperor mostly due to the fact that he was a literal child.
The Emperor’s youth did him no favors in the end, however. At 18 years old, Elagabalus and his eccentric behavior were brought to an end by the Praetorian Guard. After Elagabalus stripped his cousin’s titles and wealth, the Guard, who much preferred said cousin, rebelled against Elagabalus, killing both him and his mother in the violence.
Tiberius, 13-37 CE
There were plenty of things that Emperor Tiberius did right. He avoided needless and financially draining military campaigns and instead relied heavily on diplomacy. He reinforced the borders of the Empire. He even kept the Empire’s treasury generously stocked.
However, Tiberius never really wanted to rule as emperor, and that was very apparent. He left many responsibilities to the Senate and was otherwise distant and reclusive. He left Rome in the middle of his reign—a decision widely regarded as the worst one he could possibly make—and opened himself up to a reputation fully up to interpretation.
Whether these claims are rooted in truth or based fully in fabrication is impossible to know at this point, but either way, Tiberius was hated enough to get tongues wagging with the most vicious of talk. During his stay on the island of Capri, Tiberius was accused of flinging people off of cliffs for minor slights and engaging in disturbing sexual acts with very young boys. While that doesn’t have very much to do with governing an empire, it’s pretty much the last thing you want out of a ruler.
Tiberius earned a reputation as a bloodthirsty emperor after a mess grew out of a man named Sejanus making a grab for power. Sejanus tried to set himself up as Tiberius’s next heir by assassinating Tiberius’s son. Tiberius, of course, called for the death of not only Sejanus, but of those who were associated with him—including his children.
It seems likely, too, that much of his bad reputation comes from his connection to Caligula, who you’ll hear much more of later.
Caracalla, 211-217 CE
For the first 13 years of his reign, Caracalla ruled as a co-emperor alongside first his father, Septimius Severus, and then his brother, Geta. In 211 CE, he had his brother assassinated by the loyal members of his Praetorian Guard. Not satisfied, Caracalla went a step further to slaughter most of his brother’s supporters as well. In a further act of insult, Caracalla removed Geta’s image from paintings, coins, and statues, struck him from record, and made it an actual crime to utter his name.
On top of being generally regarded as a tyrannical and cruel emperor, Caracalla wasn’t all that effective in other aspects of his rule. He put into effect an edict which declared all free inhabitants of the Empire to be official citizens… so he could collect taxes from a wider base of people. He depleted much of the Empire’s funds trying to keep his army happy and often engaged in ruthless and unnecessary military campaigns.
Caracalla had an obsession with Alexander the Great, and in a fit of erratic behavior went on to persecute those philosophers of the Aristotelian school based solely off the legend that Aristotle poisoned Alexander. His behavior only got worse when, after discovering a play mocking him in the city of Alexandria, he dispatched his troops to massacre, loot, and plunder the city.
In 217 AD, Caracalla was stabbed to death by a defected soldier—an almost ironic end, considering his adoration for his own army.
Maximinus Thrax, 235-238 CE
Emperor Maximinus Thrax was a very large man, and he was also largely hated. In direct contrast to Emperor Diocletian, he’s often considered to be the ruler who caused the Crisis of the Third Century. He brought Rome to near ruin with his exhaustive military campaigns, overextending his soldiers by dispatching them to multiple fronts at once.
His distrust and distaste for anyone apart from his army did him no favors and caused social instability. Maximinus even had members of his own family put to death. He was a man who preferred to rule by conquest rather than favor and became known for wrecking public property and setting fires to any village he passed through.
His short three-year rule ended in 238 CE, when members of the Imperial Roman army assassinated him alongside his son and advisors.
Nero, 54-68 CE
Nero’s 14-year reign had some significant successes, including the negotiation of peace with the Parthian Empire and the quelling of Boudica’s revolt. While the upper class considered him overly extravagant and undignified, the lower classes of Rome actually had a strong positive opinion towards their ruler. This was true despite the fact that some of his methods leaned toward tyrannical madness. Seeing as he was only 16 years old when he took the throne, that’s not all that surprising—adolescence is hard.
In the beginning of his reign, Nero’s rule was closely guided by his mother, Agrippina the Younger, much as she had orchestrated Nero’s rise as emperor. Agrippina married his great-uncle and previous emperor, Claudius, and arranged for Nero to marry his new stepsister, Octavia. By 59 CE, an unexplained falling out caused Nero to order his troops to have her killed. This wouldn’t be the last time he organized a death.
