The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

World War II was over. Defense manufacturers had armories full of new goodies that they wanted to sell to the U.S. as it entered the Cold War, but America was no longer desperate for every piece of materiel it could get its hands on thanks to Hitler’s suicide and Japan’s surrender.


The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

A company-owned Sikorsky S-51 Dragonfly helicopter lands on the USS Princeton during trials with the U.S. Navy.

(U.S. Navy)

So Sikorsky, looking to sell its new helicopters to the Navy in 1947, did the hard work to find customers. It sent a flight team with the Navy in the Mediterranean for exercises and offered to have its helicopter do all sorts of tasks like delivering mail, ferrying personnel, and even rescuing pilots from the sea if it became necessary.

It did become necessary, and so a civilian pilot conducting what was essentially a sales call conducted the first helicopter rescue of a pilot in the water in history while a fleet of sailors looked on in surprise.

The flight was conducted by D. D. Viner, an employee of Sikorsky. He made it to the fleet in his S-51 helicopter and began flying from the carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. Viner was immediately assigned a Navy observer, Lt. Joe Rullo, and the two were told to go and deliver the mail.

So they took the mail bags and began going to all the outlying ships, even landing on the gun turrets of the larger ships like the battleship USS Missouri. But the fleet quickly needed more dire service from the helicopter. On February 9, Lt. Robert A. Shields had to ditch his Curtiss SB2C Helldiver because of an engine failure.

Typically, this would’ve resulted in the pilot and his radioman, Don K. Little, floating for hours until a ship or boat could come alongside for a rescue. Instead, the S-51 roared to life and flew directly to the floating crew, scooping them up and delivering them safely back aboard in less than 10 minutes.

The rescue took fast so quickly that the flight control officer reportedly didn’t initially believe it when Shields reported back aboard the carrier. He thought there was simply no way that the man, who had radioed his distress just minutes prior, could be out of the water.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

A U.S. Navy S-51 takes off from the deck of the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney in 1951.

(R. Miller, Public Domain)

The next rescue took place just nine days later when another Helldiver suffered a failure during a low altitude turn. The helicopter swooped into action again and hovered just over the water. The radioman didn’t make it out of the sinking plane. The pilot, Lt. Cmdr. George R. Stablein was badly hurt, and his life vest didn’t inflate.

Viner got the helicopter over the officer so quickly that Stablein had no chance to sink, and Viner got the rescue hoist directly into the officer’s hands. Stablein got his hands pinched at the top of the hoist and almost fell back into the water, but Viner tipped the helicopter back under him as Rullo, that Navy observer, grabbed onto the superior officer.

The three men flew back to the carrier safely.

Viner conducted a third, more routine rescue later in the exercises and another Sikorsky pilot conducted a fourth.

At the end of Sikorsky’s participation with the fleet, officers were lining up to praise the helicopter’s performance, and the carrier crew decided to honor Viner and Rullo with a Navy tradition. Carriers in World War II had gotten in the practice of gifting 10 gallons of ice cream to any ship crew that rescued one of their pilots.

The carrier counted Viner and Russo as a ship crew and gifted them 30 gallons of ice cream on the day that Viner was scheduled to leave the FDR. They couldn’t possibly consume all of that sugary goodness, so they stashed it all in the ready room and opened it up for anyone to eat.

The Navy soon began buying helicopters to conduct all the same missions that Viner had been doing for the fleet.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why ‘Devil Doc’ is the unofficial name of elite Navy Corpsmen

“Leatherneck,” “Jarhead,” and “Devil Dog” are just a few of the names Marines have had labeled with throughout the years. “Leatherneck” came from the first Marine Corps’ uniform that had a high leather collar while “Jarhead” represents the shape of a Marine’s haircut.


But there is one name that stands out all above the rest: “Devil Dogs.” The accepted mythology is that Marines earned the unique nickname”Teufel Hunden” or “Hell Hounds” after bravely fighting the Germans at the Battle of Belleau Wood. This name then became “Devil Dogs.”

But Navy Corpsmen get their own nickname too.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

Also Read: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

For many years Marines and their fellow medical personnel Navy Corpsmen have always fought together.

Although Marines focus on the warfighting, Corpsmen have been right next to them, manning the frontlines. Sometimes they would meet the same fate as their ferocious counterparts. The “docs” who receive their training from Marines can be as deadly as the Marines who trained them.

To earn this unofficial title of “Devil Doc,” a Corpsman must show that he is as dangerous as his fellow warfighters.  There are only two ways for a Corpsman to earn the title.

The first way is passing the Fleet Marine Force test and earning the FMF pin.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
Behold, the almighty FMF pin in all of its glory.

During this test, Navy Corpsmen will meet requirements on Marine Corps history, traditions, weapon systems, employment of said weapon systems, and much more. Many Corpsmen don’t agree with this method. Some older Corpsmen feel that the FMF pin route has washed away in its significance. They feel when the Navy made it mandatory for all Corpsmen to earn this pin, it lost its meaning.

“I never received my FMF pin… it became meaningless chest candy when they made it mandatory,” former Hospital Corpsman HM3 Nathan Tagnipez states.

