Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Fifty-one years after saving a squad of U.S. Marines from walking into an ambush by Viet Cong, Don Medley walked into a surprise gathering organized to honor him.


Members of the squadron Medley saved May 12, 1966, gathered Friday at Stone Hearth restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a surprise dinner. Medley, a former U.S. Army Warrant Officer, had believed he and his wife, Dianne, were meeting one of the Marine veterans, Earl Davis, and his wife, Claudia, for dinner.

In reality, three other men Medley saved, along with their wives, were waiting to meet him. Those honoring him traveled from South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee.

“I told my wife that one day I’d like to meet some of the guys on the ground that I helped,” Medley said. “This is the day.”

Medley, of Hodgenville, appeared stunned and overwhelmed by the handshakes, hugs and greetings he received as he stood near the doorway of the room reserved for the occasion.

“Thank you, for my wife and kids,” one man said.

The words “thank you” repeatedly resounded in the room that held a dining table adorned with a centerpiece of white flowers highlighted with small U.S. flags. Placemats also were emblazoned with U.S. flags.

“This is such an honor for me,” Medley said, his voice wavering as he received gifts of gratitude. “It’s unbelievable.”

Like other members of Bravo Company of 1st Marine Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Earl Davis had wondered over the years who the Cessna pilot who saved them was. After an article was published in Vietnam magazine last year, Medley’s identity became known.

Davis received contact information for Medley on Dec. 26. He decided to coordinate the surprise gathering.

During the gathering, Medley recounted the day he was flying his Cessna over a rice paddy and noticed Marines advancing toward a trench line holding enemy forces. He dropped a smoke grenade on which he had scrawled a brief message warning the Marines, but they continued to advance.

He soon noticed there were more enemies in a tree line, making the number much larger. He dropped a second smoke grenade warning them and included the words, “I’m calling Arty,” referring to notifying artillery. His message saved them, the men said.

“We’ve been looking for this guy for over 50 years,” Ray Maurer said. “I just broke up when I saw him.”

Maurer and his wife, Bernadette, made the trip from Georgia.

Carl Whipple of Tennessee attended the gathering with wife, Myrtle Ruth.

“We all wanted the opportunity to meet him,” he said.

Whipple described the experience as heartfelt and said it was “a God thing” that sent Medley to fly over the squad 51 years ago.

“We’re indebted,” he said.

Dan Ferrell of Missouri said the gathering was a much-needed opportunity to express his thanks to Medley.

“I’ve never been able to put this behind me,” said Ferrell, who has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medley was presented with a watch that was set at 10:30, the approximate time he dropped the first smoke grenade. He also was given mementos including a framed collection of items, among which was a signed letter of thanks.

Choking up in the process, Davis read the letter during the presentation. Later, he said the emotion he felt at that time summed up what he was feeling and how special the occasion was.

“It means a whole hell of a lot,” he said.

Similarly, Medley visibly was moved during the gathering and said the items he received will be displayed with honor in his den.

“It’s overwhelming,” Medley said. “This vindicates my whole year in Vietnam.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

We Are The Mighty joins forces with Article 15 at the Boot Comedy Jam red carpet

The Marines from Camp Pendleton had a night to remember filled with laughs made by some the funniest celebrities Oct. 28. A-list comedians included Adam Sandler, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Leslie Jordan, and more.


“Comedy Boot Jam” was a private troops-only event put on by Boot Campaign and celebrity supporters to celebrate active and veteran service members. We Are The Mighty’s Weston Scott and Article 15’s Jarred Taylor covered the event from the red carpet at the famous Hollywood Improv!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghans begin campaigning despite wave of violence

Campaigning for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections kicked off on Sept. 28, 2018, despite a wave of deadly violence across the country and allegations of fraud.

More than 2,500 people, including 418 women, are competing for the 249 seats in Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga.

Banners and posters of the candidates could be seen across the capital Kabul and other cities across the country.


The campaign period is set to finish on Oct. 18, 2018, according to a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan, Mirza Mohammad Haqparast.

