An Israeli pilot only known as “Lt. H” was flying at a low level near 350 knots in an A-4 Skyhawk one day. He was flying over the desert near the Dead Sea in September 1985. He was flying straight and level when the next thing he knows he is laying on the floor of the valley near where he was previously flying. All he knows is that he has a massive headache and no memory of how he got there.
Eventually, H did remember seeing a small object coming at him at a high speed. As he approached, he instinctively ducked to avoid hitting the object, but to no avail.
“I couldn’t tell what it was,” he told the New York Times. ”As it got closer, instinctively I ducked. That’s all I remember. I woke up on the ground with a parachute around me and my neck broken.”
His command knows exactly what happened – he ran head-on into a migrating flock of birds. One of those birds penetrated the canopy and flew into the cockpit, then hit H in the head, knocking him unconscious. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.
This wasn’t an ordinary bird, it was a Honey Buzzard.
The Israelis found H laying in the desert, as H remembers. But they also found feathers and blood on the helmet of their young IDF lieutenant. They sent the evidence to a lab in Amsterdam to get some answers. That’s how they discovered what kind of bird the Skyhawk hit and how it was able to break into the jet’s canopy. It turns out Israel in the 1980s was smack-dab in the center of a migration corridor for storks, pelicans, and predatory birds like the Honey Buzzard.
It turns out the bird crashed through the front windshield and eventually hit the pilot’s ejection seat lever after knocking him out. Lieutenant H’s parachute opened on its own, and that’s how H ended up on the ground with a headache.
The bird, however, probably went down with the Skyhawk.
For a lot of sailors serving in the Vietnam War, especially those on aircraft carriers, the war effort was a matter of routine. For many, that daily routine didn’t involve much combat. But for the Navy’s river force, among a few other units, it was a different story. The pilots who flew from carriers or land bases, the SEALs and members of the Underwater Demolition Teams, and Navy corpsmen all saw plenty of action, among others.
One other group of sailors who often saw combat was the Navy’s riverine force. This force, known as the “Brown Water Navy,” took on the Viet Cong (and later, the North Vietnamese Army) in the Mekong Delta. These days, there are much newer, riverine combat vessels in service, and “brown water” sailors have seen action during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In Vietnam, two classes of vessel primarily carried out operations. The first were PBRs (Patrol Boat Riverine). The Navy bought 32 of these 32-foot long vessels, each of which displaced seven tons. For small ships, they packed a huge punch: Three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher came standard. These small boats could be loaded up extras, too, including 7.62mm machine guns, 60mm mortars, and even flamethrowers!
Whatever configuration, these river force boats brought a lot of firepower for a crew of four to unleash on the enemy.
A crewman rests near the forward gun turret of a PBR.
The other vessel was the Patrol Craft Fast, known as the PCF or “Swift Boat.” This vessel, famous for being served on by former Secretary of State John Kerry (whose service drew controversy in 2004), packed three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and had a crew of six. 193 were built, and while they’re most famous for their service in Vietnam, the PCF was also exported.
Swift Boats take South Vietnamese Marines to their infiltration point.
While the sailors who went into harm’s way deserve our thanks, they could never have done it without the help of those who carried out maintenance on the vessels that brought them to the fight.
See how those maintainers kept the PBRs and Swift Boats in service and in action below!
Almost everyone gets email forwards from their family. In the days before social media, people emailed the jokes, memes, and urban legends that populate Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest today. These days, it’s mostly older people that stick to forwarding emails instead of sharing via social media.
Loved ones forward things to veterans wanting to know if something about the military or life in the military is true.
This one has been circulating around the internet for a while. Its origins are hard to trace, but the authors — whomever they may be — pinpointed some of the more bizarre aspects of military life by trying to find a civilian equivalent. It’s funny to look back at things military personnel and veterans accept as a part of life, no matter how strange it may seem from the outside looking in.
65 ways civilians can simulate military life:
1. Dig a big hole in your back yard and live in it for 30 days straight.
2. Go inside only to clean the house. On weekends, you can eat in the house, but you can’t talk.
3. Pour 10 inches of nasty, crappy water into your hole, then shovel it out, stack sandbags around it and cover it with a sheet of old plywood.
4. Fill a backpack with 50 pounds of kitty litter. Never take it off outdoors. Jog everywhere you go.
5. Every couple of weeks, dress up in your best clothes and go the scummiest part of town, find the most run down trashy bar you can, pay $10 per beer until you’re hammered, then walk home in the freezing cold.
6. Perform a weekly disassembly and inspection of your lawnmower.
7. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, turn the water pressure in your shower down to a trickle, then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, turn it up so hard it peels skin. On Saturdays and Sundays, declare to your entire family that they can’t use the shower in order to keep it clean for inspection.
8. Go inside and make your bed every morning. Have your wife tear the blankets off at random during the day. Re-make the bed each time until it is time to go back outside and sleep in your hole.
9. Have your next door neighbor come over each day at 5am, and blow a whistle so loud that Helen Keller could hear it and shout “Get up! Get up! You are moving too slow! Get down and do push-ups!”
10. Have your mother-in-law write down everything she’s going to do the following day, then have her make you stand in the back yard at 6am and read it to you.
11. Eat the raunchiest Mexican food you can find for three days straight, then lock yourself out of the bathroom for 12 hours. Hang a sign on the bathroom door that says, “Unserviceable.”
12. Submit a request form to your father-in-law, asking if it’s ok for you to leave your house before 5pm.
13. Invite 200 of your not-so-closest friends to come over. Have them all dig holes in your yard to live in. After 30 days, fill in the holes and wave at your friends and family through the front window of your home as you set out for a 25 mile walk and After-Action-Review.
14. Shower with above-mentioned friends.
15. Make your family qualify to operate all the appliances in your home (i.e. Dishwasher operator, blender technician, etc.).
16. Walk around your car for 4 hours checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes. Write down on a piece of paper everything you want the shop to fix the next time you bring the car in. Give your wife the list to throw away.
17. Sit in your car and let it run for 4 hours with the windows down before going anywhere. Tune the radio to static and monitor it while letting the car run. If it is cold outside, don’t run the heat. Sleep on the hood or roof of your car.
18. Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway 3 times a day, whether they need it or not.
19. Repaint your entire house once a month. Paint white rings around all the trees in your neighborhood. Paint all curbs yellow. Paint all rocks red.
20. Cook all of your food blindfolded, groping for any spice and seasoning you can get your hands on.
21. Use eighteen scoops of budget coffee grounds per pot, and allow each pot to sit 5 hours before drinking.
22. Have your neighbor collect all your mail for a month, read your magazines, and randomly lose every 5th item.
23. Spend $20,000 on a satellite system for your TV, but only watch CNN and the Weather Channel when you are inside to eat. Tune the tint on the TV to green.
