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 CULTURE

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

From small town Pennsylvania to teaching at the U.S. Navy, then to social work and back to teaching, Darryl Ponicsan has lived an inspiring and interesting life. After his second stint of teaching, he struck gold with his first novel “The Last Detail.” From there the sky was the limit where he is most known for his novels that have been adapted to screenplays which include “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Last Flag Flying.” Screenplays include “Taps,” “Vision Quest,” Nuts,” The Boost,” “School Ties” and “Random Hearts.” He also wrote the voice-over for “Blade Runner.” We sat down with him to hear about his life and his service to our country.


1. Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

My parents ran a mom ‘n pop auto parts store in Shenandoah, Pa., a coal mining town that was booming then. Now you can buy a three-story house there for the price of a used Chevy. I worked in the store as a kid and hated almost every minute of it. The town itself, however, was rich soil for drama and comedy. I’m surprised I’m the only writer ever to come out of the place. At the age of nine we moved into the first and only home my parents ever bought, six miles over the hill in Ringtown, a farming community. I had a happy childhood there, graduating from the local high school, now gone, in a class of 22 students. I think I ranked #18.

2. What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My father and I used to take our own trash to the dump once a week and dump it into a deep pit. One day there were two bums there. I was around 13. One held the end of a rope, and at the other end was his partner with a big bag, scavenging for anything of value. The one on top asked if they could go through our garbage before we dumped it. My father said sure, and we stepped aside. I said something belittling about what they were doing. My father told me, “It’s an honest living.” A great lesson in life. Years later, I was going through a nasty divorce. My mother told me it took years to build my character, don’t let this take it apart. Those two moments are linked in my memory, because in truth I did not have a close relationship with either of them.

Darryl during his days as a teacher.

3. What challenges did you face at school and in the community?

As I said, I was in a class of 22. There were no cliques. In Shenandoah I was a latchkey kid at a very early age, unheard of today, but the neighbors looked after us as we played in the streets. Likewise in Ringtown where my parents knew all my teachers on a first name basis. I got into a little trouble fighting, which seemed to be our favorite pastime, but we fought with fists only and afterwards were usually ok with each other.

4. What values were stressed at home?

My parents were laissez-faire. They seldom knew where I might be. Frugality, toughness—both emotionally and physically—a work ethic, and honesty were values instilled in us, more by example than preaching.

Darryl at his first duty station

Camp Perry in Ohio and with his friends after bootcamp (top right).

Darryl at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1964 (far left).

5. What influenced your career choices post college and why did you join the Navy?

Honestly, I never thought of a career, not even when it seemed I was living one. I became a teacher by default, and when I was offered tenure, I resigned to join the Navy, at age 24, because I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. In those days everyone was expected to serve a hitch. My brother went to the Air Force at age 18. I chose the Navy because no one had yet written a Navy novel from an enlisted man’s point of view, at least not that I knew about. I’d studied creative writing at Muhlenberg, Cornell, and CalState LA, but my true education as a writer started as a child in a coal town and matured during my time in the Navy.

James Caan and Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty.” From IMDB.com.

6. What lessons did you take away from your service and what are some of your favorite moments from the Navy?

The Navy is the only branch that draws its cops from the rank and file on a temporary basis, as a work detail. This is both a good and bad idea for exactly the same reason: the Shore Patrol does not put aside his humanity when he puts on the arm band. (Navy brigs, however, are run by Marines.)

I spent most of my enlistment at sea, and I have many memories of the sea itself. I remember seeing my first flying fish. I remember the Atlantic as still as a pond and so wild that I had to lie on a table and hook my elbows and heels over the edges. My very first night at sea I was intensely seasick, throwing up over port and starboard while standing my first mid watch. And of course, there were the liberty ports. We would rotate nine months in the Mediterranean, a month or so in Norfolk, and then four or five months in the Caribbean, my ship was the first American warship to tie up at St. Mark’s Square in maybe ever. We would walk off the ladder right onto St. Mark’s Sq. We were in Venice for a week. I was on the USS MONROVIA (APA-31), the flagship for Comphibron 8, an amphibious squadron. Occasionally we would move to the USS OKINAWA, a helicopter carrier, which was a luxury compared to the Monrovia. I also spent about two months in transit on the USS INTREPID, which is now a museum in Manhattan.

An indelible memory, resulting in my novel and movie “Cinderella Liberty,” was a week-long stay at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. I went there for a surgery. It turned out I didn’t need the surgery, but it took a week to process me out of the hospital. I had liberty every night until 2400.

Another weird one: my first TDY after boot camp, before getting a ship, was at an Army depot in Ohio. Long story. I was there for a whole summer.

Faculty picture for the school yearbook.

7. What did you enjoy most about being an English teacher and a social worker?

Both had annoying bureaucracies which hampered some good work, and the pay in both is shamefully low, but the rewards of seeing children progress or in helping people in true need cannot be measured. A lot of my former students are now Facebook friends. They’re all retired and I’m still working.

