The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow - We Are The Mighty
Articles

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

So this guy is one of my favorite people ever.  His life story sounds like a Dos Equis commercial. His full name is John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, better known as Jack Churchill or “Mad Jack”.  A few of my favorite qualities and accomplishments of his up front:


  • Officer in the British Army from 1926-1936 and 1939-1959.  During WWII, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel.
  • Worked as a newspaper editor and male model in Nairobi, Kenya between 1936 and 1939.
  • His motto was, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”
  • When the war in Europe ended, he was sent to Burma to fight the Japanese but by the time he arrived, the war was over. He really, really didn’t like this because he wanted to keep fighting.
  • After the war he served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, he became an avid surfer.
  • After retiring from the army in 1959, he regularly scared train conductors and pedestrians by throwing his briefcase from the train. Why? He threw it into his own backyard because he didn’t want to carry it home from the train station.

So now for my favorite part: he carried bagpipes, a Scottish broadsword, and a longbow with arrows into most battles. His unusual gear choices followed him into battle wherever he went, and even played a key role in the Battle of France.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
‘Mad Jack’ Churchill with his War Bow; 6′ tall, with an 80-lb pull. The only documented archer to inflict casualties in WW2.

When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, Mad Jack Churchill gave up his roles as a male model and newspaper editor in Kenya to resume his service in the British Army.  As part of an expeditionary force to France, he led his unit – the Manchester Regiment – into battle in May 1940.  Near the Belgian border, Churchill and his men set up an ambush on a German patrol, where he instructed his men to begin the ambush once they saw his arrow fly.

As a Nazi sergeant came into range, he fired an arrow from his traditional longbow and killed the German officer.  In doing so, Churchill became the last known person to kill an enemy in battle using a longbow.

In 1941, Churchill was second in command for a raid on a German garrison on the west coast of Norway.  As the landing craft hit the beaches and the ramp went down, Churchill was standing there blasting his bagpipes.  When he finished his song, he launched a grenade toward the German fortifications and sprinted into battle.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Far right: Mad Jack storms a beach with his Scottish broadsword

Churchill’s bagpipe skills were on display again as the Allies invaded Sicily and also when they invaded the Italian peninsula near Salerno.  At the latter, Churchill led an attack on a German observation post and captured 42 German soldiers with only the help of a Corporal.

In 1944, Churchill’s forces were tasked with assisting Tito’s Partisan forces in Yugoslavia.  Here they were expected to retake the island of Brač.  While the Partisan forces remained on the beach, Churchill and six others reached the objective alone.  While he again played his bagpipes, his six fellow soldiers were killed by a mortar and he was knocked unconscious by a grenade and captured.  He was then sent to Berlin for interrogation, after which he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just north of Berlin.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Wikimedia Commons photo

You would think that was the end of his hilarious eccentricity, but it wasn’t.  Being the badass he was, Churchill and another British officer escaped from the concentration camp and headed north to the Baltic coast.  He was captured again just before he got to the coast and sent to an SS-guarded prison in Tyrol, Austria in April 1945.  Once released, he walked over 90 miles to Verona, Italy, where he ran into an American armored group, who helped him get back to Britain.

That was the last action he’d see in World War II, as his arrival in the Pacific was too late.  Churchill then went on to serve in British Palestine until 1948, after which he moved to Australia to be an instructor at the land-air warfare school.  He eventually retired from the Army in 1959, and lived to the age of 89 in Surrey, England.

Articles

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”

As of 2015 the Berlin Wall has been down almost as long as it stood separating the German people. The wall built by the Communist German Democratic Republic (GDR – better known as East Germany) around the Western sectors of Berlin became a longstanding symbol of the divide between Western Capitalism and Eastern Communism during the Cold War. In the 28 years it stood, no place on Earth was so central to world events as Berlin and the reason for that is the Berlin Wall. Twenty-six years after its fall, it’s worth a look to see the how Cold War history played out surrounding such a central, divisive symbol.


