Atlantic convoy operations could be terrifying for any Merchant Mariners and Navy sailors assigned to cross the treacherous waters, but the desperation of SC 107 in 1942 is on a whole other order of magnitude. The 42 ships were spotted Oct. 30, 1942, and spent the next week struggling to survive as half their number were consumed by 16 U-boats.
The HMS Edinburgh survives extreme torpedo damage from a German sub attack.
(Imperial War Museum)
SC 107 was filled with ships sailing from the Canadian city of Sydney in Nova Scotia to the United Kingdom. It was a slow convoy, filled with ships thought capable of sustaining 7 knots but incapable of holding the 9 knots of faster convoys on the same route.
These would normally be heavily guarded, but Canada and America had shifted as many ships as possible to North Africa to support landings there. So the convoy was lightly guarded with just a destroyer and three corvettes assigned to travel all the way across with it. On October 30, U-boat pack Violet, Veilchen, spotted the juicy, underdefended target.
The pack was deployed in a patrol line with 13 boats ready for combat, and those boats were able to summon three more that would join the hunt from the west. These 16 German combatants prepared to slaughter their way through the Allied convoy.
Allied bombers helped sink two German U-boats at the start of the fight over SC 107, but the convoy soon moved out of their range.
(U.S. Air Force)
The German radio traffic tipped off the convoy that it was about to come under attack, and its escort deployed to protect it. Luckily, this first contact came within range of the Western Local Escort, ships assigned to protect convoys near the Canadian and American coasts as the convoys were still forming and starting east.
So the thin escort was buttressed by the British destroyer HMS Walker and Canadian destroyer HMS Columbia. This made for three destroyers and a few smaller escorts. They worked together with land-based planes and bombers to smack the submarines down, hard. Two German U-boats were sunk, and another sub attack was interrupted. On October 31, two submarines were driven off.
But, by November 1, the Western Local ships were at the edge of their range and had to turn back. The convoy was, so far, unharmed. But it was 42 ships protected by only five ships, only one of which was a destroyer. And 13 German boats were out for blood.
German submarines were equipped with deck guns that allowed them to slaughter undefended convoys, but they used their massive torpedoes to kill convoys when surface combatants were in the water.
(Imperial War Museums)
The escorts spent the first hours performing desperate passes around the convoy to keep the U-boats at bay, but after midnight the subs made their move. They attacked the escort ships. One U-boat made it past the escorts and hit a ship with a torpedo. First blood opened the floodgates. After the first ship was finished off, another seven were hit and destroyed by simultaneous attacks from multiple U-boats.
On November 3, 10 submarines made attempted attacks, resulting in the sinking of one tanker. As night fell, the subs hit four more ships and sank them, including the “commodore ship,” where the top merchant mariner of the fleet sailed and commanded.
The USS Schenck was one of the destroyers sent to protect SC 107 from further attacks on November 4.
One of the ships hit was a large ammo ship filled with munitions. Approximately 30 minutes after it was attacked, the fires resulted in a massive explosion that shook the waters, damaged nearby ships, and likely sank the German boat U-132.
Now near Iceland, ships laden with rescued survivors broke north for Iceland to disembark those still alive while the rest of the convoy continued east. The U.S. Navy dispatched two destroyers to guard the convoy, but SC 107 would lose one more ship in the closing hours of November 4.
The next day, November 5, the convoy reached the range of anti-submarine planes and those, combined with the increased naval escort, finally drove off the German vessels. But 15 ships were already sunk and more damaged. Even counting the probable loss of U-132, Germany sacrificed three submarines in this pursuit.
The tables were, slowly, shifting in the Atlantic, though. The technological and industrial might of the U.S. was allowing more and more vessels to hit the waters with radar and sonar that would find the U-boats wherever they hid. Six months after SC 107, the naval clashes of Black May would signal the fall of the wolfpacks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
But a lot will change for the MCU after this year.
Disney, which owns Marvel, will own the film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four after merging with Fox. The producer Kevin Feige has said he expects that to happen within the first six months of 2019, at which point he’ll get the green light to develop projects with those characters.
It comes at a good time, as “Endgame” marks the end of this era for the MCU, and veteran actors like Chris Evans (who plays Captain America) are expected to retire from their roles.
But before the MCU faces a big shakeup, we ranked all 21 movies — including “Captain Marvel” — from worst to best.
Here’s every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, ranked:
The MCU has since become a well-oiled machine that knows how to balance it all. But in 2010, it was still working on that.
20. “Thor” (2011)
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
There’s nothing particularly horrible about “Thor,” but there’s nothing memorable either. It’s impressive that the movie works at all, considering that Thor, an alien god with daddy issues, was such a little-known character at the time, and Chris Hemsworth was not the superstar he is now. But James Gunn managed to turn even lesser-known and weirder characters into MCU standouts in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It would take a while for Thor to really come into his own.
We now know Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk, but in the second MCU movie, Edward Norton was in the role.
Out of all the MCU movies, “The Incredible Hulk” feels the least connected to the universe. Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross, Banner’s love interest, has never appeared again, and neither has Tim Blake Nelson, who was teased as the Hulk’s archnemesis, the Leader.
But even with that tease, a sequel never happened, and the only character besides the Hulk to have any meaningful connection to the MCU has been General “Thunderbolt” Ross, played by William Hurt, who popped up again in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.”
(Disney / Marvel)
18. “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)
Directed by Alan Taylor
It’s almost pointless to compare the first two “Thor” movies, as they’re both toward the bottom of the MCU barrel. But “The Dark World” is a tad more fun than “Thor,” and it’s integral in introducing one of the Infinity Stones (the Reality Stone) that Thanos ends up using to destroy half of humanity.
But Marvel still hadn’t realized that Hemsworth’s best attribute in the role is his humor, and the character — and the first two movies — suffer because of it.
17. “Doctor Strange” (2016)
Directed by Scott Derrickson
“Doctor Strange” is the most overrated movie in the MCU. By 2016, movies like the Russos’ “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War” had progressed the MCU into new territory, but “Doctor Strange” felt like a step back. Sure, the magic was cool, but it also relied on a formulaic plot with a forgettable love interest. (How do you not give Rachel McAdams more to do?!)
16. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)
Directed by Joss Whedon
This “Avengers” sequel made the same mistake as “Iron Man 2”: cramming too much into its plot to serve the future of the franchise.
The movie features some cool action sequences, notably the Iron Man-Hulk battle. But it fails to distinguish Ultron, the Avengers’ biggest enemy in the comics, from other two-dimensional MCU villains, and it spends too much time setting up future movies. (What exactly is Thor doing?)
15. “Ant-Man” (2015)
Directed by Peyton Reed
“Ant-Man” is a fun little Marvel movie, but not much else. Paul Rudd is charming in the lead role, and Evangeline Lilly is more than just a love interest as Hope van Dyne (the future Wasp). But the movie still falls into familiar territory, including a lackluster villain in Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket.
(Disney / Marvel)
14. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)
Directed by Joe Johnston
“The First Avenger” is arguably the first movie that “mattered” in the MCU. While “Iron Man” is better, “The First Avenger” sets up “The Avengers” better than “Iron Man,” which basically acts as a prequel to the big team-up movie.
“The First Avenger” would prove essential to the movies that came after — even “Infinity War” with the unexpected return of a character thought to be dead.
13. “Iron Man 3” (2013)
Directed by Shane Black
“Iron Man 3” is the most divisive movie in the MCU, and for good reason. It takes some wacky turns, with a major twist that ruined the movie for plenty of people. But I admire that Black just went for it with this movie and delivered something that fans still argue over.
12. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018)
Directed by Peyton Reed
While it’s not necessarily an “essential” MCU movie, it improves on the first “Ant-Man” in nearly every way, with plenty of heart and humor.
Reed came back to direct after replacing Edgar Wright at the last minute on the first movie, and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” feels as if he was more adjusted to the job, with some well-polished action sequences and a great handle on the characters.
11. “Captain Marvel” (2019)
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Maybe in time “Captain Marvel” will inch higher on this list. But for now, it’s a solid entry into the MCU, but not a fantastic one.
Boden and Fleck are at their best in the character-driven aspects of the movie. Unfortunately, it’s the action the movie is lacking, which hurts it by the end.
Brie Larson is perfect in the title role, though, and her chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury makes the movie. There are also some surprising twists that elicited plenty of reactions from theater audiences. If anything, this is a worthy appetizer for “Avengers: Endgame.”
10. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)
Directed by Jon Watts
I didn’t have a strong positive reaction to “Homecoming” when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me. Peter Parker’s motivations throughout the movie to be a hero — impressing Tony Stark — rubbed me the wrong way at first. But it’s hard not to like Tom Holland’s spot-on portrayal of the character, and the movie knows exactly what it wants to be: high-school ’80s classic meets modern superhero flick. And Michael Keaton is truly menacing as Adrian Toomes/Vulture in what began a hot streak for villains in the MCU.
9. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)
Directed by James Gunn
Though “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a step back from the first movie, it’s still the most underrated MCU movie. The “Guardians” movies are unique entries in the franchise, and it’s a shame Gunn was given the boot from the third movie, which is in limbo.
8. “Iron Man” (2008)
Directed by Jon Favreau
The first movie — and still among the best — “Iron Man” kicked off what has become the most lucrative movie franchise of all time. But in 2008, it was just a fun superhero origin movie that defied the odds.
Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, and it’s hard to think of anyone else who could have embodied the role with so much of the necessary charisma to sell a character who casual audiences hadn’t cared about.
7. “The Avengers” (2012)
Directed by Joss Whedon
Four years after “Iron Man,” “The Avengers” proved that Marvel had what it takes to pull off a connected universe of movies. It’s even more impressive considering that the early MCU movies, like “Thor,” “Iron Man 2,” and “The Incredible Hulk,” are some of the worst in the franchise. But “The Avengers” course-corrected, delivering a bona fide blockbuster that hadn’t been achieved before.
(Disney / Marvel)
6. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
2014 marks the point when the MCU really got it together. There have been minimal low points since, and it’s because Kevin Feige and crew finally had the machine running smoothly with low-profile directors who could deliver surprising superhero movies.
Among those filmmakers were the Russos, who have become somewhat of the architects of the universe. After “The Winter Soldier,” an expertly crafted espionage thriller posing as a superhero movie, they went on to direct “Civil War,” “Infinity War,” and “Endgame.”
(Disney / Marvel Studios)
6. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)
Directed by Taika Waititi
“Thor: Ragnarok” is the most absurd movie in the MCU, but that’s only part of what makes it so good. This is when Marvel finally realized that Chris Hemsworth is an extremely funny guy with loads of charm and built a movie around that.
It’s also probably the closest thing we’ll get to another Hulk movie in the MCU.
4. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
“Civil War” is loosely based on a 2007 comic-book event of the same name that pits Marvel’s superheroes against one another over the ethics of a registration act making it illegal for any superpowered person to not register their identities with the government.
The MCU version is obviously more contained, but that’s what makes it so good. It takes a huge storyline and successfully tells it through Captain America’s perspective, making it even more personal.
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
3. “Black Panther” (2018)
Directed by Ryan Coogler
“Black Panther” is a lot of firsts: the first superhero movie to be nominated for best picture, the first movie to win Oscars for Marvel Studios, the first superhero movie with a predominantly black cast.
It was more than just an MCU movie — it was a cultural event. And its box office reflects that. It was the highest-grossing movie in the US in 2018, breaking barriers and riding its success all the way to Oscar gold.
2. “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
“Infinity War” is an order of magnitude bigger than “Avengers” or “Civil War.” With a cast of over 20 characters, “Infinity War” is the culmination of 10 years of universe-building.
The Russos pulled it off, and they’re not done yet. After the most shocking ending in an MCU movie, the story will continue in “Endgame.”
But on its own, “Infinity War” is an impressive balancing act, and Josh Brolin’s Thanos lives up to the hype.
1. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)
Directed by James Gunn
“Guardians of the Galaxy” was the first MCU movie that really felt disconnected from the rest of the universe, but not in a negative way like “The Incredible Hulk.” It’s an important entry in the franchise from a story standpoint — but it’s also just a hilarious, fun, self-contained movie that turned an unknown group of characters into fan favorites.
It’s the most rewatchable movie in the MCU, with a brilliant soundtrack, but it’s the characters that really make it, from the dynamic between Rocket and Groot to the oblivious Drax. They don’t like each other at first, but the audience loves them as soon as they’re introduced.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Anyone can get in movie-star shape. All it requires is working out every day for two to four hours, skipping carbs, hiring trainers, and having a Hollywood studio foot the bill and then pay handsomely for your time. It’s how Ryan Reynolds and his superhero peers look the way they do on the big screen. That’s not to say their workouts aren’t impressive. They’re typically the kind of upper-body-heavy exercise routines that only someone who does this for a living could finish. Because of this, they’re worth following.
Take the workout that Reynolds was tackling while filming “Deadpool 2.” When he enlisted celebrity trainer Don Saladino to create a routine that would build muscle, add definition, and improve overall fitness, he got what he asked for. Saladino designed a variety of circuit-style workouts that covered most major muscle groups with a focus on the upper body. While he didn’t report how often he worked out, let’s just say he ended up looking like a pretty unrealistic dad of two in the end. Mission accomplished.
What does this have to do with us mere mortals? Well, the workouts Reynolds did are pretty great for full-body strength and agility because (little known fact) Reynolds does a lot of his own stunt moves. But, yeah, it’s too hard. We get that. Which is why we took the principles from one of the sample workouts he shared with Men’s Health, and dumbed it down for us regular dads. Here’s your streamlined version, with moves modified to fit the schedule and skills of everyday dads.
(Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)
Reynolds’ version: 15 minutes of stretching, foam rolling, and deep breathing.
Your version: Your time is precious, so you can do this 3 minutes. Stand with feet wide apart. Reach arms overhead, inhale deeply. Exhale and release, bending your knees and allowing your torso to fall forward so that your hands rest on the floor. From here, bend your right knee deeply, shift weight to right side, and move into a side lunge. Hold as you breathe in and out. Shift weight to left side and repeat. Return to center, straighten your back and legs and raise arms out the side. Twist right, then left, five times. Relax — you’re ready to go.
Move #1: Kettlebell swing
This full-body move works your arms, back, glutes, and quads. Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Hold the handle of a kettlebell with both hands, arms straight in front of your body. Bend your knees into a squat, and let the kettlebell drift back between your legs, keeping your back straight. With a single movement, push through your heels and explosively return to a standing position, allowing the kettlebell to swing forward so it reaches chest height as you do. That’s one rep.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with as heavy a weight as possible.
Your version: You can nearly keep up here! Make it 3 reps with a 25-pound weight.
Move #2: Front squat
Start standing, feet hip-width apart and toes slightly turned out. Hold a barbell with both hand (palms facing forward and tilted upward) just below your chin. Bend knees and allow your hips to drift back as if you were sitting in a chair. Keep back straight. Aim to get your quads parallel to the floor, but stop lowering as soon as you feel your form begin to slip. Return to standing to complete one rep.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with a heavy weight (about 85% of a max load)
Dad’s version: Keep it at 5 reps, but skip the weight altogether and go for air squats. Focus on the form — that’s what really matters here.
Lie back on a flat bench, holding the barbell above your chest with an overhand grip, arms straight. Keep hands shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows, keeping them close by your sides, and lower bar to chest height, then straighten again.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with a weight that is probably more than you can lift, placing hands close together to increase difficulty.
Dad’s version: Let’s go with 3 reps using a weight that’s about 75% of your max load (roughly around 150 if you’re a 200-pound guy, although it’s a wide range). Place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width to help with bar stability — even wider if you’re new-ish to the move.
Move #4: Pull-up
Stand in front of the pull-up bar and grab it with an overhand grip. Keeping your back straight and eyes focused on the wall just above eye level, bend arms as you hoist your chin over the bar, then straighten back down.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps maintaining a plank position with his body (i.e. board-straight) and fully extending arms with every lowering.
Your version: Stick with the 5 reps, but use an assist. See that resistance band? Tie it around the bar so it creates a long loop. Place your feet inside the loop, allowing band to stretch as you lower your body, then add support as you lift yourself up. Another alternative: Perform reverse pull-ups by gently jumping off the floor to begin in a contracted position, chin above the bar, then feel the burn as you lower yourself down to the floor.
Reynolds did various versions of the weighted walk in his workout to prep for “Deadpool 2” — it’s one of the most efficient ways to build overall strength and tone your muscles. You can choose between a suitcase carry (carry dumbbells or kettlebells down by your sides), overhead carry (raise the weight directly over your head, arm straight, doing one arm at a time as you walk), or bottom-up carry (bend your arm at a 90 degree angle in front of you and carry the kettlebell upside-down by its handle so that the weighted endpoints up into the air). In all cases, focus on good form.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps of 75-foot carries with a weight that is 35-40 pounds.
Your version: Challenge yourself here with 3 reps of 50-foot carries. Still, don’t go too heavy. Start with 25 pounds and work up from there.
Rest and repeat
Reynolds’ Version: No rest for Merc with a Mouth. Do this circuit five times in a row.
Your version. Take 30 seconds between reps and 5 minutes between sets. You’ve earned it. Start by hitting this circuit twice and work your way up from there (capping at four).
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Special operations personnel are often assigned missions in places where support is hard to come by. Expeditionary Support Bases, like the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) and sister ships, are, in essence, mobile bases, make it easier to bring support within range of troops in austere environments. However, supplies are limited; the United States Navy has just the Puller, with two sisters under construction.
Furthermore, these ships are large and lightly armed, making them vulnerable. The good news is that there may be an option to give more special ops personnel support — and the answer is a combination of two ships already in Navy service.
USS Independence (LCS 2), whose trimaran hull is the basis for Austal’s proposed Special Operations Support Vessel.
