5 New skills you'll learn during the pandemic - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Locked up at home, finding some seriously creative ways to keep busy — this is your new normal. Perhaps you’re homeschooling kids or dealing with training events that are taking place strictly in the field. Whatever the case, you’re learning to take on the pandemic — and its subsequent isolation — in stride.

But that’s not all you’re doing. In all of the craziness at hand, chances are you’re learning some new skills along the way. Take a look at these hard-earned abilities that you didn’t realize you were adding to your resume!


5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Cooking and/or baking

Eating out is still possible, but for the most part, we’re eating at home. This means trying new recipes (with new ingredients) out of both necessity and boredom. Without even realizing it, you’ve tacked new recipes to your repertoire. Good job!

Appreciating the simple things

When activities were limitless, it was hard to feel settled with the smallest of activities. Now, however, that feeling has gone out the window. Kids are having a blast in their own yard, with simple toys. Adults are making due with what they have at home, and everyone is enjoying life at a slower pace.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

DIY projects

That yardwork you’ve been putting off? Those home repairs that you didn’t want a professional in your home to complete? All of these repairs and more have taught you new skills you didn’t know you could accomplish. Pat yourself on the back and remember these abilities at each base’s home in years ahead.

How to do 10 things at once

Home schooling, working from home, cooking three times a day, keeping the house somewhat clean, keeping kids occupied — you’re doing more in a single day then we ever thought was humanly possible. Congrats on juggling all the important tasks at once!

How to do without

Whether due to necessity or safety reasons, there are so many things we’re just skimping on this year. Birthday parties, non-essential appointments, that last-minute ingredient from the store — we’re skipping it all and saying, “Ehh, no big deal!” When the stakes are high, we’ve found creative fixes instead. This skill can be used in the future to help us appreciate the small things and avoid what’s in excess.

What’s your best skill that you’ve learned in the pandemic?

MIGHTY TRENDING

A World Trade Center survivor left an amazing goodbye to his family

As the Director of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, I have the good fortune of exposing cadets at the U.S. Military Academy to a number of experiences that shape their worldviews about terrorism and counterterrorism. Sometimes we even get a special opportunity to shape their worldviews on life in general.


One of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences for cadets and faculty is our annual Fall trip to New York City. Surprisingly, we have not always done this, but we started an annual trip in 2014 with the intent of showing cadets the efforts to counter terrorism in the greatest city on the planet, just 50 miles south of West Point.

In addition to visiting with partners such as the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, NYPD, and the FDNY, we always spend the entire morning at the National 9/11 Museum and Memorial.

Regardless of whether it is your first time or your 100th time, it is guaranteed to be a moving experience. I learn something new every time I am there. If you have not visited it, you should make it a priority to do so. Many cadets say it is one of the most rewarding experiences of their West Point career, and almost every cadet wishes we could spend more time there.

If you do intend to visit, don’t plan on spending an hour or two. You really should carve out the whole day. No matter how many hours you spend in this sacred place, it won’t be enough.

On this last trip, I somehow spent more time in a lesser-known section of the memorial dedicated to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On that cold February day, there was a guy caught in an elevator shaft. Thinking it was his final hour due to the heavy smoke that came pouring in, he wrote a hand-written letter to his wife and kids. He thought he was going to die. Thankfully he survived, but his letter is in the museum for all to see, and I’m so glad it was included.

It is beautiful, jarring, inspirational, and emotional. It got me thinking about what I would write in that situation. It also made me think why we don’t articulate these kinds of thoughts to the people we love while we have the opportunity to do so (e.g. not waiting until we are in an elevator shaft filling with smoke, thinking we’re going to die).

Here it is:

*************************************************

To my family, from Dad

12:40PM smoking elevator 66, 2/26/93

A few thoughts if I am fated to leave you now.

I love you very much. Be good people. Do wonderful things in your life.

Barbara – I’ve always loved you, and showed you as much as I could.

Debbie – my beautiful girl, with wonderful bear hugs and kisses. Do good.

Jeff – What a terrific person, stay well, make good decisions, help people.

Doug – My boy. Discover secrets to cure lots of the world’s problems.

I’m so proud of my children – they’re each so wonderful.

I love and cherish – ideas, people, Cooper Union (Alumnus of the Year!!), my work, my family, doing the best I could. Nothing more to say. 

Love,

Dad

12:59 very smoky

**************************************************

It is a simple letter, but I love the themes he wrote about:

“Be good people.”

“Do wonderful things.”

“Do good.”

“Help people.”

“Cure lots of the world’s problems.”

I also love that beyond his family, the first things that came to mind when he thought about things he loved were ideas, people, his alma mater, and doing the best he could.

Also Read: This was how the military reacted after terrorists attacked on Sept. 11

So in the aftermath of a seemingly never-ending political season, where we still have to sit and watch negative messages that are intended to divide us, I like to focus instead on the wise words of someone forced to maximize what little time he had left on this earth. This is what is important. Whether you are black, white, or purple, straight or gay, native-born or an immigrant, everyone can relate to this letter. When you strip everything else away, we want our families to know we loved them and to inspire them to do good in the world.

After you read it, please tell the people in your life what they mean to you, and do it as if you were in an elevator shaft filling with smoke and you thought you weren’t going to make it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The story behind the Frecce Tricolori video that has become the symbol of Italy’s battle against coronavirus

The scene of the Italian Air Force display team performing their trademark final maneuver has gone viral, so much so President of the United States used it for a message of encouragement to Italy.


Italy is, after China, world’s most affected country by the Novel Coronavirus pandemic. The latest figures tell of about 2,500 tested positive to Covid-19 and more than 1,800 people deaths. For about a week now, the whole country is on lockdown to slow down the new infections and death toll and the Italians have relied on emotional flashmobs and social media initiatives to break monotony and lift spirits.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Among all the things that have been used to boost morale in this tough period, one has really emerged as a symbol of unity: the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian Air Force display team. A clip showing the Frecce’s ten MB.339A/PAN aircraft performing their final maneuver went viral quickly reaching well beyond the (virtual) borders of the Italian social media channels.

