British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

World War I wounds were horrific, as an opening in the skin created easy access for all the nasty diseases that swam through the trenches and crawled through the mud of No Man’s Land. A bullet wound, shrapnel puncture, or even a few scratches from barbed wire could get infected quickly.


British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

British troops march into Tsingtao after capturing it from German troops in 1914.​

(British Government)

And so Britain looked to history and other countries for potential methods of quickly producing a higher quality material for bandages. A surprising solution was found in peat moss, the layer of plants that grow on top of many bogs and peat fields. So, they wanted to pack their wounds with plants that grew from decay-filled ground. Seems legit.

But there’s actually a long history of packing wounds with plants, especially moss. Ancient Irish warriors used mosses, as did French and German soldiers in the 1890s. Germany was even using moss bandages during World War I, and Britain decided to copy their foes.

So what made moss so great a bandage material? A few things. First, there weren’t conflicting needs for moss. While cotton was also a great material, belligerent countries needed cotton cloth for uniforms and gun cotton for ammunition, so there wasn’t enough to go around.

Next, some species of moss were actually more absorbent than cotton. Spaghnum moss, by weight, can hold twice as much liquid as cotton can, meaning that a similarly sized bandage can sop up a lot more blood while protecting the wound. This is thanks to how moss grows, basically creating cells and allowing them to die in order to create reservoirs for storing water. Those tiny reservoirs can hold blood as well, drying out the wound and allowing it to clot faster.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

Sphagnum moss was a valuable bandage material in World War I.

(Katja Schulz, CC BY 2.0)

Even better, some species of moss have special cell walls with an electrical charge that, long story short, makes them naturally antiseptic. These bandages kill bacteria without the need for any fancy chemical solutions or coatings. They were also naturally resistant to mildew.

But, then why wasn’t Britain already using this miracle material? Because it was crazy hard to collect. When the British decided to start using the moss as a bandage material, British and Canadian organizers started hosting events just to go walk the peat bogs and collect the material. One man even made the news for walking over 1,000 miles to collect the goods. And these workers were nearly always volunteers.

But the bandages did make a difference on the front, outperforming cotton bandages to the point that America, the only combatant still flush with cotton, traded gas masks components to get its hands on the moss because the plant-based bandages were better.

When the war ended, there were obviously much fewer volunteers willing to walk through the elements for no pay or willing to assemble the final bandages, so they fell out of favor. But some medical manufacturers continued to make the bandages and sell them. They were rare, though.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

The Sphagnum Moss Sanitary Napkins were for when you wanted to take ‘all natural’ way too far.

(Smithsonian Museum)

For some reason, U.S. manufacturers experimented with using moss-based materials for feminine hygiene products. For some reason, women weren’t super into it, and the product largely disappeared. If you are into it, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History actually has a box of them in their collections.

Just go full National Treasure and you, too, can enjoy the benefits of sphagnum moss bandages. That was the most popular moss for bandages in World War I, so they’re even the most relevant historically.

Now, scientists in Europe are looking for ways to cultivate plants like sphagnum moss without damaging the peat bogs that they grow on most easily, preferably by getting them to grow in controlled conditions on farms. Trampling peat bogs is labor intensive and very harmful to the environment, releasing lots of carbon from the soil into the atmosphere. Growing moss somewhere else might make it commercially viable without threatening the environment.

So, in World War III, you might get to use moss-filled bandages, just like great-great-great grandpa in The Great War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened when two Civil War flag bearers fought each other

It was the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Everyone involved in this Southern invasion of the Union knew how critical a victory would be for either side – and everyone was willing to risk everything to get the upper hand. That’s when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered Lt. Gen. James Longstreet to charge the Union lines and take Cemetery Hill from Union Gen. George G. Meade.

Among the Union defenders was Joseph H. DeCastro – and he was about to become the first Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient.


British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

As a matter of pride, often times damaged Civil War flags would not be repaired.

DeCastro was the flag bearer for the 19th Massachusetts Infantry, a job that was arguably one of the most important in any unit. Troops put a lot of faith on their flag and the man who held it. They would give their lives to protect their regimental flag, and there were few humiliations worse than losing the unit colors to an enemy. In practical use, the flags told the men attached to those units where they were on the battlefield. When they couldn’t hear commands over the din of the fighting, they would still be able to see their colors.

