Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is a legend of Marine Corps history. One of the most lethal snipers in history, he even repeatedly succeeded in killing snipers sent to hunt him. In one of his last missions on a tour in Vietnam, he crawled nearly two miles to kill a Vietnamese general and escape.
Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss the legend of Gunny Carlos Hathcock:
When the mission came down, he didn’t have all the details but he knew tough missions at the end of a tour were a recipe for disaster. Rather than send one of his men, he volunteered for the mission himself.
“Normally, when you take on a mission like that, when you’re that short, you forget everything,” Hathcock said in an interview. “Ya know, tactics, the whole ball of wax, and you end up dead. And, I did not want none of my people dead, and so I took the mission on myself.”
Hathcock was flown towards the objective, but was dropped well short of the target so he wouldn’t be given away. He made his way to a tree line, but still had 1,500 yards to move from the tree line to his final firing position. So, he started crawling.
“I went to my side. I didn’t go flat on my belly, because I made a bigger slug trail when I was on my belly. I moved on my side, pretty minutely, very minutely. I knew I had a long ways to go, didn’t want to tire myself out too much.”
As he crawled, he was nearly discovered multiple times by enemy soldiers.
“Patrols were within arm’s reach of me. I could’ve tripped the majority, some of them. They didn’t even know I was there.”
The complacency of the patrol allowed Hathcock to get 700 yards from his target.
“They didn’t expect a one-man attack. They didn’t expect that. And I knew, from the first time when they came lolly-gagging past me, that I had it made.”
The talented sniper made his way up to his firing position, avoiding patrols the whole way and slipping between machine gun nests without being detected.
He arrived at his firing position and set up for his shot.
“Seen all the guys running around that morning, and I dumped the bad guy.”
Hathcock took his shot and punched right through the chest of the general he was targeting. At that moment, he proved the brilliance of firing from grass instead of from the trees.
“When I made the shot, everybody run the opposite direction because that’s where the trees were,” he said. “That’s where the trees were. It flashed in my mind, ‘Hey, you might have something here.”
Per his escape plan, Hathcock crawled to a nearby ditch and crawled his way back out of the field. For the first time in four days, he was able to walk.
“So, I went to that ditch, little gully, and made it to the tree line, and about passed out when I stood up to get a little bit better speed.”
Before the FBI or any other federal law enforcement agency locked criminals behind bars in the United States, the most important crime fighting squad was the US Postal Inspection Service. From the 18th century to present day, surveyors, special agents, and inspectors investigated the nation’s most newsworthy crimes. They investigated mail train robberies committed by notorious outlaw “Billy the Kid,” were amongst the first federal law enforcement officers to carry the Thompson submachine gun (commonly known as the “Tommy Gun”) to fight 1920s mobsters, and even had an integral role in capturing Ted Kaczynski, sensationalized in the media as the “Unabomber,” bringing an end to one of the most sophisticated criminal manhunts in US history.
The US Postal Inspection Service is the most storied federal law enforcement agency in the country, and since widespread crime is often connected by mail, their jurisdiction to investigate any related crime from anywhere around the world is unrestricted. This freedom began from one of America’s Founding Fathers, and since its establishment, the agency has participated in the largest criminal investigations of each century.
After the American Civil War, “snake oil salesmen” and “scalp tonic salesmen” used the mail to con unsuspecting victims. Screengrab from YouTube.
In 1737, Benjamin Franklin, the newspaper printer known for historic contributions to the nation, was also appointed by the British Crown as postmaster of Philadelphia. In addition to his day job, he had duties and responsibilities to regulate and survey post offices and post roads. As the first Postmaster General under continental Congress, Franklin abolished the British practice that determined which newspapers traveled freely in the mail and established foundational mandates of the “surveyor” position to ensure the organization could grow beyond a one-man show.
Franklin recognized the task was too much to handle alone and appointed William Goddard as the first surveyor of the new American Postal Service. His first day in office — Aug. 7, 1775 — became known as the birth of the Postal Inspection Service. The surveyors investigated thefts of mail or postal funds committed by writers, innkeepers, and others with access to the mail or post offices. The frequency of mail crimes became such a nuisance, Congress approved the death penalty as a viable punishment to enforce the serious offenses.
At the turn of the 19th century, surveyors became known as special agents, and among the first three was Noah Webster, the man responsible for compiling the dictionary. During the War of 1812, special agents observed and reported activities of the British Fleet along the Potomac River, and during the 1840s and 1850s, their roles magnified to coexist with western expansion in the United States. Special agents were needed across Texas, Oregon, and California to ensure new postal services were completed, as well as to keep order amongst mail carriers on horseback, railroads, or traveling by steamboats or stagecoaches.
