Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

The trio shuffled into the small room with canes and walkers to record their testimonies of the first confrontations of the Cold War and how the allies prevailed without firing a shot, saving a former enemy from oppression.

The Royal Air Force Museum American Foundation celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of Berlin Airlift at their annual “Spirit of the Battle of Britain” banquet October 2019 to honor these veterans for their contributions to the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom.

The trio retold their stories of using soft air power to deter Soviet aggression in post-World War II Berlin, and current U.S. Air Force and RAF airmen were honored for continuing to further the partnership between the two nations.

Prior to the dinner, the trio transported family, listeners and caregivers back to 1940s Germany.


“I remember the war,” said Mercedes Wild, who was seven years old at the start of the Berlin Airlift. “They (Allied bombers) destroyed Berlin. It was a hard time for the kids in West Berlin. Berlin is a destroyed city. We will never forget the sound of the bombers.”

After WWII, the German capital was divided with Soviet Russia controlling East Berlin and British, French and American Allies responsible for the west. The city was located more than 100 miles inside the Russian controlled portion of Germany. On June 24, 1948, the Russians implemented a blockade of West Berlin to prevent food and supplies, such as coal, from entering the town. The effort attempted to break the spirit of the West Berlin people to reject democracy and embrace communism.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

A C-54 Skymaster piloted by retired Col. Gail Halvorsen drops candy with attached parachutes to children during the Berlin Airlift. Halvorsen earned the nickname “Candy Bomber” for his operation Little Vittles candy drops. Note the parachutes below the tail of the C-54.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Enter, veterans and the Berlin Airlift.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, widely known as the “Candy Bomber,” described volunteering for the mission that changed his life and the lives of millions in West Berlin. Halvorsen, a 28-year-old lieutenant at the time, grew up on a farm in Utah, where helping a neighbor in need was a way of life.

“My dad was an example to me,” he said. “He had plenty to do himself, but when a neighbor, a farmer, needed help and couldn’t get enough help, my dad would drop some of the things that weren’t so important on our farm to help the next-door neighbor.”

Halvorsen saw his first aircraft flying overhead on the farm while he was working the fields. He was hooked and signed up for a non-college pilot training program. Soon he received his flight training and was flying cargo aircraft in Mobile, Alabama. When the word came of the attempts by Russia to stomp out freedom in West Berlin by starving its residents, there was no doubt of his next step.

“I volunteered to fly supplies in early,” Halvorsen recalled.

At first, the citizens of West Berlin didn’t know what to think of hearing heavy aircraft over their heads again.

“The noise of the airplanes during the airlift in the beginning I feared, because it was the same noise while bombing Berlin,” Wild said.

They would soon learn the aircraft were not carrying bombs but food and supplies to keep them alive. The logistics of flying 2.3 million tons of goods and equipment was not without risks. In total, 101 airmen from around the world perished in the Berlin Airlift.

“Two hundred meters from our house, there was the first airlift airplane crash in the night,” Wild remembered. “The next morning I went with my mother. It was destroyed. The two pilots were dead. The people were very sorry about this … They feared that the west allies would now stop the airlift.”

A hard winter already made food in short supply, Wild explained. The only meal she might get would come from school and she would sneak part of this food to her mother, who was sick. She also took care of the family chickens, whose eggs she would trade on the black market for meat or shoes. Still, none of these hardships compared to the fear of the Russians returning to West Berlin as they had done in the final days of the war.

“The normal West Berliner did not want to become Soviet,” she said. “The Soviet regime was near the same as Nazi time and they feared the Russians. They remembered the Russian soldiers.”

As Halvorsen flew food and coal into the city of Berlin, a 19-year-old RAF pilot flew gasoline into Berlin.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

Then-Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

“The Halifax aircraft was a converted bomber,” said Dereck Hermiston. “The bomb racks had been taken and we flew, I think it was 40 or 41, 45-gallon tanks of gasoline. They had wooden beams, and they (used them) to roll these drums up. Quite unstable, and it stank to high hell.”

The son of a WWI pilot, Hermiston was among the youngest airmen to participate in flying the airlift. Yet, even as a teenager, the reversal of roles did not escape him.

“I realized, as a British officer, that we had bombed, and bombed, and bombed Berlin with the Americans, and it was a reversal,” he said. “We were now trying to save the Berliners from what was quite an oppressive regime from the Russians. I met a few Russian officers, and they were very sure they wanted to stop Germany from growing ever again.”

There was always worry of an international incident turning the Cold War operation hot, as Hermiston told.

“We were buzzed by a Russian MiG-9 one morning,” Hermiston, very much still a kid at heart, said with a chuckle. “I think it was about 4 o’clock in the morning. It was just getting daylight. There was this great shudder, and this fighter aircraft flew underneath us … and looped around us. As he came down, I had no room to maneuver. I suppose he missed us by about 200 to 300 feet. It was enough to make the aircraft shudder. Little things like that I remember because I was frightened.”