The second way to earn the title is harder, but it comes with a great level of respect from Marines. A Corpsman must take part in a deployment with Marines and earn a Combat Action Ribbon (CAR). The CAR itself is not what earns the title — the ribbon just communicates to future Marines that the Corpsman has “been there and done that.”

Also Read: Marines avoided killing officers because of this symbol

No, it is the Marines themselves that give the Corpsman the title of “Devil Doc.

“The thing that made me worthy of being a devil doc was the respect of the Marines that I served,” HM3 Nathan Tagnipez says.

Similar to the tradition where Marines earn their Shellback status by crossing the equator — and surviving the hazing fest bonding exercise that follows — Corpsmen earn this unofficial title in a trial by fire.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

Marines and Corpsmen will always share a history together. It is a symbiotic relationship. Marines need the Corpsmen for medical aid and the Corpsmen need the Marines to win battles.

When they come together, no one can tell the difference between the two on the battlefield. To be a “Devil Doc,” Corpsmen must prove they have the conviction and determination to be a “Devil Dog.”

popular

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

Across our great country, proud Americans display their patriotism by attending military ceremonies, volunteering at veterans’ gatherings, and hoisting flags outside of their houses. But, in the case of one brave Medal of Honor recipient, a homeowner association attempted to block his right to fly America’s colors outside of his front doorway.

Here’s what happened.


In the summer of 2009, Colonel Van T. Barfoot (retired), a man who defeated three Nazi tanks in World War II, was ordered by his HOA to take down the American flag he had hoisted outside his home near Richmond, Virginia.

 

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
A German Panzer tank, similar to the onesu00a0Barfoot single-handedly took out.

The highly decorated war-fighter never surrendered to the Germans; he certainly wasn’t about to surrender his right to fly the flag to his HOA.

Barfoot was well-known within the veteran community as being one of the most significant Native American heroes in military history. Assigned to the 157th Infantry Regiment, he was involved in several amphibious landings in Italy before he made his way to a small town called Carano in 1944.

During an intense firefight, Barfoot requested to take out the left flank before the Germans could advance. The brave soldier then took out several enemy positions and spearheaded the capture of 17 prisoners.

But his badassery was far, far from over.

Soon after that firefight came to a close, Barfoot spotted three enemy tanks closing in on his unit’s position — he needed to take them out. He grabbed a rocket launcher, took up an offensive position, and took the enemies’ lead tank out of the fight— halting their advance.

The other two tanks quickly changed course, fearing what they thought was a massive and unseen opposition.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

The rules of Barfoot’s neighborhood states that no building structures, fences, or flagpoles are allowed on the property without the association’s approval.

As a proven warrior, Barfoot continued to exercise his freedoms and continued to raise his flag. Once this issue made headlines, public officials rallied around the war hero.

In the end, Barfoot once again won his fight. The HOA claimed they didn’t have a problem with the flag, just with the flagpole.

Seriously people? ‘Merica!

MIGHTY TRENDING

The last Union combat veteran of the Civil War lived to see the Cold War

In 1949, six men gathered in Indianapolis for the last meeting of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans organization. At its peak, it boasted 400,000 members with thousands of posts nationwide. By 1949, however, only 16 remained. And only six were able to make the trek to Indianapolis. One of those was 108-year-old James Hard, a veteran of the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, and Chancellorsville.

In the next four years, all but one of those would have died, and with them, the firsthand memory of Civil War combat.


The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
The battle standard of James Hard’s Civil War infantry unit.

The only one of the six to outlive Hard would be Albert Woolson, the last known member of the Union Army and the last undisputed surviving member on any side of the Civil War. But Woolson never saw action as a member of a heavy artillery unit from Minnesota. Hard was the last surviving Union combat veteran of the Civil War.

Between 1900 and into World War II, the surviving number of American Civil War veterans began to dwindle at an exponential rate, much like what the U.S. is seeing with its World War II veterans today. The Grand Army of the Republic held marches, and a yearly meeting called the Encampment to celebrate those veterans who served and to make sure they held on to their hard-won rights.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
A 1912 Grand Army of the Republic parade marching through downtown Los Angeles.

James Hard was born in Rochester, New York around 1843. He lied about his age in 1861 to be able to join the Union Army. He joined the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also known as the Irish Rifles, in May 1861 and his service record verified his claim.

His unit was stationed around Washington, DC until Gen. Irvin McDowell used the 37th as a reserve unit in the battle of First Bull Run. McDowell had never led troops in combat and was soundly beaten. Its biggest loss came at Chancellorsville in 1863 when it lost more than 200 men to night fighting and a surprise attack during a flawed, unorganized retreat. A young James Hard was present for all of it.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
The last of America’s Union Army, gathered in an Indianapolis ballroom in 1949.

By the time the First World War came around GAR membership was still very strong, its encampment still bringing in numbers just shy of a half a million or so. By the time the United States entered World War II, however, the Civil War veterans time had passed, and with their memory went so many of their numbers. In 1942, just over 500 Civil War veterans were on the rolls of the Grand Army of the Republic.

At the outset of the Cold War and the Atomic Age, only 16 remained. They were too frail to walk in any parades and had to be accompanied to Indianapolis by their Veterans Administration nurses. They drove through the parade route in vehicles, machines that were a very new invention to them.

