Warriors in their Own Words: The 'Tunnel Rats' of Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
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Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.

Such a terrifying prospect was reality for the brave “tunnel rats” of Vietnam, soldiers tasked with entering and clearing the makeshift tunnels dug by the VC in Vietnam. CW Bowman, Gerry Schooler and Art Tejeda spent days maneuvering through the tunnel complexes, clearing and destroying lethal booby-traps. Hear their stories:


In 1946, Viet Minh (a predecessor to Viet Cong) resistance fighters began digging the tunnels and bunkers throughout the countryside to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat. By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100 miles of tunnels from which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing. The numerous ‘spider holes,’ as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called, were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.

Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “tunnel rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense as they crawled in to clear these tunnels.

Here’s what you didn’t know about these courageous troops:

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
Sgt. Ronald H. Payne, a “tunnel rat”, bravely searches a tunnel’s entrance during Vietnam War

 

1. The shorter the better

Many of the “tunnel rats” from Austraila, New Zealand, South Vietnam, and America volunteered for the dangerous position.

However, the brave troops that were picked for the job were commonly the shortest grunts in the platoon — for obvious reasons.

2. Most “tunnel rat” dogs didn’t work out

It’s well-known that dogs are great at detecting IEDs in modern warfare, but they weren’t too good at sniffing out the many booby traps placed by the North Vietnamese around tunnel entrances.

3. Their rate of fire

If a soldier took enemy contact, their training taught them to adjust their rate of fire. Instead of firing multiple shots, the troop would commonly fire single shots, making use of echoes to confuse the enemy. After deafening shots rang out and reverberated off of tunnel walls, the enemy would left puzzled as to how many rounds they had left.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

4. To wear a gas mask or not to wear a gas mask…

When entering a tunnel, many troops decided against wearing gas masks as they obstructed breathing and vision. Although crawling into a wall of gas was a possibility, many “tunnel rats” chose to take their chances.

Check out Simple History‘s video below to learn more about the dangerous job these brave tunnel rats had.

Articles

3 examples of how battlecruisers sucked in a fight

There are some battlecruisers that might have lasted for a bit, but all too often, battlecruisers had a very short combat career — usually ending in a spectacular fashion.


They had originally been designed to carry a set of big guns to blast apart enemy cruisers, but they also had a very high top speed, so they could outrun anything that could give them a fair fight.

The Royal Navy was familiar with battlecruisers blowing up when hit. They saw it happen at Jutland and the Denmark Strait. But Japan had its own bad experience with battlecruisers. Here are three case studies.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
HIJMS Akagi (US Navy photo)

1. HIJMS Akagi

Okay, technically, this is an aircraft carrier, but she was converted from a battle cruiser. Akagi was impressive – ww2db.com notes she displaced 36,500 tons and was over 850 feet long. She carried as many as 90 planes.

She went down because of one bomb. Granted, it was a 1,000-pound bomb, but it was still just one conventional bomb.

According to the book “Shattered Sword” by Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully, that bomb (plus the presence of aircraft being armed and fueled) lead to catastrophic fires that eventually forced Isoroku Yamamoto to order his old command to be scuttled.

Akagi had packed a powerful punch in six months of combat – including credit for wrecking the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) and damaging the USS West Virginia (BB 48). But she proved to have a glass jaw.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
Battlecruiser HIJMS Hiei at Saesbo in 1926. She was sunk in 1942. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. HIJMS Hiei

On paper, the HIJMS Hiei (along with her sister ship HIJMS Kirishima) should have torn through Daniel Callaghan’s force at Guadalcanal like a kid through Christmas presents. They were two of the four Kongo-class battlecruisers, and brought the biggest guns to the fight.

But instead, it was Dan Callaghan who triumphed that night (at the cost of his life). As for Hiei? She took an 8-inch armor-piercing shell in the steering compartment, and was left a cripple. The next morning, planes from Henderson Field finished her off.

Crippled by a cruiser, then sunk by planes from the airfield she was supposed to bombard, makes Hiei a classic loser.

Her sister, Kirishima, didn’t fare much better. She went toe-to-toe with the USS Washington (BB 56) two nights later, and was reduced to a wreck before she was scuttled.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
Two views of HIJMS Kongo as she looked in 1944, the year she was sunk by USS Sealion (SS 315). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. HIJMS Kongo

The lead Kongo-class battlecruiser lasted longer, mostly because during World War II, carriers were rightly seen as the more valuable targets. But when the USS Sealion (SS 315), commanded by Lt. Cdr. Eli Thomas Reich, got her in its sights, Kongo ended up as just another battlecruiser statistic.

