5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

The former special operators who responded to the 2012 Benghazi attacks on the U.S. State Department in Libya didn’t hesitate, they just reacted. They aren’t alone. People in the military are famously trained to “move with a sense of purpose” at all times. This means they are taught to think fast, move fast, and act fast. It’s just good practice – who knows when you might need to have a quick reaction time. Sometimes, we just have to make a quick judgment call and accept the consequences. Those consequences can be severe. It’s the nature of the work we’re in.

For better or for worse, the following six examples illustrate the need for decisive action.


5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

The Confederates needed new shoes.

In 1863, things weren’t looking good for the Confederate Army in the Civil War. Despite their early successes, time was not on their side. The North was ramping up war production and outfitting its men with clothes, food, and, most importantly, shoes. In an effort to resupply his forces at the Union’s expense, Robert E. Lee decided to send a party north looking for railway depots that might be hoarding supplies for the Union Army. They didn’t find as much as they’d hoped, and the entire Army of Northern Virginia stopped at a town in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg.

Before the entire massive army could arrive, Confederate cavalry began skirmishing with Union troops until it turned into full-on fighting. Lee was obliged to send reinforcements piecemeal before he could use his entire force. By the time he was ready, a Union Army had already arrived. What started out as a search for shoes became the turning point of the entire war.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

Ulysses S. Grant declined a trip the the theater.

Just a few days after accepting the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, a Union victory was all but assured. The surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia would sap the will of the Confederates to continue fighting and lead to the era of Reconstruction. There was nothing that would revive the hopes of the Confederate States… unless the entire Union leadership were to be taken out in one fell swoop – and it nearly was.

On the night President Lincoln was assassinated, Secretary of State William Seward was brutally attacked in his home by John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators, and Vice President Andrew Johnson was targeted but not attacked. One more person was to be targeted in the conspiracy: General Grant. Lincoln had invited the general to the theater with his wife, but too tired from years of Civil War, Grant declined. He later recounted in his memoirs having seen Booth tail him to the train station.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

One Russian officer decides not to blow up the planet.

In September 1983, the Soviet Union’s early warning system used to detect nuclear missile launches from the United States suddenly started going off. There was a very good chance the Americans had just launched a first strike against Soviet missile sites, precipitating a full-scale nuclear war. This required the officer on duty to return fire using the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal. The computer told that officer the Americans had launched five nuclear weapons, and he was obliged to return fire using the USSR’s 35,000-plus weapons.

The officer on duty that day was Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, and he wasn’t as concerned about the nuclear exchange as some other officers might have been. Instead of launching an attack that would have turned into a U.S. counterstrike and potentially killing hundreds of millions of people. He just did nothing. For his troubles, the Russians interrogated him mercilessly.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

The U.S. and USSR decide not to blow up the planet.

Even though the entire course of events lasted some 13 days, the entire course of events could have precipitated a nuclear exchange at almost any time. When the United States discovered the Soviet Union setting up a nuclear missile site in Cuba, it was too much for the Americans. President Kennedy told the Russians to move them off and set up a total blockade around the island. The next move belonged to the Soviet Union, and their response was anyone’s guess. The United States mobilized for World War III.

It was later revealed in the documentary the Fog of War that Fidel Castro recommended a full nuclear first strike to the Soviet Union, but Nikita Khrushchev was much smarter than that, apparently. The White House received two messages from Moscow, the first was written very cordially and offered a peaceful solution. The second was written by a “bunch of hard-liners” that threatened the destruction of the United States. President Kennedy was forced to choose which message to respond to and which to ignore. Of course, he chose the diplomatic one.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

The Kaiser changed the course of the 20th Century.

It’s a well-known fact that World War I was entirely avoidable. With that goes World War II, the Cold War, nuclear arms races, communism, etc. Everything that happened in the 20th Century can be traced back to Germany’s push for war in 1914. There was one man who could have just side-stepped the whole thing: Kaiser Wilhelm II.

As German and Russian allies declared war on each other, the Kaiser and the Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, exchanged a flurry of personal telegrams aimed at stopping the tide of war just days before what would become known as “the Great War” would begin. Reading what “Nicky” wrote, the Kaiser (addressed by the Tsar as “Willy”) was flustered about whether or not to actually attack and almost called the whole thing off. Instead of that, the German General Staff convinced him their plans were already in motion and could not be stopped for any reason. With this in his ears, he allowed the attacks to go forward, and the rest is history.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 ways the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan are the same

It’s no secret that America is pretty good at getting themselves involved in wars throughout the world. Historically, we haven’t been the best at coming up with an exit strategy for some of those conflicts, though.


The Vietnam War is considered one of the most politically charged military campaigns in our nation’s history as young men were drafted into service to fight against the spread of communism.

