7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid - We Are The Mighty
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7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

In the years since the west’s most hated terrorist was killed in a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, many new details have emerged. From Twitter leaks during the raid to the surprising conduct of Osama bin Laden’s fifth wife, here are 7 surprising and surreal details from the raid:


1. The Situation Room was catered by Costco

 

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid
When you need to feed this many people, you have to buy in bulk. (Photo: Pete Souza, White House)

Apparently, the White House is into getting a deal because they decided Costco sandwiches were the best finger foods for the table in the Situation Room where the senior leaders would watch the raid play out.

They weren’t the only ones to enjoy sandwiches for the occasion. Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill, “The man who killed Osama bin Laden,” reportedly ate a sandwich by the body the next day.

2. The first leak of the raid was a local on Twitter

Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant living in Abbottabad, heard the helicopters hovering over the compound and decided to mention it on Twitter. He didn’t know that he was live-tweeting the raid that would kill the world’s most notorious terrorist.

The CIA decided to one up Athar in 2016 by live-tweeting the entire raid as if it was happening right then.

3. Osama bin Laden’s porn stash was a terrorist cliche

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid
I guess that explains his grin. Photo: Hamid Mir

According to an extensive description of the 2011 raid in The New Yorker, Osama bin Laden’s famous porn stash was actually a common find in terror raids.

A special operations officer quoted in the piece said, “We find it on all these guys, whether they’re in Somalia, Iraq, or Afghanistan.”

4. The top-secret helicopter was first destroyed with a hammer

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid
A section of the crashed helicopter from the raid sits outside the Abbottabad compound. Screenshot: YouTube/CBS News

 

A helicopter notoriously crashed during the bin Laden raid, partially because of a difference in temperature between where pilots rehearsed the raid and the actual site. The temperature difference accelerated a loss of lift when the helicopter ended up in its own rotor wash.

The pilot completed a masterfully controlled crash and then got to work destroying classified parts. While the helo would eventually be burnt with thermite and other incendiaries, the first wave of destruction was completed with a common hammer kept on board for that purpose.

5. One of bin Laden’s wives was talking sh-t the whole time like a spouse on “Cops”

According to testimony in the New Yorker article, Osama bin Laden’s wife was all about attacking the SEALs. When bin Laden went to hide behind her and another wife, Amal al-Fatah made a motion to charge the Americans. She was shot in the calf.

But she wasn’t done. Even as she and other survivors were left in the courtyard near the burning helicopter and the SEALs were exfiltrating the compound, al-Fatah was screaming insults at the Americans like she was telling the police not to take her man away on an episode of “Cops.”

6. The President met the SEAL dog after the operation, and that scared the Secret Service

 

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid
The military working dog during the bin Laden raid, Cairo, is a Belgian Malinois like this other MWD. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeff Walston)

When President Barack Obama went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky to meet the SEALs and other operators on the mission, the Navy SEAL military working dog who was on the raid was closed in an adjoining room because of a request by the Secret Service.

President Obama asked to meet the dog anyway but allowed his muzzle to remain in place.

7. Because no one thought to bring a tape measure, bin Laden’s height was measured by a SEAL lying next to him

When Adm. William H. McRaven called the CIA headquarters to try and make sure that the man killed in the raid really was Osama bin Laden, one of his questions was the exact height of the body. Bin Laden was between 6 feet, 4 inches and 6 feet, 5 inches tall.

No one at the site had a tape measure handy, so a SEAL laid down next to it. Reports vary on whether the SEAL was 6-foot or 6-foot, 4-inches. Regardless, the final verdict was that the body matched bin Laden’s height. DNA evidence would later prove that it really was the terrorist who was killed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how the angled deck made carriers deadlier

For almost 80 years, the aircraft carrier has been the most powerful warship on the high seas. Just over six decades ago, the carrier reached a new level of potency when the angled deck was introduced. Some carriers were re-fitted with it while others were designed with the advanced tech from the get-go — but how did a shift in the deck make carriers even deadlier?


First, let’s take a look at how carriers operated in World War II and, to a large extent, in the Korean War. The naval aviation workhorse of those conflicts, the Essex-class carrier, had a straight-deck design. To deliver some hurt to the enemy, carriers would launch “deckload” strikes, sending off most of their air group (in World War II, this consisted of 36 F6F fighters, 36 SBD Dauntless dive-bombers, and 18 TBF Avenger torpedo bombers).

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

USS Intrepid (CV 11) in 1944. Her propeller-driven Hellcats were easy to stop when they landed.

(US Navy)

Carriers, at the time, could either launch planes or land them — they couldn’t do both at the same time. When launching deckload strikes of propeller-driven planes, it wasn’t an issue. All planes would leave at once and, later, all return. When it came time to bring aircraft home, the propeller planes were easy to stop — they were light and slow relatively to the jets that had just started to come online.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The use of jets off aircraft carriers changed things – the F9F Panthers were faster and heavier than the World War II-era piston-engine fighters. It is easy to see how a jet that misses the wires could make things very ugly.

(US Navy)

Jets were a game-changer for several reasons: They were faster and heavier and, thus, needed more space to stop. They also didn’t have the endurance to wait for other planes to launch. So, how could they find the runway space needed to operate these new tools of war? Building larger carriers wasn’t a complete solution — this wouldn’t eliminate the issue of stopping jets should they fail to catch the wires.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The British decided to create an angled deck, thereby allowing a jet that missed the arresting wires a chance to go around.

(Animation by Anynobody)

Then, the British came up with the idea of angling the landing deck of carriers. Angling the deck gave the jets enough room to land and, if they missed the wires, they could go back around and try again — stopping the jet with a barrier became an absolute last resort.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

Before and after photos of USS Intrepid showing the angled flight deck.

(Compilation of US Navy photos by Solicitr)

Not only did the angled deck allow for the use of jets, it also made carriers deadlier in general. Now, they could launch and land aircraft at the same time. This meant that a carrier could send a major strike out and, at the same time, land its combat air patrol. All in all, the angled deck had a very unintended (but welcome) consequence on carrier performance.

Check out the video below to see how the Navy explained the angled flight deck to sailors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEOZi4IZja8

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

Former Navy SEAL commander: You have to know when to follow

Former Navy SEAL commander Leif Babin knows that, as a leader, it can be difficult to keep an ego in check. But it’s necessary.

