It was called the “Blue Bandit” by the American pilots who faced it in combat. It ranks as one of the most widely produced and exported fighters in history. It was the victim of one of the best ruses in military warfare, and it’s flown for almost 60 years. Even though it was designed in the ’50s, it remained in production until 1985 alongside more advanced jets.
This jet was produced by both the Soviet Union and Communist China. It saw action in Vietnam, the Middle East, and even over Yugoslavia. Even now, with upgrades that allow it to carry the latest in air-to-air missiles, it serves on the front for India. Over its long history, this plane has evolved from a pure interceptor to a multirole fighter.
The wide exportation of the MiG-21 meant that a few examples, like the one on the right, ended up in American hands.
The MiG-21 is best known for its use by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. It was fast — it could reach a top speed of 1,386 miles per hour — but had a short range of just 721 miles.
Most famously, the MiG-21 was the primary victim of Operation Bolo, a plan cooked up by U.S. Air Force legend Robin Olds. The North Vietnamese sent their MiG-21s to attack what looked like a large, unescorted strike. They found out the hard way that what looked like F-105 Thunderchiefs (ground-attack planes) were actually F-4 Phantoms. Seven Fishbeds were shot down in that dogfight.
While North Vietnamese Fishbeds did shoot down 56 American planes using the AA-2 Atoll anti-air missile, 90 were downed in air-to-air combat, including two by B-52 tail gunners.
A Bulgarian MiG-21 taxis for takeoff during a 2006 exercise with the United States Air Force.
(US Army photo by Maj. Dana Hampton)
The Fishbed also saw action in the Middle East, mostly going up against Israeli Defense Forces. Here, its record wasn’t as good — and it gained notoriety for being the first to fall prey to the F-15 Eagle.
Learn more about this veteran fighter in the video blow!
High-Mobility Artillery Rockets systems are trucks that can take highly capable rockets right to the frontlines in combat, but before HIMARs, the Army experimented with strapping rockets onto helicopters in Vietnam and using them as true helicopter artillery — the Redlegs of the sky.
To be clear, this wasn’t air support or close combat attack; this was artillery in the air. These units belonged to the division artillery unit, their fires were controlled by the fire direction center, and they specialized in massed fires, not the pinpoint strikes of close combat attack helicopters.
It all started in 1962 when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Gen. Hamilton Howze called on military leaders to rethink land warfare, and subordinate leaders came back with a few concepts that might make the Army more flexible. One of those suggestions was to make artillery more responsive by creating two new unit types: aerial rocket artillery battalions and aviation batteries.
The aerial rocket artillery battalions were filled with helicopters strapped with dozens of rockets that they would fire en masse when receiving fire missions. The aviation batteries were helicopter units that could pick tube artillery, usually howitzers, and deliver them to firing points near the battlefield on short notice where they would then be used normally.
For infantrymen in combat, this meant they could request artillery support nearly anywhere in country and get it fast, even if they had been deposited by helicopter miles ahead of any artillery units.
Aerial rocket artillery didn’t focus on precision strikes, but they had the firepower to make up for it.
(U.S. Army illustration)
Tube artillery delivered via helicopter is still used today and worked about as you would expect. Usually, military planners would identify the need for artillery ahead of time and send in the gun, suspended under Chinooks, as soon as ground troops secured the firing point. But sometimes, the tube artillery would be requested after combat was already underway, and the Chinooks would rush the howitzers in.
The real craziness, though, came with the aerial rocket artillery battalions, the true helicopter artillery. These were UH-1 Iroquois or AH-1 Cobras modified to carry a loadout almost entirely composed of rockets. For AH-1s, this could be four rocket pods that each carried 19 rockets for a total armament of 76.
At times, they flew with Hueys modified to carry lights. This was valuable in any fight at night, but was especially great for base security where the “light ships” illuminated targets and tube artillery pounded it with rounds.
An early UH-1B in an aerial rocket artillery configuration without door guns.
But the rockets were effective in combat, so commanders kept asking for them. In addition to the quick response ground troops could get with helicopter artillery, there was the fact that the birds were more responsive on target than a howitzer conducting indirect fire could ever hope to be.
That’s because the pilots were the artillery officers, and they could adjust their fire on the fly, watching rounds impact and shifting fire as they went with limited guidance from the troops in the fight on the ground. And, aerial rocket artillery was fired from much closer to the target than tube artillery typically was.