After World War II, West Germany was occupied by France, England, and the United States, East Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union. Berlin, despite being deep in Soviet-occupied territory, was also partitioned in a similar way. After the Berlin Airlift ended a Soviet blockade — really an attempt to push the West out of Berlin through economic strangulation — fears of further drifts toward a full Communist state in the East prompted many to emigrate to West Germany in exponential numbers. These were mostly young, well-educated Germans whose flight became known as a “Brain Drain” of East German intelligentsia and workers. Only 61% of the East’s working age population remained. Something had to be done and what better way to make people want to stay in your country than by walling them in and threatening them with constant torture and execution?

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Memorial crosses of those killed by East Germany while trying to cross to West Germany

The borders around West Berlin were closed on August 13, 1961 as the Soviets tore up the streets, erected fences, and placed barbed wire. Families were suddenly split, jobs were lost and the United States had no official response. The U.S. didn’t actually think there was valid reason for its permanent erection. Then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk said, “The Wall certainly ought not to be a permanent feature of the European landscape. I see no reason why the Soviet Union should think it is—it is to their advantage in any way to leave there that monument to Communist failure.”

Erected in 1961, it was called the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall” by the GDR, who placed rows of barbed wire a guard towers along the wall. It would soon become a symbol for the corruption and lack of freedom for those living in the Soviet Union-dominated Eastern Bloc, as the world recognized it as a true “Iron Curtain,” a means to keep East Germans from getting to West German freedom, instead of keeping West Germans out of the East Germany. It would be upgraded three times after its construction.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Robert Kennedy and Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt at the Berlin Wall

President Kennedy denounced its construction and appointed retired Army General Lucius D. Clay as Ambassador. Clay was the mastermind of the Berlin Airlift, former military governor of American-controlled Germany, nicknamed “the Kaiser” and was wildly popular with Berliners. Following Kennedy’s order to reinforce the Allied defenders of West Berlin, Clay ordered 1,500 men with vehicles and trailers from West Germany, through East Germany to West Berlin, where they were met by Clay and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson as a show of strength and a reassertion of the Allies’ access to Berlin.

In June, 1963, President Kennedy visited the Berlin for the first time with General Clay to reaffirm the U.S. dedication of support for West Germany and to remind the Soviet Union of that support.

Hundreds of East German died trying to get to freedom on the other side of the wall, thousands were successful in defecting across the wall. They would dig tunnels below the wall, flying hot air balloons, through the sewers, or just driving cars at max speed through weaker sections. One East German guard even drove his tank through the wall to defect. Western guards were not able to help defectors until they were on the Western side of the wall.

In 1988, the year before the Berlin Wall fell, Bruce Springsteen played the Berlin Wall in a concert organized by East German Communist authorities in an attempt to pacify East German youth. Communist authorities saw rock music as a “nefarious cultural weapon” (and for much of the music of the 1980’s, that assertion isn’t far off), so the concert was a surprising shockk to much of the world, most of all East Germans. Springsteen didn’t miss the importance of the event. After playing Born in the U.S.A. in front of 300,000 East Germans, he delivered a short speech in German:

“I’m not here for any government,” he began. “I’ve come to play rock and roll for you in the hope that one day, all the barriers will be torn down.”

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Springsteen in East Germany (wikimedia commons)

The crowd went wild. Sixteen months later, on November 9, 1989, the government of the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, announced Germans living in the East would then be free to visit West Germany and West Berlin. That day, East and West Germans crowded the Berlin Wall, and systematically chipped away and demolished it.

Articles

13 funniest memes for the week of Sept. 30

We scrolled through miles of the Internet to find and present these funny military memes. Please enjoy them.


1. This was a surprise (via Coast Guard Memes).

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

2. Ugh, I still get the ghost weapon panic every once in a while (via The Salty Soldier).

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

3. “Welcome to the advancement exam. There’s a good chance you’ll make sergeant this time.”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
They should’ve made him walk into an Army promotion board like that.

