A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous 'Hanoi Hilton' recounts the week that made him a legend - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

Chuck Sweeney left the Navy as a commander in 1980, after a 22-year pilot career that included 200 combat missions, 4,334 flight hours, and 757 carrier landings.

In one week of that career, Sweeney earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses, awarded for “heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight,” for his actions over Vietnam.


Sweeney, president of the national Distinguished Flying Cross Society, spoke with Insider about the unusual way he got his start as a carrier pilot, his time fighting in Vietnam, and the week he was awarded three DFCs in September 1972.

Despite his awards, “I’m no different than most other people,” Sweeney said in the 2017 documentary “Distinguished Wings over Vietnam.”

“I just happened to be at the right place at the wrong time.”

“I have a lot of friends who said they were interested in flying early on, and they always wanted to be a pilot,” Sweeney told Insider. “I really didn’t. I wasn’t against it. I just never thought about it.”

But after he was drafted in 1958, he decided to join the Navy “and see the world.”

His first assignment took him to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland as an aeronautical engineer — not exactly one of the exotic destinations Sweeney had in mind.

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Jim Lovell’s formal portrait for the Apollo 13 mission in 1970.

NASA

While at Patuxent River, Sweeney got to know some of the test pilots, who took him up on flights.

One test pilot in particular convinced Sweeney that not only did he want to fly; he wanted to be the best of the best — an aircraft carrier pilot, or “tailhook.”

That test pilot was Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, portrayed by Tom Hanks in “Apollo 13.”

“I bought it — hook, line, and sinker,” Sweeney said.

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US Navy aircraft carrier USS Hancock (CVA-19) in the Gulf of Tonkin, May 25, 1972.

PH3 Adrian/US Navy

Sweeney first flew the S-2E anti-submarine aircraft, then volunteered to be an attack pilot, flying the A-4 Skyhawk, while he was earning a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

“They were losing a lot of pilots,” in Vietnam, Sweeney told Insider. “They were being killed or captured.”

After combat missions in Vietnam and Laos, Sweeney trained pilots in Lemoore, California. But his shore duty didn’t last long.

In July 1972, he was sent to the USS Hancock to replace Cmdr. Frank Green, the executive officer of Attack Squadron 212, who was missing in action after his aircraft was shot down.

“The next morning, I was flying my first strike against North Vietnam,” Sweeney told Insider. “Back in those days, things were happening fast.”

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One of Sweeney’s Distinguished Flying Crosses, which now hangs in the I-Bar on Naval Station North Island in San Diego, Calif.

Kevin Dixon, Acting Naval Base Coronado Public Affairs Officer

Sweeney’s first DFC came after a high-stakes rescue in the waters just off North Vietnam.

Lt. William Pear’s aircraft was hit and landed in the treacherous territory, and Sweeney coordinated his rescue from the cockpit of his A-4, even as he himself was under anti-aircraft fire.

“Most of the time, if you landed over North Vietnam, 99 times out of 100, you’d be captured,” Sweeney said. “But we got him back and kept him out of the Hanoi Hilton.”

Pear was the last A-4 pilot to be rescued during the Vietnam War, Sweeney said in an interview for the Distinguished Flying Cross Society Oral History Collection in 2005.

Days later, Sweeney led aircraft from the Hancock in a strike and was awarded his second Distinguished Flying Cross.

“We had 35 aircraft going after a target in North Vietnam, and I was leading the whole strike,” he said.

“I had planned numerous strikes and led them in training, but this was the real thing,” Sweeney said in a 2005 oral interview in the book “On Heroic Wings.”

They successfully completed the strike but met frightening resistance. North Vietnamese MiGs took off and headed toward Sweeney’s strike group, although they eventually stood down, and the group was under heavy anti-aircraft fire.

“For doing the job that I was trained to do I was awarded my second DFC,” Sweeney said in “On Heroic Wings.”

Sweeney’s third DFC came the next day, when he led three other aircraft in an alpha strike on the outskirts of Hanoi.

On a strike that close to the North Vietnamese capital, “You knew the defenses were going to be heavier,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney and other pilots dodged North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) as they headed to their target, a major railyard.

“The rule was, to avoid being hit, when [the SAM] looked like a flying telephone pole, you made this maneuver around it, kind of away from it,” Sweeney said.

“Lo and behold, this thing” — the SAM— “came up, and as it got closer, I thought ‘Oh, this has Chuck Sweeney’s name on it.'”

Sweeney managed to avoid the missile but got separated from the rest of his group and caught up just as they were preparing to attack their target.

Sweeney’s group hit a loaded train and avoided even more anti-aircraft fire as they headed back to the USS Hancock.

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

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These are the Air Force’s 10 most expensive planes to operate

1. E-4 Nightwatch

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend


Who knew the President’s mobile command post was an E-4? With all the latest and greatest gear to keep flying in the midst of all-out nuclear war and all its top secret countermeasures, it should come as no surprise that each of the Air Force’s four converted 747s cost $159,529 per hour to fly.

2. B-2 Spirit

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
A KC-135 Stratotanker from Altus Air Force Base, Okla., refuels a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber from Whiteman AFB, Mo., during a refueling training mission (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-2 literally costs more than its weight in gold. The Air Force’s 20 B-2 bombers run along a similar price tag: $130,159 per hour.

3. C-5 Galaxy

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
Ground crews unload a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft at Bagram Airfield, in Parwan province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)

The largest of the USAF cargo haulers, the C-5 can carry two Abrams tanks, ten armored fighting vehicles, a chinook helicopter, an F-16, or an A-10 and only costs $100,941 an hour to get the stuff to the fight.