Despite the harsh weather conditions and aero acrobatic antics of the Soviets, the Allies continued to do what was needed to feed and fuel a city. In some cases this involved evacuating Berliners in need of medical attention.

“I flew out something like 220 people in my aircraft from Berlin that were sick or were children needing operations,” Hermiston said. “My aircraft was a tanker aircraft, so they had to sit on these wooden beams that were going up the fuselage in stinking conditions. It stank of petrol oil from all the gasoline. Yet, they were all so very grateful — very, very grateful. I found the people extremely grateful.”

The British pilot was not the only person struck by the grateful nature of the people of Berlin. In a previous interview, Halvorsen recalled how he became known as the “Candy Bomber” after a trip to Berlin, seeing children line up along the fence line outside the flightline of the Templehof airport.

“I had been to other countries where the kids had chocolate,” he said, recalling that moment nearly 70 years later. “When George Washington visited his troops, he had little hard candies in his pocket for the kids. That was nothing new. But these kids had not had chocolate for a couple of years. Not one out of the 30 broke ranks and said, ‘do you got candy?’ When I realized that, it just hit me like a ton of bricks — black and white. I just could not believe that quality of character called gratitude. They were so grateful. They were thankful for their freedom. When I realized that, I thought I got to do something. I reached in my pocket, and all I had was two sticks of gum.”

Convinced that everyone deserved a treat or no one did, Halvorsen took about three more steps and the little voice came clear as a bell directing him back to the fence.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

“Boy, when I stopped and started back, those kids came to attention,” he said. “I pulled out two sticks of gum and broke them in half and passed it to the kids doing the translating. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The other kids didn’t push or shove or try to grab it. The kids that got half a piece of stick of gum tore off the wrapper and passed it. The kids that got a strip of paper, put it up to their noses, smelled it and their eyes got big. They were dumbfounded. They clutched it in their hands to go home and show their parents, if they had any.”

An idea came to Halvorsen — return the next day.

“I will be flying overhead, and I will drop enough chocolate for all of you,” he announced to the children. “When that translated to everybody, there was a celebration going on.”

Halvorsen made one demand of the children. They must share the candy. They agreed, but another question arose. With planes arriving every few seconds, how would the children know which one was Halvorsen’s?

“When I would fly over the farm (back home), I would wiggle the wings back and forth. So I said, ‘kids, you watch the airplane. When I come over the center of Tempelhof, if it is clear, I will wiggle the wings.’ That is how it began.”

The “Candy Bomber,” with his parachutes of chocolate, was born, and the act would soon be named operation Little Vittles.

One little girl never caught one of the treats — the 7-year-old Wild.

“I was never quick enough,” she said.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

Crews unload planes at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

To make matters worse, the chickens whose eggs brought a fortune on the black market had stopped laying because of the noise from the aircraft landing every few seconds over head.

“Therefore, I decided to write a letter because I was so sad about the situation, and I cried,” she said. “My grandmother told me don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t weep, do something. I decided to write a letter.”

The letter was addressed to her “Chocolate Uncle,” and she asked him to aim his parachute for the garden with the white chickens.

No parachute ever came, despite nearly 20 tons of candy being dropped from the C-54 Skymasters flown by the Americans.

A letter from her “Chocolate Uncle” did come, with two special treats — a lollipop and peppermint-flavored stick of gum. Between the war and the blockade, the smell of peppermint was unknown to the child.

“I exchanged it on the black market, this peppermint gum, for a glass marble; I have this glass marble,” Wild said, pulling the smooth glass toy from her pocket and placing it on the table with as much pride as any seven-year-old. “This is the same glass marble.”

The lollipop was saved for a Christmas treat, but the greatest gift that day was not the candy.

“The most important was the letter; the letter changed my whole life,” she said.

Offered a chance to join an aunt in Switzerland where food and supplies were not held hostage by the Soviets, Wild turned it down with the hopes of one day meeting her “Chocolate Uncle.”

Around-the-clock supplies continued flying into Berlin as British and American pilots made three round trips a day. After nearly a year, the Soviets lifted the blockade, reopening the transportation routes on the ground.

“The Soviets gave up,” Halvorsen said. “They said we can’t compete with that. They got red-faced and backed off. The airlift was the reason they had to do that; it broke the blockade. I was proud to be a part of that.”

With the blockade lifted in May 1949, British and American aircraft continued to fly supplies into Berlin to rebuild the stocks. On Sept. 23, 1949, the last RAF aircraft landed in Berlin with supplies.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” stands in front of C-54 Skymaster.

(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

Time passed, and in 1970, Halvorsen returned to Germany, now as a colonel and the commander of Tempelhof. A now grown and married Wild decided now was the time to meet her “Chocolate Uncle.”

