The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

So wrote 21-year old Nathan Hale before being hanged for espionage by the British on Sept. 22, 1776. Hale had originally been encouraged to join the revolution by an old Yale classmate, Benjamin Tallmadge.

Tallmadge and Hale had been close during their time at Yale and often exchanged letters. Three years after their graduation, Tallmadge wrote to Hale, newly an officer in the American forces, saying, “Was I in your condition, I think the more extensive service would be my choice. Our holy Religion, the honor of our God, a glorious country and a happy constitution is what we have to defend.”


Hale agreed with Tallmadge’s sentiment and soon accepted an assignment to do more than just fight–he would spy from behind enemy lines. Although Hale’s venture into espionage ended rather poorly, Tallmadge’s revolutionary feelings did not subside. Soon, he would find himself at the center of the American Revolution’s most important spy ring.

The Culper Ring, founded and supervised by Tallmadge, operated from late October in 1778 until the British evacuated New York in 1783. Although the ring was active for all five of these years, its most productive period was between 1778 and 1781.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

Benjamin Tallmadge with his son, William.

After Tallmadge brought the ring together, it was led by Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend, codenamed “Samuel Culper, Sr.” and “Samuel Culper, Jr.” respectively. The codename “Culper” came straight from George Washington himself, a slight alteration of Culpeper County, Virginia where Washington had worked as a surveyor in his youth.

The ring was highly sophisticated, using methods still familiar today. Couriers, invisible ink. and dead drops were the norm. Some messages were hidden in plain sight, coded within newspaper advertisements and personal messages. Supposedly, one woman, Anna Strong, was even able to use the clothes she hung to dry to send messages to other members of the ring. Codes and ciphers were standard practice. These methods enabled agents to send Tallmadge apparently innocent letters. Tallmadge could pick out individual words to decode messages.

While Woodhull and Townsend ran the show, many agents, couriers, and sub-agents were also involved. Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, Anna Strong and the still-unidentified ‘Agent 355’ all played vital roles. Other members included Hercules Mulligan and his slave Cato. Mulligan warned in January, 1779 of British plans to kidnap or kill senior American leaders including Washington himself. Cato delivered the vital message.

Other agents included Joseph Lawrence, Nathan Woodhull (Abraham’s cousin), Nathaniel Ruggles, William Robinson and James Rivington. So solid was the ring’s security that its very existence remained unconfirmed until the 20th century. Even Washington himself couldn’t identify every Culper agent. Its strict security preserved both the ring and the lives of individual members, boosting their confidence in themselves and each other.

The Culper Ring’s successes, what spies call coups, were many. They warned of a surprise attack on newly arrived French troops at Newport, Rhode Island. The forces, properly warned, were able to foil British plans to devastate their men while they recovered from their transatlantic voyage. The Culper spies uncovered British plans to destroy America’s nascent economy by forging huge amount of Continental dollars. Continental dollars were soon withdrawn from circulation, replaced with coins by 1783.

Without the Culper Ring, Washington may have fallen for a raiding operation meant to divide his forces. In 1779, General William Tryon raided three main ports of Connecticut, destroying homes, goods in storage, and a number of public buildings. Tryon was attempting to split off a portion of Washington’s forces to allow British forces to rout the Americans.

Washington did not ride out to meet Tryon. Instead, Tryon’s forces rampaged through civilian land and the general was criticized by both American rebels and those who supported the British as barbarous.

By far the Culper Ring’s most important coup was exposing General Benedict Arnold. Arnold, whose name has entered the American language as a metonym for treachery, was in contact with British spy Major John André and planned to surrender West Point to the British. The Culper Ring warned Tallmadge of a high-ranking American traitor, but lacked his identity. Tallmadge identified Arnold when André was captured and later hanged for his treason. Although Arnold escaped with his life, West Point remained safe from the British.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

Benedict Arnold in 1776

Abraham Woodhull’s sister Mary is sometimes credited with exposing Major André and thus Benedict Arnold. André (alias John Anderson) fled when he realized he was under suspicion. Unlike the Culper Ring’s, André’s security was lax. That cost André his life, Arnold his reputation, and ultimately helped cost the British Empire its American colony.

Stopped by three soldiers, André first tried to bribe them to let him go. Instead of taking the bribe, the soldier, now actively suspicious rather than idly curious, searched him and found incriminating papers. The letters proved conclusively that André was a British spy. The information contained in André’s letters was almost useless to the British; their commander General Clinton already had it. They were, however, extremely valuable to Tallmadge.

André’s captured messages were in Benedict Arnold’s handwriting, making it suddenly clear who was leaking high-level information. Arnold fled for his life, going to England, then Canada. After alienating a number of business partners in New Brunswick, Arnold returned to England. André was not so lucky to escape the American forces–he would make a useful reprisal for the hanging of Tallmadge’s dear friend, Nathan Hale. Caught dead to rights by the Culper Ring, André would soon be dead, period.

Hale had been hanged on Sept. 22, 1776 at the tender age of 21. He died bravely, with composure, courage and dignity. André faced the gallows equally bravely on Oct. 2, 1780. Before his death he received a visitor: Colonel Tallmadge.

