Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

It’s often called the “Forgotten Campaign of the Second World War” — and there’s no secret as to why. The campaign lost out on fanfare mostly because it took place in a far off, remote territory that few Americans lived on or cared about. And it didn’t help that it happened at a time when Marines and soldiers were pushing onto the beaches at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

The truth is, however, that the sporadic fighting and eventual American victory on the frozen, barren islands of Alaska proved instrumental to an Allied victory in the the Pacific.


Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

A bit of a fixer-upper, but nothing that can’t be buffed out.

(National Archives)

Just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched a two-day attack on Dutch Harbor, Alaska. On June 3rd and 4th, 1942, their targets were the Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and U.S. Army Fort Mears on Amaknak Island.

The Japanese attack was an attempt to establish a foothold in the Northern Pacific. From there, the Japanese could continue and advance towards either the Alaskan mainland or move toward the northwestern states of the United States. A few days later, on June 6th and 7th, the Japanese invaded and annexed the Alaskan islands of Kiska and Attu — along with the western-most Aleutian Islands.

It was a tactical victory for the Japanese but the Americans managed to shoot down a Zero during the Battle of Dutch Harbor, and it happened to land in relatively good condition.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

Allied troops would move onto Kiska with over 34,000 troops… Just to find the island completely abandoned two weeks prior.

(National Archives)

Meanwhile, Japan was busy moving the bulk of their naval forces toward Midway to aid in recovery from the burgeoning American victory there. Back in North America, the Americans had regrouped and gained the support of the Canadian military.

The bolstered Allied troops moved toward Japanese-occupied territories. They sporadically picked off enemy vessels one by one as they pushed through the island chain. Then, on March 27th, 1943, the American and Japanese fleets squared off at the Battle of Komandorski Islands. The Americans took more damage, but caused enough to make the Japanese abandon their Aleutian garrisons.

On May 11th, U.S. and Canadian soldiers landed on Attu Island to take it back. Japanese dug in and booby-trapped much of the surrounding island. The Americans suffered 3,929 casualties — 580 dead, 1,148 wounded, and over 1,200 cold-weather injuries — but the Japanese were overrun. In a last-ditch effort, the Japanese committed the single largest banzai charge — an attack in which every infantryman first accepted their death before charging charged into battle — in all of the Pacific campaign. The Japanese suffered 2,351 deaths with hundreds of more believed to be lost to the unforgiving weather.

The captured Zero from Dutch Harbor, dubbed the Akutan Zero, was studied and reverse engineered by American technicians. Test pilots were successfully able to determine the weak-points and vulnerabilities of the fighter aircraft, which were quickly relayed to the rest of the Army Air Force. This information proved vital in later battles.

In the end, America would retake the islands and force the Japanese Navy back south to deal with the brunt of the American military. With the Japanese gone, the only route into the continental U.S. was secure again.

To learn more about the Aleutian Campaign, check out the video below!

MIGHTY HISTORY

The IRA loved this British general so much they couldn’t execute him

A little bit of charm goes a long way. Nowhere was that more apparent than when British General Cuthbert Lucas literally used a charm offensive to escape captivity and save his own life. 

After being captured by Irish Republicans during the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence, a British officer’s life expectancy could drop rapidly, if they weren’t careful.

Ireland had been trying to rule itself for decades before the outbreak of Ireland’s independence war. Originally, the Irish advocated volunteering to fight with the British in World War I. But as the war in Europe ground on, support for that split and Irish Republicans revolted in 1916. The British response to the revolt was so brutal it caused a full-on rebellion in 1919.

For a quick recap, watch the video below:

British General Cuthbert Lucas was sent to Ireland to command a brigade of infantry. A lifelong veteran of the British Army, Cuthbert had seen action in the Second Boer War and in World War I, notably at the Somme and at Gallipoli.

In June of 1920, Lucas became the highest-ranking British soldier to be captured by the Irish Republican Army. He was fishing in a river near his command in County Cork, Ireland along with two other officers. The junior officers attempted to escape but were injured in the process. The IRA let those two go and took Lucas to a hidden location in West Limerick.

If the general was frightened for his life, it was hard to tell. He demanded what was due to him as an officer and a prisoner of war, which included a bottle of whiskey every day. On top of his daily ration, the BBC says the general played cards with his captors, lots and lots of cards. In fact, the general was said to have cleaned out the Irishmen.

While Lucas played cards, his pregnant wife worried. When she learned he was captured, the grief sent her into labor. After the baby was born, she wrote to the general to inform him of the birth, by simply addressing it “To the IRA.” Thanks to sympathetic postmen on both sides, the couple were able to exchange letters. 

