By the beginning of the 19th Century, it was already well established that indeed the Earth was round instead of flat. But the study of modern geology was still in its infancy and prompted many to established some hair brained ideas about how the Earth was actually made.
One of those came from Army Capt. John C. Symmes, Jr., who theorized that the center of the Earth was hollow and filled with productive farms that created cheap vegetables.
He believed this so fervently that he dedicated much of his life to organizing an expedition to look for an entrance for explorers to establish trade relations with the people who lived inside the planet.
Symmes began his military career in 1802 and served well during the War of 1812, rising in the infantry to the rank of captain. When the war ended, he left active duty to start a trading business on the American frontier. It was there that he began really expanding upon his theory of a hollow Earth.
His theory was simple. According to a 2004 paper by Duane A. Griffin from Bucknell Univeristy, Symmes believed that all planets formed in layers with gaps in between. Part of this theory went that Saturn’s rings were a collapsed layer of that planet which had partially broken away, leaving trails of dust.
The Appalachian mountains were supposedly the remnants of similar rings that used to orbit the Earth but which crashed to the planet’s surface over time.
Symmes believed that the hole in the Arctic would reveal a warm interior. Venturing into the ice in the Autumn is a huge gamble. For some reason, Symmes was unable to find 100 people to roll the dice with him.
In the late 1820s, Symmes worked with Jeremiah N. Reynolds to lobby Congress and President John Adams for the Navy to fund the expedition. While Congress was firmly against the idea, Adams eventually approved it.
The president helped search for a way to make the expedition happen with limited support from Congress. But, Adams was politically unpopular and could not get the resources together before the 1828 election when he was bested by Andrew Jackson. Jackson shut down the expedition.
Sickness claimed Symmes in 1829, so he died before he could see his claims debunked.
One of the best places to learn more about Symmes and his effect on modern science and literature is in Griffin’s full essay on that topic published by Bucknell University.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
The U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Retired Reese Hines poses for a portrait showing his Explosive Ordnance Disposal occupational badge prosthetic eye, during the archery competition at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games held at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, June17, 2016.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. from Joliet, Ill., listens to instructions for adjusting the sight on his compound bow during the archery competition at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games held at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., June 17, 2016.
Soldiers scan the seafloor for obstructions and take depth measurements to ensure ships can safely maneuver in the waters near the port during a logistics exercise in Alameda, Calif., June 18, 2016.
PACIFIC OCEAN (June 22, 2016) USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) Sailors clime back aboard after jumping from the USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) aircraft elevator during a swim call. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.
PACIFIC OCEAN (June 22, 2016) Midshipmen 2nd Class Alex Harper is transferred from the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) to the fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7) during a high line passenger transfer. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Chung-Hoon is operating as part of the John C. Stennis Strike Group and Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.
Sgt. Anthony Lee, a reconnaissance Marine with Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, awaits the execution of a reconnaissance and surveillance mission during the MEU’s Realistic Urban Training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, June 13, 2016. Reconnaissance and surveillance of an objective area allows the MEU commander to gain a greater understanding of the enemy’s presence and geographical details on the battlefield.
Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, a crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, rides in the back of a UH-1Y Venom as it approaches a landing zone during a training exercise near Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 17, 2016. Familiarization flights familiarize pilots new to the unit with the different landing zones and flight procedures around the Camp Lejeune area.
Members of Coast Guard Sector Juneau inspections division arrive at the cruise ship Crystal Serenity moored in Juneau, Alaska, to conduct a certificate of compliance exam June 22, 2016. The exam tests the crew’s ability to react in the case of an emergency covering a range of different scenarios.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb stand ready for a uniform inspection prior to the cutter’s change of command ceremony held at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach on June 16, 2016. The change of command ceremony is a time-honored tradition, deeply rooted in Coast Guard and Naval history. The event signifies a total transfer of responsibility, authority and accountability of the command.
When Elinor and Arty Nakis brought home the body of their 19-year-old son who had died during a transport mission while deployed with the Army National Guard in Mosul, Iraq, in 2003, an eagle soared over their Sedro-Woolley home.
Another eagle flew overhead on the way to Nathan Nakis’ memorial service, Elinor Nakis recalled.
