On the evening of March 24, 1944, a Royal Air Force airman jumped out of his damaged bomber without a parachute.
Not only did he survive, but he landed with little more than bumps and bruises.
His name was Nicholas Alkemade. Or should we say, the “indestructible” Nicholas Alkemade. Born Dec. 10, 1922, Alkemade was a rear gunner on a four-engine Avro Lancaster its crew had nicknamed “Werewolf.”
In March 1944, the crew was on a bombing mission over Berlin, which went without incident. But on their way back to England, the bomber caught on fire after being razed by machine-gun fire from a German fighter. The order came from the Werewolf’s pilot to abandon the crippled bomber, but Alkemade wasn’t wearing his parachute, since the gunner’s area was too cramped for it to be worn all the time.
When he tried pulling his chute out of storage, it was in flames. The plane was going down and he had few options.
“I had no doubts at all that this was the end of the line,” he told Leicester Mercury years later. “The question was whether to stay in the plane and fry or jump to my death. I decided to jump and make a quick, clean end of things. I backed out of the turret and somersaulted away.”
So out he went, headed from 18,000 feet above the Earth to the ground at 120 miles per hour. He lost consciousness during the descent, which would have been the end of this story. Except, three hours later, Alkemade — now safely lying on the ground — opened his eyes.
He was lying on snowy ground in a small pine wood. Above him the stars were still visible, only this time they were framed by the edges of the hole he had smashed through the tree canopy. Assessing himself, Alkemade found that he was remarkably intact. In addition to the burns and cuts to the head and thigh, all received in the aircraft, he was suffering only bruising and a twisted knee. Not a single bone had been broken or even fractured. Both of his flying boots had disappeared, probably torn from his feet as he unconsciously struck the tree branches. Being of no further use, Alkemade discarded his parachute harness in the snow.
Though his incredible survival arguably made him the luckiest man in the world, his luck soon changed. He began to blow on his emergency whistle, which got the attention of German civilians nearby. After he was taken to a local infirmary, he was interrogated by the Gestapo the next day.
He told them what happened, and like anyone else would, they basically called bullsh-t.
“You say you fell from a plane, but you have no parachute,” the Gestapo interrogator asked him, according to the Mercury. His interrogators accused him of burying it and being a spy, until he told them to find his discarded harness, along with the crashed aircraft that was nearby, according to the RAF Museum.
The Germans investigated and found he was legit. They even gave him a certificate stating, “It has been investigated and corroborated by the German authorities that the claim of Sergeant Alkemade, No. 1431537, is true in all respects, namely, that he has made a descent from 18,000 feet without a parachute and made a safe landing without injuries, the parachute having been on fire in the aircraft. He landed in deep snow among fir trees.”
Alkemade spent his next 14 months as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III in Poland, and returned to England after the war ended. He died in 1991.
In America, we call it “eminent domain.” In China, they call it a Wednesday. Or whatever day the government comes and decides to take your house so they can build a freeway across what used to be your living room.
Yang Youde was a 56-year-old rice farmer who one day got the word that the government wanted to develop the land on which his farm stood. He wasn’t having it. He’d heard the stories about other regular people being forced off their land. Yang wasn’t about to become a victim.
Before the Chinese government and the hired agents of the land developers could force him out, he set out to create a system of defenses that would keep them in fear of coming onto his property. Using old stovepipes and fireworks, he built a real-life cannon that could fire rockets up to 100 yards.
“My goal isn’t to hurt anyone, I just want to solve my problem,” Yang told al-Jazeera. “If I get hounded out, I’m left with nothing. What’s my future except to steal, rob, or beg?
In February 2010, they came for him determined to violently force him away. He fired rockets at 30 crews until he ran out of ammo. After a physical altercation, the local police stepped in and forced the developers to come back some other time.
Yang made more ammo. And a giant watchtower. He also converted a push cart into a mobile rocket launcher.
From that high vantagepoint, he was able to hold off 100 demolition crew workers. This time, when the police came, they came for Yang.
Yang was offered the U.S. equivalent of ,000 for his Wuhan-adjacent farm. But he had a nice parcel of land with a fishpond on it. He knew he couldn’t fight the government forever, but he wanted at least a fair price. After all, his contract for the land didn’t run out for another 19 years.
And he said the Chinese government’s compensation policies entitled him to five times the offered amount. The old farmer had been growing watermelons and cotton on the land for some 40 years.
When all was said and done, Chinese state media reported that Yang was offered upward of 0,000 for his land, which he eventually agreed to. According to al-Jazeera, Yang was also held in jail for 51 days and tortured for his famous stand.
On the morning of June 7, 1917, after a dry quip to journalists about how he didn’t know whether he and his men’s actions “shall change history tomorrow,” but would “certainly alter the geography,” a British major general ordered a series of mines set off, detonating an almost 1 million pounds of explosives, killing about 1,000 German soldiers, and causing leaders in London —about 130 miles away — to hear the explosion.
A howitzer crew provides fire support during the infantry assault at the Battle of Messines Ridge.
(National Library of Scotland)
It all started soon after World War I descended from a fast-paced maneuver war into the trench-warfare stalemate that would define the conflict. Allied troops facing Germans in Belgium were, like their brethren in the trenches southward across France, quickly demoralized as the war ground on, thousands died, and almost no significant changes were made to the balance of the war.
