Top 10 Military Colleges in America

Obtaining an education has long been considered an essential component in attaining personal success.   As a result, many endeavor to locate those institutions of higher learning that will fulfill this purpose.  Knowledge, however, is not the only discernible characteristic needed for a productive and successful career.  Integrity, discipline, and honor (among others) are also laudable and desired traits that need to be developed.  Yet these social qualities are seldom emphasized in traditional academic curriculum.

However, this is not so with schools that features a military tradition as a part of its overall academic offerings.  These institutions offer an environment that is completely unique in comparison to traditional schools.  Military schools place great stress on discipline, teamwork, and goal-oriented achievement in a blend of military structure and competitive academics. The aim: to produce highly capable graduates who are able to assume the reins of leadership in their various occupational pursuits (military or civilian). The following are the top 10 military schools.

Author’s note:  For this list, I’ve confined myself to American, post-secondary institutions (i.e. colleges and universities).  Further, virtually every military-oriented school has features that can be found in every other institution of the same nature – such as a rigid honor code or high academic standards.  As such, one may ask what the big difference from one school to another is.  Well, that answer is ultimately up to the reader, but I have attempted to articulate something unique about each school, as well as the common characteristics that these institutions share.

10.  Valley Forge Military Academy and College

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Officially designated as the Military College of Pennsylvania, Valley Forge is an interesting institution in that it is both a secondary and post-secondary school.  Founded in 1928, the school is located in Wayne, Pennsylvania and offers instruction for young men in grades 7-12 (junior high and high school) as well as a two-year post-secondary offering.  In fact, Valley Forge is one of only five military junior colleges and offers a direct commission into the army after only two years of study (through the army’s Early Commissioning Program).  In essence, students at Valley Forge can begin their military indoctrination at a very early age and carry it through college.

The school offers a very intimate atmosphere due to the small number of students (compared with larger institutions) on campus.  In total, Valley Forge has about 600 students, with a little over half of these being enrolled in the college.  Like most military schools, students are a part of a corps of cadets and abide by a strict, no-nonsense honor code.  It’s interesting to note that the corps of cadets is described as almost completely autonomous.  By this, it is meant that the student leaders within the corps are responsible for the day-to-day administration, discipline, training, etc. of the other students.

Cadets are required to live on campus and follow a very structured daily routine: formation, breakfast, cleaning details, academic classes until lunch and then more classes until mid-afternoon.  After classes, students participate in athletics and such, winding down to mandatory study halls from 7:30-9:30 PM.  While this is fairly standard for any military school, Valley Forge has some unique characteristics that are wholly their own.  One is that unlike other military schools, Valley Forge follows very distinctive British traditions.  In fact, they are the only school in the U.S. that maintains British Drill and military ceremonies.  Almost the school’s entire faculty is either active duty or retired military personnel from both the United States military and the British military.

Valley Forge is also one of the few military schools in the nation that maintains a mounted battalion and that caters to all five branches of the U.S. military and all five service academies.  Valley Forge is a bastion of traditions that are both standard and unique, offering a level of education that is not only competitive, but personal and intimate because of its small size.

Alumni: William R. Trefel-chairman of the board, CarMax; Larry Fitzgerald-professional NFL player

9.  US Merchant Marine Academy

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Their motto is “Deeds not words,” and there is no other service that better exemplifies this creed than the Merchant Marine Service.  While very few consider the importance of sea transport, suffice to say that the military does.  In fact, because the U.S. Navy does not maintain the necessary sealift capacity to move high numbers of military formations (personnel, equipment, supplies) to diverse locations around the world, the Merchant Marines (which are basically privately owned, U.S. flagged transports) provides this ability for the armed forces.

Of course, the Merchant Marines also provide the lifeline of international commerce as the means for moving goods across the world’s waterways.  To further this endeavor, it became apparent that an institution of higher education was needed to develop seafaring officers.  The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) was established in 1942 for this very purpose end is one of the 5 federal service academies that train its students for military (or in the case of the Merchant Marine and Coast Guard, military related) service.

Located at Kings Point, New York, USMMA enrolls a little over 900 undergraduate students.  Getting in, however, is not easy.  In fact, an excellent high school student might find it easier being accepted by Harvard or Yale.  Aspiring candidates for USMMA must have strong SAT/ACT scores, write an essay, provide 3 letters of recommendations, pass a medical and physical fitness examination, and obtain a nomination from a member of Congress (either a U.S. Senator or Representative).  If successful, and after a period of indoctrination the summer before the first school year at USMMA, students are welcomed into the Regiment of Midshipmen.

As with all federal service academies (and one of the attractive features of attending), all expenses are paid by the government, and each student receives a monthly stipend.  Life, ­however, in the regiment is about what one would expect for a military academy.  When Midshipmen take their oath of office in their first year, they become members of the U.S. Navy reserve.  In other words, welcome to the military!  A regimented military environment is the norm at USMMA, but unlike the other academies (with exception to the Coast Guard Academy); the emphasis here is maritime in nature.  Midshipmen focus their academic studies in one of two maritime-related areas: marine transportation and marine engineering.  Courses of study lead to a Bachelor of Science degree in 6 different majors, as well as maritime accreditation and licensing.  Additionally, USMMA midshipmen are provided a heavy course of practical experience.

Between their sophomore and junior years, midshipmen are required to serve as cadets on operational U.S. merchant ships.  During this time, students will visit, on average, 18 foreign countries and spend almost a year away from the academy.  With four years of intense academic study, leadership development, physical and military training, midshipmen have a number of options available to them upon graduation.  Unlike the other service academies that require several years of active duty service upon graduation, USMMA graduates are responsible to fulfill their government obligations on their own accord.  Essentially, USMMA graduates have the option of either obtaining employment in an approved civilian maritime occupation, or serve as an officer in one of the 4 branches of the U.S. military.  Graduates leave the academy with a B.S. degree, a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve (unless they choose to accept an active duty commission), and an unlimited license as a merchant marine officer (3rd mate or 3rd asst. engineer).  In short, if one is looking for a career on the seven seas, as well as a superior quality education, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is a very attractive option.

Alumni:  Mark Kelly, U.S. Naval captain, space shuttle pilot, and husband of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords of Arizona

8.  US Coast Guard Academy

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It seems proper to follow our 9th spot with another maritime-related school that probably has escaped the attention of most of the American public.  With the motto, “the sea yields knowledge”, the Military Academy of the United States Coast Guard is charged with providing officers for the U.S. Coast Guard service (or other military services).

Located in New London, Connecticut, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) is the smallest of the five federal service academies.  As with all the federal service academies, admissions are very selective.  Unlike the other service academies, however, USCGA admissions standards are based solely on merit.  As such, potential candidates do not have to obtain a nomination from a U.S. member of Congress.  Nevertheless, USCGA is renowned for being one of the most selective schools to gain entrance to, with the school accepting about 16% of the students that apply (about 400 of 2,500 applicants).  USCGA also has the highest number of women amongst the service academies, with female cadets comprising about 30% of the student body.  All students, male and female, make up the schools Corps of Cadets.

As with all federal service academies, USCGA cadets are on active duty (Naval Reserve), wear uniforms at all times and follow a very strict and regimented daily routine.  The Corps of Cadets is a self-administrating body, which is to say that the student themselves are responsible for the day-to-day operations of other students (training, discipline, etc.).  With this, the classes of cadets (freshman/4th class, sophomore/3rd class, etc.) are structured to facilitate this dynamic.  The 1st class, for example, is made up of students that hold the senior leadership roles in the Corps, while the 4th class is basically a bunch of followers.

The organization of the Corps, down to its smallest operation component (departments and divisions), is designed to mirror the organizational structure of a Coast Guard cutter.  The idea is to provide leadership experience to cadets in a meaningful and practical way.  In addition to the daily military influence cadets are required to participate in various types of intense military training during the summer (generally maritime related).  In addition, the USCGA requires its students to carry a very strong academic course load, with emphasis on engineering and the sciences.  Upon graduation, cadets are commissioned as ensigns and required to serve at least 5 years in the U.S. Coast Guard (or apply for commission in another one of the branches of the armed services for a similar length of time).

The Coast Guard is a unique service as it is not strictly military in nature.  The CG provides both emergency first response services and as well as maritime law enforcement (and come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense).  Nevertheless, the Coast Guard has a military component in its mandate that includes harbor and port security, and the protection of naval assets.  As a result, the service not only provides various challenging career opportunities, but requires an institution of higher learning such as the USCGA to train and develop the officers that allow the service to excel at its mission.

Alumni:  Sandra L. Stosz, admiral, first woman to command a service academy, first female graduate to earn flag rank.

