It was Nov. 19, 1915. British pilots were attacking Ottoman forces at Ferrijik Junction, a rail and logistics hub. The tiny planes involved in the attack swooped and dove as they dropped bombs and fought off enemy fighters. But then, one of the bombers took heavy fire as it conducted its bombing run, crashing into the nearby marshes. But then a hero emerged.
Richard Bell Davies earned the Victoria Cross as a squadron commander in World War I. He would later rise to rear admiral and serve in World War II.
The attack on Ferrijik was focused on cutting Turkish supply lines, and a large mix of planes had been assembled to conduct the attack. One member of that aerial force was Royal Navy Squadron Cmdr. Richard Bell Davies. Davies had already proven himself earlier that year, pressing a bombing attack on German submarine pens in Belgium despite taking heavy damage to his plane and a bullet wound to his thigh, flying for an hour after his injury before landing safely.
During the attack on Ferrijik, Davies was flying a Nieuport fighter, helping to protect the bombers so they could do their mission as effectively as possible.
Smylie quickly began losing altitude, but he kept his plane headed toward the target and then released all of his bombs at once over the rail station. One failed to separate, but the other seven fell to the earth from low altitude. Despite shedding all that weight, Smylie couldn’t get his plane back up to altitude, so he turned it toward a dry marshbed and carefully set the plane down.
He attempted to restart his plane, but that failed, and so he decided to take the machine offline permanently to prevent its capture. Smylie set the bird on fire, trusting the fire to set off the bomb and destroy the plane completely. But then he saw something he almost certainly could not have predicted.
A Nieuport fighter was descending toward him. At the time, an airplane had never been used to rescue a downed airman, so the idea of a one-seater descending to save him must have seemed like insanity to Smylie. But, to ensure that this pilot wouldn’t be killed by the exploding bomb, he pulled his pistol and shot the munition to set it off, destroying it before the other plane was too close.
Smylie scrambled into the tight quarters of the former cockpit, contorting himself around a rudder bar and pressing his head against an oil tank, and Davies took off. The explosion of Smylie’s plane had temporarily slowed the enemy fire, and the two pilots were able to escape before the Bulgarians ramped their fire back up.
After about 45 minutes, the pair reached safety, but it took two hours to extract Smylie from the confined quarters.
Smylie received the Distinguished Service Cross for his work that day, and Davies earned the Victoria Cross with his bravery. This first search and rescue from the air would spur the development of dedicated tactics and techniques that have carried forward to today.
In 1966, the U.S. Army’s Sgt. 1st Class Bennie Adkins fought the North Vietnamese Army for almost four days, using whatever was at his disposal: mortars, machine guns, small arms, and hand grenades. He killed as many as 175 enemy troops and was wounded 18 times. Over the course of the battle all of the men of his unit were either killed or wounded.
For his gallantry and bravery, the Army presented him with … the Distinguished Service Cross.
The Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. military’s second highest military honor, is no small award, but after all was said and done, after all the participants were interviewed and the communications during the fighting were scrutinized, Adkins actions that day in Vietnam called for the highest honor the U.S. can bestow on its armed forces. Why he did not receive the Medal of Honor back then is unclear.
After a lot of lobbying by Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers and then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the award was upgraded in 2014. Adkins, having achieved the rank of Army Command Sergeant Major, was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony.
Here’s an excerpt from Adkins’ Medal of Honor citation:
When Adkins’ camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force in the early morning hours of March 9, 1966, Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position continually adjusting fire for the camp, despite incurring wounds as the mortar pit received several direct hits from enemy mortars.
Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire while carrying his wounded comrades to the camp dispensary.
When Adkins and his group of defenders came under heavy small arms fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group that had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese, he maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and draw fire all the while successfully covering the rescue.
When a resupply air drop landed outside of the camp perimeter, Adkins, again, moved outside of the camp walls to retrieve the much needed supplies.
During the early morning hours of March 10, 1966, enemy forces launched their main attack and within two hours, Adkins was the only man firing a mortar weapon. When all mortar rounds were expended, Adkins began placing effective recoilless rifle fire upon enemy positions. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Adkins fought off intense waves of attacking Viet Cong.
Adkins eliminated numerous insurgents with small arms fire after withdrawing to a communications bunker with several soldiers. Running extremely low on ammunition, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and ran through intense fire back to the bunker. After being ordered to evacuate the camp, Adkins and a small group of soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker, and fought their way out of the camp.
While carrying a wounded soldier to the extraction point he learned that the last helicopter had already departed. Adkins led the group while evading the enemy until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12, 1966.
During the ceremony, Adkins, who used a cane for mobility, stood at attention, unassisted, as the president put the Medal of Honor around his collar. He saluted the crowd and then walked off stage. “This Medal of Honor belongs to the other 16 Special Forces soldiers with me,” he said.
Adkins passed away in April 2020 following complications with COVID-19.
A top U.S. military official has said that U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia may be conducting low-yield nuclear testing that may be violation of a major international treaty.
Lieutenant General Robert Ashley said in a speech on May 29, 2019, that Russia could be doing tests that go “beyond what is believed necessary, beyond zero yield.”
The problem, he said, was that Russia “has not been willing to affirm” they are adhering to the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Asked specifically whether U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded Russia was conducting such tests in violation of the treaty, Ashley, who is director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said, “They’ve not affirmed the language of zero yield.”
U.S. Accuses Russia Of Conducting Low-Level Nuclear Tests
“We believe they have the capability to do it, the way that they’re set up,” Ashley said during an appearance at the Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
The Defense Intelligence Agency is the Defense Department’s main in-house intelligence organization.
