The Kyiv photographer who captured the 'gloomy dignity' of Soviet life - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

Ukrainian photographer Oleksandr Ranchukov, who died last year, primarily made a name for himself shooting architecture, and his pictures of buildings and urban spaces have appeared in several academic publications. But he also liked to take his camera out onto the streets of his native Kyiv and other cities to pursue his own gritty brand of street photography.

As he took many of these photos in the 1980s, his bleak black-and-white images provide a record of life in the latter days of the Soviet Union that stands in stark contrast to that which was portrayed in the official propaganda of that era.


In a recent essay on his work, fellow photographer and art critic Oleksandr Lyapin said Ranchukov primarily saw himself as a chronicler of his times and hoped his images would “complement the story of the sad end of the U.S.S.R., the dull streets of the city showing its decay…”

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

According to photographer and critic Oleksandr Lyapin, Ranchukov wanted to capture for younger generations “the faces of Soviet people — in a way very different from how they are presented on posters.”

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

People at a stall in Kyiv drink kvass, a fermented beverage made from bread, which is still a popular summer drink in many former Soviet republics.

“Ranchukov was a street photographer, but he had almost no interest in the aesthetics of street photography,” Lyapin said. Instead, he simply “painted the picture of Soviet everyday life — dull and inexpressive, even dead: identical gray streets, unsightly clothes, street vendors, puddles, and dirt.”

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

Many of Ranchukov’s photographs capture aspects of Kyiv life that have since disappeared forever, such as this cobbler’s kiosk in Zhytniy Market, which was once a familiar sight to generations.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

A woman in a Kyiv alleyway walks past a poster proclaiming, “Glory to the Communist Party!”

Needless to say, conditions for street photography were not ideal in the somewhat paranoid milieu of the U.S.S.R., which is probably why Ranchukov relied mainly on the Soviet-era Kiev 4 camera for most of his city shots. According to Lyapin, this “quiet but very accurate” device meant that Ranchukov was often able to photograph people without being noticed, thus ensuring a natural, realistic depiction of Soviet streets.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

In addition to capturing what one critic has called the “gloomy dignity” of Soviet life, Ranchukov was also on hand to record the dramatic changes that occurred on the streets of Kyiv as the Soviet system rapidly collapsed. Indeed, his shots showing the advent of capitalism in his native city rank among his most striking images.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

Curious residents inspect an American automobile on the streets of Kyiv.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

A man in Kyiv reacts as people line up outside a shop selling American jeans.

Not surprisingly, for most of his career, there wasn’t much official appetite for Ranchukov’s warts-and-all approach to street photography and it wasn’t until the latter days of perestroika that he and other like-minded photographers were allowed to exhibit their depictions of city streets.

Nonetheless, even in such relatively relaxed times, these photographs’ unflinching look at Soviet life caused consternation among the authorities, and one of their first exhibitions in Kyiv was shut down after just one day by scandalized KGB and Communist Party apparatchiks.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

Oleksandr Ranchukov (1943-2019)

Although these images didn’t go down well with Soviet bureaucrats, they obviously struck a chord with ordinary Kyiv residents, and crowds of people lined up to see them when the exhibition reopened at another location sometime later.

One of those who visited the Ranchukov exhibition in 1989 was a Canadian exchange student named Chrystia Freeland, who later became a prominent journalist and politician and is now her country’s deputy prime minister.

Describing Ranchukov as a “brilliant and prolific documentary photographer,” Freeland was instrumental in getting his images and those of some of his peers to the editors of The Independent newspaper in London, who “were hugely impressed by his work, and promptly published it.”

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

People form a line to buy herring in Kyiv.

“I was deeply moved by his ability to reveal the reality of life in Ukraine — the country’s people, places, and streets,” she told RFE/RL in an e-mail. “In capturing a key moment in Ukrainian history, often at personal risk, Oleksandr laid the groundwork for future Ukrainian photographers and artists to bring their work to the world stage. “

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

Unlike his architecture photography, Oleksandr Ranchukov’s portraits of Soviet street life have never been published in book form. You can view other Ranchukov images and find out more about his life and work here.

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

Articles

9 reasons why military camouflage works — or doesn’t

Sun Tzu once said that he who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.


To be honest, in a way, that is exactly what camouflage is all about. It is not about colors, shapes, or ninja stuff. It is about knowledge, patience, and the manipulation of anything anywhere.

All to achieve one goal: to become the environment. In this article, I am going to give you a small, bitter taste of the art of camouflage.

When I was in the Israeli Airborne SF, I served with one of the SR groups. My secondary specialty in my team was what we call in the IDF, a ‘builder.’ Basically, someone who is capable of concealing anything, from one man to an entire team or vehicles in any environment.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Eliran Feildboy. Photo courtesy of Breach Bang Clear.

What is camouflage?

Back in the days, when I used to assist as an instructor for the next generation of builders, one of the first questions I asked the young soldiers in every introduction lesson was, ”What does the word ‘camouflage’ mean to you?”

The majority of the answers were split into two: hiding or disappearing.

While both might sound correct, those two words describe a long-living misconception that one experiences when he gets involved with task-oriented concealment work.

Long story short, the majority of the time camouflage begins with understanding the nature of observation.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Applying standard camo. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.

The purpose of it is not only to hide, but to make you part of the environment, allowing you to safely observe, document, and, when necessary, respond.

Being a master of camouflage means being able to live off nature’s hand for 72 hours (or more), being just hundreds of meters away from the objective, and being able to observe the point of interest all the while.

Let’s say camouflage is the art of manipulation–the controlling of reality.

Fundamentals of Camouflage

There are three fundamental camouflage actions. These are the main principles that are found in any concealing construction.

  • Hiding: The action of hiding is setting a barrier that separates you physically, and often visually, from the surrounding environment and its unfolding reality.
  • Blending: Resembling your surroundings by combining different, like elements into a single entity. The main difference between success to failure lays in properly blending subtle details.
  • Disguising: In short, disguising is an action we perform to alter an existing shape or form. We do that to eliminate or create intentional target indicators, such as smell, shape, or shine. Disguising, for example, is adding vegetation to a Ghillie suit or collecting branches to conceal my hide side.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Photo courtesy of Breach Bang Clear.

