This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk - We Are The Mighty
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This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

The pilot checks his watch and does another calculation. The fuel gauge on his Spitfire had been shot out by a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter, and he was reduced to estimating his remaining fuel level with quick arithmetic. As he approaches the Dunkirk coast, the engine begins to sputter and the prop slows to a lethargic, useless spin. Now gliding, the pilot spots a German Ju 87 Stuka dive-bomber making a dive on the beleaguered British Expeditionary Force troops attempting to evacuate below. He lines up his gunsight and lets out a burst of fire from his .303 Browning machine guns, sending the smoking Stuka into the water.


This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk
Dunkirk movie promo (Credit to Warner Bros. Pictures)

The men on the ground cheer and wave at their airborne savior as he glides his Spitfire over the beach. Once he is clear of the British beachhead, the pilot lowers his flaps for landing. The landing gear release lever malfunctions and he is forced to manually crank his landing gear down as the beach below him grows closer and closer. He skillfully sets the Spitfire down on the beach with no bumps or bounces—a perfect landing under any circumstances. After setting fire to his plane, the pilot reflects on his long day of fighting before he is captured by German troops.

This account follows the story of an RAF Spitfire pilot named Farrier, played by Tom Hardy, in the 2017 Warner Bros. film Dunkirk. Written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk tells the suspenseful story of the British evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. What most people don’t know is that Farrier’s actions depicted in the film are based on the real-life exploits of New Zealand fighter ace Alan Deere.

Deere was born in Westport, New Zealand in 1917. During his school years, he excelled in sports and took up rugby, cricket, and boxing. After school, he convinced his mother to sign an “Under 21” form, allowing him to join the RAF at the age of 20. Deere moved to England in 1937 to begin his flight training. After graduating flight school, Deere was assigned to No. 54 Squadron and flew the Gloster Gladiator before converting to the Supermarine Spitfire in March 1939.

During Operation Dynamo, the BEF evacuation at Dunkirk that began on May 26, No. 54 flew several sorties every day to provide air cover over Dunkirk and the English Channel. On May 27, Deere destroyed a Junkers Ju 88 bomber that was attacking a hospital ship, much like Farrier did in the film. The intense aerial combat and high operational tempo of Dynamo meant that, by May 28, No. 54 Squadron had been attrited to just eight serviceable aircraft.

Deere led the squadron on a dawn patrol, Deere spotted a German Dornier Do 17 bomber. He split off a section of his patrol to engage the enemy aircraft. During his attack on the Do 17, Deere’s Spitfire was hit by machine gun fire from the bomber’s rear gunner. He was forced to make an emergency landing to the east on a Belgian beach, during which he was knocked unconscious. After he came to, Deere torched his plane and made his way into a nearby town where he received first aid and hitched ride on a British Army truck back to Dunkirk. During the boat ride back to England, Deere received harsh words and criticism about the RAF’s fighter cover from the BEF soldiers (this experience was portrayed in the story of a different RAF pilot in the film).

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk
Deere’s scuttled Spitfire on the beach. (Photo from spitfirepv270.co.nz)

 

After the Battle of France, Deere flew during the Battle of Britain and the Invasion of Normandy. During the war, Deere scored 22 aerial victories, 10 probable kills, and damaged 18 enemy aircraft. He became a quadruple ace and the second highest scoring New Zealand fighter pilot in history. For his contributions during the war, Deere was awarded two British Distinguished Flying Crosses, the American Distinguished Flying Cross, the French Croix de Guerre, the British Distinguished Service Order, and appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Deere’s military career also brought him numerous near death experiences, including having his Spitfire’s wing shot off, and a head-on engagement with a Bf 109 which resulted in an aerial collision and another glide to an emergency landing. Befitting an unkillable man like Deere, his autobiography is titled Nine Lives.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk
Portrait of Wing Commander Alan Deere. (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)

 

After the war, Deere continued to serve in the RAF and achieved the rank of Air Commodore before retiring in 1967. He returned to his boyhood passion of athletics and became the RAF’s Director of Sport as a civilian. During his later years, Deere suffered from cancer. He died on September 21, 1995. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the River Thames from a Spitfire.

Memorabilia from Deere’s military career, including medals, trophies, and even the engine from one of his Spitfires, are on display at museums in both Britain and New Zealand. Perhaps his best tribute, however, is a restored Spitfire Mk IX bearing his markings when he served as a Wing Commander during the war. The Spitfire was restored by Deere’s nephew, Brendon Deere, and is flown at air shows in New Zealand.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk
Brendon Deere’s restored Spitfire Mk IX bearing Alan Deere’s markings. (Photo from airshowtravel.co.nz)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

Okay, when you first saw the headline, you were probably wondering how the heck a howitzer can be a sniper rifle. Sniper rifles are precision instruments, designed to dish out extremely concentrated hurt while howitzers are meant to do big damage — it seems like a contradiction, right? Wrong.

