First introduced in 1967, the Mint 400 quickly became known as one of the toughest desert races in America. Its $100,000 prize, its celebrity competitors, the Girls of The Mint 400, and the always-challenging terrain helped catapult the Great American Race into icon status.

 Around 1961, the Mint Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas was purchased by Del Webb, a real estate developer who hobnobbed with stars like Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Howard Hughes. Webb’s money and history go way back to WWII days, when his construction company landed many military contracts (one being an internment camp for over 17,000 Japanese-Americans in Arizona). In 1945, he and two partners bought the New York Yankees for $2.8 million. In 1960, his retirement community project, Sun City, AZ, made the cover of Time magazine for its success.


Webb’s PR man for the Mint Hotel, Norm Johnson, was inspired to create the Mint 400 after reading about the Baja 1000 in a magazine. He thought it’d be a good way to draw attention to the Mint’s annual deer hunting contest in 1967 (of which the grand prize was a dune buggy). Two racers were hired to compete in a 600-mile race to The Sahara Casino, which was the Mint’s sister-casino built by Webb. It was a success. The next year, a multitude of participants were invited to race a 400-mile loop in the Vegas desert, but many of the 115 buggies and motorcycles succumbed to the challenging conditions. Dust overwhelmed the racers. Even Parnelli Jones’ Bronco seemed doomed after a few breakdowns. A Mint executive staffer deemed the event a disaster until Earl Thompson, president of the Sahara Casino and competitor in the 400, drove in saying, “‘This is the greatest God damn thing I’ve ever seen!”


Another chapter in the Mint 400′s storied past includes Hunter S. Thompson, who was sent out on assignment by Sports Illustrated in 1971 to write photo captions for the event. During his experience in Las Vegas, he ended up writing a 2500-word piece that was rejected by Sports Illustrated. The manuscript was picked up by Rolling Stone magazine and later evolved into his most famous novel, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.”


In 1972, Mint Hotel exec K. J. Howe upped the promotional ante by creating “The Girls of the Mint 400.” Hundreds of contestants would be pared down to ten girls, then a final five would be chosen to be the Mint 400 Girls. Several would go on to appear in TV shows, commercials, Playboy Magazine and even Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter.


One of the great MINT 400 photographs was shot by Bill Eppridge, taken in September of 1971 for LIFE magazine, it encapsulates the race in one photograph - hundreds of motorcycles bouncing across the dusty, unforgiving terrain in a swarm to reach the finish line.

groupriding buggies

Things changed after the glory days of desert racing in the late 60s and early 70s. Motorcycles were phased out of the event in 1977. Webb sold the Mint Hotel in 1988, signalling the end of a two-decade run of the Mint 400.


The Rough Wear Clothing Company was founded in 1910 by Hyman Kirschenbaum under the name “Sportsman’s Apparel Company” in New York City, New York.

In 1919 the company name was changed to Rough Wear Clothing Company which only  manufactured a line of sheep-lined and leather clothing. In 1923 the company moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, and in 1928 moved again to Middletown, PA locating on Wilson Street in the former A. S. Kreider Shoe Factory, where they operated .

At that time two hundred people were employed, ninety-five of whom were in the stitching room. Many of the hides that were used were of domestic origin, although a large percentage of hides were received from France and Sweden, but raw material also arrived from South America, South Africa, and Australia.

In March 1930 Hyman Kirschenbaum, founder and president, died, and the business was willed to his daughter Eleanor and his son Isaac Kirschenbaum took over as president.

In 1931 the company was reorganised,  Isaac Kirschenbaum was president and treasurer; H. Sander, vice president; S. Krell, secretary; and M. Schlessinger was named director. Michael (“Mike” to all his friends) Jacobs joined the firm, working in the office. The Middletown factory was well known. Their fleece-lined jackets were in demand-the employees took pride in their work. In 1934 they made the sheep-lined and leather coats and jackets for Admiral Richard Byrd’s expedition to “Little America.”


In 1935 Mike Jacobs transferred to the New York office and went on the road. In 1938 Mike and Eleanor Kirschenbaum were married and the following year Mike returned to Middletown as vice president of the company. He had started at the very bottom, but through hard work he now found himself near the very top of this thriving business.

In the 1940s, Rough Wear made custom motorcycle jackets for the New York Police Department, and during the World War II, under contract to the US Government, the factory manufactured over half a million leather jackets and flying suits for the Air Force and the Quartermaster Corps. During these years the company produced about 12,000 garments a week.

They were issue a total of 5 contracts for type A-2 flight jackets between 1940 and 1942 producing over 119,000 of the iconic garments in total using horsehide, cowhide and goatskin. The average cost per jacket at this time was $8.25.

You can find the Eastman reproduction of Rough Wear contract AC-27752 in the Original Makers section of the webshop.

A-2 RW 27752 WH mont-1

The factory, along with a few other manufacturers, also received contracts for B-15 flight jackets, made entirely of EndZone Twill. It is not known why only a few contracts were issued with this spec, but most probably it was due to the relatively high cost of the fabric, that prevented greater use of it.

EndZone Twill was constructed from cotton and rayon mix - 100% cotton in the warp, and 100% rayon in the weft, giving the fabric a unique appearance of being shiny one side, and dull on the other. This was an extremely dense and hardwearing cloth which derived its name from the jersey worn by American Football players.

The Rough Wear Company went to manufacture leather garments for motorcycle riding and sports and during the 1970s started making clothing for the fashion market, after 70 years in business the prestigious company closed its doors in 1982.


In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, a small detachment of British Airborne troops stormed the German defence forces and paved the way for the Allied invasion of Europe. Pegasus Bridge was the first engagement of D-Day, the turning point of World War II. This daring mission was so crucial that, had it been unsuccessful, the entire Normandy invasion might have failed.

D-day - the Allies’ “Great Crusade” was set to begin at 06:00 on 6th June 1944. Troops, vehicles and equipment would be landed on the beaches of Normandy and then push forward to the local townships such as Ouistreham and Caen.

The British 6th Airborne Division would land near the village of Ranville and seize the two remaining intact road bridges over the River Orne (Pegasus Bridge) and River Dives (Horsa Bridge) in addition to protecting the flank of the invasion forces. The Airborne Infantry had clear orders to hold the bridges against German attack until relieved by units moving up from Sword Beach.

Initially it was planned that 5th Parachute Brigade would take and hold the bridges, however Divisional Commander, Major-General Gale decided the only way to take the bridges would be by a Glider Assault. He subsequently asked Brigadier Hugh Kindlsey from 6th Air Landing Brigade to nominate his best company.


“D” Company, 2nd Airborne Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, under the command of Major John Howard were selected. Howard put the company through intense training, including exercise attacks against like for like bridges in Exeter, city fight training in the bombed out centres of cities and even going so far as to acclimatise the unit to Night Operations by changing their daily routines.

General Gale tested the Company in two exercises and it soon became apparent that they would not be able to complete the objectives on their own. Major Howard was asked to select two more platoons from the Battalion to complement the roster. A Platoon of Royal Engineers would also be attached to deal with any Explosive Charges that may have been set on the Bridges.

6 Airspeed Horsa Gliders would ferry the Company to the target area, towed by Halifax Bombers. On 5th June, they made final preparations for the operation, with personal weapons and ammunition being issued. This also included the PIAT (Projector Infantry Anti-Tank) and the No. 82 Gammon Bomb, both of which would become very useful during the mission. Each platoon was also issued a radio and 2 Inch Mortar. Just before boarding the gliders, codewords were also issued; ‘Ham’ Indicated the Canal Bridge (Pegasus Bridge) had been captured intact and ‘Jam’ for the River Bridge (Horsa). Capture and Destruction of the Canal Bridge would be signalled with ‘Jack’ and ‘Lard’ if a similar fate befell the River Bridge.


At 22:56, the Gliders and their Halifax Bomber Tugs, took off from RAF Tarrant Rushton. Horsa 1 Carried Major Howard and Lieutenant Brotheridge’s Platoon, Number two bore Lieutenant Wood’s Platoon, Number 3 Lieutenant Smith’s Platoon. These first three would be heading for the canal bridge. Number 4 carried Captain Priday and Lieutenant Hooper’s Platoon, Number 5 Carried Lieutenant Fox’s platoon and the final glider had Lieutenant Sweeney’s platoon. These three would make for the River Bridge.

The Gliders began landing at approximately 00:16 with the Number One glider coming down in the barbed wire defences of the Canal Bridge. The other gliders followed at one minute intervals, Number Two glider, broke in half on landing and came to rest near a large pond. Sadly one man was thrown in and drowned, weighed down by his equipment.


Brotheridge and Smith’s platoons moved for the Bridge while Lieutenant Wood’s made for the Trench system on the North East Side. By fortunate circumstance the defenders were not on ‘full alert’ and only two sentries were on the bridge. One fled, while the other fired a flare gun to alert nearby defenders before being shot by the British Infantry. Alerted by the flare, German Machine gunners opened fire on the Bridge wounding Lieutenant Brotheridge as he threw a Grenade at them.

The grenade silenced a Machine Gun position and further German MG's were knocked out by Bren Gun fire. Brotheridge’s platoon then advanced across the Bridge and took up defensive positions, followed by Lieutenant Smith and his platoon exchanging fire with German Defenders. Smith was wounded by a Grenade while crossing. Brotheridge and Smith’s platoons then began the task of clearing the last German defenders from the trenches and bunkers which they completed by 00:21. Sadly this was too late for Brotheridge to receive treatment and he died from his wounds.

Lieutenant Wood’s platoon cleared the German Defenders on the East Bank, whereupon Wood’s was also hit and wounded. All three platoon commanders at the Canal Bridge were now dead or wounded.

At the River Bridge, the Number 5 glider landed first, 300m from the bridge. Lieutenant Fox’s platoon was immediately pinned by German Machine Guns which they silenced with a direct hit from their Mortar. Number 6 Glider landed next 700m short of the Bridge. Lt Sweeney left one section behind to secure the west bank then took the rest of his platoon to the East bank to set up and support Lt Fox’s platoon. Glider Number 4 was reported missing, it had landed at the wrong bridge, over 6 Miles away. Captain Priday and Lieutenant Hooper’s platoon were fighting their way back to the correct bridges but had a long way to go.

Lieutenants Fox and Sweeney reported to Major Howard that the River Bridge had been secured. Major Howard then broadcast the ‘Ham’ and ‘Jam’ Codewords to Command.

Reinforcements from the 7th Parachute Battalion landed shortly thereafter at 00:50. They formed up and moved to their defensive positions at 01:10 to be greeted by the Regimental Commander of the German forces stationed to guard the Bridges. His motorcycle escort was quickly dispatched and the halftrack he was travelling in forced off the road by the British defenders. Major Schmidt and his driver were subsequently taken prisoner.

Soon after this the Germans launched their first counter attack to retake the Bridges. Fortunately for the British defenders 21st Panzer Division, stationed nearby, were still awaiting Hitler’s personal permission to advance. Hitler of course, was still being in bed with none of his staff wanting to wake him, nevertheless, the 192nd PanzerGrenadier Regiment supported by the 1st Panzerjaegar Company launched an attack. As the first Mark 4 Panzers approached however, the lead vehicle was hit by a PIAT round, which detonated it’s on board ammunition completely destroying it. The other Tanks subsequently retreated and the 192nd aborted their attack.

Not be deterred the Germans resumed their attack at 03:00 with Self Propelled Artillery, Anti-Aircraft guns and Mortars in an attempt to displace the Airborne. The British Defenders were forced back but formed a new defence line through which the 192ndcouldn’t breach.

German patrol boats were next to attempt to break the deadlock, moving down the canal from Caen and using their 20mm Cannons. Number two Platoon’s PIAT team shot and hit the lead boat’s wheel house causing it to crash, the second boat disengaged and retreated.

Clearly showing their desperation a single Luftwaffe Fighter-Bomber attempted to destroy the bridge having avoided the Allied Air Patrols. It dropped a single bomb which hit the Canal Bridge but failed to explode.

The 192nd Panzer Grenadiers continued to attack and harass the British defenders, and brought them to within breaking point. However the stubborn defenders continued to thwart them, destroying 13 of 17 German tanks and blocking the road with one wrecked vehicle; destroyed by a single Gammon bomb!

By now it was midday, Hitler was awake and 21st Panzer Division was finally given orders to move on the beaches. Unfortunately for them, the RAF and the 2nd Tactical Air Force were waiting for them and caused heavy losses in their advance towards the beaches. Elements did manage to engage British paratroopers at Ranville, before withdrawing.

At 13:30, it was practically all over, 1st Commando Brigade arrived to provide relief, and they were followed in the evening by 2nd Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

Major Howard was awarded the Distinguished Service Order presented by Field Marshall Montgomery himself. Lieutenants Smith and Sweeney each received the Military Cross, Sergeant Thornton and Lance Corporal Stacey each received the Military Medal. Lieutenant Botheridge was posthumously mentioned in dispatches. Finally, Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory praised the pilots involved saying the operation included some of the most outstanding flying achievements of the war. 8 Glider Pilots were awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

It’s amazing to note that losses were extremely light, certainly when compared with other Airborne Operations like those the Germans embarked on at Crete, or the British Airborne’s experience during Operation Market Garden. Of the 181 Men involved in Operation Deadstick, only two were killed, Lieutenant Botheridge who succumbed to his wounds and Lance Corporal Fred Greenhalgh who drowned after being thrown from Number 2 Glider.

