That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

Flight Lieutenant Alan Pollock was an enthusiastic but mischievous member of the Royal Air Force in 1968 when he found out that the British Parliament, composed at the time of members who were cutting military spending, had slashed the plans for a 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Royal Air Force. Among the list of events cut were flybys by RAF pilots. So, Pollock stole a plane and conducted his own flybys of Parliament and other locations on the day of celebrations anyway.


RAF Hunter Pilot Goes Rogue over London 1968

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The buildup to the dramatic day had started innocuously enough. British pilots had been dropping leaflets and toilet paper rolls on each other for a while, partially to keep up training and partially to break the monotony of training with constrained budgets.

But the pilots taking part in these little pranks were also busy griping about their limited flight hours and the growing obsolescence of their equipment. Britain was investing in new missile technology that was cheaper than planes and pilots but left, in the pilots’ opinion, a gap in defenses. One plane after another was retired from service with no replacement.

The anxious pilots were always on the lookout for further cuts to their budgets and standing, and they learned that the 50th celebration of the Royal Air Force would no longer feature flights of most aircraft. Most of the pilots grumbled a little, but then got right back to work.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

Flt. Lt. Alan Pollock was in a Hawker Hunter when he decided to take a flight down the River Thames and, eventually, through Tower Bridge.

(Airwolfhound, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Pollock, on the other hand, was ensnared by a devious idea. What if he just did a few low-level flights through London anyway? In a series of decisions that he would later blame at least partially on the dual cold medicines he was taking at the time, he grabbed a map from another aviator and sketched a tentative plan for a flight through London.

He didn’t think it would really come to anything, though. He was scheduled to fly on April 5, 1968, the celebration date of the 50th anniversary (which actually occurred on April 1). Bad weather at the destination airfield made the flight questionable until the last moment. While the men waited for the weather decision, Pollock got in a small argument with a superior and found himself feeling more maverick than normal.

When the men finally took off, Pollock was number four in a flight and watched a plane ahead of him peel off to go back past the departure airfield, likely to give them a flyby salute to celebrate the anniversary. Pollock was supposed to continue with the rest to their home field, but he saw the rest of the planes banking toward home and figured, screw it, he was going to London.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

The Tower Bridge in London, the same bridge that Alan Pollock flew through in 1968 during a protest.

(Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0)

He dropped audio connection with the other pilots and signaled that his comms were messing up and he’d make his own way home. Instead, he went to the River Thames and started flying over the bridges through London.

He flew past Westminster Abbey and other landmarks in his RAF Hawker Hunter and then turned to the Houses of Parliament and did three quick passes over it. Ironically, Parliament was discussing new rules for noise abatement as Pollock surged power to his engines to make the tight turns over the building.

He turned back out over the Thames and passed over a few more bridges until he reached Tower Bridge, a famous landmark with a lower span for vehicles and a higher one for pedestrians. The opening intrigued him, and he found himself flying right through the gap in the middle of the bridge.

When he made it home and landed, his command didn’t know what to do with him, and Pollock suggested they arrest him. They did so, but Parliament didn’t want a large fuss that would call more attention to the funding cuts Pollock was reacting to with his protests.

So, instead of court-martialing him, the Royal Air Force trumped up his medical issues and discharged him for that, ending his over 10-year career. Pollock described his career in an extended series of interviews with the Imperial War Museum from 2006 to 2009. The Thames River Run was described in detail in segment 24 of 25.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how air crews learned to navigate in World War II

These days, when a plane sets off to drop bombs on a target, all the pilot needs to do is punch the coordinates into their Global Positioning System and follow the steering cues on the heads-up display — pretty straightforward. In fact, GPS has become so enmeshed in the military that the Air Force ran some training on how to fight without it.

But back in World War II, such technology didn’t exist. They used only the classic navigational tools: a map, a compass, and some intuition.


That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

Today’s navigators have GPS and a host of other technologies that make getting from Point A to Point B easy.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

So, how did they figure out their position using just a map and a compass in the cramped quarters of an airplane? The answer is old-fashioned hard work and diligent training.

Back then, navigators undertook about 500 hours of ground instruction. Assuming they had ten hours of classes per day, five days a week, that amounts to ten weeks spent on the ground. Then, they did another another 100 hours of training in the air. At the end, they needed to be able to plot a route with a course error no greater than 11 degrees, being no more than one minute off per hour of flight time. They also had to get within fifteen miles of an objective during a night flight.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

This 1946 photo shows the level of technology available to World War II air crews. Much of it was done with maps, a compass, radar (if the plane was really advanced), and a fair bit of guesswork.

