Tom Cruise attended the ceremony virtually (U.S. Navy)
Naval aviators are often considered to be the best aviators in the world. The training is intensive and it can take students years to earn their wings of gold as fully qualified aviators. Although the Navy does confer the designation of Honorary Naval Aviator upon select individuals, the title is extremely exclusive. On September 24, 2020, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and actor Tom Cruise became the 35th and 36th Honorary Naval Aviators, respectively.
Bob Hope receives his wings at NAS Pensacola on May 8, 1986 (U.S. Navy)
The Honorary Naval Aviator Program was started in 1949 as a way for the Navy to honor individuals who have greatly contributed to or have provided outstanding service to Naval Aviation. Individuals who receive the title earn the right to wear the coveted gold wings and are entitled to all honors, courtesies, and privileges afforded to Naval Aviators. The program is managed by the Chief of Naval Operations, Director Air Warfare and final approval of a nomination is made by the Chief of Naval Operations. Famous Honorary Naval Aviators include Jim Neighbors of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. fame and Bob Hope.
On September 24, Bruckheimer and Cruise received their wings of gold from the Commander of Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III, prior to an advance screening of Top Gun: Maverick at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The citation read:
In the history of motion pictures, there is not a more iconic aviation movie than the 1986 Paramount Pictures film Top Gun. Its characters, dialogue and imagery are ingrained in the minds of an entire generation of Americans. The movie captured the hearts of millions, making a profound positive impact on recruiting for Naval Aviation, and significantly promoted and supported Naval Aviation and put aircraft carriers and naval aircraft into popular culture.
Vice Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller III, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Rear Adm. Kenneth R. Whitesell following the winging ceremony (U.S. Navy)
Top Gun‘s contribution to Naval Aviation was arguably even greater than its box office success of 0 million. Following the civil unrest and turmoil of the 60s and 70s, the military was not an attractive prospect for many Americans. Top Gun made the military, and particularly Naval Aviation, cool again. Michael Ironside, who played Lt. Cdr. Rick ‘Jester’ Heatherly, noted how effective the film was at recruiting after two sailors approached him angrily following the release of Top Gun saying, “We joined because of that f*****g movie.” Perhaps it was too effective a recruiting tool.
In the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster hit and cultural icon, Cruise reprises his role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell with Bruckheimer returning to produce the film. Reportedly, Val Kilmer also returns to reprise his role as Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky. Top Gun: Maverick follows America’s favorite hotshot pilot into the cockpit as an instructor and is scheduled to premiere on July 2, 2021.
It’s an inescapable reality that in big institutions, people will sometimes overlook memos and misplace equipment.
But that’s cold comfort to the U.S. Army, which is struggling to select a new handgun while also dealing with the fallout from its last, controversial pistol choice.
That’s right — overlooked memos and misplaced equipment.
In August 2015, the ground combat branch inspected its Beretta M-9 pistols to make sure the guns had key safety fixes. The Army was supposed to have finished upgrading all the guns … more than two decades ago.
“During a training exercise, a soldier was injured when a slide failure resulted in the rear portion of the slide separating from the receiver and struck him in the face,” an official warning explained.
“‘WARNING’: DEATH OR SERIOUS INJURY TO SOLDIERS, OR DAMAGE TO ARMY EQUIPMENT WILL OCCUR IF THE INSTRUCTIONS IN THIS MESSAGE ARE NOT FOLLOWED.”
War Is Boring obtained the startling message via the Freedom of Information Act. Censors inked out the number of guns the Army believed were missing the updates, including a number of weapons in “SWA.”
This is a common Pentagon acronym for the Southwest Asia region, which includes Iraq. The warning applied to all M-9s in the inventory of the Army, its sister branches and Special Operations Command.
The redacted portion of the document suggests the total could be as high as six figures. Since Beretta delivered around 160,000 pistols to the military before adding the modifications at the factory, the Army may simply have ordered troops to check every one of the old weapons still in service.
Issues with the Beretta’s slide are hardly new. The broken parts were a key part of the controversy surrounding the Army’s first decision to buy the Italian-made guns more than three decades ago.
Between 1985 and 1988, the Army and Navy documented no fewer than 14 incidents where the slide failed. In four cases, the shooter suffered an injury.
