4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won't see in movies - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

We all know Hollywood tends to get a lot wrong about the military. Uniform items, tactics, and even people from history get mixed up, dropped, and/or lost along the way. But Hollywood also glamorizes a lot of what the military is and what military life is like. If we were to actually live by Hollywood war movie standards, military life would be all yelling, push-ups, and constant field training.

Who would do all the paperwork? Some salty staff NCO who will always be complaining about all the paperwork he has to do. Well, they got that part down. Here are six things Vietnam veterans really did that you’ll never see in the movies.


4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

I didn’t see this in Forrest Gump.

(VietnamSoldier.com)

Sh*t burning

Yeah, the military still has this detail. But whenever you hear the telltale sounds of Hueys over the music of Creedence Clearwater’s Fortunate Son, the newly-deploying troops are always headed to some very green, very loud base filled with troops who are grilling out and kitting up to go on a search and destroy mission. These new privates are given their marching orders to go out on a combat patrol immediately, even though they’re still green. When (if) they get back, they get time to sit in the bunks and chatter.

No. While they were gone, the REMF NCOs made quick use of that grilled food. It’s time to do the private’s work. Here’s your diesel fuel, Tom Cruise. A lot of Vietnam vets say that’s the newcomer’s first work detail.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

Counting bodies

Remember when Forrest Gump was busy rescuing Bubba from the oncoming wave of napalm that lit up the Vietnamese in the area? He barely made it out alive. What great, gripping action. The enemy was subdued, Forrest and Lt. Dan were safe, and Forrest could go on honoring Bubba and his family.

What they don’t show is probably the Beehive anti-personnel rounds that lit up the area before the napalm was dropped. After the NVA or Vietcong are pinned to trees by exploding flechettes, it’s pretty hard for them to escape the area before the napalm comes in. Some private is going to get sent to count just how many charred bodies are attached to trees. It ain’t pretty, but it happened.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

Body bag duty

When an allied troop dies, someone needs to take care of the body. That’s a junior enlisted job. In places like Saigon and in field hospitals, dead ARVN troops were bagged and moved from hospital to mortuary to burial details – really quickly if the troops were lucky. If they were unlucky, they were moving heavy, dripping bags or bodies that reeked of death and decay and were often filled with maggots.

That’s a smell you won’t ever forget, vets say.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

Amazing but fictional.

The new clueless LT.

Isn’t it awesome to see a competent, intelligent, squared away officer like Lt. Dan Taylor leading American fighting men into combat? Throughout Forrest’s entire time in Vietnam, Lt. Dan led them through rice paddies, jungles, and other terrain, clearing tunnels and destroying outposts. Sure, he also led them into an ambush, but sh*t happens, and then it’s burnt to a crisp – just like that ambush.

But Lt. Dan doesn’t represent every Lieutenant who came to Vietnam. Vietnam vets remember new officers showing up to tell seasoned troops how to do their jobs, even if it was wrong or if the officer was unable to read maps.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Navy picks names for its ships — and breaks its own rules

The Secretary of the Navy is in charge of naming US Navy ships, under the direction of the president and with the guidance of Congress.

But it’s not just a random choice; there have long been rules and traditions concerning how ships are named.

On Monday, the Congressional Research Service released a report on the current rules for naming ships recently obtained by the Navy and those that will be procured in the future. The report outlines the rules for naming ships for Congress, but the ultimate decision rests with the Secretary of the Navy, so of course there are exceptions.

In fact, the report says exceptions to the naming rules are as much a Navy tradition as the naming rules themselves.

Learn about the Navy’s ship-naming rules — and the exceptions — below.


4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

An artist rendering of the future Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

US Navy / DVIDS

The Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines will replace the Ohio-class, starting to patrol in 2031. The first submarine has been named Columbia for the District of Columbia, but the Navy hasn’t publicly stated what the rule for naming this submarine class will be.

The 12 submarines of the Columbia class are a shipbuilding priority. The Columbia-class Program Executive Office is on track to begin construction with USS Columbia (SSBN 826) in fiscal year 2021, deliver in fiscal year 2028, and on patrol in 2031.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut moored at US Fleet Activities Yokosuka for a port visit.

Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Dobbs / US Navy / DVIDS

The Navy doesn’t seem to have a rule for naming Seawolf-class attack submarines. The three submarines of this class still in service are the Seawolf, the Connecticut, and the Jimmy Carter — named for a fish, a state, and a president.

Designed to be the world’s quietest submarines, Seawolf-class submarines are one of the Navy’s most advanced undersea warfighting platforms, and unique among US submarines.

The Jimmy Carter now serves the same secretive purpose as the USS Parche, the US Navy’s most decorated warship.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

The Virginia-class fast attack sub USS Hawaii sails by the battleship Missouri Memorial and the USS Arizona Memorial while pulling into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, June 6, 2019.

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki / US Navy / DVIDS

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) underway in the Indian Ocean prior to flight operations. The Carl Vinson Strike Group is currently on deployment to promote peace and stability and respond to emergent events overseas. USS Carl Vinson will end its deployment with a homeport shift to Norfolk, Va., and will conduct a three-year refuel and complex overhaul.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Dusty Howell

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

USS Preble, USS Halsey, and USS Sampson underway behind the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf, March 24, 2018.

US Navy

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery at Changi Naval Base in Singapore.

