'Mad Jack Churchill': The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

The German Wehrmacht and Adolf Hitler’s panzer corps devastated the British military through France and Belgium. Hitler twice stopped his forces from delivering the kill shot on British troops at the French port known as Dunkirk — the location of one of the largest naval evacuations in history. Historians predict that Hitler’s decision to halt his army for three days in May 1940 was to give Winston Churchill, Britain’s new prime minister at the time, “a sporting chance” — despite having them completely surrounded.

While Hitler and Churchill were making strategic moves far and away from front-line combat on the battlefield, another Churchill was gaining near-mythical status for his otherworldly tactics, brazen leadership, and his mystifying ability to confuse the enemy and inspire his peers. On May 27, 1940, Lt. Col. John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill stood at the base of a tower and watched a German patrol approach a hill overlooking the French village of L’Epinette.

The first Nazi officer who appeared in sight was hit center mass from 30 yards — sparking the signal for the ambush. The German’s deadly wound was not from a gunshot but from an arrow fired from a longbow. Alongside two infantrymen from the Manchester Regiment, Churchill unsheathed his basket-hilted claymore medieval sword and commanded orders to maneuvering elements to take out the remaining German patrol. The British officer’s legend leading men in combat armed with a bow and arrow was born, and throughout World War II he repeatedly proved the worth of his nicknames — “Mad Jack” and “Fighting Jack.”


‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

Jack Churchill, far right, leads a training exercise, sword in hand, from a Eureka boat in Inveraray. Although this is a training mission, he did carry a sword, longbow, and bagpipes in combat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

But who exactly was “Mad Jack” Churchill, and what emboldened him to carry medieval weapons into modern combat?

Churchill was born in British-controlled Hong Kong and raised among Anglo-Scottish parents in England alongside his two brothers, Thomas and Robert (both would also have stellar World War II exploits). He received his education at a private institution called King William’s College on the Isle of Man and Royal Military College in Sandhurst, England. Here he fostered a passion for history and poetry and had a romanticism toward adventure that birthed a broader fascination for castles, plants, animals, and insects.

He was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in 1926 and arrived in Rangoon, Burma, to receive further training. He rode a Zenith motorcycle 1,500 miles from his signals course in Poona, India, mistakenly crashing into a water buffalo along the way. In Burma, he balanced his motorcycle on railroad ties as he listened for any signs of oncoming trains. While on duty he participated in flag marches traveling down the Irrawaddy River, Burma’s largest and most frequented commercial highway, to visit villages to collect intelligence on suspected bandits.

The Other Churchill – WWII Hero Jack Churchill

www.youtube.com

Before he left Burma and later the Army with a decade of service in 1936, he learned to play the bagpipes in Maymyo — now known as Pyin Oo Lwin — Mayanmar, an interest piqued by his Scottish heritage. He worked as a newspaper editor in Nairobi, Kenya, and his chiseled jawline led to gigs in male modeling. The adventurer gained attention in England as an entertainer, took a small role in the 1924 film The Thief of Baghdad to advise on archery techniques, and even showcased those skills from 200 yards at the World Archery Championships held in Oslo, Norway, in 1939.

After earning the statistic for the last bow and arrow kill by a British officer in combat, Churchill volunteered for No. 2 Commando, a special operations unit that gained notorious status for daring coastal raids. Dressed in a kilt and holding a set of bagpipes, Churchill played an impressive rendition of the tune March of the Cameron Men before the commandos took part in the ironically named Operation Archery (sometimes called the Måløy Raid), against German positions on the island of Vågsøy, Norway.

During the Italian amphibious landings in Sicily and Salerno he personally captured 42 German soldiers and an 81mm mortar team armed with only his sword. “In my opinion, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed,” Churchill later reasoned. During a nighttime commando raid in Yugoslavia on the island of Brac, Churchill was wounded, captured, and imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. He tunneled a route out of the prison camp with another Royal Air Force prisoner but was captured and transferred to a more secure location in Austria, where he successfully escaped once more.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

Major Jack Churchill examines one of four captured Belgian 75s. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He was found by an American reconnaissance unit eight days later walking on a busted ankle after train hopping 150 miles across the Swiss Alps near Brenner pass. Following the war and into his 40s, he rescued an estimated 500 Jewish doctors and patients held hostage at a hospital in Jerusalem after the Hadassah Convoy Massacre in 1948.

“People are less likely to shoot at you if you are smiling at them,” he quipped while holding his blackthorn cane. In the 1950s, “Mad Jack” retired from military service with two Distinguished Service Order awards and found a passion for refurbished steamboats along the Thames. He also participated in motorcycle speed trials to quench his thirst for excitement.

“He didn’t brag about these things at all, but he would be happy to talk to anyone who asked, particularly if it was over a couple of nice glasses of wine in the evening,” his son Malcolm later said. Churchill was a humble warrior beyond what history proclaimed. He died in 1996 at age 89.

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Before Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrived to train the Continental Army, they were a largely unorganized, untrained group of men who lacked skill, but not the spirit, of professional soldiers. That all changed at Valley Forge. 

Baron von Steuben
A Portrait of Major General Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus, Baron von Steuben by Ralph Earl

When Steuben took over responsibilities for training Gen. George Washington’s men in the ways of fighting a war, they may not have turned into pros overnight, but the training sure paid off in a big way. 

General Washington would appoint Baron von Steuben to a Major General’s grade and appoint him Inspector General of the Army at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The Baron had his work cut out for him. 

He had to train the volunteers who enlisted from their previous professions to become trained soldiers fighting the best troops on the planet at the time: the British. Until he arrived, every new recruit was simply handed off to a regiment who trained those men to fight the way their commander believed they should, not according to any organized doctrine.

Von Steuben set up a training regimen that saw a training system where specialized noncommissioned officers would train new recruits from a doctrine prepared by him with translation from Steuben’s native German into English. The training program included European-style marching formations as well as training with the weapons they were issued, especially the bayonet. 

Before Steuben arrived to train the Continental Army, the men used their bayonets primarily as a cooking tool, most often as a kind of skewer. The Continentals didn’t trust the bayonet in combat, despite seeing the British troops use it effectively to break American lines at Bunker Hill.

“The American soldier, never having used this arm, had no faith in it, and never used it but to roast his beefsteak, and indeed often left it at home,” Steuben wrote.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle
Baron von Steuben drilling troops at Valley Forge. (Wikimedia commons)

The Americans depended on their guns for success in combat, which is probably the reason they hadn’t seen much success in combat up until this point. In Steuben’s mind, the musket was too unreliable when firing in combat and took too long to reload. It was necessary to go into a fight with a loaded rifle, of course, but once the fight devolved into a brawl, the bayonet would decide the victors. 