Target Indicators

Knowledge is power. One of the keys to perfect camouflage at the tactical level is the ability to understand what kind of X or Y signatures my presence creates that will lead to my exposure.

TI, or target indicators, are about understanding what signatures my enemy creates in a specific environment. Those target indicators suggest presence, location, and distance in some cases.

There are two dimensions to consider when detecting and indicated presence. The first–and oldest–dimension is basic human sense. The other is technological.

Human Sense

While smelling, hearing, and touching are obvious senses, but those senses normally only come into play in short distance.

Let’s focus on ‘seeing.’

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Snipers with 1st Sapper Company, Burundi National Defense Force, observe enemy movement, donning field-made ghillie suits. USMC Photo by 1st Lt. Dominic Pitrone

The visual sense is, by far, the most reliable sense for humans. We use it up to 80% of the time to collect information and orient ourselves. So, what kind of visual signatures could I leave that may lead to my exposure? In short:

  • Shape – The perfectly symmetrical shapes of tents or cars, for example, don’t exist in nature. Those, and the familiar shape of a human being, are immediate eye candy.
  • Silhouette – Similar to ‘shape,’ but with more focus on the background. A soldier walking on top of the hill or someone sneaking in the darkness with dark clothes against a white wall–the distinction of a foreground element from its background makes a target indicator sharp and clear.
  • Shine – Surface related. Radiance or brightness caused by emitted or reflected light. Anything that my skin, equipment, or fabrics may reflect. Popular examples would be the reflection of sunlight on hand watches, skin, or optics for example.
  • Shadow – Shadows are very attractive and easy to distinguish for human eyes, depending on a shadow’s intensity. For example, caves in open fields stand out for miles and are very easy to recognize. As a result, we never use caves for hiding, as they’re a natural draw to the eye.
  • Color – Let’s make it sure and simple–wearing a pink hoody to a funeral is a good way to stand out. Match your environment.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Army photo by Pfc. Dixie Rae Liwanag/Released

Technology-Based Target Indicators / Multi-Spectral Awareness

Oh boy, this is where the real challenge begins! I’m actually going to risk it and say that ghillie suits are becoming less and less relevant today due to increases in technology.

Before we will dive into all that Einstein stuff, these are the main wavelengths used by different devices to find your ass:

  • Infra-Red / NIR – Used in NVGs, SWIR cameras, etc. Night-vision devices, for example, use active near-infrared illumination to observe people or animals without the observer being detected.
  • UV – UV radiation is present in sunlight. UV-capable devices are excellent, for example, in snowy environments for picking up differences undetectable by the naked eye.
  • Thermal – Your body generates a temperature different from any immediate background, such as the ground in the morning or a tree in the evening. Devices tend to set clear separations between the heat or cold of different objects, resulting in pretty nice shapes that are easy to distinguish for the observer.
  • Radar (radio)– A radar system consists of a transmitter producing electromagnetic waves, an emitting antenna, and a receiving antenna to capture any waves that return from objects in the path of the emitted signal. A receiver and processor then determine the properties of the object. While often used to detect weather formations, ships, structures, etc., there are numerous devices that can give you an accurate position of vehicles and even humans. It’s a long story, hard to manipulate. Such devices exist already in the tactical level.

It is nearly impossible to eliminate your signature against devices who work within the wave length. The only solution is to understand what the human being sees through advanced optics and manipulate the final result.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Army photo by Andrew Zimmer

Buckle up and get your aspirin – we’re moving into the science stuff.

The human and its environment emits different signatures that can be picked up by different technological devices that make use of different types of waves.

Cones in our eyes are the receivers for tiny visible light waves. The sun is a natural source for visible light waves and our eyes see the reflection of this sunlight off the objects around us.

The color of an object that we see is the color of light reflected. All other colors are absorbed.

Technically, we are blind to many wavelengths of light. This makes it important to use instruments that can detect different wavelengths of light to help us study the earth and the universe.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander

However, since visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum that our eyes can see, our whole world is oriented around it.

Until recently.

With the advancement of technology, humanity slowly cracked and understood the existence of other light waves.

We began to see those dimensions through different devices.

Since the visual camouflage has foiled many plans throughout a history of wars and conflicts, militaries around the world began researching the possibilities of using non-visible wavelengths in detecting the signature of specific objects in specific environments.

Summary

Camouflage is not about hiding and it’s definitely not only about wearing a ghillie suit or digging deeps foxholes.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Soldiers with the Estonian Defense Force defend their position May 12, during Operation Siil in Oandu, Estonia. Army photo by Sgt. Juana Nesbitt.

It’s an involved, looping process that starts with understanding how humans detect and continues with manipulating this detection.

The old standards, such as ghillie suits, are becoming less and less relevant to the modern battle space as detection technologies advance.

New predators such as SWIR or advance thermal cameras are hard to beat unless you know the device, the interface, and the humans who use it.

As Albert Einstein once said, technology has exceeded our humanity–so get creative.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Only one US senator was ever killed in battle

Oregon Sen. Edward Dickinson Baker was a veteran of the Mexican-American War, friend of President Abraham Lincoln, and respected legislator when he appeared before the Senate in full military uniform and delivered an impassioned speech on the Union cause to his colleagues.


 

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

Baker’s “Call to Arms” became famous and included the impassioned line:

We will rally the people, the loyal people, of the whole country. They will pour forth their treasure, their money, their men, without stint, without measure!

This was the second time that Baker had addressed the American legislature in uniform. Before shipping off to the Mexican-American War, Baker was a representative from Illinois and had addressed the House of Representatives in full dress.

Unfortunately for Baker, his Civil War adventure did not go as well as his trip to Mexico.

On Oct. 20, 1861, he and his brigade camped along the Potomac River. Another unit was sent at night to scout enemy positions on the other side and reported that they had spotted a Confederate camp that was completely unguarded.

A force was raised to attack the camp but it discovered that the “rows of tents” spotted by the scouts had actually seen a row of short trees that they confused for tents in the dark. Confederate sentries spotted the Union troops and quickly set up a skirmish line.

