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11 Things You Might Not Know About the U.S. Army

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If trends hold steady, 79,000 people will walk into recruiting stations around the country this year and join the U.S. Army. They will take jobs ranging from infantry to accounting, and fight battles everywhere from Afghanistan to cyberspace. Here are 11 things you might not know about the Army.

1. A majority of presidents wore the uniform.

Twenty-four presidents served in the Army, to include the various state militias, which supported the Army during the American Revolution and the Civil War. (Excluding the militias, you lose Captain Abraham Lincoln and Brigadier General Chester A. Arthur, among others, on your Fantasy Army team). Of them, 23 were officers, with Private James Buchanan earning distinction as the only enlisted man to ever be elected president. Teddy Roosevelt is the only president to have been awarded the Medal of Honor, albeit posthumously. (Notably, Roosevelt even volunteered for service in World War I—ten years after having served as president.) There’s even some overlap in service: That guy holding the flag in that painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware? James Monroe. William McKinley’s commander in the 23rd Ohio Infantry? Rutherford B. Hayes.

If all of the presidents came back as zombies and put on a uniform, George Washington would be the highest-ranking member of the armed forces, having been posthumously promoted to General of the Armies of the United States in 1976. His second-in-command would be General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Trivia: Ike was born David Dwight Eisenhower.)

2. Why are they called Rangers?

Rangers are the Army’s elite light infantry soldiers. In the 18th century, they were formed to wage frontier warfare. They were “grim-faced men” who “went forth to search out the Indian enemy.” They engaged in reconnaissance, acted as scouts, and “ranged” between fixed fortifications. During the American Revolution, Ranger Francis Marion (“the Swamp Fox”) pioneered modern guerrilla warfare.

The Ranger motto is “Rangers lead the way!” This came from an exchange between General Norman Cota and Major Max Schneider on Omaha Beach during the Normandy Invasion.

“What outfit is this?” asked Cota.
“5th Rangers, sir,” said Schneider.
“Well, goddammit,” said Cota, “If you're Rangers, lead the way!”

3. George Washington chose the colors of the present Army dress uniform.

In 1778, the Continental Congress charged General Washington with deciding on a service uniform for the Continental Army. In October 1779, he directed soldiers to wear “blue coats with differing facings for the various state troops, artillery, artillery artificers and light dragoons.” Over then next two hundred years, the Army tried various colors—whites, tans, and greens—but in 2010, again began issuing uniforms according to Washington’s color design.

4. Cavalry charges in the 21st century?

In October 2001, ODA 595 of 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) linked up with CIA operatives and the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. The best way to move across the brutal terrain, they discovered, was on horseback. As one Special Forces operator wrote to higher headquarters, “I am advising a man on how best to employ light infantry and horse cavalry in the attack against the (Russian manufactured) Taliban T-55 Tanks, armored personnel carriers, BTR’s, mortars, (D-30) artillery, ZSU (23-2) anti-aircraft guns and machine guns (Dshk and PKM). A tactic which I think became outdated with the invention of the machine gun. I can’t recall the US fighting like this since the Gatling gun destroyed Pancho Villa’s charges in the Mexican Civil War in the early 1900‘s... We have done this every day since we hit the ground.”

By the time the city of Mazar-e Sharif fell, the A-Team’s horses were deafened from gunfire and explosions, and had no issues with operators firing assault rifles from their backs.

5. The Army is older than the United States.

The Battles of Lexington and Concord were fought by militias. (The men were famously called to arms by Paul Revere, who did not shout “The British are coming!” because most residents of Massachusetts considered themselves British.) Once it became clear that a serious war was at hand, the Second Continental Congress authorized a Continental Army with a unified command structure, to be led by Major General George Washington. The measure passed on June 14, 1775, and is still celebrated as the Army’s birthday.

Colonists did not like the idea of a standing army. Consequently, the Continental Army remained relatively small early on, with short enlistments so as to prevent “tyranny.” This led to an experience problem—by the time soldiers really got the hang of fighting a war, their contract was up. Likewise, the Army depended heavily on state militias, which were rife with discipline problems. With the ratification of the Declaration of Independence, it became clear, as John Adams wrote, that the United States needed “a regular Army, and the most masterly Discipline, because I know, that without these We cannot reasonably hope to be a powerful, a prosperous, or a free People.” Soon thereafter, enlistments were extended to three years and the Continental Army underwent a series of expansions and radical reforms.