“As a leader, you’ve go to be decisive, you’ve got to make calls, you’ve got to be ready to step up and lead even in the most difficult circumstances,” he told Business Insider. “And yet, if you want to be the most effective leader, you absolutely have to be a follower as well.”

Babin was one of two platoon leaders reporting to Jocko Willink, who led US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser in the Iraq War. The two founded the leadership consulting firm Echelon Front in 2010, and their firm has worked with more than 400 businesses.


In their new book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” Babin shares a story of a mission that illustrates his point of how a leader must also be a follower.

During the 2006 Battle of Ramadi, Babin led a night mission where his SEALs were providing cover for Army soldiers and Marines. The late Chris Kyle, of “American Sniper” fame, was Babin’s point man. At one point, the team gathered on a roof to determine where they would set up a sniper overwatch. Babin and his leaders decided they would move to a certain building for that, but Kyle countered with a different selection that was not close to Babin’s choice.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

Jocko Willink.

Babin outranked Kyle, but he also recognized that Kyle had the most experience with sniper missions of anyone on the team, including himself.

“‘Leading’ didn’t mean pushing my agenda or proving I had all the answers,” Babin wrote. “It was about collaborating with the rest of the team and determining how we could most effectively accomplish our mission. I deferred to Chris’ judgment.”

It was a call Babin said turned out to be the right one, and led to a successful mission. In the book, Babin reflected on a moment when he was a fresh platoon leader, and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge a suggestion from a team member who was lower in rank but had more experience led to a failed training exercise. It was fortunate he learned the lesson before deploying.

“Had we gone with my initial choice — had I disregarded Chris and overruled him because ‘I was in charge’ — we would have been highly ineffective, disrupting virtually no attacks, and that might very well have cost the lives of some of our brethren,” Babin wrote.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Force Recon legend, Major James Capers, receives hero’s welcome in his hometown

Major James Capers Jr. is a living legend.

If you do not know who “The Major” is, it is highly recommended that you read here to learn more about this great American and highly decorated war hero. Capers was born in Bishopville, South Carolina in the Jim Crow south. During the Vietnam War, just three generations removed from slavery, he became the first African American to receive a battlefield commission as part of Marine Force Recon. Capers’s team, which called themselves “Team Broadminded” conducted more than 50 classified missions in 1966 alone.


During his 22-years of service, Major Capers has been awarded the Silver Star; two Bronze Stars; and Combat V; four Purple Hearts; Vietnam Cross of Gallantry; a Joint Service Commendation Medal; Combat Action Ribbon; three Good Conduct Ribbons; Battle Stars; Navy Commendation Medal; Navy Achievement Medal; CG Certificate of Merit; and multiple letters of Merit, Appreciation, and Commendation. There is a new push for him to be awarded the Medal of Honor, but it remains to be seen whether or not it will ever happen during the Major’s lifetime; he turned 83 years old on August 25.

On Friday, August 28, Capers’s hometown of Bishopville, South Carolina held a ceremony in honor of his service and dedication to this great country.

After several high profile guests bestowed deserved recognition and honors upon Capers, he began his speech with a tribute to his dear wife, Dottie Capers, and son, Gary Capers. They have sadly both passed away, several years ago, but clearly still have a special place in his heart and mind. Capers began his speech by saying: “I’m a little bit overwhelmed because my precious Dottie is not here, and my wonderful baby [Gary] is not here. They are in heaven and God has promised me that I will see them again.”

The event included a parade through Bishopville accompanied by USMC veteran Danny Garcia from Honor Walk 2020 and a color guard comprised of Marine Raiders.

The Mayor of Bishopville presented “Capers Boulevard and intersection,” a bronze wall sculpture with his likeness. Additionally, Major Capers was recognized by Congressman Ralph Norman and other elected officials. He was also given South Carolina’s “Order of the Palmetto.” This is the state’s highest civilian honor. It is awarded to citizens for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. The award was presented by Senator Gerald Malloy.

In addition to a large crowd of civilians, Marines from several generations were also present to honor Major Capers and witness the public outpouring of gratitude and respect for his service.

Since retiring from the Marine Corps, Capers has continued to mentor countless young Marines who look to him for natural and spiritual guidance as they navigate life. Major Capers’s legacy is not only long-lasting because he was a warrior and leader, but also because he was a devoted husband to his late-wife Dottie and a loving father to his late-son Gary. As he neared the conclusion of his speech, Major Capers stated, “All of these accolades today mean a lot to me, and it means a lot to Dottie because she’s up there watching.”

A humble and soft-spoken man, Capers said, “I don’t deserve all of this.” To which the captivated crowd strongly disagreed. The reality is that no one deserves this honor and respect more than he does. He is a true patriot, great American, and hero to the highest degree.

For those interested in learning more about this legendary man by purchasing a copy, you can read Major Capers’ incredible memoirs which are titled Faith Through the Storm: Memoirs of James Capers, Jr. All proceeds are donated to charity.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Intense photos show the largest naval battle of all-time

The World War II Battle of Leyte Gulf, a decisive Allied victory that decimated the Japanese Navy, began on Oct. 23, 1944, 74 years ago.

And it’s considered to be the largest naval battle of all-time.

A few days before the battle began, the Allies (and even General Douglas MacArthur himself) had landed on Leyte island to begin liberating the Phillippines, which the Japanese were intent on stopping.

The result was a horrific three-day battle (which was actually several smaller battles, namely the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle off Samar, and the Battle of Cape Engaño) that involved several hundred ships.

In the end, the US had lost three aircraft carriers, two destroyers, several hundred aircraft, took about 3,000 casualties. But the Japanese Navy had lost four carriers, three battleships, six heavy cruisers, nine destroyers, took about 10,000-12,000 casualties, among other losses.

Check out some of the intense photos from the battle.


7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The Princeton’s flight deck after getting struck during the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea on Oct. 24, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

USS Gambier Bay (CVE 73) and another escort carrier, and two destroyer escorts smoke from battle damage during the Battle off Samar on Oct. 25, 1944.

The USS Gambier Bay billowing smoke after likely getting struck by Japanese cruisers, which are credited with sinking the US escort carrier.

Read more about escort carriers here.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The USS St. Lo (CV 63) burning during the Battle off Samar on Oct. 25, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The US escort carrier USS Kitkun Bay prepares to launch Grumman FM-2 Wildcat fighters during the Battle of Samar on 25 October 1944. In the distance, Japanese shells are splashing near the USS White Plains.