7.  The Citadel

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Officially titled “The Military College of South Carolina”, the Citadel is a school of high academic standards and rich traditions.  Located in Charleston, South Carolina, the Citadel was established in 1842.  The school is known for its Corps of Cadets undergraduate military program that integrates high level academics with physical training and military discipline.

The Citadel is somewhat unique in the makeup of its student body.  Of the 3,300 students that attend the school, 1100 of these students are civilians who take part in the schools post-graduate offerings.  Another 100 or so are active duty personnel and veterans.  Both of these groups attend evening classes and are separated from the main body of students.  The main body of students at the Citadel (about 2,100 strong) comprises the Corps of Cadets.  The Citadel has the distinction of maintaining one the largest Corps of Cadets outside of the service academies.  Interestingly, the Citadel also is ranked among the top two schools in the number of officers that are commissioned among schools that offer ROTC programs.

Life for the Corps of Cadets is pretty similar to cadet life elsewhere.  Typically, cadets have physical training twice a day, along with drills, leadership training and, of course, their normal academic classes.  Cadets are expected to stand regular formations and they march to all meals.  Cadets are required to live on campus and are only permitted to go out on weekends (though they must return to the campus at specified times).  In addition, a cadet cannot be married.

Unlike the service academies, however, cadets, while required to participate in four years of ROTC training, are not required to enter the military upon graduation, though they are offered commissions in the armed forces (and about 40% accept).  And a cadet has a good chance of graduating as well, as the school maintains a high graduation on-time percentage in the nation (69% for 4 years).  The Citadel prides itself on the strong academic foundation of its graduates.  In fact, Citadel engineering graduates are highly sought after and the Citadel’s engineering school is consistently ranked among the best in America.  The Citadel has also produced 269 flag/general officers.  Without doubt, this school produces graduates who are capable of excelling in their chosen field of endeavor, whether it’s civilian or military.

Interesting note: the firing on Fort Sumter, generally considered the first shot that sparked the Civil War was not actually the first shot fired.  In fact, the first shot fired was by cadets of the Citadel who were manning the cannons and fired on the resupply steamer “Star of the West’” that was heading to Fort Sumter.

Alumni: Ernest ‘Fritz’ Hollings, U.S. Senator; Pay Conroy, novelist

6. Virginia Military Institute

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With the inspiring motto, “in peace a glorious asset, in war a tower of strength”, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) stands as a monument to academics in the military tradition.  VMI is a public military college (which means that it receives support ­ though minimal- from the state of Virginia) founded in 1839 and located in Lexington, Virginia.  It is the oldest state-supported military college in the country.  Unlike other military colleges (the federal service academies), all of VMI’s students are members of the Corps of Cadets.  This tradition of not offering civilian programs is in keeping with VMI efforts to offer students “a Spartan, physically and academically demanding environment combined with strict military discipline.”

This they do very well.  Cadets at VMI don’t even have beds!  Instead, they have what amounts to a roll-out mats that are slept on.  Of course there is the strict honor code, one for which a violation can merit immediate expulsion from the institution.  VMI was also the last military college to admit women, doing so in 1997 under the looming threat of a court order.

Tradition is very important at VMI.  Nevertheless, the schools academics are without peer.  Its engineering programs are highly ranked, as well as the school itself.  VMI has produced more Rhodes Scholars than all of the other senior military colleges combined.  Its strong academics, combined with its rigorous military traditions, succeed in producing highly motivated and capable graduates.  VMI states that within 4 months of a cadet graduating, 97% are either serving in the military, employed in civilian occupations or admitted to a graduate or professional school/program.

While students at VMI are indoctrinated into a military lifestyle, graduates are not required to join the military, though obviously, very high percentages do accept commissions in the various branches of the armed forces.  To this fact, VMI has so far produced 265 general/flag officers and 7 Medal of Honor recipients.  VMI is the only school, including the service academies, to have graduates who have served as the service chief of three of the four primary armed service branches.  Success is a way of life for graduates of the Virginia Military Institute.

Alumni: George Marshall, US General/Secretary Of State/Nobel Prize Winner

5.  Norwich University

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Norwich University has been around for a while.  Established in 1819, Norwich has the distinction of being the oldest of the six senior military colleges.  In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense recognizes Norwich as being the birthplace of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program.

The founding of the university is interesting in that its founder, Captain Alden B. Partridge’s, intention was to create an education model that was wholly American and structured around a liberal arts academic curriculum.  Captain Partridge’s motivation for doing this was to counter what he felt was an elitist (he called it burgeoning professional officers) class in America, and wanted a well-educated and trained militia to be able to counter it.  He certainly succeeded in creating an institution that catered to academic excellence and military leadership development, a template that other institutions such as the Citadel and VMI would emulate.

Presently, Norwich enrolls about 3,400.  Officially known as the Military College of Vermont, the university has a mix of both civilian and cadet students (though the majority of the student body comprises the schools corps of cadets).  The school’s motto, “I will try”, emphasizes its determination to provide a high academic standard within a traditional military styled environment.  The school hosts 29 majors that span 6 academic divisions (with the most popular major being criminal justice).  However, it is the corps of cadets and military styled training that stands as a hallmark at Norwich.  There’s a reason the school has produced 138 generals for the armed forces.  There is a continuing effort to provide the highest quality military training and development possible.  In these efforts, Norwich sponsors specialized ROTC units.  These include the Norwich Rangers (Army) and the Mountain/Cold Weather Company (Army and Air Force), and Air Force Special Operations Unit (the Navy component sponsors a chapter of Semper Fidelis).

An interesting note about Norwich is that a high number of its graduates that are commissioned into the U.S. Army choose to become armor officers.  Because Norwich is a private school, students who are a part of the corps of cadets are not required to join the military upon graduation, though obviously, high percentages do so.

Alumni:  Thomas Green Clemson- US ambassador to Belgium and founder of Clemson University.  Bill W. co-founder of Alcoholic Anonymous

4.  US Air Force Academy

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Established in 1954, the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) is the youngest of the five federal service academies.  It is by no means any less prestigious than the other four.  Located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the academy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state.  USAFA’s mission, however, is not about attracting sight seers.  Rather, its stated goal is to “educate, train, and inspire men and women to become officers of character, motivated to lead the Air Force in service to our nation.”

That’s a tall order, and one which the academy performs well to the benefit of its 4,417 students.  USAFA is consistently ranked by such publications as Forbes and the U.S. News and World Report as one of the best colleges in the nation.  Indeed, the academy’s undergraduate engineering program was recently ranked as the 5th best in America.

With excellence comes prestige, and USAFA is one of the most selective institutions of higher learning to gain admissions to.  As with all federal service academies (excepting the Coast Guard Academy), a nomination from a member of congress is necessary, in addition to other stringent criteria.  Once admitted, however, all expenses (tuition, books, etc.) are paid by the government.  Of course, upon graduation, one is required to serve up to five years on active duty in the Air Force, or another selected branch of the armed services.

The education value is more than worth it.  The academy’s curriculum emphasizes military training, academics, athletics and character development.   Academically, while humanities and military studies are a significant part of the core curriculum, there is a heavy dose of engineering, science and mathematics that must be mastered.  In addition, there are numerous research opportunities at the academy as well.  Of course, the primary mission of the academy is to train students or cadets to become commissioned officers in the U.S. Air Force.  As such, being a member of the Cadet Wing (similar to the Corps of Cadets, just a different name) takes center stage at the academy.

As with other military schools, the Cadet Wing is responsible for a great deal of its own internal administration, with leadership responsibilities primarily carried out by upper class cadets.  There is the traditional honor code- “we will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does”- that is adhered to.  On a daily basis, life for the typical cadets follows rigid pattern- formations, academics, physical training/athletics, and military training.  The academy’s sports programs have benefited from the level of athletic participation required.  Competing at the NCAA division 1 1evel, the academy’s football team has been competitive nationally, as well as several other varsity level sports.  The combination of all of this produces men and women (who make up about 21% of the class) who go on to excel as officers in the U.S. armed forces.

Alumni:  Heather Wilson- Rhodes Scholar, U.S. Representative, New Mexico

3.  Texas A & M University

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It is surprising at the number of people who do not realize that Texas A & M is one of the six senior military colleges in America.  In fact, until 1965, participation in the corps of cadets was mandatory for every student enrolled at the university.

Established in 1871 and located at College Station, Texas, the schools original mandate was to “educate white males in farming and military techniques.”  Presently, students have the option of enrollment into the corps or opting for a traditional academic curriculum.  The university is only one of three public schools with a full-time corps of cadets on campus.  Nevertheless, the university’s corps of cadets is the largest in the country (with exception of the service academies), numbering about 2,250 cadets.  Considering, however, that current enrollment at the school tops 50,000, then it’s not inconceivable how the corps could be overlooked.

