The rise and fall of USPS - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The rise and fall of USPS


Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Every year, the United States Postal Service takes and delivers 142 billion mailed items. If it needs to go from point A to point B anywhere in the US, the post office can do it. It survived the Civil War, two world wars, the Great Depression, and the upheaval brought by the internet and email.

But it’s currently more than 0 billion in debt, and it’s telling Congress it will run out of cash by September and needs a billion infusion. How did this happen?

The US Postal Service has been delivering mail since before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. In 1775, Benjamin Franklin was appointed postmaster general, and it was Franklin who handled the distribution of letters from Congress to its armies during the Revolutionary War. President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, which authorized Congress to create the US Postal Service. This established routes and made it illegal to open anyone’s mail.

Clip: What matter if it took two weeks to go from New York to Atlanta, over a month to St. Louis? If the letter from Uncle Ben arrived a day or so later, nobody fussed.

Narrator: In 1823, it started using waterways to deliver mail, then began using railroads. 1847 saw the first issued stamps. And then the famed Pony Express debuted in 1860. In 1896, it began delivering to some rural addresses, meaning residents no longer had to go to the town post office to get their mail. By 1923, all houses were required to have a mail slot. And in 1963, zip codes made their debut.

Clip: What a system! As you can plainly see, just five little numbers, quick as can be.

Narrator: But what really transformed the post office into what we know today? That happened a few years later.

Clip: The post office stands to be swamped, overwhelmed, drowned in a sea of mail. Where do we go from here?

Narrator: In 1967, the postmaster general testified before Congress that the post office was in “a race with catastrophe.” There were all sorts of backlogs, and sorting-room floors were bursting with unsorted mail. Combined with a postal worker strike in March of 1970, led to the Postal Reorganization Act and established the United States Postal Service as we know it today.

Clip: The Post Office Department is leading the search for better ways to process and dispatch mail in the shortest time possible.

Narrator: The act eliminated the post office from the president’s cabinet and made the post office its own federal agency. It was set up more like a corporation than a government agency and had an official monopoly on the delivery of letter mail in the US. It also set up the elimination of the post office’s direct government subsidies, which were completely phased out in 1982. The post office has been operating without any taxpayer money since.

Competition from UPS and FedEx made the post office innovate on its offerings, like introducing express mail. But since its most lucrative service was first-class mail, the USPS didn’t have to worry too much about competing with other companies. In fact, the post office has partnered with both companies in the past, like when it signed a deal in 2000 that contracted its air delivery of first-class, priority, and express mail to FedEx.

So, basically, the USPS was fine. First-class mail volume peaked in 2001 at 103.6 billion pieces of mail. It operated at a loss in the first couple years of the 21st century, but by 2003, it was back to operating at a profit. In fact, from 2003 through 2006, USPS recorded a total .3 billion profit. That all changed at the end of 2006.

Clip: HR 6407, a bill to reform the postal laws of the United States.

Narrator: Enter the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. Up until this point, the post office added to and removed from its retiree pension and healthcare accounts on an ongoing basis, putting money in as needed, based on its current retirees. This model is similar to the way many other companies and corporations fund their own healthcare pensions. This act changed all that.

It required the post office to calculate all of its retiree pension and healthcare costs for the next 75 years, including for people it hadn’t even hired yet, and put away enough over the next 10 years to cover them. To put this in perspective, that’d be like you only working from age 18 to 28 and then expecting to live on that income until you were 103 years old.

The timing for this was not ideal, either. Email, texting, and online payments had begun to chip away at the post office’s main business, first-class mail, which had slowly been declining since its 2001 peak. But even that decline wouldn’t put the post office in the negative.

If not for the 75-year pension and healthcare obligation, the USPS would have reported operating profits for the last six years. Once the bill was enacted, USPS had to contribute about .6 billion a year for people who had not yet retired, in addition to the normal amount for current retirees. In 2006, prior to the new bill, this was id=”listicle-2646188290″.6 billion for those who were already retired. In 2007, USPS had to put away 625% more, about billion, to cover both current and future retirees. This gave the post office an annual loss of more than billion for the year.

Additionally, the new bill restricted the post office’s ability to set prices. First-class mail, marketing mail, and other products the post office does not have a large competition for were all tied to the consumer price index, meaning it couldn’t increase rates for those products above the rate of inflation. This has caused various problems, like in 2009, when prices couldn’t be raised at all on those products, because there was no inflation.

The rule has created an environment where packages are the post office’s only profitable area. By 2010, the post office’s overall debt, which was just over billion in 2006, had climbed to billion. It sounded the alarm to Congress multiple times and was also the subject of a 2018 Trump administration report saying the pension obligation should be restructured. But nothing changed. In its most recent annual report, the post office said it had incurred almost billion in losses from 2007 to 2019. It couldn’t afford to make any payments into the fund from 2012 to 2016 and now owes about billion related to its future pension and health benefit obligations.

Which brings us to today. As with many other industries, the coronavirus has taken its toll on the post office. First-class and marketing mail have plummeted, and the post office expects a billion decline in revenue. The postmaster general has told Congress she expects the USPS to be completely out of cash by September. This would make it unable to pay its employees and could quickly cause disaster in mail delivery across the country, especially in rural areas not serviced by UPS and FedEx. So, can it be saved?

The post office is now asking Congress for a billion cash infusion along with a billion loan. The initial bailout bill Congress passed in March provided billion for the post office, far less than the billion the organization was seeking in the bill. However, President Trump threatened to veto any bill that bailed out the post office, so the bill was changed before signing to a billion loan, 13% of the billion it had originally asked for and another billion to add to its debt.

And then, in early May, Trump appointed Louis DeJoy the new postmaster general, and he will take the reins of the organization on June 15. Unlike the last three postmaster generals, DeJoy is not a career employee; he is a large GOP donor and the former CEO of a logistics company. Democrats and ethics watchdogs see the appointment as purely political, not just because of Trump’s desire to reshape the post office, but also because millions of Americans may be forced to vote by mail this year, which means the future of the post office is likely to become a political issue this spring and summer, especially if its cash flow starts running dry.

And those at risk? The 497,000 Americans who rely on the USPS for their jobs, and the 329 million Americans who rely on it for paying bills, medication, and everything else the USPS delivers through rain, sleet, snow, and even pandemics.

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

Featured

Why America has always had a silly history with turkeys

Every Tuesday before Thanksgiving, there’s a ceremony held in which the President of the United States gives an official proclamation before a large crowd, pardoning a turkey for all the crimes they may have committed.

The turkey pardon is a fun — albeit goofy — ceremony that helps the country get into the holiday spirit, even if it began in ’87 as a means of distracting people from the Iran-Contra Affair. Since then, every president has kept the tradition going because, well, America seems to love turkeys this time of year.

As strange as this tradition might seem, it’s really not all that out of place. The relationship between Americans and turkeys has been weird since the beginning.


The rise and fall of USPS

In those days, the meal was “scraping together what they had.” By today’s standards, a feast of venison, lobster, and duck is far more fancy than a deep-fried turkey.

(“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth.” 1914. Painting. Jennie A. Brownscombe)

Long before the Europeans arrived in the Americas, indigenous peoples had sort of domesticated the turkey and started breeding them, making them plumper so that they’d make for a better meal. And it made good sense to do so. Turkeys are simple creatures that, when nourished, develop into large birds with plenty of delicious meat and they’re covered in large feathers that are great for crafting.

Furthermore, wild turkeys can survive in a range of environments. They were found all across the New World, from the Cree peoples’ lands near the Hudson Bay in Canada to the lands of the Aztecs in Mexico. Columbus himself even once remarked on how great the birds tasted. Eventually, turkey became a staple in most settlers’ diets… which makes it all the more odd that there wasn’t any turkey served for dinner at the first Thanksgiving.