The Caen Canal Bridge was renamed 'Pegasus Bridge' in reference to the Pegasus emblem worn by the 6th Airborne Division in memory of this action. The River Orne Bridge was renamed 'Horsa Bridge' after the gliders that carried the men who landed here.

life_hells_angels_bill ray glare

Ever since World War II, California had been strangely plagued by wild men on motorcycles. They usually travelled in groups of ten to thirty, booming along the highways and stopping here are there to get drunk and raise hell. In 1947, hundreds of them ran amok in the town of Hollister and got enough press to inspire Hollywood to make The Wild One. The film had a massive effect on thousands of young California motorcycle riders.

The California climate was perfect for motorcycles, as well as surfboards, swimming pools and convertibles. Most of the bikers were harmless weekend types, members of the American Motorcycle Association, and no more dangerous than skiers or scuba divers. But a few belonged to what the others called "outlaw clubs," and these were the ones who - especially on weekends and holidays - were likely to turn up almost anywhere in the state, looking for action. The most notorious of these outlaw groups were the Hells Angels, headquartered in San Bernardino, just east of Los Angeles, and with branches all over the state. According to a 1965 statement by the Attorney General of California, they were easily identified:

'The emblem of the Hells Angels, termed "colors," consists of an embroidered patch of a winged skull wearing a motorcycle helmet. Just below the wing of the emblem are the letters "MC." Over this is a band bearing the words "Hell's Angels." Below the emblem is another patch bearing the local chapter name, which is usually an abbreviation for the city or locality. These patches are sewn on the back of a usually sleeveless denim jacket. In addition, members have been observed wearing various types of Luftwaffe insignia and reproductions of German iron crosses.* (*Purely for decorative and shock effect. The Hell's Angels are apolitical and no more racist than other ignorant young thugs.) Many affect beards and their hair is usually long and unkempt. Some wear a single earring in a pierced ear lobe. Frequently they have been observed to wear metal belts made of a length of polished motorcycle drive chain which can be unhooked and used as a flexible bludgeon... Probably the most universal common denominator in identification of Hell's Angels is generally their filthy condition. Investigating officers consistently report these people, both club members and their female associates, seem badly in need of a bath. Fingerprints are a very effective means of identification because a high percentage of Hell's Angels have criminal records. In addition to the patches on the back of Hell's Angel's jackets, the "One Percenters" wear a patch reading "1%-er." Another badge worn by some members bears the number "13." It is reported to represent the 13th letter of the alphabet, "M," which in turn stands for marijuana and indicates the wearer thereof is a user of the drug.'


What originally started out as a 1965 article for The Nation titled 'The Motorcycle Gangs: Losers and Outsiders', became the book 'Hell's Angels - A Strange and Terrible Saga', an offbeat look into the world of the most famous outlaw biker gang of all time written by one of the most famous outlaw journalists of his time, Hunter S Thompson.

Thompson was often a key character in his own novels, he was a drug-taking, gun-toting, left-wing political activist which to many an impressionable teenage-mind was a man to be revered and imitated. To quote Thompson himself, “fiction is based on reality unless you're a fairy-tale artist, you have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you're writing about before you alter it.” Hunter certainly lived up to his own hype and documented it faithfully, especially in his earlier works.


Thompson wears his influences on his sleeve, at times referencing writers such as Joseph Conrad, Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald. There are two overt references to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing in this novel, the first relating to a shop owner who chose not to entertain the Hells Angels’ custom at one of their rallies, he is described as looking out across the sound mournfully in a scene cherry-picked from the ‘The Great Gatsby’ and the death of Mother Miles stating that “This was not going to be any Jay Gatsby funeral” because The Angels would be attending en masse.


Adhering to his own brand of Gonzo journalism, Hunter spent a year with the Angels in the aim of gaining vivid insight into their life and what makes them tick. The book starts off with Hunter giving a brief outline of the Angels lifestyle, meeting various members of the group in a relaxed social atmosphere and offering insights into a few individual lives. Far from being the weary outsider that The Hells Angels rising notoriety acquired and to who they quickly became suspicious of, Thompson was a semi-active member of the group, he would welcome them to his apartment at all hours of the day and night much to his neighbours dismay and eventually leading to him being evicted.

“One of the worst incidents of that era caused no complaints at all: this was a sort of good-natured firepower demonstration, which occured one Sunday morning about three-thirty. For reasons that were never made clear, I blew out my back windows with five blasts of a 12 gauge shotgun, followed moments later by six rounds from a .44 Magnum. It was a prolonged outburst of heavy firing, drunken laughter, and crashing glass. Yet the neighbors reacted with total silence.”

The book is put together in a singular way, a collection of articles, quotations from poems, police reports, film and literature recall the style of a detective novel where events are pieced together after the fact, though this was not the case here as Thompson sent off the novel as individual articles over the year. Thompson would often run what he had written past The Angels as not to offend them. However there is a change after the Ginsberg speech in which Thompson speaks of the Angels in less than flattering terms denouncing them as ‘mutants’, ‘prototypes’ and ‘toads’ a far cry from the early romanticising of The Angels in the early part of the book.  This, Thompson states, is because he has become disillusioned with them, that they have started to believe their own hype. Thompson ends on the opinion that the Angels are not outlaws as they would have us believe but natural born losers who have nothing to gain from society and as a result nothing to lose.


The book features notable cameos from Ken Kesey (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) and Allen Ginsberg (Howl) and is laudable in its painstaking description of the Angels wild drug taking adventures. The Angels took everything in excess whether it be beer, wine, pills, weed, LSD, or their obsessive dedication to their bikes. And Thompson himself was known for his life-long use of all of the above. According to one article, Hunter would daily consume the following for breakfast, “orange juice, coffee, hash pipe, Dunhill cigarettes, a half-pint tumbler of Chivas Regal on ice and a small black bowl filled with cocaine.”

'Hell’s Angels' is Thompson’s most vital work, his first published book and a giant leap from writing various sports articles, propelling him to notoriety and infamy. The book set forth the dogma which he would live fully throughout his life, until his characteristically uncompromising death at the barrel of his own revolver in 2005. Thompson’s contribution to journalism was great, influencing such writers as Rolling Stone’s Lester Bangs and Cameron Crowe.

Thompson is at his best when he is angry, whether it be ranting about gun-control, Hippies who lacked the cultural conviction of their earlier counterparts or Richard Nixon, in his writing he was always eloquent and acerbic. Thompson’s most endearing quality is his inability to shirk the issue or compromise and this comes across in his writing. He was upfront with the Angels about being a journalist and his straight-talking eventually led to him suffering a stomping at their hands, which rounds off his time as an honorary outlaw.


UDTs (Underwater Demolition Team) had their genesis following the U.S. Marine invasion of Tarawa. The invasion beaches were ringed with underwater coral formations hidden from the Marines. Landing craft slammed into the coral and took deadly fire from the Japanese. Many Marines drowned as they attempted to reach shore more than half a mile away.

It was obvious that submerged fortifications could prove disastrous for troops, landing craft and an entire military operation. In this same time period, plans were being finalised for the invasion of Normandy where it was known the coast was heavily fortified with underwater mines and obstacles designed to gut a landing craft. A new strategy was needed.

The idea of Frogmen was certainly not a new one. The British SBS had been founded in 1940 with all members trained as divers while Italians were well known for their underwater commandoes in WWI nicknamed “Uomini Rana”, Italian for “frog men”. The name stemmed from the unique, frog-like kicking style used by the commandoes.

The first major U.S. amphibious operation of WWII was launched in November 1942 when 400,000 men landed off of 890 ships in North Africa. This landing met with limited resistance as the British were already fighting the Germans. However, the military minds realised that there might be a need for operations to clear beaches in the future. Admiral Turner approached LCMR Draper Kauffman about the development of Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs). At that time, Kauffman was in charge of the Mine Disposal School in Washington.

Kauffman was a graduate of the Naval Academy in 1933. He was captured by the Germans in Europe and later escaped. His first major assignment in the Pacific was to disassemble a 500 lb bomb that had hit Schofield Barracks during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He later set up the Navy’s first bomb disposal school. Kauffman mulled over the idea of UDTs for quite a while and finally decided the best way to rid the beaches of obstacles was to send in men trained in handling explosives, thereby blasting the beaches clear for the landing crafts. He began to look for volunteers in the Navy Construction Battalion or CBs (later remained the See Bees) who were used to handling explosives. He later sought out Navy and Marine personnel who were rugged and had previous swimming experience. It was understood that all UDT members were volunteers and they could resign at any time.


The men were brought together in the summer of 1943 at Fort Pierce in Florida for six weeks of training. Additional training in Hawaii followed this. The theory was that a man is capable of about 10 times as much physical output as is normally assumed. Gruelling exercises were conducted in the ocean and the swamps with the alligators and snakes. The focus was on demolishing the obstacles that were expected at Normandy. Training was extensive and exhausting. Timing and teamwork were critical for each mission.

Many of the team members were from the West Coast and were seasoned watermen and surfers. One former WWII UDT member told of his occasional encounter with sharks in the ocean during training. “One day while swimming in very deep water, I happened to look up to see a six or seven foot shark coming along. I reached for my knife and it wasn’t there. For some reason I had forgotten it. I tried to act calm, saying over and over again that most sharks never bother anyone. Boy was I relieved when it disappeared into nowhere. I never forgot my knife again!”


He went on to describe how they would practice cruising in toward shore on rubber rafts loaded with explosives and then blowing up a reef. “Let me tell you, that when two or three tons of TNT goes off, it makes Old Faithful look like a pot of boiling water!” As a result of their training, the men were soon at home in the mud, noise, water and exhaustion.

The UDTs always functioned in small teams. Their apparel consisted of a pair of swimming trunks, fins, mask, a lead line to measure depths, coral shoes to walk on the sharp coral, a slate for taking notes, a life ring and a Hagansen pack. This explosive pack was for destroying a selected obstacle with limited shrapnel, hopefully protecting the diver. Later, when diving in colder oceans such as at Iwo Jima, the only insulation was a layer of grease applied to their skin.

This group worked hard but was never called upon. Then came Tarawa. From then on, the demand for UDTs exploded. Various training programs were developed at different bases, each with a different focus. Some teams trained extensively in reef and obstacle explosives while other became experts in reconnaissance, where they would sneak ashore and determine resistance levels of the enemy prior to an invasion.

UDT Marine Sign

This second group was not without their sense of humour. It has been said that UDTs would come ashore and doodle the famous “Kilroy was here” symbol on structures found ashore. I asked one of our WWII veteran frogmen about it and while he denied knowledge of that story, he replied that his friend in another UDT unit was known for posting small signs on the beach stating, “Army, USO that way”, with an arrow pointing up the beach! The teams also discovered that due to the slowing of bullets underwater, they could catch them in their bare hands. Many were brought back as souvenirs.

The UDTs were later involved in most of the subsequent battles of the Pacific as well as Europe, and Normandy. They were key to the success of Kwajalein, Tinian, Guam, Peleliu, Saipan, Philippines, Borneo, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, among others. Their mark on the success of WWII can never be overstated. On Guam, they removed over 930 obstacles in six days. A very small piece of the Navy, they never numbered more than 32 units and 3000 men. Thanks to the success of the UDTs, the Navy took the skills and team concept of an exceptionally well-trained small unit and developed the highly regarded Navy Seal program.

Before the Naval Demolition Project was established there were other units formed that developed legacy capabilities to accomplish what we now know as Naval Special Warfare. Two were formed at ATB Little Creek, Norfolk, Va., in August 1942 almost simultaneously. Each was to perform specific missions in Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, and yet it is doubtful that either knew about the other or their assigned tasks.


The Amphibious Scouts and Raiders (Joint) were formed to reconnoiter prospective landing beaches and also to lead assault forces to the correct beach under cover of darkness. The unit was led by Army 1st Lt. Lloyd Peddicord as commanding officer and Navy Ensign John Bell as executive officer. Navy chief petty officers and sailors came from the boat pool at ATB Solomons, and Army personnel came from the 3rd and 9th Infantry Divisions. These two groups were gathered at ATB Little Creek in late August, where they trained until embarking for Operation Torch in November. The Scout and Raider school was relocated to ATB Fort Pierce in February 1943, and in July it became an all Navy school reorganised to accomplish a training program code-named “Amphibious Roger.” Roger men were being trained for deployment to the Sino-American Cooperative Organisation (SACO) in China, where they became known as “Rice Paddy sailors.” Scout and Raider units and capabilities did not survive the postwar period.

