When Milunka Savić’s brother got the notice that he was to be drafted to serve in the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria, Milunka instead cut her hair and went to serve in his place. It was the first act of bravery and defiance that would come to define her life and her service. By the end of three wars – in all of which she served with distinction – she would be the most decorated female combatant in military history.
The history of women serving in combat is relatively new. Before the mid-20th Century (depending on which army), women were relegated to non-combat roles and medical fields. There are many examples of women who served in combat, however, they just had to hide their true gender, lest they be drummed out of the service. No matter how skilled or valuable, once discovered, they were invariably let go. Not so for Milunka Savić.
Once mobilized, Savić deployed to the front lines an amazing ten times before she was wounded fighting the Bulgarians. It was on her tenth trip to the front that she was wounded in a sensitive area, her chest. Once the medical men got to her, they discovered her secret, and she was sent before her commander. This man wanted to send a very competent soldier to the nursing corps, but Milunka Savić stood at attention for a full hour while he tried to wait her out. Luckily for Serbia, he relented and sent her back to the war.
After returning to duty, she managed to capture 23 Bulgarian prisoners while earning a promotion to Corporal. By the time World War I rolled around Milunka Savić was still in the Serbian Army. The one-woman wrecking crew fought the Great War from the very beginning in 1914, quickly earning a Karađorđe Star with Swords, which was the highest military honor the Kingdom of Serbia could bestow upon its troops at the time – and Savić earned two of them. This wasn’t the only honor she would earn.
During World War I, she managed to rack up two French Légions d’Honneur, Russian Cross of St. George, British medal of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael, Serbian Miloš Obilić medal. She was also the only female recipient of the French Croix de Guerre. When World War II rolled around, she was no longer in the military, but she chose to keep fighting in her own way. She ran an infirmary for partisans fighting the Nazi occupation.
After the end of World War II, Savić settled down in Belgrade where she lived the rest of her life with three adopted children. She lived on a small government pension but she never stopped watching the door – just in case some Bulgarian tried to come back for revenge.
It was a day like any other day. Dwight Johnson was on his way to the nearby corner store to get some food for his infant son. When he walked in the store that day in April 1971, he accidentally walked in on the store being robbed. That’s when the storekeeper shot him to death.
While he was in Vietnam, he seemed impervious to bullets. Dwight Hal Johnson wasn’t gunned down until he left his home to go to the nearby liquor store at the wrong time.
President Lyndon Johnson puts the Medal of Honor around the neck of Sgt. Dwight H. Johnson.
In 1968, Army tank driver Spc. Dwight Johnson was part of a reaction force near Dak To, in Vietnam’s Kontum Province. With his platoon in the middle of fierce combat with North Vietnamese regulars, Johnson’s tank threw a track. It would not move. With friendly forces to his rear, and a heavily entrenched enemy coming at him, a regular person might have told Johnson not to leave the safety of the tank and just wait. That wasn’t Dwight Johnson’s style.
Since Johnson was unable to drive the tank, he figured it was time to stop being a driver. He grabbed his pistol and hopped out of it. He cleared away some of the enemy from the perimeter, and then hopped back into the tank, somehow not getting hit by the hail of enemy gunfire and rockets. He had just run out of ammo.
He tossed his pistol down and grabbed a submachine gun. Returning to his former position, he began to take out more of the oncoming enemy fighters. Unconcerned with the situation being a well-planned and well-placed ambush, he stayed put, killing the enemy until he ran out of ammo again. After he used the stock of his rifle to kill one more, he moved to his platoon sergeant’s tank, carried a wounded crewman to a nearby armored personnel carrier, then went back to the tank to get a pistol so he could fight his way back to his own tank. Again.
Instead of hopping in, however, he mounted the .50-cal on the back of the tank, using the heavy machine gun to force the enemy back and put an end to the ambush while protecting his wounded comrades in arms. For most of the time he was engaged in close quarters combat, vastly outnumbered by an often-unseen enemy, Spc. Johnson was carrying only a Colt .45 pistol to defend himself.
Having grown up in some of Detroit’s rough neighborhoods gave Dwight Johnson an edge in keeping his cool under fire. Johnson never quit, never left anyone behind and fought an enemy who outnumbered him ten to one while restoring American dominance to a situation that got out of hand. Sadly, it was those same mean streets that would do him in just a few years after coming home from Vietnam.
