In 1994, a judge ruled the first woman ever admitted to The Citadel, a Charleston, S.C.-based military academy, should not be exempt from getting the same “induction cut” given to all male recruits. For decades, U.S. military recruits have had their locks shorn in the first weeks of training, given what is otherwise known as “The Army’s Finest.”
While the Citadel’s first female cadet would not end up buzzed like her male classmates, male recruits and cadets have been going through the rite of passage since George Washington established the Continental Army. Even then, he required men serving in the American ranks wear short hair or braided up. He could also wear his hair powdered, which he would do with flour and animal fat. If he did, it would be tied in a pigtail.
There are actually worse cuts out there, you know.
The shearing of young men began in earnest during the heavy recruitment of troops in World War II. The Army’s official reason was “field sanitation” – meaning it wanted to control the spread of hair and body lice. it had the double effect of standardizing new U.S. troops, creating a singular look to remind the men that they were in the Army now – and that the Army had standards. Like most everything else in a military training environment, the haircut was a boon to individual and unit discipline.
Ever since, the services have tried at various times to recognize the evolution of popular hairstyles for American troops while trying to maintain discipline and grooming standards among them. Women, while not forced to partake in the introductory military hairstyle, have maintained clean, often short hairstyles. Their hairstyles are always expected to be just as well-kept and disciplined as their male counterparts. They still get a visit to the basic training Supercuts – the result is just not as drastic.
It doesn’t matter if they’re coming into the military as an officer or as enlisted, if they’re Guard or Reserve, if they’re going to a service academy or ROTC, all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines get a solid shearing to christen their new way of life.
The call followed Netanyahu’s approval of Israeli settlements outside the country’s borders, something which Trump reportedly thought would needlessly anger Palestinians.
“The President has an extremely close and candid relationship with the Prime Minister of Israel and appreciates his strong efforts to enhance the cause of peace in the face of numerous challenges,” the White House told Axios.
“The President has great relationships with a number of foreign leaders but that doesn’t mean he can’t be aggressive when it comes to negotiating what’s best for America,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added.
Trump has often discussed a “deal” to be had in the Israeli-Palestine conflict that has raged for decades, but made little tangible progress towards securing peace.
Almost everyone in the world has a favorite soda that they enjoy whenever they get the opportunity. But, is your favorite tasty drink worth giving up a military arsenal big enough to stock a whole country? Well, at one point in history, the Russians thought so.
In 1959, then-President Dwight Eisenhower wanted to bring our America culture to citizens of the Soviet Union and show them the benefits of capitalism.
To showcase their ideologies, the American government arranged the “American National Exhibition” in Moscow and sent then-Vice President Richard Nixon to attend the opening — but things were about to take a turn for the worse.
Nixon and Soviet leader Khrushchev got into an argument over the topic of capitalism versus communism. Their conversation got so heated that the vice president of Pepsi intervened and offered the Soviet leader a cup of his delicious, sugary beverage — and he drank it.
Years later, the people of the Soviet Union wanted to strike a deal that would bring Pepsi products to their country permanently. However, there was an issue of how they would pay for their newest beverage, as their money wasn’t accepted throughout the world.
So, the clever country decided to buy Pepsi using a universal currency: vodka!
In the late-1980s, Russia’s initial agreement to serve Pepsi in their country was about to expire, but this time, their vodka wasn’t going to be enough to cover the cost.
So, the Russians did what any country would do in desperate times: They traded Pepsi a fleet of subs and boats for a whole lot of soda. The new agreement included 17 submarines, a cruiser, a frigate, and a destroyer.
The combined fleet was traded for three billion dollars worth of Pepsi. Yes, you read that right. Russia loves their Pepsi.
The historical exchange caused Pepsi to become the 6th most powerful military in the world, for a moment, before they sold the fleet to a Swedish company for scrap recycling.
During World War II, American troops dreaded hitting the beach in the Pacific Theater. They knew full-well that they would be in for a fierce fight when going up against Japanese troops, who fought fanatically, either with furious banzai charges or from well-built fortifications. But in one invasion, troops caught a break — the enemy wasn’t there.
On Guadalcanal, Marines manged to hold down a heavily supply line — a task that famously marked by vicious battles. When American troops went on to reclaim the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska, they expected a similar fight.
Almost immediately after Japan seized Attu and Kiska, American air strikes rained death and destruction.
The islands had been taken by Japanese troops in June, 1942, as part of an effort to divert American attention from Midway. While Japan did assume control over the islands, the distraction didn’t work, largely due to a brilliant piece of work by Jasper Holmes.
