Of all the things our 16th President is remembered for these days, his uncanny strength is often overlooked. During his days on the American frontier, he was known for his strength and wrestling prowess. The “Rail Splitter” (Lincoln’s nickname), was a volunteer soldier during the Black Hawk War and even manhandled a violent viewer during one of his political speeches, leaving the podium to toss a man 12 feet away from the crowd.
The Confederacy clearly didn’t know who they were dealing with.
Life on the American frontier was harsh for a figure like Lincoln. He was raised in rural areas of what was then the very edge of a nascent, young country. In his early years, he could barely read or write, and as such he took work as a hired hand. When he was still very young, he experienced a growth spurt that saw him towering over others. His large frame and chosen profession saw the gaunt young boy turn into a man of uncommon strength.
Young Lincoln moved around the country on more than one occasion, and the first thing that needed to be done in his new home was to clear an area of trees and construct his new dwelling. For this, he needed a trusty ax – a tool with which he would become an expert user. His skills with an ax would come in handy later, as his reputation as a free laborer (as opposed to, say, a slave) catapulted him to the White House in 1860.
While occupying the White House, Lincoln had very little use for his skills as a laborer, but the strength he acquired in his early years never left him. On the day before the end of the Civil War, the President was visiting a military hospital in Virginia and spent much of the day shaking hands with Union soldiers, both wounded and not wounded. Onlookers swore the 56-year-old must have shaken thousands of hands that day. But when one Union troop told the President that he must be tired from a day full of shaking hands, Lincoln took it as a challenge.
Spotting an ax, he opted to show a feat of strength he’d done many, many times before when wanting to bond with Union soldiers. He was known to even challenge them to the display of strength he was about to put on for the Petersburg, Va. hospital patients and their visitors.
Lincoln walked over to the ax, picked it up by the butt, and held it out at arms’ length, parallel to the ground for as long as he could.
“Strong men who looked on, men accustomed to manual labor, could not hold the same ax in that position for a moment,” wrote Francis Fisher Browne, a Union soldier who authored a biography called “The Every-Day Life of Abraham Lincoln.”
Such a feat of strength by the Commander-In-Chief was impressive to Union soldiers. Very often, they couldn’t manage such a stunt. During the hospital visit, after holding out the ax, he even began chopping a log nearby, showering onlookers with chips of wood – which they all kept.
Considering the fact that the president is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, it would make sense for presidential candidates to have some military experience. But veterans have often struggled in their bids for the White House.
While these five men all had plenty of experience in government — and at least a little experience in uniform — they all fell short in a bid for the leader of the free world:
1. Michael Dukakis
A former Army private, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis held a commanding lead early in the 1988 presidential race in which he faced then-Vice President and fellow veteran George H. W. Bush. But Dukakis spent the early weeks of the general election finishing up governor work and vacationing while Bush closed the 17 percent polls gap and took the lead.
As the race ramped up in the summer of ’88, Dukakis worked to take back the initiative. Under criticism that he would be soft on defense, he conducted a photo op in an M1 Abrams tank, but he looked so ridiculous in the tank that the journalists covering it burst out laughing in the stands. The resulting photos sank his campaign, and Bush won in a landslide.
2. George H.W. Bush
And how about President George H. W. Bush? He struggled four years later and lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton. Bush, a World War II Navy vet, announced his candidacy at a high point in his popularity, right after the completion of Operation Desert Storm.
But soon after his announcement, public perception shifted and people began to question whether America pulled out of Iraq too soon as well as whether Saddam Hussein should have been allowed to remain in power. Meanwhile, economic stagnation and new taxes soured Bush’s appeal on domestic issues. Clinton won the presidency and Bush left office.
3. Jimmy Carter
Don’t feel too bad for Bush. He only got his vice presidential spot in the first place by kicking another Navy veteran turned president, Jimmy Carter, out of the top job. Carter faced trouble early in the election due to dwindling popularity, the ongoing Iran Hostage Crisis, and economic troubles. Carter had to beat down a primary challenge from Senator Ted Kennedy before the general election.
In the general election, Bush and presidential candidate Ronald Reagan toured the country, ridiculing Carter over and over. Carter tried to counter by calling Reagan a right-wing radical, but the Republican ticket won a massive victory and even picked up enough Senate seats to regain control of the legislature for the first time in 28 years.
4. John McCain
John McCain grew up as Navy royalty, with both a father and a grandfather who were four-star admirals. He became a popular senator after his own Navy career that included more than 5 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
McCain actually lost two presidential bids. In the 2000 primary, he won New Hampshire but lost South Carolina and most Super Tuesday states before withdrawing from the race and endorsing George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas.
In 2008, he attempted to follow Bush to the presidency. He won the primary but the 2008 recession turned opinions against the Republicans and Sen. Barack Obama launched a big-data-based campaign that got him ahead of McCain in the polls. McCain earned a respectable 46 percent of the popular vote but lost most battleground states and suffered a 173-365 electoral defeat.
5. Adlai Stevenson
Adlai Stevenson and David Dubinsky shake hands on stage at an AFL convention, September 1952. (Photo: Kheel Center via Flickr)
Gov. Adlai Stevenson was a former sailor and a former special assistant to the secretary of the Navy. He was defeated three times in bids for the presidency, falling each time to a more popular veteran.