4. Always be ready to lay waste to your enemies, especially at PTA meetings (via Pop Smoke).

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Now you have to have a few kids so that you can properly crew the weapon.

5. The perfect cream to help with Navy service (via Sh-t my LPO says).

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Might want to buy it out of pocket, though. Chief will get suspicious if he notices someone ordered it through the Navy.

6. “That’s it? All of it?”

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

7. OMG, Navy. If you lifted more, you would be able to get out (via Pop Smoke).

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Never go on land alone, sailors.

8. He has lots of sensitive parts, mostly areas of soft tissue and cartilage (via Military Memes).

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Don’t try to get away. It’ll only get worse.

9. We have all sorts of games and prizes (via Pop Smoke).

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

10. Speak softly and carry a few nuclear reactor-powered sticks.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Prepare the be #wrekt.

11. The Air Force needs luggage, not rucks (via Military Memes).

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

12. Funny thing is, she’ll probably still reenlist (via Hey Shipmate).

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

13. “This is a training program, right?”

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

Articles

That time the US Army attacked veterans because they wanted their benefits

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow


Nearly 17,000 World War I veterans and some of their families had made camp on the shore of the Anacostia River south of Capitol Hill by the summer of 1932. They were all unemployed, and many of them had been so since the start of the Great Depression in 1929. They wanted the money the government had promised them as a function of their wartime service, and they wanted it immediately.

But the benefit they were due was a little more complicated than that. In 1924 Congress overrode a veto by President Calvin Coolidge and passed the World War Adjusted Compensation Act. According to the act each veteran was to receive a dollar for each day of domestic service, up to a maximum of $500, and $1.25 for each day of overseas service, up to a maximum of $625 (about $7,899 in current dollars). Amounts of $50 or less were immediately paid. All other amounts were issued as Certificates of Service maturing in 20 years.

3,662,374 military service certificates were issued, with a face value of $3.638,000,000 ($43.7 billion today). Congress established a trust fund to receive 20 annual payments of $112 million that, with interest, would finance the 1945 disbursement of the $3.638 billion due the veterans. Meanwhile, veterans could borrow up to 22.5 percent of the certificate’s face value from the fund.

But in 1931, because of the Great Depression, Congress increased the maximum value of such loans to 50 percent of the certificate’s face value.

Although there was congressional support for the immediate redemption of the military service certificates, President Hoover and Republican congressmen opposed such action on the grounds that the government would have to increase taxes to cover the costs of the payout, and that would slow down any potential recovery.

On June 15, 1932, the House of Representatives passed the Wright Patman Bonus Bill which would have moved forward the date for World War I veterans to receive their cash bonus, but two days later the Senate defeated the bill by a vote of 62-18.

The Bonus Army, as the veteran squatters were known, decided to protest the Senate vote by marching from Anacostia to Capitol Hill. Once the march was over a number of vets decided not to return to Anacostia and instead they set up camp on Capitol Hill. They lived there for over a month waiting for lawmakers or President Hoover to do something on their behalf.

On July 28, 1932, Attorney General William D. Mitchell ordered the police to remove the Bonus Army veterans from their camp on Capitol Hill, and during that effort the vets rushed two policemen trapped on the second floor of a building. The cornered police drew their revolvers and shot at the veterans, two of which, William Hushka and Eric Carlson, later died.

When President Hoover heard about the incident he ordered the U.S. Army to evict the Bonus Army from Washington DC. The task fell to the 12th Infantry Regiment, commanded by one General Douglas MacArthur, who was supported by six tanks, under the charge of one Major George S. Patton who was attached to the 3rd Calvary Regiment.

