Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France - We Are The Mighty
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Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

This article is sponsored by World of Tanks Console.

We all know Stone Cold Steve Austin from his years when he was the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. “The Texas Rattlesnake” was one of the toughest, most badass wrestlers who left an indelible mark in the ring — both on TV and on the silver screen. Recently, we got to see Stone Cold sit down with some gentlemen who exhibited an entirely different type of toughness and heroism. By partnering up with Wargaming, the company responsible for the hit game World of Tanks, Austin recently sat down to interview three World War II tankers about their experiences. Their stories are powerful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.

The first veteran interviewed is Walter Stitt.


Walter served in World War II as a tank gunner. He was assigned to E Company of the 33rd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. Upon answering the call and enlisting, his father gave him a piece of advice. He told Walter to not tell the Army that he was a truck driver, but to say he was a student — “maybe they’ll send you to school,” he mused. So, Walter listened to his father and told the Army he didn’t want to have anything to do with a steering wheel. And so, Walter was promptly assigned to be a tanker — which had levers and not a wheel (got to love Army humor, right?).

Stitt participated in the Normandy campaign and was initially anchored offshore because the weather was so bad. After three days, the tanks finally were allowed to move onto the beach and into the infamous hedgerow country of the Normandy peninsula. A mile up the road, he had to dig his first foxhole — and he quickly found out why. That night, a German bomber rained fiery mayhem on troops just a few yards from his position. After that, Walter said, “whenever they said ‘dig a foxhole”, I was one of the ones who grabbed a shovel and started.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

US M4 Sherman, equipped with a 75 mm main gun, with infantry walking alongside.

(US Army)

When Steve Austin asks, “what was it like the first time being shot at?” Stitt tells us a harrowing story of a sniper taking a shot at him and missing by a “matter of a couple of inches.” Unfortunately, not all of his fellow troops were so lucky. “If a tank got hit, usually someone got killed… That was the sad part.”

So, how dangerous was it to be a tanker during World War II? The 3rd Armored Division had more killed in action than the 101st Airborne. In that Division alone, over 22,000 men were killed and over 600 tanks were lost in the campaign to liberate Europe.

Stone Cold Steve Austin’s questions help Stitt take us on an amazing journey into one of the most far-reaching conflicts in history. To learn more, straight from the mouths of allied heroes, check out the interview.

To continue the Tank action, be sure to check out World of Tanks on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One today. Through the World of Tanks Tanker Rewards program, Wargaming offers tons of benefits and exclusive rewards both in-game and in person for all registered players. Be a part of our current WWE season and get endless opportunities to claim WWE and Tanker rewards. To learn more about the program, click here.

This article is sponsored by World of Tanks Console.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran is hit with droughts, riots, and now power shortages

The Iranian capital was hit by power outages amid protests in Tehran over worsening economic conditions in the country.

The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that Tehran was hit by a blackout for several hours on June 27, 2018, due to the “overheating” of the nation’s power grid.

The Iran Power Network Management Company, a power supplier, said consumption reached a peak at 4 p.m. local time on June 26, 2018, prompting the blackouts.


The Energy Ministry has said electricity consumption has increased by some 28 percent compared to 2017.

Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said in April 2018 that electricity output from hydropower plants would decrease because Iran was experiencing its worst drought in the past 50 years.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

Ardakanian said power outages were inevitable and urged consumers to use less electricity.

The power shortages in Tehran coincided with demonstrations in the capital and other cities over the falling value of the national currency, the rial.

The value of the rial has plummeted by nearly a half in the last six months, helping feed a spiral of rising prices for everyday goods.

The currency’s fall accelerated after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and reinstating U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

Protesters on the streets and in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar staged demonstrations for three consecutive days starting from June 24, 2018.

There were no reports of fresh protests on June 28, 2018, a day after a heavy police presence on Tehran’s streets and at the Grand Bazaar.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret’s new book challenges you to find resiliency

Ryan Hendrickson is a retired Green Beret who’s been through a lot. Despite overwhelming challenges, he refuses to wear the title of victim and instead calls himself a survivor. He wants you to do the same.

Tip of the Spear wasn’t supposed to be a book. It started as a journal for Hendrickson, a way to work through his thoughts and post-traumatic stress. But after a few months, he saw something in those writings – as did friends. “The therapeutic effect I got from writing actually turned into a book. I had to see the silver lining in something as bad as stepping on an IED [improvised explosive device]. A lot of people that were reading it said the book talks to everyone — not just military — as far as not being a victim in your life,” Hendrickson explained.


In September of 2010, Hendrickson was deployed to Afghanistan as an 18 Charlie, a Special Forces Engineer with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th special forces. He had just completed the elite schooling to earn the coveted Green Beret and was feeling on top of the world. The first chapter of Tip of the Spear takes the reader vividly through what it’s like to arrive in Afghanistan – and the mission that changed his life.

