The teaser trailer for Marvel Studios’ Black Widow is here and if you don’t have the soundtrack already pumping in your blood, then you need to re-watch with the sound on.
We’ve always thought of the MCU’s Natasha Romanov as a woman with no family and no past, just a bunch of red in her ledger, but this trailer hints at something more.
Taking place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Scarlett Johansson’s standalone film is rumored to be the last for the original Avengers and the first for Phase Four. It doesn’t look like it will disappoint.
Take a look:
Marvel Studios’ Black Widow – Official Teaser Trailer
In what appears to be a nice Russian-spy-family-reunion, Romanov is surprised by a guest who matches her fighting style move-for-move. Yelena Belova (played by Midsommar’s Florence Pugh, who is having a great year) is another alumna of the Red Room. Also to join in are David Harbour’s (Stranger Things) Red Guardian/Alexei Shostakov and Rachel Weisz’s (The Mummy) Iron Maiden/Melina Vostokoff.
There’s even a nice dinner scene with comedic relief and everything.
Romanov and her “sis” have unfinished business with their “family.”
Looks like the villain will be Taskmaster, who, in the comics, injected himself with SS-Hauptsturmführer Horst Gorscht’s primer, giving himself genius-level intellect and superhuman athleticism. He’s a master combatant, swordsman, marksman, and mimic.
Black Widow, Marvel Studios
At San Diego Comic-Con, a fight scene showed Taskmaster’s ability to mimic the movements of his adversary. Given that Romanov’s fighting technique was always so unique compared to the other Avengers, this should make for a visually exciting film. We can also hope for fun cameos (Robert Downey Jr. is already rumored to be one of them).
Directed by Cate Shortland (Lore), Marvel Studios’ Black Widow will open in theaters May 1, 2020.
Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is a legend of Marine Corps history. One of the most lethal snipers in history, he even repeatedly succeeded in killing snipers sent to hunt him. In one of his last missions on a tour in Vietnam, he crawled nearly two miles to kill a Vietnamese general and escape.
When the mission came down, he didn’t have all the details but he knew tough missions at the end of a tour were a recipe for disaster. Rather than send one of his men, he volunteered for the mission himself.
“Normally, when you take on a mission like that, when you’re that short, you forget everything,” Hathcock said in an interview. “Ya know, tactics, the whole ball of wax, and you end up dead. And, I did not want none of my people dead, and so I took the mission on myself.”
Hathcock was flown towards the objective, but was dropped well short of the target so he wouldn’t be given away. He made his way to a tree line, but still had 1,500 yards to move from the tree line to his final firing position. So, he started crawling.
“I went to my side. I didn’t go flat on my belly, because I made a bigger slug trail when I was on my belly. I moved on my side, pretty minutely, very minutely. I knew I had a long ways to go, didn’t want to tire myself out too much.”
As he crawled, he was nearly discovered multiple times by enemy soldiers.
“Patrols were within arm’s reach of me. I could’ve tripped the majority, some of them. They didn’t even know I was there.”
The complacency of the patrol allowed Hathcock to get 700 yards from his target.
“They didn’t expect a one-man attack. They didn’t expect that. And I knew, from the first time when they came lolly-gagging past me, that I had it made.”
The talented sniper made his way up to his firing position, avoiding patrols the whole way and slipping between machine gun nests without being detected.
He arrived at his firing position and set up for his shot.
“Seen all the guys running around that morning, and I dumped the bad guy.”
Hathcock took his shot and punched right through the chest of the general he was targeting. At that moment, he proved the brilliance of firing from grass instead of from the trees.
“When I made the shot, everybody run the opposite direction because that’s where the trees were,” he said. “That’s where the trees were. It flashed in my mind, ‘Hey, you might have something here.”
Per his escape plan, Hathcock crawled to a nearby ditch and crawled his way back out of the field. For the first time in four days, he was able to walk.
“So, I went to that ditch, little gully, and made it to the tree line, and about passed out when I stood up to get a little bit better speed.”
