The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

In 1941, the U.S. Army Air Forces started an experiment that would help change the face of warfare: They invited 13 black cadets and officers to train as pilots and additional students to train as navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, and other support staff to Tuskegee, Alabama.


The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

Office of War Information poster celebrating 99th Pursuit Squadron contributions to the victory at the island of Pantelleria.

(Charles Henry Alston)

The Tuskegee pilots faced long odds. The American military was segregated for all of World War II — and many people at the time thought that black people lacked the mental capabilities necessary to pilot sophisticated planes. It would take a sequence of overwhelming successes for the brave Tuskegee Airmen to deconstruct that fallacy.

They got some lucky breaks, like when first lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the school and accepted a black instructor’s offer take her on a flight over the base, but their real chance to prove themselves came overseas, when Tuskegee-trained pilots were assigned to fighter, pursuit, and bomber units in Europe, There, they faced off against Italian and German pilots.

Their first taste of combat came in May, 1943, when the 99th Pursuit Squadron was sent against Italian fighters over Tunisia. They tangled with Italian fighters — neither side suffered losses. But their efforts in the sky were part of what forced the Italian garrison at Pantelleria to surrender on June 11.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

Black mechanics work on a P-40 Warhawk assigned to a “Tuskegee Airmen” unit in World War II.

(U.S. Air Force)

The first shootdown by a member of the 99th came later that month when Lt. Charles B. Hall flew an old P-40 against a German fighter and downed it. Despite this early success, the 99th came under political fire as its partnered fighter squadron complained about their performance.

The complaining commander failed to note, however, that the 99th was excluded from mission briefings, was intentionally based dozens or hundreds of miles further from the front lines, and that they were forced to fly older planes.

Despite the political pressure at home, where publications like Time Magazine repeated criticisms with little investigation, the 99th was sent to Italy and allowed to continue flying.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

A Curtiss P-40E Warhawk similar to the ones used by the 99th Pursuit Squadron early in their combat service.

(U.S. Air Force)

It was here that the men really began carving their place in history. As the critics sharpened their knives, the 99th sharpened their skills. Over the plains and hills of southern Italy, they escorted bombers and provided cover for beach landings and infantry assaults.

In Italy, their partnered fighter group folded the Tuskegee fliers into operations, allowing the black pilots to fly on more equal footing. In just a week of fighting in January, 1944, the 99th shot down 12 German fighters.

Then, three black fighter squadrons arrived in Italy as the 332nd Fighter Group and the 99th was soon folded in with them. The 332nd was assigned to escort heavy bombers and was given new P-47s and P-51 Mustangs for the mission.

It was in these operations that the planes were given their distinctive “Red Tail” paint job and that the pilots would make history.

The primary job of the 332nd was to protect bombers going deep into German territory, a mission that required them to fly past hostile air defenses and then grapple with enemy fighters, often while outnumbered, in order to ensure that the bombers could deliver their ordnance and successfully return home.

And the 332nd was great at it. They were so good, in fact, that a legend arose that the 332nd never lost a bomber under their protection. They actually did lose 25 aircraft over 200 missions, but that was leaps and bounds ahead of the norm in the 15th Air Force where an average fighter group lost 46 bombers.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

A “Red Tail” P-51 Mustang flies during a heritage flight at an air show.

(U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Ben Bloker)

The Tuskegee men’s success was so well known that bombers’ would sometimes specifically request the 332nd for dangerous missions, but they were never told that their escorts in the “Red Tails” were black. In fact, the 332nd flew the deepest escort mission the 15th Air Group ever flew, a 1,600-mile round trip to bomb a tank factory in Berlin.

Over the course of the war, Tuskegee pilots flew over 15,000 combat sorties, downed 111 German aircraft, and destroyed over 1,000 railcars, vehicles, and aircraft on the ground. They even once damaged a large torpedo ship so badly that it had to be scuttled.

The 332nd’s performance was widely reported in the closing days of the war, and it led to a larger discussion in the mid- to late-1940s about whether it made sense to keep the military segregated.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

A U.S. F-16 Viper flies in 2006 with the distinctive “Red Tail” paint job used on aircraft flown by Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.

(U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Lee Harshman)

Military segregation had previously been questioned in the 1920s, but a racist and later discredited report released in 1925 had claimed that black pilots were naturally inferior. The combat performance of the 332nd combined with the valor of the 92nd Infantry Division made those erroneous claims even harder to believe.

The U.S. military was officially integrated in 1948. The 332nd still flies and fights today with black and white pilots working side-by-side as the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This ‘Iron Man’ scene created whole ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ plot

Remember the greatest scene in Iron Man in 2008? No, it’s not when Tony Stark says “I am Iron Man” and it’s not when he first tests the suit. It’s the part when Jeff Bridges yells at that random dude: “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave!! With a box of scraps!” And now that bizarrely specific diss has created the entire evil scheme from Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Spoilers ahead!


