Aston Martin and Airbus have teamed up to create a specially designed ACH130 helicopter.
The new ACH130 represents the first helicopter Aston Martin has ever created, according to the automaker.
“[The ACH130 marries] ACH’s key values of excellence, quality and service with Aston Martin’s commitment to beauty, handcrafting and automotive art to bring a new level of aesthetics and rigorous attention to detail to the helicopter market,” Airbus wrote in a statement.
“This first application of our design practices to a helicopter posed a number of interesting challenges but we have enjoyed working through them,” Aston Martin’s VP and CCO Marek Reichman said in a statement.
Keep scrolling to see the automaker’s first helicopter:
Not feeling “in the mood” when your partner is trying to get you there. Erectile dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction.
There are a lot of ways to describe it, but there’s no denying what it is. For many men, sexuality is tied to masculinity — it’s a part of a man’s identity — and not getting there can shake a returning veteran’s confidence at every level.
Despite all of the pharmaceutical ads that make the issue seem like it’s an “old man’s problem,” it hits younger veterans — even those in their 20s — at an alarming rate. It might not make the best dinnertime conversation, but there’s no shame in it. It’s a very real problem for veterans of all ages and it’s something that you shouldn’t avoid discussing with your significant other — or a healthcare professional, at the very least.
This article was created in partnership with hims, a men’s wellness brand dedicated to helping guys be the best version of themselves.
The loss of confidence in one major aspect could be the catalyst in sending veteran spiraling downwards.
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Mauricio Campino)
There are two primary causes of erectile dysfunction: There’s the physiological component that affects blood circulation, preventing it from reaching the right spots at the right moment. This aspect is most common among older men, men who maintain sedentary lifestyles, and those who make unhealthy lifestyle choices — like smoking two packs a day, eating fast food five times a week, and generally avoiding exercise. A gym membership or walking the dog an extra lap around the block can do wonders for that, but that’s a conversation best held between you and a medical professional.
The problem that hits many returning veterans is rooted in psychological trauma — and it’s an often-neglected side effect of post-traumatic stress. It seems pretty obvious when you think about it, right? Nobody wants to think about sex when their mind is still back in the war.
And, well, if your mind is here… it’s not in the bedroom.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)
Follow our logic here for a little more understanding: If you’re a veteran, think back to your days at boot camp or basic training. Chances are high that you didn’t sport wood a single time during the entire nine weeks. While there, you probably caught wind of some BS rumor about saltpeter being put in the drinking water to prevent it from happening, but the logical side of your brain knew that it was because of the stress you were enduring.
Take that same stress and amplify it by the daily struggles that veterans who live with post-traumatic stress deal with. Of course, the severity of the situation varies. It ranges from just having the occasional “bad night” that a veteran would rather just sleep off to replaying a single tragic moment over and over, like some kind of broken record from Hell.
It’s becoming a little easier to understand how common this issue really is among veterans, right?
Whatever your case, not getting your private to stand at the position of attention really isn’t something to be ashamed of. Have an open dialogue with your significant other. Ask for their patience, their understanding, and their help in getting you to relax — foreplay is a two-way street, after all.
If you’re still having difficulties, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It’s actually an extremely common thing brought up at the VA and there are plenty of treatment options out there.
If you’re interested in clinically tested medication, you can try the solutions offered by hims for just for the first month. hims will connect you with US-based, licensed doctors online so that you can find the right solution for you from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
And remember, there actually is a rating for ED that can only be brought up by talking to a medical professional.
This article was created in partnership with hims, a men’s wellness brand dedicated to helping guys be the best version of themselves.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat, twin turbofan-powered aircraft designed specifically for close air support and ground attack missions against armored vehicles.
The aircraft’s sub-sonic speed and large, straight-wing design allows for extreme maneuverability at low altitudes and extended time on target or to loiter above the battlefield.
The airframe was designed from the very start as a short takeoff and landing aerial platform for the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon, which can fire 3,900 depleted uranium shells per minute. When combined with the ability to carry the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile and laser-guided bombs, the A-10 can destroy enemy armor at close range or from a standoff position.
Redundant control surfaces and hydraulic systems combined with titanium armor protecting the pilot, control systems, and ammunition make the A-10 highly survivable in combat.
When performing forward air control missions, the A-10 changes its designation to OA-10, although it remains just as combat capable as the A-10.
Its lethal effect on the battlefield combined with the toughness to return its pilot to base even after suffering extensive damage has led pilots and crew to nickname the aircraft the “Warthog.”
Development and design
The A-10 was born of the Attack-Experimental (A-X) program office, which launched in 1966 to develop a ground-attack aircraft to replace the Douglas A-1 Skyraider.