(USAF)

During World War II, some new navigation technology, like radio beacons, helped navigators bring their planes home. Over 50,000 personnel were trained to navigate aircraft to the precision requirements mentioned above.

Check out the video blow to see some of what would-be navigators were taught about maps and compasses.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQrGbz1dczY

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Military prepares tanks for July 4th blowout parade in DC

President Donald Trump wants to put armored vehicles on the National Mall for his Fourth of July extravaganza, the Washington Post reported July 1, 2019, citing people briefed on the plans for the event.

The president has reportedly requested that armored warfighting vehicles be set up in the nation’s capital as props for his “A Salute to America” event. The vehicles being considered for the holiday blowout include M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

For President Trump’s previously planned military parade in DC, the Department of Defense rejected plans calling for tanks rolling down the streets of Washington, DC, arguing that they could damage the roads. The Pentagon is considering setting up static displays to fulfill the president’s request. Deliberations on this matter have not concluded, even as the Fourth of July is only days away.


The holiday blowout is expected to include a military parade, a flyover by Air Force One, the Blue Angels, and other military aircraft, fireworks, and a presidential address on the mall.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

The U.S. Navy fight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, demonstrate choreographed flight skills.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)

President Trump has longed for a patriotic military parade since he experienced France’s Bastille Day celebration in Paris in July 2017. “It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” the president said a few months after the event. “We’re going to have to try to top it.”

“I think we’re going to have to start looking at that ourselves,” he said. “So we’re actually thinking about Fourth of July, Pennsylvania Avenue, having a really great parade to show our military strength.”

In February 2018, President Trump ordered the Department of Defense to begin planning a big military parade for Veteran’s Day. Critics compared Trump’s plans to the military parades characteristic of authoritarian regimes, such as China or North Korea; the US has historically only held military parades after victories like World War II and the Gulf war.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

An M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle kicks up plumes of dust.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The president later cancelled his planned parade as costs ballooned from million to million to as high as million. President Trump suggested that the event could be rescheduled for 2019 if costs could be kept low. “Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN,” he tweeted after announcing the cancelation.

The initial estimate of million was based on a review of expenses for the Gulf war parade held in Washington, DC in 1991, the last major US military parade.

The cost of the president’s Fourth of July event has not been disclosed to date.

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

MUSIC

6 military cadences you will never forget

Men and women serving in the military have spent hours stomping around the base in well-constructed running formations yelling a repetitive song at the top of their lungs.


Military cadences, or close-order drill, date back hundreds of years as a signal to keep troops covered and aligned as they march forward in the battlefield. Now it’s primarily used to keep service members in step — landing their feet at the same time — causing a prideful beat.

Related: 5 great military cadences you haven’t thought about in years

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest
Look at all those happy faces! (U.S. Army photo)

Regardless, military cadences stain our memories like a top 40 hit on the radio. Once you hear it, let the rhythm teleport you to the good old days.

1. “Fired Up”

2. “You Can’t Break My Body Down”

3. “Mama, Mama Can’t You See?”

4. “I Used To Sit at Home All Day”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9TINZP5FCs

5. “I Heard That in the Navy”

6. “My Grandma!”

Can you think of any others not listed? Comment below.
MIGHTY MOVIES

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge park finally announced opening date

Before Star Wars fans get to see the next huge installment of the mega-popular space fantasy franchise, everyone will have the opportunity to live in the dangerous galaxy, thanks to Disney’s much-anticipated Star Wars theme park.

In a press release on March 7, 2019, the company finally announced the opening dates for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge — and it’s ahead of schedule. The 14-acre expansion will open on May 31, 2019, at Disneyland in California and on Aug. 29, 2019, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.


“On opening day for phase one, guests will be transported to the remote planet of Batuu, full of unique sights, sounds, smells, and tastes,” the release describes. “Guests can become part of the story as they sample galactic food and beverages, explore an intriguing collection of merchant shops, and take the controls of the most famous ship in the galaxy aboard Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run.”

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to Open May 31 at Disneyland Resort, Aug. 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

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According to the statement, however, the park will open in phases “to allow guests to sooner enjoy the one-of-a-kind experiences that make Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge so spectacular.”

Phase two won’t open until later in 2019. It will feature the park’s largest attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, where guests will board a full-size starship and join the battle against the First Order, including a face-off with Kylo Ren.

