The story of 'Murphy' from 'Murphy's law' and the amazing Dr. Stapp - We Are The Mighty
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The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

The universe has been finding ways to mess with people long before Edward A. Murphy uttered his famed statement in the aftermath of Dr. John Paul Stapp strapping himself onto a rocket powered sled. One of the earliest instances of this “law” being stated explicitly happened in 1877 where Alfred Holt, in an address to the Institution of Civil Engineers, said, “It is found that anything that can go wrong at sea generally does go wrong sooner or later…”

By 1908, it had become a well-loved maxim among magicians as well, as explained by Nevil Maskelyne in The Magic Circular: “It is an experience common to all men to find that, on any special occasion . . . everything that can go wrong will go wrong…”

This was reiterated by Adam Hull Shirk in The Sphinx in 1928, “It is an established fact that in nine cases out of ten whatever can go wrong in a magical performance will do so.”


This all brings us to our unsung hero of the hour, Dr. John Paul Stapp — a man whose work has saved hundreds of thousands of lives since, and who Joseph Kittinger — who famously did a high altitude jump from 102,800 ft — called the “bravest man I’ve ever met… He knew the effects of what he was getting himself into… And he never hesitated.”

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

Dr. John Paul Stapp.

Born in Brazil, the son of American missionaries there, Stapp eventually became an English major in college, but he changed career paths due to a traumatic incident that occurred during his Christmas break of 1928 when a 2 year old cousin of his was severely burned in a fireplace. Stapp helped to try to nurse the child back to health, but efforts failed and, 63 hours after getting burned, the toddler died. Said Stapp, “It was the first time I had ever seen anyone die. I decided right then I wanted to be a doctor.”

Unable to afford to go to medical school initially, after he earned a Master’s Degree in Zoology, he instead started teaching chemistry and zoology at Decatur College in Texas while he saved up money. Two years later, he attended the University of Texas where he got a PhD in Biophysics. Next up, he went to the University of Minnesota Medical School and got a Doctor of Medicine degree while working as a research assistant there.

Initially planning on becoming a pediatrician, Stapp changed career paths after joining the Army Medical Corps during WWII. While working as a flight surgeon, among other things, he was heavily involved in designing high altitude oxygen systems as well as studying the effects of high altitude/high speed flight on the human body. The end goal of all of this was to create better safety systems for pilots. During this time, he became puzzled at how some people would survive crashes, even extreme ones, while others in similar or lesser crashes would receive fatal injuries.

This all brings us around to Project MX-981 at the Edwards Air Force Base in 1945.

Up until this point, the prevailing theory was that a human body could not withstand more than 18Gs of force without suffering a fatal injury. The problem here was that airplanes of the age were flying faster and higher than ever. As such, the military wanted to know if their pilots could safely eject at these high velocities without being killed, as well as to try to design the safest possible system for doing so.

Testing towards this end was overseen by Dr. Stapp, using a rocket powered sled called the “Gee Whiz”. This was placed on rails on a 2000 foot track, at the end of which was an approximately 50 foot long section where a hydraulic braking system would stop the 1500 lb sled in its tracks.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

Stapp rides the rocket sled at Edwards Air Force Base.

The passenger aboard the cart was to initially be a 185 lb dummy named Oscar Eightball and then later chimpanzees. Stapp, however, had other ideas. He wanted to see what an actual human could handle, stating of Oscar Eightball at the project’s onset, “You can throw this away. I’m going to be the test subject.”

David Hill, who was in charge of collecting the test data throughout the experiments and making sure all the telemetry gear stayed working, said of this, they all thought Dr. Stapp must be joking as “We had a lot of experts come out and look at our situation. And there was a person from M.I.T. who said, if anyone gets 18 Gs, they will break every bone in their body. That was kind of scary.”

Dr. Stapp, however, used his extensive knowledge of human physiology, as well as analyzing various crashes where people must have survived more than 18Gs of force, and determined the 18G limit was absurdly low if a proper restraint system was designed and used.

That said, Dr. Stapp wasn’t stupid, but rather an excellent and meticulous researcher, who would soon earn the nickname, “The Careful Daredevil”.

Thus, step one was first to design a proper restraint system and work out all the kinks in the testing apparatus. Towards this end, they conducted nearly three dozen trial runs using the dummy, which turned out to be for the best. For example, in test run number one, both the main and secondary braking systems didn’t work owing to the triggering teeth breaking off, and, instead of stopping, Gee Whiz and Oscar Eightball shot off the tracks into the desert. Funny enough, after the teeth were beefed up, the braking cams engaged, but themselves immediately broke…

In yet another catastrophic failure, the forces were so extreme that Oscar broke free from his restraints. The result of this was his rubber face literally being ripped off thanks to the windscreen in front of his head. As for the rest of his body, it went flying through the air well over 700 feet (over 200 meters) from where the Gee Whiz stopped.

This brings us to about two years into the project on December 10, 1947 when Dr. Stapp decided it was his turn to be the dummy.

Initially strapping himself in facing backwards — a much safer way to experience extreme G-forces — the first run with a human aboard was a rather quaint 10Gs during the braking period.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp
Giphy

After this, they continued to improve the restraint system as Dr. Stapp slowly ramped up the Gs all the way to 35 within six months of that first run. He stated of this, “The men at the mahogany desks thought the human body would never take 18 Gs; here we’re taking twice that with no sweat!”

And by “no sweat”, of course, he no doubt meant that throughout the tests, he’d suffered a hemorrhaged retina, fractured rib, lost several fillings from his teeth, got a series of concussions, cracked his collarbone, developed an abdominal hernia, developed countless bloody blisters caused by sand hitting his skin at extreme velocities, severe bruising, shattering his wrists, and fracturing his coccyx. But, you know, “no sweat”.

While recovering, if further tests needed conducting in the interim, he did begin allowing other volunteers to do the job, but as soon as he was healthy enough again, Dr. Stapp was back in the seat instead. One of his coworkers on the project, George Nichols, stated that Stapp couldn’t bare the idea of someone being seriously injured or killed in experiments he was conducting, so whenever possible made himself the guinea pig instead.

Of course, in order for the research to be as useful as possible and for other scientists to believe what Dr. Stapp was managing to endure, extremely accurate sensors were needed, which is where one Captain Edward A. Murphy comes in.

For a little background on Murphy, beyond very briefly helping out on this project, the highlights of his career included working on the SR-71, XB-70 Valkyrie, X-15 rocket plane, and helping to design the life support system for the Apollo missions.

Going back to Dr. Stapp’s project, at the time Murphy was working on a separate project at Wright Field involving centrifuge, including designing some new sensor systems in the process. When Dr. Stapp heard about this, he asked if Murphy wouldn’t mind adapting the sensors for use in Project MX-981, to which Murphy happily complied. More specifically, Murphy’s sensor system would allow them to directly measure the G forces on the passenger, rather than relying on measuring the G forces on the sled body itself.

Now, before we go any further, we should point out that exact details of what occurred over the two days Murphy was directly involved in the project have been lost to history, despite many first hand accounts from several people. You might think it would make it easy to sort out given this, but human memory being what it is, the accounts from those who were there vary considerably.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

This acrobatic airplane is pulling up in a +g maneuver; the pilot is experiencing several g’s of inertial acceleration in addition to the force of gravity.

Illustrating this point in the most poignant way possible we have a quote from Chuck Yeager, who was good friends with Dr. Stapp. In the quote, Yeager was responding to the widely reported idea that Yeager had sought out Dr. Stapp to clear him for his famous flight where he broke the sound barrier. As to why he chose Dr. Stapp, Yeager supposedly felt that no other doctor but Stapp would clear him on account of Yeager’s supposedly broken ribs.

Yeager’s response to this almost universally reported story is as follows: “That’s a bunch of crap!… That’s the way rumors get started, by these people…who weren’t even there…”

He goes on,

that’s the same kind of crap…you get out of guys who were not involved and came in many years after. It’s just like Tom Brokaw’s book if you’ll pardon the analogy here, about the best of the breed or something like that. Well, every guy who wrote his story about World War II did it fifty years after it happened. I’m a victim of the same damn thing. I tell it the way I remember it, and that’s not the way it happened. I go back and I read a report that I did 55 years ago and I say, hmm, I’d better tell that story a little bit different. Well, that’s human nature. You tell it the way you believe it and that’s not necessarily the way that it happened. There’s nothing more true than that.

During this impressive and extremely accurate rant about how difficult it is to get an accurate report of some historic event, even from those who were there, he notes of those writing about these things after, “Guys become, if you’ll pardon my expression, sexual intellectuals. You know what the phrase is for that? Sexual intellectuals. They’re fucking know-it-alls, that’s what.”

And, we’re not going to lie, we mostly just included that little anecdote because we’re pretty sure “Sexual Intellectuals (Fucking Know-It-Alls)” is the greatest description of the staff and subscribers of TodayIFoundOut we’ve ever come across, and we kind of wish we’d named the channel that (and are pretty sure we’re going to make a t-shirt out of it…)

In any event, that caveat about the inherent inaccuracy of reporting history out of the way, this finally brings us around to the story of how Murphy and his law became a thing.

The general story that everybody seems to agree on is that Murphy or another worker there installed Murphy’s sensors and then a chimpanzee was strapped into the sled to test them out. (Note here, that years later in an interview with People Magazine, Murphy would claim it was Dr. Stapp that was strapped in.) After the test run, however, they found the sensors hadn’t worked at all, meaning the whole expensive and dangerous test had been run for nothing.