People were dying by the thousands to seemingly no effect. So, some British officers came up with a plan to shift the line in Belgium by putting in years of work that would guarantee an eventual victory far in the future.
The plan was changed, overhauled, and refined plenty of times in those two years, but the basic underpinnings stayed the same. Near the village of Messines in Belgium, British tunnelers got to work digging towards and then under the German lines along the ridge that dominated the area. This digging operation would continue for two years.
Sappers dig a communication trench near Messines Ridge after the explosion that essentially handed the area to the British. Engineers had worked for nearly two years to dig the original tunnels that made the explosion possible.
(Imperial War Museums)
Shafts were dug across the front, and some were dug as deep as 100 feet and then filled with strong explosives. On top of these subterranean towers of explosives, each major stockpile had a mine that would act as the initiation device.
For German soldiers and officers, this was obviously a nightmare. For those directly over the explosion, the nightmare was over instantly. The Earth erupted around them like a volcano. The earth shook and shot into the sky. Men were wrecked by the blast and then survivors were buried alive in the debris. Approximately 1 millions pounds of explosives were used in the blast.
Soldiers share a smoke on June 10 during the Battle of Messines. The Battle of Messines Ridge had kicked off the British advance and given them a huge advantage when engineers successfully set off nearly 1 million pounds of explosives beneath a key ridge.
(Imperial War Museums)
But the slight breaks between explosions meant that, for minutes afterwards, German troops and officers were terrified that more explosions were coming, that they would be killed or buried in a sudden tower of fire and dirt.
Meanwhile, British troops had been staged to take advantage of the sudden opening in the lines. Many were knocked down by the initial blast despite staging hundreds of yards away. But they stood up and attacked the German lines. What had been a ridge was now a series of major craters, and the British were determined to take them.
The British had known that a large explosion was coming, though many individual soldiers didn’t know the exact details, and so they were able to rally much faster than the Germans. The British infantry assault, preceded by a creeping artillery barrage, successfully captured 7,000 survivors in addition to the 10,000 that the explosions had killed.
And the British were left holding what was left of the ridge. The Germans retreated and this allowed Britain to launch more attacks into Ypres. The Battle of Messines Ridge had been a great success, though the Ypres Offensive it enabled was less so. The idea for the larger offensive had been to capture the German U-Boat pens on the Belgian coast, but the openings at Messines Ridge didn’t eliminate the German defenses further on.
The Ypres Offensive was launched on July 31, just weeks after the explosions at Messines, but Germans fiercely contested the assaults and launched counterattacks of their own. The offensive was, ostensibly, an Allied victory. The Allies took Ypres and a lot of other territory, but suffered 275,000 casualties to Germany’s 220,000.
That’s why most of the world has forgotten the detonation at Messines Ridge. It was one of the largest man-made explosions in history at the time and it allowed the British to pull a victory, seemingly out of thin air. But its strategic impact didn’t last.
Chris Kyle, formerly a Navy SEAL, was America’s top sniper of all time with 255 kills, displacing Adelbert Waldron, who racked up 109 kills with the 9th Infantry Division in the Vietnam War. He’s earned so much recognition that his autobiography, American Sniper, became a hit Hollywood blockbuster. But before his untimely death, he had finished a second book, in which he listed the ten firearms that helped define America’s history. Here are the picks he made for his book, American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms.
1. Kentucky Long Rifle
During the era of the American Revolution, the typical arm for an infantryman was a musket, like the famous Brown Bess. These smoothbore muskets had an effective range of anywhere from 50 to 100 yards. The Kentucky rifle doubled that range, easily. While its rate of fire was slower, British troops didn’t do so well when their officers were taken out early.
2. Spencer Repeating Rifle
The muzzle-loaded musket gave way to the muzzle-loaded, rifled musket by the time of the Civil War. In 1860, though, Christopher Spencer developed a rifle that used a metallic cartridge. The Spencer Repeating Rifle held seven rounds. Only 100,000 of these rifles got to Union troops, but the rifle made a big difference at Gettysburg, where Union cavalry used it to great effect.
3. Colt Single-Action Army: ‘The Peacemaker’
As the old adage states, “God made all men – Sam Colt made ’em equal.” The Singe-Action Army was one of the first mass-produced revolvers to make use of the metallic cartridge. It provided cowboys with portable firepower for self-defense. It also was, sadly, used by outlaws, like Butch Cassidy.
4. Winchester Model 1873
This rifle was, arguably, “the gun that won the West.” It was a reliable rifle, and the lever-action allowed its user to fire 14 rounds very quickly. It also was chambered for the same round used by the Colt Single-Action Army, which not only provided ease of logistics for a rancher but added more range and accuracy as well.
5. M1903 Springfield
This rifle replaced the “trapdoor” Springfield and Krag-Jorgenson rifles, giving American troops a rifle that used smokeless powder. It really came into its own with the arrival of the .30-06 Springfield cartridge, which added accuracy due to the advanced shaping of its bullet.
6. Colt M1911
This pistol has been the icon of American GIs since World War I. It still hangs around today within some special operations units. Unlike most pistols of its time that used 9mm rounds (or weaker ones), its .45 ACP round could stop an enemy soldier cold.
