'Sgt. Bilko' aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it - We Are The Mighty
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‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it

Dust off your VHS tape, grab a DVD, or search Netflix for the 1996 comedy ‘Sgt. Bilko’ starring comedic icons Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd and the late, great Phil Hartman and give it a rewatch sometime. The movie is a remake of the hit 1950’s series The Phil Silvers Show. Most will agree that the movie was not nearly as good as the show. In fact, the numbers to prove it. “Sgt. Bilko” has a 32 percent critic favorability rating on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes. Users score the film a bit better at 45 percent.


Martin plays the wheeling and dealing Army Master Sgt. Ernest Bilko, a motor pool supervisor who uses his soldiers to make a quick buck by running an illegal gambling ring on a fictional Army base called Fort Baxter. Aykroyd plays Army Col. John T. Hall, the base’s commanding officer. The colonel seems mostly unaware of or unconcerned with Bilko’s antics and Bilko practically runs the base.

It’s all smooth sailing for Bilko until an old rival (Major Colin Thorn, played by Hartman) arrives to inspect his motor pool. It’s part of a plan to punish Bilko for the fixed boxing match that sent him to Greenland years before. He also seeks his revenge by trying to steal away Bilko’s fianceé.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Phil Hartman, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Martin, 1996

The movie is also centered on the development of a Hover Tank that can rise over land and water. However, the tank is not yet ready for prime time. The fate of Fort Baxter and Bilko’s career rest on the tank performing well in a high-profile demonstration in front of a Congressional delegation and senior military officials.

Although it’s not a great military film and several blunders are clearly noticeable in the movie. The wear of military uniforms and errors in military customs and courtesies are the most egregious errors, but there are some scenes that many veterans will find funny.

Casino Clean-Up

In the opening scenes of the movie, Bilko is signaled by the base radio station that Col. Hall is on his way to his location. The motor pool is a mini Las Vegas with craps and roulette tables, full bar and massage room. The Soldiers are in a hurry to hide all the illegal activities but find themselves in a dilemma when they have to hide a horse used in a previous gambling scheme. In classic Bilko fashion, he tries to smooth talk his way out of trouble.

Boxing Fix

The rivalry between Maj. Thorn and Master Sgt. Bilko is explained in this flashback scene. In anticipation of a big boxing championship match, Bilko takes in bets. Like the good con man he is, Bilko pays off one of the fighters to take a dive hoping to score some big money. But a problem arises when Bilko’s assistant pays off the wrong fighter. The miscommunication leads to a double knockout. Somehow though it’s Thorn and not Bilko who gets in trouble for the botched fight.

 

Surprise Inspection

Bilko’s platoon is given a surprise barracks inspection. The motor pool barracks are trashed. Facing certain failure, Bilko switches the signs between his barracks and a neighboring women’s barracks. In typical military fashion, the men line up in front of the rooms. When Thorn finds a bra in one of the closets, he asks the soldier if it’s his. His DADT-related reply is classic: “It is my understanding that you can no longer ask me these questions, Sir.”

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it

Fake Push-Ups

Duane Doberman is one of Bilko’s most lovable soldiers. However, he is clearly out of Army weight standards. Maj. Thorn is out to get him but his battle buddies come to his rescue, helping him complete some push-ups in front of the officer. See the push-ups for yourself:

 

Viva Las Vegas

Bilko’s dream of going to Vegas comes true when he is allowed to go to a military exercise in Nevada. He is overjoyed and cruises the Vegas strip in some military hardware.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it

The Hover Tank

Like a good NCO, Master Sgt. Bilko outwits Maj. Thorn and gets the tank up and running with some deceptive tactics. Eventually, it leads to the dismissal of Thorn back to Greenland. Bilko is once again the ruler of his domain. “It’s no wonder why they call him a Master Sergeant.”

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

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World War III nearly started when the Soviet premier was banned from Disneyland

When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited America in Sep. 1959, the trip was meticulously planned. One day of the trip was devoted Hollywood and filled with visits to movie studios, a lunch with Hollywood icons, and a tour to Disneyland.


Walt Disney was going to show Khrushchev around the park himself. He even planned to show off his navy for the Soviet premier.

Unfortunately, the Disneyland visit was canceled due to security concerns among city leaders and State Department planners. The Americans seemed to hope that tours of 20th Century Fox Studios and a lunch event filled with movie stars would keep the premier from complaining about Disneyland.

But the 20th Century Fox President Spyros P. Skouras put the Soviet leader in a bad mood. Skouras made jokes about an old quote of Khrushchev’s that said that communism would bury capitalism.