For the flag bearers, the job was an incredibly important honor. Walking the battlefields unarmed, the color bearers could never run away from the fighting and always had to be in front towards the enemy. If the colors broke and ran for safety, the rest of the entire unit might instinctively follow. This is why Joseph H. DeCastro was so brave: He spent the entire Civil War as a bright-colored, slow-moving artillery target.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

But the flag bearer for the 19th Virginia infantry didn’t know that. So when Pickett’s Charge slammed right into the Union lines near Cpl. DeCastro’s position, the two unarmed flag bearers began to go at it like everyone else in the melee around them. DeCastro used the staff of his regimental flag, knocked out the opposing flag bearer, stole the 19th Virginia’s flag, and then left the battlefield to present it to Gen. Alexander Webb. Webb remembered the event:

“At the instant a man broke through my lines and thrust a rebel battle flag into my hands. He never said a word and darted back. It was Corporal Joseph H. De Castro, one of my color bearers. He had knocked down a color bearer in the enemy’s line with the staff of the Massachusetts State colors, seized the falling flag and dashed it to me.”
British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

Color guards used to be serious business, guys.

DeCastro then went right back into the fighting at Gettysburg, again taking up his position as regimental flag bearer in the fighting. He would survive Gettysburg and the Civil War, but not before being awarded the Medal of Honor for his courageous capture of the enemy’s colors in the middle of a battle that became well-known as the Confederacy’s high water mark, in a victory that ensured the Confederate Army could never again mount an invasion of the North, that sealed the South’s fate forever.

popular

Who would win a fight between an American and Russian missile cruiser?

With the retirement of the Dutch-built cruiser Almirante Grau by the Peruvian Navy, only two countries now operate cruisers: Russia and the United States. Russia has three Slava-class guided-missile cruisers in service while the United States has twenty-two Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers. Naturally, we’ve got to ask… in a one-on-one fight, would a Russian missile cruiser win, or would an American? 


British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
An aerial starboard view of the bow section of a Soviet Slava-class guided missile cruiser showing 16 SS-N-12 missiles, a twin 130 mm dual purpose gun, and two 30 mm Gatling guns.

 

Both vessels have roughly the same capabilities. They both provide area air-defense while also being able to attack surface ships and submarines.

The Ticonderoga-class cruiser’s main battery consists of two 61-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch systems. These can hold a wide variety of missiles, including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-174 SM-6 Extended Range Active Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, and the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile. These cruisers also have two five-inch guns, two triple Mk 32 launchers for 12.75-inch torpedoes, two Mk141 quad launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon, and two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-in Weapon Systems.

The Slava-class cruisers have 16 SS-N-12 “Sandbox” anti-ship missiles, 64 SA-N-6 “Grumble” surface-to-air missiles, two SA-N-4 “Gecko” launchers (each with 20 missiles), a twin 130mm gun, two quintuple 21-inch torpedo tube mounts, and six AK-630 30mm Gatling guns. This is a fearsome arsenl, but it leaves the Slava somewhat short on land-attack capability.

Related: Here’s a closer look at Russia’s powerful missile cruiser

 

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
The Slava-class cruiser Marshal Ustinov. (U.S. Navy photo)

So, what happens when you pit these two powerhouses against each other? Of course, it depends in large part on who sees the other first. The Slava can operate one Ka-27 Helix helicopter compared to two Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawks on a Ticonderoga. This gives the Ticonderoga an edge, since the two Seahawks could, through triangulation of the Slava’s radar, give a good enough fix for the Ticonderoga to fire its Harpoons.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
A Tomahawk missile launches from the stern vertical launch system of USS Shiloh (CG 63) (U.S. Navy photo)

 

 

The key part of this hypothetical battle is the exchange of anti-ship missiles. The Slava has twice as many missiles as the Ticonderoga — each with a range of 344 miles — and a conventional warhead of roughly one ton that could tear a Ticonderoga apart, but these missiles fly at high altitude and, despite going more than twice the speed of sound, are easy pickings for the Aegis system onboard the Ticonderoga. Here, the Ticonderoga’s Harpoons may be more likely to get a hit or two in, despite the Slava’s missile armament. The SA-N-6 may have a long range, but the Harpoons come in at very low altitude. At least one or two Harpoons will likely hit the Slava. The Ticonderoga’s MH-60R Seahawks, if equipped with AGM-119 Penguin anti-ship missiles, could provide a second volley. At least one of the Penguins would likely hit as well.

