The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice. - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Donald Large had one of the aptest last names in the history of last names. He was a beast, 6-ft. 6 inches tall and 240 pounds by the time he went through SAS selection the first time (more on that in a moment). But his road to military service started when he was just an over-sized tyke.


Badass: The Legend of Lofty Large

www.youtube.com

Born in 1930, he was just a boy when British troops preparing for service in France and Germany began training near his home. He watched the men readying to take the fight to Hitler and decided he would be a military man as well, a goal made even easier by his frame, and the frequent hunting trips his dad took him on.

He started as an Army Cadet, a sort of military-affiliated Boy Scouts in Britain, and then managed to get into the real British army at just 15 years old. As he trained in the military and then served Britain, he grew to his adult height and received the nickname “Lofty,” but he still craved combat.

Despite thinking Korea was a useless war, Large volunteered to serve in it and was ordered to the Gloucestershire Regiment. He fought at the Battle of Imjin where a terrain feature was named Gloster Hill after his unit’s defense.

But Large was wounded from a gunshot and shrapnel in the fighting and was taken prisoner, surviving a 10-day forced march to a prisoner of war camp. He survived another gunshot wound, disease, 80 pounds of weight loss, and two years of muscle atrophy and near starvation before he was swapped in a wounded prisoner exchange.

The army tried to give him a medical discharge, but he came back swinging over four years and put on even more muscle than he had lost. Once doctors cleared him, he put in for Special Air Service Selection, one of the most grueling military selection processes in the world. (When the U.S. formed Delta Force in 1977, the American officer in command formed the selection process from the SAS model.)

Despite all the scar tissues, Large reportedly did quite well in selection, only struggling with jumping out of the plane due to his being oversized for the plane and parachute. He weighed enough that he fell faster than other paratroopers, and this combined with a fear of heights made falling the hardest part for him.

But he was a stalwart man and made the jump anyway. He had proven himself capable and was on his way to the SAS.

Except.

Except that he rode a motorcycle soon after and crashed, crushing his ankle. The SAS told him that he would need to go back through selection to prove he was still capable of meeting the unit’s high standards. While most people would’ve probably waited a few months if they ever went back, Large simply re-bandaged his ankle, found out what his new boot size was with the swelling and bandages, and went back.

Yeah, he went back through selection while his ankle was still injured. He had only taken four weeks from crash to his second selection process.

He would serve with the SAS around the world and retired in 1973. He died in 2006.

(A hat tip to Today I Found Out whose video, embedded at top, brought Large to our attention. Their article on Large is good as well. People who want to know more about him and his exploits can see an interview series with Large on YouTube. The SAS Commando wrote his own biography before he died, Soldier Against the Odds, but it’s sadly out of print.)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

11 of the most powerful fully electric cars money can buy

Though it gets a lot of attention, Tesla isn’t the only company creating electric cars.

Some traditional carmakers like Aston Martin and Porsche are exploring the rapidly-growing electric car field with super powerful new models which add their own flair for luxury and speed to the market.

Meanwhile, other much smaller companies are exploring the high-end electric sector, such as the relatively unknown Aspark — which hasn’t even released a production vehicle yet.

Horsepower is measured a little differently for electric cars, as an electric motors’ full torque is deployed as soon as the driver steps on the accelerator. That means an electric car can feel more powerful than an internal-combustion-engined (ICE) car with the same horsepower rating at the low end, but start to lose some of its gusto at sustained high speeds unlike a gas-powered car.

With that crucial difference in mind, here are 11 of the most powerful electric cars money can buy, including some that are setting world records.


The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Nio EP9.

1. Nio EP9

Nio has been called the “ Tesla of China.” With the EP9 supercar, it’s obvious the company means business.

The car has a top speed of 195 mph and horsepower rating of 1,341, giving it a zero-to-60 time of only 2.7 seconds. Nio boasts the car has double the downforce of a Formula One racecar and delivers a F-22 fighter pilot experience by cornering at 3G.

The EP9 has a range of 265 miles before needing a new charge, and a full charge takes 45 minutes. The car also has an interchangeable battery system that takes 8 minutes to swap.

The Nio EP9 is also self-driving and set a record in 2017 for the fastest lap driven by an autonomous car at the Circuit of Americas track.

At least six of the 16 produced units have been sold to investors at id=”listicle-2639641248″.2 million each.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

2018 Tesla Model S 75D.

2. Tesla Model S Performance

Tesla no longer boasts the horsepower ratings for its cars, but the ,990 Tesla Model S Performance is plenty powerful. It can propel its nearly 5,000-pound frame to 60 mph in just 2.4 seconds. Tesla says its top speed is 163 mph and it carries an average range of 345 before complete discharge.

Owners can recharge at the company’s Supercharger locations, where 15 minutes is good for 130 miles in optimal conditions.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Rimac’s C_Two.

(Rimac)

3. Rimac’s Concept One and C_Two

Rimac’s Concept One, which debuted in 2011, has a rating of 1,224 horsepower, allowing it to reach top speeds of 220 mph and hit 62 mph from a standstill in just 2.5 seconds. The nearly id=”listicle-2639641248″ million supercar’s 90 kWh battery pack gives it a 310-mile range.

Rimac made only 88 units of the supercar, and British TV personality Richard Hammond famously crashed one in 2017.

In 2018, the Croatian company unveiled Concept One’s successor, the C_Two. With a 1,914 horsepower rating and a 403-mile range, the newer sibling is able to go from zero-to-60 in 1.85 seconds and a 256 mph top speed

The supercar can be charged 80% in 30 minutes when it’s connected to a 250 kW fast-charging network. It also includes a list of driver assistance systems, such as facial recognition to open doors and start the engine. It can also scan your face to determine your mood, and if the C_Two determines emotion s such as stress or anger, it will start playing soothing music.

The planned 150 units of the .1 million car were nearly all purchased within three weeks of orders opening. The cars will be delivered in 2020.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Genovation GXE.

(Genovation)

4. Genovation GXE

The Genovation GXE is a converted all-electric Chevy Corvette with a horsepower rating of 800. It currently holds the record for “fastest street-legal electric car to exceed 209 mph,” but the company claims it can even get to 220 mph. It can go zero-to-60 mph in under three seconds.