During the same period, a specialised naval demolition team was formed with two naval Reserve officers and 17 enlisted men. All were U.S. Navy trained salvage divers. Their crash course at ATB Little Creek during August and September 1942 included demolitions, commando tactics, cable cutting, and rubber-boat training. Their single mission was to demolish a heavily cabled boom blocking the Wadi Sebou River so that USS Dallas(DD 199) could proceed up the river and train her guns on the Port Lyautey airdrome in preparation for attack by embarked Army Rangers. This was a hair-raising story of determination and success; however, the group was disbanded once it returned from Africa. Because they were Navy divers and because they were given training in demolitions, they have often been referred to as underwater demolition men, but they were not. Of interest, every man in this group was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in this mission.


Post WWII, the UDTs operated on the coasts of North Korea during the Korean War, with their efforts initially focused on demolitions and mine disposal. Additionally, they accompanied SOK commandos on raids in the North to demolish railroad tunnels and bridges. The higher-ranking officers of the UDT frowned upon this activity because it was a non-traditional use of the Naval forces, which took them too far from the water line. Due to the nature of the war, the UDT maintained a low operational profile. Some of the better-known missions include the transport of spies into North Korea, and the destruction of North Korean fishing nets.

The Korean War was a period of transition for the men of the UDT. They tested their previous limits and defined new parameters for their special style of warfare. These new techniques and expanded horizons positioned the UDT well to assume an even broader role as the storms of war began brewing to the south in Vietnam.

The Navy entered the Vietnam War in 1958, when the UDTs delivered a small watercraft far up the Mekong River into Laos. In 1961, Naval advisers started training the South Vietnamese UDT. These men were called the Liên Đoàn Người Nhái (LDNN), roughly translated as the "soldiers that fight under the sea."

Later, the UDTs supported the Amphibious Ready Groups operating on South Vietnam's rivers. UDTs manned riverine patrol craft and went ashore to demolish obstacles and enemy bunkers. These Detachments operated throughout South Vietnam, from the Mekong Delta (Sea Float), The Parrot Beak and French canal AO's through I Corps and the Song Cui Dai Estuary south of Danang.


In the mid-1950s, the Navy saw how the UDT's mission had expanded to a broad range of "unconventional warfare", but also that this clashed with the UDT's traditional focus on swimming and diving operations. It was therefore decided to create a new type of unit that would build on the UDT's elite qualities and water-borne expertise, but would add land combat skills, including parachute training and guerrilla/counterinsurgency operations.These new teams would come to be known as the SEALs (which stood for SEa, Air, and Land). Initially there was a lag in the unit's creation until President John F Kennedy took office. Kennedy recognised the need for unconventional warfare, and supported the use of special operations forces against guerrilla activity. The Navy moved forward to establish its new wing and in January 1962, SEAL Team One was commissioned. The SEALs quickly earned a reputation for valor and stealth in Vietnam, where they conducted clandestine raids in perilous territory. Since then, teams of SEALs have taken on shadowy missions in strife-torn regions around the world, stalking high-profile targets such as Panama's Manuel Noriega and Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and playing integral roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


In autumn 1940, a small group of Native American Chippewas and Oneidas joined the Thirty-second Infantry Division for the express purpose of radio communications. Soon afterward, an Iowa National Guard unit, the Nineteenth Infantry Division, brought several members of the Sac and Fox tribes into its ranks for the same purpose. Their training, and their use in maneuvers in Louisiana, hinted at the successful utilisation of Indians as combat radiomen.

The tactic seemed so promising that the Thirty-second requested the Indians' permanent assignment to the division, and the army expanded the program in 1941. With posts in the Philippines, where Spanish was commonly spoken, radiomen were needed who could transmit messages directly to the Filipino forces, to American units, and if needed, in code.

The War Department found among the Pueblo Indians the necessary linguistic abilities, actively recruited them into the New Mexico National Guard, mobilised the outfit, and shipped the unit to the islands. Optimism prevailed within the Signal Corps, and, in spring 1942, thirty Comanches entered the Signal Corps and were dispatched to the European Theatre.

Despite the army's early efforts and the proficiency demonstrated by Indian code talkers, the War Department never fully grasped the program's potential. No more than a few dozen Indians were trained for radio operations. In contrast, the US Marine Corps developed the concept on such a broad level that it became an integral part of the branch's combat operations. Unlike the army, Marine solicitation of Indians did not commence until after Pearl Harbor. Moreover, the program resulted not from within the military but from a civilian source.


In February 1942, Philip Johnston approached Major James E Jones, Force Communications Officer at Camp Elliot in San Diego, with a plan to use the Navajo language for battlefield radio transmissions. Johnston had lived among the Navajos for more than 20 years and during that time had become fluent in their language. He explained that Navajo spoke a language unlike any other Indians and added less than a dozen anthropologists had ever studied that part of Navajo culture. Even German scholars who visited Indian communities in the 1930's, including Nazi propagandist Dr Colin Ross, ignored the Navajo language. In essence, this peculiar language seemed safe from enemy understanding if incorporated into the Marine Corps' communication structure.

Johnston convinced Major Jones of the possible worth of his idea, and before the week's end, the Marine Corps extended Johnston the opportunity for a demonstration. On the morning of February 28, the former missionary's son and four Navajos arrived at Camp Elliot.

Major Jones gave them six messages normally communicated in military operations and instructed the group to assemble forty-five minutes later at division headquarters. With such a short time to devise a basic code, the Navajos worked feverishly. At 9:00 A.M. Johnston and the four Indians appeared before Jones, General Clayton B. Vogel, and others to conduct their demonstration. Within seconds, the six messages were transmitted in Navajo, received, decoded, and correctly relayed to Major Jones.

"It goes in, in Navajo? And it comes out in English?" questioned one rather surprised officer. In later tests, three code experts attached to the United States Navy failed to decipher "intercepted" transmissions; the system "seemed foolproof." Both Jones and Vogel were immensely impressed.


Over the following days, the merits of an Indian code-talking program gathered interest with General Vogel's staff. By mid-March, the Marine Corps authorised the recruitment of twenty-nine Navajos for communications work and formed the 382nd Platoon for the Indian specialists. Immediately, the boarding schools at Fort Defiance, Shiprock, and Fort Wingate received visits from marine personnel, and the original complement of code talkers was formed. In addition, Philip Johnston petitioned the Marine Corps for his own enlistment as training specialist at a noncommissioned rank. Though already in his forties, the Marine Corps accepted his offer.

The Indian recruits received basic training and advanced infantry training in San Diego before they were informed of their particular task. To a man, the Indians responded enthusiastically and began the construction of a code. Once the first 29 were trained, two remained behind to become instructors for future Navajo code talkers and the other 27 were sent to Guadalcanal to be the first to use the new code in combat.


In jungle combat in the Pacific, the Navajos' innate strength, ingenuity, scouting and tracking ability, habitual Spartan lifestyle, and utter disregard for hardships stood them in remarkably good stead. At first utilised usually only at the company-battalion level, the Navajos became virtually indispensable as their capability and reliability were recognised.

Frequently, and especially when a Marine regiment was fighting alongside an Army unit, the Navajos' physical resemblance to the Japanese led to confusion that resulted in several Navajos almost becoming casualties of 'friendly fire' by their fellow-Americans. Many Navajos actually were captured and taken for interrogation. One such Navajo, William McCabe, was looking for something to eat while waiting on a Guadalcanal beach for his transport ship. 'I got lost among the big chow dump,' he recalled, 'All of a sudden I heard somebody say, `Halt,' and I kept walking. `Hey, you! Halt, or I'm gonna shoot!'. . . . There was a big rifle all cocked and ready to shoot. I'm just from my outfit, I was coming here to get something to eat. And he said, `I think you're a Jap. Just come with me." After that incident, McCabe was accompanied by a non-Navajo at all times.

On the eve of the First Marine Division's departure for the island of Okinawa, which was expected to be the bloodiest landing of the Pacific War thus far, the Navajos performed a sacred ceremonial dance that invoked their deities' blessings and protection for themselves and their fellow Americans. They prayed that their enemies' resistance might prove weak and ineffectual. Some of their non-Indian buddies, standing on the sidelines, scoffed at the whole idea. When Ernie Pyle, the famed Scripps-Howard war correspondent, reported the story afterward, he noted that the landings on Okinawa beach had indeed proved much easier than had been anticipated and noted that several of the Navajos were quick to point this out to the skeptics in their units.


Farther inland, however, Japanese resistance stiffened, almost slowing the American advance to a halt. As might be expected, a Navajo was asked by another Marine with whom he shared a foxhole what he thought of his prayers now. 'This,' the Navajo replied, 'is completely different. We only prayed for help during the landings.'

Eventually, Navajo code talkers served with all six Marine divisions in the Pacific and with Marine Raider and parachute units as well. Praise for their work became lavish and virtually endless as they participated in major Marine assaults on the Solomons, the Marianas, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima.

Commenting on the Marines' Iwo Jima landing, Major Howard Conner, the Fifth Marine Division's Signal Officer, said that 'The entire operation was directed by Navajo code. . . . During the two days that followed the initial landings I had six Navajo radio nets working around the clock. . . . They sent and received over 800 messages without an error. Were it not for the Navajo Code Talkers, the Marines never would have taken Iwo Jima.'

On an August evening in 1945, the Navajos were, quite naturally, among the first to receive the news that everyone had been waiting to hear. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki three days later, Emperor Hirohito had urged the Japanese nation to 'endure the unendurable' of surrender. The war was over.


In all, 421 Navajos had completed wartime training at Camp Pendleton's code talker school, and most had been assigned to combat units overseas. Following Japan's formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, several code talkers volunteered for duty with U.S. occupation forces in Japan. Others were sent to China for duty with American Marines there. One code talker, Willson Price, remained in the Marine Corps for thirty years, finally retiring in 1972.


While United Nations forces struggled to hold onto the Pusan perimeter in the late summer of 1950, the U.S. 1st Provisional Marine Brigade was rushed into action to reinforce U.S. Army and Republic of Korea (ROK) troops defending that precarious pocket in the southeast corner of South Korea. The undermanned 5th U.S. Marine Regiment and its support units had barely arrived at Pusan when they were moved in borrowed Army trucks to stop a North Korean assault near Chindong-ni, on the perimeter's western edge. Brigade commander Brigadier General Edward A. Craig knew little about the terrain his Marines would have to cross, so he climbed into a Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter and lifted off to scout the route, give directions to the lead battalion, pick a spot for his command post and meet with his Army superiors. Returning from the meeting with Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker, the Eighth Army commander, Craig stopped three more times to confer with his unit commanders. That crucial trip aboard a chopper from Marine Observation Squadron 6 (VMO-6) on August 3, 1950, was a harbinger of the increasingly vital role rotary wing aircraft would play in three years of tough fighting in Korea.

"Fortunately, Marine helicopters attached to VMO-6 were always available for observation, communication and control," Craig recalled. "These aircraft made my day. Without them I do not believe we would have had the success we did." The VMO-6 choppers soon were pressed into service to deliver water and other critically needed supplies to grunts struggling over hilly terrain. And they often carried out wounded Marines on return flights.

While the Marines were inaugurating the use of the underpowered Sikorsky helicopters in command-and-control, light resupply and medical evacuation roles, the Navy was flying those same choppers from aircraft carriers and a few large warships operating in the Sea of Japan. The Navy helicopters were used at first to pluck downed fliers from the sea and undertake short logistical missions between ships. But they quickly took on added duties such as gunfire spotting for the warships. Later in the conflict they became key elements in the prolonged effort to clear coastal waters of mines.

U.S. Air Force Air Rescue Service units would soon be flying similar helicopters, designated as H-5s, from land bases to pick up downed pilots, often behind enemy lines. Within months, Air Force helicopters joined the Marine choppers in rushing badly wounded leathernecks from frontline aid stations to field hospitals and later to a Navy hospital ship offshore, sharply reducing delays in providing lifesaving medical care.

A1/H-5G/pho 7

Early in 1951, Army helicopters also began to fly medevac missions, sparing seriously wounded soldiers punishing ambulance trips over Korea's wretched roads. Between their rescues of downed airmen and isolated ground troops and flying ambulance missions, U.S. helicopters were credited with saving tens of thousands of lives during the war. "Few technical innovations were equal in importance to the growing use of the helicopter for medical evacuations," one Army history declared. With the arrival of larger, more capable helicopters later in the conflict, the Marines and Army would demonstrate the usefulness of vertical lift aircraft in the tactical movement of troops and supplies — a role that would become the hallmark of another Asian war a decade later.

Korea was not actually the first time rotary wing aircraft had been used in combat. The Marines had tested — and rejected as unsuitable — the Pitcairn OP-1 autogyro, a hybrid aircraft with a four-blade rotor, for liaison and medevac missions in 1932, while fighting guerrillas in Nicaragua. The Army bought its first helicopter, a Vought-Sikorsky XR-4, on January 10, 1941, and operated a few improved models of that aircraft in Europe and Asia during the later stages of World War II. The first recorded use of a U.S. helicopter in combat came in May 1944, when an Army chopper rescued four downed airmen behind enemy lines in Burma.