And in 2008, when the Nakis family helped install indoor climbing and bouldering walls in honor of their son at the Camp Black Mountain Boy Scout camp in Whatcom County, an eagle was there, too.
That’s why Elinor wasn’t surprised to see a young eagle soar overhead Saturday morning during the dedication of the bouldering wall at its new home near Cascade Middle and Evergreen Elementary schools in Sedro-Woolley.
“(Nathan) would be so proud,” she said.
After spending years in storage at a Janicki Industries facility in Hamilton, the bouldering wall formerly housed in Whatcom County is ready to carry on Nathan Nakis’ memory in the community he grew up in.
“We expect this thing to get a lot of use,” Arty Nakis said. “We took the protective covering off last night and it’s already getting used.”
Nathan, a 2002 Sedro-Woolley High School graduate who started in school at Evergreen, was heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, his mother said.
As an adult, the Eagle Scout volunteered and worked at Camp Black Mountain and helped build the camp’s first rope climbing course, Elinor Nakis said.
When the course would close for days at a time due to inclement weather, Nathan would tell his mother how much he hoped to see a covered climbing facility for the Scouts to use. The wall located between the Evergreen and Cascade campuses is covered by a roof.
After his death, the Nakis’ could think of no better way to honor their son.
“Elinor and I have always felt that it took the help of our community to raise our sons,” Arty Nakis said at the dedication. “When we lost Nathan, we felt the support and love of this community stronger than ever.”
When the Boy Scout camp closed in 2012, the climbing wall built in Nathan’s honor couldn’t be salvaged, Arty Nakis said, but the bouldering wall was removed so it could one day find a new home for more to enjoy.
“It’s an honor and a privilege,” Sedro-Woolley School District Superintendent Phil Brockman said. “It’s an honor to have ‘Nathan’s Boulder’ on our campus. Our kids look forward to playing on this.”
The wall is set to be used not only by students attending the schools, but also by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Skagit County’sSedro-Woolley club that shares the same property.
“This is perfect,” Arty Nakis said. “I couldn’t imagine a more perfect spot.”
The district’s special needs students will also utilize the wall for hands-on learning experiences, something that Elinor, a 21-year employee of the Sedro-Woolley School District, is glad to see happen.
“(Whether) it’s Scouting or through the schools, you’ve got to get (kids) out of their comfort zone,” Arty Nakis said. “It builds confidence and trust in each other.”
For Rotary International of Sedro-Woolley President David Bricka, the project took on a special meaning as he remembered his nephew Brian Gurney, who died in December as a result of injuries sustained during a 2014 hiking accident at Pilchuck Falls. Gurney was 19 at the time of the accident.
“(Brian and Nathan) were two great young men that had such an impact,” Bricka said. “They both had 19 years of actively living.”
Sedro-Woolley Mayor Keith Wagoner, a veteran himself with a son currently enlisted, thought the bouldering wall was a perfect fit for the community.
“I have so many friends that went and didn’t come back,” Wagoner said. “Literally thousands of hands have touched this thing. It’s not a monument you stand back and look at.”
Alec Giess, who served with Nathan Nakis and was in the vehicle with him the day Nakis died, drove up for the dedication from Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Giess has become part of the family, Arty Nakis said.
“It was a combat mission on a crummy day,” Giess said. “Everybody liked (Nathan). (Nathan’s story) won’t end now. It’ll keep going.”
The U.S. and its allies continue to invest heavily in the F-35 and other stealth-capable aircraft. But Russia and China are rapidly developing systems that would negate the benefits that stealth offers.
According to Zarchary Keck writing in The National Interest, both Beijing and Moscow have begun development of unmanned aerial vehicles that have the goal of finding, detecting, and possibly even eliminating enemy stealth aircraft.
China’s stealth detection drone, called the Divine Eagle, is believed to be specially built to counter stealth aircraft while they are still far from the Chinese mainland.
Popular Science notes that the drone’s “long range anti-stealth capabilities can be used against both aircraft, like the B-2 bomber, and warships such as the DDG-1000 destroyer … the Chinese air force could quickly intercept stealthy enemy aircraft, missiles and ships well before they come in range of the Mainland.”