The occupation was not pleasant for Japanese garrisons. From almost the very moment those islands were seized, American air and naval forces constantly pounded the islands with air strikes and bombardments. In March, 1943, an outnumbered and outgunned U.S. Navy task force drove away a heavily-escorted Japanese convoy in the Battle of the Komandorski Islands.
USS Pennsylvania (BB 38) opens fire on Japanese positions on Kiska.
Two months later, American forces stormed the beaches of Attu. After 18 days of fighting, which culminated in a banzai charge on May 29, 1943, the Japanese garrison was wiped out. 580 American troops and well over 2,000 Japanese troops were killed in action.
Three more months of air raids and naval bombardment followed for Kiska. But when the invasion force arrived, the island was empty. Japanese forces had managed to evacuate this garrison. Still, between accidents, disease, friendly fire, and frostbite, American and Canadian forces suffered over 300 casualties, which shows that even a lucky break can be costly.
As military spouses, when our husbands or wives announce they finally put in for orders, our minds drift in one direction after we’ve learned possible locations…
Prepping for our PCS
As we have moved from duty station to duty station, our family has collected PCS purges from other families, thrift store finds we needed while waiting for our own household goods to arrive, souvenirs and other mementos, and of course, boxes from three duty stations ago that we’re too afraid to even open and sort through.
Every PCS ends up the same way – we’re stressed out, frustrated about going through our stuff and hoping we’re still under the maximum weight allowance, and then we’re passing our stress, anxieties, and frustration onto our children because we’re now trying to do a million things before the movers arrive.
But what if I told you that it could be different? What if we didn’t have a million things to sort through? What if our homes were already pretty much prepped for the next PCS, no matter what time of the year it is? When I stumbled across Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, I was skeptical. I hadn’t heard of her before and I hadn’t read her books, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, though I had learned about how people within the Japanese culture often purge any objects within their homes that do not bring them joy on a regular basis.
(Flickr photo by TheMuuj)
Like many other military families, we start sifting through our stuff months in advance of a PCS to get rid of what we don’t want or need anymore, and I wasn’t quite sure that anyone could make it easier than going systematically from room to room, starting with our storage.
And yet, as I watched, I was quickly sucked in because you could actually see the joy she experienced teaching people how to become more tidy, and she even has a system, which she calls the KonMari Method, which is to organize by category rather than by location, and also to tidy the five categories in the home in a specific order:
Komono (Kitchen, Bathroom, Garage, and anything miscellaneous)
According to the KonMari Method, you should hold each item individually and ask if it brings you joy. If it does not spark joy, it should be given to a friend or donated (check out your local installation thrift store information and how to donate!) However, if it is an item that is well used but does not spark joy (I’m sure my garage tools would fall under this), you can keep the item and try to change the way you feel about those items.
If you’ve been holding onto clothes that don’t fit, Marie says you should ask: do those clothes inspire you to work out so that you fit back into them or do they make you dread exercise because you don’t fit into them anymore? Marie also believes that folding your clothes is another way to show love and appreciation to your clothes, and to maximize storage space, she has a method of folding your shirts and pants into thirds so they can stand upright, which is similar to how servicemembers learn how to fold in bootcamp.
So what does it feel like for an item to bring you joy?
Marie says that the item should spark the same feeling as holding a puppy or wearing your favorite outfit, giving you a warm, positive feeling. If you do not get that feeling and it is not something that you use regularly, you should let the item go and thank each item before you donate or give it away.
After you sort through the first three categories by taking everything out and touching each item, the next step is sorting through the Komono category, which includes all of your miscellaneous items (everything in your home that is not clothes, books, and papers (such as legal documents, orders, and military records) as well as the garage and kitchen.
Marie is a huge fan of using boxes to store items that are of like-size as well as sorting items into categories. She recommends standing items up when possible, designating spots for everything, and using tiny boxes in the kitchen to give everything a “home.”
For the final category, Sentimental items, there are many categories – memorabilia, old letters, photos, and even old medals, challenge coins, and uniform items could be considered to have sentimental value. Marie challenges you to store your sentimental items where you can view them, such as putting photos into frames and coffee table albums so that they can be more easily viewed. Military families could utilize shadow boxes for our uniform items and/or medals to display them, and there are also great challenge coin holders available on websites like Etsy.
Can our next PCS move be different?