 

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) fires its MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun during a weapons training exercise. San Jacinto is currently underway preparing for a future deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)

 

After this exchange, the Slava will likely need to deal with fires, flooding, and disabled combat systems. From here, the Ticonderoga is left with two options: fire five-inch guns equipped with the Vulcano round or take the risk of closing to finish the job. Getting too close, however, would put the Ticonderoga within range of the Slava’s torpedo tubes, which could seriously damage — if not sink — the American cruiser.

So in a fight between a Russian missile cruiser and an American missile cruiser, who would win? At the end of the day, we’d put our money, as we always do, on the American Ticonderoga-class cruiser.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Police drone finds Chinese fugitive living in a hillside cave

A man who escaped prison and remained a fugitive for 17 years was caught by Chinese police last week after drone footage revealed his makeshift hideaway embedded inside a remote hillside cave.

Police in Yongshan, a county in China’s southwestern Yunnan province, revealed details of the discovery and photos of the man on WeChat.

The fugitive, 63-year-old Song Moujiang escaped a prison camp in the nearby Sichuan province in March 2002 and has been on the run ever since. He had been jailed for trafficking women and children. Police did not mention when Song was imprisoned.


The force said it had received a tip that Song was possibly hiding in the mountains behind his hometown of Yongshan County, though they had trouble searching for his location due to steep slopes and rocky terrain.

So police decided to employ the use of a drone in order to conduct their search, they said.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

Song’s “residence” was embedded inside a cave in that was less than 21 square feet, according to Yongshan Police.

(Yongshan Police/WeChat)

Police located Song’s hideout on the morning of Sept. 19, 2019, after drone footage identified a blue steel tile amid the dense bush. After more than an hour of hiking, police say they found Song’s shelter, which was located in a cave on the cliff.

Police arrested the man inside, who confessed to escaping the prison camp and evading their capture for 17 years.

The man lived in the cave residence — which was less than two square meters or 21 square feet — for so long that his communication skills had become hindered, police said.

“He expressed himself poorly and there were slight barriers to his communication,” police said.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

Song was arrested and, according to the BBC, returned to prison.

(Yongshan Police/WeChat)

During his stay in the cave Song used plastic bottles to get water from a nearby ravine, the BBC reported, citing state media.

He has now been sent back to jail, the BBC reported.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Also read:

Articles

This combat controller kept taking it to the enemy after he was shot in the chest

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez had accompanied top special operators in some of the most dangerous missions of the War on Terror, including the Battle of Shok Valley. He was a combat controller assigned to Army Special Forces, calling in attack runs from aircraft supporting the Green Berets.


In 2009 he was tested like never before when, during a raid to capture a high-level Taliban leader, Gutierrez was shot in the chest. The round passed through his lung, collapsing it and ripping a chunk out of his back.

Gutierrez had seen this kind of wound before and estimated he had three minutes left to live.

“I thought about [my job], what I would do before I bled out,” Gutierrez told Fox News while discussing the raid. “That I would change the world in those three minutes, I’d do everything I could to get my guys out safely before I died.”

He stayed on the radio, calling in strikes from aircraft to help the team escape alive. At one point, enemy fighters were lined up on a wall only 30 feet from him. Gutierrez called in three A-10 danger close gun runs against the fighters. The rounds struck so close to Gutierrez that his ear drums burst from the explosions. After the first of the three runs, he allowed an Army medic to insert a needle into his lung, relieving some of the pressure that was forcing his lungs closed. It was the only time he came off the radio despite his injuries.

In fact, through all the chaos of the fight, Gutierrez remained so calm and clear on the radio that the pilots supporting the operation didn’t realize he was injured until he was removed from the battlefield.

“He said he would be off of the mic for a few to handle his gunshot wounds,” Air Force Capt. Ethan Sabin told Business Insider. “Until that point he was calm, cool and collected.

Gutierrez was medically evacuated from the battle after nearly four hours of fighting and losing over half of his blood. No American lives were lost in the raid, a success credited largely to Gutierrez’s extraordinary actions. He recovered from his wounds and was awarded the Air Force Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor for valor awards.

