This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields - We Are The Mighty
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This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online


Music from a fife and drums rang in the ears of a father and son as they sat around the campfire. Brian E. Withrow and his 14-year-old son, Josh, talked with fellow re-enactors, also clad in Union blue, the night before their first re-enactment at the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Now and then, the discussion turned to times on the battlefield when the re-enactor could almost feel as if he was actually walking in the boots of a Civil War Soldier.

Fifteen years later, the Withrow duo are back in camp at the same Virginia battlefield, except the son is now a 29-year-old re-enactment veteran, and the father plays a commanding general’s assistant chief of staff . What hasn’t changed is their shared love of history, and the one thing that has kept them returning to re-enactment battlefields is the search for those special times when they feel almost transported back in time. They call those times “Civil War moments.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

“An example was at the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, and we were doing the battle through the cornfield,” said Brian, a retired lieutenant colonel and munitions officer. “It was early morning, still dark, with just the glimpses of light coming up. There was a mist over the field. The artillery was firing, and I could see the blasts from their muzzles.

“In front of me, the very first wave of federal soldiers was given the command to go into the cornfield. For that brief moment, there were no telephone poles, no vehicles. There was just the cannon fire and musketry fire with one of the just-right conditions and glimpses that give you that moment of, ‘Wow! That must have been what it was like.'”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

An interest in U.S. history from his youth led Brian to consider the re-enactment hobby when he was stationed at the Pentagon in 1997, with the numerous Civil War battlefields in Maryland and Virginia. Josh shared the love of history, so the two attended re-enactments together as spectators until his father asked him if he would like to try the hobby with him. They watched the 136th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia in 1999, and after talking to re-enactors in the 3rd U.S. Infantry, Company B, they decided to join the unit.

Josh was still two years away from his 16th birthday, so he wasn’t able to carry a weapon at their first re-enactment at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park later that year, but as it turned out, he was right where the action was. In the Battle of Cedar Creek in the fall of 1864, forces led by Gen. Jubal Early over-ran federal forces, although Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan later made his famous ride to lead a rout of the Confederates, which helped the Union crush the resistance in the Shenandoah.

“I was too young to carry a gun, and I didn’t have any shoes that would fit me, so I had to stay in the tent while my dad went to take the field,” Josh said. “But, of course, the battle came to me. I was sitting there inside the tent, while there were two rows of infantry firing at each other around me, and it’s lighting up with the gunpowder. It was so dark outside, and all you could see were the flashes of the muzzles of the guns. It was just one of the coolest things I’d ever seen, and we were thinking, ‘We are going to keep on doing this.'”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

Brian’s interest in re-enacting began with a question about his ancestors’ role in the Civil War. Through his research and participation in re-enactments, he was able to correct what the family believed about an ancestor who fought and died in the war. For years, the family’s oral history showed that George Dugan, a private in the 10th Illinois Infantry, died in a Confederate prison in Andersonville, Georgia. By the time he’d participated in the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, Brian had learned he actually died in action there, a fact he didn’t know when he attended the same battle as a private 10 years earlier.

“I now have a personal connection,” Brian said. “Not only had he died there, but fortunately for my family line, he had a son who ended up being my great great-grandfather.”

A glance at the uniforms in a closet in the family home in Stafford, Virginia, shows the variety of ranks Brian portrays in his hobby. He plays the role of Union Soldiers, as well as those from the Revolutionary War, from the ranks of private all the way up to the commanding general of the Union Army. After he retired from the Air Force, Brian let his beard grow, which coupled with the cigar he often has in his mouth in camp, gives him a resemblance to a U.S. history legend, Gen. (and former President) Ulysses S. Grant.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

While on the board of directors that created the Stafford Civil War Park, Brian portrayed a colonel in the 55th Ohio Infantry at the grand opening in 2013, and spectators saw the beard and cigar and mistook him for Grant. The mistaken identity kept happening at subsequent reenactments and historical events, even to the point where Confederate re-enactment forces “captured” him, thinking they’d caught the overall Union commander. He was eventually asked to portray Grant for the 150th anniversary re-enactments in 2011 and 2012.  Brian impersonates the famous general for the Civil War Impressionists Association in annual events at the National Mall in Washington and at numerous Civil War historic sites.

