Some of our nation’s greatest treasures aren’t places, they are people. Leo LaCasse survived three crash landings and evaded 4,000 enemy troops during World War II. He now lives at a VA Community Living Center in Salem, Virginia. Here is his story:
Born on July 4, 1920, Leo LaCasse was one of five children–all of whom were born on birthdays of former presidents. At the age of 15, he joined the New Hampshire National Guard, and later the Army Air Corps, where he was assigned to a recruiting command. The private was soon promoted to corporal, then sergeant, as he traveled New England recruiting pilots from colleges and universities.
One day, Leo learned that he was accepted to flight school. It was a reward from his commanding officer who had submitted the application on his behalf. Despite never having gone to college, the Army sent Leo to college under an accelerated learning program, and when he graduated, he became a B-17 bomber captain.
Soon, flying planes “felt like home” to Leo.
“Some of them [planes] were cramped, but it didn’t make any difference to me because I was the pilot. When you’re packed in an aircraft and don’t have the room to move your body in the cockpit, any airplane you fly after that is good.”
In June 1943, Leo was assigned to the 8th Air Force, Bomb Group 548th in Suffolk, England, where he served under General Curtis Lemay.
Leo LaCasse flew 35 missions over Germany and other occupied countries, and survived three crash landings. During World War II, Leo evaded 4,000 enemy troops over 4 months.
One of Leo’s crashes landed in France, which was then occupied by Germany. He instructed his crew to head for the front lines, to surrender and tell whoever interrogated them that he was headed for Berlin. Instead, Leo left for Luxembourg to meet up with the French Resistance, where he crossed the Pyrenees Mountains, and made his way to Portugal.
In all, he spent four months avoiding Nazi capture. When the war was over, he was sent to Berlin for debriefing. That’s where he met and befriended a German general who recognized Leo’s name and revealed there had been 4,000 German troops looking for him following the crash landing in France.
Captain Leo LaCasse in front of his B-17 Bomber.
Leo retired from the military as a Brigadier General. For his service he has received numerous medals including the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, European and Middle East Campaign Medal, Army Air Force Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the American Defense Medal.
On June 5, 2016, Leo received the Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest honor.
Leo now resides at Salem VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center located in Salem, Virginia.
On July 4, 2019, Leo will celebrate his 99th birthday.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
There have been a few developments in the stealth world in February 2018 with Russia deploying its Su-57 to Syria and China announcing its J-20 is combat ready.
With more countries now fielding and trying to market stealth jets, Business Insider spoke to Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at the thinktank CNA and fellow at the Wilson Center focusing on Russia’s military and defense, about how the Su-57 and the J-20 match up with the US’s stealth planes.
The partial transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.
Daniel Brown: What are your general thoughts on the recent deployment of the Su-57 to Syria?
Michael Kofman: They deployed them to Syria really for two reasons. One is to change the narrative that’s been going on in Syria for the last couple weeks and take a lot of media attention to the Su-57. And second is to actually demo it in the hope that there might be interested buyers, as they have deployed a number of weapons systems to Syria.
They’re always looking for more investors in that technology. Fifth-generation aircraft are expensive.
Kofman: I think it’s a stealthier aircraft than your typical fourth-generation design. I don’t think it matches the stealth capability of the F-22 or F-35, nor does it match the price tag of them. I think it’s a poor man’s stealth aircraft. I think it’ll be a very capable platform. I don’t think it’ll match or compete in the low-observation rules that US aircraft do.
On the other hand, it will definitely be a step above a fourth-generation aircraft — in terms of how maneuverable it is, Russian aircraft are always very capable, very maneuverable.
The F-22 is actually really good in maneuverability, too. The F-35 not so much, but the F-22 is actually a brilliant aircraft. We still have a lot of them. But the Su-57 is not meant to be a direct competitor to the F-22 or F-35.
Brown: That’s how Russia seems to be marketing it.
Kofman: Yeah, I’m sure some guy thinks his Honda Civic is better than my BMW.
Here’s the thing you’ve got to understand: There is a fifth-generation market out there. Where can you go to get a fifth-generation aircraft? The US is very tight on technology with the F-35. The only other people that have one in development is the Chinese.
So, here’s the real question: Is the Su-57 better than the J-20?
Kofman: Well, it’s certainly far — if not further — along in technology design.
Here’s what it’s important: At the core of every plane is the engine — it’s all about the engine. Everything else is super cool, but it’s all about the engine.
The Su-57 is not in serial production because they’ve not finished the engine for it. It is flying on an upgraded engine from the Su-35S, so it cannot be a fifth-generation aircraft yet.
Now, is it low-observable relative to the Su-35? Yes. Is it low-observable relative to F-35? No. But you know what, if it was, probably no one would be able to afford it, least of all Russia. Don’t let the best be the enemy of the affordable.
Brown: What do you think about the J-20 compared to the F-22 or the Su-57? Where does it stand?
Kofman: I suspect that the J-20 probably has great avionics and software but, as always, has terrible engine design. In fact, early Chinese low-observation aircraft designs are all based on ancient Russian Klimov engines because the Chinese can’t make an engine.
That’s where I think it stands. In terms of observation, when I look at it, I suspect it also has a lot of stealth issues.
U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the establishment of a space command that will oversee the country’s military operations in space.
Trump signed the one-page memorandum on Dec. 18, 2018, directing the Department of Defense to create the new command to oversee and organize space operations, accelerate technical advances, and find more effective ways to defend U.S. assets in space, including satellites.
The move comes amid growing concerns that China and Russia are working on ways to disrupt, disable, or even destroy satellites on which U.S. forces rely for navigation, communications, and surveillance.
The new command is separate from Trump’s goal to create an independent space force, but could be a step in that direction.
Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Vice President Mike Pence said: “A new era of American national security in space begins today.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Codie Collins)
Space Command will integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military, Pence said, adding that it will “develop the space doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures that will enable our war fighters to defend our nation in this new era.”
It will be the Pentagon’s 11th combatant command, along with well-known commands such as Central Command and Europe Command.
Space Command will pull about 600 staff from existing military space offices, and then add at least another 1,000 over the coming years, the Associated Press quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying.
Its funding will be included in the budget for fiscal year 2020.
Fisher House recently announced partnership with TerraCycle, Gillette and CVS Pharmacy for a new razor recycling initiative. Not only will they aim to make a positive impact on the environment, but serve military families while they do it.
“How it works is that you collect all your shave products. The boxes, cartridges and the razors. Keep them until the end of August and mail them to TerraCycle,” said Michelle Baldanza, Vice President of Communications for Fisher House Foundation. CVS is providing the free shipping label for those participating. She continued, “The most weight that’s sent to them by state per capita – the winner of that – will get a playground for their Fisher House.”