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tristin Barth / US Navy / DVIDS

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

USS Boxer (LHD 4) prepares to launch Australian S-70A Blackhawks during flight operations in support of Exercise Talisman Saber 2005.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class James F. Bartels

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

The amphibious transport dock ships USS San Antonio and USS New York underway together in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia, June 9, 2011.

US Navy

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

A graphic representation of a future U.S. Military Sealift Command John Lewis-class oiler.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Armando Gonzales

John Lewis-class oilers will be named for civil-rights and human-rights activists, like Lewis himself.

Some of the Navy’s Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo and ammunition ships are named for civil-rights leaders, like Cesar Chavez, too, although the rule is to name them for explorers.

Lewis, who fought for civil rights alongside Dr. Martin Luther King and is now a member of Congress, attended the keel-laying of his namesake oiler earlier this year.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

The Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City arrives in Sekondi, Ghana, in support of its Africa Partnership Station deployment, July 21, 2019.

John McAninley / US Navy / DVIDS

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

USNS John Glenn underway off the California coast, January 9, 2014

US Navy

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

An artist rendering of the future USNS Navajo (T-TATS 6), February 15, 2019.

US Navy photo illustration

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The government is quiet about plutonium missing for the last year

Two Department of Energy security experts took off to San Antonio in March, 2017. Their mission was to retrieve potentially dangerous nuclear material from a nonprofit research lab. Just to be certain they were getting the goods, they were issued radiation detectors along with a disc of plutonium and a small amount of cesium to calibrate their sensors.

When these two security experts stopped for the night along the 410 beltway, they left the nuclear materials in their rented Ford SUV in a Marriott parking lot that was not in the best neighborhood. The next morning, they were surprised to find the vehicle’s windows smashed in and the nuclear materials gone.

The cesium and plutonium were never recovered, according to the Center for Public Integrity.


For the uninitiated, plutonium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. It’s also one of few elements that will undergo nuclear fission, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s an extremely deadly and dangerous substance with a half-life of just over 24,000 years. One kilogram of plutonium can explode with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, the Idaho National Laboratory says the amount stolen isn’t enough to make a nuclear bomb — that requires nine pounds of uranium or seven pounds of plutonium.

Something the size and weight of a kettle bell could fill the material need for a nuclear weapon.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

Pictured: terrorism.

Cesium is an element that can be used in highly accurate atomic clocks and dirty bombs. It’s one of the most active elements on Earth and explodes on contact with water.

No one briefed the public, no announcement was made in the San Antonio area, and no one would say exactly how much fissile material was stolen and is currently in the hands of someone who thinks they’re just holding cool pieces of metal while slowly irradiating themselves and those around them.

And the military doesn’t have to do any of that, so they don’t. In fact, it happens so often there’s now an acronym for it: MUF – material unaccounted for. An estimated six tons of fissile material is currently considered MUF.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

If there’s an acronym AND a powerpoint about it, you know that sh*t is happening all the time.

The Government Accountability Office doesn’t even have a thorough record of material it loaned to other nuclear nations, what the status of that material is, and if their systems are rigorously inspected. At least 11 of those sites have not been visited by U.S. inspectors since before the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In one instance, 45 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for five nuclear detonations — loaned from the military was listed as safely stored when it was actually gone as of 2009 and had been missing for as long as five years. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency tracked 270 incidents where dangerous fissile materials were trafficked with the intent of doing harm.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

“He seems totally trustworthy to me. Let’s transfer our plutonium immediately.”

The security contracting firm who lost the equipment was given an award, government bonuses, and a renewed contract. Since the Idaho National Lab considered the amount of nuclear material stolen to be of little consequence, they closed the case.

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These badass Marines held off an entire Viet Cong battalion

In the summer of 1966 the United States was ramping up operations in Vietnam. For the Marines of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, this meant deep infiltration and reconnaissance into the Que Son Valley.

Dubbed Operation Kansas, the recon teams moved deep into enemy-held territory to observe and strike at the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong operating in the area.


This mostly consisted of calling for artillery or air support to take out small concentrations of enemy fighters. When larger groups were observed, they were dealt with by calling in reinforcements in the form of Marine rifle companies and battalions.

There was little intention of the recon Marines making direct contact.

Thus, 18 Marines from Team 2, C Company, 1st Recon inserted onto Hill 488 to begin their observation mission.

The team was led by Staff Sgt. Jimmie E. Howard. Howard had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 and was assigned to the 1st Marine Regiment in Korea.

While serving as the forward observer to the regimental mortar company in 1952, Howard was awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts while defending outposts along the Main Line of Resistance.

After his tour in Korea, Howard stayed in the Marine Corps and entered Marine Reconnaissance. In early 1966 he returned to combat in Vietnam, leading a platoon of Reconnaissance Marines.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Jimmie E. Howard was a Staff Sergeant when he led the defense of His 488. (U.S. Marine Corps)

On the night of June 13, 1966, Operation Kansas began with the insertion of numerous recon teams into the Que Son Valley. Team 2 on Hill 488 quickly set up positions to observe the valley. Over the course of the next two days, the recon teams disrupted enemy activity with air and artillery strikes. Howard and his team were doing so well that they turned down an offer to be extracted in order to remain one more day.

