4 outstanding things you didn't know about Sgt. York - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

Known as one of America’s greatest war heroes, Alvin York was a profoundly religious man who found himself plenty conflicted when he learned he’d been drafted into the U.S. Army. Although very worried at the prospect of taking another man’s life, the Tennessee native chose to honor his military obligation and shipped off.

Although York saved many lives, killed many enemy troops, and earned the Medal of Honor, he gained true nationwide notoriety after Sergeant York, a film about his life, debuted in cinemas.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
‘Sergeant York’ starring Gary Cooper
(Warner Brother Pictures)

Not only did the 1941 classic secure York a spot in the history books, it preserved his story and legacy for generations to come. The movie does a great job of showing us the highlights of his wartime heroics, but there are a few things about this humble hero that you probably didn’t know.


4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

Alvin York (as played by Gary Cooper) at a local “Blind Tiger.’

(Warner Brothers Pictures)

Blind Tigers

Before shipping out to the frontlines to fight, York was considered somewhat of a troublemaker. Although he was known for his marksmanship as a youngster, he was also known to drink and gamble at various bars, known as “Blind Tigers.”

He wasn’t good with money

In his youth, York only attended nine months of a subscription school. In his hometown, education wasn’t a priority and he found work as a semi-skilled laborer at a nearby railroad. This lack of education is likely the reason for his poor money-managing skills.

York was known for spending money as he earned it and giving what he had away to those he felt needed it more.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

York’s personal diary.

(SgtYork.org)

York kept a detailed diary

York frequently made entries about his time during World War I, and, in great detail, wrote about what it was like being pinned down by the enemy in attempts to capture a narrow-gauge railroad. The Medal of Honor recipient’s diary gives us a glimpse directly into his mind as he explored a range of subjects, from his emotional childhood through to the perils of war.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

Representative Cordell Hull, Sergeant Alvin C. York, Senator Kenneth McKellar, and Senator George E. Chamberlain

He avoided profiting off his fame

After York’s deployment ended, he returned home and his story was published in the Saturday Evening Post — which had an audience of approximately two-million readers. He met with members of Congress who gave him a standing ovation.

As York’s name became more famous, he received offers for his movies rights — and he denied them all.

It took many years for Sgt. York to allow for the film’s production, Finally, it was released in 1941. York used his earnings to finance a bible school.

popular

Camp Pendleton is home to Marines, Navy hovercraft and…a herd of bison

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is the home of the 1st Marine Division. The base also hosts the Marine Corps School of Infantry West. Spanning over 125,000 acres, it is one of the largest bases in the Marine Corps. Moreover, the base’s large training area serves as a natural resource preserve. A base sign seen from Interstate 5 famously reads, “Camp Pendleton U.S. Marine Corps Base Preserving California’s Precious Resources.”

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
A Camp Pendleton sign that can be seen from the interstate (U.S. Marine Corps)

Indeed, Camp Pendleton preserves many natural resources that might otherwise be lost. In fact, the base is home to 19 threatened or endangered species. There is, however, one unique species that calls Camp Pendleton home that is no longer threatened or endangered.

In the 1800s, the bison was nearly hunted to extinction. Throughout the century, an estimated 50 million bison were killed. By the end of the century, there were only a few hundred left. Luckily, preservation and breeding efforts have since brought the species back from the edge of extinction. Federally protected lands like Yellowstone National Park now serve as safe havens for these incredible animals. What many people don’t know is that Camp Pendleton is one of these protected lands.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
The Camp Pendleton bison herd (U.S. Marine Corps)

In 1973, the world-famous San Diego Zoo introduced the plains bison to Camp Pendleton as a gift. Between then and 1979, a total of 14 bison were brought to the base. Since then, the bison population has multiplied. Last surveyed in 2015, the Camp Pendleton herd now numbers approximately 90 bison. Incredibly, this is one of only two wild conservation bison herds in California. The other is on Santa Catalina Island off the southwest coast of Los Angeles.

Today, the bison is categorized as near-threatened. This is an amazing achievement considering that the species nearly went extinct just over 100 years ago. Thanks to conservation efforts and protected lands like Camp Pendleton, the bison population now exceeds 500,000 and continues to grow.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
The Camp Pendleton herd is part of the wild bison population of 15,000 (U.S. Marine Corps)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Security Airmen getting new special ops-like helmets

The Air Force has been busy this summer. From providing the latest class of recruits to Space Force to issuing better fitting body armor to women airmen, it seems like the protectors of the sky are really looking to expand and develop on its commitment to its force. This comes after the push in 2018 for Air Force defenders to get updated weapons, along with revised training and fitness standards.

Now, security airmen are next in line to receive a uniform upgrade. Soon, they’ll be issued new special ops-like helmets. This next generation of ballistic helmet is just the latest initiative that the Air Force is taking to ensure its personnel remains safe.


This new helmet is going to replace the older and far less-adaptable Advanced Combat Helmet. The ACH is what security forces currently wear, and many airmen have complained about its bulk and weight. Adding to the challenges is that the ACH is designed for ground units, so airmen have struggled with it, and in some cases, have had to outfit and modify it with bulky additions to accomplish different mission sets.

Not only will the new helmet come with better padding, built-in railings to easily attach accessories, but they’ll also be lighter and cooler. The Air Force Security Forces Center is now sending out new ballistic helmets as it phases out the ACH.

The 71st Security Forces Squadron, located at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, was the first squadron to receive the helmet. Soon airmen everywhere will receive the upgrade.

An Air Force press release said that the initial response to the new helmet has been positive. Master Sgt. Darryl Wright, 71st SFS logistics and readiness superintendent, said that the new version is the “most agile helmet” he’s worn in 19 years.

The helmets are part of the Air Force Security Forces Control initiative to modernize not just weapon systems but also individual protective gear. Included in this refresh is contingency support equipment and deployable communications systems, both of which will be paramount to successfully defeating the enemy in future conflicts. In the future, the Air Force plans to roll out a newly revised M18 modular handgun system, M4A1 assault rifle, M110A1 semi-automatic precision engagement rifle, M320A1 grenade launcher, and modular, scalable bests.

