The Digression Podcast Military News, History, & Folklore

ep 38: Broken Arrow

Seven and a half hours into their training mission, Major Howard Richardson and his Boeing B-47B Stratojet flight crew finally began to relax after an evening of deploying electronic counter-measures and chaff to evade prowling North American F-86 fighters. The sky was clear and the moon was full. Heading south at 35,000 feet and 495 mph over Hampton County, S.C., their next stop was home. Suddenly and without warning, a massive jolt yawed their aircraft to the left, accompanied by a bright flash and ball of fire off their starboard wing.

An F-86 Sabre fighter jet had collided with the bomber and the impact ripped the left wing off the F-86 and heavily damaged the fuel tanks of the B-47. For safety reasons, the crew of the B-47 jettisoned their payload, a 7,000-pound, 1.86 megaton nuclear bomb, which fell into the Savannah River.

Now, 65 years later, the bomb, which has unknown quantities of radioactive material, has never been found. And while the Air Force says the bomb, if left undisturbed, poses no threat, area residents aren’t so sure…

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ep 37: Pilot Protection Program

IN THE NEWS: Podcaster Stories; Space command gets a home; Space policy czar; Schriever Exercise; Space warfare and the secret X-37B space plane; Robots or Astronauts?; Space Force boot camp; International Space Station turns 20; DOD leaders acting like douchebags; Exercise in USFK; Welcome home troops; Like father, like son in the AOR; The United Federation of Planets is born; Taliban reset; Tuition assistance cuts; Pilot Protection Program; Bomb trucks and Military Minions; Army goes green; AWOL update; WTF Fort Hood?; Seal Team Six baby!; Blue Angels new ride; Unequal justice in the ranks; Vets visit national parks for free; Finding Faces; 100 and flying solo; Farewell to a Doolittle Raider.

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ep 36: Top Secret Courage

In 1968, Chief Master Sergeant Richard “Dick Etchberger was part of a covert CIA and USAF team working out of a small radar site on a remote mountain in Laos called Lima Site 85. He was part of a highly-classified operation called “Project Heavy Green.” At this time, Laos was a neutral country, so it was illegal for either the United States or North Vietnam to have military forces in the country, so, Chief Etchberger and his team had to “voluntarily” resign from the Air Force and become civilians. As “employees” of the Lockheed Corporation, the Lima Site 85 crew directed USAF bombers to their targets in North Vietnam using mobile, computer-linked radar. However, what started as a mission to link bombers to targets in North Vietnam, soon moved closer to “home”, as Lima Site 85 started directing strikes in Laos as the People’s Republic of Vietnam Army moved closer and closer to their position. With the enemy at their doorstep, top brass considered evacuating Lima Site 85, but they were a day late and a dollar short as a group of specially-trained North Vietnamese Dac Cong sappers attacked the site on the evening of March 10, 1968. And the only thing between the Dac Cong and the crew of Lima Site 85 was Chief Dick Etchberger. This is his story.

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ep 35: White Feather

He’s the most famous sniper you’ve probably never heard of. Marine Gunnery Sergeant Carlos N. Hathcock II was a Marine Scout Sniper who served two tours in Vietnam, first in 1966, and returning in 1969. Until the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq he held the record for the most confirmed kills in the United States military. During the course of his two tours in Vietnam he recorded 93 confirmed kills and over 300 unconfirmed kills, building a reputation that was so renowned the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong placed a bounty on his head that was equal to three years pay or approximately $30,000. He was known by the army he hunted as “White Feather” for the single white feather he kept tucked in a band on his bush hat. His exploits against such deadly adversaries as “The Apache,” “The Cobra,” and “The General” were the stuff of legend!

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ep 34: YOU’RE FIRED!

IN THE NEWS: You’re fired!; Space Force deploys; Charlie Brown in TIME’s 100; Training for the new Cold War; What’s old is new again; Nellis leads the way; Army’s new A.I., sorta, not really; Three big Army deployments! What could it mean?; Beetle Bailey turns 70; The Navy has a real pirate ship; Big new mission for the Carl Vinson; Marines reshape from within; Diversity saves lives; Diversity quotas; Military couples still divorcing; SECDEF guts military healthcare; State Department restores auto-citizenship; Appeals Court says the male-only draft is Constitutional…for now.

