How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Morris “Moe” Berg’s dying words — “How did the Mets do today?” — were on brand for the 70-year-old New York native who enjoyed a 15-year career in Major League Baseball before America entered World War II.

Sports columnist John Kieran called Berg “The Professor” on account of his reputation as an Ivy League-educated linguist and lawyer, a mentor and coach to younger MLB players, and a newspaper-devouring raconteur who earned fanfare as a repeat contestant on the NBC radio quiz show “Information Please.”

His 1972 New York Times obituary eulogized, first and foremost, the “catcher in majors who spoke 10 languages.”


But the brainy 6-foot-1-inch bullpen catcher with an unspectacular batting average had another career entirely: He was a World War II secret agent who gathered intelligence on three continents for the US government.

“We often think about athletes just playing ball and going in for records. But Moe, Ted Williams twice, Joe DiMaggio — they went off and risked their lives and their careers to serve,” said filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who illuminates Berg’s life and legacy in her 2019 documentary, “ The Spy Behind Home Plate.”

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Washington Senator Joe Kuhel (left) with Moe Berg (right).

(Alchetron)

Berg’s particular line of work during the war — he ultimately served as a spy for the Manhattan Project while working for the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA — further differentiated him. Who else would sit in the dugout talking about whether Mussolini would win or not?” Kempner said.

As the surviving members of the Greatest Generation dwindle and tensions rise among 21st-century nuclear-armed powers, Kempner emphasizes the need to learn about veterans and remember their contributions and sacrifices.

“It’s important to know who our unknown heroes are and what they did,” she said.

Here’s a window into Berg’s life and transition from multilingual ballplayer to World War II nuclear spy.

He was the son of immigrants.

Moe Berg was born in Harlem in 1902. He was the third child of Bernard Berg and Rose Taschker, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, who came to the US seeking economic opportunity and religious freedom.

The Bergs moved to Newark, New Jersey, where Bernard opened a pharmacy. Education was paramount, and Bernard in particular expected his kids to pursue one of three professions: lawyer, doctor, or teacher.

From his early days, Moe had a rocket arm and a photographic memory.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Moe Berg’s passport.

As a 7-year-old, he played baseball on a church team using the pseudonym “Runt Wolfe.” He excelled on the field and in the classroom, initially studying at New York University. He transferred to Princeton University, where he was a star on the baseball team and in the modern languages department.

The popular, idiosyncratic scholar-athlete turned down an offer to join one of Princeton’s exclusive eating clubs, purportedly after being told that while he’d be more than welcome, he shouldn’t think of bringing other Jews around.

He spent off-seasons studying law at Columbia University and traveling the world.

After Berg graduated college, the Brooklyn Robins (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) and the New York Giants were interested in recruiting him, in part because they thought he’d help draw the city’s relatively large Jewish population.

He joined the Robins and played in the minor leagues. His technical skills and lack of offensive power inspired the phrase “good field, no hit.” He went on to play for the Chicago White Sox.

At the time, major leaguers worked in the spring and summer and were off the rest of the year. Berg used his baseball earnings to travel. He studied Sanskrit at the Sorbonne in Paris and wrote of how much he enjoyed French “wine, women, and song.”

Largely to appease his father, Berg also enrolled at Columbia Law School and arrived late to spring training while finishing his first year. The following year, the White Sox owner denied Berg’s request to arrive late again, so Berg arranged to leave school early and make up his courses. He’d go on to pass the bar and join the firm Satterlee and Canfield.

But baseball was his priority and ultimately how he made his living throughout the 1930s. He said he would rather be a baseball player than a Supreme Court justice.

He became a catcher by accident.

In 1927, White Sox catcher turned manager Ray Schalk, in a pinch during a game, called out to the bench asking if anyone could catch. Berg tried to volunteer the player next to him. But Schalk thought Berg, a shortstop, was volunteering and put him in without being corrected.

“If it doesn’t turn out well, please send the body to Newark,” Berg reportedly told his teammates. He took to catching. He and his second baseman communicated about the opposing team’s base runners in Latin.

If the runner trying to steal understood Latin, Berg said they’d switch to Sanskrit.

He made two trips to Japan “for baseball” in the 1930s, capturing panoramic footage of Tokyo that is believed to have been used to plan the 1942 Doolittle Raid, the US’s first bombing raid on Japan in World War II.

With Japan already at war with China, the Japanese government was becoming increasingly militarized. (Japan and China clashed from 1931 to 1932 and again between 1937 and 1945.) Meanwhile, Japanese citizens were growing interested in America’s favorite pastime.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Two Japanese naval vessels, left foreground, at Yokosuka Naval Base near Yokohama, directly in the path of bombs from Maj. Gen. James Doolittle’s raiders, April 18, 1942.

(Library of Congress)

In 1932, Berg was among a group of major leaguers sent to Tokyo to coach Japanese college players in hitting, base-stealing, and other skills. When the tour ended and Ted Lyons and Lefty O’Doul returned home, Berg stayed, traveling around Asia by himself.

He ended his trip in Berlin, and he saw firsthand the beginning of Adolph Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, along with then-Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini’s fascist influence on the Nazi movement.

Back in the US, Berg played on the Washington Senators, frequenting embassy parties in DC, before being dropped and picked up by the Cleveland Indians.

In 1934, the Soviet Union briefly invaded China, and with tensions rising in the Pacific, the US sent an all-star roster of American League players on a tour of Japan to compete against Japanese teams in a friendly 18-game series.

The players would also serve as goodwill ambassadors, as the All-American Japan Tour was an attempt to bolster Japanese-American relations through a shared interest in baseball.

While Berg had set a league record for catching 117 games straight without an error, he didn’t have the same hall-of-famer status as other recruits, like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earl Averil, and Lefty Gomez. But he had been to Japan before, and when catcher Rick Ferrell dropped off the All-Americans roster just before the tour, Berg readily accepted the invitation.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Moe Berg, second from the left in the first row, with other members of the “All Americans” on a visit Nagoya Castle during a free day on the 1934 exhibition.