Pretty much everyone — including the audience — misses Tony Stark in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Iron Man, the world’s premiere superhero and young Peter Parker’s mentor, sacrificed himself to save the world at the end of Avengers: Endgame and the new Spider-Man film sees Spidey, along with everyone else, dealing with a post-Blip, post-Iron Man world. However, there are some characters from Iron Man who make appearances in Far From Home, including one character whose inclusion is much, much more surprising than Happy Hogan or Nick Fury’s — especially once you realize who plays him.

The big twist in Far From Home comes when Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) reveals that he’s not actually a superhero from an alternate dimension. Instead, he’s a disgruntled ex-employee with a grudge against Tony Stark. He’s aided by other former employees, including a face who only appeared once in the MCU, 11 years ago, but it was a very, very memorable and meme-able moment.

Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave…with a box of scraps

www.youtube.com

Yes, it’s the “Box of Scraps” guy, or to be more accurate, the guy that Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane was screaming at because he couldn’t miniaturize Tony’s Arc reactor in order to power the Iron Monger suit. William Ginter Riva was a scientist at Stark Industries in 2008 when Stane, growing increasingly power-mad, ordered him to do what Tony did.

“I’m sorry I’m not Tony Stark,” Riva squeaks back.

That one scene was all viewers ever saw of Riva, whose name they didn’t even know at the time, and chances are, nobody expected to see him again. That’s why it was such a shocker that he appeared by Mysterio’s side, having also adopted a grudge against Tony Stark.

Perhaps more than anybody except for Beck, Riva was responsible for Mysterio. Beck’s hologram technology — which Tony rechristened B.A.R.F. to Beck’s dismay — provided the illusions and visuals, but Riva’s drones provided the destruction. It was Riva who programmed most of the provided choreography for the Mysterio fights, and it was his drones that actually destroyed parts of Mexico, Venice, Prague, and London. For a character who appeared in one minor scene, Riva is incredibly important to Far From Home, and the MCU at large.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=3RRHNm1iuYQ
Stark Foundation Presentation | Captain America Civil War (2016) Movie Clip

www.youtube.com

Riva is clearly a bad guy, which means he should be getting coal for Christmas. That’s a tragedy since the character is, amazingly, played by Peter Billingsley, who is best known for playing Ralphie in A Christmas Story.

Yes, the kid from the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story grew up to become a Stark Industries employee, and later, a weapons designer who aided a supervillain in killing and deceiving people.

In the real world, Billingsly has been acting here and there in the decades since his most iconic role (Christmas movie fans might recognize him as Buddy the Elf’s superior in the Will Ferrel-led Elf), but he’s mostly moved behind the camera. Billingsley has numerous production, writing, and directing credits for film and especially TV. He was actually an executive producer for 2008’s Iron Man, which might explain why he popped in for that small little role. (He’s not listed as a producer for Far From Home, however).

So, there you have it. A minor character from one of the MCU’s most beloved moments 11 years ago appeared unexpectedly more than a decade later to be a surprisingly important villain in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and he was played by the Christmas Story guy a whole time. Heck, he almost shot Spider-Man’s eye out!

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thunderbird hits bird during Air Force Academy graduation

A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird opted to depart early and land after apparently hitting a bird following May 30, 2019’s Air Force Academy graduation flyover, according to the team spokesman.

“The Thunderbirds Delta [formation] safely executed the flyover, when [Thunderbird No. 3] experienced a possible birdstrike,” Maj. Ray Geoffroy, spokesman for the demonstration team, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, he returned to the base and landed without incident prior to the aerial demonstration portion of today’s performance.”

The team typically returns after the flyover to perform an aerobatic demonstration for the event, Geoffroy said. The Thunderbirds fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


“The rest of the team safely completed the demonstration [and] all aircraft are now back at Peterson Air Force Base, [Colorado], safe and sound,” he said.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly the Delta formation May 28, 2014, over Falcon Stadium during the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

The Air Force is investigating May 30, 2019’s episode. It’s not the first time the Thunderbirds have experienced a mishap while performing at the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony.

After the academy’s 2016 graduation event, attended by then-President Barack Obama, Maj. Alex Turner, pilot for the No. 6 jet, crashed in a nearby field in Colorado Springs. Turner was headed back to Peterson but felt that something wasn’t right.

“What was that that I just felt there, with my hand?” Turner said he asked at the time of the mishap. Turner sat down with Military.com in 2017 to recall the event.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

The Thunderbirds perform May 25, 2011, after a graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

The official investigation later found that an accidental throttle rotation led to a malfunction and subsequent engine stall, causing Turner’s jet to crash.

Since 1995, the Air Force has recorded 105,586 wildlife strikes that damaged aircraft, according to data recently reported by Air Force Times.

