The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews - We Are The Mighty
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The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Abraham Wald, a Jewish mathematician, was driven out of Romania and Europe by the Nazi advance and emigrated to the U.S. where he would serve in the Statistical Research Group, a bunch of egg heads who used math to make the military better at everything from firing rockets to shooting down enemy fighters. And Wald was the one who convinced the Navy that they were about to armor the completely wrong parts of their planes, saving hundreds of flight crews in the process.


The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
Abraham Wald, a mathematician who helped save hundreds of air crews by writing brainiac papers. (Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach, CC BY-SA 2.0)

To understand how Wald, sitting in New York for most of the war, saved so many lives, it’s important to understand what role academics and subject matter experts had in the war. The U.S. and Britain especially, but really all the great wartime powers, put some stock in the ability of their academics to solve tricky problems and make warfighters more efficient, more lethal, or more safe.

Some of this was having physicists and engineers create better weapons, like how the Applied Physics Laboratory was created to develop proximity fuses that made artillery and anti-aircraft weapons more effective. Some of this was having mathematicians figure out the best mix of rounds to load into machine guns of different types for the gunners to more quickly kill their targets. One great example is all the physicists and other scientists who worked on atom bombs.

But Wald was a statistician, and his job was to look at wartime processes and figure out how they could be improved. Wald was still, technically, an enemy alien, so he had an odd setup at the Statistical Research Group.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
Planes hit in the fuel supply and engines often didn’t make it back to base, throwing off Navy and Army Air Corps data. (U.S. Air Force)

As Jordan Ellenberg wrote in How Not To Be Wrong, there was a running joke in the SRG that Wald’s secretaries had to rip notepaper out of his hands as soon as he finished writing on it because he didn’t have the clearance to read his own work.

But Wald was an amazing mathematician, and it’s not like he was the type of Hungarian who might harbor sympathies for Hitler. Remember, he had fled Austria because Hitler would have had him killed, same as Albert Einstein and plenty of others. So, Wald used math to try to help the Allies kill the Axis, and he was in the SRG when the Navy came to them with a seemingly straightforward problem.

The Navy, and the Army Air Corps, was losing a lot of planes and crews to enemy fire. So, the Navy modeled where its planes showed the most bullet holes per square foot. Its officers reasoned that adding armor to these places would stop more bullets with the limited amount of armor they could add to each plane. They wanted the SRG to figure out the best balance of armor in each often-hit location.

(Adding armor adds weight, and planes can only takeoff with a certain amount of weight that needs to be balanced between plane and crew, ammo, fuel, and armor. Add too much armor, and you have a super safe bomber that can’t carry any bombs.)

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
While doomed planes did, sometimes, manage to land, they were usually lost at sea or in enemy territory. Abraham Wald successfully argued that the military should estimate where they were hit when determining what parts of planes they should armor. (U.S. Navy)

But Wald picked out a flaw in their dataset that had eluded most others, a flaw that’s now known as “survivor bias.” The Navy and, really anyone else in the war, could typically only study the aircraft, vehicles, and men who survived a battle. After all, if a plane is shot down over the target, it lands on or near the target in territory the enemy controls. If it goes down while headed back to a carrier or island base, it will be lost at sea.

So the only planes the Navy was looking at were the ones that had landed back at ship or base. So, these weren’t examples of where planes were most commonly hit; they were examples of where planes could be hit and keep flying, because the crew and vital components had survived the bullet strikes.

Now, a lot of popular history says that Wald told the Navy to armor the opposite areas (or, told the Army Air Corps to armor the opposite areas, depending on which legend you see). But he didn’t, actually. What he did do was figure out a highly technical way to estimate where downed planes had been hit, and then he used that data to figure out how likely a hit to any given area was to down a plane.

What he found was that the Navy wanted to armor the least vulnerable parts of the plane. Basically, the Navy wasn’t seeing many hits to the engine and fuel supply, so the Navy officers decided those areas didn’t need as much protection. But Wald’s work found that those were the most vulnerable areas.

And that makes sense. After all, if you start leaking gas while still far from home, you likely won’t make it home. Have an engine destroyed even a few miles from home, and you likely won’t make it home. So the military took Wald’s work and applied armor to the areas he had defined as most vulnerable, primarily the engines, instead of putting armor on the areas with the most observed hits. And, guess what? Planes started surviving more hits.

Now, it didn’t win the war on its own, of course. Just like giving the Navy proximity fuses to make gunners more effective against enemy planes didn’t stop every Japanese dive bomber or Kamikaze attack, the armor didn’t save every plane and crew.