With the right ammo, there’s a howitzer out capable of being a giant sniper rifle with an extremely long reach. How long? Try 22 miles.

The M777 Ultralight Field Howitzer is a towed 155-millimeter gun that’s been in service since 2005 and is capable of hitting targets from remarkable distances. Over the last decade, it’s been slowly replacing the M198 towed 155-millimeter howitzer.


But here’s where the M77 has the M198 beat: It weighs in at just 8,256 pounds, according to MilitaryFactory.com. That might sound like a lot, but it’s nothing next to the 15,792 pounds of the M198. That’s a nearly 50 percent reduction in weight, making the M777 a superb option for units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the Marines.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

Marines fire a M777 howitzer at 29 Palms to prepare for the real thing.

(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen)

Now, to achieve that 22-mile reach and sniper-rifle accuracy, the shell of choice is the M982 Excalibur round. This GPS-guided round can hit within about 30 feet of the aim point — a level of precision that’s proved extremely useful.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

Australian troops fire their M777 to support Marines during a training mission.

(USMC photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

In 2012, the Marines manning a M777 howitzer received word that some Taliban were up to no good. So, the artillery crew fired a round from their base, which was in Helmand Province, and hit the Taliban who were in Musa Qala. The Taliban were accurately dispatched from miles away before any of their plans could take root.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., fire 155mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer.

(US Army photo by Specialist Evan D. Marcy)

The M777 is currently in service with the United States Army and United States Marine Corps. Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, and India have all bought this cannon as well.

Learn more about this over-sized sniper rifle in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSgjzhNRtY4

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why it was so important to make ‘The Last Full Measure’

In 1999, writer/director Todd Robinson was at Kirtland Air Force Base to attend a PJ graduation ceremony. In attendance was William F. Pitsenbarger, the father of Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger, a PJ who was killed in action on April 11, 1966, when he volunteered to stay behind with the soldiers of the Big Red One during Operation Abilene.

During his speech, Mr. Pitsenbarger lamented the things his son, who died at the age of 21, would never do: fall in love and have a son of his own, and in doing so, understand his father’s love for him.

“I was floored,” recalled Robinson, “I remembered my own father’s fear for me during the Vietnam War and I thought about my own son.” He reflected on the brutality of the draft during the Vietnam War and what the experience was like for the veterans who were called to serve — and their families they left behind.

Robinson didn’t know if he wanted to make a war film until that moment. He became committed to the veterans. “If I could make a small contribution by looking into what the personal experiences were like for these men, it would be the least I could do,” he shared.

“I began to interview the veterans of that battle. Their stories were just so tragic, brutal, moving, unrequited…and they were looking for purpose: it was so important to them to see that this man’s valor was recognized before his father passed.”

He spent the next 20 years creating The Last Full Measure, a powerful retelling of the courageous acts of Airman 1st Class Pitsenbarger and the men who fought for his Medal of Honor.
The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21

youtu.be

The Last Full Measure is best described as a military movie made by a director who “gets it” — who understands that war is chaotic and that the complexities of PTSD for combat veterans require a conversation from our society as a whole.

One of the biggest takeaways he gained about the military community through the making and screening of this film was the notion of “service greater than self,” Robinson told WATM. Screening the film for veterans across the country, Robinson saw the spirit of Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice reflected in the men and women in uniform today. When it comes down to the wire, service members are there for the person at their side.

He also noticed that the film triggered a real need to have a conversation about the wellness of veterans — especially combat vets.

“We, as civilians, the people who benefit from the service of these people, don’t understand what they’ve been through. We don’t always embrace our own complicity in sending service members overseas. If you’re a taxpayer or voter, whether you agree with the policy or not, you’re responsible. We’re also responsible for bringing them home. They need to be given more attention than just a pat on the head, a business-class trip home, and some medication from the VA. We need to embrace our military community when they come home. We need to employ them. And we need to say, ‘You’re not alone,'” Robinson affirmed.

Robinson felt like he owed something back and this film was part of what he could give. Of course, it came with many challenges. In his own words, “Making a movie is organized chaos.” Robinson and his producing partner Signey Sherman, noticed a uniform error in one scene and a folded flag that was coming undone in another. They spent ,000 out of pocket to correct the errors in post-production. “It just looked disrespectful to me,” Robinson lamented.

Somehow a bootleg copy was released overseas containing the original errors and viewers complained. “Those kinds of things pop up. I suppose the real challenge is trying to explain to an audience, without feeling too sensitive, that a film is an impression of a story. My job was to identify the metaphor of the story and what we could say about the men who fought in Operation Abilene. It always came back to service before self.”