Watch the ceremony below

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Gear Porn: Atibal X 1-10x First Focal Plane Scope

The future of modern carbine sights are low-power variable optics (LPVOs). Like the leap from iron sights to red dots, there’s an upfront cost, but unfortunately for the consumer, making the next step typically requires you to double your ante to upgrade from a red dot to a variable. The free market has responded, and we’ve seen a significant increase in new and inexpensive options. Even five years ago, this would’ve been unthinkable. The realm of variable optics, once relegated between the options of Walmart-cheap and S&B costly, now has a big fat middle range.


Since their inception, Atibal has been steadily improving the quality of their product line, while keeping their prices affordable. The first Atibal optic we got hands on with was their inexpensive second focal plane (SFP) XP8. Though it had some warts, it was also a mere 0. Atibal followed it up with their FFP 1-6x Mirage (better) and then the Apex 4-16x FFP (better still).

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

Don’t get us wrong, NightForce they’re not — but they don’t pretend to be. Often, we’re cajoled by budget optic companies proclaiming they’re “just as good as,” and Jimmy Labita of Atibal has never tried to feed us that line. Frankly, in an industry full of wild claims and exaggerations, it was a breath of fresh air.

And, at least at the time of this writing, the Atibal X is the first and only front focal plane (FFP) 1-10x power optic on the market.

The Atibal X has a lot of the features that we look for in an optic like this: a Mil Dot reticle, 1/10th mil adjustments, FFP, great tactile clicks, easy zooming, and illumination that’s actually what we’d consider daylight bright (with an asterisk).

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

It’s exceedingly hard to make a daylight-bright illuminated reticle with a FFP scope; most on the market sans a small handful with bright reticles are second focal plane. This is because the reticle on an FFP scope is exceedingly small — and the higher the variation in power, the smaller the physical reticle itself has to be. Usually with the brightness pumped on one of these, it turns into a blurry mess. Atibal’s solution with the X wasn’t necessarily to needlessly dump light into the reticle, but instead opted for a reticle design that aids in this endeavor.

Reminiscent of the EOTech VUDU line of optics, the Atibal X features four thick segments in a 20mil by 20mil diamond outside the reticle itself that illuminates along with a quarter-mil center dot. For those who live in the MOA world, this translates to roughly a 68.75 MOA (~72 inches at 100 yards) diamond. Being right around 6 feet in height makes it very easy to get rough range estimation against human targets.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

Being an FFP scope, as you zoom in for a more refined aiming point, the diamond moves out of the center giving you access to the Mil Dot reticle. Up close? Put the red on the target and pull. Further away? Zoom right in.

One feature that we were extremely happy to see was that the six illumination levels feature an “off” between each setting. If you want to save battery life, select your desired brightness level and then just give it one click in either direction.

The turrets are easy to float, and all you need is a hex wrench to pop it off and shift after zeroing. The turrets also lock and are in a “pull out to move” arrangement. Zero worries about minor bumps or bangs playing mucky muck with your adjustments.

The eye box of the Atibal X is more than reasonable with 3.6 inches at high magnification and 5.5 inches at low magnification. For comparison’s sake, the 1-6x Vortex Razor HD II has 4 inches of eye relief at the highest magnification.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

We’ve seen a trend of larger optical tubes for increased light-gathering properties, and the Atibal X is no different. With a 35mm tube, it bulges out 1 millimeter more than the “standard” large tube, but there are still several options out there (it doesn’t hurt that the new Leupold Mk5 also rocks a 35mm tube). Additionally, Atibal teamed up with Bobro Engineering for a 35mm mount option, so you can order them as a pair — at a helluva discount too! Currently, the Atibal X is 9 with a mount and 9 without. Not too shabby for the best optic Atibal has ever put out.

There was a time when “Made in China” was the kiss of death, at least as far as firearms accessories were concerned. But place of manufacture alone is no longer a disqualifier regarding optics — at least not this one. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise; we’ve been using a handful of camera lenses with Chinese glass in them for some time.

Undoubtedly, we’ll see both Vortex and Primary Arms release similar models, just as they’ve done with every other Atibal release. But for some reason, Jimmy gets them into the hands of the public before everyone else; hell, he was showing this one off a year ago.

Featured image: Recoilweb.com

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Articles

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

What was the worst thing about being a soldier assigned to the invasion of Normandy? Probably the beaches with Nazi machine guns raining hell down, right?


