Lt. Col. Cordelia “Betty” Cook was the first woman to earn both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
In an era when women were still protesting to earn the right to vote, Lt. Col. Cook rose through the military ranks to become one of the most highly decorated female service members of WWII. At a time when few women were serving, and those who were serving in active duty positions were segregated into “women’s only” units, her actions in combat highlighted not only her strength and resilience, but her dedication to duty and country. Here’s the story of how she earned both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
Born in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, Cook was the middle of five children. Historical accounts of her early life are sparse, but it’s been suggested by military historians that Cook showed an aptitude for nursing early on. Her family encouraged her to pursue her education, so Cook attended Christ Hospital School of Nursing in Cincinnati, Ohio. She studied there for three years before becoming a surgical nurse and commissioning with the Army. Immediately after her commission, Cook was sent to Europe to aid and assist the medical corps already in place there.
Cook quickly became immersed in her work and was said to refuse time off, even when she was offered leave. She gained a reputation as being a kind and compassionate nurse who would go above and beyond the call of duty.
At the outset of the landing of Allied troops in Italy, the German forces were at a distinct advantage. Battles in the region were fierce and brutal, and the terrain favored the Germans, who used the Apennine Mountains to their advantage.
It was at her first duty station that Lt. Col. Cook’s field hospital where she worked was bombed. Despite the apparent danger to her own life, Cook did everything she could to administer medicine to the wounded.
In 1944, following the bombing of the field hospital where she worked, Cook was transferred to the 11th Field Hospital in the Presenzano sector of the Italian front.
The Presenzano sector’s importance
Allied personnel landed in Italy in September 1943. Within a month, they liberated Naples and crossed the Volturno River, effectively pinning down the German forces. However, by the end of the year, the German Army’s 23 divisions were reinforced and consisted of 215,000 troops in the south and 265,000 in the north. South of Rome, Germany had three major defensive lines: the Barbara Line, which stretched from Monte Massico to Presenzano; the Reinhard Line, forty miles north of Naples; and the Gustav Line, which interlocked defenses and spread along the narrowest point of the country.
Being stationed at the 11th Field Hospital in Presenzano meant that Lt. Col. Cook was at risk every time she reported for duty. Cook was awarded the Bronze Star for her work at the hospital. Shortly after being awarded the Bronze Star, Cook sustained a shrapnel injury from German artillery fire. Even though she was on duty, Cook completed her shift. For this, she earned the Purple Heart.
First woman to receive both awards
The Purple Heart Medal is presented to service members who have been wounded as a result of enemy actions. Since its creation in 1782, more than 1.8 million Purple Heart medals have been awarded to service members.
Like the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal is awarded to service members for heroic or meritorious deeds performed while in armed conflict. The Bronze Star dates to WWII and is the fourth-highest ranking award a service member can receive.
After the war
Following the end of WWII, Cook returned to the Midwest, where she settled in Columbus, Ohio. She married Harold E. Fillmore, an Army Captain. Together, they had three children, a daughter and two sons. Lt. Col. Cook worked for almost thirty years as a nurse at Doctors Hospital North in Columbus, Ohio.
Lt. Col. Cook certainly paved the way for women of future generations and has helped inspire female service members across all military branches. The fact that she has been recognized for her valor during a war is a good start in bringing to light the valuable contributions of female service members.
American ground fighters must overmatch any potential adversary, now and in the future, the leaders of the Close Combat Lethality Task Force said April 11, 2018.
Robert Wilkie, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, who serves on the task force’s advisory board, spoke about the effort at the Association of the United States Army’s Sullivan Center. The effort looks to improve the lethality of Army, Marine Corps and special operations light infantry units, and it is personally being pushed by Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
Scales said the reason behind the task force comes down to three numbers: Ninety, four, and one. Ninety percent of Americans killed in combat are infantry, he noted. “They constitute four percent of uniformed personnel and receive just one percent of the DOD budget for training and equipping,” Scales said.
The United States maintains combat overmatch in every other portion of the battlefield — air, sea and space — yet the small infantry unit, the unit most likely to be under fire, is the one that comes closest to a fair fight with an enemy, Scales said. Success in ground combat “lies not just with technical superiority, but with the human dimension,” Wilkie said.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)
“There is nothing more important than focusing our energies now on developing and nurturing the unique capabilities of human performance,” he added. “That means bringing fresh vigor, renewing our sense of urgency and enhancing the lethality of our front-line Army and Marine Corps units.”
Success comes from repetition, training
The task force will look at how the services select the right people for this crucial job, and what the services need to do to retain them. It also will examine how the services judge fitness and provide fitness. “Finally,” Wilkie said, “do we understand, as do our greatest athletic leaders, that success comes with constant repetition and training?”
