He pretended to be blind so that he could receive benefits. But the Reno County man was spotted driving his car in Wichita, and on Sept. 6 he was sentenced in federal court.
Billy J. Alumbaugh, 62, of Turon, was sentenced to three years of probation and must also repay $70,000 in benefits he received, US Attorney Tom Beall said in a prepared statement. Alumbaugh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. His ex-wife, Debra Alumbaugh, 58, pleaded guilty to concealing the crime.
In his plea, Alumbaugh admitted he falsely represented to the Veterans Administration that he was blind and home-bound in order to receive monthly pension benefits. In truth, he was able to drive and engage in other routine life activities without assistance.
His wife accompanied him to medical visits during which they pretended he was blind and depended on her for help. Alumbaugh, who served in the US Army from 1973 to 1976, received the supplemental assistance from 2009 to 2016, according to the federal indictment that charged him.
Billy Alumbaugh was seen with his ex-wife arriving at the VA hospital in Wichita last October, according to the indictment. Debra Alumbaugh was seen driving the car and she went on to help Billy Alumbaugh out of the car and into the complex.
After the appointment, they left in the vehicle with Debra Alumbaugh behind the wheel. After she drove for a few blocks, she pulled over and they switched seats, according to the indictment.
The last few weeks have seen several new muzzle devices make their way into the marketplace. Comps, brakes, flash hiders — we’ve seen quite an array of ’em. Here are three that caught our eye.
A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo of BreachBangClear.com.
Remember: at the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you that this is just a “be advised” — a public service if you will — letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement, or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.
There are actually two of these: the GUNNER, a 3-port muzzle brake, and the FLAME, a triple prong flash hider. The two new devices follow in the footsteps of Faxon’s Loudmouth single-port brake.
The FLAME is described as being capable of “virtually eliminating” secondary ignition at the mouth of the muzzle, thus making muzzle flash nearly non-existent (their claim — we haven’t tested to verify).
The GUNNER, for its part, is designed to reduce recoil by 50%, making it ideal for competitive shooters. Both are designed to function with 5.56mm and .223 Rem. platforms. Both feature concentric 1/2 x 28 TPI threads, and both retail for $59.99.
Nathaniel Schueth, the Faxon Director of Sales and Product Development, had this to say:
“We are thrilled to be expanding the MuzzLok line of products with the GUNNER and FLAME devices. Both meet shooters’ objectives for versatility and recoil or flash reduction. The GUNNER and FLAME for 5.56 are just the first of many more devices to come using MuzzLok technology.”
GUNNER 3 Port Muzzle Brake:
Material: Gun Barrel Quality Steel
Finish: QPQ Salt Bath Nitride
Thread: 1/2″-28 TPI
Weight: 2.9 ounces w/ MuzzLok Nut
Length: 2.4 inches w/ MuzzLok Nut
FLAME Tri Prong Flash Hider:
Material: Gun Barrel Quality Steel
Finish: QPQ Salt Bath Nitride
Thread: 1/2″-28 TPI
Weight: 3.36 ounces w/ MuzzLok Nut
Length: 2.6 inches w/ MuzzLok Nut
2. LANTAC Dragon
The Dragon muzzle brake (officially the “Dragon DGN556B-QM”) shouldn’t be confused with their Drakon or other Dragon models. This one is manufactured to be GemTech QM compatible, making it their first to be designed for use with silencers.
This muzzle device is threaded in 1/2 x 28 for 5.56mm, but we’re reliably informed they’ll be building 7.62 and other versions soon. Unfortunately, despite putting out word of the Dragon over a month ago, it has yet to show up on their website, so we can’t give you an MSRP or any additional details.
All we can do is suggest you check ’em out online or follow their social media for updates (on Instagram @lantac_usa).
3. VLTOR Narwhal
The VLTOR Narwhal is described as a “mix of a brake and a flash suppressor [that] directs blast forward.” It uses an expansion chamber rather than a blast chamber, and as you can see is available from Rainier in a limited edition Stickman version.
“The VLTOR Weapon Systems VC-NRWL muzzle device gives a unique spin on utilizing gas and blast to help rifles function reliably as well as many other features. The muzzle device directs blast and sound forward and away from the shooter by pushing blast out in one direction. This makes the weapon more controllable and helps eliminate muzzle rise to keep the forend of the weapon on a level sight view.