Donald Large had one of the aptest last names in the history of last names. He was a beast, 6-ft. 6 inches tall and 240 pounds by the time he went through SAS selection the first time (more on that in a moment). But his road to military service started when he was just an over-sized tyke.
Born in 1930, he was just a boy when British troops preparing for service in France and Germany began training near his home. He watched the men readying to take the fight to Hitler and decided he would be a military man as well, a goal made even easier by his frame, and the frequent hunting trips his dad took him on.
He started as an Army Cadet, a sort of military-affiliated Boy Scouts in Britain, and then managed to get into the real British army at just 15 years old. As he trained in the military and then served Britain, he grew to his adult height and received the nickname “Lofty,” but he still craved combat.
But Large was wounded from a gunshot and shrapnel in the fighting and was taken prisoner, surviving a 10-day forced march to a prisoner of war camp. He survived another gunshot wound, disease, 80 pounds of weight loss, and two years of muscle atrophy and near starvation before he was swapped in a wounded prisoner exchange.
Despite all the scar tissues, Large reportedly did quite well in selection, only struggling with jumping out of the plane due to his being oversized for the plane and parachute. He weighed enough that he fell faster than other paratroopers, and this combined with a fear of heights made falling the hardest part for him.
But he was a stalwart man and made the jump anyway. He had proven himself capable and was on his way to the SAS.
Except that he rode a motorcycle soon after and crashed, crushing his ankle. The SAS told him that he would need to go back through selection to prove he was still capable of meeting the unit’s high standards. While most people would’ve probably waited a few months if they ever went back, Large simply re-bandaged his ankle, found out what his new boot size was with the swelling and bandages, and went back.
Yeah, he went back through selection while his ankle was still injured. He had only taken four weeks from crash to his second selection process.
He would serve with the SAS around the world and retired in 1973. He died in 2006.
Hours, days, weeks, months and even years of training have prepared two airmen for one moment — four explosive seconds at the top of a winding icy track in a city that once hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Early days of sprinting, heavy lifting, box jumps and squats have faded into late nights of sanding runners, making countless adjustments and pushing through frustrations to shave off hundredths of a second pushing a 500-pound sled 60 meters.
The goal? A chance to make a team in four years. A chance for a medal. A chance to represent their nation and the Air Force. A chance.
Two airmen within Air Force Special Operations Command were selected to compete with the USA Bobsled team. Capt. Dakota Lynch, a 34th Special Operations Squadron U-28A pilot, and Capt. Chris Walsh, a 24th Special Operations Wing special tactics officer, are push athletes who are ultimately competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 2022.
“If you want it bad enough, you’re going to do whatever it takes to be successful … that’s the grit of this sport,” said Walsh. “It takes four years of commitment to make yourself better with every opportunity and even then you’re never really quite there … you have to keep grinding.”
As push athletes, both airmen train vigorously on sprinting and strength to accelerate a bobsled up to 24 miles per hour in close to four seconds while the pilot focuses on navigating hairpin turns in a choreographed chaos down the ice.
Capt. Dakota Lynch, a U-28 pilot with the 34th Special Operations Squadron, performs sprints at The Fieldhouse on Nov. 16, 2018, in Park City, Utah.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)
“It’s a metal and carbon fiber bullet rifling down an ice track at speeds of 85-95 miles per hour,” Lynch said. “It’s like a fast-moving jet with a monkey at the controls while getting in a fight with Mike Tyson … it can be incredibly violent.”
Preceding the countless hours in the gym and on the track, the ride begins with a dream to succeed at the highest athletic level. For Walsh, it was an article in a magazine and for Lynch, it was a challenge from friends while deployed to Africa. For both, it would begin a journey of bruises, scrapes and exasperation that would lead them to Park City, Utah, for the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation North American Cup.
The first steps of their journey was a gauntlet of tryouts and selection beginning with an open combine. From there, standout athletes were invited to rookie camp and then push championships in Lake Placid, New York. Then, both Lynch and Walsh were invited to national team trials to continue to the next phase — competition.
“It relates pretty closely to the job because there’s days where you know it’s going to be tough,” said Walsh. “Every workout, every time I’m in the garage with the team, every step I take is either taking me closer or further away from my goal. If I’m lazy and I decide to slack one day … that workout may mean the difference between me making the Olympic team or not.”