6. Washington never asked to command the Continental Army, but...

There is no evidence of George Washington ever lobbying to be commander of the Continental Army. Just the opposite—every account of Washington suggests a reluctance to take the job, and general feelings of inadequacy to the task. That said: Washington showed up to the Second Continental Congress conspicuously wearing his military uniform. When it came time to select a commander-in-chief for the new Continental Army, he was decided to be the best man for the job.

There are good reasons for this. Politically, Washington brought Virginia into the mix. Militarily, he was the most experienced native-born officer on the continent. He’d previously fought in the French and Indian War. He later served as commander-in-chief of the Virginia Regiment—the first active duty military regiment in the colonies. (Here he saw up close the tactics of the British army, would come in handy later.)

7. Army astronauts are a thing.

Soldiers who jump from airplanes wear Airborne wings. Those who rappel from helicopters wear Air Assault wings. Those who fly into space wear Astronaut wings. Colonel Douglas Wheelock wears all three. He logged 178 days in space after serving as the first active duty soldier to command the International Space Station. (In 2011, he deployed to Afghanistan, and has flown thirty-eight aerial combat missions.)

There are a series of badges and decorations for those soldiers who explore the final frontier. These include the Master Army Astronaut Badge, the Master Space Operations Badge, the NASA Space Flight Medal, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

8. Special Forces are everywhere doing everything.

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According to the Special Forces Command Public Affairs Office, in the last decade U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers have deployed to 135 of the 195 recognized countries in the world. Their nine principal tasks are unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, counter-insurgency, special reconnaissance, counter terrorism, information operations, counter proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and security force assistance.

9. Rhode Island > Army > Montana

As of 2014, there were approximately 490,000 active duty soldiers, 205,000 reserve soldiers, and 354,200 soldiers in the National Guard for a total of 1,049,200 members of the U.S. Army. For comparison, that’s about the size of the total population of Swaziland (give or take 50,000 people), so they should think twice before annoying the United States.

10. Their equipment can be measured in Autobots.

The biggest helicopter in present use by the U.S. Army is the Boeing CH-47 Chinook, which has space enough for 33 combat-equipped soldiers or up to 50 troops. The dual-bladed rotary wing aircraft can slingload 26,000 lbs. from its main hook; its two smaller hooks can carry around 17,000 lbs. each.

The biggest (well, pretty much only) tank used by the Army is the M1 Abrams tank. If you wanted to buy one, you’d need somewhere around $9 million and would have to make the check out to General Dynamics. You could even use jet fuel to keep it rolling.

The biggest truck in the Army is the Heavy Equipment Transporter, or HET. Its tractor is 30 feet long; its trailer is up to 48 ft. long. If someone climbed in your HET cab and said, “Step on it!” you could probably get it up to around 40 miles per hour. The vehicle weighs 90,000 pounds, which is just about the combined weight of the Earth equivalents of all five Dinobots.

11. It was the last service to adopt an official song.

It took 181 years for the Army to settle on a song. In the 1940s, it even held a contest in hopes of finding the right music. “The Army’s Always There” by musician Sam H. Stept came close—it was even played at Ike’s inauguration—but in the end some feared that it sounded too much like a popular song called “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.” In the end, an old artillery tune called the “Caisson Song” was matched with new lyrics, and the result was “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” On Veterans Day in 1956, the Army at last made official the words and music that every soldier sings today.

Updated for 2015.

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5 Quick Facts About the Hashtag
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The use of the hashtag as a Twitter tool to denote a specific topic in order for the masses to follow along turns 10 years old today, having first been suggested (in a Tweet, naturally) by Silicon Valley regular and early adopter Chris Messina back in 2007. Here’s a little history on its evolution from the humble numerical sign to the social media giant it is today.


There’s no definitive origin story for the hash (or pound) symbol, but one belief is that when 14th-century Latin began to abbreviate the term for pound weight—libra pondo—to “lb,” a horizontal slash was added to denote the letters were connected. (The bar was called a tittle.) As people began to write more quickly, the letters and the tittle became amalgamated, eventually morphing into the symbol we see today.