In 1970, the threat posed by the Soviet Union’s overwhelming number of tanks along the borders of Western Europe led the Air Force to request contractor proposals for an airframe specifically designed to conduct the CAS mission and destroy enemy armor.
The call for designs stipulated a low-cost aerial weapons platform – less than $3 million per unit – capable of loitering above the battlefield and engaging enemy targets at low altitude and speed with a high-speed rotary cannon, while providing extreme crew and aircraft survivability.
Later, the requirements would be further specified to include a maximum speed of 450 mph and a normal operating speed of 300 mph in combat to enable easier engagement of slow-moving ground targets.
Furthermore, the new aircraft was required to take off in less than 4,000 feet, enabling operations from small airfields close to the front lines, carry an external load of 16,000 pounds, and have a mission radius of 285 miles, all for a final cost of $1.4 million per aircraft.
Of the six proposals submitted to the Air Force, Northrop and Fairchild Republic were selected to build prototypes.
In 1973, Fairchild Republic’s YF-10 was the winner of a fly-off against Northrup’s YF-9 and full production began in 1976, with the first A-10 being delivered to Air Force Tactical Air Command that March.
Features and deployment
Fairchild Republic’s WWII fighter, the P-47 Thunderbolt, had begun its service in Europe as fighter and bomber escort, but soon earned a reputation as a relentless and tough ground-attack aircraft that dispatched Nazi armor and artillery in close proximity to friendly troops, while creating havoc in enemy assembly areas and along rail and road supply routes. It was a natural choice for the company to name its new CAS-dedicated aircraft after its WWII-era forefather: “Thunderbolt II”.
The entire design of the aircraft revolved around the high-speed 30mm Avenger cannon. The weapon gives the A-10 its up-close tank-busting capabilities announced by the long “buuuuurp” sound that has saved and encouraged many an infantryman in dire straits on the battlefield.
Although developed initially to provide an aerial counterpunch to the mass of Soviet tanks poised along the borders of Western Europe, the A-10 did not see combat until the Gulf War in 1991.
There, the “Warthog” earned its nickname, getting pilots back to base despite heavy damage from ground fire while destroying 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and trucks, and over 1,200 artillery pieces. Just four A-10s were lost to Iraqi surface-to-air missiles in over 8,000 sorties.
The A-10 next saw combat and search and rescue missions in the Balkans in 1994-95 and again in 1999, before being deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 and participating in the entirety of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It still currently conducts operations against ISIS targets.
Did you know?
Many of the A-10’s parts, such as engines, main landing gear, and vertical stabilizers are interchangeable on both sides of the aircraft, greatly increasing ease of maintenance and decreasing operational and maintenance costs.
The A-10’s ailerons constitute nearly 50 percent of the total wing surface, giving it an astonishing rate of roll and maneuverability at low altitudes and speeds.
If the redundant hydraulic systems and backup mechanical system are all disabled, the pilot can still lock landing gear into place using a combination of gravity and aerodynamic drag. The main gear does not fully retract leaving the wheels exposed decreasing damage in an emergency belly landing.
The A-10 gained its first air-to-air victory during the Gulf War in 1991 when Capt. Robert Swain shot down an Iraqi helicopter with 30mm cannon fire.
In 2010, the A-10 was the first Air Force aircraft to fly powered by biofuels.
Fact Sheet: A-10 Thunderbolt II
Primary function: close air support, airborne forward air control, combat search and rescue
Contractor: Fairchild Republic Co.
Power plant: two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans
Thrust: 9,065 pounds each engine
Wingspan: 57 feet, 6 inches (17.42 meters)
Length: 53 feet, 4 inches (16.16 meters)
Height: 14 feet, 8 inches (4.42 meters)
Weight: 29,000 pounds (13,154 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 51,000 pounds (22,950 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity: 11,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms)
Payload: 16,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms)
Speed: 450 nautical miles per hour (Mach 0.75)
Range: 2580 miles (2240 nautical miles)
Ceiling: 45,000 feet (13,636 meters)
Armament: one 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun; up to 16,000 pounds (7,200 kilograms) of mixed ordnance on eight under-wing and three under-fuselage pylon stations, including 500 pound (225 kilograms) Mk-82 and 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) Mk-84 series low/high drag bombs, incendiary cluster bombs, combined effects munitions, mine dispensing munitions, AGM-65 Maverick missiles and laser-guided/electro-optically guided bombs; infrared countermeasure flares; electronic countermeasure chaff; jammer pods; 2.75-inch (6.99 centimeters) rockets; illumination flares and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
The Navy has announced the first carriers that will operate the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle. The carriers will be receiving data links and control stations in order to operate the UAVs.
According to a report by USNI News, the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) have been selected to be the first to be upgraded to operate the MQ-25A. The George H. W. Bush served as a testbed for the X-47 experimental aerial vehicle in 2013.