The Army is pursuing a new variant of the Stryker wheeled armored fighting vehicle, the Stryker Initial Maneuver Short-Range Air-Defense system, or Stryker IM-SHORAD. As the name implies, this vehicle will specialize in knocking nearby airborne targets out of the sky — but it’s not exclusively a threat to drones, helicopters, and tactical jets. Tanks and armored vehicles will need to watch their step, too.
According to reports, this vehicle is going to pack a lot of firepower options. At the heart of the Stryker IM-SHORAD is the Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform from Moog — a versatile turret that can be configured to support a wide range of weapons options.
The loadout that the Army has selected will feature a 30mm M230 chain gun (similar to that on the AH-64 Apache), a M240 7.62mm machine gun, four FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, and a pair of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. What this means, in short, is that just about any main battle tank or armored vehicle can be killed by Stryker IM-SHORAD.
This configuration of the Reconfigurable Integrated Weapons platform packs a M230 chain gun, a M240 machine gun, and the BGM-71 TOW.
The Army is reportedly planning on buying four battalions’ worth of these vehicles — a grand total of 144 — by 2022. That distills down to 36 vehicles per battalion — yeah, that number seems a little low to us, too. The fact of the matter is, in a potential fight with a peer competitor (like Russia or China), the Army will need some sort of air defense alongside maneuver units on the ground. This would not be the first vehicle the Army has tested with both anti-air and anti-tank capability. The Air Defense Anti-Tank System, or ADATS, was developed but never purchased by the Army.
The ADATS system was tested by the Army in the 1980s.
This may not be the only setup the Army goes with for the short-range air-defense mission. The Army is looking to adopt new, innovative weapons systems (these could range from electronic warfare to lasers weaponry) by as early as 2023.
Only time will tell if these futuristic weapon options make the Stryker IM-SHORADs look like a primitive solution.
There are few things I love more than seeing badass women breaking barriers and proving to the world that powerful women are a force to be reckoned with. Women in the military have fought long and hard for equality, respect and recognition. While I feel like I could spend months researching and compiling lists of all of the amazing women who have served our country, I decided to start with these four, who proved that nothing is impossible.
Maj. Katie Higgins Cook
Like many service members, Maj. Cook’s calling to the military was a family affair. A third generation pilot, Cook has followed in the footsteps of both of her grandfathers, who served in both the U.S. Army Air Corps as well as the Air Force, and her father, who had a 26 year long career in the Navy. In an interview in Risen Magazine, she said of her paternal grandfather:
“He instilled in us this idea, because his parents were immigrants to this country from Sweden. The American dream in this country gave us all these opportunities and we needed to give back.”
Graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2008, she made the choice to go into the Marine Corps, after spending time training with Marines in Quantico, Virginia.
During her time in the Marine Corps, she was one of the few female pilots to fly combat missions during her deployment to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. After that, she spent time on assignment in Uganda, and had already accrued over 400 combat flight hours. It was during her time in Africa that she was approached by a Blue Angel pilot, who encouraged her to apply for the coveted flight demonstration team. Following an extensive interview process, Maj. Cook was officially the first female Blue Angel, and became the pilot of the Lockheed C–130 Hercules named “Fat Albert.”
While Maj. Cook takes pride in her contribution to history, she stands firm on the fact that she was chosen due to her ability to perform, not because of her gender. She is also quick to remind those who praise her of all of the women who came before her, who paved the way for her and fellow female service members. Becoming a role model for young girls is something she takes great pride in, and she highlights the importance of hard work and dedication. She has garnered a respectable social media following, and has coined the hashtag “#flylikeagirl” — in order to encourage young girls to dream big.
When asked about the phrase, Cook explained, “The hashtag ‘fly like a girl’ is empowering. It’s positive. And being able to fly to the caliber of a female pilot is something to strive for. To me, it shows that the cockpit is a great equalizer. Both men and women can do equally awesome jobs, and in the end, there is no distinction between genders when it comes to performance. All of us are pilots with the same goal: get as many landings as take-offs.”
Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody
Gen. Dunwoody has had a career full of firsts. While the one that sticks out the most in recent memory is her becoming the first woman to reach the rank of four-star general in the history of the U.S. military, this wasn’t the first time Dunwoody had helped pave the way.
Another service member coming from military lineage, Dunwoody’s father was a decorated Army Veteran, and much of her life was spent moving from base to base. Her own career in the Army began in the mid-70’s, and after receiving a two-year commission as a second lieutenant at Fort Sill, she fell into the groove of military life and ultimately decided to dedicate the next few decades to serving. By 1992, she had become the first female battalion commander for the 82nd Airborne Division, and in 2000, was named the first female general at Fort Bragg. Throughout her career she was also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal and the Defense Superior Service Medal.
After over 30 years of service, Dunwoody made history in 2008 with her promotion to four-star general.
When speaking on her promotion, Dunwoody said “I have never considered myself anything but a Soldier. I recognize that with this selection, some will view me as a trailblazer, but it’s important that we remember the generations of women, whose dedication, commitment and quality of service helped open the doors of opportunity for us today.”
Prior to beginning her own career in the military, Michelle Howard already knew the road would not be easy. Joining the service was something Howard thought about often, even as a child. Her father, an Air Force master sergeant, was largely what influenced her to embark on her own journey in the service.
Luckily for Howard, just two years prior to her being old enough to enlist, President Ford signed the Military Procurement Bill which, beginning in 1976, allowed for the admission of women into military academies. Howard was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1978 and was one of only seven black women in her class of over 1,300. It was during her sophomore year that she first piloted a ship, and soon went on to distinguish herself as a bold and respected leader. After taking command of the USS Rushmore in 1999, Howard became the first Black woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy.
Remember the 2013 movie Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks? Howard played a huge part in the real life story. She had taken the position of commander of an anti-piracy task force in the Gulf of Aden just three days before Captain Richard Phillips was kidnapped by Somali pirates. The movie doesn’t do justice to the real world nuances and complexities of Howard’s involvement. In an interview she shared that:
“The pirates were using the fuel in the life raft to steer toward shore–and it was obvious that if they got to shore with Captain Phillips, we were probably not going to get him back.”
She was integral in the four days of hostage negotiations that led to the successful rescue.
It was in 2014 that Howard made history again, when she was promoted to the rank of four-star admiral, the first woman in the Navy to do so. That same day she was also appointed as the 38th vice-chief of naval operations, which made her the second highest ranking officer in the Navy. As if that wasn’t already impressive enough, two years later she went on to become commander of naval forces in both Europe and Africa. She concluded her career as the Commander of Allied Joint Force Naples. Following her retirement in late 2017, she went on to teach cybersecurity and international policy at George Washington University.
Lieutenant General Nina Armagno
The end of 2019 brought the announcement of the inception of the United States Space Force. Aside from appealing to virtually every sci-fi fan in the country, the Space Force also started to assemble its ranks soon after it was officially unveiled. Among them was Major General Nina Armagno. Prior to her being promoted to Lieutenant General upon her transfer in the Space Force, Armagno had just over 30 years of experience in the Air Force as well as space systems operations, specifically.
Graduating from the USAF Academy in 1988, Armagno has gone on to have an impressively full military career, as well as picking up three degrees and numerous certifications along the way (including a Bachelors in Biology and two Masters degrees, in both Education Administration and National Securities Studies). She was also the only Air Force officer to command both East and West U.S. space launch facilities. Along with the completion of over 20 assignments and almost a dozen awards and decorations, she is also the recipient of the 2010 Women of Influence Award as well as the 2014 Gen. Jerome F. O’Malley Distinguished Space Leadership Award.
Upon her commission in the Space Force, Armagno was promoted to three star general on August 17th, 2020. She will be serving as staff director, and overseeing Space Force headquarters daily operations. Not only does this make her the Space Forces first female general officer, she’ll also be playing an integral role during the earliest years of the history making organization. In a statement, Armagno remarked, “We’re going to be agile, we’re going to be nimble, and we’re going to bring the best of everything into the Space Force”.