The election is scheduled for Oct. 20, 2018.

The rival political parties of President Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah are expected to be among the front-runners in the vote.

Most parliamentary deputies are seeking reelection. But hundreds of political first-timers — including the offspring of former warlords and journalists — are also contesting the vote.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.

The election comes amid increased violence by the Taliban and the extremist group Islamic State, which have been staging frequent attacks across the country.

Some 54,000 members of Afghanistan’s security forces will be responsible for protecting polling centers on election day.

More than 2,000 polling centers will be closed for security reasons.

Opposition groups and political parties have demanded biometric machines to be used for transparency and to prevent people from voting more than once.

A deputy to Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that so far more than 4,000 biometric machines out of 22,000 sets have been delivered to Afghanistan.

Maozollah Dolati said more equipment will be delivered in the coming week.

He said the election body will work to deploy the machines in all voting centers.

“Afghanistan’s Election Commission will work for the elections to be held transparently and without any fraud, even if for some reason the machines won’t be transferred to some of the voting centers,” Dolati added.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK’s top general thinks his military is no match for Russia

Britain would struggle to match Russia’s military capabilities on the battlefield, Chief of the General Staff Nick Carter has said in a speech.


In a Jan. 22 address to the Royal United Services Institute, a British defense and security think tank, Carter said Russia is building an increasingly aggressive expeditionary force while already demonstrating its use of superior long-range missiles in Syria.

The speech — approved by Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson — warned that Britain risks falling further behind potential adversaries unless it increases investments in its military operations.

Williamson has made it clear that he wants more funding for the NATO country’s military.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
British Royal Marines, Greek Marines and The Marines with Black Sea Rotational Force 17.2 talk about enemy engagement tactics during force integration training at Maleme Airport Crete, Greece Nov. 18, 2017. U.S. Marines and Greek Marines participated in Exercise Blue Raptor, an exercise involving United States, British, and Greek military to improve interoperability and to promote stability throughout the region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brandon Thomas)

“The threats we face are not thousands of miles away but are now on Europe’s doorstep,” Carter said. “We have seen how cyberwarfare can be both waged on the battlefield and to disrupt normal people’s lives.”

Prime Minister Theresa May said last year that Russia had “mounted a sustained campaign of cyberespionage and disruption” against other countries.

“The time to address these threats is now — we cannot afford to sit back,” Carter said.

“Our ability to preempt or respond to threats will be eroded if we don’t keep up with our adversaries.

“We must take notice of what is going on around us or our ability to take action will be massively constrained.

Also Read: 7 amazing missions by Britain’s Royal Marines

“Speed of decision-making, speed of deployment, and modern capability are essential if we wish to provide realistic deterrence.”

The head of the air force, Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach, has also warned that Russia is an increasing threat.

Britain’s defense spending has been hit hard by government-ordered austerity following the 2008 financial crisis.

Reports have suggested the government is contemplating combining elite units of paratroopers and the Royal Marines as part of plan to reduce the number of military personnel by 14,000. That would represent a 10 percent reduction from the current staffing level of 137,000.

Articles

Do you know what it takes to be in the Marine Corps Band?

The Marine Corps is one of the most prestigious branches of the U.S. military. They have earned honors and recognition through many important and dangerous missions. Yet, one would not readily associate a career as a professional musician and the Marine uniform. One would be wrong.

The Marine Band is the oldest professional musical organization in the United States. They have played at every single United States presidential inauguration since 1801 when Thomas Jefferson personally asked them to perform at his. They have also performed at many official ceremonies and events at the White House throughout the years. Due to their special connection with the POTUS, the Marine Band is known as the “President’s Own.”

However, that connection comes with an obligation for exacting musical standards. The Marine Band plays hundreds of occasions, all around the world. Every single one of these performances must be flawless, to meet the standard of excellence expected from the entirety of the Marine Corps.

