No firefighting crew would think of responding to a car accident today without a kit of extraction tools, nearly always including the so-called Jaws of Life. The hydraulic Jaws are a pinch and cutting tool that can snip through the strongest parts of a car frame in seconds and peel open roofs and doors like a can opener.
But the man who invented the Jaws of Life was not a firefighter, first responder, or even a safety engineer. In fact, in the 1950s and early 1960s, George Hurst helped make cars more dangerous by making them faster. He built a thriving business around motor racing, building floor-mounted gear shifts for race cars. That business took him to the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1961, where he saw something that shifted his priorities.
When a racer crashed, he watched rescue crews try to extract him from the wreckage of his car. It took over an hour. Hurst thought to himself that there must be a better way.
When he looked into the tools that rescue crews use, he found that traditional circular saws just weren’t, well, cutting it. The saws created sparks, increasing the risk of fire or explosion, and were extremely loud, which caused distress for the trapped victim. And, of course, they took too long to get the job done.
In 1961, Hurst patented the first hydraulic rescue tool and hired Mike Brick to market the device nationwide. The initial design was a 350-pound hunk of metal, far too large for even a team of rescuers to handle. In the span of a decade of tinkering and refining their rescue device, Hurst and Brick downsized the prototype to only 65 pounds, calling it the Hurst Power Tool.
In 1971, they took the tool to the SEMA trade show for specialty equipment marketers in California. The spotlight propelled their device into stardom, and soon, fire departments were carrying it on their firetrucks. The Hurst Power Tool adopted the nickname the “Jaws of Life” for its role in snatching victims from the “jaws of death.”
As the Hurst website notes, “In three minutes, the average person can listen to a song, make their bed or brush their teeth. In three minutes, first responders can save a life with HURST Jaws of Life tools.”
Firefighters can elect to carry a combination tool that is the Swiss Army knife of the Jaws of Life, with cutting and spreading functions that increase the speed of extrication. Some departments also carry individual-function Jaws of Life machines that spread, cut, and ram. The StrongArm was adapted to meet the standards of law enforcement and military communities, adding a capable tool to their breaching arsenals.
Hurst died in 1986 at 59. Thanks to Hurst’s innovative thinking, victims of car accidents across the globe have been able to escape serious injury and even death.
On December 16, 1773 a bunch of rebel colonists from Massachusetts got sassy and decided to defy their one true king. While disguised as Indians, they dumped 342 chests of perfectly good tea into Boston Harbor – setting off a chain of events they’ll never come back from.
Ungrateful, that’s what they were. How dare they throw a tantrum over another tax imposed by King George of Britain and the North Ministry. Didn’t they know that the temporary tax was for a good reason? Without it, the East India Company would have gone under and the British would lose money. The seven year French and Indian War depleted the treasury of Britain, the colonists needed to do their part and shore it up! Maybe the British screwed up by initially trying to hide the tax and collect it later on, but it’s only because they didn’t want to trouble colonists with the headache of knowing what it was really for. It was for their own good after all. But all those colonists cared about were their merchants who were illegally smuggling in Dutch tea to make a living and their so called “rights” for representation when taxed.
So, under the cover of painted faces and Indian garb, men snuck onto the ships that had pulled in and dumped all the tea into the harbor under protest against the British. Even Benjamin Franklin said it was wrong and that the East India Company should be paid back for the destruction of tea. After catching wind of the colonists despicable behavior, the rightfully angry Parliament enacted The Intolerable Acts law. For some reason, this made these heathens even more angry. Rules are for everyone’s good!
They didn’t need to be able to govern themselves anyway and what was so bad about having the British military keeping everyone safe in town? Britain was doing them a favor! Maybe the troops had to be housed inside the homes of colonists and empty buildings, but wasn’t it a small price to pay for safety and security? Well, apparently they didn’t think so because they got all of the colonies to rise up in indignation against Britain.
What followed would be events that would live on in infamy.
How dare these colonists thing they could “declare” independence. Who would have thought of such a thing? Certain people should have a place, especially the colonists, who were basically the step-children of the British. Equality disrupts too much, rules and rankings were put in place for a very good reason: order and decorum, staples of the British. Instead of remaining appreciative of this gift to be able to call oneself British, the colonists rebelled and fought. The American Revolutionary War would lead to the formation of a united country that fought for “liberties” and “freedom” for everyone. Sure those colonists eventually may have also won the war against the world’s leading power against all odds, but whatever. And okay, maybe the United States of America now has the world’s oldest written constitution that has been duplicated by numerous free countries since, but so what.
Now they are stuck with a country that continues to extend equality for all people, evolving and modernizing with the changing times. This new country even apologizes for mistakes and changes its mind on issues by amending rules and law. Blasphemous. I hope the ancestors of those ungrateful tea throwing colonists are happy being American.