The bayonet was a solid weapon and he taught the Continental Army to use it. He would know, because he spent much of his life until that point fighting in European wars in the Prussian army. He drilled the Americans constantly, imposing strict discipline on them and forcing them to conform to a regimented way of war. He crafted the Army’s first field manual, “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I.”

In 1779, the Continental Army would get a chance to show off their new skills with the bayonet at the Battle of Stony Point, which they won without firing a shot. They didn’t even have loaded muskets when they went into combat.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle
Steuben House, Major General Baron von Steuben’s house and “Jersey Estate” 1783-1788. Photo by Deborah Powell.

Washington planned a daring nighttime assault on the fort at Stony Point, 30 miles north of New York City. The Americans moved silently in the dark and infiltrated the defensive positions of the unfinished fort. By the time British sentries noticed Americans approaching Stony Point from the south, Americans under Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne were already inside. 

Americans had climbed the slopes approaching Stony Point so fast that British artillery pieces were not able to correct their positions to actually fire at the approaching rebel troops. The fighting lasted for just 25 minutes and the entire action only took an hour. 

The discipline instilled by Baron von Steuben and the trust he placed in the infantry bayonet were crucial to the success of the battle.  

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 things that will surprise you about Mojave Viper

Fire and maneuvering drills, mock IEDs and RPG attacks, and scrambled medical evacuations are just some of the exercises Marines and sailors conduct during their training at Mojave Viper.


The “Viper” takes place in Twentynine Palms, California, the largest training base of the Marine Corps.

Although each scenario the Marines encounter is under strict supervision, it’s the closest thing to war young infantrymen are exposed to before going toe-to-toe with the real enemy.

To make the setting as real as possible, the combative minds behind the training keep a few surprises in store for those who dare train in the desert landscape.

Related: 4 Asian-American heroes you should know about

1. The role players are out to beat you

Although this is training, the hired role players who pretend to be the enemy are plotting all types of sh*t behind your back. Just like while deployed, the enemy will smile to your face and then shoot you in the back when it comes time.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle
Lance Cpl. Mary C. McKenna (center) uses a HIDE system to document the iris of a man displaying suspicious behavior during Mojave Viper. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Mark Stroud)

2. Those are real amputees you’re dealing with

To make it as real as possible, when an IED attack occurs and all hell breaks loose, the government spares no expense. They cast role players who have previously lost limbs to help better immerse the Marine or sailor into the setting.

It’s pretty fun at times.

3. They use Hollywood practical effects

Just like in the movies, practical effects are used to make the chaos feel more organic. Hollywood makeup artists and special effects personnel are brought in to add realism to the mock suicide bombings and carnage.

Marines have no clue when something will pop off, so they must be ready at all times.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment treat casualties from at mock explosion during a first responder drill in a mock Afghan town at Range 215, as part of Mojave Viper. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

4. You can be taken as a POW

Remember when we said, “the role players are out to get you”? Well, we weren’t kidding. Some of the role players, like Kelvin Garvanne, were given the okay to kidnap Marines when the situation called for it.

Once a Marine is taken as a POW, it’s “game-on” for a rescue mission.

“We kidnapped Marines,” Mr. Garvanne explains. “One of the things we wanted to do in real time was capture a Marine.”

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle
Kelvin Garvanne teaches these Marines cultural immersion. The Leathernecks learn about Afghan culture and customs from the experts.

5. The stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Mojave Viper

People, we sh*t you not!

Although the desert is hot all damn day long, once the sun drops off the horizon and the stars come out, you’ll forget where you are.

Cue the cheesy music.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle
Stargazing at Joshua Tree. (NPS photo by Lian Law)

Also Read: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

6. Although it’s training, you can still get hurt big time

To make it as real as possible, most of the training scenarios include plenty of live fire live, not excluding artillery and mortar rounds. With all this gear and tech being used, Marines can get all kinds of hurt.

And let’s not forget about all the freakin’ snakes that live in the area.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle
Running into this fang-filled snake could ruin your day in a heartbeat.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why we’re pumped about the new ‘Overlord’ film

There’s a special place in our hearts for zombie films. It’s a fun little escape to the smokepit conversations every troop has while deployed, like, “who would your zombie apocalypse team be?” And, “where would you go looting first?” Obviously, the only correct answers are your squadmates and the nearest gunshop, respectively, but I digress.

Zombie films have a strange place in the cinematic landscape. The ones that embrace the campiness of the genre tend to be more successful financially and the lower the budget of a zombie film, the more fun (or funny) it’ll probably be. This is part of what made the veteran-made Range 15 so enjoyable to other veterans who enjoy that special, corny magic typical of zombie films.

It was recently announced that J.J. Abrams is set to produce the upcoming film Overlord. From the looks of things, it’s going to be a zombie film set during the events of the Battle of Normandy — also known as Operation Overlord.


‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

Kind of like the Norwegian film ‘Dead Snow.’

(Euforia Films)

There is a bit of historical precedent for the film. The Nazis never created zombies (obviously), but their fascination with the occult and fringe sciences has been well documented. Hitler, in addition to being a mass-murdering f*ckhead, was obsessed with everything occult in trying to get an edge. This ranged from having officers study Nordic runes to sending troops into Tibet in search of Shangri-la and all sorts of messed-up stuff to create their so-called “übermensch.”

There is no historical record of the Nazis ever trying to reanimate the dead in any Frankensteinian or Lovecraftian manner, but it isn’t too far of a stretch to play on Hitler’s “thousand year army” dream to include “thousand year soldiers.”

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

The biggest homage has got to be given to the 1985 film, ‘Re-Animator.’

(Empire International Pictures)

Judging by the trailers, this film seems like it’s going to be an homage to both the war and zombie genres of film. Of course, fans have been quick to point out the similarities between it and Call of Duty‘s Nazi Zombie mode or Return to Castle Wolfenstein, if you want to actually want to get your gaming history right. In the film’s defense, it’s actually making far more references to the mutated Nazi monsters and transformation scenes in An American Werewolf in London.

It’s also interesting to note that this is the first rated-R film for both Bad Robot and J.J Abrams. It’s been said numerous times by Abrams himself that the film is not going to be a part of the Cloverfield franchise. While he’s known for his misdirection, it seems like he’s telling the truth, you know, since the Cloverfield alien was from space and this film is set in Nazi-occupied France.