Here sources disagree on how many hits she took. Anthony Tully notes at CombinedFleet.com that the Kongo took at least two hits, leading to an eventual capsizing and explosion.

Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison said in the “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II” that a single hit lead to the explosive end of Kongo.

So, there you have it. Three more reasons why battlecruisers are losers — provided by the Japanese Navy.

MIGHTY MOVIES

18 of the best jokes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Why are the Marvel movies so damn popular? Well, that might be the wrong question, because the more important question should be: how did the Marvel movies get to be so damn funny? What are the best jokes in the funniest Marvel movies?

From “Iron Man” in 2008 to “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019, one thing moviegoers have always been able to count on from these films is a one-liner quip machine even in the bleakest of installments. Figuring out all the funniest moments in all 22 installments of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe might seem like a task better suited to one of Tony Stark’s supercomputers, but since Jarvis and Friday aren’t real, you’ll have to deal with human bias. So, with that in mind, here are 18 of the best jokes from the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. And to avoid saying any of these jokes are better or worse than others, we’re just listing these jokes in chronological order.

Warning: Joke spoilers for all Marvel movies ahead!


Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

1. “Let’s face it, this is not the worst thing you’ve caught me doing.”

When Pepper Potts walks in on Tony messing with his Iron Man suit, this classic Stark comeback cannot be beaten.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

2. “We have a Hulk.”

From the 2012 “Avengers,” Tony Stark’s rebuttal to Loki’s boast “I have an army” is “We have a Hulk.” This is made all the sweeter when you consider Loki himself says “We have a Hulk” when he stands-up to Thanos in “Infinity War.”

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

3. “Better clench up, Legolas.”

Tony Stark’s pop culture references are an artform. If you don’t know who Legolas is and why this is funny, I’m sorry that I have to explain this to you: Legolas is an elf archer from “Lord of the Rings.” Hawkeye is an archer. Okay. enough explaining.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

4. “I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”

This Tony Stark quip is preceded by him complimenting Bruce Banner on his scientific achievements, which of course, is totally overshadowed by his ability to Hulk-out.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

5. “No hard feelings, Point Break.”

I’m not going to explain this reference. I’ll explain “Lord of the Rings” references, but not this one. Either you get it, or you don’t. (If you’re reading this website and you’re a dad, I’m guessing you get this.)

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

6. “I understood that reference!”

Steve Rogers is great when he gets super-earnest in subsequent Avengers flicks, but he’s pretty much the best when he’s struggling with 21st-century pop culture references. In the first “Avengers,” when Steve actually understands one of Nick Fury’s references to “The Wizard of Oz,” his reaction is pure gold.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

7. “The city is flying. We’re fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.”

One of the funniest meta-fictional lines in any Marvel movie. Hawkeye knows nothing about his role in these movies makes sense.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

8. “Why would I put my finger on his throat?”

You could, in theory, do an entire list of just great jokes and funny moments from both “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and their appearances in “Infinity War” and “Endgame.” I’ve tried to prevent too many “Guardians” jokes from dominating this list. But still, when Star-Lord is trying to reason with Drax in that prison, this visual gag where Drax doesn’t understand the pantomime for killing someone is hilarious.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

9. “If I had a black light, this place would look like a Jackson Pollock painting”

A crass joke that flies over the head of kids and into the ears of knowing adults. Nice. Totally on-brand from Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord. Also, fun fact, this line was ad-libbed by Chris Pratt on the spot.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

10. “He says he’s an a-hole, and I’m quoting him here, but he’s not 100 percent…a dick”

John C. Reilly’s small role in “Guardians of the Galaxy” is underrated. It just is.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

11. “If you say one more word, I’ll feed you to my children! I’m kidding. We’re vegetarians.”

M’baku might not be as famous as T’Challa in the kingdom of Wakanda, but he’s pretty much the funniest person in “Black Panther.”

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

12. “He’s a friend from work!”

When Thor realizes he’s supposed to fight the Hulk in “Ragnarok,” he’s thrilled and relieved. This line is fantastic because it’s so relatable, but it’s made ten times sweeter when you know that a Make-A-Wish kid actually suggested the line in the first place. True story!

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

13. “Dude, you’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards.”

