It’s been almost 30 years since the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, the primary crossing post between East and West Berlin, was taken down with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The original guardhouse was little more than a temporary shack for much of its life and has since been replaced. As the area in Berlin began to grow and become a tourist attraction, more and more Cold War-era sights were added to the checkpoint.
One of those sights is a photo of a real American soldier, looking East.
These days, the area in Berlin that saw some of the most intense showdowns between East and West is full of tourists and Berlin residents who probably wish they had taken a different route to work. For three Euro, you can take a photo with one of the soldier-reenactors who dress up to man the post. If you’re hungry, there’s a McDonald’s across the street. It’s very much not the Checkpoint Charlie of old, but still worth a visit. For military veterans approaching the once-legendary area, there might be a different question – who is that guy in the photo?
The “soldiers” holding the U.S. flag and posing for tourists were never troops, that’s just fun for the onlookers. But staring at the photo of the American soldier posted at the guardhouse, it’s clear that he’s wearing a real U.S. Army uniform.
His name is Jeff Harper.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the checkpoint’s rise as a prime tourist attraction in the German capital, the photos of Sgt. Harper and his Soviet counterpart on the other side have become as synonymous with the checkpoint as anything else in Cold War lore. But Harper wasn’t exactly the stereotypical Cold Warrior. He was a U.S. Army tuba player with the 298th Army Band in Berlin from 89-94 and never pulled guard duty at the checkpoint. He was just 22 when the photo was taken.
In an interview with the German publication Der Tronkland, Harper said he almost dropped his coffee when he first saw his face up on the sign. That was 1999.
“I am very proud to have become part of the story to this extent and still be part of what is happening in Berlin today,” Harper said. “I can hardly imagine in how many photo albums I have been immortalized.”
Harper has since retired from the Army, but he was still in Berlin for the fall of the wall.
Jeff Harper after his retirement in 2010.
The most important thing to know about the photos is that they’re not part of any authentic recreation of the site. They’re an art exhibit, called Ohne Titel – or “Light Boxes.” The photo was taken by Berlin photographer Frank Thiel in 1994, as an attempt to capture photos of the last Allied soldiers in the city. The young Russian troop isn’t wearing a Soviet military uniform, he’s wearing a 1994 uniform of the Russian Federation.
“… These portraits translate the omnipresent sector signs of the past – “You are leaving the American/British/French sector” – into picture form. They are likewise a reference to the historical moment when Soviet and American tanks faced off against each other right here,” said Thiel. “By using two portraits to symbolize almost 50 years of history, I am suggesting that these two faces are representative.”
These days, Harper is enjoying the retired life driving his motorcycle around the highways of the American West. He says the highlight of his career in Berlin was being able to play in the band for President Bill Clinton. As for the Russian soldier on the opposite side, no one really knows who he is or where he ended up.
When watching a movie, it’s easy to think that everything is real and true and lifelike. It’s no surprise that that isn’t always the case, especially with military movies. That’s how Marine veteran Dale Dye got involved. He wanted to tell Hollywood the right way to portray the military on screen.
Dye’s journey to becoming a military technical advisor started when he was a young man. He often overheard his father’s inspiring World War II stories. He enlisted in the Marines after seeing a Marines poster.
In service, Dye became a combat correspondent and he often documented battles and life in the Marines during the Vietnam War. It was this experience that he later drew on to advise Hollywood film directors on how to accurately portray the military. His love for the military inspired him to influence the next generation through films, books, and even video games, so he created Warriors Inc. to provide Hollywood with technical advisors for all things military related.
As Dye discussed his experiences, he covered the following topics:
His military career in the Marines during the Vietnam War where he received three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with a Combat “V.”
His military consultant business Warriors Inc.
His 141 credits in film, television and video games.
His new projects.
His books and publishing company Warriors Publishing.
His struggle and treatment of his PTSD.
He emphasized the importance of not only having knowledge about what you are getting into but also knowing that there are people who have gone through the same thing as you that want to help support you.
It’s safe to say that we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the gear we carry with us into the great outdoors. Whether you’re in the market for a new pocket knife or a thirty-foot camper to tow behind your truck, there’s no shortage of options available to you, each claiming their own “extreme” superlatives to make sure you know just how rugged they are. Of course, there’s one phrase you may see pop up more than many others when it comes to toughness: “military grade.”
The idea behind claiming your product is “military grade” is simple: the consuming public tends to think of the military as a pretty tough bunch, so if you tell me a product has met some military standard for toughness, it stands to reason that the product itself must be pretty damn tough, right?
