Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

Not many remember the Australians’ commitment to aiding the United States in Vietnam, but the Aussies were there, and they sent their best. Australia’s best troops included their very own Special Air Service, special operators in the mold of Britain’s SAS, formidable fighters capable of bringing the enemy’s method of irregular warfare right back home to Hanoi.

The Aussies weren’t content with the M-16, for a number of reasons, so they opted instead to do a little frontier mechanical work on their weapons. The end product became known as “The Bitch.”


Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

When you want to use an M-16 but your standards are higher.

When the M-16 first took over for the M-1 Garand as a standard-issue infantry weapon, the result was less than stellar. It jammed. A lot. Frustrated troops began leaving their M-16s at home and using AK-47s captured from the enemy instead. The Aussies preferred a weapon that worked. Even after the weapon was updated to fix its issues, the Australians still opted for a different solution. They liked how handy the M-16 could be, but they wanted the stopping power of a 7.62 round.

But the barrel of the S1A2 self-loading rifle was so heavy… what to do?

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

“Cor, mate… I ‘ave an idea…”

The Australian special operators lopped that heavy barrel and its tripod off at the end of the gas block. Then, the MacGuyvers from Down Under fashioned special flash suppressors for the new muzzle for those who wanted it. For those who didn’t, they just left the weapon without any kind of suppression at all. The new, shorter barrel was louder and produced a much bigger bang for the buck.

They wanted the Communists to know who was pulling the triggers and raining death on their Ho Chi Minh Trail parade. If that weren’t enough, sometimes the operators would put a pistol grip on the end so they could control the weapons in fully automatic settings. Others preferred a grenade launcher attachment.

Fun was had by all.

Humor

That time a US hacker hijacked North Korean propaganda to play ‘the Final Countdown’

A socially conscious hacker known as “The Jester” put one over on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recently. To add to his long list of hilarious practical jokes with a social-conscious message, the hacktivist hijacked a propaganda-laden North Korean shortwave radio station.


His request? “The Final Countdown” by the 80s one-hit-wonder Swedish rock band, Europe.

(EuropeVEVO | YouTube)

He announced the feat through his Twitter account. In the past, The Jester has taken on jihadist websites, notably ISIS. He even retaliated against the Russian Foreign Ministry for attacking American targets, defacing their website with the message:

Comrades! We interrupt regular scheduled Russian Foreign Affairs Website programming to bring you the following important message,” he wrote. “Knock it off. You may be able to push around nations around you, but this is America. Nobody is impressed.

While no one knows who he is, The Jester is a self-proclaimed patriot hacker, who thinks Anonymous is a bunch of “blowhards” whose work amounts to a “hill of beans.” Evidence in The Jester’s work makes people believe he is either a military veteran or former military contractor — he even leaves a calling card for his work: “Tango Down.”

Either way, he’s on our side.

 

The North Korean radio station hit by The Jester is used to broadcast coded messages and often used as a warning post for outside media before the regime does something provocative. It also re-broadcasts programming from the appropriately-named Pyongyang Broadcasting Station… aka “Pyongyang BS.”

Articles

The Army is using this FPS video game to help design its weapons of the future

The Army is currently seeking soldiers to provide feedback through online gameplay in order to contribute to the development of the future force.


Operation Overmatch is a gaming environment within the Early Synthetic Prototyping effort. Its purpose is to connect soldiers to inform concept and capability developers, scientists and engineers across the Army.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam
(Photo from U.S. Army)

“What we want is two-way communication, and what better medium to use than video games,” said Army Lt. Col. Brian Vogt, ESP project lead with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capabilities Integration Center.

Through a collaborative effort between TRADOC, U.S. Army Research and Development Command and Army Game Studio, Operation Overmatch was created to encourage soldier innovation through crowd-sourcing ideas within a synthetic environment.

“Soldiers have the advantage of understanding how equipment, doctrine and organization will be used in the field — the strengths and weaknesses,” said Michael Barnett, chief engineer at the Army Game Studio and project lead for Operation Overmatch. “And they have immediate ideas about what to use, what to change and what to abandon — how to adapt quickly.”

Within Operation Overmatch, soldiers will be able to play eight versus eight against other soldiers, where they will fight advanced enemies with emerging capabilities in realistic scenarios.

Players will also be able to experiment with weapons, vehicles, tactics and team organization. Game analytics and soldier feedback will be collected and used to evaluate new ideas and to inform areas for further study.