Those letters ended up in the hands of their descendants, which ended up on an episode of Antiques Roadshow. After comparing the literal notes left by their grandparents, the grandchildren of both the general and his captors learned they were all having a great time together, something both sides of the incident would tell their families.

General Lucas’ love of drinking and poker likely saved his life because the IRA couldn’t get enough of him. But they also had trouble fighting the war. 

With all the publicity surrounding Lucas’ capture, the IRA couldn’t operate in West Limerick anymore. So after a little longer than a month in captivity, Gen. Lucas was moved to County Clare, and on to East Limerick where the IRA completely relaxed his security detail, allowing him to escape. 

The granddaughter of IRA member George Powell, one of Lucas’ captors, recalled the general saying of the Irish Republican Volunteers, “I have been treated like a gentleman by gentlemen,” which was a quote echoed by Gen. Lucas to his own family.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The story of a Navy warship’s dangerous encounter with Russian fighters

When the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook sailed into the Baltic Sea in April 2016, it had been more than two years since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine.

Tensions between Russia and its NATO and European neighbors were still high, and the intervening period had seen a number of uncomfortable and even unsafe encounters between their forces, for which NATO often criticized Russia.

Adm. James Foggo, then a vice admiral in charge of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet, had those in mind as the Cook sailed into the Baltic.


“I had warned them going up there that as they passed through the Danish Straits and into the Baltic that they should be prepared for something like that and that the only way that the world would recognize that it happened is if they had a recording or a photograph,” Foggo, now commander of US Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa, said on the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings podcast.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very-low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

“So the commanding officer [of the Cook], Chuck Hampton, told me afterward, ‘Well, I had six combat cameramen on each bridge wing.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot,'” Foggo said.

“He goes, ‘Well, you told me if something happened I had to be prepared,'” Foggo added. “So that was part of their ‘man battle stations’ type drill for close-aboard contacts.”

Guided-missile destroyers like the Cook are the Navy’s premier air-defense platforms and are often tasked with guarding other ships, aircraft carriers in particular.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

‘Here comes this Russian hot dog’

The encounter with two Su-24 fighter jets, which took place about 80 nautical miles from the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, was one of two the US destroyer had on April 11 and 12, 2016.

On April 12, a Russian helicopter flew around the Cook seven times at low altitude in what the ship’s commander deemed “unsafe and unprofessional” passes.

A short time later, two Su-24s made 11 more close-range, low-altitude passes in what the Navy said was “a simulated attack profile.” The jets didn’t respond to safety advisories from the Cook, whose commander deemed several of their maneuvers “unsafe and unprofessional.”

The April 11 incident was especially dangerous because of what the Cook was doing and because of how the Russian pilot behaved.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

A Russian Kamov KA-27 HELIX helicopter flies low-level passes near the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Baltic Sea, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

“What a lot of people don’t know is that at the time they were doing what we call a ‘hot-pump’ of a Polish aircraft that was doing deck landing [qualifications],” Foggo said.

“So the Polish helicopter had landed and was being refueled while the rotors were turning, and here comes this Russian hot dog in his jet, doing several hundred knots, and the distance between wingtip and the deck of Donald Cook was about 30 feet,” Foggo added.

That was the closest of the 20 passes the Russian jets made that day, according to US officials, who said the Russians flew so close they created wakes in the water and that it was among the “most aggressive” Russian acts in some time.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

The fly-by that took place during the refueling was deemed unsafe by the Cook’s commanding officer, and the ship suspended flight operations until the Su-24s left the area.

“I asked Gen. [Philip] Breedlove and Gen. [Frank] Goranc … ‘would you ever fly your F-16 that close to a moving platform like Donald Cook?'” Foggo said.

“And they said, ‘No way, if the guy sneezed he might have buried his wing into the Donald Cook,'” Foggo added. “Now what would’ve happened then? We’d be explaining that this was a pilot error and not a shoot-down of that aircraft.”

Breedlove and Goranc are retired Air Force generals and fighter pilots who both led US Air Forces in Europe and Africa; Breedlove was also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft make multiple low-level passes over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

‘Wings clean’ vs. ‘wings dirty’

Encounters between NATO ships and aircraft and their Russian counterparts increased after the seizure of Crimea. US forces involved frequently deemed those encounters “unsafe.”

In years prior, “the Russians would typically fly with what we call a ‘wings clean’ configuration, which is no weapons on the wings,” Foggo said on the podcast. “Now in the interactions and the intercepts I see today, they’re coming out ‘wings dirty,’ or they have weapons on board.”

