Here's how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Marbleezy asks: How did the ancient Romans manage to build perfectly straight roads hundreds of miles long?

The ancient Romans were a people famed for their architectural prowess, something no better demonstrated than by their ability to build almost perfectly straight and incredibly durable roads spanning expansive distances. For example, in Britain alone, the Romans built well over 50,000 miles of roads with the longest ruler-straight stretch spanning over 50 miles. They did all of this in an era without modern surveying tools, construction equipment, or even very accurate maps of precisely where their destination was for many of the areas. So how did they do it?

To begin with, it’s important to note there were a few different types of roads that were made throughout the Roman Republic and Empire, and exact method and materials used for road construction varied somewhat from region to region and evolved slightly over the centuries.

That caveat out of the way, the three main classification of Roman roads were viae terrenae, essentially dirt roads, often made by people walking and wagons riding over the same path over time; viae glareae, which would be a dirt road that was then graveled; and, finally much more interestingly, viae munita, which were more or less paved roads, some of which have survived through modern times.


Within these types of roads there were further classifications based on who could use them, such as viae publicae (public roads), viae militares (military or state use roads), and viae privatae (private roads, constructed at private expense and for the owners to decide who they allowed access, perhaps the general public or perhaps just a select few).

To help pay for them, roads of all types often had tolls, particularly at locations like bridges and city gates where it would be impractical to avoid the tolling location.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

The Appian Way, a road connecting the city of Rome to the southern parts of Italy, remains usable even today.

This brings us to the road construction process itself. As dirt and gravel roads aren’t terribly interesting, we’re going to focus this article on the viae munita. So how did they make these incredibly durable and generally amazingly straight roads? After all, even with modern machinery, constructing and maintaining an expansive road system is an extremely time consuming and labor intensive process.

To start with, a group of surveyors would be sent out to figure out the precise direction connecting the two main points. At the same time, they’d attempt to plan the route as efficiently as possible while accounting for any major obstacles like tall mountains, rivers, etc. When possible, they may attempt to avoid such obstacles, but, particularly in some of the earliest Roman road construction, where it might result in having to take a large detour to get around, say, a mountain, if possible given the terrain, they tended to just build the road to go directly over it or directly through it. For example, the longest tunnel through such a mountain was the Grotta di Cocceio which was excavated from 38 to 36 BCE and is approximately 1 km (.62 miles) long and about 5 meters (5.4 yards) high and wide. Before WWII, it was also still a fully functional and safe to traverse tunnel despite standing about 2,000 years at that point, but was damaged during the war, though there are presently efforts to have it repaired and opened again to the public.

As for going over a mountain, it’s important to note here that we don’t mean they’d use switch backs as is the general method today. No, if at all possible, they’d just build roads straight up a mountain and down the other side, expecting the soldiers and mules and the like to just man up and traverse the steep slopes without complaint.

That said, as the empire matured, it did eventually become apparent that there were economic advantages to slightly longer roads that were easier for draught animals to pull carts over, and thus there was a shift to favoring longer distances but lesser gradients when talking roads for general public use.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

A Roman street in Pompeii.

Either way, during the process, the surveyors would setup markers, often at very visible points like on hills, mapping out the optimal path, again trying to ensure the road would be as straight as possible between the start and end point to reduce needed labor, materials, and distance needed to traverse the road once it was complete.

This brings us to how they actually ensured perfectly straight roads between the markers. A key tool here was a device known as a groma. In a nutshell, this was nothing more than a sort of cross with four weights hanging from a string at each end of the cross to function as plumb lines. The whole thing could rotate with degree markers on top. Two of the plumb lines would then be lined up with a marker and then on the other side lined up with the previous marker. Where changes in direction would need to be made, the degrees were marked and ultimately the whole thing drawn up on a central document showing the entire route of the road with each segment.

Once the actual construction was to begin, the groma would once again be used, this time with rods pounded into the ground between markers using the groma to make sure every single rod was perfectly inline in between the markers.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

A groma.

Now, finally, construction of the road would start, usually first done via plows to loosen the soil, this would be followed by legionaries and/or slaves digging the ground out, with depth varying based on conditions. For instance, swampy land would need a lot thicker foundation if it was to have any staying power. For more typical ground, the trench needed would be somewhere in the realm of 3-6 feet (around 1-2 meters) deep. Once dug out, this would then be tamped down to a leveled, compact layer of earth.

From here, exact road composition varied based on available materials in a given region, land composition, and a variety of factors like this.

But typically large stones would be packed as tightly as possible together and into the earth base. Onto this layer would usually be placed smaller stones, sometimes comprising broken concrete or somewhat crushed rock, again packed and smoothed as best as possible. Depending on availability, they would also put a layer of sand on this foundation to make a genuinely perfectly smooth surface.

On top of all of this, at the minimum gravel would be added, packed, and leveled. In some cases, such as near big cities, as described in one manuscript on the construction of roads in Rome itself, paving stones, often flint, lava rock, or marble, would be embedded in cement for the top layer instead. When the road was complete, they are thought to have been quite smooth allowing for relatively bump free travel in carts and the like.

During this whole process, special attention was taken to making the center of the road higher than the sides so that any water would drain off, with the entire road surface itself also elevated above the ground on the sides where drainage ditches would generally be created to help rapidly move water away from the road in times of heavy rains.

As for the size of the roads, according to something known as The Law of Twelve Tables, which more or less formed the basis of Roman Law for almost a millennia, Roman roads were required to be at minimum 8 Roman feet wide (which converted into modern units equals about 2 and half metres) where the road was straight and double that if the road happened to be curved.

Beside the roads were footpaths, sometimes graveled, which were particularly handy in the case of viae militares where only people with proper authorization could use the road itself. Finally, at the very outer edges of the roads, any nearby trees and bushes would be removed to help reduce areas for bandits to hide and surprise anyone with an attack, as well as to help ensure plant growth didn’t overtake the road or tree roots compromise it.

But this wasn’t the end of the construction process. They now needed to know exact distances along the road. It’s not fully clear how they did this, though a device known as the odometer of Vitruvius is mentioned starting around 27 BC and is often claimed to have been used for this purpose. However, whether it was actually ever used for road construction, or even made at all, is up for debate.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

A depiction of Vitruvius presenting De Architectura to Augustus.

At a high level, this device used the spinning of a wheel to mark distance. In this case, it was the spinning of a wagon wheel which was in turn hooked up to gears that would drop a pebble into a container every Roman mile (4,841 feet, which is around 1,000 paces of an adult male, with the world “mile” deriving from the Latin milia, meaning, funny enough, 1,000 paces).

For whatever it’s worth, while Leonardo da Vinci tried and failed to make such a device as per outlined, in 1981 one Andre Sleeswyk was successful in building one exactly as described except, unlike da Vinci, he used triangular gear teeth instead of square ones. His justification for this modification being that these same type of gear teeth were used in the Antikythera mechanism, which was created sometime from around 250 BC to 70 BC, with the device itself used to predict various astronomical phenomenon like eclipses. Thus, perhaps if the odometer of Vitruvius was ever actually built and used, maybe it used these too.

