5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam's jungles - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Anyone who’s ever deployed can tell you there’s more to worry about in the field than just the enemy. While of course the North Vietnamese were the primary concern of American troops in the Vietnam War, just being in the jungle presented an entirely unexpected series of its own challenges – like giant centipedes.


Rumors persisted about things like fragging, rampant drug use, and even the appearance of Bigfoot in Vietnam. But when US troops weren’t earning the Medal of Honor while completely stoned, they were fighting off things that only previously appeared in their nightmares.

Related: This is the story of US troops who think they saw Bigfoot in Vietnam

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Bring on the flamethrower.

Giant insects

As seen in the cover photo of this post, the creepy crawlers of the jungle have the space and the food necessary to grow to an insane level. That guy in the photo is Scolopendra subspinipes, also known as the Vietnamese centipede, Chinese redhead, or Jungle Centipede. It’s extremely aggressive, and its venomous bite hurts like hell, sources say. But the fun doesn’t stop with centipedes, giant scorpions were also known to bother American troops in bivouac.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Weaver ants

Imagine you’re in some kind of tank or armored vehicle, busting down trees in the jungle when suddenly, you bust down the wrong tree, one filled with a nest of red ants. These buggers were reportedly immune to the issued bug spray and, given the choice between NVA small arms fire and dealing with red ants in the tank, tank crews would either bail on the tank or man the vehicle completely naked. They were often referred to as “communist ants” because they were red in color and never seemed to attack the Vietnamese.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Very pretty, but also what the KGB used to kill dissidents.

Debilitating plants

Troops in Vietnam were sometimes lifted right up out of troop carriers and other vehicles by low-hanging vines that seemed innocent at first, but as soon as they were touched, constricted around an unsuspecting driver, grabbing them by the arms or neck. They became known as the “wait-a-minute” vines. But that’s just the beginning.

Vietnam’s most beautiful trees and flowers are also its deadliest. Heartbreak Grass, Flame Lillies, Twisted Cord Flowers, and Bark Cloth Trees are all powerful enough to kill a human or cause blindness upon contact or accidental ingestion, which is more common than one might think.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Bring that flamethrower back over here.

Venomous snakes

You know what kinds of animals love a hot, humid place with lots of shade? Reptiles and amphibians, both of which Vietnam has in droves. Vietnam has so many snakes, American troops were advised to just assume they were all deadly – because most of them are. The country is filled with Cobras, Kraits, Vipers, and more. The snakes that weren’t venomous were all giant constrictors, still very capable of murdering you in your jungle sleep.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Yes, troops were mauled by tigers.

Large wildlife

Since we’re talking about giant jungle snakes, we should discuss the other giant creatures that inhabit the wilds of Vietnam. Southeast Asia is also home to aggressive tiger species, leopards, and bears. Those are just the traditional predators. There are also elephants, water buffaloes, and gaurs, giant cows, who will go on a murder rampage that an M-16 isn’t likely to stop.

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How the voice of Optimus Prime was inspired by a Marine

Peter Cullen is now known to fans around the world as the voice of Optimus Prime — leader of the Autobots in the The Transformers cartoon, video game and film series. The voice and character traits of Optimus are rooted in Marine values and leadership. Here is the story.

Cullen, born and raised in Montreal, Canada to Irish-Catholic parents learned many great lessons and had a wonderful upbringing with his siblings. He grew up skating from the age of 2 or 3. The winters in Montreal were extremely harsh with tens of feet of snowfall making some East Coast winters look mild. His siblings Michela, Larry and Sonny were post-war kids that enjoyed different sports such as hockey, boxing and baseball. Larry was Peter’s hero growing up where Larry was a great boxer and was quite tall. Cullen said, “Larry had a sensitive nose so in boxing matches I would hit his nose to bloody him where it looked like I was getting the better of him. Larry grabbed me and said, ‘Peter if you keep this up I am really going to hurt you,’ of course when he hit me with his gloves it was like being hit by a sand bag.” 

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Larry and Peter Cullen. Photo courtesy of Peter Cullen.

Peter shared, “Larry was my hero from the very beginning. His personality stayed the same throughout his life. He was noble, courageous and had integrity specifically being honest to the heart and Corps. My brother had Marine Corps strength actually built into him.” Cullen stated that these values and athletic skills were instilled in him by their parents. Both parents were athletes. His mother was an all-American hockey player in college and his dad was a distance runner for Boston University where he was the captain of the team. Roger Bannister beat Cullen’s father’s record for the mile. Cullen’s parents were dignified and demanded respect from their children. Cullen said, “We were taught to be honest and truthful. That is ingrained in you. My Jesuit training from Loyola helped as well.” His parents were loving, giving and conservative in raising them. Cullen recalled, “When my mom walked into the room we stood to attention.” Cullen’s father also used humor throughout his daily life. 

His brother Larry joined the Marines before the U.S. entered the Vietnam War. His brother thought that getting out of college he wanted to continue playing football and planned to do so for the Marine Corps. Once Larry joined the Corps the Vietnam War began to pick up pace. He was trained in Quantico, VA as an officer. Larry served in Vietnam as an infantry officer with K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. His personal awards include the Bronze Star with a “V”, two purple hearts with gold stars and the Combat Action Ribbon. Cullen shared, “Once he graduated from officer training, he was informed he was going to be on his way to Vietnam. Our father worked in the international newspaper business and was going to be worried about his son.”

