8 life lessons from 'Forrest Gump' legend Lt. Dan - We Are The Mighty
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8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Gary Sinise has had a very successful film and television career spanning over four decades.


Sinise starred on the long-running TV series “CSI: NY” and worked on major motion pictures such as “Apollo 13” and “Ransom.” Sinise is a big supporter of the men and women who serve our nation in uniform. He frequently tours across military bases all around the world entertaining troops with his cover band “The Lt. Dan Band.”

Of course, the actor is most remembered for his portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 Academy Award winning film “Forrest Gump.”

In the movie, Lt. Dan is a straight-forward Army officer who comes from a long line of military tradition. In the film, it was said that every one of his relatives had served and died in every American war.

Throughout the picture, we see the character evolve into various stages showing anger, depression, acceptance and redemption.

The character is an important part of Forrest Gump’s life and his own development throughout the film. The role earned Sinise his only Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Here are eight valuable life lessons from our favorite Lieutenant:

1. Take care of your feet

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
(YouTube Screen Grab)

The first time we see Lt. Dan is in Vietnam when Gump, played by the legendary Tom Hanks, and his best friend Bubba report to their new unit.

Lieutenant Dan comes out of his quarters and introduces himself to the duo. After some small talk, the officer tells them that there is one item of GI gear that can be the “difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt.” He then say “socks” and he stresses the importance of keeping their feet dry when out on patrol.

Clearly Lt. Dan was a student of history. In World War I, many Soldiers suffered from trench foot, a serious problem when feet are damp and unsanitary. If left untreated trench foot can lead to gangrene and amputation.

Our feet are so vital in our everyday life. Listen to Lt. Dan! Change your socks and keep your feet dry.

2. Knowing your destiny

Lt. Dan knew he wanted to be a Soldier.

It was Lt. Dan’s destiny to die in combat for his country. As morbid as it may sound, this is what the character envisioned as his life’s purpose.

Many people do not know what they were put on this earth to do. Many people give up on their dreams never achieving them. Say what you want about Lt. Dan’s destiny, but it was clear what he wanted to achieve in his life.

3. Overcoming self-doubt

After Forrest Gump saved Lt. Dan’s life, Sinise’s character felt cheated out of his purpose. Laying in a hospital bed after his legs were amputated, Lt. Dan holds a lot of self-doubt asking Gump “what am I going to do now?”

His feeling of hopelessness is something many of us experience in life for various circumstances and situations. His doubts remain throughout the movie as the character goes through changes in his life and gathers new perspectives along the way.

Eventually Lt. Dan recognizes that he cannot let his insecurities hinder him. As you will see later on, Lt. Dan sets out new goals to accomplish and eventually stops his self-loathing.

4. Sticking up for your friends

While it seemed Lt. Dan always gave Gump a hard time, deep down he valued the friendship of his former Soldier.

This is clear in a scene where Lt. Dan sticks up for Gump during a New Year’s Eve after party in a New York hotel room. The character backs up his friend after two women start to mock Gump by calling him “stupid.”

Lieutenant Dan kicks them out of the room and tells them to never call him stupid. That is a true friend!

5. Keeping your word

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Just remember to pull into the dock before you jump off the boat.

During their time in New York, Gump told Lt. Dan he was going to become a shrimp boat captain in order to keep a promise to his friend and fallen comrade Bubba.

Lieutenant Dan vowed if Gump became a shrimp boat captain the wounded warrior would become his first mate. As the movie progress, we find Gump on board his very own shrimp boat.

The new captain sees his longtime friend on the pier one day while on his boat. In one of the most iconic and hilarious scenes in the Academy Award winning picture, Gump jumps from his boat while it’s still steaming forward to greet Lt. Dan.

When Hanks’ character asked Lt. Dan what he was doing there, he said he wanted to try out his “sea legs” and would keep his word to become Gump’s first mate. It is important to keep your promises!

6. Making peace with himself

The Lt. Dan character lived in a world of bitterness and hatred for so many years. But serving as Gump’s first mate made him appreciate his life. Although the Lt. Dan character always seemed to be a bit rough around the edges, he showed his heartfelt side when he finally thanked Gump for saving his life during the war.

After thanking him, Sinise’s character jumps into the water and begins to swim while looking up to the sky. The symbolism in the scene is clear here as he washing away all of those years of hate and accepted a new path.

7. Invest your money

Lieutenant Dan invested the money from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Corporation in a “fruit” company. That company of course was Apple. This life lesson is pretty simple. If you can invest some money wisely go for it! You just might become a “gazillionaire.”

8. The joys of life

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
And that’s all we got to say about that!

At the end of the film, we see a clean shaven Lt. Dan walking with his prosthetic legs, which Gump referred to as “magic legs.” With his fiancé by his side, Lt. Dan has a new lease on life.

Much like Lt. Dan, we all encounter ups and downs throughout our lives in one form or another. However, all of those experiences are part of the journey that can make life joyful in the end.

This is clear when Sinise’s character looks at Gump and gives him a big smile.

And that’s all we got to say about that!

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the drone ships being deployed by terrorists

Drone-controlled boats filled with explosives were reportedly used in at least one attempted attack on Saudi Arabia in early October 2018.

Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen, claimed that the A Royal Saudi Naval Forces frigate Al Madinah-class 702 intercepted two boats laden with explosives traveling toward the major port of Jazan, located directly north of the country’s border with Yemen.

Al-Malaki said the Navy spotted two boats approaching the port on Sunday morning that appeared to be remotely controlled. The boats, reportedly operated by the Houthi group in Yemen, were destroyed and caused only minor material damage.


He warned that coalition forces “will strike with iron fist all those involved in acts of terrorism.”

“Those hostile acts will not go by without holding the ones executing, plotting and planning them accountable for their actions.”

On Oct. 2, 2018, Saudi border guards said they rescued a Saudi fishing boat that came under fire from unknown attackers while in Gulf waters, according to Al Arabiya. Border guards said that three fishermen on board were being treated for injuries, and an investigation into the origin of attack was underway.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen.

Over the last year, regional forces reportedly intercepted several drone boat attacks.

In January 2017, Houthi forces struck a Saudi warship using a remote-controlled boat. And in April 2017, Houthi forces attempted to blow up a Saudi Aramco fuel terminal and distribution station in Jazan using a high-speed boat rigged with explosives.

Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet, told Defense News in 2017 that there is concern over the Yemeni rebel group having access to this remote type of weaponry.

“That’s not an easy thing to develop,” he said. “There’s clearly support there coming from others, so that’s problematic,” pointing to production support of the mobile weapons by Iran.

He added that explosive boats create a new category of self-destructive attacks.

“You don’t need suicide attackers to do a suicide-like attack.”

“So it makes that kind of weaponry, which would normally take someone suicidal to use, now able to be used by someone who’s not going to martyr themselves.”

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

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The F-35 may finally be getting its act together

While the F-35 Lightning II continues its turbulent march to combat readiness, the jet’s manufacturer posted better than expected quarterly revenue earnings on Tuesday.


Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier, also lifted its 2016 revenue and profit forecasts for a second time — despite significant snags in developing America’s most expensive arms program.

Considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, Lockheed Martin’s stock also posted  a record high of $261.37 in early trading on Tuesday. What’s more, the world’s largest defense contractor’s shares were already up approximately 18% this year.

And all of this is great news for the troubled fifth-generation stealth fighter jet.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
An F-35B from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501), flies near its base a MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. | Lockheed Martin

“(The) consensus expectations are finally positive for the F-35 and for improvement in the defense budget, which has led to a higher valuation,” Bernstein analyst Douglas Harned wrote in a note, according to Reuters.

The now nearly $400 billion F-35 weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16, and F-18 aircraft.

Lockheed Martin’s “jack of all trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all while using the most advanced available stealth capabilities.

Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.

The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.

As it stands now the Pentagon expects to buy 2,457 of these supersonic warplanes.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
All three F-35 variants at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Left to right: F-35C carrier variant, F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant, F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant. | Lockheed Martin

According to Lockheed Martin, sales in its aeronautics business, the company’s largest, rose 6% in the past three months due to delivery of 14 F-35s.

The company has said it plans to deliver 53 F-35 jets in 2016, up from 45 a year earlier.

Highlights from Lockheed Martin’s quarterly earnings report:

  • Net sales rose to $12.91 billion (from $11.64 billion in Q2 2015)
  • Net income rose to $1.02 billion (or $3.32 per share), which is up from $929 million (or $2.94 per share) in Q2 2015
  • Generated $1.5 billion in cash from operations
  • Raised 2016’s profit forecast to $12.15–$12.45 per share (from $11.50-$11.80)
  • Raised 2016’s full-year sales of $50.0 billion-$51.5 billion (from earlier estimate of $49.6 billion-$51.1 billion)

Defense giants Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are expected to report quarterly results next week.

Articles

Here are the winners of the 2014 US military photographer awards

A panel of judges in Fort Meade, Maryland have made their selections for the 2014 Military Photographer awards.


The judges have handed out awards to military photographers for their amazing work in ten different categories including Sports, Pictorial, and Combat Documentation (Operational). The judges have also named the overall best military photographer for 2014.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Vernon Young was selected as the Military Photographer of the year. His photos ranged from evocative portraits of Afghans to scenes of US forces training before deployment.

“Recon Patrols” (First Place: Combat Documentation, Operational)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: SGT Harold Flynn

Soldiers assigned to Palehorse Troop, 4th Squadron, 2nd Calvary Regiment move over rough terrain during Operation Alamo Scout 13, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 10, 2014. The operation was a joint effort between Palehorse troops and the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps Mobile Strike Force to conduct reconnaissance patrols in villages around Kandahar Airfield.

“Wounded Warrior” (Second Place: Combat Documentation, Operational)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: SSgt Perry Aston

Casualties airlifted by an Afghan Air Force C-130 Hercules from a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion, are offloaded on Dec. 1, 2014 at Kabul International Airport. The Afghan military successfully repelled the attack on the camp after receiving control of the base from coalition forces a month earlier.

“Afghan Gunner” (Third Place: Combat Documentation, Operational)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
TSgt Jason Robertson

An Afghan Air Force (AAF) Mi-17 aerial gunner fires an M-240 machine gun while flying over a weapons range March 13, 2014, near Kabul, Afghanistan. US Air Force Airmen from the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing/NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan flew a night-vision goggle training mission with an AAF aircrew to further increase the operational capability of the AAF.

“Night Fire” (First Place: Combat Documentation, Training)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk/US Army

US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire a 120 mm mortar during a tactical training exercise on Camp Roberts, Calif. on Jan. 30, 2014. 

“Land Nav” (Second Place: Combat Documentation, Training)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Sgt. Marcus Fichtl/US Army

Sgt. Timothy Martin, a native of Waipahu, Hawaii, wheeled vehicle mechanic, Company B, 204th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, prepares to conduct night land navigation during the brigade’s 3-day-long Soldier and NCO of the Year competition at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, on April 23, 2014. 

“Dustoff! Dustoff!” (Third Place: Combat Documentation, Training)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Staff Sgt. Corey J. Hook/USAF

US Army Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Squadron 17th Regiment are picked up by a blackhawk helicopter after participating in a survival, evasion, resistance and escape exercise during Decisive Action Rotation 14-09 at the National Training Center on Aug. 13, 2014. Decisive action rotations are reflective of the complexities of potential adversaries the US military could face and include training against guerilla, insurgent, criminal and near-peer conventional forces.

“Drown-proofing” (First Place: Feature)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

Members of the Special Tactics Training Squadron enter a pool with their hands and feet bound. The drown-proofing exercise teaches students to remain calm in the water during stressful situations, skills that may prove vital during real-world operations.

“Retiring the colors” (Second Place: Feature)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Senior Airman Jordan Castelan/USAF

Three 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen secure the American flag during the sounding of retreat on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on June 27, 2014.

“Down and Dirty” (Third Place: Feature)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: SSgt Vernon Young/USAF

Staff Sgt. Kyle McGann, Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, climbs into a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle during EOD blast-pit training on March 16, 2014. Blast pit training prepares EOD technicians to handle detonations by practicing procedures and communications for real-world responses.

“The Reach” (First Place: Illustrative)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Airman 1st Class Devin N. Boyer/USAF

As the military’s despcription of this photo puts it, “Family and friends can be important influences in helping someone get treatment for mental health issues. Reaching out and letting them know you are there to help them is the first step.”

“Cyber Deception” (Second Place: Illustrative)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Airman 1st Class Devin N. Boyer/USAF

Per the military’s description: “Social media opens doors for meeting new people. However, are the people you meet who they say they are? The internet allows predators to use deception to take advantage of their victims.”

“The face of domestic violence” Third Place: Illustrative

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Senior Airman Rusty Frank/USAF

This illustration is meant to show the effects of domestic violence. According to the Family Advocacy Program, more than 18,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2013.

“The Thunder Returns” (First Place: News)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr./USAF

The US Air Force Thunderbirds fly the Delta formation over Falcon Stadium during the US Air Force Academy Graduation Ceremony on May 28, 2014. 

“Remembering” (Second Place: News)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric R. Dietrich/US Navy

US Air Force Master Sgt. Tiffany Robinson, assigned to 449th Air Expeditionary Group, kneels in front of a battlefield cross following a Memorial Day ceremony at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, on May 26, 2014. The cross was created with combat gear representing each of the five US military branches, in commemoration of fallen service members.

“Coast Guard Memorial Day Weekend Rescue” (Third Place: News)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Chief Petty Officer Lauren Jorgensen/US Coast Guard

Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Zartman of Coast Guard Station Mayport, Florida, pulls 10-year-old Nmir Ali Mahmoud toward a Coast Guard boat while rescuing him, his father and another man who were stranded aboard their 21-foot boat after running it aground on top of a jetty near Mayport, May 24, 2014. 