During World War II, 247 US Postal Inspection Service inspectors established a mailing system that is still in use to this day. Photo courtesy of worldwarphotos.info.
Following the American Civil War, Congress imposed two new statutes still in use today. The first was the Mail Fraud Statute of 1872, which enforced a crackdown against swindles including the infamous “snake oil salesman” or the “scalp tonic salesman.” The second was the Postal Obscenity Statute of 1873, which made it illegal for anyone to “to sell, give away, or possess an obscene book, pamphlet, picture, drawing, or advertisement.” Special agents assumed the name of “Post Office Inspectors” in 1880 to differentiate from other special agents privately employed by railroad and stagecoach companies.
During the 20th century is when the US Postal Inspection Service earned its reputation for bringing down the hammer on gangs, mobsters, and armed robbers. The most scandalous criminal outfit was the organized secret society operating in New York City known as the Black Hand. They terrorized the public, the police force, and especially Italian immigrants, all frequent targets of murder, extortion, assassination, child kidnapping, and bombings. The bombing attacks were so frequent that the police referred to the Italian neighborhood as “The Bomb Zone.” Police reports indicated that there were more than 100 bombings in 1913 alone.
The Black Hand wrote menacing letters to their victims. “De Camilli, from one of our secret spies, we have learned that you have informed the police, contrary to our warnings,” Salvatore Lima, the Black Hand’s leader wrote. “Therefore, it is time to die. And on the first occasion, you will feel a bullet in your stomach, coward. You have willed it, and you will die like a dog. The terrible Black Hand.”
Post Office Inspector Frank Oldfield tracked 14 members of the Black Hand and nabbed and convicted the vicious and violent gang by targeting their paper trail through the mail. Elmer Irey, one of the great detectives of the 20th century and former post office inspector, used similar methods to nab Chicago Outfit’s Al Capone through tax fraud. Post office inspectors also captured and convicted Charles Ponzi — the mastermind and father behind the infamous pyramid “Ponzi Scheme” — and brought Gerald Chapman — America’s first “Public Enemy Number One” — to justice. After a three-year manhunt, forensic science put away the DeAutremont brothers, a trio who used dynamite to blow open mail train cars to scoop the cash inside.
Inspectors were also instrumental in the delivery and protection of over billion worth of gold transported along the “Yellow Brick Road” from New York City to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to establish the Fort Knox Bullion Depository in 1937. During World War II, 247 post office inspectors helped create Army Post Offices (APOs) and Fleet Post Offices (FPOs). Through their efforts, soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines could communicate with their loved ones back home. This system remains in effect to this day.
Later in the century, as their investigations adapted with the times, they received newer challenges through the security of commercial aircraft and the threats of mail package bombs aboard airplanes. In 1963, Postal Inspector Harry Holmes interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald to investigate the mail-order rifle he used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. Only minutes after Oswald left Holmes’ office, he was gunned down — furthering the conspiracy theories of suspected involvement.
A laboratory technician holds the anthrax-laced letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy after safely opening it at the US Army’s Fort Detrick bio-medical research laboratory in November 2001. Photo courtesy of FBI.gov.
The Postal Inspection Service remains just as important today as when it was created, and with the increase in funding in other federal agencies, their prestige has emboldened their legacy as more than what was once perceived as “The Silent Service.” Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Silent Service investigated the Anthrax biohazard letter attack — the worst biological attack in US history — and has since increased their efforts against illegal drug trafficking, suspicious mail, mail and package theft, money laundering, cybercrime, and child exploitation.
In the 1920s, Charles Ponzi scammed his investors out of an estimated million during his time as a conman and swindler — some 90 years later, just as the Postal Inspector Service had before, they nabbed Allen Stanford, a fraudster who convinced investors to buy certificates of deposit from his offshore Stanford International Bank with the promise of high returns. Stanford’s two-decade-long, billion Ponzi scheme was discovered through exhaustive investigations by a task force comprised of the IRS, the FBI, and the Silent Service. Stanford was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to serve 110 years in prison.
As long as there is mail to be delivered, there are inspectors who stand ready to ensure the safety of the American citizens.
So, you’ve got a fever and the only cure is a consensual adult relationship that violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice? It happens.
And by the way, it can happen among friends, but for this article, we’re going to talk about sexual or romantic relationships.
Paraphrasing here from the Manual for Courts Martial: Fraternization in the military is a personal relationship between an officer and an enlisted member that violates the customary bounds of acceptable behavior and jeopardizes good order and discipline.
That’s a mouthful, but it boils down to the intent of guidelines for any relationship among professionals: The appearance of favoritism hurts the group, and, with the military in particular, could actually get someone killed.
