When the Navy called on women to volunteer for shore service during World War II to free up men for duty at sea, 102-year-old Melva Dolan Simon was among the first to raise her hand and take the oath.
“I went in so sailors could board ships and go do what they were supposed to be doing,” said Simon. She recalled her military service as “something different” in an era when women traditionally stayed home while men went off to war. “I helped sailors get on their way.”
Simon was the first woman in her hometown of Bridgeport, Pa., to join the WAVES, according to a yellowed clipping of a 1942 newspaper article. She was also among the first in the nation to join the service. It was just three months earlier, on July 30, 1942, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed the law establishing the corps.
“I had a good job with the school, but I felt I would be doing more for my country by being in the service,” said Simon.
The seventh of 12 children, Simon said she chose the Navy because several of her brothers were already serving in the Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
WWII Navy WAVES Veteran Melva Dolan Simon’s service memorabilia includes her rank and insignia, photos and official documents.
“They were all enlisted, and I thought, well, what’s wrong with joining the Navy?” said Simon. “I decided I wanted to go, and I was accepted.”
“That’s where we learned the basics of the Navy,” said Simon. “We were trained to march, we studied hard, and they drilled into us how important what we were doing was.”
After completing basic, many of the WAVES trainees spent another 12 weeks at the college for advanced training in secretarial duties.
From Oklahoma, Simon was assigned to active duty at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which during World War II employed 40,000, built 53 warships and repaired another 1,218. She and her fellow yeomen earned anywhere from to 5 in basic pay per month, depending on their rank, plus food and quarters allowance, unless provided by the Navy.
Simon lived on the all-female fourth floor of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia. WAVES personnel were under strict orders not to visit any other floors of the hotel – an order Simon said she followed.
“I didn’t go on the other floors,” said Simon, sternly. “It was none of my business.”
Simon’s military responsibilities included taking dictation from the officer in charge, performing clerical duties and driving officers around the base.
“They gave me a driver’s license for the Navy, and I would drive these officers, sometimes just very short distances,” Simon said, smiling as she motioned from her seat at a dining room table to the far side of her kitchen. “I thought that was interesting because it would have done them some good if they’d just walked.”
Simon wrote letters home to her family at first, then sent her parents money to have a home phone installed. Simon said that home phones were a luxury at the time. Before they installed the phone, her family used a telephone at a nearby store to call her.
“I sent them money every payday to keep the phone bill paid,” Simon said. “It was much easier to call than to sit down and write, especially since I was writing all day at the office.”
The phone also allowed her future husband, Joseph “Joe” Simon, to keep in touch with her. The two had met at the high school where Joe Simon worked as an agriculture teacher, and he’d visit with her when she was home on leave. They married in July 1945, just a few weeks before Melva Simon received an honorable discharge from the Navy in August 1945.
WAVES standing in formation.
The couple purchased a 22-acre farm in 1947 in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pa., where they supplemented Joe’s teacher’s salary by growing and selling sweet corn.
“It sold like hot fire because it was good sweet corn,” Melva Simon said. “Then Joe planted apple trees, and that’s what we decided to do.”
The couple started an apple orchard — Simon’s Apple Orchard — that remains family-run today. The orchard opens its doors to customers every fall, offering everything from pure sweet cider still made using the Simons’ original recipe to bags of fresh McIntosh, Stayman, Rome, Jonathan, red and yellow delicious, and other apple varieties.
At the VA
Melva Simon worked the orchard alongside her husband, then took over when he died in 2004 at the age of 88. Still spry at 102, she drove tractors, harvested apples, made cider and worked the counter at a small shop on the property until just a few years ago.
Blessed with a lifetime of good health, Melva Simon only recently discovered she is eligible for health care benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. With the help of her daughter, Melvajo Bennett, the World War II veteran has, since August, received care through VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Westmoreland County VA Outpatient Clinic.
“It didn’t dawn on her to go to the VA because she’s always had such good health and never really had to see the doctor,” said Bennett. “But they’ve been wonderful with how they are treating her.”
Asked for the secret to good health and a long life, Melva Simon gave a simple answer.
“There is no secret,” she said. “All it takes is simple living. I eat simple food. I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke.”
As for her military service, Melva Simon said she’d do it all over again.
“That was all I ever wanted to do, was to do something for the government and the country,” she said. “I’d do it again.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Russian investigators say they have launched investigations into three separate attacks that wounded several police officers in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya.
The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the Aug. 20, 2018 assaults in an announcement by its Amaq news agency, without providing details or evidence to back up its statement.
The Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, rejected the IS claim, alleging that the militant group had “no support, no social basis” in the North Caucasus republic.
At most, the IS group might have influenced young people on social media, Kadyrov said in a post on Telegram.
Chechen Information Minister Dzhambulat Umarov told the TASS news agency that the youngest attacker was 11 and the oldest 17.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said that in one of the Aug. 20, 2018 attacks, two attackers entered the district police department in the town of Shali and wounded two officers with knives.
The two assailants were shot dead, according to Chechnya’s Interior Ministry.
“The main purpose today is to create an illusion that there are some forces capable of organizing armed actions and terrorist attacks” within Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov said.
(North Caucasus Service RFE/RL)
In the village of Mesker-Yurt, north of Shali, a young person carrying a rucksack blew himself up at a police post, investigators said, adding that “officers and civilians were not harmed by the blast.”
