'Executions at midnight' weren't really a thing - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

Michael F. asks: Are executions really held at midnight like shown in the movies? If so, why?

By the time Rainey Bethea was executed on Aug. 14, 1936, most of the United States had ceased executing people publicly. However, in Kentucky in 1936 an execution could still be held publicly and, according to the jury at his trial, Bethea deserved such an end, though not without controversy given the fact that the whole thing from murder to scheduled hanging took place in only about two months. On top of that, this was the case of a young black man who had previously only been convicted of a few minor, non-violent crimes being sentenced to death for rape and murder without any real defense on his behalf. He also claimed the confessions he gave were given under coercion. Whatever the case, the jury deliberated for less than five minutes and returned with the sentence of death by hanging, a mere three weeks after the crime was committed.


Approximately 20,000 people gathered around the gallows to witness the execution. When the time came, the trap door was opened and the rope snapped Bethea’s neck. After 14 minutes, his body was taken down and he was confirmed dead. This was the last public hanging ever performed in the United States.

So what does any of this have to do with executions being held at midnight? While a common Hollywood trope is the classic execution at midnight, it turns out for most all of history, this really wasn’t a thing. As with the case of Bethea, executions were largely a public spectacle and, outside of mob murders, people weren’t exactly keen on gathering at night to watch someone be killed; so executions tended to occur at more civilized hours.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Flickr photo by Alan Levine)

Interestingly, the fact that people preferred day time executions actually appears to be one of the chief reasons executions were, for a time in the United States, initially switched to late night, giving us the Hollywood trope that has largely endured to this day.

The earliest examples of this change occurred in the late 19th century as certain states began looking to curtail the spectacle that was public executions. As professor John Bessler of the University of Baltimore School of Law states, “There was pickpocketing at these public executions, thefts and sometimes violence. They were trying to get rid of the mob atmosphere that attended these public executions.”

The fix was easy — simply move the execution time to an hour when most people are sleeping, getting rid of the boisterous crowds and accompanying extra media coverage.

Now, given the switch to banning public executions completely, you might at this point be wondering why the nighttime time slot endured and became popular enough for a time to become a common trope?

One of the principal reasons often cited is simply to cut down on potential for more red tape in certain cases. While there are exceptions, in many states in the U.S. death warrants were, and in some cases still are, only legal for one day. If the execution is not carried out on the specified date, another warrant would be required which, as you might imagine for something as serious as killing someone legally (and ensuring the executioner cannot be charged for murder), this is a lot of paperwork and not always a guarantee. By starting at midnight, it gives the full 24 hours to work through potential temporary stays of execution, if any, before the time slot has ended and a new death warrant must be procured.

That said, perhaps more importantly, and a reason cited by many a prison official, is simply the matter of staffing. Executions performed at the dead of night see the inmates locked up in their cells, with minimal guard presence needed. Thus, prison workers don’t have to worry about any potential issues with the inmate populace during an execution. Further, some normal staff can easily be diverted to handling various aspects of a nighttime execution without taxing the available worker pool, a key benefit given prison systems are notoriously understaffed in the United States.

All this said, contrary to popular belief, midnight executions are not really much of a thing anymore. There are a variety of reasons for this, but principally this is as a courtesy for the various people processing and working on the appeals. For example, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor notes, “Dispensing justice at that hour of the morning is difficult, to say the least, and we have an obligation … to give our best efforts in every one of these instances.”

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

(Flickr photo by kyle tsui)

Arguments for a switch in time slot have also been made on behalf of the loved ones of both the condemned and victims. These people were formerly made to arrive a couple hours before the execution at midnight, and would then have to stay until after it was carried out if they wanted to witness it. Even with no delays, this tended to see them not processed out the door until a few hours after midnight. And if there were temporary stays of execution, they might have to skip a night’s sleep to be sure they were there to watch someone, perhaps a loved one or potentially the opposite, die.

There is also the issue of overtime. While ease of staffing is generally listed as a positive reason for late night executions, it turns out that as states began to move the executions into the light of day again, issues with the other inmates during daytime executions never really manifested, while overtime costs to keep the necessary staff on hand to process the execution at night were not trivial. For example, in the execution of Douglas Franklin Wright in 1996, staff assigned to the execution cost just shy of an extra ,000 (about ,000 today) in overtime compared to if the execution had been carried out in the daytime. Some prisons have also taken to simply implementing special modified lockdown procedures during executions to free up normal staff while reducing the risk of issues with the rest of the inmates.