The Divine Eagle features multiple different radar systems, including X/UHF low band radar systems, according to Popular Science. These systems could be used to track stealth aircraft like the F-35 at long distances, as most stealth technology is created to avoid high band radar systems, thereby eroding one of the key advantages of the fifth-generation plane.
The Divine Eagle has apparently undergone multiple redesigns which sought to limit the plane’s infrared signature — something that would help ensure the drone’s own purported stealth capabilities.
Russia has been working on its own stealth-detection drone. Flight Global writes that the Russian military subcontractor KRET debuted a stealth drone prototype at the MAKS air show in Moscow in August.
The unnamed drone, Flight Global notes, will also come outfitted with UHF and X-band radar systems that could be used to detect stealth aircraft. Additionally, the drone is outfitted with an electronic warfare system that would both cloak the drone and make it difficult to target with air-to-air missiles.
If such Chinese and Russian systems are ultimately proven effective, the U.S.’ reliance upon stealth technology will need to be radically evaluated.
At the same time, both Chinese and Russian claims of the technology’s status should be viewed with some skepticism.
Chinese military technology is often based on designs stolen from U.S. and other allied countries, which calls Beijing’s domestic research and development capabilities into question. Additionally, rampant corruption throughout the Chinese military may undermine the country’s ability to fight or develop advanced technologies.
Russia also faces serious challenges to its military ambitions. Large-scale economic problems throughout the country — the partial result of EU and U.S. sanctions stemming from Russia’s aggressive policies in Ukraine — have limited Russia’s military procurement. Already, Russia is cancelling the construction of most of its planned next-generation tanks and may have be scrapping of plans for a fifth-generation bomber. Any new stealth drone could face similar funding hurdles.
Still, the potential rise of anti-stealth drones should worry the U.S., as it could expose an over-reliance on stealth technology that suddenly has far less tactical and strategic worth.
Some in the Pentagon already feel that way. In February, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert gave a speech in which he called out the potential limitations of stealth technology.
“You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated,” Greenery said. “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable. You get my point.”
A Navy ship that came under fire from two missiles launched from rebel-held land in Yemen while it transited through international waters Sunday responded in self-defense with three missiles, a Defense Department official confirmed to Military.com.
USNI news first reported that the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Mason launched a RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile and two Standard Missile-2s from the waters of the Red Sea, north of the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb where it was operating when it came under attack.
A defense official confirmed that the missiles had been launched and also confirmed the outlet’s report that the ship had used a Nulka missile decoy, designed to be launched to lure enemy missiles away from their targets.
The Raytheon-made SeaSparrow is designed to intercept supersonic anti-ship missiles, while the SM-2, also made by Raytheon, is the Navy’s primary surface-to-air weapon and a key element of shipboard defense for destroyers.
The Mason was responding to two ballistic missiles that originated around 7 p.m. Sunday from Yemeni territory held by Shiite Houthi rebels. The Mason was not hit by the missiles, and an official from U.S. Navy Forces Central Command said Monday it remained unclear if the ship had been specifically targeted.
Previously, a defense official told the Associated Press that the Mason had used onboard defensive measures to protect itself after the first of the two missiles was fired, but until now no one had publicly confirmed that the ship did indeed fire back.
This exchange comes only a week after the high-speed logistics vessel Swift, a United Arab Emirates-leased ship formerly in service for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, was badly damaged by a missile while operating near the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait on Oct. 1. The Saudi-led coalition carrying out airstrikes on the rebels in Yemen said the Swift had been attacked by the Houthis.
UAE officials said the ship was transporting humanitarian aid when it was hit.
Today, the Mason remains in the general area that the exchange took place and is continuing a routine patrol, a defense official told Military.com.
“The U.S. is trying to look at what kind of a response would be appropriate in this situation,” the official said. “There’s no sort of a timeline for when a response will come.”
The Christmas Day crash of a Tupelov Tu-154 off the coast of Sochi, a Black Sea resort town in Russia, killed all 92 people on board. Among the dead are 60 members of the Red Army Choir.
The Red Army Choir had a viral moment when they sang backup to a cover of “Sweet Home Alabama” done by the Leningrad Cowboys. One Youtube video is below:
The choir members killed were part of the Alexandrov Ensemble, according to a CNN report. The choir was slated to perform for Russian military personnel at the Khmeimim air base in Syria.