 Cullen recalled being a radio station announcer in Montreal for the Milk Man’s Matinee from midnight until 6 am. He would get the paper through the teletype machines then put a record on. Once, he saw news come through on Operations Hasting. Cullen stated, “I was reading about the Marines there where the NVA was coming through and executing officers in the field…Larry had a one in four chance of survival when talking about the situation.” He wanted to intercept the newspaper going to his home and rushed home so his father wouldn’t read it. He said, “…my father eventually did read the paper in his office downtown and had a stroke. That is how concerned he was for Larry.” Larry survived and was awarded the Bronze Star with a “V” during Operations Hastings and his father eventually recovered.

Cullen shared, “I went to five or six reunions with Larry for his Marine unit from Vietnam. I was a speaker at one of them telling jokes and making them laugh…a great bunch of guys there. There is a special aura about Marines where you can pick them out….They are the most sincere wonderful people where these reunions reminded me of that and how special they were. Larry got a lot of joy out of being around his fellow grunts.” He believes Marines share a powerful message when they are around. Being around Larry’s friends from the Corps means a lot to him, “I talk to several of them where they are starting to go. I still remain in contact with Larry’s platoon leaders and his enlisted men. Larry became a captain and was stationed in Camp Pendleton where I met a lot of them….the feeling of being around Marines echoes through me.”

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Larry during days in the Corps. Photo courtesy of Peter Cullen.

Cullen began his entertainment career doing summer stock during the senior year of high school. He took the place of an actor that got sick and was initially building sets and scenery. He enjoyed doing the role and then pursued an acting career going to The National Theatre School of Canada. Cullen studied Shakespeare, Chekhov and Eugene O’Neil. He had parts in West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie and then The King and I in Winnipeg. He had the lead in Bye Bye Birdie. He worked in repertory theatre in Montreal and came back to Montreal to transition over to radio when Kennedy had just been assassinated. He took a job at a gas station before long and then was working at a radio station. 

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Cullen as Optimus Prime in Transformers, 2007. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.

Cullen and Larry became friends with famous comedian and actor Jonathan Winters. Winters served in the Marines in the Pacific during World War II and left the Corps as a Corporal. Winters positively influenced many of the great comedians of today, including Robin Williams, and passed back in 2013. Larry introduced Winters’ comedy records to Cullen back in the 1950s. Winters shared a lot about his Marine stories and past with the brothers. They would spend up to ten hours talking at a time together. Winters met Cullen on a special show with the famous comedian. Winters met Cullen on a special show with the famous comedian. Winters and Cullen lived near each other and continued their friendship. Larry moved out to Los Angeles in the early 80s, so the two Cullen brothers and Winters spent a lot of time together. Winters would exhaust Larry with laughter — they would have to go home after laughing so hard because of his antics. 

Cullen was a regular on the The Sonny and Cher Show. Winters invited Cullen to work with him on a special, which humbled Cullen as it was the, “…greatest of honors to be even considered.” He worked on The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show as well. He wanted a normal family, moved out to the country and did voice acting. This led to him working as a voice actor for cartoons, promos for network TV, movie trailers and narration for films. Cullen has done more cartoons than anything else. He said, “Kids remember my voice from the different cartoons I worked on. I can’t even remember doing the voice.” Adults ask him to sign pictures for him for cartoon characters he doesn’t even remember voicing. He shared, “Lessons in humility come hard and often in showbiz,” which reflects the difficulty of working in the business. 

Cullen talked about how Optimus Prime came about. “My character in The Transformers for Optimus Prime came from Larry. I did not know that many Marines back in 1984; they always had that sense of dignity and honor built into them. There is something special about Marines.” He was called by his agent for an audition for the leader of these toys, called The Transformers. He was to play the leader which was a big semi-truck. His brother was staying with him at the time. Cullen needed to use the only car they had for this audition. He informed Larry he was going to an audition to play the voice of a hero truck and Larry responded, “That’s a heck of a way to make a living.” Cullen informed him that the character was a good guy and Larry replied, “If you are going to be a leader, be a real leader not a Hollywood leader with the yelling and screaming and pretending to be a tough guy. Be sincere, be honest, be respectful….be strong enough to be gentle.” Larry’s voice got deep and quiet when he said, “Be strong enough to be gentle.” His delivery surprised Cullen and he thanked his older brother for the advice.

When he got to the audition his paper stated that he was, “Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, but it could have said my name is Larry Cullen, leader of the…” The voice just came out where the whole persona was Larry and was a Marine, “…the character was just a great guy.” Two weeks later Cullen’s agent contacted him to let him know he’d gotten the role. Cullen informed his older brother about him being the basis for the character – – Larry was now a cartoon. Cullen’s loyalty and admiration he had for his brother is a great part of his life. 

Cullen shared, “The Marine Corps definitely stands out to me from the other branches of services in the way it has affected me. Through the experience I have had with Larry and the Marines of his platoons and Marines from other units…there is a sense of dignity, honor and integrity that does not require many words or attitude.” Cullen further adds, “It is a built-in sense of confidence and sense of respect where it is a ‘been there done that’ without snubbing and without conceit. It is a sense of earned honor…and so well deserved for the amount of intensity that a Marine feels from the very beginning of their training through their service. It is just pervasive…the sense of truth that a Marine has to the team he is with and to himself. There is no other way to describe, it is just being a Marine, different from everybody else. Just different.” Cullen strongly feels that Marines are just, “…special.”