As to exactly why the sensors hadn’t worked, there are a few versions of this tale. As for the aforementioned David Hill, he states that it was one of his own assistants, either Jerry Hollabaugh or Ralph DeMarco, he couldn’t remember which, who installed the sensors incorrectly. As Hill explained in an interview with Nick T. Spake, author of the book A History of Murphy’s Law, “If you take these two over here and add them together. You get the correct amount of G-forces. But if you take these two and mount them together, one cancels the other out and you get zero.”

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

Cover of “A History of Murphy’s Law.”

George Nichols, however, claimed Hill and DeMarco had both double checked the wiring before hand, but had missed that it had been wired up backwards. That said, Nichols stated it wasn’t DeMarco nor Hill’s fault, as the wiring had been done back at Wright Field by Murphy’s team.

Said Nichols, “When Murphy came out in the morning, and we told him what happened… he was unhappy…” Stating, “If that guy [his assistant] has any way of making a mistake… He will.”

Nichols, however, blamed Murphy as Murphy should have examined the sensor system before hand to ensure it had been wired correctly, as well as tested the sensors before they were ever installed in the sled, and on top of it all should have given them time to test everything themselves before a live run on the sled. However, as Murphy was only to be there for two days, he’d supposedly rushed them. Nichols stated this inspired the team to not repeat Murphy’s mistakes.

Said Nichols, “If it can happen, it will happen… So you’ve got to go through and ask yourself, if this part fails, does this system still work, does it still do the function it is supposed to do? What are the single points of failure? Murphy’s Law established the drive to put redundancy in. And that’s the heart of reliability engineering.”

Hill also claims this ultimately morphed into the mantra among the group, “if anything can go wrong, it will.”

As for Murphy himself, years later in an interview with People Magazine, he would state what he originally said was, “If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way.” He then claimed when Dr. Stapp heard this, directly after the failed sled run, he shortened it and called it “Murphy’s Law”, saying “from now on we’re going to have things done according to Murphy’s Law.”

In yet another interview, Murphy painted an entirely different picture than accounts from Hill and Nichols’, stating he’d sent the sensors ahead of time, and had only gone there to investigate when they’d malfunctioned. He stated when he looked into it, “they had put the strain gauges on the transducers ninety degrees off.”

Importantly here, contrary to what the other witnesses said of how Murphy had blamed his assistant, in the interview, Murphy said it was his own fault, “I had made very accurate drawings of the thing for them, and discussed it with the people who were going to make them… but I hadn’t covered everything. I didn’t tell them that they had positively to orient them in only one direction. So I guess about that time I said, ‘Well, I really have made a terrible mistake here, I didn’t cover every possibility.’ And about that time, Major Stapp says, ‘Well, that’s a good candidate for Murphy’s Law’. I thought he was going to court martial me. But that’s all he said.”

Murphy then went on to explain to the interviewer that he actually didn’t remember the exact words he said at the time, noting “I don’t remember. It happened thirty five years ago, you know.”

This might all have you wondering how exactly this statement that nobody seemed to be able to remember clearly came to be so prevalent in public consciousness?

John Paul Stapp Fastest man on Earth – rocket sled Pilot safety equipment 1954

www.youtube.com

It turns out, beyond being incredibly brave, brilliant, and hell-bent on saving lives, even if it cost him his own, Dr. Stapp was also hilarious from all accounts from people describing him. He even wrote a book with jokes and various witty sayings called For Your Moments of Inertia. For example, “I’m as lonely as a cricket with arthritis.” or “Better a masochist than never been kissed…”

Or how about this gem from an interview where he was asked about any lasting effects on him as a result of the experiments — Dr. Stapp wryly responded, the only residual negative effect was “all the lunches and dinners I have to go to now…”

Beyond all this, he was also a collector of “Laws”, even coming up with one of his own, Stapp’s Law — “The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle.”

When collecting these laws, he would name them after the person he heard them from, though often re-wording them to be more succinct, which, for whatever it’s worth, seems to align most closely to Murphy’s own account of how “his” law came about.

And as for this then becoming something the wider public found out about, during one of his interviews about the project, Dr. Stapp was asked, “How is it that no one has been severely injured — or worse — during your tests?”

It was here that Stapp stated, he wasn’t too worried about it because the entire team adhered to “Murphy’s Law”. He then explained that they always kept in mind that whatever could go wrong, would, and thus, extreme effort was made to think up everything that could go wrong and fix it before the test was actually conducted.

Going back to Project MX-981, having now reached 35 Gs after 26 runs by himself and several others by 11 volunteers, Dr. Stapp needed a faster sled. After all, at this point humans were flying at super sonic speeds and whether or not they could survive ejecting at those speeds needed to be known.

Enter the Sonic Wind at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. This sled could use up to 12 rockets capable of producing a combined 50,000 pounds of thrust, resulting in speeds as high as 750 mph. The track was about 3,550 feet long, with the braking system using water scoops. The braking could then be varied by raising or lowering the water level slightly.

This now brings us to December 10, 1954, when Dr. Stapp would pull off his most daring and final experiment.

Previous to this run, Dr. Stapp stated, “I practiced dressing and undressing with the lights out so if I was blinded I wouldn’t be helpless”, as he assumed he would probably be blind afterwards, if he survived at all. He would also state when he was sitting there waiting for the rockets to be fired, “I said to myself, ‘Paul, it’s been a good life.'”

In order to stop his arms and legs from flapping involuntarily in the wind during the test, they were securely strapped down and a mouth guard was inserted to keep his teeth from breaking off.

All set, he then blasted off on his 29th and final sled run, using nine solid fuel rockets, capable of producing 40,000 pounds of thrust.

As an interesting aside here, beyond ground based cameras, none other than Joe Kittinger piloted a T-33 over head with a photographer in back filming it.

As for the sled, it accelerated from 0 up to 632 miles per hour (1,017 kilometers per hour) in a mere 5 seconds, resulting in about 20 Gs of force on the acceleration phase. Then, in the span of just 1.4 seconds, he came to a full stop, experiencing 46.2 G’s of force in the other direction, meaning his body weighed almost 7,000 pounds at the peak G force! In the process, he had also set the record for highest landspeed of any human.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

Col. John Paul Stapp aboard the “Gee Whiz” rocket sled at Edwards Air Force Base.

(Air Force photo)

Said Kittinger of watching this, “He was going like a bullet… He went by me like I was standing still, and I was going 350 mph… I thought, that sled is going so damn fast the first bounce is going to be Albuquerque. I mean, there was no way on God’s earth that sled could stop at the end of the track. No way. He stopped in a fraction of a second. It was absolutely inconceivable that anybody could go that fast and then just stop, and survive.”

Nevertheless, when he was unstrapped from the chair, Dr. Stapp was alive, but as Nichols would observe, “His eyes had hemorrhaged and were completely filled with blood. It was horrible. Absolutely horrible.”

As for Dr. Stapp, he would state, it felt “like being assaulted in the rear by a fast freight train.” And that on the deceleration phase, “I felt a sensation in the eyes…somewhat like the extraction of a molar without anesthetic.”

He had also cracked some ribs, broken his wrists, and had some internal injuries to his respiratory and circulatory systems.

And on the note of his eyes, he was initially blind after, with it assumed that his retinas had detached. However, upon investigation, it was determined they had not, and within a few hours his sight mostly came back, with minor residual effects on his vision that lasted the rest of his life.

Apparently not knowing when to quit, once he had healed up, he planned yet another experiment to really see the limits of human endurance via strapping himself to that same sled and attempting to reach 1,000 mph this time…

When asked why, he stated, “I took my risks for information that will always be of benefit. Risks like those are worthwhile.”

To lead up to this, he conducted further experiments, going all the way up to 80Gs with a test dummy, at which point the Sonic Wind itself ripped off the tracks and was damaged.

It is probably for the best that it was here that his superiors stepped in. As you might imagine given his end goal was seemingly to figure out the extreme upper limit of G forces a human could survive with a perfected restraint system, and to use himself as the guinea pig until he found that limit, Dr. Stapp had previously run into the problem of his superiors ordering him to stop and instead to use chimpanzees exclusively. But while he did occasionally use chimpanzees, he went ahead and ignored the direct order completely. After all, he needed to be able to feel it for himself or be able to talk to the person experiencing the effects of the extreme Gs to get the best possible data. And, of course, no better way to find out what a human could take than use a human.

Rather than getting in trouble, he ultimately got a promotion thanks to the extreme benefits of his work. However, after his 46.2G run, they decided to shut down the experiment altogether as a way to get him to listen. After all, he had already achieved the intended goal of helping to develop better restraint and ejection systems, and proved definitively that a human could survive ejecting at the fastest speeds aircraft of the day could travel.

Now, at this point you might be thinking that’s all quite impressive, but that’s not Dr. Stapp helping to save “hundreds of thousands” of lives as we stated before. So how did he do that?

Well, during the experiments, Dr. Stapp became acutely aware that with a proper restraint system, most car accidents should be survivable, yet most cars of the age not only didn’t have any restraint systems whatsoever, they also were generally designed in ways to maximize injury in a crash with unforgiving surfaces, strong frames and bodies that would not crumple on impact, doors that would pop open in crashes, flinging occupants out, etc.

In fact, Dr. Stapp frequently pointed out to his superiors that they lost about as many pilots each year to car accidents as they did in the air. So while developing great safety systems in the planes was all well and good, they’d save a lot of lives simply by installing a restraint system into the cars of all their pilots and requiring they use them.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp
Giphy

The military didn’t take this advice, but Dr. Stapp wasn’t about to give up. After all, tens of thousands of people each year in the U.S. alone were dying in car accidents when he felt many shouldn’t have. Thus, in nearly every interview he gave about his famous experiments almost from the very beginning of the project, he would inevitably guide the conversation around to the benefits of what they were doing if adopted in automobiles.