(US Navy photo)

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The Zuikaku under attack during the Battle of Cape Engaño on Oct. 25th, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The Zuikaku under attack during the Battle of Cape Engaño on Oct. 25th, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

US cruisers fire salvoes on Japanese ships during the Battle of Surigao Strait on Oct. 25, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The Fusō under air attack just hours before the Battle of Surigao Strait on Oct. 25, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The Yamashiro or Fusō under air attack by US aircraft hours before the Battle of Surigao Strait on Oct. 25, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

And here’s a view directly on top of either the Fusō or Yamashiro as it’s bombed by US aircraft from above, some of which were launched by the famed aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Syrian air defenders kill 15 Russian airmen in horrific blunder

Syria’s air defenses have again proven ineffective and even dangerous as they killed 15 Russian service members flying aboard an Il-20 spy plane during an air battle over the Mediterranean on Sept. 17, 2018.

Syria has Russian-made air defenses that it’s had ample opportunity to use as Israel regularly attacks the country and the US has twice fired missiles at its military facilities in response to chemical weapons use.

But Syria has never credibly recorded an missile intercept. Syria’s lone anti-air victory came in February 2018 when an Israeli F-16, the same plane rumored to have taken part in Sept. 17, 2018’s strike, went down from S-200 fire.


On Sept. 17, 2018, that same missile defense system not only failed to hit a single Israeli plane or verifiably intercept a single incoming missile, but it took down an allied aircraft in the process.

Russia’s ministry of defense initially blamed the shoot down on a purposeful attempt by Israel to trick Syria into the friendly fire, but Russian President Vladimir Putin later referred to the event as an accident.

But, according to Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, Israel could have planned on using the Russian Il-20 for cover all along.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

An Israeli F-16I.

(Major Ofer, Israeli Air Force)

If the Russian Il-20 was on a regular patrol route of the Mediterranean, Bronk said the Israelis may have tried to plot an attack under a leg of its planned flight path, that they would have observed via local intelligence assets or in information sharing with the Russians themselves.

“One of the Israeli hallmarks when they do these sort of fairly bold strikes within the coverage of the Syrian air defenses is heavy electronic warfare and jamming,” Bronk told Business Insider.

So not only do the Syrians face heavy electronic interference and jamming of their radars, the threat of Israeli bombs rocking their position, and a big, obvious Russian target flying just above the shrouded F-16s, history shows they’re just not that good at air defense.

When the US struck Syria in April 2018, photography showed Syrian air defense sites firing missiles that burned across the sky leaving long, bright trails even in the instant it takes to snap a photo. But Business Insider consulted experts at the time to find out that Syria likely fired many of these missiles with out any target at all in a helpless, face saving attempt to convince the people of Damascus that they hadn’t sat idly by.

“It would be very unlikely that the Israelis were trying to engineer a situation where the Syrians shot down a Russian plane,” Bronk said, but perhaps they did intend to use the Il-20 overhead to convince Syria not to shoot.

“The S-200 is not a very sophisictated system,” said Bronk. “It’s not going to distinguish between a fighter and a big plane.”

Syria could have easily communicated with the Russians, but likely relies on voice communications which can easily be overwhelmed in times of crisis.

If it weren’t for the Israeli strike, the 15 Russians likely would have survived to this day. But ultimately, the death of the Russians and downing of the Il-20 comes down to “sloppy fire discipline from Syrian air defenses,” said Bronk.

And for sloppy work from Syrian air defenses, this example hardly represents the first.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Airman 1st Class Phillip Rock is part of his family’s legacy of military service — a legacy that, in fact, would not have continued if it weren’t for that military service itself.

Stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Rock is a B-2 Spirit weapons load crew member in the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. It is his first Air Force assignment and the most recent in his family’s military history.

“I was raised in Kayenta, Arizona, which is an hour away from the four corners,” said Phillip, who is three-quarters Navajo American Indian. “It is really the heart of the reservation.”


Raised by his grandparents, he learned much about his cultural heritage from them. He also learned where his family’s long military lineage began.

This Rock family tradition started with his great grandfather, Joseph Rock — Grandpa Joe — who served in World War II.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron B-2 weapons load crew member, weaves a dream catcher on Nov. 15, 2018, in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

“At first, I didn’t know much about what my great grandfather had done,” Phillip said.

Grandpa Joe died in 2004 at age 92 when Phillip was 5 years old. It wasn’t until he was nearly a teen that Phillip realized his great grandfather was a war hero.

One day, when Rock was 12 years old, he was flipping through TV channels with his grandfather, Ernest Rock Sr., in their living room. They stopped to watch a historical documentary about World War II.

Rock recalled asking his grandfather about his great grandfather’s role in the major world conflict which spanned across Europe and the Pacific.

“I said, ‘Isn’t that the war Grandpa Joe fought in? What did he do?'”

His grandfather told Phillip “He was a code talker.”

Western expansion, cultural repression

It was the early 1900s and Joseph Rock was a young boy living on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. As the country expanded westward, much of the tribe’s land was taken by the U.S. government. Joseph was sent to school, where his long hair was cut and his name was changed.

“He went up to a chalkboard, pointed at a random configuration of letters, and that’s how he became Joseph Rock,” Phillip said. “Four generations later, we still carry on that last name.”

Grandpa Joe was also punished in school if he spoke his native language — the same language that would later save countless lives.

By 1941, shortly after the U.S. had entered WWII, the Marine Corps began to recruit Navajo tribal members for a top-secret code-communications program that wouldn’t be declassified until two decades later.

At first, fewer than 30 Navajo Indians were recruited as code talkers. In total, only about 400 of the 44,000 American Indians who served in WWII were Navajo code talkers. Joseph Rock was asked to work among them, and he accepted.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, poses for a portrait on Nov. 15, 2018 in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

“He was told if he served, the family would get some of their land back and a house,” Phillip Rock said. “None of that happened.”

But those promises weren’t what enticed Grandpa Joe to join the military. He wanted to serve his country, and did so honorably.

“My great grandfather was proud of his service,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s his legacy.”

Military recruitment

This was not the first time American Indians were recruited for U.S. military service, either as combatants or code talkers. During the first World War, American troops relied on messages transmitted in Cherokee and Choctaw tribal languages to pass secret information. However, the languages used were eventually all deciphered by enemy troops.