Khrushchev was enraged by the Fox president’s comments and said, “If you want to go on with the arms race, very well. We accept that challenge. As for the output of rockets –well, they are on the assembly line. This is a most serious question. It is one of life or death, ladies and gentlemen. One of war and peace.”

And then the enraged Khrushchev was told he wouldn’t be able to visit the happiest place on earth. Instead of enjoying his time with Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe and Shirley MacLaine, he gave an angry speech asking why he couldn’t go to Disneyland.

“What is it?” Khrushchev asked. “Do you have rocket launching pads there? I don’t know. What is it? Is there an epidemic of Cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken hold of the place that can destroy me? And I say, ‘I would very much like to go and see Disneyland.’ For me, such a situation is inconceivable.”

Despite the rocky events in Los Angeles, Khrushchev’s visit was a success. By the end of the trip, Americans’ perception of the leader had improved and journalists were reporting positively on his interactions with U.S. citizens.

Khrushchev and President Dwight Eisenhower had a summit at Camp David where they agreed on the need for peace and planned for Eisenhower to tour the Soviet Union.

This goodwill between the leaders was reversed in May 1960 after an U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, and the Cold War dragged on for decades.

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America’s oldest living veteran is asking for your help

The oldest living veteran in the United States is asking for America’s help.


Army veteran Richard Overton is now in need of 24-hour home care that the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t provide. So his family started a GoFundMe campaign late last month to cover the cost of in-home care, which is being provided by Senior Helpers.

“Though my cousin is still sharp as a tack at 110-years-old, it’s been getting harder and harder for him to care for himself,” Volma Overton said in a statement. “It eases my mind to know he will have 24/7 care while living in the home he built for himself over 70 years ago.”

Related: DoD extends online military exchange shopping privileges to veterans

Overton gained notoriety back in 2013 after he told a reporter about his key to staying active and remaining in good health: Whiskey and cigars.

“He drives and walks without a cane. During a television interview in March, he told a reporter that he doesn’t take medicine, smokes cigars every day and takes whiskey in his morning coffee,” The Houston Chronicle wrote. “The key to living to his age, he said, is simply ‘staying out of trouble.'”

“I may drink a little in the evening too with some soda water, but that’s it,” Overton told Fox News. “Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender.”

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
January 3: Medal of Honor recipient retired Master Sgt. Leroy Petry walks onto the field of the Alamodome in San Antonio with World War II veteran Richard Overton in San Antonio. Petry, awarded the Medal of Honor last year for efforts in Afghanistan, and Overton, the oldest living World War II veteran at 108 years old, delivered the game ball at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. | US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton

In addition to his somewhat unorthodox habits, Overton said he stayed busy throughout the day by trimming trees and helping with horses, while noting that he never watches television, according to Fox.

Born May 11, 1906, he is believed to be the oldest living veteran in the US. He served in the South Pacific during World War II before selling furniture in Austin after discharge, and later worked in the state Treasurer’s Office.

As the campaign page notes, Overton has earned a number of accolades since he first hit the headlines. He met with President Obama in 2013, and in the years since, has appeared as the guest of honor at sporting events and been featured as “America’s Oldest Cigar Smoker” in Cigar Aficionado magazine.

You can check out the GoFundMe campaign page here.

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STRATFOR: Loose Nukes In Russia Will Be ‘The Greatest Crisis Of The Next Decade’

The most alarming prediction in the Decade Forecast from private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, involves a Russian collapse leading to a nuclear crisis.


The firm believes the Russian Federation will not survive the decade in its present form, after a combination of international sanctions, plunging oil prices, and a suffering ruble trigger a political and social crisis. Russia will then devolve into an archipelago of often-impoverished and confrontational local governments under the Kremlin’s very loose control.

“We expect Moscow’s authority to weaken substantially, leading to the formal and informal fragmentation of Russia” the report states, adding, “It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form.”

If that upheaval happened, it could lead to what Stratfor calls “the greatest crisis of the next decade”: Moscow’s loss of control over the world’s biggest nuclear weapons stockpile.

Russia is the world’s largest country and its 8,000 weapons are fairly spread out over its 6.6 million square miles. According to a Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists study, Russia has 40 nuclear sites, which is twice as many as the US uses to house a comparable number of warheads. This policy of dispersal makes it difficult for an enemy to disable the Russian nuclear arsenal in a single attack, but it also makes the Russian stockpile difficult to control.

The Bulletin report also found that the Russia was uncertain exactly how many short-range “tactical” or city-busting “strategic” nukes it has, nor what the weapons’ state of assembly or alert status may be.

