Watch the video in the tweet below. Are you experiencing both amazement and fear? You’re not alone.
This video has been making the rounds on Twitter recently, but it was actually filmed a little over a year ago. According to Gizmodo, an electric-power maintenance company in Xiangyang, China, had been using these flame-throwing drones to burn off garbage and debris from electrical wires.
Is any of this safe? Who knows. But after watching this video, hopefully you’ve gained a new appreciation and/or fear of flying robots and what they’re capable of.
The short segments (each one is about five minutes) star characters from some of the year’s most popular children’s shows, like Super Monsters and Boss Baby, and end with a countdown to 2019.
And this year, Netflix is offering an even greater variety of countdowns for parents to choose from, including options for older kids and tweens. In 2018, there were only nine New Year’s specials, five fewer than this year’s record-high of 14.
Netflix’s annual tradition is backed by recent research, too. According to a statement made by the streaming service, “77% of U.S. parents actually prefer to stay in than go out for the biggest bash of the year.” The company added that over the last five years, an average of five million people watch the New Year’s Eve countdown shows each year.
To find the popular holiday specials, which are usually available through the first week of January, parents can simply enter “countdowns” in the Netflix search bar.
An Army spouse has found her purpose after overcoming homelessness and creating her own organization that gives back.
When Marla Bautista was 18 years old, she was thrown out of her home by her abusive step-father with only a trash bag of clothes and a teddy bear that belonged to her deceased mother. For almost two years she lived a transient lifestyle staying in shelters, with friends and on the streets. It was the generosity of a local Catholic church that changed the trajectory of Bautista’s life.
“There were volunteers who handed out sandwich bags with hygiene items and they didn’t want anything from us. It was just ‘this is for you because you need it.’ And that was something that truly touched my heart. I promised myself that if I ever overcame that situation of homelessness that I would do the same,” she said.
Bautista and her husband, Staff Sgt. Ulisses Bautista, started serving their community as a family in 2011 and would later become The Bautista Project Inc. They began by using their own funds to distribute meals and hygiene bags for the homeless. Their nonprofit now provides basic living essentials, educational resources, support groups, veterans services and community resources for reintegration.
The impact they’ve created near their assigned duty stations has fostered an environment where the homeless can feel like they belong. With this, PCS’ing affects the Bautistas differently.
“Every time we move, we feel like we are leaving a community behind,” she said. But due to the vast amount of homeless in the U.S., there is always a new part of the community to impact.
In the state of Florida alone there are over 28,000 homeless Americans, of which 1500 are local to Hillsborough County in Tampa where the Bautistas currently reside. Although homelessness in America has decreased by 12% since 2007, according to the National Society to End Homelessness, there are still over 567,000 homeless people in the US.
The Bautistas have served the homeless population in Germany, Colorado Springs, New York and now Tampa.
Within a week of PCS’ing to south Florida, they were volunteering in a shelter.
“We have to reintegrate ourselves in that new community,” she adds.
Consistency matters. Her entire family goes out twice a month with meals and care packages, and instead of giving and going, they sit and interact with the locals in need. They get to know them and eventually build friendships.
In 2018 Bautista, with a desire to do more, began reaching out to her fellow military spouses and Facebook friends. With their help, her nonprofit has been able to provide winter jackets, gift a color printer to a shelter, create a small library of free books, raise funds to host a Christmas party at a homeless shelter getting what she calls “real gifts” for the attendees and shelter volunteers and distribute disposable masks. They also continue to collect uniforms to make belonging blankets for homeless youth in group homes or shelter setting.
The Army has been a vehicle allowing them to help in different parts of the world and Bautista’s husband shares her passion for giving to those in need, including homeless veterans. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that as of January 2019 there were 37,085 homeless veterans in the U.S.
Bautista doesn’t judge any of them. “We’ve all fallen on hard times before. It just looks different for everyone,” she said.
One simple thing that she says anyone can do to start giving back is to purchase four gift cards at an essentials store or fast-food restaurants.
“That’s just and you can hand those out,” she says, adding that something this small can provide a meal for a person and the act can change their life.
To donate to The Bautista Project Inc. visit www.thebautistaprojectinc.org. You can purchase items from their Amazon Wishlist or donate directly to their nonprofit.
Troops train year-round to maintain the high standard of readiness essential to the preservation and defense of democracy. However, none of us are machines that can operate under constant pressure over an infinite amount of time. And enlisted professions, infantry, in particular, are among the most stressful jobs available. That’s why leave (or ‘vacation days’ in civilian terms) is a crucial component to blowing off steam and keeping morale high.
Homesick troops will often use their leave days to go and visit the family. However, those who have leave days burning a hole in their pocket should consider visiting these party cities if they’re looking for something new. Plus, there’s a good chance that someone from your platoon/squad is from the city you’re visiting and may even offer to be your guide.