(CIA Museum)

He studied Japanese on the deck of the ship during the three-week journey across the Pacific. Upon arriving, Babe Ruth heard Berg greet a fan in Japanese. Ruth said he thought Berg claimed not to know Japanese. Berg said that he hadn’t a few weeks before.

“Shhh.”

Berg traveled with a 16 mm Bell and Howell movie camera, seemingly undeterred by leaflets distributed by police warning people not to make maps or capture images, which the Japanese feared could be used against them in war.

He also carried an official letter of introduction from US Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

On one occasion, Berg peeled off from his teammates and went to the roof of a Tokyo hospital, then the city’s tallest building. He wore a Japanese kimono and slippers, and he had flowers and an alibi that he was visiting an ambassador’s daughter who’d just had a baby.

But he threw out the flowers and ended up on the roof, where he shot a panorama of the Tokyo skyline, including the harbor and industrial centers. The US would later use the shots as reconnaissance footage to inform wartime military strategy and plan bombing raids.

How Berg delivered the footage to the US government remains murky. He was known for answering questions about his government work by putting his finger to his lips and saying, “shhh.”

When pressed on how he’d left the hospital with the movie camera, he supposedly responded, “What made you think I had anything in my kimono other than my big pecs and biceps?”

During World War II, he retired his Red Sox uniform to work for the government.

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, killed more than 2,300 Americans and catapulted the US into World War II. Millions of Americans joined up. Before Berg’s father died in January 1942, he asked his sons, “Why aren’t you contributing to this war?”

Berg left the Red Sox to work for the Office of Inter-American Affairs, a government agency President Franklin Roosevelt founded to counter Axis propaganda in Latin America.

In February 1942, Berg made a radio broadcast addressing the people of Japan, in Japanese, asking for peace; he identified himself as “a friend of the Japanese people” and urged listeners to avoid “a war you cannot win.”

That summer, his work took him to Central and South America, ostensibly as an goodwill ambassador distributing baseball gear. He fed reports on the political situation to his boss, Inter-American Affairs Coordinator Nelson Rockefeller.

The OSS tapped him as a nuclear spy who carried out acts of espionage and sabotage to thwart Hitler’s nuclear program.

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt recognized the importance of strong foreign intelligence to the Allied war effort. In 1942, he signed an executive order forming the OSS, a clandestine espionage and sabotage agency directed by Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan.

Donovan, a Republican, was Roosevelt’s Columbia Law classmate and a World War I general turned Wall Street lawyer. As the founding father of America’s CIA forerunner, Donovan recruited a diverse cast of military and civilian personnel whom he fondly regarded as his “Glorious Amateurs.”

At its peak in 1944, the OSS employed some 13,000 men and women, with personnel stationed across the world, working not only as field agents but also as codebreakers, researchers, mapmakers, psychologists, scientists, and propagandists who carried out special operations and information warfare.

Berg was recruited to the OSS in 1943.

With his unusual aptitude, agility, language skills, and information-gathering experience, Berg became the OSS agent that Donovan designated to support the government’s top-secret initiative to develop its first nuclear weapons, codenamed the Manhattan Project.

It was an undertaking so covert that Roosevelt supposedly didn’t even tell then-Vice President Harry Truman about it.

Leading researchers and scientists, including Albert Einstein, briefed Berg, teaching him what they hoped would be sufficient background on atomic energy and their adversaries’ efforts so Berg could collect vital information and assets from occupied Europe.

In 1944, Berg moved throughout war-ravaged Italy to track down important Italian scientists and documents in danger of falling into Hitler’s hands.

“I see Moe is still catching very well,” Roosevelt said after learning Berg had located and extracted Italy’s foremost expert in aerodynamics, Antonio Ferri.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Berg in a photo published upon his release from the Red Sox on Jan. 14, 1942.

(CIA Museum)

Ferri had destroyed lab equipment that could help the Axis and gone into hiding in the mountains with a crate of scientific documents. He raised a resistance circuit carrying out guerilla operations to thwart the Axis and enable Allied air drops. Berg and Ferri connected and began parsing and translating the scientific documents.

With special permission from Roosevelt, Ferri entered the US with a suitcase and the crate of documents and was escorted to the nation’s leading aeronautics research center, in Langley, Virginia.

As Manhattan Project scientists raced to develop the atomic bombs that America would drop on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, its leaders remained concerned with where Hitler stood with any similar efforts.

If the Axis powers were making progress, it would likely involve German nuclear physicist Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Prize winner who remained in Germany during the war.

In December 1944, Berg was sent to neutral Switzerland for a conference at the University of Zurich with a pistol, a cyanide tablet, and a false identity as a Swiss physics student. His mission was to attend an intimate lecture that Heisenberg was giving at the conference.

If Heisenberg mentioned working on a nuclear bomb, Berg was to stand up and shoot Heisenberg point blank, with the understanding that this would also mean being killed himself.

Between the German language and the deeply technical physics terminology, Berg left the lecture unsure of what Heisenberg knew. He ended up complimenting Heisenberg on his talk and later insisting on escorting him to his hotel.

In the resulting report, which was read by Roosevelt, Berg determined that Heisenberg had low confidence in the German effort and that Hitler was at least two years behind the Manhattan Project.

Berg died in Belleville, New Jersey, in 1972 at the age of 70, after a fall at his home.

In 2018, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to OSS personnel. The presentation of Congress’s highest civilian honor marked the first collective recognition of the OSS, which President Harry Truman disbanded in 1945.

Truman formed the CIA in 1947 from the old OSS headquarters. While Donovan was not employed by America’s post-war intelligence organization, many of his “Glorious Amateurs” were, and four would go on to hold the agency’s top post.

A bronze statue of Donovan — and an OSS book of honor naming the 116 OSS members who were killed during World War II — are on display in the lobby of the CIA’s current headquarters in Langley.

