The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

For most people, surviving the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Europe would be the defining moment of their lives. Men like Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow aren’t most people. The Lithuanian-born Shachnow survived a forced labor camp and went on to join the U.S. Army, serve in Vietnam, and lead the Army Special Forces’ ultra-secret World War III would-be suicide mission in Berlin during the Cold War.


He was only in his mid-50s when the Berlin Wall came down. After almost 40 years in the U.S. Army, he was inducted in the Infantry Officer’s Hall of Fame and is still regarded as a Special Forces legend. He passed away in his North Carolina home at age 83 on Sept. 18, 2018. His life and service are so legendary, inside and out of the Special Forces community, that it’s worth another look.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Young Shachnow with his mother, ca. 1941.

Shachnow was born in Soviet Lithuania in 1934. In 1941, an invasion from Nazi Germany overran the Red Army in the opening stages of Operation Barbarossa. Initially greeted as liberators, the Nazis soon began their policy of Lebensraum – “living space” – to create room for German settlers to populate areas of Eastern Europe that Hitler believed should be reserved for the greater German Reich.

This meant the people already living in those areas, which included Shachnow’s native Lithuania, would have to be removed — either through physically removing them or extermination. The young Shachnow was not only a native Lithuanian, he was also from a Jewish family. He spent three years in the Kovno concentration camp. He survived where most of his extended family did not. When the Red Army liberated the camp, Shachnow fled West.

“After I finished that experience, I was very cynical about people,″ he told the Fayetteville Observer. “I didn’t trust people. I thought that there is a dark side to people. If you leave things to people, they’ll probably screw things up.″

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Shachnow’s Basic Training Photo.

(U.S. Army)

He escaped his past life on foot, traveling across Europe, headed west across the then-burgeoning Iron Curtain, and eventually found himself in U.S.-occupied Nuremberg. There, he worked selling rare goods on the black market until he was able to get a visa to the United States.

By 1950, the young man obtained his visa and moved to the United States, eventually settling in Salem, Mass. to go to school. He was ultimately unsuccessful there because he could hardly speak English. The place he did find acceptance was in the U.S. Army. He enlisted and worked to receive his high school education as he quickly gained rank. After he made Sergeant First Class in the 4th Armored Division in 1960, he earned a commission as an Army infantry officer. In 1962, he joined the outfit where he would spend the next 32 years: The U.S. Army’s Special Forces.

He put on his Green Beret just in time to serve in the Vietnam War. Assigned to Detachment A-121, he was at An Long on Vietnam’s Mekong River border with Cambodia. He served two tours in the country, earning a Silver Star and, after being wounded in an action against Communist troops, the Purple Heart.

While fighting in Vietnam, then-Capt. Shachnow was shot in the leg and arm. According to biographers, these both happened in a single action. He applied tourniquets to both wounds and continued fighting, trying to ensure all his men were well-led and came out alive. As he recovered from his wounds, he was sent home from his first tour, only to come down with both tuberculosis and Typhoid Fever. He recovered from those illnesses along with a few others.

After recovering from his wounds and illnesses, he returned to the United States, where he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and a promotion to Major. He was sent back to Vietnam, this time with the 101st Airborne, with whom he earned a second Silver Star.

In Vietnam he felt the very real heat of the Cold War against Communism but it would be his next assignment – on the front line of the Cold War – that would be his most memorable, most defining, most secret, and certainly the craziest. He was sent to a divided Berlin to command Detachment A, Berlin Brigade.

The unit’s orders were to prepare to disrupt the Soviet Bloc forces from deep inside enemy territory in the event of World War III. It was a suicide mission and they all knew it. To a man, they carried out these orders anyway.

For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for years on end, the men of Special Forces Detachment A Berlin squared off against foreign militaries, East German and Russian intelligence agencies, and other diplomatic issues. They wore civilian clothes and carried no real identification — the very definition of a “spook.”

Related: A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

These men trained and prepared for global war every day of their service in Berlin. Capture meant torture and death, even in the daily routine of their regular jobs, and Sidney Shachnow was their leader. He was so successful that the reality of Det-A’s mission didn’t come to light until relatively recently in American history. When the Berlin Wall fell, he was the overall commander of all American forces in Berlin.

He was in command of the city at the heart of the country responsible for the deaths of his family members.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

After the Cold War, Shachnow went on to earn degrees from Shippenburg State College and Harvard as well as the rank of Major General. He commanded the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, Army Special Forces Command, and became Chief of Staff, 1st Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, among other assignments. He was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment in 2007. His autobiography, Hope Honor, was published in 2004.

He died in the care of his wife Arlene at age 83 in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Gone, but not forgotten.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why this 78-year-old Korea and Vietnam vet is finishing college

Malcolm Williams doesn’t think he’s remarkable.

“I don’t know what story you can write about me except that I’m here,” quipped the dapper 78-year-old during an interview in his modest apartment just off the Clemson University campus. Dressed in his typically stylish manner, with dress slacks, a button-up shirt and fine leather shoes, Williams certainly doesn’t look 78 and, as a college sophomore studying computer information systems, doesn’t act 78 either.


But there’s nothing extraordinary about that, he says. He isn’t back in school in his late 70s because of some insatiable zest for life. He just needs a good job.