To visit the Disneyland park between May 31 and June 23, 2019, Disney says that guests will not only need valid theme park admission but also a “no-cost reservation.” Details on how to make that reservation have not yet been released but will be posted on Disneyland.com. The park will then open to the general public on June 24, 2019.

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

Articles

Popeye the Sailor Man was originally Popeye the Coast Guardsman

This may seem like blasphemy to some, but Popeye started his professional career as a civilian mariner and then Coast Guardsman. The famous sailor did join the Navy, but as of 1937, Popeye was firmly in the Coast Guard. A two-reel feature titled Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves introduces Popeye serving at a Coast Guard station. The sailor man’s creator did not live to see the United States enter World War II, but it was in 1941 that his creation joined the Navy and the legend of Popeye the rough and tumble U.S. Navy sailor was born.


That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves wasn’t Popeye’s first feature. He started life as a character in the comic strip Thimble Theater in 1929, a comic actually centered around his off-and-on girlfriend, Olive Oyl. When it became obvious that Popeye was the real star, he made a jump to feature films. In the aforementioned 1937 film is when we see Popeye in the Coast Guard, on guard duty and deploying to intercept “Abu Hassan” (aka Bluto), who is terrorizing the Middle East.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

Spoiler alert: Popeye saves the day, but not before telling Bluto to “stop in the name of the Coast Guard.

It was during WWII that Popeye reached his incredible popularity. After enlisting in the Navy in 1941’s The Mighty Navy, Popeye’s clothing changed and reflected his status as a U.S. Navy sailor, wearing the distinctive white crackerjack uniform. Popeye would remain in uniform until 1978, when new cartoons put him back in his original outfit, with one exception: the white yachting cap he used to wear was replaced with a standard issue Navy “Dixie Cup” cap.

It should be noted that Popeye and Bluto once attempted to join the Army in a 1936 film short called I’m In the Army Now, but they really just ended up fighting in the recruiter’s office. Popeye left the office after beating Bluto to a surrender, but without actually joining. Popeye also regularly beats Bluto to the tune of “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”

Despite his dedication to service, Popeye never once tried to join the Air Force.

Articles

This shocking video illustrates the huge number of WWII fatalities

A new data-driven video produced by Neil Halloran illustrates the massive number of fatalities of Second World War like never before.


The video, which was released on Memorial Day, “uses cinematic data visualization techniques to explore the human cost of the second World War, and it sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including recent conflicts,” according to a press release. “Although it paints a harrowing picture of the war, the documentary highlights encouraging trends in post-war battle statistics.”

The video features a number of eye-opening insights, such as the relatively small number of German losses during the initial invasions, or the huge numbers lost — both civilian and military — by the Soviet Union during the war. At one point, the chart showing Soviet deaths continues to grow higher, leaving the viewer to wonder when it will ever stop.

“As the Soviet losses climbed, I thought my browser had frozen. Surely the top of the column must have been reached by now, I thought,” a commenter wrote on Halloran’s fallen.io website.

From Fallen.io:

The Fallen of World War II is an interactive documentary that examines the human cost of the second World War and the decline in battle deaths in the years since the war. The 15-minute data visualization uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history.

The film follows a linear narration, but it allows viewers to pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.

Now watch:

The Fallen of World War II from Neil Halloran on Vimeo.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia threatens US with nuclear doomsday device

Russia’s military and state-sponsored media have reacted with a fire and fury of their own to the news that the US will exit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), one of the last barriers preventing a full-on Cold War-like arms race in Europe — and there’s already talk of a nuclear doomsday device visiting the US.

The INF Treaty banned land-based nuclear-capable missiles with a range between 300 and 3,200 miles in 1987 when Russia and the US had populated much of Europe with intermediate-range nuclear missiles. The ban eliminated this entire class of missiles and went down as one of the most successful acts of arms control ever.


The US and NATO concluded recently that Russia had spent years developing a banned nuclear-capable weapon, thereby making the treaty meaningless. The US responded by saying it would withdraw and design its own treaty-busting missiles. Russia said it would do the same, though many suspect they have already built the missiles.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

United States President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

But Russia’s response to the US didn’t stop there.

A BBC review of Russian newspapers, some state-owned and all adhering to state narratives or censored by the Kremlin, revealed some truly apocalyptic ideas.

“If the Americans deploy their new missiles near Russia’s borders, and in response we deploy ours, then of course, the risk of [nuclear] conflict rises sharply,” an arms-control expert told one paper.

