Shortly after Orville and Wilbur stopped making bicycles and started hanging out around Kitty Hawk, Hollywood took to making movies about those who venture into the wild blue yonder.
Here are the best Air Force characters they’ve created over the years. Remember: half of these guys are real people. That’s what makes being in the military so great – the chance to do something someone might make a movie about one day.
1. Captain Virgil “The Cooler King” Hilts — “The Great Escape”
The Great Escape is one of the best heist-style films of all time. It’s also one of the best military films of all time, based on the true story of a group of Allied POWs put together in a Nazi “escape-proof” camp because of their ability to escape from POW camps.
Captain Hilts of the Army Air Corps constantly frustrates guards with escape attempts, landing him in solitary confinement, or the “cooler.” Hilts is easily #1 on this list, not only because he’s depicted on screen by Steve “The King of Cool” McQueen, but also because the real guy this character is based on David M. Jones.
Jones was an Air Corps pilot who started World War II as a Doolittle Raider (the character can also be seen in “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo”), and flew sorties over North Africa before being captured and held by the Germans for nearly three years. Jones survived the war and went on to a 37-year career in the Air Force.
2 . Lt. Col. James Rhodes aka War Machine — “Iron Man”
James Rupert “Rhodey” Rhodes is not based on a real character, though having the War Machine around IRL would make life a lot easier for much of the Air Force (and the lawless areas of Pakistan too… probably).
Rhodes is the stable, dependable version of Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (In the Marvel Comic, Rhodey is a Marine). Colonel Rhodes is also Stark’s best friend and the DoD liaison to Stark Industries, which means he gets to pal around on private jets and hang with the Avengers while taking down terrorists and robot drones (that aren’t American).
3. Lt. Colonel Iceal Hambleton — “BAT 21”
BAT 21 is a the dramatized story of the rescue of Lt Col. Hambleton (whose call sign was BAT 21 Bravo), the largest, longest and most complex search and rescue operation of the Vietnam War. He was the navigator on a USAF EB-66 aircraft and an expert in signals intelligence whose aircraft was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Hambleton was the only survivor, but his parachute took him well behind the North Vietnamese lines.
With the amount of classified information in Hambleton’s head, capture by the communists would have been extremely detrimental to U.S. security. Hambleton (played by Gene Hackman, who is awesome in every movie) makes radio contact with Birddog and makes his way South to be picked up.
To communicate his intended path, Hambleton, in true Air Force fashion, uses a code comprised of various golf courses he knows. The actual rescue of Hambleton took 11 days, six American troops’ lives, a lot more ARVN lives, and another plane being shot down.
In real life Hambleton was rescued by Navy SEAL Thomas R. Norris (who was awarded the Medal of Honor for the rescue) and a South Vietnamese Navy Petty Officer.
4. Capt. John Yossarian — “Catch-22”
Alan Arkin headlines the legendary cast of Catch-22 as Yossarian, a US Army Air Forces B-25 Bombardier, stationed in the Mediterranean during WWII. He’s committed to flying the dangerous missions as quickly as possible so he can go home, but his squadron commander keeps raising the required number of missions.
Yossarian can’t even claim a mental breakdown to go home because famously, Airmen “would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he’d have to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t, he was sane and had to.”
5. Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer — “Good Morning, Vietnam”
Another real Airman, A2C Cronauer is an Armed Forces Radio Service DJ stationed in Vietnam whose DJ style is less than appreciated by his superiors but beloved by the men in the field.
When Cronauer is suspended for his style and his determination to read the news, the command is flooded with letters demanding his reinstatement. Few things in life are more satisfying than someone thumbing their nose at a stodgy old command.
Cronauer’s real-life show was called “Dawn Buster” and its opening was immortalized forever by Robin Williams’ GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING VIETNAM.
6. Hannibal Lee — “The Tuskegee Airmen”
Some points have to be added when the whole world is against you, even your own government. Lee was loosely based on Robert W. Williams, an actual Tuskegee Airman who helped co-author the screenplay.
In the film (and IRL), the famous group of African American pilots struggling to join the US war effort as capable fighter pilots finally get their chance when Hannibal Lee (Fishburne) and his wingman get the chance to protect B-17s over Italy and sink a destroyer for good measure.
7. Robert “Dutch” Holland — “Strategic Air Command”
Jimmy Stewart plays Holland, a St. Louis Cardinals baseball player who is on inactive reserve in the Air Force who gets recalled to active duty for 21 months, which would be unbelievable for anyone else but Jimmy Stewart. Stewart, whose family military tradition dated back to the Civil War, enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a private, was an officer pilot within a year, and so enjoyed bombing Germans in his spare time he would eventually retire from the Air Force Reserve after 27 years. Holland’s life is on constant hold as he is on alert status to deter the Soviets from starting WWIII. He forces a landing of a damaged aircraft in Greenland after his crew bailed out then flies new jets to Japan with a broken arm from that landing, an injury which ends both his military career and his baseball career, and he seems mildly okay with it.
Holland’s life is on constant hold as he is on alert status to deter the Soviets from starting WWIII. He forces a landing of a damaged aircraft in Greenland after his crew bailed out then flies new jets to Japan with a broken arm from that landing, an injury which ends both his military career and his baseball career, and he seems mildly okay with it.
8. Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper — “Dr. Strangelove”
A commie-obsessed Air Force General, he starts World War III after describing a Communist plot to pollute the bodily fluids of Americans. He launches an all-out attack on the USSR and refuses to give the codes that will belay the launch orders.
While the Kubrick’s masterpiece obviously isn’t based on a real war, the crazed General is based on Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who once threatened to bomb the Soviet Union back into the Stone Age.
9. Colonel Jack O’Neil — “Stargate”
Who better to lead a team through an alien-created wormhole navigated by hieroglyphs uncovered in Giza than a career Air Force Special Operations officer? No one, obviously, as Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell, with a severe flat top) takes a day off of contemplating suicide to lead one last mission to destroy the Stargate and ends up saving humanity by beaming a nuclear weapon onto an alien ship.
It’s not (just) science fiction. It’s what we do every day.
10. American Astronaut George Taylor — “Planet of the Apes (1968)”
George Taylor’s background doesn’t specifically mention his Air Force affiliation, but does mention he was a West Point grad in 1941 and flew missions in World War II and Korea, and his then becoming an astronaut is clearly indicative of a U.S. Army Air Corps to Air Force transition.
So the Air Force gets Charlton Heston (also Marky Mark Wahlberg‘s Capt. Leo Davidson from the 2001 remake, clearly identified his tribe as United States Air Force). Taylor earns a spot on this list because of Charlton Heston’s iconic performance.
Edit 5/28 2:07 pm:
Twitterati and US Air Force Pararescue Jumper @PJMatt reminded me about the 1983 epic The Right Stuff and Sam Shepard’s badass take on the legendary USAF test pilot Chuck Yeager.