Baker was sent to figure out what was going on and take command of the Union forces in the battle. He and his men began moving across the river but there were precious few boats to ferry troops.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Painting: Public Domain

By the time that Baker and his men were properly placed, the Confederates had enjoyed plenty of time to reinforce their positions on the high ground above the river. When Baker led his assault, he was quickly shot down. His men attempted to flee but rushed so fast that many fell over a 70-foot cliff into the river. Baker’s 1,700-man brigade suffered almost 1,000 killed, wounded, and captured in the battle.

The defeat was so crushing that Congress established an investigating committee to look into how the Battle of Ball’s Bluff and other prominent Union losses went so wrong.

Active duty service by congress members was banned by the War Department in World War II. Modern legislators are forbidden from serving on active duty by the Incompatability Clause of the Constitution which prevents members of Congress from holding office in another branch of government.

So far, service in the Reserves or has not been interpreted as violating the clause so long as the legislator is not called to active duty for anything but training. So hopefully Baker will hold his distinction as the only senator killed in battle for a long time.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America has a secret missile covered in swords (and it actually makes war zones safer)

The most secretive parts of America’s defense apparatus have a missile covered in swords, and they’re using it to take out terrorists in Syria.

One significant change to warfare that’s come about in recent decades has been the advent of precision guided munitions and the resulting shift in the way America, and the world at large, sees collateral damage. During World War II, massive fleets of heavy bombers dotted the skies above Europe, laying waste to vast areas of territory in an effort to damage a nation’s industrial infrastructure and force submission.


The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

While there is still a use for this method of ordnance delivery, precision guided munitions have become the common platforms of choice for commanders in theater. (US Air Force Photo)

Thousands died in these large scale bombing campaigns, and today, many of those deaths would be considered unacceptable by the international community. Precision guided munitions with ever greater range and accuracy have replaced the carpet-bombing doctrine with the more cost effective and civilian friendly precision strike mindset. Today, collateral damage is not a thing of the past, but its metrics have shifted significantly. While carpet bombing raids may have killed hundreds or even thousands, the loss of a dozen civilian lives is now often considered too big a price to pay to engage many dangerous targets.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

All that remained of the German town of Wesel after allied bombing. (WikiMedia Commons)

This shift is undoubtedly a good thing from the macro perspective for humanity, but it raises a number of new challenges for America’s defense apparatus that’s tasked with engaging terrorists outside of America’s borders. It takes weeks, months, even years to gather all the necessary intelligence on a target before you might have an opportunity to take him out, and if the target is surrounded by civilians (as they tend to do for protection from air strikes), there’s a chance the U.S. military may miss its opportunity to strike.

That’s where the AGM-114R9X comes in. While it’s official name may be a mouthful, the missile itself utilizes a fairly simplistic approach to killing specific targets while minimizing the chances that anyone nearby will be hurt.

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The AGM-114R9X is, at its most simplistic levels, a Hellfire missile with the explosive warhead removed from the center portion of its body. In the warhead’s place are six extendable blades that bear a striking resemblance to swords. As brutal as this method of engaging a target may seem, the use of this missile actually makes going after these high value targets significantly safer for the civilians in the area.

Rather than utilizing explosive force or shrapnel from the missile’s body to kill its target and anyone else in the vicinity, the AGM-114R9X deploys its six swords upon impact with a target. Each blade is approximately 18 inches long, giving the missile a “kill radius” of only about three feet. Couple that with the Hellfire missile’s extremely accurate targeting capabilities, and you have a weapon that can take out the bad guys without worrying about a large explosion that could potentially hurt others.

The weapon’s development began under the CIA during the Obama Administration, and to date, has only been used in combat a handful of times. In each of these instances, these precision weapons appear to have been employed by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, though it’s not entirely clear as to whether or not there is any overlap between CIA and JSOC operations in terms of leveraging the AGM-114R9X in combat.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

Charles Lister on Twitter

The “ninja sword” Hellfire missile saw a sharp uptick in press late last year after it was used twice in less than a week to kill different terrorists in Syria. The first strike took place on December 3, when an AGM-114R9X was used to engage the passenger seat specifically of a minivan in the Syrian city of Atmeh. The second took place somewhere between Afrin and Azaz, once again killing its target without injuring any bystanders. As pictures of the strikes and their aftermath hit social media, the U.S. government’s sword-wielding missile was introduced to the world, despite the general lack of formal acknowledgement from the Pentagon.

All told, this missile covered in swords is believed to have only seen use a half a dozen times, which coupled with the small amount of information released about the platform suggests that the missile is a limited production run that may be the result of modifying existing Hellfire platforms. Either that, or JSOC would just prefer to keep this secret close to the chest.

In any regard, it just got a little bit tougher to be a terrorist, and that’s always good news.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran is prepared for ‘psychological, economic, political war’ with US

President Hassan Rohani has reassured Iranians that his government will offset the economic pressure of upcoming U.S. sanctions, a day after protests fueled by concern over a sharp fall in the value of the country’s currency.

In a speech broadcast live on state television on June 26, 2018, Rohani said that government revenues had not decreased in recent months, and blamed the fall in the value of the rial on “foreign media propaganda.”

On June 25, 2018, protesters gathered outside parliament after swarming Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. It was the first such protest was the first since similar demonstrations were held throughout the country at the beginning of 2018.


Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency reported June 26, 2018, that many of the protesters, which it referred to as rioters, had been detained the previous day. It did not give any numbers.

The Fars news agency and other local media reported a strike was under way for a second day on June 26, 2018, in some sections of the Grand Bazaar, and demonstrators were shouting antigovernment slogans in surrounding streets.

Some reports said that many shopkeepers closed their doors in anticipation of further unrest. The reports of a strike and shop closing could not immediately be independently verified.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Help a Marine respond to disruptive events on military bases

Arts in the Armed Forces just launched an Action Fund to provide arts and dialogue to the military community in response to disruptive events on base. Every donation will be matched through Labor Day 2020 with the goal of raising $200,000 to help the military community in times of crisis.