Some aspects do not require legislation or extra money. Willke said the Army personnel system can be changed to keep units together and allow infantry personnel to bond with their unit mates. Programs can also be put in place so soldiers and Marines are actually training with their units and not performing an ancillary duty.
“Every plane and ship we purchase comes with sophisticated simulators to train personnel to overcome every conceivable contingency,” Wilkie said. “We would not buy a plane of a ship that was not packaged along with that technology. But we don’t do that for our ground forces.”
But it can be done, he added, and when combined with exercises at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California, or at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, this training can be invaluable with keeping infantry alive.
Wilkie and Scales said the task force will also look at weapons, protective systems, communications gear, unmanned tactical systems, doctrine and many other issues as it continues its work.
And all this will be done quickly, both men said, noting that Mattis is intensely interested in seeing this program succeed.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is frequently touted as the most advanced fighter ever to take to the skies, and soon it will be certified to carry nuclear bombs.
Like all fifth generation fighters, the F-35 is a stealth platform designed to avoid detection and engagement from air defense systems. As a result, the aircraft must carry its weapons payload internally, in the belly of the aircraft, rather than on external pylons like we’ve all come to expect on fourth generation jets like F-16 Fighting Falcon or the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
External pylons allow fighters to carry far more ordnance into a fight than the F-35 can internally (and indeed, even the F-35 has external pylons that can be used when detection is not a concern).
The F-35 goes nuclear
While most people tend to think of heavy payload bombers like the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress when talking about the airborne leg of America’s nuclear triad, the role of dual-purpose “nuclear fighters” has long been a part of the strategy. Currently, both the F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fill the role of “nuclear fighter” in America’s stable, alongside their aforementioned nuclear bomber sister platforms.
Americans’ nuclear triad, for those who aren’t aware, is comprised of nuclear ICBMs on the ground, nuclear missile subs in the water, and nuclear-capable aircraft in the air. The premise of maintaining this triad is simple: by keeping America’s nuclear weapons dispersed and utilizing multiple forms of delivery, it makes it all but impossible to stop American from launching a nuclear counter-attack against an aggressive state that started lobbing nukes America’s way. In other words, America’s nuclear triad is the backbone of Uncle Sam’s part in the “mutually assured destruction” doctrine.
For now, the “nuclear” title is going to remain with the F-15s and F-16s, but the U.S. intends to certify the F-35 for nuclear duty by 2023 and it will likely carry that title well beyond the retirement dates for its two nuclear predecessors.
But before it can be certified, the Air Force needs to test the F-35’s ability to deploy these weapons thoroughly, and that’s where these incredible new photos come in. Ever since last June, the F-35 Joint Program Office has been overseeing drops of inert B61-12 nuclear bombs. These bombs have already seen testing with the F-15E, and will soon replace a number of older nuclear bomb variants.
These bombs may be inert, but they are designed to look and act like the real thing, giving the Pentagon all the information it needs to assess the F-35’s capabilities as a nuclear strike platform.
These tests are all being conducted with an F-35A, which is the standard takeoff and landing variant of the platform utilized primarily by the United States Air Force. The Navy’s F-35Cs are designed to take off and land on the deck of aircraft carriers, and the F-35B employed by the Marine Corps can take off on extremely short runways and even land vertically on the decks of ships. At least to date, it appears that the Pentagon has no intentions of mounting nuclear weapons in the F-35B or C variants.
Every year, thousands of motorcyclists descend on Sturgis, South Dakota for days of camaraderie, fanfare and riding. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s rally is still happening. Here are 5 wacky sights you have to see to believe.
The human bowling ball named Short Sleeve Sampson is considered by some as a rite of passage at Buffalo Chip and the Sturgis Rally. With his assistants, Lady Victoria and Summer, the midget wrestling icon lines up to be hurled down the lane at a set of bowling pins. Seeing country-music star Zac Brown partake in the action is like an odd cherry on top of a wacky sundae. That said, Zac Brown is joined on the list of midget bowlers by other famous artists like Rob Zombie, John 5 and Eric Church.
(Rapid City Journal)
2. The kangaroo at the wedding
When Lady Victoria married Marco Webber at the 2009 Sturgis Rally, she was escorted down the aisle by Jack the Kangaroo of Roo Ranch. Lady Victoria noted that her previous marriage ceremonies were very traditional and wanted to change things up. For his services, Jack received a BreathSavers mint, a favorite treat of his.
(Rapid City Journal)
3. Rhett Rotten and the Wall of Death
Sure, you could argue that it’s simple physics: counteracting gravity with sufficient velocity and centrifugal force. But, there’s just something fantastic about a man riding his motorcycle around on a wall. Did we mention that the wall is 12 feet high, 30 feet wide and 81 years old? If only Humvees were as reliable as the Wall of Death.