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

Todd Robinson and Ed Harris filming The Last Full Measure, 2017. (Photo by Jackson Davis)

To help accomplish that goal, Robinson hired veterans on and off camera. In the Medal of Honor ceremony scene, real PJs wear their maroon berets while veterans of Charlie Company fill the audience. There that day was retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant John Pighini, a decorated Vietnam War-era PJ and active member of the Pararescue community.

After that scene, Pighini came on-board as a technical advisor for the shoot on location in Thailand, where Robinson and his cast and crew had six days to shoot the entirety of the Vietnam scenes for the film — no small undertaking.

He had a crew of 300 with battle scenes featuring helicopters and explosions. There was no luxury of time. He gives credit to his editor, Richard Nord, and the expertise of his cast and crew. At the end of the day, the film, decades in the making, wasn’t done for financial profit or gain.

“We made this film for our veteran community. We tried to reflect back and let them know that people see them and we want to be part of the solution to whatever problems they face when they come home.”


The Last Full Measure is available now on Blu-ray/DVD and Digital from Lionsgate and features several special features such as a “Medal of Honor Ceremony Shoot” featurette and “The Others May Live: Remembering Operation Abilene” featurette.


MIGHTY SPORTS

March Madness will be ‘fan free’ due to COVID-19

One of the best parts of the NCAA Basketball Tournament is the cheer of the crowds. The eruptions of joy, the cries of despair, the yelling at the referees, the prayers to the heavens and the cursing at how much money you lost adds to the atmosphere that we call March Madness.

This year, however, the only sounds you will hear might be the squeaking of sneakers, the yelling of a coach and the whistles of the refs.


March Madness is going to be awesome this year! (Via @lucas_hepp)pic.twitter.com/hQpeXOxEt4

twitter.com

Today, the President of the NCAA, Mark Emmert released a statement saying that both the Men’s and Women’s Tournaments would be played without crowds. The reason is the continued spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, throughout the United States. As of this writing there were currently 1,200 people that have been affected in over 41 states, with health officials worried that the virus’ spread will get worse. Thirty one Americans have died so far, and there are hopes that containment and quarantines will keep the death toll down.

Because of the spread of the virus, the NCAA decided that it was best to keep large crowds away from arenas in order keep people safe. However, they are still holding the games with only players, coaches and essential personnel present. While the reduced number of people would mitigate a larger spread, players and coaches traveling from destination to destination still might be at risk of infection.

As far as families of coaches and players, the NCAA will allow limited family to attend games. This will probably include parents, spouses, significant others and kids. One can assume other than referees, there will also be scorekeepers, facility operations personnel, TV and radio broadcast crews among others.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

live.staticflickr.com

The United States has already seen several cancellations or postponements from Coachella being pushed back until October, SXSW being canceled in Austin and even the venerable Houston Rodeo being shut down.

But the NCAA Tournaments which generate over a billion dollars yearly for schools, conferences, television stations, corporate sponsors and anyone that’s not a player is the biggest event so far impacted by the coronavirus.

The NCAA did have a COVID-19 advisory panel which was monitoring the situation and keeping up to date with the spread of the virus as well as preventive measures taking place around the world.

The move by Italian officials to play Serie-A (Italy’s top soccer league) behind closed doors definitely had to play a big part in this decision. Similar moves have been taking place in the Europa tournament. Here in the United States, as conference tournaments started to be played (some teams’ way to get into the Big Dance), the Ivy league canceled their tournament outright citing fears of spreading the disease.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

upload.wikimedia.org

upload.wikimedia.org

Referring to the advisory panel, Emmert said that, “Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States. This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”

The fallout of this decision is sure to send shockwaves throughout the sports community.

As we speak, baseball is in the middle of spring training with Opening Day set for the end of March. NBA and NHL teams are making pushes to the playoffs and are involved in many make or break games. While the NFL is on draft mode, the XFL’s successful first year might take a elbow drop. And depending on how long the virus lingers there is a chance (albeit small) it could have an affect on the Olympics.

From the business side of sports, the impact alone of the NCAA’s decision will be far reaching. Hopefully, the virus is contained soon and the impact on businesses won’t be as bad as many fear. However, it does show us that TV, not attendance is the new factor in how successful sports organizations are. The fact that they will still hold the tournament and televise it without crowds shows the power that TV rights deals have on the sports. We’re just thankful we’ll have something to watch if we’re quarantined.