“If US missiles are deployed in Poland or the Baltic states, they’ll be able to reach Russia in minutes. In such an event, the way Russia currently conceives using nuclear weapons, as a retaliatory strike, becomes impossible, since there won’t be time to work out which missiles have been launched against Russia, what their trajectory and their targets are,” he continued. “This is why there is now a temptation for both us and for them to adopt the doctrine of a preemptive strike.”

The expert said the INF Treaty’s demise means both the US and Russia now have to consider nuking the other at the first sign of conflict because missile attacks won’t be as predictable as longer-range salvos from the continental US and Russia’s mainland.

But the expert neglects to mention that US and Russian nuclear submarines can already fire from almost anywhere at sea, already confusing targets and trajectories and taking minutes to reach Russian forces.

Finally, Russian media turned to what’s quickly becoming a propaganda crutch in communicating Moscow’s might: the doomsday device.

Океанская многоцелевая система «Посейдон»

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Russia recently said it built one of the most devastating nuclear weapons of all time in the form of an undersea torpedo with a 100-megaton nuclear warhead that’s designed to be unstoppable against all missile defenses and create tsunami-size waves, and a radioactive hellstorm that stomps out life on earth for thousands of square miles for decades.

Since they announced the weapon, they’ve already used it to threaten Europe. But now with the INF Treaty in tatters, a military expert told a Russian paper that the doomsday device could see use.

“It cannot be excluded that one of the Poseidon with a 100 megaton nuclear warhead will lay low off the US coast, becoming ‘the doomsday weapon.’ Thus an attack on Russia, will become a suicidal misadventure,” the paper said.

The paper also declined to mention that the US and Russia’s nuclear posture already guarantees any mutual nuclear exchanges would lead to the total destruction of both countries.

Russia’s Poseidon doomsday device doesn’t change the mutually assured destruction dynamic between Washington and Moscow. It provides only a way to destroy more natural life in the process.

Russia’s media may swerve into bombast, but Russia’s actual military has already announced plans to build more weapons and extend the range of weapons to counter the US in what experts peg as the next great nuclear standoff.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the US pulled off its daring mission to kill Yamamoto

The Japanese attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, propelled the US into a war that had been raging for years.

The US campaign had a mixed start. In April 1942, the success of the Doolittle Raid on Japan was leavened by the horrors of the Bataan Death March, during which thousands of US and Philippine soldiers died.

But mid-1942 saw the Battle of the Coral Sea, when the Allies beat the Japanese in the first naval battle in which the combatants were never within sight of each other, and the Battle of Midway, when outnumbered US forces fooled and cripple the Japanese navy.


By February 1943, the US had secured Guadalcanal after the first major Allied offensive in the theater. From there, US forces were able to plot retribution for the attack that started it all.

On April 13, 1943, US naval intelligence intercepted a coded signal sent to Japanese commanders in the area around Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands northwest of Guadalcanal.

The US had long since broke Japan’s codes. The April 13 message was sent in a new variant, but US intelligence deciphered it in short order.

“On April 18 CINC Combined Fleet will visit RXZ, R-, and RXP in accordance with the following schedule…” the message began. Adm. Isokoru Yamamoto, commander in chief of Japan’s Combined Fleet and planner of the Pearl Harbor attack, was visiting Japanese units in the Solomons.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

Then-Capt. Isoroku Yamamoto, Japanese naval attache to the US, with US Secretary of the Navy Curtis D. Wilbur in the late 1920s.

The message revealed not only the trip but also the schedule, the planes — two Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” medium bombers escorted by six Zero fighters — that would be involved, the orders for commanders at Bougainville, and the recommended uniforms.

Yamamoto was one of the most charismatic and forward-thinking naval officers of his generation. He graduated from Japanese Naval Academy in 1904 and fought in the Russo-Japanese war, where he lost two fingers at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905.

He went to the US in the 1920s, learning English and studying at Harvard and at the US Naval War College, where he learned about a new style of naval warfare fought with carrier and island-based planes.

He reformed Japan’s navy and was highly regarded by sailors and the Japanese royal family. While he was no pacifist, he was part of a moderate faction within the navy.

He criticized bellicosity from right-wing ultranationalists, scorned the army and its leaders who undercut civilian officials, and resisted an alliance with Nazi Germany. This earned him death threats.As Japan’s naval attache in Washington in the late 1920s, he traveled the US and witnessed its might.

