Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand - We Are The Mighty
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Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

For around 30 years, the food court at the center of the Pentagon’s courtyard was an easy source of mid-afternoon calories for the hungry planners of a potential World War III with the Eastern Bloc. There was just one problem, and it wasn’t the food.

It was said the Soviet Union had at least two nuclear missiles pointed at it at all times.


Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
Target Acquired (Planet.com/ Fair use)

 

The hot dog stand, replaced in the early 2000s with another, presumably less hot dog-oriented food stand, was the center of life for a lot of the Cold War lunches had by the staff at the nation’s most important military building. It was said that the Soviet Union watched the comings and goings of top U.S. military brass in and out of the tiny structure in the middle of the courtyard every day.

They surmised it must be an important planning center or command and control bunker. So, obviously, when the war broke out, it would have to be one of the first things to go. Two ICBMs should take care of it.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
And most of the DMV area.

“Rumor has it that during the Cold War the Russians never had any less than two missiles aimed at this hot dog stand,” Brett Eaton, an information and communications officer for Washington Headquarters Services, told DoD News. “They thought this was the Pentagon’s most top-secret meeting room, and the entire Pentagon was a large fortress built around this hot dog stand.”

No one in Russia has ever confirmed this rumor, but the stand still earned the moniker “Cafe Ground Zero.” In reality, substantiated or not, the hot dog stand was smack dab in the middle of the United States’ most important military building. Since the blast radius of the Soviet Union’s best and biggest nuclear missile was big enough to wipe out New York City along with parts of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, it stands to reason that destroying the hot dog stand at the center of the Pentagon would just be a win for clogged arteries.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
A real victory (Image by jamstraightuk from Pixabay)

Feature image: DoD photo

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airman earns top honors in course for Marine NCOs

On a muggy summer day in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a Marine Corps instructor stood on a ledge overlooking a swamp. He looked out at his students, and his eyes found Master Sgt. Aretha Boston — the only airman in the platoon.

He called her forward, and Boston walked up to the ledge.

“Just as soon as I extended my hand, he grabbed it,” Boston recalled. “And before I knew it, he was pulling me into the swamp.”

For Boston, 11th Medical Group command staff superintendent, it was another of many surprises at the Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy Advanced Course. The opportunity to attend the course was a surprise in itself.


Most surprising, though, was how well she performed. At graduation time, Boston took home three of the most prestigious awards at the school: the class Gunnery Sergeant Award (voted on by instructors), the Honor Graduate Award (voted on by her classmates), and the Distinguished Graduate Award (for measured academic excellence).

In some ways, though, it was a fitting chapter in a storied career that almost never was.

Coming from a small town in Florida, Boston’s life plan didn’t involve joining the military. Her mother, though, had different ideas. She insisted that her daughter enlist.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

Master Sgt. Aretha Boston, 11th Medical Group command staff superintendent, poses for a portrait Oct. 24, 2018, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Boston.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Noah Sudolcan)

“To be completely honest, in the beginning I was angry,” Boston said. Despite her misgivings, at the age of 17 and straight out of high school, she begrudgingly agreed and enlisted in the Air Force to become a dental technician. Years later, she said she views it as “by far the best decision my parents could have made for me.”

Boston’s first base was 7,479 miles from home: Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. She was away from her family, the only airman basic in the dental clinic and learning a whole new lifestyle. Over those first few months, she learned the technical portion of her job, but she said she struggled with the challenge of conforming to military discipline.

“I acted out a lot,” Boston said. “I didn’t want people to tell me to do something. I was very stubborn.”

After serving a year in Korea, she moved to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Dealing with the culture shock coming from Korea, she said she found it hard to connect with people.

Her first Christmas break in Florida started with a call from her first sergeant asking why she wasn’t at bay orderly — an extra duty to help clean the dorm common areas. Thinking she had the week off, she said it all seemed unfair.

“The first shirt sat me down and told me, ‘Listen, I’ve been told you’re a stellar airman, but you have a terrible attitude,'” she said. When he told her that an unchecked bad attitude could end up getting her kicked out of the military, she said she decided to make some changes.

“That was my turning point,” she said. “From then on, I did the best I could to be the best airman.”

The new attitude paid off. Several years — and promotions — later, everything was going well. But Boston said she craved something different. A new challenge. Something to separate herself from her peers. She was comfortable, standing on the solid ground of a well-constructed military career, but she was contemplating a big jump.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

Air Force Master Sgt. Aretha Boston, middle left, poses with her Marine Corps classmates during the Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy Advanced Course in the summer of 2018.

She found out the Air Force offers the chance for master sergeants to attend a sister service academy. She applied. Then she got accepted. The class started in the summer of 2018, and when she arrived, there were only six airmen in a sea of 120 Marines.

“(Marines) operate completely different from (airmen),” Boston explained. “Everything ties into fitness. Leadership, strategy planning — it always goes back to fitness.”

Physical training was every day, which she said was taxing on both her body and mind.

Those challenges culminated when, after a long morning run, the instructor pulled her into the swamp. With Marines cheering from the side, Boston remembers the feeling of being engulfed by the freezing water. After she and the rest of her class swam to the other side, a long obstacle course lay ahead of them.