He struggled with regular life when he returned home, as most veterans did and still do. He struggled with debt and depression until he walked into the Open Pantry Market on April 30, 1971, just one mile from his home. There are conflicting reports of what happened next – some say Johnson had a gun at his side and was robbing the store, other sources say that Johnson was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. While we can’t be sure what motivated the store owner to open fire, we can say he shot one of America’s heroes four times, killing him. Dwight Hal Johnson was later buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Savannah VanHook celebrated her fourth birthday Jan. 13, 2019, by visiting Claire’s at the Fashion Place mall, Murray, Utah, with her parents to pierce her ears — something she’s been asking her mother and father for over five months. It stung, but she seemed proud of her freshly-pierced ears. The family headed to the food court when something entirely different pierced her ears: The sound of four gunshots ringing throughout the mall.
Savannah’s father, Sgt. Marshall VanHook, a recruiter with the Herriman U.S. Army Recruiting Station, recognized the sound immediately and directed his daughter and wife, Sarah, into a T-Mobile store to take cover.
Vanhook then ran toward the commotion.
“I saw the flash, and I heard the shots. I knew immediately what it was; it’s very distinctive,” recalled Vanhook. “My first response was to make sure my family was taken care of … and then it was just a matter of ‘I need to stop this before it gets to my family,’ so I took off. I ran towards where I thought the threat was at. While I was running there really were no thoughts other than ‘take care of business.'”
Vanhook ran through the mall and made his way outside in an attempt to see the shooter to get a description, he explained.
“I got out to the parking lot and it was a bit of chaos, people were running and I had no idea where they went,” he said. “I just came back and that’s where I saw the two victims.”
The two victims, an adult male and adult female, were starting to fall to the ground. He ended his search for the gunmen and jumped into action to assist saving lives.
“It was just a matter of getting to work,” said Vanhook.
A mobile phone video from a fellow shoppers captured his next actions. VanHook removed his belt and created a makeshift tourniquet above the woman’s visible gunshot wound. Keeping a calm disposition, he directed an observer to use her scarf to apply direct pressure to the leg injury while he moved on to assess the man’s condition.
Victims of shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah
Victims of shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah
Dramatic footage of two victims being treated by bystanders following a shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah.
Vanhook has served in the U.S. Army Reserve for nine years. Before joining the Herriman recruiting team four months ago, he served as a civil affairs specialist with the 321st Civil Affairs Brigade. There, he received first aid response training, including Combat Lifesaver in 2014.
“Because of the Army, it instilled something in me to react in danger and not to flee from it,” explained VanHook.
Combat Lifesaver Course is the next level of first aid training after Army Basic Training Course. It provides in-depth training on responding to arterial bleeding, blocked airways, trauma, chest wounds and other battlefield injuries. The course was presented as realistically as possible, making it effective and easier to apply in a real scenario, explained VanHook.
“You go over [the training] and over it. It’s just a matter of muscle memory,” he said. “There really wasn’t thought. It was action.”
Although VanHook doesn’t consider himself a hero, his leaders feel he has represented himself and the Army well.
“His actions definitely, I think, were heroic,” said Lt. Col. Carl D. Whitman, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion (Salt Lake City). “Most people don’t normally run to the sound of the guns, if you will… but he’s a soldier and went into action as soldiers do. We’re well-trained. His training and that mindset took over.”
“A lot of folks out there may call him or other soldiers that do that a hero, but I think those of us in uniform don’t see ourselves that way, and I know he doesn’t, but definitely his actions were heroic,” Whitman said. “His actions resulted in saving a couple people’s lives.”
VanHook explained after everything that occurred, his family is doing well but it all seems surreal.
“It doesn’t feel real,” he said. “It makes me angry. I’m a little angry that something like that happened. It was my daughter’s birthday and it kind of messed it up. We had plans that night and because of the incident, it kind of got put on hold.”
He explained his wife was scared to leave the house following the shooting, but now they are working together to get back to normal life. His daughter Savannah, too young to realize the weight of the incident, he said, described the evening as “not how she wanted to spend her birthday.”
In December 2018, 574th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers installed a metallic 3D printed part on an operational F-22 Raptor during depot maintenance at Hill Air Force Base.
“One of the most difficult things to overcome in the F-22 community, because of the small fleet size, is the availability of additional parts to support the aircraft,” said Robert Lewin, 574th AMXS director.
The use of 3D printing gives maintainers the ability to acquire replacement parts on short notice without minimum order quantities. This not only saves taxpayer dollars, but reduces the time the aircraft is in maintenance.
The printed bracket will not corrode and is made using a powder bed fusion process that utilizes a laser to build the part layer by layer from a titanium powder. A new bracket can be ordered and delivered to the depot for installation as quickly as three days.
A new metallic 3D printed part alongside the aluminum part it will replace on an F-22 Raptor during depot repair at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Jan 16, 2019. The new titanium part will not corrode and can be procured faster and at less cost than the conventionally manufactured part.
(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
The printed part replaces a corrosion-prone aluminum component in the kick panel assembly of the cockpit that is replaced 80 percent of the time during maintenance.
