How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor - We Are The Mighty
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How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

In April of last year — for the third time in two months — Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has discovered a major American warship lost during World War II. The Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Helena (CL 50) was discovered nearly 75 years after she was sunk during the Battle of the Kula Gulf. According to the announcement, USS Helena lies just over 2,800 feet below the surface of the ocean near the island of Vella Lavella.


How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

USS Helena (CL 50) firing her main guns during the Battle of Kula Gulf. The flashes proved to be an excellent aimpoint for Japanese torpedoes.

(U.S. Navy photo)

In 1943, Helena, her sister ships (USS Honolulu (CL 48) and USS St. Louis (CL 49)), and four destroyers attempted to intercept ten Japanese destroyers. The Americans quickly eliminated one of the Japanese vessels, but Helena‘s guns didn’t have flashless powder, making her a perfect target in the night sky for Type 93 Long Land torpedoes.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Francis X. McInerney on board the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser USS Helena (CA 75) in 1949. McInerney received the Legion of Merit for the rescue of 165 crewmen from the light cruiser USS Helena that had been sunk in 1943.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Three torpedoes hit the Helena and she quickly sank. Meanwhile, the Americans fatally crippled a second Japanese destroyer and damaged two more. The story doesn’t end there.

Most of the Helena‘s crew managed to escape the sinking vessel. Unlike the commander of the USS Juneau (the wreckage of which was discovered by Paul Allen just a month before finding Helena), Captain Gilbert C. Hoover insisted on rescuing any and all surviving crew. Under the command of Captain Francis X. McInerney, the destroyers USS Nicholas (DD 449) and USS Radford (DD 446) turned around to rescue survivors. In the midst of the rescue efforts, two Japanese destroyers came back. McInerney turned to fight, telling the Helena survivors, “Hang on! We’ll be back for you!”

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It would take 11 days, but McInerney would eventually fulfill that promise. Eventually, over 700 survivors from the cruiser would be rescued. For his actions, McInerney he received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Legion of Merit. The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8) was named in his honor.

See video of once-lost USS Helena below!

MIGHTY TRENDING

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

A situation that started with students protesting the government evolved into a failed coup d’etat and, consequently, the decimation of a once-thriving tourism industry. Protesters, feeling powerless in the face of violence, turned to the dark side for help, accepting aid from narco-terrorists sponsored by oligarchs.

The Sandinista Government, also known as the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), is a revolutionary ideology and organization that was created on July 19, 1961, to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship. From an outside perspective, it looks like the government has come full circle in becoming what it was created to destroy.

U.S. Sanctions have influenced the Sandinista Government to change their strategy in restoring law and order to what was once known as the “safest country in Latin America.” Disregarding warnings from the embassy, I boarded a plane leaving the U.S. to Nicaragua to see it for myself.


How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

No sh*t, there I was…

Did someone say, “communism?”

A History of Distrust

Historically, Nicaragua and the United States have not have an outstanding relationship due several political scandals, including the Iran-Contra affair. Long story short: We sold weapons to Iran through Israel in order to negotiate the release of U.S. hostages. The funds from the weapons sale were going to benefit the Contras, a guerrilla terrorist organization that opposed the Sandinistas. Needless to say, they weren’t so thrilled about it.

Today, the people of Nicaragua don’t treat U.S. citizens negatively because of our nations’ histories, but they do harbor a general distrust of American diplomats and government officials — this is especially true among the top brass.

It is important to note these specific examples of the past because there are similar accusations heading our way once again.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Not your best pitch, Don.

The Reason for the Sanctions

In Nicaragua, a country that has served as a physical barrier in our ongoing War On Drugs in Central America, was developing all the telltale signs of an impending coup.

Local police responded with extreme force against what they believed was a new arm of the criminal underground created to overthrow the government. Their aggressive pushback was interpreted by outside news outlets as a wanton wave of human rights violations. The ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach backfired — as it tends to.

The United States responded by implementing sanctions on the government and corporations, withdrew vehicles donated to the Police, and the U.S. embassy closed its doors and ceased routine operations until further notice.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

I assure you, we’re open.

(RuddyWrites)

The Effect of Sanctions in August, 2018

Jacinto Saurez, the International Secretary of the FSLN, told the Havana Times of a conspiracy theory of a U.S.-sponsored coup. Oldtimers were quick to believe this because of our nations’ turbulent recent history.

Meanwhile, the United States is Nicaragua’s top investor with nearly a billion dollars invested in 2017, producing a return of 6%. Meanwhile, the rest of Central and South America was generating declining returns for U.S. investors. A law ratified in 2000 allowed foreign investors to retain 100% of their capital and the current Government has offered generous tax incentives in the areas of exports, agriculture, and forestry sectors.

As capitalists, we would never take a metaphorical cow producing milk behind a barn and shoot it, so the idea of a U.S. coup doesn’t hold water against facts.

The harsh reality is, sadly, that Nicaragua killed that cow themselves. The entire economy is reliant on the United States but old revolutionaries in power, blinded by pride, resent that the U.S. is essential to the country’s stability. The old, stubborn leadership resents any foreign influence — even if it is beneficial.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Taxes? No habla ingles.

(RuddyWrites)

U.S. sanctions aimed towards the Sandinista government have hit the tourism industry hard and they’ve hit the private sector even harder, yet the upper class has felt nothing. Investors have almost completely pulled out of the country and major corporations tied to the government have fired half their staff.

Mom-and-pop shops are running at max capacity to fill the void left behind by the departure of major department stores, restaurants, and franchises. Larger businesses have to raise their prices to keep up with taxes that the smaller businesses dodge. In short, we’re seeing a great dying of big business but an exploding entrepreneur market.

Small businesses are unaffected by the sanctions because they do not report their income. Hell, most small businesses down here don’t even have the proper licenses to operate legally.

The moment the new national strategy was implemented.

Intur ​

According to the Institute of Nicaraguan Tourism (Intur), U.S. tourism makes up a 24% market share in the country. A new national strategy has been implemented to try and regain American confidence and ensure visitors’ safety. They have increased police presence day and night, all barricades have been removed, and criminals have either been arrested or have fled the country. Regardless, I would highly recommend against traveling here without a guide or prior experience until the political situation improves.

Despite safety precautions, there are more ‘demonstrations’ planned for the near future that pose a security risk. It is unknown if the anti-government forces are going to return en masse.

A deflationary trend has developed for the Nicaraguan Cordoba (NIO) from 32.24 to 31.70 (at the time of writing). This may not seem like much at first glance, but it’s actually a pretty severe drop. The exchange rate is currently id=”listicle-2598140554″ USD to C.70 and, though the jump in U.S. buying power is good news for us, it has had devastating consequences for the local population.