The Lahti anti-tank rifle looks a little unusual, showing a pair of skis on the front. But then again, it does come from Finland.
According to Modernfirearms.net, the Lahti L-39, also known as the Norsupyssy — or “elephant gun” — fired a 20x138mm round and had a 10-shot clip. While not effective against the most modern tanks, like the Russian T-34, the rifle proved to be useful against bunkers and other material targets. One variant was a full-auto version used as an anti-aircraft gun.
This semi-auto rifle was kept in Finnish military stocks until the 1980s, when many were scrapped. This makes the M107 Barrett used by the United States military look like a mousegun.
A number of these rifles, though, were declared surplus and sold in the United States in the early 1960s. The Gun Control Act of 1968, though, placed these rifles under some very heavy controls — even though none were ever used in crimes.
In this video, the punch this rifle packed is very apparent. The people who set up the test put up 16 quarter-inch steel plates. You can see what that shell does to the plates in this GIF.
Alright, that headline is a bit misleading. The knights were depicted fighting giant snails. But the mystery remains – why? And were snails really that big back then?
Apparently, it’s a common sight in English scrolls dating from the 13th and 14th centuries: armored knights engaging in medieval combat with giant snails. Medievalists at the British Library began to wonder the same things we all are – WHY.
Two reasons might explain the ubiquitous depictions (but not fully). The first is that the snails are the enemy of the person writing the manuscripts. Many famous families and villains could have fit the bill. The only problem is that this doesn’t explain why the knights are always losing to the villain. If this was propaganda, shouldn’t the good guy win?
Another reason is that it could be a depiction of the common folk rising against an unwilling aristocracy. These slimy creatures from the garden weren’t welcome guests in the manor houses and castles of the Middle Ages. Neither were peasants.
There’s no way it could be a depiction of actual knights fighting real giant snails, right?
There were, in fact, snails as large (perhaps larger) than humans. But not in the middle ages. Fossils of Pachydiscus Seppenradensis – giant cephalopods – have been found in temperate climates from the USA and across Europe. This puts the snails in the area where they could have fought medieval knights, but the timing doesn’t work out.
Fossil records date Parapuzosia back to the early-to-late Cretaceous period of Earth’s history. This means these snails walked with dinosaurs like the Ankylosaurus and some species of dinosaur bipeds.
As far as history is concerned, knights couldn’t have been fighting giant snails because snails just didn’t grow that big back in the middle ages. Not even close. These days, the max size a “giant” snail grows can still fit in your hand.
So if they’re not fighting actual giant snails, what’s up with all the imagery of knights fighting giant snails?
If you have the answer, I’m sure the British Library would be interested in knowing.
For most airmen going on leave for the holidays, the time off means an escape from their everyday Air Force career. After all, when is someone going to need a loadmaster at the liquor store (unless there’s a huge bourbon shortage at an egg nog festival and Costco is planning a relief drop from a C-17)?
An Air Force pilot on a United Airlines flight, however, is another story.
Like a scene out of a movie, Captain Mike Gongol was on a flight to see his extended family in Denver from Des Moines in 2013 when the B1-B Lancer pilot noticed the Boeing 737’s engine begin to idle — something only another pilot would realize. When the plane began to descend and drift to the right, he knew something was up.
He was right. A nurse on board the flight, Linda Alweiss, entered the cockpit, and found the pilot slumped over in his seat.
The rest of the plane knew something was up when a flight attendant asked the passengers if there was a doctor aboard the plane. They were asked to remain seated as the crew ran up to first class with a medical kit. When the attendants again addressed the passengers, they asked if there were any “non-revenue pilots” aboard the plane.
Gongol realized the pilot was probably the patient – and his Air Force specialty was needed. The first officer must have been the only other pilot aboard. He “looked to his wife as she gave him a nod, and Gongol pressed his button and headed toward the flight deck.”
“He was sick and mumbling and was just incoherent,” the nurse told KTLA.
A Rockwell B-1 Lancer is a very different craft from a Boeing 737. Differences in weight, crew, engine number and thrust, top speeds and ceilings are all significant factors. The moment Gongol entered the cockpit, he and the first officer sized one another up – he opted to support her as her first officer.
The Air Force captain decided to let her take the lead. He backed up her checklists, used the radio, and kept an eye out for anything going wrong.
“She was calm, but you could tell she was a little stressed, who wouldn’t be,” Gongol told Air Force Space Command. It was only when they moved to land in Omaha that Gongol took the lead. The first officer had never landed in Omaha, but Capt. Gongol knew the airfield well, landing there many times in training. Still, he talked her through it.
The pilot, as well as the other 157 people aboard the flight, survived the trip.