According to the choir’s iTunes page, the group took first place at the Paris International Exposition in 1937, and features a male chorus, with dancers and an orchestra.
The impact of this crash on Russia could be compared to the Feb. 3, 1959, plane crash that killed rock-and-roll artists Buddy Holly and Richie Valens, or the loss of band leader Glenn Miller in unexplained circumstances while en route to Europe on Dec, 15, 1944.
A 2009 photo of the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo from Wikiemdia Commons)
In a statement on Facebook, the director of the MVD’s Red Army Choir, Gen. Victor Eliseev, said, “Today we are in the shock of the catastrophe in which our colleges of the Alexandrov Choirs and Dances disappeared. Not only were they our colleagues, but a very important military art company, and I am shocked to learn of the disappearance of their leader, my fellow student and friend General Valery Khalilov, with whom we studied and professed together at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. It is a terrible loss for Russian music and art.”
“All members of the Red Army Chorus MVD of the Russian National Guard join me in expressing their friendship to the families of the members of the Alexandrov Ensemble and the families of all the victims of this tragedy and to address our feelings to them more affectionate in this dramatic moment,” Eliseev added.
The first time the F-15 Strike Eagle saw combat was in the skies over the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. Although the F-15 C and D were incredibly lethal in air-to-air combat, the F-15E was primarily used to take out mobile Scud missiles and surface-to-air missile sites. It was the F-15E’s only air-to-air kill during Desert Storm that would become the most memorable.
On Valentine’s Day 1991, the offensive part of the First Gulf War was in full swing. U.S. Air Force Captains Richard “TB” Bennett and Dan “Chewie” Bakke were pilot and weapons system officer, respectively, on a Scud patrol. AWACS ordered their F-15E to hit Mi-24 Hind Gunships that were close to a U.S. Special Forces operation.
Bakke told the author of “Debrief: A Complete History of U.S. Aerial Engagements” that the F-15E’s radar became “intermittent” when they moved to strike. The pilot couldn’t get a missile lock on the targets because one the Hinds began to accelerate so fast. Bakke switched his thinking to a ground attack.
Since he could only see the rotors using his LANTIRN pod (the ground targeting system used by the Strike Eagles) Bakke used a laser-guided, 2,000-pound GBU-10 bomb on the helicopter as it began to lift off. The bomb when through the rotors and the cockpit, its fuse delay exploding the munition underneath the Hind, completely disintegrating the helicopter. The other helicopters bolted after that and more U.S. air cover came in to protect the ground force.
After the Special Forces team was extracted, they confirmed the F-15E’s kill and sent Bennett and Bakke a “Thank You” via their headquarters based in Riyadh.
Marion Bales was a high school senior the day a Marine Corps vehicle pulled up in front of his parents’ house. His mother immediately broke down in anguish, imagining the worst about his older brother, who was serving in Vietnam.
“He had been wounded in the shoulder and it was pretty serious,” Bales said. “They flew him straight out of Vietnam to the Naval hospital in Great Lakes, Illinois. After about two weeks we learned that he was going to be okay. However, it was a very traumatic experience for my mother, and really, for all of us.”
Two years later, in December 1969, Bales was a 20-year-old electronic and mechanical equipment installer when he received his notice to report for an armed forces physical examination. For the young men of Bales’ generation, the country’s last military draft meant one thing – more personnel for the war effort in Vietnam.
“Within a week, I was on my way to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training,” Bales said. “I don’t remember a lot about that experience other than the rifle range and that they worked us hard, running us all day and sometimes at night.”
Bales with Vietnamese family he fondly remembers as one he “adopted.”
Next stop, Danang
From there, Bales went through Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Ord, California, followed by dog handler training at Fort Benning, Georgia. His next stop was Danang, South Vietnam.
“I flew over to Vietnam and they had me complete a two-week course on short-range canine patrols in Danang.”
For most of his tour, Bales and his black Labrador “Orange” (pictured above) were on-call for specialized patrols that required them to walk “point” ahead of the unit. Alone and more exposed because of his position, Bales and Orange were always inserted into these areas by UH-1 “Huey” helicopters.
