This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

Born and raised in New York, Roger Donlon enlisted the Air Force and served for nearly two years before earning admission into West Point.


After a change of heart, Donlon left the program and re-enlisted into the Army — eventually qualifying for a position in the Special Forces community.

In 1964, Donlon was shipped off to Vietnam as a combat advisor to the South Vietnamese troops.

Related: This is the only living African-American from WW2 to earn MoH

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
Capt. Roger Donlon at base camp Nam Dong, Vietnam. (Source: Youtube/Screenshot)

Days before the massive firefight that would earn him the Medal of Honor, SF troops believed a conflict was brewing after a shootout took place between the South Vietnamese and their advisors at their base camp.

After investigating the deadly event, the it appeared the shootout’s origin started with one of the South Vietnamese troops Donlon was training — a VC sympathizer.

But they only realized that after the dust settled.

On Jul. 6, 1964, Donlon was on guard duty when the first enemy rounds started ripping through the American defenses.

Encountering a massive force, Donlon coordinated countermeasures with his men while the enemy announced over a P.A. system instructing the South Vietnamese troops to lay down their weapons as they only wanted to kill the Americans.

At this point, many of the VC sympathizers did as the voice had commanded them.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
(Source: Specialoperations.com)

Moments later, Donlon spotted a zapper — or an enemy infiltrator — attempting to breach the front gate. He dashed toward them for a closer shot, but as he engaged his rifle — he realized he was out of ammo. He quickly yelled to a mortar pit nearby for a resupply. They tossed him need rounds, but they were still in a cardboard box.

Without hesitation, Donlon loaded three rounds into his magazine and successfully engaged the enemy.

Facing a force of hundreds against the U.S. and ARVN dozens, Donlon and his men all agreed not to quit, and they would fight it out until the end.

That commitment drove Donlon to continue to coordinate defenses while running from position to position, resupplying his men. After five long hours and sustaining heavy losses, the allied forces managed to render a victory and hold their base camp.

After going home on leave for Thanksgiving, the phone rang and Donlon was informed his presence was wanted at the White House to receive the Medal of Honor.

Also Read: This soldier showed up without an eye and was reprimanded…then given the MOH

Donlon was awarded the Medal of Honor on Dec. 5, 1964 — making him the first recipient of the MoH during the Vietnam War.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to watch and hear Donlon’s heroic story for yourself.

MedalOfHonorBook, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia could have a loaded gun pointed at Poland’s head

Russia could be storing nuclear weapons at a recently renovated underground bunker in the Kaliningrad region roughly 30 miles from the Polish border, according to a report released by a nuclear watchdog on June 18, 2018.

Satellite images showed the site being excavated beginning back in 2016, renovated, and then covered in 2018, which suggests it could be returning to operational status, according to the report from the Federation of American Scientists.


“The latest upgrade obviously raises questions about what the operational status of the site is,” Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said in the report.

“The features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces. But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region,” the reported added.

Kristensen told The Guardian that the bunker “has all the fingerprints” of Russia’s standard nuclear storage sites, and while there have been upgrades at the site in the past, none have been as “dramatic” as this one.

“There is a heavy-duty external perimeter of multilayered fencing,” he added. “The bunkers themselves have triple fencing around them as well. These are typical features from all the other nuclear weapons storage sites that we know about in Russia.”

In short, it’s not clear whether Russia is currently storing nuclear warheads at the facility or is planning to, but this shows the bunker is now an active site.

Moreover, these developments will likely increase concerns about Moscow’s nuclear activities in the region at a time of heightened tensions between NATO and the Kremlin, Kristensen told Business Insider.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
The Kremlin in Russia.

“The upgrade has been known to NATO for some time,” Kristensen said. “But it would appear to reaffirm Russia’s nuclear posturing in Kaliningrad and is likely to deepen eastern European concerns that Russia is increasing the role of nuclear weapons in the Baltic region.”

Back in March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia had developed and was testing an array of new strategic nuclear-capable weapons he claimed could outmaneuver American defenses.

“I would like to tell those who have been trying to escalate the arms race for the past 15 years, to gain unilateral advantages over Russia, and to impose restrictions and sanctions… the attempt at curbing Russia has failed,” Putin said at the time.

Kaliningrad also happens to be a base for Russia’s Baltic fleet and is one of the venues for the 2018 World Cup.