Both airmen attribute their time in AFSOC to their success on their bobsled journey. Walsh is a member of Air Force special tactics, which is a special operations ground force comprised of highly trained airmen who solve air to ground problems across the spectrum of conflict and crisis.
Capt. Chris Walsh, a Special Tactics officer with the 24th Special Operations Wing, taps Hunter Church, bobsled pilot for Team USA, at the finish of their second four-man run at the Utah Olympic Park on Nov. 17, 2018, in Park City, Utah.
“The qualities that special tactics fosters in individuals translates very well to bobsledding,” said Walsh. “ST operators are mature, responsible and disciplined and need to be squared away as individuals. If they’re not, the team as a whole is weak … so having that grit and determination to see the mission through is a big piece of what makes me successful here.”
For Lynch, the team mentality of a four-man bobsled loosely correlates to responsibilities of piloting an aircraft. The U-28A aircraft Lynch flies provides an on-call capability for improved tactical airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of special operations forces.
“In AFSOC, I am responsible for the aircraft, the men and the women on that aircraft and ensuring the mission is executed properly, safely and precisely,” said Lynch. “Things aren’t going to get handed to you — conditions are going to suck, you’re going to get your crap punched in, but you’re going to have to have the strength and resiliency to drive through it and press forward.”
As active-duty airmen, both Lynch and Walsh have had to negotiate service commitments with leadership support. Both have been granted permissive temporary duty by their respective commanders to vie for a chance at being accepted into the Air Force World Class Athlete Program.
WCAP provides active duty, National Guard and reserve service members the opportunity to train and compete at national and international sports competitions with the ultimate goal of selection to the U.S. Olympic team while maintaining a professional military career.
“I wouldn’t be here without my squadron and group commanders taking a chance on me and giving me a shot,” said Walsh. “It makes me want to do really well to represent my country, the Air Force and AFSOC in a good light.”
When Army Air Forces bomber pilot Owen Baggett was trying to take out a bridge in WWII at Burma, he ended up having to bail out in the skies over the bridge. He landed in the history books.
In March 1943, Baggett and other airmen in his B-24 Liberator squadron were met by a baker’s dozen of Japanese Zero fighters as they went over their target. Baggett’s B-24 was hit numerous times in its fuel tanks and Baggett and his crew were forced to bail out.
Baggett, the co-pilot, covered their escape in the B-24’s top gun turret. He and the rest of the crew barely got out before the plane exploded.
The deadly Japanese attack kept coming, however, attacking the pilots in their parachutes as they gently fell to earth. Baggett decided to play dead in his rig, trying to avoid getting strafed by a fighter plane.
That’s when one of the Zeros got a little too close.
A Japanese pilot approached Baggett in his chute with the Zero’s nose up and at near-stalled speed. The enemy pilot opened his canopy to get a look at the American. Baggett, who was sneakily holding his M1911 pistol, snapped up and angrily fired four rounds into the Zero’s cockpit. The Zero spun to the ground.
Colonel Harry Melton, commander of the 311th Fighter Group, was also shot down that day. He said he saw the Japanese pilot’s body thrown clear of the downed plane and that the pilot was killed by a bullet to the head, not the plane crash.
But Melton himself was killed on a ship that was sunk as it headed toward Japan. If Baggett really did take down a fighter with a pistol, he would be the only person to ever shoot down an aircraft with a pistol.
When Baggett hit the ground, the enemy pilots were still trying to strafe him. He hid behind trees until ground forces captured him. Baggett spent two years as a POW in Rangoon, Burma. He was later rescued by OSS agents and stayed in the newly-created U.S. Air Force after the war’s end.
Baggett retired from the Air Force as a Colonel and later worked on Wall Street. He died in 2006 and firmly believed he was successful in shooting down the Zero with his 1911.
The USS Hancock burns after being struck by a kamikaze pilot. (Navy History and Heritage Command)
Everyone knows that, in World War II, you couldn’t find nearly as much information on Twitter or Google. No, if you wanted to learn what was happening on the frontlines of the war in the early 1940s, you had to rely on newsreels played before movies and newspapers.
But the newsreels were the much more visceral way to learn about the conflict. Often, censors would tone down depictions of combat and remove reports of some ship sinkings. But at other times, particularly when personnel were especially heroic, the military would allow reports of a ship sinking and even release the footage.
