This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

The Air Force Pararescue community lives according to the motto, “These Things We Do, That Others May Live.” There may be none who lived that motto more fully than Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger who was killed in action in March, 1966, after intentionally placing himself in harm’s way to rescue infantryman pinned down by snipers, mortars, and machine gun fire.

For his valor, he became the first enlisted airman to receive the Medal of Honor.


This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

A1C William Pitsenbarger

Pitsenbarger, or “Pits,” as he was known, first tried to join the military as a Green Beret when he was 17, but his parents prevailed upon him to wait until after high school. In 1962, he became a graduate and answered the call — this time, with the Air Force instead of the Army. As a pararescuemen, he would be responsible for grabbing downed airmen and others from contested and enemy-held areas around the world. Becoming a PJ was no easy feat, and it wasn’t a job for the timid.

After completing SCUBA training with the Navy, paratrooper training with the Army, and survival and medical training with the Air Force, he was ready to go to work. Before his deployment to Vietnam, he was called upon to help rescue two hunters stuck in the California wilderness. After rappelling down a sheer cliff face to reach them, he and another pararescueman encountered an angry bear. Pits charged the bear, yelling and screaming, chasing it off. It was immediately clear that he was cut out for this kind of work.

Pitsenbarger finally got orders overseas — to Okinawa, Japan. Wanting to go where his help was needed most, he requested to go to Vietnam instead, and his request was approved. Before shipping out, his parents later said that they were sure they would never see him alive again. Sadly, they were right.

In Vietnam, Pits proved himself an exceptionally capable medical and rescue professional. He helped treat lepers at a colony in Vietnam, escorted singer Mary Martin during a USO tour, and inserted into a burning minefield to rescue a South Vietnamese soldier who had lost a foot trying to stomp out a grass fire. For the minefield rescue, Pitsenbarger was awarded the Airman’s Medal.

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

A1C Pitsenbarger receiving the Airman’s Medal in Vietnam.

But Pitsenbarger’s most consequential moments came in 1966. On April 11, three companies of the Big Red One, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, were engaged in a risky sweep across two provinces in search of Viet Cong units. Charlie Company was on one end of the formation and realized too late that it had drifted from the others — and was exposed to sniper fire.

Company leadership realized they were in danger and set up a defensive perimeter, but they were already outnumbered and surrounded. The North Vietnamese triggered their attack, sending mortar and sniper fire ripping through the American formation. The other companies attempted to come to their aid, but mounting casualties quickly made it clear that Charlie Company needed a rescue.

The Air Force sent two rescue helicopters to begin getting the wounded out. The first flight was challenging but, for a jungle firefight in Vietnam, fairly uneventful. Both helicopters took the first flight of wounded to a nearby hospital and doubled back for more. Once back in the field, it became clear to Pits that the Army soldiers no longer had the manpower necessary to hold back the attacks, treat the wounded, and put them on litters for extraction. He volunteered to insert into the jungle and help out.

The pilot reluctantly agreed to the risky request, and Pits began sending men up to the two helicopters despite bursts of fierce mortar and machine gun fire. Pitsenbarger was responsible for getting nine wounded men out in three flights, refusing his own extraction each time, before ground fire nearly downed one of the helicopters and forced them to leave.

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

Poster art for ‘The Last Full Measure’ depicting Pitsenbarger’s rescue in Vietnam.

On the ground, Pits continuously exposed himself to enemy fire to recover rifles and ammunition from the dead to redistribute to the living. He was wounded at least twice before he reached his final position. He had given away his pistol to a soldier too wounded to use any other weapon, and so Pits used one of the recovered rifles to resist a North Vietnamese advance until he was hit again — this time fatally.

The Army fought on through the night, relying on danger close artillery and airstrikes to survive the night. When the Air Force was able to get rescue helicopters back in the next morning, an Army captain told the next pararescueman on the ground what had happened to Pits.

Charlie Company had 134 men when the battle started. 106 of them were wounded or killed in the fighting, but Pits had gotten an extra nine of them out and kept others alive overnight.

Five months later, on Sept. 22, 1966, the Air Force presented the Air Force Cross to Pitsenbarger’s parents. It was the first awarding of the Air Force Cross to an enlisted airman for service in Vietnam. After decades of campaigning from the men he saved from what seemed like certain demise, Pitsenbarger’s citation was finally upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Pitsenbarger is the first enlisted airman to receive such an award.

Now, Pits’ story is headed to the big screen. The Last Full Measure is scheduled to release on Jan. 24, 2020. Be sure to watch the trailer below and secure your tickets to honor this true American hero.