If you pay attention, you might sometimes see long, cigar-shaped pods firmly attached to the undersides of classic fighter and attack aircraft, sometimes with unit markings on them.
Known as “drop tanks,” these simple devices extend the range of the aircraft they’re hooked up to by carrying extra usable fuel. Back during World War II, however, attack pilots found a secondary use for drop tanks as improvised bombs, used to bombard enemy ground positions.
Drop tanks became popular in the late 1930s as a means for fighters to carry more fuel for longer escort and patrol missions. Easily installed and removed, they were a quick solution for the burgeoning Luftwaffe’s fighter and dive bomber fleets, which would prove to be instrumental in the opening months of WWII.
By the onset of WWII, air forces with both the Axis and Allies were experimenting with the use of drop tanks in regular combat operations. In the European theater, British and German pilots stuck to using their drop tanks as range-extenders. American fighter pilots changed the game.
(US Air Force)
Though it wasn’t common practice, P-47 Thunderbolt pilots were noted for their creativity in combat, switching their fuel feed selector to their internal tanks while making a low pass over an enemy position. With relative precision, they would jettison their drop tanks, still filled with a decent amount of fuel, before climbing away.
After releasing their tanks, pilots would swoop back around and line up again with their target. If they timed it right and aimed well, a long burst from their cannons would ignite the fuel left inside the tanks, blowing them up like firebombs.
This didn’t always work, however, especially as paper tanks became popular during the war as a method of conserving metal. So, by the end of the war, American crews in both the European and Pacific theaters had to refine their drop-tank technique.
Instead of pilots peppering the tanks with shells from their cannons, they’d simply fill up the tanks with a volatile mixture of fuel and other ingredients to form rudimentary napalm bombs, which would detonate upon impact.
(US Air Force)
By the time the Korean War started, the newly-formed US Air Force had cemented the practice of filling drop tanks with napalm and using them as makeshift bombs for low-level close air support missions. According to Robert Neer in his book, Napalm: An American Biography, British statesman Winston Churchill notably decried the practice of using napalm during the Korean conflict, calling it cruel and noting the increased likelihood of collateral damage and casualties during napalm strikes.
In the Vietnam War, the use of napalm expanded greatly, though factories now began building bombs specifically designed to carry napalm internally. Today, the US military has virtually ceased using napalm as a weapon. Here’s what life is like for US Army Tankers, today.
It first entered Navy service in February, 1895, with some doubters mocking its excessive armament while Americans hoped that its speed, steel, and guns would allow it to survive while outnumbered if under heavy attack. Instead, the small but mighty USS Olympia slaughtered an enemy fleet, bombarded shores, and escorted convoys during its 27-year career.
The USS Olympia, a fast cruiser with heavy armament.
In the late 1800s, the U.S. Navy wrestled with what the service should do and what ships it needed for the 1900s. The battle of the Merrimack and Monitor decisively proved that wooden ships were on their way out, but the rise of steel ships showed that the iron vessels made in earnest during and after the Civil War wouldn’t survive either.
Meanwhile, sails were the efficient and cheap method of propelling a ship, but it was clear that steam gave commanders more flexibility and more options in combat.
And the Navy needed ships to secure American shores even as a constrained budgets made ship-building tough. Some presidents were already looking at using the Navy for power projection as well.
So, the Navy had to decide whether it should have lots of cheap ships, lots of coastal defenses, steam or sail power, all while keeping power projection a feasible option.
The Navy figured out a plan address all the changes and requirements: A new fleet of steel vessels that relied on steam power but still had masts for sails for long voyages when the winds were favorable. Because the U.S. couldn’t spend as much on ship hulls as potential European attackers, each ship would be heavily armed and as fast as possible.
This resulted in cruisers that could hopefully run ahead of enemy fleets, pelting the lead of the enemy ship with shot after shot while staying out of range of the rest of the enemy fleet. (Video game players do this today against powerful enemies and call it, “kiting.”)
The USS Olympia in front of a column of cruisers circa 1900.
(Francis Christian Muller)
The Olympia fit all the qualifications of the new naval plan. It could steam at over 21 knots while most of its potential enemies topped out at 18. It had four 8-inch guns, two in a single turret forward and two in a turret aft. These big guns were the primary armament, but the ship also had ten 5-inch guns. A few years after launch, it also got Gatling guns and sidearms for potential boarding parties.
Some naval observers around the world critiqued the design, saying that it was either an overarmed cruiser or a too-tiny battleship. But these heavily armed cruisers were designed for their own mission, and they could outrun attackers while picking them off with their larger guns.
