CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Republican National Convention started here Monday tapping into the ill-ease of the American public in the wake of terrorist attacks across the globe and domestic unrest. The theme for the first of four days was “Make America Safe Again,” a play on Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” tagline that he’s used from the beginning of his current run for president.
The prime time slate of speakers who took the stage at the Quicken Loans Arena started with Willie Robertson, one of the stars of the “Duck Dynasty” reality show, and television actor Scott Biao. They were followed by the first veteran in the lineup, former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor.
Luttrell started his remarks by stating that he was born into a patriotic family that taught him “to die for any woman and to fight beside any man.” He said his father, who served in Vietnam, was “shamed out of his uniform” but instilled in his sons to “love this country and its people more than we loved ourselves.”
Luttrell was followed by Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed during the attack on the consulate in Benghazi in 2012. “For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton,” she said, which elicited a passionate response from the delegates on the convention floor, many of whom launched into a “lock her up” chant.
The topic of Clinton’s responsibility for the failure and tragedy of Benghazi continued with Mark Geist and John Teigen, two security contractors who fought off the attacks that night. The two men, who helped write 13 Hours, a book criticizing the State Department’s response to the attacks that was made into a Michael Bay movie last year, offered the crowd a lengthy, machismo-infused version of their experiences that night and left no doubt that they believe the lives of their comrades were lost because of the inaction of then-Sec. Clinton.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division, jabbed at President Obama’s unwillingness to use the term “fundamentalist Islamic terrorist” when referring to ISIS and the associated network of lone wolves, saying that if Donald Trump was made commander-in-chief he would “call the enemy by its name.”
The energy in the building shifted into the next gear as former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani took the stage and proclaimed that “the vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe. They fear for their children; they fear for themselves; they fear for our police officers who are being targeted, with a target on their back.”
Giuliani also hit Obama for his apparent reticence around labeling the terrorist threat in religious terms, saying, “Failing to identify them properly maligns all those good Muslims around the world who are being killed by them. They are killing more Muslims than anyone else.”
The lights faded to black as Giuliani left the stage, and the classic Queen hit “We are the Champions” boomed through the PA system. Donald Trump appeared as a backlit silhouette, and when the lights came back on he stepped to the podium and announced, “We are going to win so big,” and then introduced his wife Melania, who was the keynote speaker for the evening.
Mrs. Trump’s remarks, delivered with her heavy Eastern European accent, hit a number of general themes, including the fact that she was an immigrant who went through the naturalization process and became a citizen in 2006 and that her husband wasn’t one to give up on anything in life. (Media pundits were quick to point out that parts of her speech mirrored one given by First Lady Michelle Obama at the DNC in Denver in 2008, an accusation that Trump allies dismissed. “There’s no way that Melania Trump was plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech,” New Jersey Gov. and Trump proxy Chris Christie said.)
Donald Trump retook the stage at the end of his wife’s speech, and the two walked off to raucous applause from the delegates and other faithful in attendance. And, in what has to be viewed as a case of bad showmanship planning by either the RNC or the Trump team, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a vocal critic of the Obama administration in spite of the fact that he’s a registered Democrat, walked to the podium to speak as a large majority of the audience streamed for the exits, assuming they’d seen the most important part of the program.
“The destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president,” Flynn said. “From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton.”
Flynn was followed Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, another Army veteran, who told the dwindling crowd, “Our allies see us shrinking from our place as a leader in the world as we have failed time and again to address threats. They are looking for American leaders who are willing to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.'”
And by the time Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick brought the first day’s proceedings to a close, Quicken Loans Arena was nearly empty.
Left: Bob Gunton. Right: Bob in Vietnam as an RTO. Photo credit Bob Gunton.
Bob Gunton is a prolific stage actor known for his roles in Evita and Sweeney Todd on Broadway where his most well-known film role is as Warden Norton in The Shawshank Redemption. He served with distinction in the Vietnam War in the last great multi-unit battle of the conflict, The Siege of Firebase Ripcord. This is his story.
Special Note: “Bob Gunton has just completed a memoir entitled “…OR AM I BEING OBTUSE?…”
WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
My mom and dad met at a USO dance on Santa Monica pier and within two weeks they were married. I am the oldest of six children, three boys and three girls. My parents were from the coal country; my father being from Pennsylvania (Anthracite-hard coal) and my mother being from the coal country of Montana (Bituminous-soft coal), so I have the hard and soft coal running through my blood.
I had been influenced by many folk singers in high school where I was affected by the ethos of folk music through such acts as The Kingston Trio, The Limeliters, The Brothers Four, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. I put together a trio called The Deacons. We went around to coffee houses to perform, like the Mon Ami in Orange, CA. Around the same time as we performed at Mon Ami, Steve Martin was on the marquee as well since he grew up in Orange County.
I went to the seminary of Paulist Fathers — St. Peter’s College in Baltimore, Maryland for a few years from 1963 to 1966. I had started out as a supporter of the Vietnam War in 1963. I’d even made a speech at my high school for a Toastmasters Speech Contest about the “domino theory,” but then my views changed rather dramatically after the seminary. My opinion shifted especially after Senator Eugene McCarthy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy moved away from the Democratic party line supporting the Vietnam War.
A friend and fellow seminarian classmate arranged for me to audition for his father, Paul Crabtree, who was a successful Broadway actor, writer and director. He’d written a musical called TENNESSEE, USA! for the new theatre he had founded — The Cumberland County Playhouse — in Crossville, Tennessee. It was going to run during the summer between seminary and Novitiate. I had done a couple of operettas in high school. when my thoughts were of making a difference as a priest. After that wonderful summer I recognized that I was gifted far more in music, acting and performing than in what was required to be a good priest. I left the seminary and had gone to UC Irvine to study theater when I dropped out for a semester to do Carousel in Tennessee. I knew I was chancing being. drafted. And when I returned to California, I was.
When I was called up, I had to spend some time thinking if I was a Conscientious Objector (CO). My father had been in the Marine Corps during WWII in the Pacific and I had grown up steeped in WWII history. My father’s six brothers were all WWII veterans as well. By that time, I was opposed to The Vietnam War. I probably could have gotten a CO because of my divinity school experience. But although I was opposed to the Vietnam War, I was not opposed then to a just war in general. I didn’t feel I had the right to be a CO because of my political beliefs. I also had to ask myself if I could measure up to my father, he was a supporter of the war. My father and I had lots of very agitated and loud arguments about the war.
After my time in Vietnam and I had come home I discovered that my father had grown long hair, sideburns and had himself had come to oppose the war. My willingness to go fight may have affected him in some way. While I was in Nam I had been given the Bronze Star with a V (for Valor.) Our local paper had run a story on it. Many years later, when my father passed as the eldest son, I had to clean out his belongings etc. I found in his wallet a folded-up piece of plastic covered newspaper clipping about my Bronze Star award. He had carried it in his wallet for many years. All of this brought us much closer together than in the first twenty years of my life. I had earned his respect and we could speak to each other as not just father and son, but as survivors of conflict.
WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
Hmm…It’s a memory shared with me after Dad had died. While he was alive my father’s Marine Corps buddy, Robert Newtbaar, had borrowed my father’s dress blues and wanted to return them. When I came to pick them up, he told me a story about my father. When my father and he were on a troop ship heading to Hawaii, then on to the South Pacific, Newtbaar had become very depressed and anxious about what might happen to him. He decided he was going to jump overboard. Newtbaar made a move and was on his way over the rail, when my father dashed over and pulled him back onto ship amid a volley of curses. Newtbaar said very tearfully that my father had saved his life.
After they got back and were mustered out of the Corps, Newtbar, who was from a fairly wealthy family, came to my father with ,000. He loved to hear my father sing, especially Frankie Lane’s hit songs. like “Georgia,” “Jezebel” and “The Flying Dutchman.” Newtbaar told my father he had the most beautiful voice he had ever heard. He wanted my father to go to Hollywood and be a singer.
However, my father already had a wife and two kids and was working in a grocery store. He was in no position to give up his responsibilities for his family in order to pursue a singing career. He’d actually had to rejoin the USMC at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro just to find housing for our family. A few years later Dad suffered an injury in a grocery store in Santa Monica which resulted in a case of amnesia. He eventually recovered from his injury; however, he lost a lot of memories of WWII and the early post war period. We had some pictures from his time in the service. I also learned from his friends some of what my father had experienced. It was touching for Newtbar to share these stories with me and they impacted my life.
My family would occasionally in the summer and drive up to Montana to visit my grandmother and uncle on my mother’s side. Part of the journey up there was along a stretch of highway which was called the Grapevine which is now the I-5, which was full of steep switchbacks and rapid changes of elevation. My father was agoraphobic which I learned through my childhood. As an adult I took my parents NYC and then to Windows on the World, which was a restaurant overlooking the city in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on floors 106 and 107. My father stood at the back of the elevator once the doors opened to the restaurant, saw the tip-tops of skyscrapers. He barely was able to inch his way around with his back against the center walls. It was the most vulnerable I had ever seen him.
The WTC memory makes me flash back to those trips to Montana where my father would look out the window over the rocks and chasms below. After looking he would get anxious and sweaty. My mother would reach out and touch his shoulder. She’d start singing “Whispering Hope”, which is a gospel song, but also popular at the time. As she began singing, my father would join in. All of a sudden, we kids in the back seat, comforted by the sound of their soothing harmony. For us, their duet signified their love for us and their shared history together.
The grapevine highway. Photo credit SVC History.
A view from Windows on the World in the WTC’s North Tower. Photo credit Literary Hub.
WATM: What values were stressed at home?
Our Catholic Faith; our blue-collar status; my parents’ Depression-Era values, sense of responsibility. All of us had to pitch in. My father was self-taught and a great reader but was educated only through the seventh grade. My mother had been a schoolteacher in a one room schoolhouse in Montana. There was a strong expectation that all of us would work hard in school and be a good person. Basic, decent 1950’s values.
Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want painting. Photo credit artsy.com.
WATM: What influenced you to join the US Army, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?
I was drafted. Basic and Advanced Infantry training were tough physically in many ways since I was not particularly athletic. I was appointed cadence caller for our early morning five-mile runs probably because of my loud voice. One of my cadences calls was, “…we are the mighty, mighty mighty Charlie, everywhere we go people want to know who we are, so we tell them, we are Charlie, mighty mighty Charlie…” Classic. Although I sometimes ad libbed a couple, including: “If you got a half a buck….Call someone who gives a (bleep.)” I was sent to Nam near the end of the war during Vietnamization and was put into an S-1 shop for the 101st Airborne in Bien Hoa. What a relief! My thoughts were of a dry hooch, spit-shined boots, pressed combat fatigues, and weekends in Saigon. I lasted at the S-1 just one week. Because American grunts were being phased out of the war, the Division Commander wanted all soldiers with a combat MOS to be sent out into the field to get the ARVN up to speed. I was an 11B-20 –infantry, boonie rat, ground pounder — so off I went to “the bush.”
I was sent up to I Corps in Quang Tri province, in I Corps. I reported to the 2nd of the 501st Battalion Headquarters and then to their Charlie Company, Third Platoon. The platoon leader, SGT Yonashiru, took a look at me — being six feet tall and husky. the PL asked, “who’s the (effing) cherry?” He scoped me out. Given my height and apparent strength he ordered me to take the “gun” or the “radio”. The “gun” was the .50 caliber machine gun. I chose the radio, which seemed kind of “show business” to me. Apparently, some of the grunts initially thought I might be a Criminal Investigation Division (CID) narc because I showed up by myself to the unit with spit shined boots, crisp fatigues. I was also a few years older than the rest of the platoon. I was warned by a fellow soldier about being viewed as a narc and warned me about “fragging.” Fragging described when someone rolls a grenade under another soldier’s hooch to get rid of a “problem”. For the first time in Vietnam I was really scared.
I went into the company area and went up to a soul brother and asked for a doobie. I’d never smoked grass in my life. He handed me a joint. I stood there in the company area and toked up so anyone watching would see. I then went back to my hooch and passed out for like twelve hours. From then on, I was one of the guys and no longer a target of fragging. I was now “in” in the outfit.
Bob in a UH-1N high above Thua Thien Province, Vietnam 1970. Photo credit Bob Gunton
They made me the platoon, eventually company, and then battalion Radio Telephone Operator (RTO). Near the end of my year there in July 1970 our battalion was Op-Con to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st. They were seeking to take over a hilltop above the A Shau Valley where the US had been driven out a few years earlier during the “Hamburger Hill” period. Fire Support Base Ripcord was going to be emplaced during this two-brigade assault operation. At this time, I was just given the battalion RTO job and would be with the battalion CO, XO and the like on Ripcord itself. At the same time, my guys with Charlie company 2nd of the 501st were going to assault the area around FSB Ripcord with fellow companies of the 3rd Brigade. Bn Intel determined that thousands of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) were going to assault the FSB. A day or two after the Brigade-sized assault on the AO, my former unit was caught in a command detonated ambush followed by an early morning assault by the NVA. All during this time I had been talking on the radio to my guys, handling supply and normal stuff.
One of my best friends there was fellow soldier Joe Patterson, a funny guy and great audience for my shenanigans. The night before they were hit, we were talking on the Delta One radio which was scrambled so the enemy could not intercept our transmissions. He told me, “Gunton, I have a really bad feeling about this one.” There had been no contact yet, but he still felt bad about the operation. Sure enough when the unit was hit, Joey was gravely wounded. I called in the MEDEVAC for him and for our company commander. We had one KIA from Charlie’s Headquarters Company where this soldier had had to go out to replace someone’s weapon and had to stay overnight and was killed during the assault. It was a terribly fraught and frightening time.
Bob along the Song Bo River. Photo credit Bob Gunton.