But winning a war isn’t about winning every engagement. It’s about paying less than you are willing to pay for victory and suffering less than you’re willing to suffer for each defeat. If you can do that, you’ll eventually win.

And Wald had driven down the price of success and the likelihood of failure for airplanes. Ironically, he died five years after the war in a plane crash, robbing us of his expertise in Korea and Vietnam, though his papers written during World War II continued to influence military decisions for decades.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines may have to fight all of America’s low-intensity wars

Buried nearly 500 pages into the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 , Senate Bill 2987, is an interesting directive: “No later than February 1, 2019, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report setting forth a re-evaluation of the highest priority missions of the Department of Defense, and of the roles of the Armed Forces in the performance of such missions.” Despite receiving passing attention in the media, this small section of a large bill has potentially enormous long-term repercussions.


The Senate NDAA passed by a vote of 85–10 on June 19, 2018. Much of the re-evaluation that the Senate Armed Services Committee calls for in S.2987 is justified and indeed overdue. There is a glaring need to take a new look at issues such as:

  • Future ground vehicles that are not optimized for high-end conflict
  • The advantages of carrier-launched unmanned platforms over our short-legged manned Navy strike aircraft
  • The ways in which swarms of cheap drones can impact the United States’ ability to project power
  • Our overstretched special operations forces

Alongside these necessary inquiries, the requested report also asks a much bigger question: “whether the joint force would benefit from having one Armed Force dedicated primarily to low-intensity missions.” The bill tells us which Armed Force this would be: the United States Marine Corps.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Jacob)

The Trump Administration’s National Defense Strategy rightly seeks to reorient America’s military on the most difficult task it can face: deterring or winning a large-scale modern war against a peer competitor. The Senate NDAA seems guided by that same logic.

The military and its civilian overseers have picked up some bad habits from the past two decades of low-intensity operations. At least one prominent retired general questions whether the US military still knows how to fight a major war. Counterinsurgency may be “eating soup with a knife,” but it is not “the graduate level of warfare.” No matter how vexing armed anthropology and endless cups of tea may be to soldiers, the challenges of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism do not compare to those of a high-tempo, high-casualty modern war. This should be obvious to even a casual student of military history, but the post-9/11 wars have generated an enormous amount of woolly thinking among both soldiers and civilians.

There are also justifiable concerns about the viability of forcible entry from the sea, the Marine Corps’ traditional mission. Since the Falklands invasion in 1982, we have seen that modern missiles will make amphibious power projection increasingly costly. The Marine Corps has taken note and for decades now has quietly been renaming schools, vehicles, and probably marching bands “Expeditionary” instead of “Amphibious.” However, America will always be a maritime nation, and “game-changing” military technologies have a mixed record.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Angel D. Travis)

Yet while the Senate’s requested report is asking the Secretary of Defense many of the right questions, its one attempt at an answer should be rejected outright.

A high/low mix of platforms is worth examining. Going high/low with our military services is another matter altogether.

The Army and Air Force undoubtedly want to get back to preparing to fight major wars, as they should. Relegating the Marine Corps to second-tier status as a counterinsurgency and advising force, however, is not in the national interest.

Militaries have historically understood that they must prepare primarily for the most dangerous and difficult operations they could face. It is far easier to shift a trained force down the range of military operations than up. The Israelis offer the most vivid recent illustration of this truth.

Before the 2006 Second Lebanon War with Hezbollah, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had been focused on operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, with 75 percent of training devoted to low-intensity conflict (LIC). When this counterinsurgency force confronted well-armed, well-trained, and dug-in Hezbollah militiamen, it received a nasty wake up call: the IDF took relatively heavy casualties and was unable to decisively defeat Hezbollah or halt rocket attacks into Israel, which continued until the day of the ceasefire. The IDF quickly returned to training for stiffer fights, devoting 80 percent of its training to high-intensity conflict (HIC) after the 2006 war.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
An Israeli soldier tosses a grenade into a Hezbollah bunker.

America already has a tradition of early bloody noses in major wars, from Bull Runto Kasserine Pass to Task Force Smith. Unless we want an even more catastrophic shock in our next major war, we must focus all four of our military services on major combat operations and combined arms maneuver. We should not forget the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, such as they are. But it is the height of folly to turn our most expeditionary and aggressive military service into a corps of advisors and gendarmes.