The film also has plenty of great actors attached who have an impressive action-feature resume. Jovan Adepo of The Leftovers, Jacob Anderson of Game of Thrones, Bokeem Woodbine of The Rock and Riddick, and Wyatt Russell from the Black Mirror episode ‘Playtest’ are all co-leads against Pilou Asbæk’s (Euron Greyjoy from Game of Thrones) evil Nazi scientist character.

Overlord is going to be directed by Julius Avery, the director of the Australian indie film, Son of a Gun. Billy Ray, the writer of Captain Phillips, and Mark L. Smith, screenplay writer for The Revenant, co-wrote the script.

The film is scheduled for release on November 9th, 2018, but you can watch the trailer below right now.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate generals?

With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?

I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.


I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.

We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.

In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.

I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.

I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.

The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).

I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?

Articles

How the Allies defeated one of their deadliest WWII adversaries

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


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

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

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

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle
Admiral Karl Dönitz meets with Adolf Hitler (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

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

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

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

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

The German admiral died on Christmas Eve, 1980.

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

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

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Few feats of engineering are as impressive as a military-grade helicopter. Today worth millions of dollars each, these high-tech birds are a formidable military asset, including, among many other uses, for rescue operations — all a fact US military personnel helpfully chose to ignore during Operation Frequent Wind when they pushed several dozen of them into the sea, in one case for no other reason than to save a mother, a father, and their five children.


For anyone unfamiliar with it, Operation Frequent Wind was the name give to the final phase of evacuations during the Fall of Saigon — effectively the final days of the Vietnam War. Noted as being one of the largest military evacuations in history and the largest involving helicopters as the primary means of evacuation, Operation Frequent Wind is celebrated as a logistical success for the US due to the fact that a few dozen helicopter pilots were somehow able to evacuate over 7,000 people in around 18 hours. This is made all the more impressive when you realize that the mass evacuation was never supposed to involve helicopters much at all.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

A South Vietnamese helicopter is pushed over the side of the USS Okinawa during Operation Frequent Wind, April 1975.

(US Marine Corps photo)

You see, while Operation Frequent Wind is now famous for being the most successful mass helicopter evacuation ever organised, using helicopters as the primary means of evacuation was never the original plan — it wasn’t even the backup plan. It turns out that it was the backup to the backup to the backup plan.

Known initially as Operation Talon Vise until North Vietnamese spies heard whispers of it, the plans for a mass evacuation of Vietnam had been in place for several years and were originally supposed to involve the primary use of both commercial and military aircraft which would evacuate at-risk citizens and military personnel, with the total slated to be evacuated estimated to be about 2 million people.

Failing or in addition to this, the idea was to dock ships at Saigon port and load them with as many people as possible. In the event none of these options were possible, the final, Hail Mary plan was to instead use military helicopters to transport people to ships off shore.

Of course, evacuating the original estimate of 2 million people was never an option for the helicopter plan alone, nor even the extremely whittled down number of about 100,000-200,000 that military brass eventually reduced that figure to. Instead, at this point it was just as many people as they could as fast as they could.

So why did the US have to fall back to literally their least effective option if they’d been planning the evacuation for years? Well, much of the blame falls somewhat unbelievably to the actions of a single man — Graham Anderson Martin, the American ambassador to South Vietnam at the time who steadfastly refused to agree to start an evacuation for fear of mass panic and given his unshakable faith in the notion that the threat of the “superior American firepower” would keep the enemy at bay.

Despite this, recommendations did go out in advance of Operation Frequent Wind that at risk people should leave the country, resulting in a total of around 50,000 people, including a few thousand orphans, leaving via various planes in the months leading up to an actual evacuation being started. This was mostly done via supply aircraft who would bring supplies in, and then load up as many people as they could for the trip home. Yet an official full scale evacuation, which would have seen these efforts massively ramped up, was continually stalled by Martin.

Military brass tried and failed to persuade Martin to change his mind, with Brigadier General Richard E. Carey going as far as to travel to Saigon to plead personally with with the ambassador. This was a meeting Carey would later diplomatically call “cold and non productive” and should be noted took place on April 13th, 2 weeks after preparations were already supposed to have begun for the mass evacuation.

This back and forth continued until April 28th when North Vietnamese forces bombed the Tan Son Nhut Air Base, effectively eliminating any possibility of getting people out via large aircraft capable of mass evacuation. When this was pointed out to the Martin, he still refused to call for the evacuation, deciding to wait until the next day so he could drive out to the base and confirm the damage for himself.

Upon confirming that North Vietnamese forces had indeed destroyed the air base and the best option for a mass evacuation, he finally relented.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

South Vietnamese refugees arrive on a U.S. Navy vessel during Operation Frequent Wind.

This was an order that was relayed to soldiers on the ground via the official Armed Forces Radio station by the words “The temperature in Saigon is 105 degrees and rising,” followed by the playing the song I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas by Bing Crosby.

As a direct result of Martin’s stubbornness, the military had no choice but to rely on the least effective means of mass evacuation — via helicopter, with the operation officially commencing later that afternoon at 14:00.

Even as the operation began, Martin’s bullheaded refusal to prepare in anyway for an evacuation caused problems for certain helicopter pilots, most notably the ones trying to evacuate him and his staff.

How?

Well there was a large tree in the embassy courtyard that military brass had “strongly advised” Martin cut down so as to better allow helicopters to land there should the worst happen. Martin, believing that doing so would be as good as admitting the war had already been lost, absolutely refused to do this. As Henry Kissinger would later note, “Faced with imminent disaster, Martin decided to go down with the ship.”

On that note, to his credit, Martin refused to leave once the evacuation had begun, though this was much to the annoyance of the pilot, Colonel Gerry Berry, sent to fetch him. Instead, Martin continually had refugees boarded while he simply waited with his staff in his office, knowing that as long as he was there, the helicopter would keep coming back allowing more lives to be saved.

It wasn’t until the 14th trip that an exhausted Berry finally reached his wits’ end. Said Berry, “I called the sergeant over. And he got up in the cockpit. And I said, ‘This is it. Get all these people off. This helicopter’s not leaving the roof until the ambassador’s on board. The President sends.'”

With an order supposedly from the President himself, though not actually in reality, Martin finally relented and allowed Berry to complete his mission by transporting Martin and his entourage.

Of course, what the military brass had failed to remember after this supposed last flight was that they’d accidentally left almost a dozen soldiers behind at the compound… This wouldn’t be realized for many hours, but all 11 Marines were rescued after being forced to barricade themselves on the rooftop for the night in case of an attack.