That was the case with this footage of the fighting on Okinawa and the near-sinking of the USS Franklin, an aircraft carrier hit by a kamikaze strike. The Franklin erupted in flames after the explosion ripped through it, but hundreds of sailors remained at their post even after the fleet’s admiral gave the captain permission to abandon the ship.
Instead, the crew evacuated non-essential personnel and got to work battling the flames and securing volatile ammunition and fuel stores to prevent further explosions. The ship’s chaplain even stayed on duty, performing last rites for the hundreds of young men dead and dying in the stricken ship.
And this footage, much of it shot by military combat cameramen, was released by the military in order to show the heroism of the sailors to moviegoers back home. And, it was combined with footage from the action ashore where soldiers and Marines enjoyed a lightly resisted landing but then had to fight fiercely for every additional yard as cave after cave after cave was found to contain fanatical defenders, well-armed and well-trained to bleed the landing forces dry.
A quick warning before you play the footage, though: This is some of the most visceral footage released by the military during the war, and it contains images of combat on Okinawa and at sea. There are multiple shots of combatants on both sides of the fight as they are dead or dying. So, only forge ahead if you’re prepared to see all of that.
If you thought the first commissioned officers would be graduating from Starfleet Academy after passing the Kobayashi Maru test, you thought wrong.
It turns out they will be earning their commission this spring in Colorado Springs.
The Air Force said about 60 of the 1,000 cadets graduating will earn commissions in the new United States Space Force. The practice is called cross-commissioning and is similar but not exactly the same as Navy Midshipmen commissioning into the United States Marine Corps. Officials from the Air Force Academy and Air Force will be traveling to Annapolis to see how cross-commissioning works for them, but stress that the Naval Academy way is just “one solution and not the solution.”
As of now, there is no plan to offer cross-commissions into the Space Force for Cadets at the United States Military Academy or Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy. Officers from the Space Force will be transferred from the Air Force or commissioned via the Air Force Academy, Air Force ROTC and Officer Training School. However, Army and Navy enlisted personnel will be able to transfer to the Space Force in the next few years. The only rank currently is General, although the rest of the rank structure is expected to mirror the Air Force.
Juniors at the Academy are already being counseled on potential career paths in the Air Force, including intelligence, cyber, acquisitions and engineering.
“It’s important for the Air Force Academy’s long-term mission, and not only in near-term Air Force strategy, but long-term space strategy and tactics to have that sort of core knowledge here,” said Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.
The cadets that will be the first Space Force Commissioned Officers will have a job simply referred to as Space Operations. The majority of the Officers commissioned will have jobs that focus on the direct mission at hand. As of now, officer and enlisted roles that are considered support will have those spots filled by members of the Air Force.
There are 16,000 individuals assigned to the Space Force and one official Officer, the Chief of Space Operations, General John “Jay” Raymond. The military portion of the 16,000 personnel will, at some point, have to transfer into the Space Force. Officers will have to resign their commissions, and enlisted will have to re-enlist into the new branch. The Air Force will be the first to be allowed to transfer in starting this year. The Army and Navy will have to wait until 2022 for the option to transfer.
Space Force personnel will be located primarily in three states; California, Colorado and Florida.
Army Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, FORSCOM’s command sergeant major, survey the work of soldiers deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and assigned to the 458th Engineer Battalion at Camp Taji, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2017.
Across the military, service members and their families are working through the new normal brought about by COVID-19. Everyone is dealing with a fair amount of stress and we understand how important great leadership is right now. So, we reached out to the Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston (socially distanced, of course) to get his advice for leaders while we work through this pandemic.
He opened up his green notebook and provided the following insights.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, senior enlisted leader for Army Forces Command, presents the FORSCOM Eagle Award during a ceremony Jan. 9, 2019.
Leadership matters right now. This isn’t harder than what is required of leaders in combat, but it is a very difficult time. In combat, you can physically bring everyone together. Now, how do you lead during this time of uncertainty? How do you get the information out? How do you make sure they stay the course? How do you make sure your soldiers are following orders –- which in some cases may be to stay at home and keep everyone healthy?
Everyone agrees that face-to-face leadership is the best and leaders can tell a lot about someone’s emotional condition by looking them in the eyes. We still have to do it. Don’t fall in the trap of relying on text messages to communicate. I recommend leaders develop a communications PACE plan. Make video chats your primary means of communication. If that isn’t available, make a phone call so you can hear their voice. Finally, leaders can use text and email to keep the lines of communication open.