MIGHTY HISTORY

California once used children to fight a war on squirrels

The year is 1918, and American troops are facing the Germans in deadly trench warfare on the Western Front. That isn’t the only place war has taken hold, the Great War is raging all over the world, and California is no different. There, along the far, far Western front, California state horticulturist George H. Hecke called up California’s most precious natural resource: children.

Their enemy was a pest unlike any other the state had ever seen, and Hecke decided their time had come. The squirrels had to go.


The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

The new children’s crusade called for a seven-day operation whereby California schoolchildren would attack the vicious squirrel army (often depicted wearing the pointed “Hun” helmet worn by the German army at the time). When the students weren’t creating passive killing fields by spreading rodent poisons where squirrels were known to gather food the kiddos were encouraged to form “a company of soldiers in your class or in your school” to go out and meet the enemy head-on, hitting the furry huns where they lived. “Squirrel Week” was on.

“All the killing devices of modern warfare will be used in the effort to annihilate the squirrel army, including gas,” wrote the Lompoc Journal. “Don’t wait to be drafted.”

The U.S. government made every effort to link the anti-squirrel effort to the war effort, referring to the California Ground Squirrel as “the Kaiser’s aides” while showing the squirrels decked out in enemy uniforms, wearing the Iron Cross. The government even distributed recipes for barley coated with the deadly poison strychnine.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

The state had a point. Otospermophilus Beecheyi, also known as the California Ground Squirrel, was not only a pest to farms and stored food, but was also known to carry certain diseases, such as bubonic plague. More importantly, the rodent ate nearly 0 million in crops and stored food in California (using today’s dollar values), food which could otherwise go to the doughboys fighting the World War raging in Europe. Children were even asked to bring in squirrel tails to school to show off their confirmed kills.

The schoolchildren did not disappoint. In all, More than 104,000 squirrels met their furry maker during Squirrel Week 1918 – but that was just one battle. The war raged on as long as the War in Europe raged on. California children continued killing the squirrels for a long time after Squirrel Week. The effort did not have lasting consequences for the squirrels at large, however. Today the California Ground Squirrel’s conservation status is the lowest at “least concern.”

Least concern, or lulling us into a false sense of security before counter-attacking? You decide.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Here are the 2 veteran-supporting bills President Trump just signed into law

President Donald Trump signed legislation Saturday that will broaden options for troubled veterans in the legal system and expand a home renovations grant program for disabled and blind veterans.

The new Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act directs the Justice Department to support the development and establishment of veterans treatment courts at the state, local and tribal levels.


At more than 400 veterans treatment courts across the U.S., vets with substance abuse issues or mental health conditions who commit nonviolent crimes may enter court-supervised medical treatment and get access to veteran-centric services and benefits in lieu of going to jail.

The law will encourage the development of a grant program to expand these courts across all 50 states.

“We’ve wanted this for a long time. They’ve been trying to get it for a long time, and now we have it,” Trump said after signing the bill, proposed in the House by Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., and in the Senate by Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

“With this new law, thousands more veterans across the country facing the criminal justice system will have an alternative to jail time, ensuring they get the treatment they need,” Crist said in a statement following the signing ceremony.

“These courts have turned veterans’ lives around in Arizona, and now they will be able to do the same for veterans across our nation,” McSally said, also in a prepared statement.

The first veterans treatment court was established in early 2008 in Buffalo, New York. After noticing an increase in the number of veterans appearing in the city’s drug and mental health treatment legal programs, Judge Robert Russell brought in veterans and Department of Veterans Affairs advisers to help create the specialty court.

Since 2011, the Justice Department has supported the development of veterans treatment courts, providing more than million to states and localities.

Trump on Saturday also signed a law that will give more veterans access to VA grants to renovate their homes to accommodate their disabilities.

The Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Act of 2019 expands the program to include blind veterans and raise the maximum funding veterans can receive from ,000 to ,000. The bill also will let eligible veterans access the funds six times, instead of three, and gives them access to the full amount every 10 years — a provision that will let them change residences as their needs change.

At the start of the president’s press conference Saturday, Trump sowed some confusion about which bills he had just signed, referencing two he often mentions in stump speeches: the VA Mission Act, which he consistently refers to as “VA Choice,” and the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which became law in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

“Before we begin, I’ve just signed two bills that are great for our vets. Our vets are special. We passed Choice, as you know — Veterans Choice — and Veterans Accountability,” Trump said before extolling the benefits of those laws.

“We passed Choice … they’ve been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and decades, and no president has ever been able to do it. And we got it done so veterans have Choice,” he said. “And now you have accountability — that if you don’t love your vets, if you’re in the VA and you don’t love the vets or take care of the vets, you can actually get fired if you don’t do your job.”

The president then went on to talk about the treatment courts and adaptive housing laws before moving on to other subjects.

Trump consistently refers to the VA Mission Act as VA Choice — the program established in 2014 by President Barack Obama to widen veterans’ access to health care treatment from non-VA providers.

The legislation, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act, was created in response to a nationwide scandal over delays veterans encountered when making medical appointments — for months and sometimes years — and secret waiting lists kept by some VA facilities to hide the scope of the problem.