In 62 CE, Nero divorced Octavia, citing that she was incapable of producing an heir. When his subjects looked negatively at this decision, he had Octavia exiled. Not long after that—either to further change public opinion or to solidify his claim to the throne—he accused her of adultery and had her put to death. His second wife, Poppaea Sabina, died in 65 CE. Some writers of ancient times say that Nero was responsible for this death, too, though others disagree.
Nero’s legacy as a madman is most closely tied to the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE, which completely destroyed three of Rome’s 14 districts, leaving another seven heavily damaged. Many myths surround the terrible tragedy which killed hundreds of citizens, including the dramatically evil story of Nero fiddling as Rome fell to ashes.
In actuality, the fiddle wasn’t even in existence at the time. While some classical sources cite that Nero was on the roof of his palace singing from “The Sack of Ilium,” others place him dozens of miles away from the flames.
While it’s impossible to know the truth of the fire’s origins, many people blamed Nero directly for the destruction. It was believed that he was intentionally making way for a new city aesthetic. Whether out of genuine belief or a desperate attempt at scapegoating, Nero blamed the fire on followers of the growing Christian religion.
Nero set out to cruelly persecute the Christians, implementing an array of creative tortures and deaths, including wrapping them in animal skins to be torn apart by dogs.
After that, Nero’s rule started to crumble. Reconstruction efforts had stretched the Roman currency thin, and Nero’s indecision in dealing with further revolts caused widespread instability. In 68, his Praetorian Guard renounced their loyalty and declared Nero an enemy of the people. In one last dramatic flair, Nero committed suicide before he could be executed.
Caligula, 37-41 CE
There aren’t many reliable surviving accounts of Caligula’s reign. Even if the myriad stories surrounding him are fabrications, he’d have to be pretty unpopular to generate that kind of libel in the first place.
To be fair, Caligula had a bit of a rough start in life. He was the sole survivor after his entire family perished either in imprisonment or directly at the hands of Emperor Tiberius. He was then taken in by the emperor and indulged in all of his worst whims, until Tiberius passed and Caligula took to the throne at 25 years old.
In the first six months of his rule, things actually went pretty well. He cut unfair taxes, recalled those sentenced to exile, and granted military bonuses to soldiers. However, after a strange illness overtook him, his recovery was shrouded in a madness that gave way to sadistic and perverse tendencies. He became known for uttering the phrase, “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.”
Any perceived mockery from his subjects was met with the punishment of death. In fact, in his infinite paranoia, Caligula began sending those closest to him off to exile or death—including his adopted son. His cruelty led to him gaining a sense of satisfaction out of making parents watch as their children were killed.
His arrogance rose to new heights as he declared that he was an actual living god. Caligula even had the heads of statues of gods and goddesses replaced with his own.
Further accounts of his insanity include throwing an entire section of a gladiatorial audience into the arena to be eaten by beasts for his own amusement, planning to appoint his horse as a consul, and turning the palace into a veritable brothel.
Caligula was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard after only four years as emperor. The man was so hated by the Senate that they even rallied to have him erased from the record of Roman history. Thanks to this campaign, it remains unclear to this day what is fact and what is fiction in the Caligulan reign.
Commodus, 180-192 CE
Commodus was appointed as a co-ruler by his father, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, in 177 CE. Marcus Aurelius died in 180 CE, leaving his narcissistic and self-indulgent son as the sole Emperor of Rome.
Because Caligula couldn’t be the only one to have all the fun, Commodus also thought himself to be a god, referring to himself as Hercules reborn and forcing others to follow suit. He swanned around the city in lion skins and participated in gladiatorial events—an act in which was considered scandalous for a ruler to partake.
What’s worse: He often chose to compete against weak soldiers who were sickly or maimed from the war, sometimes tying two of them together to club them to death with a single strike. To add insult to the already grave injury, he also exorbitantly charged Rome for his arena appearances.
Commodus’s self-love knew no bounds. He changed the calendar months to reflect his own self-bestowed epithets. He shamelessly exiled and executed his wife and proudly kept a harem of hundreds. He forced his advisors to take the fall for political blunders and had entire families slaughtered on suspicion of conspiracy.