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the U.S. embarked on an offensive to break up a network comprised of men that take the worship of the religion of Islam into extremism.

Related: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

Although these campaigns took place in separate decades against very different adversaries, the similarities from the perspective of the ground forces are impeccable. History repeats itself. Here are four ways in which these two conflicts are the same.

4. For the most part, we didn’t trust our allies

In both wars, American forces were teamed up with local troops to help combat their common enemy. Many Vietnam and Afghanistan War vets have noted that their “friendly” counterparts often appeared distant and were known to have even protected the enemy at times.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
A PF soldier patrol with a Marine unit during the Vietnam War.

3. We fought against an unmarked enemy

Many of the fighters the U.S. went up against in both campaigns were able to disappear as fast as they appeared. This ghostly advantage wasn’t the result of some magical vanishing act, but rather an ability to blend back into the local population — right out in the open.

Since most of the “disappearing act” fighters are from small guerilla militias or surrounding clans, they never wore any distinguishable uniforms, adding to their advantage.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
Are these guys Taliban or friendly members of a local militia?

2. The enemy could live below ground

The Viet Cong commonly used their well-engineered tunnels while the Taliban make use of caves in the mountains of Afghanistan.

These livable structures can house enemy combatants for extend periods of time and conceal deadly weapons.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
Two U.S. Marines search a Viet Cong tunnel. (Image from Flickr)

Also Read: Here was the major problem with the South Vietnamese army

1. Our maps became outdated quickly

When enemy structures are mainly constructed from local vegetation and mud, they can be broken down just as fast as they’re built.

This characteristic makes them incredibly difficult to keep them documented. Map records and mission planning changed constantly.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
An occupied mud home in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Strikes on Syria were a public spanking of the Assad regime

President Donald Trump pulled off a large-scale attack on sites thought to contribute to Syria’s chemical weapons program — but even the Pentagon acknowledges the attack’s limitations.

The Pentagon says the strikes, made by the US, France, and the UK, took out the “heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons program. But Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the UN has linked to dozens of gas attacks, still maintains “residual” capabilities of creating and using chemical weapons, the Pentagon said.


Assad still has his jets, and helicopters. The air wing in Assad’s army that the US suspects of having carried out a chemical attack early April 2018, on the town of Douma went unpunished. The US-led strike did not target any personnel suspected of carrying out illegal orders to drop gas bombs on civilians.

“It is very important to stress it is not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have a regime change,” Boris Johnson, the UK’s foreign secretary, said. “I’m afraid the Syrian war will go on in its horrible, miserable way. But it was the world saying that we’ve had enough of the use of chemical weapons.”

“The American strikes did not change anything for Syrians,” Osama Shoghari, an anti-government activist from Douma, told The New York Times. “They did not change anything on the ground.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the strike “precise and proportionate,” but while it may have involved precise, smart, new weapons, it’s unclear what Mattis thinks the strike proportional to.

What did the strikes change on the ground?

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
One of the US’s targets before and after the strike.
(DigitalGlobe satelite photo)

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed during the country’s seven-year civil war, which kicked off when Assad violently responded to pro-democracy rallies in 2011.

Millions in Syria have been displaced by the conflict; many have been tortured and abducted. Large swaths of the country fell under jihadist rule. A generation of Syrian children are growing up knowing only war.

The strikes on April 13, 2018, addressed none of that. The 105 weapons used against three facilities across Syria targeted only chemical weapons production in Syria, and they didn’t even remove all of those weapons or capabilities.

Instead, the strikes made a big show of punishing the Assad government over the attack on Douma that the US and local aid groups said involved chemical weapons, and it did so on a shaky legal premise.

Chemical warfare may continue in Syria. Widespread fighting, casualties, and abuses of power in the deeply unstable country will continue with near certainty. A hundred missiles, or even a thousand, couldn’t hope to reverse the deep problems faced by Syrians every day, or to punish Assad and his inner circle as much as they have punished their own people, but Trump never actually tried to.

Performative allyship in cruise-missile form

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
A poster of Bashar al-Assad at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus

Assad, a leader whom Trump calls an animal who gasses his own people, remains in power. Chemical weapons remain in Syria. The world is no closer to finding peace there.

But Assad has been publicly spanked by the US, the UK, and France. Three nations told Syria, and its Russian backers, they meant business after years of turning a blind eye to reports of horrors in the country.

The Syria strike, viewed as a public spanking rather than a decisive military campaign, was a “mission accomplished” not because it changed anything, but because they made it loud.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon worries that China may have guts to use new weapons

China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” a new US defense intelligence assessment warns, but that’s not what has officials most concerned.

