4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu - We Are The Mighty
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4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the oldest and most intense forms of Chinese martial arts. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and a number of other martial arts movie stars have also made Kung Fu one of the most famous forms.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

As a part of a religious order, the Shaolin monks were persecuted by Chinese Communists during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The temple was mostly destroyed and stayed that way for years. But when Jet Li made “Shaolin Shi,” it was enough to make Mao give in: the temple was rebuilt and some much-needed tourism revenue came in as Kung Fu made a comeback.

Here are a few things you may not have known about Kung Fu and the elite Shaolin Monks.

1. The founder of Shaolin Kung Fu was from India.

Legend has it that the founder of the Shaolin order, a Buddhist monk from India named Bodhidharma, spent nine years meditating in a cave near his monastery. The legend has it that to keep him from falling asleep, the monk cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Pre-Workout would not be invented for another 1,500 years.

Green Tea began to grow from the spot where he threw his eyelids and now Buddhist monks use green tea to maintain their focus during meditation.

2. Kung Fu is studied in a “Kwoon.”

The word “dojo” is reserved for places that teach Japanese martial arts, like Aikido. When entering a kwoon, bow at a 45-degree angle with your hands at your chest — the right in a fist, and the left open-palm.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

This represents the yin and yang and that your heart is at peace.

3. Kung Fu practitioners wear a different uniform.

Again, much of the look of the loose-fitting gi and colored belts comes from the Japanese practice. Traditional Chinese Kung Fu doesn’t use colored belt levels (though some Western teachers might use them as a teaching tool). Chinese Kung Fu uses a uniform that is tight at the ankles and sometimes even at the wrists.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

4. The most elite Shaolin monk was a werewolf.

Ok, he wasn’t an actual werewolf. In the late 19th century lived a monk named Tai Jin. The poor guy suffered from a condition known as hypertrichosis. Also known as “Werewolf Syndrome” because of the insane amount of body hair that grows on affected areas.

It might have helped his self-esteem to know that, according to legend, he was the best fighter in all of China.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
No comfort for Chewbacca here.

Tai Jin was abandoned at the monastery as a baby because of his body hair. The monks raised him and trained him. He eventually dedicated himself to one form of martial art. Legend also has it that upon meeting the 12 masters of Shaolin, the boy threw a dagger into the ceiling, killing a would-be assassin. He explained to the masters that he could hear 13 people breathing, not just 12.

For more about the Shaolin monks and their founder, check out the above episode of Elite Forces.

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It’s been 100 years since one of the biggest game-changers in military aviation history

On November 5, 1915, a plane was launched from a ship by catapult for the first time in history.


And, despite the prevailing ideas at the time that naval aviation was an outlandish endeavor, the flight was a success.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Curtiss AB-2 (C-2) Aircraft being catapulted from USS North Carolina (ACR-12) on 5 November 1915. (Image: Naval History Heritage Command)

The pilot for that historic flight was Henry C. Mustin, a naval aviator who helped to found the Naval Aeronautic Station at Pensacola, Florida in 1913. Mustin, using an early catapult system, managed to launch himself successfully from the armored cruiser USS North Carolina at the naval station.

By today’s aircraft carrier standards, the USS North Carolina was a tiny ship. Of course, it was not built as a carrier, but the size differential between the North Carolina and today’s carriers still shows how far things have come in the last 100 years. The North Carolina had a total displacement of 14,500 tons, compared to the 100,020 tons of a present-day USS Nimitz-class supercarrier.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Lieutenant Commander Henry C. Mustin (Image: Naval History Heritage Command)

Unlike modern carriers, which have built-in flight decks and launch systems, the launching platform built atop the North Carolina was an ad hoc endeavor. At the time, launching a plane from a ship while underway had not been attempted. The questions of whether the plane would fly, or whether it would be possible to safely abort takeoff, were still big unknowns.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
The first catapult launch of an aircraft from a naval vessel, on November 5, 1915. (Image: US Navy)

After that risky start in 1915 US aircraft carrier abilities quickly advanced. By 1922, the US operated the USS Langley, an aircraft carrier that could carry 30 planes.