(U.S. Navy photo by Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Nicholas Kontodiakos)
Austal is offering a Special Operations Support Ship. This concept vessel takes the trimaran hull used by Independence-class littoral combat ships and combines it with features from the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport, like a stern ramp and the ability to haul vehicles and troops around.
The model showcased at the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo at National Harbor, Maryland showed a potent armament suite for this vessel. It included two quad launchers for anti-ship missiles, like the RGM-84 Harpoon or the Kongsberg NSM, as well as a turreted gun forward and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.
Elements of the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports would be incorporated with the Independence-class littoral combat ship’s trimaran hull to make the Special Operations Support Vessel.
This Special Operations Support vessel also maintains the ability to operate a helicopter at least the size of a MH-60S Seahawk, which would not only allow it to insert special ops troops, but to also fire AGM-114 Hellfire anti-ship missiles. Even though the Navy is buying large expeditionary support bases, when it comes to supporting special operations forces in the future, deploying several little ships instead of something large may be the answer.
Art Jackson, who singlehandedly destroyed a dozen enemy pillboxes and killed 50 Japanese soldiers during a fierce battle on the Pacific island of Peleliu. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 92, but his legacy is far from over.
Nine Marines, including Jackson, were presented the Medal of Honor for their roles in the battle.
Art Jackson’s Medal of Honor citation credits him with single-handedly confronting enemy barrages and contributing to “the complete annihilation of the enemy in the southern sector of” Peleliu Island. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Fighting for control of the island lasted for two months, beginning in September 1944. The Japanese, entrenched in caves, killed 1,800 American soldiers and injured 8,000 more.
Decades after his service, Jackson visited military cemeteries and spoke about fallen soldiers as a way to keep their memories alive.
“The First Lady and I are saddened by the loss of a great and iconic American hero, recipient Art Jackson,” Idaho Gov. Butch Otter wrote on his Facebook page. “As an unforgettable member of the Greatest Generation passes into history, we wish the Jackson family all the comfort that our prayers can provide and all the respect that Art’s life and valor deserve. Well done Marine. Semper Fi.”
Family friend Rocci Johnson, who earlier confirmed Jackson’s death, praised Jackson for his devotion to his country.
“Art Jackson was a true American hero. He was from the Greatest Generation. If it wasn’t for men and women like him, it would be a very different world,” Johnson said. “We owe a lot to his dedication and hope that his legacy will serve as an example for all of those who are currently fighting for freedom.”
The Boise Police Department sent condolences to Jackson’s family. Former Chief Mike Masterson met Jackson during his time as chief and several other officers befriended Jackson and maintained a friendship with his family.
“It is with great sadness that members of the Boise Police Department hear the news that recipient Arthur Jackson recently passed away at the Boise VA,” the department wrote in a statement.
Services, including military honors, are pending. Flags at state offices throughout Idaho will be lowered to half-staff on the day of Jackson’s internment, said Mark Warbis, a spokesman for the governor.
Art Jackson saved his platoon from almost certain destruction. A book about the battle described him as “a one-man Marine Corps.” His citation credits him with single-handedly confronting enemy barrages and contributing to “the complete annihilation of the enemy in the southern sector of the island.”
Despite a barrage of gunfire, Jackson charged a large pillbox, as the concrete guard posts were known. He threw white phosphorus grenades to provide cover, set off munitions charges that destroyed the pillbox and killed the 35 soldiers inside.
Jackson kept advancing and picked off one enemy position after another.
“His gallant initiative and heroic conduct in the face of extreme peril reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Jackson and the U.S.Naval Service,” according to the citation.
Jackson, then 19, was wounded on Peleliu and during the Battle of Okinawa and returned to the United States with two Purple Hearts.
President Harry S Truman presented him with the during a ceremony at the White House. He was congratulated by Marine Corps Commandant Alexander Vandegrift, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal; celebrated with aviation legend and fellow recipient Jimmy Doolittle; and rode with celebrity columnist Walter Winchell in a New York City ticker-tape parade.
During the Cold War, Jackson was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, where he killed a suspected Cuban spy who lunged at him and tried to take his sidearm . Instead of reporting the incident, Jackson hid the man’s body. After the body was discovered, Jackson was arrested and forced to leave the Marines. He told his full story of the incident to columnist Tim Woodward in 2013.
Jackson was born Oct. 18, 1924, and moved to Portland, Ore., with his parents in 1939. He graduated from Ulysses S. Grant High School and worked for a naval construction company in Alaska before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in November 1942.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter honored Jackson by declaring Feb. 24, 2016, as Art Jackson Day.
In 2015, when the USS Peleliu assault ship was decommissioned, the ship’s flag was sent to Jackson to commemorate his service on the island.
The commandant of the Marine Corps paid tribute to a staff sergeant killed by Islamic State rocket fire in Iraq last week, shedding new light on the circumstances surrounding the loss.
Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, 27, a member of Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was killed by indirect fire March 19 at a new artillery outpost near Makhmour, Iraq, shortly after he and a small element of Marines had detached from the MEU in order to support the small post.
Speaking at a Marine Corps Association awards dinner near Washington, D.C. Thursday night, Gen. Robert Neller said three other Marines wounded in that same rocket attack were due to arrive back in the United States that evening, headed for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Reflecting on Cardin’s loss, Neller did not prevaricate about a fight that US officials still refuse to describe as a combat operation.
“The loss of a Marine is sad, but I thought about it: He was leading his Marines in combat,” Neller said. “They were in indirect fire and he made sure everybody got in the bunker, and he just didn’t make it in time. Is that sad? That’s sad. But if you’re going to go, you want to go in the fight.”
During a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon on Friday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the circumstances of Cardin’s death, the second combat death since the coalition fight against Islamic State militants began, does not change the nature of the operation or indicate an increase in the Marines’ ground combat role.
“This is not a fundamental shift in our approach to support the Iraqi forces,” he said. “This happens to be what was the most appropriate tool that the commander assessed needed to be in that particular location.”