The Wampanoag people were well known for their hunting skills and brought venison because it was showcased their talents as hunters. The pilgrims brought lobster and water fowl because they were much more common. Since the settlers didn’t really leave Plymouth, turkey was of off the menu unless they ventured into native territory.

The rise and fall of USPS

Not going to lie, that’s kind of badass.

(U.S. Diplomacy Center)

When everyone’s gathered around the table eating turkey this Thanksgiving, you’re bound to overhear that one uncle say, “Did you know the US almost made the turkey its national bird?” in an attempt to look smart. Unfortunately for your uncle, no. That never happened. Not even close. That’s fake news. Yes, all of these links go to a different source disproving your uncle. But it’s not your uncle’s fault — this myth has been perpetuated for hundreds of years.

This myth got its start just two years after the creation of the Great Seal of the United States when Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter about the design choices. He jokingly said that bald eagles had “bad moral character.” He also said the bird of prey was more of a scavenger (they’re not). He went on to praise the seal of the Order of the Cincinnati, a fraternity of military officers, that had a turkey on it.

In case you were wondering, Franklin’s actual recommendation for the Great Seal was of Moses parting the Red Sea with fire raining everywhere and the motto of, “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

The rise and fall of USPS

These loud, slow-moving, flightless birds will wreak havoc on farms in the spring time when the seeds are sewn. That’s why turkey season falls around then… in most states, anyway. Some states hold it in fall so that citizens can hunt down their own Thanksgiving dinner. Happy Thanksgiving!

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Soon after the United States became the United States, Americans quickly started hunting down and eating wild turkeys. They hunted them so thoroughly that pioneers would almost drive them to extinction wherever they went. The turkeys survived westward expansion and steadily climbed — then, the Great Depression hit and, for obvious reasons, they almost went extinct again in the 1930s.

After World War II, some troops returning from war went on to become game wardens, and began relocating turkeys en masse to avoid their being hunted into extinction. But how did these military veterans manage to catch large quantities of elusive turkeys in the wild? With modified howitzers shells that launched nets, of course!

No, seriously. These turkey-net cannons actually worked. The turkey populations went from just under 500,000 across the entire U.S. in 1959 to the roughly seven million that are fair game for hunting each and every year.

popular

How the ‘old guys’ should prep for Navy SEAL training

People well beyond their teens seek military service. There are age limits in the military for a reason, but even for the SEAL training program, the window to attend Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training (BUD/S) is from 17-28 years. I’ve been asked this question frequently; from people in the age bracket as well as many beyond the age limit who would need age waivers in order to join the Navy and enter the SEAL Training program.


Does age really matter?

In my opinion, age does matter but not necessarily in the way many people think. Typically, the reason why people do not finish SEAL training is they were underprepared — that has nothing to do with age. If you look at reasons why people quit or fail the course there is a laundry list of reasons: too cold, too uncomfortable (wet and sandy), too much running, too much swimming / pool confidence, too much PT / load bearing events (boats / logs / rucks), too much negative feedback, too much everything. BUD/S will expose a weakness quickly and if you are not prepared for that, it can be overwhelming. If someone says they did not make it because they were “too old” then the entire recruiting system is wrong and the Navy should change the age limits. People in their late twenties and early thirties (and even older) have made it to and through BUD/S before. The age limits are fine.

The rise and fall of USPS
Senior Chief Navy Diver Seth Weeman, top middle, an instructor assigned to Naval Special Warfare Center, observes Second Phase Basic Underwater and Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) candidates.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd class Megan Anuci)

In my opinion, the 17-18 year old candidates have a harder time than the older candidates. (see Perfect Storm for Failure) Maturity goes a long way with this type of training and a few years of preparation will help tremendously in your ability to handle the daily work load and physical standards of each phase. Even some candidates on the younger side of the age bracket are still growing and susceptible to many running overuse injuries at a higher rate than others.

What should the older candidate do before and during BUD/S?

Recovery — It is a small difference, but the 18 year old body will naturally recover faster than a body a decade or older, so recovery has to be the number one goal every day for the older BUD/S student. But to be honest, recovery is critical for ALL BUD/S students. Actively pursuing recovery from a tough day / week of training needs to be accomplished by all students in order to be successful no matter what the age. This means good food, hydration, healthy snacks, rest on weekends, good sleep nightly (when available), stretching, foam rolling, compression garments, massage tools and wound / joint care will all help the active student attending any selection program.In my opinion, the 17-18 year old candidates have a harder time than the older candidates. (see Perfect Storm for Failure) Maturity goes a long way with this type of training and a few years of preparation will help tremendously in your ability to handle the daily work load and physical standards of each phase. Even some candidates on the younger side of the age bracket are still growing and susceptible to many running overuse injuries at a higher rate than others.

Performance — No matter what your age is, there is a fitness standard, tactical skills standard, and a military standard you have to meet. Well, “exceeding the standard should be the standard” and mindset of any BUD/S student in preparing and attending SEAL Training – young or old. There is no age performance drop at BUD/S, just one standard for all students to meet.

The rise and fall of USPS
First Phase Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) candidates use teamwork to perform physical training exercises with a 600 pound log.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas)

Injuries — Another thing to consider is that injuries happen at BUD/S to all students – all ages. Knowing how to play with pain is part of the game for all successful students. But being able to discern aches / pains from real injuries requires some maturity. Seeking medical advice before it gets so bad that you fail events is something you need to understand and be open to.

Misconception — I think many people who are not in their teens feel they “missed the boat” on joining the military. The human body is far more capable at getting into better physical conditioning (all areas) 10-15 years passed 20 years old or less. There is not a doubt in my mind that someone in their late 20’s and early 30’s can attend BUD/S and crush it – as many people have and still do today. It just requires thorough preparation, focused mindset on goal accomplishment, and getting it done. Remembering how many hurdles you had to jump through just to get the opportunity to serve in the military, qualify for Special Ops training, and years of preparation should be a constant in your head. There will be days that make you question your abilities, but you have to keep pushing yourself forward IF you really want it.

A quick word about age waivers (over 28 years old)

Age waivers are available on a case by case basis. An applicant has to stand out in many areas in order to even get the process of age waivers to move up the chain of command from the recruiter’s office. Here is a short list of ways to stand out among the crowd.

1. Physical Test Scores: PST scores have to be above average in order to be taken seriously: 8 Minute 500yd. swim, 100 pushups, 100 situps, 20 pullups, 9-minute 1.5 mile run. Scores in this area and a recruiter will likely take you seriously and take the time to move the waiver up the chain of command.

2. Work History: What have you been doing for the last decade? What skillset / trade do you bring to the table? Are you a leader / entrepreneur? Have extensive travel history? Speak foreign languages?

3. Collegiate History: It may have been a while since college or you may have advanced degrees that will help you stand out amongst other enlisted candidates. Most SEAL enlisted have college degrees, many played sports, and some have advanced degrees.

4. Who you know: Sometimes a letter of recommendation from current Navy SEALs or higher ranking officials can go a long way to helping people decide if you are worth the chance of giving the age waiver.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’

The Star-Spangled Banner” is known from sea to shining sea, but few know the circumstances under which Francis Scott Key wrote America’s national anthem. Oddly enough, it was penned just after the short but bloody Battle of Baltimore.

In September of 1814—two years into the war between the U.K. and the U.S.—the British navy turned its attention towards Baltimore, Maryland. As a busy port, the city would either prove a devastating American loss, or a crucial victory if they managed to thwart the attack on Baltimore Harbor’s Fort McHenry.