Instead of continuing to throw lives and money at the intractable — and strategically less important — security problems of the developing world, perhaps we should spend more time and effort avoiding such military malpractice. Let’s hope the Department of Defense concurs.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

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These 5 bad things will happen if all soldiers are allowed to roll up their sleeves

Credible sources have confirmed that it’s all over. The Apocalypse is nigh. The End Times are upon us. The trouble started when Army Chief of Staff Mark A. Milley announced that soldiers at Fort Hood were going to be allowed to roll their sleeves for a 10-day trial period. But rolled up sleeves would be a grave mistake. While the Army publically stated in 2005 that it was getting rid of rolled sleeves to prevent sunburn and insect bites, it’s widely known that the real reason was to keep the world from going all topsy-turvy.


Here are 5 things to look forward to if this dreadful uniform change is allowed to stand:

1. Privates will lead sergeants

 

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

The first consequence will be a complete breakdown in the natural order of military bases, and privates will begin leading sergeants instead of vice versa. This will be truly disastrous since modern privates typically can’t read paper maps and will likely rule by committee. The E-4 Mafia has signaled that it would be willing to work with privates if they usurped the NCOs.

2. Civilians will become colonels

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
(Photo: US Army)

Since the NCO corps will be busy fighting against these challenges from bare-forearmed privates, there will be no one to prevent officers from promoting their golf buddies into the Army. Expect a surge of “lateral entry” officers into ranks as high as colonel or general.

3. Russia will transform back into the Soviet Union

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
Like this, but with a mustache and real guns instead of gun fingers. (Photo: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

With the U.S. Army wrestling to re-establish some semblance of order in the “Rolled Sleeves” world, Russian President Vladimir Putin will no longer have to fear reprisals from the West if he goes too far. He will quickly send forces into the rest of Ukraine as well as NATO states bordering Russia.

Once he has reclaimed enough territory, he will declare the rebirth of the Soviet Union and grow a new, Stalin-esque mustache.

4. Blood will no longer make the green grass grow

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
(Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

Perhaps the most damaging result of the Army abandoning its extended sleeves policy will be the fact that it will change basic organic chemistry and stop the growth of grass watered with blood. Water will have to be piped or trucked in to keep plant life going.

This will be an especially big problem for desert bases like Fort Hood that have limited access to water.

5. Actually, it’s going to be fine

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey and Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley pose with Spc. Cortne K. Mitchell after Mitchell becomes the first soldier in over ten years to legally roll his sleeves in the combat uniform. (Photo: US Army)

Look, besides the annoying fact that the modern uniform has little sleeves for pens and big velcro patches that make the uniform hard to roll, this isn’t a big deal. Soldiers will wear more sunscreen and bug spray again, and everyone can go back to work. Congrats, Fort Hood. And thank you, Dailey and Milley, for trusting soldiers to remain professionals even with rolled sleeves.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Turkey celebrated getting the F-35 will blow your mind

Turkey held a flamboyant and bizarre ceremony to celebrate its first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, but if the US Senate has its way, those two fighters will be the only ones they get.

Turkey, as well as a host of other US allies, are awaiting the F-35 to replace aging fleets of Cold War-era warplanes and bring them into a networked, futuristic style of aerial combat.

Upon receiving its first-ever F-35s from the US, Turkey held a memorable celebration that gave viewers a “taste of Turkey’s rich heritage and diverse culture,” with a long intro song that depicted skydivers, birds, and ended with a man dressed as a bird or plane doing an aviation-themed dance.


But after the curtain rolled back on Turkey’s single F-35, and Turkey’s military leaders expressed hope for a powerful and networked new air force, a major question remains: Will Turkey even get its promised 100 F-35s?

Turkey took part in building the F-35, as did many countries. It’s an important NATO ally positioned as a bridge between east and west. The US bases airmen and nuclear weapons in Turkey, but lately, the relationship has soured.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
F-35
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

There’s deep concerns in the US over Turkey’s human rights record, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan authoritarian regime, and Turkey’s recent interest in Russian missile defenses.

Turkey is on track to buy Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.

Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider that NATO countries “don’t want to be networking in Russian systems into your air defenses” as it could lead to “technology transfer and possible compromises of F-35 advantages to the S-400.”

If Turkey owned the F-35 and the S-400, it would give Russia a window into NATO’s missile defense network and the F-35’s next-generation capabilities. Basically, as NATO is an alliance formed to counter Russia, letting Russia patch in would defeat the purpose and possibly blunt the military edge of the most expensive weapons system ever built.

For that reason, and human rights concerns, the US Senate wrote into its Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that it wanted Turkey’s F-35s held back.

Lockheed Martin officials said they still expected the sale to go through and the planes to be delivered, but if the House backs up the Senate, and Trump approves, Turkey could be stuck with only two F-35s for a long time.

