MIGHTY HISTORY

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

The Cold War was a terrifying time to be alive.

The war began in 1946 and ended in 1991 when the USSR collapsed. During this period, tensions between the United States and the USSR were extremely high. Proxy wars were fought around the world and there was a constant threat of nuclear warfare.

Reading about historical events and watching documentaries can tell us the facts, but it’s a different thing entirely to think about what it was like to experience it. Here are just a few things US citizens lived through during the cold war.


Children learned to do “duck and cover” school drills.

After the Soviet Union detonated its first known nuclear device somewhere in Kazakhstan on August 29, 1949, US anxieties about the threat of nuclear annihilation rose significantly.

Civil defense in the 1950s called for people to take what shelter they could.

(Wikimedia / Library of Congress)

President Harry S. Truman’s Federal Civil Defense Administration program began requiring schools to teach children how to dive under their desks in classrooms and take cover if bombs should drop, according to History. How protective such actions would be in an actual nuclear strike continues to be debated — and has thankfully never had any practical testing.

In any case, this led to the official commission of the 1951 educational film “Duck and Cover,” which you can stream online thanks to the Library of Congress.

There was a constant threat of nuclear annihilation.

The Cold War ebbed and flowed in terms of tension, but it lasted from the end of World War II until the early 1990s and the eventual fall of the Soviet Union. That’s a long time to brace for potential impact, both as individuals and as a society.

Many Americans thought nuclear war could break out at any moment.

(Public domain)

During this time, libraries helped to train and prepare people as best they could with available civil defense information. They showed educational films, offered first aid courses, and provided strategies to patrons on how best to survive in the event of nuclear war. These are valuable services in any time frame, but the tensions constantly playing in your mind as you participated must have been palpable.

As always, pop culture both reflected and refracted societal anxieties back at citizens as a way of processing them. This AV Club timeline offers several great examples, from “The Manchurian Candidate” to “Dr. Strangelove, Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb” and through the decades to the extremely on-the-nose ’80s film, “Red Dawn.”

Some families built fallout shelters in their backyards.

In the aftermath of the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the entire world learned exactly how decimating nuclear warfare could be.

As Cold War tensions escalated between the US and the Soviet Union following World War II, it’s not terribly surprising that the Department of Defense began issuing pamphlets like this one instructing American families on how best to protect themselves in the event of a nuclear attack.

Bomb shelters were not uncommon.

(United States National Archives)

Converting basements or submerging concrete bunkers in backyards that were built to recommended specifications became a family bonding activity — although in urban areas, buildings that generally welcomed the public including church and school basements and libraries were also designated fallout shelter locations.

There was a strict curtailing of civil liberties during the Red Scare.

While the Cold War was intensifying, one nickname used for communists was “Reds” because that was the predominant color of the flag of the Soviet Union. The House Un-American Activities Committee and infamous Joseph McCarthy hearings happened during this time period, which attempted to root out subversion in the entertainment industry and the federal government.

President Truman’s Executive Order no. 9835 — also known as the Loyalty Order — was issued for federal employees, but smaller businesses soon followed in the federal government’s footsteps. The Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations — effectively a blacklist — was also issued.

Many of the people accused of being communists by McCarthy lost their jobs when in reality there was no proof they belonged to the communist party.

This search for potential communists did not end with the downfall of McCarthy. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, for instance, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover labeled Martin Luther King, Jr. a communist simply because he stood up against racism and oppression.

The US and USSR came close to all-out war because of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Two events during the 1960s almost brought the world to an all-out war.

The first was in 1961 when 1,400 Cuban exiles were trained to overthrow the Fidel Castro’s Cuban government, which had made diplomatic dealings with the USSR. The exiles were sent on their mission by President Kennedy, who had been assured by the CIA that the plan would make it seem like a Cuban uprising rather than American intervention.

What became known as the Bay of Pigs had a disastrous outcome, with over a hundred Cuban exiles killed and the rest captured. Many Americans began bracing for war.

By 1962, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev bolstered Cuba’s defenses with nuclear missiles in case the US tried invading again. The arms race between the US and the Soviet Union was already in full swing, so tensions were steadily increasing.

When American spy planes gathered photographic evidence of these missiles, President Kennedy sent a naval blockade to “quarantine” Cuba, according to the JFK Presidential Library.

He also demanded removal of the missiles and total destruction of the sites that housed them. Khrushchev wasn’t anxious to go to war either, so he finally agreed after extracting a promise from Kennedy that the US wouldn’t invade Cuba.

People worried the space race could lead to nuclear war.

Through a modern lens, the space race led to scientific advancements across the world as countries rushed to be the first into outer space and to land on the moon.

But at the time, the prospect of the Soviet Union beating the US to the final frontier was more terrifying for Americans than we might realize today.

Dr. Wernher von Braun, the NASA Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, explains the Saturn rocket system to President John F. Kennedy at Cape Canaveral, Florida on Nov. 16, 1963.

(NASA)

CNN reports that regular Americans frequently worried that if the Soviet Union could get a human into space, it could also get nuclear warheads into space. The USSR became the first country to successfully launch a human being into space with Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961, and the US later landed on the moon in July of 1969 after heavily investing in its NASA program.

Proxy conflicts, including the Korean War and the Vietnam War, continue to affect the world today.

While the US and the USSR never engaged in armed conflict against each other, they did fight in and fund other conflicts, otherwise known as proxy wars.

The most famous proxy wars during this time are undoubtedly the Korean War and the Vietnam War, but there were numerous other proxy conflicts that happened during the Cold War. Many of these conflicts were extremely deadly for both soldiers and civilians, including the Angolan Civil War, the Cambodian Civil War, and the Congo Crisis, just to name a few.

These proxy conflicts also continue to have consequences for citizens and veterans, and have shaped the modern world as we know it.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Your computer’s keyboard is a disgusting petrie dish

Your computer keyboard is probably dirtier than a toilet seat.

In fact, an Australian study found that the typical desk has 400 times the amount of bacteria found on a toilet seat.

Toilet seats actually harbor around 50 bacteria per square inch, making that a relatively un-germy zone. Not so with the computer, especially those shared by multiple people. One Chicago hospital found that its computer keyboards held drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus like MRSA for up to 24 hours. Another hospital in the Netherlands studied 100 of its keyboards and found that 95 tested positive for Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and other pathogens, making them the dirtiest surfaces in the intensive care unit.


Considering how frequently we use computers, it’s understandable that dirt constantly gets lodged in between the keys. We’ve all rushed to type something quickly after being out and about, eaten meals at our computers, and typed while simultaneously dealing with sticky substances.