Not stopping there, he went on a life-long public campaign talking to everyone from car manufacturers to politicians, trying to get it required that car manufacturers include seat belts in their vehicles, as well as sharing his team’s data and restraint system designs.

Beyond that, he used his clout within the Air Force to convince them to allow him to conduct a series of experiments into auto safety, test crashing cars in a variety of ways using crash test dummies and, in certain carefully planned tests, volunteer humans, to observe the effects. This was one of the first times anyone had tried such a scientifically rigorous, broad look into commercial automobile safety. He also tested various restraint systems, in some tests subjecting the humans to as high as a measured 28 Gs. Results in hand, in May of 1955 he held a conference to bring together automobile engineers, scientists, safety council members and others to come observe the tests and learn of the results of his team’s research.

He then repeated this for a few years until Stapp was reassigned by the Air Force, at which point he requested Professor James Ryan of the University of Minnesota host the 4th annual such event, which Ryan then named the “Stapp Car-Crash and Field Demonstration Conference”, which is still held today.

Besides this and other ways he championed improvement in automobile safety, he also served as a medical advisor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, in both heavily pushing for better safety systems.

It is no coincidence that not long after Dr. Stapp started these campaigns, car manufacturers started installing seatbelts as a matter of course, as well as started to put much more serious thought into making cars safer in crashes.

In the end, while Dr. Stapp got little public credit for helping to convince car manufacturers to prioritize automobile safety, and provided much of the initial data to help them design such systems, he was at least invited to be present when President Johnson signed the bill that made seat belts required in cars in 1966.

Bonus Facts:

  • Besides ignoring direct orders to stop using himself as a guinea pig, other ways Dr. Stapp apparently used to frequently flout the rules was to, on his own time, freely treat dependents of people who worked at Edwards’ who were nonetheless not eligible for medical care. He would typically do this via doing house calls to airmen’s homes to keep the whole thing secret, including apparently attending to Chuck Yeager’s sons in this way according to Yeager.
  • It turns out Murphy was also good friends with none other than Lawrence Peter, remembered today for the Peter Principal — people inevitably get promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. According Murphy’s son, Robert, at one point Peter and Murphy tried to get together with Cyril Northcote Parkinson of Parkinson’s Law — “Work expands to meet the time and money that is available.” However, Robert claims that fateful meeting ended up getting canceled when other matters came up to prevent the get together.
  • One other strong safety recommendation Dr. Stapp pushed for, particularly in aviation, was to turn passenger seats around to face backwards, as this is drastically safer in crashes. And, at least in aviation would be simple to do on any commercial airline, requiring no modification other than to turn the seat around in its track. As Stapp and subsequent research by NASA shows, humans can take the most G-forces and receive fewer injuries overall with “eyes back” force, where the G-forces are pushing you back into your seat, with the seat cushions themselves also lending a hand in overall safety. This also insures tall people won’t smack their heads and bodies against anything in front of them in a crash. Despite the massive safety benefits here for people of all ages, outside of car seats for babies and toddlers, nobody anywhere seems interested in leveraging the extreme benefits of rear facing passengers to increase general safety.
  • If you’re wondering about the safest place on a plane to sit, funny enough, that’s the rear. In fact, you’re approximately 40% more likely to survive a plane crash if you sit in the back of the plane, rather than the front. The other advantage to the rear is that most passengers choose not to sit in the back. So unless the plane is full, you might get a row of seats to yourself. (Of course, a bathroom is also often in the rear on planes, soooo.) Another factor to consider is where the closest exit is. As a general rule, studies examining accidents have shown you’ll want to be within six rows of an emergency exit to maximize your survival chances. So if the plane doesn’t have a rear exit, that’s something to be factored in.
  • During Joe Kittinger’s then record leap from about 102,800 feet on August 16, 1960, the following happened during the ascent:
    At 43,000 feet, I find out [what can go wrong]. My right hand does not feel normal. I examine the pressure glove; its air bladder is not inflating. The prospect of exposing the hand to the near-vacuum of peak altitude causes me some concern. From my previous experiences, I know that the hand will swell, lose most of its circulation, and cause extreme pain…. I decide to continue the ascent, without notifying ground control of my difficulty… Circulation has almost stopped in my unpressurized right hand, which feels stiff and painful… [Upon landing] Dick looks at the swollen hand with concern. Three hours later the swelling disappeared with no ill effect.
    His total ascent took 1 hour and 31 minutes, he stayed at the peak altitude for 12 minutes, and his total decent took 13 minutes and 45 seconds, so his hand was exposed to a near vacuum for quite some time without long term ill effects. Incidentally, during his fall, he achieved a peak speed of 614 mph, nearly as fast as Dr. Stapp had managed in his little rocket sled. His experience, however, was very different than Dr. Stapp’s. Said Kittinger,
    There’s no way you can visualize the speed. There’s nothing you can see to see how fast you’re going. You have no depth perception. If you’re in a car driving down the road and you close your eyes, you have no idea what your speed is. It’s the same thing if you’re free falling from space. There are no signposts. You know you are going very fast, but you don’t feel it. You don’t have a 614-mph wind blowing on you. I could only hear myself breathing in the helmet.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY SPORTS

The 8 most intense rivalries in NFL football

There’s no bigger week in sports than the one in which your team plays its most-hated, bitter rival. Every city has one — that one team that fans and players just love to hate. Sometimes, this match-up is a critical game, one that decides the fate of the entire season. But even for teams that perennially enjoy a losing record, there’s no such thing as too much preparation for those two weeks a year when they’ve got the chance to run their sworn enemy into the ground.

These games are often the most important, no matter what’s at stake for the season.


There are bitter NFL rivalries that transcend fanbases. Onlookers do not have a dog in the fight, but we’re watching because we know it’s going to be a good game. These are the grudge matches we tune in to watch year after year, because we know true colors will be shown.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

8. Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers

This is the longest-running rivalry in the NFL, and it’s one you’ll likely catch on Thanksgiving every other year or so. The Lions and Packers have been division rivals since 1933, which means they’ve been butting heads for over 85 years. Games between these two teams are known for wild endings, most notably the Miracle in Motown. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers sustained a facemask penalty at the end of the game, prompting a single untimed play. Rodgers threw a 61-yard Hail Mary pass for a touchdown, giving the Packers a 27-23 win.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

7. Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins

This one’s nearly as old as the Packers-Lions rivalry, but it’s known for more than just unbelievable endings. Play between the Eagles and Redskins has been known to get particularly brutal. This was on full display during a 1990 Monday Night Football game, since dubbed “The Body Bag Game” after nine Redskins players were taken out of the game with injuries. The ‘Skins got the last laugh that season, though. They came back to the same arena and beat the Eagles in the wildcard round of the playoffs, eventually making it all the way to Super Bowl XXV. They lost, but those Redskins came back the next season to win it all in Super Bowl XXVI.

These days, the two teams are in the NFC East and get to battle it out twice a year, The competition between Philadelphia and DC even bleeds in to the NHL, where there’s a bitter rivalry between the Flyers and the Capitals.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

The tip that led to a Super Bowl win and cost Jim Harbaugh his job.

6. Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers

Anyone who thinks the NFL has an east coast bias has never watched the Seahawks and 49ers go at it. If you didn’t get the picture from Seattle fans who burned Richard Sherman’s jersey after he moved to San Fran, know the hatred burns just as bright. These teams have only been divisional rivals since 2002, but that doesn’t mean the hatred is young. The rivalry only got more intense when west coast college coaches, Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh and USC’s Pete Carroll, were elevated to command the two teams.

Seattle beat San Francisco in the 2013 NFC Championship, ending the 49ers streak in the game, and went on to win Super Bowl XLVIII. Seattle has won every meeting since January, 2014.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

5. New England Patriots vs. Anyone

Is there any one player more loved and hated at the same time than Tom Brady? Is there any player who’s more reliable than Rob Gronkowski? Any coach more frustratingly brilliant than Bill Belichick? Do all these facts just make most of America and the cities of New York, Buffalo, and Miami hate the Patriots more and more?

Love them or hate them, the Patriots are always a contender for the Playoffs, the Super Bowl, and will at least finish with a winning season. For teams outside of their division, this means they’re going to have to play the Pats at some point — and they need to bring their A-Game to Foxborough. In the running for greatest franchises of all time, the Steelers, Cowboys, and 49ers all feel the pressure. Even the 1972 Dolphins get a sense of relief when the Patriots lose.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

4. Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs

This one is particularly bitter, featuring long stretches of dominating victories for either team. The 70s and 80s were Raiders decades while the Chiefs have had much more success over Oakland ever since. Even the fans in the stands get carried away during this game, as heated fans routinely get into fistfights and brawls. One Raiders fan even sued the Chiefs organization for allowing him to receive a beatdown while security did nothing.

This meeting of these teams has kept one of ’em out of the playoffs on more than one occasion, snapped winning streaks, snapped terrible losing streaks, and kept Kansas City out of the postseason entirely between 1971 and 1986.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp
NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

3. Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants

America’s team had to make the list at some point. The Cowboys and Giants are two of the most storied franchises in the NFL and both have large fanbases. The NFC East rivalry isn’t as old as the Packers-Lions rivalry and isn’t as violent as the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry, you can see a lot of legendary NFL names in action by watching old Cowboys-Giants games.