Excluding injuries, the strikes have cost the service 7,546,884, Air Force Times reported.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

6 awesome items from ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ we want in real life

While Solo: A Star Wars Story may not exactly be crushing it in the box office, the film is an otherwise entertaining and world-building heist flick that hints to a bolder and bigger Star Wars Universe, one that includes characters who should be dead and intergalactic crime syndicates sparking the seeds of the resistance. Is it what hardcore fans wanted? No. Does it answer questions you never asked, such as why is Han’s last name Solo? Sure does. But you know what? It’s fun! It’s exciting! And, like every good Star Wars film, has its fair share of cool gadgets we want to see in real life. From Lando’s card-shooting wrist-holster and his many (many) cloaks to that amazing drink-pouring droid, here are six items from Solo: A Star Wars Story that we wish were real.


1. Lando’s Sabacc Bracelet

While Sabacc enthusiasts can buy card games “inspired” by the game of Sabacc online, perhaps the most fun part of watching the game unfold in Solo was the fact that Donald Glover’s Lando had a trick literally up his sleeve. He wears a bracelet in which he hides Sabacc trump card, so to speak, one that ensures he will always win the game, especially when laying his important property on the line, like, I don’t know, a certain spaceship. While he doesn’t get to use his trusted tool in the final game of Sabacc, it’s definitely a cool tool. It fits comfortably under the most flamboyant dress shirt. And, in typical Lando style, it’s also stylish. Let’s make this happen.

2. All of Lando’s Cloaks

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

One of the funnier gags in Solo is when Qi’ra steps away from the crew on the Millennium Falcon and finds herself in Lando’s closet, which is quite literally just full of cloaks. There are like at least 30 cloaks in there and Qi’ra plays dress up with all of them. There are royal blue cloaks. Deep red cloaks. Midnight black cloaks. Some of the cloaks are appropriate for battle. Qi’ra wears one on Kessel in anticipation of that battle, which comes in handy in a slightly-off screen moment where she dominates a security guard. She does a front-flip and looks super cool doing it! Also, the cloaks are flame retardants, as Qi’ra later ripped it off her body to put out a fire that started on the Falcon. Here, here, Disney: please make Lando’s many cloaks available. Halloween for kids, yes. But how about we get some adult versions from Atelier Lando?

3. Dryden Vos’ Spears

Gangster Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany, carries some badass weaponry: two matching, double-sided spears that he wears like brass knuckles and which have a red laser running across the blade-edge. Up there with Darth Maul’s red, double-bladed lightsaber and Kylo Ren’s Crossguard lightsaber, the weapon is one of the more creative hand-to-hand combat tools in the Star Wars universe. A Nerf-ized version of this weapon would be pretty sweet.

4. Han’s Gold Dice

One of the most surprising Easter eggs of Solo was seeing the origins of the twin golden dice that gained massive significance in the Star Wars sequels and in The Last Jedi. The twin dice, attached by a golden chain, were actually a good luck trinket for Solo that he often passed to his former lover, Qi’ra. Before she left his life for good by joining, what is ostensibly the dark side, she passed them back to him as a final wish of good luck. Later, we see the trinket being used by Han, Luke, and Leia to the same ends. Although the Gold Dice wouldn’t be so much of a toy but a collectible, their significance in the universe as an arbiter of good luck over 30 years is pretty cool. We’d hang ’em on the rearview mirrors of our personal Millenium Falcons, which are just mid-sized sedans and minivans but, whatever.

5. A Dejarik table

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

Although not a new addition to the Star Wars Universe, the Dejarik table on the Millennium Falcon got a lot of screen-time in Solo when Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett explains the game to Chewie for the first time. Although many replicas of the game have hit the market, there has yet to be a fully operational version of the table that plays the game as it really exists in the Universe, where the “chess” pieces are holograms. Every time I see that damn game I just want to play it. It’s like Wizarding chess meets AR games. It wouldn’t take much to make this a reality. Sure there’s Hologrid: Monster Battle. But can’t we get Bethesda or someone to release a legit version?

6. That Robot That Pours Lando’s Drink

When Han and Lando meet for the first time, they play Sabacc. As they are sizing each other up, Lando lazily grabs his cup and a flying droid comes to fill it up with what I assume is some sort of delicious boozy cocktail made with space Bourbon. Lando doesn’t even say anything. No verbal commands, nothing. First of all, dope. Second of all, how do I get a drink-filling-droid in my office and home? Every time I want a glass of water in the middle of the night, you’re telling me the world could have flying droids that just fill cups up with the liquid of our choice on command? Amazon’s using droids to send packages. So can’t someone build a drink-serving droid? Let’s get this going, Bezos.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part ten

Any time in life that you do something, you tend to forget the bad and remember the good. I remembered the good. I wasn’t sure I wanted to remember the bad.

For a long time, I talked to a bunch of my peers in the Special Forces community that had made the trip back to Vietnam. They wanted to go back and see what it, see what it was like for whatever reason. Everybody has a personal reason that they want to do it.

I never found a reason because I’ve always had this whole thing in my mind, when I have a traumatic situation – I’ve got a box I put it in my head and I just put it away. After a while, I decided that it was probably time to take some of those back out, and so I said yes going back to Vietnam.