Those of us who use computers at work talk, sneeze, and cough on the keys all day long, too.

When to clean your keyboard

Most microbiologists agree that everyone should wipe down their desk and keyboard at least once a week.

Doctors and nurses at the National Center for Health Research (NCHR) suggest that hospital keyboards should be disinfected much more often, though: at least once per day. The NCHR also suggests washing hands before and after using any shared computers, especially during flu season.

(Flickr photo by Pete)

If you’re the only one using your computer (and you’re not touching many people throughout the day), most of the bacteria on your keyboard comes from your own hands and fingertips, so it probably isn’t doing you any harm.

Still, wash your hands frequently to keep your desk space clean for longer.

How to clean your keyboard

Cleaning and disinfecting your keyboard is a simple process, and it works.

First, shut the computer down and unplug it before you start disinfecting. Then get rid of any crumbs or grit stuck on the keyboard with a can of compressed air before giving the keys a wipe.

Cleaning expert Melissa Maker recommends using a solution of equal parts water and rubbing alcohol, and applying it using a microfiber cloth. You can also use a q-tip dipped in alcohol to get between the keys.

While you’re at it, consider giving your phone a cleansing swipe, too. Smartphones can easily pick up E. coli and Streptococcus bugs because we handle them so frequently and take them everywhere with us.

Philip Tierno, a microbiologist and pathologist at the New York University School of Medicine suggests giving your phone a good wipe down at the end of each day.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

In Vietnam-Era throwback, new Air Force rescue helo is the ‘Jolly Green II’

It’s official: the U.S. Air Force will call its new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter the “Jolly Green II.”

Standing alongside combat-search-and-rescue pilots from past and current conflicts, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett made the announcement during the opening of the Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, Thursday.


“Reviving the Jolly Green name honors our combat search and rescue crews past and present,” Barrett said on social media following her speech. “In the hands of our airmen, the HH-60W ensures the rescue community can perform their duties better than ever,” she said.

The longstanding motto of the rescue community is, “These things we do that others may live.” The name Jolly Green — which the CSAR community has adopted as its trademark alongside green feet stamps on the aircraft — dates back to the Vietnam War era when American pilots flew the HH-3E.

While pilots today will stamp the sides of the helicopter with green feet to commemorate their own missions, the origin of the green feet is a nod to the HH-3E helicopter, also known as the Jolly Green Giant, which left fat imprints when landing in Vietnam’s rice patties and grass fields, according to the service.

Unlike the new HH-60W, which will officially be known as “Jolly Green II,” the HH-3E helicopter, used mainly for recovering downed pilots, only carried the moniker as a nickname.

youtu.be

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein on Thursday stressed the service’s need for HH-60W, especially given his own experience. As a lieutenant colonel, Goldfein was shot down in his F-16CJ fighter jet over Serbia in 1999 during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and subsequently rescued by CSAR units.

“The Jolly Green gives us extended range and better capability,” Goldfein said on Twitter following the announcement. “I was grateful for a ride out of enemy territory when I needed it and I can tell you first-hand that this aircraft will save lives.”

In July, the service began its first tests of the Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky-made HH-60W — based on the UH-60M Black Hawk — which is meant to replace its current HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet. Its missions also include “civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight support and CSAR command and control,” the service said.

Current 1980s-era HH-60G models are capable of flying low, and have a retractable in-flight refueling probe and internal auxiliary fuel tanks that allow for better range and loiter time during rescue missions.

The HH-60W doubles the internal fuel capacity without using the auxiliary fuel tanks, and also increases the flight hours. The aircraft also has improved avionics, navigation, communications and an enhanced software network, plus better defensive measures and armored plating, according to the company.

Through its fiscal 2019 and 2020 budgets, Congress gave the Air Force the authority to procure 22 of the Jolly Green II. The first two units to be fielded with the aircraft will be the 41st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, and the 512th Rescue Squadron at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, officials said.

The service plans to purchase up to 113 of the rotary-wing aircraft.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 epic military movie mistakes you have missed

Military movies are emotional to watch as many are based on real and fascinating stories of man’s ability to overcome any obstacle and fulfill his or her goals and destiny and all that sh*t.


With so many important aspects to pay attention to, filmmakers commonly make mistakes that veteran moviegoers can spot.

So check out some epic mistakes we managed to find in our favorite Hollywood war films.

1. Where did the German tank go?

“Saving Private Ryan” is one of the best war movies ever recorded on film, but that doesn’t mean it’s flawless. In the 3rd act — just as the final firefight is about to end — Capt. Miller fires his pistol at a tank headed toward him. After firing a few shots, the tank blows up, bursting into flames and stopping dead in its tracks.

Bang! Bang! (Source: Dream Works)

The tank surprisingly blowing up isn’t the mistake, but moments later the Tiger tank vanishes.

It must have been magic, right? (Source: Dream Works)

2. Playing musical chairs

In Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” Desmond Doss sits on the right side of the bus saying his goodbye to his girl.

Good movie, but a humorous mistake. (Source: Lionsgate)

Cut to a few moments later and Desmond is now sitting on the left side of the bus after it departs the station.

Either that or it’s a 180 break. Either way, we’re confused. (Source: Lionsgate)

3. No force protection…at all

In the Clint Eastwood directed “American Sniper,” the SEAL team enjoys a meal with an Iraqi man and his family who is about to be discovered for being a bad guy. Although the team is on a crucial mission, the lights are on, and someone forgot to close the curtains on the window.

A good sniper would love to take a pop shot through that window. (Source: WB)

4. A non-combatant?

We love the film “Full Metal Jacket” just as much as other veterans, but this Stanley Kubrick directed film has a lot of screw-ups — especially here. As the Marine squad advances on the Vietnamese sniper, you can spot a crew member in the bottom of the frame. Oops!

He should have ducked a little better. (Source: WB)

5. Marine sniper training on an Air Force base?

In 2006, Universal pictures gave us the Desert Storm film “Jarhead,” directed by Sam Mendes. In this scene, Anthony Swofford (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) reports for bugle tryouts at the Marine Corps parade deck. Look at the water tower behind him; the Air Combat Command emblem is clearly represented in this shot. The A.C.C. is a major command of the Air Force and wouldn’t be located on the Marine Corps base.

WTF! (Source: Universal)

The Air Combat Command emblem up close.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the greatest artillery exchange of the Civil War

The Civil War was a revolutionary conflict for the planet with steam power, repeating rifles, and improved cannons all changing the face of warfare. European powers sent observers to see how battles were fought, and how the rules of combat evolved as the conflict wore on.