Leaving the evacuations as late as Martin did understandably resulted in mass panic across Saigon with many thousands of South Vietnamese citizens fleeing in everything from cars to stolen planes and helicopters.

In addition, lack of time meant that helicopter pilots had a laughable number of people to rescue, resulting in many ignoring the “recommended” weight limit of their craft and massively overloading them to the very extremes of what they could handle given the pilot’s assessments and weather conditions. In one case, one pilot noted he was overweight to the point that he could only hover inches off the ground, but no one was willing to get off as for many it would mean their life if they could not get out of the country.

He then stated he thought if he could get some forward speed he could get the additional lift needed, so simply pitched the craft forward and took a dive off the rooftop he was on, barely recovering before hitting the rooftops below and then managing to very slowly climb from there.

As for these pilots, they were instructed to ferry evacuees to waiting ships in the South China Sea, many of which quickly began to run out of space resulting in people sleeping double in the small bunks, as well as just anywhere on the ships there was available space for someone to sit or lie down on.

On top of that, any South Vietnamese pilots that could manage to get a hold of their own helicopters and flee to sea were also crowding the decks as they arrived. This resulted in the order to push some of these South Vietnamese helicopters overboard to make more space, or orders for some pilots to simply crash their helicopters into the ocean and await rescue after they’d dropped off any passengers.

This all brings us around to the incredible story of Major Buang Lee. Knowing he and his family — a wife and five children — would in all likelihood be executed if they couldn’t find a way out of the country immediately, the Major managed to commandeer a small Cessna O-1 spotter plane. Under heavy fire, he managed to take off and flee the country with two adults and five children jam packed aboard the tiny, slow moving aircraft.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

A South Vietnamese UH-1H is pushed overboard to make room for a Cessna O-1 landing.

He then headed out to sea in search of a ship to land on or ditch the plane next to. About an hour and a half off the coast and with only about an hour of fuel left, he finally found one in the USS Midway.

The issue now was there was not sufficient room to land on the ship, owing to the number of helicopters on the deck. Unable to find the right frequency on the radio to talk to those on the Midway, Buang resorted to dropping notes.

The first two notes, unfortunately blew away before anyone aboard could grab them. Buang tied the third to his gun and dropped it. When the crew aboard retrieved it, they saw it read: “Can you move the helicopters to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly 1 hour more, we have enough time to move. Please rescue me. -Major Buang, Wife and 5 child.”

The captain of the vessel, one Lawrence Chambers then had a decision to make. While it was possible to move some of the helicopters out of the way, there was no room to move them all. The young captain, only appointed to that post some five weeks before, decided that there was little chance the family would all survive if they tried to ditch in the sea next to the Midway and be rescued that way.

Said Lawrence of the event, “When a man has the courage to put his family in a plane and make a daring escape like that, you have to have the heart to let him in.”

So, thinking he’d likely be court-martialed for it, he made the call to move what helicopters could be moved and dump the rest in the ocean after stripping them of any valuable gear that could be removed quickly. In total, some million (about million today) worth of helicopters were ditched in this way.

There was another problem, however. The plane in question typically needs a minimum of a little over 600 feet of runway to land and come to a full stop. The Midway itself in total was about 1,000 feet long, but the runway deck was only about 2/3 of that, meaning there was zero margin for error here.

Thus, in order to land such a craft on the deck with enough margin of safety, the ship really needed to be moving as fast as possible to make the plane’s relative speed slow enough that it could stop in time before falling off the end. Using the cable system to stop the craft faster wasn’t deemed a good option as in all likelihood it would have just resulted in the landing gear ripping off and/or the plane flipping over in a spectacular crash.

Unfortunately, Chambers had previously granted the ship’s engineers permission to take the Midway’s engines partially offline for routine maintenance. After all, helicopters did not need nor want that relative wind, especially when landing on such a crowded deck.

Said Chambers, “When I told the chief engineer that I needed 25 knots, he informed me that we didn’t have enough steam. I ordered him to shift the hotel load to the emergency diesels.”

With this, the ship was able to achieve the requested speed and Buang’s landing was also helped by another 15 knots of headwind, further reducing his needed stopping distance.

With that done and deck cleared as it could be, Buang was given the greenlight to land, ultimately doing so with textbook precision and with plenty of deck to spare, becoming a rare individual in relatively modern times to land such an aircraft aboard a military carrier.

And, thankfully for Captain Lawrence, he was not court-martialed for ditching rather valuable military hardware to save Major Buang and his family, and instead enjoyed a continuance of his successful career, eventually retiring as a Rear Admiral.

In the aftermath of Operation Frequent Wind, the U.S. ships continued to hang around for a few days off the coast, trying to pick up as many refugees from the water as they could. Finally, the order was given to head home, forcing the commanders to leave many thousands of people that had been promised evacuation behind.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Taran Butler is a better shot than you. Sure, there are people who may be better at very specialized skills within shooting, or who shoot better with a particular style of firearm under certain conditions or at a specific range of distances. But Butler, who runs Taran Tactical Innovations and trains both Hollywood stars and military/law enforcement clients at his facility in Southern California, is often regarded as the best all-around shooter alive.

If his name eludes you, here’s what you’re missing. Butler is a multiple United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) 3-Gun National and World Champion; he’s the man who helped turned Keanu Reeves into John Wick; and he can shoot six, 8-inch plates set 30 feet away with one hand while drawing from the hip in well under two seconds. If you’re not impressed, you should be.


Grand Master Taran Butler Hip Shooting 6 plates 1.98sec. Broke his personal record.

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Grand Master Taran Butler Hip Shooting 6 plates 1.98sec. Broke his personal record.

Butler said that he was a natural shooter from the start, but his competitive career officially began in 1995. He attended his first match with a Glock 21 pistol — which had a lower capacity than the pistols of the other competitors and required an additional reload. Butler still finished 7th in a field of 118, and that’s when he realized that he had a future in competitive shooting.

The next year he won the Southwest Pistol League’s Limited Division, and from there he went on to win the SPL’s Unlimited Division and a handful of Glock Shooting Sports Foundation matches. After that initial 7th place finish, Butler won every match he entered for the next two years, which were all pistol-shooting competitions. It wasn’t until the following year that he would jump into the world of 3-Gun, an arena he considered “kinda lame” before trying it out.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

Photo courtesy of Taran Butler

In 1997, Butler competed in his first 3-Gun match, the Five Dogs Winter Classic, despite the fact that he didn’t yet have his Benelli shotgun tricked out for 3-Gun — and none of the ways he was taught to load a shotgun were practical for competition. He borrowed two shotguns for the weekend and described those stages as an “absolute disaster because the shotguns didn’t function properly … [it] was a box-office fiasco on every level.”