There are, of course, many other much less technologically advanced ways they could have measure mile distances easy enough and with extreme accuracy. However they did it, at every mile mark, the law required they place an approximately two ton, 7 foot tall (2 feet in the ground) mile marker, called a miliarium. Helpfully, on this stone would be engraved the names of the locations the road connected and how many miles to each from that respective marker. A master marker, known as the Miliario Aureo or Golden Milestone was also created during Caesar Augustus’ rule and placed in the central Forum of Rome itself. This was the point at which all Roman roads were said to lead. It’s not actually clear what was on this master marker, but it’s been speculated it listed the distances from that point to all major cities under Roman rule.

Whatever the case, like the roads themselves, some of these mile markers are still standing giving archaeologists and historians a valuable snapshot of the past, since they tended to include not just basic geographic information, but information about when the road was built or repaired and by whom.

Next up, it was also required by law that regular way stations be built for official use, generally every 16 to 19 miles apart. These were more or less really nice resting areas providing food and drink and the like for officials. For the general public, inns known as cauponae would tend to pop up near these way stations. On that note, at particularly high trafficked way stations, many other businesses would pop up as well, sometimes leading to the creation of whole towns.

Along these roads you’d also find at similar intervals mutationes, or changing stations, where people could get the services of veterinarians, wheelwrights, etc., as well as potentially find new mounts.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
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To give you an idea of how fast one could move along these roads with its network of way stations and facilities, it’s noted that Emperor Tiberius once traversed about 200 miles in 24 hours after news that his brother, Drusus Germanicus was dying from gangrene after being seriously injured falling from a horse. A more typical time to traverse for, say, a government mail carrier was usually around 50 miles per day if not in a particular hurry.

But to sum up, it turns out that Roman road construction, amenities and all, wasn’t all that different from modern times, often featuring deep foundations, paved surfaces, proper drainage, landscaping around the roads, sidewalks, toll booths, rest areas, hotels, restaurants, the historic equivalent to gas stations and convenience stores, etc.

Bonus Fact:

The infamous phrase — “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — has come to mean a person who is neglecting their duties, probably by doing something frivolous. But did Nero actually sit around play music while Rome was burning around him in 64 AD?

To begin there was such a fire, though its extent is unknown. According to Tacitus, the fire lasted for six days and decimated Rome, with only four districts untouched (out of a total of fourteen). He goes on to state that ten of the eleven districts that burned were heavily damaged, with three of those completely destroyed. However, oddly, there is very little documented mention of the fire from those who actually lived through it. The only Roman historian during that period who even mentioned it at all was Pliny the Elder, and even he only briefly referenced it in passing.

Had it been as widespread as Tacitus claimed, one would think the likes of Plutarch, Epictetus, or other such famed Roman historians who lived through the fire would have mentioned such a significant event. And, indeed, we see that perhaps it wasn’t that great of a fire from the only other documented first hand account of the scope of the disaster — a letter from Seneca the Younger to Paul the Apostle, where he explicitly stated that only four blocks of insulae were burned (a type of apartment building), along with 132 private houses damaged (about 7% of the private houses in the city and .009% of the insulae). Not anywhere close to as widespread as Tacitus later claimed, though Seneca did say the fire lasted six days, as Tacitus stated.

As to Nero’s reaction to the fire, the first and biggest flaw in the fiddling story is that the fiddle, or violin, didn’t actually exist in Nero’s time. Historians aren’t able to give an exact date for the invention of the violin, but the viol class of instruments to which the violin belongs wasn’t developed until at least the 11th century. If Nero actually did play a stringed instrument—and there’s no evidence that he did, whether during the burning of Rome or otherwise—it was probably a lyre or cithara.

Okay, so some details can get muddled through history. But did Nero neglect Rome while it burned? Historians argue probably not. Reports do place Nero thirty-five miles away from Rome at the time of the fire, as he was staying in his villa at Antium. However, an account from Tacitus tells us that he returned to Rome immediately when word of the fire reached him in order to begin relief efforts. As the fire raged on, Nero even opened up his own gardens to provide a temporary home for those who were now homeless. He also ordered the construction of emergency accommodation and cut the price of corn, as well as provided food directly, so that people could eat. Besides this, he paid for much of these relief efforts out of his own pocket.

However, Tacitus also tells of the rumour that had spread among the masses: while the flames surged through the city, Nero stood on his private stage and sang about the destruction of Troy in a comparison of the two events. Whether or not the rumour had any evidence to back it up or was just something made up by the unhappy masses, we don’t know, but this and Suetonius’ account are the most likely source of the fiddle story we hear today. Unfortunately for Nero, at least in the context of this story, he did have a reputation for enjoying concerts and participating in music competitions, so the activity itself wasn’t entirely unlikely even if the timing of the act is highly questionable.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Bust of Nero at the Capitoline Museum, Rome.

While Tacitus claims the singing story was a rumour, Suetonius wrote about it with conviction. However, the story could have been an attempt to further mar Nero’s name. Nero faced problems during his reign from the very start, when it was reported that his own mother poisoned his predecessor, Claudius. He was also blamed for the death of Claudius’ son Brittanicus, who was being urged to take his proper place as Emperor by overthrowing Nero. Numerous other deaths were thought to have been committed by Nero’s hand, including one of his wives and his own mother.

As such, Nero was painted as a man who was difficult for the masses to trust. No one knew how the fire started, and many Romans believed that he had started the fire that burned their city. (It likely started in shops containing flammable goods, and was probably an accident rather than any one person’s intentional act.)

With the mob out for blood, Nero was forced to turn to a scapegoat and blamed Christians for starting the fire. There were only a small number of Christians in Rome at the time and they were considered a strange religious sect, so they were an easy target. As Tacitus stated:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all [Christians] who pleaded guilty [to the fire]; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Even finding someone to blame for the fire didn’t help Nero’s plea of innocence. In the wake of the fire, he built a palace on top of some of the land cleared by the flames, which people argued he had been planning from the start, though this is highly unlikely as the place he built the new palace was over a half mile away from where the fire started. In addition to a new palace, Nero did provide for the reconstruction of the city, but rebuilding stretched the limits of Rome’s treasury at the time. He was forced to devalue Roman currency, which wasn’t a popular move.

Nero ended up committing suicide — or at least, begging his secretary to kill him when he lost the nerve to do it himself—four years after the fire. Accounts of his life and of the time of the fire are highly contradictory. Further, Suetonius and Tacitus wrote their histories fifty years after Nero died, and Cassius Dio wrote his 150 years later. Many historians also think it likely that Nero was more popular with the people of Rome than he was with the senators, and as all three of the main sources were from the senatorial class, it’s likely they carry more than a little bias against him, not unlike happened with the popular history of Marie Antoinette who popular history remembers very differently than who the actual woman appeared to be. That being said, Tacitus did state that while Nero’s death was welcomed by senators, the lower classes mourned his passing.