Reports earlier said the attacker had survived.
And in the regional capital, Grozny, police opened fire on a vehicle that had hit two policemen. Investigators said the driver was killed.
Authorities reportedly identified the driver as 17-year-old Ali Akhmatkhanov — a younger brother of Khizir Akhmatkhanov, who was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his involvement in a terrorist attack in the Chechen city of Gudermes in 2001.
The other person in the car was 11 years old, Umarov told TASS.
Kadyrov, who was visiting Saudi Arabia, claimed that the assaults’ main purpose was to “create an illusion that there are some forces capable of organizing armed actions and terrorist attacks” within Chechnya.
The Chechen leader also dismissed the attacks as an attempt to disrupt the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, saying, “The task was to darken this holiday, to cause a broad public response, and to prevent residents of Chechnya from celebrating Eid al-Adha.”
Islamic militants in the region have mounted frequent attacks on police, moderate Muslims, and officials, and some have sworn allegiance to IS.
Russia estimates some 2,000 citizens, mostly from the North Caucasus, have fought alongside IS in Syria.
Organized crime, business turf wars, political disputes, and clan rivalry also contribute to the bloodshed in the region.
Critics say Russian authorities and Kadyrov’s government sometimes use allegations of militancy as a pretext to crack down on opponents.
Three days before her grandfather passed away, Ashley Valentine, 19, made a promise to carry on his legacy in the United States armed services. After deciding to join the Marine Corps, her sister Amber, 22, made the decision to enlist as well.
“After talking with the recruiter about how it would impact my life, I was committed,” Amber said. “I was ready to go no matter what.”
Amber waited for her sister to be approved medically before she went to recruit training. The Manassas, Virginia natives, both agreed that having each other to rely on through recruit training helped during some of their highest highs and lowest lows.
“I went through a moment during first phase where I received some bad news in a letter, and she was there to be a shoulder for me to lean on,” Amber said.
The two will not be attending Marine Combat Training together however – Ashley suffered a hip fracture prior to graduation and will be remaining on the island while she heals.
The two sisters both have faith and confidence in each other on the next step of their lives, despite being physically distant. After they complete Combat Training, Amber will continue on in the Communications field and Ashley will be certified as a Motor Transportation Operator.
“I know she’s going to be ok,” Ashley said of her sister. “She’s always been independent and I know she’s going to succeed in her career.”
When Maria, Vanessa and Melissa Placido Jaramillo were young children, they made a pact to join the military together; yet it was their unbreakable bond that got them through the trials of recruit training.
“When one of us is lacking and the other is strong in that area, we always push each other to become the best we can be.”
Melissa Placido, a U.S. Marine
The three sisters were born in Panama and moved to Las Vegas at a young age. Maria, 21, said she loved war movies growing up; When she saw “Tears of the Sun” for the first time, she said she was truly inspired the join the military. After learning about the ROTC program, she found her true motivation to become a Marine; to honor her family and give back the country who gave her so much.
Her other two sisters, identical twins Melissa and Vanessa, 22, were also in the ROTC program exploring their options of different branches, but it was their younger sister who first spoke with a Marine Corps recruiter.
During recruit training, it was friendly competition and daily positive affirmation that keep their relationship with each other strong, Melissa said.
“When one of us is lacking and the other is strong in that area, we always push each other to become the best we can be,” Melissa said.
“We have an unbreakable bond,” Maria said. “We are always together, but we know how to live separately. I know that my sisters will always be there for me, even when they are not physically with me.”
The three sisters have yet to find out what Military Occupational Specialty they will be assigned, but are looking forward to what the Marine Corps has in store for them. Maria says she is excited to expand her knowledge of a new occupation while completing her education.
Melissa and Vanessa also both intend to complete their education, Melissa as a double major in Political Science and Medical Science, and Vanessa in Political Science and Legal Science. They all will become nationalized as American citizens.
These five success stories of triumph and resilience may have come to Parris Island with different mindsets and from different background, but they will forever share the bond of becoming Marines side-by-side.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
One of the few perks of quarantine is watching the entertainment community rally around those of us at home by providing us with incredible content to consume while we’re eating all of our quarantine snacks and longing for the days of simply being around other people.
If you’re going to be in social isolation, you might as well be laughing through it. And tonight, thanks to the great folks at the Armed Services Arts Partnership, you absolutely will be when you watch renowned comedian Rob Riggle interview Seth Herzog and other veteran comics perform. Here’s how to watch.
Tune in to ASAP’s live-stream show featuring a conversation with Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog, and stand-up comedy from ASAP veteran comics. Tonight’s event is just one in a series of great performers. For the full list, visit ASAP’s website.
Rob Riggle is a comedian, actor, and Marine Corps veteran best known for his roles on The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, The Hangover, and The Other Guys.
Seth Herzog is a NYC-based stand-up comedian featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
Access to the live-stream will be provided to ticket holders after registering. Space is limited. Here’s where you can purchase tickets for only . Stage Pass holders gain free access. All proceeds from ticket sales support ASAP’s community arts programs.
The Armed Services Art Partnership’s mission is to cultivate community and growth with veterans, service members, military families, and caregivers through the arts. Learn more here.
Michael Garvey and Liberty perform at The White House in Oct. 2016.
For one, this show is going to be awesome. Also, ASAP has an incredible mission. Here’s their story:
We believe that trauma and loss breeds creativity and discovery.
