As images of flames engulfing the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral began spreading on April 15, 2019, Maxime Durand initially thought it was a hoax.
“It really took me a full day to put words to the feelings that I had regarding this,” Durand told Business Insider in a phone interview on April 17, 2019.
Notre-Dame is personal to Durand. He’s the historian in charge of overseeing historical representations in the blockbuster “Assassin’s Creed” franchise, and he spent four years overseeing the creation of “Assassin’s Creed Unity” — a game set during the French Revolution that contains a stunningly accurate depiction of Notre-Dame Cathedral as its centerpiece.
The company also offered its expertise, which makes a lot of sense: Two Ubisoft staffers spent “over 5,000 hours” researching Notre-Dame Cathedral, inside and out.
“Because this is ‘Assassin’s Creed,’ players are able to climb over and go everywhere on the monument, so we have to make sure that the details would be well done,” Durand said. “Because [Notre-Dame Cathedral] was the most iconic monument that we had for ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity,’ obviously we really wanted to put in all the efforts to make sure that it was really, really beautiful but also representative of the monument.”
That said, because of the fact that “Assassin’s Creed Unity” was developed between 2010 and 2014, Ubisoft wasn’t yet using 3D mapping technology to recreate monuments. Fans hoping that Ubisoft has detailed blueprints of the cathedral may be disappointed to learn that this isn’t the case.
“I’ve seen some comments this week of people mentioning that we probably sent an army of drones to scan the whole monument back in these days,” Durand said. “Reality is that photogrammetry — the ability to scan monuments — was technology that we added later in the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ franchise, on ‘Assassin’s Creed Origins,’ actually.”
If Egypt needs help rebuilding an ancient pyramid, Ubisoft is ready — that isn’t the case for Notre-Dame Cathedral, unfortunately.
“Back then we really relied on pictures — photos, videos — of modern day Notre-Dame,” Durand said. Ubisoft does have “a huge database” of information on the cathedral, and that could no doubt help in the rebuilding effort, but Durand is skeptical that the French government will come asking.
“I’d be very surprised if the architects that will work on the spire will actually engage us in participating,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marine Corps is getting ready to launch a test to determine if lighter footwear will improve the performance of Marines at boot camp.
According to a release from Marine Corps Systems Command, the test, to be run during a future recruit training cycle, will involve two lightweight boots designed for warmer climates: the Danner Reckoning Hot Weather Boot, currently available to Marines for optional wear; and the Rocky Tropical boot, which has participated and performed well in recent wear tests assessing jungle footwear for Marines.
The Marine Corps plans to order 700 pairs of each to issue to an equal number of male and female recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. They will be compared to the standard Marine Corps combat boot during the test, according to the release.
During the three-month test, users will be monitored to determine if there is a decrease in lower extremity injuries for those wearing the lighter boots, according to the release.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brianna Gaudi)
“The feedback we’ve received from Marines on the Reckoning boots, is positive,” Todd Towles, project officer for the Clothing and Equipment Team at Marine Corps Systems Command, said in a statement. “The boots are lightweight, durable, and there’s virtually no break-in period.”
While officials did not say when the test is set to take place, they have already begun to procure the boots it requires.
On March 22, 2018, the Marine Corps published an intent to sole source 700 pairs of the Reckoning boot. It published a request for a quote on the Rocky boot.
This most recent effort follows a series of wear tests in 2016 and 2017 involving tropical boot prototypes. The tests, which took place in Hawaii and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, involved boots made by four different companies: Rocky Boots, Bates Footwear, Altama, and Danner.
While the Marine Corps has not publicized full results of those tests, they said the Rocky brand performed well during testing.
The US Air Force announced that the last squadrons of the legendary B-52 Stratofortress have concluded their operations against ISIS in the Middle East and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and have returned home to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
“Following two years of B-52 squadrons employing nearly 12,000 weapons on Islamic State and Taliban targets across U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, the venerable BUFF flew its last mission April 7  before turning over the bomber duty reins to the newly arrived B-1B Lancer,” an Air Force spokesman said in a statement.
The bomber, nicknamed the BUFF for “Big Ugly Fat Fellow,” has been in service with the Air Force for 63 years, the last two of which it served as US Central Command’s go-to bomber.
Almost 12,000 weapons were dropped over the course of 1,850 missions on ISIS and Taliban targets. On average, B-52 aircrews recorded 400-450 hours in a single six to seven-month deployment, which is nearly three times the traditional 300 hours usually flown by B-52 crews.
