Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

The U.S. Air Force, RAF and Italian Air Force are the only ones to have the ability to carry out Bio-containment missions aboard their aircraft.


In the next hours, a Boeing KC-767A tanker and transport aircraft of the 14° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) will depart from Pratica di Mare Air Base, near Rome, to carry out the air evacuation of an Italian student stuck in Wuhan, China, who could not be repatriated along with the others on Feb. 2, 2020, because he developed fever. While the same aircraft has already taken part in a previous flight to the Chinese town that is the coronavirus epicentre, the next one will be in “bio-containment” configuration.

This kind of missions are flown with an aeromedical isolation crew that can take care of the patient in isolated area of the aircraft (with bathroom) because he/she has been exposed to, or infected with, highly infectious, potentially lethal pathogens. For this reason, aircraft involved in this tasks require specific disinfection and decontamination procedures after the mission.

Considered the peculiar health conditions of the patients, it is also important to make sure the quality of the flight is not affected by the so-called major and minor stressors of flight:

  • Major stressors are Hypoxya and Barometric pressure changes that can induce expansion of trapped gas, decompression and sickness
  • Minor stressors are Dryness, Noise, Vibrations and turbolence, Temperature changes and overall Fatigue of flight

ATIs (Air Transit Isolators) are boarded for these missions. An ATI is a self-contained isolation facility designed to transport safely a patient during air evacuation, protecting healthcare personnel, air crew and the aircraft from exposure to the infectious agents. The ATI provides a microbiologically secure environment using a multi-layer protection: around the rigid or semi-rigid frame, a PVC “envelop” surrounds the patient while allowing observation and treatment of the patient in isolation and an Air Supply Unit puts the ATI unit under negative pressure, with HEPA Inlet and Outlet filters that filter out 99,97% of particles 0.3mm and larger preventing the passage of potentially infected micro-particles. Four 12V batteries with an operating time of 6 hours each provide the ATI 24 hours independent time.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

The ATI/STI systems.

(Italy MoD/Ministero Salute)

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

ATI frame with PVC envelope

(Italy MoD/Ministero Salute)

The team is usually composed of a Team Leader, a doctor who is responsible for coordinating the mission, manages relations with the civil entities involved and supervises all the operations. At least two medical officers (an anesthesiologist and an infectious disease specialist) are responsible for the health management of the patient while six non-commissioned officers take care of the patient and carry out transport procedures.

Needless to say, all the team wears protective gear that may vary according to the required Biosafety Level and that can range from simple gown, facial mask and gloves up to the Full body suit (tychem C) with positive pressure gloves.

The Aeronautica Militare has started developing the bio-containment evacuation capability since 2005, with the purchase of the ATI systems. Military doctors and nurses attended the training courses of the U.S. Army Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland, while the assets used for this peculiar mission were certified by the Centro Sperimentale Volo (Flight Test Wing). The ATI has been certified in extreme conditions after undergoing Rapid decompression, Vibration, Electromagnetic and Environmental Tests and can be carried by the ItAF C-130J, the C-27J and the KC-767A that have carried out some bio-containement missions in the last few years: on Nov. 25, 2014, a KC-767 repatriated an Italian doctor who developed a fever and was positive at the Ebola virus after working at a clinic located few miles west of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. Earlier, on Jan. 24, 2006, a C-130J transported back to Italy a patient suffering from a severe form of pulmonary tuberculosis resistant to any pharmacological treatment.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

The bio-containment capability is based on the use of special ATI (Aircraft Transport Isolator) stretchers, used to board the patient, and the smaller TSI (Stretcher Transit Isolator) terrestrial system, required to transfer the patient from the aircraft to the ambulance upon arrival.

(Image credit: ItAF)

Just a few air forces are able to conduct bio-containment flights like those described above: the U.S. Air Force and UK’s Royal Air Force are the other services capable to perform such mission.

In Italy, the bio-containment mission is a military capability available for civilian use (for this reason it is called a “dual use” capability): it was developed in coordination with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interiors and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Protezione Civile (Civil Protection).

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Panel to review malaria drugs after veterans fall ill

Former troops who say they were sickened by the malaria drug Lariam, or mefloquine, and their advocates urged members of a scientific panel on Jan. 28, 2019, to talk to veterans and examine their medical records when considering the potential chronic health effects of malaria medications.

A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee has started an 18-month review of all available scientific research on malaria drugs used to prevent the debilitating disease. Committee members are looking to see what role, if any, the medications have played in causing neurological and mental health symptoms, such as dizziness, vertigo, seizures, anxiety and psychosis, in some patients.


The panel said it is looking particularly at mefloquine and a related new drug, tafenoquine, but will review all malaria medications to distinguish any relationship between the drugs and long-term health effects in adults.

At the panel’s opening meeting in Washington, D.C., several veterans urged it to “look at this very, very closely.”

Veterans allege devastating side effects from anti malaria drug they were ordered to take??

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Retired Col. Timothy Dunn described himself as a hard-charging, motivated Marine in perfect health before he took mefloquine in September 2006.

But the first time he took it, he experienced nightmares and anxiety, he said, and the symptoms got worse with each subsequent dose. He stopped taking the medication after he returned home, but the symptoms still persist, 12 years later, including tinnitus, dizziness, anxiety and depression.

“Ladies and gentlemen … there probably are many veterans out there who think they are losing their minds or thought they were depressed and have never related it to this awful mefloquine drug,” Dunn said.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Bill Manofsky, the first veteran diagnosed by the Department of Veterans Affairs as having symptoms directly related to taking mefloquine, told the panel he has referred 280 veterans for medical care, including about 100 to the VA’s War Related Illness and Injury Study Center for possible mefloquine poisoning. He asked the panel to look at all available information.