4. OC-135 Open Skies

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Kindig, left, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Riley Neads, right, operate air cannons from deicing trucks to blow snow off of an OC-135 Open Skies (U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)

This plane was designed to keep tabs on the armed forces belonging to the 2002 signatories of the Open Skies Treaty, which was is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. At $99,722 an hour, it’s one expensive overwatch.

5. E-8C Joint STARS

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
An E-8C Joint STARS from the 116th Air Control Wing, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., pulls away, May 1, 2012 after refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 459th Air Refueling Wing (U.S. Air Force photo)

The airborne battle platform costs $70,780 to keep flying. The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Its primary mission is to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.

6. B-52 Stratofortress

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
A B-52 Stratofortress deployed to RAF Fairdford, England from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., prepares to air refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Griffiths)

Squeaking in just under the JSTARS cost, The B-52 BUFF (look it up) runs $70,388 per flying hour.

7. F-35A Lightning II

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lightning II powers down on the Duke Field flightline for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

Despite its ballooning development costs, the F-35 isn’t as expensive to fly as one might think, at only $67,550 an hour. (And that fact is one of the airplane’s selling points.)

8. CV-22 Osprey

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
A 71st Special Operations Squadron CV-22 Osprey receives fuel from a 522 SOS, MC-130J Combat Shadow II aircraft, over the skies of New Mexico.

The USAF’s special operations tiltrotor will run you $63,792 per hour.

9. B-1B Lancer

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer aircraft banks away after receiving fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft, not shown, during a mission over Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway/Released)

The B-1 makes up sixty percent of the Air Force’s bomber fleet and runs $61,027 per flying hour.

10. F-22 Raptor

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
A F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker on their way to Iraq. The F-22s are supporting the U.S. lead coalition against Da’esh. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The “best combat plane in the world” only cost $58,059 an hour to fly. Small price to pay for the best.

Honorable Mention: A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka “Warthog”)

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
An A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo byAirman 1st Class Colby L. Hardin)

The BRRRRRT costs a measly (by comparison, anyway) $19,051.

Articles

These stunning photos show supermodel Kate Upton doing some PT with Marines

The U.S. Marines put supermodel Kate Upton through her paces on Aug. 22 during a workout in Detroit to promote the upcoming Marine Week celebration in the city.


Upton struggled a bit at the end, but was able to complete the training routine that involved a series of aerobic exercises and running as her fiance, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, watched from afar. Upton joined several other Tigers players’ wives and significant others in the session at Wayne State University’s athletic complex that was led by Gunnery Sgt. Sara Pacheco, a Marine Corps fitness instructor.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
Model Kate Upton was put through her paces to help the Corps promote a local event. (Photo from AP via News Edge)

“It was (a) very hard workout,” Upton said following the exercise session, which she concluded by collapsing to the grass in an exhausted embrace with a fellow workout warrior. “I knew it was going to be hard. The Marines are very tough.”

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
Marine Corps fitness instructors bang out some squats with supermodel Kate Upton. (Photo from AP via News Edge)

Verlander, a former American League most valuable player and winner of the Cy Young award as the league’s top pitcher, said afterward that he was proud of Upton for her efforts.

“I think it’s easy to show your support with words. I think going out there and doing that workout I think really shows how much she supports (the military),” Verlander said. He is the founder of the Wins for Warriors charity that supports military service members and their families.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
Time to ruck up Miss Upton! (Photo from AP via News Edge)

Upton, a world-famous model who has appeared three times on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, was on hand to promote Marine Week, which runs Sept. 6-10, and is designed to provide the public with a better understanding of the Corps and its mission and the chance to connect with hundreds of Marines.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This two-line order to Eisenhower defines modern leadership

Future U.S. General of the Army and President Dwight D. Eisenhower was just a recently promoted and temporary brigadier general when the U.S. was dragged into World War II on December 7, 1941. One week later, he would have a meeting with Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall that would change the trajectory of his career and life.


A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower speaks to paratroopers before D-Day invasions.

(U.S. Army)

It’s easy to forget that Eisenhower was a relatively junior officer with no battlefield experience at the start of World War II. Like future-Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr., Eisenhower saw the potential of tanks in World War I and helped create American armored doctrine and units. But where Patton was sent forward to lead the tanks into combat in France, Eisenhower was kept in America to oversee production and logistics.

This grated at Eisenhower, but he did his duty and rose to temporary lieutenant colonel during the war. When the armistice went into effect, and the Army contracted in size, he reverted to his permanent rank of captain, before quickly receiving a promotion to major.

For the next few decades, he would serve in staff and command positions, earning accolades of nearly all the officers he served with. He dabbled in aviation, though he never earned his military wings, and kept abreast of other military developments in order to prepare for future conflict.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall picked Eisenhower for a leading position on his staff and then in North Africa from a pool of over 400 qualified candidates, many of them with more experience than Eisenhower.

(Dutch National Archives)

In 1940, it was clear that the fighting in Europe would likely boil over, and Japan was already years into its own warpath in the Pacific. So, the Army held massive war games to test its readiness for war, and Eisenhower once again rose to the top, earning him a temporary promotion to brigadier general in September 1941.

So, in December 1941, Eisenhower was still untested in battle, had never commanded above the battalion level, and was younger, less experienced, and lower ranking than many of the officers that an Army chief of staff would reach out to for help. But Marshall, who had only met Eisenhower twice, knew that the man had a reputation for natural leadership.

So Marshall ordered Eisenhower to meet him, and the Army chief gave the younger officer a daunting task: Plan the war in the Pacific. When he closed the conversation, Marshall told Eisenhower two lines that would stick with him for decades:

Eisenhower, the department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well but feel always compelled to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they’ve done.
A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

The Queen Mary in June 1945.

(U.S. Navy)

Eisenhower would later write that, after saying those words, Marshall “looked at me with an eye that seemed to me awfully cold, and so, as I left the room, I resolved then and there to do my work to the best of my ability and report to the General only situations of obvious necessity or when he personally sent for me.”

