The other branches’ respective ages:
- Army: 237 years old (June 14)
- Navy: 236 years old (Oct. 13)
- Marine Corps: 236 years old (Nov. 10)
- Coast Guard: 222 years old (Aug. 4)
An “ace” is a pilot who has shot down five or more enemy aircraft. The top jet ace in U.S. Air Force history is Joseph C. McConnell, a “triple ace” who shot down sixteen MiG fighters during the Korean War. He did this over a four-month period in 1953—including downing three MiGs on his last mission before returning to the United States. For his actions in combat, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star. In 1954, he was killed while test piloting an F-86H fighter-bomber. His record as top jet ace still stands.
Carlos Ray Norris enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1958 and served in South Korea as an Air Policeman. There, he developed an interest in martial arts, and earned the nickname Chuck.
Today, the Air Police career field of which he was a part is known as Security Forces, and qualified airmen are trained in both military policing and airbase ground defense. Their pipeline is held at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and the U.S. Army’s Camp Bullis in Bexar County, Texas. 22% of Air Force casualties in Iraq were Security Forces airmen.
In Full Metal Jacket, actor Tim Colceri is famous for his helicopter scene wherein he says over machine gun fire, “Anyone who runs is a VC. Anyone who stands still is a well-disciplined VC.” He would have been even more famous in the part for which he was originally cast—as the strict and unrelenting senior drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. That role, however, went to R. Lee Ermey, who had been hired for the film as a technical advisor.
Ermey, a former Marine drill sergeant and Vietnam veteran, filmed a tense 20-minute reel of himself in character dressing down and squaring away the movie’s extras, without repeating himself, all while being pelted with tennis balls and oranges. When director Stanley Kubrick saw the video, he recast Ermey for the role on the spot.
Hartman became perhaps the most famous gunnery sergeant in the history of the Corps. Ermey, however, retired as a Staff Sergeant. In 2002, the Marine Corps granted him an honorary promotion in accordance with the rank for which he is most associated. He is the first retiree in the history of the Marines to receive such an honor.
The Marines’ Hymn famously begins, “From the Halls of Montezuma…” This refers to the Battle of Chapultepec in 1847, in which U.S. Marines conquered Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, and subsequently occupied the city as part of the Mexican-American War. The battle is also famous (according to Marine tradition) for the establishment of the “blood stripe,” a red stripe sewn into the trousers of the uniform commemorating the Marines killed at Chapultepec.
…To the shores of Tripoli
In 1801, the United States decided to do something about piracy in the Mediterranean, and President Jefferson sent in the Navy. In 1805, the Marines finished the job. The Battle of Derne, on the shores of Tripoli during the First Barbary War, was the decisive action of the war, and the first overseas land battle fought by the United States military.
In 2011, the U.S. Marine Corps returned to Libya as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn.
As of 2010, there were approximately 562,000 active duty soldiers, 205,000 reserve soldiers, and 362,000 soldiers in the National Guard for a total of 1,129,000 members of the U.S. Army. For comparison, that’s about the size of the total population of Swaziland, so they should think twice before annoying the United States.
Twenty-four presidents served in the Army, to include the various state militias, which supported the Army during the American Revolution and the Civil War. (Excluding the militias, you lose Captain Abraham Lincoln and Brigadier General Chester A. Arthur, among others, on your Fantasy Army team). Of them, 23 were officers, with Private James Buchanan earning distinction as the only enlisted man to ever be elected president. Teddy Roosevelt is the only president to have been awarded the Medal of Honor, albeit posthumously. (Notably, Roosevelt even volunteered for service in World War I—ten years after having served as president.) There’s even some overlap in service: That guy holding the flag in that painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware? James Monroe. William McKinley’s commander in the 23rd Ohio Infantry? Rutherford B. Hayes.
If all of the presidents came back as zombies and put on a uniform, George Washington would be the highest-ranking member of the armed forces, having been posthumously promoted to General of the Armies of the United States in 1976. His second-in-command would be General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Trivia: Ike was born David Dwight Eisenhower.)
Most attack submarines in the U.S. Navy are 33-feet wide, and about the length of a football field. Ballistic missile submarines are the length of the Washington Monument. Submarines stay submerged for months at a time. There are no windows, there is no night and day, you have fifteen square feet of living space and no privacy—and there’s a nuclear reactor right behind you. (They don’t just let anyone in a submarine. All submariners are volunteers, and have passed rigorous psychological and physical tests. Claustrophobics need not apply.) Those serving on submarines are among the most highly trained personnel in the military.
In 1819, the United States Congress placed the Secretary of the Navy in charge of naming ships—a power he or she still enjoys. Generally, names are compiled by the Naval Historical Center based on the suggestions of the public, sailors, and retirees, and from naval history. The Chief of Naval Operations formally signs and recommends the list to the Secretary. Ships named for individuals are christened by “the eldest living female descendent” of that individual. Commissioned ships are prefixed with USS, which stands for United States Ship. Though the convention had been in use since the late eighteenth century, it was not standardized or formalized until 1907, by Teddy Roosevelt.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Resource Center, on an average day, the Coast Guard conducts 109 searches and rescues, saves ten lives, seizes 169 pounds of marijuana and 306 pounds of cocaine worth $9,589,000.00, and investigates six vessel casualties.
The United States Coast Guard is the only branch of military service that doesn’t belong to the Defense Department. Rather, it is an arm of the Department of Homeland Security. Before the establishment of the DHS in 2002, it belonged to the Department of Transportation. Before that, it belonged to the Treasury Department. During a declared war, the Department of Defense can take operational control of the Coast Guard.
Happy Veteran’s Day to Sean, Alex Michael, Corey Joe, Daddy, Bill, my brother in law Andrew, my friend Nicky, her husband Paul and of course, my friend Kristen. Of course, also to Holly and Chris Meis in sweet honor of their boy Steele.