Still, the sheer size of the university (it’s the 6th largest university in the U.S.) and the academic opportunities that come with this is certainly to the benefit of the cadets.  The school has a rich tradition of providing quality officers to the U.S. armed forces.  The school has produced over 225 flag and general officers, and members of the schools corps of cadets have been involved in every American armed conflict since 1875.  The school’s marching band is also the largest precision military marching band- in the world!  Texas does everything big.

The corps of cadets, to give one an idea of the scope of its military program is broken down as follows: 3 Air Force wings, 3 Army brigades, 2 Navy and Marine regiments, nd the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.  As a result, the university produces more commissioned officers for the U.S. armed forces than any other school outside of the service academies.

And then there are the academics. The university offers degrees in over 150 different fields of study, has 10 colleges and 18 research facilities (in 2001, the university cloned the first domestic animal, a cat named CC).  Opportunity is the operative word that comes to mind with Texas A & M. The school offers an environment in which a cadet/student has all the tools necessary to become a successful member of society and their chosen profession- military or civilian.

Alumni:  Rick Perry, Texas Governor; Mike Fossum, Astronaut

2.  The U.S. Military Academy (West Point)

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There is little question about the value of a West Point education.  Established in 1802 and located at West Point, New York, the academy has been in the forefront of producing leaders for this nation from the very earliest days of its inception.  The motto of the school is simple: “Duty, Honor, Country”.  Simple and yet very profound.

For over 200 years, this school has dedicated itself to produce the highest quality of officers for service to the armed forces of America.  As a result of its high academic standards and offerings, as well as its military influenced leadership and character development, West Point is consistently ranked among the best schools to attend in the nation.

Gaining admission, however, is not an easy endeavor.  As with all the federal service academies -selection is a tough process, with only a small percentage of applicants gaining admission each year (a little over 12%).  The school offers 45 academic majors, with the most popular ranging from foreign languages to mechanical engineering.  The academics at the school are structured according to the Thayer system (named after former academy superintendent Sylvanus Thayer).  This system places an emphasis on small classes that allow more one-on-one interaction with students, and daily homework.  The idea (with the homework) is to encourage cadets to be actively responsible for their own learning by making them accountable by completing their class assignments outside of the classroom (and discussing the assignments during the next class period).

With its primary goal of training officers, as with the entire federal service academy, there is an emphasis on the military aspects of the school.  All students are members of the corps of cadets and are technically on active duty in the armed forces while attending the school.  Upon graduation, every cadet (now a commissioned officer) is required to serve several years in the armed forces of the United States.

Currently, there are 4,487 cadets at the school (of which, about 15% are women).  Cadets will reside on campus for all four years, though with each succeeding year, cadets are granted additional privileges (such as weekend passes).  All 4000+ students eat breakfast and lunch together during the weekdays in the school’s enormous mess hall.  This is just one of the many traditions that have made West Point a fixture in the lexicon of military schools.  West Point was also the first school to have class rings for its graduates.  And consider the alumni who have graduated from the school -the names read like a who’s who of military (and civilian) excellence.  West Point is not just about commissioning officers for the military, it produces leaders.

Alumni:  Douglas MacArthur, 5 star general; George Patton, 4 star general; Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States, 5 star general; Ulysses S. Grant, President of the United States, general.

1.  US Naval Academy

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I will admit to a slight bias with this selection; in all honestly, West Point and Annapolis are really neck and neck in terms of quality.  However, being a former Marine, well…

There is no finer institution than the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  Established in 1845, it is the second oldest federal service academy, behind West Point.  With an enrollment of 4,400 midshipmen, the mission of the academy is to educate, train and develop officers for commissioning in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.   The academy produces high quality graduates that are prepared to undertake the reins of leadership in either the military or civilian sectors.

The academy was recently ranked as the #1 public liberal arts college in America by U.S. News and World Report, and its engineering program is consistently ranked in the upper echelons.  The academy is also an accredited Technological Institution.  With 22 majors in 3 divisions (engineering and weapons, mathematics and science, humanities and social science), the academy is well equipped to provide the highest level of academic training to its Brigade of Midshipmen.  Consider the pedigree of its alumni stats: 990 noteworthy scholars, 45 Rhodes Scholars, 16 Marshall Scholars, 50 astronauts (sorry Air Force, that’s more than any other school), 2 Nobel Prize winners and a U.S. President.

Of course, any image of Annapolis brings with it the Brigade of Midshipmen, probably marching around sporting their crisp white uniforms.  Certainly, the rigid military styled environment – as with all the service academies- forms the structure that midshipmen must acclimate themselves too.  One aspect of this system that differs from other institutions is the Naval Academy’s approach to the honor code.  While other institutions have a formal proceeding to address honor code violations (as does the Naval Academy), the academy encourages midshipmen to confront violators on a personal basis when the situation warrants.  In this manner, it is believed that this process develops honor among the men and women, as well as a sense of moral self-worth.  It is also noteworthy that the term midshipmen is not arbitrary, but is an actual naval rank (it falls between the warrant officer rank of w-1 and w-2).  This is in accords with being officers of the line, but in training.

In addition to a heavy  academic load, military leadership training, and athletic participation, students also spend  their summers engaged  in specialized military  training – from oversea cruises aboard U.S. warships to special schools like the Army’s Jump (parachute) school.  The Naval Academy also fields NCAA division I athletic teams.  However, it is their rivalry with West Point that highlights any sporting matchup (they compete against one another in every sport both institutions dually field).

What is certain is that the naval officer is traditionally seen as not only a leader of men, but as an individual that is competent in their chosen endeavor. For those who attend the U.S. Naval Academy, this is what one can expect of themselves.

Alumni: Jimmy Carter, President of United States; David Robinson, NBA player; Roger Staubach, NFL quarterback

Top 10 Famous & Deadly Swords & Their History

The first sword appeared during the Bronze Age.  It was made of copper and was uncovered at the Harappan sites in present-day Pakistan.  By the Middle Ages iron and steel swords were being mass produced and used in battle.  Soldiers were trained in swordsmanship and prepared for combat.  It was before the era of guns and high powered artillery and face to face fighting was the norm.  During this time in history, all of the royal generals, kings, and emperors owned personal swords.  These weapons were manufactured by the greatest sword makers of the time.  Many historical manuscripts document events surrounding significant swords.  This article will be examining ten world famous swords that still survive today.  Mythological and legendary swords will not be listed.

10.  Tomoyuki Yamashita’s Sword

Tomoyuki Yamashita was a general of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.  He became known during the war after conquering the British colonies of Malaya and Singapore, ultimately earning the nickname “The Tiger of Malaya.”  After the end of World War II, Yamashita was tried for war crimes relating to the Manila Massacre and many other atrocities in the Philippines and Singapore.  It was a controversial trial that ended with a death sentence for Tomoyuki Yamashita.  The case changed the United States rules in regards to command responsibility for war crimes, creating a law known as the Yamashita Standard.

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The Sword

During his military career, Tomoyuki Yamashita owned a personal sword that contained a blade manufactured by famous sword maker Fujiwara Kanenaga sometime between 1640 and 1680.  The weapon had its handle remade in the early 1900s.  The Samurai sword was surrendered by General Yamashita, along with his army, on September 2, 1945.  It was taken by General MacArthur and given to the West Point Military Museum where it remains today.  The sword is one piece in a great collection of military arms housed at the West Point Museum.

9.  Curved Saber of San Martin

José de San Martín was a famous Argentine general that lived from 1778-1850.  He was the primary leader of the southern part of South America’s struggle for independence from Spain.  San Martín is a South American hero and the 1st Protector of Perú.  Under the lead of San Martín, Peruvian independence was officially declared on July 28, 1821.  In the state of Argentina, the Order of the Liberator General San Martin is the highest decoration given out.

Curved Saber

The Sword

One of the most cherished possessions of José de San Martín was a curved sword that he purchased in London.  San Martín admired the saber’s curved blade and felt that the weapon was maneuverable and ideal for battle.  For this reason, he armed his cavalries of granaderos with similar weapons, which he deemed important for charge attacks.  The curved sword stayed with San Martín until his death and was then passed down to the General de la Republica Argentina, Don Juan Manuel de Rosas.

In his will San Martín referred to the sword as “The saber that has accompanied me throughout the War of Independence of South America.”  In 1896 the weapon was sent to the National Historical Museum in Buenos Aires where it remains today.  In the 1960s the sword was stolen on two separate occasions and this caused museum operators to build a screened gazebo to protect the artifact.

8.  Seven-Branched Sword

The Baekje Dynasty was an ancient kingdom located in southwest Korea.  At its peak in the 4th century, Baekje controlled colonies in China and most of the western Korean Peninsula.  They were one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, together with Goguryeo and Silla.  In 372, King Geunchogo of Baekje paid tribute to Eastern Jin and it is believed that a Seven-Branched Sword was created and given to the king as a sign of praise.