(Rapid City Journal)
4. Riding through a beer wall
If you’re riding, it means you’re not drinking. So what’s the next best thing? How about riding through the drink? Bursting through a wall of cold ones results in a fantastic display of foam that we can only imagine must be supremely refreshing and satisfying.
(Rapid City Journal)
5. A man in a barrel
This one is pretty self-explanatory. We’ll just leave it here for you to enjoy.
Patrick Shanahan has taken over the helm of the Pentagon, as U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his Defense Department predecessor, pointing to what he said was a lack of success in Afghanistan.
Shanahan, who has been serving as deputy defense secretary, worked his first day in office as acting defense secretary on Jan. 2, 2019, as the replacement for Jim Mattis, who resigned as defense chief on Dec. 20, 2018, saying his policies were not fully “aligned” with the president.
Trump has not specified a time frame for choosing a permanent defense secretary or said whether Shanahan could potentially assume that role.
Mattis initially said he would be leaving the Pentagon at the end of February 2019. But Trump later announced that Mattis, 68, would be leaving earlier after the defense secretary published a letter that directly criticized the president.
Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
In televised remarks on Jan. 2, 2019, Trump said he “essentially fired” Mattis. “I’m not happy with what [he has] done in Afghanistan — and I shouldn’t be happy,” said Trump, as Shanahan sat by his side.
“I wish him well. I hope he does well. But as you know, President [Barack] Obama fired him, and essentially so did I. I want results.”
A former Marine general, Mattis was fired by Obama in 2013 as head of U.S. Central Command over what the then-president said were too hawkish views toward Iran.
Shanahan, 56, meanwhile, said his priorities would include the impending U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China’s military might.
“While we are focused on ongoing operations, Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to remember: China, China, China,” a Pentagon official said.
The Russian military is getting ready for what is said to be an “unprecedented” military exercise, but as thousands of men and machines gather in Russia’s east, leaders in Moscow may be increasingly concerned about what’s going on in the West.
Early August 2018, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called the upcoming Vostok-2018, or East-2018, exercises “the largest preparatory action for the armed forces since Zapad-81,” referring to a Soviet military exercise in 1981 involving about 100,000 to 150,000 troops, according to a CIA estimate at the time.
Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, that the Vostok-2018 exercise, scheduled for Sept. 11-15, 2018, will have some similarities to Zapad-81 but involve vastly more personnel.
“In some ways, they resemble the Zapad-81 drills but in other ways they are, perhaps, even larger,” Shoigu said, according to Russian state-owned media outlet Tass.
“Over 1,000 aircraft, almost 300,000 servicemen at almost all the training ranges of the Central and Eastern Military Districts and, naturally, the Pacific and Northern Fleets and the Airborne Force will be fully employed.”
Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
The Russian military has already begun evaluating its forces’ combat readiness and logistical support with “snap inspections” that involve special drills and are done under the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Just imagine that 36,000 pieces of military hardware are simultaneously in motion: these are tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles and all this is, naturally, checked in conditions close to a combat environment,” Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, according to Tass.
Russia has invited military attaches from NATO countries to observe the upcoming exercises — an offer that a NATO spokesman told Reuters was under consideration.
Russia conducted another large-scale exercise, Zapad-17, or West-17, in September 2017. About 70,000 personnel took part in that — though only about 13,000 of them were part of the main event that took place in Belarus and western Russia. (The number of troops involved became a point of contention between Russia and NATO.)
Russian forces will not be the only ones taking part this time around. Chinese and Mongolian units will also take part, with Beijing reportedly sending more than 3,000 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 pieces of other military hardware.
Chinese participation in Russian military exercises “speaks about the expansion of interaction of the two allies in all the spheres,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Aug, 28, 2018, according to Tass.
‘It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time’
Peskov was asked if the expense of the Vostok-18 exercise was necessary at a time when Russia’s economy is struggling and demands for more social spending are rising.
“The social security network and the pension system are a constant element of state policy and a very important component,” Peskov responded, according to Tass. “But the country’s defense capability in the current international situation, which is frequently quite aggressive and unfriendly for our country, is justified, needed and has no alternative.”
Russia has consistently condemned Western military activity and NATO maneuvers as provocative, but Peskov’s reply may hint at a growing unease in Moscow, which is still uncertain about President Donald Trump as it watches the defense alliance deploy an array of units to its eastern flank.
Trump has signaled a conciliatory stance toward Russia and hostility toward NATO, but those attitudes haven’t translated significantly into US or NATO policy.
“We don’t like the picture we are seeing,” Vladimir Frolov, an independent political analyst in Moscow, told Defense News.
“NATO is getting serious about its combat capabilities and readiness levels. Trump may trash NATO and his European allies,” he said, “but it is the capabilities that matter, and those have been growing under Trump.”
President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, July 16, 2018.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
NATO members have been boosting their defense spending and working to build military readiness — moves stoked recently by the combination of uncertainty about Trump and concern about assertive Russian action, like the incursion in Ukraine in 2014.
