With movies like “American Sniper” and “Lone Survivor,” the Navy SEALs are on par with most figures in American pop culture.
Using the non-scientific method of Amazon.com book search reveals that there are way more books associated with the SEAL teams than any other American elite unit, giving filmmakers a rich source of story materials.
With such a huge spotlight on these warriors, the general public is either unaware or often forgets about the 1st SFOD-Delta, also known as Delta Force.
Most will argue that it’s by design, but either way, it’s rare to catch a glimpse of life in “The Unit.”
But, that’s what we get in this interview with Tayler Grey and Larry Vickers of Vickers Tactical, both of which served in the same unit during different times.
This video dives into Grey’s motivations to serve, his journey to becoming a member of “The Unit,” and his remarkable story about overcoming adversity.
The Coast Guard’s USS Glendale served in the Pacific in World War II, and it was commanded by a reservist who earned the Bronze Star for his actions during a Japanese sneak attack on Dec. 5, 1944.
Coast Guard Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Harold J. Doebler was commanding the Glendale in a convoy of 35 Army, Navy, and merchant ships on their way to Leyte Gulf the Phillippines. The Glendale was assigned to anti-submarine and anti-air operations for the convoy.
On Dec. 5, friendly flights of C-47s began passing over the convoy. At first, this wasn’t of great concern, but Japanese pilots saw the situation and decided to exploit it. They flew their planes into the C-47 formations until they were close to the convoy, and then swooped down to attack the ships.
Doebler maneuvered the Glendale and other ships of the convoy to form a screen that attempted to pick off the Japanese attackers before they could reach the rest of the convoy. But the problems of target identification continued as gunners had to be confident that they weren’t firing at friendly planes before they pulled the trigger.
In the late afternoon, just after the Marcus Daly was hit, the convoy was joined by four new destroyers. With this greater firepower, the convoy was able to drive off the rest of the Japanese attacks and the rest of the ships were able to continue safely.
The Antone Saugrain later sank from the damage inflicted by the torpedo bombers, but the safe zone established by the destroyer and frigate screen allowed other vessels to rescue 413 crewmembers safely before the ship went down. The Marcus Daly was able to continue with the convoy despite severe damage and the loss of 72 of its crew.
In late 1944, German Pvt. Paul-Alfred Stoob was one of the many German troops quickly retreating from Allied forces. During his withdrawal, he was hit with fire from a Sherman tank and wounded in his head and leg. When he finally made it home to Germany, he learned that his father was also wounded in his head and leg in the exact same town in World War I.
Stoob was a Panther tank driver taking part in the general German withdrawal in 1944 before the Battle of the Bulge temporarily halted Germany’s loss in territory. After the Panther was destroyed by Allied fire, Stoob and the rest of his crew stole a truck and headed east towards Belgium.
They managed to scrape together bread and some eggs before lucking out and discovering a stash of delicacies abandoned by a German headquarters unit. Only a short time after they filled their truck with the fresh food, an American Sherman crew spotted them and opened fire. Stoob was hit in the head and leg, but still tried to escape.
He made for a nearby cemetery and attempted to use the gravestones as cover for his escape. Before he could get away, a French priest begged for him to stop and then went and got an American medic to tend to his wounds.
Stoob spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp in the U.S. and didn’t make it home until 1947. That was when he learned that his father, a veteran of World War I, had been wounded in the same unnamed village in 1914, exactly 30 years before his son.
There are officers who seem to be made of glass, staying firmly behind the barriers and barbed wire that keep them protected from the enemy guns.
And then there are those guys who are basically the Black Knight from Monty Python, declaring every injury a flesh wound and jumping back into the fray like an amputated hand ain’t no thang.
That’s why Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart is a British legend; he literally lost a hand, an eye, and part of an ear while serving in three wars, including two World Wars.
Carton de Wiart was born to Belgian nobility in 1880 and sent to prestigious schools. But in 1899, the British found themselves in the second Boer War and Carton de Wiart jumped at the chance to experience combat. But the British only wanted British subjects aged 25 or older or who had their father’s consent.
So, Carton de Wiart employed a clever tactic called “lying” and shipped out under a pseudonym. His first war ended when he received enemy rounds to the stomach and groin and a trip back to England to recover.
But flesh wounds couldn’t keep the Black Knight out of the fight for long, and he volunteered for duty in 1914 during World War I, this time under his actual name as a naturalized citizen.
Similar to in the Boer War, Carton de Wiart found the enemy guns quickly and caught a few rounds from them, this time in his arm and face while fighting as a member of the Somaliland Camel Corps.