The defensive war Olympia was ostensibly designed for never came, though. Instead, it was sent to the Pacific where it became the flagship of Commodore George Dewey before the USS Maine, a larger and even better armed ship, blew up in Havana Harbor. While the explosion was later found to have likely been caused by an ammo handling accident or an overheated bulkhead that touched gunpowder stores, the U.S. blamed it on a Spanish attack at the time.
In response to the Maine’s destruction, Dewey and his squadron were sent to Manila Bay to attack the Spanish fleet there. The hope was that the ships, protected by steel and heavily armed, could rush past the guns of the Spanish coastal defenses and engage the Spanish fleet with the large guns.
The USS Olympia leads the attack against the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila.
But the rest of the fleet held its fire until Dewey saw the fleet, crept in range, and got the angles right. Spanish rounds were raining against the steel hulls of the American ships, and gunners crouched behind the paltry armor and prayed for safety until Dewey, on the Olympia, calmly told the ship’s captain, “You may fire when ready, Mr. Gridley.”
The American fleet opened up and slaughtered the decrepit Spanish fleet, sinking all vessels and capturing the port in mere hours. America now owned the capital of the Philippines and would get the islands in the peace treaty that came later. Nine Americans had been wounded while the fleet had killed 161 Spanish fighters and wounded 210.
The Olympia and Dewey became famous, and the ship went on to serve in World War I as a convoy escort. And, in 1918, Olympia bombarded the shore during an amphibious assault at Murmansk in the Russian Civil War.
But the era of the Dreadnought had come, and in the years following World War I, it became clear that the Olympia was no longer enough ship to compete with enemy combatants. And America, flush with prestige after World War I and possessing overseas colonies from the Spanish-American War, had the money to build a larger, more powerful fleet.
In 1922, Olympia was decommissioned, and the hull was slated for the scrap heap, but activists pushed for the ship to be turned into a museum. It took decades of wrangling before Philadelphia donors got the money to return Olympia to the 1898 configuration and moored the ship in the city’s waterfront in 1958.
Since then, the ship has hosted visitors who wanted to walk the weathered boards of its deck or see the steam engines that made its speed possible. The Flagship Olympia Foundation is trying to raise the money necessary to dry dock and overhaul the ship. It’s already been on the water since 1892, and could have decades more in it after repairs.
Of the 3,498 service members who have received the Medal of Honor throughout U.S. history, only 88 have been black.
In recognition of African American History Month, the Pentagon is sharing the stories of the brave men who so gallantly risked and gave their lives for others, even in times when others weren’t willing to do the same in return.
The first black recipient of the award was Army Sgt. William H. Carney, who earned the honor for protecting one of the United States’ greatest symbols during the Civil War — the American flag.
Carney was born into slavery in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1840. His family was eventually granted freedom and moved to Massachusetts, where Carney was eager to learn and secretly got involved in academics, despite laws and restrictions that banned blacks from learning to read and write.
Carney had wanted to pursue a career in the church, but when the Civil War broke out, he decided the best way he could serve God was by serving in the military to help free the oppressed.
In March 1863, Carney joined the Union Army and was attached to Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment, the first official black unit recruited for the Union in the north. Forty other black men served with him, including two of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ sons.
Within a few months, Carney’s training would be put to the ultimate test during the unit’s first major combat mission in Charleston, South Carolina.
On July 18, 1863, the soldiers of Carney’s regiment led the charge on Fort Wagner. During the battle, the unit’s color guard was shot. Carney, who was just a few feet away, saw the dying man stumble, and he scrambled to catch the falling flag.
Despite suffering several serious gunshot wounds himself, Carney kept the symbol of the Union held high as he crawled up the hill to the walls of Fort Wagner, urging his fellow troops to follow him. He planted the flag in the sand at the base of the fort and held it upright until his near-lifeless body was rescued.
Even then, though, he didn’t give it up. Many witnesses said Carney refused to give the flag to his rescuers, holding onto it tighter until, with assistance, he made it to the Union’s temporary barracks.
Carney lost a lot of blood and nearly lost his life, but not once did he allow the flag to touch the ground. His heroics inspired other soldiers that day and were crucial to the North securing victory at Fort Wagner. Carney was promoted to the rank of sergeant for his actions.
For his bravery, Carney was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900.
Carney’s legacy serves as a shining example of the patriotism that Americans felt at that time, despite the color of their skin.
As for the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment in which Carney served? It was disestablished long ago, but reactivated in 2008. It now serves as a National Guard ceremonial unit that renders honorary funerals and state functions. It was even invited to march in President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade.
America’s favorite Revolutionary War hero and first president had a little wish to, uh, checks notes, burn the city of New York to the ground and watch the flames dance in the tear-filled eyes of his enemies. Wait, can that be right?