“I’m still a private in Company K of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, so I still go out and do events as an infantry private,” Brian said. “Then again, I can put on three stars, and I can be the commanding general. I can play a private or the general-in-chief with equal enthusiasm.”

When he began the hobby, Brian had no interest in portraying an officer. He was still on active duty, and he wanted to experience a taste of a Union private’s daily life. However, after his Air Force retirement six years ago, he had an opportunity to join the Army of the Potomac headquarters staff as a guidon bearer for the command officer, which was appealing to him because of his love for horses, and in the past year he’s served as the commander’s assistant chief of staff.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

The night before the re-enactment at Cedar Creek, Brian was also promoted to brigadier general and will transition into the role of the staff’s commanding officer.

Serving as an officer in a Civil War re-enactment unit is obviously completely different from an active-duty career. For example, there is no Uniform Code of Military Justice to keep them bound to the unit or to commander’s orders. Still, Brian has found common ground between the two. Safety, self-aid and buddy care, and survival training, as well as his logistics knowledge from a career in munitions, have all come into play at different times in the field. Also, Soldiers in the 19th century operated on a code that wasn’t too different from the Air Force Core Values.

“From my research, I can’t say that they had what they called core values,” he said. “But clearly, in particular, the Soldiers who had been trained formally through the military academies during that time period, had a value system based on personal honor and morality. I think those attributes defined what it meant ideally to be a good Soldier then, and those traditions from our early American military experience are what evolved into what we call our core values now.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

For just a few days, re-enactors like the Withrows not only try to help re-create historic battles, but also get a taste of the living experiences Soldiers on both sides endured in the Civil War. Along with the bonding experiences when they swap war stories and glimpses of their lives with fellow re-enactors, they also sometimes experience some harsh conditions. They faced below freezing weather at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek in April, and there was the other extreme, where they faced temperatures above 100 degrees with elevated humidity at the 150th Battle of First Manassas in July 2011.

“We got just a little taste of some of the environmental conditions these Soldiers went through,” Brian said. “The difference was we came out and may experience some of those conditions for a weekend. That gives you an appreciation for the fact that these guys did this week on end, month on end, on forced marches of 10 to 15 miles, summertime and wintertime. Again, we get this little glimpse, just a little taste of what they may have experienced.”

These days, it is difficult for both father and son to make every battle as they were able to do when Josh was younger. He’s not able to attend most re-enactments because of his schedule as a legislative affairs manager for Freedom Works in Washington. Since his father retired, his schedule as a government employee at Fort Belvoir also keeps him busy. But their love of the hobby remains as strong as it was around that campfire 15 years ago. Hearing the fife and drums still sounds sweet to their ears.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA’s next mission will search for life on Saturn’s largest moon

NASA has announced that our next destination in the solar system is the unique, richly organic world Titan. Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034. The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; it has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere — four times denser than Earth’s — to become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.


Titan is an analog to the very early Earth, and can provide clues to how life may have arisen on our planet. During its 2.7-year baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years. Its instruments will study how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed. They also will investigate the moon’s atmospheric and surface properties and its subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs. Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

(NASA)

“With the Dragonfly mission, NASA will once again do what no one else can do,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe. This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but we’re now ready for Dragonfly’s amazing flight.”

New Dragonfly Mission Flying Landing Sequence Animation

www.youtube.com

Dragonfly took advantage of 13 years’ worth of Cassini data to choose a calm weather period to land, along with a safe initial landing site and scientifically interesting targets. It will first land at the equatorial “Shangri-La” dune fields, which are terrestrially similar to the linear dunes in Namibia in southern Africa and offer a diverse sampling location. Dragonfly will explore this region in short flights, building up to a series of longer “leapfrog” flights of up to 5 miles (8 kilometers), stopping along the way to take samples from compelling areas with diverse geography. It will finally reach the Selk impact crater, where there is evidence of past liquid water, organics — the complex molecules that contain carbon, combined with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen — and energy, which together make up the recipe for life. The lander will eventually fly more than 108 miles (175 kilometers) — nearly double the distance traveled to date by all the Mars rovers combined.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

Sunset studies on Titan by Cassini.

“Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and Dragonfly is like no other mission,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for Science at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “It’s remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn’s largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment. Dragonfly will visit a world filled with a wide variety of organic compounds, which are the building blocks of life and could teach us about the origin of life itself.”