Stratfor fears that the dissolution of the Russian Federation could cause an unprecedented nuclear security crisis. Not only could the command-and-control mechanisms for Russia’s massive and highly opaque nuclear arsenal completely break down. Moscow might lose its physical control over weapons and launch platforms as well.

“Russia is the site of a massive nuclear strike force distributed throughout the hinterlands,” the Decade Forecast explains. “The decline of Moscow’s power will open the question of who controls those missiles and how their non-use can be guaranteed.”

In Stratfor’s view the US is the only global actor that can formulate a response to this problem, and ever that might not be enough to prevent launch platforms and weapons from falling into the wrong hands.

“Washington … will not be able to seize control of the vast numbers of sites militarily and guarantee that no missile is fired in the process,” the Forecast predicts. “The United States will either have to invent a military solution that is difficult to conceive of now, accept the threat of rogue launches, or try to create a stable and economically viable government in the regions involved to neutralize the missiles over time.”

The forecast doesn’t go into detail about what kind of “military solution” might be appropriate. US Special Forces could conceivably transport fissile material out of the country or temporarily secure the most vulnerable sites, but those materials would have to be evacuated to another country, something that would undoubtedly raise tensions with whatever authority still rules in Moscow. In fact, the surviving Russian government would probably consider any US or allied military action to be an act of aggression.

Regardless of the extent of the collapse, Stratfor predicts a major security vacuum in Russia in the next decade.

The firm also predicts declining US assertiveness in world affairs, the fracturing of the European Union, and the decline of Germany’s powerful export economy, and more.

More from Business Insider:

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

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3 times the War Powers Act got the President cross-threaded with Congress

The Framers of the Constitution intended for there to be a, let’s call it, “healthy tension” between the branches of government, especially around matters pertaining to the power to commit the nation to war. The Constitution stipulates that the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military, but that Congress has the power of the purse over military funding as well as the authority to declare war. And like what tends to happen around pieces of legislation that endure because they’re blissfully ill-defined, the rest is subject to interpretation.


And differences in interpretation around who has the power to do what when it comes to waging war led Congress to pass the War Powers Act in 1973 after it came to light that President Nixon had expanded the already unpopular Vietnam War into neighboring Cambodia. The resolution was passed in both the House and Senate before being vetoed by Nixon. That veto was overridden and the War Powers Act became law on November 7 of that year.

The War Powers Act requires that the President notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30-day withdrawal period, without a Congressional authorization for that use of military force or a declaration of war by the United States.

But those quantitative guidelines haven’t kept the Executive and Legislative branches from tangling over the definition of “war.” Here are 3 times the President and Congress disagreed over the use of the War Powers Act:

1. Reagan sends Multinational Force to Lebanon

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Marines search the rubble following a terrorist attack on the barracks that killed 241 troops on Oct. 23, 1983. (Photo: CNN)

In 1981 President Reagan took the lead in introducing western troops — including four U.S. Marine Amphibious Units — to Lebanon as a peacekeeping force that would, among other things, allow the Palestinians to safely leave the country. But what started as a fairly benign op erupted into chaos as the months went on. The most horrific and tragic among the violent events was the bombing of the Marine Corps Barracks on October 23, 1983 that killed 241 U.S. servicemembers and 58 French paratroopers.

That bombing caused Congress to realize the American mission as one in which American forces could not succeed because their mission was poorly defined from a military point of view. (Then as now, just being present is not a viable use of military force.) Lawmakers withdrew support for the Multinational Force presence and threatened the Reagan administration with the War Powers Act to expedite getting the troops out as fast as possible, which was ironic because they had also used the War Powers Act two years earlier to allow Reagan to insert the troops for an indefinite length of time.

2. Clinton takes military action against Kosovo

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Belgrade burning after NATO air strike. (Photo: kosovo.net)

As reported by Charlie Savage in The New York Times back in 2011, “In 1999, President Clinton kept the bombing campaign in Kosovo going for more than two weeks after the 60-day deadline had passed. Even then, however, the Clinton legal team opined that its actions were consistent with the War Powers Resolution because Congress had approved a bill funding the operation, which they argued constituted implicit authorization. That theory was controversial because the War Powers Resolution specifically says that such funding does not constitute authorization.”

In 2013, The Wall Steet Journal reported that Clinton’s actions in Kosovo were challenged by a member of Congress as a violation of the War Powers Resolution in the D.C. Circuit case Campbell v. Clinton, but the court found the issue was a “non-justiciable political question.” It was also accepted that because Clinton had withdrawn from the region 12 days prior the 90-day required deadline, he had managed to comply with the act.