The two spent part of their time together talking. At one point André asked Tallmadge whether his capture and Hale’s were similar. Tallmadge, remembering his dead friend and perhaps feeling guilty at encouraging him to take a more active revolutionary role, replied, “Yes, precisely similar, and similar shall be your fate…”.

The British evacuated New York in mid-August, 1783. On Nov. 16 of the same year, Washington himself visited to mark the seventh anniversary of the American retreat from Manhattan. While there he met someone to whom he and his new nation owed a personal and national debt: Culper agent Hercules Mulligan.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How outrunning federal agents led to NASCAR racing

Prohibition was a master class in unintended consequences, good or bad.

One of those consequences is NASCAR, which is a pretty good time.


Outlawing alcohol may have seemed like a good idea at a time when saloons dominated the streets, booze corrupted politicians, and alcoholism ran rampant — but the the operative phrase here is definitely, “seemed like.” It was not the best idea. It turns out Americans love a drink and will go to great lengths — and speeds — to get it.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

Just as with any other business, moonshiners making illegal “white lightning” in the Appalachian Mountains and foothills needed a way to transport their goods to market, and grandpa’s horse cart just wasn’t gonna cut it. They needed vehicles — but not just any vehicle would do.

So, how do you get hooch from the Appalachians to thirsty partygoers in the big city without attracting undue attention? As fast as possible, of course. But there’s more to it than speed: The cars have to look like your average, off-the-line vehicle. They also have to be able to haul as much product as possible. Shiners figured out the way, creating modified vehicles called “stock” cars.

Even after the official end of Prohibition, illegal distillers still needed to move product while evading authorities. They still needed those fast cars.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
Just try driving one of these Ford V8 Model 18s through mountain roads at night. With no headlights. At top speed.

Bootleggers’ vehicles were fitted with advanced shock-absorption systems to protect the glass jars housing their precious cargo as they sped down mountain roads. They also had the back seats removed to fit more product. Most importantly, they had souped-up engines that allowed them to beat the feds in any race when necessary.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
Americans have been making illegal whiskey since the 1700s and they probably will never stop.

Prohibition ended in 1933, but the American need for speed and love for automobiles that would come to embody the NASCAR spirit lived on.

“The deeper I looked into the whole thing and the more research I did, the more liquor I found. It was just so foundational,” Daniel Pierce, a history professor at the University of North Carolina told NASCAR. “I knew it played a role, but the thing that surprised me was that it was so much a part of the foundation of the sport.”

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
Police cleaning out the contents of a bootlegger’s stock car.

Even before the end of Prohibition, rum runners and bootleggers would race their souped-up, stripped-down vehicles on the roads and in the backwoods of the American South.

The sport’s anti-establishment roots were very present in NASCAR’s early days. At one of the earliest stock car races at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta, at least five drivers had liquor law violations on their records. There was an uproar over who should be allowed to drive: “hoodlums” or law-abiding citizens?

That’s when a race promoter named Bill France gave the people who wanted to see the bootleggers drive their cars the opportunity to do so. These once-outlawed flocked to his races — and so did their fans.

In 1947, the sport that would soon become the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was codified by France. The first race held by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing was on Jun. 19, 1949. Today, the driving sport’s fans now number in the millions. Their drivers are less outlaw and more law-abiding, driving upwards of 200 miles per hour in some speedways… without attracting attention from the feds.

The first few generations of drivers may have had some liquor law violations on their record, but today’s NASCAR drivers have helped turn a sport of “hoodlums” into a show fit for the whole family.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watching YouTube videos took this Green Beret from Afghanistan to the NFL

Everyone has a different way of passing the time during deployments. Some people work their way through seasons on Netflix, some CrossFit their way to a better physique, while others pursue academic goals. For Green Beret Nate Boyer, it was watching YouTube videos and practicing those skills that helped him chase his dream of becoming a professional football player.


In Sunday’s Super Bowl commercial, we see the journey of Nate Boyer. Following his service in the Army, Boyer wanted to go to college and to be a starter on the Texas Longhorns football team.

There was only one tiny wrench in his plan: he had never played football.

Boyer was told he was “too small, too slow, too old. Nobody wants a 30-year-old rookie on their team.” But just ask Boyer: he’s no ordinary rookie. Following tryouts, Boyer learned that there would be a starting position open as a long snapper for the Longhorns.

“I didn’t even know what a long snapper was,” he said.

Boyer learned and honed the skills through YouTube and watched as his dreams came true:

YouTube

www.youtube.com

YouTube

You’re never too old to pursue your dreams.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Green beret dies after IED blast in Afghanistan

A Washington-based Special Forces soldier has died from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device that detonated near him during a recent combat patrol in Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st Class Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, died Aug. 12, 2018, as a result of injuries he suffered in Helmand province on Aug. 7, 2018, according to an Army news release. Transfiguracion was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.


He was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class and awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal, according to the news release. It was Transfiguracion’s second Purple Heart.

No additional information was immediately released about the incident that caused his injuries. It remains under investigation.

Transfiguracion, of Waikoloa, Hawaii, was born in the Philippines. He enlisted as a motor transport operator in the Hawaii National Guard in 2001 and deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2006.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

Purple Heart Medal.

In 2008, Transfiguracion joined the active duty, deploying again to Iraq from 2008 to 2009. From there, he spent six months supporting Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines from 2010 to 2011.

