These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Four Swedish air force pilots received U.S. Air Medals during a ceremony in Stockholm Nov. 28, 2018, recognizing their actions that took place over 31 years ago. Until 2017 the details of their mission remained classified.

During the 1980s, the height of the Cold War was still being felt. The U.S. was flying regular SR-71 aircraft reconnaissance missions in international waters over the Baltic Sea known as “Baltic Express” missions. But on June 29, 1987, during one of those missions, an SR-71 piloted by retired Lt. Cols. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, experienced an inflight emergency.


Experiencing engine failure in one of their engines, they piloted the aircraft down to approximately 25,000 feet over Swedish airspace where they were intercepted by two different pairs of Swedish air force Viggens.

“We were performing an ordinary peace time operation exercise,” recalled retired Maj. Roger Moller, Swedish air force Viggen pilot. “Our fighter controller then asked me are you able to make an interception and identification of a certain interest. I thought immediately it must be an SR-71, otherwise he would have mentioned it. But at that time I didn’t know it was the Blackbird.”

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, Mobilization Assistant to the commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, salutes the Swedish pilots who are being awarded the U.S. Air Medal in Stockholm, Nov. 28, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kelly O’Connor

According to the Air Medal citation, once the Swedish pilots intercepted the SR-71, they assessed the emergency situation and decided to render support to the aircraft by defending it from any potential third-party aircraft that might have tried to threaten it. The pilots then accompanied the aircraft beyond the territorial boundaries and ensured that it was safely recovered.

“I can’t say enough about these gentlemen,” said Veltri, who was at the ceremony. “I am so amazingly grateful for what they did, but also for the opportunity to recognize them in the fashion we are doing. What these guys did is truly monumental.”

Noll, who was not able to be at the ceremony, recorded a message which was played to those in attendance.

“Your obvious skills and judgement were definitely demonstrated on that faithful day many years ago. I want to thank you for your actions on that day,” said Noll. “We will never know what would or could have happened, but because of you, there was no international incident. The U.S. Air Force did not lose an irreplaceable aircraft, and two crew members’ lives were saved. Lt. Col. Veltri and I can’t thank you sufficiently for what you prevented. Thank you for being highly skilled and dedicated patriotic fellow aviators.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa mobilization assistant to the commander, presented the Air Medals to Swedish air force Col. Lars-Eric Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjoberg and Lt. Bo Ignell.

“That day in 1987 showed us that we can always count on our Swedish partners in times of great peril,” said Williams. “Even when there was both political risk and great physical risk in the form of actual danger, there was no hesitation on your part to preserve the pilots on that day.”

The presentation of Air Medals to the Swedish pilots represented the gratitude from the U.S. and the continued longstanding partnership with Sweden.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A paratrooper supply clerk survived a combat jump with zero training

In the military, sometimes things just get lost in transit. Gear goes adrift, paperwork gets filed wrong, and soldiers with no training in parachuting from a perfectly good airplane end up getting thrown out of a perfectly good airplane. It was bound to happen, and frankly, we should be a little surprised it took so long.


On Feb. 22, 2000, U.S. Army Spc. Jeff Lewis made his first ever parachute jump from a C-130 aircraft at Fort Bragg, N.C. The only problem was that no one had ever trained Specialist Lewis on how to jump from an airplane with the Army. Lewis was with the 82nd Airborne, so his unit was correct, it just turns out he wasn’t a paratrooper. He was a supply clerk. The then-23-year-old never mentioned anything to the jumpmaster because he wanted to do what the Army expected him to do.

“The Army said I was airborne-qualified,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t going to question it. I had a job to do, and I had to believe in what I was doing.”

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

A Jumpmaster can be held responsible for any training accident.

Lewis did eventually go to jump school, becoming airborne qualified just a few weeks after jumping out the airplane door for the first time. He was also promoted in that timeframe. But Lewis didn’t go out the door entirely unprepared. He took the 82nd’s one-day refresher course for those soldiers who are already airborne-qualified, and it might have saved his life. After stepping out of the airplane on the wrong foot, his equipment apparently got tangled. He was able to open the canopy by kicking with his feet, as instructed in the class.

Even though the troopers were doing a static line jump, the jump was only half the instruction necessary. The other half is, of course, the landing. Paratroopers are trained to land safely using certain techniques that redistribute the energy from the force of their fall. Even with the chutes, they can hit the ground as fast as 15 miles per hour. The untrained or new paratroopers can snap their legs when landing incorrectly and taking the brunt of the fall.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

This could have been his first jump.

There’s a reason paratroopers train for weeks to learn to properly stick the landing. The chutes used by the Army aren’t like civilian chutes. They’re designed to get the trooper to the ground faster. While the Army could definitely afford safer, easier-to-use parachutes, the entire point of paratroopers is to get them on the ground and fighting as fast as possible. The more time they spend suspended in mid-air, the more opportunity enemy troops have to light them up.

In short, Lewis got lucky.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Gear Porn: Atibal X 1-10x First Focal Plane Scope

The future of modern carbine sights are low-power variable optics (LPVOs). Like the leap from iron sights to red dots, there’s an upfront cost, but unfortunately for the consumer, making the next step typically requires you to double your ante to upgrade from a red dot to a variable. The free market has responded, and we’ve seen a significant increase in new and inexpensive options. Even five years ago, this would’ve been unthinkable. The realm of variable optics, once relegated between the options of Walmart-cheap and S&B costly, now has a big fat middle range.