Unfortunately, the accuracy and effectiveness of the firepower Howard’s team brought to bear also served to alert the Viet Cong that these were not simply random attacks; they were being watched. The enemy had also surmised that the observation must be coming from Hill 488. Alerted that a Viet Cong battalion of approximately 200-250 men was heading their way, the Marines prepared to defend themselves.

As the Marines waited for the inevitable, the Viet Cong were creeping up the hill toward the Marine positions. Howard had ordered his men to pull back to a rocky knoll at the top of the hill the moment contact was made. Under the cover of darkness, the first Viet Cong made it to within 20 feet of the Marine perimeter. The first shots from the Marine defenders rang out. Under a hail of gunfire and grenades, the Marines fell back to the final defensive position.

The Marines took casualties almost instantly but they responded with determined resistance. Grenades and mortars rained down on their position as heavy machine gun and rifle fire covered the advance of the attackers. But the Marines mowed down the first wave of attackers and blunted the advance. The remaining enemy took a more cautious approach and searched for an opening.

Howard used the brief lull in fire to call for extraction. Before help could arrive, the Viet Cong mounted another determined charge to take the hill but were again driven back. By this time the Marines were out of grenades, running low on ammunition, and all eighteen had been wounded or killed. But there was still more fighting to do.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
US Air Force

After some three hours of fighting, air support arrived overhead. As Air Force planes dropped flares to illuminate the valley, gunships and fighters made strafing runs. They dropped napalm on the advancing enemy. To say the air support was danger-close would be an understatement. Despite the air attack, the enemy was persistent and continued to charge the hill.

At one point the Viet Cong began yelling at the Marines, taunting them. The young Marines of the recon team looked to Howard who gave them the go-ahead to yell back.

Then, with the enemy still shouting taunts, the remaining Marines literally looked death in the face and laughed their heads off. The whole team joined in a chorus of laughter that silenced the Viet Cong.

The Viet Cong came again.

With the enemy still probing their lines, the beleaguered Marines relied on their expert marksmanship and a little trickery to even the odds. Out of grenades, the Marines would watch for movement and then hurl a rock at the enemy.

Intending to escape the impending explosion the Viet Cong would expose their position. Then with deadly accuracy the Marines would take a single shot, conserving ammunition and racking up the body count.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Two UH-1s were shot down by the Viet Cong forces during medevac and air support attempts. (U.S. Army)

A rescue attempt at dawn resulted in one lost helicopter, with a medevac waved off due to the intense fire. Eventually it was decided to bring in a Marine infantry company to clear the hill and allow the recon team to be pulled out. Reportedly there remained only eight rounds of ammunition between the survivors; the rest had picked up enemy weapons.

Howard’s steadfast leadership and cool under fire during the battle for Hill 488 earned him the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded a Purple Heart, along with every other member of the team. Thirteen members of the team were awarded the Silver Star for their bravery. The remaining four members of the team received the Navy Cross. Six of the Marines of Team 2 received their awards posthumously. The recon platoon was the most decorated unit for its size ever in the history of the American military.

Articles

Here’s the technique Navy SEALs use to swim for miles without getting tired

With the beginning of summer, pools all over the US are opening for recreational swimming — but in the Navy, recruits are getting ready for the brutal Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S, that will turn some of them into Navy SEALs.

In the SEALs, where recruits of the elite special operations unit are pushed to their limits, there is no room for inefficiency. So it developed a more efficient swimming stroke: the combat swimmer stroke.

The stroke combines the best elements of breaststroke and freestyle to streamline a motion that not only reduces resistance on a swimmer’s body, but makes the swimmer harder to spot underwater.

Here’s a sample of the stroke:

Unlike freestyle, the combat sidestroke calls for the swimmer to stay submerged for most of it.

To do the combat swimmer stroke, dive in or kick off as you would in freestyle, but at the end of your glide, do a large, horizontal scissor kick instead.

Now comes the unique part — as the horizontal scissor kick tilts your body so that one arm is slightly higher than the other, pull that arm back while leaving the other outstretched.

Turn your face up toward the surface as you pull that arm down, take a breath, and begin to pull down your other arm. Another scissor kick, then reset your arms. You should not switch your orientation or the order in which you pull back your arms.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Want to win a war game? Plan carefully, work hard and get lucky. Want to win a war? You need to get good (or, Git Gud, as you Fortnite players might say). That was the challenge facing military leaders at the start of the Civil War. Industry and daily life had changed year by year over the preceding decades, and if military leaders didn’t evolve and rise to the challenges brought on by the new conflict, they and their men would be lucky to get shallow graves.


4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
A railway gun used during the U.S. Civil War during the Siege of Petersburg, June 1864–April 1865.
(Library of Congress)

The Industrial Revolution took a while to get started and into full swing, but by the 1850s, it was raging across North America with wooden (and, quickly, steel) railroads crisscrossing the country while horses and engines, were pressed into service to pull the train cars. Steam-powered shovels dug canals, and ships crossed the oceans in record time with coal-heated boilers pushing them along.

So, when rebels fired on Fort Sumter in 1861, it was time to use the new manufacturing techniques and technology to improve the weapons of war and produce them on a grand scale. When it came to artillery, the growing industrial might of the U.S. was full of things that could improve cannon design.