So in the end, the implication that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — or played the lyre, sang a song, or neglected his duty in any way — is likely the result of anti-Nero propaganda and an attempt to tarnish his name. The morality of many of his actions during his reign is open to debate, but the fiddling, or playing music, story is almost certainly a myth, unless he was playing to entertain the displaced masses he’d taken in.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

This fighter pilot landed a helicopter on the summit of Mount Everest

To many climbers, mountaineers, and general fans of low oxygen environments, summiting Mount Everest represent the literal peak of physical achievement. But while an impressive feat for a human, it turns out vultures can happily survive exposed to altitudes of 40,000 ft or 12,200 meters above sea level and, indeed, have been seen flying around at this height. (For reference, this is about 11,000 ft or 3,350 meters above the peak of Everest.) Meanwhile tardigrades laugh in the face of the conditions on Everest, able to survive even nakedly exposed to outer space for quite some time with no ill effects. (Although, note: humans can actually survive exposed to the near vacuum of space for about 90 seconds without long term damage, but we have nothing on the tardigrade for durability in just about any environment.) And let’s not even talk about microbes… In the end, there are creatures that can outdo even the best of humans at pretty much any physically intensive task we feel like setting our minds to, no matter how hard we train and how good our genetics.


But you know what no other known living thing can do? Use their minds to create machinery to do an otherwise extremely arduous and dangerous task in about a half an hour, all while kicking back in a very comfy chair. And that’s exactly what French fighter pilot Didier Delsalle did when he conquered Everest in a product of human ingenuity — the Eurocopter Ecureuil AS350 B3 helicopter. Humans: 1, Animal Kingdom: 0.

Although Delsalle is the first and so far only person in history to land a helicopter on the summit of the world’s highest peak, likeminded daredevils and pilots have been trying to do exactly that since at least the early 1970s. One of the most notable of these individuals is Jean Boulet who still holds the record for highest altitude reached by a helicopter at 40,820 ft (12,442 meters), at which point his engine died, though he did manage to land safely. (Yes, contrary to popular belief, helicopters don’t just drop like a rock when the engine dies, and they are relatively safe in this condition. In fact, you have a better chance of surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane where the same happens.)

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
Mt. Everest, seen from Tingri, a small village on the Tibetan plateau at around 4050m above sea level.

Like Boulet before him, Delsalle broached the subject of landing a helicopter on Everest with the company he flew helicopters for (in this case Eurocopter) and was similarly stonewalled by killjoy executives who didn’t want to deal with the negative PR if he crashed.

Delsalle didn’t let the subject drop and repeatedly badgered higher ups within the company, using the better-than-expected results from the test of a new engine in 2004 to convince Eurocopter that landing their Ecureuil AS350 B3 helicopter on Everest was entirely possible. The company executives finally relented and gave Delsalle some time (and a helicopter) to test his hypothesis. After all, while a failed attempt would create a lot of negative press, a successful one would be a fantastic marketing move, with their helicopter doing something no other had ever done.

Or as Delsalle himself would state,

The idea was to prove to our customers all the margins they have while they’re using the helicopter in the normal certified envelope, compared to what the helicopter is capable of during the flight test.

Delsalle then took the helicopter and flew it to 29,500 feet, about 6,500 feet above the helicopter’s listed maximum operating altitude and around 500 feet higher than the peak of Everest.

No problem.

After a number of additional tests proved that the helicopter would in theory have no trouble landing on Everest’s peak, Delsalle and his trusty helicopter headed to Nepal.

Once there, while conducting recon on the mountain, Delsalle cemented his reputation as an all round awesome guy by taking the time to rescue two stranded Japanese climbers. When he wasn’t saving lives, he could be found jogging around the hanger in an attempt to drop every gram possible from his body weight. Likewise, he lightened the helicopter slightly be removing the passenger seats- the point of all this was to be able to extend flight time slightly. However, as part of the purpose of this publicity stunt was to show off what the Ecureuil AS350 B3 could do, other than this marginal lightening of its load, no other modifications were made.

And so it was that on the morning of May 14, 2005, Delsalle slipped on two pairs of thermal underwear under his flight suit and took off. As for his choice of under attire, this was needed as he flew the entire distance with his window open… He did this rather than keep things more climate controlled as he was concerned his windows would have iced up in the -31 F (-35 C) temperatures had he not kept the temperatures equalized on both sides of the glass.

As for the ascent, this was not quite as easy as simply rising to the necessary altitude — Delsalle had to deal with some pretty remarkable up and down drafts, which is one of the reasons even today helicopter rescues at extreme altitudes on Everest are a rarity. As he stated,

On one side of the mountain, on the updraft side, I wasn’t able to approach the mountain because even taking out all of the power of the aircraft, I was still climbing. But of course on the other side you had the downdraft side, and on this side even with maybe 60 knots on the airspeed indicator I was going backward . . . and the helicopter at full power was not powerful enough to counteract that.

“Landing”, or more aptly touching down, also wasn’t an easy task.

When you reach the summit you reach the updraft point, and of course the updraft winds have enough force to throw you away as soon as you put the collective down. I had to stick my skids on the summit and push into the mountain to stay on the summit. Another big problem there is that you have no visual of the summit, and you have no specific cues, because you are on the highest point. You are in free air in fact, and you have to try to find where is the summit exactly.

After keeping the skids pressed against the tiny area of land that is the summit for 3 minutes and 50 seconds, Delsalle decided it was time to go, which turned out to be quite simple thanks to the strong updraft: “I had just to pull a little bit on the collective and I went to flying very easily.”

Amusingly, nobody climbing the mountain that day had any idea that Delsalle was planning on doing this and reports later flooded in to Nepalese authorities about a random helicopter seen flying around the summit.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
Aerial photo from the south, with Mount Everest rising above the ridge connecting Nuptse and Lhotse.

But when Delsalle landed and went to check the recordings documenting his amazing accomplishment, the computer showed zero files where the recordings should have been. Yes, he had no hard evidence he had actually done this, invalidating his record attempt.

Rather than waiting to see if the data could be recovered (and presumably not wanting to endure doubters for any longer than absolutely necessary), Delsalle instead opted to just do it all over again the very next day, this time making sure the recording equipment was functioning. (It should also be noted here that some of the urgency was because no one was summiting on the day in question, but were after. For safety reasons, he could not attempt the touch down if anyone was climbing around the summit.)

If at this point you’re now doubting his story actually happened, we should probably mention that they were later able to recover the first day’s logs and video, proving he had done what he said.

Of course, doubters will persist no matter if you slap them in the face with video evidence, data logs, several Everest climber accounts of spotting the helicopter flying around the summit, his helicopter skid marks that for a time existed in the snow at that hallowed peak, etc. But as for the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and a few other such official bodies, as his evidence of the two touch downs on the summit was incontrovertible, they officially ratified his remarkable achievement, much to the chagrin of many an Everest climber, who almost universally lamented the accomplishment owing to the supposed ease at which summiting the mountain was achieved.