Well, some historians make a pretty good case that it was actually the French gardens and farms that spread throughout Normandy.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
The hedgerows of the Cotentin Peninsula. (Photo: Public Domain)

While American farms and yards are split by fences — split rail fences in the early days and mostly barbed wire by the World War II years — the farms in Normandy were split by ancient hedgerows.

Originally built by the Romans, the hedgerows were mounds of dirt raised in irregular patterns that served as fences between plots of land. Irrigation ditches with raised sides provided water to all the fields and animals.

Over the hundreds of years since the dirt mounds were raised, thick, tall growths of plants had turned the ditches into tunnels and raised virtual walls of up to 16 feet on top of the mounds.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
Normandy, France, July 15, 1944. (Painting by Keith Rucco for The National Guard)

These wall of vegetation were thick and seemingly impossible to quickly cut through. And the hedgerows were everywhere, an aerial photo of a typical section of the battlefield showed over 3,900 hedged enclosures in less than eight square miles.

Each of these enclosures was a virtual fortress, and the Germans had spent months preparing their defenses. They practiced moving through the hedges, selected areas for machine guns and anti-tank weapons, and practiced firing from trees into nearby enclosures.

Perhaps most importantly, they had planted stakes near the most likely routes of American troops and had mapped the locations of the stakes by coordinates, allowing defenders to quickly and accurately call fire onto the advancing Allies.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
Advancing through an opening in the hedgerows was risky at best. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Compounding the problem was the irregular shape of the enclosures. The rows weren’t laid out in a proper grid. Instead, they were roughly rectangular as a whole, but with a variety of sizes even among adjoining fields. And all of these fields were connected primarily by thin wagon trails that wound through the irregular enclosures.

All of this combined to form a defender’s paradise and an attacker’s hell. In the first days of the Battle for the Hedgerows, American troops would assault an enclosure at full speed, attempting to use velocity and violence of action to overwhelm the defenders. German machine guns pointed directly at these openings cut them down instead.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
(Photo: U.S. National Archives)

While the German defenses in the hedgerows greatly delayed the American advance, the Allies did eventually find a way to breakthrough. At first, armored and infantry units had worked largely independent of each other. The tanks had tried to stay on the move to avoid German anti-tank weapons and artillery while the infantry had slowed down to try and avoid ambushes.

But Sgt. Curtis Grubb Culin III, an armor soldier from New Jersey, figured out the fix. He welded a bar across the front of the tank and added four metal prongs across it. The prongs acted as plows and cutters, allowing the tanks to push through the hedgerows, destroying the obstacles without exposing any of the tanks’ weak points.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
(Photo: U.S. Army)

This allowed the tanks to cut new routes for the infantry while reducing their own vulnerabilities as well. The Allied soldiers began engaging in a true combined arms manner with tanks opening the way and infantrymen advancing just behind.

The infantry would help quickly knock out anti-tank weapons while the tanks could help destroy fortified machine gun nests and cut through hedgerow after hedgerow.

To see what the American GIs had to fight through, check out this video:

Articles

8 weird ‘off-the-books’ traditions in the US military

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.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

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).

shellback ceremony 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.

Volunteer or not, it’s a ritual which the brass has endured plenty of bad press over, so they tend to discipline anyone involved whenever it happens.

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.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
Photo: MCB Hawaii

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.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the US and North Korea teamed up to fight Somali pirates

The list of Americans who receive favorable coverage in North Korea’s state media is a very, very short one. President Trump made waves with KCNA’s review of his performance at the 2018 Singapore Summit. But more than a decade before that, the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS James E. Williams received even higher praise.

In 2007, a North Korean cargo ship name Dai Hong Dan was attacked by Somali pirates 70 miles northeast of Mogadishu. The pirates disguised themselves a guard force and overtook the crew to take control of the ship. They set a ransom demand of $15,000. The penalty for non-payment was killing the sailors — that would not happen.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

The crew was stashed away in the engine room and in steerage as the pirates gave their demands. The crew managed to send an SOS to the Piracy Reporting Centre of the International Maritime Organization. The IMB sent the report to the James E. Williams, which dispatched a helicopter to check on reports of the ship’s hijacking. Meanwhile, the crew used the emergency steerage engine and a lifeboat compass to point the ship out to sea.