After attending Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Transfiguracion was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana, as a horizontal construction engineer. There, he was selected for Special Forces.

After completion of his Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Transfiguracion joined his last unit as an engineer sergeant. He’s been deployed to Afghanistan since March.

His other awards and decorations include the Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Achievement Medal (third award), Army Good Conduct Medal (third award), Combat Action Badge, Army Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantry Badge and Air Assault Badge.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The official watch of the French Air Force is available to the general public

In a time before pocket-sized supercomputers and super sturdy G-Shock watches, the precise timekeeping required for military operations was accomplished with complex yet robust timepieces powered by a compressed spring and a series of gears, wheels, and levers. Today, while the advent of wearable computers has made this technology obsolete, watch enthusiasts and military buffs alike can celebrate the fact that the official watch of the French Air Force has been made available for purchase by the general public for the first time.

Founded in 1948 by Henry Louis Belmont, Yema went on to become one of the premiere French watchmakers of the 20th century. Those that aren’t familiar with the history of watchmaking may be surprised to learn that English and French watchmakers were the premiere artisans of the industry before the Swiss. In fact, the Swiss rose to the horological prominence that they hold today because farmers would manufacture copied parts of English and French timepieces during the cold Swiss winters. Even Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf, a massive anglophile himself, started his watchmaking career in London before high taxes, the outbreak of WWI, and anti-German sentiment in Britain forced him to relocate to Switzerland.


The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

A vintage advert for the Superman (Yema)

Despite the transition of watchmaking prominence to the Swiss during the 20th century, Yema found great success through their partnerships. Their racing chronograph, the aptly named Rallygraph, was worn by Formula 1 icon Mario Andretti. The year 1982 saw a Yema become the first French watch worn in space when French Spaceman Jean-Loup Chrétien wore a Yema Spationaute 1 on a 10-day space trip. However, Yema’s most famous collaboration was with the French Air Force.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

A French fighter pilot carries his flight helmet while wearing the Yema Superman FAF Black edition (Yema)

In 1963, Yema introduced the Superman dive watch. Developed for diving professionals, the watch possessed a water-resistance rating of 300m. In comparison, the 1963 Rolex Submariner 5513 was rated for 200m. The Superman was also equipped with a patented bezel-locking mechanism that prevented the timing bezel from being adjusted accidentally once it was set for a dive. These features, coupled with the watch’s toughness, durability, and French origin, made the Superman the natural choice for the French Air Force to equip both its pilots and rescue divers.

Although Yema survived the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s, an industry culling that killed off numerous traditional watchmakers, they were purchased by the Seiko Corporation in 1988. The company was sold back into French hands in 2004 and embarked on a mission to revive the tradition of French watchmaking. Although Yema does utilize off-the-shelf movements from Switzerland, the company spent four years developing a completely in-house caliber. The MPB1000 is the first proprietary automatic movement to be engineered and built by Yema, and the obvious choice to power their top-of-the-line models.

With the release of their very own French-made movement, Yema continued to rebuild their reputation using their strong heritage. In 2020, Yema again became the official timekeeping partner of the French Air Force and released the Superman French Air Force edition watch. Based on the standard Superman design, the FAF edition was designed in collaboration with French airmen including pilots and ground personnel. The watches are available in a variety of configurations to fit the preferences of any buyer. Case diameter can be had in 39mm or 41mm, finish can be had in either brushed stainless steel or with a black PVD coating, and the movement can be either a quartz-powered Swiss Ronda 515 or Yema’s automatic MPB1000 mentioned earlier. While all models bear the French Air Force red, white, and blue roundel on the case at 6 o’clock and on the crown as well as the French Air Force logo on the caseback, the automatic MPB1000-equipped models are limited to 1,948 pieces each for the steel and black models and are engraved with their series number.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

(Left to right) Yema’s President Frank Minost, General Manger Christopher Bôle, French Air Force Chief of Staff General Lavigne, and Yema’s Brand Manager William Germain (Yema)

As a result of COVID-19, the initial release of the Superman FAF edition was delayed. However, Yema persisted and on June 26, Yema delivered the Superman FAF Black Limited Edition #0001/1948 to the French Air Force Chief of Staff, General Phillipe Lavigne. Priority delivery continued to French Air Force personnel until, eventually, orders by the general public were shipped. Additionally, Yema is donating up to 12.5% of FAF edition sales to the official French Veterans Foundation, FOSA. Today, limited edition models are still available and ready to ship internationally from Yema’s workshop in Morteau.

Before you go writing off the French Air Force, keep in mind that they are one of, if not the oldest military air service. They can trace their roots back to the French Army Air Service which predates even the Royal Flying Corps, the predecessor to the RAF. Today, the French Air Force has seen extensive combat action in the War on Terror flying combat missions in Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. French pilots of the 21st century carry on their branch’s long legacy of warfighting and their watches are ready to accompany them into the skies.


Articles

This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.


That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.

This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.

The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.

It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.

And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Armistead was Marquis de Lafayette’s slave. He was also his friend – and a spy.

James Armistead was an enslaved African-American man who was born in Virginia. Different historical sources put his birth in either 1748 or 1760. He was owned by William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. However, being born into slavery, Armistead would play a crucial role in securing America’s freedom during the Revolutionary War.