“The medical records are not going to show up in the literature,” Manofsky said.

In most National Academies reviews, panelists interview subject-matter experts and review all available documentation on an issue, including federal government documents, academic reviews and previous studies.

In earlier studies of military-related environmental exposures, National Academies panelists often were unable to draw any conclusions because the research or data on a topic simply doesn’t exist.

Dr. Remington Nevin, a former Army preventive medicine specialist who now serves as executive director of The Quinism Foundation, a non-profit organized to support research into the effects of mefloquine and tafenoquine, expressed concern that the VA requested the National Academies review knowing the panel’s findings would prove inconclusive.

“Your work of the next 18 months is premature … certain powerful and entrenched interests would love nothing more than for the National Academies to conclude after 18 months that there is insufficient evidence for the existence of [mefloquine-related illnesses], or insufficient evidence to justify VA acting,” Nevin said.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

(Photo by James Gathany, courtesy of Centers for Disease Control)

An unknown number of U.S. troops, Peace Corps volunteers and some State Department employees have said they are permanently disabled from taking mefloquine, a once-a-week medication prescribed for personnel stationed in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Africa.

The Defense Department began phasing out its use in 2009 out of concern for possible neurological side effects.

In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration placed a “black box” warning on mefloquine, saying the drug can cause ongoing or permanent neurological and psychiatric conditions, including dizziness, loss of balance, ringing in the ears, anxiety, depression, paranoia and hallucinations, even after discontinuing use.

At their inaugural meeting, the National Academies members also heard from federal officials who set policy on medications and monitor their effects, including the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, the FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During his presentation, Dr. Loren Erickson, a retired Army infectious disease specialist who now serves as the VA’s chief consultant for post-deployment health, said the VA is “excited to [have] the academy review the issue,” as it’s one that has been a topic of consideration by the VA for years. “We all have an interest in seeking the truth.”

The VA contracted with the National Academies to conduct the review. Panel members noted that the final report will include observational findings but will not make any recommendations to the VA on how to handle disability claims or health benefits related to malaria drug exposure.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Chinese spy was arrested for allegedly stealing aerospace secrets

A Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) operative, Yanjun Xu, aka Qu Hui, aka Zhang Hui, has been arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies. Xu was extradited to the United States yesterday.

The charges were announced today by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin C. Glassman, Assistant Director Bill Priestap of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, and Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division.


Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

Eyebrows were raised when the designs for the Chinese J-31 surfaced and it looked a lot like the American F-35 Lightning II (pictured above)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas)

“This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “This case is not an isolated incident. It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense. We cannot tolerate a nation’s stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower. We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow.”

“Innovation in aviation has been a hallmark of life and industry in the United States since the Wright brothers first designed gliders in Dayton more than a century ago,” said U.S. Attorney Glassman. “U.S. aerospace companies invest decades of time and billions of dollars in research. This is the American way. In contrast, according to the indictment, a Chinese intelligence officer tried to acquire that same, hard-earned innovation through theft. This case shows that federal law enforcement authorities can not only detect and disrupt such espionage, but can also catch its perpetrators. The defendant will now face trial in federal court in Cincinnati.”

“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” said Assistant Director Priestap.

Yanjun Xu is a Deputy Division Director with the MSS’s Jiangsu State Security Department, Sixth Bureau. The MSS is the intelligence and security agency for China and is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence, and political security. MSS has broad powers in China to conduct espionage both domestically and abroad.

Xu was arrested in Belgium on April 1, pursuant to a federal complaint, and then indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio. The government unsealed the charges today, following his extradition to the United States. The four-count indictment charges Xu with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets.

​According to the indictment:

Beginning in at least December 2013 and continuing until his arrest, Xu targeted certain companies inside and outside the United States that are recognized as leaders in the aviation field. This included GE Aviation. He identified experts who worked for these companies and recruited them to travel to China, often initially under the guise of asking them to deliver a university presentation. Xu and others paid the experts’ travel costs and provided stipends.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

A gavel sits on display in a military courtroom Jan. 29, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base.

(USAF photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage is 15 years of incarceration. The maximum for conspiracy and attempt to commit theft of trade secrets is 10 years. The charges also carry potential financial penalties. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Cincinnati Division, and substantial support was provided by the FBI Legal Attaché’s Office in Brussels. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in obtaining and coordinating the extradition of Xu, and Belgian authorities provided significant assistance in securing the arrest and facilitating the surrender of Xu from Belgium.

Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI and the assistance of the Belgian authorities in the arrest and extradition of Xu. Mr. Demers and Mr. Glassman also commended the cooperation of GE Aviation throughout this investigation. The cooperation and GE Aviation’s internal controls protected GE Aviation’s proprietary information.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy S. Mangan and Emily N. Glatfelter of the Southern District of Ohio, and Trial Attorneys Thea D. R. Kendler and Amy E. Larson of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This airborne weapon makes the A-10’s gun look like a cute little pop gun

While we love the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger on the A-10 for the BRRRRRT it brings, we also know that it’s not exactly the biggest gun to ever take to the skies. In fact, several planes have packed bigger guns, like the XA-38 Grizzly armed with 75mm firepower or some versions of the B-25 Mitchell, which pack .50-caliber machine guns.