“We’re identifying salient characteristics of the best individual equipment industry has to offer at the best value to achieve standardization across the force,” said Lt. Col. Barry Nichols, AFSFC director of Logistics. “This effort is instrumental in keeping Defenders throughout the security forces enterprise ready and lethal with procurement of the most cutting-edge and innovative equipment available in order to accomplish missions safely and effectively.”

These changes all come after the Air Force’s Year of the Defender 2019 exercises, where the service conducted a detailed and extensive review of all security forces. This review explored areas that could be improved upon, both in terms of equipment and gear to tactics, training, and general morale boosts. To date, the Air Force has successfully worked through over 900 specific items that needed to change and has spent almost 0 million to update their gear.

The Air Force currently field about 25,000 active-duty security forces airmen. There are an additional 13,000 in the Air National Guard and Reserve components. Of the forces 38,000 airmen, about 98 percent are enlisted. This aligns the entire branch of the Air Force with the Army’s lightest light infantry unit.

Brig. Gen. Andrea Tullos, career security forces officer, said that the Air Force has “expeditionary roots,” and that the branch is “a blend between light infantry and a military police company.”

Collectively, these big changes are helping the service gain air superiority over the peer adversary that could potentially pose a big threat to the military. As the Air Force continues to look toward the future and the likelihood of conflicts with either Russia or China, the Air Force needs to be able to pick up the slack safeguarding forward-deployed squadrons instead of relying on ground forces. This new helmet upgrade is yet another step to making sure that can happen.

Articles

This is why the F-4 Phantom II had so many fans

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York


As he slides his hands across the edges of the wings and walks from nose to tail, inspecting all aspects of the jet, a wave of emotion begins to hit Jim Harkins.

His weathered features appear calm and determined, but they hide the tears he is fighting back.

While he walks around the aircraft, he greets each maintainer and says, “Thank you.” Harkins rubs and taps the bulging nose of the QF-4 Phantom II, like an aged cowboy saying hello to a trusty steed, and then climbs into the cockpit.

“One last time,” Harkins says and the canopy closes around him.

For Harkins and the F-4, this is a day of lasts. For Harkins, it’s the last time he will fly for the Air Force and, for the Phantom, the last time it will take to the skies.

It’s their final flight.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
Ground crew of 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 perform maintenance on a QF-4 Phantom, left, and its replacement, the QF-16, at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 20, 2016. The final variant of the Phantom II, the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s, was the QF-4 unmanned aerial target flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. Pilots of the 82nd flew the F-4 for the last time prior to a retirement ceremony for the storied aircraft on Dec. 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“It’s not really sad, because in the military you get used to a lot of lasts, but it’s humbling,” Harkins said.

Harkins isn’t the only one feeling nostalgic and emotional about the aircraft affectionately referred to as “Old Smokey.” Hundreds of “Phantom Phixers,” “Phantom Phliers” and “Phantom Phanatics” gathered on the flightline at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to watch the final F-4 flight.

Some used to work on the aircraft, some are just fans and others, like retired Col. Chuck DeBellevue, had the privilege of actually flying the fighter.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

DeBellevue flew the F-4 in Vietnam, where he had six confirmed kills – two against the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 and four against the MiG-21, the most of any U.S. aviator during the war.

He’s not just saying farewell to an amazing machine, he’s saying goodbye to an old friend.

“A friend who got me home more times than I care to remember,” DeBellevue said. “Being back on the flightline today brought back a lot of memories, not all are good. I lost a lot of friends, but it was a great airplane. I loved to fly that airplane. It’s very honest and it got me out of a lot of tight spots during the war.”

DeBellevue recalls the Navy originally bought the F-4 to be a fleet interceptor and the Air Force bought it in 1963 to do everything – and it did do everything. It served as the primary air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, but it also served roles in ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance and, once taken out of active service, was designated the QF-4 where it flew as aerial targets.

The F-4 was a workhorse weapons system for the Air Force through the 1990s and it still hold the distinction of being the first multi-service aircraft. During it’s heyday, the F-4 set 16 speed and altitude records and demonstrated its effectiveness time and again throughout its lengthy career.

The Phantom looked cool doing it, too.

“You didn’t get into the F-4, you put it on, it became you,” DeBellevue said. “It was a manual airplane, not like an F-16 or F-15, they were aerodynamic and designed well. The F-4 was the last plane that looked like it was made to kill somebody. It was a beast. It could go through a flock of birds and kick out barbeque from the back.”

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

On the flightline at Holloman, the final flight of four F-4s prepare to take off for the last time. The engines rumble and smoke flies.

In his jet, Harkins looks over the crowd, dancing in the cockpit, revving up the on-lookers and saluting those in attendance. Everyone cheers as the final four F-4s begin their last taxi.

Harkins is first to pass the crowd, followed by pilots Eric “Rock” Vold, Jim “Boomer” Schreiner and finally Lt. Col. Ronald “Elvis” King, the last active duty F-4 pilot and commander of Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron. Together these men will fly the Phinal Phlight demonstration before King officially retires the QF-4 program during a ceremony following the flight.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

“I don’t want to sound cheesy, but every time I get into the F-4 I can’t help but think of all the stories of all the pilots and all the maintainers who made this aircraft great,” King said. “The history and the heritage to me is the biggest satisfaction of flying the airplane.”

King had no concept when he became the squadron commander he would be the last active duty pilot. It didn’t really set in until he and Harkins began taking the F-4 on a farewell tour during to air shows and aviation expos last year. King felt obligated to take the F-4 on the road, to give admirers the chance to see it, touch it and share their stories one last time. It was then he realized this tour piloting the F-4 would be something special.

