Julia Yllescas was just seven years old when her father, Army Capt. Robert Yllescas, succumbed to injuries sustained in an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan in 2008, according to the Omaha World Herald. Now a high school senior, Julia honored her father’s memory by taking “angel photos” for her senior portrait, as reported by the KOLN TV station in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Susanne Beckman, owner of Snapshots by Suz, created the photos as a special gift for the family, she said on Facebook.
“I have been taking pictures of Julia since she was about 9 and I thought it would be a great idea to do these angel pictures for her as a special gift for her big milestone and to her family,” Beckman wrote. “I am an active-duty National Guard wife, which is what inspired the idea and the vision. I take a lot of pictures of military families and their special memories.
“I was very emotional when I edited the photos because my husband is active-duty National Guard and has been put in the same exact situations as Rob was, but I was lucky enough for him to come home. A lot of military spouses and kids such as Julia are not, and I am so thankful I was able to do something to honor her and her dad!” she continued.
In response to the photos, Yllescas told KOLN, “It almost felt when I saw those pictures that he truly was there. And to have a piece of him with me throughout my senior year. Because sometimes it feels like, ‘Where are you, why did you have to go?’ Just to have that on my wall and be like, ‘No, he is with me, even though I can’t physically see him.'”
Before he died, Robert Yllescas was presented with a Purple Heart by President George W. Bush. He was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas.
His memory lives on through his family, and especially in these photos.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The commander of the U.S. Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence said Sept. 5, 2018, that basic training programs for combat arms specialties such as armor and engineers will soon start a pilot program similar to the one that is extending Infantry one station unit training to 22 weeks.
About 400 recruits are now in their seventh week of the pilot at Fort Benning, Georgia that is adding eight weeks to the traditional 14-week infantry OSUT.
Once that pilot program is complete, Army officials will begin extending other combat arms OSUT programs, Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, the commander of MCOE at Benning, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s Sept. 5, 2018 Aviation Hot Topic event.
“It started with infantry; now we will begin a pilot with armor one station unit training at the beginning of next calendar year,” Brito said. “We also have some guidance from [Training and Doctrine Command] to do the same thing with the engineers at Fort Leonard Wood [Missouri].
“This could expand, and it most likely will, to some of the other combat MOSs over the next couple of years, to transform out to 22 weeks for all.”
Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jonathan Christal, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery, marches Basic Combat Training Soldiers in for classroom training.
(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. James Brabenec)
Recruits in infantry OSUT traditionally go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about four-and-a-half weeks of infantry advanced individual training. The pilot adds eight weeks of training time to hone marksmanship, land navigation and other key combat skills.
“The guidance to the team is … you have 22 weeks now to build and do the best land navigation you can do; you have 22 weeks now to have the best marksmanship training that you can do,” Brito said.
The pilot follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training in early 2018 that focuses on emphasizing more discipline in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic.
“I am very proud of the 200 that started, per company, and no one has dropped out; we have no injuries, and we have no one that has wanted to quit,” Brito said, adding that the pilot is scheduled to end on Dec. 7, 2018.
“That is a long time in training.”
The Army plans to track the two companies once they are out in the force to assess the differences the extended training has made on their performance, Brito said.
But before the 22-week infantry OSUT can become a permanent program, Benning will have to build up its training base with more instructors, Brito said. “This will demand a very big growth in drill sergeants … so that we can continue the 22 weeks.”
The goal is for a private to show up to a unit and “he or she is combat ready, physically fit, mentally fit to deploy right away,” Brito said.
“I really do think this is going to help combat readiness and deployability for the Army.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
As the eastern seaboard prepares for Hurricane Dorian, the fourth hurricane of the 2019 season, staying prepared and having a plan is critical to surviving a potential disaster.
During the 2019 Hurricane Awareness Tour, organizations shared insights on how to prepare and stay aware of tropical weather systems that affect different areas, including those more inland.
“Ninety percent of the fatalities of tropical systems historically are from the water,” said Ken Graham, National Hurricane Center director. “In the last three years, 83 percent of fatalities from tropical systems have been inland flooding, more than half in automobiles.”
Graham also emphasized that the lower category hurricanes require just as much consideration for preparation due to their ability to cause catastrophic damage.
“In the last decade, Category 1 storms have produced 3 billion worth of damage and 175 fatalities,” Graham said.