A cannon sits on Powers Hill at Gettysburg National Military Park.

(National Park Service)

This changing industrial warfare led to butchery on a grand scale. There are a lot of ways to measure the war, but one of the greatest artillery exchanges of the war was an almost two-hour duel at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that, tragically for the Confederate infantrymen, immediately preceded Pickett’s Charge but failed to dislodge the Union guns.

The exchange came on the morning of July 3, 1863. Two days earlier, on July 1, Confederate scouts had pushed against Union forces near the crossroads at the center of the small town of Gettysburg. Neither side’s generals had chosen the ground, but they both reinforced their men in contact and stumbled into one of the most iconic and deadly battles of the war.

On July 2, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee attacked Union positions on hilltops near the city, attempting to push them off the high ground before more Union reinforcements arrived. Confederate troops were in Union territory, and the balance of power would shift against them more and more the longer the battle wore on.

Civil War reenactors play as Confederate artillery crews in 2008.

(Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The July 2 attacks were fierce, and Union forces suffered heavy losses and ran low on ammo in some positions. On Little Round Top, for example, Union forces barely survived by launching a bayonet charge down the hill after most of the men ran out of shot, leaving them vulnerable to a Confederate assault.

By July 3, it was clear that Lee’s invasion of the north would have to either succeed on this day or likely fail altogether. The Union troops, on the other hand, despite some missteps, had improved their positions, and it would take great skill and a bit of luck to dislodge them.

Union forces under Maj. Gen. George Meade were arrayed on a series of ridges, and attackers were able to push Confederate troops out of a nearby field in the early hours of the morning. In a bid to re-seize the initiative and soften Union defenses in the early afternoon, Lee ordered a massive artillery bombardment of the Union troops, focused on Seminary and Cemetery ridges where he hoped to attack and pierce the lines.

Battle of Gettysburg – The Artillery Duel

www.youtube.com

The total number of guns on each side was similar. A Civil War Trust map of the artillery positions shows 126 Confederate guns and 128 Union guns covering the battlefield, with over 50 Union guns either on Cemetery Ridge or immediately adjacent to it. A HistoryNet count of the weapons engaged pegs it at 150 Confederate guns that took part against 75 Union guns.

When the afternoon artillery duel began, guns on each side began a disciplined but heavy bombardment of the opposing forces. For over 90 minutes, Confederate artillery tried to pick off Union guns and crews as the men ran back and forth from the caissons and ammo dumps to the guns to keep the rate of fire up. Good crews on either side could fire two rounds per minute. Thousands of rounds crisscrossed the field.

It’s the largest artillery barrage ever in the western hemisphere. The Union leaders ordered many of their crews to cease fire in an attempt to fool the Confederates into thinking the Union cannon crews were broken.

If the Confederate bombardment were successful, it would create a temporary gap in the Union defenses, an area where battered riflemen and depleted artillery crews would be hard-pressed to hold the line while reinforcements were moved in.

Union artillery holds its position at the Battle of Gettysburg.

(Alfred Waud)

Lee prepared a massive infantry column, the core of the assault coming from Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s 4,500-man division, with about 10,000 more men coming from other brigades, for an attack directly into the Union center. This would break the Army of the Potomac in half and force Union Maj. Gen. George C. Meade to withdraw or allow his men to be cut apart.

Despite the quiet Union guns, despite the massive infantry column, some of the Confederate generals still believed that the infantrymen could not possibly capture the hill. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet was one of the top detractors of the plan, respectfully telling Lee that he didn’t think 15,000 men existed who could take the hill.

He would be proven right. The Union guns had been mostly sheltered by trees and fortifications during the exchange, and they survived the Confederate artillery attack in good order. Many of the guns on Cemetery Ridge were still in perfect order with ready crews manning them.

The 15,000 Confederate troops faced a march with .75 miles of open ground between the last spot of cover and the first Union defenses. For the entire distance, the Union cannon crews could hit them with balls and shot.

In what would become known as Pickett’s Charge, the Confederates came anyway. The artillery shredded their lines, but still, the Confederates advanced. Units faltered and were slaughtered wholesale on the open field, but the Confederates were undeterred. Fences at the start and end of the march had to be climbed or dismantled under fire, but the Confederates came anyway.

Union troops who had suffered devastating losses the year before at the Battle of Fredericksburg were merciless as the Confederate troops fell, yelling “Fredericksburg” at the fallen.

The Confederate troops did make it into infantry range, once charging at Union lines from only 80 yards away, but Union troops behind stone walls, fallen timbers, or raised terrain slaughtered even these attackers.

In total, Union forces lost 1,500 soldiers. The Confederate losses are estimated to have been over 6,000. The day featured what was, by some measurements, the greatest artillery exchange in Western Hemisphere history. It was an easy contender, by most measures, as the top exchange of the Civil War.

But it had failed to carry the day, failed to achieve its objective.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Audie Murphy: American war hero, actor, advocate

Audie Murphy was an American actor known for his Western films. However, his initial claim to fame came from being the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of World War II. He was born in 1925 in a small Texas town to poor sharecroppers. Murphy joined the Army in 1942 after falsifying his birth certificate to ensure he could enlist before he was eligible.

During WWII, Murphy was credited with killing 240 members of enemy forces and capturing or wounding many others. In his three years of active service, he became a legend among the 3rd Infantry Division, and is considered one of the best fighting combat soldiers of this or any other century. The U.S. Army has declared that there will never be another Audie Murphy. That is most likely the case too, with modern day technology and modern warfare, it is unlikely any soldier will ever live up to the legend of Audie Murphy.


Murphy became the most decorated soldier of WWII by earning 33 awards and decorations. He was awarded every decoration for valor the United States offers, some more than once. These awards included the Medal of Honor, the highest military award for bravery that can be given to an individual. His awards from the war also included five decorations from France and Belgium.

Audie Murphy was released from active duty on September 21, 1945. After his release, he went to Hollywood at the invitation of actor James Cagney who had seen his picture on the cover of Life Magazine. After years of hardship, struggle to find work and sleeping in a local gymnasium, Murphy finally received token roles in his first two films.

(Wikimedia Commons)

Murphy’s first starring role came in 1949. In 1950, he received a contract with Universal-International (now known as Universal). He starred in 26 films over the next 15 years, 23 of which were Westerns. Murphy also filmed 26 episodes of a Western television series which went to air on NBC in 1961. Despite good reviews, Murphy’s series was deemed too violent. Only 20 episodes were aired before it was cancelled.