In the press release for the initiative, TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky said, “We are happy to align with these forward-thinking companies to give communities the opportunity to engage around a free, easy recycling solution that supports veterans and their families.” Fisher House Foundation is proud to partner with other nonprofits and organizations to continue to serve military families.
This initiative is open to anyone who wants to participate. It also creates a unique opportunity for military bases to get involved and create friendly competition with their neighboring states. Should a state win that already has a playground for their Fisher House, another project of similar value will be approved. If for some reason there is not a Fisher House in the state that wins, one within the closest geographic proximity will be chosen instead.
Most Fisher Houses are located near major medical or VA facilities and are completely free for troops and their families to stay at while a loved one is receiving treatment. Fisher House Foundation now boasts 88 comfort homes for military families. They are breaking ground on a new home in Kansas City in a few months and opening one in New Orleans at the end of the year. The comfort homes are scattered across the United States, with a few in Europe.
The Landstuhl Fisher House in Germany is a vital house as it is next to the medical facility that troops injured in combat go through for treatment. “They started it just after a bombing in the 90s and finished it just before 9/11. The timing was really incredible that it happened right before the surge,” Baldanza shared.
Each Fisher House is between 5,000 to 16,800 square feet in size. There are up to 21 suites and are all professional furnished and decorated. Each can also accommodate between 16 to 42 family members. The homes are gifted to either the DOD or VA when they are completed.
“For 16 years we’ve had four star charity ratings. Between 93 percent to 95 percent of what we bring in goes right back into the Fisher Houses. They know what we do goes to the service members, families and veterans,” Baldanza explained. Fisher House also boasts an A+ grade from Charity Watch.
According to their website, Fisher House served over 32,000 families in 2019 alone. They’ve also given million in scholarships to military children and given out over 70,000 airline tickets with their Hero Miles program. When an injured service member is receiving treatment and there is no Fisher House, they put their families in nearby hotels with their Hotels for Heroes program.
Baldanza expressed that Fisher House Foundation is only a part of the puzzle of support that cares for veterans and their families – it takes a village. This is one of the main reasons that they continually build partnerships, like the recent one with TerraCycle, CVS and Gillette. Together, they know they can accomplish so much more for military families.
“There are so many needs that are out there, it’s hard to fill them all. We [Fisher House Foundation] try to take care of those basic burdens so that family members can heal with their loved ones and help their loved ones heal too,” Baldanza explained. She continued, “We always say ‘a family’s love is the best medicine’ and that’s the goal – to keep these families together.”
To learn more about Fisher House Foundation or to join in on their latest initiative, click here.
The United States Air Force says they intend to pit an artificial intelligence-enabled drone against a manned fighter jet in a dogfight as soon as next year.
Although drones have become an essential part of America’s air power apparatus, these platforms have long had their combat capabilities hampered by both the limitations of existing technology and our own concerns about allowing a computer to make the decision to fire ordnance that will likely result in a loss of life. In theory, a drone equipped with artificial intelligence could alleviate both of those limiting factors significantly, without allowing that life or death decisions to be made by a machine.
As any gamer will tell you, lag can get you killed. In this context, lag refers to the delay in action created by the time it takes for the machine to relay the situation to a human operator, followed the the time it takes for the operator to make a decision, transmit the command, where it must then be received once again by the computer, where those orders translate into action. Even with the most advanced secure data transmission systems on the planet, lag is an ever-present threat to the survivability of a drone in a fast paced engagement.
Unmanned aerial vehicle operators in training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman BreeAnn Sachs)
Because of that lag limitation, drones are primarily used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and air strikes, but have never been used to enforce no-fly zones or to posture in the face of enemy fighters. In 2017, a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone successfully shot down another, smaller drone using an air-to-air missile. That success was the first of its kind, but even those responsible for it were quick to point out that such a success was in no way indicative of that or any other drone platform now having real dogfighting capabilities.
“We develop those tactics, techniques and procedures to make us survivable in those types of environments and, if we do this correctly, we can survive against some serious threats against normal air players out there,” Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, said at the time.
Artificial intelligence, however, could very feasibly change this. By using some level of artificial intelligence in a combat drone, operators could give the platform orders, rather than specific step-by-step instructions. In effect, the drone operator wouldn’t need to physically control the drone to dogfight, but could rather command the drone to engage an air asset and allow it to make rapid decisions locally to respond to the evolving threat and properly engage. Put simply, the operator could tell the drone to dogfight, but then allow the drone to somewhat autonomously decide how best to proceed.
A hawk for hunters
The challenges here are significant, but as experts have pointed out, the implications of such technology would be far reaching. U.S. military pilots receive more training and flight time than any other nation on the planet, but even so, the most qualified aviators can only call on the breadth of their own experiences in a fight.
Drones enabled with some degree of artificial intelligence aren’t limited to their own experiences, and could rather pull from the collective experiences of millions of flight hours conducted by multiple drone platforms. To give you a (perhaps inappropriately threatening) analogy, you could think of these drones as the Borg from Star Trek. Each drone represents the collected sum of all experiences had by others within its network. This technology could be leveraged not just in drones, but also in manned aircraft to provide a highly capable pilot support or auto-pilot system.
“Our human pilots, the really good ones, have a couple thousand hours of experience,” explains Steve Rogers, the Team Leader for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Autonomy Capability Team 3 (ACT3). “What happens if I can augment their ability with a system that can have literally millions of hours of training time? … How can I make myself a tactical autopilot so in an air-to-air fight, this system could help make decisions on a timeline that humans can’t even begin to think about?”
As Rogers points out, such a system could assess a dangerous situation and respond faster than the reaction time of even highly trained pilots, deploying countermeasures or even redirecting the aircraft out of harm’s way. Of course, even the most capable autopilot would still need the thinking, reasoning, and directing of human beings–either in the cockpit or far away. So, even with this technology in mind, it appears that the days of manned fighters are still far from over. Instead, AI enabled drones and autopilot systems within jets could both serve as direct support for manned aircraft in the area.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)
By incorporating multiple developing drone technologies into such an initiative, such as the drone wingman program called Skyborg, drone swarm initiatives aimed at using a large volume of cooperatively operating drones, and low-cost, high capability drones like the XQ-58A Valkyrie, such a system could fundamentally change the way America engages in warfare.
Ultimately, it may not be this specific drone program that ushers in an era of semi-autonomous dogfighting, but it’s not alone. From the aforementioned Skyborg program to the DARPA’s artificial intelligence driven Air Combat Evolution program, the race is on to expand the role of drones in air combat until they’re seen as nearly comparable to manned platforms.
