An 'undead' general thrashed the Spartans after his execution - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

Spartans have a weird reputation for being the undeniable kings of Classical warfare while in reality, they get a lot of really great press from the Battle of Thermopylae, but they weren’t really better or worse than any of the other Greek city-states. In fact, for 17 years, the Army of Messenia, led by King Aristomenes, handed the Spartans their asses for 17 years until he was captured and executed by Spartans.

And he soon appeared again at the head of the Messenians, ready to kick more Spartan ass.


An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

A lot of U.S. military veterans are gonna have a hard time hearing this, but there was very little that was special about Sparta. Contrary to popular belief, the upbringing of Spartan boys had nothing to do with military training and everything to do with being a good citizen and obeying the law. Between 550 BC and 371 BC, Sparta’s win rate in pitched battles was 1-1, and the loss to Thebes in 371 really did them in. For good. Even at Thermopylae, yes 300 Spartans made a brave last stand, but Herodotus (and later, Frank Miller) forgot to mention the 700 Thespians who were also there, along with the 900 other lightly-armed infantry who couldn’t afford the gear to be a hoplite.

The Spartans, while perhaps brave, weren’t the bearded Hellenic crack team of ancient special operators they somehow get credit for being today. What they were was aggressive and present. The Messenians, sick of being slaves to stupid Spartans, rose up against their overlords and fought them at the Battle of Deres. Though no one really won that battle, one man stood out above the rest – Aristomenes. He fought so well the Messenians declared him their leader.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

Aristomenes would be captured after a night of carnal delights with Spartan priestesses.

Aristomenes took the fight to Sparta and immediately took their temple to Athena. The Spartans returned and fought him again, only to lose once again. Aristomenes and the Messenians routed the Spartans over and over at Boar’s Grave and Great Trench. After these victories, it was said that Aristomenes was captured and taken to Sparta, where he was sentenced to die a warrior’s death. The Spartans led him to a cliff where he would be thrown off. But the sentence of a warrior’s death meant Aristomenes would be tossed over while still wearing his armor. He was tossed over, and the Spartans went home, certain that a Messenian army without Aristomenes was no match for them.

The Messenian King, however, was still very much alive. Using his shield, which the Spartans gave him to die with, he slowed his fall against the side of the cliff. The descent itself wasn’t even that far, considering he landed on the bodies of hundreds of his former fellow Messenian warriors who were sentenced to a similar fate. Using the bones of his comrades, Aristomenes climbed back up the cliff and walked back to his forces.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

Some sources say a fox led Aristomenes away from the cliff. Either way, he survived.

As the two forces met up the next day, the legend goes, Aristomenes strode to the front of his forces. The Spartan Army was so surprised at seeing the reanimated corpse of the king they killed the day before that they broke ranks and fled. The Messenians would next move on the fortress at Mount Eira, one they would hold for some 11 years, from which they would conduct guerrilla raids.

Of course, time was not on the side of the Messenians holed up in the fortress. The siege ended Aristomenes when he led a column of women, children, and refugees out of the fortification and to safety on the island of Arkadia while 500 of the remaining defenders launched a diversionary attack on the Spartans. The refugees escaped and the defenders were killed to a man. Aristomenes left the Army for Rhodes, where he later died.

But this time, he stayed dead.

Military Life

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

Every military installation has its ups and downs. You could be assigned to a tropical paradise, but you can’t afford anything off-base. You could be assigned to a breathtaking foreign country, but learning the local language will take some time. Or, you could be assigned to Thule Air Base in Greenland, where there’s literally nothing but ice and rock for 65 miles (and, even then, it’s just a remote Eskimo village).


The multinational team stationed there consists of around 400 Danish troops, 150 American troops, and a handful of Canadians. Team Thule is charged with tracking satellites and orbiting debris using a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), a remnant from the Cold War by being strategically placed roughly halfway between Moscow and New York City.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

The BMEWS is still manned and operated by both American and Danish troops. Denmark holds territorial claim over Greenland but gave them “Home Rule” in 1979 and Greenlanders voted for self-governance in 2008. Denmark still handles much of the defense of Greenland, however.

Troops at Thule are locked out from the rest of the world by the ice for nine months, so during the three “summer” months, everyone loads up on supplies that’ll last them the rest of the year. Thule is also home to the Air Force’s only Tug Boat, the Rising Star, which it uses for these resupply missions.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Just an average day at Thule Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)

The Military One Source Pamphlet hilariously tries to downplay the roughness of Thule while also telling you that there are no ATMs, no commissary, the PX is extremely limited, and there’s all of one bar and a single “base taxi.”

But hey! At least every barracks room comes with free WiFi and it’s kind of accepted that everyone shelters-in-place during the four-month-long Polar Night where winds can reach 200 mph and the temperatures are -28.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a daredevil pilot escaped Germany and invented air warfare

World War I pilots began by simply waving at each other in flight, greeting their adversary as each pilot headed to his own reconnaissance mission. But as World War I quickly became brutal—and the pilots themselves saw friends die on the ground by the thousands and in the air by the dozens—they quickly sought out ways to kill each other.


And one of the pioneers who pulled it off was Roland Garros, a daredevil pilot who barely escaped Germany with a night flight into Switzerland at the war’s start.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

French Pilot Roland Garros in a plane with a canine.

(Public domain)

Garros was a French pilot who had already made a name for himself as a daredevil and aviation expert by flying across the Mediterranean in 1913. But when World War I broke out, he was in Germany and made his unscheduled night flight into Switzerland to get away, quickly joining the Storks Squadron, a group of aviators who would be the highest ranked French air-to-air combatants in the war.

And Garros led the way. Fighter combat in the air began with pilots carrying pistols to shoot at enemy aviators and darts to drop on hostile troops on the ground. But most pilots were looking for some way to mount machine guns on their planes.