What about the potential paperwork problem? This has easily been worked around by many states who’ve moved to daytime executions. For example, in Missouri they just switched the time limit to 24 hours, regardless of date. What matters is just the starting time. Other states simply have moved to longer periods like a week or ten days granted for such a warrant.

Thus, contrary to what is often depicted in films, midnight executions have gone the way of the dodo in the United States, though there are a few places in the world that still prefer to execute people in darkness. For example, in India executions are typically carried out before sunrise, with the stated reasoning being staffing convenience — as was the case in the U.S., at these hours more staff are available to handle the execution before normal daily activities begin.

Bonus Fact:

  • Botched executions are surprisingly common, for example occurring in about 7% of all executions in the United States. Historically, between 1890 and 2010 in the United States, 276 executions were messed up in some way, sometimes dramatically. One young black teen, who very much appears to have been innocent of the crime he was convicted of, even had to be sent to the electric chair twice. After the first attempt at killing him failed and he had to be brought back to his cell, the subsequent controversy over whether it was legal to try to kill him again brought to light the fact that there really wasn’t any evidence against him other than a forced confession. We’ll have more on this in an upcoming episode of our podcast The BrainFood Show, which you can subscribe to here: (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed)

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

AI experts want to get their tech to troops in the field

Two Defense Department artificial-intelligence experts testified on Capitol Hill Dec.11, 2018, on DOD’s efforts to transform delivery of capabilities enabled by artificial intelligence to the nation’s warfighters.

Lisa Porter, deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer, testified at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities.


The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 directed the defense secretary to conduct a comprehensive national review of advances in AI relevant to the needs of the military services. Section 238 directed the secretary to craft a strategic plan to develop, mature, adopt and transition AI technologies into operational use.

“Today we are experiencing an explosion of interest in a subfield of AI called machine learning, where algorithms have become remarkably good at classification and prediction tasks when they can be trained on very large amounts of data,” Porter told the House panel. Today’s AI capabilities offer potential solutions to many defense-specific problems, such as object identification in drone video or satellite imagery and detection of cyber threats on networks, she said.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

Deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering Lisa Porter.

However, she added, several issues must be addressed to effectively apply AI to national security mission problems.

“First, objective evaluation of performance requires the use of quantitative metrics that are relevant to the specific use case,” she said. “In other words, AI systems that have been optimized for commercial applications may not yield effective outcomes in military applications.”

Challenges, vulnerabilities

DOD is working to address such challenges and vulnerabilities in multiple ways, she said, most of which will leverage the complementary roles of the new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and the department’s research and engineering enterprise.

Second, Porter said, existing AI systems need enormous amounts of training data, and the preparation of that data in a format that the algorithms can use, in turn, requires a large amount of human labor.

“AI systems that have been trained on one type of data typically do not perform well on data that are different from the training data,” she noted.

The JAIC’s focus on scaling and integration will drive innovation in data curation techniques, while the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will pursue algorithms that can be “robustly trained with much less data,” Porter said.

“The high-performance computing modernization program is designing new systems that will provide ample processing power for AI applications on the battlefield,” she added.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy.

Countering adversarial AI is one of the key focus areas of DARPA’s “AI Next” campaign, she emphasized. “Ultimately, as we look to the future, we anticipate a focus on developing AI systems that have the ability to reason as humans do, at least to some extent,” Porter said. “Such a capability would greatly amplify the utility of AI, enabling AI systems to become true partners with their human counterparts in problem solving. It is important that we continue to pursue cutting-edge research in AI, especially given the significant investments our adversaries are making.”

Three themes of JAIC effort

Deasy detailed the JAIC and highlighted three themes of its effort.

“The first is delivering AI-enabled capabilities at speed,” he said. “JAIC is collaborating now with teams across DOD to systematically identify, prioritize and select mission needs, and then rapidly execute a sequence across functional use cases that demonstrate value and spur momentum.”

The second theme is all about scale, he said.

“JAIC’s early projects serve a dual purpose: to deliver new capabilities to end users, as well as to incrementally develop the common foundation that is essential for scaling AI’s impact across DoD,” he explained. “This means [the use of] shared data, reusable tools, libraries, standards, and AI cloud and edge services that helped jumpstart new projects.”

The third theme is building the initial JAIC team.