“What is of particular concern is the safety hazard encountered when failure does occur,” the Government Accountability Office explained in a 1988 report. “Injuries resulting from four slide failures included face lacerations requiring stitches, a broken tooth and a chest bruise.”
The GAO had already forced the Army to hold a new competition after complaints of collusion in the original testing. Ultimately, the Beretta won out again and became the standard handgun across the U.S. armed forces.
With the winner settled for good, the Army issued an order to modify all the existing pistols with a set of safety features. The modification kit included a new slide, a reinforced hammer pin and and a left grip panel.
The Army reportedly concluded that brittle metal in the original slides was the source of the gun’s failures. However, Beretta and its allies implied that the military’s overly-powerful ammunition was actually at the root of the problems.
Whatever the cause, in March 1989 troops began installing the new parts on around 160,000 potentially defective pistols. On June 30, 1993, the Army declared that all the guns complied with the so-called “modification work order,” or MWO.
Or so it apparently thought.
“Recently, a soldier found out the hard way that the MWO hadn’t been applied to all M-9s when a slide broke and hit him in the face,” was how the Army’s P.S. Magazine described the matter on Facebook on Oct. 28, 2015. ” All armorers need to immediately check their M-9s.”
Billed as “the preventive maintenance monthly,” the magazine in question publishes notices and tips on defects, recalls, common problems and other issues for troops. In continuous publication since June 1951, each issue features comic book-style art to help these important message stick.
“Are you kidding me?!” an anthropomorphized pistol asks the shooter in a version of the message in the January 2016 edition. “That MWO was supposed to be done 20 years ago!”
The issue is so old that the order isn’t even available online — and the Army doesn’t have any modification kits on hand. Anyone who finds a problematic gun is supposed to send it back by registered mail to the Defense Logistics Agency. We don’t know what will happen to the guns after they go back to the warehouse.
All of this comes at at time when the Army finds itself embroiled in another controversial attempt to buy new pistols. Eight years ago, the services canceled their previous handgun projects.
Around the same time the slide flew off the old Beretta, the ground combat branch asked pistol-makers to offer up new options. If this program goes according to plan, troops should start getting their new weapons sometime around 2018.
Under the proposal, the Army will buy no fewer than 280,000 guns for itself. Other services would have the option of signing up to get their hands on another 212,000 pistols.
With the previous experience of the Beretta decision, the Army itselfquestioned how realistic this timeline might be when it explained the need to buy Glock pistolsnow for commandos and allied troops in 2015. The contract document pointed out that the service had already spent two years trying to get its latest project off the ground.
“We’re not figuring out the next lunar landing. This is a pistol,” the Army’s chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley told a gathering at New America’s Future of War Conference on March 10. “Two years to test? At $17 million?”
“You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million,” the Army’s top officer added, referring to the Nebraska-based outdoor goods chain, which sells firearms.
But Milley’s obvious frustration notwithstanding, the Army knows full well how complicated the project might turn out to be due to budgets, politics, competing priorities and the sheer size of the American military. Replacing hundreds of thousands of pistols is no easy task.
In February 2015, the Army also formally rejected Beretta’s offer to update the existing pistols. The Italian company’s American branch subsequently decided to sell these M9A3 guns on the commercial market.
It took seven years for the Army to settle on the M-9, more than a decade for everyone to get them and about as long to get important fixes installed — and people are still getting hit in the face by faulty slides.
An Israeli company unveiled its next-generation digital rifle sight, designed to work more like a smartphone than a high-powered hunting scope, at SHOT Show 2019.
Sensight US Inc., a subsidiary of Sensight Ltd. in Israel, showed off its new smart scope, which features a wide viewscreen, touch-screen operation and a 1.3-20x zoom capability, according to Hanan Schaap, chief executive officer of Sensight Ltd.
“It’s a very sophisticated system,” Schaap said, but added, “If you know how to work with a smartphone, you can work with this. It’s that simple.”
The sight features dual cameras that operate at 1080p at 60fps and can record and stream to iOS and Android systems, he said.
With the swipe of a finger, the shooter can zoom out 3x, 5x, 8x, 12x, 16x and 20x. Range adjustments and reticle type can also be selected with a simple touch.
