Some of the best and greatest actors once served in the military. After they left the service, they came out to Hollywood with a hope and a dream — just like everyone else in LA. But what these veterans had that so many others didn’t was a will to fight hard for the roles they wanted. If you look back at many of the great, veteran actors, you’ll also notice a trend: They all played iconic villains.
From James Earl Jones’ performance as Darth Vader to Adam Driver’s as Kylo Ren, from Mr. T as Clubber Lang in Rocky III to Rob Riggle as the drug-dealing coach in 21 Jump Street, the list goes on. Hell, you could even classify Dorothy from Golden Girls as an antagonistic main character if you wanted to (which I totally do). If you didn’t know, Bea Arthur was a Marine and one of the first female Marine reservists.
Now, this isn’t to say that veterans aren’t capable of portraying outstanding protagonists — just look at the biggest stars of the Hollywood Golden Age: Former Navy communications officer Lt. JG Kirk Douglas and Army Air Corps radio operator Staff Sgt. Charlton Heston come to mind.
In fact, all the actors from the infamous three-way standoff in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly served in the U.S. military: Clint Eastwood (Army) as Blondie, Eli Wallach (Army) as Tuco, and Lee Van Cleef (Navy) as Angel Eyes.
Van Cleef made a name for himself by playing the antagonists in many films, from westerns to sci-fi flicks (including a role as Commissioner Hauk in Escape From New York). Another actor who made an entire career out of playing villains was Christopher Lee (RAF), who was a bad ass in his own right — even if other people exaggerated his stories. Even the comic-book epitome of villainy, The Joker, was first portrayed by Chief Boatswain’s Mate Cesar Romero.
Veterans make fantastic actors after they leave the service and when they put their heart and soul into portraying the “bad guy,” you can feel it.
Great movie villains are deep. They must convey power and complexity. They shouldn’t ever come off as the old “mustache-twirling” baddie. Veterans who become actors know how to balance this and give fantastic performances.
When most Americans think of the World War II battle for Iwo Jima – if they think of it at all, 75 years later – they think of one image: Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest point.
That moment, captured in black and white by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and as a color film by Marine Sergeant William Genaust, is powerful, embodying the spirit of the Marine Corps.
But these pictures are far from the only images of the bloodiest fight in the Marines’ history. A larger library of film, and the men captured on them, is similarly emotionally affecting. It can even bring Americans alive today closer to a war that ended in the middle of the last century.
Take for instance, just one scene: Two Marines kneel with a dog before a grave marker. It is in the final frames of a film documenting the dedication of one of the three cemeteries on the island. Those two Marines are among hundreds present to remember the more than 6,000 Americans killed on the island in over a month of fighting. The sequence is intentionally framed by the cinematographer, who was clearly looking for the right image to end the roll of film in his camera.
I came across this film clip in my work as a curator of a collection of motion picture films shot by Marine Corps photographers from World War II through the 1970s. In a partnership between the History Division of the Marine Corps and the University of South Carolina, where I work, we are digitizing these films, seeking to provide direct public access to the video and expand historical understanding of the Marine Corps’ role in society.
Over the past two years of scanning, I have come to realize that our work also enables a more powerful relationship with the past by fostering individual connections with videos, something that the digitizing of the large quantity of footage makes possible.
The campaign within the battle
Iwo Jima, an island in the western Pacific less than 1,000 miles south of Tokyo, was considered a key potential stepping stone toward an invasion of Japan itself.
During the battle to take the island from the Japanese, more than 70,000 Marines and attached Army and Navy personnel set foot on Iwo Jima. That included combat soldiers, but also medical corpsmen, chaplains, service and supply soldiers and others. More than 6,800 Americans were killed on the island and on ships and landing craft aiding in the attack; more than 19,200 were wounded.
More than 50 Marine combat cameramen operated across the eight square miles of Iwo Jima during the battle, which stretched from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945. Many shot still images, but at least 26 shot motion pictures. Three of these Marine cinematographers were killed in action.
Even before the battle began, Marine Corps leaders knew they wanted a comprehensive visual account of the battle. Beyond a historical record, combat photography from Iwo Jima would assist in planning and training for the invasion of the Japanese main islands. Some Marine cameramen were assigned to the front lines of individual units, and others to specific activities, like engineering and medical operations.
Most of the cameramen on Iwo Jima used 100-foot film reels that could capture about two and a half minutes of film. Sgt. Genaust, who shot the color sequence atop Suribachi, shot at least 25 reels – just over an hour of film – before he was killed, roughly halfway through the campaign.
Other cameramen who survived the entire battle produced significantly more. Sgt. Francis Cockrell was assigned to document the work of the 5th Division’s medical activities. Shooting at least 89 reels, he probably produced almost four hours of film.
Sgt. Louis L. Louft fought with the 13th Marines, an artillery regiment; his more than 100 film reels likely resulted in more than four hours of content. Landing on the beach with engineers of the 4th Division on Feb. 25, 1945, Pfc. Angelo S. Abramo compiled over three hours of material in the month of fighting he witnessed.
Even taking a conservative average of an hour of film from each of the 26 combat cameramen, that suggests there was at least 24 hours of unique film from the battle. Many surviving elements of this record are now part of the film library of the Marine Corps History Division, which we’re working with. The remainder are cataloged by the National Archives and Records Administration.
While military historians visiting the History Division in the past have used this large library, the bulk of its films have not been readily available to the public, something that mass digitization is finally making possible.
For many decades, the visual records made by Marines have been seen by the public only piecemeal, often with selected portions used as mere stock footage in films, documentaries and news programs, chosen because a shot has action, not because of the historical context of the imagery.
Even when they are used responsibly by documentary filmmakers, the editing and selection of scenes imposes the filmmaker’s interpretation on the images. As a historian and archivist, though, I believe it is important for people to directly engage with historical sources of all types, including the films from Iwo Jima.
The ‘highest and purest’ form
After the battle, the Americans buried their dead in temporary cemeteries, awaiting transportation back to the U.S. The film segment just before the graveside scene shows a service honoring the Americans of all backgrounds who had bled and died together.
At that service, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, the Marines’ first-ever Jewish chaplain, gave a eulogy that has become one of the Marine Corps’ most treasured texts. Noting the diversity of the dead, Gittelsohn said, “Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor … together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color.”
After the dedication ceremonies, Marines walked the 5th Division cemetery, looking for familiar names. The photographers were there, and one recorded the footage of the two Marines – names not known – and the dog, at a grave with only the number 322 as a visible marking.