But pilots usually looked through propeller blades while flying, and that was the most logical place to mount a gun for pilots to control. But, obviously, shooting through their own propeller would inevitably cause the pilot to shoot down himself. One of the early fixes was to mount the machine gun above the propeller blades, but that pointed the gun into a weird angle, and no one was able to shoot anyone down with that configuration.

Garros figured out another way. He mounted his gun right in front of his seat so he could look down the barrel to aim. To get around the problem of destroying his propeller, he simply armored the wooden blades with a metal sheath and trusted them to deflect those rounds that would’ve downed him while the rest of the rounds flew toward his target.

And it worked. On Aug. 25, 1914, Garros and Lt. de Bernis successfully engaged a German airplane and damaged it with gunfire, wounding one of the German pilots and forcing the plane to turn and run.

It is sometimes counted as the first known aerial victory, though it’s important to note that “aerial victory” today is often used to refer to shooting down an enemy plane, not forcing it to run. That feat was first accomplished Oct. 5 by another French pilot.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

An illustration of aerial combat in World War I.

(Public domain)

But Garros would go on to down five enemy planes in March 1915, causing the American press to dub him an “ace,” one of the first times that term was used. He also may have been the first pilot to achieve five kills.

Either way, his bravery, and ingenuity helped put France at the forefront of the changing face of aerial warfare. Unfortunately, air combat was a risky business, and Garros would not survive the war. In April 1915, he was shot down and crashed behind German lines.

He quickly attempted to burn his plane to hide how the forward-firing machine gun worked, but he was captured before he could complete the coup. He would spend the next three years in a prisoner of war camp before escaping, achieving new aerial victories in 1918, but then dying in combat on Oct. 5,1918.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How you can stream all of the ‘Halloween’ movies right now

Michael Myers is once again on the hunt for Laurie Strode in Halloween, the 40-year sequel that confusingly shares its title with the original film. And before you head to the theater to witness Myers wreak some suburban havoc, you may want to revisit a few of the original eight Halloween films, even with the knowledge that only the first film is now considered canon. Here is where you can stream every Halloween movie, from the iconic original to the seven mediocre sequels that follow.


“Halloween” 1978 Original Movie Trailer (HD)

www.youtube.com

Halloween (1978)


Widely considered the foundation of modern horror, this John Carpenter classic is every bit as scary today as it was 40 years ago. So if you want to have trouble sleeping for the next few nights, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) the original Halloweenon Amazon Prime and stream it tonight.

Halloween II (1981)

From here on out, we have left the official Halloween canon, as the upcoming film is ignoring the seven Halloween sequels, with good reason. While the first Halloween is one of the most celebrated horror movies ever made, the sequels are decidedly less so. And it all began with this clunky sequel, which makes the unnecessary family tree connection between Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers (Dick Warlock). But if you love bad horror, you can stream Halloween II on Hulu.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (5/10) Movie CLIP – Test Room A (1982) HD

www.youtube.com

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

While Halloween II was a confusing misstep, Season of the Witch is when it became clear studio executives were more than happy to destroy this franchise to make a few bucks. The movie is a part of the Halloween franchise in name only, as Myers and Strode are nowhere to be found in this forgettable flick. If you really want to test your tolerance for terrible horror, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) Halloween III: Season of the Witch on Amazon Prime and stream it tonight.

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Cinema’s most terrifying killer may have returned but he forgot to bring back quality story-telling and genuine tension with him. Myers is officially a supervillain in this movie and his greatest power seems to be destroying a beloved franchise. If you are a masochist, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers on iTunes and stream it tonight.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

The less said about this movie, the better. Revenge of Michael Myers is most commonly referenced as the worst film in the Halloween franchise, which is impressive considering the fact that basically every Halloween movie except the original is a flaming pile of garbage. If you hate happiness, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers on iTunes and stream it tonight.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Much like the titular character, Halloween finds a way to come back to life even when its own terrible quality seemingly forces it into the grave. Six years after the abysmal Revenge comes Curse and you probably already know where this is going: This movie is terrible. If you have lost all hope, you can rent (id=”listicle-2612882044″.99) Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers on YouTube and stream it tonight.

Halloween H20 Twenty Years Later Official Trailer #1 (1998) – Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett HD

www.youtube.com

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

By 1998, the Halloween franchise seemed to be long past its prime but against all odds, Myers made a comeback with this sequel, which wisely circumvented the nonsense of Halloweens III-VI and framed itself as a direct sequel to the second Halloween movie, which was bad as opposed to terrible. The result? This movie isn’t good by any means but it may be the second best in the franchise so far, with the much-welcomed return of Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. If you are a fan of adequate horror, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers on Amazon Prime and stream it tonight.

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

While H20 seemed to be a return to form for Myers, this sequel derailed the Halloween franchise to the extent that it was rebooted by Rob Zombie five years later. The eighth chapter of the Halloween story stars Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks and is nonsense from start to finish. If you want to watch a franchise nearly destroy itself, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) Halloween: Resurrection on Amazon Prime and stream it tonight.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the potential new Air Force officer categories

The Air Force is inching closer to fragmenting the Line of Air Force category into six new, more specific, categories—including one apparently intended for “space operations.” The change to the Line of Air Force categories would affect an estimated 87% of its current officers.


An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

USAF Secretary Heather Wilson

The current draft of the categorical changes was previewed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Wilson emphasized that while the changes are not yet finalized, the 6 new tentative Line Air Force categories are:

  • Nuclear and missile operations
  • Air operations and special warfare
  • Information warfare
  • Combat support
  • Force modernization (including acquisition and RD)
  • Space operations
Secretary of the Air Force Confirmation Hearing

Wilson said that the decision to splinter the Line of Air Force into specific categories may only be confined to middle officer ranks.

