5 military-themed 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books revisited - We Are The Mighty
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5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited

“Choose Your Own Adventure” books were an easy way to feel accomplished as a child. In a few short, simple pages, you could make the decisions which would ultimately kill your character and you could count it as an entire book read — all the way through. Book that, Pizza Hut.


If you had more time to kill or wanted to go on another adventure, you could just crack the book open again and find a new way to die. Either way, you know how these books end.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
There’s seriously no other way.

It should be simple to go back and revisit these books now that we have a lifetime of experience from which to help guide us and make decisions. Suddenly it’s a lot easier to break your friends out of Nazi Germany or get that secret message to George Washington. And now it all makes sense why your character died so often — some of these books give you absolutely terrible choices.

No matter what, it prepares you for a life of making bad life decisions.

1. Sabotage

No, they did not make a book from a Beastie Boys song (though that would have been awesome and could have explained so much). Sabotage places you in 1942 Casablanca, where you are an agent for Secret Forces. No country, just Secret Forces. You’re working with the French Resistance to break some friends out of a castle prison in Nazi Germany, but the notorious SS Agent Kruptsch is out to foil you.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited

Your handler gives you an envelope you’re supposed to open when you’re about to enter the castle and sends you off with Resistance operatives Simone and Raoul. Getting to the castle is really difficult because the Germans keep surprising you. When you get to the castle, the envelope lets you know why: Raoul is a double agent. There’s no explanation for why Secret Forces let him continue being a double agent or why they didn’t tell you that in the first place. But that doesn’t matter because if you take too long getting to the castle, your friends escape on their own anyway. Thanks for your help, chummmmmmmmmp!

2. Spy for George Washington

The American Colonies are in open rebellion against Great Britain. You are too young to enlist as a Continental Soldier, so a man you know enlists you (a child) to deliver a message to General George Washington about the British attack on Philadelphia. That’s not nearly as dangerous, right?

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
Benedict Arnold would have trouble with this.

You are given every opportunity to tell everyone from Royal Navy Captains to strangers on the street about your super secret mission. The book lets you make that choice. And every time you avoid direct confrontation, you are waylaid and/or eventually killed off. The lesson here is Americans don’t avoid fights, even as spies.

3. Gunfire at Gettysburg

You are a bossy jerk of a kid in 1863 Pennsylvania who is more than a little confused about the ongoing Civil War. On one hand, slavery is wrong, but on the other, the Rebels are fighting in their homeland. I’m not kidding, this is your rationale, your great conundrum.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited

You just happen to be on the battlefield when the Battle of Gettysburg starts and your sociopath best friend implores you to stick around and watch for a while. You’re held at gunpoint by a Confederate officer who gives you the option of helping the Rebels with your knowledge of the local terrain or making a break for it. You consider helping the Confederates because — and I sh*t you not — you want to meet General Lee.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
Sploosh. Apparently.

The author clearly has some kind of man crush on Robert E. Lee. With blazing speed you are given so many options to betray your country. If you try to help slaves escape, you lose. Eventually, you are staring, dumbfounded, as the battle rages around you. The endings where you actually survive always finish with a Southern loss, but your character always looks back wistfully at what might have been.

4. UN Adventure: Mission to Molowa

Only a book for kids would be naive enough to think the UN is anything more than a bureaucratic nightmare. But “to start on tomorrow’s paperwork, turn to page 91” doesn’t make for good reading.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
It looks like that mountain is giving birth to a Jeep.

Anyway, you are representing the U.S. in a model UN in New York. You meet a friend there named Achmed from the United Arab Emirates and a girl named Benati from Myanmar at a Middle Eastern restaurant down the street. For some reason the UN Secretary General calls on you three CHILDREN to solve a civil war in Africa and settle a nuclear arms deal with a dictator from a fictional breakaway Russian Republic.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
The U.S. President sends his kids to hotspots. Why not the UN Secretary General?

Achmed disappears entirely and you drive into Molowa in an armed convoy to negotiate with five warlords. In true UN fashion, unless you stop to talk, negotiate, or barter with people, you are either left to starve in the wilderness or are eaten by hippos.