Some European countries are also debating augmenting their own militaries and defense sectors. Germany, long averse to a large military footprint, is looking to recruit more troops, and some there have restarted debate about whether Berlin should seek its own nuclear-weapons capability.
Moscow has long used confrontation with the West to bolster its domestic political standing, and many leaders in the West have come to identify Russia as a main geopolitical foe — a dynamic that is likely to perpetuate tensions.
Early 2018 Russian officials called military exercises involving NATO and Ukrainian personnel “an attempt to once again provoke tension in southeastern Ukraine and in the entire Black Sea region” and said “countries … constantly accusing Russia of threatening regional stability shall be held responsible for possible negative consequences.”
NATO spokesman Dylan White told Reuters that countries have a right to conduct military exercises, “but it is essential that this is done in a transparent and predictable manner.”
“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict,” White added. “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China’s commander-in-chief has ordered the military command overseeing the contested South China Sea to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” according to the South China Morning Post.
Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected the Southern Theater Command Oct. 25, 2018, again stressing the need build a force that can “fight and win wars” in the modern age. “We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war,” he explained, adding that the command has a “heavy military responsibility” to “take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly.”
“You’re constantly working at the front line, and playing key roles in protecting national territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” Xi said, according to the China Daily, “I hope you can fulfill such sacred and solemn missions.”
The powerful Chinese leader has made strengthening and modernizing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a top priority.
As Xi delivered his speech in Guangdong province, Chinese Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe warned that China will not give up “one single piece” of its territorial holdings, adding that “challenges” to its sovereignty over Taiwan could lead China to use military force.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
(DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
Tensions have been running particularly high in the South China Sea in recent months, with regular US B-52 bomber flights through the region and Chinese PLA Navy warships challenging American military ships and aircraft that venture too close to Chinese-occupied territories in the disputed waterway.
If you’re hunting for great Vietnam war movies about the conflict and its afterrmath, look no further.
Compiled by the staff of Military.com, some of these are surprising and possibly controversial.
Check out our Vietnam movie recommendations below and share your favorites in the comments.
1. Full Metal Jacket
Besides adding the phrase “major malfunction” to the lexicon of American pop culture, “Full Metal Jacket” gave us the most riveting, foul-mouthed boot camp scene in the history of cinema. R. Lee Ermey’s portrayal of “Gunny Hartman” dominated the movie’s first half. Such a sustained volley of X-rated insults, hurled effortlessly at petrified recruits, could only come from years of experience as a Marine Corps drill instructor – and Ermey had been one. “The more you hate me, the more you will learn,” he tells his Vietnam-bound grunts. Gunny’s six-minute tirade sets the stage for the murderous outcome that closes the first act of Kubrick’s Vietnam movie masterpiece. Casting a real-life DI as a DI: Pure genius. — Marty Callaghan
One of Robin Williams’s best roles, this movie brilliantly captures the experience of the Vietnam War through the eyes of someone not actively engaged in the fighting: real life Air Force radio personality Adrian Cronauer. His battles against inept leadership and the mindless bureaucracy that survives–even in a war zone–are something many service members can relate to. His rebellion against what he’s told to do is inspiring and then as he seeks to make his tour less of a soup sandwich by engaging with the local population and helping them, he is ultimately reminded that he is there to fight a war and war does in fact rage all around him. — Sarah Blansett
“Rolling Thunder” is neither sensitive to nor concerned with the actual experiences of returning Vietnam POWs. It didn’t win any awards or play in any theater more prestigious than the local drive-in. It’s a low-budget fever dream written by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) and directed by the underrated John Flynn (“Out for Justice” starring Steven Seagal and “The Outfit” starring Robert Duvall are both worth tracking down. What you get is a revenge fantasy for every Vietnam war vet who felt the hate when he returned from service.
Major Charle Rane (William Devane) and Johnny Vohden (Tommy Lee Jones) are prisoners of war who get a hero’s welcome on the tarmac when they return to Texas, but things come unraveled immediately thereafter. Devane’s wife announces on his first night home that she’s leaving him for Jody and taking their son. He later gets awarded a Cadillac convertible and a huge box of silver dollars (one for each day in captivity) by the San Antonio city fathers. Some criminal hillbillies see the exchange on the TV news and track him down to steal that money. When he refuses to cooperate, they feed his arm into the garbage disposal and kill his soon-to-be ex-wife and son when they drop by the house to get their stuff.
Rane gets himself a hook to replace his mangled hand and takes up with Linda Forchet (Linda Haynes), a young woman who wore his POW bracelet while he was in North Vietnam. Rane goes on a hunt to deliver justice to the men who killed his family and picks up Johnny in El Paso along the way to help with the mission.