As aviation enthusiasts (especially those who attend airshows) know, the Frecce Tricolori display is constituted by an uninterrupted sequence of some thirty figures, the performance of which requires on average some 25 minutes. Following the performance of the first part of the programme with all ten aircraft, the solo display pilot detaches, alternating his own manoeuvres with the ones flown by the remaining nine aircraft. The display, which has a more or less fixed structure, but can occasionally be modified, always concludes with the Alona (Big Wing), the long curved flypast with a tricolour smoke trail by nine aircraft with undercarriage down, performed in harmony with the broadcasting of the voice of Luciano Pavarotti singing “Nessun dorma”, the famous aria from the opera “Tourandot”.

The first time the team broadcasted the “Nessun Dorma” performed by Luciano Pavorotti during their final maneuver was in 1992 during the Frecce Tricolori’s second North American tour for the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Boosted by the experience accrued during their preceding overseas transfer, the Frecce Tricolori achieved a remarkable success with the public, flying, between Jun. 11 and Jul. 31, 1992, 14 displays and flybys in the USA and Canada. It was at that point, during “Columbus 92”, that the practice of broadcasting the famous aria became the norm: the “Nessun Dorma” was preferred to other musical pieces test-broadcasted during the displays carried out during the North American tour.

As an Italian who has watched the Frecce Tricolori perform their display hundreds times, that final maneuver that draws in the sky the longest Italian flag, always gives me shivers.

As said, the clip posted these days (that, based on the setting, was probably filmed at Jesolo, on the Adriatic coast near Venice, during one of the airshows held there in the last years), has gone viral. Some users on social media said the scene symbolized the end of the Coronavirus: the larger formation trailing a tricolor smoke encompasses the smoke trail of the soloist “virus plane”, turning it invisible. Whatever the meaning you give it, it’s the moving end of the Frecce’s display.

Even President Trump used the clip for a tweet of encouragement to Italy.

For those who don’t know them, the Italian Frecce Tricolori are one of the world’s most famous display teams. They also hold several records.

First of all the team’s size: the Italians are the only ones to fly with 10 aircraft.

Another peculiary which makes the Frecce (also known as PAN – Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale – Italian for National Aerobatic Team) unique is the fact that the whole display is executed in sight of the public. Separations, transformations and rejoins are always performed in front of the spectators, a circumstance which requires absolute preciseness in all phases of the display.

By the way: another record accomplished by the Frecce Tricolori is the fact that they separate into two formations (one flight of 5 and another of 4 aircraft) which then fly an opposition pass and subsequently rejoin in less than two minutes. Rejoin time is a factor that can influence deeply a flying display.

One more peculiarity of the PAN is the Downward Bomb Burst, a maneuver which has been part of the Pattuglia’s tradition since its creation, having been part of the Italian Air Force heritage for 90 years now. It is a maneuver in which the aircraft, starting from a high altitude and in formation, dive towards the ground and then separate into 9 individual elements which depart in different directions, finally returning for an opposition pass, at three different levels, over the same point. This is a very spectacular and complex manoeuvre, which no one else is capable of reproducing, especially due to the difficulty in opposition passing and rejoining in the very short time frames required for a display.

The other record of the Frecce Tricolori is tied to the Solo’s Lomçovak. This is a display which is typically executed by propeller aircraft, and foresees a “standing roll” followed by a vertical spin, reverse and subsequent aircraft pitch down. Such a manoeuvre is usually “outside the flight envelope” for most jet aircraft, but the PAN’s Solo pilot can execute it in complete safety, thanks to the outstanding handling capabilities of the MB.339.

The aircraft the team flies is the PAN variant of the single engine tandem seat training and tactical support aircraft. Apart from the livery, it differs from the standard model serving with the Aeronautica Militare’s 61° Stormo (Wing) at Galatina (Lecce) airbase by the presence onboard of the coloured smokes generation system; this device is controlled by two buttons: one on the stick, for white smoke, and one on the throttle for coloured smoke. The system is fed from an under wing fuel tank filled with a colouring agent which is discharged through nozzles placed in the jet exhaust. The agent, vaporised in the jet exhaust, produces a coloured trail. Another PAN aircraft peculiarity is that in order to enhance manoeuvrability along the aircraft longitudinal (roll) axis, and to reduce wing loading, it flies with no tip tanks. These are cylindrical 510 litre tanks which are only mounted on the aircraft for long-range ferry flights. They are replaced by an ad hoc wingtip fairing which covers the wingtip tank attachment points. Since 2002, the PAN also received Mid Life Updated MB.339s. This MLU programme has integrated the previous series models with updated structural features and avionics, such as GPS, formation flying position lights, a new V/UHF radio equipped with a new tail antenna, in addition to reinforced nose and tail. The MB.339 has equipped the PAN since 1982, when it replaced the FIAT G.91, a light fighter bomber aircraft which entered service with the Frecce Tricolori in 1963. The MB.339A/PAN will be replaced by the M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer).

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why Chris Kyle wore a ball cap instead of a helmet

A user on Quora asked the following question: “Do some troops really wear ball caps and berets into combat instead of helmets? Why?” It might sound surprising, but the answer is actually yes, yes sometimes they do.

It seems counterintuitive, given that a helmet is worn to protect against bullets, collisions, and shrapnel while a ball cap is…not, but enough troops weighed in with their own experiences to confirm this activity.

The reasons varied, but legendary sniper Chris Kyle probably gave the most honest answer:


5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Bradley Cooper portraying Chris Kyle in the film ‘American Sniper.’

(Warner Bros.)

“Why a ball cap? Ninety percent of being cool is looking cool. And you look so much cooler wearing a ball cap,” Kyle wrote in his autobiography American Sniper.

The late Navy SEAL is credited with 255 kills, making him America’s top sniper. He also remains spoken highly of as a leader and as a family man and friend.

He really didn’t need the ball cap to be cool. He just was.

Also read: Chris Kyle’s 10 most definitive American weapons of all time

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Before Kyle’s death, ‘American Sniper’ screenwriter Jason Hall had the opportunity to work closely with him to maintain the authenticity of the film. Here, Bradley Cooper plays Kyle in a close-quarters scenario.

(Warner Bros.)

Other vets have said that helmets limit their agility and visibility — they accept the risk in removing the helmet to gain mobility. To mitigate this, the military is developing new lightweight protection systems.

But one of the most important reasons service members will don a ball cap or beret in lieu of the helmet is to appear less intimidating to the local population. When dealing with low level insurgencies, appearing more friendly can help reduce tension and “win the hearts and minds” of civilians.

