How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps - We Are The Mighty
popular

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

Christmas is a time for giving. Yeah, family and friends share gifts with one another, but the spirit of Christmas is also about giving to those in need. Every year, you’ll find boxes placed by Toys for Tots, waiting to catch donations of new, unwrapped presents from giving, good-willed samaritans. These gifts go toward brightening up a less-fortunate child’s Christmas morning.

Though you might not know it, this gesture of good will is made possible by the Marine Corps Reserves. Since 1995, Toys for Tots has been listed as an official mission of the Marines to be conducted around the holidays.


How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
(Official Marine Corps Photo)

I know the Marines were there, accepting toys with a smile, but a salty Gunny knife-handing civilians who didn’t donate would arguably be more effective.

Toys for Tots got its start in the winter of 1947, when Diane Hendricks, wife of Maj. Bill Hendricks of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, wanted to gift a bunch of homemade dolls to kids in need. Diane made the dolls with the hope of giving a happy holiday to some less-fortunate girls — but she quickly realized that there was no such organization to help her help others.

Maj. Hendricks, inspired by his wife’s generosity, gathered his fellow Marine Corps Reservists buddies and placed giant boxes outside of movie theaters across Los Angeles to help attract others to their cause. Off-duty Marines were to accept donated gifts in their Blues and personally thank each donor.

The first Christmas was a massive success. Their small team gathered 5,000 toys and gave them to the children of Los Angeles. It was such a success, in fact, that they were able to elevate the charity to the national level the very next year.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Re-Essa Buckels).

Doing every little bit to make Santa’s job a little easier this Christmas.

Even as the movement gained national recognition, it remained a fairly small-scale operation, done by Marines reservists between drill weekends — but this mission of good will was eating into the time that the Marines needed to spend being Marines.

By 1980, the stipulation that stated gifts had to be “new and unwrapped” was added because the young Marines spent way too much time refurbishing all of the used toys parents didn’t want anymore.

Toys for Tots had grown far bigger far faster than anyone imagined. The Marines knew they needed to expand the program to keep giving toys to children that needed them, but they couldn’t do it at the expense of being Marines. So after 44 years of being an unofficial program of Marine Reservists, they sought official recognition from the Pentagon to keep going. In 1991, The Marine Toys for Tots finally became an actual charity.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
(Air Force Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lloyd)

So, help out your fellow Marines and donate a toy or two when you see their boxes. It really will go a long way.

This new recognition came with many perks — and one huge drawback. First, it allowed the charity to work with organizations to take on large-scale donations and financial assistance. It also meant that people could now mark off any given resent as a “charitable donation,” which comes in handy just before tax season. New employees, outside of the Marines, could come handle some of the legwork. And, to top it all off, the organization was able to use funds to get needed materials, like boxes and wrapping paper, without the Marines spending their personal money on it.

But this all came in direct conflict with the military’s stance on staying out of the public sector. Despite being a program made by Marines, carried out by Marines for 44 years, and having “Marine” in the title (its full name is the “Marine Toys for Tots Foundation”), the United States military is not supposed to endorse any civilian organization, company, or charity.

This awkwardness needed to be addressed and, in 1995, the Marine Toys for Tots Organization became the one and only organization to earn an exception when Secretary of Defense William J. Perry added “assisting the Toys for Tots” as an official mission of the United States Marine Corps.

Featured

The first Native American woman to die in combat was also the first female military death of the Iraq War

American women risk their lives for their country every day. In fact, women have served alongside men in combat long before they were legally “allowed.” That being said, women didn’t have the option of joining the military in fields outside of nursing until after the Vietnam War. With such a history, it’s important to tell the stories of the women who served and lost their lives while defending our country.


How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
Pfc. Lori Piestewa waiting for deployment at Fort Bliss, Tex., on Feb. 16, 2003. (U.S. Army photo)

Honoring our fallen warriors is a longstanding, sacred traditional in our military. It’s part of our DNA to recognize the sacrifice of those that die in combat.

Let’s take a moment to remember Pvt. Lori Ann Piestewa, who was not only the first woman in the U.S. military to lose her life in the Iraq War, she was also the first Native American woman to die in combat with the United States Armed Forces. Piestewa was a Native American of Hopi descent with Mexican-American heritage.

Her native name was White Bear Girl.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
Piestewa is the first American Indian woman to die in combat on foreign soil. (U.S. Army photo)

Hailing from her hometown of Tuba City, Ariz., Piestewa was from a military family. She was the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and the granddaughter of a World War II veteran. Her own interest in the military began in high school, where she participated in a junior ROTC program. Piestewa enlisted in the Army and was attached to the 507th Maintenance Company in Fort Bliss, Texas and deployed to Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Her company, the 507th, was infamously ambushed near Nasiriyah, Iraq, on March 23, 2003.

Piestewa was driving the lead vehicle in a convoy when one of their vehicles broke down. They stopped to make a repair, then continued north to catch up to the rest of the convoy. Along the way, they made a wrong turn and were ambushed by Iraqi troops.

The missing numbered 15 total.

A few days later, Pfc. Jessica Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital. Nine members of the 507th were killed in action, including Piestewa. A rocket-propelled grenade hit the Humvee she was driving.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
Piestewa with her best friend, Pfc. Jessica Lynch. Lynch was also in the convoy ambushed by Iraqi forces in March 2003. (Piestewa Family photo)

Piestewa left behind a son, a daughter, and a mother and father, Terry and Percy Piestewa, who toured the country attending memorial services held in her honor.