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The Sword

The weapon is a 74.9 cm long iron sword with six branch-like protrusions along the central blade, which is 65.5 cm.  The sword was developed for ceremonial purposes and was not built for battle.  In 1870 a Shinto priest named Masatomo Kan discovered two inscriptions on the Seven-Branched Sword.  One of them states “At noon on the sixteenth day of the eleventh month, fourth year of Taiwa era, the sword was made of 100 time’s hardened steel.  Using the sword repels 100 enemy soldiers.  Appropriate for the polite duke king.”

The Seven-Branched Sword contains many statements, but the most controversial involves the phrase “enfeoffed lord,” used when describing the King of Wa as a possible subservient to the Baekje ruler.  The sword is an important historical link and shows that a relationship did exist between the East Asian countries of this era.  The original Seven-Branched Sword is currently housed in the Isonokami Shrine in Nara Prefecture of Japan.  It is not on display to the public.

7.  Wallace Sword

William Wallace was a Scottish knight who lived from 1272-1305.  Wallace is known for leading a resistance against England during the Wars of Scottish Independence, which were waged during the late 13th and early 14th centuries.  During his lifetime, William Wallace was appointed the Guardian of Scotland.  He led an infantry of soldiers who engaged the enemy in hand to hand combat.  The prize possession of many of these soldiers was their sword.  In order to survive on the battlefield one had to be a talented swordsman.  In 1305, William Wallace was captured by King Edward I of England and was executed for treason.  Today William Wallace is remembered in Scotland as a patriot and national hero.  His sword is one of the most famous in the world.

Wallace

The Sword

The William Wallace sword is located at the National Monument in Stirling, Scotland.  The shaft of the sword measures 4 feet by 4 inches in length (132cm) and it weighs 6.0 lb (2.7 kg).  The sword is said to be the weapon that Wallace used at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and the Battle of Falkirk (1298).  The pommel on the sword consists of an onion-shaped piece of gilded iron and the grip is wrapped with dark brown leather.  The hilt or handle that is currently on the Wallace sword is not the original.  It is believed that the sword has been modified on separate occasions.

After the execution of William Wallace, Sir John de Menteith, governor of Dumbarton Castle, received his sword.  In 1505, King James IV of Scotland paid the sum of 26 shillings to have the sword binned with cords of silk.  It is said that the sword underwent many changes, which might have been necessary because Wallace’s original scabbard, hilt and belt were said to have been made from the dried skin of Hugh Cressingham, who was an English commander.

6.  Tizona Sword

El Cid is a man that was born circa 1040 in Vivar, which was a small town about six miles north of Burgos, the capital of Castile.  The Kingdom of Castile was one of the medieval empires of the Iberian Peninsula.  During his lifetime El Cid became a successful military leader and diplomat.  He was named the chief general of the army of Alfonso VI and became a Spanish hero.  El Cid was the king’s most valuable asset in the fight against the Moors.  He was a skilled military strategist and strong swordsman.

Tizona

The Sword

El Cid owned and used many different swords in his lifetime, but the two most famous are Colada and Tizona.  Tizona is a sword that was used by El Cid to fight against the Moors.  The weapon is one of Spain’s most cherished relics and is believed to have been forged in Córdoba, Spain, although considerable amounts of Damascus steel can be found in its blade.  Damascus steel was primarily used in the Middle East.  Tizona is 103 cm/40.5 inches long and weighs 1.1 kg/2.4 pounds.  It contains two separate inscriptions, with one listing a manufactory date of 1002 and the other quoting the Catholic prayer Ave Maria.  Tizona is currently on display at the Museo de Burgos in Spain.

5.  Napoleon’s Sword

In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte became the military and political leader of France after staging a coup d’état.  Five years later the French Senate proclaimed him emperor.  In the first decade of the 19th century Napoleon and the French Empire were engaged in conflict and war with every major European power.  Ultimately, a series of victories gave the French a dominant position in continental Europe, but as history would later repeat itself, in 1812 the French began their invasion of Russia.  The decision to invade Russia marked the turning point in the fortune of Napoleon.  In 1814, the Sixth Coalition invaded France and Napoleon was captured and exiled to the island of Elba.  He would escape, but ultimately died in confinement on the island of Saint Helena.  Historians regard Napoleon as a military genius and a man who made strong contributions to the operational art of war.

Napoleon

The Sword

On the battlefield Napoleon carried a pistol and a sword.  He owned a large collection of arms and artillery.  His weapons were one of a kind and included the best materials.  In the summer of 2007, a gold-encrusted sword that once belonged to Napoleon was auctioned off in France for more than $6.4 million dollars.  The sword was used by Napoleon in battle.  In the early 1800s, Napoleon presented the weapon to his brother as a wedding gift.  The sword was passed down from generation to generation, never leaving the Bonaparte family.  In 1978, the sword was declared a national treasure in France and the winner of the auction was not identified.

4.  Sword of Mercy

The Sword of Mercy is a famous weapon that once belonged to Edward the Confessor.  Edward the Confessor was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England before the Norman Conquest of 1066.  He ruled from 1042 to 1066 and his reign has been characterized by the crumbling disorganization of royal power in England.  Shortly after Edward the Confessor’s death, the Normans began to expand into England, led by the infamous William the Conqueror.

Sword of Mercy

The Sword

The Sword of Mercy has a broken blade, which is cut off short and square.  In 1236, the weapon was given the name curtana and has since been used for royal ceremonies.  In ancient times it was a privilege to bear this sword before the king.  It was considered a merciful gesture.  The story surrounding the breaking of the weapon is unknown, but mythological history indicates that the tip was broken off by an angel to prevent a wrongful killing.

The Sword of Mercy is part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom and is one of only five swords used during the coronation of the British monarch.  The weapon is rare and is one of only a small number of swords to survive the reign of Oliver Cromwell.  Cromwell is known for ordering the melting down of ancient artifacts for scrap gold and metal.  During the British coronation, the Sword of Mercy is wielded as the monarch bestows knighthood upon the recipient of honor.

3. Zulfiqar Scimitar

Zulfiqar is the ancient sword of the Islamic leader Ali.  Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad.  He ruled over the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661.  By some historical accounts, Muhammad gave Zulfiqar to Ali at the Battle of Uhud.  Muhammad admired Ali’s power and strength on the battlefield and wanted to present him with the cherished weapon.  The sword is a symbol of the Islamic faith and is admired by millions of people.

Zulfiqar is a scimitar, which refers to a West Asian or South Asian sword with a curved blade.  It is said that Ali used the sword at the Battle of the Trench, which is a famous siege attempt on the city of Medina.  During the battle, Muhammad, Ali, and other Muslim defenders built trenches to protect Medina against the much larger confederate cavalry.

Zulfiqar

The Sword

A few conflicting images of the famous scimitar sword exist.  Some of them describe the weapon as having two parallel blades, emphasizing its mystical abilities and speed, while others portray Zulfiqar as a more traditionally-shaped scimitar.  Some historical drawings depict the sword with a split, V-shaped blade.  According to the Twelver Shia, the weapon survives today and is kept in the possession of Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi.  The weapon is part of the famous collection called al-Jafr.

Al-Jafr is a mystical Shia holy book.  It is composed of two skin boxes that contain the most important artifacts from the time of Muhammad and Ali.  The collection has been passed down over the generations, with each new Imam receiving it from his dying predecessor.  The contents of Al-Jafr are quite impressive, but they are not made available for public viewing.  One section of the book describes the Islamic rules, directives and matters surrounding wars, including a bag that contains the armor and weapons of Muhammad.  Zulfiqar is said to sit among the priceless artifacts.

2.  Honjo Masamune

Masamune was a Japanese swordsmith that is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest metallurgists.  The exact dates for Masamune’s life are unknown, but it is believed that he worked from 1288–1328.  Masamune’s weapons have reached legendary status over the centuries.  He created swords known as tachi and daggers called tant?.  The swords of Masamune have a strong reputation for superior beauty and quality.  He rarely signed his works, so it can be hard to positively identify all his weapons.

Masamune

The Sword

The most famous of all Masamune swords is named Honjo Masamune.  The Honjo Masamune is so important because it represented the Shogunate during the Edo period of Japan.  The sword was passed down from one Shogun to another for generations.  In 1939 the weapon was named a national treasure in Japan, but remained in the Kii branch of the Tokugawa family.  The last known owner of Honjo Masamune was Tokugawa Iemasa.  Apparently Tokugawa Iemasa gave the weapon and 14 other swords to a police station in Mejiro, Japan, in December of 1945.