The Navajo language, though, is considered particularly linguistically difficult. And at that time, it had not been written down. The U.S. government knew it would be nearly impossible for a non-Navajo to learn.

So, in the early 1940s, Navajo code talkers used their language to create more than 200 new words for military terms and then committed them to memory.

“The enemy never understood it,” a Marine general was quoted as saying after the Navajo code was first used in WWII. “We don’t understand it either, but it works.”

The Navajo code is the only spoken military code that has never been deciphered, and Navajo code talkers are credited with saving thousands of Americans’ and allies’ lives.

Winning the war

Before he knew his Grandpa Joe served as a code talker, Phillip learned about his tribe’s role in WWII as a boy in school.

“We were taught that we should be extremely thankful for what they did,” Phillip said. “Without the code talkers, we wouldn’t have won the war.”

During the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, Navajo code talkers worked around the clock sending and receiving thousands of messages. One Marine later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima,” according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Joseph Rock was one of those code talkers involved in the critical battle to claim the Pacific island.

During the battle, a grenade landed only feet away from Joseph Rock, who “watched it hit the ground,” Phillip said. Then, Joseph Rock saw one of his fellow Marines dive on top of it, giving his life to save Grandpa Joe.

“He wanted to save the life of a code talker,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s inspiring what people will do to continue with the mission. My Grandpa Joe owed his life to that man.”

Neither Joseph Rock nor the Rock family was ever able to find out who the Marine was, but know future generations of Rocks have their lives thanks to his valor.

“I owe my life to that man, too,” Phillip said.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

Traditional native american jewelry is laid out on the couch of Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Each piece of jewelry was gifted to rock throughout his childhood.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

Culture and service

Since Grandpa Joe, many members of the Rock family have answered their nation’s call including his grandfather, his father, uncles and an aunt.

For Phillip, his great grandfather’s service as a code talker influenced Philip’s own decision to join the Air Force.

Phillip is the most recent member of his family to serve in the military.

“I feel like it was a prideful thing to carry on that lineage of service,” said Phillip. “It felt like the right calling. My Grandpa Joe was the first to wear this name on a uniform. I am very proud of this name. I knew I wanted to carry that on and wear it on a uniform.”

Meanwhile, Navajo principles have taught him respect, perseverance, and determination.

“My culture really shapes who I am,” Phillip Rock says. “I wear my culture on my sleeve and my name on my chest.”

This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How WWII propaganda is still convincing kids to eat carrots

Here in the modern world, many of us are more aware than ever of how the media can shape our perceptions of reality. While most debate about “perception management” these days is relegated to the arena of political mudslinging, the truth is, there has always been a concerted media effort to shape how we see the world in the form of advertising. And as many national governments learned early on, the same media infrastructure built to sell us products can also be used to sell us on ideas.

If you’re looking for a good example of how government initiatives can shape our idea of reality, you need to look no further than the air campaigns of World War II — because if you’re one of the millions of people that think eating carrots can help improve your vision, you’ve been duped by half-century-old wartime propaganda.


7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

Not the wartime propaganda posters you were expecting?

(World Carrot Museum)

British (and eventually American) pilots defending the U.K. from Nazi bombers were among the first aviators in history ever to be tasked with night-time combat operations. Less than four decades after the Wright Brothers first took to the sky, Allied pilots were fighting for their lives in pitch darkness over the European theater.

At the time, aviators had to rely on their senses, rather than on the suite of technological gadgets we use for intercepts in modern combat aircraft, but it wasn’t long before the advent of onboard Airborne Interception radar (AI) gave the Brits the edge they needed over inbound Nazi bombers. The British also knew that announcing their new technological advantage would put the Nazi’s to work on finding ways to counter it, so instead, they chose a very different track.

As Allied fighters started closing with and destroying Nazi bombers in increasing numbers despite the difficult to manage night sky, the English Ministry of Information launched a propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the world that their pilots had impeccable Nazi-hunting night vision thanks to a steady diet of — you guessed it — carrots.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

Technically speaking, they’re not wrong. A serious Vitamin A deficiency could make you go blind.

(US National Archive)

Like any good misinformation campaign, they needed to find a basis in fact to use as the bedrock for their campaign, and carrots are known to be a good source of Vitamin A. Technically speaking, eating more vitamin A won’t do anything for an otherwise healthy person’s vision, but not getting enough of it can cause vision problems. Because of this, it was easy for the Brits to twist the story away from eating carrots to avoid a Vitamin A deficiency, and instead toward the idea that eating enough carrots could actually make you see better at night.

The decision to use carrots was also informed by the nation’s sugar rations limiting snack options for the U.K. populace. Carrots were a great snack for school kids to munch on and the nation had plenty of them to spare — so selling the public on the idea that eating more carrots could turn your kid into a hawk-eyed fighter pilot benefited the war effort in ways beyond German perceptions.

It wasn’t long before the idea of carrots improving one’s night vision simply became carrots improving vision altogether. Soon, no one remembered where they first heard about carrots being so important to eye health and just started accepting it as the truth.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

Amazing what a few posters can do.

(Bryan Ledgard on WikiMedia Commons)

Even today, mothers and fathers all over the world continue to tell their kids to eat their carrots because they’re good for their eyes. This isn’t because there’s a great deal of Vitamin A deficiencies in the modern world, but rather, because we’re still operating off of the familiar wisdom we gleaned from propaganda posters printed while Hitler was touring Paris.

Propaganda, it pays to remember, is little more than advertising paid for by governments, rather than corporations. We all know and accept the idea that advertising works (to the tune of 3 billion in the United States last year alone). Whether we like it or not, it seems that propaganda does too.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

The U.S. Army is close to approving a new lightweight body armor plate with a “shooter’s cut” to provide close-combat forces with greater mobility in combat.

Program Executive Office Soldier officials announced October 2018 that the Army was trying to design new plates that are significantly lighter than the current plates soldiers wear to protect from enemy rifle rounds.

Spring 2019, Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, plans to brief the Army’s senior leadership for a decision on whether to move forward on a new version of the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, that features a more streamlined design.


“We are looking at a plate with the design that we refer to as a shooter’s cut,” he told reporters recently. “We believe that an increase in mobility provides survivability just as much as coverage of the plate or what the plate will stop itself.”

