Man’s best friend has also been man’s battle buddy for as long as dogs have been domesticated. The mechanical, industrialized slaughter in the trenches of World War I didn’t change that one bit. All the belligerents let slip the dogs of war, some 30,000 in all. They were used to hunt rats, guard posts as sentries, scout ahead and even comfort the dying.
The last were the mercy dogs of the Great War.
Our canine companions can do much more than just fight alongside us in times of war. Modern-day uses of dogs include bomb-sniffing and locating the bodies of the fallen. World War I saw some uses of dogs unique to that war, especially in terms of hunting the rats that spread disease and ate corpses in the trenches. Dogs were used in scouting parties; their unique senses, especially smell, allowed them to detect the presence of enemy troops long before their human counterparts. When on guard duty, sentry dogs alerted their handlers to even the most silent of a human presence. But the dogs of mercy were truly the most unique among them.
Mercy dogs, also called casualty dogs, were first trained by the Germanic armies of the 19th Century, but their popularity only grew. The sanitatshunde were trained to find the wounded and dying anywhere on the battlefield. Sometimes they carried medical supplies to help the wounded care for themselves until they could find care from a doctor or medic. If the soldier was too far gone for medical care, the dog would stay with him as he died, to ensure he wasn’t alone.
The most common kind of dog on the battlefields were German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers, both of German origin. This was mostly due to their intelligence, endurance, and ability to be trained for even the most dangerous tasks. For the mercy dog, the most popular and able breed was the Boxer. Boxers are not only able to do what other breeds could but they were also fiercely loyal and on top of comforting the wounded and dying, they would also guard and defend them until the end.
If a mercy dog on the battlefield found a wounded man, it would return to friendly lines with its own leash in its mouth, indicating that one of their own was out there and in need of help. Most importantly, the dogs were able to distinguish between a dead and unconscious man. If he was dead, the dog would move on. If he were dying, the dog would stay with him.
Thousands of wounded troops owed their lives to these dogs.
These aircraft might have the feel of science fiction, but we have it on good authority that every single one of them graced the skies – or at least attempted to get off the ground. Take a look at nine of the weirdest military aircraft that actually flew.
What the Caprioni Ca.60 lacked in actual flying power it made up for with an overabundance of wings and engines. Even though this aircraft only flew once to an attitude of 60 feet, it still served as a flying boat prototype for a 100-passenger trans-Atlantic plane. The Ca.60 had eight engines and nine wings. Talk about overkill.
Convair F2Y Sea Dart
This might look like a top of the line fancy jet ski, but it’s the world’s one and only supersonic seaplane. In the 40s, supersonic jets had a long takeoff roll from aircraft carriers to get airborne. So the Navy decided the best way to shorten the roll was to put skis on the jet. Unfortunately, the engines on the Sea Dart weren’t powerful enough to work well, and violent vibrations grounded the aircraft for good.
We love this one for the sheer absurdity of it. It seems like someone decided all a pilot needed to fly was a seat and a set of controls. Enter the Curtiss-Wright. The Curtiss-Wright VX-7 was incredibly dangerous and unique, and “flying JEEP” was apparently easy to fly, it left the pilot open to enemy fire. Unfortunately, the Curtiss-Wright never met Army standards and was permanently grounded.
As if the name “Inflatoplane” isn’t hilarious enough, this aircraft proves that maybe Goodyear should stick to making tires. This experimental project tried to make an all-fabric inflatable aircraft that could be used as a rescue plan. The idea was that the Inflatoplane would be dropped down to pilots behind enemy lines. But the entire project was quickly canceled by the Army because there wasn’t a valid military use for an aircraft that could be “brought down by a bow and arrow.” Nice try, Goodyear.
Often considered the prototype for the Osprey, the Hiller X-18 was the first testbed for tilt-wing and VSTOL technology. However, the X-18 didn’t handle wind gusts very well, and since the engines weren’t cross-linked, every engine failure resulted in a crash.
Ah, Lockheed, you never fail to disappoint. The XFV was Lockheed’s attempt at combining an airplane and a helicopter, and the results were … interesting, to say the least. While the XFV did manage to transition from horizontal to vertical flight, it lacked the speed to really “take off” in the aviation world – not to mention the right kind of pilots who could fly it.