In no particular order, these are the 10 best places to party on leave.
New York, New York
New York City has earned the reputation of being the city that never sleeps and defends its title vigorously. In the Big Apple, you can party until the small hours of the morning and still find a place serving piping hot, fresh, New York-style pizza. As the economic crown jewel of the U.S. you can find the best brands of any product imported from around the world.
Can’t answer SSGT’s call in another country.
Parties here start at 1 a.m. and last all night long, which means you’ll have enough time to do touristy things, go to the hotel to change, pregame, and invade Spain like a Roman Legionnaire. The theme parties here can get out of control, so definitely bring a battle buddy or two.
I’m ready for my close up.
Los Angeles, California
Music labels, film studios, and conglomerates have built empires on keeping you entertained. Los Angeles offers media from every medium, genre, and artist on an unparalleled scale. LA Weekly and Ticketmaster provide information on upcoming events to plan your trip around.
Home of the original libo risk.
A classic destination on every bucket list but you might want to wait until you have your DD-214 to fully toke take in the culture. If your agenda doesn’t include visiting its coffee shops, there’s plenty else to do — Europeans party hard AF.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sin city, a single Marine’s paradise — and other branches, too. The casinos offer free booze while you gamble, gentlemen’s clubs offer the perfect location to blow away your bonus, and many hotels have venues and clubs built into the location. Excellent for post-deployment debauchery relaxation.
Berlin is another city that never sleeps, and it is home to tons of DJs. The mainstream venues are good, but the underground parties are unbeatable. Bring someone who speaks German so you can have your finger on the pulse of this city.
The parties are year round.
Miami has arguably the best club scene; one that can compete with LA and New York. Florida’s beaches are often featured on top ten lists and are capable of dethroning Hawaii. Every troop must storm these beaches at least once in their career.
(Air Forces Central Command)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
U.A.E. is home to the Burj Al Arab, the Palm Islands, and an indoor ski resort in the mall, but make sure you read up on the local laws. As a conservative Islamic country, it has many restrictions — unless you’re wealthy. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.
The famous bar crawls of Austin
Austin has been earning a reputation as a must-visit spot for partygoers at a steady rate in recent years. The city offers pub crawls, ghost tours, historic landmarks, and lounges. It is common to see Austin on lists of top places to live for both liberals and conservatives. This growing metropolis with a southern twang should not be underestimated.
New Years Eve in Iceland!
Vikings are still drinking and celebrating in both Valhalla and Reykjavik. Although Iceland is small, their festivals aren’t. Reykjavik is LGBTQ+ friendly and accepting of all types, but don’t wander off into the inland — the wilderness here is dangerous as hell.
Getting stuck in a minefield is the kind of situation where soiling yourself is understandable but not helpful. Most nations have agreed to stop buying mines and to destroy existing stockpiles, but minefields from decades ago are still a threat to modern troops.
Here are some strategies that help troops get out alive:
Don’t move, but do call for help.
If at all possible, don’t move. Call for help. It’s best if you can just call out verbally, but use a phone or radio if you have to. Minimize your transmissions. The signals could trigger remote-operated mines.
If no help is coming, there’s a threat of enemy attack, or you can’t wait for rescue, you may have to escape the minefield on your own.
Aim for existing footprints or tire tracks. These areas are less likely to have mines since the explosives would’ve been triggered by the soldiers and vehicles that moved over them before.
At the very least your own footprints leading into the field will be present, so follow them out. Remember to step in the actual footprint, matching your earlier position as closely as possible. Missing by just an inch could trigger a dormant mine.
Remember to also watch out for trip wires as you step. You may not have snagged a wire on the way in, but these near-invisible wires could still be triggered by your passage out.
Finding your own way out
Of course, sometimes no help is coming and your earlier route may be impassable. In this scenario, you’ll have to clear your own way out.
First, look for any minefield markings you may have missed. Markers painted white and red, signs with a skull and crossbones, or signs with the word “mines” on it could mark the edge of the field. If you can’t see markers, try to exit as close to where you entered as possible.
Obviously, ground-penetrating radar or a metal detector is the best way to search out potential mines in your escape route.
As an alternative, you can slide a stick into the ground at an angle. Most mines are sensitive to downward pressure, so something entering the dirt at an angle is less likely to trigger it. Getting onto your hands and knees to do this is dangerous, so scan your area carefully before getting down.
If possible, leave anything metal with a buddy. Some mines are triggered magnetically and a rifle, compass, or even dog tags could cause an explosion. Once you get out safely, he can follow your path and get out behind you.
In the early 1980s, the Mil Mi-24 Hind and the Bell AH-1 Cobra were the major attack helicopters on either side of the Cold War. Had the Russians tried to storm the Fulda Gap, these two choppers would’ve butt heads — often — in between efforts to blast the other side’s tanks and troops to hell.