But we’re only human, right? It’s natural to fall for someone you work with, so here are a couple of tips that can help keep you out of Leavenworth:
1. Don’t do it
Seriously. Cut it off when you first start to feel the butterflies-slash-burning-in-your-loins. Flirting is a rush and it’s fun and NO.
Hit the gym. Take a break. Swipe right on Tinder. Do whatever you have to do to nip it in the bud before it gets out of control.
2. Be discreet
Okay, fine, you’re going for it anyway. We’ve all been there (nervous laughter…).
People are more intuitive than you think. Don’t give them any reason to suspect you and your illicit goings-on. Be completely professional at work. Don’t flirt in the office. Don’t send sweet nothings over government e-mail (yes, it is being monitored).
3. Keep it off-base
Don’t be stupid, okay? Get away from the watchful eyes all the people around you who live and breathe military regulations.
4. Square away
The thing about military punishment is that you are usually judged by your commander first. If you do get caught, you want people to really regret the idea of punishing you.
Be amazing at your job — better yet, be the best at your job. Be irreplaceable. Be a leader and a team player and a bad ass. Set the example with your physical fitness and your marksmanship and your ability to destroy terrorism.
Be beloved by all and you just might get away with a slap on the wrist…
5. Plausible deniability
I would never tell you to lie because integrity and honor are all totes important and stuff, but…
If lawyers can’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were actually engaged in criminal activity, you could be spared from a conviction.
Maybe it was just a coincidence that you both happened to be volunteering at the same time. It was for the orphans…
How could you have known that you both like to spend Christmas in Hawaii?
It’s not your fault Sgt. Hottie wanted to attend a concert in the same town where your parents live, right?
6. Talk it out
If you can’t have a mature conversation with this person about how to conduct yourselves in the workplace or how you’d each face the consequences of being discovered, you really shouldn’t be getting it on.
You are both risking your careers and livelihoods because of this relationship — don’t take it lightly.
And whatever you do, treat each other with honesty and respect — you’re all you have right now.
7. Don’t go to the danger zone
I know you know this, but here’s the thing: REALLY DON’T DO IT (PUN INTENDED) WHILE IN A COMBAT ZONE.
This is life and death. Remind yourself why you chose to serve your country. Pay attention to the men and women around you who trust you and rely on you to protect them.
LOCK IT UP. You’re a warrior and you have discipline.
Did we leave anything out? Leave a comment and let us know.
For as long as there have been men sailing the high seas, there have been tales of ghost ships. From legends of the Flying Dutchman appearing near ports during inclement weather to the very real tale of the Mary Celeste, which was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 completely abandoned and in good working order, it can be hard not to be drawn into these tales of mysterious happenings on the great waterways of our planet.
Of course, it makes perfect sense that men and women would occasionally go missing during an era of long and often grueling voyages across the high seas. For all of mankind’s domination of nature, the sea has long been too vast to manage and too treacherous to tame. For much of humanity’s history, traveling across the ocean was always a risky endeavor.
But by the early 1940s, however, sea travel had become significantly less hazardous, and mankind had even managed to find new ways to avoid the ocean’s wrath — like flying high above it in aircraft or hot air balloons. At the time, Americans had largely moved past their fear of the high seas in favor of new concerns about what was lurking within them: German U-Boats.
The Navy’s L-8 blimp was a former Goodyear Blimp repurposed for naval duty.
Concerns about encroaching Nazi U-Boats near American shores had led to a number of novel sub-spotting approaches. One was using L-Class rigid airships, or blimps, to float above coastal waterways and serve as submarine spotters.
On themorning of August 16, 1942, Lieutenant Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams climbed aboard their L-8 Airship, which was a former Goodyear Blimp that the Navy had purchased a few months prior to deliver equipment to the nearby carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) out at sea. Their mission that day was simple: head out from their launch point on Treasure Island in California to look for signs of U-Boats beneath the surf in a 50-mile radius around San Francisco.
A bit more than an hour into their patrol, the two sailorsradioed that they had spotted an oil slick on the water and were going to investigate.
“We figured by that time it was a submarine,” said Wesley Frank Lamoureux, a member of the Navy’s Armed Guard Unit who was aboard the cargo ship Albert Gallatin. “From then on, I am not too positive of the actions of the dirigible except that it would come down very close over the water. In fact, it seemed to almost sit on top of the water.”
This image of the L-8 was taken prior to the mission that would see Cody and Adams go missing.
In Lamoureux’s official statement, he recounted seeing the blimp drop two flares near the slick and then circle the area — which was in keeping with sub-hunting protocols of the day. The nearby Albert Gallatin cargo ship, seeing the blimp’s behavior, sounded their submarine alarms and changed course to escape the area. Unfortunately, these reports would be the last time anyone would see the blimp with the crew onboard.