Of course, that likely won’t happen by next year. The first training engagement between a drone and a human pilot will likely end in the pilot’s favor… but artificial intelligence can learn from its mistakes, and those failures may not be all that long lived.
“[Steve Rogers] is probably going to have a hard time getting to that flight next year … when the machine beats the human,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said during a June 4 Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. “If he does it, great.”
On 18 March, U.S. crude oil prices fell to their lowest level in 18 years. The following day, momentarily distracted from their hype of the coronavirus pandemic, pundits and analysts reminded us again that low oil prices are the result of Saudi Arabia instigating a price war with Russia. And again, the culprit named was Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Among his motives, they claimed, is hobbling the fracking industry that has ended American dependence on Middle East oil. Now, let’s examine the real backstory.
Weeks before a scheduled meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a cartel dedicated to supporting oil prices, the Saudis became concerned that the coronavirus pandemic was causing the oil price to decline. To stop or at least slow that decline, Riyadh worked to get oil-producing countries to agree to counteract falling prices with a production cut of 1.5 million barrels per day.
The Saudis were successful with OPEC and non-OPEC members, with one exception: Russia. On March 7th, it was clear that the Russians would not agree to any cut in their production, despite an existing 3-year old deal with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh then punished the Russians by undercutting prices to all their main customers – like Communist China – by increasing production by 2 million barrels per day.
On 20 March, Brent crude closed at .98 per barrel, far below Russia’s cost of production. Even at , Russia loses 0 million to 0 million per day. Goldman Sachs predicts the price will continue to drop to per barrel, far below Russia’s budget needs. Analysts say that even if the ruble stays stable, Russia needs per barrel, even with spending cuts and drawing on monetary reserves. With Russia’s main exports being energy and weapons, there are few other options.
Two things drove Russia to make its drastic decision. First, Russia’s power in the world, especially in the EU, has a great deal to do with energy politics. Russia is one of Europe’s main energy suppliers, and with Brexit, that dominance will increase. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is a critical element in Russia’s European energy strategy and Washington, understanding that levied sanctions on the pipeline as well as on state-owned Rosneft. As a result, Moscow rightly believes that American fracking-based energy independence underpins Washington’s ability to threaten Russia’s global energy politics. That was demonstrated in the first days of March when Putin met with Russian oil companies. At that meeting, Rosneft’s head, Igor Sechin, said that low energy prices “are great because they will damage U.S. shale.”
Second, the Kremlin is determined to maintain the political influence it has achieved in the Middle East after years of expensive effort. To continue to meet those expenses, Russia must not only use profits from weapons sales but also from unrestricted production and sale of crude oil and gas. Propping up oil prices by restricting production does not fit that requirement, and higher prices certainly do not “damage U.S. shale.”
As it continues to confront Russia’s motives, Washington should take comfort in the knowledge that the dark clouds of the oil price war have silver linings with regard to American national security.
First, rock bottom oil prices that force Russia to sell crude at a net loss will undoubtedly impact its budget, which in turn will substantially lessen its appetite for foreign military adventures. As a bonus, low oil prices will similarly impact Iran. Together, those two aggressive nations continue to menace the United States and kill American soldiers on a roll call of battlefields.
In Iraq, Tehran is attempting to ramp up attacks by its proxy forces on bases manned by U.S. forces. These relatively minor and uncoordinated attacks are hampered by a lack of leadership and lack of essential funding. The recent U.S. killing of an enemy combatant, General Soleimani, has been as telling to Iran as the fall of oil sales revenue.
In Syria, Russia and Iran are successfully propping up dictator Bashar al-Assad at considerable cost. The Saudis are as concerned about Syria as they are about their long border with Iraq, so Riyadh will not be anxious to end the economic punishment they are meting out to Moscow and Tehran.
Who will win the oil war?
Russia has boasted they will survive selling oil at a loss for years by “adjusting the budget.” Those adjustments will mean at least pausing their expensive aggression in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya, not to mention developing and brandishing new weapons aimed at NATO and the United States. Despite their brave front, the pain was already evident when Russia signaled it was willing to join an OPEC conference call to discuss market conditions. Saudi Arabia and other members did not agree to attend. The call was canceled.
Iran is using its disastrous domestic coronavirus epidemic as a ploy to gain sympathy, pleading for the lifting of sanctions. The firm U.S. response was to increase sanctions, excepting only agricultural and humanitarian supplies. With just a sliver of oil sales income remaining, domestic unrest, inflation and disease are turning the Islamic Republic into a failing state.
Saudi Arabia, like Russia, stated its budget can weather the lower oil prices for years and is already trimming expenditures by 5%. If further cuts are needed, it will be relatively easy for the Kingdom to postpone ambitious domestic projects – knowing they will not run out of oil for a very long time.
The United States, preoccupied with the coronavirus, is almost a bystander in the oil price war. Despite loud complaints from Wall Street brokers and the discomfort of over-extended oil companies, our domestic energy supply remains secure for civilians and warfighters. Gas prices at the pump have dropped to levels not seen in twenty years. We are filling our strategic reserve with inexpensive oil as a hedge against the future. And Saudi Arabia is an ally that has clearly stated, whatever else may drive it, that it has no intention of crushing our fracking industry.
As for Russia and Iran, Ronald Reagan once summed it up nicely: “They lose, we win.”
No action-thriller films in recent memory have received as much acclaim from both critics and audiences as the John Wick series. Ever since the credits rolled on the second film, fans have been speculating and eagerly waiting to see what will happen to the action genre’s newest beloved badass.
On the surface, it’s a very simple plot to follow. Bad guys kill a man’s dog, so (spoiler alert) man brutally kills the bad guys — but it’s so much deeper than that. The first and second films brilliantly weave in minor references to the grander world of the former-assassin-turned-world’s-most-wanted-dog-avenger. It’s fair to assume that the third film will follow in the same vein.
Throughout the series, there is only one established rule that few characters dare to break: No criminal business, especially killing, is allowed in the Continental Hotel, which serves as a neutral hub for the underworld. Nearly every hardened killer in the series is willing to obey this rule, with the exception of Ms. Perkins (portrayed by Adrianne Palicki) in the first film. For breaking this rule, she’s killed, executioner-style, by a collection of underworld bosses.
John Wick: Chapter 2 ends with John killing the man who was blackmailing him back into assassin work at that very hotel. Instead of sharing the fate of Ms. Perkins, John has a million bounty placed on his head and is given a marker, a coin that can be turned in for a favor, and an hour-long head start. Every killer in the world checks their phones and is informed of the bounty — roll credits.
It can be assumed that the next film will take place moments after the order is given.