“First, we went to airport Templehof, and I took the letter with me,” Wild said. “Then I invited him to our home for dinner with the family.”

The two families have remained close all these years.

Seventy years later, these veterans of the Berlin Airlift travel the world telling the story of how the gratitude of the Berlin Airlift shaped their lives and the world.

“We must give the good spirit to the kids to have good society and future…” Wild said. “This was a very good thing that Colonel Halvorsen decided to have those candy droppings because I think he is the best ambassador for mankind–for humanity. It is not only Col. Halvorsen, but the other pilots and the people of Great Britain, South Africa, Canada and USA. The people were standing behind the airlift.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why John Bolton in the White House is a national security emergency

President Donald Trump has offered John Bolton, a Fox News contributor and former ambassador to the United Nations, the role of national security advisor.


The development comes following the resignation of former national security advisor H.R. McMaster.

“I humbly accept his offer,” Bolton, who also works for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, tweeted March 22, 2018. “The United States currently faces a wide array of issues and I look forward to working with President Trump and his leadership team in addressing these complex challenges in an effort to make our country safer at home and stronger abroad.”

Also read: John Bolton still thinks the Iraq War was a good idea

However, defense and arms control experts have expressed extreme reservations about slotting Bolton into this role, which he is slated to begin April 9, 2018. One arms control expert even labeled the appointment a “pretty much a national security emergency.”

A major concern is Bolton’s long-held and recently promoted views in support of a preemptive strike on North Korea. He appears ready to use force in attempt to halt North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
North Korea prepares for a test launch of a mobile nuclear ballistic missile. (Photo from KCNA)

“It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” Bolton wrote in a Feb. 28, 2018 opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal.

Bolton went even farther during a September 2017 segment on Fox News: “The only diplomatic option left is to end the North Korean regime by effectively having the South take it over.”

Related: One huge reason North Korea can never give up its nukes

Yet defense experts say any preemptive attack would trigger an overwhelming retaliatory response from North Korea against South Korea, Japan, and US military installations.

According to conservative estimates, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans would die within hours, and possibly millions of people in the region if North Korea were to deploy nuclear weapons.

How a preemptive strike on North Korea could end in disaster

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
A North Korean ballistic missile test. (KCNA)

There are two different violent responses North Korea could choose if the US were to attack. One option would be to use conventional artillery weapons— such as explosive mortars and rockets — and possibly chemical weapons like VX nerve gas. North Korea is known to have many reinforced bunkers armed with such munitions.

Kori Schake, who studies military history and contemporary conflicts at the right-leaning Hoover Institution, discussed this possibility on a Nov. 17, 2017 episode of the Pod Save The World podcast.

“[Suppose] in the space of, say, three hours, we could destroy all of the 8,000 to 10,000 hardened sites of North Korean artillery that Seoul, South Korea, is in range of,” she said. “Even in that [scenario] — which would be a level of military virtuosity unimaginable — you’re still probably talking 300,000 dead South Koreans.”

The second option would be much worse: North Korean leaders could potentially deploy and launch the short-range nuclear weapons that the country has developed.

“[I]f the ‘unthinkable’ happened, nuclear detonations over Seoul and Tokyo with North Korea’s current estimated weapon yields could result in as many as 2.1 million fatalities and 7.7 million injuries,” Michael J. Zagurek Jr. wrote in an October 2017 analysis for 38 North, a project of the The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

This is because Seoul’s 25 million residents, including tens of thousands of US forces, are just 35 miles from the North Korean border. The death and injury figures do not take into account the loss of life north of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
A map of the Korean Peninsula and the surrounding region.

Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, previously told Business Insider that he doesn’t think North Korea “would ever deliberately use the nuclear weapons unless they thought they were being invaded.”

Lewis — who publishes Arms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation — and many other experts worry about how North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would respond to any kind of attack, perceived or real.

More: North Korea now has 7 missiles that can strike the US

“The North Koreans, when they write official statements about what their nuclear posture or doctrine is, the phrase they use is ‘deter and repel,'” he said, explaining that the country’s nuclear arsenal has become its primary way of deterring conflict.

“But ‘repel’ means if the deterrent fails, and the United States launches an invasion, they will use nuclear weapons to try and repel the invasion — to try to destroy US forces throughout South Korea and Japan.”

It remains to be seen how Bolton’s coming appointment will influence pending denuclearization talks between North Korea, South Korea, and the US.

A spokesperson for Bolton declined to comment for this story.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This common weapon was so ‘pernicious’ that Catholicism banned it

In 1096, Pope Urban II took a good hard look at this new “crossbow” thing and gave it all of the nopes. No Christians were to use it in any battle against a fellow Christian on the punishment of excommunication and eternal damnation of the soul. But the weapon that would act as the precursor to the rifle was simply too valuable to leave on a shelf.


Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

A figure depicting a crossbowman who helped execute Saint Sebastian in the later 15th Century.

(Gun Powder Ma, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Crossbows were already an old weapon when European knights first ran into them in the 900s. Ancient Europeans had used similar weapons, but crossbow-like designs had fallen out of favor in Europe by the year 500 A.D., and few Europeans would’ve recognized them before their resurgence in the late 900s and 1000s.

But French use, as well as use by Eastern nations who had never stopped using the weapon, brought it back into the lexicon of European warfare.

And Western knights did not like it. Their armor protected them from most weapons they would face with the exception of the longbow, a weapon that took years to learn and decades to master. But crossbows could slice right through the armor at greater range than even a longbow, and shooters could be trained in hours or days.

The French were the ones who brought the crossbow back into European warfare. The English had a huge advantage when it came to bowmen, especially longbowmen, and France and England fought often. But while crossbow shooters could fire at greater ranges and with less training than soldiers equipped with a longbow, the weapon did have disadvantages.

Crossbows fire only two rounds per minute while good archers with longbows could fire 10. And crossbow units needed supporting staff and spare parts that weren’t necessary with traditional archers. They were also more susceptible to weather damage because it was harder to remove and replace their sensitive strings.

Still, the advantages outweighed the problems, and units across Europe adopted the new weapon. Mercenary units recruited and trained skilled crossbowmen and sold their services. For a few years, kings largely tried to follow the ban on using crossbows against Christian foes, and Pope Innocent II continued the ban in 1139 after ascending to the position of Pope.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

Saint Sebastian was martyred by archers, reportedly at least one of which was using a crossbow.

(Hans Baldung, public domain)

But it couldn’t last. Kings used the weapons against pagans and Muslims, but then had to leave the men behind while fighting against each other in Europe. By the early 1200s, they were once again common in European combat. Crossbowmen played a crucial role for Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1238.

In fact, just a year later, Pope Gregory IV used mounted crossbowmen against the Lombard League, an alliance of European kingdoms that were all Christian. Yeah, the allure of crossbow power was so strong that a pope employed them against Christian forces.

Crossbows would continue to play a role in combat until after the 15th Century when advances in gunpowder slowly rendered them obsolete. First, advanced cannons were able to break up their formations from further away than even the crossbowmen could fire. And muskets and rifles eventually filled the role that crossbowmen once had.

Of course, the church didn’t love firearms either. It declared all black powder weapons to be daemonic, but armies quickly embraced them anyway.

Articles

US commandos just took out a bunch more terrorists in Somalia

Several al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab members were killed in a joint US-Somalian raid July 13, the Associated Press reports.


US Africa Command confirmed a “advise and assist” mission took place but offered no details to the AP. The raid is the latest in a series of escalating actions against the terrorist group under new authorities provided by President Donald Trump.

Trump declared Somalia an “area of active hostilities” in late March, giving the US military greater autonomy in green-lighting airstrikes.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
Photo from AMISOM Public Information

A US Navy SEAL was killed in Somalia in May during a similar raid, marking the first US combat death in the country since the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident that killed 18 service-members. Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters July 5 the US keeps approximately 50 troops in Somalia to advise and assist the Somalian army.

Al-Shabaab famously carried out a 2013 attack on Westgate Mall in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. The US joined a coalition of several African nations after the attack in an attempt to curtail the terrorist group.

Al-Shabaab continues to remain active in Somalia’s rural areas despite nearly four years of combined US coalition efforts. The terrorist group’s stated mission is to take the Somali capital of Mogadishu and impose its interpretation of Islamic law on the population writ large.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Diver who rescued Thai soccer team needed rescuing himself in Tennessee

Rescuer turned rescuee this week as a British diver involved in saving the trapped Thai soccer team last year needed the help of emergency services himself when he got trapped in a cave in Tennessee, The Guardian reported.

Josh Bratchley was rescued on April 17, 2019, after spending more than a day underground. Bratchley was part of the British cave diving team that helped in the high profile rescue of 12 Thai school boys and their soccer coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave last summer.

He had explored a cave in Jackson County, Tennessee on April 16, 2019, but failed to return to surface with the rest of his group at around 3.00 p.m. His fellow divers alerted 911 at 1.00 a.m. the next morning.


The Jackson County Emergency Management Agency said that specialized divers from Arkansas and Florida had to be flown in to help with the “highly technical issue,” CNN reported.

This NBC News video shows the moment the expert diver was brought to safety that same evening.

Diver Rescued After Being Trapped For 27 Hours In Tennessee Cave | NBC Nightly News

www.youtube.com

The expert diver was awake, alert, and oriented, EMA spokesman Derek Woolbright said a press conference.

“His only request when he got to the surface was that he wanted some pizza,” Woolbright said, according to The Guardian.