7. Thompson Submachine Gun
The gun that “made the Twenties roar” earned its reputation in the hands of Al Capone’s thugs. It packed the same .45 ACP punch as the M1911, but it had a bit more range. Over 1.5 million were made, and the gun’s firepower made it a favorite of the American GI.
8. M1 Garand
While the United States Army adopted the M1903 to simply maintain parity with the rest of the world, the M1 Garand gave American infantryman an advantage. This time, it allowed rapid follow-up shots. This rifle was praised by many, including George S. Patton. Its one drawback, a “ping” sound that told people that it needed to be reloaded.
9. .38 Special Police Revolver
The .38 Special didn’t become a primary service weapon (it was passed out to pilots as part of their survival kit in some cases), but it was the first gun that was a standard-issued sidearm for police officers. While the revolver is not used often today, it has become an icon.
10. M16 Rifle
This rifle changed the way rifles were made. Prior to its introduction, rifles usually were made with wood and heavy steel, but the selective-fire M16 used plastics, composites, and aluminum. When it entered service, it came in two and a half pounds lighter than the M1 Garand but held almost four times as many rounds in a detachable magazine. The hotly-debated AR-15 bears a resemblance to the M16, but it is only capable of semi-automatic fire — civilian sales of the M16 have been strictly regulated since 1934.
Which guns do you think have helped define American history? Let us know in the comments.
Check out our list of the worst times to have a negligent discharge:
7. At a funeral detail
Many military funerals have a 21-gun salute waiting fire at a specific time during the ceremony. Interrupting the service by having one of the riflemen accidentally discharge their weapon before they’re supposed to would be less than ideal, to say the least.
Everyone tends to jump a little even when the rifles are fired at the correct time.
6. During a foreign military weapons inspection
We advise and work alongside many foreign countries’ militaries throughout the world. When you’re trying to build and/or maintain relationships, there’s nothing more cancerous than having an ND occur to set everyone on edge.
5. Right before stepping out on a stressful foot patrol
The primary mission of allied foot patrol is to make contact with the opposition. When a trooper accidentally taps the trigger of a weapon that’s no longer on “safe,” some very crappy things can follow.
BANG. *Angry Looks* (Source: Army.mil)
4. While handling business in a porta-sh*tter
Many troops are required to carry loaded sidearms on their hip. Having a negligent discharge while you’re taking care of business can lead to a messy result.
Oh, and you can shoot yourself.
BANG. Just Bang. Any other sounds effects would be disgust– *gag*
3. Inside an up-armored vehicle
Armored vehicles are designed to keep the bad guys’ bullets from entering the cabin. That’s pretty obvious, right?
Having an ND go off inside the vehicle is really bad as the bullet will ricochet until it loses speed. Hopefully, it doesn’t land inside of one your buddies.
2. In the “CoC”
The “Center of Communication” is the artery for directing the troops on the ground. If an ND were to occur inside, that live round could kill a troop or damage some important computerized gear.
On second thought, just clear all your weapon systems before entering.
Afganistan is considered one of the most dangerous battlegrounds in the world. The already intense energy in the area can quickly become deadly in a blink of an eye. A negligent discharge could launch an entire battle — or worse.
Bonus: During Bowe Bergdahl’s trial
Do we really need to explain why this is a super bad time for an ND?
A group of six German shepherds gave a final salute August 28 in honor of a fellow canine who served three tours of duty as a military working dog for the US Marine Corps and died on July 27 at age 10 after a weeks’ long battle with bone cancer.
The German shepherds, which are part of the K-9 Salute Team, were trained to kneel and howl on command in honor of Cena, a black lab who was euthanized in July and whose remains were interred August 28 at the Michigan War Dog Memorial in Lyon Township.
The memorial site, which hosted the public service and private interment, has about 10 military dogs buried beside 2,150 pets interred at the historic pet cemetery, according to memorial president and director Phil Weitlauf.
DeYoung and Cena. Photo from American Humane via NewsEdge.
Cena, a bomb-sniffing dog, belonged to Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jeffrey DeYoung, 27, of Muskegon, who said he adopted the black lab in June 2014 after Cena underwent a year of rehabilitation therapy. DeYoung said that he and Cena served together on a seven-month tour of duty in Afghanistan that began in October 2009.
Cena also served with Jon North, a Marine sergeant from Osage, Iowa, who was present at the ceremony, and one other soldier who was not able to be there.
DeYoung said in a eulogy at the memorial service that Cena endured various injuries on his tours of duty, and that he and Cena encountered three improvised explosive devices together. Cena was officially an IED detection dog with the Marine Corps. The dogs walk ahead of patrols and pick up the scent of the explosives in the area and sit down near the explosive before a bomb-disarming unit comes, Weitlauf said.
“In every aspect of Cena, he has shed blood, pain, sweat, and tears for this country,” DeYoung said.
North, 28, who served one year with Cena in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011 didn’t speak at the service, but told the Free Press that Cena was known for being “a slow, old man” and that he was “just kind of a goofy old dog.”
“By the end of your time together, he’s more like a brother, more like a kid. It’s hard to let him go,” North said.
Together, DeYoung and North carried an urn containing Cena’s ashes in a funeral procession that included bagpipers and a military color guard.
Weitlauf said that three separate Jeep convoys — including one from Muskegon with DeYoung escorting Cena’s remains — traversed different parts of the state to make it to the service, linking up at different locations including Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and New Hudson. He said that about 80 Jeeps participated in the convoys, and that about 600 people attended the funeral service — nearly double the 350 attendees the services normally get.
