This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Remember It’s a Wonderful Life? The 1946 movie where an angel visits a man to convince him not to kill himself? The actor who portrayed the man was Jimmy Stewart, and he was pretty fresh from bombing missions over Nazi-occupied Europe when he played the part. He also remained in the Air Force Reserve until he retired as a brigadier general.


This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Lt. Gen. Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awards the Croix De Guerre with Palm to Col. Jimmy Stewart for exceptional services in the liberation.

(U.S. Air Force)

Stewart was actually drafted into the Army Air Corps as an enlisted man in March 1941. It should be noted that he was already a prominent actor with a number of movies, mostly romantic comedies, under his belt. As an enlisted man, he took extension courses in order to attain his commission and got his lieutenant bars a month after the Pearl Harbor attacks.

While many people of Stewart’s fame could’ve gotten by on morale tours or some cush duty stateside, Stewart volunteered for flight training, earning him a pilot slot. Piloting aircraft was extremely dangerous in World War II, and Stewart was striving for a job more dangerous than rifleman on the ground.

After nine months as an instructor pilot, Stewart got a billet in a unit training up for deployment to England, the 703rd Bomb Squadron. They flew across the Atlantic in late 1943 in new B-24Hs and began raining Hell down on the Third Reich.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Maj. Jimmy Stewart confers with a B-24 crew member.

(U.S. Air Force)

Stewart briefed bomber pilots before missions he wouldn’t fly in, and many of the crews reportedly found it amusing to get their instructions from a famous actor, sort of like if Hugh Grant went through crew drills with you before your convoys.

Stewart flew 20 combat missions with the 703rd as the squadron hit oil, ammunition, and chemical plants as well as German air bases and other military positions. He was promoted up the ranks until, by war’s end, he was chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Wing.

But Stewart didn’t bow out of military service just because the war was over. He remained in the Army Reserve and then the Air Force Reserve when it was formed. In 1959, he was promoted to brigadier general. But he still had one deployment and combat flight left in him.

In 1966, he rode along in a bomber over North Vietnam as an observer. He retired in 1968.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Brig. Gen. James Stewart.

(U.S. Air Force)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

In this modern world, earning a nickname is generally a piece of cake. Show up for work one day with a half-shaven face and you will quickly be slapped with one or two ‘loving’ and memorable nicknames that follow you for years.


In previous generations, nicknames were a bit harder to come by. Add in the legal segregation and racism that characterized the early 20th century and imagine what exactly had to be done for a black soldier to be known as “Black Death” by both friendly and opposing forces. It all stems from one night.

Related: 6 signs that you might be a veteran

Who is Henry Johnson?

Henry Johnson was born on July 15, 1892. On June 5, 1917, standing at approximately 5’4″ and weighing roughly 130 pounds, he enlisted in the 15th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard (colloquially known as the Harlem Hellfighters).

He joined them on deployment to France to augment the Fourth French Army and would go on to become the first black soldier to engage in combat during World War I.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
Pictured: Henry Johnson (Photo from NBC News).

Why “Black Death?”

On May 14, 1918, Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts were augmenting the Fourth French Army, standing as sentries in Argonne Forest. Outfitted with French weapons and gear, Johnson and Roberts soon began taking sniper fire as German forces advanced.

Roberts was severely wounded trying to alert standby forces, leaving Johnson to fend off the German advance, essentially alone, using any and everything he could get his hands on. Johnson successfully held the German forces up long enough for American and French troops to arrive, forcing the Germans to retreat.

Johnson took bullets to the head, lip, sides, and hands, suffering 21 total wounds in all. Using a combination of grenades, rifles, pistols, buttstocks, and a bolo knife, Johnson killed four enemy soldiers and wounded another 20. Following the events of that night, he was known as, “Black Death.”

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
A dramatization of Henry Johnson’s heroic and historic night.

Also Read: 7 more professional athletes you didn’t know were veterans

Vindicated

Johnson and the Harlem Hellfighters returned home to a hero’s welcome — a parade on Fifth Avenue and the adoration from their particular corner of the nation.

The good times wouldn’t last, however, as Johnson’s erroneously recorded medical records resulted in him not receiving a Purple Heart.

He would then bounce from job to job, sliding further down on his luck at every stop until he turned to alcohol. Johnson was dead less than 11 years after his heroic day.

Johnson was, eventually, posthumously awarded a Purple Heart in 1996, a Distinguished Service Cross in 2001, and, finally, the Medal of Honor in 2015.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army Private Henry Johnson. Command Sergeant Major Louis Wilson accepts the Medal of Honor. (Photo by Pete Souza)

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 time-honored military traditions that civilians find weird

Some military traditions make sense to nearly everyone — little things that show mutual respect, like leaders serving food to their subordinates on holidays or NCOs electing to eat after their guys. Other traditions are odd at first blush, like messing with the new guy or passing through an archway after graduating a class or achieving a higher rank, but civilians can generally understand where they come from.

But then there are the ones that require a lot of explaining to your civilian family members. Every time, these story begins with a, “well, you see. It kinda goes back to…” and more often than not, the explanation just makes them tilt their head in confusion.