Like all the other obstacles in Marine Corps senior NCO training, along with the hurdles of her early career, Boston faced them head on.

“It was pretty motivating to think she was an airman coming over to the course, doing something unprecedented,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Walker, Boston’s classmate and Marine Corps Aviation Logistics Squadron 14 warehouse managements division warehouse chief.

Walker said it would be natural to see a decrease in academic productivity in the individual taking on the busy role of class gunnery sergeant. But he said Boston had no such trouble. In fact, she still managed to excel beyond her peers – even the ones wearing Marine Corps insignia.

“She literally did everything you would expect from a Marine, pushing forward, even outside of class.” Walker said. “She carried herself as a professional the entire time and represented the Air Force well.”

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

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7 pictures you won’t see in a recruiting brochure

Military brochures are colorful and glossy, full of awesome pictures showing service members doing some really cool stuff. These pictures usually feature troops flying in helicopters, firing weapons, riding in amphibious assault vehicles, jumping from aircraft, and traveling the world.


There is no question a military career can be very exciting. However, just like any other profession, there can be some mundane tasks that seem unusual and flat-out odd. This is especially true in the military. Here are 7 pictures you won’t see in a military recruiting brochure.

1. Area Beautification (Operation Clean Sweep)

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
Sgt. Bridgett Gomez, Headquarters and Headquarters Company and Pvt. Joshua Barker, Company D, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, rake through the remaining sand of the volleyball court outside their barracks after removing large clumps of grass in preparation of new sand, March 16. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. April D. de Armas, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs)

This detail is very common throughout U.S. military bases around the world. One of the most well-known area beatification events happens in the home of the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations at Fort Bragg, N.C. Each May, thousands of personnel take part in “Operation Clean Sweep,” an extravagant term simply meaning a post-wide clean-up effort in preparation for the 82nd’s Airborne All-American Week, a week-long celebration of the famed division.

During Clean Sweep, Soldiers don their PT belts, grab their rakes, and gas up the lawn mowers to bring the “fight” to overgrown weeds, nasty cigarette butts, spit bottles and other items that would make your grandma blush. You can see why these images don’t make for exciting marketing products.

2. Cleaning the Barracks (GI Party)

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
Marines with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing pick up trash during a station-wide cleanup aboard MCAS Miramar, California, April 20. They also conducted a cleanup alongside major roadways bordering the air station.

This is one party you don’t want to be invited to. Service members living in the barracks are used to hearing the expression “G.I. party,” a term originally used during World War II to clean up the living quarters.

This detail has service members cleaning the hell out of the barracks in preparation for an inspection. So grab the buffer, gather the Simple Green, and get the trash bags, it’s party time!

3. Painting Things

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
1st Lt. Edwin Roman paints steps in barracks 4295 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Nov. 25, 2014. Staff noncommissioned officers and officers of Marine Air Control Group 28 cleaned and renovated the barracks in an effort to give back to the Marines during the holiday season. The Marines worked on various projects including, painting, landscaping and fixing furniture. Roman is a communications officer with Marine Air Support Squadron 1.

Put a paint brush in the hands of a military member and they will paint anything. Whether it is painting rocks, trees, the walls at the barracks, or curbs on the road, military commands always have tons of paint cans around, keeping the good folks at DuPont very happy.

4. Chute Shake

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
U.S. Army paratroopers from Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division clear debris from used parachutes before hanging them at Fort Bragg, N.C., Oct. 23, 2008. The parachutes were used the night prior during a joint forcible entry exercise (JFEX), a joint airdrop designed to enhance service cohesiveness between Army and Air Force personnel by training to execute large-scale heavy equipment and troop movements. (DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

Remember all the fun you had as a child, shaking the rainbow colored parachute during gym class. While this is not that kind of parachute shake, “shaking chutes” is one of the worst details in the Airborne community. It can sometimes take an entire night, where personnel spend their time in a tower hanging hundreds of chutes, untangling lines that are in massive knots, and taking out weeds and debris caught on the parachute after dragging a Paratrooper across the drop zone. This detail makes you appreciate your childhood.

5. Swabbing the Deck

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
Sailors scrub the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan following a countermeasure wash down while the ship is operating off the coast of Japan. The Ronald Reagan is operating off the coast of Japan providing humanitarian assistance as directed in support of Operation Tomodachi. (U.S. Navy photo)

Arrr matey! This detail is straight up old-school going back hundreds of years. This is probably not what new Sailors had in mind when they were told the Navy would “accelerate their life.”

6. Kitchen Patrol or KP

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
Food service specialists and kitchen police from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and supporting units unload fresh fruit into a walk-in freezer at the intermediate staging base at Fort Polk, La., Sept. 25, 2015. (U.S. Army photo)

KP duty at the mess hall or galley consists of duties such as food preparation, dish washing, sweeping and mopping floors, wiping tables, serving food on the chow line, or anything else that needs to get done.

Just make it get done or the mess sergeant will go all Gordon Ramsay on you!

7. Burning sh*t

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

This was definitely not in the brochure.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Green Berets stemmed the communist tide in El Salvador

The era of the 1980s through the mid-1990s was a great time to be a member of the U.S Army’s 7th Special Forces Group, 7th SFG(A). The unit had barely escaped the ax during the post-Vietnam drawdown. It had also survived the malaise of the Carter years, when Special Operations, and specifically Special Forces, was a four-letter word. (Being an SF officer in those days was the kiss of death for an officer’s career.)