She was posthumously promoted to Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa and Arizona’s offensively-named “Squaw Peak” was renamed Piestewa Peak. It was “given the name of hero,” as her tribe described it.

Lori Piestewa will live forever in our memory and in the memory of her fellow soldiers as the Hopi woman warrior that gave her life for her country: White Bear Girl.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery

Fauquier County, Virginia, might not be the place you think of when you imagine covert ops training, but that’s exactly what’s happened at an isolated farmhouse and working dairy.

In use since 1803, “Vint Hill,” as it was initially known, had several owners before the Army purchased it in 1942 – just in time to train a group of service members in the fine art of espionage. Reframed and repurposed throughout the years, Vint Hill has served as one of the most essential intel-gathering sites you’ve probably never heard of.


History

Vint Hill is situated near the Signal Intelligence Service headquarters in Arlington but was far away enough from the city that its location and its purpose remained a secret. It was here that the Army housed its Monitoring Station No. 1, a covert spy base.

Established by the Army’s Signal Intelligence Service, the 701-acre farm was built in part because the Army needed a secure location near the SIS and a cryptography school.

The geography of Vint Hill was key in the Army’s decision to train there. Not only did it boast a quiet countryside vibe where trainees could really get into their coursework, but it also provided “quiet electromagnetic geology,” which made it the perfect place for intercepting radio signals. During WWII, that’s exactly what service members stationed at Vint Hill did.

Perhaps the most famous is the interception of a message from a Japanese ambassador to Germany. That message, sent in 1943, described German fortifications, contingency plans, and troop strength information.

Once the message was decoded, the information was instrumental in planning the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.

The NSA recently released documents that further detail the influence that Vint Hill had on WWII planning. It was a crucial intelligence-gathering station throughout all of WWII and beyond.

After WWII

After WWII, Vint Hill became the first field station of the Army Security Agency, an arm of the NSA. The facility conducted signals intelligence operations.

Declassified Army intelligence lists Vint Hill as one of the largest intercept facilities in the world.

Not only did it serve as an intercept facility, but Vint Hill was also a signal school, signal training center, and a refitting station for selected signal units returning from or heading to deployments.

During and following the Korean War, the station’s footprint was expanded significantly, making it a major intelligence hub during the Cold War. Vint Hill personnel intercepted key Soviet diplomatic and military communication sent over teleprints that helped form and shape America’s military posture.

In 1961, the Army Electronic Material Readiness Activity moved to Vint Hill and took over the management of signals intelligence and electronic warfare maintenance for the Army Security Agency.

By 1973 however, Vint Hill’s mission had changed to research. Its main goal was to aid and assist in the development and support of intel and electronic warfare info gathering for the Army, DoD, and our partner allies. The EPA took over operations of Vint Hill’s photographic interpretation center from the DIA, and Vint Hill was renamed as the Environmental Photographic Interpretation Center.

However, that didn’t last long. By the late 1979s, Vint Hill was on the list of installations to be closed, and all projects on site were halted. A change in policy in 1981 reversed that decision, and Vint Hill remained open.

Serving as the “giant ear” of the NSA was the core focus of Vint Hill in the early 1980s and eventually became a development and testing site for signal equipment for the CIA and FBI. IN 1993, Vint Hill was once again on the chopping block. This time, the closure stuck. Most personnel were reassigned to Fort Monmouth and Fort Belvoir.

Vint Hill closed officially on September 30, 1997. Now, the site hosts several engineering and tech companies, including the FAAs Air Traffic Control System Command Center. There’s a Cold War museum open on-site, but most notably, the former intel-gathering installation is home to the Vint Hill Craft Winery and the Old Bust Head Brewery. There’s even a dance school and a gymnastics school run on the property. Talk about reinvention after time in service.

popular

The Ballad of Iwo Jima flag raiser, Ira Hayes

In 1964, country music star Johnny Cash released an unconventional album. It was calledBitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian,” and it was a radical departure from Cash’s previous release five months prior,I Walk the Line. The album was a concept album and was entirely dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of Native Americans.


The lead single of the album was called “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.” Most Americans at the point had either forgotten who he was or had no idea who he was to begin with. But everyone in the United States and most people around the world had definitely seen his picture. He was in one of the most famous photographs in world history.

Ira Hayes
Ira Hayes
Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

Ira Hayes was one of six Marines that were photographed by Joe Rosenthal on the summit of Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. He was part of a group that was ordered to take down the first flag raised and replace it with a bigger flag so that it would be seen better. As the flag went up, Rosenthal took a couple of snaps (he almost missed the flag raising looking for rocks to use as a stand) and had the pictures flown out to Guam. When the film was developed, the photo editor of the AP claimed it was “one for all ages” and had it sent to New York. It was immediately sent around the world 17 hours after it was taken. It won the Pulitzer Prize that year and became one of the most iconic photographs ever taken. And it was about to push into the limelight a young man who had always tried to avoid it.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
U.S. Navy

 