The Navy bought four of the improved Sikorsky aircraft in 1942 for evaluation but soon handed the responsibility for helicopter development and pilot training to the Coast Guard. The Navy resumed its own helicopter programs after WWII ended, forming Experimental Squadron 3 (VX-3) on December 28, 1945. Pilots and support personnel from that unit staffed Helicopter Utility squadrons HU-1 and HU-2 as training and fleet support squadrons.

Postwar atomic bomb tests forced the Marines to reconsider their traditional form of amphibious landings. As a result, Marine Helicopter Developmental Squadron 1 (HMX-1) was created on December 1, 1947, to test the use of rotary wing aircraft to move troops from ship to shore. When North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, four HO3S-1 helicopters and 37 Marines were transferred from HMX-1 to VMO-6, which departed for Korea in July aboard the escort carrier Badoeng Strait.

The squadron's four helicopters and eight Stinson OY-1 (the U.S. Navy designation for the L-5) fixed-wing spotter planes flew into the Pusan perimeter on August 2, as the Provisional Brigade's ground troops were arriving. The helicopters quickly proved their worth, helping General Craig and his battalion commanders overcome their lack of familiarity with their operating area. "Helicopters were a life saver in this connection, as they provided the means for even commanders of small units to get into the air quickly from almost any point and identify roads, villages and key points prior to moving their troops," Craig recalled.

The helicopters added pilot rescue to their duties on August 3 when an HO3S carrying Craig diverted to pick up a Marine Vought F4U-4 Corsair pilot who had been shot down during a close air support mission. Marine choppers would assume that role scores of times in the coming months. Major Robert J. Keller, a commander of VMF-214, the famous "Black Sheep" fighter squadron, said later, "The helicopters have done a wonderful service in rescuing downed pilots under the very guns of the enemy."

As the choppers' roles diversified, their crews implemented a variety of field modifications. When asked to carry casualties to the rear, the Marines found that a stretcher would not fit inside the HO3S's small cabin. So they removed the rear window on one side and stuffed the wounded man's litter in headfirst, leaving his feet exposed to the weather. On occasion, innovative helicopter crews also supported the infantry by laying field telephone wires between units, putting down lines over rugged terrain within minutes that would have taken men on foot days to cross.

Photo 006

Equipped with only the most basic instruments, the helicopters were not actually certified for night flying. But with so many lives at stake, Marines soon found themselves evacuating casualties after sundown. Pilots from the other services also defied the ban on night flying. In the end, chopper crews would conduct hundreds of dangerous nighttime medevac missions.

To meet the increasing demands for their services, additional Marine helicopters and pilots were sent from Japan in August. General Craig called for larger helicopters that could carry heavier loads, and Marine headquarters responded within a year. VMO-6 helicopters had no immediate role in the 1st Marine Division's daring amphibious landing at Inchon on September 15, but choppers got into the action the next day when one of the squadron's helos flying off an LST (landing ship, tank) rescued a Corsair pilot who had ditched in the harbor. Many of the rescue missions proved dangerous, and VMO-6's helicopter units suffered their own losses. Two choppers were shot down, and one pilot was killed while trying to rescue other fliers during the advance from Inchon to Seoul.

The choppers played key roles during the Marines' advance to the Chosin Reservoir and their fighting withdrawal from the massive Chinese offensive, maintaining contact among the widely separated units. And they also continued flying medi­cal supplies and critical materiel in and carrying casualties out of small landing spots in the narrow valleys of North Korea. Two more choppers were shot up and another pilot killed during that precarious withdrawal.


Late in 1950, as the numbers of HO3Ss were shrinking due to losses, VMO-6 started transitioning to Bell HTL-4s, the helicopters made famous by the M*A*S*H TV show's opening scene. The Bells could carry two casualties in litters strapped on each side, twice the load that could be carried by HO3Ss.

Helicopters of the Third Air Rescue Group were given credit for picking up 846 pilots and aircrew from behind enemy lines during the conflict. Add to that 8,373 soldiers and airmen lifted from battlefields and air taxied to the frontline MASH and thats quite a feat.


Although the first extensive use of helicopters in combat was handicapped by the limited capabilities of the early aircraft and the need to develop procedures under wartime pressure, they were widely hailed as tools that would be vital in future conflicts. On the basis of his experiences in Korea, Eighth Army commander Lt. Gen. Maxwell Taylor said: "The cargo helicopter, employed in mass, can extend the tactical mobility of the Army far beyond its normal capability. I hope that the United States Army will make ample provisions for the full exploitation of the helicopter in the future."


By the time the United States went to war again in Vietnam, a decade later, helicopters had made the transition from useful novelty to a symbol of the American way of fighting.


The term 'Rough Rider' was original coined to describe someone who could break or ride unbroken horses. Through time the phrase has been applied to everything from outlaw rustlers to a 1950's motorcycle club. The most famous application though is afforded to group of volunteer cavalrymen during the Spanish American War.

On May 6, 1898, Theodore Roosevelt resigned his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and volunteered to head a cavalry unit destined to fight in Cuba against Spain in the Spanish-American War. Eventually known as Roosevelt's Rough Riders, the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry included cowboys and gamblers, hunters and prospectors, Buffalo soldiers, college boys, and Native Americans from all 45 states then in existence, four U.S. territories and 14 countries. Roosevelt was commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel, with the 1st Volunteer Cavalry serving as a unit of the 1st Cavalry Brigade commanded by his friend, Colonel Leonard Wood, an army doctor who had won the Medal of Honor fighting Apaches in the 1880s. Although the unit’s official uniform was a slouch hat, blue flannel shirt, brown trousers and leggings, boots, and polka-dot bandanas, Roosevelt had his uniform tailored by Brooks Brothers in Boston.


The Rough Riders, consisting of 1,060 soldiers and 1,258 horses and mules, trained at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. The troops departed San Antonio on May 29, 1898, via the Southern Pacific Railroad, en route to Tampa, Florida to await embarkation to Cuba. While awaiting orders to ship-out, the unit was stationed on the grounds of the newly constructed Tampa Bay Hotel, where Roosevelt and his wife, Edith, enjoyed a final visit together. After considerable logistical challenges during which most of the horses and Troops C, H, I and M had to be left behind, the Rough Riders on June 8, 1898 boarded the ship Yucatan and nearly two weeks later on June 22, 1898 finally disembarked at Daiquiri, Cuba, on the southeastern side of the island near the strategically important port city, Santiago. On the eve of battle, Colonel Wood was promoted in the field to Brigadier General and Roosevelt to Colonel. June 30, 1898 proved to be one of the most significant in Roosevelt’s life.


Assembled as part of the Army’s Fifth Corps to assault fortifications protecting Santiago, the Rough Riders were ordered to advance towards the San Juan River. As the troops neared the river, shrapnel from a Spanish shell hit Roosevelt in the wrist, and wounded several other Rough Riders and Army regulars. Wood then ordered the Rough Riders to follow the First Brigade and ford the San Juan River. In the stifling heat with temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the Rough Riders moved out but the advance stalled and troops found whatever cover they could from enemy fire. Ordered to advance up Kettle Hill to support Army regulars, who were attacking nearby San Juan Hill from a different direction, Roosevelt, riding his horse Texas, exhorted his men to ride forward as he pressed on. The Rough Riders found themselves pushing the troops in front of them, and Roosevelt ended up leading the entire advance, which observers at the time thought had no chance of succeeding because there wasn’t sufficient troop strength and the Americans were facing well-entrenched Spaniards.


Still on Texas, Roosevelt advanced about 40 yards from the summit of Kettle Hill where there was a wire fence. Dismounting and releasing Texas, Roosevelt climbed through the fence and quickly reached the summit, along with his orderly, Henry Bradshar, and other Rough Riders and Ninth Infantry troops. Once there, the Americans found themselves under heavy Spanish fire and took cover in Spanish trenches and behind the sugar kettle for which the hill was named. Still, they managed to penetrate and keep up a steady fire on the Spanish line, eventually causing it to collapse. Roosevelt then ordered a charge and took after the Spaniards on adjacent San Juan Hill. But he didn’t realise that only five men followed, three of whom fell wounded within a hundred yards. The other two held their ground while an angry Roosevelt returned to the main line through the continuing fire and confronted his men for not following. In the heat of the moment, the troops hadn’t heard Roosevelt’s order nor seen him charging up the hill almost single-handedly. Now the charge became general and the troops cleared the Spanish trenches and kept a tenuous hold on both San Juan and Kettle Hills.


The Rough Riders lost 89 of 490 men killed or wounded in what came to be known as Roosevelt's Crowded Hour. Most experts agree that his personal valour and leadership were the single strongest elements leading to that day’s victory. The Rough Riders dug in on San Juan Hill, foraging for food and waiting for a counterattack, which never came even though the Spanish kept up a steady fire. Roosevelt and his men held their position in the uneasy siege of Santiago until July 10, when they were ordered to guard the El Caney Road. The Spaniards surrendered on July 17. After the armistice, the Rough Riders returned to the U.S. and on August 14 disembarked at Montauk Point, New York, where they were quarantined until being mustered out of service on September 15, 1898. In the four and a half months the Rough Riders were together, more than one-third were killed, wounded, or stricken by disease, giving them the highest casualty rate of any American unit that took part in the Spanish-American War.


The Jolly Rogers were initiated during World War II as US Navy Fighter Squadron 17 (VF-17) on January 1, 1943 under the command of LCDR Tom Blackburn. The squadron was one of the first Navy squadrons to fly the Vought F4U Corsair fighter. Formally in charge of training new navy fighter pilots in Florida, Blackburn quickly got his new squadron up to speed and they soon deployed into combat aboard the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill (CV-17).

Prior to their deployment in the Pacific the Navy suddenly changed plans and decided to replace all Corsair squadrons on aircraft carriers with the Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter. The reason for this move was that many commanders had submitted negative reviews of the Corsair's carrier suitability, as it was a difficult plane to master, especially compared to the easy-to-fly Hellcat. Time would correct this initial change and later during WW2 Corsair Squadrons would again be deployed as Carrier Aircraft and this continued in later years to the Korean Conflict.

Blackburn (1)


So before VF17 had a chance to fire a shot, they were off-loaded from Bunker Hill and reassigned to land bases on the Solomon Islands in the Pacific. Because their plane was called the "Corsair", VF-17's men wanted a squadron name that would correspond with that pirate theme which would reflect the proper 'attitude'. Soon thereafter, a black flag with white skull-and-crossbones (the "Jolly Roger") was painted on either side of the F4Us engine cowlings, and the squadron's nickname was born.

"Whispering Death" was what the Japanese called the F4U Corsair during World War II. Appropriately so, as the last thing many Japanese pilots saw was a Corsair in their 6 o'clock position. More appropriate was the Skull and Crossbones, or Jolly Roger, painted on the noses of one particular group of Corsairs - those of Navy Squadron VF-17. This symbol flew from the masts of pirate ships who once sailed the seas looking for treasure to plunder. To cross paths with pirates meant death for those who chose to fight with them. From October 1943 to March 1944 many unfortunate Japanese pilots crossed paths with the Jolly Rogers and were dispatched in short order.


The Japanese stronghold on Rabaul, on the northeast corner of New Britain, remained a major thorn in the side of South Pacific Allied operations. In order to neutralise this threat, Task Group 50.3 (including the carriers Essex,Independence and Bunker Hill) launched a major strike on the morning of 1 November 1943.

While the carrier-based planes struck Rabaul, several land-based squadrons were assigned to CAP the task group. Fighting-17 joined VMF-212, VMF-221, the Hellcat-flying VF-33, and a squadron of New Zealand P-40s in this mission. The Jolly Rogers were to take off at 0400, CAP from dawn to 0900, refuel and (if needed) rearm on the carriers, and continue the CAP at 1030 until fuel/ammo/damage demanded they return to Ondongo.

After an hour of early-morning CAP, Blackburn destroyed a lone incoming Japanese Kawasaki Ki-61 which was detected by shipboard radar. There was no further action by 0900, when VF-17 and -33 landed to refuel. Blackburn noted that these landings proved to any skeptics that the Corsair was indeed carrier-worthy.

Morning faded into early afternoon, and the weather conditions over the task force began to degenerate. Puffy clouds developed into massive cumulous clouds; visibility shrank. At 1300, radar detected a large inbound Japanese strike, and the CAP was scrambled to intercept. A few minutes out from the carriers, the pilots of VF-17 sighted 65 Zekes escorting 25 Val dive bombers and 15 Nakajima B5N Kate torpedo bombers. They dove onto the Zekes with a considerable altitude advantage and all of the Jolly Rogers bagged at least one kill or more.

The remainder of the Nakajima B5N's  emerged from the protective clouds and initiated a torpedo run on the Bunker Hill. They were quickly bounced. As the planes closed on the carrier, 40mm and 20mm AA erupted around them and sent huge plumes of water before and between the planes. Fighting 17 engaged them again, this time destroying what was left of the Japanese attack.