In 1952 Stevenson ran against Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower only eight years after Eisenhower led the Allies to victory in a world war. He suffered a crushing defeat, then came back in 1956 to be beat even worse.
In 1960 he ran against John F. Kennedy for the Democratic nomination but refused to campaign until the night before the convention. He came in fourth.
Kennedy, also a former sailor, received the nomination and won the presidency. Kennedy eventually named Stevenson as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Today, America’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines represent two of the most potent forms of force projection wielded by any force in military history. For a short time in the late 1950s, America had plans to put them together into a single GI Joe style superweapon: A submarine aircraft carrier.
The nuclear days before we got MAD
For a short four years after the United States dropped the only atomic bombs ever used in anger on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America enjoyed a monopoly on the destructive power of splitting the atom. But on August 29, 1949, America’s former World War II allies in the Soviet Union conducted their own nuclear test at the Semipalatinsk test site in modern-day Kazakhstan. While America’s use of atomic weapons may have brought the world into the atomic age, it was truly the Soviet test that hurled the world’s two dominant superpowers into the decades-long staring contest we now know as the Cold War.
The massive destructive power of these new weapons forced a strategic shift in military operations the world over. Today, it’s difficult to fully appreciate the scope of the challenge nuclear weapons posed to military operations in those early days. Since the early 1960s, the nuclear powers of the world have operated under the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD. The premise behind MAD was simple as laid out by President Kennedy’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara: Any single Soviet nuclear attack would be met with a barrage of American nuclear weapons, which would prompt a full-fledged launch of Soviet nuclear weapons in a deadly cascade.
The result, everyone knew, would be the end of life as we know it. MAD ensured there would be no winners in a nuclear conflict — effectively rendering nuclear weapons moot on the battlefield. If any single nuclear attack could bring about the end of the world, it was in the best interest of all nations never to launch such an attack at all. But prior to the advent of the MAD doctrine, nuclear weapons were largely seen like any other weapon in a nation’s arsenal. Because these weapons were so capable, many military leaders began devising entire strategies around their creative use (from developing what would become America’s nuclear triad to fielding backpack nukes on skiing Green Berets).
Of course, not all military planning was based on finding new ways to use nuclear weapons. There was also a pressing need to develop strategies and technologies that would be able to fight after the first few volleys of a nuclear exchange. One area of particular concern was America’s newfound air power. At the onset of World War II, the United States maintained just 2,500 or so military aircraft, but by the end of the war, America was an aviation powerhouse. With more than 300,000 tactical aircraft and a fleet of the most advanced bombers on Earth (the B-29 Stratofortress), America knew a potential World War III would be fought largely in the skies… but that posed a problem. How do you launch aircraft after all your airfields have been erased by nuclear hellfire?
That question led to a number of interesting programs, including the UFO-like VZ-9 Avrocar that theoretically wouldn’t need runways to take off. Another strategy first introduced in the 1950s called for a fleet of fighters that didn’t need runways, or even hangars that could be targeted by enemy bombers. Instead, the U.S. Navy wanted to launch fighter jets from submarines, just like they had been experimenting with launching cruise missiles.
Launching winged cruise missiles from submarines
In the 1950s, the United States was already hard at work experimenting with the idea of launching large missiles from submarines, in the early stages of what would become America’s seaward leg of the nuclear triad. In fact, the concept seemed so promising that some Navy officials began to wonder if they could launch small fighters from the hull of a submarine, just like they could with missiles.
After conducting missile tests aboard modified fleet ships, the Navy built two diesel-electric cruise missile submarines known as the Grayback Class. These subs could carry four large Regulus II missiles — which were turbojet-powered cruise missiles. After the Grayback Class subs’ promising performance, the Navy built a single Halibut-class vessel: a nuclear-powered submarine that could carry five of these large missiles. Unlike the submarine-launched ballistic missiles of today, these missiles were not fired while the sub was submerged. Instead, it would surface and launch the winged-cruise missiles via a ramp that led down the bow of the ship.
In order to defend itself against enemy ships, the USS Halibut also carried six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes, making the 350-foot long submarine a 5,000 thousand ton warfighting behemoth. Thanks to its S3W nuclear reactor, the Halibut had limitless range, which was important because the Regulus II missiles it carried had a range of only around 1,000 miles.
Because the Halibut had been designed to deploy winged cruise missiles of a similar size and weight to crewed fighter aircraft, the Navy saw an opportunity. Not only could these new submarines be used for missiles… they could also feasibly be used as carriers.
The plan to build submarine aircraft carriers
World War II had proven the value of aircraft carriers to the U.S. Navy, but after losing five such vessels and seven more escort carriers in the conflict, the Navy could see the value of an aircraft carrier that could submerge after launching its fighters.
Using the Halibut as a model, the U.S. Navy devised the AN-1 submarine aircraft carrier, which would carry eight fighters stored within two hangers inside the ship’s hull. In order to launch the fighters, the submarine would surface and orient the fighters straight up to be launched vertically. In order to manage the vertical launch, separate boosters would be affixed to the aircraft once they were on the launch rail. Those boosters would then fire, propelling the fighter into the air with enough speed and altitude for the fighter’s own engines to keep it flying.
According to the Navy’s plans, the AN-1 submarine aircraft carrier could launch four fighters in just 6 minutes and all eight fighters in less than eight minutes. Today’s Nimitz-class supercarriers can launch a fighter every 20 seconds when moving at full steam, but nonetheless, eight fighters in eight minutes was seen as an impressive figure at the time, especially for an aircraft carrier that could submerge again after launch.