Articles

This WWII bomber was finally found after 70 years

Nearly 74 years ago, in the skies over Hansa Bay on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, 2nd Lieutenant Thomas V. Kelly, Jr. was crewing a B-24 bomber named “Heaven Can Wait.” He and ten other crewmen were on a mission to destroy Japanese anti-aircraft batteries when, suddenly, his aircraft was struck, sending it crashing into the ocean below.

The wreckage and those on board were lost to the sea — until May 2018.


This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

The crew of “Heaven Can Wait.” 2nd Lt. Thomas V. Kelly is pictured in the center, top row.

(Project Recover)

On that fateful day, March 11th, 1944, 2nd Lt. Kelly’s struggle ended — but for those he had left behind back home, it had just begun. Wracked with grief and left without closure, his family pieced together whatever information they could find — eyewitness accounts from military reports, mission documents, diary entries, etc. — to try and better understand. But without help, there would be no conclusion. That’s when Project Recover got involved.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

Project Recover makes uses of the most sophisticated underwater imaging technology to find the once-unrecoverable.

(Project Recover)

Project Recover was established 2012 with the goal of locating the underwater resting places of the 72,000 Americans that have gone missing in action since World War II. Through a partnership between the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and the BentProp Project, the organization uses sophisticated, modern technologies to find those once deemed unrecoverable.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

The northern end of Hansa Bay, Papua New Guinea.

(Project Recover)

Upon receiving the compiled evidence, Project Recover set out to Papau New Guinea in October 2017, with aims of searching for 5 sunken U.S. aircraft that accounted for 24 MIA. After carefully reviewing the documents and conducting an archaeological study, the team determined that “Heaven Can Wait” was resting somewhere in the north end of Hansa Bay.

It was there, after 11 days of searching across 27 square kilometers of sea floor, that they found her under 213 feet of water.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

What remained of “Heaven Can Wait”

(Project Recover)

“This is an important step toward our ultimate goal of identifying and returning home the crew of “Heaven Can Wait” who bravely served our country,” said Dan Friedkin, a member of Project Recover and CEO of The Friedkin Group, whose substantial contribution to the Project made the trip to Papau New Guinea possible.

Since their discovery, a process has begun with the U.S. government to, hopefully, recover and identify the remains of the up to 11 crew members aboard “Heaven Can Wait.” In the last five months, there have been three repatriation ceremonies for veterans who served in World War II — all of which are a direct result of Project Recovery’s work — but much remains to be done.

Dan Friedkin stated, with determination, that the organization’s “search efforts for the more than 72,000 missing American service members from World War II will continue.”

For more about Project Recover, be sure to visit their website. For all the details on the amazing story surrounding the recovery of “Heaven Can Wait,” watch the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This insane video of a C-130 flying just above a soldier’s head

A YouTube video emerged on May 18, 2018, showing a Saudi C-130H flying very low over a soldier’s head in Yemen, The War Zone first reported.

The video appears to show the soldier trying to slap the underside of the C-130H with an article of clothing, but it’s unclear where exactly in Yemen it was shot, and how much of it was planned, The War Zone reported.


C-130s are large transport aircraft, which are vital to Saudi Arabia’s operations in Yemen, The War Zone reported. Part of a $110 arms deal, the US sold Riyadh 20 C-130Js and three KC-130 refuelers in 2017 for $5.8 billion.

Watch the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Details on ‘missing’ sailor Peter Mims are unpleasant and kinda sad

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh and U.S. Seventh Fleet dropped everything to search for the presumed “man-overboard” Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Mims on June 8. For three days, the search continued until it was called off and he was labelled lost-at-sea. By the 15th, they were planning the memorial service in his honor…until he was found alive and hiding. He faces court martial and admits to the charges of abandoning watch and dereliction.

As new details come to light into the Mims investigation, it becomes clear that Mims was not mentally well. Bear in mind: For a list of all the details released to the public, an exclusive on the Navy Times goes in greater detail.


Prior to being missing, Seventh Fleet wasn’t known for it’s high morale. Fat Leonard scandals, several collisions, and historically low morale just scratch the surface. Sailors of the Shiloh and Mims’ engineering department were no different. After the USS Antietam ran aground in Tokyo, the missions of the Shiloh were reportedly multiplied and sailors were reporting three hours of sleep a night as normal.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

As for GSM3 Mims, his mother was sick with cancer and was asking his chain of command about leaving the Navy early to care for her. Caring for his family and being indebted to the Navy left his pay checks bone dry at $40 to $60. To top all of this off, shipmates claim that he believed in some wild ideas, like being able to shut down the engine room with his body’s electricity or shoot fireballs out of his hands, that he’d been to space, and that other sailors were going to poison him with needles.