Adam Hayes of Investopedia does a great job of explaining it:

“Deflation typically occurs in and after periods of economic crisis. When an economy experiences a severe recession or depression, economic output slows as demand for consumption and investment drop.

This leads to an overall decline in asset prices as producers are forced to liquidate inventories that people no longer want to buy. Consumers and investors alike begin holding onto liquid money reserves to cushion against further financial loss. As more money is saved, less money is spent, further decreasing aggregate demand.”

Normally, Nicaraguans are paid in U.S. dollars on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. The employees prefer to be paid this way because the dollar is less volatile. Corporations are lobbying for a new law that changes the payout to workers to Cordobas instead of dollars because of deflation. So, now that the local currency has deflated, the prices on everything have gone up. Unfortunately, corporations want to pay people “technically” the same amount — but by that logic, when the economy recovers, they’re “technically” paying people less.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

These colors don’t run.

(RuddyWrites)

Americans living in Nicaragua

So, what’s the situation like for Americans in the country?

Many foreigners have left, but one thing is for certain among Americans who have remained: They will not be intimidated. Surprisingly, the Americans give no f*cks. They have stockpiled supplies, ammo, and alcohol. Those who have property out in the countryside have opted to weather the storm away from the cities. Those living within the cities have installed electric fences, cameras, and are even flying personal drones when things get hairy.

Nicaragua may be dangerous at the moment, but I can tell you that it’s no Afghanistan. Fortunes are made in times of chaos and it’s a buyers market. Right now, residential and commercial properties are practically being given away.

Americans aren’t turning tail. When I attended a bullfighting competition in the city of Juigalpa, a city saturated with Sandinista loyalists, I took a picture of this warrior:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

On May 16, 2018, The House passed by a vote of 372-70 major veterans legislation to extend and reform the Veterans Choice Program to allow more private care options.

The “VA Mission Act,” would also lift the restrictions on family caregiver benefits, which are now limited to post-9/11 veterans, and extend them to the caregivers of veterans of all eras.


The bill will now go to the Senate, where Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the Committee, have already expressed their support.

President Donald Trump has said he will sign the bill quickly when it reaches his desk.

In a statement, the White House said the bill would “transform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a modern, high-performing, and integrated healthcare system that will ensure our veterans receive the best healthcare possible from the VA, whether delivered in the VA’s own facilities or in the community.”

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
President Donald Trump

Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), which previously had expressed concerns that a rapid expansion of community care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, had lined up to back the new bill.

Denise Rohan, national commander of the two-million member American Legion, said in a statement that “I applaud the passage of the VA Mission Act.” She said the bill “will streamline and fund the Department of Veterans Affairs’ many community care programs” and also “expand caregiver benefits to pre-9/11 veterans and their families.”

Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the bill “will help improve services throughout the VA health system while utilizing private sector resources when needed, striking the right balance to make sure we provide veterans with the best care possible.”

A similar bill offered in 2017, by Isakson was left out of the omnibus $1.3 trillion spending package signed by Trump in February 2018, for all government agencies, forcing the House and Senate to begin anew on reforming choice.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee who was instrumental in gaining bipartisan support for the new legislation, said that “Over the last several months, we’ve taken great, bipartisan steps to reform the department, and this legislation is yet another strong step in the right direction.”

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Roe said the provisions in the bill would keep “our promise to give veterans more choice in their health care while building on our strong investment in VA’s internal capacity.”

The bill would authorize $5.2 billion to extend the current Veterans Choice Program, whose funding was set to expire on May 31, 2018, for one year while the VA enacts reforms to expand private care options.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, voted against the bill.

“There is little debate that the VA Mission Act is better than the current Veterans Choice Program,” Walz said, but he questioned whether there would be sufficient funding in the long run to sustain it.

“Voting against this bill is not something I take lightly,” he said. “While I have serious concerns with regard to long term sustainability and implementation, the bill does take steps to consolidate VA’s various care in the community programs while providing much needed stop gap funding for the ailing Veterans Choice Program.”

Former VA Secretary David Shulkin in 2017, said that about one-third of VA medical appointments were being handled in the private sector, but the Trump administration had argued for more private care options for veterans who face long waits for appointments or have to travel long distances to VA facilities.

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

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This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

The first time I witnessed a ‘missing man formation’ was at the funeral of my grandfather, who flew the B-25 Mitchell during World War II. After his service in the Army Air Corps, he became a commercial pilot for TWA and then ventured into private flight. He died in an airplane crash at the age of 74 and my family gathered with his aviation community at Santa Paula Airport for his memorial.

At the ceremony, we looked to the sky as a group of planes from the Condor Squadron flew overhead. One of the planes banked away, leaving an empty space in the formation.

The symbolism was not lost on me.


How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Four F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing conduct a missing man formation flyover during the POW/MIA ceremony at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, Sept. 19, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Jenne)

It’s a powerful visual, and a traditional salute to military aviators.

The “missing man formation” has evolved throughout history, but today, there are two main variations.

The first is the one held at my grandfather’s memorial: a group of planes roars low overhead, then one pulls up spectacularly from the rest, leaving his or her space in the formation empty to represent the fallen pilot.

In the second, the flight takes off entirely without the missing pilot — this formation is less common. Depending on the flight, the pilot’s actual space where he would have flown may be left empty; otherwise, it is most common for the ‘missing man’ to fly the second element leader’s position, whether in a finger-four formation (a “V” with the left leg longer than the right) or, as the Thunderbirds perform it in the video below, a six-aircraft flight.

Also read: Here’s what every fighter pilot remembers about their first mission

The “missing man formation” has always held a special place in my heart, perhaps because flight, for me, feels synonymous with freedom. The notion that a pilot might slip “the surly bonds of earth” for the final time is one that brings me comfort, and therefore saying goodbye to those who love the “vastness of the sky” in this way is a bittersweet moment.

Watch the video below to see a “missing man formation” in action:

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 unsung World War II female spies who helped make D-Day a victory

It has been 75 years since upward of 150,000 Allied troops began storming the beaches of Normandy by air, land, and sea. As the June 6 anniversary of the largest amphibious assault in military history approaches, journalist Sarah Rose illuminated several less widely known combat heroes who fought for the liberation of Nazi-occupied Europe in Operation Overlord: Andrée Borrel, Lise de Baissac, and Odette Sansom. They are among the 39 female agents who served in the Special Operations Executive (SOE), British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s secret World War II intelligence agency created in 1940 to “set Europe ablaze.”