Since their inception, Atibal has been steadily improving the quality of their product line, while keeping their prices affordable. The first Atibal optic we got hands on with was their inexpensive second focal plane (SFP) XP8. Though it had some warts, it was also a mere 0. Atibal followed it up with their FFP 1-6x Mirage (better) and then the Apex 4-16x FFP (better still).

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Don’t get us wrong, NightForce they’re not — but they don’t pretend to be. Often, we’re cajoled by budget optic companies proclaiming they’re “just as good as,” and Jimmy Labita of Atibal has never tried to feed us that line. Frankly, in an industry full of wild claims and exaggerations, it was a breath of fresh air.

And, at least at the time of this writing, the Atibal X is the first and only front focal plane (FFP) 1-10x power optic on the market.

The Atibal X has a lot of the features that we look for in an optic like this: a Mil Dot reticle, 1/10th mil adjustments, FFP, great tactile clicks, easy zooming, and illumination that’s actually what we’d consider daylight bright (with an asterisk).

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

It’s exceedingly hard to make a daylight-bright illuminated reticle with a FFP scope; most on the market sans a small handful with bright reticles are second focal plane. This is because the reticle on an FFP scope is exceedingly small — and the higher the variation in power, the smaller the physical reticle itself has to be. Usually with the brightness pumped on one of these, it turns into a blurry mess. Atibal’s solution with the X wasn’t necessarily to needlessly dump light into the reticle, but instead opted for a reticle design that aids in this endeavor.

Reminiscent of the EOTech VUDU line of optics, the Atibal X features four thick segments in a 20mil by 20mil diamond outside the reticle itself that illuminates along with a quarter-mil center dot. For those who live in the MOA world, this translates to roughly a 68.75 MOA (~72 inches at 100 yards) diamond. Being right around 6 feet in height makes it very easy to get rough range estimation against human targets.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Being an FFP scope, as you zoom in for a more refined aiming point, the diamond moves out of the center giving you access to the Mil Dot reticle. Up close? Put the red on the target and pull. Further away? Zoom right in.

One feature that we were extremely happy to see was that the six illumination levels feature an “off” between each setting. If you want to save battery life, select your desired brightness level and then just give it one click in either direction.

The turrets are easy to float, and all you need is a hex wrench to pop it off and shift after zeroing. The turrets also lock and are in a “pull out to move” arrangement. Zero worries about minor bumps or bangs playing mucky muck with your adjustments.

The eye box of the Atibal X is more than reasonable with 3.6 inches at high magnification and 5.5 inches at low magnification. For comparison’s sake, the 1-6x Vortex Razor HD II has 4 inches of eye relief at the highest magnification.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

We’ve seen a trend of larger optical tubes for increased light-gathering properties, and the Atibal X is no different. With a 35mm tube, it bulges out 1 millimeter more than the “standard” large tube, but there are still several options out there (it doesn’t hurt that the new Leupold Mk5 also rocks a 35mm tube). Additionally, Atibal teamed up with Bobro Engineering for a 35mm mount option, so you can order them as a pair — at a helluva discount too! Currently, the Atibal X is 9 with a mount and 9 without. Not too shabby for the best optic Atibal has ever put out.

There was a time when “Made in China” was the kiss of death, at least as far as firearms accessories were concerned. But place of manufacture alone is no longer a disqualifier regarding optics — at least not this one. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise; we’ve been using a handful of camera lenses with Chinese glass in them for some time.

Undoubtedly, we’ll see both Vortex and Primary Arms release similar models, just as they’ve done with every other Atibal release. But for some reason, Jimmy gets them into the hands of the public before everyone else; hell, he was showing this one off a year ago.

Featured image: Recoilweb.com

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most intense military medical training no one talks about

It’s no secret the military trains the way they fight — which is pretty hardcore. Marines and sailors train in the terrible heat and rough terrain of the Mojave Desert to prepare them to face the enemy in the harsh conditions of Afghanistan.


During their pre-deployment workup, troops pretend to get hurt so that nearby medics can practice rendering proper treatment. This training only goes so far, though, as the semi-stressful situations can’t compare to the real vigors of war.

So, to get young medical professionals ready for bloody working conditions overseas, some of the troops are sent to a live-tissue training course stateside where they must keep wounded pigs or goats alive for hours  — or fail the course.

These animals are chosen specifically due to their tissue similarities to humans.

Related: The ‘Prisoner Exchange’ is the coolest Army-Navy tradition no one talks about

Before heading down to the live-tissue training grounds, young troops go through three days’ worth of brutal training missions throughout Camp Pendleton. These missions consist of hunting down mock “high-value targets,” several hours of intense physical training, and miles of foot patrols with little to no sleep. Then, troops board a bus that takes them to an undisclosed location — the live-tissue training grounds.

“The instructors worked us hard all day and night,” one former hospital Corpsman recalls. “We all were completely exhausted before the lab even started.”

Once at the training ground, the troops gear up in full battle rattle, place their highly anesthetized agricultural animal on an Army litter, and carry it up a steep hill where the training begins. After dropping the animal off at the first station, medics seek cover until signaled to retrieved their severely wounded patient.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission
These Marines pull their wounded patient from a vehicle during the live-tissue training course.

Once the troops retrieve their patient, the docs make lifesaving interventions.

Three or four battle-themed stations and several massive wounds later, the troops enter a large metal container and load their “patient” on board as if it were a medical evacuation helicopter. After being locked in for several minutes, the container’s door opens to a mock-hospital, where the troops continue to care for their patient.

If the animal dies throughout this process, the student fails.

Also Read: How one vet learned to actually appreciate his deployment to Iraq

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Compared to a computer simulator, the “pig lab,” as many refer to it, puts actual life into the student’s hands, forcing them to think on their toes to keep their patient alive.