The military actually employs thousands of people to maintain and repair “military grade” equipment.
(Photo By: Master Sgt. Benari Poulten 80th Training Command Public Affairs)
The phrase “military grade” can be used on packaging and on promotional materials without going through any particular special toughness-testing. In fact, even when sticking closely to the intent behind the phrase, which would mean making the product meet the testing criteria set forth in the U.S. military’s MIL-STD-810 process, there’s still so much leeway in the language of the order that military grade could really mean just about anything at all.
The testing procedures set forth in the military standard are really more of a list of testing guidelines meant to ensure manufacturers use controlled settings and basic standards for reliability, and importantly, uniformity. The onus is on the manufacturer, not any military testing body, to meet the criteria set forth within that standard (or not) and then they can apply the words “military grade” to their packaging and marketing materials. In other words, all a company really has to do is decide to say their products are “military grade” and poof–a new tacti-tool is born.
It’s as simple as that. No gauntlet of Marines trying to smash it, no Airmen dropping it from the edge of space, and no Navy SEALs putting it through its paces under a sheet of ice near the Russian shore. The only real reason that pocket knife you just bought said “military grade” on the box is that the company’s marketing team knew plastering the phrase on stuff helps it sell.
Believe it or not, this is not how Marines test new gear.
(Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel)
For those of us that have spent some time in uniform, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s never any shortage of jokes about the gear we’re issued coming from “the lowest bidder” for a reason: the gear we’re issued often really did come from the lowest bidder. Meeting the military standard (in mass production terms) usually means that a manufacturer was able to meet the minimum stated requirements at the lowest unit price. To be fair, those minimum requirements often do include concerns about durability, but balanced against the fiscal constraints of ordering for the force. When you’re budgeting to outfit 180,000 Marines with a piece of kit, keeping costs down is just as important in a staff meeting as getting a functional bit of gear.
But most products sold as “military grade” never even need to worry about those practical considerations, because the Defense Department isn’t in the business of issuing iPhone cases and flashlight key chains to everyone in a uniform. When these products advertise “military grade,” all they really mean is that they used some loosely established criteria to conduct their own product tests.
Of course, that’s not to say that products touting their “military grade” toughness are worthless–plenty of products with that meaningless label have proven themselves in the kits of millions of users, but the point is, the label itself means almost nothing at all.
Days after Donald Trump won the 2016 US presidential election, Barack Obama left the country for his last trip abroad as president.
The trip took him to Greece, Germany, and finally Peru, where he attended the 2016 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Throughout the trip, anxious world leaders greeted Obama, inquiring about the man who would soon occupy the Oval Office.
That sentiment was on display in Lima, where “Obama was pulled aside by leader after leader and asked what to expect from Donald Trump,” the former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes wrote in his memoir of his time in the White House, “The World as It Is.”
Obama advised them to give the Trump administration a chance, telling them to “wait and see,” Rhodes said.
The trip featured a sit-down meeting between Obama and China’s president, Xi Jinping.
Two years before, the two met in China, where Obama secured Xi’s cooperation to address climate change, which in turn made the Paris climate accord possible.
Xi told Obama — unprompted, Rhodes said — that China would implement the Paris accord even if Trump abandoned it.
Obama called that decision wise and said Xi could expect “states, cities, and the private sector” in the US to continue investing in the accord, even if the federal government reneged.
(Photo by Marc Nozell)
As the meeting came to an end, Xi asked about the leader who would soon take over in Washington. Obama repeated his advice to wait and see, but he added that Trump had rallied US voters around real concerns about economic relations with China.
“Xi is a big man who moves slowly and deliberately, as if he wants people to notice his every motion,” Rhodes said. “Sitting across the table from Obama, he pushed aside the binder of talking points that usually shape the words of a Chinese leader.”
“We prefer to have a good relationship with the United States,” Xi said, folding his hands in front of him, Rhodes wrote. “That is good for the world. But every action will have a reaction. And if an immature leader throws the world into chaos, then the world will know whom to blame.”
Rhodes did not elaborate on that interaction. But the months since Trump took office have been marked by rocky relations with the world, and China is no exception.
On more than one occasion, Trump has lavished praise on Xi, including calling him “a very special man” during a state visit to Beijing in November 2017, and complimenting his abolition of term limits early 2018.
“He’s now president for life,” Trump said of Xi, adding, “And he’s great.”
“In light of China’s theft of intellectual property and technology and its other unfair trade practices, the United States will implement a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of goods from China that contain industrially significant technologies,” Trump said in a statement.