There were many major encounters around Ripcord which turned out to be the biggest, final, multi-unit battle in Vietnam. There have been books and films about it. We went on like that for about a week or longer. In the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) we had three RTOs. The intel suggested that the firebase itself would soon be under attack. At one point the NVA got really lucky when they shot down a Chinook over the ammo dump as it was unloading ammo. All of the crew survived the crash, but the entire ammo dump started cooking off: phosphorus, artillery, HE and CS rounds. All of that CS gas started infiltrating into the bunkers where none of us had gas masks, so we had to take our t-shirts and wet them to put over our face so as not to be forced out of our bunkers.
At one point I had to urinate really badly. With the rounds cooking off and NVA mortars coming in, I wasn’t about to saunter outside to one of the “Piss tubes.” The bunkers were well constructed and had screen doors. I got to the door and decided I would open the door, step out halfway or so and then take a whiz. I was just about to finish when I heard, “TROOP!” right behind me. It was the brigade commander whose call sign was Black Spade. I stood to attention and zipped up. Other soldiers were in that part of the bunker when the Brigade Commander told me with cold anger:, “if you have to go take a piss, go find a piss tube. We are NOT animals in here.” It was a very embarrassing moment. I felt lower than snake shit. A few days later the Brigade Commander was evaluating positions outside when a mortar round landed directly on him. He and a fellow officer were killed immediately. The terrible irony of that sequence of events rocked me for a while.
Companies then started being extracted from around Ripcord and then it was our HQ’s time to leave. We knew Ripcord was going to be abandoned and the Army would blow up what they could, then carpet bomb it with B-52 strikes. We got back to LZ Sally and all of us in HQ company gets called together. A member of the battalion staff informed us about how two Delta One radios had been left behind in our TOC on Ripcord. The NVA could potentially use those radios against us. They needed two “volunteers” to go back and get them, which really meant the two who were least “short” would go. I was pretty damn short — but not short enough. I went with another younger RTO on a slick (Huey helicopter) to head back up there. On the way out, one of the pilots turned around in the chopper and made a hand dunking motion. Ripcord was taking incoming fire. We had to jump off the helicopter at about five or six feet off the ground as he was not going to land because of the incoming.
We found a hole to jump in and then found the Delta One radios. There were a lot of wounded soldiers that needed to be taken off the fire base before anyone else could go. We knew that no one could head back to base until all the wounded had been evacuated. So me and the other RTO jumped in and helped load the wounded onto slicks while the mortars and rockets continued falling. Just before the sun set over Laos we were able to get on a chopper to head back. I don’t think any of that involved any kind of valor much less heroism, but the battalion commander put us in for Bronze Stars, particularly for the MEDEVAC loading.
The questions of what is cowardice, what is heroism, what is self-preservation have been with me all my life. I’ve even used them in my acting. Everything is shades of gray, especially when it comes to combat and moral decisions that we make. Was I wrong not to go the piss tube with the self-preservation involved and the death of Black Spade as he followed his own advice and left the 3rd Brigade without leadership for a while. These experiences have definitely shaped my moral view of the universe. I have to accept that even the worst situations, the best remedies are going to be mixed. How we are trained, our wisdom, and education play their parts in our decisions and choices. But we are human, have mixed emotions, and inner conflicts. I have applied these in my life successfully and unsuccessfully.
MEDEVACs are miles ahead of what we had in Vietnam. There was an instance where a soldier from our recon platoon left the wire at night to take a crap. One of his buddies mistakenly set off a claymore on him and killed him. When the chopper came in to evac the body there were huge winds in the AO and they could not get a jungle penetrator through the triple canopy jungle to get the body out so they threw the soldiers a body bag. The soldiers then had to hump the corpse out for three or four days to get to a place where the chopper could get in.
I helped prevent a mutiny earlier that year where a loach (OH-6 Cayuse helicopter) had been shot down where I was a company RTO then. Our company was tasked to go down into this valley area to find the chopper to see if the pilot had survived. Our company commander was against the war and did all he could to stay out of it. He was one of the only officers I had met like that. The company commander wouldn’t lead down and the battalion commander call sign Driver had to fly out. The company commander was ordered to go down after being chewed out by the battalion CO and I told him, “we got a lawful order to go down and we needed to go otherwise this is bad stuff.” We did end up following orders to go down where we found the loach with the pilot dead. The pilot’s body was able to be sent back to Graves and Registration for eventual burial. I was against the war but found myself on the other side of the argument with the company commander. It was gray even then and was not cut and dried. Our mission was, for most of us, to save each other and our buddies got back.
Charlie company had its 50th reunion, almost 50 years to the day many were injured including Joey Patterson at the FSB Ripcord battle. Due to Covid-19 I was not able to fly out to Pennsylvania. However, I did do a Zoom call and got see them all and meet their wives. Joey and I caught up as well. It was a great virtual reunion due to the COVID pandemic. Keeping the threads of your life together along the way can give you a better sense of where you are from and going.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into acting and film?
When filming a movie, you are all in it together where everyone has their own duty. The expectation is that everyone knows exactly what they have to do and to do it as quickly and gracefully as they can. It includes keeping spirits up when waiting out a rainstorm to restart filming and when moving locations and loading up the trucks is like heading to another combat assault. So, I must have my shit together and know my lines cold. There is a lot that carries over from being in the military to working on a film production. You depend on each other and don’t want a weak link and sure as hell don’t want to be that weak link.
WATM: What is the most fulfilling stage and/or film role you have done?
Warden Norton from The Shawshank Redemption without a doubt is the best role I have ever had. It is the best movie I have ever been in. I have been back to many reunions and celebrations at the prison. People go to visit the prison and stay overnight. They even have a Shawshank trail where people get to see all the outside filming locations and then take a tour of the prison where it has artifacts from the movie. I have been to every continent except Antarctica and everywhere I go people come up to me to speak about The Shawshank Redemption. People come up to me in Europe, South America, Australia where to be a part of a movie that is such high quality and well-known across the board is truly a blessing.
I was invited to Akron for a special day celebrating Shawshank Redemption and by the local AA Akron baseball team the Rubber Ducks to throw out the first pitch. They also ordered from China a thousand bobble head Warden Nortons. The first thousand people to come in would get one where I would sign them. I have one for myself and have given a few away too.
*He shares some of the best quotes people request when he signs autographs from the film are, “Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me,” “Lord, it’s a miracle! The man up and vanished like a fart in the wind,” and “…or am I being obtuse.”
Mr. Gunton as Warden Samuel Norton of Shawshank State Prison. Photo credit to IMDB.com
Mr. Gunton in Akron with the Warden Norton bobble head. Photo credit Lake Highlands Advocate.
WATM: What was your experience like in working with such theatrical talents as Hal Prince, Patti LuPone, Theodore Mann, Susan H. Schulman, Beth Fowler and then with such film talents such as Oliver Stone, Tim Robbins, Frank Darabont, Clint Eastwood, Sly Stallone, Sandra Bullock and the like?
Hal Prince was a key person in my career and am grateful to him. Oliver Stone was interesting and challenging — a brilliant man. I enjoyed working with Robin Williams perhaps more than anyone else. Jim Carrey is a deep thinker as well as being very charming, well-read and generous. Jim was extremely funny as well. I have liked most everyone I have worked with.