8. What inspired you to write “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and the “Last Flag Flying,”?

“The Last Detail” was an incredible stroke of luck. It was handed to me almost whole while I was in transit aboard the USS INTREPID after leaving the hospital. I was working with a crusty old P.O.1 in a tiny office. The Career Guidance Office. We played chess all day and swapped sea stories. He told me about having to escort a young sailor from Corpus Christi to the brig in Portsmouth, NH. The kid was unjustly sentenced to a long sentence for a small offense. I knew immediately I had struck gold. It took five or six years to evolve from a short story to a novel.

“Cinderella Liberty” was based on my Naval Hospital experience. That one took about four months to write.

“Last Flag Flying” was the result of endless prodding by a friend to revisit the characters in “The Last Detail” and essentially duplicate their train trip. I resisted for obvious reasons, but I was so obsessed with Bush pushing us into an endless and unnecessary war I felt it might be the best way to get it all off my chest.

Otis Wilson, Randy Quaid, Jack Nicholson and Don McGovern in “The Last Detail.” From IMDB.com

Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne, Darryl, Bryan Cranston and Rick Linklater on “Last Flag Flying.”

9. What was it like working with Jack Nicholson, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Harrison Ford, Martin Ritt, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfus, Harold Becker, James Woods, Mark Rydell, Sydney Pollack, Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carrell?

I never worked with any of the principals involved in “The Last Detail.” I worked alone on Towne’s first draft for two weeks, the first time I ever saw a screenplay. Of the others, I worked most intensely with Barbra, Harold Becker, Mark Rydell, and Rick Linklater.

Mark Rydell did “Cinderella Liberty.” I worked closely with him on the script, my first, which took over twice as long as it took to write the novel. A WGA strike forced us to call it done. Mark was a charming, clever director, but I think I absorbed some bad stuff from him. He was an operator and I know at times I emulated him. A mistake. I’m not an operator, and I should have known that from the beginning. Not that his heart wasn’t in the right place.

I did several scripts with Harold Becker, who I liked personally, but I never fully trusted him. I saw him throw others under the bus and I’m pretty sure he did likewise with me.

Sherry Lansing was often derided as a cheerleader, but she was the best of cheerleaders, always encouraging, out in front. She was great to work with on “School Ties.” She was one of the first women to break out big in the business. I like her a lot. I worked with her and Jaffe on “Taps” and “School Ties,” which Jaffe left to head up Paramount. Stanley and I had a love-hate relationship. While at Paramount he hired me to do a major rewrite for a green-lit picture with a major star. I knew he had bragged about getting me cheap for “Taps,” so he made up for it with this job. It was outlandish. I can’t mention the project because at the last moment the star decided he couldn’t work with the director, and the whole thing crashed and burned.

Sydney Pollock was a good friend and a guide to me in the industry. He helped me through the political and filmmaking process in Hollywood. Sydney said that I was not “part of all this,” meaning the ethos and byzantine angles of Hollywood, and he took on the role of guide. I never did learn the ins and outs of the business, and whenever I pretended to I came off as a jerk.

My best experience, which turned out to be my least successful movie, was with Rick Linklater. All indications are that the movie will be rediscovered as time moves on. That happened with “Vision Quest,” a failed picture that keeps finding new audiences that are deeply moved by it. Rick never speaks above a whisper. He seems always on an even keel. Whatever he does comes from the heart.

Barbra was a singular experience. She’s taken a bad rap in the past. Even though I didn’t even like her, until I met her. I was so nervous about our first meeting. At the time, Sidney Pollack told me I would love her, and I did, even though I have a hard time being around perfectionists, who I believe get in their own way. Alvin Sargent, a good friend, worked with me as a collaborator on “Nuts.” Mark Rydell was originally the director. At one point she asked Rydell to step aside and let her work alone with the two of us. He wasn’t happy about it, but Barbra gets what she wants. We practically lived at her house in Beverly Hills for a week. It was agony, it was a joy. Rydell was replaced by Martin Ritt, one of the great old lefty directors.

Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in Taps. From IMDB.com

Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner.” From IMDB.com

Richard Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand in “Nuts.” From IMDB.com

Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest.” From IMDB.com

Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Zeljko Ivanek in “School Ties.” From IMDB.com

10. What are you most proud of, your life and career?

Whatever I may be proud of came with a good deal of luck. I’m proud and lucky that my children are not addicts, and I’m proud I never wrote anything I’m ashamed of.

I’m also proud and lucky to have received an Image Award from the NAACP as Screenwriter of the Year. (1973) I may be the only Caucasian to receive that.