It’s lurid and cathartic, tapping into the same frustration and rage that many of the more awards-friendly Vietnam war movies on this list try to highlight. Sometimes primitive and outlandish works just as well as sensitive and thoughtful when you’re trying to work things out. — James Barber
Part “The Deer Hunter” (see roulette scene) and part “The Killer” but one hundred percent highly stylized John Woo.
After trouble with local gangsters in Hong Kong, three best friends flee to Vietnam at the height of the war in hopes to profit from black market penicillin and gold. The trio is soon captured by the Vietcong who force them to make a choice that will test the limits of their friendship.
Woo’s subtext to the movie relies on and attempts to recreate (as does “The Deer Hunter”) the infamous news photo of General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon. While some scenes seem contrived, when taken in context of the Vietnam war, the chaos feels right at home, even welcome. — Sean Mclain Brown
“Hamburger Hill” is a gritty war film that focuses on the lives of 14 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division’s B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment during the 12-day battle that occurred May 10-21, 1969, in the northern part of South Vietnam near the A Shau Valley.
I saw the movie when it came out in 1987 as a young infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division. I still remember that the film’s depiction of the actual battle left me, and other members of my platoon, in awe of how these Screaming Eagles endured an up-hill fight against a well-entrenched enemy under the most miserable conditions.
The Vietman war movie features a young Don Cheadle, Dylan McDermott and Steven Weber, who later played Brian Hackett in the 1990s sitcom “Wings.” One of the most powerful performances came from Courtney B. Vance who played Spec. Abraham “Doc” Johnson.
The real battle of Hamburger Hill left about 500 enemy soldiers dead. Taking the hill claimed the lives of 39 soldiers from the 187th and left 290 wounded.
To me, “Hamburger Hill” stacks up to “Platoon,” “We were Soldiers” or any other film out there that focuses on the sacrifices infantrymen made during the Vietnam War. — Matthew Cox
When you think of Vietnam war movies you generally don’t think about Rambo. But the first movie in the Rambo series, “First Blood,” was in my opinion one of the best Vietnam war movies made.
Rambo meets a megalomaniacal small town police chief who doesn’t want any long-haired drifters hanging around his town, veteran or not. Rambo just wants to be left alone, the police chief wants to make a point, and you know the rest of the story.
Many people around today don’t remember when every veteran wasn’t told “thank you for your service”, or given discounts at every store. This movie shows much of the hate and discontent that returning veterans faced after Vietnam.
Vietnam veterans were drafted and sent away to somewhere that even today 90% of Americans couldn’t find on a map. The war dragged on forever and many think that we could have won.
This Vietman war movie educated the general public to the fact that Vietnam veterans lived through hell, both in the war and when they came back home, for that it deserves to be watched again and appreciated as a statement on the reality that all veterans face when they return to civilian life. — Jim Absher
Apocalypse Now (1979) Official Trailer – Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall Drama Movie HD
“Apocalypse Now” contains a lot of things I love in film – heavy use of symbolism and themes as well as exceptional acting and cinematography. Coppola does a great job of reworking Conrad’s Heart of Darkness for the Vietnam War, extending the themes of imperialism to include the madness of war, while also mixing in Dante. However, the movie feels like an abstraction, not a realistic depiction, and you could easily adapt the same script to our current involvement in Afghanistan. — John Rodriguez
Platoon Official Trailer #1 – Charlie Sheen, Keith David Movie (1986) HD
“Platoon” on the other hand plays like a more realistic depiction of the Vietnam War from a soldier’s perspective, which makes sense as Oliver Stone is a Vietnam combat vet. In general the characters are more fleshed out than in similar movies like “Hamburger Hill,” although I do have a hard time taking Charlie Sheen seriously; he’s no Martin. — John Rodriguez
Other Vietnam War movies have more grandeur or explosive moments, but Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” cuts the deepest. Never before had a movie about the conflict tackled head-on the emotional issues that afflict those who serve, come home, and struggle to find a place for themselves — and it’s fair to say no Vietnam War movie has ever captured the rhythms and sorrows of small-town life in the US as well as “The Deer Hunter “does.
The cast alone elevates the movie to among the best ever made: Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken in a star-making performance, and John Cazale (Fredo from the “Godfather ” movies) in his very last role before his tragic early death from bone cancer.
Looking for memorable moments? Just utter the words “Russian roulette,” and any movie aficionado will recall the harrowing POW sequences in this film. “The Deer Hunter” is not without controversy — director Cimino reportedly claimed he was in an Army Green Beret unit, but records show he only served briefly before the war started — and watching the movie can be a punishing experience. But as a lyrical, moving piece of cinema that sticks with you, very few movies can come close. — Ho Lin
If you’ve seen Top Gun or any footage of an American aircraft carrier doing its thing, you’ve probably seen catapults launch aircraft. These impressive devices can launch a fully-loaded plane, getting it up to speeds as high as 200 knots in a matter of seconds — if everything’s working right.