5. Hostage!

You are on a field trip to Washington, DC when the Alarin Cartel, a crime syndicate, threatens the White House. Your bus is then taken captive by the worst terrorists ever. They immediately leave all hostages alone on the bus.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
You think Pablo Escobar would just leave you all there alone? That’s not how real cartels roll.

If you act unilaterally and immediately, you can escape in no time, leaving your classmates to whatever fate. The terrorists are after a deadly virus the government is making anyway — they don’t really care if anyone lives. In some endings, the virus is cured by antibiotics (which is medically impossible) and in others it spreads around the world.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
The first step toward zombies.

You will either work with the President of the United States to force a surrender (while completely glossing over this blatant American violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention) or join the terrorists in South America. All in all, the only decisions you make are really awful, just like the ones you make in real life. At least the cartels have free booze.

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These sailors crossed the country chained to their bicycles on a bet

Service members have been known to do some crazy things for bets. From drinking chem light fluid (just don’t) to shotgunning beers through a discarded AT4 anti-tank weapon, troops rarely shy away from challenges. One of the most epic challenges ever accepted took place over 100 years ago.

In May 1919, silent film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle issued a public challenge: $3,500 (over $55,000 in 2021 adjusted for inflation) to anyone who could ride a single-speed bicycle from Los Angeles to New York before November 1 of that year. Tony Pizzo and CJ Devine, two sailors, took the bet.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
The sailors ate, slept, and used the bathroom while chained to their bicycles (Public Domain)

They requested permission to embark on the coast-to-coast journey from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Imagine submitting a leave form for that trip today. With approval granted, Pizzo and Devine were chained to their bicycles in a ceremony in Los Angeles on May 18 and set out for New York.

The cross-country ride was a difficult one. The interstate system that crisscrosses the nation today did not exist in 1919. Instead, Pizzo and Devine were forced to ride mostly on dirt roads and gravel trails. Additionally, the roads were full of inexperienced drivers, many of whom had only recently purchased their automobile. The sailors had many close calls, one of which took place at the Grand Canyon.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
Pizzo and Devine at the Grand Canyon (Emery Kolb/Public Domain)

Upon entering Arizona, Pizzo and Devine decided to do some sightseeing and visited the Grand Canyon. The natural wonder became a national park just nine months prior to their arrival. Riding up the rim of the canyon, they stopped to have their picture taken by famed photographer Emery Kolb. On the rim, Devine’s bike slipped and fell into the canyon, almost taking him with it. Pizzo grabbed Devine’s legs and saved him from a fatal fall.

Unfortunately, Devine’s luck was expended with his close call at the Grand Canyon. The sailors made it to Kansas City together where Devine was tragically hit by a car. Though he survived the accident, his injuries took him out of the competition, leaving Pizzo to finish the ride on his own.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
The cross-country ride attracted much attention (Library of Congress/Public Domain)

Pizzo continued on the journey, averaging over 100 miles a day. Through his steadfast determination, Pizzo rode triumphantly into New York on October 30 with 2 days to spare. He checked into the the Hotel McAlpin still chained to his bike. The next day, New York Mayor John Hylan welcomed the sailor in a ceremony and freed him from his chains.

Although Pizzo said that he wouldn’t make the trip again for a million dollars, that’s exactly what he did (minus the million dollars). The following year, Pizzo chained himself to the same bike and made the return trip from New York to Los Angeles. Devine, who recovered from his injuries, accompanied him as his manager and publicist.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
Pizzo on his second journey (Library of Congress/Public Domain)

The Navy took advantage of the national stunt and kept Pizzo in the service as a recruiter. He rode to every state capital and was booked at speaking engagements across the country. His incredible physical feat helped to portray the Navy as a tough service with tough sailors.

Feature photo: Library of Congress/Public Domain

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The Air Force’s powerful new missile doesn’t blow stuff up

The U.S. Air Force is out to wreck ISIS’s command and control capability. To do so, they are developing cruise missiles equipped with the ability to fire electromagnetic pulses (EMP).


An EMP weapon on a cruise missile can to fly over a city or populated area and fry phones, computers, power grids, and any other objects predetermined by strike planners.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
An AGM-86 Cruise Missile (U.S. Air Force photo)

EMPs create rapidly changing electric and magnetic fields may couple with electrical and electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges. While most advanced military technologies are designed to be protected from an EMP attack, such weapons would be useful in the wars against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other non-state forces.