The veterans and military families in Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)’s community prove this point. But, it also holds true for our founder, Sam Pressler. After losing a family member to suicide while in high school, Sam turned to comedic expression to cope. When he later learned about mental health challenges affecting veterans through his college research at William Mary, Sam felt compelled to act. While at WM, he launched the country’s first comedy class for veterans, as well as the largest veterans writing group in the Southeast. Within a year, a supportive community formed – one that gave veterans permission to process and express, connect and grow, heal and serve others.
After receiving the Echoing Green Fellowship, Sam converted the student organization into ASAP, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Today, ASAP is thriving in the D.C. Metro area and Hampton Roads, VA, serving thousands of veterans and military families, and empowering its alumni to become artistic leaders in their communities. As a result of our impact in the communities we serve, we have received significant attention. We have performed at The White House, have been featured on a PBS documentary, and have been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 list for “Social Entrepreneurship.”
The reintegration of our nation’s veterans is not just a veterans issue. It involves veterans and civilians, community arts organizations and local health providers, military recruiting and VA care. It requires social, physical, and artistic outlets just as much as it demands traditional medical care. Through our collaborative, community-driven, and deeply focused program model, we are forging a new path for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life, and for our communities to welcome them home.
We veterans suck at sleeping and relaxing. We got used to going 1000 miles an hour for an indefinite period of time until we were told by our OIC to take some leave and get our shit together before we burnout.
As civilians, that time may never come. For better or worse, you probably don’t have anyone that remotely resembles an OIC in your life anymore.
If we are looking at each day as a mini-deployment cycle, that means after work we should be taking leave, getting psychologically evaluated, spending time with family, and caring for ourselves.
I don’t mean this as a joke either. If we are constantly managing the damage each day inflicts on us, we are more likely to thrive in our post-military lives.
You can talk about computers, chalkboards, sunglasses or life.
Connect with others. The purpose of the work day, like deployment, is mission accomplishment, not necessarily forming bonds and finding common ground with others. We do need real connections with other people though. The recent bestseller Lost Connectionsbeautifully lays out how a lack of meaningful connection in our lives is one of the leading causes of depression and anxiety.
Bond with your kids, join a book club, talk to your high school best friend, volunteer at the soup kitchen. It doesn’t much matter, as long as the conversations you’re having get past talking about work and the weather. Enter the conversation with the intention of learning something new about your fellow human.
Who am I?… Typical Derek Zoolander reflection questions.
Wind down your body. Maybe you haven’t had the chance to train yet today, if so… get your ass training. If you have already, it’s time to cool down physically, as this will help you to cool down mentally as well. I prefer a static stretch while I watch old episodes of the Office or YouTube videos on the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. It doesn’t have to be something complicated.
Whatever you decide should include the intention of releasing stress and tension from your body. Dedicated breathing, a bubble bath, or a glass of whiskey while staring at the stars can all work if the intention is correct.
Wind down your mind. Sometimes this happens in tandem with cooling down the body, sometimes we need more. Yeah, meditating is f*cking great for this, but it isn’t a requirement.
Just like above, choose an activity that you intend to serve the purpose of letting go of the day’s stresses. Reading, listening to Miles Davis, or calmly venting to your spouse can all serve this purpose.
A full day for you to rest and repair so you can tear shit up again next week.
Having a daily rest and relaxation plan is the first line of defense, but sometimes life gets messy. It’s rare that the work day actually ends at 1700 or that you don’t have other obligations in the evenings. This is precisely why the Sabbath was created–even God needs to rest.
Taking a rest day doesn’t have to have anything to do with religion if you don’t want it to. What it is, is a day where you schedule things that are restorative and relaxing.
Physically your body needs time to recover. When stress hormones are high, your immune system and internal recovery procedures are compromised. Any type of stress can and will impede your ability to recover, even if it’s the kind of stress you may enjoy.
When we weight train we are literally causing damage to our muscles. They can only fully be repaired with proper nutrition and dedicated rest.
I dare you to sit on the beach and do nothing except watch the waves. It’s harder than you think.
Many veterans are some degree of a type-A person. If you:
Have little patience
Are a workaholic
You probably fall into this category.
Type-A people like to do things that get them going and dislike the idea of unwinding. They like to work out at super-high intensities. If they aren’t sweating gallons, they feel like they haven’t done anything.
Telling one of you guys to chill and unplug for a day probably feels like I want you to take a vow of silence and live in a monastery. Take heed, the research shows that you are not necessarily anymore immune to stress than the rest of us without mitigating practices like above. In fact, as a type-A personality, you may even be more at risk for health issues or low performance than others.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office hoping to engage diplomatically with North Korea, but as tensions soar between the two countries, he’s considering his offensive options.
Moon called for South Korea to prepare to “immediately switch to offensive operations” if North Korea makes a “provocation that crosses the line,” according to NK News.
Moon told his top military officers they should “strongly push ahead with a reform of the military structure to meet [the requirements] of modern warfare so that it can immediately switch to offensive operations in case North Korea makes a provocation that crosses the line or attacks a metropolitan area,” NK News notes.
Additionally, South Korea is developing a three-axis system to respond to a North Korean attack that contains preemptive strikes on North Korea’s missile systems, air and missile defenses, and something called the “Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation system.”
Moon has tried to engage closely with North Korea, even going as far as suggesting the country host some of South Korea’s 2018 Winter Olympics, but to no avail as of yet.
