Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47 - We Are The Mighty
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Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
The dapper young Hungarian revolutionary named József Tibor Fejes holding a captured AK-47 in what is believed to be the first widely distributed photo of the weapon. (Public domain photo.)


Sixty years ago the weapon that became a symbol of Cold War guerrillas and current day insurgents made its debut in a most unlikely way.

The AK-47, arguably the most widely used assault rifle in the world, first appeared in the hands of both Communist troops and Hungarian revolutionaries during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The revolution against the nation’s communist government began on October 23 but was ruthlessly crushed by Hungarian secret police and Soviet troops by Nov. 10.

In particular, one photo from the revolution gained worldwide attention – and it is arguably the first time the Kalashnikov entered the public consciousness.

C.J. Chivers, former Marine Corps infantry captain and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, wrote in his book The Gun that nobody knows which Hungarian revolutionary first picked up a captured AK-47.

But a LIFE Magazine photographer snapped a picture of József Tibor Fejes – “22-years-old, fresh-faced, sharp-eyed, purposeful, and seemingly unafraid” – whose costume as an insurgent always included a bowler hat. “The Man in the Bowler Hat” was also hefting an AK-47, making Fejes the first known revolutionary carrying what became widely known as a revolutionary’s weapon.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Fejes with other revolutionaries, still wearing his bowler and carrying a captured AK-47. (Public domain photo.)

“The AK-47 was destined to become a symbol of resistance fighters almost everywhere, a weapon with innumerable spokesmen,” Chivers wrote. “Fejes had nonchalantly assumed the requisite pose and begun to flesh out this historical role. He did so before Fidel Castro, before Yasir Arafat, before Idi Amin. He was years ahead of the flag of Zimbabwe, which would expropriate the AK-47 as a symbol. He was ahead of Shamil Basayev and Osama bin Laden, who would convert the product of an atheist state into a sign of unsparing jihad. József Tibor Fejes was the first of the world’s Kalashnikov-toting characters, a member of a pantheon’s inaugural class.”

Although the Soviet Union had first publically acknowledged the rifle’s existence in 1949, firearms experts and military intelligence analysts in the West knew little about the weapon.

In fact, it was not until 1956 that the Army’s Technical Intelligence Office issued a classified report about the AK-47 – a report that mistakenly labeled the rifle a submachine gun and led to Pentagon brass dismissing the effectiveness of the weapon.

Eventually, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and a host of Soviet satellites and licensees manufactured more than 100 million AK-47s. First encountered by U.S. fighting men during the Vietnam War, the robust construction of the weapon and its reliability soon made believers out of Americans who faced it in the hands of their enemies.

To this day, U.S. soldiers and Marines continue to face adversaries armed with some version of the Kalashnikov.

As for József Tibor Fejes, his fate was sealed. Charged with the execution of a State Security Forces officer by gunning him down in the streets of Budapest, a Hungarian court found Fejes guilty and sentenced him to death.

Despite an appeal, authorities hanged Fejes on April 9, 1959, his punishment for what the court said was an attempt to overthrow the Hungarian people’s republic, the murder of a police officer, and the theft of state property – namely an AK-47 assault rifle.

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9 amazing facts about General George Custer

Most Americans don’t know much about General George Custer beyond the fact that he was killed — along with all of his troops — by Native American warriors at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Here are 9 other facts that illustrate there was a lot more to the man beyond the bad tactical decisions he made that day:


1. He didn’t graduate with the rest of his West Point class because he got in trouble

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Cadet Custer at West Point.

The night before he was supposed to graduate with the Class of 1861, he was the cadet duty officer. During his watch he came across two junior cadets having a heated discussion, and instead of breaking it up he suggested they settle it by fighting it out. He was punished by the officers on the staff for his lack of judgment and kept from getting his diploma and commission until a few months later.

2. His future father-in-law wasn’t a big fan at first

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Custer with his wife Libbie (seated).

Custer had a romantic interest in Libbie Bacon, who was from a prominent Michigan family, but her father was concerned about his working class roots and excessive drinking.

3. He was given sick leave following the Battle of Antietam

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Custer (right) with rebel prisoner.

Custer distinguished himself at the bloody Battle of Antietam near Maryland’s border with West Virginia on the Potomac River, but the campaign took a physical and emotional toll. He was given sick leave, which he used to return to Michigan and pursue his relationship with Libbie.

4. He pinned on his first general’s star at age 23

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Custer remains the youngest general officer in U.S. military history.

5. He became a national hero after the Battle of Gettysburg (and his future father-in-law started to like him)

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Custer hanging with the boys (and a dog) at Gettysburg.

Custer led several charges at Gettysburg, including one where his horse was shot out from under him. On his final charge (mounted once again), Custer raised his saber and shouted, “come on, you Wolverines!” as he drove off the dismounted Rebels. His glory came at a great cost, however: 50 percent of the soldiers in his company were killed during the battle. The tales of his heroism spread far and wide, and his name was soon synonymous with victory in the war.  His notoriety also shifted the attitude of Libby’s dad, and in time he was able to successfully ask for her hand in marriage.