The best thing about the KonMari Method is that she doesn’t expect you to complete this in a day – you are literally touching every item in your home and purging the items that do not bring you joy. Our family’s goal will be to use the KonMari Method in the spring and late fall so that the next time we need to move, it won’t be such an overwhelming process to purge all of the things we hadn’t been using in the past 2-3 years.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
We’ve all see the Avengers movie featuring SHIELD’s massive flying aircraft carrier — you know, the one with the gigantic fans and stealth cloaking?
But what you may not know is that the concept of an actual flying carrier isn’t really anything new, and the US military has investigated it time and time again throughout its history. The most recent proposal for such a vehicle came in the form of a highly modified Boeing 747 called the Airborne Aircraft Carrier.
The concept of a flying aircraft carrier isn’t as far fetched as it seems. (Photo via AgentsofShield WIKIA)
While oceangoing aircraft carriers can bring their complements of fighter and attack aircraft quite literally anywhere around the seven seas, areas deeper inland are far less accessible and sometimes require the use of larger numbers of support assets like refueling tankers, which aren’t always available for a variety of reasons.
The AAC concept tried to solve that problem by using a larger aircraft to fly smaller aircraft above or near deployment zones, where it would release its fighters to carry out their missions.
In the 1930s, the US Navy first began exploring the idea of an airborne carrier by outfitting two dirigible airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon, with a trapeze mechanism for recovering and launching small propeller fighter planes, along with an internal hangar for storage.
Both the Akron and Macon were lost in storms that decade, but not before they were able to successfully demonstrate that with enough practice and patience, aircraft could be deployed from airbases in the sky.
The onset of World War II made the Navy forget about this idea. But during the Cold War, the notion of having an airborne carrier was resurrected — this time by the Air Force.
At first, the Fighter Conveyor project attempted to put a Republic F-84 “parasite” fighter in the belly of a B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bomber, launched in-flight for reconnaissance operations. The creation of the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane made the FICON project a moot point, sending it to the graveyard after four years of testing.
Later on, famed defense contractor Lockheed proposed a gigantic nuclear-powered flying mothership with a crew of over 850 and an aerial endurance of 40+ days. The Air Force, by 1973, decided to go a slightly more conventional route instead.
At the time, the Boeing 747 was easily the largest civilian aircraft in the world, serving as a long-range passenger airliner and a cargo transport for a number of freight companies. It wasn’t wholly unreasonable to suggest that such an aircraft could be converted for use as an airborne carrier, fielding a small group of aircraft inside its cavernous interior.
The Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory, based out of Wright-Patterson AFB, was put on the case to determine the feasibility of such an experiment.
The AAC project called for a Boeing 747-200 to be hollowed out and refitted with a two-level internal hangar that would hold “micro fighters”, small short-range fighter aircraft that could fight air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties after being dropped out of the underside of the jumbo jet. Should the fighters need an extension on their range, the AAC mothership could refuel them as needed from a rotating boom on its rear. Upon concluding their sorties, the micro fighters would simply fly underneath the AAC and be picked up by a mechanism, bringing them back into the hangar.
The AAC would also contain storage for extra fuel, spares and parts, as well as a magazine for missiles and bombs for the microfighters. In addition, sleeping quarters for the crew and pilots, and a small crew lounge for breaks in-between missions was also to be part of the hypothetical flying carrier.
All in all, the concept seemed to be absolutely doable and certainly something the Air Force seemed interested in pursuing, given that the report also projected that conventional Navy aircraft carriers would apparently be obsolete by the year 2000.
However, the project was stalled when research into the design and development of the AAC’s necessary microfighters went nowhere. An airborne warning and control version of the AAC was also proposed, replete with a pair of reconnaissance micro aircraft for surveillance missions; this was also shot down.
Eventually, the Air Force shelved the concept altogether not long after the Flight Dynamics Laboratory claimed it was possible.
While the US military hasn’t done much, if anything at all, to investigate flying aircraft carriers in the four and a half decades since, this seems to be an idea that just won’t go away. Maybe, just maybe, we might see these bizarre vehicles in the not-so-distant future, as technology advances and mission types evolve!
Hollywood loves to make sequels even from semi-successful films. Maybe that’s the reason why “Jarhead 2” was made or just because the world needs more movies about Jarheads — but who knows.
Released in 2014, the film follows a squad of supply Marines who get attacked by enemy forces and must fight their way to safety. Some other stuff happens along the way and spoiler alert — most of them eventually make it back safely.
There, we just saved you two hours.
This film is one of many that makes Marines grit their teeth and have to look away — that’s difficult to pull off.