24. Avoid watching your green tinted TV with the exception of movies which are played in the middle of the night. Have the family vote on which movie to watch and then show a different one.
25. Have your 5-year-old cousin give you a haircut with goat shears.
26. Sew big pockets to the legs of your pants. Don’t use them.
27. Spend 2 weeks sleeping in holes in your neighbor’s lawns and call it a deployment.
28. Spend a year sleeping in holes in your local area and call it world travel.
29. Attempt to spend 5 years working at McDonald’s and NOT get promoted.
30. Ensure that any promotions you do get are from stepping on the dead bodies of your co-workers.
31. Blast heavy metal music on your stereo and conduct Ranger PT, grass drills, and sprints on your front lawn after your neighbors have gone to bed.
32. When your children are in bed, run into their room with a megaphone and shout at the top of your lungs that your home is under attack, and order them to man their fighting positions. Don’t let them eat or sleep again for two days.
33. Make your family menu a week ahead of time and do so without checking the pantry and refrigerator.
34. Post a menu on the refrigerator door informing your family that you are having steak for dinner. Then make them wait in line for at least an hour. When they finally get to the kitchen, tell them that you are out of steak, but you have dried ham or hot dogs. Repeat daily until they don’t pay attention to the menu anymore so they just ask for hot dogs.
35. When baking a cake, prop up one side of the pan while it is in the oven. Spread icing on real thick to level it off.
36. In the middle of January, place a gate at the end of your street. Have your family stand watches at the gate, rotating at 4-hour intervals.
37. Make your family live with you in your hole for 6 weeks. Then tell them that at the end of the 6th week you’re going to take them to Disneyland for “block leave.” When the end of the 6th week rolls around, inform them that Disneyland has been canceled due to the fact that they need to get ready for Individual Skill Certification, and that it will be another week before they can go back into the house.
38. In your hole (refer to #1), with 200 of your not-so-closest friends (see para. 13), get the flu.
39. Sleep in a thicket of blackberries or rose bushes. Tie a string to your foot that runs to the house. Have your wife yank on the string about 3 hours after you go to sleep. Crawl out of the bushes and go to the house to see what she wants. She should then shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble, “Just making sure you’re okay.”
40. Do not sleep from 1:00 a.m. Monday mornings until 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoons. Tie a branch around your neck and chew on sand to stay awake.
41. When there is a thunderstorm in your area, dig a trench into your hole so that it fills up with water. During the worst part of the storm, get out of your hole and go for a 12 mile walk.
42. Don’t change your socks for a week. After they disintegrate off with pieces of your feet, put on an unbroken pair of new boots and go for a 12-mile walk.
43. For mechanized infantry or armor types: leave the lawn mower running next to your hole 24 hours a day. When you get an opportunity to sleep in your house, put lube oil in your humidifier and set it on high.
44. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.
45. Set up a port-a-potty in the corner of your yard. Once a week, have the service truck back into your yard and pump it out. Make sure the wind carries the smell into your neighbor’s house. Ignore his complaints.
46. Every other month pull every single possession you own out of your house and line everything up on your lawn from smallest to largest, front to back. Count everything and write it down to file with your insurance company. Give your wife the list to throw away.
47. Lock wire the lug nuts on your car.
48. Buy a trash can, but don’t use it. Store the garbage in your hole.
49. Get up every night around midnight and stroll around your yard to “check the perimeter.”
50. Run the garden hose to your hole and turn it on. Set your alarm clock to go off at random during the night. Jump up and get dressed as fast as you can. Run out into the backyard and get in your hole.
51. Once a month, take apart every major appliance in your home and put them back together again.
52. Build a scale model of your yard. Make your children draw sketches of it including little arrows indicating what they are going to do when they go out to play. Post these sketches on a bulletin board for reference.
53. Remove the insulation and widen the frames of your front and back doors so that no matter how tight you shut the door, the weather will still get inside.
54. Every so often, throw the cat in front of your hole and shout “Enemy in the wire! Fire Claymores!” Then run into the house cut off the circuit breaker. Yell at the wife and kids for violating security and not maintaining good noise and light discipline.
55. Put on the headphones from your stereo set, but don’t plug them in. Hang a paper cup around your neck with string. Go sit in your car. Say to no one in particular “Lost-One, this is Lost-Three, are you lost too, over?” Sit there for three or four hours with the engine running. Say again to no one in particular “Negative contact, Lost-Three out.” Roll up your headphones and paper cup and place them in a box.
56. Cook a gourmet meal then eat it in the middle of a McDonald’s play place.
57. Receive 500 gallons of purified water. Only eat snow.
58. Find out your house was built on an erosion point. Burn your house down. Build new one 3 feet away.
59. Buy 10 pairs of sunglasses for your neighbors to steal.
60. When you catch above mentioned neighbors, only blame the neighbors that just moved in.
61. Dig a new hole in your front yard for a bathroom next to your original hole. Only piss in Powerade bottles.
62. When above-mentioned hole is washed away, dig a new bathroom hole 6 inches from your fresh water supply.
63. Every 2 or 3 days take your closest not-so-close friends camping across the street.
64. Shower semi-annually.
65. Have your parents take away your allowance on weekends that were a part of your vacation.
Whenever it comes time for troops to head out to the field, their leaders should always issue a mandated packing list. These lists cover the necessities, like three sets of uniforms, sleeping gear, personal hygiene kits, an e-tool, and a poncho. Occasionally, it includes weather gear, despite the fact that it’s the off-season (think winter thermals in July), or a gas mask so the lieutenant can say they did “familiarization training.” But what you really need is useful gear. We’ve got the list for you.
Most younger troops will just follow that list to a T — exactly what the packing list requires and not a single ounce more. So, you want to earn the bragging rights of “enduring the field like a grunt?” If so, snivel gear and junk food are nice — but not useful.
These items, however, aren’t on the list, and you’re going to get laughed at for not having them.
1. Extra under-layer clothing
Three days in the field? One pair of socks per day sounds logical — and then you step in a puddle and have to wear tomorrow’s socks. Suddenly, you’re out of socks for the last day.
If the list says bring three, bring five. If it says bring ten, bring fifteen.
2. Sewing kit
If you split open the crotch on your uniform, you’ll need to toss them — unless you have a sewing kit and know how to use it.
Rips don’t even need to be fixed perfectly — just enough to get you through the field.
3. Some way to mark your stuff
One downside of issuing a standard uniform to an entire unit is that, if you lose track of your green duffle bag, you’ll need to open each one to find yours. When you’re hiking through the backwoods of your installation, remembering which bag in a sea of green duffle bags is yours is non-trivial.