When the vets saw the Army force they cheered, thinking they were there to support their cause. But MacArthur quickly showed them that wasn’t the case. The Army waded into the vets with tear gas and fixed bayonets. The vets retreated back to Anacostia, and President Hoover ordered the Army to stop the eviction. However General MacArthur, in a move that foretold his infamous showdown with President Truman years later during the Korean War, ignored Hoover’s order and continued his assault on the Bonus Army.

Fifty-five veterans were injured and 135 arrested. A veteran’s wife miscarried. A 12-week-old boy died in the hospital after being caught in the tear gas attack. The veteran shantytown was burned to the ground.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

MacArthur later explained his actions by saying that he thought that the Bonus March was an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.

Though the Bonus Army incident did not derail the careers of the military officers involved, it proved politically disastrous for Hoover. He lost the 1932 election in a landslide to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

MGM released the movie “Gabriel Over the White House” in March 1933, the month Roosevelt was sworn in as president. Produced by William Randolph Hearst’s Cosmopolitan Pictures, it depicted a fictitious President Hammond who, in the film’s opening scenes, refuses to deploy the military against a march of the unemployed and instead creates an “Army of Construction” to work on public works projects until the economy recovers.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt quipped that the movie’s treatment of veterans was superior to Hoover’s.

Now: Bradley Cooper’s new movie is about how inflatable tanks fooled the Nazis

Articles

Attack helicopter lands and asks for directions

Well, that’s something you don’t see everyday. A group of truckers in Kazakhstan were surprised when an Mi-8 helicopter with attached rocket pods landed on the road, halting traffic.


The drivers waited as one of the pilots climbed out and asked a quick question before waving, running back to the bird, and taking off again.

According to RT, the drivers are getting a good laugh on the radios after they realize what has happened:
“They were lost,” says a voice on the convoy radio, failing to suppress his laughter. “He came to ask which way to Aktobe.”

“How can you get lost in the steppe? How the hell can you get lost in the steppe?” says another incredulous voice.

According to the Kazakhstan Ministry of Defense, the pilots were on a planned visual-orienteering mission to test their navigation skills, including human survey. Since the pilots made it back after asking for directions, their mission was a success.

Even if it made them a bit of a joke between the truck drivers.

(H/T The Aviationist)

Articles

This is how DARPA’s new robotic co-pilot helps reduce workload

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
DARPA image


The Pentagon’s research arm is now demonstrating an entirely new level of aircraft autonomy which blends the problem-solving ability of the human mind with computerized robotic functions.

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, program is called Aircrew Labor in Cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS.

A key concept behind ALIAS involves a recognition that while human cognition is uniquely suited to problem solving and things like rapid reactions to fast-changing circumstances, there are many procedural tasks which can be better performed by computers, DARPA developers told Scout Warrior.

Also Read: 5 fictional planes we wish were real

ALIAS uses a software backbone designed with open interfaces along with a pilot-operated touchpad and speech recognition software. Pilots can use a touch screen or voice command to direct the aircraft to perform functions autonomously.

For instance, various check-list procedures and safety protocols such as engine status, altitude gauges, lights, switches and levers, can be more rapidly, safely and efficiently performed autonomously by computers.

“This involves the routine tasks that humans need to do but at times find mundane and boring. The ALIAS system is designed to be able to take out those dull mission requirements such as

check lists and monitoring while providing a system status to the pilot. The pilot can concentrate on the broader mission at hand,” Mark Cherry, an executive with Aurora Flight Sciences, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The aircraft is able to perform a wide range of functions, such as activating emergency procedures, pitching, rolling, monitoring engine check lights, flying autonomously to pre-determined locations or “waypoints,” maneuvering and possibly employing sensors – without every move needing human intervention.

Developers explain that ALIAS, which has already been demonstrated by DARPA industry partners Lockheed Martin and Aurora Flight Sciences, can be integrated into a wide range of aircraft such as B-52s or large civilian planes.

Initial configurations of ALIAS include small aircraft such as a Cessna 208 Caravan, Diamond DA42 and Bell UH-1 helicopters, Cherry explained. The ALIAS system is able learn and operate on both single engine and dual-engine aircraft.