The image stood out. The two Marines looking directly at the camera seemed to reach across the decades to compel a response. Researchers at the History Division identified the Marine beneath marker 322 as Pfc. Ernest Langbeen from Chicago. It felt appropriate and important to add his name to the online description for that film, so I did.
I then located members of the Langbeen family, and told them that this part of their family’s history existed in the History Division’s collections and was now preserved and available online after more than seven decades.
Speaking with the family, I learned more about the Marine in grave 322. One of the two Marines in the picture may well be his best friend from before the war, a friend who joined the Corps with him. They asked to serve together and were assigned to the same unit, the 13th Regiment.
Now, family members who never knew this Marine have a new connection to their history and the country’s history. More connections will come for others. The digital archive we’re building will make it easier for researchers and the public at large to explore the military and personal history in each frame of every film.
The visual library of more than 80 online videos from Iwo Jima carries in it countless Pfc. Langbeens, ordinary Americans whose lives were disrupted by a global war. Each film holds traces of lives cut short or otherwise irrevocably altered.
The films are a reminder that, 75 years after World War II, all Americans remain tied to Iwo Jima, as well as battlegrounds across the world like Monte Cassino, Peleliu, Bataan and Colleville-sur-mer. Americans may find their relatives in this footage, or they may not. But what they will find is evidence of the sacrifices made by those fighting on their behalf, sacrifices that connect each and every American to the battle of Iwo Jima.
American troops are obsessed with coffee. If there’s a military unit whose coffee pot isn’t the hardest-working machine in the building, I haven’t seen it. It doesn’t seem to matter how good or bad the coffee is (even though good coffee is preferable), that beautiful, dirty-brown water is what really fuels the U.S. military’s bureaucratic inner workings — and always has.
Long before Rip-Its became the official beverage of the Global War on Terror, coffee was the only game in town and it was so important during the Civil War that it might have been the reason the North won the war.
The South wished they had the ability to brew coffee the way the North did. The Union blockade of the Confederate States meant that real coffee was in very short supply, and ground troops were unlikely to receive any of it. The Confederate Army tried everything they could to replace the magic bean, including replacing it with alternatives, like roasted acorns, malted barley, actual beans, cottonseed, potato peels, and the ever-present chicory root.
But there’s nothing like the real thing, baby. As Union troops realized when they had to start subsisting on what they could capture from Southerners, coffee was only available through Uncle Sam. As you go back through historical records, they more than made their feelings known — and businesses, government, and families soon responded.
“Coffee Call” by Winslow Homer.
1. Civil War diaries use the word “coffee” more than any other.
That’s right — more than words like “bullets,” “war,” “cannon,” “Lincoln,” and even “mother,” troops had one thing on their minds: black gold. In letters written back to their families, much of the discussion was focused on the quality of the coffee that day or the hope that they would have coffee the following. Even around the campfire, much of the talk centered around the quality of that day’s joe.
2. This rifle with a grinder in the butt stock.
In the 1860s, the Sharps Rifle Company created a carbine with a small grinder in its butt stock, which was immediately useless for most intended purposes. It was actually designed to grind grain for horses in cavalry units, but the very fact that people immediately thought of using it as a coffee grinder tells you just how important coffee was to the average troop. I bet Sharps Rifle Company wishes they had thought of marketing it that way.
When there’s no room for Jeb to fit, but Jeb sits anyway.
3. There was no water too putrid to make coffee.
As long as troops had the beans to brew it, coffee was going to happen. Not only were troops happy to use their canteen water to make coffee, they would also use free-running water, water from puddles, and even the sediment-filled water of the Mississippi River – also known as Mississippi Mud.
The best part of Civil War is Folgers in your cup.
4. The officers noticed the effects it had on the men.
Many Union officers ensured their men got at least a cup of the stuff in the morning before a battle, with many often having it ready for them after the battle, some demanding the men keep it in their canteens, and even going so far as to hire boys to run coffee to men in critical positions.
Then-Sgt. William McKinley was one such runner, who made it all the way to the White House riding that brave Civil War act during the Battle of Antietam. Hell, a monument was even erected for it.
On a flight line shrouded in a constant haze and tortured by Thailand’s relentless sun, the sounds of jet engines and jungle birds fill the ears of Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief; a best friend to any 35th Fighter Squadron pilot who puts their trust in crew chiefs like Davis every time they fly.
While executing U.S. Indo-Pacific Command objectives and U.S. Pacific Air Forces priorities at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Davis and 114 other maintainers from the 8th Fighter Wing, Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, are operating and will redeploy 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons loaded with full-scale-heavy-weight-munitions supporting exercise Cobra Gold 2019. Cobra Gold is a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored exercise that promotes regional partnerships to advance security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and is one of the longest-running international exercises.
Behind the Scenes: Air Force Crew Chief Prepping F-16 for Launch
Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, inspects an F-16 brake during exercise Cobra Gold 2019 at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Savannah L. Waters)
Davis and other maintainers quickly adapted to operating in a hot and humid environment alongside their Royal Thai Air Force partners, and as the sun shines, they’re reminded of the winter conditions of home-station.
“I like my job, but there are people who don’t necessarily enjoy it due to extreme cold or hot weather conditions,” Davis said. “Especially when we are busy and breaks are hard to come by, but the mission comes first.”
Davis advises fellow crew chiefs in maintaining, servicing and inspecting the F-16s. His inspector role ensures 8th AMXS Airmen are equipped with the proper tools and skill sets to get the job done as safely and efficiently as possible, while keeping those who fly the jets reassured that they’re sitting in a well taken care of and lethal jet.
“As a crew chief, you need to keep your head on a swivel, and make sure to pay attention to what you’re doing,” Davis said. “You have someone else’s life in your hands, and mistakes can quickly escalate into a life or death situation. We can always replace parts here and there, but we can’t replace a person.”
Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, gives the 35th Fighter Squadron’s “Push It Up!” sign during exercise Cobra Gold 2019 at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Savannah L. Waters)
Consistency is very important, Davis said, and a mistake on a crew chief’s part creates the potential for loss, whether it’s a million aircraft or a precious life.
With no U.S. aircraft maintenance support, Davis and other 8th AMXS maintainers learned to operate in conditions that are similar to a bare base during Cobra Gold 19. Weapons, avionics, and other maintenance specialists assisted crew chiefs in launching aircraft by aiding as a “B man,” and egress technicians supplemented crash and recovery teams to build F-16 tires.
Regular maintenance, inspections, refueling, launch and recovery is a lot of work, said Davis, but combining hands-on efforts across the 8th MXG enabled smoother transitions throughout the exercise.