“Out of the Sea” (First Place: Pictorial)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

A 22nd Special Tactics Squadron Airman climbs a ladder into a CH-47 Chinook helicopter hovering over the ocean on June 20, 2014. 

“Sky Miles” (Second Place: Pictorial)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Ezekiel R. Kitandwe/USMC

A US Marine assigned to Echo Company 4th Reconnaissance Battalion rappels out of a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter at Camp Upshur, Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico Va., July 17, 2014. The training exercise was part of a week-long jump, dive, breach, and shooting package conducted around MCB Quantico.

“Assault overwatch” (Third Place: Pictorial)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Spc. Steven A. Hitchcock/US Army

US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment prepare to lay cover fire for the assault element advancing on the objective during task force training on Fort Hunter Ligget, Calif. on Jan. 23, 2014. 

“Survivor” (First Place: Picture Story)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

Staff Sgt. Chantel Thibeaux was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2014 during her very first class as an Air Force technical school instructor. With the support of her family, she was able to fight through a disease that claims the lives of thousands each year. As a US Air Force technical school instructor, Thibeaux has been charged to train the next generation of dental assistants. 

“Becoming “Semper Fidelis”” (Second Place: Picture Story)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Staff Sgt. Jodi Martinez/USAF

US Marine Corps female recruits endure and conquer the Crucible, one of the toughest challenges a recruit will face during their 3-month boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., on Sept. 10, 2014. The women used teamwork, grit, and perseverance to earn the title of Marine and their emblem: the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.

“Tenderfoot” (Third Place: Picture Story)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Mass Communication Specialst 3rd Class Siobhana McEwen/US Navy

Per the military’s description, “Farrier Henry Heymeiring has been shoeing horses for more than 40 years, and describes the trade as an art. The foundation of Heymering’s art is his love of the animal. A man of few words and many smiles, Heymeiring’s smiles truly convey his passion for his work.”

“Loud and Clear” (First Place: Portrait)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Master Sgt. John R. Nimmo/USAF

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Nadia Rowell, health services management journeyman, 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Pope Army Airfield, N.C., stands for a portrait outside the aeromedical evacuation crew tent at Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., March 15, 2014. Service members at JRTC 14-05 are educated in combat patient care and aeromedical evacuation in a simulated combat environment. 

“Game Time” (Second Place: Portrait_

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Senior Airman Daniel Hughes/USAF

A player for the Fort Dorchester High School Football team yells to motivate players in a hostile regional game against Bluffton High School at Bluffton High School Stadium, Oct. 24, 2014. 

“The Army Chaplain” (Third Place: Portrait)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts/USAF

A Polish World War II re-enactor portrays an army chaplain with the 106th Infantry Division in the same forest the 106th fought in 70 years previously during the Battle of the Bulge, on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. 

“Beyond” (First Place: Sports and Photo Of The Year)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

US Air Force Capt. Sarah Evans jumps rope in a gym in San Antonio, Texas. Evans was diagnosed with cancer while deployed to Afghanistan and was medically evacuated back to the United States where her leg was amputated.

“Roar” (Second Place: Sports)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. Demotts/USAF

AFNORTH’s Eliska Volencova reacts with teammates Erica Balkcum and Emma Rainer after coming back from 10 points to defeat Hohenfels 22-19 in the DODDS-Europe basketball championships Division III semi-final game Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.

Untitled (Third Place: Sports)

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Senior Airman James Richardson/USAF

Cheerleaders from the University of Missouri gather prior to the start of the game against the University of South Carolina Sept. 27, 2014 in Columbia, S.C. Missouri won, 21-20.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Vernon Young won photographer of the year for the following photos: “Timing” …

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

A US Army soldier swings a golf club after duty on March 29, 2014.

“A Deeper Connection” …

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

US Army Staff Sgt. Damion Kennedy shares a laughs with a local Afghan man as he provides overwatch for a base detail project on April 8, 2014.

“Low Pass” …

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Josh Martin, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, Mi-17 aerial gunner, provides rear security on a Mi-17 helicopter over Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 31, 2014. 

“Faces of Afghanistan” …

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

An Afghan man spends a moment alone inside the Afghan National Army (ANA) military planning room prior to serving tea to soldiers on June 11, 2014. The Afghan man provides drinks and cleaning supplies to soldiers as they transition in and out of the ANA command section. 

More From Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

NOW: These Striking Photos Show The True Nature Of America’s Veterans 

popular

Why China’s carrier-based fighter looks like a dud

China’s first indigenous aircraft carriers are currently undergoing sea trials and are getting a good amount of international buzz. There is one crucial thing to remember about these large, powerful vessels, however. Their primary weapon, for both offensive and defensive operations, is the aircraft they carry on board. Building the carriers is just half of the answer to the question of naval dominance.

And while things might be going well at sea, according to a report by the South China Morning Post, the Chinese are having a problem — or, more accurately, a lot of problems — in the sky, specifically with the Shenyang J-15 Flanker. This aircraft isn’t quite original, it’s a copy of the Su-33, a plane that Russia is currently phasing out in favor of a modified MiG-29.


So far, there have been four crashes involving the J-15. At least two pilots have been killed trying to save planes that have suffered serious mechanical failures in flight. A third pilot was badly injured, taking over a year to recover.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

The J-15 is a Chinese copy of the Su-33 Flanker.

(Photo by Dimitri Tarakhov)

So, what’s China to do? Currently, there are plans to replace the J-15 with a version of the J-31, a Chinese fifth-generation fighter that’s currently in development. The J-31 made its first flight in 2012. The US struggled to get a true fifth-generation fighter in the air — there was more than a decade-long gap between the F-35’s first flight and introduction to service. While there’s no guarantee than the Chinese will run into the same delays the US, it does look as though they’re at risk of fielding aircraft carriers well before their primary armaments are ready.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

A model of the J-15.

(Photo by Nacht Eule)

Communist China currently has one carrier, the Liaoning, a Russian Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier (and we know the track record of the Kuznetsov), in service. A refined copy of that carrier, known as the Type 001A, is China’s first home-built carrier. Meanwhile, the Chinese are also developing two new carrier classes, the Type 002 and Type 003. The former is said to be a conventionally-powered design in the 85,000-ton range while the latter is reported to be a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

The Chinese are turning to the J-31 to replace the J-15.

(Photo by wc)

Of course, the effectiveness of these carriers will depend on whether the Chinese Communists can get workable planes. Otherwise, the carriers will be practically useless.

In October of 1944, a shortage of planes led Japan to use their carriers as decoys at Leyte Gulf. Unless the Chinese get to manufacturing solid aircraft for their carriers, they might find themselves in the same boat.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

The Barrett M82, known by members of the U.S. military as the M107 .50-caliber semi-automatic rifle, is one of the military’s most beloved weapons in use today. Its service history is as storied – and as American – as the history of its inventor, Ronnie Barrett.


Before his name became synonymous with American military supremacy, Barrett was a professional photographer in his home state of Tennessee. He never studied science or engineering in college – in fact, he didn’t go to college at all. He went to Murfreesboro High School before going out and starting a photography studio.