6. He considered being a coal baron or a politician after the Civil War

Because of his celebrity Custer was well-connected, and as the military grew smaller and his sense of purpose after the war faded, he considered working in both the coal industry and politics. But before he could move on either option, Gen. Sherman summoned him to help move the country westward.

7.  He was demoted to colonel for a while

As tends to happen after every major war, the U.S. Army downsized following the Civil War, which reduced the number of general officer billets. In order to remain on active duty Custer had to accept being reduced to the rank of colonel for a while.

8. While he was popular with troops during the Civil War, his men hated him while he blazed across the wild west

From his first days establishing a more permanent U.S. military presence in Texas until that fateful day on the plains of Montana he was constrained by an unresponsive military bureaucracy and limited resources, and those things contributed to a draconian, self-centered, and often hypocritical leadership style that tended to trash morale.

9. He was killed at Little Bighorn only 15 years after leaving West Point

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Custer with a group of scouts, including Bloody Knife (kneeling left), who warned him about the number of Sioux braves waiting at Little Bighorn.

Custer miscalculated his enemy on June 25, 1876.  When his scout Bloody Knife told him there were more Sioux waiting for the Seventh Cavalry than they had bullets, he simply responded, “Well, I guess we’ll go through them in one day.” Somewhere Sitting Bull was saying the same thing, and his prediction proved to be the accurate one.

Here’s the Battle of Little Bighorn as portrayed in the movie classic “Little Big Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman as Custer’s scout and Richard Mulligan as Custer:

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7 mysteriously missing body parts of military leaders

When dictators get toppled or governments change, things get chaotic, to say the least. Sometimes a despotic leader gets to escape to Saudi Arabia to live the rest of his life, presumably not eating people.


Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Looking at you, Idi Amin. You know what you did.

Democracies tend to have a more peaceful transfer of power, ones that don’t involve revolutionaries storming buildings and stringing people up. But in any conflict, there is always the chance that something will get lost to history.

I’m willing to bet these seven military leaders didn’t expect to end up as a decoration somewhere.

1. Oliver Cromwell’s Head

Cromwell has been called a lot of things: tyrant, dictator, hero. It all depends on your point of view. When he died in 1658, the state gave the former Lord Protector of England a fine funeral under his son, the new Lord Protector, Richard.

Unfortunately, Richard sucked at his job and the monarchy was restored. The new king, Charles II put everyone who killed his father, King Charles I, on trial immediately, with no exceptions. This included Oliver Cromwell’s corpse.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Beat that, Game of Thrones.

Cromwell’s dead body unsurprisingly stayed silent on his guilt or innocence, was pronounced guilty, and hanged. He was then beheaded and the head put on a spike outside Parliament.

For like, 20 years.

In 1685, a storm blew the spike down, and sent the head flying into Parliament Square. It was picked up by guard who secretly took it home to sell it for cash. Instead, he got cold feet and hid it in the chimney until the day he died.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
No, this is not another stupid Jeff Dunham bit.

To make a long story short, the head was sold from collector to collector for a full 301 years before it was reburied in Cambridge.

2. Napoleon Bonaparte’s Penis

In 2007, Evan Lattimer’s father died. From him, she inherited Napoleon Bonaparte’s penis even though the French government swears the little corporal is not that of the Emperor.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Napoleon or not, someone’s penis is missing.

In 1821, he died in exile on the island of St. Helena and while the British weren’t watching, the Corsican conducting Napoleon’s autopsy cut off a few pieces for some reason.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

It traveled around the world for decades, eventually ending up under the bed of American urologist John Kingsley Lattimer, who put it there and seldom showed anyone because “Dad believed that urology should be proper and decent and not a joke.”

3. Benito Mussolini’s Leg and Brain

Mussolini met a pretty ignominious end during WWII. He was captured by Italian anti-Fascist partisans, beaten and then strung up by his feet. The U.S. Army ordered the bodies taken down and eventually placed Il Duce in la tomba.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
I hope they buried his fashion sense with him.

His unmarked grave was found by three young fascists who dug him up and took the body from place to place, eventually ending up in a monastery near Milan. By the time his body was found, it was missing a leg. The legless body was interred in his family crypt in Predappio.

The fun doesn’t stop there. While the body was in American custody, an autopsy was performed on the dictator’s brain. The Americans took half of the brain in an attempt to study what makes a dictator, returning it in 1966.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Can you imagine the shipping costs for a head that size?

Every now and again, however, vials pop up on eBay, claiming to be the Italian’s remains. His leg was never found.

4. King Badu Bonsu’s Head

Dutch colonists in what is today called Ghana got pretty pissed when the Chief of the local Ahanta tribe killed two Dutch messengers, cut their heads off, and put them on his throne.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Kinda like that, but with severed heads.

The Dutch, slightly miffed at having their citizens used as decoration, responded the way most colonizers would – with a punitive expedition. They captured Badu Bonsu and lopped off his head. This time, instead of putting it on a chair, they put it in a jar. Of formaldehyde.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
He looks thrilled about it.

Fast forward two hundred years later, the Netherlands have gracefully decided to give the old man’s head back to his home country. You might think the people who happened to be carrying around the pickled head of an African chief might keep track of it but no. It was found locked in a closet where it had presumably been for 170 years.

