This is why the US doesn't use the metric system - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

In 1793, noted French scientist Joseph Dombey departed Le Havre, France bound for Philadelphia. His mission was to meet with Thomas Jefferson and give him two of the rarest items on Earth. Unfortunately for Dombey, fate had other intentions and storms pushed the ship he was aboard well of course. And so it was that around the time he was supposed to deliver his precious cargo to Jefferson, he found himself instead at the mercy of British pirates. Being French in this situation wasn’t exactly ideal, so at first he attempted to pass himself off as Spanish, but his accent gave him away. Dombey was eventually taken to the small Caribbean island of Montserrat where he ultimately died before he could be ransomed.

So what was the precious cargo he was to have delivered as a gift to the United States? Two small copper items (of which only six sets existed on Earth at the time) — standards representing a meter and a grave, the latter better known today as a kilogram.


At the time, the United States, having already become one of the first nations in the world to adopt a decimal, base ten system for currency was strongly considering doing the same with the system of weights and measures to get rid of the hodgepodge of British weights and measures system mixed with others also commonly used throughout the young nation. Thus, with the initial strong support of then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and thanks to a desire to continue to strengthen ties between France and the United States, adoption of the new French metric system seemed close at hand. Along with a trade agreement concerning grain export to France, Dombey was to deliver the meter and grave standards and attempt to argue the system’s merits to Congress who, at the time, were quite open to adopting these units of measure.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Thomas Jefferson.

(Rembrandt Peale)

Of course we all know how this turned out — Dombey never got a chance to make his arguments and thanks to concerns about whether the metric system would even stick around at all in France, combined with the fact that trade between Britain and the U.S. would be hindered by such a change, the U.S. eventually decided to abandon efforts to adopt the metric system and mostly stuck with the British system, though the U.S. Customary Units and what would become the Imperial System would soon diverge in the following decades.

But as more and more nations came to adopt this new system of weights and measures, the U.S. slowly began to follow suit. Fast-forwarding to 1866 and with the Metric Act the U.S. officially sanctioned the use of the metric system “in all contracts, dealings or court proceedings” and provided each state with standard metric weights and measures. In 1875, the United States was one of just 17 nations to sign the “Treaty of the Metre” establishing, among other things, the International Bureau of Weights and Measure to govern this system.

Fast forward a little under a century later and the full switch seemed inevitable in the United States after the 1968 Metric Study Act. This ended up being a three year study looking at the feasibility of switching the United States to the metric system. The result? a report titled A Metric America: “A Decision Whose Time Has Come”recommending the change and that it could be reasonably done in as little as 10 years.

Unfortunately, the public was largely either apathetic or strongly opposed to making the switch. (According to a Gallup poll at the time, 45% were against it.) This was nothing new, however. A huge percentage of the time a given people of a nation have been asked by their government to switch to the International System of Units, the general public of those nations were largely against it, even France itself, who went back and forth for decades on the issue, contributing to the United States’ hesitation to adopt it in the early going. Brazil actually experienced a genuine uprising when the government forced the change in the late 19th century. Over a half century later, British citizens still stubbornly cling to many of the old measurements in their day to day lives, though have otherwise adopted SI units.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

So why did all these governments frequently go against the will of their people? Arguments for the economic benefits simply won out — as in so many matters of government, what businesses want, businesses often get. So the governments ignored the will of the general public and did it anyway.

But in the U.S. the situation was different. Not having the pressure from being bordered and economically as bound to one’s neighbors as in Europe, and being one of the world’s foremost economic powerhouses itself, the immediately economic benefit didn’t seem so clear. For example, California alone — one of 50 states — if it were its own nation would have the 5th largest economy in the world. Texas and New York state aren’t far behind when compared to nation’s of the worlds economies at 10th and 13th respectively, let alone the other 47 states.

Seeing lesser readily apparent economic benefit, and not having the same geographic pressures as in Europe, in the 1970s many big businesses and unions were in strong opposition to the change, citing the cost of making the switch and, on the latter side, unions worried that such a change would make it easier to move jobs that formerly used customary units oversees, given that now such product could more easily be purchased from abroad.

Swayed, when the 1975 Metric Conversion Act was signed by President Gerald Ford, it had largely lost its teeth. While it did establish a board whose job it was to facilitate the nation’s conversion and put forth various recommendations, the act did not have an official timeline and made the switch voluntary.

Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, in the decades since, the United States actually has largely switched to the metric system, just the general public (both domestic and international) seem largely ignorant of this. The U.S. military almost exclusively uses the metric system. Since the early 1990s, the Federal government has largely been converted, and the majority of big businesses have made the switch in one form or another wherever possible. In fact, with the passage of the Metric Conversion Act of 1988, the metric system became the “preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce”.

In the medical field and pharmaceuticals. the metric system is also used almost exclusively. In fact, since the Mendenhall Order of 1893, even the units of measure used by the layperson in the U.S., the yard, foot, inch, and pound, have all been officially defined by the meter and kilogram.

Speaking of the general public side, nobody in the U.S. blinks an eye about food labels containing both metric and customary units (required thanks to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, with the majority of states since also allowing metric only). The gram is commonly used to measure everything from the amount of flour to add in a recipe to how much marijuana one buys from a shop or, where it’s still illegal, their local dealer. And if you were to ask someone to pick up a two liter of Dr. Pepper or how a person did running a 10K, most everyone in the United States would know exactly what you are talking about. Beyond this, you’d be hard pressed to find a ruler in the United States that doesn’t include both inches and centimeters and their common divisors.

Further, in school, both customary units and the metric system are taught. Yes, while Americans may generally have little practical need to learn a second language, most are, at least for a time, reasonably fluent in two very different systems of measurement.

As with languages unpracticed, however, once out of school, many lose their sense of the latter from lack of use and concrete perspective. It’s one thing to know what 100 and 0 degrees Celsius refers to with respect to water, it’s a whole different matter to “get” what temperature you might want to put on a jacket for. However, students who go on to more advanced science classes quickly pick up this perspective as they become more familiar and, thus, the scientists of America aren’t at the slightest disadvantage here, also contrary to what is often stated in arguments as to why the U.S. should make the switch a bit more official than it already is. All students that go along that path become just as familiar as their European brethren, if a little later in life.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Tamarcus Brown)

This all brings us around to why the United States hasn’t made the switch to the metric system more official than it already is. Primarily three reasons — cost, human psychology, and, at least on the general public side, little readily apparent practical reason to do so.

As to cost, while there has never been a definitive study showing how much it would cost the United States to make the switch official and universal, general estimates range even upwards of a trillion dollars all things considered. Why so high?

To begin with, we’ll discuss a relatively small example in road signs. Installing street signs is an incredibly expensive affair in many places for a variety of reasons. For instance, in 2011 the Washington State Department of Transportation claimed it costs anywhere from ,000 to ,000 PER SIGN, though they later clarified those were worst case and most expensive scenarios and sometimes the signs and installation can ring in ONLY around ,000. Bronlea Mishler of the DOT explains,

Installing a sign along a highway isn’t quite as simple as pounding some posts into a ground and bolting on a sign — that’s why the cost is so variable. There are two ways to replace a sign. One way allows us to install it under old rules; the second way requires us to follow new federal standards… The old rules apply if we are just fixing something, not building something new. Installing a sign alongside the road counts as fixing something — basically, just giving drivers more information. If we install a sign on the side of the road, it would cost: ,000 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets; ,000 for two steel posts and concrete; ,000 to clear brush and other landscape work before and after installation; ,000 for maintenance crews to set up traffic cones, work vehicles, program highway signs and spend the evening doing the work. Total: ,000…. The new rules apply if we’re doing a new construction project. Costs would be higher because we would have to bring everything up to the current highway code. These often involve putting up a sign bridge, a steel structure that spans the entire freeway to hold up multiple signs. Typical costs include: ,600 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets because the sign must be bigger; ,000 for the sign bridge. Total: ,600.

WSDOT Deputy Regional Administrator Bill Vleck also stated, beyond many of these signs needing to be special ordered on a 1-off variety (think a highway sign with city name and distance marker) and often being much larger than most sign makers make, drastically increasing cost, some of the seemingly exorbitant costs are due to special features of the signs few know about. For instance, Vleck states, “If there’s an auto accident, if a car hits that sign post and there’s any kind of injury involved, the state is going to be liable, so we’re looking potentially at a multi-million dollar settlement in those kind of situations… [So] it would have to be a breakaway type sign post, and it has to be specially fabricated so that if a car hits that sign, it reacts appropriately and doesn’t come down and basically take out the occupants.”