Tony Stark and Bruce Banner’s reunion in “Infinity War” is full of a lot of great moments, but this joke is easily the best.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

14. “OH! we’re using our made-up names!”

The lovable innocence of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is always great and when he understandably doesn’t understand that Dr. Strange’s real name is Dr. Strange, it’s one of the funniest moments in the entire series.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

15. “Kick names. Take ass”

Mantis’ mangling of a pretty common cliche turns it into something very different thanks to her naivite — and impeccable timing.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

16. “I get emails from a raccoon, so nothing sounds crazy.”

Black Widow is super tired in this “Avengers: Endgame” one-liner, but her workplace emails are certainly a little different than yours. Or are they?

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

17. “What’s up, regular-sized man?”

Rhodey gets in on the one-liner action, in one of the best jokes for “Endgame.” Picking on Ant-Man might not be nice, but it is hilarious.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

18. “As far as I’m concerned, that is America’s ass.”

Paul Rudd, an actual comedic actor who found his way into the Marvel universe as Ant-Man, gets what is probably the very best line in “Avengers: Endgame.” This joke is so good, it gets repeated by Steve Rogers as he’s staring at former-him’s ass.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ready for a new tattoo? The Air Force now has its own tattoo shop

No matter if you’ve been in for two months, two years or you are two generations removed from the military, everyone knows that tattoos and the service go hand in hand. Ever since the first tattoo shop opened its doors in America in 1846, ink has had a well-deserved place in the hearts and on the skin of service members.

Of course, tattooing didn’t get its start in America. Warriors from Maori tribes in New Zealand, to ancient Greeks, marked themselves to show strength, courage and confidence. Viking raiders tapped magical symbols into their skin using the ink made from sacrificial animals.


Even service members in the Revolutionary War were getting new ink to reflect their units and identities (not to mention to prevent being illegally conscripted by the British).

During the Civil War, pioneer tattooist Martin Hildebrant traveled to battlefields and inked various patriotic designs into service members’ skin. Records show that by 1925, as much as 90 percent of all US service members were tattooed; the Navy made up the bulk of those decorated. Apparently, sailors used new tattoos to showcase where they’d been, as a sort of secondary service record, and to showcase their achievements.

For example, a shellback turtle meant they’d crossed the equator, a golden dragon meant they crossed the International Date Line, and a golden shellback turtle meant they’d crossed both at the same spot.

But for as much as there’s always been ink in the military, there have also been regulations. It seems like every few years, some leadership gets it in mind that a new tattoo policy is in order. For years, there was a limit to the number of tattoos soldiers could have on their arms, but that’s no longer the case. However, the Army still doesn’t allow face, neck or hand tattoos, though a small ring tattoo can exist on each hand. As with all branches, there are always a few waivers that are granted by recruiters each year if it seems like a tattoo isn’t too distracting.

Just like the Army, the Air Force is revisiting some of its strict tattoo policies and lessening the regulations a bit. Before 2017, Airmen weren’t allowed to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. Now, they’re allowed to have full sleeves or large back pieces, which is a big deal for anyone who’s been stuck halfway through getting a tattoo only to have to stop because of regulations.

So it goes without saying that getting a tattoo is as much a rite of passage in the military as is getting that first haircut in basic training. Of course, barbershops have been embedded at installations worldwide for decades, but for new ink, service members have always had to go off base. That’s led plenty of people to wonder why there isn’t a place to get new ink and a fresh fade all at the same place. Now, that’s no longer the case.

Nellis Air Force Base, located just outside Las Vegas, now has its own tattoo shop, making it that much easier to get a new tattoo. Senior leadership at Nellis said in a press release that they’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for Airmen and to lead from the front. So naturally, an on-base tattoo shop makes sense.

This is the first tattoo shop to be inside any Air Force or Army installation, making it incredibly unique. Now, we can’t speak to the quality of work you might receive there, but it’s still pretty cool that leadership is finally recognizing that there’s a very real, inky culture within the military and are taking steps to provide that service.

Maybe the decision to open the tattoo shop on base is a signal that leadership hopes artists and the Airmen can better handle the Air Force guidance on tattoo size and placement. Of course, that’s not to say whether or not the tattoos will be any good, but at least they’ll be within regs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

NASA is helping you make your mark on Mars

Although it will be years before the first humans set foot on Mars, NASA is giving the public an opportunity to send their names — stenciled on chips — to the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which represents the initial leg of humanity’s first round trip to another planet. The rover is scheduled to launch as early as July 2020, with the spacecraft expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021.