Soldiers and their spouses now have two big ways to advance their professional goals, thanks to two new Army initiatives. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston recently spoke with We Are the Mighty to explain the Army’s new Credentialing Assistance Program and the changes to the Army’s Spouse Licensure Reimbursement Program, both designed to give soldiers and their spouses better career options.
Grinston said that under the Army Credentialing Assistance Program, active, Guard and Reserve soldiers would be able to receive up to $4,000 annually to use toward obtaining professional credentials, in much the same way that tuition assistance is currently available. In fact, a soldier can use both tuition assistance and credentialing assistance, but the combined total cannot exceed $4,000.
“The world has evolved and some of these credentials are equally important to a college degree,” Grinston said. “We want to give all opportunities to our soldiers, and not just limit them to a 4-year degree. We have the best soldiers in the world and they do incredible things in the Army, and they should be able to keep doing those things when they get out. It’s good for them and it’s good for the military – we’re making better soldiers, as well as better welders and better medics.”
Soldiers are now able to use credentialing assistance for any of the 1,600 professional credentials currently available in the Army Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL) portal, and the credentials they pursue do not have to align with the soldier’s military occupational specialty (MOS). Right now, the most popular credential soldiers choose to pursue is private airplane pilot, he said.
“We allow you to get a credential in your interest because your interests may change over time. I don’t think we should limit our soldiers to their MOS. It’s all about making a better soldier, and at some point, everyone leaves the military, so I don’t think we should limit them to their MOS.”
Grinston said the Credentialing Assistance Program reflects the priority Chief of Staff of the Army James McConville set to put people first, and he said that commitment extends beyond the soldier to the soldier’s spouse and family, too. That’s why the Army is doubling the maximum amount available under the Spouse Licensure Reimbursement Program from 0 to id=”listicle-2645503326″,000 and expanding the program so that spouses who move overseas will also be eligible to be reimbursed for licensing fees.
“We ask a lot of our spouses, we ask them to do a lot of things. We want them to be able to get relicensed, but we’ve been making them pay for that out of pocket,” Grinston said. “If we’re going to put people first, we need to put resources behind that.”
The motivation for changing the spouse licensing reimbursement program came from experiences Grinston has seen with his wife, a teacher, as she tries to re-enter the workforce.
He also said it arose out of the small group meetings he regularly holds with Army spouses around the country. During a session at Ft. Knox, a military spouse told him that she was a behavioral health specialist and that when they moved, the state of Kentucky required her to take more credits in order to be licensed.
“We still have a long way to go, but I’m working with state reciprocity so we can do more for spouses as we move them from one location to the next,” Grinston said, noting that that particular spouse’s story really struck him. “We need behavioral health specialists to work. We need them right now.”
He said that the Army is working with every state to align licensure requirements so that a spouse who is licensed and working in one state will be able to continue working when their family moves with the Army. Internally, the Army is also looking at ways to streamline the screening process for jobs at Army Child Development Centers (CDCs) so that a spouse who has already passed the background screening and is working at one CDC will not have to resubmit to the screening process when the family moves.
“If you’ve already gone through the background screening for, say, the CDC at Bragg and now you’re moving to Hood, you shouldn’t have to go through the screening again,” Grinston said. “We need CDC caregivers, now. If we hire more, we can add a classroom, and that’s 10 more kids off the waitlist. Less of our kids on the waitlist, that’s another way we can put people first. People first is something we’ve always tried to do, and now we’re trying to do it even better.”
Area 51 is highly classified, mysterious Air Force base in Nevada. It’s been at the center of numerous conspiracy theories pertaining to aliens and UFOs.
Over 1 million people have responded to a Facebook event to “storm” the site. The event is supposed to take place on Sep. 20, 2019, with the end goal of getting the group to “see them aliens.”
The event is likely a joke, but it’s also led to memes. From spy planes to tourist attractions, here’s how the military base became associated with the theories.
Area 51 is an active Air Force base in Nevada.
Very little is known about the highly classified, remote base, making it the perfect object of fascination and conspiracy.
The extraterrestrial highway cuts through the desert near Area 51 but not into it. It is a tourist attraction.
It’s unclear why the base is even called Area 51.
According to the CIA, Area 51 is its map designation. But it begs the question — are there other “areas?”
As National Geographic notes, there are many other names for the base. One of those names, is Groom Lake, a reference to the dry lake near the base, while another is the sarcastic moniker Paradise Ranch. Its official site name is Watertown, but it’s sometimes referred to as Dreamland, after the Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name.