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

Articles

This presidential candidate hatched a successful rescue mission in Iran

In a little-known operation during the opening days of the Iranian Islamic revolution, a Texas billionaire — who would later run for president twice as an Independent — put together a daring rescue mission for two employees imprisoned by revolutionaries.


Through cunning, guile, persistence — and a little luck — the Americans were secreted out of the country in the midst of a violent revolution that would see 52 other Americans held for 444 days and a failed rescue attempt that ended in the deaths of eight U.S. troops and a deeply wounded presidency.

Related: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in hostage rescue mission infamy

A full year before the American embassy in Iran was seized by revolutionaries, militants resisting supreme leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi captured two employees of a Texas computer company who were in the country helping put together information systems for the government. Their boss, a Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, was determined to get them out — by skill or by force.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

Perot is best remembered for his two third-party campaigns for the U.S. presidency. The now 86-year-old CEO was the last third-party candidate to poll neck-in-neck with the two major party candidates.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

Perot founded IT equipment company Electronic Data Systems in 1962. Within six years, Perot became what Forbes called “the fastest, richest Texan.” He would sell EDS to General Motors for $2.4 billion in 1984 — but in 1978, he was still the man in charge. He made a deal with the Shah to install EDS social security computer systems in Iran and sent Paul J. Chiapparone and William Gaylord to fulfill the contract.

In December 1978, Chiapparone and Gaylord were denied their passports to leave the country. When the two Americans went to negotiate their exit from Iran, they were thrown in jail by Islamic revolutionaries.

With bail set at $12.7 million, it was a good thing Ross Perot was their boss.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
Perot was appointed by Secretary of the Navy John Warner to report on the conditions of Americans in Vietnamese and Laotian POW camps for four years until the prisoners were released in 1972 at the end of the Vietnam War.

The very next month the Shah abdicated his throne and fled the country, leaving a power vacuum that would eventually be filled by Islamic revolutionaries led by the cleric Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Americans all over Iran would be persecuted and some held prisoner, including 52 U.S. embassy personnel held for 444 days. But Perot refused to let his men suffer the same fate. And though he was willing to pay the ransom, there was concern that the captors might not receive the funds.

So Perot launched Operation HOTFOOT (Help Our Two Friends Out Of Tehran). He recruited a team of mercenaries with combat experience in Vietnam, including retired Army Col. Arthur “Bull” Simons, to lead the rescue.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

The original plan called for Simons’ team of former Green Berets to storm the Ministry of Justice building and walk out with the two employees. But the rescuers later learned Chiapparone and Gaylord were moved to Qasr Prison just outside Tehran.

Perot snuck into Iran on January 13 via a series of courier jets that moved news footage in and out of the country to try a negotiated release of his men. Coming up empty on a peaceful resolution, Perot lost patience.

With the two men in Qasr Prison, a commando raid became too dangerous. So instead they hatched a plan for an Iranian EDS employee named Rashid to start a riot and lead a crowd of angry, pro-Khomeini revolutionaries to storm the prison and free thousands of political prisoners held inside.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
The prison is now a museum and memorial to the Shah’s prisoners.

Simons and his team picked up the prisoners and moved them to Tehran, where they began the 500-mile journey to an EDS rescue team waiting in Turkey. Despite being arrested in almost every town they fled through, Rashid kept them from the executioner and guided their escape from Iran.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
Courtroom sketch of the rescue by Ida Libby Dengrove (University of Virginia archives)

On February 17 — after 46 days in Iran — all of Perot’s EDS employees and every member of his rescue team — including Rashid — arrived at his hotel room in Istanbul, and the next day were home safe in the United States.

Perot’s men made it out of Iran in two Land Rovers in two days. By November 1979, almost a full year after the EDS employees were captured, 52 American Embassy workers would be held hostage while the world’s most powerful military held its breath.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how much it’s going to cost to send more troops to Afghanistan (Hint: It’s a lot)

The nation’s top military officer says the thousands of additional US troops President Donald Trump has ordered to Afghanistan will cost just over $1 billion a year.


Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the US is spending $12.5 billion overall to wage America’s longest war.