He accepted a Distinguished Service Order and headed out for a quick convalescence for his missing eye. According to Lord Ismay, Carton de Wiart was probably happy about the whole situation.
“I honestly believe that he regarded the loss of an eye as a blessing,” he said, “As it allowed him to get out of Somaliland to Europe where he thought the real action was.”
And Carton de Wiart did get into the action. He was sent to the Western Front in 1915 (that’s the year after the enemy rounds knocked out his left eye and took a part of his ear, for those keeping track). Sporting a black eyepatch over his empty socket in the Second Battle of Ypres, he was probably laughing when the German artillery barrage slammed into his position, severely injuring his left hand.
Doctors refused to amputate the hand, so our Black Knight tore off two of his fingers and went back to work. Doctors finally gave in and took the rest of his hand later. That was 1915.
In 1916, Carton de Wiart took command of a regiment at the Somme. Yeah, he once again returned to the front just a year later after a serious injury that would have ended anyone else’s career.
At the Battle of the Somme, then-Lt. Col. Carton de Wiart saw three other battalion commanders die in the back-and-forth fighting at La Boiselle. He was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.
During World War II, the hero of one war and a distinguished veteran of another took an assignment in Yugoslavia. When — at the age of 60 — his plane was shot down over the Mediterranean, he went ahead and swam his way to shore and was captured by the Italians.
Fun fact: that was Carton de Wiart’s second plane crash. He survived another crash in Lithuania between the wars.
Of course, even capture by the Italians wasn’t enough to stop him, and he attempted multiple escapes. At one point, he managed to evade capture for eight days.
He survived the war and continued to serve the British until he retired in 1947 as a lieutenant general.
Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller is something like a god to United States Marines. To call Chesty a legend feels like an understatement for any Marine who has been properly indoctrinated in the ways of the World’s Finest Fighting Force. Marines are taught in boot camp about the most decorated Marine in the service’s history.
Over a 37-year career in the Corps, Chesty rose from the rank of private to lieutenant general. He saw combat in numerous conflicts and earned an unprecedented five Navy Crosses, a Distinguished Service Cross, and a Silver Star Medal. The Navy Cross is the nation’s second-highest military award for valor in combat — second only to the Medal of Honor. The Distinguished Service Cross is the Army equivalent of the Navy Cross, which is awarded by the Navy and Marine Corps. The Silver Star is the United States’ third-highest military award for valor in combat.
While most Marines are familiar with Chesty’s chest candy, the stories behind his biggest awards are less known. Strap in, folks.
First Navy Cross, Nicaragua
As a first lieutenant, Chesty earned his first Navy Cross for commanding a Nicaraguan National Guard unit. From February through August 1930, Chesty led five successful engagements against superior numbers of armed bandits, completely routing the enemy forces each time, according to his award citation.
“By his intelligent and forceful leadership without thought of his own personal safety, by great physical exertion and by suffering many hardships, Lieutenant Puller surmounted all obstacles and dealt five successive and severe blows against organized banditry in the Republic of Nicaragua,” his citation reads.
Second Navy Cross, Nicaragua
Chesty earned his second Navy Cross while commanding a 40-man Nicaraguan National Guard patrol from Sept. 20 to Oct. 1, 1932. The first lieutenant and his men patrolled nearly 100 miles north of their nearest base, penetrating deep into isolated mountainous bandit territory. Chesty’s patrol was ambushed Sept. 26 “by an insurgent force of 150 in a well-prepared position armed with not less than seven automatic weapons and various classes of small arms and well-supplied with ammunition,” according to Chesty’s award citation.
After a Nicaraguan soldier was killed by the initial burst of fire and Chesty’s second in command was seriously wounded and reported dead, the legendary combat leader went to work.
“With great courage, coolness and display of military judgment, [Puller] so directed the fire and movement of his men that the enemy were driven first from the high ground on the right of his position, and then by a flanking movement forced from the high ground to the left and finally were scattered in confusion with a loss of 10 killed and many wounded by the persistent and well-directed attack of the patrol,” the award citation reads. “This signal victory in jungle country, with no lines of communication and 100 miles from any supporting force, was largely due to the indomitable courage and persistence of the patrol commander. Returning with the wounded to Jinotega, the patrol was ambushed twice by superior forces on Sept. 30. On both occasions the enemy was dispersed with severe losses.”