So check out our list of moments that made us grit our teeth.
1. Priority during a firefight
In the opening scene of the film, the Marines at Patrol Base Cobra are under heavy attack from enemy forces. But this Marine is ordered to finish unloading supplies from a truck rather than firing his weapon to defend the area.
We guess hydrating is more important than laying down a base of fire. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
2. Jarhead shows biggest bullseye ever
Corpsmen and medics haven’t carried medical bags with the Red Cross stamped on it in decades — just saying. That’s a huge a** red cross to add insult to injury.
3. Camp Leatherwhat?
They could have done a better job rendering what Camp Leatherneck looked like a few years ago. That’s why we have Google images.
Not even close. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
The tent city of the real Camp Leatherneck. Much different, right?
4. Sleeves up and wearing the wrong undershirt
A senior officer would know better than to put on the wrong color undershirt, wear gunny sleeves and sport a cover that looks like a blooming onion. Plus he’s wearing a guard duty belt for some reason.
You could afford a talented actor like Stephen Lang, but researching Marine Corps uniforms wasn’t in the budget? (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
5. At the rifle range without any protective gear
The Range Safety Officer would lose his qualification in a heartbeat if a superior saw this crap.
Safety isn’t a real issue. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
6. Jarhead 2 could have at least got collar device placement right
Oh, come on! Really?
Countless numbers of teeth have just broken after spotting this captain’s rank insignia placement. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
7. Worst secured perimeter ever
If you wanted to attack these fictional Marines, you could just walk right up from behind and they would never f*cking notice.
WTF? (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
8. Jarhead 2 features a scope mounted on the carrying handle
Nope. This film takes place in 2013, meaning RCOs were used and mounted in lieu of a carrying handle. No offense, but supply Marines do not rate those types of scopes.
For the love of God, do some research people. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
The Korean Demilitarized Zone is probably the most watched, most ironically named 250 kilometers found anywhere in the world. Despite the unprecedented brutality of the Korean War and the sporadic violence between the two, people still routinely try to get through the DMZ, often even going the hard way – going right through the most heavily defended strip of land in the world.
Commando raids, spies, and even axe murderers have all tried to cross the DMZ in some way. In just 25 years after the Korean Armistice was signed, more than 200 incursion attempts were made across the area. There had to be a better way.
This is how they did it in 1969. Surely by 2019, we could do better.
Enter Samsung, the South Korean multinational conglomerate best known for making exploding mobile phones, which makes so many other products. They have an aerospace division, as well as divisions to make textiles, chemicals, and even automated sentry guns that kill the hell out of anyone who doesn’t know the password – the Samsung SGR-A1.
The defense system is a highly-classified, first-of-its-kind unit that incorporates surveillance, tracking, firing, and voice recognition technology to keep the humans in South Korea’s military free to operate elsewhere while still being massively outnumbered.
Gun-toting death robots is the perfect solution.
While other sentry guns have been developed and deployed elsewhere, this is the grand stage. The Korean Peninsula is the Carnegie Hall of weapons testing, where chances are good the weapon will likely get used in an operational capacity sooner rather than later. Failure is not an option. That’s why each 0,000 sentry gun comes equipped with a laser rangefinder, thermographic camera, IR illuminator, a K3 LMG machine gun with 1,000 rounds of ammo, and a Mikor MGL 40mm multiple grenade launcher that doesn’t give a damn about the ethical issues surrounding autonomous killing machines.
If this thing had legs, it would be a Terminator-Predator hybrid.
The only controversy surrounding these weapons, now deployed in the DMZ, is whether or not they truly need a human in the loop to do their job. The system could conceivably be automated to kill or capture anyone who happened upon them in the area, regardless of their affiliation. To the robot, if you’re in the DMZ for any reason, you are the enemy. And you must be stopped.
“Human soldiers can easily fall asleep or allow for the depreciation of their concentration over time,” Huh Kwang-hak, a spokesman for Samsung Techwin, told Stars and Stripes. “But these robots have automatic surveillance, which doesn’t leave room for anything resembling human laziness. They also won’t have any fear (of) enemy attackers on the front lines.”
Five Iranian gunboats failed in an attempt to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf on July 10, 2019, according to US officials cited in a CNN report.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces ordered a British oil tanker to alter its route in the Strait of Hormuz and tried to force it near Iranian-controlled waters, according to CNN. But the HMS Montrose, a UK Royal Navy frigate, was escorting the oil tanker and pointed its weapons on the IRGC vessels.