The symbol portion of the hashtag eventually made its way to dial-button telephones, the result of AT&T looking forward to phones interacting with computers. In order to complete a square keypad with 10 digits (including 0), they added the numerical sign and an asterisk. AT&T employee Don MacPherson thought they sign needed a more official name, so he chose Octothorpe—“octo” because it has eight points, and “thorpe” because he was a fan of football hero Jim Thorpe.


When web marketer Messina had the notion to add hashtags to keep track of conversations, he stopped by Twitter’s offices to make an informal pitch. He came at a bad time: co-founder Biz Stone was trying to get the software back online after a crash and dismissed the idea with a “Sure, we’ll get right on that” burn. Undeterred, Messina started using them and the habit caught on.


By 2014, respect for the hashtag had grown to the point where the venerable Oxford English Dictionary gave the word its stamp of approval. Their entry: "hashtag n. (on social media web sites and applications) a word or phrase preceded by a hash and used to identify messages relating to a specific topic; (also) the hash symbol itself, when used in this way."


Hashtags can highlight interest in everything from political movements to breaking news stories, but the frequency of their use is often tied into popular culture. The most popular TV-related tag has been #TheWalkingDead; #StarWars sees a lot of action; and #NFL dominates sports-related Tweets.  

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12 Sharp Facts About Hellraiser
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In 1987, the New World Pictures released Hellraiser, a horror film about a family who opens a puzzle box and invites hell in their lives in the form of pleasure-pain creatures known as Cenobites, who are lead by Pinhead (played by Doug Bradley). Unlike many other horror films at the time, Hellraiser wasn’t a slasher film, and Pinhead wasn’t a boogeyman.

British novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Clive Barker wanted to direct a feature film, so he adapted his 1986 horror novella, The Hellbound Heart, into Hellraiser. Despite the graphic nature of the film, it’s really a love story between Julia Cotton and her demented—and skinless—lover Frank  ... whose relationship just so happens to revolve around sadistic torture.

Hellraiser was produced for around a $1 million and grossed $14 million, making it lucrative enough to spawn nine sequels, including this year’s Hellraiser: Judgment. (Bradley hasn’t starred in a Hellraiser film since 2011’s Hellraiser: Revelations, and Barker didn’t direct or write any of the sequels, most of which were direct-to-DVD releases.) As we near the 30th anniversary of its release, let's take a look back at this horror classic.


Before Doug Bradley uttered the catchphrase “We’ll tear your soul apart,” Clive Barker directed him in a 1973 play called Hunters in the Snow, in which Bradley played the Dutchman, a torturer who would become the basis for Pinhead.

“The character I played in Hunters, the Dutchman, I can see echoes of later... Pinhead in Hellraiser," Bradley said. "This strange, strange character whose head was kind of empty but who conveyed all kinds of things.”

Barker’s mid-1980s short story “The Forbidden”—which was adapted into Candyman—from his "Books of Blood" series, featured the first incarnation of Pinhead’s nails. “One image I remember very strongly from 'The Forbidden' was that Clive had built what he called his nail-board, which was basically a block of wood which he’d squared off and then he’d banged six-inch nails in at the intersections of the squares,” Bradley said. “Of course, when I saw the first illustrations for [Pinhead], it rang a bell with me that here was Clive putting the ideas that he’d been playing around with the nail-board in 'The Forbidden,' now 10, 15 years later. He’d now put the image all over a human being’s face.”


Unlike many other horror movies of the time, which were more concerned with gore than great acting, Barker insisted that they look for real talent in the casting. “I’m not just taking the 12 most beautiful youths in California and murdering them,” Barker told The Washington Post in 1987. “I’ve got real actors, real performers—and then I’m murdering them.” The “real” refers to British theater actors like Bradley, Clare Higgins, and Andrew Robinson.


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Bradley said the filmmakers wanted skinned Frank to be on the poster, but the studio said no to the grotesque imagery, so Pinhead was used on the poster instead. “Maybe that came from Clive, because what we get in that image of Pinhead with the box is the heart of the Hellraiser mythology,” Bradley said. “If you put The Engineer or the skinned man on the poster, it’s an amazing image but it’s just an image, and it could come from any movie.” Bradley thought using Pinhead’s face made more sense. “The big success of Pinhead is because the image is so original, so startling. It is just an incredible image to look at, and that made a big difference in terms of the public's perception of the movie.”