“The pilots never set down because the units I was called in to assist usually were still in a firefight,” Bales said. “I’d have to jump with Orange in my arms, along with all my gear, from heights that could be 20 feet or more.”
When asked how he could make such jumps without injury, Bales explained, “There usually was several feet of elephant grass or something else that offered some padding. Otherwise you learned how to roll once you hit the ground and then you kept on going.”
Bales (right) and fellow Vietnam War Veteran Rick Rice (center) assist a Veteran at Truman VA.
And because people want to know how a black lab got the name Orange, Bales explains: “Orange came from a litter where each puppy was given a name that started with the letter O. There were eight dogs in this litter. I did eventually meet Orange’s sister Opal, who also was a war dog.”
“Truman VA is the best hospital I’ve ever seen”
Bales eventually finished his tour in Vietnam and, once discharged, resumed work as an electronic and mechanical equipment installer. He married, had six children, and eventually settled in his wife’s hometown of Salisbury, Missouri.
“After I retired, I volunteered at our local food bank. One day, Cindy Stivers, a Marine Corps Veteran and the Women Veterans Coordinator at Truman VA, came in and we talked about VA health care. That’s when I began to really think about VA.
“I’ve been receiving my care there for some time now and I think VA is tremendous. In my opinion, Truman VA is the best hospital I’ve ever seen and I’ve worked in a lot of them over the years installing equipment.”
After interacting with other Veterans, Bales began volunteering at the hospital. As an escort and ambassador, he has been part of Truman VA’s Voluntary Service program for the past ten years.
“I served as a Veteran and now I serve Veterans,” Bales said. “I encourage anyone who is interested in giving back to Veterans to contact their local VA’s Voluntary Service.”
The Sherman tank was a powerful force to be reckoned with on the battlefields in WWII; it was fast and mobile and it shelled out plenty of firepower.
It provided just enough cover for American ground troops as it stomped through the German front lines. The Sherman was designed to patrol over enemy bridges and it was easily transported on railroad cars.
When the U.S. decided to invade Europe, General Patton selected the Sherman as his particular tank of choice and wanted as many to roll off the assembly lines as possible. Nearly fifty thousand were produced between 1942 and 1945.
Weighing in at 33 tons, it sustained a speed of 26 miles per hour and housed 2 inches of armor. Many saw the image of the Sherman tank to be invincible just like the American war effort, but the brave soldiers who served as tank crew members believed that it had too many engineering flaws and was far inferior compared to the German’s Tiger and Panther tanks.
The Sherman tank was equipped with a fully-transversing 75mm turret short barrelled gun that fired a high explosive shell 2,000 feet per second. Compared to the German tanks that shot accurately at 3,500 feet per second, the enemy’s armor piercing ammo was 2-3 times more effective.
It was recommended that to defeat the Germans, the tank crew had to speed up and flank around their battlefield rivalry and get within 600 yards range to be effective.
Captain Belton Y. Cooper, author of Death Traps and a member of the 3rd Armor Division maintenance unit, recounts knowing how inferior the Sherman was after seeing its physical destruction firsthand. He knew it was no match for the Nazi’s arsenal.
“We lost 648 tanks totally destroyed in combat, another 700 knocked out, repaired and put back into action,” Cooper says. “That’s 1,348 tanks knocked out in combat. I don’t think anyone took that kind of loss in the war.”
Congratulations, you’ve just become a parent. In order to survive basic training, you must now not only cover your own ass, but watch out for this guy’s as well. Because if you don’t, your platoon is going to get slapped with mass punishment, and no one wants that. Bryan somehow managed to make it through his young life without developing skills of any kind. He’s the kind of guy who hesitates when you ask him how to spell his own name.
You will watch him struggle to make his bed with his gangly 18-year-old arms and be torn between the desire to help him or to strangle him with his own sheets. But you will help Bryan, because he needs you. And because if you don’t, he will forget his kit, wear white socks to inspection, and make your life a living hell. And who knows, maybe after a few days he’ll start to pick up on things. Totally kidding — you’re probably stuck with this kid for the long haul.
Something Bryan might say: “Hey … hey guys? Can somebody show me how to shave?”