Berg declined the Medal of Freedom in 1946. He never married or had children. He led a nomadic existence, traveling and, in his later years, living with his sister, Ethel, in New Jersey.

Ethel Berg accepted his Medal of Honor after his death and donated it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York, where it is on display, along with his catcher’s mitt and passport.

Ethel took Berg’s ashes to Israel, but to this day, no one knows where his remains are buried.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was General Sherman’s real method of clearing minefields

Saying that General William T. Sherman was unforgiving to his enemies is the understatement of the 19th-Century. The man who burned Georgia to the ground was as tough as they come and in the South, he earned a reputation for being particularly evil, even though the truth is much further than the Confederates would have you believe.


There’s no doubt Sherman was as destructive as he could be as he burned Atlanta and then marched to the sea, as history puts it, but some of his methods were much more exaggerated than history remembers it.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

And some of it wasn’t exaggerated at all.

One such exaggeration is how Sherman used Confederate prisoners of war to clear a confederate minefield near Sandersville, Ga. during his infamous “March to the Sea.” Sherman is remembered to have seen one of his soldiers lose a leg to a land mine. In a rage, he tells a prisoner to deliver a message to Confederate leaders in Georgia: he is going to use POWs to clear every minefield in Georgia as he walked to Savannah, no matter how many it took to clear the mines.

To read this, one would think Sherman is going to send a mass of men into a minefield to clear mines by setting them off, killing and maiming the POWs in the process. After all, this is the man known for saying, “War is cruel. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

This context would have you believe Sherman is the Confederacy’s Attila the Hun, relentlessly destroying everything in his path with zero compassion. And while Sherman may have destroyed a lot of what he found in Georgia, he also fed citizens from his army’s stores and allowed emancipated slaves to follow his army as it marched from Atlanta to Savannah. Sherman was very dedicated to the laws of war, even if he was pushing the envelope of those laws. He even challenged his critics to “see the books” of those laws for themselves.

As for the POWs clearing mines, he did use the Confederates to clear minefields. His order was more than rushing them into the middle of the field to be blown up, however. His logic was that those troops had buried those mines near Sandersville and they should be the ones to dig them up. He did the same thing outside of Savannah later in the campaign.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Sweden is low-key one of the greatest superpowers

Imagine you’re playing a game of Risk. While everyone else is busy squabbling with their neighbors, you take each turn to quietly bolster your army. You sit back and build up while making friends with the right people so you can focus on your own military. This has been Sweden’s plan for the last two hundred years.


Now, Sweden doesn’t compete when it comes to military expenditure — they’re near the bottom of the list for developed nations. The entirety of their troops, active, guard, and paramilitary, could fit inside a single arena in Stockholm. And they’ve even made non-alignment pacts during every major conflict in modern history, so battle-hardened leaders are hard to come by.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Despite this, they’re strong allies with all NATO nations and they’ve sent many military observers to Afghanistan as apart of the ISAF.
(Photo by Pfc. Han-byeol Kim)

Sweden’s strength comes from their mastery of technology. Particularly, in three key elements of warfare: speed, surveillance, and stealth.

One of their greatest military advances is the Saab Gripen JAS 39E, a state-of-the-art aircraft that is much cheaper than its peers. The Gripen has mastered super-cruise flight, which is the ability to fly at supersonic speeds without the use of afterburners. It is also equipped with one of the world’s leading active electronically scanned array systems and will soon lead the world in combining aircraft with electronic warfare capabilities.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Vikings in the air. Great. Just what the world needed.
(Swedish Armed Forces)

But their advanced technology doesn’t start and end with the Gripens. The next keystone of their arsenal is the unbelievable advancements they’ve made in drone technology, culminating in the SKELDAR UAV helicopter. It can carry a 40kg payload and remain in the air for up to 6 hours, which is amazing its size and cost.

The sleek rotary wing design for a UAV also gives it much more control over the battlefield when compared fixed wing aircraft. Once the SKELDAR locks onto a target, it won’t ever let it out of its sights.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
At only 4 meters in length, it’s can go undetected when it’s a kilometer in the air.
(Swedish Armed Forces)

As impressive as these are, Sweden’s biggest military boast is their war-games victory over the US Navy in 2005 when the HMS Gotland “defeated” the USS Ronald Reagan. The HMS Gotland, and all other attack submarines in the Gotland-class, are the stealthiest submarines in the ocean. This is because it was designed entirely to counter means of detection.

It’s the only submarine class to use air-independent propulsion by way of the Stirling engine. Its passive sonar system is so advanced that it can detect which nationality an unknown ship belongs to simply by identifying the operating frequency of the alternating current used in its power systems. It does all of this while remaining completely undetectable to the might of even the United States Navy.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
It’s cool though. Sweden’s Navy is a strong ally.
(Photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Michael Moriatis)

MIGHTY MOVIES

How ‘1917’ military advisor prepares actors to fight WWI’s devastating battles

Creating a realistic battle scene — whether it’s from World War II or the Napoleonic Wars — demands technical know-how and precise attention to detail.

Paul Biddiss, the military technical adviser on the upcoming World War I movie “1917,” taught the actors everything they needed to know, from proper foot care to how to hold a weapon, “which allows the actor to concentrate on his primary task. Acting!” Biddis told Insider.

Biddiss has worked on projects from a variety of time periods — “large Napoleonic battles through to World War I, World War II, right up to modern-day battles with Special Forces,” Biddiss said.

Read on to learn about how Biddiss prepared “1917” performers for the gruesome, grueling warfare of World War I.


How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Javier Alvarez)

Biddiss spent 24 years in the British military before finding a career in film.

Biddiss, a former paratrooper, started his film career as an extra on the movie “Monuments Men.”

Since then, he has worked on projects like “Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation,” HBO’s “Catherine the Great,” and “The Crown.”

“I always tell people military film advising is 60% research and 40% of my own military experience added in to the mix,” Biddiss told Insider by email.