But here again, we feel compelled to point out that humans compiling the knowledge and expertise needed to design/construct a machine that was then extremely skillfully landed on this hallowed, tiny patch of snow covered land isn’t actually easy at all when you think about it. (And don’t even get us started on what it took to compile the knowledge and expertise to make the tools that made the parts for the machine in question… or the tools that made the parts for the more advanced tools, such as mind boggling complex computers used along the whole process…)

One might even posit that summiting Everest in the more traditional way is orders of magnitude easier than the way Delsalle did it, when looking at the big picture.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

All Green Berets are inspiring. Here are 5 of the best

It’s the mission of all branches of the U.S. military to protect all citizens, defend liberty and uphold the Constitution. Being a good citizen entails giving back to each branch in every way we can.

The Green Berets, founded in 1952 by John F. Kennedy, are celebrating their 68th birthday today. Take a moment to honor some special members of the “warrior-diplomat” ranks as they continue to protect and honor our country.


Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Matthew Williams

Look to the heroic acts of Sergeant Matthew Williams, who took heroic action to save the lives of his fellow soldiers in the Battle of Shok Valley, which took place in Afghanistan in 2008.

According to other Berets who had been in Williams’ regimen, Williams helped to evacuate two soldiers who had been shot from the battle. Williams saved the soldiers’ lives and endured minimal casualties.

Williams had been deployed multiple times, serving in Afghanistan and in other areas of need. Trump upgraded Williams’ Silver Star, which he earned in 2008, to a Medal of Honor on October 3, 2019.

Regarding Williams’ actions, Trump noted that, “Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the battle of Shok Valley.” Further, he noted that,””Matt is without question and without reservation one of the bravest soldiers and people I have ever met. He’s a brave guy. And he’s a great guy.”

Williams added, “”I hope I can wear the Medal with honor and distinction and represent something that’s much bigger than myself, which is what it means to be on a team of brothers, and what it means to be an elite Special Forces soldier.”

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Ronald J. Shurer

Additionally, another Special Forces Soldier who fought in the same battle was also awarded a Medal of Honor: Ronald J. Shurer. Shurer, a medic, ran through open fire to aid a soldier who had shrapnel stuck in his neck. In total, Shurer aided four wounded soldiers despite suffering gunshot wounds himself.

The deep moral dedication needed to selflessly aid others in the face of a surprise attack by 200 soldiers is astounding and something to be proud of.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace

The valor of the Green Berets stretches back to their inception. Humbert Roque Versace (nicknamed “Rocky” by his colleagues) joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk in 1937, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his heroic actions as a prisoner of War in Vietnam.

In addition to his prestigious Medal of Honor, Versace was honored in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Melvin Morris

Like Versace, a number of Green Berets have been awarded a Medal of Honor for heroic action in Vietnam. However, soldier Melvin Morris was awarded a MOH not for heroic action as a prisoner of war, but for retrieving the body of a fallen sergeant after pushing back enemy lines single handedly with a bag of grenades. The Beret even was able to free his battalion from the enemy forces that oppressed it in this crusade.

That’s badass.

Morris was shot three times in the endeavor but survived after being rushed to medical care. He was awarded a MOH by President Obama in 2014 and was later indicted into the Hall of Heroes.

Kyle Daniels

The Green Berets are not only heroes – they are also innovators. 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels was tired of seeing the American Flag burned in times of trial, such as the ones we’re in now, and invented a flag that physically won’t burn. The Firebrand Flag Company now proudly boasts fireproof flags, a symbol of the America we know and love. Fire and oppression won’t bring us down.

Each member of the U.S. Armed Forces, before being indicted to the military, pledges to:

“Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [that I will] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [that I will] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”

President Kennedy established the Green Berets with the promise that the elite unit of the military would be, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” The Green Berets are not just capable of their mission, they are excellent in upholding their duty to our country.

Honor any Green Berets you may know, today and any other day. It’s all too easy to forget that the life of an American soldier is dedicated to the well-being of our country, something which, in good conscience, should not be forgotten and honored in every way possible.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force just recovered an airman who died in 1952

The Air Force announced the name of a service member who has been recovered from a C-124 Globemaster aircraft that was lost on Nov. 22, 1952.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Eugene R. Costley has been recovered and will be returned to his family in Elmira, New York, for burial with full military honors.

On Nov. 22, 1952, a C-124 Globemaster aircraft crashed while en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, from McChord Air Force Base, Washington. There were 11 crewmen and 41 passengers on board. Adverse weather conditions precluded immediate recovery attempts. In late November and early December 1952, search parties were unable to locate and recover any of the service members.


On June 9, 2012, an Alaska National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crew spotted aircraft wreckage and debris while conducting a training mission over the Colony Glacier, immediately west of Mount Gannett. Three days later another AKNG team landed at the site to photograph the area and they found artifacts at the site that related to the wreckage of the C-124 Globemaster. Later that month, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Joint Task Force team conducted a recovery operation at the site and recommended it to be monitored for possible future recovery operations.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)

In 2013, additional artifacts were visible and every summer since then, during a small window of opportunity, Alaskan Command, AKNG personnel and Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations have been supporting the joint effort of Operation Colony Glacier.

Medical examiners from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System positively identified Costley’s remains, which were recovered in June 2018. The crash site continues to be monitored for future possible recovery.

For more information, please contact Air Force public affairs at 703-695-0640. For service record specific information, please contact the National Archives at 314-801-0816.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US and Polish combat controllers train near Krakow

Clouds make way for the first pass of combat controllers from the U.S. and Polish forces as they free fall out of an MC130J Commando during a culmination exercise near Krakow, Poland recently. The joint team is determined to put all their recent training into action as they steer their parachutes onto the calculated target.

“We are in Poland to strengthen our already capable POLSOF allies by advising them on how we conduct special operations air land integration,” said the 321st Special Tactics Squadron commander, assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, based in the United Kingdom. “This will give our Polish allies the ability to survey, secure and control an austere airfield anywhere in Poland.”


The exercise was based on a real-world scenario which featured jumping into and seizing an unimproved airfield, where they completed tasks such as deploying undetected into hostile combat and austere environments, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and command and control.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Pararescuemen from the U.S. Air Force’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, conduct a medic response scenario during a culmination exercise near Krakow.

(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

“The CULMEX was our final chance to see everything we’ve trained with our Polish counterparts,” said the 321st STS mission commander. “The 321 STS is extremely impressed with the high level of partnership and competency demonstrated by the soldiers of the Polish Special Operations Forces from Military Unit NIL.”

By sharing methods and developing best practices, U.S. and NATO partners around the world remain ready to respond to any potential real-world contingencies in Eastern Europe.

The team deployed to Poland months prior, in order to build upon Polish Special Operations Command’s ability to conduct special operations air-to-land integration.