Both these helicopters saw their fair share of action. The Hind proved itself in Afghanistan and elsewhere, while the Cobra saw extensive use in the Vietnam War. By the 80s, these were mature, proven designs — and both packed a lot of punch.
The Mi-24 Hind entered service in 1973. The definitive Hind D packed a 12.7mm Gatling gun in the nose and could carry a mix of rocket pods (usually 57mm rockets) and anti-tank missiles (usually AT-2 or AT-6) on six pylons. UH-1s, on the other hand, often carried some 7.62mm machine guns and had pylons enough for two rocket pods. In a sense, the Hind took some concepts from the UH-1 and put them on steroids. Like the UH-1, the Hind could also carry troops into battle — usually eight personnel.
Its likely opponent, the AH-1 Cobra, was somewhat different. In the middle of the Vietnam War, the United States Army wanted a dedicated gunship. Eventually, their search resulted in the HueyCobra. The Cobra was a much smaller target than its predecessor since, unlike the Huey, it didn’t haul infantry around. By the 1980s, the Cobra was armed with a M197 20mm cannon, a three-barrel Gatling gun, and could carry a mix of rocket pods and BGM-71 TOW missiles.
So, in a fictional fight, which of these helicopters would come out on top? As always, much depends on the mission. The Mi-24 Hind would have been very useful for air assault missions. A typical loadout was composed of four rocket pods, each carrying 32 57mm rockets, along with four anti-tank missiles. This would be devastating for rear-area troops, who not only would have to deal with being hit by rockets, but also with the infantry that would soon follow. The Cobra, on the other hand, packed a lot more of an anti-tank punch.
If it came down to a helicopter dogfight, though, the Cobra would have a clear edge. While the Hind does have the speed edge, the Cobra is much smaller and its 20mm cannon packs more of a punch. Were the two to go head-to-head, the Soviets would quickly find themselves down both a chopper and, potentially, an entire infantry section, too.
The Civil War ironclad USS Indianola was rushed into the war, guarding Cincinnati in 1862 before she was even complete. But at the start of 1863, she was cutting through Confederate defenses on the Red River to support Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks’ campaign there. But when a crisis hit, Union Navy officers had to figure out how to prevent it from falling into Confederate hands.
(US Naval History and Heritage Command)
The Indianolawas part of the Mississippi River Squadron tasked with severing Confederate logistics and defenses on that river and the surrounding waters. But in early 1863, the Confederacy still held 240 miles of water from Vicksburg, Mississippi, down to the Gulf of Mexico. The fiery Rear Adm. David D. Porter sent ships down the Red River to disrupt Confederate shipping at the end of January.
For a few weeks, the Union ships captured Confederate ones and typically seized any supplies and paroled the crews. But the Union vessels took damage in engagement after engagement and were not able to seize as much fuel as they needed to continue operations so, on February 13, Porter sent the Indianola with two coal barges past the Confederate guns at Vicksburg to reinforce and refuel those ships already downriver.
For a few days, the Indianola stayed downriver and chased off Confederate vessels, but it was headed back upriver on February 24 when a group of Confederate rams hunted it down as darkness fell.
The Indianola was already heavy thanks to its armor, and it maneuvered slowly in the river with the two coal barges attached, so the Confederate rams were able to slam into it quickly and then pour fire into its portholes. The Union sailors fired their artillery as quickly as they could, but their fire was largely ineffective in the poor moonlight.
Lt. Cmdr. George Brown exposed himself to enemy fire repeatedly in his efforts to save the ship and repel the Confederate attack. He fired his revolver against the Confederate sailors, and he was seen ordering his engineers and defenders even when incoming fire was bouncing around him.
The Union ship quickly began to sink, but the commander and crew worked to destroy the signal books and get the vessel to deep water before surrendering it so the rebels could not recapture it. But, in an effort to save himself and his crew, Brown surrendered the ship a bit too soon, and the Confederates were able to take it in tow.
It sank soon after, but the Confederates were able to tow it to a sandbar before it did so, leaving most of the ship exposed and giving the Confederacy a solid chance to raise it and turn it against the Union forces. Rear Adm. Porter was loathing to risk sending more ships past Vicksburg’s guns to prevent the salvage, but he really didn’t want to face the Indianola in rebel hands.
So, he looked around for some cash, bought up some scrap wood and iron, and quickly constructed a fake ironside warship built on top of an old flatboat. It had smokestacks complete with thick smoke, fake artillery positions with blackened wood cannons, as well as typical structures like the pilothouse. In all, it cost .63, about 0 in 2018 dollars.
As a little cheeky addition, “Deluded People Cave In” was painted on the paddle wheel housings.
The Confederate salvage team spiked the guns and threw them in the river, they burned the hull down to the waterline, and set off all the powder. Almost nothing remained of the Indianola when the Black Terror came down the river. But, of course, the Black Terror just kept drifting, eventually running aground two miles downriver.