“You can choose different reticles. … I can choose different colors, different shapes — an endless variety of reticles,” Schaap said.
The new sight has a ballistic calculator, 3D gyroscope and GPS.
The sight is also “suitable for any light condition,” Schaap said, first describing the low-light mode that “gives you an extra 20-to-25 minutes at dusk.”
“When you go to full darkness, you can remove the [infrared] filter so you can work with an IR illuminator to see in full darkness,” he said.
The main battery powers the sight for eight hours, but there is also an external powerpack that snaps on for an additional 12 hours of operation.
The first generation of the new sight is scheduled to be ready sometime in April or May 2019 for the “low price” of about id=”listicle-2627543725″,000, Schaap said, adding that future generations will get more sophisticated.
“In the first generation, we want to make it simple enough for people to use,” he said.
For now, the sight will be geared toward calibers such as .308, .300 Win. Mag., and .338 magnum, Schaap said.
As high-tech as the new sight is, Sensight is not marketing it for military use.
“We are looking at recreational shooters in general; we are not aiming now for military,” Schaap said. “The sight is a tool, an instrument that will help hunters and target shooters enjoy their shooting experience more.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis used to doubt the need for the U.S.’s massive stockpile of nuclear weapons, but he has changed his tune since joining President Donald Trump’s administration as secretary of defense.
In 2015, Mattis questioned whether the U.S. still needed ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, as he found the risk of accidental launches a bit troubling. When the Senate was confirming him as Trump’s secretary of defense, Mattis refused to offer his support for a program to update the U.S.’s air-launched nuclear cruise missile.
But now, Mattis has signed off on a new nuclear position that not only will modernize the ICBMs and cruise missiles but also calls for the creation of two new classes of nuclear weapons.
“We must look reality in the eye and see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be,” Mattis wrote in the review, perhaps an acknowledgment that, as secretary of defense, Mattis learned something about U.S. national security that changed his mind.
The nuclear review, rolled out this year along with new national defense and national security strategies, points to a U.S. more focused on combating major powers like Russia and China. Before joining the president, Mattis openly questioned the purpose of U.S. nukes: Do they exist only to deter attacks? Or do they have an offensive value?
In the years since 2015, when Mattis spoke of reviewing the U.S.’s 400-some hair-triggered nuclear ICBMs, the world was a different place but starting to change. China was building islands in the South China Sea, and Russia had only just swept into Crimea.
Now the U.S. has resolved to match Chinese and Russian military strength and change up the rules of engagement. The nuclear review advocates using nuclear force against nonnuclear attacks, like massive cyber campaigns targeting U.S. infrastructure.
Mattis has always offered thoughtful answers and pledged to operate on the best information he had on the topic of nuclear weapons, but he has clearly done an about-face since joining the Trump administration.
The abrupt change in Mattis’ nuclear posture prompts the question: What new information did he receive upon joining the Trump team?
A top Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander in Iran says his forces are ready to confront U.S. forces should President Donald Trump act on his warning that Tehran will “suffer consequences” if it threatens the United States.
“Mr. Trump, how dare you threaten us?” Qassem Soleimani, who leads the IRGC’s elite foreign operations Quds force, was quoted as saying on July 26, 2018.
“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine…. Come. You will start the war, but it is us who will end it, ” Soleimani said in a speech in the central city of Hamedan.
He made the remarks in response to a July 22, 2018 all-capital-letters post on Twitter by Trump in which Trump warned Iran not to “threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”
Trump’s tweet came following comments by Iran’s President Hassan Rohani who said: “America should know peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”
Soleimani called Trump a “gambler” and said his language belongs in “nightclubs.”
“We’re ready to stand against you,” Soleimani, who has been blacklisted by Washington, added.
Rohani said on July 25, 2018, that Trump’s “empty” threats did not deserve an answer.
Iran’s governmental IRNA news agency reported that, after Rohani mentioned “baseless comments” by “some U.S. leaders,” he told a cabinet meeting “there is no need for us to respond to any nonsensical comment and answer back to them.”
Soleimani said he’s responding to Trump “as a soldier.”