That all changed during the course of his usual work.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

And many, many U.S. and allied troops are better off for it.

In 1982, Barrett was snapping a photo of a river patrol gunboat during a military exercise on the Stones River near Nashville, Tenn. Mounted on that boat were two M2 Browning .50-caliber machine guns. The size of the ammunition cartridge got Ronnie Barrett thinking. He was “wowed” by the Ma Deuce, but he wanted to know if the .50-caliber cartridge could be fired from a shoulder-mounted sniper rifle.

He was out on the water that day to snap promotional photos for the Browning Firearms Company, but he ended up starting a rival firm, one that would become as closely-linked with the U.S. military as Browning.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

The photo also won a first-place award from the Tennessee Professional Photographers Association. No joke.

(Photo by Ronnie Barrett)

Barrett went home and began work on a 3D sketch of what would soon become the Model 82A1 – M107. Within just seven years, Barrett was able to sell his powerful sniper rifle to the Swedish military and eventually the United States Marine Corps, then the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.

Not bad at all for someone with no college education, but a whole lotta vision. Welcome to Ronnie Barrett’s America, folks.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 times Iran’s navy got beat down in the Persian Gulf

The Iranian Navy sure does talk a big game for the sheer number of times it got slapped around in its home waters. When Iranian sailors captured U.S. Navy sailors in 2016, the usual response would have been a short, potent facepunch from a nearby carrier group. When President Obama opted not to slap them around, what should have seemed like a close call instead appears to have artificially inflated some Iranian egos, because traditionally, Iran is not good at Navy things.

Iran has been hit or miss on the water (usually miss) since they lost to the outnumbered Greeks at Salamis in 480 BC. Its biggest naval win came against Iraq on Sept. 28, 1980, a day they still celebrate as “Navy Day” because no other engagement would qualify. Ever since, Iran has been threatening anyone within earshot with its aging, rusted patchwork of garbage scows it calls a navy.


8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran, 1941

During World War II, the Allied powers thought neutral Iran was more likely to aid the Axis powers than the allies when push came to shove. Since Iran’s rich oil fields were not something anyone wanted in Hitler’s hands, the Soviets and the British Empire invaded Iran in August 1941. The British Commonwealth ships steamed into Abadan Harbor and promptly lit up the Iranian fleet, killing its leadership and deposing the Shah. The two allied powers then divided the country between them.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Operation Prime Chance 1987

After Iran crippled the Iraqi Navy during the early days of the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians pretty much had free rein to wreak as much havoc as they wanted on Iraqi shipping – even if those ships weren’t flagged as Iraqi. The Iranians began targeting tankers and container ships flagged as neutral countries in an effort to choke Iraq into submission. Pretty soon, other countries were reflagging their ships as American, both to deter the Iranians from attacking or laying mines and benefitting from U.S. protection.

The Iranians did not stop mining the Gulf, so the United States began setting up oil platforms as maritime staging areas for special operations missions. Operating from these bases, the Navy took down a number of Iranian minelayers while protecting international shipping lanes.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Operation Nimble Archer, 1987

U.S. forces attacked and burned Iranian oil platforms after Iran fired a missile at a Kuwaiti tanker, hitting it and wounding dozens of sailors. The Navy determined the attack came from an otherwise-unoccupied oil platform, which they next surrounded, boarded, and destroyed – using both Navy SEALs and accurate fire from four destroyers as well as aircraft.

The special operators who boarded the platforms also seized valuable classified intel, as the platforms were controlled by the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
PRAYING MANTIS

Operation Praying Mantis, 1988

In 1988, it wasn’t a flagged merchant who hit an Iranian-laid mine. This time it was a US Navy ship, the USS Samuel B. Roberts. Unfortunately for Iran, Ronald Reagan was still President, and the USS Enterprise carrier group was in the area. An entire battalion of United States Marines assaulted an oil platform being used to stage Iranian attacks in the Gulf. When the platform tried to fire on the Americans, they were punished for the effort from US Navy destroyers and Cobra helicopters.

The Iranians responded by sending an Iranian missile boat, the Joshan, straight at the U.S. fleet. When Joshan missed that shot, the American fleets overwhelmed the ship with missiles and guns, sending her to the bottom. Meanwhile, Iranian aircraft and destroyers joined the fray, one destroyer was sunk the other was heavily damaged, and the Iranian fighters were no match for US Navy A-6 Intruders.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Coast Guard busts another cocaine-carrying ‘narco sub’

Coast Guard crew members aboard the cutter Valiant intercepted a self-propelled semi-submersible carrying 12,000 pounds of cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean, arresting four suspected smugglers in the process.

The 40-foot vessel, of a type often called a “narco sub” (though most are not fully submersible), was first detected and tracked by a maritime patrol aircraft. The Joint Interagency Task Force South, a multinational body that coordinates law-enforcement efforts in the waters around Central and South America, directed the Valiant to intercept it.


A Coast Guard release didn’t give an exact date for the seizure, saying only that it took place in September 2019 and the Valiant arrived on the scene after sunset.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Coast Guard crew members aboard a “narco sub” in the Pacific Ocean with a suspected smuggler, September 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

The cutter launched two small boats carrying members of its crew and two members of the Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team. They caught up with the narco sub in the early morning hours and boarded it with the help of the Colombian navy, which arrived a short time later.

The crew members transferred more than 1,100 pounds of cocaine from the sub to the Valiant but were unable to get the rest because of concerns about the sub’s stability. (The total value of the drugs was estimated at more than 5 million.)

“This interdiction was an all-hands-on-deck evolution, and each crew member performed above and beyond the call of duty,” Cmdr. Matthew Waldron, commanding officer of the Valiant, said in the release.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Members of a US Coast Guard cutter Valiant boarding team transfer narcotics between an interceptor boat and a suspected smuggling vessel in September.

(US Coast Guard)

2 ‘momentous events’

Narco subs have appeared in the waters between the US and South America for years and have only gotten more sophisticated. But they are still homemade vessels, often built in jungles in Colombia, and can be unsteady on the open ocean, particularly when law enforcement stop them to board.

Narco subs typically cost id=”listicle-2640583643″ million to million to built, but their multimillion-dollar drug cargoes more than make up for the expense.

“Colombian traffickers like to use the semi-submersibles because they are hard to detect” and cheaper than full-fledged submarines, Mike Vigil, former director of international operations at the US Drug Enforcement Administration, told Business Insider in 2018.

The vessels are typically made of fiberglass and the most expensive component is the engine. Some even have lead linings to reduce their infrared signature, Vigil said.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Bales of cocaine seized from a suspected smuggling vessel on the deck of the US Coast Guard cutter Valiant in September.

(US Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard in late 2017 said it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile smuggling vessels like narco subs.

“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels — 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in an October 2018 interview.

Schultz and other Coast Guard officials pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure. The service has pursued what Schultz called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.

For the Valiant, that meant this particular bust coincided with a mariner’s milestone: crossing the equator.