For your reference here, in 1995, it was estimated that approximately 6 million signs would need changed on federal and state roads. On top of that, it was noted that approximately just shy of 3 million of the nations about 4.2 million miles (6.8 million km) of public roads are actual local, with an uncertain number of signs in those regions that would need changed.

That said, the rather obscene costs quoted by the aforementioned Washington State DOT would likely be grossly overestimated on a project such as this, with prices massively reduced if special laws were passed to remove much of the red tape, and given the extreme bulk orders that would be called for here, including for the signs themselves and contracts to dedicated crews to make this happen as fast as possible.

For example, in 1995, Alabama estimated they could swap out all the signs on federal highways for a mere per sign (0 today) on average.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Ludovic Charlet)

Perhaps a better rubric would be in looking at Canada’s switch, swapping out around a quarter of a million signs on their then 300,000 miles (482,000 km) or so of road. The total reported cost? Only a little over million (about million today) or around 4 per sign in today’s dollars.

Extrapolating that out to the minimum 6 million signs would then run approximately id=”listicle-2635564449″.5 billion + whatever additional signs need swapped out on the 3/4 of the rest of the roads not accounted for in that 6 million sign estimate. Not an insignificant sum, but also relatively trivial for the U.S. taxpayer to cover at about per person + some uncertain amount for the local road signs that need changed.

Moving on to far greater expenses — industry and wider infrastructure.

While it’s impossible to accurately estimate the cost of such a change to American businesses as a whole, we do get a small glimpse of the issue when looking at a NASA report studying the feasibility of swapping the shuttle program to full metric. They determined the price tag would be a whopping 0 million for that project alone at the time, so decided it wasn’t worth the cost for little practical benefit… Now extrapolate that out to the approximately 28 million businesses in the United States, their software, their records, their labels, machinery, employee training, etc. needing switched like some sort of Y2K event on steroids. Thus, while it’s impossible to know for sure, many posit the cost could swell into the hundreds of billions of dollars, if not even creep into the trillion territory — in theory at least.

At this point, even the most ardent supporter of the metric system in the United States may be rethinking whether it would be worth it to make the switch more official than it already is. But don’t fret metric supporters the world over!

To begin with, the raw cost of making the switch doesn’t actually tell the whole story here. In fact, it tells a false story — while the gross total of making the change would be astronomical, it turns out the net cost likely wouldn’t be much, or anything at all.

You see, beyond it noted that, for example, on average Australian businesses saw a 9-14% boost directly attributed to the switch when they made it, back in the United States when companies like IBM, GM, Ford and others spent the money to make the change, they universally found that they made a profit from doing this. This was largely from being able to reduce warehouse space, equipment needs, streamline production, lower necessary inventories, as well as taking the opportunity to, at the same time, remove inefficiencies that had crept into their respective businesses with regard to these systems. They were also able to more uniformly manage their businesses abroad and domestic to the same standards and systems. As a very small example, GM reported they were able to reduce its number of fan belts they had to manufacture and stock from about 900 sizes to 100 thanks to everything that went into the switch.

In some cases the businesses also noted new international markets opening up, both in sales and ability to more easily, and often more cheaply, acquire product abroad. All of this resulted in a net profit extremely quickly from investing the money into making the switch.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Fleur Treurniet)

As you might expect from these types of benefits, an estimated 30% of businesses in the United States have largely already switched to metric.

Granted, these are generally larger companies and various small businesses dealing mostly locally might not see such a benefit. However, with the increasing globalization of supply chains, many small businesses would likely still see some benefit.

Unfortunately, particularly when it comes to construction, that general industry has lagged well behind others in switching, and, as you might imagine, the existing infrastructure of the nation from roads to bridges to homes to drill bits to screws to the architectural plans for all of it being based on customary units would not be cheap to change and it isn’t clear here what the net cost would be. However, as in all of this, the cost could potentially be mitigated via a slow phaseout approach with grandfathering allowed, similar to what other nations did, though in most cases on a vastly smaller scale than would be seen in the United States.

All this said, we here at TodayIFoundOut would like to posit that what the international community actually finds irksome about the United States not using the metric system is not United States businesses who deal abroad or United States scientists or even the government — all of which largely use the metric system and all of which have little bearing on what Pierre sitting in his mother’s basement in France is doing at a given moment.

No, what upsets Pierre is that the U.S. general populace does not use the metric system in their day to day lives. Why is this irksome? Beyond just the human drive for uniformity amongst one’s community, in this case of the global variety, because English websites the world over, keen to get some of those sweet, sweet U.S. advertising dollars, cater to the U.S. audience and use the units that said audience is more familiar with, those not familiar are often left to Google a conversion to the units they are familiar with. The alternative is for said websites to include both, but that often makes for a break in the flow of the content, something we here at TodayIFoundOut regularly wrestle with finding a proper balance with.

This brings us around to the human side of the argument. To begin with, while the United States would unequivocally see many benefits to joining the rest of the world in some good old fashioned metric lovin’, as you might expect given the lack of immediately obvious benefit to the layperson, few among the American public see much point. After all, what does it really matter if a road sign is in kilometers or miles, or if one’s house is measured in square feet or square meters?

While some cite the benefits of ease of conversion to other units in a given system, in day to day life, this is almost never a thing that’s cumbersome in the slightest. If it was, Americans would be clamoring to make the change. The argument that ease of conversion between units should be a primary driver for the public to want the change simply doesn’t hold water in an era where, on the extremely rare occasion people actually need to make such a precise conversion in day to day life, they have little more than to say “Hey Google”. And in most cases, even that isn’t necessary when you’re reasonably familiar with a given system.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Makarios Tang)

Perhaps a poignant example of how, when you’re familiar, a non base 10 system of measure really isn’t that complicated to deal with in day to day matters, consider that the world still uses 1000 milliseconds in a second, 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. What few realize about this is that the original metric system actually attempted to simplify this as well, dividing the day into 10 hours, with 100 minutes in each hour, etc. Unfortunately, most people didn’t see the benefit in switching when also factoring in having to swap out their existing clocks. Nobody has much seen a need to fix the issue since, not even the most ardent champion of the metric system for its ease of conversions compared with imperial or customary units.

And while you might still be lamenting the stubbornness of Americans for not seeing the genuine benefits to themselves that would likely be realized here, we should point out that virtually every nation in the world that uses the metric system has holdover units still relatively commonly used among laypeople that aren’t metric, for simple reasons of not seeing a reason to stop, from calories to horsepower to knots to lightyears and many more. Or how about, have you ever flown on a plane almost anywhere in the world? Congratulations, you’ve in all liklehood unwittingly been supporting the use of something other than the metric system. You see, the pilots aboard, from French to American, use a feet based, Flight Level, system for their altitude, and knots to measure their speed. Just two standards that, much like the American public and their road signs, nobody has seen much practical reason to change.

Now to more concrete human psychology for not making the switch, which has gradually been converting more and more Americans from general apathy to the anti-switch crowd as the decades pass — when one group of humans tells another group what to do, occasionally using terms like “idiot units” and starting flame wars in comments of every website or video posted on the web that uses or discusses said units- you will universally get resistance if not outright hostility in response. This is not an American thing, as so often is purported- this is a human thing.

Try forcing the French government to mandate by law that French is dead and English is now to be universal spoken for the sake of better international trade, economics, and relations. You might argue that in a not insignificant percentage of the world English is already the standard in such international business dealings, but that is really little different than the current situation in business in the U.S. concerning the metric system. What we’re talking about is how the general populace of France would react if the government mandated such a change, and even more so if outside nations were pressuring it. Again, it’s not an American thing — it’s a human thing.

Beyond that, as anyone whose ever done anything online is well aware of — humans hate change. Loathe it. Make any change to, say, a format or style of video, no matter how small, and rest assured no matter if the change is unequivocally vastly superior and the audience universally comes to agree with that, a not insignificant number of one’s audience will complain, sometimes vehemently, at first. More directly we see this again and again throughout the history of various nations making the change to SI. Again, resistance of change is not an American thing — it’s a human thing.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by patricia serna)

But fret not world. You see, slowly but surely the United States has been converting to metric and, for most practical purposes for those outside of the United States, other than having to see it on websites (which, again, we posit is the real driver of people’s ire the world over), the switch has already been made. So much so that at this stage while the cars made in America may say miles per hour on the speedometer, the makers of those cars are using metric to measure and build the things. The very military that defends American’s right to use “Freedom Units” has long since largely converted to the un-free variety.