The HMS Montrose verbally warned the Iranian forces, who then backed off, CNN reported. US aircraft observed and recorded the incident, CNN said.
The incident follows increased tensions between Iran and the UK. On July 10, 2019, Iran threatened to seize UK tankers, which have recently been escorted by the HMS Montrose and a minehunter traveling through the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran’s threats came after British Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker suspected of violating the European Union’s sanctions by shipping about 2 million barrels of crude oil to Syria.
“You [Britain] are the initiator of insecurity and you will realise the consequences later,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said to a state-sponsored news agency on July 10, 2019.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“Now you are so hopeless that, when one of your tankers wants to move in the region, you have to bring your frigates because you are scared,” Rouhani added. “Then why do you commit such acts? You should instead allow navigation to be safe.”
The US Defense Department said it “was aware” of the reports and referred the matter to the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We are aware of the reports of [the IRGC’s] harassment and attempts to interfere with the passage of the UK-flagged merchant vessel British Heritage today near the Strait of Hormuz,” Navy Capt. Bill Urban said to INSIDER.
“Threats to international freedom of navigation require an international solution,” Urban added. “The world economy depends on the free flow of commerce, and it is incumbent on all nations to protect and preserve this lynchpin of global prosperity.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Deep in the swampland along the Alabama-Georgia border is U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning. It’s home to many beautiful locales, such as Sand Hill, where you’ll hear drill sergeants snapping the civilian out of young infantrymen, and the Red Diamond Land Navigation course, where you’ll blink and run into a banana spider web. Most importantly, however, is the Inouye Parade Field at the National Infantry Museum.
Built and commemorated in 2009, the National Infantry Museum houses the rich history of America’s infantry dating back to the Revolutionary War. The parade field just outside is no different. Sprinkled across the field is ‘Sacred Soil‘ from the battlegrounds of Yorktown, Antietam, Soissons, Normandy, Corregidor, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Descendants of Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and commander of the infantrymen who forced the British surrender at Yorktown, laid their soil first. Henry Benning Pease Jr., descendant of Brig. Gen. Benning and namesake for the installation, laid the soil from America’s bloodiest single-day battle, Antietam.
Samuel Parker Moss, grandson of the most decorated officer of WWI, Lt. Col. Samuel I. Parker, and George York, the son of Sgt. Alvin York, spread the soil of Soissons, France. Theodore Roosevelt IV, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who earned the Medal of Honor on D-Day, and great-grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt, spread the sand from the Normandy beach. Son of Charles Davis, Kirk Davis, spread the dirt of Corregidor Island to represent the WWII Pacific Theater.
Col. Ola Lee Mize, who held Outpost Harry and earned the Medal of Honor, and Gen. Sun Yup Paik laid ground from Korea. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Hal Moore and Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Basil Plumley brought the soil from the Ia Drang Valley and other Vietnam battlefields. And finally, Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, the senior enlisted adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, spread soil from the battlefields of Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan to honor Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom respectively.
In 2014, the parade field was named after the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, who held his ground at San Terenzo, Italy against overwhelming forces and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Ever since that bright March morning in 2009, every single infantryman who graduates out of Fort Benning will have the honor of walking among the heroes of every major conflict in American history.
Christmas has been around for over two millennia. Two thousand years is plenty of time for funky traditions, tall tales and strange stories to pop up. Hallucinating reindeer? Carols in outer space? Illicit Christmas dinners? Which tales are true? Keep reading to separate Christmas facts from festive fiction. Some may surprise you.
Gaining a pound just from Christmas dinner is totally possible.
Technically, you can gain almost two over the course of the day without breaking a sweat. Just add up an indulgent breakfast with all-day appetizers, honey-baked ham, buttery mashed potatoes, rolls, and pie, and you’re already getting up there. Cocktails add even more, and eggnog? The average 8 oz cup has about 343 calories. And who has just one? According to Associated British Foods, the average person eats more than 7,000 calories on Christmas day.
Santa’s signature style was shaped by the Civil War and Coca-Cola.
Originally, Santa resembled a saint. Then, a political cartoonist named Thomas Nast drew him to drum up support for the Union. Santa suddenly became a lot more cheerful looking, and a lot more American. About three decades later, Coca-Cola decided to step up their holiday ad game. They hired an artist named Haddon Sundblom to design Santa-themed print ads, which painted the chubbiest, most wholesome version of Santa yet.
Beware…Christmastime is peak breakup season.