Nuclear weapons produce an EMP when exploding, but unlike during World War II, now the Air Force doesn’t have to nuke a city to fry a phone network.

The Air Force’s newest missile will be a CHAMP, which stands for Counter-electronics High-power microwave Advanced Missile Project. The CHAMP is just such an EMP weapon which the Air Force wants to modify cruise missiles to carry. The service just handed Raytheon $4.8 million to do it.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
The 1950s-era B-52 bomber can carry up to 20 cruise missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In an October 2012 demonstration, Boeing demonstrated the anti-electronics package could disable banks of computers at the Air Force Research Laboratory. That demonstration used conventional cruise missiles launched from a B-52 Stratofortress.

Laboratory officials confirmed the CHAMP system was capable of firing up to “100 shots per sortie” to fry military and commercial electronics. CHAMP can keep firing EMP as long as it has enough power.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
(USAF-Boeing Concept)

“Our real goal is to take what we learned in CHAMP and apply it to the next weapon,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle said at the Air Warfare Symposium in Florida last month. “We kept some, a very small number, so we have some capability with it now. Our intent is to move that to the next weapon, a more advanced weapon, and continue to modernize it.”

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This is the German general who inspired a terrifying ‘Wonder Woman’ villain

“Wonder Woman” hit theaters on June 2nd and has been a massive critical and box-office success. It’s a comic book/superhero movie, but it also happens to be a historical movie taking place in Europe during World War I.


So, while this movie’s main character is a bad-ass woman made of clay (she can also fly) who fights bad guys with a magical lasso, there are some things that are actually very real about who she’s fighting.

In the movie, General Ludendorff, played by Danny Huston, is a general in the Imperial German Army. He’s ruthless, ambitious, and will do whatever it takes to win the war for Germany, including using chemical weapons.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
Gen. Erich Ludendorff. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

General Eric Ludendorff was a real German general in World War I. According to Uproxx, he was an advocate for “total war.” And from 1916 to 1918, he was the leader of Germany’s war efforts.

The real Ludendorff has been credited for coining the “stab in the back” myth. After World War I, right-wing Germans believed that the Germans didn’t lose the war on the battlefield, but instead that they lost the war because other Germans betrayed them on the homefront. Ludendorff blamed the Berlin government and German civilians for failing to support him.

In the 1920s, he became a prominent right-wing leader in Germany, serving in Parliament for the National Socialist Party. He also had associations with Adolf Hitler and other Nazis.

Ludendorff stood for war, and Wonder Woman stands for peace, so it makes sense that director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg turned to Ludendorff for their villain.

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Army mulls $3 billion multi-year Apache buy

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
Photo: US Army Sgt. Stephen Proctor


The Defense Department and Boeing Co. are negotiating a $3.3 billion, multi-year contract for 275 AH-64E Apache helicopters, according to news reports.

Negotiations began after the Office of the Secretary of Defense last month approved the Army‘s proposed procurement plan, Col. Jeffrey Hager, the Army’s Apache program manager, told Inside Defense on Monday at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C.

A signed agreement between Boeing and the Army is expected sometime in early 2017, barring legislative hiccups.

Both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act have accepted a multi-year proposal, but a single bill — with the president’s seal of approval — has not yet been approved.

Lawmakers are increasingly reviewing multi-year deals to ensure they produce savings on procurement and production programs.

The Apache proposal, for example, was approved by Shay Assad, the director of defense pricing in the Pentagon’s acquisition directorate, Inside Defense said. Thanks to a profile in Politico in April, Assad earned a reputation as a Robin Hood of sorts after identifying hundreds of millions of dollars in savings by more closely scrutinizing costs charged by contractors.

Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told the news outlet that Assad led contract negotiations for multi-year deals on the Apache helicopter, C-17 Globemaster transport plane and F/A-18 fighter jet “that returned in excess of $500M to the taxpayers.”

If given the green light, a multi-year Apache contract could save $1 billion over five years, according to a House Armed Services Committee fact sheet.