3. Obama conducts a campaign against Libya

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Libya MiG-23 goes down in flames after being hit by rebel fire. (Photo: aljazeera.com)

In 2011, the Obama administration was waging a proxy war against the Khaddafi regime in Libya, primarily using air power to assist the rebels. (There were rumors that American special operators were acting as forward air controllers on the ground, but they were never substantiated.) We the clock ran out on the War Powers timeframe, President Obama (along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) sidestepped asking Congress for permission to keep the campaign going, claiming that no authorization was needed because the leadership of the campaign had been transferred to NATO. The administration also said that U.S. involvement was “limited,” even though American aircraft were flying 75 percent of the campaign’s sorties.

Eventually, the rebels found and killed Khaddafi, which put an end to the air campaign but led to the Benghazi debacle where four Americans were killed, including the ambassador — a cautionary tale in itself, perhaps, about bypassing the War Powers Act.

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Sure, everyone wants to get off for the weekend so they can celebrate the big win by Delta and raise a toast to the operator we lost this week. Here are 13 memes to keep you chuckling until release formation:


1. When airmen aim a little too high:

(via Air Force Memes and Humor)

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
I don’t know what he was thinking. That was clearly a naval aviation mission.

2. Looks more like a barracks haircut to me (via NavyMemes.com).

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Either way, gunny will not be impressed.

SEE ALSO: 12 signs you may be ‘motarded’

3. Great drill and ceremony, but can you fight with it (via Coast Guard Memes)?

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Everyone knows the iguana qualification tables are a pain in the a-s.

4. Payday activities are no fun.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it

5. Someone is going to have a bad night …

(via Coast Guard Memes)

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
… or maybe a bad morning. Depends on when the booze wears off.

6. Marines are ready to step in and assist.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
And, they’ll do it with helmet bands and rifles from the Vietnam era.

7. Air power!

(via Air Force Memes and Humor)

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it

8. This is a true master-at-arms (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
The point man needs his knifehand to protect himself in case of ambush.

9. Shoulder-fired, panting-cooled, autonomous weapons system.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Bowl-fed and bad-ss!

10. For a stealthy bomber, the B-1 is pretty loud.

(via Air Force Memes and Humor)

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Not as loud as its bombs, but loud. 

11. Finding the flag can be challenging on a new post (via Team Non-Rec).

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Meh, probably back there somewhere.

 12. When soldiers are finally told they can do something fun …

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
… but have to do it in full battle rattle.

13. That sudden drop in your stomach when you hear it.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it

NOW: The 8 most painful nonlethal weapons

OR: Ex-President Jimmy Carter perfectly trolls Russians fighting in Syria

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‘Irish Brigades’ have fought around the world for hundreds of years

Most people know about the French Foreign Legion, a military unit for foreigners to take part in combat on behalf of the French people. Turns out, one group of people has no need for foreign legions because they’ll just create their own brigade to fight on whichever side of any war they like.


Since the late 1600s, Irish brigades have fought in everything from English wars of succession to the American Civil War to World War II, often in conflicts where Ireland was a neutral nation.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
The 6th Inniskillings, 38 (Irish) Brigade fighting in Sicily in August 1943. (Photo: Lt. Gabe, Imperial War Museum)

The first known “Irish Brigades” fought on behalf of James II, a king of England who converted to Catholicism and was deposed by William III, a Protestant, triggering the War of the Grand Alliance from 1689 to 1697.

While the Catholics failed to return James II or his son James III to the throne, the French and Spanish monarchs had sent armies on the same side as the Irish brigades to the war and had helped organize and equip them as the war dragged on. Many of the Irish veterans returned to France and Spain and created permanent Irish units there.

Other units were formed in other European countries such as Austria and Russia. Like the French Foreign Legion, the Irish Brigades were often kept deployed as much as possible.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Chaplains of the 2nd Brigade (Irish) of the Union Army in 1862. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Irish forces — then organized as three separate regiments — fought on behalf of American colonists after the French openly threw their weight behind the revolution in 1778.  Irish marines served on Capt. John Paul Jones Bonhomme Richard during his attacks on British shipping.

Two French Irish regiments also deployed to the Caribbean to weaken the British there. 500 volunteers from those regiments later took part in the failed Siege of Savannah.

A few decades later, an Irish battalion fought on both sides of the Mexican-American War. The battalion, composed mostly of Irish immigrants new to the U.S., initially were part of the American invasion force. But they faced strong discrimination in U.S. ranks and switched sides.

