Despite his small size, Audie Murphy proved to be a phenomenal soldier. In 1944, after witnessing the death of a friend during Operation Dragoon, he charged a group of German soldiers, took over their machine guns and other weapons, and proceeded to take out the other enemy soldiers within range using captured artillery.
He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day, the first of many medals.
Audie Murphy rose through the ranks and was a captain when he was pulled out of the war in 1945. All in all, he earned 33 awards and decorations for his exemplary service during World War II. He was just 20 years old at the time and, as one movie critic later put it, knew more of death than he did of life.
Check out these ten things you didn’t know about the legendary P-38 Lightning.
1. Its long machine-gun range.
The P-38 had four times the range of other fighter planes of its era. Most planes had their guns mounted atop their wings and shot at a slight angle, which eventually causes rounds to intersect.
The Lightning’s guns, however, were mounted on the nose of the plane, allowing the pilot to shoot straight up to 1000 yards, approximately 800 yards farther than the average fighter.
2. The pilot’s wardrobe.
Early P-38 pilots flew in shirts, shorts, sneakers, and a parachute. That’s all.
3. The nicknames.
Seeing the Lightning coming in hot often scared the sh*t out of the Germans. They once called the plane the fork-tailed devil, while the Japanese dubbed them, two planes, one pilot.
4. The P-38’s unique sound.
Have you seen Star Wars? The sound of the film’s iconic speeder bikes came from mixing the sounds of a P-38 Lightning and a nose-diving P-51 Mustang.
5. Glacier Girl.
On July 15, 1942, six P-38s and two flying fortresses made an emergency landing on an ice cap in Greenland. The crew members were unharmed, and one of the planes was later recovered underneath 250-feet of ice and renamed Glacier Girl.
6. Life as an air racer.
Post-World War II, the warplane sales market boomed. Many P-38s were sold to private collectors who competed in air races.
7. Setting a world record.
In 1939, the XP-38, the Lightning’s prototype, flew from coast to coast of the U.S. in seven hours and two minutes. Although the flight culminated in a crash landing, the pilot survived and the plane was awarded the record time.
8. Operation Vengeance.
Operation Vengeance called for 16 P-38s to ambush Japanese Admiral Yamamoto’s (the mastermind behind the Pearl Harbor attack) transport. The attacks caused Yamamoto’s plane to crash in the jungles of New Guinea, killing him.
9. The best of the best flew P-38s.
Army Air Corps aces Richard Bong, Thomas McGuire, and Charles MacDonald all flew this beautiful plane — all kicking major ass while doing so.
In a U.S. territory half a world removed from the continental United States, what does it mean to be American? To find out, Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl shipped off to the far reaches of Pacific Micronesia, to Guam.
Guam is a tiny island with a full dance card of seemingly competing cultural histories. Its indigenous people, the Chamorro, called it home for 4000 years, but after the island was “discovered” by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, it experienced several centuries of European colonization, capture, and rule that heaped Spanish, Catholic, American, and Japanese cultural influence atop the foundations of its identity.
But where other territories with similar fraught histories stumble through the modern era in crisis and without a firm sense of collective “self,” Guamanians wove themselves into the fabric of democratic and multicultural America. They celebrate their 21st century hybridity with exuberance, with fervent patriotism and military service, and with a food culture so funky and delicious, people travel from all over the globe to get in on it.
Why choose? (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
In Guam, you find patriotism in its purest form, animated by gratitude for life. Guamanians have earned a deep understanding of how precarious human existence can be, whether it’s an island in the middle of the ocean or an oasis in the heart of the desert or a small, blue planet in the void of space.
Guamanians don’t just feel gratitude, they act on its behalf. As a people, they serve in the U.S. military at a higher rate than any of the 50 states.
When the Americans came and liberated us, they became family. That patriotism from our ancestors or those even living today, it continues on. And that’s an honor to be part of a nation that gives freedom, to be part of something greater than this tiny island…that’s what makes us American. —Sgt. Joleen Castro, U.S. Air Force
Their service reflects their dedication to the American ideal, yes, but it’s also an expression of inafa’maolek, or interdependence, the core value of the Chamorro people. Guamanians, at the deepest level of their tradition, celebrate collective prosperity, unity and togetherness. They celebrate the good.
Unsurprisingly, they throw incredible parties. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
When you think of artillery, you’re probably thinking of something like the M777-towed 155mm howitzer or the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled gun. But in the Civil War, artillery was very different.
Back then, a gun wasn’t described by how wide the round was, but how much the round weighed. According to a National Park Service release, one of the most common was the 12-pounder Napoleon, which got that name from firing a 12-pound solid shot. The typical range for the Napoleon was about 2,000 yards. Multiply that by about twenty to have a rough idea how far a M777 can shoot an Excalibur GPS-guided round.