When Hendrickson and his team entered the deserted Afghan village before dawn, he said he knew something big was coming. When his interpreter went too far ahead of uncleared ground, he had no choice but to quickly and quietly get him back. “I grabbed him by the back of the shirt and moved him around. You never like to have any unknown area or blind spot, so I put the muzzle of my M-4 in the doorway of the compound and stepped back… right onto the IED,” he shared.

Hendrickson said he didn’t realize he hit it at first, remembering that he just felt like he couldn’t breathe because of the heavy dust and ammonia in the air. “As the dust started to clear, I saw that my boot was six inches away from my leg…When I reached behind my knee to pull my leg up, my boot sort of flopped over with my toes pointed at me. I saw these two pearly white objects sticking out of my pant leg. Then it kicked in that it was bone,” he said.

It was then that Hendrickson realized it was really bad. His team couldn’t rush in to support him either, since they knew that if there was one IED, there were probably five. His interpreter started a tourniquet, effectively saving his life. After a while, his team was able to safely make it to him and they got him out. “We could hear the Taliban on chatter celebrating that I got hit and that they were going to move into position to ambush us. They splinted the leg the best they could to put the lower and upper part together,” he said.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

Hendrickson was in theater for over a week as they tried to stabilize him and keep him alive. When he made it to San Antonio, it would take 28 surgeries to reattach his leg. Then the real work began. “I had a sergeant major who came in to see me; he told me if I could get medically cleared he’d send me back to combat. That was the big driving factor behind me taking control of my life and hitting rehab as hard as I could. That and knowing the Taliban were cheering when I got hurt. I wasn’t going to let them beat me or win,” he explained.

Although he was medically retired, Hendrickson refused to accept it. After spending a grueling year in rehabilitation, he passed all the required tests and was reinstated into active duty through a special waiver. In March of 2012 – only a year and a half after almost losing his leg to an IED – his boots were back in the sands of Afghanistan.

It wasn’t easy though, he shared. The guys he was working with were concerned he’d be a liability. Hendrickson was sent to the biggest known IED province of Afghanistan, a real test given his own experience. He had to prove himself to his teammates and did it by methodically finding IED after IED, keeping them all safe.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

Hendrickson would continue to serve and deploy for years after that. In 2016, he earned a Silver Star for heroic efforts during a difficult seven-hour firefight in Afghanistan. “It wasn’t what I did, it was what we did…It’s the same thing all of us say, we were just doing our job,” he shared. He headed home fromAfghanistan in 2017 and found himself struggling with a lot, mentally.

After trying unsuccessfully to talk with a counselor, he sought help through the chaplain. He advised him to write, using that avenue to tell his story and work through his thoughts. Those thoughts and writing were unknowingly turning into a story of his life, both the good and the bad. It was here that he found healing and the deep resiliency he needed to never feel like a victim again.

Tip of the Spear will bring the reader on a powerful journey through a difficult childhood leading to military service spanning three branches, ultimately leading Hendrickson to become an elite Green Beret. The story culminates with the unfathomable challenge of coming back from an injury that almost took his life and was certainly considered the end of his military career. Hendrickson refused to quit and fought his way past the odds stacked against him.

It’s Hendrick’s hope that readers will use his journey to be inspired to do the same in their own lives. Anything is possible he says, but first you have to become a survivor, not a victim.

To purchase your copy of Tip of the Spear, click here.

Humor

6 things you’ll never hear an infantryman say

If you know anyone who has served in the infantry, then you’ve probably noticed that they have a… unique sense of humor. They have this amazing ability to make everything they say sound super sarcastic. It’s a gift that gets passed down through many generations of infantrymen. It’s what gives them the incredible ability to be seemingly unaffected by the endless stream of bullsh*t that life in the infantry provides.

Other service members (read: POGs) have a hard time understanding just how tough it is to serve in the grunts. Considering the nature of their job — killing the bad guys — life in the infantry breeds some pretty crass humor. The hard-chargers use every curse word in the book and, when “the book” is exhausted, they’ll make up new ones. Although few topics are taboo among grunts, there are a few things you’ll never hear them say.


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“Heading out to the field is my favorite way to start a Monday morning.”

This infantryman needs theirs head checked if this ever spills out of their mouth.

“I think I’ll stay in all weekend to do all my online training.”

The sad thing is that many of the senior enlisted, who were once juniors, try and influence their men to stay in and study. It’s a strange world we live in…

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“No beer’s allowed in the barracks? I’m okay with that.”

Underage drinking is illegal — but is extremely common in the barracks. Getting caught with beer, really, isn’t a big deal. Despite that, we always find ways to hide it before field day inspection on Fridays: we drink it ahead of time.

“Barracks duty on a four-day weekend? That’s what I’m talking about!”

The military requires that there always be a set of open eyeballs lurking around the barracks. Getting ‘voluntold’ to stand duty while everyone else is off having fun is a real b*tch.