“That’s another bit of the calculus that goes in the commanding officer’s mind on … what is the intent of that pilot, and at what point is [the commanding officer] obliged to defend his ship under defensive rules of engagement,” Foggo said.

Foggo didn’t elaborate on those rules of engagement, but a European Command spokesman told Navy Times at the time that the Cook’s commanding officer didn’t feel threatened, and a retired Navy commanding officer said that, under the circumstances, the Russian aircraft didn’t present a credible threat.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

Encounters at sea still happen but are less frequent, Foggo said.

“I don’t have as many negative interactions … between Russian Federation navy and US or NATO assets,” he said. “They tend to act very professionally. It’s mostly in the air with intercepts, and those could possibly be due to different pilots … is it an air force guy in the cockpit or a navy guy? It depends, and every situation is different.”

US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO’s current Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command, said this summer that encounters had decreased and that “unsafe” intercepts had “diminished tremendously.”

“What I can assure this audience is that well over 99% of the intercepts that occur in the air are actually safe,” Wolters said at an event in Brussels in June. “In many of the cases where they’re unsafe, when you take a look at the experience level of the operators that were involved, it typically turns into a young man or woman that was probably just hot-dogging it a little bit more than they should.”

“For every one intercept that a Russian aviator commits against a NATO aircraft, we actually have three NATO intercepts” of Russian aircraft, Wolters added, according to Military Times. “That gives you a little bit of a feel for the readiness disposition of your NATO force.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Air Force may have a spy drone that’s secretly been flying for years

An in-depth report by Guy Norris in Aviation Week presents new evidence that a secretive, stealthy reconnaissance drone is now in operation with the US Air Force — and has been flying since 2010.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), thought to be called the RQ-180, is a large stealth craft used for reconnaissance missions, filling the role left open by the retirement of the SR-71 in 1999. There are no publicly available images of the UAV and an Air Force spokesperson said they were not aware of the drone. It is thought to be modeled after Northrop-Grumman’s X-47B, Foreign Policy reported in 2013, and to have a relatively large wingspan and a trailing edge, similar to the B-21 Raider.


The RQ-180 likely began flying at the Groom Lake testing facility at Area 51, where the government’s secretive U-2 testing was carried out in the 1950s. Aviation Week points to Aug. 3, 2010, as the first flight date for the aircraft.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

The B-21 Raider, from which the RQ-180 reconnaissance drone is thought to have borrowed its trailing edge design.

(US Air Force photo)

In 2014, testing appears to have been moved to Edwards Air Force Base in California, with a long-range test flight — possibly to the North Pole — reportedly taking place in early 2017. Insider reached out to Edwards Air Force Base regarding the test flight, but did not receive a response by press time.

At Beale Air Force Base, also in California, the 427th Reconnaissance Squadron was recently re-commissioned and is now overseeing the operation of the drones, Aviation Week reports. A spokesperson from Beale AFB told Insider that they were not aware of the squadron. However, a press release from April on Beale AFB’s web site celebrates the presence of the 427th Squadron at the ribbon cutting of Beale’s new Common Mission Control Center, which will help provide ISR data in “highly contested areas.”

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

An SR-71B trainer over the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California in 1994.

(US Air Force photo by Judson Brohmer)

According to Aviation Week, there are now at least seven of these UAVs currently in operation, performing a penetrating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) role. “R” is the designation for a reconnaissance aircraft and “Q” means it is remotely piloted.

The US Air Force declined to comment to Aviation Week. Insider was told by the Air Force press officer on duty that the press desk was not aware of the program.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This critical anti-submarine tool may soon be in short supply

ERAPSCO, a joint venture between US company Sparton Corp. and a subsidiary of British firm Ultra Electronics, was awarded a US defense contract worth $1.041 billion on July 18, 2019, to produce sonobuoys used in anti-submarine warfare.

“Sonobuoys are air-launched, expendable, electro-mechanical, anti-submarine warfare acoustic sensors designed to relay underwater sounds associated with ships and submarines,” the Pentagon said in the contract listing.


The id=”listicle-2639331070″,041,042,690 award was for the manufacture and delivery of a maximum of 37,500 AN/SSQ-36B, 685,000 AN/SSQ-53G, 120,000 AN/SSQ-62F, and 90,000 AN/SSQ-101B sonobuoys for fiscal years 2019-2023.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

Aviation ordnancemen load sonobuoys on a P-3C Orion before flight operations in Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 27, 2011.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Julian R. Moorefield)

The AN/SSQ series of sonobuoys are the principal sensors used by the US Navy to detect, classify, and localize adversary subs during peacetime and combat operations.

Active sonobuoys send pings through the water to bounce off potential targets. Passive sonobuoys just listen for subs or other vessels. There are also special-purpose sonobuoys that collect other data for radar and intelligence analysts.