“There are no words to describe the feeling Valiant crew is experiencing right now,” Waldron said. “In a 24-hour period, the crew both crossed the equator and intercepted a drug-laden self-propelled semi-submersible vessel.”

Both are “momentous events in any cutterman’s career,” Waldron added. “Taken together, however, it is truly remarkably unprecedented.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Given we know that even Neanderthals would bury their dead (even including objects with the bodies) and various human hunter-gatherer groups likewise used to bury or cremate people at specific sites that functioned as sort of pilgrimage locations for these nomads, it should come as no surprise that since the dawn of known warfare soldiers have pondered the question of what to do with the bodies of their fallen comrades and enemies. So what did various groups actually do throughout history?


A thing to note before we continue is that there is a definite gap in the memory of history in regards to this one specific matter and historians only have sparse reports of what happened to the dead of many groups after battles. You might think solving this problem would be simply a matter of locating famous battle sites and doing some digging to glean a little more insight, but it turns out even this is notoriously difficult as we’ll get into shortly.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

That caveat out of the way, on the more definitive front, it’s noted that the ancient Greeks made an effort to respect the usual burial customs of the dead after a battle and collecting the bodies of the fallen wasn’t uncommon. For example, following the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC between Philip II of Macedonia and the Athenians, both sides buried their dead in accordance with the religious customs of the period; this was seemingly done both out of respect for the valor the dead showed in battle and to appease the gods.

With the exception of the Spartans, most ancient Greek societies also made efforts to bury their dead near the city they hailed from if time allowed it, though for the sake of practicality, mass graves or the like were sometimes utilizedinstead. In this case, cenotaphs were sometimes erected near their home city in honor of the fallen.

As noted, an exception to this are the Spartans who often buried fallen soldiers on the battlefield they were killed. Also somewhat unique was that rather than stripping the dead of valuables, as per Spartan tradition, each fallen Spartan was buried with their weapons and armor and their final resting place was marked by a simple tombstone with their name and an inscription that read (translated) “In War”.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

This was a special honor among the Spartans. If one were to die outside of battle, no such tombstone would be given and the person would simply be buried in an unmarked grave. The one exception to that was if a woman died in child birth, she too would be given the honor of a tombstone.

As for the Romans, most soldiers paid a small stipend each month to pay for funeral expenses should they fall in battle. As you might expect from this, the Romans made a conscious effort to recover the bodies of those who died and, if time allowed it, would bury or cremate them individually. If this wasn’t possible, the bodies of soldiers killed in battle would be collected and given a mass cremation or burial. In the event the bodies couldn’t be recovered, a cenotaph would be erected to serve as a monument to the individual.

The same cannot be said of later wars where there seems to have been an almost callous disregard for the fallen, and looting of the dead and dying was commonplace. For example, the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings in 1066 shows soldiers piling up the bodies of the dead and stripping them of their valuables. It’s believed that following this the bodies were quickly cremated or buried in nearby mass graves.

It should be noted here, however, that with the rise of Christianity, mass cremation, at least for a time, seems to have gone the way of the dodo in some regions, in favor of mass graves.

That said, despite the countless battles that occurred throughout Medieval Europe, archaeologists have had an extraordinarily difficult time actually finding any of the bodies. As one paper published in the Journal of Conflict Archeology, aptly titled “Where are the dead of medieval battles?“, notes:

Only a handful of mass graves from late medieval battles in Western Europe have been subject to large scale excavation to modern standards. The principal reason is that these, and indeed even early modern battlefield graves, have proven extremely elusive, most being identified by chance. Despite a few successes, no combination of prospecting techniques yet provides a consistently effective method of locating such small archaeological features set almost anywhere within a site covering many square kilometres…

Looking at much better documented times, looting of the dead was also extraordinarily common during the extremely deadly Napoleonic Wars, with soldiers and locals alike pilfering what they could find after battles. For example, consider this account from a British general following the Battle of Heilsberg in 1807:

The ground between the wood and the Russian batteries, about a quarter of a mile, was a sheet of naked human bodies, which friends and foes had during the night mutually stripped, although numbers of these bodies still retained consciousness of their situation. It was a sight that the eye loathed, but from which it could not remove.

And yes, as noted there, the severely wounded weren’t spared the indignity of being robbed of their worldly possessions as they lay dying. And worst of all, this was done not just by their enemies, but comrades as well. In fact, there are firsthand accounts from wounded soldiers who went on to survive their injuries detailing the shock of waking up completely naked.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Illustration of Battle of Heilsberg.

Here’s a snippet of one such quote from a French soldier called Jean Baptiste de Marbot:

Stretched on the snow among the piles of dead and dying, unable to move in any way, I gradually and without pain lost consciousness…. I judge that my swoon lasted four hours, and when I came to my sense I found myself in this horrible position. I was completely naked, having nothing on but my hat and my right boot. A man of the transport corps, thinking me dead, had stripped me in the usual fashion, and wishing to pull off the only boot that remained, was dragging me by one leg with his foot against my body. The jerk which the man gave me no doubt had restored me to my senses. I succeeded in sitting up and spitting out the clots of blood from my throat. The shock caused by the wind of the ball had produced such an extravasation of blood, that my face, shoulders, and chest were black, while the rest of my body was stained red by the blood from my wound. My hat and my hair were full of bloodstained snow, and as I rolled my haggard eyes I must have been horrible to see. Anyhow, the transport man looked the other way, and went off with my property without my being able to say a single word to him, so utterly prostrate was I.

After being stripped of their belongings the dead, and occasionally still barely living, would often be buried in mass graves (sometimes with bodies from both sides unceremoniously thrown in). In general, this was either accomplished via the soldiers themselves doing it, or in many cases members of the local populace given the gruesome task. However, there are accounts of battles where thousands of bodies were simply left to the elements. For example, General Philippe de Ségur states in 1812:

After passing the Kologa, we marched on, absorbed in thought, when some of us, raising our eyes, uttered a cry of horror. Each one instantly looked about him, and there lay stretched before us a plain trampled, bare, and devastated, all the trees cut down within a few feet from the surface, and farther off craggy hills, the highest of which appeared misshapen, and bore a striking resemblance to an extinguished volcano. The ground around us was everywhere covered with fragments of helmets and cuirasses, with broken drums, gun-stocks, tatters of uniforms, and standards dyed with blood.
On this desolate spot lay thirty thousand half-devoured corpses…

It should also be noted here that beyond any possessions the bodies may have had on them before being stripped, the bodies themselves were also of value. For example, human scavengers would come through and rob the dead of their teeth, which would then be used to make dentures.

The Napoleonic Wars, and in particular the Battle of Waterloo, were such a boon to the British dental industry in this way that dentures were known as “Waterloo teeth” in the UK over a decade after it ended. Teeth from soldiers were highly sought after owing to predominately coming from relatively young men who still had reasonably good teeth, unlike many others that came from the more wizened dead.

In one account, one Astley Cooper met just such a tooth hunter and noted:

Upon asking this Butler, who appeared to be in a state of great destitution, what might be his object, he said it was to get teeth…but when I came to question him upon the means by which he was to obtain these teeth, he said, ‘Oh Sir, only let there be a battle, and there’ll be no want of teeth. I’ll draw them as fast as the men are knocked down.