A number of new records were also made. The 23rd Bomb Squadron celebrated its 100th birthday in June 2017, with 400 consecutive missions without any maintenance delays, breaking the previous record that was set during the Vietnam War’s Operation Linebacker II in 1972.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)
In September of that same year, the B-52 surpassed the B-1 Lancer’s record of 761 consecutive missions without a maintenance cancellation by 73 missions, increasing the record to 834.
A B-52 dropped 24 precision guided munitions during a 96-hour air campaign against Taliban training and narcotics facilities in Feburary 2018, breaking the previous record (which was also set by a B-52) for the most smart bombs dropped on the Taliban.
American commanders have huge respect and admiration for the B-52 and its aircrews. “The BUFF did a fantastic job crushing ISIS on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria,” Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian, the commander of US Air Forces Central Command, said.
“Some would say it’s a cold war relic,” Lt. Col. Paul Goossen, the commander of the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, said. “But it’s such a versatile airframe that it keeps being reinvented and it keeps showing its usefulness and its relevance in every war that America finds itself in.”
US Central Command’s future bombing operations in its area of responsibility will be conducted by B-1 bombers.
“Don’t tell medical sh*t!” That’s the advice I got before I went to Marine Corps OCS in the summer of 2011.
“If you tell them you’re jacked up in any way they will DQ you before you even get started.” I wanted to become a Marine, I wanted to be at the school, but I did not want to be there any longer than I needed to be. Fessing up to any old injuries or conditions would be one way to end up in Quantico longer than I wanted or having to come back again next summer.
This was a common trend I witnessed throughout my entire career. Marines hiding injuries and other medical issues so they could keep their job and achieve mission accomplishment.
As it turns out, there is actually some evidence to suggest that this isn’t as stupid as I used to think it was.
Allow me to walk you through the three most common ways people deal with injuries to get a little deeper into this sh*t.
You’re not gonna get out of Fallujah if you can’t get over some chapped lips
(Marine Corps Times)
The mentally weak
We all know “that guy,” the one who always had a chit from medical explaining why they couldn’t PT. This is the guy who would turn chapped lips into a week of light duty on doctor’s orders.
You become more deconditioned than necessary. You get in worse shape than you were previously in. For those of you who are barely scraping by as it is this could be the last nail in your coffin for getting accepted to an elite program or finishing a difficult school.
You develop a fear of movement. If you roll your ankle running on a trail and then you cease running altogether, you will become afraid of the trail that supposedly injured you and of running. This may translate to a shorter or slower stride, which will both cause you to be slower in general. Again, this is not good.
Lastly, you will become less resilient. By folding due to a minor injury your mental toughness takes a major blow. Learning to overcome the small stuff is what gives you the strength to overcome the big sh*t. Resiliency is a muscle that must be trained.
At least get a band-aid you ninny.
The mentally stubborn
The guy who could be bleeding from both ears and keeps on swinging. Dude your brain is bleeding, stop and reassess the situation.
Similarly, this is the person who ignores the doctor’s orders altogether and goes right back to the same activity that caused the injury at the same intensity as before.
When you suffer an injury, even something as simple as a minor ankle roll (I know I keep talking about ankles, but it’s the most common injury among otherwise capable military personnel) you are no longer operating at 100%. That’s okay.
By smartly reducing your training load to an amount that doesn’t cause more pain, you can live to train another day. The stubborn mind doesn’t do this though. Often the stubborn mind increases training volume in order to beat the weakness out of them.
Statistically, this is stupid. If you continue to blast your body into oblivion, you will be of no use to anyone. Knowing when to dial it back is an art that this individual has yet to master.
Don’t take time off from this place, just adjust your training.
When you get injured, you are by definition deconditioned. You are slightly less capable than you were before the injury.
The smartest thing to do is to dial things back as little as possible so that you can still train but aren’t making the issue worse. In this training Goldilocks zone, you risk neither becoming a baby-backed-b*tch like the mentally weak do nor an armless-legless-fool like the stubborn mind does.
Military doctors take the most conservative route possible to hedge their positions. If you continue training and get injured further, the doc may get chewed out or lose their position. BUT if doc says do nothing and you fail out of your school due to missed training days or overall mental weakness…well it’s a lot harder to blame medical personnel for your lack of tenacity.