“Don’t threaten to kill us; we’re thirsty for martyrdom,” he was quoted as saying by the hard-line IRGC affiliated Fars news agency.
Following his Twitter warning, Trump suggested on July 24, 2018, that he’s ready to talk to, saying, “We’re ready to make a real deal.”
In May 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and announced that the United States is moving to reimpose tough sanctions.
U.S. officials have been telling countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil by November 2018.
Iran has warned of equal countermeasures, with Rohani suggesting that the country could block Persian Gulf oil exports if its own exports are halted.
“The Red Sea, which was secure, is no longer secure today with the presence of American forces,” Soleimani said.
Among the many planes flying sorties against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a version of the C-130. No, not the AC-130 gunship – although that plane did help blow up a lot of ISIS tanker trucks according to a 2015 Military.com report.
Here we’re talking about the EC-130H Compass Call. And while the highly-modified cargo plane doesn’t have the firepower appeal of the AC-130, it brings a lot of lethal wizbangery to the fight.
Things can go pear-shaped even with the best-laid operational plans when comms are crystal clear. Commanders can issue orders, and subordinates receive them and report information up the line.
Now imagine being an ISIS commander who is unable to send orders to units, and concurrently, they can’t send you any information. You’re now fumbling around, and figuratively blind as a bat against the opposition.
When the anti-ISIS coalition comes, backed up by special operators and air power, pretty soon you find yourself in a world of coalition hurt.
According to an Air Force release, the EC-130H has been doing just that against ISIS. This plane is loaded with jamming gear that cuts off communications.
According to an Air Force fact sheet, it works with the EA-18G Growler, the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, and the EA-6B Prowler. The plane, though, has been in service since 1983. It was first designed to help take down air-defense networks, usually by working with other planes like the F-4G Wild Weasel and the EF-111 Raven.
These are old airframes. The plane may have entered service in 1983, but the airframes are old.
“We have a 1964 model out here on the ramp and you run the gamut of issues from old wiring to old structural issues (and) corrosion. You find that many of the items on the aircraft have been on there for well over 20 or 30 years, and parts fail all the time. So the aircraft more often than not come down and they need us to fix it before it can fly again safely,” 1st Lt. John Karim, the Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge with the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, told the Air Force News Service.
They might be old, they don’t make things go boom, but they still help kick some terrorist ass.
Japan’s military reported on April 9, 2019, that it lost contact with an F-35 stealth jet some 84 miles off the east coast of Aomori prefecture, Japan, in the Pacific and that the hunt was on for the pilot and the downed plane.
But if Russia or China — which both maintain a heavy naval presence in the region — find the plane first, the future of US airpower could be over before it started.
“Bottom line is that it would not be good” for the future of US airpower if Japan or the US don’t quickly recover the jet, retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider.
“There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35, if they can. Big deal,” Tom Moore, an expert on Russia and weapons proliferation, tweeted.
Basically, if Russia or China, perhaps using their advanced and stealthy submarines to probe the ocean floor, first found the jet, they would gain a treasure trove of secrets about the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world.
The F-35 crash in the Pacific represents the first-ever opportunity for Russia and China to hunt for one of these planes in the wild because the jet has crashed only once before, and that time was on US soil.
Reverse engineering the technology could allow Russia and China to build their own versions of the jet, up to a point.
“The usefulness for Russia or China of recovering some or all of the wreckage would depend on how much damage the aircraft sustained upon hitting the water,” Justin Bronk, a combat-aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.
“The general shape of the jet is well-known, as are its performance characteristics so not much to gain there but parts of radar and other sensors would be prime targets for recover and testing/even attempts at reverse engineering,” he added.
Russia specifically operates a fleet of shadowy submarines meant for very deep dives and research. The US and Japan have advanced maritime capabilities to search for the fallen jet but mostly rely on two of the US’s aging rescue and salvage ships and on large nuclear submarines, which may not be ideal for the rescue mission.
As of now, all anyone knows is where the F-35 was last seen flying. It could have continued on for miles, and currents may have dragged it miles farther. In short, the entire region has a chance at brushing up against some piece of it.
What Russia and China stand to gain
Russia and China know what an F-35 looks like. There’s even some evidence China stole plans for the F-35. But even with an F-35 in its hands, the two countries still lack the advanced manufacturing know-how held in the US.