Audie Murphy suffered from what is known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was plagued for years by insomnia and depression. By the mid-1960s, Murphy became dependent on a prescribed sleeping medication, Placidyl. When he realized he had become addicted to the medication, he locked himself inside of a motel room, stopped taking the pills and suffered through the withdrawal symptoms for a week.

Murphy used his fame to help advocate for the needs of U.S. veterans. Unlike most during that time, he chose to speak out about his experiences and struggles with PTSD, known as “Battle Fatigue” at the time. He called out the U.S. government to look closer at and study the emotional impacts of war and urged them to extend health benefits to address PTSD and other mental health issues of returning war veterans.

(Wikimedia Commons)

On May 28, 1971, while on a business trip, Audie Murphy’s plane crashed just outside of Roanoke, Virginia. He and five others, including the pilot, were killed in the crash. Murphy was 45 at the time of his death.

On June 7, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. His gravesite, which is near the amphitheater, is the second most visited grave at Arlington, surpassed only by John F. Kennedy’s grave.

Audie Murphy remains a legend among the members of the U.S. Army. While he was well known for his work as an actor in Hollywood, his memory will live on as a true American hero.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Navy plane is designed to Take Charge and Move Out on Doomsday

The E-6 Mercury is arguably the deadliest aircraft in the arsenal of the United States Navy. Its lethality is extreme, even though it doesn’t carry any weapons. Sounds odd? Well, when you look at what the E-6 does, then seeing it as the Navy’s deadliest plane isn’t a stretch.


According to a Navy fact sheet, the E-6 is a “communications relay and strategic airborne command post aircraft” that is tasked with providing “survivable, reliable, and endurable airborne command, control, and communications between the National Command Authority (NCA) and U.S. strategic and non-strategic forces.” The nickname they have is TACAMO – or TAke Charge And Move Out.

U.S. Navy E-6B Mercury at the Mojave Airport. (Wikimedia Commons)

When the plane first entered service in 1989 as the E-6A, it was designed solely for the communications replay role. This meant it passed on messages from the President and Secretary of Defense to the force of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The 14 Ohio-class submarines can each carry 24 UGM-133 Trident II missiles – and each of those have the ability to carry up to 14 warheads, either a 100-kiloton W76 or a 475-kiloton W88.

That said, in the 1990s, the DOD was dealing with a cold, hard fact: Their force of EC-135C Looking Glass airborne command posts were getting old. However, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the “peace dividend,” new airframes were out of the question.

An E-6B Mercury is being moved into a Hanger at the Boeing Aerospace Support Center, Cecil Field Fla., to be retrofitted with a new cockpit and an advanced communications package in April 2003. (US Navy photo)

The E-6As soon were upgraded to add the “Looking Glass” mission to their TACAMO role, and were re-designated as E-6Bs. This now made them capable of running America’s strategic nuclear deterrence in the event of Doomsday. The Navy has two squadrons with this plane VQ-3 and VQ-4, both of which are based at Tinker Air Force Base.

So that is why the E-6B Mercury, a plane with no weapons of its own, and which may never leave American airspace, is the deadliest plane in the Navy’s arsenal.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This country music legend made an epic beer run on a riding lawn mower

Before George Jones made it big in country music with his 1959 hit, “White Lightning,” the Hank Williams-obsessed twentysomething was a United States Marine. Six years later, he was recording a song written by the Big Bopper and writing songs that would be sung by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Loretta Lynn.

Jones’ military career was just three years long. Stationed in San Jose, California, he managed to miss the entire Korean War, being discharged in 1953.


Through it all, the legendary singer-songwriter struggled with alcoholism like his daddy before him. Even after he was invited to sing at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956, he was already once divorced, singing at the worst honky tonks in Texas. Throughout the 1960s, Jones was known for showing up drunk to things, be it a show, a recording or a friend’s house in the middle of the night.

In 1967, Jones actually had to be forced into a detox facility to help curb his drinking habit. But nothing could actually stop him if he wanted a drink – and his ability to get a drink if he wanted one was as legendary as his songwriting.

One alcohol-related incident is remembered above all others, and is the subject of many stories, murals, and no fewer than three recreations in modern country music videos.

Twitter

twitter.com

His then-wife, Shirley Corley, claims she hid the keys to both cars one night while the couple was living outside of Beaumont, Texas. As far as he might go to get a drink, walking eight miles to get to the closest liquor store was a little too far. Jones, according to his autobiography, “I Live to Tell It All,” looked out the window and saw his salvation.

“There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat. A key glistening in the ignition. I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store, but get there I did.”

Jones drove the eight miles to Beaumont, Texas, to get his drinks, aboard a riding lawn mower. It was a move he would reference over and over in years to come, including in his own music videos.

He wrestled with his drinking habit – and sometimes drug habits – for most of his career. He managed to clean up for most of the 1980s but finally kicked the booze after a 1999 car accident found he was drunk behind the wheel. According to Jones, it “put the fear of God” in him.

Jones died at age 81 in 2013. His funeral produced more musical tributes than a three-day summer country concert, all for the former Marine who embodied an entire generation of country music.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Elon Musk amuses the internet with tweet about flags

Chad and Romania are situated on separate continents and share few historical or geographical links. They don’t even have an embassy in each other’s country.

The two countries rarely come up in the same sentence. That is, unless you’re discussing their flags.

Aside from slight variations in color shading, the two countries’ flags appear identical — an observation Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to have just discovered and shared with Twitter.


According to the online Encyclopedia Britannica, Romania initially displayed a flag with horizontal stripes of blue, yellow, and red before settling on its current vertical design in 1861.

Chad decided on its own flag design after it achieved independence from France in 1959.

The country initially considered a green, yellow, and red design but quickly discovered Mali had already taken the same pattern. It then swapped the green for the blue — inadvertently creating a flag that was almost identical to Romania’s.

Chad’s flag is not the only one to resemble other flags — here are some other examples

The flag of Mali, the country Chad tried to avoid copying, is similar to Senegal’s — a single green star in the middle appears to separate the two flags. Guinea’s also replicates Mali’s design but is reversed.

Both Indonesia and Monaco fly two horizontal stripes: red over white. Poland similarly flies white over red.

Ireland and Ivory Coast share the same design, but it is flipped on the flagpole.

All of these similarities may have stemmed from coincidence, but other flags have a specific reason for slight variations to a theme.

Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia all sport the same-colored horizontal stripes, but that’s because they used to be part of the same country of Gran Colombia, which dissolved in 1822, according to Britannica.