“It’s all about talent,” he said. “And this will be representative across all the services and all components. Today, we have assembled a force of nearly 30 individuals. Going forward, it is essential that JAIC attract and cultivate a select group of mission-driven, world-class AI talent, including pulling these experts into service from industry.”

In November 2018, before more than 600 representatives of 380 companies, academic institutions and government organizations at DOD’s AI Industry Day, Deasy said, he announced that the department had achieved a significant milestone: “JAIC is now up and running and open for business.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Engineers develop new strength-based physical readiness program

Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, at Fort Leonard Wood is one of a small handful of training units piloting a new concept in physical readiness mirrored on characteristics of the new Army Combat Fitness Test.

The Strength Training Program was developed by the Maneuver Center of Excellence Directorate of Training and Doctrine’s Training and Education Development Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, who looked at an assessment of Soldier physical fitness in relation to the Army Physical Fitness Test.

“The APFT does not adequately assess the domains of muscular strength, explosive power, speed, agility, flexibility and balance,” said Capt. Jeffry O’Loughlin, Company D commander. “This new physical training program was developed to better prepare a Soldier’s readiness for the demands of the modern battlefield by focusing on all aspects of combat fitness — similar to the aim of the ACFT.”


According to Maj. Donny Bigham, head strength coach for the Tactical Athlete Performance Center at Fort Benning and developer of the program, the pilot’s purpose is two-fold.

“First, it will increase lethality and survivability through physical dominance,” he said. “Second, it will increase readiness by reducing musculoskeletal injuries in order to improve a unit’s mission capability in the operational force.”

According to O’Loughlin, the program has a balanced design to attain the new physical readiness training goals to develop strength, endurance and mobility. The current fitness model has 47 aerobic sessions, 18 anaerobic sessions, zero strength sessions and zero mobility sessions.

“The Strength Training Program Delta Company implemented consists of 16 aerobic sessions, 16 anaerobic sessions, 19 strength sessions and 19 mobility sessions,” he said. “It deliberately integrates more strength and mobility workouts into the schedule to increase physical readiness in all aspects. The current model only builds muscular endurance — we instead instruct proper form while lifting heavier weight. Correspondingly, trainees are better prepared to complete warrior tasks and battle drills, such as casualty extraction.”

The program allows for strength and endurance development into the performance of basic military skills such as marching, speed running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, crawling and combatives.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

Staff Sgt. Daniel Yeates, a drill sergeant with Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, demonstrates to trainees the proper technique for a kettlebell bent-over row. The company is piloting a new concept in physical readiness called the Strength Training Program, which is designed to reduce injuries throughout Basic Combat Training.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jeffry OLoughlin)

“The ACFT will utilize six assessments at a minimum to capture all of the essential attributes of a Soldier to ensure nothing is overlooked in training the Soldier as a tactical athlete,” Bigham said. “The combination of fitness components, along with the performance fitness skills provide a better picture of the true functional competence required to physically dominate any mission related tasks. This program ensures exercise order, variation and the specificity necessary to be successful on today’s battlefield.”

As part of the new program, an assessment divides trainees into three ability groups — advanced, trained and untrained — and the results seen so far in Company D over 18 months show an overall increase in APFT scores and decrease in injuries. From 2018 through the most recent training cycle to be completed, Company D went from 26 injuries to 11, eight, seven, and finally just four. At the same time, O’Loughlin saw average physical training scores jump from 212 to 227 (237 to 248 in advanced individual training).

O’Loughlin said he feels much of that success can be equated to this new way of thinking in Army physical training.

“This program is not just about lifting kettlebells,” he said. “We also consider active recovery with mobility sessions with rollers and balls to break up adhesions and scar tissue to speed up the healing process and help prevent over-training.”

According to Bigham, seven training units have completed the program so far, and currently all trainees assigned to the 198th Infantry Brigade at Fort Benning are piloting the program as of Oct. 1 of this year. Across the board, he’s seeing injury numbers halve, while APFT failure rates are about a third of what they were previously

“Physical training should be the number one aspect when it comes to improving lethality on the battlefield,” he said. “It must be mandatory to ensure Soldiers have the tools in their kit bag to win the last 100 yards. This strength-based program will be a force multiplier that will increase lethality, combat effectiveness, moral and ethical decision making, overall readiness and survivability on any battlefield that enemies pose a threat to our nation.”