Surprisingly to me, it provided closure to a circle that I didn’t know was open. It was an interesting experience. It was a cathartic experience. It was an experience that closed that loop for me that had been open because I chose not to close it before.

I didn’t know that I needed to do that.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen
The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen
The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

I’ve been back to Vietnam and I would recommend to anyone who has ever been there in a combat role, go back and look at it. Don’t be afraid of your past. Address it and deal with it.

Make your experience count.

Richard Rice
5th Special Forces Group
US Army 1966-94
Senior Advisor, GORUCK

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 31st

It looks like Hurricane Lane is finally done wrecking Hawaii, leaving in its wake record rainfall, widespread building damage, and places without power. Since Hawaii is home to many military installations from each branch, they won’t have to look too hard to find bodies for their 10,000-man aid detail.

If you’re stationed in Hawaii, you’ll more than likely be used in the clean-up efforts — you know, just as soon as you finish sweeping all the crude that washed into the motor pool.

These memes probably can’t soothe the pain of being the only person who’s actually going to work while your buddies are making their third run to the gut truck and your NCOs are “supervising.” But, hey, they can’t hurt, either.


The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme via Military Memes)

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme via Shammers United)

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme by Ranger Up)

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme via Shammers United)

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

All the pay and respect of a specialist with the duties of an NCO. No one ever wants to be a corporal, you just end up as one.

And if you think you actually wanted to be a corporal, you’re only lying to yourself — or you’re secretly a robot.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Meme by We Are The Mighty)

MIGHTY MOVIES

Check out amazing DCS World recreation of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ trailer

A few weeks ago I posted a video by DCS player Forest Rat who recreated the aerial scenes in the very first minutes of “Top Gun” (when the two F-14s piloted by Mav and Goose and Cougar and Merlin are vectored by the aircraft carrier to intercept the incoming aircraft that will turn out to be MiG-28s) using the famous Digital Combat Simulator World combat flight simulator.

Forest Rat did it again.

This time he’s recreated the first official trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick”, the sequel of the original 1980s blockbuster that will hit theaters in June 2020, released on Jul. 18, 2019.


Once again, some details are not exactly the same as the trailer, but the work Forest Rat has done is remarkable and shows the realism that DCS world is able to offer.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

A comparison between the official trailer (below) and the one recreated in DCS World (top).

(Image credit: Forest Rat/Youtube and Paramount Pictures)

Noteworthy, the new clip is split into two parts: the first one shows the trailer recreated in DCS World except for the last few seconds, when the F-14 (in CGI) makes a cameo flying over snow-topped mountains; the second one, from mark 02:27, provides a scene-for-scene comparison too. At the end of the second part you can also see the final Tomcat scene. To be honest, I enjoyed very much the very last scene of the trailer, the one that shows the somewhat mysterious F-14 Tomcat (04:39 mark), that in my opinion looks better the way Forest Rat has recreated it in DCS World than it appears in the official trailer…

Enjoy!

Top Gun: Maverick – DCS Trailer

www.youtube.com

Here’s what I wrote about DCS World in the previous article:

“DCS World is fundamentally a deep, authentic and realistic simulation designed also to offer a more relaxed gameplay to suit the user and his particular level of experience and training. The ambition is to hand hold users from novice pilot all the way to the most advanced and sophisticated operator of such complex weapons systems as the A-10C Warthog or the F/A-18C Hornet. The only next step is the real thing!” says its official website.
DCS is expandable through additional modules as well as user-made add-ons and mods and this is one of the reasons why the are hundred websites, forums, Reddit Communities and Youtube channels dedicated to the “the most authentic and realistic simulation of military aircraft, tanks, ground vehicles and ships possible.”
Just Google “DCS World” and a microcosm of interesting content (that can also be useful to learn more about combat aircraft!) will appear in front of your eyes.

As pointed out by some readers, while baseline DCS World is technically free, additional stuff (including aircraft, maps, etc.) has to be paid for.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Lists

5 things boots need to do before earning the squad’s trust

Squads are the most fundamental part of the military. While you can generally get by with having an issue with someone else in the company, a squad can’t function unless everyone is on the same level.

It takes years to earn someone’s trust to the point of knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that they have your back. To get the new guys in the squad up to speed, they’ll have to be given a crash course in earning it.


The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

There is a difference between impressing the squad and impressing the platoon sergeant. Choose wisely.

(Photo by Spc. Noel Williams)

PT as well in the morning

the uninitiated may think that the fastest way to earn respect is to out-hustle, out-perform, and outlast the rest. The problem here is that morning PT isn’t designed to improve — it’s for sustaining one’s assumed peak performance. If you’re looking to improve, it’ll probably happen off-duty.

With that in mind, many troops who’ve been in for years won’t be impressed by the new kid smoking everyone on the pull-up bar. They’re probably hungover from drinking the night before. During morning PT, there’s no way to improve your standing with the guys, but making everyone else look bad will definitely cost you some points.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

This also means don’t ever miss the 50m target — you will be justifiably ridiculed.

