'Ask a Marine': The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

When I frequented my Marine Corps recruiting office from 1999 until I enlisted in 2003, Staff Sgt. Molina used to welcome me with a familiar, “Ey devil,” and Staff Sgt. Ciccarreli would echo with “Eyyyyyyy.” Vintage recruiting posters were sprinkled among more modern propaganda. The message they consistently reinforced was that the Corps’ values—especially service above self—are timeless.

In one of the old posters, a strong, black Marine standing tall in his dress blue uniform with gold jump wings stared back at me. I couldn’t tell whether he was grinning or scowling—welcoming a potential recruit or warning me. Scrawled in bold typeface across the bottom third of the poster were the words “Ask a Marine.” My reaction was visceral. Where do I sign?


‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

The iconic Marine recruitment ad campaign featuring Capers. He was the first black man to be featured in such a campaign.

The man in the poster was James Capers Jr., a now retired major whose 23-year career was defined by breaking barriers and blazing a path of excellence in the Marine Corps special operations community. Capers recently published “Faith Through the Storm: Memoirs of James Capers, Jr.,” and the book is a powerful portrait of an extraordinary life.

As the son of a sharecropper in South Carolina, Capers had to flee the Jim Crow South for Baltimore after his father committed some petty offense, which he feared might get him lynched. Capers describes his flight in the back of an old pickup driven by a white person as a sort of “Underground Railroad.” His trip to Baltimore is reminiscent of Frederick Douglass’ escape north because not much had changed for black people in the South since 1830.

We get a vivid picture of Capers’ early years and family life in Baltimore before he joins the Marine Corps. In the Marines, Capers finds an organization where men are judged by their actions, and he excels. He polishes his boots, cleans his weapons and learns what he can from the old salts, who mostly respect his effort. Early on, Capers commits himself to a standard of excellence that distinguishes him above his peers. That struggle is a consistent theme throughout his career.

When applying for special operations swim qualification, an instructor cites pseudo-science to explain that black people can’t swim. Capers has to beg to be let into the class. When a white student fails the test required to graduate, Capers pleads with the cadre to allow the student to swim it again. Then he swims with the Marine, motivating him to muster up the fortitude and faith in himself to pass.

At one point, Capers can’t find an apartment in Baltimore even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had recently passed and was promoted to end housing discrimination based on race. While assigned the temporary lowly duty of a barracks NCO, a white Marine flicks a cigarette butt at Capers—already trained as an elite Force Reconnaissance Marine—and tells him to pick it up. The slight weighs heavily on Capers until he tracks the Marine down and does something about it.

As Vietnam approaches, Capers is eager to get in the fight. A seasoned veteran of more than 10 years, he volunteers to return to special operations, and in the spring of 1966, he deploys with 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Capers (bottom right) with his Marine Corps 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company in Vietnam.

The section about Capers’ Vietnam tour is harrowing and crushing. He survives and thrives as a warrior and leader through several months of brutal combat in the jungle. Eventually, he receives a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant and becomes the first black officer in Marine special operations. By the heart-pounding final mission in Vietnam, I couldn’t help but feel like the book is a 400-page summary of action for a Medal of Honor.

Heart is the book’s central theme. Its most moving parts focus on overcoming adversity and heartbreak. In one chapter, Capers leads his men through two minefields to avoid the enemy. His inspiring leadership carries them through alive against all odds.

Characters frequently appear only briefly enough to become attached to before they die. Capers recalls fondly an old black first sergeant who had fought on Iwo Jima in World War II and saved Capers from some trouble. He dies in Vietnam.

In another scene, a Marine hollers a cadence on a medevac transport out of Vietnam to raise the spirits of wounded Marines who join the sing-song before the Marine dies somewhere along the way.

These wrenching memories reminded me of returning to the recruiting office after my first combat deployment and asking Staff Sgt. Alvarado whatever happened to Staff Sgt. Molina, whose son had fallen under my supervision when I was an assistant karate instructor before I enlisted. Alvarado’s eyes looked to the ground, “You didn’t hear?” I’d seen enough death on my deployment to suddenly know without having to be told, and a mental image of his cherub-faced child still tugs my heart because that kid had an especially wonderful dad.

The death surrounding Capers takes its toll on him, and though he is a hard charger and maybe the best Marine in Vietnam, he is not a machine. His pain is complicated. The book’s strength is in Capers’ brutal honesty about his emotional state, which deteriorates as the death toll mounts and the misuse of his recon team by new out-of-touch officers costs more than he can bear.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Retired Marine Corps Maj. James Capers II.

(Photo by Ethan E. Rocke)

This memoir may not break into the mainstream like a Matterhorn or Jarhead because it’s steeped in Marine culture that may not translate to readers outside of those bounds. It deserves a mini-series due to its dramatic story arc and relevance regarding the unique historical experience of a black U.S. Marine who is able to achieve in the Marine Corps what most likely would not have been accessible to him in the society of his time.

“Faith Through the Storm” should be required reading for Marine infantry officers. It’s the perfect book for The Commandant’s Professional Reading List. This book ultimately adds another dimension to one of the Corps’ most famous recruiting posters.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how much weight you should actually carry in combat (according to science)

In today’s combat environments, it’s not at all uncommon to see U.S. Marines burdened with more than 150 pounds of gear, with reports of some loadouts climbing over 200 for those tasked with operating or supporting larger weapons systems.