A person wearing a hat

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A picture of Larry and his medals earned in the Corps. Photo courtesy of Peter Cullen.

Cullen was invited on the USS Reagan aircraft carrier by Michael Reagan recently. He got to meet the captain of the ship and take a photo with the crew. He is humbled by, “how this character Optimus Prime has touched the hearts of so many people in the military.” Cullen is happy and fulfilled with his legacy he is leaving behind with his acting work, his family and he left a legacy for his brother and those that served with him. He said, “Being interviewed by the Marines is the honor of all honors. I am grateful that you requested to interview me and how proud I am to be a part of this. Thank you.”  

Cullen said that his brother Larry was quiet about his service in Vietnam and did not say much. Larry shared a funny story once about boot camp where he had brushed a sand fly away from his face and the DI had him dig a grave to bury it. Once Larry had buried the sand fly the DI asked, “what direction was he facing?” Larry did not remember the direction and had to dig the sand fly back up. Larry told Cullen that, “…if you try to join the Marine Corps I will break both of your legs.” Larry believed Cullen was placed on this earth to make people laugh and to entertain them. Cullen tried to sign up for the Corps however the recruiting office was closed for the day — Larry was very upset at him. 

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker) vs. Optimus Prime (voiced by Cullen) in The Transformers: The Movie, 1986. Photo courtesy of i-mockey.com.

Cullen began his entertainment career doing summer stock during the senior year of high school. He took the place of an actor that got sick and was initially building sets and scenery. He enjoyed doing the role and then pursued an acting career going to The National Theatre School of Canada. Cullen studied Shakespeare, Chekhov and Eugene O’Neil. He had parts in West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie and then The King and I in Winnipeg. He had the lead in Bye Bye Birdie. He worked in repertory theatre in Montreal and came back to Montreal to transition over to radio when Kennedy had just been assassinated. He took a job at a gas station before long and then was working at a radio station. 

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker) vs. Optimus Prime (voiced by Cullen) in The Transformers: The Movie, 1986. Photo courtesy of i-mockey.com.

Winters invited Cullen to move out to California to work with him. Cullen was a regular on the The Sonny and Cher Show. Winters invited Cullen to work with him on a special, which humbled Cullen as it was the, “…greatest of honors to be even considered.” He worked on The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show as well. He wanted a normal family, moved out to the country and did voice acting. This led to him working as a voice actor for cartoons, promos for network TV, movie trailers and narration for films. Cullen has done more cartoons than anything else. He said, “Kids remember my voice from the different cartoons I worked on. I can’t even remember doing the voice.” Adults ask him to sign pictures for him for cartoon characters he doesn’t even remember voicing. He shared, “Lessons in humility come hard and often in showbiz,” which reflects the difficulty of working in the business. 

Peter Cullen
Winters with Cullen on the beach back in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of Peter Cullen

In closing Cullen stated, “Wherever a Marine is, they are distinct and are unchangeable where truth is with them. I can tell you (the interviewer) are a Marine.” Cullen ended the call with, “Semper Fi my friend.”

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
An image showing Cullen alongside many of his voice creations, Optimus Prime included. Photo courtesy of Twitter.com.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Flags are now at half-mast to honor First Lady Barbara Bush

At outposts in Afghanistan and Iraq, on all the ships at sea, and wherever troops serve worldwide, flags are being flown at half-staff to honor the passing of former First Lady and military spouse Barbara Bush.

President Donald Trump called Mrs. Bush a “woman of character” in issuing the order that flags be flown at half-staff at all military installations.


“On this solemn day, we mourn the loss of Barbara Bush, an outstanding and memorable woman of character,” Trump said. “As a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, military spouse, and former First Lady, Mrs. Bush was an advocate of the American family.”

Bush, wife of the former President George H.W. Bush and mother of former President George W. Bush, died April 17, 2018, at age 92 at the family home in Houston, Texas. She was a Navy wife in World War II as her husband served in the Pacific.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Former First Lady Barbara Bush.

Mrs. Bush was only the second woman in American history to have a son follow his father to the White House. Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams, was the first.

In his statement, Trump said he was ordering flags flown at half-staff “at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations,” and “throughout the United States and its territories and possessions until sunset, on the day of interment.”

“I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations,” he said.

Articles

The US Navy might pull these old combat ships out of mothballs

In order to meet the goal of a Navy numbering 355 ships, Naval Sea Systems Command will consider resurrecting a number of retired combat vessels from the dead and refitting them for active service.


Though nothing has been set in stone just yet, some of the “younger” ships parked at the various Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facilities around the country could get a new lease on life, thanks to dialed-down purchases of Littoral Combat Ships and the next-generation Zumwalt class destroyer.

Upon decommissioning, warships are often stripped for reusable parts, and sensitive equipment and gear are removed, along with the ship’s weapon systems. Frigates, destroyers and cruisers could lose their deck guns, their radars, and electronics suites — some of which will be used as spare parts for active ships, and the rest of which will be stored until the Navy determines that it has absolutely no use for these retired vessels anymore, heralding the start of the process of their dismantling.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
The inactive USS Kitty Hawk berthed near Bremerton, WA (Wikimedia Commons)

A number of ships will also be sold to allied nations for parts or for active use.

