Batfleck and Hartnet sail into Kate’s Underworld in this wildly inaccurate Michael Bay movie about airplanes exploding for love. Or something.
This past week saw We Are The Mighty at the 2015 Blue Angel Airshow at Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu.
It was a full day of weaving in out of the crowds of people excited to see incredible planes, crazy stunt pilots, and (of course) the legendary Blue Angels performance. WATM managed to snag interviews with a couple of pilots, the executive officer of the VAW-112 Air Wing, and the crew of the gargantuan C-5M Super Galaxy (who let us take a peek inside!) before the Blue Angels took the skies in an impressive display of flying.
Hamburger Hill, also known as Hill 937, was a 10-day battle that was considered one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Vietnam war. The battle resulting in over 400 U.S. casualties and sparked controversy back home.
Dubbed Operation Apache Snow, the mission was to disrupt the North Vietnamese from penetrating Laos and cutting them off from access to the key cities of Da Nang and Hue.
General Melvin Zais, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, ordered allied forces to commence an assault on a well-fortified North Vietnamese 29th Regiment on May 10, 1969.
The hill was considered by many not to have any real significant military value.
Both sides took heavy casualties during the fighting in the Ap Bia mountains, which includes heavy airstrikes, massive waves of artillery bombardments, and nearly of a dozen ground assaults. Most of the battle took place during the Vietnamese monsoons.
At one point, reports indicated a friendly-fire incident involving U.S. troops and the gunships that were meant to provide air support.
The battle that took place at Hill 937 was referred by reporters covering the story as “Hamburger Hill.” After the 10 brutal days of fighting, allied forces successfully secured the hill.
Unfortunately, just five days after the U.S. claimed victory on the hill, troops abandoned the remote location, forcing many to wonder why so many died to take a hill that was abandoned shortly after victory.
The bloody attack was recreated and brought to the big screen in 1987’s “Hamburger Hill” directed by John Irvin.
Check out History Channel’s video to see this intense Vietnam war combat footage for yourself.
The communist forces of Vietnam were largely successful, and for a lot of reasons. They were willing to undergo extreme discomfort and suffer extreme losses for their cause, they were resourceful, and they became more disciplined and well-trained over time. But there was a nightmare infrastructure that they created that also led to success: Those terrifying tunnels.
The fighting in Vietnam dated back to the 1940s when corrupt democratic officials turned the population largely against it. Communist forces preyed upon this, rallying support from the local population and building a guerrilla army, recruiting heavily from farming villages.
The ruling democratic regime patrolled mostly on the large roads and through cities because their heavy vehicles had trouble penetrating the jungles or making it up mountains.
By the time the U.S. deployed troops to directly intervene, regime forces had been overrun in multiple locations and had a firm foothold across large patches of the jungle, hills, and villages.
And while U.S. forces were establishing a foothold and then hunting down Viet Cong elements, the Viet Cong were digging literally hundreds of miles of tunnels that they could use to safely store supplies, move across the battlefield in secret, and even stage ambushes against U.S. troops.
The original Viet Cong tunnels were dug just after World War II as Vietnamese fighters attempted to throw off French colonial authority. But the tunnel digging exploded when the U.S. arrived and implemented a heavy campaign of airstrikes, making underground tunnels a much safer way to travel.
And with the increased size of the tunnel network, new amenities were added. Kitchens, living quarters, even weapon factories and hospitals were moved underground. The Viet Cong now had entire underground cities with hidden entrances. When the infantry came knocking, the tunnels were a defender’s dream.
The tight tunnels limited the use of most American weapons. These things were often dug just tall and wide enough for Viet Cong fighters, generally smaller than the average U.S. infantryman, to crawl through. When corn-fed Nebraskans tried to crawl through it, they were typically limited to pistols and knives.
Even worse for the Americans, the Viet Cong were great at building traps across the battlefield and in the tunnels. Poisoned bamboo shoots, nails, razor blades, and explosives could all greet an attacker moving too brashly through the tunnel networks.
This led to the reluctant rise of the “Tunnel Rats,” American warfighters who specialized in the terrible tasks of moving through the underground bases, collecting intelligence and eliminating resistance. Between the claustrophobia and the physical dangers, this could drive the Tunnel Rats insane.
Once a tunnel was cleared, it could be eliminated with the use of fire or C4. Collapsing a tunnel did eliminate that problem, and it usually stayed closed.