Still, at the end of the day make no mistake, in combat a protective helmet is the best protection against traumatic brain injuries and death.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 times the US military messed up on social media

Every day, scores of US military commands reach millions with posts aimed to inform and inspire: videos of valor, motivational photos, and, yes, puppy pics.

The military has codified the rules for managing these official accounts. But sometimes these social-media pros flub it — even the four-star command responsible for the US’s nuclear weapons.

Here’s a blooper reel of some of the military’s most embarrassing and dumb social-media mistakes since 2016.


5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

A still image from a video posted by US Strategic Command.

(US Strategic Command)

1. ‘#Ready to drop something much, much bigger’

US Strategic Command, which oversees the US’s nuclear arsenal, ringed in 2019 with a reminder that they’re ready, at any time, to start a nuclear war.

Playing off the image of the ball dropping in New York City’s Times Square, STRATCOM’s official account posted a tweet that included a clip of a B-2 dropping bombs. The command apologized for the message.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

The A-10 Thunderbolt is armed with a 30mm cannon that fires so rapidly that the crack of each bullet blends into a thundering sound.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook)

2. #BRRRT

In May 2018, the internet was debating whether the word heard on a short audio recording was “Yanny” or “Laurel.” Then the US Air Force joined the debate, referring to a recent strike on Taliban.

“The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10,” the official US Air Force Twitter account said.

The A-10 gunship carries a fearsome 30mm cannon used to destroy buildings, shred ground vehicles, and kill insurgents. It can fire so rapidly — nearly 3,900 rounds a minute — that the sound of each bullet is indistinguishable from the previous one, blending into a thundering “BRRRT.”

The US Air Force apologized for the tweet and deleted it, acknowledging it was in “poor taste.”

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Mindy Kaling’s joke briefly got some props from the US Army.

(imdb.com)

3. ‘I’m like really smart now’

In January 2018, President Donald Trump fired off a flurry a tweets defending himself in response to the headline-grabbing details in Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury.”

Trump said he was “like, really smart” and “a very stable genius.”

That prompted a tweet from comedian Mindy Kaling from her character in the office, with the caption: “You guys, I’m like really smart now, you don’t even know.”

The US Army’s official Twitter account liked Kaling’s tweet, to which she replied: “#armystrong”

By the following day, the US Army had unliked the tweet.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

The US Navy tweeted this image to celebrate its 241st birthday on Oct. 13, 2016, but would later delete it.

(US Navy photo)

4. Tough. Bold. Ready.

In 2016, the US Navy celebrated the 241st year since the date of its creation with a tweet that combined three images into one: a warship, a fighter jet, and a painting of a historic battle.

But the birthday message didn’t go over well with one audience on Twitter: Turks.

The flag in that battle scene closely resembles that of Turkey, a NATO member and US ally, as Muira McCammon detailed in Slate.

The Turkish community on Twitter sharply criticized the US Navy, and the Navy deleted it.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Explainer: Anger among Iranians over long-term deal with China

Iran is negotiating a controversial 25-year agreement with China that has led to accusations that parts of Iran are being sold to Beijing.

Some critics — including the U.S. State Department — are comparing the proposed deal to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay between Persia and tsarist Russia, under which the Persians ceded control of territory in the South Caucasus.

Iranian officials have dismissed the criticism as baseless while promising to make the text of the agreement public once it is finalized.

What Do We Know About The Agreement?

The pact was proposed in a January 2016 trip to Iran by Chinese President Xi Jinping during which the two sides agreed to establish their ties based on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, while announcing discussions would begin aimed at concluding a 25-year bilateral pact.

The announcement received the support of Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was quoted by Iranian media as saying that the agreement reached between the two sides was “wise.”

The text of the agreement, which will need to be approved by parliament, has not been released. But in recent days an 18-page document has been making the rounds on social media that outlines future cooperation between the countries, including Chinese investment in Iran’s energy sector as well as in the country’s free-trade zones.

RFE/RL cannot verify the authenticity of the document, which has been cited by some Iranian and Western media as a leaked version of the planned pact between Iran and China.

Analysts note the agreement being circulated is very light on details and appears to be the framework of a potential deal.

According to the text, which is labeled “final edit” on its front page and dated the Iranian month of Khordad — which starts May 21 and ends June 19 — the two sides will also increase military and security cooperation while working on joint-projects in third countries.

Iran has in recent months increasingly reached out to China in the face of growing U.S. pressure to isolate Tehran. China remains Iran’s main trading partner but trade between the two sides has dropped due to U.S. pressure in recent years.

Analysts say China is not ready to give Tehran the support it seeks while also suggesting that some of the cooperation envisaged in the pact may never materialize.

Ariane Tabatabai, a Middle East fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said, given its importance, the U.S. will always trump Iran for China.

“Iran is a small, risky market, sanctions have severely impeded business [there], and the regime is isolated,” she told RFE/RL. “Meanwhile, China has major economic interests in the U.S. and the trade war is still an important concern for China, which will inevitably shape its relationship with Iran.”

“If we look into what we know about the document and make some educated guesses, we see that the agreement is little more than a comprehensive road map based on the 2016 framework, which does not resolve the main issue of the China-Iran partnership — its implementation,” Jacopo Scita, an Al-Sabah doctoral fellow at Durham University, told RFE/RL.

Why Is The Treaty Controversial?

The pact is being discussed at a time when Iran is under intense pressure due to harsh U.S. sanctions that have crippled the economy and a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has worsened the economic situation.

The timing as well as the scope and duration of the agreement has led to increased concerns that Tehran is negotiating with China from a position of weakness while giving Beijing access to Iran’s natural resources for many years to come.

A distrust in the Iranian authorities that intensified after a deadly November crackdown on antiestablishment protests and the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet — which was initially seen as a coverup — has also contributed to the criticism of the proposed deal.

A lack of trust in China, as well as rising anti-China sentiments due to the coronavirus pandemic, has also contributed to the controversy surrounding the pact.

Tabatabai, the co-author of a book on Iranian ties with Russia and China, says the relationship between Tehran and Beijing has long been perceived as benefiting China far more than Iran.

“The perception isn’t fully inaccurate,” she said. “From the elite’s perspective, China makes big promises and delivers little. And from the population’s perspective, China has been benefiting from the sanctions on Iran, it’s flooded the Iranian market, pushed out Iranian businesses, and has delivered products that are subpar.”