To prepare for a shoot, Biddiss obtains authentic training manuals appropriate to the conflict.

“I like to first understand the recruitment and training process, the rank structure and attitude between the ordinary ranks and officers,” he said. “This helps me better understand the battles and tactics used by the men and what must have been going through their heads at the time.”

That helps him structure a training program appropriate to the conflict, and safe for the performers — even when he’s short on prep time.

“When tasked to train 500 supporting artists for [the BBC’s] ‘War and Peace,’ I only had three days to research Napoleonic warfare and prepare a safe structured training program before flying out to Lithuania to train the men before a large battle sequence.”

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Director Sam Mendes with actors Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay on the set of “1917.”

Training on “1917” started from the ground up — literally.

“Foot care was one of the first lessons I taught George [MacKay] and Dean [Charles Chapman], the importance of looking after their feet daily,” Biddiss said, referring to two stars of “1917.” “Basic recruits are taught this still even today.”

Trench foot, a common condition in World War I, is caused by wet, cold, and unsanitary conditions. It can be avoided by keeping the feet dry and clean, but left untreated it can lead to gangrene and amputation.

“The boys were wearing authentic period boots, walking and running in the wet mud all day and if not addressed early would have cause them major problems on set,” Biddiss said. “I taught them how to identify hot spots on the feet where the boots rubbed, taping up those hotspots to prevent blisters and applying talc and clean socks at every opportunity.”

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

A battle scene in “1917.”

Battle scenes require a lot from performers, but Biddiss said he “would never dream of asking an actor to do something I was not physically able to do myself.”

“I naturally train most days to keep myself in shape” and to instill confidence in his abilities, Biddiss told Insider.

“It’s not a good look if you’re a military adviser and you’re carrying around excess weight” and get winded after a short walk, he said.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Shooting a scene from “1917.”

(Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)

With hundreds of extras, making sure all the performers were right for the movie was a massive task in itself, Biddiss said.

“We first ran local auditions,” Biddiss said. “I then ran assessments before boot camps to make sure we had the right people who not only looked right, but were coordinated and physically robust to take on the task.”

After the performers were selected, “I started with basic arms drill to test coordination, fitness to test stamina,” he said. “Then to weapon handling, historical lessons, and tactics.”

“There so much attention to detail, like I’ve never seen before on set,” Biddiss said.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Mendes with Chapman and MacKay on the set of “1917.”

Biddiss has to teach the performers how to look and feel both natural and accurate when using their weapons.

Weapons handling is one of the main hurdles in preparing an actor for battle.

“There could [be] over 500 supporting artists on set with bayonets fixed and firing blank rounds,” Biddiss said. “The blanks used are very powerful and can still do permanent damage, so if time is not invested in training it could all go horribly wrong.”

It’s also one of the things he notices other productions often don’t get right. Biddiss said he notices performers never reloading their weapons or always having their fingers on a gun’s trigger.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

MacKay in a scene from “1917.”

Throughout the production, the mindset of the performers has to be just like that of a soldier, Biddiss said.

“I like to impress on one aspect,” Biddiss said. “Fear and anger.”

“I tell actors and supporting artists that they need to show both feelings on their faces when about to act a battle sequence,” he said. “Fear of dying, but anger towards the people who have brought them to this situation.”

“There is nothing ninja about soldiering,” Biddiss tells the performers he trains. “You have one job. Close in and kill the enemy.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Before his death, Bush did a final, touching favor for Pence’s son

Vice President Mike Pence recalled Dec. 3, 2018, how he asked a last favor from an ailing George H.W. Bush in August 2018 on behalf of his son, Marine 1st Lt. Michael Pence — never expecting that the former president would be able to comply.

The young Pence had just made his first tailhook carrier landing on the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, earning his wings as a Marine pilot. Could the former president please autograph a photo for his son?


Pence said Bush’s staff replied that he was no longer signing autographs, so he thought that was the end of it. But within a week, a handwritten letter and a signed photo from Bush arrived.

“Congratulations on receiving your wings of gold,” Bush wrote to Pence’s son. “Though we have not met, I wish you many days of CAVU ahead” — a reference to the Navy acronym meaning “Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited” that he adopted as his motto in public service.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

U.S. service members walk the casket of George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States, towards the hearse, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Dec. 03, 2018.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kalie Frantz)

Pence told the story upon the arrival of Bush’s casket at the Capitol as an example of the former president’s basic decency and humility. Even in death, Bush performed another public service in the form of a brief respite from the partisan infighting and mudslinging of the warring factions of the White House and Congress.

As Bush’s flag-draped casket was borne to the Capitol’s Rotunda to lie in state, President Donald Trump and Congress were nearing a tentative agreement to put off a battle on the budget and the funding of the border wall that could have led to a partial government shutdown.

The House and Senate also postponed what would have been a contentious series of hearings on veterans and military issues.

In their remarks in the Rotunda, Congressional leaders and Pence made clear that the usual partisanship would have been unseemly while paying tribute to the 41st president, known for his inability to bear a grudge.

As James Baker, Bush’s secretary of state and chief of staff, has often said, Bush got to be president by “being nice to people.”

A siren-blaring cortege led the hearse bearing Bush’s casket down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol on a crisp and clear evening in Washington, D.C., with enough breeze to give a steady ripple to the flags at half-staff in mourning.

At the East Front of the Capitol, honor units from all the services snapped to attention and then to “Present Arms” as military bearers took the casket from the hearse and then up the steps of the East Front to the Rotunda.

Ceremonial cannon boomed a 21-gun salute, and a military band played “Hail to the Chief” in a somber rhythm.

At the top of the steps, former President George W. Bush, the corners of his mouth sharply downturned, waited with former first lady Laura Bush, their hands on their hearts.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

President George W. Bush, and his wife, Laura Bush, arrive at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Dec. 03, 2018. Military and civilian personnel assigned to Joint Task Force-National Capital Region provided ceremonial and civil affairs support during President George H.W. Bush’s state funeral.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Pfc. Katelyn Strange)

Also waiting was the rest of the late president’s immediate family — his children, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Neil, Marvin and Doro; and the Bush grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The military bearers placed Bush’s flag-draped casket with great care on the catafalque that once bore the body of Abraham Lincoln.

