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This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again

During the famed and perilous evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II, brave pilots, sailors, and citizens fought tooth and nail to rescue soldiers trapped on the French beach from the German Luftwaffe as it attempted to wipe them out.


One of the pilots, Squadron Leader Geoffrey Stephenson, was shot down in a Spitfire MK1 N3200 on May 26, 1940, the opening hours of Operation Dynamo. Stephenson spent most of the war as a prisoner of the Germans, eventually staying at the famous Colditz Castle after numerous escape attempts from other prisons.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
A Spitfire Mk. 1A flies in 1937. (Photo: Royal Air Force)

But his aircraft, hit through the radiator and with other damage to the body, was left on the beach near Calais, France. The Spitfire plane became a popular photo destination for German soldiers who would often take small parts of the aircraft with them as souvenirs.

By the time the Allies liberated Calais in 1944, no one was too worried about digging what scrap remained out of the beach. And so the plane continued to sit, slowly becoming more and more buried by the mud and sand on the beach.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
The restored Spitfire Mk. 1A taxis to the runway at an air show in England. (Photo: YouTube/Imperial War Museums)

It wasn’t until 1986, over 40 years after the war ended, that the plane was recovered — and it wasn’t until the new millennium that someone decided to actually restore the old bird.

Thomas Kaplan, an American investor and philanthropist, backed the 14-year restoration project and gifted the plane, now back in flying condition, to the Imperial War Museum.

Now the plane is housed at the same hangar on the same base that it flew from that fateful day in 1940, but it has a much different mission. It serves as a flying history exhibit for the museum, soaring over air shows and allowing visitors to hear what the original Spitfires sounded like in combat.

Learn more about the history of the plane and see it in flight in the video below:

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The fascinating story behind the military’s use of the 21-gun salute

Becky R. asks: Why do they use 21 guns in the 21 gun salute?


The 21-gun salute that we know today has its roots in the ancient tradition of warriors demonstrating their peaceful intentions by resting the point of their weapons on the ground.

The notion of making a soldier’s weapons useless to show that he came in peace continued even as warfare changed over the centuries. Gunpowder and cannons became commonplace among militaries and private forces, both on land and at sea around the 14th century. In order for a ship entering a foreign port to show those on shore that they came in peace, the captain would have his crew fire the guns. This rendered the weapons inoperable for a period of time, with early guns only being capable of firing a single shot before crews needed to reload them.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again

Traditionally when a British ship entered into a foreign port, it would fire its guns seven times. The reason for the seven shots is widely debated to this day. One theory states that the majority of the British ships at this point only carried seven guns and so firing seven shots became the standard to signal those on shore that the ship was now unarmed. Ships carried enough gunpowder and ammunition to reload multiple times, but beyond symbolism, the idea here was that the lengthy process of reloading would allow the soldiers onshore more than enough time to disable the ship with their own weapons if needs be.

Another proposed theory for the number seven relates to the Bible. After creating the world, the Bible states that God rested on the seventh day (or for the seventh “event”- there is some debate over the “day” vs. “event” translation). So it has been theorized that the number could have been chosen in reference to its Biblical significance, perhaps of resting with the ship coming to port after a long journey. Yet another theory stems from the pervasive superstitious nature of sailors combined with the historic notion in certain regions that the number 7 is sacred, and that odd numbers are lucky and even unlucky. In fact, for a time it was common to use an even number of shots to signify the death of a ship captain when returning from the voyage the death occurred on.

Whatever the underlying reason, the guns onshore would return fire as a form of welcome once the incoming ship finished firing the seven rounds. However, the shore bound guns fired three rounds for every one fired by the incoming ships, putting the total number of shots fired at twenty-one in these cases. As with the “7” number, it’s not known precisely why in the regions that used this number scheme that they chose a 3 to 1 ratio.  What is known is that as time went on where this was practiced, it became traditional for the ships themselves to start firing off 21 shots as well, perhaps due to the ships becoming larger and being equipped with more guns, with the captains ostensibly preferring a 1 to 1 salute.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Oscar L Olive IV

This then brings us to when firing the 21 shots became considered a type of official salute, rather than a symbolic way to indicate peaceful intentions.  This seems to have started around 1730 when it became a recognized salute to British government officials. Specifically, the British Navy allowed its ships and captains the option to perform the 21-gun salute as a way to honor members of the British Royal Family during select anniversaries. About eighty years later, in 1808, the 21-gun salute officially became the standard salute to honor British Royalty.

While the British Navy adopted the 21-gun salute in 1808 as the standard, other nations, such as the United States, didn’t adopt it until much later. In fact, the United States War Department decided in 1810 to define the “national salute” as having the same number of shots as there were states in the nation. That number grew every year that a new state joined the Union.  Needless to say, this quickly became a cumbersome way to salute the United States and its dignitaries.

That said, the United States did make the “Presidential Salute” a 21-gun salute in 1842, and in 1890 officially accepted the 21-gun salute as the “national salute.” This followed the 1875 British proposal to the United States of a “Gun for Gun Salute” of 21-guns to honor visiting dignitaries.  Essentially, the British and French, among other nations, at this point were all using 21 guns for their salutes, but the U.S. system required many more shots for their dignitaries.  Besides needing to fire off more cannons, this also potentially signified greater honor to the U.S. dignitaries than to those of other nations. Thus, the British proposed a 1 for 1 shot, with 21 being the number, which was accepted by the U.S. on August 18, 1875.