“It’s going to be sad to shut those engines down for the last time, but she’s served our country well,” King said of the F-4. “It’s exciting too, because our mission is to provide full scale aerial targets and we are going to be able to do that now with an airplane that’s better suited, provides higher performance and is more representative of the threats we face today in the QF-16.”

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
Two McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 steak over the flightline during the final military flight of the storied aircraft at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 21, 2016. The F-4 Phantom II entered the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1963 and was the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. The final variant of the Phantom II was the QF-4 unmanned aerial targets flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

King said it was getting more and more difficult to keep the F-4’s in the air, and the only reason the QF-4 lasted as long as it did was because of the maintainers of the 82nd ATS.

Unfortunately, he says, there is no longer a need for the F-4. All remaining aircraft will be de-militarized at Holloman and used as ground targets at the White Sands bombing range.

King says most people don’t like to hear the fate of the last F-4s, and he understands, but it’s too costly to maintain as a heritage piece or to preserve them for museums.

“At the end of the day, the Air Force isn’t real sentimental,” King said. “It will have a warrior’s death.”

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

Engines roar and a flume of dust and smoke signals to the crowd the final four F-4s are off. The first two jets, piloted by King and Schreiner take off in a two-ship formation. Harkins follows in the third position and Vold in fourth. The last two jets perform an unrestricted climb, staying low to the ground in afterburner before pulling into a vertical climb at the end of the runway. The crowd goes crazy.

The sound of the F-4 is distinct. As Harkins passes over the crowd in a low-altitude turn it sounds like the jet is ripping the sky.

Multiple passes are made in four-ship, two-ship and stacked formations over the crowd of hundreds in attendance. Camera shutters clicking at a furious pace can be heard down the tarmac.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
A McDonnell Douglas QF-4 Phantom II of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 steaks over the crowd gathered to witness the final military flight of the storied aircraft at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 21, 2016. The F-4 Phantom II entered the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1963 and was the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. The final variant of the Phantom II was the QF-4 unmanned aerial targets flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Out of nowhere, the sky cracks open and multiple booms shake the ground, buildings and cars, setting off alarms across the base. The concussions signal the F-4s going supersonic high above.

Harkins swoops down out of the sky passing over the crowd multiple times, and makes his final approach. As his wheels touch back to Earth, Harkins enters the history books as the last pilot to fly 1,000 hours in the F-4.

“I can’t imagine a better way to go out than with the F-4, it’s a special moment and a special jet and then … done,” Harkins said. “Although I flew F-16s and I went down to the F-4, but I consider myself going out on top.”

As climbs down from his jet he’s doused with water from his comrades and sprayed with champagne. In the distance, King lands his F-4 and with the front landing gear touching the asphalt, the history books close on the aircraft’s legacy.

But while the Phantom’s time in the sky may be over, the tales of its exploits are far from done. For those who flew the F-4, there is always time to wax poetic about the good ‘ole days, tearing across the wild blue yonder on “Old Smokey.”

AirmanMagazineOnline, YouTube

MIGHTY MOVIES

8 things R. Lee Ermey taught us about the military

Marine Corps drill instructor and Hollywood actor R. Lee Ermey was robbed of an Oscar for his legendary portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic “Full Metal Jacket” and snubbed by the Academy’s Oscar “memoriam” montage.

But while the Academy may not have thought his contribution worth recognition, we know the Gunny knew a thing or two we should all remember about military service.

Ermey had a long career. As well as his iconic role in “Full Metal Jacket,” where he improvised most of his dialog, and that long run on “Mail Call,” he played iconic roles as the police captain in “Se7en,” the voice of Sarge in the “Toy Story” movies, the mayor in “Mississippi Burning” and a chilling serial rapist in a 2010 episode of “Law & Order: SVU.”

Ermey also had a wicked sense of humor, one that allowed him to play the over-the-top movie director Titus Scroad in the cult TV series “Action” and the lead kidnapper in the “Run Ronnie Run,” the bizarre comedy from “Mr. Show With Bob and David” guys Bob Odenkirk and David Cross.

He left us on April 15, 2018, and he’s now at rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

So what did his TV and movie appearances teach us about service? Here are nine great examples.


4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

1. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

In his “Full Metal Jacket” rants, Gunny Hartman tells his recruits that their Marine Corps training had permanently changed them. They’re no longer mere men: They’ve become Marines.

“Today, you people are no longer maggots. Today, you are Marines. You’re part of a brotherhood. From now on, until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. Most of you will go to Vietnam. Some of you will not come back. But always remember this: Marines die. That’s what we’re here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever and that means you live forever.”
4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

2. You gotta break someone before you build them up.

Few civilians understand the bonds of trust required for a military unit to function and even fewer can grasp the process that goes into tearing down the idea of the individual so a person can be truly absorbed into the group. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman can help you with that.

“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that that day, you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human fucking beings! You are nothing but unorganized grab-ass-tic pieces of amphibian shit! Because I am hard, you will not like me! But the more you hate me, the more you will learn! I am hard, but I am fair! There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops, or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless. And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not packed the gear to serve in my beloved corps. Do you maggots understand that?”
4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

Gunny Hartman may have been talking about Pablo Picasso’s 1939 portrait of Dora Maar.

3. Modern art is not good art.

Hidden in Gunny Hartman’s psychological tear down are some important observations about other parts of our world. He’s also an art critic.

“You’re so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece!”
4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

Truthfully, Gunny Hartman’s material is closer to Don Rickles than Steve Martin but Steve’s the one who said, “Comedy is not pretty.”

4. Comedy is not pretty.


He’s a talented insult comic.

“Well I’ve got a joke for you, I’m going to tear you a new a–hole.”
4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

Ask yourself: “Is my toilet clean enough that I could invite the mother of Our Savior to use my bathroom?”

5. A clean toilet is a holy toilet.

He’s concerned that our religious icons have a good bathroom experience.