About 3,500 more American forces are being sent to Afghanistan as part of Trump’s new strategy. Dunford says the US will “fight to win” by attacking enemies, “crushing” al-Qaeda, and preventing terrorist attacks against Americans. The additional troops will augment the roughly 8,400 Americans currently stationed there.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. (left). DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

Dunford says about $5 billion of the total expense is required to support the Afghan security forces.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the United States should remain in the nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama administration that constrains Iran’s ability to build a nuclear arsenal.

Sen. Angus King of Maine asked Mattis during a congressional hearing if he thinks it’s in the national security interests of the United States to stay a part of the international accord.

Mattis says, “Yes, senator, I do.”

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (left) and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

President Donald Trump has called the deal the worst agreement ever negotiated by the United States.

Trump has repeatedly said that he’s inclined not to certify Iranian compliance after having twice found the country compliant at earlier deadlines. Denying certification could lead the US to reintroduce sanctions, which in turn could lead Iran to walk away from the deal or restart previously curtailed nuclear activities.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Afghanistan security forces are fully engaged in offensive military operations for the first time during the 16-year-old war.

During congressional testimony Oct. 3, Mattis says the Afghan forces are suffering fewer casualties as they continue to improve.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
Photo by Michael Vadon

Mattis says more than 3,000 additional US troops are being sent to Afghanistan to reinforce the roughly 8,400 American forces currently stationed there.

President Donald Trump announced in August a plan to end America’s longest war and eliminate a rising extremist threat in Afghanistan.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, lectured Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford at the opening of the hearing. McCain says the Trump administration has failed to inform Congress of the details of the strategy spelled out by Trump.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new nationally recognized day for women veterans almost snuck by us

There are many nationally recognized days on the calendar that sneak by without much notice if you aren’t paying attention. But here’s one that’s worth being rallied around, especially in the military community.


On Feb. 19, 2019, Vet Girls RISE founded National Vet Girls Rock Day. It’s a time set aside to acknowledge and celebrate the many veteran women who have served in the United States Military. Other reasons this organization established this day is for the women to bond, share resources, build relationships, and most of all bring awareness to existing needs among women veterans.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

1st Lt. Megan Juliana(left), 1st Lt. Christel Carmody, 2nd Lt. Rebecca Fry, attendees of the inaugural 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Sisters-in-Arms meeting flash big smiles during the event on Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Jan. 21, 2014. The program aims at allowing female soldiers from across the brigade to meet each other and learn a little about the different positions female “Warhorse” soldiers fill.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jarrad Spinner, 2nd ABCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.)

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 10 percent of veterans are female. Although that may seem like a small percentage, the approximate number is around two million.

Women veterans serve as single service members and in dual-military homes. Apart from their male counterparts, they face their own set of challenges during their time in. They push themselves physically, carry and birth children, and come home after working to care for and nurture their families. All while staying true to their commitment to our country and ultimately being willing to sacrifice themselves to protect our freedom.

Being that it’s only a year into having an actual date on the calendar, many women veterans don’t even know this day exists in their honor.

Crystal Falch, a veteran Petty Officer Second Class, served in the Navy for 10 years. Vet Girls ROCK Day snuck by her as well. She was happy to receive a friend’s text acknowledging her. Falch’s response was, “Awe, thank you! I had no idea today was my day.”

“It’s humbling because most of us don’t do it for the glory or the praise,” Falch said. “We do it for the country. And of course we like all the side benefits, like getting college paid for and getting to see the world. I appreciate it!”

As the public is becoming aware of this nationally recognized day some businesses, like Severance Brewing, are giving discounts to women veterans.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

Senior Airman Brittany Grimes, 90th Security Forces Squadron remote display alarm monitor, and Senior Airman Amber Mitchell, 890th Missile Security Forces Squadron response force leader, pose for a photo at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., March 13, 2018. Both are defenders assigned to the 90th Security Forces Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Carter)

VGR believes in the power of camaraderie, knowledge, and alliance. With that as a backbone, they suggest using this day to connect with other veterans. They offer VGR meetups at different restaurants across the country, and you can also follow them on Facebook for updated information.

Every opportunity should be taken to thank a service member, and to commemorate their dedication to our country. This day is definitely worth putting on the calendar as a reminder to stop and reflect specifically on women veterans for their contribution to our country.

Articles

The Army just went ballistic on a liquor store partly to ‘deglamorize’ booze

It is probably not a good idea to pick a fight with the Army, so changing your name to avoid battle with the US Military Academy at West Point can be a wise tactic.