It goes without saying that carrying that much weight on foot can compromise a war fighter’s ability to operate, but that begs the question: just how much can you carry on your back before your trading gear for combat effectiveness?

It turns out, a whole lot less than you’d think.


‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

FYI: It doesn’t get easier if you try to carry it higher.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Stilipec)

According to research conducted by Marine Corps Capt. Courtney Thompson at the Naval Postgraduate School, the most a Marine should be stuck carrying into the fight is a comparatively measly 58 pounds. While that may sound like a lot for your average Sunday hiker, for America’s warfighters, that’s a figure that seems impossibly low for today’s combat operations.

The problem with that figure is that the vast majority of that 58-pound load is occupied by non-negotiable personal protective equipment. A standard combat loadout tends to weigh in at around 43 pounds on its own — combat loadout in this case meaning flak jacket, Kevlar helmet, rifle and the standard gear you wear rather than pack. Whatever you may need for long term survival or other mission requirements has to be added to that 43-pound baseline, meaning the 58-pound combat-cutoff would allot only fifteen pounds for all other gear, from breaching tools to spare socks and MREs.

“Marines always have to be prepared to engage with the enemy,” said Captain Thompson. “In doing so, they typically have personal protective equipment, weapons, and other gear. Ultimately, the goal is to make those Marines as lethal and survivable as possible, and my thesis works towards that same goal.”

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Like going into combat with a full grown dude on your back.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

Captain Thompson’s research, of course, won’t create an immediate change in loadouts for troops in combat. Any Marine with a pair of knees can tell you that carrying 200 pounds on your back will make even the most basic infantry tactics an exercise in exhaustion and managed injury. Current combat loads are dictated by mission requirements, not comfort. But that isn’t to say that the research won’t lead to changes in the future. Her work was awarded the Stephen A. Tisdale Thesis Award by the Naval Postgraduate School Department of Operations Research, and according to Thomspon, the Marine Corps has taken notice.

“The commanding general of the Marine Corps War-fighting Lab is asking for my research and results,” Thompson said. “I also worked with a few people at Marine Corps Systems Command who’ve been looking at this problem specifically so they may use it to help support their further research.”

While it may be a long time before Marines see any relief in their combat loadouts, Thompson’s research can benefit any of us wondering just how effective we are with our kits on (whether it’s a hiking kit or full battle rattle). For most of us (if you’re still in Marine Corps shape), you should cut it off at around 58 pounds of total gear strapped to your body. If you’re not quite the Marine you used to be… that number is probably a bit lower.

Articles

How does the B-52 get more awesome? With lasers, that’s how

Air Force scientists are working to arm the B-52 with defensive laser weapons able to incinerate attacking air-to-air or air-to-ground missile attack.


Offensive and defensive laser weapons for Air Force fighter jets and large cargo aircraft have been in development for several years now. However, the Air Force Research Lab has recently embarked upon a special five-year effort, called the SHIELD program, aimed at creating sufficient on-board power, optics and high-energy lasers able to defend large platforms such as a B-52 bomber.

“You can take out the target if you put the laser on the attacking weapon for a long enough period of time,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.

Possibly using an externally-mounted POD with sufficient transportable electrical power, the AFRL is already working on experimental demonstrator weapons able to bolt-on to an aircraft, Zacharias added.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
DARPA image

Given that an external POD would add shapes to the fuselage which would make an aircraft likely to be vulnerable to enemy air defense radar systems, the bolt-on defensive laser would not be expected to work on a stealthy platform, he explained.

However, a heavily armed B-52, as a large 1960s-era target, would perhaps best benefit from an ability to defend itself from the air; such a technology would indeed be relevant and potentially useful to the Air Force, as the service is now immersed in a series of high-tech upgrades for the B-52 so that it can continue to serve for decades to come.

Defending a B-52 could becoming increasing important in years to come if some kind of reconfigured B-52 is used as the Pentagon’s emerging Arsenal Plane or “flying bomb truck.”

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion, and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.

Defensive laser weapons could also be used to jam an attacking missile as well, developers explained.

“You may not want to destroy the incoming missile but rather throw the laser off course – spoof it,” Zacharias said.

Also, synchronizing laser weapons with optics technology from a telescope could increase the precision needed to track and destroy fast moving enemy attacks, he said.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
US Air Force image

Another method of increasing laser fire power is to bind fiber optic cables together to, for example, turn a 1 Kilowatt laser into a 10-Kilowatt weapon.

“Much of the issue with fiber optic lasers is stability and an effort to make lasers larger,” he explained.

Targeting for the laser could also seek to connect phased array radars and lasers on the same wavelength to further synchronize the weapon.

Laser Weapons for Fighter Jets

Aircraft-launched laser weapons from fighter jets could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, has taken place in the last few years at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.

Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.

Air Force Special Operations Command is working with both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Image via General Atomics

Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.

Overall, officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.

Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”

And the U.S. Navy also has several developmental programs underway to arm their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.

Man-in-the-Loop

As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a laser-drone weapon will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.

While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacharias explained.

“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.

Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.

NOW WATCH: AC-130 gunships could be outfitted with laser cannons

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Bataan Death March survivor just died at 100

A San Francisco Bay Area man who survived the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March and symbolized the thousands of unheralded Filipinos who fought alongside American forces during World War II has died. He was 100.