While being an excellent muzzle device for any 5.56/.223 rifle, the VC-NRWL stands out in short barrel applications by allowing backpressure to be utilized for cycling as well as in situations of weak ammunition.”
Some other things to know – it comes with a crush washer, can be installed and clocked with a 1 in. open end wrench, is 3.04 in. long, weighs 5.4 oz. and is Made in the USA.
About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman, and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.
The Vanscoyk family in Yuma, Arizona. All photos by Kayla Mattox Photography.
Family first, mission always.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Vanscoyk and his wife, Staff Sgt. Alexandra Vanscoyk, are both aviation supply specialists who recently returned to the fleet after completing tours on recruiting duty. The transition has been met with unexpected challenges that magnify the logistics needed for couples seeking successful careers and a growing family.
The Vanscoyks met in 2013 shortly after Alexandra left college and enlisted in the Marine Corps. She says the two quickly became friends, deciding to date after being stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, together.
“For three years our lives crossed paths on and off and eventually timing lined up where we were both single and we decide to try dating each other,” she explained in an email.
Alexandra said it came natural to date someone who understood the military lifestyle.
“It was always difficult finding civilians who wanted to date a ‘female Marine.’ I’m not really sure why. My best guess is our job title is intimidating to most civilians and we usually have an alpha personality which can also come off as intimidating. It also made conversations easier. We use so many acronyms and random jargon that most people will never understand, no matter how many times you tell them. So, for me, dating a Marine was what seemed realistic,” she said.
Missouri-native Charles Vanscoyk followed his twin brother into the Marines in 2004 after a short stint at college proved school wasn’t for him. Charles says a conversation with the recruiter made him realize the military was what he had been looking for.
“Growing up I was an athlete and liked to be challenged and stay competitive. Plus coming from a small town in the middle of nowhere the idea of travel and adventure sounded cool,” he said.
Both Marines were attached to Recruiting Station Houston, completing the independent duty assignment then relocating to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. They both admit it’s been an adjustment to not only be back in the fleet, but doing so with the added stress of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, childcare is a trending issue for households with working parents. Alexandra says a good command definitely makes it easier for them.
“Since we are both active duty it’s very difficult to come up with a solid routine while the daycares are closed. We’ve got two kids at home — one school aged who needs to complete online class work and an infant who needs constant attention. Thankfully our command has been very helpful but I know other dual couples who have not been as fortunate,” she said.
Prior to the pandemic, she adds, some of the challenges “were deciding who would stay home if the kids got sick, who would take time off work for appointments, worrying about when you or your spouse has 24–hour duty,” though she is quick to point out their family has benefitted from “very understanding units and leadership.” And the exposure to solid leadership over the years has guided her throughout her career.
“The commanding officer at my first unit had a moto: “family first, mission always.” At the time I didn’t have a family but it stuck with me. At my second unit I had two different COs and both were huge family men. Seeing them, 15 years plus into their career and still having a strong family made me realize it is possible to have the best of both,” she said.
Alexandra adds that her advice for younger service members is to find a good balance for work-home life, especially if you’re in a dual military relationship. Charles echoes that sentiment.
“The best advice I could give is put your family first. Still be a good Marine and proficient at your job, but understand this machine that is the Marine Corps will not fall apart if you are not there. Be there for you kids and family. Don’t miss those moments you will never get back with your family,” he said.
The Vanscoyks have their sights set on serving in the Marines for the long haul, with Alexandra weighing the idea of either pursuing warrant officer school or becoming a career recruiter. Charles says he has checked the box on many of his goals making career progression the natural focus.
“As a Marine you always strive for the next rank, so MSgt is my goal. And continue to try and motivate and inspire these next generation of Marines that will carry on the legacy,” he said.
Army Private John R. McKinney was resting after a shift on guard duty in the Luzon area of the Philippines in May 1945 when his position was attacked by some 100 Japanese soldiers at a full run. McKinney, who was part of his unit’s perimeter defense, was cut in the ear with an enemy saber as he rested in his tent that night.