I got to play a chaplain in a film with Stacey Keach named Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the USS Indianapolis. I enjoy playing priests and military personnel because I feel I can put a little spin on the ball and make them more interesting and factual. My chaplain character got eaten by a shark. I had to do some tricky timing with holding my breath for the scenes of being eaten by the shark. Two divers were holding my feet where they start shaking me and then pull me down really fast. If my timing wasn’t spot on in taking in breath, then having to hold it while they release a blood bag, to show his guy is really gone it can be problematic. It was tricky to film, but nothing like the crew from the Indianapolis though. Floating on a funky, tiny life-raft, off the coast of the Bahamas, with Stacy Keach and I laughing our butts off, was not a hardship assignment.
Working with Clint Eastwood was good. He has a fantastic crew. He was a gentlemen and one of the quietest directors I have ever worked for. He got that from doing so many Westerns where a director would yell “action” and people would get thrown off their horse when it bolted from the shouting. Instead of “action” Clint would just quietly say, “go ahead.”
I have maintained close ties with the Paulist Fathers even done work for Paulist Productions as well. In the film Judas shot in Morocco in 2004, on a huge set representing The Temple in Jerusalem, I played the High Priest Caiphas. Hotter than blazes in very authentic robes etc. But I really enjoyed it.
Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton and Clancy Brown in The Shawshank Redemption.
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
After my service I went to NY hoping for a career in Theater. Many of my peers had gone to Yale or Julliard or Northwestern and other great schools. I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. It wasn’t about their not serving in the war, it was because I felt they had a two- or three-year head start on their careers. Establishing a career in theater means doing low paying jobs, children’s theater and dinner theater etc. out in the boondocks. Then, if you are fortunate you work your way up to Broadway. These guys had already networked with people from their professional schools and had jumped ahead of me. I felt I had missed out on that networking.
While on Broadway after finishing “Evita” my agent told me about a play I should look at doing off-off Broadway, with no pay. Having just come from a big Broadway musical hit it didn’t sound that appetizing it was entitled “How I Got That Story”. It was about Vietnam. There were only two actors. One of the roles was a journalist and the other role was every person in Vietnam that the journalist runs into while trying to get the story of why we were in Vietnam and what it all meant. 22 different characters! Because I had been there and seen and heard and lived with a wide range of people, both genders and three races, I knew who these people were, how they spoke, walked and behaved. The roster of characters included: a Madame Nhu character, a nun, a crazy photographer, a Viet Cong officer and, most surprisingly, a 16-year-old Vietnamese bar girl. The man who wrote this play had served as a CO medic in Vietnam. I told my agent: “I don’t care if I don’t get paid, I have to do this.”
We performed in a tiny rooftop theater behind the building where John Lennon had been killed. The play got excellent reviews and was covered by many journalists who’d gotten their start serving in Vietnam as reporters. It got a lot of ink in all the newspapers, especially in the New York Times. We eventually transferred to an actual Off-Broadway theater in the theater district and we ran for nine months or so. The main thing is everyone in town saw that show including casting directors, fellow actors, movie directors including Alan Pakula (To Kill a Mockingbird, All the President’s Men, Sophie’s Choice). Alan came backstage after a performance. He said he wanted me to play an Arab in the film Rollover. He asked to meet a couple of days later where we talked mostly about Vietnam and the movie. I never auditioned. I knew he was going to have me do it and he did! It was the largest salary I had ever had for acting up to that point and opened a myriad of doors for me.
“How I Got That Story” really kicked off my career as a dramatic actor and not just a song and dance guy. At the Opening Night Party we had among others, the founders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Also Ed Murphy, my seminarian buddy, who had served in Vietnam as well. This entire chapter was like karma where nothing is ever wasted; that there is always something that even terrible experiences can feed your soul or change your life. In a good way. If, of course, you survive it.
Vietnam was tough, sad, and frightening, although we also often laughed our asses off with our morbid humor in part to expel our anxiety. Vietnam served an important role in my character development as well as my work in theater and in films.
On a side note, Afghanistan is one of the few wars I can say, “yeah we belong there.” We need to be there to keep them from doing anything like what happened on 9/11 ever again. I’d sign up, but I don’t think that they would have me.
“How I Got That Story” featured in the NYT from the Feb 18th, 1982 paper. Photo credit nytimes.com.
WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood and stage arena?
We need to encourage veterans who have a story to tell them. We have had some good recent movies like American Sniper and The Hurt Locker. Most people who don’t have military experience hear our stories finding them exotic and dramatic. It is life and death with a cast of interesting characters. As an Army draftee I saw the full spectrum of humanity which makes for a lot of interesting stories.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Being a father to my daughter, Olivia. And happily married to a former high school classmate, Carey. Career-wise Shawshank and my last Broadway show, “Sweeney Todd”, which is the toughest stage role I had ever attempted and was well received. It felt like climbing Mount Everest to do it. It was my “swan song” to Broadway and am glad to have gone out on top. I am proud of my friendships from the seminary, Vietnam, theater and fellow film actors. I am also proud to have made it to this age and to still be working.
The Russian defense ministry claims to have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a May 28 airstrike in Raqqa, Syria.
Russian forces in Syria launched the airstrike after receiving intelligence that ISIS leaders were planning a meeting in the outskirts of Raqqa.
“According to the information that is being verified through various channels, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also attended the meeting and was killed in the airstrike,” the ministry said in a statement Friday, according to the Associated Press.
In addition to several senior ISIS leaders, Russia estimates around 30 field commanders and 300 personal guards were killed in the strike.
The ministry claims it informed the U.S. of the airstrike in advance. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition, said he could not confirm the Russian report of Baghdadi’s death.
Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, questions the report as intelligence indicates Baghdadi was in a different part of Syria at the time of the strike.
“The information is that as of the end of last month Baghdadi was in Deir al-Zor, in the area between Deir al-Zor and Iraq, in Syrian territory,” Abdulrahman told Reuters.
Other high-ranking ISIS leaders killed in the airstrike include Abu al-Khadji al-Mysri, Ibrahim al-Naef al-Khadj and Suleiman al-Shauah, according to Russia.
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The civilian and military leaders of the Air Force, Navy and Army attempted March 8, 2019, to convince skeptical senators that they are working aggressively — and effectively — to correct poorly maintained military housing that has left some homes coated in mold, infested with rodents and with other problems affecting health and safety.
“Our military families deserve good housing,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And when there’s a problem with a house, it should be fixed promptly and competently. Moreover, our airmen should be comfortable that they can identify problems without any fear of retaliation.”
Wilson was joined by Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer as well as the military chiefs of each service — Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson.
Each was alternately contrite and outraged, apologizing for the not attacking the problem sooner but promising swift and decisive action. The responses followed blunt assessments from a number of senators.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)
James Inhofe, R-Okla. and committee chairman, said reports of substandard housing are “heart wrenching.” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who is the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the current state of housing on some bases is the result of “systemic failures on the part of contractors and Department of Defense.”
The service secretaries and chiefs each acknowledged the problem.
“In too many cases, it is clear the private housing companies failed to uphold their end of the bargain, a failure that was enabled by the Army’s insufficient oversight,” Esper said. “We are determined to investigate these problems and to hold our housing contractors and chains of command … accountable.”