The addition of the MQ-25 could happen as early as 2019. The Navy is eager to get the Stingray on carriers in order to take over the aerial refueling mission and to free up F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for combat missions. As many as 30 percent of Super Hornet sorties are used for tanker missions, a huge source of virtual attrition.
The changing role of the MQ-25 Stingray has been in the public eye. Under the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, the Stingray had been designated RAQ-25, to reflect a reconnaissance and strike role. A 2016 report from USNI News noted that the Navy was going to seek the tanker version in order to try to address a growing strike-fighter shortage.
Later versions of the MQ-25 could be used for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission or for strike missions. The X-47 was equipped with weapons bays capable of holding about 4,500 pounds of bombs.
The Navy had been short of aerial refueling assets since the retirement of the S-3 Viking and the KA-6D Intruder. Other options for the aerial refueling role, including bringing back the S-3 or developing a version of the V-22 Osprey, were discarded in favor of the MQ-25.
The longest round of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban has ended with “real strides” being made but without an agreement on troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on March 12, 2019.
“The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” Khalilzad said on Twitter, adding that another round is possible later this month after the 16 days of negotiations in Qatar’s capital, Doha.
But Khalilzad said “there is no final agreement until everything is agreed.”
U.S. and Taliban negotiators have been attempting to hammer out the details of the framework agreement reached in January 2019.
The main disagreements are over four interconnected issues, including the Taliban breaking off ties with groups designated as terrorists by Washington; the timetable of a U.S. military withdrawal; a cease-fire in Afghanistan; and an intra-Afghan dialogue that would include the Taliban and government representatives.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said negotiators made “meaningful progress” during the talks.
The spokesman said the Taliban agreed that peace will require agreement on counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, and a cease-fire.
“Progress was achieved regarding both these issues,” said a Taliban spokesman, referring to the U.S. troop withdrawal and assurances that foreign militants would not use Afghanistan’s territory to stage future terrorist attacks.
Neither side mentioned any progress made on reversing the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with the government in Kabul. The militant group says the Western-backed government is a U.S. “puppet” that must be toppled.
Afghan Chief Executive: Foreign Troops Still Needed ‘Until War Over’
The Afghan government has been angered and frustrated at being sidelined at the peace talks.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told RFE/RL that he was skeptical of the Taliban’s motives and urged Washington to keep troops in the country until a formal settlement that includes the Kabul has been signed with the militants.
Abdullah also said Afghans were “concerned” that the Kabul government has been sidelined from the talks in Qatar but insisted it had not caused a rift with Washington.
“Unless the Afghan government has direct negotiations with the Taliban, Afghan people have the right to be concerned,” Abdullah, who is the de facto prime minister in the national unity government, said in an interview in Kabul on March 12, 2019.
“The Taliban wants to use these peace talks for political and propaganda purposes instead of using this as a step towards peace,” he added.
U.S. President Donald Trump wants to pull out the roughly 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan and has tasked U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad with reaching a settlement with the militants.
During a round of talks in Doha in January 2019, U.S. and Taliban negotiators reached the basic framework of a potential peace deal in which the militants would prevent international terrorist groups from basing themselves in Afghanistan in exchange of a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.
But Abdullah urged Washington to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan until a comprehensive peace settlement is reached between the United States, the Taliban, and Kabul.
“The Taliban wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s also the demand of the Afghan people. But our opinion, and that of the Afghan people, is that until the war is over and peace is restored, there is a need for the presence of these troops.”
U.S. and other foreign troops have been in Afghanistan since an October 2001 invasion that brought down the Taliban government after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, who launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
World War I brought a new kind of fighting to the world. Wars were no longer conducted on an open field of battle with colorful uniforms in an effort to outmaneuver the opposing armies. Wars from henceforth would be mechanized factories of wholesale slaughter, fought by men covered in mud, killing each other with any means at their disposal. But in those grim early days, it was a surprise to all involved. Like most troops, however, those fighting the Great War adapted pretty fast.
One of the weapons they adapted saw the development of their entrenching tool as a weapon of war.
They had a lot to work with.
Trench Warfare was not something the troops or planners ever anticipated, so troops were sent into combat with pretty basic weapons and supplies. The primary weapons for American troops were the rifle and bayonet, even though the United States didn’t enter the war until much later. Fighting in the trenches changed the way soldiers fought the war and thought about future conflicts. Clubs and knives became common among all troops, and British troops in particular, brought maces and other medieval devices to the fight. Americans came with all sorts of ready-made weapons, including brass knuckles.
The most terrifying but effective battlefield innovation actually saw soldiers ditching their rifle-mounted bayonets in favor of a more versatile weapon that could be used at close range, over and over, with terrifying effect.