“Women are the hidden figures of D-Day,” says Rose, who started researching the history of women in combat and was surprised to learn that their roles dated back to World War II. “People tend to think women were ‘just’ secretarial couriers and messengers. No, there were female special forces agents on the ground and working to keep the Allies from being blown back into the water. They did what men did. They led men.”


In her new book, D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II, Rose chronicles three of these agents’ contributions to the Allied victory in Normandy and the liberation of Western Europe.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Aliases: Monique; Denise Urbain, Whitebeam. 1919-1944

(UK National Archives)

1. Andrée Borrel, the first female combat paratrooper, fought for the liberation of France until Nazis executed her a month after D-Day.

Born to a working-class family on the outskirts of Paris after World War I, Borrel left school at 14. She had a job at a Paris bakery counter when World War II broke out.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

The German military defeated France in June 1940, but many French citizens took up arms in a resistance to Adolf Hitler and his troops.

(German Federal Archive)

Once the war began, Borrel left Paris and took a crash course in nursing with the Red Cross.

After a stint treating people wounded by the German Army, she joined a group of French Resistance operatives organizing and operating one of the country’s largest underground escape networks, the Pat O’Leary line. She aided at least 65 Allied evaders (mainly British Royal Air Force airmen shot down over enemy territory) on their journeys out of France to Spain through the Pyrenees.

When she herself got ratted out, she escaped to Lisbon, Portugal. She then moved to London, eager to continue fighting for the liberation of France. In the spring of 1942, the SOE recruited her. She was trained not only to jump behind enemy lines, but also to spy on, sabotage, and kill Axis troops occupying her home country.

Borrel parachuted into France in September of 1942, becoming the first female combat agent to do so. She worked as a courier for the SOE network Physician (nicknamed “Prosper”), which raised bands of Resistance members in the north to carry out guerilla attacks against Nazi troops. Moving between Paris and the countryside, she coordinated aerial supply drops and recruited, armed, and trained Resistance members.

She rose to second in command of the network’s Paris circuit, which was also funneling enemy intelligence back to the Allies in London. She was in the SOE’s first training class for female agents, where she learned skills from hand-to-hand combat to Morse code. When asked, “How might you kill a Nazi using what you have on you?” she is said to have responded: “I would jam a pencil through his brain. And he’d deserve it.”

Her commanding officer described her as “the best of us all.”

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Borrel was sent to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in July 1944, a month after D-Day.

(Windofkeltia)

The Nazis arrested Borrel in 1943 and sent her to a concentration camp.

Nazis, allegedly leveraging intelligence from a double agent, arrested Borrel and fellow Physician leaders in June 1943. After being interrogated and imprisoned around Paris, she was transferred to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in July 1944 with three other female SOE agents and executed a month after D-Day.

Even from prison, she is said to have continued fighting by inserting coded messages about her captors in several letters to her sister. She was 24.

Honors: Croix de Guerre, Medal of the Resistance, the King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

1905-2004 Aliases: Artist, Odile, Irène, Marguerite, Adèle.

(Records of Special Operations Executive)

2. Lise de Baissac parachuted into France twice and became the No. 2 commander of a French Resistance group fighting Nazis during the Battle of Normandy.

Andrée Borrel was the first female SOE agent to parachute into France during World War II, but her jumping partner, 37-year-old Lise de Baissac, was right behind her. The daughter of a wealthy family in British-ruled Mauritius, de Baissac was in France when Hitler’s troops moved into Paris in 1940. She fled to the south and then to London. When the SOE started recruiting multilingual women as agents, she joined the fight.

After parachuting into Central France with Borrel, de Baissac set up an Allied safe house for agents in the town of Poitiers in western France, selecting an apartment near Gestapo headquarters — a hiding-in-plain-sight strategy she felt would arouse less suspicion.

She bicycled around occupied territory as a liaison among different underground networks, often riding 60-70 kilometers a day and carrying contraband. On one occasion, a Nazi stopped her and her clandestine radio operator, patting them down. The officer searched them for guns, which they didn’t have, so he let them go. She’d later report that a radio crystal fell out of her skirt as she was leaving but that she leaned over, grabbed the crystal off the ground, and pedaled on.

In August of 1943, when her network in Poitiers was blown, the SOE airlifted her back to England by Lysander aircraft. She trained new female SOE recruits in Scotland. In April of 1944, after recovering from a broken leg, she jumped back into occupied France. She made her way to Normandy, joining her brother, fellow SOE agent Claude de Baissac, in leading a network of Resistance fighters in Normandy. They carried out attacks to weaken Nazi communication and transporation circuits, strategically cutting phone lines and blowing up roads, railways, and bridges to hinder the movement of German reinforcements Hitler was ordering to the beaches.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Sherman tanks of British 30th Corps passing through Bayeux, France.

(Imperial War Museum)

De Baissac raced out of Paris to assist the allies when she learned D-Day was imminent.

On June 5, 1944, de Baissac was in Paris recruiting when she learned D-Day was imminent. She biked for three days, speeding through Nazi formations, sleeping in ditches, and reaching her brother and their Resistance circuit headquarters in Normandy.

As the bloody Normandy campaign raged and the Allies struggled to penetrate the Axis front, the de Baissacs continued leading espionage and sabotage operations. They gathered intelligence on enemy positions and transmitted messages back to England, helping lay the groundwork for Operation Cobra, the Allied breakout in which U.S. Army forces came out of the peninsula and pierced Hitler’s front line seven weeks after D-Day.

After the war, she worked for the BBC.

Honors: MBE, Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur Croix de Guerre avec Palme

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Aliases: Lise 1912-1995

(Imperial War Museum)

3. Odette Sansom blew up Nazi train lines and, upon being arrested and tortured, told Gestapo officers: “I have nothing to say.”

Odette Sansom was a 28-year-old homemaker in Somerset, England when she answered the British War Office’s call for images of the French coastline, offering photographs she had from her childhood. Born in France as “Odette Brailly” in 1912, she had lost her father in the final months of the World War I. With World War II raging and her English husband already away fighting in the British Army, she didn’t take lightly the decision to leave her three young daughters. But with Hitler already occupying her old home and threatening her new one, she felt compelled to join the fight.

She was tough, determined, and persistent. When a concussion during parachute training left her unable to jump into France, she docked in Gibraltar on a gunrunner disguised as a sardine fishing boat, only to arrive in France’s “free” zone the same week in November 1942 that Hitler’s forces began occupying the region. So began several months working as a courier in SOE agent Capt. Peter Churchill’s network, Spindle. Churchill relied heavily on her to set up clandestine radio networks, coordinate parachute drops, and arm Resistance fighters in the Rhône Alps in preparation for D-Day.