For the day's action in what came to be called The Battle of the Solomon Sea, VF-17 was credited with 18.5 confirmed kills and 7 damaged Japanese planes. Two pilots, Baker and Hill, were forced to ditch their planes on-route to Ondongo; both were successfully rescued. The battle was a major strategic victory for the Allies, as the Japanese gave up all attempts to repel the invasion of Bougainville afterwards. Instead, they attempted whatever holding action they could in the Solomons while withdrawling their forces to the strongholds of Truk and Rabaul.


Tom Blackburn wanted fearless, aggressive pilots in the squadron. He didn't always discourage the raucous behavior of his pilots, as some in the Navy thought he should, but he ended up with the type of team he needed. Aggressiveness was an essential in all successful fighter units of the war.

Under his command, VF-17 became the highest scoring Navy Corsair squadron of WWII. They destroyed 154 Japanese planes in 76 days, beating the record of 'Pappy' Boyington's notorious Black Sheep VMF 214, a US Marine Squadron.

Although they were only there for a very short span of time, Navy Squadron VF-17 played an important role in shaping the course of WWII and the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific. The "Jolly Rogers" is continued to this day in the US Navy with VF-84 and VFA-103.


In April 1970, Jane Fonda, with Fred Gardner and Donald Sutherland formed the FTA Tour ("Free The Army", a play on the troop expression "Fuck The Army"), an anti-war road show designed as an answer to Bob Hope's USO tour. The tour, described as "political vaudeville" by Fonda, visited military towns along the West Coast, with the goal of establishing a dialogue with soldiers about their upcoming deployments to Vietnam. The dialogue was made into a movie (F.T.A.) which contained strong, frank criticism of the war by servicemen and servicewomen; it was released in 1972.

Sensationalism and propaganda, often advanced by the power and influence of the media, have perpetually played a key role in controversial events, especially warring conflicts. The counterculture movement of the 1960’s and 70’s spawned an arousal of skepticism and defiance of authority, especially relating to the Vietnam War. Because of the humiliating Watergate Scandal and the unpopular Vietnam quagmire, people became disillusioned with the glory and virtue of the American government system and military. Viewing the system now as a concern requiring a watchdog and gatekeeper, the masses heavily depended on the media to reveal to them “the truth” in their news and event information. Anti-war activists became ubiquitous in popular culture. It became another epic struggle between the Hawks and the Doves. Even celebrities and high-profilers used their star-power to indoctrinate the masses into supporting the principles of socialism and communism and sympathising with North Vietnam, thus becoming a greater enemy to American soldiers than the Viet Cong themselves.



Perhaps the most famous instance of this type of sensationalism was Jane Fonda’s visit to Hanoi in July of 1972. As she openly posited, Fonda was a pro-communism socialist supporting Ho Chi Minh. Her two week, congenial visit to North Vietnam was meant to recognise the efforts and progress of the North Vietnamese while castigating the Nixon Administration, claiming that American tactics should be considered “genocide.” While in Hanoi, Fonda made many public appearances: posing for pictures with a smile on Vietnamese anti-aircraft weaponry and shaking the blood-stained hands of the Viet Cong men and women. Fonda even made live and taped radio broadcasts in which she claimed that American POWs were being treated benignly by the Vietnamese and admonished anyone who claimed he was tortured, saying these claims were fictitious inventions of self-interested “war criminals.” She told Americans to greet the soldiers when they returned home not as heroes, but rather as “hypocrites and liars.” Fonda’s outings were carefully documented by the media so to be used as sensationalism and propaganda supporting North Vietnam. When Fonda returned to the United States, the celebrity used her “peaceful encounters” and “heart-wrenching tales” in Hanoi as keynotes of her anti-war movement, much to the infuriation of Vietnam veterans earning her the nickname 'Hanoi Jane'.

Jane Fonda

Bui Tin, who served on the General Staff of the North Vietnam Army, was to have stated that “America lost because of its democracy; through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize a will to win.” The sensationalism inspired by celebrity visits, like Fonda’s, had the effect of a physical affliction on the already weathered soldiers; the scathing comments and public antagonism eroded the soldiers’ optimism, and eventually cost them the war. Anti-war activists, like Fonda, only aggravated tensions and violence on the home-front, thus bestowing upon the enemy an advantage, because a soldier with no cause or support is as worthless as a soldier with no ammunition. In effect, this form of sensationalism and propaganda led to the deaths of thousands of American lives. Sixteen years later, in 1988, Fonda made a public apology to the soldiers for her actions in Hanoi. However, there still remain many veterans and civilians who label her a traitor. Pins and patches we're manufactured with the slogan 'Fuck You Jane Fonda' and 'Hanoi Jane' both during the conflict and after.


When US Naval Academy plebes, who weren't even born when Fonda protested the Vietnam war, shouted out "Goodnight, Jane Fonda!", the entire company replied "Goodnight, bitch!" This practice has since been prohibited by the academy's Plebe Summer Standard Operating Procedures. In 2005, Michael A. Smith, a U.S. Navy veteran, was arrested for disorderly conduct in Kasas City, Missouri, after he spat chewing tobacco in Fonda's face during a book-signing event for her autobiography, My Life So Far. He told reporters that he "considered it a debt of honour", adding "she spat in our faces for 37 years. It was absolutely worth it. There are a lot of veterans who would love to do what I did." Fonda refused to press charges



It's widely accepted that all biker movies are the bastard children of The Wild One. Produced by Stanley Kramer as a vehicle for Marlon Brando, the 1953 Columbia release put a fictitious spin on the publicised AMA motorcycle rally that got out of hand in the northern California town of Hollister in July 1947. Despite this prestigious kick start, the biker subgenre only became a going concern after the success of Roger Corman's The Wild Angels in 1966. (The script by Corman and Charles Griffith, with an uncredited assist from Peter Bogdanovich and Polly Platt, was inspired by Life magazine's coverage of the funeral of Sacramento Hells Angels chieftain James "Mother" Miles in January of that year.) Leather-clad "trick-riders" had appeared in plenty of films in the interim but were rarely the focus of attention. In American International Pictures' "Beach Party" films, Eric von Zipper's leather-on-leather Ratz were comic foils for clean-cut Frankie Avalon and his whitebread preppy brothers.


It took the maverick Corman to see life through a biker's eyes. Shot for $360,000 as All the Fallen Angels, the film featured Peter Fonda (a last minute replacement for West Side Story star George Chakiris, who balked at having to ride a Harley) and Bruce Dern as gypsy riders wanting "to be free and to ride (their) machines without being hassled by the Man." Working as a production assistant to Corman, Jack Nicholson came up with the more marketable title and The Wild Angels, which opened the 1966 Venice Film Festival, went on to gross $10 million.


Independent producers rallied to cash in on that success. Bruce Dern's manager, Martin B. Cohen, quickly set up The Rebel Rousers for himself to direct, with prominent lead roles for both Dern and his then-wife Diane Ladd. Dern lobbied for the casting of Jack Nicholson, whom he had met in Martin Landau's acting class. Nicholson was despondent over the failure of his marriage to actress Sandra Knight and frustrated that the two westerns he had produced for director Monte Hellman in 1965 -- Ride the Whirlwind and The Shooting -- had been rejected by Corman.


Written quickly by Martin Cohen with Michael Kars and New York playwright Abe Polsky, The Rebel Rousers shuffles Orson Welles' Touch of Evil with Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo, pitting a middle-aged architect (Cameron Mitchell) and his expectant girlfriend (Ladd was pregnant at the time with daughter Laura Dern) against a biker gang led by the volatile partnership of Dern and Nicholson. Fourth-billed, Nicholson doesn't utter an intelligible line of dialogue until forty-five minutes in but is never less than eye-catching in striped convict pants and a black watch cap similar to one he'd wear in Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Nicholson looks like a 60’s tribute to Lee Marvin's iconic biker Chino from The Wild One. They both rode Harley Bobbers on screen – Nicholson on a 1945 Flathead for Rebel Rousers, Marvin on a 1949 or 50 Flathead in The Wild One.

Jack Nicholson went from the ignominy of The Rebel Rousers to a better role in AIP's Hells Angels on Wheels, which was endorsed by Hells Angels frontman Sonny Barger. It was only after Nicholson's Academy Award nominated appearance in Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider that The Rebel Rousers won a proper theatrical release, in April 1970.


Richard Ira Bong was born on September 24, 1920, the son of a Swedish immigrant. He grew up on a farm near the small town of Poplar, Wisconsin and would go on to become America's "Ace of Aces" during World War II.

Dick did well in high school, helped on the farm, and pursued many interests as a teenager. He played on the school's baseball, basketball and hockey teams; played clarinet in the school band; sang in the church choir; and enjoyed fishing and hunting. He became a quite a good shot with a hunting rifle. Like many boys of his era, he became interested in aviation at a young age, and was an avid model builder.

He started at Superior State Teachers College in 1938, where he enrolled in the Civilian Pilot training program, also taking private flying lessons. In 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program.

He received his primary flight training at Rankin Aeronautical Academy in California in June 1941, and completed Basic at at Gardner Field, California.  At Luke Field near Phoenix, Arizona, he received Advanced Training in single-engine (fighter) planes, where he learned to master the AT-6. One P-38 check pilot said Bong was the finest natural pilot he ever met. There was no way he could keep Bong from not getting on his tail, even though he was flying an AT-6, a very slow aeroplane. In January of 1942, just after Pearl Harbor, Bong earned his Army Air Corps commission and his coveted pilot's wings. He promptly became a "plow-back," staying on at Luke to teach gunnery. But after a few months he got the chance to train in Lockheed's big new fighter, the P-38. While mastering the twin-engine craft at Hamilton Field, San Francisco, he first attracted the attention of General George Kenney, his future mentor and head of the Fifth Air Force.

In a famous story, Bong was high-hatting all over San Francisco Bay, flying under the bridges, buzzing Market Street, and blowing washing off of clothes lines. One harried housewife complained. Kenney called Bong and told him,

"Monday morning you check this address out in Oakland and if the woman has any washing to be hung out on the line, you do it for her. Then you hang around being useful - mowing the lawn or something - and when the clothes are dry, take them off the line and bring them into the house. And don't drop any of them on the ground or you will have to wash them all over again. I want this woman to think we are good for something else besides annoying people. Now get out of here before I get mad and change my mind. That's all!"


When General Kenney went to the Pacific in September, 1942, Bong was one of the pilots he tapped to join the 49th Fighter Group. 2nd Lieutenant Bong was assigned to the 9th Fighter Squadron, the "Flying Knights," and was sent to Australia to "hurry up and wait." While waiting for P-38s to be delivered, Bong flew with Captain Thomas Lynch, 39th FS of the 35th FG, operating out of Port Moresby, New Guinea. On December 27th 1942, while flying with the 35th, Bong scored his first aerial victories, a Zero and an Oscar, for this he earned a Silver Star.

After this Bong began shooting down Japanese planes at a rapid rate. While he never had any hugely successful single mission such as McGuire or Shubin, Bong's kills were evenly spread out throughout his time flying combat. Also, most of his victories were in the earlier stages of the war against very experienced Japanese pilots. Bong also was considered extremely lucky in finding the enemy. Some pilots hardly saw any enemy fighters in all their time flying combat.


General Kenney took him out of action again and promoted him to Major. When Rickenbacker heard about it, he sent a message of congratulations reading, "Just received the good news that you are the first one to break my record in World War I by bringing down 27 planes in combat, as well as your promotion, so justly deserved. I hasten to offer my sincere congratulations with the hope that you will double or triple this number. But in trying, use the same calculating techniques that has brought you results to date, for we will need your kind back home after this war is over. My promise of a case of Scotch still holds. So be on the lookout for it." General Kenney also sent Bong a case of champagne. Word that alcohol was being supplied to the famous, clean-cut, young pilot caused a mild uproar in certain circles. In response General Arnold dispatched two cases of Coca Cola with the message: "I understand you prefer this type of refreshment to others. You thoroughly deserve to have the kind you want. The Army Air Forces are proud of you and your splendid record. Congratulations!" When word of this reached other squadrons, those pilots let it be known that they would be glad to take Bong's "unwanted" booze off his hands.

Bong returned to the Southwest Pacific on September 10, reporting to Gen. Kenney at Hollandia. Bong's latest HQ assignment was 'advanced gunnery instructor,' and while allowed to go on combat missions, he had orders to only defend himself, and not seek out the enemy.

aMajRichIraBong MedOfHonor

General MacArthur presented the Medal of Honor to Bong on the Tacloban airfield on December 12, 1944. He tossed away his written remarks and said, "Major Richard Ira Bong, who has ruled the air from New Guinea to the Philippines, I now induct you into the society of the bravest of the brave, the wearers of the Congressional Medal of Honor of the United States." Then he pinned the medal on Bong, they shook hands and saluted. 'For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty in the Southwest Pacific area from 10 October to 15 November 1944. Though assigned to duty as gunnery instructor and neither required nor expected to perform combat duty, Maj. Bong voluntarily and at his own urgent request engaged in repeated combat missions, including unusually hazardous sorties over Balikpapan, Borneo, and in the Leyte area of the Philippines. His aggressiveness and daring resulted in his shooting down 8 enemy airplanes during this period.'