There was no immediate comment by the Kremlin or the Russian Defense Ministry about the conclusions, which were first reported on May 29, 2019, by The Wall Street Journal.
But Vladimir Shamanov, chairman of the defense committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, called Ashley’s statement “irresponsible.”
“It would be impossible to make a more irresponsible statement,” Interfax quoted Shamanov as saying.
“These kinds of statements reveal that the professionalism of the military is systemically falling in America,” said Shamanov, a retired colonel general and a former commander of Russia’s Airborne Troops. “These words from a U.S. intelligence chief indicate that he is only an accidental person in this profession and he is in the wrong job.”
The U.S. assertion comes with several major arms-control treaties under strain, largely due to the toxic state of relations between Washington and Moscow.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump’s administration announced it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, an agreement that eliminated an entire class of missiles.
Another treaty, New START, is due to expire in 2021 unless the United States and Russia agree to extend it for five years.
An estimated 300,000 “war brides,” as they were known, left home to make the intrepid voyage to the United States after falling in love with American soldiers who were stationed abroad during World War II. There were so many that the United States passed a series of War Brides Acts in 1945 and 1946. This legislation provided them with an immigration pathway that didn’t previously exist under the Immigration Act of 1924, which imposed quotas on immigrants based on their nation of origin and strategically excluded or limited immigration from certain parts of the world, particularly Asia.
Equipped with little but a feeling and a sense of promise, war brides left everything that was familiar behind to forge a new identity in the United States. Many spoke little to no English upon their arrival in the country, and they were introduced to post-war American culture through specially designed curricula and communities. To this day, organizations for war brides in the United States provide networks for military spouses and their children, helping them keep their heritage alive and share their experiences of their adopted home.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 2, 2020, We Are The Mighty is proud to collaborate with Babbel, the new way to learn a foreign language. Babbel conducted interviews with surviving war brides as much of the world endured lockdown. Many of these women are now in their 80s and 90s, and their oral histories celebrate the challenges and successes of adapting to a new culture and language, as well as reflect on the leap of faith they all took to travel across the world to an unknown country. Spoiler alert: there are few regrets.
War Brides is a 5 part series.
I was born in Bari, Italy. Times were slow during the depression, and I had a very complicated life. When I was a little girl, my dad was in the army, and he was sent to Ethiopia. In 1935, he brought the whole family over there, so I lived in Ethiopia for about five years, and I returned to Bari right in the middle of World War II.
Before the war, I loved to read a lot. I used to love going to school. But my father was a prisoner of war for six years, and while we were in Ethiopia, we lost everything. We were in a concentration camp. And by the time we got back to Italy, it was 1943, and things were very different from when we left.
The war had changed everything in Bari. I remember running because of all the bombings. Until the British and American armies came to Italy to set us free, things were very hard.
I met my husband in a very exceptional way. My husband was of Italian descent, and he had gone to America when he was a young boy, but he still had family in Italy.
He contracted a disease while serving America in the Pacific War, and he had to go back to the veterans hospital in America. While there, his mother, who was in Italy, became very sick. It took him 20 days by boat, but by the time he reached his family, his mother had already passed away. He stayed in Italy with his family for a few months.
During this time, I had found a job with the American army in a rank called the USO Shows, which brought in celebrities to perform for the troops. There was an office in Bari, and they needed a typist. I was only 17 years old, and I did not speak English, but I could read it. They convinced me I did not have to speak to anyone, just type. So I copied the words.
My husband passed our door and saw me, and he said he wanted to see more of me. He waited until the end of the day, and then he called me. He called after me in Italian, and I said “Yes, what can I do for you?” He asked me how to get to the station, explaining he was new in town. I tried to explain, but decided to walk him there. And that’s how we met.
As we started talking, we found out we had quite a few things in common. He was born in the same town as my father, and he knew some family there. Actually, my father’s cousin was my husband’s doctor!
That day we met, we felt a special attraction for each other. When we fell in love, it was as simple as that. He had to go back to the Veterans Affairs hospital in America, so we planned to get married after he returned to Italy. But he ended up staying in the hospital for almost a year. By that time, his finances were low, and he told me he did not think he could return to Italy. But he told me there was a way I could come to America as one of the war brides, and we could get married in America.
It took a lot of thinking on my part. But you know, I thought it was meant to be, so I said, “Okay, I’ll try.” My parents were not pleased about it, but I wanted to marry him. They put up a good fight because we did not know anyone in America. How could they let their 19-year-old daughter go alone to a strange country? I had to do a lot of convincing, but I was in love with him and he was in love with me.
I arrived in New York Harbor in 1947. I had seen lots of movies where the city was portrayed as such a prominent and beautiful place to live. I had no idea what skyscrapers looked like in real life, but when I saw them, it was really extraordinary. Everyone was so friendly and kind when I arrived. I felt very much at home. My husband opened a grocery store soon after, and he put me behind the counter. That’s when I realized that I had to learn English. We had all kinds of people come through the door: Black, white, young, old, Italian — every nation! I didn’t know how to speak English, and they all helped me. We all got along beautifully.
I remember someone told me about an area called Little Italy, where they had bookstores filled with books that would teach me languages. I read them every day and I made a point of practicing my English, even though I made a lot of mistakes at first. I sometimes made very stupid mistakes! Some people laughed at me, but I laughed with them. I asked them to correct me when I made mistakes, because that’s the way I learned.