According to Wilson, the final decision is expected to be set in stone by October.

The proposed re-haul would give a majority of officers a more specific category to adhere to. The current system in place has specified categories for chaplains, lawyers, and doctors—but officers are a part of a much more sweeping, generic category.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly

According to Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, this change could disadvantage the upward mobility of some officers. Kelly referenced the need for officers to vary their skillsets so that they are competitive when job openings or promotions become available.

“But if, for example, acquisition officers had their own competitive category, they could stay longer at a base to provide more continuity within their program. Moreover, the lack of command opportunities that acquisition officers typically face would be less likely to hurt their promotion chances,” Kelly continued, “But more categories would give different career fields the opportunity to grow officers in their own unique ways, providing the best fit for them.”

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

This could mean big changes for officers—like those pictured here graduating from USAF OTS on Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama

(Airman First Class Matthew Markivee)

Wilson reiterated that the umbrella system of categorizing officers has led to some unequal footing in terms of experience levels in certain fields. Wilson used the example of colonels and lieutenant colonels in the Air Force, and how there is essentially a reliance on chance that a qualified candidate will fall into the position.

“And we may not have enough colonels in cyber, or lieutenant colonels in logistics, or somebody that’s coming along who eventually is being groomed to be the leader of one of our laboratories,” Wilson continued, “Not everybody’s career is going to look like everybody else’s — and it doesn’t have to.”

Wilson conceded that a change of this magnitude, like many others, will need support, “So we’re going to take it out to the force, get a lot of input, hope people post on it, blog on it, comment on it, have town hall meetings on it.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Cornfield Bomber: The US Air Force jet that landed itself

The story of the “Cornfield Bomber,” an aircraft that landed without a pilot, might not sound very impressive in today’s age of drones and increased automation. The narrative changes drastically when one key piece of information is added: this happened in 1970, after the pilot was forced to eject from a jet he had last control of.

The bizarre event, on February 2nd, 1970, to be precise, took place during a training sortie for the 71st Fighter Interceptor Squadron out of Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. Three pilots in F-106 Delta Darts took to the sky for a two-on-one combat training exercise. A fourth was a last-minute scratch from the flight schedule after an equipment issue on the runway, leaving instructor pilot Captain Tom Curtis flying solo against fellow instructor pilot, Major James Lowe, and 1st Lieutenant Gary Foust (at the sticks of the “Cornfield Bomber”). Regardless of the hierarchy, bragging rights were at stake.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
F-106As in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“Of course, this was a big ego thing, who was the winner…” said Curtis, whose recollection of the day is available at f-106deltadart.com.

Curtis goes on to detail what led to Foust needing to eject from his aircraft:

“I figured I could handle Gary pretty easy, but I did not trust Jimmy. I figured he would probably break off and come after me. With this thought in mind, I came at them in full afterburner. I was doing 1.9 Mach when we passed.

I took them straight up at about 38,000 feet. We got into a vertical rolling scissors. I gave [Gary] a high-G rudder reversal. He tried to stay with me – that’s when he lost it. He got into a post-stall gyration… a very violent maneuver. His recovery attempt was unsuccessful and the aircraft stalled and went into a flat spin, which is usually unrecoverable.”

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
From “Flight Training Instruction, Basic Fighter Maneuvering” (Naval Air Training Command)

Lt. Foust started running through emergency recovery procedures by the book, but the jet did not respond and continued to spin and plummet to the Earth. Maj. Lowe instructed him to deploy his drag chute, but it only wrapped uselessly around the tail. Out of options, Foust was finally instructed to eject at 15,000 feet. No one could have predicted what happened next.

When Foust ejected, the Delta Dart first went nose down, but then recovered on its own and resumed the straight and level flight Foust had been trying to achieve for about 23,000 feet. Lowe watched Foust eject, and then witnessed the unmanned F-106 take things from there, improbably flying itself away. Unphased, Lowe still had time for humor, and quipped over the radio:

“Gary, you’d better get back in it!”

Of course, Foust had little choice but to watch, dumbfounded, as he floated safely to the ground in the mountains of Montana, to be later extracted by locals on snowmobiles.

“I had assumed it crashed,” he said years later in an interview at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (where the jet now sits). However, over fifty miles away as the crow (or Delta Dart) flies, the jet skidded on its belly to a safe landing in a field near a town called Big Sandy.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The high-performance interceptor hadn’t gone unnoticed on its approach through rural Montana. According to a 1978 article in the Mohawk Flyer (a local paper near Griffiss AFB in NY, where this particular jet had since been re-assigned), a local sheriff got in touch with the Air Force at Malmstrom and got instructions on how to throttle down the still-turning aircraft. The jet was melting the snow beneath it and still lurching slowly across the field. The understandably apprehensive sheriff decided to instead let the jet punch itself out and run out of fuel, which took another hour and 45 minutes.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Fortunately, bystanders had kept a safe distance from the unpredictable monstrosity that managed to crawl another 400 yards. The radar in its nosecone was still sweeping and would have been hazardous to anyone approaching the aircraft from the front, as well. When the dust (or snow) had settled, Foust’s wayward steed was no worse for the wear besides a gash in the belly. It was partially disassembled and transported by train to California, where it was repaired and eventually returned to service.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
The only significant damage from the belly landing. Not bad for having landed itself (U.S. Air Force photo)

With the rise of the F-15, and as the Soviets began to focus more on inter-continental ballistic missiles over long-range bombers for nuclear deterrence, the F-106 was slowly phased out. Ironically, many were converted to the QF-106, an unmanned drone used for target practice. This bird, however, was not one of them. Tail number 58-0787 ended up as one of the jets at the 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, the Air Force’s last F-106 squadron, at Griffis AFB. As fate would have it, Foust would be stationed there, along with his wingman the day of the incident, James Lowe, who was now his squadron commander. Lowe, who apparently has a delightfully twisted sense of humor, saw to it that Foust was paired back up with his old aircraft.