Third Navy Cross, Guadalcanal
Chesty earned his third Navy Cross as commanding officer of the 1st Marine Division’s 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal in World War II. On the night of Oct. 24-25, 1942, Lt. Col. Puller’s battalion was holding a mile-long defensive front under heavy rain and in some areas of dense jungle when a massive Japanese force launched a violent assault against the Marines.
“Courageously withstanding the enemy’s desperate and determined attacks, Lieutenant Colonel Puller not only held his battalion to its position until reinforcements arrived three hours later, but also effectively commanded the augmented force until late in the afternoon of the next day,” Chesty’s award citation reads. “By his tireless devotion to duty and cool judgment under fire, he prevented a hostile penetration of our lines and was largely responsible for the successful defense of the sector assigned to his troops.”
Fourth Navy Cross, Battle of Cape Gloucester on the island of New Britain
Chesty earned his fourth Navy Cross while serving as executive officer of the 7th Marines during the Battle of Cape Gloucester on the island of New Britain from Dec. 26, 1943, to Jan. 19, 1944.
“Assigned temporary command of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, from Jan. 4-9, Lieutenant Colonel Puller quickly reorganized and advanced his unit, effecting the seizure of the objective without delay,” his award citation reads. “Assuming additional duty in command of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Jan. 7-8, after the commanding officer and executive officer had been wounded, Lieutenant Colonel Puller unhesitatingly exposed himself to rifle, machine-gun and mortar fire from strongly entrenched Japanese positions to move from company to company in his front lines, reorganizing and maintaining a critical position along a fire-swept ridge. His forceful leadership and gallant fighting spirit under the most hazardous conditions were contributing factors in the defeat of the enemy during this campaign.”
Fifth Navy Cross, Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, Korea
Known for its miserable subzero conditions and nightmarish brutality, the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir holds a special place in Marine Corps lore (the gut-wrenching documentary Chosin does a great job of capturing the absolute hell that battle was), and Chesty Puller had a pretty big role there. So central that his actions at Chosin earned him his fifth Navy Cross and his only Distinguished Service Medal.
As a colonel, Chesty was serving as commanding officer of the 1st Marine Regiment when he learned his Marines were completely surrounded by tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers and famously declared, “We’ve been looking for the enemy for several days now, we’ve finally found them. We’re surrounded. That simplifies our problem of getting to these people and killing them.”
During the period of Dec. 5-10, 1950, “Colonel Puller drove off repeated and fanatical enemy attacks upon his regimental defense sector and supply points,” his award citation reads. “Although the area was frequently covered by grazing machine-gun fire and intense artillery and mortar fire, he coolly moved along his troops to insure their correct tactical employment, reinforced the lines as the situation demanded, and successfully defended the perimeter, keeping open the main supply routes for the movement of the Division. During the attack from Koto-ri to Hungnam, he expertly utilized his Regiment as the Division rear guard, repelling two fierce enemy assaults, which severely threatened the security of the unit, and personally supervised the care and prompt evacuation of all casualties. By his unflagging determination, he served to inspire his men to heroic efforts in defense of their positions and assured the safety of much valuable equipment, which would otherwise have been lost to the enemy. His skilled leadership, superb courage and valiant devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds reflect the highest credit upon Colonel Puller and the United States Naval Service.”
Distinguished Service Cross, Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, Korea
Apparently Chesty bolstered his Battle of Chosin bling and scored the Army’s equivalent of the Navy Cross for his actions Nov. 29 to Dec. 4, 1950. Chesty’s citation for this award is sparse on details but cites his “extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as commanding officer, 1st Marines […] Colonel Puller’s actions contributed materially to the breakthrough of the 1st Marine Regiment in the Chosin Reservoir area and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.”
Silver Star, Inchon Landing, Korea
Before Chosin, Chesty pulled off an extraordinary feat when he executed Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s bold gamble to change the course of the Korean War with an amphibious landing of forces at the Port of Inchon.
The Marine Corps Times reported in 2019, “The bold landing at Inchon was a major gamble by MacArthur. Critics of the Army general’s plan noted Korean defenses, a heavily mined approach to the port and obstacles like seawalls.” MacArthur, who commanded American and United Nations forces during the Korean War, awarded the Silver Star to Chesty as a symbol of respect for the Inchon landing.
Chesty’s Silver Star citation highlights his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while commanding the 1st Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces during the amphibious landing resulting in the capture of Inchon, Korea, on Sept. 15, 1950, in the Inchon-Seoul Operation. His actions contributed materially to the success of this operation and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Military Service.”