In his talk, Neller encouraged Marines to remain sharp, reminding them that the Corps was forward deployed all over the world to remain ready and train for future fights.
“[Cardin’s] death, and the things we see every day, from the attacks in Brussels by those murderous cowards that we’re fighting, that’s part of our world today,” he said. “So whether [The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] continues to use terror to intimidate us and kill innocents, at the same time other adversaries, as they have since we’ve been engaged in the Middle East, are developing their capabilities to challenge us on future battlefields.”
Neller also fired a shot across the bow at another geopolitical threat, hinting that Marine Corps leaders were eager to answer the saber-rattling of Russian president Vladimir Putin with a show of force.
About 1,800 Marines, he said, had recently wrapped up a massive cold-weather exercise in Norway, Operation Cold Response.
“It’s the biggest exercise we’ve done in Norway in some time,” he said. We were working to repopulate our [pre-positioning equipment] in the caves, and the Norwegians were happy to see us and I’m sure our Russian friends were paying attention. Mr. Putin has done us a great favor.”
A U.S. Navy officer charged with hazing and maltreatment of sailors is facing a general court martial.
The Virginian-Pilot reported April 18 that the unnamed lieutenant commander is accused of verbal abuse and retaliating against a sailor who asked to stop being called Charlie Brown. Court documents say the officer told the sailor to carry a Charlie Brown cartoon figurine at all times.
The officer also allegedly punched a chair next to a sailor and yelled at someone for more than an hour. The officer is also accused of lying about his actions.
A 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer conducts a training mission in the vicinity of Japan where they integrated with Japan Air Self Defense Force assets, May 12, 2020. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman River Bruce)
The Air Force‘s B-1B Lancer bomber is about to move front and center in the U.S. military’s power-projection mission in the Pacific.
As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the Air Force is not only making its supersonic bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes in the Pacific, a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.
The “nice thing about the B-1 is it can carry [the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile], and that’s perfectly suited for the Pacific theater,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview Tuesday.
“Not only are we resetting the airplane’s mission-capability rates and the training done for the aircraft, we’re also resetting how we employ the airplane to get more toward great power competition to align with the National Defense Strategy,” added Dawkins, who supports the warfighting air component to U.S. Strategic Command, as well as operations within Air Force Global Strike Command.
According to the 2018 NDS, “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.”
Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson stated that China has become “a pacing threat for the U.S. Air Force because of the pace of their modernization” in the region.
The Pentagon’s strategy prioritizes deterring adversaries by denying their use of force in the first place.
During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Dawkins said.
Close-air support, the B-1’s primary mission in recent years, is a much different skill set than “shooting standoff weapons like JASSM-ER and LRASM,” he said, referring to the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile and Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles-Extended Range.
While Dawkins wouldn’t get into specifics of how crews are conducting the practice runs in the Pacific, the non-nuclear B-1s have been spotted recently carrying Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles.
Photos recently posted on DVIDS, the U.S. military’s multimedia distribution website, show Dyess’ 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons crew members loading a JASSM into the belly of a plane. The B-1 is capable of carrying 75,000 pounds — 5,000 pounds more than the B-52 Stratofortress — of both precision-guided and conventional bombs.
The JASSM’s newer variant, JASSM-ER, has a higher survivability rate — meaning it’s less likely to be detected and shot down — due to low-observable technology incorporated into the conventional air-to-ground precision-guided missile. It is said to have a range of roughly 600 miles, compared with the 230-mile reach of JASSM, according to The Drive.
The LRASM, a Navy missile integrated on both the B-1 and F/A-18 Super Hornet, is able to autonomously locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces.
Joint air-to-surface standoff missiles are loaded into a 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 9, 2020. The B-1Bs carry the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman River Bruce)
The precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile was first tested on a B-1 in August 2017. A single B-1 can carry up to 24 LRASMs, or the same number of JASSM-ERs. The LRASM missile achieved early operational capability on the bomber in 2018.
The vast expanses of the Pacific are well-suited for training with these kinds of missiles, Dawkins explained. Stateside ranges, which may lack surface waters or enough distance between two points, depending on location, cannot always accommodate the needs of bomber crews training with these long-range weapons.
Also, “[when] we deploy, for instance to Guam, taking off from [the U.S.] and going to the Pacific, it allows us to do some integration with our allies, as well as exercise the command-and-control … and also allows us to practice our long-duration flights and work with the tankers,” he said.
The flight was part of the Air Force’s new unpredictable deployment experiment to test crews’ agility when sending heavy aircraft forces around the world, since the need to improve the bombers’ deployability rate is also crucial, Dawkins said.
Mission-capability rates refers to how many aircraft are deployable at a given time. The B-1 has been on a slow and steady track to improve its rate — which hovers around 50% — after being broken down by back-to-back missions in the desert, officials have said.
The B-1 could become the face of the Pacific for the foreseeable future, Dawkins said.
“We want … to be the roving linebacker, if you will, particularly in the Pacific,” he said, adding the mission could also pave the way for incorporating hypersonic weapons into the bomber’s arsenal.
Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, has expressed support for the B-1 as a future hypersonic weapons platform.
“Basically, the configuration we’re seeking is external hardpoints that can allow us to add six Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapons [ARRW, pronounced “Arrow”], and then you still have the bomb bay where you can carry the LRASM or the JASSM-ER,” Ray told reporters last month. LRASM or JASSM-ER could also be carried externally, he added.
“They’re not doing any testing with the hypersonic on the B-1, but that’s definitely in the mix,” Dawkins said.
If configured with that payload in the future, that would be “quite a bit of air power coming off that airplane, whether it’s JASSMs, JASSM-ERs or some combination of those, and hypersonics,” he said.
As a young girl, Angie DiMattia knew softball would be her way out of an impoverished life.
Growing up, she lived with her parents and shared a room with her older sister inside a crammed 500-square-foot mobile home in Phenix City, Alabama.
“I remember stray animals coming into the house from the holes in the floor,” said Angie, now a first lieutenant. “It was rough.”
Her father worked hard delivering mail to make ends meet, she said. But, one day, her mother, who suffered complications from Type 1 diabetes, told her they’d never be able to afford to send her to college.
