Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

At the height of the Korean War, Air Force pilot A.J. D’Amario was on his first solo flight since arriving in country. Luckily for him, it wasn’t a combat mission, he was just on a routine sortie to “have fun boring holes in the sky.” Things got a lot more interesting for D’Amario immediately upon taking off. He would have to put a few rounds from his sidearm in the plane before he could bring it down.


D’Amario’s P-80 Shooting Star jet fighter wasn’t the latest and greatest plane, but it was still a good fighter to have. He would have to get used to it. The MiG-15 was tearing through P-80 Fighters, but there weren’t yet enough F-86 Sabres to go around. Still, the P-80 held its own: the first American jet-to-jet kill was made behind the stick of a Shooting Star. None of that was on D’Amario’s mind as he shot up into the wild blue yonder. He was more concerned about his left fuel tank. It felt heavy – it wasn’t feeding fuel to the engine.

He wanted to land immediately, but that much fuel was a no-go for the Korean War-era U.S. Air Force. The tower at Suwan, Korea, wasn’t about to have a melted runway if that much jet fuel caught fire on the flightline. They told him to dump his tanks at a bomb range and then come back.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

D’Amario retired from the Air Force as a Lt. Col.

(U.S. Air Force)

The young pilot flew over to the range, and as soon as he came upon his target area, he flipped the switches for the bomb release. Unfortunately, nothing happened. D’Amario’s P-80 Shooting Star was still carrying the heavy tanks of dangerous fuel and had no way of dumping the tanks, feeding the engine, or landing. He did what anyone who’s felt enough frustration with malfunctioning equipment wanted to do: he shot it.

But that wasn’t his first reaction. He made a few bombing runs, trying to release the left tank at every turn. He even once hit the plane’s “panic button” – the button that released everything attached to the fuselage. It did dump everything, everything except his errant fuel tank, full of fiery death. The tower told him he was cleared to bail out. The only problem with that is that bailing out comes with its own potential consequences. The loss of the aircraft is a definite consequence.

“… pilots really hate to punch out of a perfectly flyable airplane,” D’Amario later wrote, “And I figured I still had one option worth trying.”

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

U.S. Air Force P-80 Shooting Stars with drop tanks.

(Lockheed)

That’s when the pilot opened the canopy of his jet aircraft (which he did slow down to 220 miles per hour) and pulled out his issued sidearm, a Colt M1911, and fired at the very full, very malfunctioning fuel tank.

“… liquid fuel will not burn,” D’Amario writes. “At least not like vapors, so I aimed for the part of the tank I was sure would be full of liquid.”

D’Amario fired four shots at the tank. The first shot was to understand just where to shoot to hit the tank while flying at 220 miles per hour. The next three rounds punctured the tank and went through the other side. It worked: the P-80 was still flying, and liquid fuel was pouring out of the left tank. Best of all, D’Amario and his Shooting Star did not become a real-life burning streak across the sky.

He was able to drain the tank and make a “routine” landing a half-hour later, convinced he was the only USAF pilot to shoot his own plane when it malfunctioned.

“Thank goodness for my .45,” he wrote.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The site of the world’s worst nuclear accident is on fire

Ukrainian authorities say a wildfire has broken out in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl, where the world’s worst nuclear accident occurred in 1986, but radiation levels remained within safe limits.

“Radiation levels have not risen either inside the exclusion zone or in adjoining areas,” the zone’s administration said in a statement on June 5, 2018.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman wrote on Facebook that “radiation levels are safe. In Kyiv and in Chernobyl itself, including at the Chernobyl power station site, they are significantly below the acceptable limits. So there’s no need to worry.”


“I stress once more: the situation is fully under control,” he added.

The fire broke out in dry grass on the morning of June 5, 2018, in the area of high radiation less than 10 kilometers from the power station, and later spread over some 10 hectares of woodland, the state emergency service said in statements.

It published photographs of smoke billowing from woodland and flames spreading along the ground.

The state nuclear-industry regulator said the former nuclear power station was not at risk from the flames.

More than 130 firefighters were battling the fire as well as two planes and a helicopter that dumped water on the fire, the state emergency service said, adding that the wind was not blowing toward the capital, Kyiv.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it
Entrance to the zone of alienation around Chernobyl.

Wildfires occur regularly in the woods and grassland around the power station. In 2015, a forest fire burned for four days.

Chernobyl’s No. 4 reactor, which is about 100 kilometers north of Kyiv, exploded in 1986 during testing in the worst such accident ever.

Radioactive fallout from the power station contaminated up to three-quarters of Europe, according to some estimates, with Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, all then part of the U.S.S.R., the worst affected.

A 30 kilometers radius around the power station is still an exclusion zone where people are not allowed to live.

The three other reactors at Chernobyl continued to generate electricity until the power station finally closed in 2000. A giant protective dome was put in place over the fourth reactor in 2016.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force issues its first Space Force guidance

Air Force leaders have broken their silence following President Trump’s order to create a new military service branch for space.

Leaders issued a message to airmen telling them to stay the course as the process of implementing the president’s guidance moves forward. Trump gave the order on June 18, 2018, during a speech to the National Space Council at the White House.

In a message to all airmen sent June 19, 2018, service brass including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein confirmed that, as rumored, the new “space force” would be established as a military service inside the Air Force.