The following paragraph is quoted from the Dick Bong article at the National Aviation Hall of Fame:

Bong described combat flying as fun and a great game that made life interesting. Some pilots were only concerned with their scores, almost to the point of recklessness. Bong relished in the actual flying of combat, not how many enemy aircraft he could shoot down. Bong often referred to his gunnery skills as being lousy, perhaps the worst in the Army Air Force, and this was after breaking Eddie Rickenbacker's record of 26 kills! However, his skills were very adequate, and estimates were that he had a 91 percent hit rate. Bong also knew how to get the most from the aircraft he was flying. He loved flying the P-38, and many pilots who flew with him commented on his mastery of it. He was not a flashy pilot, and knew the limitations of the P-38 and never pushed it beyond. His analytical nature was valuable when flying combat, and he always analyzed the situation before going in with guns firing. Most importantly, he felt no shame in breaking off an engagement when the odds turned against him.

After Bong scored his 40th victory, General Kenney sent him home, this time for good. He was America's "Ace of Aces," with 40 aerial victories, 200 combat missions, and over 500 combat hours behind him. By New Year's Eve, 1945, America's number 1 ace was back in the "Z.I.," headed for Washington D.C. to meet the dignitaries, including General 'Hap' Arnold. At the Pentagon, he met Bob Johnson, also there on a PR tour. Dick explained that he had been dragged around the country on War Bond tours and hated it. "I've got this coming out my ears, Johnson. I'm sure glad to see you. You can help me bear up under this nonsense. It's worse than having a Zero on your tail."

After his PR trip, he returned to Wisconsin, and married Marge on February 10, 1945. After their California honeymoon, he went to work at Wright Field as a test pilot, helping to develop the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. He studied jet propulsion theory and boned up on the engineering details of the new plane for two months, before getting a chance to fly one. After being checked out in the P-80, he flew it eleven times that summer.

Hap Arnold and Dick Bong

On August 6, 1945, while half a world away the Enola Gay dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Bong stepped into an airplane for the last time. His P-80 malfunctioned just after take-off, and while he bailed out, he never had a chance. He was just too close to the ground. After surviving two years of combat flying, Richard Ira Bong met his end while on a routine acceptance flight.

Richard Bong's decorations included the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star (with 1 OLC), the Distinguished Flying Cross (with 6 OLC's), the Air Medal (with 14 OLC's), and many other American and foreign medals.

Major Bong was honored when the airport at Superior, Wisconsin, was named the Richard Bong Airport. In his hometown of Poplar, there is a Bong Memorial room in the Poplar High School that includes his uniform, all twenty-six of his decorations, photographs, newspaper clippings and even a fragment of the plane in which he was killed. Outside is mounted a P-38 Lightning fighter, similar to the one he flew to glory.


In 1968 Catherine Leroy, one of the first female combat photographers of the Vietnam War era. Many American soldiers along with male war correspondents were shocked to see Leroy in 1966 when she landed in Vietnam on a one-way ticket from Paris through Laos to Saigon, with her small Leica in hand. She was only 21 (or thereabouts) and her diminutive presence, at five feet tall and less than 90 pounds, didn’t match the profile of the average foreign war correspondent. As a Parisian girl growing up in a convent school she said that she weekly studied each new Paris Match magazine. When she was much older and reflecting upon her career Leroy said in an interview that as a child, “Photojournalists were my heroes. When I looked at Paris Match as a girl, to me that was an extraordinary window to the world.” Influenced by the magazine’s strong photojournalism and images of conflict on its pages, Leroy knew even then that she wanted to photograph war. And there was one going on at the time, in Vietnam.


She worked in the tradition of Margaret Bourke-White and Robert Capa. In Vietnam, she was cool under fire and one of the few woman photographers in the thick of the fighting and dying. Like Capa, she wanted to show war up close and personal. In one of her photographic sequences from Vietnam (1967), corpsman Vernon Wike applies first aid to a downed buddy, listens for a heartbeat, and then looks up from the body with an anguished and confused look having realized that the Marine is dead. The last photo shows the dead Marine alone – the landscape destroyed and the horizon blank. The series is a powerful reality check about the Vietnam War.



And Leroy didn’t just photograph the war from the sidelines - she jumped in feet first, literally. Becoming the only known accredited journalist – male or female – to jump into combat with American troops at war. Thanks to a former boyfriend who taught her how to sky dive, in 1967 she was a licensed parachutist when she joined up with the 173rd Airborne Division and jumped along with them into combat as part of Operation Junction City. Two weeks after the battle for Hill 881 she was wounded with a Marine unit near the DMZ. In 1968, during the Tet Offensive she was captured by the North Vietnamese Army. She managed to talk her way out and surprised her NVA Regular captors by photographing and interviewing them when they returned her cameras as they released her from detention. The photograph ended up on the cover of Life magazine.


LeRoy Woodson Jr, the editor of Military Week remembers a story that Leroy told him many years later when they talked in Paris in 1981. It’s her story about the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 and she happened to be in the New York offices of Look magazine. “The Look magazine photo editor asked her to go to Harlem to take reaction pictures,” Woodson says. “So Cathy, her blond pigtails and her Leicas in hand, set off for Harlem at this highly sensitive and charged moment. On arrival she got into trouble almost at once. She was surrounded by a hostile crowd that wanted to relieve her of her Leicas. It was a tense moment, when suddenly a voice penetrated the crowd: ‘Cathy, what are you doing here?’ It came from a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade with whom she had made a combat jump the previous year. He rescued her and took her home to his Mamma for a home cooked meal.”




After Vietnam, she covered conflicts in several countries, including Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Lebanon. After her experiences in Beirut she swore off war coverage. Leroy won numerous awards for her work, including in 1967 the George Polk award, Picture of the Year, The Sigma Delta Chi and The Art Director's Club of New York. She was the first woman to receive the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award – "best published photographic reporting from abroad requiring exceptional courage and enterprise" – for her coverage of the civil war in Lebanon, in 1976. In 1997, she was the recipient of an Honour Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri.


The following contains excerpts from the book "Disney During World War II" by John Baxter, Pub. Disney Editions (20 Nov. 2014)

One of the purest expressions of Walt Disney’s genuine patriotism during the war years was his decision to establish a unit devoted to producing customised military unit insignia free of charge for U.S. armed forces and their allies. Headed by the talented draftsman Hank Porter, whom Walt referred to as a “one-man art department,” the unit worked steadily throughout the war, turning out nearly 1,300 insignia upon request.

By far, the single most requested and used Disney insignia character during the war was Donald Duck, who was featured in at least 146 designs. The numerous requests for insignia bearing Donald’s likeness resulted in a wealth of drawings that successfully channeled his irascibility as patriotism and military zeal, often with a comedic flourish.

Next to Donald, the character that appeared in more insignia (about 35) than any other was Pluto. Like Donald, Pluto was popular, and his trademark facial expressions that made it easy for the artists to incorporate him into a variety of military insignia. Goofy was next in popularity at 25 insignia, and Jiminy Cricket appeared in 24.


Sometimes a unit had a specific design already in mind, and was seeking a Disney artist’s skill to bring it to life, attaching a rough sketch to their request letter for reference. The bulk of insignia were designed for Army units and Navy vessels, but occasionally individuals requested their own personal insignia design. These requests were accommodated and executed with the same level of care as insignia for an entire ship, bombardment group, or battalion.


The request letters were often addressed simply to “Walt Disney, Hollywood, California.” Once a letter was received, it would be placed in the queue of pending requests, and the turnaround time was usually three to four weeks, though a wait of several months was possible when the insignia unit was particularly swamped. The procedure for the creation of an insignia design varied, but it typically involved a preliminary pencil drawing in which the image was established, then a full-colour pencil version, and finally a full-colour gouache on art board that would then be forwarded to the requesting unit or party. This would often hang in the unit headquarters and serve as a template for reproducing the emblem on airplanes, tanks, and other military equipment, as well as on uniforms and unit letterhead.

It is difficult today to fully appreciate how it felt for a serviceman to have his unit represented by a Disney-designed insignia. For the generation that fought World War II, Disney character images possessed an iconic heft that has no contemporary in todays animation.As incongruous as Disney characters are to the horrors of war, these cartoon military patches embodied pop culture, innocence, American values, and everything the troops loved about home—a much more fitting emblem than a heraldic pompous symbol with no sentimental significance. A Donald Duck insignia boosted morale, not just because it reminded soldiers of home, but also because it signified that the job they were doing was important enough to be acknowledged by Walt Disney.

After Mickey Mouse rode a goose in a patch for a Naval Reserve squadron stationed at Floyd Bennett Field in New York, the illustrations became illustrious among units and inspired Naval artists to recreate the magic, designing their own logos in the Disney style. Almost every Disney character was used in the project— except Bambi.

Floyd Bennet field logo CP

This logo for Floyd Bennett Field depicts Mickey Mouse flying atop a goose (bomber) with a Navy trident in front of a silhouetted Statue of Liberty. The logo predates World War II and was not sanctioned by Disney. However the insignia likely led the charge for similar insignia after the start of the war.

King Kong scene with logo

The insignia was taken from the memorable silver-screen scene in King Kong. It can be seen briefly in this still frame.

blog donald torpedo bomber

Donald Duck zooms from an air-launched torpedo, guiding it into its target.

Aviation Repair Unit 1cb

This insignia was for Aviation Repair Unit No. 1, providing aircraft repair and maintenance personnel for overseas deployment as advanced bases were readied.

USS Wasp cb

USS Wasp (CV-7), churning across the sea carrying aircraft, is clearly ready for the fight. She was sunk on Sept. 15, 1942 by a Japanese submarine.

USS Sapelo cb

After decommissioning in 1933, the USS Sapelo (AO-11) was reactivated in 1941 to bring vital shipments of fuel to numerous places in the Atlantic.

USS Reliable cb

The caption says it all. Throughout the war, USS Reliable (AMc-100) safeguarded Los Angeles Harbor.

USS Positive cb

Another minesweeping ship, the USS Positive (AMc-95) swept up mines for the Naval Operating Base at Guantanamo, Cuba, from March 1943 to January 1945.


USS Escambia (AO-80) had the dangerous job of fueling various vessels during the invasion of the Marshall Islands, aircraft carriers as they launched strikes against the Philippines, task-force vessels supporting the invasion of Okinawa, and aircraft flying raids against the Japanese. The ship received five battle stars during the war.

Airship patrol 32 cb

Airships were favored over airplanes to escort ships and scout for submarines because of their slower speeds. This logo for Airship Patrol 32 shows a mouse perched on balloons ready to drop bombs the enemy.

Airship Sqd 14 cb

This Airship Squadron 14 insignia depicts an airship atop of a cloud over the ocean with a telescope in one hand with a bomb in the other, combing the seas for enemy vessels.

GRO PAC 11cb

Donald Duck hauls along a net dragging for mines, suggesting the duty as a minesweeping squadron.

78th Naval Construction Bn

60th Construction

Artists created about ten logos for Naval Construction Battalions (Seabees). Two of them are shown here — 78th and 60th Naval Construction Battalion — which added Disney flair to the classic Seabee logo.

USS Baya

USS Baya (SS-318) completed five war patrols from August 23, 1944 to July 25, 1945 in the South China Sea, Gulf of Siam, Java Sea, and the Philippine Sea. She sank four Japanese vessels. The logo displays a bear ferociously ripping and chewing apart the naval ensign of Japan, depicting her relentless pursuit of Japanese sea craft.

USS Cythera cb

USS Cythera (PY-26) functioned as a civilian yacht before seeing service in both world wars.

USS Jason cb

USS Jason (AR-8) was a repair ship serving in Purvis Bay in the Solomon Islands, and Ulithi, where she spent the greatest part of the war.


USS YMS 329 was a minesweeper serving in the pacific. Her insignia contains an enthusiastic turtle at the ready with a broom, a telescope, fuel, and a mousetrap on its back. A Japanese mine sunk her off of Borneo on June 16, 1946.

USS Piedmont

During World War II, the USS Piedmont (AD-17) serviced destroyers near battle areas in the Pacific to keep them fit for duty. She also served in the Cold War, Korean War, and the Vietnam War, winning four battle stars for her efforts in the Korean War and one for service in Vietnam.


Photographer Gary Margerum is no stranger to vintage motorcycles. He's been around them all his life, while he currently rides a '67 BSA Thunderbolt and a '76 Shovelhead, in the past his array of motorcycles has included a BSA Bantam, a Honda XR400, a '58 Triumph pre unit street scrambler, a Ducati 900m and a '47 Triumph Bobber.

Having picked up a camera while travelling and surfing in the late 1980s he began photographing landscapes in different continents when there was little or no swell. Fast forward a couple of years and he started to successfully exhibit some of these landscapes in galleries in the UK, it was at that point that he wanted to concentrate more on photography and develop his passion. Soon after he proudly exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in conjunction with a Channel 4 project.