Just having some composite material used in the F-35’s jet engines wouldn’t necessarily allow China to create the materials at will. Just measuring the characteristics of the fuselage wouldn’t necessarily allow Russia to reliably manufacture airframes like the F-35’s on its own.
There, according to Bronk, the jet stands a chance against prying eyes.
“Samples or the ‘fibre mat’ stealth coating would be sought after,” Bronk said. “But the jet’s all-important software and programming would likely be hard to reconstruct given not only the likely damage from the crash and salt water in Pacific but also the way that the jet’s sensitive systems are designed to be very hard to decipher and reverse engineer to make it more suitable for export.”
Despite the US’s best efforts, Russia or China salvaging any part of the F-35 represents a US security nightmare.
“Both China and Russia have excellent reconstruction/reverse engineering/copying skills, particularly the Chinese as they are masters at it,” Deptula said.
Bronk and Deptula both agreed that in Moscow, Washington, Beijing, and Tokyo, the race is now on to find the fallen F-35 to either protect or undermine its future as the lynchpin of US and allied airpower.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s not that I have anything against the good-natured jokes of April Fool’s Day, it’s just that I don’t believe anything for an entire day. Sure, you have your ridiculous ads from companies, like the McPickle burger from McDonald’s, but then there’s the ones that sound plausible until you stop and think about it for more than a second.
Tom Brady saying he’s going to retire? The dude still has four more fingers to go. Lockheed Martin saying they now have the technology to smell Space? That’s not how Space works. The Army announces that it’ll take the well-being of the troops into consideration and allow them to wear protective masks, under AR 670-1, in areas of with hazardous air quality? Good one.
At least there was a solid selection of memes to choose from this week! Enjoy!
(In all seriousness, the protective mask one is real — and it’s about freakin’ time.)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)
(Meme via I Am An American Soldier)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
It took me longer than I’m willing to admit to get that the left side was port and right was starboard.
And the only way I still remember it is because ‘left’ has four letters, and so does ‘port.’ Don’t judge me.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via 1st Civ Division)
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Screengrab via The Salty Soldier, Credit to Reddit user u/patientbearr)
The next time you’re stuck in a conversation that feels as awkward as an FRG meeting, try inserting one of these random and obscure military facts. They’re just weird enough to help divert a boring conversation into something a little livelier (no guarantee that they’ll work though since FRG meetings are notoriously rough).
The ultimate Commanders-in-Chief
How many US presidents served in the Army? Thirty Presidents have served, with 24 serving during war. Bonus fact: Two have earned the rank of 5-star General (Washington and more recently, Eisenhower). One earned the Medal of Honor (T. Roosevelt).
Speaking of presidents, only one served as an enlisted soldier. James Buchanan didn’t go on to become an officer, either.
Only two presidents served as airmen. Ronald Reagan served in the USAF when it was still known as the Army Air Force, and George W. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before being transferred to the Air Force Reserve.
Mascots for the win
The Legend of Bill the Goat
Every great military academy needs a solid mascot. Bill the Goat has been the Naval Academy mascot since the early 1900s. Legend says that way back in its history, a Navy ship used to keep a goat on board as a pet. On the way back to port, the goat unfortunately died, so two ensigns were supposed to have the goat stuffed. As ensigns are known to do, the pair got distracted by a football game. Sometime before halftime, one of the ensigns dressed up in the goatskin that was supposed to be stuffed. The crowd loved the new mascot, and Bill the Goat has been around ever since.
For their part, the USMC has an English bulldog named Chesty as their mascot. Chesty was named after Marine Lt. Gen. Louis “Chesty” Puller. Puller was the only Marine to earn five Navy Crosses.
The Marines have issued the title of “Honorary Marine” to less than 100 people. This honor can only be bestowed by the Commandant of the USMC and comes with rank. Notable people to receive the title include Chuck Norris and Bob Hope.
Female Marines recently got an update to their wardrobe in the way of authorization to wear small, polished gold or silver-colored round or ball earrings. Earrings can only be worn when the women are dressed in uniform, but this is still a big change of policy for the USMC.