You know what doc is gonna say, and you can pretty much assume that your SNCO is going to say the exact opposite, choose the more measured approach. This may mean reducing your running pace, lowering the weight on the bar, or slightly modifying the exercise you are training. The less you change things, the easier it will be to get back to where you previously were.
Be as mentally strong as possible without being stupid. Add that to your list of adages to live by.
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The CIA had its eye on Tibet. The Buddhist nation of vast plateaus and mountain ranges in Central Asia was completely isolated from the rest of society. A diplomatic relationship with the small country surrounded by China on three of its sides was of utmost importance. On a mission from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, two Office of Strategic Services (OSS) officers, Capt. Brooke Dolan and Maj. Ilia Tolstoy, traveled through India to Tibet in September 1942 to contact the Dalai Lama, then just 7 years old.
Following the conclusion of World War II, the OSS was disbanded and re-formed as the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947. Only two years later, the CIA watched its new ally from afar and monitored the increased hostilities of Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. Mao had threatened to “liberate” Tibet, a strong-armed escalation to retake the government from the Dalai Lama.
In a contested intensification of force, the Chinese military marched through the Himalayas toward Chamdo, the third-largest city in the eastern part of the Tibet Autonomous Region. On May 23, 1951, China forced Tibet to sign a peace treaty called the 17-Point Agreement — declaring its autonomy as long as China oversaw its foreign policy including the civil and military components. If Tibet hadn’t signed the “agreement,” the action would have been a death sentence.
Brooke Dolan, second from left, and Ilya Tolstoy, right, with their monk-interpreter, Kusho Yonton Singhe, standing in front of a traditional Tibetan tent set up outside Lhasa for the expedition’s official greeting ceremony. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The young Dalai Lama had his hands tied. Without outside help, his nation’s independence was under threat. The staff types and officers at the CIA with covers as diplomats began searching for a hardy group who had special training in remote and mountainous areas.
The US military had previously established a relationship during World War II with the US Forest Service (USFS). US Army paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions participated in an exchange program with the smokejumpers — an elite firefighting force that parachutes from planes into isolated areas to fight forest fires. The all-Black paratroopers chosen became known as the Triple Nickles, and they were trained to prevent the spread of fires caused by Japanese balloon bombs.
Instead of training airborne paratroopers as the military did before, the CIA contracted smokejumpers who already had all the necessary knowledge in terrain, reconnaissance, weather, and a variety of other critically important skills. Smokejumpers go through their own selection course to get to their units; the CIA could choose from the very best in their ranks.
From left to right: Vang Pao, leader and general of the CIA’s Hmong Army in the 15-year “secret war” in Laos; smokejumper Jack Mathews; and Kong Le, the neutralist forces leader. Photo courtesy of the National Smokejumpers Association.
Garfield Thorsrud was a Missoula, Montana, smokejumper tasked with training two CIA officers at the Nine Mile training facility in Montana in 1951. The CIA recruited Thorsrud and six other smokejumpers on a covert operation in Taiwan to train Nationalist Chinese paratroopers to facilitate personnel and cargo drops over mainland China. From 1957 to 1960, however, this covert relationship between the smokejumpers and the CIA went global.
More than 100 smokejumpers were sworn to secrecy on behalf of the US government. Ray “Beas” Beasley, a former Air Force winter survival expert who trained aircrews in airborne operations in Libya and the Korean War, was called upon in multiple capacities.
“We were training air crews for Africa and Ivy Leaguers for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),” Beasley told Smokejumper Magazine. “Those Ivy Leaguers thought they were special, but they didn’t know a goddamned thing. It was truly unbelievable.”
Smokejumpers, including Beasley, acted as “kickers” or jumpmasters who “kicked” out 10,000 pounds of weapons, ammunition, and equipment to Tibetan resistance forces at elevations as high as 14,000 feet. The pilots from the CIA’s Civil Air Transport (CAT) flew sorties using old China Air Transport civilian routes in C-130B planes across Tibet to arm Khampa guerillas. The first pass dropped the agents, and the second dropped the pallets of supplies. These operations also trained as many as 200 Tibetan commandos at Camp Hale in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to jump alongside CIA officers.
Smokejumpers involved in the Taiwan Project where they trained Nationalist Chinese agents and paratroopers starting in 1951. Standing with Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek are smokejumpers Herman Ball, 2nd from left; Jack Mathews, between Chiang Kai-Shek and his wife; Gar Thorsrud, 2nd from far right; and Lyle Grenager, far right. Photo courtesy of the National Smokejumper Association.