As 5,000 British troops marched towards Fort McHenry, they encountered an unexpected setback at the Battle of North Point. There, American troops were lying in wait, prepared to stall the British until Baltimore’s defenses could be finalized. When they were satisfied with their delay, the Americans retreated, then awaited the main attack from within the city.

At dawn the very next day, approximately 4,300 British troops began to advance, forcing the U.S. troops to fall back. Still, the battle wasn’t easy for the British: They were startled to find that the Americans had 100 cannons and over 10,000 troops. Not long after they breached Balitmore’s inner defenses, the British soldiers fled to their ships, wanting to regroup for a less frontal attack.

The rise and fall of USPS

Meanwhile, at Fort McHenry, 1,000 U.S. troops awaited the British navy, who arrived in a rain of rockets and mortar shells. Harsh fire ensued for 27 hours, though this did not deter the Americans’ from their daily reveille: As the fighting drew to a close on the morning of September 14, an oversized American flag—made by a local woman and her 13-year-old daughter—was raised over Fort McHenry. In response to this sign of American strength, an encampment of British soldiers fired a final taunting round at the sky. With that, the Battle of Baltimore was officially over.

But prior to this, Francis Scott Key stood aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant, negotiating the release of Maryland resident Dr. William Beanes. Having succeeded in his mission, Key and the newly-freed Beanes watched the battle unfold from their enemy’s decks. At the sight of the raised American flag, Key was struck by a burst of poetic inspiration. He quickly scribbled a series of verses on a scrap of paper, not knowing these words would become an enduring symbol of American patriotism.

Originally titled “Defence on Fort M’Henry”—and then renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner” shortly thereafter—the poem became a sensation after its publication in the Baltimore American. Over 100 years later, Congress made it the national anthem of the United States.

But what exactly was going through Key’s mind as he jotted down the lyrics to the song of our country? In The Dawn’s Early Light, historian Walter Lord describes the Battle of Baltimore in vivid detail, providing intimate insight into the birth of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the man who wrote it.

Click here to read an excerpt of The Dawn’s Early Light, and then download the book.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time dozens of Korean service members claimed a UFO made them sick

As a group of American soldiers were preparing to bombard a nearby village about 60 miles north of Seoul, the unit saw a strange vision up in the hills – jack lanterns wafting across the mountain.

Or at least, that’s the story Pvt. First Class Francis P. Wall and the rest of his regiment told. Even more mysterious is what Wall and his buddies say happened after – a pulsing, attacking light that came with lingering and debilitating physical symptoms.


The year was 1951, and the US was 12 months into the Korean War. Stationed near Chorwon, PFC Wall and his buddies were completely unprepared for what happened to them in the Korean hills.

As they watched, an alien craft made its way toward the village. Artillery started to explode. Wall recalls that the object would get right into the center of an artillery airburst but never seemed to show any signs of damage. Later, Wall confirmed that the object could maneuver through sharp turns and seemed to have out of this world navigational capabilities.

Then all of a sudden, the object turned toward Wall and his unit. It changed colors from orange to a pulsating blue-green light, one so bright that it was almost difficult to look at. Wall asked his commander for permission to fire from his M1 rifle, but as the bullets hit the craft, they only made a metallic ding sound before falling to the ground. The object started to shuttle, sprint from side to side and flash its lights on and off.

What happens next is even harder to believe. Wall says he and his unit were attacked by some form of a ray that “emitted in pulses, in waves that you could visually see only when it was aiming directly at you. That is to say, like a searchlight sweeps around and the segments of light … you would see it coming at you.” Walls told this to John P. Timmerman at the Center for UFO Studies during a 1987 interview.

Wall recalled a burning tingling sensation sweep over his entire body. Everyone in his unit rushed into underground bunkers and looked through the windows as the craft hovered above them. Then it shot off at a 45-degree angle. All of a sudden, just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.

Three days later, the entire company was evacuated. When they finally received medical treatment, all were found to have dysentery and a very high white-blood-cell count. To Richard F. Haines, a UFO researcher, and former NASA scientists, the results sounded like symptoms of radiation poisoning.

So what happened to Wall and his buddies?

After the Korean War ended, dozens of service members reported seeing similar unidentified flying objects. The craft often looked like flying saucers. At first, many historians believed the sightings to be Soviet experiments based on German technology and foreign research. But after the fall of the Soviet Union, that theory was debunked, as several years of Soviet sightings were revealed.

From 1952 until 1986, the Air Force ran Project Blue Book, a study into unidentified flying objects and their threat to national security. When the project ended, the Air Force announced they’d discovered nothing unusual. But for Wall and others like him, they aren’t so sure. If the craft had really been Soviet experiments, as so many suggested, then they would have appeared in other conflicts besides the Korean War. And since the sightings recorded by members of the Soviet Union so closely resembled that which Will witnessed, many wonder if it wasn’t something else entirely.

Even though the vast majority of all UFO sightings turn out to be ordinary phenomena like clouds or human crats, there’s still no conclusive evidence about what Wall saw. Without testimony from the others in Wall’s unit, there’s no way to corroborate what he saw, making it even more impossible to determine just what happened that day in the Korean hills.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The unreported reason why LBJ didn’t run for a second term during the Vietnam War

In 1968, American involvement in Vietnam was reaching a boiling point. Casualties that year were the highest of the war to that point and North Vietnam had just scored a major PR win with the Tet Offensive. Things were looking grim for the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Johnson ascended to the Oval Office after the death of President John F. Kennedy. Having served Kennedy’s last two years and one full term of his own, he was legally allowed to pursue a second full term. But the tide was turning against Johnson.

As if the pressures of the office, the war, and trying to accomplish his “Great Society” ideals weren’t hard enough, he received some chilling news – all of which led to him rejecting another term.

Even back then, it was unorthodox for a sitting president to get a primary challenge from members of his own party. Then Senator Eugene McCarthy entered the race. Next, it was Robert F. Kennedy. By the end of March 1968, segregationist George Wallace was also running. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson took to the airwaves to announce he would not seek re-election. 

The rise and fall of USPS
FDR shakes hands with young LBJ, Gov. Allred of Texas in between. Galveston, Texas on May 12, 1937 (National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain)

His presidency was turbulent from the first day. He took the oath of office aboard Air Force One, with Jacqueline Kennedy standing next to her, still covered in the blood of the assassinated John F. Kennedy. He inherited a growing conflict in Vietnam that would come to overshadow his ambitious domestic programs and Civil Rights legislation.

If the war in Vietnam wasn’t bad enough, the cultural fabric of the United States itself was upended during his administration. America experienced cultural revolution after cultural revolution, as Black citizens demanded their civil rights, women fought to change their societal roles and America’s youth demanded a louder voice. 

In short, Johnson presided over a violent time in American history. But that’s not the entire reason he opted not to run. In fact, he was not only certain he would clinch the Democratic Party nomination in 1968, he believed he would be Richard Nixon in the general election and sail to a second term. 

But in 1967, he commissioned a study on his health and family history. The study was done by actuaries, like the ones insurance companies use to assess the risks associated with providing life insurance to a potential client. The study was supposed to be a closely-guarded secret – and it largely was. 

The rise and fall of USPS
LBJ is sworn in on Air Force One by Judge Sarah Hughes as Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Kennedy look on. (Public Domain)

They looked at his own medical history as well as those of the men in his family, dating back generations. The Johnson men, he said, had a history of dying young. LBJ’s own father died at age 62. Johnson, with a history of heart trouble, believed he wouldn’t last much longer than his father and would die in office if he served another term. The actuaries agreed. Based on their research, they determined that President Johnson would die at age 64.  