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This airman has advice for anyone working to be an Olympic lifter

For Tech. Sgt. Kate Barone, competitive weightlifting became more than just a way to break the monotony of a desk job as an Air Force information analyst. Instead, the Ohio native turned her after-work hobby into a new lifestyle that changed her life forever.


“For any type of competition – powerlifting, CrossFit, Olympic lifting, bodybuilding – the thing is to be focused on only that,” Barone told WATM. “If you want to do really well, it’s got to be on the same level as breathing, eating, sleeping. … That is your goal and you have to change your life around that.”

As an NCO in the Ohio Air National Guard, an Olympic lifter, and bodybuilding competitor, life in the service can be difficult for someone who’s trying to be competitive in a sport.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited

“For me, sitting in front of a computer a lot, it is hard to not snack,” the 25-year-old says. “I know that as long as you are able to pack your food, bring it to work, still get to the gym, you can maintain your fitness and even compete.”

She joined the Ohio ANG at 17, right out of high school. The Cincinnati native comes from a military family — her grandfathers are Air Force and Army veterans and her uncles serve in the Army and Navy. She joined to challenge herself and get a nursing degree. She loves the Air Force lifestyle but wanted to stay around her family.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited

Barone worked as a full-time Air National Guardsman for two years, even deploying to Korea for the annual joint training exercises there. It was on that deployment Barone realized she had to make a change. She loved the Air Force lifestyle, but went back to Guard service.

When she returned to Ohio, she finished nursing school and got into CrossFit. While Barone recalls CrossFit was rough at first, she eventually began competing in the sport, which led her to Olympic weightlifting competition, and later, bodybuilding.

In her first Olympic competition, the Strongest Unicorn, she competed in the 64-kilogram weight class against the likes of Holly Mangold of the U.S. Olympic Lifting Team. The next year, she dropped her weight class and finished second.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited

“When you sign up for an Olympic lifting competition, you are supposed to put in your estimated total that you will lift,” Barone says. “You look at that and wonder how you are going to do against other people.”

“It’s not just the Olympic movements,” she adds. “You’ve got to do front squats all the time, back squats, jerks — a lot of that just to build up your muscle strength so you can lift a lot of weight.”

Bodybuilding is an entirely different kind of lifestyle change.

“You have to be in the right state of mind to do the bodybuilding part,” she says. “There are so many aspects. Unlike CrossFit or Olympic lifting, I can eat what I want, as long as I make my weight class the day of.”

But that doesn’t mean she can just go out and scarf down an entire pizza with the crew.

“It literally took up my life,” Barone recalls. “I can’t have drinks with friends because alcohol is cut out. I can’t go out to eat with my friends because I will be eating raw vegetables, egg whites, tilapia … it’s really hard to have that mindset and be focused on something without people supporting you.”

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited

A lot of her support comes from the people in her squadron. Even so, it’s tough to eat fish and veggies while the rest of the unit is downing food from the local barbecue joint.

“They call me Bro-rone because I like to lift with them and I’m like a gym bro,” she says. “But then they bring that [food] in and I’m like oh my god I love barbecue, why are you all doing this to me?”

Barone says her sister proved pivotal to her success.

“She helped me pick out my suit, I wanted to know which one is going to look the best on me,” Barone says. “She picked the skimpiest red one with all the bling on it. You have to be prepared to show your ass in competitive bodybuilding.”

Barone says the trick is to make your training preparation a habit. Once you achieve that, missing a day at the gym becomes abnormal.

“Anyone can do it, as long as you are able to get to the gym at least once a day,” says Kate Barone.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited

In Barone’s part-time civilian life, she’s a nurse at a local hospital and is excited to be taking a new position helping veterans at the local VA hospital. But fitness remains her biggest escape.

“When I’m sad, I’m depressed, I just don’t feel like things are right, I go to the gym,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if I’ve had a shitty day or something is going on in my life. … If I go to the gym, I lift some weight with my music blaring in my ears …  it’s therapy to me, it feels so good.”