“Cross utilization of maintainers of different (Air Force specialty codes) and roles is a true embodiment of maintainers making the mission happen,” said Capt. Su Johnson, 35th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. Without (the) Wolf Pack maintainers’ pride and aggressive attitude to succeed, exercise Cobra Gold would not have been successful.”
Davis has averaged about 50 work hours a week, overseeing maintenance operations and inspections so pilots are able to conduct training without delay or complications.
“I’m thankful for the many opportunities this career has given me the last 10 years,” Davis said. “It makes you really appreciate the job, even on the tougher days. During deployments and exercises such as Cobra Gold, you really get to see the bigger picture, and how your work contributes to and impacts the mission.”
Believe it or not, the United States Navy has a very fast testbed vessel — one that not only looks futuristic, but is also being used to test all sorts of futuristic technology. That vessel is known as the Stiletto, and while it looks like something out of science fiction, it’s actually 13 years old.
Sailors assigned to Naval Special Clearance Team One (NSCT-1), prepare to dock in the well deck aboard experimental ship, Stiletto.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Damien Horvath)
When you look at the Stiletto, your first impression, based on its shape, is that it’s some sort of stealthy vessel. That’s a common misconception. During a tour at the Navy League’s SeaAirSpace 2018 expo in National Harbor, Maryland, members of the Stiletto program explained that the ship’s radar cross section is about what you’d expect for a ship of its size.
The Stiletto’s hull is made from carbon-fiber composites.
The ship looks as it does because it has a carbon-fiber hull. The material is incredibly light — I had the opportunity to handle a roughly softball-sized chunk of the material and can tell you first-hand. While the exterior is durable (the ship has handled seas rough enough to make lab-acclimated scientists queasy), it’s also vulnerable to being punctured.
SEALs prepare to enter the Stiletto. The vessel is small, but can accommodate the SEALs’ vessel inside.
(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Damien Horvath)
According to an official handout, the Stiletto has a top speed of 47 knots. However, during builders’ trials, the crew reported hitting a speed of 54 knots. Normally, the ship cruises along at a comfortable 30 knots and can go 750 nautical miles on one tank of fuel.
In addition to being able to carry a RHIB, the Stiletto can also launch drones.
(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Damien Horvath)
But the Stiletto also has ample space – it easily accommodated a rigid-hull inflatable boat that was over 30 feet in length, and there was still plenty of space left over for other gear. The crew explained that adding new systems to the adaptable ship takes a few hours or a day at most.
The wide array of sensors on the Stiletto show how easy it is to add something new to try out.
One thing that was skimpy on the Stiletto, however, was the galley, which consisted of a microwave oven and stack of paper plates. The ship of the future, it seems, didn’t quite have everything.
Kids seem to grow up so fast, even faster when we’re deployed. It takes time for every military parent to reconnect with our children after being away for long periods of time. Adults are concerned with the endless cycle of responsibilities in our careers, marriage, and budgeting. Children on the other hand are concerned with missing you.
Phone and video calls may be enough for us but it may not be enough for them. The burdens we carry are worth it when we see their smiles, living in safe homes, and getting a good education. Little ones are immersed in a more digital reality than millennial parents when they were their age.
The bright side is that we can connect with them over games they’re interested in and you’ll be surprised how much you remember about gaming if you aren’t already playing solo. From their perspective, winning with your team is awesome — but winning with your dad is epic.
Everything the light touches is our kingdom.
The easiest way to describe Minecraft is that it’s digital Legos. It was developed by Mojang and has three modes: Survival, Creative, and Adventure. This game can be played on any platform or phone and has online capabilities.
Survival is straight forward where you gather supplies and build things to help you weather the elements or defeat enemies. Creative Mode makes you immune to damage and have access to every block (piece) in the game. In Adventure mode most blocks cannot be destroyed and it has a more roleplaying type of element to it, like Skyrim but with training wheels.
Minecraft has been used to teach kids about programming, coding, and Modding (creating custom characters, buildings, and effects) in schools as well. This game can be as easy or complicated as you want it to be. You’ll be surprised how fast they learn when taught in gamer speak.
Cuphead and Mugman utilizing the talking guns concept.
Cuphead is a sidescroller game developed by StudioMDHR with Disneyesque graphics. The game was completely hand drawn to resemble the iconic animation styles of the 1920’s/1930’s and a complementary soundtrack. It doesn’t support online gameplay but if you’ve ever played Contra or Megaman, you’re going to kick ass at this game.
The levels have two modes: simple and regular. Boss fights and their patterns of attack change with the game difficulty. You can teach your child about strategy, attack pattern recognition, nurture hand-eye coordination, and teamwork. Together, your young protege will be unstoppable in Metroid, Mario, and Castlevania games.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! – Gameplay – Nintendo Treehouse: Live
Nintendo has the lion’s share on the nostalgia market and it’s console sales spike every time a new Pokemon game releases. If you remember picking your favorite starter in Professor Oak’s lab, you’re going to love going down memory lane with your tiny pokemon-master-in-training.
In the ancient days of Gamboy Pocket/Color, we had to battle and trade over a physical cable that connected our hand-held devices. Nowadays all trading and battling is done over the internet.
The latest game is a remake of Pokemon Yellow so you can still keep it old school with the original 151. There are a ton of differences from the Red and Blue but it will still hit your right in the feels.
Dad: “Loot the gear.”
Daughter: “There’s someone there.”
Dad: “Loot the gear.”
Fortnite is an online first/third person shooter in a battle royal arena. It’s like the old school shooters, 007 Golden Eye for example, where you find random weapons on the ground with the added twist that the map gets smaller.
There is a very high chance your child is already playing this game; it’s whats trendy with the younger player base. If you’re unsure if they play this game just turn to them right now and ask if they can do a Fortnite dance for you.
It has several game modes but the most common ones are team or solo battles. Players are able to build impromptu bases out of wood, cement, and metal to give them cover when fighting. This is a game where your old Halo badassery will elevate you to near God status in the eyes of your kids.
“My dad can out snipe your dad.”
Player Unknown’s Battle Grounds (PUBG) is another battle royal game with the same principles as Fortnite, which is also this game’s competitor. The key differences are that you won’t be able to build bases and the graphics are more teen/adult oriented. Call of Duty is out gran’ ol’ man. PUBG is in.
Regardless of the games you choose to play, the important thing is that you have fun and bond with your children. We’re all busy and it’s hard to understand or care about what they think is important because you know what responsibilities really are important.
When you play games with your kids, you’ll know what they’re talking about when they’re excited about something — and they’ll know you give a sh*t. I still remember when I played Super Nintendo with my old man. Give your kids the gift my dad gave me: the precious memories of owning everyone else.