China said that its response to the tariffs would be immediate and that it would “take necessary measures to defend our legitimate rights and interest.”
Countries around the world, especially US allies, continue to regard Trump with concern, uncertain of his commitment to longstanding alliances.
In China, Trump’s seeming withdrawal from the US’s traditional role on the world stage is seen as an opportunity, according to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, but not one without risks.
Chinese leaders “see vacuums and spaces opening up around the world,” Rudd said in May 2018. “The Chinese see this as an opportunity to frankly — I won’t say exploit American weaknesses — but simply to move into vacuums.”
“Here’s the qualifying point,” Rudd added. “They find Trump strategically comforting and tactically terrifying, and why do I say that? Tactically terrifying because they actually do not know which way he will jump.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Army is working on new camouflage systems to protect soldiers waging war on future battlefields from one of the greatest threats to their survival, a top Army general told lawmakers on April 9, 2019.
“Advanced camouflage technologies are critical,” Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, Military.com first reported. “We are putting a fair amount of money into advanced camouflage systems, both individual, unit, vehicle, etc.”
The general said that future battlefields are likely to be “highly lethal” environments where “units will be cut off and separated,” making soldier lethality and survivability key.
“We know that adversary [target] acquisition systems are very, very capable in that, if you can see a target, with precision munitions … you can hit a target,” he said. “So camouflage systems that break up electronic signatures and break up heat signatures are critical.”
Soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team pull camouflaged netting over an artillery emplacement during platoon evaluations on Fort Bragg.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)
In an era of renewed great-power competition, the Army is increasingly looking closely at protecting soldiers against advanced threats from countries such as China and Russia. Among the greatest threats soldiers face is advanced sensing technology, a top US Army sniper previously told Business Insider.
“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing that a sniper has to do, especially with the emerging technology by our near-peer enemies,” Staff Sgt. David Smith, a sniper instructor at Fort Benning, said, explaining that while it is easy for snipers to hide in the visible spectrum, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to disappear as US rivals “creep into the thermal arena.”
A US Army soldier may be concealed and well hidden from the watchful eyes of the enemy but light up like a Christmas tree on a high-end thermal imaging device, which can detect the temperature difference between a human body, typically 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and the environment they’re hiding in.
Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Fox waits to engage a target in the live-fire stalk event during the 2012 International Sniper Competition at the U.S. Army Sniper School on Fort Benning, Ga., Nov. 3, 2012.
(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Cross)
Milley didn’t identify which systems the Army is working on, but the projects would likely include systems like the new Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System (ULCANS) and possibly the Improved Ghillie System (IGS) being developed for snipers.
ULCANS, developed by Fibrotex, is a kind of advanced camouflage designed to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more. The Army awarded Fibrotex a multi-million contract last year to supply US troops with this technology.
The IGS is in testing right now and is expected to eventually replace the older Flame Resistant Ghillie System (FRGS) Army sharpshooters are wearing now. It is unclear if this new system is designed to counter thermal sensors, but it is being put through full-spectrum testing.
It’s not enough to just hide, Army soldiers are having to change the way they conceal themselves to disappear like they have never done before as adversaries step up their game.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
During the Civil War, an entire battalion was formed by pulling the students of two colleges out of school, putting them under the command of their professors, and shipping them off to war. And these college kids really did fight, possibly firing some of the first and last shots of the war and earning battle streamers for seven different engagements before the war ended.
Citadel cadets recreate the firing on the Star of the West
The college students were cadets at The Citadel and The Arsenal Academy, both establishments for training future military officers. So, when South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, there was obviously a question of roles for these men who had already signaled an interest in military service.
A single warning shot across the bow failed to deter the ship, but a short volley a few minutes later caused multiple strikes against the ship’s hull and forced it to withdraw.
A later attack by Confederate forces on Fort Sumter in April 1861 is generally regarded as the first attack of the war, but the cadets were awarded a streamer for their January attack.
An illustration of The Citadel during the Civil War.
(Alfred Rudolf Waud)
The next streamer for the academy came in November 1861, at Wappoo Cut, but they didn’t actually meet with Union forces. On Nov. 7, Union naval forces had shelled and seized two Confederate forts near the South Carolina capital, and political leaders worried that the Union would press forward. They called on the cadets to man defenses at Wappoo Cut, but the Union soldiers didn’t press the attack, and the cadets eventually returned to school.