As the other men in McKinney’s machine gun squad worked to get the weapon ready, McKinney grabbed his service rifle and beat his attacker with it. He then shot another enemy soldier who tried to interrupt that beating.
Unfortunately, one of the machine gunners was injured in the attack and the other tried to carry him to safety. Private McKinney was now alone – and ten Japanese infantrymen were turning the machine gun around. McKinney jumped into the gun’s position and shot seven of those ten enemy troops at point blank range. He then clubbed the three others with the butt of his rifle.
Unfortunately for him, when McKinney took control of the machine gun, he found the weapon was inoperative. And there were more Japanese troops coming – a lot more. They were lobbing grenades and mortar shells onto his position. So, he did what any combat-hardened Army private would do: he switched positions.
His new position had ammo in it. Lots of ammo.
For 36 minutes, McKinney reloaded his service rifle and repeatedly picked up others as waves of oncoming Japanese troops attempted to swarm and overrun him. He fired almost nonstop into the charge. When he couldn’t fire anymore, he flipped his rifle around and began to club them to death or engage in brutal hand-to-hand combat.
When all was said and done, 40 Japanese soldiers of the 100 who attacked McKinney lay dead, including the two mortarmen… who were 45 yards away. He protected the fellow members of his company as they slept, killing one enemy soldier every 56 seconds for the duration of the attack.
Not only did he repel the Japanese assault, but he was still alive and in complete control of the area. John R. McKinney died in 1997, at the ripe old age of 76.
More than 1,500 US National Guard troops have been called up across the US to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, which has already infected nearly 5,000 people and killed at least 94 in the US.
As of Friday, roughly 400 Guardsmen were responding to the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, in six states. By Monday, the number had increased to more than 650 Air and Army National Guard professionals operating across 15 states to combat the coronavirus, the National Guard said in a statement Monday.
The Guard announced Tuesday that the number of Guardsmen who have been mobilized to battle the virus has more than doubled, jumping to more than 1,560 personnel, which are active in 22 states.
“The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state, and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19,” the Guard said in a statement last Friday.
Current missions include work at drive-through test facilities, logistics support for healthcare professionals, and disinfecting and cleaning public spaces, among others. “Guardsmen and women have been distributing food, sanitizing public areas and coordinating response efforts with state emergency managers,” the Guard said in a statement Monday.
There have been calls for additional military support as the virus, which first appeared in China last year, spreads.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo insists that US healthcare system is at risk of being overrun. “States cannot build more hospitals, acquire ventilators or modify facilities quickly enough,” he wrote in an opinion article for The New York Times Sunday.
“At this point, our best hope is to utilize the Army Corps of Engineers to leverage its expertise, equipment and people power to retrofit and equip existing facilities — like military bases or college dormitories — to serve as temporary medical centers.”
“Doing so still won’t provide enough intensive care beds,” he said, “but it is our best hope.”
At a press briefing Monday morning, Cuomo said that he has been having conversations with the White House on this issue, but talks have so far been inconclusive.
The Department of Defense said in a press briefing Monday that it is aware of the governor’s comments and is evaluating its capabilities, which may be limited. At this time, the department has yet to receive a request for assistance.
International Women’s Day has been celebrated across the world since 1909, and is used as a day to laud the important contributions women make.
Women have long-since served in the U.S. military, even before they were officially allowed to enlist. From covert spy operations to battles on the front lines, women have been there for all of it.
Nancy Morgan Hart
During the American Revolution, Hart was supposed to stay and take care of her children at their Georgia home while her husband fought in the war, like many military spouses today do. However, Nancy couldn’t sit idly by while a war raged around her.
Pretending to be a crazy man, Hart was able to gain access to British camps in Augusta, where she successfully gathered intelligence and reported it back to the Continental Army. Hart also wasn’t afraid to defend her home against the enemy, as evidenced when six Loyalist soldiers entered her home and demand she feed them. While they were occupied with food, she hid their weapons and held them hostage with one, killing two when they tried to overpower her, until her husband and a neighbor came home.
Dr. Mary E. Walker
Walker volunteered her expertise as a surgeon with the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War, despite women not being allowed to serve as doctors. She was captured and became a prisoner-of-war after she was caught crossing enemy lines to treat wounded soldiers. She was considered a spy by the Confederates and was held until eventually released in a prisoner exchange.