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“I joined the military thinking my senior enlisted would truly respect my opinion and that’s exactly what happened.”

Nope! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone care what an E-1 has to say.

“Man, I hope we go on a long hike in the pouring rain.”

Nobody wishes it, but it happens all the time. Even when there’s not a blemish in the sky, as soon as a grunt unit steps off for their ruck march, dark clouds rush in and piss on everything.

MIGHTY CULTURE

R. Riveter’s new collection gives old uniforms new life

There are some things we can’t bear to part with. This holds especially true of items with sentimental value, those which spark memories or are a piece of family history. However, those items often remain tucked away in a box, a chest of drawers, attic or basement as we carry them from duty station to duty station. 

It’s those special items that inspired Cameron Cruse and Lisa Bradley, co-founders of the military-spouse owned handbag company R. Riveter, to come up with its one-of-a-kind Heirloom Collection earlier this year. 

“Most of us have things in our homes that have been passed down from generation to generation and mean a great deal to us but we struggle to find a way to showcase them every day,” Bradley said. 

The R. Riveter project allows customers to transform their well-loved and sentimental materials like old military uniforms, jackets and duffle bags into one-of-a-kind handbags and accessories.

For Mary Schmid Carter, the launch of the Heirloom Collection was fortuitous after finding her 93-year-old grandfather’s military uniform from his time serving during World War II.

“We’d always heard about his time serving in the South Pacific, and what else would you do with a uniform that’s at least 70 years old?” she said.

Charles Feigl received his draft letter in January of 1944, just one month after his 18th birthday. He enlisted in the Navy and packed his bags for training. After learning morse code, ship steering and how to prepare nautical charts, the young man from Buffalo, N.Y. boarded a newly commissioned ship on a journey to see more of the world than he could have ever imagined. 

“Our Heirloom Collection is a great way to honor our veterans and create something truly unique that is useful and beautiful,” Cruse said.

Crafted by military spouses like the rest of R. Riveter’s handbags and accessories, pieces created through the Heirloom Project range in price between $65-$500 depending on the size of the product and materials used.

When she took the uniform into R. Riveter’s flagship store in Southern Pines, N.C., the R. Riveter team discovered it was a Coast Guard uniform, even though Feigl served in the Navy.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

Turns out, that discovery was part of Feigl’s story.

After the war was over in 1945, he made the long journey home from the Pacific to be discharged. On his last night of active duty service, Feigl was assigned an overnight watch on an empty English ship in New York Harbor. He returned to base the next morning to discover his belongings ransacked. His uniform, badges and memorabilia were all stolen. 

“He had to buy a uniform just to be discharged,” Schmid Carter said.

Her goal was to have handbags made for each of the women on that side of the family, including her mother, aunts and cousins.

“I knew it would be a challenge to get ten handbags made from just one uniform, but the team at R. Riveter was determined to make it happen,” she added.

Schmid Carter expects the handbags to arrive just in time for Christmas. 

“I think it will be a really special moment, an opportunity to honor [Feigl] while we still have him here. Rather than his uniform collecting dust, each of us can carry a piece of our family history with us,” said Schmid Carter.

Those interested in creating their own heirloom handbags can visit the R. Riveter flagship store in Southern Pines, or take a style survey on the R. Riveter website. There, the process is simple. Just upload photos of the item(s) and begin creating a one-of-a-kind piece. Customers select the leather color used, size of bags, and what aspects of the material they provide they want to be featured in their customized heirloom bag. The average bag takes approximately 6-10 weeks to craft.

Schmid Carter raves about the experience.

“It was wonderful. If I can get my hands on my other grandfather’s military uniform, I’d love to have handbags created for the other side of my family.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

How the KGB trained its ‘illegal’ sleeper agents

Contrary to what some science fiction and superhero movies might have you believe, the KGB – the Soviet Union’s state security and intelligence service – didn’t grow its agents in laboratories. They didn’t have superpowers and they didn’t have supernatural combat training. 

What they did have was exceptional intelligence, training, and preparation. Jack Barsky was born Albrecht Dittrich in Soviet-dominated East Germany. He trained as a chemical engineer and chemistry professor before he was recruited by the KGB in 1969. In his book, Deep Undercover, he recalls the process by which he learned to be a KGB “illegal” living in the United States.

While studying for his PhD in chemistry, the KGB sent him to East Berlin to learn to adapt to a new, unfamiliar environment. While there, he decided to join permanently. He left his family behind to learn Morse code, short wave radio, cryptography and a language. Dittrich chose English. While in East Berlin, he also learned how to recognize and ditch a surveillance team. 

He was so good at avoiding detection, only one KGB surveillance team ever got the best of him. It led to the new agent’s belief that he was smarter than everyone else in the intelligence organization. He could also decrypt messages at the rate of 100 words per minute. 