Gather ’round me people
There’s a story I would tell
‘Bout a brave young Indian
You should remember well
From the land of the Pima Indian
A proud and noble band
Who farmed the Phoenix Valley
In Arizona land
Down the ditches a thousand years
The waters grew Ira’s peoples’ crops
‘Til the white man stole their water rights
And the sparkling water stopped
Now, Ira’s folks were hungry
And their land grew crops of weeds
When war came, Ira volunteered
And forgot the white man’s greed

Ira Hayes was born on the Gila River Indian Community, a reservation in Arizona. He was the son of a World War I vet and was the eldest of six children, of which two died in infancy, and two died in their 20s. Life on the reservation was hard. His father was a farmer but farmed on land that was almost unsuitable for farming big crops. He was only able to grow enough to sustain the family. Hayes was a Pima Indian, who were traditionally famers. However, the U.S. government moved the Pima to an area around the Gila River where the land was not too agreeable with an agricultural lifestyle. An effort to build a dam that would send water to the community instead flowed toward a nearby white community, which led many Pima to think the government was trying to kill them off. Hayes grew up as one of the few kids that could speak English and learned to read and write. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he was one of the millions of kids that went to join the military.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

There they battled up Iwo Jima hill
Two hundred and fifty men
But only twenty-seven lived
To walk back down again
And when the fight was over
And Old Glory raised
Among the men who held it high
Was the Indian, Ira Hayes

Hayes graduated from boot camp in San Diego and was designated a Paramarine (this was a shortlived MOS that was essentially an airborne Marine). He earned his wings and went off to fight in Bouganville in the South Pacific. He then was assigned to 5th Marine Division and started training for the upcoming invasion of Iwo Jima.

Hayes landed with his unit at the base of Mt Suribachi 75 years ago. On February 23, the was to accompany his Sergeant, Mike Strank up Mt Suribachi to replace the smaller American flag that had just been raised with a bigger one. One of the Marines that joined him was his friend, Harlan Block. After they raised the flag, they continued on to fight for another five weeks. The battle was much more ferocious than expected with the Japanese fighting to the last man while trying to inflict as many casualites. The Marines fought bravely but endured a terrible toll in taking the island. Hayes himself watched his friend, Block die as well as Sergeant Strank.

At the end of the battle, Hayes emerged physically unscathed, but the mental and emotional toll was heavy. In his platoon of 45 men, only 5 were left when the battle was over.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore

Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

 

Ira Hayes returned a hero
Celebrated through the land
He was wined and speeched and honored
Everybody shook his hand
But he was just a Pima Indian
No water, no home, no chance
At home nobody cared what Ira’d done
And when did the Indians dance

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
Hayes meets with Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron in 1947 over discrimination against Native Americans (Public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Within two weeks of leaving Iwo, Hayes and the two other living flag raisers, Rene Gagnon and James Bradley were put on a plane and flown to Washington, D.C. Before he died, Franklin Roosevelt wanted them to be paraded around the country to raise money for war bonds. The war in Japan still needed to be won, and the loss of American life so far had not sat well with the public that wanted their boys home. Roosevelt and his successor Harry Truman knew the flag raisers would be instrumental in raising money for the war. Raising the Iwo Jima flag over the U.S. Capitol, they then went to New York and around the country. For Hayes, there were a few things bothering him. First, he knew that his friend Harlan Block was one of the flag raisers and somehow was misidentified as someone else. He told officers at Headquarters Marine Corps what happened, and they told him the names were released, and it was too late. He was ordered to keep quiet. The second was he was suffering from what we now know as survivors guilt and PTSD. He just wanted to head back to his unit and be with his friends. He was able to leave the tour early and headed back and was part of the occupation force of Japan.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

Then Ira started drinking hard
Jail was often his home
They let him raise the flag and lower it
Like you’d throw a dog a bone
He died drunk early one morning
Alone in the land he fought to save
Two inches of water and a lonely ditch
Was a grave for Ira Hayes

After the war, Ira Hayes had a few years as a minor celebrity. People would stop by the reservation to say hi, he recreated his role in a John Wayne movie, and attended ceremonies honoring his role in the flag raising. He tried to make things right and hitchhiked 1,300 miles to see the family of Harlan Block. He told them their son was one of the flag raisers and wrote a letter they could present in which he gave details on how to prove it (the boots Block and Hayes wore were Paratrooper boots and different than the other Marines). But the guilt and trauma that Hayes endured were too much. He also dealt with the racism Native Americans faced when he traveled. Once he went to visit a war buddy and wasn’t allowed on the property because he was Indian. He had to wait on the road until his friend arrived home. He couldn’t hold a job and became an alcoholic. When he was back in Arizona, things got worse. Farming was impossible, there were few resources, and there was nothing to do but drink. He was arrested over 50 times for public intoxication. When asked about his drinking he said, “I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they’re not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me.”

Hayes died on Jan. 24, 1955. He was found next to an abandoned hut on the reservation, dead of exposure and alcohol poisoning. He was later buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
Hayes’ headstone at Arlington National Cemetary (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Or the Marine that went to war

Yeah, call him drunken Ira Hayes
But his land is just as dry
And his ghost is lying thirsty
In the ditch where Ira died

A decade later, Johnny Cash decided he would create an album about how Native Americans were treated in the USA. Cash at the time, believed he was part Cherokee and took up a cause that few cared or even knew about. For his Bitter Tears album, he used several songs from his friend, songwriter and Korean veteran Peter LaFarge. One of the songs was a song, LaFarge had written about Hayes.