Unfortunately for them, the U.S. was still the overwhelmingly superior force, and the Mexican forces were defeated. When 85 of them were captured after the Battle of Churubusco, 50 were killed for desertion. Thirty-five who deserted before war was declared were instead branded with a “D” and flogged.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Army Brig. Gen. Robert Nugent, commander of the 2nd (Irish) Brigade, and his staff in 1864. (Photo: William Morris Smith, Public domain)

Just over a decade later, Irish brigades fought on both sides of the Civil War, though they overwhelmingly favored the Union. An estimated 150,000 to 160,000 Irish soldiers fought on behalf of the Union while approximately 20,000 fought on behalf of the Confederacy.

Most of those soldiers fought in regular units, but the Confederacy had one Irish regiment, the 10th Tennessee Infantry Regiment (Irish), and the Union had at least five: the 63rd, 69th, and 88th New York Infantry Regiments and the 9th and 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiments.

The Tennessee 10th saw service in the West while the Union regiments, minus the 9th Massachusetts, were part of the 2nd Brigade (Irish) and fought predominantly in the East. Over the course of the war, the Irish Brigade lost 4,000 men; 11 members of the brigade were awarded the Medal of Honor.

But it’s important when looking at those numbers to remember that some regiments assigned to the Irish brigade — such as the 116th Pennsylvania and the 29th Massachusetts — were non-Irish units.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
The Tyneside Irish Brigade advances in World War I during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

During World War I, Ireland was still subordinate to the Kingdom of Great Britain and so Irish units were sent directly to the British Expeditionary Force. Still, most volunteers from within Ireland served in units either officially designated as Irish or named for the Irish areas where the unit was formed.

For instance, the 10th (Irish) Division, 16th (Irish) Division, and 36th (Ulster) Division all served in heavy fighting, as did units like the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and Royal Munster Fusiliers. All-in-all, an estimated 200,000 Irish soldiers served in units designated Irish, while an unknown number served in other militaries of the British Commonwealth.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Universal carriers and Irish soldiers of the 6th Inniskillings, 38th Irish Brigade, 78th Division in Sicily in August 1943. (Photo: Lt. Gabe, Imperial War Museum)

By the time World War II rolled around, the Republic of Ireland enjoyed self-rule and was officially neutral. But Irish volunteers served in all branches of the British armed forces.

Enough Irish volunteers for the army were found that the 201 Infantry Brigade was reorganized as the 38 (Irish) Brigade and was initially commanded by The O’Donovan (the title and name held by the reigning chief of the O’Donovan clan). The 38 (Irish) Brigade consisted of three Irish regiments and served primarily in Africa, Sicily, and Italy.

Three other Irish regiments fought in World War II.

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This bomber made the B-52 look puny

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has the nickname “Big Ugly Fat F***er” — or just the BUFF — but is it the biggest bomber that ever served? Believe it or not, that answer is, “No.”


There was a much bigger bomber in the fleet — and while it never dropped a bomb in anger, it was the backbone of Strategic Air Command in its early years. That plane was the Convair B-36 Peacemaker.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
A prototype B-52 next to a B-36 Peacemaker. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Peacemaker was immense, according to a fact sheet from the National Museum of the Air Force: Its wingspan was 230 feet (compared to 185 feet for a B-52), the B-36 was 162 feet long (compared to just over 159 feet for the B-52), and it could carry up to 86,000 pounds of bombs, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. The B-52’s maximum bomb load is 70,000 pounds, per an Air Force fact sheet.

How did you get such an immense craft off the ground? Very carefully.

The B-36 had six Pratt and Whitney R-4360 engines in a pusher configuration and four General Electric J47 jet engines. These were able to lift a fully-loaded B-36 off the ground and propel it to a top speed of 435 miles per hour.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
The immense scale of the B-36 is apparent by looking at the one on exhibit at the National Museum of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Depending on the model, the B-36 had up to 16 20mm cannon in twin turrets. The B-36 entered service in 1948 – and it gave SAC 11 years of superb service, being replaced by the B-52. Five planes survive, all of which are on display.

Below, this clip from the 1955 movie “Strategic Air Command” shows how this plane took flight. Jimmy Stewart plays a major league baseball player called back into Air Force service (Stewart was famously a bomber pilot who saw action in World War II and the Vietnam War).

Also recognizable in this clip is the flight engineer, played by Harry Morgan, famous for playing Sherman Potter on “MASH” and as Detective Rich Gannon in the 1960s edition of “Dragnet.”

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That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano

There are bad guard details, horrible guard details, and then guard details where you and the bulk of your regiment are ordered to guard caves filled with bat shit.


‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
(Photo: National Park Service, Nick Hristov)

Gunpowder is made up mostly of saltpeter, a chemical powder generally mined from deposits on cave walls or extracted from urine and bat guano. When the South found itself under naval blockade early in the war, it had to find a way to make many of its necessities.