With his master’s consent, Armistead volunteered to join the Continental Army in early 1781. He was placed under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette who saw his potential in specialized military service. Posing as a runaway slave, Armistead was sent to link up with Brigadier General Benedict Arnold’s camp. Arnold, whose treachery had already been exposed, was leading an outfit of Redcoats in Virginia. Armistead gained Arnold’s trust and worked as a double agent against the British. Armistead guided the British along local roads and fed them misinformation while secretly reporting back to Lafayette on their movements.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
James Armistead Lafayette in his later years (U.S. Army)

In the spring of 1781, Arnold departed for the north. Meanwhile, Armistead linked up with the camp of Lord Charles Cornwallis and continued his work as a double agent. Because of his status, British officers would speak openly about plans, logistics, and troop movements in front of him. He documented all the information that he could and sent it back to Lafayette in writing through a network of other Patriot spies. This intelligence gathering proved to be instrumental in the British defeat at Yorktown in October of that year.

Although Virginia passed a manumission act in 1782 that allowed slaves who fought in the Revolution to be freed, Armistead remained in bondage. A 1783 law specifically freed slaves only if they had served in their master’s stead as a soldier during the war. Because he served as a spy, he did not qualify. However, in 1786, Armistead petitioned the Viriginia Assembly for his freedom. With the support of his master, himself a member of the House of Delegates, and a written testimony from the Marquis himself, Armistead was finally granted his freedom in 1787. On January 9, Armistead became a free man and added “Lafayette” to his name in honor of the Marquis.

James Armistead Lafayette remained in New Kent County where he married, started a family, and became a wealthy farmer. He also received financial aid and a pension for his service during the war. In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to the United States to tour the 24 states. During his tour of Richmond, the Marquis spotted Armistead Lafayette in the crowd. He abruptly ordered his carriage stopped and ran out into the crowd to embrace his wartime friend. As with his birth, historians disagree on both the year and location of his death. He died either in Baltimore in 1830 or in Virginia in 1832.

Intelligence is the driving force of any war and James Armistead Lafayette’s work in the field was crucial to securing America’s independence. His legacy is the free country and the liberties that we enjoy today.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
The Marquis de Lafayette with James Armistead Lafayette (U.S. Army)
MIGHTY FIT

ACFT PREP: Why you should be power cleaning

I’m not surprised; I’m actually just interested in the fact that the standing power throw is proving to be quite difficult for some soldiers. It makes sense, really. Service members haven’t ever been asked to be explosive before.

The U.S. military used to want members that rivaled its speed and ability to move and make change…But a new day has dawned, and with it, a new type of hero is being called on. The kind of hero that doesn’t slip a disc every time they get up too fast from their office chair.

Explosive power is important, especially for combat-ready troops. Let’s see how the standing power throw is doing at measuring power and how you should actually train for it.


ACFT Prep: Power Cleans for the Standing Power Throw

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What is the standing power throw and why is it useful?

The SPT measures how much explosive power you have.

The new ACFT is designed to test 6 different aspects of fitness:

  1. Strength- Deadlift
  2. Power- Power Throw
  3. Anaerobic conditioning- Sprint Drag Carry
  4. Upper Body Muscular Endurance- Hand Release Push-ups
  5. Core Control- Leg Tucks (For my caveat on the effectiveness of this choice, check this out.)
  6. Aerobic conditioning- 2-mile run

Power is a legitimate fitness variable that should be tested, especially considering that there’s a ton of actions that Soldiers perform that take quick, explosive bursts of strength… like shoulder throwing an E-2 to the ground for bad mouthin’ the ACFT.

I’ll even double down on power training being important since the majority of back, hip, and neck injuries I saw while on active duty almost always included a crusty 35+ service member doing some dumb quick twisting jerking maneuver. You know who you are.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

Add a full combat load to the ACFT then you’ll get a real eyeopening experience.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew J. Marcellus)

How to train for the standing power throw

Train for power.

Training for power roughly translates to: incrementally loading an explosive movement in order to translate strength gains into power.

The key above is the incremental loading part. You can’t develop more power by using submaximal loads. ESPECIALLY when you only have two attempts at the standing power throw. Power Jumps and Tuck Jumps can only be effective at making you more powerful if you are some way able to increase your first two jumps. After that point, especially for purposes of the test, you’re training your muscular power endurance (if that’s even a thing…I think that’s just cardio).

The same is true of a long HIIT workout. A HIIT workout by definition requires you to be putting out at greater than 90% of your Heart Rate Max. If you’re no longer putting out at that level of intensity, you’re essentially just doing Medium Intensity Steady State (MISS) with weights. A REAL HIIT workout lasts 20 minutes, maybe 30 minutes if you’re an elite athlete.

In order to throw further, you need to do three things.

  • Get stronger
  • Translate that strength to power
  • Perfect your form

Lucky for you, I have an exercise that will help you with two of these, and in conjunction with training for the deadlift, you’ll have all three covered.

How to: Power Clean

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The power clean

The power clean is the superior clean variation for the purposes of the ACFT. I’ll even make the argument that it beats out the snatch because there is a minimum drop of the hips in the power clean. All the Olympic lifts and their clean variations involve ‘getting under’ the weight so that you don’t have to pull the weight off the ground as high.