The 0,000 car also has a range of about 175 miles, according to Genovation’s computer simulations.

Delivery of the 75 planned units will begin by the end of 2019.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

2020 Tesla Roadster.

(Tesla)

5. Tesla Roadster

The next generation of the Tesla Roadster is arriving soon.

This new Roadster will be able to hit top speeds of over 250 mph, and 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, Tesla says. There’s also a removable glass roof that stores in the trunk, turning the car into a convertible.

The 0,000 car also will have a 620-mile range, the longest of any on our list.

The company is now taking reservations for 2020 delivery.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Aspark Owl.

6. Aspark Owl

The Aspark Owl, a 1,150 horsepower supercar, will be able to reach 174 mph and have a 180-mile range. The Owl recently hit 62 mph in 1.9 seconds, although it’s still in testing.

Only 50 of the .6 million car will be produced, according to Bloomberg, and the company plans on delivering them in mid-2020.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Porsche Taycan.

(Porsche)

7. Porsche Taycan

Formally known as the Mission E, the Taycan will be Porsche’s first fully-electric car. Porsche initially had a target of 20,000 units for its first year of production, but it recently doubled this number due to interest, and the company already has more 30,000 reservations, it recently revealed.

The Taycan has a horsepower rating of over 600 that allows it to travel zero-to-60 mph in under 3.5 seconds. The car also has a range of 310 miles on a single charge and can get 60 miles of range from just four minutes of charging.

The supercar is expected to have a starting price of ,000,according to the Drive.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Dendrobium D-1.

(Dendrobium)

8. Dendrobium D-1

The D-1 is the first in a series of electric cars by Dendrobium Automotiv e. The car originally debuted at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show and made an appearance at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans event.

The car is still a prototype but is estimated to have an output of 1,800 horsepower, giving it a top speed of over 200 mph and the ability to see 60 mph in 2.7 seconds.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Pininfarina Battista.

9. Pininfarina Battista

The Battista is a 1,900 horsepower rated electric car from Automobili Pininfarina. The Battista can reach 60 mph in under two seconds.

The Battista will have a range of around 300 miles on one charge.

North America will see 50 out of the 150 Battista units that will be made. Half of those 50 have already been claimed, despite a .5 million price tag, according to CNBC.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Aston Martin Lagonda.

10. Aston Martin Rapide E

Rapide E will be Aston Martin’s first fully electric vehicle. The 612-horsepower car can reach a top speed of 155 mph and can go zero-to-60 mph in four seconds.

The 0,000 car has a range of around 200 miles and can be fully charged in three hours in ideal conditions.

Only 155 units of the Rapide E will be made available with deliveries starting in 2020. One of them may be driven by Daniel Craig in the next James Bond film, according to British media reports.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Lotus Evija.

(Lotus)

11. Lotus Evija

Lotus’ Evija is poised to be the first fully-electric British hypercar. The company will fully reveal the Evija during Monterey Car Week starting Aug. 9, 2019.

Although the company has not released final specifications, its target is 2,000 horsepower, which would be good for a zero-to-62 mph acceleration time of under three seconds and a top speed of around 200 mph, according to CNET.

The car will cost around million and 130 units will be made.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Avengers: Endgame’ is returning to theaters with a deleted scene

At the end of June 2019, a new version of Avengers: Endgame will hit theaters, with a post-credits scene and new “surprises.”

On June 19, 2019, Insider reported that during a press junket for Spider-Man: Far From Home, Marvel president Kevin Feige confirmed the “rerelease” will happen on June 28, 2019, right before Far From Home hits theaters the following week. Feige made it clear that this wasn’t an extended cut but that “there will be a version going into theaters with a bit of a marketing push with a few new things at the end of the movie.” He continued: “If you stay and watch the movie, after the credits, there’ll be a deleted scene, a little tribute, and a few surprises. “


The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a long history of including post-credits scenes, with mixed results. In April 2019, audiences who were excitedly anticipating the post-credit scene after Endgame were treated to a trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home instead. Chris Hemsworth later teased a “deleted scene” from the film on Jimmy Fallon. However, the “scene” ended up being a clip of the Australian actor singing a few lines of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails.

The point is when it came out in April 2019, Endgame was unique because it was the first MCU film that didn’t have a post-credits scene setting up what would happen in future installments. Now, apparently, that will no longer be the case.

As for the “surprises,” that’s anyone’s guess. Maybe one deleted scene will help explain what the hell happened to Loki and how he has his own time-traveling TV show?

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

Articles

4 times enlisted troops stole planes from the flightline

It must be so tempting, staring down an awesome piece of military hardware… just sitting there, waiting for someone to take it for a spin. The maintainers know everything about their plane, tank, or other vehicles, right down to the last detail.


Imagine anyone’s surprise when one of these vehicles just up and leaves when its not supposed to. Sounds unlikely, but it’s happened a lot more than one might think.

1. Sergeant Paul Meyer gets sick of his wife, steals a C-130

On May 23, 1969, Meyer, a U.S. Air Force crew chief stationed at RAF Mildenhall, England, took off in a C-130E, and very quickly crashed into the English Channel. His body was not found, but he was assumed to have died on impact.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

The USAF investigation showed Sgt. Meyer was “under a considerable amount of stress” in the days leading up to the theft. He was married just eight weeks before his deployment to England and his wife constantly badgered him to come home – because she was being sued by her ex-husband.

On top of his marriage difficulties, he failed to pass for promotion despite allegedly being better qualified than his peers who did get promoted. Meyer was grounded and restricted to barracks for being arrested in an alcohol-related incident.

The same night he was arrested, he called the fuels unit on the base to fuel up his C-130. He then took an officer’s flight clothes and GOV, then drove to the flightline.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.
A C-130E at REF Mildenhall in 1984.

He did not crash on takeoff. He climbed, turned north, and made his way over the Channel. He called his wife over the radio until he lost control and crashed.

2. An Army PFC takes a Huey to the White House

Army Pfc. Robert K. Preston washed out of Army flight school in 1973. The 20-year-old was apparently determined to get under the rotors of an Army aircraft – by any means necessary. On Feb. 17, 1974, Preston stole a Bell UH-1 Huey Helicopter from Fort Meade, Maryland, and flew it down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, stopping at a trailer park along the way.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.
Screenshot of NBC’s coverage of the incident.