China has been investing billions of dollars, possibly as much as $200 billion in 2018, into its military, which Chinese leadership is putting through a massive overhaul in hopes of building a modern, world-class fighting force capable of waging and winning wars.


“Indeed, China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space, and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region,” Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley asserted in the preface to the report, noting that Beijing will likely become more insistent as its confidence grows.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

It is China’s growing self-confidence that has US officials most alarmed, not the development of various weapons platforms, be it unmatched anti-satellite capabilities, precision strike tools, or hypersonic weapons. There is a serious concern that China is moving closer to the point where it might be willing to use military force to achieve its ambitions.

“The biggest concern is that they are going to get to a point where the [Chinese military] leadership may actually tell [Chinese President] Xi Jinping that they are confident in their capabilities,” a senior defense intelligence official said on Jan. 15, 2019, just before the release of the DIA assessment, according to Defense News.

“As these technologies mature, as their reorganization of their military comes into effect, as they become more proficient with these capabilities, our concern is we’ll reach a point where internally, within their decision-making, they will decide that using military force for a regional conflict is something that is more imminent,” the senior official said.

That’s bad news for Taiwan, an autonomous, democratic territory that Beijing views as a rogue province.

The island is a top priority for Chinese leadership, according to the report on Chinese military power, the first-ever unclassified DIA assessment of China’s military might.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

Chinese President Xi Jinping.


Senior Chinese military leadership made that point very clear in a recent meeting with US military leaders. “If anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Gen. Li Zuocheng argued in a recent meeting with Adm. John Richardson, the South China Morning Post reported.

Chinese President Xi Jinping recently made clear that military action remains on the table as a possible reunification tool. Other potential flash points include the East and South China Seas.

Despite fears within the military intelligence community about the use of force by the Chinese military, it seems that there is also a consensus that China may not yet be there. “I think in a lot of ways, they have a lot that they need to do,” an official said Jan. 15, 2019, according to Stars and Stripes.

“We don’t have a real strong grasp on when they will think that they are confident in that capability,” the official added, referring to an assault on Taiwan. “They could order them to go today, but I don’t think they are particularly confident in that capability.”

China called the DIA report “unprofessional,” criticizing its findings.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Jimmy Carter saved Canada from nuclear destruction

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.


 

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
Jimmy Carter in his 1947 class portrait from the U.S. Naval Academy yearbook.

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.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
The Chalk River Labs site.

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.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

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.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
The USS Jimmy Carter (U.S. Navy photo)

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.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

Few people have lived a life as hardcore and fulfilling as that of Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow. He attended college and became the first member of his tribe to obtain a master’s degree. While working on his doctorate, he taught at the Chemawa Indian School. Then, World War II broke out and everything changed. Before he knew it, he was a full-fledged war chief.


Related video:

 

 

Medicine Crow started working at a naval shipyard in Washington before enlisting in the Army in 1943. He became an infantry scout assigned to the 103rd Infantry Division and was almost immediately sent to Europe. In keeping with Crow traditions, he went into battle donning red war paint under his uniform and a sacred eagle feather under his helmet- a chief in character just as much as battle prowess.

 

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
He embodied the warrior spirit.

(PBS: The War)

Also in line with tradition, he set out to complete the four required tasks in becoming the “War Chief of the Crow Indians,” a title reserved for only the most hardened warriors who have proved their worth with death-defying feats of combat. The requirements were as follows:

  1. Lead a successful war party on a raid.
  2. Capture an enemy weapon.
  3. Touch an enemy without killing them.
  4. Steal an enemy’s horse.

The first task was nearly inevitable for any competent platoon leader or sergeant, but Pvt. Medicine Crow didn’t have such a rank. After fighting hard on the western border of France, Medicine Crow proved himself fearless among his peers. He finally got an opportunity when his CO told him to stealthily clear out a German bunker with seven men and some TNT. He was told by his CO,

“If anyone can do this, it’s probably you.”

His CO was right. Not only did they cross German machine-gun and artillery fire, they got into the bunker and blew a hole right through the Siegfried Line without losing a single man. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions — and he completed the first of his four tasks. Rumor has it that after Medicine Crow destroyed the defenses, he jumped through the breach and was the first American GI to step foot into Nazi Germany.

 

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
Medicine Crow’s success meant that it was much easier for the rest of the American troops to enter Germany though his breach.

(National Archive)

As the 103rd made its way into Germany, it wasn’t uncommon for forward scouts to get separated and flanked by the enemy. One night, Medicine Crow was alone when a Nazi soldier got the jump on him and charged headlong into combat. He charged right back, leading to a helmet-to-helmet collision that quickly devolved into a fist fight.