He was seen at 6PM, prior to his watch shift, but failed to show up at 8PM. It was over 30 minutes before he was logged as missing. He was, however, seen during his hiding, but the unnamed sailor in the galley didn’t realize it was Mims at the time. It was later discovered that Mims squirreled away large amount of Pop Tarts and granola bars.

He was seen again, covered in rust and carrying a 34-gallon plastic bag filled with water. Mims told the sailor who spotted him that people were trying to kill him and that there were hidden messages in the movie titles listed in the plan of the day. Terrified by how erratic Mims was, this sailor also did not report it immediately. The crew later searched his last spotted locations. The entire ship had been cleared top to bottom except for the Main Engine room 2 catacombs, which was ignored because of the extreme heat and overwhelmingly putrid scent — believed to be fuel and oil, they later realized it was actually human waste.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

He was found covered in feces and urine, carrying a camelback, a multi-tool, a box of Peeps, and an empty peanut butter jar. His fellow sailors talked him into leaving the tight hiding spot and turning himself in. He was escorted to the command master chief’s cabin. Mims said that he had no plans of being caught, plans to reveal himself, or even plans to escape. He would be taken into custody at the USS Reagan.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: Billy Mitchell proves planes could sink battleships

After World War I, there was a consensus that the airplane had a place in warfare, but the different missions they would be used for was still a matter of debate. Colonel Billy Mitchell, a World War I air commander, believed that control of the air would matter a lot in future warfare.


According to a biography at the website of the National Museum of the Air Force, Mitchell spent time after the war arguing his case – often alienating many senior officers in the process. So, despite the fact that Mitchell had led over 1,400 planes during the Battle of St. Mihiel, won control of the air, and devastated German forces, not many people were willing to listen to the air warrior.

 

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk
Billy Mitchell as a brigadier general. (US Army photo)

In one case, Mitchell considered the effect air power could have on the huge, lumbering ships of enemy navies. Many higher ups blocked his proposed tests to prove his theory but he got the chance to show what air power could do to ships partially due to the Washington Naval Treaty of 1921, which called for the United States to scrap or otherwise dispose of large portions of the United States Navy.

The Navy had tried to block Mitchell with a rigged test involving the old battleship USS Indiana (BB 1), but Congress found out about the way the Navy rigged it, and ordered new tests.

So the Navy agreed to let planes drop bombs on the obsolete battleships USS Virginia (BB 13), USS New Jersey (BB 16), USS Alabama (BB 8), and Ostfriesland.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

The first of these ships to face Mitchell’s bombers was the Ostfriesland on July 20, 1921. According to an official U.S. Navy history, Mitchell’s planes dropped a number of smaller bombs – scoring some hits. The real damage was being done by near-misses, which started flooding. The next day, further attacks were made with bigger bombs, and the Osfriesland sank after a number of near-misses.

The next attack was on the old battleship USS Alabama on September 25, 1921. A series of bombs scored hits, but while one 1,000 pound bomb and one 2,000 pound bomb did a lot of damage, the real killing effect came from five near-misses, which caused Alabama to sink. On Sept. 5, 1923, Mitchell’s bombers would sink the battleships USS Virginia and USS New Jersey.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk
A 2,000-pound bomb scores a near miss on the Ostfriesland. (US Navy photo)

The results, though, didn’t completely sway high-ranking officials. When Mitchell made intemperate remarks after the loss of the Navy dirigible Shenandoah, he was court-martialed and dismissed from the Army. He would die in 1936, five years before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Below is video from Mitchell’s 1921 and 1923 tests. Take a look and see a preview of what planes would do to ships in World War II.

Articles

These NASA nerds made a Franken-bomber, but they weren’t the first to do it

Recently, NASA made the news when its engineers managed to cobble together a new WB-57 Canberra out of parts from multiple other planes. This is a particularly notable achievement as one of the airframes had spent roughly 40 years at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.


These NASA nerds set a record for how quickly a plane was returned to flight status after being sent to AMARC. They did an impressive job of grafting together parts from the WB-57 Canberra from the boneyard with parts from a second Canberra near Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, as well as F-15 parts for the main wheels, the ejection seats from the F-16, and the tires from an A-4 for the nose wheel.

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk

 

But some Army Air Force mechanics in Australia pulled off something similar in World War II, and did such a good job that their Franken-bomber is still around today. That plane is currently at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio.

She’s called “Swoose,” and she is not only the only B-17D to survive, she is the oldest surviving B-17.

Swoose started out being assigned to the Philippines in 1941, flying in combat from Dec. 7, 1941, to Jan. 11, 1942. The plane suffered serious damage, but the mechanics used a tail from another damaged B-17 and replaced the engines. The plane then served as an armed transport for the rest of the war, including as a personal transport for Lt. Gen. George Brett (no relation to the star baseball player from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s).

