Rifles, grenades, and bayonets are just some of the weapons ground troops used while fighting in the trenches of World War I. However, there’s one weapon that’s often overlooked by history, even though its use was extremely important — especially in the close-quarters combat typical of The Great War. That is the trench club.
In the event that one force decided to raid their enemy’s trench, oftentimes, their bolt-action rifles were rendered near ineffective, as each shot was followed by spending precious seconds reloading. Similarly, stabbing a man with a bayonet requires that, before engaging another enemy, you must first withdraw the blade from the bad guy’s flesh. Every single moment matters when you’ve closed in on the enemy, and regaining a firm grip on your bayonet may take too long.
So, troops grabbed old pieces of wood and converted them into weapons. The various types of trench clubs used in World War I hearken back to when brave Knights once fought with them on medieval battlefields. Here’s what you didn’t know about these improvised tools of destruction.
1. They would commonly see use in night raids
In the black of night, troops would crawl across the dangerous area between friendly and enemy fortifications known as “no man’s land” and navigate through the enemy’s trenches, quietly clubbing their opposers without raising alarm.
2. Size does matter
Reportedly, a medium-sized club worked best within the confined spaces typical of trench warfare. The average club was approximately 40-centimeters long, which is, basically, the length of a standard classroom ruler plus 3 inches.
3. They were made right there on the frontline
Trench clubs weren’t standard issue, so troops would gather materials found in the trenches and either put them together themselves or have unit’s carpenter do it. Nails, the shell of a Mills’ bomb, and a variety metal components were affixed the clubs, usually in mass quantities, to increase lethality.
See the club on the bottom? Yeah, that’s the spring club.
4. The most famous type of club was the…
This club was made up of a leather handle, a flexible metal coil as the base, and a metal head. Various other heads, like smalls metals balls and star-shaped blades, were also affixed to clubs.
Check out Simple History‘s video below to get an animated look on the major impact trench clubs had on World War I.
The upcoming summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In could result in a historic announcement, with the sides declaring an end to the 68-year long war on the peninsula, according to a report.
Newspaper Munhwa Ilbo cited an unnamed South Korean intelligence source as saying the coming Kim-Moon summit on April 27, 2018, the first time the leaders will meet face-to-face, may result in a peace announcement.
The news follows weeks of planning between the South and North that kicked off with a thawing of previously tense relations during the Winter Olympics.
Since then, Kim has expressed an unprecedented willingness to talk to the South, a desire to talk about denuclearization with the US, and traveled outside his country for the first time since assuming power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During the thaw, North Korea has seen an influx of South Korean visitors, including diplomatic delegations and Korean pop bands, with Kim himself sitting in on a performance that he reportedly loved.
North Korea has also opened up the Kim family to publicity, sending his sister Kim Yo Jong to the games and upgrading the status of Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, from “comrade” to “revered first lady” in a potential bid to create a cult of personality around her.
The US maintains a wait-and-see attitude toward the talks, and has vowed to stay tough on North Korea by not letting up on sanctions or military pressure. But the customary military exercises that take place with the US and South Korea have been delayed and toned down since 2017.
Experts remain skeptical that North Korea would actually go through with its promises to denuclearize, as it has entered into negotiations in the past only to have them fall apart when it came time to inspect their nuclear sites.
But South Korean diplomats repeatedly say Pyongyang has stuck to its promise of denuclearization, and even laid out specific plans for implementation.
In any case, the relations between North Korea and the world have markedly turned since 2017, when President Donald Trump threatened the country with presumably nuclear “fire and fury” and Pyongyang spoke of firing missiles at US forces in Guam and detonating nukes in the sky.
On Sunday morning, Nov. 4, 1979, 3,000 university students, many armed, stormed the US Embassy in Tehran. Two weeks prior, President Jimmy Carter had allowed former Iranian head of state Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to enter the US for cancer treatment. The radical protesters took more than 90 hostages, including 63 Americans, planning a nonviolent three-day revolt using the hostages as leverage to demand the Shah’s return for trial. But what unfolded was a 444-day saga that became known as the Iranian hostage crisis. Only two days after the US Embassy was seized, the US military was tasked with the rescue efforts code-named Operation Eagle Claw.
Staff Sgt. Mike Vining, 29, was participating in winter warfare training in Breckenridge, Colorado, when his squadron was alerted to immediately return to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Vining had been a plank owner or founding member of the Army’s then-brand-new counterterrorism team established by Army Special Forces legend Col. Charles Beckwith, based on the British SAS. The unit collected the best the Army had to offer, and Beckwith valued those with combat experience or unique skill sets. Vining had both, previously serving as an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) specialist in Vietnam for a 12-month tour, where his composite team was responsible for the destruction of the largest enemy weapons cache in the war.
Operation Rice Bowl
When Vining and other members of B Squadron returned to their unit’s compound, they were briefed on the situation and put into isolation to begin planning. The planning stages were dubbed Operation Rice Bowl. The name was picked to suggest, in the event their mission brought scrutiny, that something was going on in Southeast Asia away from the Middle East.
“We were really fearful of any satellites picking up any indication of what we were trying to do,” Vining told Coffee or Die Magazine in a recent interview. “The Russian satellites and so forth. We were worried that the Russians would alert the Iranians.”
The assault teams moved to Camp Peary in Virginia, home to “The Farm,” where CIA operations officers are trained to perform covert missions. The site was transformed to create a mock replica of the US Embassy in Tehran. The CIA even built a 3D model similar to the one used in preparation for the Son Tay Raid in Vietnam, where one could take the roof off and see the interior within.
“When you do military operations and stuff like that you create what’s called a sand table,” Vining said. “The Rangers do that in Ranger School. You draw in the sand what the objective looks like, points that you need to know about. And so it’s just like a sand table, but very elaborate, very sophisticated. It was a great model.”
In Iran, the 27-acre US Embassy compound housed 50 hostages guarded by some 500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards, while three additional hostages were kept in the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs building 16 blocks away. Throughout the crisis, several hostages were released early, and a secret operation dubbed Canadian Caper helped others escape to a safe house and use Canadian passports to leave the country. This operation was later chronicled in the Hollywood movie Argo.
The planned assault on the embassy was the easy part. It was getting there that was the challenge and that would spiral out of control for the ill-equipped joint-military operation.
The elaborate plan
Beckwith initially proposed a parachute infiltration, but that was quickly scrapped once predictions estimated the ground rescue force would likely suffer a 7% casualty rate right at the start. Instead, planners came up with a helicopter raid, and the training resumed at Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona.
The Navy’s helicopter pilots lacked tactical expertise. They were not used to flying at nap-of-the-Earth altitude under night vision goggles, nor were they equipped to transition from desert flying to urban flying. The Marine Corps pilots had no prior experience working with the Navy pilots. Moreover, both the Navy and Marine models of the Sikorsky H-53 helicopters were old and worn out, with frequent mechanical problems. In the end, Marine aircrews were selected to fly Navy helicopters, the first of several decisions to pair up mismatched equipment and personnel that would haunt the mission.
