How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII's most enduring mysteries - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The United States Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine.


Still, despite the Navy’s effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

German submarine U-853 and crew.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.

Goodreau and Ferrara, along with their crewmates Ryan King, Danny Allan, Bob Foster, Nate Garrett, Josh Cummings, and Mark Bowers, are featured in “The Hunt for Eagle 56,” a Smithsonian Channel documentary series set to air at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019.

Goodreau works as a meat truck driver in Massachusetts. But diving has been his passion since the age of 18, after his employer hosted a number of scuba excursions.

“I was hooked from the first dive,” Goodreau said. “It was really cool. I found out early shipwrecks are what I’m meant to do. I really believe that that’s what I was put here to do, to find shipwrecks.”

Ferrara said he was first sucked into the world of diving by watching famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau on television, as a kid.

Sunken Navy warship found off Maine coast

www.youtube.com

Goodreau described becoming interested in pursuing “deeper and darker” dives as time went on; or, as Ferrara puts it, “crazier and stupider” underwater adventures. They became immersed in the world of technical diving, which National Association of Underwater Instructors defines as “a form of scuba diving that exceeds the typical recreational limits imposed on depth and immersion time (bottom time).”

King, Allan, and Goodreau first teamed up to find the Eagle 56 in 2014. The rest of the crew came together in the subsequent years. The Eagle 56 was an obvious choice for the for the Nomad team.

“I’m a shipwreck nerd, always have been,” Goodreau said. “The Eagle 56 was always the shipwreck to find. That was the great ghost of New England. A lot of people looked for it. Nobody could find it.”

But the Eagle 56 was never going to be an easy find. Goodreau described the ocean floor north of Cape Cod as a labyrinth of rocky mountains and canyons. The Eagle 56 was a “fairly small” boat. And, though the crew didn’t know this at the time, it was lodged in a trench.

“It’s kind of like the equivalent of dropping a soda can into canyon and putting on a blindfold and going and finding it, because you can’t just look down and see it,” Goodreau said. “Visibility’s 10 feet. It’s pitch black.”

Even worse, the crew’s expensive magnetometer ended up being somewhat of a bust, thanks to the undersea terrain.

“It turns out that the rocks off of Maine aren’t only big, they’re full of iron,” Goodreau said.

Again and again, the crew would finish out a summer diving season empty-handed. They spent the winters intensively reading up on the sinking, trying to pinpoint the ship’s coordinates. That research had an unintended side effect.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries


A plaque on the grounds of the Portland Head Light at Cape Elizabeth, Maine, describes the loss of USS Eagle-56.

“You kind of get to know these guys,” Goodreau said, of the Eagle 56 crew members.

Ferrara added that, as a Marine veteran, he feels an affinity for the crew members who died in the attack. He said that most of the men on board were quite young.

“They were lost for 73 years,” he said.

But the team stuck with the search and, ultimately, found the wreck in June 2018. Goodreau and Ferrara say that, as a result, they’ve gotten to know plenty of relatives of the lost crew members.

The Nomad team members were even invited to the July 2019 Purple Heart ceremony for Seaman 1st Class James Cunningham, who died in the Eagle 56 sinking. Cunningham was 21-years-old at the time of the sinking. Goodreau and Ferrara say that Cunningham came from a family of Tennessee sharecroppers, and that he enlisted in the Navy when he was 18. Cunningham sent them his Navy paychecks so that they could buy a house, a property which the family still owns today.

Sadly, one group that the Nomad team will never be able to share their discovery with are the 13 survivors of sinking. They have all died.

“Some of the survivors were engineers,” Goodreau said. “Some went to their graves feeling that people blamed them for the explosion.”

The Nomad diving team will now search for the torpedo that took down the Eagle 56. And, in the meantime, they will remain cautious when diving in the area where the ship sank.

“You don’t want to disturb them,” Ferrara said. “You want to be very respectful, when you’re there.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

National WWI Museum examines global impact, today’s legacy

Where does a museum collection begin? How do curators tell humanity’s most complicated stories? For more than 100 years, the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri has asked and answered these questions about the Great War and its enduring impact.

From the first shots fired in 1914 to the last attempts at peace in 1919, the museum showcases firsthand accounts from the battlefield and the home front. At the museum, the conflict comes alive with more than 300,000 artifacts, objects and documents — one of the world’s largest collections.


Today’s legacy

“The cataclysm that was World War I was the defining moment of the 20th century,” Senior Curator Doran Cart said.

Yet to many Americans, this conflict is a muddled, confusing clash of powers overshadowed by World War II.

For Cart, WWI remains important because it is the start to so many of the important challenges of our modern era. From the conflicts and civil wars in the Middle East, to the present challenges of Russia and Ukraine, to immigration issues and rising isolationist tendencies around the globe the links can be traced to WWI.