DeYoung, who is a professional public speaker, said that after adopting Cena in 2014, their job wasn’t yet over. They spent the next several years journeying across the country together to places such as President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and the US Congress, where DeYoung discussed the need to bring home all war dogs prior to retirement “so that what happened in Vietnam with the euthanasia will never happen again.”
At the end of that war, troops were ordered to leave their dogs in Vietnam out of fear of a logistical nightmare and concerns of disease being brought back, Weitlauf said. They had the option to give the dogs over to the South Vietnamese army or to euthanize them, he said. Over 4,000 were left behind, and only 204 made it back home, Weitlauf said.
Tom Strempka, 69, of Bloomfield Hills was deployed to Vietnam in 1971 at the age of 23, where he served a six-month tour of duty and suffered injuries. He said the funeral gave him closure.
Strempka said that war dogs in Vietnam once saved his platoon of 30 men from an ambush.
“I’m out here for every funeral because it’s long overdue for everyone to recognize the importance of dogs as being part of the unit and not a piece of equipment, the way the government treated them in Vietnam,” Strempka said. “And it’s a glorious day, and I guess that it gives me a little more peace of mind.”
For DeYoung, laying Cena to rest at what he described as the ” Arlington of dogs” also provided some closure.
“Cena’s journey in my life is done. Our work is not, so I will continue doing so in his honor,” DeYoung said to reporters before the ceremony.
Obscure historical ways to slice, dice, and fry your opponents.
1. The Fire Lance
First find a spear. Now fill a bamboo tube with gunpowder and sharp objects and tie the tube to the end of your spear. Next, aim this contraption at someone who has seriously pissed you off and ignite the gunpowder by way of a fuse. Congratulations, you’ve just made and discharged a Chinese Fire Lance.
Considered one of the earliest gunpowder weapons, the Fire Lance was invented in the 10th century and was used throughout the Ming dynasty, often deployed in the defense of fortified cities when an invading or marauding army appeared at the gates. While these were unpredictable one-off weapons, Fire Lances were cheap, very effective at short ranges, and psychologically terrifying for enemy soldiers.
If the initial shrapnel volley didn’t kill you, you were now dealing with a guy more or less wielding a flamethrower. The Fire Lance and other early Chinese gunpowder weapons are the direct precursor for more advanced Middle Eastern and European firearms that would come to dominate warfare in the following centuries.
2. The Mancatcher
Have you ever seriously considered kidnapping an armored nobleman on horseback in order to ransom him back to his vassals? No? Well you really should and if you do, your best bet is the bizarrely designed Mancatcher.
This weapon is described by Wikipedia as an “esoteric pole-arm,” probably because it looks like something out of a Terry Gilliam film. The mancatcher’s primary purpose was the non-lethal dismounting and capture of high value targets on the battlefield. Those spikes on the inside of the collar pictured above are predicated on the assumption that anyone you’re trying to catch with the mancatcher is wearing armor, or else I suspect there would have been some severe neck injuries to explain during the ransom negotiations.
The Japanese have a similar weapon called the sasumata which is interestingly still in use today (albeit with a very different design) as a non-lethal way to apprehend criminals and troublemakers.
3. The Bagh Naka
Anyone with a Wolverine fetish should appreciate this Indian hand-claw, which was a favorite among thieves and assassins of the 15th and 16th centuries. The Bagh Naka (tiger claw in Hindi) consists of a crossbar with four or five sharp blades and two finger-holes for the wearer’s thumb and pinky finger.
The weapon could be worn so that the blades extend over the knuckle, functionally turning one’s hand into a mauling device, or worn so that the blades are hidden in the palm of the hand, for a more, shall we say, sneaky approach. Some models, such as the one pictured above, had additional blades jutting out from the side to add to the Bagh Naka’s versatility and carnage dealing capabilities.
4. The Ballista
Photo: Wikipedia/Ronald Preuß
This early artillery siege weapon makes the list not only because of its pretty badass name but also because it hurtles spears the size of tree trunks at opposing armies.
Developed by the Ancient Greeks, the Ballista is basically a very large crossbow that discharged an ordinance capable of flattening enemy troop formations at a distance of up to 500 yards. They were often placed at the top of large siege towers and moved within range of enemy fortifications to lighten a besieged city’s defenses. A smaller model, called the Scorpio, was one of the first sniper rifles to see extended action in war and probably deserves its own entry on this list. Perhaps most impressive, the Ballista remained in use for more than a thousand years which is pretty rare for such a specialized siege weapon.
5. The Macuahuitl
The Macuahuitl was a meso-american club which was affixed with numerous obsidian blades on its sides. It could be used to lacerate opponents or bludgeon them into unconsciousness.
The conquistadors were greatly impressed with the effectiveness of this weapon during their conquests and we have multiple reports of Macuahuitl being used to decapitate horses with a single swing. They were also reportedly used by the Aztecs to knock out targets during raids to acquire sacrificial victims.
There are surprisingly no known authentic Macuahuitl left, however reconstructions such as the one pictured above have been extensively tested and confirm the weapon’s deadly effects. It is the only obsidian based weapon I am aware of and that makes it pretty badass in my book.