Hurricane Dorian as seen from the ISS on Aug. 29, 2019.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers tips to help prepare for hurricanes.
Gather information. The NOAA emphasizes to “know if you live in an evacuation area. Assess your risks and know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Understand National Weather Service forecast products and especially the meaning of NWS watches and warnings.”
Plan and take action. Put together a disaster supplies kit which has items including water, food, a flashlight and a first aid kit. To see the full suggested contents of the kit, visit https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit. Planning and taking action includes having an emergency plan, guarding the community’s health, protecting the environment, following instructions from local officials for evacuation and be alert for other potential weather hazards including tornadoes brought in by the hurricane.
Recover. This highlights the need to wait for the area to be declared safe before returning home, and to remember that recovery takes time.
Resources. Know the resources offered for preparation before a hurricane occurs as well as the resources available for recovery including the NOAA, Ready.gov, and the National Weather Service.
The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.
And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.
Here are eight examples.
1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.
The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.
On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.
In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.
2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.
Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.
It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”
Here’s the Navy version:
3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.
The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.
These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.
In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.
Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.
Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.
Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.
5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.
Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.
This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.
6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.
The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.
Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.
These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.
7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.
Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.
While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”
That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.
8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.
Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.
Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).
According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.
The B-2 Spirit is one of the most clandestine and rare planes in the world. Only 21 were ever built, and they reportedly have a stealth profile similar to that of a large bird despite their 170-foot wingspan. And they’re invisible to many infrared seekers, despite four large engines.
Here’s how engineers made a massive plane with large engines nearly invisible to systems designed to detect threats exactly like the B-2.
The B-2’s stealth profile is the result of extensive computer testing that wasn’t possible before its design. While the F-117 and B-1 were stealth aircraft, they were designed by nerds with slide rules and minimal computer modeling because the technology and the computers necessary simply didn’t exist.
But when it was time to design the B-2, the all-powerful nerds had super computers and leveraged them to create a model that had no flat surfaces with which to reflect radar directly back to the sensor. While a machine with no flat surfaces is harder to manufacture, the increase in stealth was deemed worthy of extra costs.
If the B-2 were flying directly towards the radar, most of the waves would actually be reflected 90 degrees away from the receiver, giving the radar operators next to nothing to work with.
Husband and wife B-2 Spirit pilots pose with one of the rare aircraft. The engine intakes are visible to the left and right of the cockpit.
(Avery family courtesy photo)
But of course, the flying wing would lose most of its stealth if the engines were mounted outside of its high-tech form. So the engines were mounted inside with special openings for intake and exhaust that, again, would not reflect radar waves back to the dish.
It has a few (mostly classified) systems to help with this. The exact shape of the exhaust helps a lot, but it also cools its exhaust and mixes it with the outside air to create a final exhaust that is at nearly the same temperature as the air flowing into the intake.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Germaine McCall, aircrew flight equipment NCO in charge, 509th Operations Support Squadron, carries a life support equipment to be cleaned and inspected upon the arrival of a B-2 Spirit at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, August 28, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)
This greatly frustrates pursuing missiles and fighters, but obviously still leaves it vulnerable if someone spots the plane and talks fighters into the vicinity to hunt it.
Anyone who has worked with most other jets knows that you can typically hear them before you see them, often by a matter of hundreds of feet. It’s the sound that lets you know to look for the plane, but the B-2’s tiny acoustic signature means that most observers on the ground won’t know there’s anything in the sky to look for.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit flies past a crowd of spectators during the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom on July 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball)
Combined, this makes the B-2 a plane with little radar observability, that’s too quiet for most people on the ground to notice it flying nearby, and it gives off little heat, frustrating missiles and fighters sent to down it.
All of this still requires good pilots and planning. Determined defenders could use low-frequency radar waves and skilled fighters to hunt down a B-2 following a too-populated or well-defended route. But the last element of B-2 stealth comes from good intelligence, allowing pilots and planners to send the bombers in through relatively undefended routes or through routes the B-2 can defeat.
Because that’s a big part of the B-2’s mission. It’s not supposed to act as the primary bomber in most circumstances. It’s a first-wave attacker, clearing the air defenses on the ground and opening “alleys” for less stealthy aircraft. Ideally, they get a picture of the air defenses they will attack from reconnaissance aircraft like the RC-135 and are then able to dismantle them piece by piece.
An Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber, deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., takes off March 27, 2016, in the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joel Pfiester)
But the B-2 can and has been sent against other targets, including bunkers in Iraq housing command and control elements during the invasion of that country. This is particularly useful when planners need to eliminate a target too early in the timeline to dismantle the air network first.
After all, if an enemy commander shows himself at a rally in the capital during an air campaign, you aren’t going to wait for the B-2s to finish opening the air corridors, you’re just going to send in B-2s to the final target (or you send B-1s if the B-2s can’t get there in time). You can get the radars later.
And that’s what’s so great about the B-2. While the plane costs more dollars per hour of flight than many others and carries fewer bombs than planes like the B-52 and B-1, it can hit targets that few other platforms can, largely because of its amazing stealth.
The ROTC Medal of Heroism was posthumously awarded to the family of Riley Howell during a private ceremony held at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, May 11, 2019, in recognition of his actions when a gunman opened fire on students at the school on April 30, 2019.
According to the award summary, “He protected his fellow classmates by tackling the suspect and using his body as a human shield. His actions that day left him mortally wounded, but he saved an undeterminable amount of lives. Mr. Howell demonstrated the values of the United States Army by showing a high level of integrity, honor, and selfless service on that fateful day.”
Even though Howell was taking ROTC courses, but was not contracted to become an Army officer, Lt. Col. Chunka Smith, Professor of Military Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said he always set a great example and would have made an excellent officer.
Riley Howell, UNC Charlotte student who died confronting gunman, awarded Civilian Medal of Valor
“Though our time with Riley was brief, I can tell you that he stood out. I make it a point to shake the hands of all 180 Cadets in our program. All of them are phenomenal men and women, but Riley stood out because of his strong, tall, athletic build and his overall calm presence,” he said. “He embodied everything we look for in future officers.
“At the end of each semester my cadre and I sit down to review line by line all of the students on path to contract and those who we want to recruit. Riley was one of those individuals I would have called into my office to recruit,” Smith said.
He went on to say Howell and his actions would not soon be forgotten.
“Each year 180 plus Army ROTC students will know the story of Riley Howell and the sacrifice he made. They will carry and spread the legacy of Riley Howell,” Smith said.
The ROTC Medal for Heroism is awarded to cadets who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism performed on or off campus. According to Cadet Command Regulation 672-5-1, “The achievement must result in an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from fellow students or from other persons in similar circumstances,” and “the performance must involve the acceptance of danger or extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy fortitude and courage.”
When you think of amphibious operations, you probably think of troops storming beaches at Normandy or one of the many of coral atolls in the Pacific. Troops would ride landing craft to dislodge the enemy from their positions — often speeding directly into the teeth of fierce enemy defenses to do so. It was a very bloody way to take islands or to secure a foothold on Europe.
These days, it’s unlikely that American troops will face such a situation. This is because amphibious landings have changed — specifically, the landing craft have changed. The old-style Higgins boats are out and Air-Cushion Landing Craft, better known as LCACs, are in.
To describe it simply, the LCAC is a hovercraft. This technology vastly expands the amount of coastline that American troops can hit. According to a US Navy fact sheet, the landing craft you’d see in Saving Private Ryan or The Pacific could hit 15 percent of the coastlines around the world. The LCAC can target 70 percent — that’s a 350% increase in eligible landing zones.
The beach above would likely have been passed over had it not been for the LCAC — here, it was just an exercise.
(DOD photo bySSGT Jerry Morrison, USAF)
But for as capable as the LCAC may be, it can’t travel across open ocean to find its beach. And for as versatile as they are, they’re also quite large, which means they need to be transported somehow. For this, the US Navy uses well decks on larger ships. These decks, which are hangar-like spaces that rest on the waterline, were originally designed to make loading conventional landing craft easier, but they also work well for LCACs.
A LCAC enters USS Wasp (LHD 1).
In fact, these decks make LCACs very versatile crafts. When they’re not transporting troops from ship to shore, they can be used to transfer cargo between ships with well decks.
Watch the video below to see the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bon Homme Richard (LHD 6) carry out a cargo transfer with a San Antonio-class amphibious ship!
Perhaps the most hallowed burial ground in the United States is Arlington National Cemetery. The problem is that this cemetery is running out of room. In fact, at the current pace, it will be full in about a quarter century.