“You cannot talk about today’s problems without finding the connections,” he said.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Photo courtesy of Courtesy National WWI Museum and Memorial

Innovation on and off the battlefield

The lasting ramifications of this conflict continue today as does the innovation discovered in medical and military fields.

Cart shared how medical practices, including advanced techniques in the treatment of head trauma were first developed during this conflict. For the first time, antiseptics were developed to clean wounds, soldiers were taught about hygiene and blood banks were used. In France, vehicles became mobile X-ray units, surgeons were drafted in closer to the frontline and hospital trains evacuated casualties.

“So many of these lessons learned are relevant in war zones today,” Cart said.

In terms of the mechanics of war, this conflict brought about the use of airplanes and tanks in conflict, machine guns and chemical war. All items that are relevant to later conflicts in the 20th century and today.

100 years of collecting

The museum’s latest exhibits, “100 Years of Collecting” and “100 Years of Collecting Art” showcase an exhaustive number of objects and documents that have never been displayed. Highlights including a formal court frock coat and vest worn by Imperial Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph’s personal household staff and aides, 100+ year-old soldier-issued hardtack (hard bread) and a sign from 1942 indicating the memorial would be closed due to potential threats of WWII-related sabotage.

Another item of interest is the lectern used by President Calvin Coolidge at the Nov. 11, 1926 dedication of what eventually became the National WWI Museum and Memorial. Coolidge spoke before 150,000 people — the largest crowd a U.S. president had ever addressed.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Photo courtesy of Courtesy National WWI Museum and Memorial

More stories equal more understanding

The museum has recently acquired a unique and beautifully made Russian woman’s coat.

“Her insignia indicate that she was a machine gun unit commander and the coat is amazing in that it has survived over 100 years with all the turmoil and later history of Russia,” Cart said.

“Women’s history in WWI has been one of the long-overlooked aspects of the war and this piece helps greatly in writing another chapter in history. It also contributes to our future planning needs of acquisitions for the museum in three specific areas: women of all nations involved in the war, minorities and indigenous peoples.”

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Photo courtesy of Courtesy National WWI Museum and Memorial

Global conflict

“The founders of our museum knew the importance of the global story,” Cart said noting that nearly 20 countries/empires across the world are represented in the exhibition.

Items from the around the globe have been collected, including from the Austro-Hungarian empire, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Ottoman Empire, Romania, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Countries that were neutral during the conflict — Mexico, Spain and Sweden — are also represented as they supplied items that were used at some point during the conflict.

Visiting the museum

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum has modified their policies to adapt to social distancing and health and safety protocols. The museum is offering limited access timed tickets and recommending social distancing and mask-wearing practices during visits.

“We tell people to maintain the distance of a 1917 Harley Davidson motorcycle, which we happen to have on display, and is nearly six feet in length,” Cart said.

Can’t make it to Kansas City? The museum has made a variety of online resources available for teachers, students and the general public.

Both exhibitions run until March 7, 2021 and are included with general admission to the museum and memorial. More information can be found at https://www.theworldwar.org.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Back to standard two-day weekends. Oh well. At least Independence Day weekend was fun while it lasted.


1. Really, really fun (via Sh*t My LPO Says).

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Hopefully, this guy wasn’t in your unit.

2. If you want logistics join the Army (via Terminal Lance)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
If you want robots, join DARPA.

SEE ALSO: 5 insane military projects that almost happened

3. Your medicine will be ready when it’s ready … (via Sh*t My LPO Says)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
… which will be sometime next Thursday.

4. Congratulations on your contract (via Sh*t My LPO Says).

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
It’s a bummer when your family celebrates that they’ll only see you half the time for the next few years.

5. Budget cuts are taking a toll (via Air Force Memes and Humor)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
But at least everyone’s spirits are up.

6. Profiles, chits, doctors’ notes, it’s all shamming.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Not sure which service lets you spend your light duty drinking beer in a recliner though. Pretty good reenlistment incentive.

7. You know that even Unsolved Mysteries couldn’t answer that question, right? (via Team Non-Rec)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Warrant Officer’s are like reflective belts. The brass insist they work and everyone else just goes along with it.

8. I want to see these three guys shark attack some young private (via Sh*t My LPO Says).

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
It’s always great when lieutenants explain the military to senior enlisted.

9. It gets real out there (via Team Non-Rec)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
I mean, they don’t even have napkins for their pizza.

10. Patriotic duty

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Say your pledges, protect America, see peace in our time.

11. They specialize in anti-oxidation operations and haze grey proliferation.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
That’s a fancy way of saying they scrape rust and spread paint.