It’s a pretty even rivalry, with Dallas ahead at 65-46-2, but what this game is usually good for is a watching a close finish and tough on-field play. Where else could you watch Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith beat the Big Blue while breaking rushing records with a separated shoulder? Or watch the underdog Eli Manning-led Giants knock the Cowboys out of the playoffs after losing to Dallas twice in the regular season, only to go on and win Super Bowl XLII? Or how about just watching the two teams straight-up fistfight?

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

2. Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

Sports hatred burns brightly between Green Bay and Chicago. It also features some of football history’s greatest names while showcasing some of its greatest games. This series is always good for showing off real, hard-hitting football and the 200-game series is nearly tied at 97-94-6 in favor of Green Bay. The Bears-Packers rivalry is also famous for featuring the first players ever ejected from an NFL game.

It was the Bears who handed Brett Favre the first shutout in his career and broke Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone. It was the Packers who put horse manure in the 1985 Bears locker room.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

1. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the AFC North

If you’re looking for an intense football matchup, look no further than when the Steelers play one of their AFC North division rivals. It doesn’t matter what an opponent’s record is, the Steelers are a force to be reckoned with. But the football gets brutal when playing against Cleveland, Baltimore, and especially Cincinnati. The Steelers are ahead in total wins against each.

The Browns bring their best football to Pittsburgh. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger can pretty much be described as a tank, especially as far as quarterbacks go, and it takes either a motorcycle accident or a meeting with the Browns defense to keep him from starting a game. Despite the Browns’ struggles for the last few years, Pittsburgh is still at a disadvantage in Cleveland, and the Browns have more home wins vs. the Steelers.

Until recently, the Ravens-Steelers game was a particularly intense matchup, with each team’s hard-hitting defense smothering the normally high-flying offenses of the other, and each able to keep the other at home during the post-season.

When the Steelers play the Bengals, things get violent and dramatic. Long-held frustrations with the other rear their ugly heads. No matter where the game is held, you can pretty much expect overzealous play, a flurry of yellow flags, helmet-to-helmet hits, and sometimes even bench-clearing fights. Even the coaches are guilty of putting hands on each other.

When asked about why there’s so much violence between the Bengals and Steelers, QB Ben Roethlisberger’s answer was “that’s AFC North Football.”

MIGHTY FIT

Why you should be training, not exercising

Though the distinction between training and exercising might seem unimportant — it isn’t. How you label your physical activity says more about you, your mindset, and your probable rate of success than any PFT score ever could.

I first saw this difference at The Basic School in Quantico. Some of my peers were former college athletes, and a few were training in our off-time for an upcoming marathon. These peers had goals and a plan to achieve them. The rest of us were just doing what I now call “exercising,” random workouts on random days, inconsistently.


The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

I’m on the far left, standing and squinting.

(Photo by Michael Gregory)

The Marines who were actually training were the only ones I knew who could keep a solid schedule and maintain their fitness levels during The Basic School. The rest of us got by on an ever-dwindling fitness reservoir that was nearly empty by the time I finally finished the school.

I finally started applying this training mentality to fitness during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course. The course itself was a constant physical beat-down, but in the few classroom lectures, we were taught how to set up a MCMAP and combat conditioning plan for our units. It was then that I realized I could design a plan to become progressively more difficult as fitness levels increase, the same way a pre-deployment workup gets more complicated as the deployment date nears.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

A classic case of the slay fest.

(Photo by Cpl. Brooke C. Woods USMC Recruit Depot San Diego)

How I loathed unit PT…

I used to think I hated PT just because I disliked being told what to do.

I have come to realize I actually hated unit PT because it is exercise and not training.

Most units plan solid workups to prepare each member of the unit to the max extent possible with all the skills and proficiencies needed for when they are actually ‘in country.’ This is training, a clear plan that progressively increases in difficulty and complexity with an end state in mind.

I have rarely seen physical fitness approached in the same logical way in unit PT.

Most units approach PT in one of two ways: as a slay fest or a joke.

  1. A Slay Fest: (n) from the ancient Greek Slayus Festivus, meaning make as many people puke or stroke out as possible in an effort to assert physical dominance and make less-fit service members feel inadequate.
  2. A Joke: just going through the motions and checking the quarterly unit PT requirement box.

Neither one of these has the intention of making better the members of the unit. In fact, slay fests often lead to injuries which have the opposite effect on unit readiness, while potentially initiating a hazing investigation because a junior NCO decided to play drill instructor.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

Is this a training session or exercise? …Seriously though, what is this?

(Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash)

The difference between training and exercising

In the Marine Corps, I saw what could be accomplished when a proper training plan is followed to the most minute detail. I also saw what type of chaos or indifference towards fitness can result from no plan and/or unchecked egos.

This is why you should be training. The most successful athletes are those that have a plan in place that works them towards a goal. I’m a firm believer that everyone is an athlete no matter what your job or current station in life.

Marines are constantly reminded that it doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you could find yourself in combat and you better be prepared for it. Even though some roll their eyes at the idea of a finance technician lobbing grenades in a firefight, they still have an underlying feeling of pride that this is a potentiality.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

Promotion on Iwo Jima. I swore to not waste anyone’s time with exercise on that day.

(Photo by Jeremy Graves)

I carry that with me to this day. Constantly thinking about what I would do if a fight breaks out — or if ‘patient zero’ of the zombie apocalypse strolls into my part of town — doesn’t keep me awake at night in dread. It keeps me awake at night in giddy anticipation because I’m training for that sh*t every. Damn. Day.

Of course, your reason for training doesn’t need to be so heavy, violent, or world-altering. Simply wanting to be able to throw a perfect spiral with your future son is a perfect reason to be training. If you need a more immediate time frame, choose a challenge: sign up for an adventure race, a marathon, an adult sports league, or a powerlifting meet (I just took second in my first meet and got a free t-shirt #winning #tigerblood). Train for the on-season or the event day.

As a member of the military community, it’s in your blood to conduct work-ups. Now it’s your turn to determine where and when that “deployment” is and how you train for it. Exercise is a word for people who throw out their back trying to get the gallon of Arizona Iced Tea off the bottom shelf and into their grocery cart. They need exercise; you need to be training.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp
MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans are writing eulogies to ‘the buddy they’ll never forget’

Few things in this world are stronger than the bonds forged by troops who fought together in combat. Those who survive life-threatening ordeals on the battlefield become closer in ways that others may never understand. When one of them loses their closest friend, it’s a tragedy that hurts forever.

What could be a more fitting for the coming Memorial Day than to write about what that friend means to you?


This memorial day, AARP is collecting stories about the friendships forged in war. Close friendships forged on the front lines of Vietnam and in the Nazi POW camps of World War II all the way to the remote combat outposts of Iraq. Veterans are writing stories of the best friends they met during these trying times. Two crewman stationed aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, Marines fighting in the frozen wastes around the Chosin Reservoir, a young lieutenant and his radioman in the jungles of Vietnam.

Some survived the war. Many did not. What they have in common is that they’ll never be forgotten. Corporal Charles Thomas was that buddy for Lt. Karl Marlantes.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp
Marlantes in Vietnam after an eye injury.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Marlantes is the author of two books, What It Is Like to Go to War and the critically-acclaimed Matterhorn.

Marlantes was a newly-christened Marine in Vietnam when Thomas was assigned to be his radioman. Like any good young officer, Marlantes listened to his more experienced corporal when he made suggestions. The young man even saved his lieutenant’s life on a mission in the mountains near the DMZ. Marlantes told AARP The Magazine:

“In early December 1968, we were on a long mission, high in the mountains, and it was monsoon time. We couldn’t get resupplied and were without food for three or four days. It was also cold, but we had no extra clothes, just the stuff rotting on us. One night I got hypothermic, really hypothermic. I couldn’t think and started shivering. Everybody knew hypothermia kills you. And Thomas just laid me on the ground and wrapped a quilted poncho liner around us and hugged me. And then his body heat got me back. Saved my life.”

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp
Marlantes receiving the Navy Cross.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

Corporal Thomas was an outstanding Marine in combat and a talented radioman. Sadly, during an assault on an NVA position in 1969, Marlantes had to send Cpl. Thomas around the hill to set up an ambush. Following his orders, Thomas left the safety of his cover and made a dash for the objective with his squad. That’s when three rocket-propelled grenades struck, killing him and one other. Marlantes, now 73, recalled the moments afterward for AARP:

“I had to go through all the guys’ bodies to pull out, if you can believe this, anything like pictures of naked girls, so their parents wouldn’t be upset — it’s bad enough that their kid comes home in a body bag. And I pulled a letter out of Thomas’ pocket from his mother and remember it said, “Don’t you worry, Butch.” We knew each other only by last names and nicknames. I never knew he was Butch, that his mother called him that. “Don’t you worry, Butch, you’ll be home in just 11 more days.”

Watch Karl Marlantes look back and tell the story of Cpl. Charles Thomas.

Podcast

These are the best military movies by service branch


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. talk with stand-up comedian and Marine veteran Mitch Burrow about what their favorite military movies are broken down by branch.

Everyone loves to watch movies from all genres. Veterans and service members have a unique connection to military films for various reasons other than great characters and storylines.

In this episode, we talk on a wide-range of topics including:

  • [0:55] Mitch humorously plugs Monster energy drink for sponsorship and advises how to avoid drinking sip cans on accident.
  • [4:10] Who was more badass? Maverick or Iceman from “Top Gun.”
  • [4:37] What scene in “Top Gun” made Mitch go straight to Mach-3 and our favorite Navy movies.
  • [6:30] Our take on the only thing the film “Hurt Locker” got right.
  • [11:30] Whic Army movies are considered our all-time favs. But not Army movies in Vietnam like Blake tried to get us to talk about.
  • [15:11] We create the perfect list of Marine Corps movies that are freaking epic.
  • [21:00] How awesome “Generation Kill” is and if you haven’t watched it you’re wrong.
  • [23:24] How difficult it was to watch and finish “Jarhead 2.” Long story short, it was tough.
  • [25:15] What we loved the most from “Heartbreak Ridge.”
  • [28:00] The best Air Force movies ever made.
  • [30:30] Then lastly, we funnel in our short list of favorite Coast Guard films.

