The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

On the scenic Thai island of Koh Sumai, tucked away in the Wat Khunaram temple is the mummified body of one of Thailand’s most famous monks- Luang Pho Daeng. Remarkably well preserved, Luang Pho Daeng’s body was put on display sometime in the 1970s and is still there today, virtually unchanged from the day he passed away, with the notable exception of a giant pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses that were added later. So how does his body stay so naturally well preserved and why is he wearing Ray-Bans?


Born sometime in 1894 on Koh Sumai, Luang Pho Daeng first became ordained as a Buddhist monk in his twenties. However, he only remained a monk for a few months before he decided to abandon the pursuit to raise a family and live an otherwise normal life. That said, his brief time as a monk had a profound impact on Luang Pho Daeng’s life and guided his actions throughout the ensuing decades. For example, during WW2, Pho Daeng, who was a financially successful businessman during his adult life, donated large amounts of money as well as clothing and medicine to those in need and otherwise placed high value on all life.

The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

(Photo by Per Meistrup)

It was also around this time, in 1944 at the age of about 50 years old that he, apparently with the support of his wife and six now grown children, decided to once again become a monk.

After being ordained, Luang Pho Daeng threw himself into studying Buddhist texts and became fascinated with various meditation techniques, soon becoming a master meditator, in particular of Vipassana meditation, which literally translates to “seeing clearly”.

His skill at meditation was such that he could reportedly meditate for upwards of 15 days at a time, during which period he’d neither move nor consume food or drink. Although the man himself claimed that he needed no nourishment during his marathon meditation sessions, he was frequently warned by physicians that he was causing severe harm to his body through his regular extended bouts of no fluid or food intake.

As you might imagine, during these sessions, he lost a great deal of weight through muscle, fat, and fluid loss and was often so weakened by his meditation that he needed to nursed back to health via fluid resuscitation and the like, before ultimately he would once again resume meditating.

The true extent of the damage Luang Pho Daeng did to his body while meditating was largely lost on his followers thanks to the decidedly monk-like stoicism with which he was able to endure the withering effects of severe dehydration and hunger. As a result, Luang Pho Daeng became something of a celebrity amongst the residents of Koh Sumai and many travelled to Wat Khunaram temple to learn from him.

In addition to his impressive meditative abilities, Pho Daeng was known for his strict adherence to a simplistic lifestyle, on a normal day eating only one, simple meal and apparently always eating from the same bowl.

The Mummified Monk Thailand Koh Samui

www.youtube.com

According to the monks of Wat Khunaram where Luang Pho Daeng served as an abbot, shortly after his 79th birthday in 1973, Luang Pho Daeng foresaw his own death and made it known that he would mummify himself, which is totally possible if excruciating and an extremely time consuming process that, given the time of his eventual death, meant he must have started the process long before he made this announcement.

In preparation for his anticipated success at this, he requested that his disciples build him an “upright coffin” made of glass in which his body should be put on display if he was successful in his goal of achieving self-mummification. His ultimate aim being that his remains would serve as an eternal testament to the Buddhist belief in the transience of human existence if he was successful.

Unfortunately for those of us who like the details, exactly how he prepared himself for self-mummification was never recorded by the monks of his temple. That said, one known method used by certain types of Buddhist monks was a total of a nine year process, about six of which the monk would be alive for.

The monks would begin by ceasing eating any food except various nuts and seeds, with some accounts stating that they were also allowed to eat fruits and berries. They would also begin a regimented program of heavy physical exercise, which they would continue throughout this first period that lasted one thousand days.

During the next one thousand days, the monks would further restrict their diet by only eating bark and various roots, again with some accounts stating that they were also allowed to eat a limited amount of fruits and berries. Near the end of this period, they would drink a concoction made from the sap of the Urushi tree. This tree’s sap is mildly poisonous and is normally used as a natural lacquer. Ingesting the drink caused the person consuming it to vomit frequently, further restricting the body’s ability to obtain nutrients from the sparse diet they ate. They would also rapidly lose bodily fluids due to vomiting. As a side effect, this sap also worked as a preservative in their bodies.

The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

Urushi tree.

In the final stage of self-mummification, the monk’s body would be little more than skin and bones. If the monk survived to this point, he would lock himself into a stone tomb that was just large enough for him to fit in, sitting in the lotus position, which is a position he would not move from until he died. The tomb itself contained an air tube, so that the monk could live for a time after being entombed. It also contained a bell, which the monk would ring on a daily basis to let those outside the tomb know he was still alive.

While in the tomb, the monk would sit in the lotus position and meditate until death. Once the monk died and, thus, no longer rang the bell each day, the breathing tube would be removed and the tomb sealed for the final thousand day period of the ritual. At the end of this period, the tomb would be opened to see if the monk was successful in mummifying himself. If he was, the preserved body would be put on display in the temple. Having successfully demonstrated mastery over the physical, the priest would also then be declared a Buddha.

Whether some semblance of this was what Pho Daeng did or not isn’t known. Whatever the case, after his preparations were complete on an unknown date in 1973, he sat down and meditated for the final time of that particular life.

When his followers discovered that he’d passed away while meditating, they hastily constructed the upright coffin he’d requested and placed his body inside to wait and see if it would decompose or not. If it did decompose, he left instructions that his remains were to be cremated. If it didn’t, as mentioned, he requested they be put it on display.

In keeping with his final wishes, when his body failed to decompose normally, he was then put on display in Wat Khunaram.

The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

Wat Khunaram.

Nearly three decades later, in 2002, his remains were still externally in remarkably good shape, spurring researchers at the Bioanthropology Research Institute to study the corpse. In the process, among other things, they performed a radiographic analyses on it.

The results?

Amazingly his organs, including brain, are all still remarkably well preserved, more or less having shrunk from dehydration, but otherwise still there and intact. In fact, one of the only parts of Luang Pho Daeng’s body that actually rotted away were his eyes, which sunk into his skull shortly after his death.

This became something of an issue for the monks of the temple wanting to display Luang Pho Daeng’s corpse as per his final wishes, because children who visited the temple were understandably terrified of his eyeless visage, rather than in awe of his self-mummification.

After contemplating the issue for some time, the monks of the temple came up with the rather novel solution of simply covering Luang Pho Daeng’s eye sockets with a pair of Ray-Bans, which would not just mask the eye sockets, but also make him look rather stylish.

Luang Pho Daeng has rocked this look ever since. And as a result of both his startlingly well-preserved state and timeless fashion sense, his former body has become the temple’s most famous attraction.