Auditions

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by GySgt. Bryan A. Peterson)

The search for perfection starts at auditions. Candidates are not required to have any specific level of education. However, a lot of them have at least a college degree. Due to the number and variety of performances given by the Marine Band, candidates must be very versatile to be able to play in a wide range of music styles, such as orchestra, marching band, jazz group, ceremonial, rock band, etc. The auditions have three steps: prepared material, theoretical knowledge of music and finally, sight-reading, which counts for half of the final. These auditions are blind, to avoid any bias.

In addition to musical skills, candidates are also expected to meet high mental, moral and fitness standards, as is expected of any Marine. Finally, they must pass an extensive background check. Their proximity to the White House requires them to obtain a Secret security clearance. The Marine Band is a very exclusive club as, out of approximately 180,000 Marines, only 600 of them are musicians.

Training and education

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Once a candidate is selected, he or she must sign a four-year contract with the U.S. Marine Corps. However, their duty is exclusive to the Band. They cannot be transferred to any other unit. They must also undergo six months of extra schooling at the School of Music in Virginia Beach. In these six months, the musicians will have to complete the equivalent of an associate degree. It is not for the faint of heart.

It might be surprising for musicians to be also asked to go through boot camp. However, it allows for reinforcement of the concepts of discipline, synchronicity and leadership. It teaches them to have pride in their uniform and the Corps. Marines are warriors first and foremost and musicians are basically trained Marines.

Depending on their specialty and the available positions, musicians can be sent to eight different bases around the continental United States. This includes Hawaii and Japan. Like all programs in the Marine Corps, the Marine Band only selects the very best to wear their uniform and perform their duties.

Life in the band

However, the musicians who succeed in joining the band can make a comfortable living from their music, to travel the world, to play on stage in front of heads of state and large crowds, and to serve in an honored Corps that will give them lifelong friends, moral values and a great sense of accomplishment. There are very few musicians who can boast such opportunities and experiences.

With over 700 performances around the world every year, including about 200 of those at the White House, the Marine Corps Band is really a musician’s dream come true.

Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Sarah Luna/Released

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Apr. 15

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

An F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. flies over the Gulf of Mexico, April 1, 2017. The Raptor was taking part in a flight alongside a KC-135 Stratotanker to show appreciation to the employers of Guard and Reserve Airmen.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
U.S. Air Force photo by Airmen 1st Class Cody R. Miller

Hill Air Force Base F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation over the Utah Test and Training Range, March 30, 2017.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw

Army:

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter arrives at the pickup zone at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, April 6. The aviators were taking part in a joint-training exercise with Soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, in anticipation of working together during future Atlantic Resolve missions.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Thomas Scaggs

U.S. Army Soldiers from around the world compete in day three of the 34th Annual David E. Grange Jr., Best Ranger Competition, April 9, 2017, on Fort Benning, Ga. The competition is designed to determine the best two-Soldier Ranger team in the Army. 

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright

Navy:

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April. 13, 2017) Aviation Boatswain’s Mates (Handling) Airmen Nathaniel Eguia, left, and Obadiah Hunter scrub aqueous film forming foam off of the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Gerald R. Ford is underway on its own power for the first time. The first-of-class ship-the first new U.S. aircraft carrier design in 40 years-will spend several days conducting builder’s sea trials, a comprehensive test of many of the ship’s key systems and technologies.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard

SOUTH CHINA SEA (April 12, 2017) An F/A 18C Hornet from the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet. U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike groups have patrolled the Indo-Pacific regularly and routinely for more than 70 years.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

Marine Corps:

Marines with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion take cover while conducting urban demolition breach training for Talon Exercise (TalonEx) 2-17, Yuma, Arizona, March 30, 2017. The purpose of TalonEx was for ground combat units to conduct integrated training in support of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17 hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Santino D. Martinez

Machine gunners assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa move toward an objective area during a Military Operation on Urbanized Terrain exercise with the Spanish Special Operations Group âGranadaâ in Alicante, Spain, March 29, 2017. The exercise provided an opportunity for Marines and Spanish SOF members to maintain joint readiness and strengthen relationships.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessika Braden

Coast Guard:

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter John McCormick stands proud facing the crowd of the commissioning ceremony at Coast Guard Base Ketchikan, Alaska, April 12, 2017. The cutter McCormick is the Coast Guard’s first 154-foot Fast Response Cutter to be commissioned in Alaska.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios.