Make it easier for yourself and mark your stuff. You don’t need to make it fancy or elaborate. Many units spray paint the bottoms of their bags with troop’s information on it. Even a simple piece of cloth tied to a handle will make your stuff stand out.
4. Your own toilet paper
There’s an old joke in the Army about military-issued toilet paper. We call it, “Sergeant Major’s toilet paper.” It’s rough as hell and takes sh*t from no man.
If you’re in the forests of Fort Benning, fine — pretend like you’re a badass and use some leaves. If you’re in the deserts of Fort Irwin, well — you’ll need it.
5. A watch
It might seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll still need to be able to tell time in the field. Super useful gear. Unless you’re in a super POG unit that has power outlets available in-tent, your cell phone won’t have enough charge to constantly tell you the time.
Grab a cheapo watch before you head out — nothing fancy, nothing special and preferably with a cloth wristband.
6. Waterproofing bags
It doesn’t matter what time of the year you go to Fort Irwin’s NTC. Whenever you get there, it’ll pour the entirety of its five inches of yearly average rain the moment you arrive.
Grab a few plastic storage bags for socks and toilet paper and maybe a trash bag to cover your uniforms. If you need it, awesome. If it doesn’t rain, it’s not like the weight of a trash bag and knowing you have useful gear is going to burden you.
*Bonus* If you smoke, extra cigarettes
If you are a smoker, you should know how many you go through in an average day. Multiply that by how many days you’ll be in the field — then double it.
Don’t be that guy who bugs the same person for a cigarette time and time again. You only get like two or three tops before you owe that dude another pack when you’re out of the field. If you’re the only one to remember this rule, everyone will owe you big time.
As the cyber realm evolves, effects from cyberattacks are moving from the digital world to the physical one.
Just three years ago, nearly 225,000 energy customers in Ukraine woke to a powerless city after regional electrical companies were hacked and shut down by malicious Russian cyber actors. In 2018, the city of Atlanta had to suspend many of its services while ransomware ran rampant through government computers.
To ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams, which defend priority Department of Defense networks and systems against such malicious cyber-physical acts, the 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron has developed an innovative new training tool.
“‘Bricks in the Loop’ helps cyber airmen conceptualize and understand the relationship between the network and physical domains in operational technology infrastructures,” said Christopher De La Rosa, 90th COS cyber modeling and simulation environments lead. “Significant differences exist between information technology and OT networks, necessitating different approaches to training our airmen in IT and OT cyber defense.”
In other words, BIL links cyber (IT) and physical (OT) resources to afford airmen the opportunity to see how a cyber action can effect a physical asset. Unfortunately, any cyber-physical training option using life-size training assets would be too costly to create, so current options are predominantly virtual-based, according to De La Rosa.
The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)
To remedy this, his team created a scaled, physical training environment made of toy, plastic bricks purchased off-the-shelf. They combined this with an IT network built from open source or low-cost, and easy-to-use software options. The build cost less than ,000 and took only four months.
The “loop” serves as a simulated Air Force installation with assets such as a fire station, police station, airport, airport passenger terminal, jets, tanker trucks, and other vehicles. Many of these elements can purposefully be hacked and made to light up, move forward or backward, spin, alarm or stop working all together, all to alert the trainee a cyber action has taken place. The toy bricks are built on 15×15 inch tiles so they can be easily transported and re-built to support on-demand training or to model service-level exercises.
“The look and functionality of the environment allows the trainee to easily translate the model to critical missions on most bases, and the potential damage that could occur from a malicious cyber-physical attack on those missions,” De La Rosa said. “There are many more scenarios relevant to Air Force bases that, if disrupted, may have a critical impact on assigned missions.”
The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)
In the future, the team hopes to include additional assets that will lend to more training scenarios, including fuel operations, security, water filtration, and fire alarm and suppression systems. The team is also seeking to incorporate a remote access and control feature providing trainees the opportunity to connect from anywhere.
Training cyber airmen isn’t new to the 90th COS. In the last two years alone, the squadron has developed 110 cyber capabilities comprising real-time operations and innovation efforts, CMF support efforts, and additional supporting capabilities and enabling efforts, including BIL.
As AFCYBER airmen continue to deliver full-spectrum global cyberspace capabilities and outcomes to the Air Force, joint force and nation, so will the 90th COS in its endeavor to keep them proficiently trained and ready.
If anyone can save the planet, it’s Rudy Reyes, a specops veteran who is changing the definition of what it means to be a warrior.
Reyes served with the Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in both Iraq and Afghanistan before engaging in a counter-terror contract for the Department of Defense, training African wildlife preserver rangers in anti-poaching missions, and writing the book Hero Living, which chronicles his warrior philosophy and teaches others how to follow it.
Now, as the co-founder of FORCE BLUE, Reyes and his team unite the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of marine conservation for the betterment of both.
And they’ve just completed a very critical mission: the study of juvenile green sea turtles in the Florida Keys.
It might not seem like a big deal — but it is.
According to the trailer for their new documentary Resilience, “The sea turtle tells us the health of the ocean and the ocean tells us the health of the planet.”
Check out the rest of the trailer right here:
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B1JZ1jNgtPu/ expand=1]FORCE BLUE on Instagram: “PLEASE REMEMBER to join us tomorrow night (Thursday) at 8:00 p.m. EST on Facebook for the world premiere of our short film RESILIENCE. And…”
On Aug. 15, at 8:00pm EDT, FORCE BLUE will premiere Resilience, the story of their recent mission. During the study period in June, FORCE BLUE veterans helped collect samples from 26 green turtles in the lower Florida Keys in order to improve green turtle conservation and recovery efforts.
“These sea turtles are the oldest living creatures on the planet, yet —through no fault of their own — they’re locked in a battle just to survive. We owe them our support. The same can be said, I think, for our FORCE BLUE veterans and the warrior community they represent,” said Jim Ritterhoff, Executive Director and Co-Founder of FORCE BLUE.
That’s the genius of FORCE BLUE, a non-profit that seeks to address two seemingly unrelated problems — the rapid declining health of our planet’s marine resources and the difficultly combat veterans have in adjusting to civilian life. Consisting of a community of veterans, volunteers, and marine scientists, the organization offers veterans the power to restore lives — and the planet.
“We were all in the hunter warrior mindset yet we were hunting to protect and to study and to treat,” said Reyes. It’s not exactly what one might expect from a community known for watering the grass with “blood blood blood.”
“It almost feels like the turtles know they are going through a crisis too, just like us. And now we have a chance to do something for them. That means everything,” shares Reyes.
Reyes is a man who has emerged from the battlefield with the desire to improve the world. The first time I met him, I said I’d heard a rumor that he could kill me with his little finger. He immediately and passionately corrected me: “I could SAVE you with my little finger!”