The power clean, on the other hand, has you only dropping the hips to roughly the quarter squat position. It has the longest pull, from the floor to the collarbone, of the lifts. That’s why it’s named the power clean. It requires the most amount of power to get the weight up.

For all his faults, I think Mark Rippetoe correctly categorized the power clean in his book Starting Strength when he said this of the power clean:

“The power clean by training the athlete’s ability to move heavy weight quickly, is the glue that cements the strength training program to sports performance”

Beyond Triple Extension : The Underlying Benefits of “Olympic” Weightlifting

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It’ll help your form too

The form of the standing power throw has a very striking similarity to the pull used in the power clean. They both make use of ‘triple extension,’ which, if performed efficiently, will allow you to transfer the most amount of your power through the ball and barbell to allow you to exhibit the most power possible.

Triple extension is when the ankles, knees, and hips are completely extended. It’s a complete transfer of all your power into the implement in hand.

It’s a skill. It’s not something that you’ll be able to do perfectly the first time, especially if you have a significant amount of weight on the barbell or if your nerves are really tweakin’ during the test.

The power clean trains nearly the entire movement for the standing power throw. The only part it misses is extending your arms overhead and releasing the ball. Lucky for you, that’s the easy part, the arms will follow the chain of kinetic energy traveling upward that started at your feet.

You still need to train actually throwing the ball, though.

For more on the power clean check out Starting Strength.

For more on form and training for power exercises and the Olympic lifts, check out Zack Telander’s Youtube channel (above).

For more on the various events of the ACFT, check out my author page.

For training plans on the ACFT, have a look here.

For more Mighty Fit Greatness join our Facebook Group here.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
Articles

Here are 10 things everyone experiences in jump school

The U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia is where U.S. military members of all branches go to become military parachutists. The school is three weeks of intense physical drills, training on towers, and of course, “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane” five times to earn the coveted silver parachute badge (also known as “jump wings”).


Here are 10 things Airborne students will encounter when going through Jump School:

1. Black Hats

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
Airborne Instructors in 1977

An Airborne instructor’s nametag may read “Jones” but students will address him or her as “Sergeant Airborne.” New Airborne trainees are received by the school’s instructors known as “Black Hats,” because of their headgear, a simple black baseball cap with their rank and wings display on the cap.

The instructors are mostly Army personnel, but the Marine Corps Air Force, and Navy also provide instructors since the school is open to all eligible DOD service members. Black Hats are skilled parachutists who are responsible for training Airborne students, and they do with ‘tough love. They will make their students repeat physical drills and exercises over and over until they get it right.

No matter how exhausting, they won’t stop until a student gets it right. They are doing it for the trainees own well-being.

2. The Airborne Shuffle

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
Army 2nd Lt. Nelson Lalli runs with an Airborne School classmate to report in after his first jump.

Not to be confused with the popular dance the ‘Cupid shuffle’ or the Chicago Bears Super Bowl shuffle, the Airborne shuffle is not a dance nor is it fun. This shuffle refers to the pace or speed of a formation run during Airborne school. It is typically about a 9-minute mile.

The shuffle is meant to build stamina, not speed. At Airborne School, trainees run everywhere especially in combat boots or with their equipment. The Airborne shuffle is also commonly known for the short choppy steps students take on the aircraft before the jump out, just like the cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door.”

3. Wearing Helmets all day

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

At Jump School, aspiring paratroopers will wear their helmet everywhere they go. Students will run and train with it on every day. The chin strip and helmet pads will reek so bad after the first week of training that a squirt of Febreze is simply not enough to contain the smell of sweat and bacteria.

4. Falling all day

Airborne students will spend a lot of time hitting the ground during Jump School. Learning how to properly fall during a parachute landing is a core fundamental taught at the Basic Airborne Course. This is especially true when doing parachute landing fall (PLF) drills. Trainees will jump off platforms of different heights into large pits over and over until they get it right. Airborne students can expect to do hundreds of PLFs before they leave the school.

Along with PLFs, trainees will jump from tall towers like the 34-foot tower to learn proper aircraft exiting techniques and the iconic 250-foot tower, although not all Airborne class get to do the tower.

Just remember to “keep your feet and knees together!”

5. The smell of Bengay in the morning

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
Week one, ground week, focuses on the proper landing fall techniques, emphasizing the importance of keeping feet and knees together during a landing to prevent injuries. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kuande Hall)

Before long, the smell of Bengay, the over-the-counter analgesic cream used to relieve muscle and joint pain, will fill the barracks each morning to help students with their joint and muscle pain.

6. Swing Landing Trainer

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
A student practices proper landing techniques on the Swing Landing Trainer.

The Swing Landing Trainer is not fun. Students are strapped into a harness to step off a platform and swing back and forth. The discomfort experienced on this device when swinging, especially for male students, is terrible. Students will continue to swing on the harness until they are released by the Black Hats. Trainees must perform several proper PLFs to pass this stage of training.

Most hit the ground like a stack of potatoes.

7. “Hurry up and wait” goes to a whole new level

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
Airborne Students wait to board an aircraft.