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Here is how Soviet flight crews entered the Tu-22 bomber

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited


The Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder might just have been one of the least pilot-friendly aircraft ever built by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, and that’s saying something, considering that MiG fighters were notorious for their cramped quarters and poor pilot visibility. The very first supersonic bomber to enter service with the Soviet Air Force, around 311 models were produced with a number going to Iraq and Libya as part of large export deals brokered by the USSR in the 1970s. Not only did the Blinder look like something out of a space-age comic book, it seemingly functioned like one as well. I mean, at least with how its aircrew entered the aircraft. Its performance characteristics were anything but next-generation, far from what the Soviets had hoped to accomplish with such an aircraft.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited

The Tu-22 flew with a pilot, a navigator and a weapons officer as its full complement. Each crewmember sat in front of the other, and had to be “lifted” into the aircraft using a motorized chair. Unluckily for them, they were also firmly strapped to downward-firing K-22 ejection seats, which could not be used at altitudes below 820 feet. The runway handling dynamics of the aircraft were atrocious, leading to numerous mishaps without the Blinder even leaving the ground. But, at least it looked cool, right?

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This new Army Stryker vehicle is America’s latest plane killer

Remember how the Stryker was supposed to be a family of fighting vehicles? Well, now, a new member of the family has emerged… and it’s a plane killer.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, Boeing and General Dynamics have teamed up to create the Stryker Maneuver SHORAD (SHOrt Range Air-Defense) Launcher. Plain and simple, this variant will be murder for enemy planes – and it can be mounted with a wide variety of munitions that can make this new Stryker an effective distributor of surplus MiG, Sukhoi, Mil, and Kamov parts.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
The Stryker Mobile SHORAD Launcher. SHORAD stands for short-range air defense. The four Hellfires can also ruin any tank’s day. (Photo from General Dynamics Land Systems)

While one configuration displayed at a Huntsville, Alabama, expo was armed with a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders (technically MIM-9X, since they are vehicle-launched) with four Hellfire missiles, a display at the show listed numerous options. These included the FIM-92 Stinger, the Mk 44 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun, 70mm Hydra rockets, multiple machine guns (bringing back the Meat Chopper?) and lasers.

How this was done was shockingly simple. A Stryker chassis was modified to operate the turret from the Avenger, a HMMWV-based air defense system. The Avenger has eight FIM-92 Stingers and a single M3P .50-caliber machine gun, and was intended to replace the Chapparal and M163/M167 Vulcan Air Defense System.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
MIM-72 Chapparal (US Army photo)

Most of the Army’s land-based surface-to-air missile systems have been focused on the missile-defense mission. The MIM-104 Patriot, for instance, was initially designed to kill aircraft and provide area air defense, but it has since become a specialist in killing shorter-range ballistic missiles like the SS-1 Scud.

The Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system has capabilities against a wider variety of missiles.

The Navy has a wider array of surface-to-air missiles for tactical purposes against aircraft. The RIM-66 Standard SM-2 and RIM-162 surface-to-air missile scored kills against anti-ship missiles this fired at the destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) in October 2016.

The SM-2 was also used by the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49) to shoot down an Iranian airliner misidentified as a hostile fighter during a July 1988 incident in the Strait of Hormuz.

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Wing commander praises crew of wrecked B-52 for averting a larger catastrophe

The seven crewmembers of a B-52 that crashed at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, during a takeoff on May 19 were applauded by their commander for their actions in the crisis.


“We are thankful that the air crew are safe,” Brig. Gen. Douglas Cox, 36th Wing commander, told Pacific Daily News. “Because of their quick thinking and good judgment in this emergency situation, the air crew not only saved their lives, but averted a more catastrophic incident.”

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
A B-52 takes off successfully. Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman

The plane was taking off on a routine training mission and was carrying only inert munitions, which limited the potential danger to nearby civilians or to emergency responders. Still, it had a full load of fuel and both Air Force and local firefighters had to quickly cordon off the area and battle the flames.

The mission was part of the Department of Defense’s continuous bomber presence in the Pacific. Guam is a small island but has played an outsized role in U.S. Pacific strategy because of its placement near both important sea lanes as well as areas of the Pacific that are claimed by multiple countries, including China.