To be more specific, two weeks before Christmas is the most frequent period for couples to split. A couple of weeks post-Valentine’s day is another popular time, as is spring break. While the Facebook data didn’t define why, it’s safe to say that our relationship expectations often rise over the holidays, as do our odds of disappointment. Sigh. On the upside, Christmas Day was the least popular breakup day. If you make it that far, you’re probably in the clear!
“Xmas” doesn’t take the Christ out of Christmas.
Some Christians worry that the abbreviation “Xmas” removes the religious significance from the holiday, but a quick lesson in Greek should relieve any concerns. The letter X is the first letter of the Greek spelling of the word Christos, aka Christ. That said, not everyone who celebrates Christmas is Christian. The holiday represents warmth, generosity, and gratitude, and that’s a wonderful reason to celebrate the season too!
Jingle Bells was the first song played in outer space.
A few days before Christmas in 1965, astronauts Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford decided to pull a clever prank on Mission Control. They were aboard Gemini 6 when they called in with a concerning report; an “unidentified flying object” was traveling from north to south, potentially entering Earth’s atmosphere. The broadcast was interrupted by the sound of sleigh bells and the tune of “Jingle Bells” played on Wally’s harmonica. Mission Control wasn’t amused, but Santa probably was.
Mistletoe was originally a symbol of fertility.
The Druids believed the holiday weed was an aphrodisiac. While this one’s more myth than fact, if someone invites you to meet under the mistletoe, kiss with caution! Why people thought mistletoe was so *ahem* invigorating remains a mystery, especially considering the word’s roots; the Germanic version of the word means “poop on a twig”. Really adds to the ambiance, don’t you think?
“Jingle Bells” was written for Thanksgiving, not Christmas. Written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857, the song was originally written to be performed in the school’s Sunday school class around Thanksgiving. It was called “One Horse Open Sleigh”, and it wasn’t about Santa or Christmas at all. It was about the famous local sleigh races, and with talk of picking up girls and living while you’re young, the original was considered risque!
Decorating can be dangerous.
When you’re putting up last-minute lights, do yourself a favor and have someone hold the ladder. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that holiday decorating accidents account to over 14,000 trips to the ER each year, all in the span of two months.
For awhile, Christmas was illegal.
Puritans settled in Boston quite early on, and they weren’t huge fans of Christmas celebrations. From 1659-1681, it was actually forbidden by law, with fines doled out to rogue carolers. Even a century later, Christmas wasn’t all that popular. After the American Revolution in 1789, Congress even held its first session on Christmas. It remained nondescript for some time, not earning federal holiday status until June 28th, 1870.
Santa has an official Canadian postal code.
Where do letters to Santa go? Canadians have quite the reputation for being good-natured and kind, and they definitely live up to the hype at Christmastime. Canadian Post Office workers started replying to letters themselves, and eventually they gave Santa an official address: Santa Claus, North Pole, HOH OHO, Canada. While it’s been tough to keep up, the Santa Letter-Writing Program there does its best to respond to as many letters from kids as humanly (or elfishly?) possible.
Tinsel used to be pricy and poisonous.
Invented in Germany in 1610, tinsel was originally made of actual silver. It was considered an item of luxury, but it was also a bit dangerous. It often contained lead, leading to widespread bans on its production. Today, it’s much cheaper and made of harmless plastic. Just don’t let the cat eat it and you’re good.
Were flying reindeer actually on shrooms?
Probably not, but one scholar named R. Gordon Wasson thought they might have been. Reindeer in Siberia used to consume Amanita muscaria mushrooms, supposedly leading them to hallucinate and leap about. He believed this was the root of the flying reindeer myth. While other scholars agreed there may be a connection, there’s little proof. “Flying” reindeer became a popular pop culture origin story nevertheless.
Christmas gifts helped POWs escape during WWII.
This one sounds fake, but it’s not. The US Playing Card Company teamed up with Allied intelligence agencies for a noble cause: helping allied prisoners of war reach safety. They created decks of cards as “Christmas gifts”, but the cards came with a secret. Some of them could be peeled apart when wet, unveiling detailed escape routes. The map decks were a closely-kept secret for years after the war ended, but they likely helped more than one prisoner get home safely. What Christmas gift could be better than that?
Marine Corps drill instructor and Hollywood actor R. Lee Ermey was robbed of an Oscar for his legendary portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic “Full Metal Jacket” and snubbed by the Academy’s Oscar “memoriam” montage.
But while the Academy may not have thought his contribution worth recognition, we know the Gunny knew a thing or two we should all remember about military service.