2. Renaissance Richard
The antithesis of Baby-Faced Bryan, Renaissance Richard is a super-smart, talented, and accomplished guy. Unfortunately for you, this also makes him a bit of an annoying a–hole. Richard is usually around 30, and he won’t let you forget how he managed to be the valedictorian at his private college, build his own house, and become a brain surgeon in the time between high school graduation and now.
Richard can do anything — except keep his mouth shut. He’s the guy who makes a big show of “helping” recruits, and letting everyone know how he would do something. No one asked you, Richard. He’s also notorious for crashing your conversations so he can chime in on things like his opinions on Syria, when all you were discussing is what’s for dinner. Rich is a fine recruit, but your drill sergeant will hate him. Why? The same reason you do: he’s a pretentious a–hole. Nobody wants to work with someone who can’t accept rank and needs his ego stroked.
Something Richard might say: “Sure it would be interesting to invade Easter Island, but you need to consider the political ramifications … ”
3. The Dreamer
The Dreamer has wanted to join the military since he first saw “Saving Private Ryan” at an elementary school sleepover. He dreams of not only becoming a great soldier, but the greatest soldier America — and the world — has ever seen. Just a teenager, he’s the guy who gets too distracted by his daydream of running through battle in slow-motion to shine his shoes, and can be heard quoting “Top Gun” and “Band of Brothers” in the DFAC.
The Dreamer’s all talk, and has no real-world experience when it comes to surviving anything more than a Hot Pocket shortage. Because of this, he will often take on tasks that are way too much for him to handle, bringing down your drill sergeant’s wrath on all of you when he fails. Think of him as Baby-Faced Bryan’s annoying half-brother. Eventually he should focus a little more on the task at hand instead of his “military destiny,” but until then you’ll just have to tune him out.
4. Shady Steve
Steve’s a little older than some of the guys in basic training, but you’re never positive what this dude’s age is — and that’s just the way Steve likes it. When pressed about his past, his stories never quite match up, leaving you wondering just what is true (hold up, did he say that he was a parole officer, or was he talking about his own parole?).
You don’t know him at all, but he just seems like the type of guy who decided to enlist because his meth ring went south. One thing you do know for sure is the fact that any outing with Steve quickly devolves into “Hangover”-level catastrophe, so you better steer clear of that. He’s not a bad trainee. And he’s probably not a bad guy — but he’s got your drill sergeant keeping an eye on him, so you probably should too.
5. The Old Dude
This salt and pepper recruit may not actually be that old by civilian standards, but 34 is pretty ancient in basic. And since it took a colonel to approve his age waiver, maybe he should have just stayed home and played Risk instead. Whether he enlisted because the Army’s his last chance to retire before 65 or because of a mid-life crisis is anyone’s guess, but don’t write this guy off right away.
The Old Dude is usually in surprisingly great shape, and that’s because he’s old school. While most of the recruits in their twenties have spent their pre-military lives playing Call of Duty and chowing down on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, he’s been downing raw eggs for breakfast and running five miles a day. Also, The Old Dude has lived a lot longer than you — he’s seen things, and he’s wiser for it. When you need some advice or perspective on life, he’s the person you’ll want to turn to.
6. Gun-Happy Garret
Garret is a simple man. He joined the military because it allowed him to pursue his three passions: shooting, chewing dip, and spitting. Garret does not know that tobacco isn’t allowed in basic. He is furious when he finds out. Garret barely managed to complete his GED, and it shows. You are not confident that he can spell America, and are terrified of the day this neanderthal gets his hands on an automatic weapon.
To your surprise, however, Garret is actually kind of a genius when it comes to weapons. He can disassemble and reassemble his weapon with his eyes closed. He can tell you every part of his rifle and how it works, and help you with your own. Your rifle will never shine quite like his does. He is a weapons savant, and you start to wonder if there’s more to Garret than meets the eye. Trust us, there isn’t. He’s the best mark in the platoon because he spent his childhood shooting mice and raccoons behind a trailer park, not because he’s the chosen one.
7. The Blue Falcon
This guy. This guy is the absolute worst. If you could combine a weasel and that stoner kid from your Spanish class who would constantly beg you for test answers, you’d have something close to a Blue Falcon. The Blue Falcon of your platoon is lazy, disloyal, and just a textbook pain in the ass. Can’t find your extra pair of socks? Did part of someone’s kit go missing? Check the Blue Falcon’s nest. And God forbid you screw up in front of this guy — he’ll rat you out to your drill sergeant faster than you’ll know what’s happening.