The KGB also taught him an advanced means of using invisible ink to send letters through the mail. It began with writing an “open letter,” to a false family member or friend. This is the letter one would read upon opening. 

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France
“Dearest mother… did you know they have more than one TV channel here?!” (Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

He would then use a piece of contact paper and a pen to write the secret message, one that could only be read if someone knew the secret message was there. It was sent to one of many flagged KGB addresses. Only KGB headquarters, called “The Center,” would know how to develop it. 

They also taught him how to recruit Americans sympathetic to the Soviet Union.

On top of the spycraft, he also had to learn to adapt to his new environments, wherever they would be, with whatever means he had at his disposal. He learned the nuances of American English watching TV. His “legend” – the background narrative of his American life – said that his mother, an immigrant, spoke German at home, which is why he had a slight German accent. 

An American working for the KGB in Moscow blessed his American English well enough that the KGB decided to send him to the U.S. to be an illegal, a sleeper agent living under an assumed identity in the United States. 

To enter the United States, he would first have to get a real identity, beginning with a real birth certificate. KGB illegals would use birth certificates from recently deceased Americans who were roughly their same age, requesting the certificates through the mail. Once they had the birth certificate, they could get other legal documents. 

Dittrich’s first attempt to enter the U.S. involved getting the birth certificate of an American named “Hank” while posted in Montreal, Canada. He learned a lot of American English while watching U.S. television in Canada, which gave him a more believable American accent. Although that mission was a bust, The Center had an authentic one waiting for him in Moscow.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France
“Dy-no-MITE! Oh, I’m using that for sure…” (Image by Pavlofox from Pixabay)

His new identity was that of American Jack Barsky. Within weeks of obtaining that official document, KGB agent Jack Barsky was living in New York City and had received a library card, a driver’s license and was working as a bike messenger. 

The KGB’s biggest goal was an authentic American passport. An illegal with a real U.S. passport would be used to bring the entire system down, Barsky says. But it was not to be. Barsky not only never received a passport, he was eventually recalled to Moscow under the penalty of death.

By this time he had a family in New York (he also had a family in East Berlin). But the birth of his daughter in the United States prompted him to ignore Moscow’s warning. To find out how Jack Barsky managed to stay in New York without retribution from the Soviet Union, read his book, Deep Undercover


Feature Image by Roberto Lee Cortes from Pixabay

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first female pilot to break the sound barrier held more records than any other pilot

Immediately after the birth of aviation, there was a race to beat records, improve techniques, and push aerial boundaries. Being the first female to break the sound barrier is just one of the many records that Jacqueline Cochran holds, solidifying her place in history as a pioneer of the Golden Age of flying.


Jacqueline Cochran was born Bessie Lee Pittman on May 11, 1906, in Muscogee, Florida. Growing up in poverty, by just six years old, she started working at her family’s cotton mill in Georgia. Her childhood was rough, but it ingrained in her a will and resolve that catapulted her in achieving personal goals.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

A young Jacqueline Cochran on the precipice of her aviation career.

She went on to marry George Cochran at the young age of 14 and changed her name to Jacqueline Cochran. Her marriage didn’t last, but that didn’t stop her from making a name for herself in the business world. In the early 1930s, she decided to venture into becoming a beautician and, eventually, owned her own cosmetics company that lasted well into the 1970s.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

Jacqueline Cochran simultaneously ran her successful cosmetic line during her aviation career.

However, it seemed that ordinary life was not suited for Cochran. She wanted to make a difference in the war efforts of the time and felt that flying would offer the hand-hold to do so. In 1932, her ambitions reached into the world of aviation and she began to train and study. After just three short weeks of instruction, she received her pilot’s license and set her sights even higher.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France
Above, Jacqueline Cochran in the cockpit of a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.

Cochran obtained many prestigious titles, including being the first woman to win the Bendix Trophy during the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race. She set an international altitude and speed record while becoming the first woman to make a blind landing. She earned the Distinguished Service Medal for leading the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WAFS) and continued to set speed records for 15-, 100-, and 500-km courses after breaking the sound barrier in an F-86 Sabre in 1953.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France
Chuck Yeager championed for Jacqueline Cochran and supplied her with guidance before she broke the sound barrier.

In addition to all these impressive records, she had time to lend a hand to the advancement of female aviators when she gained command over the British Air Transport Auxiliary, consisting of a select group of female pilots. In the U.S., Cochran directed the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in 1942, which provided more than one thousand pilots to the armed forces.

At the time of her death in 1980, her persistence and drive for excellence attributed to her collection of more speed, distance, and altitude records than anyone in the world, male or female.

Maryann Bucknum Brinley, a biographer, said it best,

“Jackie was an irresistible force… Generous, egotistical, compassionate, sensitive, aggressive — indeed an explosive study in contradictions — Jackie was consistent only in the overflowing energy with which she attacked the challenge of being alive.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the only tool you need to be the next Porta-John da Vinci

There are a few hallmarks of the infantry. There’s the marksmanship, the ability to read the terrain and predict enemy movements, and the knowledge of tactics and maneuvers.