Titan has a nitrogen-based atmosphere like Earth. Unlike Earth, Titan has clouds and rain of methane. Other organics are formed in the atmosphere and fall like light snow. The moon’s weather and surface processes have combined complex organics, energy, and water similar to those that may have sparked life on our planet.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

Diameter comparison of Titan, Moon, and Earth.

Titan is larger than the planet Mercury and is the second largest moon in our solar system. As it orbits Saturn, it is about 886 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away from the Sun, about 10 times farther than Earth. Because it is so far from the Sun, its surface temperature is around -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius). Its surface pressure is also 50 percent higher than Earth’s.

Dragonfly was selected as part of the agency’s New Frontiers program, which includes the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, Juno to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx to the asteroid Bennu. Dragonfly is led by Principal Investigator Elizabeth Turtle, who is based at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. New Frontiers supports missions that have been identified as top solar system exploration priorities by the planetary community. The program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Planetary Science Division in Washington.

“The New Frontiers program has transformed our understanding of the solar system, uncovering the inner structure and composition of Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere, discovering the icy secrets of Pluto’s landscape, revealing mysterious objects in the Kuiper belt, and exploring a near-Earth asteroid for the building blocks of life,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Now we can add Titan to the list of enigmatic worlds NASA will explore.”

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Celebrations kick off with Marine Corps birthday run

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy E. Black led a motivational run on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Nov. 5, 2019. The run was held in celebration of the Marine Corps’ upcoming 244th birthday.

The Marines ran from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to the Marine Corps War Memorial where Berger and Black shared some motivation with the Marines.

The run began a week of celebration leading up to the birthday on Nov. 10, 2019.


“Having one day to celebrate the birthday is not good enough,” said the commandant. “We have to have a whole week.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Troy E. Black join Headquarters and Service Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, Henderson Hall Marines during the 2019 Marine Corps birthday run in Arlington, Va., Nov. 5, 2019.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Morgan Burgess)

Berger then asked Marines to do three things this week. First, to stop and remember all those that have come before them. Second, to celebrate with their Marine Corps family. Finally, to look ahead at where they are going, because the Corps exists to fight and to win.

After the run, there was a moment of silence to honor all those who are forward deployed and all those that have come before them, as well as one final loud war cry that echoed across the base.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

Here are 8 of the American-est things you can do to celebrate the 4th of July

Every July 4th, we celebrate our independence by displaying our patriotic spirit and pride in all things American. Here are some ideas to help you celebrate America and all its glory the right way!


1. Recite the Pledge of Allegiance

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

Find an American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. (And listen to the words as you say them.)

2. Attend a Naturalization ceremony

One of the most patriotic things you can do is support our nation’s newest citizens by attending a naturalization ceremony. Each year, cities and some overseas military installations host these ceremonies on the 4th of July. Many of these individuals have been waiting years to become citizens and some have even served in the military. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, more than 7,000 new citizens will be welcomed this year. To see if there is a ceremony in your town, please check out this link: https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/celebrating-independence-day-naturalization-ceremonies-0

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Spc. Samuel Diaz and 155 other service memembers take the Oath of Citizenship during a naturalization ceremony July 4 2010 in the Al Faw Palace rotunda at Camp Victory, Iraq U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, administered the Oath of Citizenship. (DoD Photo by Lee Craker)

3. Head to the ballpark

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

They don’t call it America’s pastime for nothing. Baseball was born right here in the good ole USA. Have some peanuts and cracker jacks and enjoy the ball game. And don’t forget to stick around for the seventh inning stretch.

4. Watch Nathan’s Famous 4th of July Hot Dog eating contest

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating contest is an American staple held each year on America’s birthday. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Nathan’s Famous. There is something very American about watching men and women chow down processed meat to earn the title of hot dog eating champion and a shiny championship belt.

5. Grill out and have a cold one

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

Watching grown men and women scarf down as many hot dogs as possible in 10 minutes can make you hungry. So do what Americans do best and fire up the grill. Cook yourself a massive steak, have a mountain of potato salad, and enjoy a nice cold beverage in the company of friends and family.

6. Eat a slice of Apple pie

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

After stuffing your face with BBQ food, grab yourself a slice of apple pie. Adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream will only make it taste better.

7. Watch the Fireworks

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

Fireworks have been a part of Fourth of July festivities since the first anniversary of the nation’s independence. Thousands of public firework displays will be held from coast-to-coast for the public to check out. If you chose to do your own fireworks, please be careful. Safety first!