The Blue Falcon’s sneaky, so it sometimes takes a while to know who yours will be. But every unit has one, and they will become the bane of your existence.
Something The Blue Falcon would say: “First sergeant, first sergeant! Private Snuffy is … ”
Associate Editor David Nye contributed to this article.
For World War I pilots, the most terrifying song that relates to their experience may not be Seven Nation Army but 99 Luftballoons, because going against barrage and observation balloons in the Great War was terrifying.
Barrage balloons over London in World War II.
Pilots with the balls and skill to attack these balloons were known as balloon busters, and ones that had shot down more than five of the balloons were known as balloon aces. And yes, shooting down a balloon counted as a “kill,” same as shooting down a piloted enemy plane.
But what made them so hard to shoot down? After all, they were just a bunch of floating bags of air. Pop ’em with a needle and get on with your day, right?
First, military balloons weren’t made of cheap Mylar or latex. Many in World War I were made of tightly woven fabric, though vulcanized rubber and Thiokol rubber were prominent in World War II. All of these materials could take plenty of hits without splitting, meaning bullets that passed through them caused them to leak instead of to pop.
A row of spherical barrage balloons used for suspending aerial nets
(Australian War Memorial)
So they couldn’t simply be popped, and it often took a lot of rounds to bring one down. But if a fighter did manage to slay the beast, he wasn’t out of danger yet. While American balloons in World War II were sometimes filled with helium, none of the early Great War combatants had access to that gas, and hydrogen was the preferred gas for barrage balloons anyway.
Why? Well, for the same reason it was bad for the Hindenburg. Observation balloons had people in them, people who would’ve loved helium instead of hydrogen over their heads. But barrage balloons were empty, and filling them with hydrogen meant that, when destroyed, the balloons had a tendency to go out in massive fireballs. This was a huge threat to the fighters attacking it.
It also meant that fighters had one advantage though: Incendiary rounds were very effective against the balloons. But in World War I, pretty much only the British had incendiary rounds in planes. Everyone else was slinging cold metal. And incendiary rounds didn’t stay hot forever, generally traveling only 300 to 400 yards while still burning. You did not want to be 300 yards from an exploding balloon and still flying towards it as you would have to be to effectively shoot at it.
Barrage balloons and their crews in World War II.
(Royal Air Force)
Fine, fine, fine. The balloons were hard to shoot down and, when shot down, might explode in a big fireball and kill the attacking fighter. Fine. Just fly around them, right? Let the Germans have their balloons over their lines, maybe bring in some air defense artillery to shoot at it. But let the fighters avoid them.
Nope. For two reasons. First, those observation balloons were an enduring threat from the moment they went up until the moment they went down. Artillery observers sat in them and reported troops positions and movements to their friendly artillery for hours, allowing German crews to hit English, French, and U.S. positions all day. They had to be killed.
American pilot Frank Luke poses with his 13th confirmed kill.
So observation balloons and barrage balloons were lethal, terrifying, and absolutely had to be destroyed, and some of America, England, and France’s top aces proved their mettle by flying at the things, especially in World War I. In fact, some of the top decorated fighter pilots of World War I had few wins against human-piloted planes, but a dozen or more against balloons.
Will Coppens, a Belgian pilot, personally awarded a medal by King Albert I had only shot down two enemy planes in his career, but he had taken down an astounding 35 enemy balloons. The next highest scoring pilot after him was Frenchman Leon Bourjade with 27. So, yeah, Coppens earned that medal from his king.
America’s top balloon buster was Frank Luke, a mouthy pilot who was looked down upon by his peers when he arrived in France. He claimed his first fighter kill in August 1918, but no one else had witnessed the feat, and he was written off as a blowhard. So, after hearing how hard balloons were to take down, he attacked one on September 12 and, after three passes, destroyed it right before it reached the safety of the ground where the observers could clamber out.
German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire, and barrage balloons created persistent threats to enemy fighters.