The VA Mission Act, signed by Trump in 2018, replaced the Veterans Choice Program and gave more veterans access to private health care paid for by the VA.

The legislation also broadened the VA’s caregiver program to include disabled veterans who served before Sept. 11, 2001 — an expansion that will begin in October — and ordered the department to inventory its 1,100 facilities with an eye to closing or selling outdated or excess buildings.

At the end of Saturday’s press conference, a reporter asked why Trump “keeps saying [he] passed ‘Veterans Choice,'” when it was “passed in 2014.”

Trump told the reporter she was “finished,” and he abruptly ended the press conference.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the US used an island-hopping campaign in World War II

In World War II’s Pacific Theater, the United States had a big problem: the operating area was humongous. In one sense, it’s no surprise — the Pacific is the world’s largest ocean and they needed to get across that ocean in order to defeat Japan. But Japan had also occupied a lot of bases in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands during the inter-war period (and illegally fortified them). Finally, the Allies needed a way to deal with the fierce Japanese force, but they needed to do so without endangering the “Germany first” grand strategy for defeating the Axis.

This problem proved extremely difficult. The Japanese, at Guadalcanal, in the Philippines, and elsewhere, had proven to be fierce fighters on the ground. It was painfully obvious that fighting island to island on a campaign across the Pacific would take a lot of time and cost many lives. But at the same time, the Japanese bases had to be neutralized.

In 1943, after Guadalcanal had been cleared, Admiral William F. Halsey and General Douglas MacArthur began planning the next phase of the offensive in the massive ocean, with the ultimate objective of taking out Rabaul, Japan’s major base in the south Pacific.


The first plan they came up with would have required additional forces drawn from efforts in Europe. That, of course, didn’t fly with politicians.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers fly over an atoll in the Pacific during the island-hopping campaign.

(US Navy)

Instead, the answer to the Pacific question was to grab a few key bases and then use air power and submarines to cut off the other Japanese installations from resupply and reinforcement. The term for this was “island hopping” or “leapfrogging.”

There were two primary benefits to this strategy: First, it could be accomplished with fewer troops. Second, it meant the cut-off enemy forces couldn’t be pulled back to reinforce important objectives, like the Philippines.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

Bases seized by the Allies were used to launch strikes that targeted enemy supply lines. One of the most famous actions was the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

(USAF)

The targeted bases in the island-happen campaign were selected for two purposes: First, they were the jumping-off points for the next “hops” towards Japan. Second, they served as bases for forces that had the job of plastering the now-isolated garrisons left behind. This was what John Glenn did while serving in World War II.

While plans originally called for capturing Rabaul, the decision was made to bypass it after successfully seizing some other locations where Allied forces could build airfields.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

John Glenn’s World War II service included a combat tour striking bypassed Japanese garrisons in the F4U Corsair.

(US Navy)

The island-hopping strategy worked. In less than four years, the United States had forced Japan’s surrender. While much of history focuses on the hotly-debated use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the ability for America to deliver those weapons hinged on some very strategic leapfrogging.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time North Dakota seceded from the Union

After Tennessee seceded from the Union in June 1861, the Civil War began in earnest. It would be won by force just a few years later, in a war that tore the country apart — a war that Americans still haven’t forgotten. So when North Dakota governor William “Wild Bill” Langer declared North Dakota’s independence — in 1934 —  you have to wonder what he was thinking.


It’s likely he was thinking about anything that would get him out of going to a federal prison. Langer was just convicted of a felony and the state Supreme Court upheld a conviction that would remove him from the Governor’s office. His lieutenant governor, Ole Olson (yes, that’s really his name), took over.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
Wild Bill is sick of your sh*t.

Good thing the National Guard was already on the streets.

Langer was skimming money from government paychecks into an account run by the group that put him in the office of governor. But that’s not even what he was convicted for, which was conspiracy to violate an act of Congress. His jail sentence was longer than his time in office.

But the voters loved him anyway. Despite the charges and convictions, they voted for him.

Martial law had to be declared in North Dakota. Earle Sarles, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard and the man technically in charge of the entire state at that moment, basically decided, on the spot, who would be governor: Olson or Langer.

What no one except Langer loyalists knew at the time was that the governor drew up a “Declaration of Independence for the State of North Dakota” the night before Court’s decision. But true to the North Dakota Constitution (and the oath he took to wear a U.S. Army uniform), he supported the court ruling and backed Olson.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
Mic drop.

When the North Dakota National Guard was called up to forcibly remove him from the Capitol Building in Bismarck, Langer’s supporters will still marching and demonstrating the capital’s streets.

Langer would be exonerated for the crime in 1935 and successfully ran for U.S. Senate, being seated in 1941 — where he had to explain the Declaration of Independence to the Congress.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time infantry captured a Nazi train filled with lingerie

In August 1944, the successes of D-Day were in the rear-view mirror and American troops were engaged in the long slog to Berlin. One group of American soldiers got a surprise when, while chasing German soldiers east, they captured a military train only to find that sections of it were filled with lingerie, perfume, and other treats.