Potentially, Turkey may be persuaded by the US to give up on its S-400 purchase from Russia, but it’s also possible that a scorned Turkey will go through with the purchase and have a single US-made stealth jet networked into Russian technology.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

8 even more incredible facts about ‘Rambo’

When We Are The Mighty sat down with Sylvester Stallone, Sly revealed some truly astonishing things about one of action movie history’s most beloved characters: John Rambo. Most of us blacked out when Stallone revealed that Rambo didn’t originally join the Army but came to in time to learn a few great things that make the character much deeper than we ever imagined.

That was just info from Stallone. It turns out there’s much more, so we dove a little deeper.


Read: Amazing behind the scenes facts about Rambo – from Stallone himself

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Rambo is almost a god in Papua New Guinea

Somehow, the character of John Rambo has entered the folklore of the Kamula people on the island nation of Papua New Guinea, despite limited access to film and television. The Rambo of folklore is said to be a gunrunner who fought in the 10-year civil war in nearby Bougainville, and will come back to defend Papua New Guinea in case of World War III. In Kamula culture, along with other tribes, Rambo is said to symbolize peak masculinity.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Rambo’s trademark knife wasn’t supposed to exist

In the book First Blood, on which the movie and character John Rambo is based, Rambo never had a survival knife of any kind, let alone a giant one to use to bring down the entire police force of Hope, Wash. Stallone added the knife for effect, hoping to make the weapon a character all on its own.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Rambo wasn’t a killer – originally.

John Rambo never actually kills anyone in First Blood. There is only one death in the entire movie, and that happened as an accident when an overzealous cop falls from a helicopter while shooting at Rambo. In subsequent movies, that all changes of course. Rambo’s body count is 76 in First Blood: Part II, and 132 in Rambo III. In Rambo, he appears to kill the entire Burmese Army with one .50-cal.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Stallone hated the first cut of First Blood.

The first time Stallone saw the edit for First Blood, he hated it. It was three and a half hours long, and Rambo’s dialogue was terrible. At first, Stallone wanted to buy the film so he could burn it. Instead of that, he re-cut the film to 93 minutes with most of his dialogue removed, which is what you see when you watch it today.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Without ‘Rambo’ there would be no ‘Predator’

When Rocky Balboa took on Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, no one in Hollywood was quite sure who Rocky’s next opponent could possibly be. The joke was made that Rocky would have to fight some kind of Alien in Rocky V. After a while, Screenwriters Jim and John Thomas began to take the idea seriously and wrote a Rocky-Rambo Hybrid movie that we call Predator.

In Rocky V, Rocky fought a former student named Tommy Gunn. In the street. Outside a bar. In case you were wondering.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

John Rambo was almost played by John Travolta

Imagine how different action movie lore would be today if Sylvester Stallone hadn’t been in the writing and casting process. John Travolta was considered for the role of the former Green Beret and one-man wrecking crew before Stallone stepped in and nixed the idea.

Travolta also almost became Forrest Gump and Pete “Maverick” Mitchell of Top Gun fame.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Arthur John Rambo of Lincoln County, Mont. gave his life to save his fellow soldiers in Tay Ninh, Vietnam.

There actually is a John Rambo on “The Wall.”

Arthur John Rambo was an artilleryman with the 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam. He was mortally wounded by multiple hits from rocket-propelled grenades on Nov. 26, 1969. As he and his fellow artillerymen came under heavy mortar fire, a nearby self-propelled howitzer took an RPG hit and caught fire. Rambo cleared his fellow soldiers out of the way and attempted to drive the vehicle, still burning, away from the area where it wouldn’t be a threat. He did so successfully, but the vehicle took two more RPGs. The last, killing Rambo in action. Arthur John Rambo was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

“Nothing is over!” Damn right.

Rambo commits suicide. In the book.

… and in the original cut of the movie. Remember when Sylvester Stallone re-edited the entire movie? Rambo killing himself didn’t make the final cut, even though that’s what happens in the book. Instead, Stallone asked a few Vietnam vets what troubles they face, and Stallone wrote a speech at the end of the movie to let the world know.

That original movie sounds awful. Thank god for Sylvester Stallone.

Articles

8 pieces of gear grunts buy themselves before deploying

Before any service member deploys, they have to visit the supply depot on their station. Now, these supply depots issue out a bunch of items. But for the most part, they’re worn down and look like something a homeless guy would reject.


The fact is — you’re not the first guy or gal to take a nap in that sleeping bag or to load rounds into that M16 magazine. It’s been well used before you even thought about touching it.

Related: 8 things Marines like to carry other than their weapon

After seeing the state of some of this gear, service members typically think about the months of deployment time that lies ahead and remind themselves how much stuff the military doesn’t voluntarily distribute.