Yet, during that time, a danger was looming: Latin America was close to being lost to communism.


Background

Latin America was a hot spot. Marxists had taken over in Nicaragua. They were looking, like the Cubans, to export their vision of communism to the rest of the hemisphere. El Salvador and Guatemala were embroiled in bloody civil wars, Honduras was going through a “latent and incipient” insurgency, which no one but the Group believed existed. Active civil wars were ongoing with insurgents in Colombia (FARC), Peru (Shining Path/Sendero Luminoso), and to a lesser extent in Bolivia. Compounding the problem, all three countries had issues with narco-terrorists that further destabilized the governments. Other countries, such as Argentina and Paraguay, seemed to have military coups far too frequently.

But all of that began to change in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was elected President. Reagan was not going to stand for that. Hence, there were plenty of places for the Green Berets of 7th SFG to practice their training, or as my first team sergeant said, “Do Green Beret shit.”

El Salvador was the first area where the President drew a line in the sand. The Salvadorian government was weak and ineffective. The military was backward, characterized by little professionalism, and was committing numerous human rights abuses. In 1980, the country was on the brink of falling. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), an umbrella organization formed in 1980 out of five separate Marxist-Leninist groups, had the government on the precipice.

In 1981, the Salvadorian Army numbered around 11,000. It was a poorly led, poorly equipped, and badly trained army. It was basically a static, defensive force. The FMLN was close to winning the war: Its forces operated freely in much of the country and owned the night.

Slow Beginnings and Limits on Troop Support

The U.S.’s first priority was to give the Salvadorian army updated vehicles and equipment; then improve the forces’ quality through training and better tactics. By 1990, the size of the Salvadorian military had quadrupled to more than 45,000. By the mid-1980s, the training of the troops had progressed to where the army was capable of conducting offensive operations. It, therefore, moved into previously FMLN-held areas and maintained a firm hold on the population centers. While doing so, it whittled the FMLN down to size, from a high of about 13,000 in 1980 to about 7,000 in 1990.

The FMLN resorted to kidnappings and assassinations. Town mayors were a frequent target: in 1989 alone 214 of 262 were threatened with assassinations. Twelve were assassinated and 90 resigned.

The FMLN launched a desperate country-wide offensive in November 1989 in a final attempt to take over by encouraging the citizens to rise up. It failed and lost over 2,000 guerrillas.

Beginning in 1983, following the recommendations of Green Beret trainers, the Salvadorian armed forces adopted better COIN tactics to deny the FMLN from gaining popular support. For example, the Salvadorians started attacking the insurgents’ sanctuaries, movement routes, and supplies. They started to deploy smaller, air-mobile units. And they used small units to patrol more frequently at night when most guerrilla activities occurred. But we have jumped ahead…

When it came to the trainers, the U.S. was in a vastly different place politically than it is today. We had just pulled out of Vietnam. Thus, the U.S. was not going to tolerate another long-drawn-out conflict with massive amounts of troops involved. Beginning in 1981, the first U.S. trainers in El Salvador were an A-Team of 12 Green Berets. They were “permitted” to only carry sidearms for protection.

Congress decided to cap the number of trainers at just 55. Two Americans would be assigned to each Salvadorian brigade. There were very strict rules for the training advisors. A-Teams and other conventional troops would be brought in for just the ridiculously short time span of two weeks. During that time, they had to conduct whatever training could be accomplished before they would be forced to leave.

But the SF community found ways around the Congressional limitations. It started bringing Salvadorian battalions to the United States to be trained by members of the 7th SFG. The first one to be brought to the U.S. was the Atlacatl Battalion. It was brought to Ft. Bragg, NC. The Atlacatl Battalion was a quick reaction, counter-insurgency unit. More battalions were later brought to the U.S.

But a better alternative awaited just over the border with El Salvador’s traditional enemy, Honduras.

The U.S. set up a Regional Training Center in Trujillo, Honduras. Salvadorian units could rotate through there for training. Later the training Honduran troops were trained as well.

The cost was high for a “peacetime” effort. During the war in El Salvador, 22 U.S. troops died defending the country. One SF advisor, Greg Fronius, is the subject of an earlier article.

In another engagement, a “not in combat” SF A-Team, ODA-7 from 3/7th SFG, defended a Salvadorian barracks. The battle was the subject of an excellent piece by Dr. Charles H. Briscoe.

Congress and the Pentagon, in an effort to snow the American public from what exactly the advisors in El Salvador were dealing with, refused to admit that the troops were in a combat situation, even though, combat pay had been authorized in 1981. Thus, Fronius was denied a combat decoration. He was instead given a Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) which is a peacetime award.

Human Rights Record

The Salvadorian Army had a terrible human rights record dating back to 1980. One of the things that the trainers accomplished was to incorporate human rights training in all levels of the military.

This also meant that at times, at peril to the advisors themselves, they’d report abuses by the military to the MILGP in San Salvador. Greg Walker, who was one of the 55 advisors on the ground there detailed one such incident.