Hosted By:

With guest host Mitch Burrow:

Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis. To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: Mitchburrow.com.

Originally published 11/2017.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This entrepreneur wants you to know military veterans are more than the uniform

It’s easy to see American military members in uniform and sort of lump them all in together as a single unit – that’s kind of the point of part of their lives. But it’s only a part of their lives. Once the uniform is off or they’re out of the military, what remains is a person. The Military Fresh Network aims to show that U.S. military members can serve their country while being the unique individuals they were created to be.


The Military Fresh Network provides them a platform to promote their real passions. From music to fitness, active military members and veterans alike turn to the Military Fresh Network to join a family and put their talents to work for them.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Military Fresh Network)

If you look at Hank Robinson’s (above) ten years of Army infantry service, with his three Bronze Stars and Combat Infantryman Badge, you might be quick to lump him in with the stereotypical infantry grunt and all the baggage which might come along with it. But get to know the person and you’ll see a man who became enamored with metal work – so enamored he started his own engraving business after spending years perfecting his chosen art form. This is a man who now helps others work through PTSD via art therapy.

Then you realize you were too quick to judge. We all are. It’s sometimes hard to see past the decorations and the uniform. The Military Fresh Network is here to help change all that. Jimmy Cox, the founder of the Military Fresh Network, is as passionate about the talents of the people on the network as he is about his own.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

Gabrielle Torres funded her college education through Miss America scholarships, but the dual-bachelors student will also be an Army officer upon graduation.

(Military Fresh Network)

“This is finally something we can do and show for ourselves,” says Cox, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army. “The reason so many people don’t join the military today is the same reason they didn’t join ten years ago – they don’t want who they are to get lost. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your life does not have to be on hold while you wear the uniform. The Military Fresh Network shows them that. “

On the Military Fresh Network’s website, you can see the stories of dozens of America’s finest troops, officer and enlisted, who took the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States out of uniform and in their natural habitat. There, you can read their stories, see the faces of the men and women who serve, and realize their talents and skills in a way never before seen – ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

Air Force veteran, Navy spouse, and fitness professional Tarryn Garlington is also a civilian working for the Army.

The site is broken down by branch of service and by the kind of skills and talent on display. Here you can see military members at their finest, playing musical instruments, bodybuilding, giving fitness tips, even showing off their street art and business savvy. It truly is a way to get to know America’s vets as real people, to interact with them, and appreciate people on a new level.

“I had my own following when I started in graphic design,” says Ana Valencia, a U.S. Army senior NCO who is also a Military Fresh Network volunteer. “The Military Fresh Network provided me with a huge platform for my work, so I became a huge advocate.”

In 2019, the Military Fresh Network will even be joining the ranks of the Military Influencer Conference sponsors. If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

Then you can post your own business skills on The Military Fresh Network.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator

Despite what many think, the Thompson submachine gun was not the first submachine gun.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

But many will argue it was the best submachine gun ever put in the hands of fighting men – whether they were “good guys” or “bad guys.”

Well-made, robust, capable of firing more than 800 rounds a minute in some models and chambered for the man-stopping .45-caliber ACP round, the gun lived up to one of its original names: The Annihilator.

“I knew several soldiers who used Thompsons for special operations in Vietnam,” said Alan Archambault, a retired U.S. Army officer and former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Even in the 1960s, the Thompson was still an iconic weapon for U.S. soldiers. Often when one soldier would rotate to the U.S., he would pass the Thompson on to another soldier in theater.”

The brainchild of Gen. John T. Thompson, a former chief of small arms for the Ordnance Department and firearms designer, the stalemate on the Western Front during The Great War (a.k.a. World War I) convinced him the ordinary infantryman needed a new weapon. Thompson wanted something he called “a trench broom.”

“Our boys in the infantry, now in the trenches, need a small machine gun, a gun that will fire 50 to 100 rounds, so light that he can drag it with him as he crawls on his belly from trench to trench, and wipe out a whole company single-handed,” Thompson wrote in a 1918 memo to firearms designers. “I want a little machine gun you can hold in your hands, fire from the hip and reload in the dark. You must use ammunition now available and I want it right away.”

Designers produced a prototype by 1919, but the first practical models were too late for the war. Still, Thompson convinced Colt to produce 15,000 M1921 submachine guns.

Early observers of the M1921 test-fired on the range were impressed by how much firepower the “little machine gun” delivered.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

The problem was Thompson had no steady stream of customers, even when Thompson’s company Auto-Ordnance Corp. released the M1928 – considered by many the definitive Tommy gun model.

True, the U.S. Marine Corps purchased Thompsons and used them effectively in China and during the Latin American “banana wars” of the 1920s. The Postal Service armed its security personnel with Thompsons as well.

But the weapon was expensive – very expensive. Adjusted for inflation, its $200 price tag is roughly equivalent to $2,300 today.

To put things in perspective, consider the contemporary cost of prime, high-end arms like the Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal SCAR 17S 7.62×51 millimeter NATO – it costs about the same as a Tommy Gun did during the Roaring ’20s.

Besides, for better or worse the Thompson gained a “bad boy” reputation. A handful of criminals such as John Dillinger and George “Machine Gun” Kelly gave the weapon a bad name.

At first, potential customers such as the British government considered the Thompson “gangster weapons” and refused to purchase the submachine gun.

But by 1939, all that changed. Great Britain entered World War II starved for armaments.

The War Office eagerly purchased every M1928 it could, and the weapon was a hit with the Tommies – particularly the Commandos.

The weapon’s reliability and ability to bring devastating automatic fire to close quarters combat made the Thompson a favorite of the Commandos.

They even honored the weapon in the design of their unit recognition flash: A stylized Thompson superimposed on an anchor headed by an eagle.

There were also many American G.I.s who even relished the gangster panache of the Tommy Gun. Images of actors like James Cagney in “The Public Enemy” – easily one of the most violent movies of its time – ducking around a corner as a gangster fired on him with a Thompson were unforgettable.

“It was often seen in gangster films that were watched by impressionable young men who came of age during World War II,” Archambault said.  “So, even before its use in World War II, it was an iconic weapon.”

Sure, the M-1 Garand was the basic weapon for the American infantryman. But the Thompson found its way into the hands of officers, squad leaders, paratroopers, U.S. Marines and any soldier lucky enough to grab one.

Also, G.I.s and Marines were fighting all across the globe in battlefield environments that included deserts, jungles and snow. The sheer reliability of the Thompson, particularly in its less-expensive but equally deadly M1A1 model, made it the perfect weapon to endure the lousiest battlefield conditions.

Eventually, the cost of the Thompson prompted development of the M-3 “Grease Gun,” which could be produced in greater quantities for far less money than even the M1A1.

But by the Korean War, the Army relegated the Thompson to a secondary role. By Vietnam, the first M-16s were in the hands of GIs and the military considered the Thompson obsolete.

Today, Thompson submachine guns are in high demand among collectors legally authorized to own full-auto weapons. On average, the price for a clean Tommy Gun is about $25,000.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Medal of Honor recipient shot down 7 enemy aircraft on his first time out

After graduating at the top of his flight school class, James Swett decided to join the Navy — until a Marine colonel talked him into flying for the Corps instead.


Once he received his Marine officer commission, Swett shipped out to serve in War World II, where he would mark his mark sooner than he could ever expect.

Stationed on the island of Guadalcanal, Swett’s impressive 450 hours of pre-war flight time was about to be put the ultimate test.

Related: This Medal of Honor recipient saved 18 Marines from an enemy minefield

In the early morning of Apr. 7, 1943, a Japanese attack fleet was preparing to bombard the island of Guadalcanal. That day, Swett had embarked on two standard flight patrols that resulted in nothing but clear skies.

But the third scheduled flight was about to turn very deadly. Swett received intel that 150 Japanese planes were en route to his position and he was prepared to defend it. Soon after making his very first enemy contact, Swett managed to shoot down a handful of enemy fighters.

After a several of defensive maneuvers, Swett took a few rounds to his starboard wing. Heading back to base, Swett discovered a series of enemy dive bombers headed toward him — so he engaged with short bursts, scoring additional kill shots.

Also Read: This WW2 Ace fought for both sides of the war

After shooting down seven dive bombers, Swett’s fighter plane was severely damaged and crash-landed into the ocean as he attempted to make it back to Guadalcanal.

Once Swett surfaced, a Coast Guard boat picked up the now salty Marine aviator. Swett shot down a total of seven enemy fighters on his very first day in combat.

Swett was credited with shooting down 15 1/2 enemy planes during his time in the war and received the Medal of Honor on Oct. 10, 1943.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear this flying ace retell his heroic story for yourself.

(Medal of Honor Book, YouTube)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The awesome way a Cuban defector rescued his family

In 1991, a lone Russian-built MiG-21 approached the Florida coast from Cuba. The plane began “wagging” its wings, a recognized signal for friendly intent. The pilot was Orestes Lorenzo, and he was bringing the MiG to the United States in an attempt to defect from Cuba. The only problem was his wife and kids were still in Cuba.

Not for long.