(State Library of New South Wales)
Luke bagged another two balloons two days later. His wingman that day, 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, formed a team with him that specialized in balloon busting and turned the whole thing into a traveling show, sending invitations to VIPs to witness German balloons blowing up at set times and places. But it was too bold to last, and Wehner was shot down on September 18 while taking down his fifth balloon, giving him balloon ace status in death.
Distraught, Luke went off the deep end, taking more and more risks in flight to the point that his superiors grounded the already famous pilot who, by that point, had 11 victories against balloons and four against fighters, making him America’s ace of aces. On September 29, he stole a plane and dropped a note to the ground that told observers to watch German balloons over the Meuse.
Luke flew into the teeth of the enemy, dodging ground fire and eight enemy fighters as he took down one balloon after the others, destroying all three in the area before he was shot down. He survived the wreck and pulled his pistol, fending off a German patrol and killing multiple members of it until a German round drilled him in the chest.
He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and the Medal of Honor for his heroics in September 1918, going to his grave as America’s best-ever balloon buster with 14 kills against balloons and four against fighters.
Retired Rear Adm. John Kirby was a Navy public affairs officer for decades and now serves as the State Department’s top spokesman, so he’s been around journalists for a while and given plenty of briefings.
That may explain why he was so chill when — in the middle of reading a statement about defeating ISIS propaganda — he noticed a journalist playing Pokemon Go on a smartphone.
Look, WATM isn’t one of those places that wants to take people’s joy away. Do your thing and enjoy life. If Pokemon make you happy, chase those Pokemon.
But maybe let’s don’t interrupt a briefing about the importance of defeating ISIS on the internet by playing video games — Pokemon Go or otherwise.
Unless, of course, you’ve found a way to defeat ISIS via video games. Then please forward your idea to WATM so we can spread the word.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of We Are The Mighty.
Thank you for using your platform to highlight a societal ill that needs our national attention and action to address and improve matters pertaining to equal justice under the law. Many will take issue with the manner of your “protest” and may never entertain the issue at the heart of your statement. These fellow Americans may have a concern about the nature of your protest rather than the substance of your protest.
I applaud you for risking the sure backlash and knee-jerk disdain sure to come for any American who dares to highlight an issue during the National Anthem. Because you are not a professional protestor, your methods may be crude and course. Because you are a professional athlete, your words may not convey the precise intent of your protest. But because you are an American, you have the right to express your thought or voice in a manner available to you. Some will offer advice on how to protest in a manner that is less upsetting to them and their sensibilities.
This misses the point of social protest. It is to awaken those very sensibilities and highlight the moral deficit in our social fabric. There are not many avenues or ways for a social minority to highlight an issue to the majority. Our shared history, our American history is replete with examples worthy of outrage and protest that caused no action or discussion by the majority.
A notable example is the story of Emmet Till. Many are not aware that the injustice endured by the murder, disfigurement, mutilation and hatred visited on a 14-year-old boy and his family, were the chief impetus to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In short, this 14-year-old boy was kidnapped from his home and killed. The assailants were known and a mock trial held. No convictions were given.
Many will accuse you of nefarious motives and unpatriotic underpinnings. Many will look to dissect your background for failings to lessen your protest moment. Many will discount your intended message because of your delivery (manner and voice). And many will never look to address the intent of the protest because that is hard and dismissing is easy.
In addition, not having a difficult discussion is easier than acknowledging a perspective not shared. Said another way is that the experiences that are not shared by the majority are often deemed non-existent. My nation, our nation, needs to continue the work to improve our social fabric and the actions of its institutions and agents to better provide equal justice. America, in its history, has made great strides in integrating many cultures, religions, and traditions.
America has led the world in demonstrating democracy in action. America has often led the world in being a champion for human rights and dignity. America is the greatest nation in this world and remains a beacon of hope for many people enduring deep levels of oppression.
While your manner of protest is not what I or many others would choose, I support you in this effort to highlight the need for a national engagement on the issue of equal justice. To those reading this letter, this is a call for us work together to discuss the issue, understand the perspectives/history and bring ideas and solutions to improve our America. I love my country and stand ready to serve again. This is the work needed to push us forward in making our nation a “more perfect union.”
Arthur Billingsley is a retired Navy commander, graduateof the Naval Postgraduate School with a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Auburn University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering. He’s currently working as an IT professional in northern Florida.