5. Che Guevara’s Hair

The Cuban revolutionary met his end in Bolivia in 1967, executed by Bolivian forces. His hands were cut off as proof and his body was thrown into an unmarked grave. But, like the people who surrounded Napoleon after his death, someone with access to Guevara’s body decided to take home a souvenir.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

The person who happened to be present and bury Guevara was also a CIA spook. He kept a scrapbook that included photos, documents, fingerprints, and a lock of Guevara’s hair. In 2007, it was all sold at auction for $100,000.

6. Geronimo’s Skull

In 2009, native tribes sued the Yale University secret society known as the Order of Skull and Bones. They alleged the group had the skull of Apache leader Geronimo on display in the clubhouse. And the Apaches wanted it back.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
There’s a lot of things Native Americans probably want back.

Geronimo died as a POW at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1909. A Skull and Bones legend says Prescott Bush, father of George H.W. Bush and grandfather to George W. Bush, dug up the Apache’s body and stole the skull and other bones. He then brought it to the clubhouse in New Haven, Connecticut.

7. Thomas Paine’s Entire Body

Unlike everyone else on this list whose head or skull was stolen after death, Thomas Paine’s good friend John Jarvis was already thinking about getting his hands on the famous patriot’s noggin. Paine, of course, asked Jarvis to leave his bones the hell alone. When Paine died in 1809, they did just that. For a while. Somebody dug his body up ten years later.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Since Paine died a drunk in New York, very few people were present for his funeral. Wanting to give Paine a proper burial, newspaper editor William Cobbett and some friends exhumed Paine with the intent of moving his body to England.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

The only problem happened when the body got to England – Cobbett couldn’t afford the burial. The old editor stashed the remains in his attic, where Tom Paine remained until Cobbett died. After that, no one knows what happened to the Revolutionary author.

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This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

The 1970 movie “Waterloo” was one of the most intricately filmed war movies of all time. A story about Napoleon’s famous last stand could not be told accurately without battle scenes on a grand scale. But these were the days before CGI and other computer wizardry, so Dino De Laurentiis had to get the extras — lots of them.


To save on production costs, necessary to build everything seen in the movies – from palaces to artillery – De Laurentiis decided to film the movie in the Soviet Union, at the height of the Cold War. The USSR agreed to allow the filming of the movie in Ukraine and also gave access to Soviet men and equipment.
The Red Army offered up some 16,000 men to the filmmakers, along with honest-to-Lenin cavalry and civil engineers.  The civil engineers recreated the entire Waterloo battlefield, including roads, thousands of trees, and Belgian farmhouses. They even bulldozed a few hills, cultivated rye, barley, and wildflower fields, and piped in water via an irrigation system to recreate the mud of the battlefield.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Russian director Sergei Bondarchuk housed the troops in tents near the battlefield and trained them in the infantry tactics and weapons of the time, 1815. The men were able to grow their facial hair and live like Napoleonic-era troops. They were more than just glorified battle re-enactors, they became bona fide Napoleonic Warriors, learning drills as well as saber and bayonet tactics.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

The total price tag of the film came to a whopping $40 million – $247 million adjusted for inflation. The resulting battle scenes are worth every penny. Aside from a few anachronisms, the battles are epic depictions of the French Empereur’s last 100 days.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Take that, Peter Jackson.

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New book uncovers records that show Hitler was usually very high

 


Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Was Hitler zonked out on heroin for most of the Second World War? Historian Normen Ohler has uncovered some shocking evidence indicating that he was, disclosed in the author’s new book, Der totale Rausch: Drogen im Dritten Reich (The Total Rush: Drugs in the Third Reich).

According to the book, Hitler, a strict vegetarian who touted the clear-mindedness of Aryans, was “ceaselessly” fed a combination of animal steroids and Eukodal, a close cousin of heroin, by his personal physician, Dr. Theodor Morrell.

Extensive digging through Dr. Morrell’s personal notes led Ohler to learn that the doctor’s prescriptions had been profoundly misinterpreted. Eukodal, previously translated as Enkodal, was falsely accepted as a legitimate medical treatment. In reality, it was a close cousin to heroin, on which Hitler became so dependent that he threatened to shoot Morrell after learning that supplies of the drug were dwindling.

In an interview with DW, the author discusses the impact that the drug had on the war effort:

Hitler loved Eukodal. Especially in the fall of 1944, when the military situation was quite bad, he used this strong drug that made him euphoric even when reality wasn’t looking euphoric at all. The generals kept telling him: “We need to change our tactics. We need to end this. We are going to lose the war.” And he didn’t want to hear it. He had Dr. Morell give him the drugs that made him feel invulnerable and on top of the situation.

While Hitler received his daily fix, the Fuhrer made sure that his soldiers were sufficiently doped up as well. The Nazis were kept high and alert by copious doses of Pervitin, an early form of crystal meth, which lessened their appetites and allowed them to fight longer. Between 1939 and 1945, more than 200 million pills of Pervitin were administered to German troops, according to records accessed by Ohler.