The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

If you want it done right…

That’s the thing about fighter pilots – no one will accuse them of being timid. Lorenzo was no different. He did fly a 40-year-old MiG straight at the coastline of the world’s lone superpower. In fact, Lorenzo was so daring, he wasn’t even in the Cuban Air Force when he took the jet. He told American officials he’d “borrowed” it to make the flight. Lorenzo didn’t even speak a word of English, he just yearned for freedom.

While he was in Cuba’s Air Force, he learned to fly in the Soviet Union and was deployed to fly air missions in Angola. After a second tour of duty in the Soviet Union, he and his family moved to an air base far from the Cuban capital of Havana. They found themselves unhappy with their situation, facing poverty, repression, and a government more concerned with itself than its people. Lorenzo and his wife hatched a plan to escape with their children, but it was only Lorenzo who landed at Naval Air Station Key West that day in 1991.

That’s where his daring comes in. Lorenzo was whisked away to Washington, where he was (presumably) debriefed, and received his asylum paperwork, as well as visas for his wife and two sons. All was almost set to go as planned, except now the Cuban government wouldn’t authorize his wife and children to leave the island nation. Orestes Lorenzo didn’t just accept his station in life like Castro wanted him to, and he sure as hell wasn’t about to accept this. Lorenzo launched a PR campaign that culminated in President George H.W. Bush giving a speech directed at Cuba, imploring Cuba to let his family go, all to no avail.

Castro refused, so the fighter pilot took matters into his own hands.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

Spoiler alert: fighter pilots are brave.

Lorenzo raised ,000 to purchase a 1961 Cessna 310, a small, simple civilian aircraft. He even took lessons to learn to fly the Cessna like an expert. He got word to his family that they should be in a certain spot they all knew well, wearing orange t-shirts. At 5:07 p.m. on Dec. 19, 1992, Lorenzo took off from the Florida Keys in his 30-year-old Cessna and flew just 100 feet above the ocean.

Flying up above a set of cliffs on Cuba’s coastline, some 160 miles from Havana, he pulled up and saw three bright orange t-shirts waiting for him by the side of a road. He landed the plane, got his family inside, and took off again, headed for Marathon in the Florida Keys. Two hours later he and his family were safe.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

The Lorenzo family lands in Marathon.

The U.S. returned the MiG to Cuba, and the Lorenzo family settled in Florida, starting a concrete business. Very few Cuban pilots were able to defect to the United States during the entire Cold War.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran and Israel don’t want to fight a war – can they avoid one?

Editor’s Note: This story was first published on TheConversation.com in May 2018. It does not discuss the most recent development in the region, but is still a great guide to the state of tensions between the two countries.

After Donald Trump announced that the US would unilaterally pull back from the historic 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, Iranian forces in Syria fired rockets into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time. The Israelis retaliated by targeting Iranian forces and positions in Syria. That attack, which killed 23 people, was the biggest Israeli assault on Iranian positions in Syria since the civil war there started in 2011.

For a moment, it looked like two of the Middle East’s major political and military players to the verge of a full-scale military conflict. An Israeli-Iranian war could throw the Middle East into one of its most destructive clashes in modern history, one that could polarise the world’s powers, dragging in the US, a reliable ally of Israel, and Russia, Syria’s strongest ally and hence Iran’s strategic ally. And yet, neither has so far chosen to escalate further. Why?


For its part, Iran knows that its capacity to strike back is limited. But more than that, the two countries’ history and military development makes an explosive conflict unlikely.

While Israel has openly clashed with its Arab neighbors before — notably Egypt, Jordan, and Syria — it has never engaged in a direct military showdown with Iran. In fact, it’s easy to forget now that before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran and Israel enjoyed a close relationship. They were the US’s two main Middle Eastern allies, and Iranian oil was delivered to Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Things only changed when the Iranian Shah was ousted in 1979; after that, the revolution’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, proclaimed Israel a “foe of Islam” and cut off all ties with it.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

Spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

But then came the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88. This grueling conflict had a huge impact on Iran’s military doctrine, and the experience of it underpins the country’s geopolitical and national security concerns to this day. The reality of war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq compelled the Iranian government to prioritiZe a more defensive foreign policy; where it participates in other conflicts, it usually prefers to do so via proxies rather than by direct military action.

As a result, to the extent Israel considers Iran a major existential threat today, it’s particularly worried about Iranian involvement in other Middle Eastern conflicts. It has more than once fought Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon, most recently in 2006. And while the protracted conflict in Yemen, for example, is in many ways a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iranian-backed forces could use Yemeni territory to strike Israeli targets.

But even if a conflict erupted on one of these fronts, there’d be another calculation to factor in: the two countries’ very different military assets.

Treading carefully

The bulk of Iran’s arms stockpile is domestically developed and manufactured, its own-brand rockets and missiles tested in the field mostly by Hezbollah. But in recent years, Iran has also been procuring weapons and technical expertise from nations antagonistic toward the West: China, Russia, and possibly (in nuclear form) North Korea.

Israel’s main strength is its exceptional military power. Its weapons systems include the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defence shields, extremely precise defence tools that can pulverise perhaps more than 90% of hostile missiles in mid-air.

Israel also commands air power unrivalled in the Middle East; it recently took possession of the US-manufactured F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which it is augmenting with its own technology. On top of all this, in 2016, the US agreed to increase its military aid to Israel to US.8 billion a year until 2028.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

IAF F-35I Adir on its first flight with the Israeli Air Force, 2016.

And yet, Israel too is less than confident about the consequences of an conflict with Iran. However formidable its strategic and technological edge, it’s still unable to fully mend political and diplomatic fences with many of its Arab neighbours. It lives in hostile surroundings, constantly vulnerable to attack on almost all fronts. A major war with another heavily armed power is the last thing it needs.

At arm’s length

One advantage Iran does have is its array of proxies and non-state allies, which allow it to project hard power far closer to Israel than it would want to send regular forces. It has a valuable ally in Hamas, which controls Gaza; in Lebanon, Hezbollah could be prepared to assist if necessary. It could also exploit Sunni/Shia splits across the Middle East to secure the support of Shia volunteer armies. And since Saddam Hussein’s fall, Iran has been hugely influential in Iraq, which is struggling to establish a political order that can accommodate Shia, Kurds, and Sunnis.

Yet even with all this influence at its disposal, Iran would clearly prefer not to end up escalating a military conflict with Israel. Aside from the military implications, to do so would squander what moral and diplomatic support it’s gathered since the US’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

So for now, both sides are being cautious. Israel’s recent airstrikes targeted raid on military installations, not individuals — an acknowledgement that a heavy casualties might put Iran under pressure to retaliate. Meanwhile, Iran’s domestic debate on whether and how to respond is still rumbling, with progressives insisting the nuclear deal must be safeguarded while their hawkish countrymen would prefer a more confrontational stance. The government has yet to decide which road to take.

But whatever happens in the immediate future, Israel and Iran remain bitter foes, both heavily armed and tied up in a mess of geopolitical interests. Were a war to break out between them, they would gravely damage each other, but neither is likely to rise as the ultimate victor. That both seem to be fully aware of this reality is perhaps the most important thing standing on the way of what could be a true catastrophe.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

13 signs you grew up as a military brat

Military culture is something you definitely have to be a part of to understand. Bob from accounting trying to relate to the strictness of your Drill Sergeant dad’s rules and regulations from a civilian perspective boils your red-hot American blood faster than anything else.

Sure, growing up a military brat separates you from the rest of the world, but also gains you entrance into the greatest 1% club out there. Here are the signs you might have grown up a military brat.


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You have no idea how to answer, “Where are you from?”

Well, that depends. Do you mean where I lived the longest? Where I was born? Where I spent my best years? To be perfectly honest, you have no idea, so you just throw a random state (or country) out there and hope it makes you sound as cool as you look.

You’ve visited more countries than most adults 

In most cases, a 16 year old reminiscing of skiing the Alps on holiday or discussing the economic impact of buying American grocery staples abroad would sound like a big fat lie. But not for you, you cultured darling. You spent your three-day weekends on a multi-country European tour instead of grabbing burgers and a movie.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

You have to explain why you were born in another country but aren’t from there

No, I wasn’t born in America. No, I’m not a foreign citizen. No, I do not have a family heritage from that country either; I was just born there. Yes, it’s very annoying to explain this to people dozens of times.

You know your Social Security Number

You don’t need to call mom to ask her your personal information, you’ve got that on lock along with your service member parent’s as well.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

You can’t stand civilians freaking out over moving…down the street

You’re crying over the sentimental loss of moving two blocks down in the same neighborhood while keeping the same circle of friends, same zip code and same schools? Please, do explain to me how sympathetic I should be toward you (eye roll).

You know the metric system

Amid a long list of random knowledge nuggets that you possess, growing internationally meant exposure to a system the entire world works within…except America.

Being late is a crime you’ll never commit

If you’re early you’re on time and if you’re on time, the Captain will likely treat it as if you just committed a crime against time itself. Ten minutes early is precisely on time in your book.

Bowling is your party trick

A weird yet common pastime in military culture…bowling. Nearly every duty station had a bowling alley and you’ve likely spent an unhealthy amount of time practicing your spins.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

media.defense.gov

You’ve ridden on an airplane next to a Humvee in the cargo hold

Space-A flights are something else. There are no peanuts, no TVs in the headrests and zero chance you’ll snag a window seat.

You were “hella” cool with your ID card

Don’t even try to deny it. You thought you were crazy important toting around that ID card as a kid.