Sonobuoys are limited by their battery life, and, if tracking a moving target, can become useless soon after being dropped. They’re mainly launched from MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters and P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and when hunting without a target in its sights, the P-8A can expend its full supply in one mission.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

A US sailor launches a sonobuoy into the Atlantic Ocean from guided-missile destroyer USS Stout, Oct. 27, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge)

More subs means more buoys

Increasing submarine activity around the world has led to more interest in anti-submarine warfare, especially among the US and its partners, which are concerned about Russian and Chinese submarines.

In a July 2018 funding request, the Pentagon asked Congress to reprogram million to buy more air-dropped sonobuoys, saying that “unexpected high anti-submarine warfare operational tempo in 2017 … resulted in unexpected high expenditure rate of all type/model/series.”

A 2015 study predicted global demand for sonobuoys would grow by 40% through 2020, with most of the interest in passive sonobuoys.

The Navy’s sonobuoy budget grew from 4 million in 2018 to 6 million in 2019 to 4 million in the 2020 budget, which asked for 204,000 of the devices. But there is concern about the Navy’s ability replenish its supply in the future.

The Pentagon believes it may no longer have a reliable supplier without government investment in the sonobuoy market, officials told Defense News in March 2019.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

A US sailor unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon to prepare it for use, April 10, 2014.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)

Right now, the Pentagon has just one supplier: ERAPSCO, a joint venture between the Illinois-based Sparton Corp. and the UK firm Ultra Electronics. But ERAPSCO will dissolve by 2024, and there’s no assurance either company can make the necessary investments to produce them independently.

The US is not the only buyer, but it is one of the largest, and the loss of US domestic production could lead to sonobuoy shortages around the world.

In March 2019, President Donald Trump signed a memo declaring that “domestic production capability for AN/SSQ series sonobuoys is essential to the national defense” and authorizing the Defense Department to pursue increased production.

Without action under the Defense Production Act, the memo said, “United States industry cannot reasonably be expected to provide the production capability for AN/SSQ series sonobuoys adequately and in a timely manner.”

Trump, the Pentagon, and the Navy believe money from the Defense Production Act and industry investment “to be the most cost-effective, expedient, and practical approach to meet critical AN/SSQ-series sonobuoy capability requirements,” a Defense Department spokesman told Defense News earlier this year.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Rey’s real father rumored to be a ‘Star Wars’ character everyone loves

In our galaxy, most parents worry about their children’s safety and the future of the world in which they live. But, in the Star Wars galaxy, parents generally are absent, not going by their real names, or walking around dressed in a black cape and a creepy mask. In this way, Star Wars is 100 percent relatable to kids and parents alike: being a parent is scary; either you’re afraid your kids will think you are Darth Vader, or you worry your kids will end up seeing you like Han Solo; a burnt-out loser who needs to get pushed into a pit ASAP! And the current Star Wars hero, Rey, has classic Star Wars parent problems of her own. In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren reminded her that her parents were “filthy junk traders,” who sold her off for “drinking money.” But now, there’s a new rumor that suggests we already know Rey’s dad; and that his identity will be revealed in The Rise of Skywalker. And it’s someone we’ve all met before.


A new rumor surfaced on both Reddit and the fan-run site Making Star Wars that suggested that the next big Star Wars movie — The Rise of Skywalker — will feature the return of Han Solo in flashbacks. Apparently, these flashbacks will finally explain that Han is Rey’s father, but Leia is not her mother. This would make her Kylo Ren’s half-sister, which as many have pointed out, is kind of creepy considering all the flirting in The Last Jedi. (Though it would make Kylo and Rey kind of like Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums, which would allow J.J. Abrams to use that great Nico Song, “These Days” when Kylo and Rey get reunited. ANYWAY. Just an idea.)

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

(Lucasfilm)

So, what’s the deal? How realistic is this rumor? Well, the idea that Han Solo will appear in The Rise of Skywalker in flashbacks seems pretty realistic. There’s still a lot of backstories from The Force Awakens left over to explain in this movie. Plus, the recent Vanity Fair Star Wars piece from Lev Grossman seemed to indicate aspects of the larger backstory Skywalker backstory would be explained in the new movie. And, that Han Solo flashback rumor has been around for a while, too.

Everything We Know About Star Wars Episode 9 | Vanity Fair

www.youtube.com

Apparently, in The Rise of Skywalker, a new scene featuring Lando, Finn, and Poe sitting down for a drink, will totally spell out Rey’s background. (Lando knows everything, right?) In The Force Awakens, there was a similar hint at a scene in a bar. When Maz Kanata meets Han Solo, she asks, “Who’s the girl?” Han appears to know, but the scene cuts before he can answer.