Initially, the Navy hoped to use conventional fighter aircraft with the new submarine, and for a short time, the Grumman F-11F Tiger was considered for the role. But the 1950s saw such rapid advancement in aviation that the F-11 was soon deemed too slow to compete in the latter half of the 20th century. Instead, the Navy looked to Boeing to devise purpose-built fighters that could not only manage the stress of a vertical launch from an aircraft carrier submarine, but that could also attain speeds as high as Mach 3.
The challenges of flying a fighter from a submarine aircraft carrier
The proposed Boeing fighters never received a formal designation, but plans called for them to have an overall length of 70 feet, with a height of 19.5 feet and a wingspan of just 21.1 feet. They were to use a Wright SE-105 jet engine that produced 23,000 pounds of thrust and were to be crewed by a single pilot.
Boeing’s plan called for two additional SE-105 engines to be attached to the fighters to sustain its vertical liftoff, but once it had reached sufficient altitude, the aircraft would eject the two additional engines, which would later be recovered for re-use.
Vertical lift-off tests on other platforms had proven the viability of such a launch approach, but take-off is only half of what fighters do aboard aircraft carriers. In order to work, the fighters also needed to be able to land. On surface ship aircraft carriers, that’s done in a somewhat traditional manner, with fighters landing on the carriers’ deck and using a tail hook and cable to arrest its forward momentum.
Without sufficient deck space for such landings on a submarine, Boeing considered having its AN-1 fighters land vertically just like they took off. In theory, it was possible, but tests of such a landing approach proved too risky for all but the most experienced pilots. In order to land vertically with the engine facing the deck of the ship, the pilots would have to turn and look over their shoulder during landing — like using a jet engine to back into a parking spot from above, knowing full well that your aircraft (and potentially the submarine) would explode if you made even the slightest mistake.
The military landscape would shift dramatically again in the years that followed, as new ballistic missiles made it possible to launch nuclear weapons at far-flung targets with a great deal of accuracy and the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction reduced the likelihood of an early nuclear exchange wiping out airfields. America would ultimately invest heavily in massive supercarriers that, while unable to hide from enemy missiles, offer a great deal more capability and versatility than the AN-1 submarine aircraft carrier ever could.
On January 21, 1968, North Vietnam achieved an impossible feat. With its Viet Cong counterparts, it managed to launch a large-scale, coordinated assault on American and South Vietnamese military bases and cities across South Vietnam, and they caught their capitalist enemy completely by surprise.
Nowhere was this surprise felt stronger by the Americans and South Vietnamese than in the ancient city of Hue, which was situated near the demilitarized zone between North and South. The communists caught the city completely unprepared. The U.S. response in its wake was so piecemeal because military planners couldn’t believe they could capture the city.
When a division of North Vietnamese soldiers attacked the city in the early morning hours, the defenses were minimal. Much of the force from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was away for the Tet holiday. No matter what the remaining forces could muster, it would not be enough to repel the communists.
The Americans, at first, didn’t fare much better. United States Marines responded with a counterattack but had no idea what they were actually walking into. In fact, in the immediate aftermath, almost no one in the U.S. Army command knew the extent of the losses or of the enemy’s real strength in the city.
But those inside the city knew. Defenders of a small Military Assistance Command – Vietnam compound and a South Vietnamese Army Base were under heavy assault from the Viet Cong and had taken many casualties. Inside of Hue, they were fighting for their lives. The enemy quickly took control of the old citadel and were assaulting the ARVN base.
U.S. troops in an American UH-1 Huey helicopter were shot down over the ARVN installation. Once on the ground, they were surrounded by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers. Luckily for them Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson was flying nearby in a Huey of his own.
The Americans knew Hue was under attack. While they may not have known yet the full scope of the situation, they knew it was bad. Ferguson was advised not to try to assist the survivors of the crash but he wasn’t going to let them just die.
He immediately disregarded his resupply mission and made his way to Hue, where he also started taking anti-aircraft fire. He took his bird on a low-level flight along the Perfume River at maximum airspeed as he flew to the city and found the isolated ARVN compound where the remains of the downed helicopter still lay.
Under heavy small arms fire, he landed his aircraft in a space so tight it was almost impossible to operate the helicopter. The bird kicked up a storm cloud of dust as it landed and CWO Ferguson began to jettison everything aboard the airship that wasn’t necessary or nailed down.
As they loaded the wounded and exhausted survivors of the crash, the Huey began to take an enormous amount of small arms and mortar fire, nearly crippling it where it sat. Somehow, though, Ferguson skillfully got the ship airborne in spite of the damage and flew it and the survivors to safety. He flew back at the same speed and altitude at which he came in, taking even more damage to the aircraft.
His swift decision and cool head under fire saved the lives of five fellow soldiers, safely returning them to Phu Bai.
On Flag Day, 1969, Frederick Ferguson was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon. It was the first one presented to an Army aviator in the Vietnam War. That was far from the end for Ferguson, though. Over the course of his career he was awarded two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, and 39 Air Medals. He is even one of a handful of Americans to appear on a postage stamp while still living.
With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.
The prototypes for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (U.S. Army)
The SPIW on display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum (Public Domain)
1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon
The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?
Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T
hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.
Top to bottom: AAI, HK, Steyr, and Colt ACR prototypes (Public Domain)
2. Advanced Combat Rifle
Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.
The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.
A soldier with the XM29 Block 3 prototype (U.S. Army)
3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29
In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.
The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.
Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Shoomaker, and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston fire the compact variant of the XM8 at Fort Benning, August 2004 (U.S. Army)
Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.
The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.
Soldiers fire the HK HK416 (U.S. Army)
5. Individual Carbine
The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.
Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.
Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.
A Marine armed with an M27 IAR covers his team in Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps)
6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle
The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.
In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”
The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.
Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.
The real James Bond is finally revealed: A few years ago Larry Loftis decided to stop publishing legal articles and work full-time on researching and writing the story of Dusko Popov, the daring World War II double agent who worked tirelessly to keep the Nazis off guard about the upcoming D-Day invasions.
1. Popov was captured by the Nazis before he became a spy.
Dusko Popov was a student in Germany as the Nazis took power and began to persecute the German Jews. No fan of the Nazis, Popov thumbed his nose at the thugs who came to intimidate patrons of Jewish businesses. He was quickly visited by the Gestapo, who imprisoned him and tortured him for information.
He was able to escape Germany because of his family’s connections. Hermann Göering ordered his release to Yugoslavia.
Johann-Nielsen “Johnny” Jebsen
2. He was recruited by his best friend.
Johann-Nielsen Jebsen – known as “Johnny” – went to school with Popov. But Jebsen is from a very wealthy European family with German roots. They met each other at the university of Freiburg but where Popov was expelled from Germany, Jebsen, as a German citizen, was forced to join the Nazi war effort. He joins the Abwehr (German military intelligence) as a spy recruiter.
His first recruit is Dusko Popov and the two both became double agents for the British.
3. He warned the U.S. about the attack on Pearl Harbor
Popov warned the FBI on Aug. 18, 1941, that the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor. Popov and his MI6 supervisor met FBI officials at the Commodore Hotel and for three hours laid out the entire plan. Popov was in the country to set up a spy ring in New York and recon the defenses at Pearl Harbor.
The attack was supposed to be a repeat of the British attack on the Italian fleet at the defended port of Taranto in 1940. The Japanese wanted to know how they could be as successful as they enter the war against the Americans. The reason President Roosevelt never saw the information will enrage you.
Check out the book (or finish this podcast) to find out!
4. He was critical to the success of D-Day.
The British determined that the best way to keep the Germans off guard on D-Day was to convince them that the invasion would come at Pas-de-Calais, not Normandy. At the risk of his life, with interrogators who were convinced that Popov was compromised by the British, Popov returned to Germany.
He gave the Nazis the false information the British wanted them to believe during multiple, marathon interrogation sessions that lasted for hours at a time over a series of days. Popov was the only spy who was interrogated by the Nazis about D-Day.
Simone Simon in 1942’s “Cat People.”
5. His real-world girlfriend was a movie star.
Just like his silver screen counterpart, James Bond, Popov had a slew of women he used for various reasons as a undercover agent for two opposing countries. But his heart belonged to just one – and she was as glamorous as the rest of his World War II life: Hollywood movie star Simone Simon.
Larry’s next book will be The Courier: The True Story of World War II’s Most Highly Decorated Woman, about the World War II spy heroine Odette Sansom and Captain Peter Churchill. Learn more about Larry, The Courier, and Into the Lion’s Mouthat Larry Loftis’ website. You can also follow Larry Loftis on Twitter and Facebook.
National Wreaths Across America Day has become such a big tradition that it’s hard to believe it began from just one personal tribute.
How it Happened
The Worcester family of Harrington, Maine, owns their own tree farm. In 1992, they had a surplus of wreaths during the holiday season, so the family patriarch, Morrill — who had long felt indebted to our fallen veterans — got help from a Maine politician to have those spare wreaths placed beside graves in Arlington National Cemetery in areas that received fewer visitors each year.
Several volunteers stepped up to help, including veterans from American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and a truck company owner who transported the wreaths to Arlington, Virginia, where a small ceremony was held at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This remained a small yearly tradition for nearly 15 years until a photo taken at the 2005 ceremony went viral. Almost immediately, thousands of people wanted to know how to help or how they could begin a similar tradition in their states.
Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., in December 2005.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)
By the next year — with the help of some civic organizations and volunteers, including in the trucking industry — there were 150 simultaneous ceremonies held across the country. By 2008, the movement to remember, honor and teach had grown so much that Congress had declared the third Saturday in September National Wreaths Across America Day.
By 2014, the now-nonprofit Wreaths Across America had reached its goal of placing a wreath at all 226,525 graves in the cemetery.
Navy personnel from the Navy International Programs Office, Washington, distribute wreaths to volunteers during the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 15, 2012.
(Photo by Chief Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)
Wreaths Across America today
The event continues to grow. In 2018, the organization shipped a staggering 1.75 MILLION wreaths to 1,640 locations that held ceremonies across the U.S. A few dozen locations overseas also participated. According to the organization, this was the first year it was granted permission to place wreaths at Normandy to honor those who died during World War II’s D-Day invasion.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Charles C. Orf salutes a headstone at Fort Richardson National Cemetery during the annual Wreaths Across America Day at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 16, 2017.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)
Veterans and Gold Star families are many of the roughly 2 million volunteers who prepared the wreaths, shipped them across the country, and put them on graves.