Edd Sorenson, a veteran technical cave diver, told journalists that he found Bratchley waiting in the mud with his gear off, NBC reported. The British diver’s expertise likely saved his life, Sorenson said.

“Most of the time on rescues, when I get there, they’re hysterical, they’re panicked, and that makes it very dangerous for me,” he said. “[Bratchley’s] mental state was impeccable. He’s a consummate professional.”

Sorenson said he was expecting the worst because there was limited visibility in the small cave system.

“Putting people in body bags all the time is no fun, and when you get to send one home, it’s an exceptional feeling,” he said.

Lieutenant Brian Krebs, from Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Services, also praised Bratchley’s composure, saying: “Most of what happened today here was Josh. His mental state when he came out was excellent.”

The former meteorologist was honored by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and was appointed to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, according to The Guardian.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thiisInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the CIA did a favor for a single Afghan family

It’s good to have friends in high places, especially when you can do almost nothing in return. One Afghan family found that out when they asked the CIA for help in rescuing their daughter from the Taliban, just as the U.S. was preparing to invade the country.


Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

So it has nothing to do with the Soviet Union.

The first Americans inside of Afghanistan were teams of what has come to be known as “the Horse Soldiers,” advanced units from the CIA’s special activities division. They were US special operators and CIA officers that were helping coordinate multiple units of anti-Taliban Afghan resistance fighters. The Northern Alliance fighters combined with the direction of the CIA and the support of the U.S. military were able to overthrow the regime without the use of traditional ground forces in many areas.

They were so effective at fomenting resistance to the Taliban and persuading the locals to their cause, they were not only able to capture entire cities and provinces but were also able to transform the lives of individual families. One such family approached a CIA hideout one day, asking for a favor.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

Where the first CIA officers in Afghanistan slept.

The smoke had barely cleared at Ground Zero in New York City before the United States sent CIA teams into Afghanistan to coordinate the resistance to the Taliban. But first, they needed the most up-to-date intelligence. The first Northern Alliance Liaison Team landed in Afghanistan on Sept. 26, 2001. They brought everything they needed to sustain them for however long their mission would take – including 40 pounds of potatoes. Sleeping in a traditional Afghan mud hut, they braved the winter as they gathered info for the coming revenge against al-Qaeda.

One day a young boy approached their shack and told them of the plight of his teenage sister. A local Taliban warlord forcefully took her as a bride, and she was no longer able to spend time with the family. Since this was long before politics would enter the relationship between US personnel and Afghan locals, the CIA officers gave the boy a tracking device and told him to give it to his sister, who should activate it when the warlord returns home.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

Northern Alliance fighters in the Panjshir Valley, September 2001.

When she did, the team swooped in on the Taliban leader. They raided his compound, rescued this sister and returned her to her brother and her family. The senior Taliban leader was one of the first enemy targets of the coming Global War on Terror.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This SEAL commander has 5 tips to transform your life

As commander of US Navy SEAL Team 3’s “Task Unit Bruiser,” the most highly decorated special-operations unit of the Iraq War, Jocko Willink learned what it takes to lead people in incredibly dangerous and complex situations.


The mantra that Willink instilled into his men was “Discipline Equals Freedom,” and it’s the idea that with structure and a strict dedication to it, one can act with more efficiency and freedom.

It’s also the title of his new book, a “field manual” highlighting the core concepts and routines Willink has previously explored on his hit podcast and in his leadership consulting company Echelon Front, which he runs with Leif Babin, one of his former platoon leaders.

Business Insider asked Willink to share some simple habits anyone could adopt in the next 24 hours that could build discipline for the benefit of their well-being, health, and career.

1. Wake up early.

As he writes in the 2015 book “Extreme Ownership,” cowritten with Babin, Willink noticed as a new SEAL that the highest performers he served with were the ones who woke up earliest, beginning their days while others were sleeping. Willink quickly adopted the habit and has long had his alarm set to 4:30 a.m.

“That nice, soft pillow, and the warm blanket, and it’s all comfortable and no one wants to leave that comfort — but if you can wake up early in the morning, get a head start on everyone else that’s still sleeping, get productive time doing things that you need to do — that’s a huge piece to moving your life forward,” Willink said. “And so get up early. I know it’s hard. I don’t care. Do it anyways.”

Willink clarified that he’s not asking people to run on just a few hours of sleep each day. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep to feel well rested and energized for the next day, he said, and if you’re someone who needs eight hours of sleep, then simply start going to bed earlier. And don’t sleep in on the weekends, he said, or else you’ll ruin any progress you’ve made optimizing your schedule.

2. Prepare your gym clothes tonight.

As soon as Willink wakes up, he heads to the home gym he built in his garage. And even if you don’t want to try one of the workout routines in the “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual,” you should do some form of exercise, Willink said.

“Just do some kind of workout,” he said. “Doesn’t matter if it’s going for a walk around the block, going for a jog, doing some calisthenics, lifting weights, going to a pool and swimming — you name it. But do something that gets your blood flowing and gets your mind in the game.”