The rover, a robotic scientist weighing more than 2,300 pounds (1,000 kilograms), will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.


“As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. “It’s an exciting time for NASA, as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighboring planet, and even the origins of life itself.”

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Members of the public who want to send their name to Mars on NASA’s next rover mission to the Red Planet (Mars 2020) can get a souvenir boarding pass and their names etched on microchips to be affixed to the rover.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The opportunity to send your name to Mars comes with a souvenir boarding pass and “frequent flyer” points. This is part of a public engagement campaign to highlight missions involved with NASA’s journey from the Moon to Mars. Miles (or kilometers) are awarded for each “flight,” with corresponding digital mission patches available for download. More than 2 million names flew on NASA’s InSight mission to Mars, giving each “flyer” about 300 million frequent flyer miles (nearly 500 million frequent flyer kilometers).

From now until Sept. 30, 2019, you can add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here.

The Microdevices Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, will use an electron beam to stencil the submitted names onto a silicon chip with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair (75 nanometers). At that size, more than a million names can be written on a single dime-size chip. The chip (or chips) will ride on the rover under a glass cover.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

True color image of Mars taken by the OSIRIS instrument on the ESA Rosetta spacecraft during its February 2007 flyby of the planet.

NASA will use Mars 2020 and other missions to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. As another step toward that goal, NASA is returning American astronauts to the Moon in 2024. Government, industry and international partners will join NASA in a global effort to build and test the systems needed for human missions to Mars and beyond.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

For more information on Mars 2020, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mars2020

For more about NASA’s Moon to Mars plans, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The M16 was originally intended to fire the 7.62mm NATO round

Today, the M16 rifle and M4 carbine are ubiquitous among American troops. These lightweight rifles, which both fire the 5.56mm NATO round, have been around for decades and are mainstays. The civilian version, the AR-15, is owned by at least five million Americans. But the troops hauling it around almost got a similar rifle in the 1950s that fired the 7.62mm NATO round.

It’s not the first classic rifle to be designed to fire one cartridge and enter service firing another. The M1 Garand, when it was first designed, was chambered for the .276 Pedersen round. The reason that round never caught on? The Army had tons of .30-06 ammo in storage, and so the legendary semi-auto rifle was adapted to work with what was available.


The story is much different for the M16. Eugene Stoner’s original design was called the AR-10 (the “AR” stood for “Armalite Rifle” — Armalite was to manufacture the weapon). This early design was a 7.62mm NATO rifle with a 20-round box magazine.

According to the National Rifle Association Museum, this rifle went head to-head with the FN FAL and the T44 to replace the M1 Garand. The T44 won out and was introduced to service as the M14. This doesn’t mean the AR-10 was a complete loss, however. Sudan and Portugal both bought the AR-10 for their troops to use and, from there, the rifle trickled into a few other places as well.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Portugal bought the AR-10 and used it in the Angolan War.

(Photo by Joaquim Coelho)

Armalite, though, wasn’t ready to give up on getting that juicy U.S. military contract, so they began work on scaling down the AR-10 for the 5.56mm cartridge. The Army tried the resulting rifle, the AR-15, out in 1958 and liked what the saw, pointing to a need for a lightweight infantry rifle. It was the Air Force, though, that was the first service to buy the rifle, calling it the M16, which serves American troops today.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

The AR-10 made a comeback of sorts during the War on Terror. Here, a Marine general fires the Mk 11 sniper rifle.

(USMC photo by Cpl. Sharon E. Fox)

Despite the immense popularity of the M16, the AR-10 never faded completely into obscurity. During the War on Terror, operation experience called for a heavier-hitting rifle with longer range. In a way, the AR-10 made a comeback — this time as a designated marksman rifle in the form of modified systems, like the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and Mk 11 rifle.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Variants of the AR-10 are on the civilian market, including this AR-10 National Match.

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

Over the years, the AR-10 has thrived as a semi-auto-only weapon, available on the civilian market, produced by companies like Rock River Arms and DPMS. In a sense, the AR-10 has come full circle.

popular

This is what a silencer for howitzers looks like

For those moments when you absolutely, positively have to train your artillery but you don’t want to wake the local population, accept no substitutes. Yes, artillery silencers are a thing.


Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Pictured without a gun to suppress. (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

These photos were taken at an artillery range in Germany. The vehicle using the giant suppressor is an M109G 155mm self-propelled howitzer. Apparently the locals don’t like the sound of freedom.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

The sides can be opened to allow the expansion of the muzzle blast. (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

A report from the Defense Technical Information Center reveals the U.S. Army has some silencers of its own, for both 105 mm and 120 mm to be used at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

Residents across Chesapeake Bay experience considerably louder noise than other nearby communities because the artillery’s blast sound is highly directional. Something had to be done.

The steel construction allows for it to be lifted into position and used when firing at a 30-degree elevation. But it cannot be attached to the turret, because tests showed it affected recoil and harm the turret barrel.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
Looks like a weird hammer to me. How about you? (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

The Firearm Blog also found a patent for a potential tank silencer, which would attach to the muzzle of the tank’s main turret.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
Seems cumbersome.

The holes on the silencer are kept as small as possible to keep the decibel levels lower, which is most effective behind and in front of the suppressor. The total cost of the construction is $100,000.

Silencers can reduce artillery noise by as much as 20 decibels, which may not seem like much, but is the difference between listening to your television and listening to your blender.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 5 native tribes most feared by the US Army

Though they’re often overlooked by military historians – not Native historians, mind you – the Plains Wars of the post-Civil War era saw some of the most brutal fighting between the American government and the native tribes fighting for their way of life. Eventually, the U.S. government was determined to move the native people to reservations. Those who did not sell their land were moved by force.


The fighting on the Plains saw the Battle of Little Bighorn, the massacre at Wounded Knee, and the Sand Creek Massacre, just to name some of the bloodiest moments. The fighting West of the Mississippi claimed countless lives, not to mention the end of the traditional ways for many Native Americans. Still, some fought back, with varying degrees of success.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Kiowa Warriors at Fort Sill, 1872.

Kiowa

An ally of the dreaded Comanche, the Kiowa were usually at war with anyone the Comanche went to war with, including the US Army. For 50 years, the Kiowa moved from the central United States westward to join the Comanche in raiding and trading from the American Southwest into Mexico, killing thousands. Even after most of the Kiowa moved to reservations in 1877, many warrior bands remained loose on the American frontier.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

A Cheyenne “Dog Soldier”

Cheyenne

As more settlers rushed to the Rocky Mountains area, the area began to fill up with heavily-armed militias who would raid neighboring Arapaho and Cheyenne tribal settlements. In response, the Cheyenne began to fight back, forming different kinds of warrior bands, including the now-famous Dog Soldiers – warriors who would hold their ground, no matter what came at them. The Dog Soldiers rallied Cheyenne and Arapaho tribesmen together to wreak havoc on the Colorado ranching industry.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Sitting Bull, pictured, was one of the Sioux’s most famous leaders.

Sioux

The Sioux were not the first tribe to fight the U.S. government, and they weren’t the last, but they might be the most famous. The Sioux produced some of the most notable names and places in all the Indian Wars, including Little Bighorn, Custer’s Last Stand, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse, to name a few.

When the Army came upon bands of Sioux warriors, they didn’t know if they would just be fighting the handful of warriors they saw or if another 5,000 to 7,000 were waiting somewhere they couldn’t see.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Geronimo and three other Apache warriors.

Apache

If there’s one thing the Union and Confederate Armies could agree on, it was fighting the Apache tribes. In the early days of the Civil War, Confederate forces took on Apaches in the West before transferring to the actual Civil War they were needed to fight.

Clans of Apache rarely gathered in great numbers. They only did so in order to gather their forces to hit the U.S. Army in large formations. The US Army hated the Apaches so much, they would fight any sized organization they happened to come across, fearful of them massing numbers to form a war party. It took more than 20 years of concerted effort to end the Apache resistance.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

“Manifest Destiny? Never heard of her.”

Comanche

The Comanches not only stymied the Army’s effort to contain or destroy them, but they also took down other Native tribes, eradicating them or driving them out of their traditional lands. The reason the Spanish Empire stopped expanding northward was because they were stopped by Comanches. The Texan Republic stopped expanding westward because of Comanches. The United States frontier actually receded because of the Comanches.

By the end of the 1860s, the men who won the Civil War for the Union were now running the country and President Grant, Commander of the U.S. Army William Tecumseh Sherman, and Gen. Philip Sheridan were determined to end the Comanche threat, finally subduing them with overwhelming force in 1875.