THE LAST FULL MEASURE Official Trailer (2020) Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan Movie HD

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This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

MIGHTY SPORTS

No-fail trial PT tests could help improve fitness scores for airmen

The top enlisted leader of the U.S. Air Force is making resiliency a top priority for the last year of his tenure, and part of his plan to promote strong and mindful airmen is to revamp how airmen approach the physical fitness assessment, commonly known as the PT test.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright is looking at new ways of approaching the PT test. One possibility under consideration is a no-fail trial PT test, that if passed, would count as the airman’s official score, Wright’s spokesman, Senior Master Sgt. Harry Kibbe, said.

“The intent is to relieve some of the anxiety, and hopefully this is one of the steps that can get [the Air Force] closer to a culture of fitness rather than a culture of fitness testing,” Kibbe told Miliary.com on Aug. 7, 2019. The news was first reported by Air Force Magazine.


Kibbe explained that, in the Air Force, an “excellent” composite score is equal to or greater than 90 points with all minimum components met. A satisfactory score is between 75 and 89.99 points. Anything below 75 is a failing score. If an airman scores 90 or above, he or she has a year before the next test. Those within the 75 to 89 category only have six months before they must take the next assessment.

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

(United States Air Force)

The current Air Force fitness test is gender and age-normed and combines a 1.5-mile run time with maximum pushup and sit-up repetitions within one minute.

“In order to try to relieve some of the anxiety that airmen are having when they’re getting close to their due date, we’re going to allow them to take a ‘diagnostic test,'” he said.

It can be taken anytime in the year-long or six-month window, though not after.

“They’re going to take that diagnostic test and if they pass it, as long as they’re doing it through the official testing system … their clock would reset,” Kibbe said. “If they don’t pass it, but they’re still current, there will not be any punitive actions.”

If an airman fails the pre-test, he or she still has time to work on “what they need to work on” to improve for the next PT assessment, he said.

Kibbe said the Air Force is in the process of developing the policy, but stressed it’s still “months away” from any potential implementation.

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight
A Day in the Life

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamie Pitcher)

There may also be a change to the tape test, Kibbe said. The tape test, which measures body fat based on waist circumference, has drawn criticism over the years as an ineffective way to assess body composition due to differences in body type and musculature.

Officials are “looking at incorporating an equation,” Kibbe said. “To find out your fitness index for the abdominal circumference, they’re looking at adding into an equation your waist measurement, your height and your run time to get an overall cardiovascular fitness index, or a number that more accurately represents how you’re doing.”

The waist maximums remain 39 inches for men and 35.5 inches for women.

There are outliers when it comes to waist measurement, though, including very tall men and women and those with big builds. Kibbe said the Air Force is still weighing what the cutoffs for the proposed equation method would be.

“The science is telling us that we do need to keep a measurement of the waist because [it] is an accurate predictor of health,” he said.

For any changes to PT, Kibbe said Wright is making sure the service “gets it right rather than fast.”

“He’s more than comfortable to handing this off to the next [CMSAF] knowing it has been set up for success,” Kibbe said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How a Vice News journalist smoked the new Army PT test

A Vice News journalist took the Army’s new combat fitness test, scoring a 502 out of 600 while talking to the team that is implementing the new test about how it works, what it tells them about soldier performance, and how it will affect the Army in the future.


What It Takes To Pass The Army’s Combat Fitness Test

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Alzo Slade, the journalist, completed all six events in the new test, including the maximum deadlift, standing power throw, hand-release push-ups, sprint drag carry, leg tucks, and two-mile run.

Alzo deadlifted 300 pounds, threw the medicine ball 11.2 meters, did 42 hand-release push-ups, completed the sprint drag carry in 1:52, completed 13 leg tucks, and completed his two-mile run in 19:16.

Except for the two-mile run, that puts Alzo far ahead of the minimums. He more than doubled the deadlift requirement, over tripled the requirement for the push-ups, and did 13 times the minimum for leg tucks. Combined, this meant that Alzo qualified for the most physically demanding jobs. If you watch the video and see Alzo, it won’t come as a huge surprise. He looks pretty fit.

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

New York National Guard soldiers take the Army Combat Fitness Test on March 9, 2019.

(U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Katie Sullivan)

But of course, any discussion of the Army’s new PT test includes the question, “Why?” The Army has tried to replace its test over and over. And the reasons for the Army Combat Fitness Test will sound similar to those for previous, failed PT test replacement efforts.

The push-ups, sit-ups, and two-mile-run of the old PT test was simply not a good predictor of physical performance in combat, the Army’s most important physical arena. It allowed long rests between events and tested a limited number of muscle groups.