Ramon Regalado died Dec. 16 in El Cerrito, California, said Cecilia I. Gaerlan, executive director of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society, which has fought to honor Regalado and others. She did not have a cause of death.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
U.S. Army National Guard and Filipino soldiers shown at the outset of the Bataan Death March. (Image from The National Guard Flickr)

“He really embodied the qualities of the greatest generation and love for country,” she said.

Regalado was born in 1917 in the Philippines. He was a machine gun operator with the Philippine Scouts under U.S. Army Forces when troops were forced to surrender in 1942 to the Japanese after a grueling three-month battle.

The prisoners were forced to march some 65 miles (105 kilometer) to a camp. Many died during the Bataan Death March, killed by Japanese soldiers or simply unable to make the trek. The majority of the troops were Filipino.

Also Read: This POW led over 3,000 guerrillas after escaping the Bataan Death March

Regalado survived and slipped away with two others — all of them sick with malaria. They encountered a farmer who cared for them, but only Regalado lived.

Afterward, he joined a guerrilla resistance movement against the Japanese and later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to work as a civilian for the U.S. military.

In his later years, he gave countless interviews to promote the wartime heroics of Filipinos, who were promised benefits and U.S. citizenship but saw those promises disappear after the war ended.

More than 250,000 Filipino soldiers served with U.S. troops in World War II, including more than 57,000 who died.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
POWs on the Bataan Death March. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The veterans have won back some concessions, including lump-sum payments as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package.

In an October ceremony in Washington, D.C., remaining Filipino veterans of World War II were awarded the coveted Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Gaerlan said Regalado did not make the trip due to poor health, but he got his medal in December in an intensive care unit in Richmond, California.

He is survived by his wife, Marcelina, five children, and many grandchildren.

Articles

Pentagon identifies Navy SEAL killed in Fleet Week parachute accident

A Navy SEAL who fell to his death when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River has been identified as a 27-year-old Colorado man.


The accident that killed Remington J. Peters occurred Sunday at Liberty State Park, a large New Jersey park across from Manhattan where people catch ferries to see the Statue of Liberty.

Peters, whose identity was revealed late Monday, was a member of an elite Navy parachute team called the Leap Frogs. He was a role model who will be “painfully missed,” his family said in a statement released by the U.S. Navy.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“He was an angel on earth and role model to all,” the statement said. “We couldn’t have been more proud of him. He lived life to the fullest and taught us to do the same.”

The cause of the parachute malfunction that killed Peters is under investigation.

Peters was among four parachutists who drifted down from two helicopters. The Navy said he was pulled from the water by the U.S. Coast Guard. His parachute landed in a parking lot.

The Navy Region Mid-Atlantic commander, Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, asked for prayers “for the Navy SEAL community.”

Articles

US admiral says he’d nuke China if the president orders him to

The US Pacific Fleet commander said July 27 he would launch a nuclear strike against China next week if President Donald Trump ordered it, and warned against the military ever shifting its allegiance from its commander in chief.


Admiral Scott Swift was responding to a hypothetical question at an Australian National University security conference following a major joint US- Australian military exercise off the Australian coast. The drills were monitored by a Chinese intelligence-gathering ship off northeast Australia.

Asked by an academic in the audience whether he would make a nuclear attack on China next week if Trump ordered it, Swift replied: “The answer would be: Yes.”

“Every member of the US military has sworn an oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the officers and the president of the United States as commander and chief appointed over us,” Swift said.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Adm. Scott Swift, commander of US Pacific Fleet, talks to Hawaii region chief selects and chief petty officers. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak.

He added: “This is core to the American democracy and any time you have a military that is moving away from a focus and an allegiance to civilian control, then we really have a significant problem.”

Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown later said Swift’s answer reaffirmed the principle of civilian control over the military.

“The admiral was not addressing the premise of the question, he was addressing the principle of civilian authority of the military,” Brown said. “The premise of the question was ridiculous.”

The biennial Talisman Saber exercise involved 36 warships including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, 220 aircraft, and 33,000 military personnel.

It was monitored by a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Type 815 Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence vessel from within Australia’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
China’s Type 815 Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence vessel ship. Photo from Commonwealth of Australia.

Swift said China had similarly sent an intelligence ship into the US exclusive economic zone around Hawaii during the Pacific Fleet-hosted multinational naval exercise in 2014.

China had a legal right to enter the American economic zone for military purposes under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — or UNCLOS— which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations sailing the world’s oceans, he said.

Governments needed to engage with Beijing to understand why the Chinese did not accept that the United States had the same access rights within China’s exclusive economic zone, Swift said.

“The dichotomy in my mind is why is there a different rules-set applied with respect to taking advantage of UNCLOS in other EEZs, but there’s this perspective that there’s a different rules-set that applies within another nation’s (China’s) EEZ? ” Swift said.

Articles

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is mulling whether to shutter more than 1,100 facilities nationwide as the agency moves more of its health programs to the private sector.


Appearing May 3 before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Shulkin told lawmakers the VA had compiled a list of 1,165 vacant or underused buildings that could be closed, saving the federal government $25 million annually.