To underscore their response, leaders of each service described their services’ review of base housing. Wilson told senators that the Air Force completed its review on March 1 and that she personally visited housing at MacDill, Tinker and Shaw Air Force Bases. Goldfein saw housing and met families at Keesler and Maxwell AFBs.
Each found problems and substandard maintenance that “were very consistent with the testimony that you heard from the families that came forward,” Goldfein said. “And I’ll second what the secretary said, that the most concerning to me that I found was the breakdown in trust that we’ve got to rebuild.”
A major part of the corrective effort, the officials told senators, is creation of a tenant bill of rights. An early version of the document has been released. It provides service personnel who live in military housing more authority and stronger tools to alert the chain of command to problems and force action.
Foremost is the ability of renters to withhold payment if problems are properly reported to the private companies that manage the homes but are not addressed or resolved.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)
“Excitement in the near term based on hearings is interesting, not compelling,” Goldfein told senators. “We are going to have to keep our boot on the throat of the underperforming contractors and our command chain and leadership to make sure we get after this for the long term. And we’re committed to do so.”
How long it will take to enact the tenant bill of rights, however, is unclear. Spencer said it could take 90 days because it requires contacting each company that manages military housing to inform “and educate” them about new expectations and consequences for not complying.
Beyond the bill of rights and stronger commander involvement, the service secretaries and chiefs said they will work to ensure that base housing authorities are sufficiently staffed and trained. Wilson said she as part of her review, at bases where housing is well maintained and satisfaction ratings are high, the housing authority is strong.
“One of the bases that I went to was one that was rated as performing well and when you have a contract housing office where the contractor is performing well, we probably have enough people in that housing office,” Wilson said. “But when performance starts to slide that’s when it becomes overtaxed. So how we put the people back (to) give support to the base commanders where it’s really needed is … going to be the key decision point.”
Wilson, Goldfein and the other leaders also said that commanders must work harder to understand the state of housing on their bases and to respond aggressively and quickly. In addition, each secretary and service chief said there would be “zero tolerance” for retaliation when problems are reported.
“If people feel that if they act there will be retaliation, people will not act,” Wilson said.
When asked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to speak directly to active-duty service personnel who are living in substandard housing, Goldfein said the issue was a “mirror check” moment for him and other commanders.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)
“We have a moral obligation,” he said. “We are not going to stop until we have the system right and we can take care of all of them.”
The Air Force and other services are also looking at the terms of leases to determine if universal language might be used. They also are examining building codes and how building inspectors from local governments are used to ensure that safe and most up-to-date standards are used.
While the hearing was for the most part cordial, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., focused on the role that commanders play to ensure that rules and standards are enforced. She also said they must be more assertive in rejecting bonus payments to contractors that fail to meet high standards.
A contract can have “perfect language,” she said, but “If leaders don’t enforce the rules, at the end of the day, we’re not going to be delivering for our military personnel.”
Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., agreed. “This is ultimately a commander responsibility.”
McSally should know. A retired Air Force colonel and fighter pilot, McSally said her experience is that the record of commanders is “very patchwork.”
By the end of the 3-hour hearing, senators said they believe the actions and plans of the services are well designed and will make a difference.
But they also warned that their attention will not wane and that each of the services is expected to show real and lasting improvement.
“We will have another oversight hearing with the chairman’s blessing to see where the progress is,” Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said. “And I’m not talking about next year. I’m talking on fairly short intervals because if you look at this, this is not rocket science. We can fix this. And it starts by doing what every branch has said they’re going to do.”
She is the leader of the pack, so to speak, of the Class of 2021 at the US Military Academy at West Point, and the first black woman to hold the position.
That Cadet Askew shattered West Point’s glass ceiling is no small measure — no small measure in the armed forces, for sure, and no small measure of 21st century America.
The military, like the world of business, has long been considered a man’s world.
And the telltale signs of war, peace and tribalism reflect where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re headed. Cadet Askew and her teammates are leading America across a new threshold.
For one, West Point is the oldest of our military academies. It was founded after President Thomas Jefferson, who had not served in the military but became commander in chief when he was sworn into office, signed the Military Peace Establishment Act in 1802. The act specified that the academy be established along the Hudson River in New York.
One of the largest footprints Cadet Askew is stepping into belongs to Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, West Point’s first black cadet captain and now commander of US Forces Korea.
“We are role models to a lot of young people, not just African-Americans and soldiers,” the now 58-year-old Gen. Brooks once said.
Indeed, America’s current state of affairs proves that America’s future leaders will have much with which to contend. Geneneral Brooks, who, like Cadet Askew, attended high school in Fairfax County, Virginia, is staring down the barrel of the North Korea nuclear threat.
On the home front, civil unrest and tensions among various cultural factions make the rounds of daily news and undistilled social media every day.
Remember Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch, the two soldiers who were captured in Iraq in 2003 during the “global war on terror”? The Marines rescued both, and both wrote successful biographies.
They, too, became role models even though their capture spawned anew the debate over whether women should even serve in combat areas.
Cadet Askew, 20, had barely entered grade school at the time.
Cadet Askew not only is making history, she is studying it as well. In fact, her major is international history, an ever-changing subject in this ever-changing world of ours.
She also loves volleyball and is on the West Point crew team — understanding, as too many of America’s political leaders and wannabe political leaders do not, that team sports give you a different perspective on leadership.
The media gave anyone interested a glimpse of Cadet Simone Askew in her new role as first captain of cadets at West Point, leading the Long Grey Line of cadets on a 12-mile basic training trek — smiling all the way.
Cadet Askew already sounds like she’s preparing the Army Class of 2021 for the history books.
“It’s humbling,” she said, “but also exciting as I step into this new opportunity to lead the corps to greatness with my teammates with me.”
The greatest athletes in the world had to wait an extra year to display their abilities on the world stage, but the Tokyo Olympics have finally come. The one-year delay due to the pandemic was worth the added anguish for many athletes who have already competed in the six days since the opening ceremonies on July 23rd. Many events are already wrapped up, but there is plenty more action to come through August 8th.
The United States has represented itself well, currently with a commanding lead in the total medal count at 37 (13 gold, 14 silver and 10 bronze), with China, Russia, Japan and Australia rounding out the top five. The U.S. currently trails Japan (15) and China (14) in gold medals earned, but there is plenty of time left to overtake them.
19 service members are in Tokyo representing the United States, of which 17 are Soldiers. Nine of them are competitive shooters. Most notable among them thus far is 1st Lt. Amber English, who was outstanding when the lights were shining brightest. The 31-year-old Army Reserve logistics officer set an Olympic record in skeet shooting, hitting 56 of 60 targets to edge Italy’s Diana Bacosi by only one target, and take home the gold.
Most shooting events have been wrapped up, but track and field, boxing, the modern pentathlon, sailing and wrestling are all still to be decided and will have service members among them. Lt. Nikole Barnes (sailing) is the first active-duty Coast Guard officer, male or female, to represent the United States at the Olympics. The medal rounds for sailing begin Saturday, July 31st. SSgt John Stefanowicz, the only Marine at the Games, joins Spc. Alejandro Sancho and Sgt. Ildar Hafizov on the U.S. Wrestling Team. Their action won’t begin until Sunday, August 1st.