Today’s Nimitz supercarriers can carry upwards of 62 aircraft. Still, despite their size and capacity, the Nimitz still owes one of its major functions — the use of catapults to launch planes at high enough speeds for flight from a short runway at sea — to Mustin’s original takeoff from the USS North Carolina.

Here’s what a catapult launch looks like today:

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Source: YouTube

MIGHTY GAMING

Why Fortnite is basically a combat engineer simulator

Military simulators are always a huge hit within the gaming community. Flight simulators give gamers the opportunity to sit in a (simulated) cockpit. First-person shooters imitate the life of an infantryman. World of Warships and World of Tanks give the gearheads out there a chance to pilot their favorite vessels.

And then there’s the game that’s taken gaming world by storm lately: Fortnite. It features a 100-player, battle-royale mode that has players duke it out until only the best (or luckiest) player survives. At first glance, it seems like a standard PUBG clone — until you realize that a huge part of the game is about, as its name implies, building forts.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Some players get a little carried away with honing their base-building skills…
(u/RuffAsToast)

Underneath its goofy graphics and RNG-laden (random number generator) loot system is actually a fairly intricate game. The overall premise is simple: Land somewhere, scavenge materials to build, find loot, build stuff, fight the enemy, move toward the objective, and build more stuff.

Then, it suddenly hits you.


What separates the skilled players from the 10-year-old kiddies screaming memes into their headsets is the ability to construct a dependable, defensible position. In order to be successful in Fortnite, you have to quickly build and rebuild secure bases that can’t easily be destroyed while giving you the ability to get up high and view the battlefield.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley J. Hayes)

This is not unlike the essence of what a real combat engineer does in real life: Deploy somewhere, get hand-me-down materials from the last unit who was in Afghanistan, build stuff, fight the enemy, continue the mission, and then build more stuff.

Granted, you’re distilling an entire career into a 20-minute long video-game match, but the parallels are there — but real engineers have more fun. Building stuff is only half of the job description; using explosives to take out enemy positions is when the real fun begins.

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The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

The Pentagon has identified the two soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan earlier this week as members of the 82nd Airborne Division.


The Fort Bragg-based soldiers were part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, deployed in support of the Resolute Support Mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina. (DOD photo)

Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, and Sgt. Jonathan Michael Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana, belonged to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, officials said. Jackson Springs is in western Moore County, about an hour from the All American gate of Fort Bragg.

The soldiers were part of a convoy that was attacked south of Kandahar on Wednesday afternoon, according to officials. Four other soldiers were wounded in the attack, which involved a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

NATO officials in Afghanistan said the four wounded soldiers were receiving care at a coalition medical facility and that their injuries were not considered life-threatening.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Resolute Support Mission, I offer our deepest condolences to the families of our fallen comrades,” said Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. military officer in Afghanistan and a former commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division. “These soldiers gave their lives in service of a mission that is critically important to the United States, our allies and partners. We will honor their sacrifice with our dedication to protect our homeland and complete the mission for which they sacrificed.”

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana. (US Army photo)

The Department of Defense announced the names of the two soldiers killed in the attack late Thursday.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Harris and Hunter.

On Thursday, a separate attack killed another coalition soldier and injured six other personnel during a patrol near Kabul, officials said. The wounded were reported in stable condition at the U.S. military hospital at Bagram Airfield.

The patrol was struck by an IED during a partnered mission alongside Afghan soldiers.

There are about 15,500 coalition troops in Afghanistan in support of the 16-year-old war. About 8,400 of them are from the U.S. military, with more than 2,000 of that number hailing from Fort Bragg.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team alone has approximately 1,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, with troops in Kabul, Kandahar and other parts of the country. Most of the soldiers deployed in June, led by Col. Tobin Magsig and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb.

The soldiers have a variety of missions providing base security, protecting high-ranking military and government officials, serving as Theater Reserve Forces and training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces.

Harris and Hunter’s battalion, the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, has been tasked with overseeing security for a tactical base in southern Afghanistan and serving as a quick reaction force to deal with nearby attacks.