She added: “Many Iranians feel like this deal will cement this unbalanced relationship.”

What Are The Critics Saying?

Criticism of the planned pact appears to have increased following comments by former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who warned in a speech in late June that a 25-year agreement with “a foreign country” was being discussed “away from the eyes of the Iranian nation.”

Others have since joined the criticism, including former conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari, who appeared to suggest on Twitter that before signing the pact Iran should raise the fate of Muslims who are reportedly being persecuted in China.

Scita, who closely follows Iranian-Chinese relations, says some of the hype and anger surrounding the agreement were boosted by public figures with political agendas, including Ahmadinejad, who is said to be eying the 2021 presidential election.

The exiled son of the shah of Iran, the country’s last monarch who was ousted following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has also criticized the pact.

Reza Pahlavi, who’s taken an increasingly active role against the Islamic republic, blasted the “shameful, 25-year treaty with China that plunders our natural resources and places foreign soldiers on our soil.” He also called on his supporters to oppose the treaty.

Twitter

twitter.com

The Persian account of the U.S. State Department referred to the planned agreement as a “second Turkmenchay” and said that Tehran is afraid to share the details of the pact because “no part of it is beneficial to the Iranian people.”

What Are Iranian Officials Saying?

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed that Tehran was negotiating an agreement with China “with confidence and conviction,” while insisting there was nothing secret about it.

Since then, officials have defended the deal while dismissing claims that Iran will sell discounted oil to China or give Kish Island to Beijing.

President Hassan Rohani’s chief of staff, Mahmud Vaezi, said over the weekend that the framework of the agreement has been defined, adding that the negotiations are likely to be finalized by March 21.

Vaezi also said the agreement does not include foreign control over any Iranian islands or the deployment of Chinese military forces in the country.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The first type of molecule that ever formed in the universe is discovered in space

The first type of molecule that ever formed in the universe has been detected in space for the first time, after decades of searching. Scientists discovered its signature in our own galaxy using the world’s largest airborne observatory, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, as the aircraft flew high above the Earth’s surface and pointed its sensitive instruments out into the cosmos.

When the universe was still very young, only a few kinds of atoms existed. Scientists believe that around 100,000 years after the big bang, helium and hydrogen combined to make a molecule called helium hydride for the first time. Helium hydride should be present in some parts of the modern universe, but it has never been detected in space — until now.


SOFIA found modern helium hydride in a planetary nebula, a remnant of what was once a Sun-like star. Located 3,000 light-years away near the constellation Cygnus, this planetary nebula, called NGC 7027, has conditions that allow this mystery molecule to form. The discovery serves as proof that helium hydride can, in fact, exist in space. This confirms a key part of our basic understanding of the chemistry of the early universe and how it evolved over billions of years into the complex chemistry of today. The results are published in this week’s issue of Nature.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Image of planetary nebula NGC 7027 with illustration of helium hydride molecules. In this planetary nebula, SOFIA detected helium hydride, a combination of helium (red) and hydrogen (blue), which was the first type of molecule to ever form in the early universe. This is the first time helium hydride has been found in the modern universe.

(NASA/ESA/Hubble Processing: Judy Schmidt)

“This molecule was lurking out there, but we needed the right instruments making observations in the right position — and SOFIA was able to do that perfectly,” said Harold Yorke, director of the SOFIA Science Center, in California’s Silicon Valley.

Today, the universe is filled with large, complex structures such as planets, stars and galaxies. But more than 13 billion years ago, following the big bang, the early universe was hot, and all that existed were a few types of atoms, mostly helium and hydrogen. As atoms combined to form the first molecules, the universe was finally able to cool and began to take shape. Scientists have inferred that helium hydride was this first, primordial molecule.

Once cooling began, hydrogen atoms could interact with helium hydride, leading to the creation of molecular hydrogen — the molecule primarily responsible for the formation of the first stars. Stars went on to forge all the elements that make up our rich, chemical cosmos of today. The problem, though, is that scientists could not find helium hydride in space. This first step in the birth of chemistry was unproven, until now.

“The lack of evidence of the very existence of helium hydride in interstellar space was a dilemma for astronomy for decades,” said Rolf Guesten of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, in Bonn, Germany, and lead author of the paper.

Helium hydride is a finicky molecule. Helium itself is a noble gas making it very unlikely to combine with any other kind of atom. But in 1925, scientists were able to create the molecule in a laboratory by coaxing the helium to share one of its electrons with a hydrogen ion.

Then, in the late 1970s, scientists studying the planetary nebula called NGC 7027 thought that this environment might be just right to form helium hydride. Ultraviolet radiation and heat from the aging star create conditions suitable for helium hydride to form. But their observations were inconclusive. Subsequent efforts hinted it could be there, but the mystery molecule continued to elude detection. The space telescopes used did not have the specific technology to pick out the signal of helium hydride from the medley of other molecules in the nebula.

The Universe’s First Type of Molecule Is Found at Last

www.youtube.com

In 2016, scientists turned to SOFIA for help. Flying up to 45,000 feet, SOFIA makes observations above the interfering layers of Earth’s atmosphere. But it has a benefit space telescopes don’t — it returns after every flight.

“We’re able to change instruments and install the latest technology,” said Naseem Rangwala SOFIA deputy project scientist. “This flexibility allows us to improve observations and respond to the most pressing questions that scientists want answered.”

A recent upgrade to one of SOFIA’s instruments called the German Receiver at Terahertz Frequencies, or GREAT, added the specific channel for helium hydride that previous telescopes did not have. The instrument works like a radio receiver. Scientists tune to the frequency of the molecule they’re searching for, similar to tuning an FM radio to the right station. When SOFIA took to the night skies, eager scientists were onboard reading the data from the instrument in real time. Helium hydride’s signal finally came through loud and clear.

“It was so exciting to be there, seeing helium hydride for the first time in the data,” said Guesten. “This brings a long search to a happy ending and eliminates doubts about our understanding of the underlying chemistry of the early universe.

SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out the Thunderbird’s stunning photo shoot

The Frontiers and Flight air show was held at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas in early September 2018. The crowd was treated to demonstrations of 70 military and civilian aircraft, including B-2 stealth bombers, A-10 Warthogs, KC-135 Stratotankers, and more.

The air show also included a demonstration of six F-16 Thunderbirds.