Founded by U.S. Marine Adam Driver and Juilliard alumna Joanna Trucker, the mission of the non-profit is to use the powerful shared experience of the arts to start conversations between military service members and civilians in order to bridge the world of the arts and the world of practical action.

After disturbing accounts of violence, sexual assault and suicides on military bases like Fort Hood, this kind of activism can’t come soon enough.
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As most people can attest during the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, in times of crisis, people turn to the arts for entertainment, comfort and inspiration. We learn about our own humanity from storytellers. Organizations like Arts in the Armed Forces have also discovered how therapeutic artistic exploration can be for the warrior community.

Now, through Sept. 7, 2020, every gift up to 0,000 will be matched dollar for dollar by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, so you can double your impact by donating. You can name your gift in honor or memory of a loved one. You can also share your story by tagging @aitaf and #AITAFActionFund on Instagram.

Benefits for service members include film screening and panel tickets as well as other great initiatives like the Bridge Award, which recognizes emerging playwrights (and, recently, screenwriters) of exceptional talent within the United States military. Service members interested in applying can learn more about the Bridge Award here.

To contribute to the Action Fund and help provide morale-boosting experiences to the military and veteran community where and when they are needed most, check out the campaign here.

My journey from Marine to actor | Adam Driver

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In the video above, you can learn more about Adam Driver’s service in the Marines, how he turned to the theater to recreate the camaraderie he missed after the military, and how the arts can be used to help returning veterans transition to civilian life.


MIGHTY TRENDING

3 jokes that could get you sent to a firing squad in North Korea

We’re all well aware that Kim Jong Un isn’t known for his sense of humor. Remember when that James Franco/Seth Rogen movie, “The Interview,” was released despite threats from the North Korean regime?


As you may recall, when “Team America: World Police” was released, Kim Jong Il hadn’t over-reacted so badly. Perhaps that was due to his being a movie buff. I mean, the dictator once kidnapped a South Korean director to improve his country’s film industry, for goodness sakes.

 

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2014, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting a flight drill of pursuit airwomen of the KPA Air and Anti-Air Force at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT AFP PHOTO / KCNA via KNS)

 

Kim Jong Un also has a track record of executing those who have displeased him, using anti-aircraft guns for executions. Among those who have faced this form of firing squad in the past are a Defense Minister who fell asleep at a meeting and the vice premier, who fell asleep during a speech.

According to a report from The Daily Mail, the next group to face the AA guns could be some North Korean soldiers who were having some fun at the dictator’s expense. Now, troops often grouse about the brass, and even will poke fun at them. And our brass will tolerate it to some degree – at least until it undermines their authority, as this scene from Black Hawk Down shows:

Note that Captain Steele kept it to a brief moment of informal counseling. Using an anti-aircraft gun never entered his mind.

Here are some of the jokes that the North Korean grunts who now may be headed for their date with a DShK gun supposedly told:

1. Compare him to a mental patient

Kim Jong Un may have some problems. There was that time he got Hangover-level drunk and demanded senior military officials write letters of apology for not launching a “military satellite.” The next morning, he came down, and expressed concern for the elderly generals’ health.

In some ways, this was played on in “The Interview.”

2. Compare him to a kindergartener

Kim Jong Un got this as well, albeit the best examples may be from this Russia Today video showing him watching some missile launches. Barron Trump arguably showed more maturity at President Trump’s inauguration – and he was 10 years old at the time.

3. Mocking Kim’s ancestors

The Daily Mail particularly noted that some of the troops called Kim Jong Un “Kim Squared” – implying Kim Jong Un’s level of crazy was more than the combined crazy from his grandfather Kim Il-Sung and his father Kim Jong Il.

We can’t speak to the former, but “Team America: World Police” mocked the hell out of Kim Jong Il. Here is one of Kim’s first moments in the film — when he fires his translator in very dramatic fashion.

Now, we at We Are The Mighty would like to suggest that maybe Kim Jong Un should take a page from his dad and try to sing it out, like in this clip:

Then again, it might not work.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Greyhound packed some serious firepower

The Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles is an essential tool in the the United States Army’s arsenal — but it isn’t the first wheeled armored vehicle that saw widespread service with GIs. In World War II, there was another — and it was fast, effective, and packed a powerful punch.


That vehicle was the M8 Greyhound. It was a 6×6 vehicle that entered service in 1941, and drew upon lessons learned from German successes in 1939 and 1940. It was intended to serve as a reconnaissance vehicle and saw action with the British, Australians, and Canadians before American troops took it into battle.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

A M8 Greyhound in Paris.

(National Archives)

The M8 had a top speed of 55 miles per hour. This might not sound so speedy but, by comparison, the iconic M4 Sherman tank had a top speed of just 24 miles per hour. This seemingly small difference in speed made a huge impact when the effective range of tank guns was much shorter — and not just because the guns were smaller. In World War II, fire-control was also less advanced. Unlike today’s M1 Abrams, which can fire on the move and take out a target 3,000 yards away, a tank had to come to a complete stop before firing back then.

The M8 also packed a 37mm gun that could fire armor-piercing or high-explosive rounds and had a coaxial .30-caliber machine gun to defend against infantry. This light armored car could also add an M2 .50-caliber machine gun to defend against aircraft.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

After World War II, the Greyhound was widely passed on, including to private sellers. This M8 was captured by Swedish troops in the Congo.

(Swedish Army)

That said, the M8 had its weaknesses. It was lightly armored and particularly vulnerable to land mines and improvised anti-tank weapons. That didn’t stop American from producing almost 12,000 of these vehicles. After World War II, many of these went on to see action in Korea — and after that, they found homes with law enforcement and in private collections.

Learn more about the Greyhound in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUxpyl3WO0U

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Ready for a new tattoo? The Air Force now has its own tattoo shop

No matter if you’ve been in for two months, two years or you are two generations removed from the military, everyone knows that tattoos and the service go hand in hand. Ever since the first tattoo shop opened its doors in America in 1846, ink has had a well-deserved place in the hearts and on the skin of service members.

Of course, tattooing didn’t get its start in America. Warriors from Maori tribes in New Zealand, to ancient Greeks, marked themselves to show strength, courage and confidence. Viking raiders tapped magical symbols into their skin using the ink made from sacrificial animals.


