The World War I-era U.S. Army was unprepared for fighting a global confrontation in the 20th Century. Hell, it was unprepared for any modern confrontation at the turn of the century. As America prepared to enter the Great War, the War Department called on its military minds to develop a lightweight, short-range, trench-clearing game changer. The result was the Thompson submachine gun.
The “Tommy Gun,” as it came to be called, used the Colt M1911 grip and its dependable .45-caliber ammunition. By 1919, the fully-automatic weapon was perfected, and it was capable of using a 20-round block magazine or a 50- to 100-round drum magazine. But the war was over and the surplus was sold on the civilian market to anyone who could afford one – including notorious gangsters.
It was the outlaws and gangsters who made the Tommy Gun iconic.
Legendary gangster John Dillinger with Tommy Gun.
In nearly every photo of the era, the gangsters can be seen using the drum magazines, which provided them more ammunition for the weapon’s high rate of fire. It makes sense for an outlaw to use more ammo when trying to make a quick, clean getaway from the fuzz. Shouldn’t it make sense for U.S. troops to do the same when advancing in World War II?
The answer is no, and not just because a 100-round magazine will help deplete ammunition much faster than having to conserve 20- or 30-round box mags. It turns out, the Thompson was really bulky and not so easy to carry while slung with a drum magazine. More than just being unwieldy, the rounds tended to rattle inside the drum magazine and produced a lot of unwanted noise, noise that could get an entire unit killed in combat.
But the most important reason was reloading.
Yeah, gangsters look cool and all, but have you ever seen Marines fighting to take Okinawa?
Switching between a drum magazine and a box magazine required an extra set of tools. To load a drum magazine also required the user to have a special tool that would lock the bolt back to the rear. And, unlike spring-loaded box mags that were already under tension, reloading a drum magazine required a tool to rotate the spring in the magazine enough to put the rounds under the necessary tension.
Worst of all, if you lost any of the tools needed to reload the weapon, you would be hard-pressed to actually be able to do it without assistance. Drum mags also weighed more and took up more space in a very limited kit. Whereas the box magazine could be loaded and dropped from the rifle in seconds, shared with a buddy, and reloaded just as fast.
The difference between 30 second and 3 seconds under fire in World War II could have been the difference between life and death. In gangland Chicago, all you needed was time for your V8 Packard to speed away before the Untouchables swooped in.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Master Sergeant Bill — and that was his real last name — had a trick back, so he claimed. It seemed to flare up just as we were on the cusp of an unpleasant mission. My gosh, it didn’t seem to trouble him much at all during “good deal” trips, no Sir. Whether or not it was a valid ailment, that we shall never know, but the timing of the affliction sure seemed suspect over the years.
Well sure, I understood as well as the next man, that with all of the non-stop training we did to satisfy our charter to deploy in just a few hours, to deploy to the four corners of the planet and be ready to sustain combat for several days… a brother just needed a break now and then to harness and hold a semblance of sanity — “to each his own,” I often rationalized.
“Woo, yeah brother… I can feel my back getting ready to go out again. Yes sirree I can feel it coming on.”
“$hit Bill, your back goes out more than a hooker on East Central… I don’t suppose your back is just feeling the freezing cold early on, is it?”
“What freezing cold?”
“Yeah, the freezing cold of our trip to Fairbanks Alaska for Arctic weather training.”
“Oh, yeah… well I guess that is coming up, isn’t it…”
“Oh, well yeah… I guess it is, Bill.”
(Arctic warfare training always promised deep snow and freezing temperatures)
There were a few brothers that had a perceived penchant for backing out of what we called “bad deal trips,” in favor of pursuing only the “good deal trips.” They were just slick like that. Again it was just a perception, but perception is the better part of reality in most cases.
Three of the guys earned the following monikers:
Samuel: Good deal Sam, bad deal — scram!
William: Good deal Will, bad deal — chill!
Martin: Good deal Marty, bad deal — departy!
Ah, but Sergeant Bill… now he just carried his maneuvers a smidge farther than the rest, and he didn’t deserve any finesse in his moniker:
Bill: Good deal Bill, bad deal — fake a back injury!
When I look back on some of our more gruesome training missions I am aware, ever so aware, that I do not recollect his presence there. There was the Arctic training in Alaska where we endured temperature plummets as low as -45 degree Fahrenheit while we made death marches on skis and snowshoes all night long.
No Sergeant Bill — threw his dang back out.
There was the trip to British Guyana 100 miles south of the infamous Jones Town where some 950 followers of Jim Jones’ “religion” committed suicide by poisonous Kool-aid in honor of their leader. Triple canopy jungles, All night movements again on foot and by tactical assault boats through snaking inland riverways in the sweltering heat.
No Sergeant Bill — threw his dad-blamed back out.
Hey but the desert mobility training trip where we planned extreme long range patrols… Bill was there! Oh, but his back got to acting up, and he stayed in the rear at the communications relay station — bless his lame heart. If that were not enough, then there was this thing that happened:
Long range tactical patrols meant movement all night long. Before the sun comes up, we stopped and set up camouflage nets. We then performed work priorities, set out guards, and tried to sleep in the frying pan desert as best we could.
(An Austrian Pinzgauer, the vehicle of choice for desert mobility movements)
We played the tactical game to the hilt because we knew there were Russian helicopters flying the desert looking for our Rally Over Day (ROD) locations at this particular state-side training venue. To be spotted was a compromise and we would have to pack up and run from them in daylight— a losing situation.