Finally, it’s jump week… but the wait isn’t over. Students will wake up early, run to the chute shed, rig up, and just wait and wait for many hours. Students are not allowed to sleep or talk as they wait. It’s the ultimate example of “hurry up and wait.”

8. A mix of emotions

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

Time to jump! There’s certainly level of excitement and fear at this point, as jumpers hook up to the static line and prepare to jump. Some people question their judgement at this point, as butterflies flutter in their stomachs and thoughts of “why the hell am I doing this” circle in their head. For others, this is the best moment of their life!

9. Jumping Out

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War
Paratroopers with 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), exit a C-130 aircraft Feb. 12, 2010, at Al Asad Airbase, Iraq, as part of the largest airborne training exercise conducted by U.S. forces in Iraq since the beginning of the war. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

Probably the two most common reactions: “This is awesome” or “Holy Shit!”

10. Pinning of the Wings

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After completing five parachute jumps, Lt. Col. Kay Wakatake has her wings pinned on by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Richardson at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo by Captain Greg Peterson)

The pinning of parachute wings is the crowning achievement of three weeks of training. The badge is pinned (or slammed) on the graduate’s chest. This rite of passage solidifies an individual as a member of the Airborne family. The best part of all of this: You’re no longer a leg!

MIGHTY HISTORY

Where the middle finger got its meaning & a great POW use of it

Jeremy A. asks: How did flipping the bird come to mean fu?

While some common gestures, such as the high five, have pretty well known and surprisingly modern origins, it turns out one of the most popular of all has been around for well over two thousand years, including having various similar connotations as it has today.

Unsurprisingly once you stop and think about versions of the expression’s meaning, extending the middle finger simply represents the phallus, with it perhaps natural enough that our forebears chose their longest finger to symbolically represent man’s favorite digit. (Although, there are some cultures that instead chose the thumb, seemingly preferring to have their girth, rather than length, represented here…) It’s also been speculated that perhaps people noticed that the curled fingers (or balled fist in the case of the thumb) made for a good representation of the testicles.


Either way, given the symbolism here, it’s no surprise that the expression has more or less always seemed to have meant something akin to “F*k You” in some form or other, sometimes literally.

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(Photo by Natã Figueiredo)

For example, in Ancient Greece, beyond being a general insult, in some cases there seems to be a specific implication from the insult that the person the gesture was directed at liked to take it up the bum. In the case of men, despite male on male lovin’ being widely accepted in the culture at the time, there were still potentially negative connotations with regards to one’s manliness when functioning as the bottom in such a rendezvous, particularly the bottom for someone with lower social standing.

Moving on to an early specific example we have Aristphanes’ 423 BC The Clouds. In it, a character known as Strepsiades, tired of Socrates’ pontificating, decides to flip off the famed philosopher.

Socrates: Well, to begin with,
they’ll make you elegant in company—
and you’ll recognize the different rhythms,
the enoplian and the dactylic,
which is like a digit.
Strepsiades: Like a digit!
By god, that’s something I do know!
Socrates: Then tell me.
Strepsiades: When I was a lad a digit meant this!
[Strepsiades sticks his middle finger straight up under Socrates’ nose]

For whatever it’s worth, in the third century AD Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, we also have this reference of a supposed incidence that occurred in the 4th century BC, concerning famed orator Demosthenes and philosopher Diogenes.

[Diogenes] once found Demosthenes the orator lunching at an inn, and, when he retired within, Diogenes said, “All the more you will be inside the tavern.” When some strangers expressed a wish to see Demosthenes, [Diogenes] stretched out his middle finger and said, “There goes the demagogue of Athens.”

(No doubt water was needed to put out the fire created by that wicked burn.)

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Giphy

Moving on to the first century AD, Caligula seems to have enjoyed making powerful people kiss his ring while he extended his middle finger at them. On a no doubt completely unrelated note, the chief organizer of his assassination, and first to stab him, was one Cassius Chaerea who Caligula liked to do this very thing with, as noted by Suetonius:

Gaius used to taunt him, a man already well on in years, with voluptuousness and effeminacy by every form of insult. When he asked for the watchword Gaius would give him “Priapus” or “Venus,” and when Chaerea had occasion to thank him for anything, he would hold out his hand to kiss, forming and moving it in an obscene fashion.

Speaking of the implications of this insulting gesture, it seems to have fallen out of favor during the Middle Ages with the rise of Christianity, or at least records of it diminish. This may mean people actually stopped popularly flipping the bird or may just mean its uncouth nature saw it something not generally written about. That said, we do know thanks to the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville that at least as late as the 6th century people were still extending the finger as an insult, in this reference particularly directed at someone who had done something considered “shameful”.

Moving on to more modern times, the gesture was popularly resurrected in documented history starting around the early 19th century, with early photographic evidence later popping up in the latter half of the 1800s. Most famously, we have a photograph of the gesture flashed by present day Twitter sensation and former 19th century baseball iron man Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn. Radbourn was a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters in 1886 when the team, along with the New York Giants, posed for a group photo. In the photo, Old Hoss can be seen giving the bird to the cameraman. (We’ll have more on Charley “Hoss” and his possible connection to a different expression in a bit.)

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Boston Beaneaters and New York Giants, Major League Baseball Opening Day 1886. Charles Radbourn giving the finger to cameraman (back row, far left).