That told me everything I needed to know about him — because both statements are true, but what Reyes chooses to do with his power is what makes him a leader within the military community and a force for good in this world.
The “Avengers: Endgame” trailer dropped on March 14, 2019, and although it doesn’t seem to reveal much about what the main plot of the final “Avengers” installment might be, it did raise a lot of questions. And after watching the trailer, some people are already speculating that the final film could introduce a new character that fans of Marvel comic books might recognize.
Amidst the swelling music and Tony Stark’s voiceover, there’s a short scene in the trailer in which Clint Barton, also known as Hawkeye, teaches a young woman how to use a bow and arrow. The girl shoots an arrow, hits her target dead-on, and then high-fives Barton.
Fans are now trying to figure out who that girl could be — and they already have some guesses.
Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame – Official Trailer
The “Avengers” movies have not always strictly followed the plots found in the comics of the same name, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if the franchise strayed from the books and introduced Bishop in the final film of the series.
Hawkeye’s daughter Lila was introduced in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” in 2015.
Other fans are convinced the character is Barton’s daughter, Lila, who was introduced in the ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ film
Some fans speculate that the girl in the trailer could just be Clint and Laura Barton’s daughter, Lila. In “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” viewers were first introduced to her — she was one of the two Barton children depicted in the 2015 film.
NATO member and partner forces are in Norway for a sprawling military exercise called Trident Juncture — the largest since the Cold War, officials have said.
Russia is not happy with NATO’s robust presence next to its territory and has decided to put on its own show of force.
From Nov. 1 to Nov. 3, 2018, Russian ships will carry out rocket drills in the Norwegian Sea, west of activities related to Trident Juncture, which runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2018.
The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in Europe, home to some of the world’s most capable armed forces, based on the 2018 military strength ranking compiled by Global Firepower.
The ranking aims to level the playing between smaller countries with technical advantages and larger, less-sophisticated countries.
Additional factors — geography, logistical capabilities, natural resources, and industrial capacity — are taken into account, as are things like diversity of weapons and assets, national development, and manpower.
NATO members, 27 of which are European, also get a boost, as the alliance is designed to share resources and military support. The US military has a massive presence in Europe — including its largest base outside the US— but isn’t included here as the US isn’t part of Europe.
Below, you can see the 25 most powerful militaries in Europe.
Belgium air force helicopter Alouette III takes off from BNS Godetia for a tactical flight over the fjords in support of an amphibious exercise during NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise.
(NATO Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)
25. Belgium (Overall ranking: 68)
Power Index rating: 1.0885
Total population: 11,491,346
Total military personnel: 38,800
Total aircraft strength: 164
Fighter aircraft: 45
Combat tanks: 0
Total naval assets: 17
Defense budget: .085 billion
A Portuguese sniper team identifies targets during the range-estimation event of the Europe Best Sniper Team Competition at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, July 29, 2018.
(US Army photo by Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)
24. Portugal (Overall ranking: 63)
Power Index rating: 1.0035
Total population: 10,839,514
Total military personnel: 268,500
Total aircraft strength: 93
Fighter aircraft: 24
Combat tanks: 133
Total naval assets: 41
Defense budget: .8 billion
Slovak soldiers report to their commander during the opening ceremony of Slovak Shield 2018 at Lest Military Training Center, Sept. 23, 2018.
Austrian soldiers load gear onto their packhorses before hiking to a high-angle range during the International Special Training Centre High-Angle/Urban Course at the Hochfilzen Training Area, Austria, Sept. 12, 2018.
(US Army photo)
22. Austria (Overall ranking: 61)
Power Index rating: 0.9953
Total population: 8,754,413
Total military personnel: 170,000
Total aircraft strength: 124
Fighter aircraft: 15
Combat tanks: 56
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .22 billion
A Bulgarian army tank crew maneuvers a T-72 tank during an exercise with US soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the Novo Selo Training Area, Sept. 15, 2018.
(US Army National Guard photo Sgt. Jamar Marcel Pugh)
21. Bulgaria (Overall ranking: 60)
Power Index rating: 0.9839
Total population: 7,101,510
Total military personnel: 52,650
Total aircraft strength: 73
Fighter aircraft: 20
Combat tanks: 531
Total naval assets: 29
Defense budget: 0 million
Standing NATO Maritime Group One trains with Finnish fast-attack missile boat FNS Hanko during a passing exercise in the Baltic Sea, Aug. 28, 2017.
(NATO photo by Christian Valverde)
20. Finland (Overall ranking: 59)
Power Index rating: 0.9687
Total population: 5,518,371
Total military personnel: 262,050
Total aircraft strength: 153
Fighter aircraft: 55
Combat tanks: 160
Total naval assets: 270
Defense budget: .66 billion
Cpl. Cedric Jackson, a US soldier from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team of Army’s 1st Infantry Division, assists a Hungarian soldier in applying tape to secure a fluid-administration tube to a simulated casualty during a combat life-saver course led by US troops in Tata, Hungary, Dec. 2017.
A Norwegian soldier takes aim during Trident Juncture 18 near Røros, Norway, Oct. 2018.
14. Norway (Overall ranking: 36)
Power Index rating: 0.6784
Total population: 5,320,045
Total military personnel: 72,500
Total aircraft strength: 128
Fighter aircraft: 49
Combat tanks: 52
Total naval assets: 62
Defense budget: billion
13. Switzerland (Overall ranking: 34)
Power Index rating: 0.6634
Total population: 8,236,303
Total military personnel: 171,000
Total aircraft strength: 167
Fighter aircraft: 54
Combat tanks: 134
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .83 billion
Swedish air force Pvt. Salem Mimic, left, and Pvt. Andreas Frojd, right, both with Counter Special Forces Platoon, provide security for US Air Force airmen and aircraft on the flight line at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 26, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)
12. Sweden (Overall ranking: 31)
Power Index rating: 0.6071
Total population: 9,960,487
Total military personnel: 43,875
Total aircraft strength: 206
Fighter aircraft: 72
Combat tanks: 120
Total naval assets: 63
Defense budget: .2 billion
erved by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 28, 2018.
(Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
11. Czech Republic (Overall ranking: 30)
Power Index rating: 0.5969
Total population: 10,674,723
Total military personnel: 29,050
Total aircraft strength: 103
Fighter aircraft: 12
Combat tanks: 123
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .6 billion
10. Ukraine (Overall ranking: 29)
Power Index rating: 0.5383
Total population: 44,033,874
Total military personnel: 1,182,000
Total aircraft strength: 240
Fighter aircraft: 39
Combat tanks: 2,214
Total naval assets: 25
Defense budget: .88 billion
9. Greece (Overall ranking: 28)
Power Index rating: 0.5255
Total population: 10,768,477
Total military personnel: 413,750
Total aircraft strength: 567
Fighter aircraft: 189
Combat tanks: 1,345
Total naval assets: 115
Defense budget: .54 billion
8. Poland (Overall ranking: 22)
Power Index rating: 0.4276
Total population: 38,476,269
Total military personnel: 184,650
Total aircraft strength: 466
Fighter aircraft: 99
Combat tanks: 1,065
Total naval assets: 83
Defense budget: .36 billion
A sniper and spotter from the Spanish Lepanto Battalion line up their target near Folldal during Exercise Trident Juncture, using the .50 caliber Barrett and the .338 caliber Accuracy sniper rifles, firing at targets over 1,000 meters away.
(Photo by 1st German/Netherlands Corps)
7. Spain (Overall ranking: 19)
Power Index rating: 0.4079
Total population: 48,958,159
Total military personnel: 174,700
Total aircraft strength: 524
Fighter aircraft: 122
Combat tanks: 327
Total naval assets: 46 (one aircraft carrier)
Defense budget: .6 billion
An Italian F-35A fighter jet with special tail markings.
(Italian Air Force photo)
6. Italy (Overall ranking: 11)
Power Index rating: 0.2565
Total population: 62,137,802
Total military personnel: 267,500
Total aircraft strength: 828
Fighter aircraft: 90
Combat tanks: 200
Total naval assets: 143 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: .7 billion
5. Germany (Overall ranking: 10)
Power Index rating: 0.2461
Total population: 80,594,017
Total military personnel: 208,641
Total aircraft strength: 714
Fighter aircraft: 94
Combat tanks: 432
Total naval assets: 81
Defense budget: .2 billion
4. Turkey (Overall ranking: 9)
Power Index rating: 0.2216
Total population: 80,845,215
Total military personnel: 710,565
Total aircraft strength: 1,056
Fighter aircraft: 207
Combat tanks: 2,446
Total naval assets: 194
Defense budget: .2 billion
3. United Kingdom (Overall ranking: 6)
Power Index rating: 0.1917
Total population: 64,769,452
Total military personnel: 279,230
Total aircraft strength: 832
Fighter aircraft: 103
Combat tanks: 227
Total naval assets: 76 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: billion
French sailors watch the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush as it transits alongside the French navy frigate Forbin, Oct. 25, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)
2. France (Overall ranking: 5)
Power Index rating: 0.1869
Total population: 67,106,161
Total military personnel: 388,635
Total aircraft strength: 1,262
Fighter aircraft: 299
Combat tanks: 406
Total naval assets: 118 (four aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: billion
Russian troops participating in the Zapad 2017 exercises in Belarus and Russia.
(Russian Ministry of Defense photo)
1. Russia (Overall ranking: 2)
Power Index rating: 0.0841
Total population: 142,257,519
Total military personnel: 3,586,128
Total aircraft strength: 3,914
Fighter aircraft: 818
Combat tanks: 20,300
Total naval assets: 352 (one aircraft carrier)
Defense budget: billion
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Student: “Sergeant, how long do I have to deploy my reserve parachute if my main fails to open?”
Sergeant: “The rest of your life, son… the rest of your life.”
There is no argument that Tier-1 units routinely engage in dangerous training: climbing skyscraper structures, engaging in gunfights in close quarters and confined spaces, hunkering down nexts to explosive breaching charges that are barely an arm’s reach away as they ignite… A cringe-worthy component to that list that hooks every seasoned operator’s attention is airborne operations, because most things that go wrong during them can be fatal.
The feature image, Toad Jumper, is of course a parody of “towed jumper,” an airborne term used to describe a paratrooper whose static line, a 15-foot nylon cord that pulls open the jumper’s parachute, doesn’t separate from the aircraft. On the rare occasion that the parachute pack fails to break free from the static line anchored to the jump aircraft, the paratrooper will be towed behind the aircraft at ~120MPH spinning and slamming against the airplane. It is a horrid and deadly event.
Paras line up and hooked up. Static lines are hooked to anchor cable; they are routed correctly OVER the men’s arms. Mac’s had looped under his arm.
My best friend and renowned firearms trainer Patrick Arther “Mac”McNamara was a towed jumper on his very first training jump with the Army’s Airborne School in Ft. Benning, GA. His static line had unfortunately looped under his arm, cushioning the tug of the line and preventing it from effectively pulling his parachute loose.
Mac spun wildly and bounced off of the kin of the aircraft… then his static line fortunately was able to pull away his pack and deploy his parachute canopy correctly. The violent tug of the static line ripped his biceps muscle from his humerus bone and pulled it down to his forearm. He was in severe pain and unable to use his damaged arm.
When it rains it pours, and since Mac was not able to use his arm, he could not steer his parachute for a safe up-wind landing. Rather than face into the wind a parachute defaults to running down (with) the wind at higher speed. Mac braced himself, cringing before the impending impact with the ground.
Patrick McNamara frame grab from one of his training videos reveals the gnarly scar on his left biceps, a staunch reminder of being a towed (toad) jumper
He hit with great speed tumbling and flipping in excruciating pain. Landing is the most critical step in a jump that the jumper can have the most control over. The jumper must correctly assess the wind direction and turn himself to face into the wind by maneuvering the lines that suspend him from his canopy.
A paratrooper must perform a proper Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) to preclude broken bones and other injuries, and finally, a jumper must quickly securehis parachute to prevent being dragged across the ground resulting in potential death.
Now, the instructors on the Drop Zone, the Black Hats, saw Mac’s cartwheel landing and began to scream at him through electrically amplified megaphone:
“HEY LEG! WHO THE HELL TAUGHT YOU TO DO A DOWN-WIND LANDING, LEG!”
A leg was a term used to refer to a soldier who was not airborne qualified. By military doctrine, soldiers can be referred to as regular straight-leg infantry, and airborne infantry. Leg is a mildly derogatory term, yet a moniker of pride used by airborne forces.
Airborne pipe-hitters from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) packed in their jump aircraft
Now Mac was being dragged by the wind across the ground further contributing to his anguish, as he could not release his parachute connection on his chest. That further infuriated the Black Hats:
“GODDAMNIT LEG, PULL YOUR CANOPY RELEASES, LEG… YOU STINKING LEG!!!”
A fellow student ran in front of Mac’s inflated parachute and collapsed it. Mac now had to stow all of his parachute into a kitbag and carry his gear to an assembly zone where students were gathered… all with just one good arm and the other in extreme pain.