At this point, any Marine reading this listicle should be standing at attention and saluting while sounding off with a chesty “OOHRAH! Semper Fi!”
In the late second century BC, the Roman Republic seemed to be flourishing. After over a century of war with its ancient enemy Carthage, Rome now stood as the sole superpower of the western Mediterranean Sea. Under the brilliance of this victory, however, there was a storm coming. As Rome expanded, the Republic became increasingly stratified between rich and poor, and tensions were on the rise. It was in this turbulent time that the Gracchi brothers Tiberius and Gaius entered the political scene. Their reforms would result in both of their deaths, but their actions would change the course of Roman history. Here are seven things to know about the Gracchi brothers.
1. Rome was becoming a powder keg
As Rome had expanded from a small settlement in central Italy to the master of the Mediterranean, there opened a gulf between the upper and lower classes. The old ideal of the citizen-farmer, the self-sufficient man who owned his own land, was increasingly out of reach. Lands once divided into independent family farms were being absorbed into massive private villas owned by aristocrats and worked by slaves. Many Roman citizens were forced into the city, where they were forced to depend on handouts from the state. This left many Romans from all classes discontent.
2. Tiberius was tribune of the plebs
The tribune of the plebs was the representative of the plebeians, or Roman masses; he was responsible for checking the power of the Senate, which was dominated by the patricians, the nobility. In the year 133 BC, Tiberius Gracchus was elected tribune on a platform of land reform. He invoked the Lex Licinia Sexta, an ancient set of laws that placed a limit on land ownership, to redistribute excess land from the wealthy to the poor. The problem was, the laws had not been enforced in decades, and enforcing them would be an uphill battle.
3. Tiberius was the first populist
The elder Gracchi was known for violating Rome’s political traditions. It was customary to bring a new bill to the Senate for debate, but Tiberius took his land reform bill directly to the citizen-assemblies to be voted on. When the infuriated Senators stepped in to prevent the bill from passing, Tiberius spent the rest of his time as tribune disrupting other attempts at legislating, in order to hold the Senate hostage.
4. Tiberius’s murder changed Roman politics
The position of tribune was considered sacred, so the Senate could not touch Tiberius until his one-year tenure was over. Tiberius attempted to run for tribune a second time in a row, which was illegal. The Senate responded by storming one of the Gracchi’s rallies, beating Tiberius and many of his supporters to death. This was the first time in centuries that Roman politics had been determined by violence, but it would not be the last.
5. Gaius was also tribune
Ten years later in 123 BC, the younger Gracchi Gaius was elected tribune on the same platform as his brother. Where Tiberius was more idealistic and placed his trust in the people, Gaius knew that he would need the upper classes on his side. He appealed to the equestrians, the class just below the patricians, to push forward his reforms. He promoted land reform, limiting military conscription to the age of 17 or older, providing grain for the poor citizens and equipment for the poor soldiers (before, Roman conscripts had to pay for their own armor and weapons), and various other public works projects.
6. Gaius couldn’t keep the support of the people
His popularity, however, would not last forever. In the late Republic many Italian peoples were allied with Rome, but were not full Roman citizens. Gaius proposed extending citizenship to these allies, but this was a political miscalculation. The Roman people realized they would have to share the redistributed land with an influx of new citizens, and this they could not abide. Gaius’s days were numbered.
7. Gaius took his own life
Tensions eventually boiled over when a massive pro-Gracchi rally ended in violence. One of Gaius’s opponents was killed, as Gaius’s supporters were illegally carrying weapons within the city of Rome. This prompted the Senators to pass for the first time in history the Senatus consultum ultimum, a law that empowered the Senate to put a citizen to death without a trial. For a Roman man capture and execution was less honorable than suicide, so Gaius fell on his own sword.
The Gracchi brothers were only the start of the crisis in the late Republic. The tensions between upper and lower classes would become more extreme, prompting the rise of newer, more ruthless politicians. The Senate would continue to abuse its power over life and death. For the first time in centuries, Roman law was made secondary to violence. The Republic would eventually descend into civil war, but thanks to Romans like the Gracchi, the dream of Rome would continue to inspire us for centuries.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines irony as the following: incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result. It’s like being run over by an ambulance that’s on its way to save you — instead of saving you (the expectation), it’s turned you into roadkill (the ironic twist).
Now, these are not to be confused with just bad moments — if you want examples of those, take pretty much any example listed in Alanis Morissette’s song, Ironic (then again, writing a song entitled Ironic and failing to cite a single example of real irony is kinda ironic…).