McDonnell XF-85 Goblin
Talk about ambitions. The idea behind the McDonnel XF-85 Goblin was simple enough on paper. The plan was for the XF-85 to be carried in the belly of a Convair B-36 bomber and launched mid-flight to protect the bombers from enemies. Then, it would re-dock with the bomber using a simple retractable nose-hook. Too bad this was all so much easier said than done. On its first test flight, the project was scrapped because it was almost impossible to complete the redocking procedure.
North American F-82 Twin Mustang
The other name for the North American F-82 Twin Mustang was the “Double P-51” because it had two cockpits. This aircraft was designed as a long escort fighter for WWII, but the war ended before it got off the ground.
Northrup Tacit Blue
If the sight of the Northrup brings to mind old-school box race cars, you’re not alone. Most people think of a pine box racer competition when they see the Northrup Tacit Blue because of its angular lines and low-to-the-ground profile. In actuality, it was a stealth testbed flown in the early 1980s. The aircraft included a quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire system to help keep it airborne.
These nine aircraft experiments prove that just because something can be successfully created on paper doesn’t mean it’s possible to leave the ground. Hats off to all the designers for their ingenuity and the pilots who were willing to give these aircraft a chance.
On May 17, 1987, a long-range luxury business jet approached the USS Stark, which was on a routine patrol in the Persian Gulf. The Iran-Iraq War was nearing its end, but attacks from both sides were still brutal and frequent. When Stark requested the plane identify itself, it instead fired two Exocet anti-ship missiles, killing 37 sailors and wounding another 21.
Most reports say the Stark was attacked by an Iraqi F-1 Mirage fighter.
The ship’s electronic surveillance systems didn’t see the missiles and neither did the radar, despite both systems being able to track the business jet. The jet made a few quick turns, coming closer with each turn. When it was 30 miles out, it fired and sped away. The second missile hit Stark 30 seconds after the first. The crew had no time to respond.
According to the Navy’s official investigation of the incident,Stark’s crew and officers believed the plane would “benignly pass them by.” The Tactical Action Officer took no action, even though he knew the Mirage fighter they believed the plane to be was capable of firing missiles from 38 miles away. The TAO tried to increase the ships readiness level in the minutes before the first missile hit, but by then it was too late.
There was plenty of blame to go around. The Weapons Control Officer was not at his station, the Fire Control Technician had already left the operations room on personal business, the automatic detector-tracker was off, the fire control radar was on standby, and the Mk-92 fire control radar was not locked onto the attacker until the missiles were already on their way.
The first Exocet penetrated the hull but did not explode, hitting right beneath the bridge. Its unspent fuel sparked a huge fire aboard the ship. The second missile hit the same spot, but this one exploded, blowing a 3×4.6-meter hole in the ship’s hull. Of the 37 sailors who died, 29 were killed immediately, two were lost at sea, and eight more died of their wounds.
Strangely enough, it was an Iranian helicopter and a Saudi Arabian ship that assisted the Navy in rescue and salvage operations.
Stark was still afloat and managed to hobble back to port in nearby Bahrain with the help of destroyers USS Waddell and USS Conyngham, along with the destroyer tender USS Acadia. Captain Glenn Brindel was relieved of command of the Stark, eventually taking non-judicial punishment and retiring early.
Iraq initially claimed the ship violated the war-zone area, but upon seeing the Navy’s evidence to the contrary, relented. They announced they would pursue their own inquiry into the incident and apologized to the United States after President Reagan called an emergency meeting of the National Security Planning Group.
“If this attack was carried out by Iraqi planes, then it ‘would have been the result of confusion by the pilots’,” the Iraqi Foreign Minister told the Guardian. It’s not known what became of the pilot but the Iraqi investigation found he thought the Stark was an Iranian tanker.
In 1952, an accident at Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories near Deep River, Ontario caused a partial meltdown in an experimental nuclear reactor. Hydrogen explosions followed and hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive water flooded the core, heavily damaging the reactor. When the Canadian government turned to U.S. nuclear experts for help, “Father of the Nuclear Navy” Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover sent his protégé – Lieutenant James Earl “Jimmy” Carter – to lead a team of maintainers into the reactor core to shut it down.