But the new test, if implemented, has six events in 50 minutes. The lion’s share of that time goes to the two-mile run, but soldiers will also be required to lift weights, throw weights, and complete a complex shuttle run that tests complex movements. This is more like a Crossfit workout.

And while that can sound intimidating, remember that a journalist coming in off the street earned a 502 on the current score tables. You can outscore a civilian journalist, right?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Cobra was the forerunner to one of America’s classic aircraft

For 25 years, the F/A-18 Hornet/Super Hornet family has been the backbone of carrier aviation for the United States Navy. These planes have also seen some success in the export market, making the F/A-18 a classic that’ll be around for decades to come. However, if Congress had its way in the 1970s, this plane likely wouldn’t have existed.

In the wake of the Vietnam War, the United States was looking to develop fighters that would make quick work of Soviet designs. Although U.S. planes were scoring kills more often than they were being shot down, the ratio wasn’t favorable enough. So, the Lightweight Fighter program was born.

Congress, in its infinite wisdom, told the Navy and Air Force that both would buy the winner of this developmental competition. The Air Force liked the eventual winner, which became the classic F-16, but the Navy favored the runner-up: the YF-17 Cobra. Luckily, the Navy didn’t fold to the whims of Congress.


This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

The two contenders in the Lightweight Fighter fly-off, the YF-16 Falcon (which became the classic F-16) and the YF-17 Cobra.

(USAF)

The YF-17 Cobra had two engines, as opposed to the one of the YF-16. For carrier pilots, who have a lot of ocean to fly over, this was extremely appealing. With two engines, you have a backup in case one goes bad. In a single engine-plane, failure means it’s time to pull the loud handle and eject.

The Cobra also had awesome performance: A top speed of Mach 2, four pylons on the wings for air-to-air or air-to-ground weaponry, a centerline pylon for bombs or an external fuel tank, a 20mm M61 cannon, and the ability to carry two AIM-9 Sidewinders on the wingtips. Not only was this a faster plane than the Hornet, it also had a longer maximum unrefueled range of 2,800 miles.

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

The YF-17, though, served as the basis for the classic F/A-18 Hornet.

(USMC photo by LCPL John McGarity)

The lower cost of operation, greater range, and high performance struck a chord with the Navy. They teamed up with Northrop and McDonnell-Douglas, the makers of the YF-17, to refine the design and turn it into the multirole fighter they really wanted. This fighter was the F/A-18 Hornet.

Learn more about the forerunner to one of the Navy’s very best fighters the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BD97Tf7doE8

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Heather Wilson swore in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017 with a clear-eyed view on the task at hand.

“When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force I said, “You know, Mr. Secretary, I’m not the kind of gal who just cuts ribbons on new dormitories, that’s not me. But if you want somebody who’s going to help to try to solve problems and make it better, not just different, but better, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Before representing New Mexico’s first district as a member of Congress and being the president of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Wilson was an Air Force officer. During her seven years of service in the 1980s, she served as a planner, political advisor and a defense policy arms control director. Her husband, Jay Hone, served in the 1970s as an Air Force lawyer and went on to retire from the service. For them, Air Force business was family business, and there was work to be done.


Wilson said her responsibilities as SecAF were broader than those of any other executive position she held…she was obligated to the welfare of 685,000 total force airmen and their families, and the oversight of a 8 billion annual budget. Aware of the devastating toll sequestration and 27 years of combat had taken on the force, Wilson called on her wingmen – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright – to help devise and oversee plans to restore the readiness of the force, cost-effectively modernize, and revitalize Air Force squadrons. It would take an Air Force-wide effort to get after these challenges, and the senior leaders’ message to the airmen was clear.

“We trust you…we trust that you’ve been well-trained,” Wilson said. “We will try to give you a clear set of mission parameters and the skills and the abilities to get after the job. Don’t wait to be told what to do…see the problems around you and just get after them. Don’t wait for us.”

That’s one of the things Wilson said she’s appreciated most about the “intelligent, capable and committed” U.S. Air Force airmen – their unique way of handling business.

“I like the fact that airmen don’t always do exactly what they’re told in the way they were told to do it because they come up with better answers to complex, difficult problems,” she said.

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to 2nd Maintenance Squadron airmen during a tour at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 14, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

And for the issues that required Headquarters-level intervention, Wilson relied on her wingman for assistance.

“The law says the service secretary has all of the authority to run the service, but the chief of staff has most of the influence,” Wilson said. “There are very few decisions that I make without asking for his advice, and he freely gives that advice. If I know we have a difference in opinion I always want to understand why, and as a result I think we have a very close, professional working relationship, and that is transmitted to the force. We’ve been forging vicious partnerships between both the civilian leadership and the military leadership of the service, and it’s been very effective.”