Even service members in the Revolutionary War were getting new ink to reflect their units and identities (not to mention to prevent being illegally conscripted by the British).

During the Civil War, pioneer tattooist Martin Hildebrant traveled to battlefields and inked various patriotic designs into service members’ skin. Records show that by 1925, as much as 90 percent of all US service members were tattooed; the Navy made up the bulk of those decorated. Apparently, sailors used new tattoos to showcase where they’d been, as a sort of secondary service record, and to showcase their achievements.

For example, a shellback turtle meant they’d crossed the equator, a golden dragon meant they crossed the International Date Line, and a golden shellback turtle meant they’d crossed both at the same spot.

But for as much as there’s always been ink in the military, there have also been regulations. It seems like every few years, some leadership gets it in mind that a new tattoo policy is in order. For years, there was a limit to the number of tattoos soldiers could have on their arms, but that’s no longer the case. However, the Army still doesn’t allow face, neck or hand tattoos, though a small ring tattoo can exist on each hand. As with all branches, there are always a few waivers that are granted by recruiters each year if it seems like a tattoo isn’t too distracting.

Just like the Army, the Air Force is revisiting some of its strict tattoo policies and lessening the regulations a bit. Before 2017, Airmen weren’t allowed to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. Now, they’re allowed to have full sleeves or large back pieces, which is a big deal for anyone who’s been stuck halfway through getting a tattoo only to have to stop because of regulations.

So it goes without saying that getting a tattoo is as much a rite of passage in the military as is getting that first haircut in basic training. Of course, barbershops have been embedded at installations worldwide for decades, but for new ink, service members have always had to go off base. That’s led plenty of people to wonder why there isn’t a place to get new ink and a fresh fade all at the same place. Now, that’s no longer the case.

Nellis Air Force Base, located just outside Las Vegas, now has its own tattoo shop, making it that much easier to get a new tattoo. Senior leadership at Nellis said in a press release that they’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for Airmen and to lead from the front. So naturally, an on-base tattoo shop makes sense.

This is the first tattoo shop to be inside any Air Force or Army installation, making it incredibly unique. Now, we can’t speak to the quality of work you might receive there, but it’s still pretty cool that leadership is finally recognizing that there’s a very real, inky culture within the military and are taking steps to provide that service.

Maybe the decision to open the tattoo shop on base is a signal that leadership hopes artists and the Airmen can better handle the Air Force guidance on tattoo size and placement. Of course, that’s not to say whether or not the tattoos will be any good, but at least they’ll be within regs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

The US military and its NATO partners have been looking to reassert their presence in Europe in the wake of Russian action in Crimea.

NATO has deployed multinational units to Eastern Europe, and the US Army has been looking to boost its armor for more rotational deployments. Armored units on the continent are also expanding their training repertoire.


Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Europe in September 2017, with roughly 3,300 personnel, 87 tanks, 125 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers for a nine-month rotation at locations in Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

When they disembarked in Gdansk, Poland, it would be “the first time two armored brigades transition within the European theater sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” Eastern Europe operations command spokesman US Army Master Sgt. Brent Williams said at the time.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
A M1 Abrams tank from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 23, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

The unit’s rotation is also concluding with something of a first. Between April 22 and April 25, 2018, the 2nd ABCT carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years, according to the Army.

“The 7th Army Training Command, who conducts the exercise, decided to leverage the two training areas in Bavaria to connect multiple locations and units to create a more realistic training environment in Europe,” said Capt. Orlandon Howard, 2nd ABCT public-affairs officer.

The exercise was part of the Combined Resolve multinational exercise, which is taking place between April 9 and May 12, 2018, and includes personnel from 13 countries. The exercise is designed to give rotational brigades a graded culminating event in realistic and complex training environment before they return to the US.

After a maneuver live-fire drill, the brigade was ordered to conduct the march to Hohenfels, where it would start preparing for the 10-day, force-on-force portion of the exercise.

The road march required only limited recovery operations and avoided major damage to roads and towns along the route, which the release noted was a significant accomplishment in light of the size of some of the vehicles involved.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Germans stand next to US soldiers as they watch the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, on German roads from the Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen V. Polanco)

Soldiers from the 2nd ABCT were joined by the Polish army’s 12th Mechanized Division, and a number of local residents stopped to watch the procession.

A German family waved at the soldiers while a German man held a US flag across his body. Others wore shirts or hats with US Army printed on them or with unit patches. One local man, Ralf Rosenecker, and several of his friends set up a display of three remote-controlled tanks with US flags, according to an Army release.

“Rosenecker said he was excited to see so many tanks because it had been over 15 years since such a large tactical road march was conducted on German roads,” the Army release said.

The US deployed hundreds of tanks, trucks, and other military equipment, accompanied by about 4,000 troops, to Europe at the beginning of 2017. The deployment, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, was meant to reassure US allies in the face of what many of them perceived as Russian aggression.

At the time, NATO said the planned deployments — which included US troops to Poland and Germany, Canada, and the UK sending 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were strictly defensive, through Russia rebuked what it saw as a armed buildup by Western countries in Eastern Europe

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Vehicles assigned to 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conduct a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)

Rotational forces have continued to cycle through Europe, carrying out training exercises with partner forces there.

NATO itself is also looking at ways to increase its readiness and streamline its operations in Europe. NATO movements on the continent have been hindered by differing conflicting regulations and customs rules, differing road standards, and outdated infrastructure across member states.

In January 2018, a convoy of US Paladins traveling from Poland to exercises in southern Germany was briefly stranded, after German border police stopped the Polish contractors transporting them for violating transportation rules.

In March 2018, NATO announced its new logistics command — is meant to ensure the quick movement of troops and material across Europe in the event of conflict — will be based in the southern German city of Ulm.

The EU has also said it is devising a plan for military personnel and equipment to move quickly across Europe in a crisis, avoiding border delays and bridges and roads too weak to handle military vehicles.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldier set to become the first ever female Green Beret

For the first time ever, a woman is now “in the final stage of training” to become the U.S. Army’s first female Green Beret.