The 21-gun salute still represents a significant honor today. In the United States, the 21-gun salute occurs to honor a President, former president, or the head of foreign state. It can also be fired in order to honor the United States Flag. The salute also occurs at noon on the day of the funeral of a President, former President, or President-elect along with on Memorial Day.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Navy

You may have noticed that there’s no mention of the 21-gun salute occurring during military funerals and that’s a common misconception. Known as the “3 Volleys,” the salute that occurs during soldiers’ funerals follows a battlefield tradition where both sides stopped fighting so that they could remove their dead from the field. The series of three shots, or volleys, let the other side know that the dead had been taken care of and that that battle could resume. Therefore the number of volleys is more important than the actual number of shots. Even the United States Army Manuel’s section on the Ceremonial Firing Party at a funeral named the number of riflemen as between five and eight, rather than an exact number.

Bonus Facts:

  • When ships were engaged in battle during the 14th century, the common practice was that the captured or defeated ship needed to expend all of its ammunition in order to make it helpless in the presence of the other ship and signify surrender.
  • A 62-gun salute was fired upon the birth of Prince George of England. The 21-gun salute was increased to 41-guns because the guns were fired from a royal park or residence and an additional 21-guns were added in order to pay respect to the city of London.

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This article originally appeared at Today I Found Out. Copyright 2015. Like Today I Found Out on Facebook.

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13 of the funniest memes for the week of July 21

A lot happened this week. It’s a good thing healthcare is still healthcare, because now the Juice is loose. So forget the news. It’s time to kick back and chill out with some clever, good-natured comedy.


Since we don’t have any of that, here are the top military memes of the week.

1. Fight senior leadership with words, not swords.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
If he were a pilot, this would be an escape pod scene.

2. Somewhere a trainee got recycled so far back through basic training, they’re wearing BDUs.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Try this at the snake pit.

3. If you break one soldier, there are literally thousands more.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Can we talk for a minute about how that uniform actually fits Dave Chappelle pretty well?

Also Read: Here’s how Civil War cannon tore infantry apart

4. In case you thought you were alone in how you view your command.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Also, the Emperor is looking for a few volunteers.

5. Marines get smoked a different way. (via Pop Smoke)

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
But it’s a dry heat.

6. If First Sergeant can get an ARCOM for Facebook, this guy can get 6 for Snapchat.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Not all heroes wear capes.

Now: This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War

7. Except for the shoes, here’s a good way to run the rabbit.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Private Griffin up front!

8. Barney Gumble doesn’t drink like a sailor — sailors drink like Barney Gumble.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Homer looks like he’s going to piss hot.

9. Corpsmen are going to be busy if they don’t remove the labels.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again

10. No one cares how big the moon is in kilometers.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Tell China we’ll be impressed with their technology when they bring us back our flag.

11. The hypothesis on this is comedy gold. Probably.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Until there’s a photo of their own head on this board, it will be incomplete. Grade: D.

Read: 15 Awful hand salutes that don’t even come close

12. It’s PT because you’re wearing a PT uniform.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Terrible kickball form, though.

13. That Navy photo looks staged.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
They probably struggled to find soldiers and sailors doing a pull up.

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Here’s how the US is sticking it to Beijing in the South China Sea

China has for years been whittling away at the US military’s asymmetrical advantage in conventional military strength with a naval buildup, building and militarizing artificial islands in the South China Sea, and creating systems and weapons custom built to negate the US’s technological advantage.


By all indications, China is building aircraft carriers and getting ready to place surface-to-air missiles deep into the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, China’s neighbors have grown increasingly worried and timid as it cements a land grab in a shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in annual trade and has billions in resources, like oil, waiting to be exploited.

Related: These 4 islands could be America’s unsinkable aircraft carriers in the Pacific

Six countries lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, and the US isn’t one of them. But the US doesn’t need a dog in this fight to stand up for freedom of navigation and international law.

Here’s how the US counters China in the region.

For the US, checking Beijing in the Pacific often means sailing carrier strike groups through the region — something the Navy has done for decades, whether China protests or not.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Kurtis A. Hatcher

As Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of 7th Fleet, said recently at a military conference: “We’re going to fly, sail, operate wherever international law allows.”

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman

The strike group has plenty of aircraft along with them, like this A F/A-18E Super Hornet and a nuclear-capable B-1B Lancer from Guam.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Navy photo by Lt. Robert Nordlund

Unlike submarines and ICBMs buried under land or sea, the US’s strategic, nuclear-capable bombers make up the most visible leg of the nuclear triad. Placing a handful of B-1Bs in Guam sends a message to the region.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Air Force

Here’s the US’s entire strategic bomber force lined up in Guam, representing more than 60 years bomber dominance.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
The B-52, the B-1, and the B-2 (right to left) on runways at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.US Air Force

It also doesn’t hurt when the US Navy shows off its complete mastery of carrier-based aircraft. There are F-18 pilots in the Navy that likely have more carrier landings than the entire Chinese navy combined.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

Those jets benefit from the support of about 7,000 sailors on the ship, who keep them running around the clock.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

Airborne early warning and control planes like the E-2 Hawkeye use massive radars to act as the eyes and ears of the fleet. Not much gets past them.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