Currently, the Navy retains less than 50 ships within its inactive “ghost” fleet, among them Oliver Hazard-Perry frigates, Ticonderoga guided missile cruisers, Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carriers, and a variety of other types, including fleet replenishment ships and amphibious assault ships.

Among the ships to be evaluated for a potential return to service are a handful of Oliver Hazard-Perry class frigates and the USS Kitty Hawk, a conventionally-powered super carrier mothballed in Bremerton, Washington.

The Kitty Hawk, now over 57 years old, is apparently the only carrier in the Navy’s inactive fleet worthy of consideration for a return to duty. Having been retired in 2009, the Kitty Hawk was modernized enough to support and field all Navy carrier-borne aircraft currently active today.

However, the ship has since been heavily stripped down; many of her combat systems destroyed or sent around the Navy for use with other vessels. The extensive refurbishment this 63,000 ton behemoth would have to undergo would likely prove to be the limiting factor in bringing it back to duty.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Navy has explored the possibility of returning mothballed ships to active duty. In fact, in the 1980s as part of then-President Reagan’s 600 Ship initiative, the Navy recommissioned the legendary WWII-era Iowa class battleships, three of which had been inactive since the late ’50s and one of which had been retired in the late ’60s. All four vessels underwent a costly multi-million dollar overhaul and were ushered back into service.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
An aerial view of the Bremerton Ghost Fleet, circa 2012 (Wikimedia Commons)

Two of these battleships — the Wisconsin and the Missouri — would go on to see action during the Persian Gulf War before being quickly retired in 1990 along with their sister ships, the Iowa and the New Jersey.

Bringing back the Hazard-Perry frigates could be far more of a distinct possibility than any of the other ships in the inactive fleet. With the Navy reducing its planned buy of LCS vessels, originally designed to be the successor to the Hazard-Perry boats, and constant engineering issues plaguing the active LCS fleet, a gap has gradually emerged with many clamoring for a more effective frigate-type vessel… or a return to the ships which were previously to be replaced.

A number of Hazard-Perry ships have indeed been sold for scrap, or have been earmarked for a transfer to allied nations, though a few still remain in the inactive reserve, ready to be revamped and returned to service should the need arise.

Ultimately, it will be the bean counters who determine the final fate of the ships in the ghost fleet, and whether or not un-retiring them is a viable option. The cost of refitting and overhauling these vessels to be able to stay relevant against more modern threats, including boat swarms, could prove to be too much for the Navy to foot, especially for a short term investment.

Further options could include hastening the construction of current combat vessels on-order, while retaining more of the older ships in the fleet for an extended service term. However, given the Navy’s needs at the moment, it’s safe to say that NAVSEA will give returning some of these old veterans back to duty serious consideration.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 injured in an explosion at an Army depot in Pennsylvania

At least three people have been injured in an explosion at a US Army depot in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

The blast took place at Letterkenny Army Depot around 7:15 a.m. July 19, 2018, and left the victims with serious burns.


Three people were airlifted to medical safety after the blast, the Franklin Fire Company said in a Facebook post.

It also said fire engines and trucks had arrived to fight a fire in one of the site’s buildings.

Two employees ran out of a building on the site screaming and on fire, with one of them showing chemical burns, the ABC 27 news channel reported, citing employees on the scene.

The explosion poses no threat to the public, the Franklin County Office of Emergency Management told Fox News.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

(U.S. Army photo)

A Facebook page for the depot also confirmed that an explosion had taken place and that there “were injuries,” though not how many. It added that the incident had been “contained.”

The posts about the explosion were later deleted.

The source of the explosion remains unknown. Employees are not being allowed back into into the depot for fear of more blasts to come, ABC27 said.

According to the depot’s Facebook page, the army depot helps “deliver superior maintenance, manufacturing, logistics, life cycle support and service worldwide to the Joint Warfighter and our International partners.”

Featured image: A satellite view of Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania. The depot is the large, brown building in the center of the image.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Video from inside a Russian bomber being intercepted by F-22s

On May 12, 2018, two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to intercept and visually identify two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flying off Alaska, north of the Aleutian Islands, in the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).

ADIZs may extend beyond a country’s territory to give the country more time to respond to possible hostile aircraft: in fact any aircraft flying inside these zones without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft.


According to NORAD, the Russians were “intercepted and monitored by the F-22s until the bombers left the ADIZ along the Aleutian Island chain heading west,” and, as usual, remained in international airspace.

Nothing special then, considered that these close encounters occur every now and then, as reported in 2017.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Alaska ADIZ detail

What’s a bit more interesting this time is the fact that the Russian Air Force has released some details and footage about the training activities conducted by its long range bombers. During the last round of “winter period” training, five long range missions were launched involving strategic missile carriers Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, as well as long-range Tu-22M3 bombers: these flights brought the Russian aircraft over the Pacific, the Arctic Ocean, Japan, East China, Black, Barents, Norwegian, Northern, Bering and Okhotsk Seas.

On May 12, 2018 mission off Alaska, the F-22s (that were filmed while shadowing the Bear, as the clip below shows) remained with the Tu-95s for 40 minutes.