The Air Force is now working to investigate the crash while also limiting the environmental effects of the spilled fuel and oil from the wreck.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
B-2 Spirits have also had mechanical issues while flying out of Guam. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

This is the second B-52 crash at the base in eight years. A 2008 incident tragically claimed the lives of six crewmembers. In addition to the B-52 incidents, a B-2 Spirit was damaged in Guam due to sensor failures and a B-1 was damaged when it struck emergency vehicles during an emergency landing in 2008. In 2010, another B-2 was damaged when a fire broke out in an engine compartment.

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The US used this cartoon turtle to prepare kids for nuclear war

Bert the Turtle was created in 1951 by the U.S. Federal Civil Defense Administration to teach young children how to prepare for a nuclear blast.


The cute little turtle was designed to make the frightening prospect of nuclear war more bearable.

Bert the Turtle gets a lot of flak today for supporting tactics that seem flimsy, like telling people to hide under a picnic blanket when the flash from a nuclear detonation reached them:

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
GIF: youtube/nuclear vault

But surprisingly small things have been shown to reduce damage in a nuclear blast. The military found that white paint reduced damage to structures and began repainting nuclear bombers. A survivor of the Hiroshima bomb reported that wearing two pairs of pants saved her legs from radiation while her torso was severely burned.

So maybe the turtle was on to something, even if this is a very optimistic depiction of what it would look like when civil defense workers came to rescue you after a blast:

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
GIF: youtube/nuclear vault

No fire, no panic, and the bike is still in working order, eh, Bert?

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 24 edition)

The weekend comes, your cycle hums. But before that, here’s what you need to know to get through the balance of the workday:


Now: 15 awesome photos of what mountain warfare looks like

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This is what China plans to do with its air force of the future

The Chinese Air Force will continue to transform from a territorial air defense unit into an extended arm capable of protecting national interests wherever they exist, according to its new commander.


Lieutenant General Ding Laihang said that as China becomes stronger and security challenges continue to emerge, the military is striving to ensure it can safeguard national interests anywhere in the world.

“In the past, our strategies and guidelines focused on territorial air defense. Now we have been shifting our attention to honing our ability in terms of long-range strategic projection and long-range strike,” he told China National Radio for an article published on Sept. 3.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
Lieutenant General Ding Laihang. Photo from South China Morning Post.

“A strategic force must go out,” he said. “We will continue to carry out long-distance training over oceans.”

Ding’s predecessor, General Ma Xiaotian, who stepped down in late August, had earlier said the Air Force “cannot simply guard on land and not fly out” in response to questions on Japan’s concerns about the People’s Liberation Army’s “increasing activities” over the Sea of Japan.

Ma said it is normal for the PLA Air Force to conduct training exercises over the sea, adding that “the Sea of Japan is not Japan’s sea”.

Not long after Ma’s comments, six Chinese H-6K bombers flew through the Miyako Strait between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako in the East China Sea and approached the Kii Peninsula. This was the first time the PLA Air Force had flown that route, Japanese media reported.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
People’s Liberation Army Air Force Xian HY-6 at Zhuhai Airshow. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Li Pang.

In the Sept. 3 article, Ding pledged that the Air Force will intensify its realistic aerial combat drills and continue to carry out exercises with foreign militaries.

Wang Yanan, editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said the Air Force will have two priorities as it moves toward becoming a capable strategic force.

“First, as a lot of new aircraft have been delivered, it must figure out how to make these new planes combat-ready as soon as possible and how to maintain them, as they are different from the old types,” he said.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
Y-20 at Airshow China 2016. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Alert5.

“For instance, the Air Force now has Y-20 heavy-lift transport jets, but it needs to design methods and gain experience when it comes to airdropping armored vehicles,” he said. “Owning advanced weapons doesn’t equate to being able to use them well.”

The second priority is that the Air Force must improve its capabilities in coordinating different types of aircraft and air defense missiles in an operation, and also nurture joint operation capabilities with other services, like the PLA Navy and Rocket Force, Wang added.

Citing the new-generation strategic bomber that is under development, Wang suggested the Air Force start studying the plane’s usage in future warfare and work closely with designers to make sure the engine and flight-control system are good and reliable.