Although humans control the stimulator, this lab comes with an extreme level of unpredictability and is considered “great training.”

“It was the best damn training I’ve ever received,” the former hospital Corpsman remembers. “I felt much more confident to take care of one of my Marines if they got hurt.”

Although considered to be “great training,” PETA, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has voiced, on many occasions, that they are entirely against using agricultural animals for military training.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out this awesome photo of a sniper and snake

It’s no secret that being a sniper requires a lot of discipline and a high tolerance for discomfort, but one photo of a sniper taking this to an extreme level is making the rounds because the sniper maintained position so well that a snake slithered across his barrel.

Thankfully, an Army photographer was there to capture the moment.


These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force scout sniper prepares his ghillie suit in during exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)

The photo was actually taken in April during a test of the Army’s new ghillie suits, special camouflage clothing created to mimic actual vegetation on the ground rather than just mimicking the colors. If you’re not familiar with the term, you’ve likely still seen the suits. They’re the ones that make marching soldiers look like swamp creatures.

During tests of the new suit at Eglin Air Force Base, Army photographer Staff Sgt. William Frye was taking photos of Army National Guard Pfc. William Snyder when a southern black racer snake slithered up and over the weapon’s barrel like it was a fallen branch.

The photo is pretty great, and is actually a good, single image that shows a lot of the traits necessary for a sniper to be successful.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

A southern black racer snake slithers across the rifle barrel held by junior Army National Guard sniper Pfc. William Snyder as he practices woodland stalking in a camouflaged ghillie suit at Eglin Air Force Base, April 7, 2018.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. William Frye)

They have to be well camouflaged, avoiding observation at long distances but also staying secret enough that patrols walking by can’t spot them from just feet away. Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock killed an NVA officer in Vietnam after crawling closer to the officer’s base for days. During the days of crawling, multiple patrols passed Hathcock at ranges so close that Hatchcock has said he could’ve reached out and touched them. If a snake can’t tell that you’re not a fallen log, you’re well on your way.

The fact that the snake felt bold enough to crawl over the human implies that the sniper has sat still for a protracted period of time, at least a couple of minutes, if not longer. Anyone who has worked with snipers knows that they have to endure long periods of waiting without moving. A sniper who reportedly held the range record for a sniper kill from 2009 to 2017 prepared himself for sniper school in part by setting up portable DVD players and watching entire movies through his rifle scope without moving.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

U.S. Army Sgt. Clinton Scanlon fires an M107 sniper rifle during the 2018 International Sniper Competition at Burroughs Range on Fort Benning, Georgia, Oct. 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Michelle U. Blesam)

He would later take four shots that would fly for six seconds each and cross 1.5 miles of battlefield before killing two enemy machine gunners firing on British troops.

Snipers also discuss the need to endure discomfort, sometimes staying in stressful positions for minutes or hours to not give away their position or screw up their ability to take a shot if it suddenly presents itself. That necessity includes physical discomfort like cramps, but it also encompasses psychological discomfort, like staying completely still as a snake suddenly moves within inches of your face, possibly too fast for you to ascertain whether it’s likely venomous.

(Southern black racers, like the one in the photo, will often strike humans and emit foul smells in the presence of predators, but are not venomous and are not a physical threat to humans.)

So, the photo is sweet and will likely show up as an illustration in some sniper training classes if it hasn’t already, but it isn’t surprising that a sniper would end up with a snake slithering across their gear. It’s actually much more surprising that an Army photographer, a profession that typically does not require as much discipline and discomfort, sat still enough for long enough to get an image he couldn’t have predicted.

Kudos to Snyder the sniper, and thank you Frye for getting the shot. We’re pretty sure some people have a new computer wallpaper thanks to you.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The next ‘Star Wars’ show on Disney+ isn’t the one you expected

Just a few months after the final episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars hit Disney+, the streaming service announced that a spin-off series would premiere next year.

The Bad Batch seems primed to follow a structure that’s worked well in plenty of TV shows and movies, in everything from The Great Escape to Captain Planet to the Avengers films. It will revolve around “the unique and experimental clones” of Clone Force 99, a group of clone soldiers genetically distinct from the rest of the Clone Army. Basically, this isn’t the Ewan McGregor Obi-Wan show you were promised, but instead a spin-off from the existing (and complicated) animated Star Wars shows that have been running for over a decade.


All four members of the Bad Batch have a “desirable mutation” that makes them formidable soldiers. Crosshair has enhanced eyesight, Wrecker is strong, Tech is intelligent, and Clone Sergeant Hunter, the leader of the crew, has enhanced sensory abilities.

Twitter

twitter.com

The Bad Batch was first introduced in the final season of The Clone Wars, so it’s appropriate that Dave Filoni — a director, writer, animator, and producer on that series — will executive produce the spin-off. Filoni is a key figure in Disney’s Star Wars plans, doing animation for The Force Awakens and four other animated Star Wars series. He also directed, wrote, and executive produced episodes of The Mandalorian.

All in all, this is good news for parents whose kids are still mourning the loss of The Clone Wars, as the creative talent and choice of subject matter for The Bad Batch makes it seem as though the new series will preserve what made the old one great. That said, it is kind of bad news for parents who wanted a little bit more of a strong female lead, Ahsoka Tano, or, you know, a new Star Wars show that wasn’t a cartoon.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch will come to Disney+ in 2021.

And, luckily, The Mandalorian Season 2 will still hit Disney+ sometime in late 2020.

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

Articles

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Celebrated on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day brings America together to remember the 1.1 million men and women who died in service to their country.