This relationship between the men would soon be tested. Eisenhower, trying to keep the unnecessary work off Marshall, made the decision to send 15,000 men to Australia on the British ship Queen Mary to reinforce allies there. He did not ask Marshall for guidance, and he ordered that the ship could proceed without escort, trusting secrecy and the ship’s speed to get the division to safe harbor.

When the ship stopped for fuel in Brazil, though, an Italian official spotted it and sent word to his superiors in Rome. Italy was an Axis power, and any valuable intelligence known in Rome would likely be passed to German U-boats quickly.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

General of the Army Eisenhower and Marshall greet pass crowds at an Army air field in July 1945.

(Abbie Rowe, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Eisenhower’s office received an intercepted copy of the message.

The Queen Mary just refueled here, and with about 15,000 soldiers aboard left this port today steaming southeast across the Atlantic.

Knowing that he could not recall the ship or send it an escort without creating more dangers, Eisenhower sat on the news and waited to see how it would play out. When the ship arrived safely in port, he breathed a sigh of relief and then went to his boss, prepared to confess and face the consequences. “I suspected—with obvious reason—that I might be ignominiously dismissed from the presence of the Chief of Staff, if not from the Army,” he later wrote.

Instead, Marshall heard the news and grinned, telling Eisenhower that he had received the same intercept at the same time, he just wasn’t going to burden Eisenhower with the worry until he knew how the gamble played out.

Marshall’s faith in Eisenhower proved well-placed, and the two men worked together even as Eisenhower’s meteoric rise made him Marshall’s peer instead of subordinate. (Eisenhower was promoted to General of the Army, a five-star rank, only four days after Marshall.)

In December of 1945, the war was over, and America was preparing for a turbulent peace. Eisenhower once again reported to the Army Chief of Staff’s office, this time to replace his old boss.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new UK defense secretary wants to kill every Brit who fights for terrorists

Britain’s new Defence Secretary has unequivocally threatened to kill Britons who leave the country to fight for ISIS.


Gavin Williamson told the Daily Mail on December 6th:

“I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country. […]

“Quite simply my view is a dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain.”

Williamson added that British fighters who flee the UK for other countries would be hunted down and prevented from returning home or finding havens in other countries.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
Her Majesty The Queen takes the salute at the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth. The Queen spoke at a ceremony in Portsmouth’s Naval base this morning, attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, Prime Minister Theresa May, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, military chiefs and former Prime Ministers (Ministry of Defense Photo)

He said: “Make sure there is no safe space for them, that they can’t go to other countries preaching their hate, preaching their cult of death.”

This could mean seizing their passports if they try to cross international borders, the Daily Mail said.

Williamson’s threat was harsher than that of his predecessor, Michael Fallon, who resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations last month.

In October, Fallon said British nationals who have chosen to fight for ISIS in Iraq or Syria have made themselves “a legitimate target” and “run the risk every hour of every day of being on the wrong end of an RAF or a United States missile,” according to The Telegraph.

Also Read: How the SAS has deployed to London’s streets to stop another terrorist attack

Williamson’s Wednesday remarks echoed those of Rory Stewart, an international development minister, who said last month: “The only way of dealing with them [foreign fighters] will be, in almost every case, to kill them.”

Meanwhile, Max Hill QC, the UK’s official anti-terror watchdog, has said that teenagers who joined ISIS “out of a sense of naivety” should be reintegrated into British society so as to avoid “losing a generation.”

At least 800 Britons have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS, according to the BBC. Sally Jones, a British woman who fled to join ISIS, was reportedly killed in a drone strike last month.

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Separation delayed for Green Beret who allegedly beat up Afghan commander

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland is being forcibly separated from the U.S. Army because officials say he beat up an Afghan commander, but he recently received a extension on the period in which he can appeal this decision.


In 2011, the Green Beret and Bronze Star recipient admitted to assaulting a local Afghan police commander who he says laughed about raping a boy in Kunduz province. Martland was recommended for involuntary separation through the Army’s qualitative management program in 2015, but wishes to remain in the Army. Then-Army Secretary John McHugh gave him a temporary reprieve. He now has until May 1, 2016 to file an appeal.

 

Martland, an 11-year veteran currently assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, had the support of California Representative Duncan Hunter, himself a Marine Corps veteran, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Hunter sent a letter to Senator Pat Roberts stating that Martland he has “the full support of his command and immediate leadership.”

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
Martland (left) with General Petraeus (center).

Capt. Daniel Quinn was with Martland during the assault and has since left the army.

Quinn and Martland were told by the boy and his mother that the boy was tied to a post and raped repeatedly. Quinn verified the story with locals from other villages. The two Green Berets invited the commander to their base. Martland says he and Quinn only roughly removed the commander from their shared base, while the commander alleges Martland beat him up.

“After the child rapist laughed it off and referenced that it was only a boy, Captain Quinn picked him up and threw him,” Martland wrote in a statement ordered by Rep.Hunter. Martland then proceeded to “body slam him multiple times,” kick him in the rib cage, and put his foot on his neck. “I continued to body slam him and throw him for fifty meters until he was outside the camp,” Martland writes. “He was never knocked out, and he ran away from our camp.”

The incident lasted no more than five minutes, according to the statement.

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6 differences between the Air Force F-16 and the Navy’s F-18

The F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F/A-18 Hornet are both “lightweight” fighters. Each was intended to complement a larger, heavier fighter (the F-15 for the F-16, the F-14 for the F/A-18). But they also have some big differences. Let’s look over some of them:


1. The number of engines

The F-16 has one engine – the F/A-18 has two. This is largely due to their differing operational environments. The F-16 operates from land bases, while the F/A-18 operates primarily from carriers.