A few hours later, the former Goodyear Blimp appeared sagging and uncontrolled over the shores of Daly City, California. It drifted over the town until it finally dipped low enough to become snagged on some power lines and come crashing down onto Bellevue Avenue. Crowds quickly formed around the downed blimp, and a number of people ran to the wreckage in hopes of saving the crew… only to find the cabin was completely empty.
The pilot’s parachute and the blimp’s lifeboat were both right where they belonged. The pilot’s cap sat on top of the instrument panel, and the blimp’s payload of two bombs were still secured. A briefcase containing confidential documents that the crew had orders to destroy if they feared capture remained onboard as well.
The Navy’s L-8 Blimp, crashed and crew-less.
The L-8’s crew had seemed to vanish without a trace, prompting a slew of differing theories. Some assumed both the pilot and ensign had simply fallen out of the airship, though for such a thing to happen, they would have had to both fall overboard at the same time. If there was something damaged that required both men to address on the external hull of the vessel, there was no evidence to suggest what it could have been in the wreckage.
Anothertheory suggested the two men lowered their blimp enough to be taken prisoner by the crew of the U-Boat or a Japanese vessel in the course of investigating the oil slick. Still, others wondered if the two men may have been entangled in some sort of love triangle that drove one to kill the other and then escape by diving into the sea. Despite a thorough investigation, no conclusion could ever be drawn.
So what really did happen to the two-man crew of the L-8? Did they simply fall out of their blimp and die? Were they captured by Nazis that didn’t bother to check for any classified material on the blimp? To this day, their remains have never been found, and no other details have surfaced. For now, it seems, the legend of the L-8 “ghost ship in the sky” will live on for some time to come.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has accused the United States of giving a false account of a recent encounter between the two states’ navies in the Persian Gulf, after Washington blamed Iranian vessels for harassing its ships.
“We advise Americans to follow international regulations and maritime protocols in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman, and avoid any adventurism and false stories,” the IRGC said in a statement on its official website on April 19.
The force warned that any “miscalculation will receive a decisive response.”
The U.S. Navy had said that 11 vessels from the IRGC made “dangerous and harassing approaches” toward U.S. naval ships in the Gulf on April 15.
Soldiers witnessed the innovation of Army researchers recently during flight testing of 3-D printed unmanned aircraft systems that were created on-demand for specific missions.
John Gerdes, an engineer with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, explains the capabilities of the On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft System, or ODSUAS, to Soldiers at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE, at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 1, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Angie DePuydt)
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command invited engineers from the Army Research Laboratory to Fort Benning, Georgia Dec. 1-3, to showcase new technology at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE.
“We’ve created a process for converting Soldier mission needs into a 3-D printed On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft System, or ODSUAS, as we’ve been calling it,” said Eric Spero, team leader and project manager.
With this concept, once a patrol requires UAV support, Soldiers input all their requirements into mission planning software. The system then knows the optimal configuration for the aerial vehicle and it’s printed and delivered within 24-hours.
“We thought they’re not going to think that’s fast enough, but, actually it was the opposite,” Spero said. “The timeline of 24 hours to receive a mission-custom UAS fits right in line with the way they plan and execute their missions.”
Researchers said they felt the combination of 3-D printing and UAVs was a natural technology solution.
“Drones or quadcopters are really getting big right now, I mean in particular just the commercial and hobby markets have shown what can be done with a small amount of money,” said John Gerdes, an engineer on the project.
“Additive manufacturing or 3-D printing has become huge and everybody knows all the great things that can be done with 3-D printers,” he said. “So we figured let’s assemble these two new technologies and provide a solution to Soldiers that need something right now and don’t want to wait for it.”
The team spent many hours flight testing and verifying the designs and to make sure everything was going to work the way they expected.
“It was good that we didn’t have any mistakes on game day,” said fellow engineer Nathan Beals. “The day before we did some test flights and worked out some kinks. I think we had the quad up to 55 miles per hour.”
Spero said based on feedback from Army leaders, his team hopes to work on low noise, long standoff distance, heavier payload capacity and better agility.
“I’m very optimistic that most of those are achievable,” he said. “I think the hardest one that’s going to be achievable is the heavy payload.”
Soldiers at AEWE also became fascinated with 3-D printing technologies, Spero said.
“Before we even started the briefing, we set up the 3-D printer in the conference room and started a print job,” Spero said.
The researchers printed a Picatinny Rail, which is a bracket used to mount accessories on a small arms weapon, such as an M4 carbine. In about two and a half hours, they had a rail that fit the Soldiers’ weapons perfectly.