Medicine Crow beat the Nazi bloody and had his hands around the Nazi’s near-lifeless neck. The Nazi chose “momma” as his almost last words. Medicine Crow didn’t kill him. Instead, he took the German as a POW and confiscated his rifle, completing the next two tasks on his list.

The last task, to steal an enemy horse, seemed implausible on a battlefield dominated by tanks. Chief Medicine Crow got his chance, however, in early 1945 when his recon team found a camp for senior German staff officers. With them were nearly 50 thoroughbred race horses.

 

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
German troops relied on horses on the Eastern front, but they were very rare on the Western Front…

(National Archives)

Medicine Crow snuck into the camp in the dead of morning with nothing but some rope and his 1911. He tied the rope into a makeshift bridle and took the best horse of the group. He let out a mighty Crow war cry to herd the rest out of the corral, which woke the Germans. He had successfully gotten away with 50 horses and sang a traditional Crow war song as he returned to his men.

Joe Medicine Crow returned to his tribe after the war ended as a war hero and assumed the mantle of war chief. He was knighted in the French Legion of Honor, finished his doctorate along with three honorary PhDs, wrote almost a dozen books on military and Crow history, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for his military service and work done to improve the lives of his people. Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow passed on April 3rd, 2016 at the age of 102 and was given full military honors.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
Chief Joe Medicine Crow may have passed, but legends never truly die.

(U.S. Department of the Interior)

Articles

This is actual WWII footage of a tank duel

While everyone talks about D-Day, what’s often forgotten is that getting past the Atlantic Wall was only the first step. The Allies had to fight their way out of Normandy and into the rest of France — not to mention across Germany.


This wasn’t easy. Germany had some very well-trained troops who were determined to put up a fight. One of the places where the Nazis held up the Allies was Villers-Bocage — a village to the southwest of Caen, a major objective of the initial staged.

 

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
This version of the M4 Sherman could take on the German Tiger tank on even terms and win. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to Battle of Normandy Tours, on June 13, 1944, a force of British tanks from the famous 7th Armoured Division — also known as the “Desert Rats” — headed towards Villers-Bocage. At that village, a company of German Tiger tanks, under the command of Michael Wittman, fought the British force of Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
A German Tiger in Sicily, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

When all was said and done, Wittman’s force had destroyed 27 Allied tanks, according to WarfareHistoryNetwork.com. The Germans had also killed, wounded, or captured 188 Allied troops.

This video shows some of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Villers-Bocage. Warning: It does show some of the consequences of when armored vehicles are destroyed.

History, YouTube

Articles

This is how NATO could go to war against itself

If you think that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – the mutual-defense alliance founded in 1949 – is one big, happy family, you’d be wrong.


There have been deep tensions between NATO countries in the past. For a while, France was not even part of the military structure.

Then, there’s Greece and Turkey. To say they have provided a bit of intra-alliance drama is one of the biggest understatements in the existence of NATO.

Greece and Turkey have had a fair amount of historical animosity. In 1897, the two countries went to war, after which Greece secured the autonomy of Crete. From 1919-1922, the two countries went to war again. Turkey won that second round, pushing Greece out of Asia Minor for the most part.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
A Hellenic Air Force Mirage 2000EG. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1950s, the Cyprus issue renewed tensions despite both countries’ memberships in NATO, as did maritime territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea, leading to a near war in 1987, according to the New York Times.

A March 1996 report by the Congressional Research Service described the Imia/Kardak Crisis of 1995, another near-war.

War loomed again in the Cyprus Missile Crisis of 1997-1998, with the Independent reporting Turkey threatened strikes against Russian S-300 missiles sold to the Greek Cypriots. That crisis wasn’t defused until Greece bought the missiles and based them in Crete.

In the past year, the maritime territorial dispute in the Aegean Sea has heated up again, thanks to Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan, according to recent news reports.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
Land-based S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers | Creative Commons photo

So, what would happen if Greece and Turkey went to war? History can be a guide.

Past crises have usually seen NATO apply a lot of diplomatic pressure to avert war. The North Atlantic Treaty, in fact, gives NATO a very big vice to apply that pressure.

According to quora.com, Article V would still be potentially relevant for the country that was attacked. The text of the treaty makes no exceptions if the aggressor is a member of NATO.

There have been incidents between the two countries in the past where troops have exchanged fire planes have been shot down. So, while wars have been averted so far, the possibility remains that an incident could prompt a full-scale war between these two NATO allies.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here are 5 times bombers beat fighters in aerial combat

When bombers take on fighters without help, five letters tend to describe their end status: T, O, A, S, T. That’s what people tend to think. But that doesn’t always happen. Maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s skill… but there are times when bomber crews accomplished the mission and came back to base, while the fighter jocks (if they were lucky) wondered WTF happened as they rode down in a parachute.