Both Lockheed and Aurora Flight Sciences have demonstrated ALIAS; DARPA now plans to conduct a Phase III down-select where one of the vendors will be chosen to continue development of the project.

As algorithms progress to expand into greater “artificial intelligence” functions, computers with increasingly networked and rapid processors are able to organize, gather, distill and present information by themselves. This allows for greater human-machine interface, reducing what is referred to as the “cognitive burden” upon pilots.

There are some existing sensors, navigational systems and so-called “fly-by-wire” technologies which enable an aircraft to perform certain functions by itself. ALIAS, however, takes autonomy and human-machine interface to an entirely new level by substantially advancing levels of independent computer activity.

In fact, human-machine interface is a key element of the Army-led Future Vertical Lift next-generation helicopter program planning to field a much more capable, advanced aircraft sometime in the 2030s.

It is certainly conceivable that a technology such as ALIAS could prove quite pertinent to these efforts; a Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration Army ST program is already underway as a developmental step toward engineering this future helicopter. The intention of the FVL requirement, much like ALIAS, is to lessen the cognitive burden upon pilots, allowing them to focus upon and prioritize high-priority missions.

The human brain therefore functions in the role of command and control, directing the automated system to then perform tasks on its own, Cherry said.

“Help reduce pilot workload and increase safety in future platforms,” Cherry said.

Aircraft throttle, actuation systems and yokes are all among airplane functions able to be automated by ALIAS.

“It uses beyond line of sight communication which is highly autonomous but still flies like a predator or a reaper,” John Langford, CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, told Defense Systems in an interview.

Due to its technological promise and success thus far, ALIAS was given an innovation award recently at the GCN Dig IT awards.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why gladiators of Rome didn’t die as often as you thought

Flamma, Spartacus, and Carpophorus are just a few of the deadly gladiators that saw many victories while fighting in Rome’s famous arenas.


The vicious sport of gladiator fighting was just as popular back then as boxing and MMA are today. Gladiator combat was much more gangsta, though. Crowds would swarm to see mighty warriors beat the crap out of one another until only one man was left standing — or the match ended in a draw.

Most people believe that once you stepped foot into one of Rome’s great arenas, chances were, you weren’t coming out alive.

That’s almost true.

Related: These 4 Gurkha stories will make you want to forge your own kukri knife

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Gladiators from the Zliten mosaic.

Some historians believe the gladiator games started as ceremonial offerings, as a way to provide entertainment at wealthy aristocrats’ funerals. It’s reported, that roughly only one in nine of the competitions ended in death. Many of the warriors who lost the bloody brawls were granted mercy — for financial reasons.

“If a gladiator was lost in the arena, that represented an enormous loss of an investment.” Professor Michael J. Carter explains.

If a rented gladiator was killed in the games, the sponsor was looking to forfeit nearly 50 times the cost of the rental.

Also Read: This soldier took on enemy troops with the sword that took off his arm

In fact, gladiators were the sports celebrities of their time and were awarded exclusive access to the best doctors and trainers to prepare them for the next bout.

Regardless of the quality treatment, however, a majority of gladiators would eventually fall in the arena — or they earned their freedom.

However, even in death, many of the gladiators lived on as stories engraved onto ancient Roman halls and statues.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Spartacus was a rebel gladiator who raised an army against Rome.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video below to get the complete breakdown of how these ancient warriors were treated.

 

Articles

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

The Russian Navy turned 320 on July 31, and The Motherland marked the occasion with massive parades and displays of firepower at the homeports of the country’s three major fleets.


A video posted by RT (@rt) on Jul 31, 2016 at 9:19am PDT

The celebrations centered on Saint Petersburg, where the Baltic Fleet is based, Sevastopol, the home of the Black Sea Fleet and Vladivistok, the main Pacific Fleet base.