Remember, these are difficult times and leadership is what is going to make the difference for the people in your formation.
2. Get innovative
There are so many opportunities right now for leaders to get innovative with how they maintain readiness and keep their soldiers motivated.
For example, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a battalion conducted an individual 6-mile foot march competition. Everyone used either cell phone apps or GPS watches to track their progress and then posted their times online. The winner with the fastest time received an Army Achievement Medal.
Another unit in Poland conducted EIB training, but included hand-washing and social distancing enforcement during the event.
At the Department of Army level, we are looking for ways to maintain readiness. We started running the Basic Army Leader Course via distance learning. I expect the same of our leaders down at the unit level — look for innovative ways to accomplish the mission.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston visited the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Jan. 15.
We all have a responsibility to maintain our fitness and stay focused on personal readiness during this period.
We also have a responsibility and a great opportunity to focus on the operational readiness rate of our equipment so that when we come back to train, our vehicles and weapons are ready to go. Leaders can take advantage of this pause in training to bring mechanics and crews in to bring equipment up to 10/20 standard.
4. Stay informed
Besides company-level leadership keeping soldiers and their families informed, there are also plenty of opportunities to stay up-to-date on the latest news by Department of the Army and Garrison Commands.
I know that unit-level leaders are doing weekly virtual town halls, most garrisons are doing them several times a week and we have done a few at the Army level. Don’t rely on hearsay to get your information; tune-in and stay informed with facts.
5. Set goals
Treat this period like a deployment. We not only want to survive it, we also want to thrive in it. A great way to do this is to set personal and professional goals.
Gyms are closed and many of the conditions we had pre-coronavirus have changed. So, we need to reassess our goals. While we can’t go to gyms, there are workouts we can do in our living rooms to stay fit. Look for opportunities; there might be online courses or credentialing classes that you can take advantage of to achieve professional goals.
I recommend everyone try to figure out some kind of routine to work toward your goals. Don’t wake up everyday and muddle through it — keep moving forward.
Once, when the United States went to war, that war was felt by everyone in the country. The wars’ effects seeped into every facet of American life. The primary reason for this was the draft. Selective service meant that anyone in America could be called up to serve and fight a war at any given time. This included movie stars, politicians, and even star athletes — some of whom never made it home.
Sports fans know the stories of baseball players Moe Berg (who served as an OSS agent during WWII) and Ted Williams (who was in the Navy and Marine Corps for WWII and the Korean War). Less well-known are those NFL players who fought for the United States. Football’s popularity only came about relatively recently, whereas baseball has long been “America’s Pastime.”
When Spring Training rolls around, we’ll remember the MLB players we’ve lost but, for now, let’s take some time during the NFL’s Salute to Service Month to remember those players who were also our brothers in the profession of arms. This is a list of those who died in combat; the list of the NFL’s veterans is much, much longer.
Keith Birlem, Washington Redskins (1943)
Birlem became an Army Air Forces officer during World War II after just one season in the league. After a bombing mission over Europe in 1943, the pilot attempted to land his damaged B-17 Bomber in England, but was killed in the resulting crash.
Mike Basca, Philadelphia Eagles (1941)
Basca enlisted in the U.S. Army after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The former Eagle was a tank commander with the 4th Armored Division. He was killed with the rest of his crew after an anti-tank round struck their vehicle in France in 1944.
Alex Ketzko, Detroit Lions (1944)
Ketzko was a son of Michigan, having played football for Michigan State and then later for the Detroit Lions. After the 1943 season, Ketzko enlisted in the U.S. Army. He eventually found himself in France, where he was killed in action in December, 1945, at just 25 years old.
Walter R. “Waddy” Young, Brooklyn Dodgers (1945)
Young was a big-time athlete out of Oklahoma. He started the Sooners off on their way to becoming a powerhouse sports team, bringing them to their first-ever Orange Bowl Game. After playing for the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers (yes, they were a football team, too), he signed on to fly B-24 Liberators over Europe and B-29 Superfortresses over Japan during World War II. On Jan. 9, 1945, the legendary athlete was killed in a plane crash during a run over Tokyo.
Don Wemple, Brooklyn Dodgers (1944)
Wemple died on an Army Transport plane flying in the China-India-Burma theater of World War II. The onetime Brooklyn Dodger and Army officer was on his way to India in 1944.