“I want that head so sanitary and squared away that the Virgin Mary herself would be proud to go in there and take a dump.”
4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

What’s YOUR major malfunction?

6. A great catchphrase works in any situation.

Ask anyone who grew-up in a household where dad always asked “What’s your major malfunction?” Every Single Time they did something he didn’t like.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

7. The Heart is the Deadliest Weapon.

He even operates on multiple levels. He may SAY a Marine is the deadliest weapon but listen closely: The threat really comes from a Marine’s cold, cold heart.

“The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle. It is your killer instinct which must be harnessed if you expect to survive in combat. Your rifle is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills. If your killer instincts are not clean and strong, you will hesitate at the moment of truth. You will not kill. You will become dead Marines. And then you will be in a world of s***. Because Marines are not allowed to die without permission. Do you maggots understand?”
4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

8. Everyone Needs Mail.

Ermey did his part on his long-running History Channel series to educate a generation of Americans who knew nothing about the military. He also reminded everyone that communication is critical for men and women who are serving their country. If you want to remember Ermey, write a letter, send an email or make a phone call in honor of his service.

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

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of June 8th

Just when you thought things were getting nice and boring, a 1st Lt goes and steals an APC and drives it through Richmond. You know, deep down, the mechanic responsible for that vehicle is secretly proud that their M577 managed to keep up in a police pursuit.

The APC started up, managed to get off base and drive 60 miles to Richmond with the cops on his ass within 2 hours — all without breaking down. Sure, that lieutenant is going to be turning big rocks into smaller rocks for a while but, holy crap, someone give that motor sergeant a medal!


4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

“I went where you told me. I took a left on Victory Road and still didn’t see it.”

(It’s funny because every installation has at least two “Victory Road”s.)

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

I swear that this is the last ACP Joyrider meme… this week…

(Meme via Artillery Moments)

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

(Meme via OAF Nation)

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Remembering Hiroshima & Nagasaki: Four little known facts

On Aug. 4, 1945, Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay approved Operation Centerboard I, a decision that ultimately forced the Japanese to surrender and forever changed the world. Two days after his approval, pilots boarded the Enola Gay, the callsign for their B-29 bomber, and lifted off from the Pacific island of Tinian en route for Hiroshima.

At 8:15 a.m., the lone plane in the sky carrying the 9,000-pound uranium-enriched atomic bomb — known as “Little Boy” — released from the bomb bay and floated by parachute, detonating the equivalent of 12,000 to 15,000 tons of TNT over the populated city.

“It was very much as if you’ve ever sat on an ash can and had somebody hit it with a baseball bat,” recalled Navigator Theodore Van Kirk, as he described the shockwave. Life that existed before was annihilated, and 70,000 of the 76,000 total buildings were destroyed — 48,000 blown into non-existence. The explosion immediately killed an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 people, and the nuclear fallout in the following years is believed to have killed some 200,000 more people as a result of severe burns, trauma, radiation exposure, and cancer.


4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

The Bockscar and its crew, who dropped a Fat Man atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A day later, after no sign of surrender from the Japanese, the decision was made to use the second atomic bomb — “Fat Man.” The target was originally not the city of Nagasaki, but that of Kokura, the location of Japan’s largest munitions depot. On Aug. 9, 1945, bad weather and thick clouds forced the pilots to deviate and travel to their secondary target, where citizens of Nagasaki experienced the same hell that occurred three days prior.

“Suddenly, the light of a thousand suns illuminated the cockpit,” remembered “Bockscar” co-pilot Fred Olivi. “Even with my dark welder’s goggles, I winced and shut my eyes for a couple of seconds. I guessed we were about seven miles from ‘ground zero’ and headed directly away from the target, yet the light blinded me for an instant.”

After the plume of the second explosion cleared the skies and the Japanese surrender ended World War II, the world questioned how anyone could ever recover after two cities were turned into ash. On the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Coffee or Die looks back at the lesser known aspects of the cataclysmic event that destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and forever changed the world.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

A group of physicists at the 1946 Los Alamos colloquium on the Super. In the front row are Norris Bradbury, John Manley, Enrico Fermi, and J.M.B. Kellogg. Behind Manley is Oppenheimer (wearing jacket and tie), and Richard Feynman to his left. The Army colonel on the far left is Oliver Haywood. In the third row between Haywood and Oppenheimer is Edward Teller. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“The Cry Baby Scientist”

Robert Oppenheimer, the man known as the “Father of the Atomic Bomb,” had months of preparation and test results to predict the impact of dropping a nuclear bomb over a populated city as he and his team developed the two atomic bombs that were used over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But the physicist, along with 155 scientists chosen to work under the top-secret program famously known as “The Manhattan Project,” had second thoughts. They signed a petition that opposed using nuclear weapons in a military capacity.

When Oppenheimer met with President Harry Truman in his Oval Office in October 1945, months after pondering the destruction of his own creation, he told him, “Mr. President, I feel like I have blood on my hands.” Truman’s face scrunched and his anger grew to a fury as he told Secretary of State Dean Acheson, “I never want to see that son of a bitch in my office again.”

As Truman recounted the story, the blame equally shared by the two of them, he often referred to Oppenheimer as “the cry baby scientist.”

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

A watch recovered from Hiroshima, stopped at 8:15 a.m., the moment of the bombing. Photo courtesy of the Atomic Heritage Foundation.

Censorship In The Press

The biggest news story of the century was censored. In fact, much of the information during World War II was censored. However, the prime focus concerning the nuclear explosions over Japan was the suppression of evidence regarding radiation or radioactivity. Journalists were silenced, access to medical reports were limited, and American officials confiscated materials collected from Japanese inspectors during the immediate fallout. Gen. Douglas MacArthur issued a press code that permitted the publication of photographs and print in relation to the bombings, and it remained in effect until 1952.