In folding chairs arranged around the casket sat the Joint Chiefs, the justices of the Supreme Court, and members of the House and Senate, along with former Cabinet members who served under the late president, including former Vice President Dick Cheney.

In his invocation, Rev. Patrick Conroy, chaplain of the House, gave thanks to God for granting the blessing of Bush’s “example of service to all Americans, indeed to all the world.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said that honoring Bush had brought Congress together “on democracy’s front porch” in the Rotunda, “a good place to talk as neighbors and friends.”

“Here lies a great man,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. He called Bush “a great leader and a good man, a gentle soul of firm resolve. His memory will belong to glory.”

Trump and first lady Melania Trump did not attend the arrival of Bush’s casket but were expected to pay their respects later Dec. 3, 2018 evening.

Bush will lie in state at the Capitol until Dec. 5, 2018, when a funeral will be held at Washington National Cathedral. His casket will then return to Houston for interment.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Is the rereleased version of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ worth your time?

“Avengers: Endgame” just got re-released in theaters with bonus content.

The movie, which initially hit theaters in April 2019 and went on to hit $1 billion at the box office, returned on June 28, 2019. Prior to the re-release, Marvel revealed that the new version would have an introduction from Anthony Russo, an unfinished scene that didn’t appear in the final movie, and a sneak peek at “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (which comes out on July 2, 2019).

Keep reading for a breakdown of what to expect from the latest version of “Endgame,” and whether or not it’s worth seeing in theaters.


How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Anthony and Joe Russo.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Before the movie plays, codirector Anthony Russo shares a few words with viewers

“On behalf of all of us at Marvel Studios, we want to thank you for joining us on this journey,” Russo says. “Make sure you stick around after the credits. We have something special to share with you. Enjoy.”

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

After the film, there’s a touching tribute to Stan Lee

Once the three-hour film ends, you’ll have to wait for all the credits to roll before Marvel honors the comic book legend who died in November 2018 at the age of 95. The tribute, which lasts about three minutes, is stuffed with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage that shows Lee interacting with cast and crew members over the years. There’s also a recap of his cameos and Lee says that he remembers every single one.

You can see him chatting with Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau on the set of 2008’s “Iron Man,” and you can spot Brie Larson leaning on him while filming his quick appearance in the 2019 movie “Captain Marvel.”

“Not only did I not think I would be doing a cameo in such a big movie, I hadn’t dreamt it would be such a big movie,” Lee says. “In those days, I was writing those books, I was hoping they’d sell so I wouldn’t lose my job and could keep paying the rent.”

He goes on to talk about the success of his comic characters and the “blockbuster movies.”

“In the days [when] I was writing these things, I never thought it would turn into something like this,” Lee says.

He adds: “I can’t believe I lucked out.”

The tribute concludes with silver text on the screen that says, “Stan We Love You 3000,” a heartwarming nod to Tony Stark’s line from “Endgame.”

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Mark Ruffalo in “Avengers: Endgame.”

(Disney/Marvel)

The unfinished deleted scene shows Hulk being heroic

Russo returns to the screen to say that it’s a moment that they “loved, but just couldn’t keep in the final cut of the film.”

The scene opens with a burning building and several firefighters arriving at the site. Then Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) shows up, looking a little different because the CGI work hasn’t been completed. As the firefighters panic over how to rescue people stuck on the 40th floor, the superhero valiantly arrives and gets the job done. Then Hulk answers a phone call and says, “Steve who?,” presumably referring to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).

It’s unclear where this scene would have fit into the final version of “Endgame,” but perhaps it was meant to highlight what he was doing after the Avengers tracked down Thanos and killed him in the garden. Following the five-year jump, Professor Hulk seemed to become popular in town, as shown during one “Endgame” scene in which three kids approached him at a diner so they could snap a photo with him.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson in “Avengers: Endgame.”

(Sony Pictures/Marvel)

The final treat gives fans a glimpse of what to expect from ‘Far From Home’

The scene opens in Ixtenco, Mexico and shows Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) evaluating the damage done in the area by a cyclone that seemingly had a face. Then, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio appears and says, “You don’t want any part of this.”

That sneak peek just reiterates what fans have already seen in the trailer for the “Spider-Man” sequel. The movie focuses on new threats, referred to as Elementals, who take the form of earth, fire, water, and air.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

“Avengers: Endgame” is the culmination of several Marvel movies.

(Walt Disney Studios)

Is the new version of ‘Endgame’ worth your time?

“Endgame” is not too far from surpassing “Avatar” and becoming the highest-grossing film of all time, and this re-release of “Endgame” seems like Marvel’s attempt at dethroning James Cameron’s 2009 movie. But fans flocking to the theater might not feel like the new content was worth the time or money spent.

If you’re lucky, you might snag a cool “Endgame” poster from the theater you attend. But other than that, you might be left feeling unsatisfied. While the Lee tribute is emotional and full of nostalgia, it’s not necessary to see it now.

“Endgame” will be available on digital on July 30, 2019, and you can purchase the Blu-ray beginning on Aug. 13, 2019, and it’s likely that the tribute will be included as an extra.

And because “Far From Home” hits theaters in a few days, the sneak peek at the end of “Endgame” isn’t strong motivation to catch the re-release. You’re better off just waiting to see “Far From Home” when it’s released, since it marks the final film in phase three of the MCU and teases where future movies in the universe will be headed.

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

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MIGHTY HISTORY

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, there was a small group of special operations troops who took the fight to the enemy. Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was a highly secret outfit comprised of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Air Commandos who conducted covert cross-border operations deep into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam.