Incidentally, one other interesting thing the study by the Bioanthropology Research Institute discovered in examining the body was that at some point a Gecko or Geckos managed to lay eggs in his eye sockets and skull, as well as in his mouth and throat…

Moving swiftly on, the monks of Wat Khunaram don’t mind visitors taking pictures or even recording videos of Luang Pho Daeng body (so long as they do so in a respectful manner) and the temple is free to the public, meaning images of this fashion conscious mummy are plentiful for those who can’t make the trip.

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

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  • MIGHTY TACTICAL

    The Air Force just got new tankers – and they’re already too late

    On Jan. 25, 2019, officials from Boeing and the Air Force gathered at Everett Field in Washington state to see off the first two KC-46 Pegasus tankers, celebrating with specially made cookies and classic rock.

    When the tankers landed at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas for delivery to the Air Force, it was the culmination of two decades of work, coming after two years of delays and more than $3 billion in penalties incurred by Boeing.


    It also came more than six months after Congress made an official suggestion about the Air Force’s next tanker.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Fire engines from the 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron fire department salute the first KC-46A Pegasus delivered McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, Jan. 25, 2019.

    (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Michaela Slanchik)

    In their markup of the 2019 defense budget in June 2018, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concern about growing threats to “large high-value aircraft in contested environments.”

    The Air Force’s tankers allow greater operational availability and range for fighters and bombers, but “these assets are manned and increasingly difficult to protect,” the committee said.

    “Given the increasingly challenging operating environments our potential adversaries are presenting, it is prudent to explore options for optionally unmanned and more survivable tankers that could operate autonomously as part of a large, dispersed logistics fleet that could sustain attrition in conflict,” the committee added.

    Committee members recommended an extra million in spending on Air Force research, development, testing, and evaluation — bumping the total to .4 million.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    A KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tanker connects with an F-15 Strike Eagle test aircraft, Oct. 29, 2018.

    (US Air Force photo by Master Sgt Michael Jackson)

    Those lawmakers are not the first to broach the adoption of unmanned tankers.

    Boeing is researching automation for its commercial aircraft, though that is partly an effort to address a protracted pilot shortage affecting commercial and military aviation. Russian aircraft maker Ilyushin is working on a similar project, aiming to develop an unmanned transport aircraft for use remote or difficult-to-reach areas.

    In 2016, the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command chief, who oversees tankers and other transport aircraft, said the service was looking ahead to advanced technology for the KC-Z — a tanker that could enter contested areas and refuel advanced aircraft.

    But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said this weekend that the service is no longer looking for at single platforms to address major challenges.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    A KC-46A crew member starts to unload cargo at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Sept. 17, 2018.

    (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Steven M. Adkins)

    “The days of buying individual platforms that we then described as game changers — those days are behind us,” Goldfein said when asked about potentially buying a stealth tanker to support fifth-generation fighters like the F-35, according to Aviation Week.

    “There actually are no silver bullets on the horizon,” he added.

    The Air Force chief has said the service should look to prepare for a networked battlefield, fielding assets that can connect and share with each other. He returned that theme this weekend, while flying to Andrews Air Force Base.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    A KC-46A crew member inspects the refueling boom at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Sept. 17, 2018.

    (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Steven M. Adkins)

    “I actually don’t know if the next version of tanker operates in the air or operates at low Earth orbit,” he said, according to Aviation Week. “I don’t know if it’s manned or unmanned, and I actually don’t care that much as long as it brings the attributes we need to win.”

    That new approach may see the head of Air Mobility Command working on the next tanker in coordination with the Air Force Space Command, which Goldfein said “makes perfect sense to me.”

    While the future of the Air Force’s tankers remains open-ended, the KC-46 — of which the Air Force expects at least 36 by the end of 2019 — still has definite goals to meet. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the service’s top civilian official, confirmed this month that the tanker’s wing refueling pods won’t be certified by the FAA until 2020.

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

    MIGHTY MOVIES

    6 reasons ‘The Long Road Home’ might be the most realistic military show ever

    This week, National Geographic will air the first episode of The Long Road Home. The miniseries is a scripted retelling of the beginning of the U.S. Army’s fight in the Siege of Sadr City of April 2004. What began with an uprising against the U.S. occupation forces in the Shia neighborhood of the capital led to a long protracted siege spanning years.


    The Long Road Home is the story of an ambushed Army escort convoy from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. It’s based on the true story of a platoon forced to hole up in a civilian home and await rescue. With eight American soldiers lost in the initial fighting in the Baghdad neighborhood, the battle came to be known as “Black Sunday.”

    Adapted from ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz’ book of the same name, the show meticulously created what might be the most accurate military story in film or television.

    1. The show’s military advisors were in Sadr City that day.

    Any military show or movie with an interest in authenticity is going to have veteran technical advisors on hand to tell the director when things are wrong. But in The Long Road Home, you can expect more than infantry badges and rank to be in the right place. You can expect the people and vehicles to be in Sadr City in the right places too.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    The actors and 2-5 Cav vets from The Long Road Home talked to We Are The Mighty about their experiences making the show. (National Geographic)

    Showrunner Mikko Alanne hired two veterans from Black Sunday – Eric Bourquin and Aaron Fowler – to be the show’s military advisors. If one of the actors needed to know how to wear a patrol cap, the two veterans could show him. But unlike most shows, if the director needed a minute-by-minute breakdown, he could ask the guys who were there.

    “Personally, I like it,” says Fowler. “Because I’m a retired Sergeant First Class, so I have the anal-retentive part down. I’ve got lots of notebooks, and I have access to all the guys. If one of the actors had a question, I could get my phone and hand them the person that did the action they had questions about.”

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    Jeremy Sisto as Sgt. Robert Miltenberger in The Long Road Home. (National Geographic)

    “Eric [Bourquin] was in the platoon that was pinned down on the roof and Aaron [Fowler] was among the rescuers,” says Alanne.

    “I’m very proud to be a part of what happened and how it’s been handled. I’ve struggled with having to open up, because having such a wide spotlight cast on a pretty intense part of my life,” says Bourquin. “I learned things I didn’t know transpired. Because the whole time, I was stuck on the roof for four hours. People were out there trying to come in, to get us, so I’d been exposed to a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of and that was healing too. This is honoring them. Now everybody’s gonna always know their story. With that being said, how could I not be involved?”

    2. Raddatz’ interviewed everyone close to the fighting.

    You don’t get to be the Chief Global Affairs Correspondent of a major network without being addicted to the facts. Martha Raddatz, who literally wrote the book on the events in Sadr City that day, was working for ABC News in Baghdad at the time when she heard about what happened. She ended up talking to everyone from 2-5 Cav that was still in country.

    “This story came to me,” she says. “I was covering politics and policy when a general told me about this battle. I had to go talk to these guys. We did pieces for ABC News, for Nightline… I was just so stricken by them. I come from a foreign affairs background and I see presidents make policy and then I went over and saw the effects of that policy.”