How did the “Cornfield Bomber” land itself?

An unmanned jet flying itself to a safe landing, away from a populated area, and almost completely unharmed, is improbable, to be sure. It was more than just dumb luck, however. As theorized by Peter Grier in his Air Force Magazine article, the force of the rockets from Foust’s ejection seat, as well as the shift in the aircraft’s center of gravity from a now missing pilot, corrected the spin and set the aircraft back to what it was naturally shaped to do, take advantage of lift and fly.

As it turns out, the attempted recovery procedures carried out by Foust before he bailed out were significant in saving the aircraft. One of those measures was to “trim” the aircraft to take-off settings, which happen to be very similar to those for landing. Trim refers to automated settings that free the pilot from having to maintain constant pressure on the controls to keep flight surfaces (flaps, ailerons, etc.) in the correct position for a given phase of flight (ascent, descent, maintain altitude, etc.)

“When Gary ejected, the aircraft was trimmed wings-level for about 175 knots (200 mph), a very nice glide setting,” Curtis said in his account.

Another element of the jet’s salvation, as noted by Grier, may have been a concept in aeronautics known as “ground effect.” In short, ground effect is a change in aerodynamics as an aircraft gets closer to the ground. Because of the way air interacts with the aircraft’s wings as it nears landing, drag is decreased and lift is increased, causing an aircraft to “float,” which is a very plausible explanation for such little damage sustained in this case.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
A more thorough explanation is available here

Whether it was a pilot determined to save his plane, physics, some kind of divine intervention, or a combination of all three, the “Cornfield Bomber” remains one of the wildest stories in American aviation history that most people haven’t heard of. Foust remarked in his interview at the museum:

“I don’t know who named it that, or how it got that name. It should be the ‘Wheatfield Fighter.’ But it sounds a little catchier to be the ‘Cornfield Bomber…’”

“…I guess I’m part of a one-in-a-million occurrence. I don’t know that this has ever happened again, this whole scenario. But it is good to see the airplane again, and to know that it’s in the museum here and that this story will live on…”

This article by Tory Rich originally appeared on Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Japanese office worker who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan

Remember when 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi came out and everyone joked that Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) got bored of his office job at Dunder Mifflin so he left and became an operator? Well, that’s basically what Koshiro Tanaka did in 1985. He hated communists, so he went to Afghanistan to fight them.

After WWII, the Soviet Union retained the historically Japanese Kuril Islands, a major point of contention for Tanaka against both the Soviet and Japanese governments. He believed that Japan should have fought to at least preserve its cultural land. By the 1980s, he saw the growing Soviet presence as an existential threat to his country. Because Japan only had a 250,000-strong Self Defense Force, not a military, Tanaka feared the result of a possible Soviet invasion. “If Japan started fighting a war now, 50 million Japanese would die,” he said. “They [the Soviets] don’t want peace, they want land.”

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
A Japanese office worker fighting with Afghan guerrillas using U.S.-supplied weapons against Soviet troops (Koshiro Tanaka)

Tanaka worked in a typical office job in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district when he decided to take up arms against the Soviets in Afghanistan. However, the 44-year-old was not without any training. Though he never served in the JSDF, Tanaka was a sixth-degree black belt in Kyokushin Karate and an instructor in the martial art. He brought his skills with him to Afghanistan and taught hand-to-hand combat to the U.S.-backed mujahideen.

Though he fought alongside them, Tanaka did not adopt the tenets of Islam that the Afghan guerillas fought under. Rather, he went into battle with the mindset of a samurai. Tanaka found that there were parallels between the two cultures. Where a mujahideen fighter could earn a spot in Heaven through martyrdom in the holy war, Tanaka sought glory and honor in combat like the samurai warriors of old. “I hope in my mind that I will have the samurai spirit when it is time to die,” he said. He even carried an extra grenade at all times to martyr himself rather than suffer the shame of capture.

Tanaka’s first combat experience in Afghanistan was a shock. He accompanied a mujahideen raid on a communist Afghan government post near Jadladak, 25 miles east of Kabul. “I didn’t know how to fight, how to move,” he recalled. “I felt a bullet go by my ear. I got a shot of adrenaline.” After that experience, Tanaka applied the same discipline he used in karate to learning how to fight with a Kalashnikov. He developed a reputation as a foreign fighter and even had numerous propaganda reports of his death published by the Afghan government. During his time in Afghanistan, Tanaka endured malaria, jaundice, kidney stones, and a broken foot bone.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Tanaka in Afghanistan in 1987 (Koshiro Tanaka)

Between 1985 and 1987, Tanaka made at least seven trips to Afghanistan. However, his actions were frowned upon by his own government and were denounced. “His characteristics are beyond our understanding,” said a Japanese Foreign Ministry representative. “He is kind of strange as a Japanese.” Though Tanaka’s views were shared by some of his countrymen who donated funds to his mercenary trips, he largely paid for them out of his own pocket.

In 1987, Tanaka wrote a book detailing his experiences in Afghanistan called Soviet Soldiers in a Gun Sight, My Battle in Afghanistan. He used the proceeds from the book to fund another trip to Afghanistan and purchased supplies for the mujahideen. “[They] need help, any kind of help,” Tanaka said in a plea for Japanese support. “They need weapons, bread, food, anything.”