Johnson believed that, after the death of John Kennedy, the American people had enough of their leaders dying in office and opted to leave the office after the end of his first term. When President Nixon was inaugurated the next year, LBJ returned home to his Texas ranch to live a life away from the media. 

President Johnson died of a heart attack at the ranch in 1973 – at age 64.

MIGHTY FIT

10 reasons the keto diet could be making you gain weight

The keto diet has been quite buzz-worthy as of late, especially since the high-fat and low-carb way of eating has spawned tons of keto-friendly products and online recipes. But while the keto approach supposedly has its advantages (some claim it lowers sugar levels and gives you improved energy), there are other disadvantages (we’re talking a lot of fat consumption) to the diet that are worth acknowledging.

Yes, the keto diet is said to help accelerate weight loss, but if you aren’t careful, the diet can actually lead to unintentional weight gain. To see just how you can gain weight on the keto diet, we spoke to expert nutritionists, dietitians, trainers, and medical professionals about all the sneaky ways the keto diet may be making you gain weight. Here are some things they recommend keeping in mind.


1. Your genetics are working against you.

“The keto diet may not be working for you if it isn’t right for your body type and your genetics,” nutritionist Dr. Elizabeth Trattner told INSIDER. To determine if keto is the right diet match for your body, Tratter recommended getting your APO-E gene tested, especially since she said this gene will help you discover how you metabolize fat. She also recommended looking into other possible genetic issues, as she explains that this will help you find the best diet match for your body.

2. You aren’t taking care of yourself in other ways.

The rise and fall of USPS
Diet or not, exercise is always a good thing.
(Flickr / lululemon)

“No matter what diet you’re on, not working out or sleeping enough will definitely make you gain weight,” Dr. Trattner said. Food allergies and stress are other culprits of weight gain according to Dr. Trattner, as she said they allow for the secretion of cortisol, which causes you to hold onto weight instead of losing it.

3. You really aren’t observing the keto diet correctly.

“The only way someone would gain weight on the keto diet is if they binged on high calorie foods for an extended amount of time such as full-fat dairy, avocados, coconut oil, fatty cuts of meat and nuts,” board-certified cardiologist, Dr. Luiza Petre explained to INSIDER. To avoid sabotaging any progress you’ve made on the diet, Dr. Petre recommended being cautious of any low-carb foods, and consuming whole, real foods as much as possible.

4. You are consuming too many calories.

The rise and fall of USPS
While experimenting with the diet, it may be helpful to track them.
(Flickr / Neil Conway)

“Some will say that you don’t need to have a caloric deficit in order to lose weight, but that’s simply not the case for everyone,” explained board-certified clinical nutritionist Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS. When you are consuming a high-fat diet, it’s very easy to go overboard on the calories, Brigham said. To make sure you don’t overindulge, she suggests tracking your food intake (with an app) for a few days to see where the caloric level is, and adjust accordingly from there.

5. You are having too many “cheat days.”

“Many people observing the keto diet still have cheat meals or cheat days, and to be honest, this diet clearly doesn’t work like that,” registered dietitian Jenn LaVarderatold INSIDER. Just one day of eating too many carbohydrates can take your body out of ketosis, LaVardera suggested, which can ultimately threaten any weight loss you may have experienced on the diet.

6. You’re not eating enough.

“The body will reduce the number of calories it needs when it’s presented with a significant calorie deficit,” said Kyle Kamp, registered dietitian behind Valley to Peak Nutrition. What this means for keto dieters is that the weight loss will stall or plateau, Kamp added.

7. You’re missing hidden sources of carbohydrates.

The rise and fall of USPS
Yes, even vegetables have carbs.
(David Saddler / Flickr)

“There are very few foods completely devoid of carbohydrates, and foods that are not readily recognized as a high carb food will still contain some carbohydrates,” Kamp suggested. Case in point: nuts and vegetables, he said.

8. You’re drinking alcohol.

“The carbs in alcohol are not doing you any favors on the keto diet, especially since you’re only allowed a small amount of them,” suggested Lyuda Bouzinova, ACE certified fitness nutrition specialist and co-founder of Mission Lean. Given that most mixed drinks (and beer) have extremely-high sugar and carb contents, Lyuda said you’ll want to avoid them altogether when observing the diet.

9. You are eating too much fat.

“Anytime you are taking in more calories than your body needs, you will gain weight,” explained certified Nutrition Coach Esther Avant. “Too much of any food can cause a person to gain weight, and fats are no different.”

According to Avant, fats are the most calorie dense of the three macronutrient groups. Both proteins and carbohydrates have four calories per gram, she said, while fats have nine calories per gram. However, she stresses that this does not mean that fats are bad for you, but it does mean that eating a lot of them (which is usually encouraged on the keto diet) can contribute to your daily calorie intake.

10. You are eating too much protein.

The rise and fall of USPS
Too much protein can be a bad thing.

“Too many proteins will stop your body from getting into ketosis due to a process called gluconeogenesis,” explained fitness trainer Ryan Weaver. Gluconeogenesis, he said, is a metabolic process that transforms excess protein into glycogen and keeps your body reliant on the energy resulted from glucose. This can usually lead to unintentional weight gain, he suggested.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What happened to most of Saddam’s blinged-out weapons

It’s no surprise that psychotic despots and drug lords who came to power through violence and intimidation would be fascinated with gold-plated and diamond-encrusted weapons. The most well-known collector was Saddam Hussein.


After his fall, his weapons seemed to be scattered in every direction. Exactly how many weapons were in Saddam’s arsenal is not public knowledge, so it’s unclear how many have just “fallen off the books” throughout the years. The ones that have been accounted for, however, are often placed in museums and presidential libraries around the world as historical artifacts.

Related video

One of his most famous golden weapons was the golden Tabuk, an Iraqi variant of the AK-47. Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division discovered it near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. The weapon was given as an official “thank you” to the Australian troops that helped them in the area. The weapon traded hands a few times before Australia’s Deputy Chief of Army, Major General John Cantwell, accepted it and placed it in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in 2007.

The rise and fall of USPS
(Australian War Memorial)

You might wonder why more weapons weren’t taken as trophies by troops in Iraq. Well, having weapons that are not cleared and are without their paperwork properly done breaks countless UCMJ, Interpol, UN, and Geneva Convention laws. Getting the proper rights to take home war trophies may be a headache, but it’s not impossible. This hasn’t stopped idiots from becoming war criminals in pursuit of riches, though.

In 2014, two men from New Jersey were caught in a sting by the FBI trying to sell over $1 million worth of Hussein-family weapons. Later that same year, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joel Miller had his conviction overturned after being framed and sentenced for smuggling home a chrome-plated AK variant in 2005. As it turns out, another Marine had planted the weapon on him after Miller threatened to expose his affair. Nonetheless, he was still given a bad conduct discharge after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps.

The rise and fall of USPS
As much hell as this AK variant caused this Marine, it’s whereabouts are still unknown after it was seized by the Hemet, CA Police Department.
(Hemet Police Department)

But at least two of Saddam’s weapons have been known to make their way to auction legally. The M77 rifle that Saddam held during a 2000 military parade was given to an unnamed agent after 29 years of service to the CIA. Although it wasn’t flashy like the rest of Saddam’s armory, it still put up and sold at auction for $48,875.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

After five days, over 70 tested events and hundreds of evaluated standards, the U.S. Army named its top drill sergeant in a ceremony hosted by the Center for Initial Military Training, or CIMT, the lead in the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, for all initial entry training.

Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, representing Fort Jackson, S.C. and the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Staff Sgt Benhur Rodriguez, representing Fort Sill, Okla. and the Fires Center of Excellence, was named runner up to the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year and also received an award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition. In the event the primary selectee is unable to perform his duties, Rodriguez will assume the role.