“The entire Devil Brigade is deeply saddened by the loss of two beloved team members,” Magsig, the brigade commander, said in a statement released Thursday.

“Spc. Christopher Harris was an extraordinary young man and a phenomenal paratrooper,” Magsig said. “He regularly displayed the type of courage, discipline, and empathy that the nation expects from its warriors.”

“Sgt. Jonathon Hunter was the leader we all want to work for — strong, decisive, compassionate, and courageous,” the colonel added. “He was revered by his paratroopers and respected throughout his unit.”

Both of the soldiers were on their first deployment, officials said.

Harris joined the Army in October 2013 and Hunter joined in April 2014, according to the 82nd Airborne Division. Both men attended Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, before being assigned to the 1st Brigade.

“Chris and Jon lived and died as warriors. They will always be a part of the legacy of the Devil Brigade and their memory lives on in the hearts and minds of their fellow paratroopers,” Magsig said. “Our thoughts and prayers are centered on the families and loved ones of these two great Americans.”

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Here’s how the US could respond to a California rebellion

The results of the last presidential election have brought national attention to a secessionist movement in California otherwise known as “Calexit.” Activists upset with the outcome are gathering signatures to place a secession referendum on the ballot in 2019.


While the probability of California seceding from the Union is remote, it is technically possible.

What if the movement ultimately gained enough traction to foment a rebellion in one of California’s most important and iconic cities? Here’s how the United States might try to take back the city and how insurgents might defend it.

Assuming the rebellion had broad-based popular support, the California National Guard would begin concentrating several units in and near San Francisco, where they would have the best chance of facing U.S. forces in the dense urban environment. In response, the Pentagon might deploy storied units like the 101st Airborne and 25th Infantry Divisions to San Francisco to seize and secure the city.

National Guard troops might consider establishing alliances of convenience with hackers, Chinese Special Forces, and local gangs like the Ghee Kung Tong, Neustra Familia, and rival elements of MS-13. Rigging the city’s multi-storied buildings and roadways with booby traps and IEDs, the rebels would dig in for a long siege.

Also Read: Here’s what would happen in a second US civil war

When U.S. forces make their push on the city, the 101st Airborne might conduct air assaults across the South Bay to seize and secure Highways 280 and 101, cutting off San Francisco’s southern supply route. Elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment would launch a raid on the San Francisco airport, safeguarding it for follow-on forces.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Ranger Staff Sgt. Joseph T. Trinh, of the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st Battalion, conducts stress fire operations for Ranger Rendezvous on Fort Benning, Ga., June 24, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Coty Kuhn)

Simultaneously, Delta Force commandos would secure nuclear material in the East Bay at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, likely encountering stiff resistance from local forces. Rogue hackers might us the attack to initiate a propaganda campaign, hinting at a possible radiation leak. The news of such a disaster would spur a flood of refugees to flee inland from Berkeley and Oakland, inundating follow-on U.S. forces and overwhelming hastily constructed refugee camps.

Further west, a SEAL team would work to disarm explosive charges set by Chinese frogmen on the foundations of both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, before the 25th Infantry Division’s lightly armored Strykers could cross over.

Columns of Strykers surging across the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, would turn northwest from the Bay Bridge. Streaming along the Embarcadaro, they would race to seize the high ground at Telegraph Hill, where Coit Tower offers a commanding view of the city. To the northwest, forces crossing the Golden Gate would quickly occupy the Presidio, establishing a tactical operations center there.

Choke Points

National Guard units would lie in wait until U.S. forces became channelized in the city. Then, they would attack, firing small arms and RPGs from office buildings and high rises, and detonating IEDs hidden beneath concrete along the main streets. National Guard M1A1 Abrams tanks, hiding in parking structures would ambush Strykers, littering the streets with mangled and twisted metal. When beleaguered American units call for air support, Longbow Apache helicopters would stumble into massive arrays of balloons released just before they passed over the city. The balloons would tangle in the helicopters’ rotors and cause the aircraft to sputter and crash.