Potts said the new design offers slightly less coverage in the upper chest closest to the shoulder pocket.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The Modular Scalable Vest being demonstrated at Fort Carson.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)

“Our soldiers absolutely love it, and the risk to going to a higher level of injury is .004 meters squared. I mean, it is minuscule, yet it takes almost a full pound off of the armor,” he said.

Potts said he plans to brief Army Vice Chief of Staff James C. McConville in the next couple of months on the new plate design, which also features a different formula limiting back-face deformation — or how much of the back face of the armor plate is allowed to move in against the body after a bullet strike.

“Obviously, when a lethal mechanism strikes a plate, the plate gives a little bit, and we want it to give a little bit — it’s by design — to dissipate energy,” Potts said. “The question is, how much can it give before it can potentially harm the soldier?”

The Army has tested changing the allowance for back-face deformation to a 58mm standard instead of the 44mm standard it has used for years.

“We have found what we believe is the right number. We are going to be briefing the vice chief of staff of the Army, and he will make the ultimate decision on this,” Potts said.

“But right now, with the work that we have done, we think we can achieve, at a minimum, a 20 percent weight reduction. … We have been working with vendors to prove out already that we know we can do this,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Army Corps finds ‘cremains’ among ashes is utterly fascinating

In November 2018, the Camp Fire decimated the rural town of Paradise, California, becoming the state’s most destructive and deadliest wildfire ever. The windswept wildfire razed more than 14,000 residences, and at least 86 people were killed.

While Sacramento District’s official involvement following the Camp Fire has been minimal, that hasn’t prevented district employees from getting involved.


Joanne Goodsell was recently hired as a Cultural Resources Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She is also an archaeologist, and wanted to find a way to use her skill-set to help victims of the fire. She would have been motivated to help regardless of where the fire took place, but this one hit home — literally. Goodsell grew up in Paradise.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

(Courtesy Photo)

“It was personal. I had wanted to do something to help, but there’s not much you really can do outside of donating. But sometimes you want to help firsthand, to find a way to do more,” said Goodsell.

She did donate money, but was still looking to find how she could do more. That’s when she came across a Facebook post leading her to a group called the Institute for Canine Forensics.

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(Courtesy Photo)

The ICF, in coordination with two Northern California archaeological consulting firms, was asking for archaeologists to come out and help with the unfortunate task of trying to find people’s ashes; not of those who perished in the fires, but the ashes (also called cremains) of previously deceased and cremated loved ones that were now intermingled with the ashes and debris of their burned out homes.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

(Courtesy Photo)

“A friend had posted a link where the ICF was asking for archaeologists to help with the recovery efforts,” said Goodsell. “So I got in contact with them and found this was a good fit for my skill set as an archaeologist.”

Goodsell’s involvement soon inspired other archaeologists in her section at the Corps to volunteer as well. Joe Griffin, Chief of the Cultural, Recreational, and Social Assessment Section soon got involved, as did archaeologists Hope Schear and Geneva Kraus.

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(Courtesy Photo)

Finding ashes among ashes would seem an impossible task, but the ICF brought in dogs that are specifically trained to locate human cremains. After a client has requested service, an ICF handler speaks to the client to determine the approximate location of the cremains and what kind of container they were in. The dogs then sniff through the debris field and either sit or lay down when they find a scent. From there it’s up to the teams of archaeologists.

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(Courtesy Photo)

Nature’s chemical reactions also provide some help in the archaeologists’ searches. First, the texture of the human ashes are different from ashes of say, burned drywall or wood. Second, when the cremains burn a second time, they turn a different color than the typical gray or white ash surrounding them, making them easier to see.

Dressed in protective clothing, the archaeologists would determine a search area, set up a perimeter and begin excavating down to ground level, removing layers of ash and debris as they worked toward where they believed the cremains to be.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

(Courtesy Photo)

Most often, they eventually found the cremains on the ground, surrounded or mixed in with other ash and debris. Original ceramic containers almost never survived the fire, and metal urns melted. It was helpful that sometimes the searchers also found the original metal medallion that stays with a cremated body, making recognition of the human ashes a bit easier.

“One set of cremains were in a fireproof safe, and even it burned, but we still found some cremains in there,” said Goodsell. “Our highest recovery rates were often for cremains that were in the original containers and had been sitting on the floor of a closet.”

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

(Courtesy Photo)

The loss of a loved one’s ashes can add a sense of guilt to the already heavy burden of losing a home, especially for those who had yet to fulfill a promise to spread a loved one’s cremains as requested in person or in a will. Fortunately, Goodsell said they had close to a 70 percent success rate in recovering and returning entire cremains and medallions.

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(Courtesy Photo)

The job of searching for cremains at the Camp Fire is finished, at least for now, but Goodsell hopes that in the near future cremains recovery will become standard operating procedure following wildfire disasters.

“This is not going to be the last time this is needed,” said Goodsell. “Finding and returning the cremains means a great deal to these family members. Even if it was a small, token amount, people were very, very grateful.”

MIGHTY MONEY

4 tips for buying your first car as a junior troop

Purchasing your first car is a minefield filled with predatory lenders and scams. Young troops, unfortunately, fall victim to these bloodsuckers every year because they do not know of the special offers and protections available to them. It’s exciting to be on the lot, test driving your potential steed, but knowing the pitfalls that lurk in those lots will save you and your wallet a lot of grief.

It’s your first car and having your finances accounted for will make it easier when the additional expenses of maintenance, insurance, gas, and registration come into play. You wouldn’t go into battle without ammunition and you should equally not venture onto a lot without knowing your credit score, pre-approval amount, and potential financial threats.

Here are 4 tips for identifying and preventing scams targeting you, a junior troop, as you shop for your first car.


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The “refusing pre-approved checks” scam

You found it. It’s the perfect car to take you from base to places where knife hands and regulation haircuts do not exist, but there is one problem: the dealer doesn’t want to accept your pre-approved check from your lender (bank). They may try to spin something along the lines of, “I don’t trust those, I’ve been scammed before.” They’re playing the victim; don’t believe them. Their next move will be to convince you to sign a financing agreement with them instead, effectively scamming you into a higher APR loan.

Walk off that lot and never look back. You don’t need that evil put on you, Ricky Bobby.

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The “you have bad credit” scam

As a young troop, you probably don’t have a credit history at all, which is a double-edged sword. The positive is that lenders will give you the benefit of the doubt. Why? Well, because of your service, you’re easy to find and collect from if you become delinquent on payments. So, if a dealer says you have bad credit when you know, for a fact, that you don’t, it’s another scam waiting to happen.