Military Life

See the Navy haul its crew’s vehicles on the USS Ronald Reagan

The United States Navy’s aircraft carriers are huge ships. This isn’t just for show; they need to be large to operate four squadrons of multi-role fighters plus other assorted planes, like EA-18G Growlers, E-2 Hawkeyes, and helicopters. But all of that space is useful for transporting other things, too. After all, we’re talking over four acres of sovereign United States territory.


Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
Sailors direct the movement of vehicles onto an aircraft elevator of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV)

For instance, when the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) was switching homeports from Bremerton to San Diego (before being deployed to Japan as the forward-based carrier), she did a solid for all of the sailors who man her — she gave their rides a ride.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
Sailors’ vehicles are parked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV)

Many sailors have vehicles. But when you’re sailing a ship, your options for vehicle transportation are limited. Sure, you can have your vehicle shipped — but you’ll have to pay a fee. Yeah, you can ask a buddy to make the road trip out to your new home port, but what if something happens along the way? Or, you could always sell your car and buy a new one, but that’s a hassle and a half — plus, you don’t want to shed that sweet Mustang, right?

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
Sailors direct the movement of vehicles on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV)

Since it was just a short trip up the coast and since they didn’t need to operate the air wing, the sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan were allowed to park on the ship. Without the air wing, there’s a lot of room for helping the crew get their vehicles to the new home port.

For one brief coastal cruise, the Ronald Reagan became a $5 billion, nuclear-powered car carrier. The sailors saved money, the Navy didn’t have to pay contractors to move the vehicles, and we got some cool photos out of the deal. That’s a win-win-win all around.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force top recruiter flies with the Thunderbirds

In what’s believed to be a first, Air Force Recruiting Service’s top recruiter received an incentive flight with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds as a congratulations for all of his hard work.

Master Sgt. Gervacio Maldonado, a former Health Professions recruiter and now flight chief with the 318th Recruiting Squadron, was surprised and ecstatic when he learned winning the 2018 Maj. Gen. A.J. Stewart Top AFRS Recruiter award would take him even higher.

“I was blown away,” Maldonado said after hearing about the opportunity to fly. “The news stopped me in my tracks.”


The flight, with Thunderbird pilot #8, Maj. Jason Markzon, was a first for Maldonado in any fighter aircraft.

“I’d always wanted to fly in a fighter aircraft, however I never thought it would come to fruition,” Maldonado said. “I was so pumped to fly with the Thunderbirds.”

According to his supervisor, Maldonado is more than deserving of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds flew Master Sgt. Gervacio Maldonado, Top Recruiter in the Air Force for 2018, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, May 11, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Cory W. Bush)

“His selection for this flight is an honor for all recruiters and airmen,” said Senior Master Sgt. Aaron Akridge, 318th RCS Production superintendent. “I’m honored to see the Thunderbirds bestow this opportunity to a hardworking airman such as Gervacio Maldonado.”

The top recruiter said he appreciates the opportunity of being the face of the Air Force at many local events where the Air Force doesn’t normally have a presence.

“Anyone selected for recruiting duty during the Developmental Special Duty process should embrace the opportunity,” Maldonado said. “Whether it is representing the Air Force at your local fairs or on larger stages, like the NBA All-Star game or the Super Bowl, you will have plenty of chances to enjoy these unique experiences.”

He recalls attending his first NFL game — an opportunity he had because of his recruiting duties. “I was on the 50-yard line! It was awesome.”

His production superintendent also shared many interesting things he has learned about the top performer since they began working together.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds flew Master Sgt. Gervacio Maldonado, Top Recruiter in the Air Force for 2018, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, May 11, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Cory W. Bush)

“He’s an entrepreneur and a thrill seeker,” Akridge said. “He’s built a successful lodging business as well as conducted freediving all around the world, most recently in the Fiji Islands. But the most important aspect I’ve learned about him is his genuine passion to help others. He is a true wingman; always there to listen or help when and if needed.”

According to Akridge, when Maldonado was a firefighter, he directly responded to over 360 fire, rescue and medical calls, and he still volunteers as a firefighter in his off-duty time. Also, being a recruiter is a natural fit for Maldonado’s entrepreneurial spirit after spending the first part of his career as a weapons specialist.