Of course, this also bears a lot on survivability. If an F-16 loses an engine, the pilot’s gotta grab the loud handle. An F/A-18, on the other hand, can limp back to the carrier.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

2. Operating from a carrier

The F-16 is tied to land bases – its landing gear cannot handle the shock of hitting a carrier deck. On the other hand, the F/A-18 can readily shift between a carrier operation and flying from land bases.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, May 4, 2016, takes off from the base during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-1. Aggressor pilots are trained to act as opposing forces in exercises like RF-A to better prepare U.S. and allied forces for aerial combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner)

3. Initial weapons suite

Did you know the F-16 originally didn’t have any radar-guided missiles? Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that early A/B versions (Blocks 1, 5, 10, and 15) didn’t have the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM or AIM-7 Sparrow. The Block 15 ADF was the first version to carry a radar guided missile, the AIM-7.

The F/A-18, though, could carry radar-guided missiles from day one. This was because while the F/A-18 was replacing an attack plane, it was also intended to help defend the carrier.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
An AIM-120 AMRAAM being loaded onto an F-16CJ. | US Air Force

4. Pure speed

The F-16 has a top speed of Mach 2.0. The F/A-18 can only reach Mach 1.8. Still, these planes are both very fast when they need to be. But in a pure drag race, the F-16 will win – and by a decent margin.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano

5. How they refuel

The F/A-18 uses a probe to latch into a drogue. The good news is that it can use just about anyone’s tankers – even USAF tankers, which are modified to carry drogues in addition to their booms.

The F-16s in the United States Air Force inventory, though, have a receptacle for the boom from a KC-135, KC-10, or KC-46 to plug into. Part of this is because the Air Force also has to refuel big bombers and cargo planes that need a lot of fuel quickly – and the boom can do just that.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screen grab

6. Movie career

The F-16 has a clear edge in this one. In the movie “Iron Eagle,” the F-16 is arguably the star alongside Louis Gossett, Jr. (Chappy Sinclair) and Jason Gedrick (Doug Masters). The F/A-18 played a role in “Independence Day,” but it wasn’t quite the star the F-16 was in Iron Eagle.

So, what other differences can you think of between these two planes?
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Iran surpasses 1,000 deaths with highest 24-hour rise yet; Hungary eases border closure

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 201,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.


Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.


Iran

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus has reached 1,135, with 147 deaths over the past 24 hours — the highest 24-hour rise yet — state TV reported on March 18, as President Hassan Rohani defended his government’s response to the outbreak.

Iran has been the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, with a total of 16,169 confirmed cases, roughly 90 percent of the region’s cases.

Iran has been accused of acting too slowly and of even covering up initial cases.

But Rohani on March 18 rejected criticism of his government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, telling a government meeting that authorities have been “straightforward” with the nation, and that it had announced the outbreak as soon as it learned about it on February 19.

“We spoke to people in a honest way. We had no delay,” Rohani said.

Government officials pleaded for weeks with clerics to completely close crowded holy shrines to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The government finally shut down the shrines this week.

“It was difficult of course to shut down mosques and holy sites, but we did it. It was a religious duty to do it,” Rohani said.

The outbreak has cast a shadow over the Persian New Year, Norouz, that begins on March 20.

It was later announced that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will pardon 10,000 prisoners, including political ones, to mark Norouz.

“Those who will be pardoned will not return to jail,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told state TV on March 18, adding that “almost half of those security-related prisoners will be pardoned as well.”

Judicial officials had previously announced the temporary release of 85,000 inmates to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Iran’s prisons. They confirmed that those freed included political prisoners, which Iranian authorities describe as “security-related prisoners.”

Pakistan

The Pakistani government has confirmed the country’s first fatality from coronavirus in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The South Asian country had a total of 260 confirmed cases of the infection as of late March 18, including 19 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“With deep regret I confirm the death of first Pakistani due to coronavirus. A 50-year-old male from Mardan city recently returned from Saudi Arabia. He developed fever, cough, and breathing difficulty and tested positive for the COVID-19,” Health Minister Zafar Mirza tweeted.

A 36-year-old man from Hangu district also died of the respiratory disease after returning from Turkey to Islamabad via Dubai, according to a spokesperson for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government.

Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been put in quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst-affected countries.

Amid the steep rise in known cases, Pakistani authorities have moved to discourage crowds and gatherings.

Islamabad on March 17 announced that all gyms, swimming pools, religious shrines, and children’s parks would remain closed for three weeks.

Health officials in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, urged the public to avoid unnecessary social contacts or traveling and to stay indoors.

Governments around the world continue to take sweeping measures to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, which has now infected more than 201,000 people and killed over 8,000.

Ukraine

The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and other lawmakers will be tested for the novel coronavirus after one of their colleagues tested positive on March 18, local media has reported.

Authorities are trying to trace everyone who has been in contact with lawmaker Serhiy Shakhov of the Dovira (Faith) parliamentary group since he entered the legislature earlier in the week following a trip to an unspecified European Union member state.

Shakhov appeared on Ukrainian television on March 12-13, according to deputy Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, and participated in a meeting of the parliament’s Environment Committee on March 13.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the infected lawmaker’s voter card was registered in parliament on March 17 and was used to vote, although Shakhov was absent.

“Unfortunately, his colleagues are guilty of multiple voting,” Zelenskiy said about the widespread phenomenon in parliament that is now punishable by law.

Ukraine, which has confirmed 16 cases of the respiratory illness and two deaths in four regions and the capital, Kyiv, closed its borders to foreigners for two weeks starting on March 16.

Authorities have also canceled air, rail, and bus connections between cities and regions, and shut down the subway in all three cities where they operate, including Kyiv.

Moldova

Moldova on March 18 reported its first death from coronavirus.