They asked the group what other kinds of 3-D printed items they could use. In a matter of hours, the team presented a variety of functional printed parts that impressed the Soldiers.
This isn’t just about UASs,” Spero said. “It’s about forward-deployed, 3-D printing to help the Soldier.
The Army engineers continue to collaborate with partners at the Georgia Tech’s Aerospace Systems Design Lab as they continue to refine technologies for future Soldiers.
During the bloody and costly Argonne Offensive, American forces had to fight for three weeks and suffer 100,000 casualties to reach the objectives that were planned for the first day of fighting. One of those objectives was a large, well-defended hill that Douglas MacArthur was ordered to either capture or spend 5,000 lives in the failure. MacArthur promised his name would be on the list if he failed.
MacArthur was a brigadier general at the time, recently passed over for promotion and in command of the 84th Infantry Brigade, and he and his men had already fought viciously from Sep. 26, 1918, to early October. MacArthur had led some of their attacks, including a daring nighttime raid, from the front, earning him nominations for what would become his sixth and seventh Silver Stars.
But the 84th was moved up to a division at Côte de Châtillon. It’s a large hill that dominates the surrounding terrain, and MacArthur assessed that it was the center of German fortifications in the area. He carefully laid his plans for attack and, as he was finishing up, his new corps commander visited him in his tent.
Maj. Gen. Charles P. Summerall and MacArthur were old friends and shared a cup of coffee. When he was done, Summerall stood to leave and told MacArthur, “Give me Châtillon, MacArthur, or turn in a list of 5,000 casualties.”
It was a surprising order, but it highlighted the dire straits the American Expeditionary Force was in. Their first offensive in the Meuse the month before had gone very well, but America still had to prove itself to its allies. And Germany was close to winning the war before America entered it. Russia had fallen out of the war in 1917, and the French people were weary after over four years of fighting on their soil.
France could still fall, Germany could still win, and America would be seen as weak and exploited even if Germany lost the war without a significant American victory. Summerall and the other senior generals were willing to do nearly anything to prove that America was a real power on the world stage and to punish Germany for sinking U.S. ships.
But MacArthur was no slouch either. Remember, in less than a month of fighting before this meeting, he had earned himself nominations for two more Silver Stars. Though he would later be embarrassed by the drama of his response, what he said to Summerall at the time was, “All right, general. We’ll take it, or my name will head the list.”
To paraphrase, “I will come back with that hill or on it.” On October 14, MacArthur began his attack with “my Alabama cotton growers on my left, my Iowa farmers on my right,” as he referred to the National Guard forces under his command. The 83rd Infantry Brigade, made up mostly of New York and Ohio units, fought bravely beside the 84th.
…little units of our men crawled and sneaked and side-slipped forward from one bit of cover to another. Death, cold and remorseless, whistled and sang its way through our ranks. But like the arms of a giant pincer my Alabama and Iowa National Guardsmen closed in from both sides. Officers fell and sergeants leaped to command. Companies dwindled to platoons and corporals took over.”
Côte de Châtillon fell to American hands late on October 16, MacArthur had led from the front, and he would later receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his great courage “in rallying broken lines and in reforming attacks, thereby making victory possible.”
The Germans counterattacked, ferociously, but MacArthur and his men held on, and the hills nearby quickly fell to American forces. The 42nd Infantry Division, of which the 83rd and 84th were part, would be temporarily relieved from front line duty on October 18. The two brigades had suffered 3,000 casualties taking the hill.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare was a pioneer of Navy aviation, establishing the Navy’s first night fighter squadron, earning a Medal of Honor and ace-in-a-day status, and probably saving American carrier USS Lexington before his tragic death during a night battle in November, 1943.
The senior Edward O’Hare was murdered by the Al Capone gang while driving home.
O’Hare was the son of a St. Louis, Missouri, businessman with ties to Al Capone’s gang. His father put in a good word to get the younger O’Hare into the U.S. Naval Academy, which led to his being trained as an aviator.
During his training, his father turned against Capone after the events of the Valentine’s Day Massacre and passed financial documents to the IRS. Capone was eventually convicted, but put a hit out on O’Hare’s father. Then-Ensign O’Hare took a break from training to attend his father’s funeral, but went on to earn his wings 18 months before the Pearl Harbor attacks. He earned a reputation as a skilled aviator before America entered World War II.
Edward O’Hare as a pilot during World War II as a lieutenant. He rose to the rank of lieutenant commander and helped create night aviation procedures for the Navy before his death during the war.
His first engagement came near the Pacific island of Rabaul while his wing was temporarily assigned to the USS Lexington. A patrolling submarine spotted waves of Japanese “Betty” bombers heading for the Lexington’s task force on February 20, 1942. Fighters took to the air, and O’Hare and his wingman were the last pair to get airborne.