Improvements in metallurgy and machining had allowed for more powerful pistons for steam engines, but if you used the same techniques to create cannons, you could safely pack more powder per shot and create more cannons in total. And, the massive improvements in the understanding of iron mining and smelting meant fewer weapons made of brass.

And since machining and interchangeable parts had also improved, it had become possible to manufacture rifled cannons in large numbers. Rifled cannons were more accurate, more destructive, and could deliver explosives into stone masonry.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
30-pounder Parrot rifle at Port Hudson, Louisiana.
(Public domain)

These changes had, obviously, begun before the war actually broke out. For instance, the Parrot rifle was created in 1860. It was designed by a former Army captain who had left the service in 1836. It was actually a cannon and relied on a cast-iron barrel, a then-recent development in cannon design, but far from revolutionary.

Cast-iron barrels have better accuracy than those made of wrought iron, but cast iron is brittle and has less tensile strength, essential for surviving repeated firings. Parrot wrapped the cast-iron barrel in wrought iron with a focus on the breech where the worst pressures were experienced. The addition of rifling helped improve accuracy and range.

But the 1861 outbreak of war drastically increased the market for the Parrot rifle and similar weapons. And, it also created a market for new artillery munitions.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
A display with different rounds for the Parrot rifle.
(Dr.Stew82, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Explosive shells, chained shot, heated shot, all had been around for a while, but the industrial war had created industrial demand. Again, new manufacturing techniques allowed for many more rounds to be created. But, even better, when well-made explosive shells were fired from rifled cannons, they could pierce walls, drilling feet into the surface before exploding.

This destroyed stone walls and timber fortifications with ease. While Parrot rifles and other long-range artillery, were able to fire up to 1.5 miles or more, wrought-iron, rifled cannons firing smaller shells could reach out over 2 miles.

For defenders, that was a guaranteed catastrophe. Traditionally, forts counted on altitude to outrange their opponents. If opposing artillery had similar weapons, the fort’s defenders gained a considerable range advantage because they were firing from 15-feet above the ground or potentially higher.

But if the attacker showed up with wrought-iron, rifled cannons with reinforced breeches, they’d likely have a huge range advantage. With a cast-iron barrel reinforced by wrought iron, they lose a little range but pick up some serious accuracy.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Parrot rifle and carriage.
(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

And when the attacker’s shells buried into the walls before exploding, they could shred straight through the defenses while staying outside the range of the fort’s smoothbores.

And this was decidedly in the Union’s favor because it had the factories and money to manufacture these technological marvels.

When artillerymen got into duels with the new weapons, it was an interesting if lethal exchange. But for infantrymen sent against these new guns, meant they could have to march under fire for over a mile to get into range of their attackers. It took 15 to 20 minutes for infantry to cross the distance while each gun’s crew was pushing out two rounds per minute.

Between that and breakthroughs in rifle technology (similar story to artillery, improved manufacturing techniques combined with improved range and rate of fire) made an infantry attacker’s job nearly impossible. The worst was Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg where 15,000 Confederates tried to cross .75 miles of open field under artillery and rifle fire. Nearly 6,000 men died, and the rest retreated.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea’s dictator was cheered like a rock star in Singapore

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the man who has held Asia on the brink of nuclear war for years, was loudly cheered and celebrated as he made his way around Singapore on a night out.

Around Singapore, media outlets stood perched and ready to catch a glimpse of the young leader as he toured the city’s finer establishments. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has not been seen outside since getting off his airplane, as he crams for June 12, 2018’s summit.


Video taken at the Marina Bay Sands hotel and shopping center shows Kim heading in and likely up to SkyPark, the famous rooftop of the iconic hotel.

SkyPark features swimming pools, bars, and restaurants and is a big tourist attraction.

Hear the enthusiasm in the room as he enters:

Kim has lived in North Korea much of his life, and didn’t leave the country between 2011 and early 2018, when he went to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kim was also photographed with Singapore’s minister of foreign affairs in what’s likely the first selfie of his life.

Kim lives under constant fear of assassination, as the administrator of a state that keeps untold thousands in political prisons while it seeks to threaten the world with nuclear weapons. He likely hasn’t had many nights out on the town like this.

Meanwhile, less than half a mile away, Trump is preparing for their historic meeting.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This military unit has been guarding the Pope without a break for over 500 years

The Vatican Swiss Guard is primarily regarded as a tourist attraction, but they are actually descended from a famous military tradition and their duties are anything but just ceremonial.

Composed of a company of former Swiss military, the Swiss Guard are responsible for the protection of the Pope and perform many ceremonial functions as well. Though best known for their colorful uniforms and halberds, plainclothes Guardsmen also serve as bodyguards for the Pope and security for the Vatican.


Entrance requirements for the Guard is strict. Potential Guardsmen must be Catholic males, of Swiss nationality, and have completed Swiss military training. Their service records have to be spotless, and they must be at least 5′ 9″ tall and be between 19 and 30 years of age. Though the Guard has considered opening up positions for women, for now it’s exclusively male.

The Guard’s history stretches back to the Middle Ages. Swiss mercenaries, or Reislaufer, were among the most feared fighting forces of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Switzerland was an overpopulated and poor country, and its independent cantons would contract out its militia to other countries as a means of support.