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    Raddatz is still covering military operations in the CENTCOM area as of 2016.

    She was introduced to the families through the soldiers who fought there that day.

    “It will be with me forever,” Raddatz says. “It felt like they could all be my neighbors. One day they’re all in minivans with their kids, and in three days they’re in the middle of a battle. These aren’t a bunch of action figures, these are real human beings.”

    3. Mike Medavoy is an executive producer.

    If the name of a film producer doesn’t excite you, that’s fine. An executive producer’s name likely doesn’t carry a lot of weight with most of America.

    In the case of The Long Road Home, however, the addition of Medavoy puts the miniseries in the hands of a guy who helped make the legendary war movies Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and The Thin Red Line (not to mention non-military films Rocky, Raging Bull, and Terminator 2).

    4. The Long Road Home’s depiction of Army families is heartfelt and real.

    When the cast arrived at Fort Hood and met the families of 2-5 Cav, they got just a taste of what living in a military family is like.

    “I took away an incredible sense of community,” says actress Katie Paxton, who plays Amber Aguero, wife to Lt. Shane Aguero. “You felt that community from the soldiers. When you’re in war covering your sector, you’re covering the guy to your left. You’re covering the guy to your right. And those guys are your family. I never really understood that until I talked to soldiers.”

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    A still from the opening episode of The Long Road Home. (National Geographic)

    “I grew up in the city as a city kid, and this totally dispelled all of my ideas of what the soldier was actually like,” says actor Ian Quinlan, who plays Spc. Robert Arsiaga. “There was a very significant through line between these soldiers – a lot of these guys joined after 9/11. It blew me away because as a New Yorker I didn’t know anyone in my immediate vicinity in New York who would ever think of that.”

    “Hearing their stories, you just feel the goosebumps,” says Karina Ortiz, who plays one of the Gold Star Wives. “The soldiers leave and everything is fine at first, but then people start hearing things. Rumors. The waiting. The not knowing. I would get teary-eyed and just feel their pain. Or I’d feel their fear.”

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    Jason Ritter portrays Capt. Troy Denomy with Kate Bosworth as Gina Denomy on the set of The Long Road Home at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo: National Geographic/Van Redin)

    The experience of recreating the events of April 2004 even had an effect on its veterans.

    “One of the Gold Star Wives came up to me after the Fort Hood premiere and told me thank you,” Eric Bourquin says. “I don’t know why. Her husband died trying to come rescue us guys that were stuck on the roof. But the more I thought about it I realized everyone watching is going to see what the families and everyone involved goes through when shit happens.”

    5. The showrunner’s background is in documentary.

    “I was very cognizant from the beginning that real life people were going to be watching this,” says Mikko Alanne. “It was my hope that we would be able to use everyone’s real name, and so Martha and I worked very closely on reaching out to all the families.”

    The two were very successful. The show originally premiered in Fort Hood’s Abrams Gym. After the show’s Los Angeles premiere, the veterans and Gold Star Families took the stage with their TV counterparts, to a standing ovation from an elite Hollywood audience. But the realism didn’t stop with cooperation.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    A still from The Long Road Home. Sadr City was meticulously recreated on Fort Hood for these scenes. (National Geographic)

    “So many of the families sent us their photographs, actual photographs used as props, or photographs of their homes for us to recreate,” Alanne says. “And it was very important to me the cast reached out to their real-life counterparts. Bonds were formed between the actors and the real life families, and everyone became infused with the same mission that Martha really started; that these families and these experiences would not be lost to history.”

    6. The Fort Hood scenes are really Fort Hood.

    When you see Fort Hood, Tex. depicted on screen, you can be sure that’s what Fort Hood really looks like. The show was shot entirely at Fort Hood. The cast even lived in base housing. More important than that, however, is the exact recreation of Sadr City built on Fort Hood that took the veterans on the base back to April 2004.

    “The smell was the only thing that wasn’t exactly recreated,” says Fowler. “We veterans and Gold Star Families got to walk back to the streets of Sadr City that we would never get to go. It was an incredibly healing experience. Exposure therapy plain and simple.”

    Eric Bourquin agrees.

    “Being able to travel back to your battlespace without fear of being captured and ending up in a YouTube video is a gift that can’t be put into words,” he says. “Just like the guys that go back and visit France, or Korea, or Vietnam — it’s become a reality.”

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    A candid from behind the scenes of The Long Road Home on Fort Hood. (National Geographic)

    The Long Road Home starts Tuesday Nov. 7 at 9pm on National Geographic.

    MIGHTY TACTICAL

    Army boosts soldier battery power for greater lethality

    Army Futures Command, or AFC, is helping to increase soldier lethality and survivability through the research and development of lighter batteries with more power and extended runtimes.

    As the Army modernizes the current force and prepares for multi-domain operations, the quantity and capabilities of soldier-wearable technologies are expected to increase significantly, as will the need for power and energy sources to operate them.

    Engineers and scientists at AFC’s subordinate command — the Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC — are making investments to ensure future power and energy needs are met by exploring improvements in silicon anode technologies to support lightweight battery prototype development.


    “This chemistry translates to double the performance and duration of currently fielded batteries for dismounted soldiers,” said Christopher Hurley, a lead electronics engineer in the Command, Power and Integration Directorate, or CPID, of CCDC’s center for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance — or C5ISR.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

    (Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

    “The capabilities of these materials have been proven at the cell level to substantially increase energy capacity. We’re aiming to integrate those cells into smaller, lighter power sources for soldiers,” Hurley said. “Our goal is to make soldiers more agile and lethal while increasing their survivability.”

    Soldiers currently carry an average of 20.8 pounds of batteries for a 72-hour mission. With the Army focused on modernization and the need to add new capabilities that require greater power, the battery weight will continue to increase and have a detrimental effect on soldiers’ performance during missions, Hurley said.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

    (Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

    “The C5ISR Center is helping the Army get ahead of this problem by working on advanced materials like silicon anode,” said Hurley, who noted that incorporating silicon-based anodes into Army batteries will cut their battery weight in half.

    The C5ISR Center is incorporating component-level RD of advanced battery technologies into the Army’s Conformal Wearable Battery, or CWB, which is a thin, flexible, lightweight battery that can be worn on a soldier’s vest to power electronics. Early prototypes of the updated silicon anode CWB delivered the same amount of energy with a 29 percent reduction in volume and weight.

    The military partners with the commercial power sector to ensure manufacturers can design and produce batteries that meet Warfighters’ future needs. However, the needs of civilian consumers and Warfighters are different, said Dr. Ashley Ruth, a CPID chemical engineer.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

    (Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

    The Army cannot rely on the commercial sector alone to meet its power demands because of soldiers’ requirements, such as the need to operate at extreme temperatures and withstand the rigors of combat conditions. For this reason, the electrochemical composition in battery components required for the military and consumer sector is different.