“Everything I’ve done in life I’ve done late. I’m the only clown in my whole family that didn’t get a degree,” he said. “When they started dying on me I said I’d better get back to school.”

Both of his parents and his only sibling, a younger sister, have passed away, and since he’s fairly new to the Upstate he doesn’t have any close friends in the area.

“Basically, I don’t have anybody,” he said matter-of-factly. “Let’s face it, it’s all up to me now.”

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Malcolm Williams, 78, a rising sophomore at Clemson University studying computer systems, in his apartment in Clemson.

Williams has a tendency to downplay his life and didn’t particularly relish telling his story, but as he talks it becomes clear that, despite what he may think, he is quite extraordinary.

Born in 1939 in Highland Park, Michigan, his mother, Esther, was a substitute teacher, and his father, David was a graduate of Columbia University who spent 50 years working at Ford Motor Company.

Because of his father’s position, Williams enjoyed a privileged upbringing and could rely on support from his parents throughout his life. Nevertheless, he joined the Army in 1956 straight out of high school and served in both Korea and Vietnam as a surgical technician and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles.”

He experienced the South for the first time when he was sent to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, for medical training. It was his first time away from Michigan.

“When I got to Fort Sam, I had never seen signs that said ‘Black Only’ or ‘White Only’,” he said. “It was a real eye-opener. I said, ‘Oh mercy this is going to be pure hell and it was.'”

Williams was sent to a Nike missile base in Illinois, and then to Fort Campbell, Tennessee. They gave him the nickname ‘Doc.’ One night he went to a local bar with two dozen soldiers from his company and experienced a scene right out of a movie.

“The guy behind the bar looked right at me and said ‘I don’t serve n——’,” calling him a racial slur, recalled Williams. “The guys in my group said, ‘You ain’t going to serve who?’ They said, ‘Well guess what – if you don’t serve Doc you won’t serve any of us. We all walked out together and never went back.'”

That was his first taste of a brotherhood that would follow him all the way to Clemson.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Williams attends an introduction to sociology class in Brackett Hall.

Williams’ Army career took him all over the country and the world. He was stationed with the 249th Surgical Detachment at a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) in Korea, and then in the U.S. Army 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon, Vietnam. All told, he spent six years in the Army caring for soldiers.

He downplays that too, balking at being called a hero, or even a veteran.

“I never saw war,” he said. “I got to Korea after the war, and then I got to Vietnam before the war, so I’m a peacetime veteran.”

His fellow veterans disagree with that assessment.

“The military needs all sorts of people doing all sorts of jobs to make it work,” said Sam Wigley, a Marine veteran, Clemson graduate and outreach director for Upstate Warrior Solution, a nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans in the Upstate area of South Carolina. “I’m sure if Malcolm asked those wounded fellows he was working on if they thought he was an important part of the military and a veteran they would not hesitate to agree.”

Williams got out of the Army in 1962 as a specialist second class and spent the next few years trying to figure out what to do with his life. He describes a definitively 1960s Detroit existence during those years. He tells of dating songwriter Janie Bradford — who wrote “Money, (That’s What I Want)” and several other hits — while he was still in the Army. He said that while he was with her he became something of a fixture at Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. studio.

“Janie and I dated for four years. She had three secretaries at one time at the Motown office and I had to go through all three just to meet her for lunch,” he laughed. They also put him to work. At one point he was enlisted to chauffeur The Supremes to appearances.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Malcolm Williams.

“My dad had a convertible Thunderbird and [Motown founder] Berry Gordy would ask me to ride the Supremes around in it. I didn’t like him, but at the time The Supremes were struggling, so I said, ‘I can’t do this all the time, because it’s my father’s car, but I’ll take you around,'” he chuckled.

He landed work as a bartender in the Detroit club scene, where he rubbed elbows with people like Jackie Wilson and Dinah Washington. After that he moved to California for a time (“People are kooky there – I think they get too much sun.”), then returned to Michigan to attend college at Ferris State College in Big Rapids, where he became a charter brother of the school’s Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity chapter in 1966. He left before graduating when state funding to the school was cut, leaving him without the means to continue.

He spent the next portion of his life as an auditor for technology companies, which kept him moving around the country until an old Army friend convinced him to move to Greenville in 2001. He worked for Columbus Serum Company until the company was sold in 2008.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, he was 68 and unemployed. Retirement was not an option — that’s what old people do. It was time to figure out the next chapter. In the meantime, he found a place in the Brockwood Senior Living center.

“I didn’t like the ‘senior’ part,” he said. “Everybody there was just vegetating.”

Williams knew that he couldn’t become stagnant. He recalls Henry Ford II at his father’s retirement ceremony asking, “Well Dave, what are you going to do now?”

“My dad said ‘I’ll keep at it,'” said Williams. “But he didn’t. He only lived two years after his retirement. It was tragic. He was 72 when he died and he should have had all kinds of years left.”

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Williams chats with a student on the way to class. “Apparently I’m an inspiration because of my age,” he told her when she asked why a photographer was following him around.

Already having outlived his father by several years, he enrolled at Greenville Technical College to avoid the same demise.

“I have a Ph.D. in dressing. I can tie a bow tie,” he said. “But I’m tired of just looking like I’m educated, so I enrolled because I want to be educated, not vegetated.”