@PaulSzoldra@blakestilwell So The Right Stuff never happened? You could put Chuck Yeager, correctly, at 1 (Sam Neil) and 2 (drunk in bar)
The author hangs his head in shame as both a film student and Air Force veteran. Few scenes in cinema rival the scene where Yeager is walking away from a smoldering heap, badly burned, holding his parachute because anyone who’s ever met Yeager in real life knows that’s the kind of badass sh*t he did every day of his career.
Most people would be grateful to experience any one of the occupations listed above–French Foreign Legionnaire, wartime spy, US Marine, or Hollywood heartthrob, but because Pierre (Peter) Julien Ortiz was not “most people,” he chose to immerse himself in all four.
The man who would become the most-decorated member of the Office of Strategic Services and one of the most decorated US Marines in World War II was born in New York City in 1913, to a French father who had a strong Spanish background, and an American mother.
The young Peter–once described as “tall, handsome, urbane, and sophisticated”–had many influential connections in French society and was a student in Grenoble when he decided to trade the tranquil life of a college student for something more exciting–a five-year enlistment in the French Foreign Legion. He enlisted in 1932 in the name of his Polish girlfriend.
Peter rose from private to sergeant and was offered a permanent commission as a second lieutenant–if he would re-enlist for five years and agree to eventually become a naturalized French citizen.
He refused and instead returned to the United States. Peter had, however, made quite the impression–he had fought with the Legion in several engagements in Africa with the indigenous Rif tribesmen, had been wounded in 1933, and came home with a chest full of medals, including two awards of the Croix de Guerre.
Upon his return, he joined his mother in California, serving as a technical advisor for war films until the outbreak of World War II in Europe, which–since the United States was still neutral in 1939–prompted Peter to return to the Legion in October of that year, as a sergeant.
By May 1940, he had received a battlefield commission but became a POW in June 1940 during the Battle of France when he was wounded while blowing up a fuel dump.
When he learned that some gasoline had not been blown up before the Germans arrived, he commandeered a motorcycle and returned to the area, drove through the German camp, destroyed the gasoline dump, and was returning to his own lines when he was shot in the hip, making him easy to capture.
Only the skill of a German POW camp surgeon kept him from being paralyzed.
Shifted between POW camps in Germany, Poland, and Austria for 15 months, he attempted escape on several occasions, finally successful in October 1941, fleeing to the United States by way of Lisbon, Portugal.
Debriefed by both Army and Navy intelligence officers, he was promised a commission–as he had been by both the Free French and the British in Portugal. He longed to wear a US military uniform.
By June 1942, after a visit with his mother and hearing nothing about the commission, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps and was sent to Parris Island, South Carolina for boot camp.
Predictably, his numerous French military decorations caused him to stand out in formation, so much so that the Chief of Staff at the Recruit Depot wrote the USMC Commandant about Peter, enclosing copies of his French military awards, along with his application for a commission.
On August 1, 1942, Private Ortiz became 2nd Lt. Ortiz and became an assistant training officer at Parris Island.
Then dispatched to join the 23d Marines at Camp Lejeune, NC, he was–in a decision that only makes sense to military veterans–sent to jump school, despite already being a highly-decorated combat veteran and long-time paratrooper.
Photo licensed under Wikimedia Commons
Peter’s native French language capability, combined with his French Foreign Legion experience attracted the attention of influential senior Marines, one of whom wrote, “The rather unique experiences and qualifications of Lieutenant Ortiz indicate that he would be of exceptional value to American units operating in North Africa.”
And so it was–on December 3, 1942, now-Captain Ortiz was ordered to Tangier, Morocco for duty as the assistant naval attaché. In reality, his mission was to organize Arab tribesmen to observe German forces on the Tunisian border.
In a personal encounter with a German patrol, which he dispersed with the liberal use of grenades, Peter was wounded again, and spent time recuperating in an Algiers hospital, wearing his newly-awarded Purple Heart medal.
Peter Ortiz returned to the United States to recuperate in April 1943 and the next month was assigned to the Naval Command of OSS; one of only 80 USMC officers who served in the OSS during the war.
By July, he was in London pending assignment to France. His mission was to evaluate the strength and capabilities of the local resistance movement in the Vercors area of the Haute Savoie, a region in southeastern France, and then organize and arm the Maquis in preparation for the long-awaited D-Day assault.
The mechanism used to achieve this goal was an inter-allied team of British, French, and American agents, known as UNION–Colonel Pierre Fourcaud represented the Free French forces, former schoolmaster Col. H.H.A. Thackwaite for the British Special Operations Executive, and Peter Ortiz for the OSS/Special Operations as the US representative.
Team members parachuted into France in civilian clothes, per Special Operations Executive standard practice, later changing into their uniforms: the first Allied officers to appear in uniform in France since 1940.
Peter and his teammates found a challenging situation on the ground–a shortage of money and transportation, poor security, few military supplies, and a general lack of willingness on the part of politically-divided resistance groups to work together.
In May, the group was withdrawn to England pending reassignment.
Promoted to Major and awarded the first of two Navy Crosses he would earn, Peter returned to France on August 1, 1944, as the head of a mission known as Union II, an OSS Operational Group.
Rather than engage in espionage and intelligence collection, the heavily-armed OGs were to engage in “direct action,” meaning sabotage and preventing retreating German units from destroying key installations.
Accompanying Peter–code-named “Chambellan”–were five Marines, a Free French officer carrying false papers identifying him as a Marine, and an Army Air Forces captain.
In a chance encounter in Albertville with several hundred troops of the German 157th Alpine Reserve Division, Peter and his small team were soon overwhelmed.
Aware of several recent incidents of German slaughter of French townspeople and faced with the threat of German reprisals, Peter decided only surrender would spare the local populace from the wrath of the German forces.
Following his surrender on August 16, Peter was dispatched to the naval POW camp Marlag / Milag Nord, located in the small German village of Westertimke, near Bremen, in northern Germany.
He made repeated attempts to escape, until Apr 10, 1945, when the camp was hastily evacuated and he was able to slip away as a column of Spitfires attacked the retreating Germans.
After hiding for 10 days, Peter and two fellow POWs decided they would be better off back in their POW barracks and so returned there on April 27–two days before the camp was liberated by the British 7th Guards Armored Division.
The freed Peter was then transported to Brussels and back to London, where he was awarded his second Navy Cross.
Records of the OSS indicate that Peter was actually nominated for the Medal of Honor instead of a second Navy Cross, one of the few ever so honored: no OSS member has ever been awarded the Medal of Honor.
With the war over, Peter returned to “Tinseltown,” to work as a technical advisor to the movie industry again – and also as an actor.
Peter was good friends with fellow OSS veteran and renowned Hollywood director John Ford, and played minor roles in several of Ford’s John Wayne films, including Rio Grande, in which he played “Captain St. Jacques.”