“We had to go to engineering, get the prints modified, we had to go through stress testing to make sure the part could withstand the loads it would be experiencing — which isn’t that much, that is why we chose a secondary part,” said Robert Blind, Lockheed Martin modifications manager.
The part will be monitored while in service and inspected when the aircraft returns to Hill AFB for maintenance. If validated, the part will be installed on all F-22 aircraft during maintenance.
“We’re looking to go a little bit further as this part proves itself out,” said Blind.
The printed titanium bracket is only the first of many metallic additive manufactured parts planned through public-private partnerships. There are at least five more metallic 3D printed parts planned for validation on the F-22.
“Once we get to the more complicated parts, the result could be a 60-70 day reduction in flow time for aircraft to be here for maintenance,” said Lewin.
This will enable faster repair and reduce the turnaround, returning the aircraft back to the warfighter.
Our men and women in blue are just like our men and women in green. They both hold very serious jobs that come with an often misunderstood lifestyle. The similarities don’t end there; police officers have pretty much the same sense of humor as troops, too.
Trust me, police officers don’t join the force with high aspirations of sitting on the side of the road to passively deter people from speeding. They definitely don’t get joy out of writing tickets for folks they catch going three miles per hour over the limit. No, most cops want to get out there and make a difference in their communities.
This sentiment is mirrored by the troops that enlist as infantrymen and end up spending most of their deployment sweeping sand off sandbags or scrubbing d*ck doodles off porta-john walls. Neither troops nor police officers sign up for monotony, but it finds a way in nonetheless.
So, how do cops deal with the daily grind? In the exact same way that troops do. They mess around with each other while between missions. The moments police officers spend sitting around with their partner, waiting for their next call, is often filled with comedy gold.
If you can’t laugh at yourself… am I right?
(Bath Township Police Department)
Showing their lighter sides to the community
Nobody hates bad cops more than the astronomical amount of good cops. Their entire livelihood depends on maintaining a mutual trust between themselves and the people they’ve sworn to protect. When one as*hole goes off the rails and does something stupid, it distorts their image in the eyes of the people. They can’t effectively serve and protect the people with a tarnished reputation.
Police officers can’t be everywhere at once. They rely on that mutual trust so the people can tell them when and where they’re needed most. So, officers will often bend over backwards to prove to the people that their trust isn’t misplaced. Good officers will often show their lighter side — even if that means playing sports with kids or letting themselves be the butt of a joke.
Dancing in traffic
Think of the most mind-numbing detail in the military. That’s the police equivalent of being the dude who stands in traffic just waving people on. So, instead of just pointing and waving at lanes of traffic, some cops will make it fun and dance along to the music in their head.
It sounds like that scene in The Other Guys, but when traffic cops are faced with the choice of either embracing the silliness of directing traffic or going insane, most pick the former.
Cops take National Doughnut Day very seriously.
Going all in on the doughnut jokes
Who doesn’t love doughnuts? That sweet, soft bread with a sugary glaze can be eaten whenever, wherever. It’s the perfect sweet treat to perk you up after a long day. Police officers, however, have been stuck with the stereotype of being doughnut-obsessed, like Officer Wiggum from The Simpsons.
Since it’s a lighthearted joke at their expense — that often leads to getting free boxes of doughnuts from local shops — they go all in. And can you blame them? If someone made a joke about troops drinking too much beer and it lead to people giving beer away, you know troops would have fun with it, too.
Cops really don’t like being the asshole in the situation unless they have to.
Having fun with “teaching moments”
If you ask nearly any police officer what their favorite cop movie is and why, nine times out of ten, it’s going to be Hot Fuzz — mostly because it nails the stupid amount of paperwork required by the job.
If a cop stops you for something minor, you might get lucky and get off with a warning. They’re probably not doing it out of the goodness in their hearts, though. It’s more likely because issuing that fine involves a lot of paperwork on their end. In some cases, it’s more effective to just tell you why speeding on streets where kids often play is a bad idea.
This is great on so many levels. The officers get less paperwork, the citizen doesn’t have to pay money for doing something stupid, and the cop gets to call you out for being an idiot.
Sheesh, can’t an officer just eat?
Trolling people on Waze
Waze is a real-time navigation app that allows users to report things like traffic jams, accidents, and even “hidden police.” The intent here is to let people who may be speeding know that there’s a cop nearby — ready to pull them over. Most of the times, however, the cop isn’t trying to hide. They’re just parked there, filling out paperwork or enjoying their lunch break.
Users are able to comment on any reports made — and cops get in on the action, too.
Participating in the Lip Sync challenge
The law enforcement community is not immune to social media trends. Right now, the lip sync challenge is the hot-ticket item and entire departments are uploading their videos to YouTube and Facebook for the world to see.