Several years ago, I was living in Sonoma and found I could not work because of the raucous noise of leaf blowers. I went to the city council and took my allotted three minutes to urge them to ban blowers. I went to every meeting over the next year, taking my three minutes. I did my homework and concluded that blowers were the most destructive handheld tool ever invented. I bombarded them with data they could not ignore. They finally voted to ban them, but the mayor caved to commercial pressure and changed his vote. He lost the next election because of that. The issue finally went to a ballot measure and the ban was passed by 16 votes.

I did the same thing in Palm Springs, but this time it was a slam dunk. I’m proud to have had a role in banning leaf blowers in two different cities.

Darryl worked a season with the George Matthews Great London 3-Ring Circus and wrote a book about it, “The Ringmaster.” He became Randy the Clown.

Darryl with Stephen Colbert at an event for “Last Flag Flying.”

Darryl’s NAACP Image Award for Screenwriter of the Year for 1973.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians here are working with a custom-made, next-generation robot that will pick apart bombs and study them.

Brokk — a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts with pieces of high-tech ordnance disposal machinery, as well as large construction demolition mechanics — replaces 20-year-old “Stewie,” the previous EOD robot.


EOD techs haven’t had a chance to fully test Brokk’s capabilities yet, but anticipate a live bombing exercise in the next few months will put it to work.

But the $1.3 million upgrade has been worth it so far, according to Staff Sgt. Ryan Hoagland of the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron, who said the older robot had him operating more like a mechanic than an EOD technician.

“I don’t have to mop up hydraulic fluid right now. I’m not fixing wires that have [overheated] because of the sun or that have deteriorated over the years,” among other issues, he said during a tour here. Military.com spoke with Hoagland during a trip accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to the base.

The one-of-a-kind, electric-powered Brokk provides smooth extraction with its control arms, operated remotely from a mobile control trailer nearby, Hoagland said.

506th Air Expeditionary Group Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight members Senior Airman Aaron Skelton, Tech. Sgt. Stephen Ray Hunter Jr. and Senior Airman Joshua Brum, run a function check on a TALON robot.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeff Walston)

Some movements can be programmed into Brokk, which weighs around 10,000 pounds. But typically, it takes at least two airmen to operate a controller for each arm, plus another to steer the robot, he said. Technicians will watch a live video feed from cameras fastened to it.

Brokk will allow teams to dismantle bombs — often live — after a range test, in which munitions might have penetrated 30 feet or more underground.

EOD techs then collect data from the bomb, providing more information to the weapons tester on how the bomb dropped, struck its target and or detonated.

“Basically, [it’s] data to figure out what happened, and why the item didn’t perform the way it was supposed to,” Hoagland said. “We hope the test goes well. If it doesn’t, we then go in there with this and take care of it.”

The robot, made by Brokk Inc., was named after the Norse blacksmith “who forged Thor’s hammer,” according to a base press release in April 2018. Part of its arms were manufactured in conjunction with Kraft Telerobotics.

Hoagland said the service could incorporate a few more capabilities into Brokk in the future, depending on necessity.

Whether that means lasers is unknown.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why golf courses are important to military installations

Golf is a fun and relaxing sport that’s excellent for relieving stress. Nothing’s quite like aimlessly swinging your club, hoping to hit the caddy cart on the driving range. It makes for a fantastic pastime to bond over while you and your guys get drunk as you wait for your respective turns. I’ve also heard that some people actually play the game as a sport and get enjoyment out of it, too — if you’re into that sort of thing.

The sport is directly linked to U.S. military culture. There are 234 golf courses spread across the over 800 U.S. military installations located around the globe. Nearly every major location has a course. And these courses are much more than just a place senior officers go to hide from staff meetings.


Golf courses on deployed locations also double as rifle ranges.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)

All golf courses on military installations are required by federal law to remain completely self-sufficient and not rely on government funding for upkeep and maintenance. Despite this, the courses will almost always be the first things suggested for the chopping block when installations need to cut costs; they’re often seen as either a waste of resources or space. In reality, however, they’re neither.

When the golf course is not in use, they are, essentially, large plots of land that are free from trees. They’re secure, defendable locations that can used for any purpose at the drop of a hat.

Military golf courses are also conveniently located near population centers on most installations. If there ever came a moment when the sh*t hits the fan, the course could be quartered by the military and transformed into a landing site for helicopters, a troop staging area, or even a mass casualty site to aid the wounded.

In the meantime, I guess it’s fine if people play golf on it.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Conrad)

And this isn’t just theory — golf courses have been used as back-up locations in the past.

The most recent time in history a U.S. military base on American soil was attacked was when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. There, when the American pilots took to the skies to fight the Japanese, some planes were damaged. The island of Oahu is dense with hills and forests, but golf courses became invaluable places to make a relatively safe landing.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 things you didn’t know about trench clubs

Rifles, grenades, and bayonets are just some of the weapons ground troops used while fighting in the trenches of World War I. However, there’s one weapon that’s often overlooked by history, even though its use was extremely important — especially in the close-quarters combat typical of The Great War. That is the trench club.