(Photo by Sgt. Maj. Peter Breuer)

Shoot as good at the range

This rings especially true with line units. It’s also assumed that by the time a Drill Instructor hands off a boot to the unit, they’re ready to be hardened killing machines. Taking time to train someone to shoot perfectly is no longer in the training schedule, there’re still guys who’ve been in the unit for ages rocking a “pizza box,” or Marksman badge.

If you can show everyone that you’re not some kid, but rather someone who’s ready to train with the big boys, the squad will take notice and use you to belittle the guy who missed the 50m target. That’s a good thing for you.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

Or keep an eye out for staff duty and keep them occupied so they don’t crash the party.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Party as hard in the barracks

Barracks parties are very tight-knit. There may be some cross-over with other platoons or companies that are cool with whomever is hosting, so don’t fret and be cool. It’s a real sign of trust if someone is willing to show you to the others off-duty.

Chances are that most boots are fresh out of high school. No one wants to party with the kid who’s going to get them arrested by the MPs for underage drinking. For all the legal reasons, you really shouldn’t be drinking if you’re under 21 (even though we all know what happens in the barracks). You can still play a part, however, by being the designated driver or helping others who’ve drank too much by grabbing water, junk food, and sports drinks.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

Chances are that the joke, just like your first time, will be quickly forgotten by most people involved.

(Photo by Pfc. Vaniah Temple)

Joke as witty off-duty

As odd as it sounds, the surefire way to make everyone in the squad trust you is to get them to like you. They’ll overlook a lot of your flaws if you’re not quite “grunt enough” if you can make them laugh.

No one wants to be around the guy who’s telling the same unfunny story that ends with getting yelled at by the drill sergeant. No matter how mind-blowing it was to you back then, I assure you that it’s nothing special. Dig deep and find that real humor. Joke about something personal, like the first time you got intimate with someone. There’s definitely an awkward moment in there that’s funny to reflect on.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

I’m just sayin’. Nearly every friendship is sealed in the smoke pit.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo)

Be as loyal when the time comes

There’s no concrete way to know when this time will come, but it will. At some point, everything will be on the line and you need to swoop in with the clutch. When it happens, you’ll know.

This is when you’ll show the squad that you’re one of them — that you value the rest of the guys above your own well-being. It could be as large as saving everyone’s ass from an enraged first sergeant to just bringing an extra pack of cigarettes to the field. Get to know your squad and you’ll know what it takes.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon has plans for its own mini-space station. Here’s what it would do

Among defense experts the world over, there’s little doubt that warfare in the 21st century will be an orbital affair. From communications and reconnaissance to navigation and logistics, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an element of any modern nation’s military that operates without the use of space-born satellites, and as such, many nations are developing weapons aimed specifically at causing trouble high above our heads.

While the U.S. government may be no exception, as the reigning space-race champ, America has the lead, and as such, much more to lose in orbit than its national competitors. At least one element of the Pentagon has a plan to help keep it that way: an orbiting space station purpose-built to support a fleet of defensive space drones.


The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

Which beats out my proposal to just start dropping bombs from the ISS, I suppose.

(NASA Image)

You might be imagining a space station equipped with the latest defense gadgets, science experiments meant to usher in the next era of orbital weapons, and of course, enough utility to support a wide variety of Pentagon directives in the dark skies around our pale blue dot… and you’d be right on all counts… but where this new initiative breaks from fantasy is in its size. The Pentagon’s proposed space station wouldn’t be built to sustain any kind of manned presence whatsoever, at least for now.

The proposed orbital outpost received a great deal of media attention recently thanks to an industry solicitation posted by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). Put simply, the solicitation is seeking companies that want to compete for a chance to help launch a self-contained orbital facility that’s “capable of supporting space assembly, microgravity experimentation, logistics and storage, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation, hosting payloads, and other functions.”

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

“Rock, paper, scissors. Winner gets a new space station.”

(Courtesy of NASA)

The DIU envisions an orbital outpost that’s equipped with robotic arms to manage assembly and even potentially repair duties for other orbital assets. That means this unmanned installation could feasibly be used to build autonomous satellite drones in space meant to help protect America’s large and rather undefended constellation of satellites.

The tiny outpost would have a payload capacity of just 176 pounds (or 80 kilograms if you live in a nation that’s never sent people to the moon), and would offer only a small 3 foot by 3 foot by 4 foot enclosure. That may not be enough room to house any members of the space infantry, but it would be enough to work on things like cube-sats, which are small, inexpensive satellites built to serve specific purposes in orbit and beyond.

Because the reality of war in space could be as mundane as simply nudging a satellite out of its orbit, cube-sats and other small platforms could actually play a massive role in orbital combat operations. A fleet of inexpensive satellites could provide system redundancy by temporarily filling service gaps as other assets are destroyed or interfered with by enemy platforms. They could also engage with or deter enemy systems (be they satellites or weapons themselves).