The female soldier, who has not been identified by the Army, is an enlisted member of the National Guard, and was one of only a handful of women to ever make it through the rigorous 24-day assessment all aspiring Soldiers must survive in order to earn a spot in the year-long Special Forces qualification course, commonly referred to as the “Q Course.” According to a spokesman for the U.S. Army, this Soldier is nearing completion of the Q Course, which means her accession into the role of Special Forces engineer sergeant is all but guaranteed, provided she doesn’t fall out of training due to injury or a sudden shift in her performance. There is also at least one other woman in the same Q Course, though the Army did not indicate whether or not she was expected to pass.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

U.S. Special Forces Green Beret Soldiers, assigned to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Operational Detachment-A, prepare to breach an entry point during a close quarter combat scenario while Integrated Training Exercise 2-16 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Efren Lopez/Released)

The Army isn’t releasing any information about the Soldier that may soon earn the mantle of first-ever female Green Beret, citing security concerns and standard protocol.

This Soldier won’t be the Army’s first ever female to earn a role within a Special Operations unit, however. In 2017. a female Soldier earned her place in the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and more than a forty others have now completed Ranger School, which is widely considered to be not only grueling, but among the best leadership courses in the entirety of the U.S. Armed Forces. One of those women, Captain Kristen M. Griest, became the Army’s first female infantry officer back in 2016.

“I do hope that, with our performance in Ranger school, we’ve been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military,” Captain Griest said when she graduated in 2015. “We can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men.”
The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jason Robertson)

Although the title “Special Forces” is often attributed to all Special Operations units in popular culture, in truth, the title “Special Forces” belongs only to the U.S. Army’s Green Berets. Special Forces Soldiers are tasked with a wide variety of mission sets and often serve as physical representation of America’s foreign policy at the point of conflict. That means Green Berets are experts in unconventional warfare, training foreign militaries for internal defense, intelligence gathering operations and, of course, direct-action missions aimed at killing or capturing high value targets. Earning your place among these elite war-fighters means excelling throughout 53 weeks of arduous training centered around combat marksmanship, urban operations, and counter-insurgency tactics, among others.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

popular

This wounded airman saved his team (with an A-10’s help)

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Gutierrez is a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who was awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism during an intense firefight in Afghanistan in 2009.


JTACS are military personnel who direct combat support aircraft like the A-10, calling in air strikes to support ground operations.

Gutierrez was part of a nighttime raid with an Army special forces detachment to capture a high-value Taliban target, a “brutal” man living outside of the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan.

The team was attacked with heavy fire from a numerically superior and battle-hardened enemy force. Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route.

“We were just getting hammered, getting peppered,” he recalls in a six-minute interview. He talked to his team’s leader who wanted to drop bombs on the enemy targets.

“If you put a bomb on that it’ll kill us all,” he told his leader. “Guys are getting wounded. Our best chance is a 30mm high-angle strafe.”

Gutierrez is having this discussion as bullets pepper the walls behind him, as a medic works on his chest wound, a through-and-through which the medic couldn’t find the entrance wound. He is also still holding off Taliban fighters with his M4 rifle.

“This is danger close, I need your initials,” he told his team lead.

“How close?”

“Less than 10 meters.”

Gutierrez needed the support of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “Warthog,” whose 30mm GAU-8 Cannon rounds are the size of beer bottles, to make a precision strike on the attacking insurgents.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
An A-10 bombing run, too explosive to support Gutierrez’ team (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Ethan Sabin, an A-10 pilot based at Kandahar Airfield, asked a nearby F-16 pilot to mark the target with the laser on his targeting pod.

The A-10 attack was so close, Gutierrez’s right eardrum burst and his left eardrum was severely damaged from the noise. He lost five-and-a-half pints of blood getting away from the combat zone.

After the first A-10 strafing, the medic had to re-inflate Gutierrez’ collapsed lung so he could direct two more strafing runs. For four hours, the team held off the enemy fighters and escaped the battlespace.

To give an idea of the kind of interactions JTACs have with close-air support pilots in the heat of the moment, the video below is a prime example of the extraordinary actions Gutierrez and airmen like him perform on the battlefield every day.


Feature image: USAF photo

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the best ways to survive falling out of a plane with no parachute

Peter E. asks: What could I do during freefall after falling out of a plane to maximize my chances of surviving?

According to the Aircraft Crashes Record Office in Geneva, between 1940 and 2008 there were 157 people who fell out of planes without a parachute during a crash and lived to tell about it. A full 42 of those falls occurred at heights over 10,000 feet (above 3,000 meters), such as the tale of 17 year old Juliane Koepcke who not only survived an approximately 10,000 foot free fall, but also a subsequent 10 day trek alone through the Peruvian rain forest with no real supplies other than a little bag of candy.

Now, while you might think surely nothing like that could ever happen to you, it turns out whether falling from 30,000 feet or a much more common 30, the same basic strategies apply. And for reference here, approximately 30 feet or about 9 meters is around the height at which you begin to be more likely to die from your injuries than survive. At heights as little as about 80 feet, only about 1 in 10 people survive and it pretty much all goes to hell from there.


So what can you do to increase your chances of survival if you ever find yourself doing your best impression of Icarus?

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Giphy

To begin with, if you find yourself plummeting to the Earth at heights above around 1,500 feet, the higher you are the better, at least to a certain point. You see, at a mere 1,500 feet, you will reach your terminal velocity before you hit the ground, which is around 120-140 mph for a typical adult human who is trying their best to fall as slowly as possible. The problem for you is that starting your fall at around 1,500 feet is going to only give you approximately 10-12 seconds before you go splat. Not a whole lot of time to do anything useful.

On the other end of things, falling from, say, 30,000 feet will see you initially having to endure extremely unpleasant temperatures in the ballpark of -40 C/F and air rushing all around making it all the more frigid. You also may well briefly lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. So why is this better? Well, on the one hand if you never regain consciousness, you at least are spared the terrifying few minute fall. But, for most, you’re likely to regain consciousness with around 1-2 minutes or so to execute your survival plan.