“Being a recruiter is very business-like,” Maldonado said. “It lets you operate your very own Air Force franchise. You will have quite a bit of autonomy to conduct the business as you see fit—you will not find that in many career fields within the Air Force.”

Maldonado continually reminds himself it’s all about the opportunities. Most recruiters focus solely on the goal and not the experience, he said.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds flew Master Sgt. Gervacio Maldonado, Top Recruiter in the Air Force for 2018, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, May 11, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Cory W. Bush)

“As a recruiter you are the face of the Air Force, the gatekeeper,” he continued. “You are a beacon of opportunity and will be sitting in the most opportune position to mentor and directly change lives. Just like any job there are challenges, but again, it is what you make of it. Stay positive and know that all your efforts are undoubtedly contributing to the betterment of people and the future of the Air Force.”

Those efforts are what got Maldonado his flight with the Thunderbirds, something he described as breathtaking.

“I still can’t believe people get paid to do this job,” he said. “They told me as I was preparing for the flight to be ready for the ride of a lifetime — and that’s pretty accurate!”

He praised the demonstration team members for their very high standard of professionalism and attention to detail.

“As a recruiter, my focus is on customer service and they provided that in very detail — from beginning to end,” he said.

Both Akridge and Maldonado agree they hope the tradition of flying the top recruiter with the Thunderbirds continues every year since the aerial demonstration team is an extension of professional Air Force recruiters.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Police drone finds Chinese fugitive living in a hillside cave

A man who escaped prison and remained a fugitive for 17 years was caught by Chinese police last week after drone footage revealed his makeshift hideaway embedded inside a remote hillside cave.

Police in Yongshan, a county in China’s southwestern Yunnan province, revealed details of the discovery and photos of the man on WeChat.

The fugitive, 63-year-old Song Moujiang escaped a prison camp in the nearby Sichuan province in March 2002 and has been on the run ever since. He had been jailed for trafficking women and children. Police did not mention when Song was imprisoned.


The force said it had received a tip that Song was possibly hiding in the mountains behind his hometown of Yongshan County, though they had trouble searching for his location due to steep slopes and rocky terrain.

So police decided to employ the use of a drone in order to conduct their search, they said.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Song’s “residence” was embedded inside a cave in that was less than 21 square feet, according to Yongshan Police.

(Yongshan Police/WeChat)

Police located Song’s hideout on the morning of Sept. 19, 2019, after drone footage identified a blue steel tile amid the dense bush. After more than an hour of hiking, police say they found Song’s shelter, which was located in a cave on the cliff.

Police arrested the man inside, who confessed to escaping the prison camp and evading their capture for 17 years.

The man lived in the cave residence — which was less than two square meters or 21 square feet — for so long that his communication skills had become hindered, police said.

“He expressed himself poorly and there were slight barriers to his communication,” police said.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Song was arrested and, according to the BBC, returned to prison.

(Yongshan Police/WeChat)

During his stay in the cave Song used plastic bottles to get water from a nearby ravine, the BBC reported, citing state media.

He has now been sent back to jail, the BBC reported.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

This weekend, comic book fans all over the world were saddened by the terrible news that the father of superheroes had passed — and veterans lost a brother-in-arms who dedicated his life to the arts. This week, the Army Signal Corps says farewell to its most prominent member.

Stan Lee, WWII veteran, comic-book author, and editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, passed away on the morning of November 12, 2018. As painful as this news is to his family, friends, and fans around the world, we can all appreciate the fact that his life was a very accomplished one. The only way to truly honor a man so great is by reflecting on his storied life and “rise ever upward.” Or, as he’d put it, in it’s Latin form, “excelsior!


Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
Captain America Comics #3 (1941)
(Marvel Comics)

Stan Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber, began his career in the comic book world in 1939 when he took on a position as an assistant at Timely Comics under Joe Simon. It wasn’t an easy job, but it needed doing. He’d get people lunch, make sure everyone’s inkwells were full, and even do some proofreading — these weren’t glamorous duties, but they kept the wheels turning. When he finally touched the comic book world directly, he changed it forever — he was given a small amount of creative control over Captain America #3, and he used it to give Cap his signature shield ricochet.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
Many years later, and troops doodling things to pass the time hasn’t changed one bit.
(U.S. Army)

 

What was nothing more than a small writer’s credit at the time gave rise to immense goals. From that moment forward, Lee set out to create the next “Great American Novel.” As we all know, this ambition eventually morphed and developed into the greater Marvel Universe, a web of fictions that has today touched the lives of millions across the globe. But this lofty goal wasn’t outside of the scope of reality for a 19-year old Stan Lee — he believed in himself.