    “An increase in silicon content can greatly help achieve the high energy needs of the soldier; however, a great deal of research is required to ensure a suitable product. These changes often require entirely new materials development, manufacturing processes and raw materials supply chains,” Ruth said.

    “Follow-on improvements at the component level have improved capacity by two-fold. Soldiers want a CWB that will meet the added power consumption needs of the Army’s future advanced electronics.”

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

    (Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

    As the Army’s primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the C5ISR Center is maturing and applying the technologies to support the power needs of the Army’s modernization priorities and to inform requirements for future networked Soldiers. This includes leading the development of the Power and Battery Integrated Requirements Strategy across AFC, said Beth Ferry, CPI’s Power Division chief.

    As one of the command’s highest priorities, this strategy will heavily emphasize power requirements, specifications and standards that will showcase the importance of power and energy across the modernization priorities and look to leverage cross-center efforts to work on common high-priority gaps.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

    (Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

    Power Division researchers are integrating the silicon anode CWB with the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, a high-priority augmented reality system with next-generation capabilities for solider planning and training. Because IVAS is a dismounted soldier system that will require large amounts of power, the Army is in need of an improved power solution.

    To gain soldiers’ feedback on varying designs, the C5ISR Center team plans to take 200 silicon anode CWB prototypes to IVAS Soldier Touchpoint 3 Exercise in July 2020. This will be the first operational demonstration to showcase the silicon anode CWB.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

    (Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

    The C5ISR Center is finalizing a cell-level design this year, safety testing this summer, and packaging and battery-level testing taking place from fall 2019 to spring 2020. Advances in chemistry research can be applied to all types of Army batteries, including the BB-2590, which is currently used in more than 80 pieces of Army equipment.

    “A two-fold increase in capacity and runtime is achievable as a drop-in solution,” Ruth said. “Because of the widespread use of rechargeable batteries, silicon anode technology will become a significant power improvement for the Army.”

    This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    This is why the BCGs aren’t really all that bad

    The old saying, “women love a man in uniform” comes with a long list of exceptions. For example, the expression does not apply to service members wearing a pair of S9 GI glasses — more commonly known as “birth control glasses,” or BCGs. Even the updated 5A GI glasses are only just a slight improvement in style over their infamous predecessor.

    The distaste held by many troops wearing them isn’t without merit. You’re asking big, badass troops to don a pair of prescription glasses that immediately makes them look like the biggest dorks on the face of the planet. But if you can get over the fact that you’re often going to be mistaken for the commo guy, you’ll see there’s a very valid reason why the military has issued them out for all these years.

    And it’s related to one of their other nicknames: up-armored glasses.


    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    This soldier’s look has been appropriated by hipster douchebags who raise hell if their organic kale smoothie wasn’t free-range.

    (Tennessee State Library and Archives)

    The very first version of GI glasses were issued out back in WWII. The P3 lenses they used were originally meant to be inserts for gas masks — but your average, visually impaired troop needed to see clearly, so the military started issuing out their own version of prescription glasses.

    After the war, they switched the frames from a nickel alloy to cellulose acetate. Recipients could choose between gray and black frames. The glasses weren’t too out of the ordinary style-wise and they served a dual purpose of acting as thicker-than-average eye protection while improving a troop’s sight.

    For the time, the glasses were aligned with fashion trends and, frankly, style wasn’t much of a concern — they were free, they worked, and they were definitely within military regulations. It was just a bonus that they didn’t look too bad, either.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    They can do anything but help you talk to the ladies.

    (Photo by Sam Giltner)

    Then, the late 70s rolled around and the military went all in on the S9 GI glasses. The frames were bulky and only available in “librarian brown” cellulose acetate. Around this time, soft corrective contact lenses became more prevalent, but military regulation forbid contacts, so if you had a visual impairment, you were forced to look like a dork.

    The restriction on contacts isn’t without merit. As anyone who’s ever worn contacts can tell you, they’re a pain in the ass to maintain everyday and almost impossible to keep up with in a military environment. A single speck of dirt can potentially irritate your eye and take you out of the fight. The S9s on the other hand, were intended to withstand the austere environments troops deploy to and the lenses and frame are durable.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    All of the jokes we throw at each other for looking dorky as hell will soon be a thing of the past. Now we’ll need some other trait to poke fun at…

    (Photo by Melissa K. Buckley, Ft. Leonard Wood)

    The military has adapted to societal trends over the years to keep troops seeing properly and protecting their eyes. Wearing BCGs is a regulation that’s really only enforced during recruit training or Officer Candidate School. After the bespectacled troop gets to their first unit, they can swap them out for a pair of civilian, prescription glasses — so long as they don’t have any brand logos on the sides.

    The modern version of the GI Glasses — the Model 5A — were released in 2012 to replace the awkward S9s. They offer the same protection, are still free, and they come in a variety of style options from which the troop can choose.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    How to lose a leg, pass a PT test, and stay in the Air Force

    Senior Master Sgt. David Snyder put on his physical training uniform and fought the tension inside his chest. It was the day of his annual PT test. Like all his tests before, he had been preparing for months. But this time, he was a lot more nervous.

    He bent down and tied his single black shoe, mentally preparing himself to push himself harder than he ever had before.

    He drove himself to the site. He did as many push-ups and sit-ups as he could in 60 seconds, he ran a mile and a half, and he got his waist measured. In the end, he easily passed the test with a score of 84.4 – with a prosthetic where one of his legs used to be.

    Five months prior, Snyder had lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident.


    A Story of Recovery: SMSgt David Snyder

    www.youtube.com

    “It’s a series of unfortunate events that led to it,” he said, recalling a change to his planned route. “I have an Apple iPhone, and of course it want[ed] to save me 7 minutes.”

    Riding his sleek black Harley Davidson on an empty back road in Alabama, Snyder was heading back from a weekend trip to Florida with his uncle. The California native was on his way to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama where he was attending Senior NCO Academy.

    He said the morning ride was going well as they passed a lake.

    “I have cruise control set on 55,” said Snyder, currently the Air Combat Command command propulsion program manager on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. “I’m doing everything right, and here comes this silver Malibu.”

    The oncoming car quickly caught his attention and he became defensive.

    “I saw his wheel start to point out, and I knew it was too late,” he said. “I tried as smoothly as possible to veer around him. I get all the way to the edge, as far as I can, and he catches me.”

    Snyder had his legs propped on the crash pegs, a cylindrical spoke that normally extends four to five inches to protect the bike from falling over. The car caught the peg and drove it into the bike. The bike tipped sideways, but didn’t go down. Shaken but steady, Snyder kept going until he found a house about a 100 yards down the road and pulled over.