Though the Nazi’s use of Pervitin has been known for awhile, new details on the sheer scope of the drug’s prevalence have surfaced thanks to Ohler’s research. These Pervitin insights, combined with the monumental discovery of Hitler’s heroin habit, have made Ohler’s new book one of the most-talked about Nazi research projects in years.

Hans Mommsen, a distinguished German historian, does not mince words in his assessment of the work’s significance: “This book will change the accepted face of the history of the war.”

Also at HistoryBuff.com:

The American Confederacy Lives On in Brazil

Why is the Korean War the ‘Forgotten War’?

Meet Russia’s All-Women Battalion of Death

Queen Victoria Liked a Chinese Empress’s Dog So Much that She Stole It

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5 ways ‘San Andreas’ highlights the best of military families

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Photo: Warner Bros.


“San Andreas” is a disaster movie that is true to what you think it should be based on the trailer. There are some great effects, a lot of danger, and some thrills.

Ray, a helicopter pilot played by Dwayne Johnson, moves around southern California on different vehicles and on foot, trying to save his wife and daughter.

But “San Andreas” rises above its genre in a surprising way: Ray isn’t the only action hero in the movie. His wife and daughter, instead of being damsels in distress, save the day a few times themselves.

Since Ray is a combat veteran, his family was a military family that endured multiple deployments and prepared to face emergencies on their own. While trying to avoid spoilers, here are some great military family traits the film highlights:

1. Calm leadership

Emma, the wife of Ray played by Carla Gugino, is near the top of a tower when the first main quake hits California. Ray is nearby and tells her she can get him. Emma immediately begins trying to move other survivors with her to the roof. Emma has to fight through the crumbling building to reach her rendezvous. Due to the destruction, Ray’s original plan clearly won’t work, and it’s Emma who directs Ray on where to go to complete the pickup.

The daughter, named Blake (played by Alexandra Daddario), faces her own challenges when the quake strikes. Though she at first must be saved by a boy and his little brother, she quickly takes over leading the male pair. She directs them on the safest places to go as they face crisis after crisis and she figures out Plan B when the main plan becomes impossible.

2. Resourcefulness

Emma displays resourcefulness a few times, but this category mainly belongs to Blake. She breaks into an electronics store to establish communications with her father. She finds a way to listen in on the emergency channels to stay in touch with what’s happening in the city. After another survivor is injured, she even improvises bandages and renders aid.

These are skills that the military demands of its members, and many members pass them on to their families.

3. Bravery

This is a category we don’t want to talk about in too much detail because it will spoil the movie. But, both Emma and Blake fight through terrifying moments and tackle their fears. Between the two of them, they muster their courage to keep fighting while falling through buildings, being trapped, crashing, and facing other dangers.

4. Selflessness

Again, this is a category that, if we gave you all the details, it would ruin key parts of the movie. But, Emma puts herself in danger a few times to save Blake. And Blake really shines as she sends away rescuers multiple times when she thinks it’s too risky for them to save her. Emma, Blake, and Ray make many sacrifices for each other after everything goes to hell. Surprisingly, the film also shows the family making healthy sacrifices for each other before the quakes, balancing their own needs against each others. This even includes Ray and Emma, who are going through a divorce.

5. Training

Of course, some of the things Blake and Emma are doing require knowledge and physical strength, which implies they prepared to be on their own during an emergency. Preparing for natural disasters is something all families should do, but few actually accomplish. Blake and Emma, like many military families, knew they would face crises on their own and clearly prepared well.

To see what Ray, Emma, and Blake overcome in the movie and who makes it out alive, check out “San Andreas” in theaters May 29.

NOW: The odds of dying in an American war (applying the Lt. Dan scale)

OR: Watch ‘Pearl Harbor’ in under 3 minutes | Hurry up and Watch

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These veterans made a gun safety device that unlocks with a fingerprint

Two Air Force vets made a breakthrough in gun safety. They created an accessory that keeps pistols from firing in the wrong hands.


Dubbed the “Guardian,” it uses fingerprint technology to unlock a gun’s trigger by the owner. It attaches to most pistols without modifying the weapon and remains in place during use, making it quick and convenient to handle while serving its purpose.

It’s similar to unlocking your mobile phone. After authentication via fingerprint, the Guardian unlocks allowing the slide to snap forward granting access to the handgun trigger:

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Unlocking the Guardian. Courtesy of Veri-Fire

Skylar Gerrond and Matt Barido set out to solve two problems with the Guardian: safety and immediate protection. The best practice with children at home requires firearms be locked away with bullets stored in a different location. But this could defeat the purpose of having a firearm ready at a moment’s notice. To remedy this problem, some owners hide the weapon in an easy to access location, which can jeopardize safety. The Guardian solves both problems.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Image: Veri-Fire Indiegogo

“That’s the dilemma that drives people to taking the worse course of action — a loaded handgun, not secured at all, in a ‘safe place’ where [they think the] kids doesn’t know about it,” said Gerrond in an interview with The Blaze. “We wanted something that never actually left the handgun. The slide retracts forward in front of trigger guard, allowing access for you to physically insert finger into trigger well.”

The Guardian’s target price will be $199 when it becomes available. The creators are still in the prototype phase and are using Indiegogo to fund its development.