“A first Moldovan citizen died of the coronavirus infection last night. This is a 61-year-old woman,” Health, Labor, and Social Protection Minister Viorica Dumbraveanu said.

The woman had recently returned from Italy and was suffering from several illnesses, Dumbraveanu said.

The manager of the Chisinau hospital where the woman died told the media that the woman’s village has been placed under quarantine.

Moldova, a nation of 3.5 million sandwiched between EU member Romania and Ukraine, reported 30 confirmed coronavirus cases as of March 18.

Moldova’s parliament on March 17 imposed a 60-day state of emergency in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

The country, one of the poorest in Europe, has already temporarily shut its borders and suspended all international flights from March 17.

Hundreds of thousands of Moldovans have been working abroad, many of them in Italy and Spain, two of the countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Separately, Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniester declared a state of emergency until April 5 in the wake of the outbreak.

Transdniester declared independence in 1990 and fought a bloody war with Moldova two years later. It is unrecognized by the international community but is unofficially backed by Russia, which stations hundreds of troops in the region.

Romania/Hungary

Hungary on March 18 moved to relax a sweeping border closure after thousands more travelers – many angry and lacking supplies — clogged its crossings with Austria to the west and Romania to the east.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government on March 17 closed its land crossings to foreigners as well as border crossings at airports to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Thousands of travelers were massed on March 18 at the Nickelsdorf-Hegyeshalom border crossing between Austria and Hungary, after missing a window of several hours allowed by Budapest overnight for those who wanted to transit the country on their way to Romania and Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, some 7,000 people who had reached the Romanian border to the east overnight were facing another hours-long bottleneck due to health checks imposed by Bucharest.

The two-pronged crisis prompted Budapest to reopen the border with Austria at noon on March 18 until the easing of the blockage to the west, and to allow daily passage for Romanians and Bulgarians from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. on preapproved routes, according to a statement by Romania’s Foreign Ministry.

Austrian authorities on March 18 advised drivers to keep away from the Hungarian border as the traffic jam there grew to 45 kilometers and protests broke out among stranded travelers.

“There is no use in coming to the border,” said Astrid Eisenkopf, the deputy governor of Austria’s Burgenland Province, which neighbors Hungary.

Most of the delayed Romanians are workers returning from Italy and Spain, the world’s second- and fourth-most affected countries by the virus, but also from other Western countries.

Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.

On March 18, Romania reported 29 more confirmed cases, bringing the total to 246, as well as 19 recovered cases. There have been no coronavirus deaths inside the country.

But specialists warn that Romania has so far tested only some 3.000 people for the coronavirus, while in other countries the number of those tested was in the tens of thousands.

Hungary reported having 50 confirmed coronavirus infections on March 17, with one death.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria announced it has entered into a fiscal deficit and Ukraine said it is seeking a bigger lending program from the International Monetary Fund beyond the .5 billion for which it was asking.

Confirmed cases in Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest but least indebted country, spiked by 30 percent on March 17 to 81. The government in Sofia banned all foreign and domestic holiday trips until April 13.

Kosovo

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti has fired Interior Minister Agim Veliu for purportedly spreading “panic” about coronavirus after he backed a presidential call for a state of emergency over the pandemic.

Kurti announced Veliu’s dismissal on March 18, just hours after Veliu said he supported a proposed state of emergency that has divided officials in the Balkan country.

President Hashim Thaci late on March 17 signed a decree declaring a state of emergency. It has been sent to Kosovo’s parliament, which has 48 hours to either accept or reject the move.

But Kurti has rejected calls for a state of emergency. He said it would cause “unnecessary panic.”

“At this time, when the entire public administration is making the utmost efforts to minimize the damage caused by the coronavirus, the heads of central institutions, including those in the government cabinet, need to prove maturity both in decision-making and in making statements,” Kurti said in his announcement about firing Veliu.

The move may resonate far beyond the debate about how to react to the coronavirus pandemic.

It could cause a rift in the governing coalition that took power in Kosovo just over a month ago.

Veliu is from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which is in a fragile coalition with Kurti’s Self-Determination party.

LDK leader Isa Mustafa gave Kurti until the end of the week to “annul the decision to dismiss Veliu and make a decision to abolish the tariffs” on Serbian imports.

Pristina is under huge pressure from the European Union and the United States to revoke the 100 percent import tariff it imposed on goods from Serbia in November 2018.

The tariff came in response to Belgrade’s diplomatic campaign to encourage some of the 110-plus countries that have recognized Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008 to reverse their position.

Kosovo says it has confirmed 19 cases of the coronavirus since the first infected person was discovered on March 13.

Most cases are people who had traveled to nearby Italy or had been in contact with others who’d been to Italy.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina declared a state of emergency to enable coordination of activities between its two autonomous regions.

“We are focusing in all ways on how to alleviate the consequences of the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Zoran Tegeltija told reporters.

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has confirmed its first three cases of the coronavirus in a group of travelers returning from Saudi Arabia.

Kyrgyz Health Minister Kosmosbek Cholponbaev said on March 18 that the three Kyrgyz citizens are from the southern Suzak district in the Jalal-Abad region.

The infected had returned to Kyrgyzstan on March 12, he said. They are 70, 62, and 43 years of age.

Authorities in the district have sealed off the villages of Blagoveshchenka, Boston, and Orta-Aziya. They’ve also set up 19 checkpoints nearby, regional officials said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Nurlan Abdrakhmanov said in a statement that as of March 18, all foreigners are banned from entering Kyrgyzstan.

Elsewhere In Central Asia

In neighboring Kazakhstan, the Health Ministry said on March 18 that the number of coronavirus cases had reached 36, after three more infections were confirmed in Almaty.

Kazakhstan has declared a state of emergency until April 15. As of March 19, the cities of Nur-Sultan and Almaty will be in lockdown.