“We’ve been planning for two months,” said a 321st STS combat controller. “We’ve practiced basics of assault zones, air traffic control, completing surveys and what we call the global-access piece; our capability to find airfields anywhere in the world to forward project highly trained manpower and equipment whenever needed.”

Along with developing joint leaders, this deployment gave the units the opportunity to establish professional development at the tactical level.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

A combat controller from U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, prepares to free fall out of an MC130J during a culmination exercise near Krakow.

(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

“It helped us to learn our job better too; I feel like anytime you’re training with another unit, it makes you that much better at your own skills. It allowed some of our younger guys to become leaders and put them in positions where they may not have been before,” said a 321st STS combat controller.

“We are very proud of our relationship with POLSOF and other NATO allies,” said the 321st STS commander. “We look forward to building and maintaining our abilities to conduct special operations (air-to-land) integration in Europe as a joint and ready force.”

Through these types of joint training exercises, special operation commands across the force stand ready to operate anytime, anyplace.

“This will ultimately increase the reach and the responsiveness of U.S. and NATO forces, deterring enemy aggression in Eastern Europe,” said the 321st STS commander. “Should the day come where we have to fight together in combat, I am confident in our joint capabilities.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 hysterical realities of being a ‘Zoom Soldier’

It’s finally here — the point in which playing Call of Duty might actually become relevant to your military career. In the extra weird era of “Zoom soldiers,” virtual training (to no one’s surprise) isn’t as great as it likely sounded when some general in the Pentagon thought it up (sorry, sir). Get soldiers together over their computer screens and execute training as usual. What could go wrong? Well, a lot actually.


Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Virtual missions

Congratulations, you have been selected to lead today’s attack on a Taliban stronghold. You are in charge of a 40-man infantry platoon and have at your disposal the most lethal and casualty-producing weapons available to the U.S. Army. Ready? Oh, one more thing: The Taliban stronghold is imaginary and your platoon is ten of your peers linked up over computers. Welcome to combat training in the Zoom era.

Everyone’s a super soldier

You are handed a map with your location and the location of the enemy and after planning, start your movement. Cue the unrealistic battlefield conditions and superhuman feats by you and the enemy. Do you have a 5-click movement to the objective? Too easy, you can “walk” that in two minutes over Zoom for “time constraints.” Need to call for air support? They arrive within 15 seconds tops and damn, your grid is on point.

Cadre are unsurprisingly biased

Recocking sucked before but reaches a whole new level of stupid in a virtual training lane. Unfortunately for you, the guy running the Zoom room is being a really d-bag today and all 20 rounds you fired on your pre-planned targets were misses. Instead of safety violations or hitting the wrong building, getting a pass depends on who’s feeling bored AF in their pajamas this morning.

There’s a mute button for that

The best thing ever just happened to safety briefs, newly promoted monologues from Sergeant Smith, and all the other pointless crap you had to listen attentively to before…a mute button. Is there anything more satisfying than muting your superior while playing COD on silent under the desk? I think not.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

No one’s looking this put-together every morning anymore.

What grooming standards

We’re not saying it’s true, but grooming accountability may or may not be as easy as a few outfit changes after you finally get around to shaving. No fresh haircut? Sorry, my camera function isn’t working today for the call.

Dang, my internet broke 

Have you ever had to face the wrath of showing up late, oversleeping or just plain forgetting? Virtually, there’s an excuse for that. Due to “unforeseen” circumstances, that 7 am phone call I missed was because of the Wi-Fi going down. Definitely not because I overslept, no way.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

When did PT become a group fitness class?

“PT is the most important part of every soldier’s day” – Every CSM in history. Oh, you thought COVID19 would let you slack off a little on working out? Well you thought wrong. Your Platoon Sergeant has made it very clear you will still execute PT every day and you have to show proof of doing the exercises. Better be ready to both hold your phone for video and do push-ups at the same time. You haven’t experienced true horror until you hear the words “the bend and reach” over a Zoom call and realize it’s not a joke.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force confirms pilot death in Ukraine crash

The Air Force has confirmed that an American pilot from the California Air National Guard was killed during a familiarization flight with a Ukrainian pilot in a Su-27UB fighter aircraft on October 16 during the Clear Skies 2018 exercise, an event orchestrated to allow Ukraine to better incorporate its forces with eight NATO militaries.


The Air Force said in a statement:

The U.S. service member involved in the crash was a member of the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard, Fresno, California. The Airman was taking part in a single-aircraft familiarization flight with a Ukrainian counterpart. No other aircraft were involved in the incident. The identity of the service member is being withheld for 24 hours pending next of kin notification.

The Ukrainian pilot was also killed in the crash.

“This is a sad day for the United States and Ukraine,” Maj. Gen. Clay Garrison, California ANG commander and Clear Skies exercise director, said in a statement. “Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends, and fellow Airmen of both the U.S. Airman and Ukrainian aviator who were killed in the incident.”

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

A Su-27B aircraft flies during Open Skies 2018 in Ukraine.

(U.S. Air National Guard)

The aircraft crash took place at 5 p.m. local time in Ukraine, and appears to have involved a Su-27UB, a two-seater combat trainer/fighter jet. A statement from the Ukrainian General Staff gave the first indication of what had occurred.

“We regret to inform that, according to the rescue team, the bodies of two pilots have been discovered: one is a serviceman of the Ukrainian Air Force, the other is a member of the US National Guard,” it said.

The incident is currently under investigation.

The Air Force said before the exercise that it would send 450 personnel to the exercise with approximately 250 of them playing a direct role. These were mostly maintainers and pilots. Multiple state national guards are involved in the exercise, including those of California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

The exercise focused on air sovereignty, air interdiction, air-to-ground integration, air mobility operations, aeromedical evacuation, cyberdefense, and personnel recovery. It takes place as Ukraine is increasing its military capabilities and continuing hostilities from a Russian-backed separatist movement has claimed lives in its eastern regions.

popular

4 of the best MWR hotels you didn’t know existed

Work hard; play hard, right? Military personnel like to enjoy their vacations and travel as much as civilians. Although there are typically on-base hotels in each state that provide adequate accommodations, it’s always nice to have a little extra special attention paid to you and yours while on vacation. Morale and Welfare hotels, aka MWR hotels, are nothing new, but there are some out there that are simply better than the others, and could add the cherry on top to your next getaway or family vacation.

Check out these amazing MWR spots:


Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

The front of The New Sanno in Tokyo, Japan.

1. The New Sanno — Tokyo, Japan

The New Sanno, a U.S. Navy Joint Services establishment, is situated in downtown Tokyo, Japan. Not only does it provide luxury in its 149 rooms, but it also boasts three restaurants, a Starbucks, bar, and an AFEES, which accepts both the U.S. dollar and the yen. It’s almost hard to believe these types of accommodations even exist within a morale and welfare hotel and, frankly, they put Air Force facilities to shame — and that’s saying a lot.