Shulkin didn’t specify which facilities would close and local VA officials didn’t return messages seeking comment that afternoon.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Dr. David J. Shulkin, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (VA Photo/ Robert Turtil)

Shulkin, a deputy holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration whom Congress then unanimously approved to run the VA earlier this year, said Congress needs to determine how the facilities would be closed. He suggested the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure — or BRAC — process might be a good model.

But Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R- Nebraska, urged him to never “use the term BRAC because it brings up a lot of bad memories” and sets up the VA “for a lot of controversy.”

Also read: The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

President Donald Trump seeks $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, a 6 percent increase from the 2017 fiscal year level. Trump’s budget plan requests $3.5 billion to expand the Veterans Choice Program, which enables veterans to receive certain kinds of treatment outside of the VA system.

If enacted, Trump’s proposal also would add $4.6 billion in funding to spur better patient access and greater timeliness of medical services for the agency’s more than 9 million patients.

Shulkin said the VA authorized 3.6 million patient visits at private-sector health-care facilities between Feb. 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017 — a 23 percent boost compared to the previous year.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. | Photo via Flickr

With more than 370,000 employees, the VA has the second-largest workforce in the federal government. Shulkin said it must become more efficient at delivering services to veterans. Some of the most entrenched problems are in the appeals process for veterans who have lodged disability claims following their military service.

Currently, the VA has nearly 470,000 such cases pending appeal. For cases awaiting action by the Board of Veterans Appeals, the typical wait time is six years for a decision. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that hosted Shulkin on May 3, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, termed the appellate system an “absolute mess.”

Shulkin conceded that it “undoubtedly needs further improvements” and urged Congress to legislate reforms and streamline the process into a “modernized” system. The longer Capitol Hill waits to fix the process, he said, “the more appeals will enter the current broken system.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an admiral started a dairy in Antarctica

Domestic animals are rarely associated with Antarctica. However, before non-native species (bar humans) were excluded from the continent in the 1990s, many travelled to the far south. These animals included not only the obvious sledge dogs, but also ponies, sheep, pigs, hamsters, hedgehogs, and a goat. Perhaps the most curious case occurred in 1933, when US Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition took with it three Guernsey cows.

The cows, named Klondike Gay Nira, Deerfoot Guernsey Maid and Foremost Southern Girl, plus a bull calf born en route, spent over a year in a working dairy on the Ross Ice Shelf. They returned home to the US in 1935 to considerable celebrity.


Keeping the animals healthy in Antarctica took a lot of doing — not least, hauling the materials for a barn, a huge amount of feed and a milking machine across the ocean and then the ice. What could have possessed Byrd to take cows to the icy south?

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Klondike the Guernsey cow waits on the dock in Norfolk, Virginia, alongside the alfafa, beet pulp and dairy feed that would keep them alive in the far south

(With permission of Wisconsin Historical Society, WHS-127998, contact for re-use, CC BY-ND)

The answer we suggest in our recently published paper is multi-layered and ultimately points to Antarctica’s complex geopolitical history.

Solving the “milk problem”

The cows’ ostensible purpose was to solve the expedition’s so-called “milk problem”. By the 1930s, fresh milk had become such an icon of health and vigour that it was easy to claim it was needed for the expeditioners’ well-being. Just as important, however, were the symbolic associations of fresh milk with purity, wholesomeness and US national identity.

Powdered or malted milk could have achieved the same nutritional results. Previous expeditions, including those of Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen, had survived just fine with such products. What’s more, William Horlick of Horlick’s Malted Milk sponsored Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition; the seaplane Byrd used was named for this benefactor.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Crates of Horlick’s Malted Milk destined for Byrd’s second expedition. With its carefully placed sledge, husky and sign, the shot seems posed for publicity purposes.

(With permission of Wisconsin Historical Society, WHS-23703, contact for re-use, CC BY-ND)

So if fresh milk was not actually a health requirement, and other forms were readily available, why go to the trouble of lugging three cows and their accoutrements across the ice?

Maximising publicity

The cows represented a first, and Byrd well knew that “firsts” in the polar regions translated into media coverage. The expedition was privately funded, and Byrd was adept at attracting media attention and hence sponsorship. His backers expected a return, whether in the form of photographs of their product on the ice or mentions in the regular radio updates by the expedition.

The novelty value that the cows brought to the expedition was a valuable asset in its own right, but Byrd hedged his bets by including a pregnant cow — Klondike was due to give birth just as the expedition ship sailed across the Antarctic Circle. The calf, named “Iceberg”, was a media darling and became better known than the expeditioners themselves.

The celebrity attached to the cows helped the expedition remain in the headlines throughout its time in Antarctica, and they received an enthusiastic welcome upon its return. Although the unfortunate Klondike, suffering from frostbite, had to be put down mid-expedition, her companions made it home in good condition. They were feted on their return, meeting politicians in Washington, enjoying “hay cocktails” at fancy hotels, and making the front page of The New York Times.

It would be easy, then, to conclude that the real reason Byrd took cows south was for the publicity he knew they would generate, but his interest in the animals may also have had a more politically motivated layer.

Eyeing a territorial claim

A third reason for taking cows to Antarctica relates to the geopolitics of the period and the resonances the cows had with colonial settlement. By the 1930s several nations had claimed sectors of Antarctica. Byrd wanted the US to make its own claim, but this was not as straightforward as just planting a flag on the ice.