Charlie Behan, Detroit Lions (1945)
After one season with the Lions, Behan decided to join the Marine Corps. He was hit in the mouth by shrapnel on Okinawa. Stuffing cotton into the wound to continue the fight, then-Lt. Behan led his troops up Sugar Loaf Hill and was killed guiding his Marines over the top. He was posthumously award the Navy Cross.
Al Blozis, New York Giants (1945)
The All-Pro tackle joined the Army in 1943, despite being much too tall to conform to standards. The 6’6″ literal giant broke the Army’s grenade throwing record before being shipped out to lead a platoon of troops in France in 1944. After two of his men were lost in the Vosges Mountains, he set out to find them by himself and was never heard from again.
Young Bussey, Chicago Bears (1945)
After the 1941 season, Bears QB Young Bussey left the NFL to join the war effort after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The young Bussey was killed during the invasion of the Philippines.
Edwin B. “King Kong” Kahn (1945)
Kahn spent three seasons in the NFL with the Redskins, staying with the team after they moved from Boston to Washington. He signed up for Army service as a First Lieutenant and was wounded in the invasion of Kawajalien. He died of wounds incurred in the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines in February, 1945.
Howard “Smiley” Johnson, Green Bay Packers (1945)
Johnson traded his Packers green for Marine Corps greens after two seasons in Green Bay. The Marine officer was killed in action while leading Marines into battle on Iwo Jima.
Jack Lummus, New York Giants (1945)
The Giants’ Jack Lummus played only nine games in his NFL career before enlisting during the 1941 season. He eventually became an officer candidate and began training with the elite Marine Raiders. Lummus was one of the first Marines to land on the island of Iwo Jima in 1945, and for two weeks directed artillery fire onto Japanese positions on Mount Suribachi. Lummus was wounded by shrapnel but managed to knock out three Japanese fortifications so his Marines could advance.
Lummus then lost both of his legs to a land mine and died at an aid station. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his outstanding display of battlefield skill and leadership.
Don Steinbrunner, Cleveland Browns (1967)
The Browns’ Offensive Tackle was just one of two NFL players who died during the Vietnam War. He played for Cleveland during the 1953 season where the Browns lost the championship to the Detroit Lions. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1954. Steinbrunner was on a defoliation mission over Vietnam in 1967 when his C-123 Provider was shot down. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Bob Kalsu, Buffalo Bills (1970)
The All-American tackle was drafted in 1968 by the Buffalo Bills but went to the University of Oklahoma on an ROTC scholarship. To fulfill his obligations to the military, the Bills’ rookie of the year entered the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 101st Airborne Division, landing in South Vietnam in November of 1969. He was killed in the infamous attack on Fire Support Base Ripcord in 1970, just hours before his wife gave birth to their son back home.
Pat Tillman, Arizona Cardinals (2004)
Like many NFL players who enlisted in a time of national need, Tillman joined the military in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. By June 2002, he was a soldier and on his way to the Army Rangers. He would go on to serve in both Iraq and Afghanistan before his death in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.
The reverberations surrounding Tillman’s death has been felt by the NFL and its players, the veteran community, nonprofits, and even college football players – to this day – honor Tillman’s spirit and memory.
Moviegoers across the nation love to get a fresh bucket of popcorn and sit down in front of the big screen to watch a well-crafted action film. With so many cool explosions and witty one-liners, there’s only one thing left to take a movie from great to legendary: an epic knife fight.
From a directorial standpoint, capturing an excellent knife fight on film is both dangerous and difficult, but the following movies managed to pull off the impressive feat in unique ways.
In 1986, New York City got its first taste of the knife-wielding, Aussie bushman, Michael J. ‘Crocodile’ Dundee. The character from down under was a huge blockbuster for Paramount Pictures and featured one of the funniest almost-knife fights to ever hit the big screen.
In a knife-measuring contest, Dundee’s unveils his monster blade and dwarfs the tiny switchblade brandished by thugs who wanted his wallet. Unfortunately for the muggers, the Aussie’s steel was far too fierce.
It may not be the most action-packed knife fight, but it’s f*cking hilarious. Who could forget this line?
It’s safe to say that Jean-Claude Van Damme was one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars. Known for his cinematic helicopter kicks, Van Damme takes on a bunch of murderous thugs in his living room while sporting nothing but his undies.