For her bravery and willingness to confront the enemy to save Union soldiers, President Andrew Johnson awarded her the Medal of Honor, after a recommendation by Gen. William Sherman, becoming the first and only women ever to be awarded the highest military honor.
Col. Eileen Collins
Collins became the first female to pilot a shuttle in space in 1995, and was also the first female commander of a U.S. spacecraft in 1999.
During her time in the Air Force, Collins served as an instructor for the T-38 Talon at Vance Air Force Base, and eventually transitioned to an assistant professor role at the U.S. Air Force Academy, teaching mathematics and instructing T-41 pilots.
Sarah Emma Edmonds
Edmonds fled to Michigan from Canada, escaping an abusive marriage. While traveling, she found that dressing like a man made life considerably easier, and eventually joined the military as a male nurse out of a sense of obligation. Edmonds used the alias “Franklin Thompson,” and served as a spy for Union soldiers until she was confronted with a bout of Malaria. Knowing she would be punished if Army doctors discovered she was a woman, Edmonds abandoned her male disguise and continued to serve as a female nurse in Washington D.C.
After she wrote a memoir about her time as a spy, Edmonds contributions to the war were accepted, and she received an honorable discharge, as well as a government pension for her service.
Before my husband retired from the Air Force, a co-worker asked if I was ready for his retirement. She, an ex MilSpouse, insisted that the transition to the civilian world was going to be hard.
I told myself I had never fully immersed myself into the military way of life. After every PCS, I found a job in the civilian world and made friends outside the military gates. I did not feel the change was going to be that drastic or difficult.
Two years after my husband’s retirement I now know how right she was. These are the things I wish I knew then.
3 Things I Wish I Knew About Military Transition
1. Consider where you plan to live after retirement. When planning for retirement, I recommend that your family consider living near a military installation. You really don’t realize how important all the perks of living near a base are until you leave the military.
We all have heard of the safety net — this invisible shield that protects all military families from stressors, financial hardships, and provides support during deployments and emergencies. I never fully took advantage of this safety net, but I came to appreciate it when my husband retired.
We retired an hour from the nearest base and suddenly I missed the camaraderie that comes with living near one. I missed running to the commissary and knowing it wouldn’t break the bank. I missed the safety of living on a military base. I knew my family was surrounded by some of the bravest in the world.
Also, it is harder to participate in transition services and career counseling. I no longer live in a community that encourages military spouses during transition, especially in the job hunt. I had thought I would not miss all of these safety net services because I had sometimes opted out of them. I know now retiring close to a base would have made things so much easier.
2. Take time out for vacations and alone time. The stress involved in the transition from the military to civilian world actually surprised me. Not only is the camaraderie gone, but also the adventure that comes with being a military spouse.
Whenever things were too stressful, there was always some new place to travel to and explore. There was always the anticipation of the next assignment. MilSpouses, for the most part, are independent. Being in charge of everything while the military person is deployed cultivates independence. We don’t need help, right?
But do not hesitate to ask for assistance or even a few minutes of alone time. A week after the moving truck dropped 200 boxes off at my house, my sister had heart surgery and came to live with us. l should have asked for help then, from family or neighbors to open boxes or just watch the kids when I took a few minutes for myself.
Throw your independence to the side. If you need help with anything, during the transition, ask for it. You will be able to better deal with the difficulties that always come with the move. Take a break, or take a vacation. I have discovered that you and your spouse need to find out who you are without the military. The kinks in your relationship that were put aside due to deployments or a PCS, will now have to be dealt with.
Take time and breathe.
3. It is important to get involved in your community. The military community made it easy. During deployments, moving, and emergencies, someone was always there to assist. Sometimes it was just the person next door who was going through the same thing. Sometimes it was the squadron commander or base chaplain. Information on support groups, activities and financial assistance was always readily available. As a spouse it wasn’t hard to stay informed about events and activities.
It is important that you form these same kinds of bonds in your civilian community. It will be harder. No one will have your name on a list and ask you to the next squadron picnic.
I suggest you become involved in military charities or organizations. Find a church that all members of your family are comfortable with. Volunteer. Use social media to connect to the local community.
While you may be tired and stressed, make even the smallest of efforts to engage in your new community. It will make things so much easier during the adjustment. Create your own safety net.