The admiral was famous for the demands he put on the people who worked for him. His unorthodox methods almost kept him from making flag rank, but President Truman intervened on his behalf. It was a good call: the Navy’s 300 nuclear warships have never had a single nuclear incident.
Rickover’s team had access to the latest in nuclear energy technology because they were developing nuclear-powered ships for the U.S. Navy (the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, was completed in 1955). The Navy knew the technology the Canadians were using and how best to fix it.
Rickover volunteered Carter to the Canadians to take the failing reactor apart so it could be replaced, a testament to the extraordinary faith and training the U.S. Navy places in its sailors – and to the good judgment of Adm. Rickover. First, the reactor had to be shut down, then it could be disassembled and replaced.
Carter, then 28 years old, had been in the Navy for six years. He was assigned to the Naval Reactors Branch of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. Rickover’s demanding perfectionism was as instilled in Carter as it is today’s nuclear sailors.
Rickover (left) served 61 years on active duty and saw Carter get elected President.
In his book “Reflections at Ninety,” Carter recalls preparing for the task. The team built a replica of the reactor on a nearby tennis court to practice their next move and track the work they’d already finished. Every pipe, bolt, and nut was rebuilt exactly as it was in the damaged reactor area.
Lieutenant Carter divided himself and his 23 guys into teams of three. Each worked 90-second shifts cleaning and repairing the reactor as per what they practiced on the tennis court. A minute and a half was the maximum time the human body could handle the amount of radiation in the area.
By today’s standards, it was still way too much radiation – Carter and his men were exposed to levels a thousand times higher than what is now considered safe. He and his team absorbed a year’s worth of radiation in that 90 seconds. The basement where they helped replace the reactor was so contaminated, Carter’s urine was radioactive for six months after the incident.
It makes sense that the ship named after President Carter would be a Seawolf-class nuclear submarine, as Carter helped develop the nuclear Navy and was the only U.S. President to be qualified for submarine duty. The USS Jimmy Carter was commissioned in February 2005.
The effects of this exposure eventually caught up to him. Carter developed cancerous tumors on his liver and brain at age 91 but was screened as cancer-free a year later.
Moldova has expressed concern over what it says were unauthorized movements by Russian military forces in the breakaway Transdniester region.
The Reintegration Policy Bureau, a government department that handles the Transdniester issue and is led by one of Moldova’s two deputy prime ministers, said on June 15, 2018, that the Moldovan government had notified the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) about what it called the unauthorized deployment of military trucks and equipment in the region controlled by separatists.
A day earlier, Moldovan authorities filmed some 40 trucks and other military vehicles with Russian symbols and license plates moving along a main road linking the northern and southern parts of Transdniester, a sliver of land along the Ukrainian border in eastern Moldova, the statement said.
Despite the relatively quick American recovery from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, there’s no doubt that the surprise attack hit the U.S. Army and Navy pretty hard. Despite the excellent execution and planning by the Imperial Japanese Navy, they still took considerable losses, especially given the surprise they achieved.
When the first wave came in with complete surprise, it took minimal losses. Only nine fighters went down in the first wave. With the second wave, more U.S. troops were able to mount a defense, so the incoming Japanese planes took more than twice as many losses.
A third wave never materialized because the Japanese admirals believed they would lose more planes than they could handle. But even before they launched that day, the Japanese knew, as any powerful military force knows, that no plan survives contact with the enemy. So they had a planned rendezvous point for airmen whose planes couldn’t make it back to the carriers: the Hawaiian island of Niihau.
The tiny island of Niihau is just a 30-minute flight from Pearl Harbor and was a designated rescue point for pilots who had to take their planes down for some reason, whether it be engine failure or damage from American defenders. Flying all the way to Niihau was much better than trying to be rescued in the vast Pacific Ocean.
Petty Officer Shigenori Nishikaichi’s Zero was heavily damaged during his second wave attack run on Wheeler Army Air Field, so he was forced to go to this contingency plan. He was able to land on the island, but his plane took even more damage in the attempt. Still, Nishikaichi was alive on what he (and the Imperial Japanese Navy) thought was an uninhabited island.