As one biographer noted, however, “He wasn’t the greatest of actors, and he never really liked seeing the movies he was in.”
He continued in the Marine Corps Reserve, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In April 1954, with Indochina heating up, he wrote a letter to the USMC Commandant, offering his services as a Marine observer there; the USMC response was ‘current military policies will not permit the assignment requested.”
In March 1955, the 41-year-old highly-decorated Marine who had already lived several lives’ worth of excitement, retired and was promoted to colonel on the retired list as a decorated combat veteran.
He was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the French government, another in a long list of awards, including his two Navy Crosses, the Croix de Guerre with five citations, the Legion of Merit with a combat “Valor” device, and selection as a Member of the Order of British Empire (Military Division).
Peter moved to Prescott, Arizona, where he succumbed to cancer at the Veterans Medical Center on May 16, 1988, at the age of 75. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery , his graveside service attended by military representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the French Foreign Legion. He was survived by his wife and his son, also a US Naval Academy graduate and USMC Major.
The wide swath that Peter cut during his life ensured that he would be remembered, at least by some, afterwards.
In 1994, commemoration ceremonies were conducted in each of two French towns where Peter fought–invited to the ceremonies were his wife, their son, and two of the enlisted Marines under his command in France.
One of the two towns, Centron, unveiled a plaque naming the town center “Place Peter Ortiz.”
As side tribute, during the CBS coverage of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Albertville, Charles Kuralt narrated a 20-minute segment on the fascinating life of Peter Ortiz. He has been featured in several USMC publications and in at least one monograph– Ortiz: To Live a Man’s Life by Laura Homan Lacey and John W. Brunner, and a 1958 magazine article by Walter Wager entitled ” They Called Him the Widow Maker–the Fantastic Saga of Pete Ortiz : WWII’s Most Incredible Spy.”
As late USMC historian Benis Frank has written, “Peter Julien Ortiz was a man among men. It is doubtful that his kind has been seen since his time.”
Did you know the Glorious Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has invented many revolutionary technological and cultural wonders? With guidance from the Eternal Great Leader Kim Il-Sung, his son Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il, and the many followers of the Great Marshal Kim Jong-Un, the magnificent Juche ideology has led to the creation of many things the evil imperialists and their southern puppets claim to be their own.
These five wonders of the modern world are undisputedly from the one true Korea, however – and the lying imperialist media even admits to the greatness and vision of these amazing North Korean inventions.
1. The Cure for AIDS, Cancer, and Ebola – in one drug
When the gangster regime of Obama tried to rid the world of the oppressed Africans by spreading Ebola, our most humble Marshal Kim Jong-Un and his scientists triumphed where the Western American lapdogs would not. By infusing rare earth elements into superior Korean ginseng, the glorious Marshal discovered Kumdang-2, which was found to cure 56 percent of AIDS patients, a number of cancers, Ebola, addiction, impotence, and many more vicious maladies, probably a creation of American capitalist biological weapons manufacturers!
In 2004, Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il graced the Korean people with his invention of a brand new sandwich called Double Bread with Meat. The decadent Western imperialist media derided the invention and stole it as they have tried to steal the pride of the Korean people, claiming it as their own. Comrade Kim Jong-Il honors us with his protection and guidance in immediately setting up a factory to produce his new sandwich. Large-nosed American capitalists swill their sandwiches with the brown cesspool sugar water swill they call “Coke” while the people of Korea patriotically drink water to be prepared for reunification of the peninsula at any moment!
3. The invisible phone
North Koreans are guided by the advice from our most divine, usually when the Supreme Leader is visiting. But when our Dear Leader (may his soul be ever ascendant with the stars in heaven), Kim Jong-Il needed to guide the glorious People’s soccer matches during the decadent World Cup games, he needed a technology that would allow him to give coaches the knowledge they needed to win the games. The guiding light from heaven invented a mobile phone that could not be seen with the naked eye. The dog of a coach did not listen to all the Dear Leader’s advice and our comrades on the field fell to the malignant Brazilian dogs, 2-1.
4. Waterproof Liquid
This most glorious invention is revolutionizing the housing boom in the glorious capital city of Pyongyang. As hapless America begins to crumble under the weight of its own ignorance, the Juche idea and its ant-colonialist construction forces use this to seal floors and keep the flowing waters of the mighty Taedonggang River out of the homes of loyal patriot Koreans.
Though Unicorns are not so much an invention as they are a discovery, the fact that a unicorn lair was uncovered the lair of unicorns ridden by King Tonngmyong, the ancient ancestor of our Eternal President and Great Leader, the wise and mighty Kim Il-Sung. The King founded his empire in the Juche Year -4912 on the backs of these mighty beasts which would surely have trodden upon the criminal regime in Seoul, puppets of the colonialist American mongrels.
6. Mushroom Sports Drinks
Decadent capitalist American athletes drink their salty poisonous trash water, Gatorade. The pure North Korean people’s athletes represent their country by the overwhelming virtuousness with a natural beverage that enhances the physical ability of sportspersons. This all-natural drink is made from Juche idealist mushrooms which will surely cause a worldwide demand for the mushroom, which we will use to tirelessly crush the treacherous southern hyenas.
In one sniper duel, Hathcock found the trail of an NVA sniper hunting him. While following the sniper, Hathcock tripped over a tree and gave away his position. The NVA sniper took a shot but hit Hathcock’s spotter’s canteen.
Trooper Billy Sing was an Australian who volunteered for service in World War I and found himself in Gallipoli fighting the Turks. Most days, he and a spotter would find a spot in the trees overlooking the enemy’s trench and then kill a soldier or two.
By the time he had amassed 200 kills, he was well known to the Turks who sent their own sniper, Abdul the Terrible. Abdul managed to kill Sing’s spotter, Tom Sheehan. Sing later spotted Abdul and avenged Sheehan. The Turks then attempted to shell Sing’s hiding place, but the sniper had already withdrawn to the trenches.
3. Simo Häyhä and the Soviet snipers sent to kill him
Simo Häyhä, a Finnish sniper from World War II who was known for scoring more than 500 Soviet kills in only 100 days. Of course, the Russians weren’t okay with this and sent sniper after sniper to kill him.
In another Carlos Hathcock battle, Hathcock hunted “Apache.” She was a sniper and interrogator who tortured Marines to death within earshot of the base that Hathcock stayed at.
After one Marine was tortured, skinned alive, and castrated, Hathcock watched for weeks for his target. He was watching an NVA patrol from 700 yards away when he saw her.
“We were in the midst of switching rifles,” he said. “We saw them. I saw a group coming, five of them. I saw her squat to pee, that’s how I knew it was her. They tried to get her to stop, but she didn’t stop. I stopped her. I put one extra in her for good measure.”