The United States of America has sued Black Nights Wine Spirits to stop the Highland Falls liquor store from using a name confusingly similar to the Black Knights nickname used by the academy’s athletic teams as far back as the 1940s. After four cease-and-desist letters and the filing of the lawsuit on Aug. 8, the store has seemingly conceded.

“We’ve changed the name to Good Nights,” said a man who answered the phone at the store recently. He said Frank Carpentieri, the owner of Frasiekenjes, LLC, the company that runs the store, would not be available for a few days.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

The lawsuit, filed by acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim, accuses the liquor merchant of tarnishing the academy’s brands.

The Department of the Army holds several trademarks for “Black Knights” and the West Point crest, so it did not escape its attention when Black Nights Wine and Spirits opened last September on Main Street in Highland Falls, just beyond the West Point gates. The store’s name, the Army says, falsely suggests that the enterprise is “associated with or endorsed and approved by the US Military Academy at West Point.”

The Army drew a line in the sand within weeks of the store opening, mailing a cease-and-desist letter that alleges trademark infringement.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
Army Black Knight logos from Wikimedia Commons.

The store then installed a more permanent “Black Nights” sign and placed several items in and around the store that highlight West Point themes.

Besides the alleged abuse of West Point’s goodwill and brand reputation, the lawsuit states that the liquor store defies military policies.

“The Department of the Army is highly concerned with the use of alcohol among its soldiers and is committed to de-glamorizing its use,” the complaint states.

Military Life

How US sailors can be confined in the brig with just bread and water

Under the command of Capt. Adam Aycock, the USS Shiloh became known in the Pacific as the “USS Bread and Water.” It seems Aycock’s favorite non-judicial punishment for his junior enlisted was an old but legal punishment that confines the sailor to the brig with nothing but the world’s simplest combo meal.


This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
Works for ducks. Why not you?

According to the Department of the Navy Corrections Manual, “Confinement on Bread and Water (BW)… may be imposed as punishment upon personnel in pay grade E-3 or below, attached to or embarked in a vessel.”

Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice outlines the punishment further:

• It may not be implemented for more than three consecutive days.

• Rations furnished a person undergoing such confinement shall consist solely of bread and water. The rations will be served three times daily at the normal time of meals, and the amount of bread and water shall not be restricted.

• The medical officer must pre-certify in writing that a deterioration of the prisoner’s health is not anticipated as a result of such action.

• Prisoners serving this punishment will be confined in a cell and will be bound by the procedures set forth for disciplinary segregation cells. They will not be removed for work or physical exercise.

While the Bread and Water punishment sucks and does seem rather archaic, it’s hardly the worst punishment that can be handed to a sailor at Captain’s Mast — especially for an E-3 or below.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

Captains can send sailors to the brig for 30 days, forfeit their pay, take stripes, assign extra duties and restrictions, or any combination of these. As retired Navy Captain Kevin Eyer pointed out in a Naval Institute article on Bread and Water, the “arcane” punishment of Bread and Water only affects the sailor. This is especially important if the sailor is married because the other potential Article 15 punishments would affect the whole family.

As of December 2017, the elimination of the Bread and Water punishment was up for review by President Trump.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Popeye the Sailor was based on a real person – and this is what he looked like

Cartoonist E.C. Segar created Popeye the Sailor in 1919 after taking a correspondence course on drawing from a guy in Cleveland. Segar’s hometown of Chester, Ill. was chock full of characters that Segar easily adapted to print. Dora Paskel, the owner of a local general store, was unusually tall and thin, wearing her hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. J. William Schuchert was the local theater owner who had a voracious appetite for hamburgers.

And Frank Fiegel was a one-eyed, pipe-smoking brawler who never turned down a fight.


This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

Frank Fiegel died in 1947 and was originally buried in an unmarked grave. Popeye fans rectified this in 1996.

Fiegel was more likely to down a few bourbons instead of a can of spinach to get his super fighting prowess, but the rest of his caricature fit the Sailor Man to a T. He had the same jutting chin, built frame, and trademark pipe as his cartoon counterpart. But kids were rather scared of Olive Oyl’s real-world inspiration, as she was more apt to stay inside her store. Wimpy’s rotund figure was based on Popeye creator E.C. Segar’s old boss at the local theater. When Segar wasn’t lighting lamps, he was sent out to pick up burgers for the owner.