After several semesters at Greenville Technical College, Williams decided to seek a four-year college degree. He set his sights just down the road on the home of the Tigers. He’d heard nothing but good things about Clemson since moving to South Carolina, so he figured he might as well go for the best.

He applied and, being an honor student at GTC, was immediately accepted. Now his only problem was getting to class. Clemson was an hour-long bus ride away, and that sufficed for a while, but it was exhausting. He needed to move closer, but he hadn’t worked since 2008, so he had no resources to make that happen.

That’s when his brothers-in-arms stepped in. When Wigley and the other administrators of Upstate Warrior Solution found out Williams was in need, they contacted the Clemson Student Veteran Association to help. On a cool and overcast Saturday in January 2018, a squad of Clemson student veterans, strangers until that moment, showed up at Williams’ apartment in Greenville. They loaded his belongings into their cars and moved him to an apartment they had found for him in Clemson. He was one day away from the end of his lease.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Williams with the group of student veterans that moved him into his new apartment.

It was a reminder from his fellow veterans that, even though he might feel alone sometimes, he is not and never will be.

“This is anecdotal evidence of what every veteran knows: that the bond between service members transcends race, gender, generational gaps, political affiliations, military branches and occupations, and even wars,” said Brennan Beck, Clemson’s assistant director for Military and Veteran Engagement, who was one of the vets that helped Williams move that day. “Despite all of our differences, we’re connected by what unites us: our sworn service to defending and serving our country in the U.S. military. That’s the strongest bond.”

Williams said those student veteran Tigers probably kept him from becoming homeless that day. He’d had a few reservations about coming back to the American South, where he first experienced blatant racism, but those fears abated as his fellow vets and the greater Clemson family welcomed him with open arms.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Williams adjusts his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity hat in his apartment in Clemson.

“I did have a few unpleasant thoughts about coming back to the South,” he said. “However, while I have struggled to adapt to university life, Clemson’s administration and its faculty continue to encourage me and treat me with dignity and respect.”

Now, Williams gets up every day and goes to class like very other student and hopes to become a consultant after graduating two years from now at the age of 80.

“I used to say, ‘Oh well I’ve got time,'” he reflected. “Well, you don’t have time. Believe me. You get to be 20, all of a sudden you’re 30, then all of a sudden you’re 40. Hey, time flies. Next year I’ll be 79 and I’m still trying to get an education.”

Williams has taken up studying German in his spare time and likes to recite his favorite quote: Wir werden zu früh alt, schlau zu spä.

“It means ‘We get old too soon, smart too late,'” he said, nodding gently. “Don’t I know it.”

Whether he knows it or not, he’s having an impact on the people around him just by being here.

“He inspires me,” said Ken Robinson, associate professor of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice and a charter member of Clemson’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. “To hear his story is very encouraging. I was introduced to Malcolm by a graduate student who knew that he was an Alpha and recommended that I meet him. Well, I reached out to Malcolm and I’m very pleased that he’s here. I think it’s really good for his fellow students to interact with him and to learn from his rich experience.”

Williams remains nothing if not pragmatic about what lies ahead for him.

“I’m going to stay with it until I graduate, if I live,” he said, pensively. “When I dress up I want that big Clemson ring on my hand. Dylan Thomas said ‘Don’t go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ That sticks in my mind all the time. If I go out of here I’m going out kicking and screaming, and that’s a fact.”

Images: Clemson University Relations

This article originally appeared on Clemson University Newsstand. Follow @ClemsonUniv on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This mayor saved his town by drinking 3 liters of wine at once

There are no wars like religious wars, and the wars between early protestants and Catholics are no exception. They tend to be particularly destructive and brutal. Such was the 1618-1648 Thirty Years War, which was one of the most destructive in human history. The German town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber might have met the same fate as many before it were it not for the legendary wine it produced and the extraordinary consumption ability of its Bürgermeister, Georg Nusch.


The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Prost. Prost to the Max.

Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly led the Catholic armies of the Thirty Years War. For 11 of those 30 years, Tilly dominated the protestant forces, sacking and destroying town after town with a demoralizing effect. When he arrived at Rothenberg, he was prepared to do the same to it as he had done so many other times. Legend has it he sent the city’s councilmen to death and prepared to burn the town. At the last second, he was convinced to take a glass of wine – in a large, beautifully ornate cup.

Tilly was as taken with the nearly one-gallon flagon as he was the wine itself. With his mood changed, either by the townsfolk or because of a delicious, intoxicating beverage, Tilly decided to offer the town a bargain. He said he would spare the town if anyone could slam an entire glassful of the wine – the 3.25 liter glassful – in one drink.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

When your future rests upon the fate of a bar bet.

Anyone in the town was free to try, but there was a catch. Anyone who failed to down the full glass in a single go would be put to death. The choice was clear: die trying to drink the wine or die by the sword when the Catholics torch the town. That’s when fate the mayor stepped in.

The glass itself was new. No one had ever really downed a whole glass tankard of wine in one drink. No one knew they should have been practicing all these years. But that was okay. The people of Rothenberg elected him to take care of the town, and by choice and by duty, Georg Nusch was going to be the first man to make the attempt.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

And ever since, no one could stop talking about it.