One of the biggest guns to ever be attached to a plane is the 105mm howitzer on the AC-130 Spectre gunship. Yeah, Warthog fans, I’ll say it: the AC-130’s biggest gun makes the GAU-8 look like a cute little pop gun. Here’s the scoop on this cannon that can really make life a living hell for bad guys on the ground.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

The AC-130U packs two guns bigger than the A-10’s GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun, including a M102 howitzer!

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

This gun is officially known as the M102 howitzer. It’s been around since 1964, when it was acquired by the Army for airborne and light infantry units, replacing the World War II-era M101 howitzer. The M102 has a top range of roughly nine and a third miles and can fire ten rounds per minute in a rapid-fire mode before settling down to a tamer three rounds per minute.

While the lightweight M119 has replaced the M102 in many of America’s light units since it entered service in 1989, the M102 is still active aboard the AC-130. The howitzer has been on AC-130s since 1971.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

The M102 saw action in the Vietnam War, but has hung long enough to server during Operation Iraqi Freedom!

(US Army)

The M102 has seen action on the ground in Vietnam, Grenada, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. While many of these howitzers will never see active service on the ground again, many have a long life ahead on AC-130 gunships, both the AC-130U and the AC-130J. You can see a video of the M102 being tested in its ground-based mode by the Army in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsWlsdOMcMs

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Articles

Chinese Navy may outnumber US Navy by 2020

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works
China’s carrier Liaoning | PLAN photo


Ongoing U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea regarding Chinese artificial island-building are leading many at the Pentagon to sharpen their focus upon the rapid pace of Chinese Naval modernization and expansion.

While Chinese naval technology may still be substantially behind current U.S. platforms, the equation could change dramatically over the next several decades because the Chinese are reportedly working on a handful of high-tech next-generation ships, weapons and naval systems.

China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to a recent Congressional report.

The 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended to Congress that the U.S. Navy respond by building more ships and increase its presence in the Pacific region – a strategy the U.S. military has already started.

Opponents of this strategy point out that the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, the Chinese have one and China’s one carrier still lacks an aircraft wing capable of operating off of a carrier deck. However, several recent reports have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say.

The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.

These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer slated to enter the fleet this year. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.

Furthermore, the Chinese may already be beginning construction on several of their own indigenous aircraft carriers. China currently has one carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning. It is not expected to have an operational carrier air wing until sometime this year, according to the report.

The Chinese are currently testing and developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.

Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.

The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.

China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.

The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.

While the commission says the exact amount of Chinese military spending is difficult to identify, China’s projected defense spending for 2014 is cited at $131 billion, approximately 12.2 percent greater than 2013. This figure is about one sixth of what the U.S. spends annually.

The Chinese defense budget has increased by double digits since 1989, the commission states, resulting in annual defense spending doubling since 2008, according to the report.

Some members of Congress, including the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., are advocating for both a larger U.S. Navy and a stronger U.S. posture toward China’s behavior in the region.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Navy’s Knifefish underwater drone sub is ready to hunt

The Navy recently approved low-rate initial production (LRIP) for a special, underwater drone system designed to conduct counter-mine operations for the service’s littoral combat ship.

Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants recently granted Milestone C approval to the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Program, according to a news release from Naval Sea Systems Command.

The Navy is expected to award an LRIP contract to Knifefish prime contractor General Dynamics Mission Systems, the release states.

The Knifefish system is designed to deploy from an LCS as well as from other offshore vessels to detect and classify “buried, bottom and volume mines” in highly cluttered environments, according to the release.


Knifefish consists of two unmanned undersea vehicles, along with support systems and equipment. It uses cutting-edge low-frequency broadband sonar and automated target recognition software technology to act as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside the minefield boundaries, the release states.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

A Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle training model undergoes crane operations aboard the Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead as part of a training exercise enabling mine countermeasure missions from an EPF as a Vessel of Opportunity.

(U.S. Navy photo by Master-at-Arms 1st Class Alexander Knapp)

The Navy hopes to approve a full-rate production decision for the system in fiscal 2021 after additional testing of LRIP systems, according to the release. The service plans to buy 30 Knifefish systems in all — 24 in support of LCS mine countermeasure mission packages and an additional six systems for deployment from other vessels.

The Navy conducted formal developmental testing and operational assessment from January through May 2019 in multiple locations off the coast of Massachusetts and Florida, according to the release. The Knifefish tests involved operational mine-hunting missions against a simulated target field.

The Knifefish was developed from technology designed for General Dynamics’ Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21 deep-water Autonomous Undersea Vehicle, a system that was involved in the unsuccessful search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

A Ranger describes what being a ‘towed jumper’ is actually like

Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.


One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, bounces against the skin of a C-17 over the skies of Fort Benning, Georgia. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)

For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, tries to keep his gear together while flapping in the wind like a dog’s jowls. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.

This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

Why it sucks to report to the ‘Good Idea Fairy’

This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

MIGHTY HISTORY

This ‘demi-brigade’ is the Foreign Legion’s World War II pride

The 13th Demi-Brigade is one of the legendary units of the French Foreign Legion. During World War II, it was the only formation to immediately join Gen. Charles de Gaulle and the Free French Forces when France capitulated to to the Nazis.

From the creation of Vichy France to the country’s eventual liberation, the 13th Demi-Brigade carried the Legion’s honor in battles across the world. The 13th fought in Norway and across Africa, Syria, Italy, and France before victory was achieved.


Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

Allied soldiers during the Battle of Narvik where French legionnaires with the 13th Demi-Brigade and other forces liberated Norwegian ports from Nazi occupation.