“As for the last such flight, only one pair of US Air Force F-22 fighters have escorted our aircraft. Just one, it says that a certain effect of surprise has worked. Usually, during the execution of such flights, we are escorted to five or seven aircraft, while escorts are carried out by fighters of various states. I want to note that during this flight no one intercepted anyone. US Air Force planes accompanied our aircraft in the airspace over neutral waters. The pilots acted in the air correctly. No violations were recorded,” said commander of long-range aviation Lieutenant-General Sergei Kobylash in an article published by Zvezda.

While it’s somehow hard to believe that the large strategic bombers caught someone by surprise, the video is interesting, especially the short part where you can see a pair of F-22s from the window of a Russian Bear.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why car bombs are a terrorist go-to

A car is easily converted to a bomb.


Though the latest explosive ordnance tech may trace an innovation curve toward tiny/powerful similar to that of the smartphone, for the purposes of terrorism, a few sacks of the right garden-variety chemicals packed in a vehicle is all it takes to cause mass destruction and appalling casualties. A car bomber doesn’t even necessarily need to die behind the wheel to detonate it. He or she can live to attack again.

That was certainly Timothy McVeigh’s thinking on Apr. 19, 1995, when he lit timed fuses to a massive homemade explosive device in the yellow Ryder truck he’d parked in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The ensuing detonation, registered by seismometers at the nearby Omniplex Science Museum at approximately 3.0 on the Richter scale, destroyed one third of the building, killed 168 people (including 19 children) and wounded over 680 others.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Rescue workers scramble to find survivors after the bombing of the Edward P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

McVeigh’s truck bombing was, to date, the deadliest act of domestic terror in U.S. history. It was the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil prior to the September 11th attacks, which would eclipse the memory of McVeigh’s villainy just three months after he was executed by lethal injection on June 11th, 2001.

Terrible as it was, the Oklahoma City bombing paled in comparison to the strength and lethality of the 1983 car bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks at Beirut International Airport. In that attack, a suicide bomber drove a truck packed with over 2,000 lbs. of explosives directly into the heart of the facility.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
The barracks at Beirut International Airport, prior to bombing. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The blast, which FBI investigators later qualified as the largest non-nuclear detonation since WW2, killed 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and 3 soldiers. Estimated to have delivered an explosive force equivalent to 21,000 pounds of TNT, it was the largest car bomb ever detonated. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the building levitate off its support columns on a cloud of concussive fire before thundering down into a plinth of stratified rubble.

The 1st Battalion 8th Marines stationed there was part of a multinational peacekeeping force supervising the withdrawal of the Palestinian Liberation Organization from Beirut. Under the peacetime rules of engagement, security around the barracks was relatively light, with sentry’s weapons unloaded and on safe. However, given the size of the explosive device, investigators concluded that the barracks would have been destroyed even if the bomber had been stopped at the last checkpoint and detonated it there.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Search and rescue in the aftermath. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Converting cars into mass-casualty weapons has been repeatedly demonstrated as an effective, go-to tactic for insurgent forces and terror organizations. It works to create chaos and inflict collateral damage and serves to erode the momentum of the mission wherever the U.S. deploys its armed forces.

Also read: This former commander says you can’t just ‘Delta Force’ your way out of terrorism

But the sowing of terror has as much to do with the conversion aspect as the deaths that result from the bombs. The psychological shock of a terrorist act is heightened in the imaginations of those left alive by the awareness that a common token of peaceful, everyday life — a yellow box truck, a commercial jet, some dude’s underwear — has been turned, by fanatical human creativity, into a weapon of mass destruction. It’s a move tailor-made to mess with the mind of comfortable society. And even though it’s been happening with increasing frequency since the turn of the 20th century, the shock of the vehicle bomb never seems blunted or dulled, and the dread of it, never fully absorbed.

We can’t get used to the horror of it. To the moral mind, it smacks of such desperation and depravity, we won’t allow it to become normal. And in that, there’s some small hope to be had.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese ships shadow Navy in tense Taiwan Strait

Two US Navy warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam traversed the strait Oct. 22, 2018, US Pacific Fleet confirmed to Business Insider. The US Navy conducted a similar operation in July 2018, sending the destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold through the tense waterway.


The pair of US Navy warships conducted “a routine Taiwan Strait transit in accordance with international law,” Pacific Fleet spokesperson Lt. j.g. Rachel McMarr told BI, adding that the purpose of the mission was to demonstrate “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific” and to remind others that “the US Navy will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The latest move comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, which have been fighting over a variety of issues ranging from trade to territorial disputes.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

The US Navy Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer USS Curtis Wilber.


China, concerned that US military actions around Taiwan will embolden pro-independence factions on the self-ruled island, has bolstered its military presence in the area in 2018. The Chinese military has sailed its aircraft carrier and accompanying escort ships through the Taiwan Strait and conducted “encirclement” exercises involving fighters, bombers and other military assets throughout 2018.

Beijing perceives Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to take military action if Taiwan attempts to declare independence.

The US Navy’s latest challenge to China comes just a few weeks after a showdown in the South China Sea, in which a Chinese destroyer nearly collided with a US Navy warship during an “unsafe” encounter following a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the contested Spratly Islands. That incident followed a string of US Air Force bomber flights through the disputed East and South China Seas, flights Beijing characterized as “provocative.”

Chinese warships shadowed the US Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait Oct. 22, 2018, but the Chinese ships remained at a safe distance.

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

Articles

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

What was the worst thing about being a soldier assigned to the invasion of Normandy? Probably the beaches with Nazi machine guns raining hell down, right?