And, most importantly, there’s the ability to turn just about anything into a phallic image.


(Fair warning: In case you couldn’t tell, penis drawings are going to be involved in this post. Do not keep scrolling if you don’t want to see them. Seriously, you can’t possibly be confused as to what comes next.)

Infantrymen draw penises in port-a-potties, they draw penises in the barracks, they draw penises on each other. It’s all about the penis drawings.

Sure, infantry training, Marine and Army, lacks a portion dedicated to drawing male genitalia, but it’s still traditional. It’s an important part of infantry life.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

Draw a penis from the side with really small testicles, get a penis with perfect proportions.

And that’s where Penint comes in. It’s an advanced web app that takes any and all drawings and improves them by turning them into perfectly proportioned penis drawings, just like an infantryman’s.

And, the web app works even if you accidentally draw something that isn’t a penis. Slip up and draw something weird like a flower? BAM! Penis.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

Here’s a little flower, short and stout. Here are the testes, here is the spout.

Best of all, you know what happens when you try to create training documents? Maybe you draw a nice, fancy rifle so you can teach the folks in your squad where the upper and lower receivers are.

Haha, you guessed it:

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

This is my rifle, this is my gun, one is for shooting, 10 seconds later, it’s for fun.

It works for any drawing. It’s like a miracle Etch-a-Sketch. You just do your single-line drawing, wait a minute, and you’ve got a penis.

If a Cav scout is drawing tanks and Bradleys to help remember what they’re working with, then they get a happy surprise when they’re done: Penises.

You can’t change the background color to blue or the foreground color to white, so it’s not quite perfect for fighter pilots, but we’re sure they could make do somehow.

Might even save some careers. Remember that squadron commander who was fired for drawing penises all over his maps? Now, he has a creative outlet that won’t cost him his career. And it’s even run through his computer, just like the ones that got him in trouble.

Or how about all the Marine pilots drawing penises in the sky? At least now they can perfectly plan out their routes if they still really insist on flying these problematic paths.

You’re welcome.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

The Army has released the names of three soldiers killed in Ghazni Province on Tuesday, November 27 by an IED strike that also wounded three more servicemembers and a U.S. contractor.


The deceased include Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, Virginia; Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Washington; and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pennsylvania.

“Dylan had an unusual drive to succeed and contribute to the team. He displayed maturity and stoicism beyond his years, and was always level-headed, no matter the situation,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Walsh, commander of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dylan’s family, fiancé, and friends. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.”

“Andrew and Eric were invaluable members and leaders in 3rd Special Forces Group and the special operations community. Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the families of these brave men,” said Col. Nathan Prussian, commander of 3rd Special Forces Group, in an Army Special Operations Command press release.

The city of Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name, has been heavily contested in the past year as Taliban militants have asserted themselves there. Earlier this year, militants managed to take the city, forcing Afghan security forces and U.S. allies to retake it.

The deaths of these soldiers came only days after the loss of aU.S. Army Ranger, Sgt. Leandro Jasso, likely due to an accidental fratricide incident while working with Afghan personnel in a close-quarters battle. Also this month, Mayor Brent Taylor, a Utah National Guard major, was killed in an apparent attack by a rogue Afghan special forces soldier.

Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, was killed when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Approximately 14,000 U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan in support of that country’s security forces. While U.S. and Afghan leaders are quick to point out that Afghan forces are in the lead and are taking the brunt of the casualties in fighting, the country is still reliant on American partners for some capabilities and help in others.

While Afghanistan has set up its own air support, intelligence networks, and even contracted for air ambulance services last year, some of the Afghan-led services have shown shortcomings. District centers have fallen every few weeks or months, though they often are retaken soon after.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, has said that there is no military solution to the stalemate in Afghanistan because the Taliban isn’t currently losing. Instead, he says that Afghan and international leaders should focus on taking the peace process forward while military forces provide them the window.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Det: Secret soldiers and unsung heroes of the troubles

Every country’s military has their own version of Special Forces. However, none of them are quite like the 14th Intelligence Detachment, ‘The Det,’ which was formed as part of the British Army Special Forces during a time known as The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Det was tasked with mounting surveillance and intelligence gathering operations against the Irish Republican Army and their allies.

They worked in the shadows. No one knew who they were or what they did. They received no acknowledgement or fanfare. The world will never know who they were. But, this dedicated force of highly-trained plain-clothes operatives worked to gather the intelligence needed for the British Army and others to maintain their peacekeeping role between the IRA and the unionist paramilitary forces.


The Det was formed after the British Army’s intelligence unit, the Military Reaction Force, was compromised. The MRF was compromised when IRA double-agents were discovered and then interrogated. They spilled details about a covert MRF operation out of Four Squares laundry in Belfast. This led to an IRA ambush of a MRF laundry van, which killed one undercover soldier.