Women have played a part in war and the military ever since the birth of our nation, whether it be disguising themselves as men to secretly join the Army during the Civil War, tending to the wounded on the battlefield as nurses in WWII, or, more recently, taking up arms alongside their brothers in combat positions.
Elsie Ott, for example, made a name for herself in the world of flight nursing. Ott was born in 1913 in Smithtown, New York, and attended nursing school at Lenox Hill Hospital School of Nursing in New York City right after high school.
It was 1941 when Ott joined the Army Nurse Corps, and she became a true trailblazer for women in the military. She was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. and stationed in Louisiana and Virginia before flying on a mission that would make history.
Take Elsie Ott, for example, who was one such woman that made a name for herself in the world of flight nursing. Ott was born in 1913 in Smithtown, New York, and attended nursing school at Lenox Hill Hospital School of Nursing in New York City right after high school.
It was 1941 when Ott joined the Army Nurse Corps, and she became a true trailblazer for women in the military. She was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. and stationed in Louisiana and Virginia before flying on a mission that would make history.
During WWII air evacuation of casualties was in its infancy and procedures, as well as training of flight nurses, was not perfected. Before aeromedical evacuation, the injured would have to wait weeks and often months, to be sent back home to the U.S.
The Army Air Corps started to spin up a program for flight nurses in 1941 in order to aeromedically evacuate patients from the field.
Ott had never even been on an airplane, nor had training on the aircraft when she was assigned to fly a week-long mission. On Jan. 17, 1943 the flight originated in Karachi, India, and was to fly to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Five patients were assigned to the flight and Ott was only given a simple first aid kit to care for all of them.
It was a week later when Ott reached Walter Reed with the patients, all of them alive and well. She made sure to take detailed notes throughout her journey to improve the procedures and training for future flight nurses. Some of the suggestions she noted included, oxygen bottles, blankets, more medical supplies, and a change of uniform from skirts to pants.
Above, Army nurses tend to patients on aircraft.
Ott’s contributions didn’t go unnoticed and were used to improve aeromedical evacuation processes, to this day. Two months after her groundbreaking first flight she was awarded the U.S. Air Medal. She was the first woman in U.S. Army history to obtain such and honor.
Brigadier General Fred Borum presents the Air Medal to 2nd Lieutenant Elsie Ott
(Photo by the U.S. Air Force).
Due to Elsie Ott’s unwavering persistence while caring for her patients and individual contributions, flight nurses today can give their patients the highest level of care in the air while returning them safely home.
We don’t mean to alarm you, but Christmas is right around the corner. We know many of you are out there defending our freedoms on the streets of U.S. cities or in foreign countries, which makes it easy to lose track of the holidays. At Coffee or Die, we understand that time is a valuable commodity, so we took the liberty of highlighting some must-have items (coffee!) from badass companies (Black Rifle Coffee Company!) that should satisfy everyone on your list (everyone!).
Save the sweat for when your New Year’s resolution kicks in — here’s our easy-to-follow holiday gift guide.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
BRCC Holiday Bundle
Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like an image of America’s rifle decked out in twinkle lights and a hot cup of America’s coffee in a freedom-loving mug. There are other holiday coffee packages, but we can pretty much guarantee that if your loved one opens up anything besides the BRCC Holiday Bundle, they’ll be disappointed. Don’t be that guy. BRCC, or die.
(Photo courtesy of Beyond Clothing Facebook page.)
Prima Loche Reversible Jacket from Beyond Clothing
For the outdoor enthusiast, staying warm in an outlayer that can withstand extreme activity is a must. Beyond Clothing has all the options for the adventure-seekers on your holiday shopping list. The Prima Loche Jacket is made of 70-denier quilted micro ripstop with durable water repellent (DWR) finish to withstand the elements. It’s also fully reversible, compressible for easy packing, and features a sweat-wicking Poloratec Alpha Insulation.
(Photo courtesy of @wrm.fzt on Instagram.)
Wrm.fzy “Cowboy Advice” Tee
Our friends over at WRMFZY make some of the most unique lifestyle apparel around, with something for the whole family including kids tees and bodysuits. All of their shirts are made from 50 percent polyester, 25 percent ring-spun combed cotton, and 25 percent rayon for maximum comfort. One of our favorites is the “Cowboy Advice” Tee.
(Mat Best, center, on deployment. Photo courtesy of Mat Best.)
Books by Army Rangers
Contrary to popular belief, U.S. Army Rangers are capable of stringing words together to form coherent — and even intelligible — sentences. Need proof?
This year, Black Rifle Coffee Company co-founder and vice president Mat Best added “best-selling author” to his impressive resume with the release of “Thank You For My Service.” The memoir topped several best-seller lists, including the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal. Best’s timely memoir provides fresh insight into the minds of the men and women on the front lines of the Global War on Terrorism. But don’t worry, this is still Mat Best we’re talking about — you’ll also be laughing your ass off.
Luke Ryan, BRCC’s social media manager, has also authored a book — or three. The former Army Ranger currently has three books available: “The Gun and the Scythe: Poetry by an Army Ranger,” “The Eighth: A Short Story,” and “The First Marauder,” which is the first installment of a three-part series. “The First Marauder” is set in a post-apocalyptic U.S. after a deadly virus wreaks havoc on the planet. The story follows Tyler Ballard, a 15-year-old boy who seeks revenge for the death of his older brother. “The Gun and the Scythe” is a poetry book written for veterans, and it explores various facets of war in a way simple narratives cannot.