Preston, who held a civilian pilot’s license for fixed wing aircraft, completed 24 weeks of Army aviation training before washing out for “deficiency in the instrument phase.” Yet, Maryland State Police pilots who chased Preston called him “one hell of a pilot.”

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.
Preston (center).

The helicopter buzzed the Washington Monument and the White House itself before touching down amid a hail of Secret Service buckshot. Preston was injured in the gunfire, sentenced to one year in prison, and fined $2,400.

3. A USAF Mechanic steals an F-86 Sabre, regrets nothing

When the F-86 Sabre appeared in the Air Force fleet in the 1950s, pilots needed a year of training to fly it. Airman 1st Class George Johnson, however, took the initiative. On Sept. 20, 1956, he hopped in the cockpit of a Sabre and went for a ride.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.
Airman George Johnson in a T-33 in late 1955. (George R. Johnson)

Johnson was a mechanic with dreams of flying. Unfortunately, a burned retina from staring at an eclipse meant a plane like the F-86 was forever out of reach. As part of a routine functional check one day, he asked the tower to clear the runway for a high-speed taxi test, which was actually a thing.

Except when it reached the right speed, Johnson took off with the plane – literally. But he had no way down. No chute. No experience. The officers of the day had to talk Johnson down. Johnson was court-martialed and fined almost $200, sentenced to six months confinement and loss of rank to Airman Basic.

He later served the rest of his enlistment.

4. A Marine becomes a mechanic – then steals an A-4M Skyhawk

Lance Cpl. Howard Foote couldn’t become a Marine Corps pilot because he got the bends during a glider test. He had to settle for becoming a mechanic.

But the dream of flying a USMC fighter never left him. One day in 198 he gassed up a Skyhawk and took it for a joyride.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.


Foote landed his plane much easier than anyone else – he was an accomplished pilot already. But he still served time in the brig for his chicanery.

BONUS: U.S. Army soldier steals a tank, goes on a rampage

In 1990, a California veteran named Shawn Nelson lost a medical malpractice suit to a local hospital, who counter-sued for thousands. His wife filed for divorce in 1991. Both parents died of cancer in 1992. His brother became hooked on meth.

By 1995, his business went defunct and he lost everything and was facing homelessness. In April of that year, his live-in girlfriend died of a drug overdose.

On May 17, 1995, Nelson calmly drove to a California National Guard armory in San Diego and forced his way into a 57-ton M60A3 Patton tank. Though unarmed, Nelson still drove the tank off the base.

For 23 minutes, he led police on a slow-speed chase through local residential neighborhoods as he rampaged over utility poles, hydrants, and at least 25 cars.
Eventually, the tank got caught on the median of State Route 163, where police ordered Nelson to leave the vehicle. When he instead tried to free the tank, the police shot him. Nelson died from his wounds, the only fatality.
Articles

The last soldier killed in WWI died one minute before the war ended

Sergeant Henry Gunther was actually a private the day he charged a German machine gun nest for the last time in World War I. He had just been busted down in rank for criticizing the war in a letter he wrote home, and he wasn’t happy about it.


Luckily for millions of other soldiers and civilians in Europe, everyone knew the Armistice would come into effect on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

This is why so many question why Sgt. Gunter charged a German machine gun nest at 10:59 that same day.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.
A memorial to Gunther built on Nov. 11, 2010 at his gravesite in Baltimore.

Gunther and his unit came across a German position north of Verdun on Nov. 11, 1918. As they took cover from the machine guns, they received word that the war would be over in less than an hour.

That’s when Sgt. Gunther charged the position with a fixed bayonet.

The Germans fired a number of warning shots and tried to yell at Gunther – in English – to stop.

But Gunter wasn’t the only troop to die in that last hour of World War I. Some 3,000 men died in that short time. Some historians even speculate that Gunther was ordered to charge the machine guns.

Even though so many others died around the same time, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force General John J. Pershing declared that Gunther would be known as the last man killed in action in the war.

Sergeant Henry Gunther was engaged before the war started and just secured a job as a bookkeeper in the Baltimore area before he was drafted in 1917.

After his death was recorded at 10:59, his fellow troops moved his body and buried him near where his company was posted. His remains were moved to the United States in 1923.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.
A man in WWI-era French uniform stands beside a memorial stone at the spot where Henry Gunther fell on Nov. 11, 1918. The stone was unveiled by the French government as part of a 90th anniversary event in 2008. (Photo by American War Memorials Overseas)

On Veteran’s Day 2008, a memorial was constructed on the site where he was killed in Chaumont-devant-Damvillers, France.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is one of the greatest power moves in military history

Pissing contests are nothing new to the military. Anything that can be measured or scored will inevitably be used by a troop to try and one-up another. And when we know we have something over someone, we won’t let them forget it.

Within the aviation community, speed is king. And if you can fly faster than anyone else, then you’re the biggest badass in the air.

This is the story of perhaps the greatest one-upping in aviation history. It’s just one chapter of the fascinating story of Major Brian Shul, a life fully described in his autobiography, Sled Driver: Flying the World’s Fastest Jet.


The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

You know, as humble as you can be when you’re given the reins to the baddest aircraft the U.S. military has ever seen.

(U.S. Air Force)

Just to give you a picture of this badass, back in the Vietnam War, Shul flew an AT-28 and conducted 212 close air support missions. He was shot down near the Cambodian border and was unable to eject from his aircraft. He suffered major burns and other extensive wounds across his body while the enemy was circling around him. It took more than a day for pararescue to safely get him out of there and back to a military hospital stateside, at Fort Sam Houston.

It took two grueling months of intensive care, over 15 major operations over the course of a year, and countless physicians to get right. Doctors told him he was lucky to survive — and that he’d never fly again. He proved them wrong by flying his fighter jet just two days after being released.

Shul would later move on to flying the A-7D, was a part of the first operational A-10 squadron, and went on to be one of the first A-10 instructor pilots — all before finally being given the sticks to fly the SR-71 Blackbird. He went from almost certain death to piloting the fastest and highest-flying jet the world has ever seen.