In the lead up to its release the album proved controversial. Radio stations and fans balked at the political nature of the song, and stations refused to play it. Cash was so angered he took out a full-page ad in Billboard magazine in which he called out those who were boycotting the song and album seen here.

The song would end up being a hit, rising up to #3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles.

For Ira Hayes, his heroism and tragic life would be immortalized forever not, just by a photograph but also a song.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Frosted Misery: A Navy SEAL in SERE school

SERE — short for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape — training is one of the more psychologically challenging training courses the U.S. military has to offer. It is not really that physically challenging, other than having to overcome the short duration of enforced hunger and the occasional slaps and stress/discomfort techniques employed against the students in the course. But for a young man or woman who has never been a prisoner of some type, it is mentally jarring. Uncomfortable, even. That is where the real challenge is presented.

I won’t go deep into SERE training here, just because it is a school that should remain cloaked in some mystery for it to be truly effective as a training program, other than to share a few of the memories that stand out for me, almost 20 years after I went through it.


To be clear, I went through a SERE program run by the U.S. Navy, in the American northeast, in January, with a handful of my fellow SEALs, some Navy pilots, and a few Marines. The other service branches ran their own programs at that time, I believe, and presently, I am not sure how the program is run across the services. I am sure, though, that the training continues in some form given its perpetual relevance to service members in danger of becoming prisoners of war.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

(U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Peter Reft)

The goal of SERE training is to prepare U.S. service members to survive, on the run from enemy forces and while evading capture, and to resist your captors should you find yourself a prisoner. It also touches on escaping from captivity, and aims to provide guidance on how to behave and organize if you find yourself in a prisoner situation with other Americans. Enough on that for this venue.

SERE is mostly a hazy memory for me now, in terms of the particulars, but certain scenes, events, sights, and smells, continue to bubble up every once in a while. They are lingering yet occasionally vivid impressions of a long-ago tribulation, I suppose.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

(Senior Airman Jonathan Snyder, U.S. Air Force)

The Snow and the Cold

My SERE training took place in the far northeast in January. It was damn cold, especially for a Florida boy who had spent the previous year-plus in sunny San Diego and Norfolk, Virginia.

In SERE, we spent a significant chunk of time in our survival and evasion phase stumbling around in the woods, in a couple of feet of snow, with nothing but the minimal amount of gear we were supplied to keep us warm. It was not ideal. It was an enforced “pack light, freeze at night” situation. Some shared sleeping bags to stay warm, while others built shelters in the snow. We all shivered a lot.

The memory of all that snow and the bleak, wintry landscape still pops into my head occasionally, in photograph form. While it was lovely, especially to look back on now, at the time it was frosted misery.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

(USAF Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

The Hunger

Okay, let’s be honest: Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training is not hard on the stomach. At no point in the training do they try to starve you, like they do in Ranger School, for example. In fact, in BUD/S, you can eat as much food in the chow hall as you can stuff down your gullet in the allotted meal time. And boy did I stuff myself, and yet I still lost 15 pounds during BUD/S training.

In SERE training, however, there is no food offered after a certain point, and you have to eat whatever you can forage. Let me tell you, there is not much edible out there in the hell-scape of a January New England forest. So we just didn’t eat for a few days, which made me very hungry. At the end, they advised us not to go out and stuff ourselves, since our stomachs would not handle it well. I failed to heed this advice, however, and paid the man for it. It was not pretty, but I doubt I will ever forget how good that (Italian) meal tasted my first night after SERE ended.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)

The Slap

So, there is some physical discomfort inflicted on SERE students, all of which is to make it as realistic as possible. Part of the physical discomfort comes by way of open-handed slaps to the face and head. These aren’t too terrible, especially if you are ready and braced for them and they thus don’t whip your head and neck around too violently. It is really no worse, and mostly less painful, than taking a punch while sparring in the ring. I was used to the slaps by a certain point in SERE training, and ready for the men who administered them each time they approached me.

Well, in a very effective curveball thrown at me by the instructors, the details of which I will not divulge here in case this little surprise is still employed, I found myself at one point face-to-face with a woman captor whom I did not expect to hit me in the face. Needless to say, when she did in fact smack my face, at lightning speed and with some real force behind it, my entire upper body, neck, and head swiveled nearly 180 degrees. It was the most effective slap I received in the entire course, in terms of the pain and shock it caused, and kudos to that woman for catching me unawares.

Well done, madame. To this day, I still remember the surprise and the pain of that slap.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

Senior Airmen Jonathan Harvey, a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialists with the 106th Rescue Wing, demonstrates how to contact friendly forces during survival training. (US Air National Guard Photos by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

The Almost-Meal

As noted above, by a certain day in the survival and evasion phase of SERE training, I was pretty damn hungry and would’ve eaten just about anything I could get my hands on. At just that point in time, we were told to link up with a notional “foreign contact” in the woods who would supply us with some sustenance.

This was to simulate resistance fighters in enemy territory who might help an evading American service member. The three or four of us in our small group were so damn excited to see what we’d get, and I had visions of bread and cheese and jerky and all the food. Well, it turned out to be just one thermos of “borscht” (soup) for all of us to share. Fine, whatever, anything at that point.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)

What happened next is frozen in my mind forever: One of our guys walking back to us from the link-up with the foreign contact, the steaming thermos of borscht in his hand, his eyes full of victory, hunger, and satisfaction. He had that same look that Ben Stiller had in one of the “Meet the Parents” movies when he arrived in triumph with the formerly-lost (and fake) Jinx the cat. Total victory.