 

This Kiwi pilot inspired Tom Hardy’s character in Dunkirk
DAYTON, Ohio – The B-17D The Swoose rests next to the B-17F Memphis Belle in the restoration area of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

After the war, the Swoose narrowly avoided the scrapyard. According to a 2007 Washington Post article, the plane was stored in various locations before the Smithsonian handed it over to the Air Force. The plane is currently being restored for eventual display alongside the famous Memphis Belle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

U.S. Army officials at Fort Hood today said that there is no evidence that a male soldier who killed himself this week to avoid police capture sexually assaulted 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who has been missing from the Texas post since April.

During a news conference, Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent Damon Phelps named the now-deceased soldier as Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who was assigned to A. Company, 3rd Cavalry Regiment at the time Guillen, a fellow 3rd Cavalry soldier, disappeared April 22.


Before the event, Natalie Khawam, an attorney representing Guillen’s family, announced that CID officials told her that Robinson had murdered her in the unit armory on the day of her disappearance.

“The murderer sexually harassed her and then killed her,” the Whistleblower Law Firm attorney, told Military.com in a statement. “We believe he murdered her because he was going to report him.

“This gruesome murder should never have happened.”

Law enforcement officials attempted to make contact with Robinson, 20, on Tuesday in Killeen, Texas, but he displayed a weapon and took his own life, Phelps said during the news conference.

“We are still investigating their interactions, but at this point, there is no credible information of reports that Spc. Robinson sexually harassed Spc. Guillen,” Phelps said.

Phelps would not comment on the allegations made by Khawam that Robinson murdered her because it is still an ongoing investigation.

Officials did not identify a civilian woman they arrested Tuesday in connection with Guillen’s disappearance, described earlier as the estranged wife of a former soldier. She remains in custody in the Bell County Jail awaiting charges by civilian authorities.

Fort Hood officials said that the human remains discovered recently have not been identified. They did not confirm details cited by Khawam about where specifically remains were found and what condition they were in.

Army officials said on Tuesday that they found partial human remains near the Leon River about 30 miles outside Fort Hood. The remains have been sent to a forensic anthropologist for analysis, though no official confirmation on the identity of the remains has been completed.

“Our agents are working very closely with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner to expedite identification of the remains,” Phelps said. “We will release information on those remains as soon as we can and after notification is made with the next of kin.”

Army officials also stressed repeatedly at the news conference that there is “no credible information” that Guillen was the victim of sexual harassment or assault.

“The criminal investigation has not found any connection between sexual harassment and Vanessa’s disappearance,” Maj. Scott Efflandt, deputy commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said. “However, all sexual harassment allegations are being investigated, as they are in every other instance.”

At Efflandt’s request, Army Forces Command ordered a seven-member inspector general team to Fort Hood to review the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, (SHARP). The inspection will assess whether the command climate at Hood is supportive of soldiers reporting sexual harassment and seek to identify any potential systemic issues within the program at Hood, Efflandt said.

Phelps said investigators are aware Guillen’s family members made statements early on to the media concerning sexual harassment allegations.

He acknowledged that agents uncovered statements on May 7 that could be considered sexual harassment.

“After subsequent investigation, another allegation of verbal harassment involving the same individual was discovered. However subsequent interviews have failed to [confirm] this allegation,” Phelps said. “Nevertheless, we are still investigating.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers got to fire the Army’s new pistol — and they liked what they saw

McGregor Range, New Mexico – Eager soldiers shared looks of excitement and awe under the watch of the immense New Mexico golden mesas as they awaited their opportunity to finally fire the newly fielded M17 pistol.

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division fired the M17 pistol for the first time during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019. Within 1AD, 3ABCT is the first brigade to field and fire the new weapons system.

“The M17 pistol is an adaptable weapons system. It feels a lot smoother and a lot lighter than the M9,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR. “I feel like the transition to the M17 will benefit us greatly in combat. Just from being out here today I was able to shoot well and notice that it felt lighter.”


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2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The M17 is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, which offers a lighter weight than the previous M9 pistol, weighing 30.8 ounces. It has an improved ergonomic design and a more modern internal striker firing mechanism, rather than an external hammer firing mechanism, to reduce trigger pull and improve accuracy and lethality.

The striker design of the M17 is less likely to snag on clothing or tactical gear when firing than an external hammer and furthermore, the M17 has a capacity of 17 rounds, two more than the M9.

The M17 pistol is the full-sized variant of the Modular Handgun System which also includes the compact M18 pistol, designed to replace the M9 and M11 pistols.

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Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers using the new M17 pistol will potentially have greater maneuverability and operational flexibility while in combat, due to the reduced weight and improved design compared to the M9 pistol.