The purpose of the censorship was that the military didn’t want the atomic weapon to be associated with chemical warfare. Nonetheless, Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett avoided the censors when he sent his report to London using Morse code. Burchett was the first foreign journalist to visit Hiroshima after the bombings. The London Daily Express published his story on Sept. 5, 1945, with the headline “The Atomic Plague.”

“Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city,” Burchett wrote. “It looks as if a monster steamroller had passed over it and squashed it out of existence.”

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

American physicist Lawrence H. Johnston with the Fat Man plutonium core on Tinian in 1945. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Eyewitness Accounts & Survival

American physicist Lawrence H. Johnston, one of the scientists to work under the helm of the Manhattan Project, was the only eyewitness of all three atomic explosions (the other was the Trinity test). While Johnston viewed the extraordinary violent detonations from a distance, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a 29-year-old Japanese naval engineer experienced both blasts in person.

Walking on his morning commute to work, Yamaguchi stopped and looked toward the sky. He heard the roar from the B-29’s engines, then watched a bomb deploy a parachute. The sky flashed the brightest light he had ever seen as he dove into a ditch before the shockwave engulfed his entire being. The eruption was so violent that it spun up tornado-like winds that hurled his body into a nearby potato patch.

After somewhat recovering his wits, he spent the night in an air raid shelter, and the following day he went to the train station. The bridges ceased to exist, and en route he had to cross a river pass and swam through a cluster of floating dead bodies. As he boarded the train amongst several other burned survivors, he traveled overnight to his hometown of Nagasaki.

On Aug. 8, he recuperated in the hospital and embraced his wife and child who hardly recognized him. The next day he returned to work to inform his bosses of what had occurred at Hiroshima. After escaping one atomic bomb, the second was even more devastating.

“I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima,” he told the The Independent. Somehow, for the second time, he survived the blast, but the radiation in multiplied doses had lingering effects that caused his hair to fall out and relentless bouts of vomiting. Surprisingly, he lived until he was 93 years old and died of stomach cancer in 2010.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

The Atom Bowl teams were each captained by a Heisman Trophy winner and an NFL running back who served with the 2nd Marine Division during World War II. Photo courtesy of War History Online.

The Atom Bowl

While citizens of Japan weren’t fully aware of the effects of radiation and what impact it had on the body until later in life, US soldiers didn’t fully understand it either. On New Year’s Day 1946, Chicago Bears standout Bill “Bullet” Osmanski stepped onto another gridiron that looked more like a scene from the movie Mad Max than a packed football stadium filled with screaming fans. Osmanski and other Marines from the 2nd Marine Division fielded one team and squared off against Lt. Angelo Bertelli, a Heisman Trophy winner and former Notre Dame quarterback. The ceremonial football game became known as “The Atom Bowl,” and it was held in the nuclear wasteland a few miles from “ground zero” in Nagasaki.

More than 2,000 Devil Dogs took to the bleachers at the “Atomic Athletic Field No. 2” to watch Osmanski’s “Isahaya Tigers” defeat Bertelli’s “Nagasaki Bears” 14-13. The halftime festivities included music by the Marine Corps band and “Japanese girl cheerleaders.” The rules were altered for safety, including banning tackle football in favor of two-hand touch because of the shattered glass and small debris on the field. The world’s first and only football game to take place in the rubble of an atomic bomb crater was played by a bunch of Marines trying to boost their spirits before they went home.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a Marine singlehandedly fought off an entire Japanese regiment at Guadalcanal

They say the most dangerous weapon is a pissed-off Marine. Imagine how angry a Marine would have to be after an enemy regiment annihilates the rest of his machine gun unit and threatens to break down the entire line. 

Mitchell Paige was so pissed off that he killed them all and then led a bayonet charge to break down their entire line. 

As the son of Serbian immigrants, Mitchell Paige was so proud to be an American that he wanted to serve the country that had given his family so much. Right after graduating from high school in his native Pennsylvania in 1936, he joined the Marine Corps and gained a lot of experience at home and at sea in the years before World War II.

When the United States entered the war in 1941, he was immediately sent to the Pacific Theater, first to garrison British Samoa and then to the 2,000 square mile island of Guadalcanal. 

It was an important island for the Americans. If the Japanese captured it, they would threaten all U.S. supply lines between the United States and Australia. It would also cut off the Japanese at Rabaul and bolster efforts against Japan on Papua New Guinea. 

The Japanese quickly responded with a counterinvasion of the island. One of the most contentious areas for both sides was an airfield under construction at Lunga Point, one referred to by the allies as Henderson Field. The Japanese needed to disable the aircraft threatening its landing ships from Henderson Field but the U.S. Marines had already formed a perimeter around the field, determined to hold it at all costs. 

Under naval bombardment from Japanese warships, the Marines fought to stand their ground. Platoon Sgt. Mitchell Paige was commanding a machine gun company at Henderson Field when the Japanese broke through the perimeter, killing or wounding every other man in the machine gun unit as they fought on. 

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
Mitchell Paige, USMC, Medal of Honor recipient for action during WWII during the Battle of Guadalcanal (Public Domain)

Paige quickly took to one of his guns and fired it into the oncoming enemy horde until it was destroyed. Then he moved on to the next one . And then another one, four in all until they wouldn’t fire anymore. The hailstorm of bullets he fired at the Japanese kept an entire regiment from advancing until he could receive more reinforcements from the 7th Marines.  

Paige’s military decorations and awards include all of the above. (Wikipedia)

After those reinforcements arrived, he reformed the fresh Marines into a new line, ordered them to fix bayonets, and then led a charge at his former attackers, pushing them away from Henderson Field and preventing a breakthrough in the perimeter. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor for singlehandedly holding the line, along with a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant. 

He would retire from the Marine Corps in 1964 with the rank of full-bird Colonel.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This one simple factor is why the US Allies won World War II

At first glance, it might seem obvious why Japan would choose to take on a country like the United States. While Americans were still struggling with the Great Depression, Japan’s economy was growing and hot. Japan had hundreds of thousands of men in uniform and a string of military victories under its belt. The U.S. was a third-rate military power whose day had come and gone in World War I – and Americans weren’t thrilled about another war.