Weeks before the pilots or assaulters were set to launch on the operation, Beckwith enlisted Maj. John Carney, an Air Force Combat Controller (CCT), to install a hidden airstrip with lights that were only visible under night vision goggles. The site was called Desert One, about 200 miles from Tehran, and would be the operation’s initial rally point and refueling site. Next came a small advanced force that would infiltrate Tehran and secure a warehouse containing five Ford trucks and two Mazda vans. The vehicles had facade compartments that would conceal the assaulters as they went through Iranian checkpoints to reach the embassy.
“We had with us people that spoke Farsi really well,” Vining said, adding some of the members included former Iranian generals. “They were going to be our drivers on the vehicles.”
The plan was elaborate. Eight US Navy RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters would fly from the USS Nimitz in the Arabian sea to Desert One. There they would meet the assault force, which would reach Desert One on Air Force C-130s. The helicopters would refuel, and the assaulters would then board the helicopters to fly to a site 50 miles outside of Tehran, called Desert Two. During daylight hours, Vining and the assaulters would stay in a warehouse, while the helicopters hid at Desert Two. The raid would come on the second night.
The escape was even more audacious: The assault teams would move the hostages to a nearby soccer stadium, where helicopters would fly in to pick them up. Meanwhile, a Ranger element would secure a nearby air base. The helicopters would ferry the raiders and the hostages to the air base, where Air Force C-141s would arrive to fly the whole force home.
If anything went wrong, the teams had contingencies to escape.
“We had maps and everybody was carrying money,” he said. “I had $10,000. I had $5,000 in American money and I had $5,000 in Iranian money to help drive our way out. We had stuff to jump-start vehicles if we had to steal a vehicle and get out of Tehran. Then our E&E (Escape and Evasion) plan, we’d head up into the mountains and work our way across the mountains towards Turkey, hopefully running into some Iranians that were friendly, and would help us.”
The plan, however, never made it past Desert One.
Operation Eagle Claw
On April 20, 1980, the complex plan was set into motion. The rescue ground force was flown to Germany, then to Egypt, before the flight to Desert One.
“But as soon as we landed, we see headlights come in, and there was a bus coming down the road,” Vining said. “So Beckwith hollered, ‘Stop that bus!’ So one of the Rangers fired a 40 mm round at the front of the bus. And the bus came to a stop and we boarded the bus.”
Two more vehicles came down the road, a fuel truck and a pickup, who the raiders believed were likely gas smugglers. A Ranger fired a rocket at the fuel truck and it caught fire. “That tanker blew up because it had been sitting there on fire and lit up the sky with a giant fireball,” he said. “It was like, we are really announcing here we are.”
That was only the beginning.
The helicopters were late. Among the eight Sea Stallion helicopters scheduled to land at Desert One, only six arrived, one of which was immediately declared out of service for mechanical issues. Five was the bare minimum the plan allowed to continue the rescue mission.
Vining and his assault team sat inside the EC-130 that had brought them to Desert One. They would board the Sea Stallions after the helicopters took on the fuel that the EC-130 had brought for them. In the center of the EC-130, the large communications pod normally on board the aircraft had been swapped with a bladder of 5,000 gallons of fuel.
On the improvised airstrip, the Air Force CCTs told two of the waiting helicopters to move away from the sandblast of the EC-130’s propellers. One of the helicopters couldn’t taxi on the ground because it had suffered a hard landing and flattened its tires.
“He had to actually lift up off the ground to reposition,” said Vining. “He lifted up, kicked up some sand, [the pilot] got vertigo, and he turned and he twisted. Next thing I know you feel this movement of our aircraft and then the rotors of the helicopter actually cutting into the top of the fuselage.”
The left front cockpit door blew in and behind it was nothing but fire and flames. As the Sea Stallion crashed into the EC-130, its fuel tanks exploded. “The people that witnessed this from the outside said our two aircraft completely disappeared,” he said, “disappeared into a fireball. They thought that both aircraft were at that instant gone.”
Eight Americans died in the initial fireball. Inside the doomed plane, next to a gas tank, Vining thought for sure he was going to as well.
“I really didn’t believe I could make it from my position to that door,” Vining recalled. “I thought I was going to die that day. I was surprised when I actually made it to the door and jumped out. I came out and did a somersault, landed on some hot metal, came to my feet, and just ran.”
As Vining sprinted to safety, he started to hear grenades and small-arms ammunition cook off in the fireball. Then came six Redeye missiles shooting out into the air and into the desert. In the chaos, all of the other helicopter aircrews left their helicopters and ran to fixed-wing planes.
There would be no rescue mission. The task force piled onto the remaining helicopters and planes and returned to a US base in Oman.
“Contrary to what you ever heard, there was no head count taken at Desert One,” he said. “We didn’t know who we had or who we didn’t have until we got to Oman. Then we figured out that we lost eight people, three Marines and five Air Force crewmen that were in the front of the cockpit.”
Operation Eagle Claw was later cast as the “Desert One Debacle.” The Iranians split up the hostages so that they were no longer all in one spot. Still, a second hostage rescue mission was planned, but it never came to fruition. In June 1980, the Iranians released an American hostage with multiple sclerosis. The rest of the hostages were released in January 1981.
Although Eagle Claw wasn’t a success, its failure kick-started the buildup of US special operations forces and capabilities. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the Joint Special Operations Command, and the rest of the US special operations forces can all trace their beginnings to Desert One.
Police around the country have begun using a new tool that comes straight out of comic book lore: a device that shoots out a cord, binding a person’s arms or legs together.
The BolaWrap 100, which some media organizations have compared to a tool from Batman’s utility belt, was developed by Las Vegas-based Wrap Technologies. It allows the police to fire a Kevlar cord, and wraps tightly around a person.
Wrap Technologies has touted the benefits of the device as a way to subdue suspects without using force. But last week, when Los Angeles Police Department leaders told the city’s board of police commissioners that it intended to test the device for a trial period in January, the LA Times reported that critics pushed back at this notion.
One member of Black Lives Matter, Adam Smith, told commissioners the department would probably deploy the tool mostly in minority communities, according to the LA Times.
Wrap Technologies has said over 100 police agencies across the country currently use the Bola Wrap.
Or, it binds their legs together, restricting their movement.
The LAPD intends to start testing the device during a trial period in January.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The trio shuffled into the small room with canes and walkers to record their testimonies of the first confrontations of the Cold War and how the allies prevailed without firing a shot, saving a former enemy from oppression.
The Royal Air Force Museum American Foundation celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of Berlin Airlift at their annual “Spirit of the Battle of Britain” banquet October 2019 to honor these veterans for their contributions to the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom.
The trio retold their stories of using soft air power to deter Soviet aggression in post-World War II Berlin, and current U.S. Air Force and RAF airmen were honored for continuing to further the partnership between the two nations.
Prior to the dinner, the trio transported family, listeners and caregivers back to 1940s Germany.
“I remember the war,” said Mercedes Wild, who was seven years old at the start of the Berlin Airlift. “They (Allied bombers) destroyed Berlin. It was a hard time for the kids in West Berlin. Berlin is a destroyed city. We will never forget the sound of the bombers.”