Butler, who had gotten used to winning, was livid, but he pressed on. He noticed that most of the competitors were going into the prone position to shoot the farthest rifle targets, a distance Butler estimated to be about 100 yards. Figuring that he had nothing to lose after the shotgun stages, Butler shot standing. The second place time for that stage was 25 seconds — Butler finished in 16. On the pistol stages, since that’s Butler’s expertise, he “went dog nuts and absolutely shredded the pistol stages into the ground.” Even though he came in near the bottom for the shotgun stages, his incredible performances during the pistol and rifle stages propelled him to the top, winning the entire match overall. It was the first of many wins, but also some heartbreaking losses.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

Photo courtesy of Taran Butler

Butler’s first trip to the 3-Gun Nationals was in 1999. He was leading by a large margin (about 200 points) after 14 stages, but there were still two to go. The 15th stage required each competitor to rest their rifle on the roof of a car while shooting. Butler’s rifle didn’t have a free-floating handguard, so the contact with the car interfered with the vibration of the barrel, causing the gun to shoot extremely high at 100 yards. The bullets were impacting the torso target at the top of the head when Butlet was aiming for the A zone. He suffered eight penalty misses, ultimately losing the match by five points — which he equates to about half a second. At his next 3-Gun Nationals appearance, the cross pin holding the trigger group in his shotgun broke during the final stage, and the entire trigger group fell out of his gun. He ended up losing by a few points. These losses taught Butler the importance of having high-quality gear and knowing the gear that you have.

In 2003, Butler finally broke through. At the time, Bennie Cooley was the reigning 3-Gun champion. He was unstoppable with a long-range rifle, and Butler was unstoppable with a pistol, so the shotgun stage was where they met in the middle. First up was the pistol stages, and Cooley shot first. He was slower but had no penalties. Butler shot three or four seconds faster but suffered penalties — the pressure had gotten to him, and he was upset with himself. Great, throwing away the Nationals again, he thought. On the next stage, Butler again beat Cooley on time — but, also again, he shot a hostage. At that point, Butler had to shake off the pressure and focus solely on the shooting. The next pistol stages were left-hand, right-hand, and Butler shot them clean. He went on to shoot the long-range rifle and close-range hunting rifle stages, and then shotgun.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

Taran Butler, left, with Halle Berry and Keanu Reeves.

Photo courtesy of Taran Butler

Butler dominated the stages and ultimately won the 2003 3-Gun Nationals in the Limited Division. That was the beginning of a long winning streak and a record-breaking career. The following year, Butler became the first shooter to win the 3-Gun Nationals’ Tactical Division. In 2012, he won the Open Division, making him the USPSA’s first-ever Multigun Triple Crown Champion, having won Nationals in each of the three divisions.

“It’s kind of like winning a championship belt in three different weight classes in the UFC,” Butler said of his accomplishment.

Another defining moment in his career was in 2007 at the Fort Benning Multigun Challenge. Butler was unaware of a rule change in his division that limited shotgun magazine tubes to eight rounds. His shotgun held nine, so he was automatically moved into the unlimited division where he was shooting against competitors with 16-round mag tubes on their shotguns — and in one case, a 32-round drum mag. They also had 30-round pistols, and their firearms were tricked out with the best upgrades available. Butler said it “is the equivalent to showing up in a bicycle at a motocross competition.”

Keanu shredding with Taran Butler

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Keanu shredding with Taran Butler

Against all odds, Butler won. Legendary shooter Jerry Miculek, who Butler described as “a man of few words and one of the greatest shooters that ever walked the earth,” was also competing that day. After the match, he approached Butler and said, “Taran, you’re a fuckin’ animal” — and then walked away. Butler said it’s one of the best compliments he’s ever received from a peer. After the Fort Benning match was televised, Butler’s sponsorship opportunities quadrupled. Despite this massive success, Butler had his sights set on accomplishments outside of the competitive shooting world.

The next step for Butler was appearing as the go-to firearms expert on the hit TV series “TopShot” for five seasons. From there, things took off for his career as a firearms trainer. He was hired to work with Hollywood stars such as Keanu Reeves and Khloe Kardashian. When one of Butler’s videos with Keanu Reeves went viral, his popularity in Hollywood exploded.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

Keanu Reeves honing his shotgun skills at Taran Butler’s shooting range in California.

Photo courtesy of Taran Butler

If you enjoy watching current films with actors who actually look like they’ve held a gun before — and don’t utilize a 1970s-style teacup-and-saucer grip — you can thank Butler for helping to establish a higher standard for gunplay in movies and television. He has consulted on numerous films and has trained A-list Hollywood celebrities, including training Michael B. Jordan for his role as Killmonger in “Black Panther” and Halle Berry for her role alongside Keanu Reeves in the most recent “John Wick” movie. He also trained director Ang Lee and star Will Smith for “Gemini Man.” The film features a young Will Smith shooting a Glock 41 modified by Butler’s company, Taran Tactical Innovations (TTI), against an older Will Smith shooting a Gucci’d-out TTI Combat Master Glock.

Butler also mentioned several projects that have yet been released, including his work with “How I Met Your Mother” star Cobie Smulders for her new ABC show “Stumptown,” an adaptation of a popular graphic novel. He has also trained John Cho for Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop”; Josh Lucas for the upcoming “Purge” film; Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne for “The Old Guard”; and Robert Pattinson, John David Washington, and Aaron Taylor Johnson for an unnamed upcoming film.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

Halle Berry training with at Taran Butler’s range in Southern California.

Photo courtesy of Taran Butler

Butler also trains military and law enforcement groups whose jobs and lives rely on the skilled handling of weapons. “Three-Gunners are the deadliest weapons handlers on the planet,” Butler said, pointing to the fact that grueling matches that last three to four days are frequently won and lost by fractions of a second. So world-champion 3-Gun shooters like Butler spend countless hours “training their asses off.” He acknowledged that military and law enforcement groups are more proficient with combat tactics, but they frequently come to people like Butler for firearms operation and manipulation training.

While training military and LEO groups, Butler said he noticed that those who also compete in 3-Gun “annihilate” their non-competition-shooting counterparts. He encourages everyone he trains to also compete in multi-gun or USPSA competitions to hone their skills. While he sometimes works with celebrities for months, Butler usually has only a day or two with tactical groups, so training them is more about tweaking small habits and incorporating 3-Gun fundamentals into their tactics.