Popeye’s real-life inspiration is sometimes attributed to a photo of an old sailor who really does resemble Popeye the Sailor Man, but this is just internet folklore.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

(Imperial War Museum)

The sailor in the above photo is really a sailor, but he’s a British sailor. His name is lost to history, but the Imperial War Museum lists him as “A Leading Stoker nicknamed ‘Popeye,'” with 21 years in service and fighting aboard the HMS Rodney in 1940. Fiegel would have been at least 70 years old when this photo of the battleship sailor was taken.

Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was actually a bartender and not any kind of sailor, but he did love the kids around Chester, and they used to love to play pranks on the old barfly. Fiegel would impress them with his feats of strength as well as his telltale corncob pipe – something young Segar would never forget. “Popeye” was an homage to an unforgettable man who lived to know his image was soon in 500 newspapers nationwide, the symbol of sticking up for the little guy.

Articles

This Blackwater shootout in Baghdad might not have gone down like the prosecution claimed

Four contractors with the security firm formerly known as Blackwater may have come under fire before they shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqis in 2007, federal prosecutors admitted in a hearing before the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.


According to a report by Circa.com, the government lawyers’ admission could result in the convictions of the contractors over the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians being overturned by the appellate court. The contractors had claimed they opened fire in self-defense during their 2014 trial.

The incident drove a deeper wedge between the American and fledgling Iraqi governments over the perception of trigger-happy security contractors running roughshod over Iraqi civil rights. Five Blackwater contractors were involved in the incident, which took place in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Three were given 30-year sentences, one was given a life sentence and one had the charges dropped.

The prosecution’s main witness, Jimmy Watson, testified during the trial that there was incoming fire, according to an August 2014 report by Bloomberg News.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
A Blackwater contractor in Afghanistan (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“In fact, what [Watson] thought he heard was enemy fire,” Demetra Lambros, the federal prosecutor arguing the case in front of a three-judge panel, allegedly admitted during the oral arguments. “[Watson is] very clear about it. Those first shots did not come from the convoy.”

The contractors had been sent to secure the area in Nisoor Square where an employee of the Agency for International Development was holding a meeting after an improvised explosive device, or IED, had been detonated nearby. A vehicle that approached a convoy under their protection may have reinforced the perception that they were under attack, reports say.

“So for all these years the federal government has been painting this case as cold blooded, a cold-blooded shooting,” Blackwater founder Erik Prince told Circa.com. “Here they are acknowledging, yes indeed, there is incoming fire. We’ve known that all along.”

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. A similar bombing in 2007 lead to the incident that resulted in Blackwater contractors facing charges of manslaughter. (USAF photo)

“This could be a major boon to the defense,” Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s Law School, told Circa.com. “The appellate court could throw the entire conviction out based on that alone.”

This would not be the first time that claims of an unprovoked massacre were debunked.

Eight Marines faced charges in the aftermath of a Nov. 15, 2005, firefight in Haditha, Iraq that resulted in civilian casualties. Then-Democrat Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, a former Marine, claimed the killings were “cold-blooded murder,” according to CNN.

In the end, Reuters reported that one Marine plead guilty to negligent dereliction of duty. The Associated Press reported that the other seven Marines charges had their cases dismissed or were exonerated.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what the US could have made instead of F-35

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who took over after President Donald Trump accepted the resignation of Jim Mattis, reportedly hates the most expensive weapons system of all time, the F-35.

Shanahan worked for 31 years at Boeing, the F-35 maker Lockheed Martin’s main industry rival, and has reportedly said his old firm would have done a better job on the new stealth fighter.


A former senior Defense Department official told Politico that Shanahan described the F-35 stealth fighter as “f—ed up” and said its maker, Lockheed Martin, “doesn’t know how to run a program.”

While some may suspect Shanahan may be committing an ethical breach by speaking in favor of his former employer, others have also raised concerns with the F-35 program, which will cost taxpayers id=”listicle-2625730090″ trillion over the life of the program.

But instead of simply handing over the construction of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, meant as a single stealth fighter/bomber with 3 variants for ground launch, carrier launch, and short or vertical takeoff, others have proposed a radically different approach.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

US Naval aircraft and aircraft from the Chilean Air Force participate in a fly-by adjacent to aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

(US Navy Lt. j.g. David Babka)

What the US could have built instead

Former US Navy commander and aviator Chris Harmer gave Business Insider an idea of another such approach in 2016.