It just feels right knowing that the same creative team gets to tell their complete, unedited story.
Details surrounding the next installment in the series remain very closely kept secrets, which doesn’t point to things faring well for our legendary assassin, but we’ve dug up a few clues.
First, we look toward the film’s IMDb page. According to the credits, several of the still-living characters are set to reappear. John Wick is still played by Keanu Reeves. Ruby Rose, Common, Laurence Fishburne, and Ian McShane are all set to reprise their respective roles. Newcomers to the series include Halle Berry and Jason Mantzoukas, both playing assassins.
Director of the first two films, Chad Stahelski, and Derek Kolstad, writer, are also taking up their former roles. Fans of the series can rejoice because this means that the tone and feeling of the third chapter will be consistent with the first two.
According to a leaked set photo, he’s somehow going to steal a Central Park horse… and for some strange reason I’m excited about that.
Principal photography is currently underway and set photos are surfacing that showcase scenes in New York City. Since the previous film ends there, it’s safe to assume that these sets will be the backdrop of Wick’s escape from New York. In an interview with Fandom for the second film, Reeves admitted that he’d love for the series to go to Jerusalem to continue with the historic feeling of the missions.
The title of the upcoming film, John Wick 3: Parabellum, is a clever nod to the Latin phrase, “si vis pacem, para bellum,” which means, “if you want peace, prepare for war” (Not to go on at length, but this is also further proof of his Marine-ness). It’s also a reference to the 9mm Luger handgun cartridge — the 9mm Parabellum round. In terms of John Wick, this means he’ll have to do a lot of shooting if he wants to find that peace.
Another interesting tidbit of information, courtesy of IMDb, is the tagline for the film: “No shout, no scream, no shoot, no fear, no fire, no sign. Just one pencil.” Fans of the series learned early on that the legends of John Wick killing two men with just a pencil weren’t exaggerated. Maybe he’ll up his tally with even more men with the very same pencil. We’ll see.
The film is scheduled for release on May 19th, 2019 — two weeks after the climactic fourth Avengers film. Here’s to hoping both films crush it at the box office.
For the first time ever, EA Sports’ “Madden” franchise will feature a story mode in “Madden NFL 18.” Called “Longshot,” the story is about overcoming all odds, not just winning football games or scoring the big contract.
“Longshot” is the story of Devin Wade, a quarterback who played at the University of Texas but joined the Army in the middle of his college career. While in, one of Wade’s commanding officers encourages him not to give up on his dream of starting in the NFL.
The captain in “Longshot” is played by a real Green Beret, whose story is very similar to that of Devin Wade. Army veteran Nate Boyer was a Special Forces soldier who played at Texas after leaving the Army.
“It was a big coincidence that the storylines were so similar, especially with him going to University of Texas,” Boyer told We Are The Mighty. “Some things are switched around. Devin Wade went to college first and then joined the army and now is going back to try and play football in the NFL. But still, it was kind of weird.”
Boyer is joined in the cast by “Moonlight” and “Luke Cage” actor Mahershala Ali, who plays Devin’s dad, Cutter, as well as real pro players J.R. Lemon and Dan Marino.
Even the title “Longshot” resonates in Nate Boyer’s life. ESPN featured Boyer and his story in a piece called “The Longshot.”
ESPN’s feature documented then-34-year-old Boyer trying to get on the Seattle Seahawks as a long snapper after leaving the University of Texas.
“When I came out of the army I was 29 and I never played football in my entire life,” Boyer recalls. “I just wanted to try and make the University of Texas roster. That was like my first goal: Just make the team.”
Then Boyer wanted to get on the field. He did. Then he wanted to start. For three years, Boyer was the starting long snapper for the Longhorns. He even made Academic All Big-12 during his tenure.
Now Boyer will play Capt. McCarthy, U.S. Army. He’s part-mentor to Devin, part-life coach. Like Boyer, McCarthy pushes his troops to live without regrets – that they could do anything if they want it badly enough.
“Captain McCarthy was kind of like the voice in my own head,” says Boyer. “The good voice. The angel, not the devil on the other shoulder, sort of pushing myself and encouraging myself and wanting me to believe in myself.”
The story mode in “Madden 18” is a simplified version of the game, according to Kotaku. The plays are called by the computer and there are no time outs. You can only control Devin and whichever receiver gets the ball. But you do get to play a pick-up game in a deployed location.
To any aspiring “Devin Wades” out there who might be wearing the uniform of the United States right now, but who hope to wear an NFL uniform (or any uniform) in the future, Boyer recommends fearlessness and hard work.
“No matter what it is you’re interested in, if it’s something positive and it challenges you, just go for it,” he says. “Even if you’re a little afraid to pursue it, just put everything you have into it. Take the things you overcome and accomplish, the sacrifices you make, and apply that moving forward. The military is a stepping stone, not the pinnacle of your life. Find that next challenge.”
In the military, we’ve been trained to dress, work, and even negotiate. Here are a few of the most common military “pet peeves” that can be turned into positives while adjusting to civilian life.
1. Attention to detail
You notice EVERYTHING! How one dresses, how their hair is a little more shaggy, or their desk is a little more crowded…
USE IT! Focus your attention to detail toward what they do well, compliment them, and turn your attention toward editing yourself, your work and your portrayal of yourself. Civilians do not know the world you’ve come from, and won’t appreciate it until you let them in. Teach them through actions to focus on a RELEVANT set of details.
2. To be early is to be on time
Unless you’re using the “European” or “island time” mentality, you’ve been accustomed to being 15 minutes early to everything. That’s great, and your pet peeve for others just being “on time” should be dismissed. Why? Simply because YOU were holding sentry, observing the area. And though others may have missed something, in your opinion, you can be their eyes and ears and report as needed. Your pet peeve for them has now become an asset. Hey, take those 15 minutes to meditate! A little spiritual centering never hurt anyone.
3. Doing the ‘right’ thing when no one is looking
Veterans adjusting to civilian life still have Integrity. Have it. Just because you may notice that your co-workers lack it: BE the example, and begin to teach your ways through assertive practice. Don’t be a tattle-tale, but teach the benefits of integrity. The honest worker is not only trustworthy, but loyal. Loyalty is leadership.
4. Active listening
Having drill sergeants and MTIs for motivation make for a quick lesson in active listening! However, civilian folks do not have a comparative analysis for this quick and dirty “study.” Again, BE the example, be a mentor. Engage. Listen. Decide. Reply. Print it and put it on your desk. Through your actions, and your awareness of this personal lacking in others, you are building your relationships around you passively; and believe me, they’re watching, and learning. Just remember, listening has no words…so truly LISTEN.