It’s an idea that Wilson and Goldfein have previously opposed publicly as too costly and presenting too many organizational challenges for the service.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, right, and Air Force Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein, center, speak with 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen and joint coalition partners during a town hall event held at the base theater, Aug. 20, 2017, in an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jonathan Hehnly)

In the new message, the leaders voiced agreement with Trump’s position that the U.S. military approach to the space domain must become more robust to meet current and future challenges.

“The President’s statement to the National Space Council adds emphasis to the Air Force position — space is a warfighting domain and the entire national security space enterprise must continue to enhance lethality, resilience and agility to meet the challenge posed by potential adversaries,” they wrote. “We look forward to working with Department of Defense leaders, Congress, and our national security partners to move forward on this planning effort.”

Trump offered few details about the implementation of a space force in his announcement June 18, 2018, though he did say the Air Force and the proposed new service would be “separate, but equal.”

Air Force leaders told airmen they should not expect any “immediate moves or changes” in the wake of the announcement, saying creation of the new force would take time.

“The work directed by the President will be a thorough, deliberate and inclusive process,” they wrote. ” … Our focus must remain on the mission as we continue to accelerate the space warfighting capabilities required to support the National Defense Strategy.”

Policy experts told Military.com that building a new force could take years and would require major legislation and planning, even if it’s staffed by current service members and takes advantage of existing infrastructure.

The message to airmen concluded on an upbeat note.

“We remain the best in the world in space and our adversaries know it,” it said. “Thank you for standing the watch. We’re proud to serve with you!”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Terrifying video shows air force pilots flying through haze of smoke

Harrowing video posted to Twitter shows Royal Australian Air Force pilots navigating through a thick haze of orange smoke that prevented them from completing rescue missions in the bushfire-plagued towns of Mallacoota and Merimbula.

Australia is currently battling its worst bushfire season in history, and over the last few months bushfires have razed over 6.3 million hectares (15.5 million acres) of land nationally as of Saturday. At least 24 people have lost their lives, thousands of homes have been destroyed, and nearly 500 million animals are estimated to have been killed in the flames.


And while bushfires in Australia are very common during the hotter spring and summer months, scientists have said that Australia’s fire season is beginning earlier and becoming more extreme as a result of climate change.

As of Tuesday morning local time, there were over 130 fires burning across the country, the worst of which are burning in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.

Australia’s air force commander, Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, posted a video of the horrifying conditions that pilots are facing as they attempt rescue missions into towns and areas devastated by the disaster.

“This video shows how heavy smoke from bushfires has prevented some C27J C130J flights from reaching #Mallacoota #Merimbula,” Iervasi wrote, referring to the coastal holiday towns of Mallacoota in Victoria and Merimbula in New South Wales, which have been completed ravaged by the fires.

Australia’s Navy on Friday began evacuating some of the thousands of tourists and residents still trapped in Mallacoota because conditions on land were so dire.

But Iervasi’s video demonstrated that smokey conditions also made it challenging to conduct rescue missions from the air.

“Our people are highly trained professional, but not always able to complete the mission on first try,” he wrote.

On Monday local time, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged a billion bushfire recovery fund, which will assist in rebuilding devastated areas over the next two years.

“This money will go towards supporting small businesses, supporting local councils, providing mental health support, investment in social and economic infrastructure, as well as providing environmental protection and protection for native wildlife, which has been so badly hit by these tragic fires,” Morrison said at a press conference.

Celebrities have also pledged and raised millions of dollars for relief efforts, though rescue missions on the ground remain challenging and dangerous.

Weather conditions have been increasingly hot and dry in some areas, breaking heat records, which exacerbate fire conditions.

Bushfires have also now become so big that they are generating their own weather through pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which create their own thunderstorms that can start more fires. And two major fires burning on either side of the Victoria-New South Wales border are inching closer to one another, which may result in what officials are calling a ‘megablaze‘ that could balloon to 1.2 million acres in size.

Additionally, thick blankets of smoke from nearby fires have filled major cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra with hazardous air.

“The fires are still burning and they will be burning for months to come,” Morrison told reporters on Monday.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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Articles

6 times ‘Murphy’ was an uninvited guest on special operations missions

When special operators (or any armed force, for that matter) goes on an operation, Murphy (of “Murphy’s Law” fame) can be an uninvited and very unwelcome guest — whether with last minute changes in the plan, an inopportune discovery by civilians, or gear breaking down.


America’s highly-trained commandos have an amazing track record of achievement, wracking up huge wins with very few losses over the decades since World War II. But their missions are often so high stakes that when Murphy does pay a visit, the damage has an outsized public impact.

Here are some of the more notable instances where Murphy’s Law sent spec ops missions into a tailspin.

1. Desert One

On April 24, 1980, the newly established Delta Force attempted a daring rescue mission of the 66 Americans being held hostage in Iran.

At the initial landing site codenamed “Desert One,” the mission went south in a big way. Ultimately, eight special operators died in the abortive effort, which contributed to the undoing of the Carter administration. The mission did become the backdrop used for the opening of the Chuck Norris classic, “The Delta Force,” which was also Lee Marvin’s last role.

2. Operation Urgent Fury

After a Marxist coup seized power of the small Caribbean nation of Grenada in 1979, tensions between the country (essentially a Cuban puppet) and the United States increased. After an internal power struggle ended up leaving the island nation’s president dead, President Ronald Reagan ordered American forces to settle the matter.

Unfortunately the SEALs involved with the invasion really had a rough time of it.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

The Navy SEAL Museum notes that a drop that was supposed to be in daylight and calm seas got delayed to night. A bad storm resulted in the loss of four SEALs. The lack of reconnaissance and bad comms (SEALs who rescued the island’s governor, had to use a phone to call HQ for support) created problems, but the operation was successful.