The Southerners, already confused by the lack of Union fire, were made even more suspicious when there was no sign of crew activity after the Black Terror ran aground. So, a small team rowed out to the vessel and discovered that they had been tricked.
Despite the fact that the second ironsides attack was a fake and the first was defeated, the bulk of the Confederate fleet still withdrew from the river. The land defenses at Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and a few others, held the line until the following year when land offensives captured them, cementing Union control of the river and choking off what remained of Confederate resupply. After the capture of Vicksburg, the Union recovered the wreck of the Indianola.
And a large contributor to the success was an .63 expenditure on scrap wood and iron.
Myth: There is such a thing as true bulletproof glass
In movies and TV shows, bulletproof glass is often depicted to be indestructible. No matter what weapon is used, no matter how many bullets are fired, bulletproof glass remains intact and unchanged. The only problem is, in real life, bulletproof glass isn’t really bulletproof and it isn’t really glass.
The correct term for “bulletproof” glass is bullet resistant. Why? Because with enough time and concentrated effort or just a big enough caliber bullet, a person can become victorious over the supposed indestructibility of “bulletproof” glass. The strength and durability of bullet-resistant glass depends on how it is made and the thickness of the final product.
Fire a bullet at a normal sheet of glass and the glass will shatter, right? So, how exactly does glass become bullet resistant? There are three main kinds of bullet-resistant glass:
1) Acrylic: Acrylic is a hard, clear plastic that resembles glass. A single piece of acrylic with a thickness over one inch is considered bullet resistant. The advantage of acrylic is that it is stronger than glass, more impact resistant, and weighs 50 percent less than glass. Although acrylic can be used to create bullet-resistant glass, there is no actual glass in the final product.
2) Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate is also a type of plastic, but it differs from acrylic in many ways. Polycarbonate is a versatile, soft plastic with unbeatable strength. It is a third of the weight of acrylic and a sixth of the weight of glass, making it easier to work with, especially when dealing with thickness. Polycarbonate is combined in layers to create a bullet resistant product. Whereas, acrylic repels bullets, polycarbonate catches the bullet and absorbs its energy, preventing it from exiting out the other side. Polycarbonate is more expensive than other types of materials, including glass and acrylic, so it is often used in combination with other materials for bullet-resistant glass.
3) Glass-Clad Polycarbonate Bullet-Resistant Glass: This type of bullet-resistant glass uses a combination of materials to create the desired result. We are all familiar with the process of lamination. It is what teachers do to paper to protect it from the unidentifiable substances of kids’ fingers so it will last longer. Manufacturers of glass-clad polycarbonate bullet-resistant glass use the same process. A piece of polycarbonate material is laminated, or sandwiched, between ordinary sheets of glass and then it undergoes a heating and cooling process to mold the materials together into one piece. The end result is a product that resembles glass but is thicker and more durable.
Thickness plays a huge part in a product’s ability to resist bullets. Bullet-resistant glass is designed to remain intact for one bullet or one round of bullets. Depending on the force of the bullet being fired and what type of weapon is used, a thicker piece of bullet-resistant glass is needed to stop a bullet with more force. For instance, a shot fired from a 9mm pistol is less powerful than one fired from a rifle. Therefore, the required thickness of bullet-resistant glass for a 9mm pistol is less than is needed for a rifle. The final thickness of bullet-resistant glass usually ranges from about .25 inches to 3 inches.
The latest and greatest design for bullet-resistant glass is one-way bullet-resistant glass. Yes, it is exactly what is sounds like. One-way bullet-resistant glass consists of two layers–brittle glass and a flexible material such as the polycarbonate plastic material described above. When a bullet hits the brittle glass layer first, the glass breaks inward toward the plastic, which absorbs some of the bullet’s energy and spreads it over a larger area so the polycarbonate material is able to stop the bullet from exiting. When a fired bullet hits the polycarbonate material first, the bulk of the force is concentrated on a small area that prevents much energy from being absorbed. Then, since the glass material breaks outward away from the polycarbonate, the bullet maintains enough energy to break through the glass and travel toward its destination. One-way bullet-resistant glass is most ideal for armored vehicles.
The moral of the story is don’t believe everything you see. Although movies do a good job to entertain us and teach us a thing or two, the truth about bullet-resistant glass is not one of them.
Depending on the size and type of bullet-resistant glass, it can cost between and 0 per square foot.
Although polycarbonate plastic can bond with glass to resist bullets, paper towels can scratch its surface and ammonia-based window cleaning liquids will damage the material.
Obtaining bullet-resistant glass is completely legal in the United States. You don’t even need a permit.
The most popular bullet-resistant product in demand is bulletproof transaction windows like those used in banks.