If Rey is Han’s daughter, some people might freak out. Others might love it. Either way, if Han was a bad dad to both of his children, then the Star Wars saga will continue to be a cautionary tale for good dads struggling to restore sanity and good parenting to the galaxy…

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This black Samurai from Africa fought to unify feudal Japan

Oda Nobunaga was a powerful feudal lord in late 16th-century Japan. For almost 200 years, Japan had seen near-constant warfare between daimyo, lords like Oda. Although the emperor was nominally in charge of the Japanese people, his real power was ceded to the Shogun, a general who administered the government. The ongoing wars between lords were often over succession. Three subsequent warlords, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, were the ones who finally unified Japan.

Fighting alongside Oda was Yasuke, a man from Mozambique who had proven himself worthy of the title “Samurai.”


Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

Yasuke came to Japan in 1579 with an Italian missionary. Though it can’t be confirmed, historians believe Yasuke was from Mozambique, as many of the first Africans to arrive in the Pacific island nation were from Mozambique. The young Mozambican’s black appearance was definitely noticeable in the Japanese capital. He was presented to the Daimyo Oda Nobunaga, who forced the man to strip and clean himself, not believing his skin was naturally black. When he finally accepted this, he eventually adopted Yasuke into his own service, impressed with the African’s strength and physique.

Oda provided Yasuke with money, a residence and his own katana. The now-former missionary was given the post of the Daimyo’s weapon bearer and soon found himself in battle.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

The Battle of Tenmokuzan pitted Oda and Tokugawa Ieyasu against their longtime rival Takeda Katsuyori. Katsuyori burned his own castle and tried to escape into the surrounding hills but ended up committing ritual suicide before Oda and Tokugawa could capture him. The Tokugawa leadership describes Yasuke as standing more than six feet tall and having skin as black as charcoal.

But Oda’s luck would soon run out, and the noble Oda Nobunaga was forced to commit suicide by rival Samurai and lord Akechi Mitsuhide at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Yasuke was present for Oda’s seppuku and joined his successor Oda Nobutada’s army to avenge the elder Oda’s gruesome end. He was captured fighting Akechi forces at Nijo Castle but was not killed because he wasn’t Japanese.

Yasuke does not appear in historical records after his capture at Nijo Castle, perhaps being returned to the Jesuit order which originally took him to Japan.

Articles

How the luckiest sailor on earth survived being sucked into a jet engine

During Desert Storm, the USS Theodore Roosevelt was on high alert. Petty Officers JD Bridges and Michael McDonald were prepping an A-6 Intruder fighter jet before takeoff. It was business as usual.


Mere seconds before the jet will sped down the runway, an accident that forever changed flight operations procedures occurred.

Bridges was completing checks to ensure the fighter was connected to the deck’s catapult for launch when he got too close to the high-powered engine and the turbine intake sucked him up in a split-second.

Actual flight deck surveillance footage of the accident. (Image via Giphy)

At full throttle, the Intruder’s engine generates 9,300 pounds of thrust — twice as strong as the most powerful tornado on record.

After Bridges got sucked in, the engine’s force violently pulled off his float coat, goggles, and the helmet from his head. Investigators believe that because his helmet was shredded by the sharp spinning blades, it partially jammed the engine.

The way the engine was designed, it ceased its own power and shut down immediately.

Miraculously, Bridges’ shoulder wedged against the nose cone as the engine slowed and he managed to remove himself out from the powerful intake space — escaping certain death. The aircraft’s pilot was ready to take off when he heard the disruption and powered down right away.

Also Read: This is why landing on an aircraft carrier never gets easy

Within moments, Bridges was carried to safety, suffering from a broken collarbone, superficial cuts from a few pieces of shrapnel, and a blown ear drum.  The Navy now uses this historic video as a training tool of what not to do while on the flight deck.

Bridges at a news conference a day after the accident. (Lithdad, YouTube)
MIGHTY CULTURE

A USAF trainee used Snapchat in basic and vets lost their minds

Air Force veterans and other military members from other branches rushed to their keyboards to inform the world of how basic training was back in their day, as a female trainee at Lackland was outed using her cell phone to post on Snapchat during training. Current and former service members were quick to criticize the unidentified young woman for her phone usage in basic training, despite the fact that nothing could be more basic than these Snaps.


Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

Other eagle-eyed former airmen, who presumably went through BMT before the widespread use of mobile phones, were quick to ask why her key is hanging on the outside of her PC uniform as other branches questioned what “PC” is and if it’s anything like PT, if BMT is like what the Air Force calls boot camp, and do all airmen trainees wear their hair down like that?