But the Japanese seriously underestimated one important factor: The American Worker.


4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

Up yours, Japanese Empire.

Judging the United States’ capacity for war during the 1930s was Japan’s fatal mistake. Sure, we’d had a little too much fun at the speakeasy during the 1920s, but we were poised for the most incredible puke and rally the world had ever known, and anyone looking for it would have been able to see it. Unfortunately, the Japanese were a little high on their own supply at the time. Convinced of Japanese superiority, they thought themselves nigh-invincible and that the U.S. would crumble if it needed to unify or die.

In reality, things were much different. The U.S. had twice the population of Japan and 17 times more tax revenues. Americans produced five times more steel, seven times more coal, and could outproduce the Japanese automobile industry by a factor of 80:1. The American worker had the highest per capita output of any worker in the world.

What’s more, is we were one of very few countries willing to let women work in our very modern factories.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

So don’t f*ck with the Arsenal of Democracy.

Even before the war, U.S. industrial capacity was greater than all of the Axis countries combined. As a matter of fact, the United States’ output was almost greater than all the other major powers involved in the war. And that was before the U.S. declaration of war allowed the President to take control of American industry. By the time the U.S. entered the war, the Lend-Lease Act had already pulled America out of its depression and was basically supplying the Allied powers with American-built equipment and vehicles as it had for years.

All we had to do was start using them ourselves.

As time went on, the U.S. economy was growing by 15 percent annually, while every other belligerent saw a plateau in growth or the destruction of their economies altogether. By the end of the war, American industrial output wasn’t even close to overheating – we were just getting started.

MIGHTY HISTORY

George H.W. Bush’s overlooked legacy in space exploration

On July 20, 1989, the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, President George H. W. Bush stood on the steps of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and, backed by the Apollo 11 crew, announced his new Space Exploration Initiative (SEI). He believed that this new program would put America on a track to return to the moon and make an eventual push to Mars.


“The time has come to look beyond brief encounters. We must commit ourselves anew to a sustained program of manned exploration of the solar system and, yes, the permanent settlement of space,” he said.

As a political scientist who seeks to understand space exploration’s place in the political process, I approach space policy with an appreciation of the political hurdles high-cost, long-term and technologically advanced policies face. My research has shown that policy change both in general and in space policy, is often hard to come by, something exemplified by the Bush administration.

Vice President George W. Bush, Sr. talks to STS-1 Flight Crew

www.youtube.com

Among Bush’s many political accomplishments, few recall SEI, probably because it was largely panned immediately following its announcement. However, Bush’s presidency came at a key turning point in NASA’s history and ultimately contributed to the success of the International Space Station, NASA leadership and today’s space policy. As the country mourns his passing and assesses his legacy, space should rightly be included on Bush’s list of accomplishments.

While presidents are usually the most closely associated with the American space program, vice presidents often play a vital role. As Ronald Reagan’s vice president, Bush was intimately involved with NASA throughout the 1980s. He visited the astronauts who crewed the second shuttle mission in 1981, commiserating with them about their mission which had been shortened. And, he often enjoyed speaking to astronauts mid-flight.

In a 1985 White House speech, Bush announced that teacher Christa McAuliffe would fly aboard the ill-fated Challenger. In the wake of the disaster, Reagan dispatched Bush to meet with the families at Kennedy Space Center given his ties to the mission. After a private meeting with the families, Bush addressed NASA employees at Kennedy and pledged the space program would go forward, a promise he kept as president.

SEI and the Space Station

Shortly after taking office, the Bush administration sought to provide a vision for NASA. Bush reinstated the National Space Council and, allied with Vice President Dan Quayle, developed the SEI to coincide with the anniversary of Apollo 11. With less than six months between Bush’s inauguration and July 1989, there was little time to flesh out specific deadlines or funding sources. What resulted was a vague promise to build a planned space station in the next decade, return to the moon and venture onto Mars. With this lack of specifics, the SEI aroused immediate suspicion from both NASA and Congress.

The SEI faced a number of political hurdles upon its announcement. But 90 days later, opposition to SEI grew exponentially when a follow-up analysis of the initiative revealed a 30-year plan with a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag. Then the discovery of a flawed lens on the Hubble Space Telescope after its launch in 1990, the massive cost overruns on what was then called Space Station Freedom (the program had grown from billion in 1984 to billion in 1992), and an economic downturn all combined to threaten overall funding for NASA. While Bush lobbied aggressively for the SEI, the program failed to receive support and was largely shelved.

But what emerged from the SEI was still significant. When Congress threatened to cut funding to and essentially end the nascent space station, the Bush administration pushed to save it. Although NASA’s overall funding was cut, Bush’s support and the rationale behind the SEI gave the space station enough continued importance that Congress restored 0 billion to the space station budget.

Finally, the moon to Mars framework has remained relevant in human spaceflight. George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration, proposed in 2004, retained the same goals but grounded it with a clear timetable and budget. Proposing a moon-Mars program is nothing revolutionary, but the SEI kept the idea of an expansive exploration agenda alive.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

President George H. W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle joined Apollo 11 astronauts to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first lunar landing.

One of most significant impacts a president can have on a bureaucracy is choice of agency leadership. In that area, Bush succeeded in placing his stamp on NASA for years to come. Bush’s first choice for NASA administrator, former astronaut Richard Truly, was out of his depth politically. Truly did not support SEI and other space initiatives and was fired in 1991, partially at Vice President Quayle’s urging.