“When we climb out of our tanks, less weight is good,” said 1st Lt. Shannon Martin, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR and native of Scituate, Massachusetts.

“Every ounce that you shave off the equipment is less weight for soldiers to carry. So for those infantrymen who are rucking miles at a time, it is good for them to have less weight that they’re carrying so that they can focus on staying fit for the fight and being ready to go.”

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Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The Modular Handgun System has an ambidextrous external safety, self-illuminating tritium sights for low-light conditions, an integrated rail for attaching enablers and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit for attaching an acoustic/flash suppressor.

“Coyote brown” in color, it also has interchangeable hand grips allowing shooters to adjust the handgun to the size of their hand.

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2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol at a target, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The primary service round is the M1153 9mm special purpose cartridge, which has a jacketed hollow-point projectile. It provides improved terminal performance against unprotected targets as well as reduced risk of over-penetration and collateral damage compared to the M882 9mm ball cartridge and the Mk243 9mm jacketed hollow-point cartridge.

The M1152 9mm ball cartridge has a truncated, or flat, nose full-metal-jacket projectile around a solid lead alloy core. It provides improved terminal performance compared to the M882 ball cartridge.

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A soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, checks his target for accuracy after he engaged it with an M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The fielding of the M17 pistol has generated great excitement and energy among 1AD soldiers, most of whom have never fired a handgun other than the M9 pistol.

“I think having a new weapons system has sprouted interest. We have soldiers who say ‘Cool, I’m so excited to go and shoot these,’ so it creates more interest in qualifying with a handgun,” said Martin. “During our deployment to Korea, we saw the M17 and we were all excited to get our hands on them, train with them and to see what’s different about them.”

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Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, walks back to his firing position after collecting his target during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The adoption and implementation of the M17 pistol reflects the Army’s continued commitment to modernization, ensuring that soldiers are best equipped to deal with any threat and to project lethal force with efficiency.

The division began fielding and distributing the M17 to its units in August and have used classroom training time with these live-fire ranges to familiarize their soldiers with the new handgun, ensuring that they are ready and proficient with the weaponry.

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Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, carry their equipment prior to a qualification range with their new M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers learn through innovation and iteration. As part of ongoing modernization efforts, research teams rapidly develop new prototypes and arm soldiers with new technologies, including protective gear, weaponry and communications capabilities.

“Adopting the M17 pistol is good for our readiness and lethality,” said Martin. “It forces us all to go out, shoot and be familiar and proficient with our new weaponry.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Army lost a super heavy tank prototype for 27 years

As the Allies advanced on all fronts in World War II, the United States needed a new weapon. It had to be able to protect Allied troops while being powerful enough to break through the German defenses at the Siegfried line and land on the Japanese mainland. 

The Army built two prototypes of a super-heavy, super armored tank for just that purpose in 1945 – and then lost one of them almost as quickly. 

T28 Super Heavy Tank, Patton Museum, Fort Knox, Kentucky
T28 Super Heavy Tank, Patton Museum, Fort Knox, Kentucky (Mark Holloway, Wikimedia Commons)

Toward the end of 1944, American war planners knew the war was coming to a close. They were looking at how they would be able to smash through the vaunted defenses of the Siegfried Line that blocked their path into greater Germany. 

Nazi Germany’s Siegfried Line was a 300-mile line string of fortifications along the German border that was filled with bunkers, “dragon’s teeth” tank traps, pillboxes for machine guns and anything else that might slow or stop an enemy advance. 

Meanwhile, they were also preparing for the final invasion of the Japanese mainland. The year 1945 would bring them to the doorstep of mainland Japan, after the fall of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Japanese resistance had been extremely strong almost everywhere the Americans fought them. 

For both these reasons, the United States decided it needed an equalizer. It decided that this equalizer would come in the form of a massive tank, the T28 Super Heavy Tank

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The T28 Tank on October 3, 1946 (US Army Signal Corps)

Concepts for super heavy tanks were nothing new. Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom were already developing their own versions of massive tanks for the war. The American version came in at 95 tons, with 12-inch armor plating, and a massive, fixed 105mm turret as a main gun. This behemoth was powered by a Ford V8 engine that could only move at a top speed of eight miles per hour. 

Originally planning to build five, the full order had to be cancelled as the war had ended by the time the first working prototype was completed in the Fall of 1945. Still with two in the arsenal, the Army decided it would test the ones it had. 

The tests did not go as well as the Army had hoped. The first T28 was scrapped after an engine fire heavily damaged the tank during its first trials at the Yuma Proving Grounds. The second T28 fared much better but the program was scrapped anyway. Army planners had already created two newer, more versatile tanks without making it super heavy.

