Götz von Berlichingen was known for a lot of things. The most obvious was that he lost an arm to cannon fire in the heat of battle. Unfortunately for him, it was his right arm, the one that swung swords and dealt death. Unfortunately for all of his enemies, he wouldn’t die until age 82 – and he had a mechanical arm built just so he could keep killing them all.
That’s not even his most enduring legacy.
He was the first to tell an enemy to kiss his ass.
The phrase caught on like wildfire.
When your name is literally pronounced “Guts,” it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It took him only three years to get sick of fighting for God and country for the Holy Roman Empire. So, the young von Berlichingen turned to fighting for something more tangible: money. He and his squad of Teutonic mercenaries fought for all levels of feudal lords and barons — anyone who could afford to have a soon-to-be legendary badass on their side.
It was in 1504, while fighting to take Landshut for the Duke of Bavaria, that a cannonball lopped his arm off at the elbow. He had two prosthetic arms created for himself – and one of them could still hold his sword or shield. So, von Berlichingen continued to make money the best way he knew how.
This time, he was more machine than man.
The knight seized merchant shipping, kidnapped nobles for ransom, and raided towns around Germany as a means of making money. This, unfortunately, earned him few powerful friends, and he found himself banned from the Holy Roman Empire on multiple occasions. He was even captured and held for ransom himself.
After his final ban, he joined the German peasants in exacting revenge on the leadership of the Holy Roman Empire. Despite that failure, he fought on until he was captured again. When finally liberated by Charles V, he was forced into a sort of house arrest, only allowed to come out in case Charles needed his services.
Of course Charles needed his services. You would, too.
Berlichingen would assist German knights in fighting the Ottoman under Suleiman the Magnificent and invade France against the famous King Francois I. By then, however, he had already uttered his famous phrase. It was somewhere near Baden-Wurttemburg, while under siege, that the seemingly-immortal knight received a surrender demand. He was not impressed by it at all. He returned it with a famous response, telling the Swabian army (and their leaders) to kiss his ass.
Though some translations have it as “lick my ass.”
After he was sick of mercilessly slaughtering Europeans all over the continent, Götz von Berlichingen decided to sit down and write his memoirs, which were apparently the greatest story ever told in German for the longest time. The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe penned a 1773 drama that is still retold to this very day, based solely on the story of von Berlichingen’s account of his life.
This Memorial Day weekend, the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor will return to the National Mall in Washington D.C., featuring 645,000 poppies — each one representing an American service member who has fallen since World War I.
This year, in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the USAA Poppy Wall will also include a video featuring paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division.
USAA’s poignant exhibit will feature a clear wall stretching 133 feet long and 8.5 feet tall filled with the red bloom, making a striking contrast to the National Mall. From Friday, May 24 through Sunday, May 26, visitors can see the wall on the southwest side of the Reflecting Pool — between the Lincoln Memorial and the Korean War Memorial.
Today marks 230 years that the Coast Guard has been serving the United States. The Coast Guard supplies a unique and valuable service to our country and is the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. To help celebrate its 230 birthday, let’s take a look at some fun facts about the Coast Guard that you might not know.
1. Writers, take heart.
Alex Haley, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Roots, was the Coast Guard’s first journalist. After graduating high school at age 15, Haley enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939 at the age of just 18 as a Mess Attendant Third Class, one of the only two ratings available to Black service members at the time. During his long patrols, Haley started writing letters to his friends and family – sometimes as many as 40 a week!
(U.S. Coast Guard Photo)
2. Swimmers, brush up on your freestyle.
Becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer is exceptionally difficult. In fact, more than half the people who try out for this assignment fail. Fitness standards for rescue swimmers include being able to function for thirty minutes in heavy seas. Swimmers must be able to think, perform challenging tasks, and react, all while either being submerged, holding their breath, or being tossed around by high waves.
3. Flags for all occasions.
The Coast Guard has two official flags – the CG Standard and the CG Ensign. The Ensign is flown by cutters and shore units, while the Standard flag is used at ceremonies. The Standard is used to represent the Coast Guard, but the Ensign flag is something altogether different. Since law enforcement is one of the Coast Guard’s core missions, the ensign flag is the visible symbol of law enforcement authority and is recognized globally.
4. Coast Guard deploys. No, really.
Service members of the Coast Guard have served valiantly in 17 wars and conflicts in US history. The CG was America’s first afloat armed force. It predates the Navy by several years and is older than most other federal government organizations. The Coast Guard’s motto, Semper Paratus (Always Ready), is proven time and again in its readiness to deploy.