By then, World War II was heating up and Lee found himself enlisted in the Army by early 1942. Soon after that, he was at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, learning to string and repair communication lines. In his downtime, he’d continue to draw and write to help pass the time.

It wasn’t long until the Army realized that they needed to create training films to onboard the massive influx of new troops. Because of the highly-sensitive nature of the process, they couldn’t trust just anyone to create them — they needed soldiers. The Army began its Signal Corps Photographic Center at Fort Monmouth, which, coincidentally, was where Lee was stationed.

Lee’s superior officers recognized his creative talents from his hobbies and his earlier work with Timely Comics. So, they more or less hey-you’d him into using his talents for the Army. This was exactly the break he needed. He was laterally transferred to the Fort Monmouth Film Production Laboratory and worked side by side with some of the other greatest artistic visionaries of the U.S. Army.

He stood in formation with Frank Capra, the three-time Academy-Award-winning director for films like It’s a Wonderful Life, cartoonist Charles Addams of The Addams Family fame, and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Lee was one of nine soldiers to ever earn the position of “playwright” for the U.S. Army.

Lee didn’t have any notoriety before then, unlike many of his famous fellow soldiers. He was, simply, that guy who wrote for comic books, but that didn’t phase him one bit. He kept giving the Army his all — and it showed. He was so good and so fast at what he did, in fact, that he was asked to slow down many times because it made everyone else look bad.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
This scene in Avengers 2 will always bring joy to my heart.
(Walt Disney Studios)

 

Lee’s service concluded in 1945 and he went back to Timely Comics. No longer was he just some kid grabbing coffee; he was a war hero. The skills he developed while quickly chugging out quality content for the Army was exactly the type of tempo needed in the comic world.

Lee used his Army experiences to perfect comic book making. He turned the process into a creative assembly line. Lee would write the captions in the bubbles, another artist would pencil in the scene, another would color it, and another would finalize the lettering. This style became known as the “Marvel Method.” It distributed the workload evenly and it gave everyone equal creative input.

Stan Lee may not have written the next Moby Dick as he planned while a bright-eyed 19-year-old, but there’s no denying that his life’s work — the Marvel Universe — stands tall as the most enduring, relevant collection of fiction of his era.

Rest easy, Mr. Lee. You made True Believers out of all of us.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Wreaths Across America: How one tribute started a movement

National Wreaths Across America Day has become such a big tradition that it’s hard to believe it began from just one personal tribute.

How it Happened

The Worcester family of Harrington, Maine, owns their own tree farm. In 1992, they had a surplus of wreaths during the holiday season, so the family patriarch, Morrill — who had long felt indebted to our fallen veterans — got help from a Maine politician to have those spare wreaths placed beside graves in Arlington National Cemetery in areas that received fewer visitors each year.


Several volunteers stepped up to help, including veterans from American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and a truck company owner who transported the wreaths to Arlington, Virginia, where a small ceremony was held at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This remained a small yearly tradition for nearly 15 years until a photo taken at the 2005 ceremony went viral. Almost immediately, thousands of people wanted to know how to help or how they could begin a similar tradition in their states.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., in December 2005.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

By the next year — with the help of some civic organizations and volunteers, including in the trucking industry — there were 150 simultaneous ceremonies held across the country. By 2008, the movement to remember, honor and teach had grown so much that Congress had declared the third Saturday in September National Wreaths Across America Day.

By 2014, the now-nonprofit Wreaths Across America had reached its goal of placing a wreath at all 226,525 graves in the cemetery.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Navy personnel from the Navy International Programs Office, Washington, distribute wreaths to volunteers during the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 15, 2012.

(Photo by Chief Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)

Wreaths Across America today

The event continues to grow. In 2018, the organization shipped a staggering 1.75 MILLION wreaths to 1,640 locations that held ceremonies across the U.S. A few dozen locations overseas also participated. According to the organization, this was the first year it was granted permission to place wreaths at Normandy to honor those who died during World War II’s D-Day invasion.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Charles C. Orf salutes a headstone at Fort Richardson National Cemetery during the annual Wreaths Across America Day at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 16, 2017.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

Veterans and Gold Star families are many of the roughly 2 million volunteers who prepared the wreaths, shipped them across the country, and put them on graves.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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