Coffee or Die executive editor Marty Skovlund Jr. has also been known to put pen to paper occasionally, and his seminal work makes a worthy addition to anyone’s library. “Violence of Action” is much more than the true, first-person accounts of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the Global War on Terror. Between these pages are the heartfelt, first-hand accounts from, and about, the men who lived, fought, and died for their country, their Regiment, and each other.
(Jack Carr’s “The Terminal List” was released in 2018; “True Believer” in July 2019.)
… and a book by a Navy SEAL
Former U.S. Navy SEAL sniper and author Jack Carr has written books so badass that even Chuck Norris can’t put them down. Jack Carr uses his 20-plus years of experience operating as a Navy SEAL to write some of the most thrilling fiction books we’ve ever read. Protagonist James Reece is on a quest for vengeance after he discovers that the ambush that claimed the lives of his SEAL team and the murder of his wife and daughters was all part of a conspiracy. The first two installments, “The Terminal List” and “True Believer,” will have you on the edge of your seat. If you can’t get enough of James Reece, Carr’s third book, “Savage Son,” is coming in April 2020.
(Photo courtesy of Evers Forgeworks.)
The Maverick EDC from Evers Forgeworks
For the true blade lover in your life, check out Evers Forgeworks. Veteran John Evers has a passion for all things with a blade, which is apparent in his work. His hand-forged blades are as functional as they are beautiful. We are particularly impressed with the Maverick EDC, which is the perfect blade to add to your battle or duty belt, and the Maverick Hunter — fast, lightweight, and ready to serve whatever purpose you have in mind.
(Photo courtesy of Activision.)
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” Reboot
The anticipated reboot of the popular “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” video game was released in October and features new characters, new storylines that are eerily similar to real-world events, and new play modes. Developers Infinity Ward brought in Tier 1 operators to consult on the game, upping the realism and exciting for players. This is a no-brainer for the FPS gamer on your holiday shopping list.
(Photo courtesy of Kifaru International Facebook page.)
A Kifaru International Woobie
The USGI poncho liner (woobie) is quite possibly the most popular piece of government-issued equipment on the planet. And it’s basically a baby blanket for some of our nation’s most hardened warriors. Kifaru International took this fan favorite and enhanced it to meet their demanding standards. With their proprietary RhinoSkin coating with DWR for water resistance, this woobie‘s durability is unmatched. Their Apex insulation is a continuous filament that requires no quilting, unlike the USGI version. This lack of quilting or stitching anywhere but the edges eliminates cold spots. We never leave home without ours.
(Photo courtesy of Combat Flip Flops Facebook page.)
The Shemagh from Combat Flip Flops
Combat Flip Flops has a righteous reputation for their durable products and mindful philanthropy. While their signature product makes a great gift, this time of year isn’t exactly flip flop season in many parts of the country. The shemagh (square scarf), however, is a versatile item that can be used in many different environments. It’s perfect for that person on your list who is always looking for new and unique accessories — or is always cold.
(Photo courtesy of High West Distillery Facebook page.)
A bottle of High West Whiskey
For the whiskey connoisseur, our friends at High West Distillery have something for everyone. From American Prairie Bourbon to Double Rye to Rendezvous Rye to Campfire — which is a blend of scotch, bourbon and rye whiskeys — there are plenty of options, and they’re all good. You may even inspire the recipient to visit the distillery in Park City, Utah, for a tour. While they’re there, they can also stop at the saloon or the Nelson Cottage, which offers coursed dinners and whiskey pairings.
(Courtesy of STI International’s Facebook page.)
STI Staccato C pistol
STI pistols are made in America with their own unique pistol platform called the 2011. Every STI handgun is backed by a lifetime warranty and unmatched performance. We recommend the Staccato C for the everyday carrier in your life — it contains all the speed, power, and accuracy that STI is known for in a compact, easy, and comfortable-to-carry firearm.
(Photo courtesy of Bison Union.)
Bison Union 16-oz. Buffalo Mug
Bison Union is a veteran-owned company that started out making awesome T-shirts but have added other products to their lineup over the years — like this no-nonsense 16-ounce Buffalo Mug. Each mug is handmade in Sheridan, Wyoming, by a friend of the company, who also happens to be the mother of a U.S. Army veteran. From their website, “At Bison Union Company we firmly believe coffee is one of the best ingredients for hard work each day… so stop talking and earn your coffee!”
(Photo courtesy of Sitka Gear.)
Kelvin Active Jacket from Sitka Gear
Sitka’s motto — “Turning Clothing into Gear” — holds true in every piece that we have worn. Sitka makes the most highly functional technical hunting clothing we have ever used. One of our favorite pieces is the Kelvin Active Jacket, which can be used as a quiet outlayer to ease the chill on mild mornings or as an insulating layer in frigid temps. It’s lightweight and easily compressible, so it won’t take up much space in your pack. If you’re shopping for an outdoorsman, you can not go wrong with anything from Sitka.
The Mission Flannel contributes to helping our furry friends find forever homes.
(Photo courtesy of Dixxon Flannel Facebook page.)