Uzbekistan announced on March 18 that its total number of confirmed cases had reached 15.

So far, no coronavirus cases have been officially announced in the Central Asian former Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The new coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries worldwide. It has infected more than 201,000 people and killed more than 8,000, with the number of people now recovered at more than 82,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
Naval Research Labs


Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.

Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.

Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.

Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.

“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.

An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.

“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology.  A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects.  The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.

Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.”  Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.

In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.

Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.

Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.

Pentagon Effort

The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.

The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.

While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.

Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.

“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains.  In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant.  They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk.  Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”

Navy Effort

Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.

“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.

A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.

Army Defends Against Mini-Drones

While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.

This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.

The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.

Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.

As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.

The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.

The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.

There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.

“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”

Articles

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus

The future Baseball Hall of Fame first baseman and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson was a young lieutenant facing court-martial in August 1944 for refusing to give up his seat on a bus near Camp Hood, Texas, while training as a tanker.


The segregation situation at Camp Hood was arguably one of the worst for black service members in the country. The civilian buses contracted to work the routes onto and off of post were fully segregated as were nearly all of the base facilities. While there for training, Robinson had fairly regular confrontations with other officers over racial issues on the base.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
Army 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson was attached to a tank unit after finishing Officer Candidate School and Cavalry School. (Photo: LOOK Magazine/Public Domain)

Robinson was assigned to a black armored unit, the 761st Tank Battalion, as a second lieutenant. He was one of the few black officers in a unit with mostly white leadership.

On July 6, 1944, near the end of a two-year training pipeline, Robinson took a seat on a civilian bus next to a white woman on Camp Hood and the driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus.

Robinson refused and the military police were called to arrest him. While waiting for the MPs and again at the camp’s provost marshall office, Robinson was called “nigger” by both civilians and military personnel whom he outranked.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
Tank crews from the 761st Tank Battalion await orders to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany, April 25, 1945. Army 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson served with the battalion during its training period but accepted a medical separation after a racially-charged court martial. (Photo: National Archives)

Angry from his treatment and frustrated at the rampant discrimination on the post, Robinson refused to wait in the provost marshal’s office and was escorted to the hospital under guard and under protest.

Camp Hood commanders ordered the 761st to begin court-martial proceedings, but battalion commander Lt. Col. Paul L. Bates refused to sign the order. Unfortunately for Robinson, paperwork was already going through to transfer him to the 758th due to medical issues. When the transfer went through, his court martial began almost immediately.

The prosecution did not charge Robinson for his actions on the bus, but they did charge him for disrespecting a military police captain and for disobeying an order from the same captain.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
In the days leading up to his court martial, 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson asked a trusted friend whether he should speak to the press. (Photo: U.S. National Archives)

His trial opened on Aug. 2 and ran for 17 days. Bates testified that Robinson was an outstanding officer. Bates even told the military panel that Robinson was traveling on the bus on July 6 at his request. Robinson had reported to a civilian hospital for a medical evaluation to see if he could ship out to Europe with the 761st.

Meanwhile Robinson’s defense attorney, Capt. William A. Cline, managed to highlight inconsistencies in the prosecution’s witness testimonies and prove that Robinson’s actions only took place after he was repeatedly disrespected by lower-ranking soldiers.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend
Gunner Cpl. Carlton Chapman of the 761st Tank Battalion poses in his M4 Sherman tank near Nancy, France, Nov. 5, 1944.  (Photo: National Archives)

Cline even called into question whether the MP captain had properly ordered Robinson to remain in the office and got the captain to admit on the stand that he was unsure whether he had actually issued the order or simply meant to.

The defense won its case and Robinson was freed. Rather than fight to rejoin the 761st or train with the 758th, he decided to accept the Army’s assessment that he should be medically retired from service due to a bone chip in his ankle that sometimes caused the joint to seize up.

During the court martial, the 761st shipped out for New Jersey en route to Europe. It would become a legend in the final year of the war, earning 11 silver stars, a Medal of Honor, and the Presidential Unit Citation in 183 days of continuous fighting.

popular

Here’s what happens to the body when you pull a muscle

There are 640 muscles in the human body. The primary functions of these critical, fibrous structures are to support movement and help circulate blood throughout our anatomy. Everyone has three different types of muscles: smooth (or visceral), cardiac, and skeletal.

Smooth muscles, like our esophagus and intestines, push the food we eat through our digestive system. Cardiac muscles, also known as myocardium (your heart), contract and relax to move through the body’s vessels. Skeletal muscles layer on top of our bones, connect to the osseous matter via tendons, and move our limbs around.

Although each type of muscle can be damaged in various ways, our skeletal muscles are most often damaged. The leading cause for most of our muscular lacerations — also known as “strains” or “muscle pulls” — is the moving an unprepared set of muscles.

We’re here today to learn what happens to your muscles when they’re pulled. It just might make you rethink how you warm up before your next exercise.


Don’t forget to warm up, or you might be sidelined for longer than you’d like.

Picture your pre-workout muscles like a frozen rubber band. If you stretch it out fast and far enough, it’ll break. Once we strain a muscle, the neuroreceptors will send a message to our brains, letting it know something’s wrong. These muscular injuries usually feel like a shock and cause our bodies to immediate jerk back into its starting position — protecting the structure. Unfortunately, by the time you feel the pain and your body reacts, the damage might already be done.

The amount of damage the muscle structure sustains helps catalog these injuries into three different categories, based on severity. The lower end of injury is called a “pull,” which means around 5 percent of the muscle was torn. Treatment for these minor injuries typically consists of painkillers and rest.

A “sprain” is the next tier up. Here, a significant percentage of the muscle fibers, greater than 5 percent, are damaged. This type of injury usually requires several weeks of recovery before the person is back to fully functioning.