5. Adelbert Waldron takes out a sniper in a coconut tree from 900 meters.
Staff Sgt. Adelbert Waldron had a confirmed 109 kills during the Vietnam War. One of them was a stunning shot from the back of a boat as he took fire from an enemy sniper.
During the Battle for Stalingrad, top Soviet sniper Vassili Zaitsev had over 400 confirmed kills, a number he was adding to throughout the battle. The Germans also had a top sniper there, Maj. Konig.
Zaitsev studied the battlefield and Konig’s kills until he deduced Zaitsev was hiding under a sheet of metal in a pile of bricks. Zaitsev used a friend as bait to draw out Konig and then picked off the German sniper when he exposed himself.
The story was adapted for the Hollywood movie “Enemy At The Gates,” but some have called the historical battle a piece of fiction as well. The story is good, but it may have just been Soviet propaganda.
Imagine an airplane so quiet that it’s virtually impossible to hear it coming and going from the ground. This may seem like science fiction to most, but for the US Army’s YO-3 ‘Quiet Star’ scout aircraft, it was an incredible and unparalleled reality — still unmatched today.
In the late 1960s, the Army put forward a requirement for a small observation aircraft that could fly just above 1,000 feet without being detected by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. Navy, Air Force and Marine reconnaissance aircraft were too noisy and easily detectable, allowing for NVA commanders to hide their soldiers well in advance of surveillance flights, rendering such missions useless.
To solve this problem, in 1968 the Department of Defense contracted Lockheed’s storied Skunk Works black projects division to build an aircraft suitable for the job. Skunk Works had, by this time, already developed the U-2 Dragon Lady and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes for the Air Force and CIA, so designing something substantially smaller, slower and cheaper would be a considerably easy task, well within their capabilities.
According to Rene Francillon in his book, “Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913,” the aerospace company had already attempted to build something similar two years earlier using a Schweizer glider fitted with a ‘silenced’ powerplant for quiet flights. Known by the codename PRIZE CREW, this glider was sent to Vietnam for operational testing and was determined successful enough that the concept was worth exploring further.
When the 1968 request appeared, Lockheed was already well-prepared.
To meet the Army’s needs, Lockheed took another Schweizer glider and modified it heavily, using fiberglass — a fairly novel technology on aircraft at the time — and lightweight metals to reduce weight and increase endurance. The cockpit was redesigned to hold a pilot and an observer/spotter in a tandem configuration under a large bubble canopy for enhanced visibility.
Propeller aircraft aren’t normally known for being very quiet or inconspicuous. The noise of their piston engines and the propeller blades beating the air around it into submission can be heard from a fair distance off. However, Lockheed’s best and brightest made it work.
By connecting a small 6-cylinder engine to the propeller using a belt and pulley system, and by adding fiberglass shielding to the engine compartment, the aircraft became nearly noiseless, even with its engines on at full power. Exhaust from the engine would be ducted and funneled to the rear of the plane using a special muffler, further reducing any potential for sound generation.
Lockheed finished developing this new stealth aircraft in 1969, dubbing it the YO-3 Quiet Star. By 1970, nine Quiet Stars were sent on their maiden combat deployment to Vietnam, beginning a 14-month rotation to the country in support of American troops on the ground.
Before a typical observation mission, a YO-3 would be fueled up and launched, then flown around the airbase it had recently taken off from so that personnel on the ground could listen for any sounds out of the ordinary — note that “ordinary” for the Quiet Star was almost absolute silence.
If any rattles were heard, the aircraft would land immediately, be patched up with duct tape or glue, and be sent out on its mission.
Though the Quiet Star was designed to fly safely at 1,200 feet and above, it was so undetectable that its pilots were able to take it down to treetop level with NVA or VC troops being none the wiser. The effectiveness of night missions was enhanced through the use of a low-light optical system designed by Xerox, the same company known for building copying machines.
No YO-3 ever took a shot from the bad guys during its deployment to Vietnam, simply because the Communists weren’t able to detect it. With its spindly wings and dark paint scheme, the YO-3 couldn’t be distinguished easily from the darkness of the night, and by the time enemy troops realized something had passed overhead, it was already gone.
Sadly, the Quiet Star arrived in Vietnam far too late to make much of a difference at all. It was pulled out of the country and relegated to testing roles with NASA, though a few of the 11 units produced by Lockheed were acquired by the FBI and the Louisiana Department of Fish and Game.
The FBI used its Quiet Stars to locate kidnappers, while Louisiana game wardens used theirs to catch poachers.
On May 7th, 1945, Nazi Germany signed an unconditional surrender of its armed forces, effectively bringing an end to the second world war in Europe. As news spread across the globe, raucous parties soon followed. From Paris to London to Rome, over to the United States and even Canada, citizens took to the streets to celebrate the Allied victory.
At 1:10 AM on May 9th, 1945, the announcement was delivered by Yuri Levitan, the chief announcer of Radio Moscow. “Moscow is speaking,” the broadcast began, “Fascist Germany is destroyed!” (Even if you don’t understand Russian, it’s still pretty neat to hear the tone of this message).
And then things got really crazy. Despite the late hour, just about all of Russia flocked to the streets immediately. Citizens ran through Moscow in their pajamas, soon joined by the embassies of Allied Nations. Celebratory gun fire shot through the sky, as search lights illuminated the dark night. “It was impossible to describe everything that happened that day,” remembers one Muscovite. “We drank to the victory and to those killed, wishing to never see such a massacre again.”
By the time Joseph Stalin addressed the elated nation twenty two hours later, the Russian people faced a new problem: they’d polished off the country’s entire supply of vodka. As one reporter noted, “There was no vodka in Moscow on May 10, we drank it all.”
US military strategists at the Pentagon have a military solution in place to address the growing threat emanating from North Korea, but they are holding their fire in favor of ongoing diplomatic efforts by Washington and its allies, Defense Secretary James Mattis said August 10.
The Pentagon chief remained largely mum on the details of that military solution, which theoretically would curb Pyongyang’s efforts to develop a nuclear-capable, ballistic missile arsenal, except to say any military option would be a multilateral one involving a number of regional powers in the Pacific.
“Do I have military options? Of course, I do. That’s my responsibility, to have those. And we work very closely with allies to ensure that this is not unilateral either … and of course there’s a military solution,” Mr. Mattis told reporters en route to meet with senior leaders in the technology sector in Seattle and California.
The former four-star general declined to provide any additional insight to a statement released August 9, warning that the North’s continued provocations — including alleged plans for an attack against US forces in Guam by Pyongyang — “would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
Instead, Mr. Mattis reiterated that the administration’s diplomatic efforts to quell tensions on the peninsula remained the top priority for the White House.
“We want to use diplomacy. That’s where we’ve been, that’s where we are right now. and that’s where we hope to remain. But at the same time, our defenses are robust” and ready to take on any threat posed by the North Korean regime, Mr. Mattis said.