To make the saltpeter necessary to manufacture gunpowder, the Confederacy turned to large bat guano deposits near Austin, Texas. One deposit area was later estimated to contain at least one-thousand tons of guano.

The Confederate government ordered the deposits guarded to ensure wartime production was secured, but it’s unclear how much saltpeter was actually manufactured before the end of the war. The caves were later put back into production during World War I.

Modern ammunition uses cleaner-burning propellants, but the nitrates in guano are still valuable for fertilizers. The descendants of the bats that provided the guano are now famous in Austin. Spectators line up on bridges to watch the bats depart for their nightly feeding.

NOW: That time a US Navy aircraft carrier was shut down by a race riot

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This guy’s stupid mistake won us the American Revolution

According to legend, a few actually reputable sources, the entire course of the American Revolution could have been different if one German colonel had just been way better at prioritizing (and for those of you who may be a little rusty on your American Revolution skillz, a number of German soldiers fought for Britain during the war, thus the reason for a German colonel being at the center of this tale).


‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Painting: Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron

The story goes that George Washington planned to cross the Delaware River under the cloak of night to sneak attack 1,500 German troops in the very early hours of December 26, 1776. The Germans had way more soldiers, so  Washington’s only advantage would be the element of surprise.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Painting: George Washington Crossing The Delaware by Emmanuel Leutze

However, the thing about crossing an icy river in the dark in the middle of winter is that it takes forever, and Washington’s men were nowhere near where they thought they’d be by morning. They thus had to march towards the Germans in daylight. One local loyalist saw them coming, and frantically ran towards the German camp to warn Colonel Johann Rall.

Rumor has it that Rall was in the middle of a card game and refused to stop playing to listen to the English-speaking loyalist. The loyalist left him a note written in English that said something to the effect of “YOU’RE ABOUT TO BE ATTACKED, BRO,” but Rall was apparently too lazy to go find a translator to read it to him. Washington attacked, won the pivotal Battle of Trenton, and the rest is history.

Meanwhile, Rall was killed that day, and its said that the unread note was found in his pocket. So let this be a lesson to us all: always read early morning messages from frantic English-speaking loyalists.

Also at HistoryBuff.com:

Ancient Romans Tried to Trap Tigers … with Mirrors?

We Need to Talk About the Bonkers Toys in this 1955 Christmas Catalog

How the Hero of Hanukkah Influenced Generations of Christian Warfare

Quiz: How Well Do You Know the French Revolution?

MIGHTY MOVIES

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

The 1998 movie “Saving Private Ryan” is one of the all-time great war movies. While much of the movie is a fictional account, the premise behind Capt. Miller’s mission is based on a true story. That is the story of the Niland brothers — Edward, Preston, Robert, and Frederick — from Tonawanda, New York.


 

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it

 

The two middle brothers inspiring the “Private Ryan” film, Preston and Robert, had enlisted prior to the beginning of the War. After America entered the war the oldest, Edward, and youngest, Frederick, known as Fritz to his friends, joined up in November 1942.

Because of the tragedy of the Sullivan brothers aboard the USS Juneau earlier that year, the brothers were split up and sent to different units around the Army.

Edward became an enlisted pilot, with the rank of Technical Sergeant, of a B-25 Mitchell bomber flying in the Burma-India-China theatre.

Preston was commissioned into the infantry and assigned to Company C, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.

Robert and Fritz both became paratroopers. Robert served with Company D, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. Fritz joined Company H, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

 

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Army paratroopers are dropped near Grave, Netherlands while livestock graze near gliders that landed earlier. This was the beginning of Operation Market Garden during World War II, which resulted in heavy Allied losses. (Photo source unknown)

 

As fate would have it, three of the brothers found themselves preparing for the invasion of mainland Europe.

However, before the brothers could start their “Great Crusade” to liberate Europe, Edward was shot down somewhere over Burma. He was listed as Missing in Action, but this usually carried a presumption of death at the time, especially if he had fallen into the hands of the Japanese.

Then, in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, Robert and Fritz joined over 23,000 Allied paratroopers in cracking Fortress Europe.

Although Fritz’s unit, 3rd Battalion, 501st PIR, was supposed to be the division reserve, the misdrops meant they were thrust into action in ad hoc groups. These forces were able to secure vital causeways, bridges, and locks allowing the 4th Infantry Division, and Niland brother Preston, to exit Utah beach later that day.

This wasn’t quite what happened in Private Ryan, but the movie still draws from these events.