In the event that one force decided to raid their enemy’s trench, oftentimes, their bolt-action rifles were rendered near ineffective, as each shot was followed by spending precious seconds reloading. Similarly, stabbing a man with a bayonet requires that, before engaging another enemy, you must first withdraw the blade from the bad guy’s flesh. Every single moment matters when you’ve closed in on the enemy, and regaining a firm grip on your bayonet may take too long.

So, troops grabbed old pieces of wood and converted them into weapons. The various types of trench clubs used in World War I hearken back to when brave Knights once fought with them on medieval battlefields. Here’s what you didn’t know about these improvised tools of destruction.

One of the common variations on trench clubs.

(Imperial War Museum)

1. They would commonly see use in night raids

In the black of night, troops would crawl across the dangerous area between friendly and enemy fortifications known as “no man’s land” and navigate through the enemy’s trenches, quietly clubbing their opposers without raising alarm.

Sneaky.

2. Size does matter

Reportedly, a medium-sized club worked best within the confined spaces typical of trench warfare. The average club was approximately 40-centimeters long, which is, basically, the length of a standard classroom ruler plus 3 inches.

The guts of the Mills’ bomb were removed and mounted on the head of the club.

3. They were made right there on the frontline

Trench clubs weren’t standard issue, so troops would gather materials found in the trenches and either put them together themselves or have unit’s carpenter do it. Nails, the shell of a Mills’ bomb, and a variety metal components were affixed the clubs, usually in mass quantities, to increase lethality.

See the club on the bottom? Yeah, that’s the spring club.

4. The most famous type of club was the…

…spring club.

This club was made up of a leather handle, a flexible metal coil as the base, and a metal head. Various other heads, like smalls metals balls and star-shaped blades, were also affixed to clubs.

www.youtube.com

Check out Simple History‘s video below to get an animated look on the major impact trench clubs had on World War I.

Articles

Video shows just how operator AF Keanu Reeves can be

Seriously, as if the first viral video of actor Keanu Reeves slamming steel like a freaking Delta Force ninja wasn’t badass enough, now famed tactical firearms instructor and 3-Gun maestro Taran Butler has released more footage of the “John Wick” star getting his pew pew on.


Butler is a world champion 3-Gun competitor (a shooting sport that requires mastery of a shotgun, handgun and AR-style rifle) and frequently trains actors to properly handle weapons for Hollywood blockbusters.

An earlier video of Reeves slinging lead like a boss exploded online last year, with the actor demonstrating some serious skills in weapons handling and accuracy. In the newest video made up of more clips from the training last year — and includes some help from WATM friend Jaqueline Carrizosa — Reeves displays skills and speed that would make any top-tier competitor (and even some of America’s elite special operators) smile.

His transitions are lightning fast, his shot placement is about as “down zero” as it gets, and his trigger speeds are borderline full-auto, with minuscule splits and solidly low stage times. He even executes difficult “with-retention” handgun shots and moves from a close-in optic to a distance shot with his AR and drops steel every time.

You’ve just got to see it to believe it.

Articles

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

So this guy is one of my favorite people ever.  His life story sounds like a Dos Equis commercial. His full name is John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, better known as Jack Churchill or “Mad Jack”.  A few of my favorite qualities and accomplishments of his up front:


  • Officer in the British Army from 1926-1936 and 1939-1959.  During WWII, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel.
  • Worked as a newspaper editor and male model in Nairobi, Kenya between 1936 and 1939.
  • His motto was, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”
  • When the war in Europe ended, he was sent to Burma to fight the Japanese but by the time he arrived, the war was over. He really, really didn’t like this because he wanted to keep fighting.
  • After the war he served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, he became an avid surfer.
  • After retiring from the army in 1959, he regularly scared train conductors and pedestrians by throwing his briefcase from the train. Why? He threw it into his own backyard because he didn’t want to carry it home from the train station.

So now for my favorite part: he carried bagpipes, a Scottish broadsword, and a longbow with arrows into most battles. His unusual gear choices followed him into battle wherever he went, and even played a key role in the Battle of France.

‘Mad Jack’ Churchill with his War Bow; 6′ tall, with an 80-lb pull. The only documented archer to inflict casualties in WW2.

When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, Mad Jack Churchill gave up his roles as a male model and newspaper editor in Kenya to resume his service in the British Army.  As part of an expeditionary force to France, he led his unit – the Manchester Regiment – into battle in May 1940.  Near the Belgian border, Churchill and his men set up an ambush on a German patrol, where he instructed his men to begin the ambush once they saw his arrow fly.

As a Nazi sergeant came into range, he fired an arrow from his traditional longbow and killed the German officer.  In doing so, Churchill became the last known person to kill an enemy in battle using a longbow.