There was way more to fear than just trench shotguns.
World War I soldiers found that using their bayonets could result in their primary weapon being lodged in the viscera of an enemy troop, leaving that guy dead but them at the mercy of anyone else whose bayonet was not lodged in an enemy. To get around this, some soldiers stopped leading with the bayonet and favoring their entrenching tool as a more effective means of dispatching someone who doesn’t want to leave their own trench.
It turns out the edges of American entrenching tools could be sharpened to an almost razor-fine edge, making it the perfect melee weapon for pouring into the German lines and pouring Germans out of those lines by force. Another great bonus of using an e-tool to entrench enemy troops into their new graves was that it was much shorter than the bayonet, and could be used more effectively in close quarters combat. As the war drug on, however, the armies of the world got the hint and developed better weapons. But soldiers on the front lines in every conflict since have always developed an easier means of killing the enemy with what was at their disposal.
If you’ve read the book Lone Survivor, written by former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, or seen the 2014 movie adaptation of the same name, then you’re very familiar with the incredible tale of survival and valor. But prior to Luttrell’s involvement to that 2005 operation, there was another well-known “love survivor” raid.
The tale of Torpedo Squadron Eight at the Battle of Midway has since become legend. All 15 of the squadron’s Douglas TBD Devastators that were sent out that day were shot down. Of the 30 crew aboard those planes, the only survivor was Ensign George Gay. The others were all killed in action.
Some people believe that this squadron’s sacrifice is what pulled down the Mitsubishi A6M Zeros that were providing combat air patrol for the Japanese carrier force, known as Kido Butai, thus opening the way for Douglass SBD Dauntless dive-bombers to deliver the bombs that left three Japanese carriers fatally damaged in the span of five minutes. This is, however, an over-simplified view.
Ensign George Gay (right) with a gunner from Torpedo Squadron Eight.
(US Navy )
It should be clear, though, that Torpedo Eight’s attack was the first in a chain of events that culminating in a Japanese loss so devastating the force could never recover. According to the book Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, written by Anthony P. Tully and Jonathan B. Parshall, the attack by Torpedo Squadron Eight came in almost an hour before the dive-bombers arrived — around 9:18 AM. Their attack took no more than 17 minutes. Gay was perhaps the only pilot to get close enough to drop a torpedo against a Japanese carrier before he ditched his plane. He attempted to rescue his gunner, Robert K. Huntington, but was unsuccessful.
The reason Torpedo Squadron 8 attacked alone was because Hornet’s air group commander, Stanhope Ring, made an incorrect guess. Waldron, commander of Torpedo Squadron 8, and Ring had often disagreed on where the Japanese carriers might have gone. This time, Ring ended up missing the Japanese carriers — flying too far to the north. Waldron was dead on target, though.
World War II’s answer to Michael Murphy is Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron, who received a posthumous Navy Cross for Torpedo Eight’s attack.
At 9:38am, Torpedo Squadron Six began their attack, launched from the USS Enterprise. This lasted until about 10:00. Torpedo Squadron Six’s attack came from a different angle than Torpedo Eight’s — four of that squadron’s planes returned to the Enterprise.
It was during Torpedo Six’s attack that Wade McCluskey, leading the Dauntless dive bombers from the Enterprise, would sight a Japanese destroyer trying to catch up with the rest of Kido Butai after trying to chase off the submarine USS Nautilus (SS 168). As McCluskey’s Dauntlesses arrived over Kido Butai, so did the Yorktown’s strike of 12 Devastators and 17 Dauntlesses, escorted by six F4F Wildcats.
Of the fifteen pilots in this photo, only one lived.
The Devastators of Torpedo Three would be savaged by the Zeros, but the Dauntless dive-bombers would turn the tide of war in five minutes, largely because the torpedo squadrons had not only drawn fighters down, but their attacks forced the Japanese carriers to maneuver in ways that precluded the launching of their own planes.
Torpedo Eight’s attack, the first in this deadly series, had set the entire sequence in motion — a sequence that would forever cripple the Japanese Navy, leading to victory for the Allies at Midway.
The AC-130U gunship has completed its final combat deployment.
The U.S. Air Force said its AC-130U, known as the “Spooky,” has returned stateside from its last scheduled deployment.
The last U-model arrived home to the 1st Special Operations Wing under Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on July 8, 2019, according to a service news release.
The 1st SOW said the Spooky will remain on alert in case troops need it for strike or overwatch downrange. But its return comes as the command gets ready to deploy the Spooky’s follow-on model, the AC-130J Ghostrider.
The 4th Special Operations Squadron, part of the 1st SOW at the base, received its first upgraded J-model in March 2019. While the command has had and operated the J-model since 2017, officials touted AFSOC’s first plane with the Block 30 software upgrade. The improved Ghostrider arrived this spring.