Then, everyone, including the Army, forgot about the T28. Literally. As tank concepts continued to evolve and more and better tank programs were rolled out in the 27 years following World War II, the Korean War, and even the Vietnam War, the T28 sat abandoned in a field. 

By the time someone discovered the massive World War II-era super heavy tank in a Fort Belvoir field in 1974, it was covered in brush and bushes had grown up around the tank. No one really knows if it had been there the entire time or where it could have been if it wasn’t there the entire time. 

It was soon moved to the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox in Kentucky, as the remaining T28 prototype had really just become a museum piece in the intervening years. The Vietnam War was over, the Army was in its second generation of main battle tanks with the M60 Patton tank, and Japan and West Germany were now American allies. 

The T28 was moved from the Patton Museum at Fort Knox to Fort Benning in Georgia in 2010. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 6 most awesome machine guns in U.S. history

The machine gun changed warfare, causing the marching formations of the Civil War to give way to the industrialized warfare of World War I. And the U.S. has fielded dozens of designs since Hiram Maxim first tried to interest the country in his 1884 design. Here are six of the best.


For this list, we’re using a definition of machine gun limited to fully automatic weapons, so the hand-cranked Gatling Gun of 1862 is out, but automatic weapons with a rifled barrel like the Browning Automatic Rifle are in.

1. Maxim Machine Gun

 

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Hiram Maxim sits with the machine gun he invented. (Photo: Public Domain)

 

The Maxim Machine Gun was invented in 1884 and was the first proper machine gun in the world. Hiram S. Maxim figured out how to use the recoil of one round firing to cycle a weapon and feed a new cartridge into the weapon’s chamber. For 30 years, the weapon was tested by world governments, though not many were purchased.

It was in World War I that the weapon became famous as governments bought the Maxim and its copies and derivatives like the Lewis and Vickers machine guns. The Germans and Russians ordered their own versions as well.

2. Browning M1917

 

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(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Another Browning invention, the M1917 was a rushed but solid design to give the U.S. military a homegrown machine gun after its late entry into World War I. It was heavy, requiring a four-man crew. But it could fire up to 600 rounds per minute and was extremely reliable. In one test, it fired 20,000 rounds without a single malfunction.

Approximately 40,000 M1917s, all chambered for a .30-06 round, were sold during the war, but not all of them reached France.

3. Browning Automatic Rifle

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A U.S. Marine fires the Browning Automatic Rifle in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Archives)

 

The Browning Automatic Rifle was so popular that, while it was designed for and fielded in World War I, American infantryman were loathe to give it up when it was replaced during Vietnam. It fired .30-06 rounds at nearly 2,700 ft. per second, enough force to pierce a light tank in World War I. And it could spit those rounds at up to 550 rounds per minute.

It’s rifled barrel also made it very accurate, allowing infantryman to use it in an anti-sniper role. The inventor, John Browning, even had a son who carried it into battle in World War I, Army 2nd Lt. Val Browning.

4. M2 Browning Machine Gun

 

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Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)

 

Originally designed in 1918 and produced in 1921, the M2 Browning Machine Gun is one of the longest-serving and most-loved weapons in history. It’s reliable and fires .50-caliber rounds at over 2,700 ft. per second.

The weapons are so durable in fact, that in 2015 the Army found a 94-year-old M2 still in service. The weapon has undergone few upgrades and is still widely used. It’s been mounted on everything from small vehicles to bunkers to aircraft.

5. M1 Thompson Submachine Gun

 

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Two Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment during fighting at Wana Ridge during the Battle of Okinawa, May 1945. (Photo: Staff Sergent Walter F. Kleine)

 

The first machine gun built as a pistol, the M1921 Thompson Submachine Gun was designed for trench warfare in World War I, but the conflict ended without real interest from the military. The M1, a simplified version, was delivered in World War II.

It gave the average infantryman the chance to fire a slew of .45-cal. rounds at enemy forces — though it was only effective at relatively short ranges. The military turned to the M3 in 1944, but the quality of the M1 saw it continue to serve through Vietnam.

6. M134 Minigun

 

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(Photo: Department of Defense Shane T. McCoy)

 

The M134 Minigun is a massive weapon that fires relatively small rounds, 7.62mm cartridges. And it requires electrical power instead of relying solely on recoil or recycled gasses like the rest of the weapons on this list. But it fires its rounds faster than anything else on this list.

The minigun features a magazine of up to 4,000 rounds but can tear through those at 50 rounds per second, firing them from six barrels that rotate thanks to a 24-volt battery or vehicle power. These were the guns fitted to the AC-47, the first “Spooky” gunships, but the Air Force knew it as the GAU-2/A.

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