The SEALs at the governor’s mansion were eventually rescued by Force Recon Marines. Other SEALs managed to destroy a radio tower and swim out to sea, where they were picked up. Grenada was a success, and many of the lessons learned were applied in the future.

3. Operation Just Cause

The SEALs again were involved in an op where Murphy paid a visit when the United States decided to remove Manuel Noriega from power after Panamanian troops killed a U.S. Marine.

SEAL Team 4 drew the assignment of taking Punta Paitilla airport and disabling Noriega’s private jet. According to the Navy SEAL Museum’s web page, Noriega’s jet had been moved to a hanger.

As a result of the move, the SEALs ended up into a firefight that left four dead. One of those killed in action. SEAL Don McFaul would receive a posthumous Navy Cross, and have an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS McFaul (DDG 74), named in his honor.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

4. ODA 525 – Desert Storm

In this special op, Murphy took the form of children discovering the hide site of nine Green Berets lead by Chief Warrant Officer Richard Balwanz. Balwanz made the decision to let the kids, go, and his force found itself under attack.

Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Daily Caller noted that Balwanz brought his entire team back. In this case, the special operators overcame Murphy in an outstanding feat of arms that few Americans have heard about.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

5. Mogadishu

If you’ve seen “Black Hawk Down,” you pretty much know the story of how the firefight in Mogadishu went down. In this case, a 2013 article at RealClearDefense.com noted that two MH-60 Blackhawks from the 106th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (the “Nightstalkers”) were shot down. Murphy had a lot of room to maneuver when armor and AC-130 support was denied.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

6. Operation Red Wings

If you read the book, “Lone Survivor” (or saw the movie), you have a very good sense as to what went wrong here. Lieutenant Michael Murphy’s team of SEALs was discovered by civilians, a force of insurgents launched an attack and three SEALs were killed in the harrowing firefight.

It got worse when a Chinook helicopter carrying a quick reaction force was shot down by insurgents, killing 11 SEALs and eight Nightstalkers.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Vietnam veteran saved thousands of lives on 9/11

“Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming, Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors’ pennants streaming, To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady, It cannot be ever said ye
For the battle were not ready. Stand and never yield!”


As employees of Morgan Stanley evacuated the South Tower on 9/11, they heard a familiar voice singing to them. Rick Rescorla, their Vice President of Security, was calmly and efficiently guiding them out of the offices and down a stairwell. Moments earlier, a plane had struck the North Tower, and a PA announcement had told workers in the South Tower to remain at their desks.

Rescorla would have none of that.

Grabbing his bullhorn and walkie-talkie, he immediately ushered the employees out. As the employees were going down the stairwell, the building lurched suddenly. The second plane had hit above them, and the building violently shook. As the evacuation started to turn to panic, the voice of Rescorla called out. Remain calm, help each other, be proud of being Americans, we will get through this. Then the singing. The employees took strength in his calm demeanor and followed and helped each other down the tower. By the end of it, almost 2,700 employees made it safely out of the building. Of all of Morgan Stanley’s employees, only six didn’t make it.

Rescorla was one of them.

He was last seen on the 10th floor and like many heroes who perished on that day of days, was headed up the stairs, into the fire to find more people to save. His body was never found.

As Morgan Stanley employees shared their stories about Rick and how calming he was, quite a few talked about the singing. How it was surreal yet calming as if telling them everything would be ok.

As the stories spread, a few men heard about that and were quite familiar with Rick singing. He had sung to them when they were in a life or death situation and it had calmed them down too. It was years earlier on the edge of a mountain in the Ia Drang valley in Vietnam.

Rick Rescorla was born in Cornwall in the United Kingdom in 1939. When he was 16, he signed up to join the British military and ended up fighting against insurgents in Cyprus in the late 1950s. From there, he ended up in Rhodesia (present-day Zambia) as part of the North Rhodesian Police. He met an American named Daniel Hill, who would later become a lifelong friend. Rescorla, by this time, was very much an anti-communist, and Hill had told him that the United States was sending troops to a place called Vietnam to prevent the spread of communism there.

As soon as his contract was up, Rescorla worked to make his way to the U.S. He lived in a hostel and waited for the first chance to enlist in the United States Army. He ended up being selected to Officer Candidate School and, after further training, ended up on the 7th Calvary. The unit had once been led by George Custer into the last stand at Little Bighorn. Rescorla would be under the command of Hal Moore, and would find himself headed into a last stand of his own.

Most of us have seen the movie, We Were Soldiers or read the amazing book the movie was based on.

Rick Rescorla was a platoon leader and was one of many American soldiers who showed their bravery and tenacity on that battlefield. The battle was the first major engagement of the war and Rescorla saw first-hand how bloody it would be.

“There were American and NVA bodies everywhere. My area was where Lt. Geoghegan’s platoon had been. There were several dead NVA around his platoon command post. One dead trooper was locked in contact with a dead NVA, hands around the enemy’s throat. There were two troopers – one black, one Hispanic – linked tight together. It looked like they had died trying to help each other.”