The Block 30 model marks “a major improvement in software and avionics technology” over the AC-130J, which has the original Block 20 software, officials said in a news release in March 2019.
“The Ghostrider is the newest and most modernized gunship in existence, fulfilling the same mission sets as the Spooky but with upgraded avionics, navigation systems and a precision strike package that includes trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons,” the release states.
The fourth-generation AC-130J is slated to replace the AC-130H/U/W models, with delivery of the final J- model sometime in 2021, according to the Air Force. Crews expect the J to be deployed in late 2019 or early 2020. The service plans to buy 37 of the aircraft.
Along with the 105mm cannon the U-models sport, the AC-130J is equipped with a 30mm cannon “almost like a sniper rifle. … It’s that precise, it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill,” Col. Tom Palenske, then-commander of 1st Special Operations Wing, told Military.com last May at Hurlburt.
The J-model also has improved turboprop engines, which reduce operational costs with better flight sustainability, the service has said. It has the ability to launch 250-pound, GPS — or laser-guided small-diameter bombs (SDB). The aircraft is expected to carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, interchangeable with the SDBs on its wing pylons, AFSOC has said.
The upgrades come as the service is looking to keep more aircraft “survivable” in multiple conditions.
For example, last year, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command publicly said electronic jamming over Syria had affected the AC-130U model, and became reason enough for getting more military data protections amid an ever-changing multi-domain battlespace.
Two AC-130U Spooky gunships with the 4th Special Operations Squadron fly over Hurlburt Field, Florida, after returning from their last scheduled combat deployment, June 8, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Blake Wiles)
“They’re testing us every day — knocking our communications down, disabling our AC-130s, et cetera,” Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III said April 25, 2019, before an audience at the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s GEOINT 2018 Symposium. Thomas, who commanded SOCOM since March 2016, retired this year.
As a result, crews began checking and cross-checking their data, including target information, before they locked on with their cannons, Palenske told Military.com.
“You make sure you’re as precise as possible, only targeting the guys we’ve validated as bad guys,” he said, referring to operations in the Middle East where the gunships routinely flew countless missions, often with danger-close strikes.
“When there’s some glitch being put out there by trons that threatens the accuracy of that, then the [AC-130 crews] have got to make sure they do no harm,” Palenske added.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Badass nicknames become even better when they have a great backstory like being bestowed by an enemy who faced the unit in battle. While the Marines probably weren’t dubbed “Devil Dogs” by the Germans, a number of other military organizations claim their nicknames come from the enemy. Here are 7 of them:
The 9th Armored Division was deployed to the northern front of the Battle of the Bulge as it was beginning in 1944. The Germans began referring to the unit as “Phantom” because it seemed to appear everywhere along the front.
2. “Bloody Bucket”
Soldiers with the 28th Infantry Division were known for vicious fighting tactics during the Normandy Campaign. Since they wore a red patch that was shaped like a bucket, the Germans began calling the division the “Bloody Bucket.”
3. “Devils in Baggy Pants”
During the invasion of Italy in 1943, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment were defending the right flank of the 3rd Infantry Division and conducted regular raids into the enemy’s outposts. A dead German officer’s diary supposedly contained the nickname for the airborne infantrymen.
4. “The Blue Ghost”
Japanese propaganda kept reporting that the USS Lexington had been sunk and kept being proven wrong when the blue-hulled aircraft carrier came back and whooped them time and time again. This eventually led Tokyo Rose to dub it “The Blue Ghost.”
5. “Grey Ghost”
“Grey Ghost” was applied to a few ships because the Tokyo Rose writers were apparently lazy. The USS Hornet, the USS Pensacola, and the USS America all claim the nickname and the story for each is the same, Tokyo Rose bestowed it on them in World War II.
6. “Black Death”
Iraqi troops resisting the American advance in Desert Storm learned to fear the Apache helicopter even before the “Highway of Death.” After the Apache destroyed their radar stations and many of the tanks and troops, Iraqi soldiers began calling it the “Black Death.”
7. “Steel Rain”
Iraqi soldiers who survived the first combat deployment of the Multiple Launch Rocket System, which can fire rockets that explode over the enemies head and releases hundreds of lethal bomblets, dubbed the weapon “Steel Rain.” The 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment soldiers who fired on the soldiers adopted “Steel Rain” as their official unit nickname.
There’s just something about two people in a fistfight that’s irresistible to watch. We can’t look away. There’s something about the sound of a sliding barstool, the rising tide of voices shouting, and the sudden rush of action in one spot that is just pure entertainment.
But there shouldn’t be any reason to stop and watch two soldiers fistfight in the middle of war.