This article originally appeared on Army.mil. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how pilots pull off insane combat landings

Ask any troop who has deployed about their most uncomfortable moment and they’ll probably mention the combat landing on their first day in-country. You can prepare grunts for the rigors of combat, yes, but you can’t prepare them to be sloshed around in an aircraft that’s packed like a can of sardines as it descends downward in a near-vertical corkscrew that stops on a dime.


Also called an assault landing or Sarajevo landing, cargo pilots have to do a combat landing if enemy presence is expected in the area. To avoid giving them an easy target, pilots must do three things: A corkscrew over the area to come down from cruising altitude, descend in a sharp drop before landing, and come to a complete stop using as little runway as possible.

Before coming to the airfield, cargo planes like the C-130 have an average cruising altitude of 18,000 feet. The plane will then arrive roughly seven to ten minutes before the scheduled landing. This is where the fun landing begins.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
It’s a pretty view… if you’re on the left side…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Osakabe Yasuo)

When the plane is in line with the landing strip, it will drop. While commercial airliners come in at around 3 degrees to provide a nice, gentle landing for the passengers, the Air Force is perfectly fine with coming in at 60 degrees. At the last possible moment, pilots pull up so the landing gears are what hit the runway.

If that wasn’t fun enough, the plane will then need to stop on a dime. To do this, as soon as the wheels touch, they open the slats (or spoilers) and put the plane into full reverse.

Inertia is not your friend.

If you’re riding in the back, no one will judge you if you expel what remains of your lunch. However, you will get laughed at. Troops will always laugh at each other.

Humor

11 memes that will make you want to join the Navy

Technically, there are five branches of service to choose from if you’re thinking about joining the military (including the Coast Guard). There’s a high level of rivalry among branches that can spark a lot of friendly sh*t talking. As veterans, we still love to take cheap shots at one another — but it’s always in good fun.

We’ve said it time-and-time again that the military has a dark sense of humor and we flex those comedic muscles at the other branches as often as possible. Since the U.S. Navy is hands-down the most dominant force to ever patrol the high seas, sailors do things that no other branch can do: kick ass while floating in the middle of nowhere.

The Army and the Air Force can’t compete with the Navy since they have no ships. The Marines can’t conduct business without the Navy navigating them around the world. Lastly, The Coast Guard is a bunch of land-hugging puddle jumpers.

Since we managed to sh*t talk to everyone (in good fun), it’s time to nail each of them, once again, through memes making you reconsider why you didn’t join the Navy instead.


‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

No matter how badass and powerful you might think you are, remember, the U.S. Navy is way freakin’ bigger… and they’re coming for you.

Also read: 9 examples of the military’s dark humor

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

Navymemes.com

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
MIGHTY CULTURE

Finding civilian friends is harder than I thought

Making friends has never been a challenge for me. Among my siblings, they call me the “outgoing one who always ends up with a new friend.” So why should now — after transitioning back to civilian life — be any different?

Well, it’s been 13 months since my husband retired and we relocated back to our hometown. I am still struggling to make connections. Most of my previous friends have moved away, but that’s not the main issue. It’s finding people who share commonalities and a similar lifestyle.

The military community gave me that!


There’s a pattern to moving to a new duty station. First you sulk a bit because of the friends you left behind. Next you get your goods and do your best to make your new living space feel like home. Then you find out about the surrounding areas and activities nearby. Finally, you find someone awesome who you can join up with to explore those activities. You find your person(s).

Now I’m back home. But I have NO pattern to follow.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez)

Returning home does have many other benefits. Home means Florida sunshine, frequent gatherings with our extended family, reuniting with homegrown friendships, and putting down new roots. It means settling…finally!

But something is definitely missing, and it’s a sense of belonging.

Being a military spouse put us in the trenches together. Basically saying, “My husband is working and I’m lonely. Be my friend!” Now my conversations are more like,

“Babe, I have NO FRIENDS! Everybody is busy and has their regularly scheduled programs to attend. I miss my military home girls,” (Insert sad face and whiny voice).

I want fuzzy socks and belly laughs! Don’t we all deserve that?

For some people, having a j-o-b fixes the need to belong. For others, they are lucky enough to find friends who are in a similar phase of life. And some people are introverts who ache at the thought of having to put themselves out there…again.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Photo by Ben Duchac)

No matter what I’ve done so far, no one has hit the sweet friendship spot! I’ve chatted with neighbors, joined a church, gone on lunch dates, collaborated with other women in my field of expertise, but NADA!

One thing I WILL NOT do, is force a friendship. If it clicks, then go with it. If not, it was nice to meet you, bye.