According to reports, the cemetery is now facing some hard decisions. While there are discussions with the Commonwealth of Virginia and Arlington County to purchase 37 acres adjacent to the cemetery, at the current pace, that new land would only account for about a decade more of space for this ground. So, what does the DoD do with this sacred, national icon?
“Given the limited amount of land available to ANC, eligibility is the only way to address the challenge of keeping ANC open for future interments for generations to come,” says Deputy Superintendent Renea Yates. The release cited results from a survey claiming that most respondents acknowledged the need to adjust eligibility criteria.
The new criteria could limit future interments to those who are killed in action or those who are highly-decorated for heroism in combat. One likely cutoff is said to be the Medal of Honor. Only 20 Medals of Honor have been awarded for acts taking place after the Vietnam War — nine of which were awarded posthumously.
The Advisory Committee is preparing a new survey for stakeholders that will take place this coming spring, with an eye towards developing recommendations to present to the Secretary of the Army and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. One thing is certain: Even if expansions take place, it will be tougher to be buried at Arlington in the future.
Scientifically known as the trapezius, this incredible fibrous structure is attached to the lower portion of your occipital bone (at the base of the skull) and extends toward your thoracic spine. Too much medical mumbo-jumbo? Okay, it’s the muscle that makes you look like a King Cobra and tells everyone not to f*ck with you.
Some people are genetically blessed with prominent, defined traps, while the rest of us do standing shoulder shrugs in hopes of getting ours to grow just a little bit. But did you know that shoulder shrugs aren’t the only exercise that can develop these alpha-looking muscles?
In fact, there are a few ways to treat your traps — and they all start with isolation movements and heavy weights.
Usually, shrug rows are great exercises for toning your back but, with a slight change in positioning, they can help you nail that King-Cobra. By laying face-forward on the incline bench, you can greatly stimulate your traps with an isolated shrug movement.
What’s nice about this exercise is that you can use horizontal resistance bands to build those traps. The key here is to squeeze those muscles in a controlled manner throughout the entire motion. The traps aren’t often worked out on their own — be sure to remain mindful throughout the exercise and try to activate only the targeted muscle group.
Most of us are familiar with doing military presses to get buff shoulders. To really target your trap muscles, consider laying flat on your face — no, really. Prone presses may look kind of odd, but they are a great way to get blood to those muscles and bulk them up.
Unfortunately, most gymgoers do shoulder shrugs completely wrong. When they pull up on the weight, they tend to use their legs to bounce, giving themselves an extra boost. To get your traps to grow, you have to stimulate the muscles, which means isolating the movement. So, sit before you shrug.
This helps remove the bounce and makes the exercise tougher — which is what you want.
As if 2020 couldn’t get any more bizarre, earlier today the Pentagon officially released unclassified, previously leaked footage of “unidentified aerial phenomena” aka unidentified flying objects aka UFOs aka ALIENS.
In September of last year, the Navy acknowledged the validity of the videos, but are officially releasing them “in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena. DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos. The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified.’
There are three videos showing separate incidents.
Gimbal: The First Official UAP Footage from the USG for Public Release
If social distancing’s got you down, just remember: We’re not alone. Is that threatening to national security? Here’s what UFO expert and former special agent Luis Elizondo, said in an interview with WATM:
Do I think they’re a threat? They could be if they wanted to be.
Let me give you a very succinct analogy: Let’s say at night you go to lock your front door, you don’t expect any problems, but you lock it anyways just to be extra safe. You lock your windows, and you turn on your alarm system, and you go to bed. You do this every morning, and let’s say one morning after you wake up, you’re walking downstairs, and you find muddy footprints in your living room.
Nothing has been taken, no one is hurt, but despite you locking the front doors, the windows, and turning on the alarm system — there are muddy footprints in your living room.
The question is: is that a threat?
Well, I don’t know, but it could be if it wanted to be.
It’s easy now to think of Operation Overlord as fated, like it was the armies of Middle Earth hitting Mordor. The good guys would attack, they would win, and the war would end. But it actually fell to a cadre of hundreds of officers to make it happen and make it successful, or else more than 150,000 men would die for nothing.