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

Articles

Why Navy SEALs will storm the beaches of Normandy in 2018

Jumping into freezing water is just part of the legacy of being a Navy SEAL. During World War II, the U.S. Navy Combat Demolition Units were just a handful of guys equipped only with a pair of shorts, a knife, and maybe some explosives. But those amphibious roots are still close to the hearts of the Navy special warfare community — that’s why they still call themselves “Frogmen.”

Some 74 years ago, in the English Channel during the predawn hours of June 6, 1944, these Navy Combat Demolition Units braved the freezing waters — not to mention the thousands of Nazi guns pointed at the water’s edge.

They were trained for this.

They weren’t necessarily trained to be the secret first wave of invaders up against some of the most fortified positions in the world. No, instead they were trained to win against any and all odds or obstacles. These men were the precursor to modern day SEALs, moving to do their part on the beaches before the D-Day Landings.

That’s how SEAL training works to this day. Recruits are taught to overcome the things they think can’t be done. Now, in tribute to those few who landed at occupied France well before the rest of the Allies, 30 current and former Navy SEALs, as well as some “gritty” civilians, will recreate those NCDU landings.

Today’s SEAL reenactors will do a seven-mile swim to land at Normandy, where they’ll scale the cliffs of Omaha Beach to place a wreath in memorial. At that point, they’ll gear up with 44-pound rucks to do a 30-kilometer march to Saint-Lô.

Why? To raise awareness (and funds) for the Navy SEAL Heritage Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida — and the wide range of programs they offer to support family members of SEALs who fell in combat, doing things only the U.S. special operations community would ever dare.


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“The greatest barrier to human performance is your own mind,” says Kaj Larsen, a Navy SEAL veteran who is also a seasoned journalist and television personality (among other things). “… what [BUD/S training] is really doing is putting guys into the [SEAL] community who aren’t going to quit in combat.” Larsen will be among the SEALs hitting the beach on D-Day 2018.

Larsen with Nigerian troops while covering the fight against Boko Haram for Vice News.
(Kaj Larsen)

The goal is to keep the 2018 mission as close as possible to the original mission of the D-Day Frogmen.

The night before D-Day, an ad hoc team of underwater demolition sailors, along with Navy divers and Seabees, led by Ensign Lawrence Stephen Karnowski, rigged the mine fields, obstacles, and other impediments set up by the Nazi defenders to explode so the main invasion force could make it to the beach.

Karnowski (center) with his UDC team.
(U.S. Navy)

It was 2 a.m. when the NCDU units slipped into the water, wearing little more than diver’s shorts and carrying satchels of explosives. The water temperature at that time of year peaks at just below 58 degrees Fahrenheit (for reference, water freezes at 32 degrees).

This is why today’s SEALs get that mental training: they need it.

Be sure to listen to this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast to find out more about “The Murph” workout (Larsen was a close friend of SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy for whom the exercise is named), to learn about a “Super Murph,” how SEALs are dealing with their fame in the wake of the Bin Laden Raid, and why veterans might be the future of American journalism.

Larsen on assignment in Peru with Vice camerawoman Claire Ward while embedded with Peruvian Special Forces.
(Kaj Larson)

You can also find out how to follow Kaj and his work, as well as what comes next for the veteran journalist.

Resources Mentioned

Sponsor

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MIGHTY HISTORY

A beloved Soldier and the tokens he kept

The “Old Soldier” has a basement full of history.

At the age of 88, he has to walk gingerly down the steps. Coming around a bend in the stairway, he points to a “Moran St.” sign encased behind glass in a wooden box.

“They named a street at Fort Meade after me, too, right there,” he says, almost in passing.

No big deal. There’s more to show below.


The basement is like a private museum — time capsules dating back to the Korean War hung and displayed everywhere. Pictures, plaques, trophies, statues, banners, posters, flags, awards, books, newspaper clippings, most of which are about him: Raymond Moran, a man whose career is stacked with achievement.

As a recruiter, Moran enlisted so many men and women that the U.S. Army Recruiting Command named its Hall of Fame after him. In 2017, he received a Lifetime Service Award. Yet Moran is so low-key that the ceremony took place at a local barbecue joint. He keeps the newspaper articles in several binders, so many that they might fill a whole wall if they were framed.

Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” poses for a portrait on Fort Meade, Maryland, March 9, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

Near the bar, there’s even an M1 rifle, returned from Korea decades after the war. It was a Veterans Day gift from his eldest son, Ray. The M1 is the same style rifle the ‘Old Soldier’ carried in combat when he was a young infantryman.

“I never put one nail on the wall,” said Raymond Moran as he offered the private tour.

In fact, every memory was hung by a professional: his wife, Barbara, who spent a decade working at the museum on Fort Meade. The couple has been married 65 years, celebrating their wedding anniversary at home on Valentine’s Day.

Like his marriage, Moran devoted 65 faithful years serving and loving the Army. He spent 30 years on active duty as an infantryman and recruiter, living all over the world: Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Germany. The other 35 years came as a civilian recruiter for the U.S. Army Reserve.

When the Gulf War broke out, Moran was 61 and had been retired for 21 years, but he convinced the Army to allow him back to duty in uniform.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” flips through a book on the Korean War during a portrait session in his home in Odenton, Md., while sharing stories about his military commitment to the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserve during 65 years of service both as an enlisted soldier and as a Department of the Army civilian.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

“You’ve got to help me put my uniform together. I’ve never worn these,” he told his son, Ray, holding a camouflage-patterned uniform, known as “battle dress.”

“He was in the old, starched, OG-107 green Vietnam uniforms from that era,” recalls his son, Ray, who was an Army Reserve soldier himself at the time. “So he’d never worn battle dress until he got recalled for Desert Storm.”

“The age cutoff was 63, and he was just a few months shy,” said his son, Ray. “He volunteered again later at age 74 when Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off. The Army sent him a very nice, ‘Thanks, but not this time,’ letter.”

Moran served stateside during Desert Storm as a casualty escort sergeant major, a job with a heavy toll. One of his most difficult tasks was taking wedding rings off the bodies of soldiers after a scud missile attack killed 13 from an Army Reserve unit in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Moran had recruited soldiers into that unit, located less than 10 miles from his hometown of Latrobe.

“That was a perfect example of him giving himself to the remembrance of those soldiers,” said his younger brother, Jim Moran. “He put on his uniform, went to Dover (Air Force Base) and did one of the most difficult jobs in trying to show mercy and gratitude for these young men and women that lost their lives, and accompanied those bodies back to their hometown. People remember things like that.”

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” catches up friends during a welcome luncheon after a military ceremony hosted by the First Recruiting Brigade on Fort Meade, Md., March 9, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

Yet, Moran recalls his years with only gratitude and joy. His 65 years of total service are equivalent to three military careers.