Sure, you’re probably going to die anyway, but, hey, having something — anything — to do will help distract you from the truth that your adventure here on Earth is about to end and, no matter who you are, the fact that you ever existed will soon be forgotten — for most, in a shockingly short amount of time…

But do not go gentle into that good night my friends. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

So to begin with, to give you the maximum amount of time to execute a plan and reduce your speed as much as possible, you should first spread out in the classic X/W belly down skydiver pose. This is shockingly effective at slowing you down. For example, in the most streamlined of free fall cases, it turns out it’s actually possible to reach speeds well over twice the aforementioned 120-ish mph that is more typical in this X pose.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

There is a way to slow down significantly more, but it’s not yet time to try this trick. For now, once position assumed, your first priority is to look for any object to cling to — bonus points if the object is falling slower than you. It turns out so called “Wreckage Riders” are about twice as likely to survive such a fall vs. those who have nothing to cling to but the knowledge that they wasted so much of their lives worrying and seeking after things that didn’t actually matter and now can do nothing about it.

As for why Wreckage Riders have such a significantly higher survival rate, this is not only because of the potential for the object to slow one’s terminal velocity a bit in some cases, but also potentially to use as a buffer between them and the ground.

As noted by professor Ulf Björnstig of Umeå University, when at speeds of around terminal velocity for humans, you only actually need about a half a meter or so distance to decelerate to make surviving at least theoretically possible. Every extra centimeter beyond that counts significantly at increasing your odds.

On that note, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box on this one — just as having a person by your side when you find yourself being chased by a bear can potentially be a huge advantage (changing almost certain death to almost certain survivability if you are a faster runner than said person), in free fall, the body of another passenger who is likewise about to bid adieu to the world and promptly be forgotten is also a major asset — in this case via placing said person between yourself and the ground before you hit it. Bonus Survivability points if you can find a morbidly obese individual. Sure, the terminal velocity will be slightly higher in such a case, but that extra padding is going to go a long way.

Just be sure that the other passenger doesn’t have the same idea.

Pro-tip for avoiding your last moments being spent cartwheeling through the air trying to elbow drop a person from low orbit — go in like you’re wanting to give them a loving hug; to shed this mortal coil in the arms of another. As if to say, it’s going to be OK, we’re in this together. Then shortly before striking the ground, quickly rotate to have their body beneath you. They’ll never see it coming.

And don’t underestimate the power of a group hug forming in this scenario. All those soft, soft bodies to put between you and the ground…

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Giphy

On the other hand, should you want to be selfless for some weird reason, and say, save your child or something, a couple of parents stacking themselves with child on top face up not only would give the child the greatest chance of surviving, but also maybe even a genuine decent one as kids, particularly under the age of 4, are noted as being significantly more likely to survive falls from any height anyway, let alone when you give them a nice thick buffer of two bodies who have spent way too much of their lives eating delicious KFC.

Regardless of whether you manage to find some wreckage or another human to ride all the way down, continuing the theme, you want to do your best to aim for the softest thing you can see. And the target doesn’t even have to be that close per se. For those who know what they’re doing, traveling a horizontal distance of even as much as one mile for every mile they fall is fully possible without any special equipment. It turns out this is actually how you can shave another 20-40 mph off your decent rate via what’s known as tracking — essentially positioning your body in such a way that you will gain speed in the horizontal direction as you fall; for a good tracker able to achieve horizontal speeds approximately equal to their vertical speed.

Unfortunately there is no exact consensus as to what the best position is for tracking with maximal efficiency, as different body types respond differently and the like, but the general method is to straighten your legs rather than bend and bring them together. At the same time, bring your arms to your sides, with hands palms down, and then make your body fairly flat with head angled slightly lower than your feet.

Of course, someone with no experience maneuvering around while free falling is going to do a poor job at actually doing any of this, let alone then at some point managing to hit even a huge target. And as for the benefits of reducing vertical descent rate a bit in favor of increasing horizontal, it’s not really clear whether this would be worth it in the vast majority of cases. For instance, just imagine jumping out of a car going 100 mph and how that would work out for you. Now add in also dropping at around 100 mph at the same time… You’re going to have a bad time.

As for aiming at a soft target, this is definitely valuable. So if you find yourself plummeting towards the Earth, be sure and make a mental note to have past you go ahead and practice maneuvering while free falling at some point.

Moving swiftly on, what are the best soft things to try to hit? Well, when looking at the records of the people who have managed to survive such falls, deep snow is almost always going to be your best bet if there’s any around.

For example, consider the case of British Tail-gunner Nick Alkemade. In 1944, with his plane going down, he chose to jump from his burning aircraft despite the tiny insignificant detail of his parachute having been rendered useless before he jumped. While you might think his subsequent fall of over 18,000 feet would surely be his end, in fact, thanks to the magic of tree branches and deep snow, his most significant injury was just a sprained leg, though he was quickly captured by the Germans. More impressed by his near death experience than his nationality, they released him a couple months later and gave him a certificate commemorating his fall and subsequent survival.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

Snow also has the huge advantage of the fact that, thanks to it more or less being everywhere when it’s present, you don’t really need to know what you’re doing to hit it.

Now, if it’s not the dead of winter, but any of the other seasons, a freshly tilled farm field or one with ultra thick vegetation will probably be your next best bet — both providing at least some deceleration buffer while also giving you a big target to aim for that you can see while still quite high in the sky.

For example, in 2015, veteran of over 2500 sky diving jumps, Victoria Cilliers, managed to survive a fall from about 4,000 feet by landing in a freshly plowed field. Granted, she did suffer broken ribs, hip, and fractured some vertebrae in her back, but she lived. As for her husband, who had intentionally tampered with both her main parachute and reserve so that they wouldn’t work properly (and previously attempted to kill her by creating a gas leak in their house), well, he got to move out of their house and into prison.

As for vegetation, even thorny blackberry bushes are better than nothing, though any chance of actually aiming and hitting them in reality is probably poor. But for whatever it is worth, in 2006 professional skydiver Michael Holmes managed just this, though not intentionally, when both his main chute and backup failed to deploy correctly. In his case, he suffered a concussion, a shattered ankle, and a slew of more minor injuries, but was otherwise fine.