Ermey had a long career. As well as his iconic role in “Full Metal Jacket,” where he improvised most of his dialog, and that long run on “Mail Call,” he played iconic roles as the police captain in “Se7en,” the voice of Sarge in the “Toy Story” movies, the mayor in “Mississippi Burning” and a chilling serial rapist in a 2010 episode of “Law & Order: SVU.”
Ermey also had a wicked sense of humor, one that allowed him to play the over-the-top movie director Titus Scroad in the cult TV series “Action” and the lead kidnapper in the “Run Ronnie Run,” the bizarre comedy from “Mr. Show With Bob and David” guys Bob Odenkirk and David Cross.
He left us on April 15, 2018, and he’s now at rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
So what did his TV and movie appearances teach us about service? Here are nine great examples.
1. Once a Marine, always a Marine.
In his “Full Metal Jacket” rants, Gunny Hartman tells his recruits that their Marine Corps training had permanently changed them. They’re no longer mere men: They’ve become Marines.
“Today, you people are no longer maggots. Today, you are Marines. You’re part of a brotherhood. From now on, until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. Most of you will go to Vietnam. Some of you will not come back. But always remember this: Marines die. That’s what we’re here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever and that means you live forever.”
2. You gotta break someone before you build them up.
Few civilians understand the bonds of trust required for a military unit to function and even fewer can grasp the process that goes into tearing down the idea of the individual so a person can be truly absorbed into the group. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman can help you with that.
“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that that day, you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human fucking beings! You are nothing but unorganized grab-ass-tic pieces of amphibian shit! Because I am hard, you will not like me! But the more you hate me, the more you will learn! I am hard, but I am fair! There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops, or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless. And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not packed the gear to serve in my beloved corps. Do you maggots understand that?”
Gunny Hartman may have been talking about Pablo Picasso’s 1939 portrait of Dora Maar.
3. Modern art is not good art.
Hidden in Gunny Hartman’s psychological tear down are some important observations about other parts of our world. He’s also an art critic.
“You’re so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece!”
Truthfully, Gunny Hartman’s material is closer to Don Rickles than Steve Martin but Steve’s the one who said, “Comedy is not pretty.”
4. Comedy is not pretty.
He’s a talented insult comic.
“Well I’ve got a joke for you, I’m going to tear you a new a–hole.”
Ask yourself: “Is my toilet clean enough that I could invite the mother of Our Savior to use my bathroom?”
5. A clean toilet is a holy toilet.
He’s concerned that our religious icons have a good bathroom experience.
“I want that head so sanitary and squared away that the Virgin Mary herself would be proud to go in there and take a dump.”
What’s YOUR major malfunction?
6. A great catchphrase works in any situation.
Ask anyone who grew-up in a household where dad always asked “What’s your major malfunction?” Every Single Time they did something he didn’t like.
7. The Heart is the Deadliest Weapon.
He even operates on multiple levels. He may SAY a Marine is the deadliest weapon but listen closely: The threat really comes from a Marine’s cold, cold heart.
“The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle. It is your killer instinct which must be harnessed if you expect to survive in combat. Your rifle is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills. If your killer instincts are not clean and strong, you will hesitate at the moment of truth. You will not kill. You will become dead Marines. And then you will be in a world of s***. Because Marines are not allowed to die without permission. Do you maggots understand?”
8. Everyone Needs Mail.
Ermey did his part on his long-running History Channel series to educate a generation of Americans who knew nothing about the military. He also reminded everyone that communication is critical for men and women who are serving their country. If you want to remember Ermey, write a letter, send an email or make a phone call in honor of his service.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
By December 1944, Allied armies had reached the western border of Germany itself. The US Army’s 99th Infantry Division, recently arrived in Europe and untested in combat, was assigned to the northern “shoulder” of the Allied front line in the Ardennes Forest.
The three regiments of the 99th ID—the 393rd, 394th, & 395th Infantry Regiments—were thinly spread across this frigid but quiet portion of the front. A few miles to the east lay the Siegfried Line, the enemy’s final defensive line guarding the German heartland.
99th Infantry Division soldiers putting up a winterized squad hut.
(Source: U.S. Army)
The 3rd Battalion of the 395th Infantry Regiment (3/395), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel McClernand Butler, occupied the town of Höfen on the German border. Höfen, along with the nearby town of Monschau, was strategically vital because it sat on elevated terrain overlooking an important road junction.