12. Never forget (via Air Force Memes and Humor)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Clearly, this man behind the stick of an F/A-18 is a good idea.

13. You want their attention? Better have some Oakleys and cigarettes that “fell off a truck.”

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
This is also what the E4 promotion board looks like.

NOW: The 6 most shocking military impostors ever

WATCH: Vet On The Street

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why troops love the overpowered MICLIC

It’s time to go take out the enemy position. Whether it’s North Korean artillerymen raining rounds down on Seoul or an insurgency bomb factory, your most important targets can be protected by mines and IEDs that will slow down even the most determined force. But there’s a tool made of 1,750 pounds of C4 that will get you through in a hurry: the MICLIC.


U.S. Marines • MICLIC & Demolition Explosions (2019)

www.youtube.com

Originally developed by the Marine Corps, the Mine Clearing Line Charge is exactly what it sounds like: A line of explosive charges that can clear enemy mines.

The basic design is also super simple. Small bundles of C4 are strung together into a 350-foot long single charge. A MK22 Mod 4 rocket is attached to one end of the line, and a few dozen feet of extra cable attaches the whole thing to a breaching vehicle. The whole thing is often packed into a trailer for easy deployment and movement.

When the Marines or Army reach an enemy minefield, they fire the rocket, and it carries the explosives across 350 feet of defended territory. And then the C4 is detonated, clearing a lane about 26 feet wide. That’s over 9,000 square feet of territory cleared with a few button presses.

If the minefield is deeper than 350 feet, then another breaching vehicle can drive to the end of the cleared lane and fire a second MICLIC to keep the party going. The MICLIC also works pretty well on IEDs and other explosive-based defenses.

All of this is much easier and faster than clearing the obstacles by hand or with plows, and much safer. But we should be clear that there are some limitations to the MICLIC.

First, they have a reputation for failing to detonate. This author has seen a MICLIC fail, and correcting it typically requires that explosive ordnance disposal experts come out. (Though, in combat, we’re willing to bet that the engineers chuck a few other explosives at it with their fingers crossed first.)

But another important caveat to the MICLIC is that it’s specifically designed to take out what are called “single pulse, pressure fuzed mines.” Basically, those are the mines that go off once they are stepped on or driven over. But some mines have very specialized triggers. Maybe they go off the second time they are stepped on, or they are set off by an operator or a remote signal.

MICLICs can destroy these mines through the miracle of sympathetic detonations. Basically, the MICLIC’s explosion can activate the payloads of the closest mines even if it can’t activate the fuse. But a mine or IED with a special fuse that’s 10 feet from the MICLIC might survive. This could result in Marines hoping for a 25-foot wide safe lane finding out that they only have a 20-foot wide lane in the worst way possible.

Still, the MICLIC rapidly gets rid of a lot of potential mines all at once. And engineers can always follow up with additional breaching vehicles to be sure the lane is clear. If you’re the guy driving a plow to make sure the lane is clear, you’re going to appreciate every mine that the MICLIC gets rid of so that you don’t have to hit it.

Articles

This 85-year-old Special Forces legend has one of the most badass military resumes we’ve ever seen

While other senior citizens were enjoying a quiet life in retirement, 71-year-old Billy Waugh was hunting for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and blowing Taliban fighters to smithereens.


As a member of a CIA team sent in shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Waugh battled militants at Tora Bora and helped bring about the collapse of the Taliban. It seemed a pretty good ending to a career that featured combat in Korea and Vietnam, surveilling Libya’s military, tracking international terrorists, and God-only-knows-what-else for the CIA.

Waugh was born in 1929 in Texas and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1948. After completing airborne school he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. But he was eager to get into combat, and he reenlisted in 1951 so he could get to the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in Korea. Then the Korean war ended, and his career veered off into “black ops” territory once he joined the Special Forces in 1954.

His life after that reads like the most badass resume we’ve ever seen: Five tours with Special Forces “A” teams in Vietnam and Laos where he was wounded multiple times, working for the CIA’s Special Activities Division in Libya, preventing the Russians from stealing classified missile secrets on the Kwajalein Atoll, and helping to hunt down the infamous terrorist Carlos “The Jackal,” which he later detailed in a book.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Just the beginning.

In that same book, “Hunting The Jackal,” Waugh also writes of the time he survived a major North Vietnamese Army attack in Vietnam, where he was shot in the head.

“I took another bullet, this time across the right side of my forehead. I don’t know for sure, but I believe the bullet ricocheted off the bamboo before striking me. It sliced in and out of a two-inch section of my forehead, and it immediately started to bleed like an open faucet,” Waugh wrote. “It sounds like the punch line to a bad joke, but you know it’s a bad day when the best thing about it is getting shot in the head.”