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)
But the planners of Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord had an insane number of factors to look at as weather, moon and starlight, and troops movements from London to Paris would affect the state of play when the first Allied ships were spotted by Axis planes and lookouts. Planners wanted as many factors on their side as possible when the first German cry went out.
The map above allowed the planners to get a look at what sort of artillery emplacements troops would face at each beach, both during their approaches and landings and once they were on the soil of France.
Looking at all the overlapping arcs, it’s easy to see why they asked the Rangers to conduct the dangerous climbs at Point Du Hoc, why they sent paratroopers like the Band of Brothers against inland guns, and why they had hoped for much more successful bombing runs against the guns than they ultimately got.
Instead, paratroopers and other ground troops would have to break many of the enemy guns one at a time with infantry assaults and counter-artillery missions.
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)
Speaking of those bombers, this is one of the maps they used to plan aircraft sorties. The arcs across southern England indicate distances from Bayeux, France, a town just south of the boundary between Omaha and Gold beaches. The numbers in England indicated the locations of airfields and how many fighter squadrons could be based at each.
These fighter squadrons would escort the bombers over the channel and perform strafing missions against ground targets. Bayeux was a good single point to measure from, as nearly all troops would be landing within 30 miles of that city.
But planners were also desperate to make Germany believe that another, larger attacking was coming elsewhere, so planes not in range of the actual beaches were sent far and wide to bomb a multitude of other targets, as seen below.
(U.S. Military Academy)
Diversion attacks were launched toward troops based near Calais, the deepwater port that was the target in numerous deception operations. But the bulk of bomber and fighter support went right to the beaches where troops were landing.
Bombings conducted in the months ahead of D-Day had reduced Germany’s industrial output and weakened some troop concentrations, but the bulk of German forces were still ready to fight. Luckily, the Allies had a huge advantage in terms of weather forecasting against the Axis, and many German troops thought the elements would keep them safe from attack in early June, that is until paratroopers were landing all around them.
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)
This map shows additional beaches between the Somme and the Seine Rivers of France along with the length of each beach. These beaches are all to the northeast of the targets of D-Day, and troops never assaulted them from the sea like they did on Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches.
But these beaches, liberated by maneuvering forces that landed at the D-Day beaches, would provide additional landing places for supplies until deepwater ports could be taken and held.
But all of that relied on actually taking and holding the first five beaches, something which actually hinged quite a bit on weather forecasting, as hinted above. In fact, this next two-page document is all about meetings on June 4-5, 1944, detailing weather discussions taking place between all of the most senior officers taking part in the invasion, all two-stars or above.
(Maj. Gen. H.R. Bull, the memo author, uses days of the week extensively in the memo. D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the Tuesday he was referring to. “Monday” was the June 5 original invasion date. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were D-Day+1, +2, and +3.)
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)
This might seem like a lot of military brainpower to dedicate to whether or not it was raining, but the winds, waves, and clouds affected towing operations, the landing boats, fighter and bomber cover, and the soil the troops would fight on.
The fate of France could’ve been won or lost in a few inches of precipitation, a few waves large enough to swamp the low-lying landing craft, or even low cloud cover that would throw off even more bombs and paratroopers. So, yeah, they held early morning and late night meetings about the weather.
Ridley Scott’s “G.I. Jane” gave audiences an inside look into Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, with Demi Moore starring as a female trainee.
Except it’s not called BUD/S — the movie calls it CRT for some reason — and the technical errors don’t stop there. We sat through two hours of sometimes horrific technical errors so you don’t have to. Here’s the 39 that we found.
1:53 Senator DeHaven references an F-14 crash at Coronado. Although it is possible that an F-14 could crash in the area, it’s worth pointing out that Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, has no F-14s assigned to it.
3:00 The senator says that nearly 1/4 of all jobs in the U.S. military are off-limits to women. It’s actually much closer to 1/5th.
4:31 The admiral makes the first mention of “C.R.T — Combined Reconnaissance Team,” which he refers to as SEALs. There’s no such thing as CRT. The training program that Navy SEALs go through is called BUD/S, or Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL.
4:37 The admiral says SEAL training has a 60 percent drop-out rate. According to the Navy’s own figures, the drop-out rate is closer to 75-80 percent.
11:50 O’Neill says she has survived Jump School and Dive School. As an intel officer, it’s highly unlikely that she would ever attend these schools.
13:13 Royce mentions to Lt. O’Neill that BUD/S training is three months. It’s actually six.