Bradley’s Pinhead mug was everywhere—on the cover of magazines and on the movie’s poster—but no one mentioned his name. “It was great to be so heavily featured, but there was no way to prove to anyone that it was actually me,” Bradley said. “Those who were following Hellraiser at the time were wondering where the guy with the pins was! Well I can tell you where I was—I was sitting at home in England, watching it all happen from the sidelines.”


In the box set’s liner notes, Barker wrote that the Cenobites's “design was influenced amongst other things by punk, by Catholicism, and by the visits I would take to S&M clubs in New York and Amsterdam.” Costume designer Jane Wildgoose created the costumes, based on Barker’s instruction of “repulsive glamour.”

“The other notes that I made about what he wanted was that they should be ‘magnificent super-butchers,’” Wildgoose said.

As for Pinhead, Barker said he “had seen a book containing photographs of African fetishes: sculptures of human heads crudely carved from wood and then pierced with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of nails and spikes. They were images of rage, the text instructed.”


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Julia is forced to bring men back to her house and murder them for Frank so that he can replenish his flesh. Barker looked at Hellraiser as more of a love story, with Julia committing these heinous acts in the name of love, not just to be brutal for no reason.

“She’s not committing murder in the way that Jason in the Friday the 13th films commits murder—just for the sake of blood-letting —she’s doing it for love,” Barker told Samhain. “So there is a sympathetic quality about her, enhanced hugely in my estimation by the fact that Clare Higgins does it so well.”


When a person twists the box, known as the Lament Configuration, it summons the Cenobites from the gates of hell into the individual's world. “I wanted to have access to hell in the book and in the first movie, explored by something rather different than drawing a circle on the floor with magical symbols around it,” Barker told WIRED. “That seemed rather stale and rather old.”

Barker explained his grandfather was a cook on ship and brought back a puzzle box from the Far East. “So when I went back to the problem of how to open the doors of hell, the idea of [using] a puzzle box seemed interesting to me. You know, the image of a cube is everywhere in world culture, whether it’s the Rubik’s Cube or the idea of the [Tesseract] in The Avengers movies. There’s a lot of places where the image of a cube as a thing of power is pertinent. I don’t know why that is, I don’t have any mythic explanation for it, but it seems to work for people.”


Roger Ebert gave Hellraiser just a half star when he reviewed it in 1987. “Who goes to see movies like this? This is a movie without wit, style, or reason,” he wrote, adding that, “I have seen the future of implausible plotting, and his name is Clive Barker.”


In England, there was a law in which cockroaches of both sexes weren’t allowed on set, because they could have mated and caused an infestation. So Barker had to hire someone to oversee the situation. “The wrangler, this is the honest truth, had to sex the roaches,” Barker told an audience at a Hellraiser screening. “They were all male. And we had a fridge. They move very fast, so the only way to slow them down was to chill them. We chilled the maggots and the roaches. We'd open it up and it was all reassuring. It was fun.”


In The Hellbound Heart, the Cenobite with pins sticking out of his head is called The Hell Priest. One of the special effects guys who worked on the movie gave the character his nickname. “I thought it was a rather undignified thing to call the monster, but once it stuck, it stuck,” Barker told Grantland.

In 2015, Barker published a sequel to The Hellbound Heart, The Scarlet Gospels, which features Pinhead getting annoyed when people call him that—as well as Pinhead’s demise. “He will not be coming back, by the way," Barker said. "That I promise you."


In an interview with Game Radar, Bradley said the success of Freddy vs. Jason led Hellraiser distributor Dimension Films to flirt with a Hellraiser vs. Halloween film. “I was actually getting excited by the prospect of this because Clive said he would write it and John Carpenter said he would direct it,” Bradley said. “I actually spoke to Clive about it a couple of times and he was interested in finding the places where the Halloween and Hellraiser worlds intermeshed.” But Moustapha Akkad, who owned the rights to Halloween, extinguished the idea.


While the MPAA requested that a spanking scene be cut for its American release, England's BBFC agreed to release the movie as it was, if they were assured that the rats used in the film weren’t hurt. “I had to bring three remote-control rats into the censor’s office and make them wriggle about on the floor,” producer Christopher Figg told The Telegraph. “They wanted to be sure we hadn’t been cruel to them.”


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