8. Thank a veteran or current service member

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

This one is pretty easy and will make our forefathers proud!

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Let us know what other great American things to do on the 4th of July in the comments.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter at @alexlicea82

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the US putting sailors at risk by sending a carrier to Iran?

John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, announced on May 5, 2019, that the US would send the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its associated strike group to the waters near Iran to “send a message” and respond to vague threats.

But the US will be sending the powerful carrier to a job it’s arguably ill-suited for, putting thousands of sailors at a major military disadvantage. And if a conflict were to arise, the sinking of a US aircraft carrier would be in Iran’s sights.

Though the carrier’s deployment to Iran’s nearby waters may have been planned long ago, Bolton has been clear that the ship’s return to the region marks a response to “a number of troubling and escalatory incident and warnings” from Iran.


While Bolton did not get into specifics, a report from Axios said Israel passed the US “information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack” US forces or interests in the region.

The Wall Street Journal cited US officials as saying new intelligence “showed that Iran drew up plans to target U.S. forces in Iraq and possibly Syria, to orchestrate attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb strait near Yemen through proxies and in the Persian Gulf with its own armed drones.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

(DoD photo)

US aircraft carrier strike groups represent the highest order of naval power ever put to sea, but they’re not the right tool for every job.

Caitlin Talmadge, an associate professor of security studies, said on Twitter that US carriers are “designed for operations on the open ocean.”

As a floating air base with guided-missile destroyers and cruisers sailing nearby for anti-missile defenses from land and sea, the carriers are best off when moving around far from the range of missiles fired from ashore.

The narrow, “confined waters of the Persian Gulf make carriers tremendously more vulnerable to asymmetric air, land, and naval threats,” wrote Talmadge.

Iran’s home field advantage could sink a tanker

In the shallow, brown waters of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow pass through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes through, Iran’s outdated submarines and missiles see a vastly uneven playing ground leveled out.

“Ideally, a Nimitz class carrier would operate within comfortable range of its targets (based on the range of its air wing) but at sufficient stand-off distance to minimize the risk of enemy threats,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, told Business Insider. “This varies based on operating environment, but is usually between 300 to 400 nautical miles.”

Aircraft carriers do send a message, and have been relied on for such by presidents for decades, but according to Talmadge, it’s kind of empty in this situation.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

The USS Abraham Lincoln makes a sharp turn at sea.

(AiirSource Military via Youtube)

In the Gulf wars, or against militants like ISIS, aircraft carriers made plenty of sense.

“Iraq has tiny coast, couldn’t contest US carrier presence, so unusual situation,” continued Talmadge, who pointed out that Iran was a different kind of beast.

But “Iran’s geography military capabilities, particularly presence of significant assets near Strait of Hormuz, make sailing carrier through Gulf a lot riskier, and w/ less benefit given US ability to deploy carriers in Arabian Sea Indian Ocean instead,” she said.

In fact, the Persian Gulf, Iran’s home waters, plays directly into their hands. One of Iran’s favorite and best documented ways to harass the US Navy is to use fast attack boats in a swarming attack.

Swarm boat attacks, would “not be much of a danger in the open sea,” where the carrier had room to maneuver, but could be a problem in the choked gulf.

“Iran has various systems that can be a threat within the Persian Gulf, including anti-ship cruise missiles, fast attack craft and swarm boats, mini-submarines, and even asymmetric tactics like UAV swarms that seek to harass rather than disable the carrier,” Lamrani continued.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

Iran’s Ghadir submarine behind a US carrier strike group in a propaganda video.

(Iranian TV via MEMRI)

Aircraft carriers lack onboard defenses against torpedoes, something that an old Iranian submarine could manage. In the noisy brown waters of the Persian Gulf, the US Navy may also struggle to track such small boats.

Furthermore, Iranian media has fantasized for years about sinking an aircraft carrier. In the country’s state-controlled media, the massive ships are often seen as targets ripe for sinking.

With US-Iranian relations hitting a startling new low, the Trump administration’s decision to send an aircraft carrier to Tehran’s home waters seems a risky choice with little apparent payoff.

Accompanying the carrier deployment announced by Bolton was an increase in bombers in the region. As Business Insider reported before, Iran is highly unlikely to attack even small, exposed groups of US troops in the region because the response from nearby US airbases would all but obliterate the country.