The bullet had knocked him unconscious, and the NVA soldiers who later inspected his body thought he was dead. Though the enemy soldiers had taken his gear, clothing, and Rolex watch, he was left alone where he was hit, and his comrades later landed on a helicopter and saved his life.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Waugh in Vietnam.

“If you were going up there, you were either going to die or get shot all to hell,” Waugh told The Miami New-Times of his team’s work in Vietnam. “Everyone in the outfit was wounded once, twice, three times.”

He officially retired from the Army at the rank of Sergeant Major in 1972, though he had been working for the CIA since 1961 and would continue to work for the agency over the years as an operative or contractor. His military awards include the Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, four Army Commendation medals, and eight Purple Hearts for wounds in combat.

Waugh has often lived in the shadows at the forefront of America’s wars. Long before Osama bin Laden would be known as U.S. public enemy number one, he was tracking the terror mastermind’s every move in Sudan and put forth several plans to take him out.

“I was within 30 meters of him,” Waugh told Air Force journalist Nick Stubbs in 2011. “I could have killed him with a rock.”

In between his time in uniform and paramilitary garb, Waugh earned a Bachelor’s and Masters Degree, and he still lectures young soldiers on the art of surveillance, according to Dangerous Magazine. But it’s apparently not all PowerPoint and boredom for the now-85-year-old.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Photo: Nick Stubbs/US Air Force

Waugh, who now lives in northwest Florida, still lists himself as a “contractor for my present outfit” on his website. So the next time something bad happens to America’s enemies, he may be part of the reason why.

“If the mind is good and the body is able, you keep on going if you enjoy it,” Waugh told Stubbs. “Once you get used to that [life of adventure], you’re not about to quit. How could you want to do anything else?”

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 ways airmen party while deployed to Afghanistan

Whether you’re on a small FOB — let’s face it, most airmen won’t be here — or a military base, Afghanistan deployments can either be the most boring or a little bit exciting, depending on how you play your cards. Okay, fine — it’s going to be a little boring no matter what.


How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
That reminds me, you will probably play a lot of cards.

Yes, deployments are most often filled with binge-watching TV on time off or working out multiple times a day, but these are some tips that can make time in the sandbox a little more exciting.

That is, if you can get away with them and not get an Article 15 or court-martial.

4. Alcohol in mouthwash bottles.

Everyone knows that drinking while deployed is against general orders — meaning this you could get in heaps of trouble if you’re dumb and get sh*t-faced. Tip: Don’t be dumb.

It’s easy to get alcohol into Afghanistan if you utilize everyday items to smuggle it in and send it through regular mail. Just don’t go around swigging out of the mouthwash bottle or else someone is going to figure out what’s up.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
It’s not just for cruise ships and prisons anymore!

And if you’re going to share, make sure the ones you share with don’t f*ck it up by opening their mouths to supervisors.

3. Befriend a loadmaster.

Okay, okay — this might only work if you have access to a loadmaster or if you work near the flightline, but networking saves the day in dire times.

Make friends with a loadmaster — or heck, even a pilot — and they’ll willingly bring you back anything you want from wherever they go, probably for a price. Obviously, you’ll pay the price of whatever they bring back, but you might find yourself owing them a favor later (No, not that kind of favor, sicko. Just be willing to help them when they need it).

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Spot the contraband in this photo. (Hint: It’s green). (U.S. Air Force photo)

2. Hang with the foreign military.

Any chance you can spend time with military personnel from different countries, do it. New Zealand is particularly delightful because they can drink on deployment and their accents are easy on the ears (ladies).

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
If David Boreanaz were in a military, he would join the New Zealand Air Force and fit right in. Just sayin’.

Besides the allure of alcohol and the accents, getting to know others from other countries just opens up new lines of communication, and meeting people kills time. You might also end up with some cool challenge-coin swag and squadron T-shirts by the end of deployment.

1. Last Resort: O’Doul’s at the BX and binge watch TV shows.

If you’re not daring enough to do any of the above for fear of a court-martial or an Article 15, stick with a couple of O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beers and watch movies on your laptop or smartphone. The Air Force Exchanges are notorious for selling almost anything you can get at a Walmart, so go wild, go crazy, and buy some fake beer.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
The only acceptable surrender.

It might sound boring and pointless, but at least there are no general orders being broken. So, airman, crack open that O’Doul’s and re-watch Dexter for the third time, because that might be as good as it’s going to get.

MIGHTY GAMING

How Blizzard is putting the ‘war’ back in Warcraft

Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft is still going strong after nearly 14 years of being at the top of the video game world. One of the ways that Blizzard has maintained such success is by releasing a constant stream of new content for subscribers to enjoy. This trend continues with next week’s release of the game’s seventh expansion, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.