These days, single-mission ships are not exactly the best of buys. The big reason is they can only do one thing and no matter how well they do that one thing, they can’t handle other missions very well. Versatility can often make or break a purchasing decision. Think of it this way – if a ship (or small boat) can do multiple missions, there is a better chance it will be purchased.
One such versatile boat is being displayed at SeaFuture 2018 in La Spezia. That is the FFC 15, a patrol boat that can do more than just patrol. In fact, according to a release on behalf of Baglietto Navy, it can also serve as a rescue asset, a fast-attack craft, a police boat, and also a landing craft.
There are some baseball utility players who look at this boat with sheer envy at its versatility. According to a handout provided on Baglietto’s behalf, this boat comes in at 20 tons, almost three times the size of the legendary Higgins boats. But it has a top speed of 45 nautical miles an hour and can go 330 nautical miles on a single tank of gas.
The FFC 15 can hold up to 24 troops, and has a top speed of 45 knots.
(Photo by Baglietto Navy)
The boat is not only capable of operating on the open ocean, it can also navigate up and down rivers. The boat can also be hauled by a transport like a C-5 Galaxy (which hauls various Navy patrol boats) or C-17 Globemaster III. If the roads are good enough, this boat can also be hauled in by trucks. It can also be hauled in on various ships.
Inside the troop compartment of the FFC 15, where up to 24 personnel can be carried from an amphibious ship to a quiet out-of-the-way place to sneak ashore.
(Photo by Baglietto Navy)
The boat has a crew of four and can haul as many as 24 personnel. The bow is equipped not only for beaching (through a reinforced prow), but it also has a bow ramp. There are also two positions for heavy machine guns like the M2 .50-caliber machine gun.
The FFC 15 features two positions for gunners on top of its superstructure. Despite being able to haul 24 troops, it can be carried on C-5 and C-17 transports, or by truck.
(Photo by Baglietto Navy)
So far, no orders for this boat have been made. That said, this fast and versatile vessel could very well find a lot of orders for a lot of missions with a lot of countries.
ScrobTheFancyTurtle asks: Love your video on what happens when people are accidentally declared dead. But it got me wondering, what happens if you make a will, go missing, so your will is executed, then turn up alive later? Do you get your stuff back?
As we discussed in our article on what happens to a person who is accidentally declared dead and the process in getting declared alive again, tens of thousands of people die each year across the globe by a simple clerical error, at least as far as their respective governments are concerned. However, what we didn’t mention is that many thousands more people are more purposefully declared “dead in absentia” each year.
As you’ve probably surmised from the term used to describe these deaths, being declared dead in absentia occurs after a person goes missing. When this happens, their will is probated and estate settled. But what happens if they aren’t dead at all and turn up later, perhaps after helping a tempestuous, but lovable bunch of vertically challenged individuals reclaim their homeland from the clutches of the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities? How do they go about getting their stuff back, or do they even have any rights to it at all anymore?
To begin with, how does one go about getting declared “dead in absentia” in the first place? After all, in most countries adults are perfectly within their rights to uproot and go start a new life somewhere else without telling anyone, or even go on a lengthy adventure with a wizened grey wanderer.
Before we jump into the meat of all this, just a quick note, as this particular topic deals with estate distribution and the like, we’ll focus primarily on adults who disappear, though many elements of what we’re about to cover does also technically apply to children.
As with many things, there’s no uniform, worldwide policy concerning what exact set of circumstances need occur or even how long a person needs to be missing to be declared dead in absentia, though there are many similarities in the process from country to country.
In general, the courts will have to be directly involved in these cases and they will almost always err towards presuming the person is actually alive. However, if the person has been missing for a specific length of time, with no one who would otherwise normally hear from them having contact, and a diligent (unsuccessful) search has been conducted to find them, the courts will ultimately determine that the person indeed must be deceased, even if there is no direct, hard evidence that they are, in fact, dead.
As to the search, to dispel a popular notion frequently perpetuated by Hollywood, a person does not have to be missing for more than 24 hours before authorities in most countries will act. In fact, while almost all missing person cases are resolved of their own accord in relatively short order, in rare more legitimate missing person cases, every hour that passes reduces the probability that said missing person will be found and nobody is more aware of this than the authorities who deal with this stuff every day. Thus, they often actually recommend reporting missing people as soon as the person is determined to be missing.
That said, given there is only so much manpower available at any given time and, again, most missing person cases resolve themselves of their own accord rather quickly, the appropriate authorities do have to prioritize what cases they take on immediately. Thus, rather than strictly going by how much time has passed before an investigation is opened, they’ll weight a number of factors including the probability that the person is truly missing, and not just off doing something without telling anyone. If the disappearance is highly unusual given the person’s normal daily habits and no good explanation can be thought up for the disappearance, this will bump the case up in the priority list as a potential legitimate missing person case. Just as important in getting the authorities to look into the matter immediately is the probability that the person missing might be in some sort of peril given the known facts of the case.
Once an investigation is started, if nobody in the person’s life seems to have heard from them or knows where they are, authorities usually resort to monitoring the person’s digitally trackable life, for example where applicable monitoring financial accounts, cell phone, email, social media accounts, etc., as well as checking if the person has attempted to go through any border check points. As you might imagine, disappearing without a trace in the modern world has become increasingly difficult, meaning these days authorities are much more frequently able to locate the person if they are indeed still alive, compared to even just a few decades ago.
It also helps that many people who are choosing to disappear from their previous lives are not trying to hide from authorities, so the use of personal bank accounts and the like tends to continue.
If they are found, the authorities will typically respect the person’s right to disappear from a former life, unless there are legal reasons not to, such as someone running from financial obligations or the like. As Miranda Napier of the Missing Persons Bureau notes,
If someone has elected to leave their friends and family… and we find them and they express this wish, then we would close the missing report and advise those making it that they were safe and well, but we would not be able to tell them where they were.
Speaking of financial obligations, when trying to decide if some missing person might actually be dead, authorities will also analyze whether the person missing might have had motive to go missing in the first place. For example, if they were having extreme financial difficulties, were in legal trouble, having relationship or family problems, etc.
As they move along in the process, authorities will also usually check with local coroners to see if any unidentified bodies have been found that match the description of the missing person.
But what about if all of this turns up nothing? Next, it becomes a waiting game. In regards to the length of time needed, as noted, this varies, but a commonly observed rule of thumb is that the person has to have been missing for at least 7 years, unless circumstances of their disappearance seem to indicate imminent peril, thus a high probability that the person is, in fact, deceased.