After a couple of years of only speaking English with my husband, I knew how to speak well. I loved the language. English is beautiful. I remember reading Joseph Conrad. I found some of the phrases he used so attractive. Once I started reading in English, I felt like part of the environment. I was not a stranger any longer. The sooner you learn the language, the more you feel at home. I wanted to assimilate into the American lifestyle.
One of the biggest differences that struck me was that in Italy, if there was ever something special happening, you would get a mob arriving. Everyone would fight to get to the front of the line, whereas Americans used to line up for hours — there was no pushing, no shoving, no nothing.
The one thing I miss about Bari is the food, because everything is very organic. They still do things the old way, and you can’t replicate that in America. And the wines that they grow in the Bari regions, where the fruits are picked straight from the tree — you can’t make them here.
I went back to Bari almost 10 years ago with my daughter for the first time. I couldn’t go back sooner because of the business, the children, and my husband being in and out of the hospital.
It was very emotional because it did not look the way I remembered. It was all completely different, but the food and the restaurants have stayed the same. But it felt so normal to be there. You never lose your birthright, and I was so happy to see my cousins.
I didn’t teach my children Italian, and that was one mistake I made. I wanted to learn how to speak English, so I never spoke Italian to them. I brought my whole family to America, though. My mother raised my oldest son, and only spoke Italian to him, so when he went to kindergarten he couldn’t speak English! The nuns called me and said, “You cannot leave this boy here. He’s crying all the time. He doesn’t understand us.” So he stayed at home, and I had to teach him English.
For people considering moving to a different country or culture, I would say to be courageous, because you never know what you’re going to encounter. If they are fortunate like me, they will find a beautiful place to call home. My husband was a good provider. I had no problems. We just had to work hard. You’ll have to assimilate with the people wherever you’re going. If you want to keep your ways, then you’re always going to feel like a stranger.
All sorts of comics have entertained readers without having their protagonist wear spandex and capes. Outside of standard superhero comics, you could pick up a sub-genre called war comics. The recent announcement of Steven Spielberg directing a Blackhawk film based off the DC Comics series attests to the place of war comics in pop culture.
These comics were generally grounded in reality, even if they occasionally had fantastical elements. But the focus was placed on the war and the soldiers who fought in them. With that in mind, these comics would definitely grab the attention of movie-goers.
That’s a hell of a MacGuffin — and one I don’t think any film has gone after.
(Adventures in the Rifle Brigade #1 by Vertigo Comics)
Adventures in the Rifle Brigade
This 2000’s mini-series written by Garth Ennis (best known for Preacher and his work on Punisher and Judge Dredd) and art by Carlos Ezquerra was a war comedy about a British commando unit in World War II.
The titular team was an over-the-top caricature of troops in WWII. Just to set the stage for the kind of comic this was, the team’s entire goal was to steal Hitler’s missing testicle.
Why? Because why not?
(Star-Spangled War Stories Vol. 1 by DC Comics)
The War That Time Forgot
The 1924 novel The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burrough was a classic tale about the savagery of war and a soldier who must tap into his primordial rage to destroy his enemies…and who also crashed on an island full of dinosaurs.
The adapted comic overlooked all those metaphors and symbolism and nose dove directly into “soldiers fighting dinosaurs” in a goofy action series.
Frank Miller got his first break into the comic book industry with “Weird War Tales” but his comics like “300,” “Sin City,” “Dark Knight Returns,” and “Daredevil” have all been huge successes.
(Weird War Tales #64 by DC Comics)
Weird War Tales
Another way to mix war films with another genre with a supernatural horror like with Weird War Tales. Each comic was part of an anthology and each focused on one conflict — retold with zombies, vampires, robots, and other monsters. The only reoccurring character was Death, who would introduce each tale.
(Our Army At War featuring Sgt. Rock #297 by DC Comics)
Our Army at War (featuring Sgt. Rock)
Hands down the most famous of the war comics has still never been touched — even if many have tried in the past. Sgt. Rock was a realistic war story written by Army veteran Bob Kanigher. While other writers would take over Sgt. Rock, the original Kanigher run of the character is regarded as one of the best series of and pioneered the Silver Age of Comics.
Joel Silver of Dark Castle Entertainment has been trying to get a Sgt. Rock film in production for ages now with none other than Bruce Willis cast as Sgt. Rock himself. Both Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino were rumored to direct at some point. Even though it’s stuck in development hell, this is still one of the most requested war comic films.
While Russia has deployed a number of Mach 2 bombers — like the Tu-22 Blinder and Tu-22M Backfire — these were not the fastest bombers that ever flew.
That title goes to the the North American XB-70 Valkyrie.
You haven’t heard much about the Valkyrie – and part of that is because it never got past the prototype stage. According to various fact sheets from the National Museum of the Air Force, the plane was to be able to cruise at Mach 3, have a top speed of Mach 3.1, and it had a range of 4,288 miles. All that despite being almost 200 feet long with a wingspan of 105 feet, and having a maximum takeoff weight of over 534,000 pounds.
That performance was gained by six J93 engines from General Electric, providing 180,000 pounds of thrust.
The XB-70s had no provision for armament, but the production version of this bomber was slated to be able to haul 50,000 pounds of bombs – either conventional or nuclear. Imagine that plane being around today, delivering JDAMs or other smart weapons.
With the performance and a weapons load like that, buying this plane to supplement the B-52 should have been a no-brainer, right? Well, not quite.
The fact was that the Valkyrie was caught by the development of two new technologies — the surface-to-air missile and the intercontinental ballistic missile. The former made high-speed, high-altitude runs much more dangerous (although it should be noted that the SR-71 Blackbird operated very well in that profile). The latter offered a more rapid strike capability than the XB-70 and was cheaper.
Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that as a result of the new technologies, the XB-70 was reduced by the Eisenhower Administration to a research and development project in December 1959. The B-70 was reinstated for production during the 1960 presidential campaign in an attempt to deflect criticism from John F. Kennedy. But Kennedy eventually threw it back to the lab.
Despite a public-relations effort by top Air Force brass, the B-70 remained an RD program with only two airframes built. A 1966 collision during a flight intended to generate photos to promote General Electric’s engines destroyed one of them. The surviving airframe is displayed at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
Take a look at this video from Curious Droid on the XB-70.
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only time the Japanese struck U.S. soil during World War II. In response to the Doolittle Raid — the successful penetration of Japanese airspace and the bombing of strategic targets in Tokyo from the allies — the Japanese executed their revenge. The date of the launch was chosen for the birthday of former emperor Meiji, Nov. 3, 1944.
However, instead of using airplanes, the Japanese used fusen bakudan, or balloon bombs, that each carried four incendiaries and a 33-pound, highly explosive anti-personnel fragmentation device. The Fu-Go balloon bombs traveled 7,500 miles along the Pacific Ocean jet stream at altitudes between 20,000 and 40,000 feet. Witnesses described these large, white balloons as “giant jellyfish” floating in the sky. Their main objective was to start forest fires, create security doubts among the civilian populace, and cause upheaval.
The all-black Triple Nickles battalion was ultimately responsible for combating the slow-moving, round balloon bombs, which had no escort or protection and had been spotted by the U.S. Navy patrol off the coast of California only two days after their initial launch. The patrol alerted the FBI, and investigations were conducted to find the origin of these mysterious flammable balloons traveling over the Pacific Northwest and into Canada.
A Japanese Fu-Go balloon with its payload of charges suspended below. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
Paratroopers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions suffered heavy casualties in the European Theater (ETO) during the Battle of the Bulge and the courageous siege of Bastogne; they were in a desperate need for replacements. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, or the “Triple Nickles” as they became known, trained to fulfill this capacity. However, as with other all-black units of the time, African-American soldiers weren’t treated equally. “We were relegated to serving in menial units such as truck drivers, port companies (loading ships), mess halls (waiting on tables) and guard duty,” wrote Walter Morris, a Triple Nickle veteran.
Although no Triple Nickles completed a combat jump or deployed to Europe, these trendsetters provided another example of how an elite all-black unit could be employed in a combat or peacetime environment. The Triple Nickles participated in a top-secret project fighting forest fires as the U.S. military’s first smoke jumping paratroopers over the Pacific Northwest.
The Triple Nickles, a name derived from the parachute regiment’s designation, was created in the winter of 1943 and consisted of 17 of the original 20-man platoon from the 92nd Infantry (Buffalo) Division. These men were hand-selected to create the first “colored test platoon.” A few months into 1944 saw newly minted paratroopers who completed training jumps at Fort Benning, Georgia. The first all-black parachute infantry battalion in history had formed but were still brand-new and lacked manpower. The paratroopers honed their skills and became experts in small-unit tactics.
Several went to the best schools the U.S. Army had to offer. Some became riggers and jump masters while others learned the metrics in communications, the skills to navigate difficult terrain as pathfinders, and the intricacies in demolitions.
They were the cream of the crop — college graduates, professional athletes, men of high character and extraordinary intellect. One Triple Nickle veteran, “Tiger” Ted Lowry, entered the ring to face world champion boxing legend Joe Louis, who came to Lowry’s base in 1943. He was accompanied by Sugar Ray Robinson — who Muhammad Ali coined as “the king, the master, my idol” — when the duo toured military camps to entertain soldiers. “Stay in the middle of the ring,” Robinson advised Lowry, “don’t let him get you on the ropes.” Lowry already had 70 fights to his name and somehow survived the three-round exhibition with one of the greatest boxers in history.
“You can’t imagine what that did for my ego,” Lowry reflected. “I had just been in the ring with the champion of the world, the greatest fighter in the world, and he was unable to knock me down. My confidence was inflated.” His fighting days halted when he joined the Triple Nickles but resumed when he faced Rocky Marciano, the Brockton, Massachusetts, undefeated heavyweight champion. Not only did he stun Marciano, but he shocked crowds of hometown Italian-Americans by going the distance twice with the Brockton Blockbuster, the only fighter ever to do so.
The men of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment march in the New York City Victory Parade on January 12, 1946. Maj. Gen. Jim Gavin ensured the “Triple Nickles” not only marched in the parade, but wore the insignia of the 82nd Airborne Division. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
When World War II was nearing a close and as the Germans were losing ground, the Triple Nickles’ focus shifted from Europe to the homefront. The Triple Nickles were the size of a “reinforced company” but expected to reach battalion size by 1945. The threat from the Japanese balloon bombs was imminent, and they were diverted to Pendleton, Oregon, and Chico, California, under secret orders to the 9th Services Command.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) received help from the U.S. Army when 400 paratroopers from the Triple Nickles were tasked with the difficult job. They turned in their rifles, hand grenades, and rucksacks. In that equipment’s place they donned football helmets with wire face masks, equipped 50 feet of nylon rope for lowering themselves from trees, and packed firefighting tools such as axes and handsaws on their person for parachute jumps.
The smoke jumping program was in its sixth firefighting season, but the war dwindled their resources, and the Triple Nickles provided a welcome skillset. Pilots flying C-47s needed no additional training and had prior results in properly managing smokejumper assets in remote regions where fires were often inaccessible by roads. The response and defensive strategy against the Japanese balloon bombs was a little-known secret called Operation Firefly.