To the lonely sound of the buzzing of deer flies, punctuated by the omnipresent smacking noise of the swatting of deer flies, was the low rumble of men in fitful sleep. Very suddenly came the booming of the heavy rotor blades of a Russian Hind-D attack helicopter looming at some 75 feet of altitude… with spineless Bill leaning out of a cargo window pointing wildly to us on the ground.
(The very intimidating Russian attack helicopter Hind-D)
“I’m going to kill him pretty soon… I’m going to kill spineless Bill. I’m going to chop him up into pieces then burn each of the pieces to ashes. I’m going to collect up those ashes and tamp them down into the barrel of a 12-pound Napoleon cannon, and fire his ashes out of over a field full of cow sh!t; when the cows come to eat the grass I’m going to kill them too and then burn the grass… and I’m going to do it all on a piping-hot Summer’s day,” projected the oath a particularly agitated brother.
The moral of the story here could possibly be: whether your back injury is real or faked, and perception being the greater part of reality, your shenanigans will not write you a day pass from… THE UNIT CARTOONIST!
Robert Duvall has had a remarkable career. With iconic roles in The Godfather I and II, Lonesome Dove, The Apostle, Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Apocalypse Now, Days of Thunder, and many more, Duvall is best known for his roles on screen and as an accomplished filmmaker. Perhaps lesser known is that he served in the Army for two years during the 1950s and comes from a military family where his father was a Rear Admiral.
WATM had the opportunity to speak with Duvall to hear about his fascinating life, from growing up as an Admiral’s son to working with some of the greatest minds in entertainment of all time.
WATM: What was your family like and your life like growing up?
We moved a lot because of being in a military family. We lived in San Diego and then Annapolis, MD, at the Naval Academy. I remember seeing a movie when I was really young at Camp Pendleton for a dime back in the 1930s when we lived in Mission Hills in San Diego. Right before WWII started, my dad was transferred from Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic Fleet, which led to our move to Annapolis for eight straight years. My father’s first ship was in the Atlantic. My grandmother lived with us for a while as well back then. As a young boy, I watched athletic events at the Academy and became inundated with their sports as a kid. I remember watching Army and Navy games when Army players such as Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis were on the field.
My father was a good line officer and had a solid war record where he retired as a Rear Admiral. His first command was in San Pedro which was the USS Clark, which was a minesweeper. He was with destroyers from Europe to North Africa where his last command was USS Juno, which was a light cruiser. My father served on the USS Indianapolis (famous for delivering parts for Little Boy and then being sunk by the Japanese losing a large percentage of the crew to sharks) and carried President Roosevelt’s bags for him while he was on the ship. My father kept quiet about his service in retirement and didn’t go out on ships once retired..
We prayed and did our bit at home while he was abroad fighting in the war. One funny thing was how my father stopped smoking during the war, so we sent him chewing gum instead. My father worked with the British Navy and enjoyed serving with them. He told us how the British Navy would toast the Queen but not the President of the U.S. After they would have dinner and wine, the British would have wrestling matches where it was best two out of three falls. My dad respected the British and Churchill. Thank God for Churchill as he was likely the greatest man in the 20th century.
The USS Indianapolis- U.S. Navy photo 80-G-425615
As a young teen, me and my siblings went out to our uncle Harold Prescott’s 40,000-acre cattle and sheep ranch in Montana for two summers in a row. This happened at the end of WWII. These memories and experiences at the ranch I’ll never forget; they embedded in me a certain culture. We would go there by train on the Empire Builder of the Great Northern. It would take us from Chicago where we took the Baltimore Ohio the first way and my aunt would pick us up when the Empire Builder would stop in the open fields.
We rode horses, cleaned out the chicken coop, went camping in the mountains and fly fishing with my uncle. I met Jimmy Morrison, a great veterinarian and immigrant from Scotland, while at the ranch and learned a lot about handling animals from him. He was just good to be around where we pitched horseshoes every night with him. Jimmy roped a baby coyote from his horse once and he raced full speed on his quarter horse and touched a galloping antelope on the neck.
They would have big dances there in Montana where if you asked the wrong woman to dance the whole place would turn into a gigantic fist fight, thereby ending the dance. My uncle even gave us a salary at the end of the summer for the work we did around the ranch. He told us, “With your father off fighting the war the least I can do is pay you boys something for your work around here.” My uncle Harold fought in WWI in the Battle of Belleau Wood as a Marine.
Empire Builder of the Great Northern. Credit: Great Northern Railway Historical Society.
I went into a small college, Principia College where my military family pushed me into acting. I changed my major to drama after my first A in an acting course and found myself.
WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My mother ran the home while my father was away. My father could be gone for eight months and we respected him for his service. He was a good man and taught us work ethic by example. My mother ran a cotillion for dancing as we grew up where we learned social graces and how to interact with people, especially women. She made for us a good and stable home life with great experiences.
The US Naval Academy in the 1940s. Credit:HipPostcard.com
WATM: What values were stressed at home?
We were taught to believe in God, do good for other people and to be patriotic. We were taught to keep positive thoughts even in hard times.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace” painting. Credit Norman Rockwell.
WATM: What influenced you to join the U.S. Army and what lessons did you take away from your service?