Currently, the game is in early development, Vogt said.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam
A screenshot of the Army’s video game Operation Overmatch. (US Army photo)

One of the benefits of collecting feedback through the gaming environment within ESP is the ability to explore hundreds — if not thousands — of variations, or prototypes, of vehicles and weapons at a fraction of what it would cost to build the capability at full scale, Vogt explained. A vehicle or weapons system that might take years of engineering to physically build can be changed or adapted within minutes in the game.

“In a game environment, we can change the parameters or the abilities of a vehicle by keystrokes,” he said. “We can change the engine in a game environment and it could accelerate faster, consume more fuel or carry more fuel. All these things are options within the game — we just select it, and that capability will be available for use. Of course, Army engineers will determine if the change is plausible before we put it in the scenarios.”

The game currently models a few future vehicles to include variants of manned armored vehicles, robotic vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles. The scenarios are centered on manned/unmanned teaming at the squad and platoon level in an urban environment. Through game play, soldiers will provide insights about platform capabilities and employment.

Articles

Beware of the 19-year-old pissed off Marine

On January 30, 1968, John Ligato and about 150 fellow Marines from Alpha Company experienced hell on Earth.


They were awakened in the middle of the night by their company commander and sent to nearby Hue City in Vietnam to help the troops of an overrun compound.

Related: 8 of the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

When they finally arrived, they were greeted with cheers. The troops of the MACV Compound had just repelled an enemy surge within their walls.

“They had been through hell, and they thought we were there to save the day, but little did we know the numerical numbers of NVA there,” Ligato said in the video below.

Ligato and his ill-equipped company were walking into a deathtrap against nine battalions of highly-trained North Vietamese soldiers, outnumbering each man by a few hundred.

“Most of us thought we’d never get out,” Ligato said.

The odds were against them, but miraculously, they pulled through. Ligato sums up the company’s success with this quote:

Americans Adapt. We Improvise. The most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is a 19-year-old pissed off Marine. Because you’ll take that kid from Detroit or Mississippi and you’ll train him in Marine Corps boot camp, and you’ll put him in a situation that’s foreign to him, and he will adapt and improvise and become that situation and deal with it.

Watch John Ligato tell his harrowing experience in this 3-minute American Heroes Channel video:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube
Articles

This Norwegian missile could make the LCS a lot deadlier

The Littoral Combat Ship is often criticized for being under-armed. In fact, its main weapon for anti-surface warfare is reportedly a version of the AGM-114 Hellfire (after several false starts with other missiles). Now, don’t get us wrong. The Hellfire is a good missile, and it has made plenty of enemy tanks and terrorists go boom.


But against an enemy ship on the high seas, it’s an iffy option.

But the Hellfire may soon be a secondary option.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam
A model of the Freedom-class littoral combat ship with two quad NSM launchers at the SeaAirSpace Expo 2017. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

At this year’s SeaAirSpace Expo, Kongsberg and Raytheon have proposed a solution – using the Naval Strike Missile on the LCS. According to a U.S. Navy release from 2014, the Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) test-fired the NSM during RIMPAC 2014.

NSM offers longer range than the Hellfire (at least 100 nautical miles compare to the Hellfire’s 4.85), and a much bigger warhead (265 pounds to the Hellfire’s 20). In other words, this missile has a lot more “stopping power” against any threat the LCS could face.

But the missile is also relatively light, coming in at 770 pounds overall. The Mk 54 MAKO Lightweight Hybrid Torpedo comes in at 608 pounds. This means that the embarked MH-60R Seahawk helicopters on a littoral combat ship could also carry these – and Kongsberg demonstrated that with a model at the display.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam
This model of a MH-60R Seahawk at SeaAirSpace Expo 2017 shows it carrying the NSM. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

“Helicopter sold separately,” the representative said, jokingly. But the joke could very well be on an adversary – as the helicopter extends the stand-off reach the LCS would have. The helicopter capability would also add the ability to launch from an offset – complicating the targeting for an enemy.

NSM is already in service with Norway, equipping the Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates, the Skjold-class corvettes, and is in use on Norway’s F-16 Fighting Falcons. It replaced the Penguin in Norwegian service.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam
A mock-up of the Joint Strike Missile – a big brother to the NSM – at the SeaAirSpace Expo 2017. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

Kongsberg also displayed a mock-up of the Joint Strike Missile, a slightly larger version of the NSM, featuring a range of at least 150 nautical miles. Even with the increased size, a handout provided by Kongsberg reps at SeaAirSpace 2017 indicated that the missile can still be carried internally by the F-35 Lightning II.