Getting up early is the standard operating procedure

Sleeping until 0700 hours sounds like a vacation after growing up a military child. Your entire neighborhood believed exercise was best before the sun rose each day.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

Your parents take respect to a whole new level

Preparing your less than lazy friends for a stay at your house may have required an entire operation in itself.

When you were raised among Rangers, nothing scares you

“Your parents scare me,” might be a phrase you’ve heard a time or 20. But whether you were raised by Seals, Rangers or Green Berets, 200 pounds of American fighting muscle looks like your favorite uncle, not a death sentence.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Every Marvel movie ranked from worst to best

After 11 years, 21 movies, and billions of dollars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows no signs of slowing down.

“Captain Marvel” hit theaters March 2019 and is breathing new life into what has been a lackluster box office so far in 2019. “Avengers: Endgame” is also projected to break records at the box office when it’s released next month, and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” comes to theaters in July 2019.

But a lot will change for the MCU after this year.


Disney, which owns Marvel, will own the film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four after merging with Fox. The producer Kevin Feige has said he expects that to happen within the first six months of 2019, at which point he’ll get the green light to develop projects with those characters.

It comes at a good time, as “Endgame” marks the end of this era for the MCU, and veteran actors like Chris Evans (who plays Captain America) are expected to retire from their roles.

But before the MCU faces a big shakeup, we ranked all 21 movies — including “Captain Marvel” — from worst to best.

Here’s every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, ranked:

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel Studios)

21. “Iron Man 2” (2010)

Directed by Jon Favreau

After the highs of “Iron Man,” it didn’t take long for the MCU to plummet to its lowest.

If the “2” in “Iron Man 2” meant that everything had to be doubled — the villains, the characters, the number of MCU movies Gwyneth Paltrow is in that she didn’t watch— then “Iron Man 2” succeeds. But it’s just too overstuffed for its own good in an attempt to get audiences ready for “The Avengers” two years later.

The MCU has since become a well-oiled machine that knows how to balance it all. But in 2010, it was still working on that.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel Studios)

20. “Thor” (2011)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

There’s nothing particularly horrible about “Thor,” but there’s nothing memorable either. It’s impressive that the movie works at all, considering that Thor, an alien god with daddy issues, was such a little-known character at the time, and Chris Hemsworth was not the superstar he is now. But James Gunn managed to turn even lesser-known and weirder characters into MCU standouts in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It would take a while for Thor to really come into his own.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel)

19. “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)

Directed by Louis Leterrier

We now know Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk, but in the second MCU movie, Edward Norton was in the role.

Out of all the MCU movies, “The Incredible Hulk” feels the least connected to the universe. Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross, Banner’s love interest, has never appeared again, and neither has Tim Blake Nelson, who was teased as the Hulk’s archnemesis, the Leader.

But even with that tease, a sequel never happened, and the only character besides the Hulk to have any meaningful connection to the MCU has been General “Thunderbolt” Ross, played by William Hurt, who popped up again in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.”

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Disney / Marvel)

18. “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

Directed by Alan Taylor

It’s almost pointless to compare the first two “Thor” movies, as they’re both toward the bottom of the MCU barrel. But “The Dark World” is a tad more fun than “Thor,” and it’s integral in introducing one of the Infinity Stones (the Reality Stone) that Thanos ends up using to destroy half of humanity.

But Marvel still hadn’t realized that Hemsworth’s best attribute in the role is his humor, and the character — and the first two movies — suffer because of it.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel Studios)

17. “Doctor Strange” (2016)

Directed by Scott Derrickson

“Doctor Strange” is the most overrated movie in the MCU. By 2016, movies like the Russos’ “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War” had progressed the MCU into new territory, but “Doctor Strange” felt like a step back. Sure, the magic was cool, but it also relied on a formulaic plot with a forgettable love interest. (How do you not give Rachel McAdams more to do?!)

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel)

16. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)

Directed by Joss Whedon

This “Avengers” sequel made the same mistake as “Iron Man 2”: cramming too much into its plot to serve the future of the franchise.

The movie features some cool action sequences, notably the Iron Man-Hulk battle. But it fails to distinguish Ultron, the Avengers’ biggest enemy in the comics, from other two-dimensional MCU villains, and it spends too much time setting up future movies. (What exactly is Thor doing?)

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel)

15. “Ant-Man” (2015)

Directed by Peyton Reed

“Ant-Man” is a fun little Marvel movie, but not much else. Paul Rudd is charming in the lead role, and Evangeline Lilly is more than just a love interest as Hope van Dyne (the future Wasp). But the movie still falls into familiar territory, including a lackluster villain in Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Disney / Marvel)

14. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

Directed by Joe Johnston

“The First Avenger” is arguably the first movie that “mattered” in the MCU. While “Iron Man” is better, “The First Avenger” sets up “The Avengers” better than “Iron Man,” which basically acts as a prequel to the big team-up movie.

“The First Avenger” would prove essential to the movies that came after — even “Infinity War” with the unexpected return of a character thought to be dead.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel Studios)

13. “Iron Man 3” (2013)

Directed by Shane Black

“Iron Man 3” is the most divisive movie in the MCU, and for good reason. It takes some wacky turns, with a major twist that ruined the movie for plenty of people. But I admire that Black just went for it with this movie and delivered something that fans still argue over.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel Studios)

12. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018)

Directed by Peyton Reed

While it’s not necessarily an “essential” MCU movie, it improves on the first “Ant-Man” in nearly every way, with plenty of heart and humor.

Reed came back to direct after replacing Edgar Wright at the last minute on the first movie, and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” feels as if he was more adjusted to the job, with some well-polished action sequences and a great handle on the characters.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel)

11. “Captain Marvel” (2019)

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Maybe in time “Captain Marvel” will inch higher on this list. But for now, it’s a solid entry into the MCU, but not a fantastic one.

Boden and Fleck are at their best in the character-driven aspects of the movie. Unfortunately, it’s the action the movie is lacking, which hurts it by the end.

Brie Larson is perfect in the title role, though, and her chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury makes the movie. There are also some surprising twists that elicited plenty of reactions from theater audiences. If anything, this is a worthy appetizer for “Avengers: Endgame.”

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel Studios)

10. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)

Directed by Jon Watts

I didn’t have a strong positive reaction to “Homecoming” when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me. Peter Parker’s motivations throughout the movie to be a hero — impressing Tony Stark — rubbed me the wrong way at first. But it’s hard not to like Tom Holland’s spot-on portrayal of the character, and the movie knows exactly what it wants to be: high-school ’80s classic meets modern superhero flick. And Michael Keaton is truly menacing as Adrian Toomes/Vulture in what began a hot streak for villains in the MCU.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel)

9. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)

Directed by James Gunn

Though “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a step back from the first movie, it’s still the most underrated MCU movie. The “Guardians” movies are unique entries in the franchise, and it’s a shame Gunn was given the boot from the third movie, which is in limbo.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel Studios)

8. “Iron Man” (2008)

Directed by Jon Favreau

The first movie — and still among the best — “Iron Man” kicked off what has become the most lucrative movie franchise of all time. But in 2008, it was just a fun superhero origin movie that defied the odds.

Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, and it’s hard to think of anyone else who could have embodied the role with so much of the necessary charisma to sell a character who casual audiences hadn’t cared about.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel Studios)

7. “The Avengers” (2012)

Directed by Joss Whedon

Four years after “Iron Man,” “The Avengers” proved that Marvel had what it takes to pull off a connected universe of movies. It’s even more impressive considering that the early MCU movies, like “Thor,” “Iron Man 2,” and “The Incredible Hulk,” are some of the worst in the franchise. But “The Avengers” course-corrected, delivering a bona fide blockbuster that hadn’t been achieved before.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Disney / Marvel)

6. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

2014 marks the point when the MCU really got it together. There have been minimal low points since, and it’s because Kevin Feige and crew finally had the machine running smoothly with low-profile directors who could deliver surprising superhero movies.

Among those filmmakers were the Russos, who have become somewhat of the architects of the universe. After “The Winter Soldier,” an expertly crafted espionage thriller posing as a superhero movie, they went on to direct “Civil War,” “Infinity War,” and “Endgame.”

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Disney / Marvel Studios)

6. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

Directed by Taika Waititi

“Thor: Ragnarok” is the most absurd movie in the MCU, but that’s only part of what makes it so good. This is when Marvel finally realized that Chris Hemsworth is an extremely funny guy with loads of charm and built a movie around that.

It’s also probably the closest thing we’ll get to another Hulk movie in the MCU.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Marvel Studios)

4. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

“Civil War” is loosely based on a 2007 comic-book event of the same name that pits Marvel’s superheroes against one another over the ethics of a registration act making it illegal for any superpowered person to not register their identities with the government.

The MCU version is obviously more contained, but that’s what makes it so good. It takes a huge storyline and successfully tells it through Captain America’s perspective, making it even more personal.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

3. “Black Panther” (2018)

Directed by Ryan Coogler

“Black Panther” is a lot of firsts: the first superhero movie to be nominated for best picture, the first movie to win Oscars for Marvel Studios, the first superhero movie with a predominantly black cast.

It was more than just an MCU movie — it was a cultural event. And its box office reflects that. It was the highest-grossing movie in the US in 2018, breaking barriers and riding its success all the way to Oscar gold.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Disney)

2. “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

“Infinity War” is an order of magnitude bigger than “Avengers” or “Civil War.” With a cast of over 20 characters, “Infinity War” is the culmination of 10 years of universe-building.

The Russos pulled it off, and they’re not done yet. After the most shocking ending in an MCU movie, the story will continue in “Endgame.”