The 13th was formed in 1940 as a light mountain unit to fight in the Winter War, the conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. The Winter War ended before the 13th could get into the fight, but an invasion of Norway by Germany soon followed, so the 13th went to fight them instead.

The 13th took part in two landings in Norway, both aimed at the port town of Narvik. The first was on May 6 at a point seven miles north of the city, and the second was on May 26 from a position to the south. Conditions during the fight were brutal. Temperatures fell as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the legionnaires were attacking a force three times their size.

While the German’s conquest was ultimately successful, the victory wouldn’t matter. The legionnaires fought through vicious machine-gun fire, Luftwaffe attacks, and artillery bombardment, finally pushing the Germans out of Narvik and into the surrounding country. The Legion was pursuing the Germans across the snow and were only 10 miles from the Swedish border when the call came in to return home.

The Germans had invaded France, and all hands were needed to defend Paris.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

France surrenders to Germany following the fall of Paris.

But it was too late. The brutal blitzkrieg laid France low before the legionnaires could get back. They landed in France only to learn that it was now German territory. After a brief debate about whether to continue fighting, the force’s commander executed a lieutenant who wanted to abandon the mission, and the bulk of the force went to England.

It was here that the 13th, answering the call of de Gaulle, joined the Free French Forces, the only legion able and willing to do so. As the rest of the Legion decided how much to cooperate with German authorities assigned to watch them per the armistice, the 13th was deciding how many Germans each of them would kill.

They first got their chance when they were sent to North Africa in the end of 1940. There, they captured Gabon and the Cameroons essentially unopposed and helped the British during vicious battles against Italian forces to secure territory in East Africa. In June 1941, they were sent to Syria where they would fight their own — Legion forces loyal to Vichy France.

The 6th Foreign Legion Infantry was garrisoned in Syria, an area under French mandate. Vichy France was allowing German forces to use their ports and airfields in Syria, posing a threat to the Suez Canal and British oil fields in the Middle East. The situation could not stand, and legionnaire was doomed to fight legionnaire.

The 13th, for their part, took a risk in the hopes that a legion civil war could be avoided. They fought through other French forces, at one point using outdated artillery in direct-fire mode as improvised anti-tank guns. When they had fought through to the Legion forces, they sent a small patrol to the outpost.

The outpost sent out a guard who presented the patrol with a salute and then arrested the patrol’s members. The fight was on.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

Free French Forces legionnaires, likely members of the 13th Demi-Brigade, maneuver during the Battle of Bir Hacheim.

(Photo by Sgt. Chetwyn Len)

Luckily for the 13th, the 6th and other forces under Vichy control had been stripped of most of their serious weapons and were suffering severe morale problems. But the fight was fierce but brief. The 13th Demi-Brigade won the battle, a fight that included bayonet charges and grenade assaults, and it marched into Damascus in triumph eight days later.

They allowed all members of the 6th to join the 13th if they so wished. Less than 700 of nearly 3,000 did so.

The 13th was then sent to Bir Hacheim, where approximately 3,700 men faced about 37,000 attackers. The Italian armored commander leading the first assault was assured by Rommel himself that the Allied soldiers, mostly French forces, would fall within 15 minutes.

Instead, the French forces destroyed 33 tanks in the first hour and held out for another two weeks. When the defenders finally gave in, they did so on their terms, conducting a nighttime breakout through German lines with the walking wounded and healthy troops marching and providing cover fire for the wounded on litters.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

Allied forces celebrate at the end of their successful evacuation out of Bir Hacheim.

They made it through the desert to El Alamein where the commander, the legendary prince and Lt. Col. Dmitri Amilakhvari, reportedly had a dream where he was hit with a mortal wound and the last rites were administered by someone other than his chaplain.

During the first morning of the Battle of El Alamein, a German counterattack with tanks and air support felled the brave prince when a shell fragment pierced the iconic legion white kepi that he wore instead of a helmet. His last rites were administered by a French chaplain.

The 13th failed to take their objective, and the British command sidelined them for the next year.

While the end of their time in Africa was less than glorious, they were still heroes of fighting in multiple countries, and they were still needed to continue the war. Their next chance at glory was in Italy in April, 1944, during fighting that would be brief but bloody.

The legionnaires, with two infantry battalions, an artillery battery, and an anti-tank company, were sent against Italian troops dug into the mountainsides and fortresses of Italy. They were tasked in some areas with climbing rock faces and castle walls under fire. In one case, six troops climbed a wall with bags of grenades and managed to take the high ground from the enemy and rain the explosives down on the enemy in a daring coup.

Italy cost the legionnaires over 450 killed and wounded, but the war wasn’t over. The D-Day invasions of Normandy were underway, and the French Foreign Legion wasn’t about to sit out the liberation of France.

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

13th Demi-Brigade troops parade during a ceremony in the 1950s or ’60s.

(Private collection of Lieutenant-colonel Paul Lucien Paschal)

The Legion wasn’t called up for the D-Day invasion, but it was for Operation Dragoon on Aug. 15, 1944, the lesser-known, second amphibious landing in France — this time, in the south. They landed in Provence and made their way through Toulon, Hyeres, Avignon, Lyon, Autun, Dijon, Besancon, and Vosges, slowly pushing the Nazis out and liberating the French people.

Paris was liberated on August 25, but the legionnaires were to the south and east, continuing to push the invaders from the southern French coast north past Switzerland and east, back towards Germany. The 13th, unfortunately, was not allowed to follow.

It had suffered over 40 percent losses in the fighting in France and western Italy as they pushed the Germans back. The unit was put on other duties as newly revived Legion units and Free French Forces drove with the rest of the Allied forces into Germany.