Even more grimly, the bones of the dead of some of these battles were later collected and pulverized into fertilizer which was sold for a modest price across Europe. To quote an article from the The Observer written in 1822:

It is now ascertained beyond a doubt, by actual experiment on an extensive scale, that a dead soldier is a most valuable article of commerce; and, for aught known to the contrary, the good farmers of Yorkshire are, in a great measure, indebted to the bones of their children for their daily bread. It is certainly a singular fact, that Great Britain should have sent out such multitudes of soldiers to fight the battles of this country upon the continent of Europe, and should then import their bones as an article of commerce to fatten her soil!

The remains of soldiers were also sometimes collected for use in souvenirs of major battles. For example, poet Eaton Stannard Barrett wrote, “I know one honest gentleman, who has brought home a real Waterloo thumb, nail and all, which he preserves in a bottle of gin.”

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

Moving across the pond and slightly more recently in history, markedly more respect was shown for the dead during the American Civil War where teams of soldiers were tasked with burying the dead of both sides in simple mass graves, with great care being taken to ensure most soldiers received a proper burial.

Finally, to discuss WW1 and WW2, individual units were largely responsible for the disposal of their own dead with both Axis and Allied forces having their own rules for how this should be handled. For example, during WW2 Colonel Walther Sonntag of the Wehrmacht’s Casualty Office issued a comprehensive guide for military graves officers detailing how mass graves should be constructed.

Amongst other things the guidelines indicated that mass graves should be made as close to railway lines as possible and feature pathways with the intention being that they’d eventually be turned into war cemeteries. As the war raged on, these guidelines were largely ignored for the sake of practicality, leading to, as Der Spiegel puts it, “a surfeit of grave steles”.

As for the Allies, during WW2 burying the dead largely fell to individual soldiers, but some units dedicated to the task did exist, for example the United States Quartermaster Graves Registration Service. Tasked with finding and burying every fallen American soldier, the Quartermaster Graves Registration Service have been hailed as some of the unsung heroes of the War due to the general lack of recognition they’ve received since it ended.

Graves Registration units were exceptionally committed to their task and undertook their duties with a solemn sense of duty and determination, going to extraordinary lengths to identify bodies and perform the appropriate burial rights depending on the fallen soldier’s religious affiliation. When appropriate, GRS units would bury civilian, allied and axis casualties they came across, making sure to bury them in well-marked graves, the locations of which would be passed onto the relevant authorities.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

popular

This is how the Apollo 11 travel pay proves DTS always sucked

On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin made history as Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Seven days later, they returned to a country of adoring fans, astonished that these brave astronauts accomplished a feat few thought possible. They filled out all of their paperwork, which included customs documents accounting for the harvested moon rocks and travel vouchers — because, technically, they were listed as troops on TDY.

When Col. Buzz Aldrin got his travel voucher back, he was approved for $33.31 for his time spent and distance traveled. Yep. A whole thirty-three bucks for going to the moon. Accounting for inflation, that’s all of about $228 in modern times. 

This article was originally published in 2018, so the figures are slightly different today.


8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
(NASA)

It should also be noted that the Defense Travel System usually pays out pre-approved amounts for travel in most cases — it’s how they avoid paying out ridiculous sums (like the one we’re about to calculate). This article is just a thought experiment to find out how much Col. Aldrin, and any likely Space Force cadets, would get for making an interstellar trip.

In his voucher, every aspect of his travels was itemized. First, Aldrin left his home on July 7th and arrived at Ellington Air Force Base (8 miles). He flew to Cape Kennedy that day (1,015 miles), then flew to moon via “Gov. Spacecraft” (238,900 miles) and touched down in the Pacific Ocean on the 24th (another 238,900 miles). He was then picked up by the USS Hornet and made his way to Hawaii on the 26th (900 miles) and flew back to Ellington (3,905 miles) before finally going home on the 27th (8 more miles).

In total, he traveled roughly 483,636 miles and was away for twenty days.

Out of context, Aldrin’s .31 compensation is a pittance. But, officially, we know he was given the roughly bucks exclusively for the distance traveled between home and Ellington and the 100 miles of authorized use of a privately-owned vehicle around Cape Kennedy. But, just for fun, let’s find out just how much Col. Aldrin should have been paid.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
To put this in perspective for our younger, junior-enlisted audience, that’s around half the price of a ’69 Ford Mustang back then.
(NASA)

 

Since DTS records of pricing rates for service members’ travel are hard to understand (at best) in 2018 and nearly nonexistent for 1969, we are going to have to extrapolate the data using recent travel rates and work our way backwards, accounting for the 85.44% inflation between now and then to get a grand total.

First, let’s start with the easy stuff: per diem rates. Right now, DTS offers 4 per day of travel within the continental United States and 5 per day of travel outside. Using these numbers, we arrive at a total of ,381, including his nine stateside days and 11 days spent outside of the continental U.S. (there’s no existing rate for travel outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, so we’re just going to consider those 8 days in Space as definitely outside of the continental U.S.). Right off the bat, we’re looking at roughly id=”listicle-2597884034″,366.17 in 1969 dollars.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
But, hey! I’m sure that the money means nothing compared to forever looking up at the moon and saying, “yeah. I was there.”
(NASA)

But since Aldrin was still in the Air Force at the time of his Apollo 11 mission, he was listed as TDY — hence the travel voucher — so we’re going to need to calculate distance, too. Mileage rates are categorized by car, motorcycle, airplane, and ‘other.’ This last category is typically reserved for boat or ferry travel (which he did use after splashing down the the Pacific to get to Hawaii), but we’re going to lump spacecraft travel in here, too. If that’s not ‘other,’ I don’t know what is.

Using these rates, he’d be paid .72 for driving to and from the base, ,953.20 for the plane travel, 2 for the USS Hornet trip, and, at .18 cents for every mile traveled, another ,004 for going to the moon and back. That’s a grand total of ,127.92 in 2018 travel pay, or ,416.72 in 1969 dollars.

With both distance and per diem rates, that’s a whole ,782.89 that Col. Buzz Aldrin could have been paid — but wasn’t.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This top-secret supersonic drone was found in the Arizona desert

Most of what is lying around in the dusty expanse of the aircraft graveyards around Tucson, Arizona is readily identifiable and not entirely remarkable.

Ejection seats from old F-4 Phantoms. An old CH-53 helicopter hulk. An interesting find over there is a fuselage section of a Soviet-era MiG-23 Flogger. No idea how it got here. Other than that, it’s just long rows of old, broken, silent airplanes inside high fences surrounded by cactus, dust, sand and more sand. An errant aileron on a dead wing clunks quietly against the hot afternoon breeze as if willing itself back into the air. But like everything here, its days of flying are over.