Another hilarious example of situational irony stems from the fact nearly every well-known “peace” symbol has a military origin. Sure, they may have been co-opted throughout the years to take on entirely different meanings, but if you go by the original definition of each symbol, you’re effectively intimating the opposite of your intent.
Pretty much every symbol for peace, shy of the Roerich Pact’sThree Jewels, has roots in military culture — in fact, many of them have been used as signals of martial might. You may be familiar with a few of these:
The “V” sign
The simple hand gesture, synonymous with counter-culture hippies, Richard Nixon, and teenage girls, actually has concrete beginnings that can be traced to one man at one moment: Winston Churchill threw up his index and middle fingers to signal a ‘V,’ for “victory,” after the Allies triumphed over the Axis Powers.
I like to think that he knew full well that he was giving everyone the forks, but wanted to see how long it took anyone to say something.
But before that, Belgian Minister of Justice, Victor de Lavaleye, began spreading the use of the finger ‘V’ across Europe. In 1941, he was using it as a quiet protest to say that “victory is coming” or “freedom is coming” in the Netherlands (“freedom” in Dutch is “vrijheid,” which also starts with a “v”). Churchill, upon co-opting the symbol, eventually turned his palm outward to avoid sending the British gesture for “up yours.”
In either case, the symbol that is now known for peace started as a way to signal impending or fresh military victory, depending on your cited origin.
You can go ahead and pick whatever color you like — it all sends the same message.
After WWI, wearing a red poppy on one’s lapel was a sign of respect for fallen troops. It was a direct homage to Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem, In Flanders Fields. In 1933, the Peace Pledge Union shifted the tradition, imploring people to wear white poppies instead of the red ones to honor the casualties of war without extolling it.
If you really want to be specific, however, the poem never really identifies which color poppy grew at Flanders Field, just that there were poppies. So, if you’re wearing poppies of any color, you’re referencing one of history’s most famous wartime poems. The only reason he chose the red version of the poppy is because it’s eye-catching.
The “peace symbol”
The most famous symbol to come out of the 1960s is actually a clever use of military speak to directly get the military’s attention for a specific issue: nuclear disarmament. Just after the UK had developed their H-Bomb and tested it near Christmas Island, the Direct Action Committee called for a pause on the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. The Committee agreed that outright pacifism wasn’t the solution — but they also agreed that nuclear weapons weren’t the answer to the Cold War, either.
The DAC needed a symbol to rally behind, so designer and DAC board member Gerald Holtom created one, incorporating the flag semaphores for ‘N’ and ‘D’ in the design, for “nuclear disarmament.”
Funnily enough, Joker is using the symbol in its proper context. His pin says that wars shouldn’t be fought by nuclear means, but through conventional warfare.
They never trademarked the design, so it was free to use among members of the counter-culture and anti-Vietnam War protesters ran with it.
The olive branch
The most misunderstood signal of peace is the olive branch. The first example of olive branches being used as a symbol dates back to the stories of ancient Greece when Athena was trying to win the patronage of Athens over Poseidon. Legend has it, she threw her spear into the ground and it blossomed into the first olive tree. The new tree was, essentially, a giant “f*ck you” to Poseidon because her olives were more useful than his salt water.
Athenians later gave olive branches out as a symbol of Athena to mighty warriors and Olympians. The olives and their branches represented prosperity after long-fought wars.
During the time of the Romans, Mars, the God of War, was often depicted holding an olive branch. To the Romans, “extending the olive branch” meant to be from a god or ruler and given to their subject. It was something more along the lines of “we fought, now enjoy this peace and prosperity.”
The Romans knew best that si vis pacem, para bellum, or “if you want peace, prepare for war.”
The sniper is more than an expert marksman and being a sniper is about more than one good shot. Snipers are highly-trained in stealth movement, allowing them to slowly infiltrate enemy positions and observe their movements. Taking out a high-ranking official is just one of the benefits of a sniper team.
Once behind enemy lines, they provide crucial intelligence information and reconnaissance on enemy movements not to mention the size, strength and equipment of the enemy.
The lethality of the sniper can provide overwatch for regular forces on the ground and strike fear into the heart of an enemy encampment. When a sniper does take that well-placed shot, it can change history. These are the 5 best snipers in modern history:
5. Unknown Canadian Special Forces Sniper
No one knows the name of this Canadian sniper because he’s still out there, giving terrorists a reason to consider giving up on terrorism altogether – lest they get a bullet they won’t even see coming.