After the show, the Thunderbirds flew back home to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, soaring over Lake Powell reservoir near the Grand Canyon in Arizona along the way.

And the pictures are stunning.

Check them out below.


5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

The Thunderbirds fly over the Glen Canyon Dam in Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Thunderbirds fly in formation over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Thunderbirds soar over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

The squadron flies F-16Cs and F-16Ds with unique red, white and blue paint jobs.

Read more about the specifications of F-16Cs and F-16Ds here

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Thunderbirds leave contrails behind while flying over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

But when the Thunderbirds were first activated, they flew F-84s. The squadron then switched to F-100s, and then several others, before adopting the F-16 in 1992.

More specifically, the Thunderbirds first flew F-84F Thunder jets, which were combat-fighter bombers that flew missions during the Korean War.

F-100 Super Sabres, which the Thunderbirds switched to in 1956, were the world’s first supersonic fighter jets.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Thunderbirds fly over a river in Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

US Air Force Thunderbirds conduct a photo op over Lake Powell while returning from McConnell Air Force Base, Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Thunderbird demonstrations involve about 30 different maneuvers using one or more F-16s.

Read more about their maneuvers here.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Thunderbirds fly in delta formation over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

They also fly in several different formations, including the delta formation below.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

How fans are reacting to new ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ footage

It’s been a big week for Paramount’s new film Terminator: Dark Fate, directed by Deadpool’s Tim Miller. A first look was screened at CinemaCon 2019 followed by the release of official cast photos.

Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger return in their iconic roles in the film, which is produced by James Cameron and David Ellison. Dark Fate also stars Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, and Diego Boneta.

This film will take place after Terminator 2 — as if the last three films didn’t exist, which we can buy into because of time travel in the Terminator universe, but also, as Linda Hamilton put it, the last three “are very forgettable, aren’t they?” (Uhh, her words…not mine…)

Naturally, after the release of anything, the internet had some opinions. Enjoy:


Terminator: Dark Fate Footage Reaction and Review

www.youtube.com

Terminator: Dark Fate Footage Reaction and Review

Collider’s Steve “Frosty” Weintraub watched the footage at CinemaCon 2019, and speaks to Collider Video’s Dennis Tzeng about what he saw in the video above, including a play-by-play of the footage and his own excitement: “It looked epic in scale and scope. The action looks immense. It looks like everything you’ve wanted in a Terminator sequel.”

TERMINATOR footage features a fully nude Mackenzie Davis time-travel landing in Mexico City and beating the shit out of a couple of cops. This is precisely as awesome as it sounds.

twitter.com

There are a lot of “naked Mackenzie Davis” opinions, as you can imagine.

Linda Hamilton says she was initially reluctant to return to the “Terminator” franchise (Watch) #CinemaCon https://bit.ly/2ONlgYR pic.twitter.com/GRRA2L9jnY

twitter.com

Even Linda Hamilton had some blunt opinions. Respect.

Also read: That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

And then of course there are some in-depth thought pieces:

I freely admit I’m dumb but can anyone explain how a terminator can grow facial hair?pic.twitter.com/V8SXZvmrg2

twitter.com

I got you, @Yvisc:

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Ultimately, between Miller’s passion and body of work (we can all agree that Deadpool was great, right?), the reactions all seem optimistic and positive. We’ll see if that holds out when the trailer drops.

Terminator: Dark Fate opens in theaters on Nov. 1, 2019.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

I don’t know if that white shirt is in regs, tho…

(Paramount)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the Army’s plan to build a moon base during the Cold War

During the Cold War, the U.S. government was hell-bent on one upping the commies in any way possible. In the process, they came up with a number of outlandish plans, such as that time they proposed nuking the moon, interestingly enough a project a young Carl Sagan worked on. There were also many more down to Earth projects like the development of what would become the internet in order to ensure ease of sharing information among the nation’s scientists. This brings us to a project that unfortunately went into history’s dustbin — the U.S. Army’s plan to build a massive military installation on the moon.

Known as Project Horizon, the impetus for the plan came when the Soviets set their sites on the moon. As noted in the Project Horizon report, “The Soviet Union in propaganda broadcasts has announced the 50th anniversary of the present government (1967) will be celebrated by Soviet citizens on the moon.”


U.S. National Space policy intelligence thought this was a little optimistic, but still felt that the Soviets could probably do it by 1968. Military brass deemed this a potential disaster for the United States for several reasons.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Concept art from NASA showing astronauts entering a lunar outpost.

To begin with, if the Soviets got to the moon first, they could potentially build their own military base there which they could use for a variety of secret projects safely away from the United States’ prying eyes. In the extreme, they could potentially launch nuclear attacks on the U.S. with impunity from that base.

Naturally, a military installation completely out of reach of your enemies both terrified and tantalized military officials.

Next up, if the Soviets landed on the moon first, they could try to claim the entire moon for themselves. If they did that, any move by the U.S. to reach the moon could potentially be considered an aggressive act, effectively making the moon off limits to the United States unless willing to risk war back home.

This was deemed to be a potential disaster as the moon, with its low gravity, was seen as a needed hub for launching deep space missions, as well as a better position to map and observe space from than Earth.

Beyond the practical, this would also see the Soviets not just claiming the international prestige of an accomplishment like landing and building a facility on the moon, but also countless other discoveries and advancements after, as they used the moon for scientific discovery and to more easily launch missions beyond.

Of course, the Soviets might do none of these things and allow the U.S. to use the moon as they pleased. But this wasn’t a guarantee. As noted in the Project Horizon report, “Clearly the US would not be in a position to exercise an option between peaceful and military applications unless we are first. In short, the establishment of the initial lunar outpost is the first definitive step in exercising our options.”

The threat of having the moon be in Soviet hands simply would not stand. As Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson would famously state in 1964, “I do not believe that this generation of Americans is willing to resign itself to going to bed each night by the light of a Communist moon.”

Thus, long before Kennedy would make his famous May 25, 1961 declaration before Congress that the U.S. “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth”, military brass in the U.S. were dead-set on not just man stepping foot on the moon, but building a military installation there and sticking around permanently.

And so it was that in March of 1959, Chief of Army Ordnance Major General John Hinrichs was tasked by Chief of Research and Development Lieutenant General Arthur G Trudeau with developing a detailed plan on what was needed to make such a moon base happen. A strict guideline of the plan was that it had to be realistic and, towards that end, the core elements of the plan had to use components and equipment either already developed or close to being completed.