But, again, there were hundreds of miles of tunnels, and most of them were nearly impossible to find. Meanwhile, many tunnel networks had hidden chambers and pathways within them. So, even if you found a tunnel network and began to destroy it, there was always a chance that you missed a branch or two and the insurgents will keep using the rest of it after you leave.
And the tunnels even existed near some major cities. Attacks on Saigon were launched from the Cu Chi Tunnels complex. When U.S. and South Vietnamese troops went to clear them, they faced all the typical traps as well as boxes of poisonous snakes and scorpions.
And the clearance operation wasn’t successful in finding and eliminating the bulk of the tunnels. The Cu Chi Tunnels were the ones used as staging points a weapons caches for the Tet Offensive.
Feature image: National Archives
Retired NFL great Charles “Peanut” Tillman takes on a new challenge by putting himself in the shoes of SOCOM Para-Commandos for a day to kick off USAA’s “Salute to Service” effort.
Tillman gains a whole new appreciation for this military skill as he joins the crew and makes the tandem jump with the Para-Commandos.
The experience was hosted by USAA, the Official Military Appreciation Sponsor of the NFL, as part of its tradition of bringing authentic football experiences directly to the military.
Kamikaze pilots struck fear in the hearts of allied troops as they conducted their nose-dives right into U.S. ships during World War II’s Pacific fight.
Reportedly, the first kamikaze operation of the war occurred during the Battle of the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.
After a mission had been planned, the pilots of the “Special Attack Corps” received a slip of paper with three options: to volunteer out of a strong desire, to simply volunteer, or to decline.
On Apr. 6, 1944, Marines and sailors aboard Naval vessels located in the Pacific were going about their regular workday knowing the enemy was planning something soon — something big.
On the nearby island, the Japanese gathered every operational plane remaining in their arsenal. Many of the Kamikaze pilots were inexperienced but highly devoted to the Empire.
Once they were armed and loaded, the flying fleet took off in waves heading toward their American targets.
As the suicidal pilots reached their target, they began an attack that would supersede any air raid in history. Over the course of two days, over 350 enemy planes imposed absolute havoc on the allied vessels.
As American forces defended themselves with well-trained fighter pilots and ship gunners, the enemies’ ambitious nature proved costly.
The Japanese crashed over 1,900 planes in choreographed kamikaze dives around Okinawa — sinking a total 126 ships and damaging 64 others.
Although the destruction took a toll on allied forces, it also helped fortify their motivation to continue with the fight — eventually defeating their Japanese adversaries.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s video below to see the historic and rare footage for yourself.Smithsonian Channel, YouTube
On May 1, 1945, the 5th Marine Regiment arrived at the Shuri line in Okinawa, Japan, to support the war-torn 27th Army Infantry Division. As the Marines patrolled the dangerous area, a Japanese machine gunner opened fire on the incoming grunts, killing three and wounding a few others.
After taking cover, Sgt. Romus “R.V.” Burgin decided that he needed to take action and bring the fight to the enemy.
“I was with some of those Marines out there for two and a half years, and whenever somebody gets hit it’s just like your family,” Burgin states in an interview. “That’s when I decided he needed knocking out right quick.”
At that moment, the Japanese machine gunner was completely hidden, and Burgin needed to locate the threat immediately. He knew what direction the incoming fire came from but he needed to acquire a proper distance to call in for support.
Burgin stepped out into the open and proceeded in the direction of the shooter, hoping to spot the enemy gunner’s muzzle flash — and making himself a target.
After a few steps, the brave Marine’s plan began to work, drawing the enemy’s fire once again. Burgin dodged the incoming fire, two rounds ripped through his dungarees — but the quick-footed Marine was safe.
Little did the Japanese gunner know, he’d just given away his position. Burgin spotted his target and called in the enemy’s coordinates for a mortar strike.
After the first round missed, the Marine made a slight adjustment and scored a direct hit with the second attempt.
“I got a direct hit with the second round. Machine gun went forward and the [enemy] went backwards,” he said.
Check out the American Heroes Channel‘s video to see this outstanding Marine take out an enemy gunner for yourself.(American Heroes Channel, YouTube)
In this first episode, Gunny does his absolute best to get his beloved cat, Mattis, out of the tree.