It must have been a big surprise to Nishikaichi when he was helped out of his damaged plane by a native of the island. Niihau is the smallest of the Hawaiian Islands and was privately-owned, but in 1941 it had a population of 136 native Hawaiian-speaking people and a handful of others. Three of them happened to be Americans of Japanese descent.
When Nishikaichi crash-landed there, Aylmer Robinson was the owner of the island and didn’t allow visits from outsiders. The man who rescued him knew there were tensions between Japan and the United States but was completely unaware of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even so, the man took Nishikaichi’s sidearm and papers.
The Hawaiians on the island greeted their unexpected visitor with a party and a dinner that night, but the two sides could not communicate. Nishikaichi spoke little English and the natives spoke no Japanese, so until the Japanese residents could be found, they were unable to talk to one another.
A local named Shintani spoke with the pilot very briefly but quickly walked away. The local Japanese couple, the Haradas, arrived next, and they spoke at length. Nishikaichi told them about the attack on Oahu and asked for help in getting his secret papers back from the natives. They decided to help him. Unfortunately for Nishikaichi, that same night, the locals learned about the attack on the radio and turned on him. The Haradas agreed to hold the pilot, with four guards stationed around their home.
Later that night, the Haradas waited for an opportunity to overpower the guards. When three of them departed, they attacked and locked him in a warehouse. The three Japanese armed themselves and headed for the man who still had the papers. Seeing they were armed, he fled and raised the alarm in a nearby village. Residents of the village fled when the Japanese trio began firing a shotgun.
Meanwhile, the Niihauans signaled for help to the main islands, where the island’s owner lived. The night went on as the Japanese began capturing locals to forcibly enlist their aid in tracking down the pilot’s precious papers. When they captured a Hawaiian husband and wife, their hours-long search took its toll. At an opportune moment, the wife threw herself on Nishikaichi as Harada struggled to throw her back off.
In response, Nishikaichi shot the husband three times with a pistol concealed in his boot. The man got right back up and threw the pilot into a stone wall. His wife crushed Nishikaichi’s head with a rock as the man slit his throat. Harada turned the shotgun on himself and committed suicide.
The couple went to a nearby hospital as military police arrived on the island. The remaining Japanese citizens were arrested for aiding Nishikaichi. The incident was seen as proof that Japanese American citizens could not be trusted during the war when discussing Japanese internment.
Strangely, Hawaii’s Japanese citizens were never held in internment camps.
Capital Concerts announced that a special presentation of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT, hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise, will air on PBS and feature new performances and tributes filmed around the country to honor all of our American heroes.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the traditional live concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol will not be held – to ensure the health and safety of all involved.
The special 90-minute presentation of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT will air on Sunday, May 24, 2020, as a celebration to the heroes currently fighting COVID-19. This year marks its 31st year as a way to honor and remember our troops, Veterans, wounded warriors, all those who have given their lives for our nation and their families.
“In this unprecedented time, when the nation needs it most, we will bring Americans together as one family to honor our heroes,” said Executive Producer Michael Colbert. “This has been the mission of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT for 30 years, and we look forward to sharing stories and music of support, hope, resilience, and patriotism.”
America’s national night of remembrance will feature new appearances and performances by distinguished American statesman, including: General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret); Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner and two-time Oscar nominee, Cynthia Erivo; world-renowned four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano superstar Renée Fleming; country music star and Grammy-nominated member of the Grand Ole Opry, Trace Adkins; Grammy Award-winning gospel legend CeCe Winans; Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara; Tony Award-nominated actress Mary McCormack; members of the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly; and a special message from General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson will open the show with a performance of the national anthem. The broadcast will also feature performances from previous concerts by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott; Oscar nominee and Emmy and Tony-Award winner Laurence Fishburne; and actor/producer/director Esai Morales.
Woven throughout the program will be messages of thanks and support from prominent guest artists for active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve and their families, Veterans, and Gold Star families; the messages include gratitude for for first responders, doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, truck drivers, postal workers – all those who are on the front lines, putting their lives at risk now in the fight against this virus.