In attempts to avenge the murder of his wife, the Belgian martial artist travels through time to try and rewrite history, defeating all the bad guys along the way.
When moviegoers show up to the cinemas to watch a Tarantino film, they know they’re in for some witty dialogue and a sh*t-ton of F-bombs. When they showed up to watch Kill Bill: Volume 1, they got just that — and a whole lot of action. In this scene, our protagonist goes up against an old enemy and the two immediately draw steel. Uma Thurman and Vivica A. Fox put on a dazzling display — until they’re interrupted by a four-year-old girl.
Although 1992’s Under Siege, starring Steven Seagal, defies many of the real-life attributes of life in the Navy, it does showcase a pretty cool knife fight that you wouldn’t have expected out of acclaimed actor Tommy Lee Jones. Seagal and Jones go toe-to-toe, pitting a real-life Aikido expert up against a talented actor in one of the best knife-fight scenes ever to take place on a Navy vessel.
Tommy Lee Jones takes the two top spots on this list — who would’ve thought this veteran actor was so freakin’ talented with a blade? In 2003, William Friedkin brought The Hunted to the big screen, which follows an FBI tracker (played by Jones) as he sets out to capture a trained assassin (played by Benicio Del Toro), who’s made a sport out of killing humans.
The film features some pretty epic knife fights and showcases some interesting human-tracking skills.
When you think of goblins, the mythical creatures portrayed in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter films might come to mind. Traditionally, the goblin has been a mischievous, sneaky monster. So, in one sense, it’s fitting that this cunning creature found its way into the nickname of the first operational stealth aircraft.
The F-117 Nighthawk was nicknamed the “Wobblin’ Goblin,” mostly due to its handling characteristics — after all, it didn’t look like a conventional plane and it required computer assistance to remain in controlled flight. It might not sound ideal, but those were some of the realities of flying the first operational stealth fighter. Well, more accurately, it was a light bomber that usually carried two GBU-10 laser-guided bombs or four GBU-12 laser-guided bombs.
While most planes using laser-guided bombs on high-value targets often faced greater risk, the F-117 was perfectly suited for the task.
The reason? It was extremely hard to detect on radar. It was, for all intents and purposes, invisible to enemy forces on the ground, effectively negating many surface-to-air missiles of the time. With that, the F-117 was able to operate at the best possible altitude and fly the best possible profiles for covertly deploying laser-guided bombs.
F-117s en route to Saudi Arabia.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the F-117 was initially in service in 1983, a “black project” that operated in the Nevada desert for five years until the Air Force officially acknowledged it. The plane made its combat debut in Panama, where the planes achieved their objective. In Desert Storm, they hit many heavily-defended targets, flying 1,200 sorties with no losses. Often, the only warning that a F-117 was attacking was when its target blew up.
A F-117 gets fuel from a KC-10 Extender.
The F-117 also saw combat over the Balkans, where one was shot down, and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. With the introduction of the F-22 Raptor, the F-117 was eventually retired and taken back to the Nevada desert, where these high-tech Goblins lurk in case they’re needed again.
Learn more about this sneaky plane in the video below!
Tom Hanks stars in “Greyhound.” Photo courtesy of Apple TV+ press.
A new movie uses an all-star cast to bring the Battle of the Atlantic to life this Friday.
“Greyhound,” a WWII film, stars Hollywood favorite Tom Hanks, who also helped write the screenplay. It was initially set for release in theaters, but the coronavirus pandemic forced delays until it found an ultimate home exclusively on Apple TV+.
A large portion of the movie was shot on the USS Kidd (DD-661), now serving as a museum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The film, which hails from the book, “The Good Shepard” (1955) by C.S. Forester, tells the story of a newly-appointed ship captain (Hanks) and his crew’s vantage point through the Battle of the Atlantic. The 1942 event involved U.S. destroyers being attacked by a series of U-boats on their way to deliver supplies to Allied Forces in Europe.
“The Battle kind of fades into the background. You don’t really think about the logistics and dangers in it,” said Tim NesSmith, USS Kidd Museum superintendent and educational outreach coordinator. “It ran the length of the entire war. It was a long, drawn out, dangerous battle – against not only the enemy, but the elements of cold and ice. I hope [the movie] will bring more attention to the people who lived it.”
Considered to be the most accurate remaining destroyer from the war, the museum is a time machine, transporting visitors back 80 years and sharing the personal stories of the experience of sailors of the time.