In one sense, this would be going “back to the future.” In the 1990s, the United States Navy equipped the SH-60B Seahawks with the AGM-119 Penguin anti-ship missile – also from Kongsberg. The Penguin also was a mainstay of Norway’s military during the 1980s and 1990s.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

The US military is shifting its focus toward preparing for great-power conflict, and on the ground in Europe, where heightened tensions with Russia have a number of countries worried about renewed conflict.

That includes new attention to short-range air-defense — a capability needed against an adversary that could deploy ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, and contest control of the air during a conflict.


Between late November and mid-December 2018, Battery C of the 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment from the Ohio National Guard maneuvered across southeast Germany to practice shooting down enemy aircraft.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

US soldiers from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment conduct an after-action review during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

The unit worked with 5,500 troops from 16 countries during the first phase of Combined Resolve XI, a biannual US-led exercise aimed at making US forces more lethal and improving the ability of Allied militaries to work together.

At Hohenfels training area, soldiers from Battery C engaged simulated enemy aircraft with their Avenger weapons systems, which are vehicle-mounted short-range air-defense systems that fire Stinger missiles.

The unit outmanuevered opposition forces, according to an Army release, taking out 15 simulated enemy aircraft with the Avengers and Stingers.

Battery C also protected eight assets that their command unit, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division, deemed “critical.”

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

An Air Defense Artillery Humvee-mounted Avenger weapons system from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, December 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

Capt. Christopher Vasquez, the commander of Battery C who acted as brigade air-defense officer for the exercise, linked his unit’s performance to its experience with armor like that used by the 1st ABCT.

“It’s given us some insight into how they fight, and how they operate,” Vasquez said. “The type of unit we are attached to dictates how we establish our air defense plan, so if we don’t understand how tanks maneuver, how they emplace, then we can’t effectively do our job.”

The second phase of the exercise, which will include live-fire drills, will take place from January 13 to January 25, 2019, at nearby Grafenwoehr training area, where Battery C is deployed.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

A Bradley fighting vehicle provides security for Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

Reestablishing air defense in Europe

The unit arrived in Europe in 2018 to provide air-defense support to US European Command under the European Deterrence Initiative, which covers Operation Atlantic Resolve.

During Operation Atlantic Resolve, the US Army has rotated units through Europe to reassure allies concerned about a more aggressive Russia, particularly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine.

Air Defense Artillery units like the 1-174th were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service began deactivating them in the early 2000s, as planners believed the Air Force would be able to maintain air superiority and mitigate threats from enemy aircraft.

But the Army found in 2016 that it had an air-defense-capability gap. Since then it has been trying to correct the shortfall.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

An FIM-92 Stinger missile fired from an Army Avenger at Eglin Air Force Base, April 20, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

US soldiers in Europe have also been relearning air-defense skills that were deemphasized after the threat of a ground war waned with the end Cold War.

In January 2018, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe started training with Stingers, which have gained new value as a light antiaircraft weapon as unmanned aerial systems proliferate.

Operation Atlantic Resolve rotations have included National Guard units with Avenger defense systems to provide air-defense support on the continent. (The Army is also overhauling Avengers that were mothballed until a new air-defense system is ready.)

The service also recently reactivated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment in southern Germany, making it the first permanent air-defense artillery unit in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

The battalion, composed of five Stinger-equipped batteries, returned important short-range air-defense abilities to Europe, said Col. David Shank, head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the unit is part.

“Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here,” Shank said at the activation ceremony. “It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is where the Air Force will test its new anti-ship missile

The Air Force has picked a base at which to test its new long-range anti-ship missile.

Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the force’s bomber fleet, authorized Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota to be the base for early operational capacity testing of the AGM-158C LRASM, the command said early June 2018.

The B-1 bombers and their crews based at Ellsworth will be the first to train and qualify on the missile, and their use of it will mark the first time the weapon has gone from the test phase to the operational phase.


Aircrews from the 28th Bomb Wing were to begin training with the missile last week, according to an Air Force release.

“We are excited to be the first aircraft in the US Air Force to train on the weapon,” said Col. John Edwards, 28th Bomb Wing commander. “This future addition to the B-1 bombers’ arsenal increases our lethality in the counter-sea mission to support combatant commanders worldwide.”