Watch how it works:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYC0laRqHXA

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Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

Several Naval Academy alumni have asked the alumni association to rescind an award planned for former U.S. Sen. James Webb because of his decades-old essay questioning the decision to admit women into military service academies.


Webb, who also served as Secretary of the Navy, wrote the 7,000-word essay “Women Can’t Fight” for Washingtonian Magazine in 1979.

“There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat. And their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation,” Webb wrote.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Senator Jim Webb. (Official photo courtesy of U.S. Senate)

He called the dormitory Bancroft Hall “a horny woman’s dream” and quoted former male alumni arguing that attending the academy is “scarring many women in ways they may not comprehend for years.”

The essay has been described by several alumni as a “manifesto” that potentially empowered male midshipmen to harass their female counterparts.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Laureen Miklos, a 1981 graduate, wrote in an email that the decision by the Naval Academy Alumni Association to give its Distinguished Graduate Award to Webb was “a hit to the gut.” She taught at the academy from 1998 to 2001 and described Webb’s essay as a “living document” still referenced by mids.

Miklos wrote the Annapolis-based association, arguing Webb’s essay validated those who thought women didn’t belong at the academy. She recalled an upperclassmen ordering a female classmate during her time at the academy to stand at attention at meals and shout “I am not a horny woman, Sir.”

Webb plans to be be present Friday when the association holds its Distinguished Graduate Award Ceremony. The award is given to alumni who have “personal character which epitomizes the traits we expect in our officer corps” and have made “significant contributions” as officers or leaders in industry or government.

Related: This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat

Webb, who graduated from the academy in 1968, served as a rifle platoon and company commander during the Vietnam War. He earned the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” and two Purple Hearts for injuries that ended his active-duty career.

Webb released a statement to The Capital on March 27, 2017, saying he wrote a “strongly argumentative magazine article” during the intense national debate of women serving in combat.

“Clearly, if I had been a more mature individual, there are things that I would not have said in that magazine article,” he wrote in the statement. “To the extent that this article subjected women at the academy or the armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.”

But Webb, who ran a brief campaign for the presidency as a Democrat in 2016, said he doesn’t regret debating the “long-term process of properly assimilating women” into the military. He said he is “deeply proud” of the contributions he made as Secretary of the Navy and a senator from Virginia. He cited the Navy-wide study he commission as secretary, which he said “opened up more positions to women than any secretary in history.”

Retired Adm. Robert Natter, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the association, said in a statement that Webb’s most recent comments “reflect how his views have evolved since that article 38 years ago.” Natter said Webb was selected by an independent selection chaired by retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a classmate of Webb’s and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“His many years of service are a matter of very public record, and on that entire record he was selected as a Distinguished Graduate,” Natter wrote.

Retired Capt. Jack Reape, a 1984 graduate, said an upperclassmen handed him a copy of the essay as a plebe. Reape said he and his classmates didn’t “support the women at the academy” during his time but that has since apologized to several of his female classmates.

Reape said he doesn’t see the point of taking the award from Webb because he “couldn’t name anyone else on that list.” He also said the award doesn’t have a big impact.

“He wouldn’t have been on my list of people,” Reape said. “We were in the Navy, we’re used to things not going to our way and pressing on. It’s the way it goes.”

Kelly Henry, a 1984 graduate, also wrote the association with criticism of the award. Henry said Webb’s essay was highly-circulated while she was in Annapolis and it caused “harm” to many of her classmates.

“The women will tell you that article was like throwing gasoline on the fire,” she said.

Henry said she was one of the “lucky” ones during her time at the academy and was in a company that welcomed the female mids. She said she was surprised to see Webb honored with the award, since 2016 marked the 40th year of women attending the Naval Academy.

She attended the academy’s celebration in the fall.

“At that celebration I felt we were embraced in the community,” Henry said. “We are no longer seen as something that tainted it, but now to see this? It completely takes away that feeling.”

Other 2017 Distinguished Graduates

—Retired Adm. Harry D. Train II ’49 — Train served as NATO supreme allied commander Atlantic and was also commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet from 1978 to 1982. He retired in 1982 and became involved in civic affairs in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

— Milledge A. “Mitch” Hart ’56 — Hart is the founder/co-founder of seven companies. After serving as a Marine in Oklahoma and Okinawa, he worked with alumnus Ross Perot to found Electronic Data Systems, a information technology equipment and services company. He later co-founded Home Depot, which became the second-largest retailer in the country.

—Retired Vice Adm. Cutler Dawson ’70 — Dawson is president and CEO of the Navy Federal Credit Union and was in the Navy for about 35 years. Under Dawson, the Enterprise Battle Group conducted strikes for Operation Desert Fox in the Arabian Gulf and Operation Allied for in the Adriatic Sea. He retired from the military in 2004 and became president of the Vienna, Virginia-based credit union.

—Retired Adm. Eric T. Olson ’73 — Olson is the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the first Navy SEAL to reach three- and four-star rank and the first naval officer to lead Special Operations Command. He retired in 2011 after serving for 38 years. After retiring, he founded ETO Group, an independent national security consulting firm.