She and Churchill fell in love and continued working together mobilizing Resistance members in southeast France until April 1943, when the Gestapo arrested them. Knowing that they were at risk of being executed as spies, she convinced their captors that her commanding officer was a relative of UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and that she was his wife and only in France at her urging. Peter Churchill was not, in fact, related to Britain’s prime minister, but Sansom figured that if she could trick the Germans into thinking they were VIPs, there would be incentive to keep them alive.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Odette Sansom.

(Imperial War Museum)

Sansom emerged from the largest, most lethal women’s concentration camp in history with evidence used to convict its leaders of war crimes.

While Sansom was imprisoned around France and then at Ravensbrück concentration camp, enduring solitary confinement and somewhere between 10-14 torture sessions – she survived.

By the time Ravensbrück was evacuated in the spring of 1945, Sansom’s back was broken, and she had been starved and beaten, with her toenails pulled out and her body burned in attempts to get her to reveal information about her fellow agents. She is said to have revealed nothing.

In the years after the war, Sansom’s testimony was later to convict Ravensbrück camp commandant Fritz Suhren, as well as other SS officers, of war crimes. Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945 came less than a year after the sweeping invasions that began the Battle of Normandy, now memorialized as “D-Day.”

Honors: George Cross, Member of the Order of the British Empire, Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

8-year-old returns to life-changing USNS Comfort

Distant footsteps lightly echo through the empty passageway. Two figures of different height walk briskly through the hall toward a heavy steel door labeled “General Surgery: Authorized Personnel Only.” Attached at the hand, the smaller of the two, stops abruptly pulling his mother to a halt.

She sharply whispers something in Spanish to her frightened son. The boy inches toward the now-opened door, as the bright lights expose the sweat on his sun-kissed forehead. What the anxious boy doesn’t realize is that this room has a familiarity to him. He was a patient in it once before — ­when he was only 8 months old. And now, same as then, he is in good hands.


Pedro Daniel Anton, 8, returned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) to receive further care for his cleft lip and palate. His mother, Petronia Eche, reflects on her first experience with the Comfort caring for her son during Continuing Promise 2011, in Peru.

“In 2010, he was born with a cleft palate and when he was 8 months old and the ship came to provide care, we came for his surgery,” said Petronia, translated from Spanish. “They were very helpful, we received so much support when we had his first surgery. It was a great surgery, we were very well attended and my son came out well.”

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt, an oral surgeon from Pembroke, Ontario, performs surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)

After his initial surgery, Petronia knew he needed more surgery to improve his quality of life, but had little to no success in getting the follow-up, in Peru.

“I have tried in the past to get his follow-up surgery done but we have been denied continuously,” said Petronia. “But I never gave up. As a mother I knew I needed to be there with him, I never gave up on this because I only want the best for my son.”

After more than seven years from his initial surgery, Comfort returned to Paita, Peru. Petronia’s prayers were answered and she knew he needed to get aboard to get the care he needed.

“What a coincidence, it must be fate that we are here again,” said Petronia, on the verge of tears. “We were in such a long line, sleeping outside in the lines. I was losing my spirits in the wait, but I decided to keep waiting. And out of so many people, we are here.”

Pedro and his mother arrived to the ship under the impression that he was going to have surgery on an umbilical hernia in his abdomen. When the doctors looked at his cleft lip, they realized that they had an opportunity and the resources to give him further care.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt (left), an oral surgeon from Pembroke, Ontario, and Capt. Michael Carson, an oral surgeon from Portsmouth, Va., perform surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)

“Initially, I came because he has an umbilical hernia, but the doctors told me that he needed both surgeries,” said Petronia. “Knowing that made me nervous, but I have trust in the doctors and in God. Many of the doctors here in Paita tell me they can’t help my son but here they said they can do it.”

When the call came in to the medical ward that Pedro and his mother were in, they were overcome with emotion. They both found the courage and strength to stand, take each other’s hand, walk up to surgery to complete the journey, and fulfill the reason why they were on the Comfort.

“I’ve told the doctors, that my son’s life is in their hands,” said Petronia, overcome with emotion and tears flowing down her cheeks. “I’m so appreciative of this because, here in Peru, we don’t have the money to pay for these surgeries, I have tried but we just don’t have enough. But, as a mother, I kept trying to find a way for him to get the surgery. I had faith in God and I would tell my husband that one day—someone would come to help us.”

Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt, an oral surgeon aboard Comfort, was the attending surgeon with Pedro for his cleft lip operation. He said it is common for a cleft lip and palate patient to return for further surgeries as they grow and start cutting teeth and forming a stronger jaw. He was also glad to see a repeat patient because it is a rarity that the Comfort’s doctors are ever able to follow up with the patients they treat.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Capt. Michael Carson, an oral surgeon from Portsmouth, Va., performs surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)

“It was very rewarding to see him here again,” said Schmidt. “I wasn’t personally involved with his care the first time, but cleft lip and palate are complicated cases that need follow-up and repeated procedures over time in a staged manner. Without this, he would not have been able to return to full function. He wouldn’t be able to eat normally, he wouldn’t be able to have normal speech and he would be at higher risk for health issues such as infections in his sinus.”

When Pedro was brought to the operating room, the surgeons and staff operated on his umbilical hernia first, completing the operation in about 20 minutes. Then, Schmidt and his staff took over for the next part of his surgery, which was very complex and took much longer.

“The patient had an alveolar cleft*, so basically what has happened in that case, is that the upper jaw of the maxilla** didn’t have bone connecting it all the way through and there was a hole where that should have been extending from the mouth to the nose,” said Schmidt. “So what we did, is we opened up that area, reconstructed the gums in that area to create a new floor of the nose.”

“We made sure there was a good seal on the palate side,” continued Schmidt. “And then we used some bone from his hip so that we can reconstruct it. We brought that bone and then we placed it into the defect that was there so that we could grow new bone and create a new full shaped maxilla that will be able to support teeth and have teeth erupt through there.”

Pedro’s surgery was a success and the hole connecting his mouth and nose, including the gap in the bone, was repaired.

“We are very excited about the procedure and I feel we got a really good result,” said Schmidt. “Checking up with Pedro right before he left the ship, he seemed to be in good spirits, and we are expecting a very good recovery for him.”

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Oral surgery is performed on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)

Feeling jubilant and blessed, Pedro and his mother made their way to disembark Comfort. With their journey one step closer to its completion, Petronia embraced many doctors, nurses and staff before heading back to Paita. With her heart full of graciousness and exuberance, her and her son boarded a small boat to go back ashore.

“I have to be strong for my children,” said Petronia. “I encourage them to be strong, we have suffered together throughout his journey and I am thankful to God that he is going to be okay now.”

Comfort is on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras, the embarked medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership, and solidarity with the Americas.