Hosts Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise will also share several powerful segments that highlight stories of generations of ordinary Americans who stepped forward and served our country with extraordinary valor in its most challenging times.
The NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT airs on PBS Sunday, May 24, 2020, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. E.T., as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network. The concert will also be streaming on Facebook, YouTube and www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert and available as Video on Demand, May 24 to June 7, 2020.
Also participating in new and some past selected performances are members from the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Chorus, the U.S. Army Voices and Downrange, the Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants, and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.
The program is a co-production of Michael Colbert of Capital Concerts and WETA, Washington, D.C. Executive producer Michael Colbert has assembled an award-winning production team that features the top Hollywood talent behind some of television’s most prestigious entertainment awards shows, including the ACADEMY AWARDS, GRAMMY AWARDS, COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS, TONY AWARDS, and more.
Winter sucks everywhere. Sure, the bugs have finally frozen over and you can finally break out that coat you like, but it’s cold, you’re always late because your car won’t defrost in time, and no one seems to remember to tap their brakes when stopping at intersections.
But, as any optimist might tell you, things can always get worse! While it sucks for us up here in the middle of December, it’s actually the nicest time to be in Antarctica — nice by Antarctic standards anyway.
It doesn’t last, though, as the winters there begin in mid-February and don’t let up until mid-November. And don’t forget, we have brothers and sisters in the U.S. Armed Forces down there embracing the suck of the coldest temperatures on Earth.
McMurdo Station is by far the most populated location on the entire continent with a population of 250 in the winter.
(Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)
To ensure that no hostilities occur on the frozen continent, the Antarctica Treaty lists it as “the common heritage of mankind.” As such, only scientific expeditions are allowed down there. Since airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen have the capabilities to assist in this respect, they routinely travel to scientific research facilities to help out. Their mission is, simply, keep the scientists alive and let them focus on doing their jobs.
During the winter, which, as we’d mentioned, lasts for ten months, most scientists head to more hospitable climates. Most. Not all. It’s up to the troops to help keep those who remain safe and well. Thankfully, there are only three spots on the entire barren continent that they need to keep tabs on: McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
The ports and airstrips at Palmer Station remain active year round. In case of any emergencies, the Air Force and Navy can quickly send supplies into Palmer to have it distributed out further. At McMurdo Station, the winters are a little more intense, so the ports and airstrip are strictly for emergency use — but they manage.
Then there’re the troops with the scientists at the South Pole Station. They’re almost entirely frozen in. Thankfully, it doesn’t snow that much at the South Pole, but the wind combined with near-permanent darkness make it feel close to -100 Fahrenheit. The only real thing to do then is to bunker inside at the one bar located at the South Pole and wait for ten months inside.
To see what the winters actually look like in Antarctica, check out the video below.
The U.S. Navy destroyer escort USS Eldridge (DE-173) underway at sea, circa in 1944. The wartime censor seems to have erased the radar antennas. (Wikimedia Commons).
The story goes that in October 1943, the U.S. Navy destroyer Eldridge completely disappeared in a flash of green light while at anchor in Philadelphia. Just minutes later, it was supposedly spotted 500 kilometers away near Norfolk, Virginia, when it disappeared once more. After another flash of green light, the ship is said to have reappeared in Philadelphia harbor.
Did the super-secret experiment with cloaking technology and teleportation really happen? Conspiracy theorists often cite secret, World War II-era government and military experimentation that will never be revealed to the public. The truth is more likely that it’s a case of a rumor mill gone horribly awry.
The story of “The Philadelphia Experiment” began in 1955, when the Office of Naval Research received a package containing annotated science fiction novels, a series of correspondence in the form of letters and other “research materials” in the mail from a sender who claimed to have been present in Philadelphia the night the Eldridge made its fantastic voyage.
Whoever sent the original packages not only claimed the details of the cloaking/teleportation experiment, but also claimed the Eldridge was fully crewed at the time. The crew was said to have suffered insanity from the fallout of the experiment and some even seemed frozen in time.