A New Hampshire Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter lands on the helipad at Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor on Sunday, April 9, 2017 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The helicopter was taking part in the 2017 Best Warrior Competition, which encourages the Guardsmen to strive for excellence and achievement through a variety of physical and mental challenges.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Hillard

MIGHTY TRENDING

US quietly lowers threshold for conflict in the South China Sea

The US has been steadily ratcheting up the pressure on China’s sea forces in a way that could lower the threshold for conflict in the South China Sea, already a hotbed of tension and dispute.

The US is signaling a tougher stance toward the Chinese maritime militia, a paramilitary sea force disguised as a fishing fleet and known to harass foreign rivals to enforce China’s vast sovereignty claims in the contested waterway.

The Chinese maritime militia “thrives within the shadows of plausible deniability,” according to Andrew Erickson, a leading expert at the US Naval War College, but it can no longer hide like it once could.


The Department of Defense first called attention to the maritime militia in its 2017 report on China’s military power. The report explained that China uses its commercial fishing fleet to engage in gray-zone aggression, “to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict.”

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Declan Barnes)

It wasn’t until this year, though, that the US really began putting pressure on the militia forces.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson warned his Chinese counterpart during a meeting in Beijing in January 2019 that the US Navy will treat coast guard and maritime militia vessels as combatants and respond to provocations the same way it would a Chinese navy ship, the Financial Times reported.

In March 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly assured the Philippines that the US would come to its defense in the event that it was attacked in the South China Sea. “Any armed attack,” the secretary explained, “on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations.”

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim clarified the earlier assurances on June 14, 2019, telling reporters that US security guarantees apply to potential acts of aggression by the Chinese maritime militia.

“Any armed attack, I would think that would include government-sanctioned militias,” the ambassador explained, according to The Philippine Star. He did not say what type of behavior would constitute an “armed attack.”

The increased pressure is intended to change China’s strategic calculus in the disputed waterway, experts argue.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

“By injecting greater uncertainty about how the US will respond to China’s grey-zone coercion,” Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Financial Times, “the US hopes to deter Chinese destabilizing maritime behaviour, including its reliance on coast guard and maritime militia vessels to intimidate its smaller neighbours.”

At the same time, it potentially makes it easier for a lower-level dispute between China and its neighbors to escalate, especially considering the ambiguity surrounding both the US deterrence posture and the role of the maritime militia.

Incidents involving Chinese fishing vessels, potential members of the maritime militia, are frequent occurrences in the South China Sea. It is unclear exactly what kind of incident might trigger US defense obligations.

For instance, in April 2019, more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels allegedly swarmed Thitu Island, a Philippine-occupied territory in the Spratly Islands.

And, last week, a suspected Chinese vessel allegedly rammed a Philippine ship in the South China Sea, sinking it and then sailing off as nearly two dozen Filipino fishermen fought for their lives in open water.

China has denied allegations of misconduct.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Today is National K9 Veterans Day

National K9 Veterans Day, March 13, is a day set aside to honor commemorate the service and sacrifices of American military and working dogs throughout history.


It was on March 13, 1942, that the Army began training for its new War Dog Program, also known as the “K-9 Corps,” according to American Humane, marking the first time that dogs were officially a part of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Also read: 13 pictures of military working dogs being good puppies

The rest, as they say, is history. Officially a part of the service, the dogs of war span centuries and include such heroes as Sgt. Stubby, the original war dog, Chips, the most decorated dog in World War II, Lex, who retired with his fallen owner’s family, and Cairo, the Navy SEAL working dog on the bin Laden raid.

Today’s military dogs are valued as important members of their military units and even have their own retirement ceremonies, awards and medals, and memorial services.