At the same time, South Korea is building up a “decapitation force” meant to kill Kim Jong Un and other key North Korean leaders while building up missile defenses. Under Moon, the country has also developed an impressive ballistic-missile fleet that can drill deep underground to hit high-value targets in bunkers.
South Korean Vice Minister of National Defense Suh Choo Suk told reporters the country hoped to have perfected its offensive and defensive plan to win a war against North Korea by the early 2020s.
This is a Hollywood military fail. Jake Lacy and the costume designer from 2015’s “Love the Coopers”should put out a YouTube video where a drill instructor smokes both of them for the popped collar he wears the whole time.
4. The cast of Enlisted (minus Keith David)
Look at this. Look at this. Keith David is military movie royalty (“Platoon,” hello?), so it’s little surprise that he knows how to wear an Army uniform. But if he were really the sergeant major he was supposed to be, this photo would feature him tearing new a**holes into the other four for the thousands of problems here.
5. Amber Rose
Shitty job rolling those BDU sleeves, but at least she tried to crease them. Nails probably not reg, but the only person who would really care is Kanye West.
6. Jeremy Renner
Jeremy Renner has ruined everything from “The Avengers” to Jason Bourne, and here he is ruining the Army Combat Uniform. Forget for a moment that the ACU didn’t exist when “The Hurt Locker”was supposed to be taking place (realism!), ACU sleeves are rolled approximately never and if they were, they sure as hell wouldn’t have the sea service roll. Also, unless he runs into a fight backwards, pretty sure that U.S. flag is as ass backward as that movie.
7. Samuel L. Jackson
It’s easy to make fun of “Basic.” The most prominent reason is because of Samuel L. Jackson’s standard-issue cape. A goddam cape. There is no better example of what a civilian thinks the military would wear than giving someone a cape. The worst (best?) part of “Basic” is that it implies basic training, the one place where we all learned this.
8. Shia LeBeouf
Ah yes, America’s most famous Valor Thief. The backpack is actually common among civilians, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone wearing it with ACU pants. And even harder pressed to find someone wearing that combo bloused with Desert Combat Boots.
9. Steven Seagal
Watching this salute is almost as awkward as watching Seagal run.
10. Jessica Simpson
WATM’s Logan Nye says the collar is only authorized to be worn this way when a soldier is wearing body armor, but even then it makes you look like an a**hole. The fact that everyone in the unit is wearing it up makes the commander look like an a**hole.
Also, that hair is not authorized in uniform.
11. Channing Tatum
To the untrained (or Air Force) eye, Army uniforms always look like a random mishmash of metal and ribbon. Tatum is mostly okay but needs to decide if he’s infantry or special forces.
Few people have lived a life as hardcore and fulfilling as that of Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow. He attended college and became the first member of his tribe to obtain a master’s degree. While working on his doctorate, he taught at the Chemawa Indian School. Then, World War II broke out and everything changed.
Medicine Crow started working at a naval shipyard in Washington before enlisting in the Army in 1943. He became an infantry scout assigned to the 103rd Infantry Division and was almost immediately sent to Europe. In keeping with Crow traditions, he went into battle donning red war paint under his uniform and a sacred eagle feather under his helmet.
(PBS: The War)
Also in line with tradition, he set out to complete the four required tasks in becoming the “War Chief of the Crow Indians,” a title reserved for only the most hardened warriors who have proved their worth with death-defying feats of combat. The requirements were as follows:
Lead a successful war party on a raid.
Capture an enemy weapon.
Touch an enemy without killing them.
Steal an enemy’s horse.
The first task was nearly inevitable for any competent platoon leader or sergeant, but Pvt. Medicine Crow didn’t have such a rank. After fighting hard on the western border of France, Medicine Crow proved himself fearless among his peers. He finally got an opportunity when his CO told him to stealthily clear out a German bunker with seven men and some TNT. He was told by his CO,
“If anyone can do this, it’s probably you.”
His CO was right. Not only did they cross German machine-gun and artillery fire, they got into the bunker and blew a hole right through the Siegfried Line without losing a single man. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions — and he completed the first of his four tasks. Rumor has it that after Medicine Crow destroyed the defenses, he jumped through the breach and was the first American GI to step foot into Nazi Germany.
As the 103rd made its way into Germany, it wasn’t uncommon for forward scouts to get separated and flanked by the enemy. One night, Medicine Crow was alone when a Nazi soldier got the jump on him and charged headlong into combat. He charged right back, leading to a helmet-to-helmet collision that quickly devolved into a fist fight.
Medicine Crow beat the Nazi bloody and had his hands around the Nazi’s near-lifeless neck. The Nazi chose “momma” as his almost last words. Medicine Crow didn’t kill him. Instead, he took the German as a POW and confiscated his rifle, completing the next two tasks on his list.
The last task, to steal an enemy horse, seemed implausible on a battlefield dominated by tanks. Medicine Crow got his chance, however, in early 1945 when his recon team found a camp for senior German staff officers. With them were nearly 50 thoroughbred race horses.
Medicine Crow snuck into the camp in the dead of morning with nothing but some rope and his 1911. He tied the rope into a makeshift bridle and took the best horse of the group. He let out a mighty Crow war cry to herd the rest out of the corral, which woke the Germans. He had successfully gotten away with 50 horses and sang a traditional Crow war song as he returned to his men.