Ever thought about making your beloved iPad bulletproof? A company in California created an iPad cover made of polycarbonate material to better protect the device. Although the new transparent cover will protect the screen from scratches, dents, and shattered glass, there is no guarantee that the bullet-resistant material will actually stop a bullet.
A sheet of polycarbonate plastic can take an hour beating with a sledgehammer, whereas, an acrylic piece of comparable thickness might succumb in minutes.
As much of the nation struggles to keep warm during the polar vortex, here’s how you can help populations that are most at risk.
Call 311 to connect with homeless outreach teams
Many major US cities, including including New York, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC, have hotlines under the number 311 you can call if you see someone on the street who might need help. The number can help connect you with homeless outreach teams.
Donate clothing and other supplies to emergency shelters
Many homeless people turn up to shelters without proper clothing during a time where a proper coat can make all the difference. If you’re able to, donating warm clothing to local shelters and organizations can be a major help amid extreme weather events and low temperatures.
Click here for help finding donation centers in your area. Many of these organizations are willing to pick up donations from your residence, which you can often schedule online.
Putting together care packages and keeping them in your vehicle to hand out can also be extremely helpful. Warm items like gloves, socks, hats, scarves, and blankets are especially useful, as well as shelf-safe food, Nancy Powers with the Salvation Army’s Chicago Freedom Center told CNN.
A homeless veteran in New York.
There are specific resources for veterans you can direct people to
It takes more than a billion years for a pair of galaxies to merge.
But in the constellation of Ophiuchus, about 400 million light-years from Earth, two galaxies are almost ready to become one.
The galaxies are in the process of violently crashing into one another. Astronomers estimate it will take them another 10 to 20 million years to fuse completely; at that point, they’ll form a new galaxy called NGC 6240.
Both galaxies contain a supermassive black hole in their center, and those are expected to merge as well.
This whole process is difficult to capture on camera, however. Black holes’ gravity is so strong that nothing can escape — not even light — so astronomers attempting to see them have to rely on light from the matter that gets sucked in (before it disappears). The first-ever photograph of a supermassive black hole was published in April 2019.
But an international team of astronomers recently captured a sharp photo that shows how two supermassive black holes are caught in the galactic collision that’s forming the NGC 6240 galaxy.
The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a powerful telescope funded in part by the US National Science Foundation, to assemble the image. They presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday.
The black holes themselves aren’t visible in the photo, but you can see the glowing gas that surrounds them (the blue stuff in the images below).
NGC 6240 as seen with ALMA (top right) and the Hubble Space Telescope (bottom right).
(ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), E. Treister; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA/ESA Hubble)
That gas is located within the black holes’ “sphere of influence” — the innermost region of a galaxy where the black hole is the dominant force of gravity. The two black holes are feeding on the gas, which causes them to grow bigger as the galaxies merge. Previous images weren’t able to capture this gas in such detail.
‘A chaotic stream of gas’
Ezequiel Treister, an associate astronomy professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile, told the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) that the gas doesn’t form a rotating disk, as some scientists anticipated.
“We don’t find any evidence for that,” he said. “Instead, we see a chaotic stream of gas with filaments and bubbles between the black holes. Some of this gas is ejected outwards with speeds up to 500 kilometers per second. We don’t know yet what causes these outflows.”
Gas that isn’t ejected from the sphere of influence will likely get sucked into the black hole.
Revolve Around a Black Hole Accretion Disk in Amazing Visualization
The black holes are less massive than researchers expected
The image also challenges astronomers’ ideas about the masses of these particular black holes. By observing the photo, the team found that a lot of the gas was stuck in the spheres of influence instead of the black holes themselves. That means the black holes are much less massive than anticipated.
Until recently, astronomers believed that the supermassive black holes in the NGC 6240 galaxy had a mass equivalent to about 1 billion suns. The new photo suggests, however, that the black holes are about as massive as a few hundred million suns.
The finding suggests black holes involved in other galaxy collisions could also be smaller than expected.
“This galaxy is so complex that we could never know what is going on inside it without these detailed radio images,” Loreto Barcos-Muñoz, a researcher at the NRAO, said in a statement. “We now have a better idea of the 3D structure of the galaxy, which gives us the opportunity to understand how galaxies evolve during the latest stages of an ongoing merger.”
Our own Milky Way galaxy is expected to merge with the nearby Andromeda galaxy in about 4 billion years.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Before the FBI or any other federal law enforcement agency locked criminals behind bars in the United States, the most important crime fighting squad was the US Postal Inspection Service. From the 18th century to present day, surveyors, special agents, and inspectors investigated the nation’s most newsworthy crimes. They investigated mail train robberies committed by notorious outlaw “Billy the Kid,” were amongst the first federal law enforcement officers to carry the Thompson submachine gun (commonly known as the “Tommy Gun”) to fight 1920s mobsters, and even had an integral role in capturing Ted Kaczynski, sensationalized in the media as the “Unabomber,” bringing an end to one of the most sophisticated criminal manhunts in US history.