In the end, money talks, and, for much the same reason other big holdouts like the UK ultimately gave in, as American businesses who have interest in dealing internationally continue to make the switch, they are seeing to it that the metric system more and more creeps into the daily lives of Americans. This will only continue until the inevitable complete adoption. Slowly but surely America is inching towards metric, largely without anyone domestic or abroad noticing.

Want to make the switch take longer? Continue calling them “idiot units”, a mildly humorous statement from a certain point of view given that it takes more brainpower to use customary units than metric, making the latter far more tailored to idiots. And continue to start flame wars in comments comprising mostly of personal attacks rather than using the many and very legitimate and rational arguments that exist as to why it would be of benefit for the people of the United States to make the switch. In the end, we all know there is no better way to convince someone to do something than making the whole thing a religious war, with you on one side and they on the other…

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

4 dietary mistakes that are making you gain weight right now

With so many diets out there to choose from, it’s hard to find one that you’ll feel comfortable with. To help with this, most diets are designed to allow at least one “cheat meal” outside of their plans.

A world where chocolate is not allowed is one few people actually want to live in, so taking a break from a rigid meal plan is a helpful way to be rewarded for dietary disciplined. However, these meals still need to have some structure to them.

There are common mistakes not many people know about — even when “cheating.” You might be wondering how that’s possible because you’re already cheating, but you can really mess up your diet and stack up those unwanted calories quicker than you think.

So we compiled a list of the common ways those sneaky calories work themselves onto the plate.


Also Read: This is the ‘stress hormone’ that’s making you gain weight

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He’s trying to run off all those tasty milk bones.

Binge eating

People love food. That said, when they begin to enjoy a delicious meal, it can be easy to forget that each bite can take them past their maximum calorie threshold for the day. Eating out while maintaining a fat-burning diet is tough enough because of the variety available — but even worse, you don’t know exactly what is going into those meals.

A cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant usually contains more calories than ones you might make at home just from the added ingredients.

Those numbers quickly add up and the next thing you know, you’re cursing at yourself when you’re not making the progress you were hoping for. Be selective with your “cheat meals” so they don’t punish you later. As The Rock says, “Don’t cheat yourself. Treat yourself.”

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As you should!

Listening to other people

The internet is full of people who claim to know every aspect of health and fitness just get you to subscribe to their YouTube channel or like their Facebook page. If you want to support them, that’s entirely up to you. Now, when these so-called “experts” deliver their advice on how you should be dieting, they are generally explaining themselves to a broader audience and not directly to you.

Some fitness personalities will tell you that “in order to get big, you need to eat big.” Unfortunately, that might not be the most beneficial diet plan for you. Eating a high-calorie diet that is meant to bulk you up also runs the risk of making you gain weight based on your metabolism rate and genetics.

The best way to monitor your weight gain is to count the calories going in versus the ones you’re able to burn throughout the day. Refrain from weighing yourself every day because the number can fluctuate based on the amount of water you retain. Jumping on a scale every few weeks will give you a more accurate reading of your progress.

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Calories cutting cooking, at it’s best.

Counting calories incorrectly

There are approximately 206 calories in a cup of white rice, 231 in a whole chicken breast, and 45 in a cup of steamed vegetables. That equals 482 calories. Although the meal is healthy, it is nearly one-fourth of a 2,000 calorie per day meal plan. The various snacks and meals you’re eating in a day can add up real quick, so plan accordingly.

(Also, why are you eating white rice? Complex carbohydrates only!)

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Hey, what’s up!

Cutting too many calories

Starting a new diet can yield quick results. You might start seeing physical improvements right away as you embark on this fitness journey. But if you cut too many calories, you won’t be able to sustain that progress.

If you drastically cut calories, that notable fat loss will come to a halt when your body begins to protect itself from the food decrease you placed on it.

It will go from burning stored fat to only using the food you just ate for energy. Cutting calories should be a gradual process, not one you rapidly jump in to.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Panama actually started its war with the United States

On Dec. 20, 1989, President George H. W. Bush launched Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama. The goal was to oust Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and maintain the neutrality of the Panama Canal while protecting American citizens there. Some 27,000 U.S. troops toppled Noriega’s regime in just over a month and they started it – just like the U.S. planned.


Some people would swear that a small Central American dictatorship with a patronage-based military starting a war with a world superpower is a terrible idea. Those people would be correct, especially considering the superpower already controlled a huge chunk of the country, and staged military units from inside that zone of control.

Until 1979, it was known as the Panama Canal Zone. By 1989, that area was full of U.S. military personnel.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Just a sliver. No big deal.

At the time, the United States still controlled the canal. The terms of the Carter-Torrijos Treaty stated that Panama would gain full control of the canal on Dec. 31, 1999. But even after the canal was given to Panama, the U.S. retained the right to defend the canal to keep it a neutral lane for all ships of all countries. So, the United States already had 12,000 combat-ready forces in the country before the invasion even began.

Still, the United States worked to provoke the Panamanians into committing overtly hostile acts toward U.S. troops. The Americans gave money to the campaign of Guillermo Endara, a politician in direct opposition to Noriega’s regime. When Endara won the national election over Noriega’s chosen candidate, the dictator ruled the vote invalid and then declared himself the sole ruler of Panama.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Drug and human trafficker-in-chief, Manuel Noriega.

Alarmed at Noriega’s shocking display of power, the U.S. military began stepping up its provocation efforts, staging military exercises in former Canal Zone areas, driving through Panamanian territory, and challenging the Panamanian Defense Forces to stop them from moving as they pleased. The Bush Administration also expanded sanctions on Panama and even funded a coup attempt against Noriega.

On Dec. 15, 1989, Noriega even declared war on the United States — but even that didn’t precipitate the invasion. The next day, four military officers were stopped by the Panamanian military on their way to dinner at the Marriott in downtown Panama City. The four officers were driving in a private vehicle when they hit a roadblock and were suddenly surrounded by PDF troops. The Panamanians fired at the vehicle, hitting Marine Capt. Richard E. Hadded in the foot and wounding Marine 1st Lt. Robert Paz, who was rushed to the hospital, where he died of his wounds.

Two Americans, a Naval officer and his wife, witnessed the event. They were detained and beaten by the PDF. That’s when President Bush called down the thunder.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Cue the Van Halen song.

The Panamanian Defense Forces got hit hard. In the middle of the night, tens of thousands of American troops using mechanized infantry, Special Forces, and even airborne assaults, made a move to cripple the Panamanians and capture Noriega. It was the largest combat operation since the Vietnam War, an invasion of an area the size of South Carolina.

By one in the morning on Dec. 20, 1989, U.S. troops installed Endara as Panama’s new President. Meanwhile, Army helicopter gunships and USAF F-117 Nighthawks were hitting targets around the country and the U.S. Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, and U.S. Marines hit the ground in full force. They first captured special military targets, like the PDF’s La Comandancia and the Bridge of the Americas over the canal itself. SEALs destroyed Noriega’s personal boat and jet as the dictator took refuge inside Vatican City’s diplomatic mission in the capital.

He would not be there long.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Netflix, here’s your next season of Narcos.

Noriega hid under the protection of the Holy See as the United State military cleaned up the remnants of the Panamanian Defense Forces. Meanwhile, the Americans blasted rock and heavy metal music at the mission in an attempt to force Noriega to leave the building and face justice.

Related: Listen to the playlist that ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega

He finally did on Jan. 3, 1990. Noriega was flown back to the U.S., where he faced indictments for drug trafficking in Miami. The onetime dictator would spend the rest of his life in prison.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US will no longer track how much of Afghanistan it controls

In the middle of a war, the most crucial information is just how much of the enemy’s territory is captured by the other side. But the United States isn’t engaged in the kind of war that has a front, a rear, and can be delineated on a map somewhere. Even in the counterinsurgency kind of war, one might think it’s still important to track which areas are more or less under control. According to U.S. military commanders, they would be wrong.

For years, the U.S. military was happy to tell the American public just how much of Afghanistan it controlled and how much fell to the Taliban.