    Finally off the road, he assessed the damage.
    “[I] looked down and my foot was facing the wrong way,” he said. “I could see a huge bulge in my sock.”

    Snyder asked his uncle to help him off of his bike. He looked down and noticed blood was pooling next to him as he sat in a stranger’s driveway.

    Remembering his emergency response training, he quickly took action.

    “I’m looking at my leg and I think a tourniquet is my only option,” he said. “I don’t know when anyone is going to get here. So I take my shirt off and I start making a tourniquet.”

    It took about 30 minutes for first responders to arrive. After they saw the severity of his injuries, they air evacuated Snyder to Baptist Medical Center South Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama, where they did an external fix on his leg. They told Snyder he had a Pilon fracture, which meant that his tibia and fibula had exploded on impact.

    “There were pieces missing, probably out on the Alabama highway somewhere,” he recalled.
    “Bones were turned and facing the wrong way. [The surgeons] took everything in there and ground it all up, put it back in there and hoped it took. They gave me four plates and about 20 screws that day.”

    After working on his leg, doctors laid out his recovery options. They could opt for limb salvage or amputation. Snyder pursued one round of limb salvage, but said he didn’t put much hope into it after hearing about failed recoveries that ended in amputation.

    At the first checkup three months after surgery, the hardware in his leg looked good and the prognosis on his leg was promising. However, things started to turn at the six month mark. The hardware started collapsing and everything shifting down in his leg. Things weren’t improving and amputation started to seem like the right choice for Snyder and his family.

    “I was just ready to get on with the next step,” said Melissa Snyder, David’s wife and high school sweetheart. “He wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do. He could deal with the pain, but he didn’t like not being able to live his life.”

    Snyder and Melissa both decided that amputation was the best option and set a date for May 8, 2018. “Before going into it, I told my wife I didn’t know how long it would take for me to look [at my foot],” he said. “I was like [screw] it. I pull the sheet back and I’m like, ‘Yup, it’s gone.'”

    In the aftermath of his events, Snyder’s character was given a true chance to shine.

    “From the get go, he had a very positive attitude,” Melissa said. “We have always kind of lived that way. In the end it is going to work out somehow.”

    After the surgery, Snyder spent five months at Walter Reed National Military Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for physical rehabilitation, under Air Force District of Washington’s Airman Medical Transition Unit.

    Snyder decided how he wanted to handle those five months right from the gurney, when he first needed to use the bathroom.

    “It starts now,” he said. “Can I get up? Yeah, I can get up if I want. I got up, and took a walker to the bathroom.”

    He spent the next five months pushing the limits in his recovery, so that he could make it back home sooner.

    Snyder worked out almost every day, doing varying exercises to improve mobility and muscle control in his leg. He would run on the track at Walter Reed, swim, and bike along with other basic function exercises.

    After all the hard work – and with the PT test in the rearview mirror — Snyder said he is thankful he can still serve in the Air Force. He said he knows active-duty service members with amputations have barriers while serving. His goal is to break through those barriers and continue to grow.

    “I want to prove that I’m better,” he said. “I don’t care how severe my injury is, I want to be worldwide qualified as soon as I possibly can. It’s my job. I signed up for it.”

    popular

    6 top secret bases that changed history

    Secrets are hard to keep, and secrets that require a lot of real estate are even harder to keep. Here are six examples of large-scale efforts that managed to maintain the utmost secrecy and wound up changing the course of history as a result:


    1. The entire city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    Photo: US Army Ed Westcott

    Oak Ridge, Tennessee is now a mostly normal city that houses about 30,000 people, but it was originally established to create the nuclear bomb.

    Army engineers tasked with building the infrastructure for the Manhattan Project chose the site of modern Oak Ridge and secretly created a top-secret facility with a peak population of 75,000 people. Oak Ridge was where the bulk of the nuclear material for the bombs was created.

    In 1949, the site was opened to the general public and it was incorporated as a city in 1959.

    2. The Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    Photo: US Navy Greg Senff

    Most people know Bikini Atoll, the site of many U.S. nuclear tests and the inspiration for the bikini. But Bikini Atoll was supported and largely ran by U.S. military forces at Kwajalein Atoll.

    U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll still exists and sensitive operations are still conducted there, mostly missile testing and target practice.

    3. Tonopah

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    F-117 Stealth Fighter (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

    Tonopah was a secret even among military aviators in the 1970s. Those in the know were sent to practice dogfighting against captured Soviet jets near Tonopah, Nevada.

    But Tonopah had a different secret that would change military aviation. Stealth aviation was developed there and the F-117 flew many of it’s test flights from Tonopah.

    READ MORE: The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program

    4. Area 51

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    Photo: CIA.gov

    If you don’t know what the cultural significance of Area 51 is, then stop lying because you definitely know what Area 51 is. The rumors around the test site spurned its own sub genre of entertainment with big movies like “Independence Day” and video games like “Area 51.”

    Area 51’s military significance is that it was a testing ground for the U-2 and the SR-71 predecessor, the A-12 Oxcart. Officially, the site is named the Nevada Test and Training Range at Groom Lake.

    5. Wendover Army Air Base

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    Photo: Wendover Air Force Base History Office

    Wendover Army Air Base was a tiny establishment when it was activated in 1942, serving primarily as a school for aviators headed to Europe.

    But by 1944 a shroud of secrecy descended over the remote base with FBI agents and military police monitoring conversations and limiting movements of base personnel and their families. That’s because the base was being used to train the men who were hand-selected to drop the atomic bombs on Japan.

    6. Muroc Army Air Base/Edwards Air Force Base

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai
    Photo: US Air Force

    Muroc Army Air Base started as a bombing and gunnery range in the 1930s but became a proper base and school for pilots during World War II. A few years after the war, its name was changed to Edwards.

    Top secret projects began at Muroc in 1942 when the Army Air Force’s first jet, the Bell P-59 Airacomet, was tested there. It also served as an early testing site for the B-29s modified to drop nuclear weapons on Japan, was the base Chuck Yeager flew from when he first broke the sound barrier, and assisted in the testing of the space shuttle.

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

    The Marines will be the first to tell you they have “fought in every clime and place” from the “halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” The history of the Corps is steeped in legendary heroism and ferocious battles. From Chapultepec to Belleau Wood to Fallujah, the Marines have made a name for themselves throughout our country’s history.

    But there is one battle that stands out.

    Iwo Jima.


    Ask any Marine about Iwo Jima, and you will see instant reverence in their eyes. “Uncommon valor was a common virtue” was the phrase used to describe the spirit of the men that fought that battle.