That’s why it’s surprising that it actually happened. And all the onlookers were Americans – it was during the Civil War.
In May 1864, Union and Confederate armies clashed in a dense wooded area known as “The Wilderness” over the course of three days. More than 120,000 Yankees fought some 65,000 Rebels to an ultimately inconclusive result. Both sides took tens of thousands of killed and wounded, and the Union Army of the Potomac pushed further into Virginia.
Before anyone knew the outcome of the battle, however, one small skirmish captured everyone’s attention, Union and Confederate.
In the middle of the Wilderness, between the two armies’ centers, was a clearing called Saunders Field. Being the only real clearing in the area between two opposing armies meant that it was full of artillery shells and the holes made by those shells, along with bullets. Just tons of and tons of bullets.
As the two sides clashed near a gully in the field, a Union soldier hid there to avoid being captured by the enemy. Then a Confederate soldier threw himself into the gully to avoid the hail of Union bullets coming toward him. They were the only two in the gully and didn’t even see one another.
Until they did see one another. And then they started “bantering” to one another.
Eventually the two had enough of one another and decided to take it outside…of the gully. They stepped into the road for a good ol’ fashioned “fist and skull fight.” Whoever won would take the other as prisoner.
They were halfway between both sides of the battle, in full view of everyone in each opposing army. And the men in each of those armies stopped fighting the Civil War to watch a fistfight. All the other soldiers even ran up to get a better view of the fight.
Did I mention the Civil War stopped to watch this fight?
The account, written by a cavalryman of the Virginia Infantry, doesn’t mention how long the fight lasted, only that “Johnny [Reb] soon had the Yank down.” The Union soldier, true to his word, surrendered. They both returned to the gully, fighting resumed, and the man was taken back to Confederate lines.
The opening scenes of Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn introduce viewers to a charismatic and devoted father deep in the joys of parenthood. Crawling on the floor, swimming and blowing out birthday candles with his toddler and infant sons, he is right where he should be. Until the day he isn’t. Through interviews, reports and a thoroughly researched investigation, the filmmaker poses some incriminating questions.
Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Was it the mechanic who told him his helicopter was cleared for flight two hours before it slammed tail-first into the ocean? Was it the manufacturer who produced the faulty wiring blamed for the explosion? Was it the upper ranks of the Navy who disregarded multiple letters of concern purportedly choosing flight hours over safety? How about the Congressional and Executive branches of our government that teamed up with arms manufacturers and focused on new bloated defense contracts instead of investing in the people and machinery already in place?
Van Dorn’s wife, Nicole, living in the shadow of her husband’s unnecessary death, is on a mission to find out. Catalyzed by her and others’ search for answers, this gripping 2018 documentary investigates events leading up to Navy lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn’s death one month before his 30th birthday. His untimely demise occurred during a training exercise when an explosion killing three of the five crewmen aboard caused the crash-prone helicopter to fall from the sky into frigid waters below. Van Dorn was not the only one who had expressed concerns about the safety of this aircraft, nor was he the only one to die in it as a result of misguided leadership and mechanical failure.
Written, directed, and narrated by Zachary Stauffer as his first feature documentary, this film offers a sobering look into chronic institutional failings that have resulted in 132 arguably preventable deaths. Diving unforgivably into one family’s agonizing loss, Stauffer invites us to ponder heavy questions while constructing a wall of outrage in his viewers. What is the price of a life? How many lives does it take before change takes place? When will avarice and the “just get ‘er done” attitude stop undermining the American defense establishment?
Built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the MH-53E Sea Dragon is the Navy’s nearly identical version of the Marine Corps’ CH-53-E Super Stallion. Since entering service in 1986, it has never succumbed to enemy fire but holds the worst safety record in the Navy’s fleet making it the deadliest aircraft in military history. The 53-E is a powerful machine used by the Navy for dragging heavy equipment through water to sweep for mines while the Marine version is used for transporting people and gear.
Stauffer explains that due to issues with these aircraft that cropped up even in their initial test flights at the manufacturer and in training missions, the Navy tried to get away with using less powerful helicopters and alternate minesweeping tactics but nothing was as effective as the relic Sea Dragon. Since they were fated to be replaced at some point, the higher ranks avoided investing too much into them so funding for spare parts and maintenance was lean. Members of Congress allegedly chose the path of greed and corruption when defense contractors offered them flashy new weaponry and vehicles as well as comfortable retirement packages. The upper echelons flourished while those training, fighting, and dying on the ground, as well as the American taxpayers, suffered needlessly as top-down decision makers claimed their hands were tied.