Notable non-service members who have earned gold along with 1st Lt. English include the Men’s 4×100 Relay Swimming Team, the Women’s 3×3 Basketball Team (the inaugural year for the event), Anastasija Zolotic (57 kg Women’s Tae Kwon Do), and Katie Ledecky (Women’s 1500m Freestyle). It was Ledecky’s sixth career Olympic Gold. She also took silver in the Women’s 400m Freestyle.
Of course, with the elation and glory of triumph comes the pain and disappointment of defeat, and there have been a couple of notable ones already. Simone Biles, considered the hands-down best gymnast in the world, shocked everyone and withdrew from competition during the Women’s team final on Tuesday. It appeared she had left the floor after her first vault attempt due to injury, but it was later revealed that she pulled herself from the competition for mental health concerns, saying she wasn’t in the right headspace and didn’t want to risk the team a medal.
“I didn’t want to go into any of the other events second-guessing myself,” Biles said in the press conference later. “So, I thought it would be better if I took a step back and let these girls go out there and do their job.”
Biles’ contributions were sorely missed, as Russia took the gold. The U.S. Women’s team was able to hold on for silver. Biles has also withdrawn from all of the individual gymnastics events that begin Thursday, She had qualified for all four.
The U.S. Men’s Basketball Team, lead by Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard, also continued to struggle. After surprising losses to Nigeria and Australia in exhibition play before heading to Tokyo, most assumed that the Americans would get back on track before the games counted — they were wrong. Holding a 74-67 lead over Team France with 3:41 left to play, Team U.S.A. imploded. The French finished on a 16-2 run that felt like a microcosm of everything wrong with American basketball today. The U.S. played soft defense, missed free throws, and were unimaginative on offense down the stretch, just jacking up three-pointer after three-pointer. The offense dried up and France took advantage.
Team France has five NBA players of their own, including All-Star Rudy Gobert, but nothing anywhere near the level of talent on the American side. It is hard to see the loss as anything but a massive underachievement. Team U.S.A. recovered to annihilate Iran 120-66 yesterday. In all likelihood, they will easily dispatch the Czech Republic in their last game of pool play on Saturday, allowing them to begin play in the eight-team knockout tournament next week. While the loss to France is concerning to say the least, and Iran is hardly a measuring stick for basketball success, the U.S. may have righted the ship in time for a gold medal.
The fall of Custer and five of the companies under his command at the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, known by the Sioux Nation as the Battle of Greasy Grass, was as much a failure of reconnaissance and intelligence as of strategy and tactics, and a modern battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux Nation would play out differently.
First and foremost, modern military formations have better intelligence gathering assets. While Gen. George A. Custer labored under the false impression that Sitting Bull, the Lakota leader, had only 800 warriors with him, it’s more likely that he had well over 1,000 and possibly as many as 2,500.
When Custer first spotted the signs of the camp on June 25, he wanted to spend time scouting and resting his men before attacking but thought his presence had been detected by Sioux forces and would soon be reported. So, he ordered hasty preparations for an attack.
But modern drones and listening devices would have let him know that the fighters who spotted his men were actually leaving the encampment and not reporting to Sitting Bull. Once Custer knew that and was able to spend time gathering intelligence, he would have learned of the size of the enemy force and at least hesitated to attack with his 647 men without getting reinforcements.
But if he did press the attack anyway, that battle would be most similar to a clash between uneven forces of cavalry and mounted infantry. While Custer’s men would likely have enjoyed a technological advantage, the four-to-one numerical advantage of the Lakota, Dakota, Sioux, and Northern Cheyenne forces would have been too much to overcome.
While Custer tried in 1876 to break through to the civilian parts of the camp to force the enemy to either fire in the direction of their loved ones or surrender, a modern Custer would likely try to draw out the enemy forces instead.
To help overcome his shortage of manpower, Custer would likely do this with a careful attack, trying to minimize civilian casualties while inflicting maximum damage on enemy vehicles.
Custer’s best chance would likely have been to send anti-armor missile teams into cover and concealment near the Sioux while one or two mechanized infantry companies deployed their Strykers just below the peak on nearby ridge lines.
Then, at a prearranged signal, the Strykers would roar over the ridge and fire TOW missiles at the Sioux vehicles. To keep the technological gap between the U.S. and Sioux forces, we’ll say the Sioux predominantly have Bradleys and HMMWVs.
The mortars embedded in the infantry companies could then start laying it on thick, slamming rounds into the top armor of enemy vehicles and hitting treads and tires with shrapnel to get mobility kills.
But Custer’s force of almost 650 troops would find it nearly impossible to keep over 2,000 enemies penned in for long, and the Sioux vehicles would make it into the open sooner or later. Once they did, their superiority in numbers would quickly turn the tide.
Custer could claim a victory at this point, satisfy himself with the large losses already inflicted and conduct an orderly withdrawal while radioing other U.S. government forces to be ready to attack the Sioux forces if they dispersed across the area.
If the Sioux followed him as a large group, he would be able to draw them to a larger government force and wipe them out.
If, instead, he pressed his luck, and continued to fight near the Little Bighorn River, it’s likely that the final result would once again be a victory for the Sioux. Once the government anti-tank Strykers and anti-armor teams had expended their missiles, attempts to take the Bradleys out with the Stryker guns would take much longer.
Sitting Bull would be able to get a force assembled, likely by staging it behind one of the hills that dominate the area, and then launch it from behind cover and into the American flank.
Once the American lines were properly disrupted, more and more Sioux vehicles would be able to escape from the camp and launch additional attacks against the beleaguered 7th Cavalry.
While the Sioux would have suffered much heavier losses than in the actual 1876 battle, the end result of a standing battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux nation would always be subject to the huge numbers disparity on the ground.
For the uninitiated, the USS Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship which was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters in 1968. The crew didn’t just give up; they deftly maneuvered away from the attackers. It took two North Korean
It took two North Korean subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to stop Pueblo, even allowing for the fact that the crew didn’t man the ship’s guns due to restrictive Navy regulations. The crew destroyed all the classified material they could, but they were simply outgunned and outnumbered. One sailor was killed and eighty-three others were held by North Korea for 335 days before being returned to the U.S.
The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum was founded right after the 1953 armistice was signed. (Note: The U.S. is still technically at war with North Korea as the armistice ended the conflict but not the Korean War.) As Communists often do, the North Koreans wanted to put their spin on the war immediately, and thus the museum was born.
Ten years later, it was moved to a building built just to house the museum’s collection, a massive trove of North Korean tanks, weapons, and aircraft, along with captured American equipment, jeeps, and downed planes, all supporting the North’s consensus that they actually won.
Of course, with the Pueblo comes the newest exhibit in the Museum, the Pueblo section.
If you’re wondering how the war became a “liberation“war to the North, young North Koreans are taught that a joint South Korean-U.S. army started the war, and not that it was started by a North Korean sneak attack.
The North is not likely to return the ship, considering how immensely proud they are of having captured it.