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Tanaka with Mujahideen fighters (Koshiro Tanaka)

Tanaka’s next trip took him to the Panjshair Valley where he linked up with the famous Afghan commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud. The mujahideen leader had taken up karate, but Tanaka reported that, “he’s not so good.” Massoud became a military and political leader in the Northern Alliance alongside Abdul Rashid Dostum of 12 Strong fame, but was assassinated two days before 9/11 in an al-Qaeda/Taliban suicide bombing.

Tanaka’s fight in Afghanistan ended with the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. He returned to karate and has taught in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Hawaii, and Germany. He remains an outspoken supporter of a democratic Afghanistan, often sporting a pin of the Japanese flag alongside the Afghan flag.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Tanaka hosted two members of the Afghan Olympic Committee in Tokyo in February 2020 (Koshiro Tanaka)
Articles

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.


Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.

Entering Shok Valley

The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.

The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.

Combat breaks out

After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin

Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.

The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.

“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”

The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.

Three-story explosion and sniper warfare

As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.

“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”

The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.

Enemy fighters began closing on the command node, eventually drawing to within 40 feet of it. Walton had the tip of his weapon shot off and was struck twice in the helmet by enemy rounds.

Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.

Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.

Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Airman Zachary Rhyner in an undated Air Force photo from another operation.

Planning to leave

American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.

Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.

Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier

Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.

Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire

Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.

Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.

Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.

One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.

After the battle

Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.

In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.

NOW: Medal of Honor: Meet the 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

OR: The definitive guide to US special ops

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army holds class on combat first aid for puppers

Veterinarians assigned to Camp Lemonnier and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa conducted Canine Tactical Combat Casualty Care training to joint-service medical and operational personnel deployed here Aug. 18, 2018.

The training, which included canine anatomy, primary assessments and CPR, is designed to provide handlers and nonveterinary providers the capability to provide basic first aid until definitive veterinary care is available.


Base veterinarian Army Capt. (Dr.) Richard Blair facilitated the training to personnel from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force medical and law enforcement fields. Blair said that while the focus of the training was aimed at medically trained personnel, people from other military occupations were welcome to attend.

“In a mass casualty situation where military working dogs may be injured, anyone with this kind of training in their back pocket would be extremely helpful.” Blair said. The training combined classroom and practical hands-on applications. Artificial dogs were used as training aids, and participants simulated CPR, intravenous catheter insertion and tracheal intubation.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

Veterinarians assigned to Camp Lemonnier and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa conduct Canine Tactical Combat Casualty Care training to joint-service medical and operational personnel deployed to Djibouti, Aug. 18, 2018. The training is designed to provide interoperability for medical personnel to provide first aid in a mass-casualty scenario involving military working dogs.

(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo)

Army Maj. (Dr.) Steven Pelham, veterinarian for Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa civil affairs, said military working dogs are an integral weapon for today’s fighting forces and that combat casualty care training is an important part of readiness.

“These dogs detect explosives that would go undetected. They save people from getting injured or killed,” Pelham said. “The number of lives one dog can save is worth the medical care we can give them to keep them in the fight.”

Valuable Partnership

Navy Cmdr. Mark Thomas, emergency medical facility officer in charge, attended the training and said that the cooperation between medical personnel and the veterinary units is a valuable partnership that can improve the level of care in an emergency.

“Having our people trained in canine combat care as well as utilizing the veterinarians in our facility gives us an interoperability that allows for better coverage for anyone [including military working dogs] who may be injured in a mass casualty situation,” Thomas said.

Camp Lemonnier is one of Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia installations that conducts six lines of operations to support air operations, port operations, safety, security, quality of life, and what is called the core: the fuels, water and power that keep the bases operating. Camp Lemonnier’s mission includes enabling joint warfighters operating forward and to reinforce the U.S.-Djibouti relationship by providing exceptional services and facilities for the tenant commands, transient U.S. assets and service members.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 things you didn’t know about G Shock watches



An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

Ibe wearing the classic G Shock “Square” (Casio)

1. They were invented after an accident

Casio engineer Kikuo Ibe conceptualized the G Shock watch after he tragically dropped a pocket watch given to him by his father. With his family heirloom broken, Ibe was inspired to change the identity of the timepiece from a fragile piece of horological jewelry to a tough and reliable gadget accessible to anyone and everyone. In 1981, Project Team Tough was formed to make this idea a reality. After two years and over 200 prototypes, the team finally released the first G Shock watch model DW-5000C (DW standing for Digital Water resistant) in April 1983.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

The many layers of G Shock toughness (Casio)

2. All G Shocks must adhere to the “Triple 10” philosophy

When Ibe set the standards for this new tough watch, he developed what is known as the “Triple 10” philosophy. The watch had to be water-resistant to 10 bar (100 meters), possess a 10-year battery life and, of course, withstand a 10 meter drop. Note that the 10-year battery life is from the time the battery is fitted in the factory. If a G Shock has been sitting on the PX shelf for a few years, your mileage may vary. Of course, the “Triple 10” philosophy is a minimum standard and many G Shocks surpass it.

3. They are certified for space travel by NASA

That’s right, the humble G Shock is a certified astronaut watch. Specifically, the DW-5600C, DW-5600E, DW-5900, DW-6600 and DW-6900 models are all flight-qualified for NASA space travel. The G Shock is joined by the Timex Ironman and the more famous Omega Speedmaster Professional and Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 on the prestigious list of NASA-approved watches.

4. They are the choice of Special Forces

Ok, you probably knew this one. After all, most people who wear the uniform also strap a G Shock to their wrist. Operators like Marcus Luttrell, Grady Powell and Jared Ogden have all been pictured sporting the tough G Shock. It’s always nice to remember though, that even if you can’t grow out a cool-guy beard, walk around with your hands in your pockets, or run around on secret squirrel missions like the tier one elite, the G Shock on your wrist was made in the same factory as the one that they’re wearing.