The footage below is taken from “Flying Clipper,” a “monumental documentary about the adventures of a Swedish sailing ship, which travels into the Mediterranean in the early 1960s.”
Filmed in 1962 with specially designed 70mm cameras, “Flying Clipper” was the first German film produced in this high-resolution large format. The documentary was recently scanned in 4K and digitally restored, so that it could be marketed as 4K UHD, Blu-Ray and DVD.
Besides the Côte d’Azur, the Greek islands and the pyramids of Egypt, “Flying Clipper” included also more than 5 minutes of footage from aboard USS Shangri-La (CVA-38), one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers completed during or shortly after World War II for the United States Navy.
With the CVG-10 on board, the USS Shangri-La was involved in a 6-month Mediterranean Sea cruise with the 6th Fleet Area Of Responsibility between February and August 1962. The clip shows with outstanding details the “blue waters operations” of the F4D-1 Skyray fighters with the VF-13; the A-4D Skyhawks of the VA-106 and VA-46; and the F-8U Crusaders of the VMF-251 and VFP-2.
You can also spot some AD-6 Skyraider of the VA-176 while the opening scene shows the vivid colors of one of the HUP-3 helicopter of the HU-2.
There was much less technology aboard to launch and recover aircraft, and “bolters” (when the aircraft misses the arresting cable on the flight deck) and “wave-offs” (a go around during final approach) were seemingly quite frequent.
By the way, don’t you like the high-visibility markings sported by the aircraft back then?
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
In perhaps one of the oddest British strategies against Nazi Germany, British troops launched almost 100,000 hydrogen-filled latex balloons into Nazi-controlled territory to set fires and short out power wires as part of Operation Outward.
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force members recover a kite balloon.
(Royal Air Force)
Operation Outward was the result of an accident. Barrage and observation balloons in World War I got more coverage than in World War II, but the floating sacks of hydrogen were widely used in both conflicts. You can actually spot them in some of the more famous D-Day photos from later in the day or over the days and weeks that followed.
(The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion was the only Black combat unit that came ashore on D-Day, though plenty of Black logistic and engineer units were there on June 6.)
But when it happened in the Scandinavian countries in 1940, the Brits were all, “Wait, what’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander, so let’s apologize to Scandinavia but then do the same thing, on purpose, to Hitler’s Third Reich. Screw those guys.”
The British relied on a couple infrastructure advantages for this plan. Britain’s electrical grid was more developed, and therefore more susceptible to disruption, but it also featured faster circuit breakers. This meant that Britain’s grid, if hit with balloons trailing wires, would suffer relatively little damage. Germany’s, with slower breakers, had a real risk of losing entire sections of the grid or even power plants to balloon disruptions.
So, even if it led to a balloon trading war, Britain could expect to hold the upper hand. And so weather balloons were filled with hydrogen, fitted with either spools of wire or incendiary devices, and floated over the channel into Germany.
An “incendiary sock” like those used to burn German towns.
(UK National Archives)
The wires were relatively thin. Experimentation showed the designers that they didn’t need the thick steel of normal tethers to short lines, cause electrical arcs, and damage German power distribution. The electrical arcs were the real killer, draining power from the grid, overworking the components of the power generation, and weakening the transmission lines so they would later break in high winds.
Both types were made to fly over the channel at a little over 20,000 feet, then descend to 1,000 feet and do their work. They needed winds of about 10 mph or more to be as effective as possible.
And they worked, well. The idea wasn’t to cripple Germany in a single blow, but to cost them more in economic damage and defensive requirements than it cost Britain to deploy them. And, thanks to the low-cost materials Britain used, Britain only had to pay around the U.S.equivalent of .50 per balloon. Shooting a balloon down could cost much more than that in ammo, and that was if it was shot down by air defenders. If fighters had to launch, the fuel and maintenance would be astronomical.
Assessments found during and after the war painted a picture of constant disruption on the German side. In occupied France, there were 4,946 power interruptions during the program, most of them caused by the balloons. In 11 months from early 1942 to early 1943, Germany had 520 major disruptions of high-voltage lines.