At this point you might be wondering why we call extending the middle finger today — “flipping the bird” or “giving the bird”. The connection is speculated to derive from the centuries old practice of more or less making bird sounds, particularly owl and geese calls, as an equivalent to booing when an audience is dissatisfied by something. This, in turn, gave rise to the popular 19th century expression to “goose” someone and then a little later led to the expression “give the big bird”, as noted in William Earnest Henley’s late 19th century work, Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present:

Big Bird: To get or give the big bird — To be hissed on the stage…. When an actor or actress gets the big bird, it may be from two causes; either it is a compliment for successful portrayal of villainy, in which case the Gods simply express their abhorrence of the character and not of the actor; or, the hissing may be directed against the actor, personally for some reason or other. The Big Bird is the goose.

By the mid-20th century, this seems to have extended to “giving the bird” not just referring to insulting sounds, but to describe extending the middle finger as well. One of the earliest examples of this can be found in the 1942 animated film A Tale of Two Kitties. In it, the pair of cats attempt to capture Tweety bird. At a certain point, one of the cats implores the other “Give me the bird!” The other cat then turns to the viewers and exclaims “If the Hays Office would only let me, I’d give him the bird alright.”

Bonus Facts:

  • Going back to Charley “Hoss” Roadbourn, he is widely speculated to be the inspiration for the expression “Charley Horse”, indicating a random muscle cramp in the leg. The expression popped up in baseball shortly after his historic 1884 season in which he posted a 1.38 ERA with 441 strikeouts in 678 and 2/3 innings, winning 59 games by modern rules (or 60 by the scorers of the day) despite the fact that his team only played 112 games that year. If you’re wondering how he managed to pitch in so many games, this was as a result of a fight between he and the team’s other best pitcher, Charlie Sweeney, that saw Sweeney leave and Old Hoss offer to start every game for the remainder of the season. He nearly did this, starting 40 of the remaining 43 games that year and winning 36 of them. However, at a certain point he reportedly became so sore he couldn’t even raise his arm above his head without significant warmup that required starting by soft tossing from just a few feet and slowly working back as his arm loosened up. It is speculated that his prolific pitching around this time, and presumably frequent cramps from over use of his muscles, may have inspired the expression. For whatever it’s worth, a 1907 issue of the Washington Post indicates that Old Hoss actually once had a severe leg cramp in a game, which directly gave rise to the expression. Whatever the case, one of the earliest known instances of the expression “Charley Horse” occurred in an 1887 edition of The Fort Wayne Gazette where it notes, “Whatever ails a player this year they call it a ‘Charley horse’…”
  • American seamen captured by the North Koreans in the famous “Pueblo crisis” once used the North Korean’s ignorance of the meaning of extending the middle finger to good use in propaganda photos taken by their captors. When asked, the captured men simply stated that it was a good luck gesture, so were allowed to continue using it in the photographs… at first. When the North Koreans discovered what it actually meant, the seamen were beaten.
  • As we alluded to in the body of this piece, there are several places on Earth where a thumbs up has a similar meaning to extending the middle finger. Why we bring this up specifically is that when American troops first started being stationed in Iraq, some reported being greeted by civilians offering a thumbs up, with the soldiers (and many in the media) interpreting it as most Westerners would — all the while not realizing the people were more or less flipping them off.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines want to improve their hearing to improve lethality

The Marine Corps released a request for information for industry input that identifies potential sources for a suite of hearing enhancement devices. The devices will protect Marines’ hearing while increasing their situational awareness in a variety of training and combat environments.

Marine Corps Systems Command will assess the systems to ensure they are compatible with Marine Corps radios and the Marine Corps Enhanced Combat Helmet, or ECH. Systems can be circumaural or intra-aural but must include versions that are both communications enabled and versions that are not communications enabled. Program Manager Infantry Combat Equipment at MCSC is considering options to purchase between 7,000 and 65,000 hearing enhancement devices within the next three years to be used in addition with the current Combat Arms Earplugs Marines wear.


“Marines have the earplugs and they do provide protection, but sometimes they choose not to wear them because they want to be aware of their surroundings at all times,” said Steven Fontenot, project officer for Hearing, Eye Protection and Loadbearing Equipment in PM ICE at MCSC. “The new headset we want to acquire will allow Marines to wear hearing protection, yet still provide the opportunity to communicate and understand what is going on around them.”

In February 2018, MCSC issued a sample of headsets to 220 infantry, artillery, reconnaissance and combat engineer Marines to ask their opinions on fit, form, function and comfort. Testing was conducted at the Air Force Research Laboratory and during live fire exercises with the Infantry Training Exercise 2018. Recon Marines also took headsets to Norway to conduct cold weather training and were pleased with the performance, Fontenot said.

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Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU), Maritime Raid Force, check their weapons during a call-away drill in the hangar bay of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam M. Bennett)

“Marines wore the headsets throughout their regular training cycle to assess comfort and how well they integrated with the ECH,” said Fontenot. “We want to make sure the headset we acquire is rugged and capable of operating in a wide range of environments a Marine might encounter, from cold weather to extreme heat.”

In the future, MCSC will release new weapon systems that could potentially cause a greater risk to Marines’ hearing. To be prepared, PM ICE wants to ensure Marines ears are protected in advance.