5. It holds a world record

In order to prove the toughness of G Shocks, Casio subjected a classic G Shock DW-5600E-1 “Square” to the most extreme test in the pursuit of the Guinness World Record title for the heaviest vehicle to drive over a watch. In order to break the record, the watch had to be running properly after being driven over by at least a 20-ton truck. On October 30, 2017, the “Square” was placed face-up and run over by three tires of a 24.97-ton truck. The watch sustained no significant damage and functioned normally, claiming the world record.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

The gold G Shock still adheres to the “Triple 10” philosophy (Casio)

6. The line continues to evolve and expand

Since its invention nearly 40 years ago, the G Shock line has incorporated over 3,000 different models. Today, while you can still buy the classic G Shock “Square” for just over , there seems to be a G Shock for every buyer, occasion and budget. The G Shock Women and Baby-G lines offer the same toughness and durability expected from the G Shock name in a smaller, more restrained case size. Modern features like GPS, Bluetooth and heart rate monitoring are also available. Materials have similarly been updated in the 21st century with the Carbon Core Guard, G-Steel line and even 18-karat gold. Announced in 2019, the G-D5000-9JR was limited to 35 units and retailed for ¥7,000,000, or about ,000, making it the most expensive G Shock ever.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

The US military and its NATO partners have been looking to reassert their presence in Europe in the wake of Russian action in Crimea.

NATO has deployed multinational units to Eastern Europe, and the US Army has been looking to boost its armor for more rotational deployments. Armored units on the continent are also expanding their training repertoire.


Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Europe in September 2017, with roughly 3,300 personnel, 87 tanks, 125 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers for a nine-month rotation at locations in Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

When they disembarked in Gdansk, Poland, it would be “the first time two armored brigades transition within the European theater sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” Eastern Europe operations command spokesman US Army Master Sgt. Brent Williams said at the time.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
A M1 Abrams tank from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 23, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

The unit’s rotation is also concluding with something of a first. Between April 22 and April 25, 2018, the 2nd ABCT carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years, according to the Army.

“The 7th Army Training Command, who conducts the exercise, decided to leverage the two training areas in Bavaria to connect multiple locations and units to create a more realistic training environment in Europe,” said Capt. Orlandon Howard, 2nd ABCT public-affairs officer.

The exercise was part of the Combined Resolve multinational exercise, which is taking place between April 9 and May 12, 2018, and includes personnel from 13 countries. The exercise is designed to give rotational brigades a graded culminating event in realistic and complex training environment before they return to the US.

After a maneuver live-fire drill, the brigade was ordered to conduct the march to Hohenfels, where it would start preparing for the 10-day, force-on-force portion of the exercise.

The road march required only limited recovery operations and avoided major damage to roads and towns along the route, which the release noted was a significant accomplishment in light of the size of some of the vehicles involved.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Germans stand next to US soldiers as they watch the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, on German roads from the Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen V. Polanco)

Soldiers from the 2nd ABCT were joined by the Polish army’s 12th Mechanized Division, and a number of local residents stopped to watch the procession.

A German family waved at the soldiers while a German man held a US flag across his body. Others wore shirts or hats with US Army printed on them or with unit patches. One local man, Ralf Rosenecker, and several of his friends set up a display of three remote-controlled tanks with US flags, according to an Army release.

“Rosenecker said he was excited to see so many tanks because it had been over 15 years since such a large tactical road march was conducted on German roads,” the Army release said.

The US deployed hundreds of tanks, trucks, and other military equipment, accompanied by about 4,000 troops, to Europe at the beginning of 2017. The deployment, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, was meant to reassure US allies in the face of what many of them perceived as Russian aggression.

At the time, NATO said the planned deployments — which included US troops to Poland and Germany, Canada, and the UK sending 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were strictly defensive, through Russia rebuked what it saw as a armed buildup by Western countries in Eastern Europe

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Vehicles assigned to 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conduct a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)

Rotational forces have continued to cycle through Europe, carrying out training exercises with partner forces there.

NATO itself is also looking at ways to increase its readiness and streamline its operations in Europe. NATO movements on the continent have been hindered by differing conflicting regulations and customs rules, differing road standards, and outdated infrastructure across member states.

In January 2018, a convoy of US Paladins traveling from Poland to exercises in southern Germany was briefly stranded, after German border police stopped the Polish contractors transporting them for violating transportation rules.

In March 2018, NATO announced its new logistics command — is meant to ensure the quick movement of troops and material across Europe in the event of conflict — will be based in the southern German city of Ulm.

The EU has also said it is devising a plan for military personnel and equipment to move quickly across Europe in a crisis, avoiding border delays and bridges and roads too weak to handle military vehicles.

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

popular

Influential military wives from the Revolutionary War to today

Military spouses have played a key role behind the scenes in supporting military members from the beginning of America’s history. So many military spouses’ stories are lost in history as their military service member’s service and sacrifice is often the main focus of historical records. However, we can see from the stories that were preserved that military spouses have made their mark on history just like the men and women who served in uniform.