Gaining their reputation with spectacular victories over their Austrian Habsburg overlords in the 13th century, the Swiss were famed for their skill in using pikes and halberds in deep column attacks. Their general refusal to take prisoners only added to their ferocious repute, and they became the most prized mercenaries in Europe.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Kneeling salute in Clementine Hall, 1937 (Public Domain)

Noted for their loyalty, Swiss mercenaries served as the bodyguard contingent for many European monarchs such as the French throne. During the storming of the Louis XVI’s palace during the French Revolution, his Swiss Guard refused to surrender despite being hopelessly outnumbered and running low on ammunition. It took a note from the king himself for them to lay down their arms, and their spirited defense so enraged the revolutionaries hundreds of them were summarily executed.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Swiss Guards defending Louis XVI’s palace during the French Revolution.

Swiss mercenaries had been serving the Papal States for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1506 that a permanent Guard of 150 men under the direct control of the Pope was formed, at the suggestion of the Swiss bishop Matthaus Schiner. When mutinous unpaid troops from the Holy Roman Empire sacked Rome in 1527, the Swiss Guard proved their bravery by losing most of their number defending Pope Clement VII. Out of 189 men, only 42 survived, but they bought time for the Pope to escape through a secret tunnel ahead of marauding enemy soldiers hoping to hold him for ransom.

When German forces occupied Rome during World War II, the Guard took up defensive positions and prepared to fight to the death, but Adolf Hitler chose not to attack the Vatican.

The Guard gradually morphed into a mostly ceremonial unit during the later 20th century, but this changed with the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981. Mehmet Agca, a Turkish national believed to have been backed by the KGB, shot the Pope four times as he entered St. Peters Square, nearly killing him. The Guard has since refocused as personal protection, with the pope’s security detail beefed up and armed with light automatic weapons.

In 2006, the Guard celebrated its 500th anniversary by marching a contingent of former Guardsmen from Bellinzona in southern Switzerland to Rome, in emulation of the first Guards journey in 1505-06. Since Switzerland banned mercenaries in 1874 with the sole exception of the Vatican, this unit is the last remaining example of a storied line of soldiers.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why a think tank puts teen girls in command of military operations

Though women have made a lot of progress in recent years, especially in the military and defense sectors, there are still very few women in senior positions in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Only a third of the senior positions at the Department of State are women, and less than a fifth hold such positions at the Defense Department.

That’s why a Cold War-era think tank agreed to put women in command of a large wargaming exercise. Were women able to prevent an all-out nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula?


4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

Alexis Visser is a 19-year-old international relations student and Army Reservist who helped game the South Korean and American forces.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The RAND Corporation, a global, nonprofit policy research center created in 1948, wanted to bring a much-needed female perspective to the fields of defense policy and national security. The group of women are in age groups ranging from their late teens to early 20s, and most have never had any kind of wargaming or strategy experience before. Still, they are leading command discussion about scenarios facing troops in a war with North Korea in a conference room overlooking the Pentagon.

In the scenario, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a long-range missile that can target locations on the U.S. West Coast. The North threatens “grave consequences” if the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint exercises to practice their responses to a North Korean invasion. The warning from the DPRK is the same the Stalinist country gives the Southern Allies every year. This time, when the allies begin their drills, the North fires an artillery barrage into Seoul. South Korea responds with missile strikes. The new Korean War is on.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

(Photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation)

RAND uses wargames like this one to study almost every national security scenario and has since the earliest days of the Cold War. It was the RAND Corporation who was at the center of the 1967 Pentagon Papers case that determined why the United States had not been successful in Vietnam. It’s very unlikely this is the first time RAND has wargamed a war between North and South Korea, but it’s the first time young girls were given command of the allied forces.

That isn’t to say no women have wargamed at the Pentagon. Many of the women who have participated in wargames at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including in the Pentagon, often admit to being the only woman in the room. RAND wants to create a pipeline for young women to be able to participate in such wargames – as professionals.

In the game, the women determine where to deploy infantry, how to stop North Korean advances, and even when to use tactical nuclear weapons, all under the advice and counsel of RAND’s expert and veteran women advisors.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

Samina Mondal, right, listens as RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn reviews the blue team’s tactics.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The game is working, and not just against North Korea. History majors decide to turn their attention instead to National Security Studies. Eighteen-year-olds decide on careers in nuclear security. Soon, women will begin to change the way we look at the defense of the United States.

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Grape juice was once the unofficial drink of the Navy

When you think “military beverage,” three things typically come to mind: coffee, beer, and energy drinks. But did you know that around the turn of the century, grape juice was the drink of choice among troops? That’s right. For roughly twenty years, everyone from sailors to soldiers to Marines couldn’t get enough of the purple stuff.

Grape juice reigned supreme during the times of the temperance movement and Prohibition, but it wasn’t just because troops couldn’t drink booze. There were plenty of other reasons for troops to reach for the good stuff.


4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Seems fitting. Every time you drink your “cup of Joe” you’re actually mocking a much despised and highly controversial Navy secretary.
(U.S. Navy)

Welch’s grape juice first came about in 1869 when the American physician and dentist, Thomas Bramwell Welch, invented a method of pasteurizing grape juice to halt the fermentation process, preventing it from turning into wine. The result was non-alcoholic and more suitable for church services. Then, it caught on with the temperance movement crowd — long before Prohibition took effect.