As most of us spend our day flipping burgers, wearing pro-American attire and saving money on those amazing furniture deals, it’s important to understand the significance of the historic day.

Related: 5 interesting facts about the Marine Corps birthday

Check out these awesome facts you probably didn’t know about our beloved holiday.

1. Moment of remembrance at 3 pm

On Dec. 28th, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which asks all Americans to pause on Memorial Day at 3:00 pm local time for a full minute to honor and remember all those who perished protecting our rights and freedoms.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission
Airmen from the 317th Airlift Group stand at parade rest during a Memorial Day ceremony at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Charles V. Rivezzo/ Released)

2. Wearing red poppies

You may have noticed people wearing red poppy flowers pinned to their clothing on Memorial Day. This idea was influenced by the sight of poppies growing in a battle-scarred field in WWI which prompted the popular poem “In Flanders Fields” written by former Canadian Col. John McCrae.

The American Legion adopted the tradition of wearing the red poppy flowers along with many allied countries to commemorate troops killed in battle.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission
Honor the dead. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

3. Flag raising procedures

Americans love to proudly display their flags and let them wave high and free. On Memorial Day, there’s a special protocol to properly raise and exhibit the ensign. Here it is.

When the flag is raised at first light, it’s to be hoisted to the top of the pole, then respectfully lowered to the half-staff position until 12:00 pm when it is re-raised to the top of the pole for the remainder of the day. Details matter.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission
Service members saluting the raised American flag. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel)

4. The origin of the holiday

Originally called “Decoration Day” by Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, in 1868, the day was intended to honor the estimated 620,000 people who died fighting in the Civil war and was celebrated on May 30th.

But it wasn’t until 1971 that Congress shifted the holiday to the last Monday of May to ensure a three-day weekend and renamed it to what we all know today.

Thank you, Congress.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Also Read: The mother of the boy in this iconic photo has a Memorial Day message all Americans should read

 5. The holiday’s birthplace

At least five separate cities claim to be the birthplace of “Decoration Day,” including Macon and Columbus, Georgia. Of course, there’s no real written record or D.N.A test to prove who is truly the mom and dad.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission
California, you are not the father… or mother. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Articles

5 Reasons why Saddam Hussein thought he could invade Kuwait and win

On Aug. 2, 1990, Iraqi tanks and infantry steamrolled across Kuwait in an invasion and occupation that took all of two days. The Iraqi dictator blamed Kuwait for slant drilling from Iraqi oil fields and claimed the Gulf state was actually an ancient province of Iraq. In reality, Saddam owed the Kuwaitis $14 billion from Iraq’s nearly 10-year war with Iran and Kuwaiti oil drilling was driving down the price of oil. 

In response, the United States and a coalition of countries created a massive counteroffensive force in Saudi Arabia while giving Saddam an ultimatum to either leave Kuwait or face the coalition’s punishment. For some reason, he let the deadline lapse and was forcibly removed. Here are the top five reasons why he thought he could stick around:

1. Saddam thought the U.S. was okay with the invasion

Saddam supposedly thought the Kuwaitis were stealing oil and purposely producing more than OPEC standards in order to keep Iraqi revenues low. To keep tensions from rising, U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie met with Saddam who told her he wanted Kuwait to agree to the OPEC standards. Under orders from the Bush administration, Glaspie told Saddam the U.S. had no opinion on the issue.

Saddam thought she was talking about the tensions between the two countries. Glaspie actually meant the OPEC production standards. So when Saddam went to war, he was actually surprised to get a condemnation from the United States. 

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission
Well, now you’re just being childish, Saddam (DoD image by Tech. Sgt. David McLeod)

2. Iraq was the world’s 5th-largest army

Iraq could legitimately boast a million men under arms in 1990. Even though the United States only considered a third of the army capable of fighting a real war, that’s still more than 300,000 troops he could use as an offensive force. 

Having such a large ground force was not insignificant, especially not to American military planners. While a large army may make a difference when fighting Iran, it’s a whole other matter to fight an advanced Western army. Iraq’s air force was heavily overpowered in this regard and it had no navy to speak of. 

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission
Look at all this awesome sexiness that Saddam didn’t have (U.S. Air Force)

3. Iraqi troops were combat veterans

No matter how many effective fighters Saddam had and no matter how many of them were conscripted into the Iraqi Army, they were still veterans of a brutal 10-year war with neighboring Iran. Any soldier will tell you there’s a very big difference between fighting troops that have been battle tested and troops that are as green as the uniform they’re wearing. 

While Iraq didn’t necessarily win the Iran-Iraq War, it didn’t lose the war, either. The weapons he accumulated over the years to fight Iran could still be used against any other opponent. The U.S. knew what he had because we had the receipt. 

4. Anti-Western sentiment was high in the Middle East

When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Palestinians were fighting to shake off the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, a cause celebrated by most Arabs and Arab leaders in the region. Saddam even tried to frame his invasion of Kuwait as redrawing the lines of a map created by the British and righting a historical wrong. 

When that didn’t work, Saddam tried portraying himself as a devout Muslim, praying in mosques and creating religious artwork of himself in prayer. That didn’t work either. Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia still called him the “Enemy of God.” 

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission
“Words hurt, too, guys.” (Wikimedia Commons)

5. Iraq had months to prepare for the Gulf War

Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was finished by August 4, 1990. Saddam annexed Kuwait as Iraq’s 19th province by the end of the month. The President of the United States and the President of the Soviet Union both demanded Iraq leave Kuwait immediately. It wasn’t until November 29, 1990 that the United Nations passed a resolution threatening military action if Saddam didn’t leave. 