Naval officers from the Office of Naval Research invited the author of the sci-fi novel to their offices. The author, Morris K. Jessup, recognized some of the handwriting as being from a similar series of letters he’d also received in the mail. The writer of his letter claimed to have been very close to unlocking the secret of the alien technology Jessup wrote about in his book, “The Case for the UFO: Unidentified Flying Objects.”
Two naval officers, Capt. Sidney Sherby and Cmdr. George Hoover decided to investigate the allegations of the Philadelphia Experiment, as well as the writer making those claims. It didn’t take long to realize what really happened.
Allegedly the crew of a civilian merchant mariner called the SS Andrew Furuseth were witnesses to the flashes of green light and the mysterious appearance and subsequent disappearance of the Eldridge at Norfolk. The ship was in Norfolk harbor that night, but the master of the ship denies seeing anything described in the letters. Which is consistent with the position of the USS Eldridge.
In October 1943, the USS Eldridge wasn’t even in Philadelphia. Nor was it in Norfolk. It was in New York City, according to the destroyer’s war diary. The ship had just returned from a convoy mission to Bermuda, where it underwent its sea trials. It was in Norfolk by November 2, 1943, to join a convoy bound for Casablanca, Morocco.
The entire Philadelphia Experiment claim turned out to be a massive hoax. Investigators traced it back to a merchant seaman named Carl Allen, who sent the fantastical story to the science fiction writer, Jessup. The letters and book notations were made by Allen and Jessup before being sent to the ONR. Allen had made the whole thing up and spread the word before getting with Jessup to mail the documents to the Navy.
Other details of the story claimed that famous physicist Albert Einstein and inventor Nikola Tesla were creating technology to contribute to the experiment. Allen claimed the entire thing was classified as “Project Rainbow,” which investigators found didn’t exist as a teleportation project, but was instead the code name of the plan to defeat the Axis powers before the U.S. entered World War II.
Memorial Day is a time to remember the lives lost to preserve American freedom. It’s a solemn holiday most often spent by sharing a day off with loved ones, usually around a grill with a cold one in your hand. But as you enjoy a burger and a beer and share laughs with friends and family, take a minute to remember everyone who can’t be with their loved ones.
It’s really astonishing just how many people celebrate Memorial Day in America by having a cookout, watching a parade, and enjoying a frosty beverage. In fact, a staggering sixty percent of American households will spend one day during the Memorial-Day weekend at a barbecue — second only to Independence Day. Memorial Day is the second biggest period for beer sales in America and $1.5 billion will be spent on meat and seafood.
Even more astonishing is the number of volunteers that go out to cemeteries to plant the Stars and Stripes on the graves of fallen troops and veterans. While 1.5 million people watch more than a thousand active duty service members in the National Memorial Day Parade and 900,000 people gather for the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle rally in our nation’s capital, over 260,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery will be adorned with flags by volunteers.
More than 45 million men and women have served the United States in a time of war (you know, doing that thing we all got our National Defense Service Medal for) and more than 1.35 million American men and women have died fighting in armed conflicts around the globe. So, with all these numbers in your head, remember that the most important of all is “three.” At 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, Americans everywhere will put down the burger, turn off the TV, and take a moment in silence.
The National Moment of Remembrance is where we forget our personal and political differences for and come together as a nation to remember those who lost their lives fighting for our rights, freedoms, and privileges as Americans — so we can enjoy that burger, watch that TV, and ride our motorcycles.
So, take a moment. 3pm, Memorial Day. Be there.
Here are a few more interesting numbers surrounding Memorial Day.
In January 1946, a rather amusing wanted ad was published in the pulp comic book Rangeland Romances. “Three lonely sailors” of the USS Mellette sent in a request for pen pals that seems like it would have been hard to ignore.
The USS Mellette (APA-156) was a Haskell-class attack transport commissioned Sept. 27, 1944, conducting a series of training operations in the Pacific before she got underway for Iwo Jima on Jan. 27, 1945. She participated in the initial assault on Feb. 19, unloading supplies and taking on casualties. She would remain active in the Pacific, including Okinawa, Saipan, and Nagasaki, until she finally witnessed the official surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945. In June, 1946, she was decommissioned and entered into the Reserve Fleet at Yorktown, Virginia.