Later reports suggested that the Japanese launched over 9,000 helium balloons. Damage from these balloons was rare but noteworthy. One balloon exploded after it hit high-tension power lines that were connected to a plutonium plant in Hanford, Washington. It caused a temporary blackout to the community, and the plutonium plant was ironically responsible for developing the fuel for the atomic bomb dropped over Nagasaki, Japan.
Triple Nickle member Jesse Mayes prepares to jump from a C-47. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
Vincent “Bud” Whitehead, a U.S. Army counterintelligence officer, used to track and chase the balloons in the air from his plane. In March 1945, a balloon had landed on the ground but didn’t ignite. “They sent a bus up with all of this specially trained personnel, gloves, full contamination suits, masks,” Whitehead said in an interview with the Voices of the Manhattan Project. “I had been walking around on that stuff and they had not told me! They were afraid of bacterial warfare.” Biological and bacterial warfare fears were not exaggerated because it was later revealed that the Japanese had scrapped an operation at the end of the war for weaponizing the bubonic plague.
Another notable tragedy that involved these balloon bombs was the devastation of almost an entire family while they picnicked near the Gearhart Mountain in Bly, Oregon. On May 5, 1945, Reverend Archie Mitchell, his pregnant wife, Elsie, and five children from their Sunday School class were victims of the balloon’s lethality. The children went to investigate the strange object that had floated to the ground, but they got too close and were killed when the balloon did what it was designed to do. Archie Mitchell was the only survivor.
The Triple Nickles went to work to prevent additional American civilian casualties. First Lieutenant Edwin Willis, a brilliant planner and training specialist, put his paratroopers through a three-week crash course to learn proper firefighting knowledge and techniques. Willis received assistance and guidance from USFS smokejumpers and forest rangers as well.
Frank Derry, Parachute Instructor-Rigger, instructing prospective smoke jumper in the use of the “drop rig.” Simulates landing from chute caught in a snag or other obstacles by use of landing rope. Lolo National Forest, Montana. Photo by W.J. Mead, courtesy fo the National Archives and Records Administration.
This course included “demolitions training, tree climbing and techniques for descent if we landed in a tree, handling firefighting equipment, jumping into pocket-sized drop zones studded with rocks and tree stumps, survival in wooded areas, and extensive first-aid training for injuries — particularly broken bones,” said Morris.
Frank Derry, a master civilian parachutist, issued the Triple Nickles his “Derry-chute,” which was known for its maneuverability and steering capabilities. “Snag trees, those were the worst. I didn’t like those dudes at all,” Derry said, referring to the nuisances found in their path. “But landing in the trees was just as soft as landing, better than landing on the ground. The thick trees […] you just come into them like sitting down on a pillow, nothing to it.”
The Triple Nickles were also assisted by demolition experts from the 9th Services Command and USFS rangers. “Learning the touchy business of handling unexploded bombs, as well as how to isolate areas in which a bomb, or suspected bomb, was located,” Morris wrote. The incedinaries and chemicals were an additional pucker factor to their already challenging task.
Then-1st. Sgt. Walter Morris, right, prepares for his first jump with the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
The Triple Nickles also learned to live off the land and avoid costly mistakes that could derail their mission. “They could walk up the hills like a cat on a snake walk,” Morris wrote, discussing the expertise of USFS rangers. “They taught us how to climb, use an axe, and what vegetation to eat. At the same time, we underwent an orientation program with Forest Service maps. And, above all, our morale and spirit of adventure never sagged in the face of this unusual mission.”
The Triple Nickles became fully operational smokejumpers, but the numbers on how many fires and fire jumps they completed have been skewed over the years. Chuck Sheley, the editor of Smokejumper Magazine, states they completed 460 to 470 jumps on an estimated 15 of 28 forest fires, while they drove or hiked into the other fires. The National 555th Parachute Infantry Association consensus estimates the Triple Nickles answered 36 fire calls with 1,200 individual jumps across seven Western states.
Private First Class Malvin Brown was the only casualty of the Triple Nickles. Brown was a critical component of the team because of his medical expertise. Any injuries, accidents, or potential concerns went through the fire medics. When 15 Triple Nickles paratroopers boarded their C-47 on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, Brown wasn’t supposed to be there. However, he volunteered to replace another medic who was sick. Hours later he jumped into a fire in Umpqua National Forest in southern Oregon’s Cascade Range and landed in a tree. Moments later he slipped and fell more than 150 feet to the ground below. He died instantly.
Brown’s fellow smokejumpers changed their mission from fighting the fire to bringing home their teammate’s body. After an arduous search in rocky terrain, they located him and carried him more than 3 miles through the backcountry. Their first sign of civilization was a trail, but it took another 12 miles for them to find a road to get help.
The soldiers of the Triple Nickles weren’t respected while they were in service, but their contributions in a long lineage of elite all-black units are remembered as if they were legends. The Triple Nickles disbanded after World War II, but many of the soldiers continued to serve, including Lieutenant Colonel John Cannon, who was a combat medic during the Korean War. John E. Mann served as an Army Special Forces advisor in Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, three Legions of Merit, and a Distinguished Flying Cross. Mann served in the military for 33 years and later authored four detective novels.
Everybody does dumb stuff, and military spouses are no exception. (Example: eating Ben & Jerry’s for dinner every night during a deployment and then wondering why we didn’t hit our goal weight.)