All Saddam did in the meantime was send hundreds of thousands of troops into Kuwait to bolster the occupation forces there. He could have pressed his advantage and invaded Saudi Arabia before the Coalition could build up its troops and vehicles, but he didn’t. Only after there were hundreds of thousands of Coalition troops did he invade – and was quickly repulsed.

Feature image: U.S. Air Force

MIGHTY MOVIES

It’s Russian World War II tank propaganda, and it looks awesome

Yet another patriotic war movie has taken Russia by storm.

T-34, a high-octane tribute to the Soviet tank that played a key role on the Eastern Front of World War II, is the latest in a series of big-budget history flicks sponsored by the Culture Ministry and lavished with round-the-clock coverage on Russian state TV.

Spanning the years 1941-45, the film tells the story of Red Army Lieutenant Nikolai Ivushkin’s unlikely attempt to escape a German prisoner-of-war camp in a T-34 tank that he and three other men are tasked with repairing by their Nazi overseers. The fugitives are cornered in a German village near the Czechoslovak border, where an epic tank battle culminates the movie.


The slow-motion projectiles and video-game graphics give the movie a modern feel, and its simple storyline is thin on nuance. According to director Aleksei Sidorov, the aim of the film was to “tell the story of war in a way that appeals to the youth but doesn’t prove controversial among those who still keep the Great Patriotic War [World War II] in their memory,” the Culture Ministry quoted him as saying in a press release.

T-34 | Official HD Trailer (2018) | WORLD WAR II DRAMA | Film Threat Trailers

www.youtube.com

This time, a formula used in dozens of similar films appears to have finally struck gold. T-34 is the third Russian film devoted to World War II-era tanks since 2012 — but unlike its predecessors, 2012’s White Tiger and 2018’s Tanks, it’s proving a major hit with Russian audiences.

Since its nationwide release on Jan. 1, 2019, the movie has raked in more than a billion rubles, securing the top spot at the Russian box office. More than 4 million theatergoers have seen the film so far, according to stats from the Russian Cinema Fund.

Powerful backing played a role. The producer of T-34 is Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire businessman with Kremlin ties. “For me, T-34 is more than a perfectly conceived adventure flick,” Blavatnik told reporters at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2017, where the film’s budget was estimated at 600 million rubles (currently million). “My grandfather was a World War II veteran, and that great victory is part of our family lore.”

Mostly politics-free

The war cost the lives of more than 26 million Soviet civilians and military personnel, and is held up as a point of national pride. The memory of the heroic Soviet campaign to oust the German invaders has often been used as fodder in propaganda, a fact noted by film critic Anton Dolin. But in a review for the independent news site Meduza, Dolin argues that T-34 avoids the primitive methods on display in other war movies sponsored by the Russian government.

“I thank the authors for creating a high-budget war blockbuster almost clear of propagandistic and ideological motives,” Dolin writes. “Even the word ‘Stalin’ is mentioned here only once, and in a facetious context. That’s a rarity in our times.”

White Tiger Official Trailer (2014) – Russian World War 2 Tank Movie HD

www.youtube.com

But T-34 is not completely free of references to contemporary geopolitics, it seems. In the tank battle that opens the movie, a cowardly Ukrainian soldier who gets mouthy with Ivushkin dies, while the tough Belarusian who obeys the lieutenant’s orders remains by the Russian’s side till the happy ending.

The film Tanks, which was released in 2018 and directed by Kim Druzhinin, can be seen as a prequel of sorts to T-34. It tells the story of two T-34 prototypes making their way from Kharkov to Moscow as the Nazi leadership looks for ways to destroy them and preempt the havoc they would soon wreak. The first audience for Tanks, according to Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was servicemen at the Russian-run Khmeimim air base in Syria.

But while Tanks was widely panned by critics and proved a flop at the box office, T-34 has rolled over its competition. Perhaps it’s the lazy January holidays that bring Russians en masse before the screens.

“What could be merrier,” Dolin writes, than “crushing the fascist toad, and then chasing the victory down with mandarins and champagne?”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 must-read books by Tier 1 operators

The world of special operations is a mystery to many. This is even more true for the elite operators at the “Tier 1” level: their units aren’t officially listed by the Department of Defense, and their personnel are carefully selected from only the best of other special operations units. Their work is often shrouded in secrecy, and the general public rarely hears about their successes. But a few have stepped out of the shadows to record inspirational stories about their time serving at the tip of the spear or to provide context to missions they were on that made international headlines.

We compiled a list of these important — and sometimes controversial — books written by the operators themselves. Whether you want a peek behind the curtain or to gain a greater understanding of what our nation’s recent military history looks like, these books will no doubt satisfy!


These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” by Robert O’Neill

The title pretty much says it all. As a member of SEAL Team 6, O’Neill was not only on the raid that hunted down the al Qaeda leader, he placed the bullet that ended the bastard’s life. He’s gotten some blowback from the community for speaking about things that are generally kept down low, but the story was already getting out. He told the Washington Post in 2014 that he wanted to maintain some control over the narrative and that his story seemed to aid in the healing process for families of 9/11 victims.

With a movie in the works, O’Neill’s memoir spanning his childhood through his impressive 400-mission career is something to get your hands on now before Hollywood has its way with it.

Notable quote: “‘Once we go on this mission, we aren’t going to see our kids again or kiss our wives. We’ll never eat another steak or smoke another cigar.’ We were trying to get down to the truth about why we were still willing to do this when we pretty much knew we were going to die. What we came up with was that we were doing it for the single mom who dropped her kids off at school and went to work on a Tuesday morning, and then an hour later decided to jump out of a skyscraper because it was better than burning alive. A woman whose last gesture of human decency was holding down her skirt on the long way to the pavement so no one could see her underwear. That’s why we were going. She was just trying to get through a workday, live a life.”