Through the thick of battle, Rescorla was seen moving from position to position, encouraging his men and singing Cornish and Welsh hymns to them. It put them at ease and got them settled down to see their leader keeping his cool. At the end of the battle, Rescorla famously found an old French bugle on the body of a dead North Vietnamese soldier. It was a trophy from the previous war fought in Vietnam between the Vietnamese and French colonialists. A photo of Rescorla moving around the battlefield became one of the enduring images of the Vietnam war.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

After the military, Rescorla went into academics for a while, before deciding to get into the world of private security. He ended up becoming the head of security of Dean Whitter, which later would merge into Morgan Stanley. Working out of the World Trade Center, he once brought in his old friend from Rhodesia, now also a security consultant, to give a security analysis of the complex. They both headed down to the underground garage and found an exposed load-bearing beam that might crumble with a powerful enough explosion. They wrote up a report saying the load-bearing beam was too accessible and should be protected. The report was made in 1990. It was ignored. Three years, later Muslim extremists drove a rental truck laden with explosives into the basement of the World Trade Center and targeted that column. Luckily it held, but Rescorla knew they would try again someday….

He implemented major changes at Dean Whitter and later Morgan Stanley to ensure that employees would know what to do in case of a major emergency. He drilled them constantly on evacuation drills and made sure everyone knew where to go if the worst happened. As usually happens, as the years since the bombings passed, people got complacent. Management would throw fits during drills as they view them as unnecessary and a distraction. Rescorla didn’t care. He was certain another attempt would be made and even asked Morgan Stanley to move to a location in New Jersey. He even ventured the next attack would be via a cargo plane laden with explosives.

He was almost right.

On the fateful day as Morgan Stanley employees filed out of the building, they saw a familiar face. With his bullhorn, Rescorla projected calmness as he directed them down the stairwells. As they walked down two by two and maintaining space so they wouldn’t bunch up as they had drilled constantly, they heard the singing.

As he was with his troops in Vietnam, Rick Rescorla was the cool, calm and collected leader in the maelstrom of hell on the fateful September day.

For his bravery, this past year, Rescorla was posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizenship Medal by President Donald Trump in a ceremony at the White House.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Trevor Noah, John Oliver dive into missing leader’s ‘silly-dictator antics’

Before his sudden reemergence at the Caspian Economic Forum, speculation had recently been swirling in Turkmenistan after the country’s strongman president disappeared from public view for more than a month.

Considering that Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov regularly dominates the airwaves in the tightly controlled state, his abrupt absence did not go unnoticed, prompting speculation that he was in poor health or even dead.

This obviously posed a problem for the Turkmen authorities, who have spent years cultivating an elaborate cult of personality aimed at boosting the totalitarian leader’s power and prestige.
Turkmenistan’s Singer, Race-car Driver, Jockey, Autocrat

www.youtube.com

When ubiquitous dictators suddenly evaporate into thin air, it can have a destabilizing effect on their regimes.

Perhaps hoping to avoid the crippling uncertainty that gripped the Soviet Union immediately following the demise of Stalin or the rampant rumors that accompanied the long-drawn-out announcement of Islam Karimov’s death in neighboring Uzbekistan in 2016, the Turkmen authorities went into overdrive to assure the populace, and the world at large, that their glorious leader was alive and well.

This all culminated in state TV broadcasting an Aug. 4, 2019 highlights package showing a 35-minute montage of clips of what Turkmenistan’s all-singing, all-dancing president had been doing on his “holidays,” including riding a bicycle, firing an automatic weapon in combat gear, bowling with astonishing accuracy, riding a horse, working on a new book, composing a new song, and driving an SUV through the desert to the Gates of Hell — a perpetually burning crater that resulted from a Soviet attempt to flare gas there in the early 1970s.

Watan Habarlary 04.08.2019

www.youtube.com

Not surprisingly, such blatant silly-dictator antics have been gleefully seized upon by many detractors, including the U.S.-based satirists Trevor Noah and John Oliver.

Turkmenistan’s Leader Wants Everyone to Know He’s Alive | The Daily Show

www.youtube.com

In a five-minute segment on The Daily Show, Noah used the opportunity to reprise some of the video “highlights” of Berdymukhammedov’s bizarre reign, including the South African comedian’s own personal favorite, which shows the Turkmen leader rocking out with his grandson.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnWE19Y1ABo
Президент Туркменистана спел по-немецки

www.youtube.com

Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver went even further, devoting a full 20-minute segment to documenting the sheer “weirdness” of the Berdymukhammedov regime.

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

www.youtube.com

Among other things, Oliver took great delight in dissecting the Turkmen president’s fascination with horses, which RFE/RL has also covered in the past.

The British-born comic paid particular attention to the time when Berdymukhammedov had an embarrassing fall while riding a beloved steed, a story that the Turkmen authorities did their best to try and bury.

Turkmen president falls during horse race

www.youtube.com

Besides mining the subject for laughs, however, both also made sure to draw attention to the dark side of life in Turkmenistan, particularly its abysmal human rights record.

According to its latest World Report, Human Rights Watch singled out the country for particular criticism, calling it “one of the world’s most isolated and oppressively governed” states, where “all forms of religious and political expression not approved by the government are brutally punished.”

With this in mind, Oliver also took the time to take a swipe at Guinness World Records for actually sending verifiers to validate what he described as Berdymukhammedov’s “bizarre obsession” with setting global firsts (something he shares with some Central Asian counterparts).

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

John Oliver repeatedly cited RFE/RL reporting in his Berdymukhammedov segment.

(Last Week Tonight/YouTube)

In Oliver’s view, enabling Berdymukhammedov to register such Turkmen records as having “the most buildings with marble cladding” or the “world’s largest indoor Ferris wheel” only serves to “reinforce a cult of personality and confer a sense of legitimacy on a global stage.”