Yup. Gen. George Washington himself wanted to burn one of America’s most populous and wealthy cities to the mud. But it wasn’t because he wanted the future city that would be named after him to have no rival in the Big Apple, it was actually a decent military strategy at the time (but would be a war crime now).
The proposed destruction was set for 1776 when Washington felt he could not hold the city. The Patriots had predicted that the British military, relying as it did on roads and ships, would sail down the Hudson and split the colonies. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were all east of the river and would be isolated.
And, controlling New York Harbor would give the British a perfect staging ground for joint army-navy operations against New Jersey and the rebel capital in Philadelphia.
The Battle of Long Island started Aug. 27, 1776, and was a catastrophe for America, and it nearly ended the war. Washington’s forces were outflanked multiple times, and it took a series of careful withdrawals for Washington to keep his men together and organized. He ended the main maneuvers with his back to the East River and the British arrayed in front of him in strength.
The fog finally cleared and the British found themselves facing an empty battlefield. The Continental Army had escaped.
But New York was now open to the British, and they took it. Washington had asked for permission to burn it to prevent Britain from using it as “warm and comfortable barracks” in the winter of 1776-77, but it was too late. The Redcoats marched in.
Luckily for Washington, New York burned anyway. On the night of Sept. 19, a fire began in Harlem that would consume about a quarter of the city before it was successfully extinguished. It wasn’t as extensive as Washington may have wished, but it was more than enough to piss off the Brits.
The British suspected that Patriot agents were behind the fire. It wasn’t yet illegal to burn a civilian city to prevent its occupation by enemy forces, but it was still frowned upon. And the Redcoats wanted their justice.
British forces captured 100 suspects and hanged one, Nathaniel Hale, as a spy. It would turn out that Hale really was a spy for Washington, so they weren’t too far off the mark.
It can’t be known for sure that the city was burned by Washington’s agents or because of his wishes, but it did serve his purposes.
But, it didn’t stop the British advance. Washington’s men suffered a series of smaller defeats and lost two key forts in New York. But this series of failures is what led Washington to set out on Christmas 1776 to attack the Hessians at the battle of Trenton, salvaging Patriot morale right before thousands of enlistments expired.
Some things you’ve learned in school may have since been proven false, and that is especially true when it comes to US history.
Many say history is written by the winner, leaving much of the truth out. In recent years, historians and experts have been coming forward to reveal the true stories around some of America’s biggest historical events.
From the first Thanksgiving to the moon landing, here’s everything your teacher may have gotten wrong about American history.
He also couldn’t have discovered America because Native Americans were already living there. In fact, Columbus is not even the first European to explore the Americas. That honor goes to the Norse explorer Leif Erikson who sailed to the Western Hemisphere over 400 years earlier.
Then why is Columbus such a notable figure in American history? It’s most likely because he started a new age of exploration and his trips to the New World led to colonization.
Drawings of Columbus’ ships.
2. MYTH: Christopher Columbus sailed on the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria.
TRUTH: “In 1942, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue” is a common children’s song most learn in school. The song also mentions his three ships, which are usually known as Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria.
However, his ships were likely not named any of those things. Historians know that the Santa Maria’s real name was La Gallega and the Niña’s real name was the Santa Clara. It is not known what the Pinta’s actual name was at the time.
Pocahontas as depicted in a Disney film.
3. MYTH: Pocahontas and John Smith fell in love, uniting two cultures.
TRUTH: For starters, Pocahontas wasn’t even her real name. Her official name was Amonute. Pocahontas was her nickname, which meant “playful” or “ill-behaved child.” That’s right, Pocahontas was just a child, about 11 or 12 years old, so it is very unlikely there was any romance between her and John Smith, a grown man.
In his journals, John Smith wrote that Pocahontas saved his life when her family tried to execute him. He also wrote that during his captivity, the two became close and taught each other their languages, but never mentioned anything romantic happening between them.
4. MYTH: The first Thanksgiving was a peaceful and joyous meal shared between the Pilgrims and Native Americans.
The two groups had a lot of hostile feelings towards each other. The Pilgrims viewed Native Americans as savages, and stole their farmland. They also killed more than 90% of the native population with smallpox, brought over on the Mayflower.
These hostile conditions, historians believe, did not lead to a celebratory first Thanksgiving. In fact, some say the Native Americans were not even invited to the feast.
Depiction of the Salem witch trials.
5. MYTH: Witches were burned at the stake at the Salem witch trials.
But throughout history, many referenced burning witches at the stake, so it caught on. For example, a magazine in 1860 wrote, “The North … having begun with burning witches, will end by burning us!”
Painting of Paul Revere.