With fewer and fewer resources, those maintaining the Sea Dragon had to do more with less. They began cutting corners and developing bad habits. When voicing their worries in person or through over a dozen letters and memos to the upper ranks, they were “belittled, humiliated and cut down,” as one pilot explained. More than 30 years before Van Dorn’s crash, Sikorsky recommended replacing the faulty Kapton wires on all Navy aircraft. This was suggested not once, not twice, but three times before the Navy decided to start looking into the issue. Eventually they named Kapton as the highest ranked safety risk in the fleet and devised a long-term plan to replace it in phases but claimed to never have enough funding to refit all the wiring in the 53s. Only months prior to Van Dorn’s crash the Pentagon re-budgeted funding away from this critical project. Thus, problems that had been escalating over decades while the issue was known and actively overlooked perpetuated, yet the birds were still allowed to fly.
By the time Van Dorn signed on the dotted line in 2010, the run-down helicopters that required about 40 hours of maintenance for a single hour of flight time should have been retired. He and his wife made the decision together to request a spot in the squadron flying 53s because others told them it was an ideal position for a family man who wanted to be home for dinner every night.
Van Dorn was one of those who voiced his opinions about the safety of this aircraft. In an ominous voice recording foreshadowing his own death, he stated “If anyone should care about what’s happening on that aircraft, it should be me and the other pilots, I think. It makes sense to me, because I’m the one who’s going to get in it and have something terrible happen if it doesn’t go right.” His wife Nicole later explained that, “He felt that no matter what he said or what he wrote or who he complained to, nothing was changing.”
On a particularly cold morning in January 2014, Van Dorn’s own portentous sentiments were realized 18 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Chafing from a single nylon zip tie exposed naked wiring to a fine spray of fuel causing it to arc, sending a blast of fire into the cockpit. Hours later Nicole lay on her husband’s chest just before they pronounced him dead.
Dylan Boone, a Naval aircrewman and one of two survivors of the wreck declared, “You don’t expect to give up your life for this country because you were given faulty equipment.”
Dynamic cinematography combined with a subtly haunting score by composer William Ryan Fritch creates the backdrop for this solid investigative report. Crisp and flowing visuals paired with thrilling military footage complement the feelings portrayed by those interviewed. These primary sources include Van Dorn’s mother, wife, friends, and fellow airmen as well as a mechanic, pilots, a general, a Pentagon Analyst and a military reporter. Throughout the documentary they and the narrator explain the multifaceted issues connected to Van Dorn’s death and the trouble with the 53s from a variety of angles.
Woven skillfully together, a poignant story is told of decades of negligence that continues to result in tragedy. Wholesome home movies of a young involved father raising two sons with his lovely wife are contrasted with the aching void ripped into the Van Dorn family’s home after his death. Stirring visions of military life ignite the urge to join in viewers who have ever felt compelled to do so, whereas the deep frustration of stifled dreams and a scarred body and soul are almost tangible to someone who has been there before as hard truths are drawn out throughout the film.
Centering on the death of a handsome, beloved father, husband and seaman who was liked by all humanized an issue that might have otherwise been unrelatable. Utilizing the audience’s heartstrings as a focal point was a powerful way to bring attention to a predicament that could have been swept under the rug. Despite the fact that the C-53 airframes experienced serious accidents more than twice as often as the average aircraft and that internal investigations were performed with alarming results, the Navy continues to risk its servicemembers’ life and limb to keep these helicopters performing their critical mission in the air. With this in mind, this documentary might just put enough pressure on the Navy to make the changes necessary to save an untold number of lives.
Winner of the Audience Award in Active Cinema at the 2018 Mill Valley Film Festival, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is an intriguing and effective piece of military reporting presented in comprehensible terms for the layman. It is a successful examination of not only the serious failings of a controversial aircraft and the misled priorities keeping it aloft, but also hints toward the fact that anyone who brings up the disturbing issue of safety of these helicopters will be forced out of service. I would recommend this professional-level documentary, especially to anyone with interests in the military or national defense.
The Navy, the Pentagon, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin declined to participate in this well-researched film. Major funding to make this documentary possible was provided by supporters of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Investigative Studios.
After viewing this film, you can decide for yourself who killed Lt. Van Dorn. Regardless of the answer, his unwarranted death will not have been completely in vain if it successfully carries out his final mission: righting the deep and longstanding problems with the CH-53 helicopters, thus preventing the death and destruction of countless others just as it ultimately took him.
The U.S. Coast Guard has an under-recognized place in World War II history, fighting German spies before the U.S. entered the war and immediately taking on convoy escort duties, weather patrols, and anti-submarine missions after America declared war on the Axis Powers. One of the Coast Guard crews that bravely shouldered the load was the USCGC Campbell which, in icy Atlantic waters, took bold action to finish off a German U-boat that attempted to attack it.
Crewmembers of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell pose with their mascot, Sinbad, in World War II.