Animated by Marine vet Vannick Douglas.
The Hyuga is the lead ship in Japan’s first class of aircraft carriers since World War II.
Okay, they call them “helicopter destroyers,” but put the Hyuga next to a Kongo-class destroyer and a Nimitz-class carrier — or even a World War II Essex — what does Hyuga look like?
According to MilitaryFactory.com, Hyuga displaces 14,000 tons — about as much as the carrier USS Ranger (CV 4). The Hyuga holds 11 helicopters, typically a mix of SH-60J Seahawk and MCH-101 helicopters. Normally, she carries three SH-60s and one MCH-101. The similarly-sized Giuseppe Garibaldi, in service with the Italian Navy, is capable of operating AV-8B Harriers.
In essence, since the Hyuga entered service, Japan has quietly carried out a comeback as a carrier navy.
However, she also carries a suite of weapons, including a 16-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system that carries RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs. This makes her name pretty appropriate. The previous Hyuga was a hybrid battleship-carrier that didn’t work out so well.
Hyuga entered the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force in 2009. Since then it has been used for a number of missions, including exercises off Korea in the wake of North Korean provocations earlier this year. The Marines landed V-22 Ospreys on the Hyuga in 2013, and also during earthquake relief operations in 2016.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Sea Hawk helicopters hover nearby. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
The Hyuga has one sister ship, the Ise, which entered service in 2011. Two larger “helicopter destroyers,” the Izumo and Kaga, are also in service. The Kaga was commissioned earlier this year, while the Izumo was commissioned in 2015. Both of those vessels displace 19,500 tons, about the size of the British Invincible-class carriers.
A video about the Hyuga — and why she is so important to Japan — is available below:
Legendary retired Army Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore of “We Were Soldiers” fame died Feb. 10. The commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Ia Drang was days short of his 95th birthday.
According to a report by the Opelika-Auburn Tribune, Lt. Gen. Moore had suffered a stroke on the evening of Feb. 9 and was “hanging tough,” according to a family member.
Moore gained immortality from the book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” co-written with reporter Joe Galloway, about the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. The book was used as the basis for the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers,” in which Academy Award-winning actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore.
Moore served 32 years in the Army after graduating from West Point, and his decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross and four Bronze Stars.
According to an official after-action report, the three-day battle left 79 Americans killed in action, and another 121 wounded. None were left behind or missing after the battle. American forces killed 634 enemy troops, and wounded at least 1,200.
While preparing to film the epic movie — which made over $78 million at the United States box office, according to Box Office Mojo — Gibson would develop a deep friendship with Moore. This past summer, while headlines noted that Gibson and Vince Vaughn had eaten at Hamilton’s, an Auburn-area restaurant, what hadn’t been known then was that Moore’s family had recommended the eatery to the A-list superstars.
Below, here are some of the more iconic moments from “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Hal Moore.
A Kansas City Marine veteran is shocked when three fellow veterans show up at his work to fulfill his dream of going to the World Series.
Check out our top 10 comedic military TV shows that have ever been on the air!
The B-29 Superfortress was arguably the most advanced bomber to fly in World War II. While two of them, the Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, are the only planes to ever use an atomic bomb in anger, much of a B-29 pilot’s work was not glamorous at all.
It was downright tedious in some ways. So tedious in fact, the pilot of the Enola Gay had a tape measure and a tire-pressure gauge to check the spacing on various components and to make sure the plane’s tires were pumped up.
Yeah, the aircraft commander had to do that grunt work!
The B-29 was a complex aircraft — an inevitable consequence of its advanced technology. In fact, a training film for B-29 pilots focuses less on the airborne part of the flying and more on the ground checks needed and the pre-flight checklist.
Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that the B-29A that was the mainstay of the World War II bombing campaign against Japan featured four remote-controlled turrets, each with two .50-caliber machine guns. The tail turret had the two .50-caliber machine guns, but also a 20mm cannon.
As raunchy comic Andrew Dice Clay would put it, “There’s a Sunday surprise!”
The B-29 could also carry up to 20,000 pounds of bombs, and it had a top speed of 357 miles per hour. The famed Mitsubishi A6M Zero, by comparison, had a top speed of 322 miles per hour. A total of 3,970 B-29s were produced, and each had an 11-man crew.
The training film below about flying the B-29 shows all the work that went into preparing to take off.