Dixxon Flannel’s Mission K-9 Charity Flannel
Check out the BRCC office on any given day of the week and there’s a good chance you’ll catch someone in Dixxon Flannel. Their flannels feature their signature D-TECH material, which makes them breathable yet durable and minimizes wrinkling. Dixxon Flannel offers apparel for men, women, and children — flannel for the whole family! Plus the Mission K-9 Charity Flannel supports an incredibly worthy cause.
(Photo courtesy of Traeger.)
Traeger Signature BBQ Sauce
Specialty food items are a great go-to gift during the holidays. Need to fill a stocking? Need a host gift? Need to get something small for that ” or less” office gift exchange? There are plenty of options, but we like the idea of gifting something that requires a little more thought than a bottle of wine or meat-and-cheese box. In addition to their cooking implements, Traeger has a whole line of delicious sauces. We like to start with the Signature BBQ Sauce since it has the most broad appeal. If the recipient is a backyard pitmaster you know and love, there are also sweet and spicy options, depending on their taste … or you could just, you know, pony up the money to buy them a badass grill.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
BRCC Coffee Club subscription
The gift that keeps on giving, BRCC’s Coffee Club delivers high-quality coffee delivered to your door each month at a discounted rate and with free shipping. The Club keeps it simple — just choose whether you’re purchasing for home or office, pick a texture (ground, whole bean, or rounds), select your blend (or let us choose it for you!), the number of bags, and the frequency of delivery. Done! Coffee equals love, so if you really love someone, you should make sure they never run out of America’s Coffee again.
Want to buy awesome gifts for a loved one but also support a great cause? Check out these BRCC-favorite nonprofit store items:
Every child can tell you the name of their school’s crossing guard. At Christ the King Catholic School in Kansas City, KS, 88-year-old Robert James Nill, better known and loved as “Mr. Bob,” was one of the best.
Tuesday, Mr. Bob made the ultimate sacrifice for two of his students when a speeding car careened through the school’s crosswalk. The Washington Post reported that a few minutes before school started at 8 a.m., two boys in grades third and fifth stepped off the curb in front of the school. It was about five minutes before 8 a.m., five minutes until the first bell rang and Nill’s job ushering kids through the crosswalk would be over for the morning. Two young boys, in third and fifth grade, stepped off the curb. Nill motioned for them to step back, said school principal Cathy Fithian. He saw a black sedan speeding toward them and likely sensed it wasn’t stopping or slowing, despite Nill’s handheld stop sign and the school zone’s flashing lights. The two boys came running into Fithian’s office in tears, screaming for Mr. Bob. The principal consoled them and then went outside to find an awful scene as first responders swarmed the intersection, she told The Washington Post on Tuesday night.
“Mr. Bob,” Robert James Nill was the beloved crossing guard at a Kansas City, Kansas school.
Nill was struck by the vehicle and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.
Reports say the driver was likely speeding but did not flee the scene. The driver was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries.
Nill served in the United States Coast Guard and following his service, went on to a career in banking. After retirement, he wanted something to look forward to every morning, to get him out of bed. His family told FOX 4 Kansas City that he felt young at heart and didn’t want to spend his golden years sitting around. “This was something I think he felt like he could help children and help himself feel good about what he was doing,” said Randy Nill, Bob’s nephew.
Being a crossing guard brought him that joy and sense of purpose. By the outpouring of support on social media, it is apparent that his joy and love of life were contagious.
“Bob was such a fixture at my children’s school,” Connie Lynn Worrell commented on Facebook. “We would wave at him every day and in the morning I always made sure to wave at him after dropping off the boys. This is truly heartbreaking. He will be sorely missed.”
When Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Ray Drowley arrived alone at an American camp on the Solomon Islands with a gaping wound in his chest, a missing eye, and a shredded uniform, a junior officer threatened to court-martial him for abandoning his defense post.
Instead, Drowley was put on the path to history.
On Jan. 30, 1944, Drowley was a rifle squad leader with B Company, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, when he displayed the bravery that would earn him the Medal of Honor.
The Americal Division arrived on Bougainville on Dec. 25, 1943, as part of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The division was unique in World War II as it carried a name and not a numerical designation.
It got its name from “American, New Caledonia,” the South Pacific island on which the unit was provisionally formed for defense in May 1942. Though officially known later as the 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal name remained.
A month after the unit’s arrival, Drowley was assigned a defensive role with his company as a neighboring unit launched an attack against Japanese defensive positions.
The staff sergeant witnessed three wounded soldiers from the neighboring company collapse. Intense enemy fire prevented their rescue. That’s when Drowley made a fateful decision.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, Drowley “fearlessly rushed forward to carry the wounded” one-by-one to cover.
After moving two of the men to safety amid a hail of gunfire, Drowley discovered an enemy pillbox that American assault tanks had missed. The enemy fighters within were “inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking force and…a chief obstacle to the success of the advance.”
The dire situation didn’t deter him.
Drowley directed another soldier to complete the rescue of the third wounded soldier. Meanwhile, he darted out across open terrain to one of the American tanks. Drowley climbed the turret and signaled the crew.
He exchanged his weapon for a submachine gun and rode the deck of the tank while firing toward the pillbox with tracer fire.
As the tank ambled closer to the enemy position, Drowley received a severe wound to the chest. He refused to leave his position for medical treatment, instead continuing to direct the tank’s driver to the pillbox.
He was shot again — losing his left eye — and knocked to the ground.