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ep 33: Surviving COVID with The Fired-Up Chief

Chief Master Sergeant Juan Lewis served 28-years in the U.S. Air Force before retiring from active service. During his career, the former Services troop held many key billets on Joint Task Forces, NATO, and as the Wing Command Chief on several bases. He was given the moniker, the “Fired-Up Chief,” by the Airmen he led due to his passion to serve and champion their interests. In retirement, the Fired-Up Chief continues to serve the Airmen he loves. To him, each one of them is HERO (Helping Everyone Realize Opportunity) and his job is to keep them fired-up with Pride, Enthusiasm, and Passion (PEP). And he does this through motivating PEP talks as he travels around the Air Force and as a consistent source of encouragement to his tens of thousands of followers on social media. But in April of this year, the Fired-Up Chief found he was the one in need of motivation and encouragement as he fought for his life after contracting the coronavirus. Lying in his hospital bed in the Dutch city of Sittard, which lies just across the border from Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base in Germany, the Fired-Up Chief thought that at any moment, he would breathe his last.

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ep 32: Fort Hoodlum w/ SFC Ron Barteau

The U.S. Army’s Fort Hood is on track to have the biggest year yet in soldier deaths due to accidents, illness, suicide, and murder! The Texas military installation, on which Army psychiatrist Maj Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and injured 32 others in a 2009 mass shooting, has seen more than its share of bloodshed. In 2014, five years after Hasan’s killing rampage, Iraq War veteran and Army veteran SPC Ivan Lopez opened fire on the base, killing three soldiers and injuring another 16 before killing himself. Today, it seems not much has changed. Not only is Fort Hood the army’s premier installation to train and deploy heavy forces, but it also leads the service in soldier murders and sexual assault cases. Of course, this should come as no surprise because, from 2014 and 2019, there was an average of 129 felonies committed annually at Fort Hood, including cases of homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assault. Maybe the base should think about changing its name to Fort Hoodlum. Anyway, to try to glean some perspective into the chilling number of deaths on Fort Hood, we invited SFC Ron Barteau, a former tank commander and Fort Hood alum, to share his experience and insight into the base climate and culture, and what leaders today might be missing.

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ep 31: Military Murder

What drives military members to murder? Maybe it’s the violent nature of the work; or some childhood trauma; or a psychological disorder; or maybe they’re just bad people. Maybe it’s all of these things or a combination or none of them. The truth is we often don’t know what compels someone to kill. If you’re looking for answers, you’re not going to get them here. What you’re going to get are six stories of military murder that will leave you shaking your head: The Infidelity Solution Murder; The Hi-Fi Murders; The ‘How Far Can I Get’ Murder; The Proposition Murder; The Coward Contractor Murder; and The Canadian Panty Thief Murders. And although it’s not a murder story, we chat about the Air Force’s ‘Master Solution’ to a missing finger mystery and how it backfired.

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ep 30: Semper ‘Sup

IN THE NEWS: ‘Sup with the Space Force motto?; A Space Force second; House wants Navy ranks in Space Force; Poland is the new Germany; F-16s moving out; Beirut blast; U.S. military delivers; Pentagon shuts down has-been colonels; Chinese military told to stand-down; Space X Splashdown; New UFO task force; Air Force helicopter takes fire over Virginia; New WTF Feature: Colonel Kiddie Porn; Bang! Bang!; Child molester asks Supreme Court for his job back; Insulin murders at the VA; and wrapping-up with “Everyday Heroes” do work that matters.

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ep 29: “The Bomb” is 75

Ever since the American occupation of the Marianas, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, the main Japanese islands had been under constant bombardment by long-range bombers of the United States. The city of Tokyo and many other cities on the Japanese mainland were leveled by day-and-night firebomb raids. As Italy and Germany had already done, Japan was paying the price for its grandiose plans for world conquest. But the island nation wasn’t ready to surrender.

Then the United States unveiled the biggest surprise in the history of warfare. It was the deadliest weapon ever designed–the atomic bomb. And although the initial test detonation at Trinity was several times more powerful than scientists had predicted, U.S. officials questioned if it would be enough to compel Japan’s surrender.

On August 6, 1945, “Little Boy” provided an answer.

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