British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
Boarding team members from guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams board North Korean cargo vessel Dai Hong Dan to provide medical assistance.
(U.S. Navy)

As the helicopter approached and ordered the pirates to surrender, the crew fought back against their captors, overpowering them after 20 hours of fighting. The Dai Hong Dan’s crew stormed the bridge as U.S. Navy sailors boarded the ship to help the wounded. One of the pirates was killed and six North Korean sailors were wounded in the struggle. Doctors aboard the James E. Williams treated the injured North Koreans.

The Dai Hong Dan was carrying sugar from India to Mogadishu, a cargo which it had already dropped off. The pirates turned out to be the same dock workers responsible for the ship’s safe passage in and out of the port facilities of Mogadishu. The captured pirates were held aboard the North Korean ship, presumably to face justice in the DPRK.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
The forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of death.
(KCNA)

North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, gave the United States rare praise in its coverage of the incident, saying:

“We feel grateful to the United States for its assistance given to our crewmen. This case serves as a symbol of the DPRK-U.S. cooperation in the struggle against terrorism. We will continue to render international cooperation in the fight against terrorism in the future, too.”
Intel

How numbers stations like the ones in ‘Black Ops’ worked

The 2010 smash-hit video game Call of Duty: Black Ops featured many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Cold War. While some of them have been proven false, others are impossible to debunk — but a select few are very much true. One such example is the true-to-life way in which the protagonist receives orders throughout the campaign: through a “numbers station.”


In the game, your character, Alex Mason, listens to a shortwave radio station transmitting from a boat off the coast of Cuba that intends to send a message to Soviet sleeper agents in the States. Unlike the more fantastical elements of the game, there is historical precedent for remote numbers stations being used by spy agencies of the time.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
Even though thereu00a0wasn’t a gigantic,u00a0climactic battle that took place on one… that we know of…
(Activision)

Before the era of radio encryption, anyone with a radio receiver could listen in on any conversation. Single-channel military radios operate much like the radio in your car, just at a much lower frequency — one that car radios can’t receive. To make sure a secret message wasn’t intercepted by a random person with a radio, agencies used cryptic codes. A well-known example of such secret speech is the American military’s use of Code Talkers.

The other, equally ingenious method was the use of numbers stations. At a given moment and on a known frequency, a one-way message was sent. That message could be, as the name implies, just a string of numbers, either simply spoken or hidden within a specific song or Morse code. The listener would then use a cipher to translate what those numbers meant.

An outed numbers station transmission, The Swedish Rhapsody, sounded like this.

Someone could, for instance, turn on their car radio at exactly 12:34 PM and tune to a station that’s normally just static and hear a person call off a string of numbers, which could then translate into something like, “continue the mission.”

In the case of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, this method was used for espionage purposes. The radio station from which these messages were broadcast roamed the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding detection.

The use of open radio frequencies meant that more than one spy could listen in at the same time. Although never officially confirmed, many spy agencies from around the world have alluded to using them in such a manner.

Numbers stations are, allegedly, still in use. The confirmed Cuban numbers station, Atención, was at the center of an espionage case in the late 90s. Cryptic messages are still broadcast in Cuba at random times to this day.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran amputee was denied a Six Flags ride — but here’s why

Retired Marine Johnny “Joey” Jones, who lost both his legs after stepping on an IED while deployed, was asked to exit a ride at Six Flags Over Georgia; since then, the story has appeared in multiple news outlets and sparked a heated conversation.

The Washington Post reported that Jones was “concerned with the way the park’s policy was presented to him” and that “the policy is too restrictive to accommodate people with disabilities.”

But there’s a good reason for roller coaster parks to be restrictive.


In 2011, U.S. Army Sgt. James Thomas Hackemer was ejected from a ride in a New York theme park and died.

Hackemer had been wounded in 2008 by an armor-penetrating warhead that caused the loss of his left leg and most of his right. He, like Jones, wore prosthetic limbs. After an investigation, a reportedly seven-figure settlement was reached between the lawyers for Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort and Hackemer’s family.

Jones didn’t see the handicapped sign for the ride when he climbed in with his 8 year-old son — but the ride operator noticed Jones’ prosthetics. Jones told The Washington Post that he wasn’t upset about being asked to leave the ride, but rather that the employees didn’t seem trained to properly accommodate his condition.

According to Fox News, Six Flags issued an apology:

“We apologize to Mr. Jones for any inconvenience; however, to ensure safety, guests with certain disabilities are restricted from riding certain rides and attractions,” Six Flags said in a statement to Fox News. “Our accessibility policy includes ride safety guidelines and the requirements of the federal American Disabilities Act. Our policies are customized by ride and developed for the safety of all our guests. Our policies and procedures are reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis to ensure we continue to accommodate the needs of our guests while simultaneously maintaining a safe environment for everyone.”