After two years, the results of Wilson’s empowering leadership are palpable.

“There have been significant advances in the Air Force’s ability to win any fight, any time, including a more than 30% increase in readiness, she said. “We’ve also gone a long way in cost-effective modernization and taking the authorities we’ve been given to buy things faster and smarter. We’ve stripped 100 years out of Air Force procurement in the last year…we’re streamlining the schedules to get capability to the warfighter faster.”

With a shared focus on revitalizing squadrons, Wilson and Goldfein also returned power, time and support back to the squadron by removing redundant policies, revamping personnel evaluations, updating professional military training and extending high year of tenure.

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington D.C., April 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)

On a larger scale, Wilson worked with the Secretaries of the Army and Navy to make the process of transferring duty stations easier for military families. Together, they wrote letters to governors across the United States to address two issues members said matter most – the quality of public schools near military installations and reciprocity of licensure.

“We told them, ‘We want you to know when we make basing decisions in the future we’re going to take these things into account,'” she said. “We had some leverage, and I’ve been really pleased at the number of states that have passed laws related to reciprocity of licensure.

“I hope the changes that we’ve made to assignment policies at Talent Marketplace has helped to make a difference, to give families more control and choice over their lives, and recognize that they’re balancing family life with service life,” she continued. “And I hope that ultimately that’ll mean we keep more highly capable airmen in the service for longer.”

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with airmen during a farewell interview at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, May 8, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett)

Though her tenure as SecAF is at its end, the impact of her laser-focused efforts may reverberate throughout the service for years to come.

“I came here to try to make things better,” Wilson said. “Life’s short, time’s short, so you got to make a difference today. I hope people have a better quality of life and quality of service because we were here. And I hope that the Air Force is better because I served.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bin Laden’s mother says the terror leader was ‘brainwashed’

The mother of the late Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, has said in her first interview with Western media that her infamous son was “brainwashed” into a life of extremism.

Alia Ghanem said in the interview published by The Guardian newspaper on Aug 3 that “the people at university changed him. He became a different man,” referring to the time when bin Laden was in his early 20s and an economics student in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.


She appeared to blame Abdullah Azzam, a Muslim Brotherhood member who became bin Laden’s spiritual adviser at the university.

Ghanem, speaking from the family home in Jeddah, said prior to that time, the future terror leader had been a shy and academically capable student.

“He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s,” Ghanem said.
This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

Abdullah Azzam

“You can call it a cult. They got money for their cause,” she said. “I would always tell him to stay away from them, and he would never admit to me what he was doing, because he loved me so much.”

The United States invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 because the Taliban-led government had protected Al-Qaeda and bin Laden, who organized the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The Taliban was driven from power, and bin Laden, hiding in the northern Pakistani city of Abbotabad, was killed in a U.S. raid in 2011.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy warship has been quarantined at sea for two months due to rare virus

A US Navy warship deployed to the Persian Gulf has been quarantined at sea for more than two months because of a virus outbreak, a rare move the US Navy revealed March 13, 2019, after an inquiry from CNN.

Parotitis, a viral infection with symptoms similar to the mumps, has spread across the USS Fort McHenry, a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship, affecting a total of 25 sailors and Marines. Symptoms of the illness appeared for the first time in December 2018.


Are Cyber Attacks Acts of War?

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New video:

In the past 15 years, state-sponsored cyber attacks have increased significantly, from hacking government and military computers to obtain information to shu…

Sick sailors were quarantined aboard the vessel and treated in the onboard medical facilities while their living areas were cleaned and disinfected. No one had to be medevaced off the ship, CNN reported March 13, 2019, but it’s very unusual for US warships to spend more than two months at sea without a port call.

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

USS Fort McHenry.

“None of the cases are life-threatening and all have either already made or are expected to make a full recovery,” Fifth Fleet said in a statement emailed to Business Insider. Since the first case was detected at the end of 2018, 24 of the 25 infected individuals have returned to duty.

The US Navy told Business Insider that port calls were canceled, effectively quarantining the ship at sea while medical teams worked to get the situation under control. Exercising caution, it was determined that all of the more than 700 service members on the Fort McHenry would receive booster vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella.

Viral parotitis is an infection of the saliva glands on either side of the face that’s typically caused by the mumps, which can be prevented through vaccination.

The Fort McHenry, which carries elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently operating in the Persian Gulf. A US military medical team specializing in preventative care will be deploying to the Fort McHenry in the near future to assess the crew and MEU’s health.