The Beach-Party Sailors’ letter was shared on Twitter by Vera Herbert, Writer and Co-Executive Producer of This is Us, a show that has taken great effort and care toward telling military stories. It’s no wonder, then, that she would get excited over this treasure of an ad:
We wonder if you have room in your “Pony Express” for three lonely sailors.
We read RANGELAND ROMANCES and enjoy them very much. We are Marvin Munson S2/c and John Williams S2/c and Clayton Daniels S1/c. We have been overseas for several months and don’t get much mail at all. So come on, girls everywhere, and make some lonely sailors happy.
We are “beach-party” sailors and were in the invasion of Iwo Jima and have some interesting things to write about. So, girls, let’s sling some ink.
U.S.S. Mellette (APA-156)
℅ Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, Calif.
JOHN WILLIAMS S2/c
MARVIN MUNSON S2/c
CLAYTON DANIELS S1/c”
Whether those frisky sailors ever heard from Rangeland Romances readers is tough to say, but I’m with Herbert in hoping they found love through the pages of pulp comics.
They’re not the only service members who appreciate letters from home. One military spouse, Army wife Christina Etchberger, set up a pen pal program so people can write to veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anyone who wants to is invited to write a letter to a veteran. Etchberger encourages pen pals to include thin objects like photos, cards, crafts, stickers, postcards, stamps, or seed envelopes and write a little something about yourself on the back (for example, Etchberger’s son wrote “looking for a pen pal who likes planes!”). Keep the letter positive and avoid controversial topics.
Then mail your letter directly to the Lawton-Fort Sill Veterans Center, 501 SE Flower Mound Road, Lawton, OK 73501.
The United States Marine Corps has long lived by Mattis’ motto of “no better friend, no worse enemy.” They make for very scary opponents, able to defeat enemies who greatly outnumber them — just ask the Chinese about the Chosin Reservoir; they know who really won that battle.
But the Republic of Korea Marine Corps is almost as scary to foes as the United States Marine Corps, and for good reason. While the United States Marine Corps has been around for 242 years, the South Korean Marines have only been around since 1949. That’s 68 years. Not bad, but still a mere one-seventh of the time the American leathernecks have been kicking ass.
South Korean Marines saw action in Vietnam when their 2nd Marine Brigade was deployed alongside two divisions from the Republic of Korea Army. During the war, a company of South Korean Marines was attacked by three battalions of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. When the fighting was finished, the South Korean Marines had triumphed, losing only 15, a small fraction of the 306 enemy troops killed.
U.S. Army studies of the South Korean forces that fought in Vietnam noted that the South Korean troops in general, including their Marines, had taken great steps forward since the Korean War. They even seized more weapons than American units did in similar operations.
After the Vietnam War, the South Koreans turned to their Marine Corps to establish a special unit to retaliate against North Korean commando attacks. This unit’s motto translates, roughly, to “kill them all, let God sort it out.”
Today, the South Korean Marines are looking to modernize their force. On November 23, 2010, North Korean forces shelled Yeonpyeong Island. As a result, South Korean Marines are getting new return-firepower, like the K9 howitzer. To learn more about this elite fighting force, check out the video below:
There are certain things that any junior enlisted Marine can expect to find on any Marine Corps base. Morning runs along the fence line, guarded by uniformed men with guns. Hundreds of people standing in lines, mindlessly marching towards the same, processed shelf-stable meat that has been rewarmed and served in precise measurements onto your mechanically-washed lunch tray, used continually since 1978. Daily wake-up times and roll calls. Accountability and uniformity of clothing, housing, grooming, and sanitation alongside weekly white-glove room inspections.
It sounds a lot like prison.
There is an escape, however, and that escape is provided by the United States Air Force. Marine bases are built for efficiency, not comfort, so it comes as a huge surprise for a young jarhead when he breaches the walls of an Air Force base to find all the luxuries of a more refined culture. Here’s what that budding Marine might find:
7. Dorms. They live in dorms.
When I first got to Fleet Marine Force, I was assigned to First Battalion First Marine Division on Camp Horno in a metal squad bay with Vietnam-era graffiti spray-painted on the wall just underneath the “Condemned due to Asbestos” signs.