And he remained humble throughout.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

The F-18 Hornet is cool — but it isn’t SR-71 cool.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. John Mcgarity)

Shul and his RSO (or navigator), Maj. Walter Watkins, were on their final training sortie to finish logging the required 100 hours to attain “Mission Ready” status over the skies of Colorado, Arizona, and California. Zooming 80,000 feet above the Earth was a beautiful sight — in his book, Shul recalls being able to see the California coast from the Arizona border. Shul asked Watkins to plug him into the radio. Most of the chatter they heard was from the Los Angeles Center — it was typical radio traffic.

Usually, the Blackbird pilots wouldn’t bother chiming in, but this day was different.

We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot asked Center for a readout of his ground speed. Center replied: “November Charlie 175, I’m showing you at ninety knots on the ground.”

As a matter of protocol, the Center controllers will always treat everyone with respect, whether they’re a rookie pilot flying a rinky-dink Cessna or they’re arriving in Air Force One. Shul also recalled, however, that the more arrogant pilots would chime in, trying to act tough by requesting a readout of their own ground speed — just to show off to other nearby pilots.

Just moments after the Cessna’s inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed. “I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.” Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren. Then, out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency.

You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. “Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check.” Before Center could reply, I’m thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million-dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a readout? Then I got it, ol’ Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is.

He’s the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet. And the reply, always with that same, calm voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: “Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.”

Keep in mind, there is no air-breathing aircraft on this planet that is faster than the SR-71 Blackbird. The only things faster are space shuttles and experimental, rocket-powered aircraft intended to reach the edges of outer space.

So, they chimed in.

Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: “Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?” There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request.”

Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.” I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling.

But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: “Ah, Center, much thanks, we’re showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.” For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Houston Center voice, when L.A.came back with, “Roger that, Aspen, Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.”

To put this in perspective, Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager broke the speed of sound in his Bell X-1 when he went 713.4 knots, or 820.9 miles per hour if it were on land. The Navy F-18 pilot, the one trying to act like Chuck Yeager, was going almost that fast.

Shul was going 1,900 knots, which is the same as 2,186.481 miles per hour. That’s 2.84 times faster than the speed of sound.

It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day’s work. We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast.

For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.
MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS has a plan to bust out 70,000 supporters from Kurdish jails

ISIS fighters will be closely watching the fighting between Turkish and Kurdish troops in northeastern Syria, waiting for a chance to break thousands of fighters, and tens of thousands of family members, out of Kurdish prisons, according to a former member of the group, Western intelligence officials, and Kurdish commanders.

Concerns of a mass-scale ISIS prison break have grown as Turkish troops enter northeastern Syria to confront the Syrian Defence Forces. The SDF is a predominately Kurdish group regarded as terrorists by Turkey but a key American ally in the ground war against ISIS. SDF officials, who have warned that their resources were already overstretched guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners before the invasion, now say the situation is critical.


Thousands of ISIS fighters are being held in a dozen SDF facilities. Nearly 70,000 women and children are being held at the al Hol camp in Syria. US special operations troops on Oct. 9, 2019, moved several dozen high profile prisoners, including those accused of murdering Western hostages, to an undisclosed location outside of Syria.

Turkey ramps up fight against Kurds in Syria

www.youtube.com

But that won’t be enough to prevent ISIS from attempting to break out thousands of lesser known but vital fighters, according to a former member of the group.

“Prison is like their home,” a former ISIS fighter tells Insider

Abu Ahmed al Halabi fought alongside ISIS and its predecessor groups from 2012 until 2015 before quitting the group over its brutal treatment of other Syrian rebel groups in his hometown of Tal Riffat, outside of Aleppo. Although not in contact with the group any longer, he’s currently fighting in Idlib Province for a non-jihadist rebel group. He told Insider that the group is deeply experienced in prison breaks, and its men will have organized while they were detained.

“All of the big bosses in Daesh are Iraqis that were in jail together during the American occupation,” he said. “The group that Abu Musab [al Zarqawi] founded in Iraq in 2003 was all sent to Camp Bucca, it’s where they organized Daesh [ISIS]. Prison is like their home.”

“Daesh will be organized inside the prisons and ready to attack the guards and escape,” Abu Ahmed said. “Outside the prisons, Daesh will be watching the guards and defenses and planning an attack, at any of these prisons they know they can get an entire [battalion] of fighters if they succeed. They have people watching right now waiting for a chance.”

Western intelligence officials agree, one officer from a NATO member that served inside Syria with his government’s special forces told Insider.

“These guys are a jail gang, running their operations while detained might even be easier than [being outside] hiding from drones afraid to use a telephone,” the official, who lacks permission to speak to the media, said.”

We are sure that there is close cooperation between fighters in some prisons, the families in al Hol, and the units that are still free in the desert area between Iraq and Syria,” the official said.

As many as 12,000 ISIS fighters including about 2,000 foreigners are held in SDF prisons. Among the 70,000 women and children in al Hol are hundreds of women who are still loyal to ISIS’s ground leadership.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Flag of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

“[ISIS leader Abu Bakir] Baghdadi even said in his last statement that his people should be patient and await rescue, and that was before the Turks upended what had been a mostly stable situation.”

ISIS fighters in Kurdish jails have been in constant contact with the group’s leadership via Telegram and Whatsapp 

The families of ISIS fighters currently held in deteriorating security conditions in al Hol — where the SDF was already stretched thin — were in constant contact with the group’s leadership via Telegram, Whatsapp and other secure messaging systems, the official told us.

“Of course, we know they are plotting something but the resources to stop them just aren’t available,” the official said.

Abu Ahmed described the release of women and children in al Hol as a goal for the group but secondary to the immediate military need to free as many of its captured fighters as possible.

“The women might escape al Hol themselves but the Daesh bosses will be watching the prisons holding the fighters first,” he said. “They want those thousands of mujahideen so they can also fight the Kurds and Iraqis. If they take one prison, they will use those new guys to take another prison and then it will be just like Mosul” in 2014.

“They will have planned to attack at the perfect time and will have trucks and guns waiting for all the men they free”

Abu Ahmed said that in a series of attacks on Mosul in 2014, the plan was merely to break out 2,500 fighters from a local prison. Fighting for the group in northern Syria at the time, Abu Ahmed’s commander had been assigned to help plan the mission.