The role and impact of military spouses continues today, but even the earliest military spouses showed their grit.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Martha Washington (1731-1802), First Lady of the United States from 1789 to 1797 during the presidential tenure of her husband, President George Washington. (Wikimedia Commons)

Revolutionary War

Unlike today’s war that continues despite the weather, in the winter, each Army would hunker down in place. Martha Washington would come to the camp at her husband’s request to provide comfort and even helped manage the camp. Martha oversaw social events, nursed sick soldiers, acted as a liaison between her husband and other officials and encouraged troops even though the chance of victory looked bleak. Martha Washington set a precedent for spouses in war through her reliance and strength and willingness to give up so much for their spouses.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Julia Grant. Brady-Handy Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Civil War

Julia Grant was married to Ulysses Grant, who was a General for the Union Army. Although her immediate family supported the Confederacy, she felt her role was to support her husband. And, she showed her loyalty to the Union time and again. She played a key role in the Civil War by providing him a constant flow of support. Because of her ability to manage her family and finances, he could stay focused on the war. Later, she made an impact as the First Lady when her husband became the President of the United States.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Julia (Julie) Compton Moore. Brave and caring wife of Lt Gen. Harold (Hal) Moore. She hand carried KIA notices to the wives of soldiers killed at La Drang in Vietnam.

Vietnam War

If you have seen “We Are Soldiers” you know that Julia Moore was the wife of Lt Gen Hal Moore. When the Battle of Ia Drang went terribly wrong, she took it upon herself to notify her fellow military wives of the news. The Army didn’t have a system in place and would send telegrams via taxi cab drivers. Her efforts and complaints led to the U.S. Army, setting up a survivor support network and created casualty notification teams consisting of uniformed officers that are still in use today. She was also active in setting up the Army Community Service organizations that are now a permanent fixture on Army Posts. Her legacy continues today with an award in her name. The Julia Compton Moore Award recognizes the civilian spouses of soldiers for “Outstanding Contribution to the U.S. Army.”

Desert Storm

For Linda Stouffer, Desert Storm began months before as her husband deployed to Saudi Arabia to prepare for the war against Iraq. She was the head of the Family Support Group at the time, and watching the war come to life on television was very hard. The families left behind had little to no contact with their service members overseas, and they had to pick up the pieces of their lives and keep moving. There were countless military spouses who had to stay behind and take care of their families during a time of much uncertainty and change.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Stephanie Brown. Photo source: The Rosie Network.

Post 9/11

Stephanie Brown is the founder of The Rosie Network that is designed to help military spouses jump into entrepreneurship. As a successful small business owner, she saw a need to help military spouses build their business and wanted to create a tool that provided needed resources. She is married to retired Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown II (SEAL). Brown is still active in the military community and was recognized for her dedication with the Department of the Army Commander’s Award for Civilian Service.

Bonnie Carroll took her personal tragedy of her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll dying in a plane crash with seven other soldiers in 1992 and turned it into hope, resilience and encouragement for countless survivors. At the time of her husband’s death, there was no national support network for the families of America’s fallen heroes. In 1994, Bonnie launched the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to give support to the families of the fallen. Since its launch, TAPS has cared for the more than 100,000 surviving family members. In 2015, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. She has also been featured in a number of publications and recognized for her work through various awards and programs.

Military spouses are no longer expected to accompany their partners onto the battlefield, but they are still asked to make massive sacrifices for their country. And for many, their contributions continue after their spouse has left the military behind. It has been proven throughout history that the men and women who stand beside their service members are making an impact on the future of both the military and America.

Featured Image: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Kelly Johnson: How one man changed aviation forever

Kelly Johnson wasn’t the first man to build an airplane, nor was he the first to push the limits of what an airplane could do, but few men have played a more vital role in shaping mankind’s ascent into the skies.

According to the latest expert estimates, human beings just like you and I have been walking on earth for over 200,000 years. That figure gets even tougher to wrap your head around when you consider that a mere 200 years ago, mankind had yet to develop matches or typewriters. A century ago, we didn’t have antibiotics or movies with sound. These, along with countless other advancements, played a roll in a technological revolution that continues to this day, like a snowball rolling down hill, enveloping everything in its path.

Of course, mankind didn’t come by these incredible advancements by accident (most often, anyway) and behind each groundbreaking technology is a man or woman, dedicated to solving the problems of their day, and to getting out in front of those coming tomorrow. Nowhere is this human-driven rapid advancement of technology more prevalent than in one of our species most recent civilization-altering breakthroughs: aviation.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson with famed aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. (Lockheed Martin)

In 1903, the Wright Brothers first took flight in Kitty Hawk. Less than forty years later, the first B-29 took to the skies with a pressurized cabin and a wingspan that stretched further than the length of Orville Wright’s entire first flight. A mere 19 years after that, Yuri Gagarin flew in space.

There’s no doubt that countless hands, hearts, and minds played vital roles in our rapid progression from the steam engine to the SpaceX Starship, but even amid this sea of engineers and aviation pioneers, some names stick out. Because while millions may have helped mankind reach the sky, some men’s contributions stand head and shoulders above the rest; Men, like Kelly Johnson.

Forged in the fires of World War II

Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson was born in 1910, seven years after the Wright Brothers changed the world in Kitty Hawk. The son of Swedish immigrants, Johnson would win his first prize for aircraft design at the age of 13. By the time he was 22 years old, he was working as an engineer at the legendary aviation firm Lockheed.

At 28, Kelly Johnson’s role at Lockheed would bring him to London, where the island nation was preparing for the onslaught of Nazi Luftwaffe fighters and bombers that were to come just three years later in the Battle of Britain. The British were unconvinced that such a young man could produce an aircraft that could turn the tides of an air war, but the fruit of Kelly Johnson’s labor, dubbed the P-38 Lightning, would go on to become one of the most iconic airframes of the entire war.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Steve Hinton flies “Glacier Girl,” a P-38 Lightning dug out from 268 feet of ice in eastern Greenland in 1992. The aircraft was part of a heritage flight during an air show at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on May 21. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)

At the start of the fighting in Europe, many Allied air units were still operating bi-planes. By the end of World War II, Kelly Johnson and his team delivered the United States its first ever operational jet-powered fighter, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. Johnson had been tasked with building an aircraft around the new Halford H.1B turbojet engine that could compete with Germany’s Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe. In just an astonishing 143 days, Kelly had gone from the drawing board to delivering the first operational P-80s.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star (WikiMedia Commons)