Airborne soldier about to make contact with the ground; always a tense moment
Mac stumbled to the assembly point. His assessment of the event sums up what an amazing warrior Pat Mac is, and why I regard him such esteem to this day (words to the effect): “I didn’t really know what to think at the time; I mean, it was my first time and I really had no idea what to expect. To me, that was just what jumping was like… what every jump would be like… and I was willing to accept that.”
Pulling open his BDU shirt he saw that his biceps had been reassigned south of his shoulder to his forearm; the skin was stretched so tight that it had taken on a transparent form revealing the color of the sinew and blood vessels thereunder. He showed it to a couple of other students to see if their arms all looked the same way; none did. Only then did Mac realize his plight.
Mac had to have surgery to pull his bicep back up to his humerus to re-attach it, leaving him a gnarly scarred reminder. One of my team brothers in Delta also suffered the same fate as Mac in jump school. His static line looped under his arm. When he jumped he was momentarily towed; his biceps torn and pulled down to his forearm.
His biceps never really recovered to its original position, rather a bit low on his humerus toward his elbow. It really looked funny when he flexed his biceps, intentionally flexing it often in the gym with accompanying remarks such as: “(flexing) Just came in to pump up ol’ Betsy here… I know she looks pretty ripped now, but you should have seen how ripped she was in jump school!”
The trauma associated with a towed jumper scenario would easily be “quittin’ time” for most folks, with no fault assigned or explanation required. For Pat McNamara it was just one entry in a long line of threats that tried to beat him down and prevent him from obtaining his warrior goal. He went on to be arguably the best physically fit and top-performing Delta Operator of our era, and continues today to even exceed the standards that we maintained in the Unit.
When you think of a crusader, you may think of the Christian warriors who tried to ‘free’ the Holy Land (but are now mostly known for their bad behavior). Or, you could conjure up images of a World War II tank used by the British. But there was one crusader, in particular, that packed four guns and could go very fast. We’re talking about the Vought F-8 Crusader, once called “The Last Gunfighter.”
In the wake of the Korean War, the United States Navy was trying to stabilize its carrier air wings. The shift from propeller-driven planes to jets was well underway and the Navy had to jettison a few duds as it tried to make that shift. The F6U Pirate, for example, just didn’t have the oomph in the engine and the F7U Cutlass was too dangerous… for its pilots.
Still, the Navy was looking for a fighter. Vought, despite the failures of the Pirate and the Cutlass, managed to win this contract. This time, however, the company came up with a classic in what was called the F8U Crusader at the time. The plane established a reputation for speed — Korean War MiG-killer John Glenn, a future astronaut, took a reconnaissance variant across the country in record time in 1957.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the centerpiece of the Crusader’s combat capabilities was a suite of four Mk 12 20mm cannon backed up by four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The Crusader served with the Navy and Marine Corps in Vietnam, scoring 18 kills for three air-to-air losses. While the fighter retired soon after the Vietnam War ended, the photo-reconnaissance version stuck around with the Navy Reserve until 1987.
Two countries received the F-8 Crusader on the export market. France operated the F-8E(FN), equipped with R.530 and R.550 Magic 2 air-to-air missiles instead of the American Sidewinder. Those served until December 1999. The Philippines flew the F-8H model, operating it until 1991.
Learn more about this four-gun Crusader in the video below:
As the weather turns cooler and you look for yet another thing to help keep you sane while you’re stuck indoors, might we suggest you return to the originals and re-watch any one of these classic Vietnam War movies.
(Metro Goldwyn Mayer)
We’re listing this one first to get it right out there in the open. Yes, we’re talking about Rambo here, but in our humble opinion, First Blood is one of the best Vietnam War movies of all time. Don’t believe us? Well, consider this.
The majority of Vietnam Veterans weren’t given any kind of preferential treatment on their return to America. Discounts? Forget about them. Being thanked for their service? Not in a million years. That’s one of the reasons why First Blood is such a standout Vietnam War movie – it shows a part of our country’s history that many have forgotten forever. It helped educate the general public about the challenges of Vietnam Veterans, both in the field and once back at home, too.
This gritty war movie focuses on 14 soldiers from the 101st B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiments during a 12-day battle that occurred in the northern part of South Vietnam near the A Shau Valley.
Debuting in 1987, the film showcases what it was like for the Screaming Eagles as they endured an uphill battle against a well-entrenched enemy under awful conditions.
The real battle of Hamburger Hill claimed the lives of 39 soldiers from the 187th and left almost 300 wounded. This film absolutely holds up to any other film that attempts to explore the sacrifices made by infantrymen.
(Metro Goldwyn Mayer)
Platoon won the “Best Film” of 1986 and for a good reason. This movie manages to explore combat from the ground level, and does what many war movies can’t do – it shows the combat experience for exactly what it is: scary, full of dread and lots of worries. The reason this film manages to be successful where others aren’t might be due in part to the fact that Oliver Stone, who wrote and directed it, was a Vietnam Veteran. In interviews, Stone said that he was just trying to make a film for himself and for those like him, to remember the war for exactly what it was.
(American International Pictures)
This one might not be on your radar, in part because it’s a low-budget movie that never won any awards. It was written by the same person who wrote Raging Bull and Taxi Driver and an unknown director. The result is a film that’s part war rage and part revenge fantasy and is probably relatable for most Vietnam Veterans returning from war.
Two POWs get a hero’s welcome upon returning to Texas, but things fall apart immediately after and only go from bad to worse. The movie traces these two characters’ lives as they come to terms with understanding their new normal.
This is the kind of movie that will completely captivate you and tap into the frustration that many Vietnam war movies try to illustrate.
The Deer Hunter
The cast of The Deer Hunter elevates it into the cinematic hall of fame status. Starring Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken, the cast is as impressive as the storyline. What further sets this film apart is the fact that John Cazale (Fredo from The Godfather) makes his last appearance before his death from bone cancer.
The harrowing POW sequences in this film are dark, gritty and utterly memorable. The Deer Hunter is one of those movies that will remain with you long after you’ve watched it.
Later in December 1967, the guards hauled a new prisoner strapped to a board into Day’s cell.
Day was in bad shape himself. He had escaped and was on the run for two weeks before being caught. The beatings had been merciless, but the condition of the new guy was something else.
“I’ve seen some dead that looked at least as good,” Day would later reportedly say. The new prisoner was in a semblance of a body cast. He weighed less than a hundred pounds. He had untended wounds from bayonets. His broken and withered right arm protruded from the cast at a crazy angle.
Day thought to himself that the North Vietnamese “have dumped this guy on us so they can blame us for killing him, because I didn’t think he was going to live out the day.”
Then Day caught the look: “His eyes, I’ll never forget, were just burning bright,” and “I started to get the feeling that if we could get a little grits into him and get him cleaned up and the infection didn’t get him, he was probably going to make it.”