After WWII, the German capital was divided with Soviet Russia controlling East Berlin and British, French and American Allies responsible for the west. The city was located more than 100 miles inside the Russian controlled portion of Germany. On June 24, 1948, the Russians implemented a blockade of West Berlin to prevent food and supplies, such as coal, from entering the town. The effort attempted to break the spirit of the West Berlin people to reject democracy and embrace communism.
A C-54 Skymaster piloted by retired Col. Gail Halvorsen drops candy with attached parachutes to children during the Berlin Airlift. Halvorsen earned the nickname “Candy Bomber” for his operation Little Vittles candy drops. Note the parachutes below the tail of the C-54.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Enter, veterans and the Berlin Airlift.
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, widely known as the “Candy Bomber,” described volunteering for the mission that changed his life and the lives of millions in West Berlin. Halvorsen, a 28-year-old lieutenant at the time, grew up on a farm in Utah, where helping a neighbor in need was a way of life.
“My dad was an example to me,” he said. “He had plenty to do himself, but when a neighbor, a farmer, needed help and couldn’t get enough help, my dad would drop some of the things that weren’t so important on our farm to help the next-door neighbor.”
Halvorsen saw his first aircraft flying overhead on the farm while he was working the fields. He was hooked and signed up for a non-college pilot training program. Soon he received his flight training and was flying cargo aircraft in Mobile, Alabama. When the word came of the attempts by Russia to stomp out freedom in West Berlin by starving its residents, there was no doubt of his next step.
“I volunteered to fly supplies in early,” Halvorsen recalled.
At first, the citizens of West Berlin didn’t know what to think of hearing heavy aircraft over their heads again.
“The noise of the airplanes during the airlift in the beginning I feared, because it was the same noise while bombing Berlin,” Wild said.
They would soon learn the aircraft were not carrying bombs but food and supplies to keep them alive. The logistics of flying 2.3 million tons of goods and equipment was not without risks. In total, 101 airmen from around the world perished in the Berlin Airlift.
“Two hundred meters from our house, there was the first airlift airplane crash in the night,” Wild remembered. “The next morning I went with my mother. It was destroyed. The two pilots were dead. The people were very sorry about this … They feared that the west allies would now stop the airlift.”
A hard winter already made food in short supply, Wild explained. The only meal she might get would come from school and she would sneak part of this food to her mother, who was sick. She also took care of the family chickens, whose eggs she would trade on the black market for meat or shoes. Still, none of these hardships compared to the fear of the Russians returning to West Berlin as they had done in the final days of the war.
“The normal West Berliner did not want to become Soviet,” she said. “The Soviet regime was near the same as Nazi time and they feared the Russians. They remembered the Russian soldiers.”
As Halvorsen flew food and coal into the city of Berlin, a 19-year-old RAF pilot flew gasoline into Berlin.
Then-Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“The Halifax aircraft was a converted bomber,” said Dereck Hermiston. “The bomb racks had been taken and we flew, I think it was 40 or 41, 45-gallon tanks of gasoline. They had wooden beams, and they (used them) to roll these drums up. Quite unstable, and it stank to high hell.”
The son of a WWI pilot, Hermiston was among the youngest airmen to participate in flying the airlift. Yet, even as a teenager, the reversal of roles did not escape him.
“I realized, as a British officer, that we had bombed, and bombed, and bombed Berlin with the Americans, and it was a reversal,” he said. “We were now trying to save the Berliners from what was quite an oppressive regime from the Russians. I met a few Russian officers, and they were very sure they wanted to stop Germany from growing ever again.”
There was always worry of an international incident turning the Cold War operation hot, as Hermiston told.
“We were buzzed by a Russian MiG-9 one morning,” Hermiston, very much still a kid at heart, said with a chuckle. “I think it was about 4 o’clock in the morning. It was just getting daylight. There was this great shudder, and this fighter aircraft flew underneath us … and looped around us. As he came down, I had no room to maneuver. I suppose he missed us by about 200 to 300 feet. It was enough to make the aircraft shudder. Little things like that I remember because I was frightened.”
Despite the harsh weather conditions and aero acrobatic antics of the Soviets, the Allies continued to do what was needed to feed and fuel a city. In some cases this involved evacuating Berliners in need of medical attention.
“I flew out something like 220 people in my aircraft from Berlin that were sick or were children needing operations,” Hermiston said. “My aircraft was a tanker aircraft, so they had to sit on these wooden beams that were going up the fuselage in stinking conditions. It stank of petrol oil from all the gasoline. Yet, they were all so very grateful — very, very grateful. I found the people extremely grateful.”
The British pilot was not the only person struck by the grateful nature of the people of Berlin. In a previous interview, Halvorsen recalled how he became known as the “Candy Bomber” after a trip to Berlin, seeing children line up along the fence line outside the flightline of the Templehof airport.
“I had been to other countries where the kids had chocolate,” he said, recalling that moment nearly 70 years later. “When George Washington visited his troops, he had little hard candies in his pocket for the kids. That was nothing new. But these kids had not had chocolate for a couple of years. Not one out of the 30 broke ranks and said, ‘do you got candy?’ When I realized that, it just hit me like a ton of bricks — black and white. I just could not believe that quality of character called gratitude. They were so grateful. They were thankful for their freedom. When I realized that, I thought I got to do something. I reached in my pocket, and all I had was two sticks of gum.”
Convinced that everyone deserved a treat or no one did, Halvorsen took about three more steps and the little voice came clear as a bell directing him back to the fence.
Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“Boy, when I stopped and started back, those kids came to attention,” he said. “I pulled out two sticks of gum and broke them in half and passed it to the kids doing the translating. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The other kids didn’t push or shove or try to grab it. The kids that got half a piece of stick of gum tore off the wrapper and passed it. The kids that got a strip of paper, put it up to their noses, smelled it and their eyes got big. They were dumbfounded. They clutched it in their hands to go home and show their parents, if they had any.”
An idea came to Halvorsen — return the next day.
“I will be flying overhead, and I will drop enough chocolate for all of you,” he announced to the children. “When that translated to everybody, there was a celebration going on.”
Halvorsen made one demand of the children. They must share the candy. They agreed, but another question arose. With planes arriving every few seconds, how would the children know which one was Halvorsen’s?
“When I would fly over the farm (back home), I would wiggle the wings back and forth. So I said, ‘kids, you watch the airplane. When I come over the center of Tempelhof, if it is clear, I will wiggle the wings.’ That is how it began.”
The “Candy Bomber,” with his parachutes of chocolate, was born, and the act would soon be named operation Little Vittles.
One little girl never caught one of the treats — the 7-year-old Wild.
“I was never quick enough,” she said.
Crews unload planes at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
To make matters worse, the chickens whose eggs brought a fortune on the black market had stopped laying because of the noise from the aircraft landing every few seconds over head.
“Therefore, I decided to write a letter because I was so sad about the situation, and I cried,” she said. “My grandmother told me don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t weep, do something. I decided to write a letter.”
The letter was addressed to her “Chocolate Uncle,” and she asked him to aim his parachute for the garden with the white chickens.