I was drafted and went in for two years where the Army was okay. I did a lot of imitations of people I met in the Army which was shared with my family and friends. One experience really stuck with me was with a fellow soldier nicknamed 3-D, who was like six feet six inches tall and could hardly see. We were marching one night and he disappeared as he had fallen into a fox hole. It struck me as strange that Mickey Mantle was 4F, but that 3-D was considered service worthy. How is a star center fielder for the Yankees not able to serve but this guy is?
I really brought away humor and the ability to tell stories from the Army and served my time. It served me later for playing military roles and allowed me to have a respect for the part. I have a respect for the military, so I played those parts with credence and professionalism.
President George W. Bush stands with recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, from left: Leonard Garment, Louis Auchincloss, Paquito D’Rivera, James DePreist, Tina Ramirez, Robert Duvall, and Ollie Johnston. Credit: White House photo by Eric Draper – whitehouse.gov
WATM: What are the best lessons that Sanford Meisner taught you?
I trained with Sanford on the GI Bill where he taught me how to be as simple as possible in connecting with people. He showed us how to be basic and get to the core of communication. He taught me a legitimate and helpful shortcut in acting. Meisner once said he was easier to please than Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Meisner was friends with Horton Foote, who gave me my first film in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Horton had seen me in a play that Meisner had directed at the Neighborhood Playhouse and liked what they saw, so from that I got Boo Radley. It was a wonderful part to start off with and Horton really helped me a lot in my career.
A photo of a young Robert. Credit unknown.
WATM: What was it like transitioning from stage actor to Film/TV actor?
I started out in the theatre and did summer stock. The main difference is you just speak up a little more on stage than you do in film and TV. You are still believing in an imaginary set of circumstances and going into an imaginary world. It is you doing it yourself where you are appearing as you are becoming something else as we have only one set of emotions and psyche. One of my favorite stage parts ever, American Buffalo, I did on Broadway, which is the Mamet play, it was the best. You do eight shows a week which can wear you down. I would nap between shows and just get up and stumble on stage from that deep nap. Rest is very important.
And Robert Duvall in the “Miniature” episode of the “Twilight Zone.” Credit IMDB.com
WATM: What are some of your best memories from your early to mid-career working on great shows and films?
There were parts I was able to grow in and was able to get better as I got older. There are always some parts you do better than other parts for whatever reasons. Eastwood was good to work with and I liked working with John Wayne as well. The Duke was just neat to be around. He did some good work and stuck up for me on the set of “True Grit.” I was having struggles working with the director of the film where Duke chimed in to balance the odds.
Ulu Grosbard was a close friend and gave me a lot of help early in my career. He directed me in Broadway and Off-Broadway plays. If I needed something from him, he would help me right away. He was a great guy.
Brando was the great one to work with and was so innovative. A memorable story is where I met a great English stage actor that went to see a Streetcar Named Desire when Brando was in it on Broadway. The English actor got embarrassed because he thought a stagehand had wandered on stage by mistake. The “stagehand” was so natural, but it turned out that it was just Brando on stage. The English actor went to see it seven times. Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and I would meet at Cromwell’s drug store two or three times a week for an hour. We mentioned Brando nearly every day in those conversations. Working with Brando was amazing; he turned the world upside down when he came around.
Jimmy Caan is super funny and an extremely quick wit. James has a lot of talent and is a wonderful actor where we stay in touch with each other. De Niro was wonderful and I did summer stock with Gene Hackman. One note on Gene, when I busted my pelvis on set a long time ago, he offered me his last 0. I didn’t take it but he is a great guy to be around. Gene Hackman was a Marine and played on the USMC Football team with Joe Bartos, a Naval Academy grad and professional football player for the Redskins. Gene also served in Korea and stood duty in the cold there. He used to tell me stories about his time in Korea. Dustin Hoffman was my roommate and was a character where he belongs in the business. I kept in touch with Wilford Brimley as well when he was a bodyguard for Howard Hughes and a Marine.
Robert in his first feature film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Credit IMDB.com
Francis Ford Coppola, Robert, and Marlon Brando on set for “The Godfather.” Credit IMDB.com
Robert with George Lucas and Donald Pleasance working on “THX 1138.” Credit IMDB.com
Robert and Tommy Lee Jones in “Lonesome Dove.” Credit IMDB.com
Robert Duvall with Clint Eastwood while filming Joe Kidd. Credit IMDB.com
WATM: What was your experience like working on the military films “Apocalypse Now” and “The Great Santini?”
When I went in to read for “Apocalypse Now,” the initial writing for the character I played wasn’t written very well. Colonel Carnage was the original name for LtCol Kilgore and was made more of a caricature of the Army than a realistic portrayal. It was just too much for me. Coppola allowed me to adjust the LtCol for the film and to find the uniform and the hat for the character. Coppola always allowed me to find the character and was very instrumental in my career. He helped me a lot. Coppola and I were so close, we would have arguments on the phone about artistic points, but we had a mutual respect. I really like working for him.
When I did “The Great Santini,” I went down early to location to get settled in Beaufort, South Carolina. I found a place to live and went into a real estate office where they thought I was a Marine. One funny memory was when I went up to a beautiful house on the hill when looking for a place to rent. I went up to the door with the real estate people where this sweet, little southern lady opened it and I asked her if she would allow me to rent the home from her. She had the most honest and funniest response with her draw, “Well where would I go?” I thanked her for her time, and we left.