Shortly thereafter in January 1946, the Mejiro police gave the swords to Sgt. Coldy Bimore (U.S. 7th Cavalry).  Since that time, the Honjo Masamune has gone missing and the whereabouts of the sword remains a mystery.  Honjo Masamune is one of the most important historical artifacts to disappear at the end of World War II.

1.  Joyeuse

Charlemagne is a man that was born circa 742.  He is one of the greatest rulers in world history and became King of the Franks in 768.  In 800 he was named Emperor of the Romans, a position that he held for the remainder of his life.  In the Holy Roman Empire he was known as Charles I and was the first Holy Roman Emperor.  During Charlemagne’s lifetime he expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire, which covered much of Western and Central Europe.  Charlemagne is regarded as the founding father of both the French and German monarchies, as well as the father of Europe.

Joyeuse

The Sword

Joyeuse is the name of Charlemagne’s personal sword.  Today, there are two swords attributed to Joyeuse.  One is a saber that is kept in the Weltliche Schatzkammer in Vienna, while the other is housed at the Louvre in France.  The blade on display at the Louvre claims to be partially built from Charlemagne’s original sword.  The sword is made of parts from different centuries, so it can be hard to positively identify the weapon as Joyeuse.  The hilt of the sword indicates a manufactory date around the time of Charlemagne.  The heavily sculpted gold pommel is made in two halves and the long gold grip was once decorated with diamonds.

Charlemagne’s sword appears in many legends and historical documents.  Bulfinch’s Mythology described Charlemagne using Joyeuse to behead the Saracen commander Corsuble as well as to knight his friend Ogier the Dane.  After the death of Charlemagne, the sword was said to have been contrarily held by the Saint Denis Basilica and it was later taken to the Louvre after being carried at a Coronation processional for French kings.

Top 10 Issues Facing Our Youth Today

Now that we are well into the new Millennium society has begun to recognize serious concerns with issues that kids have to deal with today. Some issues have always been there but are now coming to the eyes of the public to find solutions. Other issues are new trends as society begins to adapt to a faster pace of life. Below are the top 10 issues facing our youth today.

10. Single Parent Households

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The problems begin at home. Since the 1950s, the number of single parent homes has consistently increased to the point of catastrophe. Today, 14 million single parents are responsible for 28 million children. Raising a child is difficult enough in a two parent home, especially in tough economic conditions.

The situation is even direr when there is only one parent. Economically, a single parent is likely to bring less income home. This equates to fewer opportunities for such vital necessities as education. Trying to make ends meet also takes time – time that is spent away from children who need a parent’s guiding/influence. Absent a parent’s diligent guidance, children become subject to higher dropout rates, higher risk of dangerous sexual behaviors and pregnancies, higher chances of drug and alcohol abuse –etc. It truly takes a village to raise a child.

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Social Problems in a Diverse Society, Books a la Carte Edition (6th Edition)

9. Drug/Alcohol Abuse

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There was a time in cinematic history where virtually every actor/actress was portrayed on screen with a cigarette in hand. Smoking, it was implied, was cool. As a result everyone was doing it, including kids. Well, as awareness to the danger of smoking increased, “cool” images of smoking disappeared. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about drugs and alcohol. These vices are staples in everyday media. Simply, drinking and using drugs is shown as being cool.

The numbers bear the tale. 21% of high school seniors say they get high and 41% of the same group report drinking alcohol. Our kids are literally moving around in an intoxicated daze. Immature behavior is then amplified due to being under the influence. Drunk driving, poor grades and attendance, anti-social and violent behavior and the list goes on.

8. Growing up too Fast

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There was a time when kids enjoyed being kids. Today, even at the earliest of ages, children are partaking in adult activities with serious consequences. Similar to what we see with alcohol and drugs, sex is a very popular and portrayed subject matter. The movies, TV, the internet, essentially everywhere a kid turns he or she is bombarded with sexual suggestions.

In fact, there are entire TV series marketed directly to kids dealing with sex – the egregious being The Secret Lives of an American Teenager and Teen Mom, to name two. Music is a culprit as well. Songs have always had sexual innuendos, but at least “back in the day” you had to be old enough to understand them. Today, it’s all about “How low can you go” and “baby let me sex you up.” Kids are having sex as early as 10 and 11, with teen pregnancies increasingly on the rise. The concept of childhood is literally being wiped out.

7. Violence in Schools

violence in schools

A child’s education is the foundation from which he or she will be able to go forth out into the world and build a life. Schools play a major role in this endeavor, and therefore it is reasonable to expect that these places of learning would be safe havens for the children while they are preparing for adulthood. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

In many instances, especially in low income, urban settings, schools can be a war zone. We are not talking about minor bullying, but rather serious violence. Consider that in the last decade 284 kids were murdered due to school violence – these were shootings, stabbings, fighting and suicides. Growing up is tough enough without having to be worried about being killed while going to math class.

6. Materialism

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We live in a society that promotes materialism and so we perpetuate this particular malady by instilling bad habits into our children. We teach our children that the measure of success and happiness in life is how much stuff you have. Kids naturally want things –especially if their friends have something similar. Unfortunately, there seems to be little restraint on accompanying guidance as we go about this.

Essentially, we provide our kids with whatever they want that is within our financial ability to do so. The concept of “earning” what you get or the idea that something “you don’t need” seem to have been lost and discarded. Is there really any wonder why the average adult is $15,000 in debt at any given time? We have a mentality of getting what we want and when we want it that has been ingrained in us since childhood. The unfortunate result is that there are devastating consequences for such continued behavior later in life.

5. Obesity

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Our kids are fat and getting fatter. Recent numbers show that 20% of American children are obese. Not chubby –OBESE! Video games, TV, the internet and fast food are partly to blame. Kids are spending more time sitting in front of a TV/computer screen than running around outside. This sedentary lifestyle has consequences.

Socially, it’s no secret that overweight kids are going to be subject to ridicule from their peers – it’s sad, but nevertheless true. This can result in such issues as low self-esteem, depression, etc. Then there are the health concerns. High blood pressure, diabetes and other maladies that is associated with obesity. Psychologically and physically, obesity is an issue that can be resolved with a simple increase in activity and awareness.

4. Education Disparity

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Education is important. Few people would dispute this well regarded fact. A good education (in comparison with a bad one) will provide a child with an increased chance of taking advantage of opportunities to be successful in life. Unfortunately, some people have it better than other. This is not an issue of just one school being better than another school. Rather we are talking about whole classes of American children being denied a proper education that will prepare them to compete in a job market with their peers and have the same access to the American Dream.

Disparity in educational quality is delineated by race and financial status. If you live in a poor neighborhood or are a minority, there is a good chance that the schools you attend are lacking many necessities. While Asians and Whites enjoy high graduating rates, African American and Latinos continue to lag behind. Not surprisingly, because job opportunities are lessen for dropouts, these two groups have the highest incarceration rates.

3. Shifting Economy

shifting economy

America used to sustain itself with making its own products through manufacturing and then turning around and selling those products. The economy is shifting to more of a service industry versus a manufacturing industry. In order to cut costs and keep product prices down companies are forced to outsource manufacturing to other countries. Other countries can produce products at much lower labor costs. Some companies have even begun to outsource call center jobs to keep labor costs down. Not only is America now having lower paying service jobs than the average blue-collar job with a sustainable income but our economy is now a global economy.

For example, what happens in Japan or Iraq can drastically alter prices for our stock exchanges, gas/oil, and many other products. What exactly does this mean for our youth? The youth cannot graduate or even dropout of school without going through the pains of a low-income job. The jobs offered with no experience pay very little with very little room for pay increases. In fact, the competition to get a promotion can be fierce. In the past, your high school senior could graduate and go work at the local factory for the rest of his or her life and make a good living. They would not necessarily need to have a college education to survive. In fact, youth today will graduate from college with multiple degrees and still cannot find work that pays enough to sustain a decent lifestyle.

2. Poverty

poverty

The federal poverty level is $22,050 for a family of four. This equates to 21% of all children (15 million children) are considered in poverty. Just to cover basic expenses for a family of four you would need to have a salary of $45,000. This means that nearly 50% of our children are living in poverty. Half of those kids receive no government assistance because their parents earned more than $22,050 that year. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), that poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being.

Poverty impedes learning and contributes to social and behavioral problems. And guess what? There is no income to counteract these problems. Mommy cannot afford a tutor or Daddy cannot afford a counselor. There is a huge opportunity for society to stop being so materialistic and in turn poverty wouldn’t be such an issue because most children will all have the same things –things they need instead of what they want. This would decrease violence in schools because fewer kids would be teased.