And yet, right at that moment, the clumsy bastard tripped in the snow, fell in slow motion to the ground, and spilled the steaming thermos of life-giving soup all over the snowy ground. He then looked up in total defeat, and seemed to say with his eyes, “murder me, I deserve it.” To this day, I am not sure he was not a plant all along, in a highly effective and sick scheme to demoralize us. Oh well, we’ll never know.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

The End

Through all of SERE school, I never really went to that mental place that some go to, in which they start to believe they really are a prisoner, and that they might never get out. Apparently that happens to some, and they kind of lose it. I just went back into BUD/S mental mode, where I tune everything else out, and focus on surviving to the end, telling myself that everything ends at some point.

Still, when the end was signalled — in an admittedly moving and patriotic display orchestrated by the instructor cadre — I experienced a flood of relief. Some made audible sighs and expressions of relief, and some even cried right there in front of everyone. I was mostly happy to have finished another required training course, and excited to get some sleep in a bed that night. Mostly, though, I remember being excited to stuff my belly with that ill-advised Italian meal.

Good times.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These were Britain’s ‘manned torpedoes’ in World War II

You’ve probably heard about Japan’s Kamikaze tactics, and maybe you’ve even heard about Japan’s manned rockets and torpedoes. But, oddly enough, Japan wasn’t the only combatant in World War II that had manned torpedoes. Britain used manned torpedoes and did so years before Japan.


How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
A Kaiten Type 10 manned torpedo. Japanese manned torpedoes were a little more “terminal” than British ones. (Kansai Man, CC BY-SA 2.0/ Wikimedia Commons)

But there is an important distinction between the two programs. Britain’s manned torpedoes were designed with a focus on getting the pilots back safely after the mission, while Japan’s program was essentially Kamikaze tactics, but under the water.

For Britain, it all started in December 1941. Less than two weeks after Pearl Harbor, Britain suffered its own surprise naval raid on December 19. Two British battleships and a tanker suffered serious damage in the Port of Alexandria in Egypt when large explosions ripped through their hulls from outside.

But the captain of the HMS Valiant had captured two Italian divers just before the explosions, and one of them had asked to meet with him just before the blasts. Coincidentally, they had been detained in the room just above the damage to the hull. So he summoned those dudes again and asked what, exactly, had happened to his ship and the two others. (A fourth ship was damaged by the blasts, even though the Italian teams had only hit three targets.)

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
Two British sailors on a manned torpedo, the Chariot Mk. I. (Royal Navy Lt. S.J. Beadell)

 

Four other divers were captured by Egyptian police in the following days, and Britain pieced together how the attacks were carried out. The men had launched from an Italian submarine on a torpedo modified to propel the divers through the water. These torpedoes not only had warheads, but they also had two little seats for the divers.

Basically, imagine a two-person motorcycle, but shaped to fit in a large torpedo tube and propelled by a propeller instead of wheels. Now attach a mine to the front. Or you could’ve just looked at the picture above, but whatever. Let’s keep going.

Britain saw this and was all, “Hey, Brits can be strapped to metal tubes, too! We should strap dudes to metal tubes.” So they developed the Chariot starting in April 1942 and attempted the first manned torpedo mission that October.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
A British Chariot Mk. 1. (Imperial War Museum)

 

The British Chariot Mk. I was about 22 feet long, 3 feet wide, and weighed over 1.75 tons and had a 600-pound Torpex warhead, equal to almost a 1,000 pounds of TNT. The plan was that divers would get onto the torpedo and steer it through the water to a target. Then the divers would remove the warhead from the torpedo and place it on the target ship’s hull with a timer, and then pilot the submersible away.

If all went to plan, the 600 pounds of high explosive would then blow a large hole in the target.

The first Chariot mission failed after the torpedoes were lost at sea as a ship delivered them into range of their target. Their target, by the way, was the German battleship Tirpitz, which would’ve made for an epic combat debut if it had succeeded.

But Britain modified submarines to carry the new torpedo and began sending the Chariot into combat.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
U.S. Navy SEALs prepare to fly through the water in a SEAL Delivery Vehicle. (U.S. Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Andrew McKaskle)

 

Chariot torpedoes were used against Italian ships, the beaches of Sicily, and Japanese ships in Phuket, Thailand. And, yeah, it turns out those massive warheads do work. Britain even made a new design of Chariot, the Mk. II Terry Chariot, that was faster, had a warhead twice the size, and a larger combat radius.

But if it was so good, why aren’t there a bunch of manned torpedoes zipping around today? Well, there are actually a few. The U.S. Navy has the SEAL Delivery vehicle which is, basically, a manned torpedo that SEALs use to get to targets, but the Navy is looking to can it and get mini-subs instead. These would perform the same mission, but SEALs wouldn’t need to be exposed to the outside water in the mini-subs.

But yeah, manned torpedoes have mostly given way to submersibles and mini-subs because manned torpedoes were really valuable for delivering divers. When it comes to delivering warheads, even during World War II, it made more sense to fire conventional torpedoes.