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

Articles

How the Allies defeated one of their deadliest WWII adversaries

Entering the Imperial German Navy in 1911, Karl Dönitz, a Berlin native, served as a submarine commander in WWI as Hitler was coming into power. While underway on deployment in 1918, his UB-68 was badly damaged by British forces and eventually sunk, but Dönitz was captured and transported to a POW camp.


After nine months of captivity, Dönitz was released from custody back to German hands where he was appointed by General Admiral Erich Raeder to command and create a new German U-boat fleet.

Under his new position, he developed a U-boat patrolling strategy called “wolfpack” formations — meaning groups of submarines would maneuver in straight lines. Once the patrolling U-boats came in contact with enemy vessels, they would signal the wolfpack who would then charge forward and attack.

Related: This is the disease Hitler hid from the public for years

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Admiral Karl Dönitz meets with Adolf Hitler (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

In 1943, Dönitz replaced General Admiral Raecher as Commander-in-Chief (the same man who originally assigned him) and with his naval warfare expertise began winning Hitler’s trust.

During his role as Commander-in-Chief, Dönitz was credited with sinking nearly 15 million tons of enemy shipping, coordinating reconnaissance missions, and allowing his U-boat commanders to strike at will when they believed they could inflict the most damage. At that same time, he commanded of 212 U-boats and had another 181 on standby used for training. His tactics proved to be superior to those of his enemys until the invention of microwave radar which managed to spot his German created U-boats sooner than before.

After Hitler died, his last will and testament named Dönitz as commander of the armed forces and the new Reich president. For the next 20 days, he served the last leader of Nazi Germany until the British once again captured him on May 23, 1945.

During the Nuremberg Trials, Dönitz was charged with multiple war crimes and sentenced to 10 years in Berlin’s Spandau prison. Upon his release, he published two books and continued to state he had no knowledge of any crimes committed by Hitler.

The German admiral died on Christmas Eve, 1980.

Also Read: This is the legendary Nazi general who turned on Hitler

Check out the Smithsonian Channel video below to discover some of the German U-boats effects on the war.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
Articles

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

In the ultimate irony of Cold War-era surveillance, one of America’s most effective spy planes — and literally the fastest plane ever built — could never have happened without the help of its intended target, the Soviet Union.


Turns out the Americans bought the metal it needed to help the SR-71 Blackbird withstand the temperatures of supersonic travel from its longtime rival Russia. These are just a few of the fun facts the Smithsonian revealed in a recent video on the plane.

The documentary features a tour of the SR-71 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Former Blackbird pilot Buz Carpenter joins the tour, giving the lowdown on what kept the stealthy plane up in the air. Carpenter flew the SR-71 hundreds of times during its time in service, and he even flew the airplane that now resides at the Smithsonian.

The SR-71 had three nose options: A training nose, a radar nose, and a camera nose capable of taking a 72-mile wide photo. The film in that camera was 5 inches wide and 2 miles long. It had to be processed in 500-foot rolls.

The radar nose wasn’t required for navigation. The SR-71 had a pod that read the location of the stars in the sky and, as long as you gave the plane its initial position on the planet, the plane would know where it was anywhere in the world. This was 12 years before the global positioning system was first imagined by the U.S. military.

While the radar nose could assist with avoiding enemy ground fire, the Blackbird’s jamming and missile countermeasures usually meant — not to mention its 2,200 miles-per-hour speed — enemy surface-to-air missiles missed by a mile. Literally.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Photo: US Air Force

That top speed meant the average temperature of the plane’s skin was upwards of 600 degrees. At that temperature, it couldn’t be built with aluminum, so it had to be built with 93 percent titanium – and that titanium came from Russia.

The Russians never knew to whom they were selling the titanium, but they sold enough to build 32 SR-71 Blackbirds — planes used primarily to spy on the Soviet Union. The windows were made of quartz and the plane was built with intentional gaps in the wings and fuselage to account for heat expansion during flight. The airplane grows about 2 inches in width and 4 inches in length because of the frictional heat. The hottest part of the plane could get to 1,200 degrees.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

The plane’s engines are unique to the Blackbird because no jet engine can absorb supersonic air. So they were specially designed to expand and contract with the airspeed. The extremely high airspeed gave the jet a unique sonic boom as it broke the sound barrier, and the Air Force routinely overflew foreign heads of state to remind them the U.S. could see them.