Here are a few times the lumbering beasts bested their fast moving adversaries.

1. May 8, 1942: SBD bomber vs. Zekes

During the Battle of the Coral Sea, the United States deployed Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers in an effort to supplement the combat air patrol of Grumman F4F Wildcats. The plan was for the Wildcats to take on the Mitsubishi A6M Zeke and Aichi D3A Val dive bombers, while the SBDs took on the Nakajima B5N Kate torpedo bombers.

Like all plans, it’s didn’t survive first contact. The Zekes got at the SBDs, and a number of the American dive-bombers were shot down. One SBD pilot, Stanley Vejtasa, managed to kill three Zekes – two with the pair of .50-caliber machine guns in the nose of his plane, and the third by using his SBD to slice off the wing of the enemy fighter.

Vejtasa later flew Wildcats, got a seven kills in one day at the Battle of Santa Cruz, and ended up becoming a test pilot after World War II.

 

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
A SBD Dauntless doing what it does best: Dropping bombs. (US Navy photo)

2. June 16, 1943: Old 666 vs. Zekes

On a reconnaissance mission around Bougainville, prior to the Allied campaign up the Solomon Islands, a B-17E Flying Fortress made a daring solo run to gather photo intel on enemy strength. Named “Old 666,” and under the command of Capt. Jay Zeamer, the bomber got the photos, then was jumped by as many as 17 Zekes.

After a 45-minute engagement that saw at least three Zeros fall, and six of the nine men aboard Old 666 hit by enemy fire, the Zekes gave up. Zeamer and 2nd Lt. Joe Sarnoski both received the Medal of Honor (Sarnoski posthumously), while the other crewmen received Distinguished Service Crosses.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

 

3. Spads bombers vs. MiG-17

The A-1 Skyraider was a solid naval strike plane in the Korean War, even carrying out one of America’s last torpedo attacks (albeit on a dam) during that conflict. That said, while Skyraiders could drop just about anything on the enemy, they also had four 20mm cannon that could do bad things to a plane in front of them. One Marine Corps Skyraider even shot down a Po-2 transport plane during the Korean conflict.

But in the Vietnam War, Skyraiders covering rescue missions shot down MiG-17s on two occasions, according to TheAviationist.com. Both times, these strike planes were covering downed pilots. On June 20, 1965, two A-1s shared a MiG-17 kill. On Oct, 9, MiG-17s jumped a flight of Skyraiders, and were really on the wrong end of the fight – the Skyraiders had one confirmed kill, one probable, and heavily damaged a third.

 

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
An A-1 Skyraider in 1966, when four planes assigned to USS Intrepid shot down at least one MiG-17. (US Navy photo)

 

4. April 19, 1967: F-105 bomber vs. MiG-17

Invented during the Vietnam War, the F-105G Wild Weasel took on the surface-to-air missile sites that were taking a heavy toll on American planes. The F-105 was more of a bomber – and a good one. But it also had a M61 Vulcan and over a thousand rounds of ammo. Joe Baugher notes that the F-105s shot down at least 27 MiGs during the Vietnam War, many using that gun.

On April 19, 1967, Leo Thorsness and Harold Johnson claimed at least one of those MiG-17s while covering efforts to rescue fellow Air Force personnel whose plane had been shot down. Thorsness received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the engagement, which lasted for nearly an hour.

 

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
A MiG-17 is shot down by an F-105D on Jun. 3, 1967 over Vietnam. (Photo: US Air Force)

5. Jan. 17, 1991: EF-111 vs. Mirage F-1

On the opening night of Operation Desert Storm, an EF-111 Raven (often called the “Spark Vark”) was carrying out a jamming mission when an Iraqi Mirage F-1 tried to shoot it down. The Spark Vark’s crew, Capts. James Denton and Brett Brandon, took the fight where the Varks excelled: a terrain-following, high-speed chase.

The Iraqi Mirage pilot made the mistake of trying to follow them, and flew into the ground. It was the first air-to-air kill of the 1991 conflict.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history
General Dynamics EF-111A Raven at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how a mortar system works

The mortar is an indirect fire weapon that rains freedom down from high angles onto an enemy within a (relatively) short range. But the compact and mobile mortar systems we have today are the result of a long history of indirect fire systems in the American military. Decades of effectively marking, lighting, and destroying targets has earned the mortar many friends — and many more enemies — on the battlefield. In short, a well-trained mortar team often means the difference between victory and defeat for infantry troops in contact.

When nature creates a successful apex predator, she rarely deviates from her original design. Warfare evolves in a similar fashion — the most successful systems are tweaked and perfected to guarantee effectiveness, preserving our way of life.

This is an ode to the mortar, and all of its beautifully complex inner-workings.