Use your pet peeves to your advantage while adjusting to civilian life by modifying your perception of the situation these are seen in. Simply because you are a modeled machine with certain values and habits does not mean that those around you do not possess these same values; they may just be dormant, culturally unpracticed, or uncultivated. As always, we live to teach whether we want to or not, so speak softly, and rather than “carry a big stick” as Teddy Roosevelt would have you, carry your arsenal of tools in a positive light.
A former Russian-backed separatist in Eastern Ukraine recently completed U.S. Army training, Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post reported Monday.
The 29 year old French-American citizen, Guillaume Cuvelier, reportedly spent his youth in the French far-right before going to Eastern Ukraine in 2014. During his childhood in France, he was a member of a neo-fascist group that broke from the National Front. The association presumably fostered his anti-European union views.
Cuvelier’s assumed the militant name Lenormand and fought for the Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist region of Eastern Ukraine sponsored by the Russian government. A photo WaPo reviewed shows him standing shoulder to shoulder with a militant accused of orchestrating the shoot-down of Malaysian Flight 17.
After arriving in Ukraine, he also set up a unit that declared France is “a slave of the American Empire” and the NATO alliance is a “terrorist military alliance.” Cuvelier appeared to change his tune after going to fight with U.S. backed Kurdish militias in Iraq in 2015. He was eventually kicked out for beating a fellow American volunteer with a rifle. He then made his way to the U.S. to join the Army.
His status in the U.S. military is currently under review “to ensure the process used to enlist this individual followed all of the required standards and procedure,” according to a U.S. Army spokesman’s statement to WaPo.
When confronted with his lurid past, Cuvelier pleaded with Gibbons-Neff not to publish the story saying, “I realized I like this country, its way of life and its Constitution enough to defend it.” He continued, “By publishing a story on me, you are jeopardizing my career and rendering a great service to anyone trying to embarrass the Army. My former Russian comrades would love it. … so, I please ask you to reconsider using my name and/or photo.”
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It could be argued that the one persistent challenge faced by the Air Force over its 70-year history is how to best integrate Airmen with cutting-edge technology.
Most pressing, from the earliest days of aviation, was the need to protect the human body from the potentially deadly forces generated by advances in aircraft speed, maneuverability and altitude capabilities.
Even in the pre-Air Force days leading up to WWII, altitudes were being achieved that necessitated aircraft with oxygen systems to keep pilots and crews coherent and alive during missions. This was closely followed by the development of aircraft with a pressurized fuselage, such as the B-29, which allowed crews to fly high-altitude missions without oxygen masks and cumbersome heated flight suits to protect them from sub-zero temperatures.
The advent of the jet age led to ever increasing altitudes and gravitational forces (G-forces) on the pilot, necessitating the development of G-suits to push blood to the pilot’s brain, minimizing blackouts, and ejection seats to allow pilots to safely escape aircraft operating at high speed and altitude.
The testing of these technologies quickly became the public face of the Air Force’s human performance research and human factors engineering.
Baby Boomers routinely saw newsreel films and photos in magazines of researchers testing ways to protect pilots from the effects of high G-forces and altitudes with rocket sleds, centrifuges, atmospheric chambers and even balloons used in Project Excelsior as an Airman, Col. Joseph Kittinger, protected by a pressure suit, made a free-fall jump from 19 miles above the Earth’s surface.
It was physiological research necessary to keep advancing the Air Force’s capabilities in the air, and later, in space. But it also made for good theater for the public.
However, from the very beginnings of the Air Force, there has been concurrent, less theatrical study of another interface between humans and their machines that has been just as ground breaking; that between the machine and the human brain.
It is research that is pivoting from an emphasis on optimizing tools for use by Airmen to creating technologies that will work with Airmen, as a partner.
Cognitive research by the Air Force began with an issue created by the U.S.’s enormous production output during WWII: lack of uniformity between aircraft cockpits and displays.
“There wasn’t such a thing as a standard cockpit configuration and aviators were confusing things like landing gear and putting flaps down,” said Dr. Morley Stone, the Chief Technology Officer for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. “Of course, that was leading to a variety of mishaps … Really, that gave birth to the whole field of human factors engineering.”
Lt. Col. Paul Fitts led the research team at Wright Patterson AFB that developed a consistent method for laying out an aircraft cockpit and instruments allowing a pilot to quickly and efficiently comprehend the current state of the aircraft. They also developed methods to manipulate controls more reliably, no matter the airframe.
The autonomous capability that we currently have is fairly nascent. Current algorithms are limited, certainly imperfect. We want to design to remedy that … intelligent assistants that sit on your shoulder that sift through data that look for correlations and relationships and present those in an easily digestible way to our Airmen to consider. ILLUSTRATION // COREY PARRISH
“That key research that occurred here at Wright-Patterson (AFB), as well as elsewhere, enabled the standardization of the key instrumentation needed to fly an aircraft,” said Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the AFRL. “It’s called a T-scan pattern. Pilots quickly learned the T-scan to rapidly ascertain if their aircraft is doing they want it to do. That became the standard for decades.”
However as new weaponry, on-board radars, sensors, communications and command and control technologies were added to airframes, pilots and crews quickly became overwhelmed by too much information for the human brain to process efficiently, a condition that pilots call a “helmet fire.”
“A key milestone, which was really significant, was the introduction of the glass cockpit,” said Draper. “Over several decades of just adding more controls and hardware instruments here and there, the real estate became really limited.”
“If we were able to put in computer monitors, if you will, into the cockpit, we would be enabling the re-using of that real estate. We could tailor the information towards a particular mission or phase of flight. The controls and the displays could be changed. That opened up a wealth of opportunity to not only provide more capability to the pilot, but also to enable the introduction of graphics into cockpits to make the information more easily understood and utilized.”
These concepts advanced by human factors engineering at AFRL has led to further research making the workflow of Airmen in many career fields more efficient and has even crossed over into the public sector.
According to Stone, this type of research led to everything from the development of the mouse, optimizing how a person inputs information into a computer, to eye-tracking studies to analyze how Airmen best recognize and utilize intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance information displayed on a monitor, to wearable devices that can measure a human’s current physical state, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration.
Yet for all of these advances in streamlining interfaces and presenting data in more digestible packets on ergonomic displays, the limits of human cognition still present an ubiquitous obstacle for the future Air Force to efficiently integrate main and machine.
Stone and Draper believe one way to scale this obstacle is to enable Airmen to share some of their workload with a partner – a silicon-based partner. Draper and his team at the Human Autonomy Lab at the AFRL focus on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence as we move into the future.