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam
A LRASM in front of a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, August 12, 2015.
(U.S. Navy photo)

The announcement comes less than a month after the Air Force and Lockheed Martin conducted a second successful test of two production-configuration LRASMs on a B-1 bomber off the coast of California. In those tests, the missiles navigated to a moving maritime target using onboard sensors and then positively identified their target.

The LRASM program was launched in 2009, amid the White House’s refocus on relations in the Pacific region and after a nearly two-decade period in which the Navy deemphasized anti-ship weaponry.

The missile is based on Lockheed’s extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, with which it shares 88% of its components, including the airframe, engine, anti-jam GPS system, and 1,000-pound penetrating warhead.

It has been upgraded with a multimode seeker that allows it to conduct semiautonomous strikes, seeking out specific targets within a group of surface ships in contested environments while the aircraft that launched it remains out of range of enemy fire.

It had its first successful test in August 2013, dropping from a B-1 and striking a maritime target. The LRASM has moved at double the pace of normal acquisition programs, according to Aviation Week. The Pentagon cleared it for low-rate initial production in late 2016 to support its deployment on B-1 bombers in 2018 and on US Navy F/A-18 fighters in 2019.

“It gives us the edge back in offensive anti-surface warfare,” Capt. Jaime Engdahl, head of Naval Air Systems Command’s precision-strike weapons office, told Aviation Week in early 2017.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the best meme pages for each branch

It’s hard to pin down when, exactly, memes got their start. Some say they began with the original rage comics, others say the very first were painted on cave walls. Regardless, the beautiful internet memes of today allow anyone, anywhere to be a comedian. They give people a setup and a punchline — all you’ve got to do is change the text (and maybe photoshop a face on there).

When 2011 rolled around and the popularity of Facebook grew like the boot population at the off-base strip club, meme pages started cropping up, watermarks started getting slapped on, and entire brands have been built on shoddy internet graphics. Over time, people from the different branches of the U.S. Armed Forces started making memes to share their own experiences — and thus, the military meme page was born.

Initially, these pages were run by active-duty service members who were disgruntled about working conditions, but have since become mostly veteran-operated pages. If you thought the inter-service branch rivalries were rough, just wait until you take a look at the fight for the title of best military memes page.

Here’s the best each branch has to offer:


Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

(Air Force Memes)

Air Force — Air Force Nation & Humor

The Air Force may not be the toughest, but they’ve certainly got brains — and that’s an essential asset in the world of memes. For memes of premium quality, check out Air Force Nation Humor.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

(The Salty Soldier)

Army — The Salty Soldier

The Army has some of the best memes on the internet right now and this is one that is relevant across the board, in all branches.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

(Pop Smoke)

Marine Corps — Pop Smoke

There are plenty of great meme pages run by Marine Corps veterans, but Pop Smoke has, bar far, the best content. One of the best things about Pop Smoke is that the page’s main admin makes memes out of his own personal photos and doesn’t keep his identity a secret.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

(Decelerate Your Life)

Navy — Decelerate Your Life

A lot of the best memes on Decelerate Your Life are actually about the Coast Guard, but here’s one that’ll make you laugh — especially if you’ve been on a float before.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

(Coast Guard)

Coast Guard — Coast Guard Memes

If you didn’t think the Coast Guard itself was enough of a meme, this page just gives everyone more to laugh about.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what other countries thought about the US Civil War

It may seem weird that another country would just show up to war to have a look, but it used to be a fairly common activity, one the United Nations still practices. A military observer is a diplomatic representative of sorts, used by one government to track the battles, strategies, and tactics used in a war it isn’t fighting, but may have an interest in watching — and learning from.

Professional soldiers were embedded within fighting units, but were not considered diplomats, journalists, or spies. They wore the uniform of their home country and understood the importance of terrain, technology, and military history as it played out on the latest battlefield. The Civil War had no shortage of interest from the rest of the world.


England, France, and Germany all sent observers to both sides of the fighting as early as 1862. They were concerned with the technologies related to metallurgy, rifling of cannons, explosive shells, cartridge calibers, and, of course, the new observation balloons used in the war. German observers were concerned with the power of militia and volunteer forces in the face of a standing, professional army. These observations formed many of the tactical developments used in later conflicts, especially World War I.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

General Helmuth von Moltke the Elder had strong opinions on the U.S. Civil War.

The Prussians, with an aforementioned interest in the superiority of professional armies, didn’t think much of the armies fighting the war. While noting the tactics used by American fighting men, Prussian observers thought the New World’s way of war was inferior to the Prussians’.