Not anymore.


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“Just shoot in any direction, I guess.”

For years, the government provided data on how much of the country is under control of the Afghan government and the ISAF mission, and how much is under the control of the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Between 2015 and November 2018, the percentage controlled by the Taliban is up. Way up.

In 2015, the Afghan government controlled 72 percent of the country. Since then the resurgent insurgency has fought back, causing that number to dwindle to 54 percent in October 2018.

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An Afghan security force personnel fires during an ongoing an operation against Islamic State.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction; the body designated by Congress to monitor American spending in Afghanistan reported that the NATO-led mission, Resolute Support, “formally notified SIGAR that it is no longer assessing district-level insurgent or government control or influence.” The United States military in Afghanistan backed SIGAR on the move, saying district stability data “was of limited decision-making value to the commander.”

The report from SIGAR that announced the decision was released on May 1, 2019, and did not explain why the data was of no use to the commander. The only clue is that the United States has long questioned the accuracy of the models produced by SIGAR and is only based on unclassified data, which is not what the U.S. military is likely to use.

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U.S. Army soldiers from the 1-320 Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, watch helicopters at Combat Outpost Terra Nova

John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Morning Edition:

“The enemy knows what districts they control, the enemy knows what the situation is. The Afghan military knows what the situation is. The only people who don’t know what’s going on are the people who are paying for it, and that’s the American taxpayer.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War nurse made a big impact on wounded soldiers

In section 42 of Beaufort National Cemetery is a modest private marker for Emma Morrill Fogg French. In addition to her name and years of birth and death — 1831-1898 — is the simple inscription “Hospital Nurse.”

Emma (or Emeline) M. Morrill was born in 1831 in Standstead, Canada, along the United States border in Vermont. It is likely that her family lived on both sides of the border over the next two decades. Emma was residing in Lowell, Massachusetts, when she married distiller Charles P. Fogg on March 1, 1852. There is little historical evidence of the Foggs after their marriage. Charles appears in the 1855 New York census as a boarder in Brooklyn. Emma shows up on the 1860 U.S. census without Charles, presumably having been widowed by that time. She too was living in Brooklyn.


Emma arrived in the Sea Islands of South Carolina in 1863 to serve as a nurse for the Union Army at the U.S. General Hospital in Hilton Head. While her time in service was relatively short — from March to October — she apparently made quite an impact on the soldiers under her care. A notice in the Nov. 14, 1863, edition of The New South newspaper, noted that Mrs. Fogg received “an elegant Gold Pen and Pencil” from several of the wounded soldiers.

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Newspaper clipping on her departure from the hospital.

Emma returned to New York but came back to teach in South Carolina for the National Freedman’s Relief Association in April or May 1864. The Association was formed in February 1862 at the Cooper Union Institute to “relieve the sufferings of the freedmen, their women and children, as they come within our army lines.” Rev. Mansfield French, a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, who had initially become interested in the education of African Americans in Ohio in the 1850s, was one of the main forces behind the organization. After the start of the Civil War, Reverend French went to Washington, D.C., and in a meeting with President Lincoln convinced him of the need to care for the enslaved African Americans who had been abandoned on the plantations of Hilton Head and Port Royal, South Carolina. The reverend was eventually commissioned as a chaplain in the U.S. Army and assigned to the U.S. hospital in Beaufort. An avid abolitionist, Reverend French continued to advocate for both the end of slavery and the recruitment of former enslaved men into the Union Army.

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Cooley, Sam A, photographer. Rev. Mr. French’s residence, Beaufort, S.C. Taken between 1863 and 1865.

(Library of Congress)

Emma remained in costal South Carolina after the war and continued teaching with the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen’s Bureau). In April 1868, she married the eldest son of Reverend French – Winchell Mansfield French, who had joined his father in Beaufort in 1864 and became involved in land and cotton speculation. The couple reportedly resided at the former Thomas Fuller House on Bay Street in Beaufort. The house — later referred to as the Tabby Manse — was purchased by Reverend French in January 1864 at public auction, having been abandoned by its owners.

The Frenches lived in Beaufort through at least June 1880 when the U.S. population census was taken. Winchell, who was engaged in numerous business pursuits during the Civil War and after, was by this time the editor of a local newspaper. Living with the couple were several boarders including two families and a single young man.

By 1885, Emma and Winchell had moved to Orlando, Florida, and were running a hotel. Within a decade, the couple had departed the Sunshine State for Chattanooga, Tennessee. This is where Emma filed her pension application related to her service in the Civil War. Nurses were finally granted the right to pensions when the U.S. Congress passed the act of Aug. 5, 1892.

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Page from pension record of Emma M. French formerly Fogg, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

At the time of her death on July 18, 1898, Emma was receiving twelve dollars per month from the federal government — the amount allocated in the 1892 pension act. She was interred at Beaufort National Cemetery among the soldiers she served.

In addition to Emma, there are other notable Civil War nurse buried in the national cemeteries — at Annapolis National Cemetery are three nurses who died during the war: Mrs. J. Broad, Mary J. Dukeshire and Hannah Henderson; and Malinda M. Moon, who died in 1926, is interred at Springfield National Cemetery.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This is the most awesome Delta Force recruiting video we’ve ever seen

It’s an oldie but a goodie — and it’s likely the only publicly-available video showing real-deal Delta Force operators.


Leaked during the height of the Iraq war in 2008, this video crept its way onto YouTube and caused quite a splash when it hit the net. The original footage has since been taken down, but it was added to this compilation video of all Special Forces. Rumors around the original video claimed it was put together by the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta to help recruit new members to “The Unit.”

As that Tier 1 Joint Special Operations group was tasked with fighting the top leaders of the insurgency in Iraq, veterans of the unit from the ’90s and 2000s were burning out — and suffering casualties. In fact, “No Easy Day” author and former SEAL Team 6 commando Matt Bissonnette wrote that some DEVGRU SEALS were tasked to run with Delta in Iraq because the squadrons were under manned.

So it stands to reason that Delta needed new blood. And with an assessment that matriculates only a handful who try, combined with a brutal operational tempo at the time that saw squadrons executing sometimes three raids per night for a 90 day deployment, The Unit had to get soldiers in the door.

Tactical driving? Check. Vehicle takedowns from a Little Bird? Check. Lots of breaching and A-10 CAS? Check.

There’s a lot more to the video to note (including the Delta boys tooling around Baghdad in a specially-modified Stryker vehicle Pandur 1 Armored Ground Mobility Vehicle), but this’ll just give you a taste of what’s in store.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Afghanistan got its bizarre panhandle

For a country that hasn’t been conquered since Tamerlane rolled through, Afghanistan has sure been shaped by all those who tried to control it. Today, there’s even a little strip of land in the country’s northeast that forms a panhandle – strange for such a small strip considering the major powers who fought for control of the area.


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Good luck getting there.

It was those major powers who created the panhandle in the first place. Today it borders China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. But during a period of time in Afghan history known as “The Great Game,” those countries were parts of China, the Russian Empire, and the British Empire, respectively.

It was Britain’s way of containing a quickly-growing Russia.

A treaty between Russia and Great Britain in 1873 made the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between the Russian Empire and Afghanistan’s northern border. In 1893, the Durand Line became Afghanistan’s border with British India. A mostly independent Afghanistan was a buffer zone between the two growing empires.

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The red line through the center represents the British-imposed Durand Line.

The resulting narrow strip of land became known as the Wakhan Corridor.

It’s an area even more ungovernable than the rest of Afghanistan. At elevations as high as 17,000 feet in some areas, the area is inaccessible to most Afghans – and even the Taliban and the Soviet Union were unable (or unwilling) to fully move into the area.

The form of Islam practiced in the Wakhan is very hostile to the Taliban, a further explanation of the lack of central interference from Kabul.

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A valley in the Wakhan Corridor.

The 3,500-mile area used to be a route along the Silk Road and was traversed by great historical figures like Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. People there still depend on trade, but this remote part of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province sees little in the way of tourists or even Afghan visitors.

Today the area has few roads, no government, and is home to roughly 12,000 nomadic and semi-nomadic people.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Qataris saved two lost Marines from certain death

It was the height of the short-lived but intense shooting portion of the 1990-91 Gulf War. Two Marines who had been manning an essential listening post in the middle of the desert suddenly found themselves lost and wandering through Saudi Arabia like Moses trying to find his way out.