In 1941, Churchill was second in command for a raid on a German garrison on the west coast of Norway.  As the landing craft hit the beaches and the ramp went down, Churchill was standing there blasting his bagpipes.  When he finished his song, he launched a grenade toward the German fortifications and sprinted into battle.

Far right: Mad Jack storms a beach with his Scottish broadsword

Churchill’s bagpipe skills were on display again as the Allies invaded Sicily and also when they invaded the Italian peninsula near Salerno.  At the latter, Churchill led an attack on a German observation post and captured 42 German soldiers with only the help of a Corporal.

In 1944, Churchill’s forces were tasked with assisting Tito’s Partisan forces in Yugoslavia.  Here they were expected to retake the island of Brač.  While the Partisan forces remained on the beach, Churchill and six others reached the objective alone.  While he again played his bagpipes, his six fellow soldiers were killed by a mortar and he was knocked unconscious by a grenade and captured.  He was then sent to Berlin for interrogation, after which he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just north of Berlin.

Wikimedia Commons photo

You would think that was the end of his hilarious eccentricity, but it wasn’t.  Being the badass he was, Churchill and another British officer escaped from the concentration camp and headed north to the Baltic coast.  He was captured again just before he got to the coast and sent to an SS-guarded prison in Tyrol, Austria in April 1945.  Once released, he walked over 90 miles to Verona, Italy, where he ran into an American armored group, who helped him get back to Britain.

That was the last action he’d see in World War II, as his arrival in the Pacific was too late.  Churchill then went on to serve in British Palestine until 1948, after which he moved to Australia to be an instructor at the land-air warfare school.  He eventually retired from the Army in 1959, and lived to the age of 89 in Surrey, England.

Articles

This how the Army introduced the plastic explosive in the 1960s

Today, plastic explosives are a given. But 50 years ago, they were the latest in demolition technology. One of the most notable, of course, is C4.


Officially, it is called the M118 demolition charge, and was called Flex-X back then. Prior to the introduction of Flex-X, explosives had to be secured to what the engineers wanted to blow up.

C4, though, was more like Play-Doh or used chewing gum in that it could be stuck to whatever needs to go away.

Composition C-4 demolition charges await use as explosive ordnance disposal technicians conduct demolition operations supervisor training. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

The explosive had some other advantages as well. It could be used underwater, which means that divers could plant it on a pier without having to surface and risk being seen.

The explosive was also very insensitive. The video below shows troops dropping a weight on the Flex-X to no effect. It wouldn’t even go off when shot by multiple rounds from a M14 service rifle or when tossed into a campfire.

Those two shots from a M14 rifle did not set off the M118 charge. The third wasn’t the charm, either. (Youtube screenshot)

It also took much less time to set up – almost 60 percent less – when compared to earlier explosives, thanks to that Play-Doh/chewing gum consistency. That would save the lives of the engineers, who would spend less time away from cover.

Cold weather had little effect on the explosive’s ability to stick to whatever needed to be blown up. Other explosives needed to be taped or otherwise secured to the target.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the M118 came in a box of 20 charges, each of which had four eight-ounce sheets of C4. A sales sheet from one manufacturer notes that the M118 is intended for breaching, ordnance disposal, demolition, and cutting metal.

The explosive replaced stocks of TNT, dynamite, and PETN in U.S. military stockpiles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUJd_jKeStY
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch: Marines rain fire on ISIS in dazzling drone footage

“One of the coolest, most creative videos I’ve ever seen produced by a military journalist.”

That comment from a Vimeo user is a pretty spot-on assessment of Steel Rain — a brief but beautiful video of a Marine artillery unit mercilessly raining fire on ISIS in Syria.

In the spring of 2017, then-Sgt. Matthew Callahan deployed to an undisclosed location in Syria with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit to tell the story of artillery Marines deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The Marines conducted 24-hour all-weather fire support for the Syrian Democratic Forces as they fought the Battle of Raqqa.


drone footage captures U.S. artillery Marines conducting strikes against ISIS”

vimeo.com

After the SDF recaptured the city in the fall of 2017, Army Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell told Business Insider that US-led coalition forces were firing on ISIS in Raqqa “every minute of every hour” in order to keep pressure on the terrorist group, and the Marine fire supporting them was so intense that the barrels on two of the howitzers burned out.

Armed with a camera and drone, Callahan was there to capture all the steel-raining glory of the M777-A2 Howitzers and their crews. Now a civilian video producer for the Navy’s All Hands Magazine, Callahan was the first service member ever named Department of Defense’s military videographer of the year and military photographer of the year simultaneously.

In this roughly two-minute piece of cinematic wizardry, the award-winning filmmaker and photographer captures some of the sexiest footage you’ll ever see of the King of Battle raining righteous hellfire on America’s enemies. Watch Steel Rain above; then check out the four-minute extended cut that’s just as beautiful and more detailed here. You’ll be glad you did.