The diagnosis that no one wants to hear is a “rupture.” This means every fiber in the muscle group has been torn. These injuries are severe and typically require immediate surgery. For many athletes, hamstrings, groin, and quadriceps are the muscle groups most at risk.

Let the long road to recovery begin…

To avoid becoming a victim of a nasty muscle pull, be sure to warm up properly before exercising and stretch afterward.

For more information about the muscles in your body and the injuries they can sustain, check out Tech Insider’s video below.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Executions at midnight’ weren’t really a thing

Michael F. asks: Are executions really held at midnight like shown in the movies? If so, why?

By the time Rainey Bethea was executed on Aug. 14, 1936, most of the United States had ceased executing people publicly. However, in Kentucky in 1936 an execution could still be held publicly and, according to the jury at his trial, Bethea deserved such an end, though not without controversy given the fact that the whole thing from murder to scheduled hanging took place in only about two months. On top of that, this was the case of a young black man who had previously only been convicted of a few minor, non-violent crimes being sentenced to death for rape and murder without any real defense on his behalf. He also claimed the confessions he gave were given under coercion. Whatever the case, the jury deliberated for less than five minutes and returned with the sentence of death by hanging, a mere three weeks after the crime was committed.


Approximately 20,000 people gathered around the gallows to witness the execution. When the time came, the trap door was opened and the rope snapped Bethea’s neck. After 14 minutes, his body was taken down and he was confirmed dead. This was the last public hanging ever performed in the United States.

So what does any of this have to do with executions being held at midnight? While a common Hollywood trope is the classic execution at midnight, it turns out for most all of history, this really wasn’t a thing. As with the case of Bethea, executions were largely a public spectacle and, outside of mob murders, people weren’t exactly keen on gathering at night to watch someone be killed; so executions tended to occur at more civilized hours.

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

(Flickr photo by Alan Levine)

Interestingly, the fact that people preferred day time executions actually appears to be one of the chief reasons executions were, for a time in the United States, initially switched to late night, giving us the Hollywood trope that has largely endured to this day.

The earliest examples of this change occurred in the late 19th century as certain states began looking to curtail the spectacle that was public executions. As professor John Bessler of the University of Baltimore School of Law states, “There was pickpocketing at these public executions, thefts and sometimes violence. They were trying to get rid of the mob atmosphere that attended these public executions.”

The fix was easy — simply move the execution time to an hour when most people are sleeping, getting rid of the boisterous crowds and accompanying extra media coverage.

Now, given the switch to banning public executions completely, you might at this point be wondering why the nighttime time slot endured and became popular enough for a time to become a common trope?

One of the principal reasons often cited is simply to cut down on potential for more red tape in certain cases. While there are exceptions, in many states in the U.S. death warrants were, and in some cases still are, only legal for one day. If the execution is not carried out on the specified date, another warrant would be required which, as you might imagine for something as serious as killing someone legally (and ensuring the executioner cannot be charged for murder), this is a lot of paperwork and not always a guarantee. By starting at midnight, it gives the full 24 hours to work through potential temporary stays of execution, if any, before the time slot has ended and a new death warrant must be procured.

That said, perhaps more importantly, and a reason cited by many a prison official, is simply the matter of staffing. Executions performed at the dead of night see the inmates locked up in their cells, with minimal guard presence needed. Thus, prison workers don’t have to worry about any potential issues with the inmate populace during an execution. Further, some normal staff can easily be diverted to handling various aspects of a nighttime execution without taxing the available worker pool, a key benefit given prison systems are notoriously understaffed in the United States.

All this said, contrary to popular belief, midnight executions are not really much of a thing anymore. There are a variety of reasons for this, but principally this is as a courtesy for the various people processing and working on the appeals. For example, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor notes, “Dispensing justice at that hour of the morning is difficult, to say the least, and we have an obligation … to give our best efforts in every one of these instances.”

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

(Flickr photo by kyle tsui)

Arguments for a switch in time slot have also been made on behalf of the loved ones of both the condemned and victims. These people were formerly made to arrive a couple hours before the execution at midnight, and would then have to stay until after it was carried out if they wanted to witness it. Even with no delays, this tended to see them not processed out the door until a few hours after midnight. And if there were temporary stays of execution, they might have to skip a night’s sleep to be sure they were there to watch someone, perhaps a loved one or potentially the opposite, die.

There is also the issue of overtime. While ease of staffing is generally listed as a positive reason for late night executions, it turns out that as states began to move the executions into the light of day again, issues with the other inmates during daytime executions never really manifested, while overtime costs to keep the necessary staff on hand to process the execution at night were not trivial. For example, in the execution of Douglas Franklin Wright in 1996, staff assigned to the execution cost just shy of an extra ,000 (about ,000 today) in overtime compared to if the execution had been carried out in the daytime. Some prisons have also taken to simply implementing special modified lockdown procedures during executions to free up normal staff while reducing the risk of issues with the rest of the inmates.

What about the potential paperwork problem? This has easily been worked around by many states who’ve moved to daytime executions. For example, in Missouri they just switched the time limit to 24 hours, regardless of date. What matters is just the starting time. Other states simply have moved to longer periods like a week or ten days granted for such a warrant.

Thus, contrary to what is often depicted in films, midnight executions have gone the way of the dodo in the United States, though there are a few places in the world that still prefer to execute people in darkness. For example, in India executions are typically carried out before sunrise, with the stated reasoning being staffing convenience — as was the case in the U.S., at these hours more staff are available to handle the execution before normal daily activities begin.