During the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon ordered SR-71 pilots to fly over Hanoi and go supersonic to create a sonic boom as a signal to POWs held at the Hanoi Hilton. The booms let the downed pilots in the prison know that if they could escape, Navy SEALs were waiting on the North Vietnamese coast to help them.

Of the 12 Blackbirds rendered unserviceable (none were shot down), four of those came from tire failure. Engineers solved this by cutting the amount of fuel the plane carried during takeoff. A normal mission would see one or two in-flight refuelings. The plane had to refuel every two hours, either in air or on land.

Articles

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

“I go by Jim,” new Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday in good-naturedly shrugging off the “Mad Dog” moniker President Donald Trump delights in using to refer to him.


Related: 7 photos of Mattis’s first day as SecDef

“It’s you guys that came up with Mad Dog,” the retired Marine general told reporters. “My own troops were laughing about it, saying, ‘We know your call sign is Chaos, where did this come from?’ It must have been a slow news day; some newsperson made it up.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
The 26th Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is greeted on his first full day in the position by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., in Arlington, VA, Jan. 21, 2017. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen (released)

“I go by Jim. I was born Jim. I am from the West. Jim is fine, OK? How’s that? And that’s on the record,” Mattis said, according to the Washington Examiner.

Mattis went off the record as he made a surprise appearance Thursday at the usual “gaggle” for Pentagon reporters run by Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, on the day’s events, but he came back on the record to deal with the “Mad Dog” nickname.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s Navy Day is wrecked by a landing craft accident

Russia celebrated its Navy Day on July 29, 2018, with a naval parade on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, a day of pomp and military power that Russian President Vladimir Putin attended.

The parade, which involved 40 warships, 38 aircraft, and about 4,000 troops, was unfolding when a Serna-class landing craft collided with a bridge. Oops.


The video below shows the Ivan Pas’ko going about 8 to 10 knots as it collides with the bridge, jolting and even knocking over some of the crew members who had been standing at attention.

It’s unclear how the incident happened, and there were no reports of injuries, but the bridge and ship were partially damaged, according to Defence Blog, which first reported it. Some egos were most likely scraped up as well.

The Russian navy “will get 26 new warships, boats and vessels, four of them equipped with Kalibr missiles,” Putin said during a speech at the parade, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

To be sure, Moscow has a history of making predictions about its new platforms that don’t always come to pass. For example, despite several claims to the contrary, Russia’s army is unlikely to be purchasing its new T-14 Armata tank anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the Russian navy appears to have just received a new capable-looking stealth frigate, the Admiral Gorshkov, the first of Moscow’s new class of stealth frigates.

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

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This famous author started his career drawing timeless cartoons as a drafted US troop

A note from a 1955 Ballantine Book remarked about how one author – a former serviceman – arrived in their New York offices with his Stars and Stripes drawings and a story of a “brilliant military career, where he rose through the ranks to become a PFC.”


That newly-minted civilian was Shel Silverstein. And he did rise through the ranks to become one of the most celebrated American writers.

A quick perusal of the books on his website will show a body of work that uses all his many talents.

For decades, Silverstein entertained and delighted children with poetry like “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and stories like “Giraffe and a Half.” His children’s book “The Giving Tree” is widely considered one of the best, though to some divisive, of its genre.

But there is at least one book missing from that list.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

It was during his time in the military that Silverstein began to draw cartoons, at times finding himself at odds with military censors. He later wrote enough cartoons to make a compendium of his best works.

“Drop Your Socks” was published in 1955 to the delight and entertainment of the new peacetime Army and the old war veterans alike.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

The young artist was attending the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts when he was drafted into the Army in 1953. According to his biography in “Stars and Stripes,” the Army “without realizing its error, assigned him to the Pacific Stars and Stripes, read by thousands of Army men in Japan and Korea.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

But Shel Silverstein didn’t join the Army of WWII or Korea. It was a new Army, one not at war, but supposedly at the ready to fight for peace. Silverstein never knew the Army that “fought the wars with live ammo and read V-mail and liberated towns and kissed French girls and caught bouquets and wore baggy pants and a six-day growth of beard.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

Shel Silverstein’s Army was made up of “ordinary guys” who “dragged through two years [the amount of time a peacetime draftee normally spent in the service] cleaning grease traps, bugging out of details, and forgetting their general orders.”