The biggest questions on everyone’s minds were how she managed to keep her phone while the others were presumably locked away and how she was able to sit on the dayroom furniture (while eating!) without moving the chairs or invoking the wrath of the dayroom crew, the dorm chief, or even the house mouse. Meanwhile, Air Force veterans at We Are The Mighty are concerned about the fate of her wingman, who was probably recycled into oblivion, only to emerge just before mandatory retirement.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

Of course, everything about the photos (posted for public consumption in the Air Force Facebook Group Air Force amn/nco/snco, who ratted her out to Air Force Basic Training’s Facebook page) is wrong; from her hair and key, to eating in the dayroom while sitting on the g*ddamn furniture. Air Force basic training is just as strict about its cell phone policy as it was in the days of payphones – airmen make three mandatory calls on their personal phones over the course of their training.

The collective selective memories of Air Force veterans from all over came down hard on the young trainee as the shade thrown at the woman was enough to blot out the sun. Of course, no one in the history of the Air Force has ever messed up as hardcore as this airman trainee, who is obviously the worst person ever and doesn’t belong in MY Air Force. #LiterallyHitler.

In all seriousness, every time I’m tempted to comment on what happened back in MY Air Force days, I’m quick to remind myself that Basic Military Training – aka BMT – in MY day was only six and a half weeks, consisted of one week of anything related to carrying a firearm in a deployed location (that was still a rubber-coated M-16, the military equivalent of pinning oven mitts on my hands), and that my first PT test in the active Air Force was on a stationary bike where push-ups and sit-ups were done, but not counted in my final score.

Lighten up, Air Force-trained killers.

As for this airman, luckily an MTI was on hand to fill the world in about current Air Force BMT phone policy. This girl probably just smuggled her phone in using the old prison-style method – and if so, let’s make sure she’s promoted ahead of peers, maybe even give her a BTZ to staff.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

FYI, MTI = USAF DI.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mighty Talks: MOH Recipients MSG Matt Williams and SSG Ronald Shurer

We recently sat down with Master Sgt. Matt Williams and Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer of ODA 3336, the first Green Berets to receive the Medal of Honor from the same team. The men recount their harrowing experience, and talk about the brotherhood within the Special Forces community, and what the Medal of Honor means to them.


On April 6, 2008, Operational Detachment-Alpha 3336 entered the Shok Valley in Afghanistan with their Afghan Commando partners to capture a high-value target. Almost immediately upon insertion, the team came under heavy RPG and machine gun fire. Within minutes of landing, the team was dealing with their first casualty and began coordinating an evacuation down the side of a mountain in a foreign language, all the while calling in danger close ordnance to repel the enemy onslaught.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

MSG Williams while on a mission in Afghanistan

(Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army MSG Matthew Williams)

Green Beret teams were some of the first Americans into Afghanistan after 9/11, and the unique nature of their mission inspired Williams and Shurer. Both men feel strongly about the brotherhood that is established within the Special Forces community and speak to those feelings throughout the interview. “I’ve read books, and seen movies, but until you’re in the Q Course, you see that the focus isn’t this tough, lone soldier. It’s much more of a team aspect,” said Shurer. “They’ve got to find those guys with the strong personalities but can play as part of a team, that’s why it kind of fit well with me.” Shurer added.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

​MSG Williams receives the Medal of Honor from POTUS

(Photo Credit: Sgt. Keisha Brown)

As with many other Medal of Honor recipients, the award has changed their lives as they are now part of the Medal of Honor Society, and have appeared on national media to share their heroic actions and remember the efforts of others.”You’re not wearing it for yourself, you’re wearing it for all those guys who didn’t come home, and everyone out there who is still doing the job and still doing the mission,” said Shurer. “If nothing else it puts me in a position to highlight great things that are done constantly by SF teams, special forces teams are always, are constantly out there doing these things” added Williams, “I hope you see a representation of the great things that all the men and women that serve the country are capable of doing and do” he added.

Check out the full video above. Click to read the official citation for MSG Williams and SSG Shurer

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

SSG Shurer receives the Medal of Honor from POTUS

(White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Chernobyl Disaster happened 32 years ago

Ukraine is marking the 32nd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on April 26, 2018, with a memorial service and a series of events in remembrance of the world’s worst-ever civilian nuclear accident.

In neighboring Belarus, an opposition-organized event will also be held to commemorate the disaster.


In Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, hundreds of people marched at midnight to the Memorial Hill of Chernobyl Heroes where they laid flowers and lit candles. At 1 a.m. on April 26, 2018, an Orthodox service and a prayer to commemorate Chernobyl victims were performed at the site.