One Prussian captain, Justus Scheibert, divided the war into three phases. The first was made up of the disorganized skirmishes. At this point, neither side had really come to grips with the war and their own strategic capabilities. The second phase, which ran from 1862 through the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, was defined by a refinement in battlefield formations, which were used to great effect by both sides. After Gettysburg through to the war’s end, the fighting became defensive for both sides, where belligerents fought for inches of battlefield instead of mounting a great retreat or advance.

Scheibert believed that the construction of defensive fortifications that allowed officers time to make careful decisions replaced the skill of trained professional officers in quick decision making. Like many historians in the decades following the war, he cited Union manpower and industrial output as the chief tools of victory for the war while praising Confederate General Robert E. Lee for his innovations that allowed Confederate troops to stay relatively fresh and punch above their weight class, even when outnumbered.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

Despite proclaimed neutrality, thousands of British citizens volunteered on both sides of the conflict.

The British, meanwhile, were horrified at the war’s destruction and bloody death toll. The British government wanted the horror to stop and felt compelled to pressure the United States to accept a negotiated, two-state solution. London could not understand Lincoln’s motivation for keeping the Union together by force in a democracy where people are supposed to be able to determine their own futures by voting. Neither Britain nor France understood why the North and South both rejected publicly making the war about its central cause: slavery. They simply did not understand the politics of the U.S. as well as President Lincoln and did not understand the Confederate government’s chief fears as Jefferson Davis saw them.

London was also turned off by the Confederate threat of an embargo of cotton exports to Great Britain. It turns out they played this hand much too early, as British merchants would seek alternatives and replacements for Confederate cotton as early as 1861. But as the level of death and destruction rose, both Britain and France began to plan to intervene for the South. Even Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation angered European powers, who saw the limited emancipation as nothing more than an attempt to incite a mass slave uprising to save face in losing the war.

The only thing that saved the Union from a combined French-British intervention was the risk or war with the United States and that the South had not yet proven that it could fight the Union Army to a greater defeat on the battlefield.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

British observer Arthur James Lyon Fremantle visited much of the Confederacy in 1863. His exploits were well-documented.

One British observer actually visited nine of the eleven Confederate States during the war. Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, just 25 years old, took leave of the British Army to travel to Texas via Mexico, moving through nearly the whole of the Confederacy, He met Generals Lee, Bragg, and Longstreet, to name the most important, along with Confederate officials, including President Jefferson Davis. After observing the Battle of Gettysburg (where he met the Prussian Captain Scheibert), he crossed the lines and moved north to New York, where he left for home.

The Britisher remarked that Texas was the most lawless state in the Confederacy, that even Confederate generals were notably impoverished, but were in such good humor that they could ride their confidence into battle. As for the generals themselves, he thought it was amazing that a general like Longstreet would lead men into full-frontal assaults, and that a man like General Lee would speak to individual troops while taking responsibility for the losses on the field.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

Unidentified; State Department Messenger Donaldson; Unidentified; Count Alexander de Bodisco; Count Edward Piper, Swedish Minister; Joseph Bertinatti, Italian Minister; Luis Molina, Nicaraguan Minister (seated); Rudolph Mathias Schleiden, Hanseatic Minister; Henri Mercier, French Minister; William H. Seward, Secretary of State (seated); Lord Richard Lyons, British Minister; Baron Edward de Stoeckel, Russian Minister (seated); and Sheffield, British Attache.

(Diplomats at the Foot of an Unidentified Waterfall – NY State, August 1863)

The French were interested in a Union loss and the creation of a new republic, carved from the remnants of the United States because they were determined to recoup the losses suffered at the hands of the British during the colonization of the new world. France’s criteria for intervention were much the same as Britains, but were dashed after the Union victory in the war and any preparations made to use Mexico to capture former French territory west of the Mississippi were scrapped.

Though the world’s other powers didn’t think much of the war and its fighting for the duration, the preparations they all made throughout the war and in the years immediately following shows the lasting impact it had on global politics. In all, visitors from Germany, Britain, Italy, France, Russia, Nicaragua, and Austria all visited various battles of the war. The lasting legacy of this impact is the continued debate over what might have been, even more than 150 years later.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we all need to understand the Medal of Honor

There’s an extraordinary brotherhood that exists among us but few will ever actually meet these honored members. Like our sacred flag, woven together by humility, valor and extreme courage, this is a community of men who never sought recognition — rather earned it — through their own strength, service and sacrifice. These incredible heroes are the recipients of the Medal of Honor.

