When Japan introduced the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, it gained a remarkable plane that racked up an impressive combat record through 1941. However, despite its incredible performance for the time, the Zero couldn’t hold up.
The Grumman F6F Hellcat achieved fame as a Zero-killer after it was introduced in 1943. But it was its predecessor, the Grumman F4F Wildcat, that held the line during the first campaigns of World War II.
So, how did the Wildcat match up so well against the fearsome Zero? First, it’s important to understand that a big part of the Zero’s reputation came from racking up kills in China against a lot of second-rate planes with poorly-trained pilots. After all, there was a reason that the Republic of China hired the American Volunteer Group to help out during the Second Sino-Japanese War – Chinese pilots had a hard time cutting it.
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero had racked up a seemingly impressive record against second-rate opposition.
A damaged F4F Wildcat lands on USS Enterprise (CV 6) during the Battle of Santa Cruz. Japanese pilots would put hundreds of 7.7mm machine gun rounds into a Wildcat to little or no effect.
But, believe it or not, the Wildcat almost never made it to the field. The original F4F Wildcat was a biplane that lost out to the Brewster F2A Buffalo in a competition to field the next carrier-born fighter. Grumman, unsatisfied by losing out a contract, pitched two upgraded designs, and the F4F-3 was finally accepted into service. It was a good thing, too. As it turned out, the Brewster Buffalo was a piece of crap — whether at Midway or over Burma, Buffalos got consistently fell to Zeros, costing the lives of Allied pilots.
When the F4F faced off with the Zero, however, it proved to be a very tough customer. A Zero’s armament consisted of two 7.7mm machine guns and two 20mm cannon. The former had a lot of ammo, but offered little hitting power. The latter packed a punch, but the ammo supply was limited. As a result, in combat, many Japanese pilots would empty their 7.7mm machine guns only to see the Wildcat was still flying.
By contrast, the Wildcat’s battery of four to six M2 .50-caliber machine guns brought not only hitting power to bear against the lightly armored Zero, but also came with an ample supply of ammo. Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa was able to score seven kills against Japanese planes in one day with a Wildcat.
But ammo wasn’t the only advantage. Wildcat pilots had an edge in terms of enemy intelligence thanks to the discovery of the Akutan Zero, a recovered, crashed Zero that gave the U.S. insight into its inner-workings (this vessel made a cameo in a training film featuring future President Ronald Reagan).
Learn more about this plane that held the line against the odds in the video below.
The Army has a saying, “Ain’t no use in looking down, ain’t no discharge on the ground.” But for some old sailors, looking down would have revealed a DD-214, just not the kind of DD-214 that are discharge papers.
That’s because the USS Tracy — a destroyer and minesweeper — was commissioned as the DD-214, the Navy’s 208th destroyer (DD-200 through DD-205 were canceled).
The Tracy was laid down in 1919 and commissioned in 1920 before serving on cruises around the world prior to World War II. It was at Pearl Harbor undergoing a massive overhaul when the Japanese attacked in 1941.
The Tracy’s gun batteries, boilers, ammunition, and most of her crew had been removed during the overhaul but that didn’t stop the skeleton crew on the ship from taking action that December morning.
The duty watch kept a log of all their actions, including dispatching fire and damage control crews to other ships and setting up machine guns with borrowed ammunition to fire on Japanese planes attacking the nearby USS Cummings and USS Pennsylvania. The Tracy suffered one man killed and two lost during the battle.
The crew of the Tracy got it back in fighting shape quickly and the ship took part in minelaying activities in March 1942. A few months later, the Tracy joined Task Force 62 for the assault on Guadalcanal.
The Tracy then supported the American-Australian offensive at Bougainville Island before heading back north to take part in the Okinawa invasion, rescuing survivors of a ship hit by a suicide boat attack.
The war ended a short time later and Tracy emerged from the conflict nearly unscathed with seven battle stars.
While it’s great to imagine an entire generation of sailors that had to serve on the DD-214 while dreaming of their DD-214 papers, no old seamen were that unlucky. The DD-214 discharge form wasn’t introduced until 1950, four years after the Tracy was decommissioned and sold for scrap.
The most expensive weapons system in history, the US’s F-35 Lightning II, is still sometimes losing to the 1970s F-15 in dogfights during training scenarios in Japan.
US Air Force F-15 pilot Capt. Brock McGehee, when asked by Defense News if the F-35s at Kadena Air Force base in Japan still sometimes lost to the Cold War-era fighters, said “I mean, sometimes.”
The F-35 has long been plagued by reports of that it can’t dogfight as well as older, much cheaper jets, despite being in development for nearly two decades and claiming to revolutionize air combat.
In 2015, War is Boring published a report from a test pilot that said the F-35 couldn’t turn or climb fast enough to keep up with older jets, and F-16s lugging heavy fuel tanks under wing still routinely trounced it.
But a lot has changed since 2015. The F-35 has had its software upgraded and the tactics refined.
Why the Cold War jets can still pull a win out — for now
Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke previously told Business Insider that the older jets benefited from decades of development and training, whereby new pilots today have established best practices. As the F-35 is still in its early days, Berke said the best is yet to come.
“The biggest limitation for the F-35 is that pilots are not familiar with how to fly it. They try to fly the F-35 like their old airplane,” Berke said.
But the pilots at Kadena dogfighting against F-15s may be a cut above, according to Berke, who said that because they have never flown a legacy jet before, they won’t bring the bad habits with them, and will instead learn how to fly the F-35 like the unique plane it is. “They’re going to be your best, most effective tacticians,” Berke said.
F-35s at a major disadvantage to any legacy jet in a dogfight
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“The F-35 cannot out dogfight a Typhoon (or a Su-35), never in a million years,” Justin Bronk, a combat aircraft expert at the Royal United Services Institute, previously told Business Insider.
The reason why, according to Bronk and other experts on the F-35, is that the F-35 just isn’t a dogfighter. The F-35’s stealth design put heavy demands on the shape of the aircraft, which restricted it in some dimensions. As a result, it’s not the most dynamic jet the US could have possibly built, but it doesn’t have to be.
Berke, an alumnus of the US Navy’s famous Top Gun school, echoed Alpert’s assessment, but warned that the common perception of dogfighting was “way off,” and something US jets haven’t done in 40 years. Berke disagreed with Bronk’s “never in a million years” assertion, but maintained that the dogfighting issue was basically irrelevant.