6. MYTH: Paul Revere rode horseback through the streets of Massachusetts yelling, “the British are coming!”
TRUTH: Paul Revere did ride horseback to warn that the British were fast approaching Lexington, but he was not screaming. Instead, he was much more discreet since British troops might have been hiding nearby. He also wasn’t alone. He was first joined by two other patriots, with 40 more joining by the end of the night. Lastly, he would never have called them “British” because many of the colonists still considered themselves British. At the time, he would have used the term “Regulars” to warn patriots about the invasion.
First president of the United States George Washington.
7. MYTH: George Washington had wooden teeth.
TRUTH: The first president of the United States, George Washington, did not, in fact, have wooden teeth. But he did have a lot of dental issues. The former war general wore dentures made of ivory, gold, and lead. But wood was never used in dentures and it was definitely not found in Washington’s mouth.
No one truly knows how or why this rumor started. Some historians say that the ivory may have been worn down, therefore having a grainy, wooden appearance, confusing early observers.
8. MYTH: The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.
TRUTH: While many believe we are celebrating the Declaration of Independence’s signing on the Fourth of July, it was actually signed in August of 1776. The confusion lies in the fact that July 4 was the day the final edition of the document was agreed upon. It was the deadline the Continental Congress gave itself and wrote down, though it wouldn’t be signed for another month.
Inventor Thomas Edison.
9. MYTH: Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.
TRUTH: In the late 1800s, Thomas Edison was widely considered a genius after he invented the light bulb. But some say Edison is not the sole inventor. In fact, there were over 20 inventors who had created the incandescent light bulb before him. Additionally, it’s rumored that he borrowed (or stole) details from those other inventors.
So, why does Edison get all the credit? In part, he was a great salesman, and he knew how to outpace everyone else who was working on the light bulb. Edison was lucky enough to receive the important patents he needed to be solely credited for the invention.
11. MYTH: Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” when he landed on the moon.
TRUTH: If you examine the famous line uttered by Neil Armstrong in 1969, you realize it doesn’t really make sense. Because “man” and “mankind” essentially meant the same thing, if his famous line was accurate, what he basically said was, “that’s one small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind.”
In 1839, the forces of Great Britain and the British East India Company invaded Afghanistan in the first major conflict of the “Great Game” – the struggle between Great Britain and Russia for control of Asia. The British quickly defeated the opposing forces of Dost Mohammad and garrisoned the capital Kabul, as well as the major cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad. However, by mid-1841 the situation in Kabul was deteriorating. The British forces made camp in an indefensible position just outside the capital. Meanwhile, two senior British officials were murdered with no reprisal from the British forces, further emboldening the Afghans.
Unfortunately for the soldiers of the garrison, a confluence of events meant trouble for them. First, the appointment of the incompetent General Elphinstone to command the British forces in Kabul. The second was a new government in London calling for increased cost-savings from the ongoing campaign. The combination of these two events led to the fateful decision for the garrison in Kabul, along with their camp followers, to conduct a retreat to Jalalabad and then back to India to escape the rising unrest in the capital. After the first unit to travel to Jalalabad in November has been harassed and sniped throughout their journey, General Elphinstone trusted the assurances of an Afghan warlord that his column would be granted safe passage.
On 6 January 1842, Elphinstone’s column of the British 44th Regiment of Foot, three regiments of Bengal Native Infantry, British and Indian cavalry, the Bengal Horse Artillery – about 700 British and 3800 Indian soldiers – as well as 12,000 camp followers – set off on their march through the treacherous Afghan winter towards Jalalabad. Almost immediately, they began receiving harassing fire from the Ghilzai tribesmen and were ambushed and attacked repeatedly over the next several days. The weather also took a toll on the Indian soldiers and camp followers who had been recruited from the more tropical climate in India. On 9 January, after losing over 3,000 casualties and having only covered twenty five miles, General Elphinstone, along with the wives and children of the officers accepted the offer of a warlord to be taken into his custody for safety, and immediately became his hostages instead. The remainder of the force trudged on, hoping to clear the snow-choked passes and reach the safety of the garrison at Jalalabad.
By 12 January, the column had been reduced to around one hundred men, mostly infantrymen of the 44th Regiment of Foot, as well as a few remaining officers on horseback. As they tried to clear a barrier erected on the valley floor many were killed while the survivors gathered on a hillock outside the village of Gandamak to make their last stand. When offered a surrender by the Ghilzai tribesmen surrounding them a British sergeant reportedly yelled back “not bloodly likely!” and thus sealing their fate. In the ensuing chaos the British infantry fired their remaining ammunition before fighting on with bayonets. Only a handful of men survived to be taken captive.. Though some officers on horses managed to escape they were hunted down and killed as well; all except for one.
“You will see, not a soul will reach here from Kabul except one man, who will come to tell us the rest are destroyed.”