“I loved it. Enjoyed every minute of it. Never complained at all any time that I served in uniform. It was just an honor for me to serve. And I have all of this as a result of it,” he says, pointing to the walls.

“All this” is more than military trinkets displayed on some walls. These objects point to the memories of people whose lives he touched. His brother and son said all those plaques and pictures are a reflection of the people Moran has helped, either through his recruiting years or otherwise.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” shakes the hand of a Soldier who recognizes him during a ceremony hosted by the First Recruiting Brigade on Fort Meade, Md., March 9, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

“He’d always help other people. I remember so many people would call Dad for assignments,” said Ray. “And he’d call buddies, guys he had worked with … It was crazy because Dad never did that for himself. Even if he had a lousy duty assignment, he would never ask for a better one. But when it came to everybody else, he was always pressing for the best.”

In the Army, he eventually became the sergeant major of the First Recruiting Brigade on Fort Meade, responsible for hundreds of recruiters across multiple states. When he retired, he humbly (and eagerly) accepted a civilian position as a GS-7, basically working at the lowest level of the recruiting food chain. He reported to a staff sergeant, a rank that was three grades below his retired rank. And yet, he never acted like the work was beneath him. Instead, he loved it. He recruited for the Army Reserve and found plenty of active duty recruits to pass onto others, which helped everyone else meet the recruiting numbers they needed.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” grabs his veteran cap from his son, Ray, as they head out the door to attend a ceremony on Fort Meade, Maryland, March 9, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

“Recruiting is something close to my heart. I have a lot of pride in the Army Reserve, so encouraging them to join was an easy job for me,” he said.

“He genuinely is that kind of person. Positive. Upbeat. I hope to someday love anything as much as that man loves the Army and Barbi,” said Sgt. Maj. Luther Legg, former recruiting command sergeant major and long-time friend of Moran.

“If you have something in your life you aspire to, if you can feel that much affection toward anything, then you should consider yourself blessed,” he said.

He, Barbara and their three children, Ray, Rich and Robbi — all grown into parents and some into grandparents by now — have lived in so many places during Moran’s time on active duty, but one town in particular is still a point of pride for the Old Soldier: Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” holds an honorary Korean War Memorial medal that he keeps on display in his home in Odenton, Maryland, Feb. 22, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

If anyone mentions Latrobe, he is quick to mention Arnold Palmer, the famed golfer whose smiling picture is in his basement — autographed and all. Palmer and Moran were high school friends, along with Fred Rogers, who was one year ahead of them.

“He never had any tattoos underneath his sweater,” Moran reminds others of Mister Rogers, dispelling the silly rumor, which had made its way around some internet circles.

As the basement tour continues, Moran jumps from one life event to another. Historical references spanning decades press against each other. Within minutes of mentioning high school (which he attended while the world was engaged in its second war), he jumps three-quarters of a century in time to another picture.

“Happy Veteran’s Day, Pap-Pap,” he reads from one inscribed portrait of a baby named Penelope, his great-granddaughter. “Kinda cute,” he says with a chuckle.

Then, another family picture. This time, a young soldier: Christopher, his grandson, served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2007-2008. Moran had recruited him into the Army.

“And of course he got pinned with a (Combat Infantry Badge), and he was so proud because the first thing he wanted to show me was his CIB,” said Moran.

An oversized Combat Infantry Badge hangs on the wall beneath a genuine M1 rifle in the basement of retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

He mentions his grandson’s CIB, because he, too, earned one in Korea.

In fact, there it is, hanging on the wall beneath the M1: An oversized replica of the award — a ribbon given specifically to infantrymen who engage in combat.

“That was pinned on me by my battalion commander in the Korean War … We were in mud up to our ankles in combat boots, and he told everyone, ‘Unbutton your top button on your field jacket. And then he came and pinned our CIB on … That day, it must have been at least 100 (of us). We were all lined up from one end to the other in a parade field. That was the only time we ever got together,” said Moran.

When the Korean War first broke out, Moran was a corporal serving in Japan on peacekeeping occupation duty. Then, the war brought him to the Korean peninsula. When he returned home to his parents in Latrobe, he was a 21-year-old master sergeant. He’d been promoted from E-4 to E-8 in one year.

“He got a lot of field promotions,” said his brother, Jim. “Which tells you that he saw a lot of action.”

A U.S. Army recruiting poster leans against the wall in the basement of Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran’s home in Odenton, Md., Feb. 22, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

Jim is 84 now. He was too young to serve in Korea, but their middle brother, Sam fought at the same time as Ray. The two brothers ran into each other several times during the war, even though they were assigned to different units. Ray was with the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division. Sam was assigned to the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion in support of a British regiment known as the “Glorious Glosters.” During one encounter, they wrote a joint letter home to their parents. They missed two Christmases, which the Moran family refused to celebrate without them. Somehow, they returned home from across the world within a few hours of each other.

It’s hard to imagine Raymond Moran as a combat-fierce infantryman. Not because of his age, but because of his gentleness.

He’s an encourager, often saying to friends and family, “Good job. I’m real proud of you,” over the littlest things.

“Good job, Barbara, you remembered your medicine. You do such a great job,” he says for example.

“That was real nice of you. You take such good care of me,” he tells his sons and daughter repeatedly as they take turns visiting him on weekends.

Or, “Oh you’re right on time. I’m real proud of you,” he tells a visitor on their way out the door together.

Various portraits — including that of famed golfer Arnold Palmer — hang on the basement wall of retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran’s home in Odenton, Maryland, Feb. 22, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

When he says those things, his voice is not that of a dog owner training a puppy. It’s filled with genuine kindness. It’s more like the voice of his high school mate Mister Rogers making a neighbor feel welcome in his home.

When visitors leave his home, Moran stands on the front door waving a little American flag and salutes them goodbye.

“He’s always positive. He’s always upbeat … At first you think, ‘He’s a recruiter and he’s been a recruiter for years and years and years, so he’s taught to be that way because he wants to be positive around people when talking to them about joining the Army.’ But then you realize that he’s just like that. There’s no one left for him to convince to join the Army,” said Legg.

“I remember one sergeant major one time saying to me, ‘I’ve never heard your dad say a bad word about anybody,'” recalled his son, Ray. “There was one guy who was just like the worst person in the world. Somebody said something like, ‘I hate that son of a bitch.’ And Dad wouldn’t, just wouldn’t cross that line,” he said.

Ray remembers how his dad would give fatherly care and advice to all his soldiers.