And at a cost of .50 a balloon plus the wages of balloon launchers, mostly members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service, the more than 99,000 balloons launched were a hell of a deal.
The United Nations has determined that debris from five ballistic missiles launched from Yemen into Saudi Arabia since July 2018, contained components manufactured in Iran and shared key design features with an Iranian missile, a new report says.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the report to the UN Security Council, which was seen by media on June 14, 2018, that — while the missile parts are Iranian — the United Nations has been unable to determine whether they were transferred from Iran after UN restrictions went into force in January 2016.
Guterres said the UN was also “confident” that some arms seized by Bahrain and recovered by the United Arab Emirates from an unmanned vessel laden with explosives were manufactured in Iran.
But he said, once again, investigators could not determine whether the arms were transferred from Iran after UN restrictions took effect.
The secretary-general was reporting on the implementation of a 2015 Security Council resolution that endorsed the Iran nuclear deal. The resolution includes restrictions on transfers to or from Iran of nuclear and ballistic missile material as well as other arms.
The latest UN findings are less conclusive than those of a separate UN panel of experts, which reported in January 2018, that Iran was in violation of the arms embargo on Yemen for failing to block supplies of its missiles to allied Huthi rebels in the war-torn country.
The inconclusiveness of the report could deal a setback to the United States, which has repeatedly called on the UN Security Council to take action against Iran over illegal arms transfers to Yemen and elsewhere in the region.
Iran has strongly denied arming the Huthis.
In other key findings, Guterres said the UN is looking into reports from two unnamed countries that Iran received “dual-use items, materials, equipment, goods, and technology” in violation of UN restrictions.
Guterres also said the UN hasn’t had an opportunity to examine a drone that Israel intercepted and downed after it entered its airspace. Israel said it was Iranian.
The secretary-general noted that Iranian media had reported that “various Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles” have been deployed in Syria.
Guterres reported that the Hamas leader in Gaza said on TV on May 21, 2018, that Iran provided the Al-Qassam Brigades with “money, (military) equipment and expertise.” Guterres said any such arms transfers might violate UN restrictions.
He also reported receiving a letter dated May 15, 2018, from Ukraine’s UN ambassador indicating that its security service “prevented an attempt by two Iranian nationals to procure and transfer” to Iran components of a Kh-31 air-to-surface missile and related technical documents.
The viral WhatsApp message that claimed Queen Elizabeth II had died was started by a Royal Navy staff member who confused a practice drill for the real thing.
The false news spread across social media last Sunday, garnering thousands of tweets and Facebook posts, and spawning several hashtags.
The cause of the false alarm was a misunderstanding by someone at Royal Navy Air Station Yeovilton, Portsmouth News reported.
Naval personnel were practicing “Operation London Bridge” — the codename for the procedure for when the Queen dies — when one person thought it was happening for real and passed the message onto those outside the base, the paper said.
The WhatsApp message that spread across social media on Sunday announcing the Queen’s death.
The sourcing attached to the initial viral WhatsApp message was “from a guards reg WhatsApp group,” referring to a regiment in the British Army’s Guards Division.
“Queens passed away this morning, heart attack, being announced 930 Am tomorrow, channel dash 0800 tomorrow in full numbers 1s,” it said, referring to the Navy’s ceremonial uniform by its colloquial name of “number 1s.”
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson debunked the news, speaking to British media on Monday, calling it “business as usual.”
The Queen welcomed NATO leaders at a reception at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night, looking sanguine and very much alive.
Queen Elizabeth hosts NATO world leaders at Buckingham Palace
Citing the Royal Navy, the Portsmouth News, said the incident was a “genuine mistake” and that “no malice” was intended.
The Royal Navy later said in a formal statement: “We can confirm an internal exercise took place at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in line with established contingency plans for recall of personnel.”
“These exercises are conducted on a regular basis and no significance should be drawn from the timing of the exercise.”