The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

(Chris Tingom, CC BY 2.0)

After Allied troops took the beachheads at D-Day, there were optimistic predictions that they could take Berlin by Christmas. But it wasn’t to be. It took weeks just to fight through the hedgerows of Normandy, and Germany stiffened its resistance everywhere possible.

Free French forces, resistance members, and British and American units maneuvered east, trying to keep as much pressure on German troops as they could.

As the line shifted east, German troops would burn supplies they were abandoning, but tried to keep vehicles, especially tanks, in good working order, so they could use them to kill American and other Allied soldiers. So the attackers quickly learned to seize as much as they could whenever possible.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

German armored troops roll through Denmark in April 1940.

(Danish Ministry of Defence)

As June ground into July and then August, the push east accelerated. Paris was liberated and, on August 26, Free French General Charles de Gaulle led a parade into the city.

About that time, the 3rd Armored Division was pushing to Soissons, a city 55 miles northeast of Paris. German soldiers pulling back were using railroads to quickly move equipment but, according to a story in Stephen E. Ambrose’s book Citizen Soldiers, one unit had overestimated how long it had to load onto the train and get going.

When U.S. troops arrived, they saw a train preparing to roll out with tanks and armored vehicles loaded onto it. Every armored vehicle that escaped would need to be killed in eastern France, Belgium, or Germany. The train had to be stopped.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

U.S. troops fire their machine gun during battle in Aachen, Germany.

(U.S. Army)

U.S. tanks and half-tracks opened fire as machine gunners and mortarmen rushed into position. Most of their rounds were bouncing off the German armor, but the sheer volume of fire was keeping German drivers and crew out of their vehicles, allowing American troops to keep the upper hand.

Most of the Germans who stayed to fight were killed or captured, and those who escaped into the woods were rounded up by the French resistance. The Germans had dallied too long, and now the train belonged to the U.S. troops.

When they began assessing their find, they were surprised to find little ammunition, medical supplies, or food, all materiel that they needed. Instead, the Germans had loaded the train with candy, women’s lingerie, and lipstick.

It appeared that the German soldiers had raided French shops and, when it came time to run, had prioritized gifts for girlfriends and family over packing or destroying their own supplies, getting a faster exit to save the vehicles, or even just absconding with their lives and arms.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

A woman writes a message on a U.S. tank in Belgium

(U.S. Army)

Their mistake was U.S. gain. The 3rd Armored took the vehicles, other U.S. troops seized millions of pounds of beef, grain, flour, coal, and more. Many items were given to the French public to alleviate shortages caused by Nazi occupation, but other items were pressed into the war effort to keep American troops moving.

Ambrose doesn’t reveal what happened to the love train’s more romantic contents, but it’s likely that some of it made it back to the states in reverse care packages, but most of it probably stayed right there in France, consumed by the people lucky enough to get their hands on it.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Havening: The weird hugging technique that will fix your anxiety

Small daily rituals can help keep sadness and anxiety at bay. Running, yoga, deep breathing, spending time in nature, and turning off news alerts on your phone do real work. Exercise releases endorphins, greenspaces increase happiness, and removing screens can lead to better sleep. In the midst of the nationwide mental health crisis stemming from COVID-19, these small defenses help in a bigger battle. Here’s another science-backed, and surprisingly impactful weapon to add to your arsenal: havening.

On the most basic level, havening means hugging or caressing yourself, sometimes while voicing positive affirmations. On a more technical level, it’s using self-soothing to induce “amygdala depotentiation,” which essentially means reining in and retraining the emotional part of the brain that kicks us into fight-or-flight mode and causes anxiety. There’s not denying it’s touchy-feely stuff. But it’s got the backing of real science and enthusiastic experts. Here’s why.


The Brain on Anxiety

To get what havening is and how it works, it helps to first understand what’s happening in the brain when we experience anxiety. Because whatever the root cause of anxiety — whether a phobia, childhood trauma, generalized anxiety disorder, or fear of contracting COVID-19 — scientists theorize that what’s going on in our heads is essentially the same.

Each of us has an “emotional brain” and a “thinking brain.” The emotional brain, ruled by the amygdala, is primal; it exists to gauge threats and react quickly to avoid danger. “The amygdala is designed to keep us safe,” says Kate Truitt, Ph.D., a psychologist and certified practitioner of the Havening Techniques. “It’s not very bright — it doesn’t think; it just operates on ‘safe’ or ‘not safe.'” When sensing a real threat, the amygdala activates the sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight-or-flight mode. Whenever we’re in this state, we feel unnerved and anxious.

Fortunately, the thinking brain also kicks into gear upon perceiving a threat, albeit four times more slowly than the emotional brain, says Truitt. It introduces reason, allowing us to react more intelligently and appropriately, which might mean not reacting at all.

“We’ve all experienced some version of walking down the road, seeing a hose or a stick, and doing a stutter step,” Truitt says. “The brain is saying ‘is that a snake?’ because we are biologically designed to look for snakes because we know they can kill us. In a healthy system, the amygdala goes, oh, that’s just a stick, and the thinking brain says, cool; we’re OK then.”