Although 3/395 had only 600 men to defend a large area, they had been told that the German army, or Wehrmacht, was no longer capable of major offensive operations and that their winter in the Ardennes would be a quiet one.
99th Infantry Division vehicles en route to the battle zone.
(Source: U.S Army)
Unknown to the Allies, the Germans were preparing a surprise counter-offensive through the Ardennes with the goal of splitting the Allied armies and recapturing the Belgian port city of Antwerp. The Germans planned to use massed infantry assaults to punch holes in the American lines, after which the feared German tanks, or panzers, would race through these gaps while the winter weather kept Allied planes grounded. Höfen-Monschau was vital to the operation’s success because the nearby road junctions would enable rapid movement of tanks.
This northern shoulder of the American line where the 99th ID was entrenched would be the hinge on which the German assault would pivot northwest toward Antwerp. The Germans were counting on something else, too—they knew that this sector was thinly manned by untested troops.
German Panzer tanks en route to the Ardennes.
(Source: US Army)
In the pre-dawn hours of December 16th, Hitler’s final major offensive began. The ferocious assault caught the Allies off-guard and the rapid German advance famously caused a “bulge” on Allied maps.
The Germans were operating under a tight timetable, however, and the assault’s center of gravity—the 6th Panzer Army—had only one day to breach the 99th ID’s line. Any delay would jeopardize the plan to cross the Meuse River and advance on Antwerp before the skies cleared and the Allies regained their balance.
German troops pass burning American equipment during the Ardennes offensive.
(Source: US Army)
The German pre-dawn artillery bombardment on December 16th destroyed 3/395’s communication wires at Höfen, but the stunned soldiers soon witnessed an even more ominous sight: enemy searchlights, reflecting off the dense clouds, illuminated the snowy open ground east of Höfen. Through this eerie artificial moonlight, the 326th Volksgrenadier Division advanced on 3/395’s position.
This, however, was the moment that Hitler’s master plan collided headfirst with American fortitude. 3/395 greeted the Volksgrenadiers with a punishing hail of bullets, mortars, and artillery. The Germans, moving across illuminated open ground without cover, fell by the hundreds against the murderous American fire. Some toppled directly into US foxholes as American troops engaged them at point-blank range. Those Germans who made it into the town itself were quickly mopped up. Höfen remained in American hands—for now.
American troops from the 290th Regiment near Amonines, Belgium.
(Source: US Army)
Despite mauling the Germans on their first attempt to take Höfen, 3/395’s situation was grim. The battalion was badly outnumbered and nearly surrounded.
To make circumstances worse, just beyond the bloodied-but-not-beaten Volksgrenadiers waited the tanks of the 6th Panzer Army. It was not just the lives of 3/395 at stake; a German breakthrough here would have enabled the Sixth Panzer Army to outflank the 2nd ID and 99th ID and achieve a direct route to the Meuse River.
Location of the 99th ID sector (red box) on a map of the “Bulge”.
(Source: US Army)
The Germans were not finished with Butler’s men, either. After failing to capture Monschau on the battle’s second day, the 326th Volksgrenadier Division turned its attention back to Höfen on December 18th. The Germans threw wave after wave of infantry, and a unit of panzers, at the town. The situation became so dire that Butler deliberately called in artillery on his unit’s own position to prevent them from being overrun—one of six times this would occur at Höfen.
When the Germans finally broke through 3/395’s lines and established a foothold in the town, the Americans recaptured the buildings by firing anti-tank guns through the walls. Later that night, another enemy assault was similarly unsuccessful. One Wehrmacht officer captured at Höfen asked his interrogators which unit had defended the town. When told it was 3/395, the prisoner replied, “It must be one of your best formations.”
Lieutenant Colonel McClernand Butler, commander of 3/395.
(Source: US Army)
The Germans would never take Höfen, nor most of their other ambitious objectives in the Ardennes, due in large part to the soldiers of 3/395 and the 99th ID as a whole. The failure to breach the 99th ID’s sector stalled the entire German advance and a decisive breakthrough was never achieved. 3/395, soon to be nicknamed “Butler’s Blue Battlin’ Bastards”, was one of the only US Army units that did not retreat in the opening days of the battle.
For their actions the battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation which read, in part: “outnumbered 5 to 1, [3/395] inflicted casualties in the ratio of 18 to 1. Despite fatigue, constant enemy shelling, and ever-increasing enemy pressure, [they] guarded a 6,000-yard front and destroyed 75 percent of three German infantry regiments.”
Captain Ned Nelson, veteran of 3/395 and the battle at Höfen.