Another round used was the shell, a hollowed-out solid shot that usually had about eight ounces of black powder inserted. This is pretty much what most artillery rounds are today. The typical Civil War shell had a range of about 1,500 yards — or just under a mile.
However, when enemy troops were approaching, the artillery had two options. The first was to use what was called “case” rounds. These were spherical rounds that held musket balls. In the case of the Napoleon, it held 78 balls. Think of it as a giant hand grenade that could reach out as far as a mile and “touch” enemy troops.
When the enemy troops got real close, there was one last round: the canister. In essence, this turned the cannon into a giant shotgun. It would have cast-iron shot packed with sawdust. When enemy troops got very close, they’d use two canister rounds, known as “double canister” (in the 1993 movie, “Gettysburg,” you can hear a Union officer order “double canister” during the depiction of Pickett’s Charge).
To see what a canister round did to enemy troops, watch this video:
But it nearly made a comeback with the United States Air Force – long after it was retired and sold off after the Korean War. Not for the air superiority role it held in World War II, but as a counter-insurgency plane.
But in the years after World War II, the Mustang underwent a metamorphosis of sorts. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that the P-51 line was sold by North American to a company known as Cavalier Aircraft Corporation. That company turned the one-time air-superiority fighter into a fighter-bomber, giving the plane eight hardpoints, with a usual warload of six five-inch rockets and two 1,000-pound bombs.
But the design could be pushed further, and Cavalier soon sold the Mustang to Piper Aviation. That company decided to try putting a turboprop engine in the Mustang airframe. That and other modifications lead to the PA-48 Enforcer. By the time they were done, the Enforcer had some Mustang lineage, but was ready for modern counter-insurgency work. It had GPU-5 gun pods – in essence, the Mustang would have two guns delivering BRRRRRT!
The Air Force kicked the tires around the Vietnam War, but didn’t buy any. Not that you could blame ’em – there were plenty of A-1 Skyraiders around.
But in 1981, Congress pushed the Air Force into ordering two prototypes. After some testing in 1983, the Air Force decided to pass. One Enforcer found its way to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB. The other is at Edwards Air Force Base.
That said, Ma Deuce didn’t become a legend on its own. When you look at it, it’s just a big, metal object by itself. It can’t target the enemy, much less fire, on its own. To work, it needs to have someone load the belt, chamber the round, aim it, and pull the trigger. In other words, Ma Deuce is nothing without a well-trained soldier, Marine, airman, or sailor manning it.
That said, you can’t just hand the guns over to those folks and expect them to use Ma Deuce (or any other weapon) to its maximum potential. That takes training and practice. And for all the advances in computer technology, you just can’t beat going to the range and putting real bullets downrange.
This just doesn’t apply to Ma Deuce. The M240 is much the same way. Based on the FN MAG, a medium machine gun chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO round. This is a much newer gun than Ma Deuce, and has largely replaced the M60 machine gun that saw action in Vietnam and Desert Storm, among other conflicts.
According to FN’s web site, the M240 is 48.5 inches long with a 21.7 inch barrel. It can fire up to 650 rounds a minute. Usually the teams come in two, with a gunner and an assistant who also carries the ammo, although in some cases, and ammo bearer is added to the machine gun team.
You can see a video of Army Reserve soldiers training on these two machine guns below.
Leland “Lou” Diamond joined the Marines in 1917, and by the time World War II came around he’d become an expert mortarman.
He was so good, in fact, that the hard-charging Leatherneck took on a Japanese cruiser at Guadalcanal by himself and forced it to withdraw.
After joining the Corps during World War I, Diamond quickly made a name for himself as a Marine’s Marine. He was known for walking around without his cover, wearing his dungarees most of the time and for having a loud and dirty mouth.
You can read more about Leland “Lou” Diamond and his skill with the mortar here.
On July 29, 1967 the USS Forrestal was deployed to the Gulf of Tonkin for operations against Vietnam when the unthinkable happened: an electrical surge on an F-4 Phantom caused the accidental launch of a Zuni rocket into a combat-loaded A-4 Skyhawk.
The plane burst into flames, and its fuel spread across the flight deck. In a hellish chain reaction, bomb after bomb exploded, rocking the entire ship. The fire raged for hours, killing 134 sailors, destroying 24 aircrafts and more than $70 million in damages.
This mishap exposed gaps in the Navy’s lax culture, poor firefighting ability and response time. The fleet took note and overhauled its entire training program. New regulations and improvements were made to training and processes, much of which are still in use today.