A US Navy spokesman told Business Insider that a ship is like a college dorm, locker room, or even a first-grade class. People are living in close proximity, and illnesses make the rounds from time to time, but this situation is quite unusual. The Navy said that it believes it has a handle on the situation.

As only a small portion of the crew has been affected by the virus, routine unit-level training operations have continued with some modification to the training schedules.

CNN reported that the Navy made no mention of the virus outbreak aboard the Fort McHenry until the outlet asked about it.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian missile disaster fallout suggests a nuclear reactor blew up

A mysterious explosion at a Russian weapons testing site August 2019 released various radioactive isotopes, creating a cloud of radioactive gases that swept across a nearby town, the country’s state weather agency said Aug. 26, 2019, and experts said the mixture removes all doubt about what blew up.

The deadly Aug. 8, 2019, blast at the Nyonoksa military weapons testing range released a handful of rapidly decaying radioactive isotopes — strontium-91, barium-139, barium-140, and lanthanum-140 — which have half-lives ranging from 83 minutes to 12.8 days, the Roshydromet national weather and environmental monitoring agency said in a statement.

“These are fission products,” Joshua Pollack, a leading expert on nuclear and missile proliferation, told Insider. “If anyone still doubts that a nuclear reactor was involved in this incident, this report should go a long way toward resolving that.”


Alexander Uvarov, the editor of the independent news site AtomInfo.ru, told the news agency RIA Novosti that these isotopes were products of nuclear fission involving uranium, Agence France-Presse reported Aug. 26, 2019. This collection of radioisotopes could be released by a reaction involving uranium-235.

Russia Missile Explosion: Govt tells Nyonoksa residents to leave village

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Nils Bohmer, a Norwegian nuclear-safety expert, told The Barents Observer that “the presence of decay products like barium and strontium is coming from a nuclear chain reaction,” adding that it was evidence that it “was a nuclear reactor that exploded.”

Edwin Lyman, an expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Guardian that the fission products detected pointed to a reactor release.

Russia has been cagey with the details of the accident, which killed at least five and as many as seven people and triggered a radiation spike in nearby Severodvinsk, a detail Russia has flip-flopped on acknowledging.

In the aftermath of the explosion, Russia’s explanation of the accident and its risks varied, several nuclear monitoring stations in Russia mysteriously went offline, doctors treating the wounded said that they were forced to sign nondisclosure agreements and that hospital records were destroyed, and one doctor was found to have a radioactive isotope in his muscle tissue. Russia has insisted that the cesium-137 detected was the result of something the doctor ate.

Russian authorities claimed that the incident happened “during tests of a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes,” but Bohmer argued that short-lived radioactive isotopes would not have been produced by that sort of test.

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear agency, said Russia was working on new weapons when the explosion occurred, but it did not offer any details, simply saying that tragedy sometimes “happens when testing new technologies.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said that Russia was not hiding the details of the accident. He then said that “this is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems,” adding that “when it comes to activities of a military nature, there are certain restrictions on access to information.”

US experts and intelligence officials suspect that Russia tested the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a superweapon that NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. In a tweet about the incident, President Donald Trump called it the “Skyfall explosion.”

Andrei Zolotkov, a chemist who spent more than three decades working on Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet, told the Guardian that the nuclear reactor involved in the recent failed test appeared to be an unusual reactor, which would make sense if Russia was, as is suspected, working with a compact reactor for a new nuclear-powered missile.

Putin has boasted that the Burevestnik will be “invincible,” with “an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception.” But right now, it doesn’t actually work and might be a greater threat to the people of Russia than any adversary.

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

Articles

How the Allies defeated one of their deadliest WWII adversaries

Entering the Imperial German Navy in 1911, Karl Dönitz, a Berlin native, served as a submarine commander in WWI as Hitler was coming into power. While underway on deployment in 1918, his UB-68 was badly damaged by British forces and eventually sunk, but Dönitz was captured and transported to a POW camp.


After nine months of captivity, Dönitz was released from custody back to German hands where he was appointed by General Admiral Erich Raeder to command and create a new German U-boat fleet.

Under his new position, he developed a U-boat patrolling strategy called “wolfpack” formations — meaning groups of submarines would maneuver in straight lines. Once the patrolling U-boats came in contact with enemy vessels, they would signal the wolfpack who would then charge forward and attack.

Related: This is the disease Hitler hid from the public for years

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight
Admiral Karl Dönitz meets with Adolf Hitler (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

In 1943, Dönitz replaced General Admiral Raecher as Commander-in-Chief (the same man who originally assigned him) and with his naval warfare expertise began winning Hitler’s trust.