With the MRF compromised, the Det was set up in 1973. The Det was open to all members of the armed services and to both genders. For the first time, women were allowed to be a part of the UK Special Forces. Each candidate had to pass a rigorous selection process. Members of the Det were expected to have excellent observational abilities, stamina and the ability to think under stress, as well as a sense of self-confidence and self-reliance as the majority of surveillance and intelligence gathering operations were solo missions.

The IRA treated the conflict like guerilla warfare for national independence. They used street fighting, sensational bombings and sniper attacks, which led to the British government classifying their aggressions as terrorism. The Det’s main focus during this time was utilizing their unique talents and training to gather information on the members of the IRA so that the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary could then intervene.

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The skills and training of the members of the Det included the disciplines of surveillance, planting bugs and covert video cameras, and close quarters combat. They were also experts in the use of pistols, sub machine guns, carbines and assault rifles. They were also trained in unarmed combat, as well as techniques to disarm and neutralize knife or gun-wielding assailants. It was important for each member to be adept in these skills in order to be able to protect themselves while undercover.

Along with this specialized training, the Det was also equipped with unique equipment much of which could be considered ahead of its time. This included a fleet of ordinary looking saloon cars called ‘Q’ cars. These vehicles were specially equipped with covert radios, video and still cameras, concealed weapons packs, brake lights which could be switched on and off, and engine cut off switches to prevent hijacking. All of these worked to aid in the surveillance missions of the operators. The Det also had their own flight of Army Air Corps Gazelles, which were referred to as ‘The Bat Flight.’ The Gazelles carried sophisticated surveillance gear which was uniquely suited to the operations of ‘The Det.’

From the time of its inception until the end of The Troubles the Det performed numerous operations, mostly following and observing suspected terrorists. These painstakingly planned intelligence operations often led to the arrest of the suspected terrorists and/or the discovery of weapons caches. Occasionally the members of the Det would find themselves in a firefight with terrorists, this was usually due to their cover being blown. Unfortunately, several Det operators tragically lost their lives in Northern Ireland.

The highly-trained members of the Det did not do what they did for glory. They didn’t do it for the accolades, as there were none offered. These elite members put themselves in danger because they believed in what they were working for. They wanted to do their part to protect their country and those they loved. They believed in justice. They believed in the greater good. They knew going into it that no one would ever know what they did or the sacrifices they made in the name of Queen and country. But, they went in anyway. They didn’t see themselves as heroic. But, the elite members of the Det can truly be considered the unsung heroes of The Troubles.

The Det has now been absorbed into the British Army’s Special Reconnaissance Regiment, with a mission to fight the global war on terrorism.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

On May 12, 1862, a gentleman named Robert Smalls was aboard a Confederate transport ship pretending to be doing his normal duties. In reality, he was preparing to take a risk that could cost him his life.


Smalls was a pilot for the Confederate Navy’s military transport, CSS Planter, and picked up four captured Union guns, over 200 rounds of ammunition, and other supplies. The Planter was a lightly armed ship that skirted up and down the coast and down rivers and allowed the Confederate military to move troops, supplies, and ammunition while staying away from the Union blockade that was set up a few miles out to sea. It also laid mines to keep the Union fleet away from the harbor.

When the ship got back to its dock, the three officers on board left Smalls in charge and went to their homes to sleep. They had no reason to think that Smalls or the crew would do anything crazy.

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Around 3 a.m. that night, Robert and the crew cast off. Instead of heading for their intended destination, they had to backtrack into the harbor. They made one stop where they onboarded several women and children and started off again. The Planter wasn’t exactly quiet. Literally anyone standing watch would hear and see her coasting along the harbor. Robert knew this from his years of experience piloting the boat.

He put on his captain’s spare uniform and a straw hat that was made to look like his captain’s. Along the way, the Planter passed by several Confederate lookout posts. As they approached each one, Robert would give the passcode and salute in the same mannerism as his captain. By 4:30 a.m., the ship was passing Fort Sumter. The old Union Fort was the site of the beginning of the war and full of Confederate soldiers guarding the harbor against the United States Navy.

As they passed the imposing walls of the Fort, Smalls being as cool as a cucumber, took off his hat and waved it. At the same time, he sounded the ships whistle with the correct number of blows.

A Confederate sentry yelled, “Blow the damned Yankees to hell, or bring one of them in.” Robert simply replied, “Aye Aye” and continued on.

As if the night wasn’t already stressful enough, Robert now headed straight to a Union blockade in a ship flying both the Confederate Stars and Bars as well as the South Carolina State Flag.

He ordered the flags lowered and a white flag raised. But there were two problems. It was still too dark to clearly see, and the morning fog came in pretty thick. It would be a tragedy to come all this way just to be blown out of the water. The Planter headed toward the USS Onward, which by now had taken sight of the ship and prepared its guns to sink it, at first assuming it was trying to attack the blockade.