But there are a few dumb things that only military spouses do, such as:
Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy. But give me your number. And be the emergency contact for my baby.
Every PCS means starting over, in every way. We get three to five weeks to unpack and arrange everything, get everyone registered for school, find a doctor, find a dentist, find a … oh yeah, find a place to live. Wonder of wonder, during that mad dash, what we didn’t manage to find was a friend we would trust with our child’s life.
For military spouses, emergency contacts are the proverbial Canadian girlfriend/boyfriend from summer camp. “I swear I know people, and they like me enough to take my kid to the ER, but they just don’t live here.” So, we list the name of, literally, the very first person we meet, cross our fingers and hope no one gets hurt this year.
Ooh! PCS stickers! I can craft with those!
When the ever-lengthening “Home is Where” plaque in the entryway doesn’t make the point loudly enough, we peel those little PCS stickers off the backs of our furniture and use them to make Christmas ornaments, maps, and other crafts.
Because nothing says “holiday spirit” and “welcome home after a hard day,” like a passive-aggressive homespun visual that basically means “remember that time your job forced the whole family to move to Ft. Huachuca? Where there are TARANTULAS! Good times…”
As if we don’t see enough camo…
Make a purse out of a uniform.
Why, and I mean why, do we do this? The ACU pattern was ugly and impractical when soldiers wore it. Multi-cam and MARPAT look like a pigeon flew over after an all-night sugar binge. Basically, anything that ends in “uniform” was not designed to be stylish, except for maybe the Navy blueberries (Why did they want sailors to blend in with the OCEAN? If a sailor is in the water, don’t we need to see him so we can fish him out? I digress.) None of these handbags are cute.
But that doesn’t even touch on the real issue, which is – these are old clothes. Worn by people who get paid to do dirty, sweaty, disgusting things. You don’t see the wives of garbage collectors making diaper bags out of threadbare, bright orange coveralls for a reason. Why are you putting your baby’s bottle and snack pack of Cheerios into something your husband wore on the Darby Queen, Kayla? It’s not even hygienic.
Gauge life events by location and childbirth.
Forget journals and Facebook memories, we can tell you what was going on in the world in any particular year by recalling where we lived and which child was born there. “Let’s see, we were at Camp LeJeune, and Jackson was a newborn … he had the worst colic, you know … so that must have been 2016 and Hurricane Matthew.”
Get itchy every three years.
Fish and houseguests start to smell after three days. For duty stations, it’s more like three years. Three years into each move, the grass starts looking greener elsewhere, and the luster of our current location begins to wear off. We’ve eaten in all the good restaurants, visited all the local sites, shopped in all the cute boutiques, and now all we notice is what this duty station doesn’t have.
At the first rumor of a new base, we start googling, joining Facebook groups, and surfing real estate apps. If Uncle Sam wanted us to be settled and content, he wouldn’t keep moving us all over the planet.
Prom photo? Military ball? What’s the difference?
Go to Prom every year until menopause.
Okay, so it’s not really prom, but it’s the same rubbery chicken, the same DJ, the same up-do and mani-pedi, and the same expensive dress we’ll never wear again (or at least not until we PCS). Military balls feel a lot like prom, except there’s alcohol, uniforms, symbolism, and patriotism.
Well, even if it isn’t prom, we still feel like Cinderella getting ready for the ball, just like we did in high school.
After this Marine officer was humiliated in front of his superiors by a seasoned gunny, Powers decided to get out of the Corps and become a criminal — then just went totally grey.
He teamed up with a computer hacker and highjacked a train to use as a mobile headquarters to take control of a destructive U.S. satellite. Unfortunately for him, Powers ran into a former chef and Navy SEAL named Casy Ryback who was on vacation with his niece. How about those odds.
They duked it out in a narrow kitchen, and Ryback eventually broke his neck, killing him instantly.
Tough break. Get it? Tough break.
This dive bar musician-turned-Marine was so motivated that he was recruited into an android program that has nothing to do with smartphones. The government turned him into a freakin’ android soldier and released him on a “Solo” mission to Latin America to destroy some local rebels.
Nowadays, Stitch pops up here and there but mainly stays behind the scenes.
Remember the guy in the squad who most reassembled a twig? That’s him. He didn’t do much after faking his own death to get out of the Marines.
Legend has it that he developed a nasty skin infection and began to murder teenagers near a theater during a horror movie marathon — but that can’t be right.
After serving three decades in the Corps, chronic laryngitis forced gunny to retire — but not for long. He stumbled upon a job in the secret service and spoiled a plot to kill the president.
What a guy!
Gunny continued life in law enforcement for a few more years before actually retiring to a small house with his beloved Gran Torino.
Too bad he had a problem with a local Asian gang. Gunny was shot several times after pulling out his “hand pistol” from inside of his jacket.
He recovered “like it ain’t shit” because a couple of bullets isn’t going to stop Gunny Highway. No f*cking way! Now you can see him hanging around the baseball field spotting players who have trouble with curveballs.
When Egypt bought the two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships that France declined to sell to Russia, one thing that didn’t come with those vessels was the armament.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” Russia had planned to install a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 Gatling guns on the vessels if France has sold them to the Kremlin. But no such luck for Egypt, which had two valuable vessels that were unarmed – or, in the vernacular, sitting ducks.
And then, all of a sudden, they weren’t unarmed anymore. A video released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense celebrating the Cleopatra 2017 exercise with the French navy shows that the Egyptians have channeled MacGyver — the famed improviser most famously played by Richard Dean Anderson — to fix the problem.