During his role as Commander-in-Chief, Dönitz was credited with sinking nearly 15 million tons of enemy shipping, coordinating reconnaissance missions, and allowing his U-boat commanders to strike at will when they believed they could inflict the most damage. At that same time, he commanded of 212 U-boats and had another 181 on standby used for training. His tactics proved to be superior to those of his enemys until the invention of microwave radar which managed to spot his German created U-boats sooner than before.

After Hitler died, his last will and testament named Dönitz as commander of the armed forces and the new Reich president. For the next 20 days, he served the last leader of Nazi Germany until the British once again captured him on May 23, 1945.

During the Nuremberg Trials, Dönitz was charged with multiple war crimes and sentenced to 10 years in Berlin’s Spandau prison. Upon his release, he published two books and continued to state he had no knowledge of any crimes committed by Hitler.

The German admiral died on Christmas Eve, 1980.

Also Read: This is the legendary Nazi general who turned on Hitler

Check out the Smithsonian Channel video below to discover some of the German U-boats effects on the war.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
popular

7 things you didn’t know about the Marine Jungle Warfare Training Center

Okinawa’s Camp Gonsalves, named after the World War II-era Medal of Honor recipient, Pfc. Harold Gonsalves, is home to the Marine Corps’ Jungle Warfare Training Center.


JWTC is 17,500 acres of dense tropical jungle. The instructors here have established a curriculum and training environment that none forget.

Here’s what you didn’t know.

Related: The origin of the ‘best’ rank in the Marines (Lance Corporal)

1. JWTC is not in America.

You and your unit will travel to lovely Okinawa, Japan where you will proceed to avoid all of its gorgeous beaches, coral reefs, and beautiful culture by traveling 25 kilometers to the Northern Training areas. Then, you’ll move through a crowd of protestors blocking the gate to arrive at a replica of the inner island from the show, Lost.

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight
So much beauty… but you aren’t going here.

 

2. You will not be training in vehicles.

Once you arrive, you will dismount because the roads are very few and most of the locations you will be bivouacking are in the middle of nowhere and can only be reached by foot. To get to camp may require some terrain rope suspension techniques.

3. You will be doing some unique movements.

All of the instructors at JWTC are TRST masters and, before you graduate from the course, you will learn to repel off the side of cliffs, hasty repel into and across a dangerous slope, and safely cross a gorge with the aid of a makeshift cable bridge.

4. The ‘E’ course is intense.

The last major evolution after all your classes, supervised evolutions, field craft, and various other skillset development instructions is basically a roided-up mud run through the jungle with your very own JWTC guide. It’s named the ‘E’-course, it involves a lot of endurance, but it can be a lot of fun.

5. You don’t want to be a heat casualty.

On top of the health concern is movement. If you can’t get out of this environment under your own power, you are in for the worst ride of your life. Cas-evac (casualty evacuation), party of ten!

6. Don’t bring your good cammies.

They will be destroyed. That is all.

Also Read: 7 tips on how to get selected by MARSOC instructors

7. The wildlife is deadly.

From poisonous snakes and spiders to eels and unsteady terrain with steep falls onto jagged rocks, Okinawa is not for the faint of heart.

 

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Do not pet. (Photo by Shawn Miller)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This terrifying disease started in World War I Europe

Encephalitis lethargica is a disease that seems to belong in a horror movie, complete with brain damage that causes victims to sleep for years or to hack away at their own bodies — and it all started in Europe during World War I.


It was first described by World War I pilot and noble, Constantin von Economo, who switched to a career in medicine at the request of his parents after family members died in the war. As a physician, he served both civilians and the Central Powers, and his historical significance comes from being the first to describe a neurological disorder that popped up during the war.

His first patients reported constant exhaustion despite constantly sleeping, leading some people to call it the “sleeping disease” or “sleepy sickness.” This wasn’t exactly correct, though, as many patients never truly slept. They remained aware of their surroundings even when seemingly in deep sleep. As the disease progressed, patients also began exhibiting symptoms like abnormal eye movement, delirium, headache, or paralysis.

The paralysis and other symptoms were sometimes limited to one side of the body, giving off the surreal result that one side of the face and body became sluggish and tired while the other side remained relatively alert and functional.

From here, patients’ symptoms would progress in a couple directions. 5 million people were afflicted with the disease from 1917 to 1928. Approximately a third died, a third survived, and the final third were trapped in endless sleep. But the scary part for survivors was that symptoms could return years later — or they could suffer from Parkinson’s brought on by the disease.

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Dr. Oliver Sacks, a physician famous for his work with encephalitis lethargica patients who slept for decades before awaking for a short period.