At one point, the following traditions may have meant something to one person or a group, but today, the original meaning is buried beneath decades of military bearing and tradition. We mostly just do them because, well, if it ain’t broke — and no one’s getting UCMJ’d for it — why bother stopping?


This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Ever since Hostess kinda went under, the tradition changed to use red helmets instead — which is definitely cleaner.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrine M Brisbin)

10. Paratroopers and cherry pies

When you finish going through Army Airborne School, your head will be spinning, filled with all of the information you’ll need to not shatter every bone in your body when you make a landing. You’ll have to master the art of hooking up your static line and perform countless parachute landing falls before you’re even able to get the chance to actually jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

Finally, the moment of truth arrives — you finally get to jump with your unit in the 82nd. Your superiors will recommend that you fill your cargo pockets with Hostess Cherry Pies first. They’ll often say it’s for some reason like, “in case you get hungry when you land” or whatever. Who are you to argue?

When your big moment finally comes and you take in the sights while falling gracefully, you’ll hopefully have your PLFs burnt into the back of your mind as second nature. Everything will happen so fast that you’ll forget those cherry pies in your pants. When you land, you’ll squish all those pies and leave a nice red stain on your uniform.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

There are great call signs out there, you just need to be lucky enough to snag one.

(Fox News)

9. Actual callsigns

In pop culture, callsigns are the coolest things ever. You’ll often see some badass names, like Iceman, Maverick, or Snake used in TV and movies. They’re always just made up because they sound cool and the storytellers don’t really know how the military works.

In reality, callsigns are usually unit designations followed by a number to signify who they are in said unit. So, for example, the commander of the Alpha company “Black Sheep” would be known as “Black Sheep 6,” and the first sergeant of the same unit is “Black Sheep 7.”

If you’re looking for unique callsigns, those are in the aviation world, and they’re typically less cool and more nonsensical. For example, if you eat a Pop-Tart one time in front of another pilot, your callsign is now forever “Pop-Tart.” Good going, Pop-Tart. That’s your callsign until the end of time.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

You (and everyone else in the unit) will have to drink whatever you put in. Or do what most people do and hide in the bathroom until this bit is over.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Don Peek)

8. The grog bowl

At civilian parties, if there’s a punch bowl, it’ll be centrally placed and it may or may not have some kind of alcohol in it. Whenever the military throws a unit ball, that punch bowl will most certainly have alcohol in it… plus a whole slew of other random things that would make anyone throw up.

Most of the leadership of the unit gets a chance to add one ingredient to the grog bowl (which is a toilet bowl) and offer some kind of nonsense to explain why their chosen ingredient has some kind of significance to the unit.

You can expect classic grog bowl ingredients, like hot sauce, because of the deserts the unit deploys to, ground coffee, because of the long hours the troops works, a cup of salt, because of the sweat that troops give to the cause, and a dirty sock because… reasons?

7. Blood wings and blood stripes

When civilians get promoted or graduate some school, the accomplishment is usually met with a party or a card that’s signed by everyone in the office. That sounds pleasant. Troops, on the other hand, almost always lose a bit of blood over it.

Blood wings and blood stripes are, essentially, the same thing. You get the wings from a school and the stripes from a promotion. Then, everyone takes turn punching it in. It’s technically considered hazing, but the troop receiving the blood wings/stripes usually agrees to it. There (typically) isn’t any malice or hate involved in the ceremony and troops usually walk away with a bit more pride in whoever bled for their new badge/rank.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

“A Mickey Mouse Challenge Coin? Really?”

6. Challenge coin “duels”

There’s nothing really odd about challenge coins in general. It’s basically the same thing as collecting trading cards as a kid, but instead of aiming for a holographic Charizard, you’re aiming for the coolest-looking coin with the most badass backstory.

Usually, officers will keep the coolest coins on their desk in their office to casually gloat about and enlisted troops keep them in some drawer at home, but sh*t gets real when troops take their coins to the bars. The ensuing game basically goes like this:

Troops unsheathe their coolest coin. If you don’t have your coin on you, you buy the drinks. If everyone has a coin, whoever has the “least valuable coin” buys the drinks. Since the “value” is determined by backstory and design — both of which are subjective — this game almost always ends in a shouting match over who has to pick up the tab.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Every airman thinks they can grow a mustache like Col. Robin Olds. The only reason his mustache is so majestic is because he literally gave zero f*cks about the rules. Rules all airmen have to follow.

(U.S. Air Force)

5. ‘Stache contests

In case you haven’t nailed down the common thread between all of these traditions, the military is engaged in a perpetual pissing contest. Troops are in constant contest to see who can do literally anything better than the next guy; to see who is the most macho of the troops. It should come as no surprise that one of the most macho things out there, facial hair, gets quantified into some sort of challenge.

The problem with this is that the military doesn’t allow most versions of facial hair — that is, with the exception of a very thin mustache. A word of warning: The first two weeks of a mustache-off makes every contestant look pathetic.

Mustache contests usually begin at the start of the deployment (presumably, when troops’ wives have less of a say in the matter) and, after a certain point, someone is declared a winner. Yet, the Air Force has unanimously decided to make March their official contest month. Whichever airman grows the best mustache by the end of March wins a high five or whatever.