The bottom line is that in training, all jets lose “sometimes.” That the F-35 can hold its own and beat a jet refined over four decades to excel exclusively at air-to-air combat — when the F-35 has been designed to fight, bomb, spy, and sneak — shows its tremendous range and potential.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you’re one of the 44 million Americans who have been vaccinated, you can celebrate with a donut, as Krispy Kreme announced that it will be giving a free glazed donut to anyone who comes in with a vaccination card.
The free donut initiative is actually extremely generous. The free donuts are not just a one-time offer. The deal lasts through 2021 and there are no limits to the number of donuts vaccinated people can enjoy. In fact, if you want to, you could grab a free Krispy Kreme donut every day for the rest of the year as long as you bring your vaccination card.
Krispy Kreme is also planning on delivering some well-earned free donuts to support workers and volunteers at vaccination sites across the country over the next few weeks.
“We all want to get COVID-19 behind us as fast as possible and we want to support everyone doing their part to make the country safe by getting vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available to them,” the donut chain said in a release.
And that’s not all, the popular donut company is giving employees up to four hours of vacation time in order to get vaccinated, which is similar to what companies like Target and Dollar General are doing for employees as well. Other chains, such as Petco and Kroger, are offering cash or gift cards to employees who show proof of vaccination.
Skena did make it clear that Krispy Kreme employees would not be required to get vaccinated, saying that it’s a “personal choice” but that the company wants “to encourage and make sure nothing is standing in the way” of employees getting the vaccine.
“I hope that other brands will see and choose to do something similar,” Skena said.
The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.
And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.
Here are eight examples.
1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.
The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.
On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.
In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.
2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.
Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.
It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”
Here’s the Navy version:
3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.
The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.
These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.
In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.
Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.
Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.
Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.
5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.
Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.
This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.
6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.
The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.
Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.
These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.
7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.
Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.
While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”
That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.
8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.
Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.
Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).
According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.
Air Force pararescuemen are among the elite when it comes to special operations. Their main task is to rescue pilots who have been shot down behind enemy lines. It’s never been an easy task, but at least the tech has improved since World War II. Back then, a pilot had to walk back to friendly lines – a very long walk.
Amphibious planes, like the PBY Catalina and HU-16 made rescue possible, but you needed enough water – or a strip of land – for them to land and take off. The same went for other planes, even the L-5, the military designation for the Piper Cub.
Insert the helicopter. They first appeared in a small capacity during the Korean War before they really came of age during Vietnam, proving to be the search-and-rescue asset America needed.
Here’s a look some legendary choppers that carried out that mission.
1. Sikorsky HH-3 Jolly Green Giant
The first helicopter to become a legend for search and rescue was the Sikorsky HH-3. The H-3 airframe was first designed for the Navy to carry out anti-submarine warfare, and was called the Sea King. But the size of the chopper lead the Air Force to buy some as heavy transports. They were eventually equipped with 7.62mm Miniguns and used to rescue pilots, with some seeing service in Desert Storm and the last ones serving until 1995.
According to an Air Force fact sheet, the HH-3 has a top speed of 177 miles per hour, and could carry up to 25 passengers or 15 litters, plus a crew of four and two attendants.
2. Sikorsky HH-53 Super Jolly/Pave Low
The Air Force didn’t stop with the Jolly Green. Eventually, the even larger HH-53 was procured, and called the Super Jolly Green Giant. They also took part in search-and-rescue missions during the Vietnam War, but after that war, the HH-53s were upgraded into the Pave Low configuration, making them capable of operating at night and bad weather. They also became used as special operations transports. The last Pave Lows were retired in 2008.
According to an Air Force fact sheet, the latest version of the Pave Low has a top speed of 165 miles per hour, an un-refueled range of 690 miles, and a crew of six.
3. Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk
The Air Force though, was looking for more search-and-rescue assets – mostly because they only bought 41 of the Super Jolly Green Giants. The HH-60G is primarily tasked with the combat search and rescue role, and it usually carries .50-caliber machine guns to protect itself. Like the Pave Low, the Pave Hawk can carry out missions at night or day. The HH-60G is currently serving.
An Air Force fact sheet notes that a total of 99 Pave Hawks serve in the active Air Force, the Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. The Pave Hawk has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 504 nautical miles, and can carry a crew of four.
4. Sikorsky HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter
The H-60 airframe has been a mainstay of all five armed services, so much so that the replacement for the HH-60G is another H-60. In this case, the HH-60W is a modified version of the Army’s UH-60M Blackhawk.
According to materialsprovided by Sikorsky, a division of Lockheed Martin, the HH-60W has a combat radius of 195 nautical miles, and is equipped with new displays to reduce the air crew’s workload, and to help the pararescue jumpers do their job more efficiently. The Air Force plans to buy 112 HH-60Ws to replace the 99 HH-60Gs currently in service.
In short, when a pilot goes down, the assets are now there to pull him out, and to keep him from becoming a guest in a 21st century Hanoi Hilton.
In 1949, six men gathered in Indianapolis for the last meeting of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans organization. At its peak, it boasted 400,000 members with thousands of posts nationwide. By 1949, however, only 16 remained. And only six were able to make the trek to Indianapolis. One of those was 108-year-old James Hard, a veteran of the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, and Chancellorsville.
In the next four years, all but one of those would have died, and with them, the firsthand memory of Civil War combat.
The battle standard of James Hard’s Civil War infantry unit.
The only one of the six to outlive Hard would be Albert Woolson, the last known member of the Union Army and the last undisputed surviving member on any side of the Civil War. But Woolson never saw action as a member of a heavy artillery unit from Minnesota. Hard was the last surviving Union combat veteran of the Civil War.
Between 1900 and into World War II, the surviving number of American Civil War veterans began to dwindle at an exponential rate, much like what the U.S. is seeing with its World War II veterans today. The Grand Army of the Republic held marches, and a yearly meeting called the Encampment to celebrate those veterans who served and to make sure they held on to their hard-won rights.
A 1912 Grand Army of the Republic parade marching through downtown Los Angeles.