Joe Medicine Crow returned to his tribe after the war ended as a war hero and assumed the mantle of war chief. He was knighted in the French Legion of Honor, finished his doctorate along with three honorary PhDs, wrote almost a dozen books on military and Crow history, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for his military service and work done to improve the lives of his people. Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow passed on April 3rd, 2016 at the age of 102 and was given full military honors.
After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. “The Mandalorian” is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.
Pedro Pascal, best known as Game of Thrones‘ Red Viper of Dorne (Prince Oberyn, for those of you who refuse to become obsessive fans), stars as the titular character, a bounty hunter heavily inspired by the infamous Boba Fett. The series will take place after Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens.
Check out the trailer right here:
The Mandalorian | Official Trailer | Disney+ | Streaming Nov. 12
The Mandalorian | Official Trailer | Disney+ | Streaming Nov. 12
“I’m trying to evoke the aesthetics of not just the original trilogy but the first film. Not just the first film but the first act of the first film. What was it like on Tatooine? What was going on in that cantina? That has fascinated me since I was a child, and I love the idea of the darker, freakier side of Star Wars, the Mad Max aspect of Star Wars,” creator Jon Favreau told The Hollywood Reporter.
The opening scenes contain bloody stormtrooper helmets on spikes, so I’d say he’s off to a great start!
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The show, the first Star Wars live-action TV series, will be one of the biggest releases on the new streaming platform Disney+, which will also house Marvel Cinematic Universe shows about Scarlet Witch and Vision, Loki, The Falcon and Winter Soldier, and Hawkeye, among others.
Fans got a peek at footage from The Mandalorian at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, but finally the teaser trailer has been released at D23. In addition, the new poster has been released, unveiling the bounty hunter himself — and that fancy new Disney+ logo.
The Mandalorian will be available to stream right when Disney+ launches on Nov. 12, 2019. The service will cost .99 a month or can be purchased as a bundle with ad-supported Hulu and ESPN+ for .99 a month.
Bold, functional, and hardcore were the first words that came to mind when I unboxed the Benchmade Infidel 3300BK-2001 double-edge dagger. It feels light but still strong. Every edge and line is incredibly clean, and at a nearly $500 price point, it should be that way.
It is an incredibly comfortable blade to carry, for its size, thanks to the tip-down, deep-carry pocket clip. If you’re the kind of person who wants to carry this type of tactical blade on a MOLLE capable host, you can certainly do that — although I’m not sure that its anodized blue color makes it the best choice for that (in such a case, you might prefer Benchmade’s fixed-blade Infidel instead). That being said, my preferred method of carrying is in my pocket, so this is a great option for me. While the color isn’t my normal choice, when I consider that I’ve got a box full of black and gray tactical knives, it is actually kind of refreshing to have something that stands out a bit.
This iteration of the popular Infidel OTF (out-the-front) platform features the introduction of a bold new anodized blue handle (.59″ thickness) to a family of tactical knives that sported more traditional colors. The handle material is 6061-T6 aluminum. It looks a little blocky from certain angles, but it is very comfortable to hold and deploy. The total weight comes in at 4.90oz so it isn’t heavy enough to be noticeable while carrying. I’ve got average-sized hands and this knife feels great in every way. It wasn’t simply the handle color that got an upgrade — the blade did too.
The 3.91″ length blade now sports a DLC (Diamond-like Carbon Coated) finish on a new CPM-S30V steel with a thickness of 0.118″ and a hardness of 58-60. When the plain double-edged blade is closed the handle length is 5″; when the blade is open the overall length is 8.91″. Deploying the blade is a clean action. There is no unnecessary play with the release button, and it doesn’t require superhuman strength. For the first few days I carried this knife I was admittedly nervous about a negligent discharge, but soon came to realize it wasn’t a valid concern due to its quality.
The Infidel 3300BK-2001 comes with a MSRP of 5 (depending on where you look it may be slightly more or less). This Benchmade “Black Class” blade is in the company’s highest tier of quality. It is considered an “Unlimited Limited” product, meaning that it will only be available for one year. If you’re looking for a defensive blade that conceals easily in your pocket but also has a bit more character than the typical tactical knife, this is one to consider. This blade will be available for purchase on 8/20/2020.
Through the cockpit windscreen, Capt. Robert Morgan saw flashes of light from the wings and engine cowling of a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at his 12 o’clock and closing at an incredible rate. Each wink of light from the fighter’s wing root meant another 20mm cannon shell was heading directly at his B-17F Flying Fortress at over 2,300 feet per second.
Having no room to dive in the crowded formation of B-17 bombers of the 91st Bomb Group, he pitched up. The Luftwaffe fighter’s shells impacted the tail of the aircraft instead of coming straight through the windscreen.
Over the intercom Morgan heard his tail gunner, Sgt. John Quinlan, yelling that the aircraft’s tail was shot to pieces and what was left was in flames.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
It was January 23, 1943. Morgan and his nine crewmen aboard the “Memphis Belle” had just fought their way through a swarm of Luftwaffe fighters, dropped their bombs on a Nazi submarine base in the coastal city of Lorient in occupied France and were fighting to survive the return trip to the Eighth Air Force base in Bassingbourn, England. Morgan began calculating if the crew should bail out and become prisoners of war before the tail tore completely off the bomber trapping the crew in a death spiral culminating in a fiery crash.