4. The West Point pillow battle royale

At some point during the first years of the most intense academy for the U.S. Army’s future officers, students are offered a unique way of handling the stresses of simultaneously earning a college education while enduring four years of constant military training. These future warriors, trained in all things warfare with the intention of becoming the Army’s next generation of great leaders, settle things the exact same way as children at slumber parties — with a pillow fight.

As goofy as this sounds, things got serious. Yes. “got” — very much in the past tense, as this tradition was unceremoniously banned in 2015 in response to numerous injuries. Most cadets donned full kevlars and vests and beat the hell out of each other with pillows. More than thirty plebes that year were sent to the hospital for serious injuries, despite the strict no-hard-objects-in-the-pillows rule.

Thankfully, they had PT belts on or this could have gotten even more out of hand.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Don’t think you can just bring a spare cap that won’t be blown up. The troops will find it and make sure it’s also blown to smithereens.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)

3. Blasting up the lieutenant’s patrol cap

In the technical terms, a “blasting cap” is a small, sensitive primary explosive device used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less-sensitive secondary explosive. Soldiers in the artillery world take this term literally whenever they welcome a new platoon leader.

When the platoon first goes out for a live-fire exercise with a brand new lieutenant, they’ll take the officer’s patrol cap (either willingly or otherwise) and tape it to the end of the barrel or backplate of a rocket pod. Then, the first round goes off; it’ll take the cap with it. The officer is then expected to retrieve the nearly-burnt-to-a-crisp cap so they can remain in uniform after the ceremony is done.

No one really knows when or where this began, but every artillery officer since then has had to buy a new cap the following day.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

The real question is, if they’re both military, do neither of them get spanked — or both?

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

2. The sword butt tap at weddings

Most of the traditions on this list are kept within the realm of the military and don’t often affect civilians directly — with the major exception of military weddings. They are one of the most beautiful ways to introduce a new civilian spouse into our world. The troop’s comrades will attend wearing full dress uniforms, each carrying a sword to signify the protection they’ll offer the new spouse, as he or she is now kin.

The new comrades will serve as either groomsmen or bridesmaids and post guard outside of the chapel, or wherever the ceremony is held, and form a beautiful archway with their swords under which the married couple will walk.

Then, whoever is at the very end of the archway on the civilian spouse’s side will give a loving spank with their sword. Not a hard one, mind you, just a nice gentle way of letting them know that they’re now a part of the grander military family.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Every weird little detail of the “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been replicated as far back as anyone can remember. It can’t be THAT weird if your sailor granddad was also doing it, right?

(U.S. Navy)

1. The Court of Neptune

Whenever a Navy vessel crosses a certain point on the globe, all sailors who’ve never done so get to be initiated into an unofficial fraternity of sailors who’ve been there before. The most famous example of these ceremonies is the moment a vessel crosses the Equator at any point in the world.

Officially, it’s called the “Crossing the Line” ceremony, but sailors know it as “the Court of Neptune.” The uninitiated (known as “slimy polliwogs”) must bow before King Neptune (as portrayed by the ship’s captain) and entertain his queen, Davy Jones, the Royal Baby, and his dignitaries (portrayed by other high ranking members of the crew) with a talent show.

Regardless of how the young sailors perform, they’re found guilty of being polliwogs and must answer for their crimes. They’re “punished” by eating an extremely spicy or disgusting breakfast and are forced kiss the Royal Baby’s greasy belly. Only then can they have their slimy polliwoginess washed in seawater to finally become trusty shellbacks.

Follow any of that? Neither did any of us other slimy polliwogs…

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 reasons the OCP is superior to the ABU

The Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform has found quite the new suitor, and his name is U.S. Air Force. The Air Force has become completely smitten with the OCP and has made no secret of its affection for the green- and desert-shaded garb and intends to adopt the uniform branch-wide in the coming years.


Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force stated in a recent all-hands briefing, “there will likely be a four-year phase-in period,” so this isn’t going to be a sweeping, overnight change.

Related: This is what it was like being in the military on 9/10

But when that change is finally made, airmen are sure to be happy. The OCP has some clear-cut advantages over the ABU; here are five of them.

5. Color and functionality

Green is better than blue (or grey or whichever color it may be classified as) for most military operations, especially overseas operations. There are very few arenas that favor a blue-and-grey mix over the natural blending of greens and browns. Also, it comes with glorious pockets.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
One of these things is not like the other.

4. Uniformity

Nothing says military quite like a uniform. Specifically, we’re talking about the uniformity of uniforms. With the proposed dismissal of the morale shirt (final-f*cking-ly), it’ll automatically become easier for units to maintain true uniformity.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
And then he said that these shirts were going away! Crazy, right?! (USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Jiminez)

3. Cost-effectiveness

Having one uniform saves the Air Force money. Removing the uniform swaps that take place during deployments or permanent changes of duty station means buying fewer uniforms, which means saving cash. That’s a lot of funds that can now be better spent — glow belts, anyone?

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
So, we just got $100,000 to buy new glow belts, guys! (USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Collon)

2. Longevity

The ABU’s predecessor, the BDU, was the official duty uniform (one that we shared with all our brother services) for nearly three decades. The ABU lasted for less than a decade. Maybe getting back in line with our brother services will lead to a longer lifespan for this next uniform iteration.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
Now, this is a uniform that stuck around for a while. (USAF photo by Lt. Col Jerry Lobb).