 

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Soldiers of the 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, move out over the seawall on Utah Beach after coming ashore. Other troops are resting behind the concrete wall. (Army Signal Corps photo)

 

Elsewhere, Robert Niland had landed outside of Ste. Mere-Eglise with the rest of the 505th as part of Mission Boston. After the 3rd Battalion was able to capture the town early in the morning, the 2nd Battalion linked up with it to establish a defensive perimeter.

When a strong German counter-attack came from the south, Robert Niland and the rest of D Company’s 3rd platoon were left to guard the northern approaches to the town in a small village called Neuville.

When two companies of Germans came at their position, they fought tenaciously to hold them off to buy time for their comrades to the south. When the position became untenable, Robert Niland, along with two other paratroopers, volunteered to stay behind and cover the platoon’s retreat toward Ste. Mere-Eglise.

While manning a machine gun in the face of the German onslaught, Robert Niland was killed in action.

 

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
One on the 210mm gun of the German Crisbecq Battery in Normandy, not far away from Utah Beach. (U.S. Army photo)

 

That very same morning, Lt. Preston Niland led his men onto the shores of Utah beach as part of the seaborne invasion of Normandy. Though casualties were relatively light for the men of the 4th Infantry Division on Utah beach, the battles beyond would be much tougher.

Despite having made if off the beaches, the men of the 4th Infantry Division still had numerous gun batteries of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall to clear. The task of capturing the Crisbecq battery, which had already sunk the destroyer USS Corry, fell to Lt. Niland and his men.

On June 7, Niland led his men against the German position. During the heavy fighting Niland fell mortally wounded. The rest of his unit was repulsed. The battery would not fall until several days later to units of the 9th Infantry Division.

The Niland brothers’ parents received all three notifications in a very short amount of time. Their only condolence was a letter from Fritz informing them that “Dad’s Spanish-American War stories are going to have to take a backseat when I get home.”

Fritz was unaware of the fate of his brothers. If only the brothers could have known that their story would turn into Saving Private Ryan, one of the most classic war films in history.

Also read: 10 brothers who received the Medal of Honor

When the War Department received word of the tragedy orders were dispatched to return Fritz Niland to the United States. That task fell to the regimental Chaplin, Father Francis Sampson. Sampson located Fritz, who had been searching for his brother in the 82nd and began to paperwork to send him home.

Returning to the United States in 1944, Fritz served for the remainder of the war as an MP in New York.

 

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
The Preston and Robert Niland rest side by side in Normand American Cemetery. (Photos via Wikipedia user Nilington)

 

Then, in May 1945, the Nilands received some rather unexpected news. Edward was found alive in a Burmese POW camp when it was liberated by British forces.

He had survived bailing out of his plane, several days in the jungle, and nearly a year as a prisoner of the Japanese. During his captivity he had lost significant weight and returned to New York at a meager 80 pounds.

The other two Niland brothers, Preston and Robert, are buried side-by-side in the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer.

Articles

America’s ‘concrete battleship’ defended Manila Bay until the very end

Before the advent of maneuver warfare, nations defended their territory with massive fortifications. This was particularly true of coasts and harbors, especially if a nation owned the finest harbor in the Orient. This was the case for the American port at Manila Bay.


After the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain during the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Board of Fortifications recommended that important harbors be fortified. This led to the development of defenses on several islands at the mouth of Manila and Subic Bays. One of these was El Fraile Island which would later become Fort Drum, America’s concrete battleship.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it

While other islands were fortified by more conventional means, the plans for El Fraile were much more extensive. Construction began in 1909 and completed by 1916. What was originally a rocky outcropping of an island was excavated down to the waterline. From there, the concrete battleship began to take shape.

The new structure was 350 feet long and 144 feet at the widest point. The exterior walls of the fortification were constructed of reinforced concrete 25 to 36 feet thick and rising 40 feet above the water. The top deck of the structure was reinforced concrete 20 feet thick that mounted two turrets containing twin fourteen inch guns and a 60 foot fire control tower to complete the battleship look.

The fort’s armament was rounded out by dual six-inch guns in armored casemates on each side as well as three-inch anti-aircraft guns mounted on the top deck. The fort’s 240 officers and enlisted lived deep inside the impregnable walls of the concrete ship along with all the stores they would need to hold out against a siege.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it

That siege came after the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941. In January 1942, the Japanese began to target Fort Drum and the rest of the harbor defenses from the air and by February the concrete battleship was in range of Japanese artillery on shore. The fort endured bombing and shelling, destroying the anti-aircraft batteries, temporarily disabling a six-inch gun, damaging its casemate and searchlight, chipping away large chunks of concrete.