US defense and national security officials have repeatedly touted the capabilities of the US missile defense shield over the last several weeks, in the wake of a pair of successful test launches by North Korea of its latest intercontinental ballistic missile in July. President Trump has made revamping US missile defense systems a top objective for the Pentagon since taking office.
That impetus has only grown among administration officials amid reports this week that Pyongyang had built a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop one of the country’s long-range missiles.
On August 9, Mr. Trump threatened to rain down “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea did not curb its nuclear programs. In response, North Korea announced it was developing plans for a missile strike against Guam.
On August 10, Mr. Mattis declined to comment whether he was taken aback by Mr. Trump’s harsh rhetoric.
“I was not elected, the American people elected the president,” he said. “I think what he’s pointing out is simply these provocations … [and] his diplomatic effort to try and stop it,” Mr. Mattis said.
There’s a term US soldiers give to one of their own who tries to shirk duty by making constant medical appointments: Sick call commando.
It looks like ISIS has the same problem.
Documents seized last month by Iraqi forces at a former ISIS base in Mosul, Iraq reveal that, despite its ability to recruit religious fanatics to the ranks, the so-called Islamic State has its fair share of “problem” fighters who don’t actually want to fight, The Washington Post reports.
The Post found 14 fighters trying to skate their way out of combat, to include a Belgian offering a note about having back pain, and a Kosovar with “head pain” who wanted to be transferred to Syria.
Another, a recruit of Algerian descent from France, told his superiors he wanted to return home and offered two suspicious claims: I’m sick, and if you send me home, I’ll continue to work remotely.
“He doesn’t want to fight, wants to return to France. Claims his will is a martyrdom operation in France. Claims sick but doesn’t have a medical report,” one note reads, according to The Post.
Of course, there are plenty within the ranks of ISIS who are still fighting on the front lines. But to see that at least some are trying to get out while they still can seems to suggest that the USand Iraqi military is doing something right.
Iraqi forces captured all of eastern Mosul late last month, and preparations are currently being made to start hitting the western side of the city. The top US general in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, is confident that both Mosul and the ISIS capital of Raqqa will fall “within the next six months.”
After their service, many veterans find ways to continue to make great strides across the nation and the globe — from the arts to politics to non-profit organizations. One of the great privileges we enjoy here at We Are The Mighty is that we learn about and meet veterans who are doing really incredible, meaningful and sometimes truly badass things, every day.
Each year, we have the honor of choosing The Mighty 25 — a list of veterans whose amazing accomplishments suggest they are poised for major impact in the coming year.
It’s always tough narrowing those who’ve really made an impression — veterans we want other veterans to know about — to a list of 25, because for every individual selected, there are several others who could easily take their place.
Certainly, there are veterans we’d be honored to highlight year after year. In order to keep things fresh, however, we try to cover a broad sweep of the veteran community and to highlight people we think our readers might like to track in the coming year. These are vets who make us proud, and we’re excited to follow their work as the year progresses.
In alphabetical order, The Mighty 25 of 2017 are:
1. Daniel Alarik — CEO Grunt Style / Alpha Outpost
Grunt Style sells unabashedly pro-military shirts and clothing to a veteran and civilian market proud to wear pride of service on their sleeve.
In 2016 Alarik started Alpha Outpost — a subscription box company for men with curated high-quality items focused on everything from cooking to survival.
Between these two companies, Alarik employs around 100 veterans, and his businesses are packed with patriotism and personality. But more than that, they’re kicking ass — just what we like to see from veteran-run businesses. Here’s to their bright and glorious future.
2. Lieutenant General (Ret.) David Barno — Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, School of International Service, at American University
Widely considered among the nation’s leading defense intellectuals, David Barno is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who commanded coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005. He is currently a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at the School of International Service at American University.
Barno recently co-authored a ground-breaking analysis of military leadership principles that challenged decades of Army policy, and his work for War on The Rocks remains highly influential as our country grapples with persistent global conflict and a changing political climate.
Barno’s broad intellect, wide-ranging expertise, and undying commitment to a better Army inspire WATM to watch and learn from his continued impact.
3. Tim Bomke — Military Program Manager at Amazon
Tim Bomke is an Army veteran who was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart and was medically retired in 2008 due to wounds sustained in combat in Iraq. After retiring, Tim went to work on the Department of Defense’s Troops to Teachers program, as well as the Army Continuing Education System aboard Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Bomke is now the Military Manager for Amazon helping to lead their veteran and military spouse hiring initiatives. His work this year will help employ a multitude of members our community.
4. Bonnie Carroll — President and Founder, TAPS
Bonnie Carroll is one of the 2015 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions. Ms. Carroll received the honor, and is admired throughout the entire U.S. military, for her selfless leadership at the forefront of the greatest battle our military families ever fight: that of the ultimate sacrifice.
A retired Air Force Major and the surviving spouse of Brigadier General Tom Carroll, Bonnie is the founder and president of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or “TAPS,” which provides much needed compassionate care, casework assistance, and lifetime round-the-clock emotional support for those affected by the loss of a service member.
A staffer in both the Reagan and Bush White Houses, Bonnie Carroll was appointed as the White House Liaison for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC. Before that, however, Ms. Carroll’s own military career was one of distinction; Carroll retired as a Major in the Air Force Reserve following 30 years of service, including 16 years in the Air National Guard.
For her impactful, often life-saving work providing bereavement support for the families of our fallen, Bonnie Carroll has been recognized by the American Legion, the Department of Defense, and President Obama. We Are The Mighty salutes her, too.
5. Phillip Carter — Senior Fellow and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security
Phillip Carter is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security. Carter’s research focuses on issues facing veterans and military personnel, force structure and readiness, and the relationship between civilians and military.
Carter served in the Army for nine years, including an 11-month deployment to Iraq as an embedded advisor for the Iraqi police in Baquba. In 2008, Carter joined the Obama campaign as the National Veterans Director; he went on to serve as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.
In addition to his military and government experience, Carter writes extensively on veterans and military issues for Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, and other publications, and serves on numerous boards and advisory councils in the veterans and military community.
Whether it’s working with donors and grantmaking organizations to help them understand the needs of veterans, leading research that informs policy change, or convening leaders poised to make a difference in the lives of veterans, Phil Carter’s influence is large and growing.
6. Mike Dowling — Producer, Author, Veteran Advocate
Mike Dowling, a U.S. Marine and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran has dedicated his entire post-service life to his fellow veterans, servicemembers, and military families, and has become a much-admired leader of the greater Los Angeles veteran community.
Mike is a co-founder of the nonprofit Veterans in Film Television which serves as both a networking organization and a way for the film and television industry to connect with the veteran community working in it.