By design, the competition is one of the most physically demanding and mentally tough challenges any soldier may face in a competition. The Army level event tests and highlights the professionalism and readiness of the U.S. Army by testing the drill sergeants that are responsible for training the total force.

The rise and fall of USPS

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, with camouflage face paint at a Camp Bullis shooting range. Knight is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The annual event was conducted at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, Texas for the first time since the Drill Sergeant of the Year was established 50 years ago.

Not only did the Health Readiness Center of Excellence, based at Fort Sam Houston, have a candidate in the competition, but the support of their staff and soldiers, along with CIMT planners, were crucial to the success of the event.

Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Specht, HRCoE’s Senior Drill Sergeant and Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Hulse were the CoE’s lead planners for the event. They were both honored with an Army Commendation Medal presentation during Aug. 22, 2019’s ceremony. Six other HRCoE soldiers were also recognized for their significant contributions to the planning and execution of the competition.

The rise and fall of USPS

U.S. Army Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major (right), presents U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy with the Drill Sergeant of the Year award.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Specht, who was recently selected for promotion to Master Sgt. and was himself a Drill Sergeant of the Year competitor in 2018, discussed how HRCoE was honored to conduct the 50th Anniversary of the Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition on behalf of CIMT and TRADOC as the newest CoE within the Combined Arms Center and TRADOC.

“Every Drill Sergeant competitor gave 100% and it was inspiring to see their individual resolve and how each rose to the challenge and represented their respective CoEs and the noncommissioned officer corps as a whole,” said Specht. “Command Sergeant Major Mitchell and his staff outlined the expected standards of excellence and vison and allowed us, the mission command, to take ownership and host this historic event.”

The rise and fall of USPS

U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, firing an M9 at the mystery event.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The 2017 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Chad Hickey and the 2017 Platoon Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Bryan Ivery, as the CIMT representatives, conducted two site visits, multiple initial planning reviews, and were on site over a week prior to the event validating test components. Specht continued, “The success of the event is really a demonstration of what cohesive teams can accomplish with 61 dedicated support noncommissioned officers, CIMT and our staff.”

The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year competition was rigorous, highly structured and covered a broad base of subject areas at a relentless pace. The noncommissioned officers were evaluated in marksmanship, unknown distance road marches, individual warrior tasks, collective battle drill tasks, modern Army combatives, written exams, drill and ceremony, leadership, oral boards, and much more for the honor of being recognized as the top drill sergeant in the Army. The competitors, who truly had to be prepared for anything also took the Army Physical Fitness Test that is the current test of record and the new Army Combat Fitness Test that becomes the Army’s physical test of record in October 2020.

The rise and fall of USPS

U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy on a ruck march.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, said each event is designed to stress the candidates and push their limits physically and mentally to determine if the drill sergeant’s performance, abilities or professionalism become degraded.

Mitchell believes the competition is an extreme example of what all drill sergeants face in their daily tasks of training the Army’s newest recruits. He said that though many things in the Army have changed since he was a Drill sergeant from 1995 to 1998, “the soldierization process has not changed in the last 50 years. Drill sergeants are still tasked with turning ordinary citizens into soldiers.”

The rise and fall of USPS
U.S. Army TRADOC hosts the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year (DSOY) Competition

(Photo by Sean Worrell)

On the first day of competition, Mitchell described the logic of putting these “soldier makers” to such an extreme test to determine the best of the best. “The drill sergeant that we select will be the number one drill sergeant in the Army as well as the TRADOC enterprise,” said Mitchell. “Sometimes you are going to be tired from what you do [as a drill sergeant], but we need that individual to still be able to be in front of soldiers and be able to be professional, no matter the conditions.” He explained how drill sergeants across the Army epitomize that type of endurance and professionalism each day.

Knight’s road to victory story makes for a good example. He said, “I started my quest to become the Drill Sergeant of the Year in 2017 when I was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood. I made it to the 2nd quarter Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Competition that year and lost.” Hickey, who helped plan this year’s competition eventually became the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, or MSCoE’s winner that year and subsequently the 2017 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

The rise and fall of USPS

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence (right), with Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, receiving the award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

When he was transferred to Fort Jackson last year, Knight was, once again, encouraged to pursue the top drill sergeant prize through a competition at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy; he won the Fort Jackson competition earlier this year to allow him to compete and win this week.

“I really appreciate moments like that,” Knight recalled, speaking of his original loss at the MSCoE. “As drill sergeants we are expected to be subject matter experts so we can tend to think we know everything. Having a humbling experience like competing against other highly qualified people who just out performed you, leaves you two options: better yourself or just accept that someone got the better of you.”

The rise and fall of USPS

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, going through the low crawl obstacle at Camp Bullis.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition began with 12 of the most proficient, determined and rugged drill sergeants in the Army representing Basic Combat Training, One-Station Unit Training, and Advanced Individual Training. There was one reservist, the rest were active duty noncommissioned officers. They had all won division level competitions at their home stations to earn the right to compete at the Army level.

The rise and fall of USPS

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, runner up at the 2019 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition, instructs Soldiers on the correct method of conducting a drill and ceremony maneuvers.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Officially, the competition lasts four days with most evaluated events conducted in a field environment at Camp Bullis beginning on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The last field event was completed by six o’clock in the morning on Day Four. In actuality, tested events began on Sunday with “Day Zero” elements that included height and weight measurements, written tests and an oral board held at Fort Sam Houston. Board questions, from seven command sergeants major, led by this year’s board president, Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, U.S. Army Medical Command Sergeant Major, were exhaustive on a variety of military and U.S. government related questions.

All of the remaining 10 competitors that outlasted the rigors of the week were honored during the recognition ceremony at Fort Sam Houston mere hours after they completed their last event at Camp Bullis: a 12 mile road march.

The rise and fall of USPS

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, firing an M9 at the mystery event. In this lane while firing from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions the competitors first fired the M4 rifle then transitioned to the M4 pistol.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

When Knight was asked how he thought he was able to win over so many other highly qualified candidates, he said it came down to who was able to be more resilient, the most well-rounded, and maybe even who wanted it the most. Knight said he spent any small windows of free time during the competition studying and refreshing his memory on a wide range of subjects.

Knight explained, “Some [competitors] would take the opportunity to eat, some would take naps or got on their phones. I just spent a lot of time studying during the downtime to make sure I stayed in the zone; I didn’t want to open the door to distractions or self-doubt.” Though the competitors weren’t aware of what would be required of them at any given time, he said that many of the notes he studied ended up being on test events so that made him even more energized to put his time to good use.

The rise and fall of USPS

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, on the reverse climb obstacle during the first day of competition.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

“I kept the junior soldiers, the trainees, in mind at all times,” said Knight. Soldiers in training are often in situations where they don’t exactly know what is going to happen next. “They don’t have the privilege or luxury of just taking a nap or picking up their phone when they want to.” He explained that soldiers are always told to study during any break in training, “During downtime a drill sergeant will always tell a trainee, ‘pull out your smart book’ so I just felt like this was a great opportunity to bring myself back to the basics.”

Knight pointed out that this strategy for success is not a technique he invented for this competition, it is in the Drill Sergeant Creed: “I will lead by example, never requiring a soldier to attempt any task I would not do myself.”

The rise and fall of USPS

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence drill instructor, Ft. Benning, Ga., cools himself down after the M4 stress shoot event.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

As the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Knight will be reassigned to CIMT and TRADOC; he will report to Fort Eustis, Va. in 60 days. Knight, a 25 Victor, Combat Documentation Production Specialist, “Combat Camera” by trade is used to telling the Army story through photos. For 12 months, his tenure as the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year, he will serve as a sort of ambassador, called upon to be the example of the resilient, professional, and highly proficient drill sergeant that he just proved himself to be.