In October of 1942, Charles Mason took one last look at the hulking gray warship the US Navy had entrusted to his command, ensuring that all other personnel had been accounted for and evacuated from its massive long decks. Seconds later, Mason jumped into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean to be picked up by nearby American destroyers, leaving his now-empty and thoroughly damaged aircraft carrier — the USS Hornet — to its fate.
While Mason passed away in 1971, a retired Vice Admiral with numerous honors and service distinctions to his name, neither he nor the 2000-plus survivors of the Hornet would ever see their ship again, as they steamed away from an inbound Japanese flotilla on the destroyers and frigates which had picked them up.
An aircraft tug still chained to the flight deck of the Hornet (R/V Petrel photograph)
Last month, the Petrel’s remotely-operated vehicles (essentially underwater drones) found the lost ship — (the last American fleet carrier to have been sunk by enemy fire) — by triangulating its approximate location through researching and poring through old ships logs from the last Navy surface vessels to see her.
The R/V Petrel, owned by the estate of the deceased co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has led the way in rediscovering the wrecks of a number of warships once thought eternally lost to the depths of the world’s largest ocean. Among the many finds to its name are the USS Indianapolis, the USS Juneau, and the Japanese battleship Musashi — sister ship of the infamous behemoth Yamato.
The Hornet, one of the most beloved boats in the Navy at the time of its sinking, was a veteran of the Doolittle Raid, having participated in delivering a joint forces comeback punch to Japan in the wake of the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It would quickly rearm and resupply for the Battle of Midway in May 1942, where it helped turn the tide of the war against the juggernaut Imperial Japanese Navy.
One of the Hornet’s anti-aircraft guns (R/V Petrel photograph)
Then, just over five months after Midway, Hornet was lost during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Alongside the USS Enterprise, Hornet’s fighters and bombers dished out a heavy beating to nearby Japanese warships, including the Shōkaku, one of several aircraft carriers which had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor the previous year.
Japanese aircraft responded in kind, crippling the Hornet and preventing it from launching and recovering its aircraft. Attempts to repair the carrier and get it back in the fight proved to be futile against the Japanese onslaught, and the order was begrudgingly given to abandon ship. To prevent the carrier from falling into enemy hands, nearby American frigates and destroyers began shelling the Midway veteran after picking up its crew, but despite being considerably damaged, it refused to sink.
An advancing Japanese battle group engaged the Hornet, not knowing that it was emptied of its crew and aircraft, and sank it with a barrage of torpedoes. The ship would not to be seen again until early 2019 when the R/V Petrel rediscovered it not too far off the coast of the Solomon Islands. Of the 2200-strong crew aboard the Hornet, 140 were killed in action.
The Hornet currently sits at a depth of 17,000 feet in fairly decent condition. Pictures from the wreck site show barnacle-encrusted surfaces and hardware, rusting away in the salty and murky depths of the ocean.
Given that a number of the Hornet’s crew perished aboard the ship, it’s almost certain that the wreck is also their final resting site, making it a war grave. Thus, the Hornet will remain untouched and a protected site, as the Navy considers it hallowed ground. R/V Petrel is currently still operating in the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands as it continues its search for other lost warships in the area, including the Japanese battleship Hiei.
Thanks to movies and video games, tons of people join the military thinking they’ll be the next John Wick. Gun-hungry recruits salivate at the prospect of sending rounds downrange using all the latest and greatest weaponry. Unfortunately, that rug will be pulled out from under newcomers when they realize that “military-grade” really just means “broken all the time with no money to fix it.”
The famous M203 Grenade Launcher is no exception. Yes, it’s a useful tool in combat since it can fire a 40mm grenade and reap an entire cluster of souls and limbs. But, in reality, they’re big pieces of sh*t.
It’s mostly just annoying to have a fore grip.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider)
You can’t really use a grip
There are fore grips made specifically for the M203, but they aren’t all that great. The real tragedy here is that you can’t add a cool, angled fore grip or any variation. If you choose to use the M203-specific grip, you have to place it somewhere that won’t interfere with the reloading process.
When you get issued an M203, your rifle’s sling swivel will turn into your personal noisemaker because it’s going to click against the M203 with every step you take.
Aiming is a minor inconvenience with an M203.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)
It adds weight to your rifle
Granted, the M203 doesn’t weigh so much on its own, but as every infantryman will tell you, “ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.”
Additionally, when you want to fire from a standing position, you’ll have to lift the front end of your rifle, which has now been weighted down. This may seem like a nitpick, but after days of little food, water, and sleep, you’ll be feeling it. If you get issued an M203, start hitting the gym because you’ll need the extra muscle.
If you’ve got that M16/M203 combo going on, have fun fitting into tight spaces. It’s baffling how often that M203 gets in the way. Want to sit comfortably in any military vehicle? Good luck.
Consider yourself lucky if you can reload with it still attached.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isabelo Tabanguil)
They fall off
Easily the worst part of having an M203 is that they’re not usable 100% of the time. Most will just fall of the rifle after firing a single shot, which is both dangerous and annoying. If you’re in a situation where you have to use that bad boy, you don’t have time to pick it up and put it back on. This means you’ll just have to hand-fire it, which isn’t a bad thing by itself, but it also means you don’t have the sights of the rifle for aiming,
With these issues in mind, you’ll likely not get to fire it often enough for it to be worthwhile. You’ll most likely end up hating the thing and it’ll feel like dead weight.