Bonus Fact:

  • Botched executions are surprisingly common, for example occurring in about 7% of all executions in the United States. Historically, between 1890 and 2010 in the United States, 276 executions were messed up in some way, sometimes dramatically. One young black teen, who very much appears to have been innocent of the crime he was convicted of, even had to be sent to the electric chair twice. After the first attempt at killing him failed and he had to be brought back to his cell, the subsequent controversy over whether it was legal to try to kill him again brought to light the fact that there really wasn’t any evidence against him other than a forced confession. We’ll have more on this in an upcoming episode of our podcast The BrainFood Show, which you can subscribe to here: (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed)

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy and Coast Guard divers look for torpedoes under Arctic ice

Divers from U.S. Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) Two, Underwater Construction Team (UCT) One, and the U.S. Coast Guard braved harsh Arctic waters to play a critical role during a torpedo exercise as part of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018.


ICEX 2018 is a five-week biennial exercise that allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies, and partner organizations.

During the exercise, the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) and the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) each fired several training torpedos under the ice. Training torpedoes have no warheads and carry minimal fuel.

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“The primary objective of this year’s ICEX is to test new under-ice weapons systems and validate tactics for weapon employment,” said Ryan Dropek, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport, Rhode Island Weapons Test Director. “Once the divers recover these torpedoes, we can extract important data about how they perform and react in these conditions.”

After the submarines fire the torpedoes, helicopters transport gear and personnel to the location where the positively-buoyant torpedo is expected to run out of fuel. Each torpedo has a location device in order to assist in the search. Once found, a 3-4 person team will then drill a series of holes for the divers to enter and exit, as well as one hole for the torpedo to be lifted by helicopter.

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Chief Hospital Corpsman Kristopher Mandaro, assigned to Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1, surfaces from a waterhole during a torpedo exercise in support of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)

“Once we know the location of the torpedo and drill holes, our divers slip into the water to begin placing weights on a line attached to the tail end of the torpedo,” Chief Warrant Officer Michael Johnson, officer-in-charge of MDSU-2 divers, explained. “The weights help shift the torpedo from a state of positive buoyancy to neutral buoyancy under the ice.”

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Once the torpedo is neutral, the divers place brackets with cables to the top and bottom of the body of the torpedo. A helicopter then connects to the torpedo before lifting it vertically out of the hole.

The three dive teams completed additional training in preparation for diving in the unique environment of the Arctic Ocean.

“To prepare for ICEX, we completed training at the Coast Guard’s Cold Water Ice Diving (CWID) course and earned our ordnance handling certification from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center,” said Johnson. “Additionally, each unit completed MK48 Torpedo recovery training and Unit Level Training (ULT) classroom training on hypothermia, frostbite, ice camp operations, dry-suit, and cold-water ice diving.”

The USCG CWID course is a two-week course in Seattle, Washington hosted by the USCG instructors at Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center (NDSTC) which focuses on the use of equipment and diving operations in harsh Arctic waters. During the course, divers complete a diving practical in Loc de Roc, British Columbia at 5,000 ft. elevation to put environmental stresses on the divers and equipment to acclimate to the cold and altitude.

“Our underwater construction teams have always had the ice-diving capabilities, so it was awesome to be invited out to this exercise to make sure we’re keeping up with something that we say we can do,” said Builder 1st Class Khiaro Promise, assigned to Construction Dive Detachment Alfa.

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The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) surfaces in the Beaufort Sea during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. (Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication 2nd Class Micheal H. Lee)

During ICEX, the divers conducted dives using two different types of diving methods. UCT-1 and the USCG dove with SCUBA equipment, which provides divers with an air supply contained in tanks strapped to the backs of the divers. The divers equip themselves with a communication “smart rope” which is a protected communication cable to the surface that acts as a tending line so support personnel on the surface has positive control of the divers and so they can quickly return to the dive hole.

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MDSU-2 divers used the diving system DP2 with configuration one, which provides voice communications and an air supply provided by the surface. This configuration allows the divers to swap the composite air bottles without the diver resurfacing and without interrupting their air supply.

“We decided to use the DP2 system because it performs in arctic conditions very well,” said Navy Diver 1st Class Davin Jameson, lead diving supervisor for MDSU-2. “The ability to change our air supply during the dive is critical and allows us to stay under the water a lot longer.”

Not only did the divers have an essential role in torpedo recovery, they were also essential to camp operations. “Prior to torpedo retrieval dives, all the divers on ice helped set up the camp and in the building of two runways (one 1,300 and one 2,500-ft),” Senior Chief Navy Diver Michael McInroy, master diver for MDSU-2. “In the camp, everyone has responsibilities to keep operations on track. The divers worked hard to do their part in and out of the water.”

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A Sailor assigned to the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) mans the sail after the boat surfaces through the ice cover March 10, 2018 in support of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Micheal H. Lee)

MDSU-2 is an expeditionary mobile unit homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Ft. Story (JEBLCFS) in Norfolk, Virginia. The unit deploys in support of diving and salvage operations and fleet exercises around the world. The primary mission is to direct highly-mobile, fully-trained and equipped mobile diving and salvage companies to perform combat harbor clearance, search and expeditionary salvage operations including diving, salvage, repair, assistance, and demolition in ports or harbors and at sea aboard Navy, Military Sealift Command, or commercial vessels of opportunity in wartime or peacetime.

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UCT-1 is also homeported at JEBLCFS and is worldwide deployable to conduct underwater construction, inspection, repair, and demolition operations. Seabees operated off the coast of Alaska for the first time in 1942 when they began building advanced bases on Adak, Amchitka and other principal islands in the Aleutian chain.

ICEX divers and their support elements are a proven and vital component to the success of this five-week exercise. The partnership between the Navy and Coast Guard builds on the foundation of increasing experience and operational readiness even in the one of the harshest regions of the world.

“The brotherhood in diving means we have a lot of trust in that other person when you go underwater, and you get close to your coworkers, it’s more of a family,” Promise said.

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