    The landing on Iwo Jima took place 75 years ago today. Located about 750 miles from mainland Japan, Iwo Jima was a volcanic rock that both sides viewed as an important objective of the American’s island-hopping campaign. For the Americans, the airfields there meant both easier and shorter routes to mainland Japan as well as helping clear the air of fighters that would intercept such bombers.

    The Japanese simply knew that the capture of Iwo put the Americans one step closer to their homeland.

    What followed next was one of the most ferocious battles man has ever waged.

    Much has been written about the battle and its effect on history. Here are some of the more interesting things about the battle of Iwo Jima.

    Iwo Jima was first discovered by Spanish explorers. 

    In 1543, a ship located the island and landed to explore the newly found land. They gave it the name “Sulphur Island.” When translated roughly to Japanese, it was called Io To, or Iwo Jima. The Japanese didn’t arrive at the island until the end of the 16th century.

    The Japanese knew they were going to lose the battle. 

    As historians poured over Japanese war records after the war was over, they found that the Japanese knew the battle was a sure loss. The Japanese Imperial Navy was all but vanquished in the Pacific. The Japanese Air Force was almost obliterated as well. The Japanese had lost quite a few planes and had to keep as many as close to their mainland as possible. Even worse than the lack of planes was a shortage of pilots. The Americans would send experienced pilots back home to train more pilots. The Japanese didn’t do that. They kept their experienced pilots out, and as they suffered heavy losses, there was a shortfall in experience and numbers.

    As a result, the Japanese changed the strategy of the defense of the island to be one of attrition. They figured the Americans would win. They just wanted to make them pay dearly for it. Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister of Japan, summoned Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi to his office and told him to defend Iwo Jima to the last man as a means to buy time. Kuribayashi, who came from a Samurai family, accepted the mission and set off for the island to set up a unique defense that the Americans had not seen yet.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    The Japanese wanted to dissuade the Americans from attacking the mainland.

    Kuribayashi changed the way the island would be defended. Instead of fighting the Americans on the beaches, he would allow them to land uncontested on the island. He knew the black volcanic sand, which had dunes up to 15 feet tall, could bog down the Americans, so he figured to let them all on before opening fire. He had the beach zeroed in by artillery and mortars to the last inch. On the island’s interior, he set up defensive positions in a new way. The fortifications and tunnels allowed the Japanese soldiers to retake positions that had already been overrun. On an island that was just eight square miles, there were over 11 miles of tunnels the Japanese could use.

    The intended effect was to inflict as much damage as possible to the American forces. By dragging out this conflict and inflicting casualties, the Japanese hoped that the carnage would dissuade the U.S. from attacking the Japanese mainland.

    The US thought the battle would last only a week.

    It’s not that the Americans thought less of the Japanese. It was at this point they thought they knew what they were going to do. After victories through the South Pacific from Guadalcanal to the Philippines, the U.S. military thought they had a winning plan. Start with a devastating naval bombardment, get the men on the beach, provide them with close air support, and take the airfields quickly. They did that but realized way too soon that the naval bombardment didn’t do much damage, the Japanese actually wanted the Americans to land, and that they had to fight for every square inch of the island. The initial weeklong projection turned out to be five weeks of some of the worst fighting the Americans had seen to that point.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    The beach was hell on earth.

    After taking the naval and air bombardment, the Japanese allowed the Marines to congregate on the beach. Many thought that the Japanese were killed in the immense bombardment, but unfortunately, they were wrong. Kuribayashi told his troops to wait one hour before opening fire. When the Marines were massed on the beach and started to move forward slowly through the volcanic ash, they were shocked to learn the hard way that the Japanese had every inch of the beach sighted in and had to race off the beach while under intense artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire.

    One account from the beach …

    Within a minute a mortar shell exploded among the group … his left foot and ankle hung from his leg, held on by a ribbon of flesh … Within minutes a second round landed near him and fragments tore into his other leg. For nearly an hour he wondered where the next shell would land. He was soon to find out as a shell burst almost on top of him, wounding him for the third time in the shoulder. Almost at once another explosion bounced him several feet into the air and hot shards ripped into both thighs … as he lifted his arm to look at his watch a mortar shell exploded only feet away and blasted the watch from his wrist and tore a large jagged hole in his forearm: “I was beginning to know what it must be like to be crucified,” he was later to say.

    By the end of the first day, over 30,000 Marines had landed, and the island was cut into two. However, upon seeing the initial casualty lists from the day’s carnage, General Howlin’ Mad Smith remarked, “I don’t know who he is, but the Japanese general running this show is one smart bastard.”

    For the only time in the war, the Marines had more casualties than the Japanese.

    The Marines went into Iwo Jima with a 3:1 advantage in terms of troops. At the end of the five-week battle, they would have 26,000 casualties versus 18,000 for the Japanese. One of the men killed on the beach was Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone. Basilone was a hero on Guadalcanal who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions there. As the intense bombardment came down, Basilone was last seen yelling for men to move off the beach. He was among the many killed that day. By the end of the battle, many more would die. While the Marines had more casualties than the Japanese, they had about one third less killed. Of the 18,000 Japanese soldiers who fought on the island, only 221 were captured. Most of the captured were either knocked unconscious or incapacitated.

    There were few banzai charges so the Americans improvised.

    The Americans factored in banzai or human wave attacks when they did their initial estimate of the length of the battle. In fact, the Japanese general prohibited such attacks as he knew that they didn’t work. He wanted his men to fight to the death, but he wanted to take as many Americans out as they could.

    The Americans wouldn’t deal with that. Realizing quickly that firearms and close air support weren’t cutting it, the Marines adapted on the fly as they have throughout their history. They started using flamethrowers, (badass men as well as on modified tanks) to eradicate the Japanese. Once they realized the tunnel system allowed the enemy to reoccupy positions that had been overtaken, they just started flame-throwing everything that they saw… over and over again.

    It worked. The Japanese tunnel system ended up becoming the graves of countless Japanese soldiers. Only toward the end, when food and supplies were low, did Kuribayashi allow banzai charges so his men would die “with honor.”

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Americans at home thought the battle was over fast.

    The iconic photo by Joe Rosenthal, which showed Marines hoisting the flag on Mt. Suribachi, was the American people’s first view of the battle. It was taken on February 23, four days after the initial assault. The picture was released by the AP two days later, where it was published by virtually every newspaper in the free world. In an age, before social media, television, and satellite feeds, many assumed the battle was over based on the picture. It wasn’t.

    As the battle raged on and the casualties mounted, Americans at home wondered why so many boys had to die for a small piece of rock.

    How important was Iwo Jima and the effect of the battle?