James Hard was born in Rochester, New York around 1843. He lied about his age in 1861 to be able to join the Union Army. He joined the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also known as the Irish Rifles, in May 1861 and his service record verified his claim.
His unit was stationed around Washington, DC until Gen. Irvin McDowell used the 37th as a reserve unit in the battle of First Bull Run. McDowell had never led troops in combat and was soundly beaten. Its biggest loss came at Chancellorsville in 1863 when it lost more than 200 men to night fighting and a surprise attack during a flawed, unorganized retreat. A young James Hard was present for all of it.
The last of America’s Union Army, gathered in an Indianapolis ballroom in 1949.
By the time the First World War came around GAR membership was still very strong, its encampment still bringing in numbers just shy of a half a million or so. By the time the United States entered World War II, however, the Civil War veterans time had passed, and with their memory went so many of their numbers. In 1942, just over 500 Civil War veterans were on the rolls of the Grand Army of the Republic.
At the outset of the Cold War and the Atomic Age, only 16 remained. They were too frail to walk in any parades and had to be accompanied to Indianapolis by their Veterans Administration nurses. They drove through the parade route in vehicles, machines that were a very new invention to them.
You see and hear this term all the time: “former Marine.” And, wherever you see it, you’ll also see Marines telling you (and everyone else) why we hate it. Sure, there are a few folks out there who agree with it, but those of us who hold the title near and dear to our hearts will tell you a different story.
In my opinion, there’s a damned good reason for the expression, “once a Marine, always a Marine.” Others disagree.
To be fair, this is not a mentality exclusive to Marines. Just because you “get out” doesn’t mean you’re no longer a Marine, soldier, airman, coast guardsman, etc. You don’t just instantly forget everything you’ve learned and experienced over the past few years once you get your DD-214. Joining the military makes you a part of a fraternity and you’ll find that you resonate better with other veterans than you do with people from any other walk of life for one simple reason: You became a part of something much larger than yourself.
Your membership was paid for in blood, sweat, and tears, along with the countless hours you spent dedicated to the cause. To say a veteran is an “ex-” anything is highly inaccurate.
However, there are certain qualities (mostly conscious choices) that define a former Marine. These are just a few of those qualities:
Maybe you just need some new Drill Instructors…
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Severe lack of discipline
It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting your discipline slide when you get out — in fact, a lot of us are guilty of this. But at some point, we pick it back up and we reintegrate it into our lives. To allow this discipline to drop off entirely is most definitely a conscious choice — one that can lead to the discontinuation of other hard-earned qualities.
Forgotten core values
No matter which branch you join, you’ll first learn the core values and then you’ll embody them. Those values shape your personal code and you live by them while you’re in the military. When you get out, if you aren’t still using them to find some direction in life, you’ve earn the “ex” in front of your title.
Just remember what you learned.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Lack of leadership
Almost everyone comes out of the military with some type of leadership capabilities. Something you hear often in the military is, “in the absence of leadership, be a leader.” This applies heavily to civilian life because there’s often severe absence of leadership. If you get out of the military without learning how to take control from time to time, you likely didn’t learn much else.
Lack of punctuality
We’re all guilty of being late to something at some point. It just happens, it’s the way of life. But, those who learned anything from time in service will remember the factors that played into that tardiness, both self-inflicted and external, and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
If you’re choosing to be late because you just don’t care — you’ve given up your title.
If you define yourself as an “ex-Marine,” by all means.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
A conscious decision to no longer be a Marine
There’s a common belief among those who served that states you should always work to justify the fact that you’ve earned the right to be called a Marine (or solider, or airmen, etc). You should continuously employ the values learned in service in forming your civilian life.
There is, however, another side to this — and it’s simple. If you decide you’re no longer fitting of that title because you’ve grown a beard or whatever other, arbitrary reason, then you aren’t.
Many of us still believe in our titles and we’re willing to continue to honor it. It’s a lifetime effort and, if you’re not willing to make the commitment, nobody else will make it for you.
(Photo Credit: Hollywood Reporter via Lou Pitt. Used with permission.)
Manager/producer and former Agent at ICM Lou Pitt shares about his life and experiences in the entertainment industry. His current clients include Oscar winning actor Christopher Plummer, New York Times best-selling authors Brad Meltzer, Lorenzo Carcaterra. Tilar Mazzeo, A.J. Hartley, Visual Effect Oscar winner John Bruno and Director Jason Ensler.
Former clients include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gale Anne Hurd, Dudley Moore, Bruce Lee, Rod Serling, Nick Nolte, Blake Edwards, Howie Mandel, Paul W.S. Anderson and Jessica Lange.
WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
Pitt: I was born in Brooklyn, NY, where I spent the first six years, but my growing up years were in Miami Beach and Sarasota, Florida, until I moved to Los Angeles the summer of 1957. At 14, my single working mother wanted me to go to Kentucky Military Academy (KMI) which had its winter quarters in Venice, Florida, some 18 miles south of Sarasota. The Fall/Spring terms were in Lyndon, Kentucky, adjacent to Louisville. I spent all four years there. One of my roommates went on to West Point and retired as a Lt. Colonel after serving two tours in Vietnam. All the regimentation was on preparing teens for the military with a full ROTC program recognized by the Army with dedicated instruction by active military officers. Upon my initial arrival at KMI as a freshman, I found that my best friend from Sarasota, Jay Lundstrom had also committed to going there. We had become great friends and played Little League and Pony League together. In fact, it was really because of him that got me on my first team after badgering one of the coaches that I should be selected. Nobody should be left out, he reasoned. A classy gesture from a 9-year-old that became a life lesson about friendship in its purest form. We roomed together for most of the 4 years we were there and have remained good friends to this day. When I was chosen to be Captain of the KMI baseball team in my senior year, I said, “not without Jay.” We served as co-captains of the team.
Lou (left) with his buddy Jay (right) on the KMI baseball team where they were both co-captains.
WATM: Were you involved in any sports?
Pitt: I loved baseball and played shortstop. I continued playing throughout my years at KMI and beyond. My mother and I moved to California at the end of my junior year and returned to KY for my senior year in ’58. My dream was to play professional baseball where I was invited for a tryout with the Dodgers during the Christmas period 1957. It apparently went well with follow ups meant to happen following graduation. However, the rubber met road once in college following a pre-season workout with the start of season, a week away. The truth was, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase in pursuit of a dream. Went cold turkey and never picked up a baseball again until I played in a few Hollywood Stars games at Dodger Stadium thanks to my friend Jack Gilardi. I wanted to stay rooted in one place which had been absent most of my life. It was a decision I never looked back on or regretted. I went to Cal State Northridge and graduated in 1962 with a degree in theatre and a minor in English.