(Luigi Novi, CC BY 3.0)

And that endless sleep thing wasn’t a euphemism or anything. Some patients went to sleep for decades, only coming out of their near-endless rest when given an anti-Parkinson’s medication in 1969 through an effort led by Dr. Oliver Sacks. Unfortunately, Sack’s treatment with L-DOPA only provided a temporary relief of their symptoms. All patients eventually regressed back to permanent sleep or a catatonic state.

Oddly enough, those afflicted with long-term catatonia did get one benefit: They aged much more slowly than people awake.

But while encephelitis lethargica has plenty of terrifying traits for adults, it was much worse in children and adolescents, among whom it caused psychosis. In one extreme case, a young girl pulled out many of her teeth and gouged out both of her eyes. Patients also often inflicted serious violence, sexual and otherwise, against others with no regard for age, gender, or nearly any other factor.

People attacked members of their own family, authority figures, or random passersby, often with little visible emotion afterwards.

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Encepheilitis lethargica could strike people of any age, and it often caused long-term Parkinson’s in the months or years after a patient had seemingly recovered from the condition.

(British Medical Journal 1925, Gullan)

Obviously, for troops in the war and returning veterans, the idea that exhaustion could be a sign of their imminent demise was terrifying, and the fact that their families could be afflicted by this mysterious disease was terrifying, but another outbreak pushed the sleepy sickness to the back of most people’s minds.

The Spanish flu pandemic broke out in 1918 and eventually killed between 20 and 50 million victims of the roughly 500 million people affected.

Today, we still don’t know the cause of encephelitis lethargica, but new cases fortunately fell off a cliff in 1926 and continued to dwindle in the 1930s. Now, new cases are extremely rare, but the exact symptoms of encephelitis lethargica were so varied that it’s hard to even be sure that new cases are from the same cause.

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The title page of Constantin von Economo’s 1931 description of encephalitis lethargica.

(Wellcome Images, CC BY 4.0)

There does appear to be an auto-immune element to the disease with nearly all sufferers showing damage to the brain stem consistent with it coming under attack from the body’s immune system. This, combined with the disease’s first appearance around the same time as the flu pandemic, has led to speculation that it comes from the body’s overreaction to a virus. But that’s still not certain.

Analysis of other influenza and viral outbreaks, both before World War I and after, show some connection between viral outbreaks and the onset of encephelitis lethargica.

It’s still possible that the world could see a sudden resurgence of encephelitis lethargica, especially if there’s a new influenza outbreak, but our luck has held for over 70 years — fingers crossed.

Articles

The Army bought this tiltrotor aircraft over 30 years before the Osprey flew

When the military adopted the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft in 2007, there were legions of naysayers who thought the military’s first tiltrotor was too unsafe and too expensive to be added to the fleet.


But while the V-22 did have a spotted history during development, it wasn’t the first military tiltrotor aircraft. A few such aircraft were in the early stages of development during World War II, and the U.S. Army bought a tiltrotor aircraft in 1956 — over 30 years before the first V-22 flew in 1989.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRIZ8qt18JY
Video: YouTube/AIRBOYD

The Doak Model 16 was a vertical take-off and landing aircraft that used ducted tilt-rotors to generate forward thrust and — in the vertical flight mode — lift. Like the V-22, the Model 16 only rotated its rotors when transitioning between flight modes.

The Doak company spent years developing VTOL technologies before it sold a single Model 16 to the Army for further testing and development. For its part, the Army dubbed the Model 16 the VZ-4 and flew it for three years, evaluating its flight characteristics and the potential for full production and deployment.

Cobbled together with parts from other planes and using still experimental tiltrotor technologies, the VZ-4 had fairly impressive stats. It was capable of flying at 229 mph and had a 229-mile range.

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The Doak VZ-4 hovers during flight testing. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But, the plane struggled with some “undesirable characteristics,” especially during the transitions between vertical and horizontal flight. The most problematic was a tendency for the nose of the aircraft to rise in relation to the tail during the switch between flight modes.

Ultimately, the Army passed on purchasing more of the planes and loaned its single Model 16 to NASA for continued tests. When NASA was finished with it, the aircraft was sent to the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Nowadays, the performance of the CV-22 and MV-22 Osprey has left little doubt that there’s a place in the military inventory for tiltrotor aircraft. The Ospreys can fly from patches of dirt or relatively small ships at sea that traditional planes could never operate from. And they can fly for over 1,000 miles without refueling, over twice the range of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

These traits have earned the Ospreys spots in special operations units and Marine air-ground task forces around the world. And for the U.S. military, the road to tiltrotor aircraft all started with a single plane purchased in 1956.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The heroic gunslinging lawman who took down the Indian Territory’s most wanted

Indian Territory following the American Civil War was a vast and open area where criminals, outlaws, and thieves found refuge. Much like no man’s land during World War I, whenever lawmen, cowboys, and posses entered, a gunfight was almost guaranteed. On its eastern border sat a frontier town called Fort Smith, Arkansas. The Fort Smith federal court was responsible for bringing justice over a jurisdiction that spanned nearly 75,000 miles.