While the first fighters to take off dealt with the first wave of bombers, a second wave closed in and the O’Hare pair were the only fighters in position to attack. They did a quick test fire of their weapons. O’Hare had four working guns, but his wingman couldn’t fire.
And so O’hare was left facing either eight or nine attacking bombers — accounts differ — with only his F4F Wildcat protecting the carrier. He had just a few minutes to interrupt the enemy attack.
The USS Lexington was America’s second carrier and a legend in World War II. But it likely would have been destroyed early in the war if it weren’t for Lt. Cmdr. Edward H. O’Hare.
O’Hare zipped into position and focused his first attack on two bombers trailing on the right side of the enemy formation, downing both with quick, accurate bursts from his four .50-cal. Browning machine guns against their engines and fuel tanks. By the time he had downed the second bomber, he had overtaken the formation so he wheeled back around and came up the left side.
This time, he hit the rearmost plane with shots to the starboard engine that sent it wheeling toward the sea. O’Hare attacked again, slaughtering a fourth plane and crew with shots through the left wing and cockpit.
It had been only moments, and approximately half of the enemy formation had hit the water or was on its way. But that still left about four bombers heading to Lady Lex. So, O’Hare went in for a third attack pass as the fight drew into range of the Lex’s guns.
He sent a burst into the trail plane and then sent more rounds at the lead plane of the formation, knocking one of its engines off.
The kills had come so fast and furious that officers on the Lexington would later report seeing three fireballs heading for the ocean at once.
Between O’Hare and shipboard gunners, only two of the Japanese “Bettys” were still alive to drop their bombs, and none of the bombs managed to damage the carrier at all. O’Hare would claim six kills from the engagement, but he would only get credited with five. Either way, that took him from zero kills to fighter ace in a single engagement. This made him the Navy’s second fighter ace and its first ace-in-a-day as the service’s air arm was young and relatively small in World War I.
F6F Hellcats were strong successors to the F4F Wildcat and they allowed naval pilots to become more lethal against Japanese forces.
But that couldn’t keep O’Hare engaged, and he returned to combat in 1943, this time flying the Wildcat’s stronger successor, the F6F Hellcat. In just a few months during the latter half of 1943, O’Hare earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses, one for an attack on Japanese forces on Marcus Island where he and his flight destroyed all aircraft on the ground and approximately 80 percent of ground installations, and another for an attack against Wake Island installations where the flight downed three enemies in the air and destroyed planes and installations on the ground.
But the American forces were vulnerable deep in the Pacific, and O’Hare was tasked with finding a way to stop Japanese dusk attacks had allowed damage to the USS Independence. His proposal to create three-plane teams with two Hellcats and a radar-equipped Avenger was quickly adopted. The carriers would detect enemy planes first and vector the fighter in until the Avenger could detect the targets.
In this 1951 photo, the plane closest to the camera is an Avenger, the plane that O’Hare paired with F6F Hellcats in order to make them more effective at dusk and in the early night. The rest of the planes on the deck are F8F Bearcats, successors to the Hellcat.
Right as the Hellcats returned to the Avenger, though, a Japanese plane slipped in behind them and sent a burst through O’Hare’s plane. The tail gunner in the Avenger downed the attacker, but O’Hare and his plane slipped away into the dark and crashed into the water.
We here at SOFREP recently made the acquaintance of Dave “Bio” Baranek. We were interested in doing a review of his upcoming book “Tomcat RIO.” Baranek agreed to send us his book for review, but as a bonus he recently also sent us a copy of his previous book “Topgun Days” for us to look over.
Baranek was an F-14 RIO (Radar Intercept Officer). He not only flew Tomcats in real-world missions but became an instructor at the Navy’s Topgun school. He also worked closely on the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun.” (An interesting footnote is the Navy has Topgun as one word while Hollywood had it as two.)
When Baranek’s book arrived in the mail, I was scanning the movie channels for an action film and Top Gun popped up. Was it fate? So, switching off the television, I sat in a chair, where’d I remain for the next several hours, because once you begin reading the book, it puts its hooks into you right away and you won’t be able to put it down. This move much irked my wife who was expecting yours truly to be helping put stuff away from our recent move.
One of the first chapters deals with Baranek ejecting from the Tomcat’s GRU-7A into the Indian Ocean. The ejection subjects pilots to forces of 20 Gs which makes them blackout for a few seconds. Baranek was heavily entangled in his parachute lines and silk but managed to free himself, and — in testimony to the speed and professionalism of the rescue choppers — spent only about three minutes in the Indian Ocean.