“While the exercise was conducted properly, we regret any misunderstanding this may have caused.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Whelp. According to August’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report submitted by the Pentagon, the Navy is officially the fattest branch of the Department of Defense at a whopping 22% of all sailors being obese. Not “doesn’t meet physical requirements” but obese. It’s still way below the 39.8% of the national average, according to the CDC, but still.
In case you were wondering, the Air Force is second at 18%, the Army (who usually takes this record) is at just 17%, and the Marines are at 8.3%. To be fair to every other branch, the Marines have the youngest average age of troops despite also taking the record for “most knee and back problems.”
But, I mean, the placement of your branch isn’t something to be proud of. If you compare the percentages to where they were at three years ago, and eight years ago, each branch nearly doubled their “big boy” percentage.
So yes. In case you were wondering… The military HAS gone soft since you left a few years ago.
It may not make for polite conversation, but most runners at one time or another have dealt with unpleasant intestinal rumblings, sometimes called runner’s stomach, or faced other gastrointestinal running emergencies while running recreationally or competitively. The Army Public Health Center’s resident nutrition experts offer a few strategies to help runners avoid unfortunate GI issues.
“It is difficult to connect the cause and effect of this unfortunate situation, but some plausible culprits are dehydration and heat exposure,” said Joanna Reagan, registered dietitian at the Army Public Health Center. “Contributing factors likely include the physical jostling of the organs, decreased blood flow to the intestines, changes in intestinal hormone secretion, increased amount or introduction of a new food, and pre-race anxiety and stress.”
Reagan offers a few suggestions to help runners avoid runner’s stomach while running or training.
“If you have problems with gas, bloating or occasional diarrhea, then limit high fiber foods the day before you race,” said Reagan. “Intestinal bacteria produces gas and it breaks down on fibrous foods. So avoid foods such as beans, whole grains, broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables. Lactose intolerance may also be something to consider, so avoid dairy products, but yogurt or kefir are usually tolerated.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kissta DiGregorio, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)
APHC Nutrition Lead Army Maj. Tamara Osgood recommends avoiding sweeteners and sugar alcohols, which can cause a ‘laxative effect’ and are commonly found in sugar free gum and candies.
“Also, limit alcohol before run days, and try to eat at least 60-90 minutes before a run or consume smaller more frequent meals on long run days,” said Osgood.
So broccoli and cauliflower are out. Are there any “good” foods to eat before a planned run?
“In the morning the stress hormone, cortisol, is high,” said Reagan. “To change the body from a muscle-breakdown mode to a muscle building mode eat a small breakfast or snack of 200 to 400 calories within an hour of the event. This depends on your personal tolerance and type of activity.”
Reagan says some quick food choices are two slices of toast, a bagel or English muffin with peanut butter; banana (with peanut butter); oatmeal, a smoothie, Fig Newtons, or granola bar.
“These food choices will also help provide energy and prevent low blood glucose levels,” said Reagan.
(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)
Although energy bars and gels are popular, runners who haven’t trained with these products may experience diarrhea because of the carbohydrate concentration, said Reagan. A carbohydrate content of more than 10 percent can irritate the stomach. Sport-specific drinks are formulated to be in the optimal range of 5 to 8 percent carbohydrate, and are usually safe for consumption leading up to and during a long run.
Reagan advises staying well hydrated before and during the run and consider getting up earlier than usual to give the GI tract time to “wake up” before the race. For those in race “urges” it’s wise to know the race route and where the portable restrooms are located.
Osgood says runners should train like they race to learn how their bodies tolerate different foods.
“Training is the time to understand how your body tolerates the types of food or hydration you are fueling with,” said Osgood. “Everyone is different when it comes to long runs regarding the type of foods or best timing to eat for you to avoid GI intolerance. Find out what works for you while you train.”
Osgood also recommends refueling following the run. Most studies suggest 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio within 30 minutes post run.
The “Night Wolves” have come to Slovakia and the locals are not happy about it. Also known in Eastern Europe as “Putin’s Angels,” the group is a biker gang with ties to the Kremlin. Their arrival in the country is not a welcome sight, as their presence foretells a potentially devastating future.
And seeing as Slovakia is a member of NATO, it could even spark a third world war.