The US Postal Inspection Service is the most storied federal law enforcement agency in the country, and since widespread crime is often connected by mail, their jurisdiction to investigate any related crime from anywhere around the world is unrestricted. This freedom began from one of America’s Founding Fathers, and since its establishment, the agency has participated in the largest criminal investigations of each century.
After the American Civil War, “snake oil salesmen” and “scalp tonic salesmen” used the mail to con unsuspecting victims. Screengrab from YouTube.
In 1737, Benjamin Franklin, the newspaper printer known for historic contributions to the nation, was also appointed by the British Crown as postmaster of Philadelphia. In addition to his day job, he had duties and responsibilities to regulate and survey post offices and post roads. As the first Postmaster General under continental Congress, Franklin abolished the British practice that determined which newspapers traveled freely in the mail and established foundational mandates of the “surveyor” position to ensure the organization could grow beyond a one-man show.
Franklin recognized the task was too much to handle alone and appointed William Goddard as the first surveyor of the new American Postal Service. His first day in office — Aug. 7, 1775 — became known as the birth of the Postal Inspection Service. The surveyors investigated thefts of mail or postal funds committed by writers, innkeepers, and others with access to the mail or post offices. The frequency of mail crimes became such a nuisance, Congress approved the death penalty as a viable punishment to enforce the serious offenses.
At the turn of the 19th century, surveyors became known as special agents, and among the first three was Noah Webster, the man responsible for compiling the dictionary. During the War of 1812, special agents observed and reported activities of the British Fleet along the Potomac River, and during the 1840s and 1850s, their roles magnified to coexist with western expansion in the United States. Special agents were needed across Texas, Oregon, and California to ensure new postal services were completed, as well as to keep order amongst mail carriers on horseback, railroads, or traveling by steamboats or stagecoaches.
During World War II, 247 US Postal Inspection Service inspectors established a mailing system that is still in use to this day. Photo courtesy of worldwarphotos.info.
Following the American Civil War, Congress imposed two new statutes still in use today. The first was the Mail Fraud Statute of 1872, which enforced a crackdown against swindles including the infamous “snake oil salesman” or the “scalp tonic salesman.” The second was the Postal Obscenity Statute of 1873, which made it illegal for anyone to “to sell, give away, or possess an obscene book, pamphlet, picture, drawing, or advertisement.” Special agents assumed the name of “Post Office Inspectors” in 1880 to differentiate from other special agents privately employed by railroad and stagecoach companies.
During the 20th century is when the US Postal Inspection Service earned its reputation for bringing down the hammer on gangs, mobsters, and armed robbers. The most scandalous criminal outfit was the organized secret society operating in New York City known as the Black Hand. They terrorized the public, the police force, and especially Italian immigrants, all frequent targets of murder, extortion, assassination, child kidnapping, and bombings. The bombing attacks were so frequent that the police referred to the Italian neighborhood as “The Bomb Zone.” Police reports indicated that there were more than 100 bombings in 1913 alone.
The Black Hand wrote menacing letters to their victims. “De Camilli, from one of our secret spies, we have learned that you have informed the police, contrary to our warnings,” Salvatore Lima, the Black Hand’s leader wrote. “Therefore, it is time to die. And on the first occasion, you will feel a bullet in your stomach, coward. You have willed it, and you will die like a dog. The terrible Black Hand.”
Post Office Inspector Frank Oldfield tracked 14 members of the Black Hand and nabbed and convicted the vicious and violent gang by targeting their paper trail through the mail. Elmer Irey, one of the great detectives of the 20th century and former post office inspector, used similar methods to nab Chicago Outfit’s Al Capone through tax fraud. Post office inspectors also captured and convicted Charles Ponzi — the mastermind and father behind the infamous pyramid “Ponzi Scheme” — and brought Gerald Chapman — America’s first “Public Enemy Number One” — to justice. After a three-year manhunt, forensic science put away the DeAutremont brothers, a trio who used dynamite to blow open mail train cars to scoop the cash inside.
Inspectors were also instrumental in the delivery and protection of over billion worth of gold transported along the “Yellow Brick Road” from New York City to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to establish the Fort Knox Bullion Depository in 1937. During World War II, 247 post office inspectors helped create Army Post Offices (APOs) and Fleet Post Offices (FPOs). Through their efforts, soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines could communicate with their loved ones back home. This system remains in effect to this day.
Later in the century, as their investigations adapted with the times, they received newer challenges through the security of commercial aircraft and the threats of mail package bombs aboard airplanes. In 1963, Postal Inspector Harry Holmes interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald to investigate the mail-order rifle he used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. Only minutes after Oswald left Holmes’ office, he was gunned down — furthering the conspiracy theories of suspected involvement.