This time around, instead of focusing on fighting some giant, world-ending bad guy, the developers are taking a different approach and are returning to what made the game so beloved: the faction-based conflict between the Alliance of humans, dwarves, and night elves and the Horde of orcs, trolls, and undead.


How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Players had little idea that a simple choice between left side or right side would mean so much fourteen years down the road.

(Blizzard Entertainment)

The game has always drawn players in by carefully scaling a character’s level of badassery with the amount of time spent playing. Couple this enrapturing, eventual rise to power with the ever-looming threat of attack by the opposing faction and you’ve got a recipe for player investment. When players are invested in the game, they start to care about the world — and its well-being.

The last expansion, World of Warcraft: Legion, saw players putting an end to the series’ primary antagonist, Sargeras. The fight against such a massive threat required that the Horde and Alliance mend bad blood and work together (mostly) to fend off a universal danger.

With the major threats quelled, players are rejoicing as opposing factions can finally go back to killing each other — and things have started off with a bang. As a lead-up to the expansion’s release, the Horde burnt down the capital city of the night elves, Darnassus. In return, the Alliance laid siege to the undead capital, The Undercity.

Right now, players are taking part in said attacks, storming the battlefield as either the defenders or the attackers, depending on which faction you chose when making your character — an event that, for some, happened nearly 14 years ago.

The Alliance-versus-Horde aspect of the game has long been a fan favorite. A huge section of player base has always taken their faction identity to heart. In the older days of World of Warcraft, if you made an Alliance character on a server, that was it. If you wanted to try life on the Horde, you had to pick a new server and start all over.

Back in 2004, it wasn’t uncommon for a group of friends to be split over something as simple as deciding to play as a dwarf or a troll because it meant they couldn’t play together. These restrictions have since been loosened and many players have characters on both factions — but they’ll remain fiercely loyal to their first, arbitrary choice.

This is actually the heart of what makes the advertisements for the new expansion so funny. Moments like the one in the video below really do happen between World of Warcraft players.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

​My excuse is going to be “massive diarrhea to the point that I’d rather not risk seeing a doc.”

(Blizzard Entertainment)

It kind of goes without saying that the next expansion is heavily based on player-versus-player interactions. Players are highly encouraged to fight with their faction against their enemy and are given some pretty sweet in-game rewards for doing so. Ambush unsuspecting foes while they’re out exploring or take part in skirmishes in designated battlegrounds in the pursuit of honor — ‘honor’ here means both for the love of your faction and for literal ‘honor points.’

New to the expansion is the introduction of Warfronts, massive battlefields for which players fight to control. Victory means capturing a city that their faction retains until the next battle. There are also plenty of new zones filled brim with quests tailored specifically for your faction to help you reach the new max level, getting you ready to join the fight.

So, get ready to fight for your faction’s pride on Tuesday. Or, if you don’t play, get ready for some of your nerdy friends to sick call for a “totally valid” reason early next week.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Remember It’s a Wonderful Life? The 1946 movie where an angel visits a man to convince him not to kill himself? The actor who portrayed the man was Jimmy Stewart, and he was pretty fresh from bombing missions over Nazi-occupied Europe when he played the part. He also remained in the Air Force Reserve until he retired as a brigadier general.


How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Lt. Gen. Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awards the Croix De Guerre with Palm to Col. Jimmy Stewart for exceptional services in the liberation.

(U.S. Air Force)

Stewart was actually drafted into the Army Air Corps as an enlisted man in March 1941. It should be noted that he was already a prominent actor with a number of movies, mostly romantic comedies, under his belt. As an enlisted man, he took extension courses in order to attain his commission and got his lieutenant bars a month after the Pearl Harbor attacks.

While many people of Stewart’s fame could’ve gotten by on morale tours or some cush duty stateside, Stewart volunteered for flight training, earning him a pilot slot. Piloting aircraft was extremely dangerous in World War II, and Stewart was striving for a job more dangerous than rifleman on the ground.

After nine months as an instructor pilot, Stewart got a billet in a unit training up for deployment to England, the 703rd Bomb Squadron. They flew across the Atlantic in late 1943 in new B-24Hs and began raining Hell down on the Third Reich.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Maj. Jimmy Stewart confers with a B-24 crew member.

(U.S. Air Force)

Stewart briefed bomber pilots before missions he wouldn’t fly in, and many of the crews reportedly found it amusing to get their instructions from a famous actor, sort of like if Hugh Grant went through crew drills with you before your convoys.

Stewart flew 20 combat missions with the 703rd as the squadron hit oil, ammunition, and chemical plants as well as German air bases and other military positions. He was promoted up the ranks until, by war’s end, he was chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Wing.