During the celebration, Russian sailors marched through city streets in parades across the country. But the big shows were on the country’s waters as ships passed in procession.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
(Photo: Russian Ministry of Defence Twitter)

Marines also got into the action with displays of their capabilities and equipment, some driving amphibious vehicles off ships and right into the reviewing areas.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
(Photo: Russian Ministry of Defence Facebook)

Russia first established a formal navy under Tsar Peter the Great in 1696. In the over 300 years since then, it has undergone a number of changes from the Imperial Navy to the Soviet Navy to today’s Russian Federation Navy.

The navy is very important to Russian defense and power projection, analysts say. Russia has approximately 2.5 times as much coastline as it has land borders, according to a guide from the Russian Office of Naval Intelligence.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
The current Russian carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. (Photo: Mil.ru)

Despite the navy’s prestige in Russia, the military branch faces a lot of problems.

Its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is outdated and in ill repair. It often needs an oceangoing tug to accompany it on long trips in case it breaks down. Its plumbing is also bad, leading to uncomfortable conditions for the crew.

Meanwhile, Russia has pitched an ambitious plan for a new carrier fleet and other navy modernization efforts, but low oil prices and a shortage of skilled shipbuilding talent and facilities are slowing the work.

Articles

Russia is making a big push to militarize the Arctic

The Arctic could become the location of the next phase of an arms race between the United States and Russia – and the Russians have taken an early lead.


According to a report by Reuters, Russian military assets, including Cold War-era bases in the Arctic, are being brought back into service as Vladimir Putin makes a play to control what could be massive reserves of oil. The Russian build-up reportedly includes effort to winterize modern weapons, like the Su-34 “Fullback” strike aircraft and the MiG-31 “Foxhound” interceptor.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Photo: Wikimedia

According to Globalsecurity.org, the Su-34 is capable of carrying up to eight tons of weapons or a dozen air-to-air missiles, has a crew of two, and saw some combat action over Syria. The Fullback is slated to replace Su-24 Fencers currently serving with the Russian Air Force and Russian Naval Aviation. That site also notes that the MiG-31, an improved development of the MiG-25 Foxbat interceptor, also has a two-person crew, and is capable of firing the AA-9 “Amos” air-to-air missile, which has a range of just under 100 miles. The Foxhound has been upgraded with a new radar.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
Ranker.com

Also included in the buildup are new icebreakers – including three nuclear-powered icebreakers according to a 2014 World Nuclear News report. In 2015, Port News reported that construction had started on two conventionally-powered icebreakers, while the Barents Observer reported in 2014 that the LK-25 would be delayed by up to two years from a planned delivery date of 2015.

Port News reported in December 2016 that the vessel, now named Viktor Chernomyrdin, wouldn’t be completed until sometime in 2018.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
The Russian nuclear icebreaker ’50 let Pobedy’ in the Arctic. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The British news agency noted that the push comes even though a combination of economic sanctions and low oil prices have shelved Russian plans to explore for some of the massive oil and natural gas reserves in the Arctic.

Articles

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Fifty-one years after saving a squad of U.S. Marines from walking into an ambush by Viet Cong, Don Medley walked into a surprise gathering organized to honor him.


Members of the squadron Medley saved May 12, 1966, gathered Friday at Stone Hearth restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a surprise dinner. Medley, a former U.S. Army Warrant Officer, had believed he and his wife, Dianne, were meeting one of the Marine veterans, Earl Davis, and his wife, Claudia, for dinner.

In reality, three other men Medley saved, along with their wives, were waiting to meet him. Those honoring him traveled from South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee.

“I told my wife that one day I’d like to meet some of the guys on the ground that I helped,” Medley said. “This is the day.”

Medley, of Hodgenville, appeared stunned and overwhelmed by the handshakes, hugs and greetings he received as he stood near the doorway of the room reserved for the occasion.

“Thank you, for my wife and kids,” one man said.