Unlike Moses, however, they weren’t going to survive for years and years on end. There was a good chance they would soon both be dead, either from Iraqi tanks and helicopters or – more likely – thirst and exposure. But luckily they found salvation in their allies.


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There’s a reason even Stormin’ Norman loved the Qataris.

According to Quora user Robert Russell Payne, he and a fellow Jarhead Marine were stumbling around in the desert, unable to locate their unit or even tell anyone where their unit might have been by that point. As Payne says, reading a map in the desert is hard, which sounds like a silly thing to say, unless you’ve ever been in the desert.

Life in the deserts in and around Saudi Arabia is not an easy life. The lack of water for survival is readily apparent, but it’s not just exposure to the elements or dying of thirst that can kill you. Almost everything in the desert is adapted to maximum killability. The weather in the dry sands of the Arabian Peninsula is just the start. The highest temperature recorded on the peninsula is 53 degrees Celsius, or 127 degrees for you American readers. Remember what those Desert Storm Marines were wearing in that?

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To feel it, just go to the beach wearing everything you own.

Suddenly the wandering troops saw another military post, they just happened to stumble upon. But they weren’t exactly sure who that nearby installation belonged to. If it wasn’t the Americans, then whose was it? Should they approach? Half expecting the base to just light them up as they came closer, the two Marines bravely walked on. IF they were approaching the wrong outpost or if just one of the guards had an itchy trigger finger, the whole thing could have gone belly up.

But it didn’t. It turns out the base belonged to a U.S. ally: Qatar. Payne admits the Qataris could have just lit the two men up, but they didn’t. Instead, like true professional soldiers, the Qatari troops held their ground while not just lighting up the evening sky with their remains. The Qataris didn’t speak English. They were in the middle of the same war. Yet they allowed these strangers to approach the base and explain their situation on a dark and moonless night.

Even though the Qatari troops didn’t speak much English, they were able to determine where the Marines belonged. Under the cover of darkness, the two were quickly packed up in a truck and hauled away to their unit. If it were not for the Qatari troops, those two Marines would likely have been lost forever.

Articles

Here’s what an Army medic does in the critical minutes after a soldier is wounded

When a soldier is wounded on the battlefield, medics get the call.


Medics are sort of like paramedics or emergency medical technicians in the civilian world, except paramedics and EMTs are less likely to carry assault rifles or be fired at by enemy forces. When everything goes wrong, soldiers count on the medics to keep them alive until they can be evacuated to a field hospital.

Also Read: Inside ‘Dustoff’ — 22 Photos Of The Army’s Life-Saving Medevac Crews 

Ninety percent of soldier deaths in combat occur before the victims ever make it to a field hospital; U.S. Army medics are dedicated to bringing that number down.

To save wounded soldiers, the medic has to make life or death decisions quickly and accurately. They use Tactical Combat Casualty Care, or TCCC, to guide their decisions. TCCC is a process of treatment endorsed by the American College of Surgeons and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.

First, medics must decide whether to return fire or immediately begin care.

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Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Since the Geneva Convention was signed, the Army has typically not armed medics since they are protected by the international law. But, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have mostly been fought against insurgencies who don’t follow the Geneva Convention and medics have had many of their markings removed, so they’ve been armed with rifles and pistols.

When patients come under fire, they have to decide whether to begin care or return fire. The book answer is to engage the enemies, stopping them from hurting more soldiers or further injuring the current casualties. Despite this, Army medics will sometimes decide to do “care under fire,” where they treat patients while bullets are still coming at them.

Then, they treat life-threatening hemorrhaging.

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Major bleeding is one of the main killers on the battlefield. Before the medic even begins assessing the patient, they’ll use a tourniquet, bandage, or heavy pressure to slow or stop any extreme bleeds that are visible. If the medic is conducting care under fire, treatment is typically a tourniquet placed above the clothing so the medic can get them behind cover without having to remove the uniform first.

Now, they can finally assess the patient.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Evan V. Lane

Once the medic and the patient are in relative safety, the medic will assess the patient. Any major bleeds that are discovered will be treated immediately, but other injuries will be left until the medic has completed the full assessment. This is to ensure the medic does not spend time setting a broken arm while the patient is bleeding out from a wound in their thigh.

During this stage, the medic will call out information to a radio operator so the unit can call for a medical evacuation using a “nine-line.” Air evacuation is preferred when it’s available, but wounded soldiers may have to ride out in ambulances or even standard ground vehicles if no medical evacuations are available.

Medics then start treatment.

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Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Medics have to decide which injuries are the most life-threatening, sometimes across multiple patients, and treat them in order. The major bleeds are still the first thing treated since they cause over half of preventable combat deaths. The medics will then move on to breathing problems like airway blockages or tension pneumothorax, a buildup of pressure around the lungs that stops a soldier from breathing. Medics will also treat less life-threatening injuries like sprains or broken bones if they have time.

Most importantly, Army medics facilitate the evacuation.

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Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Army medics have amazing skills, but patients still need to get to a hospital. Medics will relay all information about the patient on a card, the DA 7656 and the patient will get on the ambulance for evacuation. The medic will usually get a new aid bag, their pack of medical materials, from the ambulance and return to their mission on the ground, ready to help the next soldier who might get wounded.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Vladimir Putin’s career went from the KGB to the Kremlin

Vladimir Putin‘s KGB career may have ended decades ago, but that didn’t stop the Russian president from citing his spy credentials during July 16, 2018’s press conference with US president Donald Trump.

Dissmissing the idea that Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia in 2016 and disputing the credibility of the Steele dossier, Putin said, “I was an intelligence officer myself, and I know how dossiers are made up.”


Russia is accused of hacking the DNC’s emails and engaging in other forms of cyber subversion in order to throw the race to Trump. A series of politically-charged and disinformation-spreading social media groups and advertising campaigns have been traced back to Russia.

Putin has denied hacking the election. Trump has argued that he “doesn’t see any reason” why Putin would meddle in the election, despite the consensus of the US intelligence community that Russia interfered in order to ensure a Republican victory.

Here’s a look into Putin’s early career as a KGB spy:

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“The Shield and the Sword” (1968)

As a teenager, Putin was captivated by the novel and film series “The Shield and the Sword,” writes Steven Lee Myers in “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin.”

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

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Adolf Hitler.

The story focuses on a brave Soviet secret agent who helps thwart the Nazis.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

Putin later said he was struck by how “one spy could decide the fate of thousands of people.”

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

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Saint Petersburg State University.

Putin went to school at Saint Petersburg State University, where he studied law.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

His undergraduate thesis focused on international law and trade.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

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KGB headquarters — also known as the Lubyanka Building.

After initially considering going into law, Putin was recruited into the KGB upon graduating in 1975.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

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Satsivi.

(Flickr photo by Paul Keller)

After getting the good news, Putin and a friend headed to a nearby Georgian restaurant. They celebrated over satsivi — grilled chicken prepared with walnut sauce — and downed shots of sweet liqueur.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

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Moscow’s Red Square.

He trained at the Red Banner Institute in Moscow.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” The Telegraph

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Sergei Ivanov.

Putin’s former chief of staff and fellow KGB trainee Sergei Ivanov told the Telegraph that some lessons from senior spies amounted to little more than “idiocy.”

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” The Telegraph

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Vladimir Putin.

Putin belonged to the “cohort of outsiders” KGB chairman Yuri Andropov pumped into the intelligence agency in the 1970s.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

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Yuri Andropov.

Andropov’s goal was to improve the institution by recruiting younger, more critical KGB officers.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

Putin.

Putin’s spy career was far from glamorous, according to Steve Lee Meyers’ “The New Tsar.”

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

His early years consisted of working in a gloomy office filled with aging staffers, “pushing papers at work and still living at home with his parents without a room of his own.”

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

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Saint Petersburg.

He attended training at the heavily fortified School No. 401 in Saint Petersburg, where prospective officers learned intelligence tactics and interrogation techniques, and trained physically. In 1976, he became a first lieutenant.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin,” “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

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1987 anniversary celebration of the KGB.