Typically, Oliver was to have one last laugh at the Turkmen leader’s expense, however.

Taking a leaf out of Berdymukhammedov’s book, the Last Week Tonight ended the show by attempting to break another record, making what Oliver described as the “world’s largest marbled cake” — a 55-square-meter confectionery decorated with a huge picture of the Turkmen president infamously falling off his horse.

It’s probably safe to assume that this is probably not a record achievement Turkmen state TV is going to be trumpeting anytime soon.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

These fighter pilots demonstrated this commitment with unwavering loyalty and bravery.


On September 15, 1952, Air Force Capt. James Risner was escorting a flight of F-84 Thunderjet fighter-bombers on an attack on a chemical plant along the Yalu River. Flying his F-86 Sabre fighter jet, Risner engaged an attacking enemy MiG and chased it at nearly supersonic speed at ground level. Risner pursued the MiG across the Yalu River and into Chinese airspace. He landed several solid hits on the MiG with his .50-caliber machine guns which shot off the enemy jet’s canopy and set it on fire. Risner chased the MiG over a Chinese air base where it crashed into more MiGs parked on the ground. Throughout this engagement, Risner’s wingman, 1st Lt. Joseph Logan, was flying in pursuit and covering Risner’s six.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

Risner poses in front of an F-86 (Photo by the United States Air Force)

As the flight headed for home, Logan’s Sabre was hit by enemy flak—fuel and hydraulic fluid gushed out of the wounded jet’s belly. Logan had only five minutes of fuel left; not enough to get him out of enemy territory. Refusing to abandon his wingman, Risner told Logan to shut his engine down and lined up behind him. He skillfully inched the upper lip of his Sabre’s air intake toward the tailpipe of Logan’s Sabre until they made contact. Despite fuel and hydraulic fluid obscuring his canopy and turbulence constantly separating the two aircraft, Risner persisted in his endeavor to push his wingman to safety.

After almost 60 miles of pushing, the two planes were finally over the ocean and in range of rescue swimmers. Logan called out to Risner, “I’ll see you at base tonight,” and bailed out of his stricken aircraft. Despite being a strong swimmer, Logan became tangled in his parachute shroud lines and tragically drowned off the coast of Cho Do Island. Having burned extra fuel to push his wingman, Risner’s Sabre ran out of fuel and he glided to a dead-stick landing at Kimpo Air Base. Over a decade later during the Vietnam War, two Air Force fighter jet crews would find themselves in a similar situation to Risner and Logan.

In 1967, Capt. Bob Pardo with Weapon System Officer 1st Lt. Steve Wayne and his wingman Capt. Earl Aman and his Weapon System Officer 1st Lt. Robert Houghton flew F-4 Phantom II fighter jets from Ubon Air Base in Thailand. On March 10, they were a part of a bombing run on a steel mill just north of Hanoi in North Vietnam. Heavy anti-aircraft fire cut through the skies, damaging both Phantom IIs. Aman and Houghton’s plane took a direct hit to the fuel tank and quickly lost most of their precious fuel. Without the range needed to make it to the KC-135 refueling tanker over Laos, Aman and Houghton would have to bail out over the unfriendly skies of North Vietnam. To prevent this, Pardo decided to push the stricken plane.

First, he had Aman jettison his drag chute so that he could insert his fighter’s nose into the drag chute compartment, much like Risner did with the tailpipe of Logan’s Sabre. However, the aerodynamic properties of the two aircraft created a suction that threatened to pull Pardo and Wayne up into Aman and Houghton’s plane. Pardo then had the idea to push the Phantom II from its tailhook. Originally designed for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, the F-4 Phantom II was equipped with a tailhook to snag arresting cables and land on aircraft carriers.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

An F-4 Phantom II’s drag chute in its compartment (Photo by David Wallace, Jr.)

With the tailhook lowered, it provided about 4 feet of standoff distance between the two planes—just enough to prevent the deadly aerodynamic interference. Pardo then maneuvered his F-4 under and behind Aman’s until the tailhook was resting on the front of his windscreen. Aman then shut down his engines as Pardo pushed to keep his wingman airborne. The stunt worked to slow the rate of descent of Aman and Houghton’s aircraft. However, every 15 to 30 seconds, the tailhook would slide off of the windscreen and Pardo would have to line back up and re-establish connection.

Pardo and Wayne were also struggling with a fire in their port-side engine, eventually having to shut it down. After 88 miles of pushing, both aircraft reached Laotian airspace at an altitude of just 6,000 feet.

Aman and Houghton ejected safely, but Pardo and Wayne had burned so much fuel that they were forced to eject just ahead of them. All but Wayne had to evade enemy forces on the ground before they were located by friendly forces and rescued. Pardo and Wayne were initially reprimanded for losing their aircraft and putting their own lives in danger. It wasn’t until 1989 that the military re-examined “Pardo’s Push”, as it came to be known, and awarded the Silver Star to both Pardo and Wayne.

Both Risner and Pardo persisted in their commitment to their comrades in arms. During the Vietnam War, Risner was shot down over North Vietnam and was imprisoned in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for seven years, four months, and 27 days. During this time, he and Navy Commander James Stockdale led the American resistance in the prison and organized the other POWs to present maximum resistance to their captors.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

Risner answers questions at a press conference after he is released from captivity. (Photo by the United States Air Force)

After retiring from the Air Force, Pardo learned that Aman had developed Lou Gehrig’s disease and lost both his voice and mobility. He created the Earl Aman Foundation to raise money and buy his wingman a voice synthesizer, a motorized wheelchair, and a computer. The two men remained close friends until Aman’s death in 1998.