A moment later, Quinlan reported that the fire in the tail had gone out. The “Memphis Belle” and its crew would survive the mission; the crew’s eighth and the bomber’s ninth.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
They would have to survive 17 more missions to complete the required 25 to rotate home. All would be flown during a period of World War II when the Luftwaffe was at the height of its destructive powers.
Against all odds, the “Memphis Belle” crew flew those missions, their last to once again bomb the U-boat pens at Lorient on May 17, 1943, before returning safely to England for the final time. Bottles of Champagne were uncorked and radio operator Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Hanson collapsed onto the flightline and kissed the ground.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
For the “Belle” itself, it was only mission 24 and the plane had to fly once more with an alternate crew on May 19.
The B-17 and its crew would be the first to return alive and intact to the U.S. They were welcomed as heroes and immediately embarked on a 2 ½-month, nationwide morale tour to sell war bonds. The tour was also to encourage bomber crews in training that they too could make it home. It made celebrities of both the “Belle” and its crew.
Ironically, the two and a half months of press conferences, parties and glad-handing officers and politicians was about the same amount of time during the “Belle’s” combat tour that 80 percent of the 91st Bomb Group’s B-17s and their crews were lost to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.
“Eighty percent losses means you had breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of those 10,” Morgan said in an interview after the war. During the totality of the air war over Europe more than 30,000 U.S. Airmen aboard heavy bombers, like the B-17, would be killed.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Seventy-five years to the day after that 25th mission, the Museum of the U.S. Air Force will honor the bravery of those bomber crews, some of the first Americans to take the fight to the Nazis in WWII, when they unveil for public display the largely restored B-17F, Serial No. 41-24485, “Memphis Belle” as part of a three-day celebration, May 17-19, 2018.
According to the museum curator in charge of the “Memphis Belle” exhibit, Jeff Duford, the weekend will include more than 160 WWII re-enactors showcasing their memorabilia, WWII-era music and vehicles, static displays of other B-17s, flyovers of WWII-era aircraft and presentations of rare archival film footage. The “Memphis Belle” will be the centerpiece of an exhibit documenting the strategic bombing campaign over Europe.
“The ‘Memphis Belle’ is an icon that represents all the heavy bomber crewmen who served and sacrificed in Europe in World War II,” Duford said, “In many ways the ‘Memphis Belle’ is the icon for the United States Air Force.
“You look at the U.S. Marines, they have this wonderful icon of the flag being raised over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and everyone recognizes that. It symbolizes service and sacrifice and tenacity and teamwork. Well, the Air Force has that symbol too, and it’s this airplane. It demonstrates teamwork. The crews had to work together. The planes in formation had to work together. The formations had to work together with the fighter escorts.”
The service and sacrifice of the young men still leaves Duford awestruck even after working on the “Belle” project for a decade.
(U.S. Army photo)
“How does one climb inside of this aircraft knowing that they are probably not going to come home? And they don’t do that one time; two times; three times; 10 times – they have to do it 25 times,” said Duford. “Once they got inside the airplane, they had no place to run. There were no foxholes to be dug. The skin on those airplanes is so thin that a bullet or flak fragment would go through it like a tin can because that’s essentially what it was.
“The odds were that every 18 missions, a heavy bomber was going to be shot down. So when you think the crew had to finish 25 missions to go home, statistically it was nearly impossible. It was one-in-four odds that a heavy bomber recruit would finish their 25 missions. Those other three crew members would’ve been shot down and captured, killed or wounded so badly they couldn’t finish their tour.”
The fact the “Memphis Belle” crew survived their tour was of great value to the U.S. Army Air Forces in maintaining support for the daylight strategic bombing campaign over Europe, which was still, in fact, an experiment.
“Back then, there was no book on high altitude strategic bombing. The generals didn’t know any more than we did. They had to figure bombing strategy as we went along,” said Morgan in a book he would write after the war, “The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle”.
The B-17 was named the “Flying Fortress”, because it was bristling with .50 caliber machine guns covering every angle of attack by German fighters, save one. The theory was that all that defensive firepower would be amplified by heavy bombers flying in tight formations, called “boxes”, enabling them to protect each other from attacking fighters.
While the German Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf fighters sometimes paid a price for attacking the formations, they soon developed tactics that exploited a design weakness in B-17Fs, like the “Memphis Belle”.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
While twin .50 caliber machine guns in top and belly turrets and the tail and single .50 cal. gunners protected the bomber, the 12 o’clock position was covered by a lone .30 caliber machine gun – no match for the German fighters. Because the bomber formations had to fly straight and level to initiate their bombing run, the Luftwaffe fighter pilots began attacking the formations head on. The ensuing carnage was ghastly.
“The secret to the B-17 was the capability of flying in tight formations, so tight that the wings were often almost touching,” wrote Morgan. “We were able to put out an amazing amount of firepower… but, I also positively feel that was a bit of divine intervention for our crew.”
While the addition of Allied fighter escorts helped fend off some German attackers, the fact that the B-17s had to fly at 25,000 feet or lower to maintain any semblance of accuracy on target put them in the range of the deadly German 88mm anti-aircraft gun. No amount of machine guns or friendly fighters could counter the dense flak approaching targets while flying straight and level.
Bomber crews had to just grit their teeth and pray.
“They felt like they were a great crew. They were tightly knit, confident and dedicated to what they were doing,” said Duford. “However, being in those formations, flying straight and level with enemy anti-aircraft and fighter aircraft, there certainly was a little bit of luck for them too.”