She saw softball as her golden ticket. It also fed her competitive side that later forged her into a chiseled bodybuilder and United States of America’s Ms. Colorado.
The strong work ethic that blossomed from her humble roots pushed her to keep practicing softball. Yet, she needed extra lessons to be a better pitcher, her favorite position. With no money to pay for them, she decided to work for her coach, who owned a batting cage.
A young Angie DiMattia poses for a photograph before a dance recital.
She picked up balls and swept the batters’ boxes in between customers. And at the end of the day, the coach helped with her form.
“That’s how I figured out how to pitch was through his lessons,” she said. “But I earned it.”
She also earned each of her wins with a used glove she had bought for 25 cents at a flea market. She pitched well with it throughout high school and got a scholarship to a nearby community college.
“That glove, and obviously my work, earned a college scholarship,” she said.
Angie shelved her lucky glove, but still used her industrious attitude in other competitions.
Now 34, Angie has raced in several marathons, Iron Man triathlons and often advises other soldiers on how to achieve their fitness goals.
Her motivation to care deeply for her own body partly stems from witnessing her mother suffer with hers.
“I just watched what life was like when your body fails you,” she said.
With her mother’s dietary restrictions, sugar was banned in the house and Angie learned how to eat healthy at a young age. She also saw sports and fitness as an outlet that taught her leadership, teamwork and camaraderie — skills that continue to resonate in her Army career.
“My life has definitely been geared toward taking care of my body, which takes care of my mind that takes care of everything else in my life,” she said.
Her efforts recently bore fruit.
Earlier this year, she competed in the Arnold Sports Festival, a massive competition with about 22,000 athletes. Out of nearly 20 contestants in her category, she finished second place.
First Lt. Angie DiMattia is seen volunteering for the Soldier Marathon in Columbus, Georgia.
The road to get there was not easy. On top of her routine physical training for the Army, she added two more hours of cardio in addition to a weightlifting session every single day for numerous weeks.
“I’d be so tired, I’d plop down,” she said of when each day ended.
While preparing for the competition, the endurance runner-bodybuilder also tried something out of the ordinary — a beauty pageant.
“I’m the complete opposite of a pageant girl,” she said, laughing.
While at a volunteering event, she met the state director of the USOA Miss Colorado pageant who convinced her to sign up. The prize that finally persuaded her — if she won, she could use her title to highlight issues she cares about on a wider platform.
“The pageant was never my goal,” she said. “To serve military families and Gold Star families, that was my goal.”
To her surprise, Angie became the first active-duty soldier to ever win the “Ms.” category for single women over 29 years old.
After being crowned, she has been able to collect more donations for Survivor Outreach Services at Fort Carson, Colorado, where she once served as a family readiness leader with 4th Infantry Division.
To her, volunteerism is her life purpose. She sees competitions as “selfish goals” because it saps a lot of her time from selfless endeavors.
“I don’t do a lot of community service because I’m really busy,” she said of when preparing for contests. “But it’s good sometimes to balance life. You have to grow individually before you’re able to help others.”
That passion was ignited a decade ago when she began to serve as a fallen hero coordinator for the Soldier Marathon in Columbus, Georgia. Proceeds from the race benefit the National Infantry Museum and other military-related nonprofit groups.
“It isn’t just me, it’s this team of people who all have the same mission,” she said. “We all love to run and we all love to serve our community and our military.”
Cecil Cheves, who is the race director, said that Angie has been an integral part of the annual event.
Then-2nd Lt. Angie DiMattia conducts a dumbbell workout Feb. 23, 2018, at Fort Carson, Colorado.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
She’ll research and produce a list of fallen soldiers from the local area and place their names on paper bibs that runners can run with in memory of them.
She also has a “vivacious personality” that she reveals as an announcer when runners cross the finish line.
“She gives off energy that draws others to her,” Cheves said.
But she is not self-focused, he noted, and is very interested in people.
“She’s the kind of person every organization, like the Army, would want,” he said. “She’s very much a team player.”
Angie also strives to use her current role as Ms. Colorado to raise awareness of fallen service members during other events, such as motorcycle rides that honor veterans.
Similar to the marathon, she hands out bibs with the names of deceased troops for riders to wear. If someone donates money for a bib, she gives it directly to Survivor Outreach Services.
“I’ve never taken a dime from it, not even to pay for my gas, not to pay for the printing materials, anything,” she said. “I pay it out of my own pocket.”
In 2012, Angie first joined the Georgia National Guard as an enlisted truck driver so she could be assigned to a unit that was close to her ailing mother.
But soon after she completed training, her mother passed away.
“I was only here so I could be next to her,” she said.
She decided to enroll in the ROTC program at Columbus State University and earned a bachelor’s degree. She became an intelligence officer, then a strategic communicator and is now preparing to switch careers to be a space operations officer in Colorado.
As a child, she was obsessed with space. She painted her ceiling black and mapped out the night sky with stars and planets that glowed in the dark.
“It isn’t something you hear about very often,” she said of the Army’s space career field. “When I realized that this was an opportunity, I was so excited.”
Being able to rise above the “rough patches” she was dealt with as a child has also made her a better leader, she said.
The strong work ethic that blossomed from her humble roots in Alabama has pushed 1st Lt. Angie DiMattia to accomplish many goals in life.
To her, she’s not embarrassed of the way she grew up. It actually shaped her desire to assist others facing their own challenges.
“I can influence beyond the chain of command with my community service and charity work,” she said. “But then I can relate to my junior soldiers through me being real. I know what it’s like to struggle a bit in life.”
When she gives advice to her soldiers, she says to seek mentorship from someone different from them and that way they can learn more.
She also likes to recite a quote on achieving goals that a Buddhist teacher once told her: “You just need to be yourself, but be all of you.”
But, perhaps, the greatest lesson she has learned is time management. If things in one’s life do not bring added value, she said, they need to be eliminated.
“My time is more important than my money,” she said. “You can invest money and get a return, but you cannot invest time and get time back.”