But there… What is that strange, manta-ray shaped, dusty black thing lying at an angle just on the other side of that fence? It may be an old airfield wind vane or radar test model. But it also may be…

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
Lockheed D-21B at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

I had only read about it and seen grainy photos of it. I know it’s impossible. The project was so secret not much information exists about the details even today. But I stand there gawking through the chain link fence as the ruins of the other planes bear silent witness. It’ like the corpses of the other airplanes are urging me to look closer. To not leave. Their silent dignity begs me to tell this story.

After nearly a minute of studying it through the fence I realize; I am right. It is right before my eyes. Ten feet away. Despite the 100-degree heat I get goosebumps. And I start running.

I quickly locate a spot where the entire fence line opens up. I skirt the fence and in a couple minutes running around the sandy airplane corpses I’m inside. There, sitting right in front of me on its decrepit transport cart and dusted with windblown sand, abandoned in the Sonoran Desert, is one of Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich’s most ambitious classified projects from the fabled Lockheed Skunk Works.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
A previously classified photo of the Lockheed D-21 drone at the Skunkworks manufacturing facility.
(Lockheed Martin photo)

I just found the CIA’s ultra-secret Mach 3.3+ D-21 long-range reconnaissance drone. The D-21 was so weird, so ambitious, so unlikely it remains one of the most improbable concepts in the history of the often-bizarre world of ultra-secret “black” aviation projects. And now it lies discarded in the desert. The story behind it is so bizarre it is difficult to believe, but it is true.

July 30, 1966: Flight Level 920 (92,000 ft.), Mach 3.25, Above Point Mugu Naval Air Missile Test Center, Off Oxnard, California.

Only an SR-71 Blackbird is fast enough and can fly high enough to photograph this, the most classified of national security tests. Traveling faster than a rifle bullet at 91,000 feet, near inner-space altitude, one of the most ambitious and bizarre contraptions in the history of mankind is about to be tested.

“Tagboard” is its codename. Because of the catastrophic May, 1960 shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers’ Lockheed U-2 high altitude spy plane over the Soviet Union the CIA and is in desperate need of another way to spy on the rising threat of communist nuclear tests. Even worse, the other “Red Menace”, the Chinese, are testing massive hydrogen bombs in a remote location of the Gobi Desert near the Mongolian/Chinese border. It would be easier to observe the tests if the Chinese did them on the moon.

The goal is simple, but the problem is titanic. Get photos of the top-secret Red Chinese hydrogen bomb tests near the Mongolian border deep inside Asia, then get them back, without being detected.

Lockheed Skunkworks boss Kelly Johnson and an elite, ultra-classified small team of aerospace engineers have built an aircraft so far ahead of its time that even a vivid imagination has difficulty envisioning it.

Flat, triangular, black, featureless except for its odd plan form as viewed from above, like a demon’s cloak, it has a sharply pointed nose recessed into a forward-facing orifice. That’s it. No canopy, no cockpit, no weapons. Nothing attached to the outside. Even more so than a rifle bullet its shape is smooth and simple. This is the ultra-secret D-21 drone.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan
An Air Force photo of the D-21 mounted on the M-21 launch aircraft. The M-21 launch aircraft was a special variant of the SR-71 Blackbird. Only two were produced.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The D-21 is truly a “drone”, not a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Its flight plan is programmed into a guidance system. It is launched from a mothership launch aircraft at speed and altitude. It flies a predetermined spy mission from 17 miles above the ground and flashes over at three times the speed of sound. It photographs massive swaths of land with incredible detail and resolution. And because of its remarkably stealthy shape, no one will ever know it was there.

Today the D-21 rides on the back of a Lockheed M-21, a specialized variant of the SR-71 Blackbird, the famous Mach 3+ high altitude spy plane. The M-21 version of the SR-71 carries the D-21 drone on its back up to launch speed and altitude. The it ignites the D-21’s unique RJ43-MA20S-4 ramjet engine and releases it on its pre-programmed flight.

Chasing the M-21 and D-21 combination today is a Lockheed SR-71, the only thing that can keep up with this combination of aircraft. It is the SR-71’s job to photograph and film the test launch of the D-21 drone from the M-21 launch aircraft.

There have been three successful launch separations of the D-21 from the M-21 launch aircraft so far. In each of these flights, even though the launch was successful, the D-21 drone fell victim to some minor mechanical failure that destroyed the drone, because, at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, there really are no “minor” failures.

Today Bill Park and Ray Torick are the flight crew on board the M-21 launch aircraft. They sit inside the M-21 launch aircraft dressed in pressurized high altitude flight suits that resemble space suits.

Once at predetermined launch speed and altitude the M-21/D-21 combination flies next to the SR-71 camera plane. Keith Beswick is filming the launch test from the SR-71 camera plane. Ray Torick, the drone launch controller sitting in the back seat of the tandem M-21, launches the D-21 from its position on top of the M-21’s fuselage between the massive engines.

Something goes wrong.

The D-21 drone separates and rolls slightly to its left side. It strikes the left vertical stabilizer of the M-21 mother ship. Then it caroms back into the M-21’s upper fuselage, exerting massive triple supersonic forces downward on the M-21 aircraft. The M-21 begins to pitch up and physics takes over as Bill Park and Ray Torick make the split-second transition from test pilots to helpless passengers to crash victims.

The triple supersonic forces rip both aircraft apart in the thin, freezing air. Shards of titanium and shrapnel from engine parts trail smoke and frozen vapor as they disintegrate in the upper atmosphere. There is no such thing as a minor accident at Mach 3+ and 92,000 feet.

Miraculously, both Bill Park and Ray Torick eject from the shattered M-21 mother ship. Even more remarkably, they actually survive the ejection. The pair splash down in the Pacific 150 miles off the California coast. Bill Park successfully deploys the small life raft attached to his ejection seat. Ray Torick lands in the ocean but opens the visor on his spacesuit-like helmet attached to his pressurized flight suit. The suit floods through the face opening in his helmet. Torick drowns before he can be rescued. Keith Beswick, the pilot filming the accident from the SR-71 chase plane, has to go to the mortuary to cut Ray Torick’s body out of the pressurized high-altitude flight suit before he can be buried.

The ultra-secret test program to launch a D-21 drone from the top of an M-21 launch aircraft at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, is cancelled.

The D-21 program does move forward on its own. Now the drone is dropped from a lumbering B-52 mothership. The D-21 is then boosted to high altitude and Mach 3+ with a rocket booster. Once at speed and altitude the booster unit drops off and the D-21 drone begins its spy mission.

After more than a year of test launches from the B-52 mothership the D-21 drone was ready for its first operational missions over Red China. President Nixon approved the first reconnaissance flight for November 9, 1969. The mission was launched from Beale AFB in California.

Despite a successful launch the D-21 drone was lost. In the middle of 1972, after four attempts at overflying Red China with the D-21 drone and four mission failures, the program was cancelled. It was imaginative. It was innovative. It was ingenious. But it was impossible.

So ended one of the most ambitious and outrageous espionage projects in history.