The biggest obstacle for people developing workout routines is putting in extra effort to make them work. To make it easier on yourself, Willink said, prepare your workout gear at night so that you can throw it on as soon as you slide out of bed.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
Retired Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink. | Twitter/Jocko Willink

3. Finish making tomorrow’s to-do list before you go to bed.

As a SEAL, Willink developed a habit of kicking off his day by moving, not thinking. The way he sees it, you’re defeating the purpose of waking up early if you gradually shake off your lethargy and plan out your day over a cup of coffee. Go ahead and drink some coffee, but go work out instead.

“Don’t think in the morning,” Willink said. “That’s a big mistake that people make. They wake up in the morning and they start thinking. Don’t think. Just execute the plan. The plan is the alarm clock goes off, you get up, you go work out. Get some.”

To facilitate this, make tomorrow’s to-do list tonight. You already know what you have to accomplish tomorrow, and you’re better off planning your day out quickly and efficiently.

4. Make use of extra-short power naps.

Willink said a napping habit he borrowed from one of his high-school teachers came in handy during SEAL training and on patrol.

“So if you’re going to wake up early all the time, and you’re working hard, and you’re working out, sometimes you’re going to get tired,” Willink said. “It’s OK. It’s acceptable — somewhat. We’re all human, unfortunately.”

Willink made a habit of getting on the ground with his legs elevated either on a bed or on his rucksack, setting his alarm for just 6 to 8 minutes. As a SEAL, his exhaustion would cause him to actually fall asleep, but even the extra rest is, surprisingly, quite effective.

As for elevating your legs, not only does it feel good, but Carmichael Training Systems notes that while a healthy body can circulate blood well against gravity, swelling of the feet and ankles from extracellular fluid can occur after extended periods of sitting, standing, or athletic activity, he said. Resting your legs above your head may alleviate this swelling and enhance your rest.

5. Ignore your office’s free food.

Willink’s diet is primarily based on meat and vegetables, with very few carbohydrates, and while he doesn’t recommend you adopt his specific diet, he says anyone could benefit from discarding the habit of eating free food at the office.

He said that when people want to be nice, they’ll bring in some comfort food to their break rooms, but “they’re actually sabotaging the health of their coworkers.”

“So what do you do in those situations?” he said. “It’s really easy. Don’t eat. Don’t eat the donuts. Don’t eat the bagels. Don’t eat the slab of pizza.”

“We have food all around us all the time, and if we haven’t eaten for three hours we think we’re starving,” he said. “You’re not starving. Human beings can go for 30 days without food.”

Skip the free food and either get something healthy or skip snacking completely, he said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here is how World War II rationing worked

One of the most notable parts of being on the home front of World War II was rationing. A lot of stuff was rationed – stuff we take for granted, like gas, sugar, coffee, and food. Part of this was because Axis advances cut off the supplies of some materials, like rubber (the Ames Historical Society notes that 90 percent of America’s rubber came from the Dutch East Indies). But a big part was the fact that the scale of the American build-up required a major shift in using America’s industry.


Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
USS Arizona after being struck by Japanese in Pearl Harbor.

So, how did it work in the United States? Well, there was a government agency, the Office of Price Administration, that handled the rationing. The rationing didn’t hit right away. Tires were rapidly restricted, simply because what rubber was available was needed for military vehicles and aircraft. Gas rationing, in fact, was intended to help conserve tires, and started in some states in May 1942. This was a month after the Doolittle Raid. Even though the Untied States had turned the tide in the Pacific by December, the gas rationing was extended nationwide.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
A ration book for gasoline in the United States. Ironically, the purpose was to conserve tires. (Wikimedia Commons)

The real day-to-day impact came with the food rationing. In 1943, the United States began to ration the canned foods. Part of this was to ensure the military had plenty of the canned food (which formed the basis of the C-ration). But it also cut down on metal consumption – after all, you need a lot of metal to build a Navy that would have almost 6,800 ships by Aug. 14, 1945.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
The back of a ration book issued during World War II. (Wikimedia Commons)

When Japan’s surrender was announced on Aug. 15, 1945, the rationing ended. You can see a video showing how the system was explained to Americans in 1943, using a cartoon by Chuck Jones (famous for drawing Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck) below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FH4yuW2xcLU
MIGHTY HISTORY

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Abraham Wald, a Jewish mathematician, was driven out of Romania and Europe by the Nazi advance and emigrated to the U.S. where he would serve in the Statistical Research Group, a bunch of egg heads who used math to make the military better at everything from firing rockets to shooting down enemy fighters. And Wald was the one who convinced the Navy that they were about to armor the completely wrong parts of their planes, saving hundreds of flight crews in the process.


Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

Abraham Wald, a mathematician who helped save hundreds of air crews by writing brainiac papers.

(Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach, CC BY-SA 2.0)

To understand how Wald, sitting in New York for most of the war, saved so many lives, it’s important to understand what role academics and subject matter experts had in the war. The U.S. and Britain especially, but really all the great wartime powers, put some stock in the ability of their academics to solve tricky problems and make warfighters more efficient, more lethal, or more safe.

Some of this was having physicists and engineers create better weapons, like how the Applied Physics Laboratory was created to develop proximity fuses that made artillery and anti-aircraft weapons more effective. Some of this was having mathematicians figure out the best mix of rounds to load into machine guns of different types for the gunners to more quickly kill their targets. One great example is all the physicists and other scientists who worked on atom bombs.

But Wald was a statistician, and his job was to look at wartime processes and figure out how they could be improved. Wald was still, technically, an enemy alien, so he had an odd setup at the Statistical Research Group.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

Planes hit in the fuel supply and engines often didn’t make it back to base, throwing off Navy and Army Air Corps data.

(U.S. Air Force)

As Jordan Ellenberg wrote in How Not To Be Wrong, there was a running joke in the SRG that Wald’s secretaries had to rip notepaper out of his hands as soon as he finished writing on it because he didn’t have the clearance to read his own work.

But Wald was an amazing mathematician, and it’s not like he was the type of Hungarian who might harbor sympathies for Hitler. Remember, he had fled Austria because Hitler would have had him killed, same as Albert Einstein and plenty of others. So, Wald used math to try to help the Allies kill the Axis, and he was in the SRG when the Navy came to them with a seemingly straightforward problem.

The Navy, and the Army Air Corps, was losing a lot of planes and crews to enemy fire. So, the Navy modeled where its planes showed the most bullet holes per square foot. Its officers reasoned that adding armor to these places would stop more bullets with the limited amount of armor they could add to each plane. They wanted the SRG to figure out the best balance of armor in each often-hit location.

(Adding armor adds weight, and planes can only takeoff with a certain amount of weight that needs to be balanced between plane and crew, ammo, fuel, and armor. Add too much armor, and you have a super safe bomber that can’t carry any bombs.)

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

While doomed planes did, sometimes, manage to land, they were usually lost at sea or in enemy territory. Abraham Wald successfully argued that the military should estimate where they were hit when determining what parts of planes they should armor.

(U.S. Navy)

But Wald picked out a flaw in their dataset that had eluded most others, a flaw that’s now known as “survivor bias.” The Navy and, really anyone else in the war, could typically only study the aircraft, vehicles, and men who survived a battle. After all, if a plane is shot down over the target, it lands on or near the target in territory the enemy controls. If it goes down while headed back to a carrier or island base, it will be lost at sea.

So the only planes the Navy was looking at were the ones that had landed back at ship or base. So, these weren’t examples of where planes were most commonly hit; they were examples of where planes could be hit and keep flying, because the crew and vital components had survived the bullet strikes.

Now, a lot of popular history says that Wald told the Navy to armor the opposite areas (or, told the Army Air Corps to armor the opposite areas, depending on which legend you see). But he didn’t, actually. What he did do was figure out a highly technical way to estimate where downed planes had been hit, and then he used that data to figure out how likely a hit to any given area was to down a plane.

What he found was that the Navy wanted to armor the least vulnerable parts of the plane. Basically, the Navy wasn’t seeing many hits to the engine and fuel supply, so the Navy officers decided those areas didn’t need as much protection. But Wald’s work found that those were the most vulnerable areas.

And that makes sense. After all, if you start leaking gas while still far from home, you likely won’t make it home. Have an engine destroyed even a few miles from home, and you likely won’t make it home. So the military took Wald’s work and applied armor to the areas he had defined as most vulnerable, primarily the engines, instead of putting armor on the areas with the most observed hits. And, guess what? Planes started surviving more hits.

Now, it didn’t win the war on its own, of course. Just like giving the Navy proximity fuses to make gunners more effective against enemy planes didn’t stop every Japanese dive bomber or Kamikaze attack, the armor didn’t save every plane and crew.

But winning a war isn’t about winning every engagement. It’s about paying less than you are willing to pay for victory and suffering less than you’re willing to suffer for each defeat. If you can do that, you’ll eventually win.

And Wald had driven down the price of success and the likelihood of failure for airplanes. Ironically, he died five years after the war in a plane crash, robbing us of his expertise in Korea and Vietnam, though his papers written during World War II continued to influence military decisions for decades.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon is pumping millions more into missile defense

The Pentagon is injecting $440 million more into missile defense, including yet another expansion of its fleet of missile interceptors, to counter North Korea’s accelerating push for a nuclear-armed missile capable of hitting the United States.


As a reflection of its urgency, the Pentagon asked Congress to let it shift funds from the current budget rather than wait for the next defense budget. The Pentagon already had $8.2 billion in its missile defense budget prior to the add-ons.