5. Protecting the US is just a small part
In addition to protecting the United States coastlines, Coast Guard service members serve all over the world. You can find CG ships as far north as the Arctic, as far south as Antarctica and everywhere in between.
6. The Coast Guard isn’t very big
With roughly 40,000 Active Duty service members, the Coast Guard is just a little larger than the NYPD. Compared with over 554,000 in the Army and roughly 200,000 in the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard is definitely much smaller. But what the branch doesn’t have in personnel, it makes up for in might. Since its service members have acting law enforcement authority, their mission goes a long way to keeping America’s coastlines safe.
7. Coast Guard families don’t have the same resources
Resources available to other military families like Military One Source and MyCAA are inaccessible to CG families. In most situations, these DoD resources aren’t inclusive to members of the Coast Guard. Instead, CG personnel and families receive support through the Coast Guard Office of Work-Life, as well as the CG SUPRT organization.
8. It’s not easy to join
The Coast Guard is one of the most difficult branches of the military to get into because it accepts such few recruits. In addition to having to undergo a credit check and a security clearance, you should probably also have a college degree in hand. The branch requires a minimum of 54 points on the ASVAB, and if you have a shellfish allergy, you’re eliminated from applying. Basic training takes place at just one location, Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, in Cape May, New Jersey. It’s a good idea to know how to swim before joining, and if you’re selected, you should be comfortable jumping off a five-foot platform into a pool, swim for 100 meters, and then tread water for five minutes.
So there you have it! It turns out that the Coast Guard is one of the most elite branches of our military. As part of DHS, its service members help keep America’s 95,000 miles of shoreline safe. Maybe in time, DoD resources will open up to these valuable service personnel and their families. Until then, happy birthday, Coast Guard!
At first, concentration camp guards during the Nazi regime of World War II were male. However, with the introduction of female guards to Auschwitz and Majdanek, a new era began and German officials soon learned that these incoming women were quite good at their jobs. By the end of the war, more than 3,500 women acted as camp guards, making up almost 7 percent of all Nazi guards employed.
With no special training or particular background, these women either volunteered or were recruited through shrewd marketing techniques. Mostly young women and unmarried, or possibly married to a man who worked in the camp. Many felt they were doing their duty to their country.
1. Maria Mandl
Maria Mandl was one of the head guards at Auschwitz, despite her gender, and was known for her cruelty, which aptly earned her the nickname “The Beast”. It’s supposed that she had her hand in up to half a million deaths. While she was unable to climb the ladder in her field to the very top as a woman, she had absolute control over all the female prisoners and the rest of the female employees. She was only forced to answer to one man. Her tactics vary, but tales of her behavior resonated with prisoners.
Many say she would stand at the entry gate and, if any inmate happened to look over at her, that individual would be taken away, never to be heard from again. She also put together an orchestra at the camp and, after regular work hours were over, the prisoners would be forced to march in time to the music. The orchestra often coincided with executions.
After Auschwitz was liberated, Mandl fled to Bavaria. After her capture, she underwent interrogations, and showed high levels of intelligence. She was turned over to Poland, and was sentenced to death by hanging.
2. Irma Grese
Grese was one of Mandl’s inferiors, who also worked at Auschwitz and served as a warden for female prisoners. Her reign, however, was short and she only made it to the age of 22 before being executed for her war crimes. This was still plenty of time for her to earn her own nickname, just like “The Beast” — her boss. Grese became known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz”.
She managed to earn the second-highest rank available to females, and routinely participated in picking which of the prisoners would go to the gas chamber.
Greece’s actions are immortalized in a memoir that was written by one of the camp prisoners. It says that Grese loved to terrify the women in the camps, and that she specifically picked women who were remotely beautiful, sick, or weak.
During her trial, witnesses said she would allow half-starved dogs to attack prisoners; she also enjoyed shooting prisoners and would beat them to death with a whip. In addition, Grese also had several love affairs at the camp, one of which resulted in a surprise pregnancy; she then entrusted one of the prisoners to give her an abortion. After the war was over, she had hoped to pursue a career in acting.
3. Hermine Braunsteiner
Braunsteines was the first Nazi war criminal extradited from the United States. Working at Majdanek, she was known as the “Stomping Mare”.
Her most infamous actions include lifting children by the hair to throw them onto trucks headed to the gas chambers, hanging young girls, and stomping women to death. She became known for her crazy tantrums and could be expected to lash out with a riding whip at the slightest provocation.
As the Soviets approached, Braunsteiner fled to Vienna, then remained jailed for a year. She was later granted amnesty and lived in Austria, under the radar, until she met an American on vacation. They married, moved to Canada and then later to the United States.