President Petro Poroshenko, on April 26, 2018, wrote on Facebook that Chernobyl “will forever remain an open wound for us.”

“Today, we have to do everything to prevent a repetition of that tragedy… the Chernobyl zone must now become a place of new technologies, a territory of changes,” Poroshenko wrote.

In Belarus, the opposition plans to hold a march in Minsk known as the “Chernobyl Path” later on April 26, 2018.

The march has been held in the Belarusian capital since 1988 to commemorate the disaster in neighboring Ukraine, which also contaminated large swaths of territory in Belarus.

An explosion on April 26, 1986, blew the roof off the building housing a nuclear reactor and spewed a cloud of radioactive material high into the air — drifting across Ukraine’s borders into Russia, Belarus, and across large parts of Europe.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

About 30 people died in the immediate aftermath and thousands more are feared to have died in the years that followed from the effects of the disaster — mainly exposure to radiation.

On April 25, 2018, the Vienna-based UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation said that around 20,000 thyroid cancer cases were registered between 1991 and 2015 in the area surrounding the reactor, which takes in all of Ukraine and Belarus, as well parts of Russia.

The UN scientists said that since the accident, 1-in-4 thyroid cancer cases have been caused by radiation in the region.

In November 2016, a huge arch was placed over the stricken reactor to prevent further leaks of radiation. The project — funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development — cost $1.6 billion.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

This USAF veteran and physician exposes what’s really happening to our nation’s ER staff

Emergency physician Emily (who asked us to not use her last name) was knee-deep in flu season in Texas when the initial reports of coronavirus began surfacing.

“I was highly skeptical. It sounded very similar to the flu,” the 36-year-old Air Force veteran shared with We Are The Mighty. “Information out of China was obviously pretty filtered and somewhat difficult to interpret. Once I began hearing reports from physicians in Italy, this was probably late February, I started to become a bit alarmed. This was not the flu. It was much, much worse. It was going to be bad.”
Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

Emily at work.

In early March, Texas hospitals began preparations for the anticipated surge of COVID patients.

“PPE [personal protective equipment] shortages were rapidly apparent, and the supply seemed to change daily, making our personnel protection protocols constant moving targets,” Emily explained. “Testing capabilities also fluctuated wildly, again making for daily — sometimes hourly — changes in how we performed testing. Going into work was a completely different experience every day. We had to quickly adapt to being comfortable with extreme flexibility.”

As the days passed, extreme flexibility would be crucial.

“When shelter-in-place orders took effect in our area [and] as people began staying home and elective hospital procedures were cancelled, emergency department volumes plummeted, as did hospital revenues,” she explained. “This led to drastic changes in how emergency departments were staffed. Down-staffing was warranted, because there just weren’t as many patients to see, but it was – and is – still having significant effects on the pay for these frontline workers.”

Emily, who works in three different hospitals across three different healthcare systems on a PRN [as needed] basis, typically works “at least full-time, some months even more so.” With low emergency room volumes, she expressed feeling underutilized.

“The PRN employees have been the first to go,” she shared. “My shifts have been cut back drastically. I have cherished the extra time with my family and my children, even as I am itching to go back to work. To have the skills to be of use and not have the opportunity to use them has been an unusual form of torture.”

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

Emily with her family.

She adds that COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the state of the U.S. healthcare system.

“Our healthcare system has been teetering on the verge of collapse for a long time,” she said. “The people who profit from our for-profit healthcare system are neither the doctors nor the patients. As I saw our system straining under the weight of COVID, I had hoped that it might finally break and give way to real and lasting reform. Instead, I have seen physicians losing their jobs for speaking out about their lack of PPE. I have seen physicians experiencing pay cuts, even as they work more, work harder, and in a more dangerous environment. When administrators who sit behind a desk feel empowered to dictate to their healthcare workers how often they have to reuse PPE, all the while handing out pay cuts to those exposing themselves to the greatest degree of risk, we have a serious problem.”

Through it all, and despite the gravity of the situation, Emily shares that coronavirus has provided her with professional clarity.

“COVID has been something of a crucible, reinforcing for me that emergency medicine is more of a calling than a job,” she said. “I have been fearful for my own personal safety as I have heard accounts of physicians falling ill, and even dying from complications of coronavirus. As a combat veteran, facing peril while in the line of duty is not foreign to me, but COVID has felt different — I never expected to be in danger while working in a stateside ER as a civilian. Despite the risk, I have felt an undeniable pull toward the Emergency Department, to use the skills I have spent years developing and the expertise I have gained from thousands of patient encounters to try and do some good. It has been good to feel like I can be of some use.”