But Stewart didn’t bow out of military service just because the war was over. He remained in the Army Reserve and then the Air Force Reserve when it was formed. In 1959, he was promoted to brigadier general. But he still had one deployment and combat flight left in him.

In 1966, he rode along in a bomber over North Vietnam as an observer. He retired in 1968.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Brig. Gen. James Stewart.

(U.S. Air Force)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the rifle that made three of the four longest sniper kills

Snipers specialize in taking out enemy personnel from well beyond the average grunt’s range. Lately, due to advances in technology and an amazing degree of skill, the distances from which snipers are scoring kills are getting longer and longer. In 1967, Carlos Hathcock set a record, recording a kill from 2,500 yards using a modified M2 heavy machine gun. But in the War on Terror, four snipers proceeded to shatter the record set by “White Feather” Hathcock.


Of those four record-snapping snipers, three of them (Master Corporal Arron Perry, Corporal Rob Furlong, and an unidentified member of Combined Joint Task Force 2) used the same rifle: The McMillan Tac-50. This gun is chambered for the .50 BMG round — the same round used by the legendary Ma Deuce.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

The McMillan Tac-50.

(McMillan Firearms)

According to the manufacturer, the Tac-50 uses a five-round detachable box magazine. The rifle has a 29-inch, match-grade, free-floating, hand-lapped, and fluted barrel. Most versions of the rifle are equipped with a bipod to provide a fixed length of pull. The rifle comes in one of five finishes: black, olive, gray, tan, or dark earth.

So, how did a cartridge full of .50 BMG, a caliber once used to kill tanks and aircraft, end up on sniper rifles? The answer lies in the round. All three of the McMillan Tac-50 snipers used the Hornaday A-Max match-grade bullet. In .50 BMG, this bullet weighs barely 750 grains — or about 1.7 ounces — meaning it can be flung amazing distances.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

The Hornaday A-Max in .50 BMG. The bullet from this round comes in at 1.7 ounces.

(Hornaday)

Here’s something else interesting: There’s a civilian version of this rifle available for sale. Yes, it’ll have to be shipped to your local Federal Firearms License-holder and you’ll have to go through a background check, but this long-range shooter is available. You can also get the Hornaday rounds as well.

One thing is for certain: It would be fascinating to see what Hathcock could’ve done with this rifle.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 rituals warriors used to prepare for battle

War, like math, is a universal language shared by every strata of civilization. Warriors from all cultures have, in one form or another, prepared themselves physically and mentally for the task at hand. More often than not, stepping onto the battlefield meant risking bodily death.

With the end of natural life so near, many warriors would confer with the divine, looking for their blessing to carry them to victory. Some conjured animal spirits to lend them their strength while others requested that deities guide their blades.

These are the rituals that prepared the champions of various cultures to meet their fate.


How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Marines are known for summoning the strength of the Devil Dog.

(Knut Stjerna)

Berserkers used mind-altering drugs to induce rage

The berserker was an elite Norse warrior that used pure rage to find success in battle. To achieve the status of a berserker, one had to live in the wilderness and become possessed by one of three animals, from which they’d conjure strength: the bear, the boar, or the wolf. The warrior then had to drink the blood of the chosen animal and wear its pelt when summoning its strength in battle.

But it wasn’t all possessions and summonings. Historians theorize that berserkers would eat Amanita muscaria (a hallucinogenic mushroom) and rub henbane leaves onto the skin (which causes a numbing sensation) to better endure pain in battle. Copious amounts of alcohol combined with mind-altering chemicals would send these warriors into a rage, effectively summoning severe aggression on demand.

Original maori haka dance

www.youtube.com

Maori tribes used an intimidating dance

The Maori tribes developed a war cry dance to intimidate the enemy at the outset of battle and to inspire their warriors into a frenzy. They, like many other cultures, called upon the God of War using a ritual dance called the perperu haka when a fight was imminent.

Over time, the haka evolved into several distinct versions, each used in a specific ceremony. There are hakas for national events in New Zealand, weddings, funerals, and special guests. Each dance has a cultural significance and a rich history woven into the choreography.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Good things come to those who wait — or pay cash.

(Ugo Bardi)

The Greeks used sacrifices to predict the outcome of battles

The ancient Greeks did not take superstition lightly and often sought the guidance and protection of their Gods before battle. Before the Battle of Plataea, which took place near Boeotia, Greece, in 479 B.C., both the Armies of Xerxes I and the Greek alliance consorted with their respective seers to determine the outcome of the battle. Each offered ritual sacrifices to their Gods, looking for the signal of imminent victory. The sacrifices revealed omens that defeat belonged to whichever side initiated combat.

After days of indecision, the Persian general Mardonius decided that he had waited long enough and attacked. He lost.