As he wrote in the book’s introduction, “there’s no war now, no casualties, no rationing, and no immediate danger … people’s attitudes are bound to change.”

Sound familiar?

But legendary military cartoonist Bill Mauldin, in writing the book’s introduction said, “the thing about real military humor is that when a soldier says something funny, he is mainly trying to ventilate his innards … he expresses himself in a wisecrack because if he said it straight, he’d simply bust down.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

“Motives and methods of warfare change from generation to generation,” Mauldin continues. “But soldiering stays pretty much the same messy proposition. … I suspect Shel Silverstein would have amused the cootie-pickingest Roman centurion.”

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Iconic civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis leaves legacy of hope

Congressman John Lewis lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020. He was an icon for the civil rights movement but more than that, he was a continuous beacon of hope for peace and social justice.


On Lewis’ passing, President Donald Trump ordered flags to be flown half-staff. In a White House proclamation, the president stated, “As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service of Representative John Lewis, of Georgia, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions through July 18, 2020. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half‑staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”

Born in 1940 to sharecroppers in rural Alabama, Lewis would go on to become a prominent and iconic figure in the fight for equality. He was one of the speakers at the March on Washington during Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders during this time. He was beaten and arrested multiple times during these nonviolent protests.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

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Lewis marched with King from Selma to Montgomery, on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis and others were assaulted with nightsticks by Alabama State Troopers while the protestors were kneeling and praying. Lewis’ skull was fractured from the beating. This incident is what pushed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to come to pass. Lewis was a witness when it was signed into law.

Lewis bore the scars from all of these events for the remainder of his life.

After the civil rights movement, Lewis became a congressman and served Georgia for over 30 years. He fought for the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., which took 15 years. President Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 for his life’s work.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

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In December of 2019, he announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He released a statement, saying, “I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now…So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.”

Lewis’ passing comes just a year after the U.S. Navy celebrated his legacy by naming one of their newest fleet of ships after him. He was a humble man and in one interview, shared his disbelief that the honor was being bestowed upon him. While attending the ceremony to celebrate one of the new ships Lewis said, “We need great ships, like this one, to carry our men and women in our continued work for peace, because we are one world.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
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In those words, hope resonates. Following his passing, the spirit of his legacy will continue to live on and the world will remember this icon by continuing his work for justice – and peace.

MIGHTY CULTURE

21 injured after explosion, fire breaks out aboard Naval ship

Early Sunday, a fire broke out below decks on the USS Bonhomme Richard which is currently docked in her home port of San Diego.


The fire was reported to be as a result of an explosion below deck, possibly originating in the hangar bay of the amphibious assault ship. The first reposted call went out around 10am and was later expanded to a three-alarm call for the San Diego Fire Department.

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Injuries have been reported for 17 sailors and 4 civilians, but no details have been confirmed.

The Bonhomme Richard, named after Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones’ famous ship, is primarily used to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine assault force in amphibious operations by air, landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles. It can also act as a light aircraft carrier. The ship was commissioned in 1998 and San Diego became its home port in 2018. She has deployed numerous times in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and was part of humanitarian efforts in during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Army recruit gets first haircut in 15 years before shipping out to basic training

A 23-year-old California native received his first haircut in 15 years to enlist in the US Army.

US Army Pvt. Reynaldo Arroyo of Riverside donated 150 inches of hair to Locks of Love and enlisted in the Army as an infantryman on Aug. 15, 2019.

“I’m just really excited to be enlisting in the US Army,” Arroyo said in a Facebook video. “Hopefully, some lucky little girl’s going to get it.”

Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that donates hair to disadvantaged people with long-term medical conditions resulting in hair loss, such as cancer and severe burns.


Arroyo is scheduled to ship out to Ft. Benning, home of the Army’s infantry school, within the next two weeks, a US Army spokesperson told INSIDER.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

US Army Recruit Pvt. Reynaldo Arroyo holds up his donation bag containing his hair.

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But Arroyo will not be sporting his fresh haircut for long.

Upon arriving at Ft. Benning, he is expected to receive a buzz cut like all the other male recruits. After graduating and at his commander’s discretion, he may grow out his hair again, so long as it remains “neat and conservative,” according to Army regulations.

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

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