The rise and fall of USPS

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class William Hale (left), Foxtrot Company 232nd Medical Battalion range safety officer, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, hands out ammunition for the M4 stress shoot event.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

List of 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Nominees in alphabetical order:

  • Staff Sgt. Mychael R. Begaye, Army Training Center, Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Frank D. Dunbar III, Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Va.
  • Staff Sgt. Ariel D. Hughes, Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE), Fort Rucker, Ala.
  • Staff Sgt. Lillian C. Jones, Cyber Center of Excellence, Fort Gordon, Ga.
  • Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
  • Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Martinez, Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
  • Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Mubarak, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, Calif.
  • Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill, Okla.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Marianne E. Russell, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
  • Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, Charlotte, N.C.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the legendary Memphis Belle was brought back to life

Through the cockpit windscreen, Capt. Robert Morgan saw flashes of light from the wings and engine cowling of a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at his 12 o’clock and closing at an incredible rate. Each wink of light from the fighter’s wing root meant another 20mm cannon shell was heading directly at his B-17F Flying Fortress at over 2,300 feet per second.

Having no room to dive in the crowded formation of B-17 bombers of the 91st Bomb Group, he pitched up. The Luftwaffe fighter’s shells impacted the tail of the aircraft instead of coming straight through the windscreen.


Over the intercom Morgan heard his tail gunner, Sgt. John Quinlan, yelling that the aircraft’s tail was shot to pieces and what was left was in flames.

The rise and fall of USPS
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

It was January 23, 1943. Morgan and his nine crewmen aboard the “Memphis Belle” had just fought their way through a swarm of Luftwaffe fighters, dropped their bombs on a Nazi submarine base in the coastal city of Lorient in occupied France and were fighting to survive the return trip to the Eighth Air Force base in Bassingbourn, England. Morgan began calculating if the crew should bail out and become prisoners of war before the tail tore completely off the bomber trapping the crew in a death spiral culminating in a fiery crash.

A moment later, Quinlan reported that the fire in the tail had gone out. The “Memphis Belle” and its crew would survive the mission; the crew’s eighth and the bomber’s ninth.

The rise and fall of USPS
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

They would have to survive 17 more missions to complete the required 25 to rotate home. All would be flown during a period of World War II when the Luftwaffe was at the height of its destructive powers.

Against all odds, the “Memphis Belle” crew flew those missions, their last to once again bomb the U-boat pens at Lorient on May 17, 1943, before returning safely to England for the final time. Bottles of Champagne were uncorked and radio operator Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Hanson collapsed onto the flightline and kissed the ground.

The rise and fall of USPS
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

For the “Belle” itself, it was only mission 24 and the plane had to fly once more with an alternate crew on May 19.

The B-17 and its crew would be the first to return alive and intact to the U.S. They were welcomed as heroes and immediately embarked on a 2 ½-month, nationwide morale tour to sell war bonds. The tour was also to encourage bomber crews in training that they too could make it home. It made celebrities of both the “Belle” and its crew.

Ironically, the two and a half months of press conferences, parties and glad-handing officers and politicians was about the same amount of time during the “Belle’s” combat tour that 80 percent of the 91st Bomb Group’s B-17s and their crews were lost to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

“Eighty percent losses means you had breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of those 10,” Morgan said in an interview after the war. During the totality of the air war over Europe more than 30,000 U.S. Airmen aboard heavy bombers, like the B-17, would be killed.

The rise and fall of USPS
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Seventy-five years to the day after that 25th mission, the Museum of the U.S. Air Force will honor the bravery of those bomber crews, some of the first Americans to take the fight to the Nazis in WWII, when they unveil for public display the largely restored B-17F, Serial No. 41-24485, “Memphis Belle” as part of a three-day celebration, May 17-19, 2018.

The rise and fall of USPS
Download the Museum Brochure Here

According to the museum curator in charge of the “Memphis Belle” exhibit, Jeff Duford, the weekend will include more than 160 WWII re-enactors showcasing their memorabilia, WWII-era music and vehicles, static displays of other B-17s, flyovers of WWII-era aircraft and presentations of rare archival film footage. The “Memphis Belle” will be the centerpiece of an exhibit documenting the strategic bombing campaign over Europe.

“The ‘Memphis Belle’ is an icon that represents all the heavy bomber crewmen who served and sacrificed in Europe in World War II,” Duford said, “In many ways the ‘Memphis Belle’ is the icon for the United States Air Force.

“You look at the U.S. Marines, they have this wonderful icon of the flag being raised over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and everyone recognizes that. It symbolizes service and sacrifice and tenacity and teamwork. Well, the Air Force has that symbol too, and it’s this airplane. It demonstrates teamwork. The crews had to work together. The planes in formation had to work together. The formations had to work together with the fighter escorts.”

The service and sacrifice of the young men still leaves Duford awestruck even after working on the “Belle” project for a decade.

The rise and fall of USPS
(U.S. Army photo)

“How does one climb inside of this aircraft knowing that they are probably not going to come home? And they don’t do that one time; two times; three times; 10 times – they have to do it 25 times,” said Duford. “Once they got inside the airplane, they had no place to run. There were no foxholes to be dug. The skin on those airplanes is so thin that a bullet or flak fragment would go through it like a tin can because that’s essentially what it was.

“The odds were that every 18 missions, a heavy bomber was going to be shot down. So when you think the crew had to finish 25 missions to go home, statistically it was nearly impossible. It was one-in-four odds that a heavy bomber recruit would finish their 25 missions. Those other three crew members would’ve been shot down and captured, killed or wounded so badly they couldn’t finish their tour.”

The fact the “Memphis Belle” crew survived their tour was of great value to the U.S. Army Air Forces in maintaining support for the daylight strategic bombing campaign over Europe, which was still, in fact, an experiment.

“Back then, there was no book on high altitude strategic bombing. The generals didn’t know any more than we did. They had to figure bombing strategy as we went along,” said Morgan in a book he would write after the war, “The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle”.

The B-17 was named the “Flying Fortress”, because it was bristling with .50 caliber machine guns covering every angle of attack by German fighters, save one. The theory was that all that defensive firepower would be amplified by heavy bombers flying in tight formations, called “boxes”, enabling them to protect each other from attacking fighters.

While the German Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf fighters sometimes paid a price for attacking the formations, they soon developed tactics that exploited a design weakness in B-17Fs, like the “Memphis Belle”.

The rise and fall of USPS
German Luftwaffe models used in fighter pilot training show the fields of fire covered by the machine guns of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While twin .50 caliber machine guns in top and belly turrets and the tail and single .50 cal. gunners protected the bomber, the 12 o’clock position was covered by a lone .30 caliber machine gun – no match for the German fighters. Because the bomber formations had to fly straight and level to initiate their bombing run, the Luftwaffe fighter pilots began attacking the formations head on. The ensuing carnage was ghastly.

“The secret to the B-17 was the capability of flying in tight formations, so tight that the wings were often almost touching,” wrote Morgan. “We were able to put out an amazing amount of firepower… but, I also positively feel that was a bit of divine intervention for our crew.”

While the addition of Allied fighter escorts helped fend off some German attackers, the fact that the B-17s had to fly at 25,000 feet or lower to maintain any semblance of accuracy on target put them in the range of the deadly German 88mm anti-aircraft gun. No amount of machine guns or friendly fighters could counter the dense flak approaching targets while flying straight and level.

Bomber crews had to just grit their teeth and pray.

“They felt like they were a great crew. They were tightly knit, confident and dedicated to what they were doing,” said Duford. “However, being in those formations, flying straight and level with enemy anti-aircraft and fighter aircraft, there certainly was a little bit of luck for them too.”