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

The X-37B sits on the Vandenberg Air Force base runway after spending months in space without any grubby human mitts changing the radio station.

(U.S. Air Force photo/ Michael Stonecypher)

Thanks to advances in 3-D printing and a rash of commercial interest in orbital manufacturing in recent years, it seems entirely possible that an orbital outpost like the one proposed by the DIU could eventually support a broader space defense initiative, but it also seems unlikely that this specific enterprise would ever expand far enough to add human support to the equation, but then, humans may need to be present anyway.

Russia and China are both already believed to operate orbital weapons platforms that behave like autonomous satellites and the Air Force’s secretive space plane known as the X-37B operates in orbit for months at a time without any use for human hands. Star Wars may indeed eventually come to fruition, but at least for now, it looks like the fighting will be up to R2-D2, with all of us Skywalkers just watching anxiously from the ground.

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 bizarre moments from inaugurations throughout history

Fun fact: Inauguration wasn’t always on January 20. Once upon a time (ha!) it was scheduled for March in order to give everyone time to make the journey to the event, since winter can put a damper on horse/buggy travel. This isn’t the only thing that may make you pause. Throughout our nation’s history of inaugurating presidents, some pretty interesting things have occurred on that new president’s special day. Here are 10 of the most bizarre moments:

  1. Short and sweet

We couldn’t start this countdown without putting our very first president and founding father at the top of the list. When President George Washington raised his hand at his second inauguration on March 4, 1793, he must have been tired. Expected, since he had just spent those years prior fighting and then leading our new nation. When he turned to address the attendees who came to see him sworn in, his speech was only 135 words in length. Another fun fact is that for his first presidency, he reportedly had to borrow money to be able to travel. His first inauguration is also the only time a president has had two swearing-ins.

2. Lucky talismans

According to history, President Theodore Roosevelt was a super fan of President Abraham Lincoln. So much so, that he wore a piece of jewelry to his inauguration that held a lock of his hair. We don’t know whether to applaud his dedication or say something many of us are probably thinking: ew. Reports indicate he may have paid upwards of $100 for hairs to be removed from the president’s head during his autopsy and mounted one in a ring. Now, there are other reports that he simply wore a piece of President Lincoln’s jewelry but we think the hair rumor is better.

3. Frozen

Library of Congress

President Ulysses S. Grant thought birds would be a nice touch for his inauguration. Sadly, the weather didn’t corporate and it was so cold upwards of 100 of the birds they’d planned to release quite literally froze. Oops.

4. It’s lonely at the top

Library of Congress

When President John Adams took the Oath of Office, he did it alone. Well, there were people. But history and several biographies have revealed that none of his family members were able to attend. It would take a long time before spouses of any presidents attended the ceremony. In 1809, Dolly Madison was the first to do so. The spouses themselves didn’t take part in anything either, until Lady Bird Johnson held the Bible that her husband took his oath on in 1965.

5. Whiskey lullaby

U.S. Senate Historical Office

Vice President Andrew Johnson was drunk at his swearing in on inauguration day. He slurred his way through the whole thing! To be fair, reports state that he was very ill with typhoid fever and had used the whiskey to numb the pain. Poor guy!

6. Roped in

Library of Congress

When President Eisenhower was sworn in, he did a lot of things differently. Like reciting a different prayer after the swearing in instead of kissing the Bible. But what he did after that definitely broke tradition! After getting permission from the Secret Service, he had a trick roper lasso him. Like, literally snag him with rope while on horseback. Interesting times.

7. Putting in the miles

President Jimmy Carter often said he wanted to be the “people’s president”. One way he showed this with action is by walking ahead of his inauguration parade. Not since Thomas Jefferson did it in 1803 had it been done by a president. He would start a trend, with many presidents walking at least part of the way.

8. It’s a party

Louis S. Glanzman, image courtesy the White House Historical Association

After the inauguration of President Andrew Jackson, he led the celebration back to the White House. Completely terrible idea! The party goers basically trashed the place and rumor has it that the president had to escape everything through a window. Maybe setting up “washtubs” filled with whiskey was a bad idea.

9. Pants party

President John Quincy Adams was the first president to wear pants to his inauguration. Really. To be fair, the tradition prior to this was “knee breeches” or shorts that went to the knee. He broke this and went rouge.

10. Pigeon-gate

Richard Nixon official Presidential Photograph

And the final bizarre or weird fact/moment from inaugurations past… drum-roll, please! This may be the very worst of them all, especially for all of you animal lovers! Before Watergate, there was pigeon-gate. No, really! President Nixon didn’t want his inauguration marred by what he reportedly thought were annoying pigeons. He spent around $13,000 to treat the trees with a chemical that would deter the pigeons from perching on the branches. Unfortunately, the inaugural committee didn’t plan on the pigeons eating it. Instead of a few troublesome pigeons, his inauguration was marred by dead and dying ones.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This ‘Ragged Old Flag’ Super Bowl commercial hit it out of the park

If you were among the millions of Americans that tuned into the Super Bowl last night, you probably saw the powerful, patriotic ad in the lead up to kick off. Featuring Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, the NFL spot is a video set to Johnny Cash’s spoken word song, “Ragged Old Flag.”


www.youtube.com

Tracing the flag’s (and America’s) journey through major wars and events, the video also shows images of protest and anger with several shots of the flag being burned before going back to images of the military, first responders and ordinary, everyday Americans.