Scenes from the video show at least two AN/TWQ-1 Avenger air-defense vehicles — better known as the M1097 — tied down securely on the deck of one of the vessels, which have been named after Egyptian leaders Gamel Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat. The Humvee-based vehicles carry up to eight FIM-92 Stinger anti-air missiles and also have a M3P .50-caliber machine gun capable of firing up to 1200 rounds a minute.
The Mistral-class ships in service with the French navy are typically equipped with the Simbad point-defense system. Ironically, the missile used in the Simbad is a man-portable SAM also called Mistral. The vessels displace 16,800 tons, have a top speed of 18.8 knots and can hold up to 16 helicopters and 900 troops.
You can see the Egyptian Ministry of Defense video below, showing the tied-down Avengers serving as air-defense assets for the Egyptian navy’s Mistrals.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is pushing ahead with its ambitious plan to build a modern, capable “blue-water navy” that will dominate China’s neighbors, showcase Beijing’s rising power and one day even threaten the US Navy.
China has one aircraft carrier in operation, another undergoing sea trials, and a third one in development, putting the Chinese navy on track to begin fielding carrier task forces as it gains experience with carrier operations.
Type 001 Liaoning
China’s Type 001 Liaoning, a refitted Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser,” is the sister ship of Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. This vessel was officially commissioned into the PLAN in 2012, and it was declared combat ready in 2016, even though its primary purpose is to serve as a training platform.
“For what the Liaoning is, I think it’s pretty good at its job,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously explained to Business Insider.
Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16 at Hong Kong Waters.
The Chinese “purchased it, they reverse engineered it, they used it to design their second aircraft carrier, and now they are using it as a training vessel to sort out carrier operations, figure out how to integrate it into the fleet, and determine what kind of supporting vessels they need to put with the carrier for their mission,” he added, suggesting that training with the Liaoning could potentially inform future carrier task force decisions, among other important choices.
Type 001A and Type 002
The Type 001A, a domestically-produced version of the Liaoning undergoing sea trials, features some improvements over its predecessor, but it is the Type 002, the third carrier in development, that could be a “huge step forward” for the Chinese PLAN, according to Funaiole.
It is with these next two carriers that the world may start to see China push ahead with the next stage of carrier operations, specifically task force creation for joint operations.
Imagining future Chinese carrier battle groups
The Liaoning has set sail with a number of different escorts over the years, but the deployment of effective task forces will require a bit more time, experts argue.
“To create really meaningful carrier task groups is probably five years out, and a lot of it depends on their actual experience with combat aircraft,” Tony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, told BI.
Chinese carriers lack the ability to go toe-to-toe with the US Navy, although they have an advantage in waters near China because Chinese ballistic missiles “can reach out almost to the limits of its claims and actually potentially hit a carrier-sized object with a conventional warhead,” he explained, adding that observers should not “make the assumption that to make the carriers useful, they have to reach a level of competition that could deal with a really sophisticated US threat.”
The primary task for Chinese carriers is the prestige mission, experts note, suggesting that the Chinese aim to send a message to their neighbors.
“The prestige mission is probably the most important one. They are going to be going out to show the flag,” Bryan Clark, a naval expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Business Insider.
Areas where Chinese carriers could matter most
There are several areas of potential interest, with two being the contested waterways around China and the Indian Ocean.
In local waterways, such as the East and South China Seas, Chinese carriers advance Chinese interests by simply serving as displays of military might. “When it comes to projecting power against smaller states, it’s often a matter of demonstrative action or influence,” Cordesman explained.
Countries in the region may soon find themselves “dealing with a China that can actually project carrier forces and air power now into areas that they’ve never been able to really project air power before.” With that capability, which can be achieved relatively quickly, China can make “a very real difference in regional power and influence.”
But China could also extend its reach beyond its immediate neighborhood. Clark expects to see China eventually deploy carrier task forces to the Indian Ocean given Beijing’s growing interest in the area.
“Within the South and East China Sea, they have lots of land-based systems, aircraft, and ships they can deploy out there under the cover of their shore-based air defenses and surface missiles,” he remarked, “They need the navy to go over and help protect Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean and along the littorals.”
China could, for instance, be looking at projecting military power in the Strait of Malacca and along East Africa from Djibouti down to Mozambique and Madagascar, where China has notable business interests. China has already, via legitimate and questionable means, developed a string of ports in Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Pakistan to support such operations.
Type and number of ships in a carrier task force
“I imagine a Chinese CTF may be a Type 055, a Type 054, and then maybe three or four Luyangs because they want to make sure they’ve got a lot of air defense capacity and because they want to make it look like a formidable threat,” Clark explained, referring to China’s new cruiser, as well as the country’s capable frigates and destroyers.
“This includes, in some ways, the classic mix that we would use,” Cordesman told BI.
A typical US Navy carrier strike group includes the carrier and five ships — one cruiser and four destroyers. But China might deploy even greater numbers.
“It’s likely they are going to want to have more surface combatants than even we might have put with a ship,” Clark said, pointing to the need for increased air defense capacity due to the limited number of vertical launch system (VLS) cells on Chinese surface ships, which can be loaded with missiles to intercept incoming threats and to strike ships.
A Chinese carrier task force would also require support ships, like ammunition oilers, for certain deployments.
Type 054A frigate 575 Yueyang.
Type 054/A Jiangkai I/II frigates
The 4,000-ton Type 054A warships, Chinese stealth frigates designed for fleet defense, are armed with HQ-16 medium-range air defense missiles and a 32-cell VLS in the forward section that is able to fire anti-ship missiles, air defense missiles, and anti-submarine torpedoes, according to The Diplomat.