But carriers don’t sail alone either. Here a guided missile destroyer knocks through some rough seas accompanying the Vinson.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Mortensen

The US Navy may be the most professional in the world, with a very serious mission in the South China Sea, but they still make time for a swim on one of the US’s newest combat ships, the USS Coronado.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amy M. Ressler

The Coronado doesn’t look like an aircraft carrier, but it does have serious airpower in the form of a MH-60S Seahawk with twin .50 caliber door guns.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amy M. Ressler

But the key to the US’s success in far away waters is allies. The US doesn’t do anything alone, if you’re noticing a pattern here. Here US and Royal Brunei Navy sailors practice boarding a ship.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Navy Photo

In February, US Marines partnered up with Japanese self-defense forces to practice amphibious landings — a skill that may one day come in handy on artificial islands.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Marine Corps by Lance Cpl. Tyler Byther

Sometimes working with allies means getting down and dirty. Here a Seabee gets neck deep in Japan.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Seabee participating in the endurance course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Henderson

The bottom line is that the US military has decades of experience sailing, training, and fighting with its allies in the Pacific. China has come a long way in shifting the balance of power in the region, but the US remains on top — for now.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

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These tough, grungy sailors are turning 75

A Navy Seabee is probably the one sailor that Marines love the most — next to the platoon doc, of course.


Camouflage is their typical working uniform. They spend most of their time in the field and dirt. They don’t shy away from messy jobs. As one Marine captain once told a journalist in Iraq: Seabees build things, they blow things up, and they shoot straight.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, engage a simulated force during NMCB 3’s Final Evaluation Problem (FEP). (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Gomez/Released)

The Navy’s “Can Do” sailors do a lot. They build field toilets and bunkers, construct camps and pour concrete, fix damaged utilities and buildings, help civilians in distress and even kill the enemy when required. Their work building airfields and camps across the Pacific during World War II undoubtedly helped in the allied victory.

A fraction of that force today, Navy Seabees are the backbone of the Naval Construction Force that includes 11 naval construction battalions and two amphibious construction battalions. Battalions send detachments of Seabees to as many as a dozen countries, and missions vary from repairing water lines, building schools and roads or pulling camp security.

Seabees serve in one of seven ratings – builder, construction mechanic, engineering aide, equipment operator, steelworker and utilitiesman – but every one will tell you they’re a Jack-of-all-trades among warfighters. Seabee ingenuity gets things done.

The classic round Seabee logo of the “Fighting Bee” holding a Tommy gun, wrench, and hammer — one of only a few Navy-approved insignias that sailors can wear on their uniforms — is as relevant today, 75 years after the first Seabee units were formed, as it was on March 5, 1942.

Combat readiness is a critical a mission because Seabees training for, say, a western Pacific rotation to Okinawa might be sent to a combat zone elsewhere. “You could be building a schoolhouse in the Philippines… and go to war,” said Chief Utilitiesman Phil Anderton, 31, a Seabee with Naval Construction Battalion 3 based at Port Hueneme, Calif.

Anderton learned that lesson as an 18-year-old Seabee in 2005. His battalion prepared to deploy to Rota, Spain, but ” they canceled leave, and for three weeks we trained to go to war,” he recalled. “It’s like that fast. Three weeks.” They ran scores of convoy security missions across volatile Iraq.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Seaman Jonathan Rosa and Petty Officer 2nd Class Leroy Jimmy, both assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 18 (NMCB 18) return fire during a training evolution as part of a field training exercise (FTX). (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ian Carver/RELEASED).

It’s little surprise that Seabees going through their battalion final training exercise, required to certify as combat-ready, looks like they’re already in the hot zone. “This right here is the culmination of ‘be ready for war.’ It’s awesome,” Anderton said as he escorted a journalist through an expeditionary forward operating camp NMCB-3 built on an empty lot for its final training exercise at Fort Hunter-Liggett, Calif., last fall.

The air hummed with the sound of diesel trucks, generators and heavy machinery. Dust kicked up from medevac Humvee. The sound of gunfire echoed. Helping set that combat mindset was an opposing hostile force that kept trying to sneak along a creek to infiltrate perimeter lines and attack the camp. For three days since they arrived, and with little sleep, the battalion’s 550 Seabees grappled with an indirect fire attack from the mock enemy that wounded 17 and damaged the nearby airfield.

“Lately we’ve been seeing the small-arms attacks in the dark,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Matthew Lundeen, the quick reaction force commander.

In the midst, civilian-actors pleaded in their native language for the Americans to leave while others wanted their help, or so it seemed.

All Seabees get combat tactics training, and they have to learn what seasoned grunts do by instinct. “We put a lot on our E-4s and E-5s to make very sound, tactical decisions, putting bullets down the range to keep us safe,” said Anderton, the Bravo Company operations chief and a former drill instructor. “The first line of defense is them. They’re the ones in the pit when the aggressions happen.”

“Making that tactical decision that is either going to put him in jail or save his life,” he said. “That’s the most critical, that they would pull the trigger at the right time.”

“This is a pressurized environment that really tests the leaders,” said Cmdr. Laurie Scott, NMCB-3’s commander, especially for junior Seabees who haven’t yet served overseas. “This is a lesson in sleep deprivation,” he said. “You kind of get the sense of how people react under pressure.”