The base is not open to the public, but there are plenty of nearby tourist attractions that capitalize on its history.
The active base has high security 24 hours a day. This means if a person — or, say, 1 million — wanted to storm the base in an attempt to see aliens, it would be incredibly dangerous.
But, as Travel Nevada notes, there are several attractions around the state that have glommed on to the alien-theme, playing up the secrecy of the base, including the Extraterrestrial Highway. Stops along the highway include Hiko, Nevada, where you can visit the Alien Research Center and purchase ET Fresh Jerky, and Rachel, Nevada, which is considered the “UFO Capital of the World.”
Area 51, from up above.
Until 2018, you couldn’t view satellite images of Area 51. Now you can.
The base is located relatively far off from any public roads. According to a 2017 Business Insider video, some Area 51 employees have to fly to work on personal planes out of the Las Vegas airport.
A 1966 Central Intelligence Agency diagram of Area 51, found in an untitled, declassified paper.
The government won’t say what exactly goes on at the site.
It’s unclear what the base is used for these days. The secrecy has led to a great deal of public speculation and, in turn, conspiracy theories — especially those relating to aliens and space.
The U-2 can fly higher than 60,000 feet.
We do know that it was used for military training during World War II.
The remote location was later used by the US government to test high-flying U-2 planes during the 1950s.
The base was used to build prototypes and run test flights for the vessels, which could reach higher altitudes than standard crafts of the time, as declassified documents would later reveal.
After the U-2 was implemented, the Air Force continued to use the base to test other aircraft, like the OXCART and F-117 Nighthawk.
But, at the time, the American public had no idea.
The US government didn’t confirm that Area 51 was an Air Force base until 2013.
After the National Security Archive at George Washington University filed a Freedom of Information Act in 2005 about the U-2 spy plane program, the CIA was forced to declassify documents related to Area 51 in 2013.
The area is also linked to conspiracy theories — mostly pertaining to aliens, space, and UFOs.
Although the supernatural theories have been debunked, the base is still associated with aliens and UFOs. Some of the excitement around the area have to do with the aircraft flying in, out, and around the base.
As a 2017 Business Insider video notes, there was an increase of supposed UFO sightings in the area in the 1950s — around the same time the U-2 planes were being tested. The secrecy of the program prohibited Air Force officials from publicly refuting the UFO claims at the time.
Jeffrey T. Richelson, the man who filed the FOIA that confirmed the existence of the base, explained this theory.
“There certainly was — as you would expect — no discussion of little green men here,” Richelson told The New York Times in 2013. “This is a history of the U-2. The only overlap is the discussion of the U-2 flights and UFO sightings, the fact that you had these high-flying aircraft in the air being the cause of some of the sightings.”
And then there are the rumors started in the 1980s by a man named Robert Lazar, who claimed to have worked near the base.
In an interview with reporter George Knapp from the time, he described working on propulsion systems for “nine flying saucers of extraterrestrial origin,” according to archival footage reviewed by Vice.
Lazar is also the subject of a documentary called “Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers,” which was released in December 2018. In the documentary, he goes into further details about his claims about what he alleges happened while he worked at Area 51 and what life has been like for him since.
Lazar’s claims may have cemented the base’s association with aliens and inspired others to come forward with stories and theories of their own.
In the music video for the “Old Town Road” remix, Young Thug, Billy Rae Cyrus, Lil Nas X, and Mason Ramsey storm Area 51.
It’s likely a joke. The event comes from a Facebook group called “Shitposting cause im in shambles.” It’s even spawned its own meme cycle, complete with an “Old Town Road” music video, because why not?
But not everyone is so amused.
Namely, the Air Force.
“[Area 51] is an open training range for the US Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews told the Washington Post. “The US Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
We greet superior officers, pay homage to the American flag, and show respect to fallen comrades by rendering the powerful, non-verbal gesture known as the hand salute.
Though there’s no real written record of how or where the worldwide tradition started, saluting dates back in history to a time when troops would raise their right hand (their weapon hand) as a signal of friendship.
Today, recruits learn how to properly hand salute in boot camp and demonstrate the act countless times before heading out to active service. After a while, muscle memory kicks in and the gesture becomes second nature. But many civilians use the salute as a form of celebration — and they get it so, so wrong.