In the military community, these men are treated with an indescribable reverence; a gratitude that runs deep because of the understanding of the gravity of the citation. Most of these men shouldn’t be alive and many who have earned the Medal never lived to see it. But in the civilian community, the awards often blend together, confusing hearts with crosses, silver with purple.


Now, a major motion picture is closing that information gap, educating the public on the Medal of Honor while pulling at your heartstrings. The Last Full Measure, in theaters nationwide on January 24, has an all star cast that tells the incredible, true story of William H. Pitsenbarger. Pitsenbarger was a U.S. Air Force Pararescueman credited with saving over 60 men after an ambush on the Army’s 1st Infantry Division during a battle in Vietnam. The story couples his heroic actions with the relentless efforts, spanning three decades, made by the men he saved to ensure he was posthumously honored.

Following the Washington, D.C. premiere screening of The Last Full Measure, We Are The Mighty had the opportunity to sit with Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant Brian M. Thacker and Medal of Honor Foundation Vice President of External Affairs Dan Smith, to get their take on the movie.

WATM: Tell me your thoughts on the movie.

Thacker: This fills in so many blanks. I knew the Pitsenbarger story and then all of a sudden it kind of happened. In the story, it becomes very clear. The question you have is what was the Air Force guy doing with a leg unit in the first place? And then you think about it and yeah, it’s exactly how it works: the guys closest respond to the call. They were doing joint operations back then and they didn’t even know it. The movie is no frills, a straight story of not just Pitsenbarger, but the whole unit that kept the dream of the award moving forward. It’s a story that needs to be told. There’s a story like that behind every Medal of Honor ever presented.

If you were over there, you know there are many other stories that deserve to be recognized. For a long time, Pitsenbarger was one of them.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

WATM: I understand why this story is so important for the Medal of Honor brotherhood and to the veteran population. Why do you think it’s critical for civilians to see as well?

Thacker: First of all, they need to learn what the Medal means. It’s not a me award. Pitsenbarger is the medic with the award, but it really goes to all of the men in that company that were put in an untenable situation. The stories that came out of what happens as a result are equally as important. It’s not over when the shooting stops. The camaraderie and the close bond of serving together is what gets us through.

WATM: There’s a great line in the movie about how the medal means so much more than a battle; it’s the story behind it that connects us all. What story does your medal tell?

Thacker: The other half of the story behind mine is that of a Recon Sergeant that got an assignment he didn’t want but came out with a DSC. My guess is that his citation, like mine, was written at the highest level. But our unit was a Joe six pack, a bunch of people from all over the country that didn’t realize how untenable our situation was really going to be until the first shot was fired. Then it was, ‘Oh Lord, just let us hang on. We just need to get through this day.’ It all comes down to everyone just trying to help each other get through the day. Certainly you don’t do it by yourself.

WATM to Smith: What does having a MOH recipient in the audience tonight mean to you?

Smith: It’s beyond special. Young airman Pitsenbarger’s story is inspiring and remarkable. What we try to do and what our mission is, is to raise resources to let recipients tell their stories and to bring that and the legacy of the Medal to the communities. The most senior leaders in our military and our government talk about the less than one percent who serve and this growing civilian and military divide.

For these gentlemen to be able to tell their stories, not just to the military but to the community will close this gap. I’m hopeful that everyday people will see this movie, hear these heroic stories and change the ambivalence that often comes without knowing the impact of the award. So many men came home from Vietnam and weren’t able to tell their stories. I’m hopeful this will reach not just veterans of that generation but the younger generations as well.

WATM: What do you think this film teaches the next generation?

Thacker: We did everything we could to bury Vietnam. The young people that were born after the war grew up in the dark, unless you were living with a Vietnam veteran and you were living it right with your dad. It’s very symbolic. We see the same thing with young people who volunteered after 9/11; this mentality that I need to be a part of this. It’s 50 years later but it’s the same ethic that bubbles up.

You can take that notion of service far beyond the military. It’s in the fire departments, police departments and even the teaching community; this sense of service above self. You see bits and pieces of that in this movie and I hope it’s one the kids will watch because it’s living history.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

WATM: Was there any particular scene in this movie that really resonated with you?

Thacker: When Pitsenbarger realized he had to go down to help them to teach them how to use the litter. Being in that position does something to your pucker factor. People who have been there, you can ask them: ‘Do you remember what it felt like?’ They’ll tell you they were very afraid. Knowing you are in over your head and wondering who you turn to for help, that happens all the time. There will be a lot of people who understand that feeling of all of a sudden being in charge.