Speaking of Marines, now both male and female Marines are authorized to carry umbrellas while in uniform. This recent 2019 change allows for a small black umbrella to be carried with either a dress or service uniform. This update to policy took 200 years!
Maps, maps and more maps
The Army was tasked with mapping out the entire continental United States, and that started with Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Army officers were some of the very first to explore and see places like the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak.
Marines are a superstitious bunch. Take, for example, their avoidance of certain foods.
Marines won’t eat the Charms that come in MRE because they think they’re bad luck. The multi-flavored fruit candy has routinely been tossed from MREs since 2003. Even more spooky is the Marine rating system for Charms. Lemon Charms spell vehicle disaster, and lime ones mean rain is going to be on its way.
So there you have it. Ten random facts that probably won’t ever help you win Jeopardy but might keep you entertained the next time you’re stuck in a “voluntold” meeting.
U.S. President Donald Trump expressed optimism on Jan. 10 that a diplomatic opening with North Korea that emerged this week in talks with the South could lead to broader dialogue to quell tensions in the region.
Trump’s upbeat mood after months of escalating threats over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development programs came as the UN Security Council said it welcomes “possibilities for confidence-building and trust-building on the Korean peninsula” that emerged this week.
“We have certainly problems with North Korea,” Trump said at a news conference, but “a lot of good talks are going on right now. A lot of good energy… Hopefully, it will lead to success for the world, not just for our country, but for the world.”
“Who knows where it leads?” he said.
The move toward dialogue began with an agreement between North and South Korea on Jan. 9 to reopen talks between their militaries and welcome a team from the North to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month at the first formal talks between the two sides in more than two years.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office on Jan. 10 said that Trump indicated in a phone conversation that there would be no military action of any kind while the two Koreas continue to hold talks.
The White House said Moon and Trump agreed that, as long as the North refuses to discuss curbing its nuclear development, the global community should continue to exert “maximum pressure” through stiff sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the UN council this year.
But, at the same time, the White House said, “Trump expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.”
Trump has previously scoffed at what he said was the futility of talking with the North.
There’s an old saying within the writer’s world. “Write what you know.” Meaning that every artist should always put a bit of their own life experiences into their creations to help create the feeling that the world they’re creating is real enough – regardless of its fictional setting. This is especially important when it comes to analyzing works created by war veterans when they tell stories dealing with war.
This leads us to literature’s biggest question about authorial intent: Is The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien an allegory for WWI? From the mouth of Tolkien himself, it’s not. Yet scholars still debate this.
The honest answer is that it’s much deeper than a surface level “the orcs are really these guys” and “the ring actually means this thing.”
If you’re still not convinced… If the One Ring was about the bomb, then the eagles would have definitely been the ones to drop the Ring in Mt. Doom and not about the struggles of two hobbits going in on foot.
(United States Department of Energy)
The novel was released in 1954, and, as people do, there was speculation that it was about either World War I or World War II. The straight-forward nature of Sauron being purely evil and the works of the Fellowship purely good puzzled Tolkien’s life-long friend and Jesuit priest, Father Robert Murray, who also questioned if it was a message about Christianity – since Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic.
His response to both was included into the forward to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien has this to say:
As for any inner meaning or ‘message,’ it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical…. I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.
Later on in life, many questioned if the One Ring was also symbolic of atomic weapons. This is easily debunked by the simple fact that he began writing The Lord of the Rings in 1934 – many years before the Manhattan Project was even known.
Need to come up with a war-torn hellscape that’s riddled with death and decay? Tolkien’s mind went to the worst hell he could imagine: the swamped trenches of the Battle of the Somme.
In Tolkien’s eyes, his work were, and always should be viewed as, a fairy tale. This is why the chapters of The Hobbit feel slightly disconnected from each other – because they’re meant to be bedtime story-sized chunks to read to children at night.
When it came time for his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, it was intended as a more mature follow-up to that world while still holding true to its fairy tale spirit. Sauron is the unequivocal embodiment of evil. Frodo Baggins, though flawed and unlikely to be the hero, was a nuanced embodiment of good. The core of the series is always that good, no matter where it comes from, will always triumph over evil.
The debate lies in the unexpected journey of how that happens, which brings us back to writing what you know.