To facilitate the outline for the project, Major General John B. Medaris stated, “We grabbed every specialist we could get our hands on in the Army.”

The resulting report published on June 9, 1959 went into an incredible amount of detail, right down to how the carbon dioxide would be scrubbed from the air at the base.

So what did they come up with?

To begin with, it was deemed the transport side could be accomplished using nothing more than Saturn 1 and Saturn 2 rockets. Specifically, 61 Saturn 1s and 88 Saturn 2s would transport around a total of 490,000 lbs of cargo to the moon. An alternative plan was to use these rockets to launch much of the cargo to a space station in high Earth orbit. These larger sections would then be ferried over to the moon using a dedicated ship that would go back and forth from the Earth to the moon.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

The potential advantage here was that for the Saturn rockets to get equipment to the moon, they were limited to about 6000 pounds per trip on average. But if only transporting something to orbit, they could do much greater payloads, meaning fewer rockets needed. The problem, of course, was that this version of the plan required the development of a ferrying rocket and an orbiting space station, which made it the less desirable option. Again, a strict guideline for the project was that the core of the plan had to use existing or near existing equipment and technology in order to expedite the project and get to the moon before the Soviets.

Whichever method was used, once everything was on the moon, a pair of astronauts would be sent to inspect everything and figure out if anything needed replaced. The duration of this first moon landing by man was slated to be a 1-3 month stay.

Next up, whatever replacement items that needed to be sent would be delivered, and then once all that was set, a construction crew would be sent to complete the base. The general plan there was to use explosives and a specially designed space bulldozer/backhoe to create trenches to put the pre-built units into. Once in place, they would simply be attached together and buried in order to provide added protection from meteorites and potential attacks, among other benefits.

As for the features of this base, this included redundant nuclear reactors for power, as well as the potential to augment this with solar power for further redundancy. Various scientific laboratories would also be included, as well as a recreation room, hospital unit, housing quarters, and a section made for growing food in a sustainable way. This food would augment frozen and dehydrated foods supplied from Earth.

The base would also have extensive radio equipment to facilitate the moon functioning as a communications hub for the U.S. military back on Earth that could not be touched by any nation on Earth at the time. On a similar note, it would also function as a relay for deep space communications to and from Earth.

Beyond the core base itself, a moon truck capable of transporting the astronauts and equipment around was proposed, as well as placing bomb shelters all around the base for astronauts to hide in if needed. Water, oxygen, and hydrogen would ultimately be provided from the ice on the moon itself, not only sustaining the astronauts but potentially providing any needed fuel for rockets, again to help facilitate missions beyond the moon and transport back home to Earth.

Of course, being a military installation, it was deemed necessary for the 12 astronauts that were to be stationed at the base at all times to be able to defend themselves against attack. Thus, for their personal sidearms, a general design for a space-gun was presented, more or less being a sort of shotgun modified to work in space and be held and fired by someone in a bulky suit.

The astronauts would also be given many Claymore like devices to be stationed around the base’s perimeter or where deemed needed. These could be fired remotely and more or less just sent a hail of buckshot at high speed wherever they were pointed.

Thanks to the lesser gravity and lack of tangible atmosphere, both of these weapons would have incredible range, if perhaps not the most accurate things in the world.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

Artist concept of a lunar colony.

But who needs accuracy when you have nuclear weapons? Yes, the astronauts would be equipped with those too, including the then under development Davey Crockett nuclear gun. Granted, thanks to the lack of atmosphere, the weapon wouldn’t be nearly as destructive as it would be on Earth, but the ionizing radiation kill zone was still around 300-500 meters.

Another huge advantage of the Davey Crockett on the moon was that the range was much greater, reducing the risk to the people firing it, and the whole contraption would only weigh a little over 30-40 pounds thanks to the moon’s lesser gravity, making it easier for the astronauts to cart around than on Earth.

Of course, being a space base, Project Horizon creators naturally included a death ray in its design. This was to be a weapon designed to focus a huge amount of sun rays and ionizing radiation onto approaching enemy targets. Alternatively, another death ray concept was to build a device that would shoot ionizing radiation at enemy soldiers or ships.

As for space suits, according to the Project Creators, despite being several years before the character would make his debut in the comics, they decided an Iron Man like suit was the way to go, rather than fabric based as NASA would choose. To quote the report,

For sustained operation on the lunar surface a body conformation suit having a substantial outer metal surface is considered a necessity for several reasons: (1) uncertainty that fabrics and elastomers can sustain sufficient pressure differential without unacceptable leakage; (2) meteoroid protection; (3) provides a highly reflective surface; (4) durability against abrasive lunar surface; (5) cleansing and sterilization… It should be borne in mind that while movement and dexterity are severe problems in suit design, the earth weight of the suit can be allowed to be relatively substantial. For example, if a man and his lunar suit weigh 300 pounds on earth, they will only weigh 50 pounds on the moon.

Along with death rays, nuclear guns, and badass space suits, no self respecting moon base could be governed by anything as quaint as a simply named committee or the like. No, Project Horizon also proposed creating a “Unified Space Command” to manage all facets of the base and its operation, along with further exploration in space, including potentially a fleet of space ships needed to achieve whatever objectives were deemed appropriate once the base was established.

As to the cost of this whole project, the report stated,

The total cost of the eight and one-half year program presented in this study is estimated to be six billion dollars (*about billion in 2019 dollars*). This is an average of approximately 0 million per year. These figured are a valid appraisal, and, while preliminary, they represent the best estimates of experienced, non-commercial, agencies of the government. Substantial funding is undeniably required for the establishment of a U. S. lunar outpost; however, the implications of the future importance of such an operation should be compared to the fact that the average annual funding required for Project HORIZON would be less than two percent of the current annual defense budget.

Of course, the reality is that the entire Apollo program ended up costing a little over billion, so this billion estimate likely would have ballooned to much greater levels had the base actually been built. That said, even massively more expensive, given the number of years, this would have still represented a relatively small portion of the United States’ annual defense budget, as noted.

Sadly, considering the initial plan was explicitly to make this a peaceful installation unless war broke out, meant mostly for scientific discovery, and considering what such a moon base would have meant for the direction of future space exploration, neither President Dwight D. Eisenhower, nor the American public had much interest in even going to the moon at all, let alone building a base there.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

NASA conceptual illustration of a lunar base.