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

“Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit” by Eric Haney

Haney, a founding member of the supersecret and elite unit, details the early years of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. Released in 2002, it’s not a hot-off-the-presses memoir, but it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to get to know Delta Force. This is the book that inspired the popular network TV show “The Unit,” on which Haney also served as a producer.

Notable quote: “From the vantage point of my warm, comfortable spot on mother earth, I could see off into infinite space and the eternity of time. In just a few hours, I thought, some of us are going to make that leap into eternity. And I will be one of the instruments of that voyage. I may also be one of the travelers … . It’s going to happen sooner or later. But if today is my day—I’m going to have a cup of coffee first.”

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

“Leadership in the Shadows: Special Operations Soldier” by SGM Kyle Lamb

Whether military or civilian, the goal of any team is to accomplish the mission. With more than 20 years of experience in leadership positions within the U.S. Army’s special operations community, Lamb is uniquely qualified to get you there. If you need to instill confidence and encourage teamwork, you’ll find the tools in this book.

Notable quote: “You are not born with credibility. You must earn and build your credibility by becoming accountable, listening to your people, and, most importantly, performing on a daily basis. That credibility will be earned through performance and life leadership experiences.”

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

“The Mission, The Men, and Me: Lessons From a Former Delta Force Commander” by Pete Blaber

The former Delta Force commander distills his experience in the elite strike force into applicable leadership and life lessons for soldiers and civilians alike. And while he’s dropping all this knowledge, Blaber also shares stories about his time in combat and provides insight into the bureaucratic workings of the U.S. government — for better or worse.

Notable quote: “The question that high-ranking leaders always seemed to inject in any risk-averse-oriented discussion was, “Is it worth getting a man killed for?” Forty thousand people die on our highways each year, but when you get into your car each morning, do you ask yourself if driving to work is worth getting killed for?”

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

“Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man” by Dalton Fury

This New York Times bestseller details how close Delta Force came to killing Usama bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan mere months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Met with acclaim and criticism, Fury (a pen name for Thomas Greer, who died in 2016) went on to write a series of books, including fiction, under the pseudonym.

Notable quote: “Many times we had to think and act instantly, with no guidance at all, but that is why Delta picks the kind of operators that it does. They have to be able to think as well as fight. The muhj allies turned their guns on our boys to stop an advance. Rival warlords weighed their military decisions according to personal agendas. When we arrived in Afghanistan in December 2001, the United States was pulling troops out of the area in a weird ploy to trick Usama bin Laden while stripping us of a quick-reaction force. The muhj that were supposed to be doing the bulk of the fighting, and we sucking up the glory, routinely left the battlefield when it got dark, at times abandoning our small teams in the mountains. Some people within the U.S. command system were extremely reluctant to commit highly trained forces because they might get hurt. Some of the highest-ranking people in the Pentagon had no idea of what Delta was trained to do. The CIA bought loyalty out of duffel bags filled with American cash only to learn later that money does not buy everything in Afghanistan. Some of this might have been funny had it not been so serious.”

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

“Delta Force: A Memoir by the Founder of the U.S. Military’s Most Secretive Special-Operations Unit” by Charlie A. Beckwith

The first commanding officer of Delta Force probably has a pretty impressive story to tell — Beckwith doesn’t disappoint. Originally published in 1983, you won’t find the juicy details about what it takes to be an elite warrior in what is considered by many to be the most effective fighting unit in the world, but you’ll find a detailed history — complete with war stories and the challenges he faced from a project management perspective to get the unit running and gunning.

Notable quote: “Then I remembered something I’d read that Teddy Roosevelt had said: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who strives…who spends himself…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

“No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden” by Mark Owen

Before O’Neill started talking, Mark Owen got the conversation (and controversy) started with “No Easy Day.” While it’s been praised for being well-written and providing fascinating insight into the dynamics of SEAL Team 6, Owen has also come under fire from the Naval Special Warfare Command and surrounding community for speaking out about secret missions for what appears to be personal recognition and accolades.

Notable quote: “[to Navy SEALs] Quite frankly, I didn’t even want to use you guys, with your dip and velcro and all your gear bullshit. I wanted to drop a bomb. But people didn’t believe in this lead enough to drop a bomb. So they’re using you guys as canaries. And, in theory, if bin Laden isn’t there, you can sneak away and no one will be the wiser. But bin Laden is there. And you’re going to kill him for me.”

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

“American Badass: The True Story of a Modern Day Spartan” by Dale Comstock

If you’re in need of some inspiration to get up and be the best American you can be, you’ve found it. Comstock chronicles the successes and failures in his life, offering a glimpse into America’s current warrior mentality. A quick and entertaining read.

Notable quote: “An American Badass doesn’t start fights, but knows if he must fight, he can with courage and conviction. An American Badass doesn’t steal, lie, or subvert the society that he lives in. He lives by a code of unwavering morality, and ethics that are tempered with honor, honesty, integrity, leadership, and loyalty to family, friends, and America.”

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

“My Share of the Task: A Memoir” by Gen. Stanley McChrystal

One of the most respected leaders of the GWOT, McChrystal served as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan before retiring in 2010. In his 2014 New York Times bestselling memoir, he lays out the major aspects of his career and his path to becoming a four-star general. A leadership handbook wrapped in a personal narrative, “My Share of the Task” is both informative and entertaining.

Notable quote: “As the demands of the positions differed, and as I grew in age and experience, I found that I had changed as a leader. I learned to ask myself two questions: First, what must the organization I command do and be? And second, how can I best command to achieve that?”