The whole time Fort Drum was under attack, it returned fire against the Japanese. The fort’s resistance continued even after the fall of Bataan on April 10, 1942 left Fort Drum and the other islands of the harbor defense as the last American forces in the Philippines. The guns of the concrete battleship dealt serious blows to Japanese forces assaulting the island of Corregidor, inflicting heavy casualties.

Unfortunately for the men of E battery, 59th Coastal Artillery, their efforts were not enough to halt the Japanese onslaught as General Wainwright made the decision to surrender the remaining U.S. forces in the Philippines. However, the fort was never taken and its main guns were still firing five minutes before the surrender was announced.

After capturing the Philippines, the Japanese manned all former American positions, including the concrete battleship. Eventually, American forces recaptured Manila and a daring assault by the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment U.S. forces recaptured Corregidor as well. That left Fort Drum once again as the last bastion of resistance. However, unlike the Americans some three years earlier, the Japanese had no intention of surrendering. This combined with the fact that the Americans had designed the fort to resist all manner of bombings and gunfire meant they would have to find another way to remove the defenders.

Unfortunately for the Japanese manning the concrete battleship, the idea the Americans came up with was rather grisly. The troops poured a mixture of two parts diesel oil and one part gasoline into the fort, lit it, and burned the defenders alive. The fire burned for several days afterwards but all the defenses of the harbor had been cleared of Japanese. The fort has never been reoccupied and still stands like a ghost ship in Manila Bay to this day.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

A member of the 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron refuels a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II during forward area refueling point training at Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Feb. 11, 2016. A single A-10 usually receives approximately 2,000 pounds of fuel in a four- to five-minute span during FARP training but the C-130 Hercules can provide tens of thousands of pounds of fuel if needed.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman

A B-2 Spirit bomber sits on the flightline prior to takeoff at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., for Red Flag 16-1 Feb. 2, 2016. Established in 1975, Red Flag includes command, control, intelligence and electronic warfare exercises to better prepare forces for combat.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Michaela R. Slanchik

Ohio Air National Guard members work in the early morning of Feb. 16, 2016, to remove snow from the flightline and fleet of C-130H Hercules at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio. The Ohio ANG unit is always on mission to respond with highly qualified citizen Airmen to execute federal, state and community missions.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

Royal Australian Air Force Sgt. Angus Shaw, a 37th Squadron loadmaster, left, talks with two 4th Squadron combat controllers aboard a C-130J Super Hercules during Exercise Cope North 2016 over Rota, Northern Mariana Islands, Feb. 12, 2016. Exercise The exercise includes 22 total flying units and nearly 3,000 personnel from six countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable and beneficial relationships within the Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks

ARMY:

A U.S. Army paratrooper, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conducts airborne operations at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 9, 2016.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Javier Orona

A soldier, assigned to 3d Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, pulls security during a convoy halt at the Operations Group, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Feb. 12, 2016.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne

Army pilots, assigned to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division train with members of the U.S. Coast Guard rescue team off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii, Feb. 16, 2016.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel K. Johnson

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 16, 2016) U.S. Navy Sailors with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group prepare MV-22B Ospreys with Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 166 Reinforced to take off from the USS New Orleans. The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit will be operating in the Pacific and central Commands area of responsibilities during their western pacific deployment 16-1.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tyler C. Gregory

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Feb. 15, 2016) Members of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, perform a tethered flag during a training demonstration. The Navy Parachute Team is based in San Diego and performs aerial parachute demonstrations around the nation in support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy recruiting.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Navy photo by James Woods

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine provides security for his team during the night portion of a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, or TRAP, training scenario at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 18, 2016. TRAP is used to tactically recover personnel, equipment or aircraft by inserting the recovery force to the objective location. The Marine is with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Marine Corp photo by Lance Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

Lance Cpl. Jarod L. Smith, a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, fires a mounted M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun from the back of the MV-22B Osprey during a live fire training session off the coast of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., Feb 10, 2016. Marines with VMM-365 flew to a landing zone, which allowed pilots to pratice CALs in their Osprey’s and then flew several miles off the coast to practice their proficiency with the .50-caliber machine gun.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Fiala

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guardsmen stationed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Munro from Kodiak, Alaska, conduct helicopter in-flight refueling while on patrol in the Bering Sea, Feb. 15, 2016.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
USCG photo

U.S. Coast Guard Station New York is helping theU.S. Coast Guard Reserve celebrate their 75th anniversary in style!

From the beaches of France and Iwo Jima in World War II, to the shores of the U.S. gulf coast for Deepwater Horizon, the USCG Reserve has been always ready.

‘Sgt. Bilko’ aired a generation ago but vets can still get a kick out of it
Photo by Petty Officer LaNola Stone

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