We’re willing to bet that the dealer will tell you your only option for approval is to finance through them at a ridiculously high rate. The solution here is the same as before — walk.

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The “buy here, pay here” financing scam

In this scam, the dealer will promise that you’re going to get a sweet APR if you finance through him, but the application process takes a few weeks. He’s a nice guy, though, so he’ll let you take the car home while everything finalizes. He’s trusting you, but then, once those weeks pass, he calls you with bad news: the loan was denied, and you’re forced to pay a much higher APR or lose that car.

The best defense against this scam is shop around for different lenders, get pre-approved, and don’t accept any unknowns. Do not let dealers talk you into something you’ll regret later. Not all “buy here, pay here” offers are scams, but why take the risk when the alternative is clear as day?

The “price is too good to be true” scam

There are advantages to buying directly from a person instead of a dealer, like a faster turnaround or a better deal. But keep your head on a swivel because you’ll also leave yourself open to other risks and scam artists. As always, if in doubt, bring a friend. With some information and a properly calibrated BS meter, a troop can venture into the unknown unafraid.

The ‘price is too good to be true’ is when a victim sees a car they want to purchase online and it’s priced well below market value. Usually, it’s a classic or an exotic car — something to entice the victim to overlook a few details. The scam artist states that they’re out of the country with the vehicle (for one reason or another), but they’ll ship the car to you — but only after they receive your payment. The scam artist will make it seem like they’re the one at risk.

Once the scammer receives your money, they will cease speaking to you and disappear. Surprise!

The lesson here? Always make purchases in person and be wary of wire transfers and money orders. And, as always, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

If you feel like you have fallen victim or see a scam targeting your brothers-in-arms, you can report the car-buying scam at Fraud.org

popular

10 tips for succeeding at BUD/S, according to a Navy SEAL

When sailors hit the Navy SEAL training grinder, they’ll undergo what’s considered the hardest military training on earth in attempts to earn the Trident. Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training uses the sandy beaches of Coronado, California, to push candidates beyond their mental and physical limits to see if they can endure and be welcomed into the Special Warfare community.

Roughly 75 percent of all BUD/S candidates drop out of training, leaving many to wonder what, exactly, it takes to survive the program and graduate. Well, former Navy SEAL Jeff Nichols is here to break it down and give you a few tips for finding success at BUD/S.


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SEAL candidates cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell)

Diversify your training

According to Nichols, the ability to sustain yourself through various types of physical training will only help your odds of succeeding at BUD/S. Incorporate various exercise types, variable rest periods, and a wide array of resistances into your training regimen.

Get massages

When candidates aren’t in training, it’s crucial that they heal themselves up. Massages improve the body’s circulation and can cut down recovery time. That being said, avoid deep-tissue massages. That type of intense treatment can actually extend your healing time.

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Vice President Joe Biden places a hand on the shoulder of one of the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) candidates while speaking to them on the beach at Naval Special Warfare Center during his visit to San Diego, Calif.

(Photo by MC2 Dominique M. Lasco)

Find sleep wherever possible

If you can avoid staying up late, you should. Nichols encourages candidates to take naps whenever possible. Even if its only a quick, 20-minute snooze, get that rest in as often as possible.

Stay away from smoking and drinking alcohol

Both substances can prevent a candidate from performing at their best during their time at BUD/S. Smoking limits personal endurance. Alcohol dehydrates — which is especially harmful in an environment where every drop of clean water counts.

Know that nobody gives a sh*t

Ultimately, the BUD/S instructors don’t care if you make it through the training. Don’t think anyone will hold your hand as the intensity ramps up.

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Sailors enrolled in the BUD/S course approach the shore during an over-the-beach exercise at San Clemente Island, California.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau)

Surround yourself with good people

It’s easy to quit BUD/S and it’s challenging to push yourself onward. Surrounding yourself with good people who are in training for the right reasons will help you through the darkest moments.

Take advantage of your days off

Although you only have roughly 2 days of rest time, take advantage of them to the fullest and heal up as much as you can. Eat healthily and clear your mind by getting off-base as much as possible.

7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

A Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL instructor is about to show a member of BUD/S Class 244 just how hard it can be to rescue a drowning victim when the “victim” comes at you with a vengeance during lifesaving training at the Naval Special Warfare Center.

(Photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey)

Trust the BUD/S process

According to Nichols, the BUD/S process doesn’t fail. Listen to the instructors as they tell you how to properly negotiate individual training obstacles as a team. They all have proven experience, you just need to listen.

Don’t take anything personal

The instructors will slowly chip away at your self-confidence with the aim of getting you to quit. Brush off those remarks. Remember, this is part of the test.

BUD/S is considered a fair environment

Nichols believes that the program is a fair method of getting only the strongest candidates through the training and onto SEAL teams. It’s up to the SEAL instructors to put out the best possible product.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsnXb4xAcWw

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the best ways to survive falling out of a plane with no parachute

Peter E. asks: What could I do during freefall after falling out of a plane to maximize my chances of surviving?

According to the Aircraft Crashes Record Office in Geneva, between 1940 and 2008 there were 157 people who fell out of planes without a parachute during a crash and lived to tell about it. A full 42 of those falls occurred at heights over 10,000 feet (above 3,000 meters), such as the tale of 17 year old Juliane Koepcke who not only survived an approximately 10,000 foot free fall, but also a subsequent 10 day trek alone through the Peruvian rain forest with no real supplies other than a little bag of candy.

Now, while you might think surely nothing like that could ever happen to you, it turns out whether falling from 30,000 feet or a much more common 30, the same basic strategies apply. And for reference here, approximately 30 feet or about 9 meters is around the height at which you begin to be more likely to die from your injuries than survive. At heights as little as about 80 feet, only about 1 in 10 people survive and it pretty much all goes to hell from there.


So what can you do to increase your chances of survival if you ever find yourself doing your best impression of Icarus?

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To begin with, if you find yourself plummeting to the Earth at heights above around 1,500 feet, the higher you are the better, at least to a certain point. You see, at a mere 1,500 feet, you will reach your terminal velocity before you hit the ground, which is around 120-140 mph for a typical adult human who is trying their best to fall as slowly as possible. The problem for you is that starting your fall at around 1,500 feet is going to only give you approximately 10-12 seconds before you go splat. Not a whole lot of time to do anything useful.