Typically, the videos feature macho officers pretending to sing along with some female pop singer. Sometimes you’ll see two cops singing show tunes to one another. Occasionally, you’ll get some officers who have a little too much fun with it…
And that’s just from dispatch. Chances are they’ve well-crafted a response to the same four jokes they always hear.
Messing with suspects
The biggest perk of being a police officer is that sweet, sweet moment of catching the bad guy. The world is made a little bit better, the paperwork is worth the result, and the officers can enjoy that brilliant moment where they can finally tell the perpetrator that they f*cked up.
Remember, cops spend their entire careers dealing with people who think they can out sh*ttalk them. Needless to say, they’ve got practice in throwing that shade right back.
As the war raged on, infantry units began dominating the battlefield as troops increased their use of the rifled muskets and Gatling guns. These new deadly weapons caused the need for entrenchments as a form of cover.
Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban — the first known architect of trench warfare.
US intelligence suspects that a mysterious and deadly explosion in early August 2019 was caused by Russia’s efforts to recover its new nuclear-powered cruise missile after another unsuccessful test, CNBC reports, adding another twist in the saga of what exactly happened at the Nyonoksa weapons testing range.
An explosion that killed at least five people and triggered a radiation spike in nearby towns on Aug. 8, 2019, has been linked to Russia’s development of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a new doomsday weapon that NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. While the prevailing theory was that the blast was caused by a failed test, US intelligence has a slightly different explanation.
“This was not a new launch of the weapon, instead it was a recovery mission to salvage a lost missile from a previous test,” a source with direct knowledge of the latest intel reports told CNBC. Russia was reportedly salvaging the weapon from the ocean floor at the time of the incident.
“There was an explosion on one of the vessels involved in the recovery and that caused a reaction in the missile’s nuclear core, which led to the radiation leak,” said another source. This is not the first time Russia has had to go fishing for its nuclear-powered cruise missile, but this appears to be the first time a recovery effort has exploded.
A still image said to show Russia’s Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.
(YouTube/Russian Defence Ministry)
Using nuclear reactors to fuel missiles or airplanes has proven to be a “hazardous” technology that’s probably unnecessary, a leading defense expert told Insider.
Russia has not been particularly forthcoming with the details, sparking concerns of a cover-up.
The death toll has risen from two to five and could potentially be higher. Russia has flip-flopped on acknowledging radiation leaks. Local authorities ordered an evacuation but then mysteriously cancelled it. Nuclear monitoring stations nearby unexpectedly went offline due to technical problems. And the system that triggered the explosion has been described as everything but the nuclear-powered cruise missile Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted would be unstoppable last year.
“This is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems,” Putin said recently, adding that “when it comes to activities of a military nature, there are certain restrictions on access to information.”
Russian data on the brief radiation spike in Severodvinsk, which state authorities finally decided to release, indicated that a nuclear reactor was involved, experts said. Russia, which has a history of covering up nuclear disasters, has yet to acknowledge that this was a nuclear accident despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In our increasingly divided political world, it’s important to take the time to realize that no President of the United States takes office hoping to be remembered as the worst to ever hold the office. And even though one out of our 45 historical Presidents has to hold that position, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s not one of the Presidents who ever held the office in our lifetimes.
Part two of this series that highlights the most patriotic moments of every Presidency covers Presidents 12-22, from Zachary Taylor to Grover Cleveland. It also includes James Buchanan, which is interesting because Buchanan jokes have been hard to come up with since 1881.
Zachary Taylor had been serving the United States in the Army all the way back to the War of 1812. But by the time came for war with Mexico, Taylor was a general – and a good one. Beating the Mexicans paved his way to the White House.
What’s more patriotic than 30-plus years destroying America’s enemies? As President, Taylor didn’t serve long, but like Andrew Jackson, he asserted the authority of the federal government over the states at a time when it was most important. When Texas and New Mexico entered a border dispute, Taylor stepped in and settled the land boundary. When Texas refused to comply, Taylor threatened to lead an Army – himself – down to Texas, saying everyone there “taken in rebellion against the Union, would hang with less reluctance than hanging deserters and spies in Mexico.”
That’s a Commander-In-Chief.
Not terribly good with handling ongoing domestic trouble, Millard Fillmore was definitely not going to take shit from some other country.
Fillmore took office after Taylor died from an intestinal ailment involving fruit and iced milk. Fillmore, true to the duties of Vice-President took office to finish up Taylor’s term. It was lucky for France and Portugal that President Taylor was uninterested in foreign affairs, but President Fillmore certainly was.