While the insurgents would have the element of surprise, American forces would recover quickly, rapidly seizing key communications nodes and power stations to deny rebels a link to the outside world. As American forces extend their control deeper into the city, they would hit a wall of resistance in the Tenderloin as meth-fueled gangs ambush them from every conceivable alley and window with AK-47s, Molotov cocktails, and car bombs.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team take cover behind a riot control vehicle. (U.S. Army photo by: Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval)

To counter the chaos, U.S. forces would partition particularly restive parts of the city, walling them off with twelve-foot high, portable, steel-reinforced concrete blast walls or T-walls. At the same time, another battle would rage beneath the streets throughout the 28 subway miles of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

Within three weeks, the U.S. military would control two-thirds of the city, but dwindling food supplies would leave the civilian population increasingly desperate. Overflowing sewage and a swelling rat infestation would only make matters worse. This horrific environment would inspire a highly effective insurgent propaganda campaign, with hackers smuggling micro SD cards containing footage of alleged U.S. military atrocities and deteriorating conditions out of the city.

Soon, the U.S. military would be overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of refugees, frantic to leave San Francisco. To prevent known criminals and insurgents from escaping the increasingly tightening cordon, soldiers would use tools like the Biometric Automated Toolset (BATS) to perform thumb and eye scans on every refugee. They would also confiscate all electronic devices to prevent insurgents from passing on critical intelligence information to other cells.

Yet some micro SD cards would make it through the U.S. military’s security checkpoints and end up on CNN. Terrifying images of rail-thin San Franciscans, bullet-riddled corpses of children, and rats the size of small dogs festering in refuse-strewn alleys would carpet-bomb the media circuit, making it increasingly difficult for U.S. forces to maintain a long-term occupation of the city.

While the U.S. victory over San Francisco would ultimately be assured, it would be a Pyrrhic one that would sully the U.S. military’s reputation. More importantly, it might have the unintentional impact of bolstering the resistance in the foothills and mountains to the east.

Award-winning author Sean Patrick Hazlett is an Army veteran living in the San Francisco Bay area. His short story, “Adramelech” appears in Writers of the Future: Volume 33 along with the work of four other veterans including, Larry Elmore, who illustrated the cover. You can read more about him at reflectionsofarationalrepublican.com.

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That time the Russians rammed US Navy ships in the Black Sea

In February 1988, the American cruiser USS Yorktown was on a Freedom of Navigation mission in the Black Sea, just south of Crimea. With her was the USS Caron. Though outside of traditional sea lanes, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows for warships to leave sea lanes — even in another country’s territorial waters — as long as those warships were on “innocent passage.”


The Soviet Union disagreed.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
They usually did. (MGM/UA)

Though the Russians routinely used their own naval vessels to shadow the Americans in the region, the case of the Yorktown and Caron was different. The Russians held that the two American ships were armed with more firepower than previous treaties allowed while in their territory. They also believed that they had the authority to clear ships entering their waters.

That’s why the Soviet frigate Bezzavetnyi warned the Yorktown it would “strike their ship with own” if the Americans entered Soviet territory. Meanwhile, another Soviet frigate confronted the Caron. The Americans blew off the threat, with the Caron responding: “I am engaged in innocent passage consistent with international law.”

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

That’s when the second Russian frigate slammed into the Caron’s port side aft. There was no damage except some paint scraping. The Caron pressed on and exited Soviet waters almost two full hours later.

Also in Soviet territory, the Yorktown was being shadowed by the Russian Bezzavetnyi. The Russian closed to within 50 feet of the Yorktown when it turned into the American ship, slamming into its port side. Bezzavetnyi’s anchor fell away, while Yorktown suffered minor hull damage, though with no breaches. The ship’s rear Harpoon missile launchers were damaged and unusable.

Yorktown completed her mission and left in a similar two-hour time frame.

The Russians had no intention of sinking either ship and no weapons were ever cleared for action. In after action interviews, the skipper of the Bezzavetnyi said:

“To be honest, no one in the in the command center put on his lifejacket, although the order had been given… Many members of the crew of Yorktown were on the upper deck, smiling and waving, taking pictures of us with cameras and videocameras. And the commanding officer of Yorktown, for example, appeared on the bridge in parade uniform. In a word, the Americans behaved as if they were participating in a show for entertainment.”