“Anyone who has seen the auto factories in Detroit and the oil fields in Texas,” he said later, “knows that Japan lacks the national power for a naval race with America.”

He cautioned against a war with the US but took part in its planning and believed only a knockout blow could spare Japan a ruinous end. “We should do our best to decide the fate of the war on the very first day,” he said.

His plan for a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was resisted, but he pushed it through, noting the irony of spearheading a mission he opposed. “Alas, is that fate?” he wrote to a friend.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

A colorized photo of Japanese navy Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto at his base in Rabaul before his death in 1943.

Despite Yamamoto’s reservations about the war, he became the face of the enemy after Pearl Harbor, appearing on the cover of Time magazine on Dec. 22, 1941, under the headline “Japan’s Aggressor.”

If the name “Operation Vengeance” didn’t illustrate US sentiment toward him, Pacific Fleet chief Adm. William “Bull” Halsey got the point across with the order, “TALLY HO X LET’S GET THE BASTARD.”

President Franklin Roosevelt is reputed to have told the Navy, “Get Yamamoto.” (It’s not clear he actually said that.) Adm. Chester Nimitz, the US commander in the Pacific, gave the go-ahead to shoot down Yamamoto’s plane — a task assigned to the 339th Fighter Squadron.

But all the motivation didn’t make the operation easier.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

A Japanese navy Mitsubishi G4M1 medium bomber.

Navy and Marine fighters didn’t have the range to intercept Yamamoto and his escorts over Bougainville. The Army Air Force’s twin-engine P-38G Lighting had the range to get there and the firepower to deal with the bombers and the fighters.

Eighteen P-38s — 16 for the attack and two extras — were selected and outfitted with extra tanks of fuel. Maj. John Mitchell, commander of the 339th, said he wasn’t sure the P-38s could take off with the added weight.

Four fighters, called the Killer Division, were to attack the bombers, one of which would be carrying Yamamoto. The rest would attack the fighter escorts.

To avoid detection, planners wanted the P-38s to fly “at least 50 miles offshore of these islands, which meant dead-reckoning over 400 miles over water at fifty feet or less, a prodigious feat of navigation,” according to a history of the 13th Fighter Command, of which the 339th Fighter Squadron was part.

The approach was complicated by the lack of radar to guide the P-38s. They would have to navigate with charts, though estimates of Yamamoto’s plane’s speed and the weather conditions, as well as his reputation for punctuality, allowed US planners to calculate where he’d be.

They planned for a 1,000-mile round trip, with a 600-mile approach flight from the south. Mitchell, the squadron commander, gave the plan 1,000-to-1 odds of success.

They left Henderson Field early on April 18, 1943 — the first anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. The monotony of the long flight combined with the low altitude increased the risks. One pilot counted sharks to stay awake; he saw 48.

Despite lacking navigational aids, they got to Bougainville just as Yamamoto’s convoy — the two bombers and six fighters 1,500 feet above them — flew into the area.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

The wreck of the Mitsubishi G4M1 Model 11 bomber shot down over Bougainville in April 1943, killing Imperial Japanese navy Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto.

Twelve of the P-38s climbed to the Zeroes; the other four headed to the bombers, not sure which carried Yamamoto.

The US fighters split up and chased the bombers, shooting both down. One crashed into the jungle on Bougainville, killing all aboard — including Yamamoto. The other plunged into the ocean.

Japanese troops on Bougainville eventually found the wreckage of Yamamoto’s plane. The bodies on board were cremated and put in boxes that returned to Japan.

“His cremation pit was filled, and two papaya trees, his favorite fruit, were planted on the mound,” according to the 13th Fighter Command history. “A shrine was erected, and Japanese naval personnel cared for the graves until the end of the war.”

Yamamoto’s death was kept secret for some time, but he was eventually given a state funeral.

The US planes, minus one downed during the operation, returned to Henderson Field around noon, with some running out of fuel as they touched down.

While Yamamoto met his end on April 18, 1943, how it arrived was less clear.

Capt. Thomas Lanphier, who led the four fighters targeting the Japanese bombers, and his wingman, 1st. Lt. Rex Barber, were both credited with a kill on the mission.

The Air Force reviewed records in the 1970s and reduced it to a half-kill each, but it remained unclear who had shot down the bomber carrying Yamamoto.

In 1998, a panel of the surviving US pilots and one Japanese Zero pilot considered eyewitness comments, reports from Barber and Lanphier, and an examination of the bomber that crashed on Bougainville.