Amy is the spouse of a recently retired service member who spent 23 years in the Air Force. She currently works as a full-time mom, freelance writer, and part-time baker. During the active duty years, she worked as a preschool teacher, librarian, bookseller and SEO specialist. She currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys traveling and volunteering in her new community.
TBILISI — The United States and Britain have joined Georgia in blaming Russia for a massive coordinated cyberattack last year that took thousands of Georgian websites offline and even disrupted TV broadcasts.
Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimer Konstantinidi told a news conference in Tbilisi on February 20 that the cyberattack was planned and carried out by Russia.
“The investigation conducted by the Georgian authorities, together with information gathered through cooperation with partners, concluded that this cyberattack was planned and carried out by the main division of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” Konstantinidi said.
Meanwhile, the United States and Britain said in separate statements that the attack was carried out by a unit of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency known as Unit 74455 and Sandworm.
Sandworm is known as a single group of hackers within the GRU and security experts have linked it to such cyber breaches as the theft of 9 gigabytes of e-mails from the French presidential campaign of Emmanuel Macron, a similar campaign against the Democratic National Committee in the United States in 2016, as well as the malware that hit Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and spread globally.
Britain has also linked the group to two attacks against Ukraine in 2017, including NotPetya and BadRabbit, which affected the nation’s financial and energy sectors as well as the Kyiv Metro and Odesa’s airport.
“The United States calls on Russia to cease this behavior in Georgia and elsewhere,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, adding that Washington would provide assistance to Georgia to help improve the country’s ability to fend off such attacks.
“We also pledge our support to Georgia and its people in enhancing their cybersecurity and countering malicious cyber actors,” Pompeo added.
Russia denied involvement in penetrating Georgian government websites.
“Russia did not plan and is not planning to interfere in Georgia’s internal affairs in any way,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told Russian news agencies.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately comment.
More than 2,000 state, private, and media websites as well as two private television stations — Imedi and Maestro — were knocked out on October 28. The targeted websites included those of the president’s office and local municipality offices.
In many cases, website home pages were replaced with an image of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, and the caption “I’ll be back.”
With the rise of cyberattacks, Navy ships are now equipped with defense from hackers.
Russia has fraught relations with its southern neighbor, which is seeking to join Western organizations, including the European Union and NATO, moves that Moscow opposes.
Russia fought a five-day war with Georgia in 2008 after which Russia recognized the independence claim of two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which comprise 20 percent of its territory.
Russia is one of only a few countries that recognizes the two regions’ independence.
The Navy‘s newest combatant command will be “leaner, agile and more expeditionary” than the U.S. 2nd Fleet that was deactivated in 2011, Rear Adm. John Mustin, the fleet’s deputy commander, told attendants Jan. 16, 2019, at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.
The 2nd Fleet, which the Navy re-established in May 2018, is designed to assert U.S. presence in the Atlantic and support operations in the North Atlantic and Arctic. While its actual makeup is still in the works, it is expected to reach initial operational capability summer 2019.
When it does, it will be a small fighting force that has taken lessons from the service’s overseas fleets and II Marine Expeditionary Force, Mustin said.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird)
“The focus of 2nd Fleet is to develop and dynamically employ maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic,” he said.
According to the service, the fleet will serve as the maneuver arm for U.S. Navy North in the Western Atlantic, “ensuring freedom of the sea, lines of communication and executing operational missions and exercises as assigned.”
It also will serve as a maneuver arm for U.S. Naval Forces Europe in the Eastern and North Atlantic.
The idea is that the fleet will focus on force employment, capable of deploying rapidly, regardless of area of operations.
“When I say lean, what does that mean? The staff complement is organized and billeted to be operational. The majority of staff will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training,” Mustin said.
The Navy first established the 2nd Fleet in the 1950s, a response to deter Soviet interest in the Atlantic, especially Europe. It was disbanded in 2011, and most of its assets and personnel were folded into Fleet Forces Command.
But growing concern over potential Russian dominance in the North Atlantic and Arctic prompted Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson to reactivate the unit.
2nd Fleet version 2.0, however, won’t look much like its historic predecessor.