The night before, a Seabee spotted some infiltrators in the scrub and bushes who had been harassing them. “We walked down to the lines and, sure enough, there was someone out there and we started shooting,” said Steelworker 2nd Class Shianne Chlupacek with Charlie Platoon. “It was pretty cool.”

A half-dozen or so enemy tried to infiltrate the camp. “We saw them with the thermals setting up,” Builder 3rd Class John Skoblicki[cqgf] said. “They set up right in between (Pit) 4 and 3, and then they opened up. We shot back.”

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 15, pour concrete as they work to complete a runway expansion project. NMCB 15 is currently mobilized in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and is an expeditionary element of U.S. Naval Forces that support various units worldwide through national force readiness, civil engineering, humanitarian assistance, and building and maintaining infrastructure. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Garas)

“We’d been tracking them for awhile,” as enemy flashlights prodding the pit line gave them away, said Steelworker Seaman Korey Benton[cqgf], 20. “We engaged and fired back,” added Skoblicki. No casualties among the Seabees, but Skoblicki blew through the first can of ammo with the M240 machinegun before it jammed with the blanks. “It tends to do that,” he said. Benton provided covering fire with the M16 rifle until they could get the 240 up and running. “You just have to keep racking,” he said.

Chlupacek stood in an M16 pit the Seabees carved from the brown-mocha dirt with their E-tools and the help of a Catepillar 420 backhoe. (To a Marine, it’s a fighting hole. To Seabees, it’s a “defensive fighting pit.”) “It’s definitely part of being a Seabee,” said Chlupacek, who grew up around farms and hunting and got into welding in her small Nebraska town.

This was her third FTX. A cold front had blown chilly rain through the region just as the Seabees arrived to build their FOB. “It was the first day when we started doing trenching. It was hard to keep morale up,” she said. “I’d walk the lines for about 16 hours, and I’d keep telling the troops that it’ll be over soon. It was wet and it was cold.”

“Once you get entrenched, it’s pretty easy,” she said. “We didn’t get entrenched until the third day we were here. At first, it was just sitting on the ground, in like a skirmish room.”

Perhaps more than most seagoing sailors, Chlupacek is comfortable in the rugged outdoors. “I love tactics, so this is one of my favorite things to do,” she said. “You get in the game, and you feel it. OK, there’s enemy out there, and let’s kill ’em. I like it.”

Living like a grunt isn’t for every Seabee. Others take well to the “build-fight” life. “I love either side, tactics or building. I joined to be a Seabee,” said Builder 2nd Class Harlee Annis, 23, of Ukiah, Calif., who enlisted after he saw a pamphlet about Seabees while at a junior college. “I got my first gun when I was 7 years old.”

On this day, Annis was the gunner who manned the M16 service rifle, a qualification he earned during NMCB-3’s “homeport” period at Port Hueneme. “This is probably the funnest part, to get to fire it,” he said. He wasn’t on shift during the attack the previous night and was eager to get this first shot off. “I was hoping,” he said. “Today. Maybe.”

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22 photos inside ‘Dustoff’ — the Army’s life-saving medevac crews

Army soldiers count on the elite medics assigned to air ambulance crews to pull them out of combat when they are wounded. These crews, called, “Dustoff,” fly unarmed choppers into combat and provide medical care to patients en route to US field hospitals. This air medical evacuation saves lives and bolsters the confidence of soldiers in the field.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Army Sgt. Travis Zielinski


When the terrain is too rough for even a helicopter to land, hoists are used to lower medics or raise patients.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Rasheen A. Douglas

US Army Dustoff crews typically consist of a pilot, copilot, flight medic, and crew chief. Some teams, especially those on the newer UH-72A aircraft, will have a firefighter/paramedic in place of the crew chief unless a hoist operation is expected.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: Department of Defense

Flight medics will train other soldiers on how to properly transfer patients to a medevac helicopter.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ashley Moreno

When possible, the crew chief or flight medic will leave the bird to approach the patient, taking over care and supervising the move to the chopper.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Reed

This training is sometimes done with foreign militaries to ensure that, should the need arise in combat, the US and other militaries will be able to move patients together. Here, Republic of Korea soldiers train with US medics.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Lou Rosales

Medics going down on a hoist are supported by the crew chief, an aviation soldier who maintains the aircraft and specializes in the equipment on the bird.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Army National Guard Sgt. Harley Jelis

Of course, not all injuries happen during calm weather in sunny climes. Medevac soldiers train to perform their job in harsh weather.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: U.S. Army

The crews also train to rescue wounded soldiers at any hour, day or night.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: Department of Defense

Some medevac pilots even train to land on ships for when that is the closest or best equipped hospital to treat a patient.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: Department of Defense

Dustoff crews also care for service members who aren’t human. The most common of these patients are the military working dogs.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Army

The Dustoff helicopters are launched when a “nine line” is called. When this specially formatted radio call goes out, medevac crews sprint to ready the choppers and take off.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Marine Corps

The medevac is eagerly awaited by the troops on the ground who request it.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Navy HMC Josh Ives

The flight medics can provide a lot of care even as they move a casualty in the air. Most patients will get a saline lock or an intravenous drip to replace fluids.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Paul Peterson

Flight medics have to deal with turbulence, loud noises, and possible attacks from the ground while they treat their patients.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Army

Another challenge flight medics often face is providing treatment in low light or no light conditions.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: Department of Defense

No light conditions require the use of NVGs, or night vision goggles.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Army Sgt. Duncan Brennan

Medical evacuation helicopters also face challenges while picking up their patients. The tactical situation can be dangerous where these birds operate.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: Department of Defense

Ground soldiers have to secure the landing zone.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin M. Mason

When the medevac bird returns to the base, the casualty is rushed into the hospital so they can be treated.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

If a soldier’s injuries are severe enough, they’ll be stabilized and prepped again for transport to hospitals outside of the deployment zone.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: Department of Defense

The mission of those under the Dustoff call sign can be challenging, but it provides great comfort to the troops on the ground.