In his impressive career, Taran Butler has learned from some of the highest highs and lowest lows in the shooting sports. Few, if any, will ever be able to match his accomplishments in that realm. But he used it as a springboard into an adjacent career that helps shine a light on others as well. Butler’s work with military and law enforcement demonstrates the value of his 3-Gun training and has the potential to save lives. His work with Hollywood stars has raised the standard across the board, even in media he doesn’t touch, when it comes to the realism we see on screen. So, yeah, he may be a better shot than you — but he earned it.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is searching desperately for new fighter pilots

China’s navy needs Maverick and Goose — and many, many more fighter jocks for its growing carrier force.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy is desperately searching for pilots to fill its carrier air wings as the country pushes to build a formidable carrier fleet.

The PLAN launched its 2019 pilot recruitment program Sept.15, 2018, with “the highlight of this year’s recruitment [being] the selection of future carrier-borne aircraft pilot cadets,” according to the Chinese military, which noted that as China’s armed forces shift from “shore-based” to “carrier-based” abilities, the PLAN intends to develop a pilot recruitment system “with Chinese naval characteristics that can adapt to carrier-borne requirements.”


The language appears to indicate a strategic shift from home defense to power projection on the high seas, thinking consistent with Chinese efforts to build an advanced blue water navy.

The lack of pilots trained for carrier-borne operations and combat has been a problem for China in recent years. “They don’t have a whole lot of pilots. Not a lot of capacity in that area,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained to Business Insider in August 2018.

By the end of 2016, there were only 25 pilots qualified to fly China’s carrier-based fighters, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported Sept. 18, 2018.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

A J-15 fighter jet sits on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning.

(Photo by Zhang Lei)

Recruiters will travel across the country to 23 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions to find suitable navy aviators. “Some of the pilot cadets recruited in 2018 will receive the top and most systematic training as carrier-borne aircraft pilots,” a PLAN Pilot Recruitment Office official revealed.

Pilots selected and trained to fly carrier-based aircraft will fly the fourth-generation Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, the heaviest carrier-based fighter jet in operation today and the type of fighter that composes the carrier air wing for China’s only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

The ongoing recruitment program, according to SCMP, marks the first time the Chinese navy has directly recruited pilots for the J-15, a problematic derivative of a Soviet prototype which has been blamed for several fatal training accidents. In the past, aviators from the navy and air force who were trained to fly other types of aircraft were pulled to fly the J-15.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

A J-15 ship-borne helicopter prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning.

(Photo by Zhang Lei)

“Becoming a naval pilot is the best choice for those who want to become heroes of the sky and the sea,” the Chinese military stressed on Sept. 18, 2018, emphasizing the Chinese military’s interest in developing advanced power projection capabilities.

China is rapidly building an aircraft carrier fleet with one carrier already in service, another undergoing sea trials, and a third in development, but China is still very new to complex carrier operations. Chinese Navy pilots successfully completed their first nighttime takeoffs and landings in May 2018.

“An elite team among the pilots also has carried out night landings, widely considered the riskiest carrier-based action, and have become capable of performing round-the-clock, all-weather operations,” the China Daily reported Sept. 19, 2018.

In addition to a pilot shortage, China still struggles with power and propulsion, aircraft numbers and reliability, carrier launch systems, and a limited experience with carrier operations.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Truman, Lincoln strike groups practice warfighting as a pair

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) began dual-carrier sustainment and qualification operations Aug. 29, 2018 in the western Atlantic Ocean.

“By training and operating together, the USS Harry S. Truman and USS Abraham Lincoln strike groups enhance combat readiness and interoperability, and also demonstrate the inherent flexibility and scalability of carrier strike groups,” said Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group Commander Rear Adm. Gene Black. “The opportunity to conduct complex, multi-unit training better prepares us to answer our nation’s call to carry out a full range of missions, at anytime, anywhere around the globe.”


The operations include a war-at-sea exercise (WASEX), with scenarios testing the readiness of involved units to carry out strike and air operations as well as formation steaming. These evolutions provide both carriers, with embarked air wings and accompanying surface ships, the opportunity to operate in close proximity and coordinate maneuvers cooperatively.

“We are the best Navy in the world, and given the complex and competitive environment we are in, we can’t take anything for granted or settle for the status quo,” said Abraham Lincoln Strike Group Commander Rear Adm. John Wade. “Therefore, we have to work hard, train hard and uphold the highest standards and commit ourselves to excellence each and every day. The training conducted with Harry S. Truman Strike Group enabled us to increase our lethality and tactical proficiency. It also demonstrated our Navy’s ability to achieve and maintain sea control.”

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

USS Harry S. Truman.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristina Young)

Participating in the exercise are the embarked air wings of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 and CVW-1, as well as select surface assets from CSG-8 and CSG-12.

Harry S. Truman deployed on April 11, 2018, and is currently deployed conducting operations in the Atlantic Ocean.

Abraham Lincoln is underway in the Atlantic Ocean with Carrier Strike Group 12 conducting Operational Test-1 (OT1) for the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/, http://www.facebook.com/CVN75/, or http://twitter.com/USSHARRYSTRUMAN. For more news from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn72/ or www.facebook.com/USSLincoln/.

Featured image: USS Abraham Lincoln.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine Corps punishes 2 pilots for their sky penis

The Marine Corps has punished two aviators who flew their aircraft deliberately to draw a giant penis in the skies over California’s Salton Sea.

The Oct. 23, 2018 incident resulted in the West Coast Marine Corps training squadron launching an investigation into the flight pattern of a T-34C aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101.

“Two Marine Corps aviators were administratively disciplined following the completion of an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding an Oct. 23, 2018 irregular flight pattern that resulted in an obscene image,” said Maj. Josef Patterson, a spokesman for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.


Patterson did not reveal details of the disciplinary action taken against the Marines. “The aviators retained their wings and will continue service to their country as valued members of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing,” he said.

The flight pattern was originally spotted about 120 miles outside San Diego by @AircraftSpots, which monitors military air movements on Twitter.

Drawing phallic images seem to be a pattern in military aviation.

Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Goossen was fired as commander of the 69th Bomb Squadron on Nov. 27, 2018, because penis drawings were discovered on moving map software displayed on the nuclear-capable B-52‘s Combat Network Communication Technology.

During the 69th’s deployment to Al Udeid Air Force Base, Qatar, between September 2017 and April 2018, penis drawings were repeatedly created by members of the unit and were captured as screengrabs for a compact disc montage that was played at the end of the deployment.

An investigation was launched after the CD was turned into Air Force officials.