When Nusch walked in, he took the tankard, and downed the entire 3.25 liters of wine, all in one go. Everyone watching, especially Tilly, was suitably impressed. True to his word, Tilly spared the town, and the locals have been telling the legend of Der Meistertrunk (the Master Drink) for some 400 years now. They even wrote a play about it, which is retold better and better (like most bar stories) with every retelling.

But most notably, the story is retold in the clock tower of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the 17th-century Ratstrinkstube. When the clock strikes the hour, a door opens and out comes Count Tilly on one side, and the other side comes Mayor Nusch, who puts a drink to his lips for as long as the clock chimes.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia plans hypersonic missile, F-35 killer for top fighter

Russia reportedly plans to arm its most advanced fighter jet with a powerful hypersonic air-to-air missile that can take aim at aircraft nearly two hundred miles away, making them a potential threat to critical US air assets.

The Su-57 multipurpose fighter jet, a fifth-generation stealth fighter built for air superiority and complex attack operations that is still in development, will be armed with the new R-37M, an upgraded version of an older long-range air-to-air missile, Russia Today reported Sept. 27, 2018, citing defense officials.

The Russian Ministry of Defense is reportedly close to completing testing for this weapon, the development of which began after the turn of the century.


With a reported operational range of 186 to 248 miles and a top speed of Mach 6 (4,500 mph), the R-37M is designed to eliminate rear support aircraft, critical force multipliers such as early warning and aerial refueling aircraft. Russia asserts that the missile possesses an active-seeker homing system that allows it to target fighter jets during the terminal phase of flight.

While Russia initially intended to see the weapon carried by the MiG-31 interceptors, these missiles are now expected to become the primary weapons of the fourth-generation Su-30s and Su-35s, as well as the next-generation Su-57s. The weapon’s specifications were modified to meet these demands.

The Russians are also apparently developing another very long-range air-to-air missile — the KS-172, a two-stage missile with a range said to be in excess of the R-37M’s capabilities, although the latter is reportedly much closer to deployment.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Mockup of the KS–172 in front of a Sukhoi Su-30.

China, another US competitor, is also reportedly developing advanced long-range air-to-air missiles that could be carried by the reportedly fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter. The China Daily reported in January 2017 that photos of a J-11B from the Red Sword 2016 combat drills appeared to show a new beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile.

“China has developed a new missile that can hit high-value targets such as early-warning planes and aerial refueling aircraft, which stay far from conflict zones,” the state-run media outlet reported, citing Fu Qianshao, an equipment researcher with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

Slow, vulnerable rear-support aircraft improve the overall effectiveness of key front-line fighter units, such as America’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, which just conducted its first combat mission. The best strategy to deal with this kind of advanced system is to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very-long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Fu told the China Daily, calling the suspected development of this type of weapon a “major breakthrough.”

The missiles being developed by US rivals reportedly have a greater range than the American AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), giving them a potential edge over US military aircraft.

The Russian Su-57 is expected to enter service in 2019, although the Russian military is currently investing more heavily in fourth-generation fighters like the MiG-29SMT Fulcrum and Su-35S Flanker E, which meet the country’s air combat needs for the time being. Russia canceled plans for the mass production of the Su-57 in July 2018 after a string of development problems.

There is some evidence the aircraft may have been active in Syria in early 2018, but the plane remains unready for combat at this time. Military analyst Michael Kofman previously told Business Insider that the Su-57 is “a poor man’s stealth aircraft,” adding that it doesn’t quite stack up to the F-35 or F-22.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is putting 3,500 more boots on the ground in Afghanistan

A US official has told ABC news that the Defense Secretary James Mattis authorized 3,500 additional troops to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the troop buildup associated with President Donald Trump’s South Asia Strategy.


Late last month, Trump announced his new strategy on Afghanistan which included an increase in the number of US troops to the country.

Reports in the past indicated that Mattis favored the Pentagon’s recommendation to send about 3,900 more troops to Afghanistan.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran
Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

On Sept. 8, Mattis told reporters that he had signed deployment orders for some of the additional troops that would be sent, though he would not disclose the number.

No details have however been released on when these troops will deploy.

On Sept. 6, Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats briefed members of Congress about the new strategy in Afghanistan.

Last week, the Pentagon disclosed that the number of American troops actually serving in Afghanistan was 11,000 and not the 8,400 official numbers it had been providing for some time.

Articles

This is why it was perfectly legal for a Russian plane to buzz DC

By now, you’ve heard a Russian plane recently flew around DC and the Trump golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.


And while you might think it was cause to spool up the THAAD and drop that plane in its tracks, believe it or not, they were allowed to by a 25-year-old treaty based on an idea that was nearly four decades old at the time.

The Treaty on Open Skies was first proposed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. Cold War paranoia meant it went nowhere for 37 years. After the coup that proved the end of the Soviet Union, the treaty was eventually signed by President George H. W. Bush and ratified in 1992. But it didn’t enter into force until 2002.

The treaty allows the U.S. and Russia — as well as a number of other NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries — to make surveillance flights over each other’s territory.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran
An OC-135B Open Skies aircraft goes through pre-flight checks Jan. 16, 2010, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. The OC-135 is with the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and is used to conduct observation flights in support of the Open Skies Treaty. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

According to a letter to the Senate included with the treaty, this is to “promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.” Certain planes are equipped with four types of sensors, optical panoramic and framing cameras, video cameras with real-time display, infra-red line-scanning devices, and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar. These suites are used to monitor military forces, and are certified by observers.