On the other end of things, falling from, say, 30,000 feet will see you initially having to endure extremely unpleasant temperatures in the ballpark of -40 C/F and air rushing all around making it all the more frigid. You also may well briefly lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. So why is this better? Well, on the one hand if you never regain consciousness, you at least are spared the terrifying few minute fall. But, for most, you’re likely to regain consciousness with around 1-2 minutes or so to execute your survival plan.

Sure, you’re probably going to die anyway, but, hey, having something — anything — to do will help distract you from the truth that your adventure here on Earth is about to end and, no matter who you are, the fact that you ever existed will soon be forgotten — for most, in a shockingly short amount of time…

But do not go gentle into that good night my friends. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

So to begin with, to give you the maximum amount of time to execute a plan and reduce your speed as much as possible, you should first spread out in the classic X/W belly down skydiver pose. This is shockingly effective at slowing you down. For example, in the most streamlined of free fall cases, it turns out it’s actually possible to reach speeds well over twice the aforementioned 120-ish mph that is more typical in this X pose.

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There is a way to slow down significantly more, but it’s not yet time to try this trick. For now, once position assumed, your first priority is to look for any object to cling to — bonus points if the object is falling slower than you. It turns out so called “Wreckage Riders” are about twice as likely to survive such a fall vs. those who have nothing to cling to but the knowledge that they wasted so much of their lives worrying and seeking after things that didn’t actually matter and now can do nothing about it.

As for why Wreckage Riders have such a significantly higher survival rate, this is not only because of the potential for the object to slow one’s terminal velocity a bit in some cases, but also potentially to use as a buffer between them and the ground.

As noted by professor Ulf Björnstig of Umeå University, when at speeds of around terminal velocity for humans, you only actually need about a half a meter or so distance to decelerate to make surviving at least theoretically possible. Every extra centimeter beyond that counts significantly at increasing your odds.

On that note, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box on this one — just as having a person by your side when you find yourself being chased by a bear can potentially be a huge advantage (changing almost certain death to almost certain survivability if you are a faster runner than said person), in free fall, the body of another passenger who is likewise about to bid adieu to the world and promptly be forgotten is also a major asset — in this case via placing said person between yourself and the ground before you hit it. Bonus Survivability points if you can find a morbidly obese individual. Sure, the terminal velocity will be slightly higher in such a case, but that extra padding is going to go a long way.

Just be sure that the other passenger doesn’t have the same idea.

Pro-tip for avoiding your last moments being spent cartwheeling through the air trying to elbow drop a person from low orbit — go in like you’re wanting to give them a loving hug; to shed this mortal coil in the arms of another. As if to say, it’s going to be OK, we’re in this together. Then shortly before striking the ground, quickly rotate to have their body beneath you. They’ll never see it coming.

And don’t underestimate the power of a group hug forming in this scenario. All those soft, soft bodies to put between you and the ground…

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On the other hand, should you want to be selfless for some weird reason, and say, save your child or something, a couple of parents stacking themselves with child on top face up not only would give the child the greatest chance of surviving, but also maybe even a genuine decent one as kids, particularly under the age of 4, are noted as being significantly more likely to survive falls from any height anyway, let alone when you give them a nice thick buffer of two bodies who have spent way too much of their lives eating delicious KFC.

Regardless of whether you manage to find some wreckage or another human to ride all the way down, continuing the theme, you want to do your best to aim for the softest thing you can see. And the target doesn’t even have to be that close per se. For those who know what they’re doing, traveling a horizontal distance of even as much as one mile for every mile they fall is fully possible without any special equipment. It turns out this is actually how you can shave another 20-40 mph off your decent rate via what’s known as tracking — essentially positioning your body in such a way that you will gain speed in the horizontal direction as you fall; for a good tracker able to achieve horizontal speeds approximately equal to their vertical speed.

Unfortunately there is no exact consensus as to what the best position is for tracking with maximal efficiency, as different body types respond differently and the like, but the general method is to straighten your legs rather than bend and bring them together. At the same time, bring your arms to your sides, with hands palms down, and then make your body fairly flat with head angled slightly lower than your feet.

Of course, someone with no experience maneuvering around while free falling is going to do a poor job at actually doing any of this, let alone then at some point managing to hit even a huge target. And as for the benefits of reducing vertical descent rate a bit in favor of increasing horizontal, it’s not really clear whether this would be worth it in the vast majority of cases. For instance, just imagine jumping out of a car going 100 mph and how that would work out for you. Now add in also dropping at around 100 mph at the same time… You’re going to have a bad time.

As for aiming at a soft target, this is definitely valuable. So if you find yourself plummeting towards the Earth, be sure and make a mental note to have past you go ahead and practice maneuvering while free falling at some point.

Moving swiftly on, what are the best soft things to try to hit? Well, when looking at the records of the people who have managed to survive such falls, deep snow is almost always going to be your best bet if there’s any around.

For example, consider the case of British Tail-gunner Nick Alkemade. In 1944, with his plane going down, he chose to jump from his burning aircraft despite the tiny insignificant detail of his parachute having been rendered useless before he jumped. While you might think his subsequent fall of over 18,000 feet would surely be his end, in fact, thanks to the magic of tree branches and deep snow, his most significant injury was just a sprained leg, though he was quickly captured by the Germans. More impressed by his near death experience than his nationality, they released him a couple months later and gave him a certificate commemorating his fall and subsequent survival.

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Snow also has the huge advantage of the fact that, thanks to it more or less being everywhere when it’s present, you don’t really need to know what you’re doing to hit it.

Now, if it’s not the dead of winter, but any of the other seasons, a freshly tilled farm field or one with ultra thick vegetation will probably be your next best bet — both providing at least some deceleration buffer while also giving you a big target to aim for that you can see while still quite high in the sky.

For example, in 2015, veteran of over 2500 sky diving jumps, Victoria Cilliers, managed to survive a fall from about 4,000 feet by landing in a freshly plowed field. Granted, she did suffer broken ribs, hip, and fractured some vertebrae in her back, but she lived. As for her husband, who had intentionally tampered with both her main parachute and reserve so that they wouldn’t work properly (and previously attempted to kill her by creating a gas leak in their house), well, he got to move out of their house and into prison.

As for vegetation, even thorny blackberry bushes are better than nothing, though any chance of actually aiming and hitting them in reality is probably poor. But for whatever it is worth, in 2006 professional skydiver Michael Holmes managed just this, though not intentionally, when both his main chute and backup failed to deploy correctly. In his case, he suffered a concussion, a shattered ankle, and a slew of more minor injuries, but was otherwise fine.