At this point, though, The Citadel and The Arsenal were still functioning as military academies despite their students and faculty being called away from time to time to perform training, logistics, or even defensive duties. But by June 1862, there was a body of cadets that was ready to go to war without waiting for their commissions at graduation. At least 37 cadets resigned from the school and formed the “Cadet Rangers,” a cavalry unit.
This sort of pattern would continue for the next few years, with the cadets being called out to defend Charleston for a few days or weeks and then being sent back to the school to train, frustrating some of them. In early 1863, cadets manned guns in a defensive battery on a bridge between Charleston and James Island.
Union forces shelled the city during this period, and some of the cadets were sent to guard stores of weapons and supplies. But they returned to school again until the first half of 1864, when they were once again sent to defend James Island.
At the end of 1864, the cadets were called to a defense that would actually result in combat. Union Marines, soldiers, and sailors were sent to break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and their attack surprised the infantrymen defending the position. The cadets, stationed a few miles away at the time, rushed to the fight at the double-time.
Union Marines and other troops attacked cadets at the Battle of Tulifinny near Charleston, South Carolina, and the cadets earned praise for their disciplined fire and poise under attack.
(David Humphreys Miller)
During that first night, on Dec. 6, the cadets did little because they arrived as the Union troops were digging into their defensive positions while the Confederate attacks gave way.
But the next morning, the cadets were one of the key components of an attack on the Union positions. They came under rifle fire and responded with a bayonet charge, but were driven back. They secured their wounded and dropped back to their own defenses. In this role, they earned praise from nearby infantry units for their disciplined fire. They even pursued the Marines attacking them during the final Union retreat. During the fight, they suffered eight casualties.
The following year, in May 1865, cadets would once again engage in direct combat with Union forces. They were sent to guard infrastructure in Williamston, South Carolina, when Union forces attempted to reach a bridge over the Saluda River and burn it. The cadets beat back the attack successfully, saving the bridge.
The $207.2 billion total spending in the Air Force’s 2021 budget request holds even with what the service was allotted in 2020.
The lack of change in dollars contrasts with Air Force officials’ comments about a need for dramatic change to prepare for potential high-end conflict with a power like Russia or China.
“If you have platforms that are not going to play in that 2030 fight, is there a near-term risk, which is real risk, that we need to take as a department to buy our future, to be able to have the connectivity we need to fight at the speeds the future’s going to demand?” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in January.
The 2021 request, released Monday, stopped short of big shakeups, such as ditching entire aircraft inventories or scrapping major procurement programs, according to Defense News.
But the proposed 2021 budget would part with a number of noteworthy aircraft, freeing up .1 billion in the next five-year spending plan and reflecting a belief that “winning in the future will require investing in the right new capabilities now,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com.
Below, you can which aircraft the Air Force wants to retire.
17 B-1B Lancer bombers.
The B-1B bomber fleet would drop from 61 aircraft in 2020 to 44 in 2021, all of which are in the active-duty Air Force, according to budget documents.
The Lancer, which is no longer capable of carrying nuclear weapons, doesn’t have the highest ceiling of the Air Force’s bombers, but it is considered the bomber fleet’s “backbone,” as it can fly the fastest, topping 900 mph, and carries the largest payload, up to 75,000 pounds of guided and unguided weapons.
The service plans to get rid of the oldest of the B-1Bs, which have required more attention from maintainers given the high operational tempo the bomber has faced in recent years.
The Air Force has flirted with retiring some A-10s for years, and its 2021 proposal would finally cull that fleet, with the Air National Guard losing 39 and the Air Force Reserve losing seven. (The active Air Force would gain two, for a total of 44 A-10s removed from service.)
The Air Force currently has 281 A-10s and recently finished putting new wings on 173 of them. Boeing got a billion-dollar contract in 2019 to finish re-winging the A-10s that needed them.
Once those 44 aircraft are removed from service, the Air Force will proceed with re-winging those that remain, an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com.
The Air Force’s 2021 budget proposes dropping 16 KC-10 tankers from the active fleet and eight and five KC-135s from the active fleet and the Reserve, respectively.
KC-10s date to the 1980s and KC-135s to the 1950s. The Air Force says the ones that would be removed would be the oldest and least capable in the force, according to Air Force Magazine, but the cuts would come as the tanker meant to replace them, the KC-46, is still at least three years away from being able to deploy.
The 2021 budget includes nearly billion for 15 more KC-46 tankers, as well as an additional 0 million for modifications and research, and development, testing, and evaluation.
Air Force officials have said they want to hold on to legacy tankers until the KC-46 is working properly. The head of US Transportation Command, which oversees aerial refueling operations, said in January that KC-46 delays risked causing “a real dip” in the military’s tanker availability.