For example, many bodies couldn’t be identified or recovered when the World Trade Center towers collapsed on 9/11, so people who worked there who went missing directly after would have an extremely high probability of being declared dead in absentia almost immediately should their loved ones request such of the courts.
The World Trade Center towers.
Few cases are so cut and dry, however, and in all cases you generally need to get a judge to agree with you, with the burden of proof lying with the people trying to get someone declared dead earlier than the required number of years. The judge in these cases will then determine if, given the evidence, the probability has shifted from presuming the person is alive to it being reasonable to presume they are dead, again usually erring on the side of assuming the person is still alive.
As former assistant attorney general of Illinois, Floyd Perkins notes, “Before seven years, anyone who wants you declared legally dead has to offer evidence that you’re not alive. But after you’ve been missing seven years, anyone who wants you declared alive has to offer evidence that you’re not dead.”
As for more specifics, in the United States the authority to declare someone dead in absentia falls to the states themselves, each of which have their own specific rules. For example, while most states go with the seven year general rule, states like Georgia and Minnesota instead go with four years.
Moving around to the other side of the world, in Italy, it actually takes 20 years for someone to be declared dead in absentia, barring compelling evidence to decree this sooner. In Poland, the time span is 10 years. In Russia, it’s 5. Like in many states in the U.S. and many other parts of the world, in the UK, there is a 7 year waiting period before the authorities can make this call.
It should be noted here that until the authorities declare the person dead, the missing person’s financial affairs are basically in a state of bureaucratic limbo. To illustrate the issues here, consider the case of Vicki Derrick, a woman whose husband Vinny went missing in 2003. After an investigation to locate Vinny turned up nothing, he was presumed missing by the police.
The problem was that in the eyes of the law Vicki’s husband was still alive and, thus, she was still married to him with all obligations that implies, still shared a mortgage on a house she could no longer afford with just a single income, but could also not sell because her husband wasn’t around to put his signature on the necessary paperwork to sell it.
Furthermore, Vickie couldn’t claim her husband’s life insurance policy nor access his personal accounts to settle his various financial obligations until the courts finally decided enough time had passed to declared him dead in 2011.
In a bizarre twist, Vinny’s body was found just two months after he was finally declared dead in absentia. As Vicki would later recount,
There was a huge sense of relief, which I felt guilty about. But at the same time I had already grieved. Deep down I think I knew the day he disappeared he wasn’t coming back. It was so out of character that something terrible must have happened for him not to come home.
It turns out that in the UK alone, while about 98% of the 250,000 or so people that go missing each year turn up within a week of their disappearance, about 1% of these people go missing for at least a year. In a little over half of these 1% cases, the person is ultimately either found dead or eventually declared dead in absentia, but the other half, over 1,000 missing people annually, turn up alive in the end.
As a direct result of cases like these, the government passed the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act in 2017 which, 90 days after the disappearance of the individual, allows the loved ones of a missing person to assume some degree of control over their affairs. Thanks to this, many of the problems people like Vickie faced can be avoided, mitigating the potential damage to a missing person’s financial situation as well as providing a degree of help in cutting through a lot of red tape for their loved ones during a tumultuous time.
No such nationwide laws exist in the United States and, thus, for example if any benefits would otherwise have been paid, the beneficiaries involved usually simply have to wait the required period for the death in absentia to be declared before they can begin receiving them, assuming they can’t offer a sufficient body of evidence to get the person declared dead early.
Alright, so that’s how you could potentially be declared dead and have your estate pass to others without actually being dead. So let’s now talk about your stuff.
In a nutshell, a person declared dead in absentia is, by the letter of the law, dead.
Shocker, I know.
As such, the actual process of probating their will is functionally identical to a more straightforward death in most countries. Likewise, death benefits will similarly be paid out in a timely manner, though some insurers may require a person making a claim in these cases to jump through a few additional hoops, such as providing evidence a good faith effort was made to locate the person before death in absentia was declared. With this information being necessary to declare a person dead in absentia anyway in most cases, this usually is a pretty easy hurdle to jump over at that stage of the game.
But let’s say after all this happens the “dead” person turns up very much alive and wants all their stuff back from the clutches of the Sackville Baggins. What happens then? This is a far more thorny legal issue and there’s little universal precedent in law to say what exactly should happen, though in the vast majority the court cases we could found, the heirs typically weren’t required to give anything back.
In the US especially what happens in this unlikely scenario varies slightly from state to state, with some dictating that the person has no right to any of their stuff back and others adding caveats, including Pennsylvania who deals with the matter perhaps most sensibly of any region we looked at.
Another example of a state with a caveat is Nevada, where a missing person has up to a year after legal proceedings to divide up the estate have begun to veto the whole thing and get their money and property back, despite having been previously declared dead in absentia. If a missing person turns up after this grace period, they will no longer have any claim to their former assets.
To give the missing person as much of a chance as possible to prevent this from happening if they are indeed still alive, a person laying claim to the estate to the missing person in this case must “give notice by publication”. This mostly just means doing something like putting an ad in a local paper or the like that they are going to make a claim on the estate, which is sure to be read by no one but the intern who processed the notice, but at least gives the appearance of accomplishing something, so is a bureaucrat’s dream law.
Moving on to Pennsylvania, the state law very sensibly requires anyone laying claim to a person’s estate who has been declared dead in absentia to secure a refunding bond before assets will be distributed. As Pennsylvania-based attorney Patti Spencer states, “The person entitled, a spouse or kid, has to post a refunding bond, before the property is distributed. If the person comes back… and someone else has her property, they have to give it back, and if they can’t, then this bonding company has to make it right.”
This is something that happened relatively recently as 2013 when a woman named Brenda Heist returned after her presumed death in 2003. She’d actually been living on the street for the last decade and hadn’t even been aware she had been declared dead.
UK law, as with many other countries we looked at, seems to more or less handle things about the same as the general U.S. court systems. If the person has been declared dead in absentia and sufficient time has passed, which is usually needed to get declared dead in absentia in the first place, the courts will usually rule that the heirs aren’t required to give anything back, though, of course, any heirs are free to do so at their own discretion. The courts simply usually won’t require them to do so if a lawsuit is raised over the matter, though, as with all things in life, their are exceptions.
But what about life insurance and various death benefits? As you might imagine, the insurance companies will almost always seek to get their money back, unless the cost to do so exceeds the amount paid out. But from whom do they try to get the money back from? While, as with so much of what we’ve just discussed it’s not universally true, if a missing person’s loved ones have them declared dead in absentia and then claim against their life insurance policy in good faith (and thus aren’t involved in any fraud here), they won’t generally be sued for the money back, or, even if they are, the courts are unlikely to side with the insurance company in these cases.