Now you might at this point be wondering why we haven’t mentioned water, perhaps thinking it a great choice as a soft target to try to hit, and in some respects you’re not wrong. The problem is that at high velocity, water isn’t exactly soft- think belly flopping from a diving bored. That said, as many an extreme cliff diver has demonstrated, water can be a hell of a lot more forgiving than a cement sidewalk if you hit it properly.

The problem being most people aren’t exactly practiced at this sort of diving and even for the pros, at terminal velocity you’re almost certainly going to break a lot of bones, among many other issues. And don’t even get us started on the fact that hitting the water at those speeds can potentially cause said water to shoot into your anal orifice with enough force to cause internal bleeding.

Whether that happens or not, even if by some miracle you survive, you’re probably going to be rendered unconscious or unable to swim properly. So unless David Hasselhoff happens to be nearby, not a great choice.

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Now, lacking something soft to land on or the Hoff to rescue you, you want to look for something — anything — to break your fall before you hit the ground. Illustrating just how valuable this can be, consider the case of Christine McKenzie who, in 2004, found herself plummeting to the ground from 11,000 feet. Just before impact, she first hit some live power lines. While you might assume that would have sliced, diced, and fried her, in fact, she walked away from the whole thing with nothing more than a couple of broken bones and bumps and bruises.

Once again illustrating just how valuable hitting just about anything before hitting the ground can be, in 1943 New Jersey native Alan Magee was at about 20,000 feet when he decided to jump from his B-17 bomber, which had recently had a wing partially blown off. Unlike the aforementioned Nick Alkemade who made a similar decision, Magee actually did have a parachute. Unfortunately for him, he blacked out after being thrown from the aircraft and never deployed it.

He eventually fell through the glass ceiling of the St. Nazaire train station in France, which slowed him enough that he managed to survived the impact with the stone ground below. Not exactly unscathed, when treated he was found to have a couple dozen shrapnel wounds from the previous air battle, then many broken bones and internal injuries as a result of the aftermath of falling 20,000 feet. While he was subsequently taken captive, he came through alright and lived to a whopping 84 years old, dying in late 2003.

As another example of a ceiling striker, we have the 2009 case of cameraman Paul Lewis whose main chute failed on a dive, at which point he cut it away and deployed his reserve chute… which also failed, resulting in his descent being little slowed. He ended up hitting the roof of an airplane hanger after about a 10,000 foot fall. Not only did he survive the incident, but his only major immediate injury was to his neck, though he apparently made a full recovery.

From the limited data at hand, a better choice of something to break your fall than power lines and roofs appears to be a thickly wooded forest. Not only is this easier to aim for, while trees can potentially skewer you, their branches have saved many a free faller in the past, such as Flight Lieutenant Thomas Patrick McGarry who fell from 13,000 feet and had his fall broken by a series of fir tree branches.

This all brings us around to what position you should be in when you actually hit the ground. As you might imagine, the data set we have to work with simply isn’t big enough to definitively answer this question, and for some weird reason randomly dropping thousands of people out of planes and asking them to try to land in various positions over various surface types isn’t a study anyone has ever done.

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However, we do have some indications of what’s best thanks to, among other sources, data collected by the Federal Aviation Agency and countless experiments conducted by NASA who, when they’re not trying to keep the world ignorant of its flat nature and keep people away from the ice wall that keeps the oceans in (yes, there are actually people who believe this), has done their best to figure out the limits of what G-forces humans can reasonably survive and how best to survive them on the extreme end.

So what’s the consensus here? It’s almost universally stated that regardless of how high you fall from, you should land on the balls of your feet, legs together, all joints bent at least a little, then attempt to crumple slightly back and sideways (the classic 5 point impact sequence — feet, calf, thigh, buttock, and shoulder). In this recommendation, you should also have your arms wrapped around your head to protect it and completely relaxing every muscle in your body, lest everything just snap instantly instead of using the surprisingly extreme elasticity of your various bits to slow things down over some greater unit of time.

Something to keep in mind in some cases, however, is that NASA’s research indicates this so called “eyes down” impact (where the G-forces are such that your eye balls get forced downwards — so the widely recommended position here) actually maximizes your chance of injury and death in their studies of extreme G force effects on the human body. Their data instead shows that “eyes in” (so G forces pushing you back into something — think like accelerating in a car where you’re pushed back into the seat) is the way your body can take the most force and survive.

The problem, of course, is that the forces involved in free falling from great heights are too extreme in most cases for your body to survive in this eyes-in position. Thus, while you might receive a lot more injuries from the upright position landing, the whole point is to sacrifice your feet, legs, and on up in an attempt to reduce the ultimate G forces felt by your organs and, of course, impact force when your head hits the surface.

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That said, from this there is some argument to be made that perhaps falling back instead of sideways may be superior, assuming you can manage to properly protect your head with your arms.

Whether that’s true or not, presumably there are some scenarios, such as landing in super deep, powdery snow, where landing face up in a bit of a reclined position with head tucked in and arms protecting said head, might actually be superior for similar reasons why stuntmen, trapeze performers, daredevils and the like will generally choose this reclined position for their landings onto soft things.

We should also probably mention that if you do hit the ground with a horizontal speed as well, the general recommendation, besides protect your head with your arms, is to quite literally attempt to roll with it and not try to fight that in the slightest. Resistance is futile in this case and attempts towards this end will only increase the odds of you being injured and dying.

Bonus Fact:

  • The current world record for surviving a free fall without a parachute is held by one Vesna Vulovic, who managed to survive a plummet of about 33,330 feet on January 26, 1972. On that day, Vulovic found herself in such a situation after the commercial airline she was on was blown up mid-flight, with it presumed to be the work of Croatian nationalist. Whatever the case, everyone aboard the plane died but Vulovic, who not only benefited from being an accidental wreckage rider, but also had her wreckage hit some trees and land on snow on a slope- — literally all best case scenarios. While she did break many, many bones in her body, among a variety of serious injuries, and ultimately wound up in a coma for some time, it’s noted that when she woke up, pretty much the first thing she did was ask a doctor for a cigarette. We’re not sure if this makes her a stone-cold badass or just someone who really needed to think about the severity of her nicotine addition.

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This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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