The same is true for the electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS, in use on the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
But how does the Navy make sure everything’s working as intended? How can they verify that any repairs they’ve made have actually fixed the thing? There are 122 millions reasons why you wouldn’t want to test it out on a brand new F-35C Lightning II. So, because USAA doesn’t offer that magnitude of coverage, the US Navy needs a cheap, solid stand-in.
When you fix the catapult, you want to make sure you got it right.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cole C. Pielop)
According to one Navy release, they use what are called “dead loads” to simulate the weight of planes. These are essentially wheeled sleds made of solid metal that can be launched in relatively shallow water (“relative” to the USS Gerald R. Ford’s maximum draft of 41 feet). That makes recovering the dead loads easy.
Since the dead loads aren’t outfitted with electronics — or even an engine — they are relatively easy to replace. Furthermore, if they are recovered, they can be reused. It’s a very cheap way to make sure that your aircraft launch system is working, be it a traditional catapult or the new EMALS.
When you are trying to launch a 2 million F-35 Lightning from a carrier, you want to make sure the launching system works.
(U. S. Navy photo by Arnel Parker)
To watch the Navy test the EMALS on USS Gerald R. Ford, check out the video below. You even get a view from the perspective of the “dead load,” giving you a taste of the catapult’s power.
The next time you’re stuck in a conversation that feels as awkward as an FRG meeting, try inserting one of these random and obscure military facts. They’re just weird enough to help divert a boring conversation into something a little livelier (no guarantee that they’ll work though since FRG meetings are notoriously rough).
The ultimate Commanders-in-Chief
How many US presidents served in the Army? Thirty Presidents have served, with 24 serving during war. Bonus fact: Two have earned the rank of 5-star General (Washington and more recently, Eisenhower). One earned the Medal of Honor (T. Roosevelt).
Speaking of presidents, only one served as an enlisted soldier. James Buchanan didn’t go on to become an officer, either.
Only two presidents served as airmen. Ronald Reagan served in the USAF when it was still known as the Army Air Force, and George W. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before being transferred to the Air Force Reserve.
Mascots for the win
The Legend of Bill the Goat
Every great military academy needs a solid mascot. Bill the Goat has been the Naval Academy mascot since the early 1900s. Legend says that way back in its history, a Navy ship used to keep a goat on board as a pet. On the way back to port, the goat unfortunately died, so two ensigns were supposed to have the goat stuffed. As ensigns are known to do, the pair got distracted by a football game. Sometime before halftime, one of the ensigns dressed up in the goatskin that was supposed to be stuffed. The crowd loved the new mascot, and Bill the Goat has been around ever since.
For their part, the USMC has an English bulldog named Chesty as their mascot. Chesty was named after Marine Lt. Gen. Louis “Chesty” Puller. Puller was the only Marine to earn five Navy Crosses.
The Marines have issued the title of “Honorary Marine” to less than 100 people. This honor can only be bestowed by the Commandant of the USMC and comes with rank. Notable people to receive the title include Chuck Norris and Bob Hope.
Female Marines recently got an update to their wardrobe in the way of authorization to wear small, polished gold or silver-colored round or ball earrings. Earrings can only be worn when the women are dressed in uniform, but this is still a big change of policy for the USMC.
Speaking of Marines, now both male and female Marines are authorized to carry umbrellas while in uniform. This recent 2019 change allows for a small black umbrella to be carried with either a dress or service uniform. This update to policy took 200 years!
Maps, maps and more maps
The Army was tasked with mapping out the entire continental United States, and that started with Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Army officers were some of the very first to explore and see places like the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak.
Marines are a superstitious bunch. Take, for example, their avoidance of certain foods.
Marines won’t eat the Charms that come in MRE because they think they’re bad luck. The multi-flavored fruit candy has routinely been tossed from MREs since 2003. Even more spooky is the Marine rating system for Charms. Lemon Charms spell vehicle disaster, and lime ones mean rain is going to be on its way.
So there you have it. Ten random facts that probably won’t ever help you win Jeopardy but might keep you entertained the next time you’re stuck in a “voluntold” meeting.
If you’ve read the book Lone Survivor, written by former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, or seen the 2014 movie adaptation of the same name, then you’re very familiar with the incredible tale of survival and valor. But prior to Luttrell’s involvement to that 2005 operation, there was another well-known “love survivor” raid.
The tale of Torpedo Squadron Eight at the Battle of Midway has since become legend. All 15 of the squadron’s Douglas TBD Devastators that were sent out that day were shot down. Of the 30 crew aboard those planes, the only survivor was Ensign George Gay. The others were all killed in action.