According to the Hughes Doctrine, a claim had to be based on settlement, not just discovery. But how do you show settlement of a continent covered in ice? In this context, symbolic gestures such as running a post office — or farming livestock — are useful.

Domestic animals have long been used as colonial agents, and cattle in particular were a key component of settler colonialism in frontier America. The image of the explorer-hero Byrd, descended from one of the First Families of Virginia, bringing cows to a new land and successfully farming them evoked this history.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Richard Byrd with Deerfoot in a publicity shot taken before departure.

(With permission of Wisconsin Historical Society WHS-130655, contact for re-use, CC BY-ND)

The cows’ presence in Antarctica helped symbolically to turn the expedition base — not coincidentally named “Little America” — into a frontier town. While the US did not end up making a claim to any sector of Antarctica, the polar dairy represented a novel way of demonstrating national interest in the frozen continent.

The Antarctic cows are not just a quirky story from the depths of history. As well as producing milk, they had promotional and geopolitical functions. On an ice continent, settlement is performed rather than enacted, and even Guernsey cows can be more than they first seem.

This article originally appeared on TheConversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

Articles

The surprising link between spirituality and performance

Throughout history, humans have often weaponized faith. This makes any discussion of the intersection between wellness and spirituality especially tricky because it can be divisive – which is counterintuitive to our relatively inclusive military and veteran cultures.


However, as a Marine I’m always ready to tackle tough things, and as a social scientist invested in teaching veterans how to optimize their performance at home and work, I cannot ignore the compelling data surrounding the positive effects of spirituality.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Maj. Alejandro Sanchez, chaplain, Puerto Rico Army National Guard, says a prayer during the ceremony that marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (U.S. Army photo)

What does spiritual fitness have to do with anything?

There are explicit, direct, trackable ties between resilient trait cultivation and spirituality. These ties include common-sense connections to things like behavioral health, social support, and philanthropic leanings, and the more mysterious connection between positive thoughts and their impact on us at a cellular level.

From Stanford to Duke University to Oxford, some really interesting research is being conducted globally on the ways in which spirituality and religiosity (self-reported connection to organized religion) can improve everything from healing and recovery time to pain tolerance and longevity. The protective effects faith offers when it comes to depression and anxiety conditions are especially significant.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
U.S. Army paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division, pray before the Chaplain’s Anniversary Jump onto Sicily Drop Zoneat Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2013. Deputy Chief of Chaplains, Brig. Gen. Charles R. Bailey led the prayer. Fort Bragg Chaplains celebrated the 238th anniversary of the Chaplains Corps with an airborne operation. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian P. Glass/Released)

Many scholars and scientists who are not religious do believe that at some level we’re wired for spirituality. For example, at the top of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sits transcendence – or the human need to connect with something bigger and outside of ourselves.

The protective factors offered by spirituality and religiosity are very powerful – even more powerful than many of the behavioral health practices that the military currently invests in financially. Because of this, the topic deserves a closer look in any honest conversation about building resilience.

So what’s the tie-in to resilience?

The links between spirituality, religiosity, and resilience can be found in three main areas that are significant not only statistically, but also practically in terms of health benefits.

1. Behavioral Health

People who identify as individually spiritual enjoy a number of benefits at the psychological and neurological levels. However, these health benefits are amplified and extended with higher levels of subjective religiosity – in particular when people take their spirituality a step further and practice it with some kind of community.

For example, binge drinking and promiscuous sex – which are high-risk for our bodies – are generally discouraged by major world religions. Religious people across demographics and age exhibit lower rates of smoking, alcohol abuse, drug use, and almost all risk-taking behaviors than their nonreligious peers. They also enjoy lower rates of depression and anxiety, better mental health, and even a slower progression of dementia.

In short, people who gather around an idea of virtue and live it out with community support are less likely to engage in physiologically high-risk behaviors. This tendency toward healthier living results in better long term health outcomes.

2. Social Support

People who are very religious tend to be members of a faith community and enjoy strong social ties as a result.

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Chaplain Commander Dale Marta of the 14th Marine Regiment, HQ Battery leads a memorial service, in Agadir, Morocco, in honor of those that lost their lives on April 18 at the West Fertilizer Plant. A similar ceremony was held two days prior in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Many faiths encourage both the practice of gratitude and giving to others outside of the social contract (which is essentially the idea that if I do something nice for you, you’ll do something nice for me). They prompt members to give to people who can’t fulfil their end of the social contract. This is the essence of philanthropic giving, which has demonstrated physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.

Of course, you needn’t be spiritual to give generously, but religious Americans give significantly more both financially and in terms of volunteer hours than their nonreligious peers.

3. Positive Thought

Researchers have found an inexplicable link between the practice of prayer and lowered blood cortisol levels and increased high-level cognitive capabilities. Because the brain influences bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and the immune system, shifting what happens in the brain through spiritual practice can have significant physical impacts.

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U.S. Marines participate in a formation run prior to a physical-training competition. Elements of the 15th MEU are ashore in Djibouti for sustainment training to maintain and enhance the skills they developed during their pre-deployment training period.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry)

In fact, in prayer (unlike in meditation) the relationship centers of the brain light up. The parietal lobes light up too. These lobes are on the side of the brain and allow you to experience feelings of empathy. In the Christian tradition there’s a sacred text that speaks to being transformed by the renewal of your mind, and today we’re understanding that spiritual practice can actually grow your empathy and increase your ability to connect deeply with others.