So check out our list of things you may want to consider buying before going wheels up.

1. Bungee Cords

Like 550 cord, these elastic straps are strong as Hell and will secure down nearly everything.

If you need to tow it, bungee cord will probably hold it. (images via Giphy)

2. Blow up sleeping pad

Traditionally, supply issues you a ratty foam mat which is like sleeping in a really cheap motel room.

Purchasing a quality air mattress can make all difference. (image via Giphy)  

3. Headlamp

Getting issued a flashlight that’s designed to clip to your uniform (which is what you’ll get) is fine if you’re okay with tripping over everything in the pitch black (because it doesn’t point to where you’re looking).

Get a red-filtered headlamp for combat zones — it could save your life. (images via Giphy)

4. Rite in the rain

Normal paper isn’t meant to repel water. You never know when you need to take notes in the field while it’s pouring down rain. “Rite in the Rain” is waterproof paper you can still jot notes on.

With a “Rite in the Rain” it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, you can still takethose unimportant notes your commanding officer thinks is critical. (images via Giphy)

5. P-Mags

The 30 round magazine that the supply guy handed out has seen better days and has a single compression spring built inside which can increase the chances of your weapon system jamming when you need it the most. The polymer version made by Magpul is much better — so good, in fact, the Marine Corps is issuing it to all Leathernecks.

P-mags are dual spring compressed, decreasing your chances of a weaponsmalfunction. (images via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 things you should know before joining the infantry

6. GPS

People get lost if they spin around one too many times, and most people simply suck at land-nav. Consider purchasing a G.P.S. that fits snuggly on your wrist.

We told you about G.P.S., but you didn’t want to listen. (image via Giphy) 

7. Cooler eye-pro

The military does issue eye protection that has frag resistant lenses, but they don’t make you look cool. Everyone buys sunglasses before a deployment that make you look tough — its an unwritten rule.

Now you look badass. Your eyes won’t be a protected, but who needs them away?(images via Giphy)Note: you still need to protect your eyes.

8. Knife/multitool

This should be self-explanatory. If you want to open up just about anything and your Judo chop won’t cut it.

His worked, but yours may not. (images via Giphy)

Articles

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

The first Royal Marine to receive the Victoria’s Cross earned the medal for gallantry at the Battle of Inkerman during the Crimean War when he lead his men against a Russian patrol despite being completely out of ammo. Since he couldn’t fire, he wrestled the enemy leader and threw him off a ridge.


The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
That’s the mustache of a stone-cold killer. (Regimental oil painting)

John Pethyjohns joined the military in 1844 but, because he couldn’t read, did not know that the enlisting officer had misspelled his name as John Prettyjohns. The former farmworker slowly rose through the ranks and, in November 1854, he was a corporal helping lead a platoon against the Russians.

In the Battle of Inkerman, a large force of light infantry was holding the road that passed between the Russian forces and the town of Inkerman. The Russians had attacked during breakfast but the marines had managed to hold them. Russian sniper fire from nearby caves was starting to tip the battle back to the Russians.

So Prettyjohns’ platoon was sent to clear Russian snipers out of caves near the main battlefield. The platoon sergeant and Prettyjohns led the attacks and cleared some caves, but then they noticed Russian reinforcements approaching up the hill.

The British and Russian armies fight at the Battle of Inkerman The Battle of Inkerman by Victor Adam (Painting: Public Domain)

The Royal Marines were nearly out of ammunition and trapped on the hilltop, but Prettyjohns quickly improvised. He ordered the marines to collect stones and then to the edge of the summit to meet the Russians himself.

When the first Russian crested the hill, Prettyjohns grabbed him and executed a wrestling throw, hurling the Russian down the slope. The other marines, meanwhile, threw their rocks at the Russian patrol, fired a volley of rifle fire, and forced them to withdraw.

When the Victoria Cross was introduced, the marines chose to nominate Prettyjohns for his actions on the hill and he became the first Royal Marine to receive the award. He left the service in 1865 as a Colour Sergeant and died in 1887.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A paratrooper supply clerk survived a combat jump with zero training

In the military, sometimes things just get lost in transit. Gear goes adrift, paperwork gets filed wrong, and soldiers with no training in parachuting from a perfectly good airplane end up getting thrown out of a perfectly good airplane. It was bound to happen, and frankly, we should be a little surprised it took so long.


On Feb. 22, 2000, U.S. Army Spc. Jeff Lewis made his first ever parachute jump from a C-130 aircraft at Fort Bragg, N.C. The only problem was that no one had ever trained Specialist Lewis on how to jump from an airplane with the Army. Lewis was with the 82nd Airborne, so his unit was correct, it just turns out he wasn’t a paratrooper. He was a supply clerk. The then-23-year-old never mentioned anything to the jumpmaster because he wanted to do what the Army expected him to do.