No one knew of her past and she became known as a friendly housewife. A Nazi hunter and a reporter ran across her in Queens and exposed her actions. While her husband said he knew of her work, he did not know exactly to what extent her cruelty ranged.
4. Margot Dreschel
Dreschel headed to Poland in 1942 for the new Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp. She headed up all the camp offices and soon became known as a horrific sight for most prisoners. She often disguised herself as a doctor and went to conduct indoor selections within the camp. With a trained dog in tow, she would make all prisoners undress, take their shoes and then make them stand for hours, naked.
She frequently went to and from various camps to help with the selection of women and children for the chambers. She fled the camp after Germany’s surrender, and while in the Russian zone, several former prisoners abducted her and took her to the Russian Military Police. She was executed by hanging within the month.
5. Ilse Koch
Koch worked at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and later at Buchenwald. She is mostly known for her participation in an experiment during which she picked out prisoners with tattoos to be murdered and then skinned. The skins would then be used for study, as one of her colleagues was writing a paper on the relation between tattoos and criminality.
She was arrested in 1943 by the Germans for charges of enrichment and embezzlement, then acquitted in 1944; however, she was arrested again by the U.S. in 1945.
The trial process was not easy, though. During her first trial, she announced that she was eight months pregnant, from one of her many affairs. She was given life in prison and then served two years, before her sentence was lessened to four years, due to lack of evidence. However, she was re-arrested and tried again. Witnesses stated they saw her with human-skin lampshades made from the tattooed skin.
She was delusional and thought that her victims were coming back to harm her. Eventually, Koch committed suicide in her jail cell at the age of 60. Her son, who regularly visited her after being born in prison, was shocked by the news. Now, her body rests in an unmarked grave.
Four members of the Thai soccer team that survived being trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks now want to be Navy SEALS.
Three boys, and the team coach, said they now aspired to the join the SEALs, whose divers swam into the cave and helped get all 12 boys and the 25-year-old coach out alive.
Asked during a press conference on July 18, 2018, about his future plans, the 14-year-old goalkeeper Ekarat Wongsukchan said: “I still want to pursue my dream to be a professional soccer player, but there might be a new dream, which is to become part of the Navy SEALs.”
Wongsukchan and three other members of the team — including the coach, Ekapol Chantawong — then raised their hand when asked how many of them wanted to be Navy SEALs.
Members of the rescued Thai soccer team, including some who want to be Thai Navy SEALs.
(Channel News Asia)
It was met with applause from the SEALs onstage at the conference as well as many members of the audience.
Six other members of the team also said they hoped to one day be professional soccer players.
Rescuers found the team huddled on a dry ledge in the partially flooded cave complex after nine days of searches.
Three Thai Navy SEALs and a doctor stayed with the boys over the ensuing week until they were extracted one by one as part of a three-day mission that ended July 9, 2018.
Sanam Kunam, a former SEAL who volunteered to help, died while placing oxygen tanks in the cave.
The team paid condolences to Kunam toward the end of the conference while holding a portrait of the diver with personal messages written around it.
Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11, the youngest of the team, said in his message:
“I would like to thank both Lt. Saman and everyone involved in this. I hope that Lt. Saman has a good sleep and I hope that he rests in peace.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Last Thursday afternoon, commuters driving down the 215 Freeway adjacent to Riverside County, California’s March Air Reserve Base witnessed an incredible sight. A pilot was forced to eject from his F-16 Fighting Falcon carrying live ordnance over the highway, deploying his chute as the fighter careened into the roof of a nearby warehouse.
The single-engine fighter was headed back to March Air Reserve Base after completing a routine training mission in the nearby Moreno Valley when the pilot reported a hydraulics failure in the aircraft. Soon, he was forced to eject, landing safely in a nearby field. The crippled jet, however, continued its uncontrolled descent into the roof a warehouse across the freeway from the base, belonging to a company called See Water Inc.
In a dramatic 20-second clip captured by the dash camera of YouTuber James Dyer, you can see the stricken F-16 losing altitude as it passes from the left to the right of the screen. As the pilot ejects, the aircraft continues to coast and wobble, seemingly toward the freeway until the clip ends.
The warehouse that the armed F-16 crashed into was occupied at the time, and at least one person recorded footage of the aftermath that they later posted to Facebook.
“Holy *expletive* dude. That’s a *expletive* airplane; that’s a military airplane in our building,” one person can be heard exclaiming in the footage.