Aren’t there downsides to religion?

It’s true that all of the benefits of a beloved social community can also turn negative. If acceptance lowers blood cortisol levels, rejection raises it. So many people have been battered by faith communities around the world. However, although finding an affirming community of faith is a complicated process, it is also important because it reinforces the helpful behaviors and activities listed above.

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U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Butera (left), chaplain of the Fires Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, receives ashes from Capt. Robert Allman, chaplain of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. The Regiment hosted a prayer breakfast in observance of Ash Wednesday. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Joshua Edwards)

If you’re curious, but don’t have a tradition you feel drawn to, commit to doing some research. Maybe take a cultural literacy course on world religions to orient yourself. Then, carve out time to ask yourself big questions in a sincere way. Do some research, some learning, and look for an affirming faith community that feels like an authentic choice and fit.

The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.  

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Resources

This PTSD and trauma-engagement program welcomes veterans of all faith backgrounds. It provides resource for active duty servicemembers and veterans looking to bring spirituality to their day to day.

  • Big Question Inspiration
  • What has “faith” or “spirituality” looked like in my past? What does it mean to me?
  • How would I assess my current spiritual health? Do I spend time on it? Do I think about it at all?
  • What do I believe?
  • Where do I need to go to learn more?
  • Who can I reach out to as I figure this out?

About the Author

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s deck guns are getting a hypervelocity upgrade

The Navy is revamping its Mk 45 deck-mounted 5-inch guns to enhance near-term combat performance while also exploring long-range, hypervelocity projectiles for the guns in the future.


The Office of Naval Research is currently conducting a Future Naval Capabilities program to mature hypervelocity projectile technologies that support range extension of 5-inch gun capabilities, Colleen O’Rourke, Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

“This effort could potentially transition to a development program; initial studies are being assessed,” she added.

Upgraded Mk 45 guns can, when fired from Navy cruisers and destroyers, not only attack surface and land targets but also, as technology evolves, increasingly attack enemy drones, helicopters, or even incoming enemy missiles.

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The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) fires its MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun during a weapons training exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)

In existence since the 70s, Navy 5-inch gun weapons can be used to attack enemy targets or lay down suppressive fire so that maritime forces can better maneuver or reposition while in battle.

More reading: Navy looking for more lethal deck-mounted guns

However, current 5-inch guns, called Mk 45, have a maximum effective range of up to 13 or 15 miles, and the current rounds are unguided and lack precision, so many rounds need to be fired in order to ensure that targets are destroyed.

Updates to the Mk 45 Mod 4 configuration, awarded to BAE Systems by the Navy, include a structurally strengthened gun mount and more advanced electronics.

“With its stronger mount, the gun can achieve 50 percent higher firing energy, allowing munitions or projectiles to travel faster and farther. Its new fully digitized control system also provides significantly greater computing power and features a touch-screen user interface,” a BAE Systems statement said.

Meanwhile, Navy officials say the future-oriented program is leveraging commercial electronics miniaturization and computational performance increases to develop a common guided projectile for use in current 5-inch guns and future high-velocity gun systems. The HVP effort will seek to increase range and accuracy of the 5-Inch Gun Weapon System in support of multiple mission areas, service developers told Warrior.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Particle debris ignites as a test slug exits the Office of Naval Research 32 MJ Electromagnetic Railgun laboratory launcher located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. (US Navy)

Developed initially for an Electromagnetic Rail Gun next-generation weapon, a Hyper Velocity Projectile, or HVP, is now being examined for a range of additional applications. The HVP can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second when fired from a Rail Gun, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons.

The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute. Also, due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary.

Development of the HVP projectile can take place apart from its use in an actual Rail Gun, as is the case with efforts to adapt it to Navy 5-inch guns.

While the precise speed, range and rate of fire for a HVP fired from Navy 5-inch guns may still be a work in progress, the use of the projectile brings the possibility of a number of unprecedented combat advantages.

Related: The Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships are getting hellfire missiles

Using a HVP for 5-inch guns such as an increased ability to quickly attack long range targets. The speed of the HVP could naturally give Commanders a better opportunity to make real-time, combat-relevant decisions by virtue of being able to hit targets farther away at faster speeds. The projectile could be fired for both offensive and defensive missions, attacking enemy anti-ship missiles, land targets or ships.

A kinetic energy hypervelocity warhead also lowers the cost and the logistics burden of the weapon, Navy developers explained.

Although it has the ability to intercept cruise missiles, the hypervelocity projectile can be stored in large numbers on ships. Unlike other larger missile systems designed for similar missions, the hypervelocity projectile costs only $25,000 per round, officials said.

Also read: China just mounted a futuristic railgun onto one of its ships

The HVP effort is in keeping with existing Pentagon strategy which aims to harness promising emerging technologies and integrate them with existing weapons systems; the concept is designed to take advantage of next-generation weapons technology on a faster timeframe by connecting them with existing systems, instead of waiting years for a developmental program to mature. This concept informed former Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s creation of the Strategic Capabilities Office.