“Seventy years into the future, we’ll still be limited by the fact that we have a very limited short-term memory, we get bored easily, we’re not known to just sit there and stare at one place for a long period of time. That’s why our eyes move a lot,” said Stone. “We’re looking at a whole variety of tools, not just wearable sensors, but other types of non-invasive standoff sensors that look at things like heart rate and respiration and other physical cues … and trying to get that information out in such a way that you can make it readable to that future synthetic teammate.”
These sensors, coupled with ever increasing computing capabilities, could lead to Airmen of 2087 routinely conducting missions with a synthetic partner that will not only shoulder some of the workload, but constantly monitor the carbon-based Airman’s physical, mental and emotional state before recommending mission options.
“Computational power is getting ever more powerful. Also, computational power is becoming more miniaturized, so you can start putting it more places,” said Draper. “At the same time, you’re increasing the reasoning capabilities of the machines to collect domain knowledge, assess the conditions and create courses of action.”
“We have sensors becoming very miniaturized and able to sense the human physiology without even being attached to the human,” Draper added. “In a vision of the future, Artificial Intelligence can serve to continually monitor the human while the human is engaged in various tasks, and then dynamically adapt the interaction with the machinery, the interaction with the environment, and the off-loading of tasks. All with the express purpose of better team performance.”
According to Draper, one of the Air Force’s first forays into the realm of operational autonomous computing was the introduction of flight management systems into cockpits during the 1980s.
“Up until then, you had pre-planning and the pilots did all the navigation with a navigator,” said Draper. “Then they introduced a flight management system, which would automatically generate routes … give you the waypoints all the way from point A to point B. However, the initial design of these systems was less than great and we ran into lots of problems, lots of mishaps. This inspired research in order to better design how humans interact with automation which is critical, especially when we start talking about increasingly intelligent systems that are going to be introduced to future military systems.”
These initial steps were the beginning of a slow gradation from applying of autonomous systems as advisors, to allowing them to shoulder some mission requirements, to a possible future of handling some tasks on their own.
“The Air Force in its history has focused very strongly on the cockpit and crew stations for aircraft. However, where we’re going is expanding well beyond the cockpit,” said Draper.
“The autonomous capability that we currently have is fairly nascent. Current algorithms are limited, certainly imperfect. We want to design to remedy that … intelligent assistants that sit on your shoulder that sift through data that look for correlations and relationships and present those in an easily digestible way to our Airmen to consider … We want to reduce the overall workload associated with the Airmen, but the Airmen still retain key decision making authority.”
The key ingredient in a symbiosis between carbon-based and silicon-based Airmen is the development of trust.
Consider the amount of trust you have that your consumer grade GPS or cellular navigation system will correctly plot the best route to your destination and give you timely cues to execute that route. This is the bridge that must be designed and optimized between Airmen and their synthetic counterparts.
“As autonomy becomes more trusted, as it becomes more capable, then the Airmen can start off-loading more decision-making capability on the autonomy, and autonomy can exercise increasingly important levels of decision making,” said Draper. “That’s a migration you slowly incorporate as you unleash autonomy, as its capability dictates, and then you reel it back in when you need to, when your trust in it drops and you know that you need to become more engaged, you tighten the leash. The Airman and machine will share decision making, and at times one or the other takes the lead depending on the particular context.”
Draper said this trust will be achieved by a paradigm designed with a series of checks and balances, where Airmen can override an autonomous decision and Artificial Intelligence can sense an Airman’s fatigue, stress or miscalculation and suggest an alternative course of action.
“Humans make errors too, right? We all know this,” said Draper. “We should have an almost equivalent Artificial Intelligence looking at overall system performance, telling the aiman, ‘Hey, human! What you’re doing here potentially can really disrupt some complex things. Do you really want to do that?'”
Draper believes autonomous systems will never be given the keys to the kingdom and turned loose to execute missions completely on their own without human management and authorization. There will always be an Airman in the loop working with technology, to do the right thing. The nature and level of Airman engagement will change with new technology, but the critical role of the Airman, as supervisor, teammate, overseer, will persist.
“Imagine a perfect assistant with you while you work on a car. You’re struggling and you’re switching between many different tasks. All the while, you have this intelligent assistant that is constantly supporting you; reaching and moving tools out of your way and bringing in new tools when you need it, or showing you pictures and giving you computer readouts of the engine at exactly the right time. That sort of symbiotic tight-synced relationship between humans and autonomy is what I envision 70 years from now. True teammates,” said Draper.
Four crashed aircrew members scatter into knee-high desert brush searching for a spot to blend-in with the environment. There’s nothing but a dying, desolate landscape as far as the eye can see. And yet, they need to disappear. These aircrew are being hunted.
Rustling through the brush downwind of the pilots is a man and his dog.
The duo presses on with the hunt, despite being at a disadvantage. The dog puts his nose to the air and takes in short, quick breaths, but an unrelenting mist keeps the aircrew’s scents from being carried by the wind. They traverse miles of mud and brush, stopping every-so-often to stare out into the seemingly endless tan and brown canvas laid out before them.
No matter how this ordeal ends, both sides will be better for it.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 336th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, acting as opposition forces, hunt down pilots to enhance the combat readiness of both parties during a search and rescue operation as part of a Gunfighter Flag exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex, Idaho.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, gives Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, a water break while acting as opposition forces to hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019, at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
Gunfighter Flag concentrates on preparing airmen to be ready to overcome obstacles that may appear in a deployed environment. Padilla plays a unique role in that preparation.
“When we are at the range, scouting for pilots, we are not only testing the survival skills of our pilots, but also honing the capabilities and teamwork between MWDs and their trainers,” Padilla said.
To effectively enhance readiness this training has to be exactly like the real deal.
“Finding a way to simulate stress is important,” said Staff Sgt. David H. Chorpening, 366th Operation Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of survival, evasion, resistance, escape operations.
Screams riddled with anguish and anxiety filled the air as each aircrew member suffered a bite from Alf.
U.S. Air Force Alf, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, acts as opposition forces and hunts down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
The aircrew was protected by a bite-suit, but the stress they experienced was almost tangible, and not easily forgotten.
Incorporating stress into these scenarios helps ingrain the survival process and procedures into the minds of airmen to ensure they will be able to act on it in the field, Chorpening said.
Padilla and Alf bring a dose of stressful realism to the exercise through Alf’s vicious bite and undying loyalty that, consequently, often inflicts fear into whoever they pursue.
However, to be frightening is one thing, to be ready for deployment is another. That requires MWDs to be well-trained, obedient and skilled. Developing that in a MWD, like Alf, takes time and dedicated trainers.
Padilla said that there is a process of building rapport with new dogs, solidifying their commands, and exposing them to realistic situations like bite-work and detection that has to take place before they are cleared for deployment.