“The Army said I was airborne-qualified,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t going to question it. I had a job to do, and I had to believe in what I was doing.”

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

A Jumpmaster can be held responsible for any training accident.

Lewis did eventually go to jump school, becoming airborne qualified just a few weeks after jumping out the airplane door for the first time. He was also promoted in that timeframe. But Lewis didn’t go out the door entirely unprepared. He took the 82nd’s one-day refresher course for those soldiers who are already airborne-qualified, and it might have saved his life. After stepping out of the airplane on the wrong foot, his equipment apparently got tangled. He was able to open the canopy by kicking with his feet, as instructed in the class.

Even though the troopers were doing a static line jump, the jump was only half the instruction necessary. The other half is, of course, the landing. Paratroopers are trained to land safely using certain techniques that redistribute the energy from the force of their fall. Even with the chutes, they can hit the ground as fast as 15 miles per hour. The untrained or new paratroopers can snap their legs when landing incorrectly and taking the brunt of the fall.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

This could have been his first jump.

There’s a reason paratroopers train for weeks to learn to properly stick the landing. The chutes used by the Army aren’t like civilian chutes. They’re designed to get the trooper to the ground faster. While the Army could definitely afford safer, easier-to-use parachutes, the entire point of paratroopers is to get them on the ground and fighting as fast as possible. The more time they spend suspended in mid-air, the more opportunity enemy troops have to light them up.

In short, Lewis got lucky.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 mind-boggling facts about the Cold War

The United States and the Soviet Union fought together during World War II, but quickly turned against one another in the years that followed. The Cold War was a period marked with tension — this is well-known, but the complexities of the relationship between capitalism and communism are less so.

“To put it bluntly, America feared that the commies… would take over the world.”

That fear not only brought the world to a nuclear stand-off, it led to some of the most vicious war-fighting in history.

So, what did it look like as we shifted from friends to enemies to frenemies?


Let’s look at some surprising Cold War facts:

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
(Photo by National Archives Records Administration)

1. There’s a reason Nixon acted crazily

In what has become known as The Madman Theory, it’s said that Americans deliberately portrayed President Richard Nixon as crazy — and a crazy person is capable of anything, even launching a nuclear attack. The intent here was to intimidate the enemy into backing down from a fight.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
(Photo by wikipedia user Queery-54)

2. One man saved the world from nuclear war

In 1983, Stanislav Petrov was the commanding officer on duty at a nuclear early warning facility when his system reported that the United States had launched missiles towards Moscow. His training and protocol demanded an immediate retaliatory strike, but Petrov just couldn’t believe it was true. He chose to disregard the warnings as a false alarm.

Petrov’s instincts were correct. Had he launched “retaliatory” missiles at the U.S., he would have actually fired a salvo to begin a war. The U.S. would have then returned fire and only alternate universes know how that could have escalated…

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
Close up of one of two Mark 39 thermonuclear bombs in a North Carolina field after falling from a disintegrating B-52 bomber in an incident known as the “1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash.”
(Photo by U.S. Air Force)

3. In the 60s, U.S. planes carried nuclear bombs “just in case” — and sometimes they lost them

We weren’t only in danger from Soviet weapons — in the dawning of the nuclear age, we were barely able to contain our own devices.

The Defense Department recently disclosed 32 accidents involving nuclear weapons between 1950 and 1980. In one such incident, two nuclear bombs crashed in North Carolina. Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara stated that it was “by the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted.”

Had those bombs detonated, it could have caused more damage than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

4. The CIA took codes and super-secret squirrelly spy sh** seriously

A training manual instructed agents on the use of many deceptions — one includes tying shoelaces to communicate in code. There were shoelace patterns for “I have information” and “follow me.”

This is yet another example of how seriously they took the threat of KGB spies (which did give us The Americans, so that’s at least something to be grateful for).

There are 50 crazy facts about the Cold War in the video below. (Number 19 is about how the U.S. paid million for a cat that could spy on the Soviets. That actually happened.)

Check out the video to get facts you never knew you needed about a pivotal moment in history that is still shaking the U.S. today:

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MIGHTY HISTORY

This pioneer is considered the founder of the Navy SEALs

During WWII, Adolf Hitler knew that American forces would invade somewhere on the coast of France and fight their way inland. To prevent the invasion, the Germans constructed a massive Atlantic wall full of dangerous obstacles along the beachheads to combat amphibious vehicles from pulling up landing onto the shoreline.