I have decided to take my time and focus on my family while making our new life cozy. My husband and I work together on establishing our business, and I’m adjusting and getting better at being me, minus the constant life interruption that comes with uprooting over and over again.

So, yea…I’ve flipped it to see the glowing opportunity while knowing that I will find my person one day. OR, one of my military persons will retire to my hometown (HAPPY DANCE).

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 of the most annoying misconceptions about Marine boot camp

If you’ve learned everything you know about Marine Corps boot camp from watching films like Full Metal Jacket or Jarhead, then you’ve got a skewed idea of what goes down. In fact, before we even hop into the list of misconceptions, let’s squash one here and now: your senior drill instructor does not train you the whole time. If anything, he or she is more like a ghost, only appearing when it’s time to pass out mail or if your platoon really f*cks up.

Sincerely, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a boot is telling people tales of your training. Why? If you’re telling someone who hasn’t experienced boot camp for themselves, you’ll have to constantly stop and break down all of their existing misconceptions. If you’re telling someone who has gone through it, then they don’t want to hear a bunch of crap they’ve already heard from every boot before you.

So, to save you some time, my young boot, go ahead and share this article with your friends before you regale them with tales of your triumph over boot camp. These preconceived notions are all wrong:


‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
They’re usually pretty cool. Just don’t piss them off. (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

Your drill instructor trains you to shoot

Drill instructors have a role during your basic rifle training, but you get most of your training from a primary marksmanship instructor. Being a PMI is the only other way to be able to wear a campaign hat, the infamous “Smokey Bear” as some refer to it. Your drill instructor takes you to class and you’re trained by someone with a more even temper.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
You do learn tactics at combat training, however. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shane Manson)

You learn infantry tactics

This one’s easy — you don’t. Not extensively, anyways. Not to a degree where you could be dropped off on a battlefield the day of graduation and expect to survive, at least.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
Usually the morning. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl Vivien Alstad)

All you do is PT

There’s a lot of physical training done during Marine boot camp, like, a lot. But it’s not the only thing you do. If you’re a total sh*t bag and no one likes you, yeah, that’s all you’ll do because you’re going to live in the freaking sand pit. Generally, though, PT only accounts for a portion of your day.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
Don’t piss them off when you get these moments.(Photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

Your drill instructors never stop being mean

At first, yeah. Every time you see a Marine in a campaign cover it sends a chill down your spine and you die a little bit on the inside, but after a while, your drill instructors will treat you just a little bit better. You may even have some cool sit-downs where one lectures about their personal experiences as a teaching tool.

But, if you take that kindness for weakness — you’ll pay.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
It’s not all about crawling under barbed wire. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by WO1 Bobby Yarbrough)

Marine Corps boot camp is extremely difficult

While some believe it’s the most difficult of all the branches, that’s irrelevant. The truth is that Marine Corps boot camp — or any other basic training — isn’t as hard as you’ll make it out to be in your mind.

If you can adapt, you can survive. That’s essentially what you learn in boot camp, because that’s what it means to be a Marine.


-Feature image: USMC photo by LCpl Jose Gonzalez

MUSIC

Listen to the US Army’s bluegrass cover band

Military members and veterans had a field day when they discovered the Air Force’s Max Impact Band and their highly produced music video but it turns out the Army has a few touring bands of its own – all part of the United States Army Field Band.


The Army fields a number of official touring bands, all comprised of active soldiers. But the members of the U.S. Army’s Field Band are considered “The Musical Ambassadors of the Army,” going around to play for civilians and military installations alike. The unit has four touring sub-bands: The Concert Band, The Soldiers’ Chorus, the Jazz Ambassadors, and the Six-String Soldiers — its bluegrass-country cover band.

The “Six-String Soldiers” were “The Volunteers” — a rock cover band — until a few short years ago; they now no longer perform rock music (but you can still listen to their old cover songs on their SoundCloud page).

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
(U.S. Army photo)

The Volunteers seamlessly transitioned between rock, pop, and country music from all decades. The band was as old as the concept of an all-volunteer force, formed in 1981, just a few years after the draft disappeared from daily American life. Like most cover bands (presumably), The Volunteers wanted to one day perform their own original material for audiences. They never got the chance, but the Six String Soldiers keep their spirit alive and well.