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

Saudi prosecutor indicts 11 in Khashoggi murder, not crown prince

Saudi Arabia is seeking the death penalty for five suspects in the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In a Nov. 15, 2018 statement, the Saudi public prosecutor said that 11 suspects had been indicted in Khashoggi’s death and that he had requested the death penalty for five of them. None of the suspects were named.

The spokesman for the public prosecutor said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had no knowledge of the killing, Agence France-Presse reported. Crown Prince Mohammed functions as an absolute monarch in Saudi Arabia with control over courts and legislation.


The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, echoed that claim, telling a separate press conference on Nov. 15, 2018: “Absolutely, his royal highness the crown prince has nothing to do with this issue.” He added that “sometimes people exceed their authority,” without naming any names.

The five people who were recommended for the death penalty are charged with “ordering and committing the crime,” the public prosecutor said.

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who criticized the rule of Crown Prince Mohammed in articles for The Washington Post, died inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. He held a US green card and lived near Washington, DC, for at least a year before his death.

How Khashoggi died, according to Saudi Arabia

The Saudi deputy public prosecutor, Shaalan al-Shaalan, told reporters on Nov. 15, 2018, that Khashoggi died from a lethal injection after a struggle inside the Saudi Consulate and that his body was dismembered and taken out of the consulate, according to Reuters.

The agents killed Khashoggi after “negotiations” for the journalist’s return to the kingdom failed, Shaalan said.

He added that the person who ordered the killing was the head of the negotiating team that was dispatched to Istanbul to take Khashoggi home.

The whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body are not known, Shaalan added.

Riyadh has changed its narrative of the death multiple times, having initially claimed that Khashoggi safely left the consulate shortly after he entered and then said weeks later that Khashoggi died in a fistfight as part of a “rogue operation.”

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said that the prosecutor’s Nov. 15, 2018 statement was not “satisfactory” and called for “the real perpetrators need to be revealed.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Cavusoglu said, according to the Associated Press: “I want to say that we did not find some of his explanations to be satisfactory.”

He added: “Those who gave the order, the real perpetrators need to be revealed. This process cannot be closed down in this way.”

In early November 2018 Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan accused the “highest levels” of the Saudi leadership of being behind the killing.

Saudi officials have repeatedly tried to distance its leadership, particularly Crown Prince Mohammed, from the killing. There is increasing evidence, however, suggesting that people with close ties to the crown prince were involved in Khashoggi’s death.

In his Nov. 15, 2018 statement, the Saudi prosecutor also said the country had detained 21 people over the killing. Riyadh said in October 2018 that it had detained 18 suspects and dismissed a top general.

That general has since been named by The New York Times as Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, who was promoted to Saudi intelligence in 2017.

Riyadh wants the audio of Khashoggi’s last moments

The Saudi prosecutor on Nov. 15, 2018, added that the office had “submitted formal requests to brotherly authorities in Turkey” for evidence in Khashoggi’s death, including a purported audio recording of Khashoggi’s last moments that Turkish officials have repeatedly mentioned since October 2018.

The prosecutor added that Saudi Arabia was “still awaiting a response to these requests.”

Erdogan said in early November 2018 that he “passed on” the tape to the US, the UK, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country’s intelligence agents heard the recording, but France said it never received it. Britain and Germany declined to comment.

CIA Director Gina Haspel reportedly heard the recording during a visit to Ankara in October 2018 but was not allowed to bring it back to the US.

The audio features Khashoggi telling his killers “I’m suffocating” and “Take this bag off my head” right before he died, a journalist with Turkey’s state-run Daily Sabah newspaper told Al Jazeera.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why any war with China will get Americans drafted

Every era has its arch-nemesis. The Nazis, the Communists, and the Terrorists all seemed to come in succession. Now, it seems America’s new arch-rivals are making their presence known. After spending a decade or more in its “peaceful rise” era, the People’s Republic of China appears to have switched to “Crouching Tiger.” President Trump has responded in kind, meeting aggression with aggression, which raises the stakes.

But that also means a lot of civilians are gonna get drafted if and when the war comes. The Infographics Show will tell you why.


The video above wargames China mobilizing its forces to invade Taiwan. When it does, the U.S. military would move to DEFCON 3, requiring the U.S. Air Force to be able to mobilize in 15 minutes or less. Once China’s invasion force starts boarding ships to land on Taiwan, the United States will be at DEFCON 2, which requires all the armed forces to be ready for war at the front in six hours. By the time the U.S. Navy engages Chinese Air Forces, Chinese ballistic missiles will have already targeted Naval air assets in the Pacific, killing thousands of American troops.

In the first month of fighting, the casualties will mount, and they will be heavy. The number of killed and wounded will reach the levels last seen in the Vietnam War. In less than a year, it would be the bloodiest war since World War II. And guess what? The military is gonna need replacements.