Although we’re not always keen to admit it, the way we see the world and how we function in it tends to be largely informed by the pop-culture we consume along the way. The movies and TV shows we watch as kids not only help us to perceive a world beyond our views out the window, they have a habit of planting the seeds of foolish thought in our brains Inception-style; leaving us with a skewed idea of things like what really goes on in a fight, thanks to how often we see them depicted inaccurately on screen.
In fact, if you’ve never had the misfortune of suffering a nasty injury on one of your limbs, getting knocked out, or being in close proximity to an explosion, you might be harboring some pretty unrealistic ideas about just how deadly each can be. It might sound silly to suggest that people can’t tell the difference between something Wolverine can do and something your average Joe can… but many of these movie tropes have become such deep-rooted parts of our cultural lexicon that it starts to get difficult to discern truth from fiction. That is, unless you’ve been there first hand.
This is actually how Chuck Norris babysits people’s kids.
Being knocked out is totally fine
It’s Batman’s bread and butter, it helped Marty McFly’s mom gets handsy with her time traveling son, and it’s the most common workplace hazard for henchman and thugs, but the truth is, getting knocked out could seriously mess you up.
Movies may make it seem like getting knocked out with a single blow is basically the same thing as racking out for an impromptu nap, but here in the real world, blunt force trauma to the head tends to come with some serious repercussions. The Riddler’s henchman may come to in a few hours and complain of feeling groggy, but if you’re ever knocked out for hours, you’ll almost certainly wake up in the ICU of your local hospital, surrounded by some very concerned family members (and hopefully you’ll still know your name).
Head trauma that’s sufficient to knock you unconscious actually creates a neurochemical reaction in the brain that causes cell death that can potentially affect you for the rest of your life.
Fire is apparently the only dangerous part of explosions
Watching a protagonist walk toward the camera while a slow-motion explosion unfolds in the background might be one of the most overused (and somehow still rad) shots in cinematic history… but it’s also totally ridiculous. Movies treat explosions like it’s the fireball you have to be worried about, but the most dangerous part of an explosion is usually invisible to the naked eye: the shockwave.
Way back in the first “Mission Impossible” movie, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt actually managed to seemingly ride the shockwave of an exploding helicopter (that was foolishly made out of dynamite, apparently) onto a speeding train. The shot is incredible, and it actually makes the superhero-like sequels make a lot more sense, since Ethan Hunt must actually be dreaming in a coma from that point on, while surgeons try to do something about the soup that used to be his organs.
Anyone that’s ever thrown a grenade can tell you that explosions are far faster and more dangerous than they’re depicted in movies. Most happen so quickly that we perceive them as little more than a thunderous impact and sudden poof of smoke, but it’s the shockwave that will literally liquify your inside parts (like your brain). In the medical community, they call this internal mushification “total body disruption,” which may not sound as cool as “internal mushification” but is apparently just as deadly.
I mean, the bleeding has already stopped. This guy might actually make it if he quits now.
Flesh wounds are no big deal
There’s no faster way to show us how badass a movie hero really is than to watch him dismiss a gunshot to the arm as “nothing but a flesh wound.” John Mcclane loses enough blood in the “Die Hard” movies to keep the Red Cross from chasing down donations for at least a year, but somehow those injuries never seem to slow him down at all.
These “flesh wounds” usually exist only so the female lead’s character arc can develop from annoyed at the hero to empathetic: “You’re hurt!” She exclaims as she runs to check the flap of skin hanging off of our hero’s tricep.
“It’s nothing,” he grimaces as he loads another seemingly infinite magazine into his weapon. As Jesse Ventura said in “Predator,” and probably at least once as Governor of Minnesota, “I ain’t got time to bleed.”
The problem is, you can absolutely die from a wound on your arm or leg. In fact, you can die pretty damn quickly if you rupture an artery. When it comes to unchecked bleeding, what you really don’t have time for is ignoring it.
KYIV, Ukraine — Residents of a northern Russian village were informed this week that they were living in a “danger zone” due to unspecified “work” being done a little more than 1 mile away at a secretive weapons testing site where the Russian military has been developing its new arsenal of so-called doomsday weapons.
An internet post advised the roughly 500 residents of the White Sea coastal village of Nyonoksa that five buses were ready to evacuate them as a precaution due to activity planned for July 7 to 8 at the nearby military weapons facility, which has been operational since the 1950s for the development and testing of sea- and land-based cruise missiles.
The warning paralleled another for mariners in the White Sea, issued by the port authorities of Arkhangelsk, which was to last from July 6 to 10. The maritime warning proscribed sea vessels from entering an area beginning off the coast of Nyonoksa and the nearby town of Severodvinsk and extending northeast.
A Russian Federation air force Su-27 fighter participates in Vigilant Eagle 13. Photo by Mary Kavanagh, Canadian Forces Artist Program/Released.
No further information was given regarding the exact nature of this week’s test. But the Nyonoksa weapons testing facility has seen extraordinary activity in recent years — including some high-profile accidents that put civilian lives at risk.
In December 2015, an errant cruise missile from the facility hit an apartment block in Nyonoksa, starting a fire. There were no injuries, according to news reports at the time. And in August last year, the botched test of a nuclear-powered cruise missile off the coast of Nyonoksa killed five civilian and military specialists, injured others, and spiked radiation levels in nearby civilian settlements.