“I was the Special Forces advisor who reported being shown a guerrilla’s skull (at the unit’s base in El Salvador) that had been turned into a desk lamp. My report was delivered to the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador at the time through the proper chain of command.

The vast majority of SF advisors serving in El Salvador did likewise as this was part of the mission statement. For example, there was a senior Special Forces advisor at El Mozote the day/night of the massacre (and only one). He attempted multiple times to dissuade Colonel Domingo Monterosa to spare the victims. When Monterosa ignored him, the advisor departed by foot and made his way, alone, back to San Salvador. There he made a full report to embassy officials of what the unit and Monterosa were doing in El Mozote.”

The subject was a very touchy one. Yet the Green Berets made their reputation known even amongst the FMLN. In Walker’s book, titled “At the Hurricane’s Eye” he recounts when the FMLN asked for the U.S. SF to remain during the initial peace process to ensure that everyone was protected.

“At the conclusion of the war as brokered under a UN peace agreement, it was the guerrillas of the FMLN that requested US “Green Berets” remain with Salvadorian military units during the early stages of the accord. This because the guerrillas had learned of our commitment to human rights, and the sometimes dangerous reporting we made to the US embassy regarding thugs like Monterosa.”

Walker was one of several SF soldiers who led the fight for the men who did their time in El Salvador to finally be recognized for what were essentially combat tours. Everyone who rotated through there is now eligible for an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal while many are authorized CIBs and combat awards. The men of ODA-7 were finally recognized 14 years later. They were awarded CIBs, four Bronze Stars with “V” device, and an ARCOM with “V” device.

The 7th SFG’s record in El Salvador was one of great success. El Salvador was on the brink of falling. And through the combined military and political efforts of many Americans, it was saved. This one was an example of how a small group of dedicated SF soldiers can turn the tide in a brutal civil war.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How an Air Force veteran started the Make-A-Wish Foundation

To say Make-A-Wish Foundation founder Frank Shankwitz had a rough childhood is an understatement. Shankwitz was born in Chicago and his mother left him when he was young. His grandparents took him, which he recalled as “happy times,” until one day his mother kidnapped him off a playground and told him they were heading back to Arizona.

They stopped in Michigan for five years.


When he was 10, they finally reached a tiny town in Arizona on Route 66. “We were broke,” Shankwitz said. “We had no gas, no food, no money, but a family took us in. We slept on their kitchen floor. It was the first time we’d ever been permanent somewhere, kitchen floor or not. A man named Juan became like a father-figure to me, and he introduced me to the idea of giving back. This was the 1950s – ‘give back’ was not a real popular term yet. But he taught me that you can always give back. It doesn’t have to be money – it can be your time or your talents.”

In the seventh grade, Shankwitz’s mom informed him that she could no longer afford to keep him; she was moving and he needed to find a new place to live.

Juan found him a place to stay in town with a widow and Shankwitz paid the weekly rent by finding a job as a dishwasher that paid per week. “All of a sudden I had an extra a week,” he said. “Juan taught me how to turn a negative into a positive and that has been something I’ve carried with me through my entire career.”

Shankwitz went to the Air Force after high school. “It was the Vietnam era,” he recalled, “but they decided I needed to protect England. I remember when we were informed we were not to wear our uniforms during traveling – they were afraid we’d offend the public. I’m so proud today to see our service members wearing their uniforms at airports. I love hearing people thanking them and clapping for them. You should never be embarrassed of the uniform. It’s so important that our military always be proud of their service.”

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

Following his time with the Air Force, Shankwitz went to work for Motorola. He describes himself then as “somewhat of an adrenaline junkie,” so when a friend of his suggested joining the Arizona Highway Patrol, he jumped at the chance. Shankwitz got involved with the Special Olympics in his off time. “I began to think about Juan,” he shared, “and how maybe I was starting to give back. I enjoyed that so much.” At work, Shankwitz was asked to join a motorcycle patrol that traveled to schools to teach kids about bike safety and he felt like he was getting closer to where he needed to be in serving others.

In 1978, Shankwitz was in a high speed chase with a drunk driver when another drunk driver broadsided him going 80 miles per hour. “I was pronounced dead immediately,” he explained, “and they’d already radioed in ‘963, Officer killed in the line of duty.’ An emergency room nurse from California stopped at the scene and did CPR for four minutes, and brought me back to life. I love California! They said the crash was spectacular. I’d gone through the tunnel and I saw the light. And then I came back. I remember when my senses came back. The sense of smell was first. I smelled this very nice perfume. Then the sense of touch; something was tickling my face. Then the sense of hearing – sirens all around and someone saying, ‘We’ve lost him.’ Last was the sense of sight. And I saw that a beautiful blonde had her lips locked on me and I thought it was heaven! Later, I was told I was saved for a purpose, and that God believed I had more to do. I needed to find out what that purpose was.”

Not two years later, Shankwitz received a radio call from his dispatcher saying she needed him to find the nearest telephone, which was 40 miles away. She put him through to a border patrol agent who had an assignment for him. Shankwitz remembers verbatim: ‘There’s a little boy named Chris. He’s 7 years old. He has leukemia, and he has 2 weeks to live. He likes to watch a show called CHiPs and he wants to be a motorcycle cop just like Ponch and Jon. We’re going to pick him up and have you standing by so he can meet a real motorcycle cop.’ I was in. I got on the bike and flew to the hospital.”