He also founded the LA Veterans Orientation, which helps connect veterans newly transitioning from service in the L.A. area and helped develop and lead VA The Right Way, an initiative supported by veteran, nonprofit and governmental stakeholders alike that seeks to give veterans a greater voice in the redesign of the VA and to help build 1,200 permanent veterans housing units on the Los Angeles VA campus.
Dowling served as Director of Community Outreach here at We Are The Mighty, and in 2017 is leaving to be involved in the production for a major network based on military subject matter he is passionate about. We can’t wait to see it.
7. Adam Driver — Actor, Arts in the Armed Forces Founder
Adam Driver is a Marine veteran who rose to fame on the hit HBO show “Girls,” and who skyrocketed after starring as the villain Kylo Ren in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, a role he’ll reprise in Episode VIII later this year. Driver’s impressive and growing film career has afforded him the opportunity to work with luminaries such as Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese.
In 2016, his performance in “Paterson” earned Driver critical acclaim and multiple awards. Coming soon, he will team up with Sylvester Stallone to star in the film “Tough As They Come,” based on the bestselling book by former Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee who lost his limbs in a roadside bomb attack during his third tour to Afghanistan.
Driver founded the nonprofit organization Arts in the Armed Forces, which performs theater for all branches of the military at U.S. installations domestically and around the world. As Driver’s star continues to brighten, so too does his commitment to helping veterans heal the scars of war and telling their inspiring stories.
8. Sen. Tammy Duckworth — U.S. Senator
Fresh off an upset victory over longtime Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, Army veteran Tammy Duckworth is on her way to the U.S. Senate with an eye toward giving former service members a greater voice at the national level.
Duckworth, a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot who lost her legs after a crash during combat in Iraq, previously served as a senior official at the Department of Veterans Affairs and as a U.S. congresswoman from Illinois’ 8th District. The Asian-American lawmaker has consistently charted her own political course, but with a laser beam focus on supporting today’s military and veteran community.
She’s passed legislation aimed at helping veterans have more access to mental health care and made it easier for vets to get civilian certifications for skills they acquired in the military. We’re looking forward to seeing what Senator Duckworth will do in Congress this year.
9. Ken Falke — Chairman and Founder, Boulder Crest Retreat; CEO, Shoulder 2 Shoulder
Ken Falke is a 21-year service-disabled combat veteran of the U.S. Navy and retired Master Chief Petty Officer. His first business, A-T Solutions, is internationally recognized for its expertise and consulting services in combating the war or terror. Ken is now the CEO of organizational improvement solutions company Shoulder 2 Shoulder, Inc.
Falke is also an innovator in the world of warrior care. In 2013 after Falke and his wife Julia witnessed first-hand the desolation and frustration the wounded experienced while spending time in military hospitals, they founded the exceptional Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness. Situated on a massive swath of pristine Blue Ridge Mountain land donated by the Falkes, Boulder Crest’s mission is “To provide world class, short-duration, high-impact retreats for combat veterans and their families”, in an environment “of healing that integrates evidence-based therapies, a safe, peaceful space and unparalleled customer service to improve physical, emotional, spiritual and economic well-being.” The Retreat has hosted more than 1,000 veterans and their loved ones looking to reconnect and heal after service, with all services provided for free.
Ken is also the founder and Chairman of the EOD Warrior Foundation, which provides financial assistance and support to active-duty and veteran wounded, injured or ill warriors, families of the wounded and fallen from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal community, and maintains the EOD Memorial.
Falke is passionate about educating our nation on issues regarding the long-term care of the returning military members and families who’ve borne the burden of our nation’s longest wars. We Are The Mighty salutes this exceptional veteran, businessman and philanthropist for his thoughtful, generous, family-centered and solution-oriented approaches to the unique challenges facing post 9/11 veterans and their loved ones.
10. Matt Flavin — President, Concord Energy Holdings, LLC
Matt Flavin is a former Navy intelligence officer who deployed with SEAL teams and previously worked at the White House as its first director of the Office of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy under President Obama. After leaving the White House, Flavin went into the private sector as a senior executive with energy-related businesses. He is currently the CEO of Concord Energy Holdings.
At only 29 when he became director of the Office of Veteran and Wounded Warrior Policy in 2009, Flavin was one of the youngest vets to earn a senior White House position and marked a generational shift in veterans advocacy at the highest levels of government.
Now at the helm of one of the fastest growing energy companies in America, Flavin has demonstrated through his tireless advocacy at the White House and his innovation in business that this millennial generation of veterans is poised for greatness.
11. Brenda “Sue” Fulton — Board of Visitors at West Point, Advocate for LGBT Equality in the Military
Sue Fulton is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy’s first-ever co-ed class and is the first female and openly gay person to hold a position as a member of the West Point Board of Visitors.
Fulton has become a passionate advocate for the inclusion and rights of LGBT service members, and for women and people of color in the military. She is a founding board member of OutServe which provides legal assistance for openly gay service members and is a founder of Knights Out, an LGBT rights organization.
With her combination of fierce pride in her alma mater, the branch of service whose leaders it prepares and in the under-represented groups whose civil rights as soldiers concern her, Fulton strikes us as a military influencer to watch in 2017.
12. Dan Goldenberg — Executive Director, Call of Duty Endowment
Dan Goldenberg is a Naval Academy grad, Harvard Business School alum, and Air Command and Staff College graduate. He’s also a Navy captain with over 24 years of active and reserve military experience and the executive director of Activision’s Call of Duty Endowment.
Through the Call of Duty Endowment, Goldenberg’s helping veterans find high-quality careers by supporting groups that prepare them for the job market and by raising awareness of the value that veterans bring to the workplace. So far his organization has helped place more than 25,000 post-9/11 vets in jobs that average a more than $50,000 salary.
The Call of Duty Endowment has set a goal to help 50,000 post-9/11 vets find jobs by 2019. Goldenberg and his team are poised for an aggressive push in 2017.
13. Matthew Griffin and Donald Lee — Co-founders, Combat Flip Flops
As former Army Rangers with several Afghanistan tours behind them, Matthew Griff and Donald Lee saw a country filled with hard-working, creative people who wanted jobs, not handouts. Terrorist organizations would target people who couldn’t make ends meet, so Griffin and Lee created Combat Flip Flops as a way to help the people of Kabul, Afghanistan, create a sustainable economy.
Today, the company has expanded to Colombia, Laos, and Afghanistan, and they support charities like Aid Afghanistan for Education, which helps marginalized Afghans attend school. With the help of Combat Flip Flops, over 3,000 female students currently attend an AAE school. Additionally, some revenue from certain products is spent to clear 3-square meters of unexploded ordnance from a region rocked by long-term war.
We’ll be continuing to watch how Combat Flip Flops uses its double bottom line to help make the world a better and safer place.