If it helps any, Beijing doesn’t seem that far away on this map.

The Chinese military numbers some two million or more with another half million in reserve. Since the most likely flashpoint is the tiny but democratic American ally of Taiwan, just off China’s coastline, the fighting will be focused, but intense, and casualties would be enormous. The United States would call on its 860,000-plus reservists to bolster its forces in the area. While that would be enough to counter the Chinese threat to Taiwan, it would not be enough to forcibly topple the Chinese government. That would require an invasion of mainland China, and that would be really, really hard.

To successfully invade China would require so many troops, the United States doesn’t currently have that many. It would have to activate the Selective Service System, instituting a draft for American males between the ages of 18-25, a potential pool of 16 million American troops. While it’s unlikely the U.S. will have to draft the entire 16 million, it will need a lot of troops to get to Beijing.

A lot of troops who aren’t just going to volunteer for that sort of thing. Don’t forget to register for Selective Service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A woman made it through SEAL officer test for the first time

The Navy marked a first earlier this year when a woman completed Navy SEAL officer assessment and selection, Military.com has learned.

At the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services in December, a Navy official disclosed that the woman had reached the end of the physically and mentally demanding two-week SOAS process in September. Ultimately, however, she was not selected for a SEAL contract, officials said.

While the military formally opened SEAL billets — and all other previously closed jobs — to women in 2016, no woman has yet made it to the infamous 24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to date. If the woman had been selected for a SEAL contract at the end of SOAS, she would have been the first to reach BUD/S.


Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare, said the candidate had not listed the SEALs as her top-choice warfighting community. She was awarded placement in her top choice, Lawrence said.

US Navy SEAL candidates during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

“We do not discuss details of a candidate’s non-selection so it does not interfere with their successful service in other warfighter communities,” she said.

Candidates for SOAS are taken from college Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, service academies, and the Navy’s Officer Candidate School, all prior to getting their first Navy contract. Lawrence declined to specify which pathway the recent female candidate had taken out of concern that doing so would reveal her identity.

Lt. Grace Olechowski, force integration officer with Naval Special Warfare Command, said five women had been invited to participate in SOAS since the pipeline was opened to women. Three had entered SOAS to date, but only one had completed assessment and selection.

Military.com broke the news in 2017 that a first female student had entered SOAS — an ROTC student at a U.S. college. She ultimately exited the process before reaching the selection panel, however.

Lawrence said the SEAL officer selection process is candidate-neutral, meaning the selection board does not know the gender or other personal information of the candidates.

U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participating in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Furey)

“Selection is based on the candidate’s scores during the two-week SOAS assessment,” she said. “This process ensures every candidate has a fair and equal chance based on Naval Special Warfare standards.”

It’s also possible that not listing the SEALs as a primary career choice would factor against a candidate in the selection process.

The selection panel is made up of senior SEAL officers, Lawrence said, who use SOAS assessment data along with resume information to select “the most competitive candidates.”

Roughly 180 candidates are selected every year to attend SEAL officer assessment and selection, she said; on average, the top 85 candidates are chosen to continue on to SEAL training. There are four two-week SOAS blocks held every year.

While SOAS precedes the award of a final SEAL contract, it is not for the faint of heart. It was previously called “mini-BUD/S” in a nod to its grueling and rigorous nature.

“Physical stress and sleep deprivation are applied to reveal authentic character traits,” the Navy says on its official Naval Special Warfare recruiting site. “Performance and interview data on every candidate is meticulously documented and presented to the NSW Selection Panel.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

11 ‘facts’ you learned about US history that are false

Some things you’ve learned in school may have since been proven false, and that is especially true when it comes to US history.

Many say history is written by the winner, leaving much of the truth out. In recent years, historians and experts have been coming forward to reveal the true stories around some of America’s biggest historical events.

From the first Thanksgiving to the moon landing, here’s everything your teacher may have gotten wrong about American history.


Christopher Columbus.

1. MYTH: Christopher Columbus discovered America.

TRUTH: As early as primary school, most of us learned that Christopher Columbus discovered America, but that is not accurate. In fact, the Spanish explorer never even entered North America. On his four trips across the Atlantic, starting in 1492, Columbus explored the Caribbean islands of the Bahamas and Cuba.

He also couldn’t have discovered America because Native Americans were already living there. In fact, Columbus is not even the first European to explore the Americas. That honor goes to the Norse explorer Leif Erikson who sailed to the Western Hemisphere over 400 years earlier.

Then why is Columbus such a notable figure in American history? It’s most likely because he started a new age of exploration and his trips to the New World led to colonization.

Drawings of Columbus’ ships.

2. MYTH: Christopher Columbus sailed on the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria.

TRUTH: “In 1942, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue” is a common children’s song most learn in school. The song also mentions his three ships, which are usually known as Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria.