Ultimately, MWDs are tested in exercises like scouting for aircrew members in a vast environment with endless hiding places. This serves as a great preparation tool for MWDs and their trainers.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, act as opposition forces and hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
As an MWD and its trainer work together, they understand each other better and are able to work cohesively, Padilla said. “On a scout, the dog leads the way, but we are a team,” Padilla said. “Alf’s senses are a lot better than a human’s. Alf will often see, hear or smell a potential target before I do. Then I am able to decipher whether or not it is what we are looking for or if we should move on.”
It is a rigorous journey to become a MWD but in the end they are able to save lives in real-world situations and through readiness exercises like Gunfighter Flag.
“This training is so beneficial for trainers and their dogs to gain the experience of realistic training,” Padilla said. “What is even better is the dualistic nature of the exercise that enables pilots to improve their survival and evasion tactics simultaneously.”
The search and rescue exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex may be a single piece of Gunfighter Flag, but is vital nonetheless because of the life saving potential it holds. Padilla and Alf continue to diligently work towards enhancing the readiness of themselves and the aircrew they hunt.
We’ve talked before about the bizarre Hollywood phenomenon of Twin Films – essentially films with near identical premises inexplicably released around the same time – and all of the machinations that can lead to them existing. Today, rather than focusing on an industry wide trend, we’re going to discuss a specific example of something similar — the bizarre tale of the time two comic artists based in the UK and US respectively somehow both created “Dennis the Menace” at almost the same time, with the first editions of each published on the exact same day, despite neither one knowing anything about what the other was doing.
While it’s commonly misstated that the UK version of “Dennis the Menace,” which debuted in Beano #452, came out on March 17, 1951, in truth both “Dennis the Menace” comics hit the shelves on March 12, with the incorrect date for the British version coming from the fact that this date was on the original cover. As to why, a common practice at the time was to post-date editions to try to keep them on the shelves longer.
Beyond sharing a name, both characters own dogs that usually aid in their mischief, with American Dennis having a snowy white Airedale mix called Ruff, and British Dennis owning a “Abyssinian wire-haired tripehound” called Gnasher. Like their owners, each dog has a distinct personality, Gnasher being decidedly more violent than Ruff, with his favourite pastime being chasing and biting postman. Another similarity between the two Dennises is their penchant for causing mischief with a slingshot, which is considered to be a trademark of each character in their respective home markets.
Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher.
That said, it should be noted for those unfamiliar that the British Dennis is an intentional menace who relishes in the mayhem he causes, whereas the U.S. version tends to be over all good natured and ends up being a menace in many cases via trying to do something good, but having it all go wrong.
Nevertheless, given the similarities, it should come as no surprise that soon after each comic hit the stands on the same day in 1951, news of each other’s comics quickly reached the two creators. While initially foul play was suspected, it became clear to all parties involved that the whole thing couldn’t possibly be anything but a massive, inexplicable coincidence.
In the end, both creators agreed to continue as if the other comic didn’t exist and the only real change made to either comic was that as both comics gained in popularity, the name of the British version evolved, initially just in foreign markets, but eventually everywhere to Dennis and Gnasher.
During discussions about how each creator came up with the idea of “Dennis the Menace,” it was revealed that British Dennis was the brainchild of Beano editor, George Moonie. Moonie was inspired to create the character after hearing the lyric “I’m Dennis the Menace from Venice” while visiting a music hall. With this lyric in mind, Moonie tasked artist David Law with creating a character called, you guessed it, Dennis the Menace, saying simply that the character was a mischievous British schoolboy.
Although Law was responsible for drawing Dennis from his conception until 1970 when Law fell ill, the now iconic look of Dennis was first suggested by Beano Chief Sub Ian Chisholm who is said to have sketched a rough drawing of what would come to be Dennis’ default look on the back of a cigarette packet while Chisholm and Law were at a pub in St Andrews, Scotland.
Billed as “The World’s Wildest Boy!” in his debut strip, proto British Dennis looked markedly different from his modern counterpart, with some of his more iconic features, such as his pet dog and bestest pal Gnasher or his iconic red and black striped sweater, not being introduced until later comics.
In the end, “Dennis the Menace” played a big part at revitalizing Beano, as noted by Beano artist Lew Stringer, “‘Dennis the Menace’ was like a thunderbolt. The Beano was flagging by 1950 and no longer radical. But there was an energy to ‘Dennis the Menace,’ it was modern and became one of the first naughty kids characters of the post-war period.”
As for American Dennis the Menace, he was the creation of Hank Ketcham. Ketcham briefly attended the University of Washington in Seattle, but had a passion for drawing from a very young age when a family friend had showed him his, to quote Ketcham, “magic pencil”, and how it could draw things like cartoon characters such as Barney Google.
Fast-forward to his freshman year of college in 1938, after seeing “The Three Little Pigs” Ketcham promptly dropped out of school and left Seattle, stating,
I had one thing on my mind: Walt Disney. I hitchhiked to Hollywood and got a job in an ad agency, changing the water for the artists for [about 9 today] a week. Which was OK because I lived at a rooming house on Magnolia – three meals a day and a bike to ride to work – for a week. Then I got a job with Walt Lantz at Universal, assisting the animators, for . It was the tail end of the glory days of Hollywood and I loved it! I was on the back of the lot, where W.C. Fields, Bela Lugosi, Crosby, Edgar Bergen were all parading around. My neck was on a swivel! Marvelous!
As he notes there, he eventually achieved his goal, doing some work for Disney on movies like Fantasia, Bambi, and Pinocchio.
When the U.S. entered WWII, he found himself in the Navy drawing military posters for things like War Bonds and the like. By 1950, he was working as a freelance cartoonist. On a fateful day in October of that year, his toddler son, Dennis, did something that changed the family’s fate forever.
His wife, Alice, went to check on the toddler who was supposed to be napping, but instead she found Dennis’ dresser drawers removed and contents unceremoniously dumped out, his curtain rods removed and dismantled, mattress overturned and just a general mess everywhere.
Ketcham would recount in an interview with the Associated Press on the 50th anniversary of his comic that Alice remarked in an exasperated tone after witnessing the destruction, “Your son is a menace!”
This statement resonated with Ketcham who quickly devised and refined the idea of a mischievous toddler who accidentally causes wanton destruction wherever he goes. Dennis the Menace was born, and a mere five months later debuted in 16 newspapers. This is despite the fact that Ketcham himself would later state, “Oh, the drawings were terrible! Even when I started with Dennis they were just wretched! How any editor ever bought that junk…”
Hank Ketcham in 1953.
Nevertheless, within a year of its debut, 245 newspapers across the world had picked it up representing a readership of over 30 million people. At its peak, the number of outlets that carried “Dennis the Menace” grew to over 1,000.