The words “thank you” repeatedly resounded in the room that held a dining table adorned with a centerpiece of white flowers highlighted with small U.S. flags. Placemats also were emblazoned with U.S. flags.

“This is such an honor for me,” Medley said, his voice wavering as he received gifts of gratitude. “It’s unbelievable.”

Like other members of Bravo Company of 1st Marine Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Earl Davis had wondered over the years who the Cessna pilot who saved them was. After an article was published in Vietnam magazine last year, Medley’s identity became known.

Davis received contact information for Medley on Dec. 26. He decided to coordinate the surprise gathering.

During the gathering, Medley recounted the day he was flying his Cessna over a rice paddy and noticed Marines advancing toward a trench line holding enemy forces. He dropped a smoke grenade on which he had scrawled a brief message warning the Marines, but they continued to advance.

He soon noticed there were more enemies in a tree line, making the number much larger. He dropped a second smoke grenade warning them and included the words, “I’m calling Arty,” referring to notifying artillery. His message saved them, the men said.

“We’ve been looking for this guy for over 50 years,” Ray Maurer said. “I just broke up when I saw him.”

Maurer and his wife, Bernadette, made the trip from Georgia.

Carl Whipple of Tennessee attended the gathering with wife, Myrtle Ruth.

“We all wanted the opportunity to meet him,” he said.

Whipple described the experience as heartfelt and said it was “a God thing” that sent Medley to fly over the squad 51 years ago.

“We’re indebted,” he said.

Dan Ferrell of Missouri said the gathering was a much-needed opportunity to express his thanks to Medley.

“I’ve never been able to put this behind me,” said Ferrell, who has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medley was presented with a watch that was set at 10:30, the approximate time he dropped the first smoke grenade. He also was given mementos including a framed collection of items, among which was a signed letter of thanks.

Choking up in the process, Davis read the letter during the presentation. Later, he said the emotion he felt at that time summed up what he was feeling and how special the occasion was.

“It means a whole hell of a lot,” he said.

Similarly, Medley visibly was moved during the gathering and said the items he received will be displayed with honor in his den.

“It’s overwhelming,” Medley said. “This vindicates my whole year in Vietnam.”

Articles

The Air Force made a $25 billion ‘oopsie’

In a report to Congress last year, the Air Force estimated the cost of the new Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB) to be $33.1 billion for the next ten years. This year, that price ballooned to $58.2 billion.


The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

The amount of the gap is so large, it caught the attention of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who immediately demanded answers from Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh. How does the Air Force explain the $25 billion error? It says the cost should have actually been $41.7 billion, but human error was the explanation for the discrepancy.

Welsh insists he was caught off guard as well. It was just a multi-billion dollar oopsie, people.

“We were surprised by the number when we saw it as well once it had been pointed out to us that it looked like the number had grown because we’ve been using the same number,” Welsh said.

The Air Force has a history of bait-and-switch budgeting when it comes to developing new aircraft. The Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is famously over budget (it’s the most expensive weapons program ever) and underperforming. The Air Force’s most recent fighter program, the dogfighting-optimized F-22 Raptor, produced 187 units between 1996 and 2011 at the cost of $157 million each. The Raptor wasn’t used in combat until 2014.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

The LSRB is estimated to cost $500 million per plane, with a total cost of $55 billion to replace the USAF’s 77 aging B-52 (first developed in 1955) and 21 B-2 (1989) bombers.

NOW: How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

OR: The F-35B Can Take Off Like An Olympic Ski Jumper Now 

Articles

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

Julian Scadden, by his own admission, was not always all that likable.  He had some rough edges.


“I didn’t use to be a nice guy,” he said. “In fact, I use to be a bouncer.  I would take out my frustrations by throwing guys out of the bar.  I’m 5-foot-4 and I just loved throwing big guys out of the bar.”