And in December 2017, the Navy punished two of its aviators for a similar stunt near Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington.

The details of their punishment were not released, but the two were allowed to keep their aviator status.

The aviators were assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 130 and flew an EA-18G Growler aircraft to draw an image of male genitalia in the sky. Witnesses captured the image on cellphone cameras and posted it on social media.

— Military.com’s Gina Harkins, Oriana Pawlyk and Hope Hodge Seck contributed to this report.

MIGHTY FIT

Got goals? Here’s how to support them in the gym.

Lifting weights makes you better at everything else that’s important in your life.

Literally everything, like mindset and self-esteem, but especially any physical pursuit you may be engaged in…


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bj3PorVHCIx/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “How many times you workout each week can be optimized but, not by selecting a certain number of days that you train. . The main things that…”

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So, ask yourself. What is your goal?

  • Do you want to get stronger?
  • Do you want to get bigger?
  • Do you want to maintain/improve endurance?
  • Do you have a PT test coming up?
  • Do you just want to be healthy?
  • Do you have other active hobbies that you care about?
  • Where do you want to be in 10 years?

Resistance training serves all these goals. Allow me to spit some of that good gouge on just how this is possible and why you should be lifting a few sessions a week no matter who you are.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

It takes strength to run in boots. Any imbalances you may have become amplified with boots or a pack on, or at extreme distances.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John C. Lamb/Released)

Long distance runners

Let’s take a marathoner, for example, just to jump to the most extreme end of the spectrum away from the standard lifter. The focus of a marathoner is to run 26.2 miles as fast as possible. All other goals are secondary to that.

In order to be the best marathoner possible, more than running is required. Specifically, having the strength to actually run properly is imperative. Many running injuries come from overuse and fatigue. When a runner is tired, the muscles most prone to injury are those that are the weakest.

The best way to prevent a weak hamstring from destroying a marathoning career is not to let the hamstring get weak in the first place. That’s where resistance training comes in. The gym is the place where a marathoner can specifically target those muscles that give out first and bring them up to snuff.

When practicing your sport of choice, you can’t focus on a weakness–you need to try to hide it or overcompensate in another way.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

Train legs until the day you die.

(Photo by Sopan Shewale on Unsplash)

The crusty old timer

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

Dad/Grandpa/Mom/Meemaw was doing so well, but then it got hard for him/her to get up and down the stairs. Eventually, he/she fell and ended up in the hospital (my grandmother needed a new steel hip). That’s when things started to spiral. He/she stopped making sense, couldn’t use the bathroom alone anymore, and needed someone around 24/7.

That’s usually around the point when you start wondering if they would be better off “in the great beyond.” Someone always says this: “If I ever get that bad, pull the plug.”

More lower body strength strongly correlates to a higher quality of life later in life. Dr. Austin Baraki gets into the nitty-gritty here.

The most efficient and safest way of increasing lower body strength is properly regulated resistance training. Check out the middle of this article for the quantitative pros of resistance training over other exercise modalities.
‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

Strength is unbiased. Just show up and do the work.

(Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash)

Get bigger, stronger, leaner

If your main priority is strength or size gains, then you should get in the gym obviously. There is no one on planet earth that would argue weight lifting won’t get you stronger or more muscular. Leaner? As spelled out in this article here, resistance training is actually the most efficient method to burn body fat in the long run. Sure a crash diet or some intense HIIT sessions can help in the short term, but their benefits are what we call diminishing returns. Not to mention that they have the potential to spur a negative relationship with food or exercise. Try instead the nomad approach, laid out here, which includes a solid resistance training regimen of a few days a week.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

If you don’t desire to flying drop kick another human being you have no pulse.

(Photo by Thao Le Hoang on Unsplash)

The man of a million interests

If marathoners, the elderly, and those seeking fat loss can all benefit from lifting weights, you can bet your jalapeño cheese spread that those benefits extend to every other pursuit imaginable. Think of your gym sessions as survivability training for your body so that when you do choose to pursue something new, you have a solid base of capable muscle to back you up.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

We train to extend the quality of our lives but also to potentially save the life of someone else.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Alexis R. Mulero)

The reason we train

The purpose of training is to extend the length of quality years that we live by allowing us to turn up the volume on the things we value.

If you value aesthetics, train accordingly.

If you need to survive in combat, train accordingly.

If you want to play with your kids, train accordingly.

If you have a crush on the yoga instructor, train accordingly. Without being a stalker creep.

If you have your first marathon coming up, train accordingly.

If you are gunning for a promotion and need a perfect score on the PFT, train accordingly.

REMEMBER: Wherever your values may lie strength (and a resistance training plan) is a core component.

Mighty FIT is making strides to give you the fitness content you want. Please take 2 minutes and tell us just what your preferences are for fitness content so that Michael and the other fitness writers can supply what you want.

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie

Red Erwin was in such bad shape, suffering from burns all the way to the bone, that then-Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay put one of his legendary bull rushes on the regulations to get him the Medal of Honor before he died.

The medal was awarded and presented to Erwin within a week of his near-fatal injuries; it’s still believed to be the fastest approval on record of the nation’s highest award for valor.


Staff Sgt. Henry E. “Red” Erwin, the radio operator on a B-29 Superfortress over Japan in April 1945, beat long odds to survive and go home to Alabama, where he was welcomed at the hospital with a kiss from his wife Betty on the only part of his face that wasn’t scalded.

The doctors didn’t think he would see again, but he did. They thought he would lose his right arm, but he didn’t. Following more than 40 surgeries, Erwin would work for 37 years counseling burn patients and advising on benefits for the then-Veterans Administration in Birmingham, Alabama.

He and Betty would have four children. Following his death in 2002, son Henry Erwin Jr., who had become a state senator in Alabama, said his father “embodied all the ideals of the Medal of Honor. He wore them like a well-pressed suit.”

“He was honest, thrifty and patriotic,” the son told the Pentagon, “[and] treated everyone with courtesy and respect.”

There was never any doubt that what Erwin did on April 12, 1945, deserved the Medal of Honor — not among the other 11 crew members whose lives he saved and definitely not for LeMay, then-commander of the bombing campaign against Japan.

As the radio operator, Erwin was also in charge of dropping white phosphorus charges down a chute to signal rallying points for other bombers in the formation to proceed to targets.

On that day, something went terribly wrong with the “willy peter” charge. It either jammed in the chute or went off prematurely, bouncing back up and hitting Erwin in the face. He was blinded, part of his nose was burned off and his clothes were on fire. Flames were spreading through the aircraft.