The explosion happened when a barge reportedly attempted to recover a nuclear-powered Burevestnik cruise missile from the seabed. Those killed included members of a special nuclear reactor development team from Rosatom, Russia’s national nuclear energy corporation.
The 9M730 Burevestnik — known as the “Skyfall” among NATO militaries — is a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile with virtually unlimited range. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the experimental weapon in March 2018 along with several other “doomsday” weapons. A video presentation of one weapon system showed a simulated attack on Florida.
A U.S. F-22 Raptor intercepts a Russian bomber near Alaska on June 10. Photo courtesy of NORAD.
Putin, who touted Russia’s new weapons as “invincible,” warned the U.S. to take Russia’s military might seriously.
“You will have to assess that new reality and become convinced that what I said today isn’t a bluff,” the Russian president said. “It’s not a bluff, trust me.”
However, the Burevestnik has reportedly hit some snags, the August 2019 nuclear accident most notable among them. Moscow never confirmed that its Burevestnik cruise missile was behind last August’s accident. Yet, referring to the NATO name for the Russian weapon, in a tweet last year President Donald Trump cited the “failed missile explosion in Russia” as the “‘Skyfall’ explosion.”
Following the breakdown of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia last year, and with Moscow and Washington increasingly at loggerheads over a broad gamut of geopolitical issues, Putin has embarked his country’s military on a crash-course program to develop new weapons.
Apart from the Burevestnik, in 2018 Putin unveiled other new weapons that he touted would be able to defeat U.S. missile defense systems. Among those was the Avangard hypersonic vehicle, supposedly capable of flying at Mach 27. The Avangard reportedly went operational in December.
Russia is also reportedly developing a nuclear-powered underwater drone — the “Poseidon” — that will creep up to an adversary’s coast, detonate a nuclear weapon, and create a 500-meter, or 1,640-foot, tsunami.
According to some scientific journal reports, Russia may also be resurrecting some Soviet-era antisatellite missile programs, particularly one missile known as Kontakt, which was meant to be fired from a MiG-31D fighter.
Whereas the Soviet-era Kontakt system comprised a kinetic weapon intended to literally smash into U.S. satellites to destroy them, the contemporary Russian program — incidentally, also named Burevestnik, although unrelated to the novel nuclear-powered cruise missile — will likely carry a payload of micro “interceptor” satellites that can effectively ambush enemy satellites.
Thus, with Russia’s many advanced weapons systems in development, this week’s so-called optional evacuation of Nyonoksa is not necessarily suggestive of any extraordinary development, experts say. However, the news also comes amid reports in late June that radiation levels across northern Europe were reading above normal — a phenomenon that some scientists attributed to likely weapons tests by Russia in the Arctic.
On June 23, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) reported that scientists in Sweden had detected unusually high levels of radiation. Weather patterns suggested northern Russia was the point of origin.
According to open-source radar satellite imagery, a Russian ship previously associated with testing of the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone was off the coast of Nyonoksa on June 23. Some experts speculate that a failed test of the Poseidon could be the culprit behind the recent radiation spike.
An engineer at the respected RAND Corporation has a suggestion for small countries that want to keep their enemies at bay but can’t afford a proper navy: use loads of sea mines and drones. It seems obvious, but the advice could prevent America getting dragged into a world war.
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians simulate the destruction of a submerged mine.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Charles White)
Engineer Scott Savitz names a few countries in his RAND post, such as Bahrain, Taiwan, and the Republic of Georgia, two American allies and a potential future member of NATO. While all of them spend significant portions of their GDP on defense, they are all also potential targets of larger neighbors with much larger navies.
So, it’s in the best interest of these countries (and the U.S.) if those countries can find a way to stave off potential invasions. RAND’s suggestion is to spend money on mines and drones, which require much more money to defeat than they cost to create. This could cripple an invading fleet or deter it entirely.
While mines are a tried and true — but frowned upon — platform dating back centuries, modern naval tactics give them short shrift. Unmanned drones in water, air, and on land, however, are reaching maturity.
A Royal Norwegian Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Commando collects information during a mine-countermeasure dive during exercise Arctic Specialist 2018.
The idea is for the smaller nations to build up mine-laying fleets that go on regular training missions, laying fake mines in potentially vulnerable waters. This would create two major problems for invading nations: An enemy force capable of quickly saturating the water with mines as well as thousands of decoys that would hamper mine-clearing vessels.
And, mine clearance requires warships to sail relatively predictable patterns, allowing the defending nation to better predict where invading forces will have vulnerable ships.
The drones, meanwhile, could be used for laying mines, directly attacking enemy ships, conducting electronic surveillance, or even slipping into enemy ports to attack them in their “safe spaces” — a sort of Doolittle Raid for the robot age. They could even be used to target troop transports.
While the Russian, Iranian, and Chinese Navies are much larger than their Georgian, Bahrain, and Taiwanese counterparts, they don’t have much sea-lift capability, meaning that the loss of even a couple of troop ships could doom a potential invasion.
All of these factors could combine to convince invading forces to keep their ships at home, or at least slow the attacking force, meaning that reinforcements from the U.S. or other allied forces could arrive before an amphibious landing is achieved.