Fun fact: Famous actors Jim Bacchus (Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Magoo, Rebel Without a Cause), Fred Willard (Best in Show, Modern Family, Spinal Tap), and Vic Mature (Kiss of Death, The Robe, My Darling Clementine) attended and/or graduated from KMI as well.
Lou as a senior cadet at KMI in 1958.
WATM: Did you serve in the military?
Pitt: Yes, I was actually drafted into the Army but was fortunate to find a Reserve unit in Van Nuys in the nick of time. I was against the war and fortunate this option materialized given the dramatic escalation of the war. I did my Army Basic at Fort Ord and MOS school at Fort Gordon, GA. My MOS was a Military Policeman (MP).
While at Fort Gordon, a high security post at the time, I auditioned for a play that was being done on the base. I figured this would keep me out of trouble and away from the “lifers” (career EM’s and Officers). The play was “Look Homeward, Angel” and starred Army personnel and people from off-base. It was a great escape and I made a lot of friends from the local town along the way. One of them turned out to be Lt. Col. David Warfield who, as it turned out, was not one of the city folk, but the Adjutant General of Fort Gordon, the second man in charge of the base.
At the time, I didn’t know who he was as we were in “civvies” during rehearsals. He said if I ever needed anything, to let him know and gave me his card. Covered! The night of the first tech rehearsal, our barracks was subjected to a surprise inspection for drugs and each soldier was required to be sequestered by their bunks for however long it took. I knew I’d never make it to the theatre. Unexpectedly, he showed up at my barracks looking for me. His big black car rolled up outside of our building and heard determined footsteps that got louder and louder with each step. I was called out to the front of the barracks and he opened the car door himself. I had never seen a car that big in my whole life. The Col. said, ‘We can’t be doing this all the time, but hop in. I assume you’re not hiding drugs.’. I thought I was living in a Neil Simon play and it wasn’t going to end well after the final curtain.
Lou on stage in his role as Ben Gant in the stage production of “Look Homeward, Angel”
A newspaper clipping from the play “Look Homeward, Angel”. Lou is at the top.
WATM: How did you get involved in the entertainment industry?
Pitt: With an introduction by a friend’s dad, I secured my first job at Creative Management Agency (CMA) mailroom in 1964 predecessor of ICM Partners. At the time, it was the “Tiffany” of agencies with no more than 60 clients at the time and all of them big stars. The size of the mailroom was the average size of a closet. I was in the mailroom for about six months and then went to train on the desk of Alan Ladd Jr (Producer/Studio Executive; Star Wars, Blade Runner and Braveheart). Alan was my mentor along with Marty Elfand (Agent/Producer; Dog Day Afternoon, An Officer and a Gentleman).
While the agency was primarily motion picture focused, they sold variety shows and packaged Gilligan’s Island which made more for the agency than any star they represented. In the mid to late 60’s, I went to the Arthur Kennard Agency who represented TV stars (Raymond Burr-Perry Mason) and many stars of horror films like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee, and Richard Kiley who was starring on Broadway in “Man of La Mancha.” It was there, I signed Bruce Lee who was in the series, Green Hornet. At nights, he taught classes in martial arts. Bruce introduced me to Kung Fu. Among his clients were Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Mike Ovitz (CAA), Marvin Josephson (CEO International Famous Agency) and Tom Tannenbaum (Universal TV Studio Executive;) and many other Hollywood luminaries.
Bruce charged a minimum of 0 an hour, which was a lot of money in those days. The Silent Flute (later produced in 1978 as the Circle of Iron) was a script that Bruce wanted desperately to put together but couldn’t get anybody in Hollywood to take an interest. Coburn did his best to bring it to life in LA. We were together for about two or three years when Bruce said, “I will never be a star here, and the only way I will get this made is in Hong Kong.” Off he went. The rest is history as they say. Bruce died before making the film where the produced 1978 version starred David Carradine. In 1971, I went to work at IFA who, in 1975 merged with CMA to become ICM and remained there until 1998.
A picture of a friend, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Lee.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army and military school into Hollywood?
Pitt: KMI’s motto was, “Character makes the man.” That to me, defined the traits which mattered most to me in life. Responsibility, honesty, discipline and keeping one’s word. Promises made and promises kept. The centerpiece at KMI was always about the team effort and found it so applicable in a business so dependent on others for success.
Graduation Day 1958 from KMI.
WATM: What are some of your favorite memories with your clients both past or present?
Pitt: Meeting Princess Diana a few years after she married Prince Charles, that came about when I represented Dudley Moore. He did a film in 1985, “Santa Clause, the Movie,” that had a Royal Premiere during the Christmas holidays in London. Dudley’s girlfriend, my wife Berta and I met the Royal Family before the screen presentation. The filmmakers were positioned in a circle for the prince and princess’ arrival. When introduced, they walked inside the circle and greeted everyone individually moving from one to the other. Princess Diana spent a lot of time with each person and was interested in chatting about the movie. She asked a lot of questions and was truly engaged. In truth, Princess Diana weakened my knees. She was extraordinary, as anyone who ever met her could attest. I remember she was still in conversation with the first person while Prince Charles was pretty much done with the group…while encouraging her to “move it along.”
The other that comes to mind was the July 4 holiday opening weekend of “Terminator 2.” At the time, it earned a box office record million over the five day holiday. Having put all the pieces of the film together that included the rights, which were overly complicated as they were jointly held by Gale and Hemdale (who needed to be bought out if it was to ever work), the financing (Carolco) with three high-profile stars; Arnold, Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron, each with their own schedules that needed to marry organically. It took four and a half years to put that film together and its success was a career game changer for everyone involved.
Lou with Arnold in Budapest, Hungary.