SOG recon teams consisted of a few Special Forces operators and their indigenous troops, or “little people,” as the Americans affectionally called them.

Khanh “Cowboy” Doan, a South Vietnamese commando, was one of them.

In the early 1960s, Cowboy’s father saw that America would have a bigger role in Vietnam’s affairs, and so prompted his son to learn English. And so Cowboy became an interpreter. As American involvement in the Southeast Asian country grew, Cowboy began working for the American forces and soon ended up in SOG.

During his career in SOG, Cowboy participated in scores of missions. He was part of the relief column that went into Lang Vei, a Special Forces A camp that had been overrun by NVA tanks and troops in the early stages of the Siege of Khe Sanh. He also took part in a mission where his nine-man team squared off against 10,000 NVA troops.

While in SOG, Cowboy narrowly escaped death numerous times. In one instance, he didn’t go out with his team for some reason, and the team (ST Alaska) ended up being wiped out save one man who escaped and evaded for two days before getting picked up.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Cowboy honoring a fallen comrade after the war.

In 1972, after operating in SOG for six years, Cowboy lost his leg during a mission across the fence.

At the end of his career, he had served in numerous recon teams, including ST Alaska, Virginia, Idaho, and Alabama.

After Saigon fell in 1975, Cowboy thought that the cleverest thing to do in order to avoid the wrath of the North Vietnamese was to go North, where they wouldn’t be expecting him. After 11 years and 14 failed escape attempts from the country, he managed to reach the Philippines in 1986 and from there the US.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Cowboy surrounded by former Navy SEAL officer Jocko Willink (right) and SOG operator John Stryker “Tilt” Meyer (left) during a recent podcast (John Stryker Meyer).

Recently, Cowboy contracted COVID-19 and had to be hospitalized with serious symptoms. What’s worse, his entire family was also infected, including his wife, son, and grandson. As a consequence, they are hard put to make ends meet. Cowboy was released from the hospital and is back in his home, but he still has to go through dialysis twice a day, totaling nine to ten hours of treatment.  The good news, however, is that he is improving by the day.

Some of Cowboy’s SOG buddies, including Special Forces legend John Stryker “Tilt” Meyer, who has written extensively about America’s secret war in Vietnam, have set up a GoFundMe campaign to support their brother-in-arms and his family.

The GoFundMe campaign (you can visit the page by following this link) aims at helping Cowboy and his family during this difficult time. Donations will help pay rent, cover medical expenses not covered by his insurance, and buy food and medicine for Cowboy and his entire family.

So far, hundreds of people have donated.

“Please thank every person who donated to help me [and] my family. I can’t believe it. We [are] amazed. Please tell every person: ‘You have rescued my life,’” Cowboy told Meyer.

Men like Cowboy fought for their country against the Communist tide. But they also fought for their American brothers, with whom they share a bond that only war and adversity can forge.

“Cowboy is a clearly a legend but also very humble,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the trench knife was the most stupidly awesome weapon ever issued

Every issued weapon in military history was inspired by asking the same question: “How can we make our boys kill better?” Around the turn of the 20th century, one engineer answered that question with, “hold my beer” before rolling up their sleeves going on to invent the Mark 1 trench knife.


Knives, in one form or another, have been used in combat for as long as people have been sharpening things and, pretty soon after that, people have put metal guards on their blades to prevent their hands from getting sliced up while stabbing.

But it was during World War I when the fine folks at Henry Disston & Sons took a pair of brass knuckles and added a knife and a spiked pommel to it because… f*ck it. Why not?

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Raids, and knives, were only really employed during the night.
(Signal Corps Archives)

Fighting in the trenches of WWI was brutal. During the day, opposing fortifications hurled shots at one another and No Man’s Land, the space between opposing trenches, was a hellscape under constant barrage by artillery fire. So, any kind of advance was likely done under cover of night.

Once raiders made it into the enemy line, they would need to keep quiet for as long as possible as to not give away their position, alerting more than just an enemy sentry. They needed something both quiet and lethal to get the job done. Bayonets were plenty, but the trenches were way too narrow to properly utilize what is, essentially, a long spear. This is where detachable bayonet knives came into play.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Troops kept their knife (on the left) on them and used it for pretty much anything, like digging out mines, or cutting cheesecake, or stabbing people in the throat.
(National Archives)

By the time the Americans arrived in WWI, the American Expeditionary Forces decided to adapt the M1917 trench knife. It wouldn’t have the signature knuckleduster just yet, but it did sport spikes where they’d eventually go. The knife also had the infamous triangular tip that was hell for a medic to suture (and would probably be illegal today under the Geneva Convention’s rule against “unnecessary suffering”).

The blade was extremely flimsy and it was meant exclusively for stabbing. This was (mostly) improved with the introduction of the M1918 trench knife that everyone knows and loves today. This new version sported proper brass knuckles and a dual-sided blade. Unlike the earlier knife, the M1918 could be used for both slashing and thrusting. This knife was upgraded once again, using a more durable steel that was less likely to snap the first time it struck a German, and it was dubbed the the Mark I Trench Knife.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A man can dream…
(United States Army)

The spikes weren’t just for punching people, despite what you’ve seen in movies. They were designed more to prevent anyone from simply taking the knife out of your hand.

Finally, there’s the never-manufactured, but still-patented trench knife called the Hughes Trench Knife. Take all of the lethal features of previous designs and then turn it into a spring-loaded switchblade. You can see why it never made it past the design phase.

Trench knives lived on through WWII, were issued sparingly in the Korean War, and again in the tunnels of Vietnam — today, they’re are only sought after by collectors.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia claims accused spies were on a routine trip

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected accusations made by the Dutch authorities against suspected Russian spies.

In early October 2018, authorities in Netherlands said that four agents of Russian GRU military intelligence tried and failed to hack into the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose headquarters are in The Hague.

Commenting on the Dutch allegations, Lavrov said the four Russians were on a “routine” trip to The Hague in April 2018 when they were arrested and deported by Dutch authorities.