WATM: As a MOH recipient, I imagine you’re invited to events like this all of the time. Is there a particular event you have been a part of that has had a profound impact on your life?

Thacker: Being able to attend an Inauguration and to witness the peaceful transfer of power was an incredible experience. I don’t think people understand how truly special and uniquely American that is.

WATM: Is there anything else you want people to know about either you or the Medal of Honor Foundation?

Thacker: We still have something to say. I remember when the Baby Boom generation wasn’t going to amount to much. Now we’re saying the same thing about Millenials, and I promise you, we’ll be as wrong about them as our parents were about us. That willingness to stand up and take the risk is fairly common.

Smith: These men have incredible stories to tell. My hope is that through films like The Last Full Measure we’ll be able to connect communities with this heroism.

The Last Full Measure will be in theaters January 24. These stories deserve to be told and the valor of The Medal of Honor should live on through all of us. Perpetuating the legacy should be our collective Last Full Measure.

You can buy tickets to see the film and support this story and legacy on The Last Full Measure’s website.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

4 legendary search and rescue helicopters

Air Force pararescuemen are among the elite when it comes to special operations. Their main task is to rescue pilots who have been shot down behind enemy lines. It’s never been an easy task, but at least the tech has improved since World War II. Back then, a pilot had to walk back to friendly lines – a very long walk.


Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam
A pilot ejects from his P-51 Mustang in the skies over Normandy. Not ideal.

Amphibious planes, like the PBY Catalina and HU-16 made rescue possible, but you needed enough water – or a strip of land – for them to land and take off. The same went for other planes, even the L-5, the military designation for the Piper Cub.

Insert the helicopter. They first appeared in a small capacity during the Korean War before they really came of age during Vietnam, proving to be the search-and-rescue asset America needed.

Here’s a look some legendary choppers that carried out that mission.

1. Sikorsky HH-3 Jolly Green Giant

The first helicopter to become a legend for search and rescue was the Sikorsky HH-3. The H-3 airframe was first designed for the Navy to carry out anti-submarine warfare, and was called the Sea King. But the size of the chopper lead the Air Force to buy some as heavy transports. They were eventually equipped with 7.62mm Miniguns and used to rescue pilots, with some seeing service in Desert Storm and the last ones serving until 1995.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the HH-3 has a top speed of 177 miles per hour, and could carry up to 25 passengers or 15 litters, plus a crew of four and two attendants.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam
An A-1 Skyraider escorts an HH-3C rescue helicopter as it goes in to pick up a downed pilot in Vietnam. (National Museum of the USAF Photo)

2. Sikorsky HH-53 Super Jolly/Pave Low

The Air Force didn’t stop with the Jolly Green. Eventually, the even larger HH-53 was procured, and called the Super Jolly Green Giant. They also took part in search-and-rescue missions during the Vietnam War, but after that war, the HH-53s were upgraded into the Pave Low configuration, making them capable of operating at night and bad weather. They also became used as special operations transports. The last Pave Lows were retired in 2008.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the latest version of the Pave Low has a top speed of 165 miles per hour, an un-refueled range of 690 miles, and a crew of six.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam
Sikorsky MH-53M Pave Low IV on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

3. Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk

The Air Force though, was looking for more search-and-rescue assets – mostly because they only bought 41 of the Super Jolly Green Giants. The HH-60G is primarily tasked with the combat search and rescue role, and it usually carries .50-caliber machine guns to protect itself. Like the Pave Low, the Pave Hawk can carry out missions at night or day. The HH-60G is currently serving.

An Air Force fact sheet notes that a total of 99 Pave Hawks serve in the active Air Force, the Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. The Pave Hawk has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 504 nautical miles, and can carry a crew of four.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam
The HH-60G’s primary wartime mission is combat search and rescue, infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces in day, night or marginal weather conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lance Cheung)

4. Sikorsky HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter

The H-60 airframe has been a mainstay of all five armed services, so much so that the replacement for the HH-60G is another H-60. In this case, the HH-60W is a modified version of the Army’s UH-60M Blackhawk.