Which aircraft is used can vary. The United States uses the OC-135B Open Skies aircraft for this mission. Canada uses a modified C-130. Russia has a version of the Tu-154 airliner. The United Kingdom has used a mix of planes.

The exact number of flights a country may have varies, but the United States and Russia each get 42 such flights a year.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran
The Tu-214 will be Russia’s new Open Skis aircraft. (Wikimedia Commons)

They can fly any sort of flight plan – as long as they give 72 hours notice prior to the arrival. The flight must be completed in 96 hours from the time that the plane arrives. The plane on the Open Skies mission also must embark observers from the host nation on board.

So that’s why a lot of people in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area got a good look at a Russian Tu-154 — and may still see more if Putin wants another closer look.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Dutch resistance member basically MacGyver-ed the first artificial organ

What could you do with some tin cans, an old washing machine, sausage casings, and salt water? If you’re Dr. Willem Kolff, you could replace a human kidney. The Netherlander spent his formative years studying medicine in the Netherlands, especially interested in how a young twenty-something could be dying of renal failure. It was in the middle of World War II that he managed to become the father of artificial organs.


The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Thanks for nothing, MacGyver.

Kolff came to the Dutch University of Groningen in 1938, two years before the Nazis invaded Holland. As he watched a 22-year-old die slowly from kidney failure, he came to believe if he could find a way to remove the toxins from his body – the job normally performed by the kidneys – he could have saved the man’s life. Eventually, using sausage casings and salt water, he discovered the sausage casings would effectively separate urea, the waste products filtered by the kidneys, from the salt water.

Then, the Nazis invaded Holland.

His hospital in Groningen was soon filled with Nazi sympathizers. Rather than accept this and allow his advances to be used by the Third Reich, Kolff left the city and moved to rural Holland. While there, he not only defied the Nazis but took in some 800 people whom he hid from the Gestapo in his hospital, all the while continuing to work on his artificial kidney.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

The first artificial kidney, created by Dr. Kolff.

Eventually, Kolff would complete the artificial kidney, as the rest of Europe was engulfed in World War II. His design used 50 yards of sausage casing wrapped around a wooden drum, all in a salt solution. As the blood was fed into the device, the machine was rotated, which cleaned the blood. Using orange juice cans and a washing machine, he designed a water pump based on Ford motor designs. The first 15 patients died on these early dialysis machines. Then a 67-year-old woman survived.

It changed the medical world forever. Thousands of people who would otherwise die a painful death from kidney failure now had a chance at survival. By 1956, Kolff was an American citizen. He would later develop the means to oxygenate blood during bypass surgery and even an artificial heart.

Kolff died in 2009 at age 97 – of natural causes.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 5 most bizarre comic book heroes who won’t get in a movie but should

Both Marvel and DC have come up with some pretty terrible superheroes in their time – Arm Fall Off Boy comes to mind for DC, Doctor Bong for Marvel – and while an Arm Fall Off Boy appearance would be welcome in the next Wonder Woman movie, a full film about a guy who can remove his limbs at will and beat villains to death with them seems anticlimactic at best. But for every weird character and every beloved superhero, there is a small sliver in that Venn diagram of weird characters that should have their own movie.


I would watch the $%*& out of these movies.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Access

Ever wanted to see Spider-Man and Batman team up to clean the streets of Gotham of filthy criminals? Well, you can’t for the same reason that Spider-Man took forever to show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the characters are owned by different companies. But in case Disney and DC ever get desperate for that one amazing summer blockbuster, there’s a way – the DC/Marvel joint property of Access.

Access is a superhero who was shown the power to access (get it?) both universes by a bum in an alley somewhere. His duty is to keep them both separate. So if we ever want to find out if Superman can kill the Incredible Hulk or if Wonder Woman can find emotional closure through Steve Rogers’ origin, Access is the key.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

ForgetMeNot

ForgetMeNot is one of the X-Men who might have actually been in every X-Men and MCU movie ever, because we can totally just say he was and that his superpower is why we don’t recall seeing him in those movies. His superpowers include the ability to go completely unnoticed (even when right in front of someone) and to be completely forgotten once he wants to be. Even Professor X, the most powerful psychic in the universe, has to remind himself that ForgetMeNot exists.

There might have been a movie about him already, and if the special effects were worth their salt, you’ve already forgotten it. Let’s say it starred John Cazale, because I miss that guy. It was nominated for an Academy Award.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Dogwelder

If you think Joker is going to be an epic dark drama, just you wait for the release of Dogwelder. This super – we’ll say hero, because I am assured he’s a hero – constantly fights the compulsion to weld dogs to people’s faces. His career began when his wife and kids left him after he attempted to weld the family dog to his children. But luckily John Constantine appears to show him the greater power he has through the Egyptian god Anubis. He then learns to talk through dogs and weld stars together.

This movie has the potential to not only be a dark horror drama, but also a tale of redemption featuring adorable dogs and Keanu Reeves. And we all know the potential cinematic gold that comes with pairing dogs and Keanu Reeves.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Danny the Street

Speaking of dark horror, this character has some serious potential. If you’re a fan of The Amityville Horror, The Haunting, or literally any other movie about a living house, haunted house, or vengeful real estate, get ready for an entire goddamned street that is not only a living entity but has superpowers. He can teleport, fitting his street into any city, anywhere, can change the stores on the street as well as their appearances, and communicates through signs and typewriters.