I would get up at 5:30 in the mornings and go hang out with the drill instructors at MCRD Parris Island. They seemed more beat up and tired than the recruits were. They were hoarse and exhausted from their work training them. I went to the officers and non-commissioned officers’ ball while on base where I had a great time with them. I always try to be as accurate as I can with military parts, especially in “The Great Santini.” Overall, working with the Marines was great! I love Marines!
As LtCol Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now.” Credit IMDB.com
Robert Duvall with Francis Ford Coppola on set of “Apocalypse Now.” Credit unknown.
Robert Duvall in The Great Santini. Credit IMDB.com.
WATM: What are your favorite moments from your mid-career to now on such films?
“Tender Mercies” comes to mind where I insisted on Wilford being in the film with me where he had my back in dealing with the director. Wilford helped with the common distance between a foreign director and a native actor, which was taking place in my situation. One of the best memories from that set is when the director, Bruce Beresford, told us to, “pick up the pace,” on set. Wilford responded with, “I didn’t know anybody dropped it.” . Wilford’s retort drew laughter from the cast and crew.
I once walked into the dining room on “Lonesome Dove” and told them, “We were making the Godfather of Westerns.” I really believe that and playing Gus is probably my most favorite part to play overall.
“Days of Thunder” was a lot of fun working with Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is a good guy to work with and he bought me a ,000 jumping horse. He really is a terrific and very giving guy. It was great to be with him again on “Jack Reacher.” I played a retired Marine in that film with him.
Working on “Falling Down” with Rachel Ticotin was wonderful. She is a smart and fun actress to work with. We had a great time on set for the film.
“The Apostle” was a wonderful film to make. Miranda Richardson was so talented in the film and we had Farrah Fawcett, who was underrated, in it as well. I put my own money in that film and we got it back. Marlon Brando loved it and so did Billy Graham, so I got praise on both sides from the secular and religious. Brando wrote me a letter that is framed on my wall and it still means a lot to me what he wrote.
Hank Whitman is another talented professional to work with where we worked together on “Wild Horses” in 2015. He is a Texas Ranger and served in the Marines. He is a classy guy and a man of his word.
My favorite film to work on recently was “Get Low,” just loved the character. It was just a nice production to work on, especially with Lucas Black who I worked with on “Sling Blade.”
Robert with Tess Harper in “Tender Mercies,” which he won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1984. Credit IMDB.com.
Susan Rinnell, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Jason Presson, Gail Youngs and Wilford Brimley in “The Stone Boy.” Credit IMDB.com.
Robert working on “The Natural.” Credit IMDB.com.
Robert with Tom Cruise while filming “Days of Thunder.” Credit IMDB.com.
Robert and Gene Hackman in Geronimo: An American Legend. Credit IMDB.com.
Rachel Ticotin and Robert Duvall in “Falling Down.” Credit IMDB.com.
Robert wrote, directed, produced and starred in “The Apostle.” Credit IMDB.com.
Robert with Nic Cage filming “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Credit IMDB.com.
On set in “Get Low” with Bill Murray. Credit IMDB.com.
WATM: What are you most proud of in your life and career?
I am proud of my wife Luciana and we have a nice relationship. She is a great cook, she is going for her brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is studying Kali which is Filipino knife training. She has a great family she comes from in Argentina where she is the granddaughter of Argentinian aviation pioneer Susana Ferrari Billinghurst. We love our dogs and they are like kids.
Picture of Robert with his wife Luciana at an event for “The Judge.” Credit IMDB.com.
President Donald Trump will posthumously award the Medal of Honor to the family of a fallen U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controller at a ceremony on Aug. 22, 2018, for his extraordinary heroism in March 2002 while deployed to Afghanistan.
According to the medal nomination, Tech. Sergeant John Chapman distinguished himself on the battlefield through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity,” sacrificing his life to preserve those of his teammates. Chapman was part of a joint special operations reconnaissance team deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 that came under overwhelming enemy fire during a heroic rescue attempt on Takur Ghar mountain, Afghanistan, March 4, 2002.
“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman earned America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, for the actions he performed to save fellow Americans on a mountain in Afghanistan more than 16 years ago,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “He will forever be an example of what it means to be one of America’s best and bravest Airmen.”
During the initial insertion onto Afghanistan’s Takur Ghar mountaintop, the MH-47 “Chinook” helicopter carrying Chapman and the joint special operations reconnaissance team flew into an enemy ambush. Intense enemy small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire significantly damaged the helicopter, throwing Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts into the “hornet’s nest” of enemies below. Following a controlled crash landing a few miles away, the remaining team members elected to fly back to the enemy-infested mountaintop in a heroic attempt to rescue Roberts.
Tech. Sgt. John Chapman
During the rescue attempt, Chapman and his teammates once again received heavy enemy fire from multiple directions. Chapman, despite the enemy fire, charged uphill through thigh-deep snow to directly assault an enemy position. He took the enemy bunker, cleared the position, and killed the enemy fighters occupying the position.
Then, with complete disregard for his own life, Chapman deliberately moved from the bunker’s protective cover to attack a second hostile bunker with an emplaced machine gun firing on the rescue team.
During this bold attack, he was struck and temporarily incapacitated by enemy fire.