Damage filmed inside warehouse after fighter jet crash in California- video
While local officials would not comment on the exact munitions the F-16 was carrying, they did confirm that it was equipped with a “standard armament package,” which suggests 500 rounds for the aircraft’s on-board cannon as well as a number of potential air-to-ground or air-to-air bombs and missiles. All told, the F-16 has hard points for six external weapons, often broken down into two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, and two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, as well as two additional 2400-pound external fuel tanks when necessary for long-duration flights. Whatever ordnance was on board this Fighting Falcon was quickly secured by Air Force officials.
F-16 carrying a full combat load including external fuel tanks
(U.S. Air Force)
Suffice to say, as bad as a hole in a warehouse roof may be, this incident could have been significantly worse. No one was killed in the crash, though 13 people were injured with three remaining hospitalized but listed as stable. According to local health officials, none of the injuries sustained were life-threatening.
“Thank God everyone is safe and OK,” Mike Johnson, the CEO of the company located in the warehouse, told the press. “We’ll have to see what this means for the company, but right now our concern is with our employees and their families.”
Britain isn’t our only “special relationship.” The United States has had many passionate affairs over the years. Just like in a real relationship, when things are good, they’re really good — even when the U.S. isn’t such a great partner when it comes to things like human rights.
When the relationship goes bad, no one is more outraged than the United States. Nobody holds a grudge quite like the American government. But instead of moving on and just finding a new boo, we keep sneaking away to spend time with our exes, dropping by in the middle of the night and badmouthing them to everyone else while telling Israel and Palestine how to manage their divorce.
I guess it all depends on how you define “special.”
This is the one partner we just can’t say goodbye to. It’s been so long since the breakup that there aren’t any Americans left who remember just how good our relations with Russia really were. Russia traded with the colonies during the Revolution, kept the British out of the U.S. Civil War, and even sold us Alaska. Then one day, Russia just… changed.
We didn’t recognize Russia anymore. Suddenly, Russia wanted to be called the “Soviet Union” and our love faded. After a brief spat (aka “invasion”), we sat back and watched our friend deteriorate on a drug called “Communism” until rival drug dealers (trying to push something called “fascism”) tried to kill them. Like some geopolitical Buford Pusser, we stopped rolling with the punches and began to clean up this town. But all we did was clear out the competition. Soon, other friends got hooked on the Communism and our friendship with Russia broke down.
We then threatened to kill each other every day for 40 years. Obsessively, we made movies, television shows, and books about how awful our rival could be. Like a Danzig song, we opined about how one day we would emerge victorious against the devil woman, the evil empire that broke our hearts.
Every time Russia tried to reach out to others, go to work, or invade Afghanistan, we were there telling everyone how awful they are — or cutting their brake lines. Our public shouting matches got so bad that people either chose sides or walked away from both of us.
One day, Russia just quit the habit. Russia started coming around again and things were looking good. Russia was Russia again. But then Russia found a new man.
If Russia was our longest breakup, Iran was our most tumultuous. Just a scant few decades after we split with Russia, we found new love with their beautiful, exotic, oil-rich neighbor down the way. The Shah wasn’t the best ruler, but he was smarter than the Tsar. Iran, with its beautiful dark hair, secular government, and vast oil wealth, was more than just a rebound. It was a partner – it shared our love for champagne, defense contracts, and it even liked our friend, Israel.
Then it happened. One day everything was beautiful and the next thing you know, Iran’s taking hostages. We haven’t forgotten for a single moment. And as much as we publicly berated its behavior, just a few years after the breakup, we were right back in bed together, trading arms for hostages.
Now we’re constantly threatening to come back and kill it. In return, Iran hassles all our friends and undermines us to our allies… but we’re still not afraid to hop back into bed once in a while. For old times’ sake.
Our love for Cuba is almost as old as our country itself. Cuba is our first love. We practically grew up together. We even wanted to marry Cuba for the longest time — and when that didn’t work out, we were still very close. Cuba is the girl next door. Then one day, Cuba fell in love with our other ex.
The next thing you know, Cuba has a gun to our head and we’re locked in a love triangle that nearly destroyed the entire planet.
Nowadays, Cuba is still in love with our ex and we resent them for it, even if the two aren’t together anymore. Cuba is constantly talking trash about us in our own neighborhood. Although we almost buried the hatchet a couple of years ago, those old feelings bring out the mistrust in us and we end up right back to where we started.
File this one under “frenemies.” No one took care of us like France did. We even named our favorite drink after the French. But as hot and heavy as the love was during the days of the Revolution, things quickly soured. France started getting pushy and domineering and, fresh from our break up with England, we just weren’t ready to get back into something so fast.