“We were always ‘Romeo,'” Beasley told the Great Falls Tribune in 2014, referring to the call sign for their mission. “When we did these jobs, it was in the full moon and we flew right by Everest.”
When the Dalai Lama fled Tibet to India in 1959, the CIA kickers rigged a yellow parachute to a pallet filled with 300,000 rupees. As the Dalai Lama was in exile, the CIA funded id=”listicle-2647693389″.7 million per year to support Tibet’s resistance against Chinese and Soviet Union influence.
After Tibet, Beasley participated in covert operations in the “secret war” in Laos as well as the Bay of Pigs invasion. During the 1960s, if the CIA was running an operation inside a country they weren’t supposed to be in, flying unmarked aircraft, the smokejumpers often towed along. The smokejumpers’ roles expanded beyond jumpmaster duties to acting as liaison and operations officers in Guatemala, the Congo, India, Guam, Indonesia, and even the Arctic.
Thorsrud and five other smokejumpers dressed in parkas participated in Project Coldfeet, which premiered the ingenious Fulton surface-to-air recovery system (STARS) or Skyhook: The passing plane intercepts a 500-foot line with a smokejumper attached and yanks him into the air to retrieve him. Project Coldfeet was an intelligence-gathering mission at an abandoned Soviet Arctic drifting ice station — and the CIA deemed the mission a success.
The smokejumpers’ clandestine service with the CIA and their heroism was kept in the shadows. David W. Bevan was killed on Aug. 31, 1961, when his Air America C-46 plane crashed into a Laotian mountaintop. The former smokejumper’s mission remained a secret for 56 years, and not even his family were aware of how he had died. In 2017, the CIA publicly acknowledged Bevan and other CIA operations officers with a star on its memorial wall. At that time, there were 125 stars. Since 2019, the wall has grown to 133 stars, some of which honor those whose identity remains classified.
The tragic defeat of the brave defenders at Wake Island following a gallant stand in the weeks after Pearl Harbor lives on in Marine Corps lore. The legacy includes VMFA-211, the “Wake Island Avengers,” who currently operate the F-35B Lightning II. It also includes a lesson in how the most innocent can pay the heavy price of war. In this case, we’re talking about a bird.
Wake Island was one of many Japanese-held posts that were passed over in the Allies’ island-hopping campaign. The Japanese garrison there was cut off, stuck in the middle of the Pacific and facing occasional strikes by Navy and Army Air Force assets. With no ability to resupply, the Japanese garrisoned there had to survive somehow.
According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1,262 Japanese troops later surrendered to the crew of the Cannon-class destroyer escort USS Levy (DE-162). The United States’ strategy left them malnourished. They had one primary source of food: the Wake Island rail, a small, flightless bird indigenous to the islands.
The surrender of Japanese troops on Wake Island is signed in September, 1945, too late for the Wake Island rail.
The Wake Island rail was a little over eight and half inches long. It was notable for its ability to survive in an ecosystem with little — near to none — fresh water. What ultimately doomed this species was its inability to fly and an innate curiosity, which meant they weren’t afraid of humans.
While the extinction of the Wake Island rail was tragic, it was not the worst of the Japanese military’s misdeeds on Wake Island — here is a monument to 98 civilian contractors summarily executed.
The Japanese troops took advantage of that curiosity in their struggle to survive — the Wake Island rail was hunted to extinction. A 1946 trip to Wake Island, just a year after the Japanese surrendered, generated no sightings of the bird. Now, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the bird as extinct due to overhunting.
While this extinction is a minor tragedy of war, it is dwarfed by the war crimes Japan committed against civilians on the very same atoll.
What does an expansionist country do when it needs an excuse to invade a neighbor? Create one, of course. Their smaller, weaker neighbor isn’t going to spark a conflict on their own. It’s the perfect time for a false flag attack, where one country carries out a covert attack, disguising it to look like it was done by someone else.
The term is from old-timey naval warfare, where one ship flew a different nation’s colors before attacking as a means to get closer to their target. “False flag” is not just the stuff of conspiracy theorists and the tin foil hat society, there are actually precedents for this.
False flags happen a lot more often than one might think, which is why conspiracy theorists are so quick to draw that conclusion. The four wars on this list started under false pretenses, so maybe it isn’t that crazy to think false flags aren’t completely gone for good.