Also read: 6 signs that you might be a veteran

1. Aesthetically pleasing

To put it plainly, it just looks better — much better. Not only will Air Force functions look better, but inter-service formations and interactions are going to look sharp.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
The days of uniform variety and service identifiers are going away. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Andy M. Kin)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Video shows Delta Force operators swarming ISIS leader’s compound

The US military released video clips of the special-operations forces raid on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Oct. 26, 2019, in northwestern Syria.

US Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the head of US Central Command, released the photos and video on Oct. 30, 2019, afternoon, showing US forces entering the compound in search of the ISIS leader.


The mission started at 9:00 a.m. ET on Oct. 26, 2019, in Syria, though US troops did not arrive at the compound until after dark.

No US soldiers were killed during the operation, but a military working dog was injured by live electrical cables after al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest in a tunnel. The dog has recovered from its injuries and returned to duty, according to McKenzie.

Fighters not associated with al-Baghdadi began attacking US troops from two locations, McKenzie said. US aircraft responded by attacking the militants.

Following the assault, the compound was hit by more munitions to prevent the location from becoming a shrine. Multiple armed helicopters, unmanned aircraft, and fighter jets were used to provide cover for the raid.

McKenzie shared before and after photographs of the building, describing it as a “parking lot with large potholes” and “not memorable.”

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Before and after photos of the compound in northwestern Syria.

(Defense Department)

The US troops detained several noncombatants, including 11 children, who were later released.

“Despite the violent nature of the raid, and the high profile nature of this assault, every effort was made to avoid civilian casualties and to protect the children that we suspected would be at the compound,” McKenzie said.

Four women and one man inside the compound were considered threats and killed after they “did not respond to commands in Arabic,” McKenzie added.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 important rules from a Medal of Honor recipient

During his second tour in Vietnam, Capt. Jay R. Vargas was the commanding officer of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment about to lead his men into the enemy-infested area of Dai Do in the Republic of Vietnam.


While north along the DMZ, the Vietnamese 320th Infantry Division were on their way south with thousands of well-trained enemy troops.

Upon marching his Marines down to their base camp, hundreds of rounds of artillery flooded around Vargas’ position — but the Marines managed to reach their destination around 4 a.m.

Related: This Corpsman saved his Marines despite being shot 4 times

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
(Medal Of Honor Book, YouTube)

After marching all night, two riverboats picked the tired Marines up and shipped them up the river toward Dai Do. Soon after boarding, the enemy began to fire. Vargas’ battalion commander instructed him to push on through the firing lanes once they’ve arrived.

After reaching the river’s bank, the Marines were already pinned down by heavy machine gun, but that didn’t stop Vargas coming up with a plan.

“Give me four Marines, we’re going to go take the machine guns,” Vargas recalls.

As they moved forward, the Marines took fire, wounding them instantly — leaving Vargas by himself.

On his own, Vargas knocked out three machine guns and killed 14 enemy troops, which reopened a clear lane for the Marines to safely move up.

Also Read: This Vietnam War vet will receive MoH for saving 10 soldiers

Vargas momentarily believed he had secured the area, but the NVA decided to counter-attack. The enemy troops managed to force the Marines into a nearby cemetery — cutting them off from resupply.

The North Vietnamese began to pound heavily on Vargas’ Marines’ position. Surrounded and down to only 80 Marines, Vargas believed the end was near.

“We were surrounded and cut-off completely,” Vargas said. “The only way to survive was to dig up those graves and toss the bodies out.”

Vargas’ Marines did as he commanded and removed body after body before taking position in the graves to seek cover.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
Capt. Jay Vargas today. (Source: Marines.mil)

Feeling as if he wasn’t going to make it out alive, Adm. John McCain (Sen. John McCain’s father), the U.S. Pacific Command commander in chief encouraged Vargas to press on over the tact line. McCain quickly made Vargas and his Marines’ survival a priority.

Naval gunships blanketed Vargas perimeter with artillery, killing countless enemy troops as the Marines sheltered themselves in the mass grave site.

After three long days of fighting, the enemy made their last stand and once again counter-attacked the tired and wounded Marines. Vargas’ battalion commander moved into his grave as he was shot three times in the back by the enemy.

Vargas felt like he had no choice but to call artillery onto his position. After using three headsets to coordinate multiple sources of incoming fire, Vargas dragged is severely wounded battalion commander over a hundred yards to a covered area while the airstrikes were coming in hot.

Soon after the airstrikes ended. The enemy forces were silenced.

Vargas recalls that his older brothers — who also served in the Corps  — gave him three golden rules to live by.

  1. Always set a good example.
  2. Take care of your men.
  3. Never ask a Marine to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.

Capt. Jay R. Vargas was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970, for his heroic acts in Vietnam.

Check out Medal Of Honor Book‘s video below to hear Jay’s extraordinary story for yourself.

Medal Of Honor Book, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the drone ships being deployed by terrorists

Drone-controlled boats filled with explosives were reportedly used in at least one attempted attack on Saudi Arabia in early October 2018.

Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen, claimed that the A Royal Saudi Naval Forces frigate Al Madinah-class 702 intercepted two boats laden with explosives traveling toward the major port of Jazan, located directly north of the country’s border with Yemen.

Al-Malaki said the Navy spotted two boats approaching the port on Sunday morning that appeared to be remotely controlled. The boats, reportedly operated by the Houthi group in Yemen, were destroyed and caused only minor material damage.


He warned that coalition forces “will strike with iron fist all those involved in acts of terrorism.”

“Those hostile acts will not go by without holding the ones executing, plotting and planning them accountable for their actions.”

On Oct. 2, 2018, Saudi border guards said they rescued a Saudi fishing boat that came under fire from unknown attackers while in Gulf waters, according to Al Arabiya. Border guards said that three fishermen on board were being treated for injuries, and an investigation into the origin of attack was underway.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen.

Over the last year, regional forces reportedly intercepted several drone boat attacks.

In January 2017, Houthi forces struck a Saudi warship using a remote-controlled boat. And in April 2017, Houthi forces attempted to blow up a Saudi Aramco fuel terminal and distribution station in Jazan using a high-speed boat rigged with explosives.

Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet, told Defense News in 2017 that there is concern over the Yemeni rebel group having access to this remote type of weaponry.

“That’s not an easy thing to develop,” he said. “There’s clearly support there coming from others, so that’s problematic,” pointing to production support of the mobile weapons by Iran.

He added that explosive boats create a new category of self-destructive attacks.

“You don’t need suicide attackers to do a suicide-like attack.”

“So it makes that kind of weaponry, which would normally take someone suicidal to use, now able to be used by someone who’s not going to martyr themselves.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why US fighters and Russian bombers keep squaring off near Alaska

On Thursday, U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors intercepted a pair of Russian military planes as they entered into America’s Alaska air defense identification zone (ADIZ), just days after conducting similar intercepts of Russian bombers in the same region. This time, the Russian aircraft, which were both reportedly IL-38 maritime patrol planes, had come within 50 miles of the Alaskan island of Unimak and then proceeded to spend a full four hours in the area.

A pair of F-22s, America’s most capable air superiority fighters, intercepted the Russian planes and escorted them out of the area. Thursday’s intercept marks the fifth time American fighters had to shoo Russian bombers and other aircraft away from U.S. Air Space this month, and the ninth time this year. A number of those intercepts included Russia’s Tu-95 long range, nuclear capable, heavy payload bombers, as well as Su-35 fighter escorts.


This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Russian Su-35 (WikiMedia Commons)

The Su-35 is a fourth-generation fighter, meaning it lacks stealth capabilities, but is still regarded as among the most capable dogfighting platforms on the planet. The Su-35’s powerful twin engines are capable of propelling the fighter to a top speed of Mach 2.25, far faster than an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and each comes equipped with thrust vectoring nozzles that allow the aircraft to perform incredible acrobatics that most other fourth and even fifth generation fighters simply can’t.

That is to say that Russia is clearly taking these incursions into America’s backyard seriously, sending some of their most capable platforms on these missions.

America’s F-22 Raptor, however, also comes equipped with twin, thrust vectoring power plants, which in conjunction with its stealth capabilities, likely makes the F-22 the most fearsome air superiority fighter on the planet.

Are Russian bomber intercepts common for the U.S. or its allies?

The short answer is yes. The United States and Russia have a long history of staring matches in the Alaskan ADIZ, but many other nations, particularly members of NATO, often mount their own intercept flights as Russian pilots encroach on their air space as well.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

USAF F-22 Raptor intercepting a Russian Tu-95 bomber near Alaska earlier this month. (NORAD)

Russia regularly conducts long-distance bomber missions all over the world, sometimes prompting an intercept response from nations that feel threatened by their bomber presence. According to the BBC, Royal Air Force intercept fighters have ushered away Russian bombers and other aircraft encroaching on their airspace no fewer than ten times since the beginning of 2019.

What is Russia trying to accomplish?

Like many military operations, these flights are motivated by multiple internal and external factors.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

(WikiMedia Commons)

Training and Preparation

The primary reason behind these long-range flights, particularly for heavy payload bombers, is simply training. In order to be able to execute these long range bombing missions in the event of real war, Russian pilots conduct training flights that closely resemble how actual combat operations would unfold.

It’s worth noting that the United States conducts similar long-range training flights with its own suite of heavy payload bombers, including the non-nuclear B-1B Lancer and the nuclear capable B-52 Stratofortress. Long duration missions can be dangerous and difficult even without an enemy shooting back at you — so it’s in the best interest of nations with long range bomber capabilities to regularly conduct long range flights.

Long range missions require a great deal of logistical planning as well, as bombers are often accompanied by fighters that don’t have the same fuel range as the massive planes they escort. That means not only coordinating with escort fighters from multiple installations, but also managing support from airborne refuelers and flights of Advanced Warning and Control (AWAC) planes. Executing such a complex operation takes practice, no matter the nation conducting them.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

USAF F-15 intercepts Russian Tu-95 Bear Bomber (USAF)

Posturing in the face of opponents

An important part of Russia’s foreign policy is maintaining the threat they represent to diplomatic opponents (like the United States and its NATO allies). Deterrence is the ultimate goal of many military operations, and demonstrating the capability to launch long-range strikes against national opponents is meant to support that doctrine.