“There was nothing secret in the Russian specialists’ trip to The Hague in April,” Lavrov said at a briefing in Moscow on Oct. 8, 2018, after talks with Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“They weren’t hiding from anyone when they arrived at the airport, settled in a hotel and visited our embassy. They were detained without any explanations, denied a chance to contact our embassy in the Netherlands and then asked to leave. It all looked like a misunderstanding.”

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it handed a note on Oct. 8, 2018, to the Netherlands’ ambassador protesting the detention and expulsion of Russian citizens, calling the incident a provocation.

Dutch defense officials released photos and a timeline of the GRU agents’ botched attempt to break into the OPCW.

The OPCW was investigating a nerve-agent attack on a former GRU spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, England; Britain has blamed it on the Russian government. Moscow vehemently denies involvement.

Featured image: Four Russian citizens who allegedly attempted to hack the OPCW in The Hague are seen in this handout picture released on Oct. 4, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA searches for signs of life near ‘Goldilocks’ stars

Scientists looking for signs of life beyond our solar system face major challenges, one of which is that there are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone to consider. To narrow the search, they must figure out: What kinds of stars are most likely to host habitable planets?

A new study finds a particular class of stars called K stars, which are dimmer than the Sun but brighter than the faintest stars, may be particularly promising targets for searching for signs of life.


Why? First, K stars live a very long time — 17 billion to 70 billion years, compared to 10 billion years for the Sun — giving plenty of time for life to evolve. Also, K stars have less extreme activity in their youth than the universe’s dimmest stars, called M stars or “red dwarfs.”

M stars do offer some advantages for in the search for habitable planets. They are the most common star type in the galaxy, comprising about 75 percent of all the stars in the universe. They are also frugal with their fuel, and could shine on for over a trillion years. One example of an M star, TRAPPIST-1, is known to host seven Earth-size rocky planets.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

This artist’s concept shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about the planets’ diameters, masses and distances from the host star, as of February 2018.

But the turbulent youth of M stars presents problems for potential life. Stellar flares – explosive releases of magnetic energy – are much more frequent and energetic from young M stars than young Sun-like stars. M stars are also much brighter when they are young, for up to a billion years after they form, with energy that could boil off oceans on any planets that might someday be in the habitable zone.

“I like to think that K stars are in a ‘sweet spot’ between Sun-analog stars and M stars,” said Giada Arney of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Arney wanted to find out what biosignatures, or signs of life, might look like on a hypothetical planet orbiting a K star. Her analysis is published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Scientists consider the simultaneous presence of oxygen and methane in a planet’s atmosphere to be a strong biosignature because these gases like to react with each other, destroying each other. So, if you see them present in an atmosphere together, that implies something is producing them both quickly, quite possibly life, according to Arney.

However, because planets around other stars (exoplanets) are so remote, there needs to be significant amounts of oxygen and methane in an exoplanet’s atmosphere for it to be seen by observatories at Earth. Arney’s analysis found that the oxygen-methane biosignature is likely to be stronger around a K star than a Sun-like star.

Arney used a computer model that simulates the chemistry and temperature of a planetary atmosphere, and how that atmosphere responds to different host stars. These synthetic atmospheres were then run through a model that simulates the planet’s spectrum to show what it might look like to future telescopes.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

“When you put the planet around a K star, the oxygen does not destroy the methane as rapidly, so more of it can build up in the atmosphere,” said Arney. “This is because the K star’s ultraviolet light does not generate highly reactive oxygen gases that destroy methane as readily as a Sun-like star.”

This stronger oxygen-methane signal has also been predicted for planets around M stars, but their high activity levels might make M stars unable to host habitable worlds. K stars can offer the advantage of a higher probability of simultaneous oxygen-methane detection compared to Sun-like stars without the disadvantages that come along with an M star host.

Additionally, exoplanets around K stars will be easier to see than those around Sun-like stars simply because K stars are dimmer. “The Sun is 10 billion times brighter than an Earthlike planet around it, so that’s a lot of light you have to suppress if you want to see an orbiting planet. A K star might be ‘only’ a billion times brighter than an Earth around it,” said Arney.

Arney’s research also includes discussion of which of the nearby K stars may be the best targets for future observations. Since we don’t have the ability to travel to planets around other stars due to their enormous distances from us, we are limited to analyzing the light from these planets to search for a signal that life might be present. By separating this light into its component colors, or spectrum, scientists can identify the constituents of a planet’s atmosphere, since different compounds emit and absorb distinct colors of light.

“I find that certain nearby K stars like 61 Cyg A/B, Epsilon Indi, Groombridge 1618, and HD 156026 may be particularly good targets for future biosignature searches,” said Arney.

Articles

This Delta Force rescue was the first attack of ‘Operation Just Cause’

As the United States was preparing to carry out the invasion of Panama, dubbed “Operation Just Cause,” there was a very real problem that had to be dealt with before any meaningful operation against Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega could take place.


The regime had an American hostage in its prison, and the guards where this hostage was being held had orders to kill him if America attacked.

According to an account posted on SpecialOperations.com, Kurt Muse had been making pirate radio broadcasts until he was arrested in early 1989. He’d received some technical assistance from the CIA to make those broadcasts, which had the goal of taking Noriega down a peg or two.

Muse would daily hear – or see – Noriega’s thugs torture inmates at the prison.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A MH-6 Little Bird carrying troops on the outrigger, similar to the technique used during Operation Acid Gambit. (DOD photo)

As tensions increased, Muse was visited by a military officer, later identified as Air Force Col. James A. Ruffer, who would pass reports to Delta Force. The special operators constructed a full-scale mock-up of the prison where Muse was held captive, and the Delta commandos carried out numerous rehearsals.

On December 19, 1989, Muse would receive his last visit. In the presence of reporters, prison guards, and others, the colonel asked Muse if he was aware that orders had been issued by Noriega to kill him if the United States carried out any military action against Panama.