14. Florent Groberg — Director of Veteran Outreach at Boeing, MOH recipient
A French-born naturalIzed citizen who joined the US Army in 2008 and went on to receive numerous awards, decorations and the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Afghanistan, retired Capt. Florent Groberg is now the Director of Veterans Outreach at Boeing, where he’s responsible for the company’s support of military veterans and their families. He’s a member of Keppler Speakers where he uses his experience to inspire audiences under the most adverse conditions.
He’s also an advisor at Mission 6 Zero, a leadership development company created by for U.S. special operators.
For the past year, Groberg has been helping his peers prepare for life after the military through his partnership with LinkedIn’s Veteran Program, in which the veteran community connects, networks, and grows professionally via the powerful LinkedIn platform. A passionate advocate for the veteran community, Groberg’s every public appearance emphasizes education, transition planning and career development, all of which is inspired by the love and memory he has for those who gave their lives on the day for which his actions have been so prestigiously honored.
And for those so inspired, check out Capt. Groberg’s moving interview with Stephen Colbert last year. Many of the female veterans we know are hoping to hear him speak a little more French in the coming year.
15. Dr. Anthony Hassan — CEO and President, Cohen Veteran Network
Dr. Anthony Hassan is a retired Air Force officer with over 30 years of leadership, mental health, and military social work experience. As the CEO and President of the Cohen Veterans Network, he’s in charge of spearheading the organization’s mission to improve the mental health of veterans across the nation.
Hassan lead one of the first-ever Air Force combat stress control and prevention teams embedded with Army units during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. His groundbreaking work in military mental health and substance abuse treatment has paved the way for a variety of military medical innovations and programs.
With his work for the Cohen Veterans Network, Hassan is establishing 25 high-quality, free or low-cost outpatient mental health clinics in cities throughout the country. Additionally, Hassan continues to lead efforts to advance the mental health treatment profession through funded research initiatives and training programs to improve care within the network and beyond.
We’re rooting for Hassan’s success in 2017 as it lifts our community and improves the lives of veterans and their families.
Jaslow was previously Chief of Staff for Illinois Democrat Rep. Cheri Bustos and was the Press Secretary for Virginia Democrat and former Navy Secretary Sen. Jim Webb.
IAVA has quickly become one of the nation’s top veterans advocacy organizations, and Jaslow’s political experience on Capitol Hill and her recent military service will surely help continue her organization’s fluency in the issues facing the post-9/11 veteran community.
Jaslow is an up-and-comer and is someone we’ll definitely be watching as IAVA works to help recent vets navigate their post-service lives.
17. William McNulty — Co-Founder and CEO, Team Rubicon Global
Marine Corps veteran William McNulty is CEO of Team Rubicon Global, the disaster response organization he co-founded after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which offers veterans around the world opportunities to serve others in the wake of disasters. McNulty has worked in support of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and the National Security Council’s Iraq Threat Finance Cell. Among the vast community of veteran-serving nonprofits, McNulty is broadly admired for his success in scaling the Team Rubicon model internationally.
McNulty also serves on the Board of Directors of Airlink Flight, an international non-profit organization that connects commercial airlines with humanitarian initiatives, and on the Advisory Board of the Truman National Security Project, a policy advocacy organization that encourages the use of diplomacy, free trade, and democratic ideals to help resolve complex international challenges.
From Team Rubicon deployments with Prince Harry in Nepal to bringing veterans together with POS REP, 2016 was a busy year for McNulty, and we’re excited to see what his veteran service organizations have in store for 2017.
18. Donny O’Malley — Founder and President, VET Tv
Danny Maher, a combat Marine veteran, goes by the stage name Donny O’Malley and is the founder of Irreverent Warriors (home of The Silkies Hike) and now VET Tv, the first video channel created by and for post 9/11 veterans. O’Malley’s mission for VET Tv is to create high-quality, targeted entertainment for the veteran community that is therapeutic in order to promote camaraderie and prevent veteran suicide.
After a successful crowdfunding campaign, VET Tv is off and running, producing content “by bloodthirsty veterans and made for veterans with dark and twisted humor.” Their programming plan is laid out on their website and quite frankly, we’re subscribing to see what they come up.
19. Range15 Crew — Producers and Cast Members from the Feature Film
While some of these cast members (Mat Best, Nick Palmisciano, and Evan Hafer) have been highlighted in previous years for their successful veteran-owned and run companies, this band of brothers brought humor and in many ways a form of therapy to our community in a way that no other film has. Here’s to hoping it’s one of many to come.
20. Rob Riggle — Actor, Comedian
Rob Riggle is an actor, comedian, and Marine veteran. Riggle retired from the Marine Corps Reserves as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2013 after serving for 23 years, 9 of which he served on Active Duty and 14 more in the Reserves. Despite his growing career on screen, Riggle served as a pilot, Civil Affairs Officer and a Public Affairs Officer across numerous deployments to Liberia, Kosovo, Albania and Afghanistan.
Of his decision to finally retire, Riggle has said, “I may have retired from the Marine Corps in 2013, but you never really stop being a Marine” — a statement borne out by his Iraq tour with the USO. In the years since, Riggle has done his part to advocate for and raise awareness of our veterans, attending numerous events that support our military family and most recently, co-hosting the first Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic with We Are The Mighty, to benefit the Semper Fi Fund.
Rob Riggle’s star continues to rise. He’s best known for his work as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” from 2006 to 2008, and as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” from 2004 to 2005, despite still being in the Reserves at the time! Riggle’s also beloved for his comedic roles in numerous television shows and films. This year, we look forward to Rob debuting his own series on TBS.
21. Mark Rockefeller — CEO/Co-Founder of StreetShares
Mark Rockefeller is an Air Force veteran who later transitioned into a law career to help veterans secure financing for businesses and protect against predatory lending. Early in his post-Air Force career, Rockefeller worked on a pro bono micro-finance project in Africa which inspired him to help establish StreetShares, Inc.
StreetShares uses a combination of technology and social networking to obtain financial services for the military and veteran communities and to help veterans build businesses.
As the company puts it, “we’ve got red, white and blue running through our veins.”
As more veterans leave the service and look for innovative ways to enter the workforce, groups like StreetShares are poised to make a major impact on helping veteran-owned businesses become a larger part of the American economy.
22. Vincent Viola — Secretary of the Army (Select)
Vincent Viola is the epitome of a self-made man. An Army veteran of the 101st, Viola has a Juris Doctorate from New York Law School but chose to focus on becoming a businessman rather than practice law.
In the course of his civilian career, Viola made his fortune by focusing his efforts on the oil industry. Viola has created a number of businesses in the tech, oil, and financial industries, among others. He currently owns the Florida Panthers.
After 9/11, Viola founded the Combating Terrorism Center, an academic institute that studies the terrorist threat and provides education towards mitigating it. He is President Trump’s nomination as the Secretary of the Army.