(U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office)
The Campbell was part of a class of 327-foot Coast Guard cutters specially designed for high-speed service on the high seas. It spent much of World War II protecting convoys and, in February 1943, was one of the escorts for Convoy ON-166. This was before the bulk of German submarines were chased from the Atlantic in “Black May,” and the wolf packs were on the prowl to cut off supplies to Europe and starve Britain into submission.
The Campbell’s involvement started with rescuing 50 merchant mariners from the water. It had to dodge a German torpedo during the rescue, and then it pressed the attack against U-753, heavily damaging it and forcing its withdrawal. It spent the rest of the night driving off German U-boats until it finally attempted to get back to the convoy.
Crewmembers load a Mk. VII depth charge onto the HMS Dianthus, another escort of ON-166, during World War II.
(Imperial War Museums)
In the pre-dawn darkness, Campbell was 40 miles behind the convoy, essentially alone and attempting to catch up and help kill more German submarines. But then a shape emerged from the inky blackness. U-606 was bringing the fight to the Campbell and attempting to engage it before it could meet up with the convoy.
U-606 had three kills to its name, including two ships of ON-166. But it had been damaged while sinking those earlier ships, and attacking the Campbell was a greedy and potentially risky move. Attacking from the surface exposed its position to the American crew and would allow the Campbell to employ its gun crews as well as depth charges.
When the Campbell spotted the sub, it went one step further. Cmdr. James A. Hirshfield ordered a ramming maneuver, swinging the ship about to slam its hull against the submarine.
The Campbell’s bold maneuver came at a cost, though, as the side plating ruptured and salt water began to pour in. Cmdr. Kenneth K. Cowart supervised damage control while also helping to ensure that sufficient engine power was on hand for the continued maneuvering and fighting.
Meanwhile, on the deck, the men controlling the depth charges had managed to drop two during the ram, damaging U-606 further. And deck gun crews began pouring fire onto the stricken sub, attempting to disable or kill it before it could unleash its own deadly barrage against the cutter.
In this melee, an all-Black gun crew of a three-inch gun battery distinguished itself for bravery, accurately concentrating its damage on the sub’s deck and conning tower.
He led the remaining crew through four days of damage control without engine power before finally receiving a tow back to port for repairs. The Campbell survived the war. Hirshfield received the Navy Cross for his actions, and Cowart and Cmdr. Bret H. Brallier received Silver Stars for their parts in saving the cutter.
Louis Etheridge, the man who led that all-Black gun crew on the three-inch battery, later received a Bronze Star for his work that February.
The Far Cry video game series has always gone above and beyond in placing the player in a beautiful, open world and pitting them against a cunning and well-written antagonist. The graphics in the most recent installment are as crisp as you’d expect from the series, the gameplay is phenomenal, and plenty of critics are already singing its praise, but what sets this game apart from every other shooter is the storyline.
This time around, instead of exploring some scenic island fighting against drug-running pirates or a prehistoric valley against neanderthals, Far Cry 5 pits the player against deranged cult in a fictional county of Montana.
You play as a Sheriff’s deputy tasked with arresting Joseph Seed, a cult leader who is a mix of David Koresh, Jim Jones, and a hipster douchebag. There’s a palpable eeriness as you walk through his church’s compound and Joseph is seemingly compliant at first. He lets you handcuff him before saying, “you’ll never arrest me.” As you make your way back to the helicopter, one of his followers hurls himself into the propellers, allowing Seed to escape back to his followers, kicking off the game.
The player is then saved by the first of many veterans you’ll encounter in the game, Dutch. He’s a loner Vietnam veteran who has shut himself off in a bunker while the world goes to sh*t outside. Inside his bunker, you’ll find plenty of little references to real-life military units, like an homage to the 82nd Airborne patch (the “AA” has been replaced by the number “82” in the same style) and a patch that’s the shape of the 101st, but with the XVIII Corps’ dragon.
He offers to help you out and gives you something to wear something other than your uniform, which includes (and I’m not making this up) some 5.11 gear.
The next veteran who helps you out is Pastor Jerome Jeffries, a Gulf War veteran turned Catholic priest. He’s holed up in his church with the few citizens who haven’t been indoctrinated by the cult. While there, you set up a resistance to buy time until the National Guard can come reinforce. You must band together with the rag-tag group of remaining people to take down Seed and his followers.
Which brings you to the third main veteran in the storyline, Grace Armstrong, a U.S. Army sniper who deployed to Afghanistan. She’s one of the characters that fights alongside you throughout the game, providing fire support from a good distance.
Though his veteran status remains unknown, you’ll also come across a companion named Boomer. Boomer’s a dog who, if he gets hurt, can be healed with a nice belly rub. It’s the little things in this game that make it amazing.