Danny protects the strange, the outcasts of society, pledged to nurture all of those who need him throughout the DC universe. Think about how much better the Justice League movie would have been if the Justice League had to fight Steppenwolf on Danny the Street. You can catch Danny the Street on the Doom Patrol TV series, but c’mon – this guy deserves the silver screen.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Squirrel Girl.

Some of you are laughing, the rest of you know what I’m talking about. Squirrel Girl’s superpowers include razor-sharp teeth and claws, a prehensile squirrel tail, super strength, the ability to communicate with squirrels, and a fighting ability that saw her knock Wolverine right the $%* out. In the Marvel comics universe, this was good enough to earn her a spot as an Avenger, and only Squirrel Girl could have been the nanny for Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ baby. The crossover potential is amazing.

If you’re still scoffing at Squirrel Girl, you should know she beat Thanos by herself when it took the rest of the MCU six hours over two movies, as well as Deadpool, Galactus, and Doctor Doom. She even had to rescue Iron Man one time. Anna Kendrick has already expressed interest, and I really need to see Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Anna Kendrick’s Squirrel Girl, and Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool in a flashback movie, so let’s do this already.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bank restores funds stolen from the oldest living veteran

Bank of America restored funds to America’s oldest living veteran’s bank account after a mystery thief stole all of his savings.

Richard Overton’s relatives discovered that someone had accessed the 112-year-old’s account using his social security and personal checking account numbers, The Dallas Morning News reported.

His cousin, Volma Overton Jr., said the family was shocked when the bank said it would credit Overton’s account.


“Man, I teared up,” he said, according to The Dallas Morning News. “I couldn’t believe it. They made it happen. The executive of the company said he’d take care of this, and he took care of it.”

Bank of America, Austin police, and federal authorities are investigating the incident.

One of the World War II veteran’s cousins was making a deposit into his account when he noticed a series of illicit withdrawals.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran
Richard Overton with Volma Overton Jr.
(Richard Overton’s Go Fund Me)

“I looked at it — what the hell are these debits?” Overton’s cousin, Volma Overton Jr., told CNN affiliate KXAN.

The thief or thieves used the funds to purchase savings bonds from Treasury Direct, leaving nothing in the account.

“It’s a shock, it hurts, it hurts tremendously,” Overton Jr. said when he became aware of the theft.

The family hasn’t identified the culprit, and hopes it isn’t someone close to Overton.

It’s unclear how much money was drained from the account. Relatives described it as a “considerable amount.”

Overton, an Austin, Texas resident, volunteered for service in 1942, serving as a member of the Army‘s 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion — an all-black unit that served on various islands in the Pacific, according to the report.

He was honored by Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony in 2013.

He is also the oldest man in America, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

Overton’s family set up a GoFundMe account to help cover the costly, around-the-clock care he requires. The account saw a spike in donations after the theft was reported.

“It’s been a true blessing in disguise for us,” his cousin said.

“Everything’s back just like it was.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the allies used math to save bomber crews during WWII

When retelling stories of war, our focus tends to fall where the action was. Tales of battlefield bravery have been around for as long as there has been language and battlefields, but securing victory over a powerful foe requires more than the strength of will and courage under fire. Often, it takes the calm, calculating mind of strategic leaders, the tireless efforts of scientists and researchers, and as was the case in the skies above World War II… the unusual approach of an Austrian mathematician.


Abraham Wald was born in Austria-Hungary in 1902, and by 1931 he had completed his Ph.D. in mathematics. However, despite possessing a gifted scientific mind, Wald couldn’t find work in his home country upon his return. The problem? It was 1931, and Wald was Jewish.

By 1938, the Nazis were invading Austria and Wald and his family were on their way to the United States, where Wald had no trouble securing a job at the Cowles Research Commission in Economics, and then with the American government assisting with the war effort.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Abraham Wald.

(Konrad Jacobs via WikiMedia Commons)

Wald quickly proved to have a powerful analytical mind, making a name for himself with the U.S. government’s Statistical Research Group (SRG) where he worked on classified programs despite his status as a “potentially hostile immigrant.” Just as his Jewish heritage made him a pariah in Austria, his Austrian heritage made Wald a bit of an outcast in Uncle Sam’s ranks. He wasn’t even allowed to look at his own equations after submitting them, as the programs Wald worked on were classified. Wald’s secretary was even known to joke that her job was to yank Wald’s pages away as soon as he finished writing them “for the sake of national security.”

Despite this looming prejudice, Wald thrived in his role as a mathematician for the allies, contributing to multiple programs over the years and securing a place in history thanks to his groundbreaking work in “survivorship bias.”

Allied forces were feverishly working on ways to help their B-29 bombers survive anti-aircraft fire, but knew that limitations on weight and available resources would bar them from adding armor to the entirety of the aircraft. So they began collecting data on returning B-29s in hopes that the data would eventually produce a working theory. Soon enough, it did.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

This graphic shows where the majority of holes were recorded on returning B-29s.