When the helicopter landed, Shankwitz was surprised that Chris wasn’t super sick looking. “Instead,” he said, “this tiny pair of red sneakers jumped out and came running over. He knew every button and switch on that motorcycle. I am watching him thinking, ‘He’s a typical 7 year old, and yet he’s going to die.’ Then I saw his mom, tears in her eyes, seeing her little boy again instead of just this sick patient. Chris became the first and only honorary officer of the Arizona Highway Patrol. We felt pretty good about what we’d done but we knew there was more for him.”

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

The troopers rallied around Chris. “We went to the uniform store, and asked if they could make Chris his own uniform,” Shankwitz said. “Two women spent all night custom-making a uniform for him. The next morning, we took several motorcycles and cars, lights going, and brought the uniform to him and a smokey hat. He was ecstatic. He asked if he was an official motorcycle police officer, but we told him that he had to earn his wings. We set up traffic cones for him in his driveway and gave him a test, which of course he passed.”

Chris told Shankwitz, “I’m so happy my wish is coming true.” It was the first time Shankwitz had really ever heard that: “my wish.”

Shankwitz and his team went to pick up the custom-made wings they had commissioned for Chris when he got a radio call: the little boy had been taken to the hospital and was in a coma. Shankwitz was devastated.

“We took the wings to his room anyway,” he said, “and just as I pinned his wings on the uniform, Chris came out of the coma. He started giggling. ‘Am I a motorcycle officer now?’ he asked. I told him yes. A few hours later he passed away. I like to believe those wings carried him to heaven.”

The Arizona Highway Patrol did a full police funeral for Chris. Shankwitz explained, “In Chris, we lost a fellow officer that day. When we got to Illinois where he was going to be buried, we were pulled over by the Illinois State Police. When we told them what we were doing, they escorted us. We were met at the cemetery by Illinois Police, all in dress uniform. Like I said, we lost a fellow officer that day.”

“Chris was buried in his uniform. His tombstone reads Chris Greicius, Arizona Trooper. It was a truly unbelievable sight. When we got home, we asked, ‘Why can’t we do this for other children?’ And Make-A-Wish was born. It started with in a bank account. There are now 60 chapters in the United States and Make-A-Wish International has 39 affiliates, serving children in nearly 50 countries on five continents. Over 480,000 wishes have been granted.

Shankwitz said, “Every 26 to 28 minutes a child gets a wish, because of one little boy. Never underestimate the difference one person can have on the world.”

More about Frank Shankwitz and the Make-A-Wish Foundation can be found in his memoir, Wish Man, which has also been developed into a movie by the same title, available on Netflix.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

At the height of the Korean War, Air Force pilot A.J. D’Amario was on his first solo flight since arriving in country. Luckily for him, it wasn’t a combat mission, he was just on a routine sortie to “have fun boring holes in the sky.” Things got a lot more interesting for D’Amario immediately upon taking off. He would have to put a few rounds from his sidearm in the plane before he could bring it down.


D’Amario’s P-80 Shooting Star jet fighter wasn’t the latest and greatest plane, but it was still a good fighter to have. He would have to get used to it. The MiG-15 was tearing through P-80 Fighters, but there weren’t yet enough F-86 Sabres to go around. Still, the P-80 held its own: the first American jet-to-jet kill was made behind the stick of a Shooting Star. None of that was on D’Amario’s mind as he shot up into the wild blue yonder. He was more concerned about his left fuel tank. It felt heavy – it wasn’t feeding fuel to the engine.

He wanted to land immediately, but that much fuel was a no-go for the Korean War-era U.S. Air Force. The tower at Suwan, Korea, wasn’t about to have a melted runway if that much jet fuel caught fire on the flightline. They told him to dump his tanks at a bomb range and then come back.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

D’Amario retired from the Air Force as a Lt. Col.

(U.S. Air Force)

The young pilot flew over to the range, and as soon as he came upon his target area, he flipped the switches for the bomb release. Unfortunately, nothing happened. D’Amario’s P-80 Shooting Star was still carrying the heavy tanks of dangerous fuel and had no way of dumping the tanks, feeding the engine, or landing. He did what anyone who’s felt enough frustration with malfunctioning equipment wanted to do: he shot it.

But that wasn’t his first reaction. He made a few bombing runs, trying to release the left tank at every turn. He even once hit the plane’s “panic button” – the button that released everything attached to the fuselage. It did dump everything, everything except his errant fuel tank, full of fiery death. The tower told him he was cleared to bail out. The only problem with that is that bailing out comes with its own potential consequences. The loss of the aircraft is a definite consequence.

“… pilots really hate to punch out of a perfectly flyable airplane,” D’Amario later wrote, “And I figured I still had one option worth trying.”

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

U.S. Air Force P-80 Shooting Stars with drop tanks.

(Lockheed)

That’s when the pilot opened the canopy of his jet aircraft (which he did slow down to 220 miles per hour) and pulled out his issued sidearm, a Colt M1911, and fired at the very full, very malfunctioning fuel tank.

“… liquid fuel will not burn,” D’Amario writes. “At least not like vapors, so I aimed for the part of the tank I was sure would be full of liquid.”