WATM: What was/is it like to represent Rod Serling, Gale Anne Hurd, Bruce Lee, Christopher Plummer, Gena Rowlands and Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Pitt: Rod was my first writer client and I was working with him during the latter part of his career. It was after the Twilight Zone and the Night Gallery series. Rod was a straight-forward, clear headed thinker and smoked a lot. He was a great storyteller with a distinctive voice and an incredible mind. Someone you could listen to for hours. Rod was a WWII veteran as well. He walked the walk.
Bruce was intense and serious but couldn’t have been more grounded at the same time. But mostly, self- assured about his career and looking to break new ground. I can still see Bruce’s smile. His frustration was that he couldn’t get the buyers in Hollywood to take the martial arts action genre seriously enough. By the late 70s it was obvious Bruce was ahead of his time and the martial art films exploded. I never doubted Bruce’s eventual success because he was so centered and full of confidence, talented and focused. It was not a question of if, it was a question of when and how. I really liked him and can tell you he was not that character portrayed in Quentin Tarantino’s movie.
Christopher is simply a very classy man grounded in empathy…especially among other actors regardless of their profile and standing in the business. A man of mischief when it’s playtime but utter discipline when it’s time to prepare and go to work…in fact, obsessively so in a good way. He literally and figuratively never walks in front of you, always behind whether on the red carpet or to a restaurant. “What can I get you” precedes “Hello.” Maybe the greatest storyteller I’ve ever met. He is dedicated to his work and truly loves his profession. Chris inhales the work and the most prepared person I’ve ever met. He has old fashioned manners in a good way. Prefers writing letters then sending emails. Behavior matters and thoughtfulness matters. He’s the first to the set and the first to be “off the book”. We’ve worked together for 45 years and he is a truly special friend.
Love Gale! Her first agent. Smart and I always felt like a partner in “how do we make this work”. She has such a strength, determination and intelligence about her that’s inspiring. She was like a teammate and that we were on an adventure together. There was great trust between us and an unusual giver of herself for others. She’s a “get it done” person that was always open to ideas. A wonderful inner sensitivity that was never far below the surface. We created a “no frills” concept for film budgets that were below a certain level in addition to films she made with or without Jim as a way to introduce new talent or stories that needed special handling.
Arnold is simply one of a kind. 24/7 was not just a descriptive phrase, it was a lifestyle. He defined the word, “commitment” and made a believer that anything is possible. The challenges were exciting because he broke ground that was transformative that defined a movie culture for the 80’s and 90’s. He defied gravity.
Gena Rowlands –What an extraordinary, graceful person she is. Never one to “work the room”, read the trades or lay judgement on anyone’s work in idle chatting. In the 45 years together, she never asked me what she was up for or when she was going to work. She figured if I had something to say, I’d let her know. As warm on screen as she was in her living room. Legendary and an elegant person that’s simply comfortable to just be around whether on a set or in the kitchen. Her career with John was a family centric of gifted actors that spilled into a comfort zone for others that followed. She and John rolled the dice on how to make movies that didn’t have any rules. She just makes you feel you want to kick off your shoes and just chat about stuff.
Lou, Berta, Dudley Moore, Brogan Lane, Peter Sarah Bellwood in Bora, Bora
WATM: What was it like working your way up in the industry in the 60s and 70s?
Pitt: The 60s broke the ground for what the system is today. No longer exclusive contract players, writers, directors, make-up, casting, etc. that could be controlled, and contracted out to other studios or disciplined for whatever infraction the studio bosses captiously inflicted on their talent. The emergence of stars making films away from the studio system and putting together the films they wanted to make as Producers. The emergence of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck and others opened the door to an independent way of thinking, putting movies together and taking them to studios became the new norm…a new freedom with new rules to play by.
Mr. Plummer as Kaiser Wilhelm – “The Exception” which Lou produced.
WATM: What are words that you live by?
Pitt: “There are no bad meetings”
Character Makes The Man
Respect for all no matter the rank or position
Mark Twain’s quote about, “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.”
I remember when I was learning to type, there was a sentence designed for a speed test that stuck with me. “Do all that you can do as quickly and as quietly as when you were told to do it.” For me it was about “get it done” and don’t waste a lot of time getting there. Keep your eye on the ball.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Pitt: I have a remarkable family who’ve been loving, emotionally supportive and inclusive. I’m immensely proud to work in a business that I really love. To have worked with so many extraordinary gifted clients and colleagues who challenged the world every day with their ideas, their talent and trust, has been inspiring and exhilarating. Everyone has been a gift to me.
Thomas Hudner had a unique view of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. He was flying his Corsair above the fray as the Marines held on for dear life down below. That’s when a fellow naval aviator, Ens. Jesse Brown, was shot down by Chinese small arms fire. Hudner’s ensuing rescue would earn him the first Medal of Honor awarded during the Korean War.
But the pilot wasn’t thinking about medals.
Hudner watched powerless as his buddy crash-landed five miles behind enemy lines. The plane was belly-down, but it didn’t look good — until Hudner saw Brown waving. They called a rescue helicopter, but it wouldn’t arrive for at least 30 minutes. The Chinese were all around the area and Brown was stuck in the cockpit of his burning Corsair.
“I was not going to leave him down there for the Chinese,” Hudner was quoted as saying in his New York Times obituary. The Times called it a “civil rights milestone,” but Hudner wasn’t thinking of Brown as a black pilot. Brown was a Navy pilot — a U.S. Navy pilot.
President Truman had ordered the integration of the Armed Forces of the United States only two years prior. It worried many in government that black men and white men might not be able to fight alongside one another. Ensign Brown was the first African-American naval aviator.
Hudner risked a court martial when he deliberately landed his plane, wheels-up, in sub-zero temperatures, ran to Brown’s Corsair, and simultaneously tried to control the fire and free his trapped shipmate. Hudner radioed the rescue crews to bring an ax and a fire extinguisher.
Hudner injured his back in the crash, but it was all for naught. Brown’s leg was pinned down by the fuselage and night was coming. The helicopter couldn’t fly at night and they would all freeze to death in the open if the sun went down before they could free Brown.
Unfortunately, Brown lost consciousness and the helicopter pilot ordered Hudner to leave. Hudner promised he would come back for him. Four months later, President Truman awarded Hudner the Medal of Honor for his heroic crash-landing and rescue of his shipmate, downed behind enemy lines.