>Becoming freelance gave him the freedom to work in all different aspects of photography. In 2009 he was invited to document one of the last truly great travelling shows - The Wall of Death. His brief was to give an insight into the Wall of Death and its Indian Motorcycle riders, a back to basics no post editing biographical sketch that represented the Fox family and documented their extraordinary life. Gary's book 'The Ken Fox Hell Riders' was published in 2012 to critical acclaim.


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In recent years he has produced work for numerous leading lifestyle clients and motorcycle and clothing brands including Heritage Research, Barons Speed Shop, Belstaff and Barbour.

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In 2013 he documented the successful attempt to break a land speed record at the famous Bonneville salt flats in Utah, capturing the highs and lows of the British team and their beautiful vintage Triumph motorcycle.


He cites working within media type magazines, marketing and lifestyle as a way of reinforcing his creativity and one of the forces that has kept his photography inventive, "....I'm always still proud to see my imagery representing the clients I work for in some of the leading magazines. This is still extremely important to me."

For the upcoming ELMC Summer 2015 Collection shoot he drew inspiration from the 1960's series 'Then Came Bronson'. The shoot took place over 4 days in the Mojave Desert, with Gary effortlessly capturing the cinematic feel and movement in his photography that tells the story of a soul searching reporter travelling light with his motorcycle across the United States of America.



As the United States military involvement in South Vietnam shifted from an advisory role to combat operations, Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) advisors to the South Vietnamese government noticed an increase in the amount of military supplies and weapons being smuggled into the county by way of North Vietnamese junks and other small craft. The extent of infiltration was underscored in February 1965 by the detection of a North Vietnamese trawler disguised as an "island" by a United States Army helicopter crew. The event would later be known as the Vung Roy Bay Incident, named for the small bay that was the trawler's destination. After the Army helicopter crew called in air strikes on the trawler, it was sunk and captured after a five-day action conducted by elements of the South Vietnamese Navy (SVN). Investigators found 1 million rounds of small arms ammunition, more than 1,000 stick grenades, 500 pounds of prepared TNT charges, 2,000 rounds of 82mm mortar ammunition, 500 anti-tank grenades, 1,500 rounds of recoilless rifle ammunition, 3,600 rifles and sub-machine guns, and 500 pounds of medical supplies. Labels on captured equipment and supplies and other papers found in the wreckage indicated that the shipment was from North Vietnam. Concern by top MACV advisors as to whether the SVN was up to the task of interdicting shipments originating in North Vietnam led to the request by General Westmoreland commanding general of MACV, for Navy assistance.



On 22 April 1965, representatives of the Coast Guard and the Navy signed an agreement where the Coast Guard would supply 17 Point-class cutters and their crews and the Navy would provide transport to South Vietnam and logistical support with two LSTs that had been converted to repair ships. Ten of the cutters were sourced from stations on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and seven were sourced from Pacific coast stations. After removal of the Oerlikon 20mm cannon on the bow, each cutter was fitted with a combination over-under M2 Browning Machine gun / MK2 trigger and drop fired 81mm mortar and loaded on merchant ships for shipment to US Naval Base Subic Bay in the Philippines.


On 29 April President LBJ authorised Coast Guard units to operate under Navy command in Vietnam and to provide surveillance and interdiction assistance to Navy vessels and aircraft in an effort to stop the infiltration of troops, weapons and ammunition into South Vietnam by North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) forces. The combined Navy, Coast Guard and South Vietnamese Navy effort was designated Operation Market Time.

The Coast Guard presence in Vietnam was designated Squadron One which consisted CG Divisions 11 and 12. Squadron One was active throughout the conflict, with its Cutters earning the Navy Presidential Unit Citation for their assistance provided to the Navy during Operation Sealords. CG Squadron Three was activated in support of Market Time beginning March 1967 and consisted initially of five High Endurance Cutters (WHEC) tasked to the Navy for used in coastal interdiction and naval gunfire support for shore operations in South Vietnam.



Several Coast Guard aviators served with the US Air Force 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron in Southeast Asia from 1968 to 1972. They were involved in combat search and rescue operations in both Vietnam and Laos.

The Coast Guard also provided Explosive Loading Detachments (ELD) to the US Army 1st Logistics Command in several locations in Vietnam. The ELD's were responsible for the supervision of Army stevedores in the unloading of explosives and ammunition from U.S. Merchant Marine ships. The ELD's were also responsible for assisting the Army in port security operations at each port and eventually were made a part of a Port Security and Waterways Detail (PS&WD) reporting to the Commanding General, United States Army, Vietnam USARV. They earned the Army Meritorious Unit Commendation or their efforts.



In August 1970 the Coast Guard finished turning over the patrol boats of Squadron One to the South Vietnamese Navy. The training of South Vietnamese crews had started in February 1969 and continued through to the end of operations for Squadron One. Eventually three other WHEC's were turned over to the South Vietnamese Navy. The Coast Guard's involvement in the Vietnam War ended at 12.46 local time 29 April 1975 when LORAN Station Con Son went off the air for good. Its signal was necessary for the safe evacuation of Saigon by US Embassy personnel in the final days before the fall of the South Vietnamese government and it was kept on the air as long as possible. On 3 October 1975 the Coast Guard disestablished the remaining LORAN-C stations in Thailand.Seven Coast Guardsmen were killed during the war in combat and search and rescue operations.


As is the premise for ELMC, all US motorcycle clubs, whether of the law-abiding or outlaw biker gang variety, were descended from WWII vets who caught the "riding" bug in the combat zone. But what role, exactly, did motorcycles play in the military?

Next to a jeep or tank, a two-wheeled vehicle that leaves its operator exposed seems a poor choice for an army vehicle; but there are worthwhile tradeoffs. A motorcycle's speed makes it ideal for scouting, reconnaissance and messenger capacities. It can travel where larger vehicles cannot. It uses less fuel, and you can fit several of them into a transport vehicle. Adverse weather and terrains could reduce their effectiveness, but clever engineers would counter that with design.


The Harley-Davidson WLA, which first saw production in 1940 was the US Army motorcycle of choice. Harley engineers took an existing civilian bike, the WL, and adapted it for military use with several changes. The fenders were shaped in such a way that mud flung by the wheel could exit from the sides rather than clog. It was fitted with a heavy duty carrying rack in the rear that could support an ammunition box or two radios, and saddlebags could be hung from its sides. A scabbard placed up front was sized large enough for the driver to tuck a Thompson submachine gun in. On the other side of the front wheel, another ammo box could be attached. A secondary set of "blackout lights" were added, which diffused the light to reduce the bike's nighttime visibility to observers.


There were mechanical changes as well. In a nod to the Army's logistical needs, the air filter was replaced with an oil-bath air cleaner - something then used in farm tractors in high-dust environments - for ease of maintenance; rather than having to stock replacement air filters, the rider could "freshen up" his filter by adding regular motor oil. And the crankcase was redesigned to reduce water intake, so that the vehicle could reportedly ford 16 inches of water without stalling out.


Harley had been building motorcycles since 1906. BMW got a much later start, around 1921; but by the time World War II rolled around, BMW's design & engineering was already world-class. In the 1930s BMW had mastered the emerging production method of electric arc welding, and were able to create incredibly strong joints. This practice was borne of necessity; sidecars were popular in Germany, perhaps more popular than in the US, where Americans aspired to ride around in automobiles. Sidecars placed a lot of stress on a motorcycle frame. But in thrifty Germany, with one passenger in the sidecar and another behind the driver, a sidecar-equipped motorcycle was an economical way to transport three people. BMW made their frames strong enough to handle that load.


Sometime around 1941, BMW began producing an improved motorcycle at the German army's request. Their resultant R75 had a permanently-attached sidecar whose wheel was connected, via axle, to the motorcycle's rear wheel. The R75 thus effectively had two-wheel drive, which greatly improved the motorcycle's handling in adverse conditions. To simplify inventory and maintenance, all three wheels were designed to be interchangeable, and a spare was attached to the rear of each sidecar. Loaded up with two Jerrycans on the sidecar, one on the bike's rear, an extra seat behind the driver and a machine gun, the R75 made for a formidable and utilitarian vehicle capable of carrying three.

Both the R12 and the R75 - and indeed, any motorcycle made by BMW until 1994 - also incorporated another clever mechanical trick that Harley-Davidson had not been able to pull off: shaft drive. The rear wheel of the motorcycle was driven by a rotating shaft connected to a universal joint. In contrast, Harley's SLA, like most other motorcycles of the era, was chain-driven. As both the U.S. and Germany military would discover in the North African campaign, BMW's enclosed shaft was superior, in sandy conditions, to an exposed chain that grit could get inside of.


In the 1930s and '40s, to an American engineer, shaft-drive and telescoping forks were something like the concept of laser pistols today; we can envision how they should work in theory, but we can't yet figure out how to make them. BMW had worked it out, and their advanced design and engineering was therefore providing the German military with a material advantage.

However, as with the Jerry Can, at some point Allied troops captured a German R12 or R75 and sent it back home to be studied. Once the U.S. engineers had ripped the bike apart, converted the metric to Standard and reverse-engineered the manufacturing technology, Harley-Davidson was then tasked with producing a similar shaft-driven design. As it worked out, just over 1,000 XA models were produced - and they never got to see the North African sands for which they were designed. Military bureaucracy, combined with an increasing Army reliance on jeeps, meant that the relatively few XAs produced were wastefully relegated to base duty on U.S. soil. Today the XA is a collector's item and the motorcycles produced both in the US and Germany during WWII helped to push forward the boundaries of mechanical engineering in many respects affording us the machines we have today.


On July 4, 1942, General Claire Lee Chennault's American Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers, went out of business, turning its planes and bases over to the newly formed AAF China Air Task Force, later to become Fourteenth Air Force. A few of the AVG pilots stayed on, among them Tex Hill and Ajax Baumler, who had been an ace in Spain. Even before the turnover, AAF pilots began arriving to man the CATF's 23d Fighter Group. One of them was Maj. John Alison, fresh from a year in Russia, introducing our erstwhile allies to the P-40, A-20, and B-25.

The 23d, like its AVG predecessor, was strictly a frontier air force, operating at the end of the war's longest and most difficult supply line. Everything--fuel, ammunition, spare parts for its obsolescent P-40s--had to be flown in over the Hump. There was no ground radar and little in the way of radio aids. At one point, the 75th Fighter Squadron 'Tiger Sharks', to which Alison was assigned as Tex Hill's deputy, had nothing but five-gallon cans to refuel its fighters.


Alison's first few missions were relatively uneventful, with no Japanese aircraft showing up. Then about 3 a.m. on July 18, the warning net of Chinese ground observers reported bombers heading for the 75th's field at Hengyang. Alison and Hill stood outside their barracks about a mile from the runway and watched the bombs explode.

Alison asked Hill if the AVG had ever attacked Japanese bombers at night. It seems they had tried early on, but with no success, and had given it up. Whenever there was a moon, the Japanese enjoyed a free ride against Chinese towns and American airfields. "If they come over tomorrow night," said Alison, "I'm going to be up there waiting."


New-guy Alison convinced veteran Baumler that he was onto a good idea, and sure enough, the warning net reported approaching bombers the next night. Alison took up a position in his P-40 at 12,000 feet with Baumler below him, while warning-net position reports were relayed to them by radio.

The bombers, expecting another free ride, made two leisurely passes over the Hengyang runway before Alison was able to pick up the faint flame from their engine exhausts above him as the bombers turned on their bombing run. He pulled up the nose of his P-40, firewalled the throttle, and at the last moment saw he was closing too fast in this unpracticed nighttime maneuver. Chopping the throttle, Alison sideslipped to kill his speed and slid smack into the middle of a three-bomber V formation.

The top turret of the bomber on his right opened up at point-blank range, stitching Alison's P-40 from nose to tail. His radio was knocked out, one slug went through the seat, and another grazed his left arm. Almost immediately the P-40's engine began to run rough. In that situation, any fighter pilot could have been forgiven for thinking the AVG was right, and now was a good time to head for home. Not Alison. He kicked his fighter around and blasted the bomber on his left with the P-40's six .50-caliber guns. Oil covered his windshield as the bomber pulled straight up and disappeared. Swinging back to the right, he exploded the bomber that had hit him. By that time, flames were popping out from the engine cowling as he turned on the lead bomber and blew it up.

Alison at last pointed the nose of his wounded fighter down, heading for the blacked-out 3,500-foot runway as the engine threatened to jump out of its mountings and flames spewed from the cowling. There wasn't time for a planned approach. He came in too fast with only one viable alternative--to overshoot and crash-land in the river about two miles ahead. Clearing a railroad trestle by inches, he hit the water with a resounding crash, climbed out of the sinking P-40, and swam to a log raft near the shore. A young Chinese man pulled the bleeding Alison out of the water.