14:01 Now we’re introduced to Catalano Naval Base in Florida. It doesn’t exist. BUD/S actually takes place at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, Calif.
14:21 Lt. O’Neill pulls up to the base in a Humvee. If she were going to a training school, she would’ve just driven a civilian vehicle or taken a taxi from the airport like everyone else. She wouldn’t be picked up by a driver in a tactical military vehicle (although that possibility could have happened but it would’ve been a government van).
14:23 The gate guard says “Carry on.” He’s enlisted, and she’s an officer. If anyone is going to say that, it’s going to be the officer, not the enlisted guy.
14:46 Yes, Lt. O’Neill is wearing a beret right now. And no, people in the Navy don’t ever wear one.
20:00 Capt. Salem welcomes the new class and says they are all “proven operators in the Spec-Ops community.” He mentions that some of the trainees for CRT are SEALs. Why would SEALs be going through initial SEAL training? (This is just another screw-up coming from calling BUD/S the fictional “CRT.”)
20:07 Salem mentions that some of the trainees are from Marine Corps Force Recon. You can’t become a Navy SEAL unless you’re in the Navy.
26:20 A Huey helicopter is about 10 feet away from the trainees who are exercising in the water, but Command Master Chief Urgayle can give a rousing speech about pain that everyone can hear just fine.
26:50 After his speech about pain, Urgayle hops on the Huey and heads out. I wish I could have a Huey as a personal taxi to take me around.
36:27 Using an M-60 machine gun to fire over trainees’ heads is believable. The Master Chief using a sniper rifle to fire live rounds at trainees during training? That is not.
36:31 Are you frigging serious with this reticle pattern right now?
36:52 This course looks less like training and more like Beirut in the 80s. What the hell is with all the flames everywhere?
37:19 Now there is a jet engine shooting afterburner exhaust in trainees’ faces. Wtf?
39:00 Apparently the Master Chief has moved his sniper position from away in a bunker to the perspective of Lt. O’Neill, looking up at Cortez on top of the wall.
48:56 The instructors throw two live smoke grenades and fire rounds from an MP-5 submachine gun to wake up the trainees. The sound doesn’t really match, unless they are shooting live rounds at people. In which case, it’s probably not a good idea to shoot live bullets at a cement floor.
53:01 I know Capt. Salem really likes his cigars, but smoking one during PT?
54:19 Lt. O’Neill gets waterboarded as Urgayle explains how effective the technique is at interrogation. This is not something taught at BUD/S.
57:07 The base gate says Naval Special Warfare Group Two. The base in the movie is located in Jacksonville, Fla., but the actual Group Two is based in Little Creek, Va.
1:05:44 Now the trainees head to SERE school, which the movie says is in Captiva Island, Fla. The Navy (or any other branch) does not hold SERE training at this location. Also, BUD/S trainees don’t attend SERE school. They would attend SERE after they earned the Navy SEAL Trident.
1:06:00 Instructor Pyro is giving a speech about SERE in the back of a noisy helicopter. The trainees wouldn’t be able to hear him.
1:09:36 Lt. O’Neill says over the radio: “Cortez, target ahead. Belay my last. New rally point my location.” She didn’t give Cortez an order, so saying “belay my last” — aka disregard that order — doesn’t make sense.
1:10:00 Slavonic wants to get a helmet at SERE school for a souvenir? Sure he’s a total idiot, but no one is that dumb.
1:12:32 Now that everyone is captured at SERE training, it’s worth pointing out that SERE is actually a three-week course, one week of which is dedicated to survival. Apparently GI Jane skipped straight to resistance.
1:30:00 Why the hell is there a baseball bat just sitting there next to ring-out bell? Oh, the director wanted to make Lt. O’Neill look like a badass. Ok.
1:40:15 Lt. O’Neill is back in training, and now the trainees are on an Operational Readiness Exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, on a submarine. The Navy isn’t going to put trainees on a sub stationed overseas before they are SEALs while they are still undergoing BUD/S training.
1:42:28 The captain asks the Master Chief if the trainees are ready to conduct a real-world mission into Libya. He says yes, and the military viewing audience is — if they haven’t already — throwing things at their TVs.
1:49:19 There’s a firefight happening and bad guys coming towards them but these almost SEALs are literally smoking and joking.