Yes, contrary to popular belief, the Greatest Generation was pretty non-enthusiastic about the whole space thing. In fact, even after Kennedy would make his famous speech before Congress and then at Rice University, a Gallup poll showed almost two-thirds of Americans were against the plan to land a man on the moon, generally seeing it as a waste of taxpayer dollars. Sentiments did not greatly improve from there.

But Kennedy was having none of it, as outlined in his September 12, 1962 speech at Rice University:

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war… But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win…

As for the U.S., as the initial glow of the accomplishment of putting a man on the moon rapidly wore off, and with public support almost nonexistent for further missions to the moon, it was deemed that taxpayer dollars would be much better spent for more down to Earth activities like spending approximately SEVEN TIMES the Apollo program’s entire cost sending older taxpayer’s children off to kill and be killed in Vietnam… a slightly less inspiring way to counter the communists. Thus, efforts towards the moon and beyond were mostly curtailed, with what limited funds were available for space activities largely shifted to the space shuttle program and more obviously practical missions closer to home, a move the Soviets quickly copied as well unfortunately.

Bonus Fact:

A little talked about facet of Kennedy’s goal for landing on the moon was actually to have the Soviets and the U.S. join together in the effort. As Kennedy would state in the aforementioned Rice speech, “I… say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours. There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again.”

Unfortunately, each time Kennedy proposed for the U.S. and Soviets join efforts towards this unifying goal, which seemingly would have seen the Cold War become a lot less hot, the Soviets declined. That said, for whatever it’s worth, according to Sergei Khrushchev, the son of then Soviet Premiere Nikita Khrushchev, while his father initial thought it unwise to allow the U.S. such intimate knowledge of their rocket technology, he supposedly eventually changed his mind and had decided to push for accepting Kennedy’s proposal. Said Sergei, “He thought that if the Americans wanted to get our technology and create defenses against it, they would do that anyway. Maybe we could get (technology) in the bargain that would be better for us…”

Sergei also claimed that his father also saw the benefit of better relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as a way to facilitate a massive cutback in military spending that was a huge drain on Soviet resources.

Sergei would further note that Kennedy’s assassination stopped plans to accept the offer, and the Johnson administration’s similar offer was rejected owing to Khrushchev not trusting or having the same respect for Johnson as he had developed for Kennedy.

Whatever the truth of that, thanks to declassified documents after the fall of the Soviet Union, we know that the Soviets were, in fact, originally not just planning to put a human on the moon, but also planning on building a base there as well. Called Zvezda, the planned Soviet moon installation was quite similar to the one outlined in Project Horizon, except instead of digging trenches, this base would simply be placed on the surface and then, if needs be, buried, but if not, the base was to be a large mobile platform to use to explore the moon.

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

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:

Humor

5 of the top excuses MPs hear during traffic stops

As a member of Security Forces, the Air Force’s version of military police, I’ve heard and witnessed many an interesting tale while patrolling our nation’s bases. Very few of those, however, even begin to approach some of the outlandish “excuses” we’ve heard during traffic stops.


These reasons range from funny and practical to downright dubious.

Related: 6 signs that you might be a veteran

Here are the five top excuses we constantly hear during traffic stops:

5. “I’m running late!”

This is a simple enough reason, one that everyone who has ever had any type of life has experienced. Often, being this blatantly honest with an MP would result in a warning and not a citation.

The causes vary from sleeping through an alarm clock to juggling entirely too much at one time to just not giving a f*ck. Regardless, “Sir, I’m just running late,” is one of the most used excuses for speeding, bad/reckless driving, and general traffic violations.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic
Honesty is the best policy. (Image courtesy of Warner Bros)

4. “Do you know who my husband is?”

Yes! Yes, this has literally been uttered to us and countless other Law Enforcement Officers. Inevitably, you’ll pull over some vehicle operated by some higher-up’s wife and they, in turn, attempt to flex the rank they think that they inherited when they tied the knot.

This can be really uncomfortable because, in some cases, that traffic stop can be much more trouble than it’s worth. This statement is also sometimes thrown at the LEO when you pull over a kid who thinks they deserve the salute their parent(s) earned.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic
You do know who I am, right? (Image courtesy of Paramount)

3. “I wasn’t speeding!”

Unbeknownst to us, the military issues some of us an internal calibration system that physically prohibits you from speeding upon swearing in. As an additional perk, this system also notifies you of your exact speed at all times, apparently.

We couldn’t count how many times we’ve heard this. Often times the offender would ask to see the speed-measuring device and ask about its calibration. If you’re wondering, this whole spiel only heightened the likelihood of leaving the encounter with a citation.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic
Radar Internal Calibration

2. “I outrank you.”

When we were young troops, it wasn’t uncommon to stop individuals who outranked us. For the most part, they were fair and didn’t cause much trouble. There were also plenty of times when we pulled over someone and as soon as they saw the lack of rank, they would try to intimidate us.

In some cases, I’d have to call a “bigger, badder” LEO to assist because the offender just wasn’t respecting my position. You’d think that in a military culture, one would be used to the difference between rank and authority…you would be utterly wrong.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic
#TBT — MPs trying to issue a citation in the early days. (Image courtesy of South Park Digital Studios)

Also Read: 6 crazy things MPs have found during vehicle inspections

1. “I wasn’t drinking.”

This really could be an entire subject by itself, as this is the first thing many offenders say. Then something like this happens (in fact, this actually happened): the vehicle is encountered, normally doing something out of the ordinary like sitting at a stop sign waiting for it to turn green.

The LEO approaches the vehicle, being greeting by the distinct smell of dark liquor mixed with three Altoids and four squirts of cologne. The LEO makes an introduction and asks for pertinent vehicle documents. The offender gives their debit card and Restricted Area Badge.

The LEO tries to gauge the level of intoxication using a pre-exit screening. The offender tries their best not to look, act, and/or be drunk. The LEO asks the offender to exit the vehicle and runs the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. The offender sweats profusely as they, literally, stumble through them.

They weren’t drinking though, remember?

popular

These badass Marines held off an entire Viet Cong battalion

In the summer of 1966 the United States was ramping up operations in Vietnam. For the Marines of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, this meant deep infiltration and reconnaissance into the Que Son Valley.