Luck, both good and bad, was also a factor in the “Belle” crew, despite not being the first crew to complete 25 missions, being the one to return to the U.S. for a bond and morale tour.

The “Belle’s” selection for the morale tour was the result of a film project about the strategic bombing campaign that was the brainchild of USAAF Gen. Hap Arnold and a Hollywood director, William Wyler, who had volunteered to serve his country in the best way he knew how.

It was hoped that a film documenting a bomber crew as they successfully completed a combat tour would calm new recruits, who were hearing stories of the carnage overseas, and assuage the doubts of the public, press and politicians that strategic bombing was a failure.

Wyler, an immigrant who was born in the Alsace region of modern-day France when it was part of the German Empire prior to World War I and who would go on to win three Best Director Academy Awards, including one for “Ben-Hur”, was commissioned as a major and headed to England with a film crew to document the fight in skies over Europe.

Wyler and his cameraman flew with B-17 combat crews and began filming missions of a B-17F of the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group named “Invasion II”. His staff also began interviewing and making publicity photographs of the crewmembers, as they drew closer to completing 25 missions.

However, on April 17, 1943, the reality of war spoiled the Hollywood ending during their 23rd mission to Bremen, Germany. Invasion II crashed after being hit by flak over Borhmen, Germany, setting the cockpit and wing on fire. The crew managed to bail out, but all became prisoners of war.

Wyler regrouped and found a plane and crew with the 324th Bomb Squadron that was also close to completing their combat tour. The “Memphis Belle”, named for Morgan’s girlfriend, Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee, and its crew took center stage.

The rise and fall of USPS
The crew of the 358th Bomb Squadron Boeing B-17F ‘Hell’s Angels’ completed its 25th mission on May 13, 1943.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While the crew of “Hell’s Angels” completed their tour on May 13, 1943, four days before the “Belle”, there was no film of that plane and crew. Consequently, it was the “Belle” and its crew that would fly mission 26 back to the U.S. and receive a hero’s welcome.

Wyler’s film, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”, would be released and distributed by Paramount Pictures the following year.

The rise and fall of USPS
(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)

It was a film that came with a high price tag. One of Wyler’s cinematographers, 1st Lt. Harold J. Tannenbaum, a veteran of World War I, was killed in action during the filming when the bomber he was in was shot down over France on April 16, 1943.

Until the end of the war, the “Belle” was used as a training aircraft, but instead of being torn apart for scrap like most of the other 12,700 B-17s built during the war, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, put the aircraft on display for nearly 50 years.

The historic aircraft came to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in October 2005, when work began on a careful, multi-year conservation and restoration effort including corrosion treatment and the full outfitting of missing equipment.

Casey Simmons arrived shortly after the “Memphis Belle” as a restoration specialist for the museum.

The rise and fall of USPS
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

From the beginning, it was apparent that priority one in the restoration was getting it right. His first assignment was to fabricate a glycol heater that was missing from inside the left wing. No visitor to the museum would ever see it.

“I know it’s there and that’s cool because it’s going to get all the parts that it needs to be a complete aircraft,” said Simmons. “When you don’t have the part you try and find a part from another airplane or you go to the blueprints and make the part completely from scratch.”

While the museum has other B-17s in its collection, the “Memphis Belle” requires a whole other level of patience and dedication.

The rise and fall of USPS
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Other restoration projects are typically a general model of a certain aircraft. So it represents a lot of them. This one is a specific aircraft, so you have to get it right; exactly to the rivet,” said Simmons.

The museum specialist did not try to restore the “Belle” to how it rolled off the Boeing line, but utilized films, photos and records from its time in combat to bring the B-17F back to fighting trim, scars and all.

“There are certain damage spots on the “Memphis Belle” that were fixed over time, so we have to make sure that those show up on the aircraft the way they were,” said Simmons. “If they put five rivets in an area as opposed to the standard four that are supposed to be there, we have to get that correct… When you go through video footage, old film footage, or photographs, and you do find a little glimpse of what you’re looking for, that’s a big moment. We have to get it right for those bomber crews.”

The bravery of those bomber crews continued after all the whoopla back home died down. Even Morgan was eager to get back in the fight.

While on a morale tour stop in Wichita, Kansas, Morgan caught a glimpse of the future of strategic bombing, the still secret B-29 Superfortress. He volunteered immediately to train on the new bomber and earned command of his own squadron of B-29s that deployed to Saipan in the Pacific Theater.

On November 24, 1944, his 869th Squadron of the 497th Bomb Group was the first, other than Doolittle’s Raiders in 1942, to bomb Tokyo. He would go on to complete another 24 combat missions in the B-29 before the end of WWII. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1965 as a colonel.

While the restoration and display of the “Memphis Belle” will ensure the story of the dedication, bravery and airmanship of its 10 crewmembers that returned home safely in 1943 honors all the Airmen that fought in WWII, Duford is particularly enthusiastic that the exhibit will allow Museum of U.S. Air Force visitors to learn the story of the little known 11th crewmember of the “Memphis Belle”.

As much as any Airman, he embodied the spirit and sense of duty shared by all the heavy bomber crews.

“It’s the story of one of the waist gunners, Emerson Scott Miller,” said Duford. “You don’t see him in any of the war bond photos and you don’t see his name listed as one of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew members. He came overseas as a technician repairing the autopilot systems on B-17s. He was safe. He didn’t have to fly the missions but he decided he wanted to do more and volunteered to fly in combat. He joined the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew after they had flown about nine or 10 of their missions. So he had flown 16 of his missions when the rest of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew completed their 25th.

“Capt. Robert Morgan really wanted Scott Miller to come back on the war bond tour, but Miller hadn’t finished his 25th mission, so he had to stay. While the ‘Belle’ crew was celebrated and famous and there were parties for them, Scott Miller was still flying in combat.”

Fittingly, Miller finished his 25th mission aboard another B-17 on July 4, 1943, but for him, there were no parades, no press conferences, no meeting movie stars and no special duties.

“We got in touch with Scott Miller’s family,” said Duford. “They donated a trunk full of artifacts, and so Scott Miller has a place in the exhibit and his story will be told… He could have just simply done his duty repairing those autopilot systems and gone home safe. But he put his life on the line and then was forgotten. Now he’s going to be remembered now and for generations to come.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

New ‘Rise of Skywalker’ photos reveal huge ‘Force Awakens’ callback

The baddest bad guy in all of Star Wars is also, perhaps, the most famous fictional father of all time: Darth Vader AKA Anakin Skywalker. But, after Vader was out of the picture in Return of the Jedi, newer Star Wars movies have struggled to introduce family drama into the saga that was as meaty and as frightening. Since 2015’s The Force Awakens, the primary villain of new Star Wars has mostly been Kylo Ren, previously known as Ben Solo, before he turned evil and killed his dad, Han Solo. But, back in 2015, it was hinted that Kylo Ren had some muscle to help with his dirty work; the mysterious Knights of Ren. Now, like the Spanish Inquisition on Monty Python, they’re back! Nobody expects the Knights of Ren!

Thanks to newly released photos from The Rise of Skywalker, it finally looks like we’ll get some answers about who the hell these dark knights really are.


On May 22, 2019, Vanity Fair released its latest cover story, a huge preview of The Rise of Skywalker written by Magicians novelist, journalist and all-around cool dad, Lev Grossman. As with most Star Wars films, this feature was accompanied by beautiful photos from legendary photographer Annie Lewbowitz. Chewbacca is reunited with Lando, Luke Skywalker’s ghost (maybe?) stands proudly with R2-D2 and Rey and Kylo Ren duke it out again with their lightsabers. But, for fans thinking about the villains of the new saga, one minor detail was confirmed by the photos, which has major implications: The Knights of Ren are back!