Even though the 13th had distinguished itself during fighting everywhere from the Arctic Circle, across Africa, into Italy, and finally France, it was sent back to Africa for peacetime duties within a year of the armistice with Germany.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The bizarre story of how two artists independently created ‘Dennis the Menace’

We’ve talked before about the bizarre Hollywood phenomenon of Twin Films – essentially films with near identical premises inexplicably released around the same time – and all of the machinations that can lead to them existing. Today, rather than focusing on an industry wide trend, we’re going to discuss a specific example of something similar — the bizarre tale of the time two comic artists based in the UK and US respectively somehow both created “Dennis the Menace” at almost the same time, with the first editions of each published on the exact same day, despite neither one knowing anything about what the other was doing.

While it’s commonly misstated that the UK version of “Dennis the Menace,” which debuted in Beano #452, came out on March 17, 1951, in truth both “Dennis the Menace” comics hit the shelves on March 12, with the incorrect date for the British version coming from the fact that this date was on the original cover. As to why, a common practice at the time was to post-date editions to try to keep them on the shelves longer.


Beyond sharing a name, both characters own dogs that usually aid in their mischief, with American Dennis having a snowy white Airedale mix called Ruff, and British Dennis owning a “Abyssinian wire-haired tripehound” called Gnasher. Like their owners, each dog has a distinct personality, Gnasher being decidedly more violent than Ruff, with his favourite pastime being chasing and biting postman. Another similarity between the two Dennises is their penchant for causing mischief with a slingshot, which is considered to be a trademark of each character in their respective home markets.

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Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher.

That said, it should be noted for those unfamiliar that the British Dennis is an intentional menace who relishes in the mayhem he causes, whereas the U.S. version tends to be over all good natured and ends up being a menace in many cases via trying to do something good, but having it all go wrong.

Nevertheless, given the similarities, it should come as no surprise that soon after each comic hit the stands on the same day in 1951, news of each other’s comics quickly reached the two creators. While initially foul play was suspected, it became clear to all parties involved that the whole thing couldn’t possibly be anything but a massive, inexplicable coincidence.

In the end, both creators agreed to continue as if the other comic didn’t exist and the only real change made to either comic was that as both comics gained in popularity, the name of the British version evolved, initially just in foreign markets, but eventually everywhere to Dennis and Gnasher.

During discussions about how each creator came up with the idea of “Dennis the Menace,” it was revealed that British Dennis was the brainchild of Beano editor, George Moonie. Moonie was inspired to create the character after hearing the lyric “I’m Dennis the Menace from Venice” while visiting a music hall. With this lyric in mind, Moonie tasked artist David Law with creating a character called, you guessed it, Dennis the Menace, saying simply that the character was a mischievous British schoolboy.

Although Law was responsible for drawing Dennis from his conception until 1970 when Law fell ill, the now iconic look of Dennis was first suggested by Beano Chief Sub Ian Chisholm who is said to have sketched a rough drawing of what would come to be Dennis’ default look on the back of a cigarette packet while Chisholm and Law were at a pub in St Andrews, Scotland.

Billed as “The World’s Wildest Boy!” in his debut strip, proto British Dennis looked markedly different from his modern counterpart, with some of his more iconic features, such as his pet dog and bestest pal Gnasher or his iconic red and black striped sweater, not being introduced until later comics.

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In the end, “Dennis the Menace” played a big part at revitalizing Beano, as noted by Beano artist Lew Stringer, “‘Dennis the Menace’ was like a thunderbolt. The Beano was flagging by 1950 and no longer radical. But there was an energy to ‘Dennis the Menace,’ it was modern and became one of the first naughty kids characters of the post-war period.”

As for American Dennis the Menace, he was the creation of Hank Ketcham. Ketcham briefly attended the University of Washington in Seattle, but had a passion for drawing from a very young age when a family friend had showed him his, to quote Ketcham, “magic pencil”, and how it could draw things like cartoon characters such as Barney Google.

Fast-forward to his freshman year of college in 1938, after seeing “The Three Little Pigs” Ketcham promptly dropped out of school and left Seattle, stating,

I had one thing on my mind: Walt Disney. I hitchhiked to Hollywood and got a job in an ad agency, changing the water for the artists for [about 9 today] a week. Which was OK because I lived at a rooming house on Magnolia – three meals a day and a bike to ride to work – for a week.
Then I got a job with Walt Lantz at Universal, assisting the animators, for . It was the tail end of the glory days of Hollywood and I loved it! I was on the back of the lot, where W.C. Fields, Bela Lugosi, Crosby, Edgar Bergen were all parading around. My neck was on a swivel! Marvelous!

As he notes there, he eventually achieved his goal, doing some work for Disney on movies like Fantasia, Bambi, and Pinocchio.

When the U.S. entered WWII, he found himself in the Navy drawing military posters for things like War Bonds and the like. By 1950, he was working as a freelance cartoonist. On a fateful day in October of that year, his toddler son, Dennis, did something that changed the family’s fate forever.

His wife, Alice, went to check on the toddler who was supposed to be napping, but instead she found Dennis’ dresser drawers removed and contents unceremoniously dumped out, his curtain rods removed and dismantled, mattress overturned and just a general mess everywhere.

Ketcham would recount in an interview with the Associated Press on the 50th anniversary of his comic that Alice remarked in an exasperated tone after witnessing the destruction, “Your son is a menace!”