*An Alveolar Cleft is an opening in the bone of the upper jaw that results from a developmental defect and is present at birth. This area of the jaw that is missing bone is otherwise covered by normal mucosa and may contain teeth. (dcsurgicalarts.com)

**The maxilla forms the upper jaw by fusing together two irregularly-shaped bones along the median palatine structure, located at the midline of the roof of the mouth. The maxillary bones on each side join in the middle at the intermaxillary suture, a fused line that is created by the union of the right and left ‘halves’ of the maxilla bone, thus running down the middle of the upper jaw. (healthline.com)

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

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.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

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

7 worst times to have a negligent discharge

Service members do their jobs in some pretty stressful environments. From patrolling in a deadly combat zone to saying your final good-byes at a military funeral — it can be intense.


At most military functions, there will most likely be someone present who is carrying a loaded weapon, whether it’s blanks or live ammunition.

With stress levels reaching a high peak, the last thing people want to hear is the negligent discharge  — or ND — of a firearm.

Related: 17 images that perfectly show the misery of returning your gear

Check out our list of the worst times to have a negligent discharge:

7. At a funeral detail

Many military funerals have a 21-gun salute waiting fire at a specific time during the ceremony. Interrupting the service by having one of the riflemen accidentally discharge their weapon before they’re supposed to would be less than ideal, to say the least.

Everyone tends to jump a little even when the rifles are fired at the correct time.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

6. During a foreign military weapons inspection

We advise and work alongside many foreign countries’ militaries throughout the world. When you’re trying to build and/or maintain relationships, there’s nothing more cancerous than having an ND occur to set everyone on edge.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
BANG. *Laughs in German* (Source: DoD)

5. Right before stepping out on a stressful foot patrol

The primary mission of allied foot patrol is to make contact with the opposition. When a trooper accidentally taps the trigger of a weapon that’s no longer on “safe,” some very crappy things can follow.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
BANG. *Angry Looks*  (Source: Army.mil)

4. While handling business in a porta-sh*tter

Many troops are required to carry loaded sidearms on their hip. Having a negligent discharge while you’re taking care of business can lead to a messy result.

Oh, and you can shoot yourself.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
BANG. Just Bang. Any other sounds effects would be disgust– *gag*

3. Inside an up-armored vehicle

Armored vehicles are designed to keep the bad guys’ bullets from entering the cabin. That’s pretty obvious, right?

Having an ND go off inside the vehicle is really bad as the bullet will ricochet until it loses speed. Hopefully, it doesn’t land inside of one your buddies.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
BANG PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING

2. In the “CoC”

The “Center of Communication” is the artery for directing the troops on the ground. If an ND were to occur inside, that live round could kill a troop or damage some important computerized gear.

On second thought, just clear all your weapon systems before entering.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
BANG. *Crickets*

Also Read: 33 images that perfectly portray your first 96-hour liberty

1. In a crowded Afghan Bazaar

Afganistan is considered one of the most dangerous battlegrounds in the world. The already intense energy in the area can quickly become deadly in a blink of an eye. A negligent discharge could launch an entire battle — or worse.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
BANG… rattattatbangbangbangbangbanghissssssssBOOOOOOOOOOM

Bonus: During Bowe Bergdahl’s trial

Do we really need to explain why this is a super bad time for an ND?

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
No bang. Just don’t.

MIGHTY HISTORY

She was the first woman to receive both Purple Heart and Bronze Star

Lt. Col. Cordelia “Betty” Cook was the first woman to earn both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

In an era when women were still protesting to earn the right to vote, Lt. Col. Cook rose through the military ranks to become one of the most highly decorated female service members of WWII. At a time when few women were serving, and those who were serving in active duty positions were segregated into “women’s only” units, her actions in combat highlighted not only her strength and resilience, but her dedication to duty and country. Here’s the story of how she earned both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.


Early life

Born in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, Cook was the middle of five children. Historical accounts of her early life are sparse, but it’s been suggested by military historians that Cook showed an aptitude for nursing early on. Her family encouraged her to pursue her education, so Cook attended Christ Hospital School of Nursing in Cincinnati, Ohio. She studied there for three years before becoming a surgical nurse and commissioning with the Army. Immediately after her commission, Cook was sent to Europe to aid and assist the medical corps already in place there.

Italian Bombing

Cook quickly became immersed in her work and was said to refuse time off, even when she was offered leave. She gained a reputation as being a kind and compassionate nurse who would go above and beyond the call of duty.

At the outset of the landing of Allied troops in Italy, the German forces were at a distinct advantage. Battles in the region were fierce and brutal, and the terrain favored the Germans, who used the Apennine Mountains to their advantage.

It was at her first duty station that Lt. Col. Cook’s field hospital where she worked was bombed. Despite the apparent danger to her own life, Cook did everything she could to administer medicine to the wounded.

In 1944, following the bombing of the field hospital where she worked, Cook was transferred to the 11th Field Hospital in the Presenzano sector of the Italian front.

The Presenzano sector’s importance

Allied personnel landed in Italy in September 1943. Within a month, they liberated Naples and crossed the Volturno River, effectively pinning down the German forces. However, by the end of the year, the German Army’s 23 divisions were reinforced and consisted of 215,000 troops in the south and 265,000 in the north. South of Rome, Germany had three major defensive lines: the Barbara Line, which stretched from Monte Massico to Presenzano; the Reinhard Line, forty miles north of Naples; and the Gustav Line, which interlocked defenses and spread along the narrowest point of the country.

Being stationed at the 11th Field Hospital in Presenzano meant that Lt. Col. Cook was at risk every time she reported for duty. Cook was awarded the Bronze Star for her work at the hospital. Shortly after being awarded the Bronze Star, Cook sustained a shrapnel injury from German artillery fire. Even though she was on duty, Cook completed her shift. For this, she earned the Purple Heart.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

​(Wikimedia Commons

First woman to receive both awards

The Purple Heart Medal is presented to service members who have been wounded as a result of enemy actions. Since its creation in 1782, more than 1.8 million Purple Heart medals have been awarded to service members.

Like the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal is awarded to service members for heroic or meritorious deeds performed while in armed conflict. The Bronze Star dates to WWII and is the fourth-highest ranking award a service member can receive.

After the war

Following the end of WWII, Cook returned to the Midwest, where she settled in Columbus, Ohio. She married Harold E. Fillmore, an Army Captain. Together, they had three children, a daughter and two sons. Lt. Col. Cook worked for almost thirty years as a nurse at Doctors Hospital North in Columbus, Ohio.

Lt. Col. Cook certainly paved the way for women of future generations and has helped inspire female service members across all military branches. The fact that she has been recognized for her valor during a war is a good start in bringing to light the valuable contributions of female service members.