The first Type 054A was commissioned into the PLAN in 2005, but China has made some modifications to the ship in recent years. For instance, some of the newer ships of this class feature variable depth sonar and towed array sonar, as well as an improved close-in weapon system.
China is reportedly in the process of developing a 5,000-ton variant, the Type 054B Jiangkai III-class frigate.
Type 052C/D Luyang II/III destroyers
These ships, especially the newer Type 052D, are said to be similar to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers.
Commonly referred to as the “Chinese Aegis,” the Type 052D destroyers feature a 64-cell VLS, with each cell capable of carrying up to four missiles, including the lethal YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile and the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile. A US destroyer, in comparison, can carry 90 or more missiles in its VLS.
Toward the end of September 2018, a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer challenged a US destroyer, the USS Decatur, to a showdown in the South China Sea during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation. The Chinese vessel is said to have nearly collided with the American warship.
Type 055 Renhai-class cruisers
While China designates these vessels as destroyers, the US classifies them as cruisers, due to their large size and role as multi-mission surface combatants. This ship is expected to serve a similar purpose to that of America’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers.
This ship, which began sea trials in August 2018, is armed with 112 vertical launch cells with the ability to fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, and CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles.
The main gun is a H/PJ-38 130 mm gun, but there are reports that this vessel could eventually be equipped with a railgun.
Type 056 Jingdao corvettes
Chinese corvettes, like the newer PLAN frigates, feature improved anti-submarine warfare capabilities that could be advantageous to the carrier task force, although it’s unclear if China would actually incorporate these ships into a future carrier group, especially considering that the Type 054 frigates can provide the same capabilities.
“What the frigates and the corvettes have are variable-depth sonars, an active sonar operating at a lower frequency and on a cable that can be lowered down into the water below the [sonic] layer to actually find submarines,” Clark explained. “I think the Chinese would deploy a Jiangkai frigate or [Type 056] Jingdao corvette with the task force primarily for [anti-submarine warfare].”
These ships would play a lesser role in air defense, focusing instead on defending the task force from threats lurking beneath the surface of the sea.
Chinese Navy oiler Hongzehu (AOR 881), an older vessel. China has since developed fast combat support ships for ammunition and refueling.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)
Additional naval and support vessels
In waters near China, the need for support ships is limited. China can rely on its commercial shipping fleet, as well as various outposts and ports, but at greater distances, the task force will require support ships.
“I would anticipate the carrier task force is going to include an oiler to support them, and that oiler would be what goes ashore in these different bases along the Indian Ocean to receive supplies and fuel and take that out to the carrier task force,” Clark told Business Insider.
“Normally, when the Chinese deploy, such as when they deployed destroyers and frigates for counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, they’ve generally deployed two combatant ships and a support ship. They always have an oiler that goes with these ships.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.
That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.
This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.
The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.
During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.
Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.
It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.
And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.
Most experiments in which biologists — or, more accurately, epidemiologists — study how a disease spreads are done theoretically, involving only a pen and paper. They do their best to simulate the spread of various contagions and study outbreaks of the past, but nobody would dare spread a disease simply to study it.
In 2005, however, they were given the perfect test conditions and subjects: World of Warcraft players.
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game made by Blizzard Entertainment set in a fantasy realm called Azeroth. In September of 2005, a new “raid” encounter — an experience that required 20 players — opened up, called Zul’Gurub. This was, basically, an ancient city loosely based on Mayan culture that belonged to a savage tribe of Trolls.
When players finally fought the final boss, the Serpent God Hakkar, they would contract a temporary “debuff” (or weakness) called “Corrupted Blood” that would slowly drain their health before spreading to another player.
Once a player was infected, they’d have to wait out the sickness or die in the process. It wasn’t much more than a nuisance to high-level players, as they could simply heal themselves and continue fighting, hoping to pry an epic sword from the Serpent Lord’s cold corpse. But the in-game plague didn’t just affect players.
In the game, you play one of several different fantasy roles, including paladins, druids, rogues, and (most relevant to this scenario) hunters. Hunters specialized in taming beasts that would then fight in their name. If a hunter’s pet contracted Corrupted Blood, the player could “dismiss” their pet, making it effectively disappear. The next time that pet was called to help, however, it would still have the disease — and it would still spread to nearby characters.
Hunters of the world would (sometimes) inadvertently bring their infected pets back to large population hubs after completing the raid. There, they’d call forth their beast without realizing it was still infected. Then, the Corrupted Blood was transmitted to other players outside of the raid. This time, the infected players weren’t powerful heroes attempting to kill a god, but rather low-level noobies that would quickly die once affected by the plague, causing it to infect others.
This spread just like a real plague. Players, in search of safety, would evacuate large cities, bringing Corrupted Blood to outlying hamlets, just as with real plagues. Some players would knowingly infect themselves just to harass other players, akin to bio-terrorism.
It was fixed within a week and the game developers apologized for the bug (even though they intentionally recreated it a few years afterwards). But this was the perfect scenario that every epidemiologist dreams of recreating without risking their medical license.
Years after the virtual incident, many researchers published documents using information gathered from the digital plague. They tracked how animals that humans keep as pets might be the most prone to infecting others. They monitored how the disease spread through major population centers and how it traveled along pathways towards the outer reaches of the game. It even simulated surprisingly lifelike actions of bio-terrorists and how they can be dealt with.
(Photo by Jerry Stillwagon)
All in all, it was a mild annoyance to the players but it gave the Center for Disease Control and many researchers a realistic and ethically-sound testing environment.