When Fillmore found out that France, under Napoleon III, was meddling in the affairs of Hawaii, he issued them a stern warning – those were in the American sphere of influence. He also sought money owed to the U.S. from Portugal and sent Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan to open the island nation up for trade… American trade.
The second installment of this list will include many Presidents that are in the running for the title of “worst.” Franklin Pierce is perpetually nominated for the dubious honor. While the former general’s patriotism is beyond reproach, his skills in office definitely are not. To make matters worse, his tenure is also ranked as one of the least memorable.
What’s most patriotic about Pierce’s tenure is that Pierce ended up losing his party’s nomination for re-election and he accepted that outcome, stepping aside for the election of 1856. The peaceful transfer of power is a central tenet to American Democracy and Pierce more than upheld that tradition.
Called “Old Buck” in his later years.
Here it is: the actual worst president ever. As I’ve noted time and again, even James Buchanan didn’t enter office wanting to be the worst. He genuinely thought he was doing what was best for the United States. What he did, however, was absolutely not the best thing for the United States. Even though his tenure is overshadowed by his inaction on the eve of the Civil War, it wasn’t entirely without patriotic moments.
In 1855, the USS Water Witch was fired on by guns from a Paraguayan fort while surveying the Rio de la Plata basin. The attack killed the Water Witch’s helmsman. In response, Buchanan sent a U.S. Navy Squadron of 19 ships to Paraguay (which included the refurbished Water Witch). Paraguay apologized to the United States, paid an indemnity to the family of the Water Witch’s helmsman, and granted favorable trade status to the U.S. — all without firing a shot.
Finally, a President with a beard takes office.
The night is darkest just before dawn. When Lincoln took office, seven states already seceded from the Union. Lincoln tried many last-minute measures to hold the Union together, including writing a letter to each governor individually, reminding them that he wasn’t coming for them and that a Constitutional convention to make an amendment respecting the rights of the states was possible. It was all for naught.
When he determined the Civil War was coming whether he liked it or not, he was decisive. He quickly authorized the formation of the Union Army, helped create a Union strategy to blockade and attack the Confederacy, soothed the fears of border states that might have otherwise seceded, and paid close attention to foreign policy to keep foreign powers from supporting the Confederacy. He eventually found the right combination of Army leadership in Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, who helped bring the South to its knees.
Lincoln’s deft political prowess and patience allowed him to free the slaves in the states that were in rebellion and then, after the Election of 1864, when the Congress was packed with fellow Republicans, freed the slaves everywhere in the United States.
“Man, Abraham Lincoln is a tough act to follow. How am I supposed to compete with that?” – Andrew Johnson
Johnson had none of Lincoln’s finer qualities – no wisdom, no popularity, no beard. Even though Johnson wanted a swift reconstruction after the Civil War as Lincoln did, he had none of the power Lincoln could muster through sheer force of will. As a matter of fact, Congress repeatedly overrode his vetos and the House of Representatives even impeached him. He barely avoided conviction. His entire term was spent in fights with Congress.
The one shining moment of American Union patriotism was in his dealings with former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. While many former Confederates were allowed to simply resume normal life after the war, Johnson put a bounty on the head of the Chief Confederate — to the tune of id=”listicle-2610056421″.6 million in today’s money.
Ulysses S. Grant
Grant would be the first to tell you that he wasn’t the best President, but he was dedicated to the rights and principles of the United States and its Constitution. From the moment he took office, he advocated for voting rights for every man (yes, just men), but specifically extended it to the newly-freed African-Americans and Native Americans. But a new terrorist group in the south was trying to disrupt that effort — the Ku Klux Klan.
Grant created the badass-sounding Department of Justice whose sole purpose (back then) was to enforce Reconstruction laws by any means necessary — along with Federal troops and U.S. Marshals. He actually appointed former Confederate officer Amos Ackerman as the first Attorney General. Ackerman indicted 3,000 Klansmen and convicted 600 offenders. He also forced thousands of other to flee Georgia, fearing for their freedom. That was just the first year. Grant had no problem sending U.S. troops to the south to enforce Federal laws.
Don’t let that cold stare fool you. Beneath it is actual ice.
Rutherford B. Hayes
Hayes was a wounded Civil War vet who rose to the highest office in a controversial deal that ended Reconstruction and cast doubt on Hayes’ legitimacy. All that aside, Hayes still expended every possible effort to welcome newly-freed former slaves and Native Americans into U.S. Citizenship.
Hayes’ most American moment came when he, General William T. Sherman, and their wives travel West on the Transcontinental Railroad, physically bringing the country closer together by becoming the first sitting president to travel west of the Rocky Mountains.
At this point, you pretty much have to be a Civil War veteran to get elected.