(WikiMedia Commons)

Officials took note of how the B-29s that made it back were often riddled with holes in specific areas. Some of these bombers were even described in official documents as looking like “swiss cheese,” but the heaviest concentration of holes were always all over the aircraft’s fuselage. By the time they had translated their observations to hard data, they had confirmed that the fuselage and wings of the aircraft took rounds at nearly twice the rate of the aircraft’s engines.

The data seemed to be pointing at a clear answer to their problem: if the fuselage was taking the brunt of the of damage, they should add armor to that portion of the aircraft. After all, it housed all of the plane’s internal systems and its crew, it made perfect sense that taking so much fire to the fuselage must be what was bringing these bombers down.

Wald, however, knew immediately that placing armor on the fuselage of these bombers wasn’t going to solve the problem. He asserted instead that additional armor needed to be placed on the parts of the aircraft that had the smallest number of recorded bullet holes, rather than the highest. His assertion, and the premise of “survivorship bias,” was basically that these airplanes could survive taking a great deal of fire to the wings and fuselage because they were making it back riddled with holes all over both. Instead, Wald posited, it’s the places they didn’t see holes that couldn’t handle direct fire.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran

Like this but with more holes.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Erin McClellan)

Wald believed that these planes were getting hit in the engines just as often as the fuselage or wings, but because the bombers that got hit in the engines didn’t survive, no data could be collected from them. Lacking data from the aircraft that didn’t make it back had skewed the numbers to show the exact opposite of what they had been looking for.

Wald proposed adding armor to the engines, rather than the fuselage and his premise was swiftly adopted, and soon that premise was proved true. Bombers that had additional armor added to their engine shrouds saw much higher rates of return, and before long, armoring the engines of B-29s became standard practice.

In fact, Wald’s approach continues to be employed in military aircraft design today, making it hard to even guess just how many aircraft, missions, and lives Abraham Wald is ultimately responsible for saving… all through his unique combination of perspective and arithmetic.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army announces new Medal of Honor recipient

The Army announced on June 10, 2019, that former Staff Sgt. David Bellavia will receive the Medal of Honor from President Donald J. Trump in recognition of his bravery in the 2004 Battle of Fallujah where his actions were credited with saving the lives of three Army squads at great risk to himself.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jppEaa8-0Mo
Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia: Operation Phantom Fury

youtu.be

Bellavia was part of an Army company sent to assist a Marine task force in Fallujah. The task force received intel that some of the over 1,500 insurgents in the city might be hiding in a block of 12 buildings, and the soldiers were sent to root them out.

Clearing house-to-house is grueling, as every closed door that’s kicked open is another chance to stumble into an ambush or suffer an IED blast. The first nine buildings showed no enemy activity, but the kick into the 10th set off a hornet’s nest.

Bellavia described it as a bunker in the video above. The building had been prepared to counter an attack, and the fighters inside were equipped with belt-fed weapons. Bellavia’s rifle was disabled by an enemy round almost immediately, and he kept fighting with an M249 squad automatic weapon. He was able to suppress the enemy fighters, and the platoon withdrew.

But once the enemy had begun firing, they were unwilling to stop. Third platoon, with Bellavia in it, were taking fire from the roof and it was clear they wouldn’t be able to escape unless someone or something cleared out the enemy fighters in the house. Bellavia called for support from an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The armored behemoth pumped 25mm rounds into the structure as the infantryman charged back in to fight.

Bellavia fought his way up three floors, killing and least four enemy soldiers with rifle fire and grenades. One of the enemy fighters he killed was preparing to fire an RPG at third platoon when Bellavia killed him.

The soldier’s actions were credited with saving the lives of the three squads outside the house and with eliminating the enemy strongpoint. Bellavia previously received the Silver Star for his bravery, but will now receive the Medal of Honor.

He left the Army in 2005 and currently works in Buffalo, New York, as a radio host.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gulf War Veteran goes “fishing with America’s finest”

William “Bill” Watts, Sr., earned numerous awards during his service, which included tours in Egypt and Korea and service as a Gulf War combat Veteran. But the reward he values most today is the one he receives as an advocate helping his fellow Gulf War Veterans with their individual challenges.

“I am in favor of Veterans helping Veterans. Quality of life begins with quality of health care,” said Watts. Watts’ work with Veterans has earned him the Congressional Veterans Commendation Award. His work includes volunteering with Veterans in his community and meeting with researchers and health professionals to make sure that the health concerns of Gulf War Veterans are recognized and addressed.


Watts (photo above) and others are now marking the 30th anniversary of their Gulf War service. Watts served in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 1996. He was in the 4/5 ADA 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd Infantry Division, 24th Infantry Division and 3rd Infantry Division.

Fishing the Everglades to reduce stress

One of Watts’ passions is helping Veterans manage their health problems by finding non-drug alternatives. As a resident of the South Florida city of Doral, he volunteers with the non-profit Fishing with America’s Finest and also serves as the group’s director of operations. Fishing with America’s Finest takes combat Veterans bass fishing in the Florida Everglades to help reduce the stress and anxiety from PTSD.

“We try to teach them to the point that they can go on fishing tournaments if they want to.” He is also a team member of Dive4Vets, a group that takes Veterans who suffer from physical and mental health issues scuba diving to help to heal. Watts is eligible for the Gulf War Registry and Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pits Registry and enrolled many years ago.