 



Articles

These hilarious USAF ‘Freestyle Friday’ videos will start your weekend with a laugh

Most outsiders may not know about an Air Force tradition that gives the hard-charging crew chiefs of some of the most high-tech airplanes in the world a chance to show a little personality.


You might have seen some funny videos or gifs here and there featuring Air Force maintainers directing taxiing aircraft with the flair of a funny dance or outrageous outfit, and you might have wondered how they got away with it without their commander coming down on them like a ton of bricks.

YouTube user Kyle Gott 

What you’re seeing is “Freestyle Friday,” a military version of “casual Fridays” where Air Force crew chiefs – the tactical aircraft maintainers who coordinate the maintenance and care of the world’s most expensive airframes — are allowed to have a little fun on the job.

YouTube User alexwannberg
YouTube User alexwannberg
YouTube User alexwannberg 

Crew chiefs have one of the hardest jobs in the Air Force; one that requires a lot of training, long hours, and a lot of responsibility to make sure the planes are in tip-top shape for their dangerous missions. There’s a reason the crew chief often gets his name on the nose of a plane with the pilot’s.

YouTube User AirmanSnuffie 

Some consider Air Force crew chiefs and maintainers the “grunts” of the Air Force, and no one should be surprised when they have a little fun on the flightline during Freestyle Fridays to blow off a little steam.

YouTube user Jeff Wilms 

The ground crews work in extreme heat and cold, depending on their duty station, with little rest between shifts, and sometimes multiple launches and recoveries per day.

YouTube User juukbox 

Crew chiefs have to deal with exhaustion from a high operational tempo, hearing loss from the jet noise on the flightline, and may sometimes feel a little underappreciated by the rest of the maintenance group.

YouTube User Chris Bosley 

Like most enlisted folks with this level of responsibility, they’re known for blunt talk and a no-nonsense attitude. They take care of the planes they’re charged to maintain very seriously. So it’s no surprise they’re known to be hardasses for doing things their way.

YouTube User jw040789 

But while crew chiefs work hard, they play hard too and are often the genesis of some hilarious nicknames for the airmen that work with them.

Happy Freestyle Friday from We Are The Mighty!

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Watch this EOD guy dismantle an IED with a pickaxe and pliers

We’re spending a lot of time on the internet these days watching plenty of useless information — cat videos, TikToks, Tiger King all the Netflix in the land. Finally, here’s something useful, with a heart-stopping, compelling element: an EOD badass dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and pliers and no protective equipment. DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. OR ANYWHERE.


Forget everything you thought you knew about dismantling IEDs. As this Peshmerga EOD guy clearly shows, all you need is a pickaxe and a pair of pliers.pic.twitter.com/hZOoP9m291

twitter.com

Researcher Hugo Kaaman posted a clip of a “Peshmerga EOD guy” dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and a pair of pliers (Did we mention? Do not try this!). After a little more digging, another Twitter user cited that the subject was Major Jamal Bawari who is/was a part of a Peshmerga EOD unit.

BBC Four, Storyville did a documentary on ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert, who was in the same unit as Jamal, titled “Hurt Locker Hero” in 2018.

The description of the documentary on BBC Four is: The heart-stopping story of ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert who single-handedly disarmed thousands of landmines across the country with just a pocket knife and a pair of wire clippers.

Between the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the chaos and destruction wreaked by IS ten years later, Fahkir’s unwavering bravery saved thousands of lives throughout Iraq. ‘Hurt Locker Hero’ tells Fakhir’s story through the raw and visceral amateur footage captured by his soldiers on a camcorder intended for filming family occasions. Instead, it records Fakhir endlessly snipping wires, searching family homes and digging out roadside IEDs, insisting it’s too dangerous to wait hours for the highly trained American bomb disposal teams to arrive.

Whilst their father and husband becomes a hero, Fahkir’s wife and eight children struggle to make ends meet and worry endlessly about his safety. Fakhir will be remembered as the man who risked his life to save others -‘If I fail, only I die, but if I succeed, I can save hundreds of people.’.