These days you can find all of the Army’s versatile musical soldiers performing on military bases, at VA hospitals, music festivals, and special events. They aren’t limited to the military-veteran community – that’s the whole point of their mission. They want to reach out to the public and show the diversity and vast scope of the U.S. Army.

Give a listen to The Six-String Soldiers cover Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” in the video below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This British soldier escaped from Dunkirk by stealing a car

Imagine the tension of being a British soldier waiting to be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk as the Nazi Wehrmacht closed in around you and your mates. Now imagine somehow being left behind after all 340,000 of your fellow troops were led back to Britain.

That’s what happened to then-20-year-old James May, a British Tommy, left behind on the beach. Luckily, he survived the Nazi onslaught and would eventually return to France’s beaches four years later – on D-Day.


May joined the service in 1940, after World War II broke out. He enlisted to become a driver with the 13-division strong British Expeditionary Force in France. The British mission on continental Europe in the early days of the war did not go well. After Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September, 1939, the French and British declared war almost immediately. Just as fast, the British Expeditionary Force began arriving in France.

By June, 1940, they were all being evacuated by any British subject who had a boat that could float. Most of them, anyway.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

The effort to rescue the trapped Allied troops was dubbed “Operation Dynamo” and was a mission to pick up distressed British, French, and Belgian troops waiting on the beaches at Dunkirk. By May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany had captured all of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. They were already in control of much of Northern France and had the Allied forces on the ropes.

As the Nazis moved to push the Allies into the sea, British citizens and Royal Navy ships mounted the massive impromptu rescue effort, pulling any troops they could fit in their craft, and ferrying them back across the channel. Not everyone survived the wait on the beaches, as they were constantly harassed by the Nazi luftwaffe and threatened by German ground forces.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

British troops waiting for evacuation on the beaches of Dunkirk.

In Dynamo, the British expected to be able to save some 30,000 to 45,000 troops who would then defend the British home islands. Using a still-unknown number of “little ships” piloted by civilians, they managed to save ten times that number. It truly was a miracle.

But James May and six of his fellow soldiers were somehow left behind. They did what any quick-thinking, resourceful bunch of soldiers would do in a lawless area with an determined enemy bearing down on them: They stole a car and beat it.

In their own, smaller version of the Miracle at Dunkirk, the group managed to drive out of the war zone in their stolen vehicle, evading the Wehrmacht for a full six days before finding a boat and captain that would ferry them home to England.

He was stationed in Northern Ireland for much of the war but he had his chance to hit the beach of France once more, and again as a driver. This time, however, he was driving a British DUKW amphibious vehicle, landing British troops in the battle to crack the walls of Hitler’s Fortress Europe.

Lists

5 reasons why the Volunteer Service Medal is the most ridiculous medal

The awards that decorate a troop’s dress uniform have meaning. If a troop does something extraordinary, there are plenty of awards they might earn, depending on the specific heroics. There are medals for more mundane actions, as well. If they serve at a specific location, like going overseas or even to Antarctica, in support of a military campaign, they’re likely to earn a medal. Enlisting at a certain time during conflict adds the National Defense Service Medal to your ribbons rack. However, there’s one award that sticks out as ridiculous — the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal (MOVSM).


All that’s required by this medal is that a troop (active duty, reserve, or national guard) performs a substantial volunteer service to the local community. The idea behind establishing the award in 1993 was to incentivize troops to do great deeds that would reflect highly on military service. In reality, it’s often seen as just another box to check.

We’re not disparaging charitable action, especially when it shines a good light on military service, but here’s why the award itself is silly.

5. The Humanitarian Service Medal already exists

The Humanitarian Service Medal is given to troops who participate in acts like disaster relief or the evacuation of refugees from a hostile area. The difference between this medal and the MOVSM is that this one is earned while on duty.

The HSM goes to the troops who were sent, let’s say, to New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The MOVSM, however, might go to the troop who helped put together a few potluck dinners. Both are the reward for doing a good deed but, according to the military, both nearly as prestigious as the other…



…which leads troops to not care about helping. (Image via GIPHY)

4. The criteria for earning one is vague

Every other award has clean-cut requirements. Have you been to this location or not? How does this act of heroism compare to other selfless acts? Were you able to be a good troop for three years or at least not get caught? This medal is an exception.

If a troop spends every weekend for a decade helping train the Boy Scouts, that’s a Volunteer Service Medal. If a troop says, “yeah, I got time. I can help you with that.” That act might be just as worthy, according to the nebulous criteria.