Well, some historians make a pretty good case that it was actually the French gardens and farms that spread throughout Normandy.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
The hedgerows of the Cotentin Peninsula. (Photo: Public Domain)

While American farms and yards are split by fences — split rail fences in the early days and mostly barbed wire by the World War II years — the farms in Normandy were split by ancient hedgerows.

Originally built by the Romans, the hedgerows were mounds of dirt raised in irregular patterns that served as fences between plots of land. Irrigation ditches with raised sides provided water to all the fields and animals.

Over the hundreds of years since the dirt mounds were raised, thick, tall growths of plants had turned the ditches into tunnels and raised virtual walls of up to 16 feet on top of the mounds.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Normandy, France, July 15, 1944. (Painting by Keith Rucco for The National Guard)

These wall of vegetation were thick and seemingly impossible to quickly cut through. And the hedgerows were everywhere, an aerial photo of a typical section of the battlefield showed over 3,900 hedged enclosures in less than eight square miles.

Each of these enclosures was a virtual fortress, and the Germans had spent months preparing their defenses. They practiced moving through the hedges, selected areas for machine guns and anti-tank weapons, and practiced firing from trees into nearby enclosures.

Perhaps most importantly, they had planted stakes near the most likely routes of American troops and had mapped the locations of the stakes by coordinates, allowing defenders to quickly and accurately call fire onto the advancing Allies.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Advancing through an opening in the hedgerows was risky at best. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Compounding the problem was the irregular shape of the enclosures. The rows weren’t laid out in a proper grid. Instead, they were roughly rectangular as a whole, but with a variety of sizes even among adjoining fields. And all of these fields were connected primarily by thin wagon trails that wound through the irregular enclosures.

All of this combined to form a defender’s paradise and an attacker’s hell. In the first days of the Battle for the Hedgerows, American troops would assault an enclosure at full speed, attempting to use velocity and violence of action to overwhelm the defenders. German machine guns pointed directly at these openings cut them down instead.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
(Photo: U.S. National Archives)

While the German defenses in the hedgerows greatly delayed the American advance, the Allies did eventually find a way to breakthrough. At first, armored and infantry units had worked largely independent of each other. The tanks had tried to stay on the move to avoid German anti-tank weapons and artillery while the infantry had slowed down to try and avoid ambushes.

But Sgt. Curtis Grubb Culin III, an armor soldier from New Jersey, figured out the fix. He welded a bar across the front of the tank and added four metal prongs across it. The prongs acted as plows and cutters, allowing the tanks to push through the hedgerows, destroying the obstacles without exposing any of the tanks’ weak points.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
(Photo: U.S. Army)

This allowed the tanks to cut new routes for the infantry while reducing their own vulnerabilities as well. The Allied soldiers began engaging in a true combined arms manner with tanks opening the way and infantrymen advancing just behind.

The infantry would help quickly knock out anti-tank weapons while the tanks could help destroy fortified machine gun nests and cut through hedgerow after hedgerow.

To see what the American GIs had to fight through, check out this video:

Articles

That time drunk samurai didn’t realize they were under attack

In 1560, a Japanese leader attempting to capture the capital of Kyoto lost his head and most of his men when his army got too drunk and loud to realize it was under attack by a much smaller force until the enemy had cut its way to the leader’s tent.


Japanese samurai leader Imagawa Yoshimoto launched an offensive in 1560 to invade to Kyoto, leading approximately 20,000-35,000 samurai west and capturing a series of small castles on his way.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Oda Nobunaga as painted by an Italian Jesuit. (Painting: Giovanni Nicolao, Public Domain)

Meanwhile, Oda Nobunaga controlled a small garrison approximately 60 miles east of Kyoto, right in the path of Imagawa’s massive force. While other garrisons and castles adopted a defensive posture or surrendered to Imagawa, Oda raised a small force of approximately 2,500 men, between one-twelfth and one-tenth the size of Imagawa’s army, and led it east.

As the two forces marched towards one another, each made its own small stop. Oda stopped to pray at the Atsuta Shrine. The priests there would later comment on how calm the samurai leader was.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Monuments to the two samurai leaders at the site of the Battle of Okehazama. (Photo: Tomio344456 CC BY-SA 3.0)

Imagawa, however, stopped to loot a few castles.

That night, Imagawa’s forces got hammered and feasted as Oda took advantage of the terrain and confusion.

First, he had a small group set up false battle flags from behind a ridgeline, giving the impression that he was firmly camped for the night. Then, he led most of his men through a careful maneuver under cover of darkness and thunderstorms.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Painting of the Battle of Okehazama where Oda Nobunaga defeated an enemy samurai against huge odds. (Image: Utagawa Toyonobu, Public Domain)

Oda’s force crept close to Imagawa’s camp and then attacked with its full force. The partying in the camp was so loud and the attack so sudden, that many of Imagawa’s samurai failed to realize they were in a fight.

Imagawa himself is said to have stormed from his tent to yell at his men for their level of drunkenness only to be immediately attacked by a spear-wielding enemy. Imagawa cut through the spear and injured his attacker, but was tackled and beheaded by another samurai.

The battle ended a short time later as Imagawa’s senior officers were cut down. Oda went on to consolidate his own power and ruled half of Japan before he was killed in 1582 by an assassin.