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again
Photo: Georgian Army National Guard Maj. Will Cox

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard just officially turned 106, but it’s actually way older

The Coast Guard isn’t the most highly respected branches of the Armed Forces, to put it lightly. For all the flak it gets from other branches, the Coast Guard has solidly established its value to the US. In fact, it has one of the lengthiest histories of all. 

The Coast Guard is among the oldest federal organizations in the US

It was established back in 1790, just 14 years after America gained independence. For eight years, it reigned supreme as the US’s only sea-based service. At that point, the Navy was invented, but the CG was far from finished. 

On January 28th, 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Life-Saving Service merged into one; the new, official Coast Guard. As described by Title 14 of the U.S. Code

“The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times. The Coast Guard shall be a service in the Department of Homeland Security, except when operating as a service in the Navy.”

It has played a role in nearly every war since. 

Is it a military force or a law enforcement branch? Yes. 

Despite being over a century old, the Coast Guard is the most misunderstood branches. It’s actually a two for one deal. Most of the time, it functions as an arm of Homeland Security and a marine rescue agency. Members are also responsible for guarding marine wildlife, environmental protection, and enforcing the law all across the country’s coastline. 

During times of war, however, it becomes an extension of the Navy, to assist against foreign threats as directed by the President.

To be more specific, the Coast Guard…

  • Is responsible for enforcing the law across all U.S. ports and waterways
  • Protects over 100,000 miles of coastline
  • Mans a fleet of hundred of cutters and aircraft, plus over 1,600 boats 
  • Conducts around 45 search and rescues a day
  • Seizes thousands of pounds of illegal drugs each week
  • Screens over 350 merchant vessels before arrival in U.S. harbors
  • Investigates pollution incidents
  • Maintains buoys and other navigation aids
  • Investigates commercial vessel casualties
  • Makes the shipping of billions of dollars worth of goods possible

In short, the Coast Guard is pretty frickin’ cool.

Coast Guard performing a rescue
Thanks, Coast Guard! For apprehending drug traffickers and rescuing dumb*ss kayakers alike.

In addition to celebrating its 106th official birthday (and its 231st if you count its earliest years), the Coast Guard has churned out some awesome vets. Jeff Bridges, Arnold Palmer, and even Popeye were coasties! It also has a frat that used to be called the Ancient Order of Pterodactyl. It was renamed to the Coast Guard Aviation Association in 2007. Not quite as catchy, but still cool. 

More importantly, 10 lives every day are saved by members of the Coast Guard. Happy birthday, guys. You’re doing awesome.

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That time the Air Force landed bombers on tank treads

During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.


The B-36 Peacemaker was the largest plane ever built by America. Originally designed before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the B-36 was supposed to be a cross-ocean bomber that could drop 10,000 pounds of ordnance on Berlin or Japan while taking off and landing in the U.S.

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Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.

The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.

There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.

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Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.

So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.

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Side view of Convair XB-36. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.

The weight-to-surface-area problem would come up again with the B-47, the Peacemaker’s successor. B-47s dispersed during the Cuban Missile crisis sunk into the concrete of Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts and pilots had to hire a tow truck driver to pull them out of the holes they created.

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How the Air Force plans to make the F-22 Raptor more deadly

Lockheed Martin completed the first F-22 Raptor at the company’s Inlet Coating Repair (ICR) Speedline, a company statement said.


“Periodic maintenance is required to maintain the special exterior coatings that contribute to the 5th Generation Raptor’s Very Low Observable radar cross-section,” Lockheed stated.

The increase in F-22 deployments, including ongoing operational combat missions, has increased the demand for ICR. Additionally, Lockheed Martin is providing modification support services, analytical condition inspections, radar cross section turntable support, and antenna calibration.

Also, Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that, by 2019, the service will begin upgrading F-22 functionality for the AIM-120D and AIM-9X Air-to-Air missiles as well as enhanced Air-to-Surface target location capabilities. The F-22 currently carries the AIM-9X Block 1 and the current upgrade will enable carriage of AIM-9X Block 2.

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An F-22A Raptor fires an AIM-9M Sidewinder missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Raytheon AIM-9X weapons developers explain that the Block 2 variant adds a redesigned fuse and a digital ignition safety device that enhances ground handling and in-flight safety. Block II also features updated electronics that enable significant enhancements, including lock-on-after-launch capability using a new weapon datalink to support beyond visual range engagements, a Raytheon statement said.

Another part of the weapons upgrade includes engineering the F-22 to fire the AIM-120D, a beyond visual range Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, designed for all weather day-and-night attacks; it is a “fire and forget” missile with active transmit radar guidance, Raytheon data states. The AIM-120D is built with upgrades to previous AMRAAM missiles by increasing attack range, GPS navigation, inertial measurment units, and a two-way data link, Raytheon statements explain.