On June 1st, 1914, General Order 99 — which banned alcohol on all Navy vessels and installations — was instituted and, as you might expect, sailors lost their minds. They were left with two options: coffee or juice.

From that moment on, sailors referred to their coffee as “cups of Joe,” named after the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels. The slang was adapted as an insult to the man who took away their booze. But sailors couldn’t just constantly chug java — they needed something rich in much-needed vitamins, and fruit juice was the answer.

Welch’s caught on to the trend and doubled down in lending support to the troops. It was a massive success. The sailors loved grape juice and it quickly became a coveted commodity aboard naval vessels.

A few years later, during World War I, Welch’s turned their Concord grapes into a jam called “Grapelade” and sent it to the troops overseas. Once again, the delicious, fruity goodness was a smash hit among the troops. When the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution was put in place in 1919, effectively disallowing booze across all branches of service, troops took a page from the Navy’s playbook and turned to grape juice.

But troops weren’t just drinking it for the taste — it provided a number of health benefits, too!

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO war games are focused on Russia and the extreme cold

Trident Juncture, taking place between Oct. 25 and Nov. 7, 2018, in and around Norway, is just one of NATO’s military exercises in 2018.

But officials have said the 50,000 troops, tens of thousands of vehicles, and dozens of planes and ships on hand make it the biggest NATO exercise since the Cold War.


NATO leaders have stressed it’s strictly a defensive exercise, but it comes amid heightened tensions between NATO and Russia, and Moscow has made its displeasure well known.

What’s also clear is that as the US and NATO refocus on operations in Europe, they’re preparing to deal with a foe that predates the alliance and the rival it was set up to counter.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

German infantrymen board a MV-22B Osprey during Trident Juncture 18 at Vaernes Air Base, Norway, Nov. 1, 2018.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)

“So when I was back in the States a couple weeks ago doing a press conference on Trident Juncture, people asked me the question, ‘Why in the world would you do this in October and November in Norway? It’s cold,'” Adm. James Foggo, who heads the Navy’s 6th Fleet and is overseeing Trident Juncture, said in an Oct. 27, 2018 interview.

“That’s exactly why,” he added. “Because we’re toughening everyone up.”

The US military maintained a massive presence in Europe during the Cold War. The bulk of it was in Germany, though US forces, like the Marine Corps hardware in secret caves in Norway, were stationed around the continent.

In the years after the Cold War, however, the emphasis on major operations in Europe — and the logistical and tactical preparations they entail — waned, as operations in the desert environments of the Middle East expanded.

In recent years, the US and NATO have taken a number of steps to reverse that shift, and with that has come renewed attention to the challenges of cold-weather operations.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

Belgian and German soldiers from the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force train for weapons proficiency in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture, Oct. 30, 2018.

(PAO 1 German/Netherlands Corps)

“The change is all of us are having to recapture the readiness mindset and ability to fight full-spectrum in all conditions across the theater,” said Ben Hodges, who commanded the US Army in Europe before retiring as a lieutenant general at the end of 2017.

“The Marines used to always be in Norway. They had equipment stored in caves,” Hodges said.

“I cannot imagine Hohenfels or Grafenwoehr without freezing” weather, he added, referring to major Army training areas in Germany. “It’s either freezing there or completely muddy.”

“We used to always do that” kind of training, Hodges said, but, “frankly, because of the perception and hope that Russia was going to be a friend and a partner, we stopped working on those things, at least the US did, to the same level.”

In mid-October 2018, US Marines rehearsed an amphibious assault in Iceland to simulate retaking territory that would be strategically valuable in the North Atlantic. That assault was practice for another landing to take place during Trident Juncture, where challenging terrain and weather were again meant to test Marine capabilities.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

US Marines during Trident Juncture 18 near Hjerkinn, Norway, Nov. 2, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)

“Cold-weather training, we’ve had training before … we got underway. Just being here is a little different,” said Chief Petty Officer David Babil, a senior ramp marshal overseeing the Corps’ amphibious-landing exercise in Alvund, Norway. “You’ve just got to stay warm. The biggest difference is definitely the weather, but other than that we train how we fight, so we’re ready 24/7.”

Chances for unique training conditions are also found ashore.

“The first consideration is the opportunity to employ the tanks in a cold-weather environment,” said 1st Lt. Luis Penichet, a Marine Corps tank platoon commander, ahead of an exercise that included a road march near Storas in central Norway.

“So once the conditions start to ice over and or fill with snow, one thing we are unable to train in Lejeune is to cleat the tanks and drive them in those type of conditions,” Penichet added. “So we have the possibility to replace [tank tread] track pads with metal cleats to allow us to continue maneuvering. So that is one benefit of operating in the environment like this.”

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

US Marines in a Landing Craft Air Cushion vehicle from the USS New York perform an amphibious landing at Alvund, Norway, during Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)

“Everything is more difficult in the cold, whether it’s waking up in the morning or even something as simple as going from your tent to the shower,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Kyle Davis, the camp commandant at Orland Airfield at Brekstad, on the central Norwegian coast.

The US Defense Department recently extended the Marine Corps deployment in Norway, where Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has emphasized that the Corps is trying to prepare for a potential “big-ass fight” in harsh conditions.

But US personnel aren’t the only ones who see the benefits of training at the northern edge of Europe.