So, instead of taking on the rest of the world together, we opted to just be friends… friends who constantly criticize each other to everyone else. But then France got in over its head a few times and we had to come help them out – and we never let them forget about it.
Sure, we’re demanding, but France is too independent, just like us after the American Revolution. And every time France opts not to go to war alongside the U.S., we get upset and brand them cowards and cheese-eating surrender monkeys.
They were our darling for such a short time. A sort-of rebound from our days with Russia, Vietnam was fighting the addiction to Communism that consumed so many of our friends. We tried to help Vietnam get off the stuff, but to no avail. It was a terrible breakup, one that Americans still can’t forget.
The U.S. spent the next few decades struggling with the memories of Vietnam and what happened between us. We couldn’t forget her and we soon began making movies, television, books, and music about Vietnam. We constantly looked in to see what Vietnam was doing, but it was still hooked on the Communism.
Now that a few years have passed, we just dropped in. We just happened to be in the neighborhood and we thought about Vietnam — we wanted to say hi, share some memories, and maybe see what Vietnam was up to these days.
Give us a call. Keep in touch. You look so good. I’m happy we did this.
After the Second World War ended, Germany was split in two. The Allies took control over Western Germany while the communists shrouded the eastern half behind the Iron Curtain. Berlin, Germany’s capital, was also famously split in two. The city is nestled deep into the heart of Eastern Germany, leaving the West Germans living there to fend for themselves in a war-torn city without supplies.
Starting in June of 1948, the communists tried their best to cut West Berlin off from the outside world. In what was later dubbed the “Berlin Blockade,” the Soviets shut down all railway, road, and canal access to Western citizens. Just as quickly, allied humanitarian missions were carried out to get food and supplies to the starving people of West Berlin. Between June 24th, 1948, and September 30th of the following year, 278,228 air missions, collectively called “Operation Vittles,” delivered over 2,326,406 tons of supplies to keep the city alive.
But one man, Lt. Gail Halvorsen, went behind his commander’s back to deliver a little extra and help raise the children’s spirits. His personal mission was dubbed Operation Little Vittles.
For this, the kids gave him the exceedingly clever nickname, “Uncle Wiggle Wings.”
Lt. Gail Halvorsen arrived in Germany in July, 1948, and was given orders to fly one of the C-54 Skymasters into the city to ferry supplies. On his day off, he decided to walk around the airfield with a camera to get a couple good shots of aircraft taking off and landing. When he made it to the fence at the end of the runway, he noticed that a group of children were gathered to watch the planes.
They asked him all sorts of questions about the planes and their mission and, as a demonstration of good faith, he gave them the two sticks of gum he had in his pocket. The impoverished kids divvied the two sticks, splitting it evenly amongst the large gathering — they didn’t fight over who got the biggest piece. In fact, it was said that the kid missed candy so much that just smelling the wrapper was good enough.
Halvorsen was heartbroken. He promised the children that he’d return with more. He told them that he’d always “wiggle his wings” when he was flying overhead with candy.
Among all the fan mail and shipments of candy, Halvorsen also received plenty of marriage proposals from the ladies back home. Take notes, fellas.
The very next day, he tied a bunch of candy to handkerchief parachutes and tossed it out of his plane to the kids waiting below as he took off. Halvorsen continued to do this every single day and, as he did, the daily gathering of kids grew larger.
His commanding officer, Lieutenant General William H. Tunner, heard of what he was doing and was reportedly upset. It wasn’t until every newspaper in the region (and back home) started reporting on the heroics of “Uncle Wiggly Wings” or “The Chocolate Flier” that the general officially allow Halvorsen to continue.
Soon enough, people began sending candy to Halvorsen’s unit. Folks back in the States started sending candy by the box, large candy makers donated to Halvorsen’s cause, and the West German children shared the bounty amongst themselves.
As Christmas, 1948, drew nearer, Halvorsen knew he’d have to do something big. By this point, candy makers had supplied him with 18 tons of candy and another 3 tons was given by private donors. In a single night, instead of tossing it to the kids gathered by the runway’s end, Halvorsen spread it across the entire city.
For one night, the spirit of Christmas was brought to the people of West Berlin. The kindness of Lt. Halvorsen, his crew, and the innumerable candy donors would never be forgotten.
To more on this story, listen to the silky smooth narration of Tom Brokaw below.
Fauquier County, Virginia, might not be the place you think of when you imagine covert ops training, but that’s exactly what’s happened at an isolated farmhouse and working dairy.