The AIM-120D also includes improved High-Angle Off-Boresight technology enabling the weapon to destroy targets at a wider range of angles.

Additional upgrades to the stealth fighter, slated for 2021, are designed to better enable digital communications via data links with 4th and 5th generation airplanes.

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USAF photo by Master Sgt. John Gordinier

As the Air Force and Lockheed Martin move forward with weapons envelope expansions and enhancements for the F-22, there is, of course, a commensurate need to upgrade software and its on-board sensors to adjust to emerging future threats, industry developers explained. Ultimately, this effort will lead the Air Force to draft up requirements for new F-22 sensors.

The Air Force is in the early phases of designing new sensors for its stealthy 5th-generation F-22 Raptor as it proceeds with software upgrades, hardware adjustments, new antennas, and data link improvements designed to better enable to connect the F-22 and F-35 sensor packages to one another, industry officials explained.

Sensor interoperability, two-way data links, and other kinds of technical integration between the two 5th-Gen stealth aircraft are considered key to an Air Force combat strategy which intends for the F-22 speed and air-to-air combat supremacy to complement and work in tandem with the F-35’s next-gen sensors, precision-attack technology, computers, and multi-role fighting mission ability.

An essential software adjustment, called “Update 6,” is now being worked on by Lockheed Martin engineers on contract with the Air Force. Work on the software is slated to be finished by 2020, John Cottam, F-22 Program Deputy, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

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F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. US Air Force photo

“The F-22 is designed to fly in concert with F-35. Software Update 6 for the F-22 will give the Air Force a chance to link their sensor packages together. Sensors are a key component to its capability. As the F-22 gets its new weapons on board – you are going to need to upgrade the sensors to use the new weapons capability,” Cottam added.

A hardware portion of the upgrades, called a “tactical mandate,” involves engineering new antennas specifically designed to preserve the stealth configuration of the F-22.

“New antennas have to be first constructed. They will be retrofitted onto the airplane. Because of the stealth configuration, putting antennas on is difficult and time consuming,” Cottam said.

While the F-35 is engineered with dog-fighting abilities, its advanced sensor technology is intended to recognize enemy threats at much further distances – enabling earlier, longer-range attacks to destroy enemies in the air. Such technologies, which include 360-degree sensors known as Northrop Grumman’s Distributed Aperture System and a long range Electro-Optical Targeting System, are designed to give the F-35 an ability to destroy targets at much longer ranges – therefore precluding the need to dogfight.

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An F-22 deploys flares. | US Air Force photo

Like the F-35, the latest F-22s have radar and data-links, radar warning receivers, and targeting technologies. Being that the F-22 is regarded as the world’s best air-to-air platform, an ability for an F-35 and F-22 to more quickly exchange sensor information, such as targeting data, would produce a potential battlefield advantage, industry developers and Air Force senior leaders have explained.

For example, either of the aircraft could use stealth technology to penetrate enemy airspace and destroy air defense systems. Once a safe air corridor is established for further attacks, an F-22 could maintain or ensure continued air supremacy while an F-35 conducted close-air-support ground attacks or pursued ISR missions with its drone-like video-surveillance technology. Additionally, either platform could identify targets for the other, drawing upon the strengths of each.

Conversely, an F-35 could use its long-range sensors and “sensor fusion” to identify airborne targets which the F-22 may be best suited to attack.

Air Force developers are, quite naturally, acutely aware of the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter and Russia’s PAK-FA T-50 stealth aircraft as evidence that the US will need to work vigorously to sustain its technological edge.

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Flypast of the Chengdu J-20. Wikimedia Commons photo by Alert5.

Along these lines, both the F-22 and F-35 are engineered to draw from “mission data files,” described as on-board libraries storing information on known threats in particular geographical locations. This database is integrated into a radar warning receiver so that aircraft have the earliest possible indication of the threats they are seeing.

Cottam also explained that the House and Senate have directed the Air Force to look at two different potential sensor upgrades for the F-22, an effort the service is now in the conceptual phase of exploring.

“A sensor enhancement program is now being configured. We do not know what that is going to entail because it is not yet funded by the Air Force and we have not seen a requirements documents,” Cottam said. “Threats in the world are always evolving so we need to evolve this plane as well.”

Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.

The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This British tank crew survived 3 days trapped in No Man’s Land

On July 31, 1917, the British guns in the Ypres salient roared to life, marking the opening of the Battle of Passchendaele. The battle would rage back and forth for over two months. Through the chaos, one amazing story emerged: A tank crew refused to give up or be captured and held out, on their own, stranded in No Man’s Land, for three days.


The reason was the unrelenting mud that created an incredibly difficult terrain for the crew.

 

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A Mark IV tank stuck in the mud during WWI.

Their story begins with 2nd Lt. Don Richardson, who was working in his family grocery business in Nottingham when the war broke out in 1914. He joined his local regiment, the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment – also known as the Sherwood Foresters – and shipped off the next year.

As Britain began incorporating tanks into its war plans, Richardson was promoted to captain and given command of a tank section. He named his own tank “Fray Bentos” after the canned meat sold in his family store.

The Fray Bentos was a British Mark IV tank. While these early incarnations of armored vehicles were slow moving behemoths capable of about four miles per hour at top speed, they were heavily armored and packed with weaponry.