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This British tank could perform ‘Dukes of Hazzard’-style moves

Britain’s Cromwell tank first saw combat duty on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The British troops operating the tank fell in love in an instant. It was designed to be a high-speed tank that used a reliable Rolls-Royce engine. 

With a top speed of 40 miles per hour despite weighing 28 tons, the Cromwell crews quickly learned it could be used for more than just mowing down Nazis. They used it to escape some pretty dangerous situations in some astonishing ways. The Cromwell wasn’t the General Lee, but in the world of tanks, it comes pretty close.

It was developed in concert with a couple of other British tanks, namely the Centaur tank. But the Centaur had trouble fixing the bugs in its design and never saw action during the war. The Cromwell was the obvious favorite – and the reason was clear. 

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Something called “Centaur” had a design flaw — yes, sometimes the jokes write themselves (Image by Ria Sopala from Pixabay)

The 3,066 Cromwell tanks that were produced for World War II were designed to shoot and move. It could fire an armor-piercing Sabot round through 100 millimeters of steel at ranges of more than 1,000 yards while driving at full speed. 

What was really unique about the Cromwell tanks is its design for speed and maneuverability. Its Rolls-Royce Meteor engine combined with a newly-designed Merrit-Brown gearbox allowed the vehicle superior steering while both tracks moved. Where American Sherman tanks and Russian T-34s tended to slow down while turning, the British Cromwell could go as fast as a tight turn would allow. 

While the original configuration of the Cromwell’s armament placed it at a disadvantage against German Panther and Tiger tanks (the standard round could not penetrate the tanks’ front-facing armor), it could easily outmaneuver the enemy. Cromwell tank commanders could also outrun and outperform their adversaries. 

In the Netherlands in 1944, three Cromwell tank commanders kicked their vehicles into high gear and used them to jump a 20-foot gap after being surprised by a large concentration of Axis troops and tanks. It stands to reason that even Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane wouldn’t have been able to catch those Brit boys. The story was recounted by an officer in the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars, Bill Bellamy, in “Troop Leader: A Tank Commander’s Story.”

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Something like this, but probably less “Yeehaw!” and more “Jolly good!”

The speed at which the Cromwell could drive played hell on the tank’s suspension. British tankers around the theater were apparently using its speed the same way Bellamy did. It got to be so widespread that British Army authorities began to govern the tank’s tops speed, driving it down to just 32 miles per hour. 

British Army planners eventually did solve the Cromwell’s firepower problem, fitting it with the same 75 millimeter primary gun used on the American Sherman tank so the Cromwell could fire the same high-explosive and armour-piercing rounds as the Sherman. Once it did, it could easily beat the tanks fielded by the Germans. It retained its speed and maneuverability as well, moving so efficiently in combat that Wehrmacht tanks were often surprised and had little time to fire back at the British. 

After the war, the British fielded the Cromwell in Korea but retired it in 1955, in favor of the Centurion tank. But that didn’t end the Cromwell’s service. Czechoslovakia, Israel, Poland, Portugal and Greece all fielded Cromwell tanks for years after. Even the Chinese and North Koreans got a taste for the speed of the Cromwell after capturing one or two in the Korean War. 

Feature image: Imperial War Museum

MIGHTY HISTORY

Teddy Roosevelt volunteered for World War I service but was turned down

There’s no physical activity that America’s 26th President would turn a blind eye to, especially when it came to the defense of the United States. No matter how old he was, Roosevelt was game for any challenge. 

Even if that meant years in the trenches of World War I Europe, Roosevelt wanted to be there, serving his country with his fellow Americans. 

When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, then 40-year-old Roosevelt was serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, but resigned the office when he received an offer to join Leonard Wood’s 1st Volunteer Cavalry and head to Cuba to fight. 

Even as an older man, he distinguished himself during the war in Cuba. After Wood was promoted, Col. Roosevelt took command of the unit. His most famous action came at San Juan Hill, where he led his Rough Riders up the hill against dramatic odds, taking the formidable position from its Spanish defenders. 

The action propelled him to the governor’s mansion in New York and eventually to the Vice-President’s office. When President William McKinley was shot in 1901, Roosevelt took the White House. He was 42 years old when he took office but that didn’t stop his love for physical vigor. He was still the youngest person to ever take the office.

Roosevelt practiced all forms of physical activity, even as President of the United States. From Boxing to Judo, to Hunting, Horseback Riding, and Running, he was there for it all. He even challenged the U.S. military’s physical fitness standards, which is the reason the military has such standards today. 

teddy roosevelt
What a boss.

After finishing McKinley’s term, he was elected to a term of his own before his successor, William Howard Taft took office in 1909. Roosevelt took a safari to Africa. 

Although he failed in an attempt to return to politics in 1912, he was still a larger-than-life figure in American politics. His legacy as president has stood the test of time, as TR is consistently ranked in the top five presidents of all time, even today.

But to Roosevelt, the biggest disappointment of his life was yet to come. World War I broke out during President Woodrow Wilson’s second term, and there were many German provocations that led to American involvement in the war. A telegram from the German foreign ministry to Mexico revealed a ploy to bring Mexico into the war against the U.S. outraged many American. 