As the Union shouted warnings at the Planter, they noticed the white flag and its occupants celebrating on the deck while gesturing furiously and cursing at Ft. Sumter.

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As the Planter pulled alongside the Onward, the Union captain started looking for the presumed Confederate captain. A man in a Confederate captain uniform came forward, took off his hat, and proclaimed, “Good morning, sir! I’ve brought you some of the old United States guns, sir! That were for Fort Sumter, sir!” Shock registered across the Union sailors’ faces as they finally cast eyes on the Planters “captain.”

Robert Smalls was a slave.

His entire crew was also slaves, and their families were aboard too. A bunch of slaves had just escaped from bondage by stealing a Confederate Naval vessel, and sailing right passed the Rebel’s own eyes!

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The Union realized that not only did they get a ship and its cargo, but a trove of valuable intelligence. On board was a book with all the Confederate passcodes as well as a map detailing the layout of mines in Charleston harbor, and Smalls own detailed knowledge of which forts were manned, gunned and their supplies.

As news spread Northward, the press took the story and ran with it. Smalls was an instant celebrity in the North. In the South, there was considerable embarrassment that a slave would be able to steal a naval vessel. Slaves had previously escaped by using hand made canoes and rafts as a means to get to the Union blockade. But to have slaves steal a ship of the Confederate Navy was too much. The three officers who left the ship were court-martialed. They claimed they wanted to spend time with their families, although many suspected they never fathomed that slaves would be smart enough to steal the ship.

They obviously didn’t know their pilot very well.

Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort, South Carolina to a slave mother and her owner. When he was 12, he was loaned out to work in the shipyards of Charleston. The practice was that slaves would work in urban areas in skilled positions, and the master would collect the wages for himself. Slaves in this position would be able to move around the city from their lodging to their place of work. Some even were able to save money on their own. Smalls worked his way up from a longshoreman to being a pilot of boats that traveled up and down the coast. From age 12 to 23, Smalls mastered the art of piloting ships and absorbed everything around him; the harbor, fortifications, passcodes, whistle codes, and when the war started, all the military intelligence he would learn.

When he was 17, Smalls married a slave that worked in a local hotel. By the time of his escape at 23, he had a family that he was worried about. He was conscripted into the Confederate Navy, but he knew with the war going the way it was at the time there was a chance the Rebels could win. He also was under constant duress that his wife and kids would be sold at a whim, never to be seen again. He knew at some point he had to do something, and on the morning of May 13, he sailed his way into history.

You would think at this point, with his family and his freedom that Smalls would be content to just relax and enjoy his celebrity status.

Robert Smalls had only just begun to fight.

Smalls traveled to D.C. as part of an effort to convince Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, and through him, President Abraham Lincoln, of the need to allow blacks to serve in the United States military. Smalls own daring escape was one of the examples used, and soon after, Lincoln allowed units to be formed consisting of escaped slaves and freedmen.

Smalls then became a civilian contractor in the Navy. The captured Planter was valuable because of its shallow draft and his combination of pilot skills and knowledge of mine placements made Smalls a valuable commodity. He later was transferred to the Army when ships like the Planter were deemed more suitable for Army operations. He ended up seeing action in 17 Civil War engagements.

In one engagement, the Planter came under heavy Confederate fire. The Captain of the ship ran from the pilothouse down to the coal room expecting the ship to be captured. Smalls, knowing that black crew members would be killed if captured, decided that surrender wasn’t exactly in his best interest. He took control of the ship and piloted the Planter through a heavy barrage and into safety. For this action, General Quincy Adams Gilmore gave him the rank of captain, making him the first African American to command a U.S. ship. (After the war, the military contested the rank saying it wasn’t a true military rank. Smalls fought them on this, and eventually earned the pension of a Navy captain).

In 1864, Smalls was then picked to be one of the freedmen delegates to the Republican National Convention. It was to be held in Philadelphia that year. While in Philadelphia, an incident happened that would motivate Robert Smalls for the rest of his life. While on a trolley car, he was ordered to give up his seat to a white man and move. He instead got off and protested his treatment as a war hero. The city was embarrassed, and local politicians began a concentrated effort to desegregate public transportation in Philadelphia. They succeeded in 1867.

After the war, Smalls returned to Beaufort. He purchased the home of his old master, which was seized during the war. He allowed his old masters family to live on the premises while he started out on his new life. One of the first things he did was learn to read and write. Intelligence had already been seen in Smalls, but he knew he could do more.

And he did.

He opened a store, started a railway, and began a newspaper. He also invested heavily in economic development projects in Charleston. Smalls spoke with a Gullah accent, and this made his extremely popular with local African Americans as he was one of them but had become very successful. Smalls took the opportunity to get involved in politics.