Starting in 2021, the Air Force wants to divest its Block 20 and Block 30 RQ-4 surveillance drones, a total of 24, leaving only its 10 Block 40 RQ-4s.
Four of the Block 20s had been converted to Battlefield Airborne Communications Nodes, which allow different battlefield communications systems to talk to each other.
To replace the RQ-4s with the BACN (which makes them EQ-4s), the service will get five E-11A manned aircraft with the BACN system, buying one a year starting next year, an Air Force spokesperson told Defense News.
The RQ-4 often works in conjuction with other space-based and airborne information-gathering aircraft, like the U-2 spy plane, whose future was also put in doubt by the latest budget documents.
The Air Force also wants to retire 24 C-130H mobility aircraft from the Air National Guard.
The C-130H airlifter, as well as the MC-130H used for special operations operations, are among the oldest in the Air Force and “are experiencing airworthiness, maintainability and operational limitations,” according to budget documents.
In the 2021 proposal, the active force would lose three MC-130Hs and gain four MC-130J, the next model, while the Air National Guard would acquire 19 C-130Js.
Another Memorial Day has come and gone and, along with it, comes another report from the family of a service member who was killed in action about encountering a man in civilian clothes at Arlington National Cemetery. Calling himself Dave, the man talked to a Gold Star spouse for a bit, then moved on.
The wife of the fallen service member had no idea she was talking to Gen. David Goldfein, the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force.
She only found out because her friend noticed the coin that “Dave” left on the headstone of her husband — the coin of his office. She posted the story on social media some time later, which was confirmed by the popular Air Force Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco.
That’s the kind of person General Goldfein is. This isn’t an isolated incident. On Memorial Day 2017, an airman at Arlington spotted a man in his dress blues walking among the graves at Section 60 — the resting place for those who fell in Iraq or Afghanistan — putting his hand on each for a moment of reflection.
Cody Stollings, the airman who recognized Gen. Goldfein, introduced himself and talked to the general for a bit. It turns out General Goldfein keeps the names of every airman who is killed under his command in a book. Each year, he visits them at Arlington to pay his respects.
For many Americans, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Niger, and Somalia have become a fact of life. When news about OIF, OEF, OAE, or OIR hits, no one really listens anymore. The acronyms change, but everything else stays the same. This is the cost of endless war. Andrew Bacevich, a historian and retired colonel whose son died in Iraq, said it best,
“A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.”
Those in charge of prosecuting the wars, however, should find it relatively easy to support the troops — by reaching their objective and bringing those troops home. But the Chiefs of Staff don’t hold that kind of command authority. They’re in an advisory position for the National Security Council.
In a time where the War in Afghanistan seems like it will never end and new hot spots seem to pop up all the time, it’s good to know the Air Force has someone at the top who’s seen and fought in war and knows that the people who die fighting them are more than numbers on a PowerPoint slide.
It’s nice to know that someone at the top really gives a shit.
In 1939, German scientist Adolf Butenandt was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in documenting how hormones transfer signals between the body’s cells and organs to regulate bodily functions. His discoveries were revolutionary, paving the way for many of today’s medical necessities, including birth control and steroids.
These same scientific revelations lead, eventually, to the creation of anabolic steroids. Today, the business of manufacturing and selling synthetic testosterone is massive — and highly illegal.
Although the military is considered a team environment, if you’re looking for a promotion, it’s ultimately up to you to work extremely hard to stand out among your peers. Some troops who want to gain a physical edge on their fellow brothers-in-arms, however, turn to various types of anabolic steroids to, hopefully, more quickly achieve their goals. Not only is this illegal, it’s also potentially dangerous.
Unfortunately, finding a vial testosterone, especially on a military installation, is pretty easy and young troops don’t mind trying out the fabricated hormone in hopes it’ll make them jacked. The majority of service members who take the mass-building substance, however, usually don’t understand what it does to the body.
Note: This is a basic overview of how anabolic steroids affect the human body. As always, do your own research.
When a soldier trains, their natural testosterone levels drop dramatically as the body releases other hormones, called glucocorticoids, which helps reduce inflammation. However, glucocorticoids have a secondary effect of sending your body into a catabolic state.
Being in a catabolic state means your muscle tissue is breaking down. During that state, steroids affect hormonal imbalance in two different ways. First, they replenish testosterone levels, which hastens muscle repair. Secondly, they’re known to block the glucocorticoids from breaking down muscle fibers.