The video spot struck a nerve immediately with some saying it was a dig at Colin Kaepernick.

Others said the video didn’t line up with Johnny Cash’s politics or beliefs although Cash was always ambiguous about where he stood on the political spectrum.

Cash released the song as part of his 47th album in 1974, at a time during great turmoil in the USA, much like today. The U.S. was winding down its involvement in Vietnam and was dealing with the Watergate scandal with President Richard Nixon just resigning the office. The song was penned to be an optimistic song for Americans dealing with such tumultuous times.

Cash, an opponent of the war and believer in social justice, had actually met Richard Nixon a couple of years before and performed several songs for him, including an anti-Vietnam War song, “What is Truth” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” a heartbreaking song about one of the Flag Raisers of Iwo Jima and his life as a Pima Indian.

Cash himself would open his concerts with the song and preface it with the following:

“I thank God for all the freedom we have in this country, I cherish them and treasure them – even the right to burn the flag. We also got the right to bear arms and if you burn my flag – I’ll shoot you.”

“Ragged Old Flag” was a hit upon its release with his fans who embraced the message that one can have criticisms of this country but should still respect those people and images that symbolize it. It is a message that resonates with many to this day.

The moving lyrics of the song:

I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it’ll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it.

He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don’t like to brag
But we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag

You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing say can you see
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin’ at its seams.

And it almost fell at the Alamo

Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg
And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag

On Flanders field in World War one
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun
She turned blood red in World War Two
She hung limp and low a time or two
She was in Korea and Vietnam
She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam

She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam
And now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home
In her own good land here she’s been abused
She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused

And the government for which she stands

Is scandalized throughout the land
And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin
But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in
‘Cause she’s been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more

So we raise her up every morning
We take her down every night
We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right
On second thought, I do like to brag
‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag

MIGHTY FIT

The #1 secret all fighters should know

Popular culture has taught us that tough guys are born tough, winners win, and badasses are, well, badass. Maybe I’m not all that tough, but I’ve spent most of my life competing in the sorts of sports that should come with frequent flier cards for the ER, and it’s been my experience that dominating the competition doesn’t tend to come with very many valuable lessons.

In fact, if you really want to know how to win fights, the best thing you can do while training is lose some.


The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

After doing well in events like pugil sticks and being considered “tough” by my friends, I mistakenly started to believe that I was a tough guy. It didn’t take long to learn otherwise.

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha)

While I already had a long and illustrious history of being a mouthy punk before I joined the Marines, it wasn’t until my second year in uniform that I formally entered into the world of fighting. I had earned my brown belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and had some scholastic wrestling behind me that had helped me dominate the competition in my unit and my circle of friends. As far as I was concerned, I was one tough bastard… that is until I walked into the training facility for Fight Club 29, nestled in a disused hangar in the deserts of Twentynine Palms, California.

As I walked into that bustling training environment that Coach Mark Geletko, a retired Marine Sergeant Major, cultivates through sheer force of enthusiastic will, I immediately made the most egregious of rookie mistakes: I was intimidated by the skill and athleticism in the room, so I squared my jaw and put on my best “tough guy” face. I was intent on proving to the team that I belonged there by showing off how badass I was… and silently, I promised myself I wouldn’t tap out a single time that day.

The thing is, I wasn’t badass. I was a tough guy from the block in the company of men that had dedicated themselves to the craft of fighting. Everyone in the room had at least one amateur fight under their belts, a few even had professional ones, and I fancied myself their peer from behind a handful of bar brawl stories and a knack for high school wrestling.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

I was bigger, stronger, and fitter than some fighters I squared off against in those early days, but if your plan is to overwhelm experience with muscle, you’re in for a bad day.

As foolish as it seems in hindsight, I see that same look on the faces of new fighters all the time. Some are so lost behind their tough-guy facades that they can’t break through, and ultimately, they have to leave the sport behind. Others, like me, have to learn that “tough” doesn’t always mean winning, and guys that always “have to” win rarely have the skills they need to get out of a jam when they’re in one.

In the months leading up to my first fight, I began training with our team’s premier fighters in the weight class above and below my own (at 185 pounds). That meant standing and swinging with the bruising power of guys that fought heavyweight at 205+, before hopping onto the mats with the lightning quickness of a 175-pound Jiu Jitsu stud that knew more about submissions than I do about… anything.