It was unrestricted submarine warfare from the Germans, and the sinking of the British liner Lusitania that killed 128 Americans, only increased the outrage. The U.S. broke diplomatic ties with the German Empire. 

Then, a few days later, an unrepentant Germany sunk the American liner Housatonic because it was carrying food to the British Isles. The United States declared war on Germany soon after. 

Roosevelt, then 58 years old, disliked Wilson personally but supported the war. He volunteered his services in raising troops to go fight the Germans on the Western Front. In March 1917, Roosevelt received authorization from Congress to do just that. The Congressional resolution authorized the former president to raise four divisions, just like he’d raised the 1st Volunteer Cavalry to fight the Spanish in Cuba. 

But President Wilson, the Commander-in-Chief, intervened. He declined to send Roosevelt’s volunteers. Instead, he sent the American Expeditionary Force under Gen. John J. Pershing. It was one of Roosevelt’s biggest disappointments. Then, in 1918, his son Quentin was shot down while flying against the German Air Force. Roosevelt never recovered from the loss. The 26th President died in his sleep in January 1919. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee: The US Navy’s First Living Female Navy Cross Recipient

The average US citizen may hear the names of US Navy aircraft carriers, battleships, and destroyers, and not realize the significance behind those namesakes. For the US Navy sailors who work and live aboard these ships, the names serve as their identity in homage to the war heroes, pioneers, and traditions of the past.  

The names of Navy destroyers are of deceased members of the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. On Nov. 13, 1944, the Navy named a warship after a woman for the first time in the Navy’s existence. The USS Higbee commissioned and was converted into a radar picket destroyer. The “Leaping Lenah,” as she was referred to by her crew, “screened carriers as their planes launched heavy air attacks against the Japanese mainland” and helped support occupying forces in the clearing of minefields during World War II. She also earned seven battle stars in the Korean War and was the first warship to be bombed in the Vietnam War. 

When the Leaping Lenah was decommissioned in 1979, she held the record for the highest score for naval gunfire support of any warship in the US Navy. It was a remarkable achievement and the ultimate tribute to Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee — the first living female recipient of the Navy Cross. 

Higbee was born in Canada in 1874 and trained as a nurse at the New York Postgraduate Hospital in 1899. She developed her knowledge of medicine at Fordham Hospital and held her own private practice as a surgical nurse until she entered the newly established US Navy Nursing Corps (NNC) in 1908. Higbee was an original member of the “Sacred Twenty” — the first group of female nurses to serve in the NNC.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Lena H. Sutcliffe Higbee was an original member of the “Sacred Twenty” and the first living woman to be awarded the Navy Cross. Three other nurses were awarded the Navy Cross posthumously. Photo courtesy of the US Navy Institute.

“Nurses were assigned to duty at the Naval Hospital, Washington, D.C.,” said Beatrice Bowman, one of the Sacred Twenty nurses who later became the third superintendent of the NNC in 1922. “There were no quarters for them but they were given an allowance for quarters and subsistence. They rented a house and ran their own mess. These pioneers were no more welcome to most of the personnel of the Navy than women are when invading what a man calls his domain.”

The Sacred Twenty spearheaded the efforts to prove women had a role in the medical field as much as their male counterparts. They held no rank and were not immediately viewed as assets; however, their reputation would soon change. In 1911, after the first NNC superintendent resigned — as the nurses were often exposed to institutionalized discrimination — Chief Nurse Higbee assumed command as superintendent. She was responsible for overseeing 86 nurses across the US, Guam, and the Philippines. She lobbied for equal pay and for healthcare for military dependents.

Higbee served on several executive healthcare committees, including the National Committee of the Red Cross Nursing Service, and between 1915 and 1917 helped increase nursing recruiting numbers for World War I.

“For two years prior to our actual entering into this conflict, warnings had been sounded and such tentative preparations as were possible had been made by those who were wise to the significance of war signs,” Higbee said.

During her tenure of 14 years of service, Higbee helped expand the NNC from 160 nurses to 1,386 nurses. She was later instrumental in assigning nurses aboard Navy transport ships, and during World War I these nurses served transport duty. Another one of her initiatives was to build a force of hospital corpsmen that assisted in “nursing training methods” as well as to “develop in the hearts and minds of these ‘pupil nurses’ the principles of conscience care of the sick.”

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
A graphic representation of the future guided-missile destroyer USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123) that is scheduled to be commissioned in 2024. Photo courtesy of the Navy History and Heritage Command.

After being exposed to the horrors from World War I, the complexities of battlefield wounds, and shell shock, Superintendent Higbee managed the development of Vassar Training Camp, the finishing school where nurses gained operational experience before arriving at their first assignments.

The following year, in 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic rocked the world — and as Higbee and her nursing corps did best, they adapted to the evolving demands of medicine. Their focus shifted from the war wounds to an invisible disease. A total of 431 US Navy personnel had lost their lives during World War I, and 819 more were wounded. The humanitarian crisis between 1918 and 1919, in contrast, saw 5,027 sailors die as a result of the pandemic.

“‘The most needed woman’ is the war nurse,’” wrote The Sun newspaper on June 9, 1918. “In reality the war nurse is a soldier, fighting pain, disease and death with weapons of science and skill. […] She goes prepared to share the risks and fortune of war, ready to make any sacrifice.”