She suggests soldiers need to first define who they are and where they want to go before they try to conquer a goal in life.
“Let’s start mapping out these stepping stones,” she said, “that are going to be crucial to getting you to that next goal.”
As the new Congress begins, it will soon discuss the comprehensive reports to the U.S. Senate on the disinformation campaign of half-truths, outright fabrications and misleading posts made by agents of the Russian government on social media in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
There are already indications that Cyber Command conducted operations against Russian disinformation on social media, including warning specific Russians not to interfere with the 2018 elections. However, low-level cyberwarfare is not necessarily the best way. European countries, especially the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have confronted Russian disinformation campaigns for decades. Their experience may offer useful lessons as the U.S. joins the battle.
The Baltic Sea region of northern Europe. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are in light green in the center, west of Russia in blue.
Beginning in 1940 and continuing until they declared independence in the early 1990s, the Baltic countries were subjected to systematic Russian gaslighting designed to make people doubt their national history, culture and economic development.
The Soviets rewrote history books to falsely emphasize Russian protection of the Baltic people from invading hordes in the Middle Ages, and to convey the impression that the cultural evolution of the three countries was enabled by their allegiance and close ties to Russia. Even their national anthems were rewritten to pay homage to Soviet influence.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the independence of the Baltic countries, the Russian Federation has continued to deliver disinformation to the region, making extensive use of Russian-language social media. Some themes characterize the Baltic people as ungrateful for Soviet investment and aid after World War II. Another common message criticizes Baltic historians for “falsification of history” when really they are describing the real nature of the Soviet occupation.
A massive Russian attack
After independence, and as the internet grew, Estonia led the way in applying technology to accelerate economic development. The country created systems for a wide range of government and commercial services, including voting, banking and filing tax returns electronically. Today, Estonia’s innovative e-residency system is being adopted in many other countries.
These advances made the Baltics a prime target for cyberattacks. In the spring of 2007, the Russians struck. When Estonia moved a monument memorializing Soviet soldiers from downtown Tallinn, the country’s capital, to a military cemetery a couple of miles away, it provoked the ire of ethnic Russians living in Estonia as well as the Russian government.
The relocation of the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn sparked a Russian cyberattack on Estonia in 2007.
(Photo by Keith Ruffles)
For three weeks, Estonian government, financial and media computer systems were bombarded with enormous amounts of internet traffic in a “distributed denial of service” attack. In these situations, an attacker sends overwhelming amounts of data to the targeted internet servers, clogging them up with traffic and either slowing them down or knocking them offline entirely. Despite concerns about the first “cyber war,” however, these attacks resulted in little damage. Although Estonia was cut off from the global internet temporarily, the country’s economy suffered no lasting harm.
These attacks could have severely damaged the country’s financial system or power grid. But Estonia was prepared. The country’s history with Russian disinformation had led Estonia to expect Russian attacks on computer and information systems. In anticipation, the government spearheaded partnerships with banks, internet service providers and other organizations to coordinate responses to cyberattacks. In 2006, Estonia was one of the first countries to create a Computer Emergency Response Team to manage security incidents.
The Baltic response
After the 2007 attack, the Baltic countries upped their game even more. For example, Estonia created the Cyber Defense League, an army of volunteer specialists in information technology. These experts focus onsharing threat information, preparing society for responding to cyber incidents and participating in international cyber defense activities.
Internationally, Estonia gained approval in 2008 to establish NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Tallinn. Its comprehensive research into global cyber activities helps identify best practices in cyber defense and training for NATO members.
In 2014, Riga, the capital of neighboring Latvia, became home to another NATO organization combating Russian influence, the Strategic Communications Center of Excellence. It publishes reports on Russian disinformation activities, such as the May 2018 study of the “Virtual Russian World in the Baltics.” That report analyzes Russian social media activities targeting Baltic nations with a “toxic mix of disinformation and propaganda.” It also provides insight into identifying and detecting Russian disinformation campaigns.
The Baltic countries also rely on a European Union agency formed in 2015 to combat Russian disinformation campaigns directed against the EU. The agency identifies disinformation efforts and publicizes accurate information that the Russians are seeking to undermine. A new effort will issue rapid alerts to the public when potential disinformation is directed against the 2019 European Parliament elections.
Will the ‘Baltic model’ work in the US?
Because of their political acknowledgment of threats and actions taken by their governments to fight disinformation, a 2018 study rated Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania the three European Union members best at responding to Russian disinformation.
A similar approach may work in the U.S., though it would require far more collaboration than has existed so far. But backed by the new government motivation to strike back when provoked, the methods used in the Baltic states and across Europe could provide a powerful new deterrent against Russian influence in the West.
When you’re only given 280 characters, you better make them count. I can’t say most Twitter users succeed in this endeavor. I searched through the craziness to find the best military tweets of the week. Good luck finding another article that references poop, crayons, the McRib and the Sergeant Major of the Army. Enjoy these gems.
Hey, at least they’re not going to the VA.
2. Space Force
I’m not sure which amazes me more. A Space Force E-9 or all that Space Force swag.
3. The McRib is Back
The Army pioneered restructured meats in the 1960s and the world has never been the same.
4. For the Mantle
Marines and their crayons always make me laugh.
5. I Can’t Hear You
Does anybody leave the military without tinnitus?
This sounds like a fun ride.
We do meet many people with weird quirks in the military.
People will give the cyber folks crap, but they’re the ones laughing.
9. Potty on the Submarine
This child is going places! I may have searched how this works on a sub.
10. Holiday Card
This is either the best or worst command team, no in between.
11. Fortunate Son
I can hear this tweet. Can you?
12. We Can Make It Sarnt
At what point did they realize this was a bad idea?
I’m not sure the Navy will understand this horrible MRE trade.
14. Let’s Play Army!
A picture is worth a thousand words.
15. Uh Oh
When the Sergeant Major of the Army hops on the twitter feed, I know what runs downhill.
A specialized VA lender, a military-friendly real estate agent and a national homebuilder joined forces to help a disabled veteran use his VA loan benefits with a government grant to build the home he’d dreamed of for almost 2 decades.