Today, guided torpedoes make the use of manned torpedoes for explosive delivery completely unnecessary.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia is proposing a revolutionary catamaran carrier

Russia — the country that’s failed to build its super carrier and any meaningful amount of its newest jets or tanks — is now claiming that it’s going to build the world’s first catamaran aircraft carrier, a vessel that would carry an air wing while suffering less drag and costing less than other carriers.

While this effort will likely suffer from the same problems that prevented the construction of the super carrier, it’s still a revolutionary design that’s generating a lot of buzz.


How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

The U.S. has purchased and leased some catamaran ships, but nothing nearly the size of the proposed Russian aircraft carrier. The HSV 2 in the photo has a displacement of less than 5 percent the size of the Russian design.

(U.S. Navy)

So, first, let’s explore the highlights. Catamarans are multi-hulled vessels with the hulls in parallel. If you’re unfamiliar, that basically means that if you look at the vessel from the front, you can see a gap right down the middle of the hull near the waterline. The Russian vessel would be a semi-catamaran, so there would be a gap, but it would be beneath the waterline.

This greatly reduces drag and makes the vessel more stable while turning, but also reduces the amount of space below the waterline for aircraft storage, living spaces, and so forth.

The proposed design would be a 40,000 to 45,000-ton displacement ship, similar to American Landing Helicopter Assault ships, vessels that would’ve been called escort carriers in World War II. This puts it at a fraction of the size of America’s Ford-class carriers, which displace nearly 100,000 tons.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

Russia’s only current carrier is the Admiral Kuznetsov, and it’s less than impressive.

(U.S. Defense Department)

But it would still carry a healthy complement of aircraft, up to 46, including early warning aircraft and helicopters. That’s a far cry from the Ford’s 75 aircraft, but a pretty nice upgrade over the LHAs’ 30+ aircraft.

The catamaran would have an 8,000-mile endurance, anti-torpedo and anti-aircraft defenses, electronic warfare systems, and four bomb launchers.

All-in-all, that could make for an effective and affordable aircraft carrier. So, will Russia be able to crank this ship out, maybe clone it a couple of times, and become the effective master of the seas?

Russia: Mistral replacement? Storm Supercarrier model unveiled in St Petersburg

www.youtube.com

Well, no. Almost certainly not. First, Russia has the same spending problem it had when it threw a hissy fit after France cancelled the delivery of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships. Russia responded with designs for the Storm Supercarrier, a ship larger than America’s Ford-class.

Most defense experts at the time weren’t very worried, and we shouldn’t be now. Russia has few personnel with experience building ships of this size. That’s actually why they wanted to buy the Mistral class in the first place — and the Mistral is half the size of this proposed catamaran.

The Soviet Union constructed the bulk of its ships in areas that broke away when the Soviet Union collapsed. Many were built in Ukraine, which now has a troubled relationship with Russia (to put it mildly). Russia lacks the facilities and personnel for such construction.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

The PAK-FA/Su-57 is seemingly a capable fighter despite issues with its engines and other developmental hangups, but Russia simply can’t afford to buy them, or to buy a catamaran carrier.

Infographic from Anton Egorov of Infographicposter.com

And then there’s the money. Russia designed a reasonably modern and well-received tank in the T-14 and a good fighter in the PAK-FA, but they couldn’t build many of them because oil, currently, is way too cheap. Russia’s economy is relatively small — actually smaller than that of Texas or California — and it’s heavily reliant on oil sales.

And then there are the glaring flaws of the design. While the catamaran has the advantages mentioned above, it would have serious trouble moving in rough seas, as catamarans have a tendency to dig their bows into waves in rough conditions — and taking waves from the side would likely be even worse.

Someone may build a catamaran carrier one day, but it won’t be Russia. So, for now, just check out the model and think about how cool it is. But don’t expect to see this thing at sea. Russia will have to just keep making due with the leaky, poop-filled, unreliable Admiral Kuznetsov.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Pittsburgh Steelers honor WWII Army veteran brothers

Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.

Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.

The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.


Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.

Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.

He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.

(Ed Sikora)

He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.

After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.

Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.

Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.

(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)

In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.

In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.

Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.

John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Men who lied about military service ordered by judge to wear ‘I am a liar’ signs

Yes, you read that correctly. No, this isn’t a headline at The Onion. In what seems like a fever dream cross between “The Scarlett Letter” and a Tom Clancy novel, two Montana men were ordered, by a judge, to wear “I am a liar” signs. Here’s the catch: that’s not the only creative punishment in store for the duplicitous men.


How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

Judge Greg Pinski holds up the text for the “I am a liar” signs.

(CBS News)

Judge Greg Pinski, of Cascade County District Montana, delivered the unorthodox sentence two weeks ago. The two men on the receiving end of the punishment, Ryan Patrick Morris (28) and Troy Allan Nelson (33), were also instructed to wear signs saying “I am a liar. I am not a veteran. I stole valor. I have dishonored all veterans” at the Montana Veterans Memorial. According to The Great Falls Tribune, they were also ordered to write down the names of Americans killed in the line of duty.

The two men had recent prior convictions from the same judge: Morris with a felony burglary charge, and Nelson with a felony possession charge. However, the two were ordered back to court for violating the conditions of their release. According to The Military Times, the two men lied about their military involvement in order to have their cases moved to a veterans court. Morris falsely claimed that he had done multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was afflicted with PTSD from an IED that supposedly exploded and injured him. While Nelson was falsely enrolled in a Veterans Treatment Court.