“The F-35 is very capable in a very specific way,” Harmer said. “The only thing it does that legacy can’t do is stealth.”

The US’s F/A-18, F-15, and F-16 families of fighter aircraft, all Boeing products, bear the name of “legacy” aircraft, as they were designed during the Cold War before in a simpler time for aerial combat.

The F-35’s low observability and integrated stealth design are central to the plane’s mission and tactics. Throughout its development, the F-35 notoriously lost to older legacy fighters in up-close dogfights.

Defense officials never planned for the F-35 to revolutionize dogfighting, however; they instead wanted to change aerial combat as a whole. The F-35, nearly impossible for enemy aircraft to spot, is designed to shoot down foes from long distance before they’re ever close enough to really dogfight.

But Harmer suggested that instead of building the F-35, the US simply should have updated existing aircraft, like the F-15, the F-16, and the F/A-18.

“For a fraction of the cost for F-35 development, we could have updated legacy aircraft and gotten a significant portion of the F-35 capabilities,” Harmer said. The F/A-18 carrier-based fighter, for example, has already undergone extensive reworkings, and the F/A-18 Super Hornet, which is 25% larger than the original F/A-18, has a smaller radar cross-section than its predecessor and is one of the US’s cheaper planes to buy and operate.

F-35 pilots and military experts have told Business Insider that the F-35’s advantages include its advanced array of sensors and ability to network with other platforms. Combined with its stealth design, an F-35 can theoretically achieve a synergy as a sensor/fighter/bomber that operates deep within enemy territory in ways that legacy aircraft never could.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

Fully armed Aircraft from the 18th Wing during the no-notice exercise.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

But Harmer, and other F-35 detractors including legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager, still think the F-35 was a waste of money. According to Harmer, proven legacy fighters could be retrofit with the advanced avionics and helmet for targeting that fighters out of Russia have long used.

An F-15, the Air Force’s air-superiority fighter, with fifth-generation avionics and targeting capability, still lacks the integrated stealth design of an F-35. Stealth must be worked into the geometry of the plane and simply won’t do as an afterthought. In today’s contested battle spaces, a legacy fighter, no matter how you update it, still lights up brightly and clearly on enemy radar and is therefore less survivable to the pilots — something US military planners have refused to accept.

“The only advantage of the F-35 is to go into highly contested airspace,” Harmer said, adding that the US had “literally never done that.”

Plus, the US already has another fifth-generation aircraft with even better stealth in its inventory: the F-22. In fact, when the US does discuss operations in the world’s most contested airspaces, it’s the F-22 it talks about sending.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

(US Air Force photo)

The Pentagon believes in stealth and wants you to too

“There are other, less expensive ways to address highly contested airspace — cruise missiles, standoff weapons, radar jamming,” Harmer said. The F-35 does radar jamming, or electronic warfare, but the same electronic attacks could theoretically be delivered by a cruise missile.

Even Trump publicly weighed abandoning the F-35C, the carrier variant of the jet, for the F/A-18, the US’s current naval fighter/bomber. Ultimately, Trump seems to have landed in favor of the stealth jet, which he now routinely claims is invisible.

Harmer’s view of an alternate path to the F-35 represents a different military philosophy than what the Pentagon has accepted since 2001, when it launched the F-35 program.

But today the F-35’s problems are mostly behind it, and operators of the next-generation aircraft have told Business Insider they’re supremely confident in the plane’s ability to fight and win wars in the toughest airspaces on earth.

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

Articles

The crazy story of the man who fought for Finland, the Nazis, and US Army Special Forces

Larry Thorne enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private in 1954, but he was already a war hero. That’s because his real name was Lauri Törni, and he had been fighting the Soviets for much of his adult life.


Born in Finland in 1919, Törni enlisted at age 19 in his country’s army and fought against the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-40, according to Helsingin Sanomat. He quickly rose to the rank of captain and took command of a group of ski troops, who quite literally, skied into battle against enemy forces.

In 1942, he was severely wounded after he skied into a mine, but that didn’t slow him down. In 1944 during what the Finns called The Continuation War, he received Finland’s version of the Medal of Honor — the Mannerheim Cross — for his bravery while leading a light infantry battalion.