The Pentagon on Oct. 4 spelled out $367 million of the shifted money, with the rest expected to be announced later. The spending has come under increased scrutiny as North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have progressed and critics have questioned whether the Pentagon has developed missile defenses that would work in combat.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
KCNA, the state run media out of North Korea, released a photo of what it claims is the launch of a surface-to-surface medium long range ballistic missile. (KCNA)

Some of the additional $440 million is for projects that are classified secret, including $48 million more for development of technology for cyber “operations,” according to a breakdown of the spending by the Pentagon’s budget office.

The Pentagon has never acknowledged that it has engaged in cyber operations against North Korea’s nuclear or missile programs. The New York Times earlier this year reported that in 2014, then-President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging test launches.

The more conventional approach to countering North Korea’s missiles is what the Pentagon calls ground-based interceptors, which are anti-missile missiles that would be launched from underground silos at Fort Greely in Alaska in the event the US decided to try to shoot down a North Korean missile aimed at the United States. The interceptors are designed to slam into an incoming enemy missile outside the Earth’s atmosphere, obliterating it by the force of impact.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
A ground-based missile interceptor is lowered into its missile silo during a recent emplacement at the Missile Defense Complex at Fort Greely, Alaska. Army photo by Sgt. Jack W. Carlson III.

The $440 million in extra funds for missile defense include $128 million to begin a new expansion of the missile interceptor force in Alaska. That includes $81 million to begin increasing the number of interceptors from 44 to 64, and $47 million to begin buying parts for 10 of the additional 20 underground silos in which the interceptors are installed.

The Pentagon had not publicly announced that it plans to increase the interceptor force by 20. The decision reflects concern that the current force is inadequate to face a North Korean nuclear and missile threat that is growing faster than anticipated.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US could take down North Korea without firing a shot

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, on Jan. 30, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.


While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former U.S. Navy Admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.

“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”

North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or sent to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for different narratives are pillars of North Korea’s government.

But Blair said the U.S. could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones.

About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”

Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”

Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the U.S. could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The U.S. used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.

Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider last year that a similar idea floated by a former U.S. Navy SEAL had legs.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.”

“Such will be North Korea’s fate,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these 6 videos of the US launching missiles at Syria

The US, France, and the UK conducted missile strikes on Syrian government compounds on April 13, 2018.

The US fired Tomahawk missiles from the USS Monterey, USS Laboon, USS Higgins, and USS John Warner — in addition to JASSMs from B-1B Lancers.


On April 16, 2018, the Pentagon released short videos of Tomahawks being fired from the four US Navy ships that conducted the strikes.

The Tomahawks fired by the USS John Warner were released underwater since the Warner is a Virginia-class attack submarine, which was recently commissioned in 2015.

The Higgins and Laboon are destroyers, and the Monterey is a cruiser — they all fired Tomahawks above water.

Check out the videos below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are Britain’s most controversial World War II vets

It’s been 72 years since the end of World War II, and most vets who served have passed away, with many of them honored as being part of the “Greatest Generation.” However, a few of those still alive are fighting for the recognition they believe they are due, including the one of the last surviving aircrew who took part in one of the most famous attacks in World War II.


According to a report by the London Daily Mail, former RAF aircrewman Johnny Johnson, MBE, who took part in Operation Chastise – the attack on the Mohne, Elbe, and Sorpe dams in 1943, is among those campaigning for World War II veterans of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command to receive a medal. And he has some very harsh words for some historians.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
RAF Lancasters during a fire-bombing raid. (Wikimedia Commons)

“I have a pet hate of what I call ‘relative’ historians. I ask them two questions: ‘Were you there?’ and ‘Were you aware of the circumstances at the time?’ The answer is no, so keep your bloody mouth shut,” he said.

RAF’s Bomber Command, most famously lead by Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, carried out numerous bombing missions against Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. According to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, 55,573 men who served in that command made the ultimate sacrifice.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, who lead Bomber Command from February 1942 to September 1945. His men were given a difficult and ugly job, only to have politicians give them short shrift after the war. (Wikimedia Commons)

Bomber Command notably launched missions against German cities, most notably the 1945 bombing of Dresden, often sending over a thousand planes to carry out area-bombing missions against targets at night. The Daily Mail noted that the tactic caused heavy civilian casualties, causing the same politicians who ordered the bomber crews to carry out those difficult missions to distance themselves from the bomber offensive after World War II.

A memorial to Bomber Command’s fallen was not commissioned until 2012. A clasp was also awarded to veterans of Bomber Command, but Johnson is not satisfied.

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary
Dresden after RAF Bomber Command visited it in February, 1945. (Deutsche Fotothek)

“All I’m asking for is a Bomber Command medal,” he told the Daily Mail. He also is advocating that ground crews receive recognition for their efforts.

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