“My Emir was Abu Omar [al Shishani], and he was commander for all Daesh ground forces in Syria and Iraq, I helped him plan the Mosul operation. We were just trying to get fighters out of prison when the Iraqi Army collapsed. Once Abu Omar saw this he ordered everyone to attack to take as much space as they could as the Iraqis retreated. But the Mosul operation was part of a campaign of jailbreaks called ‘Breaking the Walls.'”

“These are very careful people,” he added. “They will have planned to attack at the perfect time and will have trucks and guns waiting for all the men they free.”

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

MIGHTY GAMING

The Navy will recruit drone pilots using video games

Can a video game help the U.S. Navy find future operators for its remotely operated, unmanned vehicles (UxV), popularly called drones?

To find out, the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute and Adaptive Immersion Technologies, a software company, are developing a computer game to identify individuals with the right skills to be UxV operators. The project, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), is called StealthAdapt.


“The Navy currently doesn’t have a test like this to predict who might excel as UxV operators,” said Lt. Cmdr. Peter Walker, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department. “This fast-paced, realistic computer simulation of UxV missions could be an effective recruitment tool.”

Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, UxV have played ever-larger roles in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and other missions. Consequently, there’s an increasing need for well-trained UxV operators.

In recent years, the Air Force established its own formal screening process for remotely piloted aircraft operators, and the Marine Corps designated an unmanned aviation systems (UAS) career path for its ranks.

The Navy, however, doesn’t have an official selection and training pipeline specifically for its UxV operators, who face challenges unique to the service. For UAS duty, the Navy has taken aviators who already earned their wings; provided on-the-job, UAS-specific training; and placed them in temporary positions.

However, this presents challenges. It’s costly and time-consuming to add more training hours, and it takes aviators away from their manned aircraft duties. Finally, the cognitive skills needed for successful manned aviation can vary from those needed for unmanned operators.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.
A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

StealthAdapt is designed to address this issue. It consists of a cognitive test, personality assessment, and biographical history assessment. The cognitive exam actually is the game-based component of the system and takes the form of a search-and-rescue mission. Each player’s assignment is to rescue as many stranded friendly forces as possible, within a pre-set time limit, while avoiding fire from hostile forces.

If that’s not stressful enough, players must simultaneously monitor chat-based communications, make sure they have enough fuel and battery power to complete missions, memorize and enter authentication codes required for safe rescue of friendlies, decode encrypted information, and maintain situational awareness.

“We’re trying to see how well players respond under pressure, which is critical for success as an unmanned operator,” said Dr. Phillip Mangos, president and chief scientist at Adaptive Immersion Technologies. “We’re looking for attention to detail, the ability to multitask and prioritize, and a talent for strategic planning — thinking 10 moves ahead of your adversary.”

To maintain this pressure, players complete multiple 5- to 10-minute missions in an hour. Each scenario changes, with different weather, terrain, number of friendlies and hostiles, and potential communication breakdowns.

After finishing the game portion, participants answer questions focusing on personality and biographical history. Mangos’ team then crunches this data with game-performance metrics to create a comprehensive operator evaluation.

In 2017, over 400 civilian and military volunteers participated as StealthAdapt research subjects at various Navy and Air Force training centers. Mangos and his research team currently are reviewing the results and designing an updated system for validation by prospective Navy and Air Force unmanned operators. It will be ready for fleet implementation in 2018

Mangos envisions StealthAdapt serving as a stand-alone testing and recruitment tool, or as part of a larger screening process such as the Selection for UAS Personnel, also known as SUPer. SUPer is an ONR-sponsored series of specialized tests that assesses cognitive abilities and personality traits of aspiring UxV operators.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this combat Marine kicked his painkiller addiction

You’d be hard-pressed to find a combat Marine or Soldier who doesn’t have wear-and-tear injuries from their deployments and training. U.S. Marine veteran Scot Knutson is no different, but it was during his tenure in Explosive Ordinance Disposal where he received his most significant injuries.

In 2012, blast exposure from IEDs gave Knutson a concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal stenosis (compression in the spine), and pulmonary edema caused by trauma to the lungs. When he returned home from his deployment in 2013, he was placed on a non-deployment status to heal — and he was given Oxycodone for the pain.

Like many veterans, Knutson developed an opioid addiction until he was finally hospitalized in 2017 after an overdose.

He received a 30-day in-patient treatment program followed by a 60-day out-patient program to help detox, but he credits THC and CBD products for helping him remain off narcotics ever since.


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CBD Treatment Program

“Start low. Start slow.” That’s the advice Knutson has for anyone looking into medicinal cannabis to help treat pain and PTSD. As a Federal Schedule 1 controlled substance, many doctors are prohibited from recommending CBD or THC to patients.

As states begin to decriminalize marijuana, more and more people are gaining access to medicinal strains, but anyone who has jumped right in to an edible knows they can be potent.

When Knutson began his CBD program, he’d been prescribed Ambien for sleep and Prazosin for PTSD-related nightmares. With proper timing and dosage of CBD, along with occasional microdosing of THC, Knutson no longer needed the Ambien for sleep (though the Prazosin, which is non habit-forming and a non-narcotic, continues to help with nightmares, a common side-effect of PTSD).

There really is a difference between the marijuana trips of 70s and the use of medicinal cannabis today. For Knutson, THC in the form of a liquid deliverable (for example, in a sparkling water) will begin to treat pain in 10 minutes. The same dose (5-10mg) in an edible might take 1-2 hours to provide relief.

As for vaping or smoking, Knutson avoids them altogether to protect his lungs.

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Knutson Brothers – (Left) Scot, retired Marine and Keef VP of Operations, (Middle) Kelly, co-founder, (Right) Erik, co-founder and CEO.

The Cannabis Industry

Knutson’s transition into a career in the cannabis industry was a slow one. His brother started a cannabis company in 2010 (ironically around the time Knutson was getting his Top Secret clearance background check…) but it wasn’t until after he separated from the Marine Corps in 2014 that he decided to join the industry professionally.

He now helps lead a thriving and award-winning cannabis company, Keef Brands, which is designed with the health-conscious consumer in mind. Through his company, he’s been able to help place other veterans into jobs and security positions within the industry.