The bonds formed by these airmen in the crucible of aerial combat manifested in their refusal to abandon their wingmen and willingness to risk life and limb to save them. It is a commitment that is difficult to understand for people who have not experienced it firsthand, but Risner, Wayne and Pardo’s selfless actions help to demonstrate its power and magnitude.

Featured photo: Pardo’s Push (Painting by S.W. Ferguson/Retrieved from warhistoryonline.com)

MIGHTY SPORTS

This is why cadets have shouted “Go Army! Beat Navy!” for over a century

The annual Army-Navy football game is intense. And though the players will be doing their best to out-maneuver and out-muscle the opposition, the competition extends well beyond the field. The fanbase of each service academy, which includes the troops and veterans of their respective branches, rally loudly behind their team with a single, unifying phrase: “Go Army! Beat Navy!” Or, for the sailors and Marines, “Go Navy! Beat Army!

As creative and ambitious as the smacktalk has become in recent years, the phrase never changes. And that’s because these rallying cries are nearly as old as the Army-Navy game itself.


Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

Which I can only assume would cause confusion (and maybe a bit of jealousy) from the players of Notre Dame.

(Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs)

The tradition of military academy fans shouting out, “Go [us]! Beat [them]!” can be traced back to some of the earliest Army-Navy Games. It’s unclear which side started the tradition, but both teams were shouting their own versions of the simple phrase as early as second game, long before the sport of football became the mainstream cultural staple it is today.

Over the years, the phrase remained unchanged. The only variations come when a West Point or Naval Academy team faces off against the Air Force Academy or the Royal Military College of Canada. It doesn’t even matter if the team is facing off against a university unaffiliated with the Armed Forces — they’ll still add the “Beat Navy!” or “Beat Army!” to the end of their fight song.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

Plebes who don’t follow this would presumably do push-ups and add “Beat Navy!” after each one.

(Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs)

The plebes (or freshmen) of each academy are also expected to be fiercely loyal to their football team at every possible occasion. At the drop of a hat, a plebe is expected to know how many days are left until the next Army-Navy Game. They’re also only allowed to say a handful of accepted phrases: “Yes, sir/ma’am,” “No, sir/ma’am,” and, of course, “Beat Navy/Army.”

Plebes are also expected to finish every sentence or greeting with a “Beat Navy” in the same way that an Army private adds “Hooah” to pretty much everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s an in-person meeting, e-mail, phone call, or text message. They better add “Beat Navy” to the end of whatever point they’re trying to make.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

Go team! Beat the other team!

(West Point)

In the end, it’s still a friendly game between the two academies. They’re only truly rivals for the 60 minutes of game time. The phrase is all about mutual respect and should never get twisted. Years down the line, when the cadets become full-fledged officers, they’ll meet shoulder-to-shoulder on the battlefield and joke about the games later.

The rivalry is tough — but isn’t it always that way between two siblings?

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How the US Army responded to internet claim that Captain America was owed $3 million in back pay

A fan on Reddit once calculated that the US government would owe Captain America more than $3 million in back pay if the events in the Marvel Universe were real.


A US Army spokesman told INSIDER that the fan had a point but that calculating the exact dollar amount isn’t so simple.

Here’s the backstory.

After defeating Hydra in World War II, Captain America was lost in the Arctic north from 1945 to 2011. During those six decades on ice, he was never technically discharged. As a result (the theory goes), the government owes him payment for those 66 years of service.

Redditor Anon33249038 crunched the numbers and concluded that the First Avenger is entitled to $3,154,619.52, adjusting for inflation.

The analysis factors in the Army’s 1945 pay grade, biannual raises, and how long Cap spent on ice before he returned to active duty in 2011 at the start of “The Avengers.”

Wayne Hall, an Army spokesman, says there’s more to it than that.

“If Capt. Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) were not a fictional character and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and recovery actually real, he may actually be entitled to receive back pay,” Hall told INSIDER in an email. “However, a wide variety of variables would have to be taken into consideration to actually calculate the true amount of back pay to which he would be entitled to receive; given that he is a fictional character we cannot truly capture all of those variables accurately.”

Hall went on to say that the Redditor had some of his facts wrong.

“Yes, it is correct that the O-3 (Army captain) pay grade in 1945 was $313.50; however it was a monthly pay rate vs. quarterly as the original poster indicated.”

The fan theory also “misinterpreted military pay scales” when arriving at the figure for the biannual increase of pay, Hall said, and failed to take in “any potential promotions that may have been bestowed upon Rogers while he was listed in a ‘Missing’ status.”

Whatever the final amount of back pay the government would owe Captain America for his decades of service, it’s almost certain that he would still have way less money than Tony Stark.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

As the United States approaches the 20-year mark of the war on terror, the country continues to lose her service members. But we aren’t losing the vast majority of them to combat with the enemy. Instead, accidents and suicide are inflicting most of the devastation.


In 2019, a Congressional report compiled the data from 2006 through 2019. The results determined that 12,116 of the 16,652 killed in service during that period didn’t die from combat related causes. That’s 73% who weren’t lost due to fighting an enemy during war but instead – most died accidentally or by suicide.

Since 2015, the non-combat related deaths have been outpacing those lost while fighting. According to the Defense Reauthorization Act of 2019, in 2017, almost four times the amount of combat related deaths were attributed to training accidents. The number has continued to grow, causing alarm within the military and government.