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

BONUS: “Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown” by Eric Blehm

Even though it wasn’t written by a Tier 1 operator, it’s such an inspiring story about one that we had to include it here. After struggling with addiction and a stint in jail, Adam Brown used his faith to propel him to the highest level of elite warrior — SEAL Team 6. This New York Times bestseller chronicles his life, his struggles, and, ultimately, his ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

Notable quote: “Modest, conventional expectations weren’t enough to lure Adam Brown away from the power of drug addiction that ensnared him. Instead, the college dropout already in his mid-twenties found only the big, near-impossible dream of being a Navy SEAL captivating enough to consistently draw him to different choices.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How GIs trained to take out Japanese tanks

American troops in World War II didn’t just face enemy tanks in the African and European theaters. German Panzers get much of the attention when it comes to WWII-era armor, so it might surprise you to learn that Japan also used tanks in both the Pacific and China-Burma-India (CBI) theaters. That being said, there’re good reasons why Japanese tanks haven’t enjoyed the same level of hype as their counterparts from Nazi Germany.

One of the biggest of those reasons is the nature of the theaters themselves. Pacific campaigns were dominated primarily by air and naval battles. Most of the ground fighting there was done on small islands — the terrain didn’t allow for much tank-versus-tank action. As for the CBI theater… well, that was largely a sideshow — and much of the attention there was spent on the Flying Tigers.

But occasionally, Allied infantry would find themselves facing off against a Type 95 Ha-Go light tank — it’s a good thing they were prepared to take them out.


Over 2,100 Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks were produced between 1936 and 1943. As was typical of a light tank in the pre-World War II era, it had a 37mm main gun and two medium machine guns.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Note the tread arrangement of the Type 95 — it’s one of the tank’s weak points.

(Mkethorpe)

This tank, as it turns out, wasn’t exactly the best of the bunch. While German tanks, like the Tiger, held an edge over many of their Allied opponents in the European theater (a deficit the Americans arguably inflicted upon themselves), American tanks usually had a huge edge over Japanese armor.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Even when Japan was “running wild” in the Pacific, Type 95s were easy to kill.

(Australian War Memorial)

Although Japanese tanks were able to do real damage to the large but under-equipped Chinese Army, they were quite easy for American troops to deal with. These tanks could be disabled by landing a well-aimed rifle shot in the tread’s front-most bracket. Additionally, they didn’t stack up well against American armor. For instance, comparable M3 Stuart light tanks were nearly 25% faster than Type 95s (the M3 had a top speed of 36mph compared to the 28 of the Type 95), making them easy to outmaneuver and outgun.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

This Type 95 was destroyed and became something for Marines to check out.

(National Archives)

In fact, one of the biggest problems of the Type 95 was its turret design. It had an exploitable gap that an American GI could jam with a canteen, a bayonet, or rock, completely disabling it.

To learn more about this nuisance of a tank, watch the video below. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 of the world’s worst aircraft carrier (right now)

There are at least 42 commissioned aircraft carriers in service with at least 14 navies around the world.

Aircraft carriers come in many shapes and sizes: some carry large aircraft fleets of fighters and electronic attack planes, some only carry helicopters; some are nuclear powered, some are fueled by gas; some have vertical take-off and landing, some have short take-off and vertical landing, some have catapult assisted take-off and arrested recovery, where a tail hook snags a cable to catch the plane on landing.

Whatever the specifications, a carrier is not much use to any navy if it’s breaking down or not able to launch the full range of combat sorties it was built to perform.

So we put together a list of seven of the worst commissioned flattops, which have a history of breaking down or limitations on the missions that these ships were built to perform.

Check them out below:


These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

1. China’s Liaoning (16).

Commissioned in 2012, the Liaoning is a Kiev-class aircraft carrier that Beijing tricked Ukraine into selling by sending a Hong Kong businessman to purchase it under the guise of it being used as a casino in 1998.

The Liaoning was later commissioned in 2012, becoming China’s first aircraft carrier.

But just a few years later, the Liaoning was spewing steam and losing power, and in at least one incident, a steam explosion blew out the ship’s electrical power system.

Since then, the Liaoning has been rather unreliable, like most Soviet Kiev-class carriers, and used mostly as a training carrier.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

2. Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov (063).

The Kuznetsov is a Kiev-class carrier that is currently undergoing repairs and won’t be ready for service until 2021.

In October 2016, the Kuznetsov was sailing to Syria through the English Channel on a combat deployment when it was spotted belching thick clouds of black smoke.

“The main problem with the ship is that is has a very problematic propulsion system,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, previously told Business Insider. “It’s just unreliable.”

Commissioned in 1995, the Kuznetsov experienced a serious breakdown in 1996, and wasn’t available again until 1998.

The National Interest recently even placed the Kuznetsov on its list of 5 worst aircraft carriers ever built.

Take a tour of the Kuznetsov here.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Thailand’s Chakri Naruebet.

(United States Navy photo)

3. Thailand’s Chakri Naruebet (911).

Commissioned in 1997, the Chakri Naruebet was once a fleet carrier, but was later relegated to a helicopter carrier in 2006, mostly because of budgetary issues.

Although the Chakri Naruebet was used after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsnuami and in rescue operations after flooding in Thailand in 2010 and 2011, the carrier has mostly resided in port for much of its 20-year career with the Thai Navy.

So while the Chakri Naruebet has not necessarily suffered from design flaws or repeated maintenance issues, we included it on the list because it’s simply not being used for what it was supposed to.