U.S. forces had no internal expertise on how to breach Hitler’s solid barriers — so they turned to one man — Draper Kauffman.

After Kauffman graduated from the Naval Academy years before the invasion, he was denied an officer’s commission due to having poor eye-sight. Wanting to serve in the military, Kauffman traveled overseas and became an ambulance driver for the British. After a short period as a German POW, he went to London to join the fight as “The Blitz” was in full swing.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Related: This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

On the first day, German bombers had dropped 377 tons of ordnance onto the city — many of the explosives did not detonate. The government asked for volunteers to help with bomb disposal, Kauffman stepped up to volunteer and raised his hand.

Kauffman learned all he could about his new field and rapidly excelled at it. His advanced bomb disposal knowledge earned him a transfer from the British Navy to the American one.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
Draper Kauffman (left)

Soon after entering the American Navy, an event took place that would change our history forever — the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Navy gave Kauffman orders to create a bomb disposal unit; he went right to work.

One of his first tasks was to disarm a 500-pound bomb located in the harbor. He completed the deadly mission and received the Navy Cross for his excellent work.

Also Read: This sailor has one of the most impressive resumes you’ll ever see — and he’s not done yet

In 1943, Kauffman received a life-changing phone call during his honeymoon that was to report to Washington as directed. His newest assignment was to create a plan to mitigate Hitler’s beach obstacles.

He would go from disarming bombs to now planting them. Along with a few other Naval officers, the “U.S. Navy Combat Demolition” unit was born.

Kauffman and his officers began training “frogmen” out of the swampy and mosquito infested area in Fort Pierce, Florida — the first BUD/s class started training. Kauffman and the instructors taught the Navy’s bravest men how to sneak up onto an obstacle undetected and take it out.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
U.S. Navy Combat Demolition

In 1962, the Navy SEALs were officially declared when former President John F. Kennedy had them established to conduct Unconventional Warfare — and they’ve been kicking a** ever since.

Military Life

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

The Marine Corps is always training to become smarter, stronger, and more lethal than those who threaten to destroy our way of life. Marines are outside dogs who thrive on the hunt, however, when not forward deployed, they train the next generation to fight.


The fundamentals used to build up a puppy into a war-dog may seem asinine at first, but they are either proving a concept, developing a character trait, or conditioning muscle memory.

1. Break falls

A break fall is one, if not the first, thing you’ll learn in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. This exercise focuses on muscle memory: tucking the chin or looking up, not reaching out, and dispersing the energy from impact so you can get back on your feet unharmed and continue the fight.

Break falling can take years to perfect (good thing you signed that contract), but it will make you a better sparring partner and will come in handy for those “oh sh*t” moments, like getting in a fight or slipping on an icy sidewalk.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

2. Grass Week

Not every Marine is an infantryman, but every Marine is a rifleman. Generally speaking, it’s probably a good idea to have all personnel achieve proficiency with the metal object they have to carry for months on end while deployed.

Grass Week is when Marines develop muscle memory of shooting positions while aiming at an object (usually a barrel) while coaches fix their posture.

Proper bone support is a fundamental of marksmanship that will help you attain that Expert Rifleman Badge (and bragging rights over your peers). Unfortunately for the Marine, this means staring at the same barrel from dawn to dusk for five days straight.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

3. Fighting Holes

Offense and Defense, also known as O&D, is when Marines have to defend their position against an advancing enemy, conduct patrols, and other combat operations. This also means hours or days of digging with a tiny shovel.

There are set measurements for fighting holes, but their command may take certain liberties contingent on the environment, time, and resources. Dig, fill, relocate, repeat.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

4. Speed Reloads

Speed and tactical reloads make you look and feel like the operator bad ass you imagined yourself to be when signing that contract. The concept is simple: Develop muscle memory to the point that you can reload your weapon in pitch black darkness or blind-folded.

It’s a perishable skill that must be continually honed in the infantry community and it’s a great way to look busy if your staff sergeant is on the prowl for a working party.

As we all know, one must walk before they can run, which translates to many magazines being dropped prematurely.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Put the homeschool schedules down until you read this

And just like that, all of America became homeschoolers.

As resources are furiously pinned to social media, it quickly becomes overwhelming to newbie parent-teachers trying to choose what tools to fill their children’s long days with. Rather quickly, most of you will hit walls. Walls that I too hit, full of rookie mistakes made trying to recreate the actual school day or classroom schedule within my home.


I’m here to tell you to throw that all away. To slowly and happily sip your morning coffee and read this.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Whatever you do, don’t try to recreate the school day at home.