North Korea has sharply criticized the U.S. after the U.S. Pacific Command moved a set of warships to the Korean Peninsula early April.
North Korea’s foreign ministry, in a statement carried by its KCNA news agency on April 11, said the U.S. Navy strike group’s deployment showed America’s “reckless moves for invading had reached a serious phase”.
“We never beg for peace but we will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms and keep to the road chosen by ourselves,” a spokesman for the country’s foreign affairs ministry said.
“The DPRK [North Korea] is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the United States.”
Later in the day, North Korea’s military chief said his country was ready to “mount a pre-emptive nuclear attack” on South Korea and the United States.
Hwang Pyong-so, North Korea’s effective number two behind leader Kim Jong-un, made the threat during a live broadcast on state television.
He insisted North Korea will “wipe them out without a trace if they attempt to launch a war of aggression.”
On April 8, the U.S. warships — including the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, two guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser — cancelled a trip to Australia and headed from Singapore to the waters off Korea, as part of the U.S. response to North Korea’s recent missile launches.
On April 5, North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan from near Sinpo in South Hamgyong province, according to South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Seoul, BJ Kim, adjunct professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, said the level of tension has many South Koreans worried.
“The overall situation here, the way the South Koreans perceive it, is very unusual. They have not seen this level of heightened tensions for about a quarter of a century,” Kim said.
“In 1994 we had a similar situation in which the United States possibly wanted to strike. But since then this has been the highest point of tensions here, so people feel quite uneasy about it.”
North Korea has ratcheted up its nuclear program under its relatively new leader Kim Jong-un, carrying out two nuclear tests and launching around 20 ballistic missiles last year alone.
U.S.-based experts say that North Korea is currently planning a further nuclear test.
Hwang Kyo-ahn, South Korean acting president, ordered the military to intensify monitoring of North Korea’s activities and to ensure close communication with the United States.
“It is possible North Korea may wage greater provocations such as a nuclear test timed with various anniversaries including the Supreme People’s Assembly,” said Hwang, acting leader since Park Geun-hye was removed as president over a corruption scandal.
North Korea convened a Supreme People’s Assembly session on April 11, one of its twice-yearly sessions in which major appointments are announced and national policy goals are formally approved.
April 15 is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founding father and grandfather of current ruler, Kim Jong-un.
Donald Trump has tweeted that Kim Jong-un is “looking for trouble.”
A military parade is expected in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, to mark the day.
North Korea often also marks important anniversaries with tests of its nuclear or missile capabilities.
Hankuk University’s Kim said South Korea feels it is up to North Korea to open the possibility of dialogue.
“North Korea has been escalating the tensions and the U.S. has been responding to it,” he said.
“Seoul is waiting for words of reconciliation or at least expressions of interest in dialogue from Pyongyang.”
Ants vs termites –the rivalry that predates human language — is fought on a global scale. Although termites and ants are both considered pests, many people do not understand that termites and ants are mortal enemies. If nested close, ants and termites engage in war. When it comes to battles of insect proportions, the larger bug doesn’t always win.
Colony vs colony
Milligram for milligram, termites would easily emerge as the winner on a one-on-one fight. They’re larger than ants and have strong, coordinated soldiers as well. Scientists have identified that most termites are two to three times bigger than ants. Also, termites have heads that appear to be built for combat. However, the aspect does not apply when ants and termites wage war. When termites lock horns (no, not literally) with ants, it is usually not close to a fair fight. Termites get annihilated by ants. Despite their size and weight, ants tend to be more aggressive than termites. Termite colonies are numerically inferior ant colonies.
Termites are, in fact, defensive creatures and have no reason to attack ants: they are not interested in the ants’ food; whereas ants will happily use termites AS food and appropriate their tunnels.
In most cases, ants invade termites’ nests and kill the warriors and the queen on sight. The death of a queen virtually is the end of the termite colony. For this reason, some ant species have been known to specifically prey on termites for food.
Termite soldiers last stand
Although ants are generally superior in combat, termites also have an ace up their sleeve. There are unique, blocky adaptations that have been identified among termites’ heads. The heads are defensive, and there are cases where termites throw them up as they try to stop ant attacks. Some species also use them to intimidate intruders and warn the nest. As a last resort, some termites will use their heads to block tunnels into the colony in an attempt to buy the workers time to collapse passages. In most cases, this allows the termite defenders to hold the ant assault and pave new ways for the queen to escape. This last stand sacrifice is the only effective way to keep the queen alive when all else fails.
Lesser of the two evils
Most ants are less damaging to human habitation compared to termites. If you had to choose one or the other, most people would pick the one that doesn’t destroy your property value. People who have studied wars against these pests have been trying to use ants to get rid of termites. However, the practice is not recommended as one would require a supercolony of ants to get rid of all the termites. Using ants to destroy termites’ colonies by killing their queen is not feasible – yet.
Studies have identified that wars cull the old male and female termites from a colony as well. They are used as front-line soldiers when fighting against ants or any other enemy. The senior termites take a colony gate position and prevent enemies such as ants from accessing their queen. In most cases, the female soldiers are sailed forth while engaging ants. The younger soldiers usually stick to the nest and act as the final line of defense while engaging invaders. This aspect indicates that termite soldiers have an age-based task allocation that makes it more difficult for them to be over-powered by ants.
Regardless of the genetic advances termites make, they are no match for the ant. The desire to dominate and get more food is the major reason why ants and termites declare war on each other on sight. To ants, termites are the food.
Feature image: WATM composite, images via Wikimedia Commons
Richard Overton’s relatives discovered that someone had accessed the 112-year-old’s account using his social security and personal checking account numbers, The Dallas Morning News reported.
His cousin, Volma Overton Jr., said the family was shocked when the bank said it would credit Overton’s account.
“Man, I teared up,” he said, according to The Dallas Morning News. “I couldn’t believe it. They made it happen. The executive of the company said he’d take care of this, and he took care of it.”
Bank of America, Austin police, and federal authorities are investigating the incident.
One of the World War II veteran’s cousins was making a deposit into his account when he noticed a series of illicit withdrawals.
(Richard Overton’s Go Fund Me)
“I looked at it — what the hell are these debits?” Overton’s cousin, Volma Overton Jr., told CNN affiliate KXAN.
The thief or thieves used the funds to purchase savings bonds from Treasury Direct, leaving nothing in the account.
“It’s a shock, it hurts, it hurts tremendously,” Overton Jr. said when he became aware of the theft.
The family hasn’t identified the culprit, and hopes it isn’t someone close to Overton.
It’s unclear how much money was drained from the account. Relatives described it as a “considerable amount.”
Overton, an Austin, Texas resident, volunteered for service in 1942, serving as a member of the Army‘s 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion — an all-black unit that served on various islands in the Pacific, according to the report.
He was honored by Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony in 2013.
He is also the oldest man in America, according to the Gerontology Research Group.
Overton’s family set up a GoFundMe account to help cover the costly, around-the-clock care he requires. The account saw a spike in donations after the theft was reported.
“It’s been a true blessing in disguise for us,” his cousin said.