A laboratory technician holds the anthrax-laced letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy after safely opening it at the US Army’s Fort Detrick bio-medical research laboratory in November 2001. Photo courtesy of FBI.gov.
The Postal Inspection Service remains just as important today as when it was created, and with the increase in funding in other federal agencies, their prestige has emboldened their legacy as more than what was once perceived as “The Silent Service.” Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Silent Service investigated the Anthrax biohazard letter attack — the worst biological attack in US history — and has since increased their efforts against illegal drug trafficking, suspicious mail, mail and package theft, money laundering, cybercrime, and child exploitation.
In the 1920s, Charles Ponzi scammed his investors out of an estimated million during his time as a conman and swindler — some 90 years later, just as the Postal Inspector Service had before, they nabbed Allen Stanford, a fraudster who convinced investors to buy certificates of deposit from his offshore Stanford International Bank with the promise of high returns. Stanford’s two-decade-long, billion Ponzi scheme was discovered through exhaustive investigations by a task force comprised of the IRS, the FBI, and the Silent Service. Stanford was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to serve 110 years in prison.
As long as there is mail to be delivered, there are inspectors who stand ready to ensure the safety of the American citizens.
It’s no surprise that heroes emerged from D-Day, the largest amphibious assault in history. What is surprising is that three of the four recipients of the Medal of Honor for that day came from one division. The Army’s 1st Infantry Division was sent to Omaha Beach, the most heavily defended beach of D-Day. Sheer cliffs and fortified positions blocked the Allied assault against the dug-in German units.
Here are 4 men who were key in breaking the “Atlantic Wall” around occupied France.
1. Teddy Roosevelt’s son, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the 56-year-old son of President Theodore Roosevelt and a senior officer in the 4th Infantry Division, had twice verbally requested to join the assaulting forces on Utah Beach and was denied twice due to his age and rank. Finally, a written request was approved and Roosevelt became the only general officer to land in the first wave on D-Day. He walked on to the beach with his cane and began leading troops over the sea wall. He also provided key information to the senior officers of each new wave that landed, including his boss who didn’t want him on the beach.
He died of a heart attack the night before Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called to inform him that he’d been nominated for the Medal of Honor and promotion to major general, one month after D-Day. The award was given to his widow by his distant cousin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His citation reads:
“For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt’s written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.”
2. An infantry officer who led tanks when they got too scared to move up the beach
1st Lt. Jimmie W. Monteith, Jr.was drafted into the Army during World War II but quickly climbed the ranks, attaining corporal in basic training in 1941. He was accepted into officer school a few months later and was sent to the 1st Infantry Division after his commissioning. He fought with them in Sicily and Italy before the assault on Omaha Beach.
On D-Day, he saw two tanks buttoned up and unable to fire due to heavy artillery and machine gun fire. He walked up, completely exposed, and led the tanks through a minefield before directing their fire onto German positions. After that, he led a group of men onto the bluffs and repulsed Nazi counterattacks until he was killed.
His citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, near Colleville-sur-Mer, France. 1st Lt. Monteith landed with the initial assault waves on the coast of France under heavy enemy fire. Without regard to his own personal safety he continually moved up and down the beach reorganizing men for further assault. He then led the assault over a narrow protective ledge and across the flat, exposed terrain to the comparative safety of a cliff. Retracing his steps across the field to the beach, he moved over to where 2 tanks were buttoned up and blind under violent enemy artillery and machinegun fire. Completely exposed to the intense fire, 1st Lt. Monteith led the tanks on foot through a minefield and into firing positions. Under his direction several enemy positions were destroyed. He then rejoined his company and under his leadership his men captured an advantageous position on the hill. Supervising the defense of his newly won position against repeated vicious counterattacks, he continued to ignore his own personal safety, repeatedly crossing the 200 or 300 yards of open terrain under heavy fire to strengthen links in his defensive chain. When the enemy succeeded in completely surrounding 1st Lt. Monteith and his unit and while leading the fight out of the situation, 1st Lt. Monteith was killed by enemy fire. The courage, gallantry, and intrepid leadership displayed by 1st Lt. Monteith is worthy of emulation.”
3. The radioman who kept shrugging off mortal wounds until he got comms up on Omaha Beach
Joe Pinder was a professional baseball player before he joined the Army. His first battles were in Africa and he fought in Sicily as well. At D-Day, Pinder was wounded multiple times and nearly lost some radio equipment during the struggle to reach the beach. He kept going back and forth in the surf, retrieving needed items despite sustaining other injuries.
“Almost immediately on hitting the waist-deep water, he was hit by shrapnel,” 2nd Lt. Lee Ward W. Stockwell said, according to Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice. “He was hit several times and the worst wound was to the left side of his face, which was cut off and hanging by a piece of flesh.”