In use since 1803, “Vint Hill,” as it was initially known, had several owners before the Army purchased it in 1942 – just in time to train a group of service members in the fine art of espionage. Reframed and repurposed throughout the years, Vint Hill has served as one of the most essential intel-gathering sites you’ve probably never heard of.
Vint Hill is situated near the Signal Intelligence Service headquarters in Arlington but was far away enough from the city that its location and its purpose remained a secret. It was here that the Army housed its Monitoring Station No. 1, a covert spy base.
Established by the Army’s Signal Intelligence Service, the 701-acre farm was built in part because the Army needed a secure location near the SIS and a cryptography school.
The geography of Vint Hill was key in the Army’s decision to train there. Not only did it boast a quiet countryside vibe where trainees could really get into their coursework, but it also provided “quiet electromagnetic geology,” which made it the perfect place for intercepting radio signals. During WWII, that’s exactly what service members stationed at Vint Hill did.
Perhaps the most famous is the interception of a message from a Japanese ambassador to Germany. That message, sent in 1943, described German fortifications, contingency plans, and troop strength information.
Once the message was decoded, the information was instrumental in planning the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.
The NSA recently released documents that further detail the influence that Vint Hill had on WWII planning. It was a crucial intelligence-gathering station throughout all of WWII and beyond.
After WWII, Vint Hill became the first field station of the Army Security Agency, an arm of the NSA. The facility conducted signals intelligence operations.
Declassified Army intelligence lists Vint Hill as one of the largest intercept facilities in the world.
Not only did it serve as an intercept facility, but Vint Hill was also a signal school, signal training center, and a refitting station for selected signal units returning from or heading to deployments.
During and following the Korean War, the station’s footprint was expanded significantly, making it a major intelligence hub during the Cold War. Vint Hill personnel intercepted key Soviet diplomatic and military communication sent over teleprints that helped form and shape America’s military posture.
In 1961, the Army Electronic Material Readiness Activity moved to Vint Hill and took over the management of signals intelligence and electronic warfare maintenance for the Army Security Agency.
By 1973 however, Vint Hill’s mission had changed to research. Its main goal was to aid and assist in the development and support of intel and electronic warfare info gathering for the Army, DoD, and our partner allies. The EPA took over operations of Vint Hill’s photographic interpretation center from the DIA, and Vint Hill was renamed as the Environmental Photographic Interpretation Center.
However, that didn’t last long. By the late 1979s, Vint Hill was on the list of installations to be closed, and all projects on site were halted. A change in policy in 1981 reversed that decision, and Vint Hill remained open.
Serving as the “giant ear” of the NSA was the core focus of Vint Hill in the early 1980s and eventually became a development and testing site for signal equipment for the CIA and FBI. IN 1993, Vint Hill was once again on the chopping block. This time, the closure stuck. Most personnel were reassigned to Fort Monmouth and Fort Belvoir.
Vint Hill closed officially on September 30, 1997. Now, the site hosts several engineering and tech companies, including the FAAs Air Traffic Control System Command Center. There’s a Cold War museum open on-site, but most notably, the former intel-gathering installation is home to the Vint Hill Craft Winery and the Old Bust Head Brewery. There’s even a dance school and a gymnastics school run on the property. Talk about reinvention after time in service.
Britain’s royals are guarded by the best London’s Metropolitan Police have to offer — a special unit known as Protection Command. These officers, trained as armed bodyguards for the royal family, can often be seen escorting the Queen, Prince Philip, and other members of the family with steely gazes in blacked-out Land Rovers.
However, especially in this day and age of modern terrorism, there will likely be situations in which Protection Command finds itself hard-pressed to deal with appropriately on their own. That’s when the British Army steps up to the plate with the most elite soldiers they have to offer — the men of the Special Air Service, the oldest active special missions unit in the world.
Should the unthinkable happen where Protection Command’s agents find themselves overrun and outgunned in a fight against terrorists, hostage-takers, or other hostiles, the SAS is prepared to mobilize at a moment’s notice, arriving on-site, locked and loaded to end the situation decisively.
Though the British military and those charged with guarding the royals don’t particularly see such an incident happening anytime soon (or at all, for that matter), the British Army still rigidly maintains that informing and demonstrating their procedures to members of the royal family is an extremely important step in keeping them safe.
To that end, royals are brought up to Stirling Lines, Hereford, the home of 22 Special Air Service Regiment, and given a crash course in special operations and counter-terrorism… at least in the ways it would directly relate to them. Donning black coveralls with “His” and “Hers” stenciled on the back, each royal couple gets an unparalleled look into the SAS’s operational capabilities and strengths.