Putin’s focus may have included counter-intelligence and monitoring foreigners.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

According to Meyers, Putin may have also worked with the KGB’s Fifth Chief Directorate, which was dedicated to crushing political dissidents.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

In 1985, Putin adopted the cover identity of a translator and transferred to Dresden, Germany.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

In the biography “Mr. Putin,” Fiona Hill and Cliff Gaddy speculate his mission may have been to recruit top East German Communist Party and Stasi officials, steal technological secrets, compromise visiting Westerners, or travel undercover to West Germany.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

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Dresden, Germany.

(Flickr photo by Bert Kaufmann)

Hill and Gaddy conclude that the “most likely answer to which of these was Putin’s actual mission in Dresden is: ‘all of the above.'”

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

Putin has said that his time in the KGB — and speaking with older agents — caused him to question the direction of the USSR.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

“In intelligence at that time, we permitted ourselves to think differently and to say things that few others could permit themselves,” he said.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

At one point, crowds mobbed the KGB’s Dresden location after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” The Telegraph

Putin has claimed to have brandished a pistol to scare looters from the office.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” The Telegraph

It’s believed that Putin’s tenure in the KGB, which occurred during a time when the USSR’s power crumbled on the international stage, helped to shape his worldview.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

“It was clear the Union was ailing,” Putin said, of his time abroad. “And it had a terminal, incurable illness under the title of paralysis. A paralysis of power.”

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

Putin ultimately quit the KGB in 1991, during a hard-liner coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Source: “Putin: Russia’s Choice

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He became an official in Boris Yeltsin’s subsequent administration and was appointed to lead the FSB — the post-Soviet successor to the KGB — in 1998.

Source: “Putin: Russia’s Choice

Putin then took over for Yeltsin upon his resignation in 1999. One of his first acts as president was to pardon his predecessor for corruption.

Source: “Putin: Russia’s Choice,” PBS, Business Insider

Putin was ultimately elected president for the first time in 2000.

Source: “Putin: Russia’s Choice,” PBS, Business Insider

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter Markle grew up during a period of intense change for the country with the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War etched into his mind. His father proudly served in WWII in the Pacific where he brought those hard-learned lessons and values back to the family, which greatly impacted Peter. After time in the U.S. Army Reserves and on the USA Hockey Team, Markle decided to become a filmmaker. He has directed many great films, especially military and historical ones, to include Bat 21, Faith of my Fathers, Flight 93, Saving Jessica Lynch, Nightbreaker and Youngblood. Markle has also directed numerous episodes for hit shows including the X-Files, CSI, Without a Trace, Life, NYPD Blue, Burn Notice, Rescue Me, ER and Homicide: Life on the Street.

WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

I was born in Danville, PA. in the Geisinger Hospital that my mother’s father started. We lived on a farm outside Hazelton, PA. I have vivid memories from my first years there. The barn and particularly the hay loft, the fresh fruit that was picked daily in season, the creek where one of the workers killed a water moccasin one day. In first grade we moved to Minneapolis where my father got a job at a bank and I was introduced to a real winter. And the rink directly across the street in the park where I discovered ice hockey.

When I grew up there was no social media and absolutely no restrictions what you did with your free time when not in school. We had a black lab that left the house in the morning with us, went on his own way when he got bored with our activities which included exploration, sports, fishing etc. My dad hung a huge bell that could be heard

a half a mile away which was rung for lunch and dinner. The dog was always the first one back. Times have changed. We had enormous freedom and there was no temptation to bury our faces in smart phones. All activity was self-created.

I distinctly remember being fascinated the movies and got completely lost in them at the local cinema which is still there today. One of my favorites was Shane with Alan Ladd. Years later his son, Alvan Ladd, Jr. greenlit one of my films (Youngblood).

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Markle with Flint Generals (IHL). Photo credit PM.

I continued hockey throughout high school and my senior year was asked to join the Olympic Hockey development program which ran through the summer. I played at Yale, had a tryout after my senior year with Boston, played minor league hockey and then three years with the US National team participating in two World tournaments.

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Markle with the USA team. First row second from the right. Photo credit PM.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My parents were very social and community involved. My dad was one of the founders the youth hockey program in our area which started with one team and expanded in a few years into 500 participants. My mother worked throughout her life for hospitals concentrating on rehabilitation. Her interest in health care no doubt emanated from her father who was first assistant surgeon to Will and Charlie Mayo and at one point in his career became President of the American College of Surgeons. They were both extremely social and the vast majority of their best friends served in some way during WW2, many as Naval pilots. My dad was interested in everyone he met. He was the best listener I’ve known. That did not imply he didn’t have a point of view. His advice was judicious and more than often accepted. My mother was a community organizer. That would include in her community as well as her hospital work. Her friends would call her in the morning for their marching orders for the day.

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

It was the traditional ‘Golden Rule’. It’s a timeless aphorism and sometimes hard to follow in a competitive world like film but being honest and empathetic wins out in the short and long run. My mother also told me that lying not only was reprehensible but far more difficult to keep track of than the truth. Both underscored that failure was the inevitable pathway to success. It all depends on how you react to it.

WATM: What influenced you to join the US Army, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I graduated from college at the height of the Vietnam conflict and joined the rest of my class in deciding what was the next move. A significant number of the class including myself applied for the Naval OCS (officer candidate school) in the language division which was in Monterey, Ca. The sample copy of the test which was based on a made-up language was circulated around the campus. I remember looking at it and getting the gist of the concept. Apparently, the other students there got the gist as not one of several hundred who took it missed a question. There was some sort of investigation by the Navy, but it was dropped. I did not attend OCS and assumed upon graduating I would be drafted. I was playing professional hockey when I was told to report to Fort Snelling where the Minnesota Army Reserve was located. I was with four other players at the end of a 200-person line when our names were called, and we were told to report to the front. We were all inducted into the Reserves and told that we would all get time off when playing for the US National hockey team including world tournaments. A month later I was in Stockholm.

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Peter lining up for the action shot even before becoming a director. Photo credit PM.

I did basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in the middle of the summer. It was incredibly hot and humid. I made fast friends in my platoon and had a great drill sergeant. It was a lot like summer football camp but with longer hours. Up at 4am for a 5-mile run in army boots to lights out at 10pm. I was told that you had to learn how to stand in formation while asleep. Done. We had soldiers who gained 80 pounds (never had more than one meal a day) and others who lost 80 (never ran over 10 yards in their lives before). It was a very different mix from my fraternity in college where we had 4 Olympic Swimmers (including Don Schollander who won 5 gold medals and Calvin Hill who was All Pro in the NFL. As a footnote The President of the frat my sophomore year was Fred W. Smith, founder/CEO of FedEx and decorated US Marine in Vietnam, and for my senior year it was George W. Bush who also ended up in the Air Force Reserves.

The harassment was handed out pretty democratically until the PT contest. Parallel bars, low crawl, 100-yard man carry, the 6-minute mile in army boots, push ups etc. I scored the only perfect score in my company (200 men) and was given the weekend off. That would not have happened if my 98-pound roommate, Eddie Pragg, didn’t let me use him for the man carry.

I have to underscore that my boot camp experience on every level was positive. It was tough but extremely well organized. The officers were exacting but fair. The staff was totally professional. It ran like clockwork at a time when so many were going through the turnstile each day. There are some correlations to making a film where it demands a unified front and an ability to make quick adjustments according to the situation at hand. I was just a grunt in the machine but there were numerous examples among the staff on every level as well as my fellow platoon mates that have stayed with me my entire life.

No one knew other than a small handful of reservists as to whether they would end up in Vietnam. I did not have to confront the prospect of being shipped out. I realized that I was uniquely privileged. I did OJT (on the job training) at Fort Ord in Chicago before ending back in Minneapolis for weekend duty once a month at Fort Snelling. Motor pool, clerical work, city public projects. No riots or disasters to contend with. We did summer camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and in addition to my normal duties and drills I was an editor of the camp newspaper distributed the last day. I decided to take a somewhat satirical angle on the experience and was surprised at the reception. There was laughter, soldiers reading bits out loud and fortunately no reprisals from the brass. I was encouraged to write by my freshman English professor in college and never took it seriously until listening to the reception of my version of ‘The Onion’ distributed around camp.