You’ll feel like you’re at home away from home when first arriving in the grand lobby. Attendants at the activity counter are eager to help you find the best deals around the city and offer information about transportation and sightseeing. Plus, it’s a short ten-minute walk away from the subway, which takes you anywhere in the city.

Reservations fill up fast at this establishment, so it’s best to plan a good sixth months in advance.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Above is the ocean front view of the Hale Koa.

2. The Hale Koa — Hawaii, USA

Hawaii is on everyone’s bucket list, but the prices scare most people away. Now, you’ve got the option of staying on an actual military base if you want to visit — Schofield Barracks is one such base — but do they offer an ocean view? The Hale Koa is a gem of a secret that may not be free, but offers an oceanfront view and a luau every week, among other amenities.

The prices climb alongside rank, so an E-6 and below can expect to pay an average of 7.00 a night. It might sound steep, but the average rate for a hotel (one not even near the beach) is almost double that price.

You can make reservations online.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

The quaintness of The Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmens’ Club beckons to visitors in the Big Apple.

3. The Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club — New York, USA

Visiting the Big Apple might seem daunting, especially if you’re trying to do so on a budget. The Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmens’ Club is actually a 501c non-profit that has a history dating back to 1919. The owners wanted to provide a “Home Away From Home” for all United States Armed Forces servicemen and servicewomen of all ranks and their families; active duty, reserve, National Guard, military retirees, and honorably discharged veterans, as well as members of the armed forces of our allies.

There’s also a canteen located in the hotel, and although meals are not served by the staff, the kitchen facilities are open to any guests who want to cook their own meals. It’s centrally located and close to numerous pubs, restaurants, dry cleaners, and all of the major tourists spots New York has to offer.

The rates run from 0 for a single occupancy room and climb slightly to 0 for double occupancy. You can check out their website for more information.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Hidden away in the heart of San Francisco, The Marines’ Memorial Club offers a plethora of amenities.

4. Marines’ Memorial Club — San Francisco, USA

Lastly, we couldn’t forget about San Francisco, another go-to tourist city in this great country of ours. The Marines’ Memorial Club is located in Union Square and is also a 501c non-profit that aims to commemorate the men and women who have fallen in defending our country.

What’s special about The Marines’ Memorial Club is not only the pet-friendly environment, but also their resident pet bulldogs that reside on the grounds. More highlights include a rooftop bar with a daily happy hour and a complimentary breakfast served every morning. There’s simply everything you could ask for and more at The Marines’ Memorial Club. Rooms are a little more expensive if you’re not a member, but you can become one by filling out their online submission form.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The man behind the ‘stache: why Mustache March matters to airmen

Basketball season isn’t the only part of March Madness.


In aviation circles, there’s a trend that brings about a bit of madness, too: Mustache March.

If you haven’t heard of Mustache March, it’s all about honoring history’s most famous military fighter pilot, Brig. General Robin Olds. While the former pilot may have passed away in 2007, his boldness and courage are remembered almost as much as his mustache.

So how did this no-nonsense pilot start a revolution of facial hair growth every year?

Read on to learn more about the one and only man behind the ‘stache.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Who Started Mustache March?

That would be the late, great Brig. General Robin Olds.

During World War II and the Vietnam War, he became a triple ace who scored at least 17 victories.

As a fighter pilot, he got tired of the lack of support and unqualified pilots he received on his watch. Out of protest against the U.S. government, he grew what’s known as a handlebar mustache — a huge violation of Air Force grooming regulations. Word has it Olds called it his “bulletproof mustache.”

Now, in honor of his memory, Airmen participate in the annual tradition of “Mustache March” as a nod to the respected pilot.

Are Mustaches Allowed in the Military?Are Mustaches Allowed in the Military?

Grooming standards vary by branch. You’ll have to check with your commanding officer and consult the grooming standards in your specific branch’s manual in case of an update.

But in general, here are the guidelines:

Air Force – Airmen, in particular, may only have mustaches. Beards are only allowed for medical reasons.

Army – Mustaches are allowed, but may not be bushy. If worn, mustaches must be neatly trimmed.

Navy – Handlebar mustaches, goatees, and beards aren’t permitted. Mustaches are allowed but must be kept neat and closely trimmed.

Marine Corps – Mustache may be neatly trimmed and the individual length of a mustache hair fully extended must not exceed 1/2 inch.

Coast Guard – While in uniform, members must be clean-shaven.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

What are the Specific Air Force Facial Hair Regulations?

So, just what is the Air Force grooming regulation these days? According to the manual as issued by the Secretary of the Air Force, here’s what’s allowed:

3.1.2.2. Mustaches. Male Airmen may have mustaches; however, they will be conservative (moderate, being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme) and will not extend downward beyond the lip line of the upper lip or extend sideways beyond a vertical line drawn upward from both corners of the mouth.

This grooming rule allows Airmen to grow military mustaches — even if they don’t normally sport facial hair — for display during Mustache March.

But most Airmen understand they probably won’t get away with a mustache as bushy and impressive as the original Olds.

Honor the Triple Ace with an Impressive Military Mustache

Sorry, Air Force wives. During March, you’ll have to deal with the scratchiness of your own Airman’s ‘stache as he grows it out.

Luckily, March only has 31 days, so you won’t have to endure the unsightly military mustache for too long. If anything, it’s a month full of good-hearted teasing and some ridiculous captured photos to share for years to come.

Teasing aside, it’s also a great opportunity for building camaraderie among service members and their families who get to be a part of the military force that rules the skies.

Cheers to growing those impressive Mustache March ‘staches that would make the Brigadier General proud!

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Libyan MiG shootdown by F-14s was both heroic and gooned up


Back in the ’80s – before 9/11 when the U.S. military’s focus shifted completely to the Middle East – aircraft carriers used to spend entire deployments in the Mediterranean Sea playing cat-and-mouse with the Soviet Navy, doing bi-lateral exercises with NATO allies, and pulling great liberty in ports like Cannes and Malta. During that time there was also a persistent pain-in-the-ass named Muammar Gaddafi who was the Libyan dictator.

Muammar Gaddafi, Former Leader of the Revolution of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, at the 12th African Union Summit Feb. 2, 2009.
Muammar Gaddafi, Former Leader of the Revolution of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, at the 12th African Union Summit Feb. 2, 2009. 

A few decades before Gaddafi met his untimely demise at the hands of rebels, he made a sport out of provoking the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet assets, primarily by claiming that the entire Gulf of Sidra was territorial Libyan water. He called the line along the northernmost part of the gulf the “Line of Death” and warned that any American ships or airplanes that crossed it would be met with the full force of the Libyan military.

Fighters from the aircraft carrier’s air wing would routinely fly inside the “Line of Death” as part of the American Navy’s “freedom of navigation” operations (aka “FON ops”) designed to prove a commitment to the conventions of international admiralty law that said that the Gulf of Sidra was, in fact, a gulf so therefore the only territorial waters that Libya could claim were those that extended 12 miles off the coastline.