The life insurance companies tend to have much better luck going after the person who was incorrectly declared dead in absentia. After all, the missing person knows they are still alive and usually went missing on purpose, setting off the chain of events that required the insurance company to eventually pay out on a policy when they otherwise shouldn’t have been obligated if the missing person had just told someone they weren’t dead.
For example, consider the case of John Burney who disappeared, in this case in a way that made it seem very likely he was dead, in 1976 after getting in some rather hot water owing to mismanagement of his company, causing it to go bankrupt. About six years later, in 1982, he was found to be alive when he decided to return home to visit his father who had been seriously injured. Although Burney’s insurance company initially filed suit against the beneficiaries of his life insurance policy – specifically his wife and business partners – the courts ruled that they didn’t have to return the money. Burney, however, who didn’t receive a dime of that insurance money, did, to the tune of 0,000 (about id=”listicle-2632878398″.2 million today).
Thus, unfortunately for the owner of a certain estate along Bagshot Row, given his disappearance most definitely was out of the ordinary for his normal behavioral patterns and, beyond that, he was last seen, at least in the film adaptation, noting he was “going on an adventure” (always a dodgy business), in either case those seeking his estate seem perfectly within their rights to have had him declared dead in absentia. Assuming Shire law did not have a grace period for legal right to recover an estate after such a declaration, like Nevada, it seems likely all property already auctioned off would not have been obligated to have been returned.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The US Army is preparing to send hundreds of soldiers to fight the deadly wildfires raging in 11 states across the Western US.
Two hundred active-duty soldiers from the 7th Infantry Division’s 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state will be mobilized to assist in ongoing firefighting efforts, according to a statement from US Army North, which provides operational control for ground forces deployed in support missions during national disasters.
Pvt. 1st Class Jon Wallace, 3rd Platoon, 570th Sapper Company, 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade uses a fire extinguisher to put out a tire fire. The fire department offers classes to Army units to ensure that they are well trained in putting out mine resistant ambush protective vehicle fires during convoy operations.
The Army unit will be sent out as early as this weekend after a couple of days of training. The soldiers will be organized into teams of 20 members and deployed to combat fires in an unspecified area. The deployment location will be determined based on which area is in greatest need of assistance, a US Army North spokeswoman told Business Insider.
The 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion reportedly specializes in construction and demolition, skills that the unit has used in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Fox News. The soldiers will be “working side by side with civilian firefighters,” as well as experienced firefighting personnel from the wildlands fire management agencies, US Army North explained to BI, adding that the soldiers will be involved in activities like clearing brush or constructing fire breaks.
Prior to deployment, soldiers will learn fire terminology, fire behavior, and fire safety. They will also be issued personal protective gear, such as boots that will not melt on the fire line, masks, and so on. Once on the fire line, the soldiers will be given tools — axes, chainsaws, etc.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)
“More than 127 wildfires are burning on about 1.6 million acres in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and Alaska,” according to a statement from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho also announcing the deployment of US soldiers to combat the wildfires out west.
At least nine people have died in the wildfires spreading across the Western US, according to CBS News. President Donald Trumpdeclared the situation in California a “major disaster” Sunday, making it easier for local residents to secure access to much-needed government aid.
In many cases, the state National Guard units are already assisting state and federal agencies working tirelessly to put out the devastating wildfires. The US Army soldiers being sent to lend support are expected to be deployed for at least 30 days. The deployment could be cut short if necessary or extended, as long as doing so does not interfere with higher priority Department of Defense missions.
Kings Mountain High School teacher Hailey Spearman was made an honorary recruiter for the Shelby Army Recruiting Center at a ceremony on Fort Jackson, S.C. on April 22.
Spearman attended a Future Soldier event with her local Shelby recruiter, Staff Sgt. Casey Raza, and some of her students who have joined the U.S. Army this school year. They received first-hand experience of what Army basic training entails.
Spearman teaches English Language Arts and coaches the women’s track and field team at KMHS.
Lt. Col. Robert Garbarino, U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Columbia Commander, said both teacher and recruiter work together to help students find their options for life after high school.
“Ms. Spearman is a model for what a community advocate does for our recruiting efforts,” Garbarino said.
He deputized her by giving her his Army Recruiting Badge in front of over 250 Future Soldiers and their guests. He also presented her with a plaque to thank her for her efforts to promote awareness on Army opportunities. Garbarino said he was pleased to recognize Spearman after hearing how she goes the extra mile for her students.
Raza said that Spearman has been instrumental to the process.
“I wanted to reach as many students as possible to show them all of their options,” Raza said. “She allowed me to give presentations during her English classes and to students who are on her track team.”
Spearman said Raza puts the needs of each student first.
“She has a way of building positive relationships with students and therefore, our students look up to her and respect her opinions concerning the Army,” Spearman said.
The SMS Emden was supposed to be a nice ship, but not all that crazy important in war. It was a light cruiser, a utilitarian ship type that is quick, capable, but not all that robust or rugged. These ships are typically designed for low-level conflict or serve as a guard or screening force for larger ships like battleships or, later, carriers.
But the Emden would steam into Allied controlled waters in early 1914, attacking literally dozens of enemy ships and counting on its speed and a little trickery to let it hit and then withdraw in a series of daring raids.
It all started in 1913 when the young SMS Emden received a new commander, Korvettenkapitän Karl von Muller (Korvettenkapitän is roughly equivalent to America’s lieutenant commander rank). Von Muller was the son of a German army officer, and he had risen to his rank by performing well in front of Germany’s elite, including the German emperor’s brother.
One of von Muller’s distinguishing traits was a sort of cunning shrewdness, something that would serve him well on the Emden. In 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria quickly dragged the major European powers toward war, and von Muller ordered the Emden to sea to prevent its capture in the largely British and Japanese-controlled Pacific islands where the ship was based.
This proved prescient as raiders quickly came for the German fleet. The Emden reported to a rallying point where most of the German navy would meet up to head east to South America, around Cape Horn, and on to Germany. On his way to the rally, von Muller captured the Russian ship Ryazan. When Emden reached the German fleet with its prize, von Muller had a proposal for the admiral.
The SMS Emden was a short-lived but still amazingly successful light cruiser that saw glory in World War I.
Light cruisers lacked the armor or heavier guns common on heavy cruisers or larger ships, but they were still more than a match for destroyers and merchant vessels. And the Emden had torpedo tubes that would allow it to tackle even heavier combatants if it could get the jump on them.
Despite the risk of losing the Emden, a modern and valuable cruiser even if it was light, the admiral agreed to the plan. So von Muller led his crew of about 360 men into the Indian Ocean.