While all this was going on, Baumler had shot down two more bombers. As a result of Alison's experiment in night interception, for which he was awarded the DSC, Japanese bombers didn't come back in darkness for almost a year.


Alison ended his tour with the colorful 23d Fighter Group as an ace with six air-to-air victories and several probables. He then became Phil Cochran's deputy commander of the equally colorful 1st Air Commando Group in Burma.

After the war, Alison served as an Assistant Secretary of Commerce, President of AFA, a major general in the Reserve, and a vice president of Northrop Corp. On a visit to one of Northrop's research organizations near Boston, he was introduced to its chief engineer, a Dr. Tsien. It came out that Tsien had lived near Hengyang while Alison was stationed there.

"Were you a bomber pilot?" asked Tsien. Alison replied that he had been deputy commander, then commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron. "Then we have met before," said Dr. Tsien. "I'm the man who pulled you out of the river."

The Eastman Leather 75th Fighter Group CBI Tiger Sharks A-2 flight jacket is available now to order in the Elite Units section of the website.


Like many of the original West Coast motorcycle clubs, the Boozefighters MC was formed by ex-servicemen just returned from World War II. They were young men whose lives had been interrupted by the horrors of war. They were looking for excitement and craving fun but more importantly, they were longing for the Brotherhood they previously had while serving on the Worlds battlefields. They gravitated together through these desires and also the commonality of motorcycles. The growth and bond between the Members of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club was almost immediate.


“Wino” Willie Forkner is recognised to be the founder of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club. Having been kicked out of The 13 Rebels Motorcycle Club for rowdy behavior, he decided to create a new Motorcycle Club. Along with four other originals, he established the BFMC in 1946 at the All American Café, Los Angeles, California. Boozefighters gained notoriety due to their participation at the infamous Gypsy Tour in Hollister, California during the July 4, 1947 weekend or 'Hollister Riot' as it later became known thanks to LIFE Magazine. This event was immediately immortalised by a photograph in the magazine and later in the movie The Wild One with Lee Marvin portraying the part of “Wino Willie”. Because of the events of that weekend, and the public sensationalism, Hollister is renowned as the birth place of the American Biker and the Boozefighters MC is recognised as one of those Motorcycle Clubs responsible for this.


curley sally les mint cyn 1946

At this time there were three Chapters of Boozefighters in California; Los Angeles, San Pedro, and San Francisco. The club was one of the very first MCs to have multiple Chapters. Boozefighters from the very beginning had but a few desires: Ride, Party, and Brotherhood. For many of the earliest Originals, the BFMC created life long bonds. This is symbolised by the acronym OWOF (Original Wild Ones Forever). Currently, the Boozefighters MC is one of the oldest active Motorcycle Clubs in existence. There are chapters across the United States and abroad in numerous countries.



From 1951 to 1958, legendary Motorcycle racers including Bud Ekins, Ed Kretz Jr. and Jack Thurman competed in the Catalina Grand Prix, an on/offroad event that saw riders racing through the streets of the port city of Avalon and out onto fire roads and horse trails in the surrounding hills. In its day, it was among the most anticipated races of the year.

Inspired by the U.K.’s historic Isle of Man TT, the two-day Catalina Grand Prix included a 60-mile race for bikes up to 250cc and a 100-mile race for larger machines. Races were 10 laps, with the 60-miler running a six-mile course and the 100-miler a 10-mile course.


In 1957, 150 riders lined up for the 60-mile race, while another 199 watched the flag drop to start the 100-mile race. Fans loved the event, and in its last year, 1958, it’s estimated some 7,000 people took the Catalina Ferry from Los Angeles to Catalina Island to take in the racing action.

British bikes were very popular in the Catalina races, thanks no doubt to their light weight and high performance, with Triumph and BSA particularly well represented; 66 of the 199 starters in 1957’s 100-mile race were on Triumphs and 48 on BSAs.


The race’s prominence prompted BSA, whose first big win at the island came in 1952, to introduce the Gold Star-based Catalina Scrambler in 1956. Fittingly, BSA won the 1956 event — after the Catalina Scrambler had been added to its lineup. BSAs nabbed four of the top 10 Open Class slots in the final 1958 race — including first.

Many of the AMA’s best motorcycle racers, local SoCal riders and Motorcycle Clubs including The Checkers, Shamrocks, Rough Riders and Dirt Diggers mixed with Hollywood actors, stunt riders, and thrill-seekers– all converging on the tiny vacation island from 1951 – 1958 for an event like no other.


Actors Keenan Wynn and Steve McQueen famously attended, and Lee Marvin infamously raised hell. In fact, Dave Ekins credited Lee Marvin for being partially responsible for the Catalina GP’s demise in 1958–

“So, what happened? There are several reasons as to why they terminated this race. One of the reasons is that money commitment to cover the costs of the programs didn’t show up. After all, can’t have a race without a program. Another was actor Lee Marvin trying to incite a mutiny from the fantail of the homebound steamer. Marvin never needed a microphone even when shouting against the wind and it was all in jest anyway. But the Captain took Lee seriously enough to strap on a sidearm and stand on the bridge. The ship was escorted to the dock by the Harbor Police. Marvin had some explaining to do. Probably the most damaging was when Waikiki Bar owner Mel Porter closed up Saturday night and was mugged on his way home by several scum bags. Mel didn’t take kindly to this treatment and the Chamber of Commerce decided no more races. They chose the wrong person, Mel was the Mayor of Avalon.”  –Dave Ekins

Portrait of aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

Forty years before Annie Hall flirted with menswear, Amelia Earhart put women in pants (and, of course, planes).

In 1923, Earhart, fondly known as "Lady Lindy," became the 16th woman to be issued a pilot's license. Taking her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921, in six months she had managed to save enough money to buy her first plane. The second-hand Kinner Airster was a two-seater biplane painted bright yellow—Earhart named her newest obsession "The Canary" and used it to set her first women's record by rising to an altitude of 14,000 feet. Her strong will and conviction enabled her to overcome the challenging technical problems, gender bias and financial obstacles of the day.

Her many accomplishments in aviation went on to inspire a generation of female aviators, including more than 1,000 women pilots of the USAAF Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) who ferried military aircraft, towed gliders, flew target practice aircraft, and served as transport pilots during World War II.


Earhart was a widely known international celebrity during her lifetime. Her shyly charismatic appeal, sartorial style, independence, persistence, coolness under pressure, courage and goal-oriented career along with the circumstances of her disappearance at a young age have afforded her lasting fame in popular culture.


Amelia’s sense of style reflected her independent personality, she was at odds with the feminine fashion trends of the day and instead was seen and pictured in newspapers wearing mens aviation clothing including military issue chinos trousers and leather flight jackets, revolutionary for the time. In 1932, Amelia developed flying clothes for the Ninety-Nines. Her first creation was a flying suit with loose trousers, a zipper top and big pockets. Vogue advertised it with a two-page photo spread. Then, she began designing her own line of clothes "for the woman who lives actively." It didn’t take long for masculine tailoring to become de rigueur for the Fashion Houses and style conscious females of the 1930’s.


In 1937, as Earhart neared her 40th birthday, she was ready for a monumental, and final, challenge: she wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world. Despite a botched attempt in March that severely damaged her plane, a determined Earhart had the twin engine Lockheed Electra rebuilt. "I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system, and I hope this trip is it," she said. On June 1st, Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan departed from Miami and began the 29,000-mile journey. By June 29th, when they landed in Lae, New Guinea, all but 7,000 miles had been completed. Frequently inaccurate maps had made navigation difficult for Noonan, and their next hop—to Howland Island—was by far the most challenging. Located 2,556 miles from Lae in the mid-Pacific, Howland Island is a mile and a half long and a half-mile wide. Every unessential item was removed from the plane to make room for additional fuel, which gave Earhart approximately 274 extra miles. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter ITASCA, their radio contact, was stationed just offshore of Howland Island. Two other U.S. ships, ordered to burn every light on board, were positioned along the flight route as markers. "Howland is such a small spot in the Pacific that every aid to locating it must be available," Earhart emphasised.

On July 2nd, At 10 am local time, zero Greenwich time, the pair took off. Despite ideal weather reports, they flew into overcast skies and intermittent rain showers. This made Noonan's favored method of tracking, celestial navigation, difficult. As dawn neared, Earhart called the ITASCA, reporting "cloudy weather, cloudy." In later transmissions, Earhart asked the ITASCA to take bearings on her. The ITASCA sent her a steady stream of transmissions but she could not hear them. Her radio transmissions, irregular through most of the flight, were faint or interrupted with static. At 7:42 am, the ITASCA picked up the message, "We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet." The ship tried to reply, but the plane seemed not to hear. At 8:45, Earhart reported, "We are running north and south." Nothing further was heard from her.


A rescue attempt immediately commenced and became the most extensive air and sea search in naval history. On July 19th, after spending $4 million and scouring 250,000 square miles of ocean, the United States government reluctantly called off the operation. In 1938, a lighthouse was constructed on Howland Island in her memory, and across the United States, streets, schools, and airports are named after Earhart. Her birthplace, Atchison, Kansas, became a virtual shrine to her memory. Amelia Earhart awards and scholarships are given out every year.

Amelia Earhart

Despite many theories, no proof of Earhart’s fate exists. There is no doubt, however, that the world will always remember Amelia Earhart for her courage, vision, and groundbreaking achievements, both in aviation and for women.


The archetypal outlaw ‘biker’ image has been synonymous with American popular culture since the release of the iconic film, The Wild One (1953). Marlon Brando’s portrayal of fictional motorcycle gang leader Johnny Strabler, a leather-clad, Harley-Davidson-riding persona, resonated with a whole post-World War II generation wanting to rebel against 1950s traditionalist society by living on its edge and adopting the biker’s leather uniform. Some became ‘outlaw biker gangs’, a paradox of freedom-worshipping non-conformists, loyally bound by self-imposed by-laws as a tight-banded brotherhood, becoming the modern incarnation of the romanticised outlaws previously upheld by the likes of pirates and cowboys.

These gangs became a myth in themselves, steeped in negative association within the public’s subconscious; especially in mainstream media during the 1960s, after the infamous Hell’s Angels gang from California became recognised for widespread gang violence, theft, drug-dealing and murder, highlighted in the book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1966), by counterculture icon Hunter S. Thompson.

By 1968 the Vietnam War was in full scale escalation and back home the United States was undergoing radical sociological and cultural changes with racial tension at an all time high, ongoing student revolution against the establishment and a general sense of unease permeating the nation. Drafted soldiers returning from their tour of duty in South East Asia were not met with open arms, they were shunned and treated as pariahs. While many tried to integrate themselves back into society, others were unable to fit into the normality of daily life so turned to an alternatively lifestyle where the motorcycle provided the freedom to live a life devoid of any rules or regulations.


Often long haired and bearded, these were men living outside of social conventions and would later be described as 'Counter Culture'. Movies including Easy Rider and The Losers sought to catalogue these bikers and along with media sensationalism brought them to the attention of the mainstream who viewed them as dangerous outsiders and radicals. Many vets joined motorcycle clubs such as the Hell's Angels while others aimlessly drifted across the country in search of some kind of meaning to what they had witnessed in combat or simply tried to forget. The expanse and spiritualism of the South Western States attracted many as did Mexico. South of the border became a popular destination at this time for bikers due to the relative lawlessness and easy access to narcotics. Psychedelic drugs in particular were a major factor in the lifestyle of the this new breed of rider as was the music he listened to.



Blending motorcycle garments with their military issue gear and South Western textiles and trinkets they'd pick up along the way, their appearance became a hybrid of functional clothing incorporating hippie and Native American. The look was completely at odds with the slick style of their 1950's brethren and would last well into the 1970s. These men had adopted a carefree, nomadic lifestyle, audacious machismo and visual icon status, and hit the open road with a rebellious vision. 


ELMC celebrates this Counter Culture lifestyle with period accurate reproductions from this era, including a very special collaboration with Southern Californian artisan J Augur on a series of one off bags crafted from antique US Military and South Western Native American textiles.




Merry Christmas from all at Eastman Leather Clothing!

One of the lesser known photojournalists in Vietnam was actually the son of Hollywood royalty. Sean Flynn was the only child of the marriage of Errol Flynn and Lili Damita. After studying briefly at Duke University, Flynn abandoned a lukewarm film career to join a band of intrepid journalists documenting the civil wars in Vietnam and Cambodia. At first, Flynn drew international attention merely by virtue of being the even-more-handsome son of his movie-star father entering a combat zone. He and his colleagues' brazen lifestyle and daring work in the field became the stuff of legend and inspired a cast of colorful characters in war films and literature. More significant, their photos, shot within the frenzied theater of combat, became pivotal in exposing Americans at home to the brutality and ambiguous profit of their military's involvement in the region. But their contribution was not without cost: at least 37 journalists were killed or went missing in Cambodia during the 1970-1975 war between the U.S.-backed military government and the North Vietnamese
411 Photos taken in Vietnam 1970 capturing US troops opening fire on a Viet Cong sniper who had been firing on a US forward base. 57 214 125 73 62