James A. Garfield
The 20th President was only President for a few months before he was shot in the back on a train. But in those months, Garfield devised a plan to increase the prestige (and pocketbook) of the United States through increased trade, a planned canal across Panama, and a new look for an expanded U.S. Navy that would protect American merchant vessels while challenging the supremacy of the British Fleet.
But he was shot in the back on a train.
No one ever grows Chester A. Arthur beards anymore. This needs to change.
Chester A. Arthur
Arthur was a longtime fan of political patronage, especially in the corrupt political system that existed in New York City during his age. Even though he came to power unelected, he still determined to change this. Inexplicably, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the civil service “spoils system,” in place since the age of Andrew Jackson, was the one to change it.
Under the new system, civil service in the United States became a meritocracy. Arthur forced resignations and even had the Justice Department try to convict the worst offenders of the corrupt spoils system. In its place, a civil service examination requirement was passed and Arthur created a special board of former rivals to ensure its enforcement and expansion.
It takes a big man to get elected when the other party is dominant. Advantage: Cleveland.
Grover Cleveland #1
Cleveland was a Democrat elected during a period of Republican domination of American politics. As a President, he understandably used the executive veto power more than anyone else until that time. But what he and the Congress could agree on, they also acted on: Defending America.
Even though the United States had no real external threats at the time of Grover Cleveland’s first term, the coastal defenses and U.S. Navy hadn’t really seen a major upgrade since the Civil War, more than 30 years prior. After all, land wars inside the United States against native tribes had been the focus. Cleveland upgraded the coastal defenses of 27 different sites. And while the Navy received a few good new, steel ships during Arthur’s administration, Cleveland ensured they were completed and ordered 16 more. The forts would last until the outbreak of World War II, while the new U.S. Navy ships would come in handy defeating Spain just a decade later.
When you are talking about the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, it is without a doubt, the best close-air support plane ever devised. One of the biggest reasons is in the plane’s nose.
Yeah, we’re talking the GAU-8, a seven-barrel Gatling gun that fires a 30mm round made from depleted uranium. This gun was designed to kill tanks – make them deader than the zombies on The Walking Dead. You might think a 30mm gun is too small to kill a tank. If you’re taking the tank head-on, it is.
Shooting from above the tank, though, you’re aiming for where the armor is the thinnest. This is because the crew needs to be able to exit the tank through the hatches, which means they have to be able to open them. Oh, and the supplies the tank’s crew needs to function (food, water, ammo) have to come into the tank through those hatches as well.
The A-10 looks as if it was designed around the GAU-8. That’s true. The plane can carry 1,174 rounds for this gun, which fires at 3,900 to 4,200 rounds per minute. That’s anywhere from 16.77 to 18 seconds of firing time. The gun can kill a target up to two and a quarter miles away.
The Air Force is running a competition to see what plane will replace the A-10. There have been four contenders flying off to win the OA-X contract, but none of them have this powerful gun in their arsenal. Perhaps it may be a better idea to re-open the A-10 production line, no?
With what is arguably one of the most badass names in military history, the story of the female aviators nicknamed Nachthexen, or “Night Witches” by German soldiers, tends to fly under a lot of people’s radar (bad pun intended). Flying no-frills wooden planes with ill-fitting uniforms and no parachutes, these Soviet pilots not only faced off against Nazis, but also judgment, doubt, and mistreatment by many of their male counterparts.
From the start of WWII, Russian women were looking for ways to contribute in both support roles at home and in hands-on roles near the front lines. These women had a seasoned advocate in their corner, in the form of Soviet pilot Colonel Marina Raskova.
Raskova, known to many as the “Russian Amelia Earhart,” had already made a name for herself as the first female navigator in the Soviet Air Force, with an impressive number of long distance flights already recorded. Once Raskova began receiving letters from women asking how they could help, she used her position within the military to open up new opportunities for them. Her success was helped by the fact that Joseph Stalin personally knew and respected Raskova and her efforts, and in October of 1941, he ordered her to create three female-only air squads. While two of them inevitably became mixed-gendered, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment remained exclusively women for the entirety of its existence.
Around 400 women, ranging in age from 17 to 25, were selected and moved to Engels, where they began training at the Engels School of Aviation. In addition to having to learn years worth of training and information in just a few short months, they also had to deal with misogyny from many of the male soldiers within the Soviet ranks.
Since the women of the 588th were seen by many to be less than, or as “little girls,” they weren’t taken seriously or provided proper equipment. The female pilots were given ill-fitting male uniforms and oversized boots, which they would have to stuff with their own torn up bedding to ensure a better fit. With sexual harassment and ridicule a daily occurrence, these women had to learn quickly how to be stronger both in and outside of battle.