Read more about the Chakri Naruebet here.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

The Wasp didn’t sail on a combat deployment for seven years, at the height of the Iraq and Afghan wars, for reasons that remain mysterious.

(United States Navy photo)

4. America’s USS Wasp (LHD-1).

The Wasp is an amphibious assault ship that was recently fitted to carry F-35Bs.

But until then, the Wasp was conspicuously absent from major deployments from at least 2004 to 2011.

A Navy spokesman said in 2013 that it was because the ship was being “configured to serve as the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter test platform,” but that reason only accounted for the years 2011-2013.

“That’s a CYA [cover-your-ass] reason. That is not the reason it’s not deploying,” a retired Marine general told the Marine Times in 2013. “It doesn’t seem to make sense to keep one of these ships out of the deployment rotation for so many years.”

Although F-35Bs have since touched down on the Wasp, and it departed its homeport in Japan for a mission in the Pacific in early August 2018, something might still not be exactly right with the ship.

“If people are worried about a hollow force, this is a hollow ship,” a congressional analyst told Military Times in 2013.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

HMAS Canberra, a Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock ship, arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for Rim of the Pacific 2016.

(United States Navy photo)

5. Australia’s HMAS Canberra (L02).

Commissioned in 2014, the HMAS Canberra is a Landing Helicopter Dock carrier, and one of two for the Royal Australian Navy.

Although the Canberra took part in RIMPAC 2018, it was sent back to port in March 2017 with serious propulsion problems.

It was expected to take only about seven to 10 days to resolve, but in May 2017, the Canberra was still undergoing repairs in dry dock.

“It may well be a design issue,” Rear Admiral Adam Grunsell told ABC in May 2017.

One of the problems appeared to have been that faulty engine seals were leaking oil into different engine areas.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

The Adelaide is Australia’s second helicopter carrier.

(United States Navy photo)

6. HMAS Adelaide (L01).

Commissioned in 2015, the HMAS Adelaide is Australia’s other Landing Helicopter Dock carrier.

The Adelaide also took part in RIMPAC 2018, but it was sent back to port at the same time in 2017 as the Canberra with the same problems.

Given that both ships, which were commissioned around the same time, had similar problems at the same time, might very well hint at design problems.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is seen underway on its own power for the first time on April 8, 2017, in Newport News, Virginia.

(United States Navy photo)

7. America’s USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78).

Commissioned in July 2017, the USS Gerald R. Ford is the most powerful and capable supercarrier ever built — but it’s been dogged by repeated problems and is still not ready for combat a year after it entered service.

In April 2017 and January 2018, the Ford was sent back to port after experiencing a “main thrust bearing” failure.

In May 2018, the Ford was at sea undergoing trials, when its propulsion system malfunctioned, forcing back to port again after only three days.

The Ford has also had issues with the state-of-the-art Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear systems designed to launch and recover airplanes, which have suffered repeated delays, despite recent reports of progress.

The Ford’s AAG caught its first C2-A Greyhound aircraft in late May 2018, according to General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems.

When we reached out to renowned ship expert Eric Wertheim about our inclusion of the Ford in this piece, he pushed back.

“It’s important to give new complex warships and weapon systems time to mature through operational experience,” Wertheim told Business Insider in an email. “If you had looked at many of the most successful weapons and warship designs, they often might have looked like miserable failures early in their life cycle, but they eventually turned a corner.”

“If a warship is still underperforming its mission after a decade or more, it’s probably not a very sound design,” Wertheim added.

You can take a tour of the Ford here.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you didn’t know about the Pony Express

It’s hard to imagine days without Prime delivery, instant downloads and fast food. But 160 years ago, things like mail took a really long time. The Pony Express changed delivery forever.

Here are 5 facts you probably didn’t know about the Pony Express:


These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

It actually was pretty fast

Before the Pony Express, if you sent a letter from somewhere on the east coast to California, it would take upwards of 25 days. If it had to go by ship, it would take months. The Pony Express men began their deliveries in April of 1960 and their average delivery time was only 10 days. The riders set a record when they delivered President Lincoln’s inaugural address to California in just seven days and 17 hours! But that speed came at a price.

Here’s what it cost

Each delivery initially cost around , which would be well over 0 today. So, suffice to say, the average person wasn’t utilizing this service. Instead, things like newspaper and government reports or even business related material was sent on the Pony Express. The cost to send mail was high and so was the risk of those involved.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

upload.wikimedia.org

There were some serious logistics to it

When the owners started the company, they set up around 200 posts or relief stations across frontier country. Each rider would switch mounts every 10 to 15 miles at one of these stations and pass off their delivery to a new rider after about three or four days. Although history may talk about the dangers of being a rider, these posts were set up in very remote areas and often attacked or ambushed by Indians. More men who manned these stations died than riders.

Your weight was a qualifying factor

Not just anyone could be a Pony Express rider. They had to be between 100 to 125 pounds, brave and expert riders. One such advertisement for riders went even further. They specifically asked for men not over 18 who were willing to risk death daily and stated that orphans were preferred. All riders also had to sign an oath, promising not to drink, curse or fight.

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

It lasted less than two years

Although this was an incredible advance in delivery for its time, it didn’t last. Western Union developed the transcontinental telegraph line and launched it in 1861 — rendering the Pony Express useless. Despite the fact that the Pony men only operated for 19 months, they would go down in history as legends. The Pony Express stories of bravery while racing across the Wild West have been retold a thousand times over, even if many of these stories have been exaggerated and are considered folklore.

The Pony Express trademark is now owned by the United States Postal Service and its history is richly celebrated. To learn more about the Pony Express, check out the website for their national museum.
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