One of four Fletcher-class destroyers that now exist as museums, the Kidd is the only ship to maintain its original WWII layout. It’s also listed by the Historic Naval Ships Association as one of the most authentically restored vessels in the world.
“Most have been modernized or structurally updated with the times,” said NesSmith.
The USS Kidd’s target restoration date is August 1945, which calls for scheduled restorations, cleanings and refurbished pieces. This schedule allowed the ship to remain as historically accurate as possible for the film NesSmith said.
After three months of prep work, the movie was filmed throughout April of 2018 on the Kidd. Other parts of the film were shot at the nearby Celtic Media Center. During the filming, NesSmith served as the site coordinator, outlining protocol by actors and crewmember and ensuring that the Kidd was not damaged.
Tom Hanks and crew in front of the USS Kidd. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+ press.
Film director, Aaron Schneider began scouting the Kidd for their shoot 2016.
“He researched it very well,” said NesSemith. “I think it really starts at the top and works its way down. I’ve worked on smaller sets before and this was on a whole different level. There’s a lot of planning – a lot more planning than I anticipated there would be. They did a great job.
“Everyone was really concerned about what they could and couldn’t do on the ship because they didn’t want to destroy its historical accuracy.”
Some pieces of the ship were recreated, while duplicate parts were documented and rented to the crew during filming. Museum workers also worked to obtain parts from the USS Orleck (DD-886), a fearing-class destroyer, now a museum ship, that’s based in Orange, Texas.
USS Kidd at sunset. Photo courtesy of the USS Kidd Veterans Museum.
On Greyhound’s release, NesSmith said WWII is important to remember. For him, its importance lies in average folks coming together in large numbers in order to create “the greatest fighting force that had ever been seen at that time.”
“They created freedom for those who lost it, and it’s an important story that needs to be told.”
So here’s the story. I normally run a few times a week, strength train and figure skate as often as I possibly can. (What can I say? I love knife shoes.) I’ve since gone through several quarantine phases. It started with, “I’m going to use this time to be in the best shape of my life!”…aka denial. It was then followed by stress baking, boredom snacking and finally my current stage: Trying my best to find balance.
Instead of stressing myself out with rigid fitness goals, I’m listening to my body and choosing workouts I actually feel like doing. For motivation, I’m trying a new fitness challenge each day to appreciate everything my body can do. (Even when I’ve eaten more onion and garlic pretzel chips than medically recommended.) These are a few of the exercises I’ve tried so far…can you do them all?
Stand Up From the Floor…No Hands Allowed!
Okay, this one sounds deceptively easy. Lay down on your stomach and try to get up without using your hands for help. Roll over, sit up, bend your knees, lean forward and try to rise to your feet. It doesn’t require exceptional strength, but you do need to have decent flexibility throughout your hips and hamstrings.
Balance on One Leg for 60 Seconds
Another exercise that sounds crazy easy, except that you have to do this balanced on the *ball* of your foot. You don’t have to raise all the way up to your toes, but your heel must be lifted off the ground for it to count. Start out with one hand on a chair or countertop for balance. First, lift your free leg up, keeping your foot pressed lightly against your standing leg for stability. Then, lift up onto the ball of your foot and start the timer.
This is a test not only of balance but of the strength of all the stabilizing muscles from your calves to your core. Thirty seconds and up is considered good, and 60 seconds is excellent. Pro-tip: Try focusing on keeping a tight core and flexing your glutes to hold the position longer!
Hold a Plank for 2 Minutes
The humble plank is a great, full-body exercise, and it’s pretty tough. Just hold the “up” part of a pushup as long as you can, making sure your back isn’t arched and your butt isn’t sticking up in the air — save that for yoga class! While you only need to hold planks for around 30 seconds to benefit from them, it’s fun to see how long you can hold them! (Not to brag, but I did it for 3.)
This is the toughest one on the list, hands down. To do a pistol squat, you extend one leg straight out in front of you and squat down to a minimum of 90 degrees- some people can go all the way to the floor! It’s super tough, and you need more than just strength. You need a ton of flexibility to keep your free leg from hitting the floor. A cheat as you work your way up to a full pistol squat is to hold onto a railing to lessen the resistance. I managed 5 before I couldn’t make it back up and fell on my butt.
Which exercise was the toughest for you? Hopefully, you surprised yourself!