He wouldn’t be able to come back for Brown until 2013, when the retired naval aviator flew to Pyongyang, North Korea to attempt to find Brown’s remains. Though the government agreed to the expedition, they were unsuccessful in finding Brown.
Hudner has an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer named in his honor and lobbied then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to name a guided missile destroyer for Brown. The first USS Jesse L. Brown, a Knox-class frigate, was decommissioned in 1994 and sold to Egypt.
Following in the wake of the US Navy, a British warship recently challenged China’s claims to the disputed South China Sea, provoking a confrontation with the Chinese military and triggering outrage in Beijing, Reuters reported Sept. 5, 2018.
The warship HMS Albion, an amphibious assault ship carrying a contingent of UK Royal Marines and one of three Royal Navy surface ships deployed to Asian waters in 2018, was confronted by the Chinese navy — a frigate and two Chinese helicopters — when it sailed close to Chinese-occupied territories in the Paracel Islands in late August 2018, Reuters reported.
The Chinese navy instructed the British vessel to leave the area, and the situation did not escalate further, the report said.
“HMS Albion exercised her rights for freedom of navigation in full compliance with international law and norms,” a spokesman for the Royal Navy told Reuters.
Beijing on Sept. 6, 2018, strongly criticized London’s actions, calling the recent incident a provocation.
“The relevant actions by the British ship violated Chinese law and relevant international law and infringed on China’s sovereignty,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Reuters. “China strongly opposes this and has lodged stern representations with the British side to express strong dissatisfaction.”
“China strongly urges the British side to immediately stop such provocative actions, to avoid harming the broader picture of bilateral relations and regional peace and stability,” the ministry added, according to Reuters. “China will continue to take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”
Royal Marines assault craft exiting the stern of HMS Albion during amphibious operations in 2010.
The US military regularly conducts “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea, often sending both warships and bombers past contested territories in the area. And Washington has been pressing allies and international partners to push back on Chinese efforts to dominate the strategic waterway.
London appears to be answering Washington’s call, and Beijing may be particularly upset because it could encourage others to do the same.
In August 2018, the US Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force conducted joint military exercises in the South China Sea, putting on a show of force with aircraft carriers and other weapons systems in China’s backyard.
Gavin Williamson, the British defense secretary, said on June 3, 2018, — one day after US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea — that the deployment of the Albion and other vessels to the region sent the “strongest of signals” on the importance of freedom of navigation.
“We believe that countries should play by the rules,” Williamson said in a clear reference to China.
Increased pressure by the US and Britain has not curbed China’s ambitions in the waterway, through which trillions of dollars’ worth of trade pass annually.
Over the past year, China has significantly increased its military presence in the region by deploying jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles at its outposts in the South China Sea. Chinese bombers have also become much more active in the area.
China’s Ministry of National Defense said on Sept. 6, 2018, that it would continue to dispatch ships and planes to confront countries outside the region that “continue to send warships to the South China Sea to stir up trouble.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Navy has plenty of interesting and unique milestones for its sailors to strive for. Though they never appear on official paperwork and not all of them have ceremonies, they’re a fun bragging-rights challenge that sailors can use to flex on the uninitiated (aka ‘pollywogs’).
By accomplishing one of several feats, sailors are inducted into an unofficial ‘order’ and, with that order, typically comes eligibility for a specific tattoo. While not every order is represented by a tattoo, sailors with these markings are either full of sh*t or are undeniably badass.
Check out these 5 unofficial Navy ‘certificates’ for the seasoned sailor.
5. Shellback variations
The shellback is simple enough: a sailor on official duty “crosses the line” of the equator. A golden shellback is more impressive; it means they’ve crossed at or near the International Date Line. Even rarer, crossing at the Prime Meridian grants you access into the Order of the Emerald Shellback.
There is also the ebony shellback for crossing the Equator at Lake Victoria (which is almost entirely in Ugandan waters) and a top-secret shellback for submariners who cross the equator at a “classified” degree of longitude.
4. Order of the Sparrow
To be initiated into this order, one must sail the seven seas. While the ancients had a different idea and classification of the term, “seven seas,” it is used in context of sailing the seven largest bodies of water. They are the four oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Indian), the Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Checking a few off a sailor’s list isn’t hard — stay in long enough and you’ll get them. The challenge is getting on a voyage that goes through the last one you need.
3. Order of Magellan
This order goes out to every sailor that completes what Ferdinand Magellan couldn’t well, alive anyways, circumnavigating the world.
The Navy doesn’t really care or recognize fun ceremonies like these. They typically have a mission to set out, so we go from point A to point B efficiently. There is some leeway for morale purposes, which is why most ship Captains don’t mind taking some time out to go through the “Golden X.” Circumnavigating the world, on the other hand, requires a specific mission to do so.
2. Order of the Square Rigger
Square Riggers just need to serve on a ship with square rigs.
Sounds simple enough — until you realize there’s only two left in the entire Armed Forces. One in the Navy, USS Constitution, and one in the Coast Guard, USCGC Eagle. Serving on either of those ships requires you to be the best of the best at looking pretty for tourists.
1. Double Centurions
While the Century Club exists for pilots who’ve made their 100th carrier landing or flown through hurricane winds over 100 mph, you’ll need to double it to get into the Double Centurions.
It’ll take a long time to reach that number and hurricane hunters usually aren’t willing to fly in CAT 5 winds that could shred their aircraft in seconds.
PandaGuy5 asks: Were people ever really tortured in Iron Maidens?
The people of the Middle Ages have a reputation for wanton brutality and, as supposed evidence of this, countless instruments of torture sit in museums around the world, arguably the most famous of which being the Iron Maiden. This hellish contraption supposedly caused unthinkable pain and anguish for those unlucky enough to be sentenced to suffer its merciless sting, condemning them to a slow and agonizing death. Or, at least, that’s what the stories say, because as far as anyone can tell, the Iron Maiden didn’t exist as a real world object until the 19th century- and for reference here the so-called “Medieval Times” are generally considered to have ended around the end of the 15th century.
So who invented the Iron Maiden and why, how did it become the face of Medieval torture, and has anyone actually ever been killed in one?
As for historical examples, there are a couple references to similar devices in history, with the oldest being a device known today as the “Iron Apega”, supposedly made about 2,200 years ago. Described by Greek historian Polybius, the device was an automaton replica of the wife of 2nd and 3rd century BC Spartan leader Nabis, with the woman in question named- you guessed it- Apega.