    Even before the battle’s conclusion, the U.S. military started using the airfields on Iwo Jima for bombing runs on Japan. Planes that were damaged during their runs now had a shorter trip to base, so they had a better chance of surviving. Fighters could now use the base to refuel, and accompany their bombers to Japan. However, people wondered if the same things could have happened had the Americans attacked elsewhere. The Americans also found out that the radar used by the Japanese on Iwo was not really beneficial as the Japanese already had other radar installations that did the same job. The battle’s need was a contentious matter as early as the end of hostilities on Iwo Jima.

    One effect the battle did have was on the end of the war. After Iwo Jima, another horrible battle took place on Okinawa. By this point, the Japanese realized that Kuribayashi’s strategy worked. They could inflict major losses on the Americans and turn public opinion against the war. The Americans learned too and proceeded to unleash longer more devastating bombardments on Okinawa in the lead-up and more aggressive use of flamethrowers and incendiary devices on Japanese soldiers and civilians caught in the crossfire, to horrific results.

    When the final obstacle to the Japanese mainland fell, Americans looked at other ways to end the war and avoid the bloodbath that Iwo Jima and Okinawa wrought.

    They found it in recently developed atomic weapons.

    Uncommon valor was a common virtue.

    Regardless of if Iwo Jima was strategically worth it, the Marines still viewed the battle as a badge of honor. They were not part of the planning or strategy but were told to take the island. They did.

    They asked for a 10-day bombardment and got three. They adapted to a terrible situation and came out ahead. They looked death in the face and, as Marines usually do, didn’t even get fazed.

    Eighty-two Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines during World War II. Twenty-two of them (28%) were earned on Iwo Jima alone. There is only one awardee alive today, Woody Williams, who earned the medal for using his flamethrower to wipe out numerous enemy emplacements.

    On this 75th anniversary, to those who fought in that terrible battle and to the families left behind, We Are the Mighty salutes you.

    Semper Fidelis

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    This is the US military dog that helped take down ISIS leader

    President Donald Trump on Oct. 28, 2019, released a picture of the “wonderful dog” he said took part in the raid against Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.

    “We have declassified a picture of the wonderful dog (name not declassified) that did such a GREAT JOB in capturing and killing the Leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” Trump said in the pinned tweet with the photograph of the dog.


    Military officials did not comment on the dog’s actions during the raid, but Trump gave some insight on its mission during a press conference on Oct. 27, 2019. He said US forces found al-Baghdadi in Syria, where he fled into a tunnel with three children and was pursued by at least one military dog. He had an explosive vest, which Trump said he activated, killing himself and the children.

    “He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down,” Trump said. “He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children.”

    Trump added that the dog received minor injuries in the raid. Pentagon officials on Oct. 27, 2019, said the dog returned to duty after the raid, but they declined to give further details.

    Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the dog was still in a combat zone and that he would not comment on its name.

    News of the dog’s role in the raid prompted speculation over its name and breed. Several military officials said the dog’s name was “Conan,” according to the Newsweek reporter James LaPorta. The dog is reportedly named after comedian Conan O’Brien.

    US officials also told ABC News that it was a Belgian Malinois, the same breed that took part in the operation against the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.

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

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    Why the commander of the Army’s Balloon Corps was just as crazy as you’d expect

    Military history is chock-full of concepts that, at one point, needed to be made, seemed good on paper, were eventually implemented, but, somehow, never really became a thing. In retrospect, it’s easy to point fingers at the short-lived Balloon Corps fielded by the Union Army during the American Civil War and say it was silly.

    At the time, however, it served a valuable niche. There was a definite need for air superiority, and using hot air balloons to get a height advantage gave Northern scouts an edge. The Balloon Corps actually played a valuable role in yielding Union success at Antietam, Yorktown, and the various battles along the Potomac River.

    The balloons themselves weren’t bizarre. The Chief Aeronaut and Commander of the Union Army Balloon Corps, Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, on the other hand… was basically a cartoon mad scientist who somehow wound up in the service of the Union Army.


    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    He didn’t invent balloon travel. He just gave it a lot of style.

    (National Archives)

    A few things to note about Professor Lowe first: He wasn’t ever actually an officer in the U.S. Army. He held the position and received the pay of a Colonel (payment that he received in the form of ‘s worth of gold per day — about half of what a colonel made then), but he was one of the very few civilians to lead troops.

    Lowe, technically, wasn’t an actual professor, either. In fact, he never even got past the fourth grade. He used the title during his charlatan days. He simply liked how it sounded on a traveling magician he knew growing up, so he adopted it, too.

    What he lacked in the actual pedigree, however, he made up for with knowledge. He was, by all accounts, a self-taught man. He picked up medicine to please his grandmother’s wishes, laid the groundwork in most meteorological studies we still use today, and held 40 various patents. His was notable work was in pioneering balloon travel.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    I mean, I’m no aeronaut but I’m pretty sure you’d learn you’re flying into the south when you start hearing the banjos down below.

    Lowe first tinkered with hot air balloons in hopes of eventually making a transatlantic voyage. The Smithsonian Institute became aware of his plans and even vouched for his research (referring to him as “Professor Lowe,” giving a degree of authenticity to his self-appointed title).

    His first test flight from Pennsylvania to New Jersey aboard the Great Western ended when high winds ripped apart the aircraft. His second test in the smaller Enterprise went more successfully, but still went horribly wrong. The original plan was to fly from Cincinnati to Washington D.C., but high winds again flung him down south. His balloon landed in Unionville, South Carolina.

    This second test happened just days after the Battle of Fort Sumter; the Civil War was now in full swing. Lowe was detained and arrested by Confederate troops who believed he was a spy for the North. They saw his balloon as a reconnaissance tool and saw him as a strategic threat. He reasoned with the Southerners, explaining that he was only a man of science in a failed experiment. Though true at the time, this sparked an idea in Lowe to actually use his balloons just as the Confederates had feared.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    They were even known to have been given fire bombs to lob down below if they drifted too far from their allies. Because why not?

    (National Archives)

    Professor Lowe equipped his balloons with telegraph sets and wire that ran down to the ground. He tested it above the White House for President Lincoln and sent the first ever aerial message to him. This impressed the President enough to give Lowe his first shot at military ballooning at the First Battle of Bull Run. It went, in a word, terribly.

    His balloon landed behind enemy lines and he was quickly captured. As if this story weren’t yet goofy enough, his wife and mother of his ten children, Leontine Lowe, got word of his capture. So, she did what any loving wife would do, she dressed up as an old hag and hid him and his gear in a pile of sheets, like a cartoon prison break.