This is definitely better than cat videos.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how French commandos saved Christmas in Paris in 1994

On December 26, 1994, millions of shoppers across North America rushed to malls in an attempt to make the most of post-Christmas sales. Across the Atlantic Ocean, at an airport in Marseille, France, a small group of men decked out from head to toe in black garb were doing a different kind of rushing — clinging to the back of a mobile staircase while barreling at high speed (or at least as fast as the truck would go) down a runway.


These weren’t ordinary men. Their target was a hulking, cream-white Airbus A300 filled with more than 160 scared and bewildered passengers and flight crew, some of whom were now resigned to accepting an imminent death.

The men on the mobile stairs planned on taking the aircraft in front of them by force, even if it meant giving up their lives in the process. Success was the only acceptable outcome of this operation. Failure would result in the massacring of innocents. Hailing from the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (more popularly known as GIGN), these black-clad ninjas were counter-terrorists, the best France had to offer.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
The GIGN raid on Flight 8969
(The Aviation Intelligencer YouTube)

Today’s mission was a hijacked Air France airliner, wired with explosives and crammed with 166 innocent lives. A small group of hijackers, armed to the teeth, were identified as the targets of this mission. Negotiations had failed and the last-resort scenario was now in play.

Just a few days earlier, on Christmas Eve, that same aircraft sat at an airport in Algeria with flight attendants scurrying around, preparing the cabin for takeoff. The pilots and flight engineers chatted among themselves as they completed their pre-departure checklist. Labeled Air France Flight 8969, this plane would travel with 236 passengers and crew from Algiers to Paris.

Civilian airlines flying routes into Algeria were repeatedly warned, at the time, that their planes were under constant threat of missile attacks. As a result, Air France only allowed crews who volunteered for the Algiers route to fly it, as long as they knew the risks involved.

On December 24th, the threat didn’t come from a missile but rather from 4 members of the Armed Islamic Group — a Middle Eastern terrorist organization. Disguised as members of the Algerian presidential security force, they walked into the cabin of the Airbus without arousing any suspicion, though some found it quite odd that they visibly carried their weapons.

Outside the aircraft, airport personnel began to worry when the airliner sat on the apron, sealed and ready to depart for Paris, but didn’t move an inch. Already facing delay, the control tower tried to hail the cockpit — no response. Fears began to manifest and armed tactical response teams were deployed immediately.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
GIGN operatives practicing clearing a building
(Domenjod)

It was hijacked.

Aboard Flight 8969, the hijackers began checking passports, likely to earmark targets for execution in the event that their demands weren’t met. Soon after, amidst terrified screams, the terrorists revealed their intention to take the aircraft and waved their guns in the air, demanding cooperation.

The hijackers wired explosives in the cockpit and the main cabin while forcing the pilots, at gunpoint, to exchange clothes with them. The airliner was surrounded outside by police and Algerian military personnel. Negotiations began, but would soon break down.

Within hours of the hijacking, two passengers were executed and their bodies were dumped outside the aircraft. Attempts to use the lead hijacker’s mother to get him to surrender peacefully further enraged the terrorist, causing a breakdown in communications. By the following day, Christmas, another passenger was executed. French government officials were outraged — the Algerian military had botched the situation and were losing innocent lives.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
GIGN commandos with rifles and submachine guns
(Domenjod)

After releasing just over 60 passengers as a sign of good faith, the aircraft was eventually allowed to take off and continue to France, albeit to Marseille as it had burned through too much fuel to make it to Paris.

GIGN was notified and they diverted their aircraft to Marseille, which had already taken off for Spain — as close as they could get to Algeria without entering the country. Having familiarized themselves with the Air France A300 they were aboard — identical to Flight 8969 — they were ready to roll as soon as their plane touched down.