Luck, both good and bad, was also a factor in the “Belle” crew, despite not being the first crew to complete 25 missions, being the one to return to the U.S. for a bond and morale tour.
The “Belle’s” selection for the morale tour was the result of a film project about the strategic bombing campaign that was the brainchild of USAAF Gen. Hap Arnold and a Hollywood director, William Wyler, who had volunteered to serve his country in the best way he knew how.
It was hoped that a film documenting a bomber crew as they successfully completed a combat tour would calm new recruits, who were hearing stories of the carnage overseas, and assuage the doubts of the public, press and politicians that strategic bombing was a failure.
Wyler, an immigrant who was born in the Alsace region of modern-day France when it was part of the German Empire prior to World War I and who would go on to win three Best Director Academy Awards, including one for “Ben-Hur”, was commissioned as a major and headed to England with a film crew to document the fight in skies over Europe.
Wyler and his cameraman flew with B-17 combat crews and began filming missions of a B-17F of the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group named “Invasion II”. His staff also began interviewing and making publicity photographs of the crewmembers, as they drew closer to completing 25 missions.
However, on April 17, 1943, the reality of war spoiled the Hollywood ending during their 23rd mission to Bremen, Germany. Invasion II crashed after being hit by flak over Borhmen, Germany, setting the cockpit and wing on fire. The crew managed to bail out, but all became prisoners of war.
Wyler regrouped and found a plane and crew with the 324th Bomb Squadron that was also close to completing their combat tour. The “Memphis Belle”, named for Morgan’s girlfriend, Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee, and its crew took center stage.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
While the crew of “Hell’s Angels” completed their tour on May 13, 1943, four days before the “Belle”, there was no film of that plane and crew. Consequently, it was the “Belle” and its crew that would fly mission 26 back to the U.S. and receive a hero’s welcome.
Wyler’s film, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”, would be released and distributed by Paramount Pictures the following year.
(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)
It was a film that came with a high price tag. One of Wyler’s cinematographers, 1st Lt. Harold J. Tannenbaum, a veteran of World War I, was killed in action during the filming when the bomber he was in was shot down over France on April 16, 1943.
Until the end of the war, the “Belle” was used as a training aircraft, but instead of being torn apart for scrap like most of the other 12,700 B-17s built during the war, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, put the aircraft on display for nearly 50 years.
The historic aircraft came to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in October 2005, when work began on a careful, multi-year conservation and restoration effort including corrosion treatment and the full outfitting of missing equipment.
Casey Simmons arrived shortly after the “Memphis Belle” as a restoration specialist for the museum.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
From the beginning, it was apparent that priority one in the restoration was getting it right. His first assignment was to fabricate a glycol heater that was missing from inside the left wing. No visitor to the museum would ever see it.
“I know it’s there and that’s cool because it’s going to get all the parts that it needs to be a complete aircraft,” said Simmons. “When you don’t have the part you try and find a part from another airplane or you go to the blueprints and make the part completely from scratch.”
While the museum has other B-17s in its collection, the “Memphis Belle” requires a whole other level of patience and dedication.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
“Other restoration projects are typically a general model of a certain aircraft. So it represents a lot of them. This one is a specific aircraft, so you have to get it right; exactly to the rivet,” said Simmons.
The museum specialist did not try to restore the “Belle” to how it rolled off the Boeing line, but utilized films, photos and records from its time in combat to bring the B-17F back to fighting trim, scars and all.
“There are certain damage spots on the “Memphis Belle” that were fixed over time, so we have to make sure that those show up on the aircraft the way they were,” said Simmons. “If they put five rivets in an area as opposed to the standard four that are supposed to be there, we have to get that correct… When you go through video footage, old film footage, or photographs, and you do find a little glimpse of what you’re looking for, that’s a big moment. We have to get it right for those bomber crews.”
The bravery of those bomber crews continued after all the whoopla back home died down. Even Morgan was eager to get back in the fight.
While on a morale tour stop in Wichita, Kansas, Morgan caught a glimpse of the future of strategic bombing, the still secret B-29 Superfortress. He volunteered immediately to train on the new bomber and earned command of his own squadron of B-29s that deployed to Saipan in the Pacific Theater.
On November 24, 1944, his 869th Squadron of the 497th Bomb Group was the first, other than Doolittle’s Raiders in 1942, to bomb Tokyo. He would go on to complete another 24 combat missions in the B-29 before the end of WWII. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1965 as a colonel.
While the restoration and display of the “Memphis Belle” will ensure the story of the dedication, bravery and airmanship of its 10 crewmembers that returned home safely in 1943 honors all the Airmen that fought in WWII, Duford is particularly enthusiastic that the exhibit will allow Museum of U.S. Air Force visitors to learn the story of the little known 11th crewmember of the “Memphis Belle”.
As much as any Airman, he embodied the spirit and sense of duty shared by all the heavy bomber crews.
“It’s the story of one of the waist gunners, Emerson Scott Miller,” said Duford. “You don’t see him in any of the war bond photos and you don’t see his name listed as one of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew members. He came overseas as a technician repairing the autopilot systems on B-17s. He was safe. He didn’t have to fly the missions but he decided he wanted to do more and volunteered to fly in combat. He joined the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew after they had flown about nine or 10 of their missions. So he had flown 16 of his missions when the rest of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew completed their 25th.