No parachute ever came, despite nearly 20 tons of candy being dropped from the C-54 Skymasters flown by the Americans.
A letter from her “Chocolate Uncle” did come, with two special treats — a lollipop and peppermint-flavored stick of gum. Between the war and the blockade, the smell of peppermint was unknown to the child.
“I exchanged it on the black market, this peppermint gum, for a glass marble; I have this glass marble,” Wild said, pulling the smooth glass toy from her pocket and placing it on the table with as much pride as any seven-year-old. “This is the same glass marble.”
The lollipop was saved for a Christmas treat, but the greatest gift that day was not the candy.
“The most important was the letter; the letter changed my whole life,” she said.
Offered a chance to join an aunt in Switzerland where food and supplies were not held hostage by the Soviets, Wild turned it down with the hopes of one day meeting her “Chocolate Uncle.”
Around-the-clock supplies continued flying into Berlin as British and American pilots made three round trips a day. After nearly a year, the Soviets lifted the blockade, reopening the transportation routes on the ground.
“The Soviets gave up,” Halvorsen said. “They said we can’t compete with that. They got red-faced and backed off. The airlift was the reason they had to do that; it broke the blockade. I was proud to be a part of that.”
With the blockade lifted in May 1949, British and American aircraft continued to fly supplies into Berlin to rebuild the stocks. On Sept. 23, 1949, the last RAF aircraft landed in Berlin with supplies.
Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” stands in front of C-54 Skymaster.
(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)
Time passed, and in 1970, Halvorsen returned to Germany, now as a colonel and the commander of Tempelhof. A now grown and married Wild decided now was the time to meet her “Chocolate Uncle.”
“First, we went to airport Templehof, and I took the letter with me,” Wild said. “Then I invited him to our home for dinner with the family.”
The two families have remained close all these years.
Seventy years later, these veterans of the Berlin Airlift travel the world telling the story of how the gratitude of the Berlin Airlift shaped their lives and the world.
“We must give the good spirit to the kids to have good society and future…” Wild said. “This was a very good thing that Colonel Halvorsen decided to have those candy droppings because I think he is the best ambassador for mankind–for humanity. It is not only Col. Halvorsen, but the other pilots and the people of Great Britain, South Africa, Canada and USA. The people were standing behind the airlift.”
In 1979, there wasn’t a single woman working a fire season as a smokejumper in the United States.
Since their beginnings in 1939, the smokejumpers were exclusively an all-male unit, famously known as the wildland firefighters who parachuted from airplanes to fight forest fires. Throughout the years they encompassed unorthodox programs such as the Triple Nickles, an all-Black US Army Airborne unit, which protected the Pacific Northwest against Japanese balloon bombs during World War II. A detachment of smokejumpers was even contracted by the CIA to work as “kickers” to kick out supplies in remote areas all over the world, including in Tibet and during the secret war in Laos.
For some 40 years the smokejumpers were a boys’ club, unaffected by the evolving wildland firefighting culture of the 1970s and 1980s — one in which women were proving they belonged. In other highly trained units, such as the hotshots and helitack crews, the women excelled. Then Deanne Shulman came along to show why the smokejumpers should be open to women, too.
Shulman, a Californian, had begun her career working in the fire community with an engine crew only five years prior. She cut her teeth on a helitack crew rappelling from helicopters to suppress forest fires for the 1975 and 1976 fire seasons. In the two years that followed, she was a valued member of the hot-hots, a hotshot crew where she used chain saws to fell trees and Pulaski tools to dig fire lines. Digging fire lines is a common strategy wildland firefighters employ to set a break between the moving fire and oxygen-enriched vegetation.
When Shulman completed her physical and mental tests to become a smokejumper in 1979, she was kicked out of the program because she was underweight, just 5 pounds below the 130-pound requirement. She filed an Equal Opportunity Commission complaint and was allowed to volunteer again in 1981.
Her rookie training class was at the McCall Smokejumper Base in Idaho. Among the grueling physical tests required for each candidate to pass was carrying a 115-pound pack 3 1/2 miles to mimic the backcountry conditions smokejumpers often find themselves in. She also had to complete eight jumps to be certified, and when she passed she became the first female smokejumper in the country.
“When I showed up at McCall, some [smokejumpers] were openly supportive and receptive,” she said, reported the East Oregonian in 2015. “Others withheld judgment until they could see how I did. Some would not talk to me the whole five years I was there.”
The smokejumping community has a certain allure, and those outside it often romanticize the profession. Shulman made sure to not attach any elitism to the blue-collar profession.
“I’ve worked on a lot of different crews and stuff and the main difference is just the transportation to the fire,” she recalled in a 1984 interview. “That’s the main difference. And […] you know, that transportation does require some finesse to it, but we’re all firefighters. I worked real hard on the hotshot crew I was on; I’ve worked real hard on all the crews I’ve been on.”
Shulman is a trailblazer who paved the way for women in the wildland fire community. “It probably will encourage other women just to know other women are smokejumpers,” Shulman said in 1981 after being accepted into the unit. “It would have helped me. It would have been nice to have someone.”
For the women who make up approximately 15% of the smokejumping community in the United States, Shulman became that someone.
The United States wasn’t the most dominant country on Earth from the get-go. For most of our nearly 243-year history, in fact, we lived by the skin of our teeth. It’s a relatively recent development where some other country can call out for the blood of Americans to fill the streets, and we at home barely seem to notice. That’s the chief benefit of U.S. military. In the olden days, someone threatening the United States might have actually had a chance.
Those days are gone.
This list is about more than just how many Americans an enemy could kill. This is about being able to really take down the United States at a time when we weren’t able to topple the enemy government or wipe out their infrastructure without missing a single episode of The Bachelor.
Radical terrorism is nothing new. Just like insurgent groups, extremists, and jihadis attacking Americans in the name of their gods, other militants have been picking at the U.S. for centuries. ISIS and al-Qaeda are just the latest flash in the pan. Anarchists, organized labor, and other saboteurs were bombing American facilities well before Osama bin Laden thought of it. The U.S. Marine Corps even established its reputation by walking 500 miles through the North African desert just to rescue hostages and kill terrorists… in 1805.
What terrorists have been able to do is force tough changes in defense and foreign policy – but as an existential threat, the Macarena captured more Americans than global terrorism ever will.
The Soviet Union
The Cold War was a hot war, we all know that by now. It had the potential to kill millions of people worldwide and throw the American system into total disarray. It definitely had potential. Unfortunately, they were much better at killing their own people than killing Americans. In the end, their deadliest weapon was food shortages, which they used to great effect… on the Soviet Union.
But thanks for all the cool 1980s movie villains.
It may surprise you all to see Mexico ranked higher on this list than our primary Cold War adversary, but before the United States could take on pretty much the rest of the world in a war, a threat from Mexico carried some heft. Until James K. Polk came to office.
Even though the Mexican-American War was a pretty lopsided victory for the United States, it was hard-won. More than 16 percent of the Americans who joined to fight it never came home. And imagine if the U.S. had lost to Mexico – California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Texas, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming could still be Mexican today.