They also weren’t able to equip their planes with things like parachutes due to a lack of funds and strict weight limits for the outdated aircraft they were provided. These planes were crop dusters from the 1920s and typically only used for training purposes. Made predominantly of canvas and plywood, the two-person Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes were considered by most to be a death wish if used in combat.
Since the plane itself already posed so many of its own safety issues, flying at night was really their only way to ensure any sort of stealth and safety. Most runs would happen with three planes, the first two meant to draw attention and enemy fire, with the third being the one to drop the bomb. What made this so dangerous is the fact that the third plane, to avoid detection, would have to cut their engine and glide over their target as quietly as possible.
Getting the engine back up and running after the drop was always a “fingers crossed” kind of scenario, given the age and ability of the aircraft. One of the only things these planes offered in their favor was the fact that, due to their slower top speed, they were able to maneuver faster than the German planes, making it harder to get a target on them. In terms of defense munitions on board, there was little to none. Many pilots would have only a loaded pistol, typically leaving the last bullet for themselves, as suicide was preferrable to being captured.
The main goal of the 588th was to disorient and sleep deprive the enemy, and soon after beginning their runs, it became clear that they were successful. Not only were the Nazi’s thrown off by the near-nightly attacks, but they were also particularly incensed when they learned that an all-woman regiment was responsible. The name Night Witches was given by the Nazis — due to the noise the planes would make when they would glide, engines cut, overhead. They described it as the sound of “brooms sweeping.”
Despite their clear aptitude and success, the Night Witches, a name they wore with pride, continued to receive criticism and contempt from many of the males in the Soviet military throughout their time in the war. They were arguably never given the complete appreciation and recognition they deserved. That didn’t seem to bother them too much, however, and they went on to fly around 30,000 sorties and have 23 of their pilots awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
While the roles of women in the military have continued to grow and evolve across the globe, the Night Witches were instrumental in showing that women are just as capable, even with minimal support, respect, equipment, and with all the odds stacked against them. It’s stories like these, the lesser-known tales, that add so much to history. It’s these stories that set the stage for where we are today.
Military service isn’t for everyone. Many potential recruits are passionate about enlisting but can’t due to some limitation while others who would make perfect applicants have no interest. The Pentagon doesn’t sweat the loss of young adults who aren’t eligible or have no interest, however, because of the many able troops willing to raise their right hand and pick up the slack.
But, in more recent years, the number of eligible enlistees has been getting smaller and smaller.
According to recently released data from the Pentagon, only 10 million of the 34 million young Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are eligible to serve in the military. This is the continuation of a trend observed in 2014. To properly sustain the ranks, recruiters need to find the U.S. Army 80,000 new troops, the Marine Corps needs 38,000, the Air Force needs 33,000, and the Navy needs 31,000 annually. This brings the total to 182,000 troops per year. To make those numbers, 1.82% of the total 18-24-year-old American population that can enlist must do so.
The military relies on a constant flow of new recruits to fill in the gaps left by troops who left the service that year. That number grows and shrinks with each passing year, but if a manpower shortage becomes too great, it could spark a national security emergency.
But that’s a long ways off.
There are many reasons for disqualifying potential recruits. In recent years, the biggest disqualifier has been obesity. Basic training isn’t designed to get unhealthy people into fighting shape — it’s about getting reasonably fit people combat-ready. It’s not uncommon for potential recruits to get fit before they even step in a recruiter’s office.
The recruits who spend work months slimming down often take their service much more seriously. The same goes for other disqualifying factors, like education (which can be fixed with studying for the ASVAB or earning a GED) and financial concerns (which can be overcome through aid and personal perseverance).
If they’ve worked to earn their spot on the team, they won’t take it for granted.
The design firm AVX has pitched to the military before, but you’re probably not familiar with their work. That’s because they don’t have a full aircraft to their credit or any big programs that everyone would recognize. But they’ve been quietly working to make military aviation better, winning maintenance contracts and bids to increase fuel efficiency.
And their work in the fuel efficiency space led them to propose a fairly radical redesign of the helicopter. Right now, the “traditional” helicopter design calls for one main rotor that generates lift and a tail, “anti-torque” rotor that keeps the bird pointed in the right direction. It’s the design at work on the Apache, the MH-6 Little Bird, the Lakota, and lots more.
But AVX wants to see more use of “coaxial” designs where the main rotor has two discs instead of one. They spin in opposite directions, stabilizing the helicopter without the need for a tail rotor. These coaxial designs are typically more efficient, and AVX wants to combine that with two ducted fans for propulsion, allowing for a helicopter that’s safer, faster, and more efficient.
The Army ended up retiring the OH-58 instead of going through an overhaul, but that left it with no dedicated scout helicopter. Right now, the AH-64 Apache is switch hitting, serving as a scout helicopter and an attack helicopter. But Apaches are more expensive per flight hour, heavier, and require highly specialized pilots that the Army is already short on.