– Colonel Dennie, British Army of the Indus, Nov. 1841
At Jalalabad on 13 January, Colonel Dennie was manning the fortifications awaiting the arrival of the column from Kabul when he spotted a lone man on horseback approaching the city. Upon seeing the man he is said to have remarked “Did I not say so? Here comes the messenger.” The lone survivor of the column was Dr. William Brydon, an assistant surgeon, who straggled in exhausted and severely wounded on a horse that was also severely wounded. Dr. Brydon had survived a sword strike to the head, which had cleaved off a small portion of his skull, thanks to a copy of a magazine he had stuffed into his hat for extra warmth. His horse apparently cleared the gates of the city and promptly laid down, never to rise again. Brydon was the sole survivor of some 16,000 who started the trek a week earlier to arrive at Jalalabad.
Brydon would survive his wounds and later survive another harrowing incident when we was severely wounded during the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. General Elphinstone died in captivity. Shortly after the news of the massacre reached British officials, the decision was made to withdraw all British forces from Afghanistan, but not before retribution was sought. By the summer of 1842 the Army of Retribution had been raised and marched through Afghanistan, releasing many of the prisoners taken during the retreat from Kabul as well as exacting their vengeance before finally withdrawing on 12 October 1842.
Today, the Transformers IP has a world-wide presence in toys, comic books, video games, TV shows, movies and even amusement park rides. Just hearing the name cues the iconic jingle or robotic transforming noise in the heads of even the most casual fans. It’s incredible to think that this franchise that dominates the globe owes its existence to the Second World War, G.I. Joe action figures and one very special Marine.
Transformers is still going strong with a new Netflix original series (Netflix)
Following the end of WWII, American troops occupied the Japanese islands as the nation entered into the process of reconstruction. A key element in reviving the Japanese economy was its once prominent toy industry. However, with few raw materials available after the war, toy makers were forced to resort to unconventional sources.
American GIs occupying Japan were fed heavily with canned rations. It was the metal from these cans that was recycled and used to craft Japanese robot toys. To highlight Japanese craftsmanship, these toys were often motorized with clock mechanisms that allowed them to walk and roll.
The popularity of Japanese robot toys increased through the 1960s and 1970s. With the expansion of television, the robot toys were paired with manga comics and anime cartoons that engaged children and promoted toy sales. Japanese robot-based entertainment like Astroboy, Ultraman, Shogun Warriors and Gigantor became increasingly popular in America.
Robot shows like Gigantor were also successful in Australia (Eiken/TCJ)
However, even the robots from the east couldn’t compete with “A Real American Hero” like G.I. Joe. High sales of the action figure in the states were enough to convince Japanese toy maker Takara to license G.I. Joe for the Japanese market.
Having gained respect in the Japanese toy world for their toy dolls, Takara wanted to branch out and make a toy line for boys. However, G.I. Joe’s iconic scar and grimacing expression were a bit too harsh and aggressive for post-war Japan. To market the toy to Japanese boys, Takara decided to make G.I. Joe into a superhero with superpowers. When the designers realized that G.I. Joe’s body wasn’t conducive to a superhero build, they resorted to type and made him into a robot. With a clear plastic body displaying his metal computer-like internals, G.I. Joe became Henshin Cyborg. Henshin meaning “transformation”, this was the first step towards what we know today as Transformers.
Following the 1973 oil crisis, the 11.5″ tall toy and all of its accessories became prohibitively expensive to produce. Like G.I. Joe in the states, Takara introduced the 3.75″ tall Microman. A mini version of Henshin Cyborg, the Microman toy line focused even more on transforming toys with robots that could change into sci-fi spaceships. Microman was so popular that it was marketed in the US under the name Micronauts.
By the 1980s, robot toys that transformed into exotic spaceships were losing popularity. To rejuvenate the robot toy concept, Takara introduced the Diaclone Car Robo and Microman Micro Change lines. Diaclone toys transformed from robots into 1:60 scale vehicles like cars and trucks while Microman toys transformed into 1:1 replicas of household items like cameras, cassette players and toy guns.
At the Tokyo Toy Show, Hasbro executives took notice of Diaclone, Microman Micro Change and the plethora of other Japanese transforming robot toys and wanted to develop their own toy line. A deal was struck with Takara and Hasbro lifted almost every one of their toy lines for the US market, including Diaclone and Microman Micro Change.
To review, Hasbro licensed G.I. Joe to Takara in the 1970s. Takara turned G.I. Joe into Henshin Cyborg. Henshin Cyborg was shrunk down to Microman. Microman evolved into Diaclone and Microman Micro Change, both of which were licensed back to Hasbro. Things had really come full circle.