The 19th Century and the first part of the 20th Century didn’t look good for China, but they sure managed to turn things around. While, like their Soviet counterparts, the Chinese were (and still are) better at killing Chinese people than Americans, they sure had their share of fun at our expense. The Chinese fueled the Korean War, the war in Vietnam, and the ongoing struggle with Taiwan and they continue their current military buildup to be able to face threats from the U.S.
While not an existential threat right now, China could very well be one day.
At a time when our nation’s growth and survival demanded it stretch from sea to shining sea, the principal stumbling block was that there were many, many other nations already taking that space between the U.S. east coast and west coast. Predictably, the Native American tribes fought back, making the American frontier manifest much more than destiny, it manifested death and destruction.
While the native tribes had very little chance of conquering the young United States, the Indians were key allies for those who could and for many decades, did keep the two parts of the U.S. separated by a massive, natural border.
The United States would be very, very difficult to invade, sure, but what if your armed forces were already on American soil and all you had to do was just keep those colonists from revolting while still paying their taxes? The only way anyone could ever have killed off the fledgling United States would be to kill it in its cradle and the British came very, very close. And just a few years later, they would have another opportunity.
In round two, British and Canadian forces burned down the White House and have been the envy of every American enemy ever since.
Japan had the might and the means to be able to take down the United States. Their only problem was poor planning and even worse execution. The problem started long before Pearl Harbor. Japanese hubris after beating Russia and China one after the other turned them into a monster – a slow, dumb monster that had trouble communicating. Japan’s head was so far up its own ass with its warrior culture that they became enamored with the process of being a warrior, rather than focusing on the prize: finishing the war it started.
There’s a reason the Nazis are America’s number one movie and TV-show enemy. The Germans were not only big and bad on paper; they were even worse in real life. Even though the World War I Germany was vastly different from the genocidal, meth-addled master race bent on world domination, in 1916, it sure didn’t seem that way. But the threat didn’t stop with the Treaty of Versailles.
The interwar years were just as dangerous for the United States. The Great Depression hit the U.S. as hard as anyone else. Pro-Hitler agitators and American Nazi groups weren’t just a product of German immigrants or Nazi intelligence agencies – some Americans really believed National Socialism was the way forward. Even after the end of World War II, East Germans were still trying to kill Americans.
After all, who fights harder or better than an American?
Like many countries before the United States and many countries since no one is better at killing us than ourselves. But this isn’t in the same way the governments of China, the Soviet Union, and countless others decide to systematically kill scores of their own citizens. No, the closest the United States ever came to departing this world was when Americans decided to start fighting Americans.
Silently gliding through frigid February water, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley stayed just under the surface as it approached its prey. As it breached the surface, sailors aboard the Housatonic, a Union sloop-of-war, may have thought it looked like a whale coming up for air. By the time the Union sailors realized their mistake, it was too late.
Using a “spar torpedo” — an explosive spear that the sub rammed into its target — the Hunley blew a hole in the Housatonic, which sank beneath the Atlantic in less than five minutes. Most of its sailors survived, with just five out of a 155-man crew lost in the Feb. 17, 1864, attack near Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. But the crew of the sub that fired the shot actually fared worse. The Hunley never returned to port, with all eight mariners of the Confederate Navy lost for 131 years.
The Hunley was the first submarine to see combat in America, even though it was deadliest to its own crew. Built in 1863 to run Union blockades of Confederate ports, the Hunley’s only successful combat action was against the Housatonic, causing those five casualties. But during its brief career in the Confederate Navy, the Hunley killed 21 Confederate sailors, including the eight lost in the attack on the Housatonic.
Originally built by James McClintock and Baxter Watson, the Hunley took its name from a decidedly unromantic source: the man who funded the whole thing, Horace L. Hunley, a wealthy Confederate lawyer and merchant. Upon successful demonstration, the submarine was sent immediately to use against the Union blockade off the coast of South Carolina in August 1863.
However, the Hunley quickly built a reputation as a death trap. It sank for the first time on Aug. 29, before ever leaving its moorings at the dock, killing five of its eight crewmen. John Payne, the Confederate captain who commanded the sub that day, was among the survivors.
The ship was raised, but it sank again two months later, on Oct. 15. A demonstration dive had been arranged to allow the Hunley to submerge under another ship, the Confederate bomber CSS Indian Chief.
It got the demonstration half right.
The Hunley submerged and went below the other vessel. It just never came up. Again, salvagers pulled it out of the water.
According to the Hunley Museum website, the dive ended in terrifying final moments for those on board. “Rescuers reported the forward ballast tank valve had been left open, allowing the submarine to fill with water,” according to museum history. “The sub’s keel weights had been partially loosened, which suggested the crew realized they were in danger, but not in time to save themselves.”
All eight crewmen were killed, including Horace Hunley, who had captained the submarine himself for the demonstration, making the Hunley possibly the only ship in naval history to kill its namesake.
The Feb. 17, 1864, sinking of the Housatonic was the Hunley’s first and last combat engagement. But as the Hunley sank to the floor of the Atlantic for the third and final time, it did so as the first submarine in history to successfully destroy another vessel.
Missing for 131 years, the Hunley’s final sinking was a mystery many tried to solve, as both civilians and government searchers looked for the wreck. In 1995, a team from the National Underwater and Marine Agency, led by legendary adventure novelist Clive Cussler, discovered it. Inside, artifacts revealed a time capsule of life as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War.
The Hunley’s captain, Lt. George E. Dixon, and the rest of the men aboard, volunteered for the mission. When the Hunley was found, the body of each man was found at his station, making identification of the remains easier. Sediment in the submarine left their bodies remarkably preserved, with one man’s brain still intact.
Hunley’s artifacts ran the gamut of the daily life of a Confederate soldier, with random buttons from different campaigns, differently colored clothes and boots, and even ornate jewelry. Notably, salvagers found a gold coin with a bullet indentation that belonged to Dixon. It had stopped a bullet while in his pocket at the Battle of Shiloh. Dixon appeared to have engraved the coin with the date of the battle, “April 6th 1862. My life Preserver G. E. D.”
Researchers continue to debate why the Hunley sank. The sub was found with damage to much of it, including the hull, propellers, and conning tower, as well as oddities like the forward conning tower being unlatched.
Was the Hunley too close to the torpedo explosion? Was it trapped by the tides, did it blindly collide with something, or did the Housatonic’s sailors get off a lucky shot? Researchers and nautical archaeologists at the Friends of the Hunley hope to answer these questions with more research.
The remains of the Hunley’s final crew were buried in April 2004 at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina, resting next to the 13 other crew killed during the previous accidents involving the submarine.
Here we go. Rounding out the list of the most patriotic, most ‘Murican moments of every U.S. Presidency are the presidents of our age, numbers 35 through 44. Abraham Lincoln is already the all-time best, James Buchanan is the all-time worst — and no one gives a sh*t about Rutherford B. Hayes.