1. Mukden Incident – Japanese Invasion of China
The Japanese set their sights on Chinese Manchuria as soon as they beat the Russians in their 1904-05 war. Japanese soldiers were already stationed in the provinces, ostensibly to protect the Japanese-owned South Manchuria Railway. Those troops were often bored and conducted raids on local villages. While the Chinese government protested, there was little they could do – the Japanese wanted the Chinese to attack their forces as an excuse to invade. The Japanese got tired of waiting.
A 1st Lieutenant from the Japanese 29th Infantry planted explosives on the tracks that damaged a 1.5-meter section of rail. It had little effect on the railway’s operations. In fact, a train on the track easily passed over the damaged area. The next day, September 19, 1931, the Japanese started shelling Chinese garrisons and attacked them. In one instance, 500 Japanese troops bested 7,000 or more Chinese. Within the next five months, the Japanese army occupied all of Manchuria. WWII in the Far East had begun.
2. Gleiwitz Incident – The German Invasion of Poland
In August 1939, SS commandos, dressed as Poles, stormed and captured a radio station in what was then called Upper Silesia, in Germany. The attackers broadcast a short, anti-German message in Polish. The German assailants wanted the appearance of Polish aggression, murdering a German farmer who was caught by the Gestapo and killed with poison. The body was dressed as a saboteur, shot a number of times, and then left in front of the radio station.
A few prisoners from the Dachau Concentration Camp received the same treatment, only their identification was made impossible as the Germans destroyed their faces. This was all part of Operation Himmler, designed to create justification for the invasion of Poland, which began the next day. World War II in Europe was on.
3. The Shelling of Manila – The Winter War
The Soviet Union was chafing under all of the nonaggression treaties on its Western border. Because peacetime seems to be boring for Communist regimes, Stalin decided he needed to mix things up a bit. Since a war with Germany seemed like a war he would most definitely lose on his own, he opted instead to invade Finland, a war (he thought) he could win easily. He couldn’t invade Finland legally because he signed a full three treaties that prevented him from doing so, including his entry into the League of Nations. Stalin, nice guy that he was, decided to go ahead anyway and set out to make Finland look like the aggressor.
On November 26, 1939, the Soviet Red Army shelled the Russian village of Mainila, 800 meters inside Soviet territory. The Finns even saw the explosions and offered to help investigate the incident, which Stalin declined before blaming the whole thing on the Finnish army. Mainila was out of range of the Finnish guns, but that didn’t matter. The Russians already got the propaganda boost and invaded Finland four days later. The war lasted five months and while the Russians captured 11% of Finnish territory, it came at a high cost: the Finns suffered 70,000 casualties while the Soviets had more than a million.
4. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident – The Vietnam War
On August 2nd and 4th, 1964 the USS Maddox was on a signals intelligence patrol in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of what was then called North Vietnam. She was confronted by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats who got a little too close for comfort. The Americans fired three warning shots. The Vietnamese opened up on the Maddox from torpedo boats.
The Maddox responded with 3- and 5-inch guns. The only thing wrong with that retelling of the incident is everything. The August 2nd attack happened but the Defense Department didn’t respond. The August 4th attack never happened. This is problematic because it was the justification for Congress’ passing of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving the President full authority to use the military to assist “any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty” threatened by Communist aggression without a declaration of war.
In 1986, the Naval Institute Press published Flight of the Intruder, the debut novel of Vietnam veteran Stephen Coonts. The book was an immediate hit. It held a place on the New York Times Bestsellers list for weeks on end, just as Tom Clancy’s debut thriller, The Hunt for Red October, had done a couple years earlier, in 1984. The true star of that novel (apologies to Jake Grafton, the leading human in the story) was the Grumman A-6 Intruder, an all-weather attack plane.
The Hunt for Red October was made into a film and it was a smash hit. So, it seemed only natural that the movie adaption of Flight of the Intruder was a sure thing, too. It hit theaters in January, 1991. It cost $30 million to make and grossed less than half of that at the box office, managing a paltry $14,587,732. Top Gun, it was not.
From that moment on, airmen had a new motto: “Fighter pilots make movies, attack pilots make… sh*tty movies.”