The Five Civilized Tribes also called Indian Territory home. The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Indians lived where Oklahoma is today, and they had their own police, courts, and governments. The tribes could arrest only those who belonged to their communities and not outsiders such as white and Black men who committed crimes.


Standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing nearly 180 pounds, a former slave named Bass Reeves became one of the first Black deputies hired to the US Marshals Service. Reeves had served as the bodyguard of George Reeves — the son of William and a Texas slave owner — who joined the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Accounts vary — one story goes that he knocked out his owner with his fist after a dispute over a card game, while another said he ran away after hearing rumors of slaves being freed.

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Bass Reeves was born a slave but became the first Black deputy to serve west of the Mississippi. Screenshot from YouTube.

Either action was punishable by hanging, and Reeves feared the outcome, so he fled to the Indian Territory for sanctuary. As a runaway he lived among the Seminole and Creek Indians, learning their languages and culture. The tribes taught him ancient stalking and tracking techniques, improving his expertise as an outdoorsman. He later developed priceless skills such as shooting a .44 Winchester rifle and reloading a revolver, a must for all Old West gunslingers to master. He was an ambidextrous gunfighter, talented both in draw speed and accuracy, and over his career he would never once be wounded by an outlaw’s bullet.

When the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865 abolishing slavery, Reeves’ newfound freedom allowed him to relocate to Arkansas. There he married and had 11 children. Prior to his hiring as a deputy with the US Marshals at Fort Smith, Reeves used his knowledge of the land, his dexterity learned from the tribes, and his intuition to guide federal lawmen into the Indian badlands scouting for wanted outlaws.

The US Marshals’ policy required at least one other deputy or Indian scout to join a patrol since the wasteland was as unpredictable as it was dangerous. When Reeves took the job in 1875, more than 100 deputy marshals had been killed in apprehension attempts; thus Reeves took a different approach. He donned several different disguises, in similar fashion as the Lone Ranger, to gain a tactical advantage over the miscreants he identified for arrest.

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Bass Reeves — in the front row and far left with cane — served as a lawman in the American Indian territory of Muskogee, which is today’s Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of history.net.

He disguised himself as a tramp on the run from the law. He told two wanted brothers his story, glorifying his 28-mile journey on foot before pulling out his revolver and taking them into custody. He convinced a woman that he was avoiding a nearby posse, and she fed him a fresh meal and even offered him a bed to sleep in at her house overnight. In the middle of the night, he walked into her son’s bedroom, put handcuffs around his wrists, and was on horseback the next morning riding toward the jail.

His fearlessness never wavered, even when he was bedridden battling pneumonia. On Feb. 3, 1906, a Black man named Frank Brown chased his wife through town while armed with a knife. The wife burst through Reeves’ front door to hide from her husband. Brown followed her, screaming that he was going to kill her and brandishing his knife.

“Reeves reached under his pillow and secured his ever trusty revolver, with which he soon persuaded the wife-chaser that he was under arrest,” The Wichita Eagle reported that Sunday. “Reeves held his gun on the man while he sent his wife after a posseman, who took Brown to federal jail.”

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Belle Star was arrested by Bass Reeves in 1883 and charged with horse theft. She was one of many notable American outlaws Reeves apprehended. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Accounts of his arrests frequented the newspapers, each as astonishing as the next. Reeves didn’t take bribes nor was he appreciative of any favoritism. After his son, Bennie, murdered his wife, Reeves issued a warrant for his arrest. His son was convicted and sentenced to serve a life of imprisonment in Leavenworth.

Bass Reeves served as a deputy for more than 30 years and retired from federal law enforcement at age 67. He worked a brief two-year stint as a city policeman in downtown Muskogee, Oklahoma, where crime was low because of his presence, before he died in 1910. Throughout his career he made an estimated 3,000 arrests, personally killed 14 outlaws in self-defense, and has since become an icon of both the Old West and pop culture.

Al Burton, the author of Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves, wrote, “Bass Reeves is the closest real person to resemble the fictional Lone Ranger on the American western frontier of the nineteenth century.”

In addition to inspiring books and movies, Reeves’ likeness was recently featured in the HBO series Watchmen, bringing his no-nonsense persona to the opening of the fictionalized comic-book story.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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