These accidental deaths are often attributed to training and safety insufficiencies.

The increasing numbers led many members of the Armed Services Committee to state that America is “at a crisis point.” The committee’s 2019 proposal for funding addressed rebuilding the military so that its members can safely meet the needs of present and future threats to the country. That same proposal called for more training, equipment repair and increased readiness on land, at sea and in the air.
Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

But some of the battles they will face are within their own minds.

Since 2004, the suicide rates for the military have increased substantially. Tragically, 23.2% of all service member deaths from 2006 to 2019 were labeled by the Department of Defense as “self-inflicted.” In 2019, the Air Force’s numbers were trending so high that their Chief of Staff called for a resiliency and suicide prevention stand down, which was unprecedented.

A 2019 historical study within the Army painted a picture for the increased numbers. The data within the study demonstrated that there was a decrease in suicides for the Army during the active combat of the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. But beginning with the Vietnam War, the numbers changed and continued to climb. By 2012, the rates of suicide within the military surpassed the rates of suicide within the civilian world.

Accidental deaths and increasing suicide rates highlight the increased danger that America’s troops encounter a long way from the battlefield. Ensuring that those who raise their right hand to defend this country have effective and safe training environments with working equipment is vital. Their mental health support should also be continual and ongoing, with the stigma of seeking help eradicated from the top down. We owe them all of this – and so much more.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

This Marine is on the front lines treating COVID-19 patients

From the Marine Corps to the medical field, Onur Yenigun has exemplified a commitment to service in remarkable ways. A first generation American, Yenigun was the child of a Turkish immigrant and though he always knew he wanted to be a doctor, first, he wanted to give back to his country.

He served in 1st Battalion 5th Marines after telling his recruiter he “wanted to get his butt kicked.” After his service, he used the G.I. Bill and graduated with highest honors from UC Davis, before attending medical school at UC San Francisco.

Now, he’s in his third year of residency in the ER of Stanford Hospital, fighting on the front lines of a new threat: COVID-19. I had the chance to talk with him about the virus, what it’s like for our medical professionals right now, and why it’s still important to “flatten the curve.”

Here’s what he had to say:


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B_Fr6D8hBjo/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “I’ve seen those pictures – folks so beat by the daily grind that they’re passed out and photographed by a passer-by. Sure, it happened to…”

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WATM: What is your job like right now?

Yenigun: It keeps changing because we’re learning new things all the time. Our overall volume is down. There are fewer patients — but the ones that do come in are sicker. People who are sick keep waiting it out at home because they’re afraid to go to the hospital so when they do come in, they’re really sick.

And then there’s more overall fear in the hospital. I used to greet my co-workers with a hug and now we can’t do that. We’re a close-knit family and that camaraderie means a lot to me, so it’s really hard to not be able to high five everyone. One of the interesting things about it, though, is that usually our [attending physicians] are the ones doing the teaching, but due to the nature of the virus, we’re all learning together. We’re growing together and I like that aspect.

WATM: What would you say to citizens who are putting off health treatments because of the virus? When should people go to the hospital?

Yenigun: People should call their doctor for advice. A lot of out-patient visits are shut down, but physicians are still pretty accessible and they can give medical advice.

Anyone with serious symptoms should come in, but if someone feels like their symptoms are manageable at home then they can safely do that. It is risky to come to a hospital if someone doesn’t need to be there — not just because of COVID-19.

People’s primary care doctors are still a really good resource.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B_DWDYhhRcy/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “Behind these doors lies a convention center turned medical facility with over 200 cots, neatly lined and ready to accept and care for the…”

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WATM: What treatments have been effective for patients with COVID-19?

Yenigun: Supportive therapy is still the most effective right now. There are a lot of drug and vaccine trials and antivirals being studied right now but if you were to come into the hospital today with COVID, the major things would be supportive treatments: administer oxygen, control fevers, monitor symptoms, and intubate when necessary.

WATM: Is your hospital doing proning?

Yenigun: Proning is something that has been around for so long. Proning has been an effective treatment for patients with bad lung diseases like ARDS [acute respiratory distress syndrome], which is what we call the syndrome these patients are getting with bad COVID. It’s not always effective, but in certain cases it can improve outcomes.

WATM: What kind of recovery rate are you seeing for COVID-positive patients?

Yenigun: The majority of patients I see are healthy enough to be discharged and they go home to get better. I don’t know the exact percentage, of course. I have seen some very sick people who end up in the ICU. Most of them have been elderly or they’ve had risk factors that we know lead to more serious infections. The big four that we know about are diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and lung disease, so when we see COVID patients at higher risk then we monitor more closely.

WATM: What does the hospital do to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading to patients/staff?

Yenigun: Even just to get into our hospital, staff members have to get their temperature checked. People with fevers have to go home. We also have very strict policies with regards to our PPE [personal protective equipment].

For patients, we can see many who are less critical in a drive-through outside and they will “iPad in” — we can tell a lot about a person from looking at them. Looking at you, I can tell that you’re breathing comfortably, that your color is good, that you can talk easily. I can tell that you don’t have a bad respiratory condition. We could swab you, you could go home, you could call in and get results.

For patients who are “persons under investigation” or that we think might have COVID in the hospital, we try to place them in negative pressure rooms. We also have HEPA filters in the rooms that are purifying the air. Anytime we go into those rooms, we wear full protective gear: gloves, N95 masks, goggles.