The tank mounted two Ordnance QF 6-pounder guns, three Lewis guns, and had a crew of eight, each armed with their own personal weapons. On Aug. 22, 1917, the men in the Fray Bentos set off in support of an attack by the British 61st Division in the vicinity of St. Julien. Captain Richardson decided to walk alongside the tank during the advance.

After three weeks of near constant shelling and a heavy rainfall, the area literally became a muddy quagmire.

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While World War I remained a figurative one.

As the attack progressed, the tank took out a German machine gun position before encountering a fusillade of machine gun fire as it approached the objective. Richardson was hit in the leg and dove inside the tank.

The driver, Lt. George Hill, was then blown off his seat by a wound to the neck just as the tank got into what Sgt. Robert Missen said was “a very deep soft place” that they “went in sideways.” Richardson tried to regain control but he was too late and the Fray Bentos slid into a ditch. The Mark IV tank was prepared for such an instance however, and carried unditching beams on the roof to extract itself from these situations.

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A Mark IV’s unditching gear, circa 1917.

Missen and Lance Cpl. Braedy exited the tank to retrieve the unditching equipment but the Germans spotted them and unleashed a maelstrom of fire. Missen later recalled “I heard bullets hitting the tank and saw some Boche about 30 yards off firing at me, I got in again.”

Braedy wasn’t so lucky. In his attempt to attach the unditching gear, he was gunned down. His body sank into the relentless mud and was never found. The remaining men in the tank returned fire with their rifles and Lewis guns. They even managed to get some shots off from their cannons despite their awkward position.

Soon, the infantry attack stalled out ahead of the tank and British soldiers began falling back to their trenches. This left the men of the Fray Bentos completely alone and isolated in No Man’s Land. As Germans approached the tank using an old trench under the tank’s Lewis gun, the crew easily picked them off with their rifles through an opening in the cab.

Germans then tried to swarm over the tank and drop grenades inside to flush out or kill the occupants. The British tankers engaged them in close combat. One German soldier managed to get a grenade inside but one of the men retrieved it and threw it out before it exploded.

It wasn’t long before most of the crew had been wounded.

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A Tank Museum engraving of the story of the Fray Bentos.

Their ordeal was far from over. For the next three days and two nights, they fought off the Germans. They even had to contend with British snipers targeting them, unsure if they were Germans trying to steal the tank.

As time wore on, the men drained the radiator and drank the filthy water in order to survive. Richardson decided it was time for them to make their escape. Missen would go first to alert the infantry to their impending return in the hopes of them not being killed by friendly fire. The rest of the crew dismantled the cannons, gathered their maps and weapons, and, despite painful wounds, prepared to crawl through the treacherous mud back to friendly lines.

Under the cover of darkness on the night of Aug. 24, more than 60 hours after they first embarked on their mission, the men exited the tank one-by-one and made their way back to British trenches. Once they encountered men from the 9th Battalion, the Black Watch, they handed over their machine guns and made their way towards the aid station.

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The wounded men from Passchendaele.

Richardson was mentioned in dispatches and would later receive the Military Cross for his actions. He would return to action in a new tank, Fray Bentos II, and serve until the end of the war. Lieutenant Hill was also awarded the Military Cross for his actions during the fighting. Missen and one of the gunners, William Morrey, were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for their part in the action. The other surviving gunners, Ernest Hayton, Frederick Arthurs, Percy Budd, and James Binley, were all awarded the Military Medal.

The men of the Fray Bentos were the most decorated tank crew of the First World War.

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The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

The US Air Force’s latest recruiting tool is probably the closest you can get to jumping out of a military plane without having to leave your living room.


Called “Air Force Special Ops: Nightfall,” and jointly developed by the service and GSDM, its longstanding creative partner, this video game aims to demonstrate a key component of a number of special operations jobs to the general public — namely, jumping out of perfectly good aircraft at altitudes so high, you’d suffocate without specialized gear.

Using Sony PlayStation’s virtual reality headset, players find themselves immersed in a graphics-rich environment where they jump from planes and make their way to drop zone markers using their parachutes.

In the game, you enter the shadowy world of Air Force Special Operations Command as a recruit undergoing training. Players can choose to enlist as special operations weathermen (yes, that’s a real thing), pararescue jumpers, or joint terminal attack controllers.

In real life, each and every one of these specialties within AFSOC is trained to serve on the ground alongside infantrymen of the Army, Marines and special operations troops, gathering environmental data, directing airstrikes, and rescuing downed aviators.

While everything in the game is geared towards realism, you’ll probably be very thankful that you don’t have to go through any of the grueling training PJs or combat controllers undertake in their pursuit of joining AFSOC’s elite units. First-person shooter fans might be slightly disappointed – there won’t be any shooting involved.

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A familiar sight in the game – looking out the open cargo doors of an MC-130 (Photo Air Force Special Operations: Nightfall via YouTube screengrab)

But for what the game lacks in machine guns and grenades, it makes up for with the experience of a combat jump. Players get a taste of high altitude low opening jumps from an MC-130 Commando II, the Air Force’s special operations version of the C-130 Hercules.

Daytime operations are easy enough in themselves, but night ops… that’s where you earn your keep.

In fact, the game is so realistic that your night vision goggles will likely wash out and possibly blind you for a few seconds when they’re turned on for the first time — just like a real airman.