“Dad kind of adopted (them) like a second son, or third son, or tenth son, at this point. He’s got so many,” he said.

Wedding anniversary and Valentine’s Day cards sent by friends and family are on display in the home of Raymond and Barbara Moran in Odenton, Maryland, Feb. 22, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

He was a father and mentor to all who came in contact with him, and beyond.

“If you track (soldiers’) mentors back, somehow they all find their way back to Sergeant Major Moran. He may not have been your mentor, but there’s a good chance that he was your mentor’s mentor … I used to kid, he’s like the (game) ‘Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon.’ Eventually you find your way back to Sergeant Major Moran,” said Legg.

Moran earned his nickname in Vietnam because he called a lot troops “Ol’ Soldier” when he couldn’t remember their names. Eventually, the nickname stuck back on him, especially because he was older than most around him. Yet, long before Vietnam, Raymond was known as “Smiley Moran” because of his constant smile and infectious positive attitude.

“Dad used to tell a story when I was a kid that they were digging ditches or something in Korea, and Dad was whistling,” his son said. “The captain came over and said, ‘You’re Morale-Builder Moran.’ And everybody called him Smiley Moran after that.”

What made his cheerfulness unusual was that the Korean War was no place for smiling. The winters were so brutal that some soldiers recall their gravy freezing on their plates by the time they walked back to their foxholes from the chow line. Bodies of American soldiers — frozen stiff — were stacked by the truckload after China sent 200,000 troops to fight alongside the North Koreans against the Americans. The History Channel produced a documentary on the war, titled, “Our Time in Hell.” It features Moran, among several other soldiers who fought there. The images and video clips shown in that documentary don’t evoke any desire to smile, yet “Smiley Moran” managed to earn that nickname.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” leans in to kiss his wife, Barbara, of 65 years marriage at their home in Odenton, Md., Feb. 11, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

“I would (imagine) Ray was a smart fighter,” his brother, Jim, said. “He’s not one to have (made) many mistakes as a fighter. He was the one always looking to take advantage of the situation. To change the situation. To make it better for them … He was a thinking-man’s fighter.”

The Old Soldier himself talks very little of whatever combat he saw or hardships he experienced.

He’s proud of his service in Korea, summarized simply, “It was infantry. It was mud. It was hardship. Good buddies … The guys had each other’s backs. Got to know each other so well.”

He typically resorts to the same few anecdotes: seeing his brother in Korea on several chance encounters and coming home to hug his father. Yet not every story is offered as easily as his smile, nor found framed inside a picture. Some stories surface over the years in the most unexpected ways.

Like the time his son, Ray, accompanied him to receive an award in Texas in 2002 and a young sergeant major came up to him and said, “Hey! You’re Smiley Moran, aren’t you? … My dad says you saved his life.”

That was a story he’d never told his son before, and even when asked about it now, he treats it as if it was no big thing.

“I just patched him up. Did the best I could, the way they teach you in the Army,” he said, and that was it. He wouldn’t linger there any longer or brag about saving someone else’s life.

A sign reading “Raymond loves Barbara” hangs on their front door as Barbara Moran heads out for a hair appointment before celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary married to retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

Another story that surfaced unexpectedly was after Vietnam, when he went for a haircut with Barbara. The barber nicked Raymond’s neck, but instead of a little trickle of blood, it shot off in gushes. Barbara was scared. She thought maybe the barber’s scissors had fallen out of his pocket and stabbed her husband in the neck.

They managed to stop the bleeding, and Raymond was fine, but the whole incident upset his wife.

“We’re not going back to that barber shop anymore,” Barbara told her husband.

But in his typical gentleman fashion, Raymond Moran took the blame away from the barber.

“No, no. Not his fault,” he said. “I didn’t tell him to be careful. I had a wound on my neck.”

The wound was from a helicopter crash in Vietnam. This was a shock to his wife because he had never mentioned it before. After all, Moran was a 41-year-old retention sergeant major in Vietnam, not the fighting infantryman he once was in Korea.

The crash happened in the spring of 1970. He recalls how a medic had to administer an injection to his scalp because of the profuse bleeding from his neck. The medic was freaked. He’d never given a shot in the scalp before.

“Do it anyway. You have to do it,” someone told him.

He injected Moran, stopped the bleeding, and they evacuated him.

Though retired, Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” still has a recruiting office at Fort Meade, Maryland, filled with Army memorabilia.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

After the incident, Moran wanted to keep a memento to remember the man who helped save his life. So he gave him a “Mickey Mouse” bill — it was fake money used by soldiers during the war. Moran asked the medic to write his name so he could keep it to remember him. He also told him to write “New Hampshire” on the bill because that’s where the medic said he lived back home.

“I went to New Hampshire (later on) to look him up, and I could never find him, and I felt bad. But I still think of him, often, up in New Hampshire. He helped me,” Moran recalled now, years later.

Unfortunately that paper bill is gone, lost somewhere in a box or maybe slipped between the pages of a book. Moran had tried several times looking for that bill, but couldn’t retrieve it.

That’s how it happens. That’s how Moran has managed to collect so many mementos. But it’s usually Moran doing the helping, and the recipient sending him a token of appreciation in return. Barbara said there are even more boxes of items in a backroom of the basement they couldn’t fit on the walls. A few miles from their home, Moran still has an office at an Army Reserve center. He doesn’t go there often, but like his basement the walls of that office are plastered with reminders: autographed portraits of sergeants major and generals, coffee mugs from all corners of the Army, a rack full of challenge coins, pictures, banners, trophies, even the Korean flag draping from one corner of the room. And stacks of business cards.

That’s the one thing everyone else keeps as an Old Soldier memento: his business card. Even though he’s long retired, he keeps some at home and hands them to anyone who visits. Sometimes he will hand out a second or third business card.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” smiles at his wife before she goes for a nap at home in Odenton, Md., Jan. 18, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

“No, this one is different, take it,” he’ll say. And sure enough, this time the business card has a different picture on the back. It’s a wedding photo of him and Barbara, dated 1953.

Nowadays, he doesn’t give out as many as he used to. At 88, he spends most of his days at home with Barbara, whom he calls his “wonderful Army wife.” But on the rare occasions he makes his way to Fort Meade, he’s like a local celebrity. soldiers at the gate recognize him and many stop him to take a picture together.

At home, a nurse visits daily to take care of Barbara and checks both of their temperatures and blood pressure in the morning while eating breakfast.

After she reads his vitals, Moran asked, “Is that good?”

“That’s very good. You’re strong and healthy.”

“Good,” he responded. “I guess I’ll re-enlist then.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmye on Twitter.