But Drowley remained undaunted. Despite his injuries, he continued to walk alongside the tank until it was able to open fire on the enemy pillbox and destroy it. In the process, American forces discovered another pillbox behind the first and destroyed it as well.
With his mission finally completed, Drowley returned to camp for medical treatment.
When he reached the safety of the American outpost, his platoon leader admonished him for leaving his post. But the reason he left was quickly learned, and he was eventually recommended for the nation’s highest military honor.
After receiving the accolade, he was offered a commission and a chance to speak at war rallies, but Drowley declined and eventually left the service. He lived a quiet life for the rest of his years.
In 1991, he told The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Washington, that he shied away from the title of hero.
‘What Did You Do?’
“People say, ‘What did you do to get the Medal of Honor?’ You were only doing your job,” Drowley said. “You’re fearless, all right. You’re so damned scared you’re past fearless. But you’re going to get killed if you don’t do anything.”
Along with the Medal of Honor, Drowley was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Stars.
He was the first Americal soldier to be awarded the medal and the division’s lone recipient for action in World War II.
While recovering from his wounds at a hospital in Spokane, he met his future wife, Kathleen McAvoy. He returned to Washington after the war from his native St. Charles, Michigan. He operated a service station before working as a civilian employee at Fairchild Air Force Base. He retired in 1980.
Drowley died May 20, 1996. He was 76. He was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane.
If you haven’t given Triple Frontier a go on Netflix, you definitely should. If you’re unfamiliar, the story follows five Special Forces veterans who travel to a multi-bordered region of South America to take money from a drug lord. It stars Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Garrett Hedlund, who all do a fantastic job capturing the attitudes of their characters. But one thing especially helped make this film feel realistic: the presence of Special Forces veterans.
While Hollywood productions generally do have military advisors, it isn’t necessarily common that those advisors take the time to work with the cast to really nail down things like tactics and weapons handling. In this case, J.C. Chandor had two Special Forces veterans who did just that — Nick John and Kevin Vance.
Here’s why they were the most important part of the production:
This may not seem like a big deal but nicknames are a huge part of military culture and knowing how service members earn their nicknames can help you really understand the culture itself.
They taught the actors about nicknames
Charlie Hunnam plays William Miller who goes by the nickname “Ironhead,” and, of course, he wanted to know why, so he asked one of the advisors who explained that the nickname likely comes from the character having survived a gunshot to the head.
This film will have you saying, “Wow, these actors actually know what they’re doing with that weapon.”
They taught the actors how to handle weapons
Most of us who spent a lot of time training in tactics can really tell when the actors on screen haven’t had enough training, if any at all. It’s probably most evident in the way they handle weapons. In the case of Triple Frontier, Nick John and Kevin Vance really took the time to train the actors, and it shows.
They trained the actors with live ammunition
When learning how to handle a weapon, it helps to shoot live ammunition. Well, at the end of the first day of the two-week training, Nick John felt the actors were prepared to handle it. So, they gave them live ammunition and let them shoot real bullets, which is not standard for a film production, but it really pays off in this film.
The way these actors clear buildings is very smooth and convincing.
They taught tactics
After trusting the actors with live ammunition, Nick John and Kevin Vance ran them through tactics. From ambushes to moving with cover fire, the actors learned the basic essentials to sell their characters on screen, and they do so extremely well.
Actor Charlie Hunnam said, “It was amazing. I was shocked by how much trust they put in us. Very, very quickly, they allowed us to be on the range with live fire, doing increasingly complex maneuvers. We started ambush scenarios, shooting through windows and panes of glass, doing cover fire, and operating movements I’ve never done before.”
Veterans have a tendency to spot inaccuracies immediately. But, what Triple Frontier brings to the table is realism. While not perfect, it does a great job of really making you believe these characters are real and all the work Nick John and Kevin Vance put into teaching the actors really pays off.
If you haven’t checked out Triple Frontier on Netflix yet, you definitely should.
Hardship duty pay is a compensation in addition to base pay and other entitlements for service members stationed in or deployed to locations where the living conditions are significantly below those in the continental United States, the mission lasts longer than a typical deployment or requires specific types of work (i.e. recovering bodies of fallen military members in other countries).
Under specific circumstances, some or all of your hardship duty pay may be tax free. For more information on what is taxable and what isn’t, consult your financial advisor.
There are three different types of hardship duty pay: location, mission, and tempo.
1. Hardship duty pay – location, or “HDP-L,” is paid to service members who are outside of the continental United States in countries where the quality of life falls well below the standard of living that most service members who are in the U.S. would normally expect. Service members who also receive Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger pay of $225 per month only rate $100 a month for HDP-L. Find out if your OCONUS station is on the list.
Who: All service members who are executing a permanent change of station (PCS), temporary duty (TDA/TAD/TDY), or deployment to a designated area.
How much: The rate is paid out in increments of $50, $100, and $150 per month, depending on the level of QoL at that location as determined by the Department of Defense.
Hardship duty pay – mission, or HDP-M, is designed for hardship missions.
Who: All service members, officer and enlisted alike.
How much: $150 per month, max.
Hardship duty pay – tempo, or HDP-T, is for service members operating at a higher tempo for longer times, like during extended deployments or when service members are deployed longer than a set number of consecutive days. The Navy sets that number at 220, for example.
Who: All service members, officer and enlisted alike.