Baranek went through Topgun school in 1982. He was the only one from his class of 451 pilots, from the flight school of 1980, to be chosen. One of the things that was interesting is that Baranek stated that the Topgun instructors were not arrogant or swaggering but delivered their lectures with enthusiasm and a seemingly limitless amount of knowledge on the subject matter.
After his graduation, he returned to his squadron. He was then selected to return to Topgun, this time as an instructor. For Navy combat pilots, that is the pinnacle.
Nearly all fighter pilots have very cool nicknames or call-signs. Baranek chose “Bionic” because it sounded like Baranek. But being thin, the Navy pilots didn’t believe he looked very bionic so it was shortened to “Bio.”
Of course, he was an instructor at Topgun when the Hollywood people came around in 1985 to begin filming the movie which made the Tomcats and the school so famous with the public.
The F-5 fighters, which were the ones the instructors flew as aggressor aircraft for the school, were normally painted in camouflage patterns that Navy pilots might encounter on deployment somewhere in the world: They would either be of a green and brown camouflage, similar to the Soviet-style, or painted in a tan that would blend in with the desert environment in the Middle East.
But for the Tony Scott film, the producers had the F-5s painted flat black with a red star on the tail. The planes were called MiG-28s — a fictional aircraft that did not exist. The film director and cameramen got some incredible footage from the F-14s. The quality and dramatic effect of the shots even impressed the Tomcat pilots.
Baranek’s wife got to kiss Tom Cruise on the cheek and they met some of the other actors including Anthony Edwards (Goose), Michael Ironside (Jester), and Tom Skerrit. I remember my own wife being similarly star-struck meeting Mark Wahlberg and Flash Gordon on the set of Ted 2 in Boston. Seeing those pictures and remembering these moments reinforces how our families are a big part of what we do.
The Navy officially retired Tomcats from active service in 2006, but due to Tom Cruise’s film, they live on as one of those iconic aircraft in the public’s imagination. An interesting fact is that most of the naval aviators of today weren’t even born when Cruise, Anthony Edwards, and Val Kilmer rocked across the screen in 1986. And Cruise has just recently finished another Top Gun film.
Baranek completed a 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite Topgun training program, and a later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. 7th Fleet. He commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, with nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about 0 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also records 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.
As Special Forces guys, we always joked about fighter pilots: “What’s the difference between God and a fighter pilot?” Answer: “God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.” Pilots would also poke fun at us. One of the pilots I knew would always ask if we picked the gravel out of our knuckles. But the respect is always there.
A particularly gripping aspect of “Topgun Days” is the fantastic aerial photography that Baranek took. The book is peppered with some great pictures that put the reader right smack in either an F-14 or F-5.
Baranek’s “Topgun Days” is a page-turner and comes very highly recommended. Its 322 pages with awesome photography will zip by in the blink of an eye. “I feel the need…the need for speed.”
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Thetis was just doing their thing in November, 2017, hunting smugglers and mapping America’s puddles (or whatever it is they do), when they came across the ultimate smuggler: an ancient sea monster with $53 million of drugs in tow.
USCGC Thetis transits past the USCGC Tampa Bay in Key West.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Ferdinando)
The Coast Guard first spotted the drugs with an Over The Horizon small boat, identifying it as a debris patch with contraband likely in it. When the pursuit mission commander arrived at the debris field, he identified both the cocaine and a sea turtle caught in the middle of it.
Despite catching the sea turtle swimming with bales of contraband on it, the commander kept an open mind about whether or not the sea turtle was involved in the underlying crime.
A crewman from the USCGC Thetis prepares to cut a sea turtle free of bales of cocaine.
The Coast Guardsmen identified chaffing on the sea turtle and went to render aid. Speaking of which, seriously guys —do not leave trash lines in the ocean. Slowly dying of infection from chaffing or starvation because you can’t hunt is a horrible way to go.
The Coast Guardsmen cut the turtle free and allowed it to swim away without further investigation, instead concentrating on recovering what turned out to be 1,800 pounds of cocaine valued at million. They also recovered the 75 feet of lines and cords which would’ve been a persistent threat to sea turtles and other wildlife.
For some reason, these are the best photos the Coast Guard released of the sea turtle rescue. Not sure if all Coast Guardsmen are limited to smart phones from 2008 or what, but we would include better photos if we had them.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
The encounter was part of Operation Martillo, and USCGC Thetis was on a 68-day patrol where the Coast Guard and its partners ultimately captured 5 million worth of drugs, mostly cocaine and marijuana.
USCGC Thetis arrives in Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in 2010.
(U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Bill Mesta)
And the Coast Guard has done this while being dramatically under-resourced for such a large mission. They can often only put three cutters onto the mission at a time, and are only able to interdict 20 to 25 percent of the seaborne drugs headed into the country.