“To my surprise, it wasn’t actually much of a change in our equipment,” said 1st Lt. Kristaps Kruze, commander of the Latvian contingent at the exercise, when asked about how the weather affected his gear.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

(US Marine Corps photo)

“That just proves that our equipment is not only capable of withstanding temperature in Latvia, but also capable of withstanding harsh winters also in Norwegian territory,” Kruze said in an interview in Rena, near Norway’s border with Sweden, as Trident Juncture got underway.

“During Trident Juncture, since we are in Norway, we have to deal with the cold weather,” Sgt. Cedric, a French sniper, said in Rena, as French, Danish, British, and German troops conducted long-range sniper training.

“For a sniper, cold weather requires to be more careful when shooting. It can affect the shooting a lot,” Cedric said. “Also, when we are infiltrating, we need to make sure we conserve energy and stay warm once we are in position.”

Integrating with NATO forces in the harsh conditions was particularly important for troops from Montenegro, which is NATO’s newest member.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

Italian army soldiers face off against members of the Canadian army in a simulated attack during Trident Juncture in Alvdal, Norway, Nov. 3, 2018.

(Photo by MCpl Pat Blanchard)

“As you can see there is much snow and its temperature [is in] the very low degrees,” Lt. Nikola Popovic, an infantry platoon commander from Montenegro, said in Folldal, in the mountains of central Norway.

“Because we are a new NATO member, a new ally, we are here to prepare ourselves for winter conditions, because this is an exercise in extreme winter conditions,” Popovic said.

The temperature was the biggest surprise, he added, “but we are working on it.”

NATO countries in the northern latitudes, like Norway, as well as Sweden and Finland, which are not members but partner closely with the alliance and are at Trident Juncture, have no shortage of cold-weather experience.

“They live there so they do it all the time,” Hodges said.

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

A Canadian army BvS 10 Viking nicknamed “Thor” on a mountainside near Alvdal, Norway, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Nov. 4, 2018.

(NATO photo by Rob Kunzing)

“This is about the US having to relearn” how to operate in those kind of conditions, Hodges added.

Fighting in that kind of environment requires military leaders to consider the affects on matters both big and small, whether that’s distributing lubricant for individual machine guns or the movement of thousands of troops and their heavy gear across snow-covered fields and on narrow mountain roads.

“It affects vehicle maintenance, for example. It affects air operations. It’s not just about individual soldiers being cold,” Hodges added. “It’s all of your systems have to be able to operate, so you have to practice it and take those factors into consideration.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero in World War II, downing 23 German aircraft, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Order, and being named the 5th deadliest fighter ace in the RAF.


Making his feats even more impressive was the fact that he did these things without legs.

 

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Douglas Bader as photographed in 1940 with two prosthetic limbs but massive balls. Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A

 

Bader was known for being an athletic kid. His family faced money problems after his father died of injuries sustained in World War I. Bader had to earn athletic scholarships to attend school. His prowess on the field also helped him get a cadetship to the Cranwell Air Force Academy in 1928 where he earned a reputation for skill in the cockpit.

Two years later, Bader graduated and began flying in aerobatic displays for the RAF. In a 1931 show, he attempted a low-level display and crashed into the ground, sustaining severe injuries. Doctors decided they would have to amputate both of his legs beneath the knees to save him.

The charismatic pilot later wrote in his diary for that day, “Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show.” He was a bit stoic.

Bader was forced out of the RAF by the injury but was promised that he could come back if war was declared. He spent the next few years learning to play sports with his tin prosthetics.

In 1939, he got his chance to re-enter the service and took it. He attended a pilot refresher course and was sent to Duxford, England in 1940. At Duxford, he was introduced to the Spitfire which he described as “the aeroplane of one’s dreams.”

Soon, he was flying combat missions. He participated in the evacuation at Dunkirk where he scored his first victory over a German aircraft.

 

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Douglas Bader’s logbook show his first kill at the Evacuation of Dunkirk. Photo: Royal Air Force online exhibitions

 

With the English kicked out of Europe, Hitler quickly began laying the groundwork for an invasion of the kingdom and Bader was called on to help keep the Germans out of England. In Jul. 1940, the Battle of Britain was on. Bader and his commander, Trafford Leigh-Mallory, pioneered the Big Wing strategy that summer which envisioned squadrons of fighters descending on German bombers and their fighter escorts.

It was credited at the time with forcing the Germans to cease daytime bombing missions and postponing the potential invasion of Britain from 1940 to 1941. RAF pilots were heralded as heroes, Bader especially. Bader had racked up a stunning 23 aircraft kills, counting the one at Dunkirk. This made him the 5th most lethal pilot in the RAF.

 

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Royal Air Force Spitfires, like the plane Douglas Bader piloted, fly in formation. Photo: Public Domain

 

Unfortunately for Bader, his luck ran out Aug. 9 when he was hit over northern France and forced to bail out. At the time, Bader thought it was due to a collision with a Messerschmitt 109, but historical research decades later pointed to the possibility that another British pilot may have shot him down on accident.

Regardless, Bader found himself in a plane going down but was stuck in the cockpit because a prosthetic had become trapped under the rudder pedal. Bader made it out of the plane, but his right prosthetic was torn off in the process.