Since we’re approaching today’s era, it’s important for me to remind you all that We Are The Mighty is an apolitical organization and the last time we sided with a political party, the Whigs dissolved like… a week later. This is about America, and no matter how much you dislike(d) one of our Chief Executives, they all led the country to moments of American Glory.
This list is for the Presidents who have completed their time in office, so Trump won’t be on here — perhaps his most patriotic moment is yet to come.
John F. Kennedy
JFK’s time in office was tragically cut short, but his effect on American life is one that endures for the ages. In May, 1961, he addressed Congress to discuss America’s urgent national needs. In that speech, he challenged the United States to send a man to the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the next decade — calling for a plan that would find success after Kennedy left office (if he had lived).
But it wasn’t just that challenge that inspired America. It was Kennedy’s re-assertion of that challenge the next year while speaking at Rice University where he described the spirit of the United States. This is where he delivered the immortal line about why the United States takes on challenges like going to the moon — “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Johnson was a man of action, ready and able to push business through the political machine of the United States Congress at any cost. This made Johnson an extremely capable Chief Executive, whether you liked him or not. In the middle of the Cold War, during the very hot Vietnam War, amidst all the cultural revolutions that swept the U.S. in the 1960s, everyone could count on calm, collected leadership in the White House.
But his most American moment was forcing the passage of Civil Rights Acts through a Congress that didn’t always agree with that kind of legislation. Johnson, a Texan and devout Christian since age 15 believed in equal rights for all Americans and that it was the duty of Christians everywhere to deliver social justice in God’s name. So he put his infamous temper to work to pass Civil Rights legislation, even though it cost him and his party dearly.
Richard Nixon took office during one of the most tumultuous times in American history ever. The year 1968 was a turning point for the people and culture of the United States and, despite his overall failure to maintain the solemnity of the office of president, Richard Nixon wasn’t a bad president at all. Had he not tried to cover up his role in the Watergate Scandal, he might have been remembered more fondly by history.
But while he was in office, he was the master of American foreign policy and used his skill to manage the Soviet Union and Communist China (which, by this time, were much less than friends) and use them to bring North Vietnam to the negotiating table. Where Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev trounced Kennedy in their first meeting, he couldn’t kick ol’ Nixon around. And, as they still say sometimes, “only Nixon could go to China.”
This is how cool you think you look while smoking a pipe. You don’t, but he does.
Ford is, interestingly, the only President who was never elected to the White House. He ascended to the vice-presidency after his predecessor, Spiro Agnew, resigned in 1973 and became president the next year. Ford’s most American moment will also forever be his most controversial. As representative, as house speaker, and as vice president, Ford faced very little (if any) in the way of scandals, but one of his first acts as President was to pardon Richard Nixon for any wrongdoing associated with Watergate.
My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here, the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice, but mercy. … let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and hate.
The pardon was highly controversial at the time but history proved President Ford correct, so much so that incoming President Jimmy Carter thanked Ford for it as his 1977 inauguration.
“For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”
President Jimmy Carter is considered an unsuccessful President by most – including the former President himself. Carter always said his post-presidency was way more successful than his presidency. Carter’s administration was plagued by high inflation, an inherited energy crisis, and, of course, the Iran Hostage Crisis.
Carter’s most American moment came when he was originally supposed to address the nation about energy for the fifth time. Instead of rehashing what he’d said before, Carter laid out everything that was really plaguing the United States: mistrust in government, disrespect for American institutions, petty Washington politics, failures of his own leadership — a crisis of confidence. He told Americans the sad truth, unusual for a politician seeking re-election to any office.
This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth … and it is a warning.
But Carter also discussed how Americans could best the Crisis of Confidence. The Chief Executive and baptist minister implored Americans to have faith — faith in each other, faith in American institutions, and faith in our ability to govern ourselves. Although the speech was initially well-received, the “malaise” speech was a downer and came to be associated with his failed presidency.
President Reagan was elected in a landslide over Carter, whose Presidency was marked by economic trouble and hostages in Iran, which Carter seemed impotent to free. Reagan offered Americans a new morning, augmented by his near-trademark humor and sunny disposition.
The only people who seldom saw that disposition were the Soviets, who were often on the receiving end of Reagan’s stellar speech-making abilities. Nowhere was this more apparent than during a speech late in the President’s second term where Reagan spoke at the Brandenburg Gate, site of the infamous Berlin Wall, and called out Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s new openness policy, saying if he truly desired peace he would come to the gate and “tear down this wall.”
George H.W. Bush
President Reagan’s Vice-President George H.W. Bush was Reagan’s successor who handily won the election of 1988. But during the run-up to the election, Bush — a World War II aviator and former head of the CIA — was labeled a “wimp” by Newsweek Magazine.
Yet, when Iraqi troops poured across the Kuwaiti border and the rest of the world told him sanctions would bring Saddam to his knees, it didn’t take the President long to decide to check Saddam Hussein’s aggression. He moved so many troops to Saudi Arabia to prevent an Iraqi invasion that an offensive move seemed imminent. In 1991, Desert Shield switched to Desert Storm and expelled the Iraqis from Kuwait in some 40 days. Not only were the United States and her allies victorious, the looming shadow of military failure in Vietnam was broken.
Love him or hate him, no one felt the pressure of partisan politics like Bill Clinton. After the 1992 election, his party controlled the White House and the Congress but two years later, he felt a wave of pressure as the opposition swept Congress in the midterms. To say the rest of his time in office was “rocky” would be the understatement of the century.
Still, despite the scandals that rocked his administration, Clinton was the first real post-Cold War president and his administration was the first to deal with being the world’s only superpower. Though he faced serious foreign policy challenges over eight years, he used the opportunity to turn attention to America’s domestic issues, including child health care, federal investment in local law enforcement, and securing a balanced budget (and surplus) before leaving office.
George W. Bush
Another “love him or hate him” President, the younger Bush was able to enjoy the Pax Americana for just a few short months before the whole world changed before all our very eyes. George W. Bush was known for a lot of things, but being a fantastic public speaker was not one of them — few would ever dispute that fact. But his most American moment came right after the attacks that changed the world, when he was trying to talk to the American people.
Bush was in the middle of a speech at Ground Zero, delivering his perspective on where the United States would go from here, when, from the background, people complained of not being able to hear what he was saying. Bush’s off-the-cuff response was just f*cking great.
The election of Barack Obama was a historic first that foretold a shift away from the policies of the previous administration. But there was one policy of the United States that remained unchanged since the years of Bill Clinton – the hunt to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
The day finally came on May 1, 2011. Then, President Barack Obama was able to inform Americans that forces of the United States finally got to the world’s most wanted terrorist. Jubilant crowds gathered everywhere, not just in front of the White House, but at baseball games, at Times Square, and in towns across America. If you’re not a fan of Obama’s measured tone and think it calls for more celebration, you can see what happened when John Cena broke the news to WWE fans in Tampa, Florida at about the same time.
The man from Sugar Land, Texas with a passion for travel and teaching children doesn’t seem like a stereotypical ISIS recruit.
Warren Christopher Clark, a black, Texas native who sent a cover letter and resume to ISIS as early as 2015, the New York Times revealed, was captured in Syria by US allies. His goal was not to become a militant or fighter, he later told NBC News. He just wanted to teach English.