Muse said he understood.

The colonel then made a statement that if Muse were to be harmed, nobody in the prison would emerge alive.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A US Army MH-6 Little Bird. (DOD photo)

Muse knew that something was up.

At 12:45 AM on the morning of Dec. 20, 15 minutes before the official H-Hour, two AH-6 Little Bird helicopters carried out an attack on a nearby military compound using M134 Miniguns and Hydra rockets. One of the helicopters would be damaged and forced to crash-land, with the crew making an escape.

Two AC-130H Spectres then carried out their own attack on that compound, using a tactic called “Top Hat.” The massive volume of fire from the gunships had the effect of drawing the attention of Noriega’s goons.

As that went on, MH-6 Little Birds landed on the roof of the prison and deposited Delta commandos. The operators went through the prison, killing anyone who resisted the rescue. They reached Muse’s cell, forced it open, bundled Muse into body armor and a helmet, then began their exfil.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A M113 armored personnel carrier. (DOD photo)

The MH-6 Muse was loaded on took some hits. In a display of superb airmanship, the pilot would fly the helo down a side street until it was hit again and crashed. Ironically, Muse would help defend the perimeter until they were retrieved by U.S. Army armored personnel carriers.

Operation “Acid Gambit” ended with the mission accomplished.

Podcast

4 survival skills that will help you thrive in a disaster or zombie apocalypse

Do you have a plan for the catastrophe most likely to affect your area? Since the WATM staff is based in LA, our most likely natural disaster is either an earthquake or devastating mudslides. We wondered which one of us in the office (aside from our office Green Beret) was most likely to survive such an event.

The surprise was that some of us have more skills than you might think.


Former Air Force intelligence officer Shannon Corbeil is an avid camper. As is Army veteran and radio operator Eric Milzarski. Veteran Corpsman Tim Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, is a borderline survivalist. As for me, Air Force combat cameraman Blake Stilwell, my plan is to get rescued as soon as possible — hopefully before my rations run out.

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During an earthquake, you’re supposed to seek cover, duck, and protect your neck. Shannon Corbeil was raised in the Los Angeles area, and was in major earthquakes in 1987 and 1994. The WATM crew also has different ideas on what to do after the crisis passes: account for resources or create a team of skilled party members, ready for adventure and initiative?

And then, like the real U.S. troops having a survivalism discussion that we are, we lay out our plans for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

But there are at least four very important general aspects of survival to talk about either after a disaster, in the wild, or yes, the zombie apocalypse. The most important is being prepared! Don’t wait until disaster strikes to try and get supplies. You’ll be food for the people who went to the Army-Navy surplus ahead of time.

Also, you need to figure out how to navigate through your new, post-apocalyptic world, either by the stars or the sun. Or perhaps you even made your own compass with a leaf and water.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Finally, your life has some direction.

In the wild, you need a little bit more. You need to figure out how you’ll filter water, start a fire, and identify edible food. Forget that most of us are bad at picking real food in our daily lives — the stakes are much higher when Taco Bell is closed for the end of days.

Finally, you need a game plan for a disaster. What would you do if a disaster struck your area? Find out what the folks at WATM came up with in this week’s episode.

Resources Mentioned:

Key Points:

  • What do you need to carry with you in case of an emergency.
  • If you don’t know any survival skills, you are not alone.
  • Use Krazy Glue for wounds; use Doritos for kindling.
  • Surviving in the wild is much harder than surviving a disaster.
  • Earthquakes don’t feel like earthquakes until they do.

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  • Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

The M16 was originally intended to fire the 7.62mm NATO round

Today, the M16 rifle and M4 carbine are ubiquitous among American troops. These lightweight rifles, which both fire the 5.56mm NATO round, have been around for decades and are mainstays. The civilian version, the AR-15, is owned by at least five million Americans. But the troops hauling it around almost got a similar rifle in the 1950s that fired the 7.62mm NATO round.

It’s not the first classic rifle to be designed to fire one cartridge and enter service firing another. The M1 Garand, when it was first designed, was chambered for the .276 Pedersen round. The reason that round never caught on? The Army had tons of .30-06 ammo in storage, and so the legendary semi-auto rifle was adapted to work with what was available.


The story is much different for the M16. Eugene Stoner’s original design was called the AR-10 (the “AR” stood for “Armalite Rifle” — Armalite was to manufacture the weapon). This early design was a 7.62mm NATO rifle with a 20-round box magazine.

According to the National Rifle Association Museum, this rifle went head to-head with the FN FAL and the T44 to replace the M1 Garand. The T44 won out and was introduced to service as the M14. This doesn’t mean the AR-10 was a complete loss, however. Sudan and Portugal both bought the AR-10 for their troops to use and, from there, the rifle trickled into a few other places as well.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Portugal bought the AR-10 and used it in the Angolan War.

(Photo by Joaquim Coelho)

Armalite, though, wasn’t ready to give up on getting that juicy U.S. military contract, so they began work on scaling down the AR-10 for the 5.56mm cartridge. The Army tried the resulting rifle, the AR-15, out in 1958 and liked what the saw, pointing to a need for a lightweight infantry rifle. It was the Air Force, though, that was the first service to buy the rifle, calling it the M16, which serves American troops today.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

The AR-10 made a comeback of sorts during the War on Terror. Here, a Marine general fires the Mk 11 sniper rifle.

(USMC photo by Cpl. Sharon E. Fox)

Despite the immense popularity of the M16, the AR-10 never faded completely into obscurity. During the War on Terror, operation experience called for a heavier-hitting rifle with longer range. In a way, the AR-10 made a comeback — this time as a designated marksman rifle in the form of modified systems, like the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and Mk 11 rifle.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Variants of the AR-10 are on the civilian market, including this AR-10 National Match.

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

Over the years, the AR-10 has thrived as a semi-auto-only weapon, available on the civilian market, produced by companies like Rock River Arms and DPMS. In a sense, the AR-10 has come full circle.

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