Fifty-five years after Yamamoto was sent crashing into the jungle, they concluded Barber had put him there.

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

Articles

These 6 men went from the military to throwing ‘upper-cuts’ in the ring

Having fast hands and quick feet are just a few of the skill sets boxers need to possess to survive in the ring.


This month, sports fans are eagerly anticipating the much-talked-about Mayweather versus McGregor fight, so check out our list of men who went from serving their country, to “duking-it-out” in the ring.

Related: This former NFL player started a gym to help wounded warriors

1. Joe Louis

During the early 1940s, Louis reportedly joined the Army after fighting in a Navy charity bout and was assigned to a segregated cavalry. He served proudly for the next fours years and earned himself the Legion of Merit medal for exceptionally meritorious conduct.

Nicknamed the “Brown Bomber,” Louis began professionally competing in the heavyweight class in 1934 and retired in 1951 with a winning record of 66-3.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest
Louis receiving a medal for his service by a senior officer.

2. Jack Dempsey

Fighting under the name “Kid Blackie” and “The Manassa Mauler,” Dempsey began his professional boxing career in 1914. During WWII, Dempsey joined the New York State National Guard before serving in the Coast Guard where he retired in 1953 reaching the rank of commander.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest
Dempsey as he trains.

3. Ken Norton Sr.

Norton joined the Marine Corps in 1963 where he began to develop his boxing skills. Shortly after his discharge in 1967, Norton turned pro and started fighting elite boxers like Muhammed Ali. He retired in the early ’80s with the outstanding winning record of 42-7.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest
Muhammad Ali (right) winces as Ken Norton (left) hits him with a left to the head during their re-match at the Forum in Inglewood. (AP Photo/File)

4. Rocky Marciano

Marciano was drafted into the Army in 1943 and discovered his boxing talent while stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. In 1946, he dominated an amateur armed forces boxing tournament taking first place. After a brief hiatus to pursue a baseball career, Marciano eventually returned to boxing where he began racking up knock outs.

He retired in 1956 with an undisputed fighting record of 49-0. 

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest
Marciano punching the heavy bag.

 5. Leon Spinks

Spinks joined the Marine Corps in 1973, giving him an opportunity to develop his boxing skills. Spinks fought in the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal and squared off with the legendary Muhammed Ali who he beat after fighting for 15 brutal rounds.

Spinks retired from the sport of boxing in the mid-’90s with the record of 26-17.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

Also Read: The 8 people you can’t avoid at the base gym

6. Jamel Herring

Nicknamed “Semper Fi,” Herring began his boxing training in the early 2000s before enlisting in the Marine Corps where he served two tours in Iraq. During his time in the Marines, Herring found himself on the All Marine Corps boxing team and competing on the national stage.

As of July 2017, Herring has the distinguished record of 16-1 and plans to compete for years to come.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest
Jamel Herring, a Marine veteran poses for a photo with former teammate Sgt. Todd DeKinderen. (Photo by Sgt. Caleb Gomez)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the real Ragnar Lothbrok is so shrouded in mystery

The Viking Age spanned from the sacking of the abbey on Lindisfarne in June, 793, and is generally accepted as ending with William the Conqueror’s ascension to the English throne in 1066. The Norse traveled outward from Scandinavia, reaching everywhere from Estonia to Canada to Spain to Baghdad. Despite their many accomplishments in exploring and trading, history knows them as warriors who welcomed battle and death.


No viking warrior has a reputation for badassery quite like that of Ragnar Lothbrok. His lifestyle was so badass that it’s been made into television series on History, aptly named Vikings. According to the show, Lothbrok single-handedly lead the assaults on Lindisfarne, Paris, and Wessex, and his eventual death sparked his sons to form the Great Heathen Army.

Looking at the timeline of those events in the real-world, that would mean he had a roughly 73-year viking career. The vikings, historically, made those victorious raids in 793, 845, and 858, before his death in 865. While it’s not entirely impossible for someone to raid for 73 years, the show’s creators are open about their creative liberties. The biggest of them being that there may have been many people named Ragnar Lothbrok — or no one at all.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

I mean, if your BS story makes a cold-hearted deathbringer think twice, it’s worth the risk.

(Vikings Heading for Land / Frank Dicksee / 1873)

The Norse weren’t keen on preserving their own history. They did tell stories orally, which is how they still exist today, but historical records kept by the vikings are scarce at best. As with most stories, there was room for exaggeration. Plus, the people who wrote the stories of the vikings were almost always on the receiving ends of raids, concerned more with exaggerating their ferocity and triumphs over vikings than accurately retelling their defeats.