Bush’s choice to replace Truly was Dan Goldin, who became NASA’s longest serving administrator, staying on through the Clinton administration. Characterized as one of the most influential administrators in NASA history, Goldin took on the job of finding more support for the space station. He convinced Clinton that it could be useful in foreign policy. As a result, Clinton used the space station as a tool to ease Russia’s transition to a democratic state. The International Space Station was launched in 1998 due in large part to the support from the Bush administration. Having hosted 232 people from 18 countries, the ISS recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

More importantly, Goldin initiated a program known as “faster, better, cheaper” (FBC), which required NASA to do more with less by bumping up the number of lower cost missions. Although this mindset led to several high-profile failures, including a crashed Mars probe, Goldin successfully shifted NASA onto a more sustainable political footing. As a result, Bush’s choice of NASA leadership was crucial to the direction and success of American space exploration.

Bush’s legacy

Space exploration is a difficult policy field. It requires long-term planning, consistent funding and visionary leadership, any one of which is difficult to achieve. Further, space policy is incredibly sensitive to overall economic dynamics, making it susceptible to continual budget cuts.

One can certainly debate the benefits of the International Space Station or the scientific value of human space exploration but, for better or for worse, NASA is the agency it is today because of the choices George H.W. Bush made as president. Ad astra, President Bush.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

World War II Coast Guard veteran turns 100

Born in 1920, Anderson Washington just celebrated his 100th birthday. A Coast Guard veteran of World War II, he’s experienced a lot during his lifetime.

Washington grew up in New Orleans during a time of deep segregation. As a Black man, it was especially difficult for him and his family. When he was asked what it was like as a young boy growing up, he shook his head in sadness. “It wasn’t pleasant,” he shared. Washington said that he tries not to think of those times because they were so bad. He continued, “I try to avoid remembering certain things. So much unpleasantness that I try to block it all out.”


Later in his life during his early 20s, World War II broke out and he watched the United States join the fight after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Washington knew that he would most likely be drafted and wanted to retain some manner of control over where he went. “The day I enlisted was a couple of days after the segregated laws were changed in the military. I chose to join the Coast Guard rather than the Army, where I felt I was sure to have disadvantages,” he explained.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

Following basic training, Washington was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Comanche in 1942. Although often referred to as the “lifesaving service,” the Coast Guard was so much more than that. Much of the American public may not even realize how involved they were during World War II and how integral their service was to the nation. During the spring of 1940, Nazi Germany had taken over Denmark. Greenland, a Denmark territory, was then assigned to be a part of a defense system.

President Roosevelt put the Coast Guard in charge of it.

In Greenland, the Coast Guard was responsible for search and rescue operations, convoy assignments and defending it from Nazi invasion. One of the cutters assigned was Washington’s. One of the others, the Northland, was actually the first American unit to engage with the enemy during World War II. They would go on to support land, air and sea forces in all of the combat theaters during the war.

When Washington was asked what it was like to serve in the Coast Guard as a Black man, he was conflicted. “At the time, it was pretty bad with ups and downs throughout. Looking back, it was a good experience for me though. It was a great chance to see the world,” he said.

Washington was a Coxswain during his time in the service. “We were on troop transport, bringing troops overseas,” he explained. He remembers bringing soldiers and marines to places like North Africa and along various stops in Europe. In 1943, a German submarine launched torpedoes on the convoy his cutter was escorting. A torpedo hit the USAT Dorchester on her starboard side.

It exploded and sank almost immediately.

Washington’s cutter sped ahead alongside the Escanaba to rescue survivors. Together, they managed to save the lives of 229 men. Hundreds died in the water, mostly likely due to hypothermia. Four of the men that would perish aboard the Dorchester were Army Chaplains, who gave up their own life preservers for others. Reports later detailed this heroic act and how they came together in prayers as the ship sank.

The Coast Guard is often overlooked when discussions of the Battle of the Atlantic arise. But her fleet served a vital and important role in convoy escort and combat. Her warships not only protected allied convoys but sank enemies and captured their crews.

The Coast Guard even helped plan the naval operations for the D-Day Invasion of Normandy.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

In 1945, the war was ending. The Coast Guard captured the first enemy vessel once American joined the war and then she captured the last of them as it ended. Washington left the Coast Guard in 1946 and came home to a segregated United States. “It was miserable,” he said. Despite serving his country proudly during the war, he was still looked at as less than due to the color of his skin when he returned.

Washington would become integral in the fight for Civil Rights. “I was one of three plaintiffs who fought and sued to desegregate New Orleans,” he shared. He is the only plaintiff still alive from that successful suit today.

When asked what advice he would give to activists who are still fighting for social justice and equal rights, Washington got right to the point. “Any way you cut it or talk about it, it boils down to voting,” he explained. He encouraged those championing causes to find their platforms, use their voices and vote.

Washington never dreamed he’d make it to 100 years old.

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the city of New Orleans and the United States Coast Guard came together to safely celebrate his big day. Washington also didn’t realize how many lives he had touched with his own. At his celebration, he was saluted by Captain Michael Paradise, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Base New Orleans and thanked for his dedicated service.

Washington is grateful for his long life and hopeful for the future for this country. He knows the best is yet to come.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force will retire the B-1 for stealthy new B-21s

The Air Force is mapping a two-fold future path for its B-1 bomber which includes plans to upgrade the bomber while simultaneously preparing the aircraft for eventual retirement as the service’s new stealth bomber arrives in coming years.

These two trajectories, which appear as somewhat of a paradox or contradiction, are actually interwoven efforts designed to both maximize the bomber’s firepower while easing an eventual transition to the emerging B-21 bomber, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven.


“Once sufficient numbers of B-21 aircraft are operational, B-1s will be incrementally retired. No exact dates have been established,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven. “The Air Force performs routine structural inspections, tests and necessary repairs to ensure the platform remains operationally viable until sufficient numbers of B-21s are operational.”

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
U.S. Air Force artist rendering of B-21 Raider

The B-21 is expected to emerge by the mid-2020s, so while the Air Force has not specified a timetable, the B-1 is not likely to be fully retired until the 2030s.

Service officials say the current technical overhaul is the largest in the history of the B-1, giving the aircraft an expanded weapons ability along with new avionics, communications technology and engines.