After refusing medical treatment multiple times and finally getting his radio equipment all back together, Pinder was killed by a burst of machine gun fire to the chest.
His citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, near Colleville-sur-Mer, France. On D-day, Technician 5th Grade Pinder landed on the coast 100 yards off shore under devastating enemy machinegun and artillery fire which caused severe casualties among the boatload. Carrying a vitally important radio, he struggled towards shore in waist-deep water. Only a few yards from his craft he was hit by enemy fire and was gravely wounded. Technician 5th Grade Pinder never stopped. He made shore and delivered the radio. Refusing to take cover afforded, or to accept medical attention for his wounds, Technician 5th Grade Pinder, though terribly weakened by loss of blood and in fierce pain, on 3 occasions went into the fire-swept surf to salvage communication equipment. He recovered many vital parts and equipment, including another workable radio. On the 3rd trip he was again hit, suffering machinegun bullet wounds in the legs. Still this valiant soldier would not stop for rest or medical attention. Remaining exposed to heavy enemy fire, growing steadily weaker, he aided in establishing the vital radio communication on the beach. While so engaged this dauntless soldier was hit for the third time and killed. The indomitable courage and personal bravery of Technician 5th Grade Pinder was a magnificent inspiration to the men with whom he served.”
4. The infantryman who swam back and forth in the D-Day surf, saving his floundering comrades.
A high school dropout and former cook, Carlton W. Barrett volunteered to join the Army in 1940, just before he turned 21. On D-Day, he was assigned to be a guide, showing the way for each successive wave of troops to hit the beach. This meant Barrett had to land at D-Day not once, but multiple times. During the fierce fighting, he ferried wounded troops from the water and beach to evacuation boats, despite fierce small arms fire and mortar attacks. What’s more, he also carried messages between assaulting elements on beach.
He survived D-Day and stayed in the military, retiring as a staff sergeant in 1963. His citation reads:
“For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in the vicinity of St. Laurent-sur-Mer, France. On the morning of D-day Pvt. Barrett, landing in the face of extremely heavy enemy fire, was forced to wade ashore through neck-deep water. Disregarding the personal danger, he returned to the surf again and again to assist his floundering comrades and save them from drowning. Refusing to remain pinned down by the intense barrage of small-arms and mortar fire poured at the landing points, Pvt. Barrett, working with fierce determination, saved many lives by carrying casualties to an evacuation boat lying offshore. In addition to his assigned mission as guide, he carried dispatches the length of the fire-swept beach; he assisted the wounded; he calmed the shocked; he arose as a leader in the stress of the occasion. His coolness and his dauntless daring courage while constantly risking his life during a period of many hours had an inestimable effect on his comrades and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.”
The Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey is actively seeking more representation for persons of color. The survey is a vital tool utilized by government officials to determine the needs of the military community.
With the survey ending on October 16, 2020, Blue Star Families seeks more participation from Black, Hispanic and Asian members of the military community, who are often underrepresented in measures of family stability and wellbeing. More diverse data collection in this survey will allow for a more accurate representation of the realities facing military members, their families and our veterans.
In an article on their website, Dr. Jessica Strong explained the significance of the survey. ” Blue Star Families started with a survey because if they want to explain what military families are experiencing, the best thing to do is ask them,” she said. Strong is a U.S. Army spouse who works as the organization’s co-director of applied research.
The survey itself covers a broad range of subjects as it relates to military life. Hot topics include child care, spouse employment, the pandemic and education, among others. The survey lends a comprehensive picture of the reality of the military community so that decisions can be made on how to address issues that come up.
One of the other parts of the survey is aimed at understanding diversity in the military community. But without significant participation from persons of color within the military community, their unique needs may be overlooked and underrepresented.
The survey itself is completely voluntary and takes anywhere from 20-35 minutes, depending on how long you spend on each question. Conducted only once a year, survey results determine a whole host of programs and governmental responses to issues that need to be addressed.
Each year, more than one million people are impacted by Blue Star Families’ programs. Over million in value has been accessed in benefits by military families. With a four star charity rating, they’ve maintained their commitment to the military community. But one of the most important things that they do for the community lies in the Military Family Lifestyle Survey. It is imperative that everyone take the time to make their voice heard because it matters.
Their website hones in on the need to bridge the gap saying, “The goal of Blue Star Families’ research and policy work is to increase the awareness and understanding of military family life trends and the ramifications for both our Armed Forces and our American society.”
Since 2009, the organization has been dedicated to serving the military community through active engagement with the civilian and governmental sectors to ensure quality of life.
Through partnerships with the government, communities, nonprofits and the military community, Blue Star Families is already making a difference. But they need your help. Take the time to fill out the survey and make sure your voice and needs are heard, so that BSF can continue to serve you and your family.
To complete the 2020 Military Families Lifestyle Survey, click here.