This statement resonated with Ketcham who quickly devised and refined the idea of a mischievous toddler who accidentally causes wanton destruction wherever he goes. Dennis the Menace was born, and a mere five months later debuted in 16 newspapers. This is despite the fact that Ketcham himself would later state, “Oh, the drawings were terrible! Even when I started with Dennis they were just wretched! How any editor ever bought that junk…”

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Hank Ketcham in 1953.

Nevertheless, within a year of its debut, 245 newspapers across the world had picked it up representing a readership of over 30 million people. At its peak, the number of outlets that carried “Dennis the Menace” grew to over 1,000.

Unfortunately, things did not have a happy ending for the real Dennis. Much like with Christoper Robin Milne, who A.A. Milne based his character of Christopher Robin on, Dennis came to loathe the fact that his father had created a famous character after himself. Unlike Christoper Robin, Dennis never got over it.

That said, despite his son’s accusations, Ketcham vehemently denies ever using anything from his son’s childhood as fodder for the comic other than the name, noting he almost always used a team of writers to come up with the comics’ content, stating, “Anyone in the humor business isn’t thinking clearly if he doesn’t surround himself with idea people. Otherwise, you settle for…mediocrity — or you burn yourself out.”

Whatever the case, the comic was perhaps just a side issue. You see, as her husband’s fame grew, Dennis’ mother became an alcoholic and by 1959 she filed for divorce. Around the same time, with Alice no longer capable of taking care of Dennis, he was shipped off to a boarding school. Said, Dennis, “I didn’t know what was going on except that I felt Dad wanted me out of the way.”

Very soon after, his mother died after mixing barbiturates with a lot of alcohol. As for Dennis, Ketcham didn’t end up getting him from boarding school to attend the funeral, nor did he tell him about his mother’s death until weeks later, reportedly as he didn’t know how to break it to him, so delayed as long as possible. Said Dennis of this, “Mom had always been there when I needed her. I would have dealt with losing her a lot better had I been able to attend her funeral.”

Things didn’t improve when mere weeks later, Ketcham married a new woman, then moved the family off to Switzerland where he once again placed Dennis in a boarding school, which ultimately didn’t work out. To begin with, his new wife and Dennis weren’t exactly pals. Said Ketcham, “Jo Anne was unused to children. and she and Dennis didn’t get along.”

Seeing his son struggling academically because of a learning disability, combined with being in a foreign country and issues between his new wife and Dennis, Ketcham sent Dennis off to a different boarding school back in the United States where he hoped he’d be more comfortable.

After graduating two years later than most, Dennis joined the Marines for a tour in Vietnam and subsequently suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

As for his relationship with his father, it never improved, with Ketcham even losing track of him completely at one point. As Ketcham stated when asked about his son, “He’s living in the East somewhere doing his own thing. That’s just a chapter that was a short one that closed, which unfortunately happens in some families… He checks in about twice a year. And if he needs something, I try to help him.”

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Giphy

As you might imagine from all this, Ketcham would come to greatly regret using his son’s name for his character because of how he felt it negatively impacted him. “These things happen, but this was even worse because his name was used. He was brought in unwillingly and unknowingly, and it confused him.”

He also regretted not being there for his son. “Sometimes, young fathers scrambling to make a living, to climb the ladder, leave it to the mother to do all the parental things. But you get back what you put into a child. It’s like a piano. If you don’t give it much attention, you won’t get much out of it… I’m sure Dennis was lonely. Being an only child is tough.”

He goes on, “In my family now. I’m much more active with the kids and their schooling than I was before. I listen better. And I think I’m more patient. Maybe not. But I’d like to think so.”

As for Dennis’ side, he stated, rather than a successful, famous father, “I would rather have had a father who took me fishing and camping, who was there for me when I needed him… Dad can be like a stranger. Sometimes I think that if he died tomorrow, I wouldn’t feel anything.”

When Ketcham died on June 1, 2001, Dennis didn’t show up for the funeral and a family spokesman stated they hadn’t heard from him in years and didn’t know where he was.

To finish on a much lighter note, in 1959, Ketcham was invited to visit the Soviet Union as a part of a cartoon exchange trip. Never ones to miss an opportunity, the CIA asked Ketcham if he wouldn’t mind sketching anything significant he saw while in the Soviet Union. Said Ketcham, “We were flying from Moscow to Kiev, and it was during the day and I looked out the window and I saw some shapes. I had my sketch book, and I would put them down, and the flight attendant would walk by, and I would put a big nose and some eyes and make the whole thing into a funny face. So I had a whole book of funny-face cartoons at the end that I didn’t know how to read.” Needless to say, the CIA didn’t exactly appreciate his work.

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“Dennis the Menace” creator Hank Ketcham.

Bonus Facts:

  • Going back to British Dennis, Kurt Cobain was known to wear a jumper remarkably similar to that of the British Dennis the Menace on stage. As it turns out, the jumper was a genuine piece of official Dennis the Menace merchandise, though the singer didn’t know this. Apparently Courtney Love bought the jumper for Kurt for for £35 (about £70 or today) from a fan called Chris Black at a concert in Northern Ireland in 1992 after taking a liking to it.
  • Speaking of having to find a way to be original week after week in comics, Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, once sagely stated, “A cartoonist is someone who has to draw the same thing every day without repeating himself.” That’s a tall order for someone who created nearly 18,000 strips- and it wasn’t always easy. On this note, Cathy Guisewite, creator of the comic strip Cathy, revealed in an interview that Schulz once called her in something of a panic as he couldn’t think of anything to draw and was doubting whether he’d be able to come up with anything. Exasperated, she stated, “I said, ‘What are you talking about, you’re Charles Schulz!’… What he did for me that day he did for millions of people in zillions of ways. He gave everyone in the world characters who knew exactly how we felt.”
  • Bill Watterson, creator of “Calvin and Hobbes,” famously not only passed up but fought vehemently against merchandising of “Calvin and Hobbes,” costing himself many tens of millions of dollars in revenue. He stated of this that it wasn’t so much that he was against the idea of merchandising in general, just that “each product I considered seemed to violate the spirit of the strip, contradict its message, and take me away from the work I loved.” Despite this, it’s not terribly difficult to find merchandise of “Calvin and Hobbes,” but all are unauthorized copyright infringements, including the extremely common “Calvin Peeing” car stickers. Despite never having earned a dime from these, Watterson quipped in an interview with mental_floss, “I figure that, long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality.”
  • Most of the characters and names in “Winnie the Pooh” were based on creator A.A. Milne’s son’s toys and stuffed animals with the exception of Owl, Rabbit, and Gopher. Christopher Robin Milne’s toy teddy bear was named Winnie after a Canadian black bear he saw at the Zoo in London. The real life black bear was in turn named after the hometown of the person who captured the bear, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, who was from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The bear ended up in the London Zoo after Colebourn was sent to England and then to France during WWI. When he was sent to France, he was unable to bring the bear so gave it to the London Zoo temporarily and later decided to make it a permanent donation after the bear became one of the Zoo’s top draws. The “Pooh” part of the name was supposedly after a black swan that Christopher Robin Milne saw while on holiday. A black swan named Pooh also appears in the “Winnie-the-Pooh” series.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons military kids make Veterans Day fun

Military kids are a unique breed. They grow up too fast during deployments and are wise beyond their years. They ask tough questions about war, politics, furloughs, and DD93s because they overhear these things at the dinner table. But, some of the best things about military kids are their comments. The days and weeks leading up to Veterans Day in a house with military kids are just plain fun.


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1. They are so proud of their veterans.

Frequently, military-friendly schools will line the halls with artwork honoring veterans. One year, my son brought home a few half-sheets of paper that were to be filled in by our family about the veterans in our family. Our son, who was in early elementary school at that point, said, “We need so many more, Mom. We have TONS of veterans in our family.” From grandparents to aunts and uncles to cousins to parents and siblings, military kids have a fierce pride in every single person who served.

2. They know the history.

“Veterans day began as Armistice Day but was later changed by President Eisenhower in 1954,” I heard from the back seat. Someone was practicing lines for the upcoming Veterans Day program at their school. “Veterans day com…commem…commemorates veterans of all wars.”

3. They understand the sacrifices.

You’ll never find a military kid who confuses Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, and Veterans Day. Ever. They know the difference, they understand why those things are different, and they don’t want to talk about it again. Sure, they’ll be excited if their parent gets a free dessert at Chick-fil-A on Veterans Day or if there’s a military discount, that means they can spend more at the toy store, but overall, they just want their parents home with them.

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4. They don’t mind having to go to school.

In some school districts, Veterans Day is not a school holiday. For military families, this can be a hard adjustment as most service members in garrison will have this day off. But one thing we’ve discovered is that the schools that remain in session have fantastic Veterans Day programs, on a day where active duty and veteran parents can actually attend. One child equated going to school on Veterans Day as a military kid to their parent having to work on Christmas. Sometimes you have to do your job on a holiday.

5. They have some fierce branch pride.

As the token Army family in a Navy community, my children went to a school whose mascot was the captains. They had a giant anchor out front, and they rode the “Anchor bus.” They wore their “Proud Army Brat” t-shirts a lot that year. And we were quite possibly the only people celebrating Army’s win that December in Pensacola, Florida.

Veterans Day is a great time to teach your children about the significance behind the day. You can read books together, attend a parade, or make poppies. If you are stationed overseas, you can take a trip to visit historic battlefields and cemeteries. And when they get older, you can binge-watch Band of Brothers with them. Now that is a military parenting win.

MIGHTY HISTORY

NASA and Sikorsky made the world’s craziest-ever helicopter

The S-72 from the 1970s can be seen as a sort of spiritual predecessor to today’s Future Vertical Lift program. It was all about creating a vehicle that could take off and land vertically like a normal helicopter but could also fly fast and far like a plane. But while the FVL’s top contenders are logical new versions of existing aircraft, the S-72 Rotor Systems Research Aircraft was a plane and a helicopter duct-taped together and filled with explosives.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLhZN7fTwQQ
Sikorsky S-72 Helicopter (RSRA) Rotor Systems Research Aircraft

www.youtube.com

Sounds fun, right?

The RSRA was a joint effort by the Army and NASA, and the Sikorsky Aircraft company was the primary developer. Sikorsky is the company behind the new SB-1 Defiant, and they’ve long searched to push the envelope when it comes to helicopter design.

You can actually see some elements of the SB-1 Defiant in the S-72. The S-72 was basically another Sikorsky helicopter, the S-67, with wings and turbofans added. It packed two TF34 engines, the same things that keep the A-10 in the air. Strapped to an S-72 with stubby wings, these engines could send the aircraft through the sky at 345 mph.

But the S-72 was also a helicopter with five rotor blades, so it could take off and land vertically. These blades were not propelled by the TF34s, though. Nope, those were powered by the original two T-58 turboshafts from the S-67.

But that’s a lot of engines to strap to one small aircraft. What if something goes wrong? What if you need to suddenly escape?