1:54:29 An M-16 firing doesn’t sound like a .50 caliber machine gun. But it does in this movie.
1:54:53 O’Neill fires her M203. The sound it makes is basically a “thoonk” sound. The movie sound effect is like a bottle rocket.
1:55:26 Ok, so basically every sound effect in this firefight sequence makes me want to shoot the TV.
1:56:36 This Cobra attack helicopter can easily shoot the bad guys from a distance. But let’s just go to 10 feet off the ground so the enemy has a chance to shoot the pilot in the face.
1:57:03 The helicopter crew chief just shot a bad guy with his 9mm from 100 yards or so. That’s a pistol, not a sniper rifle.
1:59:00 Master Chief hands O’Neill her SEAL Trident and says “welcome aboard.” Except it’s not a trident. It’s some weird, made-up badge that says SEAL CRT. This is purely fictional, and made all the more ridiculous by the instructors themselves not wearing that badge but wearing the SEAL Trident instead.
1:59:23 In the very next scene after the class graduates, O’Neill is seen wearing the SEAL Trident. Except she was just handed that fake SEAL CRT Badge.
Veterans and staff members at the Biloxi VA Medical Center hosted a special visitor earlier this year. Ernest Andrus stopped by the hospital at the end of January, one of his days off, to attend a reception in his honor. These days it’s not so easy to get on Andrus’ calendar as the 92-year-old WWII Veteran runs across the country four days a week to raise awareness of the sacrifices the men and women of the military made during World War II and the many conflicts since that time.
“Freedom isn’t free,” Andrus said. “We can’t forget our comrades that were injured or killed serving and protecting our country. That’s what I hope I can achieve with this run. Plus I always wanted to do this.”
Once Andrus made up his mind to run across the country, he spent several months planning the trip. In October 2013 he touched the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, turned east and began jogging. He’s been running ever since, and in January, as he ran along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, VA staff jumped at the chance to invite him over.
“As you can see from this large turnout,” said Anthony Dawson, the director of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, “we are all in awe of what you are doing and honored to have you here today for a visit. If we switched the numbers of your age making you 29 it would still be an amazing accomplishment. But at 92, wow!”
Here’s how Andrus came to running across the country at age 92.
Ernest Andrus was a corpsman in the Navy, joining at the start of the war. He left the Navy when the war ended in 1945, and enrolled in college on the VA GI Bill, found a job and went on with his life. He didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on his experiences during the war, as some did. He said it was too hard to do.
“I wasn’t right in the middle of the action,” Andrus said, “but I saw enough. I found it easier to just not spend a lot of time thinking about those that didn’t come back. Not like some of my crewmates did. Not for a long time.”
As a corpsman aboard a LST (Landing Ship, Tank), Andrus said he stayed busy tending to the wounds and illnesses associated with war. He assisted in surgeries, and to this day recalls an amputation that was performed aboard his ship. As the surgeon began the procedure, the patient needed blood. Andrus was the same blood type so he rolled up his sleeve, while he was holding the IV bag (they didn’t have a pole), and gave blood. He had to do this several times throughout the night. He remembers feeling light headed and weak.
“We all did what we had to do,” Andrus said. “I didn’t do anything that any other man in our crew wouldn’t have done.”
Andrus’ life ticked along at a normal pace for the next 60 years or so. One day he received a phone call from some of his former crew members, to include the skipper, and nothing was ever the same after that.
“We were at a point in our lives when our families were grown, our careers were over and now we had time to think. So we began reminiscing about our time in the service. And one thing we all agreed on was we wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” he said.
“We wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” Andrus said.
So the group of about 30 got together and decided they could preserve the memories of life aboard a Navy LST by finding and refurbishing a decommissioned ship and turning it into a floating memorial. They located the USS LST-325 in Greece, got it back to America and it now is available for tour in Indiana. The refurbishment took years of red tape, fundraising and countless hours of coordination, but the group persevered. The effort serves as a testimony to Andrus’ sheer grit and determination as he treks across the country to share the message that America should acknowledge and appreciate all that Veterans have done to preserve freedom.
“We have a great country,” Andrus said. “We can’t forget how we got here.”
If all goes as planned, Andrus will arrive on the east coast of Georgia, near Brunswick, on Aug. 20, 2016, one day after his 93rd birthday.