The Emden would need some sort of edge to survive. It was fast, so it could close with enemies quickly, partially negating any range advantages that heavier combatants would have against it. But it would still be vulnerable for crucial seconds or minutes while closing with an enemy.
So von Muller turned to subterfuge. Most British ships had two or four smokestacks, and the Emden would be one of the only ships in the area with three smokestacks. So, von Muller had a fourth, fake smokestack installed on the Emden, making it look a lot like the British cruiser HMS Yarmouth.
This might seem like a minor ploy, good for a few minutes of distraction at best, but that momentary hesitation on the part of the enemy gave von Muller and his crew all the time they needed. In just a few days of fighting in September 1914, the Emden captured or destroyed 15 British ships, forcing many merchant vessels to stay in port.
Suddenly, the British ability to resupply vulnerable islands was crippled, and valuable ships would have to be sent to the Indian Ocean to reinforce the naval effort there.
Oil tanks burn in India after an attack by the SMS Emden, a German light cruiser.
(National Library of France)
But the sudden lack of targets at sea did not stop the Emden. The crew simply started going after shore targets like the oil depots at Madras. The Emden fired 125 shells in a short engagement on September 22, busting open many of the Burma Oil Company’s tanks and setting them aflame while also destroying a ship in the harbor.
Between this and earlier attacks, the British decided to cut the number of ships, and potential targets, in the Indian Ocean by 40 percent. This slowed the bleeding of the Royal Navy and merchant vessels but also further slowed the movement of needed war supplies.
But the Emden had taken damage and was running low on supplies by this point, and so it made a risky trip to Diego Garcia where it could attempt to raid needed supplies from the British installations there. But, surprisingly, the Germans found that the locals had no news of the young war when the Emden pulled into harbor, so the German crew simply contracted for repair and supplies without incident.
Freshly resupplied and repaired, the Emden went after British installations at Penang in Malaysia, initiating a short battle there. The primary target was the Russian warship Zhemchung which the Emden hit with torpedoes and cannon fire after approaching under false British colors and with the fake smokestack up.
The Emden sank the Russian vessel and then beat a hasty retreat, but not so hasty that the ship neglected sinking the Mousquet, a French destroyer, while exiting the harbor. This was late October, and the little cruiser had already more than proved its worth in the East, but von Muller wasn’t willing to call it quits.
Other German cruisers had successfully snipped undersea wires in their own raids, and von Muller went after the telegraph wire connecting British troops in South Africa to those in Australia. The wire had a major junction at Direction Island in the Cocos Islands.
The German light cruiser SMS Emden sits beached after a determined attack by the HMAS Sydney.
The Emden’s shore party was working the destruction of the cables and the wireless antenna when the Australian HMAS Sydney arrived to investigate, forcing the Emden to turn and face her. This effectively marooned the shore party on land, but the Emden was in a fight for its life.
The Sydney was also a light cruiser, but it was roughly a quarter larger than the Emden and slightly more modern, and it quickly gained the upper hand in the fight. The Emden was doomed, and von Muller quickly beached it on a reef. The German ship had suffered over 100 hits in about 90 minutes of fighting. It only stopped after von Muller surrendered.
The shore party would slowly, laboriously make its way back to Germany by sailing to Indonesia, then to the Ottoman Empire, then traveled across the desert in a failed overland bid for safety, then ran a British blockade on the Red Sea, then, finally, overland to Constantinople. It was a six-month journey, but 43 men made it back to Germany.
On Aug. 6, 1941, P. Siomes, a German priest, was sitting in his room when the sunny, summer day outside was suddenly lit by an even brighter light that blinded him just before an explosion of sound and heat slammed into the building he was in.
The next month, he gave a full recounting of the hours and days following the bombing in a statement to the U.S. Army.
Author’s note: This article is based on a statement from P. Siomes, a German priest who was in the outskirts of Hiroshima when the bomb dropped. His English is great, but not perfect, but we’ve decided to be as honest to his original text as possible when transcribing. This leaves a few minor grammar and spelling errors, but we do not believe it hinders comprehension. His full statement is available here.
Siomes was part of the Society of Jesus, headquartered in a church at the edge of Hiroshima, and he remembers it being about 8:14 when the city center suddenly filled with a bright, yellow light. He described it as being like the magnesium flash from a camera, but sustained. Over the next ten seconds, he felt an increase in heat, heard what sounded like a small and distant explosion, and was halfway to his door when his window suddenly exploded inward.
He was later glad to have made it away from the window, because he later found that his wall was filled with large shards of glass from the explosion that would’ve been embedded in him instead of the wall.
Siomes had believed that the damage to the building was from a bomb that burst overhead, assuming that the light was an unconnected phenomenon. But when he went outside to check the damage, all the worst damage was on the side of the building facing the city, and there was no bomb crater in sight.
But looking out into the city, he could see the extent of the damage. Houses were burning closer to town, and nearby woods were already becoming a large inferno. As the men at the facility, mostly monks and priests, begin helping fight the flames, a storm started, and rain began to fall.
Yes, the skies were clear before the bombs dropped, but a sudden rainfall is actually one of the very weird side effects of a nuclear blast. This would help fight the fires, but it also carries tons of irradiated dust, debris, and ash back to earth and helps it cling to the skin of survivors, but Siomes didn’t know this in 1945.
He and his fellow Christians began assisting the wounded in addition to fighting the fires. One of the priests “had studied medicine” before he took his vows, and the priests gave as much medical support as they could.
Father Noktor who, before taking holy orders, had studied medicine, ministers to the injured, but our bandages and drugs are soon gone. We must be content with cleansing the wounds. More and more of the injured come to us. The least injured drag the more seriously wounded.
And the damages to the city and surrounding area weren’t limited to just the immediate effects of the bomb. High winds damaged infrastructure and knocked over trees and buildings for hours after the initial blast. Siomes believed that this may have been caused by the fires pulling in more air, and research after the war backed him up.
Finally, we reach the entrance of the park. A large proportion of the populace has taken refuge there, but even the trees of the park are on fire in several places. Paths and bridges are blocked by the trunks of fallen trees and are almost impassable. We are told that a high wind, which may have resulted from the heat of the burning city, had uprooted the large trees.
Later on, Siomes would see some of this chaos himself. He went into the city with others to search out some of the missing priests, and they were able to find their quarry. But as they tried to make it back out ahead of the fire, they kept finding wounded trapped under debris, and attempted to rescue them, but then had to move on as the fires got close.
Eventually, they’d take refuge in Asano Park and, as the fires got close:
A very violent whirlwind now begins to uproot large trees, and lifts them high into the air. As it reaches the water, a water spout forms which is approximately 100 meters high.