Smalls was a die-hard Republican once saying it was…”the party of Lincoln…which unshackled the necks of four million human beings” and “I ask that every colored man in the North who has a vote to cast would cast that vote for the regular Republican Party and thus bury the Democratic Party so deep that there will not be seen even a bubble coming from the spot where the burial took place.”

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Smalls knew that post-war, newly freed slaves would bear the wrath of Southern Democrats and got heavily involved in politics. He first served in the South Carolina State Legislature from 1868 to 1874.

In 1874, he took his talents to Washington D.C. as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives. He served until 1887. Along the way, his career was hampered by Southern Democrats’ furious efforts to gerrymander districts, stop African Americans from voting, remove Federal troops from the South, and personal assaults. His career effectively came to an end when he was accused by Democrats of taking a bribe (a charge he was later pardoned for).

After his national career was over, Smalls remained active as a community leader. He most famously stopped two African American men from being lynched. He died in 1915 at the age of 75.

On his tombstone was a quote from his political career.

“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Chinese government rejects allegations that its face masks were defective, tells countries to ‘double check’ instructions

The Chinese government is rebuffing the notion that its face masks exported to other countries were “defective” and suggested that the nations did not “double-check” the instructions.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday claimed in a tweet that the “true story” behind the alleged faulty face masks sent to the Netherlands was that the Chinese manufacturer explicitly “stated clearly that they are non-surgical.”


“Masks of various category offer different levels of protection, for day-to-day use and for medical purposes,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in the tweet. “[Please] double-check the instructions to make sure that you ordered, paid for and distributed the right ones. Do not use non-surgical masks for surgical purposes.”

The statement comes as the Dutch government recalled 600,000 of the Chinese-manufactured face masks for being defective and not meeting safety standards — over half of the 1.3 million total N-95 protective masks that were delivered to the Netherlands.

Hospitals in the country were requested to return the masks that did not properly fit on faces and prevent COVID-19 virus particles from making human contact. The N-95 mask is able to block out 95% of airborne particles when used properly.

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“When they were delivered to our hospital, I immediately rejected those masks,” one hospital employee reportedly said to Dutch broadcaster NOS. “If those masks do not close properly, the virus particles can simply pass. We do not use them.”

Other countries have expressed concern with medical equipment manufactured in China. After purchasing 340,000 test kits from a Chinese manufacturer, Spain’s government claimed that 60,000 of them did not accurately test for COVID-19.

European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said in a blog post that the Chinese government was attempting to be perceived as an international ally in the “global battle of narratives.”

“China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner,” Borrell wrote. “In the battle of narratives, we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU as such and some instances where Europeans have been stigmatized as if all were carriers of the virus.”

Representatives from the Communist Party of China (CCP) in recent weeks have shifted the narrative surrounding the coronavirus’s origins by questioning its validity. Despite health officials and scientists widely agreeing that COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China — likely from a wildlife market — government officials suggested that the US Army may have shipped the virus to China.

The Global Times, which operates under the Chinese government’s purview, also claimed in a tweet that Italy “may have had an unexplained strain of pneumonia” in November and December — around the same time as China reported its first positive case.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 critical components to the success of the first total penis transplant

Doctors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland announced the first-ever successful total penis and scrotum transplant was performed on an Afghanistan veteran recently. The recipient was wounded in an IED attack that left him without sexual or urinary function but left his internal organs unharmed.

The procedure was performed on March 26th and the unidentified “sergeant” will have urinary function by the end of the week.


The wounded warrior will also regain complete sexual function in roughly six months. Testicles that could contain semen were not part of the procedure due to the ethical issues associated with having children through the donor’s genetic material.

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Though there have been successful partial operations performed elsewhere, this is the first total penis and scrotal transplant, with more tissue transplanted than ever before. The 14-hour procedure required a number of considerations.

1. The donor.

The donor was a recently deceased man whose identity has not been released. According to USA Today, a statement from the donor’s family (which includes a number of veterans) was read by the President and CEO of New England Donor Services.

“We are so thankful to say that our loved one would be proud and honored to know he provided such a special gift to you,” the statement reads. “We hope you can return to better health very soon and we continue to wish you a speedy recovery.”

2. Rejection.

The recipient’s body could possibly reject the foreign tissue at any time. The sergeant will likely have to take immunosuppressants to ensure the acceptance of the new tissue. To further diminish the likelihood of rejection, the recipient was infused with the donor’s bone marrow to reduce the level of medication necessary to prevent a rejection.

3. Complete sexual function.

The sergeant’s body was connected to his donated organ through three arteries, four veins, and two nerves in order to give him full blood flow and sensation.

4. Hundreds of similarly wounded servicemen.

Between October 2001 and August 2013, an estimated 1,367 male service members sustained injuries to their genitals and urinary system. 73 percent of those included scrotal injuries, 33 percent included the testes, and 31 percent included the penis.

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