“And that surprised me. That just flabbergasted me because I had given him up,” Day said, as recounted in the book “The Nightingale’s Song” by Marine Vietnam War veteran Robert Timberg.
(Simon & Schuster)
Day had just met Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Sidney McCain III, or as Radio Hanoi called him, “Air Pirate McCain.” Day realized this was the Bug’s “Crown Prince,” the son of Adm. John S. McCain, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
The nearly five years he spent as a POW were a reckoning for the future senator from Arizona.
But now, he’s facing a different kind of reckoning.
In July 2017, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that usually is terminal.
Shortly after the diagnosis, McCain went to the Senate floor to plead for bipartisanship.
“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and on the Internet. To hell with them,” he said.
“We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” he added. “We’re getting nothing done, my friends; we’re getting nothing done.”
McCain, still chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, went home to Arizona before Christmas and has not returned.
Before leaving the Senate, McCain said in a floor speech that “I’m going home for a while to treat my illness,” McCain said in a floor speech before leaving the Senate. “I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you pause to regret all the nice things you said about me.”
“And I hope to impress on you again, that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company,” McCain added.
At his ranch in Sedona, Arizona, McCain has reportedly not been a model patient. He has jokingly accused his nurses of being in the witness protection program.
“His nurses, some of them are new, they don’t really know him, so they don’t understand that sarcasm is his form of affection,” Salter said May 28, 2018, on the “CBS This Morning” program.
“He fights, he’s fought with everybody at one point or another,” Salter said. “You know, he always talks about the country being 325 million opinionated, vociferous souls — and he’s one of them.”
In an audio excerpt from the book, McCain faced mortality.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” he said in the book. “Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you hear this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable.”
Maverick no more
In the 1990s, A&E ran a documentary on McCain that included in its title the moniker “American Maverick.” The title was probably suitable for a politician who clashed so frequently with others but managed to maintain friendships with rivals, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton.
McCain said he’s seeking to shed the “maverick” label, discussing the subject in an HBO documentary on his life that will air on Memorial Day.
“I’m a human being and I’m not a maverick,” McCain said in a trailer for the documentary obtained by ABC.
“I’ve been tested on a number of occasions. I haven’t always done the right thing,” he said, “but you will never talk to anyone who’s as fortunate as John McCain.”
Throughout his life and public career, McCain has demonstrated humor in dire circumstances and the ability to absorb grave blows and continue on.
When he was told that the Hoa Lo prison, dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” by the POWs, had actually been turned into a hotel, McCain said “I hope the room service is better.”
He could also be self-deprecating.
“I did not enjoy the reputation of a serious pilot or an up-and-coming junior officer,” McCain, with long-time collaborator Mark Salter, wrote in his book “Faith of My Fathers,” describing life before his A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi.
He had crashed three planes in training. He was assigned to attack aircraft and was not among the elite who flew fighters.
The look that riveted Bud Day in the prison camp signaled that the gadfly and carouser McCain was renewing a commitment “to serve a cause greater than oneself.”
It is a message that he has delivered to Naval Academy graduates and to congressional colleagues, and he has admitted to often falling short of living up to his own mantra.
After his return from Vietnam, there was a failed marriage and his implication in the “Keating Five” scandal, a bribery affair with a a corrupt wheeler-dealer that almost ended his career in politics.
McCain recently described to CNN’s Jake Tapper how he wanted to be remembered.
“He served his country, and not always right,” McCain said. “Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope you could add ‘honorably’.”
On the campaign trail with McCain
The famously named “Straight Talk Express” campaign bus was actually reduced to a minivan when McCain was broke and running on fumes in the New Hampshire presidential primary of 2008. The few reporters still covering him had no problem squeezing in. The small group included this reporter, who covered the McCain campaigns for the New York Daily News in 2000 and 2008.
McCain would be off to some high school gym to speak, but mostly to listen. Everybody knew the script, because there wasn’t one, and that’s part of what made him a treat to cover.
His “Town Hall” events really were town halls. There might be a talking point at the top, or some message of the day fed to him by handlers, but McCain would get rid of it quickly and throw it open to the floor.
The practice had its downside. There was the guy who seemed to show up everywhere and always managed to grab the mic. He wanted to grow hemp, or maybe smoke it, and thought McCain should do something about it. It drove the candidate nuts.
The ad-lib nature of his campaigns sometimes backfired. There was the time in New Hampshire when he was headed to Boston for a Red Sox game and a sit-down with pitching hero Curt Schilling. Red Sox? New Hampshire primary? Impossible to screw that up.
The news of the day was that opponent Mitt Romney had hired undocumented immigrants to sweep out his stables, blow the leaves off his tennis courts, or similar tasks.
A small group of reporters hit McCain with the Romney question on his way to the car. McCain hadn’t heard. He started to laugh, thought better of it, and rushed back inside the hotel.
He could be seen in the lobby doubling up as aides explained the Romney situation. He came back out, said something to the effect of, “Of course, if true, this is troubling … ” and went to the ballgame.
Somebody wrote that McCain was the only candidate who could make you cry, and that was true.
In 2000, McCain was basically beaten when the campaign reached California. George W. Bush would be the Republican nominee.
McCain was running out the string in San Diego with many of his old Navy buds. On the dais was Adm. James Stockdale, who had been the senior officer in the prison camps. Stockdale received the Medal of Honor for his resistance to his captors.
Somehow, Stockdale had become the running mate of the flighty and vindictive Ross Perot, who had disrespected him and sidelined him from the campaign.
In his remarks, McCain turned to Stockdale and said that, no matter what, “You will be my commander — forever.”
There was a pause, and then the crowd stood and applauded.
His friends from the prison camps would occasionally travel with him on the bus or the plane. They were easy to pick out. During down times, they were the ones who would rag on him about what a lousy pilot he had been. It was a learning experience for those who covered McCain.
One of the former POWs was Everett Alvarez, who was the longest-held Navy pilot from the camps. At an event in California, there was a great rock n’ roll band that opened and closed for McCain. Outside the hall, as the crowd filed out, Alvarez was at an exit, enjoying the band as they blasted out ’60s hits.
“Great stuff,” he said to this reporter, who wondered later whether that was the first time Alvarez was hearing it.
Son of a son of a sailor
The title of the cover song of a Jimmy Buffett album applies to John McCain: “Son Of A Son Of A Sailor.”
His grandfather, John S. “Slew” McCain Sr., was an admiral who served in World War I and World War II. His father, John S. McCain Jr., was an admiral who served in submarines in World War II. Both father and grandfather were in Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrender in World War II.
John S. McCain III was born on August 29, 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone. The family moved 20 times before he was out of high school, and his transience became an issue when he first ran for Congress in 1982.