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
“Are you not entertained?” (U.S. Navy photo)

“Our view is that unless you exercise the right of freedom of navigation, inevitably you lose it,” said then-Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the incident. “If we start backing off we will eventually lose some of the rights that are absolutely essential for our freedom of navigation.”

Freedom of Navigation missions have been a cornerstone of the US Navy mission and of American foreign policy since 1979. The resolve of the Yorktown and Caron to press on are testament to the dedication to the mission.

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This Medal of Honor recipient blocked out being paralyzed to finish the mission

Drafted into the Army in March of 1968, George Lang graduated boot camp and went right into advanced infantry training before heading off to the jungles of Vietnam.


In February of 1969, Lang was scheduled to go on leave when an intelligence officer got word of enemy movement closing in.

Lang had just spit-shined his boots when the company first sergeant updated him on his new mission. Lang put his leave on hold and geared up without hesitation. He and his squad loaded up on “tangos” (boats) and proceeded down the river toward their objective.

Related: 6 questions you asked yourself after your first firefight

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

Lang and his men maneuvered down the canal toward Kien Hoa Province in South Vietnam, where they eventually dismounted the “tangos” and proceeded inland on foot.

After only 50-meters of patrolling, the anxious squad came in contact with a series of bunkers, linked together by communication wires.

Taking point, Lang was first to spot five armed men guarding the area — he quickly engaged. After expelling a full magazine and getting hit by enemy artillery, the squad came under attack by an additional, but unexpected force — red ants.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
The red ant. (Image by Wikipedia Commons)

The squad dashed toward a shallow pond while under fire to wash off the six-legged attackers. Cleaned off and ready to go, the soldiers located a blood trail and followed it to find the bodies of the VC troops they previously engaged.

Suddenly, another barrage of incoming fire opened up from a nearby bunker, killing a handful of Americans. Lang sprinted toward the dug-in position and took it out with his rifle and a few hand grenades.

Also Read: 3 key differences between Recon Marines and Marine Raiders

Lang destroyed a total of three enemy bunkers, which were also full of weapons. Upon returning to his squad, a deadly rocket detonated nearby, shooting hot shrapnel into Lang’s back, damaging his spinal cord.

Unable to move his legs and suffering unbelievable pain, Lang continued to direct his men. After several hours of coordinating troop movement and medical evacuations, Lang was finally removed from the battlefield and brought to safety for treatment.

On March 2, 1971, George Lang was awarded the Medal of Honor from former President Richard Nixon.

Check out the Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear this incredible story from the legend himself.

(Medal of Honor Book | YouTube)
WATCH

This is what it was like to fire a Civil War cannon

Today’s artillery can really reach out and touch someone. The M777 lightweight 155mm howitzer, for instance, can hit targets over 18.5 miles away. That howitzer has a crew of seven, and the rounds it fires vary widely from high-explosive rounds to smoke, and some of these rounds can be guided by either a laser seeker or GPS. There was even a shell called the W48, a nuke that delivered the equivalent of 72 tons of TNT onto a target!


Such stuff would be incomprehensible to soldiers firing the most common cannon of the Civil War, the 12-pounder Model 1857 Napoleon. This cannon had a crew of seven (although this could be adjusted), and it could reach out to about a mile. Doesn’t sound like much, does it?

 

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Pfc. Erik Park from San Mateo, Calif., fires his M777 155 mm howitzer at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E Sept. 3, 2011. Photo by Spc. Ken Scar.

 

Still, in some ways, the crews’ duties haven’t changed over the years. Some people have to load the cannon, others have to prep it for firing. This 2011 Marine Corps story describes the nine-step process of firing the M777.

Also read: This Civil War vet walked around with a bullet in his face for 31 years

The process for firing a Model 1857 Napoleon is not much different. According to a National Park Service publication outlining the process for demonstrations, the selected round is loaded, and the crews prep the gun for firing. The big difference is the fact that the Civil War cannon usually needs to be swabbed, largely because it is muzzle-loaded. This was to prevent a spark from prematurely igniting the cannon’s powder charge.