Trouble is, many people’s brains are not so healthy, especially right now. In that case — as experts believe is the case for people with generalized anxiety, phobias, or post-traumatic stress disorder — the amygdala hijacks the thinking brain and runs the show, trapping us fight-or-flight mode, even when there’s no threat present. The result: persistent, sometimes crippling, anxiety.

“Attacking or running is what we do acutely in extreme situations, but otherwise, we’re not supposed to be in sympathetic mode,” says Julie Holland, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City. “We should be in our parasympathetic nervous system, where we stay calm, present, and open to connection. This is the only time where the body rests, digests [information], and repairs, so parasympathetic is where we want to be.” Many of us, though, are stuck in sympathetic.

Interestingly, as Holland writes in her new book Good Chemistry (Harper Wave, 2020), feeling disconnected, isolated, or lonely also activates the sympathetic nervous system. “Humans have to be social to survive, so anytime we are cut off from society or feel isolated, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode,” she says, adding that this response traces back to our early ancestors. “On the savannah, if you strayed from the tribe, you wouldn’t get help building shelter, gathering food, or finding mates. Isolation, literally, meant death. We still carry that genetic code today—we are hardwired to feel unsafe when we are alone.”

Holland says feelings of isolation and loneliness were already super common pre-pandemic, thanks to our increasingly digitized world. But now that COVID-19 has closed schools, canceled social events, and forced us to work from home, these emotions — and therefore anxiety — have become rampant.

How Havening Helps

Havening (more specifically, the trademarked Havening Techniques) was developed by neuroscientist Ronald Ruden, Ph.D., about a decade ago as trauma therapy. It uses gentle touch of the upper arms, hands, and face, along with constructive messaging, to ‘depotentiate’ or rewire unhealthy neural pathways that have developed due to stressful experiences, putting healthier responses and emotions in their place.

But havening is also a powerful stress-busting technique that anyone can learn and practice at home on themselves or their kids. You basically cross your arms, place your palms on your shoulders, stroke your arms downward to your elbows, and repeat. While doing this, you can recite a simple mantra like “calm and relaxed” over and over, sing a song, or, as Truitt suggests, play a distracting brain game such as thinking of band names starting with letters A through Z. (Check out the official Havening Techniques website for lots of videos demonstrating applying havening to specific situations.)

On a neurological level, havening helps shift the brain into parasympathetic mode. It does this in part by boosting oxytocin, a hormone that is normally conjured up by human touch and bonding — something many of us are sorely lacking these days.

“Havening harnesses the brain’s ability to heal and build itself,” Truitt says. “Use this technique whenever your nervous system starts to feel dysregulated. As soon as you notice a stressful stimulus, such as text messages coming in or CNN popping up on your phone, do havening to bring the system back to a state of calm.” The more you do this, she notes, the more resilient your amygdala becomes and the more easily you can access this calming state in the future.

Havening can also help if you’re anxious about something specific, such as delivering a work presentation on Zoom. “Sit down and do self-havening and ask yourself how you would like to feel,” Truitt says. “If you’d like to feel confident, reflect on a time when you felt confident. Because you have that memory, you can imagine going into the speech with that confident energy instead.”

Parents can also use havening with their kids when they get anxious. “Parents are the nervous system for their children,” Truitt says. “When they regulate their nervous system, the child starts to regulate right along with them. For kids, we teach the ‘don’t worry massage.’ Kids apply touch and the whole family sings songs and applies touch together, which brings the family together.”

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

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Taiwan is ready to push back against China’s aggression

Tensions between the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan have recently flared up as China held the largest show of naval force in its history in April 2018, and made new threats directed towards Taipei.

“We would like to reaffirm that we have strong determination, confidence and capability to destroy any type of ‘Taiwan independence’ scheme in order to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ma Xiaoguang, a spokeswoman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, recently said.


The Chinese also flew bombers around Taiwan in a show of force as well, and though tensions decreased a bit when promised live-fire drills were scaled back, the events are a reminder to analysts and policymakers that one of the worlds oldest Cold War-era conflicts remains unsolved, and could escalate to war.

A war of nerves

Much of that has to do with Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi Jinping, who has taken a much more aggressive stance on Taiwan than his immediate predecessors.

“Xi Jinping has essentially linked rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation to the retaking of Taiwan,” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.

“We were in a period of relative quiet with the Taiwan issue, and now it’s in a more primary place on the agenda as far as Beijing is concerned,” Glaser said.

At the core of the issue is that the Peoples Republic of China wants Taiwan, known officially as the Republic of China, to return to the fold to create one country that is unified under the rule of the Communist Party of China.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
(Photo by Michel Temer)

But Taiwan, with the help of the US, has so far managed to resist the PRC’s attempts to isolate it politically and economically, and has even shown signs of moving further away from the PRC and towards official independence — a move that would almost certainly provoke an armed response from the mainland.

“The current situation in the Taiwan [Strait] is a war of nerves,” Ian Easton, a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute and the author of “The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia,” told Business Insider in an email.

“Taiwan is winning. They have not compromised under pressure, but tensions are running high and are likely to get much worse.”

Taiwan’s military has advantages — and problems

Taiwan’s military has a few advantages if it comes to war. First and foremost, Taiwan has been training to defend the island for decades.