Preparation and Firing Stokes Mortars 1 Min 12 Sec

www.youtube.com

A noble bloodline

The mortar was born in the fires of conquest at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. In that engagement, the new weapon proved just how effective firing explosives over short distances across an extremely high arc could be. Since that day, more than 500 years and countless wars ago, the general concept hasn’t changed.

One of the biggest evolutions in the mortar design was put forth by the British in World War I: the Stokes Mortar. It had 3 sections: a 51-inch tube, a base plate, and a bi-pod. This new type of mortar system fired twenty-two 10-pound pieces of ordinance a maximum of 1,000 yards. Mortars today still use the bi-pod and base-plate improvements that were first deployed in the trenches of the Western Front.

COMBAT FOOTAGE Marines in firefight beat Taliban ambush with 60mm Mortar Fire

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Where the metal meets the meat

A mortar crew consists of at least three members: the squad leader, gunner, and the assistant gunner. More members could be attached depending on manpower available.

The mortar system has a large tube closed at the the bottom and attached to a base plate. Within the barrel of the tube is a firing pin used to ignite a mortar shell’s primer. Some models have a moving firing pin that can be fired via a trigger mechanism.

The controlled explosion fills the chamber with gas and propels the shell out of the tube. A set of bi-pods add stability and allow on-the-fly adjustments. It can be fired from defilade (a fighting position that does not expose the crew to direct fire weapons) onto entrenched enemy not protected from overhead fire.

Sometimes referred to as a ‘bomb’, the shell and its components consist of the impact fuse, high explosive filler, a primary charge, fins, and augmenting charges. Illumination and smoke rounds differ depending on the model of the weapon system. Augmentation charges on the outside ‘neck’ near the fin can be added or removed to manipulate firing range as needed.

The gun is aimed, the round is half loaded until the ‘fire’ command is given and freedom rings.

Steel drizzle vs steel rain

The differences between artillery and mortars are night and day. Artillery fires on a horizontal trajectory, at faster speeds, and at longer ranges. The cost of these advantages are sacrificed in mobility.

Mortars, however, are light enough that they can be carried across difficult terrain and quickly assembled to take control of the battle space. Ammunition can be dispersed to individual troops to carry and then dropped off at the gun crew rally point.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Want a body like Ryan Reynolds? Dream on. But this workout will Help

Anyone can get in movie-star shape. All it requires is working out every day for two to four hours, skipping carbs, hiring trainers, and having a Hollywood studio foot the bill and then pay handsomely for your time. It’s how Ryan Reynolds and his superhero peers look the way they do on the big screen. That’s not to say their workouts aren’t impressive. They’re typically the kind of upper-body-heavy exercise routines that only someone who does this for a living could finish. Because of this, they’re worth following.

Take the workout that Reynolds was tackling while filming “Deadpool 2.” When he enlisted celebrity trainer Don Saladino to create a routine that would build muscle, add definition, and improve overall fitness, he got what he asked for. Saladino designed a variety of circuit-style workouts that covered most major muscle groups with a focus on the upper body. While he didn’t report how often he worked out, let’s just say he ended up looking like a pretty unrealistic dad of two in the end. Mission accomplished.


What does this have to do with us mere mortals? Well, the workouts Reynolds did are pretty great for full-body strength and agility because (little known fact) Reynolds does a lot of his own stunt moves. But, yeah, it’s too hard. We get that. Which is why we took the principles from one of the sample workouts he shared with Men’s Health, and dumbed it down for us regular dads. Here’s your streamlined version, with moves modified to fit the schedule and skills of everyday dads.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

(Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Warm-up

Reynolds’ version: 15 minutes of stretching, foam rolling, and deep breathing.

Your version: Your time is precious, so you can do this 3 minutes. Stand with feet wide apart. Reach arms overhead, inhale deeply. Exhale and release, bending your knees and allowing your torso to fall forward so that your hands rest on the floor. From here, bend your right knee deeply, shift weight to right side, and move into a side lunge. Hold as you breathe in and out. Shift weight to left side and repeat. Return to center, straighten your back and legs and raise arms out the side. Twist right, then left, five times. Relax — you’re ready to go.

Move #1: Kettlebell swing

This full-body move works your arms, back, glutes, and quads. Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Hold the handle of a kettlebell with both hands, arms straight in front of your body. Bend your knees into a squat, and let the kettlebell drift back between your legs, keeping your back straight. With a single movement, push through your heels and explosively return to a standing position, allowing the kettlebell to swing forward so it reaches chest height as you do. That’s one rep.

Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with as heavy a weight as possible.

Your version: You can nearly keep up here! Make it 3 reps with a 25-pound weight.