I would be remiss not to mention that it was my father who was the real soldier. He dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania to join the Navy. He got his pilot license at 17 and became one the youngest flight instructors in the armed forces during WW2. He was assigned to the USS Bataan, a light aircraft carrier, and fought in the last years in the Pacific through the surrender which he witnessed being docked next to the Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Because of his flight experience he was put in charge of the CIC (combat information center) directing planes when airborne, spotted bogies (enemy planes) and skunks (unidentified surface ships) basically directing aerial combat operations along with the brass. They were in the middle of the kamikaze blitz and had numerous close calls. He witnessed both the Bunker Hill and the Franklin take direct hits some less than 200 meters away with the loss of over 1000 sailors. During one Kamikaze attack a sister ship got hit and 19 soldiers were thrown overboard. Dad marked his ship’s position using the DTR (dead reckoning system) and he convinced the brass to take 8 ships after dark for a search. They implemented a staggered zig zag course for six hours and miraculously found the sailors within 10 minutes of the search stop order. To be noted as well, his brother, Alvan, landed on Omaha Beach, fought 5 major battles in the Bulge as an artillery captain and was honored the Chevalier of the Legion of Honneur by the French. He attended the 70th Anniversary of Normandy.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Peter’s father (Thomas) during WWII. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into directing and writing?

It’s a tiresome analogy but it would be teamwork. I’ve been on series where one show had 4 stages in use at the same time. One devoted primarily to build sets designed for a particular episode, another three with sets for shooting a current episode, pickups from previous episodes and for the next one. Well over 100 people will be working to accomplish the same goal. Each department head is crucial to the mission (production; accounting; director and assistant directors; art; camera; casting; catering; construction; costume; lighting; grip; locations; makeup/hair; medic; post-production; property; publicity; research; script supervision; set dressing; sound; special effects; stand-ins; stunts; transportation; video playback; visual effects. The similarity to the chain of command in the military is obvious. Lots of departments. Lots of personnel. And all interdependent with one another. I guess the ‘weakest link in the chain’ is a prevalent dynamic in both film and the armed forces. I was shooting a film in Borneo (Bat 21) and the special effects department head had set a series of explosions along a path through the jungle Gene Hackman and Danny Glover would run by. This was primarily done using a nail-board which each nail represented an explosion. After going hot contacting the individual nails with metal (could be a screwdriver) set off the blast. The department head said that he was going to use a computer program instead of the old system, the ‘eyeball approach’. I questioned whether it made sense to switch now but he said it was safer. I called action and Danny and Gene started running along a riverbank. An explosion (representing a bomb) goes off so close to them that they both instinctively duck and cover their faces but continue running. The second explosion is closer, and we get the same reaction for the talent. I look over at effects and he is white as a ghost. The shot was incredible, but we almost lost two actors. Back to the nail board. We never told Gene or Danny.

WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?

I guess it’s always the first one because you actually pulled off the impossible. It was a low budget comedy called The Personals where no one was paid. It got great reviews and a crazy learning experience. Bat 21 was up there for the subject matter, the location and working with Gene and Danny. Flight 93 was the first 9/11 film and it was done for AE TV. It was nominated for and won a bunch of Emmys. It was also a challenge to write because the majority of the account took place on the plane. The 9/11 Commission report had just come out and had a great deal of information that I was able to incorporate into the film. We covered not only the drama on the plane but also the families as well as the air traffic controllers and military involvement on the ground.

WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Senator John McCain, Kiefer Sutherland, Dennis Hopper, Daryl Hannah, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Cynthia Gibb, John Candy, Jerry Reed, Joe Pantoliano, Ed Lauter and the like?

After a tryout with the New York Islanders and being assigned to a farm team I made the abrupt decision to become a filmmaker. A good friend of my parents told me something that I never forgot – ‘If you do something you love you increase the odds a hundred-fold that you will be happy and successful.’ I gave it a shot. I ended up doing several military related projects including Bat 21 with Gene Hackman, Faith of my Fathers with Scott Glenn and Shawn Hatosy, Saving Jessica Lynch, Flight 93 and Nightbreaker with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.

All were based on true stories. Bat 21 chronicled the rescue of a 52-year-old Air Force Colonel who was flying a mission to identify through electronic surveillance SAM missile sites that would be knocked out by fighter jets prior to a B52 carpet bombing. His plane was hit by a SAM and he ended up in enemy territory with no ground combat experience. He was guided to his rescue by a spotter plane that flew daily missions tracking him. Gene Hackman played the Colonel and Danny Glover the pilot. Both actors were terrific to work with. Gene prepped at night and arrived early in the day to walk the ‘set’ (only locations in our case). I don’t think I ever did more than 3 takes with him in a scene. Danny is a natural and had great insights into his character. All day aerial shooting was done with him in the plane. It was 95 degrees, humid and our takes had to be limited to seconds in some cases. It was major hazard duty, but Danny embraced it. At times he had control of the stick and relied on our stunt pilot in the other seat to let him know when to bank away.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

On the set of Bat 21 with Gene Hackman and Peter. Photo credit Peter.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Clayton Rohner and Danny Glover in Bat 21. Photo credit IMDB.com

Faith of my Fathers was based on John’s McCain’s early days at Annapolis through his release from the Hanoi Hilton where he was imprisoned for 5 years. Shawn Hatosy was remarkable as he had to age 20 years over the course of the film in portraying John. Scott Glenn was perfect, giving an understated yet powerful performance as his father who was commander of all U.S forces in the Vietnam theater. McCain himself visited the set in New Orleans where we reconstructed an abandoned brewery into the prison. One day I watched him walk over to a cell by himself and enter. I joined him and asked him what he thought. His reply, ‘it’s identical. But you know at times I actually miss it.’ Perplexed, I asked, ‘miss what?’ John replied, ‘being there. I made some great friends. It was one of those shared experiences that forms you for the rest of your life.’ That summed up John McCain for me.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Peter, Shawn Hatosy and Senator John McCain on the set of Faith of my Fathers. Photo credit Peter.

Saving Jessica Lynch was a jingoistic, short of the facts script when I received it. I did extensive research which included interviewing soldiers who were in Iraq and one we hired as an extra who was part of the actual rescue effort. The final product told the real story: A convoy consisting of essentially non-combat personnel (cooks and clerks) made a couple of bad decisions and ended up driving through a town inhabited by Fedayeen. The New York Times and other reputable news outlets broke stories that our film debunked. Lynch did not shoot back during the attack. Eleven American soldiers died. She was taken to a hospital and was on her back through her rescue. The Times wrote a retraction after the film aired praising the film for its authenticity.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Laura Regan in Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Pete and Laura on set. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

A scene from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Peter directing a scene of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Just before filming starts on the set of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

An action sequence from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.

Nightbreaker was a pet project of Martin Sheen. It chronicled the use of army soldiers as guinea pigs to determine the short- and long-term effects of being exposed to a nuclear blast. This was a story from the 50s when nuclear proliferation was at its apex. Emilio plays Martin role as a young man during the actual tests. It tracks the character in middle age trying to come to terms with his involvement. Both actors were terrific to work with and inhabited the pervasive guilt from being involved in the malignant endeavor. Joey Pantoliano played a Sergeant who was in charge of a platoon of guinea pig soldiers and brought the entire range of conflicted emotions to his part.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Peter with Martin Sheen on the set of Nighbreaker. Photo credit Peter.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Joe Pantaliano, Peter and Emilio Estevez on set for Nightbreaker. Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Peter and Martin on set. Photo credit Peter.

Flight 93 was the first film about 9/11. Obviously, there was a military component as soon as it was discovered that it was a coordinated terrorist attack. I remember someone seeing the film and mentioning that it must have been harrowing to make. I noted that our fuselage (the real interior of a 757) was flying at an altitude of one meter, zero knots and within a 15 second walk to craft services (snacks). The best we could do would imagine how we would have reacted in the situation. Would we have been that heroic? Would we be at the head of the conga line attacking the cockpit or hiding in the bathroom in the back? Maybe somewhere in the middle? The coordination between the military and the civilian air services was impressive even though three of the four targets were hit. The passengers on 93 had more time to gather information and communicate with ground control so enable them to coordinate an attack.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Peter on the set of Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

What the outside of the set looked like. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Peter working with the cast on Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

More on set work for Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

93 was an intense journey as are all films. Lots of moving parts, decisions, conflicts and compromises. But ultimately it is teamwork that wins out.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Rob Lowe, Pete and Patrick Swayze on set for Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Pete (bottom center) with the cast and some crew of Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com

Youngblood was a passion project and a blast to make. It was about a young hockey player from the US trying out for an elite Canadian junior team. Rob Lowe, Pat Swayze and Cindy Gibb were the leads. Keanu Reeves played a goalie and it was his first job in a film. Goalies are characters because it’s such an insane position and he was totally quirky in the audition. Rob was great to work with. He had no previous experience skating but progressed quickly enough for us to make it work. He had two doubles who filled in the action scenes who were both elite players.