Unfortunately for Törni, Finland signed a ceasefire and ceded some territory to the Soviets in 1944 to end hostilities. But instead of surrendering, he joined up with the German SS so he could continue fighting. He received additional training in Nazi Germany and then looked forward to kicking some Commie butt once more.

But then Germany fell too, and the Finn-turned-Waffen SS officer was arrested by the British, according to War History Online. Not that being put into a prison camp would stop him either.

“In the last stages of the war he surrendered to the British and eventually returned to Finland after escaping a British POW camp,” reads the account at War History Online. “When he returned, he was then arrested by the Finns, even though he had received their Medal of Honor, and was sentenced to 6 years in prison for treason.”

He ended up serving only half his sentence before he was pardoned by the President of Finland in 1948.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Getting to America

Törni’s path to the U.S. Army was paved by crucial legislation from Congress along with the creation of a new military unit: Special Forces.

In June 1950, the Lodge-Philbin Act passed, which allowed foreigners to join the U.S. military and allowed them citizenship if they served honorably for at least five years. Just two years later, the Army would stand up its new Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg, N.C.

More than 200 eastern Europeans joined Army Special Forces before the Act expired in 1959, according to Max Boot. One of those enlistees was Törni, who enlisted in 1954 under the name Larry Thorne.

“The Soviets wanted to get their hands on Thorne and forced the Finnish government to arrest him as a wartime German collaborator. They planned to take him to Moscow to be tried for war crimes,” reads the account at ArlingtonCemetery.net. “Thorne had other plans. He escaped, made his way to the United States, and with the help of Wild Bill Donovan became a citizen. The wartime head of the OSS knew of Thorne’s commando exploits.”

A Special Forces legend

Thorne quickly distinguished himself among his peers of Green Berets. Though he enlisted as a private, his wartime skill-set led him to become an instructor at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg teaching everything from survival to guerrilla tactics. In 1957, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and would rise to the rank of captain just as war was on the horizon in Vietnam.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

But first, he would take part in a daring rescue mission inside of Iran. In 1962, then-Capt. Thorne led an important mission to recover classified materials from a U.S. Air Force plane that crashed on a mountaintop on the Iran-Turkish-Soviet border, according to Helsingin Sanomat. Though three earlier attempts to secure the materials had failed, Thorne’s team was successful.

According to the U.S. Army:

Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed. It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment. This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.

In Vietnam, he earned the Bronze Star medal for heroism, along with five Purple Hearts for combat wounds, War History Online writes. According to Helsingin Sanomat, his wounds allowed him to return to the rear away from combat, but he refused and instead requested command of a special operations base instead.

On Oct. 18, 1965, Thorne led the first MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos to interdict North Vietnamese movement down the Ho Chi Minh trail. Using South Vietnamese Air Force helicopters, his team was successfully inserted into a clearing inside Laos while Thorne remained in a chase helicopter to direct support as needed. Once the team gave word they had made it in, he responded that he was heading back to base.

Roughly five minutes later while flying in poor visibility and bad weather, the helicopter crashed. The Army first listed him as missing in action, then later declared he was killed in action — in South Vietnam. The wreckage of the aircraft was found prior to the end of the war and the remains of the South Vietnamese air crew were recovered, but Thorne was never found.

Thorne’s exploits in combat made him seem invincible among his Special Forces brothers, and with his body never recovered, many believed he had survived the crash and continued to live in hiding or had been taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese, according to POW Network.

“Many believed he was exactly the sort of near-indestructible soldier who would have simply walked back out of the jungle, and they found it hard to believe he had been killed,” writes Helsingin Sanomat.

In 1999, the mystery was finally put to rest. The remains of the legendary Special Forces soldier were recovered from the crash site. DNA confirmed the identities of the air crew, while dental records proved Törni had died on that fateful night in 1965, reported Helsingin Sanomat.

“He was a complex yet driven man who valorously fought oppression under three flags and didn’t acknowledge the meaning of quit,” U.S. Army Special Forces Col. Sean Swindell said during a ceremony in 2010.

NOW: This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airmen at Nellis AFB will get cargo shorts for flightline work

The Air Force has just discovered how hot it can be to work in the desert, especially if your work zone requires long periods of time in direct sunlight. This somehow managed to elude Pentagon officials for the past 18 years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention all the other Middle East locales which include Air Force flightlines. Now airmen working the line at Nellis AFB, Nev. will get to wear what is no doubt the latest in cargo short technology.


On Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base, the heat can get deadly, often exceeding temperatures of more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For the airmen who are working aircraft maintenance for long hours in what is often direct sunlight, the heat risk can be even more punishing. The wait for ways to beat the heat is now over – the Air Force will issue its maintainers new cargo shorts for wear during these duties.

The look was released on the popular Air Force Facebook Page Air Force amn/nco/snco in the early days of July 2019, and it did not take long for airmen to weigh in on the new look.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

The first response from airmen included a prayer to “Enlisted Jesus” (also known as Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright), for hearing their prayers and responding once again. They also predicted new Air Force uniform instructions regarding leg tattoos and shaved legs, extending the program to USAF Security Forces bike patrols, and how hot it’s going to be when someone sits on a piece of metal equipment that has been sitting in the sun itself all day long.

They also mention how the Air Force will no longer get away with skipping “Leg Day” at the gym.

MIGHTY CULTURE

My husband’s mistress is an F-16

Rachel is an Air Force spouse and Texas native whose husband flies as an F-16 pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.

It was October 2015 and Hurricane Joaquin was headed right for us. I stared out the back patio at the darkening skies as my husband, an F-16 pilot, packed his bags.


To say I am the mistress in my own marriage is to admit that there are times my wishes and well-being have come second to that of the Fighting Falcon, and it bruises my pride to say it. I’d like to think I’m the #1 lady in his life, but there have been times that just wasn’t the case. Some people have the gall to say, “Well, that’s what you signed up for.” To hell with them.

All the same, he will always take the call. Apparently, I missed the part of my wedding vows that included “to honor, love and protect each other (*once the safety of the F-16 is ensured) from this day and for the rest of your life.”

We were stationed in South Carolina at Shaw AFB, in the path of a storm which the state would come to call a “1-in-1,000 year event.” News of the destruction from Hurricane Joaquin traveled north from the Bahamas as the Southeast prepared for the worst. Sandbags were laid out, generators were gassed up for the inevitable power loss, and grocery stores were cleared out of bread, water, and beer. Pro tip—beer keeps, bread goes bad.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

Before the storm of the century, I had imagined a romantic evening of boarding up the house by candlelight together, but the Air Force had a different idea. Turns out fighter jets don’t float too good.

Two days before the hurricane was projected to hit, Shaw called in its pilots and maintainers to move the jets inland to a base a few states away. This was what’s known as a HUREVAC. That’s short for HURricane EVACuation. Get it? The Department of Acronyms was working overtime that day. Civilians of South Carolina planned and prayed as Hurricane Joaquin drew closer, while families of the F-16 said goodbye to their airmen. We watched them fly away to safety, staying behind to literally weather the storm alone.

I’m from Texas. If you told me a tornado was coming, I’d throw some blankets in the bathtub and get ready to hunker down with our cat, Bonanza. However, a hurricane was a different beast altogether. We did not have drills for that in Dallas ISD. The buzz around Columbia, SC grew to a clamor as people asked each other in a mild panic what they were going to do. Some folks left town. Me? I spent the day converting my beer cooler into a kitty life raft and beer cooler.

Hurricane Joaquin never traveled directly over the States, but it created a storm that wreaked havoc on South Carolina for days. Nineteen deaths were attributed to the flooding in the state. First responders found one of those bodies at a corner near our neighborhood.

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

The aftermath of the storm.

(Photo courtesy of Rachel Napolitano)

I watched the brown water creep up, over the retaining wall, consuming our backyard and getting closer to the house. I couldn’t help but wonder at what point it would be too late to pipe Bonanza aboard the S.S. Miller Lite, abandon the house to its fate, and head for higher ground. Didn’t matter. Turns out all the roads in the neighborhood were flooded anyway.

Meanwhile, the jets landed safely in… Louisiana? Immediately after landing the pilots checked in in accordance with Tech Orders: on Facetime, beer in hand. Is it the first or fifth? Only the Flight Doc can say, and he looks pretty buzzed.

Eventually, the raining stopped. Everyone came back safely, though in the midst of the storm many families suffered damage to their property. One couple lost their home and everything in it. Thankfully the water never came into our house, but irreparable damage had been done to the city and my ego.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love watches on as your husband leaves you behind in a hurricane to take off with that minxy fighter jet to Louisiana. Welcome to the life of the pilot spouse.