Also of note is that future senator John McCain, a lieutenant commander at the time, barely escaped the first explosion near the stern by unstrapping from his seat, jumping from his A-4’s refueling probe, and sprinting as fast as he could toward the bow.
There’s a saying in the Navy that training publications are written in blood. Here’s why that statement is 100 percent true:
It all started with an accidental rocket launch.
Fuel and fire spread throughout the flight deck causing a chain reaction of ordnance explosions. There were nine massive explosions like the one below within the first five minutes. The two firehose teams in the first explosion were completely wiped out.
A fire at sea is a sailor’s worst nightmare because there’s nowhere to go. You have to fight the fire or die. Some were blown overboard by the blasts. Others had no choice, burn or jump.
This video (actual footage of the mishap) shows how the sailors eventually got the fire under control and saved the Forrestal:
Heat, smoke, and that loud “wop-wop” sound make helicopters easy targets on the battlefield. For these reasons, helicopters make the unlikeliest candidates for stealth technology. But during the 1990s and early 2000s, Boeing-Sikorsky challenged that notion with the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter.
The Light Helicopter Experimental program is the brainchild of the U.S. Army. It charged Boeing-Sikorsky with developing armed reconnaissance and attack helicopters. The result incorporated stealth technologies that minimized radar and human detection. It used advanced sensors for reconnaissance intended to designate targets for the AH-64 Apache. The helicopter was also armed to the teeth with tucked away missiles and rockets to destroy armed vehicles. Two prototypes were built and tested but the project was ultimately canceled in 2004.
When the former Soviet Union collapsed, many of the former Soviet republics had sizable stocks of military gear. Much of it ended up being sold at bargain prices around the world. One of the countries that had a large stockpile was Moldova.
According to the NationalInterest.org, the former Soviet republic didn’t have much population. They did have a number of MiG-29s, as well as helicopters, and there was a very big worry that Iran, with its bank accounts bloated with oil money, would seek to bolster its force of MiG-29s. This was bad, but some of Moldova’s MiG-29s had been equipped to deliver tactical nukes.
To prevent this, the United States opened its checkbook. According to a New York Times report in 1997, 21 of Moldova’s MiG-29s – including all of the MiG-29 Fulcrum Cs – were taken apart and shipped to the United States on board cargo planes. Yemen and Eritrea were left to pick over the remainder of the airframes.
After purchase, the MiG-29 were “exploited.” Now, that pervy-sounding term is also somewhat accurate. But really, a lot of what happened with the MiG-29 was a lot of test flights and mock dogfights. In other words, pretty much the standard practice when America gets its hands on enemy gear.
Through that testing, it was discovered that the MiG-29 had its virtues: It was easy to fly. The plane also had the ability to help a pilot recover from vertigo. It had great technology to assist in landings. Not to mention the fact that the AA-11 Archer and its helmet-mounted sight made the Fulcrum a very deadly adversary in a dogfight.
Many children grow up with parents in the military. It usually means frequent moves, a parent being gone for long periods of time. And there is the possibility that some day an officer and chaplain might turn up, bearing bad news.
Whether the parent is a Green Beret, constantly deploying to a foreign country on missions they can’t talk about, or someone who pushed papers at a desk in a building at a military installation – they all served, and they all knew that there was some measure of risk. And when the parents pass on, what’s left behind are medals, uniforms, photos, and in some cases, films.
In this clip, Fred Linden discusses the memorabilia left behind by his late father, Navy Lieutenant Commander Frederick “Bud” Linden, of his service during World War II. His dad flew a Consolidated PBY Catalina – one of the famous “Black Cats” that made the life of many Japanese sailors miserable during the fighting in the Pacific.
Linden’s memorabilia included a map showing the route his father took to the theater he served in, as well as medals.
The two rolls of 16mm color film included in the memorabilia collection showed a wide variety of events during his father’s tour, including bombing raids. The film was preserved through the involvement of Film Corps, an outreach organization that seeks to preserve records like Linden’s.
“The stuff – the medals and so forth – is not something he’d care about, but he would love to be able to sit down in front of that movie and point out the names of the guys and what they did and things he remembered about them, what happened at the time with the people he was with,” he says. “That would be the most important thing for him”
Recently, a video of Secretary of Defense James Mattis surfaced as the retired, decorated Marine met with a group of deployed service members. As the former general started to speak, a school circle quickly formed around him as his words began to motivate those who listened.
Mattis is widely-known for his impeccable military service and leadership skills, earning him the respect by both enlisted personnel and officers.
Mattis broke the ice with the deployed service members by humorously introducing himself and thanking them in his special way — an epic impromptu speech.
“Just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it of being friendly to one another, you know, that Americans owe to one other,” Mattis said. “We’re so doggone lucky to be Americans.”