Well, that’s where your ejector seats come in. Yup, you could rocket yourself out of this bad boy in an explosive chair. And if you’re thinking, “Wait, didn’t you just say there are five rotor blades spinning above the pilots?” Then, congratulations on paying that much attention! But also, don’t worry, because Sikorsky strapped explosives to those rotor blades, and they would blow off before the pilots flew out.

It’s all pretty cool, if not exactly practical. The program eventually fell apart for the normal reasons. It was simply too expensive and technologically advanced for its time. It did fly multiple times, but always in either a full helicopter configuration or full jet configuration with the rotor blade removed. It never flew at 345 mph with that rotor blade flapping in the wind.

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The S-72 configured for the X-Wing program.

(NASA)

Without getting too heavy into the physics in an article written for you to read on the bus or in bed or whatever, there’s a very real reason that high-speed flight with rotor blades spinning up top is tough. Helicopters have what are called advancing and retreating blades. The advancing blade is the one moving in the same direction as the aircraft, and the retreating blade is the one spinning to the rear.

The advancing blade would generate a lot more lift because it’s moving so much faster through the air, and this effect is increased the faster the helicopter is flying. Engineers have a few ways of getting around this problem, but it gets trickier the faster the helicopter flies. That’s part of why Chinooks top out at about 200 mph in level flight. So, a helicopter flying 345 mph would face a huge problem with “dissymmetry of lift.”

The S-72’s method around this was a system that would stop the blades and hold them in place as part of the X-Wing concept. Basically, the aircraft would’ve gotten a new rotor blade with four large blades instead of its normal five. When the aircraft was flying as a jet, the rotor blades would be locked in position and would generate lift like traditional wings. One S-72 was modified as the X-Wing version, but it never flew.

Meanwhile, if the SB-1 Defiant lives up to its design promises, Sikorsky thinks it will fly at almost 290 mph. If so, it will be the fastest production helicopter and still be 55 mph slower than the S-72 that preceded it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un said to be crying about North Korea’s economy

A video of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crying about his country’s terrible economy while surveying its coast is said to be making the rounds among the country’s leadership — and it could be a sign he’s ready to cave in to President Donald Trump in negotiations.

Japan’s Asahi Shinbun quoted a defector with contacts inside the country as describing a video in which a narrator explains Kim is crying that he can’t improve North Korea’s economy.


The defector reportedly said the video surfaced in April 2018, and high-ranking members of North Korea’s ruling party viewed it, possibly in an official message from Kim to the party.

In April 2018, North Korea had already offered the US a meeting with Kim and was in the midst of a diplomatic charm offensive in which it offered up the prospect of denuclearization to China, South Korea, and the US.

The defector speculated that the video was meant to prepare the country for possible changes after the summit with Trump.

Really strange video

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(KCNA photo)

In North Korea, Kim is essentially worshipped as a god-like figure with an impossible mythology surrounding his bloodline. Kim is meant to be all powerful, so footage showing him crying at his own inability to improve his country’s economics would be a shock.

Kim’s core policy as a leader had been to pursue both economic and nuclear development, but around the turn of 2018, he declared his country’s nuclear-weapon program completed.

Experts assess with near unanimity that Kim doesn’t really want to give up his country’s nuclear weapons, as he went to the trouble of writing the possession of nuclear weapons into North Korea’s constitution.

Instead, a new report from the CIA says Kim simply wants US businesses, perhaps a burger joint, to open within the country as a gesture of goodwill and an economic carrot, CNBC reports.

Big if true

Trump has made North Korea a top priority during his presidency and has spearheaded the toughest sanctions ever on Pyongyang. In particular, Trump has been credited with getting China, North Korea’s biggest ally and trading partner, to participate in the sanctions.

As a result, doing business with North Korea became nearly impossible, and its trade deficit with China ballooned.

For a leader who is meant to be seen as the all-powerful resistance to the West, crying about Trump-imposed sanctions would be a big story signaling an about-face.

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

Articles

This is when the Pope’s Swiss Guard was deadlier than 300 Spartans

Military history is full of famous last stands – the Greeks at Thermopylae, Custer at Little Big Horn, the French Foreign Legion at Camarón — just to name a few. The last unit people might think of making a famous last stand are the Pope’s personal bodyguards: the Swiss Guard.


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But even though the men who would respond to an incident involving the Pope have traded poofy pants for tactical gear, and bladed weapons for Sig SG 550 rifles, those razor-sharp halberds weren’t always just ceremonial. There was a time when the halberds, pikes, and swords carried by the ceremonial guards were the latest in military technology. The Swiss Guard are, after all, the oldest, continuous standing army in the world.

In 1527, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had just beat down the French in Italy. the only problem was, he couldn’t afford to pay the massive army he used to do it. Understandably pissed, the 34,000-strong army began to march on Rome, believing the Papal States would be an easy target to sack and pillage. They were right… for the most part.

On May 6, 1527, that army broke through Rome’s defenders and looted and pillaged the city for 12 days.

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Paintings always make sacking, burning, and pillaging seem so tame.

But the city didn’t just roll over for the renegade army.

Defending Rome was a militia made up of 5,000 and 189 of the Pope’s Swiss Guard. Of those, around 40 or so escorted Pope Clement VII to safety – and they were the only survivors of the assault. The rest were slaughtered, choosing to hold their ground in the Vatican.

While that number seems like a horrifying loss for the Swiss Guards, consider that the elite unit reduced the fighting force of the Imperial Army by three-quarters. Of the 20,000 troops that moved to storm the city of Rome, 15,000 were killed or injured by the city’s defenders.

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