But that was a long time ago.  The 67-year-old Vietnam-Era Veteran now spends his days doing quieter work.  He’s a housekeeping aide at the Denver VA’s Community Living Center. But his custodial skills are not his primary contribution to the hospital.   Over the last nine years Scadden has developed another skill:  comforting Veterans in their final hours.

Good Instincts

“Julian is an incredibly important part of our care team here,” said Dr. Elizabeth Holman, a palliative care psychologist who works with Scadden. “He has an instinct for what people need when they’re nearing the end.  Sometimes they just need his quiet presence.  Sometimes they need words of encouragement.  He’s just so ‘present’ with these Veterans.  He makes them feel safe.”

He’s so humble…he doesn’t realize the tremendous value of his services, and of his heart.

She continued:  “It makes such a difference, to spend your last moments with someone who is kind and caring. And it’s such a comfort to family members, knowing that their loved one wasn’t alone when they died.”

“I didn’t think I would be any good at it,” Scadden admitted. “I didn’t think I could handle it. But they give you training.”

Scadden’s training, however, got off to a rough start.  At one point his trainers began to wonder if he really had the ‘right stuff’ to become a member of the Denver VA’s Compassion Corps  —the volunteers who spend time with dying Veterans.

“They had their doubts about me,” he said.  “During training they told me I was doing everything right except one thing.  I said, ‘What’s that?’  They said, ‘You have to learn how to talk to people!'”

It was a sad truth.  Scadden’s people skills had become a bit rusty.  He had plenty of compassion, but it was hidden somewhere deep inside where no one could see it.

“I had to learn to be polite,” he said.

And so he learned.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

Of Ducks and Water

“I’m glad they were patient with me during the training,” said the Army Veteran.  “Once I completed the training they just put me out there and I took to it like a duck to water.  And it’s made me a better person, to be honest with you.  I think this is my calling.  This is what my higher power wants me to do.”

But not all patients — even those who are dying — believe in a higher power.  And that’s okay with Scadden.

“My very first patient didn’t believe in a higher power,” he recalled. “But about a week before he died, he told me to thank my higher power for allowing me to be there with him.”

Scadden said that during his nine years of hospice work he’s seen some patients get very angry at what’s happening to them.  Some get mean.  Some get abusive.

“You see every kind of scenario,” he said.  “Some of them are just scared, or confused.  They don’t want to die. They’ll ask things like, ‘Why me?’   They feel like they’ve led a good life, and they don’t understand why they have to go through all this suffering.”

Other patients, as the end nears, slip quietly into a coma.  Scadden said this can be unsettling for some family members, who feel they can no longer communicate with their loved one.

“Just because their eyes are closed doesn’t mean they can’t hear you,” he said.  “I try to explain that to the family.  I tell them, ‘Talk to him, tell him you love him, because he can still hear you.”

Articles

An adversary pilot was rescued after ejecting off San Diego coast

A Navy helicopter crew rescued a civilian pilot who ejected from a contracted fighter jet off the coast near Point Loma August 22, Navy and Coast Guard officials said.


The pilot ejected safely from the single-seat Hawker Hunter jet, for unknown reasons, roughly 115 miles off the coast, Navy officials said. No information about the pilot’s condition was available.

The Navy-contracted plane had participated in a pre-deployment training exercise for the ships of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, Navy officials said. The Composite Training Unit Exercise, which tests the strike group’s deployment readiness, began earlier this month, according to the Navy.

The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the Arabian Gulf. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alex Millar.

The Coast Guard was summoned about 4:30 p.m. to assist in the pilot’s rescue, but a helicopter crew assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 6 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt hoisted the pilot out of the ocean before a Coast Guard helicopter crew responded, officials said.

The pilot was taken to Naval Medical Center San Diego for a medical evaluation.

In the past, Hawker Hunter jets have been contracted by the Navy to play the role of an enemy aircraft in offshore training.

In two instances, in October 2014 and May 2012, the pilots who assisted in the training exercises crashed in a field near Naval Station Ventura County as they prepared to land. Both pilots died.