Mustin said the command staff will be small, currently consisting of 85 members. The full number is still being determined, a 2nd Fleet spokeswoman said.
And while technically it will be headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, Mustin said sailors can expect that it will have the ability to deploy its command-and-control element forward, with a small team operating forward from a command ship or “austere offshore location.”
Naval Station Norfolk.
(Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ernest R. Scott)
The command also will integrate reserve forces on an as-needed basis and bolster its staff with personnel from allied nations, he added.
“This is not your grandfather’s 2nd Fleet or, as my staff likes to point out, my father’s 2nd Fleet,” Mustin said.
It will resemble overseas fleets, he said, which means it will become responsible for forces entering the integrated phase of composite unit training exercises, and “we will own them through deployment and sustainment.”
The ships will fall under operational control of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, but tactical control will be delegated to 2nd Fleet.
Standing up a fleet within a year has been a challenge, Mustin said, but there’s excitement surrounding the concept. He noted that many surface warfare officers interested in being assigned to the command had approached him at the symposium.
“It’s fast and furious, but we are getting there,” he said.
At the symposium, some observers questioned how integration will work with other naval fleets with overlapping areas of responsibility.
Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of 6th Fleet, said the integration will be seamless.
“Our idea is not to make a line in the water. When you make lines, adversaries exploit them. Our idea is to figure out how to flow forces and how to address anything that flows our way,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Several al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab members were killed in a joint US-Somalian raid July 13, the Associated Press reports.
US Africa Command confirmed a “advise and assist” mission took place but offered no details to the AP. The raid is the latest in a series of escalating actions against the terrorist group under new authorities provided by President Donald Trump.
Trump declared Somalia an “area of active hostilities” in late March, giving the US military greater autonomy in green-lighting airstrikes.
A US Navy SEAL was killed in Somalia in May during a similar raid, marking the first US combat death in the country since the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident that killed 18 service-members. Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters July 5 the US keeps approximately 50 troops in Somalia to advise and assist the Somalian army.
Al-Shabaab famously carried out a 2013 attack on Westgate Mall in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. The US joined a coalition of several African nations after the attack in an attempt to curtail the terrorist group.
Al-Shabaab continues to remain active in Somalia’s rural areas despite nearly four years of combined US coalition efforts. The terrorist group’s stated mission is to take the Somali capital of Mogadishu and impose its interpretation of Islamic law on the population writ large.
The 2005 film Yamato, released by the Japanese entertainment company Toei, is one most Americans haven’t heard of. In fact, the movie’s production company is best known in America as the source of material for the various incarnations of “Power Rangers” — including a film that comes out in March.
Similarly, not many Americans know much about the battleship Yamato outside of those who follow World War II. Perhaps the biggest following outside those interested in World War II are anime fans, due to the connection with the 1980s cartoon series “Star Blazers” (A re-dub of “Space Battleship Yamato”) and a 2010 live-action-reboot of the Japanese source material.
A 2006 review of the film in Variety, though, may make it worth watching. The reviewer described the film as a cross between “Pearl Harbor” and “Titanic”, and compared the depiction of the air attacks that sank the Japanese super-battleship to the opening scenes of “Saving Private Ryan” According to CombinedFleet.com, it took less than two hours for the battleship, the world’s largest ever constructed, to be sunk by over 390 U.S. Navy carrier planes.
The DVD of the film is available on Amazon.com, if you are interested in buying it. For those who want to get a taste of this film, watch below.
John Wayne never was able to join the military — when the draft first started in 1939, the then-unknown actor had a 3-A deferment because he was the sole supporter of four children — but that didn’t stop him from hopping in an armored personnel carrier and mounting an invasion with the 5th Armored Cavalry Troop. He had a cigar clenched in his teeth.
He was about to lead the U.S. Army in an invasion of Harvard University.
In January, 1974, the Duke invaded Harvard Square with some of the Army’s finest in response to a letter he received from the campus satirical newspaper, The Harvard Lampoon. In the letter, the paper said,
“You’re not so tough, the halls of academia may not be the halls of Montezuma and maybe ivy doesn’t smell like sagebrush, but we know a thing or two about guts.”