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This Army unit was renamed for its search & rescue work on 9/11

When hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the western façade of the Pentagon on 9/11, 125 people inside the building were killed along with the flight’s 59 passengers and crew. It was one of the deadliest single attacks on the U.S. military in modern history and killed the highest ranking Army officer since WWII. As flames and black smoke billowed from the Pentagon, the first major unit to respond was the Army’s Military District of Washington Engineer Company.

The unit is a unique one in that it is the only technical rescue company in the DoD. The soldiers in the unit come from diverse backgrounds including firefighters, combat engineers, horizontal and vertical construction engineers, and other support specialties. To become part of the unit, soldiers undergo additional training and certification as rescue technicians and mine rescuers.

That September morning, the company was engaged in training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. “We did all of our in-house training, from rope rescue to confined space to collapse structure, to shoring anything in that nature,” Fred Brown told Army News Service. Brown, who now works as a Fairfax County Government project manager, was a senior NCO in the unit at the time. Shortly before 0900, he got word of the attacks in New York.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
Then-Sgt. Snavely with the Military District of Washington Engineer Company (U.S. Army)

He recalled a group of his soldiers who were on their way to a funeral service less than an hour away in Quantico. However, his leadership believed that the attacks were isolated to New York and insisted that the group continue to the funeral. That all changed when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 0937. This was the real deal and the unit’s training would be put to the test for the first time.

Brown called his soldiers back (again) and prepped gear for their mission. “We were prepared to move within an hour,” he recalled. The first team arrived at the Pentagon aboard a helicopter with a sling load of search and rescue equipment. However, they were asked to land rather than fastrope because the last hijacked plane (United Airlines Flight 93) was still in the air. The helo was redirected to Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. where they pre-staged their gear.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
Snavely (center) and the other soldiers specialize in urban search and rescue (U.S. Army)

Thirty minutes south at Fort Belvoir, Brown directed the loading of the company’s Humvees for the mission of their lives. Along with Sgt. Dewey Snavely, who was on terminal leave but returned to the unit when he heard of the attacks, Brown took a Humvee ahead of the main body to meet with the advance team at Fort McNair and head to the Pentagon.

Nothing could have prepared them for what they saw when they arrived. “There was chaos,” Brown said. He linked up with the incident commander who was expecting the company. Shortly after, the bulk of the unit arrived along with local, state, and federal first responders. That’s when Brown’s years of training kicked in. “I didn’t think of anything except making sure that my guys were suited up correctly,” he said. “We were supplied with air apparatuses, and we went in and did the search.”

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
The Military District of Washington Engineer Company gears up for search and rescue operations at the Pentagon on 9/11 (U.S. Army)

As bad as the scene was on the outside, the interior of the building was even worse. “It was a living hell,” Snavely recounted to ANS. “When we first went in, there had been water sprayed on the building for so long, there was so much water in between the corridors, walkways had filled up with water.” With nowhere for the water to drain, it flowed down the hallways carrying pieces of the plane, building rubble, and victims.

“Whenever we found human remains, we informed the [FBI] because, by now, it is a known terrorist attack,” Snavely said. “…the best that I can remember, everybody that we found died in the impact.” This reality weighed heavy on the soldiers who were trained in search and rescue. Brown had to rally his troops.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
The Military District of Washington Engineer Company assembled in front of the impact site at the Pentagon (U.S. Army)

“[We’re] search and recovery, but we switched into recovery mode only,” he said. “We just dealt with it. Many of the young Soldiers were recovering unrecognizable bodies, often unable to decipher burnt insulation from the flesh. It was hard on them. I made them understand I appreciate what they’re doing, the country appreciates what they’re doing and to let me know if there are any issues they’re having.”

With leadership from their NCOs, the untested soldiers completed their mission at the Pentagon. “The Soldiers that went in there performed their duty, and they did it well,” Brown said. The unprecedented disaster validated their training and high standards.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
Soldiers of the 911th TREC conduct rescue training at MCB Quantico (U.S. Army)

In 2006, the unit was redesignated as the 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company for its efforts at the Pentagon on September 11. Today, the 911th TREC continues to train hard and specializes in rope rescue, confined space rescue, structural collapse, mine or tunnel rescue and trench rescue.

5 military-themed ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books revisited
The 911th TREC can conduct rescues in a wide array of operational environments (U.S. Army)

Feature Image: DoD photo

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