The U.S. isn’t the only country involved in the efforts. Operation Martillo has been going on since 2012 and has member countries from South America and Europe, and Canadian forces were part of the sea turtle rescue. SOUTHCOM says the operation has scooped up over 693 metric tons of cocaine, nearly 600 sea vessels and aircraft, and nearly 2,000 smugglers since it was launched in early 2012. It’s also nabbed million in bulk cash.
Today, the M16 rifle and M4 carbine are ubiquitous among American troops. These lightweight rifles, which both fire the 5.56mm NATO round, have been around for decades and are mainstays. The civilian version, the AR-15, is owned by at least five million Americans. But the troops hauling it around almost got a similar rifle in the 1950s that fired the 7.62mm NATO round.
It’s not the first classic rifle to be designed to fire one cartridge and enter service firing another. The M1 Garand, when it was first designed, was chambered for the .276 Pedersen round. The reason that round never caught on? The Army had tons of .30-06 ammo in storage, and so the legendary semi-auto rifle was adapted to work with what was available.
The story is much different for the M16. Eugene Stoner’s original design was called the AR-10 (the “AR” stood for “Armalite Rifle” — Armalite was to manufacture the weapon). This early design was a 7.62mm NATO rifle with a 20-round box magazine.
According to the National Rifle Association Museum, this rifle went head to-head with the FN FAL and the T44 to replace the M1 Garand. The T44 won out and was introduced to service as the M14. This doesn’t mean the AR-10 was a complete loss, however. Sudan and Portugal both bought the AR-10 for their troops to use and, from there, the rifle trickled into a few other places as well.
Portugal bought the AR-10 and used it in the Angolan War.
(Photo by Joaquim Coelho)
Armalite, though, wasn’t ready to give up on getting that juicy U.S. military contract, so they began work on scaling down the AR-10 for the 5.56mm cartridge. The Army tried the resulting rifle, the AR-15, out in 1958 and liked what the saw, pointing to a need for a lightweight infantry rifle. It was the Air Force, though, that was the first service to buy the rifle, calling it the M16, which serves American troops today.
The AR-10 made a comeback of sorts during the War on Terror. Here, a Marine general fires the Mk 11 sniper rifle.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Sharon E. Fox)
Despite the immense popularity of the M16, the AR-10 never faded completely into obscurity. During the War on Terror, operation experience called for a heavier-hitting rifle with longer range. In a way, the AR-10 made a comeback — this time as a designated marksman rifle in the form of modified systems, like the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and Mk 11 rifle.
Variants of the AR-10 are on the civilian market, including this AR-10 National Match.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
Over the years, the AR-10 has thrived as a semi-auto-only weapon, available on the civilian market, produced by companies like Rock River Arms and DPMS. In a sense, the AR-10 has come full circle.
Dozens of US states have reported mysterious seeds showing up in packages from China and are warning citizens not to plant them because they could be an invasive species.
The US Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was investigating the unsolicited packages of seeds reported by at least 27 states and urged anyone who receives them to contact local agricultural officials.
“Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a press release. “Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”
The agency also said the packages were likely a “brushing scam,” in which consumers are sent packages and a company then forges positive reviews of the products.
But they could also quickly become an ecological disaster.
“An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture,” Sid Miller, Texas’ agriculture commissioner, said in a press release.
And scientists agree — that’s why the USDA has such strict rules on importing plants and other organic materials.
“The reason that people are concerned is — especially if the seed is the seed of a similar crop that is grown for income and food, or food for animals — that there may be plant pathogens or insects that are harbored in the seed,” Carolee Bull, a professor with Penn State’s Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology program, told The New York Times.
With more than 900 missions under his belt, Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff was one of the most famous German fighter pilots during WWII and was reportedly known as the “Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe.”
Operating everywhere from the western to the eastern fronts, Steinhoff squared off with some of the world’s best pilots at the time and racked up 176 victories. But he was also shot down a dozen times.
The German ace nearly rode his damaged plane all the way down to the ground every time because he didn’t trust that the parachutes would properly deploy if he jumped out.
Although he was very efficient during the war, Steinhoff was known for spearheading the fighter pilots’ revolt of January 1945 by voicing concerns to the corrupt leadership in the Third Reich’s high command who in return accused their pilots of cowardice and treason.
For this role in the rebellion, Steinhoff was threatened by his commanders with court-martial and banishment to Italy.
Towards the end of the war, Steinhoff took flight on a mission in his Messerschmitt Me-262 jet but was shot down soon after by Allied forces — officially ending his involvement in war.
The German ace fighter was so badly burned in his last crash he would receive 70 operations to help restore his facial structures.
In February 1994, the German general passed away from heart failure at the age of 80.