This special operator from the great north took down a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan from more than two miles away. Using a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle from an elevated position, he fired the shot from nearly twice as far as the weapon’s maximum range. In 10 seconds, it was all over.
To make that shot takes more than crosshairs. The sniper’s spotter was likely using a telescope to make its target. The sniper then has to account for gauge wind speeds, distances, terrain, heat and even the curvature of the earth to hit its mark.
4. Red Army Capt. Vasily Zaytsev
It’s one thing to be a successful sniper when the world around you is quiet. It’s a whole other beast to do it in the stadium of death that was the World War II siege of Stalingrad. Vasily Zaytsev grew up in the Russian wilderness, learning to shoot by necessity, hunting food for his family.
It was just as necessary when he was transferred from the Russian Navy into the Red Army following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, a gig he volunteered for. He took down 255 Nazis at Stalingrad, creating a new method for snipers in fixed areas, called the “sixes.” He was briefly wounded but returned to the front eventually ending the war in Germany with around 400 total kills – often using a standard issue rifle.
3. Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle
“The Deadliest Sniper in U.S. Military History,” this Navy SEAL’s exploits were known to both the Marines he protected as well as the enemy. The Marines called him “The Legend.” Insurgents called him “The Devil.” They also put an ,000 bounty on his head.
Kyle learned to shoot from the tender age of 8 years old, and joined the Naval Special Warfare Command in 2001. He would do a total of four tours in Iraq, racking up so many confirmed and unconfirmed kills even he lost track of them all. To Kyle, however, it was all to protect his Marines. And the Marines loved him for it.
2. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock
Moving on from “The Legend” to a legend even among other snipers, comes Gunny Hathcock. Hell hath no fury like Carlos Hathcock when the lives of his fellow Americans are on the line.
“If I didn’t get the enemy, they were going to kill the kids over there,” he once said.
His exploits in Vietnam are each worth a Hollywood blockbuster, from the time he low-crawled for miles to take out a North Vietnamese general, to his showdown with “The Apache,” a female sniper who tortured American GIs to make Hathcock come out and fight.
He did. He called the shot that killed The Apache, “The best shot I ever made.”
1. Finnish Army 2nd Lt. Simo Häyhä
No sniper’s record can compare to that of Lt. Simo Häyhä. When the USSR invaded Finland in 1939, Häyhä set out to kill as many Red Army soldiers as possible. It earned him the nickname “White Death” and a record that still stands.
The final tally on that promise turned out to be a lot: 505 kills in fewer than 100 days. That means the old farmer from Rautajävi killed at least five people a day on average, all with just the iron sights on his rifle.
Every countersniper the Russians sent to kill the White Death never returned. Even when the Red Army tried to use artillery to kill him, they weren’t successful. One Russian marksman got lucky enough to hit Häyhä in his left cheek with an explosive bullet, but the old man stood up with half his face blown off and killed his would-be assassin. He lived to the ripe old age of 96.
One was Mel Blanc. You never saw him. But you probably heard him. He was the voice of Bugs Bunny. Well, Bugs did his part for the war effort in some cartoons, including one that Warner Brothers pulled due to offensive stereotypes of the Japanese. America’s favorite “wascally wabbit” is an honorary Marine as a result of his service on the screen.
But Blanc did more than just entertain. He also helped train some of the soldiers who were putting it all out there. Specifically, he helped train the gunners on heavy bombers. The B-17 Flying Fortresses had a lot of gun positions. Some of the ten-man crew manning them had other jobs (like the bombardier, the navigator, and the radio operator). Others just had to shoot.
No matter what, though, they needed to know how to aim their guns so that some Nazi or Japanese fighter didn’t shoot their bomber down. In a 14-minute film, Blanc portrays a waist gunner on one Flying Fortress who starts out with some bad habits. Over that course of time, the trainees were given a crash course and the bare essentials needed to know how to aim their machine gun.
Twenty-eight years after the untimely death of T. E. Lawrence — the Englishman known the world over as “Lawrence of Arabia” — Hollywood made a movie about him.
It was, in the parlance of the day, a “doozy.”
Epic in scale and scope and concerning the extraordinary particulars of Lawrence’s role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire leading up to World War 1, “Lawrence of Arabia” was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 1963 and took home seven including Best Picture.
Though many with first hand knowledge of the true events of Lawrence’s life were quick to criticize the film’s dramatic liberties, much of the frisson that makes it a cinematic tour de force arises from the undeniably ambiguous nature of the man himself.