FON ops were generally boring in that the Libyan military didn’t respond at all in spite of Gaddafi’s bluster.  Fighters would spend hours on combat air patrol stations drilling holes in the sky without a single vector from the controllers in the early warning aircraft whose radar screens remained blip-free.

But that wasn’t the case on January 4, 1989 when two F-14A Tomcats assigned to “The Swordsmen” of VF-32 got the call to investigate two contacts that had launched out of Tobruk – a dream scenario for Cold War-era aviators, but one that also had a few dubious moments, particularly for the pilot and his radar intercept officer (RIO) in the lead aircraft.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
An F/A-18 Super Hornet assigned to “The Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 approaches the catapult during flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (US Navy Photo)

The rules of engagement at that time were more lenient than previous Sixth Fleet rules had been in that a Libyan aircraft didn’t have to fire at an American to be declared hostile but simply if it had turned toward an American aircraft that had attempted to turn away three times.

Analysis of the lead Tomcat’s mission recorder reveals the following (with video time stamp in parenthesis):

(0:11) – The lead RIO transmits “Bogeys have jinked back at me for the fifth time . . .” (Contacts on the F-14’s AWG-9 radar system had a tendency to “windshield wiper” when the aircraft maneuvered, showing erroneous heading changes, but at this point the RIO believes the ROE has been met to declare the Libyans “hostile.”)

(0:19) – Lead RIO transmits “Inside of 20 miles, master arm on,” telling the pilot to flip the switch in the front cockpit. The pilot responds with “good light,” which means the missiles are now ready to fire.

(0:41) – After an exchange between the lead RIO and the wing pilot regarding the bogey’s “angels” (altitude) the lead pilot is less convinced than his RIO that the ROE has been met. He transmits “Alpha Bravo from 207” – an attempt to speak to the admiral on the carrier to get a ruling – but gets no response.

(0:50) – Lead RIO transmits “13 miles . . . Fox-1!” as he pushes the launch button in the rear cockpit and fires an AIM-7M Sparrow missile. His pilot responds by muttering “ah, Jesus” over the intercom, an indication that he’s not entirely comfortable with his backseater’s zeal.

(1:00) – Lead RIO’s excitement gets the best of him, and he shoots a second Sparrow before the first one has time to make it to the target, which prevents either missile from guiding accurately.

(1:13) – Lead RIO calls “six miles” as the wing pilot transmits “tally two” and then says “turning into me.”  The crews now know for sure that they’re engaged with MiG-23 “Floggers.”

(1:25) – Lead pilot says, “Okay, he’s got a missile off” over the intercom, referring to the fact his wingman just shot a Sparrow (a forward quarter shot from about 5 miles away).

(1:33) – Lead pilot transmits, “Good hit, good hit on one,” as the wingman’s Sparrow hits one of the MiGs.

(1:39) – Lead pilot says, “I’ve got the other one” as they merge and start a hard turn to get behind the second Flogger. His RIO directs him to “select Fox-2,” meaning he needs to switch the weapons firing control from the radar-guided Sparrow missile to the heat-seeking Sidewinder missile.

(1:48) – Lead RIO says, “shoot ’em!” over the intercom, and the pilot responds with “I don’t got a tone,” which refers to the aural cue that a Sidewinder missile gives the pilot when the seeker senses a heat source. But at this point the pilot doesn’t have a tone because he still has “Sparrow” selected (not “Sidewinder”) on his control stick.

(2:01) – Lead pilot requests that his RIO “lock him up” with the radar – an unnecessary step in Sidewinder firing logic, and the RIO responds with “I can’t. Shoot him, Fox-2!” The pilot, in turn, says, “I can’t. I don’t have a fucking tone.”

(2:04) – RIO starts to command pilot to select the right missile once again, but now the pilot has figured it out. (Fortunately for the American crew the Libyan pilot wasn’t skilled enough to use the American pilot’s “switchology” mistake to his advantage.) The pilot selects “Sidewinder” and the aural tone blares in his headset, indicating the missile is ready to be launched.

(2:06) – Lead pilot transmits “Fox-2” as he fires a Sidewinder missile from about two miles behind the MiG.

(2:09) – Lead pilot transmits “Good kill! Good kill!” as the heads up display shows the second MiG exploding.

While the crews earned the title of “MiG killers,” which makes them part of a rare breed in modern warfare, instructors at the Navy Fighter Weapons School summarized the lead aircraft’s performance as “professionally embarrassing.” (One senior member of the Top Gun staff characterized the shoot down as “punching kids coming off the short bus.”)

It’s also telltale that Fighter Pilot of the Year honors that year did not go to the lead pilot – who also happened to be the squadron’s commanding officer – but instead went to the wingman, who was only a first-tour lieutenant at the time.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The unknown stories of 6 women serving at Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, there were less than 1,000 women in the Army Nurse Corps. Eighty two of those women were stationed at Pearl Harbor. What was supposed to be an easy assignment turned into the surprise attack that arose a sleeping giant into World War II… and the role and number of women had just begun on that fateful day in December.

  1. Betty McIntosh

One woman who unexpectedly found herself on the front lines of war was a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. A week after the bombing, Betty McIntosh wrote her account of the attack of Pearl Harbor. But, because of its graphic nature, it went unpublished for 71 years. The article was directed at Hawaiian women and McIntosh solely wanted to share what she had seen on December 7. The days following the attack changed everything about their lives and she hoped her words would help them prepare for what lay ahead. But it wasn’t to be.

In her article, she talked of the fear that gripped her and diving for cover hoping to survive, and then being assigned to cover the emergency room of the hospital. She talked of death. The fear in the faces, and the blood. She said the doctors continued to work calmly in the chaos. She then called for the women of Hawaii to step up and help.

Alongside those doctors, she mentioned there were nurses aiding in the trauma of the makeshift emergency rooms. The stories of these women are sometimes forgotten. But they should be remembered as they were the catalyst that inspired women to serve.

  1. Annie Fox
Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
Photo: Pearl Harbor Warbirds

1st Lt Annie Fox, a 47-year-old woman and 23 year veteran of the Army was the first woman to be awarded a Purple Heart (changed to a Bronze Star in 1944 as the requirement for sustaining injuries changed). Fox was the head nurse of the Station Hospital. In addition, she administered anesthesia to patients during the heaviest part of the bombardment, assisted with dressing the wounded, taught civilian volunteer nurses to make dressing and worked ceaselessly with coolness and efficiency. 

Four other women were also recognized for their performance during the attack. Captain Helena Clearwater, First Lieutenant Elizabeth A. Pesut, Second Lieutenant Elma L. Asson and Second Lieutenant Rosalie L Swenson. Each received the Legion of Merit “for extraordinary fidelity and essential service.”

  1. Helena Clearwater

Captain Helena Clearwater spoke of her Pearl Harbor experience in a newspaper clipping. In her recollection, she talked about being on duty when the first bomb dropped. She heard the noise but didn’t realize what was happening until she saw the planes flying low with the golden sun. She then knew they were under attack and soon enough the dead and injured started to arrive at the hospital. They worked through the night without relief. Hawaii immediately became “a total blackout from sunset to sundown.” And it was a good thing, because at 9:30 PM the Japanese planes flew over Honolulu again.