The concept of using a strong offense as a good defense dates back to when mankind first starting sharpening sticks to defend their territory, and is perhaps best demonstrated in a modern sense by America and Russia’s nuclear deterrent approach of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The premise behind MAD is simple: by maintaining a variety of nuclear attack capabilities, it makes stopping a nuclear response to an attack all but impossible. In other words, if the U.S. launch nuclear weapons at Russia, Russia would be guaranteed to fire their own back at the U.S., and vice versa.

The promise that one nuclear attack would immediately result in a large-scale nuclear war is seen as deterrent enough to keep nuclear powers from engaging in such a terrible form of warfare… at least thus far.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

(ABC News Headline Jan 10, 2020)

Making the nuclear threat feel mundane

The third, and perhaps most nefarious, reason behind these flights that prompt intercepts from U.S. or allied fighters is as a means of desensitizing military personnel and even civilian populations to the presence of Russian bombers or other aircraft on our doorstep.

Because each of these flights prompts a flurry of headlines form major media outlets, many Americans have taken to dismissing these flights as so commonplace they hardly warrant the webspace. Likewise within the military, conducting frequent intercepts of Russian aircraft can leave some pilots and commanders increasingly complacent about the threat these aircraft potentially pose.

Imagine a bear breaking into your trash can every couple of months. The first few times, you’d be pretty scared and concerned. You might even set up cameras and invest in some bear-spray you can use to deter the bears from coming back. After a few months of sporadic bear visits, that fear turns to annoyance, as you begin to feel as though the bear isn’t a threat to you, but is an inconvenience in your life.

After years of dealing with the same bear digging through your trash, you would likely stop seeing the bear as a threat to your safety and adopt a more neutral approach to rolling your eyes and swearing under your breath every time it comes lumbering up to your old trash can.

The bear itself is no less dangerous to you than it was the first time you saw it and panicked, but your perception of the bear has shifted. Now, while you’re aware that it could hurt you, you’ve also developed an understanding that it probably won’t. You may even start to ignore it from time to time. That unintentional complacency brought about through familiarization will leave you less primed to react if the bear suddenly does pose a threat to your safety.

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The slight delay in your response, brought about by complacency, could be all the bear needs to do some real damage. The same can be said about Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers.

How to combat complacency with a Russian “Bear” in your yard

Complacency isn’t just a concern when it comes to Russian aircraft or curious bears. Letting your guard down is a constant concern for service members on the front lines of any conflict.

Military protocol is one powerful tool in the fight against complacency, because it mandates a threat response and outlines its proper execution. In other words, the U.S. Military doesn’t have to make any specific decisions at the onset of identifying a potential threat. Instead, they execute the tasks on their threat response checklist to gather vital information, prepare a response, and in these cases, intercept the bombers.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

USAF F-22 intercepts Russian bomber (NORAD)

In this way, America can turn the potential threat of complacency into a valuable training operation, wherein U.S. personnel act as though this Russian bomber flight could be a real attack. Of course, the risk of complacency remains, but that’s why continuous training and preparation is an essential part of American defense.

Whether it’s Russian bombers or a wayward Grizzly, if you treat every interaction like it could be dangerous, you’ll be better prepared in the event that it is.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Popeye the Sailor was based on a real person – and this is what he looked like

Cartoonist E.C. Segar created Popeye the Sailor in 1919 after taking a correspondence course on drawing from a guy in Cleveland. Segar’s hometown of Chester, Ill. was chock full of characters that Segar easily adapted to print. Dora Paskel, the owner of a local general store, was unusually tall and thin, wearing her hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. J. William Schuchert was the local theater owner who had a voracious appetite for hamburgers.

And Frank Fiegel was a one-eyed, pipe-smoking brawler who never turned down a fight.


This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Frank Fiegel died in 1947 and was originally buried in an unmarked grave. Popeye fans rectified this in 1996.

Fiegel was more likely to down a few bourbons instead of a can of spinach to get his super fighting prowess, but the rest of his caricature fit the Sailor Man to a T. He had the same jutting chin, built frame, and trademark pipe as his cartoon counterpart. But kids were rather scared of Olive Oyl’s real-world inspiration, as she was more apt to stay inside her store. Wimpy’s rotund figure was based on Popeye creator E.C. Segar’s old boss at the local theater. When Segar wasn’t lighting lamps, he was sent out to pick up burgers for the owner.

Popeye’s real-life inspiration is sometimes attributed to a photo of an old sailor who really does resemble Popeye the Sailor Man, but this is just internet folklore.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

(Imperial War Museum)

The sailor in the above photo is really a sailor, but he’s a British sailor. His name is lost to history, but the Imperial War Museum lists him as “A Leading Stoker nicknamed ‘Popeye,'” with 21 years in service and fighting aboard the HMS Rodney in 1940. Fiegel would have been at least 70 years old when this photo of the battleship sailor was taken.

Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was actually a bartender and not any kind of sailor, but he did love the kids around Chester, and they used to love to play pranks on the old barfly. Fiegel would impress them with his feats of strength as well as his telltale corncob pipe – something young Segar would never forget. “Popeye” was an homage to an unforgettable man who lived to know his image was soon in 500 newspapers nationwide, the symbol of sticking up for the little guy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says there’s no plan to withdraw from Iraq

During a surprise trip to Iraq, his first such visit with US troops in a combat zone, President Donald Trump says he has “no plans at all” to withdraw US forces from the country, where they’ve been present since the 2003 invasion.

Trump had not previously said he would pull US troops from Iraq, but the trip comes after he abruptly announced the withdrawal of some 2,000 US troops from Syria — a decision that reportedly prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation — and reports emerged of plans to remove about half of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.


Mattis, who will leave office at the end of 2018, signed an order to withdraw troops from Syria on Dec. 24, 2018.

Trump, accompanied by his wife, Melania, traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night, flying to Al Asad air base in western Iraq and delivering a holiday message to more than 5,000 US troops stationed in the country. He is expected to make two stops on the trip, according to The New York Times.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

President Trump and the First Lady visit troops at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

The trip was kept secret, with Air Force One reportedly making the 11-hour flight with lights off and window shades drawn. Trump said he had never seen anything like it and that he was more concerned with the safety of those with him than he was for himself, according to the Associated Press.

The president said that because of gains made against ISIS in Syria, US forces there were able to return home. US officials have said the militant group holds about 1% of the territory it once occupied, though several thousand fighters remain in pockets in western Syria and others have blended back into local populations.

Trump said the mission in Syria was to remove ISIS from its strongholds and not to be a nation-builder, which he said was a job for other wealthy countries. He praised Saudi Arabia this week for committing money to rebuild the war-torn country. The US presence there was never meant to be “open-ended,” he added.

Trump told reporters traveling with him that he wanted to remove US forces from Syria but that Iraq could still be used as a base to launch attacks on ISIS militants.

If needed, the US can attack ISIS “so fast and so hard” that they “won’t know what the hell happened,” Trump said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Place, The Legend, The Man: Honoring an incredible Marine

ARLINGTON, Va. —

The residents of Bishopville, a small South Carolina town, filled the streets, Aug. 29, for a special celebration honoring their hometown hero. The motto “Heritage, History, Home,” proudly painted on the Main Street mural perfectly embodied the town’s spirit as everyone gathered for the return of retired Major James “Jim” Capers Jr.

Maj. Capers, described by his comrades as the “utmost Marine”, is the recipient of a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor, and three Purple Hearts. Most notably for his time in Vietnam, he is one of the most decorated Marines in Force Reconnaissance history. He became the first African American to command a Marine Reconnaissance company and to receive a battlefield commission.


“This is what you call a great moment in America. What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.” retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command

The townspeople cheered and waved small American flags as the celebration began with the “Parade of Heroes.” Led by the recently turned 83-year-old Capers, veterans and active duty, from near and far, marched proudly in uniform, veteran’s attire, old unit gear, or simply an American flag T-shirt.

Followed by speeches from the Bishopville mayor, South Carolina state senators and representative, retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, a letter written by the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue read by his council, and the presentation of the highest civilian award in the state, every speech or letter addressed Maj. Capers’ service beyond the battlefield.

“This is what you call a great moment in America,” former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command and friend of Capers since 2009. “What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.”

When asked to describe Maj. Capers in one word, common choices included hero, brave, brother, patriot, family, strong, inspiration and American. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he continued his life of service by working closely with those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and always lending a helping hand to anyone in need. After losing his wife and son, those who consider him family are those he “adopted” along the way.

The crowd stood in awe, followed shortly by an eruption of applause as an elaborate plaque titled “The Place, The Legend, The Man” was unveiled in the town’s Memorial Park. The Place, showing North and South Vietnam; The Legend, a textured recreation Maj. Capers’ iconic Marine Corps recruitment campaign poster with the text “Ask a Marine;” and The Man, his story from the beginning in Bishopville.

Capers addressed the crowd stating he was overwhelmed with emotion. “All of the awards that were bestowed upon me this morning, I don’t deserve any of this,” said Capers. “It really doesn’t belong to me, I’m just a caretaker.”

Family and friends standing teary eyed close by, he continued to address all the service members who never had a parade held for them, the ones who weren’t taken care of when they came home, and the ones who never returned.

The celebration concluded with a gathering at the Veterans Museum, where the man who proudly became the face of the Marine Corps when he could barely stand after being wounded 19 times, the man who devoted his life to a country who continued to judge him based on the color of his skin, the man who turned strangers into family, stood in astonishment at the number of people willing to come see him on a Saturday morning.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Lists

4 things you immediately learn after treating a Taliban fighter

Corpsman and combat medics often get tasked with being quasi-detectives before, during, and after coming in contact with the enemy. Due to the Geneva Convention and a special oath we take, we’re bound to treat every patient that comes our way — regardless of what side they’re on.


After every mission or patrol, the infantry squad gathers to conduct a debriefing of the events that transpired. It’s in this moment that thoughts and ideas are discussed before squad breaks for some decompression time.

If the corpsman and combat medic took care of an enemy patient and discovered new information, everyone needs to know — the info could save lives down the line.