It was then that Judge Pinski offered them early parole, if and only if they cooperated with a slew of stipulations. Pinski stipulated that every year, during the suspended portions of their sentences, they were to wear the signs about their necks, and stand for 8 hours on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day at the Montana Veteran’s Memorial.

Pinksi cited a Montana Supreme Court case that he said gives him jurisdiction for his unconventional punishment on account of his justified suspicion of stolen valor.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

Judge Greg Pinski at the Montana Veterans Memorial on Veteran’s Day, 2015.

(Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

In addition, both men were required to hand-write the names of all 6,756 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as write out the obituaries of the 40 fallen soldiers from Montana.

The buck didn’t stop there. Judge Pinski also ordered the men to hand-write out their admissions of guilt and apologize in letters to: American Legion, AMVETS, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, The Vietnam Veterans of America, and The Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The buck didn’t even stop there. In addition to all of the aforementioned tasks, the men were also required to perform 441 hours of community service each—one hour for each Montana citizen who died in conflict since the Korean War.

The men agreed to the terms, and if they complete all of the given tasks, they will be eligible for early release.

Morris was sentenced to 10 years with three years suspended in Montana State Prison, and Nelson was sentenced to five years, two years suspended.

According to The Military Times, Judge Pinksi was quoted saying “I want to make sure that my message is received loud and clear by these two defendants […] You’ve been nothing but disrespectful in your conduct. You certainly have not respected the Army. You’ve not respected the veterans. You’ve not respected the court. And you haven’t respected yourselves.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US severely sanctioned Venezuela and not others

The Trump administration announced a new round of sanctions on Venezuela on May 21, 2018, further limiting government officials there from selling debt and other assets “at fire-sale prices at the expense of the Venezuelan people,” a senior administration official said.

The new restrictions come hours after a presidential election that President Nicolas Maduro was expected to win through illegitimate means and which the US said it would not recognize before the first ballot was cast.


President Donald Trump’s stance on Venezuela and its embattled president has appeared at odds with his attitude toward the leaders of other authoritarian regimes and his administration’s response to disputed elections in those countries.

In April 2017, Trump congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a referendum that expanded Erdogan’s powers, differing from the State Department, which cited international observers’ reports of election irregularities and called on Turkey to respect the rights of its citizens.

And in a March 2018 phone call, Trump reportedly congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection, despite guidance from his national-security team not do so.

Some leaders have been reluctant to offer Putin similar compliments, given the state’s control of much of the media in Russia as well as restrictions on opposition candidates. Election monitors said the most recent contest was “overly controlled” and “lacked genuine competition.” (President Barack Obama congratulated Putin after the latter’s 2012 election victory, though his administration also publicly expressed concerns about that vote.)

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
Russian President Vladimir Putin

A few days later, when asked whether Russia’s election was free and fair, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “We’re focused on our elections. We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate.”

“What we do know is Putin has been elected in their country, and that’s not something that we can dictate to them, how they operate,” she added at the time. “We can only focus on the freeness and the fairness of our elections.”

Asked May 21, 2018, about the seeming disparity between Trump’s approach to the election in Venezuela and elections under similar conditions elsewhere, senior administration officials pointed to the intensity of the economic and political turmoil in the South American country as a distinguishing feature.

“The region has never seen a kleptocracy like this,” the official said. “We’ve never seen a country as wealthy — in terms of natural resources and in human capital — as Venezuela is, driven into such an economic death spiral so quickly by such a small group of individuals determined to enrich themselves at the expense of millions of people.”

“The humanitarian suffering in this country is on a scale that we really don’t see in other places. The exodus of the migrants is something paralleling Syria at this stage,” the official added, referring to the masses of Venezuelan migrants fleeing to neighboring countries.

“The effect on a close ally of the United States, Colombia, is enormous and is threatening to drag that country into the abyss from an economic standpoint as well,” the official said. “So this is a true catastrophe in every sense of the word, within the region.”

The US is not the only country that has reproved Maduro and his government.

The Lima Group — made up of 14 countries in Latin America — rebuked the Maduro government over the election when it was announced in January 2018, and said on May 21, 2018, that it did not recognize May 20, 2018’s vote as legitimate.

Canada has sanctioned Venezuelan officials, including Maduro, as has the European Union, which also has an arms embargo in place on the country.

The US has reportedly offered lawyers and policy experts to help other Latin American countries draft similar measures.

Venezuela experts have warned that sanctions themselves are unlikely to force Maduro out and cautioned that harsher sanctions — such as ones against the oil industry on which the country is heavily reliant — could only cause additional pain for the Venezuelans.

“If you added up the 12 nations in the Lima Group and the United States together, it’s about 95% of the hemisphere,” another senior administration official said. “So everybody is truly together on this, and it’s a unity in the hemisphere, frankly, that is almost unprecedented in approaching a crisis of democracy.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US wants to hunt Chinese fighters with these new long-range missiles

The US military is developing a new, longer-range air-to-air missile amid growing concerns that China’s advanced missiles outrange those carried by US fighters.