Despite his wounds, Chapman regained his faculties and continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy fighters before paying the ultimate sacrifice. In performance of these remarkably heroic actions, he is credited with saving the lives of his teammates.
“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman fought tenaciously for his nation and his teammates on that hill in Afghanistan,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “His inspiring story is one of selfless service, courage, perseverance, and honor as he fought side by side with his fellow Soldiers and Sailors against a determined and dug-in enemy. Tech. Sgt. Chapman represents all that is good, all that is right, and all that is best in our American Airmen.”
John Chapman holding a child in Afghanistan.
He continued, “I extend my deepest thanks to the members of Tech. Sgt. Chapman’s family, his military family, and the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who were his brothers on the battlefield and who have remained committed to honoring his legacy. He is a true American hero.
“This is a reflection of our commitment to recognizing the heroic actions of our Airmen,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. “As Chapman’s story reminds us, we have a sacred duty to honor the actions and sacrifices of all our service members. I share our Airmen’s deepest gratitude to the Chapman family, as well as the family members of all those who gave their lives serving our great nation.”
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s most prestigious military decoration. It is awarded by the president, in the name of Congress, to military members who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, while engaged in action with an enemy of the United States.
Chapman will be the 19th Airman awarded the Medal of Honor since the Department of the Air Force was established in 1947. He will be the first Airman recognized with the medal for heroic actions occurring after the Vietnam War.
On a muggy summer day in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a Marine Corps instructor stood on a ledge overlooking a swamp. He looked out at his students, and his eyes found Master Sgt. Aretha Boston — the only airman in the platoon.
He called her forward, and Boston walked up to the ledge.
“Just as soon as I extended my hand, he grabbed it,” Boston recalled. “And before I knew it, he was pulling me into the swamp.”
For Boston, 11th Medical Group command staff superintendent, it was another of many surprises at the Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy Advanced Course. The opportunity to attend the course was a surprise in itself.
Most surprising, though, was how well she performed. At graduation time, Boston took home three of the most prestigious awards at the school: the class Gunnery Sergeant Award (voted on by instructors), the Honor Graduate Award (voted on by her classmates), and the Distinguished Graduate Award (for measured academic excellence).
In some ways, though, it was a fitting chapter in a storied career that almost never was.
Coming from a small town in Florida, Boston’s life plan didn’t involve joining the military. Her mother, though, had different ideas. She insisted that her daughter enlist.
Master Sgt. Aretha Boston, 11th Medical Group command staff superintendent, poses for a portrait Oct. 24, 2018, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Boston.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Noah Sudolcan)
“To be completely honest, in the beginning I was angry,” Boston said. Despite her misgivings, at the age of 17 and straight out of high school, she begrudgingly agreed and enlisted in the Air Force to become a dental technician. Years later, she said she views it as “by far the best decision my parents could have made for me.”
Boston’s first base was 7,479 miles from home: Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. She was away from her family, the only airman basic in the dental clinic and learning a whole new lifestyle. Over those first few months, she learned the technical portion of her job, but she said she struggled with the challenge of conforming to military discipline.
“I acted out a lot,” Boston said. “I didn’t want people to tell me to do something. I was very stubborn.”
After serving a year in Korea, she moved to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Dealing with the culture shock coming from Korea, she said she found it hard to connect with people.
Her first Christmas break in Florida started with a call from her first sergeant asking why she wasn’t at bay orderly — an extra duty to help clean the dorm common areas. Thinking she had the week off, she said it all seemed unfair.
“The first shirt sat me down and told me, ‘Listen, I’ve been told you’re a stellar airman, but you have a terrible attitude,'” she said. When he told her that an unchecked bad attitude could end up getting her kicked out of the military, she said she decided to make some changes.
“That was my turning point,” she said. “From then on, I did the best I could to be the best airman.”
The new attitude paid off. Several years — and promotions — later, everything was going well. But Boston said she craved something different. A new challenge. Something to separate herself from her peers. She was comfortable, standing on the solid ground of a well-constructed military career, but she was contemplating a big jump.
Air Force Master Sgt. Aretha Boston, middle left, poses with her Marine Corps classmates during the Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy Advanced Course in the summer of 2018.
She found out the Air Force offers the chance for master sergeants to attend a sister service academy. She applied. Then she got accepted. The class started in the summer of 2018, and when she arrived, there were only six airmen in a sea of 120 Marines.
“(Marines) operate completely different from (airmen),” Boston explained. “Everything ties into fitness. Leadership, strategy planning — it always goes back to fitness.”
Physical training was every day, which she said was taxing on both her body and mind.
Those challenges culminated when, after a long morning run, the instructor pulled her into the swamp. With Marines cheering from the side, Boston remembers the feeling of being engulfed by the freezing water. After she and the rest of her class swam to the other side, a long obstacle course lay ahead of them.
Like all the other obstacles in Marine Corps senior NCO training, along with the hurdles of her early career, Boston faced them head on.
“It was pretty motivating to think she was an airman coming over to the course, doing something unprecedented,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Walker, Boston’s classmate and Marine Corps Aviation Logistics Squadron 14 warehouse managements division warehouse chief.
Walker said it would be natural to see a decrease in academic productivity in the individual taking on the busy role of class gunnery sergeant. But he said Boston had no such trouble. In fact, she still managed to excel beyond her peers – even the ones wearing Marine Corps insignia.