According to materials provided by Sikorsky, a division of Lockheed Martin, the HH-60W has a combat radius of 195 nautical miles, and is equipped with new displays to reduce the air crew’s workload, and to help the pararescue jumpers do their job more efficiently. The Air Force plans to buy 112 HH-60Ws to replace the 99 HH-60Gs currently in service.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam
Artist’s impression of Sikorsky’s HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter (Graphic from Lockheed Martin)

In short, when a pilot goes down, the assets are now there to pull him out, and to keep him from becoming a guest in a 21st century Hanoi Hilton.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the 100-year-old veteran who is having the best week ever

Charles McGee is having quite a week. McGee, who was part of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, was one of four 100-year-old veterans to participate in the Super Bowl LIV coin flip on Sunday in Miami. He was also honored Tuesday night at the State of the Union address with a promotion to Brigadier General. And you thought you were having a good week.


McGee, who looked rather spry at the game, walked the ceremonial coin to referee Bill Vinovich for the official toss. As if that wasn’t enough excitement, McGee flew to Washington, D.C. to attend the State of the Union address as an official guest of President Trump alongside his 13-year-old great-grandson who wants to join the Space Force.

Iain Lanphier from Scottsdale, Arizona is the great-grandson of Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee. Iain hopes to write the next chapter in his family’s remarkable story by attending the Air Force Academy and eventually going to space. #SOTUpic.twitter.com/GA6W2whvrV

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Lauded tonight as a Tuskegee Airman, 100 year old retired Brigadier General Charles McGee was promoted to that rank today by President Trump and invited to be his guest in House Gallery tonight for the #SOTUpic.twitter.com/uiIIEtOdRD

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President Trump honored McGee by naming him Brigadier General for his impeccable service. The promotion was included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act and passed by both the House and the Senate. Just three days after McGee turned 100 (which he celebrated by flying in a jet), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in a press release, “Col. Charles McGee’s service to our country is remarkable and fully merits this distinguished honor. I was proud to fight for the inclusion of this promotion to commemorate his work and his sacrifice … I could not think of a more fitting recognition from a truly grateful nation.”

Lauded tonight as a Tuskegee Airman, 100 year old retired Brigadier General Charles McGee was promoted to that rank today by President Trump and invited to be his guest in House Gallery tonight for the #SOTUpic.twitter.com/uiIIEtOdRD

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McGee is one of the most celebrated aviators in history, having completed 136 combat missions in World War II, 100 combat missions in the Korean War and 173 combat missions in the Vietnam War. That’s 409 total combat missions if you’re not doing the math. Watch McGee’s Super Bowl appearance here:

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Congratulations, Sir!

MIGHTY CULTURE

This vet and real-life Santa makes wooden toys for kids every year

Where the Marine Corps has its Toys for Tots, the Army can count on its elderly retirees – at least one of them, anyway. As of Christmas, 2019, Army veteran Jim Annis turned 80 years old. For the past 50 Christmas seasons, the former soldier spent months creating hundreds of wooden toys for children who otherwise might not have anything to open on Christmas morning. When the Salvation Army comes through for these families, Annis comes rolling along right behind them.


Annis spends hundreds of dollars from his own pocket every year to make wooden toys for needy children. The one-man Santa’s Workshop spends much of his free time throughout the year crafting and painting these toys in preparation for Christmastime. By the time he’s ready to donate the pieces to the Salvation Army, Annis has created as many as 300 toys, finished and ready to hand out to the little ones.

“When the Salvation Army gives out the food and clothes to people in this area, I give out my toys,” Annis told Raleigh-Durham’s ABC-11 affiliate. “It feels like you’re sort of forgotten about at Christmas time.”

In case you’re bad at math, creating 300 toys per year for the past 50 years, makes for about 15,000 toys total. But for Annis, it’s not about the money. He was one of those needy children during his childhood. He came from a working family with five children to take care for.

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

Jim Annis, a one-man Santa’s Workshop.

(WTVD ABC-11)

Annis gets wooden scraps for free from homeowners and pays only for the tools of production and the acrylic paint for the toys. His costs run about id=”listicle-2641673298″,000 but his return on investment is the smiles of young kids who will get a toy for Christmas this year. Kids can get an array of cool, handmade toys, from fire trucks and dolls to piggy banks. Jim Annis will also make special gifts for American veterans and their loved ones.

“I have to sort of feel right in here,” Annis told North Carolina’s Spectrum News. “That’s the joy I know I’m giving some of the kids, I’m giving them something that I didn’t have a whole lot at Christmas time.”

If you want to donate to materials to this vet’s Christmastime cause, you can call Jim Annis at 919-842-5445.