But it’s not right to assume that a sh*tty movie is the lasting legacy of the A-6. In fact, it’s downright unfair. The Intruder had a long, distinguished, and honorable career as an all-weather, carrier-based attack plane, that spanned 37 years. It took flight for the first time during the last year of the Eisenhower administration (1960) and coasted into retirement by 1997.
The A-6 Intruder was intended to replace a legend, the A-1 Skyraider — and it was equipped for the job.
The A-6 had a top speed of 644 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,081 miles, and five hardpoints capable of carrying up to 18,000 pounds of bombs. The Intruder, at various times, also packed laser-guided bombs, like the GBU-12 and GBU-10, AGM-45 Shrike anti-radar missiles, AGM-78 Standard ARM anti-radar missiles, AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles, and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
However, by the time Flight of the Intruder hit theaters, the A-6 was on its way out the door. The A-12 Avenger had been cancelled by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, but not before he had also axed the A-6F and A-6G, improved versions of the Intruder. The plane was retired in 1997 and replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet.
Learn more about this all-weather attack plane that went on to bomb at the box office in the video below.
From a faith-based U.S. Army unit to an entire “ghost” army, take a look at the four most unusual military units of all time.
An inflatable tank, styled after the M4 Sherman (Wikimedia Commons)
The Ghost Army
Inspired by a trick that the British pulled in North Africa, the summer of 1944 found soldiers of the U.S. Army undertaking a very unusual task – building a phantom army. To achieve this goal, the Army gathered artists, designers and sound effects experts to encourage confusion behind enemy lines. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops is better known as the Ghost Army because it used inflatable rubber tanks and jeeps, along with sound effects and subterfuge to deceive Germans during WWII.
The 23rd took part in more than 20 missions, many of which used illusion and artistry that rivals any Hollywood set. Painters and illustrators worked collaboratively to design uniforms and create dummy vehicles. Sound engineers helped by broadcasting phony radio traffic and mimicked the sounds of an army on the move. There were even actors hired to spread misinformation that would hopefully get picked up by Nazi spies.
The Germans fell for it, and the ruse worked. With the Ghost Army in place, Germany had no clear idea of the US forces’ actual size. The Ghost Army was so convincing that they were even plugged a hole in General Patton’s lines for several days without being discovered. It wasn’t until 1996 that the Ghost Army’s contribution became public knowledge, and by then, many of its members had gone on to illustrious careers in art and design.
The Monuments Men
This particular unit was tasked with attempting to preserve Europe’s cultural heritage during WWII. The Monuments, Fine Arts and Archies unit included handpicked art historians, museum curators and academics who skirted the front lines of combat to prevent historically essential buildings and art from being destroyed.
Members from the unit created special maps for the Allies to ensure that culturally significant structures weren’t inadvertently destroyed as the Allies pushed deeper into Europe. To do this, the unit drew plans that showed aircraft pilots where to avoid on bombing runs. While the war was in full swing, the Monuments Men even set about restoring landmarks that were already damaged.
As the war wound down, the unit shifted its focus from preservation to rescue. It tracked down and recovered sculptures and paintings looted by the Nazis. As the Nazi regime crumbled, Monuments Men found thousands of pieces of art stolen from Jewish families and museums. Most of these pieces of art were placed deep in salt mines and castles to avoid detection. The Monuments Men did their part in finding the pieces, and then after the war, the artwork was returned to its original owners.
The Mormon Battalion
Composed entirely of Latter Day Saints service members, the Mormon Battalion has the unique and unusual honor of being the only faith-based battalion in all of U.S. Army history. When negotiations between Brigham Young’s church leaders and the US military reached an impasse, it was suggested that a battalion be formed made up of all Mormons. The Mormons hoped their unit might pave the way for their planned exodus to the American West by providing training, equipment and pay. But President Polk saw it as a way to make allies of the Latter Day Saints.
The 500-person battalion never saw any combat, but it became one of the most well-traveled units in all of American history. The service members marked the start of their service by making a grueling might from Iowa through indigenous lands all the way to Santa Fe. From there, they marched on through the untamed lands of Arizona and then to southern California. Once in SoCal, the battalion performed garrison duty in both San Diego and Los Angeles.
Just two years after being formed, the battalion was retired in July 1847. Most of its members headed back north to the Utah Territory to join the rest of their religious pioneers.