Various neo-medieval torture instruments. An iron maiden stands at the right.
The automaton was apparently lavishly dressed up in one of Apega’s outfits, with Polybius then stating of those who were made to meet the wife replica,
When the man offered her his hand, he made the woman rise from her chair and taking her in his arms drew her gradually to his bosom. Both her arms and hands as well as her breasts were covered with iron nails … so that when Nabis rested his hands on her back and then by means of certain springs drew his victim towards her … he made the man thus embraced say anything and everything. Indeed by this means he killed a considerable number of those who denied him money.
So in a nutshell of the whole story, anyone who refused to pay their taxes would be made to give this mechanical version of his wife a hug, with at any point them being able to make the hug of death stop if they agreed to pay. If they did not, the hug continued until they died. Whether this device actually existed or not, or was just an allusion to Apega’s supposedly ruthless nature to match the reported cruelty of her husband, isn’t know.
Moving on from there, we have an account from one of the earliest Christian authors and the so-called “Father of Latin Christianity”, Tertullian, who lived in the second and third century AD. In his work “To the Martyrs”, he states of the death of Roman General and consul Marcus Atilius Regulus,
It would take me too long to enumerate one by one the men who at their own self-impulse have put an end to themselves…. Regulus, a Roman general, who had been taken prisoner by the Carthaginians, declined to be exchanged for a large number of Carthaginian captives, choosing rather to be given back to the enemy. He was crammed into a sort of chest; and, everywhere pierced by nails driven from the outside, he endured so many crucifixions.
A follow up account by Augustine of Hippo in his 5th century “City of God” elaborates on the tale of Regulus’ death,
Marcus Attilius Regulus, a Roman general, was a prisoner in the hands of the Carthaginians. But they, being more anxious to exchange their prisoners with the Romans than to keep them, sent Regulus as a special envoy with their own ambassadors to negotiate this exchange, but bound him first with an oath, that if he failed to accomplish their wish, he would return to Carthage. He went and persuaded the senate to the opposite course, because he believed it was not for the advantage of the Roman republic to make an exchange of prisoners. After he had thus exerted his influence, the Romans did not compel him to return to the enemy; but what he had sworn he voluntarily performed. But the Carthaginians put him to death with refined, elaborate, and horrible tortures. They shut him up in a narrow box, in which he was compelled to stand, and in which finely sharpened nails were fixed all round about him, so that he could not lean upon any part of it without intense pain; and so they killed him by depriving him of sleep…
That said, whether any of that actually happened or not is up for debate as 1st century BC Greek historian Diodorus claims Regulus died of natural causes, with no mention of such a torture device involved.
Regulus returning to Carthage (1791) by Andries Cornelis Lens.
Moving on from there are old European fairy tales of unknown dating and origin, in which certain individuals were killed by being placed inside casks that had nails driven in. The cask would then apparently be rolled down a steep hill, sometimes into water… which if we’re being honest almost sounds worse than the actual Iron Maiden. Sort of the spiked version of death by a thousand papercuts and then as a reward at the end, terrifying slow drowning as you writhe in agony from all the little holes in your body; no doubt also trying to reflexively break the cask to get out once it starts to fill with water, creating some more holes in the process. We suppose at least this one’s a bit quicker, if a lot more dramatic.
Other than that, there are no references to such an Iron Maiden-like device until just before the 19th century. This first reference comes from German philosopher, linguist, archeologist, and professor at the University of Altdorf, Johann Philipp Siebenkees in 1793.
According to Siebenkees, on August 14, 1515 a coin forger was sentenced to die in a casket that had metal spikes driven into various parts lined up with particularly sensitive bits of the forger’s anatomy. Writes Siebenkees,:
the very sharp points penetrated his arms, and his legs in several places, and his belly and chest, and his bladder and the root of his member (penis), and his eyes, and his shoulders, and his buttocks, but not enough to kill him; and so he remained making great cry and lament for two days, after which he died.
Of course, if this was a real method of execution used, each such cask would have had to have been custom spiked for each new victim in order to line everything up perfectly, given people come in all shapes and sizes. This creates something of a logistical problem that many other means of torturing and killing someone wouldn’t have. Nevertheless, Siebenkees claimed it happened at least this once. So did it?
Well, given the complete lack of evidence or even reference to any other such Iron Maiden-like device used elsewhere in this era, nor who this forger was or any such pertinent details other than the oddly specific date, most historians think he made it up, or that this was an exaggerated tale of the use of a device that we do know existed in Europe.
So what was this real instrument of torture? Sometimes called the Schandmantel (“coat of shame”), the “Drunkard’s Cloak”, or the “Spanish Mantle”, this was essentially a wooden cask someone who was being punished for some crime would be made to wear about town- sort of a mobile version of stocks with similar purpose- mocking someone publicly and having people throw random things at them, in this case as they trudged along.
Consider this account from Ralph Gardiner’s 17th century England’s Grievance Discovered,
men drove up and down the streets, with a great tub, or barrel, opened in the sides, with a hole in one end, to put through their heads, and to cover their shoulders and bodies, down to the small of their legs, and then close the same, called the new fashioned cloak, and so make them march to the view of all beholders; and this is their punishment for drunkards, or the like.
Jumping across the pond to the land of the free, at least some soldiers were not always so free, as noted in an article titled “A Look at the Federal Army,” published in 1862 where the author states,
I was extremely amused to see a ‘rare’ specimen of Yankee invention, in the shape of an original method of punishment drill. One wretched delinquent was gratuitously framed in oak, his head being thrust through a hole cut in one end of a barrel, the other end of which had been removed; and the poor fellow ‘loafed’ about in the most disconsolate manner, looking for all the world like a half-hatched chicken…
In another account by one John Howard in 1784 in his “The State of Prisons in England and Wales”, he writes,
Denmark- Some of the lower sort, as watchmen,coachmen, etc., are punished by being led through the city in what is called ‘The Spanish Mantle.’ This is a kind of heavy vest, something like a tub, with an aperture for the head, and irons to enclose the neck. I measured one at Berlin, 1ft 8 in. in diameter at the top, 2 ft. 11 in at the bottom, and 2 ft. 11 in high… This mode of punishment is particularly dreaded, and is one cause that night robberies are never heard of in Copenhagen.