Move #2: Front squat

Start standing, feet hip-width apart and toes slightly turned out. Hold a barbell with both hand (palms facing forward and tilted upward) just below your chin. Bend knees and allow your hips to drift back as if you were sitting in a chair. Keep back straight. Aim to get your quads parallel to the floor, but stop lowering as soon as you feel your form begin to slip. Return to standing to complete one rep.

Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with a heavy weight (about 85% of a max load)

Dad’s version: Keep it at 5 reps, but skip the weight altogether and go for air squats. Focus on the form — that’s what really matters here.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

(Flickr / dtstuff9)

Move #3: Bench press

Lie back on a flat bench, holding the barbell above your chest with an overhand grip, arms straight. Keep hands shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows, keeping them close by your sides, and lower bar to chest height, then straighten again.

Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with a weight that is probably more than you can lift, placing hands close together to increase difficulty.

Dad’s version: Let’s go with 3 reps using a weight that’s about 75% of your max load (roughly around 150 if you’re a 200-pound guy, although it’s a wide range). Place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width to help with bar stability — even wider if you’re new-ish to the move.

Move #4: Pull-up

Stand in front of the pull-up bar and grab it with an overhand grip. Keeping your back straight and eyes focused on the wall just above eye level, bend arms as you hoist your chin over the bar, then straighten back down.

Reynolds’ version: 5 reps maintaining a plank position with his body (i.e. board-straight) and fully extending arms with every lowering.

Your version: Stick with the 5 reps, but use an assist. See that resistance band? Tie it around the bar so it creates a long loop. Place your feet inside the loop, allowing band to stretch as you lower your body, then add support as you lift yourself up. Another alternative: Perform reverse pull-ups by gently jumping off the floor to begin in a contracted position, chin above the bar, then feel the burn as you lower yourself down to the floor.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

(Photo by Edgar Chaparro)

Move #5: The carry

Reynolds did various versions of the weighted walk in his workout to prep for “Deadpool 2” — it’s one of the most efficient ways to build overall strength and tone your muscles. You can choose between a suitcase carry (carry dumbbells or kettlebells down by your sides), overhead carry (raise the weight directly over your head, arm straight, doing one arm at a time as you walk), or bottom-up carry (bend your arm at a 90 degree angle in front of you and carry the kettlebell upside-down by its handle so that the weighted endpoints up into the air). In all cases, focus on good form.

Reynolds’ version: 5 reps of 75-foot carries with a weight that is 35-40 pounds.

Your version: Challenge yourself here with 3 reps of 50-foot carries. Still, don’t go too heavy. Start with 25 pounds and work up from there.

Rest and repeat

Reynolds’ Version: No rest for Merc with a Mouth. Do this circuit five times in a row.

Your version. Take 30 seconds between reps and 5 minutes between sets. You’ve earned it. Start by hitting this circuit twice and work your way up from there (capping at four).

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just retired one of its most storied space vessels

After nine years in deep space collecting data that indicate our sky to be filled with billions of hidden planets — more planets even than stars — NASA’s Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel needed for further science operations. NASA has decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth. Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 planet discoveries from outside our solar system, many of which could be promising places for life.

“As NASA’s first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.”


Kepler has opened our eyes to the diversity of planets that exist in our galaxy. The most recent analysis of Kepler’s discoveries concludes that 20 to 50 percent of the stars visible in the night sky are likely to have small, possibly rocky, planets similar in size to Earth, and located within the habitable zone of their parent stars. That means they’re located at distances from their parent stars where liquid water — a vital ingredient to life as we know it — might pool on the planet surface.

The most common size of planet Kepler found doesn’t exist in our solar system — a world between the size of Earth and Neptune — and we have much to learn about these planets. Kepler also found nature often produces jam-packed planetary systems, in some cases with so many planets orbiting close to their parent stars that our own inner solar system looks sparse by comparison.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

Artist’s impression of the Kepler telescope.

“When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago we didn’t know of a single planet outside our solar system,” said the Kepler mission’s founding principal investigator, William Borucki, now retired from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that’s full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy.”

Launched on March 6, 2009, the Kepler space telescope combined cutting-edge techniques in measuring stellar brightness with the largest digital camera outfitted for outer space observations at that time. Originally positioned to stare continuously at 150,000 stars in one star-studded patch of the sky in the constellation Cygnus, Kepler took the first survey of planets in our galaxy and became the agency’s first mission to detect Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of their stars.

“The Kepler mission was based on a very innovative design. It was an extremely clever approach to doing this kind of science,” said Leslie Livesay, director for astronomy and physics at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who served as Kepler project manager during mission development. “There were definitely challenges, but Kepler had an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers who overcame them.”