Clark, who was charged Jan. 25, 2019, for material support to ISIS, may not be the type of person who comes to mind at the mention of ISIS. But a study published by the RAND Corporation, which analyzed US-based jihadist terrorism activities in the post-9/11 era, shows that the Texan represents aspects of the new reality of terrorism.
“The portrait that emerges from our analysis suggests that the historic stereotype of a Muslim, Arab, immigrant male as the most vulnerable to extremism is not representative of many terrorist recruits today,” the report says.
The changing face of terrorism
That US citizens pose the greatest terrorism-related threat within the US is not a recent development.
In 2015, the George Washington University Program on Extremism reported that of 71 people arrested for ISIS-related activities in the US in that year, 58 of them were US-born citizens.
The GWU study for the most part matches a trend reported by RAND, which independently found that as ISIS gained influence in the post-9/11 era, the number of US-born recruits drawn to jihadist terrorism started to grow.
Of the 152 US persons with known affiliations with ISIS, RAND found that 106 were citizens born in the US.
Comparatively, only 59 of 131 al-Qaeda affiliates were US-born citizens.
In another revelation, RAND showed US-based ISIS recruits have become more racially and ethnically diverse as the group gained influence, and are notably more diverse than those with known al-Qaeda affiliations.
About 65% of US-born ISIS recruits since 2013 are either African-American/black or Caucasian/white. This is a shift from the group’s earlier years, and an even more radical shift from those persons drawn to al-Qaeda.
ISIS has a broader appeal
Aided by the internet, terror organizations began targeting more vulnerable populations over time, specifically young and socially alienated people who find a sense of belonging in a far-away group.
While ISIS has a far more sophisticated understanding and usage of social media, al-Qaeda has shown an ability to tap into the vortex of the internet — RAND reports that the number of “terrorist-related websites exploded from 100 in 1998 … to approximately 4,300 by 2005.”
In that year, ISIS was still in its infancy.
Even so, al-Qaeda’s marketing typically appealed to a narrower field of recruits in terms of religion, race, and nationalism. ISIS, on the other hand, appealed to a wider range of people. Heather Williams, the lead author for the RAND study, told Business Insider that Clark represents an increasingly common type of recruit who is not necessarily drawn to violence, but some other component of terrorist organizations.
“There were people who fit that before, but they are more frequently fitting that profile now,” Williams said.
Terrorism may be changing, but experts caution against reliance on stereotypes
Clark, the 34-year-old teacher from Texas who was recently captured in Northern Syria, doesn’t quite fit into any stereotypical “terrorist” category.
Warren Christopher Clark, who was captured in Syria in early January 2019, sat down with NBC News.
Clark is a US-born American citizen. According to an interview with NBC News, he did not initially leave the US with intentions of joining ISIS, but sought travel opportunities that ultimately drew him to Turkey, Iraq, and then Syria.
He told NBC that he never took up arms for ISIS and was even detained by the terrorist organization after trying to defect, maintaining that he was drawn to ISIS out of curiosity, not a desire to become a militant.
“The take-away is that the ties [people drawn to ISIS] have to the terrorist organization can be very loose,” Williams said.
The RAND report was published in December 2018, nearly a month before Clark’s capture. But Williams said his background is a good example of the range of individuals answering ISIS’ call.
“A great number of the individuals studied were lured to the call of jihad in Muslim lands abroad rather than domestically; whether adventure seekers or inspired by misguided senses of religious duty, they were not necessarily aggrieved with the US homeland,” the report states.
Still, Williams cautioned against stereotyping a particular profile, especially one based on nationality.
“I don’t think that’s a productive diagnostic tool, and can also lead to bias,” she told Business Insider.
The Trump administration’s travel ban, which targets many Muslim-majority countries, is not necessarily a helpful counterterrorism policy, Williams said, and may even be a distraction.
“If [law enforcement agency] perceptions are based on history, there is validity but they should recognize the shift.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Here’s when you know you’re probably an infantryman in the Army or Marine Corps, better known as a grunt.
#1: Whether it’s on the ground, in a bed, or in a helicopter, you can pass out ANYWHERE.
#2: You survive on this stuff, because it’s an amazing grunt power source.
#3: You have eaten way more of these than you’d care to remember.
#4: You wear camouflage uniforms so much, you wonder why they even issued you those dress uniforms that just sit in a wall locker.
#5: The aging of your body accelerates beyond what you imagined was possible.
#6: This is “the field,” and it’s your office.
#7: The guys in your fire team/squad/platoon know more about you than your own family. They are also willing to do anything for you.
#8: You have probably heard some crusty old enlisted guy say “all this and a paycheck too!”
#9: Your day often starts with a “death run” or a “fun run.” It is never actually fun.
#10: You watch “moto” videos of grunts in combat and get pumped up.
#11: A port-a-john in Iraq or Afghanistan (or anywhere really) has three purposes, not just “going #1 or #2.”
#12: If you are pumped up to deploy, you remember Iraq or Afghanistan is usually way more boring than people think, and the last time you went, your entire platoon watched “The O.C.” or some other show during free time.
In Spring 1993, a Vietnamese farmer was on his way to work his rice paddy when he passed his wife and children in the road. The wife sat on a rock and greeted him “scornfully,” as his children cowered behind their mother. The meeting shocked the farmer, as his wife and his three children were killed when their village was attacked in 1968 and his house was burned to the ground.
Stories like these are common in Vietnam, where rural communities attach deep meaning to spiritual encounters. In this case, the man understood his wife’s grave had been disturbed in the village’s recent developments. He immediately set out to give them a proper reburial. But there are many, many more ghost stories throughout Vietnam, relevant to the war fought there. Many of those persist to this day.
Saigon’s haunted apartments
The building at 727 Tran Hung Dao in Ho Chi Minh City – also known as Saigon – was a building that housed American service members for much of the Vietnam War. But its construction was plagued by accidents from the get-go, some of which killed the workers building it. Many blamed it on the number of floors the building had, 13, which was considered unlucky.
In order to assuage their fears and get the building completed, the architect decided to call in a shaman to fix the building’s feng shui issues. It’s said the shaman brought the dead bodies of four virgins from the local hospital and buried them at the four corners of the building, which would protect it from evil spirits.
To this day, residents hear screams of horror in the middle of the night, the sound of a military parade on the march through the building, and the apparition of a spectral American GI walking, holding hands with his Vietnamese girlfriend.
The tunnel rats encounter
On Reddit, a terminally-ill Vietnam veteran recounted a story of his time in Vietnam that he was going to take to his grave but opted to put it on r/nosleep instead. For the uninitiated, Army Tunnel Rats were troops who would crawl into NVA and Viet Cong tunnels to eradicate the troops that hid there below the surface. It was one of the war’s most dangerous jobs, crawling around in the dark, avoiding booby traps and trying to kill before they killed you.