This infrastructure damage made it harder for survivors to organize themselves and render aid, which was catastrophic as new emergencies kept popping up. Worse, planners had never envisioned losing an entire city in one fell swoop, and they had concentrated key supplies in a few caches near the city center, all destroyed by the bomb and fires.
For Siomes, the priests, and the monks, this all meant that their aid would necessarily be limited. It took more than a day for them simply to find out where all of their own survivors were. Some of them even had the exotic new injuries that only nuclear bombs can create.
One of the priests had been serving in the city when the bomb hit, and while he was processing the sudden burst of light, his hand was already blistering from what would later be identified as radiation. It was the equivalent of an instant, severe sunburn.
Father Kopp is bleeding about the head and neck, and he has a large burn on the right palm. He was standing in front of the nunnery ready to go home. All of a sudden, he became aware of the light, felt the wave of heat and a large blister formed on his hand.
Father Kopp was lucky; he had actually been near the epicenter of the blast but was well protected by the structure which held firm.
As the hours turned into days, the survivors kept tending the wounded and eating what they could find. Bodies lined the rivers and streets, and only skeletons remained of most of the buildings. Survivors had to drag the bodies or carry them on available carts out of the city, gather wood, and then cremate them in the valleys.
Rumors and stories began to rise, especially among the fifty or so refugees that were housed at what remained of the church, about what exactly had happened.
Some were likely propaganda or ill-informed attempts to explain what had happened:
As much as six kilometers from the center of the explosion, all houses were damaged and many collapses and caught fire. Even fifteen kilometers away, windows were broken. It was rumored that the enemy fliers had first spread an explosive and incendiary material over the city and then had created the explosion and ignition.
Some of the rumors were reports of how different victims suffered from the bombs:
Many of the wounded also died because they had been weakened by under-nourishment and consequently the strength to recover. Those who had normal strength and who received good care slowly healed the burns which had been associated with the bomb. There were also cases, however, whose prognosis seemed good who died suddenly. There were also some who had only small external wounds who died within a week or later, after an inflamation of the pharyax and oral cavity had taken place.
A paragraph later, Siomes recalls:
Only several cases are known to me personally where individuals who did not have external burns died later. Father Kleinserge and Father Cisslik, who near the center of the explosion, but who did not suffer burns became quite weak some fourteen days after the explosion.Up to this time small incised wounds had healed normally, but thereafter the wounds which were still unhealed became worse and are to date (in September) still incompletely healed.
But the biggest surprise probably comes at the end of the document where Siomes shares debates between he and his peers about the morality of the bomb.
He doesn’t come to a final decision, but he does note:
None of us in those days heard a single outburst against the Americans on the part of the Japanese, nor was there any evidence of a vengeful spirit…We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Other were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldier and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus avoid total destruction.
It’s an argument that continues today, but apparently consumed some of the immediate attention of survivors in the hours and days following its first use.
Just a few feet away from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., is a life-size statue called “Three Soldiers.”
Crafted in bronze by sculptor Frederick Hart, he portrayed the men garbed in uniforms representative of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, carrying weapons of the Vietnam War era and facing the memorial wall. The man on the left, his body draped with ammo belts, carries an M-60 general purpose machine gun.
Other than the M-16 rifle, perhaps no other firearm is as closely associated with the Vietnam War as the M-60. Portrayals of the M-60 in the hands of Vietnam War soldiers range from the sublime dignity expressed by the “Three Soldiers” statue to the over-the-top destruction of the fictional town of Hope, Washington, by Sylvester Stallone’s character, John Rambo, in the film “First Blood.”
The M-60 is a weapon that has faithfully served American soldiers in many battles since 1957. Far from perfect, the early model of the M-60 had so many design flaws that soldiers jerry-rigged fixes using everything from wire coat hangers to empty C-ration cans. The M-60 is also heavy — the machine gun weighs about 23 pounds, and those belts of ammo aren’t exactly lightweight, either.
No wonder the M-60 earned an unflattering nickname: The Pig.
But one thing is certain. Even with its flaws, a soldier armed with an M-60 can lay down a lot of lead, whether he is fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia or the badlands of Afghanistan.
The M-60 is an air-cooled, disintegrating belt-fed, gas-operated general purpose machine gun. It fires the 7.62 mm round with a cyclic rate of about 550 rounds a minute — a rate of fire that requires the crew to change the M-60’s barrel about every minute. In addition, the M-60 has an integral, folding bipod, but it can also be mounted on a folding tripod.
The M-60 was — and is — a fixture in the U.S. armed forces, serving as a squad support weapon, vehicle-mounted machine gun and as a “flex gun” mounted in the doors of helicopters like the UH-1 Huey and the CH-47 Chinook.
Development of the M-60 started after World War II. American generals held a grudging admiration for the German MG-42, a machine gun so powerful that it was nicknamed “Hitler’s Bone Saw” by the Wehrmacht troops that fired it. The MG-42 had a blinding rate of fire and was belt fed—both qualities were considered desirable by weapons designers. The Fallschirmjägergewehr 42, or FG 42 battle rifle, also had equally desirable qualities, such as a gas-operated bolt, which were closely scrutinized by the Americans.
Ordnance experts took the best Germany had to offer and developed a prototype machine gun. Some argued it wasn’t an ideal machine gun compared to foreign models such as the FN MAG—but it could be domestically produced, which made congressmen with defense industries in their districts very happy.
In 1957, the Defense Department adopted the machine gun and dubbed it the United States Machine Gun, Caliber 7.62 mm, M60. It’s been in the arsenal ever since.
But the three-man crews who served the M-60 during the Vietnam War discovered the machine gun had its idiosyncrasies.
First of all, no one designing the M-60 remembered to put a wire carrying handle on the barrel. That made barrel changes an agonizing affair—in order to remove the red-hot steel, an assistant gunner was expected in the heat of battle to don asbestos gloves that looked like oven mitts. Also, ammo belts would sometimes bind in the weapon. Then, some G.I. got a brilliant idea: just lash an empty C-ration can to the left side of the receiver so the belt would flow smoothly over the curved surface.
By the 1980s, the military adopted the M-60E3, a version of the machine gun with added improvements and (most of) the bugs worked out.
Although the Defense Department ordered the phase-out of the M-60, it is still used by U.S. armed forces personnel. SEALs favor the M-60, the Navy and the Coast Guard often have it on board their ships, and Army reserve units frequently have an M-60 in the weapons room.
And 45 nations — many of them NATO or East Asia allies — continue to use the M-60 as their heavy-hitting general purpose machine gun.