Kamikaze Pilots Take-Off. Archive film 96623

www.youtube.com

Kamikaze pilots drank magical sake

The term ‘Kamikaze‘ comes from the Mongols’ failed invasion of Japan in 1281. A typhoon completely destroyed the invaders and became known as the Divine Wind, or the Kamikaze, that saved Japan. The victory at the Battle of Midway by the U.S. Pacific Fleet in 1942 forced Vice Admiral Takashiro of the Japanese First Air Fleet to use suicidal pilots to inflict damage upon U.S. vessels.

The Kamikaze was a call to action that drew university students from all walks of life. The ceremony these pilots would undertake before flying their last consisted of drinking sake ‘infused’ with magic to provide ‘spiritual lifting.’ They were thanked by their officers and boarded their planes with 550-pound bombs. Out of approximately 2,800 Kamikaze pilots, 14% of Kamikaze hit U.S. ships and only 8.5% managed to sink them.

Scarification, a ritual before fighting

www.youtube.com

Some African tribes still practice scarification

To this day, tribes in Ethiopia engage in ceremonial stick duels between 20 or more young men of rival villages to earn respect from their families and community. Before a duel takes place, a witch doctor will bless the fighters with sacred leaves and cut patterns into their skin with razors. These patterns serve as a supernatural defense against serious harm. In most cases, these duels aren’t usually deadly — ‘usually’ being the operative word.

The cutting ritual, also known as scarification, is a lengthy and painful pre-battle requirement. Showing courage during this process also grants the young man the right to marry a wife. If a fighter cannot bear the pain of scarification, he will not be seen as worthy to bear the responsibilities of marriage.

There are videos out there for the strong-stomached, but we’ll not be providing one.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

It’s Friday, which means you’re one week closer to a DD-214. Here are 13 memes to kick off your weekend:


1. Passed is passed (via Air Force Memes and Humor).

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Now it’s time to celebrate.

2. It’s only a winter wonderland when you’re sleighing (via Air Force Nation).

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

SEE ALSO: This wounded airman saved his team (with an A-10’s help)

3. Chief doesn’t care. Figure it out (via Bangor Correctional Facility).

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Maybe if you reboot again.

4. Hey, Carl. All those jokes that were so funny?

(via Pop Smoke)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Probably should’ve checked to see if staff sergeant was laughing.

5. When the lieutenant finally gets to correct the chief:

(via Air Force Nation)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Just wait till the next time you need something … sir.

6. The saltiest sailor who ever salted:

(via Team Non-Rec)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

7. If you’re story starts with, “In boot camp we …” no one wants to hear it (via Coast Guard Memes).

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

8. When you’re headed to the field but you need that iced mocha:

(via Team Non-Rec)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

9. Til Valhalla!

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
There’s no mistress like the sea, right?

10. Surprisingly accurate.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
Except the haircuts. Really, specialist? A pony tail?

11. The city that never sleeps …

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
… except when chief isn’t watching.

12. Only the Air Force would think their base is supposed to be as good as a theme park (via Air Force Nation).

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

13. Kind of makes me want to see other senior ISIS notebooks.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries
10 bucks says Baghdadi’s is Pokemon.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Navy almost blew up the President of the United States

If you mess up just one glorious time in the U.S. military, your friends and peers will never let you forget it. It’s always been this way, even in World War II. From November 1943 until she was lost in 1945, the destroyer USS William D. Porter was greeted by home ports and other U.S. Navy ships with: “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!” That’s what happens when you almost assassinate the President.


How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Yes, that President.

In 1943, the USS Iowa was ferrying President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, along with the top brass of the entire United States military in the middle of the biggest, most dangerous war ever. It was a very special, important mission. They were on their way to meet their Allied counterparts in Cairo and Tehran, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.

The whole thing was almost derailed by one torpedo fired at the Iowa, by a destroyer in the Iowa’s own convoy, the William D. Porter. And it was a fast-running, powerful 500-pound torpedo.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

“Whoops.”

The Porter was a hard-luck ship that hadn’t even seen combat yet. As she left Norfolk, she scraped the side of her sister ship, almost tearing her apart. While on convoy duty crossing the Atlantic, one of her depth charges slipped out of its hold and detonated, sending the convoy into a tizzy. Later, a large wave washed everything on the destroyer’s deck into the ocean, including a sailor that was never found. Once things calmed down a bit, the crews settled in for some target practice as the President watched on.

The Iowa launched target balloons, which the ships fired at in turn, including the Porter. Next, the skipper of the Porter ordered torpedo practice with Iowa as the target. But when the simulated order to fire a torpedo accidentally launched an armed torpedo, the bridge understandably flipped out.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Yes, that USS Iowa.