Nonetheless, Jones took to Twitter to call out the park:

twitter.com

In a follow-up Tweet, Jones maintained that this ride didn’t truly appear to have a safety policy as much as a liability policy, which is where his argument truly appears to stem from.

twitter.com

He’s advocating for fellow amputees and individuals with handicaps so they can feel included — rather than excluded — as they continue to live their lives.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how US military dogs train for dangerous missions

By now, everybody has seen the picture. A tan dog in a tactical vest, sitting up at the position of attention, perky ears framing a black face. The mouth wide open, the tongue hanging out the side of the mouth, the dog looks happy, almost goofy.

This is the dog that chased down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi this past weekend, leading to al-Baghdadi’s death when he detonated a suicide vest he was wearing. The dog was injured in the blast, but has since returned to duty. Assigned to Delta Force, the dog’s identity is classified, even as the dog is being hailed as a hero, with the picture shared on Twitter by President Donald Trump, who called it Conan.

Read on to find out what we know about this dog.


British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

U.S. Marine military working dog Argo rides into the ocean on a combat rubber raiding craft at Red Beach.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

They are the special forces of military working dogs, attached to special operations forces, such as the Navy SEALS and Army Rangers. Trained to find explosives, chase down human targets, and detect hidden threats, these Multi-Purpose Canines, or MPCs, are also trained to rappel out of helicopters, parachute out of airplanes, and conduct amphibious operations on Zodiac boats. Highly skilled, an MPC named Cairo even assisted in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

These dogs are specially selected and trained to handle the most stressful situations while keeping their cool. In the spirit of the Marine Recon motto, these dogs are swift, silent, and deadly. Barking is forbidden. With the secretive nature of their work, much of the information regarding the selection and training of these dogs is classified.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

A military working dog chases a suspect during a demonstration.

(Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Derry)

Four times per year, a team of canine handlers, trainers, veterinarians, and other specialists from the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas — the home of the Military Working Dog Program — make the trip abroad to buy dogs. They evaluate each dog to ensure that they will not have any medical issue that will prevent them from serving for at least 10 years. They perform x-rays to ensure that there is no hip or elbow dysplasia or other skeletal defects. Dogs with skin conditions, eye issues, or ear problems are ruled out.

If they pass the medical screening, they are further assessed on their temperament. Over up to 10 days, the dogs are judged on their ability to search and detect, their aggressiveness, and their trainability. While the special forces have their own programs to procure dogs, which are confidential, the traits that they look for are the same. The standards are just higher.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

Caro, a five-year-old Belgian Malinois with the 96th Security Forces Squadron, stands by her handler.

(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

This hero dog from the al-Baghdadi raid is a Belgian Malinois, one of the most popular breeds among working dogs.

This hero dog from the al-Baghdadi raid is a Belgian Malinois, one of the most popular breeds among working dogs. W

While the military uses labs, retrievers, and other breeds including a Jack Russell or two for detection, the most popular breeds of war dogs are Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherd, and the ever popular German Shepherd. These dogs are valued for their intelligence, trainability, work ethic, and adaptability.

The Malinois in particular is valued for its targeted aggression, speed, agility, and ability to survive in extreme heat. Handlers are known to refer to their dogs as either a “fur missile” or a “maligator.”

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

A Multi-Purpose Canine with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), prepares for Zodiac boat training inserts on Camp Pendleton, Calif.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Maricela M. Bryant)

The dogs are hand selected from the best kennels in Europe and around the world, brought to the United States, and trained to the highest level.

They are taught patrolling, searching, explosive or narcotic detection, tracking, and are desensitized to the types of equipment around which they will work. They are familiarized with gunfire, rappelling out of helicopters, riding in Zodiac boats, or even skydiving. All said, the dogs and their training cost up to ,000 each. Including the highly specialized gear of MPCs, the cost can be tens of thousands of dollars higher.

Wearing bulletproof vests outfitted with lights, cameras, communications equipment, and sensors, the dogs can operate off leash, providing a real-time view to the handler while taking verbal commands through the radio.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

A Multi-Purpose Canine handler with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command prepares his canine for a parachute jump.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Scott Achtemeier)

Over their years of service, a multipurpose canine will conduct dozens of combat missions over multiple deployments, most of which the public will never hear about.