It’s easier to contest a landing than it is to throwback an already-fortified foothold.
A underwater drone used to measure salinity, temperature, and depth information is recovered by the U.S. Navy during normal operations.
For Bahrain and Taiwan, both island nations, ensuring that an enemy can’t land on their coast nearly protects them from invasion. As long as their air forces and air defenses remain robust, they’re safe.
The Republic of Georgia, on the other hand, has already suffered a four-day land invasion from Russia. While securing their coastline from naval attack would make the country more secure, it would still need to fortify its land borders to prevent further incursion.
A Navy drone, the Fire Scout, lazes a target for the MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter that accompanies it.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Trenton J. Kotlarz)
For America, allies that are more secure need less assistance and are less likely to collapse during invasion without large numbers of American reinforcements.
But, of course, mines remain a controversial defense measure. They’re hard and expensive to clear, even after the war is over. And while sea mines are less likely to hurt playing children or families than leftover landmines, they can still pose a hazard to peacetime shipping operations, especially for the country that had to lay them in the first place.
When people meet Capt. Kelsey Casey, they don’t initially think the petite, young woman with an energetic personality is a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, but once she starts talking, her charisma becomes apparent, and it’s understandable why she’s the only female AV-8B Harrier pilot in the Marine Corps.
Her dream of flying started at space camp at a young age. To her delight, she was picked to be the simulated pilot and climbed into a small, fake cockpit built to simulate a spaceship taking off.
“Coming out of the final mission, we walked down a hall and all along the walls were these giant posters with every single astronaut team that had been to space,” Casey’s voice changed as she remembered, her eyes searching for the memory. “There were women in some of the later ones. I looked up at that and thought, ‘if they can do it, maybe I can too.’ That’s where it started.”
Casey attended the U.S. Naval Academy following high school. She planned to major in aerospace engineering and Chinese, but learned she would have to attend a year longer than planned, putting her at the bottom of the list to be a pilot. This eliminated her goal of becoming a pilot via the academy route. To fulfill her dream, Casey had only one option — leave the academy.
Casey found herself trekking across the country with everything she owned, trying to navigate her way through a snowstorm. She was alone, scared and her dreams seemed unattainable.
Capt. Kelsey Casey.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)
It was her insatiable tenacity and refined grit which led her through the years that followed.
“I’m driving across the country, calling my mom for directions while she also signs me up for courses at a community college in California,” Casey said. “All I could think was ‘wow, my family is going to disown me, I just left this amazing school with a full-ride scholarship, what am I going to do?’ It was a scary thing to go through as a 19-year-old, but it made me better.”
The way Casey saw it, she had only two options: give up or complete her degree and fly. She chose the latter, and like all Marines, attacked the obstacles in front of her to accomplish her mission.
“She was always a little fireball and tireless,” said Nyna Armstrong, Casey’s mother. “She never grows any moss, she’s always moving and is always going in whatever direction she wants despite what challenges she might [face].”
After leaving the academy, Casey made her way to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco State University. During her senior year at SFSU, Casey found herself longing to return to the Naval Academy to fulfill her dream. Again she applied to the academy but was denied. At this point in her life, she was accustomed to adversity and was experienced at overcoming it.
Refusing to give up, she sought out information and spoke to mentors, who encouraged her to pursue a career as a military officer. As a result of her unwillingness to quit, she found a way to accomplish her dream. After she earned a Bachelor of the Arts degree in political science at SFSU, Casey left for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.
“My daughters and I never look to have special treatment because we are women,” said Armstrong. “The fact she is the only female is a testament to her skill and her drive and her work ethic.”
Though her experience with the Marine Corps has been mostly positive, there have been interesting moments for Casey.
While sitting at breakfast with her Marines, a nice older gentlemen with a veteran hat approached them, Casey explained. They all were in flight suits and wearing the same patches when the gentleman asked their table if they were all pilots. He seemed surprised to see Casey and specifically asked her if they let her fly. She laughed and informed him that not only was she a pilot, but she was also the one in charge.
Capt. Kelsey Casey.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)
Interactions like these are somewhat common and highlight a misconception of gender roles in the military; situations such as this motivate Casey to keep proving them wrong.
“As you move, you just keep on making that shift until you finally look around and realize you’ve made it,” she said. “But I don’t feel like I’ve really made it until I’m at an event somewhere and someone comes up to me, and they say ‘I want my daughter or my son to be like you, you are a fantastic role model.'”
Casey believes that the most important lesson is to keep moving forward — an ethos she learned from her uncle, who told her “they can’t kill you, and they can’t stop time.” This advice has helped her overcome many obstacles.
“It’s okay if it doesn’t work out the first time, and you make horrible mistakes because the next thing you know, I ended up getting internships, worked at the state department as an intern, and I worked in a congressman’s office,” said Casey. “I also moved to Colorado to be raft guide for a while before going to The Basic School because I could and then I still ended up going to TBS, commissioning as an officer and becoming a pilot.”
Casey has come a long way since being that wide-eyed little girl with aspirations of flying.
“I don’t think I’m better than anybody else ever,” she said. “I’m very good at failing but I don’t give up after I fail. Just don’t give up. It might take way longer than you thought, it might be really, really hard but anything that’s worth it is going to be hard but it will be worth it.”
Despite a difficult start, Casey succeeded and continued to excel. She completed her training and earned her wings of gold.