Articles

These are the Air Force medics trained for special ops

Everyone knows about the famous 4077th MASH, or Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. But if you ever wanted to see the kind of docs that Michael Bay or Jerry Buckheimer would do a movie about, look at the Air Force’s Special Operations Surgical Teams, or SOSTs.


According to the U.S. Army, a MASH unit usually had about 113 people, while a 2006 Army release about the last MASH becoming a Combat Support Hospital, or CSH, notes that the CSH has about 250 personnel.

According to the Air Force web site, the SOST is much smaller. It has six people: an ER doctor, a general surgeon, a nurse anesthetist, a critical care nurse, a respiratory therapist, and a surgical technician.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
This is a typical Combat Support Hospital. (DOD photo)

The MASH and CSH have trucks and vehicles to deliver their stuff. SOSTs only have what they can carry in on their backs. Oh, did I mention they are also tactically trained? Yep, a member of a SOST can put lead into a bad guy, then provide medical care for the good guys who got hit.

In one Air Force Special Operations Command release, what one such team did while engaged in the fight against ISIS is nothing short of amazing. They treated victims who were suffering from the effects of ISIS chemical weapon attacks, handled 19 mass casualty attacks, and carried out 16 life-saving surgical operations. A total of 750 patients were treated by these docs over an eight-week deployment.

Again, this was with just what they carried on their backs.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
U.S. Air Force photo

At one point, the team was treating casualties when mortar rounds impacted about 250 meters away. The six members of the team donned their body armor, got their weapons ready, and went back to work. Maj. Nelson Pacheco, Capt. Cade Reedy, Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell, Lt. Col. Matthew Uber, Tech. Sgt. Richard Holguin, and Maj. Justin Manley are all up for Bronze Stars for their actions.

It takes a lot to get into a SOST. You can download the application here. One thing for sure, these are the most badass folks with medical degrees!

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 American flag memes to really put the ‘Merica in your day

It’s the red, white and the blue. It’s the patriotism, the pride and the spirit. It’s songs about the homeland, and it’s thanking those who serve — pledging allegiance to all it represents. It’s the recognition of the American flag, and we’re here for it!

Celebrate the U. S. of A. with us through these favorite memes.


How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

And a S/O to our forefathers for their support:

Absolutely love the American flag? How about getting an American-made one that doesn’t burn. That’s right, the veterans and patriots at Firebrand Flag Company value the American spirit, the sacrifices of those who have gone before us and the pride they feel every time the American flag flies high above us. That’s why the Firebrand Flag Company set out to create the first and only official flag that is tough as the people sworn to defend it.

Each Firebrand Flag incorporates the same fire-retardant, kevlar fabric that keeps our service members and first responders safe. Our flags maintain strict adherence to height, width and color specifications. To ensure our Flags can never BURN, we reinvented the manufacturing process right here in the U.S. so that you can rest assured that our Firebrand Flags will always stand for the values we hold dear. Get your Firebrand Flag here.


MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Marbleezy asks: How did the ancient Romans manage to build perfectly straight roads hundreds of miles long?

The ancient Romans were a people famed for their architectural prowess, something no better demonstrated than by their ability to build almost perfectly straight and incredibly durable roads spanning expansive distances. For example, in Britain alone, the Romans built well over 50,000 miles of roads with the longest ruler-straight stretch spanning over 50 miles. They did all of this in an era without modern surveying tools, construction equipment, or even very accurate maps of precisely where their destination was for many of the areas. So how did they do it?

To begin with, it’s important to note there were a few different types of roads that were made throughout the Roman Republic and Empire, and exact method and materials used for road construction varied somewhat from region to region and evolved slightly over the centuries.

That caveat out of the way, the three main classification of Roman roads were viae terrenae, essentially dirt roads, often made by people walking and wagons riding over the same path over time; viae glareae, which would be a dirt road that was then graveled; and, finally much more interestingly, viae munita, which were more or less paved roads, some of which have survived through modern times.


Within these types of roads there were further classifications based on who could use them, such as viae publicae (public roads), viae militares (military or state use roads), and viae privatae (private roads, constructed at private expense and for the owners to decide who they allowed access, perhaps the general public or perhaps just a select few).

To help pay for them, roads of all types often had tolls, particularly at locations like bridges and city gates where it would be impractical to avoid the tolling location.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

The Appian Way, a road connecting the city of Rome to the southern parts of Italy, remains usable even today.

This brings us to the road construction process itself. As dirt and gravel roads aren’t terribly interesting, we’re going to focus this article on the viae munita. So how did they make these incredibly durable and generally amazingly straight roads? After all, even with modern machinery, constructing and maintaining an expansive road system is an extremely time consuming and labor intensive process.

To start with, a group of surveyors would be sent out to figure out the precise direction connecting the two main points. At the same time, they’d attempt to plan the route as efficiently as possible while accounting for any major obstacles like tall mountains, rivers, etc. When possible, they may attempt to avoid such obstacles, but, particularly in some of the earliest Roman road construction, where it might result in having to take a large detour to get around, say, a mountain, if possible given the terrain, they tended to just build the road to go directly over it or directly through it. For example, the longest tunnel through such a mountain was the Grotta di Cocceio which was excavated from 38 to 36 BCE and is approximately 1 km (.62 miles) long and about 5 meters (5.4 yards) high and wide. Before WWII, it was also still a fully functional and safe to traverse tunnel despite standing about 2,000 years at that point, but was damaged during the war, though there are presently efforts to have it repaired and opened again to the public.

As for going over a mountain, it’s important to note here that we don’t mean they’d use switch backs as is the general method today. No, if at all possible, they’d just build roads straight up a mountain and down the other side, expecting the soldiers and mules and the like to just man up and traverse the steep slopes without complaint.

That said, as the empire matured, it did eventually become apparent that there were economic advantages to slightly longer roads that were easier for draught animals to pull carts over, and thus there was a shift to favoring longer distances but lesser gradients when talking roads for general public use.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

A Roman street in Pompeii.

Either way, during the process, the surveyors would setup markers, often at very visible points like on hills, mapping out the optimal path, again trying to ensure the road would be as straight as possible between the start and end point to reduce needed labor, materials, and distance needed to traverse the road once it was complete.

This brings us to how they actually ensured perfectly straight roads between the markers. A key tool here was a device known as a groma. In a nutshell, this was nothing more than a sort of cross with four weights hanging from a string at each end of the cross to function as plumb lines. The whole thing could rotate with degree markers on top. Two of the plumb lines would then be lined up with a marker and then on the other side lined up with the previous marker. Where changes in direction would need to be made, the degrees were marked and ultimately the whole thing drawn up on a central document showing the entire route of the road with each segment.