John Swanson comes from a long line of military members. He was born at Southern California’s Fort MacArthur. His grandfather was in WWII and retired as a full bird Colonel. His father was an Army Sergeant in the Korean War, and his Uncle was an Army Captain. John was determined to carry on the family tradition. The Vietnam War was in full swing in 1971, and while he was more than ready to join, he was too young. Just before his seventeenth birthday, John enlisted in the U.S. Army Delayed Entry Program (DEP) to ensure an active duty slot when he came of age.
During an infantry training exercise, John fell 50 feet repelling from a helicopter. The medics found nothing broken, so John was ordered to keep training under advisement. He was ordered on a 10-mile compass run in shower shoes, during which John’s ankles collapsed underneath him. This time, the doctors determined he could not continue training. He was released under the discharge category “undesirable conditions. ”
“My whole purpose was to serve my country, but it wasn’t meant to be,” John shares. The Vietnam Era veteran had to fight for his honorable discharge, which he eventually received. Meanwhile, he had darting pain and decreased mobility in his arms and legs. Upon further medical examination, he was diagnosed with a chronic neurological syndrome called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Now confined to a wheelchair, John was upgraded from 60 percent to 100 percent disability.
“It was hard not to notice the wheelchair,” says John’s finance Terry Kaut, whom he met at a singles club 13 years ago. “But John was so full of life and joy. Later I found out how much pain he was in, which made his outlook even more amazing,” she added. After 10 years of dating, John and Terry decided to live together in a two-bedroom apartment near Sacramento. The only room suited for John’s disability was the bathroom.
“I’ve bruised my knee caps and broken several toes,” shares John, referring to the narrow halls and doorways in typical rentals. “I chased the American Dream for a long time, but accessible homes just don’t come up that often,” John explains. “So I lived in what was available.”
John’s housing frustrations turned to hope when he heard of a grant administered under the VA Loan Guaranty Division. Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants help veterans with certain service-connected disabilities build or modify homes to best suit their needs. He applied for the grant in 2012 and searched for a VA-approved mortgage lender to help him use his VA benefits.
John applied for a loan with iFreedom Direct®, a nationwide lender that specializes in home loans for veterans. Later John was connected to Sherry Dolan, a Sacramento-based Keller Williams® real estate agent familiar with the VA loan process. Sherry says, “I’ve sold a lot of homes to a lot of veterans, but this was the most challenging and most rewarding.”
The first issue was the grant. It had been months and John still hadn’t heard back from the VA. Debbie had a connection at the Department of Veterans Affairs that reported the paperwork had either been lost or never received. Together, Sherry and Debbie helped John reapply. Sherry enlisted the help of Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui’s office to expedite the second application to make up for lost time. Within just a few months, John was awarded the fully-allotted $67,555.
Meanwhile, Sherry set out with the couple to look for a house. She saw John struggling. “Terry and I lugged a heavy ramp around just so he could get up the front steps,” she explained. “He couldn’t access back rooms or step-down garages.” Sherry also saw that sunken living rooms, common in California, were a problem.
Then another issue surfaced regarding renovation. John’s respiratory problems required that they live in their apartment until any construction dust settled. With John’s fixed disability income and Terri ‘s modest income as a middle school registrar, they could afford rent or a mortgage payment. Not both.
Sherry thought to seek help from a builder. She approached several, but only one took an active interest in helping John. Lennar Homes had a new subdivision in Rancho Cordova with six model homes. The company agreed to adapt a single-story floor plan under SAH guidelines to suit John’s disability. Lennar® also financed the construction phase so John and Terri could keep renting until the home was finished.
The original blueprint was modified with John and Terry in mind. The specially-adapted model resulted in a 1,794 square-foot, three-bedroom home with 42-inch doorways, wheelchair-friendly flooring, an accessible master bathroom with roll-in shower, a ramped garage, flat front and back entrances, left-handed light switches, and many more customized details.
“The home represents a unique situation for us, but the project has definitely increased our awareness and the need for adaptable homes,” says Division President Gordon Jones. “We were honored to be able to serve a veteran in this way.”
Given the venture’s success, the builder welcomes the opportunity to serve other veterans. According to Lennar®, John’s house was the first-ever specially adapted home built by the Northern California division with money from an SAH grant.
“Thanks to this dedicated team of professionals who worked together, Mr. Swanson was finally able to get into a home,” shares iFreedom Direct’s Customer Experience Director Tim Lewis, a Retired U.S. Army Major.
John may have never gotten the opportunity to serve on foreign soil, but, as fiancé Terry relays, he has served for years from his wheelchair. “He counseled GIs and other individuals with RSD and answered a hot line for years,” says Terry. “And, now because of John, the way is paved for other disabled veterans to build a Lennar® home to fit their needs.”
A housewarming party took place shortly after John and Terry moved into their new home. The entire team came together to celebrate, along with many of the couple’s new neighbors and some local veterans. To honor the special occasion, iFreedom Direct had installed a 20′ flagpole in the front yard and Tim Lewis presented John with an American flag during an emotional dedication ceremony.
(Left to Right: In front of the specially-adapted Lennar home after flag raising ceremony are iFreedom Direct loan officer Debbie Losser, Keller Williams real estate agent Sherry Dolan, homeowner John Swanson and fiancé Terry Haut and Dolan’s real estate partner Belinda Mills)
When asked what this house meant to him, John fought his emotions to get these words out, “It means the world. It’s hard holding back the tears when I think how everybody came together to make it happen for us.”
Veterans with permanent and total service-connected disabilities may be eligible for SAH grants. To apply, submit VA form 26-4555 to your VA Regional Loan Center. For information about VA loans, contact iFreedom Direct®.
iFreedom Direct®, a top VA-approved lender, has served America’s brave men and women by providing quality VA loans since 1996. These zero-to-low down payment mortgages, backed in part by the Department of Veteran Affairs, help eligible borrowers purchase and refinance homes at competitive interest rates. Pre-qualify at www.ifreedomdirect.com or 800-230-2986.