With all of these transforming robot toys, Hasbro turned to Marvel Comics to develop a backstory for the new toy line. Over a weekend, Marvel writers came up with the names and backstories for the first 26 Transformers as well as the plot for the first comic book issue.
Diaclone and Microman Micro Change robots were renamed and became Transformers as we know them today. Micro Car became Bumblebee, Cassette Man became Shockwave, Gun Robo became Megatron, Battle Convoy became Optimus Prime and the War for Cybertron between the just Autobots and the oppressive Decepticons was born. The first commercial for the Transformers toys introduced the now iconic jingle and the phrases, “Robots in disguise” and, “More than meets the eye.”
The 1984 release of Transformers was a huge success netting Hasbro 5 million in sales. The popularity of the franchise was due in large part to the Transformers cartoon, the star of which was the venerable Optimus Prime.
Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime, became so iconic that he was brought back to reprise the role of the Autobot leader in the 2007 Transformers film and its many sequels. Cullen, also known for voicing Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh franchise, crafted the voice of Optimus Prime with inspiration from his older brother.
Marine Captain Henry Laurence Cullen, Jr., known as Larry, was a decorated veteran of the war in Vietnam. While serving with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Capt. Cullen was awarded a Bronze Star with a V device as well as two Purple Hearts for his actions during Operation Hastings in June 1966.
Capt. Cullen was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery (Cullen family)
When his younger brother told him he was going to audition for the role of a hero in a cartoon series, Capt. Cullen said, “Peter, if you’re gonna be a hero, be a real hero. Don’t be one of those Hollywood heroes pretending they’re tough guys when they’re not. Just be strong and real. Tell the truth. Be strong enough to be gentle.”
With his older brother’s words echoing in his mind, Peter Cullen delivered the strong yet gentle voice performance that Transformers fans today will always hail as the one, true Optimus.
“He had a lot of influence on me, you know, and especially coming back from Vietnam. I noticed somebody different,” Cullen remembered of his older brother. “Going into that audition, Larry was with me. I mean, he was right there beside me. When I read the script, Larry’s voice just came out. He was my hero.”
From recycled ration cans, to a classic American action figure and an inspirational leader of Marines, the Transformers franchise has had a lot of American military influence to get to where it is today.
It should not have been a case of mistaken identity. When Michael Blassie’s remains were first found by South Vietnamese soldiers, they found his ID card, wallet, dogs tags and personal photos along with it. Yet not long after, he morphed into an unknown soldier.
When his remains were finally turned over to a U.S. military mortuary and sent to Hawaii for confirmation, they were confirmed to be those of Lt. Michael Blassie. Somewhere along the way, however, someone determined that the projected height and age couldn’t be those of the missing Air Force pilot.
They were reclassified as unknown, and stated that way until 1988, 16 years after he was killed.
Blassie was an Air Force A-37 Dragonfly pilot, serving with the 8th Special Operations Squadron in Vietnam. He was shot down by the North Vietnamese over An Loc in the Bình Phước Province of Vietnam. He was 24 years old and not found immediately. At the time, An Loc was controlled by enemy forces.
Blassie’s body was found at the crash site five months after he was shot down when a South Vietnamese Army patrol recovered it. From the scene, it was clear the pilot was American. With the personal effects already mentioned, came part of a uniform and a sidearm holster. Only scattered bone fragments remained of Blassie.
The South Vietnamese turned his remains over to the Americans. But despite the evidence found at the crash site, and that only one crew member flew in the A-37B Dragonfly, the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii analyzed the remains and concluded that they were likely not Blassie.
Based on the likely age and height of the remains alone, the lab couldn’t confirm it was Blassie. At the time, fingerprint and dental identification, along with forensic anthropology and radiology were used to determine identity. These methods are not always conclusive. Blassie was redesignated as “unknown, number X-26.”
In 1984, his remains were laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns after lying in state in the U.S. Capitol. President Reagan presided over the funeral and awarded him the Medal of Honor. Reagan accepted the folded flag as the Vietnam Unknown’s next of kin.
For four years, Blassie was guarded day and night by the tomb sentinels and visited by thousands of tourists in the DC area. But in the mid-1990s, news reports began to surface about the personal effects found with the remains, and word got back to the Blassie family that the “unknown” might be their loved one. They petitioned the government to perform more advanced tests.
By then, those tests included DNA testing, specifically mitochondrial DNA testing that could be compared with the DNA of his still-living mother and sister. When the tests were compared with X-26, they found a match. The unknown was unknown no more.
By 1998, Michael Blassie was reinterred in Jefferson National Cemetery near his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, the same cemetery in which his father was laid to rest.
The Tomb of the Unknowns is still the final resting place of unknown troops who died in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. But without having a clue as to who they are, there can be no DNA to compare them. They will likely remain unknown.