Some people believe that this squadron’s sacrifice is what pulled down the Mitsubishi A6M Zeros that were providing combat air patrol for the Japanese carrier force, known as Kido Butai, thus opening the way for Douglass SBD Dauntless dive-bombers to deliver the bombs that left three Japanese carriers fatally damaged in the span of five minutes. This is, however, an over-simplified view.
Ensign George Gay (right) with a gunner from Torpedo Squadron Eight.
(US Navy )
It should be clear, though, that Torpedo Eight’s attack was the first in a chain of events that culminating in a Japanese loss so devastating the force could never recover. According to the book Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, written by Anthony P. Tully and Jonathan B. Parshall, the attack by Torpedo Squadron Eight came in almost an hour before the dive-bombers arrived — around 9:18 AM. Their attack took no more than 17 minutes. Gay was perhaps the only pilot to get close enough to drop a torpedo against a Japanese carrier before he ditched his plane. He attempted to rescue his gunner, Robert K. Huntington, but was unsuccessful.
The reason Torpedo Squadron 8 attacked alone was because Hornet’s air group commander, Stanhope Ring, made an incorrect guess. Waldron, commander of Torpedo Squadron 8, and Ring had often disagreed on where the Japanese carriers might have gone. This time, Ring ended up missing the Japanese carriers — flying too far to the north. Waldron was dead on target, though.
World War II’s answer to Michael Murphy is Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron, who received a posthumous Navy Cross for Torpedo Eight’s attack.
At 9:38am, Torpedo Squadron Six began their attack, launched from the USS Enterprise. This lasted until about 10:00. Torpedo Squadron Six’s attack came from a different angle than Torpedo Eight’s — four of that squadron’s planes returned to the Enterprise.
It was during Torpedo Six’s attack that Wade McCluskey, leading the Dauntless dive bombers from the Enterprise, would sight a Japanese destroyer trying to catch up with the rest of Kido Butai after trying to chase off the submarine USS Nautilus (SS 168). As McCluskey’s Dauntlesses arrived over Kido Butai, so did the Yorktown’s strike of 12 Devastators and 17 Dauntlesses, escorted by six F4F Wildcats.
Of the fifteen pilots in this photo, only one lived.
The Devastators of Torpedo Three would be savaged by the Zeros, but the Dauntless dive-bombers would turn the tide of war in five minutes, largely because the torpedo squadrons had not only drawn fighters down, but their attacks forced the Japanese carriers to maneuver in ways that precluded the launching of their own planes.
Torpedo Eight’s attack, the first in this deadly series, had set the entire sequence in motion — a sequence that would forever cripple the Japanese Navy, leading to victory for the Allies at Midway.
In response to the crisis in Korea, the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment was brought up to full strength and made a Regimental Combat Team on Aug. 1, 1950. The Rakkasans – a nickname of the 187th, from the Japanese word for “falling”– conducted two combat jumps in Korea. During the heavy fighting seen by the regiment, three members were awarded the Medal of Honor.
Beginning on Oct. 20, 1950, the 187th Regimental Combat Team began landing on drop zones around Sukchon and Sunchon as part of the larger Battle of Yongju. Richard Wilson, a combat medic attached to I Company, landed on Drop Zone William south of Sukchon.
The next morning, October 21, Wilson along with the rest of I Company moved out to clear the railway between Sukchon and Yongju. That afternoon the company was ambushed by a battalion-sized element of North Koreans.
As mortars and machine gun fire rained down on the paratroopers from three sides, numerous Americans became casualties. Wilson undauntingly began administering first aid to the wounded, ignoring the furious fire surrounding him. Disregarding his own safety, he continually treated casualties and assisted wounded men from the field.
When the company commander ordered the unit to withdraw, Wilson continued to evacuate the wounded and assured himself that no living men had been left behind.
However, word soon reached Wilson that a fellow soldier, thought to be dead, was seen trying to crawl to safety. Disregarding the protests of the other soldiers and his own safety Wilson returned to the battlefield to retrieve his stricken comrade.
He never returned.
Two days later, a patrol returned to the area and found Wilson lying beside the man he had returned to help. He had been shot several times attempting to administer aid and provide comfort. The two men died together.
On Mar. 23, 1951 the 187th Regimental Combat Team once again donned parachutes and dropped into enemy territory. A week after landing, Company G was ordered to occupy Hill 420. That evening, the inevitable onslaught of Communists came for the paratroopers.
Bearing the brunt of the assault was the platoon of Cpl. Rodolfo Hernandez. As the enemy swarmed the hill under a barrage of artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire, Hernandez held his ground and poured fire into the oncoming enemy.
The withering enemy fire wounded many of the men and forced the paratroopers to fall back. But Hernandez held firm. He exchanged grenades with the infiltrating enemy – receiving a painful wound in the process – and kept up the fire with his rifle.
As Hernandez continued to blast Communists with his rifle, a round exploded in the chamber, rendering his rifle inoperable. But Hernandez was undeterred. He fixed his bayonet and charged headlong into the enemy.