Imagine a big tin can cut in half, laid cut side down and attached to a community hygiene area that’s void of individual shower stalls and doors for the toilets. Compare that to Air Force dorms: individual rooms with their own bathroom and dining area.
I’ve heard a rumor that they even have laundry services. As in, they have someone who will clean, fold, and return their clothing to them. I have literally had to put hot water and detergent into trash bags with my clothes, twist the end shut, and shake the bag furiously until my uniforms were clean enough for government work. #noexcuses.
6. The food scene is beyond reproach.
Steakhouses, burger joints, sushi restaurants, donut shops, ice cream parlors, and Chinese take-out are all within walking distance of any of the those magical “dorms” in which airmen reside. The real surprise is found in the Air Force “dining facility.” Marines are accustomed to chow halls, the simple, red-headed stepbrother of the proud and capable USAF dining facility. What chow halls lack in variety, they also lack in quality and general palatability.
I was definitely ingesting calories, just not tasty or healthy ones. But Air Force dining facilities provide multiple lines with an assortment of delicious cuisine. Sandwich stations, fresh pizza, and salad bars all complement the hot-line, which has multiple choices of its own. It all balances nicely with an ice cream bar — complete with myriad toppings from which to choose.
When done, you don’t even have to bus your own food tray; they clean up after you.
5. Largest exchanges and MWRs.
Imagine that gas station in the bad part of town where the guy behind the cash register would sell alcohol to the underage you while doing drug deals out the back. Now, picture that place selling PT uniforms and rank insignia. That is your basic Marine Corps Exchange.
The first time I made my way into an Air Force Base Exchange is reminiscent of when Harry Potter wandered through Diagon Alley, shopping for his wand. It was astonishing. It was a mall on steroids, complete with barbers, cars, motorcycles, and gun sales. I felt like I was a kid in a candy store.
Also, there was a candy store!
There are women on an Air Force Base. A solid ratio, too, considering most Marine bases are at around 50-to-1, men-to-women. These numbers are based on personal experience on an infantry base notorious for being in the middle of nowhere and in no way reflects a scientific method of any kind nor census numbers from any reliable source.
It was simply the feeling of a then-twenty-something junior enlisted Marine that the entire Marine base was a giant sausage party, ripe with testosterone. Kadena Air Base however, an Air Force base on Okinawa, was brimming with the fairer sex — a fact all of the Marines on the island are keen to and plan their weekends around.
3. The gym is legit.
Marine gyms are similar to prison weight yards: A bunch of high-protein-diet neanderthals angrily grunting at solid steel weights so old that the numbers have worn off. There is no air-conditioning and the staff is made up of short-term infantry Marines — every one of which know the best way to bulk up, just ask them… or accidentally make eye contact, whichever.
USMC gyms provide only free weights and pull-up bars, so if you want to do cardio, go outside and run. Conversely, Air Force gyms are masterfully designed temples of athletic excellence. All of which come complete with pools, yoga classes, Zumba courses, cardio centers, masseuses, basketball courts, racquetball courts, functional fitness areas, and juice bars!
2. They basically have water parks.
They have indoor pools, outdoor pools, water slides, and lifeguards. Just throw some overpriced hot dog vendors in a USAF water rec center and you’ve got yourself water park. They are open to all active duty service members and their families. Marine bases’ only use for pools is to drown-proof Marines annually… so all this Air Force water fun was crazy to witness.
1. Officers on gate guard duty.
Seeing shiny rank insignia in the Corps is rare at best, and non-existent at the gate. But in the Air Force, you’ll see these young officers leading the charge with regard to showing picture IDs when entering their hallowed ground.
It’s seen as a display of leadership for them to take to the gate on mornings, Fridays, and sometimes even holidays. I’ve never personally been relieved of duty by an officer, it didn’t seem like a thing to hope for, so seeing it from another service — especially the Air Force — brought a single tear to my eye.
Military members tend to make fun of the USAF for their high-maintenance personas, but if you examine the situation further, you may find they’ve earned it. The jokes will continue to fly and Marines will enjoy flaunting their comparative mistreatment, but the reality is that those same Marines know where they’re headed when liberty sounds.