D’Amario fired four shots at the tank. The first shot was to understand just where to shoot to hit the tank while flying at 220 miles per hour. The next three rounds punctured the tank and went through the other side. It worked: the P-80 was still flying, and liquid fuel was pouring out of the left tank. Best of all, D’Amario and his Shooting Star did not become a real-life burning streak across the sky.

He was able to drain the tank and make a “routine” landing a half-hour later, convinced he was the only USAF pilot to shoot his own plane when it malfunctioned.

“Thank goodness for my .45,” he wrote.

Humor

5 of the best tips for surviving graveyard shifts

The sun is just about to set, the weather is cooling, and most of the base is either winding down or gearing up to let off steam following that long day of duty.


It’s 1700 and you’re prepping for your twelve-hour graveyard shift that starts in two hours. For some night owls, this shift and these hours are nearly perfect. For most, however, the graveyard presents the ultimate test of willpower: You vs. the Sandman.

Here are five of the very best tips for surviving a graveyard shift.

Related: 5 of the sneakiest ways people try to fool the front gate MPs

5. Caffeine

For as much caffeine as the average graveyard shift worker consumes, it is really a wonder that there hasn’t been some kind of corporate sponsorship put in place — or a blanket discount at the very least.

There’s a reason that so many Monster, Red Bull, Rockstar, etc. are found in gate shacks and patrol cars everywhere… they do what they’re supposed to do!

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
The base is protected by caffeine and defenders. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

4. Push-ups (calisthenics)

Feeling a little sluggish after that mid-shift meal? Facing a sugar crash after pounding three Monsters before making it through a third of your shift? Taking heavy damage as the Sandman rains down haymakers from every angle?

Do some push-ups.

Getting the blood pumping is a surefire way to keep sleep at bay. Excitement can be hard to come by in the wee hours of the morning and you’re happily serving your country. A few sets of push-ups will give you a boost and help you make it to your second wind.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
For a bonus, grab a few of your also-tired comrades and have a party. (USMC photo by Cpl. Jacqueline Sanderfer)

3. Games

It’s not all doom and gloom at work, we can have fun… when appropriate. You’d be surprised how a couple of simple games, especially done in conjunction with duty, can make the night fly right on by.

Just make sure you’re taking care of your responsibilities and not doing anything that could remotely result in NJP and you’re golden.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
Doing anything from this movie will get you NJP. (Image from Fox Searchlight’s Super Troopers)

2. Hide and seek

Unlike the previous point, this isn’t actually a game. This is all about taking advantage of how slow and quiet the base can be during a graveyard shift.

Do you job and stay out of the way.

Also Read: 5 of the top excuses MPs hear during traffic stops

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
Just trying to make it through the night. (Image from Columbia Pictures’ Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2)

1. Read WATM

I mean, you’re already here. Check out some of our other content, maybe a few Mighty Minutes can help get you over the hump.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
Might as well take a look around, right? (Pictured: WATM host, Shannon Corbeil)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Reality Winner sentenced to five years for Russia-hack leak

A U.S. intelligence worker who pleaded guilty to sending a secret report on Russian election cyberattacks to a news website was sentenced on Aug. 23, 2018 to five years in prison by a federal court in Georgia.

Reality Winner, 26, a U.S. Air Force veteran with a top-secret clearance who was working for an intelligence contractor, admitted to leaking secrets to The Intercept, which published details of the National Security Agency document in June 2017.


The revelation dealt with Russian hacking targeting a company that supplies election technology.

The U.S. Justice Department said Winner printed out and mailed the report in May 2017 to the website, which specializes in investigative reporting on national security topics.

She was arrested in June 2017 and reached a plea agreement two months ago, admitting one count of unlawful retention and transmission of national defense information.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

Reality Winner

(standwithreality.org photo)

A federal judge in Augusta, Georgia, accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Winner to five years and three months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

The sentence is the longest ever given to someone for illegally disclosing government information, Winner’s attorneys said, and it comes amid efforts by the White House to crack down on leaks to the press.

John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said Winner’s leaks “put our nation’s security at risk” and he hoped that her jail sentence “will deter others from similar unlawful action in the future.”

Betsy Reed, editor in chief of The Intercept, said that Winner should be honored and that her sentencing and other prosecutions of whistle-blowers are attacks on freedom of speech and of the press.

“Instead of being recognized as a conscience-driven whistle-blower whose disclosure helped protect U.S. elections, Winner was prosecuted with vicious resolve by the Justice Department,” Reed said.

Featured image: Reality Winner is seen in a photo released by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in the U.S. state of Georgia.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

World War II Combat Cameraman and Hollywood animation legend dies

He is widely known as a Hollywood animation legend who worked at the studios that created Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. But Hal Geer also flew 86 combat missions as a combat cameraman in World War II.


Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
B-24 Liberators over Ploesti on Aug. 1, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

According to a report by the Hollywood Reporter, Geer died Jan. 26 at the age of 100. According to IMDB, his credits included the movies “Daffy Duck: Fantastic Island,” “Bugs Bunny: All-American Hero,” and “The Bugs Bunny Mystery Special” as well as over twenty short cartoons.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
Nose art Hal Geer would have loved. Bugs Bunny nose art from an FB-111 with the 380th Bombardment Wing. In World War II, the 380th used B-24 Liberators, and Geer worked on a number of cartoons featuring the wascally wabbit. (USAF photo)

Geer’s World War II service took him over the China-Burma-India Theater, flying in Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers and North American B-25 medium bombers assigned to the 14th Air Force under Major General Claire Chennault, who founded the legendary Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group.