Now you might at this point be wondering why we haven’t mentioned water, perhaps thinking it a great choice as a soft target to try to hit, and in some respects you’re not wrong. The problem is that at high velocity, water isn’t exactly soft- think belly flopping from a diving bored. That said, as many an extreme cliff diver has demonstrated, water can be a hell of a lot more forgiving than a cement sidewalk if you hit it properly.

The problem being most people aren’t exactly practiced at this sort of diving and even for the pros, at terminal velocity you’re almost certainly going to break a lot of bones, among many other issues. And don’t even get us started on the fact that hitting the water at those speeds can potentially cause said water to shoot into your anal orifice with enough force to cause internal bleeding.

Whether that happens or not, even if by some miracle you survive, you’re probably going to be rendered unconscious or unable to swim properly. So unless David Hasselhoff happens to be nearby, not a great choice.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Giphy

Now, lacking something soft to land on or the Hoff to rescue you, you want to look for something — anything — to break your fall before you hit the ground. Illustrating just how valuable this can be, consider the case of Christine McKenzie who, in 2004, found herself plummeting to the ground from 11,000 feet. Just before impact, she first hit some live power lines. While you might assume that would have sliced, diced, and fried her, in fact, she walked away from the whole thing with nothing more than a couple of broken bones and bumps and bruises.

Once again illustrating just how valuable hitting just about anything before hitting the ground can be, in 1943 New Jersey native Alan Magee was at about 20,000 feet when he decided to jump from his B-17 bomber, which had recently had a wing partially blown off. Unlike the aforementioned Nick Alkemade who made a similar decision, Magee actually did have a parachute. Unfortunately for him, he blacked out after being thrown from the aircraft and never deployed it.

He eventually fell through the glass ceiling of the St. Nazaire train station in France, which slowed him enough that he managed to survived the impact with the stone ground below. Not exactly unscathed, when treated he was found to have a couple dozen shrapnel wounds from the previous air battle, then many broken bones and internal injuries as a result of the aftermath of falling 20,000 feet. While he was subsequently taken captive, he came through alright and lived to a whopping 84 years old, dying in late 2003.

As another example of a ceiling striker, we have the 2009 case of cameraman Paul Lewis whose main chute failed on a dive, at which point he cut it away and deployed his reserve chute… which also failed, resulting in his descent being little slowed. He ended up hitting the roof of an airplane hanger after about a 10,000 foot fall. Not only did he survive the incident, but his only major immediate injury was to his neck, though he apparently made a full recovery.

From the limited data at hand, a better choice of something to break your fall than power lines and roofs appears to be a thickly wooded forest. Not only is this easier to aim for, while trees can potentially skewer you, their branches have saved many a free faller in the past, such as Flight Lieutenant Thomas Patrick McGarry who fell from 13,000 feet and had his fall broken by a series of fir tree branches.

This all brings us around to what position you should be in when you actually hit the ground. As you might imagine, the data set we have to work with simply isn’t big enough to definitively answer this question, and for some weird reason randomly dropping thousands of people out of planes and asking them to try to land in various positions over various surface types isn’t a study anyone has ever done.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

However, we do have some indications of what’s best thanks to, among other sources, data collected by the Federal Aviation Agency and countless experiments conducted by NASA who, when they’re not trying to keep the world ignorant of its flat nature and keep people away from the ice wall that keeps the oceans in (yes, there are actually people who believe this), has done their best to figure out the limits of what G-forces humans can reasonably survive and how best to survive them on the extreme end.

So what’s the consensus here? It’s almost universally stated that regardless of how high you fall from, you should land on the balls of your feet, legs together, all joints bent at least a little, then attempt to crumple slightly back and sideways (the classic 5 point impact sequence — feet, calf, thigh, buttock, and shoulder). In this recommendation, you should also have your arms wrapped around your head to protect it and completely relaxing every muscle in your body, lest everything just snap instantly instead of using the surprisingly extreme elasticity of your various bits to slow things down over some greater unit of time.

Something to keep in mind in some cases, however, is that NASA’s research indicates this so called “eyes down” impact (where the G-forces are such that your eye balls get forced downwards — so the widely recommended position here) actually maximizes your chance of injury and death in their studies of extreme G force effects on the human body. Their data instead shows that “eyes in” (so G forces pushing you back into something — think like accelerating in a car where you’re pushed back into the seat) is the way your body can take the most force and survive.

The problem, of course, is that the forces involved in free falling from great heights are too extreme in most cases for your body to survive in this eyes-in position. Thus, while you might receive a lot more injuries from the upright position landing, the whole point is to sacrifice your feet, legs, and on up in an attempt to reduce the ultimate G forces felt by your organs and, of course, impact force when your head hits the surface.

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life
Giphy

That said, from this there is some argument to be made that perhaps falling back instead of sideways may be superior, assuming you can manage to properly protect your head with your arms.

Whether that’s true or not, presumably there are some scenarios, such as landing in super deep, powdery snow, where landing face up in a bit of a reclined position with head tucked in and arms protecting said head, might actually be superior for similar reasons why stuntmen, trapeze performers, daredevils and the like will generally choose this reclined position for their landings onto soft things.

We should also probably mention that if you do hit the ground with a horizontal speed as well, the general recommendation, besides protect your head with your arms, is to quite literally attempt to roll with it and not try to fight that in the slightest. Resistance is futile in this case and attempts towards this end will only increase the odds of you being injured and dying.

Bonus Fact:

  • The current world record for surviving a free fall without a parachute is held by one Vesna Vulovic, who managed to survive a plummet of about 33,330 feet on January 26, 1972. On that day, Vulovic found herself in such a situation after the commercial airline she was on was blown up mid-flight, with it presumed to be the work of Croatian nationalist. Whatever the case, everyone aboard the plane died but Vulovic, who not only benefited from being an accidental wreckage rider, but also had her wreckage hit some trees and land on snow on a slope- — literally all best case scenarios. While she did break many, many bones in her body, among a variety of serious injuries, and ultimately wound up in a coma for some time, it’s noted that when she woke up, pretty much the first thing she did was ask a doctor for a cigarette. We’re not sure if this makes her a stone-cold badass or just someone who really needed to think about the severity of her nicotine addition.

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

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