In the brutal hand-to-hand combat that ensued, Hernandez was indomitable. Shot and bayoneted multiple times, he dispatched his foes with bayonet and buttstroke. After killing six – and looking for more – he was finally taken out when an enemy grenade exploded nearby, delivering a grievous head wound and knocking him unconscious.
Hernandez’s sacrifice had halted the enemy advance. When friendly troops retook the position, they initially thought Hernandez was dead, but a medic noticed him moving his fingers and realized he was still alive.
Hernández in 2009.
Hernandez was presented the Medal of Honor by President Truman in 1952.
In June 1951 the 187th left Korea for Japan where it would serve as the strategic reserve. But the Rakkasans were called back to Korea in 1952 to assist with quelling the Goeje POW camp uprising. After securing the camp, the paratroopers were recommitted to combat operations.
Sent to the hill fights near the 38th Parallel, the 187th began conducting combat patrols in support of operations there. On Aug. 14, 1952, a six-man patrol left for a deep penetration of enemy lines. Manning the radio that day was Cpl. Lester Hammond.
After going some 3,500 meters into enemy territory, the patrol made contact with a large hostile force. It was nearly surrounded and taking heavy fire. The men returned fire and attempted to break contact. They made their way to a small ravine that offered at least some cover but could go no further. They were trapped and several among them were wounded – including Hammond.
As the rest of the patrol sought shelter in the ravine, Hammond made the decision to stay in the open where he could observe the enemy and use his radio to massive effect. He began calling for fire on the encroaching enemy.
As the Communists picked up his position, Hammond held fast and continued to call for deadly accurate fire, breaking up several attempts by the Communists to overrun the paratroopers’ position. Hammond was wounded again but still refused to leave his position. His friends were in danger and he held their best chance for survival.
As friendly forces worked their way towards the beleaguered patrol, Hammond kept pounding the enemy with artillery. But the enemy was closing in and would soon overrun him and his teammates.
With no other choice, Hammond sent one last fire mission – on his own position. Maj. Walter Klepeis was on the other end and asked Hammond if he knew what he was asking for. Hammond knew full well what his actions would mean but his friends would have a chance at escape.
The final fire mission rained down on Hammond’s position and broke up another attack. A platoon from A Company soon arrived and evacuated the remainder of the patrol and recovered Hammond’s body.
Air Force veterans and other military members from other branches rushed to their keyboards to inform the world of how basic training was back in their day, as a female trainee at Lackland was outed using her cell phone to post on Snapchat during training. Current and former service members were quick to criticize the unidentified young woman for her phone usage in basic training, despite the fact that nothing could be more basic than these Snaps.
Other eagle-eyed former airmen, who presumably went through BMT before the widespread use of mobile phones, were quick to ask why her key is hanging on the outside of her PC uniform as other branches questioned what “PC” is and if it’s anything like PT, if BMT is like what the Air Force calls boot camp, and do all airmen trainees wear their hair down like that?
The biggest questions on everyone’s minds were how she managed to keep her phone while the others were presumably locked away and how she was able to sit on the dayroom furniture (while eating!) without moving the chairs or invoking the wrath of the dayroom crew, the dorm chief, or even the house mouse. Meanwhile, Air Force veterans at We Are The Mighty are concerned about the fate of her wingman, who was probably recycled into oblivion, only to emerge just before mandatory retirement.
Of course, everything about the photos (posted for public consumption in the Air Force Facebook Group Air Force amn/nco/snco, who ratted her out to Air Force Basic Training’s Facebook page) is wrong; from her hair and key, to eating in the dayroom while sitting on the g*ddamn furniture. Air Force basic training is just as strict about its cell phone policy as it was in the days of payphones – airmen make three mandatory calls on their personal phones over the course of their training.
The collective selective memories of Air Force veterans from all over came down hard on the young trainee as the shade thrown at the woman was enough to blot out the sun. Of course, no one in the history of the Air Force has ever messed up as hardcore as this airman trainee, who is obviously the worst person ever and doesn’t belong in MY Air Force. #LiterallyHitler.
In all seriousness, every time I’m tempted to comment on what happened back in MY Air Force days, I’m quick to remind myself that Basic Military Training – aka BMT – in MY day was only six and a half weeks, consisted of one week of anything related to carrying a firearm in a deployed location (that was still a rubber-coated M-16, the military equivalent of pinning oven mitts on my hands), and that my first PT test in the active Air Force was on a stationary bike where push-ups and sit-ups were done, but not counted in my final score.
Lighten up, Air Force-trained killers.
As for this airman, luckily an MTI was on hand to fill the world in about current Air Force BMT phone policy. This girl probably just smuggled her phone in using the old prison-style method – and if so, let’s make sure she’s promoted ahead of peers, maybe even give her a BTZ to staff.