Despite his injuries, Erwin picked up the white phosphorus charge, still burning at more than 1,300 degrees Celsius, or 2,372 degrees Fahrenheit. He groped and crawled his way to the cockpit, where he somehow unhinged a small desk blocking his way to a window. He heaved the charge out the window and then collapsed.

On Guam on April 19, 1945, Erwin’s entire body was covered in bandages when Maj. Gen. Willis H. Hale, commander of Army Air Forces Pacific Area, presented him with the Medal of Honor. It had been approved by the newly sworn-in President Harry Truman.

LeMay would later tell him: “Your effort to save the lives of your fellow Airmen is the most extraordinary kind of heroism I know.”

Erwin’s story has become part of Air Force lore, but the effort to honor his legacy and preserve it for new generations has taken on a new form to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

WWII Hero’s Incredible Medal of Honor Story Now to Be a Movie

www.military.com

His grandson, Jon Erwin, in collaboration with author William Doyle, has written a book, to be published Tuesday, on Red Erwin’s astonishing sacrifice, his life after the war, and the strong Christian faith that saw him through hardship: “Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race against Time.”

In a 1999 History Channel documentary with other Medal of Honor recipients, Erwin said, “I called on the Lord to help me, and He has never let me down.”

Jon Erwin and his brother, Andrew, the director-producer team in a string of successful inspirational movies such as “Woodlawn” and “I Can Only Imagine,” also are at work on a movie about their grandfather.

For Jon Erwin, the book and movie are a way of coming to grips with the meaning of his grandfather’s legacy, which he may not have fully appreciated in his youth.

In a phone interview, he recalled being about six years old when his grandfather took him to the basement and retrieved the Medal of Honor from its display case.

“He let me hold the Medal of Honor in the basement,” but initially said nothing as the young boy tried to grasp what his grandfather was telling him, Jon Erwin said.

Then, Erwin leaned over his shoulder and said only, “Freedom isn’t free.”

The message was lost on him as a boy, Jon Erwin said, and he feels that he never truly comprehended through his teenage years his grandfather’s passion for duty and service.

“I think my generation doesn’t look back enough on the heroism that built this country,” typified by the World War II generation, he said. “I didn’t either. That’s my one lasting regret — that I didn’t take the time to listen.”

Jon Erwin said there is new material in the book, including a stash of letters that his grandparents wrote to each other during the war, interviews with Erwin’s crew members, and a quote from LeMay on his determination to get the Medal of Honor to Erwin quickly.

“I want to pin the Medal of Honor on that kid’s neck before he dies,” LeMay said.

Jon Erwin said his grandmother shared her husband’s general reluctance to dwell on what had happened during the war.

“He didn’t talk about it; that was my husband,” he recalled Betty saying.

‘He Cradled It Like a Football’

Red Erwin was born in Docena, Alabama, on May 8, 1921. His father, a coal miner, died when he was 10. He quit school to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “alphabet soup” agencies meant to ease the devastating effects of the Depression.

Erwin joined the Army Reserve in July 1942 and was called to active duty as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces in February 1943, training as a pilot in Ocala, Florida. He didn’t make it through flight school and later was trained as a radio operator and radio mechanic.

He was assigned to the 52nd Bombardment Squadron, 29th Bombardment Group, 20th Air Force, which left for the Pacific in early 1945.

From Feb. 25 to April 1 of that year, his unit participated in 10 missions against Japanese cities. On April 12, his B-29, called the “City of Los Angeles,” was the lead bomber in a formation on a low-level mission to attack a chemical plant at Koriyama, 120 miles north of Tokyo.

The following account of the mission is based on Air Force historical records, which included interviews with other crew members, Erwin’s medal citation and the interview with his grandson Jon.

Erwin’s job dropping the white phosphorus charge down the chute on the signal of Capt. George Simeral, the B-29’s flight commander, was crucial to the success of the mission. The bombers flew individually to Japan and would await the phosphorus signal to form up on Simeral’s aircraft.

Over the Japanese volcanic island of Aogashima, Simeral barked the order to Erwin, “Now.”

Erwin pulled the pin on the charge, which contained 20 pounds of white phosphorus, and dropped it down the chute.

There was supposed to be an eight-second delay on the charge, giving it ample time to clear the aircraft, but it either went off prematurely or caught in the chute. Erwin was kneeling over the chute when the charge shot back up and hit him in the face.

Erwin said later that he immediately sensed something was wrong as he lit the charge. “I knew that sucker was coming back. I was completely aflame.”

Thick white smoke spread through the aircraft. The charge, burning at 1,300 degrees Celsius, was eating its way through the metal bulkhead.

The navigator’s table blocked Erwin’s path to a window. He clutched the white-hot charge between his right arm and his chest — “he cradled it like a football,” other crew members said — and reached out with his left hand to unlock the table.

Erwin “stumbled into the cockpit, threw the bomb out the window, and collapsed between the pilots’ seats,” an Air Force report said.

“After Red threw that bomb out the co-pilot’s window, the smoke cleared out, and I could see the instruments. And, at that point, we were at 300 feet,” Simeral said. “If he hadn’t gotten it out of there, well then, why we probably would have gone on in.”

Simeral aborted the mission and headed back to Iwo Jima, the closest place where Erwin could be treated. The crew used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames on Erwin’s clothes, but the white phosphorus embedded in him continued to smolder.

Erwin was in agony but never lost consciousness. He kept asking, “Is everybody else all right?”

On Guam on May 7, LeMay asked Erwin what else could be done for him. He asked for his brother Howard, who was on Saipan with the 7th Marine Division.

Screen idol Tyrone Power, star of swashbuckler hits and a Marine Corps cargo pilot in the Pacific during World War II, flew Howard to visit him in the hospital on Guam.

“And so my brother was there the next morning,” Erwin said. “He stayed with me for 24 hours. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there and that was a great comfort.”

Erwin received a disability discharge from the Army in October 1947 as a master sergeant.

In a 1986 oral history for the Air Force, he said, “I love the military. Even though I was severely burned, if they had retained me, I would have stayed in.”

Reflecting on World War II, Erwin said, “We had the leaders, we had the logistics, and we had the brave men at the right place at the right time.”

In the business of movie-making, Jon Erwin said that he and his brother try to tell stories that “have the power to uplift and inspire people,” adding that their grandfather’s story is the best example.

“The lessons of Red Erwin inspire us with the ideals of endurance and perseverance,” which can mean the difference between success and failure, he said. “And I’ve found that the people who are successful are the people who can go above and beyond. I learned that from my grandfather.”

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

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