Their favorites include Vladimir Putin, pictured here with “The Surgeon,” and Joseph Stalin, who is still dead.
In 2014, the group helped the Russian military annex Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and continue to assist pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s bloody, ongoing civil war. The gang’s leader, Aleksandr Zaldostanov (aka “The Surgeon”) offers his gang’s assistance to Russian Special Forces in what Slovak President Andrej Kiska calls violations of international law. The group even operates a training center just a few miles away from the fighting in Ukraine.
“The Surgeon,” named for his history in dentistry, has risen to prominence in Russia during a time when the Soviet Union evokes nostalgia among many. Zaldostanov is Russian nationalism’s brightest rising star. He, like many others, yearns for the days when Russian power meant something and decries the country’s enemies, mainly NATO and the United States.
During the Russian takeover of Ukraine, the Night Wolves operated roadblocks and stormed Ukrainian naval facilities, even going so far as to seize weapons from Ukrainian government facilities. They even received medals for their work in Sevastopol and greater Ukraine before the Russians moved in, and a medal for patriotism in the wake of the Sevastopol bike show, which was attended by Vladimir Putin himself.
In Slovakia, the gang built a compound from which to base their activities, which, in the past, have included anti-NATO rallies and three-day long protests against the Slovakian government. The building is just 60 kilometers from the Slovak capital of Bratislava.
The compound houses old tanks and armored military vehicles for a group that bills itself as a group of “harmless motorcycle lovers.”
The arrival of the Night Wolves was met by calls for the Slovakian government to forcibly remove the gang. This is in stark contrast to other visits but not for the same reasons.
When the biker gang rolled into Bosnia (without bikes – it was too cold for bikes) the locals did little more than giggle. Roughly half of that country is represented by the breakaway region known as Republika Srpska, an area that wants its independence from Bosnia and would look to Russia as a potential patron. Instead of money or arms, Putin sent the Night Wolves.
“They looked pathetic; even I am taller than they are,” ethnic Serb psychologist Srdjan Puhalo told the New York Times. He still posed with the bikers for photos in Banja Luka, the most pro-Russia city in Bosnia. Other countries have not been so receptive to the Night Wolves.
President Kiska is among those in Slovakia who want the Night Wolves’ base removed and the bikers sent packing, but it’s not the President’s call to make. The local authorities in the country insist the gang has done nothing wrong (in Slovakia, at least).
Larry Thorne enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private in 1954, but he was already a war hero. That’s because his real name was Lauri Törni, and he had been fighting the Soviets for much of his adult life.
Born in Finland in 1919, Törni enlisted at age 19 in his country’s army and fought against the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-40, according to Helsingin Sanomat. He quickly rose to the rank of captain and took command of a group of ski troops, who quite literally, skied into battle against enemy forces.
In 1942, he was severely wounded after he skied into a mine, but that didn’t slow him down. In 1944 during what the Finns called The Continuation War, he received Finland’s version of the Medal of Honor — the Mannerheim Cross — for his bravery while leading a light infantry battalion.
Unfortunately for Törni, Finland signed a ceasefire and ceded some territory to the Soviets in 1944 to end hostilities. But instead of surrendering, he joined up with the German SS so he could continue fighting. He received additional training in Nazi Germany and then looked forward to kicking some Commie butt once more.
But then Germany fell too, and the Finn-turned-Waffen SS officer was arrested by the British, according to War History Online. Not that being put into a prison camp would stop him either.
“In the last stages of the war he surrendered to the British and eventually returned to Finland after escaping a British POW camp,” reads the account at War History Online. “When he returned, he was then arrested by the Finns, even though he had received their Medal of Honor, and was sentenced to 6 years in prison for treason.”
He ended up serving only half his sentence before he was pardoned by the President of Finland in 1948.
Getting to America
Törni’s path to the U.S. Army was paved by crucial legislation from Congress along with the creation of a new military unit: Special Forces.
In June 1950, the Lodge-Philbin Act passed, which allowed foreigners to join the U.S. military and allowed them citizenship if they served honorably for at least five years. Just two years later, the Army would stand up its new Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg, N.C.