“She literally did everything you would expect from a Marine, pushing forward, even outside of class.” Walker said. “She carried herself as a professional the entire time and represented the Air Force well.”
After the Cold War, the United States discarded a number of weapon systems. Politicians sought to cash in a “peace dividend” to placate voters who were happy to see the fall of the Soviet Union. With “the end of history,” we could afford those cuts, right? Less than ten years after the Soviet Union dissolved, we were proven wrong on 9/11. Our troops arguably paid the price for those cuts.
One of the systems that was retired very hastily was the OV-10 Bronco. It looks kind of funky – not attractive in the traditional sense – especially with that tail arrangement and the over-sized cockpit that looks a little bit like a greenhouse. But it was used as a platform for American forward air controllers from 1969 to 1995. The plane is still in service in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Venezuela. The Bronco can carry up to 3,600 pounds of bombs, rockets, and missiles, and originally came with four 7.62mm M60C machine guns. With a top speed of 288 miles per hour and a range of almost 1,400 miles, an OV-10D can stick around for a long time.
That upgrade is probably one of the biggest unanswered questions surrounding the current wars. While the Department of Defense gained a lot of plaudits for the way the MC-12 was developed and deployed to Iraq, suppose the DOD instead had kept enough Broncos around? The Philippines, who are in no great shakes militarily, have adapted their OV-10s to carry smart bombs.
The Bronco could very well make its comeback. SOCOM tested two OV-10G+ versions under the COMBAT DRAGON II program in recent years, actually conducting a few strikes against Taliban targets using SEAL Team 6 personnel. Those airframes were formerly Marine Corps birds that were briefly operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Proposals for an OV-10X have surfaced as well. Among the proposed upgrades are replacing the M60 machine guns with M3s, faster-firing versions of Ma Deuce, as well as giving it the ability to carry a dozen Hellfires.
Last year, two Broncos were pulled from service with NASA and the State Department and sent to Iraq to fight ISIS. They flew 82 sorties, and reports about their performance were very favorable. (And to think that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) wanted to pull the plug on the COMBAT DRAGON II program.)
Now military experts are wondering if the decision in the 1990s to retire them from the Marine Corps and Air Force was short-sighted, saying that having a plane with the MC-12’s surveillance abilities with some GBU-12 or GBU-38 smart bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles would have been very effective in supporting our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So check out our list of how the military upgrades your personal style.
1. Physical training
It’s not every service member’s goal to go out and win the Mr. Olympia body building contest — we get it. But since we get physically tested nearly on a daily basis depending on your occupation, we tend to build a little muscle here and there.
Plus, members of the opposite sex tend to like a guy or gal that’s in shape — just saying.
We guess she liked that. (Image via Giphy)
Although the military doesn’t provide service members cosmetic dental work, getting your cavities filled for free is a much better option than walking around with a big a** hole in your #2 mural.
They declare war on cavities. (Image via Giphy)
3. Dress uniform
Since women love a man in uniform, all service members are in luck because you have to wear one practically every single day. Having a dress uniform ready to go in your closet can also save you a bunch of money from having to rent or buy a tux for your upcoming wedding.
See, it’s all in the uniform. (Image via Giphy)
Many of us join the military to escape an unsatisfying life back home. Most of the newbies will end up living in the barracks their first few years in the service until they get married or promoted. In recent years, the government has spent a lot of dinero to improve base housing.
This is a huge step up from when you were sharing a room with your little brother back home.
Base housing in the Air Force. (Image via Giphy)
If you have crappy vision heading into the military, you’re going to end up wearing BCGs at least through boot camp. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can upgrade your spectacles once you graduate and even put in a request to get a Lasik procedure through your chain of command.
A major US Navy station in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was placed on lockdown April 5 after an active shooter incident on the base.
NAS Air Station Oceana confirmed the incident on Twitter, and said that the perpetrator was “contained.” One person was injured, the station confirmed. Local news anchor Kristen Crowley reported the victim had a minor leg wound.
The base added that the victim was transported to hospital.
NAS OCEANA experienced an Active Shooter incident. The shooter has been contained. The victim has been transported to the hospital. More information to follow.
Naval Air Station Oceana previously announced the lockdown at 7:18 a.m., noting an unspecified “security incident.” It lifted the lockdown one hour later.
All gates to the base are closed and nobody can access it at this time, the Virginia Beach fire Department tweeted.
Police also warned people not to go near the area, local WAVY-TV reporter Katie Collett reported.
Footage outside the base tweeted by local 13NewsNow reporter Chenue Her showed dozens of people in uniform gathered at the entrance. Some of them can be seen hugging each other as they were let out of the base, Her noted.
I’m on my way to Oceana to follow this lockdown. I’ll have more info as soon as I find out. #13NewsNowhttps://twitter.com/13brianfarrell/status/1114128185556459520 …
I drove by the main entrance and it was severely backed up with traffic. Here’s a look down Oceana Blvd near a utility entrance with security at the gate and people gathering. #13NewsNowpic.twitter.com/hd0y6Sr0BJ
Somewhere in an Estonian Forest, causal hikers will come across a sea of red star-adorned metallic strips jutting out of the ground. Like some giant shark jaw, the 9,000-foot area is next to a wooded area, covered with what are actually aircraft tail fins, which are really grave markings of Soviet airmen.
Which are all really creepy.