King Frederick William I (Wikimedia Commons)
The Potsdam Giants
Everyone always wants to have the biggest army, but for King Frederick William I of Prussia, the idea of having the strongest soldiers in the world was an obsession. At the start of the 18th Century, the monarch tried to gather the tallest troops he could find in all of Europe and create an elite regiment called the “Potsdam Giants.” Records indicate that several of the service members were over seven feet tall.
To entice this elite unit, King Willian spent a fortune hiring tall soldiers from other militaries in the world. He even instructed his own covert agents to conscript unusually tall civilians into the unit. At one point, William tried to encourage his tallest soldiers to marry tall women. The unit eventually disbanded, but not before William managed to spend a significant amount of money.
From a ghost army to a unit dedicated to preserving history, these four units prove that there’s a lot more to being part of a military than just standing in formation.
When you’re the closest neighbor to a country like North Korea, you tend not to put up with a lot of provocative behavior from unfriendly countries. It should be no surprise that there’s a huge difference between how the United States and South Korea respond to violations of their airspace. The U.S. will send the most advanced fighters to intercept the perpetrator and escort them back to international airspace.
South Korea comes in guns blazing.
In late July 2019, Russian military aircraft, two Tu-95 bombers and one A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, flew into South Korea’s air defense identification zone off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. But the Russians didn’t stop there. The A-50 flew closer to South Korea, entering its airspace. In response, the South launched interceptor planes who scrambled into the area firing flares and live ammo at the intruder.
The Russian got the message and quickly evacuated the area – and maybe his pants. But he didn’t stay gone for very long. Just a few minutes later the Russian returned to South Korean airspace.
The Russian Tu-95 “Bear” Bomber
Scrambled South Korean fighters again rolled out the red carpet for the visiting Russian A-50, this time with twice as many flares and many, many more rounds fired in the Russian’s direction. The Russians, of course, deny all of this.
“If the Russian pilots had identified such a threat to themselves, they would have immediately given an appropriate response,” Lt. Gen. Sergei Kobylash told Russian state news media.
Although it’s unclear what the “appropriate response” from the Russian fighters might be, the Russians did say their aircraft were flying over international waters and not violating any treaty obligations. Kobylash said the South Korean air defenses scrambled and merely escorted the Russians, but they did it over neutral airspace. He described the South Korean Air Force’s actions as “aerial hooliganism.”
Russia’s A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft.
No matter what the South Koreans did or did not do in the face of the Russian aircraft, South Korea lives in what has become a rough neighborhood in recent years, with provocations from North Korea increasing in number and in the severity of potential threats, along with a more aggressive China and Russian air and naval forces, South Korea takes its defense very seriously.
South Korea’s presidential national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told Russia as much, saying another incident will warrant a much stronger response from the Republic. This was the first foreign military violation of its airspace since the 1950-1953 Korean War.
President Donald Trump has warned Iran of a “heavy price” if it or its allies in Iraq attack U.S. troops or assets in Iraq.
“Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq,” Trump tweeted on April 1.
“If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” he added.
It was not immediately clear if Trump meant the United States actually has intelligence of such a plan.
Over the past year, the United States has accused Iranian-backed militias of attacks on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition forces and on foreign embassies, particularly the U.S. mission.
Hours before Trump’s tweet, a top military aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cautioned the United States of consequences of “provocative actions” in Iraq.
“Any U.S. action will mark an even larger strategic failure in the current president’s record,” General Yahya Rahim Safavi said, according to the semiofficial news agency Tasnim.
On March 11, a rocket attack on an Iraqi base killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier, heightening tensions in the region.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which was followed by deadly U.S. air strikes on the pro-Iranian Kataib Hezbollah militia group.
Tehran warned Trump against taking “dangerous actions.”
In December, Washington blamed Kataib Hezbollah for a strike that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.
In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic-missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
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.
Veterans Day is quickly approaching and, honestly, it’s one of the greatest times to be a veteran. You can drive around town with your military or VA ID and treat yourself to all the free pancakes, haircuts, and oil changes you could possibly desire!
It’s amazing that so many companies are willing to take a financial dip for the sake of showing support to our nation’s veterans — though they probably recoup their losses by bringing in family members who otherwise wouldn’t have dined there that day, but hey, who are we to complain?
Potential PR gains aside, it’s fantastic to see veterans come out in droves and proudly let the world know that they served their community and their country — but despite all the patriotic goodness going around, there’s always that one guy who has to ruin it for the rest of us.
Veterans of America, here are a few helpful hints to keep in the back of your mind when you’re out there getting some free buffalo wings this holiday.