According to a 2007 report in the Ventura County Recorder, Geer made the documentary film “China Crisis” while serving. Geer told the Recorder that this World War II film was the one he was the most proud of.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

In a 2005 interview with China Youth Daily, Geer discussed more about his time with the 14th Air Force. “China Crisis” discussed how the United States supported the 14th Air Force, getting supplies over what was called “The Hump.”

Today, it’s better known as the Himalaya Mountains. The film also covered the Japanese Army’s 1944 offensive in China (which doesn’t get as much press when compared to how America advanced in the Pacific that year). Thirteen combat cameramen shot over 300 hours of footage to make a film that was less than an hour long. Five cameramen were killed in action.

“China Crisis” had been slated to be shown along as part of a 1946 War Bonds drive. That drive would not take place, as Japan surrendered in August 1945 after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Perhaps, someday, DOD will find a way to make that film, and many others, available online for Americans to view.

popular

Airman claims she was abducted by aliens

In an interview with Aquarian Radio, Former Air Force radar trafficking operator Niara Terela Isley claims she was abducted at age 25 while working at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. Throughout 1980, she was taken to the moon eight to ten times, where she was forced to have *ahem* relations with reptile aliens on the far side of the moon.


Her enslavement doesn’t stop at alleged abuse. In taped interviews, Isely says she was forced to operate machinery to excavate parts of the moon to expand the alien military installation there. The base is manned by reptilian personnel, “gray aliens” and humans as well. Her abductor was “humanoid, with a tail, yellow eyes and vertically split pupils, who would pass her around to other reptilians” and wouldn’t let her sleep.

Isely, now 60, lives in Colorado and is a mother of two. She recovered these memories through hypnosis when she noticed she couldn’t remember three months of her life during the year 1980.

The idea of reptilian, shape-shifting aliens didn’t originate with Isely. British conspiracy theorist David Icke believes they come from the Alpha Draconis star system and hide in underground bases. Icke believes they are creating a worldwide conspiracy against humans. Conspirators include Presidents Bush and Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, Mick Jagger, Alan Greenspan, and Tony Blair.

 

“A group of reptilian humanoids, called the Babylonian Brotherhood, control humanity… I wish I didn’t have to introduce the following information [on reptilian shape-shifting] because it complicates the story and opens me up to mass ridicule. but I’m not afraid to go where information leads me. Humanity is mind controlled and only slightly more conscious than your average zombie.” – David Icke
The Biggest Secret (1999)

NOW: The 6 craziest military myths

OR: The guy who committed the biggest hack of the US military is still free

Intel

What would happen if the F-35 attacked Russia’s S-400 missile system

The United States’ NATO ally Turkey is in hot water over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile system. Turkey also purchased the U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which the U.S. has not delivered due to the sanctions imposed as a result of Turkey’s S-400 missiles.

The Turkish Defense Minister recently doubled down on Turkey’s S-400 missiles, saying it would rather not be a part of NATO’s integrated defense if it meant giving up the missiles. But are they getting the better deal? 

A Russian S-400 Triumf. (Image by Vitaliy Ragulin, Wikipedia)
A Russian S-400 Triumf. (Image by Vitaliy Ragulin, Wikipedia)

The Russian S-400 was first designed in the 1990s with many real-world scenarios in mind. But since the F-35 and the F-22 were still years away, how could the Russians be prepared for that kind of technology?

There are a few important things to know about the F-35. The first is that it’s a multi-role attack aircraft. It can be used for reconnaissance and electronic warfare just as easily as making strafing runs. The plane’s avionic collects and shares information with the entire command and control structure. 

Secondly, the major threat behind the F-35 is its stealth ability combined with its heavy weapons payload. The aircraft is designed to enter airspace undetected and clear the way for more U.S. forces. To do this, it needs to enter unseen while being able to strike from long distances. It can attack targets from more than 100 miles away.

While the exact range of its weapons are classified, the F-35 can essentially enter the battlespace undetected, disrupt enemy sensors, and then see and hit targets from more than a hundred miles away. How do you defend against that?

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
F-35 Lightning II demonstration team members sprint to their positions during the ground show at the Defenders of Liberty Air & Space Show at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., May 17, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)

The Russian S-400 is an interesting counter to the long ranges of the F-35 for many reasons. First and foremost is that the S-400 missiles aren’t just some missiles fired from the back of a truck. The system is designed to be integrated into existing anti-air radar systems, including ones that were developed in the 1980s.

The S-400 was also designed to be integrated into other aircraft, missile systems, and even armored personnel carriers on the ground. So the addition of the S-400 gives a boost to the capabilities of any surface weapons already in place. 

Another major feature of the Russian missiles is the face that its command post doesn’t need to be near any one of the missile sites, so destroying an S-400 battery isn’t necessarily catastrophic to its integrated air defense system. 