In fact, the SCO has also test firing the HVP from an Army Howitzer to leverage the technical and combat advantage of the projectile in near term operational scenarios.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest memes for the week of November 16th

The weeks between major four-day weekends always blow. You get into a rhythm of sitting on your ass, drinking, and playing video games for an extended period of time only to have a few days of extremely intense duty to make up for all the work you’ve been missing and will miss over the holidays.

Meanwhile, you’re getting pressure to get that damn certificate in to the training room because Uncle Sam won’t let you take block leave unless you’ve proven to them that your car isn’t sh*t and you won’t drive while tired.

But on the bright side, it’s payday week and there’re a lot of video games coming out for you to waste your paycheck on. Anyway, enjoy some memes.


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(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

1. What’s worse? Dealing with 110-degree heat, the constant threat of enemy attacks, actual enemy attacks, incoming mortar fire at 0200, and being treated like absolute garbage by your unit, foreign allies, and the locals you’re defending or dealing with your civilian coworker’s bullsh*t on Monday mornings?

Tough call.

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(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

(Meme via Military Memes)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

(Meme via Private News Network)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

(Meme via I am an American Soldier)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY TRENDING

These soldiers fought off COVID-19 and still graduated basic training

Two of the U.S. Army newest soldiers recently earned bragging rights by completing Basic Combat Training after surviving bouts with the novel coronavirus.

Roughly eight weeks ago, 21-year-old Pvt. Carlos Mora and 36-year-old Spc. Juan Guajardo began suffering from COVID-19 symptoms while going through Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.


“I woke up in the morning and felt horrible,” Mora said in a recent Army news release. “I had a high fever, and I had slight pain. I told the drill sergeants, and they took me to the hospital.”

Guajardo said he has no idea how he got the virus.

“I got a fever, really weak and I had aches,” he said. “I coughed a lot and, when I blew my nose, I had red spots. I went to the hospital, and they did the test. I was positive.”

Army leaders halted the shipment of recruits to BCT for two weeks in early April to beef up testing protocols at the training centers. The Center for Initial Military Training (CIMT) had already taken several aggressive steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — ranging from multiple screenings to separating new arrivals at BCT from the main population during the first two weeks of training.

Despite the precautions, about 50 soldiers tested positive for the virus at Jackson in early April.

So far, there have been 6,118 cases of COVID-19 among uniformed members of the U.S. military. Of those, 3,460 service members have recovered and three have died, according to Pentagon figures released May 26.

Mora and Guajardo were both assigned to Jackson’s 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, when they began feeling ill, according to the release.

It’s not clear how severely the virus affected Mora or Guajardo since the Army would not release specific details about their condition or individual treatment, citing patient-privacy restrictions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Meg Reed, spokeswoman for CIMT, told Military.com.

“I wasn’t too bad. I was out of breath and had a cough,” Mora said in the release. “Others had it worse. It scared me because they were about my age too.”

Guarjardo said he was more worried about his mother, who was concerned that she hadn’t heard from him.

“She was very worried about me,” Guajardo said in the release. “She’s in Mexico, and it’s bad there. I’m scared for her, but she is staying inside and away from people.”

After two weeks, both Mora and Guajardo were feeling better and soon tested negative at Moncrief Army Health Clinic, according to the release.

Overall, both missed about three weeks of training, so they had to be reassigned to the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment.

On May 14, Mora and Guajardo walked across Jackson’s Hilton Field with fellow BCT graduates in a ceremony that was streamed on Facebook for friends and family members, according to the release.

“It took me an extra week to breathe right again,” Mora said of his return to training. “I made it, though.”

Mora is scheduled to take advanced individual training at Fort Lee, Virginia, to become a wheeled vehicle mechanic.

Guajardo said he “really wanted to graduate with my old company,” but the Army Reserve soldier is looking forward to going to AIT at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become an information technology specialist and “being able to talk to my family every day again,” the release states.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

Did blowing into Nintendo cartridges actually do anything?

When I was a kid we used to blow on Nintendo games if they didn’t work and I’ve always wondered if this actually did anything?

Once upon a time a seemingly universally known trick to get a Nintendo game cartridge to work was to simply pull it out, blow on it, then re-insert. If this didn’t give the desired result, this process was generally repeated until the magic happened. For the truly desperate among us, blowing inside the console opening itself was common practice in hopes that this would finally get the game to work. The general rational for why this worked was that it gave a better connection via blowing dust off the many pins. This all brings us to the question of the hour — did blowing your cartridge actually do anything?

To begin with, it is true that the root of the problem in question was almost always a bad connection between the internal connector and the pins on the game cartridge’s internal board. This was a notorious issue on the NES particularly which used a so called “zero insertion force” (ZIF) 72 pin connector. The particular insertion design for the NES was inspired by VCR’s — the idea being to differentiate the NES from top loading consoles of the day, give kids a loading method they were already familiar with, and potentially reduce the chances of kids breaking something when over forcing things as occasionally happened with top loader designs.


The ZIF connector here used pins made of nickel, bent slightly to give a spring effect. When the cartridge was inserted they’d bend slightly, and then spring back when the cartridge was removed. There are a few problems with this mechanism. To begin with, given very frequent insertions in an application like the NES, these pins were prone to losing their spring effect relatively quickly. Further, to achieve close to the stated claim of “zero insertion force” the pins on the ZIF connector weren’t that strongly springy to begin with.