Four years into the mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, mechanical failures temporarily halted observations. The mission team was able to devise a fix, switching the spacecraft’s field of view roughly every three months. This enabled an extended mission for the spacecraft, dubbed K2, which lasted as long as the first mission and bumped Kepler’s count of surveyed stars up to more than 500,000.

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

Artist’s impression of the Kepler telescope.

The observation of so many stars has allowed scientists to better understand stellar behaviors and properties, which is critical information in studying the planets that orbit them. New research into stars with Kepler data also is furthering other areas of astronomy, such as the history of our Milky Way galaxy and the beginning stages of exploding stars called supernovae that are used to study how fast the universe is expanding. The data from the extended mission were also made available to the public and science community immediately, allowing discoveries to be made at an incredible pace and setting a high bar for other missions. Scientists are expected to spend a decade or more in search of new discoveries in the treasure trove of data Kepler provided.

“We know the spacecraft’s retirement isn’t the end of Kepler’s discoveries,” said Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “I’m excited about the diverse discoveries that are yet to come from our data and how future missions will build upon Kepler’s results.”

Before retiring the spacecraft, scientists pushed Kepler to its full potential, successfully completing multiple observation campaigns and downloading valuable science data even after initial warnings of low fuel. The latest data, from Campaign 19, will complement the data from NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in April. TESS builds on Kepler’s foundation with fresh batches of data in its search of planets orbiting some 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to the Earth, worlds that can later be explored for signs of life by missions, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado, operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

For the Kepler press kit, which includes multimedia, timelines and top science results, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/kepler/presskit

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/kepler

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

popular

The civilian’s guide to military Force Protection Conditions

The Army in Europe relies on five Force Protection Condition (FPCON) levels — Normal, A, B, C and D — or as the Army says, Normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. The levels increase from lowest condition at Normal to the highest and most protective at Delta.

The U.S. Army Europe commander delegates responsibility to general officers for force protection, known as the GOFPs. The commander of 7th Army Training Command headquartered out of Grafenwoehr is the GOFP for USAG Bavaria and USAG Ansbach.

The GOFP is the lowest level of command within U.S. Army Europe authorized to change local FPCONs. Garrison commanders immediately begin implementing FPCON changes upon receipt of notification to change.

What is an FPCON?

5 last-minute decisions that changed American military history

The Force Protection Condition, or FPCON, does two things to counter terrorists or other hostile adversaries:

1. It sets the FPCON level at Normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie or Delta.

– Normal: Occurs when a general global threat of possible terrorist activity is possible. The minimum FPCON for U.S. Army commands is normal.

– Alpha: Occurs when there is an increased general threat of possible terrorist activity against personnel or facilities, the nature and extent of the threat are unpredictable.

– Bravo: Applies when an increased or more predictable threat of terrorist activity exists.

– Charlie: Applies when an incident occurs or intelligence is received indicating some form of terrorist action or targeting against personnel or facilities is likely. 100% ID card check required.



– Delta: Applies in the immediate area where a terrorist attack has occurred or when intelligence has been received that terrorist action against a specific location or person is imminent. 100% ID card check required.

2. When an FPCON level is set, certain force protection measures are implemented. For example, if an Army garrison elevates to FPCON Charlie, you might see increased security measures at the gates, or even gate closures and the presence of additional security forces.

When are FPCON levels raised?

The FPCON levels are raised as a threat increases or if an attack has occurred.

How do I know the FPCON?

The Force Protection Condition level is posted at each gate entrance and all entrances to garrison facilities. It is also located on the homepage at www.bavaria.army.mil.

How will I know what measures are implemented as the FPCON increases or decreases?

While specific FPCON measures are not releasable in the interest of security, there are some key tips to keep in mind:

– The FPCON level has been set at Bravo or higher since 2001.

– FPCON Charlie — which indicates that a threat is likely — sets into motion curtailment plans for nonessential personnel. If you are unsure if you are essential or nonessential personnel, contact your supervisor.

– FPCON Delta, the highest and most protective level, limits installation access to mission-essential personnel and other personnel as determined by the commander.

– What if you need to get on-post during FPCON Charlie or Delta? If you’re off-post and you live on-post, have children at school or need to get to the clinic, for example, and the Force Protection Condition has elevated to Charlie or Delta, stand by for further directions. Contact your supervisor or unit leadership for guidance. Connect to the USAG Bavaria Facebook page at www.facebook.com/USAGBavaria and ensure you’re registered in AtHoc — the Army’s mass-warning notification system.

– No matter what the FPCON is, always carry two forms of photo ID when entering U.S. military installations, according to the Army in Europe regulation on installation access control.

– Increased force protection measures do not necessarily indicate an increase in an FPCON. Army garrisons in Europe also implement random antiterrorism measures known as RAM.

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

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