For a country of only 23 million people, its military is quite capable. It has an active force of around 180,000 troops, with 1.5 million reservists — putting its size on par with the militaries of Germany and Japan, despite having a much smaller population.

Some of its equipment is relatively high-end. Its air force operates around 100 US-made F-16s, and 100 indigenously made F-CK-1A/Cs. Its Army maintains a number of AH-64 Apache gunships, and AH-1W SuperCobras.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
An F-16 fighter jet

Taiwan’s navy has roughly eight destroyers and 20 frigates in service, mostly former Oliver Hazard Perry-class and Knox-class ships. But they also have six French-built La Fayette-class frigates. The navy also sails a large number of fast missile boats, and two modified Zwaardvis-class attack submarines.

On top of that, Taiwan has a lot of anti-air and anti-ship defenses, and hundreds of cruise missiles that can strike mainland China.

Taiwan’s geography also provides another advantage. Crossing the Taiwan Strait would take up to 7-8 hours by sea, and during that time Taiwan could prepare for an invasion, and use its navy and air force to attack incoming Chinese ships, and set up anti-ship mines along the Strait.

The PRC also does not currently have the capability to transport the required number of troops (once estimated to be as high as 400,000) needed to take the island.

Furthermore, Taiwan is very mountainous, and does not offer a lot of landing zones where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could establish solid beachheads. Roughly only 10% of its shoreline is suitable for the large-scale amphibious landing that the PLA would have to make.

All of this means an invasion of Taiwan by the PRC would be extremely costly. “China has no obvious starting move that guarantees that they don’t absorb a lot of risk from this,” Scott Harold, the associate director of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy, told Business Insider.

But Taiwan’s military has two large problems — a lack of advanced equipment, and problems with its transition from compulsory service to a fully volunteer force.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
The ROC Army’s CM-11 Tank at the Hukou Army Base.

Much of the military equipment needs to be modernized, especially its tanks and ships, and this can’t be done for diplomatic reasons. Only around 20 nations officially recognize Taiwan, and the PRC puts a lot of pressure on other countries to not do business with the island, especially in terms of defense.

The only nation that is willing to sell Taiwan complete weapon systems is the US, but they have “been slow to provide the weapons that Taiwan has been requesting, especially over the past 10 years,” according to Easton.

The military is also having difficulty making hiring quotas, which is affecting overall capability and performance because they are trying to replace its largely conscript service with professional soldiers.

“China has a massive military, so Taiwan must maintain its advantage in quality,” Easton said.

An uncertain future

A war between the PRC and Taiwan would also risk involving the US, which, while not under legal obligation, has opposed to any use of force against Taiwan in the past.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea

It deployed carrier battle groups to the Strait in 1995 to prevent war from breaking out, and relations between the two countries remain strong. One analyst Business Insider spoke to calculated that US submarines could sink 40% of a PLA invasion force.

War between the two Chinas, then, would be catastrophic. “In short, it would be extremely complex and fraught with risk for both China and Taiwan,” Easton said, adding that “both sides would stand to lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, and the U.S. would almost certainly join the fight on Taiwan’s side.”

Such a quagmire could turn into a war of attrition, and if it were it to result in failure for the PLA, it would be devastating to the Chinese Communist Party.


“It is inextricably tied to the legitimacy of the Communist Party,” Glaser said. “I think that that is the belief in the leadership — that they can never be seen as soft on Taiwan. They cannot compromise.”

She pointed to Xi’s comments at the 19th Party Congress in October 2017; “We will resolutely uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity and will never tolerate a repeat of the historical tragedy of a divided country,” he stated to wild applause.

“We have firm will, full confidence, and sufficient capability to defeat any form of Taiwan independence secession plot. We will never allow any person, any organization, or any political party to split any part of the Chinese territory from China at any time or in any form.

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

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Shocking footage shows how US people learned of Okinawa invasion

Everyone knows that, in World War II, you couldn’t find nearly as much information on Twitter or Google. No, if you wanted to learn what was happening on the frontlines of the war in the early 1940s, you had to rely on newsreels played before movies and newspapers.


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The battleship USS Tennessee bombards Okinawa as troops move forward to land. (U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command)

 

But the newsreels were the much more visceral way to learn about the conflict. Often, censors would tone down depictions of combat and remove reports of some ship sinkings. But at other times, particularly when personnel were especially heroic, the military would allow reports of a ship sinking and even release the footage.

That was the case with this footage of the fighting on Okinawa and the near-sinking of the USS Franklin, an aircraft carrier hit by a kamikaze strike. The Franklin erupted in flames after the explosion ripped through it, but hundreds of sailors remained at their post even after the fleet’s admiral gave the captain permission to abandon the ship.

Instead, the crew evacuated non-essential personnel and got to work battling the flames and securing volatile ammunition and fuel stores to prevent further explosions. The ship’s chaplain even stayed on duty, performing last rites for the hundreds of young men dead and dying in the stricken ship.

And this footage, much of it shot by military combat cameramen, was released by the military in order to show the heroism of the sailors to moviegoers back home. And, it was combined with footage from the action ashore where soldiers and Marines enjoyed a lightly resisted landing but then had to fight fiercely for every additional yard as cave after cave after cave was found to contain fanatical defenders, well-armed and well-trained to bleed the landing forces dry.