The engines are being refurbished to retain their original performance specs, and the B-1 is getting new targeting and intelligence systems, Grabowski said.

A new Integrated Battle Station includes new aircrew displays and communication links for in-flight data sharing.

“This includes machine-to-machine interface for rapid re-tasking and/or weapon retargeting,” Grabowski added.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York
Top view of B-1B in-flight.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Another upgrade called The Fully Integrated Targeting Pod connects the targeting pod control and video feed into B-1 cockpit displays. The B-1 will also be able to increase its carriage capacity of 500-pound class weapons by 60-percent due to Bomb Rack Unit upgrades.

The B-1, which had its combat debut in Operation Desert Fox in 1998, went to drop thousands of JDAMs during the multi-year wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The B-1 can hit speeds of MACH 1.25 at 40,000 feet and operates at a ceiling of 60,000 feet.

It fires a wide-range of bombs, to include several JDAMS: GBU-31, GBU-38 and GBU-54. It also fires the small diameter bomb-GBU-39.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Nobel laureate says HBO series has ‘completely changed perception’ of Chernobyl

Belarus’s Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich rolled her eyes when the creators of Chernobyl approached her for permission to use material from her book “Voices From Chernobyl” for the hit HBO miniseries.

“I told my agent, ‘Galya, they’re going to make another film…’ I was far from convinced. The only thing that convinced me, maybe, was the fee,” Alexievich explained in a recent interview with RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service.

However, the five-part miniseries about the tragic accident at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant has raked in rave reviews from critics and viewers alike, and Alexievich is no exception.

“It really impressed me. It is a very strong film. There is something there in the aesthetics that touches the modern consciousness. There is a dose of fear. There is reasoning. There is beauty. That is something that has always worried me about evil, when it’s not out in the open, when so much is confusing.”


And she said that her fellow Belarusians, hard hit by the nuclear fallout scattered into the air when Reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986, have now had their eyes pried open to the real scale of the tragedy, Alexievich said.

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Sgt. York

“We are now witnessing a new phenomenon that Belarusians, who suffered greatly and thought they knew a lot about the tragedy, have completely changed their perception about Chernobyl and are interpreting this tragedy in a whole new way. The authors accomplished this, even though they are from a completely different world — not from Belarus, not from our region,” she explained.

Alexievich said the film has especially struck a chord with young Belarusians.

“It’s no accident that a lot of young people have watched this film. They say that they watch it together in clubs and discuss it. They are different. For them, questions about the environment, especially in the West, it is through that lens that they understand life.”

Alexievich also praised the selection of Johan Renck as director.

“The director is a Swede by nationality. And in the Swedish consciousness there is a deep awareness of the environment,” she said.

Meanwhile, Alexievich’s book has, in turn, received high praise from Craig Mazin, the writer and producer of Chernobyl, who tweeted on June 13, 2019: “I drew historical fact and scientific information from many sources, but Ms. Alexievich’s “Voices From Chernoby”l was where I always turned to find beauty and sorrow.”

From the vintage Soviet furniture and trash bins to the period clothing, Chernobyl has been praised for staying incredibly accurate to detail, even using real dialogue, much of it recorded in Alexievich’s oral history of the disaster, “Voices From Chernobyl.”

“There is a lot of my text in the reactions of the people. For example, when people stand on the bridge and admire the fire. Those are the first impressions following the accident. The world’s, as well. The director even admitted that all of this was created from the book. I have a contract with them and author’s rights of ownership,” Alexievich explained.

Some have suggested that the character of Ulana Khomyuk, a Belarusian nuclear physicist bent on uncovering the truth behind the disaster, is based on Alexievich, although Chernobyl’s creators have said the figure is inspired by a composite of scientists involved in the disaster. Alexievich isn’t convinced the character is based on her either.

“I don’t think they wrote Khomyuk with me in mind. [Eimuntas] Nekrosis (the late Lithuanian theater director) before his death put on a play based on [my] The Boys In Zinc. I was supposedly the main figure, but she was absolutely not like me.”

Alexievich says having a female protagonist like Khomyuk simply made sense, juxtaposing her against Valery Legasov, who was instrumental in the cleanup after the disaster.

“In the film, there is a need for a leading figure, a woman — maybe because they took from my view of life, this sense of femininity, the world of the woman. For me, this is very important. In all my books there are many women heroes, not only in the work The Unwomanly Face Of War. This relationship with the living. A woman is extremely capable of detecting the connection of things. Therefore, it was probably necessary to have a woman, not only Legasov. If there had been two men, there would be no story. They introduced a woman and with a man and a woman you get two perspectives. It is very interesting.”

Chernobyl (2019) | Official Trailer | HBO

www.youtube.com

Asked about some of the inaccuracies in the series that critics have seized on, Alexievich is dismissive.

“First of all, it is a feature film, and the author is entitled to his interpretation and understanding of things. But they say, ‘This minister was fat, old, and now he’s young.’ Or the opposite. Or the windows weren’t like that. If you want to think like that, then if we look at the famous film Battleship Potemkin by Eisenstein, where the baby carriage flies down the steps, then some sailor named Zhalyaznyak would say that that type of revolution never happened. God forbid if the truth about Chernobyl or the gulag system had been in the hands of such people.”

Alexievich noted even Russian media were full of praise for the series, at least at first.

“In the beginning, Russian media was very positive about the series and then probably there was some yelling in the Kremlin and they suddenly became very patriotic. Then there was news they are launching their own series about Chernobyl, about how ‘our’ agents pursue some American spy at the power plant. My God, when I read all this I thought that 30 years have passed and has really nothing changed in the consciousness?”

Despite those initial doubts, Alexievich is convinced that HBO has created a classic with a strong message that she feels needs to be heard.

“Most importantly, I would like that people watch it and think about the type of world we’ve entered with such dangers. And there are more and more. Artificial intelligence, robots. It’s a whole new world.”

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

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