The royals, especially the younger ones, are given a lot of leniency in terms of their personal transportation. This means that they can fly commercial (generally on British Airways) and drive their own vehicles with an escort or a small protection team always nearby. However, should a vehicular ambush occur, the SAS teaches princes, princesses, duchesses, and dukes alike how to drive tactically, using their cars as battering rams to escape the area to safety while larger protective teams are scrambled to pick them up.
Of particular note was the time Prince Charles and Princess Diana underwent their training course and a hot fragment from a stun grenade landed in Diana’s hair, singeing it. The new princess had her hair trimmed immediately after, so that members of the press would be completely unaware.
Interestingly enough, vehicular ambushes are among the more tame scenarios the royals are put through when they train with the SAS at Stirling Lines. The fun really begins when young royal couples are sent to the Killing House for an up close and personal look at the SAS in action.
The Killing House is a legendary facility in the special operations community, where SAS candidates and active troopers all train on entering and clearing buildings full of terrorists and hostages. The building is replete with rubber-coated walls, large fans to ventilate smoke, fire suppression systems, and closed-circuit cameras that monitor all the action and record them for debriefing and review.
Metal targets with scorch marks and indents represent enemies to be terminated with extreme prejudice. None of the training that goes on in the Killing House is hypothetical with troopers yelling “bang!” or firing blanks to simulate combat. Instead, the SAS uses live ammunition and sometimes, live hostages, to make every training evolution as realistic as possible.
Occasionally, these live hostages happen to have blue blood in them.
That’s right — the royals are brought into the Killing House and told to sit down on chairs or couches, as though being held captive by hostage-takers. SAS operators then storm the House with stun grenades, quickly shooting and killing all enemy combatants without harming the hostages.
Prince Charles famously scribbled a personal note during his training course, saying, “Should this demonstration go wrong I, the undersigned Prince of Wales, will not commit B Squadron 22 Special Air Service Regiment to the Tower of London. Charles.”
The note still sits framed at Hereford to this very day.
According to former members of the SAS, the royals generally handle the shock and awe of the Killing House take-down well, though they’re understandably stunned at first by the brutal noises and the explosions that occur during the assault.
The younger royals aren’t exempt from these specialized protection courses. Actress Meghan Markle recently had to undergo such training due to her engagement to Prince Harry. Kate Middleton and Prince William were also put through a similar course run by the SAS.
All in all, the members of the British royal family can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that their nation’s best are an alert away from coming to the rescue, should the need ever arise.
With heavily tattooed arms, a motorcycle vest, red bandana, and long goatee, Jay Dobyns fit the stereotype for the kind of person who would hang around the street-hardened bikers of the Hells Angels Skull Valley Charter. He would peddle T-shirts for the one-percenter motorcycle club, run errands at ungodly hours, and eventually break bread with individuals who wouldn’t think twice about taking a baseball bat to someone’s head.
Two years in, and the Hells Angels had no idea that Dobyns, who was close to getting his patch, was an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The patch is sacrosanct to the Hells Angels. After a shootout between the Hells Angels and the Mongols, a rival biker gang, “We found Mongols cuts in vents, stuffed in trash cans, and some were floating down the Colorado River,” Dobyns said. “As far as the Hells Angels and their patches, we didn’t find a single one. The Hells Angels don’t take off their patches for anyone.”
Becoming a patched member of the gang is no easy task — and Dobyns had already done a lot more than simply run errands for them in his attempt to be welcomed into the gang.
Dobyns undercover with the Hells Angels.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)
At times, he even had to participate in assaults, getting a taste of the vicious world in which the Hells Angels reside.
“My reaction was to fight my way to the victim and take control of the victim, throw my punches, both maintain my cover and protect my persona, and protect the victim from any life-threatening battle damage,” Dobyns said. “It’s one of the elements of tradecraft.”
For the Hells Angels, it was hardly enough.
In 2002, the rift between the Hells Angels and their legendary rivals, the Mongols, hit a boiling point. The two gangs were involved in a big-time gunfight at the Harrah Casino Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada. It was the event that led to Dobyns going undercover.
Dobyns wanted to get a good idea of where the Hells Angels stood against the Mongols, especially with what had happened in Laughlin. “I asked the president of the Skull Valley Charter what I should do if I come across a Mongol,” Dobyns said. “And he said to me, ‘It’s your job to kill him.'”
As time passed, Dobyns sat on the incriminating information from the charter president, continuing to gain more trust with the gang members, all while a series of homicides happened in his wake. One of the murders was particularly brutal. The Hells Angels beat a woman to death in their clubhouse, wrapped her body in a piece of carpet, and cut her head off in the desert.