To be fair, this place would be what Tolkien’s friend Father Murray may have called an allegory for Heaven.
As every combat veteran can tell you, war is a hell that you can never really get out of your mind. Tolkien himself saw his two best friends die within the first day of combat, a first aid station he was at destroyed with many inside, and he would be sent back to the rear for health reasons. He would eventually learn his battalion, and everyone he knew would be destroyed by the end of the war.
Tolkien’s survivor’s guilt would haunt him throughout the rest of his life. This is reflected in the most powerful moment of The Lord of the Rings – Frodo’s return to the Shire. Frodo lost many of his friends along the way. What was once a happy, cheery little town felt alien to him. He couldn’t just slip back in like nothing had happened because, it did. His scars healed but still hurt while his mind wandered. This is not unlike what happened to Tolkien, but it’s not unique to him.
But this isn’t where Frodo’s story ends. Neither is it for every returning veteran. For all of his good deeds, Frodo is allowed passage into the Undying Lands. He can be free of his pain and know that he fought the good fight. His battles with his trauma were over. This pained and injured hero can finally have his happy ending.
There is no allegory for the pure good and pure evil of The Lord of the Rings. The Orcs weren’t the Germans (from either war), and the Hobbits weren’t the peaceful Welsh. The story is meant to be interpreted by anyone who sees themselves in Frodo’s shoes (well, in the metaphorical sense. Hobbits never wear shoes.)
Tolkien wrote the fairy tale he’d have wanted to hear as a returning veteran. To be told that no matter where you’re from, no matter how big or small, no matter the pain you endure, no matter the friends you lose along the way, your story will eventually have a happy ending.
This is the basis for the Fox Searchlight film Tolkien about how his life experiences influenced his writing. Check it out in theaters May 19th.
Located in Southern California, Naval Base San Diego is the second largest surface ship base in the United States. Deploying on a ship with a critical mission is supposed to be one of the proudest moment for any sailor. Those aboard get a chance to serve their country by performing the righteous duties for which they’ve trained hard — in theory, anyway.
In reality, being underway means doing a ton of cleaning and other tasks that fall outside of your regular MOS.
It’s not like what you see in those cool television commercials. You won’t be working with sailors in the intel room trying to defeat an enemy force while listening to the soothing tone of Keith David’s voiceover. In fact, it’s almost the complete opposite.
Going on watch
If you’ve ever watched paint dry, then you know exactly how it feels to be on watch — you stare at nothing, waiting for anything to happen. Watch is, by far, is the most critical responsibility on any Naval vessel, but it can also be the most painful. You’re looking out for incoming threats, but the likelihood of that happening is slim.
That is, unless you’re in foreign seas and Somalian pirates are feeling ballsy.
Using these little computers in our pockets, making a call to anyone around the world is as easy as picking up your phone and dialing. However, being underway means you’re not going to have any cell service — much to the devastation of millennials.
The idea of not knowing what everyone’s doing back home or what’s happening in the rest of the world can be a little unsettling. After weeks of limited-to-no connectivity, that moment when you reach port and see service bars on your phone is glorious.
After a long day, it’s finally time to hit the sack — but you don’t get to sleep in a big bed like you did back home. You get to sleep in a rack that looks and feels like a coffin. It may be comfortable for vampires, but for everyone else, it’s anything but that.
Let’s be real, three-man bunks with a minimum of 20 to 30 roommates — does this sound like a good time to you?
Sweepers, sweepers, all hands man your stations
If you’re a sailor, you know how this feels. Once you wake up and get ready for your day, you know what’s about to happen. So, grab a broom and get to cleaning, because there’s always a petty officer around the corner reminding you to do so.
Welcome to hell.
It sounds easy at first, but after a day of working on the ship, the last thing anyone wants to do is pick up another freakin’ broom — trust us.
Leaving your family
This is a topic that all veterans can relate to. Above all else, the reason we continue to fight is to protect the many families of our nation. Leaving them behind is extremely difficult. You have been their sworn protector for as long as you can remember, and now you must leave them to fulfill your obligations to our great country.
Saying goodbye to your loved ones — and not knowing exactly when you will return — is, by far, one of the hardest things about going underway.