“Capt. Robert Morgan really wanted Scott Miller to come back on the war bond tour, but Miller hadn’t finished his 25th mission, so he had to stay. While the ‘Belle’ crew was celebrated and famous and there were parties for them, Scott Miller was still flying in combat.”
Fittingly, Miller finished his 25th mission aboard another B-17 on July 4, 1943, but for him, there were no parades, no press conferences, no meeting movie stars and no special duties.
“We got in touch with Scott Miller’s family,” said Duford. “They donated a trunk full of artifacts, and so Scott Miller has a place in the exhibit and his story will be told… He could have just simply done his duty repairing those autopilot systems and gone home safe. But he put his life on the line and then was forgotten. Now he’s going to be remembered now and for generations to come.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The 413th Flight Test Squadron successfully conducted the first Air Force-piloted flight of the HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter July 11, 2019. The test took place at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach.
The unit embedded Air Force personnel with the contractor, Sikorsky, to provide early warfighter involvement and operationally relevant developmental testing.
The aircraft, based on the Army’s UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter, is modified to perform missions locating and rescuing downed pilots in hostile territory. The Air Force is contracted to purchase 113 HH-60W aircraft to replace its aging fleet of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.
“Our entire team has been focused on bringing together a lot of moving parts to get here today,” said Lt. Col. Wayne Dirkes, 413th FLTS operations officer. “We are really excited to be a part of recapitalizing a vital component of our warfighting strategy,”
HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter.
The purpose of the test flight was to collect level flight performance data the Air Force requires to move the program into the production and deployment phase of the defense acquisition process.
According to Dirkes, the crew performed an instrumentation and telemetry checkout with the control room, gathered basic engine start data and flew referred gross weight level flight speed sweeps between 40 knots and maximum horizontal speed.
“Performance testing requires extremely precise aircraft control, and our test pilot maintained tolerances of plus or minus one knot of airspeed, 20 feet of altitude and less than 100 feet per minute vertical speed, flying by hand,” Dirkes explained.
HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter.
The flight also served as a method for the test pilot to complete the required qualifications to fly the aircraft. Maj. Andrew Fama, a 413th FLTS test pilot, was the first Air Force pilot to fly the aircraft.
“I’m honored to be the first Air Force pilot to fly the ‘Whiskey’ and very excited to deliver a new aircraft to my rescue brothers and sisters,” Fama said.
Sikorsky pilots have been flying the aircraft for about a month; however, this milestone marks the beginning of integrated government and contractor flight test operations.
There are six aircraft dedicated to the developmental test program. The 413th’s HH-60W operations are scheduled to begin at Eglin AFB Auxiliary Field #3, also known as Duke Field, Florida, this fall.
In August, 1914, British troops were in full retreat from the World War I Battle of Mons in Northern France. The Germans chasing them were far greater in number, and the men were desperate. In a turn of good luck, they happened to pass a celebrated old battle site that turned the tide of their retreat, in an almost supernatural way – and that’s exactly how it was remembered.
The Battle of Mons went as well for the Brits as could be expected. It was the first test of the British Expeditionary Force in continental Europe. They fought hard, and the Germans paid dearly for their advance. But the French Fifth Army gave way to the Germans, and the British could not hold the line on their own. An orderly battle turned into a two-week rout that would end with the epic Battle of the Marne – but not unless the BEF could escape the oncoming Germans. They retreated south as orderly as possible.
On their way, they passed the site of the famous medieval Battle of Agincourt, where King Henry V’s English longbowmen devastated a French Army that outnumbered the English with estimates as high as 6-to-1. The retreating British troops of 1914 were on the run from a numerically superior German force when legend says a British soldier said a prayer to Saint George that changed the outcome of their retreat.
St. George, the Christian dragon slayer.
George was a Roman Praetorian Guard for Emperor Diocletian, and was executed for not recanting his professed Christian faith centuries before the emperor converted the empire to Christianity. He is probably the most prominent of all soldier-saints. So, when a retreating British soldier asked St. George for help, it makes sense for the men of the retreating army to believe he may have intervened when the Germans suddenly broke off their pursuit.
After the battle, men present during the fighting chalked the sudden turn of events up to a number of supernatural explanations, each more awe-inspiring than the next. In the most prevalent retelling, the prayer to St. George caused an army of spectral English bowmen to appear, which both frightened and slaughtered the pursuing Germans.
Looks like St. George needs to train his angels a bit.
The claims of the English soldiers were grounded by a fictional short story called “The Bowmen” written by Arthur Machen after the battle. In the book, angelic archers appear after a British soldier prays for help from St. George. Led by the patron saint of England, a thousand archers appeared and mowed down the enemy. Afterward, the German generals determined the BEF must be using a new gas weapon, as there were no wounds on the dead German troops.
Machen’s story was a fabrication, of course, based on a different story by Rudyard Kipling. That one was set in Afghanistan. But veterans of the Battle of Mons soon began to claim they were eyewitness to the spectral event. In each retelling, the story changes: German soldiers are found with arrow wounds, the ghost army was actually a team of angels in the form of medieval knights and led by St. George, or the BEF was able to retreat into a wall of clouds.
World War I Ex Machina.
The Angels of Mons very quickly entered the lore and legends of the First World War, joined there by stories of ghouls living in No Man’s Land, crucified Canadian soldiers, and the end of the war by Christmas.