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(Photo by Jason Leung)

On top of this, the pins on the cartridges were usually made of copper, making them already prone to eventually developing a nice layer of patina (think the green on the Statue of Liberty) whether you blew them or not, further making a good connection less reliable over time.

Moving on to the seemingly universally known trick of blowing on the pins both inside the case and in the cartridges themselves, this would impart moisture onto the metal, significantly increasing the development of forms of corrosion as well as potentially resulted in dust and other particles sticking to the pins. This can also very quickly result in the growth of things on the pins, like some sort of gamer inspired Petri dish.

On this note, while you might not think the moisture from your breath would make things that much worse, gaming guru and host of TheDPPodcast Frankie Viturello gave a good example of just the effect this could have. Viturello took two copies of the game Gyromite, one to be blown, the other to sit around on a shelf in the same room as the other. He then blew on the one copy ten times in quick succession each day, essentially in the same basic way gamers the world over do when trying to fix the game so it works.

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Giphy

Certainly a much bigger sample size and much more detailed data would be needed for more definitive results. (For example, it would be interesting to track the number of failures after insertion of a game, along with the number of blows, the humidity levels over time, etc. compared to a control group of games and consoles and then with a sample of years and many games and consoles tabulate all that and write a fascinating paper on the subject.) However, this much more basic experiment did very clearly demonstrate the significant effect blowing on the pins has, with the blown on pins developing a clearly visible layer of something over the course of the month and the 300 blows. Viturello’s conclusion here was nicely summed up, “Could this… be cleaned up post test and returned to 100% working condition? Sure. Probably. But right now it’s fucking gross.”

It should also be noted here while the pins on the games could have been relatively easily cleaned, the pins on the ZIF connector inside the console are note quite as easily restored to their former shiny selves without taking the console apart, making blowing inside the console itself an even worse idea. Although, thankfully these days a replacement ZIF connector is both cheap (around ) and easy to install if one does have to resort to taking the console apart anyway.

It is perhaps no surprise from all of this that when this blowing method of “fixing” cartridges that weren’t working in a given instance became popular, Nintendo themselves started explicitly stating in their NES Game Pak Troubleshooting: “Do not blow into your Game Paks or systems. The moisture in your breath can corrode and contaminate the pin connectors.”

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A Nintendo Entertainment System video game console with controller attached.

And while bad connections did become less of a problem with the release of future consoles like the Super Nintendo and the N64, occasional blowing before insertion was still a thing, resulting in Nintendo actually putting a message on the back of every N64 game cartridge again saying not to blow on the pins.

In the end, unless there was a significant and very visible layer of dust or other debris on the pins, blowing on them wouldn’t have accomplished anything useful outside of a bit of moisture from your breath maybe helping get a slightly higher probability of a good connection on insertion. But even this potential extremely minor, if any, benefit would be significantly outweighed by the long term downsides of blowing on the pins. The real benefit of this blowing method was seemingly just that you were removing the cartridge and putting it back in, thus, re-seating it and giving the potential for a proper connection.

Finally, funny enough, while the blowing method was seemingly universally known despite it not really doing anything other than making the problem worse long term, there was one other drastically lesser known trick for fixing the issue that actually did work in some cases. This was wedging something (like another game pak) in the console between the game and the top of the slot. This put added pressure on the loaded cartridge which could, if done right, add pressure between the ZIF connector pins and the pins on the game board, thus making a better connection.

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Giphy

Bonus Fact:

Ever wonder how the gun in the original Duck Hunt game knew if you actually hit something on the screen? Well, wonder no more. The Duck Hunt gun primarily just consists of a button (the trigger) and a photodiode (light sensor). When you pull the trigger, this causes the game to make the TV screen go completely black for one frame. At this point, the game uses the light sensor to sample the black color it’s reading from your TV to give it a reference point for the given ambient light at the time. In the next frame, the game causes the target area to turn white, with the rest remaining black. If the game detects a shift from black to white from the gun’s photodiode in that split second, it knows you were aiming correctly at the target and so doesn’t specifically need to know anything about where on the screen the target is. For games with multiple targets at any given time, the same type of method is used except multiple target frames are shown. So the game will flash the black reference screen; then will flash one of the targets, leaving the rest of the screen black; then flashes the next target, again leaving the rest of the screen black; and so on. The game knows which target is hit, if any, by which frame is currently being shown when a light shift is detected.

Interestingly, if you read over the patent for the NES Zapper Gun, one of the main features they point out which separates their gun from previously patented light detecting guns is that in the “preferred embodiment” of their system, it has the ability to distinguish between multiple targets in one frame. However, that’s not actually what they did in the NES system as noted.

In contrast, in a “one frame” system, it uses a signal from the TV itself. This signal is in the form of pulses which signify the start of the horizontal and vertical retracing. The computer hooked up to the TV can use these pulses to more or less tell what area is currently being traced on the TV; it can then time this with a shift in light detected by the photodiode. Thus, with precise enough timing, it is able to detect which target is being hit in just one frame.

With this method, the flash can happen fast enough that it’s nearly imperceptible to most people, unlike in the actual NES system where when multiple targets are shown, most people can perceive the flash. The NES system did use the vertical retrace signal to be able to detect the start of each frame though, but didn’t use it to detect anything about the position of the target as in the “preferred embodiment” described in the patent.

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

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