Pat was a figure skater and quickly adjusted to hockey skates. Rob would agree with me that Pat was a force of nature. He’d be working on 10 other personal projects when not on the set. He composed the song ‘She’s like the Wind’ in his hotel room using a portable mixing setup. We had two scrimmages a week during prep with crew and our hockey extras. Our extras were elite players (two went into the NHL a month after wrap and had huge careers). An executive from MGM came up to make sure I wasn’t participating in the games for obvious reasons and was taken to the rink and just as he sat down, he saw me collide with another player. Pat who knew the exec was there skated over to me and said ‘stay down. He’ll have a heart attack.’

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Rob, Peter, Ed Lauter and Ken James. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Pete on the ice with his DP Mark Irwin. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Tony Danza, Pete, Nick Tuturro and Samuel L. Jackson on the set of Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Frank Vincent, Tony Danza and Pete on Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Danny Glover and Pete sharing a moment. Photo credit PM.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Dayton Callie, Michael Madsen, Pete and Dennis Hopper on the set of The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Pete on the set of “The X-Files” with David Duchovny. Lily with the poncho, Pete, David and Melinda (Pete’s wife) Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Peter and Louis Gossett Jr. on the set of El Diablo. Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Pete and Daryl Hannah taking a break on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?

There are so many diverse stories that can be told. The multiple perspectives include what branch of service, when, the mission, the soldiers involved, fact or fiction etc. Like any project it depends on the strength of the narrative and its ability to attract the actors that help finance the project and the studio/production company to green light it. Personally, I think the number is infinite. All conflicts are different just like every individual is different.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Dennis Hopper, Pete and Kiefer Sutherland on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Gillian Anderson and Peter on the set of “The X-Files”. Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?

First would be having a family which I did at an advanced age. I met my wife, Melinda, while casting a television film. I guess you could call it an acceptable version of the casting couch. That is to say I wasn’t the only one in the room and it wasn’t at the Peninsula Hotel. She was the best actress for the part, and I was immediately attracted to her by her performance and presence. We laughed and argued (about the role) in the room. I knew she was going to be a challenge, but it has made our lives infinitely interesting. And, of course, I’m a guy and like most of our species have not progressed that much from the stone age. We have two kids, Lily and Lucas. As moms and dads know, when children make an appearance, life as you knew it evaporates. But in a good and challenging way. When they got into their teens, I learned so much. Such as I was a horrible dresser and not to yell at basketball or soccer officials. We taught them both to ski and the progression of literally carrying them down the hill to not being able to ski any of their favorite double black runs with them is humbling. You realize that you can give them some direction but that they are on their own paths and need to fumble and fall and learn to pick themselves up again.

Per career I think it would be not willing to quit. To keep trying. I never had a film gross 100 million and did not play one game in the NHL, but I was rewarded in countless ways for my efforts. I have met so many wonderful, dedicated, talented people along the way which is one of the most valid ways to judge one’s life. And I can say that my time spent in the Army was an integral part of the on-going journey.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Army considering 2 cool additions to the new greens uniform

The U.S. Army is considering having paratroopers in airborne units wear World War II-style brown jump boots with the new Army Greens instead of the black boots they currently wear.

“We have discussed that; we don’t have them done yet, of course,” said Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey. “We’ve got to make prototypes and show them to [Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley] for a decision.”

Since the first airborne units were formed during World War II, Army paratroopers have bloused their spit-shined jump boot in the trousers of their Class-A and Class-B uniforms.


The tradition will likely continue with the new Army Greens, Dailey said.

“The intent is to still allow the airborne soldiers to wear jump boots [with the Army Greens] and … it’s not approved yet, but the intent would be to show the chief of staff of the Army brown prototypes.”

Dailey’s comments to reporters at the Pentagon on Nov. 19, 2018, came eight days after the service announced the adoption of the Army Greens — a new Class-A/Class-B uniform designed after the iconic pinks-and-greens uniform soldiers wore during World War II.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey stands with Soldier models wearing the proposed Pink Green daily service uniform at the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania December 9, 2017.

(US Army photo by Ron Lee)

The current blue Army Service Uniform will become the service’s optional dress uniform once the Army Greens becomes mandatory for wear in 2028.

The service plans to begin issuing the Army Greens to new soldiers in summer 2020. Soldiers will also have the option to begin buying the new uniform in summer 2020.

The new uniform will feature a green jacket, taupe-colored pants and brown leather shoes. It will be issued with a garrison cap, but soldiers are also authorized to wear the black beret, Army officials said.

There will also be an optional service cap with brown leather trim that soldiers can purchase, officials have said.

There are other optional items soldiers can purchase as well, Dailey said.

“There are a few different jackets that we are working on right now,” he said.

One of them, Dailey said, is the Eisenhower jacket or “Ike jacket,” a waist-length jacket that was popular in WWII.

“The second one is the tanker jacket, which would replace the [current] black windbreaker, and it is a greenish color,” he said. “And the last one is, which the soldiers love the most, is what we call the World War II bomber jacket, so it’s the leather jacket.

“Each one of those would be optional for wear, based upon the type of formation or the commander’s input. But if the soldier is traveling around in Class-Bs and wants to put on … a jacket to warm up, a soldier will have that option,” Dailey said.

Army officials did not say when the three optional jackets would be available for soldiers to buy.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch CIA Chief of Disguise break down iconic spy scenes

Joanna Mendez, former Central Intelligence Agency Chief of Disguise, watched spy scenes from a variety of films and television shows in order to break down how accurate they really are. From Jason Bourne finding his cache of passports and foreign currency to Carrie Mathison’s (Homeland) half-assed “disguise” through airport security, Mendez doesn’t hold back in her opinions and expertise.

During her 27-year career, her position in the CIA’s Office of Technical Service involved providing operational disguises and alias training in hostile theaters of the Cold War from Moscow to Havana. Her duties included clandestine photography and preparing CIA assets with the use of intelligence-collecting equipment like spy cameras, as well as processing the information brought in.

Think “Q” — James Bond Q, not Star Trek…

Now retired, Mendez continues to consult with the U.S. Intelligence community as well as lecture with her husband Antonio Mendez, also a retired intelligence officer, with whom she has published several books about their covert experience including Spy Dust, which reveals “the tools and operations that helped win the Cold War,” and Argo, which would become an Academy Award-winning film of the same name that told the story of “the most audacious rescue in history.”

In the video below, Mendez lets her critiques fly. Check it out:


Former CIA Chief of Disguise Breaks Down 30 Spy Scenes From Film & TV | WIRED

www.youtube.com

“Carrie’s disguise, which basically consisted of dying her hair…was absolutely ineffective. She’s still Carrie…but with dark hair. She could have cut her hair and restyled it. She could have changed her makeup. She could have put on sunglasses to hide that crazy-eyed look she has…” claps Mendez.

She then jumped to a scene from Alias where Jennifer Garner nails her disguise. “She didn’t just dye her hair — she dyed it outrageously red and then adopted the whole persona to go with it. We could have used that as a training film!” she laughed.

Mendez moves on to Matthew Rhys’ character in The Americans. “He was never trying to look good. He came really close to projecting ‘the little gray man’ that we would talk about at the CIA. You wanted to be forgettable,” she commended.

Mendez then moves on to a “quick change,” the name for a move where an agent clandestinely changes his appearance in 37 seconds. She commented on Mission Impossible III, and in particular discusses why Tom Cruise’s “priest” would have been ethically off-limits.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

From Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver, Mendez breaks down the “quick change” further — and also warns against stealing.

The video covers blending in with the crowd in James Bond — and CIA inventions that helps its agents remain discrete; being assigned a new identity in Spy; cultural customs in Inglorious Bastards; and life-like masks that cover the entire face in order to give the appearance of a completely different face.

The video is highly entertaining, not just because it grabs clips from iconic pop culture favorites (Austin Powers and Sherlock Holmes make appearances) but also because Joanna Mendez has a great, wry humor (“we never tried to disguise ourselves as furniture at the CIA…”).

Watch the full video above and find out what the CIA really thinks about black cat suits and seducing the enemy!
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