With an increasingly tumultuous world and an Army poised for big changes, we’ll be watching as Viola takes takes charge of America’s largest service and shapes it for the future.
23. Kayla Williams — Director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans
Williams was previously a project associate for the RAND Corporation and is the author of “Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army,” a memoir about her experiences negotiating the changing demands on today’s military.
Kayla is a White House Women Veteran Champion of Change, a Truman National Security Project Fellow, and a former member of the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans.
As the principal advisor on female veterans issues to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Williams will play a big role in shaping the policies, programs, and legislation that affect an increasing population women veterans in the coming years.
24. Eli Williamson — Co-Founder and President, Leave No Veteran Behind; Director of the Veterans Program for the Robert R. McCormick Foundation
An Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, Williamson was an Arab linguist and worked with Army Special Operations psychological operations teams.
After his time in the Army, Williamson created the non-profit Leave No Veteran Behind to invest in veterans and help build better communities through employment training, transitional jobs, and an educational debt relief scholarship. Williamson was also recently named as a member of the new Obama Foundation’s Inclusion Council.
With a strong influence in the minority community and a business outlook that believes “veterans are not a charity, but a strategic social investment,” Williamson embodies the spirit of We Are The Mighty, and we look forward to many great things from him in the year ahead.
25. Brandon Young — Director of Development, Team RWB
Brandon Young is the Director of Development at Team Red, White, and Blue. An Army veteran, Young joined the military before 9/11 and served 11 years, mostly conducting Special Operations missions in support of the Global War on Terror.
Brandon is a speaker and contributor on podcasts and the Havok Journal where he shares his myriad experiences while in the service. His aim and sincere hope is to “give words to the voiceless who are struggling to find them; or the courage to say what’s really on their hearts.”
Young’s primary focus with Team RWB is to develop and maintain strategic partnerships and identify growth opportunities that ensure the success of the nonprofit’s programs. He recently handed over the Denver RWB Chapter where in the past two years he helped grow membership from 400 to 1,200.
Tucked away in a rural corner of western New York is a survivor of D-Day. It is a C-47A Skytrain — an airplane that delivered paratroopers over drop zones around Normandy on June 6, 1944 — that has the distinction of being perhaps one of the few – if not the last – of its kind still in flying condition.
Named Whiskey 7 because of the large W7 painted on its fuselage, the Skytrain was the lead aircraft of the second invasion wave in the skies above France.
“That C-47 is one of our stars,” said Dawn Schaible, media director for the National Warplane Museum, the organization that gives Whiskey 7 a home and maintains it both for flying demonstrations and public viewing.
Skytrains have a storied history. None other than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander in Europe, called the Douglas aircraft one of the four “Tools of Victory” that won World War II for the Allies along with the atom bomb, the Jeep, and the bazooka.
The museum is proud of the fact that the aircraft is a true C-47, not a DC-3 conversion. The twin-engine, propeller-driven aircraft was built in 1943, one of more than 10,000 produced during World War II.
Skytrains like Whiskey 7 were the standard transport aircraft of the old U.S. Army Air Corps but also saw service with the British, who called the plane the Dakota.
The statistics regarding the Skytrain are impressive. When used as a supply plane, a C-47 could carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo. It could also hold a fully assembled Jeep or 37-mm cannon.
When serving in its role as a troop transport, the C-47 carried 28 soldiers in full combat gear. As a medical airlift plane, it could accommodate 14 stretcher patients and three nurses.
On D-Day, Whiskey 7 transported paratroopers from the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
The aircraft was actually one of the few that made it to the drop-zone assigned to the paratroopers: the town of Sainte-Mère-Église.
After D-Day, Whiskey 7 served for the balance of the war. Missions included towing gliders carrying men and equipment during Market Garden, the ill-fated airborne operation in Holland that was the largest airborne battle in history but which ended disastrously for the Allies.
After World War II, a civilian aviation company purchased the plane as surplus and converted it to an airliner. The plane then flew both passengers and cargo for decades.
Purchased by a private collector in 1993, it was eventually donated to the National Warplane Museum where it was restored to its D-Day configuration in 2005.
In 2014, Whiskey 7 participated in the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion when it flew to France so historical re-enactors could jump from the plane.
The group also included Leslie Palmer Cruise Jr., one of the paratroopers the plane carried on D-Day. According to the museum, he was the last surviving member of his unit who jumped from Whiskey 7 when it was above Normandy in 1944.
Now, Whiskey 7 helps educate visitors to the National Warplane Museum about Operation Overlord and World War II.
Located in Geneseo, N.Y., the museum is a labor of love started by a grassroots group of historic aircraft enthusiasts who fly old war birds and restore airplanes. The museum has more than 15,000 visitors a year who come to view exhibits or attend the annual air show.
“We have amazing artifacts here,” said Schaible. “We figure out how we connect those artifacts with people and help them move beyond the idea that it’s just cool stuff. It’s the men and women and the stories behind the aircraft that make them historical.”
When the Nazi forces captured French Gen. Henri Giraud in World War II, they knew they had to put him somewhere truly secure. So they took him to Konigstein Castle, a prison they were sure was completely inescapable. He broke out in two years. In broad daylight. Wearing a comical hat and glasses as a disguise. On Hitler’s birthday weekend.
Giraud was a popular general when World War II broke out. He was a hero of World War I for leading a bayonet charge against machine guns at the Battle of St. Quentin in Aug. 1914. He was wounded in the battle and left for dead before being captured by the Germans. It only took the severely wounded officer two months to escape that time, a feat he pulled off by acting like he was a laborer in a traveling circus.
Between the wars, he upped his notoriety factor by earning France’s Legion de Honneur in combat with Moroccan rebels and holding a series of high-profile military positions through the French empire.
In World War II, he fought the Nazis in a string of battles in an attempt to keep his country free. In May 1940, he led a reconnaissance patrol in Northeastern France and was captured at a machine gun nest after a heavy exchange with German artillery.
The Nazis knew they had a problem. Capturing a general is great, but then you have to hold him, and this general was famous for being a hero in two wars and had already escaped a German prison camp once. So they took him to Konigstein Castle, a prison with on a high hill that featured tall walls, few windows, and constant nighttime patrols. The Germans called it inescapable.
Konigstein Castle looms over the surrounding countryside. Photo: Creative Commons/Fritz-Gerald Schröder
In the castle, Giraud quickly began a long-term plan to escape. He learned German by convincing the prison to offer classes. Then he stole a map and began studying potential routes and pitfalls. He also figured out a method of communicating with his wife and others through coded messages that would get past the censors. For an entire year, he slowly built a rope out of twine.
The Germans had good reason to believe that Konigstein was inescapable. Between the high walls and the fact that the prison was built on a hill, Giraud would need to descend 150 feet of wall and cliff face before reaching the ground. The twine was to help with that.