When we tear a muscle during a workout, it’s the protein you’ve consumed during the day that makes its way to the damaged fiber and restores it, making it bigger and better each time. When someone takes a testosterone supplement, it quickly moves into your cells, activating protein synthesis and enhancing the rebuilding process.
According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, the average man produces between four and seven milligrams of testosterone per day. Compare that to a bottle testosterone enanthate, which can contain up to 300 milligrams per cc. This amount is injected by the average steroid user two to three times per week.
There are more than a few unpleasant side effects to taking anabolic, like acne, gynecomastia, fluid retention, and testicular atrophy. Long-term effects can include high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, and liver and heart damage.
Note: WATM doesn’t condone the use of steroids, but if you’re going to do them, you should carefully review the potential risks involved.
Service members from all ranks experience some crazy things during their time in uniform. From taking on the bad guys in a firefight to surviving some crazy accidents that most civilians couldn’t stomach — it’s all just part of the job.
We embrace the suck and, in the process, develop a unique sense of humor that’s not for everyone. For us, laughing at the crazy events of our daily life in service makes us stronger and helps us to push through the next dangerous mission with smiles on our faces.
When we tell people the true stories of what we’ve seen and done, the average man or woman lets out an exasperated “wow.”
The U.S. Coast Guard was officially formed in 1915, but it traces its history to 1790 through the Lifesaving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service. Formerly part of the Treasury Department and now under the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard is generally the butt of jokes from military branches under the Department of Defense.
Despite the comments about the ‘puddle pirates,’ Coast Guard history is filled with shocking exploits.
1. The Coast Guard conducted a World War II raid nearly three months before Pearl Harbor attack
The Coast Guard cutter USCG Northland was patrolling near Greenland under a defensive treaty between Greenland and the U.S. on Sep. 12, 1941, when it received a tip that a suspicious ship had put ashore a landing party in a nearby fjord. The Northland found the vessel, the Norwegian fishing boat SS Buskoe. The Northland crew boarded the ship and took the ship master to the Northland for questioning. The boarding party continued to search the Buskoe and found two sets of radio equipment, an indicator that the ship was handling communications for Nazi radio stations.
The Coast Guard conducted an interrogation of the ship master and learned the location of the landing party the ship had previously dropped off. Coast Guardsmen landed on the shore and conducted a nighttime raid against a radio station established by the enemy landing party. They captured three Norwegians, at least one acting under German orders. They also found German radio equipment, code words, and military instructions. Since the U.S. and Germany were not yet at war, the Norwegians were arrested as illegal immigrants.
2. Revenue cutters captured 18 ships during a quasi-war with France
America owed a significant amount of money to France when the French crown was overthrown during the French Revolution in 1794. The U.S. told the French Republic that they would not be repaying the debt since the money was owed to the crown.
Backlash from France resulted in the Quasi War from 1798-1799. Though neither nation declared war, naval battles became common with the French seizing American merchant ships by the hundreds. The Navy, which had been disbanded after the war of 1812, was re-instituted. While the Navy was standing up, eight Revenue Cutter Service ships were pressed into service against the French Navy.
3. A Coast Guard lieutenant commanded an Army company in combat
In 1855, Revenue Cutter 2nd Lt. James E. Harrison was ordered to accompany a U.S. Army company in the American-Indian Wars. In the Puget Sound area of Washington, the Army camp was ambushed by a group of Native Americans on December 3. The Army commander, Lt. W. A. Slaughter, was killed the next day in the fighting. Harrison assumed command of the company and beat off the attackers in a fierce firefight. He then led the company back to Fort Steilacoom, Washington on December 21.
4. The USRC Hudson rescued a Navy vessel while under heavy fire from Spanish artillery
On May 11, 1898, the USRC Hudson was part of the Navy fleet blockading Cuba during the Spanish-American War. A group of Spanish ships had attacked the blockade the day before and were now in harbor in Cardenas, a fortified port. Navy Cmdr. John Merry ordered the Hudson and the USS Winslow to enter the port and sink the ships.
The Winslow was faster and entered the port first, but was soon damaged due to fierce fire from shore batteries. The Hudson rushed to the defense of the damaged torpedo boat, laying down thick covering fire and attempting to secure a tow cable to the Navy vessel. After more than a half hour, the Winslow crew was finally able to secure the tow cable and the Hudson pulled her out of the port. The vessels sank two Spanish ships during the attack, but the Winslow suffered the deaths of an officer and multiple crewmen.