It was a pivotal moment in the investigation. Dobyns decided it was time for the Hells Angels to see how far he was willing to go to show his devotion and loyalty. If it worked, he was in. If it didn’t, he was dead.
“We took a living, breathing member of our task force, got a Mongols cut, dressed him up in the vest, and brought in a homicide detective to create a crime scene,” Dobyns said. “We used makeup, animal parts, animal blood, and dug a shallow grave. Then we duct taped his hands and feet and threw him in the grave.”
The elaborate ruse needed to be properly documented in order to convince the Hells Angels leadership that it was real.
The fake homicide Dobyns used to get patched into the Hells Angels.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)
“I asked the homicide detective to make it look like the victim had been beaten with a baseball bat and shot in the head,” Dobyns said. “Almost Hollywood-style. We photographed it. We took pictures of the crime scene, and we took the bloody mongol vest back to the Hells Angels leadership.”
Dobyns showed the vest to the charter president, the vice president, the sergeant-at-arms and one another member of the gang. “They were either going to believe me, or I was going to get a baseball bat to the back of the head or razor wire to the throat,” he said.
Fortunately, the president didn’t have any plans to dispose of Dobyns. In fact, quite the opposite: They hugged him, kissed him, and welcomed him into the gang.
Convinced that Dobyns had just savagely murdered a Mongol, the gang wanted to immediately get rid of the fabricated proof. “We went out to the desert and burned all the evidence along with the Mongol cut. They helped destroy the evidence of the murder we exposed them to in order to cover up the crime.”
Dobyns now had his patch, but his time in the Hells Angels was coming to an end.
The investigation, code named “Operation Black Biscuit,” concluded with ATF executives citing that it was too dangerous to continue — even though Dobyns argued that they should let him stay and work the case. Regardless, he remains the first law enforcement officer to successfully infiltrate the cold and callous world of the Hells Angels.
Some legends are strange enough to be true, like this Japanese soldier who fought for nearly three decades after the war had ended. Hiroo Onada was a commando class “Futamata” intelligence officer for the Imperial Japanese Army. Originally enlisting in the infantry at 18 years old, by 1944 — at 22 — he made it to the rank of lieutenant and was deployed to the Philippines.
Onada’s official orders were to do “all he could” to prevent allied attacks or advancements on Lubang Island. In addition, he was ordered not to surrender or take his own life. Some of his tactics included destroying an airstrip and seeking out enemy propaganda and covert operations.
His last order was received in 1945 and it said to keep fighting. And he did.
At first, Onada didn’t get the memo. Most Japanese soldiers on the island had been captured or killed. But he remained with a few other soldiers — as Onada was the highest-ranking among them, he ordered everyone to take to the woods.
Then he didn’t believe the memo. Soldiers continued to use their guerilla training to survive, evading attempted rescue missions, assuming they were enemy attacks. They were approached by Japanese soldiers with newspaper headings about the end of the war, but having studied propaganda, Onada believed them to be false.
With the mindset that the war was ongoing, they attacked people on walks or who neared the area, often killing them. They, too, were injured and killed by local authorities, until only Onada survived.
The soldiers lived off of bananas and coconuts, as well as food that they stole from locals, mainly rice and killing nearby cows for meat. They lived in bamboo huts but dealt with rough elements, like tropical heat and mosquitos.
However, the soldiers kept their rifles working, mended their uniforms and maintained accountability of their ammunition.
In 1959, he was officially declared dead … until a student went out on a hunch, searching for the missing man. Norio Suzuki found Onada and pleaded for him to return to Japan with him. Onada refused, but Suzuki had taken photos for proof and sent them to the Japanese government. The Emperor himself sent Onada’s brother and his commanding officer to officially relieve him of duties. The latter was, by-then, elderly and working as a bookseller.
It’s said that Onada saluted and wept upon hearing he was relieved of duty. He officially surrendered to the Philippines and was pardoned for the crimes he committed, as they were made under the assumption of war.
The soldier was returned to Japan and was named a wartime hero. He was deeply regarded for his extreme loyalty and commitment to his country. At 52, he was met by his aging parents and crowds of cheering citizens who celebrated his return home.
Only one soldier held out longer than Onada, fighting the war decades after it had ended; he was captured later that year in 1974 in Indonesia.
Life after the war
Determined to be in excellent health, Onada went on to live a long life. He got married, raised cattle, took dancing lessons, but ultimately struggled with modern materialism.