Once the actual construction was to begin, the groma would once again be used, this time with rods pounded into the ground between markers using the groma to make sure every single rod was perfectly inline in between the markers.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

A groma.

Now, finally, construction of the road would start, usually first done via plows to loosen the soil, this would be followed by legionaries and/or slaves digging the ground out, with depth varying based on conditions. For instance, swampy land would need a lot thicker foundation if it was to have any staying power. For more typical ground, the trench needed would be somewhere in the realm of 3-6 feet (around 1-2 meters) deep. Once dug out, this would then be tamped down to a leveled, compact layer of earth.

From here, exact road composition varied based on available materials in a given region, land composition, and a variety of factors like this.

But typically large stones would be packed as tightly as possible together and into the earth base. Onto this layer would usually be placed smaller stones, sometimes comprising broken concrete or somewhat crushed rock, again packed and smoothed as best as possible. Depending on availability, they would also put a layer of sand on this foundation to make a genuinely perfectly smooth surface.

On top of all of this, at the minimum gravel would be added, packed, and leveled. In some cases, such as near big cities, as described in one manuscript on the construction of roads in Rome itself, paving stones, often flint, lava rock, or marble, would be embedded in cement for the top layer instead. When the road was complete, they are thought to have been quite smooth allowing for relatively bump free travel in carts and the like.

During this whole process, special attention was taken to making the center of the road higher than the sides so that any water would drain off, with the entire road surface itself also elevated above the ground on the sides where drainage ditches would generally be created to help rapidly move water away from the road in times of heavy rains.

As for the size of the roads, according to something known as The Law of Twelve Tables, which more or less formed the basis of Roman Law for almost a millennia, Roman roads were required to be at minimum 8 Roman feet wide (which converted into modern units equals about 2 and half metres) where the road was straight and double that if the road happened to be curved.

Beside the roads were footpaths, sometimes graveled, which were particularly handy in the case of viae militares where only people with proper authorization could use the road itself. Finally, at the very outer edges of the roads, any nearby trees and bushes would be removed to help reduce areas for bandits to hide and surprise anyone with an attack, as well as to help ensure plant growth didn’t overtake the road or tree roots compromise it.

But this wasn’t the end of the construction process. They now needed to know exact distances along the road. It’s not fully clear how they did this, though a device known as the odometer of Vitruvius is mentioned starting around 27 BC and is often claimed to have been used for this purpose. However, whether it was actually ever used for road construction, or even made at all, is up for debate.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

A depiction of Vitruvius presenting De Architectura to Augustus.

At a high level, this device used the spinning of a wheel to mark distance. In this case, it was the spinning of a wagon wheel which was in turn hooked up to gears that would drop a pebble into a container every Roman mile (4,841 feet, which is around 1,000 paces of an adult male, with the world “mile” deriving from the Latin milia, meaning, funny enough, 1,000 paces).

For whatever it’s worth, while Leonardo da Vinci tried and failed to make such a device as per outlined, in 1981 one Andre Sleeswyk was successful in building one exactly as described except, unlike da Vinci, he used triangular gear teeth instead of square ones. His justification for this modification being that these same type of gear teeth were used in the Antikythera mechanism, which was created sometime from around 250 BC to 70 BC, with the device itself used to predict various astronomical phenomenon like eclipses. Thus, perhaps if the odometer of Vitruvius was ever actually built and used, maybe it used these too.

There are, of course, many other much less technologically advanced ways they could have measure mile distances easy enough and with extreme accuracy. However they did it, at every mile mark, the law required they place an approximately two ton, 7 foot tall (2 feet in the ground) mile marker, called a miliarium. Helpfully, on this stone would be engraved the names of the locations the road connected and how many miles to each from that respective marker. A master marker, known as the Miliario Aureo or Golden Milestone was also created during Caesar Augustus’ rule and placed in the central Forum of Rome itself. This was the point at which all Roman roads were said to lead. It’s not actually clear what was on this master marker, but it’s been speculated it listed the distances from that point to all major cities under Roman rule.

Whatever the case, like the roads themselves, some of these mile markers are still standing giving archaeologists and historians a valuable snapshot of the past, since they tended to include not just basic geographic information, but information about when the road was built or repaired and by whom.

Next up, it was also required by law that regular way stations be built for official use, generally every 16 to 19 miles apart. These were more or less really nice resting areas providing food and drink and the like for officials. For the general public, inns known as cauponae would tend to pop up near these way stations. On that note, at particularly high trafficked way stations, many other businesses would pop up as well, sometimes leading to the creation of whole towns.

Along these roads you’d also find at similar intervals mutationes, or changing stations, where people could get the services of veterinarians, wheelwrights, etc., as well as potentially find new mounts.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
Giphy

To give you an idea of how fast one could move along these roads with its network of way stations and facilities, it’s noted that Emperor Tiberius once traversed about 200 miles in 24 hours after news that his brother, Drusus Germanicus was dying from gangrene after being seriously injured falling from a horse. A more typical time to traverse for, say, a government mail carrier was usually around 50 miles per day if not in a particular hurry.

But to sum up, it turns out that Roman road construction, amenities and all, wasn’t all that different from modern times, often featuring deep foundations, paved surfaces, proper drainage, landscaping around the roads, sidewalks, toll booths, rest areas, hotels, restaurants, the historic equivalent to gas stations and convenience stores, etc.

Bonus Fact:

The infamous phrase — “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — has come to mean a person who is neglecting their duties, probably by doing something frivolous. But did Nero actually sit around play music while Rome was burning around him in 64 AD?

To begin there was such a fire, though its extent is unknown. According to Tacitus, the fire lasted for six days and decimated Rome, with only four districts untouched (out of a total of fourteen). He goes on to state that ten of the eleven districts that burned were heavily damaged, with three of those completely destroyed. However, oddly, there is very little documented mention of the fire from those who actually lived through it. The only Roman historian during that period who even mentioned it at all was Pliny the Elder, and even he only briefly referenced it in passing.

Had it been as widespread as Tacitus claimed, one would think the likes of Plutarch, Epictetus, or other such famed Roman historians who lived through the fire would have mentioned such a significant event. And, indeed, we see that perhaps it wasn’t that great of a fire from the only other documented first hand account of the scope of the disaster — a letter from Seneca the Younger to Paul the Apostle, where he explicitly stated that only four blocks of insulae were burned (a type of apartment building), along with 132 private houses damaged (about 7% of the private houses in the city and .009% of the insulae). Not anywhere close to as widespread as Tacitus later claimed, though Seneca did say the fire lasted six days, as Tacitus stated.