Like Pat Sheehan in Louisiana, Emily stated that in the ER, healthcare workers are always on the front lines.

“The only difference now is that the world is finally paying attention.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

During the launch of Operation Market Garden, a young Nelson Bryant and thousands of fellow paratroopers from the 82d Airborne parachuted into occupied Holland in an attempt to dislodge its Nazi occupiers. Bryant, wounded in a previous mission, took shrapnel to the leg as he fell to Earth. After landing, he began freeing himself from his harness. Under fire from nearby German positions, he was forced to cut it off.

Without thinking, he dropped his knife as he scrambled for cover. It seemed to be lost forever — but it was actually only 73 years.


“There were some Germans shooting at me from about 150 yards away, and they were getting damn close,” he told the local Martha’s Vineyard newspaper, the Vineyard Gazette. “As near as I can tell, what happened was I was pretty excited, and a little upset. I remember I cut some of my clothes I was so nervous. I cut out of the harness. What I think I did, I simply forgot my knife and left it there on the ground in its sheath.”
Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

An American paratrooper makes a hard landing in a Dutch field during the airborne phase of Operation Market Garden, September, 1944.

More than 40,000 paratroopers from the 101st and 82d Airborne divisions were dropped into Holland to support Market Garden in 1944. The 82d was supposed to capture and defend the heights over Groesbeek, outside the city of Nijmegen. They were successful in taking the position, but were forced to defend the area from repeated, powerful German counterattacks.

The 82d was also tasked with dropping on either side of the Nijmegen Bridge to hit the bridge’s defenders from both sides and keep it operational for use by Allied forces. Unfortunately, as was the story with Market Garden, things did not go as planned. The entire strike force was dropped to the south of the bridge and would have to assault it from one side, during the day.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

After D-Day in Normandy, in June, 1944, Nelson Bryant reluctantly strikes a pose.

(Nelson Bryant)

The fighting men of the U.S. Army is the stuff of legend in Groesbeek. One day in 2017, 56-year-old André Duijghuisen was looking through his father’s attic when he came across a very different kind of knife. There was clearly something extraordinary about it. It was still in its sheath – and carved into that sheath was a name, “Bryant.”

Duijghuisen did some digging and found a Bryant registered with the 82d Airbone, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He found that this Bryant not only survived the war but later became a reporter, and even wrote for the New York Times. Most importantly, he was still alive.

Bryant almost didn’t make to Holland at all.

Nelson Bryant was a student at Dartmouth College in 1943. As a college man, he was exempt from the draft but seeing so many friends and peers go over to fight the Nazis inspired him. He volunteered to join the Army. Unhappy with his stateside supply job, he soon volunteered for the 82d Airborne. He arrived in England just in time to jump into Hitler’s Fortress Europe in the wee hours before the D-Day landings.

It was there, during a reconnaissance mission, that he was shot in the chest by a .50-caliber bullet.

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

(Nelson Bryant)

“I heard machine gun fire, the next thing I know, bam,” said Mr. Bryant. “It went in the front, came out the back, 50 caliber. I thought, is this it? I could hear distant gunfire, I could hear cows mooing in the pasture.”

Bryant laid in a hedgerow for four days before making it back to a field hospital in Wales. He worked to recuperate there, first walking on his own, then running. When he found out the 82d was making another jump into occupied Europe, he asked doctors if he would be able to go with them. They thought he was nuts. He wasn’t crazy, he was just determined to finish what he started. Not even a hospital could hold him back.

“When no one was looking, I got my clothes and put them on, walked out of the hospital, and thumbed rides on U.S. military vehicles back to Nottingham, England, and got there a week before we made the jump into Holland,” he said.
Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

Duijghuisen reached out to Bryant and told him that he had his “bayonet” and asked if he would like it returned.

“He said bayonet, and I knew something was wrong because I knew the gun I carried you couldn’t use a bayonet,” Bryant said of the exchange. “Then I realized I was talking to a civilian and he wouldn’t know a bayonet from a trench knife. When he said there was a leather sheath, that was a clue.”

At 56, Duijghusen wasn’t even born during World War II, but the legacy of the men who liberated Holland is still important to the people there.

“The name on the bayonet, it made, for me, something personal,” said Duijghuisen before making the visit to Martha’s Vineyard. “Because of what he did in 1944, and because we are now living in a free world. I think a lot about that. He fought in Holland for our freedom. I’m very excited about that, it will be nice to see him.”

Duijghuisen and his wife traveled to see Bryant in 2017, 73 years after the old veteran jumped into Holland, just to return the trench knife Bryant used to free himself while helping free the Netherlands.