Basically… (Image via GIPHY)

3. Standards range from impossible to non-existent

Many units see this award as ridiculous and put unreasonable restrictions on it. According to Army Regulation 600-8-22, to earn the MOVSM, one must exceed 3 years and/or 500 hours of service. Many times, a unit will ask for a proof-of-hours sheet that highlights how each of those hours was spent.

On the other side of the coin, the only definitive requirement — as outlined by the DoD — is that the good deed has tangible results and is not a single act. Many troops can tell you that they’ve earned this act simply by preparing and then attending a charity event. Boom. Instant award. Meanwhile, the Soldier who became his son’s Scout Leader has two years, 11 months, and three weeks to go to earn the same accolade.



Chances are that it’ll still get denied. (Image via GIPHY)

2. There’s no citation

The Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal is still a service medal. The award gets put in and, if it’s approved, the troop receives it. A commendation medal, on the other hand, is reflective of a specific, heroic action.

Technically speaking, there doesn’t need to be a formation and award ceremony for a MOVSM. The troop should just add it to their record and move on.

No need to waste everyone’s time with a BS award. (Image via GIPHY)

1. You can do the paperwork yourself and not need proof

By now, you’re probably already thinking about this point. If all that’s required is an hours sheet, how can you make sure a troop actually did what they claim? You can’t, really.

Troops who make a habit of volunteering, time and time again, over the course of three years are clearly not doing it for a single award worth five promotion points. They genuinely care. The guy who put on a couple of community potlucks doesn’t care about the volunteer service — they’re in it for the pat on the back.

Without a uniform standard on how to earn one, the award means almost nothing.



You don’t need to confess. Just know if you lied to get one, you suck. (Image via GIPHY)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

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


‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
Office of War Information poster celebrating 99th Pursuit Squadron contributions to the victory at the island of Pantelleria.
(Charles Henry Alston)

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

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

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

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
Black mechanics work on a P-40 Warhawk assigned to a “Tuskegee Airmen” unit in World War II.
(U.S. Air Force)

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

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

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

A Curtiss P-40E Warhawk similar to the ones used by the 99th Pursuit Squadron early in their combat service.
(U.S. Air Force)

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
A “Red Tail” P-51 Mustang flies during a heritage flight at an air show.
(U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Ben Bloker)

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

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

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

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
A U.S. F-16 Viper flies in 2006 with the distinctive “Red Tail” paint job used on aircraft flown by Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.
(U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Lee Harshman)

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 26th

Well. It seems this “acclimatize the troops to Iraq” heat wave is sweeping the globe and I think it’s a very proper time to mention the silver bullet is very much real and that sick, sadistic medic in your unit has been dying to test it out.

For those of you who aren’t up to speed, it’s a shiny thumb-sized thermometer that is brought out specifically for heat casualties and is, well, inserted rectally. Why they do this is beyond me. I would assume the standard under-the-tongue thermometers would work just fine, but I’m not a medic. Although, I guess that one doesn’t terrify the troops into drinking plenty of water for the ruck march.

So go ahead, high speed. Try drinking all night and wake up to a Monster energy drink for this run. See what happens. I guarantee you that you won’t make this same mistake twice.


To the rest of you smart enough to know how to properly identify pee charts and drink water accordingly, here’s some memes.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme by Call for Fire)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via Not CID)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via Good 2 Go Apparel)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via The Disgruntled Leader)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the misfit crew of ‘Old 666’ became the most decorated in history

History remembers Capt. Jay Zeamer as a tremendous pilot, but he had a rough time getting into the cockpit.


Originally commissioned in the Infantry Reserve, he later transferred to the Army Air Corps to fulfill his dream of flying. There was just one problem: he couldn’t pass the check ride to get into the pilot’s seat.

Despite many attempts, when war came to America in 1941 Zeamer was still stuck co-piloting B-26 Marauders.

Bored with life as a co-pilot, Zeamer asked for a transfer to another unit hoping to start over. Zeamer was eventually transferred to the 403rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group to fly B-17s.

Arriving at the 403rd, Zeamer met up with an old friend, Sgt. Joe Sarnoski, the squadron’s bombardier.

During a combat mission, Zeamer was forced to take over for another pilot, which effectively earned him the right to fly as first pilot. His cool under fire on the mission — and his expert flying skills — also earned him his first Silver Star.

Zeamer’s de facto confirmation made him a pilot, but he had no plane or crew. Through a series of events, Zeamer was able to acquire Sarnoski as both bombardier and navigator. The two began to assemble the rest of the team, testing out compatibility during various missions.