While it’s not known if the Russian S-400 radar can see the F-22 or F-35, the system is designed to react quickly should they detect an incoming attack. The S-400 provides similar electronic warfare and jamming capabilities as the F-35. Each radar site is also capable of using electronic countermeasures to throw anti-radar missiles off course. And if the Russians have to shut down the active radar, there are still passive radar that could provide information from cellphone towers and television and radio broadcast towers, while emitting no radar signals. 

The S-400 is a decentralized system of eyes and missile launchers spread over hundreds of miles, using active and passive radar, target masking, creating false targets and launching missiles that can hit aircraft from more than 150 miles away.

Low-observable – or “stealth” – systems are the biggest issue. The stealth systems of the F-22 and F-35 are designed to reflect incoming radar signals in a different direction, so that radar signals won’t return to the point of origin. With bistatic radar, the signal isn’t supposed to go to a single point of origin – the transmitter and receiver are in two different places. 

While bistatic radar doesn’t negate the advantages of stealth technology, it sure is a pain in the side of an F-35 pilot. 

With so many classified variables in each system, it’s impossible to say for certain what would happen in a fight between F-35s or F-22s and the Russian S-400. The deciding factor will be who sees who first, and what ability they have to fend off the attack. What we can say for certain is that the S-400 is probably the F-35’s most formidable opponent. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

The 14,000 Canadians and 200 tanks that landed at Juno Beach on June 6, 1944 fought bitterly to breach Fortress Europe and begin the long march to Berlin. Almost a year later Canada and the rest of the Allied powers celebrated the fall of Nazi Germany.


Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
Crewmembers and officers who served on the Bomb pose with it on Jun. 8, 1945 in the Netherlands. Photo: Library Archives of Canada

Only one Canadian tank from those 200 fought every day of the invasion across Western Europe. “Bomb,” a Sherman, travelled 4,000 miles and fired 6,000 rounds while fighting the Nazis. From Juno Beach, Bomb was sent northeast to the Netherlands through Belgium before cutting east towards Berlin.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
A tank from the Bomb’s regiment, possibly the Bomb itself, hunts snipers in Falaise, France in 1944. Photo: Canadian National Archives

Soon after Bomb crossed into Germany near Emden, Bomb was sent to Kleve on the German side of the border with the Netherlands. In the early morning of Feb. 26, 1945 Bomb escorted a column of infantry in armored vehicles forward. German artillery opened up and pinned the column down in thick mud.

The Germans put up a smoke screen and continued their attack. But the Bomb led a counterattack that relieved the pressure. Surrounded by German anti-tank teams and under heavy mortar, artillery, and machine gun fire, Bomb and another Canadian tank held their ground for 20 minutes until infantry was able to reinforce them, stopping the Germans from destroying the Canadian column.

Neill was later awarded the Military Cross for the battle.

As the war wound to a close, the Bomb found itself in continuously heavy combat. On the last day of the European war, the Bomb was under the command of Lt. Ernest Mingo. He and his men faced off against a German officer who kept sending soldiers to try and Allied Forces.

“The land between us was covered with dead German soldiers,” he said, according to a Sunday Daily News article. “He must have known the war was over, but he just kept sending them out, I guess trying to kill Canadians.”

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand
Photo: Wikipedia/Skaarup.HA CC 4.0

Despite being the only Canadian tank to serve every day of the war in Europe, the Bomb was nearly melted down as scrap in Belgium after the war. It was rescued and went on display in 1947. In 2011 the tank underwent restoration. It is currently at the Sherbrooke Hussars Armoury in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

MIGHTY HISTORY

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part four

The Central Highlands of Vietnam

Leaving the sights and sounds of modern day Saigon, we began our journey to the Central Highlands of Vietnam. As we left the city that I had come to feel comfortable in and approached the outlying rural areas, I felt a heightened sense of awareness.

Even though I knew this was 2017 and the war was far behind, my head was on a swivel and my eyes were constantly searching for threats. Intellectually, I understood that the jungles and hills of Vietnam held no threats, but my emotional side equally felt the need to be aware.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

The pungent smells of the countryside – logs and vegetation burning to clear land, outdoor cooking alongside the road, and unrestricted vehicle exhaust were the same smells I had encountered years before and brought back a familiar feeling and sense of nostalgia. The remembered rubber plantations from my previous years in Vietnam have given way to rolling fields of coffee, but the same farmers living at the edges of the fields are the same people, just doing what needs to be done to provide for their families.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

The brown soil of the areas around Saigon turned to red clay as we moved into the plateaus of the Central Highlands and the lowland farmers begin to turn in to descendants of the Montagnard tribes that I had worked with years ago.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

Passing through Gia Nghia I think of an old friend, Martha Raye – comedienne, nurse, Army Reserve Officer and teammate of many Green Berets.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

Stopping at a truck stop for a lunch of Pho, Jason’s favorite dish, I can look west across a valley and in the distance can see what I’m pretty sure is Cambodia. I spent a lot of time there and it feels surreal to see it in such a serene setting.

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

Driving into the lowering night and through a heavy rain storm, I feel my gut tightening as we approach the city of Buon Ma Thuot. It’s almost a physical action to push down the emotions that are starting to well up inside me as we get closer and closer to the city.

To be continued in Buon Ma Thuot

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

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