T. E. Lawrence was a poet, an archeologist, a diplomat and a spy. He spoke French well enough to translate whole volumes of its literature to English. He spoke Arabic well enough to forge alliances between feuding Bedouin tribes. The question of his sexuality has been a matter of scholarly gossip for the better part of a century. Setting his extreme need for personal privacy against his talent for finding the center of world-changing events, the journalist Lowell Thomas famously commented that Lawrence “had a genius for backing into the limelight.”
But for all that’s debatable about T. E. Lawrence, many of his military superlatives are accurately recorded and verifiably real. As a British Army advisor to Arab Prince Faisal, Lawrence helped organize — and in many cases participated in — a number of the most pivotal maneuvers of the Arab Revolt. We was, to use a modern term, as deeply embedded amongst the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula as the necessity of his assignment required, perhaps more than his superiors in the British Army would deem advisable, certainly beyond what Edwardian cultural empathy could possibly conceive.
Lawrence saw the desert and went all in.
The film culminates with the Oct. 1, 1918, reclamation of Damascus, when the Arab forces, led in part by Lawrence and backed by the British Army, marched through the gates of the city in triumph. All across the Arab Peninsula, the forces of the Ottoman empire were retreating or surrendering to Prince Faisal’s nationalized Arab army.
The organized harassment campaign deployed against Ottoman railroads, depots and installations–a guerrilla approach perfected by Lawrence and his Bedouin irregulars from 1917 through 1918–had so destabilized the Ottoman position in the region that when it finally came time to take Damascus, the city surrendered without resistance. By the end of the war, the Arab Coalition had seized Palestine, Transjordan, Lebanon, southern Syria and vast swaths of the Arabian Peninsula. British General Allenby hailed Prince Faisal for his role in the victory (but was surely, in the same breath, congratulating himself for following Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence’s lead with the strong-willed Arab peoples):
I send your Highness my greetings and my most cordial congratulations upon the great achievement of your gallant troops … Thanks to our combined efforts, the Ottoman army is everywhere in full retreat.
As word of the adventures and exploits of Lawrence of Arabia spread throughout the West, the sheer romantic gall of the man, not to mention the exotic backdrop against which he won his fame, fired an insatiable public story engine that would spin over the particulars of his life forever after. The 1963 film was, among many takes on the subject matter, perhaps merely its most high-profile.
Lawrence’s own memoir of the Arab Revolt, “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” complicates his legacy far more than it elucidates, fueling unending debate among his biographers. As fodder for the imagination, it’s really all too perfect. His story is the stuff of legend precisely because it raises more questions than historical sleuthing can answer. But whatever the truth, the film that emerged is a juggernaut, a four hour cinematic tone poem about the ravenousness of Destiny when it’s got a man like T. E. Lawrence in its jaws.
For hundreds of years, military cadences have been used as an iconic tool to keep service members upright during formation runs and marches.
Structurally designed to keep each man or woman properly covered and aligned, a cadence helps a formation of troops in PT land each step at the exact same time as everyone else, preventing a massive falling domino effect.
Military cadence is a preparatory song performed by the leader of the formation during the marches or organized runs. Many parts of these running songs are so catchy, they will be forever embedded into our heavy left feet.
Take a listen and let yourself be transported back to the good ol’ days of the little yellow bird and the days of sitting in the back of your truck with Josephine.
1. “Down By The River”
2. “Pin My Medals Upon My Chest”3. “C-130 Rolling Down The Strip”4. “Hey, Hey Whiskey Jack”5. “How’d Ya Earn Your Living?” Cadences tend to cross-breed through the different branches and change words to make them service-specific. We salute everyone for their originality.
Benjamin Holt was a proud industrialist creating tractors and other farming equipment when World War I broke out. While he prided himself on innovation, he stuck to creating better and better farming equipment rather than trying to create arms for the war effort.
That’s because Holt had developed a new tractor design in 1904, the “Caterpillar,” which used treads instead of wheels, allowing it to stay above the mud of the San Joaquin River Delta near Sacramento, California.
Holt replaced the steam engines of his original design with gasoline power ones in 1908, and the design took off. When World War I opened, horses butchered in front line fighting were slowly replaced with tractors, including Holt’s.
His design was actually a favorite on the front lines because the amazing grip of his caterpillar treads allowed the tractor to operate in heavy mud and to pull itself out of shell craters.
But when those same tractors rolled onto the battlefield, there was plenty of reason for German soldiers to sh-t their pants.