“Everything’s back just like it was.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Shortly after the surviving forces of the Battle of Crete had evacuated, the British landed agents from the Special Operations Executive, also known as the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, to advise and assist the resistance and conduct intelligence gathering. Crete was heavily garrisoned and an important part of Germany’s plans both in the Mediterranean and Russia.
Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, the German general commanding the 22nd Airlanding Division and assigned as the military governor of Crete, had a reputation for brutality that earned him the nickname “the Butcher of Crete.” The British decided to hatch a plan to get rid of him. However, they wanted to do more than just kill him; they wanted to strike fear into the hearts of the Germans everywhere.
Major Patrick Leigh Fermor and Captain William Stanley Moss conceived the plan to kidnap General Müller at the Club de Chasse in Cairo in 1943. Along with two members of the Cretan resistance, George Tirakis and Manoli Paterakis, they planned to infiltrate the island, link up with other members of the resistance, abduct the general, and then get off the island. They intended to do all of this while foregoing bloodshed. They also wanted to make the Germans believe it was a British-only operation to avoid reprisals against the local Cretans.
Because, as we mentioned, Müller was an a-hole… even more than your average Nazi.
Everything was set to begin on February 4, 1944. The four men took off from Cairo and flew towards Crete ready to parachute onto the German-held island and begin their mission. Unfortunately, once over the drop zone, only Major Fermor jumped because of bad weather. The rest of the team tried a dozen more times before finally deciding to attempt a landing by sea. This was finally accomplished on April 4, but during the time between when Maj. Fermor landed on the island and the rest of the team arrived, General Müller was replaced by General Heinrich Kreipe. The British forged ahead with the abduction of Kreipe.
Fermor, dressed as a shepherd, reconnoitered the general’s daily routine and finalized the plan to take the general. On the night of 26 April, the four man team, with Fermor and Moss dressed as German Military Police, set up a fake checkpoint to catch the General’s car as he returned to his quarters for the night. When the general’s car stopped Fermor and Paterakis grabbed Kreipe while Moss clubbed the driver with a baton and with the help of Tirakis, pulled him from the car. While the Cretans moved General Kreipe to the back seat Fermor and Moss took up positions in the front seat impersonating the general and his driver.
The group then headed off to make their escape, successfully passing through 22 other checkpoints. After an hour and a half, Moss, the two Cretan members of the team, and the general left the vehicle with Fermor to abandon. He left the car on a beach on the north side of the island along with documents indicating that the kidnapping had been carried out by British Commandos and that the general had already been removed from the island as well as a note indicating how sorry they were to have to leave behind such a beautiful car.
The group rendezvoused with Fermor and began their trek to the south side of the island for the extraction back to Egypt. By the next day, the Germans issued a proclamation notifying the civilians on the island that if General Kreipe was not returned in three days reprisals would begin. Meanwhile, German troops scoured the island and planes took to the air to search for the group. The group evaded the Germans and hiked across Mount Ida while Fermor and Kreipe recited the poetry of Horace. The team finally reached the southern coast and was picked up by a British Motor Launch on 14 May 1944. They returned to Egypt where General Kreipe was interrogated before being transferred to a POW camp in Canada.
Major Fermor was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Moss was given the Military Cross. General Kriepe was finally released by the British in 1947. In 1950, after censorship from the war had eased, Moss released his account of the operation in a book called Ill Met By Moonlight which itself was turned into a movie in 1957. Finally, in 1972 Kreipe was reunited with his kidnappers on a Greek TV show.
The only constant in the military world is chaos. No two weeks are alike, and you’ve got to roll with the punches — but that doesn’t mean you need to roll blindly. Each week, we put together a collection of the most interesting stories to come from the military world, and we put them here for your learning pleasure.
Here’s what you missed while you were busy watching all of your civilian friends 4/20 Instagram stories.
Crew-members with the interdicted drugs at Port Everglades, FA
(US Coast Guard photo by Brandon Murray)
The coast guard unloads .5 million dollars worth of drugs
The U.S. Coast Guard unloaded literal tons of cocaine and marijuana at Florida’s Port Everglades. The haul has a whopping .5 million dollar estimated street value (also known as “the weekly budget for Charlie Sheen”). The drugs were seized in international waters somewhere in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The haul includes seven tons of marijuana and 1.83 tons of cocaine.
Officials say the operation involved two Coast Guard cutters and a Navy ship off the coasts of Mexico and Central and South America.
The Pentagon is investing in space robots to repair satellites
The U.S. has more than 400 satellites orbiting the earth at any given time. They have commercial, military, and government uses—but when something goes wrong, they have no use at all, and fixing them can be insanely difficult.
Washington Nationals execs team up with military personnel
Jessica Cicchetto/U.S. Air Force
MLB executives and USAF personnel swap leadership tips and experiences
Higher-ups from the Washington Nationals and Air Force personnel met up for the 2nd annual “Nats on Base” conference to discuss leadership similarities between the two organizations. The gathering was during the “2019 Air Force District of Washington’s Squadron Command and Spouse Orientation Course.”
During the panel, 40 new commanders and their spouses focused on leadership methods with representatives from the Washington Nationals and Washington Redskins.
No word on whether or not USAF leadership learned how to lose the most prolific baseball talent to the Philadelphia Phillies.
The current one-piece flight suit
(U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Dallas Edwards)
Air Force toying with the idea of two-piece flight suits for all pilots and aircrew
The USAF seems to change uniforms more than any other branch. Much like a sorority girl before a night out — they are now deciding between going with the tried-and-true one piece or an exciting, new two-piece. Only these are made to withstand more than a spilled vodka cranberry.
The benefits of the two-piece flight suit are, supposedly, ease of bathroom use and “improved overall comfort.” So far, initial feedback has been positive. The Army is also considering more distant plans of adopting a two-piece suit.
photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley/ USAF
Cost of new ICBMs are rising: why the Air Force isn’t concerned
Next generation intercontinental ballistic missiles are expected to rise in price soon, but the Air Force is unconcerned about this short term price hop. Gen. Timothy Ray expects the total estimated cost to drop after the Air Force makes a decision on which competitor—Boeing or Northrop Grumman—will be able to offer the best price.
Ray continued on to state, “Between the acquisition and the deal that we have from a competitive environment, from our ability to drive sustainment, the value proposition that I’m looking at is a two-thirds reduction in the number of times we have to go and open the site.”
The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Program will reuse much of the infrastructure where the missiles are housed, as well as invest in those facilities—effectively giving the Air Force the ability to maintain new missiles easily and less expensively over time. “Our estimates are in the billions of savings over the lifespan of the weapon, based on the insights,” Ray said.
Army scraps plans to demo next-gen unmanned aircraft
The Army’s plans to demonstrate the capabilities and designs for a next-generation unmanned aircraft have been abandoned. The decision was made in favor of two future manned helicopter procurement programs, according to the head of the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Aviation and Missile Center’s Aviation Development Directorate.
With current plans to build a future attack reconnaissance aircraft and a future long-range assault aircraft, Layne Merritt told Defense News, “another major acquisition is probably too much for the Army at one time.”