1. Erosion of National Pride/Identity

erosion of national pride

If every year the Olympics were held, this probably wouldn’t be a problem. This list is indicative of the fact that America (like any nation) has problems. The issue at hand is collective though amongst the people affected about how to deal with them. Unfortunately most folks tend to focus on their self and not the whole. We see these problems as affecting “them” and not “me/us” When we hear that America’s children are the fattest among Western nations, this doesn’t sting. When we learn that America’s children lay educationally behind other industrialized nations, we don’t cringe.

There is very little sense of collective identity of people, as Americans. This is a result of our children not being properly educated and guided. There was a time when every child would begin the school day by standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Children were taught the significance of the 4th of July (besides fireworks). These practices are long gone and so is our sense of common destiny. With so many diverse nationalities, races, and ethnic groups that comprise America, the one common bond we all have with one another is that we are Americans.

Top 10 Beautiful Female Athletes Who Posed for Playboy

Worldwide famous athletes have a long history of posing nude or partially clothed for men’s magazines such as Playboy. Katarina Witt, one of the greatest Olympic figure skaters, was the first female athlete to pose naked for Playboy. The December 1998 issue featuring her nude photographs was the second ever sold-out issue of the magazine.

Some do it for the money and fame, some do it for a good cause, while other athletes do it because they are simply proud of showing their perfectly sculpted bodies. However, there are some Olympians, such as softball sensation Jennie Finch, who turned down Playboy offers  saying that she would “rather be a role model to young girls”.

Whether posing nude is damaging or not for female athletes, is still a hot debate. Are we really “telling women that it’s not enough to be a world-class athlete, that you have also to take off your shirt” as Prof. Charlene Weaving states? By the way, did you know that ancient Olympians competed nude?

10. Amy Acuff

amy-cuff-playboy-athlete

American high-jumper Amy Acuff appeared on the cover and within Playboy’s September 2004 issue. Amy’s photographs were part of the 12-page nude pictorial “Women of the Olympics”. Athletes Zhanna Block, Haley Cope, Ineta Radevica, Fanni Juhasz, Mary Sauer, Katie Vermeulen and Susan Tiedtke-Green were also featured in this famous edition of Playboy.

Amy Acuff competed in four Summer Olympics (1996, 2000, 2004,2008) as a member of USA Track & Field,  finishing as high as fourth during the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.

9.  Katarina Witt

Katarina Witt

A remarkable athlete and fascinating person, Katarina Witt is considered to be one of the greatest figure skaters of all time. Her competitive record is truly impressive. The German figure skater won two Olympic gold medals, four World Championships and six consecutive European Championships. There are many great female figure skaters, but what makes Katarina special is the fact that she competed and won for many years. The entire globe was mesmerized by ‘Kati’, as Germany commonly called her.

As mentioned before, Katarina’s nude pictorial was the second ever sold-out issue of Playboy.

8. Anita Marks

Anita Marks

Anita Marks played professional football for five years. She quarterbacked two women’s professional football teams: Florida Stingrays and Miami Fury.

Anita was the Playboy Centerfold of the 2002 September edition. According to Anita’s declarations, the reason why she accepted Playboy’s offer was because she wanted to show there is a Women’s Professional Football League and that, yes, “some of the women who play in the league may be appealing to those who read Playboy”. She was trying to demonstrate that it is okay to look attractive, sensual and still play football.

7. Ashley Harkleroad

399px-Ashley_Harkleroad

Bounced out of  Tournoi de Roland-Garros by Serena Williams, American tennis player Ashley Harkleroad claimed a more glamorous coup by appearing on the pages of Playboy, the issue of August 2008. She was the first professional tennis player to appear in Playboy. After turning to professional tennis in 2000, Ashley reached a career-high ranking of No. 39 in 2003. She didn’t win any renowned international tennis tournament, but it seems that her beauty greatly compensated the lack of career success.

6.  Mia St. John

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Mia Rosales St. John is considered to be the hottest woman in boxing. Her career is pretty impressive, even if she started boxing late. Mia won in 2005 the International Females Boxers Association Lightweight World Title and the IBA Continental Lightweight Title. She became at the age of 40 the WBC International Female Welterweight Champion.

Mia’s eleven page boxing themed pictorial was released by Playboy on November 1999.

5. Torrie Wilson

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Torrie Anne Wilson started her career as a Fitness model and won in 1998 two important titles before becoming a professional wrestler: the Ms. Galaxy Nova Championship and the Ms. Galaxy Florida titles. World Wrestling Entertainment Diva, Torrie Wilson, is a two-time Playboy cover girl. Her first appearance was in May 2003 and the second one in the special Playboy edition of March 2004. This edition featured two of Playboy’s best selling cover models: Torrie Wilson and Sable, another hot professional wrestler.

4. Maria Butyrskaya

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Butyrskaya’s figure skating career is another great example of how hard work and intensive training can translate into incredible performances. The Russian figure skater won the 1999 World Championship, she won three-times the European Championship and six-times the Russian National Figure Skating Championship. Maria Butyrskaya finished fourth at the 1998 Winter Olympics and sixth at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

She graced the covers of Playboy magazine in November 1998, shortly after placing fourth at the 1998 Winter Olympics.

3. Amanda Beard

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At the age of only 14 years, Amanda Beard won her first Olympic gold medal, becoming the second youngest American swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal. She broke twice the world record in the 200-meter breaststroke, participated in four Summer Olympics, (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) and captured a total of seven medals. Amanda stirred quite a bit of controversy, when she unveiled her anti-fur PETA ad at the Beijing Olympic Games. Beard decided to go naked rather than wear fur to help promote PETA’s campaigns. Before posing nude for PETA, Amanda posed nude for Playboy in July 2007 in an effort to change clichés of what it means to be a powerful athlete and woman.

2. Gabrielle Reese

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Gabrielle is known just as much for her professional beach volleyball playing as she is for her modeling career. She has been on countless glamorous and sports magazine covers.

Reece was WBVL’s (Women’s Beach Volleyball League) blocks leader in 1993. In the 1994-1995 season, Gabby’s hard work paid off and she was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year title. She played in the 1999-2000 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour and the 1999-2000 Olympic Challenge Series.

Gabrielle gained national notoriety after being nominated by Elle as “one of the five most beautiful women in the world” in 1989. Moreover, Women’s Sports & Fitness named Gabby one of the ‘20 Most Influential Women in Sports’. Karen Karbo best describes this amazing athlete: “She accomplishes these things by tapping into her aggressive, competitive side without losing sight of her emotional center or her femininity. Gabrielle Reece is an inspiration to all girls and women who want to become the heroes of their own lives.”

It is really hard to be an elite athlete and feminine at the same time. Well, Gabby’s stunning look conveys both attractiveness and athleticism. She accepted to pose nude for Playboy in 2001.

1. Romy Tarangul, Nicole Reinhardt, Katharina Scholz, Petra Niemann

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The no. 1 of this Top 10 list follows a four-in-one pattern. Romy, Nicole, Katharina and Petra are the four German Olympic athletes who posed nude in the September 2008 German Playboy. They appeared on different amazing covers.

German sailor, Petra Niemann, brought home a Silver medal at the 2006 Sailing World Championship, she won several national championship titles and participated in three Olympic Games (2000, 2004, 2008).

Nicole Reinhardt won six Gold medals from a total of eleven at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships, including a Gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing in the women’s K-4 500 m event.

Judoka Romy Tarangul is well respected in the international Judo scene. She competed at her first Olympic in Beijing 2008, won a silver medal in the 2008 European Championships and took the first place at the 2008 Judo World Cup held in Bulgaria.

Field hockey player Katharina-Isabel Scholz was an Under 18 European Champion in 2000 & 2001, and an U21 European Vice-Champion in 2004. Katharina won with her German team the prestigious FIH Champions Trophy in 2006 and the European Hockey Championship held in Manchester.

Top 10 Shockingly Rich Celebrities & Their Net Worth

Forbes is an American publishing and media company.  Its flagship publication, the Forbes magazine, is well-known for its lists, including articles on the richest Americans (the Forbes 400) and its list of billionaires.  The company has discovered that people are interested in learning about the world’s richest celebrities.  The curiosity has spawned a large collection of websites that are dedicated to documenting celebrity net worth.  For example, former boxing champion Mike Tyson holds an estimated net worth of $1 million, while boxing promoter Don King is worth $150 million.  This article will examine ten international celebrities that are shockingly rich.  I have attempted to select individuals from many different fields, including musicians, designers, actors, producers, radio personalities, authors, comedians, sports figures,  models, and directors.