Remember the spirit of the holiday: civilians honoring veterans
The civilian-military divide is very real. With each passing year, the number of civilians with troops or veterans in their circle of friends or family decreases. Veterans Day gives these civilians, who know to honor veterans, a name and a face towards which to express that gratitude.
So, when a civilian comes forth and wants to thank you for your service, be polite, be courteous, and be professional. If you leave a fantastic impression on a civilian, they’ll go forward assuming that everyone in the military is as pleasant as you were. If you’re a dick to them, well, that impression will stick, too.
Veterans Day is a day to celebrate everything that veterans have given this country. Enjoy it with a burger that has an American Flag toothpick in it — because America.
(Photo by Jorge Franganillo)
Think of yourself as an ambassador to the veteran community. You’re going out there to face a population that, in many cases, has only heard of us in pop culture or on the news. Take the time and share some of your lighter stories about your time in the service. Who knows? Maybe you’ll convince someone that military life isn’t all that bad — you just did half of the recruiter’s job for them.
Just because your career consisted of just doing pointless details for Uncle Sam doesn’t mean you didn’t serve. That just means you were junior enlisted.
(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)
Don’t exaggerate your time in service
We all served as a cog in this grand machine we call the military. There’s no shame in having played any role. If you were a flight-line mechanic in the Air Force, own it — and let people know that you worked your ass off to be the best damn flight-line mechanic around.
There’s no need to pretend you were some badass when, clearly, you weren’t, The military discount applies equally to the Army private who fixed NVGs and the Green Beret who went on a classified amount of missions for Uncle Sam, so keep your cool.
This rule of thumb is important for two reasons. One, exaggerating your role belittles the other troops and veterans who honorably served their country in those seemingly small, but essential roles. Two, it takes away from the level of badassery that actual special operations maintained.
Just be you. If you raised your right hand to support and defend this country, you’ve earned respect.
It may seem awkward at first, but it really does mean a lot to tell another veteran that you’re thankful for their service.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Adams)
Don’t go too far with inter-branch rivalries
While we’re in the service, we can be a bit harsh on our brothers- and sisters-in-arms about what they do and which branch they serve under. It’s in good fun between us and, usually, there’s no bad blood.
But not every veteran will take your “Marines are crayon-eating idiots” joke as lightly as you’d hope. As bitter as the rivalry between the 101st and 82nd Airborne is, it’s fine to put aside such differences over a beer. And shouting “POG!” at every support guy you see just doesn’t make sense when you two are the only ones who’ll understand what a “POG” is, anyway.
Enjoy the day with other veterans, especially if they served in a different era than you. You just might learn a thing or two from them.
I honestly don’t get why these dumbasses waste so much money on impersonating veterans just to save 10% on a meal — but hey, that’s just me.
Don’t go patrolling for stolen valor turds.
We get it. There are douchebags out there that try to pretend to be veterans on Veterans Day just to get a free burger and some undeserved attention. F*ck ’em. It’s totally understandable to chew one of these assclowns out for reaping benefits for which they never sacrificed.
With that being said, don’t actively go out searching for these losers because, nine times out of ten, they’re actually veterans.
Use your best judgement when it comes to spotting other veterans. If you see an older guy that’s sitting quietly, eating with his family while wearing a Vietnam War cap, do not go around screaming at them, accusing them of stealing valor. They’re more than likely a veteran. If you see a twenty-something year-old prick wearing a modern uniform all jacked up? Well, feel free to press them about their service a little. Remember, though, that some veterans suffer from traumatic brain injuries, so the answers to very specific questions may be a bit fuzzy.
Or you could call ahead or look up online where all the discounts and freebies are. It’ll be all over the internet this time of year.
(US. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski)
Don’t argue with retail clerks at places that don’t offer veteran discounts
Most places will give a veterans discount on Veterans Day — and that’s amazing. This doesn’t mean, however, that every place is required to offer one. Please — I’m begging from the bottom of my heart, here — do not get into a shouting match at some poor, minimum-wage-earning civilian who had absolutely no say on corporate policy.
Unless you’re talking to a real decision-maker, all you’re doing is making that retail worker think that all veterans are pricks. They’ll grow to resent veterans and it’ll put yet another wedge in the civilian-military divide. Just pay full price like everyone else that day, or politely say “thanks anyways” and move on to a competitor that does offer one.