The AIM-260 air-to-air missile, also known as the Joint Air Tactical Missile (JATM), is intended to replace the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) currently carried by US fighters, which has been a go-to weapon for aerial engagements. It “is meant to be the next air-to-air air dominance weapon for our air-to-air fighters,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, Air Force Weapons Program Executive Officer, told Air Force Magazine.

“It has a range greater than AMRAAM,” he further explained, adding that the missile has “different capabilities onboard to go after that specific [next-generation air-dominance] threat set.”


Russia and China are developing their own fifth-generation fighters, the Su-57 and J-20 respectively, to compete against the US F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, and these two powerful rivals are also developing new, long-range air-to-air missiles.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

The Sukhoi Su-57.

In particular, the US military is deeply concerned about the Chinese PL-15, an active radar-guided very long range air-to-air missile (VLRAAM) with a suspected range of about 200 km. The Chinese military is also developing another weapon known as the PL-21, which is believed to have a range in excess of 300 km, or about 125 miles.

The PL-15, which has a greater range than the AIM-120D AMRAAM, entered service in 2016, and last year, Chinese J-20 stealth fighters did a air show flyover, during which they showed off their weapons bays loaded with suspected PL-15 missiles.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

J-20 stealth fighters of PLA Air Force.

Genatempo told reporters that the PL-15 was the motivation for the development of the JATM.

The AIM-260, a US Air Force project being carried out in coordination with the Army, the Navy, and Lockheed Martin, will initially be fielded on F-22 Raptors and F/A-18 Hornets and will later arm the F-35. Flight tests will begin in 2021, and the weapon is expected to achieve operational capability the following year.

The US military will stop buying AMRAAMs in 2026, phasing out the weapon that first entered service in the early 1990s for firepower with “longer legs,” the general explained.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this World War II icon measures up to the Humvee

The High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, better known as the Humvee, is one of the most ubiquitous and iconic vehicles in military history. Between 1984 and 2012, 281,000 Humvees have been produced and the line is still running. This vehicle does everything, from evacuating the wounded to taking out enemy tanks.

But as impressive as the Humvee’s 30+ year production run is, it still only accounts for about 85 percent of the 335,531 Willys MB, better known as the jeep, manufactured in just four years. So, numbers aside, how do these versatile, wheeled vehicles stack up?


How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

Two World War II icons on Guam: a Jeep and a M4 Sherman tank.

(USMC)

The Willys MB had a top speed of up to 65 miles per hour and could go 300 miles on a single tank of gas. It had a crew of two and could carry another three additional personnel. It could carry up to 800 pounds of cargo and tow 1,000 pounds. This vehicle saw action all over the world. Two major variants, the “slat” and the Sea Jeep (“Seep”) were also produced, which accounted for over 38,000 of the MB’s already-massive production total.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

The HMMWV is capable of firing TOW missiles to kill enemy tanks.

(U.S. Army)

The HMMWV can go as fast as 70 miles per hour. Some variants can haul nearly 5,000 pounds of cargo or eight troops. It can get as far as roughly 250 miles on a tank of diesel. The use of diesel fuel is an important detail — it’s less flammable than gasoline. The HMMWV was also capable of mounting a wide variety of weapons, including the BGM-71 TOW missile.

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

This Jeep is packing a 37mm gun and a .30-caliber water-cooled machine gun,

(U.S. Army)

One could argue that the HMMWV is three times the vehicle than the classic Jeep. That said, one HMMWV can’t be in three places at once. So, would you rather have had three Jeeps or one HMMWV?

Before you make up your mind, watch the video below and learn a little more about the iconic World War II Jeep.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5buMTtEdw8

www.youtube.com

popular

Here’s why Chris Kyle wore a ball cap instead of a helmet

A user on Quora asked the following question: “Do some troops really wear ball caps and berets into combat instead of helmets? Why?” It might sound surprising, but the answer is actually yes, yes sometimes they do.

It seems counterintuitive, given that a helmet is worn to protect against bullets, collisions, and shrapnel while a ball cap is…not, but enough troops weighed in with their own experiences to confirm this activity.

The reasons varied, but legendary sniper Chris Kyle probably gave the most honest answer:


How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
Bradley Cooper portraying Chris Kyle in the film ‘American Sniper.’ (Warner Bros.)

 

“Why a ball cap? Ninety percent of being cool is looking cool. And you look so much cooler wearing a ball cap,” Kyle wrote in his autobiography, “American Sniper.”

The late Navy SEAL is credited with 255 kills, making him America’s top sniper. He also remains spoken highly of as a leader and as a family man and friend.

He really didn’t need the ball cap to be cool. He just was.

Also read: Chris Kyle’s 10 most definitive American weapons of all time

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps
Before Kyle’s death, ‘American Sniper’ screenwriter Jason Hall had the opportunity to work closely with him to maintain the authenticity of the film. Here, Bradley Cooper plays Kyle in a close-quarters scenario. (Warner Bros.)

 

Other vets have said that helmets limit their agility and visibility — they accept the risk in removing the helmet to gain mobility. To mitigate this, the military is developing new lightweight protection systems.

But one of the most important reasons service members will don a ball cap or beret in lieu of the helmet is to appear less intimidating to the local population. When dealing with low level insurgencies, appearing more friendly can help reduce tension and “win the hearts and minds” of civilians.

Still, at the end of the day make no mistake, in combat a protective helmet is the best protection against traumatic brain injuries and death.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information