And boy did I lose. Some days it seemed like all I did was lose. At one point during my first week, one of our best heavyweight strikers named Nate landed a powerful (and quite high) pump kick to my midsection, raising alarm bells from my small intestines all the way to my brain, all blaring in unison that if I didn’t get my ass to a bathroom, I was going to have an awfully embarrassing mess in my pants. After the emergency had passed, I half-limped my way back out of the “porta-john” outside our hangar and stumbled back into the ring, ready to get beat again.

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

The only really effective way to learn not to panic in a choke is to spend time getting choked. You’ve got to learn to fight back from a position of disadvantage to be a capable fighter.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Samuel Guerra)

Losing teaches you a lot of things about yourself and about the craft of fighting. Do it often enough, and you begin to understand the difference between a sloppy choke that makes it hard to breathe and a good one that makes it impossible. You start to recognize the differences between punches that could put you to bed, and the ones you’re willing to eat while you set up your next move. You start to accept the hurt to avoid an injury and to be comfortable in a submission that used to scare you. Most importantly, you stop being afraid of getting knocked out, choked out, or losing in front of your peers, and in that freedom, you’re finally able to find out what you’re really made of.

I went undefeated in my short semi-professional fighting career, though I never won by knock-out or submission. I’m still not the toughest guy around, but in the years since I transitioned from competitive fighting to simply training, I’ve learned to let go of my fear of losing and embrace the satisfying hurt of learning new lessons from skilled peers.

I may not be as quick as I was when I first got into the fighting game, but unlike that young buck, I’m not afraid to hurt, to grind, or to lose if I have to. And if you ask me, that makes me a much more dangerous old man.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The bittersweet story of the Christmas Truce of 1914

War stems from division. It happens when there are problems we just can’t seem to solve. War is seldom beautiful, but every now and then, a little light shines through. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was one of those rare moments. 

It all started with one of the ugliest wars in history. 

World War I began on July 28th, 1914, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. It quickly escalated, pinning the Ottoman Empire, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, known collectively as the Central Powers, against the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania and Japan, known as the Allied Powers. The two sides proceeded to engage in over three years of brutal trench warfare. The experience was hellish, with mass casualties on both sides. In total, over 16 million people lost their lives. 

In the midst of utter carnage, the opposing side often seemed evil. Yet, it wasn’t. It was war itself that was inhuman, not the men across the trenches. On Christmas Eve, 1914, soldiers on both sides did the unthinkable; they laid down their arms and sang. 

The renowned Christmas Truce that followed was unauthorized. 

In the earliest weeks of the war, forces on both sides were aggressive and angry. By December, they had seen enough death and destruction for a lifetime. They had initially believed the war would be over by Christmas and many of them longed for an end to the fighting. While Pope Benedict XV called for a temporary ceasefire for the holiday, none of the countries involved settled on any official agreement, so the exhausted soldiers took matters into their own hands. 

As Christmas approached, a sudden cold snap turned weeks of wet weather into an eerily beautiful winter landscape. On Christmas Eve at around 8:30 pm, the truce began. German soldiers began lighting their trenches and singing carols. Small Christmas trees dotted the trenches. Initially, the British were suspicious. One officer reported to headquarters that, “Compliments are being exchanged but am nevertheless taking all military precautions.” 

Soon, it became apparent that it wasn’t a trap. The Germans sang “Silent Night”, and the British responded with “The First Noel”.  A British soldier, Private Frederick Heath, reported that a Christmas greeting rang out through the darkness: “English soldier, English soldier, a merry Christmas, a merry Christmas!” 

Between the trenches, the war-battered no man’s land transformed. 

Cautious at first, scouts ventured out of the trenches and over the barbed wire that divided the two sides. There, they imparted a message: If you don’t fire at us, we won’t fire at you. Let us have peace, if just for a night. Spontaneous truces sprang up along the trench lines without anyone really knowing how they began. In addition to sharing songs and well-wishes, impromptu games ignited. The Germans claim to have won a soccer match against the British 3-2. Meals, drinks, and laughter were shared until dawn. 

The truce was imperfect, but miraculous nevertheless. 

Unsurprisingly, many officers were against any type of truce. Fraternizing with the enemy was frowned upon, and measures were taken to prevent it from ever happening again. It’s unclear how widespread the truce really was, but some evidence suggests the truce extended across much of the British-held trench line that extended across Belgium, but other reports suggest that the truce took place in sections, scattering pockets of peace and brotherhood throughout thickets of gunfire. 

If anything, that makes the night’s events even more striking. The soldiers who chose to shake hands with their enemies must have been afraid, but they chose to do it all the same. The next day, the war continued with just as much hostility and destruction as it had before, but the opposing forces had been humanized. A grain of respect had settled in. The surprising events that took place on December 24th, 1914 along those dark and bloodied trenches didn’t bring any lasting resolution, but to those who were there, the truce brought the greatest Christmas gift of all: Hope. 

The video below is just a reenactment (and an advertisement at that), but it’s a pretty moving reminder that Christmas spirit lives on, even in the darkest of places. 

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