Unfortunately, things did not have a happy ending for the real Dennis. Much like with Christoper Robin Milne, who A.A. Milne based his character of Christopher Robin on, Dennis came to loathe the fact that his father had created a famous character after himself. Unlike Christoper Robin, Dennis never got over it.
That said, despite his son’s accusations, Ketcham vehemently denies ever using anything from his son’s childhood as fodder for the comic other than the name, noting he almost always used a team of writers to come up with the comics’ content, stating, “Anyone in the humor business isn’t thinking clearly if he doesn’t surround himself with idea people. Otherwise, you settle for…mediocrity — or you burn yourself out.”
Whatever the case, the comic was perhaps just a side issue. You see, as her husband’s fame grew, Dennis’ mother became an alcoholic and by 1959 she filed for divorce. Around the same time, with Alice no longer capable of taking care of Dennis, he was shipped off to a boarding school. Said, Dennis, “I didn’t know what was going on except that I felt Dad wanted me out of the way.”
Very soon after, his mother died after mixing barbiturates with a lot of alcohol. As for Dennis, Ketcham didn’t end up getting him from boarding school to attend the funeral, nor did he tell him about his mother’s death until weeks later, reportedly as he didn’t know how to break it to him, so delayed as long as possible. Said Dennis of this, “Mom had always been there when I needed her. I would have dealt with losing her a lot better had I been able to attend her funeral.”
Things didn’t improve when mere weeks later, Ketcham married a new woman, then moved the family off to Switzerland where he once again placed Dennis in a boarding school, which ultimately didn’t work out. To begin with, his new wife and Dennis weren’t exactly pals. Said Ketcham, “Jo Anne was unused to children. and she and Dennis didn’t get along.”
Seeing his son struggling academically because of a learning disability, combined with being in a foreign country and issues between his new wife and Dennis, Ketcham sent Dennis off to a different boarding school back in the United States where he hoped he’d be more comfortable.
After graduating two years later than most, Dennis joined the Marines for a tour in Vietnam and subsequently suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
As for his relationship with his father, it never improved, with Ketcham even losing track of him completely at one point. As Ketcham stated when asked about his son, “He’s living in the East somewhere doing his own thing. That’s just a chapter that was a short one that closed, which unfortunately happens in some families… He checks in about twice a year. And if he needs something, I try to help him.”
As you might imagine from all this, Ketcham would come to greatly regret using his son’s name for his character because of how he felt it negatively impacted him. “These things happen, but this was even worse because his name was used. He was brought in unwillingly and unknowingly, and it confused him.”
He also regretted not being there for his son. “Sometimes, young fathers scrambling to make a living, to climb the ladder, leave it to the mother to do all the parental things. But you get back what you put into a child. It’s like a piano. If you don’t give it much attention, you won’t get much out of it… I’m sure Dennis was lonely. Being an only child is tough.”
He goes on, “In my family now. I’m much more active with the kids and their schooling than I was before. I listen better. And I think I’m more patient. Maybe not. But I’d like to think so.”
As for Dennis’ side, he stated, rather than a successful, famous father, “I would rather have had a father who took me fishing and camping, who was there for me when I needed him… Dad can be like a stranger. Sometimes I think that if he died tomorrow, I wouldn’t feel anything.”
When Ketcham died on June 1, 2001, Dennis didn’t show up for the funeral and a family spokesman stated they hadn’t heard from him in years and didn’t know where he was.
To finish on a much lighter note, in 1959, Ketcham was invited to visit the Soviet Union as a part of a cartoon exchange trip. Never ones to miss an opportunity, the CIA asked Ketcham if he wouldn’t mind sketching anything significant he saw while in the Soviet Union. Said Ketcham, “We were flying from Moscow to Kiev, and it was during the day and I looked out the window and I saw some shapes. I had my sketch book, and I would put them down, and the flight attendant would walk by, and I would put a big nose and some eyes and make the whole thing into a funny face. So I had a whole book of funny-face cartoons at the end that I didn’t know how to read.” Needless to say, the CIA didn’t exactly appreciate his work.
“Dennis the Menace” creator Hank Ketcham.
Going back to British Dennis, Kurt Cobain was known to wear a jumper remarkably similar to that of the British Dennis the Menace on stage. As it turns out, the jumper was a genuine piece of official Dennis the Menace merchandise, though the singer didn’t know this. Apparently Courtney Love bought the jumper for Kurt for for £35 (about £70 or today) from a fan called Chris Black at a concert in Northern Ireland in 1992 after taking a liking to it.
Speaking of having to find a way to be original week after week in comics, Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, once sagely stated, “A cartoonist is someone who has to draw the same thing every day without repeating himself.” That’s a tall order for someone who created nearly 18,000 strips- and it wasn’t always easy. On this note, Cathy Guisewite, creator of the comic strip Cathy, revealed in an interview that Schulz once called her in something of a panic as he couldn’t think of anything to draw and was doubting whether he’d be able to come up with anything. Exasperated, she stated, “I said, ‘What are you talking about, you’re Charles Schulz!’… What he did for me that day he did for millions of people in zillions of ways. He gave everyone in the world characters who knew exactly how we felt.”
Bill Watterson, creator of “Calvin and Hobbes,” famously not only passed up but fought vehemently against merchandising of “Calvin and Hobbes,” costing himself many tens of millions of dollars in revenue. He stated of this that it wasn’t so much that he was against the idea of merchandising in general, just that “each product I considered seemed to violate the spirit of the strip, contradict its message, and take me away from the work I loved.” Despite this, it’s not terribly difficult to find merchandise of “Calvin and Hobbes,” but all are unauthorized copyright infringements, including the extremely common “Calvin Peeing” car stickers. Despite never having earned a dime from these, Watterson quipped in an interview with mental_floss, “I figure that, long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality.”
Most of the characters and names in “Winnie the Pooh” were based on creator A.A. Milne’s son’s toys and stuffed animals with the exception of Owl, Rabbit, and Gopher. Christopher Robin Milne’s toy teddy bear was named Winnie after a Canadian black bear he saw at the Zoo in London. The real life black bear was in turn named after the hometown of the person who captured the bear, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, who was from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The bear ended up in the London Zoo after Colebourn was sent to England and then to France during WWI. When he was sent to France, he was unable to bring the bear so gave it to the London Zoo temporarily and later decided to make it a permanent donation after the bear became one of the Zoo’s top draws. The “Pooh” part of the name was supposedly after a black swan that Christopher Robin Milne saw while on holiday. A black swan named Pooh also appears in the “Winnie-the-Pooh” series.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.