Higbee and her team worked early mornings and late nights to diagnose patients and aid in their recovery. In 1920, Higbee became the first living recipient of the Navy Cross for “distinguished service in the line of her profession and unusual and conspicuous devotion to duty as superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps.” 

Three other nurses, Marie Louise Hidell, Lillian M. Murphy, and Edna E. Place, were awarded the Navy Cross medal posthumously.

Higbee passed away in 1941, and a year later the Navy granted nurses “relative rank.” In 1944, the Navy finally approved nurses for “full military rank” with equal pay.

Although the USS Higbee was decommissioned in 1979, in 2016 then-Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, announced plans to commission the USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee, scheduled for 2024 — an honor the trailblazing nurse certainly deserves.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47


DARPA is making your next kitchen appliance in the form of a robot named Baxter that can learn to cook your favorite dishes from watching YouTube videos.

Also watch: The 7 coolest high-tech military projects

According to DARPA researchers at the University of Maryland, funded by the agency’s Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation and Execution (MSEE) program, recently developed a system that enabled robots to process visual data from a series of “how to” cooking videos on YouTube. “Based on what was shown on a video, robots were able to recognize, grab and manipulate the correct kitchen utensil or object and perform the demonstrated task with high accuracy – without additional human input or programming,” DARPA said.

These scientists throwing the calculus of “cooking is as much of an art as it is a science” way off. Perhaps one day having a personal robot chef will be as commonplace as having a toaster, microwave or blender.

“If we have robots that are humanoid and they have hands, that will be the next industrial revolution,” said Yiannis Aloimonos, University of Maryland computer scientist. “I am particularly very happy to be participating in this revolution because it will change fundamentally our societies.”

Still, it’s hard to imagine Chef Ramsay getting any satisfaction out of yelling at a robot on an episode of Hell’s Kitchen . . .

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Here’s the robot in action.

Articles

Here’s how the US is sticking it to Beijing in the South China Sea

China has for years been whittling away at the US military’s asymmetrical advantage in conventional military strength with a naval buildup, building and militarizing artificial islands in the South China Sea, and creating systems and weapons custom built to negate the US’s technological advantage.


By all indications, China is building aircraft carriers and getting ready to place surface-to-air missiles deep into the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, China’s neighbors have grown increasingly worried and timid as it cements a land grab in a shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in annual trade and has billions in resources, like oil, waiting to be exploited.

Related: These 4 islands could be America’s unsinkable aircraft carriers in the Pacific

Six countries lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, and the US isn’t one of them. But the US doesn’t need a dog in this fight to stand up for freedom of navigation and international law.

Here’s how the US counters China in the region.

For the US, checking Beijing in the Pacific often means sailing carrier strike groups through the region — something the Navy has done for decades, whether China protests or not.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Kurtis A. Hatcher

As Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of 7th Fleet, said recently at a military conference: “We’re going to fly, sail, operate wherever international law allows.”

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman

The strike group has plenty of aircraft along with them, like this A F/A-18E Super Hornet and a nuclear-capable B-1B Lancer from Guam.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Navy photo by Lt. Robert Nordlund

Unlike submarines and ICBMs buried under land or sea, the US’s strategic, nuclear-capable bombers make up the most visible leg of the nuclear triad. Placing a handful of B-1Bs in Guam sends a message to the region.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Air Force

Here’s the US’s entire strategic bomber force lined up in Guam, representing more than 60 years bomber dominance.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
The B-52, the B-1, and the B-2 (right to left) on runways at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.US Air Force

It also doesn’t hurt when the US Navy shows off its complete mastery of carrier-based aircraft. There are F-18 pilots in the Navy that likely have more carrier landings than the entire Chinese navy combined.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

Those jets benefit from the support of about 7,000 sailors on the ship, who keep them running around the clock.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

Airborne early warning and control planes like the E-2 Hawkeye use massive radars to act as the eyes and ears of the fleet. Not much gets past them.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

But carriers don’t sail alone either. Here a guided missile destroyer knocks through some rough seas accompanying the Vinson.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Mortensen

The US Navy may be the most professional in the world, with a very serious mission in the South China Sea, but they still make time for a swim on one of the US’s newest combat ships, the USS Coronado.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amy M. Ressler

The Coronado doesn’t look like an aircraft carrier, but it does have serious airpower in the form of a MH-60S Seahawk with twin .50 caliber door guns.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amy M. Ressler

But the key to the US’s success in far away waters is allies. The US doesn’t do anything alone, if you’re noticing a pattern here. Here US and Royal Brunei Navy sailors practice boarding a ship.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Navy Photo

In February, US Marines partnered up with Japanese self-defense forces to practice amphibious landings — a skill that may one day come in handy on artificial islands.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Marine Corps by Lance Cpl. Tyler Byther

Sometimes working with allies means getting down and dirty. Here a Seabee gets neck deep in Japan.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Seabee participating in the endurance course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Henderson

The bottom line is that the US military has decades of experience sailing, training, and fighting with its allies in the Pacific. China has come a long way in shifting the balance of power in the region, but the US remains on top — for now.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

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