All jokes aside, however, the game has already been well-received from airmen who’ve given it a whirl.

“It is so realistic I could almost smell the airplane and feel the wind,” says active duty combat controller Master Sgt. Brian Hannigan. That’s high praise, considering Hannigan’s line of work and real-world experiences as a member of AFSOC.

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USAF special operations troopers jump from an MC-130J Commando II over Japan (Photo US Air Force)

And echoing real-life HALO training, the instructors can be very critical, especially if you fail a jump by opening your parachute too early, too late, land outside the drop zone or steer off course.

This isn’t the first time the US military has attempted to use video game as a recruiting tool. “America’s Army,” a first-person game that puts you in the boots of a soldier from basic training to deployment, was actually hailed a success when launched in 2002.

With the advent of virtual reality systems, the Army actually turned its game into a training tool, which is still used today.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Air Force’s venture into video games will turn out to be a hit or a miss, but if you’d like to judge that for yourself, you can download a copy for free via PlayStation’s store.

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This sailor has one of the most impressive resumes you’ll ever see — and he’s not done yet

Most people set their sights on big ambitions as a kid. For those youngsters who dream of being in the military, it typically includes visions of becoming a fighter pilot, a ship commander or Navy SEAL.


But for one California resident, those lofty goals weren’t nearly enough.

Dr. Jonny Kim enlisted the Navy in 2002 and successfully made it through BUD/s and onto SEAL Team 3. During his service in the SEALs, Kim worked as a combat medic, sniper, navigator and point man on two deployments.

Kim completed more than 100 combat missions during his time in the Middle East, earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat “V.”

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Navy SEAL Jonny Kim takes a moment for a photo op while on a combat deployment.

Related: This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

During Kim’s first combat tour, he lost a fellow SEAL which helped steer him towards a career in the medical field.

“The moment I knew I wanted to go into medicine was during my first deployment to Ramadi which is when one of my best friends was shot,” Kim has said. “After doing everything I could for him, securing his airway, controlling his bleeding, there wasn’t much more I could do for him but watch the spectacular team of emergency medicine physicians save my friend’s life.”

Kim decided to complete one more deployment with the SEALs before heading off to college to pursue his medical career.

He attended the University of San Diego earning a degree in mathematics and then a Doctorate in Medicine at Harvard. According to NASA, Kim received an officer’s commission in the Medical Corps following his graduation.

Kim went on to perform his residency at Massachusetts General and Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston for emergency medicine .

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Dr. Kim during his ER residency. (Source: Pat Tillman Foundation/Screenshot)

Also Read: This Navy SEAL has a novel solution for the North Korea crisis — and it just might work

In June 2017, Kim received some incredible news  — he’s one of 12 to be selected for the 2017 NASA Astronaut Candidate Class. The training will take up to two years before he could become a fully certified astronaut.

Soon, Dr. Kim could be wearing a space suit instead of his medical scrubs.

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NASA astronaut candidate Lt. Jonny Kim (Source: NASA)

Check out the Pat Tillman Foundation‘s video below to hear Dr. Kim’s story for yourself.

(YouTube, Pat Tillman Foundation)
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The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

There has long been a dispute between the towns of Lexington and Concord over which fight sparked the Revolution, but the first shots were fired at Lexington, which was less of a battle and more of a massacre. The debate was so fierce that President Ulysses Grant almost avoided the centennial celebrations there to avoid the issue. Taken together, however, there is little doubt that the spark of the Revolution started on this day in April, 1775.


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The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolution, pitting members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia against British regular army forces. The militia was not under the royal governor, but controlled by the rebel Massachusetts Provincial Congress.

Seven hundred British troops were dispatched from Tory-held Boston to capture and destroy rebel arsenals at Concord, Mass. The rebels knew the British would come and had already moved the weapons and supplies. The British force moved through Lexington on the way to Concord.

At first light on April 19, 1775, the Redcoats met some 70 colonial militiamen moving into ranks on the local common. They were vastly outnumbered. Their commander, John Parker, was not willing to risk his men at such odds, and so placed them in formation, but not blocking the road to Concord. He ordered his men not to fire unless fired upon.

Rather than just march on to Concord, a British Marine lieutenant led his men onto Lexington Common to disarm the militia. Instead of disarming, the colonists moved to disperse. That’s when a shot rang out from an unknown source. Before this encounter, there was no war declared in the colonies. The British had come and gone to seize arms and supplies many times, retreating back to the major cities each time. This time was different.

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The idea of Americans in open rebellion against the British Crown was likely a shock to the subject of the British Empire. At the time of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the British controlled territory on every inhabitable continent across the globe. Down on Lexington Common, however, those opening salvos left eight Americans dead and an equal number injured, along with one injured British regular. The engagement soured the chances of reconciliation between the colonies and the Crown.

The British would continue to Concord, where the Battle of North Bridge in Concord would kill two colonists and three Redcoats. The British retreated all the way back to Boston and were harassed by colonial militias the entire way home.

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Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson composed the “Concord Hymn” in 1837, immortalizing the two events for the unveiling of a battle monument at Concord’s North Bridge.

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood/Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/Here once the embattled farmers stood/And fired the shot heard round the world.”

This story would one day lead to the defeat of the British at the hands of a Franco-American force, the birth of America, and eventually, School House Rock.

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