The paper then challenged the conservative Wayne to come to Harvard, a place The Harvard Lampoon described as, “the most intellectual, the most traditionally radical, in short, the most hostile territory on Earth.” They were challenging the actor to come to Harvard and debate against the students who called him, “the biggest fraud in history.”
The letter was purely goading, but John Wayne wasn’t about to let that bother him — he took the opportunity to visit in style.
He mounted the procession from the halls of The Harvard Lampoon’s on-campus castle, then drove to the door of the Harvard Square Theater through policemen, television crews, ‘Poonies dressed in tuxedos, students, and even some Native American protesters. There was even a marching band in his honor. In the heart of liberal Harvard, the conservative actor was met by thousands of admirers.
After signing autographs for a while, he took the stage. The first thing representatives of The Harvard Lampoon did was present Wayne with a trophy — made of just two brass balls. It was created just for him and awarded simply for coming to Harvard.
“I accepted this invitation over a wonderful invitation to be at a Jane Fonda rally,” he joked.
The Duke graciously accepted the award, noting that their previous guest was porn starlet Linda Lovelace and that seeing his invitation in a unmarked brown envelope was akin to being asked to lunch with the Borgias, a reference to the historical family’s propensity for murdering their guests.
With the pleasantries out of the way, Harvard’s debate with John Wayne, a spokesman for the right, began. Taking questions from the audience, the Duke sat on a chair on the stage. The New York Times described the debate as one with “little antagonism, the questions often whimsical and the actor frequently drew loud applause.”
John Wayne was a conservative in his political views, but he answered the students’ questions thoughtfully and honestly, often with a wry smile. Asked what he thinks of women’s lib, he said:
“I think they have a right to work anywhere they want to [long pause] as long as they have dinner ready when we want it.”
The only question he seemed to rebuff was one asked about his testifying against fellow Hollywood personalities during the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, which led to some being placed on the infamous Hollywood blacklist. The actor said he could not hear the question, even when it was repeated.
“Is your toupee made of mole hair?” One student asked. “No,” the Duke replied. “That’s real hair. It’s not my hair, but it’s real hair.”
Today, John Wayne and Harvard doesn’t seem like a controversial mixture. In 1974, however, the students at Harvard were very much anti-establishment and John Wayne was a symbol of everything they mistrusted about their country, its history, and its government — especially while the Vietnam War and the draft remained a very recent memory.
By 1974, Wayne’s career was threatened by his well-known politics, so it’s not really an exaggeration to say the actor was on his way into hostile territory. The Lampoon ended up doing what amounted to a celebrity roast with Wayne and he took it with a smile, even adding some funny jabs of his own:
“Has President Nixon ever given you any suggestions for your movies?” a student asked. “No, they’ve all been successful,” came the reply.
John Wayne never lost his sense of humor over politics — a lesson we should all take to heart today, liberal and conservative alike. What could have been a moment of sharp political divisiveness was settled with good humor and in the end, thunderous applause.
Somewhere in an Estonian Forest, causal hikers will come across a sea of red star-adorned metallic strips jutting out of the ground. Like some giant shark jaw, the 9,000-foot area is next to a wooded area, covered with what are actually aircraft tail fins, which are really grave markings of Soviet airmen.
Which are all really creepy.
These days, what was once a Warsaw Pact airstrip is now near a NATO-run military installation in Estonia, a former Warsaw Pact signatory. The base, Ämari Air Base, had the name Suurküla under the Soviet Union until 1991. The fins bear the names, and some even bear the likenesses of the pilots, many of whom were probably at the controls of the plane their eternal tail fin came from.
Suurküla was the home of several Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer medium bomber squadrons, from which many of the tail fins originated in some form. Now it’s the home of Estonian and NATO Air Forces whose mission is to monitor activity on the nearby Baltic Sea, as well as a fleet of F-16s from Denmark.
Just because these pilots happen to be buried below the aircraft that likely killed them, don’t think for a minute the Soviet Union’s air forces were nothing to write home about. For a time, the Soviets possessed superior technology and boasted the world’s largest air force. The Baltic States’ air force posture could actually cover much of the country in case of a NATO invasion.
This Estonian air base and the men stationed here contributed a large part to the defense of their countries, the men buried here gave their lives for it. If you ever visit Amari Air Base, be sure to pour out a sip of vodka for these comrades.