However, his ships were likely not named any of those things. Historians know that the Santa Maria’s real name was La Gallega and the Niña’s real name was the Santa Clara. It is not known what the Pinta’s actual name was at the time.

Pocahontas as depicted in a Disney film.

(Disney)

3. MYTH: Pocahontas and John Smith fell in love, uniting two cultures.

TRUTH: For starters, Pocahontas wasn’t even her real name. Her official name was Amonute. Pocahontas was her nickname, which meant “playful” or “ill-behaved child.” That’s right, Pocahontas was just a child, about 11 or 12 years old, so it is very unlikely there was any romance between her and John Smith, a grown man.

In his journals, John Smith wrote that Pocahontas saved his life when her family tried to execute him. He also wrote that during his captivity, the two became close and taught each other their languages, but never mentioned anything romantic happening between them.

4. MYTH: The first Thanksgiving was a peaceful and joyous meal shared between the Pilgrims and Native Americans.

TRUTH: In school, most were taught that the Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower and sought help from the Native Americans to survive in the New World. In 1620, the two groups supposedly came together for a three-day feast to celebrate their relationship and new lives together. But many historians say this was not the case.

The two groups had a lot of hostile feelings towards each other. The Pilgrims viewed Native Americans as savages, and stole their farmland. They also killed more than 90% of the native population with smallpox, brought over on the Mayflower.

These hostile conditions, historians believe, did not lead to a celebratory first Thanksgiving. In fact, some say the Native Americans were not even invited to the feast.

Depiction of the Salem witch trials.

5. MYTH: Witches were burned at the stake at the Salem witch trials.

TRUTH: While most associate the Salem witch trials of 1692 with witches burning at the stake, the truth is that not a single person was burned. Of the 20 people who were convicted of practicing magic, 19 were hung near Gallows Hill and one person was tortured to death.

But throughout history, many referenced burning witches at the stake, so it caught on. For example, a magazine in 1860 wrote, “The North … having begun with burning witches, will end by burning us!”

Painting of Paul Revere.

6. MYTH: Paul Revere rode horseback through the streets of Massachusetts yelling, “the British are coming!”

TRUTH: Paul Revere did ride horseback to warn that the British were fast approaching Lexington, but he was not screaming. Instead, he was much more discreet since British troops might have been hiding nearby. He also wasn’t alone. He was first joined by two other patriots, with 40 more joining by the end of the night. Lastly, he would never have called them “British” because many of the colonists still considered themselves British. At the time, he would have used the term “Regulars” to warn patriots about the invasion.

We have Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to thank for this misconception. He wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” in 1861 and got most of the facts wrong.

First president of the United States George Washington.

7. MYTH: George Washington had wooden teeth.

TRUTH: The first president of the United States, George Washington, did not, in fact, have wooden teeth. But he did have a lot of dental issues. The former war general wore dentures made of ivory, gold, and lead. But wood was never used in dentures and it was definitely not found in Washington’s mouth.

No one truly knows how or why this rumor started. Some historians say that the ivory may have been worn down, therefore having a grainy, wooden appearance, confusing early observers.

Declaration of Independence dated July 5, 1776.

(Archives)

8. MYTH: The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.

TRUTH: While many believe we are celebrating the Declaration of Independence’s signing on the Fourth of July, it was actually signed in August of 1776. The confusion lies in the fact that July 4 was the day the final edition of the document was agreed upon. It was the deadline the Continental Congress gave itself and wrote down, though it wouldn’t be signed for another month.

Inventor Thomas Edison.

9. MYTH: Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.

TRUTH: In the late 1800s, Thomas Edison was widely considered a genius after he invented the light bulb. But some say Edison is not the sole inventor. In fact, there were over 20 inventors who had created the incandescent light bulb before him. Additionally, it’s rumored that he borrowed (or stole) details from those other inventors.

So, why does Edison get all the credit? In part, he was a great salesman, and he knew how to outpace everyone else who was working on the light bulb. Edison was lucky enough to receive the important patents he needed to be solely credited for the invention.

Soldiers during the Civil War.

10. MYTH: Slavery largely happened in the South.

TRUTH: Many associate slavery with the South, but the truth is that slavery existed in every colony before the Revolutionary War. In fact, Massachusetts was the first colony to legalize slavery, and New York had over 1,600 slaves in 1720. Equally upsetting is the fact that presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both owned slaves.

11. MYTH: Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” when he landed on the moon.

TRUTH: If you examine the famous line uttered by Neil Armstrong in 1969, you realize it doesn’t really make sense. Because “man” and “mankind” essentially meant the same thing, if his famous line was accurate, what he basically said was, “that’s one small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind.”

Upon returning home, Armstrong clarified that he did say “one small step for a man,” which makes much more sense. Peter Shann Ford, a computer programmer, said he found proof that the missing “a” was actually just lost in transmission back to Earth.

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