Articles

This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

Master Sgt. Raul “Roy” P. Benavidez was a young special forces linguist and medic when, in 1965, he stepped on a mine in Vietnam and was evacuated to the United States. He was told he’d never walk again. But, wanting to return to Vietnam, he began a nightly ritual of attempting to relearn how to walk despite explicit orders from his doctors.


A year later, his doctor was standing in Benavidez’s hospital room with medical discharge papers. The doctor made a deal with Benavidez that he’d tear up the discharge if Benavidez walked out of the room. Benavidez did one better by walking out of the ward.

Amazingly, this was not the most insane or heroic part of Benavidez’s life. That’s because, after returning to Vietnam, Benavidez volunteered to assist with the emergency extraction of a 12-man special forces team under extreme fire on May 2, 1968. He rode into battle on the fourth helicopter to attempt extraction, the first three having been driven back by withering small arms and anti-aircraft fire. The fourth bird also decided it couldn’t land, but allowed Benavidez to drop out of the helicopter 75 meters from the team.

Benavidez ran the 75 meters and was wounded three times in the process, including once in the head and once in the face. Despite his wounds, he began repositioning the wounded team members so they could lay down fire while also marking the location for aircraft to attempt extraction. When the bird arrived, he ran alongside, providing cover fire, as the helicopter picked up the wounded. Right as the helicopter and Benavidez reached the dead team leader, Benavidez was hit by small arms fire and grenade shrapnel while the pilot was mortally wounded and crashed the aircraft.

Benavidez again recovered the wounded and placed them in a defensive perimeter. He began circuits of the perimeter, distributing ammunition and water. As the enemy increased its pressure on the team, he began calling in airstrikes.

Another aircraft arrived to attempt extraction and Benavidez — despite his own serious injuries — ferried the dead and wounded to the waiting helicopter until he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. He engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the soldier and killed him, but sustained bayonet wounds. While ferrying the last of the wounded to the bird, he engaged two additional enemy soldiers, killing them and protecting the helicopter.

Then, just to prove being wounded 37 times in six hours of combat ain’t no thang, he did a final sweep of the perimeter to ensure no wounded men or classified material was left on the battlefield.

Finally, Benavidez allowed himself to be pulled from the fight. Upon arriving back at the base, he was declared dead by two doctors. As the second one was zipping up the body bag, Benavidez proved he was alive by spitting in the doctor’s face, much like he had been spitting in the face of death for the previous six hours.

It would be nearly 13 more years before Benavidez was awarded the Medal of Honor, primarily because it was thought that there were no surviving witnesses to testify to his actions. After a team member who did survive, Brian O’Conner, heard Benavidez was still alive and that a witness testimony would allow him to be awarded the nation’s highest military honor, O’Conner provided a 10-page report to satisfy the requirement.

On February 24, 1981, President Ronald Reagan presented the Medal Of Honor. Before reading the citation, he told the crowd, “If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.”

The reading of the citation and Benavidez’s story, in his own words, is available in the video below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Confederate ship was one of the most successful of the war

While most of the Confederate Navy in the states was either penned up or quickly defeated during the Civil War, the Confederacy poured resources into blockade runners and commerce raiders that were successful, and few could even touch the CSS Alabama.


The Alabama was built in England, nominally as a merchant ship. British shipyards were allowed to build warships for the Confederacy early in the war as long as the ship buyers said they were for peaceful purposes and as long as no weapons were present when it was shipped.

But it was clear the Alabama was built for a fight. It had plenty of sails, like a warship or a merchant vessel would, but it also had a steam-powered paddle wheel. Merchant vessels had little use for these paddle wheels, but they allowed combatants to maneuver much better in a fight.

The Laird Brothers of Birkenhead launched the Alabama right as British forces cracked down on the illegal trade under threats of war from then President Abraham Lincoln. But as British troops rushed to seize the Alabama, it slipped up the coast in 1862, and the crew took on weapons before heading to the Azores to pick up Confederate Navy Capt. Raphael Semmes.

Capt. Raphael Semmes, in the foreground, poses on his ship’s 110-pound rifled gun, its most powerful cannon.

(U.S. Naval Historical Center)

Once it was armed and properly crewed, the ship was a modern and lethal cruiser with eight cannons including a 100-pounder and a 68-pounder on pivot carriages so they could fire to either side. It also had a copper-plated hull, but copper plating, unlike “iron sides,” is more about protecting the ship from fouling and corrosion than from enemy shells.

The crew was composed primarily of men from the Southern states and England, but it had members from other European countries and even a few from Northern states. And once it got into the water, it started racking up kills and captures.

It started in the North Atlantic where it attacked Union shipments of agricultural goods headed to Europe, and then it headed south to prey in the West Indies. But then it slipped up to the Gulf of Mexico and directly threatened the Texas coast. When the USS Hatteras came out of Galveston, the Alabama captured the ship and crew.

Over two years of raiding, it sank and captured around 68 ships. But two years of sailing and combat had taken its toll on the ship. While the copper plating helped prevent some corrosion and fouling of the hull, it didn’t prevent all damage. And the engine needed maintenance and the ship needed resupply.

So, on June 11, 1864, the Alabama sailed into Cherbourg, France, for docking and overhaul. But the Union had dispatched ships to hunt it, and other commerce raiders, and the USS Kearsarge got wind that the Alabama was in Cherbourg.

On June 19, when the Alabama sailed out, the Kearsarge was waiting. And the French people came out to watch this little battle of the American Civil War play out on their coasts. In order to ensure French neutrality and safety, that nation’s government sent out an ironclad to make sure the fight stayed in international waters.

A map shows the circular path of the Kearsarge and Alabama during their battle in 1864.

(Robert Knox Sneden via Picryl)

The Alabama fired the first shots, but the Kearsarge had chain armor, and the Alabama’s weapons and powder were degraded from seawater damage. The powder could not propel the shells as hard as it should have, and the shells were basically bouncing off the Kearsarge.

The two ships maneuvered on one another. The Kearsarge waited until the Alabama reached 1,000 yards before firing, and then the ships traded blows while trying to cross each other’s T in order to launch a broadside against the enemy’s bow.

This resulted in the ships basically sailing in a circle shooting at each other. The Alabama fired about 150 shots while the Kearsarge got off only about 100 shells. Still, with better powder and chain armor, the Kearsarge was able to quickly defeat the Confederate raider, sinking it in about an hour with a shot through the hull at the waterline.

The Kearsarge picked up most of the survivors, but Semmes and about 40 other sailors were picked up by a British ship and sat out the rest of the war.