But on its own, “Infinity War” is an impressive balancing act, and Josh Brolin’s Thanos lives up to the hype.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

(Disney)

1. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

Directed by James Gunn

“Guardians of the Galaxy” was the first MCU movie that really felt disconnected from the rest of the universe, but not in a negative way like “The Incredible Hulk.” It’s an important entry in the franchise from a story standpoint — but it’s also just a hilarious, fun, self-contained movie that turned an unknown group of characters into fan favorites.

It’s the most rewatchable movie in the MCU, with a brilliant soundtrack, but it’s the characters that really make it, from the dynamic between Rocket and Groot to the oblivious Drax. They don’t like each other at first, but the audience loves them as soon as they’re introduced.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This anti-aircraft tank was the worst thing ever built for the US military

The M247 Sergeant York was officially designated as a “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun” but was for all intents and purposes a tank chassis with anti-aircraft guns attached to the top. The vehicle was named for one Alvin York, a famous and highly decorated WWI hero who captured over 100 German soldiers pretty much single-handedly. Unfortunately for the U.S. tax payers who spent just shy of $2 billion on it (about $4.8 billion today or, humourously enough, after appropriately adjusting for inflation to make the dollar values match, about 1/11th what the entire Apollo program cost), the final version of the weapon ended up being so useless its automatic targeting system couldn’t distinguish between a toilet vent fan and a jet plane, the vehicle itself couldn’t keep up with the tanks it was designed to protect, and it was made obsolete by advances in enemy weaponry after only a few dozen faulty units were made. Here now is the story of the forgotten M247.


This particular weapon was developed by the defunct off-shoot of Ford known as Ford Aerospace in response to a contract put out by the U.S. Army in 1977 requesting what they referred to as an, “Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System.” This was later re-dubbed, “Division Air Defense” which was itself shorted to DIVAD in official documentation.

In a nutshell, the Army wanted a drivable anti-aircraft system that was to serve alongside their newly developed M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley tanks in battle. The contract was put out in direct response to a battle tactic known as “pop-up” which essentially involved helicopters harassing tanks from a distance by hiding behind cover and then popping up briefly to let loose a volley of anti-tank missiles (which themselves were a newly developed technology) before hiding once again.

The U.S. Army found that the tactic was almost impossible to counter with the ground-based weapons it had available at the time as their leading anti-aircraft weapons system, the M163 Vulcan, only had a range of 1.2 KM (3/4 of a mile), while newly developed anti-tank missiles, such as the 9K114 Shturm used by the Soviets, could hit from a range almost five times greater than that. To add insult to injury, the Soviets had no problem countering the pop-up attack method thanks to their ZSU-23-4 Shilka, which is essentially what the United States wanted to copy.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp
An M247 Sergeant York on display at Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park, Tennessee. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

To minimize production time and cost, the Army specified that the basis of the newly developed system had to be mounted atop an M48 Patton tank chassis (something the Army had in great surplus). Further, the system had to more or less use off-the-shelf parts, rather than anything being developed from scratch.

As to the final specific capabilities it was supposed to have, it had to be able to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed and be able to lock onto any target within 8 seconds, all with a minimum 50% chance to hit a target from 3 KM (1.9 miles) away with a single 30 second volley. It also had to be able to continually track up to 48 moving aerial targets, automatically identifying enemy aircraft, and intelligently prioritizing which should be shot down first. All the gunner had to do then was to select the target from the generated list and fire.

Several companies responded to the request with proposed systems, with the Army ultimately narrowing it down to two entrants- one developed by Ford Aerospace and one by General Dynamics, with both companies given $79 million to develop prototypes.

After extensive testing of two prototypes made by each company, in which General Dynamics’ reportedly shot down 19 drones vs. Ford’s 9, Ford was awarded the contract…

As you might have guessed, this decision was controversial, not just because the General Dynamics prototype outperformed Ford’s by a considerable margin, but because, unlike every other entrant, the M247 used more costly 40MM shells instead of 35MM ones which were extensively used by NATO at the time. Rumour had it that Ford stood to make more money from the use of 40MM rounds due to a business deal they had with the manufacturer. However, it should also be noted that the Army may have had good reason to favour the 40MM given its larger size and a newly developed 40mm round that had a proximity sensing fuse built in.

Whatever the case, Ford Aerospace won the lucrative contract and began immediate production of M247s in 1981.

And this is where hilarity ensued.

Read More: In World War I, Alvin York captured 132 German soldiers pretty much single-handed

Every M247 Ford produced had problems, mainly centered around their automatic targeting system. This ultimately led one soldier to speculate that the only way the M247 would manage to take out an enemy would be by “driving over the top of it.”

As an example of some of the issues here, in 1982 Ford was set to demonstrate the M247 to a gathered crowd of VIPs and military brass. However, the moment the M247’s tracking system was turned on, it immediately targeted the stands the gathered people were sitting in, resulting in complete chaos as those present trampled one another to get out of the way. Of course, the M247 required the operator to tell it to fire, so there was no real danger here, but one can imagine staring down a pair of 40mm cannons in a live demo would be a tad frightening.

After a while, the engineers thought they’d managed to fix the issue and the demo resumed, only to see the M247 shoot into the ground rather than the drone target it was “locked on” to.

In the aftermath, a Ford Aerospace executive claimed the “glitch” had been caused by the M247 being washed before the demonstration, damaging the targeting system. This explanation didn’t sit well with military brass or the many journalists present, one of whom, Gregg Easterbrook, mused that perhaps Ford Aerospace didn’t realize that it rained in Europe where the M247 was to be deployed.

Other problems with the M247’s targeting system included its seeming inability to tell the difference between helicopters and trees and its penchant for locking onto random other ground-based objects as threats. The most infamous example of this was that time an M247 ignored a passing drone it was supposed to be targeting and instead locked onto a nearby latrine exhaust fan, marking it as a low priority, slow-moving target.

The M247’s targeting system was so poor that even when presented with an unrealistically favorable scenario, such as a helicopter hovering completely still in mid-air, it still missed and took an agonizing 12 seconds just to acquire the target.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp
M247 Sergeant York DIVAD (Wikimedia Commons photo by Ryan Crierie)

How was this targeting system so bad, given that it was developed using off-the-shelf parts that were shown to be reliable already? Mainly because the radar was one designed for the F-16 fighter jet. (In fact, it worked very well in the open air.) However, despite the efforts of the Ford and Army engineers, the random objects on the ground continually wreaked havoc on the radar’s ability to track low flying aerial targets like pop-up attacking helicopters. It also had significant problems tracking high flying targets because when the turrets were raised up they got in the way of the radar… (*queue Yakety Sax*).

On top of all this, the M247’s turret also couldn’t turn fast enough to track fast-moving targets and the hydraulics leaked in even marginally cold weather. Not a problem, of course, given it’s always balmy in the regions that were once the former Soviet Union… (In truth, even if it was balmy, it turns out the tracking system also struggled in high ambient temperatures and had trouble dealing with vibrations, such as generated continually when the M247 moved over the ground.)

Another major problem, as previously mentioned, was that the M247’s top speed wasn’t sufficient to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed, meaning it literally couldn’t drive fast enough to travel with the things it was specifically designed to protect. You might at this point be thinking that one’s on the Army because they’re the ones that made Ford use the M48 Patton tank as the base, and that’s not an entirely unfair thought. However, it should be noted that the M48 was previously capable of keeping up here, but Ford added about 17 tons to the original 45 in their modifications of the turret, making the tank much slower than it had previously been.

Despite all these problems to units being delivered, the Army continued to pump money into the project, mostly because there wasn’t a backup option and there was a very pressing need for such a weapon. However, rumors of the Army faking positive results for the M247 via putting it in unrealistically favorable conditions (such as hovering the drones and attaching radar reflectors), including Oregon state representative Dennis Smith going so far as to publicly accuse them of this, ultimately led to something of an inquiry on the matter. Specifically, in 1984, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger decided to oversee a set of amazingly expensive tests costing $54 million ($144 million today) to better determine what this weapon could and couldn’t do.

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp
The man for whom the M247 Sergeant York was named. This battle scene was painted in 1919 by artist Frank Schoonover. The scene depicts the bravery of Alvin C. York in 1918. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The tests did not go well. When the system utterly failed to hit any realistically flown drones, they resorted to having them fly in a straight line.  After further failures to actually hit a target, the drones were made to hold still and equipped with radar reflectors… (Rather ironic for a weapon named after a famed WWI soldier known for his incredibly sharpshooting ability.)

All was not lost, however. In one of the rounds of tests where a drone was moving the M247 did manage to slightly damage it, knocking it off course, at which point the safety officer remotely self-destructed it as he was supposed to do if a drone did such a thing. Nevertheless, this was interpreted by the press as the military trying to make it look like the M247 had actually managed a kill, leading to even more outcry that the Army was just trying to fake the results to make the massively expensive M247 look good.

(As to that cost, while it’s widely reported today that the project cost close to $7 billion (about $18 billion today), in fact, that number includes about three decades of anti-aircraft weapon development leading up to and including the actual figure of about $1.8 billion (about $4.8 billion today) spent on the development of the M247s.)

In any event, around the same time of the debacle that was the 1984 tests, the Soviet Union were deploying longer-range anti-tank missiles that were capable of being fired outside of the then current range the M247 could effectively counter the attacks, even if the system did aim properly.

Thus, despite the pressing need for such a system with little in the way of a backup, Weinberger, with support from Congress, some members of which had been present at the test, canceled the project rather than trying to sink more money into it to fix it. In the coming years, most of the M247s found their way onto target ranges where they were destroyed in various tests by weaponry that could actually aim properly. Today, only a handful of M247s still exist, one of which can be found at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park.

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