    Professor Lowe managed to gather some valuable information before his capture and gave it back to Washington. For his work, he was given command over the Balloon Corps. Despite his early failures, his and his men’s work provided the Union with valuable information from their eyes-in-the-sky. From high above the mountains, they could telegraph down troop movements and exact locations near instantaneously.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    The moral of the story? Stay weird, my friends. Stay weird.

    (Library of Congress)

    Lowe’s military career was ended abruptly when he contracted malaria near the end of the war. His replacement, Captain Comstock, just didn’t understand the true insanity that was required to fly a giant hot air balloon into battle and, without a fearless leader, the Balloon Corps came to a close.

    It took years for Lowe to recover, but he eventually moved out to California. There, he messed around with using hydrogen gas to cool things inside of an enclosed space. This was, essentially, the prototype of the more efficient refrigerator and compact ice machines we use today. He’d outfit several steamboats with these devices and transport fresh beef into cities without using preservative salts.

    He was also the first to summit what is now known as Mt. Lowe, a relatively easy to hike mountain overlooking Pasadena, California, and earned naming rights to the mountain because, apparently, no one had ever bothered to try before.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Trump warns Iran of ‘heavy price’ if U.S. attacked in Iraq

    President Donald Trump has warned Iran of a “heavy price” if it or its allies in Iraq attack U.S. troops or assets in Iraq.

    “Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq,” Trump tweeted on April 1.


    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    “If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” he added.

    It was not immediately clear if Trump meant the United States actually has intelligence of such a plan.

    Over the past year, the United States has accused Iranian-backed militias of attacks on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition forces and on foreign embassies, particularly the U.S. mission.

    Hours before Trump’s tweet, a top military aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cautioned the United States of consequences of “provocative actions” in Iraq.

    “Any U.S. action will mark an even larger strategic failure in the current president’s record,” General Yahya Rahim Safavi said, according to the semiofficial news agency Tasnim.

    On March 11, a rocket attack on an Iraqi base killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier, heightening tensions in the region.

    No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which was followed by deadly U.S. air strikes on the pro-Iranian Kataib Hezbollah militia group.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Tehran warned Trump against taking “dangerous actions.”

    In December, Washington blamed Kataib Hezbollah for a strike that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.

    In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic-missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

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

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Navy ship trains to rescue astronauts at sea

    San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) is underway to conduct Underway Recovery Test (URT) 7 in conjunction with NASA off the coast of Southern California.

    URT is part of a U.S. government interagency effort to safely practice and evaluate recovery processes, procedures, hardware, and personnel in an open ocean environment that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft upon its return to Earth.


    This will be the first time John P. Murtha will conduct a URT mission with NASA. Throughout the history of the program, a variety of San Antonio-class LPD ships have been utilized to train and prepare NASA and the Navy, utilizing a Boiler Plate Test Article (BTA). The BTA is a mock capsule, designed to roughly the same size, shape, and center of gravity as the Crew Module which will be used for Orion.

    NASA and Navy teams have taken lessons learned from previous recovery tests to improve operations and ensure the ability to safely and successfully recover the Orion capsule when it returns to Earth following Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in December 2019.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS John P. Murtha arrives to its new homeport Naval Base San Diego.

    (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Lucas T. Hans)

    EM-1 will be an uncrewed flight, whose successful completion hopes to pave the way for future crewed missions and enable future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

    During URT-7, John P. Murtha will conduct restricted maneuvering operations. Small boats carrying Navy and NASA divers will deploy alongside the BTA to rig tending lines, guiding the capsule to Anchorage as the ship safely operates on station.

    Conducting both daytime and nighttime recovery operations, NASA crew members will work alongside the Navy to manage how the capsule is brought in, set down and safely stored.

    NASA plans to conduct two more URT missions before EM-1 takes place.

    John P. Murtha is homeported in San Diego and is part of Naval Surface Forces and U.S. 3rd Fleet.

    Commander, U.S. Third Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. They coordinate with Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet to plan and execute missions based on their complementary strengths to promote ongoing peace, security, and stability.

    This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    These ‘pet therapy’ pics will make you wish you were overseas

    Petting man’s best friend brings instant joy to most people. Especially those serving overseas, thousands of miles away from their loved ones.

    American Red Cross dog teams navigated the corridors of Freeman Hall to help 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division soldiers unwind during their busy day, March 28, 2019.

    “The unexpected dog visit helped me feel less homesick,” said Capt. Catherine Felder, Strongsville, Ohio native, engineer officer, 2ID/RUCD. “I’m serving an unaccompanied tour and have pets back home in the states, so it was definitely refreshing to pet the dogs.”


    There are currently 11 dog teams at Camp Humphreys who bring love and comfort to Warriors.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Makai (front), a three-year-old Portuguese water dog; Kelly Doyle (left), Leavenworth, Kansas native and handler of service dog, Beau, a four-year-old Boxer; and Laura Wilson (right), Fort Polk, Louisiana native, handler of Avery May, a two-year-old English Springer, all American Red Cross dog teams, navigate the hallways of Freeman Hall to bring joy and comfort to soldiers during the workday, March 28, 2019.

    (Photo by Chin-U Pak)

    “The intent of the dog visits is to boost morale, mental health, and relaxation at the workplace, hospitals, wellness center, all around post,” said Michelle Gilbert, Portland, Oregon native, animal visitation program lead, Camp Humphreys American Red Cross. “Having dogs around is so relaxing that we are also involved in a weekly program at the library called ‘Read to a Dog,’ where every Saturday between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. children find it easier, and less stressful to practice reading to dogs.”

    Any dog that’s older than one-year-old and passes a behavior test is eligible to serve on a Red Cross dog team.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Maj. Alicia King, Liberty, Mississippi native, military intelligence officer, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division, hugs Selah V., a two-year-old Hungarian Vizsla and member of the Camp Humphreys American Red Cross dog team at Freeman Hall, March 28, 2019.

    (Photo by Chin-U Pak)

    “In order to be a member of a dog team, the handler needs to possess an AKC (American Kennel Club) canine good citizen certificate for your dog, which serves as a baseline for behavior, and then we assess your dog to see what type of events your dog qualifies to attend,” said Gilbert, the owner and handler of a three-year-old Portuguese water dog named Makai.

    The pet therapy program is a part of the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program. Other SAF include emergency communications, linking members of the armed forces with their families back home, financial assistance in partnership with military aid societies, as well as programs for veterans.

    The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

    Capt. Catherine Felder, Strongsville, Ohio native, engineer officer, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division, pets Avery May, a two-year-old English Springer, and member of the Camp Humphreys American Red Cross dog team at Freeman Hall, March 28, 2019.

    (Photo by Chin-U Pak)

    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disaster; supplies approximately 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.

    For more information or to request a dog visit, please email SAFHumphreys@redcross.org or visit them on the Camp Humphreys Red Cross Facebook page.

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