Under strict radio silence to avoid attracting German u-boats, the crew of the Porter began to furiously signal Iowa. Unfortunately, in their haste, they mentioned nothing about a torpedo, instead telling the battleship that the destroyer was backing up at full speed. Eventually, they radioed the Iowa anyway. After a brief disagreement about radio procedures, the huge battleship moved out of the way of the oncoming torpedo, which exploded in the wake of the battleship, with President Roosevelt aware of the torpedo and watching it come.

The guns of the battleship turned on the William D. Porter. The ship was ordered to make its way to Bermuda, its entire ship’s company under arrest. It was surrounded by U.S. Marines when it arrived in Bermuda. The crew was dismissed to landward assignments, and its skipper was sentenced to 14 years in prison – a sentence President Roosevelt commuted to no punishment because he considered it an averted accident.

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

The “WIllie Dee” sinks in the Pacific, June 1945.

The destroyer itself would go on fighting the war while continuing its hard luck, accidentally shooting down American planes and strafing her sister ship with gunfire. In June 1945, a Japanese kamikaze pilot who missed his initial target sank into the sea next to the Porter. It exploded directly underneath the ship, however, and sent her to the bottom.

MIGHTY SPORTS

John Stewart kicks off the 2019 Warrior Games

The opening ceremony of the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games began with the traditional procession of service-member athletes representing their countries. The national anthem for each country was played marking the international participation of the games, but when U.S. Army Maj. Luis Avila, a wounded warrior, sang the Star-Spangled Banner, you had a sense these games were going to be special.

Jon Stewart, a comedian, was once again the master of ceremonies to officially open the games. He mixed humor with a compassion and seriousness about wounded warriors that seems to resonate with service members and families.

“Thank you very much for coming out to the Warrior Games,” Stewart said. “We have had a tremendous day or two of competition. The athletes are finding out what it is like to be in a city that was built inside of a humidifier.”


“We are here to celebrate these unbelievable athletes from all of the branches (of military service),” Stewart continued. “These are men and women that refuse to allow themselves to be defined by their worst day, but define themselves by their reaction to that day and the resilience, and the perseverance, and the dedication, and the camaraderie, and the family you are going to witness this week.”

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Jon Stewart at the opening ceremony of the Department of Defense Warrior Games.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Stewart stated the athletes have gone through a lot to get to the games, but no one gets there by themselves.

“The families and the caregivers so often work as hard as the athletes to get them prepared and to get them going and to be there,” Stewart said.

Kenneth Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of the Fisher House, plays a huge role in helping the families. Fisher acknowledged the work with wounded warriors that Jon Stewart continues to do as an advocate for service members in and out of uniform, and focused on family support.

“I have had the great honor of meeting so many of this nation’s wounded people and never a day goes by when I am not inspired by you; amazed by what you have accomplished and humbled by the unconditional support given to you by your families, your friends, your spouses, your children; by all those who love you the most.”

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Approximately 300 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans will participate in 13 athletic competitions over 10 days as U.S. Special Operations Command hosts the 2019 DoD Warrior Games.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

Former President George W. Bush and U.S. Senator Rick Scott, Florida, sent videotaped messages to the athletes, wishing them well during the competition. Congresswoman Kathy Castor noted the fantastic job U.S Special Operations Command has done hosting this year’s Warrior Games.

Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist had an opportunity to watch the U.S. Army wheelchair basketball team practice earlier in the day.

“Coach Rodney Williams has those three-time defending champions looking pretty good,” Norquist noted. “They got (retired) Spc. Brent Garlic who was part of last year’s team, and (retired) Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine, who is the defending Warrior Games Ultimate Champion.”

Norquist welcomed and thanked all the international participants at this year’s competition, and alluded to the qualification to participate in the games.

“To compete in the Warrior Games, it is not enough to be strong; it is not enough to be fast. In the Warrior Games, there is a level of resolve; a unique ability to embrace and overcome adversity and that is the price of admission. Just to get to this event, it requires unbelievable grit and resilience.”

How a truck driver helped solve one of WWII’s most enduring mysteries

Air Force athletes enter the arena for the opening ceremony of the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa, Fla., June 22, 2019.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Tim Kane, father of Army Sgt. Tanner Kane, said, once his son got involved with adaptive reconditioning sports, he found a purpose to get up and out in the mornings.

“Tanner didn’t speak for two years and then he connected with other Soldiers, it all changed. Tanner realized his former state was wasting away at his spirit and this program was here to help and aid other Soldiers on their progress to healing.”

Tiffany Weasner, wife of retired Army Sgt. Johnathan Weasner said, “I know what this program has done for my husband Jonathan and our family. To look around this arena and see the joy on other families faces, I can only imagine what adaptive reconditioning has done for other families; it’s a blessing.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.