Researching the health of Gulf War Veterans

Watts understands that some Gulf War Veterans are older. They may not be comfortable with completing an online-only registry like the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. A local Environmental Health Coordinator can help with this process.

Watts also is a member of VA’s Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. He participates in research on the health of Gulf War Veterans at the Miami VA Hospital. He also volunteers to coordinate and recruit local Veterans for research.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is looking for ways to keep generals from misbehaving

Struggling with an embarrassing series of misconduct and behavior problems among senior officers, the Army is putting together new mental health, counseling, and career management programs to shape stronger, more ethical leaders.


The programs stem from a broader worry across the military about the need to bolster professionalism within the officer corps while holding accountable those who abuse their power. The Army plan appears to focus more on building character than berating bad conduct.

In recent years, general officers from the one-star to four-star level have violated the military code of conduct they’ve lived under and enforced — often for decades. Some infractions involved extramarital affairs, inappropriate relationships with subordinates, or improper use of government funds.

Also read: This is why ‘General Butt Naked’ was the most feared warlord in Liberia

“The idea that we’ll be perfect, I think, is unrealistic, but we can be better and we strive to be better,” said Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, tasked by the Army’s top officer to review the problem and devise ways to strengthen the senior officer corps. “Competence is no longer enough. Character is as or even more important.”

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran
Maj. Gen. John G. Rossi, Feb. 11, 2015. Photo by David Vergun.

Among the incidents fueling the order was the suicide of Maj. Gen. John Rossi shortly before he was to become lieutenant general and assume control of Space and Missile Defense Command. Army leaders worry they missed opportunities to deal with the high levels of stress and self-doubt that reportedly led Rossi to hang himself.

In the past nine months, the Army found two senior officers guilty of misconduct, forcing them out of their jobs and demoting them as they retired. One lost two stars; the other lost three.

“We recognized senior executive leaders, with varying amounts of stress, lacked a holistic program that focuses on comprehensive health,” said Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff. The military has strived to combat stress disorders, suicide, and other problems, he said, but the focus often has been on enlisted troops or lower-ranking officers.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran
General Mark Milley. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marisol Walker.

A new emphasis on senior leaders is needed, he said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Cardon said several pilot programs have started and others are under discussion.

The Army, he said, needs to better help officers manage stress, organize calendars, make time for physical fitness, take time off, and reach out to mentors or coaches for support.

Cardon said a key effort is finding ways to build self-control and self-awareness, ensuring officers and their families can quickly recognize and deal with problems that arise. Ethical behavior should be reinforced.

More reading: That time a Navy admiral left Marines hanging during a Japanese attack

“Most generals are very good at morphing themselves,” Cardon said. “They can be with the troops and they present this persona. They can be with the secretary and they present that persona. They’re very good at it and they get even better. The challenge is how do you uncover all that, and I think this is where that self-awareness, self-control, self-mastery has to help us out.”

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran
Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon. Photo by David Vergun.

Accurate numbers of senior Army leaders who have been disciplined or fired from a job for bad behavior are limited and unreliable. Some officers quietly retire or move to a different post, sometimes with an official reprimand in the file. Or sometimes without.

In response to a request for data, the Army said there have been nine general officers “relieved of duty” among active duty, the National Guard, and Army Reserves since 2012. Two high-profile cases in which senior officers were forced out and demoted weren’t included in those statistics due to complicated legal or administrative reasons, making it clear the numbers underestimate the problem.

One pilot program, said Cardon, creates a one-stop health care facility replacing the military’s often far-flung, disjointed, multistep system. It’s modeled after executive clinics that take a more in-depth, holistic approach to medical care.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran
Gen. Arthur Lichte. The US Air Force has stripped retired Gen. Arthur Lichte of two ranks and docked a portion of his retirement pay due to sexual misconduct. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse.

Other ideas focus on time management, encouraging high-level officers to take longer vacations. He said every general should take 10 to 14 uninterrupted days off each year to unplug, breaking with a military culture making them believe they’re too important to disconnect.

On schedules, officers would be urged not to overbook themselves. Packing their calendars with events all day and every evening can increase stress and make it difficult to prioritize.

The role that chaplains, mentors, executive coaches, and colleagues can play is being studied, and how individual or group discussions might help.

Too often, three-star and four-star generals working as base commanders are posted in remote locations around the world and have few or no equals in rank to socialize with or ask for advice. They can become isolated, ego-driven, or surrounded by subordinates afraid to challenge them on inappropriate behavior.

The insane life of this Holocaust survivor and Special Forces veteran
Army Maj. Gen. Wayne W. Grigsby. Grigsby has since been demoted by the Army and forced to retire after an investigation determined that he had an inappropriate relationship with a junior officer. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie.

A possibility, said Cardon, are programs strengthening officers’ relationships with spouses, who often notice problems first. Ninety percent of the approximately 330 active duty generals are married, he said.

Army officials stress only a minority of general officers are problems.

“We have tolerated people doing things they shouldn’t be doing because we say all of them are extremely competent and really good at what they do. And that’s not good enough now because you’re not only damaging yourself, you’re damaging the institution,” Cardon said. “We have great trust with the American people, every time one of these things happens, you’re putting a nick in that.”

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