These days, what was once a Warsaw Pact airstrip is now near a NATO-run military installation in Estonia, a former Warsaw Pact signatory. The base, Ämari Air Base, had the name Suurküla under the Soviet Union until 1991. The fins bear the names, and some even bear the likenesses of the pilots, many of whom were probably at the controls of the plane their eternal tail fin came from.
Suurküla was the home of several Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer medium bomber squadrons, from which many of the tail fins originated in some form. Now it’s the home of Estonian and NATO Air Forces whose mission is to monitor activity on the nearby Baltic Sea, as well as a fleet of F-16s from Denmark.
Just because these pilots happen to be buried below the aircraft that likely killed them, don’t think for a minute the Soviet Union’s air forces were nothing to write home about. For a time, the Soviets possessed superior technology and boasted the world’s largest air force. The Baltic States’ air force posture could actually cover much of the country in case of a NATO invasion.
This Estonian air base and the men stationed here contributed a large part to the defense of their countries, the men buried here gave their lives for it. If you ever visit Amari Air Base, be sure to pour out a sip of vodka for these comrades.
The most advanced version of the F-15 ever built took to the skies in St. Louis, MO, on April 14, 2020, and highlighted just how impressive its capabilities are. In the 90 minute flight, the F-15QA (QA stands for Qatar Advanced) showcased its speed, maneuverability and, in general, just how badass of a force this new jet will be.
What’s a “Viking takeoff”? Watch as the Qatar Emiri Air Force #F15 demonstrates the maneuver during its first flight.pic.twitter.com/wLHEuvH0Lt
With the F-15QA’s unmatched speed and maneuverability, Chief Test Pilot Matt Giese was able to showcase the capabilities by performing a vertical “Viking” takeoff and by pulling nine Gs during the test in various maneuvers. The maiden flight highlighted just how advanced this aircraft is. Avionics, radar and other systems all performed as designed and the flight was deemed a success.
“This successful first flight is an important step in providing the QEAF an aircraft with best-in-class range and payload,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager in a press release issued by Boeing. “The advanced F-15QA not only offers game changing capabilities but is also built using advanced manufacturing processes which make the jet more efficient to manufacture. In the field, the F-15 costs half the cost per flight hour of similar fighter aircraft and delivers far more payload at far greater ranges. That’s success for the warfighter.”
Image via Boeing
The F-15QA was developed for the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF). The Department of Defense awarded Boeing a .2 billion contract in 2017 to manufacture 36 F-15 fighter jets for the QEAF with delivery date being 2021. To put it mildly: the QEAF is stoked.
“We are very proud of this accomplishment and looking forward with great excitement to the continued successes of this program,” Col. Ahmed Al Mansoori, commander, QEAF F-15 Wing said in a press release. “This successful first flight is an important milestone that brings our squadrons one step closer to flying this incredible aircraft over the skies of Qatar.”
In addition to being able to perform seamless Viking takeoffs, Boeing shared the other impressive features of the advanced aircraft. According to Boeing, the F-15QA brings to its operators next-generation technologies such as fly-by-wire flight controls, digital cockpit; modernized sensors, radar, and electronic warfare capabilities; and the world’s fastest mission computer. Increases in reliability, sustainability and maintainability allow defense operators to affordably remain ahead of current and evolving threats.
[VIDEO]: Qatar Emiri Air Force F-15QA will get large area display cockpit with touch screen made by Elbit Systemspic.twitter.com/6kUzF0VHby
Don’t worry, this fun and excitement isn’t only for Qatar. Boeing is preparing to build a “domestic variant” of the F-15QA, the F-15EX, as approved in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. According to Boeing, in January, the Air Force announced their intention to award a sole-source contract to Boeing for eight of the F-15EX, with future plans for as many as 144.
The F15EX. Image via Boeing
Boeing considers the F-15EX the cost-effective, ready solution. According to their website:
In support of the National Defense Strategy, the United States Air Force must purchase an additional 24 combat aircraft per year. F-15EX is the only way to rapidly and affordably meet the Air Force’s critical requirements.
Boeing’s F-15EX is the most cost-effective, ready, advanced solution to meet U.S. Air Force capacity requirements and add capability to the fleet. Driven by Boeing’s active production line, the next-generation jet enables pilots and mechanics to transition in a matter of days as opposed to years while delivering unmatched total life cycle costs.
The F-15EX leverages B+ in technology investments over the past decade to bring the U.S. Air Force the world’s most modern variant of the undefeated F-15. Complementing other aircraft, the F-15EX enhances the air combat capabilities of the fleet to ensure the U.S. remains ahead of current and emerging threats. With next-generation technologies to provide unrivaled capabilities in a broad spectrum of environments, Boeing’s F-15EX delivers more payload, capacity and range than any fighter in its class.
As seen from space, the planet Earth is a peaceful, cloud-covered ball of blue and brown and green. When the sun sets beyond the horizon, the lights of humanity wink on across the globe. The serenity of the astronaut’s eye-view belies the ballistic fire and brimstone that made that view possible.
No shuttle pierces the atmosphere, no satellite orbits the globe, no man sets foot on the moon, no space station fosters international scientific cooperation, none of it is possible, if not for World War 2 and the fury of the Nazi war machine. None of it happens without the graduate work of a young German physicist named Wernher von Braun and the fruits of his youthful labors, the V-2 ballistic rocket.