1604 Hrs. December 20, 2009. In the Back Storage Yard of the Pima Air Space Museum Outside Tucson, Arizona.

I pet airplanes when I can. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe to be able to say I did. Maybe to try to gain some tactile sense of their history. Maybe to absorb something from them, if such a thing is possible. Maybe so that, when I am old and dying, I can reflect back on what it felt like to stand next to them and touch them. I don’t know why I touch them and stroke them, but I do.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan


The fully restored Lockheed D-21 drone at the Pima Air Space Museum outside Tucson, Arizona.

(Pima Air Space Museum photo)

The D-21 is dusty and warm in the late afternoon Arizona sun. Its titanium skin is hard, not slightly forgiving like an aluminum airplane. It gives away nothing. Silent. Brooding. After I touch it my hand came away with some of the dust from it. I don’t wipe it off.

Sometime later in the coming years, the D-21B drone, number 90-0533, is brought inside the vast restoration facility at the Pima Air Space Museum and beautifully restored. Now it lies in state, on display inside the museum.

But when I first found it sitting abandoned in the storage yard, dusty and baking in the Sonoran Desert sun, it felt like its warm titanium skin still had some secret life left in it.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a troop trying to kill himself accidentally saved the President

On Apr. 4, 1951, a Navy inductee burst into the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, blood gushing from his nose, doubled over in pain. There was no trauma, but the soon-to-be sailor could barely walk and was covered in blood. The doctors began to suspect poison was the culprit – and they were right.


The name of the would-be recruit was not recorded in the literature, but he was slated to join the Army during the Korean War. But he soon regretted his decision and tried to shirk his duties by shuffling off his mortal coil. His preferred method of self-inhumation was poison: rat poison.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Proving that US troops can and will eat anything.

The man had been so desperate not to deploy that he would rather have offed himself with rat poison. Eventually, while taking the load of rat poison he thought it would require to kill an adult male, his senses returned to him, and he decided that would not be the best course of action. It took him more than four days to realize that rat poison wasn’t going to kill him, but it was going to be a very painful experience. That’s when he went to the hospital.

How did he manage to survive a dose of poison that should have easily killed its intended target? The toxic substance he used was Warfarin, an agent derived from a notorious poison affecting livestock. Warfarin decreases the body’s ability to clot blood, and the colorless, odorless substance is used to kill rats and vampire bats by forcing internal bleeding.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

I’m suddenly okay with that.

Warfarin is in the powerful family of anticoagulants found accidentally by farmers who wondered why their livestock suddenly bled to death after eating slightly spoiled sweet clover. It turns out mold can reprogram a certain chemical in the clover. While the anticoagulant kills animals, it keeps humans from clotting in seriously life-threatening situations, like surgery and World War II – which is exactly how the substances in the clover were first used.

Researchers at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation derived more versions of the anticoagulants based on the chemical in sweet clover. One of them proved mighty useful in killing rats. That compound was dubbed “warfarin.” While America began to use it in pest control substances, researchers kept testing its blood-related properties. So when the sailor stumbled into the hospital with a belly full of Warfarin, the team was able to reverse the effect by dosing him with Vitamin K.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Attempted suicide is some hardcore skating.

And now that there was a tested, effective antidote, the team could go to work researching the effects on Warfarin on humans. On top of preventing fatal blood clots throughout the human body, they found the drug could restore blood flow in stroke victims. The FDA soon approved its use for treating blood clots. But the true test came after President Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack.

He was in Denver in 1955 visiting friends and family when he suffered the attack. Doctors were concerned that errant blood clots throughout his body could soon cause a stroke, killing or incapacitating the 34th President. They gave him the newly-approved Warfarin, saving the President’s life and allowing him to serve two terms in the White House.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

“President Nixon” would just have to wait.

Because one depressed would-be sailor attempted suicide using rat poison and doctors were able to give him an antidote, thousands of tests were able to be conducted on the efficacy of the dangerous drug. Warfarin has since saved countless cardiovascular patients in the United States and abroad, including the man that led the United States into its mid-20th Century Golden Age.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened when a wannabe pilot was denied entry in the Air Force

Larry Walters had a few lifelong dreams. The first was to be a pilot in the United States Air Force. The second was a crazy idea he had as a teenager. It turns out the Air Force had all the crazy it needed in its test pilot corps, but Walters opted to go for the first choice nonetheless — he was going to be a pilot.

It was a TWA pilot that first reported Walters’ triumphant taking to the skies. He did so by radioing the tower about a man in a lawn chair hovering at 16,000 feet.

Larry Walters didn’t join the Air Force. He couldn’t. It turns out, to join the Air Force as a pilot, you need excellent vision. It was truck driver Larry Walters’ one failing. His eyesight was terrible. So, he opted to finally try out the other choice — his crazy teenager idea — and that’s how Larry Walters made history.


8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

(MarkBarry.com)

He set about constructing his own flying machine, a craft he called Inspiration I. It was an idea he came up with as 13-year-old teen. He saw weather balloons hanging from the ceiling of a local Army-Navy store and was suddenly inspired. It was his “flux capacitor moment.” He did nothing with this inspiration for 20 years… until his rejection from the Air Force made it seem like he would never touch the wild blue yonder.

On Mar. 23, 1982, the Los Angeles native attached 42 helium-filled weather balloons to an ordinary Sears lawn chair. Attached to the bumper of a car, he packed a BB gun with him to shoot individual balloons as a means of slowly lowering his altitude. His intended course would take him over the Southern California desert and into the Rocky Mountains in just a few days’ time. But, surprisingly, things went wrong from the start.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Walters aboard Inspiration I.

(MarkBarry.com)

First, one of the tethers holding the craft to the ground snapped early, propelling Walters into the air at 1,000 feet per minute. It caused him to lose his glasses. Secondly, at a cruising altitude of 16,000 feet it not only got much colder than expected, the currents took Walters over the restricted airspace above Los Angeles International Airport and Long Beach Airport.

REACT (a CB radio monitoring organization): What color is the balloon?
Larry: The balloons are beige in color. I’m in a bright blue sky which would be very highly visible. Over.
REACT: [Balloon] size?
Larry: Size approximately, uh, seven feet in diameter each. And I probably have about 35 left. Over.
REACT: You’re saying you have a cluster of 35 balloons??
Larry: These are 35 weather balloons. Not one single balloon, sir. It is 35 weather balloons.
REACT: Roger, stand by this frequency.

Eventually, Larry started to take out some of the balloons, but he was losing feeling in his hands and soon lost his BB gun as well. He finally landed at 432 45th Street in Long Beach, more or less unharmed.

He gave the chair to a local kid named Jerry, who kept the chair for the next 20 years in the same condition.

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

“Jerry” with Larry Walters’ lawn chain. The water jugs were used as ballast.

(MarkBarry.com)

“By the grace of God, I fulfilled my dream,” Walters told the Associated Press. “But I wouldn’t do this again for anything.”

Walters didn’t do it again, but his legacy lives on in the handful of civilian aviation enthusiasts who practice the art of cluster ballooning. Some of these enthusiasts have reached altitudes of higher than 20,000 feet — and some of them were never seen again after take off.

Balloon wisely.

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