When I asked how the Department of Veterans Affairs can better accommodate the needs of veterans, Knutson was pretty straight-forward: “Cannabis needs to come out of the shadows and be talked about so there can be education about how to properly use it. It’d be helpful if the VA would be able to talk about it with veterans so they could receive the treatment they need — and also so they can prevent abuse.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s Navy plans on beating the US to an operational railgun

China looks set to beat the US to the punch on a naval railgun — which the US has spent more than $500 million and a decade on — by deploying the game-changing weapon on a navy ship.

But the complicated railgun doesn’t even have to work to succeed, as it looks as if Beijing’s doing this to embarrass Washington.

The US Navy started work on a railgun in 2005. For years, the Navy struggled to reign in the wild technology that allows a railgun to fire a projectile at such high velocity that it will make a devastating impact without an explosive charge.


Some grounded tests of the Navy’s railgun produced fantastic imagery, but it remains far from battle-ready and may never be fielded on a warship.

Earlier 2018, a Chinese navy ship appeared on the water with a railgun of its own. By actually putting the weapon on the ship, China succeeded where the US Navy had failed for over a decade.

Citing people with knowledge of a US intelligence report, CNBC reported in June 2018 that China had been working on its railgun for seven years and was just another seven from deploying a working model on a ship.

It’s “pretty obvious that China is working towards that goal, and probably faster than the US is,” Melodie Ha, who’s part of the Center for a New American Security’s Asia-Pacific Security Program, told Business Insider.

“It’s very possible that they will mount a working railgun on a ship” by 2025, Ha said. But everything is not always as it appears with the Chinese military.

A railgun doesn’t even really make sense

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.
All this fire is caused purely by friction.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Instead of gunpowder, pure electricity powers the railgun’s projectiles. But despite the lack of explosives, railgun projectiles still cause fireballs, because the round travels so fast that the air and metal itself combust under the immense friction. This indicates the massive amount of electricity needed to fire the railgun — a big problem for China, or any warship.

The US has proposed putting a railgun on the new Zumwalt class of destroyer. The Chinese are likely to put a railgun on the Type 055 destroyer. The Zumwalt produces twice the electricity of the Type 055, according to Ha.

Additionally, the Chinese would have to clear the same engineering and operational hurdles that have kept the US from mounting the railgun on a ship. Railguns produce a lot of heat and have a short barrel life. After rapid-fire shots, the gun barrel might be susceptible to dangerous warping. And aiming a railgun that can fire at targets as far as 100 miles away — and from a warship that’s rocking in the seas — also poses serious challenges.

Strategically, it’s also unclear how the railgun fits into naval warfare. The US, China, and Russia all have hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile programs designed to thwart existing defenses, and they generally have higher accuracy and much greater range than the railgun.

And if the railgun’s barrel melts after a few shots, why bother?

“As long as the US can launch a second strike, if the Chinese can’t knock down the second missile, then what’s the point?” Ha said.

China’s railgun has a reported range of only 124 miles — so by the time the railgun could strike a target, the Chinese ship would already be in range of US missiles.

The real purpose behind the railgun

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.
The Office of Naval Research Electromagnetic Railgun located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

A railgun doesn’t make sense in today’s warfighting environment, but it makes perfect sense for another mission of China’s navy: embarrassing the US.

“In terms of Chinese maritime grand strategy, it would fit in their entire plan,” Ha said, adding that railguns are “next-generation technology” and that China wants to “prove to the US and the entire world that they are technologically advancing.”

China’s opaque system has shrouded the new railgun prototype in mystery. If China were to place one of these mysterious, next-generation guns in the South China Sea, it would have beaten the US to the punch on a major technological advance and projected a unique kind of power unmatched by the West.

At a time when the US and China are battling to see whose vision of the future can win out, it makes sense that Beijing would try to shame Washington by winning this leg of the arms race.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 Toys from the ’70s that are worth some serious cash

No, we’re not talking about Pet Rocks. We’re talking about toys from the ’70s that defined play for countless kids with bell-bottoms and feathered haircuts, like Mego, G.I. Joe, and the Six Million Dollar Man. Maybe that’s you. Maybe that was one of your older brothers or sisters. Either way, if any of you stashed some of your prized playthings from the seventies in your folks’ basement when you moved out, you could be sitting on some serious cash.


While the seventies is remembered now as a fabulously dated era of toy gimmicks (stunt cycles, flashy paint, etc.), the decade also marked a cultural shift in how toys were marketed to kids. “It was the first time you saw advertisers go after kids instead of their parents,” says toy expert Mark Bellomo, who’s written books on Star Wars and other popular toy franchises including Transformers. Toy companies started to consider the voice of the kids rather than the voice of the parents, he adds. And while commercials included an appeal to parents to purchase the toy, for the first time they spoke directly to the child.

“Today, a lot of seventies toys are having a resurgence,” says Bellomo, who also works on Netflix‘s The Toys That Made Us.“Once a toy line reaches a decade-based anniversary, they start to gain traction on secondary markets.” And with toys from the early seventies fast approaching their 50th anniversary, demand is only likely to intensify. But which seventies toys specifically are taking off, or are poised to do so, in terms of value? We asked Bellomo for the top five toys from the seventies that are worth a lot of money today.

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(Mego Museum)

1. Mego Action Figures

For many collectors, Mego action figures and celebrity dolls were the ultimate toy line for kids growing up in the seventies. Not only were they incredibly adaptable ⏤ thanks to their brilliant use of an 8-inch tall stock body ⏤ but Mego had the foresight to cash in on licensing agreements to create toys for boys.

Mego created figures based on Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Chips, Buck Rogers, Action Jackson, The Dukes of Hazard, and so many more. “If you look at the amount of money that Mego paid to corporations to license their images, superheroes, TV stars, and movie stars,” Bellomo says, “It was a pittance to what’s being paid today.”

The holy grail Mego toy line for collectors, however, remains the World’s Greatest Super Heroes! based on both Marvel Comicsand DC Comic book characters. “The reason why that line was so successful was the scale,” Bellomo says. “A kid could put Spider-Man or Bo Duke in the Batmobile. For the company to hold Marvel and DC licenses at the same time — that made Mego a dominant force.” It sounds like an impossibility today to have Superman and Iron Man under the same umbrella, but it was the norm for years.