One of these missions resulted in the death of Maiko, a multi-purpose canine with the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. Leading the way into a secure compound in Afghanistan in November 2018, Maiko caused the Al Qaeda fighters to open fire, giving away their position, allowing the Rangers to eliminate the threat without injury.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

A multi-purpose canine handler with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, checks for a pulse while administering medical care to a realistic canine mannequin.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bryann K. Whitley)

When dogs are injured on the battlefield, their handlers are trained to provide first aid.

Using specially developed, highly realistic dog mannequins, the handlers are trained to treat massive bleeding, collapsed lungs, amputations, and more. The mannequins respond by whimpering and barking.

Many of the developers of this dog mannequin came from the Hollywood special effects world, working on productions like the Star Wars or Harry Potter films. The simulated dog, with its pulse and breathing responding to the treatment, costs more than ,000.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

Military working dog handlers with the U.S. Army Rangers and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command multipurpose canine handlers fast-rope from a U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk helicopter.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

If a dog is injured in combat or in training, or is showing signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he can be sent to a dog hospital at Lackland Air Force Base for surgery, rehabilitation, or assessment for retirement.

While PTSD is not well understood in dogs, veterinarians, dog trainers, and specialists at Lackland Air Force Base agree that dogs show symptoms of combat stress as much as humans do. Whether they become fearful of loud noises, become more aggressive, forget how to do tasks, or decide that they don’t want to work, these dogs are rehabilitated with the goal of returning them to service. If this is not possible, the dogs are evaluated for transfer to non-combat jobs or potential retirement.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages

Nero proudly displays his U.S. Military Working Dog Medal during his retirement ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. on May 21, 2018. During his five years of service, Nero served two deployments. Nero will be adopted and spend his retirement as a companion to his handler.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bryann K. Whitley)

Before being retired, the dogs are assessed to ensure that they do not pose a risk to the public.

After up to a decade of devoted service, the goal is to let the dog live out its life on a soft bed, preferably with one of its former handlers.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s who would win a Russian vs. Chinese tank battle

Russia and Communist China have worked together a lot since the fall of the Soviet Union. Back in the 1990s, Russians sold the Chinese a lot of military technology, including the Su-27/30/33 Flanker family of multi-role fighters and Sovremennyy-class guided missile destroyers.


This wasn’t the first instance of Eurasian collaboration — the Soviet Union and Communist China were close in the 1950s, when Russia shared a number of jet, tank, missile, and ship designs. The two countries had a falling out in the 1960s, which culminated in the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict. As a result, Communist China turned to the West for some military technology, including designs for the 105mm main gun used on the M60 Patton and on early versions of the M1 Abrams.  However, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre quickly severed any Western connections, leading, eventually, to this latest round of acquisitions from Russia.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
The T-14 Armata, Russia’s latest tank. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

But what if Russia and China had another falling out? Nearly 50 years ago, the two nations came close to all-out war — it could happen again. Today, while Russia’s military power has faded due, primarily, to the fall of the Soviet Union and ongoing economic struggles, Communist China’s armed forces have risen to a qualitative near-parity.

If the two were to face off, much of the ground fighting would involve tanks like China’s Type 99 and the Russian T-14 Armata. The Type 99 is a version of the Russian T-72. It carries a 125mm main gun that not only fires conventional tank rounds, but also the AT-11 Sniper anti-tank missile. It has a crew of three, a top speed of 50 miles per hour, and can go 280 miles on a single tank of gas. The tank also has a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a 7.62mm machine gun.

British troops in World War I used miracle moss for bandages
This is probably China’s biggest advantage: A Russian T-14 Armata will face several Type 99s. (VOA photo)

The T-14 Armata packs a 125mm gun as well, but unlike in Chinese designs, it is in an unmanned turret. The Armata also has a crew of three, a 12.7mm machine gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun. It can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour and has an active protection system to defend against missiles and rockets.

Which country’s tanks would win this fight? It depends. Recently, Russia has been unable to field a force of its latest designs due to budget constraints. Communist China, on the other hand, has been thriving. In a one-on-one fight, the Russian Armata would have a technological edge, but tank warfare is rarely a one-on-one affair.

The Chinese Communists would simply overwhelm an Armata with sheer numbers.