In the early hours of December 26, Flight 8969 landed and was ushered to a secluded spot at Marseille, Unbeknownst to the hijackers, they were now under surveillance by highly-trained and well-experienced GIGN snipers. Their new demands confirmed the rumors of an attack on Paris. They ordered 27 tons of fuel, instead of just the 9 they needed to make it to Paris.

They intended on turning the A300 into a flying, fuel-laden bomb, triggered using the explosives they had previously wired. When detonated over densely-populated Paris, it would kill all on the flight, scores on the ground, and wound and maim many more. GIGN wasn’t about to let this happen.

Tricking the hijackers into clearing a space in the front of the aircraft for a press conference (and forcing the passengers further towards the back of the jet), GIGN prepped the aircraft for a takedown. In the early evening of December 26, the raid began.

Airstairs (mobile staircases) began racing towards Flight 8969 loaded with GIGN commandos that were armed with submachine guns and pistols. They threw stun grenades and entered the fray.

In the chaos, one of the plane’s pilots jumped out of the cockpit window and hobbled to safety. Snipers began firing into the cockpit, aiming for a hijacker they knew had hunkered down in there. The teams that entered through the rear of the aircraft evacuated passengers. Three hijackers were immediately killed; a fourth remained in the cockpit for 20 minutes before meeting his end.

By the end of the engagement, all four hijackers were dead. 13 passengers and 3 crew were wounded. Aside from the 3 passengers who were executed, all survived. The majority of the Air France flight crew returned to the skies despite the trauma.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This flawed government report triggered nuclear panic in Cold War

Anyone who survived the Cold War likely remembers the fear that, with almost no notice, an endless rain of Soviet missiles and bombs could begin that would end the war. Even if your city wasn’t hit, the number of nukes that America and Russia would have exchanged would have ended the war. But there was a problem: the Soviet Union had a tiny fraction of the missiles necessary. The confusion can be traced back to one flawed report.


In the early 1950s, rumors were growing that the Soviet Union was developing better ballistic missiles, massive weapons that took off, reached a high altitude, and then fell on or near a specified target. Early ballistic missiles were used in World War II, and they were unguided and crude weapons.

But the U.S. and Russia had seized as many German scientists as they could in the closing days of World War II, and the U.S. and the Soviet Union were each suspicious of what the other was doing with the co-opted scientists. If the Soviet Union was concentrating on missile research, they could beat America to space, and they might get a massive missile arsenal that could deliver nuclear warheads by the dozens.

And then the Soviets launched a missile test, sending a ballistic missile 3,000 miles across Siberia and other Soviet territories.

Worried about the possibility of Soviet attacks, President Dwight D. Eisenhower assembled a panel to try and figure out how many nuclear warheads, bombs, and ballistic missiles the Soviet Union might have, as well as how to defend against them. Two brilliant scientists led the research into the ballistic missile numbers.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Intercontinental ballistic missiles are a highly inefficient way to deliver warheads, but they’re also hard to defend against and you don’t have to risk the lives of your own troops to attack your enemy.

(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

Herb York was part of the scientific director at Livermore Laboratory, a nuclear research lab. And Jerome Weisner was a science adviser to the president. They were both capable men, but they had to do their research with very little information.

They figured out how much factory floor space the Soviet Union had and then tried to work out how many rockets they could build per year. But they didn’t know how much of that factory floor space was actually dedicated to rocket production, whether sufficient quantities of materiel was dedicated to the cause, or how efficient the Soviet’s manufacturing methods were.

So York and Weisner prepared a worst-case number to the president. Basically, if the Soviets were as efficient as America in rocket production, dedicated most of their available factory space to the effort, and gave sufficient labor and materiel to the project, they could produce thousands of missiles in just a few years. That was at least one new missile a day, and potentially as many as three to five missiles, each capable of taking out an American city.

Now, this wasn’t a complete stab in the dark. York and Weisner had looked at Soviet factory output, and there was a curious gap between America and the Soviet Union on the production of consumer goods and some war materials. Basically, Soviet factories were either drastically under producing, or else they were producing something hidden from America.