10. Bryan Williams (Birdman)

Estimated Net Worth: $100 Million

Birdman

Bryan Williams is the co-founder of Cash Money Records.  He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and has gone multi-platinum as both an artist and a producer.  His label has helped craft albums for many artists including Lil Wayne and Juvenile.  In 2000 Birdman was nominated for two Grammies for his song #1 Stunna, which he released with Mannie Fresh as part of the rap duo Big Tymers.  To date, Cash Money Records is the most commercially successful label in the history of hip hop music with 50 million records sold and annual revenues in excess of $100 million.  By the time Birdman was 22-years-old he had already amassed a net worth of $40 million.  He owns a $30 million condo in Miami.

In the music industry, a large majority of the money is made by the record executives.  This is why popular rappers usually expand and create their own labels.  Let’s examine the net worth of some of the biggest names in music.  Jay-Z is one of three founders of Roc-A-Fella records and Roc Nation.  In 2007 he sold Rocaware clothing, which he co-founded, for $204 million.  Jay-Z’s official net worth is $450 million, but when you account for his many sources of income the number is closer to $1 billion.

In 1993, Sean Combs founded Bad Boy Records.  He has two successful clothing lines, Sean John and Sean by Sean Combs.  In 2011, Forbes estimated Sean Combs net worth at $500 million, making him the richest figure in hip hop.  Russell Simmons is a very successful American entrepreneur and co-founder of Def Jam.  His personal net worth is reputed to be $500 million, officially reported at $325 million.  Some other wealthy rapper/executives include Master P ($350 million), 50 Cent ($250 million), Dr. Dre ($180 million), Eminem ($115 million), and Snoop Dogg ($110 million).

Interesting Fact

Birdman claims that every 6 months he buys 100 new cars and gives away all the “old” ones.  At any given time he is wearing millions of dollars worth of jewelry including a 15 carat black diamond ring, matching earrings, and a $500,000 grill on his teeth.  He personally lost 20 houses and 50 cars including two Maybachs and four Ferraris during Hurricane Katrina.

9. Gisele Bündchen

Estimated Net Worth: $250 Million

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Gisele Bündchen is a Brazilian fashion model.  In the late 1990s, Bündchen became one of the first in a wave of Brazilian models to find success.  She initially intended on making a career as a professional volleyball player, but her plans changed after being discovered by a modeling agency at the age of thirteen.  In 1999, Vogue magazine dubbed her “The Return of the Sexy Model.”  Bündchen has been hired as the face of many multi-million dollar fashion campaigns, including Versace, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Christian Dior, and Victoria’s Secret.  Her non-apparel advertising campaigns include Nivea lotion, Credicard (Brazilian version of Citibank), Volkswagons do Brazil, Ebel (luxury Swiss watches), and Apple Inc.

As a model, Bündchen pioneered the “horse walk,” which is a stomping movement created when a model picks up her knees and kicks her feet out in front.  Since 2004, Gisele has been the highest-paid model in the world.  According to Forbes she may become the world’s first ever billionaire supermodel.  For her efforts to preserve the rainforests and promote reforestation, Bündchen has been dubbed a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program.  In August 2011, she ranked 60th on the Forbe’s List of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.  She also ranked 3rd on the 20 Youngest Powerful Women of 2011 at age 31.

Interesting Fact

From 2000 to 2005, Bündchen was in a much-publicized relationship with American actor Leonardo DiCaprio.  In 2009, she married New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.  Brady currently has a net worth of around $100 million.

8. Howard Stern

Howard Stern’s Estimated Net Worth: $500 Million

Howard Stern

Howard Stern is an American radio personality best known for his radio show, which was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2005.  Stern gained wide recognition in the 1990s when he was labeled a “shock jock” for his outspoken and sometimes controversial style.  In 2006, Stern signed a radio deal with Sirius XM Radio, a subscription-based satellite radio service.  In the deal he was given an annual budget of $100 million for all production costs, including staff and programming.  On January 9, 2006, the day of his first broadcast, Stern and his agent received 34.3 million shares of stock from the company worth $218 million for exceeding subscriber targets.

A second stock incentive was paid to Howard in 2007, with Stern receiving 22 million shares of Sirius stock worth $82.9 million.  In 2011, Stern was given the estimated net worth of $500 million.  He holds an annual salary of $80 million.  In December 2010, Howard signed a new contract with Sirius to continue his show for five more years.  Following the agreement, Howard and his agent filed a lawsuit against Sirius on March 22, 2011, for allegedly failing to pay stock bonuses promised to them from the past four years while helping the company exceed subscriber growth targets.  Some other wealthy radio personalities include Rush Limbaugh ($350 million), Ryan Seacrest ($125 million), and Glenn Beck ($85 million).

Interesting Fact

Howard Stern is currently the highest-paid radio figure in the United States.  In regards to television talk show hosts, Oprah Winfrey is the queen with an estimated net worth of $2.7 billion.  Some other successful hosts include David Letterman ($400 million), Simon Cowell ($320 million), Dr. Phil ($200 million), Jay Leno ($150 million), Larry King ($150 million), Tyra Banks ($90 million), Regis Philbin ($90 million), and Ellen DeGeneres ($85 million).

7. Magic Johnson

Estimated Net Worth: $500 Million

Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. is a retired American professional basketball player who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.  After winning a championship in high school and college, Johnson was selected as the first overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Lakers.  Magic retired abruptly in 1991 after announcing that he had contracted HIV, but returned to play in 1992 and for 32 games in 1996.  Earvin Johnson’s career achievements include three NBA MVP Awards, nine NBA Finals appearances, five championships, and twelve All-Star games.  Since his retirement, Johnson has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex, as well as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and motivational speaker.

Earvin Johnson currently runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, a company that has a net worth of $700 million.  He has built a real estate empire that includes partnerships with AMC Theatres, Starbucks, T.G.I. Fridays, and 24 Hour Fitness.  In October of 2010, Magic sold his ownership stake in the Los Angeles Lakers.  Johnson averaged 11.2 assists per game and had an astounding 138 triple-doubles in his NBA career.  He is also one of the tallest point guards in the history of the NBA.

Some other athletes that rival the wealth of Magic Johnson include Tiger Woods ($500 million), Michael Jordan ($500 million), Alex Rodriguez ($300), Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($300 million), Shaquille O’Neal ($250 million), Kobe Bryant ($200 million), David Beckham ($175 million), Phil Mickelson ($150 million), Roger Federer ($140 million), Cristiano Ronaldo ($130 million), Kimi Raikkonen ($130 million), and Peyton Manning ($115 million).

Interesting Fact

In 1981 Magic Johnson signed a contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for 25 years and $25 million dollars.  It became the longest player contract in the history of sports.  In 1996, Michael Jordan signed a contract with the Chicago Bulls worth $30 million for one year.

6. Jerry Seinfeld

Estimated Net Worth: $800 Million

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and television producer, known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the situation comedy Seinfeld (1989–1998).  Jerry co-created and co-wrote the show with Larry David.  The sitcom was a massive success and a large portion of Jerry Seinfeld’s income has come from the show and its years of syndication.  Jerry has also made millions of dollars as a bestselling author, comedian, and public speaker.  His has a collection of endorsement deals.  Notably, he was paid $10 million to make a handful of ads for Microsoft in 2008.  Between June 2008 and June 2009, Jerry Seinfeld earned $85 million, making him the highest-paid comedian during that 12-month period.

According to Forbes magazine, Jerry Seinfeld’s annual earnings in 1998 were $267 million, making him the highest-paid celebrity that year.  The show Seinfeld still generates more revenue than most current shows through syndication and DVD sales.  In 1998, Jerry reportedly turned down $5 million per episode, for 22 episodes, to continue the show for a tenth season.  Co-creator Larry David is also extremely wealthy and has an estimated net worth of $800 million.

In comparison to other movie stars, Jerry Seinfeld’s net worth stands out.  The estimated net worth of some A-list stars include Tom Hanks ($350 million), Johnny Depp ($350 million), Tyler Perry ($350 million), Harrison Ford ($200 million), Leonardo DiCaprio ($200 million), Will Smith ($188 million), John Travolta ($160 million), Brad Pitt ($150 million), Julia Roberts ($140 million), Robin Williams ($130 million), Ben Stiller ($120 million), Denzel Washington ($120 million), Jeff Foxworthy ($100 million), and Will Ferrell ($80 million).

Interesting Fact

Jerry Seinfeld is rumored to own one of the largest Porsche collections in the world.  A current tally has Seinfeld owning 46 Porsches.  Paul Bannister reported that Seinfeld’s collection includes Porsche 911s from various years, 10 Porsche Boxsters each painted a different color, and the famous 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, the same model and pearl-grey color that actor James Dean was driving when he crashed and died.  The centerpiece is a $700,000 Porsche 959, one of only 337 ever built.