Surprisingly, Bellomo says the most sought-after superhero toys aren’t even full action figures ⏤ it’s the accessories to the toys kids already owned, the Secret Identity Outfits. “It was a head and the outfit and no body, and it was the only way for you to get Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Peter Parker, and Clark Kent,” he says. “There were such limited numbers manufactured, it’s like they don’t exist.” A Peter Parker Outfit recently sold on eBay for nearly id=”listicle-2629642946″,000.

While Bellomo says you can find original pieces if you’re patient ⏤ for example, Clark Kent’s eyeglasses are just a couple of hundred bucks ⏤ an entire set intact can put a kid through college. Then again, they’re very rare. “It’s like a Faberge egg,” he says. “They’re so absolutely, supremely rare that I don’t care if you come to the table with ,000.”

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2. Six Million Dollar Man

Kenner is known for giving the world Star Wars toys in the late seventies, but their first big hit was the Six Million Dollar Man. Much like the sci-fi series, the toy line was a smash success and Bellomo credits that to a lack of superhero shows on TV at the time. “There was a void in live-action super heroic programming for kids. I don’t think the show was targeted to kids, but Kenner realized they couldn’t compete with Mego’s [expansive toy line] so they offered something different and unique.”

That offering included not only a 12-inch-tall Steve Austin toy with a litany of features (bionic eye, interchangeable limbs, bionic grip, just to name a few), but also some colorful secondary characters to match including Maskstron and Bionic Bigfoot. “The Six Million Dollar Man has ticked up the last few years. People love kitsch, and the line has a kitschiness that makes it more attractive. And they’re all so wonderfully dated,” says Bellomo. Most toys from the 40-year old line can sell for hundreds of dollars (as high as 0 on eBay) if it’s still in its original packaging and in mint condition.

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3. Hot Wheels Redline

When Mattel debuted their new toy car line in 1968, it went toe-to-toe with the biggest car toy manufacturer at the time, Matchbox. And Hot Wheels nearly put the king out of business. Known as the “Redline” Series because the cars had a literal red line on every wheel, Mattel offered something new to kids by creating concept cars and muscle cars in a dynamic new paint treatment called Spectraflame.

“When Hot Wheels starting making those first 16, they were revolutionary,” says Bellomo. “Hot Wheels made Matchbox reconsider what they were doing. Mattel wasn’t using standard paint. It was like a lacquer that had a very realistic effect. The paint, the detailing, they just stood out.”

Of the original set, the least popular colors at the time are the most sought after by collectors today. Especially, pink. “That’s the one worth more money to collectors,” says Bellomo. “To get one of the original sweet 16 in mint condition, in pink… good luck.” Although any of the original Redline toys in the package can sell for thousands of dollars, Bellomo is quick to warn that if you’re going to seek out any original Redline, however, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable dealer. Novice buyers are known to shell out big bucks for what they think is an original, but is actually just a re-release.

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4. Lord of the Rings Action Figures by Knickerbocker

Based off of the divisive animated film by Ralph Bakshi, the Lord of the Rings action figures are some of the hardest to find figures from the decade. According to Bellomo, the toys were on shelves for just weeks because of the criticism the film received. “They’ve always been relatively expensive because the devotees of Lord of the Rings are huge, even without the Peter Jackson films,” he says.

But for some time, they were the only toys for the franchise, and it was a tiny toy line of six figures. Time has only made these figures harder to find, especially after the lauded Peter Jackson films, and virtually all of the figures from the series sell for top dollar ⏤ even the accessories. “About a month ago, Frodo’s horse went for id=”listicle-2629642946″,200 and that wasn’t even an AFA graded sample. Gandalf mint on card goes for about 0. I saw a Ringwraith cape — just the cape — sell for .”

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5. Evel Knievel

The stunt performer transcended American culture with his death-defying, and at times, bone-shattering performances on his motorcycle. So of course it made sense to create a toy that not only could recreate said stunts, but also be unbreakable. “The great irony of his action figure is that it’s a bendy toy,” Bellomo says. “It’s plastic over wire. The head is vinyl plastic, but the accessories and costumes made it an action figure that couldn’t break.”

Despite being a wildly popular toy, mostly due to the stunt cycle’s ability to totally rip, Knievel with a working, sealed bike could fetch a couple of big ones. “A factory sealed Stunt Cycle Set, depending on the condition of the box, can go for 0 or more,” says Bellomo.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Air Force veteran’s honest reaction to ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer

The first official Captain Marvel trailer finally dropped, teasing one of Marvel’s most anticipated new films — and its new hero, whom the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, has touted as Marvel’s most powerful yet. Needless to say, it’s an exciting time for nerds.

Warning: Potential Captain Marvel and Avengers 3 and 4 spoilers ahead.


www.youtube.com

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She walks away from this, btw.

The opening sequence drops Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers out of the sky and onto a Blockbuster video store, reminding the audience that this film takes place in the 90s — which is also why we’re going to be seeing some classic Air Force fighters instead of newer (sexier?) stealth jets, like the F-22 or F-35.

Related: Why I’m thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Don’t call it a Fighting Falcon. NO ONE CALLS IT A FIGHTING FALCON.

(Still from ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer by Marvel Studios)

U.S. Air Force Captain Carol Danvers flew the F-16 Viper before becoming a part-Kree, part-human intergalactic superhero…

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“You see, an explosion spliced my DNA with a Kree alien named Mar-Vell so now I call myself Captain Marvel and I can fly and shoot energy bursts out of my hands and stuff.”

Captain Marvel is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first film to star a female superhero, but it won’t be an origin story. When this film begins, Carol already has her powers and works with Starforce, described in Entertainment Weekly as the “SEAL Team Six of space.”

Once on earth, she finds herself with questions about her past.

“I keep having these memories. I see flashes. I think I had a life here but I can’t tell if it’s real.”

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

That’s kind of how my active-duty memories look — except with a lot more paperwork and despair.

The trailer shows what appear to be Carol’s memories, including her military training and time on active duty. Here, we get a peek at Maria “Photon” Rambeau, Carol’s closest friend and, we’re guessing, wingman.