And what America did know of Soviet re-armament after World War II indicated a nation that was preparing for war. They had rapidly developed an arsenal of atomic and then nuclear bombs, produced hundreds of heavy bombers, then developed capable jet engines and re-built their air force for the jet age, all while churning out thousands of radar systems and armored vehicles and tanks.

So, if you thought the Soviet Union had a lot of unused factory space and wanted to create a massive missile capability, you would probably assume that they were going to churn them out by the thousands, just like they had with radar and other capabilities.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Explosions like this, but in American cities. It’s a problem.

(U.S. Navy)

And York and Weisner’s numbers were included in the document Deterrence Survival in the Nuclear Age, better known as the Gaither Report in November 1957. It was supposed to be secret, but it quickly leaked, and the American people suddenly learned that the Soviets might already have hundreds of missiles with thousands on the way.

Oh, and Sputnik had just launched, so it was clear to the public that Soviet missile technology was ahead of American. Eisenhower tried to play down the report, and might have comforted some people, but plenty of others saw it as a sign that he was hiding an American weakness.

And so the idea of a “missile gap,” that the U.S. was far behind the Soviet Union in terms of missile technology and numbers was born. This set off a short-lived panic followed by years of anxiety. It also underlined the importance of two other aspects of the Gaither Report: deterrence by America’s nuclear arsenal and survival through shelters and, later, civil defense.

America would drastically increase its missile development and other aspects of its nuclear arsenal, seeking to close the gap from the Eisenhower through the Kennedy administrations. But, under Kennedy, the U.S. would learn through improved spy satellite and plane imagery that the missile gap actually went the other direction.

America’s arsenal was massively larger than the Soviets’. At the time of the Gaither report, the Soviet Union only had four intercontinental ballistic missiles, the really capable ones.

And, instead of building thousands by 1960, they constructed about 100 more in the first few years after 1957.

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6 ways the military upgrades your personal style

When young men and women join the military, they soon realize that there’s not a lot of room for personal style — you’re going to end up looking like everybody else.


That’s very true because you have joined a club that wears the same trousers and blouses as the person next to you.

Since you’re now wearing a uniform that you technically didn’t pick out, you may feel that you like your ability to be “you” is gone forever — but that’s not true.

Related: This is why sailors have 13 buttons on their trousers

So check out our list of how the military upgrades your personal style.

1. Physical training

It’s not every service member’s goal to go out and win the Mr. Olympia body building contest — we get it. But since we get physically tested nearly on a daily basis depending on your occupation, we tend to build a little muscle here and there.

Plus, members of the opposite sex tend to like a guy or gal that’s in shape — just saying.

We guess she liked that. (Image via Giphy)

2. Dental

Although the military doesn’t provide service members cosmetic dental work, getting your cavities filled for free is a much better option than walking around with a big a** hole in your #2 mural.

They declare war on cavities. (Image via Giphy)

3. Dress uniform

Since women love a man in uniform, all service members are in luck because you have to wear one practically every single day. Having a dress uniform ready to go in your closet can also save you a bunch of money from having to rent or buy a tux for your upcoming wedding.

See, it’s all in the uniform. (Image via Giphy)

4. Housing

Many of us join the military to escape an unsatisfying life back home. Most of the newbies will end up living in the barracks their first few years in the service until they get married or promoted. In recent years, the government has spent a lot of dinero to improve base housing.

This is a huge step up from when you were sharing a room with your little brother back home.

Base housing in the Air Force. (Image via Giphy)

5. Vision

If you have crappy vision heading into the military, you’re going to end up wearing BCGs at least through boot camp. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can upgrade your spectacles once you graduate and even put in a request to get a Lasik procedure through your chain of command.

Not bad right?

Not that type of vision. (Image via Giphy)

Also Read: This is why ACUs have buttons on their pants and a zipper on the blouse

6. Reliable paychecks

We don’t make millions, but we do get paid on time every 1st and 15th of the month (unless you get in trouble). For many newbies, that on-time payment system is the ultimate upgrade.

No, you shut up. (Image via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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