5. The Surveyor crew bravely fought back against a boarding party over three times its size
During the War of 1812, a boarding party of 50 British sailors from the HMS Narcissus used muffled oars to sneak up on the USRC Surveyor. The 15-man crew of the Surveyor saw the British approaching but could not bring the guns to bear due to the angle of approach of the boarding party.
Capt. Samuel Travis ordered his men to take two muskets each and wait quietly for the British to get within pistol range. The British were hampered by the surprise volley but kept coming, so the crew of the surveyor fought across the decks to retain control of the ship. The British were eventually able take the ship, but they suffered three dead and seven wounded to the Americans’ five wounded. The cutter’s defense was so fierce despite the numerical advantage of the British that British Capt. John Crerie returned the American captain’s sword the next morning with the following note.
“Your gallant and desperate attempt to defend your vessel against more than double your number excited such admiration on the part of your opponents as I have seldom witnessed, and induced me to return you the sword you had so ably used, in testimony of mine.
Our poor fellows have severely suffered, occasioned chiefly, if not solely, by the precaution you had taken to prevent surprise. In short, I am at a loss which to admire most-the previous arrangement on board the Surveyor, or the determined manner in which the deck was disputed inch by inch. You have my most sincere wishes for the immediate parole and speedy exchange of yourself and brave crew.”
6. A future commandant of the Coast Guard herded reindeer 1600 miles across Alaskan Arctic
The service accepted volunteers for the mission dubbed “The Overland Expedition” which departed Dec. 16, 1897. The men made their way through the Alaskan wilderness with dog and reindeer teams pulling sleds of supplies and mail. The amount of supplies needed and the scarcity of sleds and dogs meant the men had to run alongside the sleds for most of the 1600-mile trek in temperatures as low as -60 degrees Fahrenheit.
The expedition purchased reindeer and drove them north through the nearly complete darkness of the Alaskan winter. The men arrived at Point Barrow March 29, 1898 with 382 reindeer. Though many of the whalers had become sick or emaciated before the arrival of the rescue party, only three died and the rescue was a success. When the summer thaw completed, four of the ships were able to sail south. Four had been destroyed by the ice and their crews were transported south by the USRC Bear to San Francisco. The second-in-command of the operation, 2nd Lt. Ellsworth Berthoff, would go on to become the first commandant of the Coast Guard when the Revenue Cutter Service and the Lifesaving Service were combined in 1915.
7. A beached crew fired the enemy’s own cannonballs back at them
When the USRC Eagle found itself outmatched by the British HMS Dispatch during the War of 1812, the crew didn’t give up. They intentionally ran the cutter aground on Long Island and dragged some of its guns to a high bluff. From there, they teamed up with local militia and began firing on the British.
By mid-afternoon, they were out of shot. They reportedly began using sheets from their logbook as wadding and fired the enemy’s own cannonballs back at them. The enemy fire was so fierce, the cutter’s flag was shot off three times. The British eventually captured the Eagle.
8. Coast Guardsman destroyed a major pirate fort
Cape Breton Island in modern day Nova Scotia, Canada was a haven for pirates such as Captain Kidd for much of the 17th and 18th centuries. During operations in 1820, the USRC Alabama and USRC Louisianaattacked the pirate fort at Breton Island. Louisiana went on to capture five pirate vessels as part of a Caribbean task force with the British and U.S. navies.
9. The Coast Guard conducted more than 1,300 search and rescue missions during the Mariel Boatlift
On April 22, 1980, Cuban President Fidel Castro opened the Port of Mariel to Cubans who wished to emigrate from Cuba. Within hours, ships were headed from Miami to pick up the refugees. Over the next 45 days, an estimated 5,000 vessels pulled more than 100,000 Cubans from the island. The vessels were usually packed over capacity and had insufficient flotation devices. Over half of the vessels needed some sort of assistance from the Coast Guard.
The Coat Guard shifted many of its active duty assets to the Straits of Florida and called up its reserves. Many vessels began running 24-hour operations just to tow damaged ships or search for lost ones. The call for Coast Guard cutters became so dire that some ships stopped being able to maintain their logs. Still, the Coast Guard logged 1,300 search and rescue missions during the operation with an unknown number not being recorded.
This may seem like blasphemy to some, but Popeye started his professional career as a civilian mariner and then Coast Guardsman. The famous sailor did join the Navy, but as of 1937, Popeye was firmly in the Coast Guard. A two-reel feature titled Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves introduces Popeye serving at a Coast Guard station. The sailor man’s creator did not live to see the United States enter World War II, but it was in 1941 that his creation joined the Navy and the legend of Popeye the rough and tumble U.S. Navy sailor was born.
Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves wasn’t Popeye’s first feature. He started life as a character in the comic strip Thimble Theater in 1929, a comic actually centered around his off-and-on girlfriend, Olive Oyl. When it became obvious that Popeye was the real star, he made a jump to feature films. In the aforementioned 1937 film is when we see Popeye in the Coast Guard, on guard duty and deploying to intercept “Abu Hassan” (aka Bluto), who is terrorizing the Middle East.
It was during WWII that Popeye reached his incredible popularity. After enlisting in the Navy in 1941’s The Mighty Navy, Popeye’s clothing changed and reflected his status as a U.S. Navy sailor, wearing the distinctive white crackerjack uniform. Popeye would remain in uniform until 1978, when new cartoons put him back in his original outfit, with one exception: the white yachting cap he used to wear was replaced with a standard issue Navy “Dixie Cup” cap.
It should be noted that Popeye and Bluto once attempted to join the Army in a 1936 film short called I’m In the Army Now, but they really just ended up fighting in the recruiter’s office. Popeye left the office after beating Bluto to a surrender, but without actually joining. Popeye also regularly beats Bluto to the tune of “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”
Despite his dedication to service, Popeye never once tried to join the Air Force.
In this era of massive budget blockbusters and even bigger “shared universe” movie franchises, it’s safe to say that we’re not always looking for realism at the cinema. While films are capable of conveying lots of different sorts of messages, the common thread that binds them is entertainment, and as such, reality often falls to the wayside in favor of plot convenience, storytelling, or sometimes, just a lack of scientific understanding.
Movies that are “based on a true story” tend to bear little resemblance to the “true stories” they’re based on, movies about the military almost invariably fail to capture the culture or even the vernacular of American troops, and the Fast and Furious franchise has a physics all its own… but some movies do a good job of establishing that the rules of their cinematic universes are similar to our own, only to offer up weapons that, at best, don’t make sense, and at worst, would leave their user reduced to little more than a puddle of goo.
Some of these nonsensical weapons play small roles in the movies they inhabit, while others, like these, have become cultural touchstones; serving as symbols of the fictional universes they inhabit and the fandoms they inspire. These weapons are cool, dynamic, exciting… and would totally get you killed in a real fight.
DS9 VS. The Klingons – Hoards of angry Klingons invade the station
While the Klingons had already been around for some time before “Star Trek: The Next Generation” introduced the Bat’leth, the unique double-sided sword quickly became visually synonymous with the Empire of warrior aliens. There’s just one problem: melee weapons make no sense in a galaxy full of handheld phasers and disruptors, and even if they did — the Bat’leth is one useless melee weapon.
While most bladed weapons offer the user an increase in reach, the Bat’leth’s curved shape makes it more awkward for extended one-handed strikes like a bow or staff might allow, and while held in the traditional two-handed way, it offers little more than a solid defense against other melee weapons. Perhaps this is why the mighty Klingons always find themselves bested in hand to hand combat by humans, Bajorans, and anybody else the plot finds convenient, despite their fierce reputations.
Jedi vs Trade Federation Droids – The Phantom Menace [1080p HD]
This one is sure to ruffle feathers, as the Star Wars fandom has devoted a great deal of time and energy to explaining away how these energy weapons must really work. However, as of Disney’s purchase of the franchise, canonical sources have been slashed, and we’re left once again with lightsabers that work without the plot-hole filler that was once allotted.
What we’re left with are extremely hot energy weapons that, as others have pointed out, shouldn’t work because the beams have endpoints, but assuming they did — anything that could burn so easily through feet of steel as depicted in the films would also melt the meat off of your hands as you held it. It would take so much heat to do what lightsabers are depicted as doing, it wouldn’t be safe to be in the same room as one, let alone to start swinging it like a baseball bat.
The Iron Man suit has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and with good reason. The MCU as we know it was born with the first Iron Man movie and in many ways, Stark serves as the Skywalker of the series… but that doesn’t change the fact that the suit that grants him his powers would actually be his undoing.
While the Iron Man armor may protect Tony from impacts and penetration, it can’t stop inertia. Iron Man is regularly shown taking hard, nearly instant turns at jet-fighter like speeds and even hitting the ground at similar velocities (whether intentionally or otherwise). Even if the armor offered protection from impact, the inertia of those movements would turn Tony Stark into chunky stew.
In reality, the first Iron Man movie likely would have ended with Pepper Potts prying the suit open only to let what was left of the titular hero pour out… which is why maybe it’s not always good to be completely realistic with one’s movie weapons.