5. Bono

Estimated Net Worth: $900 Million

bono

Bono is an Irish singer, musician, and humanitarian best known for being the main vocalist of the Dublin-based rock band U2.  To date, U2 has released 12 studio albums and are among the best-selling groups in popular music history, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide.  U2 has won 22 Grammy Awards, which is more than any other band.  In 2005, U2 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The groups 360° Tour (2009-2011) is currently the best selling concert tour of all time with gross revenue of $736,137,344.  The tour included 110 shows across the world and amassed an attendance of 7,268,430 people.

The success has given Bono an estimated net worth of over $900 million.  He is well on his way to becoming a billionaire.  In comparison to other music legends, Bono’s massive fortune stands out.  The Edge, who is the guitarist for U2, is also extremely rich and holds an estimated net worth of $200 million.  Some other wealthy music legends, some deceased, include John Lennon ($800 million), Paul McCartney ($780 million), Michael Jackson ($600 million), Madonna ($500 million), George Harrison ($400 million), Mick Jagger ($305 million), Elvis ($300 million), Cher ($300 million), Gene Simmons ($300 million), Celine Dion ($260 million), Jennifer Lopez ($250 million), Eric Clapton ($115 million), and Courtney Love ($100 million).

Interesting Fact

In 2010 Bono’s investment arm Elevation Partners purchased a 1.5% stake in Facebook for $200 million.  In 2011 that stake was valued at $700 million when Facebook reached $55 billion.

4. J.K. Rowling

Estimated Net Worth: $1 Billion

jk-rowling

J. K. Rowling is a British author who wrote the Harry Potter fantasy series.  She was born in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, and studied French and Classics at the University of Exeter before becoming a researcher and English teacher in Portugal.  Rowling conceived the idea for Harry Potter in 1990 during a delayed train ride and finished the book in 1995.  Over the last 15 years, the Harry Potter series has gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, and sold more than 400 million copies.  Harry Potter has spawned a series of popular films, in which Rowling has had the overall approval on all scripts.

J.K. Rowling has led a “rags to riches” life story, in which she progressed from living on social security to becoming a billionaire.  As of March 2011, when its latest world billionaires list was published, Forbes estimated Rowling’s net worth at US$1 billion.  In October 2010, J. K. Rowling was named the Most Influential Woman in Britain.  Some other wealthy authors include Danielle Steel ($610 million), Stephen King ($400 million), Tom Clancy ($300 million), James Patterson ($250 million), John Grisham ($200), Barbara Taylor Bradford (approx. $200 million), Nora Roberts ($150 million), Stephenie Meyer ($125 million), and Dan Brown ($100 million).

Interesting Fact

The last two Harry Potter books, Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold nine and eleven million copies, respectively, within twenty-four hours of their releases.  In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher’s Stone with an initial print-run of 1,000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries.  Today, such copies are valued between £16,000 and £25,000.  The Harry Potter movies have grossed over $7.5 billion.

3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Estimated Net Worth: $2.9 Billion

Julia-Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is an American actress and comedian widely known for her sitcom roles in Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine.  Louis-Dreyfus rose to prominence as one of the regular cast members of Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s.  She was later cast as Elaine Benes on the NBC sitcom Seinfeld for which she achieved much critical and commercial success.  Throughout her career Julia Louis-Dreyfus has received two Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and five Screen Actors Guild Awards.  She has a total of twelve Emmy Award nominations, seven for supporting actress in a comedy series for Seinfeld, and five for lead actress in a comedy series for The New Adventures of Old Christine.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has had a successful and lucrative acting career, but many people don’t know that her father is a multi-billionaire named Gérard Louis-Dreyfus.  In 1851, a man named Leopold Louis-Dreyfus founded the Louis Dreyfus Group, which is one of the world’s largest commodities trading and merchandising firms.  Louis Dreyfus Group is a diversified French private company that is involved in agriculture and energy commodities.  It owns and manages ocean vessels, develops and operates telecommunications infrastructures, and is involved in real estate (development, management and ownership).  The company was managed by Julia’s father Gérard until 2006 when he retired.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus has two half-sisters, Emma and Phoebe.  The girls stand to inherit a large portion of the family fortune.

Interesting Fact:

Most recently, Julia Louis-Dreyfus played U.S. Vice President Selina Meyers in a HBO satirical comedy pilot entitled Veep, written by Armando Iannucci.  In April 2011, it was confirmed that HBO had picked up Veep as a series.  The show will co-star Anna Chlumsky and Tony Hale.  It begins filming in fall of 2011 and is projected to premiere on HBO in March of 2012.

2. George Lucas

Estimated Net Worth: $3.25 Billion

George Lucas

George Lucas Jr. is an American film producer, screenwriter, and director.  He is the founder, chairman and chief executive of Lucasfilm.  George Lucas is best known as the creator of Star Wars and Indiana Jones.  Lucas is one of the American film industry’s most financially successful directors/producers, with an estimated net worth of $3.25 billion as of 2011.  To date, Lucas has directed 6 movies and produced 23 others.  His biggest box-office hit is the epic Star Wars franchise, which has earned well over $5 billion in worldwide revenue from all six films.

George Lucas has pledged to give half of his fortune to charity as part of an effort called The Giving Pledge led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to persuade America’s richest individuals to donate their financial wealth to charities.  Some other extremely wealthy film director/producers include Steven Spielberg ($3 billion), James Cameron ($650 million), Mel Gibson ($600 million), Clint Eastwood ($400 million), Peter Jackson ($315 million), Ridley Scott ($180 million), Ron Howard ($140 million), JJ Abrams ($95 million), and Christopher Nolan ($90 million).

Interesting Fact

George Lucas next project is a 2012 movie titled Red Tails.  The story was written by John Ridley and is inspired by true events.  George Lucas serves as the executive producer for the project, which is based on the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American combat pilots during World War II.  The movie is the first Lucasfilm production that is not associated with Indiana Jones or Star Wars since Radioland Murders (1994).

1. Giorgio Armani

Estimated Net Worth: $7 Billion

Giorgio Armani

As you would expect, no celebrities can compete with the wealth of the world’s richest fashion designers.  Giorgio Armani is an Italian fashion designer, particularly noted for his menswear.  He is known for his clean, tailored lines.  Giorgio formed his company, Armani, in 1975, and by 2001 was acclaimed as the most successful designer to come out of Italy, with an annual turnover of $1.6 billion and a personal fortune of $7 billion by 2011.  As of 2009, Armani has a retail network of 60 Giorgio Armani boutiques, 11 Collezioni, 122 Emporio Armani, 94 A/X Armani exchange, 13 Armani Junior, and 1 Giorgio Armani Accessori spread over 37 different countries.

Giorgio Armani has a keen interest in sports.  He is the president of the Olimpia Milano basketball team, an Inter Milan fan, and has twice designed suits for the England national football team.  He has been chosen to design Italy’s Olympic uniforms for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  Armani designed made-to-measure suits for Christian Bale’s character Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight.  In the world of fashion, some other wealthy designers include Ralph Lauren (6.1 billion), Valentino Garavani  ($1.5 Billion), Miuccia Prada ($1.4 billion), Max Azria ($1.2 billion), Diane Von Furstenberg ($1.2 billion), Pierre Cardin ($723 million) , Calvin Klein ($700 million), Roberto Cavalli ($500 million), and Donna Karan ($400 million).

Interesting Fact

Armani was the first designer to ban models with a body mass index (BMI) below 18.  This was done after model Ana Carolina Reston starved herself to death due to anorexia nervosa.

Bonus Rich Celebrity

Wu Yajun

Estimated Net Worth: $6.6 Billion

wu-yajun

Wu Yajun is the richest self-made woman in the world.  She is a former journalist who graduated from Northwestern Polytechnic University (China) in 1984 with a degree in engineering.  Wu Yajun then used her business skills to develop Longfor Properties, which is one of the largest real estate companies in the world.  Longfor Properties is a commercial and B-residential property developer headquartered in Beijing.  Wu Yajun’s real estate enterprise has been growing rapidly over the last seventeen years, expanding from her home in Chongqing to include major cities like Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai, Changzhou, and Dalian.

Wu Yajun has an estimated net worth of $6.6 billion and is a member of the National People’s Congress.  In 2010, shares in Wu’s Hong Kong-listed real estate developer Longfor Properties rose by a quarter from a year earlier.  Contract sales for 2010 soared 81% to $5 billion.  In the last couple years, Longfor Properties has been expanding its business to relatively profitable markets in first-tier cites.  The company’s outlook for future growth is good.  Wu Yajun is married to a man named Cai Kui and the two share the massive fortune.

Interesting Fact

In 2011, Wu’s Longfor Properties was cited for concerns over accounting practices.  Shares in the company subsequently took a tumble and were hit again when the company decided to cancel a planned share sale in July.  Longfor announced in August that Wu Yajun would step down as CEO but stay on as chairman.