If you’ve ever seen that hilarious video about the history of Japan, Oda’s story is told from 3:15 to 3:40:

The site of the battle is now a park in Japan and a re-enactment is held every year in June.
MIGHTY FIT

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

Even before Italy locked down in response to the coronavirus, Alyssa Clark could tell something more severe was coming.

“It was probably mid-February where we started having [authorities say] if you’ve traveled in this region, you need to make sure that you are reporting where you’ve been … and if you have any fevers or coughs, reporting it,” said Alyssa, who until recently lived in Quadrelle, a town near the headquarters of US Naval Forces Europe-Naval Forces Africa in Naples, with her husband, Navy Lt. Codi Clark.


“We started to have a premonition that it was going to get a lot worse, and then Northern Italy was really slammed, and they started imposing pretty harsh restrictions on March 9,” which was the “last day of freedom,” Alyssa said in a May 22 interview.

Across Italy, authorities clamped down. As the country’s hospitals strained with patients, politicians confronted residents who disobeyed the stay-at-home orders.

“We could not walk, run, or travel in a car except to go to and from work or to and from the grocery store, and we had to carry papers with us,” Alyssa said. “We could be stopped by police at any time and be fined if we were not moving within those restrictions.”

Alyssa Clark running on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. (Courtesy photo)

A Morale, Welfare and Recreation fitness specialist with Naval Support Activity Naples, Alyssa was the only one in her building at the military complex’s Capodichino location.

Isolation may have been important for public health, but for Alyssa, an ultra-marathoner who’s run everything from 32-milers to multi-day stage races of more than 150 miles, just sitting at home wasn’t appealing.

“I am a competitive ultra runner, and I always have a very set racing schedule. I had some big goals for this year and then everything started getting canceled,” Alyssa said. “So I was looking for the next project that I could take on.”

“I was toying with a few ideas and kind of randomly thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be interesting to try to run a marathon every day while we’re under lockdown?'”

‘Oh, this is a possibility’

The original plan was to run a marathon every day until people could run outside again. “Then I started looking up what the world record is for consecutive days running a marathon, and I started getting closer and closer to that and thinking, ‘Oh, this is a possibility.'”

For women, that record is 60 days straight. She ran the idea by Codi, who said it was “pretty feasible” for her. “And it just has continued to snowball,” Alyssa said.

Insider spoke to Alyssa just hours after she finished her 53rd marathon, another four- to five-hour hour outing on a small treadmill.

“We have an upstairs room that we don’t use very often, so it just has a couch and a TV that doesn’t really work,” Alyssa said. An open door let in sunlight and a Velcro sticker kept her iPad fastened to the treadmill so she could watch “easily digestible” shows like “Love is Blind” and “Too Hot to Handle.”

“Luckily I had an AC fan on me, and then I have my nutrition set up next to me and a water bottle,” Alyssa said. “Pretty basic, but it works.”

Staying energized was a challenge, especially for Clark, who has a compromised immune system. “I have ulcerative colitis,” Alyssa said. “I actually had my colon removed when I was 14. That’s a whole other story.”

Now gluten-free, Clark eats rice cakes with peanut butter and bananas before running and has gluten-free waffles while on the treadmill.

“I often eat snickers bars — it’s a very good source of energy and sugar,” Alyssa said. “Ultra-marathoners love drinking Coca-Cola, so oftentimes that will be a good pick-me-up.”

So is sugar-free Red Bull. “I actually did about one of those every marathon for quite a while,” she added.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Alyssa Clark on a run before lockdown. (Courtesy photo

Running marathons is taxing — running them on a treadmill even more so.

Alyssa is very specific about her shoes, using ones she trusts and that offer a lot of cushion. “I’ll rotate two pairs, and I’ll probably throw in another pair by the end, and I was using a couple of pairs to start. So I probably used three to four pairs of shoes.”

In addition to stretching, Alyssa said she uses lotion to help with recovery after running. “I’ve been starting to have a little bit of quad pain that I seem to have wrangled, but I’ve been icing that a bit,” she added.

Mentally, the trick to running long distances is not to think about the long distances, Alyssa said.

“I’m never sitting there thinking about the whole 26 miles when I begin. I’m thinking about at mile 8, I’m going to eat something. At mile 13, I’m going to have a Red Bull or something that is enjoyable,” she said. “Then, ‘Hey, I’m already halfway through.’ OK, I’m going to get to mile 16. Then I have 10 miles to go. That’s great. I can do that.”

“I also have a lot of external motivation from people reaching out to me saying that they’re going on runs, that they haven’t been on a run forever and I’ve been motivating them to get out, and also other people saying, you’re inspiring me to get healthier to keep going during this lockdown that’s really challenging, and so that really has helped me keep going when things get tough,” Alyssa added.

Marathon 61 and beyond

Days after speaking, Codi and Alyssa left Italy for the US and their next duty station, but Alyssa kept after the record, setting a goal of completing a marathon each day before midnight Italian time.

“We will be flying out on Tuesday [May 26] to go to Germany. So I will do one Tuesday morning before we leave, and then in Germany before we leave the next day I will do another one on the Air Force base, and then we’ll fly to Virginia,” Alyssa said.

“The next day I will run one in Virginia, and then we will drive to Charleston and I will run one or two in Charleston and then eventually we’ll get to Florida,” Alyssa added, praising her husband for helping make sure she could continue the runs during the move.