Related: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

So, what kinds of things do we look for outside of the obvious when we treat the bad guys?

4. The importance of elbows.

Ask any seasoned sniper, “how are your elbows?” He’ll probably tell you that they’re bruised as hell. Many snipers lose superficial sensation in the bony joint after spending hours in the prone position, lining up that perfect shot.

When a Taliban fighter has sore or bruised elbows, chances are they took a few shots at allied forces in the past. The squad doc can usually check during a standard exam.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle notices his Iraq host with bruised elbows, making him a potential sniper. (Screenshot from American Sniper, property of Warner Brothers)

3. Scars are telling.

The Taliban are well known for seeking American treatment for minor issues, but typically to go to their own so-called “doctors” when they get shot. Medical staff commonly search for other injuries while conducting their exam. Scarring due to significant injury is immediately red flagged.

Although the bad guy will likely make up a sh*t excuse for the healed-over wound via the interpreter, moving forward, he’s a guy you probably shouldn’t trust.

Also Read: 11 memes that are way too real for every Corpsman

2. Always consider time frame.

Often, the Taliban shows up at the American front gates, pleading for medical attention while claiming to have been innocently shot. This claim usually earns them entry into the allied base under close guard. Next, the potential bad guy gives a statement and a time frame of when he was injured.

This information will be routed up to the intel office to be thoroughly verified. Oftentimes, the state of the wound doesn’t match up with the time frame given. As a “doc,” always recall the typical stages of healing and determine how old the really wound is, regardless of statement.

1. There’s a little hope with every patient you encounter.

Although you’re on opposing sides, there’s some good in every patient you come across. From the youngest to the oldest, your professionalism and kindness could stop a future attack down the line. Winning the “hearts and minds” isn’t complete bullsh*t, but it’s close.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII
Doc Silva handshakes the hand of a few Afghan children while on patrol. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

popular

What life was actually like for a viking berserker

Many myths and legends surround the Vikings. Known for being fierce raiders, courageous explorers, and competent traders, the Viking Age lasted from roughly 793 AD until 1066 AD. It should be noted, however, that much of their history wasn’t written from their perspective and is therefore skewed. Only two literary works, the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, and some sagas were known to have survived the ages. Historians are now looking at Vikings in a different light because of recent evidence surfacing that disproves many of the myths about the “heathen savages” to the North.


Modern historians characterize Vikings more as fur traders than the bloodthirsty savages they’re often depicted as. The most barbaric and over-the-top of these Viking stories were of the
Viking berserker. Berserkers were said to have been lone Viking warriors who donned nothing but a bearskin (or a “bear coat,” which, in Old Norse, is pronounced, “bjorn-serkr” — sound familiar?), took psychedelic drugs to block out pain, and destroyed anyone foolish enough to stand in the way of their ax. Though not entirely wrong, these are definitely exaggerations.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Verdict is still out on if they fought dragons or wrote books on how to train them. (Bethesda Studios’ Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim)

First of all, there were three different
warrior cults who were often bunched into the same category. They are the well-known Berserkers (whose bear coats are often attributed to the worship of Thor, Tyr, or Odin), the Ulfhednar (who wore wolf coats for Odin), and the Svinflylking (who wore boar coats for Freya). Each devotedly fought for a different Norse god and each took on the aspect of the animal whose pelt they wore.

These tribal groupings contradict the “lone savage” stereotype. All berserkers — especially the wolf coats — were used in combat as a complement to other Vikings. Scandinavian kings would use the berserkers as shock troops to augment their forces. The pelt they wore was similar in function to modern-day unit insignias. You could tell who was a berserker on the battlefield because their “battle cry” was to bite down on their shield.

Secondly, their defining pelt wasn’t the only thing they wore, either. As intimidating as it would be to see a burly Viking wearing nothing but a bear coat, war paint, and the blood of their enemies, this kind of garb was nowhere near as common as the myth would have you believe. The
Volsung Saga corroborates the idea of a frenzied, mostly naked warrior, but logically speaking, the frozen tundras of Scandinavia would be too damn cold to spend weeks displaying what Odin gave them to their enemies. They may not have worn chainmail — which was very uncommon among Vikings since coastal raiding would rust the iron — but wood carvings showed them as at least wearing pants.

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Who knows? Maybe a few berserks did leave this world the same way they came in, you know, naked and covered in someone else’s blood. (Woodcarving via Antiqvitets Akademien)

Finally, we arrive at the myth about the hallucinogens. The first accounts of Vikings “going berserk” because they ate magic mushrooms was hypothesized in 1784 by a Christian priest named Odmann. He came to a conclusion that connected the berserkers to the
fly agaric mushroom because he read that Siberian shamans did the same when they were healing. There are two problems with this theory. First, the mushrooms are extremely toxic and would leave any warrior in no shape to fight. Second, these mushrooms were never mentioned anywhere until 1784 — long after the Viking age.

Now, that’s not to say that they didn’t take something for the pain in battle. Stinking Nightshade was discovered in a
berserker grave in 1977. Mostly used as medicine, the plant was also used in war paint. If the nightshade were crushed down and made into a paste, it could be applied to a warrior to slightly dull their senses.

The effects would be similar to someone running into battle after popping a bunch of Motrin.

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