When he hit the ground, he was quickly captured by a group of Germans. In the United Kingdom, the Battle of Britain pilots had become famous and the double amputee/wing commander/fighter ace was one of the best-known pilots on the Allied side. The Germans quickly realized who they had captured and attempted to give Bader a pretty easy run of it. They recovered his wrecked leg and repaired it as best as they could.

Bader immediately attempted to escape on the repaired leg, climbing down a rope made of blankets and running away. He was soon recaptured.

Despite Bader’s escape attempt, the Germans offered safe passage for a British bomber to drop a replacement prosthetic for the damaged leg, but the RAF knew that the Germans would use it for publicity. Instead, they sent the leg on a bombing mission and had a Blenheim bomber drop the leg onto the camp during an otherwise normal bombing mission.

Bader again attempted to escape once he got his new leg. The pilot was transferred from one camp to another, attempting to escape whenever he could until the Hitler finally sent him to Colditz Castle, a prison that was considered inescapable.

 

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Colditz Castle as seen in 1945. The castle was used as a POW camp by the Germans until it was liberated in 1945. Photo: US Army

 

There, Bader’s attempts to escape slowed but he found ways to make life miserable for the guards. One day, he refused to go to the formation to be counted. When the guards arrived at his room to order him out, he engaged in a shouting match with the guards and eventually told them, “My feet would get cold in the snow. If you want to count me, come to my room and do it.”

The guard then drew his pistol on Bader who immediately changed his tact and infuriated the guard further. “Well, of course I’ll go if you really want me to,” Bader said before picking up a stool, dragging it out to formation, and sitting on it to be counted.

Bader continued his hijinks for the rest of the war. The RAF promoted him to group captain and Bader led a 300-aircraft victory formation over London after the Axis forces surrendered.

In 1946 he turned to a civilian career. He was knighted in 1973 for his work to help other amputees before dying in 1982 of a heart attack. His story was featured in the 1956 movie, “Reach for the Sky.”

Articles

7 longest range sniper kills in history

These 7 snipers reached out and touched the enemy from a long way away:


1. The British sniper who nailed three 1.53-mile hits

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
UK (Ministry of Defence photo)

Cpl. of Horse Craig Harrison was providing sniper support in a firefight between his buddies and Afghan insurgents. Near the end of the three-hour battle in Nov. 2009, Harrison spotted the enemy machine gun team that was pinning everyone down. He lined up his sights on the targets that were over 1.5 miles away.

Each shot took 6 seconds to impact. He fired five times. Two shots missed but one round ripped through the gunner’s stomach, another took out the assistant gunner, and the last one destroyed the machine gun.

2. A Canadian sniper who took out a machine gunner in Operation Anaconda

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Photo: Canadian Army Cpl. Bruno Turcotte

During Operation Anaconda, the bloody hunt of Afghan militants in the Shahikot Valley in Mar. 2002, Canadian Cpl. Rob Furlong was watching over a group of U.S. troops and saw an insurgent automatic weapons team climbing a ridge 1.5 miles away. His first two shots narrowly missed but the third broke open the gunner’s torso and left him bleeding out on the ground. The shot barely beat out Master Cpl. Arron Perry’s shot discussed below.

3. Another Canadian sniper in Operation Anaconda who took out an observer from nearly the same distance

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Photo: Canadian Army 3 PPCLI Battle Group Cpl Lou Penney

Canadian Master Cpl. Arron Perry was also supporting U.S. troops in Operation Anaconda when he spotted an enemy artillery observer 1.43 miles away. Perry took aim at the observer and nailed him. Perry held the record for world’s longest sniper kill for a few days before Furlong beat it.

4. The Ranger whose longest-American kill is still mostly secret

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Photo: US Army Capt. John Farmer

Sgt. Bryan Kremer was deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Ranger Battalion in Mar. 2004 when he took a shot from 1.42 miles away and killed an Iraqi insurgent. The details of the battle have been kept under wraps, but his Mar. 2004 shot is the longest recorded sniper kill by an American.

5. The Marine legend who set the world record with a machine gun

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is one of the most respected names in the Marine Corps and set the record for longest kill in 1967 with a machine gun. The record stood for 35 years before Perry beat it.

Hathcock had an M2 in single-shot mode with a scope mounted on the top. He saw a Vietcong soldier pushing a bike loaded with weapons and took two shots. The first destroyed the bike and the second killed the soldier.

READ MORE: This Marine made history’s 5th longest sniper kill with a machine gun

6. The South African sniper who recorded hits from 1.32 miles while killing six officers in a day

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Photo: US Marine Forces Reserve Cpl. Jad Sleiman

A South African battalion deployed in a U.N. brigade fought viciously against the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the Battle of Kibati, an unnamed South African sniper killed six M23 officers in a single day in Aug. 2013. His longest kill that day was an amazing 1.32-mile shot.

7. The Army sniper who tagged Taliban who walked into his personal firing range

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies
Photo: US Army Cpl. Bertha Flores

Snipers sometimes fire at different objects on the battlefield to collect information about how their rounds move through the air at a given location. Spc. Nicholas Ranstad had been firing at a boulder near his position, leaving a small trail of white marks on the rock.

In Jan. 2008 he was lucky enough to spot four Afghan insurgents standing in front of his normal target. The men were 1.28 miles away, but standing in the spot that Ranstad had the most experience firing. His first shot narrowly missed, but his second killed one of the fighters. The other three bugged out.

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