This leads us to the biggest debate surrounding Ragnar Lothbrok: When and where he actually died. Many have claimed responsibility for death: from Carlingford Lough to East Anglia to Anglesey to where the show places his death, Northumbria, everyone wanted to be known for slaying the fearsome Lothbrok. Taking credit for such a victory could ward off potential raids, but there’s little proof to back up most of these claims.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

The battles of the Great Heathen Army were entirely accurate. They destroyed the hell out of Old England.

The only legitimate source for information on Ragnar Lothbrok is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of documents detailing Anglo-Saxon history originally published around the time Ragnar was said to exist. His name does appear, but there is a debate within the historical community if that the name “Ragnar” has been attributed to several other Norse leaders and not one single badass.

This puts a new perspective on the term “Son of Ragnar,” as it might have been more of a title than an actual blood relation. In the television series, many of Ragnar’s sons are born from his multiple wives. The two sons that actually have been historically proven to exist are Bjorn Ironside and Ivar the Boneless, both from different mothers. But any stories of their exploits, once again, fall firmly in the “with-a-grain-of-salt” category, seeing as The Saga of the Sons of Ragnar is, like much of viking history, more of a collection of campfire stories than historical evidence.

Though Vikings may not be a completely historically accurate telling of events, they do the vikings plenty of justice by interweaving the vast collection of Ragnar Lothbrok tales and piecing them into a single, compelling, easy-to-follow narrative. The facts are a bit hazy, but it’s still one of the more accurate representations of vikings in modern media. It just takes some liberties with individual characters.

Of course, there was no one assuming the mantle of “Ragnar” at the Lindisfarne raid. The actual viking, Rollo, who became the First Duke of Normandy in the year 911, lived nearly fifty years after Ragnar’s death, which means it’s impossible for them to be brothers. Even his first wife, Lagertha, may also be more myth than fact.

But on the bright side, the greatest scene in the entire series — if not television history — is actually very historically accurate.

MIGHTY HISTORY

America’s first fighter plane blinded pilots and lost its wings

When America threw its weight behind the Allies in World War I, optimistic politicians and the writers of the day predicted that, soon, tens of thousands of top-tier planes would pour from American factories to the front lines, blackening the skies over the “Huns.” In reality, American aviation was too-far behind the combatants to catch up, and so American pilots took to the air with French castoffs that gave them diarrhea and nausea, obscured their vision, and would lose its wings during combat.


That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

A pilot in his Nieuport 28 fighter aircraft.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

World War I plane designs relied on a small selection of engines, and most of them were lubricated with castor oil. As the war wore on and the oil was in short supply, Germany did turn to substitutes. But most engines, especially the rotary designs that gave a better power-to-weight ratio crucial for flight, actually burnt castor oil that escaped in the exhaust.

This oil was horrible for the pilot who, in most designs, was left breathing in his plane’s exhaust. Castor oil is used as a laxative, and it can also cause nausea. Pilots were, uh, not into that part of the mission. Worse, the droplets of castor oil would sprinkle on the aviator’s goggles, obscuring their vision with a film that masked the battlefield.

America’s top ace of the war, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, was famous around the aerodrome for often running around the corners of buildings after he landed so he could vomit from a combination of airsickness and castor oil exposure. He eventually got control of his stomach and could fly confidently, but it was a significant distraction for a long time.

But the castor oil problem was hard to avoid for aircraft designers. Making engines light and powerful enough to fly required all sorts of compromises, and the castor-lubricated rotary engines were one of the few designs that fit the bill.

But the bigger problem for early American pilots was that the U.S. had to buy French planes, and France kept their best models for their own pilots. So America got planes like the Nieuport 28. The manufacturers had little time to test designs before they had to press them into production and service, and the 28 had one of the worst flaws imaginable.

In rigorous aerial flight, if U.S. pilots took a common but aggressive aerial maneuver, their top wings could break away.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

​American pilot Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker with his Nieuport 28 in World War I.

(Public domain)

Yup. They would lose their literal, physical wings.

It was a biplane design, meaning that it had two sets of wings, one above the other. That upper set of wings was attached with a thin spar. It would break if subjected to significant strain.

And World War I pilots attempting to escape a fight gone bad would often trade altitude for speed and distance. They did this by diving a short distance and then pulling up hard. The plane would gain speed during the fall, and the aviator could hopefully get away before the pursuer could get a bead and fire.