 

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
The M1857 12-pounder Napoleon, probably the most common artillery piece of the Civil War. (Wikimedia Commons)

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Why Navy SEALs will storm the beaches of Normandy in 2018

Jumping into freezing water is just part of the legacy of being a Navy SEAL. During World War II, the U.S. Navy Combat Demolition Units were just a handful of guys equipped only with a pair of shorts, a knife, and maybe some explosives. But those amphibious roots are still close to the hearts of the Navy special warfare community — that’s why they still call themselves “Frogmen.”

Some 74 years ago, in the English Channel during the predawn hours of June 6, 1944, these Navy Combat Demolition Units braved the freezing waters — not to mention the thousands of Nazi guns pointed at the water’s edge.

They were trained for this.

They weren’t necessarily trained to be the secret first wave of invaders up against some of the most fortified positions in the world. No, instead they were trained to win against any and all odds or obstacles. These men were the precursor to modern day SEALs, moving to do their part on the beaches before the D-Day Landings.

That’s how SEAL training works to this day. Recruits are taught to overcome the things they think can’t be done. Now, in tribute to those few who landed at occupied France well before the rest of the Allies, 30 current and former Navy SEALs, as well as some “gritty” civilians, will recreate those NCDU landings.

Today’s SEAL reenactors will do a seven-mile swim to land at Normandy, where they’ll scale the cliffs of Omaha Beach to place a wreath in memorial. At that point, they’ll gear up with 44-pound rucks to do a 30-kilometer march to Saint-Lô.

Why? To raise awareness (and funds) for the Navy SEAL Heritage Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida — and the wide range of programs they offer to support family members of SEALs who fell in combat, doing things only the U.S. special operations community would ever dare.


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“The greatest barrier to human performance is your own mind,” says Kaj Larsen, a Navy SEAL veteran who is also a seasoned journalist and television personality (among other things). “… what [BUD/S training] is really doing is putting guys into the [SEAL] community who aren’t going to quit in combat.” Larsen will be among the SEALs hitting the beach on D-Day 2018.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Larsen with Nigerian troops while covering the fight against Boko Haram for Vice News.
(Kaj Larsen)

The goal is to keep the 2018 mission as close as possible to the original mission of the D-Day Frogmen.

The night before D-Day, an ad hoc team of underwater demolition sailors, along with Navy divers and Seabees, led by Ensign Lawrence Stephen Karnowski, rigged the mine fields, obstacles, and other impediments set up by the Nazi defenders to explode so the main invasion force could make it to the beach.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Karnowski (center) with his UDC team.
(U.S. Navy)

It was 2 a.m. when the NCDU units slipped into the water, wearing little more than diver’s shorts and carrying satchels of explosives. The water temperature at that time of year peaks at just below 58 degrees Fahrenheit (for reference, water freezes at 32 degrees).

This is why today’s SEALs get that mental training: they need it.

Be sure to listen to this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast to find out more about “The Murph” workout (Larsen was a close friend of SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy for whom the exercise is named), to learn about a “Super Murph,” how SEALs are dealing with their fame in the wake of the Bin Laden Raid, and why veterans might be the future of American journalism.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Larsen on assignment in Peru with Vice camerawoman Claire Ward while embedded with Peruvian Special Forces.
(Kaj Larson)

You can also find out how to follow Kaj and his work, as well as what comes next for the veteran journalist.

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The first man killed in the Vietnam War was murdered by a fellow airman

On June 8, 1956, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon died of gunshot wounds sustained in South Vietnam. He was the first casualty of what would be known to history as the Vietnam War.


Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon — it was a fellow airman.

Fitzgibbon was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. A crew chief, he confronted the plane’s radio operator when they came under fire mid-flight, making sure the operator did his job.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
An early aircrew patch from MAAG Vietnam.

After the mission, the radio operator stewed over the altercation, heading to a bar to have a few drinks and loosen up. Except he drank heavily, and the incident only intensified his anger.

Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon on the porch of his barracks room as he handed out candy to Vietnamese children and shot the crew chief to death.

Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., left, and Richard Fitzgibbon III. The father was killed in Vietnam in 1956, while the son died there in 1965. (Photo from Sen. Ed Markey)

Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon’s name wasn’t added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall until 1999, after a lobbying campaign from his family, with the help of Senator Ed Markey. The Department of Defense had to first change the criteria for adding a name — specifically identifying the start of the war.

The DoD now recognizes the date the MAAG was set up, Nov. 1, 1955, as the start of the conflict in Vietnam — the earliest date to qualify for having a casualty’s name added to the memorial wall.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Richard Fitzgibbon’s name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

The Fitzgibbons were one of three father-son pairs who died in the Vietnam War.

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5 of the most over-hyped military commanders in American history

These generals may be legends — or seen as awesome commanders — but did they really live up to all their hype?


Under closer examination, there might be some instances where the shine isn’t so bright. We’re about to shatter some long-held prejudices, so buckle up your seatbelt and hang on for the ride.

1. Douglas MacArthur

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

MacArthur had his shining moments, but he had his share of miscalculations during his career as well.

“Good Doug” was the guy who pulls off the Inchon invasion or who sees Leyte as the place to return to the Philippines. “Bad Doug” is the guy who, according to U.S. Army’s official World War II history on the fall of the Philippines, failed to take immediate action, and saw them get caught on the ground.

Chicago Bears fans in the 2000s would always wonder which Rex Grossman would show up – “Good Rex” could carry the team, while “Bad Rex” could blow the game. It could be argued that Gen. Douglas MacArthur was much the same.

2. William F. Halsey

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Official U.S. Navy portrait of William F. Halsey, Jr. (US Navy photo)

Let’s lay it out here: Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey was probably the only naval leader who could have won the Guadalcanal campaign, and for the first year and a half of World War II, he was well in his element. America needed someone who could help the country rebound from the infamous surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and who could inspire his men to go above and beyond.

But the fact is, in 1944, his limitations became apparent. Historynet.com noted his faults became apparent at Leyte Gulf, he “bit” on the Japanese carriers, which had been intended as a decoy. A thesis at the United States Army’s Command and General Staff College stated that Halsey “made several unfounded assumptions and misjudged the tactical situation.”

3. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

While having a number of great moments – like stealing the uniform of the CO of the Army of the Potomac and making off with a huge haul of intelligence – Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart also was responsible for a big blunder prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.

Lee’s official report on the Gettysburg campaign indicates that “the absence of the cavalry” made it “impossible to ascertain” Union intentions. An excellent dramatization of that is in the 1993 film “Gettysburg,” where Lee rants about possibly facing “the entire Federal army” while chewing out Harry Heth for getting into the fight.

4. Robert E. Lee

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

Was Lee a great general? Well, he did beat a large number of his opposite numbers in the East. McClellan, Burnside, and Hooker among them. But like Jeb Stuart, Lee forgot the bigger picture. As Edward H. Bonekemper, author of “How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War,” noted at the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable, ”

The Union, not the Confederacy, had the burden of winning the war, and the South, outnumbered about four-to-one in white men of fighting age, had a severe manpower shortage.” The simple fact was that the South needed to preserve its manpower. Lee failed to do so, and many believed, often wasted it.

Ordering Pickett’s Charge was a classic example of wasting manpower. Antietam was another – and it was worse because the victory there allowed Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Nice going, Bobby.

5. George S. Patton

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

Yeah, another legend who may be over-hyped.

But Patton, for all his virtues, had some serious faults as well. The slapping incident was but the least of those.

More worrisome from a military standpoint was the Task Force Baum fiasco, as described in this thesis. Patton, not the picture of humility, later admitted he made a mistake.

Patton probably was an example of someone promoted a bit past his level of competence.

Articles

The search for the rumored Nazi ghost train is back on

The search for a lost Nazi gold train is back on.


Last August, two amateur treasure hunters said they had “irrefutable proof” of the existence of a World War II-era Nazi train, rumored to be filled with stolen gold.

Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper claimed they used ground-penetrating radar to locate the train, which is somewhere alongside a railway between the towns of Wroclaw and Walbrzych in southwestern Poland.

“The train isn’t a needle in a haystack,” Andrzej Gaik, a retired teacher and spokesman for the renewed effort to search for the train, told Agence France-Presse.

“If it’s there, we’ll find it,” Gaik said.

‘There may be a tunnel. There is no train.’

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu
Artist’s rendering of the Nazi ghost train | We Are The Mighty

In December, after analyzing mining data, Polish experts said there was no evidence of the buried train.

Janusz Madej, from Krakow’s Academy of Mining, said the geological survey of the site showed that there was no evidence of a train after using magnetic and gravitation methods.

“There may be a tunnel. There is no train,” Madej said at a news conference in Walbrzych, according to the BBC.

Koper insists that “there is a tunnel and there is a train,” and that the results are skewed because of different technology used, The Telegraph reports.

Local folklore

According to a local myth, the train is believed to have vanished in 1945 with stolen gold, gems, and weapons when the Nazis retreated from the Russia.

During the war, the Germans were building headquarters for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in Walbrzych’s medieval Ksiaz Castle, then called the Furstenstein Castle.

Below the castle, the Germans built a system of secret tunnels and bunkers, called “Project Riese.”

The train is in one of these hidden passages, says Tadeusz Slowikowski, the main living source of the train legend. Slowikowski, a retired miner who searched for the train in 2001, believes the Nazis blew up the entrance to the train’s tunnel.

“I have lived with this mystery for 40 years, but each time I went to the authorities they always silenced it,” Slowikowski told The Associated Press. “For so many years. Unbelievable!”

Slowikowski believes it is near the 65th kilometer of railway tracks from Wroclaw to Walbrzych.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Sebastian Stan stars as US official who risked his career to honor a fallen hero in ‘The Last Full Measure’

Airman 1st Class William “Pits” Pitsenbarger was a Pararescueman during the Vietnam War. Less than a year after receiving orders, he would go on to fly nearly 300 rescue missions and save over 60 men before sacrificing himself to aid others during one of the most brutal battles of an already harsh war. When offered the chance to escape on the last helicopter out of the combat zone, Pits stayed behind to protect the lives of others and was later killed by Viet Cong snipers.

The Last Full Measure is the long-awaited story of how the men he saved would try to procure him the Medal of Honor — and the dark reason why the American government resisted.

Check out the final trailer, released today:


“The sacrifices of the fallen will never be forgotten,” intones Christopher Plummer, who plays the father of William Pitsenbarger. The Last Full Measure, written and directed by Todd Robinson, also stars Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and William Hurt.

“Todd Robinson’s riveting drama chronicles one man’s sacrifice and valor on the battlefield, and we believe it also highlights an aspect of American patriotism overdue for recognition. Everyone should know about William Pitsenbarger’s bravery and life, and it’s a privilege to bring this film to theaters where it should be seen,” said Roadside’s Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff, as reported by Deadline.

Pits was initially posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, becoming the first enlisted Airman to receive it, before it was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

William “Pits” Pitsenbarger

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Medal of Honor Citation

“Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on April 11, 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground.

On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind, on the ground, to perform medical duties.

Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time, he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible.

In the vicious fighting which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and airman Pitsenbarger was finally fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.”

He was also posthumously awarded the rank of Staff Sergeant. Other awards and medals include the Air Force Cross, the Airman’s Medal, and two Purple Hearts. His name can be found on Panel 06E Line 102 of the Vietnam Wall.

Following the battle, Pitsenbarger’s fellow PJ’s and soldiers who he saved in combat embarked on an over 30 year effort to upgrade his Air Force Cross to a Medal of Honor. In the trailer, William Hurt, who plays a fellow PJ, describes the situation as “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Finally, in 2000, Pitsenbarger received the Medal of Honor in a cermony attended by his parents, fellow veterans and the Secretary of the Air Force. The Last Full Measure will release in theaters on January 24th, 2020.

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