Many of the men, after just one mission with Zeamer, refused to ever fly with him again, but the crazy oddballs and renegades who could hack it ultimately rounded out the crew.

Zeamer and his crew were eventually nicknamed “The Eager Beavers” because they constantly volunteered for missions — especially the most dangerous ones. However, they were still without a plane of their own.

It just so happened that the perfect plane awaited the crew at their next assignment. As new arrivals to the 65th Bomb Squadron, they found a heavily damaged plane being used for parts.

 

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
Zeamer’s B17 sure took a beating. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The B-17E had a reputation for taking heavy damage on missions and many believed it to be because of its unfortunate tail number: #41-2666.

Beamer and his crew quickly claimed the plane as their own, and though they never got around to giving it a proper name, often referred to it as “Old 666” after the tail number. The crew repaired and upgraded the plane to their specifications. The .30-caliber machine guns were upgraded to .50-caliber mounts. The waist gunners’ single guns were replaced by twin .50 calibers as well. Zeamer even had a forward-firing gun mounted in the nose so he himself could shoot from the cockpit. All told the B-17 bristled with nineteen guns.

The Eager Beavers soon earned a reputation for their daring deeds. As Zeamer’s friend Walt Krell put it, “Whenever the 43rd got a real lousy mission – the worst possible mission of all that nobody else wanted to fly – they went down to see Zeamer and his gang.”

The Eager Beavers carried out the unwanted missions and earned themselves glory along the way. Every member of the crew received Silver Stars and two more earned Distinguished Flying Crosses. Zeamer himself received a second Silver Star for strafing Japanese searchlights with his forward-firing gun. Sarnoski was rewarded with a battlefield promotion to 2nd lieutenant.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
Gen. “Hap” Arnold presenting the Medal of Honor to Zeamer as his parents look on. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Eager Beavers and Old 666 took everything that was thrown at them and always returned home.

Then in June 1943, they faced the toughest mission yet – a reconnaissance flight by a lone B-17 over Japanese-infested territory.  The mission was to map Bougainville for the upcoming Allied landings. At the last minute word came down that the crew would also need to photograph Buka Island to the north. Zeamer was livid; an already dangerous mission just became practically suicidal.

When Old 666 arrived over Buka, the lone Flying Fortress was spotted by the Japanese who scrambled 17 planes to intercept. The lead flight of Japanese Zeroes caught up to the Eager Beavers near the end of their mapping run.

Unable to stray from its course, Old 666 lumbered along, bracing as the Zeroes attacked. Five planes fanned out in front and flew headlong at the bomber. As the distance closed, the guns on both sides roared to life.

Zeamer scored a hit with his nose-mounted gun while Sarnoski downed one of the incoming Zeroes. Simultaneously, 20mm shells tore through the cockpit and nose, wounding Zeamer and blowing Sarnoski off his gun. Sarnoski dragged himself back to his gun and scored a hit on another fighter before slumping over, mortally wounded.

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing
DAYTON, Ohio — “Tenacity over Bougainville: Zeamer and the “Eager Beavers” display in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

The battle raged for almost an hour. Zeamer was severely wounded, both legs shot and his rudder pedals blown away. Four other crew members were also wounded. Still, The Eager Beavers continued to rain fire onto the Japanese fighters while Zeamer struggled to maneuver the bomber. The Japanese fighters had brutally damaged the B-17E, forcing it below 10,000 feet with destroyed instrument panels, limited controls, and no oxygen system.

Eventually, the battered Zeroes retreated home, leaving the Eager Beavers to do the same.

Determined to return with the valuable photos, Zeamer refused to relinquish control of the bomber. The rest of the crew treated each others’ wounds and did what they could to keep the stricken bomber in the air.

Just over eight hours after the mission began, Old 666 landed in New Guinea. The fuselage was riddled with holes. Zeamer was nearly left for dead by the medics. He spent many months in hospitals recovering from the mission. Both Zeamer and Sarnoski would be awarded the Medal of Honor, one of only two crews to be so bestowed in World War II.

The rest of the crew would receive the Distinguished Service Cross.

The mission to Bougainville is the most highly decorated mission ever. With their cumulative awards, the Eager Beavers are the most decorated crew in American history. General George Kenney would write in his memoirs that the mission “still stands in my mind as an epic of courage unequaled in the annals of air warfare.”

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