More than 200 eastern Europeans joined Army Special Forces before the Act expired in 1959, according to Max Boot. One of those enlistees was Törni, who enlisted in 1954 under the name Larry Thorne.
“The Soviets wanted to get their hands on Thorne and forced the Finnish government to arrest him as a wartime German collaborator. They planned to take him to Moscow to be tried for war crimes,” reads the account at ArlingtonCemetery.net. “Thorne had other plans. He escaped, made his way to the United States, and with the help of Wild Bill Donovan became a citizen. The wartime head of the OSS knew of Thorne’s commando exploits.”
A Special Forces legend
Thorne quickly distinguished himself among his peers of Green Berets. Though he enlisted as a private, his wartime skill-set led him to become an instructor at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg teaching everything from survival to guerrilla tactics. In 1957, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and would rise to the rank of captain just as war was on the horizon in Vietnam.
But first, he would take part in a daring rescue mission inside of Iran. In 1962, then-Capt. Thorne led an important mission to recover classified materials from a U.S. Air Force plane that crashed on a mountaintop on the Iran-Turkish-Soviet border, according to Helsingin Sanomat. Though three earlier attempts to secure the materials had failed, Thorne’s team was successful.
Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed. It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment. This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.
In Vietnam, he earned the Bronze Star medal for heroism, along with five Purple Hearts for combat wounds, War History Online writes. According to Helsingin Sanomat, his wounds allowed him to return to the rear away from combat, but he refused and instead requested command of a special operations base instead.
On Oct. 18, 1965, Thorne led the first MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos to interdict North Vietnamese movement down the Ho Chi Minh trail. Using South Vietnamese Air Force helicopters, his team was successfully inserted into a clearing inside Laos while Thorne remained in a chase helicopter to direct support as needed. Once the team gave word they had made it in, he responded that he was heading back to base.
Roughly five minutes later while flying in poor visibility and bad weather, the helicopter crashed. The Army first listed him as missing in action, then later declared he was killed in action — in South Vietnam. The wreckage of the aircraft was found prior to the end of the war and the remains of the South Vietnamese air crew were recovered, but Thorne was never found.
Thorne’s exploits in combat made him seem invincible among his Special Forces brothers, and with his body never recovered, many believed he had survived the crash and continued to live in hiding or had been taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese, according to POW Network.
“Many believed he was exactly the sort of near-indestructible soldier who would have simply walked back out of the jungle, and they found it hard to believe he had been killed,” writes Helsingin Sanomat.
In 1999, the mystery was finally put to rest. The remains of the legendary Special Forces soldier were recovered from the crash site. DNA confirmed the identities of the air crew, while dental records proved Törni had died on that fateful night in 1965, reported Helsingin Sanomat.
“He was a complex yet driven man who valorously fought oppression under three flags and didn’t acknowledge the meaning of quit,” U.S. Army Special Forces Col. Sean Swindell said during a ceremony in 2010.
Hollywood war movies are usually comprised of strong and versatile trope elements like the wise seasoned soldier, the good decision makers, and the flawed protagonist who needs a solid character arch before the credits roll.
There’s also the cast of characters that are considered the weaker links, or they’re just so naïve audiences sigh with relief when they die off.
So here’s our list of newbie boots we wouldn’t want taking point on patrol with us.
1. Conrad Vig (“3 Kings”)
He’s the funny, goofy guy who also talks too much and no one takes him seriously until you get annoyed by his presence.
Great movie, but bad karate kick. (Image via Giphy)
2. Corporal Upham (“Saving Private Ryan”)
He stops himself from saving a fellow brother because his fear got the best of him, but to add insult to injury, he gave up an easy kill shot and let the German soldier off the hook. Unacceptable!
Unfreaking believable. You had him, Upham! (Image via Giphy)
3. Gardner (“Platoon”)
We knew this over-weight character was going to perish sooner rather than later — no way his stature meets physical regs. No squad wants the guy who can’t hold his own weight — literally — on their team.