Dubbed Operation Kansas, the recon teams moved deep into enemy-held territory to observe and strike at the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong operating in the area.


This mostly consisted of calling for artillery or air support to take out small concentrations of enemy fighters. When larger groups were observed, they were dealt with by calling in reinforcements in the form of Marine rifle companies and battalions.

There was little intention of the recon Marines making direct contact.

Thus, 18 Marines from Team 2, C Company, 1st Recon inserted onto Hill 488 to begin their observation mission.

The team was led by Staff Sgt. Jimmie E. Howard. Howard had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 and was assigned to the 1st Marine Regiment in Korea.

While serving as the forward observer to the regimental mortar company in 1952, Howard was awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts while defending outposts along the Main Line of Resistance.

After his tour in Korea, Howard stayed in the Marine Corps and entered Marine Reconnaissance. In early 1966 he returned to combat in Vietnam, leading a platoon of Reconnaissance Marines.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic
Jimmie E. Howard was a Staff Sergeant when he led the defense of His 488. (U.S. Marine Corps)

On the night of June 13, 1966, Operation Kansas began with the insertion of numerous recon teams into the Que Son Valley. Team 2 on Hill 488 quickly set up positions to observe the valley. Over the course of the next two days, the recon teams disrupted enemy activity with air and artillery strikes. Howard and his team were doing so well that they turned down an offer to be extracted in order to remain one more day.

Unfortunately, the accuracy and effectiveness of the firepower Howard’s team brought to bear also served to alert the Viet Cong that these were not simply random attacks; they were being watched. The enemy had also surmised that the observation must be coming from Hill 488. Alerted that a Viet Cong battalion of approximately 200-250 men was heading their way, the Marines prepared to defend themselves.

As the Marines waited for the inevitable, the Viet Cong were creeping up the hill toward the Marine positions. Howard had ordered his men to pull back to a rocky knoll at the top of the hill the moment contact was made. Under the cover of darkness, the first Viet Cong made it to within 20 feet of the Marine perimeter. The first shots from the Marine defenders rang out. Under a hail of gunfire and grenades, the Marines fell back to the final defensive position.

The Marines took casualties almost instantly but they responded with determined resistance. Grenades and mortars rained down on their position as heavy machine gun and rifle fire covered the advance of the attackers. But the Marines mowed down the first wave of attackers and blunted the advance. The remaining enemy took a more cautious approach and searched for an opening.

Howard used the brief lull in fire to call for extraction. Before help could arrive, the Viet Cong mounted another determined charge to take the hill but were again driven back. By this time the Marines were out of grenades, running low on ammunition, and all eighteen had been wounded or killed. But there was still more fighting to do.

US Air Force

After some three hours of fighting, air support arrived overhead. As Air Force planes dropped flares to illuminate the valley, gunships and fighters made strafing runs. They dropped napalm on the advancing enemy. To say the air support was danger-close would be an understatement. Despite the air attack, the enemy was persistent and continued to charge the hill.

At one point the Viet Cong began yelling at the Marines, taunting them. The young Marines of the recon team looked to Howard who gave them the go-ahead to yell back.

Then, with the enemy still shouting taunts, the remaining Marines literally looked death in the face and laughed their heads off. The whole team joined in a chorus of laughter that silenced the Viet Cong.

The Viet Cong came again.

With the enemy still probing their lines, the beleaguered Marines relied on their expert marksmanship and a little trickery to even the odds. Out of grenades, the Marines would watch for movement and then hurl a rock at the enemy.

Intending to escape the impending explosion the Viet Cong would expose their position. Then with deadly accuracy the Marines would take a single shot, conserving ammunition and racking up the body count.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic
Two UH-1s were shot down by the Viet Cong forces during medevac and air support attempts. (U.S. Army)

A rescue attempt at dawn resulted in one lost helicopter, with a medevac waved off due to the intense fire. Eventually it was decided to bring in a Marine infantry company to clear the hill and allow the recon team to be pulled out. Reportedly there remained only eight rounds of ammunition between the survivors; the rest had picked up enemy weapons.

Howard’s steadfast leadership and cool under fire during the battle for Hill 488 earned him the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded a Purple Heart, along with every other member of the team. Thirteen members of the team were awarded the Silver Star for their bravery. The remaining four members of the team received the Navy Cross. Six of the Marines of Team 2 received their awards posthumously. The recon platoon was the most decorated unit for its size ever in the history of the American military.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US forces in Africa have accused Chinese troops of harassing pilots

Since the US and Chinese militaries became neighbors in the small African country of Djibouti, they haven’t been getting along very well.

Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the director of intelligence at the US Africa Command, has accused the Chinese military of “irresponsible actions,” telling reporters recently that Chinese forces at a nearby base have been harassing US forces at the neighboring Camp Lemonnier base.

Berg, according to the Washington Times, said that the Chinese military has attempted to restrict access to international airspace near its base, targeted US pilots with ground lasers, and sent out drones to interfere with flight operations.


She also accused the Chinese military of “intrusion activity,” explaining that there have been “attempts to gain access to Camp Lemmonier.”

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

U.S. Marines at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

(DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Lonzo-Grei D. Thornton, U.S. Marine Corps)

The US base, which opened in 2001 and is home to roughly 4,000 US military and civilian personnel, is an important strategic facility that has served as a launch site for US counter-terrorism activities in east Africa.

China opened its base, its first overseas military installation, nearby in the summer of 2017. China insists that the purpose of what it calls an “overseas support facility” is the “better undertaking its international responsibilities and obligations and better protecting its lawful interests.”

The movement of Chinese forces into the area have made US military leaders uneasy. “We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, AFRICOM commander, told Breaking Defense just prior to the opening of China’s facility. “There are some very significant operational security concerns.”

The laser incidents Berg mentioned were first reported last year, when the Pentagon sent a formal complaint to Beijing after two C-130 pilots suffered injuries.

5 New skills you’ll learn during the pandemic

A C-130 Hercules cargo plane.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued that the latest allegations against it do “not align with the facts,” adding that “China has always abided by international laws and laws of the host countries and is committed to maintaining regional safety and stability.”

Senior Captain Zhang Junshe, a military expert at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times, a state-affiliated Chinese publication, that the US has been sending low-flying aircraft to conduct spying operations near the Chinese facility.

The Global Times said that US accusations were “just the same old tune struck up again by the US to defame China.”

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information