“The hard part with this is it’s not a 20-hour event or a 12-hour-a-day event. It’s only a four- to five-hour a day event,” Codi said in the May 22 interview. “So my job during this time has been to force her to attempt to stay in bed and put her feet up and do that kind of focus on recovery.”

Alyssa finished her 60th marathon in Norfolk, Virginia, on the last weekend of May. Marathon 61, and with it the unofficial women’s world record for consecutive days running a marathon distance, came the next day in Charleston, South Carolina. Marathon 62 followed amid protests across Charleston, Clark said in an Instagram post.

Marathon 63 came on Monday evening, after five days of travel, with the couple having finally reached their new duty station in Panama City Beach, Florida. Tuesday and Wednesday brought marathons 64 and 65.

Alyssa’s most recent marathons went the same way her first did: step after step, minute after minute.

“None of these happen by trying to jump into running 10 miles right away. It’s breaking it down, doing what you can, and being consistent. Consistency is the key to success,” Alyssa said when asked for advice to prospective marathoners.

But passion is important, and no one should feel compelled to take up long-distance running, she said.

“Find something you enjoy, because that’s way more important than forcing yourself to do something you don’t love. I love running. I get to do four hours of what I love every day, and that is incredible.”

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

4 ways the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan are the same

It’s no secret that America is pretty good at getting themselves involved in wars throughout the world. Historically, we haven’t been the best at coming up with an exit strategy for some of those conflicts, though.


The Vietnam War is considered one of the most politically charged military campaigns in our nation’s history as young men were drafted into service to fight against the spread of communism.

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the U.S. embarked on an offensive to break up a network comprised of men that take the worship of the religion of Islam into extremism.

Related: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

Although these campaigns took place in separate decades against very different adversaries, the similarities from the perspective of the ground forces are impeccable. History repeats itself. Here are four ways in which these two conflicts are the same.

4. For the most part, we didn’t trust our allies

In both wars, American forces were teamed up with local troops to help combat their common enemy. Many Vietnam and Afghanistan War vets have noted that their “friendly” counterparts often appeared distant and were known to have even protected the enemy at times.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
A PF soldier patrol with a Marine unit during the Vietnam War.

3. We fought against an unmarked enemy

Many of the fighters the U.S. went up against in both campaigns were able to disappear as fast as they appeared. This ghostly advantage wasn’t the result of some magical vanishing act, but rather an ability to blend back into the local population — right out in the open.

Since most of the “disappearing act” fighters are from small guerilla militias or surrounding clans, they never wore any distinguishable uniforms, adding to their advantage.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Are these guys Taliban or friendly members of a local militia?

2. The enemy could live below ground

The Viet Cong commonly used their well-engineered tunnels while the Taliban make use of caves in the mountains of Afghanistan.

These livable structures can house enemy combatants for extend periods of time and conceal deadly weapons.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Two U.S. Marines search a Viet Cong tunnel. (Image from Flickr)

Also Read: Here was the major problem with the South Vietnamese army

1. Our maps became outdated quickly

When enemy structures are mainly constructed from local vegetation and mud, they can be broken down just as fast as they’re built.

This characteristic makes them incredibly difficult to keep them documented. Map records and mission planning changed constantly.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
An occupied mud home in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sunset ceremony honors USS Utah’s 58-member crew

As prior and present service members are gathered for the public USS Utah Memorial Sunset Ceremony, there is one thing on everyone’s mind: remembrance. Remembering the bravery of the crew that was lost 78 years ago, remembering the honor possessed by each soul onboard and the legacy they left behind. Fifty-eight members of the USS Utah (BB-31/AG-16) crew were lost that day, but today they are celebrated.

The capsizing of the USS Utah is honored every year on the eve of December 7. The former battleship, that was once used for target and gunnery training, was the first ship to be struck by two torpedoes during the attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941.


As the amber rays of the sunset reflected upon the island of Oahu, USS Utah survivor Warren Upton along with World War II veterans Roy Solt and Burk Waldron were greeted by applause from those attending the ceremony.

Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of the National Park Service, gave thanks to those that served and showed gratitude to everyone honoring the fallen ship.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of the National Park Service, says a speech during the USS Utah Memorial Sunset Ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Dec. 6, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael Amani)

“There’s often a phrase that is associated with the USS Utah,” said Ashwell. “That somehow she is the forgotten ship of Pearl Harbor. It is obvious that the USS Utah is not the forgotten ship. We are all here to remember her and her crew.”

Ashwell recounted the memory of the late U.S. Navy Master Chief Jim Taylor, who served as a full-time volunteer to Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs Office until his passing earlier this year. He served as a liaison for the survivors of Pearl Harbor and their families.

“He helped lay to rest many Pearl Harbor survivors who chose to come back and have their ashes spread in these waters around the Utah and for those who served on the Utah to be placed within the ship,” said Ashwell.

USS Utah Survivor Warren Upton was embraced by many families in attendance as he shook hands and gave hugs to those that thanked him for his service.

“This ceremony was very good,” said Upton. “I really miss Jim. He was a friend to all of the old Utah sailors.”

The ocean breeze and the water washing up against the memorial site are the only sounds heard as Musician 1st Class Collin Reichow, from Herndon Va., plays “Taps” upon his bugle. Sailors of many different ranks render a salute as the melody flows from his instrument. The ceremony comes to an end as everyone is reminded to never forget USS Utah.

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