That’s because those tractors had undergone the “Mad Max” treatment courtesy of the Royal Navy, who covered them in thick metal plates, packed them with machine guns and cannon, and sent them crawling across the battlefield at a whopping 4 mph.
Behind them, infantrymen poured through the gaps created by the tanks and quickly seized German trenches and territory.
While the first attack at Flers Courcellette had its issues — mostly that the tanks broke down and were too slow to reposition themselves after the advance to prepare for the German counterattack — their rapid drive toward the objective served as their proof of concept.
British Gen. Douglas Haig, the commander of Allied forces at the Somme, requested hundreds more of the makeshift tanks, and armored warfare quickly became a new standard.
Better French and British tank designs soon followed the Mark 1, but it was an American tractor that carried the first tanks to fight in war.
Shortly after the end of World War II, the scientists who developed the atomic bombs dropped on Japan tried to envision the kind of nuclear event that could lead to the destruction of not just cities, but the entire world.
A declassified document shared by nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein gives the verdict that scientists at the Los Alamos laboratory and test site reached in 1945. They found that “it would require only in the neighborhood of 10 to 100 Supers of this type” to put the human race in peril.
In 1945, the Los Alamos scientists concluded it would only take between 10 and 100 “Super” bombs to end the world. pic.twitter.com/01I8ypmIP0
They reached this conclusion at a very early point in the development of nuclear weapons, before highly destructive multi-stage or thermonuclear devices had been built. But the scientists had an idea of the technology’s grim potential. “The ‘Super’ they had in mind was what we would now call a hydrogen bomb,” Wellerstein wrote in an email to Business Insider.
At the time, the scientists speculated they could make a bomb with as much deuterium — a nuclear variant of hydrogen — as they liked to give the weapon an explosive yield between 10 and 100 megatons (or millions of tons’ worth of TNT).
For perspective, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a yield of around 15 kilotons, or 0.015 megatons. These theorized bombs were several orders of magnitude more powerful than those that wrought destruction on Japan earlier that year.
The apocalypse brought on by these 10-100 super bombs wouldn’t be all fire and brimstone. The scientists posited that “the most world-wide destruction could come from radioactive poisons” unleashed on the Earth’s atmosphere by the bombs’ weaponized uranium. Radiation exposure leads to skyrocketing rates of cancer, birth defects, and genetic anomalies.
The Los Alamos scientists understood the threat that airborne radiation would pose in the event of nuclear war. “Atmospheric poisoning is basically making it so that the background level of radioactivity would be greatly increased, to the point that it would interfere with human life (e.g. cancers and birth defects) and reproduction (e.g. genetic anomalies),” says Wellerstein. “So they are imagining a scenario in which radioactive byproducts have gotten into the atmosphere and are spreading everywhere.”
Wellerstein says that this fear of widespread nuclear fallout was hardly irrational and that concerns over the atmospheric effects of nuclear detonations were “one of the reasons that we stopped testing nuclear weapons aboveground in 1963, as part of the Limited Test Ban Treaty.”
Taking both of the estimated scales to the extreme — 100 superbombs yielding 100 megatons of fission each — would result in a total yield of 10,000 megatons. As Wellerstein notes, that’s the same amount of fission that Project SUNSHINE determined was enough to “raise the background radioactivity to highly dangerous levels” in a 1953 study.
That degree of nuclear power — though not necessarily accompanied by the radioactive component critical to meeting the fears documented here — rested in the hands of both the U.S. and Russia during the Cold War.
A deactivated Soviet-era SS-4 medium range nuclear capable ballistic missile displayed at La Cabana fortress in Havana, on Oct. 13, 2012. (Photo: Desmond Boylan/Reuters)
In recent decades the total yield of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons has fallen, such that “the threat of over-irradiating the planet is probably not a real one, even with a full nuclear exchange,” Wellerstein wrote. “A bigger concern is the amount of carbon that would be thrown up in even a limited nuclear exchange (say, between India and Pakistan), which could have detrimental global effects on the climate.”
Back in 1945 the Pentagon had speculated that it would take a few hundred atomic bombs to subdue Russia.
That thought experiment had a strategic bent. But the 1945 estimate seems to have advised caution in the new, uncertain nuclear age.
The scientific push to learn more about the destructive weapons that were so hastily researched and used in the 1940s resulted in important insights as to the consequence of their use. Nuclear weapons aren’t just horrific on the intended, local scale. They can carry consequences on the planet’s ability to foster human life, whether that’s by contributing to the greenhouse effect or irradiating it beyond habitability.