At the time that von Braun was concluding his doctorate thesis, “Construction, Theoretical, and Experimental Solution to the Problem of the Liquid Propellant Rocket,” the Nazi Party was completing its rise to power under Adolf Hitler. Von Braun’s work caught the eye of Walter Dornberger, Assistant Examiner to the Ballistics Council of the German Army Weapons Department. Dornberger was tasked with the secret development of a liquid-fueled rocket, one that was ideally both producible on a mass scale and effective at a range that surpassed the standard artillery of the day.
As of the mid-1930’s, remote bombardment of military targets was only possible by either shelling them with large-caliber artillery from relatively close range, or by dropping bombs on them from airplanes. Both methods were fraught with difficulty. Artillery batteries were themselves vulnerable to air bombardment since they were fixed in place, and bombers were vulnerable to anti-aircraft artillery since safe altitudes made bombing less accurate. It was a bit of a mechanized warfare stalemate and there was much interest in breaking new technological ground ahead of the enemy. In the spring of 1932, the hot topic at the Weapons Department was the self-piloted rocket, theoretically capable of launching from a safe distance and guiding itself toward the destruction of a precision target.
Dornberger brought von Braun into the Nazi fold and, though the young man’s true passion was the entirely hypothetical concept of manned space travel, Dornberger put him straight to work building the world’s first liquid-fueled ballistic missile. It took him over a decade, but by late 1941, von Braun and company had perfected the four key technologies necessary to produce a viable, long-range rocket. Called the A-4, the rocket combined a large, liquid-fueled engine, supersonic aerodynamics, a gyroscopic guidance system and graphite rudders that could control the rocket’s ascent from within the jet stream. Together these elements allowed the rocket to ascend to a height of 50 miles before the engine quit, after which the rocket would descend toward its target in ballistic free fall, delivering 2000 lbs. of explosive warhead unto the enemies of the Third Reich.
The first successful test flight of the A-4 was on Oct. 3, 1942 and though the technology was far from maturity, Hitler signed the rocket into immediate mass production. By that time, Germany’s military might was beginning to bog down and the Allies, now bolstered by the United States, were challenging Nazi dominance on all fronts. Hitler was in dire need of a “wonder weapon” to boost morale. To that end, the A-4 was renamed the Vergeltungswaffe2, translating roughly as “Vengeance Weapon 2.” Fabrication of the V-2 fell to the prisoners of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. Thousands of slave laborers died pushing V-2 rockets through accelerated production.
But when the V-2 offensive finally began in Sept. 1944, the rocket, though technologically intimidating, proved only marginally effective in the field. Early barrages suffered from accuracy issues due to underdeveloped guidance systems, not to mention canny misdirection by British intelligence officers who sowed false information about where the rockets were striking relative to London. Accuracy improved through early 1945 with a new radio guide beam system and a total of 3,172 V-2 rockets were fired at various targets, mainly in the UK and Antwerp, but casualties remained relatively low. Germany’s surrender to the Allied Forces ended the V-2 program before upgrades could be implemented sufficient for it to live up to its promise as Germany’s miracle weapon.
Ultimately, Hitler’s Vengeance Weapons program cost Nazi Germany far more than it delivered. In Reichsmarks, it cost the equivalent of $40 billion (2015 USD). In material resources, it tied up over a third of Germany’s entire production. And in the factories at Mittelbau-Dora, the slave labor that pushed 6,048 V-2 rockets off the assembly line, contributed heavily to the deaths of 12,000 to 20,000 prisoners. In the end, “more people died manufacturing the V-2 than were killed by its deployment.”
But in the coming decades, during the geopolitical reorganization that ensued, von Braun’s foundational work with the V-2 rocket would lead to Cold War proliferation of intercontinental ballistic missiles and to the Space Race. He would contribute to both programs directly from his new home in the United States. As much as World War 2 redirected the course of history, it was the V-2 that would most profoundly redefine life on Earth in the second millennium A.D. The advent of the V-2 helped create the state of mutually assured nuclear destruction through which the world now plots its careful course. But, perhaps most poignantly, the V-2 also made it possible for humanity to get a heaven’s-eye view of the planet we all keep fighting over.
By the time the Army of the Ohio joined General William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign in 1864, it had already repelled Confederate attacks on Ohio and marched South through Tennessee, chasing John Bell Hood through the Battles of Knoxville and Nashville. After burning Atlanta, the Union XXIII Corps, which made up the bulk of the Army of the Ohio, stopped to create a historical wonder: the world’s best battle trophy.
It turns out that Civil War combat isn’t very kind to the remnants of battle flags, especially those of the losing side. And after years of constant fighting, and a whole lot of winning, the XXIII Corps had a lot of captured Confederate flags.
I don’t know if you see where this is going.
With all the wear and tear on their own battle flag, the Army of the Ohio decided they required a new flag to fly as they might soon be helping General Sherman March to the Sea. You don’t want to burn Savannah without looking your best. It’s a good thing Confederate battle flags decided to use the exact same colors the XXIII Corps required for its flag.
Using the best pieces of the captured enemy flags they had, the Corps decided to form a new battle flag of their own, made entirely from the shredded, battle-scarred remains of their defeated enemies’ banners. They even happened upon more of the cloth after capturing Macon, Ga. The finished product was actually made for them by the 98th Illinois Regiment.