Getting a new scout helicopter would alleviate a few of these problems. But AVX isn’t as large or as experienced an aviation company as Bell, Boeing, Lockheed, or other companies that have produced rotary platforms for the Army. So AVX has partnered with L3 Technologies, another company experienced in supporting Army aviation.
And the aircraft these companies are pitching to the Army for the new scout helicopter? You guessed it: Coaxial rotor blade for lift and two ducted fans for propulsion. As an added bonus for efficiency, there are two stubby wings that will generate significant lift at high speeds.
Now, it’s far from certain that AVX will get selected by the Army. The Army wants to be buying and fielding the birds by 2024, an aggressive timetable that a small company will struggle to meet. And it wants to buy the aircraft for million apiece flyaway cost, meaning there won’t be a lot of room in the budget for inefficiencies and screwups. So, the Army may prefer a more experienced manufacturer.
But there are early elements of the design that signal a possible AVX advantage. First, despite all the tech required to make those coaxial blades and ducted fans work, the technologies are fairly proven and don’t add a whole lot to cost. Also, the program has ambitious requirements for speed, size of the aircraft, and agility, and the AVX design fits the bill if it makes it through selection and manufacturing process without any big compromises.
So the next helicopter looking over your shoulder in battle might just look like a science fiction aircraft, but don’t expect Michelle Rodriquez to be flying it. She’ll most likely be busy with Fast and the Furious 14.
Gordon Lease was 17-years-old and living in California when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The next day Lease was queued up to join the Navy, but the line was so long, the recruiters told him he wouldn’t be able to join that day. Lease joined the Coast Guard instead. But he ended up with the Navy… in an unexpected way.
Lease, now in his nineties, told SDPB how he ended up as an amphibious sailor on Navy Landing Ship Tanks (LST), designed to land men and material on beaches.
“The Navy found out we were good in small boats,” Gordon said. “And they needed amphibious sailors … that’s where we went.”
After a few years of guarding the West Coast against another Japanese attack and conducting search and rescue operations, the Navy exercised its authority to appropriate Coast Guard assets. In 1943, Gordon learned LST operations, driving the boats onto the shores of Maryland.
Soldiers, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen trained for amphibious operations in the Chesapeake Bay and then boarded troop convoys bound for Europe and elsewhere. In Britain, Navy and Coast Guard personnel continued training to land men on beaches. LSTs like Lease’s were specially trained to land at certain places at certain times.
It wasn’t long before he was in the fight. Lease trained in February, and, by July 1943, he would land men and tanks on Sicily. He also piloted an LST during the landings at Salerno, Anzio, and Normandy.
Operation Neptune, the naval assault portion of Overlord, remains the largest single combat operation in Coast Guard history. It was more than just landing on the beaches; the Coast Guard managed boat handling, loading and discharging cargo at sea and ashore, and directing vessel traffic. These landing craft carried up to 30 men and were also charged with taking the dead and wounded off the beaches under fire.
“It doesn’t do you any good to be scared,” Gordon said. “I’m serious about that. If you want to do your job, forget getting hurt, forget being scared, forget about that aircraft, forget about the guy shooting at you. Just do your job.”
At Normandy, the Coast Guard ran a rescue flotilla, suggested by President Roosevelt himself. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Russell R. Waesche collected dozens of landing craft, small boats, and patrol ships to do the job. Sixty 83-foot USCG cutters made up “Rescue Flotilla One.” This flotilla saved more than 400 men on D-Day and more than a thousand more by the end of 1944.
Lease took his LST to the beaches of France 10 times throughout D-Day, trips that included picking up wounded men for treatment in England. For his efforts, he received the Coast Guard Commendation Medal and the French Legion of Honor.
The Coast Guard helped to develop the Mulberry; the artificial harbors used to offload cargo in recently captured ports. Coast Guard Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh also helped plan the occupation of Cherbourg, assessing the condition of the ports there and accepting the surrender of a German-held fortress.
More Coast Guard ships were lost in the days following D-Day than any time in its history. Four landing craft were destroyed on the beaches while another 85 sank offshore. Their losses were not in vain, however. The wrecks of the Coast Guard vessels served as navigation markers, guiding other incoming ships and landing craft. The Coast Guard also lost 15 among the ranks during the invasion. Six of them are buried at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
“I was operating a landing craft. And someone kept count,” Lease recalled. “I brought a-hundred-and-ten people off the beach at Normandy back to our ship to evacuate them to England for treatment.”
Gordon Lease left the Coast Guard after the war and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, where he would remain until 1951. Now 92 years old, Lease still fits into the Coast Guard uniform he wore on LST-381 on D-Day.