As a former public school teacher turned travel schooling mom (google that in your spare time), the first mistake typically made is both the course load and daily schedule. Classrooms educate on average 20-30 children simultaneously at various levels of learning. At home, you have one student-yours. He or she will accomplish a school day’s worth of work in far less time.

The beauty of homeschool is that it is meant to be flexible, individual, and guided by learner’s passions. You will learn to “do school” at times when your child is the most focused. This may mean 1-2 lessons first thing in the morning, then creative passions, exploration, and fun until later in the evening when they finish up a few “core lessons.” At this very moment, homeschoolers are on thousands of varied schedules. The best part? There’s no wrong answer. So spend the first week or so tuning into your home and child’s rhythms before charging forcefully ahead into a schedule.

Pursuing interests is the best form of education

What’s the best modality for educating your children? Good conversation. I could start and end this article there.

Once you realize “core curriculum” takes up only a tiny fraction of time, something else will begin to fill the days…passion. The deep pursuit of self-interest is the beautiful gem of homeschooling. Now is the best time for your children to take up a love of art study, Claymation, geology, gardening, or marine biology via the unlimited library of content available online. Allow them to spark a new interest or immerse themselves completely in a passion for discovering a world they never knew existed.

The simplest, yet effective way to spark passion is to discover the world around you through intricate observation. On the way to the beach, my children noticed several tsunami hazard zone signs. A series of questions, answers, and google results led to over an hour of becoming mini experts at 4 and 8 years old. The subject was tangibly relevant to them; thus, they pursued the study fiercely. Experiences like this are worksheet free. Developing a love of learning is the ultimate goal of education.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Let them participate in what we are all going through

Knowledge is empowering. Your children are aware the world is changing around then, no matter how innocent they may be. Each new day we experience a global pandemic forcing the world into quarantine, shutting down schools, and infringing upon our way of life, which is a time worth documenting.

Allow your children to become historians and reporters. Generations all go through something, and this is something noteworthy. Invite your children to document what they see in the world around them and how they feel or what they understand is going on. Not only is this highly educational (spelling, grammar, creative writing, history, etc.), but it is also helpful to frame an otherwise scary situation for young minds. Together, each day you can go over their journals to help shape or clarify things for them. It is also an opportunity to solidify in their minds how you are doing all you can to keep your family safe.

This time is a gift. A gift to stop and reengage with your children all over again. To get to know them deeply as individuals in this season of life. To make the memories and connections necessary to sustain them into adulthood.

Take a breath, take it easy, and simply enjoy discovering each day together.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Nellis airmen rescue civilian woman after she escaped from on-base attacker

Security Forces airmen at Nellis Air Force Base responded to an early morning call from flightline airmen who were refueling a government vehicle. They found a woman who had been raped and assaulted in a van parked on the base – and her attacker was still there.

That’s what airmen are telling a popular Air Force culture page on Facebook.


Multiple sources tell Air Force amn/nco/snco that at 5 a.m. local time, airmen on Nellis noticed a woman approaching them on Dec. 4, 2018, at the on-base government vehicle refueling station. Dressed much too lightly for the cold weather, she told them she had just been assaulted inside a nearby white van and escaped her attacker and asked them for help.

The woman, who was said to be a civilian and had no connection to the base, was wandering around for 20 or so minutes before coming across the airmen.

The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews

Nellis Air Force Base flightline airmen discovered the woman at around five in the morning, while moving to gas up their GOV.

(U.S. Air Force)

Within minutes, Air Force Security Forces arrived on the scene to take her statement and the statements of the airmen who found her as she walked. Witnesses told the Air Force culture Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco that the woman was from Mesquite, Nev., some 70 miles away. She allegedly told Security Forces she was kidnapped by a Russian man and driven to the base in a nearby parking lot, where she was sexually assaulted.

She also told the police the van was still parked there. Security Forces locked down the base and then responded to reports of a white van parked in the lot of the Nellis Dining Facility. How the van was able to get on the base isn’t known.

Nellis Air Force Base Public Affairs has not yet responded to phone calls for confirmation. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department could not be reached. This post will be updated when possible.

Sources tell Air Force amn/nco/snco that the two had been in the parking lot for more than an hour before the man, who the escaped victim said spoke with a Russian accent, fell asleep. When she woke up, he was still asleep, so she escaped and began looking for help. She had never been on the base before and didn’t know where to go. That’s when the airmen came across her.

The woman was handed over to female Security Forces airmen and taken to the Medical Group, where a sexual assault response coordinator and medical team was waiting. Witnesses say the Security Forces officers who interviewed them for statements left the gas station for the DFAC, sirens blazing.

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