This Tunnel Rat was crawling into the deepest tunnel he’d ever been in, along with his partner. When they finally arrived in the main room, they were astonished that no booby traps were set and an oil lamp was still lit. The only thing they found was a tarp, but when they moved the tarp, it revealed a set of stone stairs, moving deeper underground. The stairs were odd, and definitely not built by the VC. They looked centuries old. The two men cautiously climbed down the stairs, guns drawn, when they came upon another tarp.
Cautiously, the Rats moved the tarp with their pistols and fixed their flashlights on 10 or so Vietnamese people, dressed as VC, but with blank faces looking into space, bodies rocking back and forth, eyes a solid color. The men waved their flashlights and weapons in their faces but nothing stopped their rocking motion. Their now-rusted weapons were in a pile in the corner. At the head of the room was a golden icon of a naked woman, except the lower half of her body featured eight tentacles instead of human legs.
The men were tempted to touch the icon, but instead decided to rig the entrance with C4 and bail as fast as possible. As they were leaving, a woman’s voice called out to them. Read the rest of the story on Reddit.
A veteran comes home
On a Notre Dame alumni website, on alum remarks about his chance encounter with a guy he had known since grade school. He was working a construction job in 1967 and was on his way home after work one night. He was coming around the corner when he walked by an old funeral parlor. He noticed the man was his old friend Jerry, a guy he hadn’t seen in two years. The construction worker was tired and not really in the mood to rehash old times, so he put his hat down and walked by his old friend unnoticed.
When he got home, his mother was on the phone, talking to one of the construction worker’s friends. She immediately stopped her son to tell him that his old friend Jerry had been killed in Vietnam and his body was at the funeral parlor down the street.
Ghouls of the jungle
Marines in Vietnam would often try to recruit locals to help guide them in their area of operations. In some areas, however, the locals were fearful of going into the densest, darkest parts of the jungle. The reason, they found, was the local superstition that phantoms, called ma, occupied the trees there. Montagnards warned the U.S. troops that reanimated corpses awaited them in the trees. The Marines, of course, shrugged the stories off as folklore.
Starting in 1965, it became very real. American troops in the jungles of Vietnam began reporting ghostly figures moving supernaturally through the trees. Others reported fanged creatures with black eyes that would try to kidnap and consume unsuspecting troops. In one encounter, the beasts were found to be bulletproof. It didn’t matter what time of day it was, the corpses lived by both day and night. Since the triple canopy jungle kept the sunlight from hitting them, the military’s top brass decided to get rid of it.
That might be the real reason the military developed Agent Orange and napalm. The Marines would then roll in with flamethrowers to finish the job.
Feature photo: Catherine Leroy, in background, center, during a jungle operation by the 173rd Airborne Brigade in A Shau Valley in 1967. Flickr/Creative Commons
Roger Deakins has dazzled moviegoers for decades with visuals that have gone on to become the most memorable in modern film history.
The frigid vistas in “Fargo,” the dreamy Western plains in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” the gritty underground world of drug cartels in “Sicario,” and the washed out future in “Blade Runner 2049” (which finally earned him his first-ever Oscar), all came from Deakins.
It’s hard to imagine he could do anything that would top this legendary body of work.
But he has with “1917.”
Marking Deakins’ latest collaboration with Sam Mendes (the two worked together on “Jarhead,” “Revolutionary Road,” and “Skyfall”), the story follows two British soldiers during World War I who have to travel behind enemy lines to deliver a message that will stop 1,600 of their allies from walking into a trap. And in telling that story, Deakins makes it feel like the entire movie is done in one continuous shot.
The hugely ambitious idea paid off. The movie, currently in theaters, has found critical acclaim, box-office glory, and award-season praise as it won three Golden Globes (including best director for Mendes and best drama) followed by 10 Oscar nominations.
“Blade Runner 2049” is the only movie for which Roger Deakins has won an Oscar.
Among them was Deakins for best cinematography, the 15th time he’s been nominated.
If you were looking for a sure bet this Oscars, it’s that Deakins will take home his second Oscar when the awards are handed out on February 9. But don’t count on the man himself to get too excited.
The 70-year-old Englishman has been the frontrunner too many times before, only to leave empty-handed, to listen to any Oscars handicapping. In fact, he’s so modest it’s hard to get many details out of him on how he actually pulled off the ambitious shooting technique that has become the biggest draw of the movie.
“We had a lot of prep and we could just work through all the problems,” he said in a laid-back tone to Business Insider hours after the Oscar nominations were announced on Monday.
But finally he let out something that did scare him. It was something that even a legend like himself, who has come across seemingly every scenario behind the camera, could not control: the weather.
“That was a bit tricky,” he said, with just the hint of dry English humor.
Most of “1917,” which takes place over two days, is shot over grey skies. The gloom adds to the despair of the story’s war-torn surroundings. But Deakins said it was also a choice he kept pushing for early on in preproduction.
“Just practically we had to shoot in cloud,” he said, looking back. “Either you shoot it in real time, at the right time of day, which you never do unless you have months and months of time. Or you shoot in cloud and time it to look that way.”
Knowing most of the filming would be done at Shepperton Studios in Scotland, the movie’s production office looked up what the weather was in the area the year before at the time they were going to shoot. Deakins was disappointed in the answer: “Apparently it was gorgeous.”
But the movie moved forward, which included Deakins and his team rehearsing the shots constantly with the small, light-weight cameras made especially for the movie from Arri Alexa.
Everyone was ready when the first day of shooting came in April of last year, but there was one problem.
“There wasn’t a cloud in the sky,” Deakins said. “It certainly made me anxious.”
While producers were on the phone explaining to the studio, Universal, and financiers why they couldn’t begin production because the weather was too nice, Mendes, Deakins, and the rest of the actors and crew were back to rehearsing in the trenches made for the movie.
Thankfully, the second day was a cloudy one and production was able to get back on track as they also made up the previous day’s shooting. Deakins said that’s how it was for most of production. If clouds weren’t in the forecast, everyone waited around until the day came when there was — and then everyone doubled their efforts to stay on schedule.
“We would literally stand around for hours waiting for a cloud to come by,” Deakins said. “I had five different weather apps on my iPhone. Every radar I could get. You look at them and try to find the one that will tell you what you want.”
Shooting a scene from ‘1917.’
(Francois Duhamel / Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)
Then the day came when he wanted some sun. At the end of the movie, for a shot where the movie’s lead, Schofield (George MacKay), is sitting by a tree, Deakins said he wanted the shot to show some rays of sunlight in the sky.
“There was this little cloud coming over the sun so before we shot that section we called everyone over and said, ‘Let’s shoot it, we might get lucky,’ and sure enough when it got to the end of the take the sun came out,” he said.
“That was the first take,” Deakins continued, with a certain pride he didn’t show earlier in our conversation. “We shot it another fifteen or twenty times, but Sam liked that first one. And it was the only one where the sun came out. We never got that again.”
Looking back on the experience, Deakins said he would be up for shooting a movie again like this — though he wonders if anyone would want to.
“I don’t think many directors would want to tell the story in that way,” he said. “But it doesn’t scare me off at all. It would be quite fascinating to do it on something else.”
It’s good to see that even a legend has dreams for what the future could hold.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.