His opponent tried to pin the “carpetbagger” label on him, and said he had only recently moved to Arizona. McCain said his opponent was correct: the place he had been in residence longest was Hanoi. He won easily.
McCain was an indifferent student and his poor academic record continued at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1958 fifth from the bottom in a class of 899.
After flight school, he was assigned to A-1 Skyraider squadrons and served on board the aircraft carriers Intrepid and Enterprise.
In 1967, in his first combat tour, he was assigned to the carrier USS Forrestal, flying the A-4 Skyhawk in Operation Rolling Thunder.
On July 29, 1967, McCain was in his A-4 on the flight deck when a missile on a following plane cooked off and hit the A-4, starting a fire that killed 134 and took more than a day to bring under control.
McCain transferred to the carrier USS Oriskany. On Oct. 26, 1967, McCain was flying his 23rd combat mission over North Vietnam when his aircraft was hit by a missile. He broke both arms and a leg when he ejected and nearly drowned when his parachute came down in Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi.
McCain’s decorations include the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars with combat ‘V’ devices, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.
“In all candor, we thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn’t have the least notion of what it took to win the war,” McCain would later write of the Vietnam war.
A final fight
McCain did not vote for President Donald Trump. The antipathy was there when Trump said during the campaign that McCain was “a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” but the break came later when a video emerged of Trump spewing vulgarities about women.
In speeches and in his writings since, McCain has not referred to Trump by name but made clear that he is opposed to some of the policies and crass appeals that won Trump the election.
In an address in October 2017, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, McCain said that it was wrong to “fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership, and our duty to remain the last, best hope of Earth.”
He said it was wrong to abandon those principles “for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”
To do so was “as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history,” McCain continued.
While hoping for recovery, McCain has made plans for what comes next. He said in the HBO Memorial Day documentary that “I know that this is a very serious disease. I greet every day with gratitude. I’m also very aware that none of us live forever.”
In his new book, McCain said that he was “prepared for either contingency.”
“I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see,” he said.
He has asked that Barack Obama and George W. Bush give eulogies when his time comes. He has asked that Trump not attend his funeral.
McCain has also asked that he be laid to rest alongside Adm. Chuck Larson at the Naval Academy’s cemetery in Annapolis. Larson, who was twice superintendent of the Naval Academy, was McCain’s roommate at Annapolis.
In a message of his own last Memorial Day, McCain recalled his friend, the late Air Force Col. Leo Thorsness, a Medal of Honor recipient for his valor in Vietnam. Thorsness was shot down two weeks after the actions for which he would receive the medal.
“I was in prison with him, I lived with him for a period of time in the Hanoi Hilton,” McCain said.
Through the nation’s history, “we’ve always asked a few to protect the many,” McCain said. “We can remember them and cherish them, for, I believe, it’s only in America that we do such things to such a degree.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
100 years ago, our great-great grandfathers were in the trenches of France, and fighters on both sides of the war had to while away their time when they weren’t actively working or fighting. And it takes a lot to keep your morale up and your terror down when your work hours are filled with enemy mortars, artillery, and machine guns.
Here are six games and other activities they turned to:
A large crowd of World War One soldiers watching two boxers sparring in a ring during the boxing championships at the New Zealand Divisional Sports at Authie, France, in July 1918.
(Henry Armytage Sanders)
Unsurprisingly, some of the top activities were a little violent, and boxing was a top activity. These could be tournaments where one company or platoon fought another, but they were also often just quick, relatively impromptu matchups. Soldiers talked about the fights in letters, and it seems that the more violent the fight was, the better. One British soldier wrote:
“We are having a good time here in the way of concerts, sports, boxing tournaments etc. The latter was great especially the bout between a Farrier Sergeant and a cook’s mate. They biffed at one another until neither could stand, it was awfully funny.”
The “Christmas Truce” took place around Christmas, 1914, and included some sports events, like football matches.
(Illustration by A. C. Michael of the Christmas Truce created for “The Illustrated London News”)
Football (American and European)
Football was also popular, but was obviously a team-based event that lent itself well to one unit playing against another. American and European football were both played in the trenches, though it’s obvious that European football would be more popular everywhere but the American Expeditionary Force.
The famous Christmas Truce soccer game was part of this tradition, but games were commonly played between allies rather than adversaries. One soldier wrote in a 1915 letter that his unit played against a rival battery in an old cabbage patch. The patch made a bad football pitch, but the letter-writer won, so he wasn’t sore about it.
World War I Gurkhas wrestle on the regimental transport mules.
(H. D. Girdwood, British Library)
Wrestling (sometimes on mules)
Wrestling, like boxing, was popular for the same reasons, but there is a special, odd caveat that wrestling matches were sometimes held on mules. Yeah, like the animals. This activity was featured during a special sports day in October, 1917, but it didn’t include details of the sport.
Likely, it consisted of two riders wrestling until one knocked the other off the gallant steed, but I like to imagine that the mules were combatants as well, because cartoons don’t become real as often as I would like.
Scottish troops and other onlookers watch troops taking part in an organized sports day.
(British photo from the National Library of Scotland)
Wheelbarrow racing, pillow fights, and other improvised events
Other events on that sports day included pillow fights and “wheelbarrow” races. The events were organized to improve morale, but anyone who has spent time with troops in the field knows that games like these are common any time infantrymen get bored.
These games could include pretty much anything the soldiers could think of. The easier it is to play the game without specific gear, the better.
Plays and other performances
But when troops needed to entertain themselves in an organized way, they had more choices than just sports and fighting one another. Sometimes, this resulted in soldiers holding their own plays and concerts, but they could also enjoy performances by professionals when they came around.
Another British letter written in 1915 but digitized in 2014 was penned by a soldier who gave a short, blow-by-blow of the barracks activities. While he was writing, one soldier did a performance where he acted like a dancing monkey with a small cup for change and another soldier started playing the accordion.
A 1929 edition of “Mensch Aergere Dich Nicht,” a game that led to the American game of “Sorry.” The German became popular in Central Powers trenches in World War I.
(Vitavia, CC BY-SA 4.0)
“Don’t Get Annoyed With Me” and other board games
Troops on both sides of the trenches used board games to pass the time because, obviously, video games weren’t a thing yet. Plenty of games were popular in the war. Checkers could be played with bits of metal or buttons on a hand-drawn board, or a travel game of Chess could be popular. And no war has been fought without playing cards since someone figured out how to paint faces on bits of paper.
But German troops could enjoy a game that had been invented just in time for the war, “Mensch Aergere Dich Nicht,” which translates to “Don’t Get Annoyed With Me.” Players moved game pieces around a board and tried to get them “Home,” but the opposing player could knock a piece off just before it reached safety and thereby piss off the other player.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because the game “Sorry” is a close descendant.