But the weak upper wings of the Nieuport 28 couldn’t always take the sudden force of the pull up after the dive, and so an upper wing would snap during the pull up. So the pilot, already in a dire situation, would suddenly have less lift and it would be unequal across the wings, sending the pilot into a spinning fall.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

The Spad XIII didn’t have the drawbacks of the Nieuport 28, but it also had a worse power-to-weight ratio and maneuverability.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Despite these handicaps, American aviators proved themselves faster learners and braver than their allies had expected, leading to a grudging respect from the other pilots.

And, eventually, America would get access to the Spad XIII, an aircraft about as quick as the Nieuport 28 but without the weak wings. But, by that point, not everyone wanted to give up the Nieuport. That was partially because the Nieuport had great handling at high speed as long as the pilot knew how to nurse the engine and not exceed the tolerances for the wings.

The Spad XIII was a little more reliable and stable in normal flight, but some American pilots felt like they couldn’t maneuver as tightly in the new planes, and they actually fought to keep the Nieuport 28s.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Civil War vets wanted to invade Canada to liberate Ireland

In the years following the American Civil War, Canada was still very much a possession of the British Empire. As such, it had a number of official fortifications and other important areas along its border with the United States. One of those was Fort Erie, directly across the Niagara from the American city of Buffalo, New York. In June 1866, some 850 men crossed the Niagara from Buffalo, intent on capturing the fort.

They were Irishmen, and they were going to conquer Canada to free their home country.


That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

Irish immigrants flowed into the United States in droves following the Acts of Union that saw British domination of Ireland since the early 1800s. The Great Irish Famine of the late 1840s also saw a huge emigration of Irish people to the United States. By 1860, there were more than 1.6 million people of Irish descent who called themselves American – and upwards of 175,000 of them were about to serve in the Union Army.

The Irish made-up 40 percent of foreign-born enlistments in the Civil War, and were 17 percent of the overall Union force. When these battle-hardened veterans returned home after the war, many of them were headed to New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New England. It was there that Irish National leaders were waiting to use the veterans’ new talent for combat.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

To be fair, when this plan was hatched, there were upwards of 10,000 Fenians.

Called the Fenian Brotherhood, its original aim was to send money, arms, and supplies to Irish rebels in Ireland via Irish émigrés living in the U.S. Many in the movement were soon convinced that liberating Ireland through a direct uprising was impossible, so they decided to step up their game a bit. If the Irish couldn’t mount an invasion of Ireland, then they would mount an invasion of Canada, the nearest British-held country and trade it for Irish independence.

T.W. Sweeny a former Union general who also served in the Mexican War hatched a three-pronged plan to invade Canada, set up an Irish government-in-exile, and pressure Britain to release Ireland to the Irish. It called for multiple incursions into Ontario in an effort to draw the main British force out of Quebec. With that done, the main Fenian force would invade Quebec, cutting off lines of communication and supply.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

Noncommissioned officers of the 10th Royal Regiment of Toronto Volunteers, circa 1870.

On June 1, 1850, a force of Irish-American members of the Fenian Brotherhood landed in Ontario and planted the Irish flag. They tore up railroads and cut the telegraph wires, effectively cutting Fort Erie off from the rest of Canada. Then, 600 Fenians marched westward. At the same time, the commander of British forces in Canada activated upwards of 22,000 troops to put the insurrection down. While the larger force formed up, 850 men under Lt. Col. Alfred Booker were dispatched to pin the Irish down and keep them from wreaking any more havoc.

The two forces met at Ridgeway in Ontario, Canada. It was the first time an all-Canadian force was led by a Canadian commander. Unfortunately for the Canadians, the Fenians were well-armed and skilled fighters, having just braved the battlefields of the American Civil War. The Canadians were soon reinforced, and the superior numbers caused the Fenians to retreat.

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

No. 5 Company of the Queen’s Own Rifles.

The Fenians were repulsed elsewhere along their proposed lines of attack. Having assumed that Irish Canadians would join the uprising, they were surprised at how the Canadians responded to their invasion. By the time British forces mounted a full response, many of the Fenians had retreated back across the river, the United States Navy was stopping Fenian barges from bringing reinforcements, and the U.S. declared total neutrality in Canadian affairs.

There would be more Fenian uprisings in later years, but for the time being, the push to trade Canada for Ireland would not come to pass.

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