As to Nero’s reaction to the fire, the first and biggest flaw in the fiddling story is that the fiddle, or violin, didn’t actually exist in Nero’s time. Historians aren’t able to give an exact date for the invention of the violin, but the viol class of instruments to which the violin belongs wasn’t developed until at least the 11th century. If Nero actually did play a stringed instrument—and there’s no evidence that he did, whether during the burning of Rome or otherwise—it was probably a lyre or cithara.

Okay, so some details can get muddled through history. But did Nero neglect Rome while it burned? Historians argue probably not. Reports do place Nero thirty-five miles away from Rome at the time of the fire, as he was staying in his villa at Antium. However, an account from Tacitus tells us that he returned to Rome immediately when word of the fire reached him in order to begin relief efforts. As the fire raged on, Nero even opened up his own gardens to provide a temporary home for those who were now homeless. He also ordered the construction of emergency accommodation and cut the price of corn, as well as provided food directly, so that people could eat. Besides this, he paid for much of these relief efforts out of his own pocket.

However, Tacitus also tells of the rumour that had spread among the masses: while the flames surged through the city, Nero stood on his private stage and sang about the destruction of Troy in a comparison of the two events. Whether or not the rumour had any evidence to back it up or was just something made up by the unhappy masses, we don’t know, but this and Suetonius’ account are the most likely source of the fiddle story we hear today. Unfortunately for Nero, at least in the context of this story, he did have a reputation for enjoying concerts and participating in music competitions, so the activity itself wasn’t entirely unlikely even if the timing of the act is highly questionable.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Bust of Nero at the Capitoline Museum, Rome.

While Tacitus claims the singing story was a rumour, Suetonius wrote about it with conviction. However, the story could have been an attempt to further mar Nero’s name. Nero faced problems during his reign from the very start, when it was reported that his own mother poisoned his predecessor, Claudius. He was also blamed for the death of Claudius’ son Brittanicus, who was being urged to take his proper place as Emperor by overthrowing Nero. Numerous other deaths were thought to have been committed by Nero’s hand, including one of his wives and his own mother.

As such, Nero was painted as a man who was difficult for the masses to trust. No one knew how the fire started, and many Romans believed that he had started the fire that burned their city. (It likely started in shops containing flammable goods, and was probably an accident rather than any one person’s intentional act.)

With the mob out for blood, Nero was forced to turn to a scapegoat and blamed Christians for starting the fire. There were only a small number of Christians in Rome at the time and they were considered a strange religious sect, so they were an easy target. As Tacitus stated:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all [Christians] who pleaded guilty [to the fire]; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Even finding someone to blame for the fire didn’t help Nero’s plea of innocence. In the wake of the fire, he built a palace on top of some of the land cleared by the flames, which people argued he had been planning from the start, though this is highly unlikely as the place he built the new palace was over a half mile away from where the fire started. In addition to a new palace, Nero did provide for the reconstruction of the city, but rebuilding stretched the limits of Rome’s treasury at the time. He was forced to devalue Roman currency, which wasn’t a popular move.

Nero ended up committing suicide — or at least, begging his secretary to kill him when he lost the nerve to do it himself—four years after the fire. Accounts of his life and of the time of the fire are highly contradictory. Further, Suetonius and Tacitus wrote their histories fifty years after Nero died, and Cassius Dio wrote his 150 years later. Many historians also think it likely that Nero was more popular with the people of Rome than he was with the senators, and as all three of the main sources were from the senatorial class, it’s likely they carry more than a little bias against him, not unlike happened with the popular history of Marie Antoinette who popular history remembers very differently than who the actual woman appeared to be. That being said, Tacitus did state that while Nero’s death was welcomed by senators, the lower classes mourned his passing.

So in the end, the implication that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — or played the lyre, sang a song, or neglected his duty in any way — is likely the result of anti-Nero propaganda and an attempt to tarnish his name. The morality of many of his actions during his reign is open to debate, but the fiddling, or playing music, story is almost certainly a myth, unless he was playing to entertain the displaced masses he’d taken in.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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5 cheap summer vacations for military families

When I’m choosing what vacations we want to take for the summer, I like to take advantage of ALL the discounted (if not FREE) options available to our military family.

So since I’m a huntress for deals and cheap escapes, here are some ideas that we spouses can benefit from this summer.


1. Reunite with your favorite FRIEND/FAMILY!

I just thought recently about all my distant friends (due to PCS) that I miss. I crave their company and miss laughing with them and watching our kids play together. So here’s an idea for a vacay (on the cheaper side).

During the summer is the perfect time to pack up the kids and take a road trip. We’ll take some time to spend a few days crashing at our friends’ house. Depending on how we plan it, the cash costs will mostly be for gas and some food. Maybe an outing, but you can do activities that don’t cost much money. Just do the things that you commonly did when you were stationed together like letting the kids play at the park, walking through the mall, and even cooking together. We may even get a girls night and leave the kids with the hubbys!

2. Take advantage of Space-A with Armed Forces Vacation Club



Typically when we hear Space-A (space available) we think of the free flights that are offered from base to base. This space available with Armed Forces Vacation Club is for resorts that allow you a week’s stay at a fixed rate of $349 for the room. The rooms are priced per unit, not per person so you can have 6 people in your room and the price will be the same. They are currently running a sale for $299. You can choose to vacay in a variety of places like Texas, Florida, the Bahamas and more.
Less than $50 per night, fixed price of $349 in early May 2018. That’s a SEVEN night stay for less than $300 bucks. Yes, rush and get that!

3. Check out lots of military travel deals for Hotels



If you are just looking to get out of town make sure you plan ahead so you can get ALL your savings!

You can check out sites like goseek.com that will give you a listing of hotels that offer military savings on their price per night. The savings range from $8-$445 a night depending on where you choose to stay.

4. Drive to another base!



Sometimes you just need a CHANGE of scenery. Here’s a way to STAYcation. For example, if you are stationed in a place like Jacksonville Florida, you have access to two bases…and those are NAS Jax and Mayport. Mayport’s lodging sits right on the beach. Rooms include 2 queens and a kitchenette, free wifi, free breakfast and pets are allowed. Ocean view rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floor are $85 per night and 1st floor beach access rooms are $77 per night.

So if you’re close by…BOOK THAT!

No matter where you are in the country, you can probably plan something similar!

5. Theme Parkin’ it

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Active duty military gets free entry into Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place along with 3 dependents. But there are other theme parks you can explore and enjoy that offer military members (active and retired) admission at discounted prices. This list details over 30 locations that offer military deals with savings up to 45%.

There are plenty of ways you can plan your vacay! Whatever you choose, have fun, be safe, and SAVE a few bucks in the process!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.