“Most of the systems we’ve researched amplify the verbal and softer noises around the Marine, so they know what is going on while protecting against loud noises that could damage the ear,” said Nick Pierce, Individual Armor Team lead, PM ICE. “Although we conducted an initial evaluation, the latest technologies could yield something better in 2020, and there are always things we can improve upon from the systems that were tested, such as comfort and the ability to clearly pinpoint which direction sound is coming from.”

After industry information is gathered, MCSC’s PM ICE will conduct a larger evaluation with the hearing devices to test their compatibility with the ECH. MCSC could purchase quantities of hearing enhancement devices as early as fiscal year 2020.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘AMERICA’S DARKEST DAY’: See newspaper headlines from around the world 24 hours after 9/11

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks happened exactly 19 years ago Friday.

For many people, the attacks were the biggest news story of their lifetime. Almost all who experienced it can remember where they were when they heard of the attacks.

Many people who remember that day also recall the following morning, when newspapers around the world captured the horror, shock, and sadness people felt.


The Newseum, a museum in Washington, DC, that chronicled the history of media, archived more than 100 newspapers from September 12, 2001, the day after the attacks. The front pages of these newspapers, bearing headlines like “ACT OF WAR” and “AMERICA’S DARKEST DAY,” underscore the impact the attacks had on the American psyche.

Here is what newspapers looked like the day after September 11, 2001.

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New York Times / Source: Newseum

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New York Post / Source: Newseum

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New York Daily News / Source: Newseum

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The Washington Post / Source: Newseum

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USA Today / Source: Newseum

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The Atlanta Constitution / Source: Newseum

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The Los Angeles Times / Source: Newseum

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Detroit Free Press / Source: Newseum

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The San Francisco Examiner / Source: Newseum

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Chicago Tribune / Source: Newseum

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Newsday / Source: Newseum

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People / Source: Newseum

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Seattle Post-Intelligencer / Source: Newseum

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The Globe and Mail / Source: Newseum

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The Daily Telegraph / Source: Newseum

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The Times / Source: Newseum

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Herald Sun / Source: Newseum

Melbourne’s Herald Sun

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army Special Forces soldiers practice fighting behind enemy lines

“For us being Special Forces, we are the first on the battlefield, then we are the last to leave,” said a Bulgarian Special Operations Tactical Group Commander.

The captain was the commander of the SOTG for exercise Saber Junction 19. Approximately 5,400 participants from 15 NATO and partner nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuanian, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US took part in the exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Sept. 3-30, 2019.

The exercise partnered about 100 Multinational SOF from Bulgaria, the US, and members of the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Defense National Force, or KASP, with conventional forces to improve integration and enhance their overall combat abilities.


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A US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

(US Army photo Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

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US Army Maj. Nathan Showman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade watches as paratroopers from the brigade land during a joint forcible entry as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 18, 2019.

To determine the best use of SOF capabilities to support larger combined maneuver, the Bulgarian SOTG Commander coordinated directly with his conventional force counterpart US Army Col. Kenneth Burgess, the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

The SOTG also placed SOF liaison officers within the brigade staff to facilitate communication directly between the staff and SOF on the ground.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

A US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

This gave the SOTG the ability to support critical portions of the exercise such as the joint forcible entry, a multinational airborne operation delivering paratroopers from Ramstein Airbase into the exercise to seize key terrain.

Paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade jumped from Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to set the drop zone for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Bulgarian and US SOF provided early reconnaissance of the drop zone and secured the area for the pathfinder’s jump, ensuring they had up to date information from the moment they hit the ground.

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Italian Army paratroopers from the Folgore Airborne Brigade coordinate with US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers after the Italian paratroopers parachuted onto a drop zone secured by special operations forces as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

This multinational coordination was one of the key objectives of the exercise.

“From my point of view, this is the most important exercise for my unit in that it helps prepare us for future NATO missions,” said the Bulgarian commander. “We are currently on standby in my country [as a quick reaction force], so this exercise is beneficial for us.”

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Bulgarian special operations forces exit a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade during combined aviation load training as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

Lithuania’s KASP also worked alongside SOF to set conditions for the conventional force. Exercising their real-world mission of unconventional warfare, the KASP integrated with Special Forces soldiers from the US Army’s 5th SFG(A).

This combined time conducted operations ahead of friendly lines in enemy-occupied territory to enable the multinational conventional joint force.

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US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

The KASP are structured similar to the US National Guard, with about 500 professional soldiers and 5,000 reservists, but have a very different mission.

“Our mission is to conduct territorial defense, so we must be ready to defend our country against any type of threat, either hybrid or conventional,” said Col. Dainius Pašvenskas, the KASP commander.

Pašvenskas added that the demand to come to exercises like these within his unit is so high that they have placed internal requirements to be selected. After completing rotations in exercises like Saber Junction 19, they share the techniques they have learned within their units, and teach the unconventional warfare tactics to the rest of the force.

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

The KASP’s missions at Saber Junction 19 included long-range reconnaissance, direct action and personnel recovery.

“We may have different tasks but we will operate in a similar area as Special Operation Forces,” said Pašvenskas. “Working with Special Forces and learning from their experience is an excellent opportunity for us.”

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

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