Maria also has a daughter named Monica — whom comic book fans will know as an iteration of Captain Marvel, among others. By the time the events in Avengers 4 come around, Monica will be an adult. We know that Nick Fury’s last act before Thanos dusted him was to page Captain Marvel (yes — with a pager… because of the 90s? I don’t know how that inter-dimensional/time-traveling/vintage technology works yet).

So far, fans have only been able to speculate where Carol has been since the 90s, but a favorite theory includes Ant-Man (who was also absent during the fight against Thanos) and a time vortex.

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Keep the wings level and true, ladies.

(Still from ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer by Marvel Studios)

Both Larson and Lynch spent time with Air Force pilots, flying in F-16s, learning how to carry their helmets, and how to properly wear the flight suit (except I know — I know — those actors had tailored flight suits and it’s not fair and I’m bitter because my flight suit looked like they threw a pillow case over a guitar and called it a uniform).

We definitely see some of Cadet Danvers’ determination (and disregard of safety protocols). I remember climbing ropes, but, like, not 20-foot ropes?

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Let’s hope that last bit was about healing TBIs, am I right?

As superhero films get bigger and better, expanding the mythology from the hero who saves the city to the hero who saves the universe with unparalleled powers and abilities, it’s a point of pride to see a hero begin exactly the way they do here at home: with a calling to serve.

Back in the 90s, Carol Danvers was just a kid who graduated high school and decided to attend the United States Air Force Academy. She decided to serve her country. She worked her ass off and became a pilot — a fighter pilot, no less. It’s the most competitive career choice in the United States Air Force.

All of that happened before her she gained her superpowers.

Captain Marvel is going to be about Marvel’s most powerful superhero yet, but at its heart, the film is about a girl who felt the call to serve — it’s going to be exciting to watch her do just that.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

The pilot checks his watch and does another calculation. The fuel gauge on his Spitfire had been shot out by a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter, and he was reduced to estimating his remaining fuel level with quick arithmetic. As he approaches the Dunkirk coast, the engine begins to sputter and the prop slows to a lethargic, useless spin. Now gliding, the pilot spots a German Ju 87 Stuka dive-bomber making a dive on the beleaguered British Expeditionary Force troops attempting to evacuate below. He lines up his gunsight and lets out a burst of fire from his .303 Browning machine guns, sending the smoking Stuka into the water.


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Dunkirk movie promo (Credit to Warner Bros. Pictures)

The men on the ground cheer and wave at their airborne savior as he glides his Spitfire over the beach. Once he is clear of the British beachhead, the pilot lowers his flaps for landing. The landing gear release lever malfunctions and he is forced to manually crank his landing gear down as the beach below him grows closer and closer. He skillfully sets the Spitfire down on the beach with no bumps or bounces—a perfect landing under any circumstances. After setting fire to his plane, the pilot reflects on his long day of fighting before he is captured by German troops.

This account follows the story of an RAF Spitfire pilot named Farrier, played by Tom Hardy, in the 2017 Warner Bros. film Dunkirk. Written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk tells the suspenseful story of the British evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. What most people don’t know is that Farrier’s actions depicted in the film are based on the real-life exploits of New Zealand fighter ace Alan Deere.

Deere was born in Westport, New Zealand in 1917. During his school years, he excelled in sports and took up rugby, cricket, and boxing. After school, he convinced his mother to sign an “Under 21” form, allowing him to join the RAF at the age of 20. Deere moved to England in 1937 to begin his flight training. After graduating flight school, Deere was assigned to No. 54 Squadron and flew the Gloster Gladiator before converting to the Supermarine Spitfire in March 1939.

During Operation Dynamo, the BEF evacuation at Dunkirk that began on May 26, No. 54 flew several sorties every day to provide air cover over Dunkirk and the English Channel. On May 27, Deere destroyed a Junkers Ju 88 bomber that was attacking a hospital ship, much like Farrier did in the film. The intense aerial combat and high operational tempo of Dynamo meant that, by May 28, No. 54 Squadron had been attrited to just eight serviceable aircraft.

Deere led the squadron on a dawn patrol, Deere spotted a German Dornier Do 17 bomber. He split off a section of his patrol to engage the enemy aircraft. During his attack on the Do 17, Deere’s Spitfire was hit by machine gun fire from the bomber’s rear gunner. He was forced to make an emergency landing to the east on a Belgian beach, during which he was knocked unconscious. After he came to, Deere torched his plane and made his way into a nearby town where he received first aid and hitched ride on a British Army truck back to Dunkirk. During the boat ride back to England, Deere received harsh words and criticism about the RAF’s fighter cover from the BEF soldiers (this experience was portrayed in the story of a different RAF pilot in the film).

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Deere’s scuttled Spitfire on the beach. (Photo from spitfirepv270.co.nz)

After the Battle of France, Deere flew during the Battle of Britain and the Invasion of Normandy. During the war, Deere scored 22 aerial victories, 10 probable kills, and damaged 18 enemy aircraft. He became a quadruple ace and the second highest scoring New Zealand fighter pilot in history. For his contributions during the war, Deere was awarded two British Distinguished Flying Crosses, the American Distinguished Flying Cross, the French Croix de Guerre, the British Distinguished Service Order, and appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Deere’s military career also brought him numerous near death experiences, including having his Spitfire’s wing shot off, and a head-on engagement with a Bf 109 which resulted in an aerial collision and another glide to an emergency landing. Befitting an unkillable man like Deere, his autobiography is titled Nine Lives.

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Portrait of Wing Commander Alan Deere. (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)

After the war, Deere continued to serve in the RAF and achieved the rank of Air Commodore before retiring in 1967. He returned to his boyhood passion of athletics and became the RAF’s Director of Sport as a civilian. During his later years, Deere suffered from cancer. He died on September 21, 1995. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the River Thames from a Spitfire.

Memorabilia from Deere’s military career, including medals, trophies, and even the engine from one of his Spitfires, are on display at museums in both Britain and New Zealand. Perhaps his best tribute, however, is a restored Spitfire Mk IX bearing his markings when he served as a Wing Commander during the war. The Spitfire was restored by Deere’s nephew, Brendon Deere, and is flown at air shows in New Zealand.

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Brendon Deere’s restored Spitfire Mk IX bearing Alan Deere’s markings. (Photo from airshowtravel.co.nz)