  1. Ann Danyo Willgrube
Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
Photo: Pearl Harbor Warbirds

Ann Danyo Willgrube joined the Navy Nurse Corps in 1940 and was so excited to have landed a dream assignment at Pearl Harbor, arriving in October of 1941. She was awoken at 7:55 am when she thought a boiler had exploded. She looked out her porthole in her room and saw smoke pouring out of the USS Arizona. The next minute the chief nurse burst into the room and told her to get dressed and report to the quarter deck for duty; they were under attack from Japan.

The nurses worked round the clock to care for the wounded patients, mostly burn victims. They were too busy to worry about the war going around them. The roar of the guns, the shaking ship, they had too much to do to stop and pay attention. She said, “We were so thankful the Japanese did not realize how they crippled us, because they could have taken over the island had they known the truth.” 

  1. Harriet Moore
Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
Photo: Pearl Harbor Warbirds

2nd Lieutenant Harriet Moore stayed out late Saturday night dancing and was woken by her supervisor just after 7:55 am. He told her that the base was under attack. She thought he was kidding. But after quickly getting dressed and running outside, she could see the smoke from Pearl Harbor. A Japanese pilot flew by and waved. They were so thankful he wasn’t going to bomb the hospital. The first few patients she saw were all burn victims and quickly died after they arrived. She continued to work and do what she could to save as many lives as she could.

  1. Marguerite Oberson

Her friend and roommate, Marguerite Oberson was engaged to a pilot. Sometime during the day, she was informed his plane had been shot down and he was killed. Moore recalled her friend being clearly shaken by the news, but continued to work to help the patients as they continued to arrive.

These are a few of the stories of the women of Pearl Harbor. Their courage and commitment changed how women were viewed and their role in war. Before Pearl Harbor, there was great pushback for women to serve in the military. But four days after the attack, the Bureau of Budget stopped objecting to the expansion of the female military division and began plans to create a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps picked up speed. In the end, over 350,00 women served in uniform in World War II.

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 war movies rumored to release in 2019

There are definitely epic and unforgettable war films out there ( Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, Top Gun*), but every year many war films are released under the radar (how many of you watched Thank You For Your Service? WELL YOU MISSED OUT. IT WAS FANTASTIC).

Service members have high standards for military movies — after all, they portray a life we led, and it’s not always easy to get it right. That won’t stop Hollywood from trying.

Nor should it. Films about the military inspire men and women to volunteer every day. They memorialize our heroes. And most importantly, they remind us of the horrors of war so we can, hopefully, pave a peaceful future for those who will serve after us.

Here are a few films on the slate for this year:

*Don’t be a hater — you know it’s 83% the reason why we have pilots


The Last Full Measure,2019,Sebastian Stan,Samuel L. Jackson,First Look

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The Last Full Measure

During the Vietnam War, an Air Force Pararescueman named William Pitsenbarger saved the lives of 60 soldiers and, when offered the chance to evacuate on a helicopter, he stayed behind to defend the lives of his men. 34 years later, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Acquired by Roadside Attractions and starring Captain America’s Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, Jeremy Irvine, and more, The Last Full Measure will recount Pitsenbarger’s heroism — and the survivors’ efforts to honor his memory.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Greyhound

A World War II drama starring Tom Hanks, Greyhound is based on the C.S. Forester (ahem creator of Horatio Hornblower ahem) novel The Good Shepherd, in which a convoy of 37 Allied ships crosses the German U-boat infested Atlantic ocean. Hanks plays Ernest Krause, leader of the convoy and in command of his first ship, the Greyhound.

The screenplay is by Hanks himself and directed by Aaron Schneider. It is set to release on March 22, 2019,

Battle of Midway Tactical Overview – World War II | History

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Midway

Set to open during Veterans Day weekend, Midway is a World War II epic about the Battle of Midway in the Pacific, which would go down in history as the turning point in the war.

Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment hired Roland Emmerich to direct, with a cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Aaron Eckhart, Mandy Moore, and Luke Evans.

THE AFTERMATH | Official Trailer | FOX Searchlight

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The Aftermath

Set in a post-World War II Germany, Executive Producer Ridley Scott’s The Aftermath follows a British colonel (Jason Clarke) who oversees the reconstruction of a German city, his wife (Keira Knightley), and the German widower and father (played by Alexander Skarsgard) who previously occupied their new home.

Looks like this film will ponder the phrase “all’s fair in love and war.”

What’s your favorite war movie or tv show of all time? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know.

MIGHTY TRENDING

David Goldfein is the leader the military needs right now

Another Memorial Day has come and gone and, along with it, comes another report from the family of a service member who was killed in action about encountering a man in civilian clothes at Arlington National Cemetery. Calling himself Dave, the man talked to a Gold Star spouse for a bit, then moved on.

The wife of the fallen service member had no idea she was talking to Gen. David Goldfein, the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

She only found out because her friend noticed the coin that “Dave” left on the headstone of her husband — the coin of his office. She posted the story on social media some time later, which was confirmed by the popular Air Force Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

That’s the kind of person General Goldfein is. This isn’t an isolated incident. On Memorial Day 2017, an airman at Arlington spotted a man in his dress blues walking among the graves at Section 60 — the resting place for those who fell in Iraq or Afghanistan — putting his hand on each for a moment of reflection.


When he reached a sobbing widow, he embraced her and talked to her for a while. It was General Goldfein. The post also appeared on Air Force amn/nco/snco.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
I guess he tried to go more incognito in 2018 by wearing civvies, but was still recognized.
(Facebook photo by Cody Stollings)

Cody Stollings, the airman who recognized Gen. Goldfein, introduced himself and talked to the general for a bit. It turns out General Goldfein keeps the names of every airman who is killed under his command in a book. Each year, he visits them at Arlington to pay his respects.

For many Americans, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Niger, and Somalia have become a fact of life. When news about OIF, OEF, OAE, or OIR hits, no one really listens anymore. The acronyms change, but everything else stays the same. This is the cost of endless war. Andrew Bacevich, a historian and retired colonel whose son died in Iraq, said it best,

“A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.”

Bacevich has also noted that those who aren’t serving in the U.S. military are encouraged to support the troops, but no one ever “stipulates how this civic function is to be performed.”

Those in charge of prosecuting the wars, however, should find it relatively easy to support the troops — by reaching their objective and bringing those troops home. But the Chiefs of Staff don’t hold that kind of command authority. They’re in an advisory position for the National Security Council.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
In case we forgot who is on that council.

In a time where the War in Afghanistan seems like it will never end and new hot spots seem to pop up all the time, it’s good to know the Air Force has someone at the top who’s seen and fought in war and knows that the people who die fighting them are more than numbers on a PowerPoint slide.

It’s nice to know that someone at the top really gives a shit.

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