Military history is chock-full of concepts that, at one point, needed to be made, seemed good on paper, were eventually implemented, but, somehow, never really became a thing. In retrospect, it’s easy to point fingers at the short-lived Balloon Corps fielded by the Union Army during the American Civil War and say it was silly.
At the time, however, it served a valuable niche. There was a definite need for air superiority, and using hot air balloons to get a height advantage gave Northern scouts an edge. The Balloon Corps actually played a valuable role in yielding Union success at Antietam, Yorktown, and the various battles along the Potomac River.
The balloons themselves weren’t bizarre. The Chief Aeronaut and Commander of the Union Army Balloon Corps, Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, on the other hand… was basically a cartoon mad scientist who somehow wound up in the service of the Union Army.
He didn’t invent balloon travel. He just gave it a lot of style.
A few things to note about Professor Lowe first: He wasn’t ever actually an officer in the U.S. Army. He held the position and received the pay of a Colonel (payment that he received in the form of ‘s worth of gold per day — about half of what a colonel made then), but he was one of the very few civilians to lead troops.
Lowe, technically, wasn’t an actual professor, either. In fact, he never even got past the fourth grade. He used the title during his charlatan days. He simply liked how it sounded on a traveling magician he knew growing up, so he adopted it, too.
What he lacked in the actual pedigree, however, he made up for with knowledge. He was, by all accounts, a self-taught man. He picked up medicine to please his grandmother’s wishes, laid the groundwork in most meteorological studies we still use today, and held 40 various patents. His was notable work was in pioneering balloon travel.
I mean, I’m no aeronaut but I’m pretty sure you’d learn you’re flying into the south when you start hearing the banjos down below.
Lowe first tinkered with hot air balloons in hopes of eventually making a transatlantic voyage. The Smithsonian Institute became aware of his plans and even vouched for his research (referring to him as “Professor Lowe,” giving a degree of authenticity to his self-appointed title).
His first test flight from Pennsylvania to New Jersey aboard the Great Western ended when high winds ripped apart the aircraft. His second test in the smaller Enterprise went more successfully, but still went horribly wrong. The original plan was to fly from Cincinnati to Washington D.C., but high winds again flung him down south. His balloon landed in Unionville, South Carolina.
This second test happened just days after the Battle of Fort Sumter; the Civil War was now in full swing. Lowe was detained and arrested by Confederate troops who believed he was a spy for the North. They saw his balloon as a reconnaissance tool and saw him as a strategic threat. He reasoned with the Southerners, explaining that he was only a man of science in a failed experiment. Though true at the time, this sparked an idea in Lowe to actually use his balloons just as the Confederates had feared.
They were even known to have been given fire bombs to lob down below if they drifted too far from their allies. Because why not?
Professor Lowe equipped his balloons with telegraph sets and wire that ran down to the ground. He tested it above the White House for President Lincoln and sent the first ever aerial message to him. This impressed the President enough to give Lowe his first shot at military ballooning at the First Battle of Bull Run. It went, in a word, terribly.
His balloon landed behind enemy lines and he was quickly captured. As if this story weren’t yet goofy enough, his wife and mother of his ten children, Leontine Lowe, got word of his capture. So, she did what any loving wife would do, she dressed up as an old hag and hid him and his gear in a pile of sheets, like a cartoon prison break.
Professor Lowe managed to gather some valuable information before his capture and gave it back to Washington. For his work, he was given command over the Balloon Corps. Despite his early failures, his and his men’s work provided the Union with valuable information from their eyes-in-the-sky. From high above the mountains, they could telegraph down troop movements and exact locations near instantaneously.
The moral of the story? Stay weird, my friends. Stay weird.
(Library of Congress)
Lowe’s military career was ended abruptly when he contracted malaria near the end of the war. His replacement, Captain Comstock, just didn’t understand the true insanity that was required to fly a giant hot air balloon into battle and, without a fearless leader, the Balloon Corps came to a close.
It took years for Lowe to recover, but he eventually moved out to California. There, he messed around with using hydrogen gas to cool things inside of an enclosed space. This was, essentially, the prototype of the more efficient refrigerator and compact ice machines we use today. He’d outfit several steamboats with these devices and transport fresh beef into cities without using preservative salts.
He was also the first to summit what is now known as Mt. Lowe, a relatively easy to hike mountain overlooking Pasadena, California, and earned naming rights to the mountain because, apparently, no one had ever bothered to try before.