In one early photo, evildoers, dressed all in black are depicted with the following caption:

“J.J. Abrams, alongside Stunt Coordinator Eunice Huthart, directs the Knights of Ren; elite fearsome enforcers of Kylo Ren’s dark will.”

Up until this point, it wasn’t entirely clear if the Knights of Ren would actually return in The Rise of Skywalker, or, like, at all. After being introduced in a flashback in The Force Awakens, hardcore fans and regular people alike have been scratching their heads for four years now about who these people could be. Like Kylo Ren, are they also former students of Luke Skywalker’s turned to evil? Are all of them men? Could another, long-lost member of the Skywalker/Solo family be chilling under those creepy masks? How come they don’t all get lightsabers?

Not, it looks like The Rise of Skywalker is poised to answer this question. It may be a small thing, but considering the fact that Kylo Ren could seemingly turn back to the light side of the Force at any point, then it feels likely any of the Knights of Ren could become the latest scum and villainy in the Star Wars universe. (We don’t know who Kylo is fighting in those trailers, after all.)

Star Wars loves to have a good role reversal when it comes to evildoers. In the original trilogy, Darth Vader was revealed to be Luke’s father. In, the prequels, a kindly senator was really a Sith Lord. Even in Solo: A Star Wars Story, a dreaded gang leader — Enfys Nest — is secretly a revolutionary woman in disguise.

So, now that we know the Knights of Ren are back, we should be prepared for some answers about them, but also, some twists, too.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military community is rallying around this immunocompromised Marine

The military community is rallying around LeahAnn Sweeney, United States Marine Corps veteran and Pin-Ups for Vets Ambassador, as she battles breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sweeney was a Motor Transport Operator in the Marines and served with the San Diego County Sheriff Department before volunteering at veterans’ bedsides with her fellow pin-ups; now, the single mother of three could use a little help of her own.

Her family has created a Meal Train, where people can make a monetary donation or sign up to bring a meal to LeahAnn and her family.


Pin-Ups For Vets on Facebook Watch

www.facebook.com

Sweeney served four years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, operating motor transport tactical wheeled vehicles and equipment that transported passengers and cargo in support of combat and garrison operations. As a 3531, she also performed crew/operator level maintenance on all tools and equipment for assigned vehicles. Throw in her career as a Deputy Sheriff and I think it’s safe to say we’ve got a certifiable badass on our hands.

Spotting an active member of the local Southern California community, Pin-Ups for Vets (an organization dedicated to helping hospitalized and deployed service members and their families) invited Sweeney to become part of its 2020 fundraising calendar.

“It brings a sense of gratitude and joy to be able to bring a smile to those who have proudly served our country. I am especially fond of visiting the few remaining World War II veterans and hearing their stories, as I have a personal family history of those who served and sacrificed during that wartime era,” Sweeney has said of the non-profit organization.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FOXvHkF1vCn3d-zP4gQeJcC8Nnrpq2cySDtHz3qrIZqCzSOiSFYeTfYWX5tZjO-pFPjn5N8FWNpCb99eR8GMjRRFvfqXz-3IcDGALF65LYRVtWYHPjmniHeaNPgSJpOCk0CjuCPxg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com&s=782&h=63e7a917edc1f3170ace1ddf5de135209eee61c85f2ccb731864ca2361040061&size=980x&c=2693920187 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FOXvHkF1vCn3d-zP4gQeJcC8Nnrpq2cySDtHz3qrIZqCzSOiSFYeTfYWX5tZjO-pFPjn5N8FWNpCb99eR8GMjRRFvfqXz-3IcDGALF65LYRVtWYHPjmniHeaNPgSJpOCk0CjuCPxg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D782%26h%3D63e7a917edc1f3170ace1ddf5de135209eee61c85f2ccb731864ca2361040061%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2693920187%22%7D” expand=1]

LeahAnn Sweeney in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising calendar.

“LeahAnn has led a life of service, from doing four years in the Marine Corps as a Motor Transport Operator, to getting out and working for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff, to doing ‘service after service’ as a volunteer with our non-profit organization,” remarked Gina Elise, the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets. “As long as I have known LeahAnn, I have had so much respect and admiration for her. When she says she is going to be there, she is there, always willing to lend a hand where it is needed. She has been incredible with the patients at the VA Hospital, providing her beautiful smile to brighten their day and an ear to listen to their stories. My heart goes out to her and her family. As they say, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’ so I know she will be able to fight this. She knows that her fellow Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors will be there as her support network.”

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FIJAqwoMMMFgBbL_ZCKF1TLooCJI5yLryiSan4mkecudwFI0ptLWUYTWDgdZ1GDknqClIhDJVOJImDBRXspXWDumjH57rInPLFPVHmWbe7c3kpEnDT-iQTmPB6oncpWRbG-IG2tvZ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com&s=900&h=4b98db184d1b717d840799fa43d7f9e4dce9b77a85822f56b56bfa8b97e298e0&size=980x&c=426830869 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FIJAqwoMMMFgBbL_ZCKF1TLooCJI5yLryiSan4mkecudwFI0ptLWUYTWDgdZ1GDknqClIhDJVOJImDBRXspXWDumjH57rInPLFPVHmWbe7c3kpEnDT-iQTmPB6oncpWRbG-IG2tvZ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D900%26h%3D4b98db184d1b717d840799fa43d7f9e4dce9b77a85822f56b56bfa8b97e298e0%26size%3D980x%26c%3D426830869%22%7D” expand=1]

Deputy Sheriff Sweeney and a future law enforcement officer, clearly!

(Courtesy photo)

Her spirit of service and generosity have spurred a movement of those willing to show their support.

“As a single mother of three children, the need to feed her family doesn’t stop, but she’ll only be able to leave her home for mandatory tests and treatments during this quarantine. Providing basic groceries and meals are a vital part of her family’s care and her personal recovery,” said the Meal Train organizer, Lindsay Hassebrock.

Anyone who wants to mobilize and show support can share this article or links to the Meal Train, donate right here to help, or even sign up to cover a dinner for the Sweeney family.

And LeahAnn, if you’re reading this, just know that your military family has your back. Semper Fi.

Featured Image courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marie Monforte Photography

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this Union Army added insult to injury with its battle flag

By the time the Army of the Ohio joined General William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign in 1864, it had already repelled Confederate attacks on Ohio and marched South through Tennessee, chasing John Bell Hood through the Battles of Knoxville and Nashville. After burning Atlanta, the Union XXIII Corps, which made up the bulk of the Army of the Ohio, stopped to create a historical wonder: the world’s best battle trophy.


It turns out that Civil War combat isn’t very kind to the remnants of battle flags, especially those of the losing side. And after years of constant fighting, and a whole lot of winning, the XXIII Corps had a lot of captured Confederate flags.

The rise and fall of USPS

I don’t know if you see where this is going.

With all the wear and tear on their own battle flag, the Army of the Ohio decided they required a new flag to fly as they might soon be helping General Sherman March to the Sea. You don’t want to burn Savannah without looking your best. It’s a good thing Confederate battle flags decided to use the exact same colors the XXIII Corps required for its flag.

Using the best pieces of the captured enemy flags they had, the Corps decided to form a new battle flag of their own, made entirely from the shredded, battle-scarred remains of their defeated enemies’ banners. They even happened upon more of the cloth after capturing Macon, Ga. The finished product was actually made for them by the 98th Illinois Regiment.

The rise and fall of USPS

The flag itself was recently auctioned off for the low, low price of over ,000. Check it out over at Heritage Auctions.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information