We’re fortunate now to have a rapid test so we can quickly determine who has COVID and who doesn’t so we’re able to separate COVID-positive patients from other patients.

WATM: Why is social distancing and “flattening the curve” important?

Yenigun: I don’t really like the term “social distancing” — I prefer “physical distancing” because I don’t think anyone should be forced into complete isolation, distancing themselves from the people they care about most in their social circles because that’s going to lead to a whole host of issues surrounding mental health.

It is important, however, to reduce the number of infections at any one time. The whole point of flattening the curve isn’t necessarily to reduce the number of infections — it’s to reduce the number of infections at once.

The worst thing we could do is have everyone go out and spread this thing like wildfire; suddenly everyone would present critically ill, flooding our emergency department. Many would need to get intubated, we would run out of ventilators, the ICU would fill, and then people would die in the waiting room. That’s our biggest nightmare — we don’t want people to die.

The whole point of distancing is to provide time for this virus to trickle through the population. The people who are going to get sick will get sick, but it will be manageable for hospitals. We’ll be able to take care of them and save as many lives as we can.

That time will also give us the opportunity to run these clinical trials and develop vaccines.

WATM: Have you seen any cases of reinfection?

Yenigun: I haven’t seen any reinfections. There has been talk about reinfections overseas, but we haven’t seen anyone personally who has gotten sick, gotten better, then gotten sick again here.

WATM: Are you worried about getting the virus?

Yenigun: I’m not too worried about my own personal well-being. I don’t think I would get critically ill. I’m more worried about the fact that I interact with multiple people and patients every day. I don’t want to pass it on to other people.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B-it1Q1Bc10/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “I remember driving home from work last night wishing I had a way to spend my day off that would in someway contribute to the community. I…”

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WATM: What is life like for doctors and nurses right now? What’s your work-tempo like and how is morale?

Yenigun: Work hasn’t necessarily increased because we’re able to manage the patients as they come in. I’ve personally been able to volunteer with Team Rubicon to staff a convention center here we’ve turned into a medical respite. I’ve had a lot of 24-hour days, but this is what I love and I’m happy to do it.

As far as morale, our community has really come together. We’ve been getting donations of food and snacks and letters from grateful locals. We had a great Black Rifle Coffee Company donation — shout out to those guys. Our staff has Zoom social hours. I put together a Zoom work-out for nurses and staff. We’ve found ways to come together.

WATM: What can people do to support hospitals and people in the medical field?

Yenigun: Everyone in health care would really appreciate it if everyone can just take measures to stay healthy. That’s what’s going to get us through this in the long run — that’s how we’re going to end these lockdowns. Wash your hands. Stay healthy. If you feel like you just have a cold, stay home. Unless you become afraid that you cannot manage the symptoms, you might be safer at home.

WATM: What are the benefits of taking an antibody test?

Yenigun: If you have been exposed, even if you were asymptomatic, you should have developed antibodies. In most cases, when you have antibodies for an illness you’re most likely protected from it. We can’t say that for sure about COVID-19. Antibody testing is interesting from an epidemiological perspective, but it might not necessarily mean anything conclusive for individuals yet.

WATM: Finally, and this is arguably the most important question, there’s an article about whether COVID-19 could be spread through farts…would you like to comment on that, Doctor?

Yenigun: Oh god…

WATM: I just want people to stay safe.

Yenigun: Do I think it could be…spread through a fart?

WATM: Right.

Yenigun: They have isolated the viral RNA in stool but that doesn’t necessarily mean it could be passed fecally…still, this is probably where common sense and courtesy come in.

WATM: Thank you for that and, sincerely, thank you for your continued service.

I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, too! Thank you.


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Why Argentina’s new French weapons will be a headache for the UK

You would think that, as NATO allies with the United Kingdom, France wouldn’t do anything to make the lives of British forces harder. Unfortunately, the French may have done just that with a small arms sale that didn’t really make much of a blip.


According to Scramble Magazine, the French sold Argentina five Dassault Super Etendard carrier-based attack planes. Now, you may wonder how this makes the life of the U.K.’s Royal Navy harder, especially since the Argentinean Navy hasn’t had a carrier since the Veinticinco de Mayo was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1997.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it
A Super Etendard refuels four other planes. (U.S. Navy photo)

For that answer, we need to go back roughly 36 years, to the Falklands War, when Argentina had seized the Islands. At the time, among their potent aircraft were some newly-purchased Super Etendards, armed with the Aerospatiale AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles. At the time, they had a grand total of five planes and five missiles but were waiting on delivery of several more aircraft, according to The National Interest. Despite that very limited inventory, the Super Etendards carried out two successful strikes that sank the Type 42 guided-missile destroyer, HMS Sheffield, and the merchant vessel, Atlantic Conveyor.

While the British eventually liberated the Falkland Islands from Argentina, the Etendard had left its mark.

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it
The Type 42 guided-missile destroyer HMS Sheffield, sunk by an Exocet fired by an Argentinean Super Etendard. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Nathalmad)

Argentina eventually got the full delivery of 14 Super Etendards. They also, presumably, had a good stock of Exocets. But in the 1990s and 2000s, the Argentinean military got hit with budget cuts after the country’s economy suffered serious problems. The Super Etendard force had declined to a lone operational plane in 2014, according to Scramble, with nine reserves in storage.

This sale of five planes will push Argentina to a minimum of six operational planes and, if the other nine return to service, the British could once again have to prepare for a fight near the Falklands.

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