A quick warning before you play the footage, though: This is some of the most visceral footage released by the military during the war, and it contains images of combat on Okinawa and at sea. There are multiple shots of combatants on both sides of the fight as they are dead or dying. So, only forge ahead if you’re prepared to see all of that.

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This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Fabian Hambüchen knew from childhood that he was going to compete in the Olympic Games — and he knew that he was going to get gold.

In 2016, his dream came true at the Olympic Games in Rio where he won gold on the high bar. But the path to gold was anything but easy: the life of a gymnast is characterized by the pressure to perform, setbacks and injuries, and experiences that demand a lot of mental strength.


At the Fibo 2018 sports fair in Cologne, Fabian Hambüchen told Business Insider about his most excruciating defeat and how he fought his way back to the top mentally.

How your brain can scupper your plans

As reigning World Champion, Fabian Hambüchen travelled to Beijing in 2008 to go for gold.

“I was the favourite. I had the opportunity to win several medals and it was expected that I’d get gold on the high bar,” he said.

His chances were good — but his thought process sabotaged him and he ended up with a bronze medal.

“When I qualified, it went great. I was in the best starting position possible. But then these thoughts went through my mind: I really want to become an Olympic champion. This is my big dream. I want this, I want this, I want this.” These thoughts “set him on a completely wrong track” and led him to slip up.

The disappointment was immense. “I compensated by training harder and harder until my body told me its limits,” he describes the time after the games. “I hurt myself, yet I carried on. In the end, I injured myself even more severely: I tore my Achilles tendon.”

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
Fabian Hambu00fcchen

That was when Fabian Hambüchen realised he had to change something: his way of thinking. He had to get stronger not physically but mentally.

“I didn’t respond sensibly. I trained too much, I was too ambitious, and my injury stopped me in my tracks — but in the end it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It was then that I began to realise that there are other ways of moving forward.”

Hambüchen’s tips for mental strength

Gymnastics is a tough scene, in which Hambüchen started training very early. He received mental support from his uncle, a qualified teacher who had specialised in mental coaching.

Hambüchen now has some of his own tips for mental strength. One thing he learned after winning bronze in Beijing was to focus only on what was essential. Question why it actually is that you’re doing what you’re doing.

“I remind myself that the reason I’m doing this sport is that I love gymnastics and I enjoy doing it. When we do sport as kids, we all do it because we enjoy it; not because we’re training to become world champion or to get rich off it,” he said.

Hambüchen said that if you keep reminding yourself of this and keep looking within yourself, searching yourself and asking yourself about why it is you’re doing what you’re doing, it can quickly ground you again, renew your energy, gratitude and motivation. And there’s a positive side-effect with gratitude: studies have shown that gratitude increases well-being and reduces the risk of depression.

“We tend to try and change situations we can’t,” said Hambüchen. Another trick for mental strength is to remember what is and isn’t in your hands.

“What’s the point in wasting energy on things you can’t control? I’m not walking up to the high bar wondering what kind of referees are sat there. They’re all just people, the rating is subjective and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

This applies not only to sport but, studies show, to work or to one’s personal life. Don’t allow others to take control of you — it’s up to you to give others the power to ruin your day.

“It’s important to focus on the self and to try to be the best version of yourself,” advised Hambüchen.

Of course, this is all a lot easier said than done. Hambüchen stresses that it took him years to mentally train himself into mastering this technique. But it paid off.

“Understanding what needs doing and then applying it to the situation with the right approach is a huge challenge. But if you internalise this message and are completely in touch with yourself, you can call on your maximum performance. None of this guarantees success but, rather, it serves as a technique to fall back on when your mind is getting in your way. And it works.”

Recovering from physical injury

“I’ve learned to learn from defeats, to analyze them and to think about what I can change to do better,” said Hambüchen. Even after that, not everything went well. “But I still thought differently, I wasn’t so dogged in how I went at things.”

It was this new way of thinking and mental strength that helped him win silver at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and then gold in Rio in 2016, despite having a torn supraspinatus muscle.

The crazy story of the first helicopter rescue at sea
Tower Bridge : 2012 Olympic Rings

These victories are largely due to his mental strength. With the help of his doctor he suppressed the pain and his health wasn’t constantly in the fore of his mind.

“The shoulder is a joint that’s very well supported by muscles. So you can do it without that one string. Everything beyond that was a matter of the mind.”

He was unable to train for three months due to the injury. Normally, after such a long break, it takes weeks and months to get fit again — but Hambüchen only had three weeks remaining before the national championships to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio.

“During this time I gave my training my all, adjusted mentally and paid close attention to my diet. “I lost five to six kilos in two to three weeks and was really fit.” And he won the gold medal on high bar.

After winning gold, Fabian Hambüchen ended his international career. He’s learned an important lesson in life: there’s no point in allowing others to negatively influence you and in constantly worrying about things that aren’t in your hands.

With this newly acquired mental strength, he was able to call on his abilities precisely when he needed them and, as a result, was able to celebrate the greatest victory of his career.

“Another four years of giving it my all and to then be rewarded with gold is such an accomplishment … it was mad, and just awesome.”

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

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