Of course, much like the Iron Maiden, as you’ll note from the dates mentioned here, most detailed contemporary accounts of these devices of humiliation and sometimes torture seem to indicate they weren’t really a Medieval thing, despite sometimes claimed to go back to the 13th century in Germany.
In any event, whether Siebenkees’s much more elaborate cask with spikes put in was really just a tale he picked up that was exaggerating these “coats of shame”, he made it up completely, or whether some inventive executioner thought to add the addition of spikes to such a cask and a forger really was executed in this way in the 16th century isn’t known, with most leaning towards Siebenkees making it up. Even if it did really happen, however, this still is post Medieval times by most people’s reckoning.
Whatever the case, a handful of years after Siebenkees’ account, the first known actual Iron Maiden appeared in a Nuermburg museum in 1802 not far away from Siebenkees’ home in Altdorf. This device was supposedly “discovered” in a German castle in the late 18th century. Not just a cask, this killing machine was roughly human shaped, made of iron, and even had a face, supposedly based on the face of the Virgin Mary, hence the torture instrument’s name- the Iron Maiden.
This probably first real Iron Maiden was sadly destroyed during WW2 by Allied bombers, but a copy created “as decoration for the ‘Gothic Hall’ of a patrician palace in Milan” in 1828 survived and currently resides in the Rothenburg, das Kriminalmuseum (Museum of Crime). From this copy, we can see that the device was certainly designed to cause unimaginable agony in its victims. Along with having strategically placed spikes designed to pierce approximately where a person’s vital organs and sensitive nether-region dangly bits are, the face of the Maiden did indeed have spikes designed to pierce a victim’s eyes upon closing, assuming the person wasn’t vertically challenged.
This copy did a lot to help popularize the idea of the Iron Maiden as a real thing thanks to its prominent display at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago, and subsequent tour across the United States to much fanfare.
Incidentally, this was the same World’s Fair that gave us the name “Ferris Wheel” for a device previously called a “pleasure wheel,” with George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.’ iconic version being rather massive compared to anything that had come before, holding an astounding 2,160 people at a time. This was also the same fair that saw famed serial killer H.H. Holmes taking advantage of the extra people in town looking for a place to stay, keeping business booming at his so-called “House of Horrors Hotel”.
Going back to the Iron Maiden, beyond the tour of one of the originals and extra exposure at the World’s Fair, another man largely credited with popularising the idea of the Iron Maiden was 19th century art collector Matthew Peacock. Among other things, he managed to collect a wide variety of historic torture devices to, as he put it: “Show the dark spirit of the Middle Ages in contrast to the progress of humanity.”
Naturally, unable to find the Real McCoy, Peacock cobbled together an Iron Maiden apparently partially from real artifacts of other means of torture, and then donated it to a museum to be displayed as a symbolic representation of the former era’s cruelty.
The public ate all of this up and the idea of the Iron Maiden slowly permeated throughout society to the point that most today assume it was a real thing used to kill people in a slow and very painful way during Medieval Times.
An open iron maiden.
This all brings us the question of whether anyone has ever actually been tortured or killed in one? The answer, surprisingly, is possibly, but not in Medieval Times, nor even apparently in historic ones, unless you consider a couple decades ago historic.
Enter Uday Hussein. The eldest son of Saddam started his murderous rampage apparently by bludgeoning to death one Kamel Gegeo, who was at the time Saddam’s bodyguard, valet and food taster. This murder was done in front of a host of party guests in 1988. The party in question was in Egypt, in honor of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne. As to what Gegeo did to incite Uday’s rage, he apparently hooked Saddam up with a woman, Samira Shahbandar. Samira was married when Saddam met her, but that was quickly taken care of, freeing him up to take her as one of his mistresses and, later, as his second wife.
While still in the mistress stage, Uday decided to kill Gegeo for the facilitation of Saddam’s illicit relationship, which Uday seems to have felt was an affront to his own mother.
Saddam did sentence his son to death for this murder, but a few months later switched to exiling him to Switzerland, with the Swiss government allowing the well-known recent murderer to enter the country for some bizarre reason. However, after frequent run-ins with the law there, the Swiss finally gave him the boot and he returned to Iraq without apparent consequence. If all that wasn’t enough of a testament of what a swell fella’ Uday was, beyond some confirmed assassination attempts and other murders by the lovable rapscallion, rumors of frequent rape of random women swirled around Uday…
This all brings us back to the Iron Maiden and Uday’s eventual appointment as the chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee and the Iraq Football Association. In those positions, accusations were rampant that Uday occasionally had various athletes tortured when they were thought to have either under performed or otherwise screwed up in some way in competition. These included doing things like ripping their toenails off, scalding their feet, subjecting them to extreme sleep deprivation, having them kick cement balls, and dragged across gravel roads followed by being dipped into sewage… Allegedly after a 4-1 loss to Japan in the Asian Cup in 2000, he also had three of the players deemed responsible for the defeat beaten repeatedly for a few days.
As for the Iron Maiden, after Uday’s death and the fall of Saddam’s regime in 2003, a mere twenty or so meters away from the Iraqi Football Association headquarters an Iron Maiden was found on the ground. Time Magazine’s Bobby Ghosh states of this find,
The one found in Baghdad was clearly worn from use, its nails having lost some of their sharpness. It lay on its side within view of Uday’s first-floor offices in the soccer association. Ironically, the torture device was brought to TIME’s attention by a group of looters who had been stripping the compound of anything of value. They had left behind the iron maiden, believing it to be worthless.
That said, despite this report, there is no actual hard evidence the Iron Maiden was used, nor blood found on the device or the like. But given all the rumors of Uday’s penchant for torturing people, and some of the confirmed things he did do, as well as the device’s location, at the least he is presumed to have used it as a method of terrorizing people, as was more the norm even in Medieval Times with actual real world torture devices, rather than frequently using them.
All that said, given his proclivities for murdering people who upset him, it is further speculated by many that he might have actually followed through and killed someone with it at some point. But, again, despite reports, so far there has never been any concrete evidence of this, so it’s still not wholly clear if anyone was ever actually killed by an Iron Maiden or not.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.