The original Skunk Works

It was during World War II that Kelly Johnson and fellow engineer Ben Rich first established what was to become the legendary Lockheed Skunk Works. Today, the Skunk Works name is synonymous with some of the most advanced aircraft ever to take to the skies, but its earliest iteration was nothing more than a walled-off portion of a factory in which Johnson and his team experimented with new technologies for the P-38, developing the first 400 mile-per-hour fighter in the world for their trouble, in the XP-38.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
XP-38 (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Later, Kelly’s secretive team again came through with the P-80, and again with the design and production of the C-130 Hercules, which remains in service for the U.S. and a number of other Air Forces around the world today. Then, in 1955, they received yet another seemingly impossible assignment: The United States needed an aircraft that could fly so high it could avoid being shot down, or potentially even detected.

Soviet Radar and intercept fighters of the era were limited to altitudes below 65,000 feet, and the highest any American aircraft could reach was just 48,000. In order to continue keeping tabs on the Soviets, the Air Force solicited requests for an airplane that could fly at an astonishing 70,000 feet with a long 1,500 mile fuel range.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson, chief designer at Lockheed’s secret “Skunk Works” facility, initially designed the U-2 around the F-104 Starfighter fuselage. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Kelly Johnson’s Skunk Works responded with a design that they claimed could fly as high as 73,000 feet with a range of 1,600 miles, based on the Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter, a slender and supersonic intercept fighter. The Air Force rejected his design… but it caught the attention of America’s secretive spy agency, the CIA.

President Eisenhower wanted eyes on the Soviet nuclear program, and Johnson’s unusual aircraft design with long slender wings and no retractable landing gear seemed like it could do the job, despite its shortcomings. Johnson and his team were given a contract to design and build their high-flying spy plane, and in just eight months, they delivered the U-2 Dragon Lady.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

In order to test this incredible new aircraft, Kelly Johnson needed a remote air strip, far from the prying eyes of the American public. He chose a dry lake bed in Nevada for the job, and it proved particularly well suited for testing classified aircraft. Eventually, that little airstrip and accompanying hangars and office buildings would come to be known popularly as Area 51.

Taking spy planes to the next level

The U-2 may have been an immense success, but just as aviation advancements were coming quickly, so too were air defenses. In 1960, Soviet surface-to-air missiles finally managed to get a piece of a CIA operated U-2 flown by pilot Gary Powers. The aircraft was flying at 70,000 feet, higher than the Americans thought could be spotted or targeted by Soviet radar, when it was struck by an SA-2 Guideline missile. Powers had to ride the Dragon Lady down from 70,000 feet to 30,000 feet before he could safely eject, and as the secretive spy plane plummeted to the ground, Kelly Johnson and his team at Skunk Works were already developing a platform to replace it.

With spy satellites still more than a decade away, the United States needed a new aircraft it could rely on to keep tabs on the Soviets. It would need to not only fly higher than the U-2, but faster–much faster, so even if it was detected, no missile could reach it.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
SR-71 Blackbird (NASA)

Johnson and his team designed a twin-engine aircraft with astonishing capabilities in the A-12, which then led to the operational SR-71 Blackbird — an aircraft that retains the title of fastest operational plane in history to this very day. Lockheed’s SR-71 could sustain speeds in excess of Mach 3.2, flying at altitudes higher than 78,000 feet. During its 43 years in service, the SR-71 had over 4,000 missiles fired at it from ground assets and other aircraft. Not a single one ever found its target.

Another aviation revolution

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
(USAF Photo)

Kelly Johnson and the team at Skunk Works were on the cutting edge of speed and power, but as the Cold War raged on, it was Johnson and his team that recognized how the battle space was shifting. For years, the United States had focused on developing aircraft that could fly ever faster and ever higher, but with the advent of computer-aided engineering, yet another technological leap was within Lockheed’s grasp.

Johnson and his team needed to develop an aircraft that could defeat detection from not only enemy radar, but also other common forms of detection and targeting, like infrared. Using the most advanced computers available at the time, Skunk Works first developed an unusual angular design they dubbed “the hopeless diamond,” as it seemed unlikely that such a shape could ever produce aerodynamic lift.

Undaunted, development continued and by 1976, they had built a flyable prototype. The aircraft was called Have Blue, and it would lead to the first operational stealth aircraft ever in service to any nation, the legendary F-117 Nighthawk.

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Have Blue flying in testing (WikiMedia Commons)

The F-117, or “stealth fighter” as it would come to be known, played a vital role in America’s combat operations over Iraq in Desert Storm and elsewhere, but this program produced more than battlefield engagements. The technology developed for the F-117 directly led to America’s premier stealth fighters of today: the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The latter of those two is expected to serve as the backbone of America’s air superiority strategy for decades to come.

“The damn Swede can actually see air.”

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution
Kelly Johnson (Lockheed Martin)

In total, Kelly Johnson had a hand in the design and development of some 40 aircraft for commercial and military purposes, with seemingly countless awards and credits to his name for his engineering prowess. The man had a genuine affection for his work, to the degree that he turned down the presidency of Lockheed on three separate occasions to retain his role within the Skunk Works he helped to found.

Kelly’s boss at Lockheed, Hall Hibbard, once exclaimed, “The damn Swede can actually see air,” as he tried to understand how one man managed to play such a pivotal role in so many aircraft, and in turn, in how the Cold War unfolded. Finally, Kelly retired in 1975, but remained a senior advisor to Skunk Works for years thereafter.

He passed away in 1990 at age 80, just one year before the United States, with all its incredible military technology, would emerge the victor of the Cold War.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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